Attention II

I want to blend into the background in the most eye-catching way possible.

So Philip told me, referring to what I was wearing- ugly, dull, unusual. I now take this phrase as symbolising yet another of my incompatible desires. Loving totally different things is liberating when they are compatible, as I love the country and the city, and sometimes debilitating, as when I wanted to express myself female and wanted to make a man of myself, which I could only eventually reconcile by deciding to transition.

He might not have meant this, but it still fits what I want- to stand before an audience with a microphone, and to hide away from sight, at home. To blog my most personal feelings and hide behind a screen. The high from the microphone made re-entry after painful, especially when I did not know what it was. Knowing it, I might deal with it. And I can do both.

I wonder if one of these is more a reaction to circumstances, and the other in some way my state resisting those influences. Both would be “Real me”- real me is a phantasm. I have to live amid those circumstances and influences. But the time when I am most susceptible to such influence is as a child, and I might hide away my propensities under a censure which is now only in my own mind, and not in my society.

Writing on 30 January: I will live with this, and see if other understandings come to me.

Wanting attention could be primeval, the baby wanting mother’s attention. Hiding was my mother’s way, and also H’s: she told me almost no-one knew her as well as I do, except her wife. It seems cowardly, inadequate, wrong- so wanting attention could be over-compensating. Does either fit who I am, now?


31 January: Why would children act up for attention, even hostile attention? Because humans interact, and they need to learn how, and test themselves against adults.

22 February: Now, after my terror yesterday, I am fully in hiding from the world mode, which feels depressive and boring and uncreative, yet right now is what I want. No particular new understanding has come to me this month, just awareness of conflicting desires and dissatisfaction.

23 February: I am “a bit depressed, actually”- that is, depressed. From here, it feels going on stage, or even just interacting, is risky; childish attention-seeking, in which I miss the point, and make an idiot of myself. I must remember the warm applause of a hundred people at Greenbelt.

flowing woman

The “extreme male brain”

Is there such a thing? Do trans women have a “female brain”, or people with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism a “male brain”?

Here’s the Disability Studies Quarterly, giving a good kicking to self-proclaimed experts on Asperger’s, which may also apply to such as Blanchard. Asperger’s is rhetorical, says Jordyn Jack: discourse fills the space that certainty in medicine leaves unoccupied. It’s not making stuff up, exactly; it’s creating a theory from little evidence because you can’t create a better one. Like GID, Asperger’s was messed about by the DSM revision: now it is lumped in with Autism, before, it was separate. The fault comes when Blanchard or Baron-Cohen cling to their theories in the face of contradiction, using them as a framework for their understanding, and excluding other possible understandings.

Another thing we might find useful in this Disability Studies article is the will to find something valuable in a condition. It is not something less than normal to be managed; it is something different, to be celebrated. It contains genuine gifts which the “sickness” model does not recognise: they are not disabled, they are “neurodiverse”. Certain traits of Aspies are responses to extreme stress from not being understood; they arise from how society treats disabled people, not the condition itself.

Baron-Cohen has the idea of a single axis or spectrum- incrementum is the word Jack uses- from female to male. Baron-Cohen’s evidence for this includes the greater weight of the male brain, and greater size of the amygdala, though the differences are small. BC links his idea of a scale from empathising to “systemizing”, ie finding order and structure, associated with engineering, computing and hi-tech, but not with “good people skills”. BC’s “systemizing quotient” test associates stereotypically culturally masculine interests with systemizing. The sex differences are a result of the questions chosen. The cultural understanding of nerdiness is skewed to stereotypically male interests.

In the 1940s, the term “computer” referred to a human working on repetitive calculations, this work was done by women, and the first electronic computer programmers were women. The work became man’s work when it gained status.

Emotional intelligence is increasingly recognised as essential in the workplace- teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills, initiative and adaptability, even in technological jobs. Where empathy is measured by physiological responses, sex differences disappear.

Autism might be understood as an “intense world syndrome”, characterized by a hyper-reactive and hyper-plastic brain that makes the world seem over-stimulating. Autistic individuals, then, may experience an excess of sensory and emotional input—not a lack thereof. Symptoms such as repetitive behaviour and withdrawal—which are not explained by the EMB theory—can be understood according to the “intense world” hypothesis as coping mechanisms individuals use to deal with overstimulated senses.

My Aspie friend agrees with the accepted symptom, that he has a lack of understanding of non-verbal communication, but he is particularly empathetic. His two friends I have met- note the weight of my anecdotal evidence- do not seem abnormally “masculine”.

Caillebotte, detail from view from a balcony

The Descent of Inanna

Inanna, the Queen of Heaven, wants Gilgamesh, King of the city of Uruk, as her lover, but he spurns her. Your lovers have found you like a brazier which smoulders in the cold, a backdoor which keeps out neither squall of wind nor storm. In a rage, she calls on her father god Anu to give her Gugulanna the Bull of Heaven to take revenge on Gilgamesh. He refuses, but when she threatens to break open the doors of the Underworld so that the dead shall eat food like the living, he relents. The bull snorts and the Earth opens, and the warriors of Uruk are killed; but Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the bull. Inanna curses Enkidu, who throws the bull’s right thigh at her. For this, the Gods kill Enkidu.

Inanna arrays herself as the Goddess, in royal robe and crown, and the breastplate called “Come, man, come”, then descends into the underworld to attend the funeral of Gugulanna, whose husband is her sister Ereshkigal, Queen of the Dead. She leaves behind Ninshubur, her servant, with instructions if she does not return. She pushes aggressively at the door of the Underworld, and Ereshkigal commands the doorman to open the seven doors a crack, letting her through but removing her royal garments. “Let the holy priestess of heaven enter bowed low.” When her garments are removed, Inanna protests: “What is this?”

“Be satisfied, Inana, a divine power of the underworld has been fulfilled. Inana, you must not open your mouth against the rites of the underworld.” Or,
“Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect,
They may not be questioned.”
(The first comes from this prose translation, the second from this verse translation.) Inanna makes Ereshkigal stand, and takes her throne, but the seven judges shout her guilt, and she is turned to a corpse, hung on a hook.

When she does not return, as instructed Ninshubur petitions Inanna’s father-Gods Enlil, Nanna and Enki to rescue her. Enlil and Nanna refuse, saying “Inana craved the great heaven and she craved the great below as well. The divine powers of the underworld are divine powers which should not be craved, for whoever gets them must remain in the underworld. Who, having got to that place, could then expect to come up again?”

Enki creates two demons to rescue Inanna. He gives them the life-giving water. They go to the underworld and find Ereshkigal sick and in mourning, her unwashed hair “bunched up as if it were leeks”. They sympathise, and she offers them a river of water. They demand the corpse, sprinkle the life-giving water on it, and bring Inanna to life.

When Inanna returns, she is escorted by demons who will accept no sacrifice, but afflict humanity- “tear the wife from a man’s embrace”- without pity. She must bring back a substitute, for no-one has ascended unscathed from the Underworld. She finds Ninshubur in mourning, and will not send her, but her husband Dumuzid is dressed magnificently and seated on a throne, so she chooses him. The demons seize him. He escapes briefly, and his sister asks to share his fate: each will spend six months each year in the Underworld.

Stone bowl offered to Inanna


What does the story of Inanna mean?

It is incantatory and repetitive. You would hear it as a story, and the repetitions would please you like the returning themes of a symphony.

The Jungian interpretation is clear. Jesus said, When you strip naked without being ashamed, you will become children of God and have no more fear. Inanna’s finery is mere pretence, masks so she might look good- though Isaiah 64:6 sees them differently: we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Our pretences are stripped away, and we are free.

The individual garments may have individual interpretations:

With the me in her possession, she has prepared herself:
On her head she wears the shugurra, the crown of the steppe.
Across her forehead her dark locks of hair are carefully arranged.
Around her neck she wears the small lapis beads.
At her breast she wears the double strand of beads.
Her body is wrapped with the royal robe. [or, She covered her body with a pala dress, the garment of ladyship.]
Her eyes are dabbed with the ointment called, “let him come, let him come.”
Around her chest she wears the breastplate called “come, man, come.”
On her wrist she wears the gold ring.
In her hand she carries the lapis measuring rod and line.

What could each mean? Comment! Knock yourself out!

Joshua J Mark, in the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, eschews the Jungian interpretation: the tale shows how self-centred and unfair a Goddess may be, and humanity suffers. Also the change of Dumuzid and his sister explains the seasons. Though myths may pass through many hands, and have meanings added. He thinks Ereshkigal is praised at the end of the poem-

Holy Ereshkigal! Great is your renown!
Holy Ereshkigal! I sing your praises!

-because she sought justice against Inanna; but the Goddess of the Dead should be propitiated, especially after portraying her as outsmarted by her sister.

For me, a myth speaks to the unconscious. I can explain the meaning that we lose our pretences, our identities, when we find our unconscious, because I have become conscious of that. There may be other meanings in the story.

I have been at thirdwaytrans again. He finds the identity “a trans woman” a prison, because it means we can no longer present male. A commenter brought up Inanna. First I tried to please the World with my hyper-manly persona (from Greek for mask) then, more truly me, with “Clare”. After descending into Hell, or reaching rock bottom, I learn how valueless the masks are. Before I transitioned, I thought that in five years’ time I might be trying to present male, but transitioning was the only way to get to that place. My identity as trans liberated aspects of myself I could not express otherwise.

Unilantern, commenting, claims masculine and feminine are patriarchal oppression. She produces a great long screed arguing masculinity is seen as instrumental, femininity as expressive. If a man is expressive he is seen as feminine. But composers, painters, poets, philosophers, even writers, were until recently overwhelmingly male.

Healing-stars Goddessastrology compares the removal of the seven garments to the purification of the seven chakras, though chakras are understandings from a different culture. Hooray for eclecticism!


A man in a dress

You know, we are ridiculous.

I have been commenting on a blog for three years, and it was a shock when she came out as TERF. I don’t like that phrase: I don’t agree with all radical feminists say, but some of it is worthwhile. Some people are feminists, some find that just too hard, and instead become obsessive trans-excluders. It could be trans-excluding rubbish “feminists”, I suppose. Or trans-erasing ridiculous fantasists.

The title of her post included the word “pretendbian”, because if a trans woman is gynephile she can’t be a lesbian. Oh, no, the straights oppose that, supporting the lesbians. It went downhill from there:

I don’t support a transwoman (sic) standing as women’s officer
We’ve moved on from WATM to WATTW. It’s still male privilege assigned at birth pushing the agenda.
All result of the Me-me-me-I’m-a winner-and-always-right-and-I’ve-decided-this-is-right-so-you’re-wrong-and-terrible-person group?
Caitlyn Jenner broke my shriveled feminist heart. Not because she was on the cover, but because that image, a woman in lingerie, was what she put out there as what being a woman meant to her.
Claiming to be a lesbian is a joke when males try it on, whatever they happen to be wearing.
Were I a woman student I would not want a man in a dress representing me.

And then a real denizen of the rabbit-hole comes on:
You do realize that transactivists support males raping lesbians because they are right up there with the right wingers on science denying and conformity to gender roles?

Oh, God. You know a real TERF by the rape allegations. Anyone else is just playing at it.

A straight person who met a lot of people might meet a couple of dozen trans folk in a lifetime. They don’t meet any more than that unless they work in a gender clinic. What can we do about this abuse? Turn the other cheek, really. We can’t fight back, there are too few of us. If we argue, they get more and more aggressive and deluded. So ignore the “man in a dress” or “pretendbian” jibes, and if you hear a rape allegation get out of the way. This is what I have learned when someone I thought a friend starts spewing this bile.

I have had a relationship with a lesbian. Because of this, others wanted to exclude her from the Northern Older Lesbians’ Group. The word “lesbian” matters to me far less than the relationship. It was warm and beautiful. The term “cotton ceiling”, coined by a foolish cis ally, had little currency among trans folk but has become a symbol for the TERFs of how vile we are. It is a little wearing when someone is terribly keen to repeat that they would never ever in a million years have sex with a person like me, but, you know, there are other fish in the sea. I doubt I would argue them into it.

We trans women are ridiculous. Often, we don’t look particularly good in our floral dresses. Our body-shape is wrong for many of the clothes we wear. Unless you want your scalp peeled back then a motorised grinder sanding your skull away your face probably won’t be that pretty. Someone who has met a few trans folk gets able to read us. All we can do is embrace that. Ceasing to fear being ridiculous is freedom.

Hieronymus Bosch

Sara Ahmed

Professor Sara Ahmed is the director of the Centre for Feminist Research at Goldsmiths’, University of London, and warmly in favour of trans people. Her blog has wonderful things to say in our favour, and is full of beautifully expressed gems.

She describes herself there as “a lesbian academic of colour”. She experiences exclusion, from people who expect a man or expect a white person. She has the work of correcting pronouns just as we do, in her case when someone refers to her partner as “he”. Certain norms are expected. Explaining I do not fit can be exhausting, and is often seen as an imposition on the normal people. Someone who says “grammatically, ‘he’ includes ‘she'” is irritated by someone insisting she is not included: her insistence is experienced as an imposition on him.

I found this in the comments there: the bisexuals’ rejoinder to the taunt that they are “sitting on the fence” is “Your fence is sitting on me”- your understanding of how people are should not marginalise the people who do not fit it.

Those whose being is in question are those who can question being, she says: which threatens the Normals, but has the power to liberate them. Here she is on Passing: it is our way of avoiding harassment, even as the concept casts us as deceivers. In the hotel, she and her partner find twin beds- do they go back down to try for a double? She is known as a feminist, and the Normals roll their eyes even before she starts to explain.

Her passing, when white people expect someone white, is different from ours: Passing is work; it is the effort not to notice the bother caused by your own arrival. There is pretence involved; this is not about pretending to be something you are not but pretending not to notice you are not what they expect. She still has to make the normals comfortable, by minimising the signs of difference. Which for us can be torture- anyone feels entitled to judge my dress sense, which is always too feminine yet not feminine enough. That post refers to “killjoys” which may partially explain her blog title.

Polite racism works to create “presumed whiteness.”  In other words, it is more polite to presume you are white. In order not to disappear you have to make your brownness or blackness into an assertion. Compare and contrast benign sexism.

It is hard to leave happiness for life. Reading Becoming unsympathetic, I see her perspective on (I riff) how groups can be formed by all feeling the same way, how we can be excluded, how our independence may depend on feeling differently, which may be seen as betrayal.

Living a lesbian life: Trans women are willful women; women who have to insist on being women, who have to keep insisting, again and again, often in the face of violent and repeated acts of misgendering…an anti-trans stance is an anti-feminist stance; it is against the feminist project of creating worlds to support those for whom gender fatalism (boys will be boys, girls will be girls) is fatal; a sentencing to death.

I will go there again and again.

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Monet Poplars Epte Autumn

Amputees by choice

Should people who have a desire for the amputation of a healthy limb receive that treatment? In this paper Tim Bayne argues yes.

What causes the desire? Bayne distinguishes Body Dysmorphic Disorder from Bodily Integrity Identity Disorder: in BDD, the “wannabe” believes the limb is diseased or ugly, and in BIID the person’s identity does not include the limb. In both the wannabe knows the limb is part of their body, unlike in deafferentation, where people rationally recognise the limb is theirs but only know where it is from visual clues, so that learning to walk again is difficult. Some amputees have phantom limbs, even trying to use those limbs eg to answer the telephone.

A wannabe might have apotemnophilia or acrotomophilia, the sexual desire to have an amputation or attraction to amputees. The attraction may be a projection: few apotemnophiles form permanent relationships with amputees, as it is never the right amputation. There is overlap between devotees, those who pretend to have an amputation, and wannabes. In a survey of only 52 subjects, 87% admitted sexual arousal. Bayne suggests that some wannabes might have BIID, some BDD, even some both, and if there was a sexual component this does not invalidate the desire: Perhaps the sexual element is better conceived of as common, though not inevitable. Sexuality is an essential ingredient in most people’s sense of identity. Like Gender Identity Disorder, BIID might be importantly sexual without ceasing to be essentially concerned with identity.

What could justify a surgeon amputating? Harm minimisation: many will damage their limbs in a dangerous way. Autonomy: an individual’s conception of their good should be respected. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not forced to have blood transfusions. Whether it is morally relevant is that amputation is an act rather than an omission is questionable, especially where doctors have an obligation to promote health. Arguably wannabes are not competent to give informed consent, as they are deluded; but it is a specific individual delusion, they are otherwise rational, and given the delusion amputation is a rational response.

Some say an attempt to change the belief is an attempt to change their identity, who they are. Perhaps they have tried and failed: there is little evidence, but it is unclear another cure would work. There are feminist arguments against cosmetic surgery, that the desire for a different body is false consciousness, but people are allowed to seek it.

Incidentally Bayne argues that transsexual surgery is less acceptable, because trans women conform to stereotypes- weak, helpless and obsessed by appearance. Here I wonder if he is motivated by empathy or perceived kudos for putting an unattractive argument convincingly.

The operation will have a therapeutic effect if (i) wannabes endure serious suffering as a result of their condition; (ii) amputation will – or is likely to – secure relief from this suffering; (iii) this relief cannot be secured by less drastic means; (iv) securing relief from this suffering is worth the cost of amputation.

One writer claimed the desire for amputation has its origins in attention seeking sparked by the deprivation of parental love. I find I am able to appear needy, and attract those who like helping, by less drastic means; and this disbelieves the subject. Why do you want the amputation? Simply for itself. “It is who I am.”

Many will feel repugnance, as shown by my initial choice of title, a poor joke to cover my embarrassment- “Off with their Legs!” That is not a ground for refusing the operation. Disgust is no reliable indicator of moral objectionability.

Monet three trees in grey weather

Pathological manliness

So many trans women I meet had worked hard to make men of themselves. I joined the Territorial Army, one was in the police firearms unit and had pointed her gun at a man, willing to shoot him if necessary; others were in the armed forces. The police are necessary, but I do not have the personality for that: I know myself well enough now, and am glad my application to join the Prison Service was rejected.

Here is thirdwaytrans pathologising gender identity. He has detransitioned. A therapist would think of a patient as a person with depression rather than a depressive, and encourage the patient to do the same. The patient is so much more than just the condition, but also thinking of the condition as separate- “That’s the depression talking”- is therapeutic. If they identify as “a depressive” they may feel they cannot change and become harder to treat.

He wants to treat gender dysphoria the same way, as separate from the person and not their authentic self. An identity is not authentic, but a summary, a short-cut to explain that “freezes things into place”. He is wrong, there: it can be a jumping-off point, an understanding which enables me to grope for further understanding, at first without words.

I feel he wants to justify his detransition. He has moved on, not “reverted”: it is new maturity, not failure. He says mindfulness is important in detransitioning, because it loosens identities and the holds they place on us. Strange: my Quaker worship was a way into accepting the need to transition.

I feel all decisions are acceptable, if the person knows the consequences. Yes, you can dress female, or transition; you can have testosterone suppressors and oestrogen, if you realise these may cause permanent physical changes and the risk of sterility is high; you can have vaginoplasty; you can revert.

I feel he pathologises the wrong thing. I have not read his whole blog, but I find little difference in this post from the ignorant person who says I am delusional and a man in women’s clothes is disgusting or sick. Transition let me be more me. I moved from tense, defensive and masked to soft, gentle and peaceful; celebrating my femininity rather than loathing it.

Possibly rather than transitioning a person could be freed from the mask of Masculinity. It is that idea that we must be extremely masculine to pass as men that imprisons us.

The rules of Masculinity are not just in my own mind, or my parents’ understanding, but in the wider community; yet a counsellor observed that trans folk have a very narrow concept of what is acceptable behaviour to be “manly” or “womanly”, where the unafflicted have a much wider range.

My identity is Clare, but seeing myself as soft, gentle and peaceful and coming to value that has been liberating, many years after transition. Though Ann saw me as a gentle boy full of humour and love when I was twenty, and others saw me as other than my self-concept of echt manliness.

The psychotherapist, rather than treating gender dysphoria as sickness or delusion, or transition as the only way of treating it, would attempt with the patient to find and value the human being under the shell of manly pretence. My problem is, I could only do that after transition.

Monet Poplars Epte 1891

Performing femininity

I gave leadership last month, as a gift to four Quakers. I had an email from one of the — committee, explaining that he could not possibly do the job. Their usual way of proceeding is unwieldy, and he had no time. I emailed them all saying give us a result, by this easier way. Four days later we got a result- perhaps not perfect, but good enough, and possibly as good as Proper Quakerism™ would have given.

I made life easier for people. I took away worry. I either took a decision for them or at least enabled them to make it for themselves. I told them what to do, and this was service to them. It’s a thing I am proud of.

I have not had a go at defining femininity for more than a year. I have been referred to I Blame the Patriarchy and am having my mind blown by acceptance that a trans woman should not have to have the operation before joining a women’s college, alongside loathing of femininity as an oppressive patriarchal construction.

I phoned a woman today and got her office answerphone. There was no hint of apology in the authoritative “I am in the office this week but away from my desk at the moment.” I was in a hurry and needed to speak then, and wonder whether that was the cause of my discomfort, or whether I have some oppressive feeling that women should be apologetic.

Just after I transitioned, a man told me a story showing how clever/ resourceful/ manly he was, and I thought, I could tell a story capping that- but I don’t need to any more. I smiled at him.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote in the 18th century that women would think like men if they were educated like men. That would be the end of the oppressive differences.

Do wives care more about the house being clean and tidy, or is it that men know the woman will give in first? Christmas 1996, my sister tidied all the new toys away and hoovered the floor, before the adults shared more wine. Her husband was irritated at her working when the toys would be strewn as soon as the children woke. Columnist says he dumps the toys in the toy-box, his wife wants to sort them neatly.

That wig. My left eye peers out past a thick lock of real hair, and I love it. I feel beautiful. Shelagh understands and sympathises. Empathy is her job, she is a psychotherapist, but I get the feeling that she would feel just the same way. Over seventy, much of her attractiveness is winsome, playful femininity.

Feminine sexual attractiveness is highly prized. Do you blame women for using any trick they can?

I dolled myself up to go out. Organza de Givenchy, eyeshadow, mascara, lipstick; high heeled boots; performing femininity. I wanted to. I liked it. I am glad I don’t put white lead on my face. People did not know it was poisonous, but it was women who painted.

Difference, oppression: I am groping here. What does it feel like, is it false consciousness,



Monet the three trees Autumn effect

Women’s oppression

Women’s oppression starts before birth, with sex-selective abortion. At birth, little girls are held close and told how pretty they are; little boys are held further away, and called “Big Strong Boy”. Both sound affirming; but the boys’ conditioning promotes independence, the girls’, dependence. Boys get construction toys, girls get dolls; even an easel comes in pink or blue.

It is not as bad as it has been, but at worst girls are not taught properly about menstruation, so that when they bleed they think they are ill and dirty. Girls’ and women’s sexuality is restrained and controlled by slut shaming while being displayed by their clothes. Maths and sciences are not “girls’ subjects”, girls’ leadership skills are deprecated by words such as “bossy”, girls should be feminine.

Men interrupt women far more than women interrupt men. A man’s anger is approved by both sexes where in the same circumstances a woman’s anger is seen as wrong. Men listen to other men more than to women.

It is “women’s work” to look after children, the disabled and the elderly, and to do housework. Women earn considerably less than men and are under-represented in parliaments and governments, in company boards and senior management. The Manosphere asserts that this is because of life-choices, but minimises how those choices are constrained by the culture. There is no question that a man can have a good career, and children.

This may seem a middle-class analysis. Higher education is unattainable for those chaotically raised underclass children whose parents do not speak to them enough, so that they have not developed proper language skills when starting school. There, women’s subjugation is enforced by physical violence; yet violent men beating women or verbally and emotionally abusing them is throughout the social scale. I asked a man if he beat his wife, and he said, “Only if she needs it”. I asked a woman if her husband hit her, and she said, “Only occasionally”. Two women a week are murdered by partners or ex-partners in Britain.

Much of the culture which seems affirming is oppressive. Valentine’s Day is an example of “benevolent sexism”- “a subjectively positive orientation of protection, idealisation, and affection directed towards women that, like hostile sexism, serves to justify women’s subordinate status to men”. “Chivalry”, no longer a mounted warrior’s code but something to do with holding doors open, involves men looking after women in a way which keeps women subordinate.

Here is the blog “I Blame the Patriarchy”, a radical feminist affirming of trans women, who loathes femininity, calling it a performance which degrades and oppresses women. For Twisty, my experience of oppression enables me to empathise with that of others: discrimination, disenfranchisement, degradation, dehumanization. It’s the Four Ds! The Four Ds make all oppressed persons identical enough. Though after patriarchy is defeated, nobody will have to become anything because everyone will just be whatever they are. Meanwhile, we gotta stop slapping the Four Ds on anyone who fails to conform to the stupid misogynist gender binary.

For me, my femininity- consciously deferring, seeking to reduce conflict and build connection, delighting in being soft- is an expression of my essential self, and is beautiful and valuable. Someone needs to be like that or we would just kill each other. No-one should be forced into that role, certainly not all women; but with my particular life experience, I can only be myself expressing myself female.

You can see why radical feminism would be so attractive to me. No more gender stereotypes: as a man, I am so feminine, and the women I meet do not conform to their stereotype either. Then Violet pricks my bubble: it sounds plausible until you have a baby of your own. The differences are too big, too surprising, even to people planning to be gender neutral. Also, I think you only need a casual glance at every other species on the planet to know that gender differences broadly correlate with sex organs. There is research pointing both ways.

Monet three trees in Spring

Trans-Including Radical Feminism

No-one will be convinced by rational argument whether to treat trans women as women. First, people pick a side, then they rationalise. The arguments are less to persuade people than to provide respectability to their position.

This does not prevent a profusion of argument. Are there differences between male and female brains, and where do trans folks’ brains fit? How could this arise? Are there differences between men’s and women’s interactions, and is this conditioned? What causes transsexuality? Is it a matter of identity, or a sexual perversion, or both, or something else, and if so, so what? Do all women share particular experiences which trans women cannot imagine?

These arguments have emotional content, some more than others. Transphobes are keen to point up specific instances of trans women who are ridiculous or dangerous- some are sex offenders- to whip up fear and disgust, though those sexual assaults revolt me as much as anyone. We respond with the concept of “passing privilege”- trans folk who pass should not be treated better than those who do not.

Some positions arise from transphobia- feelings of fear or disgust at a perceived male in women’s clothes. Some people feel that, and their feelings should not be dismissed: spiders are absolutely no threat, but I take care to kill spiders when my arachnophobe friend is about. But I am not a spider. I ask people not to assume transphobia: no group of women all have these feelings, not sufferers from or survivors of chronic physical abuse or rape, people who have never heard of transgender before, not even radical feminists. If you have these feelings, own them. Do not project them onto others, and do not pretend to be protecting others who would be happy to accept us. Phobias are more curable than transsexuality, and curing a fear of another human being enables the former phobic to enter imaginatively into their experience and gain from their friendship.

The essence of radical feminism is that the only differences between men and women are physical sex characteristics, and patriarchy. In that context, I can never be a woman, and my feeling that I am is delusional or a product of patriarchy. And yet- even if there would be no physical transition without patriarchy- we dispute that, and it cannot be known- we are creative human beings seeking to live our lives as best we may. So the transition expresses something valuable about what it is to be human, and is a solution to human problems.

See what value it has. It challenges and subverts patriarchy: we decisively reject the gender roles assigned to us. It values characteristics generally thought of as “feminine”– these characteristics are valuable, in either gender. It is the tool we have to best be our authentic selves. When radical feminists are diverted from important feminist battles to fight trans women, the far right of politics rejoices and laughs. And- we are an anomaly. Not every anomaly need be ironed out.

Energy saved from picking on trans folk can be used in more productive battles.

Monet the three trees Autumn 1891