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Trans Women Are Real - Whether You Like It Or Not

07/03/2017 13:37 GMT | Updated 07/03/2017 13:37 GMT
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all women everywhere

I sometimes wonder if people understand what it's like to have their identity - their very being - challenged and questioned constantly.

Recently, Germaine Greer was invited to speak at the Brighton Dome during International Women's Day. For someone who knows Greer, they'd perhaps be delighted that such an influential speaker, who many look up to, would be invited to speak. But for trans people, it's terrifying.

While Greer has indeed advocated for the liberation of women, she has simultaneously advocated against very vulnerable group of women. Greer believes, from the bottom of her heart, that trans women are not 'real women'. According to her own elaborations, she believes that someone who transitions later in life from male to female, is in fact not a woman and never will be.

I'm really unsure if Greer realises the grotesque stigma, discrimination and violence trans people face around the world. In fact, I'm certain she doesn't - or else she would never willingly contribute to it with her harmful views about the authenticity of trans women. Despite her harmful views and a petition with over 16,000 signatures, she was allowed to speak at the Brighton Dome.

Coming out as trans in a society that generally treats trans people like shit is petrifying. Not to mention if you are older and you were raised in times where being trans - or even being gay - was considered a disease, a perversion and a delusion. Because the message is clear: being trans is not celebrated. Have you ever wondered that the reason why people don't come out until later in life is because they had no opportunity, they didn't have the words to explain, and they didn't have the agency to tell the world who they really are? Did it ever cross your mind that they were worried about their own personal safety and how their environment; their friends, their family, their world, would react? Did it ever cross your mind that they were afraid?

Because anyone who is a woman or who has ever been perceived as one knows that society doesn't treat them very well. Society doesn't treat a lot of people very well and unfortunately only a select few actually go about their lives without any problems or hindrance. Being a woman, not to mention a woman who also belongs to an under represented and marginalised group, can make your life very difficult.

This is why it's infuriating that people like Greer - and most recently Jenni Murray who runs the Women's Hour on BBC Radio 4 - question the authenticity of trans women. What they are saying is that only a certain kind of women is to be respected and that only certain types of women deserve to be what we see as 'real'. Jenni Murray holds incredible responsibility and a woman in her position can be extremely damaging towards the trans community. This is why a petition has been set up to call for her to be fired as the head of Women's Hour.

But what is real? What is it that makes a woman real? Is it her sex characteristics, the way she dresses, the way she thinks, or the way she is perceived? Can we ever really agree fully on what it is that makes women, women?

In my mind, it is quite simple. While being a woman is a complex identity that encompasses ideas of the body, expression, identity, feelings and perception there is one thing that unites women. It is their autonomy and their self-identification. It is their true inner self, a sense of belonging. Simples.

Trans women have no gain in telling the world that they are women aside from their own happiness and being true to their sense of self. There is no ulterior motive and there is no deception - the true deception is living as someone else, according to the gender you were assigned at birth, when it is against every fibre of your being. Because that's what it is about. Trans women and trans people in general are just being themselves. And there is nothing more real than a person living out their authentic truth.

Dear feminists who do not believe trans women are real women, I have a message for you. Your feminism can never be truly feminist, because feminism is inclusive of women from all walks of life, and that includes trans women. Feminism is a beautiful and a complex thing that fights against hate and discrimination. It becomes something else when it starts to contribute to the marginalisation of a vulnerable group of women.

Suicide rates amongst trans people are extremely high, they experience discrimination from their family, their communities, in the workplace and in most spheres of life. Only this year, there have been seven reported murders of trans women (most of them trans women of colour) in the US. And there is a reason for that; it's because of prejudice and a discourse that trans women aren't real women. It all contributes to it and it effects people's lives.

And this is why being trans is not a debate. It's not up for opinion and it isn't for anyone to question. We're all real people and our lives - just like anyone's life - shouldn't be up for debate. It's not too late to change your mind and realise that claiming trans women aren't real women is seriously harmful. And this is where I speak to all of you out there, including Germaine Greer, Sheila Jeffreys, Janice Raymond, Julie Bindel, Julie Burchill and anyone who agrees with their views on trans people.

Gloria Steinem, one of the most influential feminists of our time, once believed that trans women weren't women. She has since then detracted from her stance, and you can too. I can think of no better way to end this than with her own words:

"So now I want to be unequivocal in my words: I believe that transgender people, including those who have transitioned, are living out real, authentic lives. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned. Their health care decisions should be theirs and theirs alone to make. And what I wrote decades ago does not reflect what we know today as we move away from only the binary boxes of "masculine" or "feminine" and begin to live along the full human continuum of identity and expression."

-Gloria Steinem.

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today

Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com