Gender essentialism

You are either a man or a woman. Between the two there is a great gulf fixed. This matters to me when my friend insists I am a man. There is a package, of all the things which make you a “trans woman”- which bits matter to me? How much of that is social pressure and internalised self-phobia, and how much, well, essential?

There is social pressure. A trans woman is accepted in a way transvestites are not, despite the work of Grayson Perry and Eddie Izzard. We are legally protected, they are not- well, I thought so until I looked again at the  Equality Act 2010 s.7. I am unclear what “other” attributes could be meant.

I use a female name, dress in women’s clothes rather than feminine or flamboyant men’s clothes, and have breasts and a vagina. Where does the continuing desire to be like this come from? I understand androgynous people, mostly AFAB, have greater difficulty, so do I want to pass as binary because of social pressure or because of an innate Real Me?

I feel that if I do things from my Real Me, my organismic self, I have integrity, I am more free and truthful, though of course I am a social animal and epigenetics shows that nurture in some way creates nature. I am hyper-feminine, and that is Real and beautiful: but should it govern the name I use?

I feel desire to use my name, and revulsion at the thought of using my former name. I would experience it as crushing. I am glad to have breasts. I felt such happiness when the vaginoplasty was recommended, and such revulsion at the thought of the loss of a toe, that I feel this is Who I Am, not merely a response to social pressure.

After the Essence Process, it no longer matters to me when people call me or refer to me as a man. I experience this as liberation: people could hurt me, and they cannot in that way any more. I feel that it is a change in me, that now I am sure of my own femininity so do not need reinforcement from others; and that when others challenge my femininity, it does not raise painful echoes in me. In the same way, being able to present myself in different ways could also be liberating. I want to use my baritone rather than counter-tenor voice because the deep one is stronger with a better range and holds the note better. I want to develop both.

It matters what I think, not others. Being called “particularly masculine” really hurt. Now it does not. Possibly, my other desires come from my fear of rejection and my judgement of myself as wrong- internalised self-phobia- rather than from reality. I am not saying that they are wrongful desires, but that not having the desire, not caring one way or the other, would give me more options, make me more free.

Here is a third Cranach Melancholy, with subtle differences from AndrĂ©’s book.

Cranach Melancholia

From another perspective:

Patriarchy has created an ideal woman, a person exactly how the dominant males would want women to be. However, no woman could be like that, surely: it is repulsive, a simulacrum rather than a living breathing human, any woman wanting that would be in servile self-abnegation, distorted by the culture, needing her consciousness raised. Any free human being wants autonomy, self-determination and equality.

No woman is “feminine” in that way, so these feminine men, “trans women”, M-T are completely confusing. They are the shock troops of patriarchy, enforcing false consciousness on women. They are the enemy.

Encounters at Buddhafield


After a hot and sweaty ceilidh,Tara I am standing outside the marquee with my wig in my hand, and a small girl approaches me. She could not be more than six.

-Is that a wig? I say, yes, it is.
-Why do you wear a wig? I show my pate- very little hair grows there.

“Put it on,” she says, definitely, imperatively. “Now, a boy might kiss you.” She turned away, leaving me, well, awestruck.

“41 is a prime number” announced a high, clear voice. How old is he? I asked his aunt Lucy, whose tent was near mine. I had approached her for a chat, and we had chatted easily of life and stuff. She spent days cycling here. “Five in three months’ time,” she said. “His father’s a mathematician.”

When I told that to R, she disapproved: we pump children so full of information, nowadays. Though she was reading very early. I was impressed at his ability to take in such a complex concept. Earlier I had watched him climb onto the canvas of the bell tent, stretching the guy ropes. Initially he was leaning on the guy, then straddling it, then finally climbing on the canvas, looking over at Lucy and me, three yards away. When he was lying on the canvas, feet off the ground, she told him authoritatively not to climb on it. She explained she needed to sleep there, and did not want the tent pulled down. And when he reached out to touch the guy rope, later, looking over at her, she told him not to. “I wasn’t climbing on it,” he said. No, but we need to sleep there.

Boundaries tested, boundaries stated, all beautifully done. How difficult to raise a child! I still don’t feel ready for that effort. It feels that my emotions would be too quickly engaged in the No. As I had breakfast at my tent, I listened to a man tell his son The Truth, addressing him as “Son”- the fatherly fount of wisdom- and then saw that the boy had indeed gone to lie in the sleeping-place as threatened, and the father had to tell his wife The Truth. And she told him The Truth.

Then there was Finch, whom I saw in his sling, and wondered at how small he is; then we knelt in the women’s space tent for a workshop, and cooed over him. Hands! Toes! Face! He was seven days old when the camp started. So tiny! He was eight pounds when he was born, a good weight- but babies grow so quickly, one rarely sees one that young.

They’re all boy, aren’t they? I said, admiring, and we talked of how difficult that can be. In a workshop, the facilitator referred once to choosing a partner and working with “him or her”. At the end, when she asked for “challenges”, I said this challenged me, as it excluded me. I am both, and neither. We talked of it, after. I think I let her off too lightly- gender binary is all-pervasive in our culture, and I was at pains to point out that it was not her I objected to, but the cultural assumption, and that her workshop was wonderful. I did not make clear enough that dividing people into “man” and “woman” oppresses both, and that anyone may choose to distance self from it.