I Have A Right To Say I Am Being Abused And It Is Not OK

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Originally posted on Week Woman:

I have been reflecting on why I have reacted so strongly to today’s Guardian article which classified the “TERF wars” as a tit for tat squabble. I covered in this post briefly the sexist implications of such a classification. But the article’s sexism did not fully explain the visceral gut-wrenching slitthroatsreaction I had to it. Having considered it for a bit longer, I think I have hit on why it upset me so much. It upset me because it feels too much like victim-blaming, because it completely ignores the real and actual abuse visited upon non-compliant women who refuse to identify with their own oppression (see this post I have just put up for some horrifying examples, although, massive caution note). It reminds me too horribly of the thousands of people who kept repeatedly, relentlessly, cruely telling me I was feeding the trolls, ie, causing my abuse, when I was being driven to not…

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Male Socialisation

1. Toughen up.

2. Be a man

3. Men don’t kiss men (really???????????)

4. Don’t cry – stop being a wimp.

5. Why can’t you be more like other boys?

6. You’re odd.

7. I really think you should hang around with the boys more and stop talking to the girls.

8. Men don’t play with dolls. Stop crying.

9. You’re not a cissy are you?

10. Throwing shoes at disabled people.

11. Moving me off a mixed unit in a boarding house.

MALE SOCIALISATION

M Malformed

A Antagonistic

L Limiting

E Empty

S ad

A BETTER BLUEPRINT

  • No boys toys
  • No girls toys
  • Allow people to be
  • Don’t force people to fit moulds. Support plasticity.
  • Allow people to develop the friendships they want
  • Ditch masculinity. A problem to everyone and a solution for no one.
  • Women are great humans. Support them. It does not make you less of a man.

This blueprint equates to a better world and would have meant a happier childhood for me, simply.

This post is intended as a companion to this on female socialisation from Gia Milinovich.

 

 

 

 

 

In Defence of Women’s Aid

 

Women’s Aid, like all organisations in the charitable sector faces a daily battle. The first facet of that battle is concerned with money and funding – put simply how to maintain the same level of service for those women and children it helps with less money in the face of savage Government cuts brought about by austerity.

Furthermore it faces an ideological battle with the kind of masculinity that says it is okay to hurt abuse and be violent to women.

Overall it would be fair to say that Women’s Aid is facing challenging times. The last thing it needs is another battle to fight as well. According to this piece, there may be one looming however.

The trans community is angry once again, this time over the need to provide a Gender Recognition Certificate if you are a trans woman wishing to work for Women’s Aid. The same burden of proof however is not required to be provided by trans men.

This is yet another example of the trans community being in conflict with women. Women’s Aid is in a fairly unique position in that it helps women and children who are in extreme danger from violent partners and may be very vulnerable. It is likely that women presenting to Women’s Aid requiring assistance will be doing so after a great deal of personal trauma, abuse and chaos in their lives.

Therefore, they and their children require the maximum protection possible.

The headline also shows a very vague understanding of what Women’s Aid actually is there to do. It is not there to be a safe haven for trans staff, but rather a safe haven for the many women and children it supports across the UK.

A Gender Recognition Certificate would in this case demonstrate to Women’s Aid that the person applying for the job had lived in their chosen gender role for a certain period of time, thus demonstrating commitment to it. It would also show that the person in turn had no thoughts of returning to a previous gender role.

I believe that the trans standpoint and that of Women’s Aid clash in this instance. On a deeper level what we see is a conflict between respect for an individual’s identity and the wider interests of women as a social class.

I believe Women’s Aid have been unfairly maligned in this instance. They are merely trying to safeguard the interests of a vulnerable subgroup of women whose needs up until the point when they chose to seek help will have been minimised or ignored altogether. Understandably, they may fear men as a social group. Therefore it is vital that Women’s Aid have every single possible safeguarding measure and litmus test in place to ensure the safety of women in their care.

Too often the wants and desires of trans women seem to be in competition with the safety of women. Such competition is dangerous and must end for the benefit of women and trans women.

If I, as a trans woman wanted to work at Women’s Aid and was asked to provide a gender recognition certificate I would have no problem with this. It is unproblematic to me because my dedication to and passion for the work of helping the vulnerable would override any concerns I had about legislation.

As Women’s Aid told Gaystar News;

‘Victims of domestic violence are at the centre of what we do, and there can be no compromise on the safety of the women and children we work with.

‘Decades of experience working with women escaping perpetrators of domestic violence has taught us that there is nothing perpetrators will not do to gain access to their victims.

‘Perpetrators hack into computer records, break into buildings, and will tell any lie that they think will allow them closer to their victim. We therefore take steps to ensure all of our employees and volunteers, cis [non-trans] and trans, are who they say they are and do not pose any risk.

‘We ask all potential employees and volunteers for proof of identity to ensure we can meet our safeguarding responsibilities.’

So we can see from Women’s Aid’s statement that they are just doing their job. In essence meeting the needs of the women they work for, and do great work with.

Decades of experience are not to be dismissed or treated in a cognitively dissonant fashion. They should be embraced and listened to wholeheartedly.

People are becoming more tech savvy, and with the social media revolution, the downside of it is that it makes victims more accessible to perpetrators.

As such organisations such as Women’s Aid need to be vigilant, ever more so as new technological developments come to fruition. Therefore I do not see any issue with somebody being asked for a Gender Recognition Certificate. Whatever its imperfections, it is a legally recognised document by which Women’s Aid can be doubly sure that an individual is who they say they are if they present wishing to be employed.

In my view, the Gaystar news piece was extremely deaf to the issues which domestic violence organisations battle with on a daily basis. The issue here is not trans discrimination, but rather safeguarding women.

Too often in society, women’s needs are ignored and place too far down the food chain. I applaud Women’s Aid for putting them first. I am saddened that this causes such controversy for the trans community. Women’s Aid is uncompromising because the women who seek its help have been compromised enough and have had to make compromises and concessions to violent partners just to keep themselves safe and alive. I do not think Gender Recognition Certificates are  not a big ask as an additional burden of proof. Let us remember that it is the safety of women that is at stake.

Finally with regard to what Sarah Brown says on toilets and cliches, what is cliche to Sarah may be personal safety to another, or even the violation of that personal safety in a worst case scenario. Let us remember to that whilst having to produce a gender recognition certificate may be mildly irritating for a trans person, it is not tantamount to punishment.

Women’s Aid is merely protecting the interests of the client group it serves. We have seen the vulnerability of domestic violence victims through the lens of Maxine Minniver and Patrick Blake in Hollyoaks recently. Yet for many, this is more than a soap opera storyline. This is their lived reality.

I am angry that the issue of Gender Recognition Certificates is distracting from Women’s Aid’s important work. Producing a gender recognition certificate to do work you are passionate about is a mild inconvenience, and is disproportionate to the trauma experienced by women whom Women’s Aid help. Domestic violence and how it needlessly debilitates women psychologically, physically and emotionally is the only punishment we should be talking about here.

If you are experiencing domestic violence and require help, advice and support call 0808 2000 247

Vauxhall Hate Crime Attacks – Witness appeal

Originally posted on #Lambethhcc:

Following two homophobic hate crime attacks in Vauxhall over the weekend police are appealing for witnesses to come forward to help identify three suspects pictured below- a man wearing a blue jacket and two women.

If you have any information please contact  Lambeth Community Safety Unit on 0208 649 2176 or 07909 906 168.

Please quote crime reference numbers 217303/14 & 1217300/14.

Breaking News – according to Pink News the two women have handed themselves into the police. Now we are just looking for the man – and any independent witnesses who saw what happened to come forward. Watch this space!

Three suspects - Man and Two women

Three suspects – Man and Two women

Male suspect wearing blue jacket

Male suspect

Female suspects

In the first incident, at approximately 4am on Sunday morning (8th June 2014), a substance was sprayed in the faces of two young men outside the Lightbox nightclub in South Lambeth Place, Vauxhall.

A short time later, police were made…

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Why I De-Transitioned 4:The Choice

 

When I spoke to somebody about this series of blog entries a while ago, she assured me they would flow and that there was more to say. Well, like Oliver Twist she was right. There is a little more, though not much to say.

I had been in transition for nine years in total. That is to say that I had lived my life as Hannah Buchanan for nine years. When I first transitioned at 25, I was adamant that I wanted to live as a woman and that this was not only possible it was achievable.

When I was initially assessed by local psychiatrists, as is the protocol prior to referral to the Gender Identity Clinic, I was adamant that I had always felt like a woman, that I played with girly things all my life and preferred the company of other women. I had a particular disdain for my own genitalia, recalling with perfect clarity the moment I saw them for the first time and screamed. This was not until much later in life as I could not easily sit up in the bath. So the realisations that children would have had at a very young age for me were delayed until puberty.

By this point I was genuinely convinced I was a woman and that I had been the victim of some awful mix up of genetics, biology or indeed a conflation of both.

So after I began seeking therapy for gender dysphoria, I approached the task of dressing as a woman with considerable enthusiasm, panache and delight. It may be useful to the reader to point out that I was never able to dress myself, and so never bought any close intended for the opposite sex traditionally before transition. I do wonder whether in different circumstances I would have done thus negating and eliminating the need for transition.

The care pathway tends to be made up of the Real Life Experience for some time, then hormones then surgery over an approximate time period of a year or a year and a half at most on the NHS. Paying can speed up your progress on the pathway considerably.

 

 

So I went to the GIC with many things already in place. I was already living as Hannah, my name was legally Hannah and I had already started my Real-Life Experience. Ahead of the curve you might say. Instead of waiting for others to tell me what to do, I wanted to be proactive and tell them what I wanted. I know full well when you’re disabled it is often hard to get things done for yourself, and in a classic example of Does He Take Sugar Syndrome I know that people will often go to every other person to find out what you want instead of talking to you personally.

I knew what I wanted at the time. Note here that I am writing this retrospectively rather than in the present moment. I was quite single-minded and definite about it. I wanted Sex Reassignment Surgery. I understood that it was irreversible, I understood that it was life changing and thanks to Liz in Oxford I had been schooled to the letter about what privilege and power I could be expected to lose. But none of that mattered at the time I was experiencing extreme sex dysphoria and I wanted rid of my genitalia. I did not want to have power over women. I did not want to subjugate them and moreover I did not want to engage in competition with other men. I’ve never been very good at negotiating the inner workings of social groups. For example at University I always preferred to stay in my room or talk to my friend Lauren, rather than watching a DVD or having a beer with others. Paradoxically though, I would have been quite happy to watch the same DVD in my room complete with subtitles for Lauren’s benefit.

I had my heart set on surgery to alleviate my unhappiness, and to be honest I have seen glimpses of how it has benefited even the most gender critical of trans women. I was buoyed and encouraged at the end of my first psychiatric appointment. I was even more buoyed and encouraged at the start of the second, when a psychiatrist providing a second opinion wanted to refer me straight to the surgeons for consideration.

Talk about letting helium out of a balloon. The appointment with the surgeon was utterly deflating and in sharp contrast to my appointment with a Gender Psychiatrist  it felt very pessimistic. This may be, looking back down to a difference between the job of psychiatrist and the job of surgeon. The psychiatrist can give you a clean bill of health which in my case he did, although he acknowledged that there was some depression in me due to my disability, he did not see this as a barrier to surgery.

The surgeon though was much less optimistic. He focused on my disability and the problems surgery would bring to me. He wondered how I would cope with the necessary regime that trans women follow post surgery. He wondered how I would cope in terms of my weight, disability and in terms of skin issues which result from being in a constant sitting position although I pointed out to him and I point out now that these are managed and kept on the control due to me having an astute, vigilant and kind live-in carer.

However that wasn’t enough to convince him. I really hated the post that day. The truth was there in emboldened letters. You will not be considered for surgery. The message was clear if crushing. Surgery was impossibility for me. No advice or helpful instructions were given, no compromise no “if you do X we can do Y.”

I was left with the stark and brutal realisation that surgery would not be possible for me now, nor indeed ever. They did not even have the heart to enclose some boxes of tissues.

In the ensuing days, there were several lightning bolts of anger. I began to wonder several things.

  • Had I done the right thing by going to the Gender Identity Clinic?
  • Were they discriminating against me because of my disability?
  • Should my GP have been more frank with me and told me I was wasting my time?
  • Would it have been less painful if I had not started on this quest to be a woman in the first place?

 

It would have been very easy for me to feel they were treating me this way because of my disability, in fact I think the notion that you have to lose so much weight in order to transition is slightly ablest in itself, but that said I’m not the one taking the surgical risk and I’m not the one who has to cut somebody open.

I think it would have helped if people had been honest with me about my chances, before I even went. The fact that I had done so well psychiatrically and was given a clean bill of mental health, also ramped up a false sense of hope for similar success in meeting the surgeon when actually the two encounters were completely different. The commonality they share is that they are both meetings with medical professionals. That is where the similarity ends.

But one thing I can say is that I hated the centring of my disability. I still hate the fact that my disability robbed me of surgery, and I would say the same of any surgery, not just that which is carried out to treat gender dysphoria. It was disability that made my transition so public. Had I not been disabled, I could have halved the list of people that needed to know, probably had the surgery and gone off to live my life in peace and quiet without anybody having knowledge of my trans history as many trans women do, known as living in stealth. I would argue that this in itself is a privilege.

So then we come into the present and into a realm where I have recently written blogs critiquing the notion of gender identity, saying that it is a system that puts women at the bottom of a Marxist pyramid, whilst men benefit under patriarchy.

But I never did have any interest in merely identifying as a woman, any more than I had an interest in identifying as a lime green seahorse with a pink tail. It was never about identity for me. I saw the diagnosis, and the real life experience as a means of achieving my goal, surgery, not as a means to identify as a woman until hell freezes over if it ever does.

Being told I couldn’t have surgery was devastating. Of course it is entirely usual to be told no if you have a disability. You can’t do this! You can’t get on here! You can’t come in here! That is life with a disability, an endless river of no. But this is one situation I thought might go my way. I am saddened that it didn’t.

My solution was to bury my head in the sand, and throw myself headfirst brain later into trans activism. People would say, surgery doesn’t make you a woman, or that male genitalia is just another body part.

But this is why identity politics is useless. It offers few solutions to problems where people seek actual change in their material reality and just need somebody to listen. As is sometimes said it plays up exceptions to the rule, but this does not alter the rule.

All I know is that I wanted surgery and I didn’t get it, and that was very painful at the time.

But even in the recent past, I always felt inferior to other trans women. I didn’t feel attractive compared to other trans women I felt like a blob of ugly in a sea of cosmetic beauty. To be fair I still have some work to do on being okay with my appearance, but at least I am no longer comparing with expectations I can never live up to.

Most trans women are able-bodied. This is a fact, and it cannot be got away from explained away. Comparing an able-bodied person to a disabled person is like comparing an apple and a banana. In the same category, fruit but totally different in taste, texture and visual appearance. I do feel better about myself that I used to, but maintaining a trans identity over time made me feel worse, less adequate, and less worthy of humanity.

One of the most potent reasons I decided to abort transition, and the female identity was not even something wildly amazing. It was purely due to the fact that there was very little transition happening. Transition in its most literal sense means to move from one place to another. Now for me I had reached the most minimal, most conservative steps on the trans care pathway if you like, but had then come to an abrupt stop. Therefore I had been in transition, allegedly for nine years, but yet not a lot has happened. I have been given hormones, anti-testosterone medication and I wear traditionally female clothing.

But there is no movement any more, that ship has sailed and I have to live with that. So therefore claiming and appropriating the label of trans for myself feels wrong. There is no trans happening. In the later years of my transition, I was always the one who had to be happy for others, to celebrate their milestones and to smile enthusiastically. They were nearing the end of their voyage on the good ship trans, those who wanted to anyway and would soon be going off having had their surgery to get on with the rest of their lives.

This made me very angry and jealous. It made me hate myself. It made me resent myself, and my disabled body. I believe the true root of my dysphoria is my disability, for it is my disability that gets in the way and it is my disability which I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

So being trans was now hurting more than helping. As somebody said to me, my decision to de-transition was the right one because I had very few options left. My one remaining option in fact was to stay with the identity crowd and to identify as a woman. But this wasn’t what I wanted, and how can I do something that my own heart is not in? I can’t and still leave my integrity intact.

And so, as this person put it I chose to stop smashing my face against a rock, that rock being all things trans. In one sense I feel better for it. I no longer have this internal conflict about comparing myself to other trans women, or not being as good as other trans women, or other trans women being more beautiful than me. Now I just think everybody gay, straight or lesbian is more beautiful than me!

I have also turned sex off for the past nine years and can count sexual activity in my whole life in single figures. I now wonder what I should do about that, seriously. The comment a trans woman made about feeling sorry for me if that was my selfie. That really hurt and knocked any confidence I had built up. And more to the point it made me question whether people who would make these kind of vile comments were the sort of people I wanted to be associated with. The answer is no. I wonder if I can be a happy gay male or whether I should resign myself to celibacy, and live well. As an only child, I do not want to be alone forever.

I will always have dysphoria around my gender, and more obviously my disability. I am not happy that gender puts me in a box with other men who hate women, see them as sex objects and generally disrespect them. I’m not happy that gender puts me in a box where my only objective in life is to take part in a pissing contest with other men and I don’t. Comfortingly though I am not cisgender. Just because you don’t take the step of transition it does not mean you are happy with the status quo. Radical feminism and its practitioners are proof positive of that.

I believe that the dialogue around cisgender is shifting, and many are realising, outside of the phenomenon around transition, many are uncomofortable, and the feeling of not being “cis” is not something the trans community have an exclusive monopoly on.

Before I end let me just squeeze a final zit. I now realise that the girls in my classroom did not treat me as one of the girls. They treated me as a gay boy they liked and trusted. They share their conversations and the problems with me because they knew I would listen. Moreover, many still do.

It wasn’t all bad either, transition. At least it enabled me to re-evaluate my relationship with myself and forced me to accept who I am, rather than somebody else who it became impossible for me to be without smashing my head against a rock. We all have choices, and I think to save myself from further emotional, and philosophical pain of  trans remaining present in my life, I made the right one for me. It is fine for people for whom transition can happen, and then they go off and get on with their lives.

But you do not decorate a room and leave it half finished. You do not buy half a car or one sandwich in a packet. I did not want to be half a transwoman, and for me personally, that is how I would have felt. I am not speaking for others.  That is why I turned my attentions to becoming a whole man.

When I set out on this journey I was committed to surgery. But I wanted to be in control. In the end life didn’t deliver, and the journey caused intolerable sadness.

I had sepsis a few years ago and almost died. Back then I was quite bitter, but once I’d got over my illness I realised that I was still here for a reason I still believe that. I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. You may not always get what you want, or the outcome you desire but what you wanted or what you  desired may not have been what is best for you. Life is still exciting. The journey continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I De-Transitioned Part 4: Who Pays for Gender? “Just the women”

 

I truly believe with my heart and soul that we will never have an equal society whilst patriarchy is our sole governor. Society guided and influenced by half the population and its dominant interests is not society at all, but merely a large subsection of it

We form our earliest ideas about gender and patriarchy in childhood. Let me push the envelope a little further. We are indoctrinated with ideas about gender and patriarchy in childhood, the majority of them destructive and non-beneficial for individuals or social cohesion.

Two such examples revolve around the children’s characters My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and the merchandise which accompanies the television series and figures.

Michael Morones, an 11-year-old boy from Chicago was beaten and left unconscious over his love of this television show My Little Pony. What  does it say about our society, our world, and culture? when a particular character is seen as gay or somebody’s likes and dislikes are policed by patriarchy to such an extent that suicide is attempted? A piece of coloured plastic is just that. Then it is fashioned into a toy, an innocent toy for children to play with. Yet no gender is imbued within it. It is society that imbues these horrible social constructions into toys. The question is not who told Michael Morones he could play with Pinkie from My Little Pony. This is perfectly fine and perfectly okay. Children should be able to play with whatever toys they want irrespective of gendered marketing ploys.

But the more pertinent question to ask is who told these boys that My Little Pony was gay? That is the more disturbing revelation from this sorry incident.A toy is a toy, and to give out a message that some toys are gayer than others is fundamentally wrong. But under patriarchy gay or lesbian is seen as inferior or lesser. And if anything what happened to Michael shows how pernicious and dangerous it is.

But the confirmation bias emanating from gender is dangerous also. As part of the series, What Would You Do?” a segment was filmed that showed a mother and son arguing about whether to buy a boy a Belle costume, and later a girl a Spiderman costume for Halloween.

Parental resistance in both cases is due to the inculcation of gender stereotypes into boys and girls. Blue is for boys, and pink is for girls.

This stereotype and red line within gender is very rarely questioned and even more rarely transgressed. Even if a girl wants to dress up as Spiderman, or a boy wants to dress up as Princess Belle, they are still your child, and it does not make them abnormal, nor automatically gay. All it means is that they can think for themselves and have their own mind and this should be celebrated and not discouraged.

How does this relate to gender transition? Well, for me personally I break gender stereotypes. I am not a macho, unempathetic man. I like helping people, I like caring. I’m very gentle. I have seen the effect of the reverse upon my own life. It appalled and damaged me so much that I did not want to be a man. I thought that being a man was a singular rather than a pluralistic experience. You know, the most comforting thing is masculinity and femininity are social constructs. They don’t really exist. So we can ignore them altogether, smash them and try to diminish their influence upon our lives.

Women are not naturally nurturing, and men are not naturally uncaring. We have just been indoctrinated with these ideas, and if we believe a lie long enough we can try to live up to it.

Well in that respect I failed. I was a crap man under hegemonic masculinity. I failed the man box test, even though it does not exist Under the definition of masculinity I’m not a man, I must be a woman. Masculinity and its dominant models thereof have nothing to offer me. I’ll just do things my way. I have suffered under patriarchy. However I’m done with that suffering. There is also a group of people suffering far more under patriarchy, that group of people is women.

Returning to trans activism, in amongst the discourse about trans excluding radical feminists, I failed to notice for a long time whilst invested in the idea of gender that there were two sides to every story. By originating a dialogue with radical feminists I hoped and wanted to atone for that, and apologise for being a dick in the past.

Returning to things chronologically, I had now been talking to radical feminists for quite some time, enough time to know details of their lives their pasts and some of their futures.

By this time personally, I was also beginning to really like the people I talk to. No longer was I just hearing one side of the story but a rounded narrative. My opinions were changing and my belief in gender as identity was slowly crumbling.

The content of this blog was changing also. Rather than being trans centric I was now branching out into other areas. Areas which to be fair I had neglected. Discussions happened around disability issues, feminism and mental health stigma. These are all lifelong passions of mine but I had put them on the back burner in relentless pursuit of womanhood.

Around this time also, I was forging a professional writing career, something I had longed to do since I was a schoolchild. My main abilities academically were creative ones, and I had a real passion for English. At degree level I managed to create the perfect fusion cookery, studying it alongside Sociology. I loved arguing, I loved theoretical propositions I love criticism and I love thought.

My body is not active due to quadriplegia, so I think my brain overcompensates by thinking religiously. This is borne out by the fact I have trouble sleeping at night. Writing was the perfect antidote.

Two hashtags proliferated on Twitter last year #fuckcispeople and #sharedgirlhood.

It seemed to me that the first was a huge firestorm visited upon the non-trans community. That’s what cis is you see – non-trans. It even comes with accompanying privilege which is about as real as the Loch Ness Monster for women.

So, I wrote about this hashtag for So So Gay Magazine along with the #diecisscum which it originated at the same time.

There is an opinion piece above mine in the link in favour of the hashtag, but I must stress that this was not written by me.  I was quite happy to be credited for my half, but editorially I suspect it was more convenient to leave both pieces uncredited.

The binary between trans and cis is a false dichotomy. Cis people are not scum. There are individuals who are nasty in society but I have to say I find this binary disgusting and alien to me.

Primarily I find it to be so because the majority of the people who supported me through my transition were not trans. Furthermore I find it sad when jokes are made about lesbians and gay men because I have been part of the gay community since I was 18. Many people who supported me through transition are gay and lesbian. I find the attitude expressed by such hashtags prehistoric, disgusting, alienating and as bad as any homophobia I have borne witness to.  I saw a picture of three radical feminists, deriding their non stereotypical appearance in the publication Transadvocate.

This would be fine except I have friends who look like the women pictured and they have been beaten up and been told they look like boys. This is what cis privilege is.

Women live in a rape culture, this is what cis privilege is.

And oh I nearly forgot. Many trans activists found the hashtag shared girlhood to be trans phobic. Women should be able to talk about the experiences unique to their biology in a world which they inhabit. Women are part of that world, and they should not be censored to spare the blushes of a few activists. The facts are these, women menstruate and women give birth. This is not biological essentialism these are facts and it affects women in unique ways. Trans women of course do not go through these processes. I haven’t.

I mentioned earlier that I have always been the Girl’s Best Friend. Therefore in my teenage years and college years I was subjected to a lot of talk about periods, boyfriends, girlfriends and general female discourse. Far from complaining about it I embraced it. I felt glad that girls could talk about these things with me and share their lives with me. I would far rather that than they suffer in silence. So when I saw trans activists complaining about these things denouncing women as trans phobic for discussing their own oppression it seemed nonsensical to me. If you want to be a woman at least show some solidarity, not flick the cognitive dissonance switch when things get difficult.

Women and some gay men hurt themselves under patriarchy. They suffer eating disorders, they cut themselves in order to measure up to patriarchy’s impossible standards which we will never meet. I am not saying that trans people do not suffer with these problems too. I just find it utterly totally wrong that you would mock people and say fuck them just because they are not trans.

They cannot help the manner of their birth, and being born cis is not akin to life on a silver platter. To perpetuate the sort of woman hating misogyny I have seen whilst you hope to be or think you are a member of an oppressed class is frankly barmy.

My scepticism increased when I attended the Women’s Aid Conference on digital stalking and online harassment. I came away from that a different person, seeing the world through different eyes. I spent the day listening to speeches and talks from women articulating their oppression they had suffered at the hands of the Internet.

I realised that the way women was suffering was completely unique to any kind of suffering I had seen before. I now knew what patriarchy was outside of the classroom, in a real-world context. I now knew the consequence of masculinity and male dominated power pyramids.

I now knew the consequence of unadulterated male power. Every kind of abuse, degradation, manifestation of violence and humiliation of women you could imagine. What a fucking legacy to be proud of, eh patriarchy, masculinity?  It is uncanny to me how you are oddly silent at times like that when it comes to being confronted with the actual reality of women’s oppression.

But mercifully, radical feminists are still fighting the good fight. That is what happens when you have a class analysis at the heart of your activism. They fight for women because who else does – apart from their allies?

You see, class is like a Jenga tower. If one brick falls from the tower, then all the remaining bricks are affected.

Radical feminists stand in solidarity with one another under patriarchy. It is not a matter of bigotry or nastiness but one of survival against the impossible conditions which patriarchy creates. I have been reading Germaine Greer’s seminal tract The Female Eunuch. In the prelude to the chapter The Stereotype there is a quote from Mary Wollstonecraft from her work A Vindication of the Rights of Women first published in 1792. Yes patriarchy is depressingly immortal! I quote;

“Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison”

Germaine Greer naturally elaborates on this.

Her essential quality is castratedness. She absolutely must be young, her body hairless, her flesh buoyant and she must not have a sexual organ. No musculature must distort the smoothness of the lines of her body, although she may be painfully slender or warmly cuddly.”

What Greer is therefore saying is that women under patriarchy are conditioned to be anything but real. This is the reality of the prison which Wollstonecraft prophetically foretold in 1792.

Wollstonecraft has further depressing news as well.

She was created to be the toy of man, his rattle and it must jingle in his ears whenever, dismissing reason he chooses to be amused.”

Under patriarchy women are not human, women are not toys, women are subhuman chattels for the amusement of men.  A rattle does not have a brain. Nor is it capable of independent thought, it merely acts as an echo chamber for the amusement of men when they click their fingers. This is how patriarchy views women, disgustingly.

You know following the digital harassment and stalking conference, a radical feminist told me that once you see patriarchy you cannot unsee it.

She was totally right. That is the point at which radical feminism got me if you like. That is also the point when gender lost me. I realised that I could not be happy in transition my sisters was suffering. If my friends, my rocks, my carer and my mother are not happy I’ not happy either.

Another feminist told me that radical feminism has a knack of creeping into your mind; she is definitely right about that too.

Following this though, I did not come to the decision to de-transition quickly. Every time I saw a radical feminist being attacked, I would say well I’m not like that. But by being trans, personally speaking whilst being also gender critical is a difficult position to maintain. It leaves you open to accusations of hypocrisy and double standards. It’s a bit like being vegetarian but still enjoying the occasional beef burger.

But for better or for worse I have never been exposed to much masculinity. All the influences that I count as worth anything in my life have come from women, and my mother brought me up well I think.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m a pretty blank canvas. I am open to most ideas, not influenced by the social constructions of my sex. By now I knew that gender was hurting women. In terms of the chronology of these blog pieces we are in very recent times.

There was finally a straw which broke the camel’s back. It was this piece from the journalist Paris Lees. Lees has a weekly column in VICE magazine in which the raison d’être across the publication seems to be controversy at all costs,  regardless of who gets trampled on in the process.

I mean, this article was not even journalism at all. It was a piece of personal indulgence on the part of the author, much like this one. I learned two things from that piece. Paris enjoys being objectified. Furthermore, to support her argument she enlists the help of other people who also enjoy catcalls who are to quote Paris “fucking hot.” Again the visual aesthetic privileged above everything.

One of the most offensive things for me about this scattergun piece was that they said they enjoyed  being objectified like a piece of meat. I can think of many people however who would not enjoy this objectification such as rape victims, and shock horror, people with disabilities. You see women are not bodies, and disabled people are not bodies. We are people with feelings. Viewing women as objects and viewing disabled people as objects both set dangerous precedents and increase the potential for abuse. I was disgusted with the self gratifying tone of this piece, the total narcissism of it and the total disregard for how it might look to the outside world. You see I have been objectified all my life, treated like a piece of meat and the like. Funnily enough, I’ve never been eye-fucked in the street.

You see, women are treated very often as subhuman in society. People with disabilities are also treated as subhuman in society. The difference for me is though, instead of being sexually objectified, I am de-sexed, and robbed of any sexuality at all by populist socially constructed misogynistic bullshit discourse. Somebody even said to me once that I get chucked around like a piece of meat.

I reacted to the VICE piece with an alternating mixture of sadness and anger. I was told that there are some forms of objectification that people may welcome. Can somebody let me know where this parallel universe is? I don’t fancy going for a summer holiday??

Objectification is never welcome, at best it is tolerated. But that was the point when I thought enough was enough. Both as a disabled person and as someone with integrity who cares and loves women. In fact I probably love women more that I love myself, for it is women who have befriended me throughout the life course. It is women who care for me. It is women who have nursed me. Most of all it is women who give a shit about me.

Interestingly, when trans women have insulted me in the past, it is my appearance and my disability they have used to attack me. This saddens me.

A world built on patriarchy is not a world I want to be part of. A world built on visual aesthetic alone is not a world I want to be part of. A world where half the population are routinely, daily and often hourly, subject to misogyny, sexism cruelty and all forms of abuse as a matter of course is not a world I want to be part of.

. So what do we do? We change it. We change the status quo. We smash it to smithereens. You see I don’t believe personally that women are inferior to me whatever the class I belong to thinks. I believe that I am a better person because of women, because of my lesbian and gay friends, and because of my radical feminist friends.

I don’t need to transition to wear the clothes I want to wear, to think how I want to think and believe what I want to believe.

Of course I do have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. I have been taking hormones. But none of those things will alter my heart or my soul. I am the same person as I was before I transitioned as I am de-transitioning. I am someone who cares, someone who is compassionate and firmly believes in the rights of women. I am someone who hates patriarchy, who hates women suffering, being objectified and dehumanised under this dastardly patriarchy.

Yes, perhaps I do feel trapped in the wrong body. Perhaps I do have a degree of dysphoria around my body. But I am disabled, who is disabled and doesn’t? But women suffer far more from gender dysphoria than I ever will. Gender hurts women. Masculinity and femininity are essentialisms that need to be destroyed piece by piece.

On a personal note, I have to say that disability and trans are a particularly toxic mixture. Trans and being trans made me hate myself as much as being a man ever had. It made me feel inferior, ugly, non-fuckable and thoroughly unlovable. I was constantly comparing myself to other trans women who were thinner, more glamorous, prettier than me. That is what patriarchy encourages us to do. Compare, contrast and hate; not only ourselves but each other.

Now I can see although it has been a painful realisation why radical feminists want to smash it so much.

Among radical feminists I am never judged for my appearance, because there is no one singular suitable appearance. There are as many possible permutations of appearance as there are people, and no singular appearance, mode of dress, mode of speech or mode of being is privileged over another.

The psychiatrist when you go for your first assessment for gender dysphoria will ask “how long have you felt like a woman?”

There is no such thing as feeling like a woman, because women are not a monolith, any more than men are, because if we were all monolithic there would be no hope for me.

All there is is humanity, and forms of spirituality or religion if they are to your liking. But masculinity and femininity, they are boxes of bullshit. I was abused because I wasn’t man enough. I was abused because I wasn’t tough enough. I was abused because I was a sissy. I was abused because I don’t need masculinity to feel secure and my stepfather did. I now realise I don’t need gender, or to change myself.

Society needs to change for me, but most of all for women because gender, yes gender hurts.

If anybody says you should change, that you should be more feminine, more masculine, tougher, less emotional, more of a man fuck them ignore them! The best thing you can do is to be yourself. That is what I’ll be doing.

Thank you for reading. Thank you to all the radical feminists and others who have supported me. It is no exaggeration to say that without you this entry would never have been written. It has been emotional, and has been one of the hardest things to write I have ever written. I suspect when I read it back it will look like my own personal therapy session. There may be more than a grain of truth in that.

Much love,

Sam xxx

Why I de transitioned Part 3: A Conflict

 

I was growing restless being part of the trans community alone. I wanted to find out something more about these so-called TERF’s. These apparently misguided evil individuals who were responsible for the problems of every trans person.

To be honest, I don’t know what I expected at the outset. I made the decision to engage with radical feminists. I’ve always prided myself on independent thought. I don’t tend to follow the crowd  unless there is a good reason to. For example the campaign to end female genital mutilation is a good example of this.

I was told I should not engage with radical feminism. But being told what to do and what not to is a common theme in any disabled person’s life. So the more somebody cautions me against doing something, the more likely I am to want to do it anyway out of sheer bloody-minded curiosity.

I can’t remember the exact chronology of who I talked to, who first added me to Twitter and when we started talking and what about. It was getting to the stage where I had built up a reasonable number of radical feminist followers.

Now originally, being honest I never expected to stick around with them that long. Being a relative outsider, and being trans I expected the novelty to wear for them in a few weeks.

The more time I spent with them though, the more I found their arguments compelling. I was already familiar with them in the context of lectures and textbooks, but this was the first time I had really been exposed to what it meant to live your daily life as a radical feminist outside of the parameters and limitations of the Academy.

For those of us who share a radical feminist analysis, gender is a form of subjugation and subordination under patriarchy. Acknowledgement that we are living under a patriarchy is one of the central tenets of radical feminism. The London Feminist Network defines patriarchy thus.

“Patriarchy is a term used to describe the society in which we live today, characterised by current and historical unequal power relations between women and men whereby women are systematically disadvantaged and oppressed.”

But I have not always shared this understanding of patriarchy. I went through university with it. I was fortunate enough to be taught during my A-level and degree years by very good feminists with a very good feminist analysis and politic. However gender really pickled with this. This is where trans ideology and and radical feminist ideology part company in quite a dramatic way. I hope you will forgive me from here or name if I jump around from past to present for a little bit as I seek to explain what led me to endorse the radical feminist analysis of gender. You will see I have emboldened the word systematically. I have done so because I wanted to make it clear exactly what gender does. A car engine is also a system. It relies on certain components working together to make the car start in the first place. If the engine breaks, then the car is rendered unusable. It is much the same with gender. If people start to resist the patriarchy then its engine breaks down. But this system is firmly embedded into our culture.

However at the time I transitioned I indulged in essentialism. I wanted to escape patriarchy desperately. I have referred to the behaviour of my stepfather in earlier parts of the story. What I was most terrified of looking back was ending up like him. He had also bullied me mercilessly for not fitting in with his definition of manhood, for not fitting in with the patriarchy. He had decimated my own self belief and any vestiges of confidence which I had. Confidence is hard to maintain when you have a disability anyway.

But by talking to radical feminists, I found a different kind of analysis. One thing about trans culture speaking for myself is I find it extremely judgemental and competitive. It appears that nothing less than perfection will do.

Jumping backwards again in my life at school I was always the girl’s best friend. We would share advice about problems, successes and just general chitchat. And so I thought when I transitioned it would be more of the same. I never expected, being a very caring empathic man, that there would be any difference between me and other trans women. That is to say that I thought that trans women and women would be on the same side. I thought that trans women would care about women’s issues too. I thought that they would fight misogyny, rape culture, and victim blaming to name a few examples alongside other women. This is what I thought when I first embarked on my transition, because I only had my own standards to go on. It never felt like there was much of an emotional transition to make. I didn’t go from being a macho man to being an effeminate girly girl in one week. However hold that thought. I will return to it later.

From all my conversations with radical feminists though, it struck me that gender was not the panacea for them that it was for trans women. By extension, at the time it must have been a panacea for me too because if I had seen no merit in gender I would surely not have embarked on transition.

Many radical feminists felt ignored by liberal feminist discourse, and they felt that their voice wasn’t being heard it seemed to me. The inclusion of trans women within radical feminist spaces seemed to be a step too far for many of them. On reflection, I can understand why. The acronym TERF is a very popular acronym amongst trans women as by virtue it implies that trans women are excluded purely out of vindictiveness or spite.

But the fact is this and it is simple but hard to admit. I know that I was born differently to other women. I know that I was socialised differently to other women. But again my own social experience was different due to my disability. I had very little contact with the outside world in my early years, my interactive input mainly came from my mother and my grandparents. I was never really encouraged to be competitive and to better myself against others. Perhaps disability gives you a greater resistance to patriarchy – I don’t know.

But another thing when talking to radical feminists, I knew they wanted abolition of gender, because as women they are aware empirically from their own socialisation and their own experience the gender hurts them.

This is where I think the greatest conflict between radical feminist and trans discourse lies. For the thing that tells men they can be whatever they want and whoever they want is the same thing that keeps women in the kitchen, that leaves them open to abuse and rape, that leaves them open to continuous harassment and sexism in wider society. That thing, that culprit is gender. This is why radical feminists say gender hurts. I believe they are right fundamentally so. I have identified the reason why trans activists are so scared of this is because it questions their very identity and need for transition in the first place.

We live in a patriarchal system, where underlying all social structures within that system is a hegemonic view of masculinity and femininity. And if you fall outside of the paradigms of that hegemony, in the politest and most scientific terms you are fucked, but not quite. We are not passive bystanders in this hegemony. We have brains. We are intelligent by design. We can interrogate facts and feelings and make judgements for ourselves. In all my conversations with radical feminists what I was interested to do was to find out what had driven them towards radical feminism in the first place as opposed to the more populist liberal feminism. For them, the main motivator it seems is their shared oppression as a class. I can relate to this I know about oppression, I have been disabled since birth. Although we are not oppressed on the same axis, that is to say I am not directly oppressed for being a man, my insight into my own oppression provides further insight into other discourses.

I can see from looking around me that women are often devalued, women are harassed and women are sexually objectified and subject to derogatory slurs. And the enabling agent in all of this is firmly and unflinchingly masculinity and femininity.

These things are not preordained or predestined but a cultural product of our own socialisation. I understand what it’s like to be objectified. I am often treated like a chair instead of a person and I find this humiliating and and degrading.

Therefore I can understand women’s anger at being treated this way. I can understand women’s anger at being treated as a less valuable citizen, even as an inferior one I have been angry about this too. Women are routinely maligned slandered and degraded in the media everyday in a way that men just aren’t. Men are seen as strong capable and sensible.

What I realised after many conversations with radical feminists, is that they were not so different to the women I already knew in society. They were not some alien species separate from the rest of the world, but merely women concerned that their identity was being cherry picked and romanticised, whilst their pain and lived experience was roundly ignored by trans women. Now I must say, I know there are trans women who will support this post. But unfortunately the community is full of gender. They can no longer as a collective see it objectively if there were ever able to.

I was heavily invested in gender myself. But everything has a flip side. And the cost of gender is firmly placed as a burden on the shoulders of women and children and anyone who does not fit neatly into its boxes.