Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism by Sheila Jeffreys

Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism by Sheila Jeffreys

Author:Sheila Jeffreys [Jeffreys, Sheila]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781317695943
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Published: 2014-04-24T00:00:00+00:00

The harmful effects of female-bodied transgenderism on lesbians and on feminism

Within lesbian communities dominated by queer politics, an increasing number of women are transitioning to a simulacrum of maleness (Bauer, 2008; Weiss, 2007). The harmful effects of transgendering on the bodies of those women who transition are dealt with elsewhere in this volume. This chapter examines the harmful effects on the lesbian community, on lesbian relationships, and on feminism. During the wave of transgendering of males that began in the last decades of the twentieth century, lesbians were slow to join in. The practice was unknown in the lesbian community of the 1970s and remained very rare well into the 1990s. The phenomenon does not figure in important collections of lesbian essays in the 1970s such as Our Right to Love (Vida (ed.), 1978), or even in Julia Penelope’s edited collection Lesbian Culture from 1993. The latter included a piece on butch and femme in the 1950s from Joan Nestle, but nothing about transgenderism.

One clear effect of the transgendering of lesbians is that it disappears their lesbianism in a literal way, by so changing their bodies and presentation that they no longer resemble women or lesbians, though they generally seek relationships with women and lesbians and remain within lesbian communities. The history of lesbianism has been shown by lesbian historians and commentators to be one of persecution, and elimination from the public record (Klaich, 1974). Transgenderism fits into this grim history by once more making lesbians invisible. For many of those who would once have been lesbians, transgenderism is the newly fashionable style. All of the city groups and services that were once set up by lesbians and feminists in the 1970s to provide for lesbian communities have now been replicated for lesbians who transgender. There are social groups, political groups, financial planning groups (to pay for surgeries), lists of transfriendly venues, lists of potential trans roommates (Hudson, n.d.).

There is one significant difference, however; the existence of groups for the partners of lesbians who transgender. Before the phenomenon of transgenderism, both partners in a relationship were lesbians and could attend all the same groups and neither required special services. Female-bodied transgenderism shuts the partners of these women out of the lesbian communities that have shaped and supported their lives because they are now seen as really heterosexual. This disappearance of lesbians has a negative effect upon feminism too, because lesbians were the founders of so many important institutions for women, refuges and rape crisis centres, publishers, bookshops, theatre groups and bands. Lesbian feminists in second wave feminism worked with huge energy for the benefit of all women, including other lesbians. To the extent that pride in being women and lesbians has been the basis of lesbian feminism, and therefore crucial to the feminist movement, this disappearance of lesbians constitutes a severe harm to this politics.

Presently female-bodied transgenderism has progressed as a practice to the point where it is plentifully justified, described and celebrated, even in the feminist academy. In the


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