Catharine A. MacKinnon on Trans Women

I’ve always been a fan of hers even when I disagree with her. But this? Made me joyful. She was asked how her views have changed over the years:

Certain things that I have had an inkling about have grown over time, for example, concerning transgender people. I always thought I don’t care how someone becomes a woman or a man; it does not matter to me. It is just part of their specificity, their uniqueness, like everyone else’s. Anybody who identifies as a woman, wants to be a woman, is going around being a woman, as far as I’m concerned, is a woman. Many transwomen are more feminist than a lot of born women who don’t much want to be women (for understandable reasons), who don’t really identify with women, some of whom are completely anti-feminist. The fact that they’re biologically female does not improve things.

To me, women is a political group. I never had much occasion to say that, or work with it, until the last few years when there has been a lot of discussion about whether transwomen are women. I discovered I more or less have always had a view on it, developed through transwomen I know, and have met, including prostituted ones, who are some of the strongest feminists in opposition to prostitution I’ve ever encountered. They are a big improvement on the born women who defend pimps and johns, I can tell you that. Many transwomen just go around being women, who knew, and suddenly, we are supposed to care that they are using the women’s bathroom. There they are in the next stall with the door shut, and we’re supposed to feel threatened. I don’t. I don’t care. By now, I aggressively don’t care.

Simone de Beauvoir said one is not born, one becomes a woman. Now we’re supposed to care how, as if being a woman suddenly became a turf to be defended. I have become more impassioned and emphatic as I have become more informed, and with the push-back from colleagues who take a very different view. Unfortunately some people have apparently physically defended their transition, also. This kind of change develops your views is a further in response to a sharpening of developments in the world. But the law Andrea Dworkin and I wrote gives “transsexuals” rights explicitly; that was 1983. We were thinking about it; we just didn’t know as much as it is possible to know now.

I have a hard time believing someone who is so language-aware used the term “turf” unintentionally there. And she’s right about the Minnesota Ordinance; I was just teaching it again and was surprised that trans people are mentioned and included specifically. Here’s another interview with MacKinnon with TransAdvocate where she reiterates these points.

By now, I aggressively don’t care. And this from a feminist – nay, maybe *the* feminist – who takes women’s experience of patriarchal violence and women’s fear of violence about as seriously as a person can.

Helen Boyd

is the author of My Husband Betty and She's Not the Man I Married.

One Comment

  1. Wow. I suppose I didn’t know this side of her thinking at all, because I was quite surprised to read this; thanks for bringing this statement up in your blog, Helen! It will certainly be useful in arguments discussions regarding these issues (especially the noisome public restrooms debate), as well as providing ammunition from an unimpeachably feminist source against the Sheila Jeffreys and Cathy Brennans of the world.

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