The gender battle that divides feminism

The trans law promoted by the Ministry of Equality confronts both the movement and the Spanish government

4 min
Feminist performance In the last 8-M in Girona.

BarcelonaThat feminism is not a homogeneous movement has been demonstrated, once again, with the leak of the draft of the Spanish trans law, which should allow a change of sex in the National Identity Card (DNI) only on request and without the need for a medical report of gender dysphoria or to undergo hormone treatment. In this way, transsexuality is depathologised, a historical demand of the collective. However, since Irene Moreno's Ministry of Equality announced the initiative, detractors and defenders have been at each other's throats, and gender self-determination is the main battle horse that pits the two sides against each other.

The text, applauded by the transgender collective, is a declaration of principles by the ministry in Podemos' hands, and promises to be the new battle between the partners of Pedro Sánchez's government. Partly because the feminists of the old socialist guard are the ones who champion the positions most opposed to enshrining "gender self-recognition". The vice-president of the government, Carmen Calvo, has questioned the viability of the initiative due to the lack of political consensus and "legal certainty" of the text because with the "simple will or desire" one can choose one's gender. "What does gender identity mean? The whole law is a recognition of the internal and individual experience of gender, but if we do not define gender on the basis of biological sex, then what is it?" asks writer Laura Freixas, who, despite recognising the "laudable intention" of the law to "protect the rights" of a collective, opposes it because she considers that it "replaces the fight for equality with a sacralisation of diversity". "Changing the DNI will not put an end to discrimination against trans people because transphobia is a rejection motivated by sexist ideology", she adds. In the absence of the mandatory reports from the Ministries of Health and Justice (in socialist hands), Montero maintains the will to send the text to Parliament in the next few days to begin its processing.

"And in the midst of this debate we trans people find ourselves, who fight to survive, so that we are not discriminated against", says Alex Bixquert, a trans man, who approached feminist postulates when he began transitioning because, he says, he was aware that the feminist struggle is still governed "by social dynamics that reproduce gender stereotypes". Judith Juanhuix, a scientist and trans woman, also turned to feminism after transitioning and, from her militancy, she is indignant with the "retrograde" postulates of feminists because, she says, they force her to "renounce to gender". In fact, she points out, they have targeted trans people as an "excuse" to "defend the hegemony of their discourse" in the face of a new generation of feminists open to "the diversity of bodies". In reality, she says, the open battle is "that of the feminism of fear against the feminism of rights".

In the same spirit, Tània Verge, professor of Political and Social Sciences and director of the UPF's equality unit, believes that behind the controversy there is a desire to "divide" feminism, and reminds us that gender self-determination "is an internationally recognised right of individuals". "After the experience of paternalistic treatment that we women have had, the fact that there are people from the feminist movement who say how trans people should be is contradictory to the feminist struggle", adds Verge, who avoids calling it a "debate", as "rights are not debated, they are guaranteed". "And it is very difficult for feminism to take a stand against guaranteeing rights", she says.

At the heart of the dispute is the dilemma over what determines gender: personal feelings or biological sex. For the Confluencia Movimiento Feminista (Feminist Movement Confluence), born in October bringing together fifty associations to put a stop to this law, there is no doubt that being a man or a woman is a biological fact, and defends the idea that including trans women will weaken the struggle, "erase" women and represent a "step backwards" in equality policies. They argue that it is women who are discriminated against precisely because they were born female, and fear that trans women (born male) will benefit from measures designed to erase the gender gap. "It would be the only case in which self-declaration would give you the right to be in a protected group", warns Freixas, who gives the example that men who self-declare themselves as women could benefit from places reserved for trans people in public calls for applications. Verge responds that in other countries where similar rules have already been approved "there has been no mass transformation of men who want to be women for hidden reasons". "This conspiracy theory is a violation of rights because there is no empirical basis, and if there were a desire to defraud, there are already legal mechanisms to sanction it", she recalls.

For the trans and LGTBI collective, gender is "neither a choice nor a whim", says Katy Pallàs, president of FLG-Association of LGTBI Families, and Juanhuix stresses that they are simply people who do not recognise themselves with the gender assigned by a society that imposes a binary classification. "They show that gender can be more fluid than what has been imposed on us", adds Verge. "Gender identity must be self-determined, otherwise it is sexism", says Juanhuix, who denounces the fact that those who oppose the law condemn trans women to live in "double discrimination, for being women and for being trans". The scientist stresses that in the trans collective it is also women who suffer most from "hypersexuality, objectification, the glass ceiling and sexual violence", in the same manner in which cis women - those who identify with the gender they were born with - do.

Moreover, according to Verge, free self-determination may mean that trans people now approach transition differently. "If society were to work on gender identity there could be hormones or not, or surgery or not, when the person wanted it, but not because of the social pressure they often feel to fit into the socially accepted roles of male and female".