How can I be understood, when my experience is so different from most people’s, and when some try to make me the out-group, the hated Other?
Miriam Cates’ speech in Parliament on Wednesday 18th distilled her transphobia: she wants everyone to “condemn more, and understand less,” as John Major said of criminals. She started with sex criminals, who will exploit any loophole to get access to children. She turned to a trans person, defined as “someone who is uncomfortable with their sex”. Then she spoke of women stopping going to a counselling class because there were men- trans women- there, and they were entitled to “the dignity of a woman-only space”. She spoke of herself feeling threatened by a trans woman. She said law “should be based on fact, and someone cannot change their sex”. As Lloyd Russell-Moyle said, that is disgusting, shameful, horrible, the worst transphobia, and pursuing a war on trans people.
Cates calls us people “uncomfortable with their sex”, an unsympathetic outsider’s view. Then she imagines dreadful consequences from allowing us to be who we are.
Cates sees us as an out-group, at best delusional, at worst sexual predators. You cannot change your sex. Nick Fletcher’s stupid incomprehension reinforces this view. Knowing nothing, he spoke of “wisdom”. He thinks removing restrictions is unwise, that trans children are just going through a phase, and their parents should tell them they were born in the right body.
Someone might not understand why trans people would want to do that, look like that. Cates and Fletcher tell that voter we are not just weird, but dangerous, someone to punch down at and relieve their everyday frustrations. After a hard day at work, they could come home and get likes and upvotes for sharing endless variations on Trans Is Bad.
People differ, in the way they understand the world, think, or feel, and in what they desire, but unconsciously, you expect people to be just like you. It is hard to see other people.
Many people understand the value of diversity. It makes life more interesting, and our way of coming together to solve problems more effective.
A woman who moved from the US to England said that there were ways people indicated they were using irony, but they were different in each country. Possibly they differ between regions, and are a reason English Northerners and Southerners find each other so weird. You learn the signals in childhood, and noticing becomes unconscious. Bringing it into consciousness and seeing the different signals is difficult.
I start with a type of diversity everyone knows exists, few people now think of as harmful: lefthandedness. I want to persuade not only the person who values diversity, but those who find difference incomprehensible, or even threatening.
I am lefthanded. It seems a bit weird to me that people use their right hand so much, so I can see that for a righthanded person it might seem weird the other way. Lefthandedness was seen as bad, gauche rather than adroit, even sinister rather than dextrous, “cack-handed”, meaning clumsy, because people wiped their bottoms with their left hand and ate with their right. Children were forced to write with their right hands, and this was traumatic. Let us use our hands as comes naturally, and we flourish.
Angelina Jolie, Annie Lennox, David Bowie, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are all lefthanded. I got the names from this list, which is almost all British and American. That site encourages lefthanders to play guitar lefthandedly. It shows that people diverse in one way don’t necessarily promote diversity generally.
I am not “uncomfortable with my sex”. I am reconciled to my Y chromosome and my narrow pelvis. I have a whole, integrated personality, wounded but healing. My identity as Clare allows me to express who I really am. Trying to present male was miserable, and in the end unbearable. My friend saw: it was as if I was acting when I was Stephen, I was just me when I was Clare. It is like writing with my left hand: you might not want to do it, but when I do life is much easier. It comes naturally to me.
Tories want to spread incomprehension, disgust and fear, to foment a culture war distracting from their economic incompetence and plutocratic exploitation. I want everyone simply to be able to be themselves. People are different. You have to make an effort if you are going to understand them, but how much better to see the world as it really is, rather than to reject it!