MELBOURNE, Australia, April 30, 2014 ( – A radical feminist gender theorist is making the case that transgenderism is a “hugely harmful phenomenon” – but not for the reasons you might expect.

The American Psychiatric Association classifies gender dysphoria – defined as “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender” – as a mental illness, and studies show 41 percent of people who suffer from it will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Many people who suffer from the disorder have their bodies mutilated by surgeons in an attempt to look more like the opposite sex, and substance abuse and risky behaviors are rampant.

However, in her new book Gender Hurts, Sheila Jeffreys, a professor of sexual politics at the University of Melbourne, argues that transgenderism is damaging not because it is a devastating mental illness – although she admits the condition “is invariably born of severe psychological distress” – but because to acknowledge transgenderism is to admit that such a thing as gender exists in the first place.


Jeffreys finds this concept offensive.

“One of the central problems with transgenderism is that it's based on the outdated notion of gender,” namely there are only two, male and female, Jeffreys told MedicalXpress. “Without gender, transgenderism could not exist. As such, when transgender rights are inscribed into law and adopted by institutions, they promote ideas harmful to women's equality.”

“Radical feminism considers gender as a sorting system for male domination, something that provides 'the bars of the cage' that imprison women in their daily lives.”

In her book, Jeffries slams “queer theorists” who argue that gender is a state of mind separate from biological sex.

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“Postmodern and queer theorists share with transgender theorists the idea that ‘gender’ is a moveable feast that can be moved into and out of, swapped and so forth,” Jeffries writes. “Gender, used in this sense, disappears the fixedness of sex, the biological basis that underlies the relegation of females to their sex caste. Female infants are identified by biology at birth and placed into a female sex caste which apportions them lifelong inferior status.”

Jeffries, on the contrary, argues gender is very much rooted in biology, and for a man to claim to identify as a woman, or vice versa, is an action that distracts from the real discrimination women face all over the world – for instance, gendercide in nations like China and India where girls are routinely aborted, murdered after birth or abandoned just for having female genitalia.

“Women do not decide at some time in adulthood that they would like other people to understand them to be women, because being a woman is not an ‘identity,’” Jeffries writes. “Women’s experience does not resemble that of men who adopt the ‘gender identity’ of being female or being women in any respect. The idea of ‘gender identity’ disappears biology and all the experiences that those with female biology have of being reared in a caste system based on sex.”