I was wolf-whistled yesterday. Even though I switched my irony detector off, it still glowed red: Sarcasm! Sarcasm! Strange how you can read these passions in length, and variations in volume. We are communicating creatures.

The gender critical feminist might resent wolf-whistles. The woman is seen as a sex object, the property of men to express their judgment of her, rather than a whole person. So it’s not a compliment, but part of a range of activities including groping strangers on a train, and worse. Then they snark at trans women. “They like wolf-whistles, it makes them feel affirmed.” Another reason we are not real women and harmful to real women. But I would feel differently about a wolf-whistle, if I thought it genuine. I would be relieved. The sarcastic one said I was remarkably unattractive, and possibly that I was read. There’s the threat of violence. “I would never hit a woman, but I would hit you.” The genuine whistle sees me as a real woman. I judge the threat of assault in that slightly less.

I am not a cartesian dualist. We are animals, and chimpanzees, rats and even invertebrates can be useful analogues for humans in research. My brain developed as part of my body, and continues to be changed by my experience. Brain, meet testicles: they were a centimetre apart at week 8, already communicating with hormones.

Partly I argue trans folk should not have surgery because we should not bear the cost of our difference, and partly because we are an integrated whole. Much of the queer theory used to justify surgery is dualist: female brain/soul/spirit/whatever “trapped in a man’s body”. If “I” am feminine, that would appear to apply only to my brain if anything, and not to my gonads, skeleton, even fat distribution.

Yet, before surgery I was estranged from my body, having suffered shame over it since childhood. After surgery, I came to love it. As I chew over all this stuff, blogging meaning thinking as I write, I wonder if I could have been brought to value it without transition. I feel keeping the body whole is a better way, yet surgery freed me to value my body.

I am for trans rights because we exist. We can’t be argued out of it. We transition under threat of death. We might be loved out of it- of course a man can be like that. And if gender stereotypes lost their force, we might not transition. The man cannot carry a foetus but can nurture a child. While we exist, though, we should be treated reasonably.

The trans woman’s belief that she is a woman is a falsehood, but convincing her of that may only make her unhappy. I want to speak the truth, but that involves communicating what people can hear, and also loyalty: my loyalty is to gender non-conforming people, and especially gynephile trans women. Saying trans women are men is not true, because it denies that fragment of truth that trans women hold about being human.

This photo is an almost-photo, a lovely background. The sun on the tree in the foreground brought out rich colours which my phone did not quite capture. The reflection is not quite good enough for interest. It really needed a bird doing something to make it, and so I sat on the wooden floor, waiting for something to happen. Had I waited longer, there might have been more. And there, for an instant, was the bird reflected in the water. We had coffee, then Richard got the bus home and I cycled in the sunshine on the dismantled railway, in the sun with the birdsong, in the beauty, feeling bliss.

8 thoughts on “Wolf-whistle

  1. Transphobia is widespread in society, and the transgender population really really suffers from oppression and discrimination. That’s why there is a suicide attempt rate.

    And that’s why I’m doing this post. To make you aware of transphobia, and if you aware that you are transphobic, make sure you try to suppress any phobia of people based on their race, sex.


    • The internet has various explanations. As the navy would whistle when an officer came on board, the whistlers started noting the presence of attractive women too. Or, men giving unwanted sexual attention were known by the slang term “wolves”. But there is some evidence of men whistling at women from the Ancient world in Plautus’s Mercator.


  2. Oh, I’ve never even heard a dog whistle, but I’ve heard of one. Is that a domesticated version of a wolf whistle? And I am familiar with the slang term, wolf, for an oppressive man, but such men are also called dogs sometimes – another domesticated version? Just playin’ fetch withya, Dear. 🙂

    BTW, Some men’s testicles and brains never get any further than a centimeter apart their whole lives – or so it seems.


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