Trans versus Women versus Lesbians versus TERFs

The title alone is enough to confuse most, and I’ve invested a bit of time in this debate to try to ascertain exactly what it is about. Male to female Transsexual activists are determined to be considered women and therefore also be considered lesbians should they enter a relationship with a cisgender (i.e. biological) woman. TERFs is an acronym given by trans activists to feminists who are opposed to male to female trans being allowed to call themselves women, Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist.

I personally don’t have any skin in this debate, but I’m willing to risk making some suggestions. A lot of the concerns appear to centre around feminist women having to share women’s rights with those who are not biologically women, while trans activists believe trans rights are being violated through such an exclusion.

That sort of argument is never going to result in consensus and derives from the misnomer of group rights (i.e. women’s rights, gay rights, Maori rights, trans rights, student rights). However, rights are not applied to groups. Individuals have rights.?The right of free speech, freedom of association, property rights, sovereignty over your own body, the right to be free and protected from threats and violence. Those rights apply to all adult individuals and are identical for all.

Freedom of association gives you the liberty to not associate with those you wish to avoid and vice-versa. In some cases that could mean a cake shop owned by a religious person may decline to enter into a business transaction with you to provide a cake for your gay wedding. That’s unfortunate but to be frank, I’d decline to purchase a cake for my gay wedding from such a shop anyway. Feel free to employ freedom of speech to share your experience with others or simply take your business elsewhere; that’s your right.

You may have noticed that none of the rights I have mentioned entitles anybody to free stuff. To do so would impose an authoritarian obligation upon others to provide you with such entitlements. I’m personally comfortable with the government providing a safety net for those in dire need through a public health and school system as well as social welfare. Most fair-minded New Zealanders would too; they just don’t like being hoodwinked in the process.

Returning to the debate over gender rights, I genuinely could not care less if you would like to identify as a gender which varies from your biological gender. If that makes you happy, then do it. It’s really none of my business. I like to think that I have sufficient manners to be let loose in polite society so if you wish to be addressed as she instead of he, it’s no big deal to me.

One of the difficulties transgender people experience, particularly prior to the surgical procedure is the ability to have legal identification which fairly represents them when presented. Currently ‘X’ can be used on a passport during that transitional period and then changed to M or F when the surgical procedure is complete. Currently, it is possible to apply to the Department of Internal Affairs to alter your gender on your birth certificate if you have commenced the gender transition process, though not if you’ve assumed a differently gendered identity without embarking upon the next stage of physical procedures.

I can’t see why a process to obtain identification confirming your gender identity should not be allowed if there is a reasonable process to ensure it is not abused. Being transgender makes life difficult enough in itself; having the means to obtain identification confirming the preferred gender makes life just that bit less difficult.

This needn’t be a group rights battle, if we simply accept that rights are only valid on an individual basis, everyone’s rights are exactly the same, transgender people have the means to legally identify themselves and we all avoid getting involved in other people’s private business.