I’ve been doing work with and for trans women for about 15 years now. And the thing I tell most audiences at the outset is this – once you know one trans person, you know one trans person. That is all you know.

Germaine Greer has met a few trans women and she has made a decision about all trans women. She has decided that trans women are not women.

I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she is not making such a sweeping statement based on personal and anecdotal evidence. This leaves only biology and theory as ways to determine what defines a woman.

Let’s start with biology.

I believe trans women are not just women, they are female. This is a hang-up on the part of many feminists who are still stuck in some world where biology is destiny. Because if ‘woman’, as de Beauvoir argued, is a social construct, we become women by living as women in the world, by facing oppression based on gender. For some women, that social conditioning starts with birth because of a vagina and a doctor’s declaration. For others, it starts at 15, 45, 75…

There is nothing feminist about asserting the rights of the oppressors over the dignity and value of the oppressed.

Trans women are aware they are female and are meant to have bodies that allow others to gender them correctly. Harry Benjamin, a pioneer in trans issues, saw attempts to change the minds of transgendered people as not only futile but un-Hippocratic. Changing minds caused unnecessarily suffering. So he designed a way to change bodies.

Definitions of sex are based on very little – chromosomes and hormone dominance. The combination of those two is what creates a sexed body, but we also know that bodies with vaginas sometimes come with XY chromosomes and vice versa.

We also really have no idea what part of the brain “tells” us our sex. Mostly, for those of us who are not trans, we never face a disruption between our bodies/glands/hormones and the way we are socialized. Trans people do. Some experience a crippling, brutal disruption. They experience gendered oppression both internally and externally.

Which is all my way of saying ‘female’, like ‘woman’, is an unstable category. Its very definition is changes based on what we know about bodies, chromosomes, hormones, foetal development, and particularly brain sex.

So we turn to theory for a definition of woman instead.

As a feminist my compassion is with those who experience gendered oppression of any kind. My intersectional feminism recognises all women experience gendered oppression in different ways. For black women, gendered oppression is racialized. For poor women, gendered oppression is classed. For trans women, gendered oppression is transphobic.

I don’t know how Germaine Greer missed out on 30+ years of gender theory, positing that woman is a stable, universal and identifiable category. It hasn’t been for a very long time. I also don’t know how she can be any kind of post-structural feminist and not acknowledge that socialization is what makes a woman a woman.

I don’t know of a group of women right now who are more restricted or oppressed by someone else’s definition of ‘woman’ than trans women.

And I don’t know of a group of women right now who are more restricted or oppressed by someone else’s definition of ‘woman’ than trans women (except, of course, black women and lesbians and childfree women and post-menopausal women). ‘Woman’ is, after all, a category of patriarchy’s making.

It pains me to see a feminist borrow tools from the master’s toolbox and call them liberation.

Germaine Greer is wrong. She carries a greater resonance and burden because we expect such remarkable feminism and knowledge from her. She is not dismissible or stupid, but she is still wrong. Everything I know as a feminist is built on inclusion. ‘Woman’ is an alliance, not an identity you choose. It is the sum of all of the parts of what it is to live in a patriarchy and to feel no power and a tremendous threat of violence if you don’t follow the rules.

If there is anyone in the world who is experiencing those things right now, it is trans women. She is not just upsetting people by saying what she says. She is giving those who hate trans women permission to make their lives more miserable. And there is nothing feminist about asserting the rights of the oppressors over the dignity and value of the oppressed.

Her stance is not just harmful and illogical but more than anything else it seems spiteful, exclusive, and lacking in compassion. It is not my feminism, and no feminist worth her salt would exclude other women based on how good or how bad they are at being women. And she is doing exactly that.

Read a different take on trans women and Germaine Greer here, by Aoife Assumpta Hart.