A Feminist Case Against Transgenderism
By Douglas Groothuis
“Feminism” can mean many things. To some it is “the f-word,” but not to me. The feminism to which I appeal and upon which I take my stand is based on the simple and true premise that men and women are equal in moral and spiritual worth, whatever real differences obtain between them. This premise undergirded the suffragette movement which eventually won women’s suffrage in the United States in 1920 with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. This movement was mostly Christian in worldview, not secular. Secular feminism came much later and was a defection from the original vision.
This premise of equality was also behind the fight for women to have the legal right to file for divorce against their husbands and to have rights to their biological children after divorce, rights previously reserved for men. (Of course, divorce is not a happy outcome, but women should have as much of a right to it and to child custody as men.) As much as some conservatives speak against “feminism,” without this sort of feminism, these sorts of gains would not have occurred. This sort of feminism also advocates for women not to be discriminated against simply because they are women, whether in law, education, or elsewhere. Therefore, women should have equal access to social involvement.
This brand of feminism does not advocate a unisex or androgenous approach to sexuality, but admits real differences between men and women. For example, the suffragettes opposed abortion, since they knew that only women can conceive and bear children and because children, born or unborn, have objective moral worth and have the right not to killed. They also saw abortion as an aspect of male irresponsibility. A man can impregnate a woman with no consequences for himself if he consents to or pays for an abortion. That is wrong. Moreover, the very idea of feminism means that there is something objectively valuable about being a woman, about femininity. To consider childbearing as a detriment to be eliminated through abortion is, thus, profoundly anti-feminist and anti-women.
With that foundation, consider how transgenderism opposes the deepest values of feminism. But before that, we need a definition of transgenderism—or the beliefs of gender ideology. Gender ideology, at its most basic level, claims that one’s biological sex is not pertinent to one’s gender identity. That is, it has no normative force; it is incidental. Sex is given, the gender is chosen and is arbitrary. One may choose a gender identity that does not reflect one’s biological sex. There are no objective reasons in nature or because of religion to identify as male or female. That is simply a personal and arbitrary choice.
Now, on to how this transgender ideology devalues women:
1. Women’s spaces. Women as women are entitled to some female-only spaces that protect their privacy, dignity, and agency. These include bathrooms, locker rooms, shelters for abused women, and incarceration units. Women do not want men in women’s bathrooms or locker rooms because of their own need for privacy. Nor do they want to be exposed to men’s nudity or be in their proximity while they eliminate. Matters get worse if biological men are incarcerated along with biological women, since these men may sexually abuse or rape these women, as has already happened many times in prisons.
2. Women’s sports. Women’s sports exist so that women may compete fairly with members of their own sex. It is patently unfair for a man to compete against a woman in weightlifting or swimming, for example. Women’s sports qua women’s sports are undermined when biological men are allowed to compete with women. Women may train for years to compete against other women in swimming or other sports only to be bested by men pretending to be women for their unfair personal gain.
3. Drag queen exhibitionism. Drag performances are a particular kind of transvestite exhibitionism in which men (who are obviously men) dress and act like hyper-feminized and cartoonishly hideous women. These performers, called drag queens, may or may not be transgendered. (RuPaul, the “queen of the queens,” is not transgendered; he is a homosexual man who is married to a man. ) However, transvestitism is tied to transgenderism since men who identify as women want to dress like women much of the time. This pretense is insulting to real women who nearly never appear in this guise unless in costume. An element of real feminism is the claim that women can be genuinely feminine without conforming to garish and hyper-feminized images of women. But that is just what drag queens present, to their own shame and to the insult of real women.
4. Beauty pageants. Biological men may now compete with biological women in beauty pageants—and sometimes they win. This means that men continue to dominate women, this time by transgender means. The patriarchy lives on, in drag this time.
In these areas, the transgender viewpoint disadvantages women and opposes historic feminist ideals. Others could be added. Recently, feminists have made these kinds of points, including writer J. K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, as well as Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, a British women’s rights campaigner also known as Posie Parker. Both have suffered great backlash for their historic feminist views. In March of 2023, Ms. Parker was attacked at a woman’s rally in New Zealand and had to flee for her life. Women with these convictions have been labeled TERFs by transgender advocates. This is an acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists. May their numbers increase and their sanity spread.
The reasons for opposing transgender ideology are myriad, but a true feminism rooted in the objective significance of the human being qua female provides one salient point of reference on this reality-denying and women-hostile ideology.
¹ See Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, “Evangelical Feminism: A Two Decade Tradition,” Women Caught in the Conflict (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994).
² See Groothuis, “Modern Feminism: The Good News and the Bad News,” in Women Caught in the Conflict.
³ See Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, “Where Do We Go from Here: A Pro-life Call to Arms,” in Douglas Groothuis, Christianity That Counts (Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Books, 1995).
⁴ Who is RuPaul? The Gay UK,