Safe spaces

No, I do not erase feminism. I subvert the patriarchy by rejecting male privilege and the male role in which I was brought up. We are subject to violence for this. I have been assaulted, and shouted at, and after a lot of verbal abuse pointed stares began to get scary for me.

If I was cis, I might still be working.

A university campus should be a safe space for trans people. It is not that we should not be exposed to hostile ideas, but that they should not be given authority. If we discuss around the seminar table the idea that a trans woman is a man, really, or what that should mean for women’s spaces, that is different from Germaine Greer being clapped and cheered for saying “I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock”. That feels unsafe to me. It feels hostile.

Ideas can erase me. I believed the theory of autogynephilia, that I was a pervert, and transition was an erotic fantasy: trying to live it would be impossible. I disgust some people, and that theory is an excuse for them.

Why Evolution is True wrote about Maryam Namazie being heckled at Goldsmiths college, and the student feminist society supporting the Islamic Society in opposing her speaking. Previously, the Islamic Society invited a speaker who calls for the murder of apostates. Maryam Namazie, an apostate, stands up for women’s rights against FGM, the veil, Islamic oppression.

Goldsmiths should be a safe space for apostates. However, two wrongs don’t make a right. To whom is Namazie speaking? Not just former Muslims, but mostly white atheists. Someone learning in class that evolution is true, yet who, because of background and culture has a large part of his identity as Muslim, may feel erased (the non-inclusive language is intentional). It is not just the idea that I am in error about certain things, but that my identity and heritage are poisonous; that I am the enemy and the oppressor; and that they may use force against me. God save me from people who need to defend themselves or those they identify as my victims against me.

The ideas are not a threat, but ideas backed with power to enforce, or by a cheering audience, are.

I believed my employer would find a pretext to sack me. I believed autogynephilia theory. I envied a woman I knew who was dying, slowly and painfully, because she was unequivocally female. I would prefer to be an obvious tranny than to present male. The drive is that strong. I don’t feel safe. Disagreement with me about the nature of my idiosyncrasy is OK. Hostility to me is not, even if justified as “free speech”, because it silences me and therefore reduces free expression. We have to get along.

Here is MTV, advertising a quiz on Disney channel cartoons beside a serious article. Don’t be a jerk. Form your arguments in a way that’s respectful. It’s a bar so low you could trip over it. As I write, all nine comments are hostile.

Here is The Atlantic on physical intimidation used to “protect safe space”. But no-one is just talking: they are seeking to get their way, including the use of force. Words hurt: those pastors saying that queers should be put behind a great big fence, while their congregations shout A-MEN, frighten me. Before you can attack me, you have to dehumanise me. Scapegoating gives any group a warm glow of righteousness.

I know it is not simple. One might call the Apostates the victims, in need of protection, until like Maryam Namazie they speak up and I call her a helper of oppressors. Some feminists claim that my presence in women’s space makes it unsafe, because I am a man. Perhaps those of us who can, should speak up for our own victims.

I quite like the idea of being a Social Justice Warrior, even when the term is used in a hostile, unsafe manner. My irony detector is set to zero.

Blake, Canterbury pilgrims detail


5 thoughts on “Safe spaces

    • Seeing my transsexuality as blessing rather than curse was the start of this blog.

      Underneath I am at war. I loathe and despise myself. I pursue my desires. The point of four years of navel-gazing is to end that war. Sometimes it feels that I make progress.


  1. Good post, you covered a lot of ground, and with more clarity that I can muster.

    “I know it is not simple.” It really is a complicated area, an impossible balance of interests and needs. My frustration comes when people negate any other point of view.


    • Thank you. When someone negates other points of view, this needs careful approach to communicate that point of view. And there are different personalities here: the Reconciler, seeking to bring people together, and the Advocate, seeking to stand up for the rights of self or others.


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