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.

Detransition II

Trans is all about appearance, and how that affects relationships. I am intensely aware of being seen as male/female, normal/weird, high/low status. It seems to me that my Real Self fits ideas of femininity- mine, and the wider culture’s- so much better than masculinity that presenting as visibly trans I appear less weird, and can relate to people as my real self better; and I am far more comfortable expressing female.

The heart of privilege is being valued or discounted because of appearance clues. Privilege arises from appearance. Carey Callahan, a F-M-F detransitioner, has the privilege that she passes as a cis woman at least on video, and it is not immediately apparent that she is physically affected by transition. Her voice sounds like a woman’s husky voice, rather than a voice broken by testosterone.

This is all leading up to something.

Rape threats and death threats are depraved. I cast around for the right word, rejecting “disgusting” because it did not seem to condemn strongly enough; “depraved”, lacking some essential part of humanity and civilisation, applies. Someone who tweets penis pictures to strangers is depraved.

Carey shared a Storify. It is not safe for work, containing those penis pictures. We need to know the details of such threats, because we need an immediate personal apprehension of their gravity and wrongfulness, but if you already have that you don’t need to look. It is by gnc-centric, who calls a trans woman a male and retweets “cisgender/transgender” is a false dichotomy that assumes some essential woman-nature/man-nature. There’s only human-nature. Yet another reason I hate twitter- it can be used for bald statements to encourage one side of a conflict, but people persist in using it to argue, though no nuance is possible. I could refute her tweet with a thousand word blog post- perhaps I will- but on twitter there can be little more than bald disagreement. Gnc-centric could just brush that off. So depraved people, wanting to make their disagreement matter, resort to rape threats; and other depraved people, trolling for lulz, make the threats to intimidate and disgust their targets, and fantasise about the reaction they provoke. Gnc-centric tweets back asking how would Emily feel on the receiving end, and expressing contempt and derision for the threats, but may still be affected by them. I understand some women lose self-confidence, and engage on-line less.

What to do about the rape threats? I think Twitter should employ humans to deal with complaints timeously, suspend accounts which utter them, and take action to identify human beings, not just IP addresses or twitter accounts, producing them. Whatever, effective action is needed, and it is down to the company not the Twitter community.

Here’s Carey’s video about the storify. I paraphrase, with direct quotes in italics: I’m done with being scared of being labelled a TERF… my politics does not exclude trans people. I am invested in the wellbeing of everyone who experiences gender dysphoria male or female trans identified or not. Mainstream feminist sites are angry about rape threats in other situations but certain opinions like the necessity for female space but other opinions too which get labelled TERF everyone kind of agrees that whatever attacks you get and whatever violence you get you deserved and I just don’t buy it I don’t think there is a person who deserves a rape threat…I’m done with taking seriously the feminism of people who use that word. If you use that word you are enabling and collaborating with those kinds of threats and harrassment, and you should stop. If you send a picture of your penis to a stranger you are having a mental health crisis and your community should deal with you. That word needs to die.

Ok. I am a trans woman. I think all rape threats are depraved, and nothing can justify them. And that charge against mainstream feminist sites is so grave that it needs strong evidence. Mere failure to mention TERFs in discussion of rape threats is not enough.

I had a look at the twitter feed of Emily Eldritch, who sent the penis pictures. Now it is EmyAmythyst, whose tweets are only accessible to confirmed followers, but who has pictures of Pepe the Frog- imagine my best out of touch high court judge voice when I say “A symbol of the alt-right, I understand”- in drag and in a Donald Trump wig, and a butter-wouldn’t melt femme face with a large gun.

Nothing that person says can be taken seriously. S/he will do anything to shock, and to destabilise her opponents. We on the Left want human connection and understanding. S/he wants to watch our world burn. It might not be a trans woman, but a troll who thought a trans woman persona would be useful to attack particular targets, and possibly to poison relations between trans women and potential allies. Judge her on her acts, as an individual. She is not valid evidence of what trans women in general are like.

S/he does not speak for anyone but herself. To use her to make generalisations about trans women, to say that the trans community should deal with her, or to make decisions about anything to do with trans because of her is- unfair, I suppose. That is not me, not anything like me. Don’t make it my job to deal with her- I tweeted her a rebuke, but doubted it would have a useful effect- or judge me because she continues her offensive way. It is possible for us to talk, to create understanding, but she is merely a distraction. Please don’t turn away from me because she exists.

Human beings try to make their way in the world. We forge careers, make relationships. Transition takes a huge amount of effort and energy. It was the most important thing in the world for me, and everything else got put on hold; and now I am in survival mode, with the project of valuing myself, turning my self-loathing into appreciation, without which it seems I can achieve nothing at all.

If you detransition, it might seem that all that effort was wasted, transition was a massive oppressive con against gender non-conforming people. At first you might want to find some meaning or purpose in your transition, but that might fade with time. I imagine you might move from some sympathy for trans-identified people- we are all in the same toxic trap- to rejection, as you put it behind you and got on with your life. That rejection, though, might carry all the resentment you feel for the hurt you have suffered, and we don’t deserve that.

breslau-painting-girl

Peak trans

Peak trans is that moment when a trans woman does something you find unpleasant or objectionable, which is your licence to loathe, mock and berate all trans women for ever after. Because she’s always that nasty and stupid, and they’re all like that, all the time: misogynist, domineering, self-centred, masculine, and for them it’s all about them. Peak trans is hash tags and websites where women can share these stories and say, well, I was a liberal feminist and pro-trans, or at least not completely hostile until I met one and got revolted. Because they are revolting. Or until I read something on the internet.

Let’s consider some “Peak trans” claims. Google for the quotes, if you really must.

And I may not be correct here in assuming this but considering autogynephilia IS a paraphilia along with pedophilia it makes perfect sense that these MtT are attracted to underage girls. Some of them are even twisted enough to fantasize that they ARE teenage girls inside their own heads.

MtT is “Male to Trans”. She is well down the rabbit hole, perhaps never tolerant of trans women. Her “Peak trans” moment was when she first heard of the concept and was revolted- but rather than thinking, this is a human being, she sought out justification for her hostility. Considering mice are mammals along with elephants, perhaps mice can weigh several tons. Or perhaps not.

I found myself thinking that maybe I ( a socialist) will vote for Cruz because at least then he will appoint conservative judges who won’t give in to the bathroom bullshit. What the hell world am I living in that I actually have that thought???

A world where hating trans women is more important to you than not starting wars, not teaching Creationism as science, or women having access to abortion.

This woman self-identified as a trans man for a bit, but changed her mind. The final crack was seeing a trans woman I used to follow, post a photo of herself in a nice dress, for a night out. Something really irked me about it: she stood in a ridiculous little-girl pose (she’s middle aged), complete with high heel slightly raised in the air. I didn’t see an empowered woman. I saw a man in a dress, mocking women. So that trans woman should dress to please other women, not herself? She goes on, Now I read on here every day. It makes me feel confident, supported, and even loved. I LOVE feeling like I’ve found answers, but most importantly, community with like-minded women. Because when you are in a cult defined around identifying yourself as persecuted and another group as deserving to be hated simply for a single characteristic they share, your hate is addictive. Beware addictions which distract you from your real-life problems.

I have been calling this the trans-cult for a long time. I lost my partner of 5 years to it, 5 years ago and he has ruined his life as a result. Perhaps our union wasn’t going to last anyway but he actually severed it by following this cult online and eventually going behind my back to get hormones from his doctor.

People often dislike former partners, but you are claiming she should be an entirely different person because you don’t like who she actually is, and feeling betrayed when she does not obey. She’s lucky to have left. Doctors should not prescribe your partner medicine without your say-so? What?

My first peak trans moment came with the forcing of the label ‘cis woman.’ What would you prefer? “Women, and trans women”? “Cis woman” is only necessary to distinguish from trans women- normally “woman” is perfectly fine for both.

Thank God for “peak trans”- these TERFs will make women trans-friendly because of their extremism.

Caravaggio St Catherine

Oestradiol

If I change my hormone dose, my emotional lability can go wild. Sometimes that’s really really nice. I noticed I had not taken my pill yesterday, so took two today. I know it’s not sensible.

At the door, Liz, hard-bitten old feminist, says, “And here’s the lovely Clare”.

“You make my little heart flutter with happiness,” I say. We grin. Such personal remarks really please me. Liz knows this, and is happy to oblige; and, I feel, does not think any the less of me for it, or at least that is the view of me which I project onto her. I do not think any the less of me for it. I discern knowledge but not mockery in her.

I sat in the Quaker meeting feeling delight. I stood to speak: I expressed my delight, and my love for people here. People were grateful for my ministry. I had hugs.

Over lunch I chatted to D., who is 24. She asked a lot of questions: where do I live, what do I do, what did I used to do? Well, that’s OK, I can sort-of place her because I know her family, I am happy for her to place me. I told her an employment tribunal story. She was unreserved and open: she asked me how old I was when I left Scotland, and expressed shock at my lack of an accent. She too has experience of passing, or not- her membership of a particular social group was questionable, and she would wonder: has someone told this person? Have they noticed? Or, she would say something and easy, unaffected conversation would become distant.

-What do you do with your time?
-… I blog a little
-What do you write about?
-…Trans issues

and we were away. She was interested. She was sympathetic. Her best friend is gay. She was horrified at the abuse I had received in the street, and complimentary about my looks and dress: she thought I passed quite well. That hair suits you, the colour matches your eyes.

I hope this is the last I am going to say about TERFs for a bit, because the issue is simple. I can easily find online someone who says, for example, Some women don’t feel comfortable with [“transgender women” in “female bathrooms”]. And that’s okay. It’s their right to not have someone they view as male enter their private area. Even I would have a problem with entering a female dressing room and seeing a dick and balls swinging around. Or something far more hostile. Or, I can talk to people in the office I worked in, in the Quaker meeting, in the shops and buses and bus queues where I “find myself respected by other people who- got rained on too-”

Let the TERFs enjoy their internet hugboxes. The real world is safe enough for me, OK enough.

Artemisia Gentileschi, self portrait as the allegory of painting

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

“Stop Trans Chauvinism”

TERF warning. Stop Trans Chauvinism is a site reblogging Trans-Erasing rants. What is the pick of the TERFs over the last few days? They claim “misogyny, homophobia and racism in trans activism” and publicise a vast number of reblogs from TERFs- six on 22 December alone.

Normally they publish just the start of a post, but publish the whole of a study of outcomes of transition from 2011. “Genderwipesthefingerprints” gives a very short introduction saying, sex reassignment is positively correlated with a far higher risk of death and a greater number of suicide attempts. Tragic stuff. Correlated in part because of the hate spread by her site; and the study cannot say how we would fare without GRS.

The study found 804 diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, of whom 380 had GRS and changed the gender indicator on their National Registration Number (NRN), between 1973 and 2003. Death and morbidity were not significantly greater in the first ten years, but were, after. As the “Discussion” in the study notes, the overall mortality rate was only significantly increased for the group operated before 1989. However, the latter might also be explained by improved health care for transsexual persons during 1990s, along with altered societal attitudes towards persons with different gender expressions. Bad news for the TERFs, then: there is less hate; and for us: hate kills. After 2004, the NRN ceased to record gender.

So, a bit of gloating and a misleading introduction from Stop Trans Chauvinism. The study also indicates the tiny number with gender dysphoria: why are the TERFs so obsessed with us? A better introduction to the study is here.

Headline: Do trans activists realise they enable this kind of misogyny and self hatred? The “self-hatred” consists of referring to breasts as “gross chest tumors” and to the vagina as the “rape gash”. But 4thwavenow is quoting a comment by a trans man. That’s not misogyny and self-hatred, but gender dysphoria. We hate our physical sex characteristics. That’s what the diagnosis means. The person quoted is forty, well able to make up his own mind. 4thwavenow is the mother of a teenager who formerly identified as FtM, but has decided against transition. She asks, Why wouldn’t someone who actually cares about “trans” people celebrate a teenager who won’t have to endure years of injections and surgeries? It would be like a cancer patient becoming enraged when another patient goes into remission. No, it would be like a cancer patient enraged when another patient refuses treatment. I can’t know whether 4thwavenow’s child will transition later in life- whether the gender dysphoria was a passing teenage phase, or a matter of identity which the mother has rejected, to the child’s lasting harm. But neither can she, “Stop Trans Chauvinism”, or the laughing TERFs reading that bullshit.

I always seek common ground with the most extreme haters, and here I find a link to Anti-porn feminists. I too am opposed to pornography, because of the risk of STD and physical damage to women whose penetration is depicted, as well as the objectification of women; but the post linked is a quote, a slab of text from The Colour of Pomegranates, a “radical feminism/ marxism” blog. In post-modernity, pornography is just another “text” representing another narrative that no competing narrative can claim superiority over …If reality, truth and meaning are socially constructed (van Zon, 2013) then it makes sense that the reality that pornography is detrimental can be obscured. So- what? Post-modernity and Post-modernism are therefore a bad thing? Opposition to pornography cannot continue? I use post-modern thought-processes. I oppose pornography. I am inconsistent- again, so what?

And: feminine and masculine expression are socially constructed too. Post-modernism is an essential feminist tool.

On anti-porn feminists, I found this comment: the automatic response from most people is to dismiss you as an anti-sex prude. Is it? I hear the feeling of being a beleaguered minority: is that how it really is, and does that contribute to the TERFs’ vehemence and hatred against us? Most people accept me as an honorary woman.

Maria Miller MP, chair of the Women and Equalities committee inquiry into trans people, said: “What has been most shocking is to hear the personal experiences of trans people who have had almost had to accept the unacceptable: which is day-to-day abuse on the street by members of the public shouting at them, and almost having to accept that is part of their life,” she says. “That is not acceptable.” Take heart. Powerful voices support us.

Changing, today, from El Greco to Raphael.

Raffaelo Santi, The Holy Family

I am a “Real woman”

I am a real woman, entitled to be in women’s space. I have been paying too much attention to TERFs, but here is Tigtog, who is cis and feminist. She argues that people can have a gender identity discordant with biological sex. Because of that, I should be accepted as a real woman.

After reading and thinking about this, my headline may be premature. Tigtog was dealing with a particular TERF argument. I am well behind the conversation, as Tigtog’s post was written before I started blogging, and the trans spectrum comes up- from only post operative trans women, living permanently as women, to every AMAB person who ever tried on a skirt- not all those people are necessarily included. I need to do more work, and more reading, but this is as far as I have got now.

The argument is an ideology. The liberal position that anyone AMAB who wants to wear skirts, or to have a vaginoplasty, should be able to, does not mean that feminists should call that person a woman, admit us to women’s spaces, or take notice of our issues. But that ideology does not have to convince every single person determined to refuse it, only the majority. I have been accepted in women’s space, as well as rejected.

The basis of it is that gender identity makes me a woman. Is that idea feminist, or destructive of feminism? The basis of feminism is that sex or gender should not restrict life choices, and is not a reason for judgment: being unfeminine is not wrong. Feminists observe that women have been restricted, not voting, going to University, or owning property, and are still restricted: women as a whole earn around three fifths the earnings of men as a whole in the UK. Caring for children, old or disabled people is seen as women’s work, and unvalued. Equality would liberate the gifts of everyone for the good of all, but how to pursue it?

Feminism rejects hierarchies of race, gender and class and asserts our equal value. The hierarchies of patriarchy are socially constructed. The sole physical difference is sexual dimorphism. The gender binary is constructed on that, and can be changed.

I call myself Abigail. I accept the social construct of gender in how I dress so that I can express my innate femininity in how I wish to relate to other people. The two go together for me. I would like my ways of relating to be valued more highly. This subverts the gender binary, so supports the feminist project.

Feminists should accept me because I further their interests.

Tigtog writes, Miss Andrea argues that “guys in frocks” are merely buying into gender essentialism, but I don’t see how arguing that only those born with ovaries can ever be regarded as “real” women isn’t doing exactly that. It’s treating gender as inalienably aligned with biological sex, whereas those who have a trans* history are those are saying that their biological sex has not been sufficient on its own to make them feel comfortable in their assigned gender role. That strikes me as the very opposite of biological essentialism; even in cases where a transitioning individual adopts genderised dressing stereotypes, because the whole point of gender being a social construct is that those stereotypes are artificial rather than essential in the first place.

The contempt of TERFs for trans women is phobic. In the comments, Mindy writes, I think my attitude comes down to – there’s a woman in there, what does it matter what package she comes in? I don’t understand the idea that a man would voluntarily choose to live as a woman and give up his rights in the patriarchy simply as a way of getting at women. That idea is irrational, indicating phobia.

Does Gender identity make me a woman? For Mindy, it does.

For me, gender identity is inextricably linked to my femininity, and that might be seen as anti-feminist: people with ovaries should not be judged as wrong- “harridans”, “viragos”- for being unfeminine or restricted to roles fitting feminine people. Possibly, I need to find a feminism valuing femininity. Is that what the third wave is about?

It is a paradox. Trans women affirm gender stereotypes: we assert femininity is female. We subvert gender stereotypes: we reject our upbringing to express our true selves.

Anyone who knows more than me about this, and has the spare time to educate me, is welcome to comment.

El Greco, Annunciation

In the Moon lodge

Thirty years ago, O said to C., “You look like you would make a good lesbian. Have you tried it?” C had thought herself straight, but they are still together. I met them at the Sacred Arts Camp, where we did Dances of Universal Peace. It was 2010. I was very uptight, but seeking out the hippies.

The Women’s space was the Moon lodge, a teepee in the edge of the camp, and the whole camp took part in the Menarche ceremony, celebrating the onset of menstruation. Girls appeared first in white dresses then in red, whooping and running through the camp. As soon as I heard of the Women’s space I asked F if I could join in. I had thought this a mere courteous formality. The Quaker women’s group had, after my request to one of its members, agreed to admit anyone “who experienced themselves as a woman”. F, however, would need to discuss it with some people.

The next day, she came to me and asked me to meet her in the Moon Lodge the following morning at 9.30. There I found her with her friend W. They talked at me for half an hour, barely allowing me to speak. F explained that she was entirely accepting herself- she lived in Brighton- but some women might not be comfortable with me there. I said that excluding me denied that I am a woman, which offended me, but I would not attend because I did not want to make the women’s activities focus on me and whether I should be admitted. That was not enough for them. They wanted me to admit they were right to exclude me.

Other women got involved. A invited me to dinner in the Welsh circle, and told me it was F, and no other, who was uncomfortable with me in the Moon lodge. B asked me to help decorate the Big Top for the Menarche ceremony, and I went with her into the forest to get foliage. Then F came and got me to help her and a man take down the heavy canvas sides of the Big Top, as it was so hot. I was so hurt by this that I took no part in the Menarche ceremony, even to sit and watch.

Someone told me of D. There had been some difficulty in him attending a men’s group, though we were unsure whether he had been on T at the time, or whether he was binding. I went for a walk with D’s female former partner. The LGBT group was concerned that I had been excluded.

At the final celebration, as we sang

May the road rise with you
May the wind be always at your back
May the Sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall soft upon your fields
And till we meet again
May Love hold you
in the hollow of her hand

F came and hugged me. We had both learned from the experience.

El Greco, Annunciation

Real women only

The Seven Sisters Festival in the Mornington Peninsula, South-East of Melbourne, is in trouble about whether to admit trans women. According to PinkNews, they would admit post-op trans women, but not pre-op: As we have advertised the festival as a sacred women’s only space – having individuals onsite who are physically men would be breaking the trust of many women.

We are however open to transgender women who have undertaken all operative measures to become a woman to come and partake in the festival.

Now, they have backed down a little: Seven Sisters have at no time expressed any official statement regarding our position on trans inclusivity, but we are now seeking legal advice on this matter, hearing the voices of our patrons as well as engaging into dialogue with the transgender community.

Therefore, as a part of maintaining the integrity of our community, in the next month, we will send a confidential survey to our fellow sisters who have and will be attending next years festival so they can share their opinions without fear of bullying.

Who is “Bullying” depends on your view. Some would say excluding those who experience ourselves as women is bullying, however formal and unemotional the language used to express the rule.

How would they know? Pre-op, if I was tucked and wearing tummy-control pants, and a pair of tights, lifting my skirt would not be enough: the suspicious TERF would have to put her hand between my legs to be sure. Though if I got in, I would have to be careful thereafter.

Possibly, excluding all trans women would offend cis women attenders. Excluding pre-op or non-op trans women might be a stance TERFs might feel they could defend, on the grounds of being “unsafe” if there are penises about, or feeling unsafe after life-long experience of violence from men, if they perceive the trans woman as a man.

In order to attend, we need the support of cis women. I want all trans women to be able to attend; I do not want to be the tolerated trans woman when sisters are excluded. But one Women’s Institute accepts trans women who intend to live the rest of their lives as women. There is another boundary: what of those who identify as outside the binary? This is a women’s festival. I want safe space for women.

I feel that the quiet calm expression of our feelings, and our desire to support and conciliate, should be enough to win over most women. Not everyone: on facebook, there are TERF statements like this: Seven Sisters, many womyn are holding our ground on this, and are rightfully pissed off that intimate gatherings and spaces are being invaded by the mentally un-well who think their taste in clothing and childhood toys make their lived experience the same or worse than females. These are males with aggrieved entitlement issues and their demands made on women to let them go and do as they please tell a very familiar tale. Behold the standard TERF tactic of dehumanising us and ridiculing our feelings to make monsters of us.

We need the cis women to answer this. And they do, for example: If i had a double mastectomy, and a full hysterectomy, am i no longer ‘female’? Sisterhood…celebrating the rising feminine energy, supporting, nourishing and empowering female energy is not what this festival is.

Every indigenous culture acknowledged, accepted and included transgenders, they were honoured as that which they were most inherantly identified with….(without genital reconstruction work).

There are a small minority, called TERFs, who are very very angry and loud about trans women. Give them their head, and they will alienate the majority. Excluding people is unattractive. When I was excluded from women’s space, cis women stood up for me.

I am grateful that this post has been featured on T-Central, a blog with links to a variety of trans blogs. Welcome, if you come from there. Please comment: how would you respond to the Festival organisers?

El Greco, Annunciation

Are you a TERF?

Here is Suzanne Moore apparently saying supportive things about trans women. “I support Jane Fae, a trans activist”. She mentions how threats of violence are part of many trans women’s lives. This is pleasing when her last mention of us led to such repellent articles. Yet when she defines Trans exclusionary radical feminist, she links to this article, which defines it as most people with sensible views.

Am I a “biological woman”? Well, no. Perhaps the only evidence that I am a woman is my unchangeable conviction that this is how I wish to express myself. Sneakily, the TERF “Terry Macdonald” (a pseudonym) concentrates on these matters. She says that all feminists oppose violence against trans women: There is a particularly clear intersection between feminist and trans concerns.

She attacks the notion that trans women are women. Well, some of us have penises. She does not state what follows: it is the practical result which matters. I want to use women’s changing rooms in clothes shops and sports centres. I hope I never have to use services for women victims of violence, but do not want to be excluded on the grounds of being a man.

We might concede that trans women should be careful in such spaces. Arguably, the more you look like a man the more discreet you should be. We should act not as if asserting a right, but tacitly accepting a favour. We should be particularly careful to avoid a penis being visible. I still hate those open changing rooms with a bench round the edge; I much prefer a cubicle.

What I ask is messy human relationships, live and let live, give me a break, rather than clear logical rules like

You have a Y chromosome
This is a women’s changing room
Therefore you are not allowed in

which is arguable, I suppose, and is death to me. I want to be treated as an honorary woman: mostly I am, and that is why I am no longer suicidal. I am an asylum-seeker, not a colonist. Therefore we have to be a bit careful of upsetting those “born women”, though I do not like that phrase.

Of course there are differences. I was glad to be called a slut! H, a feminist, was angry on my behalf, but while the epithet alleges she is not entitled to the protection of the Patriarchy as she belongs to no individual man so belongs to all of them, and all men may chastise her for anything they find objectionable; for me it shows that the abuser has not read me as trans, he sees me as a woman, so is less likely to hit me. For her it is a threat of violence, for me a reduction of the threat. When that large man called me a “whore” I felt relief.

You can be a terf until you want to deny me women’s space. That is the moment of trans exclusion which hurts.

Moore goes on to justify Bahar Mustafa, who used the hashtag #killallwhitemen. I find that as empowering as the slogan “Die cis scum”. I sympathise, though I would hate anyone to put it into practice; I would just like to feel less fear. Perversely, sometimes I would like the privileged group to know what my fear feels like.

Eugene Delacroix, Medea