There is another world where there is gender justice. There, a 5’2″, curvy young woman in a leadership role can issue a clear instruction and have it heard and obeyed, rather than having to persuade or even coax or wheedle. There, a 5’16” barrel-chested man can be a nursery nurse and no-one turns a hair. In the world of gender justice there is gendered expression but it is not linked to sex. People play with gender, and find new ways of expressing it, separately from expressing sexuality. I could signal my gender in man’s clothes, for my gender would be instantly accepted, no need for someone to think about it, no-one surprised by such gender in a man.
It is not Britain now, but it could be Britain in the future, and should be, and I want to work towards it. But how? And how could we be just to those oppressed by gendered expectations now, so that we may be most fully ourselves? Possibly the most difficult question is, can I imagine a way towards gender justice that fits more people than just me, and others I care about?
In such a world, would anyone suffer bodily dysphoria? I think not. Breasts would be great, for women and the people who love them, but there would be no need for binding, top surgery or implants. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Breasts would mean femaleness but not femininity.
It is crap, sometimes, being trans. Today Will, pronounced Wił, got chatting to me at the bus stop by asking if I was one of those trans women. He followed this up by complimenting my bravery and saying I look better than some real women he knows. Some trans women he knows look awful. They should make an effort. What’s it like? I think he was also asking whether I had had the operation, but being coy about it. He’s a scaffolder, aged 46, and he’s spent five years in Amsterdam, which he finds lovely. No-one turns a hair. You can just be yourself. Others have told me this, that men can be unaffectedly feminine there, and there is still about 1:3800 transwomen. 4,432 trans women visited the Amsterdam gender identity clinic between 1980 and 2015, and most recently 65% of them started hormone therapy within five years. 75% of those had gonadectomy, and only 0.6% of them were identified as regretting it. Some data could be missing, but the study is happy to conclude “the percentage of people who regretted gonadectomy remained small”.
Even if men can be feminine, they felt the need to transition physically, and did not regret it. I regret it. That puts me in a small number. I have little sexual sensation or response, and I have heard before that others have better results, and that regret is linked to poor results. So, seeking gender justice now I should not oppose GRS because I personally regret it. I might say data is missing, and some people could not even admit to themselves that they regretted gonadectomy, and some became happily asexual, without feeling romantic attractions, but not as many as 50%. However some might find the idea of gonadectomy repulsive, could not imagine how it could be right for anyone in any circumstances, and conclude that it must be discouraged in every possible way.
However, now, it is encouraged. Non-trans people seem to have more respect for people who transition than for people who play with gender, sometimes presenting male, sometimes female. My neighbour stopped saying hello after he saw me dressed female, but started again after I stopped dressing male. The Equality Act protects people who intend to transition to the other sex, but not people who are non-binary. There is social pressure to transition, and to have surgery: Will’s way of asking would only get a response if I would feel ashamed of not having it, proud of having it, and would claim to be true transsexual. Like asking a Scot if he wears anything under his kilt: if not, he will probably tell you, because that is the approved way.
Similarly, a person should not use her feelings of horror and disgust at the thought of someone having their breasts or gonads removed as a way to decide that no-one should have it done or anyone who has it done is necessarily deluded. It is a thing people do, in this place without gender justice.
Regretting, I am crippled with self-blame.
How could I be so stupid?
Fortunately, Lucy, Virgil to my Dante, has the answer:
It was the best I could do at the time.
Regretting, and wanting sexual intimacy terribly, and feeling it is impossible now, I have no-one to blame but myself. However, given my situation and my history at the time it was what I wanted more than anything else in the world. My surgery came from the way the world is rather than any inadequacy or wrongness on my part.
Transition is a way people cope with gender dysphoria. People should be able to transition. This is not the world of gender justice, and some people express their gender this way.
I suppose it is a separate issue how trans women should be treated. Given that this is not the world of gender justice, should we be humoured and agreed with- “Trans women are women”- or not? To me, I exist, I have feelings, I have needs, this is the way it has been, there is no great need to change that. This is the way I can be myself.
Do non-trans women need space which is free from trans women as well as from non-trans men? If there is no pressing need, but they want it, are they entitled to it? Various things are thought relevant to that: are trans women really dangerous? Are non-trans women reasonably afraid of trans women, and if they want separate spaces and services should they be accommodated? Given that women often feel pressured to consider others’ feelings, or shoved aside, should they be empowered by being able to exclude trans women? Given that trans women are vulnerable too, how should we be accommodated?
I feel that accommodating trans people increases gender freedom and makes gender justice more likely. My gender critical friend finds trans a ridiculous palaver: why not just be yourself? Why all this dressing-up and repulsive body-alteration? To me, it is the only way some people find to be themselves. People do it. “But that’s ridiculous” is no answer.
Some women, not all, object to me in women’s space. Balancing my rights and needs against theirs is difficult. I can’t propose a way to do that. It seems to me, if not to them, that the women who care most about this are the ones most scarred by gender as it is now. Pitting us against each other is the most damaging way. How could I want to hurt someone, who seems wronged in the way I am?