Transgender ideology is a loose catch-all term referring to philosophies, world views, and dogmatic statements adhered to by political activists who see themselves as trying to uphold the human rights of transgender people. The political movement of furthering these ideologies is called the transgender movement.
The practice of supporting transgender ideology is called transgender activism (often shortened trans activism) and a person who follows this practice is called a transgender activist (often shortened trans activist). The word "transgender" in the phrase "transgender activist" is not to be understood as an adjective for the person in question (i.e. "an activist who happens to be transgender") but as a reference to the activism they practice (i.e. "an activist supporting transgender ideology"). Many trans activists are not transgender themselves.
Feminists tend to use the term transgender ideology with a critical tone when pointing out sexist, homophobic, or otherwise problematic aspects of the transgender movement. Those who support the movement tend to oppose the term, likening it to the phrase homosexual agenda, which is used to ascribe sinister intent to gay/lesbian/bisexual rights activists. Indeed, right-wing and Christian organizations heavily use the term transgender ideology in their publications critical of the movement, however their reasons for opposing it tend to be radically different than those of feminists.
Trans women are women
One of the core dogmata of the transgender movement is the statement that trans women are women (and the less often repeated trans men are men). Under this view it's important to write trans woman as two words (adjective and noun) and not transwoman, to stress the fact that so-called trans women are literally a subtype of women, just like white women, black women, short women, tall women, and so on. The statement "trans women are women" is not meant as a vague slogan of moral support, but in a literal sense.
Since the statement contradicts the dictionary definition of the word "woman" (adult human female), it implies that a different definition would be better. When asked about this, transgender activists usually avoid providing an actual definition. Most attempts tend to revolve around a circular definition, such as "anyone who identifies as a woman, is a woman." As such, the statement "trans women are women" is probably best described as a dogma.
The idea that transwomen are literally women is taken as the basis for many problematic conclusions, such as: transwomen deserve to partake in women's sports, transwomen should be seen as part of the natural dating pool of lesbians (see also cotton ceiling), transwomen deserve to use all female facilities, enter female-only spaces and events, speak on women's rights as women, and so on.
The idea that "trans women are women" is usually backed by several philosophical viewpoints. Some hold a belief in an essential, inborn, and immutable "gender identity" that every person possesses. Transwomen are said to be real women on the grounds that they possess a "female gender identity" which they are said to share with women. Likewise for transmen and a male gender identity that is supposedly shared by all men. Others believe that all words are social constructs that lack objective definitions. Nevertheless, they argue the terms "man" and "woman" hold a particularly meaningful role with regards to individuals' identities. In the absence of an inherently true definition to protect, they support basing gender in self-identification, which has a substantial benefit on transgender mental health.
The conclusion to such philosophical ideas is that biological sex characteristics do not factor into womanhood and manhood. For example, a few transwomen have full beards and intact male anatomy, and many trans activists claim they are literally real women like any other.
Since gender identity is said to be inborn, it follows that some children would be transgender, and only need to find this out. Once it's found out, the only way forward is to support the child in its transgender identification. This leads to the transgender activist "affirm-only" approach towards youth, where for instance a boy who says "I wish I was a girl" or "I'm actually a girl" is from that point on treated as if the child is literally a girl. (Given a female name, referred to by female pronouns, asked to be considered a girl by others, and so on.) Likewise for girls who express that they wish they were a boy, or claim that they are internally a boy. Trans activists are opposed to the alternative "watchful waiting" approach.
The trans activist affirm-only approach has been supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents concerned over this model of treatment published a long criticism and launched a petition reaching 1,200 signatures. Psychologist James Cantor also published a fact-check article criticizing the AAP's decision.
Trans activists usually support giving puberty blocking medication such as Lupron to children who think they are transgender. These children may be as young as 9 years old, and may be prescribed cross-sex hormones at ages as young as 12.
Cisgender people oppress transgender people
Another core tenet of transgender ideology is the notion that cisgender people oppress transgender people, just like how men oppress women, white Americans oppress black Americans, or how straight people oppress gay men and lesbian women. As such, when a man identifies as a transwoman, his position relative to that of a woman turns from being her oppressor to someone who is oppressed by her. His male privilege is denied as he is now considered a woman, and the fact that he is a transgender woman means that he is oppressed by so-called cisgender women. Further, being both a woman and transgender means he is considered to suffer under two axes of oppression, akin to how black women suffer both from racism and sexism. This way, a white man suddenly becomes comparable to a black woman with regards to oppressive power dynamics in society.
As per the principle of intersectionality (appropriated from black feminism), transgender activists often say that the feminist movement should not only include transwomen's concerns, but outright center them in many discussions, as otherwise the feminist movement might fail to sufficiently address their concerns.
Collusion with "sex work" activism
For reasons not entirely clear, many if not most transgender activists also seem to support the "sex work" movement. Possible explanations for this collusion might be:
- Both movements stem from queer ideology, which is based on transgression of social norms without regard to ethical concerns
- The transgender movement being dominated by autogynephilic men who are interested in upholding a society in which women exist for male sexual pleasure
- Anti-feminists supporting both the transgender movement and the "sex work" movement, simply because they see both of them as weapons against women's liberation
- Alicia Hendley (April 10, 2019). I supported trans ideology until I couldn’t anymore. Feminist Current.
- Carol Hay (April 1, 2019). Who Counts as a Woman?. The New York Times.
- The truth about trans. Stonewall.
- Alan Dawson (April 17, 2019). The biggest thing critics continually get wrong about transgender athletes competing in women's sports. Business Insider.
- Miranda Yardley (December 9, 2018). Girl Dick, the Cotton Ceiling and the Cultural War on Lesbians and Women. Medium.com.
- Understanding Gender. Gender Spectrum. "According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “By age four, most children have a stable sense of their gender identity.” This core aspect of one’s identity comes from within each of us. Gender identity is an inherent aspect of a person’s make-up. Individuals do not choose their gender, nor can they be made to change it."
- Transsexualism: The Inside Story. gires.org.uk. GIRES. Archived
- Augustus Klein and Sarit A. Golub (May 25, 2016). Family Rejection as a Predictor of Suicide Attempts and Substance Misuse Among Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Adults.
- Human Rights Campaign Foundation, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians (ACOP) (September 2016). Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children.
- James Michael Nichols (July 25, 2015). This Incredible Trans Woman Is Challenging The Way We Think About Gender.
- Sessi Kuwabara Blanchard (January 29, 2019). The Ins and Outs of Topping as a Trans Girl.
- Perri Klass (October 15, 2018). Helping Pediatricians Care for Transgender Children. The New York Times.
- Parents petition American Academy of Pediatrics in response to policy statement on trans-identified youth. 4thWaveNow. October 29, 2018.
- James Cantor (October 17, 2018). American Academy of Pediatrics policy and trans- kids: Fact-checking. Sexology Today!.
- Kate Lyons (July 11, 2016). UK doctor prescribing cross-sex hormones to children as young as 12. The Guardian.
- Puberty blockers. Transgender Trend.
- Sian Ferguson (March 21, 2014). 3 Examples of Everyday Cissexism. Everyday Feminism.
- Laura Kacere (January 27, 2014). Transmisogyny 101: What It Is and What Can We Do About It. Everyday Feminism.
- Julie Bindel (October 2, 2017). The pact between trans rights advocates and the sex trade lobby. Feminist Current.