I have made friends with a feminist academic, and we have had friendly, careful discussions about radical feminist theory. Do trans folk subvert patriarchal gender norms, or support them? In one case, she may be an ally. She convinced me of one area where trans women have privilege over cis women.
H was at a formal dinner, the guest of a trans woman. The trans woman was particularly glamorous, in pink silk dress, hair, makeup, nails all beautiful, performing Femininity squared. H is vegetarian, and the staff repeatedly brought her meat. The trans woman perhaps should have taken this up with the staff, as the hostess, but H felt she was behaving in a somewhat masculine manner, in care-taking. As perhaps I was, when I insisted on paying for the wine.
Then the trans woman stood to address the assembled multitude, giving a loud, extrovert, girlipink performance, like a drag queen. You may have done this yourself. It is risqué, but only to an extent. It is a queer performance of gender which the culture has just about accepted.
Trans-women, on the whole, do not get slut-shamed. H admits that I will have had shame and restrictions as a child, but we do not have the experience aged 12 or 13 of burgeoning sexual feelings along with strong social messages that they must not be acted upon.
Oh you can’t lie back
You must stay cold at heart
You must never let your feelings show
For the moment you feel it might start
Why then the only answer’s No.
Girls must be modest. The man who sleeps around is Jack the Lad. Do not disclose Lord Palmerston’s philandering, or everyone will vote for him. The woman who sleeps around is a slut. H was with Green Party activists, who referred to a Conservative candidate as “the town bike”. That shocked me, too. I would expect Greens to be sensitive to such things.
We are careful and courteous. I said I did not object to the word “transsexual” used as a noun, though some of us do. H was surprised that I was so revolted by the expression “biological woman” to mean cis-woman. It says I am not a woman. Well, maybe I am not, but the implication still hurts. In an ideal world, would people have The Operations? I explained how delighted I was to have my op, how horrified I am at the thought of losing my toe, and how I don’t think social pressures alone, strong as they are, would convince me to be castrated against the most basic survival instinct. I am not sure she accepted this. Well, I grew this breast, and the thought of losing it horrifies me as much as you- but top surgery is right for trans men.
She was an ally on the matter of autogynephilia. I explained James Cantor‘s concept of euphilia, and the thought that M-F transsexualism in gynephiles is perversion, and she said that she found that meaningless. The thought that there could be a “perversion” would mean that there was a “normal” to be perverted from. It has no relation to reality.
I loved the conversation, all four hours of it. I find her fascinating.
A week later, I have very different views. First, she complained of that trans woman making a performance like a drag queen. It is an OTT performance of gender which is accepted from trans women but not real women. To show how objectionable this is: no-one would think of saying “She did that thing you black people do” so why would anyone imagine that referring to cliché trans behaviour was OK?
And it is an Uncle Tom act. We behave in a way the cis straights expect, understand, and laugh at. I want to keep my options open, to do that, as more choices mean more freedom, but am unclear how to do it in power.
And, yes, we don’t get slut-shamed, but I was shamed out of my sexuality, seeing it as disgusting, and not having words for it: so I had four girlfriends between 18 and 30, none at school, none lasting more than two months because I could not be myself with them. Worse, not within the protection of Feminine Virtue and Honour, we are seen as available. Steve, who has some charm and intelligence but has gone to seed, old and fat, drove me home from J’s U3A games morning. He said he found me attractive and asked if I would go to bed with him. At Oldham CAB, a dirty old man, poor, a miserable specimen, propositioned our work-experience Asian girls. They had rebelled against Asian modest dress, head-scarves and all that, but had no idea how to dress as Westerners so came to work dressed to party. He said their fathers in shame should throw them out, but he would take them in; and when he saw me about his income support, he touched up my bottom. Low status as he is, he imagines me as immediately sexually available to a path…
Do you see me at all? Here am I, without a house, partner, children, savings, job, pension fund, anything, completely vulnerable,
and you call me Privileged???
J’s joky tales of Steve’s misadventures on the dating scene, which he told her to relieve his feelings and she tells me and her husband Pete for a laugh, rub it in. He takes women for coffee, because why take them for dinner when there will be only one fuck and who wants to be stuck with someone the whole evening? One said to him she would like him as a friend, and he expostulated that he has enough friends.
-He wants a fuck-buddy. Why not advertise for that?
Some people do. One woman basically said “Here I am- Take me.” Steve has a particularly unsuitable woman, Andrea, she’s alcoholic…