Sympathy for the anti-trans campaigners

A thread on a site where anti-trans campaigners go asks them how they started with that campaign. It has over six hundred responses, and the personal stories are fascinating. Why would people invest so much time and energy in trying to evict 0.1% of women from women’s spaces? Why do they spend so much time on line, radicalising each other, nursing their wrath to keep it warm? There is qualitative evidence there, and I hope serious research is done to draw some conclusions from this archive. Meanwhile, here are some quotes and stories.

I have also lost my faith in the liberal media (which I used to think were more trustworthy), in the left (I still consider myself left-wing but I don’t trust ‘the left’ and despair at its misogyny), in most politicians, the police and public bodies.

It’s terrifying how this issue seems to be more important than any other, for some of these women. They resign from Labour, and give up the Guardian for the Times, which is far more right-wing. They object to hate-crime legislation even if it is not enforced, and object to the public sector’s duty to promote equality, including trans equality. From this quote, it is as if her trust in society has evaporated.

So has mine, actually. The last two times I have spoken to police officers they have thrown their weight about, and tried to bully me. Austerity is a betrayal of the British people. Yet losing trust in society means less participation in democratic processes and greater mental health problems.

I don’t know what I could call them that they might not object to. To anyone who uses that repulsive term[TERF], I offer the biggest of FUCK YOUs. It’s like the N-word of trans issues. How fucking dare you? Actually, I thought “tranny” was the N-word of trans issues. They don’t like “cis” either: I peaked seriously with the cis nonsense. I am a female. “Peaked”, “Peak-trans”– they mean this brought them to their height of anger or resentment. They might say, motivation to campaign; but the thread is highly emotional. A lot of righteous anger against misogyny generally is channelled against trans women.

They are repeatedly shocked by us. These days my mind is blown approximately once every 37.2 seconds so I’m used to it.

Some have met trans women. I work in health care. The only encounters I have had with patients who are trans have been deeply unpleasant and borderline threatening – trans women who do not get what they want are just as scary as entitled men who are not getting what they want. Well- we talk about the long waiting times we endure. Unless she is in a gender clinic, which is a scary thought, she would be refusing hormones or referrals. As a GP or psychiatrist she should refer trans people to specialist services, for that is where we can be assessed, and people who would be better advised not to transition so advised.

That woman writes with disgust about the result of our operations. She has seen us naked, and her response is revulsion.

Not many of the women cite particular personal experience. They have seen trans people in the media and been repelled. They have read of some organisation which is trans accepting, even though it does not affect them personally, or even has no trans women in it. I may do a count, but that would be time-consuming. It’s not just a matter of a document search: one person might use the name of a person or organisation more than once, or a misspelling or abbreviation.

Lots mention the Girl Guides. Well, the Guides are subject to the Equality Act like anyone else. In order to exclude a trans girl they would have to show it was a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. So, they have a policy that says they will include trans girls. The Guides explain that their members support trans inclusion, and that they will assess risk on a case by case basis. They look after children, so have to take safeguarding seriously. Yet still there is the fear: I then had two daughters and the Girl Guides change in policy made me realise that my girls are at risk. How do they see it? Allowing trans identified boys to share sleeping space and changing space with young girls. Another writes, the Girl Guides thinking it’s absolutely fine to let men have sleepovers with young girls. Anyone might read that and feel fear and resentment, unless they had any trust for the women volunteering as Guiders.

I don’t know how many trans girls are in the Girl Guides, or how many go on camping trips. Nor do they. It’s the thought that something bad might happen that energises them- or “Peaks” them.

For a while I really didn’t see what the problem was. I’d worked with a number of Transwomen and found them to be polite and respectful. I had no problem sharing bathroom facilities or in one case a shared company house with them. This woman goes on to distinguish “transsexuals” from “TRAs” (trans rights activists). According to her, the problem is not the “transsexuals” she has met but cross dressers/”part-time” women/AGP’s [who are not] people suffering from genuine GD.

There are a few AMAB people who publicly spend some time dressed female, yet do not transition. One is Pips Bunce. I spent 18 months after I decided to transition, still presenting male at work, but going out expressing myself female when I could. So some “part-time women” will be transsexual. She also picks on “autogynephilia”. This means that she can campaign against trans rights even though the trans women she has met have been unobjectionable. There is no robust evidence about how many cross-dressers who do not intend to transition go out in public dressed. In the TV/TS club I was in for a time, cross-dressers were scared to go out dressed female. I think it would be a tiny number.

I have no idea what happened at the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, which excluded trans women and closed in 2015. Here’s Wikipedia. Someone on the thread says, what happened at Mitchfest – a male consealed themselves amongst the women (many felt free to walk about topless etc, free of the male gaze – so they thought) and decided to get naked in the showers (forshadowing Jess Bradley) which completely freaked out the sexual violence survivors who had very good reason to associate unexpected/out of context penis with assault. She has a story of a trans woman doing something she finds objectionable, and she retells it in a way to increase anger and resentment against all trans women.

Well, what do you think? The organiser claimed “womyn born womyn” were a subset of women, and could organise a festival just as a festival just for Black women would not be racist. I just don’t know. Trans women can be excluded if there are good grounds for it.

It is an addictive space for radicalisation. Someone who names no personal experience at all says I have become addicted to lurking on the FWR boards, have written to my MP, done various consultations, ceased reading the Guardian, taken out Times and Spectator subscriptions and wondered long and hard who I can vote for in the next election.

Some anti-trans campaigners become obsessive because of what they read or imagine- they read that the Girl Guides have a policy of including trans girls, and they imagine a trans girl committing sexual assault on a Guide camp. They think “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then their imaginations dream up the most awful things.

I call them campaigners, but the campaigns may just consist of posting horrible stuff about trans women on line, or reading others’ postings. And they may escalate to writing to MPs. It does not mean people will necessarily be hostile IRL, but they are on line.

Some have particular personal experiences which lead them into campaigning against us, and those experiences can be particularly minor and petty.

I had a discussion with a friend and he asked me what I thought about the whole trans thing. I said that I didn’t really care much about it, but that a man’s lived experience cannot compare to a woman’s, so surely they can’t claim to BE women. He looked at me and said, quite seriously “be careful… you can’t say that.”… I never want to be told what I am allowed to say. Well, neither do I, but I don’t start campaigning on something just because someone disagrees with me. Trans is not an issue of “Free Speech”.

Or this, from a woman who also sounds prejudiced to begin with. In 2016 a friend’s brother who lives in the US came out as trans. Utterly typical AGP, works in IT blah blah blah. Completely shafted their wife and teenage children. The wife said I was the only person who messaged her support and outrage rather than the usual brave and stunning narrative. I wonder what her friend thought, whether she had known the sibling or wife, and whether the woman is in the UK.

And some of the stories are less petty. I have written about the “Good” Transwoman, and I might be that myself in this instance, but I believe the story of the woman who says About five years ago DH and I were mr and Mrs Woke. She tells how a member of her hobby group who planned to transition asked her to lie to her doctors, claiming she attended the group as a woman, though she was still presenting male; became nasty, and could not have a grown-up conversation; when rebuked for being bullying and abusive threatened court action for discrimination; and started talking dirty, Eg person now orgasmed when nipples touched or walked. Like we wanted to know! You might have no-one to talk to about this stuff, but be careful who you confide in nonetheless.

This is one bad experience with a trans woman, and she now campaigns against all of us. Well, men can be assertive but women often aren’t allowed. That includes trans women. I find, often, I am “treated as a woman” when that is a bad thing, but, well, if you transition watch out for it. She judges all trans women by that one bad experience.

I’ve worked with and known a couple of transwomen (both transexual), who were perfectly nice people in their own way, but I shared an office toilet with one of the two, and it made me uncomfortable. Yes, she could be phobic to start with. She did not like this colleague, and says she was bad at her work, girly in a way not befitting a 40 year old, and wanted to be sexually harrassed (validated). Um. I feel differently about sexual harassment from other women. I have found it creepy and vile, and at other times have found it easy to brush off in a way a cis woman might not.

Do I believe these stories? Yes, generally. There is one bizarre troll- The world hates President Trump because he has declared war against pedophilia as a legal right. There may be others, and I should not just accept stories because they are in reasonable prose; but it’s up to you. Here’s one which fits a stereotype used to hurt trans folk. No, we are not usually gay people who cannot accept being gay; we are different; but this woman’s “child” (I note how she is gender-neutral throughout) was, she says. They were scared about what being “homosexual” meant for their life.

Then one day they came to me so so happy because they’d been looking into it online and actually they weren’t gay at all. They were just a woman who fancied men. All they needed was a course of drugs to take for the rest of their life and a series of major operations and they’d be a women who could have relationships with men like any other woman… The inbuilt homophobia horrified me.

She says her child believes trans people are better accepted than gay people. That is not my experience- the abuse in the press for trans would not be meted out to gay men now. Gay friends have said we’re where they were in the 90’s in terms of acceptance. However, pre-op, sometimes we imagine everything will be wonderful if we can only have the operation, then get depressed six months after it.

Should trans women join feminist groups? One woman reports that a trans woman attended an event there but made unwanted physical contact with a number of women who complained. As a result of this a significant number of women stopped attending events. A number of younger woke and lib-fem women decided the older second-wave women were bigots and transphobes. Women who’d worked together for the benefit of other women for years fell out with each other. Over a period of 18 months or so, everything fell apart and shut down.

That’s tragic. Several stories detail trans women in feminist groups, making it all about them. I don’t know, again. Some women wanted trans included. Could the trans women have been so repulsive, yet still been supported? If you’re in women’s space don’t throw your weight around. People may judge all trans women by their experience of you, so make it a pleasant one. That is “feminine”, after all. I have tried to contribute in my Labour party women’s section.

Transgenderism had hit our small sleepy town, this shit was really real. What had happened was that her daughter had a friend who was binding her breasts. This is what I have to say on that. Think. It is a long time before anything irreversible will happen. They will have plenty of chances to back out. If there are 10 trans boys now, in a school of about 800 kids, not all will go on to have chest masculinisation. One mother says of her child, who had wanted to transition, but now, 4 years later, she’s happier in herself, accepts herself and can see that by wanting to be a boy/man she’s hurting women. So children revert before there is any harm done. Perhaps that child will transition in ten years’ time- the mother was unremittingly hostile, spending a lot of time on 4thwavenow, so may have browbeaten a trans child into denial rather than saved a cis one. Most parents do their best, and many people need therapy because of theirs.

Some of the stories these women tell, of how they changed from being “live and let live” to campaigning against trans rights, really speak to me. Then I feel anger and resentment against individual trans women, not just because they make it harder for the rest of us. The trans woman might tell the story differently, of course; yet I think how dare anyone do anything like that? Or there are things where I understand why trans people are like this, and understand why others might be offended.

I spent most of last year pregnant so was very aware of my “female-ness” but then I saw the word “woman” being taken away, then “female”, and discussions to do with the physical experience of living in a female body were being sidelined or silenced altogether. It felt like a hateful misogynistic campaign.

I understand the trans position, of course. We say “pregnant people” because trans men can get pregnant, and some women have penises. Some people emphasise reproductive physiology for a trans-exclusionary purpose. And yet, reproductive physiology is at the heart of most women’s constant recurring experience and patriarchal oppression, a threat to their existence in cervical cancer undetected, pain in endometriosis or the head of a foetus pressing on the spinal cord, or any number of things. Do not ever show a spot of blood. If your emotions go wild you still have to behave calmly or you will be bullied mercilessly for your lapse.

We are hurt by our experiences, and deserve sympathy- and so does this. Trans women exist, even if we do not menstruate. Not all women feel this way, thank God; but some do. Recognise their hurt, value their anger, before calling them transphobes.

After being sensitised in that way, she found everything about trans reinforcing her view. Cue learning with increasing horror about self-ID and the end to gatekeeping, Karen White, Lily Madigan and the Labour Party, Aimee Challenor and the Green Party, Rachel McKinnon, the Mermaids crap that’s being peddled in schools, the insistence that we all had a gender identity and if you denied it you were a T*RF, the cotton ceiling, trans-widows, breast-binding and puberty blockers, removal of safeguarding measures for children, Desmond is Amazing, gender reassignment surgery as a “cure” for homosexuality in Iran and so on.

One damned thing after another, as Winston Churchill said. There are lots of lists like this on that thread. I have answers to each item- Caitlyn Jenner was celebrated as a Kardashian, not because she is trans; a tiny number of children, where all agree it is medically appropriate, get puberty blockers, and on, and on- and often there is one thing where I have sympathy.

It is my impression that the “Cotton Ceiling” is named far more by anti-trans campaigners than as a thing resented by trans women. Trolls work in social media to radicalise others. It is possible that this next story is by such a troll, it is one purported incident which fits so many stereotypes; and it is also at least possible that it has happened to one woman, at one time:

I was told talking about my periods was “triggering” and “violent” because a trans woman couldn’t experience the “joy” of a period. I was being transphobic. I wasn’t allowed to talk about being a woman anymore. I had to call myself “cis”. I was punched by a “lesbian trans woman” (AKA a straight man) because I – a bisexual woman (who at the time, after being raped by my ex boyfriend) – was only exclusively dating women and I wouldn’t have sex with him and wanted no part of being near his penis (no I won’t call him a her). I peaked last year and I wish it had happened sooner. I’m 25 and I have wasted so long being polite. Not anymore. Why can’t feminism just be for women? Why does it have to include everyone else? Let feminism just be for women!

If you are coming on to someone who is just not into you, stop. It is not feminine to press, and you do think you’re feminine, right? Your hurt is not a licence to behave badly. Others beside you are hurting. I resent anyone telling me that my experience is nothing compared to that of the trans woman.

I would say feminism is for everyone, as toxic masculinity hurts men, both those on the receiving end of a man’s anger, and those twisted out of shape trying to conform to it. Zoe Williams is pretty clearly feminist, but she says my feminism doesn’t even exist without the presumption that all human beings are infinitely precious, infinitely vulnerable; and some women have been treated so badly, repeatedly, that feminism should always first be for women.

And then there are the “trans widows”. These are women whose husbands or partners have transitioned. Five separate stories: This amazing, bright, wonderful, confident women is now a complete shell of her former self and every ‘woke’ person is focussed on helping this awful man ‘turn into a woman’.

A family friend whose husband of over 30y decided he was a woman, and systematically planned to gaslight & abuse his wife for not being overjoyed about it.

An early transwidow I suppose, although she was convinced that he was actually gay and that his religious upbringing (they were Mormons) wouldn’t allow him to accept it.

It was as plain to me then as it is now that my ex is not a woman, he is a man who finds performing masculinity too difficult.

The more I saw what his idea of female was, the more it turned me off. He was overly masculine and aggressive most of the time, then when he got the chance to dress up, (always in an overly glamourous, sexulused way), he’d act coy and simper, head to one side, baby voice, etc, but during the act could be very coercive and sometimes abusive. I never saw any actual feminine behaviour from him. When he declared he was a woman trapped in a mans body, I almost peaked, within a day or two, and tried to end the relationship. It took me a long time to get my feelings about it all straight, but the only sane conclussion l could come to, was that my ex had been a misogynistic, abusive, pervert, and that I couldn’t let myself feel sorry for him, or guilty.

You may have heard of a person from their partner who is leaving them and then met them, and been confused at how apparently reasonable they appear. Not everyone goes for “conscious uncoupling”. And- our pain is not greater than anyone else’s. Our pain does not trump anyone else’s. In the 1990s I heard “There are two ‘s’s in ‘transsexual’, and both of them stand for selfish”. Let’s change that.

There is a growing campaign against trans rights, the rights we have had for years by law and our going into places where we have been tolerated for decades. It is funded by the far right, in part, but it is also a grassroots campaign by ordinary women who have these experiences of trans women. Remember their experiences of sexism and patriarchy as well. Some are simply revolted by the thought of us- transphobia is real- but some deserve our sympathy, even our work as allies.

Talk to me.

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