TERF! (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist)
I know it’s coming once I publish this so I figure I’ll respond in advance.
I’m not trans exclusionary, I’m just asking that women be included.
Trans activists have been incredibly successful in the past few years. So much so that women are being completely erased from our own lives. Feminism can never hope to compete with the success of trans activists, as shown by the immense gains trans language campaigns have had. For me, in the area I write about which is birth, it’s never more plain to see.
I’ve been writing about obstetric violence, forced caesareans, forced episiotomies, the denial of VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean), forced or coerced procedures such as vaginal exams and induction or augmentation of labour and so on. I’m not alone either, there are countless other bloggers writing the same stuff, as well as women telling their stories of horrific violence at the hands of obstetric care providers. You know what we’ve achieved in all this time? Nothing.
The caesarean rate is still rising, the VBAC rate is negligible, forced episiotomies are rife, lies about induction are used to create compliant, convenient patients …. birth activism has achieved pretty much nothing on a global scale. There’s been the odd success, but very few women have benefited. No success on a grand scale would pretty much be the best way to sum up birth activism from the last twenty-years.
In complete contrast to this, trans activists have managed to completely rewrite the language we use to discuss birth, to erase WOMEN from it. We now have BIRTHING PEOPLE, or PEOPLE WITH UTERUSES, and CHESTFEEDING.
In a remarkably short period of time such big wig bodies as the Midwives Association of North America, and The British Medical Association have totally rewritten their manifestos to suggest the erasure of all mention of motherhood or womanhood.
They barely utter an audible word in defence of a woman who wants a VBAC or to choose her own midwife, or the tragically low rates of breastfeeding, but they’ll happily erase any word that suggests women might be the ones who do the birthing and breastfeeding.
It is NOT trans exclusionary to say that women give birth, it is WOMAN EXCLUSIONARY to say BIRTHING INDIVIDUAL. 51% of the population are women, the overwhelming majority of whom have the capacity to give birth and breastfeed – whether they choose to or not. According to statistics on trans people, around 0.5% of the population are trans. Let’s assume that around half of those have the capacity to give birth, and half don’t.
Loudly proclaiming that the use of biological, scientific words are bigoted, exclusionary, or even violent is actually bigoted, and exclusionary. It’s not violent though, because that’s just a ridiculous exaggeration. It’s projection on a grand scale. The truth is that if you are so terribly triggered by the use of biological terms for your body, or the bodies of others, you don’t need your language rewritten, you need therapy.
Anyone who truly believes that trans people are fighting a losing battle hasn’t considered how much erasure of women’s lives they have achieved in order to protect their own feelings. Meanwhile, birth activists can’t even have a discussion about forced episiotomies or caesareans without being told that women are lying, women are selfish and only care about their birth experience, doctors know best, women in “Africa” die etc etc. We find ourselves in a precarious position when apparently it is trans exclusionary to say “pregnant woman” but we can’t discuss forced episiotomies.
Apparently it is “cis privilege” to give birth. But is it really privilege when our bodies are being forcibly cut without consent, and we can’t even name our body parts or the role we play in giving birth? Many of us can’t choose where we will give birth, or who will attend our births? We can’t access birth control or abortion? When a man who rapes us can take us to court and seek visitation with a child that resulted from his rape? When a woman of colour is at a significantly increased risk of death during or shortly after birth?
Surely no one actually thinks that’s a privilege. In fact, maybe the people who talk about birth as a privilege have a severe gap in their knowledge of motherhood.
The other day I saw a meme that made me want to spit with fury. It was a quote from a transwoman saying that women don’t realise how privileged they are to have periods. She will never give birth to a baby and apparently women can never understand the agony of that. Well I put it to you that I can.
I am a woman who has had nine miscarriages, a stillbirth, a coerced induction and caesarean, another necessary but still traumatic caesarean, and an abortion. I am a woman who gave birth attended by a midwife whose practice in supporting me was illegal. I have given birth unattended because no midwives would attend my next birth in a different state. I’m a woman whose hormones have been ruined by synthetic hormonal birth control too. Dear transwoman, it is YOU who will never understand privilege.
By all means, discuss your disappointment. By all means fight for your bodily integrity. Fight for your basic human rights, you DESERVE healthcare. You deserve to live without fear. You won’t catch me arguing otherwise. But I deserve the same. Don’t label my words trans exclusionary when you are being woman exclusionary.
In a very very short period of time we have totally rewritten the language we use to talk about reproduction. Trans activists keep on saying that trans people are being dangerously excluded from discussions such as these, but the facts show otherwise. They have had impressive, groundbreaking success. Meanwhile the majority, the women whose bodies this battle is fought upon are pushed further and further into the dark. Our experiences of obstetric violence are ignored, or touted as privilege. Our bodily integrity is continually denied, and the icing on the cake? Care providers are actively discouraged from discriminating against trans people by referring to us as MOTHERS or WOMEN.
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