Transgender woman and trans rights activist Gabrielle Bouchard has just been elected president of the Federation of Quebec Women, an umbrella group for women’s human rights that spans about 300 feminist organizations and hundreds of individual members as well.
Quebec is Canada’s French speaking province, and The Fédération des Femmes du Québec, or the FFQ, is based on the goal that it will “promote and defend the interests and the rights of women and to fight against all forms of violence, discrimination, marginalization and exclusion towards women.”
It’s a moment of victory for transgender women in terms of activism, visibility, human rights, leadership, and more, but Gabrielle Bouchard and the FFQ are now facing harsh criticism.
The Federation is a far left organization whose officially stated aims include, “deconstruct and eliminate patriarchy and all the other systems of oppression or domination with which it is intertwined, such as capitalism, racism, imperialism, heterosexism, colonialism.”
Its members and supporters all agree that ending transphobia and protecting the rights of transgender women is vital. The controversy is about whether a transgender woman is the right woman for this particular job, representing thousands of cis-born women.
For example, health matters of biologically born women and trans women are radically different, as are issues such as reproduction, pregnancy, motherhood, and reproductive rights.
The backlash against Bouchard as president includes online bigots with predictable remarks like, “The right woman for the job: A Man. Unbelievable.”
Most of the criticism is coming from other women and feminists. Feminists and trans women are often allies working together against oppression, but there have been some bitter feuds in the activism communities based on concerns that women who were born men may pose a threat to or trigger cis women in shelters, prisons, and medical offices. They argue that trans women have not shared the experiences of growing up female, of menstruating, pregnancy risk, bearing children, or having abortions.
Denise Bombardier of the Journal du Montreal asked, “Who is this man who became a woman as an adult? How can she speak on behalf of all women, as someone who was raised in a masculine culture, ignoring the experiences that women have lived through since they were born?”
Bouchard dismisses such concerns as transphobic and sexist, since this view “presumes all women live the same experience—which is not true.” She argues that the barriers trans women like herself face, such as violence, identity barriers, and unemployment are based not just on transphobia but on sexism against women too.