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.

Is a cis woman really a woman?

Not if she does not want to be- though that takes strength…

One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. I have not studied Simone de Beauvoir, but understand that refers to Patriarchal repression. She, who fought for academic achievements almost entirely reserved for men, saw the repression at its most powerful. Judith Butler interprets that quote: If being a woman is one cultural interpretation of being female, and if that interpretation is in no way necessitated by being female, then it appears that the female body is the arbitrary locus of the gender ‘woman’, and there is no reason to preclude the possibility of that body becoming the locus of other constructions of gender. At its limit, then, the sex-gender distinction implies a radical heteronomy of natural bodies and constructed genders with the consequence that ‘being’ female and ‘being’ a woman are two very different sorts of being.

This is a way to freedom, to imagine that having a particular appearance should not constrain either the gifts you are expected to have, or the way you develop and embody them. If the word “woman” oppresses those it does not fit, cast it off. You might later reclaim it, defining it not by “feminine” qualities but by a common experience of oppression. I share that oppression: I have been sexually assaulted as if my body belongs to the man, to use as he pleases. As Poppy Noor says, when talking of sexual assault men ask, cautiously and very sympathetically, whether this has happened to me… women swap stories and counter-tactics. Woman, then, is a social group suffering particular oppression, sharing an interest in fighting it.

Butler found freedom by escaping the woman gender. If ‘existing’ one’s gender means that one is tacitly accepting or reworking cultural norms governing the interpretation of one’s body, then gender can also be a place in which the binary system restricting gender is itself subverted. Through new formulations of gender, new ways of amalgamating and subverting the oppositions of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, the established ways of polarizing genders becomes increasingly confused, and binary opposition comes to oppose itself. Her solution is not to become a woman.

She uses genetics to further this aim. And what is “sex” anyway? Is it natural, anatomical, chromosomal, or hormonal, and how is a feminist critic to assess the scientific discourses which purport to establish such “facts” for us? … If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps this construct called “sex” is as culturally constructed as gender; indeed, perhaps it was always already gender, with the consequence that the distinction between sex and gender turns out to be no distinction at all. For her, the concept of the gender binary affects how scientists without the insights afforded by feminist philosophy classify intersex people, and how they hypothesise about sex differences.

There is no specifically female or feminine virtue. We make Rudyard Kipling inclusive- What is more, you’ll be a person, my child. We extend his promise to those designated “women”: Yours is the World, and everything that’s in it. Carl Rogers wrote “On Becoming a Person”- everyone is affected by nature, nurture and environment, throughout life.

Extracts from Judith Butler.

Arguably, as a trans woman, my Judith Butler quotes do me no good. By transitioning I am asserting that my feminine virtues fit a female body and female presentation, that there is a gender binary. However, I am rejecting the role of oppressor, and begging to be granted a space with the oppressed- I am an asylum seeker, not a colonist- and rejecting the idea that being “born a man” specifies qualities I have, or ought to have. Mine is the way to radical freedom- if I may “become a woman” anyone who does not wish to need not.

Butler herself seeks to listen to trans and intersex communities and include us. If ‘queer’ means that we are generally people whose gender and sexuality is ‘unfixed’ then what room is there in a queer movement for those who understand themselves as requiring – and wanting – a clear gender category within a binary frame? …It is a fundamental issue of how to establish and insist upon those forms of address that make life liveable. At issue as well is a question of autonomy, conceptualized not through individualism, but as an emergent social phenomenon: how do I name myself, how can I establish my status within the law or within medical institutions, and to what extent will my desire to live as a particular gender or within an established gender category be honoured by those who claim to ally with me? For me, that my gender does not fit my birth sex is sufficient to make me “queer”- oppressed, and resisting oppression; that should be enough to make me an ally of all others resisting it. Anyone who attacks me as an oppressor or seeks to defend other oppressed people from me is doing the oppressor’s work. Don’t fight me, I am not the problem.

To put it another way, here is JFK, lightly made inclusive: Freedom is indivisible, and when one person is enslaved, all are not free. You cannot be free unless I am.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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