No Platform

Is Germaine Greer transphobic? Yes. Should she be no-platformed? No.

On Newsnight on Friday night, Kirsty Walk interviewed Greer about the petition started by Rachael Melhuish, Cardiff University Student Union women’s officer, to prevent her from speaking there on the subject Women and Power: the lessons of the twentieth century. The Vice-Chancellor of the University supports Freedom of Speech, but Dr. Greer is unlikely to go: I’m getting a bit old for all this. I’m 76, I don’t want to go down there and get screamed at and have things thrown at me. Bugger it. It’s not that interesting or rewarding.

She should clearly not be no-platformed, because of her eminence, and because as she says transgender is not her issue; but also because the speech would have been ignored outside the lecture hall, and now she has had more than half a million people hear her say one indubitably transphobic thing (trigger warning, I am going to quote it) and other things which are not the current consensus.

The transphobic thing was It seems to me that he [Caitlyn Jenner]- that what was going on there is that he- he/she- wanted the limelight that the other female members of the family were enjoying and has conquered it just like that.

The suggestion that we transition on a whim, or for notoriety, is hate. My claim to anyone’s sympathy, or anyone humouring me by using my female name, is the pain I have suffered. Picture me, lying on the bathroom floor weeping and screaming, curled in the foetal position, crying “I am not a man!” Repeatedly over months. Or the Indian middle class person, who could go to university and get a good professional job, but would rather be Hijra- a beggar or a prostitute.

See for yourself, but I am unsure whether Kirsty Wark, interviewing, is trying to get Dr. Greer to incriminate herself, or to say things Wark wants said but is too scared to say herself. It sounds like a catechism. Wark mentions Caitlyn Jenner, and Dr Greer says, wearily, “Must you?”

This is not transphobic: Caitlyn is to be honoured as Glamour Magazine’s “Woman of the year”. Dr Greer says I think misogyny plays a really big part in all of this, that a man who goes to these lengths will be a better woman than someone who’s born a woman. I agree that the beauty myth peddled by Glamour is misogynist, and wish Dr Greer had not called Caitlyn a man.

I don’t think this is transphobic either: I think that a great many women don’t think that post operative M-F transsexual people look like, sound like or behave like women, but they daren’t say so. That is simply true; though I doubt Dr Greer would like anyone judging her, or other cis women, on how “womanly” they are. I am not saying that people should not be allowed to go through [GRS], but that does not make them a woman. No, actually, it doesn’t; but generally I am treated as an honorary woman, treated as if I am a woman, and I rub along more or less OK like that.

A friend said Dr Greer is stuck in the 1990s. She says, People get insulted all the time. Australians get insulted every day of the week. That is not my experience: over the last twenty years discourse (apart from on Twitter) has been much more gentle. We object to offensive words.

There are two views: trans women are ridiculous and disgusting men, who should be shamed out of their perversity; and we are extremely brave and have overcome great difficulties, so should be treated with courtesy, as honorary women. Those holding the former view have been encouraged, because of the no-platform attempt.

Dr Greer also says You don’t have to say everything that is in your mind. You do use tact in the usual way. I would for example, with someone who wished to be known as female, use female speech forms, as a courtesy. I can live with that, actually, someone not accepting me as female but using my real name. You don’t get on with everyone.

Would she say something mollifying? No. I’m getting fed up with this, you know, I’ve had things thrown at me, I have been accused of things I have never done or said, people seem to have no concern about evidence or indeed even about libel.

Hieronymus Bosch, The Temptation of St Anthony, detail 3

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