How Do We Call A Truce in the Gender Wars?

The Storm Cycle

In an earlier post, I made what to me seems like a no-brainer suggestion—that we need a unified movement for gender justice that can span the chasm between trans folks, feminist separatists and everyone in between. Such a movement would be based in solidarity and support for our common, basic human rights—to self-determination, to bodily sovereignty and to be our own moral authority. 

That post generated a storm of outrage—not unexpected as even broaching this topic is likely to piss off everybody. But storms bring the rain that nourishes the land, and without them, everything stagnates, so let me now step even further into the tempest and suggest some of the ways we might begin to build such a movement.  It starts with calling a truce in our intra-movement battles.

Culture Change is Hard!

We are in the midst of a huge, attempted cultural shift in the way we view sex and gender. I was born in 1951. My mother used to tell a story about me, that when I was about two years old, barely able to talk, she was picking up my father’s clothes from the bedroom floor and grumbling about his messiness. I responded: “My fadder is not a mudder. You’re supposed to pick up his clothes.”

That’s how deep gender conditioning goes. At two, I not only had internalized the roles, I’d taken on the job of being a mini-enforcer. And my mother—herself a proto-feminist who chafed against the restrictions of her expected role—nonetheless told this story with great pride.

Shifting culture on this profound level is not easy, or quick, or painless.  It takes immense perseverance, many wild experiments, great audacity and courage, and many mistakes.  So it might make sense for us to practice a few of those values long assigned to women—like caring and compassion, for a start—and call a truce in the sex and gender wars so that we can support one another in the diversity of tools we choose with which to dismantle patriarchy.

How do we do that?  These are my suggestions…

Acknowledge Trauma and Stop the Violence

At the root of much of the pain and outrage is trauma—the constant assaults, low-level and intense, inflicted by a system that enforces narrow gender roles in order to maintain the power of a few men over women, gender-diverse folks and most other men.  So we might do well to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and remember that the reason we are screaming so loudly at one another is that we are in pain.

When we’re wounded, we lash out. We fight hard to protect ourselves, and every fight can feel like a fight to the death. We often lash out at those nearest to us—not necessarily at those who are actually inflicting the injuries.

So a movement for gender justice must be a movement that acknowledges trauma and seeks and offers means of healing. The personal is political—and healing our own wounds and offering support and care for one another are political acts.

But being traumatized is not an excuse for inflicting trauma on others.  If we are going to make an alliance in the gender wars, we need to stop traumatizing one another. One thing I hear from all sides is “I don’t feel safe.”  We’re not safe—in a world of patriarchy and its condoned violence—and we definitely should not amplify that violence against one another.  That means:

1. No Physical Violence

It shouldn’t have to be said, but it does. Physically attacking people, no matter how strongly you disagree with them, is not okay.

2. End the Verbal Violence and Name-Calling

It’s time to put away the “I punch TERF” signs, the imagery of violence against women even when couched as ‘performance art’ as in the recent exhibit shown at the SF Library. We need trans folks and their allies to speak out against such things, just as we need to retire the ‘men in skirts’ meme and the imagery that dehumanizes trans folks. 

TERF—trans-excluding radical feminist—might have started as a descriptive term but it has become something else altogether. As for calling people ‘nazis’—hey, there are real, bona fide, Aryan-loving Nazis out there, despite how 1930’s that might seem—so let’s reserve that word for them!  Terms that dehumanize people encourage and justify violence against women and all gender-nonconforming folks, and reinforce patriarchy.

3. Don’t reinforce rape culture by using or condoning the use of rape imagery.

Just don’t.

Practice Non-Binary Thinking

Binary thinking is not just about gender. Whenever we fall into the trap of either-or thinking, ‘my way or the highway’, ‘zero tolerance’, ‘with us or against us’ we reinforce a binary view of the world in which people are either good or evil and those traits are seen as fixed and unchangeable. As Audre Lorde said, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Binary, authoritarian thinking cannot dismantle binary sex-roles or binary, authoritarian structures of power. 

We need a different world-view, one that sees the world as a web of relationships, and sees people as complex, nuanced, imperfect but capable of growth and change.

Accept That People Make Mistakes  

A movement of perfect people would be a very small movement, indeed!  To make deep, overarching changes in culture and power structures we need a broad movement, one made up of imperfect people, as we all are.  We need to find ways to welcome people in, to grow and learn and change together.

Hold Each Other Accountable for What We Do and Say

Don’t label people as something they ‘are’. If you say, “Mabel is a TERF” it implies that “TERF” is a fixed, unchangeable identity, like being a Martian. It obscures the actual views that Mabel might hold, or the acts she might have committed, and actually makes them more difficult to name and challenge. If Mabel holds trans-exclusionary views, or supports oppressive policies, be specific in naming what they are and how they could be changed.

Welcome Conflict, and Learn to Do it Well

Conflict arises whenever people come together and care about something, because we have differing ideas, values, needs and priorities. In the binary, authoritarian world-view, conflict is easily framed as good vs. evil. We have no choice but to fight to defend the good, and eject the evil! 

But our intra-movement conflicts are rarely between completely good and completely evil people or positions—they are more often differences of opinion, of interpretation, of priorities, or needs.  If we engage in respectful dialogue, if we argue passionately for our perspective without dehumanizing our opponents, we actually strengthen our own arguments.  And we model the freedom and openness that a libratory movement must stand for.

Let’s Focus Less on Language and More on Rights  

Language is important, but in progressive movements today it has become almost a fetish—as if by getting the language just right and policing one another to use the proper terms, we could force change to happen. New terms and new linguistic formulations can broaden our minds and give us new ways of thinking—but they can also become markers of who is in the know and who is out. 

The jargon can become a substitute for thinking and mask the lack of true understanding—especially when it comes from academia and cannot be intuitively understood unless someone explains it. There are times when it is extremely useful to talk about ‘cisgendered women’ or ‘female-bodied persons’, but if we are looking to build a broad movement for major social change, there are times we need to just talk about women, and use the language that is commonly understood. 

We can differ on just how we define all of these terms and still stand in solidarity to defend one another’s basic human rights.

From Safety to Solidarity

We can shift from a framework of safety to one of solidarity. Of course we all want to be safe—and especially so if we carry a history of hurt and trauma. We should make sure our movement spaces are free from physical and verbal violence. 

But if we define ‘safety’ as meaning ‘no one will espouse views that might upset someone else’ we actually create unsafety by fostering an atmosphere of mutual policing and thought control. I would love to be able to assure my trans friends or friends of color that no one will inadvertently say something insensitive or use the wrong gender pronoun or commit some subtle microagression in any space for which I’m responsible. But there is no way I can truthfully give that assurance, no way to prevent people from making mistakes. And when I attempt to do so, I actually create the unsafety of silencing that is especially traumatizing to those who have suffered from the censorship of the larger culture.

What I can offer is solidarity. I can say “I will stand with you in this space or any other and defend your rights and your humanity, and ask others to do so.”

Practice Restorative Justice

We need a framework of education, dialogue and restorative justice. Restorative justice moves us out of the frame of revenge and punishment, and instead sees wrongdoing as tearing a rip in the fabric of community. Restorative justice aims to repair that fabric and find a path back into community for the person who has done the harm. 

Offenders can be reintegrated when they take responsibility for their actions, and make amends. No one is discarded. Everyone—even a serious offender—is seen as capable of change.

Institute Fair Evaluation Processes for Accusations

Banning, shunning and de-platforming should not be the go-to solution for resolving conflict or dealing with differences. They are forms of violence. Too often I’ve seen someone shut out of a conference or denied a speaking opportunity because of allegations made on the internet or accusations that some group will not feel ‘safe’ if this person speaks. But an atmosphere of silencing reinforces the trauma suffered by every survivor of sexual abuse, of assault, harassment, of the homophobia and transphobia that have silenced so many for so long. Conferences and institutions need to have fair, transparent and accountable processes for evaluating accusations.

Space to Meet Our Own Needs  

Needs may sometimes seem to conflict, but they do not have to negate one another. Trans women need to feel seen, validated and included. Women-born women, in a political moment when legal abortion is threatened and misogyny is still rampant, need information about their own bodily workings and health. 

We may need some of the tools we developed in the second wave of the feminist movement, from self-health sessions learning to use a speculum to menstrual extraction. In a world that objectifies, sexualizes and ultimately hates the female body, we need to learn to honor and celebrate it. 

Meeting those needs should not be seen as negating transwomen’s identity, but as opening space to honor and value all bodies and challenge the overarching structures of patriarchy that oppress us all.

Build a Broad, Welcoming, Body-Positive, Life-Affirming Movement

Misogyny is like the toxic air we experienced in the Bay Area as fires raged through California—permeating everything, not always detectable but always injurious. While it is specifically the hatred and objectification of the female sex, gender and body it also ultimately denigrates all bodies of any gender. 

It’s part of the frame that separates spirit from nature, and assigns goodness and value to all that is high, light, white, male (but not too fleshily male) and disembodied, while devaluing all that is connected to earth, body, flesh, dark, female, and embodied in the natural world. That overarching frame underlies sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and more, as well as our complicity in the destruction of nature’s life-support systems.

To counter it we need a movement that embraces the body—in all its forms, that values bodily pleasure, that celebrates life, health, nature and connection and that understands that human beings exist in a web of complex, dynamic relationships, not a set of fixed categories. 

A true liberation movement is a messy, murky and ever-changing process. It calls for courage, resilience, and compassion. But it feels good to stand together and support each other—just as it feels good to stand in the heart of the storm as the wild winds blow away the smog, and together breathe free.

Note: While I’m sure this will get posted on Facebook, that’s not a place I find productive in engaging in discussion. I encourage people to post comments to my blog. I do try and monitor comments on my own Facebook page, but I don’t have the capacity or the consistent internet access that would let me do it completely effectively. 
I take responsibility for anything in this post, I am not responsible for what other people say about it.

40 comments to How Do We Call A Truce in the Gender Wars?

  • Christine Kraemer

    I appreciate this post’s moderate tone and largely agree with it. Under the “retire dehumanizing language” section, I would add some specific comments about the way some radical feminists have taken up slogans like “Biology is not bigotry,” which reference arguments that have been used to dehumanize others in the contexts of slavery and ethnic genocides (in this case, the slogan refers to the belief that gender arises primarily or wholly from biological sex; in the past, it has referred to the belief that aptitudes and personality arise primarily or wholly from racial and ethnic origin). To me, those have been some of the most disturbing and dangerous rhetorical moves of this particular conflict, as this is an assertion that has been consistently used historically to justify the violent reinforcement of social boundaries. It has been shocking to see feminists embracing it.

    • RadMoon

      “Biology is not bigotry” is a direct response to trans activists shutting down things like the vagina monologues and women’s health and body positivity workshops on the pretense that women so much as talking about our bodies is somehow oppressive to trans women. For women to talk about our bodies in the context of our womanhood is not bigotry. Radical feminists do not believe that gender is innate or “arising” from biology. Personality traits may be innate, but gender is a sex class system that says certain traits are innate to certain sexes (not unlike how variations in phenotype are innate, but race, the class system, is a social construct). Gender is the expectation that women and men occupy certain traits, roles, etc. because of their biology, and this system is set up to oppress women (female people [it also negatively effects gay men and trans women, but the purpose is a system of control of female people]). When talking about the sex-class system of patriarchy, discussion of women’s biology is integral to discussing the rise and perpetuation of patriarchy. Shutting down those aforementioned resources is counter-productive to tackling patriarchy and is just the same old patriarchal enforcing of silence around women’s bodies, being done in the name of silencing “bigotry.”

    • Mary Lou Singleton

      The phrase “biology is not bigotry” is not dehumanizing. If anything, the forces working to completely untether humans from our bodies, other species, and the living world are dehumanizing. Like all mammalian species, humans are sexually dimorphic; every human on the planet is the result of the irreducible biological binary of male/female: sperm/egg. The phrase “biology is not bigotry” acknowledges this. Female humans have been and continue to be oppressed globally by male humans. Instead of acknowledging the global epidemic of male violence and the global scourge of patriarchy, trans activists are now asserting that there is not such thing as biological sex and therefore no class of humans oppressed on the basis of their reproductive capacity.

  • musawa

    It’s hard to know where to start, in trying to untangle the knots our knickers have gotten tied up in over this issue of gender! No matter what you say, you are going to get tripped up in the snares of the gender binary booby traps. Opps, I said boobies…(biologically belonging to the female sex?)… I meant biology, as in science (as if science could be based on objective facts?)…I meant sex as determined by genes (that is part of biology, isn’t it? but gender is not!) … . Yeah, that’s what I meant: in my view gender is not determined by biology or sex— it’s prescribed gender roles that get laid on biological sex that is the problem. The old question of Nature vs Nurture does not do it: it’s a question of both/and. (I know my view of this may be different from your view, and that’s OK… I respect your right to have your own point of view, as I respectfully ask you to accept my right to have a different point of view from you, too..) Oh, never mind! That’s the problem with language: it tries to convey meaning, which can be interpreted in many different ways. Such is life!

    Seriously, though, it shouldn’t have to be so challenging to join together in opposing sexually stereotyped gender roles —that we all are against! We can support non-conforming gender roles as everyone’s right—regardless of one’s sex or gender identity (and ditto for race, class, age, sexual orientation, and whatever other differences are exploited in the interests of keeping us fighting against each other, instead of opposing the system that oppresses us all). And let’s name it. I call it patriarchy. Whatever you call it, whatever is the primary source of oppression for you, it does not serve any of us to continue fighting each other over who is the most oppressed—or seeking our own liberatioin at the expense of another’s. We are stronger if we stand together—in solidarity—which is our only hope for ending the system of dominance and control over all ‘others’ that is so utterly unsustainable for all life on Earth (can I call this source of life, Mother? without someone feeling dehumanized as an Other?!)

    Anyway, I’d like to start by thanking Starhawk, for beginning the process of outlining some basic principles and practices for re-framing the dialogue in non-oppressive ways and trying to re-establish trust (that might also include humor?)— starting with respecting our common ground as well as our differences..

  • Susan de Gaia

    I see and hear you Starhawk. Without a celebration of “life, health, nature and connection” we wither and die, and bring the rest of the world down as well. Without understanding that existence is not a set of fixed categories but “a web of complex, dynamic relationships,” we let cultural change divide us into exclusivities that result in pain and fear, and destroy what we have built. This may sound dramatic in the abstract, but the gender wars show – in the trauma, the insults, the threats, and the actual violence – that the destruction is real. This we must heal, with integrity and wholeness of self and other. Each, as we are able, and with our personal freedom intact, has a role to play in this healing work.

  • Anne Fairbrother

    There’s no middle ground between recognizing the biological truth that there are two sexes and a person can’t change their sex and believing anyone can change their sex by adopting a feminine gender identity. Even that could be two peaceful sides of the fence but for the vicious attacks on women by transactvists, and their deliberate coopting of all things (spaces, language, sports) female. They would have to stop their invasion if there were a “truce” – they won’t do that. We know. You know.

    • Anne, I know no such thing. That’s the point of a truce–to stop the dehumanization from both sides, establish some communication, and find common ground.

    • People Deserve Rights

      Trans women still exist though and biology backs it up.

      As someone who is a feminist and someone who wants trans rights, excluding them is downright wrong because biology says they ARE women, just with a different set of parts. By leaving them out of the conversation we are excluding an entire group of women and girls who we call men based on parts when biology, especially their brain, backs up that they are in fact women, and that’s not an opinion. That is a fact.

      Trans people are oppressed too, oppression isn’t something limited to a few people, it’s something that happens to many people, including trans folks.

      • Windtwists

        That’s like saying white people are black people but with different coloured skins. The oppression that women face is based on their sex, and the expectations and limitations placed upon them because of that sex. Someone with a male body does not experience the biological or the social issues that human females face. They have their own challenges, but these cannot be framed as the experience of the human female. It’s also worth bearing in mind how often trans women pursue and adopt sexist stereotypes in their search for feminine identity. Suddenly we are back to high heels and lipstick, long hair and pink ballgowns, all the nonsense that has nothing to do with our reality and everything to do with patriarchal tropes. While we have males who seriously believe that putting on a dress entitles him to enter safe spaces with vulnerable women, there can be no truce. Women should not need to risk violence so that a man can feel good about himself.

  • Rachel

    What utter codswallop. Human beings are sexually dimorphic and can’t change sex. Women have always been and continue to be oppressed because of our specific reproductive role. Allowing a tiny handful of (mostly) privileged white men to force us to pretend they’re women, because they enjoy dressing and behaving in an insultingly stereotypically “female” way, is deeply sexist and anti-feminist.

    • Cabra

      Butch trans women exist.

    • Ole Laursen

      There’s more to being a woman than reproduction. 🙂

      Biology is much more complicated than a word like dimorphic reveals. Nature is never straight – you consist of trillions of cooperating cells. This calls for a wide, not narrow perspective.

      Nobody should be forced, though, agreed on that.

    • People Deserve Rights

      Trans women still exist though and biology backs it up.

      As someone who is a feminist and someone who wants trans rights, excluding them is downright wrong because biology says they ARE women, just with a different set of parts. By leaving them out of the conversation we are excluding an entire group of women and girls who we call men based on parts when biology, especially their brain, backs up that they are in fact women, and that’s not an opinion. That is a fact.

      Trans people are oppressed too, oppression isn’t something limited to a few people, it’s something that happens to many people, including trans folks.

  • Melaine

    Thank you for taking the time and effort.

  • Ann Wheeler

    Interesting piece.

  • Ali D

    The slogan “biology is not bigotry” does not reference an argument that gender arises from biological sex. It references the feminist argument that gender (which is the socially constructed idea that certain personality traits, preferences, modes of dress and presentation are innate or natural to male and female people) is entirely made up and that in fact one’s sex does not define one’s personality, and one’s personality does not define one’s sex. Female and male are biological realities, and humans of both sexes are capable of a full range of personalities and modes of expression. Currently we are erasing and ignoring biology, and redefining male and female to mean identity and personality. That is a logical error and it spells doom for the female sex class, who are not required to embody particular ‘feminine’ characteristics because we are female, and who also cannot identify out of the reality that we are female, even as ‘progressive’ movements seek to erase language and roll back rights for female people. Clearly we still need words to acknowledge the female sex class – we are using dehumanizing words like ‘menstruators’ and ‘non prostate owners’ because suddenly ‘female’ means personality now. It is incredibly regressive and this is what women are protesting.

  • Artemix

    While adults can do as they like with their bodies I fail to see how much of what goes on for trans people double mastectomies,, invasive surgeries that do not provide working sexual organs can come under a body positive and life affirming movement. Nor life time tethering of a person to hormones provided by the pharmaceutical industry.

    • The point of my article is not to approve or disapprove, but to stand in solidarity with peoples’ own choices about their bodies whether or not they are choices you or I think are good ones.

  • Testing. I was told by several of my friends that posts were being censored or blacklisted, so I am testing for myself. Hi, Starhawk. I live in SLO county, we met several times at Diablo and other Nuclear hot spots. Livermore was memorable.

    • No, we’re not censoring–just taking a holiday and some time off to be with family! I do not approve posts that I feel are actively harmful, but other than that welcome respectful feedback and critique. But I also have a life, and am not one of those people that live on the internet! So, sorry for the delays, folks.

      • And it’s going to take a while for me to work through all the comments, especially the longer ones, so please be patient.

        • So, in the end it took a lot longer than I expected–a dear friend died unexpectedly a few days ago and that took precedence. And in the end, I decided to go ahead and post just about everything. I’ve commented on a few, and probably could say more but really suggest you read the original post, which does not say anyone has to approve of other peoples’ choices, but rather be in solidarity with their right to make them. Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond.

  • Karen St John

    May I add? Please don’t gaslight, or build straw persons to subsequently torch. Also rape culture.

  • SANDI Brockway

    The misappropriation and false comparisons in Christine’s thesis is typical of contentious trans-narratives — full of doublespeak and obfuscation — which explains the frustrations incurred when attempting logical discourse Her definitions and characterizations are incorrect. For instance, contrary to her claims, Rad Fems are gender abolitionists and strive for a balanced androgynization of humanity — freeing humans from the straight jacket of gender stereotypes, stigmas, and expectations that are greatly born from misogyny and trauma.

    Is my position bigoted and rife with shades of genetic racism? I doubt it.

  • Linda Rosewood

    Thanks for writing this, Starhawk. We need more people to try to open up a space were we can all talk, and I hope this post inspires others. We need to agree to a set of values like these. One there, perhaps we can then let’s name the beneficiary of this incendiary rupture.

  • Victoria Vanasco

    The way forward is similar to end of the religion wars in Europe. The very basic disagreement here is whether men can be women. As I learned a long time ago, you can’t win arguements where basic values are in disagreement; you can only move on to accepting the disagreement and working toward a pluralistic world whereint he disagreement doesn’t matter. So, cultural Christians have learned (most of us anyway) that Jews not acceptong Christ is not a big deal, and Jews don’t require everyone else to accept their belief that they are God’s chosen people. Simialrly, trans advocates will have to stop requiring that everyone accept their beliefs about gender (there are a good number of trans people who already advocate to end this practice) and that men can be women, and others will have to learn to leave gender non-conforming people free from violence, housing and workplace discrimination. But the fact that in NYC you can be fined up to $250k for misgendering is ridiculously insulting to every woman ever called a bith and every POC ever called the n-word. Men do not belong on women’s sports teams or in women’s jails, but trans people need an opportunity to play sports and be in less hostile prisons than a men’s prison. Why this means violating women’s opportunities, privacy and safety is beyond me. But as the Christains learned a long time ago during the Inquisition, violence and jail will not convert people. It only makes one a tyrant, and tyranny is never accetable.

  • Dustianne North

    Starhawk I appreciate your intention in this article. And I don’t disagree with everything you say here. but looking at who seemed to feel most emboldened and most inspired to comment, I sadly feel like you may have disproven your own supposition that dialing down the insistence of safety for trans women, that the focus on language is the problem, etc. will bring solidarity and improve trans women’s experience in the movement.

    Look at all the truly hateful expressions you just encouraged, and look how few trans women seem to feel empowered to respond. You are right that we can’t guarantee movement spaces will always feel 100% safe, but I fear your framing of the issues has specifically invited this, and it IS harmful. I really appreciate that you are at least replying to the most hurtful of these comments. and I know what you mean that if we can’t have the dialogue we won’t get anywhere. But you have created a situation on this thread where trans women have to argue their right to exist, let alone argue their other rights as women etc.

    So this means we are not having aN equal debate among oppressed people. Instead you have just recreated the debate about whether trans is valid, with few trans voices included. And I think this is precisely what you hoped to avoid.

    Also, you yourself in rejecting terms trans ppl feel comfortable with- and creating your own terms like “women-born-women” have taken it upon yourself to define the identity of others in a way you think will be more palatable or accessible to CIS folks. Which may itself be very violating to trans women who were in truth also born women, regardless of their anatomy.

    I respect your life’s work enormously, and I recognize in what you are doing here an ethos that I think is well intended and has some valuable nuances. But the parts of your solution that focus on tone policing are far more harmful than the kind of language policing you are concerned about, and your notion that feminist separatists are not bigots (let alone your idea that calling someone a bigot is the same as calling them a racial slur!) is really really harmful. This hurts to see. Thanks for listening.

    • Estara Sanatani

      Absolutely agree. I think it is telling that while the article spends the majority of its time telling trans activists to be more tolerant of ciswomen who exclude them, it is mostly the the latter who are still here complaining that they can’t possibly grant even the right to exist, because Reasons.

      I am, by the way, a ciswoman saying this. One of the many this arm of the women’s movement has lost to this determination to focus on the fellow oppressed rather than the oppressor.

    • Gus Moore

      Thank you, Dustianne, for replying and voicing some of my concerns as well. It’s jarring to come to a person’s website I so respect, like Starhawk’s, and read in content and in the comments so little support and validation of transgender lives and experiences. Until we can all do our very best to understand, include, and address transwomen as women, transmen as men, and non-binary people as existing in creative gender amalgamation, I’m not sure we can have a unified movement. At least I can’t be a part of that movement no matter how feminist or pagan it is, because it ruthlessly denies the love and respect that my transgender community has of our beautiful divine magickal selves. To address the exclusionary views of some women, i say: I love women! I was initiated into girlhood as a child, but then followed a genderqueer path into adulthood, and I still love women of all kinds! Please spread the beautiful gifts of girlhood and womanhood and welcome long lost sisters into the fold, who are asking to share in this experience of womanhood with you. Even though I’m not a woman, I feel honored that there are people who feel that woman magick in them so strongly that they affirm their womaness no matter what society says their bodies “make them”. Thank you for reading <3

  • Dustianne North

    Starhawk can you also explain why, if you are disapproving comments that are explicitly harmful, that you let some of the above comments thru? I’m not really commenting so much on whether you should censor but rather questioning whether you understand what is and is not harmful to trans people. I think your offering some reflection on this would be instructive for all, and TBH I think perhaps your own understandings of this could use some tuning up. So since you are moderating this discussion, please go this extra step.

    • I’m just getting out of nearly a month with very restricted internet. Reviewing the comments–some of which I missed the first time, I decided to just approve mostly everuthing. It’s very difficult to draw a line between a comment that is just angry and one that is actively hurtful–in the end, I suppose it’s better to know what’s out there. I stand by what I wrote, and I’m heartened to know that others are beginning to put out similar statements calling for mutual respect for the rights of those we might even disagree with, and an end to the intra-movement hostility.

  • Rose Norman

    I find Starhawk’s essay, helpful, as are many of the comments. Normally, I find I can’t read comments on controversial subjects because they are often so unkind and disrespectful. At least, I could read these. The topic of trans inclusion is dividing and disrupting the feminist movement in ways that I can only see as patriarchal. We need to learn to talk about it without eating each other alive.

  • Susan Jellinger

    I’m late to the comment party and enjoyed reviewing and wondering. I do still carry resentment about actions taken, protests launched, and people’s careers being threatened in these gender wars. Friendships became strained and community involvement lessened. Your blog, Starhawk, gives me a way to be empathetic and yet strong in my beliefs. A way forward.

  • Lisa Gignac

    Thank you Starhawk for addressing this difficult but important topic. Women’s issues and transgendered issues are very different. Space should be respected for each group individually. Where these groups intersect are around core issues of peoples who have been traumatized, victimized and oppressed, this group is also not limited to women or transgendered people. There is so much work needed to change systemic oppression today that it is time to stop the in-fighting and get on with the real work.

  • Erin

    I appreciate your desire to try and find a peaceful middle road through, but I fear that you are making the same mistake that so many other have made on different issues: assuming that the side which is targeted an oppressed & stigmatized minority group is arguing in good faith, and that they are being attacked without provocation in turn.

    I’m going to be brutally honest here: I am not willing to call a “truce” on these matters, because GC feminist thought influenced and generally supports policies that got me raped, beaten and abused for a year or so. I tried to leave my abusive fiance early in 2015, but quickly found that no women’s shelter in my area was willing to take me because I was trans and had not yet been able to change my legal sex(due to state laws which have, thankfully, significantly improved since). The fact that I regularly passed and had begun transition in 2012 made no difference, and I literally was willing to settle with being stuck in a janitor’s closet and told to not interact with anyone if it meant having an avenue to escape him. But that didn’t happen, and I was not able to financially leave my ex until April of 2016(when he was arrested for strangulation and assault). In that year I was raped multiple times, beaten, choked to the point of passing out, and emotionally abused and controlled by him. I still have nights that I can’t sleep, and days where I wake up thinking I just left.

    This is because of policies regarding women’s shelters that TERFs would continue to support(and no, ‘supporting trans shelters’ is not a viable alternate solution because there will never be a large enough transgender community in many areas to support or warrantsuch projects; separate-but-equal does not work because there is rarely any actual equality involved).

    This is just one area where trans-exclusionary views do significant, serious and real life damage to trans people. There are many, many other areas of damage; but few cut to the quick quite like this example.

    I won’t accept a “truce in the gender war,” not because I hate TERFs, but because I will not allow myself to condone any philosophy which would see another trans person be treated like this. Nor would I support a philosophy which would contribute to a trans person hating themselves, being refused medical care that no major medical group opposes, being marginalized in job prospects, and so on.

    I want to believe you mean well with this post and that you merely want peace and safety for everyone, but what this comes off as is a dangerously centrist attempt to craft a “BOTH SIDES” narrative where one simply does not exist. I beg you to do more research into the significant imbalance in the stakes faced by trans folks in this “debate,” and also many of the tactics that have been used to oppose trans rights. This ranges from illegally hijacking London Pride(a celebration of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and [yes] Transgender community), to anti-trans stickers with razor blades behind them to make removal dangerous, to most recently attempts by “gender critical” leaders like Posie Parker to align themselves with anti-abortion and homophobic groups like the Heritage Foundation simply because they agree that trans people suck.

    And yes, I ask that you look at these comments you have received and tell me that you don’t see a significant imbalance in both which side seems to feel empowered by your post, and a difference in which side seems to be more combative and hostile.

  • April

    It’s been a while since a new Starhawk fan wandered in here, disappointed, but here I am. This broke my heart a little and I’m not even trans.

    I understand why you’d feel an impulse to bring your nonviolence training to bear here, but I also feel certain that you would not call for peace with homophobes, or allow racial slurs to be posted on your website as comments.

    I’m sorry that so many of your friends have fallen into a hateful cult. That must be hard. But if you’re the person I glimpsed in your books, your role should be to help them out of it, to offer them a seat at your table once they had reconsidered. Not to call for their victims to be more polite to the people tormenting them.

  • Brianna Feileacan

    Reminder.. Gender is not physical sex. Transwomen are women. No one is changing SEX, they are changing gender presentation to match who they are, also do not erase those who are intersex based on genitalia

  • Penny Rosenwasser

    wow, i just now read this when a friend sent it to me. THANK YOU dear Star, so wisely and beautifully said — courageous, nuanced and clear. L’shana tova!

  • Ambrosia

    Thank you for this Starhawk.

    The Australian Pagan community is being so divided by this issue…
    and Reclaiming here has grown into a very exclusive group which completely excludes any older more experienced pagans and is now largely avoided by the wider Pagan community.

    I’m just recovering from 3 days of incredibly abusive and angry online debates amongst friends who have blocked each other left right and centre after one of them had the “audacity” to post a link to the podcast “The Witchtrials of JK Rowling”…and now me for attempting to bridge the divide. (I actually said a lot of what you have written here…but coming from me, it got screamed down.)

    The whole discourse has become so vicious, and as you say, language is being used primarily as a weapon.

    Im beginning to think at least here in Australia, a lot of it is also about Power.

    Some sane and balanced language and guidelines are so very needed. I have reposted this to numerous people.

    I would welcome it greatly if you wrote more about the subject…I am saddened, scared and out of words

  • Windtwists

    5 years since this heartfelt blog, and see where we are.

    I have to stay anonymous, because if I state what I believe, I will get death threats. My family, my life, my work would all be in danger. If I say that a man is not a woman, that gender is a contruct of stereotypes and lies that damage all of us, I will be called a transphobe. Because a man and his servants somewhere have decided I should not speak, that anything I say that meets their disapproval is hatred, because some man somewhere thinks that I should risk my safety in a public toilet for their gratification (and before anyone tells me it is safe, please google Kate Dolatowski or even just this link

    Note in the link, how the woman is wrong for having even dared to ask a question: The Master in this video requires complicity and silence. As he says, ‘are you scared?’
    There can be no truce with those who would gag us, Starhawk. They want our silence, our subservience, our surrender. And they have no problems with bullying women to get what they want.

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