Saturday, January 20, 2018
Overcoming anti trans hatred
The other day a Facebook friend shared the story of a woman called Sandy Stone who was sound engineer and a member of a radical lesbian feminist community in the USA in the 1970's.
She was driven out of the community by a writer called Janice Raymond and her followers who decided she was not a woman and therefore had no right to be part of a lesbian collective.
You can read the details here:
Re-reading that story struck a profound chord with me because Janice Raymond went on to publish a book called "The Transsexual Empire" in 1979, a book which was hugely successful in its day and that me and my partner both read with passionate interest.
We were both feminists, were both struggling with my deep feeling that I wasn't a proper man, somehow, and my wish to live as a woman instead.
The book told me that whatever I did and whatever surgeries I had I would always be a man and that for a man like me to try to live as a woman was an act of colonialisation of women's bodies and, more than that, was an act of rape.
The straight world had already completely convinced that I was a bad worthless person and now feminism was telling me the same.
I was very vulnerable at the time. I had given up nursing, I had given up my PhD, and I had still not yet discovered myself as a writer. I still wasn't able to acknowledge what I thought of as my female identity to myself; I was still unable to find ways of dressing as a woman; I was still childless.
The book pushed me back very deeply into the closet of fear and of shame and it took me many years to recover.
To a degree, I'd hated Raymond for what she'd written, just as I hate, to a degree, those trans exclusionary radical feminist followers of hers who, along with evangelical christians, have their outbursts of writing me hate mail every now and again.
And then this morning I saw her photograph for the very first time and saw the face of a hurt and unhappy woman woman and realised I can't hate her any more.
The sad thing about hatred is that it's stuck. It never changes. And so the anti-trans radical feminists now are still saying the same things Raymond said all those years ago. And their arguments are exactly the ones I used against myself to try to convince myself I didn't need to transition.
All those years ago.
But what has changed is the context. Raymond's hate-filled ideas gained general acceptance back then because they were basically in accord with a hate-filled society.
But at least here in Scotland the hatred isn't mainstream any more. And that is the profoundest change.
I was reminded yesterday of how I was named an "outstanding woman in Scotland in 2017". On my desk is the advance copy of a book called "Life Lessons from Remarkable Women". I wrote one of the chapters. I'm one of them.
The book is being published by Penguin. On International Women's Day.
And I look back at the sufferings of my 29 year self with amazement.
Sandy Stone's story ends happily too. My Queen Jesus says of the haters:
"Hatred is the only thing they have. And it doesn't amount to much.
Because no matter what they say or what they do they cannot stop the change that is coming.
And one day we will all be free."
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