Trans Women, The New Misogynists?

Some time ago I lay on my bed, closed my eyes and tried to imagine being pregnant. I then imagined myself giving birth, holding my newborn child, bonding with it. I fell into a deep, beautiful sleep from which I awoke with a feeling of desperate emptiness. I felt my body, its curves, its contours and felt a sudden disgust at a body that was not fertile, not fruitful, would never know certain core feminine experiences.

I got over this, not least because of my some wonderful sex with both men and women, and I now love my trans body. But bodily self disgust is, I think, something that transgender people are quite prone to.   Many speak of feeling trapped in the wrong body but most know deep down that no hormones and no surgery can ever, quite, give them the right body. All trans women know that there are differences between them and cisgendered women, know too that many key issues for women can never affect them directly. We reflect on these and our reflection colours and patterns our relations with our cisgendered sisters.

I, and many trans women, actively support the struggle for reproductive rights,  the right og women to decide for themselves what to do with their bodies. We have cis women friends, confidants, lovers. Yet, however we engage with cis women, the radical feminists continue to abuse us as “mentally ill gay men” “drag queens” “not real women” and so on.  And, in a new tack, a recent blog posts suggested that we are misogynists,  seeking to erase “real” (that is biologically female) women in order to further our own unjustified claim to be women, that we privilege our struggle over that of cis women,  and that, ultimately, trans rights are fundamentally incompatible with women’s rights. This explains the rad fem furore over Government suggestions that the current intrusive,  medicalised and bureaucratic, process for gender reassignment should be replaced by one of self certification, based possibly on the system that has operated for two years in the Irish Republic.

Much of the claims made are nonsense. For example trans people do not require a Gender Recognition Certificate to use toilets corresponding to their self identified gender and the idea that a man would go to the trouble of putting on a dress and make up just to invade women’s spaces to sexually assault them always seemed farfetched.  As we have seen recently it is far from necessary for a man to do this in order to assault women. These arguments also elide areas where the stuggles overlap. For example, bathroom bans in certain US states have led to the ejection of cisgendered women from the ladies’, allegedly for not looking feminine enough.  The control of trans bodies is actually an aspect of the control of the bodies of all women.

Am I a misogynist? I have a number of close women friends who have supported me in my transition, who have shown me love and been there for me when I needed them. These are women who can relate to me as a woman and want to be part of my life. Do they consider me a misogynist? I cannot recall meeting a woman in recent times who was not wholly comfortable with trans women. The women I know encompass a wide age range, a wide variety of backgrounds and levels of education.  I suggest that they represent a representative cross section of the female population. I suggest too that the radical feminists, as in many other questions, are simply not where the majority of women are.

Do I want to erase women? I do not. The simple fact is I could not live without them.

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Bathroom Balls

This week the Foreign Office took the unusual step of issuing a leaflet aimed at travellers to certain states in the USA. Unusual because this sort of thing is usually only done for countries  with repressive political systems and/or cultural norms very different from our own, essentially to help people not get into difficulties with the authorities. This leaflet is intended for transgender people and is necessary because the legislators of some southern states find our genitals really fascinating.

Now in all the years I have been using communal toilets I have yet to have sight of anyone’s genitalia. And, like most people, I am not interested in what people have between their legs unless they happen to be sexual partners which, I can assure you, is a small minority of the people I interact with. Yet, there are those who take a very great interest in what people have between their legs, particularly if they are trans. Some US states have enacted laws obliging people to use only the toilets corresponding to their birth sex which, if it were to be enforced, would mean that everyone would need to submit to a genital examination before being admitted.

This is not, of course, about bigotry…..really . We are told it is to prevent embarrassment and to protect women from sexual assault since, apparently all trans women are rapists. On the first point it is hard to see what embarrassment could result since all trans people of any gender use cubicles, And as for the second point, it is beneath my dignity to engage with it.

So ladies this could mean you have a man in a suit and a hipster beard walking in or a petite feminine lady in a dress using the gents, which in some cases, would expose her to risk off assault. But if trans people are to be denied rights, hey let’s do it properly.

And this is not just about the law. Most trans people who use the toilets corresponding to the gender they identify with have felt uncomfortable at some time. Some of them may try to avoid using the toilet at all when out, which is not a good thing when you’re having a meal washed down with a few drinks. It is no coincidence that trans people of all genders suffer an above average incidence of urinary tract infections.

This whole episode says most, however, about the people behind it. Do they feel threatened by us? Why? If they could look beyond the ends of their noses, or whatever other appendage they have, they might see that the open acceptance of trans people can be liberating for everyone both inside and outside the bathroom.