Everyone hates the “Free Speech Bus“. I guess it is a shit name. Emblazoned with the statements – which we must admit, would be read as trivial truths a couple of decades ago – “It’s biology. Boys are boys… and always will be. Girls are girls… and always will be”. At first glance it looks like something gender critical ideology might get behind given our insistence on keeping men and women in their own bathrooms, and many haven’t wasted any time pointing out what they perceive to be invalidating similarities between gender critical ideology and regressive conservative ideologies.
The bus is sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage, the International Organization for the Family, and Citizen Go. All of these organisation are conservative with heavy religious components. There is nothing radical feminists (or, in an ideal world, any feminists of any kind) have in common with the goals and values of these types of groups. We have come to similar sounding conclusions on bathroom bills, but we have gotten there through very, very different paths and those different paths make a difference to girls and women.
Citizen Go has a petition to keep abortion and contraception illegal in East Africa. Both of which are things which give autonomy, security, safety and a certain amount of protection, to women. The National Organization for Marriage is under the impression heterosexual marriage is in need of defending, hence is working to oppose the legalization of same sex marriage. Led by the same man, The International Organization for the Family fights for the same cause and protects the Christian heterosexual nuclear family around the world. Its Cape Town Declaration gives a clear demonstration of their views. There is nothing here friendly to women and female liberation.
Given the political context behind these organisations and this bus, we can see the real attitude within these “anti-transgender” statements. They need females to be women in order to be the women they want them to be – to only marry men, to marry a man, to stay at home, serve him, and have lots of children. Men need to be men, to lead, to dominate, to fight. They don’t like transgender ideology because they like these roles to be based on biology. It’s women who become pregnant and have babies, so it needs to be women they control through their laws against contraception and abortion (and same-sex marriage to stop the lesbians, though this obviously affects gay men as well). We should read these statements with a far more ominous tone… Men are brilliant men, and always will be, so HA to you irritating women who think you can have some justice and freedom… you are women and you always will be.
Radical feminists are after an entirely different revolution. Without wanting to tie oppressive gender roles to biology in this essentialist way, we just want an acknowledgement that sexist oppression is done to us on the basis of biological sex – exactly what these very groups are up to! What would I, as a gender abolitionist write on the bus? “Your socialisation is based on your biological sex, something you didn’t and can’t choose, and not on a sense of identity based on stereotypes”, “You cannot escape or disregard the effects of growing up with experiences and conditioning based on your sex”, and “You can’t use a new self-identity to hop out of your position in an opposed social hierarchy”. We would need a bigger bus.
The bus is not actually about transgender rights at all. I think that’s why it has such a vague, arrogant name. It’s about keeping men doing what they want men to do, and women doing want they want women to do. We, on the other hand, not only feel strongly about these messages because we want to keep women in bathrooms, rape centres, homeless centres and domestic violence shelters safe, but also because we care about the causes and nuances of all things transgender-related. We care a lot about young people using trans identities to deal with body dysphoria, homophobia, and trauma. These patriarchal, regressive, homophobic and misogynistic arseholes do not. Lumping us in together with them really makes it look like you’ve not done your homework on a cause you claim to care so much about.