A man in a dress

You know, we are ridiculous.

I have been commenting on a blog for three years, and it was a shock when she came out as TERF. I don’t like that phrase: I don’t agree with all radical feminists say, but some of it is worthwhile. Some people are feminists, some find that just too hard, and instead become obsessive trans-excluders. It could be trans-excluding rubbish “feminists”, I suppose. Or trans-erasing ridiculous fantasists.

The title of her post included the word “pretendbian”, because if a trans woman is gynephile she can’t be a lesbian. Oh, no, the straights oppose that, supporting the lesbians. It went downhill from there:

I don’t support a transwoman (sic) standing as women’s officer
We’ve moved on from WATM to WATTW. It’s still male privilege assigned at birth pushing the agenda.
All result of the Me-me-me-I’m-a winner-and-always-right-and-I’ve-decided-this-is-right-so-you’re-wrong-and-terrible-person group?
Caitlyn Jenner broke my shriveled feminist heart. Not because she was on the cover, but because that image, a woman in lingerie, was what she put out there as what being a woman meant to her.
Claiming to be a lesbian is a joke when males try it on, whatever they happen to be wearing.
Were I a woman student I would not want a man in a dress representing me.

And then a real denizen of the rabbit-hole comes on:
You do realize that transactivists support males raping lesbians because they are right up there with the right wingers on science denying and conformity to gender roles?

Oh, God. You know a real TERF by the rape allegations. Anyone else is just playing at it.

A straight person who met a lot of people might meet a couple of dozen trans folk in a lifetime. They don’t meet any more than that unless they work in a gender clinic. What can we do about this abuse? Turn the other cheek, really. We can’t fight back, there are too few of us. If we argue, they get more and more aggressive and deluded. So ignore the “man in a dress” or “pretendbian” jibes, and if you hear a rape allegation get out of the way. This is what I have learned when someone I thought a friend starts spewing this bile.

I have had a relationship with a lesbian. Because of this, others wanted to exclude her from the Northern Older Lesbians’ Group. The word “lesbian” matters to me far less than the relationship. It was warm and beautiful. The term “cotton ceiling”, coined by a foolish cis ally, had little currency among trans folk but has become a symbol for the TERFs of how vile we are. It is a little wearing when someone is terribly keen to repeat that they would never ever in a million years have sex with a person like me, but, you know, there are other fish in the sea. I doubt I would argue them into it.

We trans women are ridiculous. Often, we don’t look particularly good in our floral dresses. Our body-shape is wrong for many of the clothes we wear. Unless you want your scalp peeled back then a motorised grinder sanding your skull away your face probably won’t be that pretty. Someone who has met a few trans folk gets able to read us. All we can do is embrace that. Ceasing to fear being ridiculous is freedom.

Hieronymus Bosch

The intersex analogy

In explaining ourselves to cis people, should trans folk compare ourselves to intersex people? Probably not; but helloanonme gives wrong, offensively transphobic reasons to argue that.

Arguably, transsexualism syndrome is similar to intersex conditions. Gender identity as female is as much a sex-marker as having ovaries or a feminine pelvis. If someone really does not get why I would want to express myself female, I could explain not all my sex-markers point the same way- just like an intersex person. In some intersex conditions it would be more accurate to say that sex-markers have not fully developed- so in partial androgen insensitivity, someone XY may have a slightly enlarged clitoris rather than a fully developed penis. Categorisers have produced the Quigley Scale.

Helloanonme argues that intersex people have a hard time, and intersex people should be the ones to explain themselves. However that does not work as an argument: if the straight person has no idea what intersex conditions are, then the analogy will do no good.

The problem with the analogy is that it is a way of claiming that my desire to express myself female is not weird or reprehensible. I have no control over it, any more than an intersex person, so it is unfair of you to mock me for it.

However transsexualism is not weird or reprehensible. Transition is perfectly reasonable, for anyone who wishes to undertake it. No-one has a right to object. So the analogy is useless. Anyone who thinks my transition immoral- Thanks very much, Frankie– won’t be persuaded.

I don’t want to use that analogy any more. I am happy with my choice. Three years ago, when I commented on Helloanonme’s post, I was dealing with my internalised transphobia. It was not the hater whom I wanted to persuade, but myself.

But why would anyone object to the analogy? Helloanonme says intersex people can have a hard time, with other symptoms beside genital ones. OK- but does my analogy of transsexualism to intersex actually decrease understanding of intersex? Only, possibly, in this way: the hater, hearing us compared, hates intersex people as weird and disgusting as well as trans people. The intersex person objecting is saying “I may be weird, but at least I’m not as weird as them“. Arguments from how hard it is to live with a condition are ablist. Conditions affect different people in different ways. No, ways of being- calling these things “conditions”, as deviations from the illusory Normal, is also wrong: there is ordinary human diversity, and there are ways of living it.

I don’t want to use the analogy any more. But you have no right to object to me using it. You don’t get to define how I explain myself to the world.

I realised, writing this, that a strong motivator to activism- the need to persuade myself that it is OK to be me- no longer applies to me. Perhaps now is the time I should become activist. I can be a street fighter, now I am less easily hurt. I hate this guy’s argument, but I love his chutzpah: faced with an incident showing the complete moral bankruptcy of his position, Erick Erickson comes out fighting. It’s the Liberals’ fault, just like everything bad.

Cranach, Judith and Holofernes III

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 André’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.

Eccentric Freedom

The test of the freedom of a society is the freedom of its LGBT members. No one is free, if I am not.

In thinking of this, I came across the Simone de Beauvoir quote “No one is born a woman. She becomes one.” That led me to Philosophy Talk. Following Sartre, Existentialists seek to make choices in “good faith”, that is, proceeding from and expressing their authentic selves.

It is harder for women who are oppressed by their society into second class status, and not educated, as they are expected to be wives and mothers. Laura Maguire herself escaped to college but most of the girls she grew up with repeated the pattern. This is all the more shocking as she was born around 1980.

Maguire thinks Beauvoir’s quote can be extended to the oppression of any group, such as people of colour, told constantly that they are second class. Maguire’s interpretation seems economic: can the person reach their potential as an earner. She overcame oppression in going to college, taking her PhD, and becoming a director of research at Stanford- so she overcame it because she was exceptional. Most of her female contemporaries became wives and mothers, with only secondary education. They were held back by the expectations of others, which they internalised, and perhaps by force, such as being taken out of school by parents.

Had Maguire not been a girl, her Irish society could have seen hers as worthwhile ambitions and good outcomes. That is the difference with us queers. My ambition to transition does not make economic sense, only existential sense. Even before I could bear it, I wanted to express who I am.

My decision inspires disgust in some people, and some of those would seek to prevent it.

For me, expressing my authentic self was more important than any economic progress. (I make excuses for myself, now: my current damaged and vulnerable state is the result of my upbringing and society.)

I would change that first sentence. At the moment, the test of the freedom of Western society is the freedom of its queer members, to make choices others find nonsensical or disgusting. Even when life paths of transition, or of gender neutrality, are well mapped out there will still be good faith decisions which others find incomprehensible. The measure of freedom is the level of acceptance of those decisions: do people find their diversity blessing, rather than threat?

OK.
If that’s what you want
Go ahead.

Simone de Beauvoir

Internalising

I internalised homophobia and transphobia, and became a bigot. I still have some traces of my internalised transphobia: transphobic remarks from others can make me need reassurance from others that it’s all right to be like this, though less and less, now.

The theory is that victim groups “internalise” the views about them which oppressor groups hold- trannies are disgusting, whatever- and so oppress ourselves. And a person who oppresses himself like this will also oppress others: so I was nasty to gay people. I have grown out of that.

I am provoked by Brute Reason. I know I internalised. I know that I am mostly cured, and that I am freer and better off. What of a woman who wants to stay at home and be a full time Mum? Perhaps her ultimate self-actualisation, the unity of her gifts and attributes means that she will be Fulfilled as a stay-at-home Mum. Possibly, also, she has internalised patriarchal beliefs and without them she would be a doctor, the type with no bedside manner or empathy whatsoever.

It might be more likely that a stay-at-home Mum had internalised patriarchal oppression in the 1950s, when there were so many more of them. A woman’s salary was treated differently from the man’s in assessing a couple’s mortgage. A seascape- shipping by moonlight- detail 2Women might leave work on marriage. So 1970s feminism “raised Consciousness” so that women now can choose other things. Now, that Mum is more likely to have chosen for herself, though it is still possible that she has internalised patriarchy.

I have a clear understanding that I internalised transphobia, and am liberated from it (as in “Women’s Liberation”). As a bigot, I would have denied it. I can only know I internalised in retrospect.

Being a full time Mum is a reasonable choice in a society where other options are available. I wondered whether being celibate, as a gay man, could ever be a choice free from internalised homophobia. Catholic priests- whether Anglo-Catholic or Roman- may believe that they are better pastors when celibate. I am unsure whether this is just part of the ridiculous traditionalist Catholic view of sex, or whether they are on to something- it originated when priests were told not to have sex the night before celebrating the Eucharist, then started celebrating daily, which is unconnected to whether a priest cannot love his congregation as much if he has his own family.

It is always possible that a person makes decisions because of internalised oppression, and that will be the case as long as there is oppression.

Woman

Abraham Solomon, 'Waiting for the Verdict' 1857I am a woman. If you don’t believe me, trust the Gender Recognition Panel. Though not the psychiatrists, who still use the term “homosexual TS” to refer to an androphile M-F.

Okaaay- I am a woman. Breathe it in.

I have not, even after transition, particularly valued my Womanhood. I have felt no desire to revert, or to present male (horrible idea) but have feared being Female. What does it mean?

I am aware how the words “feminine” and “unfeminine” may be used to curb and control women, and even if “feminine” is used approvingly it may be curbing some other behaviour. I am aware that men may be more “feminine” than women- on a scale, both sexes form overlapping bell curves; and yet the women’s bell curve is closer to the “feminine” end. So the word “feminine” has some descriptive meaning as well as an oppressive one. For me, it is affirming. I am “feminine”. And that is a good thing, because I am a “woman”. Even the psychiatrists who say I am not say I should express myself as one, that is the path they accept for such as me.

I am a Woman.

Wey-Hey!!

One of the characteristics I noticed when I was a solicitor representing pursuers in defended debt actions was that I want Conciliation and harmony more than anything else. This is Feminine. Note what I am saying. I am not saying women should be infant school teachers- or homemakers- rather than litigators, just that I was not really cut out to be a litigator, even if I gave that role all I could then and also in the Employment Tribunal, and see that it is a good role. I was a litigator by accident, I had not found my calling. Of course having joy in combat is a Wonderful characteristic, and fitting in a litigator, but my craving for it was not. The mistake that got me sacked as a solicitor was in the case of a man who looked me in the eye and said “I want a solicitor with fire in his belly”, and I looked him in the eye and gave a firm handshake, and then let him down.

So I could perceive this desire for harmony as weakness. It is not ideal in litigation, where even the negotiation of a settlement is a combat. But in the right place, it is a Good thing, a Blessing on me and those around me.

S, who likes men who like to dress as women, finds me “too feminine” for her taste. In that particular relationship I might find my femininity to be lack, I am just not good enough. This is my habit, after all- when I was pursuing the Masculine Ideal all the bits which did not fit were Bad, all the characteristics I did not have were how I Ought to be, I did not measure up. And- I dare to hope that I might celebrate my Femininity, which is mine own and not for anyone else, as Right and Fitting in me and in a place in society I might create for myself, as a Blessing on myself and others.

I saw the pictures at the Tate on Sunday. That lawyer, pulling away from the emotional client, is particularly fine. I have met, in several men, the solicitor in Bleak House.

Agree to disagree?

File:William Turner, Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory).JPG

Here is a blog which “deals with same-sex attractions (SSA) from a Christian [ie, hate-filled oppressor] perspective”. He writes,

To my readers who are happy, satisfied and fulfilled in their self-identity and sexual identity: Please respect the rights, needs and viewpoints of my other guests. Let us agree to disagree.

No.

Why not? I could complain about the phrase “Same-sex attraction (SSA)” which makes it sound like a disease, but we do need a noun for homosexuality, simply to refer to it. Gay is a word I can take pleasure in, it is Our word, but it is an adjective. So- Gayness? Queerness? Being gay? Any suggestions? SSA is the term coined by the ex-gay movement, can we do better?

Then I could object from a Christian perspective- here is this man telling untruths about God, humanity and the Bible- but then, he could say the same about me, and so his “Agree to disagree” becomes the best way to coexist.

My objection is that his position is used by the oppressors. Perhaps he has lived in a completely tolerant environment all his life, and converted to Christianity as an adult, and made a completely free choice of a hating church rather than an accepting church, and is gay himself, and so has some right to his opinion. However other gay people do not have such a free choice. They are forced, wrongfully, into self-abnegation. What he says gives aid and comfort to the Oppressors, and hurts and confuses their victims. So. Agree to disagree? Hell, no.

Let my people Go! File:Moses & Bush Icon Sinai c12th century.jpg

I would have left it at that, but then I had a look at the rest of his site.

Embracing a homosexual identity (or the gay culture) can be extremely dangerous and damaging to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and development.

What? Here, he is deliberately increasing self-hatred and doubt. This sort of lie has the potential to destroy a person’s confidence. It is evil. He goes on to say that it may be an illusion, and the person will realise in his twenties that he is not really gay. Well, no. He could be bi, and labels are reductive and inaccurate; dividing everyone into Gay/ Not gay is impossible and untruthful; but that does not mean that a gay attraction is worth any less than a heterosexual attraction. Worth spelling out: if in this moment I am attracted to a person, that has equal value whatever the gender of the person, and may be noticed and accepted. Though saying I am lesbian is a useful generalisation.

What are the risks? Suicide, depression, drug abuse- he blames gayness for the problems he himself causes. Then he goes on to say how angry he is with “gay-affirmative education” because it isolates those children who are defined as gay but do not want to affirm that. Total mindfuck.

Look at the site, to see how he steals the language of concern and freedom, and with half-truths and outright lies makes it Oppressive.

A significant percentage of people with SSA as adults had symptoms of Gender Identity Disorder in childhood that was not properly addressed.

How does he think gender dysphoria should be addressed? I am not Disordered or Deviant, I am Different and Diverse. But I have spent too long on this evil rubbish. I need a shower.

Saying nothing

Lots of debate goes on blogs about equal marriage and Christianity. I got involved here, and an oppressor commented:

Homosexuality is not the issue at hand… the issue is sin in ALL forms. As I follow Jesus I am learning more about taking the plank out of my own eye before the speck out of my brothers eye. To me I come to understand this as don’t be sure of your “rightness’ to the point that you hate, judge, or condemn others. But this also does not allow me to sit around and say nothing when Christ is being made into something He is not according to the Bible (Old and New Testament) so that we can continue in sin.

Here is someone who proclaims loudly and repeatedly that all gay sex, even between monogamous partners, is sinful. He does this, he would say, in Love, asserting the truth of Christ. According to him, he is not judging gay people, because all sin, and all are subject to judgment, and the sacrifice of Christ is available to all who believe- and believers continue to sin, though should try not to. All he is doing is stating the truth of Christianity, as some would deny it, and say gay sex is all right really. In a country with free speech, that should be permissible.

I do not think that position can be justified.

First, there is the question of how important it is. With some people, it seems their creed goes
Credo in unum Deum
Patrem Omnipotentem
qui damnat homosexuales
factorem caeli et terrae
Indeed for some, it is a shibboleth of the Faith: if you respect the Bible properly, you must condemn homosexual behaviour. However, we can debate what the Bible actually says, and whether we have to follow that. I say the homosexual acts which the Bible might condemn involve violence, and Christians should avoid violence in heterosexual relationships too. I say if the Bible does forbid homosexual activity, it forbids it in the context of idol worship, not in loving relationships, and so the rule has no more weight now than the other ritual purity rules, like not eating shellfish. But I realise that some people think that the Bible condemns all homosexual acts, and that matters more than “love your neighbour”.

Then, how important are they, as sins? Far less important than adultery. Adultery breaks relationships, while making love strengthens a relationship. It is not good for a lesbian to be alone, any more than a straight man. Perhaps the energy the Evangelicals put into fighting equal marriage should be put into preventing adultery instead.

 

Then, how important is the message that homosexual lovemaking is wrong, in the context of Christianity? I would say that “God is Love” is the central message, possibly “Jesus died for our sins” is pretty central too, but “God condemns homosexual sex” comes pretty low on the list. In the post linked to, Argylenerd comments that he is agnostic, but does not believe in God as defined by Evangelicals. And two of them weigh in and say that the Bible condemns homosexuality and therefore so does God. Is this the first winsome message to tell someone who is not yet Saved?

 

Finally, what does the right to proclaim the Faith have to do with preventing equal marriage? “Simple Theologian” may want to state his understanding of Christianity, but if he does anything further- such as campaigning for the North Carolina constitutional amendment- he is going beyond that, and his homophobic oppressive instincts stand revealed.

If an Evangelical states to someone outside his church that the Bible condemns homosexual love, he is an Oppressor.

 

Oh, I got a bit hot under the collar. I feel better after those pictures- and this Wikipedia article. The truth increasingly flourishes.

Reverting

Some people transition male to female, and then transition back. According to Lynn Conway, those who revert have only themselves to blame. I think it more complicated. This is a reply to her article in that link.

Have a look at Lynn Conway’s stories, and you see that her tag line, “what if you did it…for the wrong reasons” is an oversimplification. Her first example is Renée Richards, who Lynn says has a prominent bulge in her forehead which looks terribly manly. Lynn scrubs up well:

File:Lynn Conway July 2006.jpg

but I have heard that she has had the facial feminisation surgery she mentions, metal tools grinding away her skull. When I see the abbreviation FFS I always do a double-take.

Lynn also criticises Renée for being an “intense cross-dresser”. She was seen as a Transsexual, rather than as a woman as April Ashley was. For Lynn, Renée is the cause of the discrimination she suffered. But that is to say that we all must pass as “Normal”, our voices and faces and mannerisms conforming to a Patriarchal view of how women “should” look, far more feminine than many women.

I met a fat, ugly woman at the weekend, thick black hairs sprouting from her prominent mole, and looked at her curiously. She noticed how I was looking. Talking to her, I realised that she had transcended the self-consciousness that is enforced on us, which I seek to transcend- and I was encouraged by the encounter. Part of that is seeing the beauty of the whole range of human bodies, not just those of supermodels. Lynn’s message is, that is how the world is, conform to it. Mine, and President Obama’s, is Change it.

Lynn’s next example, Dani Berry, was an autogynephiliac.

I’m now concerned that much of what I took as a gender dysfunction might have been nothing more than a neurotic sexual obsession.

Paraphilia is not strong enough to cause a transition. Autogynephilia is a symptom, not a cause, of lesbian transsexualism. Dani, who died in 1999, took in to herself all the Blame from outside- “You’re a sicko pervert, and it is all your fault”. Perpetuating this myth, Lynn is one of the oppressors.

Sandra MacDougall has suffered verbal and physical abuse. So have I, and worse, I have restricted my life, not going to places because I fear that abuse. Yes we suffer discrimination, but that is not a reason to not be ourselves.

Sandra also expects to be celibate. When I had aversion therapy, the psychiatrist rightly said that far more women would find my male presentation attractive than my female expression, which then was unpractised. However, any such relationship died after a few weeks, because I was pretending to be something other than I was. I had to be who I really am before I could sustain a relationship. Trans lesbians do have relationships with cis lesbians. It is wrong for heterosexual women to look down on lesbians, whether cissexual or transsexual.

Lynn’s last example, Charles Kane, is hard to like, as she says blaming everyone but themself for their experience. But the things Charles disliked, the endless maintenance of their appearance, and the dismissive sexist attitudes of men show that Charles had fully accepted patriarchal demands on women. A bit of feminist consciousness-raising would have done Samantha, as they was, no end of good.

————————————————————————————————————–

In deciding whether to transition, there are two questions:

1. Am I transsexual?
2. Will I be happier if I transition?

Depending on how restrictive your understanding of the term “transsexual” is, you may even come to the answers, 1 No, 2 Yes. What do you Want, is the question. In my social circles, I experience little discrimination, and it has still been a long journey to self-acceptance and then self-celebration for me. With Lynn Conway’s examples, I want to be clear that they are not to blame for their suffering, and they were brave, not foolish, to try to manifest their true selves.

Naturally feminine

“You look beautiful and quite naturally feminine”. I shared the party photos, and this was in an email response: so it is in the context of my idiosyncrasy, my peculiarity, my thing. I feel uncomfortable with the compliment. I feel tempted to say, “Patronising cow”, though it is a compliment: it is meant well. It is not meant to be patronising.

Why the discomfort? Well, perhaps it should not matter what others think. If I am pleased by “naturally feminine” I open myself to be distressed by the judgment “peculiarly masculine”. It still feels like a judgment on whether I am right to have transitioned. But- hey, it is supportive! It is Nice! I know I am right to have transitioned, and it is pleasant to have that confirmed and be called Beautiful.

My discomfort with the compliment comes from my residual fear and distress at being transsexual. No, presenting male was not, in the long term, an option for me, I had to express myself female though that was completely terrifying. Anne’s compliment, ten years on, still raises echoes of that for me: No, being Normal is not an option, however terrified I am I have to do this.

————————————————————————————————————–

At the party, M introduced me to the concept of locus of control. Do you believe in fate, or that you make your own destiny? For me, it is more complex. I really wanted to be a husband and father. I wanted to be normal. I did not achieve that, I could not go against my Nature. (I would not have wanted to go against my nature apart from Kyriarchy, but in my situation that is what I desired.) I believe I do create my own destiny, but often it is different from my most passionate conscious desires. I feel dragged, kicking and screaming, to the best place I may be.