World Views 2018 End of Year Round Up

When I say I’m becoming transphobic, it’s not because I don’t buy into any specific trans  ideology , it’s because I’ve started to enjoy being horrified at the fringe elements of TRA nutters so much that I find the normal and helpful trans people and their allies boring.

Is Sexuality a Personal Matter?

I saw a strange message on the internet the other day (okay, I’ll admit it was a tweet; I saw it because I was on Twitter, like I said I wasn’t going to be anymore) which said that it is homophobic to say that a person’s sexuality, or to be specific homosexuality, is between that person and ‘their’ God.  At first the criticism struck me as a petulant extension of the definition of homophobia that seemed to insist  “Celebrate every part of my life at all times or you are a bigot!”.   Then I thought about it some more.  At worst, the criticised statement (about being gay and God) suggests that  it is patently wrong to have gay relationships or be gay, but far be it for anyone to say this aloud in these politically correct times.  It could even be seen as a sinister warning that the gay person will eventually find out whether their ‘lifestyle’ is wrong or right when they come face to face with their creator or at least leaving the gay person to battle the whole thing out with their conscience.

The most benevolent translation is that it is acknowledging that certain religious texts, including the Bible, appear to condemn homosexual relationships which of course seems massively unjust since people can’t help being attracted to members of their own sex any more than other people can help being attracted to members of the opposite sex.  The person saying it isn’t sure what the right answer is and is leaving it to the person that has the ‘problem’ – being both gay and a member of a faith which appears to condemn homosexual sex – and God.   It is also an indication that the person saying it is bored of the issue since they are probably never going to feel the urge to have gay sex and  do not intend to discriminate against or take a stand against (or for) gay people in general  – the live, let live and leave me alone in peace ‘lifestyle’.

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The obvious problem is that, like other minority groups, (some) gay people don’t just want to be tolerated in the strict sense, they want acceptance and after the persecution they have been and are still going through, some celebration would be nice, thank you very much.  Knowing that someone secretly thinks that their personal lives and a part of their identity may be wrong tends to make them grumpy, regardless of  how friendly that person is and how willing they are to spend time with gay people.

I don’t think it is completely analogous but I compare it to my interracial marriage.  It is rarely expressed to me but there are people who are not very keen on mixed marriages for a number of reasons. Apart from die-hard racists and hoteps (and idiots on Twitter who say they would rather ingest bleach than have a white boyfriend – except they put it more starkly than that), people worry for my husband, and other white men, that he is going to end up with ‘black children’ who presumably they feel that he will be unable to completely identify with on some level.  Image result for mixed race marriages

 

There are people who worry that the children will grow up to be culturally confused.  I’ve heard of  older black people who have had traumatic experiences with racism and aren’t therefore comfortable with interracial relationships and people who doubt both partners’ motives (e.g. the white partner has a fetish and feels he is doing the other partner a favour and the black person is trying forget her roots) .  The bottom line seems to be that, in a world where race is very much an issue, people think we are adding unnecessary complications to the already difficult tasks of marriage or long term partnership and raising children.

I know that these views exist and that some of them come from a more complicated place than pure unadulterated racism and I can sense that some people have unasked questions when I tell them my husband is white.  However, even knowing this, I would completely livid if someone actually voiced their doubts about our relationship now that we are already married – for instance, if they said “Hmmm.  That’s interesting.  Well I would have thought there would be obvious issues but I’ll leave it to you and Iain (and God) to sort out”.  I think this may be how  a gay person, who has come to terms with their personal life and their identity, feels like when someone announces to them that their sexuality is between them and God.

British Asians and the New Gatekeepers of Interracial Relationships

Speaking of interracial relationships, I am beginning to really dislike a common response to news that an Asian person  has started or is in a relationship with someone of a different race, which is immediately wondering  whether there can be any future in the relationship and whether the Asian person can prove they are not just messing the other person about until their suitably Asian spouse pops up from the ether. This wondering always seems to be by people  who themselves are not in and have never contemplated being in a relationship with someone of another race.

The stereotype is that there is some expectation and pressure on people from certain Asian groups to marry someone of their own race, religion, sometimes caste and sometimes from the region of the country that their predecessors came from.  The received wisdom is that if you are dating an Asian person, you need to take this into account and you may want to check their position on this before assuming that the relationship has the potential to lead something serious or permanent.

There may be some truth in this stereotype (leaving aside the grim stories of women who marry someone against their family’s wishes) and, although I don’t think Asians are more likely to lead anyone down a garden path than any other group of people, it is a conversation you may have to have provided that you are in the actual relationship.  Just like the conversations I have had with white guys who suddenly announced before our first date that they “don’t want cafe au lait kids, just-so-you-know” (it was the nineties; they can’t try it now) or who  jokingly asked about my immigration status, the implication being that a good looking woman of African origin, like I was, I couldn’t possibly be interested in them as anything other than a visa mule or African guys who wanted to ensure my women’s lib thing didn’t extend to not cooking on command if the relationship became serious.  Apparently, you’ve got to check these things sometimes.

However I am not sure how this has evolved into strangers or people who are not actually in the relationship – and as I’ve said, who have shown no inclination towards dating someone of another race  – having the gall to ask Asian people what the future holds for their relationship with someone of a different race.  A work colleague was recently harangued so at an office party.  “That’s interesting.” Woman she had only met that evening said ” So what’s the future for your relationship, then, what with you being Asian and that?”  It sounds like something out of seventies sitcom.  Come to think of it, this gumption hasn’t evolved at all.  It has been festering in the background waiting for Tony Blair’s New Labour and its stupid political correctness to go away.  It has been waiting for Trump and Brexit!

Also, say an Asian person does come from a family which has certain expectations in terms of who they partner up with and how.  Are they really an evil manipulator  for taking this into account when looking for a potential life partner?  Other members of society are permitted to consider race, class, and whether their new partner will get along with their family, friends and work colleagues.  Should an Asian person be obliged to, at the first whiff of good loving, rudely shun anything their family, culture or religion has to say about their future marriage to prove that “they are not the real racists after all”?  As long as they are honest about their intentions and the situation (like every other member of every other race always is at every time, as we all know), are they not allowed to take a balanced assessment of all relevant factors when deciding to who they want to settle down with?

I think I’m Becoming Transphobic….

I watched a disturbing video the other day.  It was of a trans woman, who did not even particularly look like a man in drag much less a woman, ranting and raving in a scary manner because she had been misgendered at a shop.  I am ashamed to say that the funniest part of the video was when she screamed about being referred to as ‘Sir’ when in her words “she was a woman” at this point she gesticulated to herself “obviously!!!“.  As someone in the comments section pointed out, what I and all the other transphobic shits found funny was the contrast between her very manly or male presentation and her shrill desire to be recognised as a woman.  We almost felt like she should have been nowhere near that surprised that someone (a) called her ‘sir’ and (b) under the extremely loud verbal assault that followed, continue d to nervously stutter ‘sir’.  It was in America.  If I was ignorant and prone to stereotyping, I would guess that it was a part of America where if you heard a loud, angry, deep voice, your instinct would be to respond with a ‘Sir!’.

That was the funny part.  The rest of the video was tragic and terrifying in equal parts.  It was guaranteed to bring out (and I guess this is why a fair number of people shared it) all the hidden fears about the ‘trans agenda’ including wondering, as one tweep did, if this is what a slightly built teenage girl would be faced with if she misgendered this woman, accidentally or not, in a women’s changing room before being beaten into a pulp and  whether this trans woman, and by extension many more who could be let loose in ‘women’s spaces’, was in fact a raging lunatic, therefore allowing for the conflation of violent manifestations of mental illnesses with the mental health based dysphoria that some claim causes people to be trans.

I personally thought it was the most magnificent display of male privilege that Chimamanda was villified for talking about.  At some point the trans woman talked about ‘taking it outside’ (Hollywood for inviting someone to a fight) to show the salesman just how much of a ‘sir’ she was.   Now there are cis women who are mad enough to invite a man to a physical fight but I think we can all agree that  men tend to feel more confident taking this course of action.  Not all trans women would be evenly matched in a fight against a man, not least because some of then have physically transitioned and not all males are as strong as each other, but this is one bit of male privilege that lingers in society.  It’s not just feeling that you don’t have to avoid provoking violence from men or initiating it, it’s having the confidence to know that if things continue not to go your way, you can beat anyone and everyone who is making life difficult for you (or at least have a good go).  One wonders whether the (trans) woman in the video was angry about something completely unrelated that had happened before she was filmed or had been misgendered several times and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back or had been on the internet practising and performing her ragey reaction to any future misgendering.

I avoided this watching this video for all of, mmm, let’s see, 20 minutes because I knew I would feel this way.  I started out on commenting on trans-issues when I was ignorant but fairly benevolent towards the movement.  I was for instance outraged that people suggested that trans women shouldn’t use women’s bathroom.  I went from curious but supportive to curious to confused to irritated to now seeking out the detail about the worst excesses of TRA actions for the sole purpose of delighting in how terrible it all is.

When I say I’m becoming transphobic, it’s not because I don’t buy into any specific trans  ideology , it’s because I’ve started to enjoy being horrified at the fringe elements of TRA nutters so much that I find the normal and helpful trans people and their allies boring.  Once in a while I’ll do a purge of the gender critical and radfem people I follow just to limit my exposure to debates about trans horror stories.  Like people who identify as gender critical, I claim not to  wish any trans person any harm and to want them to be happy and flourish (I still believe the rule should be they use the bathroom of the gender they identify with and that they are women with more fundamental differences with cis women than some are prepared to admit but women all the same) but the compassion is gone which is where I think that sustainable and true tolerance comes from.  There is no attempt to see things from their point of view.  And I find their writing annoying, from words they use  like “literally deny the basis of our right to exist” to other words like “are”.

I must fix that even though it is more fun to gasp and tut at the outrageous thing that the next TRA did or blame them for eroding my sympathy towards much more deserving trans people .  Regardless of what I end up accepting as biological fact, I want it to come from reason and not from irrational hatred.

Another thing about that video is the issue of overt  displays of male or, in this case, male presenting anger and the feelings it provokes in me.  The trans woman in the video kicked a couple of things and looked like she was going to attack someone for a short while.  However she didn’t.  And as far as I could see there was nothing stopping her but herself.

Now I can completely understand the fear of overt displays of male rage, especially the fear that it will turn into a physical attack and  and no salesperson or customer should have to put up with the kind of behaviour displayed in the video.  I think videos showing cis women screaming and ranting are shocking but a well built man bellowing is terrifying to watch and there is a good chance that witnessing it would send me scurrying into instant submission.  Women have been known to cease resisting assault on the basis of nothing more than a shouting man.

I think it is a real problem, displays of male rage, how intimidating it can be, what it can lead to, what is intended by the rager and how we react to them.   I just don’t have any clue of what the answer is.  People get angry – is it fair to assume that a man can’t control himself from physically attacking someone because he is visibly angry?  But what if he can’t, why should women or society take that risk?  Should a man always censor himself, having at the back of his mind that if he shouts someone is going to assume he will attack them?  Hmmm….investigations pending.

Weird Feminism: Conversations in Modern Feminism that Make Me Uncomfortable – Part 2: Bridging the Gap Between Trans and TERFS

Tracy Treads Trepidatiously Into The Terrifying And Treacherous Terrain Between Terfs And Trans

The war between the trans community and so-called TERFS has become increasingly polarised with the kind of name calling and paranoid debate where each side assumes that they are the true victims. Transwomen claim that some feminists are bent on excluding them from feminism and indeed womanhood (hence the acronym which stands for ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’), are of course completely transphobic, want to deny transwomen access to healthcare and treatment and delight in scare-mongering and witch hunts.

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Feminists claim that, while they support civil liberties for transwomen in the conventional sense, transwomen and their allies bully anyone who disagrees with their “dogma” and are a new incarnation of a bunch of men trying to intimidate and shut women up. At its extreme, the debate has seen some feminists resorting to misgendering as a taunt and insult and dismissing transgenderism as a form of temporary mental illness and some transwomen advocating violent speech and actions against people who disagree with their beliefs and assertions, as in the ‘Punch a TERF’ and similar movements.

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Definition of Transwoman

Is there any sane middle ground between these two points? I think part of the difficulty is that, unless I have misunderstood things from the start, the definition of transwoman has changed. I always thought it was a man transitioning to a woman, physically and otherwise but particularly physically. I thought sex reassignment surgery or at least extensive hormone therapy was the ultimate aim.

It turns out a transwoman is anyone who identifies as a woman. Physical surgery is not necessary and even other physical manifestations, like dressing up as a woman, can be done on a temporary basis. Some people have substituted the word ‘transwoman’ with ‘woman’ in this definition so the equation now looks like this: woman = transwoman = anyone who identifies as a woman.

So potentially you could have transwomen who are not physically transformed, have no intention of being (or can’t for some reason be) physically transformed and only dress up (‘present’ is the correct term) on the weekends. These transwomen are apparently women and anyone who questions this is at risk of vitriolic online accusations of transphobia.

There is of course the legal process one has to go through before the transition is legally recognised. For instance, in the UK, transwomen have to live as women for 2 years before being officially recognised as such (according to legal online law firm, Wikipedia)  although there are proposals for reforms to enable a quicker processes of identification and legal re-assignment.

Another part of this definition is the thinking that sexual and reproductive organs don’t determine gender. This in itself is not new to me if one tags on the word ‘necessarily‘. So in my ignorant way of thinking, the default position is that such organs do determine your gender but for reasons and psychological processes that I don’t claim to understand, a person can feel trapped in the wrong body as far as gender is concerned.

However the thinking has evolved. To some, sexual organs are just an irrelevant accident as far as gender is concerned. There is another internal indicator of gender that penises and vaginas have nothing to do with. If sexual organs have nothing to do with gender, why label them male or female in the first place (I saw a tweet stating “A penis can be incredibly feminine”) and why bother removing them if you want to change gender?

The final piece of the puzzle appears to be that it is transphobic (again, to some) to say that a woman requires a vagina, whether natural or surgical. To pose an unhelpful, clever-clogs (stolen) question, if it’s transphobic to conflate being a woman with possessing female sexual organs, is it also transphobic for a transwoman to surgically obtain a vagina because she thinks that having one is more suited to her true gender? Is the next divide and example of the ‘left turning on itself’, going to be between transwomen who want a vagina and transwomen who think it’s transphobic to want one?

A slightly related question is , within the spectrum of ‘transwomaning’, at what point can we be accused of bigotry if we think a transwoman is not yet a woman? Also, are cross-dressers and drag queens men who like dressing up as women or are they necessarily transwomen or non-binary? Presumably the key is in self-identification.

The Construct of Gender

To say this subject is controversial is an understatement. Hopefully this post can provide some understanding of the confusion that well-meaning people who are not, and may not prioritise, being immersed in  trans-culture have (even though I have tried to at least do some research before writing this post). I have identified two issues with the above thinking which demonstrate that the whole issue of gender is extremely complex.

Firstly, it seems to me that feminism and transgenderism are not completely aligned. Traditional feminism has been about questioning gender roles – pretty, quiet, and helpful for girls and loud, boisterous and undomesticated for boys. Some radical feminists believe that we are simply human with differences. Yes, there are biological and physical differences between men and women, undeniably in the area of reproductive organs and strength (most times) but we think that a lot of the gender roles and stereotypes imposed upon us are unnecessary and are often a source of great oppression.

Transgenderism seems to reinforce the notion that there is something so inherently different between a man and a woman, that our brains, hearts and minds are wired so differently, that being a woman can be completely divorced from the physical differences between us and men. This does not of course mean that transwomen support traditional patriarchal gender roles imposed on women. The truth (suspicious as I am of all this talk of ‘ inherent differences’ between men and women) probably lies somewhere in between.

Of course traditionalists would probably say that we feminists and liberals have brought this on ourselves. They claim that questioning gender roles (which they believe in almost religiously) in the first place is what has led to what they see as a merging of genders. This argument fails to take into account the probability that the existence of transpeople  pre-dates feminist discourse on gender roles.

Feminist Frustration

Another issue with the above is the insistence on the above formula, i.e. woman = transwoman = anyone who identifies as a woman, without allowing room for argument or even question about the history of feminism, biological or cis women,  and why they are reluctant to let former men into their spaces. There doesn’t seem to be an attempt, by transwomen and their allies to understand at least the bewilderment of some women who have had oppression thrust upon them because of their biological condition and who are now told that they cannot point out the differences in history, physical attributes and experience between themselves and transwomen. I appreciate, of course, that cis women like me are equally ignorant of transwomen’s struggles.

Apart from the issue of safety and spaces, there is clearly some resentment from feminists about the supposed take-over by transwomen of feminism and women’s issues generally. I can’t say I don’t agree with some of the resentment. I find it extremely irritating when someone tries to censor in any way a conversation about periods or pregnancy on the basis that it is apparently transphobic. But, is there really a take-over of women’s issues by transwomen? Are transwomen being invited to discuss women’s issues on, say BBC Woman’s Hour evidence of this takeover or is it that we are so unused to seeing them that their relatively small representation automatically sounds alarm bells?

There is also some outrage. Women have been fighting this battle for centuries now. How dare these former men come in and insist on standing by our side? Besides the temerity of joining us when we’ve finally made some gains and established some systems for protecting ourselves, they want to tell us how to define women. I can completely understand these arguments but I think they downplay the history of transwomen and huge deal it is for a man (as far as the outside world can see) to come to terms with the need or desire to transition into a woman. It must be an extreme psychological process and is unlikely to be brought about by the shallow reasons of becoming a woman for the fun of dressing up or annoying us.

Another interesting thing is my strong adverse reaction to anything that even hints of guilting or pressurising lesbians (or straight men) into welcoming sexual advances from transwomen, including ones who are not physically transformed. This is probably part of a larger reaction to the growing visibility of transwomen. Even as we champion their rights and use them as an excuse to heap more insults on the Religious Right, we as a cis-society are just waiting for them to attempt to tell us that our failure to be attracted to, or consider sex with them, is as a result of our own bigotry so that we can slap them round the head with a clunky first generation iPad. Whatever it is , whenever I read the unfortunate phrase ‘the cotton ceiling’, I feel a fierce protectiveness towards my lesbian sisters, who are otherwise as under-represented in my mind as in the real society.

In fairness, transwomen have denied more than once that they are trying to pressure anyone into feeling obligated to form sexual relationships with them. Firstly, there is no shortage of cis-men very much interested in having sex with transwomen (although they are often shamed for doing so, by apparently liberal media that feels the need to broadcast these liaisons complete with photographic and video evidence !). In relation to lesbians, transwomen say they are simply discussing one of the many difficulties they face in blending into cis-society.

What I think it does show is that the assertion that a ‘transwoman is a woman’ is not a complete answer to the complex questions that arise between trans and cis-women. Clearly one can decide and may be socially obliged to, in an inclusive society, address and think of transwomen as women, but when it comes to defining them for the purpose of our intimate relationships, Adichie was right in a way. A woman is a woman yes but a biological woman is a biological woman and a transwoman is a transwoman. It’s not, I would argue, just a matter of preference for a lot of people.

Female Spaces

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At what point do we have to let transwomen into women’s spaces without question? Do we even need women’s spaces anymore? Should that be the topic of debate?.  All very controversial questions that go against the ‘transwomen are women’ ideology but which a lot of people quite obviously have.

It’s fair to say that some of the resentment regarding transwomen in women’s spaces does seem to be based more on emotion than fact. It may be that some women feel that the only way to be safe from male or patriarchal oppression is to keep away from men or anything that seems male as much as is possible. There is an emphasis on safe spaces which extend beyond bathrooms, refuges and locker rooms and to entire websites and online chatrooms .

Having said that, there are reasons for some safe spaces, particularly bathrooms, refuges, prisons and locker rooms. Perhaps an ideal world will contain exclusively unisex bathrooms and people will be so well-behaved that there won’t be any physical threat from having 30-something year old men milling around naked fifteen year old girls (and vice-versa, I know!) but I daresay that utopia hasn’t arrived yet. There will still be some discomfort and questions as to whether a person who openly displays male organs (presumably another rare occurrence since not all transwomen are out and proud types) should be in women’s changing rooms.

There is also apparently a new threat of men posing as transwomen for the purpose of entering changing rooms and the like. I’ve done a bit of research and I genuinely don’t know how real or likely this threat is. You can always, I suppose, be attacked by a bad biological woman in a locker room or public toilet; the difference is that men (on the assumption that they are not just simply confused or bad transwomen or even men who think they are transwomen and are not) have 2 weapons at their disposal that cis women do not  – a penis and substantially greater body strength (someone said ‘upper body strength’ once. I don’t understand – do we have the same leg strength as men? Will I win a fight with a man if both of us are restricted to kicking? I have pretty strong legs). It’s not the only threat in the world but it’s precisely the kind of threat that women were trying to avoid when they created female-only safe spaces.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: MY JUDGEMENT ON ALL PARTIES AND MATTERS CONCERNED!

The question is can the bridge be gapped? I don’t know. We can all stop calling feminists that question the popular leftist transgender view ‘TERFS’. Some of them may indeed be transphobic but you can’t define transphobia as questioning a view that a number of vocal people on the internet hold . For instance, I find it ludicrous that the person who wrote this article – https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/02/are-you-now-or-have-you-ever-been-terf felt they had to write it under a pseudonym.

I also find it absurd that, solely based on her comments on Channel 4 news, that Adichie has been dismissed as a TERF, a term that seems to be synonymous with a rampant racist or homophobe (a woman who defends transpeople in Nigeria. Does anyone have any idea how hard it is to defend transculture in Nigeria???? – although I don’t agree that gender can be defined solely by reference oppression vs privilege.  Privilege may be part of it but to me,  a more complete way of describing the difference is that it is between women who have inhabited male bodies and have lived as men and those who have not).

There are transpeople and their allies and there are people who believe transpeople are bad or mad. There is a whole spectrum of people in between, including people who are very ignorant of the issues raised – they can’t all be TERFS, can they? Wondering whether a person is or should be immediately regarded as a woman, solely on the basis of self-identification, may or may not be transphobic but it’s not the same as believing black people should sit at the back of the bus. This should be obvious even without the need to refer to any kind of Oppression Olympics. if I’m honest, I think the term ‘TERF’ needs to be abandoned.

Some feminists need to stop with the taunts and the insults and realise that transitioning is a complex and probably traumatic process. It is only fair and right to acknowledge the proportionately high level of transphobic violence and bullying (beyond saying “it’s MEN who commit the violence” while simultaneously complaining that a verbal slur, like TERF, is going to lead to violence against them). If like me, they don’t understand parts of the transculture, that should not manifest in sarcasm and insults. Also, when they cite extreme examples like the one above – bad fake transwoman beating seven bells out of everyone in the women’s locker room with superior strength and penis –  they need to give full facts including stating whether or not the examples are relatively rare to avoid scaremongering.

The truth is, despite the explosion of interest in the media and the frantic rush of legislation to keep up,  most of us are still at the very early stages of understanding transculture within the context of the mainstream. This is one reason why the ‘Punch a TERF’ movement is so scary and wrong. We are only just understanding trans discourse – maybe we should have got there earlier and yes, people can’t use ignorance as an excuse for bigotry  – but there is still so much to untangle. In this context, how do you even define a TERF, much less advocate violence against a concept that can be twisted to individual will and agendas? Bullying, shaming, labelling or threatening people or saying ‘enough is enough’ may lead to the demise, rather than the strengthening of the movement (this is what I always say about these divisions – until it relates to sexism or racism or something else that directly affects me).

So there you have it. Some of my thoughts on the subject. Perhaps they could be described by some as TERF-y (or TERM1-y if you count the contributions made by men to this article) but I hope they show what I intended –  a genuine wish for a discussion that promotes understanding rather than just protecting one’s turf.

1Trans-exclusionary Reactionary Male – we just made that up