A few weeks ago I got an email from my friend and former law professor, Catharine MacKinnon. She was reaching out to me for my reactions because others had reached out to her about one or more incidents of violence and/or hate speech between the communities of transgender people and radical feminists. This “problem” has been nagging at me as I’ve continued to read each side’s “position” and its complaints about the other side. This writing will attempt to describe my personal conclusions and thoughts on these issues, which I suspect will, forever, be a work in process. I would like to state unequivocally that I am opposed to ALL forms of violence, for whatever reason. The incident in question occurred at a recent “Law & Disorder Conference” held in Portland I am told that there have been other incidents of violence, but I’ve not seen any specific references. Caveats: I do not hold myself out as, nor believe myself to be, a leading thinker or researcher with respect to sex and gender. I do not have an advanced degree in queer theory or feminism and I do not have an advanced degree in neurobiology. What I do have are core beliefs, through which I shape my actions and which are subject to change with new information and evidence. I believe: That gender and the entire system of gender is a social construct that has worked to keep women in a subordinate role and, as a consequence, has retarded humanity’s positive growth toward an ideal society where men AND women can accurately be said to be created equal. That violence, short of defense, has no place in our world and that it not only fails to advance the cause of feminism and social development, but also actually reverses it. I believe that violence of any kind reinforces the patriarchy and diminishes us all. That patriarchy is real and pernicious. It is the common enemy of all fair-minded feminists of any sex and gender. That sex and gender are not the same. I believe that sex has its basis in biology and that gender and its attendant roles is the exclusive domain of socialization. I do not know, but I doubt, that sex is anything more than the size of the gamete produced by the body. In other words, I do not know but I doubt that our brains are different in any way that matters. That said, I do believe there IS a biological difference between men and women – and that biology, especially the effects of sex hormones, do influence behavior (to a greater or lesser degree that is unknown in individuals). HOWEVER, the suggestion that such a difference leads to an inherent male dominance is absurd and destructive. We need not deny the physical differences between men and women to condemn the destructive effects of patriarchy. Difference should never be used as an excuse to dominate. I believe: That trans-women such as myself, despite an outward appearance which arguably reinforces the system of gender actually help, in a very real sense, toward the deconstruction of gender. That gender is made not born and, because gender is performative, I also believe, as Catharine put it to me, that there are many ways of becoming a woman including, sadly, sexual assault. Although I have survived multiple sexual assaults, I believe that I will never fully know the fear that many, if not most, girls and women are all too familiar with. I was 17 before I experienced my first sexual assault. Until that point, I never had a concern about being alone with a man, walking after dark, or in a parking garage. I grew up with many forms of privilege, but this privilege is often overlooked. That radical feminists’ attempts to deny transgender people their expression of gender – no matter how based in stereotype they may appear to be – operates from a form of essentialism that contradicts their analysis and diminishes our joint efforts. That in order to change the system of male dominance we must both allow and honor individual expressions of gender (even when, as with myself, that expression of gender is borne of male privilege) and engage in collective social activism. That the increasing animosity and hostility between the radical feminist movement and the transgender movement is destructive to our mutual goal of the liberation of women from male dominance. That Julian Vigo is right to observe that “[i]f gender is inherently detrimental as the radical feminists maintain and if trans identification occurs in part because gender is rigidly interpreted and represented through normative modalities of behaving, then there will be unceasing dissonance between these two groups.” Nevertheless, I do not think that the two groups have to be at war with one another. We need not trade verbal barbs and comments that denigrate the other. And, most of all, we need not inflict violence upon each other. I wish we could find a way to lift up one another. I think that the system of gender has hurt us all for so long. I do not want the voices of radical feminists silenced. I just wish they would focus on the very real threats to women (and, in this, I will agree that a physical assault is of course a real threat!) and not turn their anger at this hateful system against trans persons. On the flip side of that coin, I wish my brothers and sisters in the transgender community could either find a way to lift up the voices of radical feminists in areas where we so obviously agree, or at a minimum, ignore the arguments and words with which we may disagree. Let us commit to working, together, for common values like the true liberation of women, the advancement of women in this society and around the world. The real problem here isn’t whether or not trans-women get to claim womanhood. It’s about the number of women on the bench, in Congress, on boards of directors, in the CEO chair of Fortune 500 companies, and being paid less than men. It’s about the ongoing problem of a rape culture and the struggle it took to pass the Violence Against Women Act and the subsequent striking down of its key civil remedy provision. It’s about the mass murder and mutilation of women around the world. Please, let’s put our priorities in the right place.