Allies can say things I find difficult to say. “A woman could be frightened and distressed to see you in a women’s toilet,” says a TERF. “Don’t you care?” Of course I care. Of course I would be sorry about that- but not sorry enough to change my life. What my father, a teacher, used to call “dumb insolence”- just looking at her but not saying anything- might be my best resource. I do not want to get into an argument, and I do not want to give ground.
If I were to argue the point, I would say I mind my own business in loos, worried about confrontation, and did not think it likely enough to warrant excluding me at all times. However Mhairi tells me it would not bother her. “A man might have been coming on to you, in a creepy, threatening and inexorable way, you escape, but see me and feel sick,” I said. “A lesbian might have been coming on to me,” she countered.
The answer to that one- for these arguments are rituals, honed in hugboxes then flung at the enemy- is that lesbians take “no” for an answer, but men never do. Mhairi merely snorts. My “but- but- but- I would never,” or even “well, I wouldn’t. Judge me by my acts, not by someone’s fears about me” does not have nearly the same force.
She is about 15-18 years younger than I am, and she has not got my baggage. The idea that trans is queer is bad never occurred to her. She does not need my circumspection. All women have different histories, different experiences, she says. Menstruation may seem to be the great trump card to others, but not to her. Perhaps it is that these things are not an argument at all, but a stand-off. No trans woman is going to hear a TERF and be persuaded, though some might be discouraged and revert in misery. Both sides have arguments as armour, protecting them against recognising the other side’s humanity.
She gave an example of a man showing emotion, crying far more than women do. She loves that. Possibly she is particularly an ally because she is neuro-diverse. She hates forms asking whether she is disabled, because her diversity gives her a different perspective. It is the social model of disability: her condition is accounted a disability because of the shallow observation that she does not pick up particular skills as neuro-typicals do, and that is perceived as a lack. There has been little attempt to see it as good, or even to find better ways suited to her for teaching those skills, so that the difficulty would be less. As an ally, in our conversation most of that came from me, though I was not telling her anything she did not know.
I can spend too much time with the “trans-critical”, so that their arguments come to seem to have force. It was good for me to spend time with her, to reassure me.
“Fat” is the reclaimed word. I wondered what was the self-identifying word for anorexics. Just as “obese” is a medicalising word, is “anorexic”? Is “skinny” insulting? I searched for “Anorexia forum” and found this site. It’s “pro-ana”, promoting behaviours related to anorexia nervosa, as a lifestyle choice or identity rather than a disease. So as a word chosen by the group themselves, it’s “ana”. And I find that problematic. People die because of these behaviours, but then so do climbers and cave-divers. I’ll go for “thin”, which has never been insulting in my culture.