There has been a lot of discussion about the place of trans people in feminism and in some ways I can understand it. Cis women experience discrimination because society identifies them as women while trans women experience discrimination because society refuses to identify them as women. On the face of this it seems like two very opposite forms of discrimination. How can one group support people who are experiencing such opposites of discrimination?
However, in many ways both forms of discrimination are a response to the question what is a woman. When a trans woman is asked to live ‘as a woman’ can she work in construction or science? Can she wear trousers? Must she wear make-up?
Women’s bodies and women’s roles are under constant scrutiny. When boys are looking up girl’s skirts at a school in Milton Keynes, it is the girls who are sent home to change into more appropriate clothes. When women are fully covered they are being oppressed. When women wear make up they are lying to men. When women don’t wear make up they have let themselves go.
In my view, the actual discrimination faced by both cis and trans women is that neither are living up to societal standards of what a woman should be. When trans women are told that they are not female enough, cis women need to be challenging the notion of ‘female enough’ because it applies to them as well. Feminism needs the voice of trans women to remind us of how far we have to go. To remind us where the challenges remain. To remind us that femaleness is still being judged on the clothes being worn, on the jobs being held and on reproductive ability.