Flinching at the news

The news, always with more on trans people than our numbers justify, was full of Laurel Hubbard, an inspiration, vilified, and Jess de Wahls, an oppressor, lauded. It makes me feel ill. I asked, does this mean I should ignore the news, and a dear friend replied she saw those two the other way round, saying cis women are under attack and their experience is being denied. “Is this where 60 years of feminism got us?”

That women’s experience is being denied is a myth, from the insistence by the transphobes that trans women entail a comprehensive redefinition of womanhood, rather than an anomaly who can be tolerated. Just because I am a woman does not mean that uteruses no longer matter. Yes, some health bodies use the term “chestfeeding”, but only when talking to trans men who chestfeed, or on web pages aimed at such men, not generally. She has nothing to worry about.

I would like to see my friend again, and fear that we would just argue. Sensitised, I would need to talk of trans, or it would be a barrier between us. I would make points I thought clear and irrefutable, she would make some points of her own, and we would be further apart than ever.

I wondered if I could change, in a way that would make me feel better.

Press coverage of Jess de Wahls has portrayed her as a free speech martyr, not getting across that she claims trans people all believe that “biology is transphobic” or “TERF’s are fascists and deserve to be hurt”. I would be listening to Radio 4, or scrolling facebook, or seeing The Guardian’s most popular posts, and there she would be. I could just avoid news.

Or, I could notice what news made me flinch. Recently, the Department for Education recommended “One Britain One Nation” day to schools, with a ghastly song, and Joy Morrissey MP tweeted, “Received my new office portrait of The Queen today. In Australia citizens can write to their MP for a free portrait of The Queen – why can’t we do the same in the UK?? I feel a campaign coming on.”

This isn’t going to happen. You can buy a portrait of the Queen as easily as you would expect- £30 for an A4 print, unframed- and the Government is not going to start giving out free Queen portraits. I am not flinching from that quite as much as I am about trans stories, but some of my lefty friends are. Yes, we have a Nationalist government, using hate and a ghastly soppy flag-waving to maintain its inexplicable popularity-

128,000 DEATHS!!

Perhaps I am just as wound up about Joy Morrissey. Andrew Rosindell has been pulling Nationalist japes like that for years. They only do it for attention.

Jess de Wahls only affects my online life. Yes, she exemplifies a growing threat to me, but generally I am OK. Tory nationalism is damaging the country, but right now I am OK. If news makes me flinch, it is time to take my mind off it, and do something I enjoy.

There is the individual story-such as a picture of a thug who pleaded a “trans panic” defence, shared by trans people on facebook- and the generalised sense of threat. I know trans rights are no threat to cis women, but some cis women have been sensitised, and imagine themselves threatened. I am sensitised to the trans excluders being celebrated by the propaganda machine.

I want to be less sensitive to this stuff. My sensitivity does me no good. It does not prod me into useful action, or help me persuade others. It means I am seeing the world through a distorting lens, where nonexistent threats are made to appear serious. If my friend can be deluded like that- I think she is deluded- why should I be immune?

10 thoughts on “Flinching at the news

  1. It’s hard to ignore the news, but we are happier when we can. Reading every opposing viewpoint is an extra cross to bear. I read articles about trans people through the lens of reading your blog and can see you have every reason to be aggrieved.

    About the only significant way I think I disagree with you on what I have read here is that I see the term TERF as increasingly unhelpful. Even just saying ‘You’re a TERF’ and the other saying ‘Yes, I am!’ may make it worse. I am mentioning this because you are an influencer. Words matter little except when they are widely used as insults, when it riles the other party up, herds them together and makes the debate more heated and more polarised. Sorry if I have said this before.

    I don’t think you are losing the real argument, which is a plea to be allowed to be who you are. Though it must often feel a hard, wearying struggle to get your message heard, many observers can see how the other side are clutching at straws: throwing more stuff more wildly around than the few genuine areas of contention would merit. As a cis woman, I don’t feel under attack by trans people at all and recognise that they are at least equally at risk of harm or hurt. The only solution I can see is to continue to educate and familiarise, which you try so hard to do.


    • I see in my top menu I have a link, “TERFs”; I have tagged 51 posts “terf”; I use it occasionally. Here I used it in a quote from an anti-trans campaigner. I will think about that. In my top menu, I tried to conserve space so the header picture would be more visible- the post linked is effectively “anti-trans campaigners in their own words”. And I objected when the word was asterisked, by someone quoting “Shut the **** up, ****”.

      It’s a short word, which can be used easily to express anger and contempt, with that plosive T. I know they don’t like it. One problem is that those who campaign against trans rights want to hide that. Increasingly, they use code like “sex-based rights” when the only change they envisage is excluding trans women, from places where cis and trans men are already excluded. “Gender critical” is a position that gender is oppressive and socially constructed, which I share. Some call themselves gender critical, but I have even seen objections to that. They might call themselves “women’s rights campaigners”, but the women’s rights they demand mean treating trans women for all purposes as men. Sarcastically, I coined the acronym COPCOCs: Completely Ordinary People with Completely Ordinary Concerns. Generally I would say “Anti-trans campaigners” or “trans excluders” which avoids the offensive sound but is otherwise equally offensive to someone who would deny it. Perhaps they would say they do not want to subordinate [cis] women’s rights to trans women’s. I think they want to use language to make people think of their position as ordinary feminism.

      I have got rid of the tag “terfs”, and changed my top menu. It is good to hear from observers, to help regain a sense of perspective. Thank you.


        • I just spend a huge amount of time here.

          The term has shifted. I had read somewhere that it was coined by trans-excluding radical feminists, and one of my criticisms of it was that many trans-excluders are not really radical feminists. Then I read trans-excluders’ arguments that it is a slur, which I do not accept. I checked a trans activism facebook group, and it is used surprisingly rarely- people write of anti-trans campaigners instead, or name people, rather than writing of terfs.

          Here the word was used by an anti-trans campaigner, whom I quoted, to show how she claims we are violent towards anti-trans campaigners. She was doing the polarising, not me. I read your comment as objecting to me polarising. It shows the huge power of the word, to ensure anti-trans campaigners are seen as victims.


          • Words are blunt tools. However what I say reads, I respect you and support your right to be you. I should have made clear I did not respond to this particular post, which is why I asked if I had mentioned this before. From all I am exposed to on the subject, I don’t think the term is helping. Enough people felt oppressed by the flag of Mississippi that others who had used it all their lives meaning no bad intent came to accept it was not helpful. I mentioned it to you because I know you care and I believe you have influence: people who care can and do change the world.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. How about the millions of trans-women who have taken over every single sport? Apparently Olympic teams are now only composed of transwomen. The Williams sisters are only allowed to continue playing tennis because they agreed to change their documents to say they’re trans 😀


    • Laurel Hubbard is the only one going to Tokyo. There is one trans woman in the US reserve team. This is because of IOC rules allowing women whose testosterone levels have been reduced significantly below men’s levels for one year before the competition to enter.

      There is a higher proportion of women with androgen insensitivity syndrome, AIS, in elite women’s sport, than the general population. They have a Y chromosome. Generally, elite athletes are “born that way”- the training is intense over years, but they have bodily potential most people do not have.

      The IOC’s testosterone test significantly reduces capacity, and no athlete would willingly undergo that, in order to compete against women rather than men, unless they were really a trans woman. Some anti-trans campaigners seem to think there is no such thing, but we exist. So they allow us to compete. I was briefly in a karate club, and did not actually compete, but asked the sensei if I could compete as a woman. The question went up the hierarchy to the founder, and the answer came back that I could, the first time it had been affirmed for that club.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Please don’t overthink this or you will end up down the wormhole of despair. I am a cis woman and I don’t feel under attack by you or my trans sisters in any way whatsoever. Nor do a lot of other cis women that I know.
    Your friend has allowed herself to become fearful and oversensitised to a non existent threat, despite the fact that she knows you. Psychologically, that is her responsibility to work out rather than yours to mitigate.
    If it’s any consolation, de Wahls and her ilk make me feel physically sick. They are the threat – to you, to me and to anyone with any sense of humanity.


    • Thank you. The Observer editorial this morning casts the de Wahls issue as uncomplicated free speech good, rather than inciting fear bad. This led someone on a facebook group to exclaim in her misery that she hated being a “freak”. I have felt like a freak. Today, I have been strongly affirmed by Friends, not because of my trans nature but because of the five minutes’ prepared ministry on worship I was asked to give to a discussion group. Direct interaction gives reassurance. Online interaction can be unduly frightening.


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