My last blog post was about two children’s books about people not wanting to admit that they had seen something because they were scared they would be judged for it, labeled stupid or crazy. Today I want to write about one of the topics that I fear to speak on.
The topic is gender and in particular transgenderism, and I have written a bit about it before but, like right now, fearfully. I wrote about it in the context of hearing that a particular environmental group, Deep Green Resistance, was being blacklisted by transactivists. In the year since then I’ve continued to read bits about Deep Green Resistance, and about the resistance they’ve faced. Transactivists are determined to make it completely and utterly taboo to speak against transgenderism, and so they fought to keep Lierre Keith from speaking on a university campus. You can check out their plans for trying to disrupt a feminist meeting this weekend. These feminists are asking simply for the right to think and talk about what they believe, even if their beliefs deny what other people believe.
I happen to agree with those feminists, and I feel a bit like a person saying I believe in ghosts by admitting that. The progressive activists circles tend to embrace the idea that a person can be a man in a woman’s body or vice versa, and I disagree.
I wrote about the A is for Activist book, and how it mentioned trans but how I skipped over that quickly when reading it with my kids. In the FAQ section of the author’s website there’s a question about how not everyone who considered themselves progressive would agree with everything in the book, and the author responded:
That’s true. I struggled with a few of the issues, knowing that their inclusion might narrow the audience. But in the end, I decided that this should not be a “least common denominator” book. When we look back at this book 10 years from now, I want to know that it was on the right side of history. (http://www.aisforactivist.com/faq/)
I can’t help wondering if one of the issues the question and author were referring to there was the transgender issue, and I have to say that I believe the opposite. I think when we look back at transgenderism… maybe not ten years from now, but twenty or thirty…. people are going to think the opposite. People will look at transgenderism as something that was one attempt to solve a problem, but not the right one.
People, I hope, can and will have compassion for transgendered people without embracing the idea that there is a “gender” other than our physical biological sex. A girl who plays with trucks, gets into fistfights and dresses in jeans isn’t a tomboy, and she’s definitely not a boy trapped in a girl’s body. She’s a girl with less societal limitations on her. A man who wants to wear earrings and high-heeled shoes is still a man. The desire to change one’s genitals will probably be viewed as strange as the desire to amputate a limb (Body integrity identity disorder). Children will be encouraged to move beyond gender roles, and adults encouraged by their councilors not to seek surgery but to recognize when they are autogynephilic (sexually attracted to the idea of being the opposite gender), confused about their sexual orientation or frustrated with the social roles put upon them. Right now the push to promote acceptance of transgenderism as the answer, and to have children and adults recommended to trans-friendly psychologists, creates a little industry all promoting one solution to the problem of gender – but not, I think, the right one.
A guest post on a blog called Plastic Girl describes a male-to-female’s regret and the line that stands out to me is this one:
You have destroyed everything in your path to get it done and no-one in the medical community will stop you. How can they?
Does the push to be accepting of transgenderism (not transgendered people but the beliefs and ideas behind claiming that one can be the opposite gender) mean there can’t be the critical discussion of whether or not this is the way for things to go? It is probably most important that the discussion happens within the medical community, but it has to happen elsewhere too, because frankly, the cat’s out of the bag. The issue of transgenderism is a public issue – not whether a particular individual is or isn’t justified in their actions but whether we as a society accept the idea that there are different “male brains” vs “female brains”, and how we want to deal with gender in social and legal settings.
Gender is not a natural, inherent thing, and so how can people possibly claim that gender disphoria is, and that if it is, the only cure is to force everyone around you to call you by the opposite pronoun, treat you that way, and possibly redesign your body? Certainly children should be encouraged in a multitude of ways to deal with confusion they might have, and never put on puberty-stopping drugs.
The blog Liberation Collective describes it this way:
Feminism does not believe that asking whether an individual identifies with the particular social characteristics and expectations assigned to them at birth is a politically useful way of analyzing or understanding gender. Eliminating gender assignments, by allowing individuals to choose one of two pre-existing gender molds, while continuing to celebrate the existence and naturalism of “gender” itself, is not a progressive social goal that will advance women’s liberation.
In many ways “gender” is cultural markers to show which set of reproductive organs a person has and to some extent what society can expect from you. Yet we’re challenging those expectations all the time, and we should be challenging them. We should be challenging every time a children’s book says a character cried, batted, ran, threw or anything else “like a girl.” Being a girl makes no difference for any of those things. We should stop greeting little girls with comments about their appearance. It doesn’t matter that the three year old has a pretty dress on – she also has stories to tell about what she and her brothers did today, or about the book mommy read her, or about what she ate for breakfast. Talk about something other than the clothes! Likewise we need to stop encouraging boys to act in ways that uphold patriarchy.
I’ve been reading the blogs Gender Identity Watch and Gender Trender both of which describe various cases worldwide where efforts to find compromises do not work. For example, a compromise offer in a highschool where male-to-transgendered people would be welcome in one of the two female washrooms but asked to avoid the other so that the women who were uncomfortable could still have a place they feel safer…. no, that wouldn’t be enough because that would be treating the person as “different than a normal female.” Then there are the examples online where transactivists claim that feminists are showing “cis-privilege” when they refer to abortion as a woman’s issue when not all women have a uterus and some men do. Or when they say “look, women rape” and then point to an example of a male-to-transwoman who raped his wife. And unfortunately, women are being assaulted by men claiming to be women in locations that used to be women-only. I’m not saying transgendered people are violent – most I doubt are. But that we should not be so focused on creating legal structures that allow people to declare themselves to be whatever gender they want, without talking about other issues around male privilege, male violence and the threat that many women live under.
There is, I know, an apparent contradiction in saying that I believe we should be eliminating gender roles and stereotypes while at the same time preserving sex specific spaces like changing rooms, and such. I don’t think it is a real contradiction. Sex specific spaces are a response, I believe, to patriarchy, to the violence women face and to male privilege. It is an attempt to offer a little bit of privacy, a little bit of safety. I think the transactivist push to get rid of these spaces while at the same time reinforcing patriarchy and gender roles is a problem. It’s a double-whammy against women. Things need to be done the other way. Get rid of gender roles. Get rid of patriarchy. Get rid of rape culture and the objectifying of women. Then we can talk about letting guys in the women’s change-rooms. Not before.
I do want to include a few links to some really thoughtful blogs by transgendered people. I like this one called Genderminefield and another called Plastic Girl. Both of these blogs seem to acknowledge the problems with redefining “woman” to mean “person who appears like a woman.”
Writing this I know this is one of those blog posts where I know I can’t win. I think about how it could be interpreted by different groups of people who read my blog – some who probably don’t want to talk about transgenderism at all, some who would view this as a sign of transphobia and a lack of progressiveness on my part. But I also dislike the number of groups I’ve been in over the last fifteen years where there’s a presumption that we have to define words in ways that support nonsense because doing so is the only way of being “inclusive.”
I’m not a “cis-woman.” I’m a woman. There’s a good blog post about that over at Pathetic Fallacies.