#Stand with Heather!

I stand with Heather.

Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans is a public intellectual, an incisive and persuasive speaker, an energetic campaigner, and a passionate feminist. I have heard her speak, and also met her more informally, where I found her warm and funny. She campaigns on porn culture, and I entirely agree. She supports the Nordic model of sex work law (which has inspired the law in France and increasing numbers of jurisdictions). On that I am unsure, but clear she has important things to say and is worth hearing, as she has researched the arguments. And she does not like being called a TERF- perhaps a gender-critical feminist, radical feminist or just feminist.

She appeared on The Moral Maze on Radio 4, where she expressed concern about teenage girls transitioning to trans men. She is the spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party policy on sexual violence against women and girls. A complaint has been made that she contradicts the party’s position on trans women, which accepts our self-determination as women.

The party has 65,000 members, as of July 2016, and while it has no elected councillors has won thousands of votes in various elections. It stands for equal pay, equal treatment in the media, and an end to violence against women. It will have difficulty while the UK parliament and local councils operate first past the post electoral system but it has value as a campaigning organisation; and it cannot be expected to enforce cabinet responsibility, with no spokesperson ever contradicting party policy, at such an early date in its existence.

That is, I want WE to flourish, and have the passion, skills and experience of Dr Brunskell-Evans, and I want her to be able to speak her understanding and campaign as she wishes- even though I do not agree with her. She does not like the word TERF, but when she says we should not be in women’s space it feels exclusionary to me. It is a bodge, I suppose. There are many people I will never persuade that I am really a woman, but I hope to persuade them that I am mostly harmless. Rape Crisis Scotland, which works against violence against women and girls, says We do not regard trans equality and women’s equality to be in competition or contradiction with each other. I can bear Dr Brunskell-Evans’s disagreement.

Twitter is not the place for nuanced argument. There, there is a campaign with the hashtag #standwithheather. “You are being anti-feminist and cowardly”, one tweets at WE. No, they are not, they are being practical and reasonable, allowing her to say things which other members contradict. Their own twitter stream is tweeting about toilets- not trans women in women’s toilets, but the impact of a lack of toilets on women’s health and dignity globally. They mark International Men’s Day by showing the men who have joined- for women’s equality benefits everyone. “They should be ashamed of themselves and their pitiful attempt at male pandering feminism”, thunders Quelizinha. Transgender Trend suggests WE is giving into bullies. “RemakingAdam” is obsessively tweeting again and again, claiming hundreds of women are leaving the party.

The Women’s Equality Party, like most feminists, supports trans women. That is the progressive cause. We subvert gender. We are an oppressed minority, and we need the support of society: we transition because we must, and we do so in far more dangerous conditions than in Britain. They could take a “gender critical” line, and escape censure from the likes of @Janice5E, who gloats that “@WEP_UK have had a lot of practice at losing women. Sophie Walker (@SophieRunning) made a complete arse of the party on Mumsnet…” Such people, though, tend to be only interested in one feminist cause, devoting a great deal of energy to excluding trans women. I wish they would take that energy somewhere else.

Because all we know about the WEP position is that complaints have been made, and they are investigating. Here are their statements. The paranoid response on Twitter only damages the tweeters’ own cause. No-one has threatened Heather’s expulsion from the party. The tweetstorm damages the cause of feminism.

Being a Princess

Everyone needs a princess dress.

Feminists are picking on Elsa. No, children should not do Hallowe’en as Elsa. In her “moment of self-actualisation”, sniffed Emma Brockes in The Guardian, she busts out of her dowdy village clothes and into … an evening gown, with a slit up the side all the way to her thigh and a bridal-like train dragging behind her. In the New York Times, Annie Pfeifer, who teaches fairy tales in a department of international literary and cultural studies objects to the same moment, a sexy makeover — complete with a slinky ball gown and silver high heels.

Her clothes change in a different way. Before she had a long cloak trailing behind her, now something diaphanous floats. She throws away her thick gauntlet, designed to prevent her from expressing her powers. The thick dress up to the neck had some sort of embroidery on the front, feminine but in keeping with the restrictive style. She fights the tight braids to let her hair down. She is angry and determined, but exultant. The stultifying rules- “Conceal, don’t feel”- that the “perfect girl” had to obey no longer apply.

Annie Pfeifer complains the Grimms rewrote fairy tales to reinforce patriarchy, but as folk tales the stories were told by women, funny and bawdy with a feminist spark. Cinderella won the Prince with her cunning and skill, not her beauty. Gerda rescues her best friend from The Snow Queen, who has frozen her heart. But Frozen has the heart-freezing an accident, by a well-meaning character. The conflict arises from decent people suffering fear and unknowing, not inexplicable wickedness. I find that a wonderful lesson for small people, that good people do bad things because we do not understand, or by accident, and we can work together to be better.

Pfeifer’s ideal fairy tale empowered children to think for themselves and overcome obstacles on their own. Ah. Active characters overcome difficulties to achieve greatness. That lays children open to the disillusionment Larkin wrote of:

the dude
Who lets the girl down before
The hero arrives, the chap
Who’s yellow and keeps the store
Seem far too familiar.

Children are on the treadmill far too young. Léne works with children excluded from school, some as young as seven, for not obeying rules they don’t understand and perhaps can’t obey anyway. If you can’t sit still you should not have to immediately, some way should be found of letting you learn how. Oppositional Defiant Disorder may be a sane reaction to an insane situation. The grown ups are doing bad things because they do not understand, and they fear or resent the child.

So everyone needs a princess dress, boys as well as girls, men as well as women. You are valuable for who you are, not just for what you achieve. You are beautiful. Yes, play actively, and delight in what you, your mind, your body can do, but also take time to delight in your beauty, simply for being human.

Them too

I have been sexually assaulted, treated as sexually available, humiliated sexually, by men using their strength and power to take what they want as if I were worthless. It is a common experience of women. From early puberty, men come on to them. In work, men stand too close or brush against them, or talk about their attractiveness in mixed groups. If women are brought up not to be self-assertive, or bossy, or to rock the boat, but to be accommodating; not given techniques to handle this, but taught shame; would they not be angry?

If a woman sees me as a man, might she find this a greater humiliation after previous humiliations? She is angry. She wants me out of the public loos and the changing rooms, and my assertion that I am hurt too is not enough, however badly I am hurt. What women share is that upbringing, and the reproductive system, which makes them targets, sometimes unable to fight men off.

She becomes focused on us. She collects stories of men in women’s clothes, assaulting women, and even though I am not that person she says she has no reason to trust me any more than him. She learns about the theory of autogynephilia, and then says that is the scientific fact, that is our motivation, we are perverts in the loos being sexually aroused and so even more of a sexual threat. We transition, one told me, because we get aroused by fooling people into imagining we are women. If I go in the loo they accuse me of male privilege and acting with male entitlement. They mock our femininity and ridicule our appearance.

Piss off, you’re a man, as Germaine Greer said.

And they talk of detransitioners, and doctors rushing people into transitioning, and no-one challenging transition or offering alternative ways forward. We would not listen, of course, we would talk of gatekeepers, and arguably once you change your name and live full time you should get hormones, hormone blockers, and surgery if you want it.

The tragedy here is that women who are irreversibly hostile to us are devoting their energies to campaigning against a weak and marginalised group, who do not fit the conditioning of childhood, who are desperate, who would transition however painful transition was because it is better than staying as assigned at birth. I am not playing oppression olympics here. I am not saying we suffer worse,  that we suffer as much, or even that our suffering should matter at all; but that we are not the main enemy, and that attacking us does not achieve their ends.

Patriarchy, I am told, is the oppression of the class of females by the class of males. This class analysis leaves no room for individual differences. Male oppressing female is like white oppressing black. They will not like me telling them where best to direct their ire, or what strategy or tactics to use, so I am reduced to hoping that they will find some better enemy to fight, and saying it is a tragedy. Only the Patriarchy benefits from us fighting.

Self-confidence

Do trans women have male privilege?

I avoid actions, and ways of being or responding, because of disapproval in the past which no longer exists. I acted, I sensed another’s disapproval, I absorbed the judgment that I should not act that way, I internalised the judgment that I, my instincts and actions, were wrong. Internalised transphobia is internalised self-phobia. Even if the judgment is my own, and no-one else’s, it still paralyses me.

There is a deep well of rage inside of me. Rage about how I as an individual have been treated…; rage about how others I know have been treated; and rage about the conditions that I’m sure affect many women and minorities, … and have caused many others to leave. Well, my own rage is there, but fruitless: I still am fearful of certain expressions, and the fear holds me down. I am depressed and lacking motivation. The rage could be energy for action, but my own judgment holds it down.

Women live in a society that presents as “natural” what they experience as arbitrary constraints. This can provide them with a particular sensitivity to injustices that are due less to individual ill will than to the structures of established practices and institutions. And I don’t. I accept the judgment on my femininity as weak and as less than masculinity, not an arbitrary constraint but the natural order of things, not historically constructed social categories. I find the quotes in italics, about feminist philosophy, here.

That feminist understanding of her own worth is an attitude I could learn from. The elephant could break the chain on its ankle easily, but remembering infancy when it could not, it imagines the chain as effective a restraint as it was then. My chain only exists in my imagination, but a chain there is strong.

This is the answer to the allegation that trans women have male privilege. The feminist says that my upbringing, encouraging me to act assertively, should benefit me. I argue, against that, that their internal qualities, allowing them to reject the arbitrary constraints on them, place them in a better position to be themselves and overcome the structural injustice. I could not assert myself, only assert a masculine act, which tortured me and which eventually I fled from.

Beside that masculinity which society values, my femininity seemed weak and worthless, even to me. We project our own judgments onto others. Others may read our lack of self-confidence and downgrade their judgment of us. So I am paralysed in acting. That article quoted a definition of “woman”- S is a woman [if and only if] S is systematically subordinated along some dimension — economic, political, legal, social — and S is ‘marked’ as a target for this treatment by observed or imagined bodily features presumed to be evidence of a female’s biological role in reproduction. I am systematically subordinated, at least. Or maybe I would be a woman if I passed as a woman rather than a trans woman. Because our oppression is so different, I could sympathise with a feminist caring more about hers than mine, or even not seeing mine as oppression.

Presence may be the answer. I still the critical voices in my head, and act from a single volition rather than my conflicted state. Others suffer from Imposter syndrome, and still act. Living in Presence does not mean not setting goals or seeking to achieve them, but being present to one’s atelic activities. “Atelic” means non-goal related, from Greek “telos”, purpose, I read here. One might also be present to telic activities. One might develop self-confidence, I theorise.

Reconciling trans and terfs

We could start to reconcile trans folk and gender-critical feminists by asking- what do we have in common? We are gender diverse, and this means we are oppressed. We have a common oppressor, the conservatives seeking to enforce gender norms and the ordinary people unthinkingly reinforcing gender norms.

We are hurting, and angry. We have a lively sympathy for those hurt in the same way, and a desire to support them, stop the hurt and condemn the causes of the hurt. There are similarities in the way we are hurt, even though there are differences both sides feel are important.

Each side hurts the other. There is the tragedy. How to move forward? By recognising that the other group is not the main enemy or main source of oppression, and that the other side is hurt too. We are all gender-diverse, because we do not fit into, and we oppose, restrictive gender conventions. That is what feminism is. Both sides do what we do and are what we are, and get slapped down for it. Then it becomes the most important thing in the world for us.

I want you not to be hurt is the moment of reconciliation. There are apparent zero-sum games in this- can trans women come into women’s space?- which are difficult, and need to be set to one side while we see how we hurt each other, and how to protect each other.

Non-conforming men and women are those who least fit the gender stereotype. We should recognise that the other exemplifies those human characteristics we feel least fitting and most oppressive, which we resist as strongly as we can. That is, we revolt each other. The gender-critical feminist looks at me and thinks, that is not what a woman is, or should be, but a grotesque caricature of the worst aspects of cliché femininity. The answer is to see why I do as I do: because I am gender diverse. I would not present as this femme stereotype if it were not the best approximation I can find for who I really am. The imaginative leap I ask of them is to concentrate on what we have in common, not what divides us.

The gender-critical feminist is revolted by the idea of mutilating women’s bodies, but needs to see that it works. If T breaks the trans man’s voice and gives him facial hair, then he has chest masculinisation surgery, people really do see him and treat him differently. Ideally that would not be necessary: we would value everyone’s gifts and strengths, and support everyone’s weaknesses; but with the world as it is, the trans man pays a price he is willing to pay, and is freed from gendered oppression.

Trans folk need to recognise the basic idea of radical feminism, that it is not reproductive roles that determine gender differences, but culture. There is no masculine or feminine virtue or vice which the other sex does not share. Men often have greater strength, but in post-industrial economies strength is less and less relevant.

Gender-critical feminists need to recognise how difficult that is for us. I want to express my feminine side. That is condemned. I am hurt, and I hide it, seeking to please others- a personality trait which in other circumstances would be positive, but here is poisonous. The doctors give us a way out: I suffer from “gender dysphoria”, and they name the appropriate treatment, of hormones and surgery. When I am not able to express my soft, yielding feminine self, “I am a woman” becomes my means of defence.

Society has dictated a narrow path for us. An AMAB child can wear a dress to school, if they call themself a girl and wear girl’s clothes all the time. The answer is to cease segregating children’s clothes between girls’ and boys’, as John Lewis wants to, and to recognise that the clothes are a symbol for the personality or nature of the child which the child wishes to express, rather than the true gender itself. All boys should wear dresses sometimes, to see what it feels like and whether they like it.

I sought to be poisoned and mutilated because that was the way I could justify and realise expressing my real self. It comes at a cost, but it works.

I don’t think I am getting far with these ideas of reconciling gender-critical feminists and trans folk because I am asking more of them than of us. But- let us devote our energies to our common enemy!

I started this post because of a squalid little scuffle between TERF and trans, described here. Why was the alleged victim filming, and why did she have someone in a headlock? Why were there no charges? The New Statesman makes her out to be a victim, and this blog post just about calls her a Nazi. There must be a better way.

Why I write II

In cases of profound and permanent unhappiness, a strongly developed sense of shame arrests all lamentation. Every unhappy condition among men creates the silent zone alluded to, in which each is isolated as though on an island. Those who do escape from the island will not look back. -Simone Weil

A hard hitting essay in The Boston Review- too many people writing have nothing interesting to say and no interesting way in which to say it– and I wonder if it condemns me entirely. All my personal reflections here: are they too thinking about some stuff then thinking about some other stuff that kind of relates to the original stuff you were thinking about but not really, like that of Durga Chew-Bose, into whom the reviewer Merve Emre sticks the boot into so enthusiastically?

The tag at the top gives me a way out. “Feminism”. Aha, this is women resisting patriarchy and refusing “femininity”, first kicking the feminine essayist who reveals her feelings then praising the more muscular feminists who follow, and their insistence that we disentangle ethics from empathy…[which] We see in Weil’s “painful clarity”: her simple, yet brutal, prose style that stressed concrete detail over abstraction in her descriptions of factory work, and thus extended neither sympathy nor empathy to laborers but a far greater form of compassion: attention and intellectual honesty.

Mary Gaitskill: I think this is the reason every boob with a hangnail has been clogging the courts and haunting talk shows across the land for the last twenty years, telling his/her “story” and trying to get redress. Whatever the suffering is, it’s not to be endured, for God’s sake, not felt and never, ever accepted. It’s to be triumphed over. And because some things cannot be triumphed over unless they are first accepted and endured, because, indeed, some things cannot be triumphed over at all, the “story” must be told again and again in endless pursuit of a happy ending. To be human is finally to be a loser, for we are all fated to lose our carefully constructed sense of self, our physical strength, our health, our precious dignity, and finally our lives. A refusal to tolerate this reality is a refusal to tolerate life. Am I one of those boobs? I would love nothing more than getting on a talk show, my essays are in print celebrating my Feelings- often resentment, anger, fear and sadness, caused by circumstances which I lament as a toddler does, loudly demanding someone remove them.

There is one more problem humans, and writers, have: we live in a world of illusory shared experience, ready-made identities, manipulation, and masks so dense and omnipresent that in this world, an actual human face is ludicrous or “crazy.” Every human experience is pretense, and most attempts to write it down,or  to explain it to yourself or others, are continuations of that pretense. Not all: the best art illuminates the cracks in our inexhaustible social performances, lighting our way through “the maze of personality and persona” so that we may, if only for a brief and fragile moment, forget who or what we are playing at.

Unless I am Simone Weil or Virginia Woolf, there is no point in writing at all.

I appreciate the aims of these women, and they are not mine. I treasure a compliment from 2014: I also like this writing. There’s something Proustian about it. If you can get through the thirty pages on a goodnight kiss without throwing The Way by Swann’s across the room, you might suffer through the boredom of the narrator’s paranoid speculation about Albertine’s lesbian affairs. It is him, in his wrongness and humanity, his petulant childish idiocies stripped of all masks. This is me, attempting to understand, or self-justify, or formulate so I may communicate, or cover things up because I find them too frightening.

I am still tempted to read Merve Emre’s essay for rules on writing, so that I might obey them, and evade her criticism- though even if I obeyed them to her satisfaction, someone else would find my writing wanting. The only way forward is to do what I do, and keep doing it- or to do other stuff- in fact the way will be as it will, exploring and excavating, not necessarily a way forward at all. I write because I want to, and find it worthwhile.

Review.

The Red Tent

The Greenbelt women’s space is for all who identify as women. I asked permission to enter, and was welcomed, at least officially. For the opening session, they ask us what we want from women’s space. I say I want to explore the tension between the femininity I choose to express, and the womanhood of most people here.

The name “Red Tent” is not particularly welcoming for trans women. Of course it refers to menstruation; a woman asked if it were linked to the Red Hat, but that is separate, named from Jenny Joseph’s poem. The Red Tent creates a space for us to honor our blood cycles and womanhood journeys. Yet there is no objection to me here. That could be a legal thing, I cannot think it would be a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” to exclude me. Others wanted to discuss The Handmaid’s Tale, and time is set aside. And given that reproductive physiology is such a huge part of most people’s experience, it is reasonable to make it a defining matter for women’s space.

We hear that some men object to there being a space solely for women. Ribald catcalling ensues. We can tell them there is a Men’s Journey group at 11am on Saturday, and 11pm on Sunday. Later, I saw notices up about this in the Red Tent: a feminine taking care of others’ feelings, while asserting their rights.

I went off to eat, and as I ate a woman sidled up to me. “It was brave of you to speak like that,” she said. I don’t think it brave, myself. I was participating. There is no point in being there otherwise. She said she knew someone who transitioned, and “he” said (I am fairly clear she means AMAB) “he had transitioned with a small T not a capital T”. I get what she means. There is no good way of asking that question, but this sidling round it is horrible. I don’t answer, but don’t ask if that should make a difference to the Red Tent. It’s not as if we were getting undressed. We ate together, then went for a drink, and talked more. I insisted on buying my own. I would not accept a drink from her.

After that, I had to go back to the Red Tent. I would not be chased away. We are in small groups discussing, and a younger woman talks of children learning of sex through porn, and sex education being solely biological, mechanical, rather than about relationships, or even about pleasure given and received. An older woman talks of being a minister, and having her leadership subtly disrespected. Where a male minister would be “charming” she is read as “flirtatious”. She wondered about mentoring younger women in similar roles. Two black women talked of more content here to attract black people. Then all my group but me left, and I was left sitting in the middle of the floor, with everyone else round the sides. I felt a bit exposed, but fed back to the larger group what they had talked about. A minister in another group gave her take on the matter, as clearly I had not understood.

-Oh, and we talked about sex. (laughter).
-Did any group not talk about sex?

It’s evening, and getting colder, so I put on my tights, then walk out.

Transphobia IV

My mother said, “They want to be disgusting because they are disgusting”. She was talking of homosexuals, a word she could hardly bring herself to say because the thought was so revolting. The thought may have been more revolting to her than the actual person would be- I hope so- if you cut us do we not bleed? Moral disgust is like physical disgust for rotting flesh, activating the same brain area. I can’t be certain. This is one of those filters which prevent some people seeing the humanity of others. Perhaps it would have prevented her. She was a product of her time and circumstances.

“Trans women get a sexual thrill from fooling others into imagining they are women”. Really? Is that all, do you think? Do you know anyone like that? Trans women are people with particular feminine characteristics. Of course not all women are soft like this, but it is an accepted gender expression for women, when we were too frightened to express our femininity as men. I do not have ovaries, but if the law and society call me a “woman” I can express myself as I am. I am not fooling anyone, but expressing myself.

Radical feminism, when it addresses transgender, is a conservative movement. It is femmephobic. When a person identifies as female, what is being defined as female? Is it the breasts? Lips? Ass? Slim waist? Small hands? Batting eyelashes? Flirtatious smile? Long hair? Finger-nail polish? Eyeliner? Lipstick? Submissiveness? Thighs? Heels? Demureness? A want to be taken care of? A want to be adored? Cat-called? Beautified? Idealized? Softness? Quietness? Well, what is wrong with any of that? (Except catcalling). It’s not for everyone. It is for some of us. I would put it more positively, the desire to promote reconciliation and smooth conflict, and not all of those apply to me. If there were not such social pressure to conform to gender stereotypes, perhaps no-one would transition, but right now it is my way to be feminine.

Just as the conservative says, men should not be like that, so the radical feminist’s revulsion comes from her idea that no-one should be like that. We are disgusting because we want to be disgusting. No, I am this way you don’t understand and don’t want to be because it is how I am, or as close to that I can get with the ways of being and expressing myself in the world that I see available. You are not like that yourself. Hooray! Your way of being is beautiful, and I support you in expressing yourself, and oppose the forces that would oppress you. That writer objects to feminists being empathetic to confused and vulnerable people [us]. Empathy is wrong, as it sees us as people trying to live our way in the world, rather than as subhumans or enemies.

That “radical feminism” is conservative because it preserves gender norms. Rather than being freed to express our gender and subvert patriarchy, we would be shamed and bullied into presenting male, and be unable to express ourselves.

As it is conservative, women promoting this view write for conservative publications such as Standpoint and the Federalist, a publication not afraid to promote conservative lies about climate change. Just as they lie about climate change, they also lie about transgender, claiming we imagine all gender non-conformity is transgender.

Consider the risks taken and the effort required to transition, then continually just living and expressing feminine after. The sexual drive is strong, but we take those risks to be our true selves, not to get a sexual high. Who would want to be aroused all the time? My transvestite friend had a week of it, and was sick of cross-dressing by the end. He could not wait to get his acrylic nails off. He dressed to arouse, in short skirts, I wear practical as well as pretty clothes. That is perhaps why he could not make the imaginative leap to see that transition was right for me. The conservative man feels disgust for me, the radical feminist feels the same conservative disgust. Men should not be like that. People should not be like that. I am Human! See that I am Human!

Celebrating femininity

Is there anything in femininity beyond oppression of women? Is there anything positive in it? Is there anything which might be real in an AMAB person, that she would use transition to express her true self, as we generally imagine we have done? I am still thinking of my sternest, least forgiving critic, whom I will never persuade, and her strong arguments, and trying to convince myself that there is, that I have gained something by transition to balance its costs.

I pick on a will to co-operate, and to support, and aversion from competition, which hurts feelings. People have observed women who are not feminine in this way: Eric Berne’s game “Let’s you and him fight” considered a woman provoking battle, as Helen did without counting the cost. And Jesus wanting to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings is feminine in this way. But I am talking of femininity, not how women are. I see it in me, as a thread throughout my life, and think it is beautiful. I have enjoyed court victories, but mainly when I felt I was fighting injustice, exercising an impulse to protect. And having blundered into litigation work twice in my life, I wanted to settle fairly rather than fight.

Arguably it comes from oppression. The NYT had a powerful argument for that: a man sexually assaulted Taylor Swift during a photo shoot, and after she thanked him for his participation. That automatic thank you, smoothing away conflict, at the cost of subservience, self-doubt, even self-flagellation, is instilled into girls and women. Her mother worried she had raised her to be too polite. Possibly it arose in me from caring for my mother’s feelings- yes, really, possibly my mother made me a pansy through wanting too much to make me a “proper boy”.

Also in NYT I read of Michel Foucault’s (or Theodor Adorno’s) term subjectivisation — a phenomenon in which individuals subject themselves to a set of behavioral regulations, and by doing so, acquire a sense of their own identities. My critic has studied and written on Foucault. This is the opposite of Richard Rohr, where today I read The True Self is consciousness itself. The false self lives in unconsciousness, and we do evil only when we are unconscious. Surely Foucault would see subjectivisation as a bad thing, a way of creating some sort of false self. For my critic, my “femininity” is an act, a pretense, a thing apart, though for me my whole existence.

So for her, my discomfort in the masculine conversation yesterday, my pleasure in the feminine, would arise from this is not how I am supposed to be; for me, this is not how I am. If I admit the possibility of her understanding being true, that could be a feminine socialised self doubt, where women keep smiling, swallow their feelings, will not rock the boat, are not assertive, are subservient. Seen that way, from the point of view of a woman not naturally subservient who has asserted her right and been repeatedly attacked for it, I get that “femininity” would be revolting. She might note my occasional anger and competitiveness, and see them as my true, manly self. I can be very angry. “I want to control you,” I said to her, forcefully. I feel I was provoked-

and she could wipe the floor with me, then blame me, I deserved it

This is an increasingly competitive world. Twentieth century principles of the good society, caring for all its members and ensuring that all share the benefits of that society, have given way to neoliberal ideals of funnelling all wealth to a tiny minority of capitalists. Having to compete yet being forced into that subservient role against ones natural character would be revolting. Yet if society is not to implode, some people have to salve feelings, and to work for reconciliation and co-operation. I felt that was the real me, so far from how I perceived I ought to be, as a man, that I transitioned. To be who I really am, that is a price worth paying.

Not Cis; not a TERF

My friend loathes the word “cis”. She told me of going to University, where the young ladies had a curfew of 11pm imposed on them, and had to wear a dress for the evening meal on Sundays. Male guests were not permitted after 7pm. She rebelled.

She was amazed and repelled by how compliant the others were. This was in the ‘Seventies, not the ‘Forties. I love her strength and determination. She managed to get round some of the rules, and was part of the pressure for their relaxation. There was no curfew when I went to Uni in the ‘Eighties, though one lad asked when “Lights Out” was, and we got the impression he would have liked one.

Back in the Eighties, feminists talked of “Consciousness raising”. If you could explain to women how oppressed they were by patriarchy, they would become feminists, fighting it. No-one talks of that now. No amount of consciousness raising will drive the soft pink floral sweater from the nation’s wardrobes. Some women see the oppression and fight it, some women love femininity and work with it. I don’t know whether James Damore, formerly of Google, is right that women are generally more co-operative, interested in people rather than things, or whether that is from socialisation or predisposition, but some women are.

Why should she be called “cis”? She rejects the feminine gender stereotype, because she does not fit it. She is a radical feminist: women share reproductive organs, and femininity is merely cultural, merely oppressive. She is a woman, but that does not make her a particular gender, and her gendered expression sometimes fits and sometimes fights the gender stereotype.

I wish she would meet me half way. I would love co-operation between her gender non-conformity and my own, because the gender stereotype, the Patriarchy, oppresses both equally and because I am more interested in people than things, and in co-operation. She called Trans a conservative movement. Tell that to the conservatives, who hate us! I suppose her argument is that we go along with the idea that my co-operativeness, etc, makes me feminine so I should express myself as female. Feminine = Female is a conservative idea. However, I have sought out the way society permits me to be my extremely feminine self- it is transition, which allows me to escape the masculine expectations forced on me. I love floral blouses and dresses, so want women to wear men’s shirts, jackets and ties if they wish; and if they wear dresses I do not imagine that says anything about their levels of co-operativeness or interest in people.

So, she is not Cis, because she does not conform to gender. Not only trans people reject the gender enforced on them. I could argue that it makes a useful shorthand to distinguish those who call ourselves trans or non-binary from everyone else, but she is not having that. She even rejects the idea that we might be particularly distant from the stereotypes, thinking gender oppresses everyone, apart from a few “alpha” males.

I would not presume to state her argument against the word TERF, but she is not hostile she says to trans women, only supportive of the rights of- she would say “biological women”. Calling us “women” sticks in her craw, but it is our way in to freedom.

The lesson I draw from this is that it is a disaster for both trans folk and her kind of feminist that we should be ranged against each other; that the oppression we suffer from Patriarchy, or whatever, is very similar, as is our interest in attacking that oppression. I feel in some cases her side’s objection to us is rooted in revulsion from femininity, falsely enforced on them. Femininity freely chosen is beautiful.