OPINION: A new wing of the anti-gender movement

by Jessica Stern | OutRight Action International
Monday, 15 April 2019 10:40 GMT

People rally to protest the Trump administration's reported transgender proposal to narrow the definition of gender to male or female at birth, in Los Angeles, California, United States, October 22, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The anti-gender movement manipulates seemingly feminist language to advocate for the exclusion of transgender people

Jessica Stern is executive director of OutRight Action International

It is ironic that the opinion piece written by Angela Wild was published on April 12 – the same day the ban on trans people serving in the United States military came into force. The language and reasoning used by Wild echoes strongly that used to ban trans people from the military and points to the fact that groups like hers, “Get the L out”, align with movements leading the charge against gender equality and LGBT+ people around the world.

Since our inception in 1990, OutRight has been a proud lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer and feminist organisation, fighting for gender equality for all women and LGBT+ people. Gender inequality affects every one of us by imposing would-be norms of a binary society with particular roles for men and women, thus particularly affecting LGBT+ people who don’t fit the narrow definitions assigned.

At the core of the gender equality movement has been a rejection of the definition of gender as the sum of our body parts, instead acknowledging gender as a personal experience impacted by social, economic, and cultural forces.

In recent years, fundamentalist, “anti-gender”, movements have grown in strength and number around the world. Often aligned across religious extremist and populist forces, they use human rights language – arguments for religious freedom, individual choice or morality – to restrict sexual and reproductive health, rights and education; to ban rights to abortion; to oppose acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people; and to create a new definition of gender based on biological determinism.

Unfortunately, this article is part of a new trend: the anti-gender movement has developed a new wing coming from within the LGBT+ community. These groups confusingly align with these anti-gender forces. They manipulate seemingly feminist language to advocate for the exclusion of transgender people, one of the most marginalised groups in society, and against the very fundamentals of feminism by claiming that our gender is defined by our bodies.

As I read Wild’s article, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the Trump administration in the United States.

Do you remember the New York Times article from last year, “Transgender Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration”? The Times reported that the Trump administration was planning to define gender as an immutable, biological condition determined by genitalia at birth. Wild’s argument is nearly identical.

She uses the same language, exacerbating the fear, marginalisation and hate trans women already face.

This is not feminism. This is not lesbian activism. This is pure, unabated hatred, cushioned in would-be human rights and pseudo-feminist language. There is no place for it in the LGBT+ movement, but it fits perfectly with the anti-gender, populist and far-right forces leading the increasingly strong charge against trans, intersex, lesbian, gay and bisexual people’s right to exist.

I have no words to describe how saddened and alarmed I am to see a group from within our own community working to erode our beautiful movement by aligning with the very forces seeking to erase our existence.

Every individual has a different experience of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. And that variety is wonderful. It adds to the diversity of the LGBT+ community and society as a whole.

Trans people exist, just as cis people, lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex people exist, and none of us will be erased by the Trump administration, by the Holy See or by the new right wing.

Wild is most certainly not speaking in my name.

Themes