Is there any such thing as “transgender ideology”?
Trans people exist. Brave souls have always found ways to transition, authorities have often condemned it, trans people terrified to transition have led stunted lives. Now, perhaps 50,000 people in Britain are transitioning, about 0.1% of the population. I have no idea why I wanted to transition, just that it was the most important thing in the world for me.
I have no choice about being trans. I have wished I was not trans, but that would mean I did not exist and a different human- perhaps a cis man, perhaps a cis woman- existed in my place. It would be harder to cut my trans out of me than for Shylock to take Antonio’s flesh without blood.
Society faces the issue of how to respond to this reality, and one such response is denial. Being trans, say the transphobes, is “only” a feeling, as opposed to the physical reality of being a [cis] woman. But, I am not a Cartesian dualist, imagining I am a mind or soul in a body, so my being trans is in my physical self just as a cis woman’s being female is in hers. Unless you believe something like a “mind”, or “consciousness”, is in some way separate from neurons and dendrites, being trans is a physical condition.
This is not an ideology. It is a fact.
Many attacks on “transgender ideology” attack words we have used to try to explain ourselves. Few people now say “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body”- this is my body. Yet transphobes used the phrase “My body is me” to try to attack trans people.
Other attacks relate to words we use. I am a woman.
Words are imprecise attempts to divide one reality into discrete units, in order to communicate. What matters is that we communicate, that the listener understands what the speaker means, not that words have rigid definitions. In practice, rigid definitions make words even less able to relate to strange, fluid reality, which is always changing, which we can never completely understand.
I read that “Stonewall defines homosexuality as orientation towards someone of the same gender”. This is misleading. Stonewall does not use “Homosexual” and related words except when quoting others. Stonewall defines “gay” as man attracted to men, and as a generic term for gay sexuality, so some women attracted to women say they are gay. That is, its definitions are descriptive, attempting to capture what people actually use the words for, rather than prescriptive, attempting to restrict use to one “correct” use.
Quite possibly, a gay cis man might be attracted to a trans man. Should he lose his “gay card”? Most people would be happy enough for him to continue to describe himself as gay. Some weird pedants who insist that “words mean what they choose them to mean”, and that they must be master of this, might insist that he was now straight, or heterosexual, or at least bi. Pedants have their obsessions. It’s better to ignore them.
Or, a cis lesbian might say “I could never be attracted to a trans woman because I am attracted to my sex, and to women’s genitals”. They really do say things like that! It’s an attempt to deny the word “lesbian” to trans women, or even the word “woman”. I have no objection to a cis lesbian saying she is not attracted to me. It’s transphobic to say she could never be attracted to a trans woman. Even if it is true, why say it except to be mean to trans women?
Stonewall works for the interests of queer people in a heteronormative society, which assumes people are straight. That means it needs flexibility of language. LGB All Liars works to forbid trans women from using the words “lesbian” or even “woman” to define ourselves, as a means of reducing trans acceptance, and to exclude trans women from women’s spaces. That requires an ideology: the false idea that trans people as a group are in some way a risk to women’s spaces. They want to upend our lives and roll back the shaky progress to trans acceptance so far.
Trans excluders might want a rigid definition of transition before they might tolerate trans women. They might say we are not proper trans before we have had a genital operation. These definitions are created in order to exclude, so tend to get stricter over time.
I read it is “dangerous” to say men and women are defined by our feelings rather than our biology. That is, the word “woman” cannot include a “trans woman”, or there is some danger to someone. This is a conservative idea, that people should be distrusted unless they conform to strict rules. Trans women should stay out of women’s spaces, say the conservatives, just in case one of them has some immoral purpose in being there. The progressive, by contrast, say people should be free to express ourselves as we like, and any conflicts should be resolved in good-will rather than by rigid rules. Rigid rules do not fit reality, which is constantly changing, or human beings, who are infinitely varied. So, trans-exclusion is an inherently conservative ideology.