Trashed on the internet

It never feels good to get trashed on the internet. I remember the first time it happened to me, in 2003. Someone posted a video of a project I’d done onto a forum I didn’t read, and overnight it got 200+ comments making fun of me. I saved the thread to re-read later, and I still have it actually. When you put stuff out in the public eye, you’re going to get trashed eventually, especially if you have unpopular opinions and you do your best to be honest. All you can do is be humble, and remember that like Madison Hinton said, it’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to.

Everyone involved in this conversation knows how much hate is directed towards females who are gender critical. Women who are gender-critical get written off as “bigots”/TERFs, whores, unfuckable, stupid, in-the-closet trans men, etc, in addition to a steady stream of rape and death threats. We see teenagers on tumblr do this, we see straight adult men do this, we see liberal feminists do this, and we see the most prominent trans activists do this.

If you’re a trans-critical trans women, trans activists and their supporters write you off as a TERF or a TERF sockpuppet, self-hating, transphobic, elitist, HBSer, “new trans separatist”, not actually trans, throwing other trans women under the bus, or an outright liar. I feel bad for trans women who do this, because they are obviously in a lot of pain, and often appear to be externalizing their own issues. But I also try to have compassion, because I think that modern trans theory has let them down, since the dogma of “because I say so” has left most trans women without any tools to talk about the reality of their lives.

And from the other side, some radical feminists write off gender-critical trans women as wolves in sheep’s clothing, delusional men, or “nice guys” who are just trying to open the door for their overtly woman-hating bros. Radical feminism centers females, and certainly is under no obligation to make space for or to prioritize males, no matter how we live our lives. (Third-wave, male-centric “feminism” is already doing a great job at that!) Gender-critical trans women acknowledge our debt to radical feminist language and conceptual thinking: the recognition that sex and gender are not the same, and the realization that gender is imposed upon us from the outside. As trans women, it is certainly not our place to recommend political priorities to gender-critical women with a female separatist bent. But that said, one does have to question the political wisdom of trashing trans women whose politics are mostly aligned with radical feminist positions.

Personally, I got involved in gender-critical blogging because I want to heal, and I want to figure out how to make the world a better place. People can doubt my sincerity all they want, but it doesn’t change my motivations. I don’t like the current answers about how to heal from gender, so I’m trying to figure out better answers. And one of the reasons I blog anonymously is so that I can be completely honest (to the best of my ability) about my life and my decisions. That in particular is difficult, because no one is perfect, and being open about your mistakes makes you an easy target of drive-by criticism.

Some of my opinions have changed over the last year of writing my blog; specifically, I no longer think it is justifiable to not come out to my male romantic partners. But I have been unwavering in my support of female-only space. After all, this whole blog started as a reaction to Cathy Brennan being kicked out of the NYC Dyke March for supporting female separatism via Sheila Jeffreys!

So, about about that supporting female spaces thing. I, and two trans woman friends, set up New Narratives as a trans woman-only event (broadly defined) coinciding with the post-Radfems Respond female-only event, specifically to model how things can work in the real world. Sometimes we work together, sometimes we work separately. New Narratives is not a protest like Camp Trans, but an emphatic endorsement of female-only space!

A core premise of New Narratives is “An alarmingly large number of trans women are like that – so what are we going to do about it?” For the organizers, and I assume for a number of the attendees, our consciences have called us to directly confront male violence against women born female – physical, sexual, and rhetorical – which is perpetrated by trans women. We all feel that it is time to stand up and say Not in my name. No more cotton ceiling, no more corrective rape talk, no more death threats. We are not doing this to get cookies, and we are not doing it because we “hate trans women”. We are doing it because trans activism has gone totally off the rails, and it is frankly shameful.

We also organized New Narratives because all three of us believe that current trans theory is hurting trans women, and other males who feel harmed by gender. Over the last fifteen years, trans politics has turned into a delusional echo chamber, where self-identification is believed to physically change bodies, history is irrelevant, and anyone who directly addresses reality is punished as a traitor. This mess is not a recipe for mental health, happiness, or social integration! We need real answers about how best to live our lives in the world that exists today, which are also compatible with working towards the better world we wish to create.

So until this conversation turns around, I am going to keep doing my activism the way that only I can. Even if that means sometimes people who I mostly agree with sometimes latch on to certain aspects of my activism to trash it all. The only thing I can do is let it go, and keep working towards what I know in my heart is right. I am the only one who can do what I’m doing, which is an important lesson I learned from GenderTrender author Gallus Mag, in a comment she recently made to a reader who was thinking of starting a blog.

To my real-life radical feminist friends and colleagues, my trans woman sisters, my trans man brothers, and all my other gender-critical siblings, I look forward to working with you all in Portland next weekend. Remember: let’s keep this political, not personal, because working together we can make significant progress on turning this conversation around, and in turn make the world a better place for all of us who are harmed by gender.

And to the haters, thanks for reading, please keep reading, and please keep telling me why you think I’m wrong. You have my best wishes.

Advertisements

Open letter to Beaver Hall Gallery: I’m a trans woman and I support female-only spaces

Dear Beaver Hall Gallery,

I’m very disheartened to hear today that you decided to block Radfem Rise Up from meeting at your venue. I understand that as a private venue, you get the final say on what kinds of speech you allow. However, I fear that your decision was probably swayed by trans activists who not only don’t have the best interests of women in mind, but moreover frequently behave in misogynistic ways.

Sex matters. Denying that sex matters sets the work of feminism back several hundred years, if not making it outright impossible. Women in the 19th century weren’t denied the vote because they “performed femininity” – they were denied the vote because they were female. Girls, who are the overwhelming victims of childhood sexual assault, aren’t assualted because they “identify” as girls – they are female, and so they have no choice in the matter. The practice of sex-selective abortion in India and China, which in some areas has skewed the sex ratio to 118:100 (male:female) is not a result of a fetus having a “gender” – an obviously laughable concept! It’s clearly about sex.

Trans women are not female. I live as a woman now, but I was born a male, and raised as a boy. I transitioned to living as a girl/woman at the end of high school, and now I’ve lived more than half of my life as a girl/woman. Putting up with sexism is no picnic, but I’m a lot less unhappy than I was before transition. (Passing as female has also made my life easier than when I was visibly trans, and I’m lucky to have had this experience.) However, even after taking all the hormones, and getting SRS, I’m still male. My bone structure is male. I still lived as a boy until I transitioned. I don’t have a uterus and will never get pregnant. Nothing can change these facts! I live a “stealth” existence these days, and most people assume I had a normal girlhood. When I’m weepy, I’ve had boyfriends worry that they got me pregnant. However, I can still remember my childhood, and I know my body, and I know I’ll always be different than other women.

Females need female-only space in order to unpack the bullshit of being socialized female. This isn’t feminism 101, it’s feminism 0.001 – absolute baseline! Trans women, having been socialized as males, do not face the same set of issues. Rather, we face a totally different set of issues – the oppression we faced as gender-variant boys, if we were gender non-conforming before transition, or the self-hate some trans women internalize during their years of “hiding”, among others. Neither of these things is the same as girlhood!

When trans women fight against female-only space, they are reacting against a perceived threat: that females don’t respect their “identities” as women. Radical feminism isn’t focused on feelings or identifications – it’s about the struggle of people being raped and mudered due to their sex. Moreover, being a woman isn’t an identity – it’s a socially-assigned grouping based on perceived sex. If woman was an identity, why would any female “identify” as a woman? Wouldn’t all females “identify” as men, so they could get the better jobs, and be allowed to have a say in the political system? Because-I-say-so theories of gender are in stark conflict with reality – we don’t walk down the street with our “preferred pronouns” pinned to our shirts.

If trans women want to be recognized as women, especially by females, they would do better by actually supporting females. This means, acknowledging that we were raised with male privilege, being careful to not talk over females, and avoiding appropriating words like misogyny (which really comes down to the rape and murder of females by MEN that happens every minute of every day) to mean “someone hurt my feelings.” Our lives as trans women are difficult – but it’s MEN who beat and murder us, and MEN who make the laws that harm us and MEN who run the insurance companies that deny us treatment. Let’s place the blame right where it belongs!

Trans women who stop talking over women will probably find they suddenly have a lot more female friends, and are more accepted as women. Suddenly the transphobic opinions of the small minority of radical feminists who are transphobic (rather than trans-critical) won’t seem very important. When you are actually getting validation in your life, the existence of bigots really doesn’t matter so much any more. Imagine that!

I know that trans issues are really confusing, but when trans activists like Joelle Ruby Ryan, Morgan Page, and Julia Serrano appropriate the language of social justice to advance their misogynist agendas, please don’t be fooled! Not only are they talking over females, they are also talking over transsexual women who have socially assimilated as women. Please don’t put the selfish and self-serving goals of these people over the rights of females.

Sincerely,

An anonymous transsexual who supports females

Note: originally posted here. Translated to French here.

My visit to the Radical Faeries

Recently on gendertrender, several commenters mentioned that while radical feminism has been a lifeline for many ftm detransitioners, there’s no analogous group of “radical men” who welcome mtf detrantioners back. I posted my own musings about this a week ago. In the interim, I remembered my visit to the radical faerie commune, which might be germane to this topic. So I’ll recount it here for posterity.

Many years ago, I had decided to travel across the country and seek my fortune, so one summer I quit my job and packed my bag. I visited Chloe Dzubilo in NYC, and while we were hanging out at the gay pride march I met a man who was driving to back to Tennessee the next day. “Well if you don’t have any plans, you could come back with me and hang out at the commune I live at,” he said. I was sold! Adventure!

We left early the next morning and drove the whole way in a single shot. It was noisy in his old blue pickup, because there was no ac so we had to keep the windows down. We talked a little in the morning, and then spent most of the rest of the drive silently eating a giant bad of carrots. (Like Chloe, he was really into raw food, to combat hiv.)

It was dark again by the time we got to “hippy holler”, as the locals referred to it. Hippies, gay nudists – to a redneck, what’s the difference? We were listening to a cassette a friend from NYC had given me, and I got chills as we pulled down an unmarked dirt road and her naked voice gently floated in the night air: “My life – isn’t – anything – compared to – stars – or – sound…sound…ssssoundddd….”

As it turned out, most of the faeries were away at the Rainbow Gathering that week. Of the people left, there was a large woman in a moumou with her six year old son, a “queer heterosexual” couple with a three-year old daughter who’d decided to go back to nature after a long stint in the wasteland of Detroit, my driver (who was very quiet, it seemed he reserved most of his energy for trying to beat hiv without drugs), and a rascally runaway boy in his early 20’s.

I’d been living without a car for a few years, and I rarely made it out of the city. So being in nature felt divine! I got a room to myself in a half-finished house, which had a roof but was missing several of the exterior walls. After dinner at the main cabin I would head back to my room with a candle. I had a wind-up alarm clock my grandfather had given me in my bag, and I took great pleasure in winding it and listening to it click at night. It was scary to be in the woods, but also somehow I felt really safe.

I was super pissed off at the system of gender at that point in my life – in fact I had just quit hormones (since I thought I no longer needed them, after the orchi), I had decided that not only was I finished with electrolysis, I didn’t feel like plucking my remaining facial hair either, and I stopped shaving my legs. But, I also wore dresses most days – with steel-toed men’s machine shop shoes – it was the 90’s!

I had a lot of fun that week. I ate some great organic food, I hung out with the faerie’s goats, we went to the Mufreesboro jamboree (it reminded me of how much fun I had playing simple music on acoustic guitar or mandolin with my father as a teen), I flirted with the rascal and he ignored me, and I smoked a lot of pot. Then one day I was at the creek with the moumou mom and her son and a few others, and we decided to go swimming. So I took off my clothes and jumped in the water.

The little boy got confused. “But — how come you’re a girl, but you have a little penis?” (He actually used the word little – I guess being around the gay nudists he had a point of comparison, haha.) “It’s just the way I am,” I said. That was a new one but his mom explained that I was different, and then it didn’t seem to bother him anymore. But word spread and suddenly everyone there realized I was trans. “Jeez no wonder the rascal has been ignoring me all week,” I thought, “he’s gay and he thought I was just a regular girl!”

The queer het dad heard through the grapevine on my last night at the farm, and was sad he hadn’t known earlier because he had some trans friend (or something) and thought there was a lot to talk about – or something. He was a nice guy and I took a picture of him and his daughter with my peel-apart polaroid camera (yeah, I was a hipster before it was cool). He had installed solar panels to run his computer, so that he could continue to produce his zine “off the grid.” We made plans to stay in touch but obviously that never happened.

The next day all the rest of the faeries got back, and it sucked, and I was glad to be leaving. Honestly, I’ve never gotten along with gay men as a group. The cattiness, agressiveness, open hostility towards women, judgement, classicism, insane objectification, you name it. And the faeries felt just the same to me as the gay boys I met at the gay support group as a teen. If you didn’t have a dick, you amounted to an inconvenient zero in their worldview. Ditto if you had a dick, but you weren’t hot. And if you had a penis but interacted with people more like a woman – well that was just weird.

Eventually the summer ended and I went back home, after a stop in the never-never land of SF which I will post about soon. (Working title: I won’t grow up!) But anyway, when I got home I ended up moving in with the only punk guy who ever went to the gay youth group. He was super into Race Traitor magazine, and later grew dreadlocks and became a radical faerie himself. But his idea of gender transgression (and the faerie’s idea, as far as I could tell) was to be 100% unequivocally a man in terms of how they related to the world, while occasionally wearing glitter nail polish or a women’s vest, and proclaim themself a gender rebel.

As someone actually alienated from the gender system, as in not fitting into it whether or not I tried, It made me think that their smug, self-congratulatory “rebelliousness” was really just a mask for a deep-seated, entirely fundamental dis-ease with actual gender fluidity. Just like my roommate’s subscription to Race Traitor, decision to live in a black neighborhood, and childlike fascination with the band Crass was not an indication that he was thinking critically, but that he was truly and 100% a product of the white, liberal suburbs.

Sad to say, but the radical faeries were certainly not the radical men the GT commenters have been talking about!

Note: originally posted here.

The sad truth about what feminism has become

image

Remember the 80’s, when women were allowed to wear ankle-length skirts with boots and baggy sweaters, and you didn’t have to “empower yourself” by dressing sexxay in order for anyone to take you seriously? If you were born in the 90’s (or God forbid the 2000’s), obviously not. But try to imagine this prior time!

The 80’s were far from perfect, but feminists were still able to state the (obvious) truth that objectifying women as fuck dolls or brainless assemblages of body parts (which is the same as a fuck doll) was anti-feminist. I mean, really!

I was watching tv over Christmas and there were these really gross ads for Adult Swim. In the first, a magician is standing next to a woman’s sexxay legs, in high heels and stockings, while the rest of her body from the waist up is sitting on a floating platter. Then in the follow-up ad, the upper body is sitting in one chair in the waiting room, and her legs are sitting in a different chair.

“Why is this making me so upset?” I thought. And then I thought “Because haven’t men been making jokes that the only ‘good’ part of a woman is the bottom half for centuries? And when they say ‘good’, we all know what that means.” But in case you don’t, it means a fuckhole with no “blowhole” so she can’t even “squawk” back.

Benjamin Franklin made this joke in point #5 of his advice on choosing a “mistress”. Magicians (men) sawed their “assistants” (women) in half on stage for a hundred years, starting in the late 1800’s. In 1978, Hustler went a step further and just ground the “useless” part of the woman up. The Hustler cover was so over the top that men kind of got it, and maybe even chilled out for a little bit in the 80’s!

image

And yet here we are, in the post-sexism 20-teens, and a woman who claims to be a feminist and ally to some of the most disadvantaged women (prostitutes) publishes a book which replicates this horribly, deeply misogynistic trope right on its cover! Seriously, there is no “critique” in that cover image – it’s simply recapitulation of the kind of brazenly sexist bullshit that the feminists of the 70’s and 80’s would never have silently ignored. Or, they would have called it out: check out this amazing post Are Women Human? featuring words by Catherine MacKinnon and advertisements from genderads.com.

I’m writing this as a trans woman, who has lived half her life as a girl/woman. I never want to overstep my bounds when talking about feminism due to the whole male socialization thing, but I think I get a say about this one since I’m usually perceived to be female, and I face a lot of the same body pressure and objectification that other women do. So while in general I try to tread lightly in critiquing the activism of other women, I just have to speak truth to power here.

It’s infinitely depressing that in today’s climate of penis-centric feminism, intentionally demeaning other women by reducing them to fuckholes to be sold to men has been transformed into a “feminist” act. This is very much the definition of a patriarchal reversal, and it goes to show that some of the most effective MRA’s are actually females who consider themselves “feminist”.

I weep for girls growing up today. “Choice is the language of the powerless.” But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Note: originally posted here.