Gender free

I love the idea of being “gender free”. People could be themselves, rather than being “masculine” or “feminine”. A gender-free society would liberate everyone, as no-one really fits the stereotypes. However, our society is riven with gender stereotypes, and pressure to conform to them; so, now, gender free could mean consciously resisting such stereotypes, consciously bringing out aspects of the personality which do not conform, and lessening unconscious attempts to conform. Such free people would embolden and empower others to free themselves.

The term apparently came out of gender-critical people objecting to being called “cis”- so there are three categories, transgender who change gender, cisgender who are happy with their gender, gender-free who reject gender. Someone with a EU ring of stars as their profile picture- how much we might agree on, if we met- tweets “I reject gender as a restrictive and damaging social construct. My sex is female and that is enough for me.”

That does not mean that it should be in opposition to trans rights. “Gender-free” people would admit there is a problem with gender as constructed now. Not all people do. Many people are very happy with gender stereotypes. So we could be allies. There is only a problem if one group objects to the other’s way of subverting gender.

But then I looked at twitter, and found something to contradict that. “Gender free” is a new concept, and there is no Authority handing down definitions for it; so different people may define it differently. “Gender free folk are not saying they are exempt from gender norms. They are saying they don’t have a sense of inner gender identity.” That is merely opposed to trans rights, and not (by itself) seeking any change to oppressive gender norms. All I could say to that was, OK, but I have. I am female. And I am feminine.

Here’s another tweet making this a battle when it need not be, from a person with a male name and another ring of EU stars. “Gender is fine as long as it is not a weapon to erase women. Too often it is.” Um. I am unclear how 30,000 trans women could erase 30,000,000 cis (or genderfree) women, and I fear the erasure is going the other way.

I did not create the term, but would hope it might come to mean something which would subvert gender norms without subverting trans rights, or monstering trans people. However that is unlikely, so I hope it will die the death as not a particularly useful term. There is a twitter account “Gender free” which confusingly uses Monica Helms’s transgender pride flag, which I would insert here except it has not been Recommended for General Interchange by Unicode, and is not recognised by wordpress. The twitter account is simply abusive: “Came out as gender free. We are valid” it proclaims, as an attempt to subvert the claim of trans identity. They want to steal our words, and deny us the words we use. If they say “TERF” is a slur, I doubt they would accept COPCOC

completely ordinary people with completely ordinary concerns

as a word to describe themselves. Like Neo-liberalism, theirs is an ideology which seeks to hide by denying the word. “Genderfree” is “@peacetruth”.

I don’t mind calling anyone valid. I am irritated that she would not return the favour.

Extremists

There’s an A Woman’s Place meeting in Hastings on Thursday. Someone tweeted a bomb threat.

Then on Sunday the man said oh, it was not him: No Threat Was Made ~ Waz Made Aware OF A Threat & Want No One To Get Hurt ~ I Merely Nom On KFC. Then: Dis Iz Not A Threat Am Aware Of A Threat A Tranny Made. I can’t find his original tweet.

This is a man with nine followers on Twitter. On Saturday, someone on Mumsnet blamed me (and my allies): Yet when someone reads hears this shit, that Clare and their allies come out with, believes it and plans to bomb us, it isnt Clares fault. Note the sarcasm, the poor grammar, and the weird way the mindless, repulsive and wicked tweet has become a “plan to bomb”. I wondered if “Keem Arkwright” was a Russian troll. They want to radicalise internet debates- for shits and giggles, or to undermine Western democracy and the liberal international order, or something- and “Hyppolyta” fell for it. Arkwright’s use of the word “tranny” is clearly a fiendish plot to distance himself from trans women. Or, “I can think of another group of people more likely to have done it” said a trans woman. Nudge nudge, the transphobes are threatening themselves with bombs in order to radicalise people against us, in that person’s deranged imagination.

Honestly. No-one bomb-threats themselves. That trans woman’s comment is the stupidest thing I have read on this, and I have been on the Mumsnet thread about it.

Anyway. A few tweets from a vile idiot, and dozens of people are pearl-clutching. He should note that threatening a group with a bomb is a crime under the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006. That tweet could be an imprisonable offence.

I can think of few more intractable conflicts than that of trans folk and gender critical feminists, but perhaps the Palestinian-Israeli one counts. The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign hired a room in a Quaker meeting house for Thomas Suárez to discuss his new book, State of Terror: How terrorism created modern Israel. Depending on who you ask, this is either “a meticulously researched work” and “the first comprehensive aand structured analysis of the violence and terror employed by the Zionist movement” or lies and distortions. The Board of Deputies of British Jews requested the meeting house to cancel the booking on the grounds that the speaker had repeatedly made “offensive” (not the same as inaccurate) statements. A blogger, Jonathan Hoffman, phoned and emailed the meeting house repeatedly about it. The meeting decided to cancel the booking. In The Friend, the warden asked, “What exactly is the truth, and who can we trust to tell it?”

The truth is a balanced account of the conflict, giving due credit and blame to both sides. Nothing else will do. Anyone could state facts which were true but unduly blackened one side and praised the other: that would not be “The truth”. Truths can give a misleading impression.

What does a bomb threat mean, exactly, especially where it is almost certain there is no bomb? It means there is a wicked fool who finds amusement in scaring or revolting people. It says nothing about anyone else. Possibly he is an extreme outlier, and no-one else is approaching this level of vileness, even though possibly the level of vitriol in the debate is such that bomb threats are not much more of a step. “Hyppolyta” blames trans people because trans people have written some vile things; but blaming trans people may offend some who would be open to the gender critical case.

More extremism: an ornithologist took a specimen for research, and had to leave his job because of the vitriol heaped on him. Kirk Johnson in the NYT makes the case that killing one bird was proportionate, enabling a great deal of good to be done. An article in the journal Science says sample collection can contribute to extinctions. These are complex matters, not reducible to a tweet. There’s a subtle article in The Guardian about equality and diversity, after Lionel Shriver picked on trans people, among others, who might benefit from diversity programmes as “incoherent, tedious, meandering”.

Some people deliberately provoke anger to rile or cow the opposition, or to encourage or radicalise their own side. That only produces an equal and opposite reaction from their opponents. Trans people and gender critical feminists need to reduce the anger, and should be extremely careful over allegations against the other side.

Here’s a real bomb incident. It got no further than the Northamptonshire press. I wonder what the police meant when they said, the item of concern was finally determined not to present any danger to public safety. After a controlled explosion, I would have thought any “device” would pose no further threat, and a journalist’s witness said there was a “huge” explosion.

Punch a TERF? Don’t.

Sophie Cook was part of the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme. Labour Women’s Network says “Everyone at LWN and UK Labour is proud of you!” Trolls on twitter disagreed. They have a hashtag “Labour losing women”, as some transphobes think Labour refusing to discriminate against trans women is more important than any other political issue, and so are leaving the party. It may be as much as a few hundred out of 552,000. The abuse, some from Tories and some from gender-critical feminists, is blanked out. Select Text to see it, if you must.

“Nonsense”. “UK Labour should be thoroughly ashamed”. “Sick. It’s actually sick”. “Disgrace”. “He stole that place from a woman”. “That hulking manbeast took a place from a woman and you’re all pleased? Jo Cox’s spirit must be in despair. Everything she worked for being made a mockery of. Shame on you all”. “Trans women are dudes wearing dresses”. “And poor Jo had a penis in her name”. “LWN, you are a sexist misogynistic disgrace”. “Denying material reality and biological facts are signs of mental illness”. “Labour plans to exclude women from their party. I am surprised they aren’t advocating taking our vote away”. “A burly bloke in a shitty wig”. “Mediocre man”. “I don’t give a sh!t about his feelings. What about the feelings of real women?” “Jo Cocks award?” “That’s a geezer in a wig”. “Cock in a frock”. “It’s a fucking bloke. A bloke has just graduated from a ‘women in leadership’ programme. Makes perfect sense”. “Yeh if he looks down than the delusion that he is a woman will be gone, he will see his cock!” “Your misogyny is showing, zip up your pants”. “Hahaha beardy bro alert”.

This normalises hatred for trans people. Someone who tweets like that would be more likely to shout abuse on the street. But the answer is not to retaliate. Somewhere on Twitter, Dad @AeroKaty boasted of punching a TERF: “I hope her face is embarrassingly fucked up for work tomorrow because the only thing fucked up on me is my fist.” Screaming into the Void tweeted, “there’s nothing like physically fighting a TERF together to remind you how much your friends are truly your chosen family”. Someone has written a Tumblr blog claiming to be the victim. In a bar, a trans man had told her she was not welcome “and my smart ass said ‘Why because I know you’re a female?'” I could not find the Screaming tweet, but took this from a “gender-critical” blog. Only confirmed followers have access to AeroKaty’s tweets.

So some troll has gone round twitter collecting punch a TERF tweets, in order to radicalise opposition to trans rights and work to exclude trans folk from Prides. The trouble is, the punch a TERF tweets exist. ( Boss ) @praesidency wrote, “I’ll say it again- happy pride. Punch a TERF.”

Please, please don’t. Don’t hit people, however abusive they are. Trans men, it is not Real Bloke to punch someone except in self-defence- defending against physical attack, verbal attack does not count. Trans women, it is mannish to use physical violence unless necessary for physical survival.

“If biological sex isn’t real, how can one be same-sex attracted?” the troll asks. Poor thing. Humanity is too complex for some people to understand. They want to fit it into discrete logical categories, or their brains will implode. But she can’t erase trans people just because she can’t produce separate definitions for us and for lesbians. I exist. I am a woman. She is a lesbian, and I don’t care if she does not find me attractive.

Trans women- if you come on to a lesbian, and she does not reciprocate, stop immediately. It’s not just that it is rude and offensive to carry on when you are not wanted: she may go and tweet about it.

Twitter is not a place for nuanced argument. It can make announcements, or it can radicalise entrenched positions. No gender critical feminist is going to persuade the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme to exclude trans women by tweeting at them. She is only going to make both sides angrier. So someone might leave Labour, as if they did not care what the Tories were doing to the NHS and the education system, and someone else might want to “punch a TERF”.

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

Woman trapped in a man’s body

Snakes 1Tweet from Ricky Gervais: RG: Some transexuals think they were a woman trapped in a man’s body. KP: But what next? “Doctor, I think I’m a gerbil?” “Well you’re not!” 2 January 2013 at 10.03 am.

There are lots of answers to that “woman trapped in a man’s body” line. Here is my favourite. That blog site has not posted since 2007, which is a great shame: here is another beauty: rather than arguing sterilely about the meaning of privilege, We could try reminders that we’re not abstract constructs. In that vein, I thought–if it’s not too personal–we could talk about, well, each other. Go and have a look, you do not have to hunt far here for treasure.

“Woman trapped in a man’s body” is a line I hate, because it oversimplifies, and is wrong, and a line I love, because it explains. Here am I at 46 still finding aspects of myself I hardly dare call “feminine”, which I resent, so that the essential work of loving them is so difficult and time-consuming. I read the phrase, and think, well, that is OK, I am a woman- while parts of me still retort, no, I am a man, and wanting to dress female and use a female name is ridiculous.

And it oversimplifies. I am Me, I do not fit any pre-defined box.

P1000727So, for others.
I had my testicles removed.
That is disgusting and horrible and you are sick and OMFG and-
Well, I am a woman, and my man’s body did not fit me.

And if someone is seeking to understand, willing and able to see me as a person, the phrase might help them grope towards understanding and accepting something so weird I can barely understand it myself.

But if someone does not wish to understand, it becomes a way to reduce me. Rather than seeing this complex breathing human being before him, Gervais quotes the cliché of a “woman trapped in a man’s body” which he then mocks.

I paid to be castrated. You can either do the difficult empathetic work of imagining what it might be like to want that, and do that, or you can ridicule.

Simply not understanding and accepting is difficult and painful, more difficult for the intelligent, who have so little practice in it. And the intelligent can produce an understanding which is wrong, but with their intelligence almost make it work.

It is not as simple as being a “woman trapped in a man’s body”, it is as complex as takes a hundred blog posts for me to explain to myself, leave alone anyone else. And- that phrase might be the key for a beginning of understanding.

At 11.39, Gervais tweeted, I love the fact that my tweets always annoy and please exactly the right people. Haha.  In other words, fuck you, I do not care what you think. Thank you, Ricky, it is always good to be reminded many people don’t.