Nasty and Nice: The F-Word covers the Transsexual ‘debate’May 14, 2012
Recently the F-Word, with much trepidation, interviewed Sheila Jeffreys and Lee Lakeman, for their feminist analysis and insight into the issue of transgenderism. They also interviewed Barb Besharat and a man called Susan Stryker, who are both involved in transgender activism. Sheila Jeffreys was brilliant and incisive in expanding the understanding of the historical development of transsexuality as a medical diagnosis to cure/treat homosexuality and also the truly scary situation that we as women and radical feminists face with the political and social ramifications of the queer and trans activism upon our movement today. Her interview was hopeful and inspiring but very conscious of the desecration of lesbianism and women-only organising that has been wrought by the trans activists. Lee Lakeman provided a diplomatic overview of the situation that Vancouver Rape Relief faced in being taken to court by a man who refused to respect women’s right to safe, separate space.
I couldn’t actually listen to the interviews with Susan Stryker and Barb Besharat. Neither of them seemed to have a feminist analysis of the phenomenon of transsexualism and it wasn’t clear at all to me why they were interviewed or the point of their interviews. But what bothered me personally the most was the concluding discussion by the members of the F-Word collective; Nicole Deagan, Meghan Murphy and Ellie Gordan-Marshall.
First off Ellie begins rambling about how best to be an ally to transsexual people without specifying how that has anything to do with being a feminist. She doesn’t make any points relevant to feminism or women’s liberation so I will spare you the details.
Next Nicole and Meghan have a conversation on the difficulties in even talking about transsexualism within feminist circles.
Nicole: “These reactions are so strong that they essentially feel like we’re banned from having these conversations, and it becomes like censorship.”
Meghan: “Yeah, totally and that happens on both ends of the debate. I wouldn’t put that blame on either end or far end of the debate…There have been some really serious attacks on feminists who are critical of anything to do with transgenderism, you know even threats of violence and death threats… I’m sure on both ends. And then I’ve often felt like from the radical feminist end of the argument there is little room for discussion too.”
It really disturbs me to see that the women from the F-Word collective are making false implications that radical feminists are threatening and behaving violently towards transactivists. I have been involved in discussions with feminists on the issue of transsexualism for years and I have never seen any evidence of this. It would be good if the F-Word collective could substantiate these claims with evidence.
We do, however, have copious evidence that transactivists and males who identify as women are threatening women and feminists with violence on a regular basis. On the issue of threats and violence, this is a one way street, with males in drag being the instigators and women being the victims. Why is the F-Word inaccurately portraying this as though women are equally responsible for the violence and threats that are directed our way when we stand up for our rights to organise as females? How does this further our quest for women’s liberation?
Meghan expresses that she is unhappy with having to choose a side or take a position on the issue of transsexualism. “I’m attacked or others are attacked for not taking a position and not taking sides, for not wanting to engage in the conversation.”
Unfortunately, if you call yourself a feminist, you have already taken a position. Your position is on the side of women and in opposition to male supremacy. To blame feminists for the threats and violence they receive at the hands of men in dresses with unfounded accusations of equivalent behaviour is an anti-feminist position.
The discussion then delves into the name calling which Meghan and Nicole are quite upset and offended by. This is not the first time radical feminists have been tut-tutted for our tone. To be honest, I don’t think any of us really cares about being respectful to men in general. And I really don’t understand why there is a different set of rules about behaviour when we are talking about men in dresses. I have never seen any feminist involved in radical feminist politics berate women for being disrespectful to any other group of men. For example, it would be ludicrous to suggest that radical feminists be respectful when talking about, or to, groups of MRAs. So why are lesbians and radical feminists told off for being disrespectful towards this particular group of men (transsexuals) who have harmed us and our communities in very real and horrific ways? I really don’t get it.
Also, it is blatantly untrue that all conversations within feminist discourse about transsexuality are overrun by name-calling, abuse, hostility, anger and aggression. There have been numerous discussions on the Rad Fem Hub, in radical feminist facebook groups and on individual blogs that critically analyse transsexuality from a feminist perspective and the conversations are civil and respectful.
On the glitter-bombing of Germaine Greer, Nicole says, “I don’t think we should be violating each others’ physical space like that. And you know I also don’t think we should be calling someone a man if they define themselves as a woman or vice versa, I find that equally offensive. I think these kind of things cross the line into denying someone’s freedom to choose their name or pronoun and its really disrespectful and it’s just like crossing the line into someone’s physical space around their body, I think, it’s really disrespectful as well.”
And Meghan agrees, “Yeah, definitely. And as I said earlier, that stuff happens on both ends.”
Again, Nicole and Meghan are claiming that radical feminists are compromising the physical boundaries of transactivists without a shred of proof or evidence. When, where, how and who is what I would like to know, because I have never seen or heard evidence of this. When have radical feminists ever stalked and hounded transactivists? When have we ever thrown anything at them… other than logical arguments? As far as I am aware this has never happened.
As for refusing to participate in some man’s delusion that he is a woman being just as disrespectful as throwing glitter onto someone, well I guess we are going to have to disagree. Using the words, ‘he’, ‘male’ and ‘man’ to describe a male human is simply an accurate representation of reality, nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing disrespectful in stating a fact.
In actuality, the fact that men think they have the right to define themselves into womanhood and in the process redefine what it means to be a woman is HUGELY disrespectful of every single female on the planet. Moreover, it is an act of colonisation. Radical feminist resistance to this doublespeak needs to be nurtured, supported and applauded. It is clear that we disrespect this system that men have created to erase us and our collective right to self-determination. And this can only be a POSITIVE thing for women.
The interviews with Sheila and Lee produced a wealth of insights into the issues, both ideological and concrete, that impact us as women, as lesbians and as radical feminists in relation to the contemporary product of male supremacy called transsexualism. The F-Word collective could have chosen to have a relevant and meaningful discussion on the way that the phenomenon of transsexualism has impacted upon our lives, our politics and our communities. It is nonsensical to me that they chose instead to make false implications about the way that radical feminists conduct themselves towards transactivists. And unbelievably call on us to be nice and respectful to men who threaten our lives because they disagree with our politics!
This ain’t the way that feminism works, and as our sisterhood grows stronger, so will our resistance to the trans pushers and the genderists. Our disrespect for men who try to invade and destroy our communities is directly proportionate to our respect for ourselves and our sisters.