Having been inducted into the Femmisphere by my good friend over at FemmEssay it is perhaps worth meditating once again on the unicorniness of the whole Nuclear Unicorn thing. So let’s get down and funky with it while I drop some serious verbal groove.
Or funk. Or whatever. The point is that as the convenient illustration to the left shows, I am a woman. But we wouldn’t be here if it were that simple. I think that if I had to give a piece of advice to transsexual people who were just coming out, one that would be regarded as a rare gem of insight, it would have to be a warning, I am sad to say. We expect our enemies to come from the religious right and from the social conservative movement, and we are often reminded of why we must always be wary of them. But a trans person also must look over the left shoulder as some of our worst enemies are unabashed liberals.
That’s been very hard for me to swallow, without question. My own ideological commitments, as the rest of this journal has heretofore shown, are quite liberal. My heart beats Left and I ain’t ashamed to say it. But I know that self identified liberals will try to convince me I’m a male for various reasons, when it suits their needs. At best you might get some diversity obsessed tosser who gleefully tells you “Wow, you almost look like a real woman!” and tote you around to prove how tolerant they are. Most cuttingly, however, some feminists will simply deny me. That’s been the bitterest pill of all.
For years I always found myself sympathizing with other women and never quite getting the doodz who were supposed to be my comrades in arms. Whenever the cry of “pfah, women!” went up, I raised my glass only halfheartedly, knowing that something was wrong with my participation in this exercise of social separation. It was only in the last couple of years that I at last accepted I’d been pitching for the wrong team. It doesn’t mean that my feminism didn’t burn me hard in the past, however. Many male colleagues and acquaintances were made just a little uncomfortable at how I guilted them for their crass, casual sexism.
My own father struggled vainly for years to get me to come around to his entitled view of the world, to teach me to “love women” in the way that he did. He often got angry at me for not catcalling with him, often noted that I’d not leer at attractive women when we were out in public, and even berated me for fancying girls at school who he deemed unattractive. He certainly wasn’t the only one who attempted to socialize me in this way. Against him and all others I argued vehemently and with a passion that I never knew was so deeply personal.
I thought I was being a feminist male. I never quite knew that it was my own dignity I was defending against the tireless objectification of people like my father. But my own dignity it was.
What some radical feminists don’t quite get is that I am a victim of misogyny, just as they are, and that our beloved Patriarchy is no gentler on me than it is with them. It is at times even worse for one very good reason: Men will act out their worst misogynist fantasies on trans women.
For you see, we exist in that cosy netherspace of looking and sounding like women but, you know, not being women- according to them. When I first came out my father tried to grope me, in perverse fascination at my growing breasts, called me a “whore”, and demanded that I do “what a woman is supposed to do” if I’m so intent on being one which was, of course, cooking for him and cleaning up after him.
He explicitly said that’s what a woman was supposed to do. He never had the balls to say this to my mother (who looked at him aghast as he said it), but to me, a woman who was fighting against his perceptions for her femininity, he was more than comfortable saying and doing all of those things. He wants to treat women this way, he just feels constrained. I provide him with a convenient target to act out his sexist fantasies upon since I’m kind of like a woman but not a “real woman.”
Make no mistake, if this is transphobia it exists only as a subset of pure, unadulterated misogyny.
I have often said that when it comes to violence and bias against trans women it is not the fact that we’re ‘gender deviant’ that gets us attacked, but what gender we are deviating towards that earns the ire of people like my father. That is something that should alarm all women.
Should feminists be in the business of carrying water for patriarchs? I can think of no greater insult to our movement.
The mainline of their argument is unironically used essentialism. I am not a woman, nor can I ever be one, because I was born with a penis.
Let’s examine this for a hot second: Feminists have long railed against this society’s phallocentrism, and against a myriad of sexist presumptions dressed in the gown of science (think Freud’s Penis Envy), and long condemned the asinine acculturated idea that the penis carries with it any sort of innate power and entitlement, and that because we build world-ending bombs in their shape is no validation of the notion.
So how can one of their number suddenly turn around and deny me my womanhood on exactly the same basis as my father? Look at everything he’s said and done. If you bristled you did so rightly. Yet in denying my womanhood some radical feminists would say, verbatim, what my father has said: my little estrogenised cock is more important than everything else about my personhood, my life, my experiences, my personality, and the rest of my body.
What really gets me sighing and holding my head is when some of those same people come along and say that even a trans woman who’s had bottom surgery is still a man because they used to be penis-havers. I never thought I’d see the day when a feminist let the ghost of a penis define another woman. How sexist men must howl with self-satisfied laughter. They’re getting feminists of all people to do their dirty work for them, lock, stock, and two smoking barrels full of bullshit.
How could a feminist imbue that blasted organ with so much power in a way that is not at all different from how patriarchal men have done it for years? Treating it as an immutable birthright in whose veins is the essential privilege of manhood; this is radioactive water that I as a woman will not carry. No woman should. Our dignity should not permit it.
I am something that makes many men uncomfortable and with very good reason. I call into question the immutability of sex and gender; I call into question any innate concept of manhood’s superiority. I can do this with well reasoned arguments, but I call this pap and nonsense into question by merely existing.
If you want further proof of how misogyny has for so long stabbed us and tried to define us, you need look no further than that great gleaming edifice of purported objectivity: Psychiatry. Consider the following: as more and more trans people started coming out and going to therapists to be allowed to start hormone treatment and get the permissions we needed to transition, the world was rapidly changing around us all. The 60s were upon us and feminism was once again bursting through the dam.
When presented with a trans woman most male psychiatrists treated us with derision even as they allowed us to pass through their gates to access what we needed to transition. They stressed as they did so, however, that in order to be “real women” we had to be demure. That’s right, if you were in any way assertive, they pegged you as a male. You also had to love makeup and pretty dresses. If you didn’t, you weren’t a “true transsexual.” You had to be the perfect fembot in order to convince them you were truly gender dysphoric and thus worthy of their help.
Maybe we can’t change all those radical women burning their bras, they thought, but we can have control over these very vulnerable women right here in our offices. Let’s make them into our image of what being a woman should be.
If that doesn’t come from sexism, where does it come from?
Many therapists these days have become more progressive, but others still cling to these ideas, like the notorious gender clinic in Toronto, at the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. In a recent Atlantic Monthly article (one I have severe problems with) I was reading that discussed how trans people are coming out at increasingly younger ages, for ‘balance’ Hanna Rosin went there to interview the head doctor, Dr. Zucker, whose practises should raise wailing alarms in feminist circles of all stripes.
He purports to be able to “cure” us if we’re identified at a young age and get us to act in line with the organs with which we were born if we ‘act up.’ How did he do this with one ‘little boy who wanted to be a girl’?
Well, see for yourself:
They boxed up all of John’s girl-toys and videos and replaced them with neutral ones. Whenever John cried for his girl-toys, they would ask him, “Do you think playing with those would make you feel better about being a boy?” and then would distract him with an offer to ride bikes or take a walk. They turned their house into a 1950s kitchen-sink drama, intended to inculcate respect for patriarchy, in the crudest and simplest terms: “Boys don’t wear pink, they wear blue,” they would tell him, or “Daddy is smarter than Mommy—ask him.” If John called for Mommy in the middle of the night, Daddy went, every time.
This is the tip of the iceberg. Now think long and hard about this and this “curing” process. If the words “flagrant misogyny” aren’t flashing through your head in big, unfriendly red letters I don’t know what else to tell you.
Look at how trans women are treated in the psychiatric realm, among other things, see what is used to attack us, to other us, to un-person us. Every single time it’s a slight permutation of an argument used against women as a whole. Zucker wanted those parents to condition their child to hate women and to see his mother as a subordinate inferior. Is this how some radfems want trans women to be erased?
Do they want to drag womanhood through a very muddy gutter just to get rid of us? Or might there be more to all of this than a mere knobbly bag of flesh?
Do we really want to reduce womanhood to that thing? Do we want to say that trans women’s inability to bear children or menstruate invalidates us, backhandedly saying that’s all that really makes a woman? Note very carefully that innumerable patriarchal men reduce us to baby making machines. Is that water you want to carry for even five seconds?
This above all, however: We’re in this together, sisters. In our sisterhood there will always be a power no words can break and that misogyny cannot hope to breach.