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Gloria Steinem and transgender people

Gloria Steinem is an American author and activist. Steinem is a key historic figure in second-wave feminism.

After publishing anti-transgender writings in the 1970s, Steinem revised some of those views and now supports trans-inclusive feminism.


Gloria Marie Steinem was born March 25, 1934 in Toledo to Leo Steinem, a Jewish traveling antiques dealer, and Ruth Nuneviller Steinem, a Presbyterian homemaker. Steinem’s parents split in 1944.

Ruth Steinem grew increasingly unstable, leading Steinem to move in with older sibling Susanne Steinem Patch in Washington DC. After graduating from high school there, Steinem earned a bachelor’s degree from Smith College in 1956.

In 1957, Steinem had an abortion in London while traveling to India. After two years in India, Steinem returned to the United States and began researching and writing, publishing work in Help! Show, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, and New York.

In 1972, Steinem co-founded Ms. magazine. In July 1974, the magazine published an excerpt from trans travel writer Jan Morris, which led to backlash.

Throughout the 1970s, Steinem played a central role in the women’s rights movement and became a favored author and source on the subject.

Anti-trans views and reconsideration

In February 1977, amid increasing anti-trans sentiment surrounding transgender athletes in general and Renee Richards in particular, Steinem published an anti-trans article titled “If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit, Change the Foot.” Steinem claimed “transsexuals are paying an extreme tribute to the power of sex roles. In order to set their real human personalities free, they surgically mutilate their own bodies…” Steinem also embraced the conspiracy theory of “the transsexual empire” promoted by Janice Raymond.

In 2013, Steinem addressed “words circulated out of time and context” from those previous writings:

So now I want to be unequivocal in my words: I believe that transgender people, including those who have transitioned, are living out real, authentic lives. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned. Their health care decisions should be theirs and theirs alone to make. And what I wrote decades ago does not reflect what we know today as we move away from only the binary boxes of “masculine” or “feminine” and begin to live along the full human continuum of identity and expression.

Steinem (2013)

In 2021, Steinem signed an open letter supporting trans women and girls, saying, “I am proud to sign this letter because we all must fight against the unnecessary barriers placed on trans women and girls by lawmakers and those who co-opt the feminist label in the name of division and hatred.”


Morris, Jan (July 1974) Conundrum [excerpt]. Ms. pp. 57ff.

Steinem, Gloria (February 1977). If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit, Change the Foot. Ms. p. 76ff.

Steinem, Gloria (1983). Transsexualism. in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. pp. 224–226. Henry Holt & Co, ISBN 978-0030632365

Robert, Monica (September 28, 2012). Gloria Steinem-Transphobe. TransGriot

Steinem, Gloria (October 2, 2013). Op-ed: On Working Together Over Time. The Advocate

GLAAD (March 31, 2021). Open Letter Supporting Trans Women and Girls.


Holly Lawford-Smith [narrator]. (June 3, 2023). Gloria Steinem | Transsexualism (1977). Feminist Heretics


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