Gender Diverse II

No, we can’t just get along. There will be no alliance of radical feminists and trans. They don’t think they are gender diverse, but ordinary women.

They believe the differences between males and females are to do with reproductive biology, and patriarchal oppression. There is a mounting body of research of how girls are moulded to be soft and gentle, boys to be independent and dominant, from birth. It’s one more issue I would need a Masters degree to get an informed opinion, it is fraught and political, but the resistance strengthens. I could allude to discrete facts, such as that the median size of males being greater than that of females, and that men’s voices break, which might show the biology is more than merely reproductive, but women’s voices are deeper in England than in Thailand, and that is cultural. Women are vulnerable in the later stages of pregnancy and when nursing, so cultural differences could have reproductive origins; but I could not make a coherent opinion based on an assessment of the evidence.

My friend mimicked her high-pitched, girlish teenage voice. It sounded mocking, but was not. My attempt at functional and analytical empathy is, resentment at not being equipped to deal with a particular threatening situation, in fact being socialised to be accommodating, and have greater difficulty; memory of bewilderment and hurt; and in particular anger, and determination not to be so threatened again. From this comes an intense fellow-feeling for women- cis women, biological females- in similar situations. There is more to resent: disparity in wages, imbalance of political power especially as it affects women’s issues, imbalance of power in social situations generally.

All that produces the attitude to trans women. For them, the concept of a woman with a man’s body is ridiculous, meaningless. We are men, who have not had the socialisation that has harmed them. Women need women’s spaces, we should not be there, and excluding us is not cruelty, not even hostility to us. Their sympathy for our difficulties and struggles does not extend to admitting us where we have no place. So they are innocent victims of our angry responses, which bespeak male privilege and entitlement, and they are entitled to defend themselves.

I see a lack of femininity in them, and think it a sign of gender diversity. They don’t. It is the aspect of a woman in the world with her consciousness raised. They see my femininity as a caricature or reinforcement of Patriarchal concepts of womanhood, which are oppressive, which they resent. However much I say that I express this feminine because I am this feminine, I don’t feel I am believed. It is more difficult in that there is no agreement on what “feminine” means.

There can be friendships, understanding, even respect. To be seen as an ally, though, I would have to revert to using a male name, avoid women’s spaces, and become a passionate and knowledgeable advocate for women’s rights- in their estimation, not merely in my own. This is a price I am unwilling to pay. Then my assertion that I am subverting gender stereotypes becomes a political argument, which they refute to their own satisfaction. This piece on cognitive dissonance shows how difficult change could be.

I am glad not every woman thinks like this. Not even every radical feminist- consider Sara Ahmed. Enough people tolerate me to enable me to get by.

Gender Diverse

Is it possible that trans women and radical feminists could be allies, working together for common goals? Could there be a Big Tent, the largest possible group of people with common interests identifying as part of that group, choosing its name for themselves and working in its interests? The name is “Gender diverse”, the ten percent or more of the population far enough from the Patriarchal ideal of what a man or woman should be to be most uncomfortable about it. We could see the damage done by the pressures of Patriarchy, and not be too critical about the ways others cope.

The name is not “gender-critical”, because that is a far larger group, including even the most “manly” man who recognises that gender ideals do not fit people, and works against their injurious effects, because accepting diversity liberates everyone.

Nor is the name “gender non-conforming”, for that is a choice about how we cope with the problem. Twenty years ago I remarked to Steve how like a straight man he seemed, even appearing to be mimicking a straight relationship. Steve told me he had had to learn to pass as straight because of his career, but after midnight in a 24 hour supermarket he noticed most of the people there were gay men, “And I camped it up with the rest of them”. One of the objections to trans people is that we are gender ultra-conforming, though social conservatives do not agree. I don’t behave in an ultra-feminine way because I imagine that is how a woman should be, but because that is the closest I can get to authenticity. I am not conforming to my upbringing.

Gender diverse includes people happy in themselves, and people deeply unhappy, depending on how aware they are of the risks of non-conformity, how much they falsely value the false ideal, or how much in denial they are. We might disagree about complete solutions, or the way forward now, but could agree on the basic problem, that patriarchy imposes an ideal manliness or femininity which does not fit more than a tiny proportion of the population. We could recognise that while in your face non-conformity and gender transition are incompatible ways of combating the problem, they are both brave ways of subverting the patriarchal ideals. People suffer for them. We have a lot in common, however much soft men and viragos appear different. The word “virago” was imposed by men to control women called unnatural, but has been claimed by Virago Press.

Those who choose other ways of coping with gender diversity are not our enemies. They make choices we would not make but like us make those choices under oppression. We all do the best we can. Some will just live their lives and undertake no political activity. Some have repellent views- some trans women support the US Republican party- but it is the views that are repellent, not the transition. Each will campaign most for people who choose their particular solution, being most interested in the rights of people most like them. I am trans, so I am a trans activist. But we can recognise commonalities in others’ suffering, and recognise their bravery in combating it, even if their solutions are completely different from ours.

We need to talk about transphobia. It exists, even if not everything a trans activist might call transphobic is. Just as some people are irrationally averse to spiders, some are to trans folk. I had a good working relationship with a colleague, but when I transitioned at work she found it difficult. Knowing that the employer’s diversity policy, and English law, were on my side she explained it to me. She was revolted by me. I was sorry. I missed our useful co-operation. We kept apart as much as possible, and could talk when necessary.

Most people are self-righteous about transphobia. When a man I had never met passed me in the street, hissing “Fucking nonce”, I wondered at how he hated me, to call me a sex offender. A woman wrote online, “maybe I, a Socialist, will vote for Cruz because he will appoint conservative judges who won’t give in to the bathroom bullshit”. Is not bodily autonomy and the right to birth control more important? Feminists should be allies to those described by others as “trans-excluding”, but might notice when someone may not have a sense of proportion about it. And many women support trans women: a friend told me she would be outraged if a trans woman were excluded from the rape crisis centre where she worked.

Some object to “trans ideology”. It takes bravery to transition. Because we are terrified and self-hating, many trans women attempt to be hyper-manly. The idea that we are “really” women enables us to cease that hypocrisy. Years after transitioning, Jan Morris admitted on the radio that she was not a woman. Before transition we reinforce patriarchy. After, we subvert it.

Some of us are revolting. A prisoner gaming the system claimed to be trans in order to be searched only by female officers, then be sexually abusive. If the battle lines were less fraught between some feminists and trans women, then trans women could curb the excesses of our kind. Some of us try already.

A woman putting the case for excluding trans women from women’s bathrooms told me, “I don’t want a woman who objects to be automatically the one in the wrong”. If we work together can we make better solutions?

Now, social conservatives work to exclude trans folk from the toilets of our claimed gender. They pretend concern for women, which might sound less hollow if they were working to reduce domestic violence. They are not your friends, but I hope we trans people can be.

berthe-morisot-the-artists-mother-and-sister

Gender critical

Many people who imagine they are gender critical are not.

There is a strain in feminism which appeals to unfeminine women, who find concepts of femininity oppressive. Well, “femininity” is too rigid and too small for many women. When they feel judged or devalued for not conforming, or when they are disregarded because they are women, they are rightfully angry. However, that does not make them gender critical, it just means that they object to their own oppression.

Some such women imagine that all women are similarly oppressed by femininity. Freeing them is simply a matter of raising their consciousness to see their oppression. However, femininity fits many women, and some use femininity to achieve their desires. Why not? In life, we use whatever tools are at our disposal, and life is unfair: some people have much better cards to play than others, and some find ways of reducing the value of others’ gifts. The “nerd” stereotype, a person who is sexually unattractive and non-dominant, boring and obsessive, is reclaimed by seeing that obsessiveness as a way of burrowing into the detail to produce intellectual solutions. Some welcome others’ gifts and seek to value them. Some compete unfairly, and seek to denigrate them. I find valuing and co-operation the better way for everyone.

Men are gender diverse too. Many men do not fit masculine stereotypes, and are devalued for it. Radical feminism can contribute to that- they value their unfeminine gifts over others’ femininity. Oppressed, they are oppressors. True gender criticism would recognise and celebrate all gifts, whether of men or women. Some strains of radical feminism value masculinity over femininity. Where society values masculine gifts over feminine, in men or women, everyone loses.

There are other oppressions of women. A beautiful young woman danced so well I thought her professionally trained, but she simply moved a lot to music when at home. She had not performed for others before. She was frightened of being seen as a “slut”. Women with strong sexual drives or strong sexual attractiveness are policed and punished. This is sex discrimination, and not gendered oppression.

Under gendered oppression, people respond in different ways, and ways which might not be ideal in a non-oppressive society are sometimes the best we can do. Some get angry and assertive. Some transition between genders. If I respond to my oppression by transitioning, criticising my transition reinforces oppression. Those who criticise my transition are not being gender-critical. Gender-critical attacks the oppression, and not the oppressed.

All oppressions are bad for everyone. A society where everyone is empowered to use their gifts to benefit themselves and others is blessed by that.

Trans ideology

So many stories! I have the brain/spirit/soul/heart of a woman, I am really a woman, provoking research into psychology and brain physiology, and legal or social responses. I don’t care whether it is true or not, but how it liberates or constrains us. Does it permit you to do what you want to do? Does it prevent you? How does it affect others’ resentment or tolerance of you?

It would be lovely to be able to say, with scientific precision, “I am a woman”, because that would make everything simple. Of course transition would be right, and I would be allowed in women’s spaces. Of course society and the law would treat me as a woman, and anyone who dissented would be clearly wrong. I can’t do that because it is not so. The concept of “woman” is not so clearly divided from that of “man” as the transphobes would think, but useful scientific definitions relating to reproduction call me clearly a man. What I am left with is a social or cultural concept, so I say “I am a woman” according to the modern English definition of the word, which includes trans women. This liberates me to transition, and to argue that others should accept me, but that is a circular argument- I am a woman, because people call me a woman.

If a transphobe argues that I am not a woman because I have a Y chromosome and any scientific wiggle-room about intersex people does not apply to me, the question is Why. It could be because they want to enforce Complementarian “biblical” gender roles, or because they want to direct feminist energy against me, calling me part of the Patriarchal Oppression of Women.

If you are deciding whether to transition or not, this is good and bad news. The bad news is that you will never be able to state with complete certainty that you are a woman, and therefore must transition. You have to find what you feel. What do you want? Will transition make you happy? The good news is that if you really want to transition, nothing should stop you. If you want to transition, you are trans. No-one can tell you not to transition because you are not trans. There are unscientific, cultural stories around arguing that you are not, such as “Autogynephilia”, but do not worry. It is a myth. “Female embodiment fantasies” explains the phenomenon far better.

It also widens your options. No, you are not objectively, scientifically a “woman” but you have particular characteristics, desires and needs which make you desire transition. Are there alternatives which might make you happy with less effort?

It means that you will never convince the transphobes. You cannot point to objective scientific evidence that you should be able to use women’s changing rooms. However, the people who really care and want to stop you are a small minority. Most people don’t see what the fuss is about, and so those who do care are desperate to convince them. But the more they exaggerate the threat of trans women in women’s loos, the more reasonable people they drive away.

What is Trans?

What does “Trans” mean? There are many answers, and this is mine.

Trans starts with the concepts of “masculinity” and “femininity”, which do not fit men and women as we really are. At its worst, toxic masculinity rejects the expression of emotion apart from anger and derision. Boys and men are expected to put on a manly mask which suffocates them. Women are objectified, valued for their looks, treated as weaker and needing looked after by men while made responsible for most housework and care of children, the disabled and elderly. Feminists call this “patriarchy” and differ in their emphasis on how it affects men, but it hurts everyone apart from a very few high-status men.

Patriarchy fits no-one. Everyone needs to deny part of themselves to fit in. Those who particularly do not fit are trans, or trans-like people. To call myself a “feminine” man is ridiculous, as “feminine” relates to women, but the word has come to denote qualities prescribed by patriarchy for women, such as being sensitive, empathetic, compassionate, communal, unselfish, supportive, motherly, nurturing, gentle, forgiving, and caring. These are my natural qualities, though my attempt to be a “Real Man” has twisted me.

Femininity can also refer to certain mannerisms, body language, or physical appearance.

I am mostly interested in trans women. Some of what I say could also apply to trans men, and I could use inclusive language, but will discuss trans women only. Trans women may be Gynephile, attracted to women, or Androphile, attracted to men. Androphiles are called “Homosexual” by the researchers, denying that they are women, and Gynephiles are called “Non-homosexual”, which I find demeaning, even though some of us present as bisexual or asexual. If I am not a woman then I am heterosexual, attracted to women. Trans in androphile and gynephiles may be different phenomena with different causation.

There is research on trans, and on the wider question of whether femininity and masculinity have any reality separate from culture. There is a wide range of masculinity and femininity in men and women, but by and large women are more feminine. Whether nature causes this, or nurture, culture and society, is strongly disputed. I would not accuse researchers of fitting the evidence to their preconceptions, but the questions are so political that they might choose research projects to confirm their claims, and interpreters can be wholly political. I read one conservative Christian sniffing that trans women’s brains are different because we obsess about trans, promoting dendrite growth in particular areas. And even if parents of both sexes expect a toddler boy to slide down a steeper slide than girls the same age, what could that mean? I do not have the time or education to assess individual research papers, leave alone the wider questions.

Studies show some brain differences- in the 1990s I was aware that brain dissection had found the BSTc, the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, is twice the size in men as in women, slightly larger in gay men, and female size in trans women, but what could cause that or what it could mean is a mystery to me. We could use it for large claims, that trans women are apart from men, really women, and some do, and there is a huge backlash. Brain research does not justify the large claims of some trans folk.

There is no clear cut-off between trans and cis-gendered. There is a spectrum of masculinity to femininity in men. So other circumstances will decide whether you transition, such as whether you have a partner and what they feel about it, what your job prospects are, or how well you pass. I read of a person who had been the subject of a documentary on transition, but stopped when he found a male partner.

Some men are aroused by cross-dressing, or by thoughts of themselves as women. This is more likely a by-product of being feminine than the cause of transition. Some are satisfied with recreational cross-dressing: at the Northern Concord, it seemed to me that some were just blokes down the pub, who happened to be dressed rather strangely, and some were feminine.

My particular interest is the gynephile trans woman, especially me, and her counterpart the masculine woman: viragos and harridans, sissies and pansies. This is the sexual orientation that has only hurtful names- the woman “wears the trousers”, the man is “pussy-whipped”. “Beta male” may be a more positive term, or “Alpha female”, but both these terms are claimed by other groups. My parents were like this, terrified of people finding out, and inculcated in me terrible shame. My mother would not let me play with Action Man because “boys should not play with dolls”. My father objected to women on Radio 4, claiming to loathe the sound of their voices.

In the Underground last week I saw a woman, her leg crossed, her foot against the shin of her man, holding his hand and squeezing or pinching it. I felt they might have such a relationship, and felt envy. It is not the same as BDSM.

I don’t know how the desire to present female and actual femininity are related. I tend to feel that some men feel that their characteristics are more acceptable in women, and it is in part a desire to fit in with social norms. I lay on the floor weeping “I am not a man”- if only I could have realised I am not that kind of man.

Though I had the operation, I oppose it. I had it because I thought that it would make me part of an acceptable class, that it was better to be transsexual than transvestite, rather than because I wanted it for itself. Before, I had been ashamed of my slim wrists and arms, but after I found them beautiful, so it enabled me to love my body- but I wish I had found some other way. For a time, it all seemed to fit: I was a “woman”, so I felt this way, and was pleased to appear this way. Possibly we have the operations because doctors wanted to be seen to be doing something, or even wanted a subject to experiment on. I feel some people want the operation simply for itself, and should be allowed to have it. In a world without patriarchy, we could know.

I have fellow-feeling with radical feminists, even TERFs. They are revolted by body-modification, and some lack any sense of proportion about trans women, as if we are the only feminist issue they care about, but they are often masculine women, and not fitting Patriarchy in a complementary way to me- how could I not sympathise? I would put them in a group with trans folk, those who are gender non-conforming, who do not fit patriarchal views of gender. We have so much in common, it is hard that we do not work together. We are oppressed by Patriarchy in such similar ways.

The basic phenomenon is feminine men and masculine women, but how we respond to that is shaped by the culture and our experience. I suppressed it, and tried to be Real Manly for years. There is transphobia, and internalised transphobia, which prevents us from flourishing. We learn to be ourselves better, but still in ways twisted by oppression. We must build coalitions and learn to resist oppression more effectively.

The words you use to describe the phenomenon affect how you understand it. But we don’t understand it, not really, so we need to keep playing with the words. I would ask potential transitioners, Who are you? What would really fulfil you- is it really this off-the-peg solution? I would refer to “gender diversity” rather than trans, for “gender-diverse” is how people are, and “trans” or even “gender-non-conformity” are choices, ways to deal with the pressures of Patriarchy on gender diverse folk.

berthe-morisot-summer-day

Feminists mentioning trans

Here’s Gloria Steinem, on why some films are called “chick flicks”, because they have more dialogue and less violence, and appeal to women, and some films are just films, which appeal to men. Her suggestion for an adjective for “men’s films” is a pure delight.

I realized the problem began with the fact that adjectives are mostly required of the less powerful. Thus, there are “novelists” and “female novelists,” “African-American doctors” but not “European- American doctors,” “gay soldiers” but not “heterosexual soldiers,” “transgender activists” but not “cisgender activists.”

Ooh! A feminist mentioning trans in a way which does not seem completely hostile. The article is not about trans, but about oppression, and it has a list of oppressed groups at one point, and one of those oppressed groups are trans folk. Thank you, Gloria Steinem. Wow, Gloria Steinem, in the pantheon of Feminist Pioneer Intellectuals, being nice about trans people. It almost makes up for a certain Australian intellectual being horrible. The article is not about trans. It mentions homophobia too, and I think it is wrong about that, quoting a playwright: if we look at all real homophobia, it’s anti-feminism. It’s really misogyny dressed up, or pointed at men. No, it is anti-feminine. Not all women are feminine, and many men are, and this is a good thing, oppressively policed by femmephobia. Feminism has to be for the harridan as well as the feminine.

I first noticed this in an article by Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues. I can’t remember what it was about, now, but it mentioned trans in a positive way as an aside. Something like they’re women too and they have a hard time. I had read a radical feminist critique of this, and it poisoned my understanding. The rad-fem said that she only says that because she is terrified of the all-consuming power of the

Trans Activists!!!!!

who will ruin her career unless she is a cringing, fawning lick-spittle to them. I had definitely been reading too much TERF stuff. Gloria Steinem, with a huge list of awards and honours including several “most important or influential woman” appreciations and a Doctorate of Human Justice, is above that. It is merely true that women, people of colour, gay people and trans people have less power than men, white people, straight and cis people.

In 1977, Dr Steinem expressed concern about sex reassignment surgery, concern which I share. In my own case, I thought I wanted my body altered, where I now believe I really felt that having my body altered made me part of an acceptable category of feminine men, and I wanted to be acceptable. Explaining her stance in 2013, she said We need to change society to fit individuals, which is my current position. It would then be clear why people wanted genital alteration, and those who still wanted it could have it.

I believe that transgender people, including those who have transitioned, are living out real, authentic lives. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned. Their health care decisions should be theirs and theirs alone to make.

Trans folk disagree about surgery. It is deeply emotive. It should be our discussion, first- not the doctors’, and not wider society’s, but ours, our theory, understanding, choices and ideological struggle. And Gloria Steinem is an ally against the femme-phobia.

Gloria Steinem, What about men?

berthe-morisot-hiver

Strength

Softness goes with strength, at least in toilet paper adverts…

Where is the strength in trans femininity, strength I can feel and exert rather than observe from the sidelines, ruefully thinking that’s just not me, I could not possibly be like that? The manly strength I aspired to when I sought to Be a Man, that idea of strength gets in the way of finding strength now. Strength in endurance does not feel enough.

In Walter Scott, there is a wife who makes all the important decisions, managing her husband so he imagines they are his. On less important decisions she will give way to him, to preserve the illusion. Manly directness fails before feminine wiles. Being clever, I like the idea of cleverness, persuasiveness, winning, but am infected with cultural attitudes ascribing virtue to qualities ascribed to men. Is “virtue” linked to the Latin for “man”? Latin “virtu” translates to “power”.

There is passive strength, strength to endure. When women stand up for themselves, this is called “sassy”- disrespectful- “Feisty”, which derives from the German for fart, meaning unpleasantly intrusive on attention, or “nasty”, a word which women are claiming. They are called “viragos”, aping men. There is huge cultural pressure against women behaving in that way.

Alexis and Barry debated women’s strength here. I don’t know whether Barry’s experience of women’s equality is specifically a Kiwi perspective. She defined strength as self-discipline, ambition, and emotional stability. These are certainly virtues, but unshowy. They will make confrontation easier, but don’t define how one acts in a confrontation. And, convinced of my wrongness, trying to see how I ought to be, has corroded my emotional stability. Because I fear my emotions, they overwhelm me.

Self-discipline, ambition and emotional stability could be stronger in a confrontation, where physical violence is not permitted- like most confrontations in civilised society. Then the attempt to intimidate is as much a sign of weakness as wheedling is, and calm insistence is strength.

Does being “compassionate, tolerant and fair” make one less likely to stand up for onesself? Possibly, but not necessarily less likely to achieve goals. For the most tolerant and fair person there is the moment you dig your heels in. Then emotion comes to the fore, visibly expressed. That is the moment of weakness. “You’re getting emotional” is a trump card- therefore you must be irrational, and wrong. The compassionate person sees the blind spots of the other, and sees how far the other might be led; and so leads consensus. Together, we are stronger.

Of these virtues, I feel emotional stability is the thing I need to work on, by emotional understanding and self-acceptance.

2 Corinthians comes to mind- Power is made perfect in weakness…When I am weak, then I am strong. I went to look it up; and I still don’t get what it means.

olga-boznanska-portrait-of-a-woman-in-a-white-dress

Trans refutes gender as social construct

“I love you,” she said.

“That’s what you’re for,” I said.

It was my niece, who had not started school, who went through a phase of telling adult relatives repeatedly “I love you”. She has grown up caring with good emotional intelligence.

If women are formed to be feminine, and men masculine, by nurture, subtle clues, and social enforcement, how come did it not work on us? The old response that feminine men are ill, “inverts”, because of an absent father and overbearing mother, relied on an idea that men really were supposed to be masculine, but increasingly people don’t accept an ideal nature, to which people should aspire, separate from the actual nature people actually have. I can’t aspire to be different. I tried. I can only shut down aspects of myself; so I aspire to fully realise all those aspects.

People benefit if they fit the stereotypes. They are clearly harmful for women. Consider Mrs Clinton, portrayed both as not proper leadership material- because of her femininity- yet nasty, when she did not conform. She loses both ways. What I have read- stuff off the internet, not an organised course of study- has mostly been about women’s oppression. Some goes too far. I read that BDSM is wrong, because men dominate women. Even in “femdom” the sub is really in control. Is it completely impossible, I wonder, for women of their own free will to indulge in kink? If they believe they do, are they in error?

I know men are restricted. If some feel that it is better to express themselves as women than as men, the motivation for such a drastic step is severe restriction. It makes sense to me that we are not a class apart, the “transsexual”, but the end of a spectrum of men more or less restricted by male stereotype- either because they really do not conform, or because they particularly care about it. Men are oppressed, women are oppressed, and I will not speculate on whose oppression is more painful, restrictive or damaging. From the point of view of earning money, women’s oppression is clearly worse, but earning money is not the sole measure of fulfilment.

That the social control to create conformity does not work on a number of people does not mean it is not there. Our suffering indicates there is that pervasive social control. Without it, we would be free.

There is social control. It does not fit people, and we suffer because of it- perhaps a majority of people suffer to some degree. Carl Rogers argued everyone suffered: there are shadow parts to each person which that person cannot acknowledge.

What is the answer? Society should be organised in the interests of all, not just the powerful, so that everyone can reach their potential. Of course, I have no idea how. But trans demonstrates that the social construct does not fit humans, and does not benefit humans.

giulio-aristide-sartorio-the-siren

Detransition II

Trans is all about appearance, and how that affects relationships. I am intensely aware of being seen as male/female, normal/weird, high/low status. It seems to me that my Real Self fits ideas of femininity- mine, and the wider culture’s- so much better than masculinity that presenting as visibly trans I appear less weird, and can relate to people as my real self better; and I am far more comfortable expressing female.

The heart of privilege is being valued or discounted because of appearance clues. Privilege arises from appearance. Carey Callahan, a F-M-F detransitioner, has the privilege that she passes as a cis woman at least on video, and it is not immediately apparent that she is physically affected by transition. Her voice sounds like a woman’s husky voice, rather than a voice broken by testosterone.

This is all leading up to something.

Rape threats and death threats are depraved. I cast around for the right word, rejecting “disgusting” because it did not seem to condemn strongly enough; “depraved”, lacking some essential part of humanity and civilisation, applies. Someone who tweets penis pictures to strangers is depraved.

Carey shared a Storify. It is not safe for work, containing those penis pictures. We need to know the details of such threats, because we need an immediate personal apprehension of their gravity and wrongfulness, but if you already have that you don’t need to look. It is by gnc-centric, who calls a trans woman a male and retweets “cisgender/transgender” is a false dichotomy that assumes some essential woman-nature/man-nature. There’s only human-nature. Yet another reason I hate twitter- it can be used for bald statements to encourage one side of a conflict, but people persist in using it to argue, though no nuance is possible. I could refute her tweet with a thousand word blog post- perhaps I will- but on twitter there can be little more than bald disagreement. Gnc-centric could just brush that off. So depraved people, wanting to make their disagreement matter, resort to rape threats; and other depraved people, trolling for lulz, make the threats to intimidate and disgust their targets, and fantasise about the reaction they provoke. Gnc-centric tweets back asking how would Emily feel on the receiving end, and expressing contempt and derision for the threats, but may still be affected by them. I understand some women lose self-confidence, and engage on-line less.

What to do about the rape threats? I think Twitter should employ humans to deal with complaints timeously, suspend accounts which utter them, and take action to identify human beings, not just IP addresses or twitter accounts, producing them. Whatever, effective action is needed, and it is down to the company not the Twitter community.

Here’s Carey’s video about the storify. I paraphrase, with direct quotes in italics: I’m done with being scared of being labelled a TERF… my politics does not exclude trans people. I am invested in the wellbeing of everyone who experiences gender dysphoria male or female trans identified or not. Mainstream feminist sites are angry about rape threats in other situations but certain opinions like the necessity for female space but other opinions too which get labelled TERF everyone kind of agrees that whatever attacks you get and whatever violence you get you deserved and I just don’t buy it I don’t think there is a person who deserves a rape threat…I’m done with taking seriously the feminism of people who use that word. If you use that word you are enabling and collaborating with those kinds of threats and harrassment, and you should stop. If you send a picture of your penis to a stranger you are having a mental health crisis and your community should deal with you. That word needs to die.

Ok. I am a trans woman. I think all rape threats are depraved, and nothing can justify them. And that charge against mainstream feminist sites is so grave that it needs strong evidence. Mere failure to mention TERFs in discussion of rape threats is not enough.

I had a look at the twitter feed of Emily Eldritch, who sent the penis pictures. Now it is EmyAmythyst, whose tweets are only accessible to confirmed followers, but who has pictures of Pepe the Frog- imagine my best out of touch high court judge voice when I say “A symbol of the alt-right, I understand”- in drag and in a Donald Trump wig, and a butter-wouldn’t melt femme face with a large gun.

Nothing that person says can be taken seriously. S/he will do anything to shock, and to destabilise her opponents. We on the Left want human connection and understanding. S/he wants to watch our world burn. It might not be a trans woman, but a troll who thought a trans woman persona would be useful to attack particular targets, and possibly to poison relations between trans women and potential allies. Judge her on her acts, as an individual. She is not valid evidence of what trans women in general are like.

S/he does not speak for anyone but herself. To use her to make generalisations about trans women, to say that the trans community should deal with her, or to make decisions about anything to do with trans because of her is- unfair, I suppose. That is not me, not anything like me. Don’t make it my job to deal with her- I tweeted her a rebuke, but doubted it would have a useful effect- or judge me because she continues her offensive way. It is possible for us to talk, to create understanding, but she is merely a distraction. Please don’t turn away from me because she exists.

Human beings try to make their way in the world. We forge careers, make relationships. Transition takes a huge amount of effort and energy. It was the most important thing in the world for me, and everything else got put on hold; and now I am in survival mode, with the project of valuing myself, turning my self-loathing into appreciation, without which it seems I can achieve nothing at all.

If you detransition, it might seem that all that effort was wasted, transition was a massive oppressive con against gender non-conforming people. At first you might want to find some meaning or purpose in your transition, but that might fade with time. I imagine you might move from some sympathy for trans-identified people- we are all in the same toxic trap- to rejection, as you put it behind you and got on with your life. That rejection, though, might carry all the resentment you feel for the hurt you have suffered, and we don’t deserve that.

breslau-painting-girl

Anger, truth and politics

Why would anyone create pizzagate memes, anyway? How can we respond?

I had not heard of John Podesta before the RussiLeaks email dump. Some of his emails concerned domestic trivia like getting pizza. Pizza was seen as a code for child sex, and the links between them endlessly elaborated on 4Chan. Why?

Message boards members like attention. Creativity, originality, clever expression and even playfulness bring Attention. Members flock with like minds in echo chambers and hugboxes. Manosphere people, white nationalists and others who hate Mrs Clinton, congregate. If you do not feel you get sufficient respect yourself, you may resent moral injunctions to respect others. Unsuccessful millennial males resent being told to check their privilege.

The hatred and anger is enough. Accusations of child abuse and child murder express that anger- they are proportionate to the levels of anger felt. If no expression of anger is acceptable, then any may erupt. It does not need to be true. So Michael Flynn junior tweets, Until pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story. Well, Birtherism, never credible, rumbles on. Pizzagate expresses rage against the “liberal elite”, who the 4Chanists think are so horrible to them (for ignoring or lecturing them): it is as bad as if they were child-sex-cannibals.

Michael Flynn senior tweeted U decide- NYPD blows whistle on new Hillary emails- money laundering, sex crimes w children etc, though that tweet was about false stories connecting Mrs Clinton to Jeffrey Epstein, not “Pizzagate”. The general is a disastrous choice for National Security Adviser, a prolific source of conspiracy theories known as “Flynn facts”, but not a 4chan addict.

The President-Elect expresses such anger. He claims stories of Russia working to influence the election in his favour are valueless, the product of Democrat sore losers: These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That derision is music to the ears of the 4Chanists. Derision is the opposite of respect. Feeling derided, they deride back.

If we feel we have something in common, then we will show respect and listen to the other side. Trump can whip up his own side, with derision and anger, accentuating the divides in society. He is not a fool. He uses it as a weapon to build political support. Lies are his tools to build resentment, rage, and derision, so he may destroy as he wishes, and profit from it.

It is tempting to use anger in response. Certainly, anger can give energy. Charles M. Blow writes, Angry yet? Yes. Good!…This is the reason I write, to remind people of honor and courage; to tell them that their cause isn’t lost, that their destiny is victory. Maybe I am confined by my craft, pumping out polemics that, it is my great hope, help to stiffen the spines and lift the spirits of those determined to stare down the threat. However, I fear that such angry confrontation may make the gulf between us worse.

Can we use truth to overcome Trump’s weapons?

I am a critical realist. I believe there is a “Real world” where we interact and where there is objective truth- but it is too complex for human beings to grasp. It is worth the attempt. The closer we get to understanding truth, the better we respond- but perhaps (thinking it through now) there is an optimum level of truth, for each individual. After a certain approximation, greater effort to be more certain of the truth will not yield proportionate returns. If the truth seems to be that you have no hope, denial and lies may be comforting.

People see things differently. Nietzsche did not say, And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music, though he came close. For Nietzsche, accusations of sickness go both ways:

Even in the German Middle Ages, under the same power of Dionysus, constantly growing hordes thronged from place to place, singing and dancing…. There are people who, from a lack of experience or out of apathy, turn mockingly or pityingly away from such phenomena as from a “sickness of the people,” with a sense of their own health. These poor people naturally do not have any sense of how deathly and ghost-like this very “health” of theirs sounds, when the glowing life of the Dionysian throng roars past them.

And, he wrote, ‘You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist’. That is called “Perspectivism”.

I was fascinated by Jack Maden’s To Be Frank magazine article on the quote, aimed at Millennials. It addresses a complex philosophical question in a simple way. It starts by asking its readers to digest and unpack the meaning of the quote, fearful that they will merely see it, declare it deep, and move on to click-bait, forgetting it; because their attention spans are hurling some real angry, sustained abuse my way: ‘BORED. THIS IS BORING’. Maden summarises Nietzsche: there is a multitude of differing perspectives that are subject to cultural, societal and biological limitations. It is only through combining these different views that we can begin to appreciate a broader understanding of the universe we live in. Against that, he pits scientific investigators, patiently accumulating data and mathematical theorising to create objective explanations. (My answer there- Newton was a genius, explaining the observations through his theory of gravity, and Newton was wrong. 19th century observations demonstrated that.) All human observations are subjective, and have different meanings for each of us. Metaphor dances beyond objectivity.

How do the denizens of 4Chan or Reddit view truth? Their attention spans might not be long enough to consider evidence, preferring the quick hit of a witty allusion- These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It mocks The Enemy, and encourages Our Own Side. Your resentment and anger are Right! You are the Good People! Let me smite your enemies- those who tell you what to do, the Liberal Metropolitan Elites- for you!

They follow the leaders of the Right. No-one says that voter suppression is necessary because they don’t want people of colour to vote, they say it is necessary because of fraudulent voting. Disregard for truth did not start with Trump, it has been happening all this century.

I am glad when people speak up for truth. I hope that people can be taught to value truth, and to see that seeking the truth is worth the effort- but that is not an easy lesson for people in despair, who enjoy the buzz they get from anger. What good will truth do them? Why should they listen to you?

The antidote to derision is respect. The antidote to anger is Love. Love can still be derided, called patronising, and portrayed as weakness, but it is the only way. In the world of Trump and Farage, where centre-right Conservatism bows to the Nationalists, we have a long way to go.

The Charles M Blow article is illustrated with a protestor holding up a banner- THE FUTURE IS NASTY. Women have adopted Trump’s arrogant dismissal of Mrs Clinton as a “Nasty woman”- no more deference! Self-respect is necessary; but the energy of anger must not give rise to an angry reaction, but a loving response.

From Common Prayer- a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals:

Peace is not just about the absence of conflict; it’s also about the presence of justice.  …  A counterfeit peace exists when people are pacified or distracted or so beat up and tired of fighting that all seems calm. But true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, forgiveness. Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.