The Exclusion of Queer People in the Feminist Movement

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Cover image, Creative Commons: ‘Support is Everything’ by Ipista Divedi

To protect students’ privacy, all names in this article have been anonymized.

The feminist movement and the queer community hold queer women to rigid standards of femininity—often making queer women feel like they’re either too feminine or not feminine enough. 

Senior Alex, who considers themself more masculine than feminine, pointed out, “Feminism, as it stands today, can be inherently exclusionary because it says that women are powerful because of certain things that sometimes include being proud of secondary sex characteristics [breasts, wider hips, etc.] and primary sex characteristics [uterus, cervix, etc.] that are mainly associated with women who are AFAB [assigned female at birth].” Grounding our feminism in sex characteristics makes it harder for trans women and intersex, nonbinary, and genderqueer people to see feminism as a movement where they belong.

Queer spaces, on the other hand, often pressure members to appear masculine. Androgyny is defined as an ambiguous mixture of masculinity and femininity. However, when you search “androgynous” on Google the majority of the outfits incorporate many more masculine-styled than feminine-styled ones. 

Junior Adri said, “Some of my feminine traits create an image of mainstream values, which contradict the less mainstream queer identity.” 

People often assume that queer women are more masculine, and that if someone isn’t “butch” they aren’t really queer. Junior Charlotte, who identifies as queer, said, “I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I look too feminine to be queer because I dress, speak, and present in a very feminine manner.” 

Alex said, “There’s much more space in the queer community for masculine-presenting women than for feminine-presenting women.”

While this is an issue for all queer women, it is particularly problematic for trans women. Confining gender into such stereotypical categories excludes many queer women who don’t fit into labels of “masculine” or “feminine.” Sam, an M-A alumna, described her outward identity as “explicitly a queer femme.” While she said she fits into the category of a trans woman, she prefers to describe herself as queer. “Queer has always felt like the label that fits all of me, not just my gender identity.” 

A large part of why trans women feel excluded from feminism is due to society’s expectations of women—both trans and cis. Sam said, “It’s hard to make a blanket statement of society’s expectations that applies to all women, trans and cis, especially because the discrimination and oppression that trans women face is entirely different than the discrimination cis women face.”

Sam said, “Trans women need to feel like they belong, especially with all of the Trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) issues going on right now. They should be able to feel welcome in feminist spaces and feel like they’re being heard and acknowledged.”

As Alex explained, “Feminism isn’t just for cishet women.”

Ellen is a senior at M-A and in her first year of journalism. She hopes to write about stories that highlight social issues within M-A’s community. In her free time, she enjoys baking, reading, swimming, and spending time with friends.

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