Radical feminists are often asked by various and sundry: “Why are radical feminists so obsessed with transgenders?”
A little history. Transgenderism was originally an offshoot of the GLB rights movement. These were homosexual people who felt so misaligned with social expectations based on sex stereotypes, who felt so uncomfortable in their own skins that they chose to have their bodies medically modified, to various extents, into facsimiles of the opposite sex, in hopes that this would alleviate their distress and simplify their social lives. This dates back into the 1950’s.
But in this century, transgenderism has morphed into something entirely different. It no longer is strictly the purview of homosexuals, nor is it reliably about any kind of permanent body modifications, especially for men.
Instead, it is presented as a kind of invisible disability, that can only be understood by its often transitory external manifestations, which align quite neatly with the aforementioned sex stereotypes. “Trans” people are framed as discriminated against by anyone who will not pretend they are the opposite sex, especially when the opposite sex is female.
One of the ways this plays out is that women are told not to express any thinking or activism that highlights our actual sex class, as this reminds “transwomen” that they are physically different from us, and this hurts their feelings. But since women are oppressed along an axis of sex (seen what’s happening with abortion rights legislation in the USA of late?) we must be able to speak of our bodies, our selves, and how we are treated and controlled via our sex. So these kinds of sentiments effectively muzzle women’s organizing, unless we resist and say we will speak of what we must, in which case we’re accused of “transphobia.”
Further, the legal ramifications are significant. If there is no legal word for “woman” any more, only terms that have no legal definition beyond “labels humans may attach to themselves,” if the class of humans that includes everyone who has ever created another person inside herself, along with all of us who have not, but still have female bodies; if this class of humans has no name that is specific unto us, if there is no term for this class of people that has an agreed upon legal meaning; then it becomes impossible to fight for legal protections. You cannot fight for legal protections for a class that has no name. The law depends on language.
Women are oppressed because of our material physical differences from men. Oppression and discrimination work along observable material axes. Sex, skin color, and material markers of social class, even sexual arousal is observable.
But “gender identity” is not. You cannot be oppressed or discriminated against along the axis of something that is neither observable nor fixed. The trans lobby engages in many failures of logic, but this one is central. Body modifications are material and observable, and thus persons with these medical modifications may well be discriminated against. But they are only peripherally related to “gender identities” of late. So I think it important to make this distinction.