Transpeople have been among the most beaten, brutalized and abandoned members of society for decades. Transwomen must face both transphobia and misogyny, existing in a world where transwomen often feel they must be feminine for their gender to be validated while femininity is simultaneously ridiculed, punished and seen as a synonym for weak.
In recent years, the combination of transphobia and sexism has only heightened, in part thanks to a renewal of transphobic legislature.
In early February, Senate File 224 won a subcommittee vote in the Iowa state senate and advanced to further hearings. The bill would force all students at elementary and secondary schools, whether private or public, to solely use the restroom that aligned with their birth sex. One of the bill’s largest supporters, Jim Carlin, shamelessly defended the bill, saying “sexual predators could exploit [inclusive restroom] laws by posing as transgender in order to gain access to women and girls.”
Not only are Carlin’s words blatantly transphobic, but they also play into the trope that transwomen, in particular, identify as women only to exploit young girls in gender-separated areas, like bathrooms. It’s important to note that no data has ever shown that such incidents of exploitation happen.
Bills attempting to ban trans women athletes from competing in the women’s division of competitions have also increased in past years. In March 2020, Idaho became the first state to fully ban transgender women from competing in girls’ and womens’ sports.
As part of the law, any woman, as young as elementary school, could be asked to complete a genetic test to “prove” they were cisgender. Even women who have undergone surgery and hormone treatment and have anatomy more similar to cis women than cis men would still be forced to sit on the sidelines.
Unfortunately, transphobia doesn’t start nor does it end with legislation.
This past summer, beloved author J.K. Rowling took to Twitter to express her outrage that an article had used the term “people who menstruate” in place of “women.” Such terminology was used to be inclusive of the many people who have periods that are certainly not women, including some trans men, nonbinary people, intersex people, as well as cisgender women for the many years before and after starting and ending menstruation.
In a multi-page essay, Rowling went on to attack trans people, especially transwomen who do not undergo any hormone treatment or surgery. By claiming that trans women undermine feminism and the struggles of cisgender women, Rowling effectively ostracized trans people from two conversations: women’s rights and the discussion regarding menstruation.
For too long, trans women have been brutalized, ostracised, and demonized in both politics and society. This Women’s History Month, it must be demanded that feminism includes all women and that the lives and legacies of all trans women echo centuries after they’re gone.