The Guardian • Issue #1952

No space for transphobia on IWD

On the 8th of March, cities across the world will hold rallies in support of International Women’s Day (IWD). IWD is a celebration of women and a day of solidarity and action around women’s issues. However, this year the self-proclaimed “feminist” organisers of the Brisbane/Meanjin rally chose to use it as a platform to promote transphobia and entrench outdated oppressive notions of gender roles.

IWD has a radical history. It was established in 1910 by the International Socialist Women’s Conference, immediately prior to the meeting of the Second International. On 8th March 1917 (the 23rd February on the Gregorian calendar then in use), Russian women went on strike demanding an end to World War I, food shortages, and ultimately the Tsarist regime. The seven days of civil unrest which followed are now known as the February Revolution, which culminated in the abdication of the Tsar, and paved the way for the October Revolution. IWD has been celebrated on 8th March ever since.

Against this backdrop, it is all the more egregious that the organisers of the Brisbane/Meanjin rally are using their platform to exclude trans women from IWD celebrations. The Facebook page for the event is filled with trans-exclusionary statements and multiple links to a transphobic website that invites cis [cis gender – opposite of trans gender] women to share stories of times they have felt threatened by trans women.

Trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) reduce feminity to biological sex. But since gender doesn’t map on neatly to “biological sex,” this analysis cannot account for the material reality of being a woman and how that reality intersects with queerness, race, and class. Reductive gender politics harms all women by entrenching traditional stereotypes of what a woman should look like, how she should behave and what she should aspire to.

Womanhood is an ideological construct that serves capitalist modes of production, and the imposition of that construct upon some people and the exclusion of others from it, has material consequences. TERFism divides the working class by teaching cis women that it is trans women, not a society that teaches cis men to treat them as property, who poses as the real threat to their safety.

The reality is that trans women are more likely to be the victims of violence – on both an individual and structural level – than the perpetrators. They are far more likely to experience homelessness, low income, and violence. The likelihood increases again for trans women of colour.

If the working class does not stand up for our trans and non-binary comrades, we ignore the real conditions which keep us oppressed. While we blame the victims of violence for the perpetration of it, and ignore the reality of gender-based discrimination, the cause of women cannot be advanced. Radical change demands we stand in solidarity with our trans comrades and say no to transphobia.

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