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the other day, a friend and political ally gave me something. She told me what she thought about a line in my “about” page. the one where i was dismissive of transsexuality. I agreed with her. The line said i rant about, among other things, ‘weird gender silliness’. She said, “I know you think it is a serious political fight, and one worth having–I don’t think you think it is silly, but you sound as if you are dismissive.” Ah. yes. See, I do find it a problem, the whole transsexuality thing, male-to-female, female-to-male–surgery, hormones, workshops on how to assume the gendered behaviors of the category you wish to ‘transition’ to–it all seems to reinforce gendered behaviours that are problematic, constraining, and often just plain tiresome. Seems that that whole trend reifies gender, and does not trouble it at all, or reinvent or help to liberate us from the bonds of gender.

Which is not to say that trans issues are silly. to say that stuff is ‘silly’ is, my friend is right, dismissive. Which is sometimes my response when I am angry. or even just annoyed.

Sure, i get it when someone says they are uncomfortable in their body, that part I understand. I was convinced–determined that I was going to grow up to be a boy. Were I a child now, depending on where I was growing up, I might qualify for hormone blockers and other interventions to ‘help’ me become my real gender. I find that quite frightening, to be frank. If I had had my way when i was 11, I would not now know how delightful it can be to feel the surge of power that I feel when i’m pre-menstrual.  I would not now know how enlivening it can be to be part of a group of women sitting around a kitchen table, talking about raising children, and cooking and subverting patriarchy and plotting actions all at once. I would not know the pleasure of the small intimate moments women share with each other, as friends or lovers, because of our shared experience of becoming women from girlhood.

And i grieve the loss of that for young people today, who think they were “born in the wrong body” and who enter a system that will save them from this fate. I think we’ve let them down. I understand being uncomfortable in ones’ body–mine was most uncooperative–but I don’t think that changing the body with surgeries and hormones and drugs is any solution. We are letting each other down when we look to big ‘M’ medicine to solve this sense of dislocation. Why are we attaching ourselves to gender at all? instead of looking up and seeing each other and trying to invent a bigger better something that is really inclusive and life-affirming? No gender. Humanity.

I don’t know what to do from here. I see men come into the women’s centre, trying (or not trying) to look like what they think women look like, trying to act like what they think women act like, and they can’t. The women do try to include them (sometimes because they have to,sometimes because they want to), but they don’t get it either–because the way these fellows have of being women is not the way we know from being identified female at birth and raised as female into our womanhood. Their experience is different, and okay, they need somewhere to figure it out with each other, but not there, please.

and as for the women who decide to become men–well. that’s cause for grief, that is. Why are you turning your back on your womanhood? I kinda understand that, ’cause I would have gone that route, possibly, were I a little younger, and had I not found a women’s liberation movement. So that’s also why i find it so sad. Because somehow they couldn’t find the women’s movement–somehow we didn’t share feminism with them–somehow we lost them. And that’s damn tragic. Also,  women’s softball leagues and hockey teams and so on are losing some good players, who really enjoy the sport. but if you decide you’re a man, well…guess you can’t play in the women’s leagues anymore.  And that’s sad, too.

But not, as my friend reminded me, silly.

So I changed that part of the ‘about’ page. And I added this post, because i agree with her, this is a serious political point, and we are better off having the discussion, heated as it may become, in good faith with each other, and without being either dismissive or insulting.

We are all lonesome in some way or another. And we all need each other. My dismissive comment came from anguish and frustration, not from fear or hatred. but it was a bit mean. ah, well. learning to be human.

About easilyriled

My mom was Edith, my dad was John. I have a brother, who is Shawn. I have many friends and allies and mentors in my life. I'm white, over-educated, working in a field for which I am not yet trained, messy, funny, smart, lesbian, feminist "Not the fun kind", as Andrea Dworkin said. But I, like the feminists I hang with, ARE fun. Radical feminism will be the roots of our shared liberation. Rejection of sex-stereotypes (gender) and male domination will give us wings.

One response »

  1. Thank you for this post so brimming with both compassion and clarity.
    As with other hot-button issues like the last one you blogged about– abolition, etc. It seems we’re in this dead heat, this dead zone, where discussion rarely goes beyond one side making a criticism, the other sad taking it as a personal attack, as phobic and hateful. On the other hand, I do feel that radical lesbian fminists get caught in this same dead heat, and at least on the internet, fully launch their criticisms in ways that *are* personal, that blame individuals, even when the individuals are not specified, as if there is something like trans people as a kind of social class that is doing bad things to women and feminists. I do believe there are hostile minority representatives who want to barge their way into feminist and woman-only space, and deserve criticism for the specific actions, and to be looked at as a kind of pattern. However, what I’m seeing on the net in terms of the dismissive, rude, bullying, ridiculing tones of some (or most?) rad lesb feminists (still talking of the net-world here) is not reserved from trans and “sex positives” but extends to anyone in their circle with the least sliver of disagreement. I hope that you blog about cyber bullying as you mentioned at one point. and I hope to do so too..


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