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An Open Letter to Germaine Greer, Second Wave Feminist, on Why Trans Exclusion Is Plain Misinformed

In which we talk sociology, psychology, chemistry, biology, and dragons. Maybe.


Hi Germaine,

We’re going to talk about some social constructs, neuroscience, psychology, and biology. Don’t be concerned, though. I’m no expert on these, either, so we’re going to keep things light for both our sakes. You once said you “… don’t believe in transphobia,” and you said it, as you often do when dismissing transgender women, with a caustic—even aggressive—tone, finishing with “Arachnophobia, yes; transphobia, no.” Which really sets the stage for your limited views about trans women—about me, because I am a trans woman and I have a few things I need to say to you.

I had better explain who you are to other people, Germaine. To the rest of you, Greer is an Australian academic who was influential during second wave feminism, especially in the UK during the 1970s after her first book, The Female Eunuch. Only Germaine never really went away after this book, and sadly, she never updated her 1970s mindset. That means, especially since the mid-nineties, she has been very problematic to post-second wave modern feminism because of her increasingly radicalized views and her exclusion and denial of transgender women.

You say you are not an “equality feminist,” which means that you don’t want or seek equality with men and that women should define themselves without looking to what men already have. For me, this is a lot less clear than saying “men and women should have equal rights and equal opportunities.” I like to keep things simple, so my feminism right now is that of an equality feminist. Although our feminism happens to differ, Germaine, we are both feminists, yet I strongly disagree with your exclusion of me from feminism.

Me being a woman “is a delusion,” according to you. Let’s bring in some sexy sexy science to address this one. Being transgender was in fact considered a mental disorder in modern medicine for quite some time. Our brains were considered broken, and we’d somehow slipped the leash of the calm normal gender binary and gone running after some phantom mixed gender squirrels. OK, that wasn’t super sciencey, I admit, but hang on, the science is coming. We do know that trans women have brains constructed like cis women, and that trans men have brains like cis men. We don’t know why this is yet (nature vs nurture), because when it comes to the brain, we’re still effectively in the stone age.

Transgender people were removed from the list of mental disorders years ago in many countries: 2002 in the UK, 2010 across Europe, and 2012 in the USA. Homosexuality was also on the list of mental disorders for many decades, while the APA removed homesexuality as a mental disorder back in 1975, the World Health Organisation didn’t remove it until 1990. Gender dysphoria was left on the list longer not because it was still considered a mental disorder but to “ensure that medical treatment (HRT/Surgery) would be provided for transgender people.” At least, that was what was argued as the reason; we could discuss the truth of that for hours.

We’ve learned a lot of new and wonderful things about medical science since the 1970s; healthcare is a lot different now than it was then. Modern diagnosis excludes “transgender” from being listed as a mental disorder. In fact, if anything, it’s considered a hormonal disorder, of sorts. You see, Germaine, in the womb, I was flooded with the wrong cocktail of hormones at the right time, or I can’t process testosterone correctly, or … well, it’s complex, and we don’t know the full answer yet. Science is theory based after all and we know so little about the brain. We do know our bodies all start out in exactly the same way, our genitals are homologous, which basically means built from the same structure. Until about seven weeks, we all have the same basic body structure, then we get exposed to a cocktail of either male or female hormones (or both, or the wrong one, or too little), and our bodies change in response.

The genitals on your body don’t equal your gender, Germaine, but I describe this to you to illustrate that we started off the same, aside from a malfunction in my mother’s womb. Your view that trans women are “delusional” says that nothing can possibly go wrong in the womb, which of course it can—Or that transgender people are nothing more than a mental disorder, which, according to the world’s experts, we’re not, and we’re labelled as a “normal human variant.” In the womb, the brain develops at a different time than the genitals; a lot could go wrong between these times.

Regardless of whether you chose to deny us our existence, our rights as women, by either mental or physical means, neither one of those arguments is true according to modern science. We’re not delusional, and your stance shows a woeful lack of modern academic knowledge and research. A sexual binary has never existed either physically or socially. We now know 1000+ species can be gay; we’re starting to suspect the same is true when it comes to transgender animals, humans are not special in not being straight and cisgender.

Germaine, you also once supposed that trans women are not real women because we don’t have “a big, hairy, smelly vagina.” You do realize that vaginas are not hairy? If you have a hairy vagina, then you really need to see a doctor, quickly. The vagina is inside the body, the hairy part on the outside is the mons veneris (pubic mound). Let’s get all Wiki here: “The vagina is a muscular and tubular part of the female genital tract, which in humans extends from the vulva to the uterus. The outer vaginal opening may be partly covered by a membrane called the hymen. At the deep end, the cervix (neck of the uterus) bulges into the vagina.” Science! Told you it would be in here somewhere.

So really, Germaine, vaginas really shouldn’t be hairy or smelly. If you personally are the owner of a vagina that smells bad enough to be concerning then please go see a doctor. You’re looking at a yeast infection most likely. As for big, well, everyone’s anatomy is different, and I’m not judging you on your vagina size, Germaine. They are all lovely. Own it, girl. Also, Germaine, you do realize that many trans women do in fact have a vagina, right?

You know that seam that runs down a penis (the raphe)? That’s where the vagina closed up to form a penis. With our still slightly crude cutting and slicing, what we do is take the penis and convert it back into a vagina. We’re not perfect at it, I grant you, but it reuses those same originally homologous parts to create a pretty close-to-perfect vagina. The ball sack (scrotum) becomes what they once were, labia majora (outside lips of the vagina). The head of the penis is just a large clitoras, surgery just moves it back to where it originally was. We’re all made of the same parts just configured differently; trans women that have opted for surgery have a vagina.

You once described your politics as anarchist and then marxist, Germaine. Now you support the Liberal Democrats, which is a slightly left of center political party in England. When questioned about this, you responded with, “Reality comes first and ideology second.” It’s this principle that you have so terribly failed to apply to transgender women, and your damage to a far more marginalized and hurt group than cisgender women is ghastly. You have shown a lack of knowledge and an inability to accept the findings of neuroscience, psychology, or biology and a pathological desire to cling to ideology above reality. It’s time that changed.

(image via Paduk/Shutterstock)

Marcy Cook is a creator of short stories, comic book scripts, interviews and articles. She’s also a semi-professional cat wrangler with an insatiable lust for Lego. When not slapping words together she’s a sci-fi geek, comic book fan and avid reader. Follow her on Twitter: @marcyjcook

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Marcy (@marcyjcook) is writer with a nerd job that pays the bills, and she lives with far too many cats. She's trans, sex positive and has an ongoing sordid love affair with Lego. Those last two are not related… probably.