Why MRAs, radical feminists and Christian fundamentalists agree with each other about transgender rights

All three groups hate transgender people for the same reason – and that has important implications for trans activists .

Note: This article uses gender-appropriate language, so a transgender person who’s born male and identifies as a woman is referred to with “her” and “she.” A cis person is anybody who identifies with their sex at birth (the vast majority of people).

Take the Quiz: Can you tell the difference between a Radical Feminist, a Conservative Christian and a Men’s Rights Advocate?

I was both pleased and disappointed to read a recent article in State’s Outward section describing fundamentalist Christian opposition to transgender rights. Pleased because unpacking the motives of transphobes is necessary, if distasteful, work. Disappointed because the article overlooked some key players in the anti-trans backlash and, as a result, didn’t get to the root cause of transphobia.

image

Conservative Christians have become the go-to bogeyman for LGBTQ activists, and for good reason. There’s no doubt that in churches and “conversion clinics” across the country religious doctrine is used to justify transphobia. But let’s be clear: religion never made anyone do anything. From the Crusades to 9/11, zealots have done whatever they wanted – looted, killed, lashed out in fear – and used religion as an excuse, not an inspiration. God doesn’t tell Christians to hate transgender people any more than Allah told bin Laden to destroy the Twin Towers. There are transphobic atheists and trans-inclusive Christians.

What really drives conservative Christian opposition to transgender rights? The answer becomes clear once you realize what Christian fundamentalists, radical feminists and sexist men have in common.

By rejecting the gender that society assigns to them at birth, transgender people are also rejecting the social norms that oppress women.

So-called Men’s Rights Activists, abetted by the Internet and driven by the ever-burning engine of male insecurity, have become known for their hatred of feminism; but they also tend to be antipathical to transgender people. When Facebook started allowing users to identify themselves as transgender, genderqueer and other non-binary genders, MRAs pitched a fit, surmising that the “retards” at Facebook had caved to feminist and transgender pressure.

Writer Stephen Marche has done a fantastic job of showing that MRA antipathy towards women and feminists is rooted in fear and insecurity. Now with Facebook’s change they fretted about which of the new gender categories “are safe to approach” (note to MRAs: none of them bite). They lashed out with the frustration of boys who didn’t know the answers to a test they thought they were prepared for. “Have we been invaded by aliens trying to confused the fuck out of us?” [sic] one wondered.

In their confusion and anger MRAs, ironically, joined a longstanding and odd subgroup of radical feminists, known by their critics as TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists). TERFs have opposed trans rights ever since transgender women started trying to join the feminist movement, cloaking their hatred in the language of gender theory but essentially saying, “Ew gross, get away from me.” Soon after transgender women began trying to join events for “womyn-born-womyn only,” such as Michfest, founded in 1976, radical feminist Janice Raymond wrote 1979’s The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male. Today notable TERFs include Cathy Brennan, founder of a group called Gender Identity Watch, who has outed transgender people online, including at least one adolescent.

TERFs assert that transgender women are “men in dresses” who suffer from “autogynephelia,” a discredited, made-up disorder in which men derive sexual pleasure from viewing themselves as women. They believe these “men in dresses” are attempting to insert themselves into everything feminine – including the feminist movement and feminists themselves – and to make women’s issues “all about men.” When TERFs see a transgender woman complaining about abuse they see an entitled man playing the victim card, pretending he’s endured something that only happens to cis women.

As with MRAs, a strong subcurrent of fear runs through TERF writings – TERFs believe cis men support the trans agenda because, by blurring the line between women and men, the existence of transgender people hides the facts that cis men oppress and abuse cis women. They don’t explain why the cis men who oppose transgender rights tend to be the same guys who deny sexism exists and seek to roll back women’s rights, whereas cis men who support trans rights are more likely to condemn sexism.

Like MRAs, TERFs have come to view transgender people themselves as threats. With the ongoing debate about transgender people’s access to public bathrooms TERFs have circulated horror stories about “men in dresses” assaulting cis women in bathrooms. Google “cotton ceiling” and you’ll see TERFs believe transgender women are hell-bent on sleeping with lesbian women, using force or trickery when needed. One TERF describes her understanding of transgender people’s motives in this way:

Dammit you cis-sexist lesbians, if you are going to sleep with twanzmenz, then you had better sleep with cismenz too. Oh, and because you now have to sleep with cismenz, I have a cock too, so how about sleeping with twanzwomenz while you are at it?!… Dammit you stoopid lesbians, I will get you to like cock one way or another!” [Emphasis added]

I would have thought that men who want to get laid would have easier ways of doing it than permanently joining the most reviled and attacked gender minority on the planet.

The great irony is that TERFs and MRAs are not only obsessed with each other but blame each other for the trans rights movement. TERFs believe “all this cis-business” is “men’s rights rhetoric packaged up in a pretty pink bow.” MRAs feel that “this [transgender] shit is all very feministic.”

Transgender people – unlike other oppressed groups such as women and people of color – challenge the social structure simply by saying who they are.

This is where religion comes back in. Question: What do Christian fundamentalists, Men’s Rights Activists and radical feminists all have in common?

Answer: They all have a vested interest in existing gender roles –  roles they fear transgender people are undermining.

MRAs like to view themselves as “macho” men skilled in picking up women. An MRA discussion is as likely to center around tips for getting a date as the supposed feminist conspiracy. Ever since The Crying Game they’ve been afraid of the female sexual conquest who’s secretly a “man.”

Conservative Christians also tend to believe that “men should be men” and “women should be women,” a tradition that goes back to church founder and noted misogynist St. Paul, who wrote, “I suffer not a woman to teach, or have authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12) – a passage often used to justify sexism.

And radical feminists base their entire worldview on gender, which they see as being more relevant to a person’s success in the world than their race, sexual preference or country of birth. They claim to be opposed to gender roles; but the truth is that if gender disappeared overnight they’d lose their entire map of the world, as well as the moral high ground and their go-to excuse for their personal failures and shortcomings. The world would simply stop making sense.

Some caveats to all this: I enjoy the luxury of analyzing this debate from a position of power – I agree with radical feminists on that. I’m a white man. I identify as bi but I prefer women. I suppose I could be genderqueer but the truth is I’m pretty comfortable with my male identity.

The other caveat is that in order to depict the views I’m discussing clearly I plumbed subreddits and barely-read Tumblr blogs for quotes – hardly traditional sources. But I believe these slimy pearls from the depths of the Internet represent ideas that have filtered into the collective unconscious. Just as Christians can be sexist without citing Paul, I believe men like researcher Ray Blanchard parroted MRA views when describing “autogynephelia” as much as feminist leaders like Germaine Greere voiced TERF views when she said a transgender man undergoing sex reassignment surgery is “horrid” being who “inflicts a horrific act of violence on himself.”

From my privileged, white man’s perch I have to say radical feminists like Greere seem more deluded than other parties in this debate. MRAs have an obvious incentive to defend gender roles – they’re men and they want power over women. The picture is less clear with Christians, since there are Christian women (and even feminists!), but the pattern of Christian men enjoying dominance over women is as clear as Joseph Smith’s fondness for polygamy.

But women don’t get any benefits from gender roles, except for the privileges granted to the oppressed – a common enemy and the moral high ground. It seems like a bad deal for them. And most women agree – despite TERF claims women are more likely than men to support transgender people’s right to use the bathroom of their choice, and NOW has stated that it advocates for “equality for all women,” including transgender women.

I hope radical feminists come to recognize transgender people as allies in the struggle against oppressive gender roles, instead of as threats. In fact, by rejecting the gender that society assigns to them at birth, transgender people are also rejecting the social norms that oppress women.

And that gets to the heart of why cis people hate transgender people. By rejecting their birth sex transgender people – unlike other oppressed groups such as women and people of color – challenge the social structure simply by saying who they are. In America minorities and women are tolerated as long as they “know their place.” Gay people become combatants in the culture wars when they have sex or get married. But transgender people become combatants simply by existing, by putting on pants or a skirt in the morning.

It took America decades to accept gay marriage, a relatively small change in the social fabric. For a person who’s genderqueer it will be even harder.

Ze’s going to need all the allies ze can find.

75 thoughts on “Why MRAs, radical feminists and Christian fundamentalists agree with each other about transgender rights

  1. NIRVANA “School”

    [x4]
    Won’t you believe it
    It’s just my luck

    [x3]
    No recess

    [x4]
    Won’t you believe it
    It’s just my luck

    [x3]
    No recess

    [x8]
    You’re in high school again

    [x7]
    No recess

    Like

  2. Life is a waterfall,
    We’re one in the river,
    And one again after the fall.

    Swimming through the void
    We hear the word,
    We lose ourselves,
    But we find it all?

    Cause we are the ones that want to play,
    Always want to go,
    But you never want to stay,

    And we are the ones that want to choose,
    Always want to play,
    But you never want to lose.

    Aerials, in the sky,
    When you lose small mind,
    You free your life.

    Life is a waterfall,
    We drink from the river,
    Then we turn around and put up our walls.

    Swimming through the void
    We hear the word,
    We lose ourselves,
    But we find it all?

    Cause we are the ones that want to play,
    Always want to go,
    But you never want to stay,

    And we are the ones that want to choose,
    Always want to play,
    But you never want to lose.

    Aerials, in the sky,
    When you lose small mind,
    You free your life.
    Aerials, so up high,
    When you free your eyes,
    Eternal prize.
    Aerials, in the sky,
    When you lose small mind,
    You free your life.
    Aerials, so up high,
    When you free your eyes,
    Eternal prize.

    Read more: System Of A Down – Aerials Lyrics | MetroLyrics

    Like

  3. Something takes a part of me.
    Something lost and never seen.
    Everytime I start to believe,
    Something’s raped and taken from me… from me.
    Life’s got to always be messing with me. (You wanna see the light)
    Can’t they chill and let me be free? (So do I)
    Can’t I take away all this pain. (You wanna see the light)
    I try to every night, all in vain… in vain.
    Sometimes I cannot take this place.
    Sometimes it’s my life I can’t taste.
    Sometimes I cannot feel my face.
    You’ll never see me fall from grace
    Something takes a part of me.
    You and I were meant to be.
    A cheap fuck for me to lay
    Something takes a part of me.
    Feeling like a freak on a leash. (You wanna see the light)
    Feeling like I have no release. (So do I)
    How many times have I felt diseased? (You wanna see the light)
    Nothing in my life is free… is free
    Chorus

    Boom na da mmm dum na ema
    Da boom na da mmm dum na ema

    GO!
    So…fight! something on the… dum na ema
    Fight…some things they fight
    So…something on the… dum na ema
    Fight…some things they fight
    Fight…something of the… dum na ema
    No…some things they fight
    Fight…something of the… dum na ema
    Fight…some things they fight

    [Chorus]

    Part of me…
    Oh…

    Like

  4. Transmission third world war third round
    A decade of the weapon of sound above ground
    No shelter if you’re lookin’ for shade
    I lick shots at the brutal charade
    As the polls close like a casket
    On truth devoured
    A Silent play in the shadow of power
    A spectacle monopolized
    The camera’s eyes on choice disguised
    Was it cast for the mass who burn and toil?
    Or for the vultures who thirst for blood and oil?
    Yes a spectacle monopolized
    They hold the reins and stole your eyes
    Or the fistagons
    The bullets and bombs
    Who stuff the banks
    Who staff the party ranks
    More for Gore or the son of a drug lord
    None of the above fuck it cut the cord

    Lights out
    Guerrilla Radio Turn that shit up
    Lights out
    Guerrilla Radio Turn that shit up
    Lights out
    Guerrilla Radio Turn that shit up
    Lights out
    Guerrilla Radio

    Contact I highjacked the frequencies
    Blockin’ the beltway
    Move on D.C.
    Way past the days of Bombin’ M.C.’s
    Sound off Mumia guan be free
    Who gottem yo check the federal file
    All you pen devils know the trial was vile
    An army of pigs try to silence my style
    Off ’em all out that box
    It’s my radio dial

    Lights out
    Guerrilla Radio Turn that shit up
    Lights out
    Guerrilla Radio Turn that shit up
    Lights out
    Guerrilla Radio Turn that shit up
    Lights out
    Guerrilla Radio Turn that shit up

    It has to start somewhere It has to start sometime
    What better place than here, what better time than now?

    All hell can’t stop us now
    All hell can’t stop us now
    All hell can’t stop us now
    All hell can’t stop us now
    All hell can’t stop us now
    All hell can’t stop us now

    Like

  5. All around the world
    We could make timerompin’ and a stompin’
    ‘Cause I’m in my prime

    Born in the north and sworn to entertain ya
    ‘Cause I’m down for the state of Pennsylvania

    I try not to whineut I must warn ya
    ‘Bout the girls from California

    Alabama baby said hallelujah
    Good god girl I wish I knew ya

    I know I know for sure
    That life is beautiful around the world
    I know I know it’s you
    You say hello and then I say I do

    Come back baby ’cause I’d like to say
    I’ve been around the world back from bombay

    Fox hole love pie in your face
    Living in and out of a big fat suitcase

    Bonafide ride step aside my Johnson
    Yes I could in the woods of Wisconsin

    Wake up the cake it’s a lake she’s kissin’ me
    As they do when when they do in sicily

    I know I know for sure
    That life is beautiful around the world
    I know I know it’s you
    You say hello and then I say I do

    Where you want to go who you want to be
    What you want to do just come with me

    I saw god and I saw the fountains
    You and me girl sittin’ in the Swiss mountains

    Me oh my o, me and guy o
    Freer than a bird ’cause we’re rockin’ ohio

    Around the world
    I feel dutiful
    Take a wife ’cause life is beautiful

    I know I know for sure
    Ding dang dong dong ding dang dong dong ding dang
    I know I know its you
    Ding dang dong dong ding dang dong dong ding dang

    Mother Russia do not suffer
    I know you’re bold enough
    I’ve been around the world And I have seen your love
    I know I know it’s you

    You say hello then I say I do

    Like

  6. Here we go
    Power tripping your luck is switched
    Oh, so now it’s funny
    When it’s your turn is to laugh
    You go poke the running joke!

    Scoring points with God
    Get no perfect marks
    But your grades keep falling
    How you treat the weak is
    Your true nature calling

    Porn chick calls herself a therapist
    Call it what it is…
    For all the money in the world
    We’ll go to war you backward hero’s

    Come to rescue you
    Just to lien on you
    With interests soaring
    How you treat the weak is
    Your true nature calling

    Please believe
    We still live and breathe
    Through native tongue
    And poetry
    All those years we believed, yeah

    Scoring points with God
    Get no perfect marks
    But your grades keep falling
    How you treat the weak is
    Your true nature calling

    Like

  7. “I hope radical feminists come to recognize transgender people as allies in the struggle against oppressive gender roles, instead of as threats. In fact, by rejecting the gender that society assigns to them at birth, transgender people are also rejecting the social norms that oppress women.”

    So how does one transgress gender roles by conforming to said gender roles?

    Demanding society treat you like a woman because you dress/identify as one, is not a transgressive notion, but rather a conservative one because it reinforces the existing toxic gender stereotypes and the gender hierarchy that goes part and parcel with it.

    Performing gender non conforming behaviour – that is, a male performing what society sees as feminine, while still being read as male, or the converse for females – would go against the established gender roles/stereotype in society and thus would, in fact, challenge normative gender assumptions.

    Contrast this with a man, who desires to be a read as woman, performing the stereotypical feminine roles/behaviour so that society reads him as a woman. This act conserves the gender hierarchy and is definitely not challenging established norms.

    Like

    1. Two thirds of Americans accept gay and lesbian people, while only a third think they’re morally wrong. America has decided on this issue. And young adults overwhelmingly support trans rights – it’s older people who don’t. Time is on transgender people’s side, just as it was for black people and gay people.

      Like

    2. But you’re overlooking the rights of LGBTQ people, who deserve tolerance just as much as the “masses.” Consider this: You’ll share bathrooms with transgender people only a handful of times in your life and probably won’t even know it. But transgender people are forced to deal with discriminatory bathroom policies every single day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All due to censoring in the media. The FACT that you see such a short term contrast tells it.
        We don’t have media outlets any more. We have propaganda outlets.
        You should be more concerned that many people think that if a majority believes something then that means it is true.

        Like

      2. It doesn’t matter how people become LGBTQ. They’re humans who exist and deserve our respect. (Scientists believe genetics plays a large role but that environment could have an impact.)

        Incidentally, do you really believe Jesus would have a problem with LGBTQ people? The same Jesus who welcomed prostitutes and tax collectors with open arms? I think he’d take transgender women makeup shopping.

        Like

      3. Evidence that LGBTQ people harm society has been carefully cultivated and tirelessly peddled, but it doesn’t hold up.

        For example, of the 40+ studies looking at children with LGBTQ parents, all but 3 found these kids do just as well. The few studies that find a difference focus on children of divorced gay parents, who obviously face challenges.

        http://whatweknow.law.columbia.edu/topics/lgbt-equality/what-does-the-scholarly-research-say-about-the-wellbeing-of-children-with-gay-or-lesbian-parents/

        You should know that your views on LGBTQ people aren’t yours. They were pushed onto you by church leaders, right-wing pundits and opportunistic politicians. You don’t have to accept them. Jesus said to love all men, not to hate gays.

        Also know that you’re on the wrong side of history. Haven’t you noticed that, throughout history, the people saying a given group is dangerous, different or ugly have been discredited and shamed over and over again? It happened to sexists. It happened to racists. It’s happening to homophobes now. And it will absolutely happen to transphobes. This trend is why Dr. King said the arc of justice is long but bends towards justice.

        That’s because young adults overwhelmingly support LGBTQ equality. Intolerance mostly comes from older people. LGBTQ equality is demographically inevitable – because young people aren’t being raised with the fears and stereotypes you and I have been exposed to for our entire lives.

        Do you want your grandchildren to respect your beliefs? Or do you want to be like the racist grandpa who’s kids love him but are also ashamed of him?

        You don’t need to be on the losing side of this.

        Like

      4. I’m listening as best as I can.

        I’m just confused about how somebody who’s Christ-centered can be against LGBTQ tolerance.

        Because the man literally had one rule. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

        Like

      5. Romans 8:1
        “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,fn who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

        Christ took our punishment on the cross. He was the perfect sacrifice who paid for our sins.
        And just as Noah and his family were all safe IN the Ark, so all who claim Christ as Lord and Savior are safe IN Christ.
        Only believe and accept His free gift by faith.
        He did all the heavy lifting.

        Like

      6. “Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Jesus seems pretty clear: The only thing you need to know about the Old Testament is that it says to love others.

        I’m actually not a Christian (I was raised as one). But I admire the Bible and the Jesus who’s depicted in it. I believe he was probably a real man.

        It seems to me Jesus appeared at a time when people were divided over things that didn’t matter (Pharisees and Saducees, etc) and concerned with things that don’t matter (e.g. accumulating wealth; showing off by giving large tithes).

        And Jesus said to forget all of that. Stop being silly. Love each other. Here, I’ll give you one simple rule so you can remember it.

        And Christians spent the next 2,000 years (and counting) killing, judging and excluding people in Jesus’ name.

        I think if Jesus does exist he must be appalled.

        Like

      7. I’ll ignore your condescending tone and reply to your statement just the same, because it is something that most of us, maybe all of us think until we discover this fact.
        Jesus said,
        “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

        The Pharisees were the standard of self righteousness. They prided themselves in following the rules to the smallest details. And yes, they DID overlook love and justice.
        But what do you suppose Jesus meant by the statement He made that I posted here?

        Like

      8. He kicked out the money changers from the Temple, but public rest rooms ? I’m not sure what accommodations were available, but I bet this issue wouldn’t have applied to that day and age. Everyone considered it an abomination for a man to wear a woman’s clothing.

        Like

      9. 5“A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God.”
        Deuteronomy 22:5 would have most certainly been considered applicable to them so if bathrooms had been male and female then, the same would be true.

        Like

    3. Actually, separate bathrooms for men and women didn’t become widespread until the Victorian Era in the 1800s. Before that there was no sense of the bathroom as a private place for women or men. Sex – segregated bathrooms were invented by Victorian sexists who thought women should read in separate parlors and ride trains on separate cars. http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/04/11/sex_segregated_public_restrooms_an_outdated_relic_of_victorian_paternalism.html

      As for what people “consider an abomination”: not so long ago a black man kissing his white wife would have been considered an abomination. Things change. We’re culturally programmed to believe some things are immoral, but that doesn’t mean they’re inherently bad.

      Like

      1. I didn’t say what PEOPLE consider an abomination but what God says it is, and the Jews of Christ’s time would have followed that teaching. No way a man and woman using the same facility would have been okay.
        You seem to assume behavior equals identity and race. It doesn’t.

        Like

    4. I’m sorry if I came off as condescending. I’m trying to express my ideas clearly.

      I’m not a Christian. But it sounds like the verse you’re citing might mean that love is more important than doctrine. It isn’t enough to know all the rituals; unlike the Pharisees you must also be loving and just. You must “do unto others.” But I don’t know.

      Maybe you’ll agree there are parts of the Bible that are difficult to reconcile? Some people have read the Bible and become convinced of a harsh and vengeful God; others have read the same verses and believed in a gentle and loving God.

      I like my gentle and loving God. I think if you believe in a harsh or vengeful God it’s because you want God to be harsh or vengeful. You want God to hate your enemies because, if he does, it’s OK for you to hate your enemies. Bigots want him to look down on minorities so they can also look down on minorities.

      It’s been done throughout history. Witch hunters burned women at the stake because “thou shall not permit a sorceress to live” (Exodus 22:18). American slave owners actually read to their slaves from the Bible: “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh” (1 Peter 2:18). The American eugenics movement, which forcibly sterilized thousands of disabled people well into the 1940s, was justified as the modern equivalent of Noah’s flood that wiped out the unworthy; church leaders like Reverend Harry Emerson Fosdick signed on to advocate for the cause.

      Question: What’s justified with the Bible today that later generations will realize is horrible? Or do you really believe that in 2000 years we’re the first generation that’s without sin?

      I think religion is a wonderful thing – as long as it’s practiced by kind, tolerant people. This proves the wisdom of Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

      Like

  8. I love this post. It sums nicely the attitudes that encourage discriminatory stances and highlights the ironic agreement between these groups. I couldn’t have said it any better than you did.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure. If you have the opportunity, please take a look at my site – meerkatmusings.co.uk – I’ve written (among other things) a critique of misogyny and another on radical feminism.

        Like

    1. Public attitudes are changing because a year ago many Americans didn’t know what transgender people are. Now the public is becoming used to transgender people and becoming less afraid in the process. Like all forms of hate and bigotry transphobia is hard to maintain once you meet actual transgender people. Someday maybe you’ll get to know a transgender person and realize he or she isn’t a threat to you.

      Like

      1. Sorry, but I don’t buy into conspiracy theories. You need only turn on Fox News to see all sorts of religious right rhetoric. Your side’s message is out there – but it is not supported by the majority.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s