Germaine Greer is a rare breed.
As a teenager in the 1970s shaped by the second wave of feminism, I’ve admired her feistiness, her outspokenness and her resolve.
But her recent comments that trans women aren’t real women are damaging, discriminatory and needlessly cruel.
Greer has missed the revelation we’ve had over the past few decades that gender isn’t binary, but exists as a spectrum.
Many of us sit comfortably close to one end or another, and our gender aligns with our physical sex. There are people across the spectrum who are gender fluid or diverse, for whom the descriptor of being male or female does not sit well. Then there are people who are gender dysphoric, whose physical biological sex doesn’t align with their gender.
For some, being gender fluid or dysphoric can be an overwhelming feeling that cannot be ignored, often from childhood. Others can face years of repressing the discomfort and disconnectedness, pretending to be something they’re not because of barriers put up by societal expectations.
These barriers only become higher with comments like we’ve heard from Germaine Greer.
When Greer says “I don’t think that post-operative transgender men are women”, she reveals the binary world she chooses to lives in.
When Greer denigrates trans women as “pantomime dames”, she encourages others to view trans people as other, as lesser, as objects of ridicule and jest.
These outright cruel comments affect the everyday lives of trans women and their families.
I’ve been lucky to meet some of these people. A few are very close to my heart, including my partner Penny.
I have met extraordinary gender diverse young people who, from a very early age, knew their assigned sex was not who they are.
They are often supported by wonderful, compassionate parents and carers who embrace their true identity, advocate for them at kinder and school, and support them to access medical and social support so they can experience happy and fulfilling lives.
They have created groups like YGender to provide peer-led social support and advocacy groups for trans and gender diverse young people.
This trans and gender diverse movement has worked hard to break down barriers and challenge the binary definitions of male and female – something we all benefit from.
Greer’s comments make it harder for a 12 year old to feel they can confide to their parents that they are April not Andrew, or Arnold not Alice, or Alex, who isn’t sure whether they are a girl or a boy.