Responding To The Feminist Anti-Transsexual Arguments

A recent, much-disparaged thread on I Blame The Patriarchy turned into a reprise of feminist arguments over transsexuality. Because the thread is on the long side, it has the benefit of providing several examples of feminist anti-trans arguments, as well as (thankfully) many feminist rebuttals.

I think the anti-trans arguments are wrong in every case. In most cases, I think they’re also bigoted and hateful. Let’s take a tour.

Argument #1: The argument from freeform, irrational hatred of transsexuals.

Luckynkl provided such an exaggerated example of drooling, bile-soaked hate that if I hadn’t known her for years, I would suspect she’s a sock puppet intended to discredit feminism. Here’s a couple of examples, drawn from a dozen or more similar statements:

You want to know how men can hurt women? **chuckle** You’re joking, right? Oh wait. I’m supposed to believe men in drag are women. And if you put on a werewolf mask, will you also expect me to believe you’re a werewolf? [...]

This is about what all this nonsense amounts to. In short, trans are nutjobs. The bathroom is about the last place I want to be alone with a male nutjob. These unfortunate, but seriously disturbed individuals belong on the 5th floor in a straight jacket. Not in a women’s bathroom.

In Lucky’s view, all transsexuals are “male nutjobs,” and they belong in an asylum.1

In this case, the important part of Lucky’s argument isn’t the argument itself (which is based on the nonsensical notion that men — or transwomen — who are apt to break the law by being violent against women in public bathrooms, will be stopped by the sign on the ladies’ room door). Lucky’s real argument here isn’t what she says. It’s her derisive, sneering tone: the point is to let transwomen know that they are “men” (in Lucky’s view, men are evil) and that they are semi-human objects of contempt.

The most reasonable reply to Lucky’s argument is (to quote Brownfemipower): Fuck you. Lucky’s a bigot and an asshole; the difference between Lucky and a Klanswoman is only in which oppressed minority her hate is focused on. (I should note that although Lucky was the most extreme, several feminists joined her in her hate-fest.)

In an excellent post at Desperate Kingdoms, Winter writes:

I did not come to feminism for hatred; I did not come to feminism in order to use my power and privilege as a white, middle-class, cisgendered2 woman to oppress a group of people more oppressed than myself; I did not come to feminism in order to set up new hierarchies or take up the role of oppressor. I came to feminism because I believed, and continue to believe, that as part of anti-oppression activism, feminist theories and philosophies can offer ways of being, thinking and relating which could make life better for all of us, whether we identify as men, women, or something else altogether.

Argument #2: The argument from essentialism.

SaltyC: “Knowing that someone is a woman does not tell me anything about her fate, but it does tell me she knows what I know about what it’s like to bleed.”

Luckynkl: “Sex is static. It cannot be changed. Men cannot be frogs, they cannot be giraffes, they cannot be trees, they cannot be rocks, and they cannot be women. Get over it.”

Maribelle: “Case in point: my friend’s two year old daughter was so cute the other day my ovaries started to throb…. Face it—women are inexplicable. We are born, not made. We are created. We cannot be made by human hands, sculpted from the rib of Adam. We are something else again.”

All of these arguments are based on the idea that there is an essential, universal “womanhood” which “women born women” have access to, but transwomen do not.

This argument assumes that our essence is determined by what’s between our legs at birth. In this view, our abilities and potential is determined not by our individual talents, desires and actions, but by which box the doctor checked off on the form a few minutes after we came screaming into the world (“we are born, not made”). Women are the class that feels longing when faced with a cute two-year-old; men are the class that, I dunno, feels a longing for power tools or something.

Haven’t we heard this before? This is the conservative, anti-feminist vision of gender that feminism has been fighting against for centuries. Feminism was born to fight against this vision; to fight against the harm done to women and men who are shoehorned into these obsolete, confining gender roles; and to fight against the warped culture created when people are taught that gender roles must be respected.

That some feminists are willing to throw core elements of feminism overboard in order to exclude transsexuals speaks volumes.

Note that essentialism isn’t limited to just biological essentialism. There is also “experience essentialism”; in this case, certain experiences are said to define womanhood, always in a post hoc manner designed to exclude some unwanted class of women.

As Brownfemipower points out, making “womanhood” an exclusive space in order to keep out unwanted, marginalized groups is not something new, or something that has been done exclusively to transsexuals. Throughout history, the experiences of relatively empowered women has been positioned as the norm; the experiences of other women is then positioned as non-representative of “womanhood.” This has happened (and is still happening) to women of color, to lesbians3, to Jewish women, and it is currently happening to transwomen.

To my eyes, a lot of the “womanhood is our exclusive domain” arguments strongly resemble anti-same-sex-marriage arguments. “Womanhood,” like “marriage,” is described as if its implications and social meaning has never changed in thousands of years; this false description of unchanging history is then used to argue that all change must therefore be not only bad, but a threat to those who are currently married and/or women. Consider this quote from Magickitty, arguing against accepting transwomen as women:

Why should a newcomer to my knitting group insist that I re-define the meaning of my group? This person has never been to my knitting group before, which I’ve had for thousands of years. This person shares no history with the other members of my group, and yet demands full status in the circle. I am sympathetic; this person had always wanted to knit (since birth, even) but only recently learned, this person is oppressed within their own world because they are a knitter, and this person strongly identifies with my group. But why would this newcomer want to claim equal status when they’ve only been knitting for a short time, and why would they want to insist that knitting includes crochet, when in all the thousands of years of the circle, we’ve only ever knitted?

And to be really crude… the newcomer knits English. My group knits Continental. The finished product may look exactly identical, but… well, you know.

The above quote could be used, without any alteration, to argue against same-sex marriage. It’s the same argument.

Argument #3: The argument that the word “transphobia” is a form of censorship.

Sly Civilian quotes this comment, left by Heart at BFP’s place:

Here, my experience, again, is, if someone offers a differing view of transgender issues than the one you hold, bfp, then that person gets immediately labeled “transphobic.” At that point, the discussion really ends. There’s nothing more to be said.

(By the way, Heart’s description of how BFP acts is unfair; there are myriad examples of BFP disagreeing with people about transgender issues without immediately labeling them transphobic.)

Conservatives frequently use this exact argument to try and put discussions of racism, sexism and homophobia out of bounds.4 The idea is that because these concepts make (some) people in the majority culture so uncomfortable that they hesitate to speak, these concepts should therefore not be included in our discussions.

The emptiness of Heart’s argument is, I think, obvious. Transphobia does not become an illegitimate concept to discuss merely because discussing transphobia makes some cisgendered5 people uncomfortable.6

It’s true, of course, that someone could be accused of being transphobic when they’re not. This is obviously hurtful when it happens, but not nearly as hurtful — or harmful — as refusing to talk about transphobia at all! The need for transsexual and transgendered people to be able to talk about how bigotry harms them outweighs whatever “need” cisgendered people have to not be pushed outside their comfort zone.

Argument #4: Transsexuals are dupes of the medical establishment.

Over at Little Light’s blog, in comments, Ravenmn writes:

One of the more sensible arguments that some radfems make against transgenders is the idea that you are choosing to mutilate and drug your body, therefore are some kind of dupe of the medical establishment.

(Ravenmn wasn’t endorsing that argument, only referencing it.) Nanette responded:

I, of course, am not attempting to answer for anyone who is transgender and has had surgery or anything, but I am not sure I would consider that a sensible argument, unless they are just anti medical or surgical intervention for anything, as a general practice. If not, (or even if so) then someone’s personal medical decisions are none of their business, any more than it’s anyone else’s business if you get your tonsils out, have an abortion (that’s also one of the arguments anti abortion people use), have moles cut off, have cochlear implants (some in the non hearing community oppose that, as well), and so on.

The only way they can make that argument, in my view, is if they feel the same sense of ownership over the bodies of transfolk as the right wingers and others feel they have over women. Funny how sometimes the language, actions and tools of oppression or marginalization take such familiar and similar forms, across beliefs, political views and boundaries.

I agree with Nanette, but I’d add that it’s true, historically, that the medical establishment has used access to medical treatments (like prescription hormones and surgery) as a means of forcing transsexuals to endorse and live by traditional gender roles. As far as I can tell, this has become less true in recent years, to a great extent because many transsexuals have actively resisted the conservative status quo of the old medical establishment.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the “dupes of the medical establishment” analysis ignores the fact that not all transsexuals and transgendered people seek medical help to transition. There are a wide variety of trans narratives: One persistent flaw of the anti-trans critiques is that they frequently are framed as if male-to-female surgical transsexuals who describe themselves as “women trapped in male bodies” are the be-all and end-all of transsexual and transgendered experience.

Which brings us to the next anti-trans argument….

Argument #5: Transsexuality implicitly endorses essentialism and traditional gender roles.

In the I Blame The Patriarchy thread, Edith (of the blog Because Sometimes Feminists Aren’t Nice) wrote:

Radical feminists are also against oppression and against gender roles, but they simply do not see being transgender as a good way to fight gender roles — rather, they see transgender as a way of ENFORCING gender roles. [...]

If gender is inborn, something neurologically wired, then being “born” in the wrong body makes sense. But actually, radfems tend to believe that gender is socialized and therefore, no one is “born” in the wrong body. [...] In this way, I personally think that the more modern, “biological” view of transgender is the more essentialist.

I agree with Edith that the “female brain trapped in a male body” — or the “male brain trapped in a female body” — view of transsexuality is essentialist. But it’s hardly as if “X brain trapped in Y body” narratives are a fair way to describe all of transsexual and transgendered thought! There’s no doubt that some individual transsexuals — like some individual cisgenders — have essentialist views. But to take disagreements with how some transsexuals view gender as a criticism of the entire idea of transsexuality is unwarranted.

In a sense, those transsexuals who move from one sex to the other “entrench the system” of gender as a binary, because they are willing to dress and be identified in society as one gender and not the other. But all of us go along with the gender-binary system in some ways, whether its women who shave their legs or faces, men who avoid wearing dresses and gowns, or any of a thousand ways people adapt to the gendered society we live in.

It’s simply unfair to single out transsexuals for criticism on this score. (I discuss this in more detail in this post). To (once again) quote from Winter’s excellent post:

Moreover, why are transgendered and transsexual women scapegoated and made responsible for upholding gender roles and the patriarchy when every single one of us upholds gender roles every day of our lives? I uphold gender roles every time I call myself a “woman,” every time I answer to my gendered first name, or use my patronymic surname, every time I buy an item of clothing classed as female in a shop for women, every time I use the toilet with that symbol on the door which is supposed to denote womanhood. We are all of us thoroughly gendered under the current conditions. If gender eventually disappears, it will go in its own time; we cannot just get rid of it and we certainly can’t get rid of it by denying other people their rights to their own gendered embodiments.

Further Reading

There have been a lot of excellent responses to the thread at Twisty’s; some are direct rebuttals, others are just thoughts brought to the fore by the current mess. Some of the posts I especially enjoyed: Little Light, the entire discussion at Women of Color Blog, The Silver Oak Leaf, Angry Brown Butch, and Tiny Cat Pants.

  1. Spotted Elephant has a good post decrying anti-disabled rhetoric used by some folks on both sides of this debate. []
  2. Cisgendered is a term meaning, roughly, “not transsgendered or transsexual.” []
  3. Remember when Betty Friedan argued against “The Lavender Menace”? []
  4. One prominent anti-gay-marriage blog, Family Scholars Blog, in effect banned all discussion of homophobia from its comments. Later on they banned comments altogether, which was probably a mercy for all concerned. []
  5. Cisgendered is a term meaning, roughly, “not transsgendered or transsexual.” []
  6. I think a lot of what I wrote about how white people react when criticized for racism also applies to many cisgendered feminists criticized for transphobia. []
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440 Responses to Responding To The Feminist Anti-Transsexual Arguments

  1. 301
    BritGirlSF says:

    “My overies started to throb” – what a pile of sentimentalist C@#@. I’m so angry about this I hardly know where to begin. I already posted a long rant on my own blog, but suffice it to say here that picking on the weak is not an admirable character trait. Neither is wishing harm upon others. I could understand a woman who had been raped wishing the same fate on her attacker, but to just randomly hope that more men in general be raped – are these people insane? And what exactly is achieved by picking on transpeople?
    The essentialism here is really bothering me too. Women are mystical creatures that trans people could just never understand as they’re not REAL women, huh?
    It’s all about the ovaries? Isn’t that exactly the kind of thinking that has been used to justify every terrible thing that’s been done to women as a group throughout history?
    I’m going to shut up now before I say something nasty, since I know Amp likes to keep things civil. Anyone who wants to vent with me feel free to come over to my LJ here.
    http://britgirlsf.livejournal.com/

    PS Amp, sorry I pinched one of your quotes. I got so angry reading that thread that I gave up and came back here before I started throwing things, so I couldn’t bear to go back and dig through it for relevant quotes.

  2. 302
    BritGirlSF says:

    OK, now that I’ve calmed down a bit…
    The “I don’t want transpeople in the bathroom” argument just floors me. At a previous job we had a trans guy who as far as I know probably still had a penis (sorry to be crass, I don’t know what terminology to use) and there were a bunch of women who got very upset and came to me (their boss) asking me to ban him from the women’s bathroom. I refused, of course, but they didn’t stop complaining about it until he quit, and none of them were able to give me an explanation for why they felt that way that made any sense. To this day I still don’t get what the problem was.
    novathecat, if you’re still here – why don’t you want a transperson who still has male equipment in the bathroom with you? I’m not being sarcastic, I genuinely want to know, because I’ve heard that said before and I don’t understand what it is that people are upset about. What bad thing do you think is going to happen? It sounds like you’re afraid of rape, and it seems to me that if there’s any person you don’t have to worry about that with it would be exactly the person you’re afraid of. If you’re afraid of violence in a general sense then there are a lot of other indicators that would seem more likely to trigger alarm than the fact that a person was trans.
    I think this is part of what was disturbing me about this whole issue but I’ve been having a hard time articulating. On top of the sheer offensiveness of the language some people used and the idea that women special mystical creatures whose identity is based on their having ovaries, there’s this idea that seems to be floating around that every penis is a deadly weapon and that anyone with a penis will automatically commit rape given the slightest opportunity. That bothers me for all kinds of reasons, and it seems particularly inexplicable when talking about people many of whom have every intention of at some point not having a penis any more.
    Sorry if I sound ignorant here, I’m still trying to figure out the right language to use to talk about all this.
    Also, on the reinforcing gender norms idea – most of us do that every day. Why single out trans people in particular?
    And on NancyP’s idea about non-gendered souls, I would venture to say that a lot of people feel that way, maybe even more people than those who feel that their souls are gendered. I’ve always said that I prefer the company of people who are psychologically androgynous. I’m pretty sure that’s a common feeling, even if people don’t necessarily say it most of the time.

  3. 303
    Holly says:

    If I were transsexual, it would be out of a belief that having the body and the social expectations of the sex I was not indoctrinated to be from birth would mean that I would have a greater ease at freeing myself from my indoctrinated gender constraints. I don’t know if anyone who is actually transsexual or transgendered, (or more specifically, who presents as the gender they were not raised as) is so for that reason.

    I don’t believe I or most people have perfect access to our own motivations or a totally clear analysis of our feelings, and my understanding of myself changes and evolves over time, on this subject and many others. But the beliefs/feelings you describe in the quote above definitely were part of my process in adjusting and changing the way I presented and myself and was positioned in gendered structures. Finding ways out of toxic constraints, finding a vantage point with a different perspective; certainly not a “better” or “more advantageous” one, but different and with a different relationship to what was forced on me, etc. Again, a matter of process and journey, not necessarily destination and “benefit” or “choice.”

  4. 304
    StacyM says:

    Bean says:

    You refuse to see your essentialism, so there’s no point. You have a right to your opinion. But just keep in mind that your opinions are among the very reasons that many feminists see trans as essentialists and as not feminist. And I don’t just mean your opinions on trans and gender, but on the world and all of human behavior as well. In fact, that’s been my point all along — why much (but not all) of trans ideology and philosophy is not feminist.

    That is in direct conflict with what I learned in Women’s Studies back in college. There are many different branches of feminist thought and theory. Some of them are essentialist and some of them are not. All of these branches of thought hold central the objective of improving women’s social status, but they each have differing assumptions regarding what is the best course of action and wherein the true source of oppression or conflict originates. Essentialism may not make sense to you, but it does for some feminists.

    It’s also in direct conflict with personal experience. I know plenty of people who are feminists who also believe in some form of essentialism. At times, they make my eyes roll, but I still accept that they are feminists. I still accept that we all share the common goal of caring about women and share a desire to cut down on the amount of crap that women have to put up with in this world.

    It’s not uncommon for members of a particular political movement to critique the beliefs of their peers as being “false consciousness” and condemn their peers as aiding the goals of the opposition—kind of like an unwitting fifth column, if you will. Sectarian infighting was quite common during the political movements of the 60s and 70s. It caused a lot of heartache, fatigue and disgust.

    Since everyone here is human, none of us are really immune from this behavior. Nevertheless, it tends to weaken our effectiveness.

    Bean, you may see most transpeople as essentialists. OK. Fine. I don’t care. In spite of your accusations—true or not—many of us are feminists and will continue to identify as such. We care about women. Some of us put up with the day to day shit the most other women put up with. Others may have put up with that shit but no longer have to because they now identify as men. Others may find the gendered social exceptions placed upon them to be a bunch of oppressive nonsense and have learned to hate sexism. These experiences inform our understanding of the world and undergird our commitment to feminism. They help shape and give genesis to the concern that we feel for women and our dislike of the strictures of sexist oppression. That’s the bottom line.

    You do not own the copyright or patent on feminism. That’s one of the great things about feminism: if one person’s feminism doesn’t make sense, one can fashion a version that does. This is not a religion. There is no Bible, no Torah, no Qur’an.

  5. 305
    StacyM says:

    ArrogantWorm says:

    Nooooo, feelings are a perfectly fine answering of the question. And thanks for answering.

    Thanks for saying that, AW. :)

  6. 306
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Amp writes:

    There’s no reason “I dislike my body” must be a symptom of “my behavior is inappropriate for my body,” and I’ve known transfolks who don’t believe that there is such a thing as behavior that’s inappropriate for a body’s sex.

    Oh, absolutely — I think “masculine” and “feminine” are a crock as well, and don’t think there’s anything a man or woman can’t do, except as limited by biology or the laws of Physics ;)

    I’m not just talking about “I personally think that I am (whatever) because I’m male and like Barbie”, I’m also talking about externally imposed messages. It can be “You act like a sissy!”, even if you don’t think anything is wrong with acting like a sissy, but you still find the taunts and insults annoying. It can be “I’m sorry, you don’t belong here”, even if “here” is a more personally rewarding space, but you have the wrong plumbing.

    Stacy wrote about being connected to women in this deep and spiritual way — presumably a way that wasn’t possible as a male. Why isn’t it possible? Why is it not possible for a male-bodied person to have that social connectedness? My answer, and yeah, I know I’m busily shoehorning away, is because society is so rigidly gendered.

    I’ve watched people attack you, and here I’m especially thinking about when you were on Ms., simply because you’re a man. Not because you’re a bad feminist, or a Men’s Rights Advocate, or evil, or mean, but because you are male, but because “you have the wrong body.” I don’t think there is anything inherently biological that makes you incapable of being a good feminist (which I think you are, FWIW), which tells me that whatever objections women have to you being a “feminist” are their own baggage. And, presuming that Stacy had the same personality before changing sex as after, whatever problems Stacy had having that “connectedness” with women wasn’t about her, it was about how people saw her, based solely on her body.

  7. 307
    StacyM says:

    I’m writing on my lunch break, so I have to keep this limited.

    Stacy wrote about being connected to women in this deep and spiritual way — presumably a way that wasn’t possible as a male. Why isn’t it possible? Why is it not possible for a male-bodied person to have that social connectedness?

    Actually, that sense of connection with women was/is there regardless of what body I wear. This sense of connection produced the need to be female, but was not hindered by flesh or identity.

    Understand though, that there is a level of experience which words simply fail to convey. This is like trying to explain the color green to person who was born without sight.

  8. 308
    ArrogantWorm says:

    Combine essentialist thinking and a belief that nothing will ever change (so why bother trying)

    I’m going to attempt to point once, once again, that that is not what I meant.
    I didn’t type ‘nothing will ever change.’ I typed that since the sex categories haven’t been abandoned for so damn long, that they probably weren’t going to be. So I work with what I have, which is shredding the roles as much as I’m able, and encouraging people, if they so choose, to make new identities.

  9. 309
    ArrogantWorm says:

    AW — I will not be continuing the argument with you. You refuse to see your essentialism, so there’s no point.

    AW’s posts have done nothing but confirm that there are people who believe this ideology/philosophy.

    If you don’t indeed want to continue the discussion with me, perhapes it is in your best interest not to bring up my posts so that I won’t get that itchy feeling that you’re miscategorizing me and try to respond. It’s not right nor fair to declare that you won’t continue the ‘argument’ and yet still bring my name into your post as an example, one which I don’t agree with. It’s….rude.

  10. 310
    belledame222 says:

    “Gender is a system of oppression”

    I guess maybe that’s where the disconnect is, for me. I honestly don’t get this at all. I mean: is the implication that in order for there to be -no- oppression, we would all have to present as completely androgynous? Because, if that’s the case, I don’t see many feminists taking this line so doing, to be perfectly honest.

    if one were to eschew -all- markers of gender identification, at least i might find that consistent. seems to me though that, for example, if you go into the public bathroom marked with the little skirted figure without even questioning your right to go in there, (and no one else does, either), but -do- question other peoples’ right to go in there; well? that you’re upholding a gendered system at least as much as anyone else. and frankly, that particular example is, yup, oppressive; and in this case you’d be on the side of the oppressors. Sorry. Power is relative.

    but besides that: why, why, why does -everything- always have to be an oppression or a pathology? Why is it not possible to even conceive that, gee, maybe gender could be (o the dreaded word) -fun-? Something to play with? Something to revel in? Isn’t the whole point of “oppression” not the content of what you’re being demanded to do or not do, but the fact that there’s -demanding,- period? How many boxes are still in your ideal boxless society, really?

  11. 311
    belledame222 says:

    >You do not own the copyright or patent on feminism. That’s one of the great things about feminism: if one person’s feminism doesn’t make sense, one can fashion a version that does.>

    and speaking of boxes: Ho-fucking-sannah. YES. THANK YOU.

  12. 312
    belledame222 says:

    >I’d also like to add that by this standard, being lesbian for non-political reasons is counterrevolutionary. But, of course, you never hear that criticism.>

    well, if I have heard it, i have mercifully blocked out the memory. “Counter-revolutionary”–AIYIIEIEEEIEEEEEEEEEEE

  13. 313
    belledame222 says:

    one more:

    you know, we don’t all live in abstractions, which where i think this sort of argument tends to fall down. Not just the everyday realities of “look, the Revolution is great and all, but I need rights to live and thrive -right now-,” as has been discussed, but how one -feels- in one’s body.

    someone TS, i forget where, was referring to the feeling of being in the body-as-birthed as feeling like “trying to swim in a wedding gown; very uncomfortable.”

    Seriously, though: not -everything- is reducible to sociopolitical theory, analysis, mental calculations. The bodymind has its own wisdom.

    More to the point, perhaps, I always just think: it’s not -your- bodymind, you’ve got your own, so can’t you just leave the other person -alone?- Jesus.

  14. 314
    belledame222 says:

    I mean, this is ultimately where all these arguments break down for me: much of the Eternal Subject thrashes, the Beauty thrashes, this, that:

    “I’m cold. Put on a sweater.”

    Why is it so incredibly fucking difficult for some people to understand about boundaries? Because, it’s completely invasive to tell other people what their very subjective experience means, -must- mean. Again: your body belongs to you. That other person’s does -not- belong to you. Yes? We’re all clear on that much? Certainly we’re clear enough about it when it comes to: rape, reproductive rights, and so on.

    So why does it suddenly become this incredibly convoluted, swampy mess whenever what the other -woman- wants to do with -her body- involves, you know, how to decorate it, how to (consensually) pleasure it, how to alter it. How to name herself, how she wants to present in this world. -Why do you care?- Except to defend her -choice- the same as you would any woman who y’know needed an abortion? Yah, -choice.- As in, whatever else, -it isn’t yours.- You’ve got your OWN.

    Gah.

  15. 315
    ArrogantWorm says:

    but besides that: why, why, why does -everything- always have to be an oppression or a pathology?

    Because if there isn’t anything that can be considered an oppression or a pathology (or both) much of what people choose or identify with will have to stand on its own merit, ie; what they say about themselves. From what I gather, some people think that for something to be judged on its own merit is *bad.* If an idea/object/opinion/choice whatever must stand on its own merit, by default some people lose ‘status’ as victims because their choice/object/idea/opinion wouldn’t be classified as someone forcing said idea/opinions/choices on them.

    At least, I think that’s it, if you have another opinion, please share. =)

  16. 316
    ArrogantWorm says:

    Perhaps the word ‘anything in the first sentence should be switched with ‘something.’

    I’m not sure, but I think the second word choice reads more accurate with the thought.

  17. 317
    ArrogantWorm says:

    I’m not just talking about “I personally think that I am (whatever) because I’m male and like Barbie”, I’m also talking about externally imposed messages. It can be “You act like a sissy!”, even if you don’t think anything is wrong with acting like a sissy, but you still find the taunts and insults annoying. It can be “I’m sorry, you don’t belong here”, even if “here” is a more personally rewarding space, but you have the wrong plumbing.

    But everyone gets those socially disapproving gender messages, and I expect to get them after I finish transitioning just as much as I did before I started. Those messages are not the reason I decided to start transition. And all you have is my word, which I respectfully ask that you take at face value and not tack on ulterior motives which I’ve already disputed. People’s responses to my social role won’t change, because both before and after they’re not particularly congruent with what is expected of me my society. So if I’m expected to have transitioned due to social expectations or roles, I’m afraid those beliefs are sadly mistaken.

  18. 318
    ArrogantWorm says:

    Because if there isn’t anything that can be considered an oppression or a pathology (or both) much of what people choose or identify with will have to stand on its own merit, ie; what they say about themselves. From what I gather, some people think that for something to be judged on its own merit is *bad.* If an idea/object/opinion/choice whatever must stand on its own merit, by default some people lose ’status’ as victims because their choice/object/idea/opinion wouldn’t be classified as someone forcing said idea/opinions/choices on them.

    Alright, thought of a way to put it much simpler.

    If people don’t believe their reasoning for an action (like transitioning) is brought about by oppression or pathology, then they’d have to be taken at their word, and that just won’t do, because that would discredit the reasoning being that all choices are brought on by oppression. As such, not everyone could be considered a victim based on their own reasoning, and forced into a victim role.

    Sorry for the multiple posts, but the above blockquote was way too confusing.

  19. 319
    Myca says:

    Man, Belledame, I’ve been hoping you would join the discussion. Thanks for chiming in.

    I think, to sort of riff off of what you said, that one of my main issues with the criticisms is that even if you buy that the impulse behind transitioning is counter to feminist principles (which I DO NOT), then you’re left in a situation where you’re attacking something really freaking huge and essential about someone else’s life because a political theory of yours.

    It’s like all the abstract arguments about SSM. I’m not going to agree that SSM will hurt marriage an an institution, but even if it did, you’re talking about a possible abstract harm versus real, current oppression. For me, the real, current oppression wins.

    Bad things happen when a theory becomes more important than the people involved.

  20. 320
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Belledame222 writes:

    “Gender is a system of oppression”

    I guess maybe that’s where the disconnect is, for me. I honestly don’t get this at all. I mean: is the implication that in order for there to be -no- oppression, we would all have to present as completely androgynous? Because, if that’s the case, I don’t see many feminists taking this line so doing, to be perfectly honest.

    Because that’s the definition that was created by feminists long before transgender activists decided that “gender” meant something completely different.

    THAT is what is so difficult in these discussions — “Gender is a system of oppression” does not mean, in any sense whatsoever, that ending “gender” means we all have to wear blue Mao suits, short hair, Mao caps (I own a Mao cap — I’m prepared :) ), move like robots, and speak in an identical voice.

    If you go back to my post at 233, “Gender is a system of oppression based on sex”, that’s “Gender #2″. Your comment “Does that mean we all have to be androgynous” is “Gender #1″. Stacy’s “deep connection to women” is “Gender #3″. These are not the same things, even though “gender” (or “gender identity”) might be used to describe them. Feminist “gender” and Transgender “gender” are completely and totally different things. Can I get an “amen”, Q Grrl, Amp, Poster Who Doesn’t Want Me Responding To Her?

  21. 321
    FurryCatHerder says:

    AW –

    I can only refer you to my post at 126. “You” is both singular and plural. I’m not addressing you-AW, but an abstract “those people”. I’d write “youse guys”, but that’s pretty gross :-/

    Sorry for any confusion.

  22. 322
    FurryCatHerder says:

    (Urph — I think a post of mine was lost. And I really liked it …)

    Belledame222 writes:

    “Gender is a system of oppression”

    I guess maybe that’s where the disconnect is, for me. I honestly don’t get this at all. I mean: is the implication that in order for there to be -no- oppression, we would all have to present as completely androgynous? Because, if that’s the case, I don’t see many feminists taking this line so doing, to be perfectly honest.

    There are multiple meanings for the word “gender”. The one most feminists started using, long before the transgender revolution of the mid 1990′s, is “a system of oppression based on sex”. That’s more or less what I mean, at least, when I talk about “gender” within a feminist discoursive context.

    The definition of “gender” that gets used most in transgender discoursive contexts is more concerned with things like clothing, hair style, body language, voice, etc. Things that “presentation” related.

    Dealing with issues related to feminist-gender can be done without turning people into sexless clones of each other. Dealing with feminist-gender means getting rid of the system which places significance on sex-related things. “Dress” loses its significance as a female article of clothing. “Math” loses its significance as something men accell at . Power-over isn’t maintained by men by using various tools against women. “Sex” doesn’t disappear, but the “system of oppression based on sex” disappears — feminine guys and masculine gals are just male people and female people. Their behavior might be described, but the description isn’t sex-related.

  23. 323
    ArrogantWorm says:

    Their behavior might be described, but the description isn’t sex-related.

    Then if the description isn’t sex-related, and the goal is that people may act however they choose regardless of physical sex, then why do some people think the wish to change your own body shouldn’t or wouldn’t be used? If the choices available wouldn’t be dependent on sex, might one person consider the sexed body option of another a more pleasing form for themselves than the one they currently occupy?

  24. 324
    FurryCatHerder says:

    ArrogantWorm writes:

    Then if the description isn’t sex-related, and the goal is that people may act however they choose regardless of physical sex, then why do some people think the wish to change your own body shouldn’t or wouldn’t be used? If the choices available wouldn’t be dependent on sex, might one person consider the sexed body option of another a more pleasing form for themselves than the one they currently occupy?

    Oh, you had to ask those questions, didn’t you.

    To the first question I’d ask “To what end?” What’s the objective of changing sex? Why bother changing sex if the only things dependent on sex are those things which are biologically dependent on sex? Ending Patriarchy isn’t going to make males capable of getting pregnant or females capable of impregnating. Beyond that, anything is theoretically possible post-Patriarchy. So, if changing sex can’t change biological potential towards the possibilities of the opposite sex, why change sex?

    To the second question, I just don’t know. Right now most of the reasons people have for changing otherwise functional bodies are tied up in social messages. There are some forms of plastic surgery that are about restoring proper function, or improving on marginal function, but a lot of it is about social messages — women having facelifts to look younger, liposuction to meet an ideal of thinness, breast augmentation to be more attractive to men. I’d really like to interrogate why the person felt they needed to change their body.

  25. 325
    StacyM says:

    To the first question I’d ask “To what end?” What’s the objective of changing sex? Why bother changing sex if the only things dependent on sex are those things which are biologically dependent on sex? Ending Patriarchy isn’t going to make males capable of getting pregnant or females capable of impregnating. Beyond that, anything is theoretically possible post-Patriarchy. So, if changing sex can’t change biological potential towards the possibilities of the opposite sex, why change sex?

    As usual, different transpeople will have different reasons. On reason is the way in which sexual intercourse takes place: some people prefer having a vagina when having sex. Others prefer having a penis. Another reason is that male and female bodies feel different: different skin texture, different bumps in different places, different sexual sensations (estrogen tends to increase erotic sensitivity in the chest, for instance). Kissing another person without having the prickle and drag of razor stubble feels different. Clothing fits differently.

    That’s just a few examples. I’m sure there are more. Again, it depends on the person.

    You know, I wish that I were capable of bearing children. I don’t really have a desire to have children, but it would be nice to know that I could if I changed my mind. Siring children holds no appeal for me. Why? Without the connection of actually carrying the child in my own body, something seems missing. No, medical technology can not bring this into reality, but I’ll take what I can get. I feel much more comfortable in this body than I did prior to hormones and surgery and that’s a blessing. I feel at home in this body. I did feel this way before.

  26. 326
    StacyM says:

    Duh. That should have read, “I did NOT feel this way before.”

  27. 327
    Johanna says:

    This argument is kind of stupid. I work with real women who have completed sex reassignment surgery. Guess what? Unless they tell you, YOU CAN’T TELL THE DIFFERENCE!

    If you’re concerned about trannies, then perhaps you should have a vagina check of all your friends, neighbors, and coworkers, because that’s the only way you will be sure. Some of them even fool me, and I work with them.

    If you nazi bigots ever wear pants and no make-up, then you are crossdressing. This argument is kind of stupid, did I say that already?

    [Wow, this comment just totally slipped by me while I had the flu. Just so people know, I would DEFINITELY had deleted this comment had I been able to monitor the discussion back when this was posted. Calling other "Alas" comment-writers "Nazi bigots" is way over the line. The only reason I'm not deleting it now is that I think other folks may have responded to it. --Amp]

  28. 328
    ArrogantWorm says:

    Why bother changing sex if the only things dependent on sex are those things which are biologically dependent on sex?

    That’s like asking why I only had one hemangioma removed instead of three. I’m going to try and draw a comparison, but I’m not sure if it’ll be understood across the gap. =/

    I had three benign hemangiomas on my face. Two were next to my mouth, the third went from the corner of my mouth on up to my left eye and blocked it. Now, let us say that in a ..gender-role and expectation-free society, they only removed one, because the other two weren’t hurting me, and people didn’t mind that I didn’t look quite like everyone else. No expectations, remember.

    But here’s the kicker. Even if they didn’t mind, *I still would have noticed that I did not resemble what I thought I should.* Also, they’re uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable enough for immediate, life-threatening surgery, but uncomfortable like, say, when brushing your teeth. And even though you’d get used to the little extra weight, still, you notice it’s there. Not quite what you want, even though nobody else seems to mind. Would you still say that’s societies expectations, or my own expectations of what I want to be? And would you think that no one would get the surgery to have them removed, or would remove them for their own comfort?

    (Little backstory probably needed. Most hemangiomas flatten out as children age and are gone by 10 yrs., the skin most likely being slightly loose and remaining darkish in color, which is why most doctors, at least in the very early 80′s, refused to consider removing them until after I started school. Mine decided to grow, instead, being of the superficial and deep variety, if that the comparison any)

  29. 329
    ArrogantWorm says:

    If that helps the comparison any.

  30. 330
    Nick says:

    Being transgender is not so much about interactions with others and ‘acceptable behaviors’ for ones gender as much as it is about a personal experience of ones body.

    Here’s a thought experiment to ask a transperson: You are on a desert island and will never interact with another human being for the rest of your life, but all your physical need will be provided for. The option exists for you to choose to fully transition (and assume that it will be entirely physically safe.) Do you do it?

    Every single transperson I have asked this question has said ‘absolutely yes!’

    So its not just about permissiveness of society about gendered behaviors and whether or not the guy who pumps your gas calls you Ma’am or Sir. Its about comfort in ones own body.

  31. 331
    ArrogantWorm says:

    You are on a desert island and will never interact with another human being for the rest of your life, but all your physical need will be provided for. The option exists for you to choose to fully transition (and assume that it will be entirely physically safe.) Do you do it?

    Well, yeah. S’pecially if it’s entirely physically safe.

    I know what you’re saying, but some people are of the opinion that transition is because of socially gendered messages and I was trying to word the question around that to show why I don’t believe that’s the reason. Your questions a bit easier on the mind. Also hoped for people’s opinions on would they change their primary and secondary sexual charactristics, and if not, why. Thought because that’s one of the most often-asked questions that I get, I’m curious of how the ‘other half’ responds. The responses have been interesting =)

  32. 332
    FurryCatHerder says:

    If you nazi bigots ever wear pants and no make-up, then you are crossdressing. This argument is kind of stupid, did I say that already?

    Right, because pants have magical penis-powers and a vagina is really just a handy storage compartment for makeup.

    Get real. Before there were pants or makeup there were women and men. Pants don’t make someone man and makeup doesn’t make someone a woman. People somehow manage to figure out who the women are even when we wear pants and no makeup, like I did today, yesterday, and every day for the last several weeks back to the day last month when I decided to wear a bit of lipstick for a political mixer I attended. If it had been a fundraiser I might even have worn a dress, but as it was, it was just a potluck dinner …

  33. 333
    nexyjo says:

    Its about comfort in ones own body.

    this is where language fails me, or us. i agree, i believe, with nick’s statement, because i believe i know what he’s saying. but the term “comfort” is not one that i would use with, well, much comfort. because for me, and some other trans people i know, the term “comfort” only scratches the surface of how living in my post-transition body works better for me than my pre-transition body. and in a very real way, my body is not that much different than it was before. in my case, the only difference is my genitals, my lack of facial hair, and my hormone mix. but somehow, it makes all the difference in the world.

  34. 334
    ArrogantWorm says:

    People somehow manage to figure out who the women are even when we wear pants and no makeup, like I did today, yesterday, and every day for the last several weeks back to the day last month when I decided to wear a bit of lipstick for a political mixer I attended.

    Not to be nitpicky, but they often didn’t ‘figure’ it out when I presented myself as female, even with the makeup and skirt schtich. At least half the people I meet still get it wrong, with various mistakes.

    On the other hand, I haven’t been to a potluck in ages, was it any good?

  35. 335
    StacyM says:

    but the term “comfort” is not one that i would use with, well, much comfort. because for me, and some other trans people i know, the term “comfort” only scratches the surface of how living in my post-transition body works better for me than my pre-transition body.

    Yes! I agree. It’s hard to put into words, but I get what you are talking about.

    And therein lies one of the big problems that I alluded to earlier in this thread: it is difficult to put into language what this experience is like. Transpeople can talk to each other about this with some degree of ease because we have a common basis of experience. Talking to those who are not transgender can be really difficult and frustrating because that common basis of experience doesn’t exist.

    When talking about an experience that is grounded in emotions, intuition, or some other sensation, the only reason why people manage to convey their experience is because people have a shared understanding of what these words reference. Most people have experienced love, anger, hatred, happiness, wonder, etc. Most people have experienced color, the touch of a rough surface, the taste of salt, the sweet fragrance of a flower and the sound of water in a stream. Those words are symbols that reference direct experience. Remove the experience and they become meaningless marks on a page.

    In the absence of shared experience, other people ascribe their own meaning to the words that we speak and misunderstanding ensues. This generally happens when people are communicating across some kind of demographic barrier: sex, race, class, culture, etc. Enough books have been written on these matters to fill entire libraries.

    The thing is, if I chat with, say, a an open-minded cisgender male friend, with enough effort, I can get him to understand on some level the crap I put of with as a woman. I can also get him to understand on some level the kind of discrimination that I experience as a transgender person.

    However, when talking about the base level experience of what it actually *feels* like to be trans, the gap that needs to be traversed seems so bloody huge. I’ve tried to explain to cisgender people what this feels like and I usually hit a moment of quiet in the conversation when it becomes obvious that I’ve totally lost them.

    I’ve managed to find a grand total of one cisgender person who hit her head and said, “Oh! I get it!” I used the analogy that I described in post #305. It worked because we both feel a deep connection with nature and we both have had similar spiritual experiences. So, we found a common reference point to work with, one which gave words meaning. (I only recently though of this analogy. I’ll have to try it out on more people.)

    The thing is, without that common reference point, a void of understanding opens up that is often filled by other people’s discomfort, fear, prejudice, and pet theories. It’s as though transfolk are living Rorschach tests—people impose upon us the meaning that they wish to see or the meaning that prejudice leads them to see.

  36. 336
    ArrogantWorm says:

    At first, I wasn’t going to respond because it was such a ridiculous argument. But the ridiculousness of it got to me, and I have to respond. Dude, you realize that the vast majority of feminist change has only happened in the last 40 years, don’t you?

    What, you’re under the assumption that woman haven’t worked towards their rights before? The majority of feminist change has happened several times already in several different places in history. I go back more than a 160 years, as I try and find *everything.* It’s not a new idea. I’d give you links to various books and history, but you eschewed the links I volunteered for Robert earlier, so I doubt you’d want to read anything that could possibly be contrary in any sense of the word to your opinion. Also, I wasn’t talking about the ‘system’ using the words male and female as a matter of rights that all people are entitled too; I was talking about the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ as a concept staying because they describe a physical manifestation. Not staying because some people don’t have rights and it hasn’t been abolished yet.

  37. 337
    ArrogantWorm says:

    Undergoing drastic measures to alter your body so that it fits in with societal assumptions (and that includes individuals, who are part of society) of what it means to be a “man” or a “woman,” you are reifying the gender=sex=gender notions that patriarchal society is based on. —————– And, since reifying this notion goes against much of feminist thought, well…there ya go.

    So are you by even existing. And unless you consider one worse than the other, I’m suprised you typed this at all. I could’ve sworn something like this was mentioned in Amp’s original post. Oooh, there it is, rebuttal #5. Scroll up and take a gander.

  38. 338
    cicely says:

    Mcya wrote:

    Bad things happen when a theory becomes more important than the people involved.

    That’s it in a nutshell as far as I’m concerned. I read somwhere that a good question to ask someone who holds strong beliefs (ideas without proof) is: ‘Why do you *wish* to believe what you claim to believe?’

    What happens to feminism if sexual orientation for many or even most people proves to be innate, or if transexuality for many individuals proves to be – as is widely reported by intelligent people who are actually living the experience – about actually somehow, via brain messages (the brain being part of biology) ‘being’ the sex that your body isn’t? Does feminism die? Since I write as a feminist who does have some essentialist beliefs, inluding these two, and don’t feel that these undermine my feminist goals in any way, I obviously don’t think so. I think what complete social constructivist feminists feel is a kind of political transphobia. (which isn’t to say your run of the mill phobia isn’t at times present as well.) If they accept what StacyM and AW and many others have to say about their own deep experience – including that the need to transition can have absolutely nothing to do with a need to conform to gendered expectations in society – they also have to accept that their theories and any prescriptions stemming from those theories are mistaken. These things can’t co-exist. What is so difficult about building a feminism that embraces different possibilities or do social constructivist feminists have different goals than feminists with some essentialist beliefs, like me?

    Can I ask the direct question then – what do feminists who currently find it impossible to accept *any* degree of essentialism feel feminism would lose if it were one day scientifially *proven* that a significant percentage of transexuals, regardless of gendered expectations, will only ever feel ‘themselves’ if they can live as the sex their brain tells them they are but which is not the sex of their body? If I’ve put that clumsily I apologise. I should just say – if the way they describe their own experience has a demonstrable scientific explanation.

  39. 339
    nexyjo says:

    Undergoing drastic measures to alter your body so that it fits in with societal assumptions (and that includes individuals, who are part of society) of what it means to be a “man” or a “woman,” you are reifying the gender=sex=gender notions that patriarchal society is based on… [snip] …And, since reifying this notion goes against much of feminist thought, well…there ya go.

    so after all the discussion, the laying bare of people’s personal and intimate lives and experiences over the past month, you actually still believe that trans people are all about changing their bodies specifically to fit in with societal assumptions of what it means to be a man or a woman?

    so what about the majority of trans people who don’t undergo drastic measures to alter their body? what about the huge number of trans people who undergo “drastic” measures to alter their body for reasons other than fitting in to societal expectations? and where do you draw the line at where “not-drastic measures” end, and “drastic measures” begin? and frankly, who are you to define what “drastic” means in the context of my body and my lived experience?

    you are making sweeping generalizations about an entire class of people, based on the behavior of a very small minority.

  40. 340
    nexyjo says:

    what do feminists who currently find it impossible to accept *any* degree of essentialism feel feminism would lose if it were one day scientifially *proven* that a significant percentage of transexuals, regardless of gendered expectations, will only ever feel ‘themselves’ if they can live as the sex their brain tells them…

    oh, i’m sure it won’t sway them in the least. please, don’t confuse fundamentalists with any facts, or with any honest reports of lived experiences. feminists who currently find it impossible to accept any degree of essentialism will continue to hold to their party line, just like the rr continues to speak out against abortion as “drastic” measures just so that women be sexually promiscuous. or speak out against ssm as part of the “homosexual agenda” to destroy the “sanctity of marriage”. or speak out against evolution as a theory that goes against the truth of the bible. or even speak out against science as nothing less than liberal double speak.

  41. 341
    FurryCatHerder says:

    cicely writes:

    If they accept what StacyM and AW and many others have to say about their own deep experience – including that the need to transition can have absolutely nothing to do with a need to conform to gendered expectations in society – they also have to accept that their theories and any prescriptions stemming from those theories are mistaken. These things can’t co-exist. What is so difficult about building a feminism that embraces different possibilities or do social constructivist feminists have different goals than feminists with some essentialist beliefs, like me?

    In the framework used to analyze “gender” and other forms of class difference, what this would look like is

    “I need to change my body so that I can change my social class. My need to change my social class is somehow a part of my brain. My brain knows that I am a member of the wrong social class. Being a member of the wrong social class is deeply painful. Until I change my social class I will experience distress.”

    Not saying it is or isn’t gibberish to anyone else, but I think the reason that trans people sound like gibberish to radical feminists (it’s really just the radical feminists who have these fits over trans everything) is because so far as I can tell, that italicized paragraph is what they interpret all of trans stuff to be.

    You can “share” a million personal stories with radical feminists, collaborate on petititions sent to really important people, hold workshops, hold hands in a circle and sing Kumbaya, at the end of the day, they are still going to think everything you say is nonsense.

    This is why I responded so early on that it is NOT the right of radical feminists to declare that “trans” isn’t like sexual orientation. Because if trans stuff is like “sexual orientation” that italicized paragraph above, isn’t quite as absurd. Because, sexual orientation is also a socially constructed class …

  42. 342
    StacyM says:

    Queer people have tended to embrace biological explanations because society at large has said, “Justify your existence, deviant!” Since so much significance is given to gender and biology by patriarchal belief systems, biological explanations have served as a convenient means to turn the system against itself in gaining some degree acceptance. Mind you, that doesn’t mean I agree with those ideas, but it has had some degree of success.

    My general take is this:

    1) Being queer (trans, gay, bi etc.) is often an indelible characteristic of a person’s persona. It doesn’t go away even when people are screaming that you are miserable freak.
    2) Being queer often has its roots in some set of phenomena that occurred early in a person’s life. (Perhaps in the womb, perhaps later, who knows?) The chain of causality starts so early, that few people have any direct knowledge of what precisely happened.
    3) Regardless of the cause, not being able to act on one’s sexual orientation or gender orientation or bodily orientation causes great distress—to the point of severe depression and self-destructive behavior.
    4) Straight people do not generally experience #3 because their own ways of being are receive social sanction as “normalcy.” Hence, they do not have to respond to the question, “Justify your existence!” They do not have to scrabble around for convenient scientific or social theories to justify leading their own lives.

    Theories of origin are nice, interesting things to play with, but no one really knows the answers. The reason why I exist as I do shouldn’t matter. I have a right to live my life. I have a right to not have to worry about numbers 1 through 3. Straight people don’t have to. Why should I? I have a right to be who and what makes sense to me—so long as my actions do not harm others.

  43. 343
    StacyM says:

    Some of the ideas in my previous post were gleaned from something else I read recently. I can’t remember where. I apologize to whomever I failed to cite.

  44. 344
    StacyM says:

    I think you are dead on, FurryCatHerder. It’s as though radfems and transfolk are speaking entirely different languages.

    This whole mess has taught me that intertwining one’s social-political identity with a particular theory can create huge problems. If one runs into ideas that challenge your theory, it becomes personally threatening because you have invested so much of yourself in that theory. It makes it really difficult to listen to people who come from vastly differing perspectives.

    A theory is a tool. Making it an aspect of one’s sense of self invites trouble. It’s not just radfems that do this, however. Lots of folks from many different walks of life do this, too. On this particular occasion, it happens to be radfems and transfolk who are pitted against each other. It could easily be any number of other groupings.

  45. 345
    Ampersand says:

    People aren’t going to get rid of a verbal definition for a concept/idea/belief just because you want them too. After thousands of years, if they were going to do that, they would’ve done it by now. But yet…they haven’t. Occasionally new categories are introduced, but they’ve yet to drop a system.

    Like Bean, I don’t think saying “after thousands of years, if they were going to do that, they would’ve done it by now” makes much sense.

    Look at democracy. Although limited democracies existed in the past, in which certain privileged classes got the right to vote, the existence of democracies with widespread emancipation — in which there is no widespread group of people denied the vote because of race, gender, religion, or class[*] — is less than a century old. 100 years ago, someone could have argued that clearly widespread emancipation would never happen, because “after thousands of years, if they were going to do that, they would’ve done it by now.”

    Change happens sometimes. That something hasn’t happened yet, in thousands of years, is not evidence that it will never happen.

    What, you’re under the assumption that woman haven’t worked towards their rights before? The majority of feminist change has happened several times already in several different places in history. I go back more than a 160 years, as I try and find *everything.* It’s not a new idea. I’d give you links to various books and history, but you eschewed the links I volunteered for Robert earlier, so I doubt you’d want to read anything that could possibly be contrary in any sense of the word to your opinion.

    I think you need to work on making your tone less condesending, AW.

    Also, either cite evidence, or don’t cite it. Saying “I would cite some evidence, except you obviously wouldn’t be interested” is both lame and obnoxious.

    And clearly, feminism isn’t a brand-new idea. But imo, there is something new in how far feminism has come, and how successful feminism has been at mainstreaming some of its ideas, in the last century or so.

    [*] Of course, race and class are still too often barriers to voting. But the current situation is still a big difference from past times when entire races and classes were simply and overtly forbidden to vote.

  46. 346
    Ampersand says:

    Bean:

    As for the rest — I go back to my original argument. Undergoing drastic measures to alter your body so that it fits in with societal assumptions (and that includes individuals, who are part of society) of what it means to be a “man” or a “woman,” you are reifying the gender=sex=gender notions that patriarchal society is based on.

    I don’t think your comment is fair, because AW has explicitly explained that AW isn’t transitioning for that reason:

    I’m not ’switching’ because of preconceived ideas about masculinity and femininity and feeling comfortable emulating one and not the other based on how other people perceive my sex. I could express ‘masculine’ characteristics and ‘feminine’ characteristics in a body with no surgical or hormonal modification just as well as afterwards, and both choices would be equally as valid.

  47. 347
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Stacy writes (in 3 parts …)

    I think you are dead on, FurryCatHerder. It’s as though radfems and transfolk are speaking entirely different languages.

    Hmmm. Lemme see … yeah, that would be post #233 of mine on this thread :)

    This whole mess has taught me that intertwining one’s social-political identity with a particular theory can create huge problems. If one runs into ideas that challenge your theory, it becomes personally threatening because you have invested so much of yourself in that theory. It makes it really difficult to listen to people who come from vastly differing perspectives.

    Well … I have little trouble with most radical feminist theories about class, hierarchy, systems of oppression, social construction, and so on. I’ve examined my own life experiences, and those of others I’ve known over the years, and they seem to hold a lot of water. I treat theories more as frameworks for thinking about things than something that defines “Who I am”. So, when radical feminists, as individuals, say “The Tranz Sux”, I think that’s more a problem of misapplication of a theory than some undeniable conclusion of the theory.

    Where radical feminism and I part ways is that immersion within radical feminist chat boards seems to foster a mindset that is more bipolar in ways than I think society as a whole is. I’ve seen evidence of this in many radical feminist discussions of class where the class size is huge (pick “gender”) and the variations in position amongst class members within a class are themselves huge. For example, the positioning of highly privileged heterosexual white women relative to disempowered homosexual men of color. Or explained more in class terms, the failure of many radical feminists, as individuals, to grasp how multiple class structures affect the positioning of class members within different classes.

    Here’s an example — “Patriarchy hurts men, too!” Does patriarchy hurt men? Sure, I don’t see how one can argue that the majority of men, who’ll never reach the top of the dogpile, are ever going to benefit from all the crap they do to each other and to women. But “Patriarchy hurts men, too!” isn’t used by men (and MRAs, anti-feminists, and people who hate all feminists, but Christina Hoff Sommers, in particular) to explain why men need to fix their own little dogpile, it’s all too often used to explain why those evil, mean, nasty feminsts (and radical feminists in particular) need to stop being so mean to the poor widdle men. Not that this means patriarchy doesn’t hurt men, just that men have yet to figure out a way to language it that doesn’t blame feminists for being feminists.

    In this same way, I think trans-ideologists (those people who embrace whatever “trans ideology” happens to actually be) are in the same political space as “Patriarchy hurts men, too!” Until trans-activists learn how to IGNORE messages like “The Tranz Sux” (because its my experience that the people putting out that message are, by and large, doing it as a way to get a reaction from people they can then use against them …), and simultaneously find a way of languaging “trans” in a way that doesn’t attack women, there ain’t going to be peace on feminist boards.

    A theory is a tool. Making it an aspect of one’s sense of self invites trouble. It’s not just radfems that do this, however. Lots of folks from many different walks of life do this, too. On this particular occasion, it happens to be radfems and transfolk who are pitted against each other. It could easily be any number of other groupings.

    Radical feminism hasn’t changed its analysis of “trans” phenomenon since the 1970s. This can be a good thing or bad thing or just … a thing. But regardless, that’s where radical feminist understanding of “trans” sits.

    If one looks at how the understanding of other phenomena has developed over that same timeframe, radical feminist understanding of “trans” is truly stuck in the cultural dark ages. Janice Raymond (and later Mary Daly, Germaine Greer and others) wrote a book and it’s been the bible when it comes to how radical feminists understand “trans”. Doesn’t matter that much of what she wrote is bullsh1t, or malicious misinterpretations and misunderstandings of what was going on at the time, it’s now carved in stone and repeated back as fact OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

    My personal opinion is that to a large extent this is because trans-activists have stuck with explanations which don’t make much sense to non-trans people. Or, if the explanations “make sense” they make sense in ways that the speaker never intended — and this is ignoring “Authorial intent is DEAD, DEAD, DEAD.” The language is simply wrong, and that’s why I repeatedly go back to the different meanings of the word “Gender” as used in trans discourses as compared to feminist discourses.

  48. 348
    StacyM says:

    FurryCatHerder says:

    Hmmm. Lemme see … yeah, that would be post #233 of mine on this thread :)

    Oops. (Ducks head.) I picked up on this thread after being away for several days. That was around #250 or so.

    Well … I have little trouble with most radical feminist theories about class, hierarchy, systems of oppression, social construction, and so on. I’ve examined my own life experiences, and those of others I’ve known over the years, and they seem to hold a lot of water.

    (snip…)

    Or explained more in class terms, the failure of many radical feminists, as individuals, to grasp how multiple class structures affect the positioning of class members within different classes.

    There’s a lot of radical feminism that rings true for me as well. I take issue with the degree of primacy placed on gender castes relative to other castes (class, race, etc.), but I find radical feminist analysis to be a useful lens in examining sexist oppression, and for that matter, other forms of gender-based oppression.

    In this same way, I think trans-ideologists (those people who embrace whatever “trans ideology” happens to actually be) are in the same political space as “Patriarchy hurts men, too!”

    Trans-ideologists? I’m not entirely sure where the center of trans-ideology is today. Just looking at the virtual world, trans-ideology seems to be all over the place: from transpeople who incorporate feminism into their understanding of being transgender and eschew heteronormalcy, to transpeople who totally buy into gender dualism, revel in sexist gender roles, and think the former group of people are wild-eyed troublemakers.

    Does the rank and file of transfolk buy into notions that many feminists would find troublesome? You bet. Then again, so do the rank and file of the average citizens of the world. They both annoy the heck out of me.

    Then again, I’m repeating a theme that many folks have been saying: transpeople are not a monolith. (puts toungue in cheek) We are not the Borg. We have not come to assimilate your planet. Resistance is useful. Pay no attention to my friend with the scary laser apparatus glued to her eye socket… Oops. That last part kinda slipped out. 

    Until trans-activists learn how to IGNORE messages like “The Tranz Sux” (because its my experience that the people putting out that message are, by and large, doing it as a way to get a reaction from people they can then use against them …),

    Uh… There’s no hope at all in the expectation that transpeople will ignore the “Tranz Sux” messages. That’s an unrealistic expectation. That’s like asking queer people to ignore “fags suck” or asking any other oppressed group of people to ignore hateful epithets tossed in their direction. Those who do bother to ignore such messages will probably ignore whatever else is being said in those spaces. A rare few might stick around, but not many.

    and simultaneously find a way of languaging “trans” in a way that doesn’t attack women, there ain’t going to be peace on feminist boards.

    There are indeed transpeople doing that. Some of them have posted to this thread.

    I’m bothered by the readiness with which many transpeople adopt biologically reductionist explanations of transidentity. I’m equally bothered by the way in which the mainstream lesbian/gay/bi movement adopts these notions as a means of justifying same sex attraction. I suspect that the two ideologies are very close relatives. I understand why people do it (see post #354) but I think it would be good idea to try to steer clear of those arguments, because in the long run, they stand to cause a lot of unintended damage (see post #264).

    I’m not sure what else to say.

  49. 349
    mandolin says:

    “Can I ask the direct question then – what do feminists who currently find it impossible to accept *any* degree of essentialism feel feminism would lose if it were one day scientifially *proven* that a significant percentage of transexuals, regardless of gendered expectations, will only ever feel ‘themselves’ if they can live as the sex their brain tells them they are but which is not the sex of their body? ”

    I don’t find it impossible to accept any degree of essentialism, personally, so I’m probably not the target of this question. But here’s my go anyway:

    The theory would have to adapt.

    The theory would preferably have to adapt in such a way as to account smoothly for everyone’s experience without forcing essentialism on some people in ways they find untenable or forcing non-essentialism on others in those same ways.

    I still think it’s all reconcilable. I just feel like there’s a missing puzzle piece.

    (Someone else may already have worked out what it is; I just don’t feel like I have yet.)

    Also, in re: the earlier beach question, I don’t experience any disharmony with teh state of being sexed female (except for very painful periods), so I don’t know if I’d take a sex change on a deserted island (unless it was to get rid of the very painful periods). But if it were easy to change sex within everyday society and tehre were no physical dangers to doing so? Well, male privelege seems like a pretty good prize, to me. I might do that. I realize this has no relevance to the reasons trans people transition, but someone was curious what non-trans people would do in the hypothetical situation, if I recall correctly.

  50. 350
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Stacy writes:

    There’s a lot of radical feminism that rings true for me as well. I take issue with the degree of primacy placed on gender castes relative to other castes (class, race, etc.), but I find radical feminist analysis to be a useful lens in examining sexist oppression, and for that matter, other forms of gender-based oppression.

    I can’t think of a race or whatever (because “race”, “gender” and “sexual orientation” are all, themselves, “classes”) that doesn’t include “gender”. If only because there are no all-female or all-male races out there. Gender is the universally existent class. And, in almost all instances of “gender” differentiation, it’s the females of the group which are power-down relative to the males.

    Trans-ideologists? I’m not entirely sure where the center of trans-ideology is today. Just looking at the virtual world, trans-ideology seems to be all over the place: from transpeople who incorporate feminism into their understanding of being transgender and eschew heteronormalcy, to transpeople who totally buy into gender dualism, revel in sexist gender roles, and think the former group of people are wild-eyed troublemakers.

    That’s why I include “whatever” — there are clearly people who claim to speak for “trans” if only because those are the people being published and going on speaking tours. When someone like Deidre McCloskey writes about how much “she” enjoys validating her womanhood by being in the kitchen cooking for the men-folk, that’s a pretty big public display of “trans ideology” in need of being decried. Not that I see too many people within the trans community trashing “her” for being a sexist asshat, mind you. Kate Bornstein, who’s held up by many as the sine qua non author of the transgender movement, writes really sexist books in which people “experience” “gender” by walking across stages “acting out” different “genders”. Leslie Feinberg, who takes the #2 position should Kate Bornstein be judged “inadequate” for sine qua non status, comes really close to identifying the perils of “gender” in the opening chapter of “Trans Liberation”, but she also makes the mistake of framing “gender” in terms of “clothing”.

    Of all the texts — autobiography, pseudo-autobiographical, clinical, etc. — on the subject of “trans” that I’ve read over the past ten years, exactly zero are written from a feminist perspective. None. All are written from the perspective that “gender” is about clothing or choosing to stand in the kitchen and make food for the men-folk who are doing the “really important” stuff. None question the entire concept that some group of people is indoctrinated to cook for another group. And fewer than none question why so many people who converse about “transition” also have really horrible stories about being mistreated as youth and then question that in relationship to their own life choices, vis a vis changing sex.

    Does the rank and file of transfolk buy into notions that many feminists would find troublesome? You bet. Then again, so do the rank and file of the average citizens of the world. They both annoy the heck out of me.

    So … it needs to be fixed?

    Then again, I’m repeating a theme that many folks have been saying: transpeople are not a monolith. (puts toungue in cheek) We are not the Borg. We have not come to assimilate your planet. Resistance is useful. Pay no attention to my friend with the scary laser apparatus glued to her eye socket… Oops. That last part kinda slipped out.

    While trans people might not be the Borg, as I wrote, when all of the published works by trans people, trans activists and trans supporters lacks a feminist perspective, I think feminists have a right to be suspicious. And when feminist-minded trans people try changing the published narrative and are attacked from within by other trans people, I don’t know.

    Until trans-activists learn how to IGNORE messages like “The Tranz Sux” (because its my experience that the people putting out that message are, by and large, doing it as a way to get a reaction from people they can then use against them …),

    Uh… There’s no hope at all in the expectation that transpeople will ignore the “Tranz Sux” messages. That’s an unrealistic expectation. That’s like asking queer people to ignore “fags suck” or asking any other oppressed group of people to ignore hateful epithets tossed in their direction. Those who do bother to ignore such messages will probably ignore whatever else is being said in those spaces. A rare few might stick around, but not many.

    People such as Luckynkl throw out those messages precisely to get the reaction they get from you. You have a choice — learn to ignore them, or you will continue to jump around like a puppet on a string. Ignoring the Lucky’s of this world is the only chance for survival.

    and simultaneously find a way of languaging “trans” in a way that doesn’t attack women, there ain’t going to be peace on feminist boards.

    There are indeed transpeople doing that. Some of them have posted to this thread.

    Post numbers? I’d like to read them. I’ve read entire thread, but I don’t recall seeing anything that doesn’t reduce “woman” to a collection of behaviors or articles of clothing or medically altered body parts. Everyone here who’s identified herself (and I think there’s a trans guy here, but I get confused …) as “trans” has somehow equated being a woman (or man, incase I missed one) to what they have done to their body or wardrobe.

  51. 351
    nexyjo says:

    Everyone here who’s identified herself … as “trans” has somehow equated being a woman (or man, incase I missed one) to what they have done to their body or wardrobe.

    i would very much appreciate if you could cite where i’ve done that in this thread so that i may learn to never do that again.

  52. 352
    ArrogantWorm says:

    Amp,
    I’m sorry I was condenscending, but she did say earlier that she wasn’t interested in the links I posted for Robert, so I didn’t think she’d be willing to read others. I’ll refrain from writing while upset then, wasn’t aware it was coming through as derision.

    Everyone here who’s identified herself (and I think there’s a trans guy here, but I get confused …) as “trans” has somehow equated being a woman (or man, incase I missed one) to what they have done to their body or wardrobe.

    Yeah, there’s a trans guy here. There’s been a couple, I think.
    But meh, no. I don’t know what I’ve typed that would give you that impression since I tried to stress earlier that there’s ‘trans’ people who do neither of those things and still consider themselves women/men, or whatever their own personal identity is. Granted, my writing isn’t the clearest. I don’t believe my interpretation of my identity means women/men need different wardrobes or surgery to be women/men, and I’d dearly like to know how that sentiment comes across in my posts.

  53. 353
    Holly says:

    Likewise as nexy, I would like to learn never to do that again or even imply it, and would be surprised if I did that in this thread, because it’s very remote from how I think about gender (mine or others). Although… I do agree that there are a lot of autobiographies and texts that foreground body and clothing stuff. I do think clothing is worth talking about in the context of gender, though! Since it is such a huge part of how people enact and express and perpetuate gender, every day, in a whole lot of very particular ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if that shows up in autobiographies a lot too, but I think what FCH is talking about is more intertwined with some notion of “identity” as opposed to “expression.”

    Also, can I just say that it’s a little misleading to even hypothetically talk about “scientifically proving” something? Science provides theories, not proof. Even the theory of gravity is a theory in science, and any theory about “what causes gender identity” or “what causes sexual orientation” would have to contend with any counter-evidence, like gay people who don’t test positive for the gene or whatever. Basically, I’m agreeing with what mandolin said about “scientific proofs” and adapting… but I also think scientific theories have to adapt. That’s what they constantly should be doing, in any sort of responsible and rigorous science, in which nothing is “proven.”

  54. 354
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Nexy writes

    i would very much appreciate if you could cite where i’ve done that in this thread so that i may learn to never do that again.

    Sure — in post 57, for starters.

    HTH.

  55. 355
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Holly writes:

    I do think clothing is worth talking about in the context of gender, though! Since it is such a huge part of how people enact and express and perpetuate gender, every day, in a whole lot of very particular ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if that shows up in autobiographies a lot too, but I think what FCH is talking about is more intertwined with some notion of “identity” as opposed to “expression.”

    I don’t believe in “gender identity”, nor do I believe that people enact “gender” through “clothing”.

    What I’m talking about is gender-as-a-social-class. “A system of oppression based on SEX”. People enact “gender (as a system of oppression based on sex)” through restrictive laws and oppressive systems of behavior. Clothing and warm fuzzies about being a woman have squat to do with laws which defined that women are the property of men. Women in the 19th and early 20th century in the States couldn’t just declare they are really men and get the right to vote or cease being the property of men.

  56. 356
    mandolin says:

    Furry Cat Herder,

    Do you really believe that clothing has nothing to do with patriarchy? That defining certain colors (pink) as the property of women, and then stigmatizing their use by men, does not have to do with women’s oppression as a sex class? Or corsets, high heels, long skirts, etc?

    I would argue that strict division of the sexes was a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for partriarchy. If I recall correctly – and I think I do – societies where gender was/is considered more fluid (such as, for instance, the pueblo cultures) have also had less sex-based oppression.

    And, of course, what’s one fo the major features of the pueblo cultures when we’re talking about gender? The burdache. The fact that gender was fluid enough for people to transition from one to the other may have helped to encourage somethign closer to gender egalitarianism.

    Of course, India’s a counterexample.

    But what I really meant is, I’m not sure it’s helpful to separate gender out as only those things which are related to oppression. It would seem, to me, to create circular arguments — and also to ignore the larger context of the ways in which culture creates and sustains oppression.

  57. 357
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Mandolin,

    I don’t think clothing has “nothing” to do with patriarchy, but clothing isn’t what controls how patriarchy functions.

    A woman in a dress is a woman. A woman in pants, making no effort to be socially seen as a man, is a woman who is wearing pants. A man in a pink shirt might get given grief, but if he changes his shirt, he’s still a man.

    What determines how people are treated within patriarchy isn’t the clothes they wear, it’s their perceived sex.

    And while certain cultures have had more classes than just the two, they still had the two we’ve got — men and women — and in virtually all of them, men dominate women.

    As regards Hijira in India, there is a lot of incorrect information out about them. They aren’t “accepted” as women, they are barely tolerated. Here’s a blurb about them from Wikipedia. It agrees with what I’ve seen with Indian men here in the States when they’ve dealt with transgender and transsexual women.

    Most hijras live at the margins of society with very low status; the very word “hijra” is sometimes used in a derogatory manner. Few employment opportunities are available to hijras. Many get their income from performing at ceremonies, begging or prostitution — an occupation of eunuchs also recorded in premodern times. Violence against hijras, especially hijra sex workers, is often brutal, and occurs in public spaces, police stations, prisons, and their homes.[7] As with transgender people in most of the world, they face extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, immigration, law and any bureaucracy that is unable to place them into male or female gender categories. One hijra reports waiting in the emergency room of a hospital for hours while medical staff debated whether to admit her to the men’s or women’s ward.

    Hijras are often encountered on streets, trains, and other public places demanding money from young men. If refused, the hijra may attempt to embarrass the man into giving money, using obscene gestures, profane language, and even sexual advances. Hijras also perform religious ceremonies at weddings and at the birth of male babies, involving music, singing, and sexually suggestive dancing. These are intended to bring good luck and fertility. Although the hijra are most often uninvited, the host usually pays the hijras a fee. Many fear the hijras’ curse if they are not appeased, bringing bad luck or infertility.

  58. 358
    little light says:

    FCH, I can see a handful of gaping holes in what you’re saying right off the bat.

    Gender is the universally existent class. And, in almost all instances of “gender” differentiation, it’s the females of the group which are power-down relative to the males.

    Gender may be a universal, and it may universally constitute a class system, but it is not uniform across cultures. People across the world construct gender and their systems of it, culturally, in different ways. Plenty of them don’t have a binary system, don’t have an obligate sex-linked system, or don’t have a medically-assigned-at-birth system. Saying that across the world it’s all boiling down to “man” and “woman” as we constitute that and that that system is universal is some pretty huge cultural imperialism.

    Kate Bornstein, who’s held up by many as the sine qua non author of the transgender movement, writes really sexist books in which people “experience” “gender” by walking across stages “acting out” different “genders”. Leslie Feinberg, who takes the #2 position should Kate Bornstein be judged “inadequate” for sine qua non status, comes really close to identifying the perils of “gender” in the opening chapter of “Trans Liberation”, but she also makes the mistake of framing “gender” in terms of “clothing”.

    I think you overwhelmingly misread both Bornstein and Feinberg. Part of it is that you’re insisting that your meaning for “gender” is the meaning everyone’s using for the same word. And they’re not. You could argue that yours is the “feminist” meaning for “gender,” but that’s not universal across feminisms, either. Feinberg, as a Marxist analyst, is extremely invested in the notion of constituting “gender” as a class system, and if you missed that, you haven’t read any of Feinberg’s work. And Feinberg doesn’t frame gender in terms of clothing, but yes, does bring up clothing as a gendered marker that social systems use, which would be pretty impossible for anyone reasonable to deny. And Bornstein isn’t talking about flouncing across a stage pretending to be things; she’s using stage work as an attempt to discuss, and metaphor for, the performative qualities of gender and gender presentation, see-Butler-for-clarification. They both seem to have a different analysis of what “gender” means than you do, and both analyses are different from each other, yes. Both are also grounded in feminist thought, though maybe not in thought you consider properly feminist. Bornstein works mostly with queer theory; Feinberg uses most socialist/Marxist strains of theory. Your interpretation of them, I’m not sure where you got it, but if you’re arguing that no trans-related books are feminist or rely on feminist theory, I’m really not sure what literature you’re reading. Just because they aren’t from your brranch of feminist thought doesn’t mean you get to make those generalizations.

    You have a choice — learn to ignore them, or you will continue to jump around like a puppet on a string. Ignoring the Lucky’s of this world is the only chance for survival.

    Tell any other minority group of any kind that they just need to get over the horrific slurs leveled at them daily, because people are clearly just trying to get a rise out of them. Just pretend it’s not there. Let’s not argue with them or present our side, ever. Let’s just get over it.
    Please, try that. Here, you can try it with me: I’m Asian. Should I just get over people calling me a gook and telling me to go back to my grandfather’s country? I mean, they’re just trying to get a rise out of me. I’m Jewish, too. Let’s try that one.
    No? That’s not acceptable? That’s because the only chance for survival, I’d argue, is to make the world a less hostile place to survive. And yes, toughen up meantime.

    Everyone here who’s identified herself (and I think there’s a trans guy here, but I get confused …) as “trans” has somehow equated being a woman (or man, incase I missed one) to what they have done to their body or wardrobe.

    Have you read anything I’ve written in this thread at all? I’m not going to speak for the rest of us, but really, anything, just of mine?

  59. 359
    mandolin says:

    Yeah, that’s why I said India was a counterexample.

    Of course, as I recall, they don’t have a “transman” equivalent to the Hijra. It’s possible to “go down” in the hierarchy, but not up.

  60. 360
    mandolin says:

    I’m sorry, I think I misread your comment.

    You’re right, the gender categories as regard the Hijra are relatively rigid even when they purport fluidity. So, wouldn’t that support the idea that sex-as-gender-destiny is part of the matrix that increases patriarchy’s grip?

  61. 361
    nexyjo says:

    Sure — in post 57, for starters.

    perhaps you would be so kind as to cite the specific quote. i don’t see it.

  62. 362
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Little Light,

    I’ve been completely upfront about all the different meanings I’ve used for the word “Gender” and what I believe are their origins. I think that taking me to task for using one of the THREE different definitions I’ve given, as though that one (of THREE) is the only one is intellectually dishonest.

    Are their other cultures in which various definitions of gender are implemented in culturally unique ways? Sure. Never said there weren’t. But “Gender as a system of oppression based on sex” really is a universal constant, except for very small populations, typically in pre-modern cultures. For example, since you mentioned your Asian, I’m not aware of any modern cultures within Asia, from the southern most tip of India, to the northernmost part of Siberia, and from the easthern most parts out in the Pacific, to the western most parts where Asia meets Europe, where “Gender as a system of oppression based on sex” doesn’t exist. I’m open to counterexamples, but I’m not holding my breath waiting on them.

    Are Bornstein and Feinberg mired in gender-as-performance. Wow. First, Bulter’s comments about gender as PERFORMATIVE are so distorted within trans discourses that the best I can say is “Butler doesn’t say what you’re saying Butler says” –

    But I wanted to write against my popular image. I set out to make myself less popular, because I felt that the popularisation of Gender Trouble – even though it was interesting culturally to see what it tapped into, to see what was out there, longing to be tapped into – ended up being a terrible misrepresentation of what I wanted to say! — Judith Butler (Gender as Performance: An Interview with Judith Butler. Interview by Peter Osborne and Lynne Segal, London, 1993. )

    Butler is NOT saying that “gender” is some kind of drag. This hasn’t stopped trans activists from saying that gender is a form of performative work, but that’s not at all what she’s saying.

    And that’s what Bornstein is basically doing — “performing” gender (really, I’ve got several of her books, including one that’s autographed by her) on stage as a way of … performing culturally embraced artifacts of patriarchally defined “gender”. That’s all well and good, and in various places throughout her corpus of work she does brush pretty close to the “gender isn’t real, so there’s no reason to be treating men and women differently” truth of the matter (that’s “truth of the matter from a feminist standpoint in which obtaining full legal and social equality for women is an objective”), but each time she gets close she basically says “Okay, now you can do all these things and be any gender you want!!!”.

    I could write at length about Feinberg as well — again, I own several of her texts and even think fairly highly of her (as I do Bornstein — don’t let me critiques of their writing be mistaken as devaluations of their contributions, I just happen to think that they are wrong is all). What I find in “Trans Liberation” (which is sitting open on my chest as I type) is this emphasis on “gender expression”. If people are just allowed to “express their gender”, life will be peachy. What I don’t see is that if women who don’t have a problem enacting “women, as a set of culturally approved behaviors” continue to enact those behaviors, they’ll somehow get paid $1.00 to the $1.00 a man earns.

    Finally, because I must shower and get to sleep, I’m not talking about ignoring insults hurled on city streets, or by people who can do you physical harm. Luckynkl has a years long history of baiting trans people for the sole purpose of inflaming the hell out of feminist boards, and then turning other feminists against the trans people who rise to take bait. Lucky is a TROLL. “Feminists” of the “The Tranz Sux” stripe are generally TROLLS. What they want is for you to launch into a giant justification blitz in which you repeat all of the reasons why you’re really a woman, and if they get lucky, you’ll even blame feminists for being a bunch of big meanies. Nothing at all good can come from responding to Lucky or anyone else who writes like her.

  63. 363
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Nexy,

    Pretty much the entire post, despite the “I don’t identify as a man or woman” statements. But these three in particular –

    certainly, part of the motivation for my transition was a response to our society, and the gendered role i was expected to follow.

    If you identify as “neither”, why pick a role different from the one you were performing? And more particularly, why pick the role you did, even though you claim to have issues with it?

    on the other hand, changing my body, specifically bottom surgery, was motivated, in large part, by the way i prefer my intimate encounters to be.

    If you identify as “neither”, why change your body?

    “originally, i just wanted to transition from a man to, well, nothing. but you know, we need a letter to put on our legal documents. and “f” works better than “m” for me.”

    Why “f” if you wanted to transition to “nothing”. Why not leave it at “m”?

    That’s why I’m not convinced by “neither”.

    As for my comment that you responded to, you “transitioned”, had “bottom surgery” and now have a “F” on your papers.

  64. 364
    Charles says:

    FCH,

    It seems to me that nexyjo said exactly the opposite of what you are implying that she said.

    1) she made no mention of clothing.
    2) she stated that the body modification (“bottom surgery”) she had done was not to physically reify the change in her gender, but rather to change the way her body was and worked, specifically to change the way that sex worked.
    3) she states that while she didn’t want to remain male gendered, that she didn’t care about becoming female gendered, but was forced to by the binary nature of the gender system.
    4) she agrees that her gender change, but not her physical sex change, was motivated by socially imposed gender role expectations

    So if that is your example of

    Everyone here who’s identified herself (and I think there’s a trans guy here, but I get confused …) as “trans” has somehow equated being a woman (or man, incase I missed one) to what they have done to their body or wardrobe.

    for nexyjo

    Then I call bullshit.

    You may both disagree with and consider non-feminist her belief that even without an oppressive gender system that the desire for sex changes (surgical or hormonal changes to primary and secondary sex characteristics) would still exist in some people and her belief that as long as there is a largely binary system of physical sex, there will probably be some vestigal system of gender, as the clearly distinguishable sexes will be used to categorize people (just as we have no need of a system of oppression based on hair color to categorize people as blonds or ginger, and even to have other systems of oppression act in part through those classes) to some extent. They look to me like reasonable claims that are pretty much completely orthogonal to feminism, but they are things she said and they are things that you could argue with, but your stated claim about trans posters misidentifying manness or womanness with clothing and physical body modification, which you backed up with nexyjo’s post 57, is unsupported and insulting.

  65. 365
    Charles says:

    Cross posted.

    I still call bullshit.

    She explained why she had bottom surgery, and specifically that it was not about believing she needed it in order to be a woman. You are simply saying that her stated reason is a lie, and that she actually believes what your expectations require her to believe, and that therefore mentioning bottom surgery is an example of her treating bottom surgery as the proof of her womanness.

    On the why become f rather than stay m, since nothing isn’t an option, this has nothing to do with clothes or body modification, so you are simply drifting the topic off of your insulting accusation.

    Do you really not understand that one can not want to be f or m, but want to be m even less than f (or vice versa)? That just seems like a bizarre thing to not be able to understand.

  66. 366
    Charles says:

    Wow, soon we’ll break 400, never a good sign for a thread…

  67. 367
    Charles says:

    Oh, and here’s FCH reducing the system of gender oppression down to biological sex expressed through current genital appearance:

    Right, because pants have magical penis-powers and a vagina is really just a handy storage compartment for makeup.

    (okay, that is totally unfair quoting, but just making it clear that it is easy to find people talking in short hand that doesn’t adequately express their full beliefs)

    And here is little light agreeing with bean that the system of gender oppression isn’t about genitals or clothes:

    [Bean] What does it mean to be a woman — does it mean wearing a dress, pantyhose, makeup, having your hair and nails done? Does it mean having a vagina and breasts? Personally, I strongly disagree with the notions behind both of those sentiments — which puts me in a rather weird position.

    I think part of the miscommunication here is that there are a number of trans people in these conversations who, over and over, find ourselves jumping up and down and saying I don’t think that’s what makes a woman, either. Over and over, we’re told that this is clearly what we think, if we consider ourselves transgendered. Some of us do go along with that nonsense. A lot of us–including, I would imagine, the overwhelming majority of us represented in online feminist discussion groups–strongly disagree with those notions, too. And we get tired of being told what our positions are in debates without being asked, ourselves. You think your position is weird? Try holding a similar position and being trans.

    But no one here who is trans has talked about trans in a way that doesn’t attack women… So was bean’s comment also attacking women?

    Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

    Sorry, I’ll stop now.

  68. 368
    StacyM says:

    Warning/Apologies: This is monstrously long.

    FCH says:

    I can’t think of a race or whatever (because “race”, “gender” and “sexual orientation” are all, themselves, “classes”) that doesn’t include “gender”. If only because there are no all-female or all-male races out there. Gender is the universally existent class. And, in almost all instances of “gender” differentiation, it’s the females of the group which are power-down relative to the males.

    I can’t think of a single country where economic oppression, racism, or ethnic hatred is not an issue.

    I could place primacy upon gender over other axes of oppression—and I have. However, I do so at the risk of ignoring the daily experiences of many, many other women (and men) who are poor, or brown, or of some other class. I have the privilege of doing this because I am a white woman with food and a roof over my head. I don’t have to focus on other axes of oppression because I am the recipient of race and class privilege. I’m being racist and classist when I do this and people have every right to point that out.

    You may extrapolate as needed.

    FCH says:

    Ignoring the Lucky’s of this world is the only chance for survival.

    Actually, challenging Lucky and her ilk generated a whole lot of discourse on the matter, some of which was quite wonderful and informative. I don’t know if the person who initially challenged her was a transperson, but regardless, a lot of good did come out of it. I realize that this good may be a matter of perception, but I as far as I am concerned—specifically in terms of my survival and the survival of others like me—it was great to see so many people speak out against anti-trans hatred. It was quite heartening to see.

    Prejudice needs to be challenged. Otherwise, how else does one counteract its effects? How does one establish a dialog on the issue? By ignoring the issue? That doesn’t make sense.

    FCH says:
    “and simultaneously find a way of languaging “trans” in a way that doesn’t attack women, there ain’t going to be peace on feminist boards.”

    StacyM says:
    “There are indeed transpeople doing that. Some of them have posted to this thread.”

    FCH says:
    “Post numbers? I’d like to read them.”

    After a brief skimming of the above posts, here are some examples:

    Little Light (post #85):

    I think part of the miscommunication here is that there are a number of trans people in these conversations who, over and over, find ourselves jumping up and down and saying I don’t think that’s what makes a woman, either. Over and over, we’re told that this is clearly what we think, if we consider ourselves transgendered. Some of us do go along with that nonsense. A lot of us–including, I would imagine, the overwhelming majority of us represented in online feminist discussion groups–strongly disagree with those notions, too. And we get tired of being told what our positions are in debates without being asked, ourselves.

    NexyJo (post #98):

    ”What does it mean to be a woman…”

    you know, i’ve spent a lot of time asking myself this same question. and after years of thinking about it, i still don’t know. i don’t know what it means to be a man either. so considering that, am i a trans person? i was labeled “male” when i was born, and now i’m labeled “female”, but to me, these are just labels. my identity hasn’t changed, only how people see me. i suppose we should be asking then, what does it mean to be trans. and does being trans, in and of itself, support gender roles. and how many behaviors of gender roles does one have to follow or reject, in order to be not following them?

    ArrogantWorm (post#286):

    I don’t know if this would help you or not, but I’m not ’switching’ because of preconceived ideas about masculinity and femininity and feeling comfortable emulating one and not the other based on how other people perceive my sex. I could express ‘masculine’ characteristics and ‘feminine’ characteristics in a body with no surgical or hormonal modification just as well as afterwards, and both choices would be equally as valid. It’s my body itself that bothers me. And I don’t know how to explain that to someone who hasn’t experienced it themselves.

    Then there are my own posts (#264 and #254) where I spend time trying to de-link transidentity from biological theories of origin—an issue which really bothers me because it has the potential to be abused as a means of justifying sexist oppression (and other forms of oppression, too).

    I’ve read entire thread, but I don’t recall seeing anything that doesn’t reduce “woman” to a collection of behaviors or articles of clothing or medically altered body parts. Everyone here who’s identified herself (and I think there’s a trans guy here, but I get confused …) as “trans” has somehow equated being a woman (or man, incase I missed one) to what they have done to their body or wardrobe.

    *Sigh*

    I don’t think that “woman” or “man” can be reduced to an assortment of behaviors, clothing or body parts. I don’t think that “woman” or “man” can be satisfactorily defined. Those definitions inevitably wind up cutting across someone’s idea of who they are.

    I thought of myself as a woman years before I took my first tablet of estrogen, before I started publicly wearing women’s clothing, before I came out to anyone. If I actually believed that being a woman was equated with body, behavior, and wardrobe, how could I manage to do this? Why did I bother thinking of myself as anything other than “man” until I started to look, dress, and behave in ways that society insists is “proper” for a woman? (Heck, I still don’t dress and behave in ways that society insists is “proper” for a woman.)

    So, how DO I define woman? Well, I can only define that term for myself. I do not presume to define it for others. If someone says that they are a woman, I respect that. If they say they are a man, I respect that. If they say they are neither, I respect that. It’s none of my business how another person defines their sense of self. For me, that’s THE central idea in my “transideology”: the right to self-define. I’ve had people trying to define who I am—against my own image of self—ever since I can remember. Wouldn’t it be a little hypocritical if I felt I could reduce the entire populace into two categories that I alone have the power to define?

    Do I feel more comfortable in my medically altered female body? Yes. Do I equate “woman” with having a vagina and breasts? No. There are tons of women with penises and no breasts. We’re all women, as far as I’m concerned. Funny thing is, I suspect that I’m going to get slammed by someone who thinks that defining the term “woman” in ways that ignores the lived experience of having a female body is inherently anti-feminist and anti-woman. I’ve seen cisgender feminists do this on other message boards. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

    As far as gender expression and behavior goes, I identify as androgynous. I feel odd around other lesbians I know because they seem to think it’s important to be either butch or femme. I feel personally uncomfortable with those categories, but I respect their decision to define themselves in a way that makes sense to them. All of us are women, regardless of our desired expression and behaviors.

    Ironically, I was informed by a cisgender lesbian that I should define as either butch or femme. Fence sitting, apparently, is sometimes frowned upon. One of my androgynous friends was also told the same thing by a different lesbian.

    I’m all about the right to self-define. As I said before, that’s one of my central ideologies. It grows out of the fact that women have always been told, “you can’t do X because you are female.” It also grows out of my experience of others trying to define me in ways that I hate. It grows out of seeing an entire society tell gender variant people they have no right to rock the boat of normalcy.

    Last but not least, my belief in the right to self-define also grows out of my experience with abortion rights activism. I’ve met a lot of anti-choice protesters who think they can tell women what they should do with their bodies and their lives. A society that does not grant women autonomy over their bodies and lives certainly doesn’t value their right to self-define. If a woman can not choose whether she becomes a mother, she is being denied the right to define herself for herself.

    Just because I find that being female has a personal meaning grounded in my own experience and expression, that doesn’t mean I think that I am the universal definition of woman. I’m not THAT much of an egotist, for goodness sakes.

    Just because we share our experiences with gender, as transpeople, that doesn’t mean we think our lives define the rightful basis for “woman” or “man.”

    To each her own. To each his own. To each hir own.

    Does that make sense?

    I haven’t found time to read all 350+ posts on this thread, but I seriously doubt that many transpeople on this thread actually think that she/he/ze has a right to define the parameters of other people’s sex, gender, or sense of self. That would be entirely self-defeating. Actually, it would be kind of stupid, too. I’m not saying that these kinds of people do not exist, but I doubt they would spend much time hanging out at a feminist blog trying to push such misbegotten ideas.

    Ugh. I have to go to bed now.

  69. 369
    StacyM says:

    Oh geez, that should have read:

    “Then there are my own posts (#264 and #354) where I spend time trying to de-link transidentity from biological theories of origin…”

    I was only off by a hundred.

  70. 370
    Charles says:

    StacyM,

    I sort of feel I owe you an apology for my responses to FCH, because your response was much much better. I hope that my responses don’t distract from yours.

  71. 371
    StacyM says:

    I sort of feel I owe you an apology for my responses to FCH, because your response was much much better. I hope that my responses don’t distract from yours.

    Charles, that’s perfectly fine and I liked your responses. I appreciate your support and I’m sure that the other transpeople on this thread do as well. When I read FCH’s post, my eyes nearly fell out of my head when I realized how long it was going to take to respond to her. Thanks for your help and thanks for the complement.

    Why am I still awake? Oh god. Tomorrow is gonna be a joy to live through.

  72. 372
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Oy. I have to go to work.

    I think that anyone can write “I’m not changing sex to (fill in the blank) ______” and pound their fist on the table over and over again, but looky here — they are off doing whatever they say in (fill in the blank).

    Or “I don’t think I’m a woman because (fill in the blank) _____”, but over somewhere else they talk about doing whatever it is they did on the way to the point where they say (fill in the blank).

    “Transition” is not meaningless. Nor is having vaginoplasty something that occurs by accident, nor does changing ones gender marker on their ID from “M” to “F”.

    When someone says “I don’t identify as a man or a woman”, but everything that’s been done up to that point is about making sure people see a woman, which do I believe, their actions or their words? I’m going to go with actions. If I ask action-based questions — “Did you have facial electrolysis?” “Yes.”, “Do you take feminizing hormones?” “Yes.”, “Did you go to court to change your name and gender identifier?” “Yes.”

    Why is it that male-born people who say “I don’t identify as a man or a woman” are picking the actions that lead to “woman” so much more frequently than “man”? I’d think it would be closer to 50/50.

    Anyway, gotta run.

    The only two groups of people I know who can honestly say “I didn’t transition to be a woman” are women who are born that way, and trans kids who are so feminine before they do anything that they do … nothing. We could make a laundry list of transition-related activities and gee, wouldn’t you know it, the people who say “I don’t think I’m a woman because _____” have done “_____”.

  73. 373
    StacyM says:

    FCH says:

    The only two groups of people I know who can honestly say “I didn’t transition to be a woman” are women who are born that way, and trans kids who are so feminine before they do anything that they do … nothing. We could make a laundry list of transition-related activities and gee, wouldn’t you know it, the people who say “I don’t think I’m a woman because _____” have done “_____”.

    OK, so your take on feminism defines who I am, what I say, and how I lead my life as a living expression of patriarchal oppression in action. You think that I and others like me are dupes of the patriarchy. I hear that loud and clear.

    I am Anaken Skywalker. I claim to be fighting for good, but my actions and beliefs lead to my transformation into Darth Vader.

    Yup. I get it.

    Naturally, I don’t agree. My own version of feminism allows for a wide range of gender expression. I allow for this to be done in a way that values personal autonomy and I see people’s attempts to encroach on the right to self-define as being inherently oppressive.

    As I stated elsewhere, no one owns the patent on feminism. One person’s cool idea is another person’s problematic idea. I’ve crafted a version of feminism that makes sense within my own experience of the world. You’ve done likewise.

    There are plenty of folks in my camp and plenty in yours. In spite of it all, we both look at the each other and say, “You’re such a poser!” This is degenerating into an elaborate version of, “Are too! Am not!”

    By the way. I DID transition to become a woman. I LIKE being a woman. If you think that makes me a supporter of the patriarchy, then so be it.

    I’m done.

  74. 374
    StacyM says:

    I might also add that transition means different things to different people. As far as I’m concerned, transition started for me when I stopped thinking of myself as a guy. That was at age 17. Medical intervention came years later.

    Not than any of this will even matter.

    See you in the funny papers.

  75. 375
    ArrogantWorm says:

    When someone says “I don’t identify as a man or a woman”, but everything that’s been done up to that point is about making sure people see a woman, which do I believe, their actions or their words? I’m going to go with actions. If I ask action-based questions — “Did you have facial electrolysis?” “Yes.”, “Do you take feminizing hormones?” “Yes.”, “Did you go to court to change your name and gender identifier?” “Yes.”

    Because the body they believe they’d feel more comfortable in is defined as society with the word female? And even if one isn’t particularly keen on identifying with either, it’s still….safer to be in a box.

    Why is it that male-born people who say “I don’t identify as a man or a woman” are picking the actions that lead to “woman” so much more frequently than “man”? I’d think it would be closer to 50/50.

    Because the way one identifies can have nothing to do with the body one inhabits. There’s a world of difference between feeling comfortable in your own skin and taking the characteristics of the ‘opposite’ sex because you always played with barbies or some such. I don’t think the majority of transgendered people opt for surgery, hormones, ect. Many can’t afford it because of multiple intersecting issues, some people feel they don’t need it, and it’s all juggled through an individual’s choices on what they consider aceptable gains and losses for a particular decision.

  76. 376
    nexyjo says:

    When someone says “I don’t identify as a man or a woman”, but everything that’s been done up to that point is about making sure people see a woman, which do I believe, their actions or their words? I’m going to go with actions. If I ask action-based questions — “Did you have facial electrolysis?” “Yes.”, “Do you take feminizing hormones?” “Yes.”, “Did you go to court to change your name and gender identifier?” “Yes.”

    oy vey. so what you’re saying is that you did those things because you identify as a woman. please, spare me your projections. i did those things because i want to live my life in a female body.

    you specifically asked about equating being a woman with body mods and clothes. to me, and i would think that after all your rants about the differences between sex and gender it would be for you too, there’s a big difference between sex and gender. and further, to me, there’s a big difference between wanting to live in a female body, identifying as a woman, and equating body mods and clothes with womanhood.

    but i guess that anyone can ignore the facts and just stir up shit for their own purposes.

    anyway, what charles and stacy said.

    Why “f” if you wanted to transition to “nothing”. Why not leave it at “m”?

    perhaps you missed the part where i said that “f” works better than “m” for me. in case you haven’t noticed, we’re not living in bean’s utopia yet. i like being able to use the bathroom legally. i like being legally married to my husband. i like being able to get and keep a job, which in the real world, hiring managers check people’s presentation against their legal and previous employment records for accuracy.

    i can’t believe i have to explain this to you. unless, of coure, you are not who and what you say you are, which according to your actions here in this thread, i am now very much questioning.

  77. 377
    cicely says:

    I do think that there is a degree of making it more “acceptable” if you can say, “I can’t help it, I was born this way.” And that goes for a hell of a lot of things beyond trans. But, that doesn’t make it true. There have been studies trying to find the “gay gene” or the “gay gland” or the “trans brain” (or the “female brain“), but for every one of these studies there’s (at least) one study showing the opposite (not to mention the huge methodological problems most of these studies involve

    To address this, bean, and also StacyM, your discomfort or fears around the unintended potential damage arguing for innateness could cause, let me say this: The mainstream lesbian/gay/bi movement hasn’t ‘adopted these notions as a means of justifying same sex attraction’. It’s not primarily a political strategy, or at least, it didn’t start that way. The majority of us (over 70% in a survey I recently I came across) actually understand ourselves to “be’ innately homosexual. We are *describing** our experience and understanding – and hoping to be heard – at least as much as we are pursuing our civil and human rights. As it happens though, most of the growth in acceptance of homosexuality in the wider community can be directly attributed to the growth of the understanding, through greater visibilty and contact with with actual gay men and lesbians, that this is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ for most of us, but is as natural and ‘unchosen’ as heterosexuality is for most heterosexuals. This shouldn’t be dismissed as lightly as it sometimes is in these discussions since we are still far from the total acceptance that is our right. I think it’s absurd to expect people like myself to hide our beliefs and self-understandings under a rock in case they might be used *against* us and/or others in the future, too. Studies on the subjeccts of homosexuality and transexuality will continue, because of the innateness of human curiosity, and we need to be well prepared for whatever comes of them. That doesn’t stop me agreeing with you, StacyM that *any* cause or path to same sex relating should be uncontroversial. No-one should have to justify or explain the causes or reasons for their entry into intimate and/or sexual relationships with another adult. What I’m saying is that I don’t personally use my belief in the innateness of my lesbianism as a justification for it. It needs no justification in my mind, and never has. It just is. It hurts no-one and has provided me with the most beautiful feelings and experiences in my life. Whenever I kept it under a rock it was to protect this beautiful thing from being made ugly by the world.

    I try to describe my life as it’s been for me, and I exclude no-one elses different understandings of or paths to their own homosexuality from my feminist vision. Since there’s no absolute proof either way, but only peoples voices, I don’t know why others can’t do the same for me. (and, as per this discussion, for transexuals describing their own experience.) Why be absolute about a theory that has even the *possibilty* of being based on mistaken beliefs?

    bean, if it were proven that sexual orientation was never innate I would probably go looking for the social, ideological or whatever kind of forces that constructed my lesbianism, since I certainly had no active or aware choice in the matter. (You phrase that as ‘I can’t help it’, which makes it sound kind of pathetic, but that’s never how I’ve felt.) Rather, everything in the world conspired and was geared to create me as heterosexual, and it all failed. I knew for sure that I was queer at age 11 (I’m now 52), when I saw the movie ‘The Childrens Hour.’ in which the lesbian character hung herself in shame. This was a recognition too, not a *new* thing then. The film showed me myself – I matched. I was actually 6 when I had my first silent crush on a girl.

    I’ve never expected to find proof of my self-understanding in my lifetime, but went looking for some during the course of a similar discussion to this one last year. I wonder if you can provide a study with opposite results to this one I found. It is apparently no longer in dispute that the more genetic or otherwise biological material siblings share, the greater the likliehood of concordance for homosexuality. That is, if one sibling is homosexual, the other will be as well. In identical twins a percentage as high as 52% has been recorded, but in all cases concordance is highest in identical twins and declines as the amount of shared material reduces. (so, next is non-identical twins, then non-twin siblings then the background population.) The results don’t change significantly whether the siblings have been raised together or apart. These studies have involved males and females. One difference is that in females the concordance percentage is not very different between non-identical twins and non-twin siblings. In males the gap is greater. (Bailley and Pillard 1991; Whitlam et al 1993; Turner 1994, 1995.)

    This says *something*, surely. And couple that with the growing awareness of homosexuality among many species of birds, fish and mammals – and not just opportunistic sexual encounters but life-pairings. Maybe there’s even transexuality among birds, fish and mammals as well. Who could prove there’s not?

    But, really, when all’s said and done, proof or no proof, it’s the absolutism I find offensive. The outright denial of other peoples lives and experiences, based on a political theory. And the permission granted by that political stance for some truly and cruelly transphobic bile like that which pours out of Lucky Nickel’s keyboard. I’ve seen her virtually high-fived by a couple of feminists on one forum for that behaviour. She has her supporters, make no mistake. They just let her do their dirty work.

    The theory would preferably have to adapt in such a way as to account smoothly for everyone’s experience without forcing essentialism on some people in ways they find untenable or forcing non-essentialism on others in those same ways..

    That sounds pretty good to me, Mandolin. Shall we begin?

  78. 378
    cicely says:

    Oh dear, my apologies to everybodies eyes. I have blockquoted my entire long comment. Can you fix this, Amp?

    [I tried! --Amp.]

  79. 379
    Charles says:

    FCH,

    The overwhelming majority of male bodied people who identify as neither male nor female remain firmly in the m category their entire lives (it isn’t 50/50 because it is much much easier to stay in your category than it is to change), even before you get to the question of whether they do body modification. I expect that the majority of male bodied people who hate being m also remain m. I would be unsurprised if the majority of male bodied people who identify as f also remain m in body and public identification. In this thread, we have had me (who identifies as m, but hates it) and Amp (who identifies as neither f or m). Both of us operate as and are treated as m on a continuous basis. We also don’t identify as or register as trans. People are generally identified as trans not based on how they identify themselves in relation to gender categories, but based on what they do that effects the public interpretation of which gender category they belong to. So expecting people who are identified based on the fact that they have acted to change which gender category they are assigned to to not have acted to change which gender category they are assigned to is absurd. The male bodied people who identify as neither m or f, but who don’t fight against being labeled m are invisible to you, they don’t register as trans to you, and probably don’t even register as trans to themselves.

    Also,

    We could make a laundry list of transition-related activities and gee, wouldn’t you know it, the people who say “I don’t think I’m a woman because _____” have done “_____”.

    is simply idiotic.

    Someone will only say “I don’t think I’m a woman because I had bottom surgery, I’d be a woman anyway” if they have had bottom surgery. Otherwise, they will say “I am a woman even though I haven’t had bottom surgery,” which I think trans women in this thread have said. Or they have said, “I was a woman long before I had bottom surgery.” Or they have said, “I have no idea if I am a woman, because I don’t know what it means, but I am legally a woman, because you have to be one or the other. Woman or not, I have had bottom surgery.” I think there is nothing on the imagined list that any one in this thread who has either done or not done that thing would look at and say (if I did that)/(because I did that) I (would be)/(am) a woman.

    So the fact that someone who has had bottom surgery doesn’t consider that to be the thing that makes her a woman isn’t an argument that she actually does consider it to be the thing that makes her a woman. That makes so little sense, I almost can’t make it a parse-able sentence. For your argument to make any sense, people who considered themselves women who were not born with physically female bodies would need to have done all the things on your list.

  80. 380
    MrSoul says:

    A man (Arrogant Worm) writes: “I don’t EVER need to ‘prove’ myself to you, or agree with your views. I don’t believe in what you say I do, or act like, or live. In fact, that sentiment needs to be typed again!

    I don’t EVER need to ‘prove’ myself to you. EVER.”

    Wait, did I mention that this is a transman? Sounded just like Stanley Kowalski, didn’t it?: Up yours, gals, I don’t have to explain shit to a woman!

    I think this is what Q-Grrl meant by upholding existing gender categories.

    As a pro-feminist man, I care passionately what feminists think of me. I DO have to prove myself, because the vast majority of men behave like pigs. If you think you don’t have to “prove” your nonsexism to a woman, Arrogant Worm, you are conforming to gender norms perfectly and showing yourself to be a typical man within patriarchy. Congratulations.

    And how is that radical, again?

  81. 381
    MrSoul says:

    Furry, you write: “That’s one of the reasons I don’t trust you, Q Grrl or anyone else from Ms., The Margins, MWMF, or any number of other boards where Renee (let’s just quit calling her Lynne, okay?) did her schtick and y’all just sat back and watched.”

    Some of us were just too amazed to say anything.

    FTR, I posted briefly on “MS” under the name of SuperGimp. You were the first person on Ms. to pipe up and tell me exactly what was up with Lynne (Renee?)– so thanks.

  82. 382
    ArrogantWorm says:

    MrSoul,

    Post 209. Can’t miss it.

  83. 383
    Charles says:

    FCH,

    Thinking about this further, I must be misinterpreting you, because I’m reading you as saying complete nonsense, and we’ve talked before, and while we’ve disagreed, I really don’t remember you talking in complete nonsense before.

  84. 384
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Nexy writes:

    perhaps you missed the part where i said that “f” works better than “m” for me. in case you haven’t noticed, we’re not living in bean’s utopia yet. i like being able to use the bathroom legally. i like being legally married to my husband. i like being able to get and keep a job, which in the real world, hiring managers check people’s presentation against their legal and previous employment records for accuracy.

    I’m sorry Nexy, but I don’t see the relevance of living or not living in Bean’s utopia.

    I don’t have the time tonight for a repeat of last night (I didn’t have the time last night, for that matter), but my point is that all of the actions that surround “transition” don’t just happen, and they don’t happen without significance.

  85. 385
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Charles,

    My response was directed at people who say “Well, they (feminists) can’t be talking about me because I don’t identify as a man or a woman, so they can’t claim that I think having SRS makes me a woman!”

    It’s my observation that people who say “I don’t identify as a man or a woman” take most (or all) of the steps needed to transition their social gender completely.

    That’s all — no great mystery.

  86. 386
    ArrogantWorm says:

    FCH,

    Bean’s Utopia says we wouldn’t be judged on we look like or preconceived to be. Here-and-now, we are. What do you think happens when legal documents don’t match up to social presentation?

  87. 387
    ArrogantWorm says:

    ….I’m so not on the ball tonight. Forgot the Quote, sorry FCH.

    I’m sorry Nexy, but I don’t see the relevance of living or not living in Bean’s utopia.

  88. 388
    FurryCatHerder says:

    AW,

    My response to your post is in 398.

    Sorry — don’t have the time for a longer response. I’m trying to get something done overnight that I don’t have the time to do.

  89. 389
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Mr Soul,

    I think I remember you.

    I guess I never gave much thought to what you just explained as why people weren’t saying anything about Renee. My interpretation has always been that people were happy Renee stomped the Tranz and didn’t mind that she was continuing to stomp the Tranz. Be that as it may, they’ve had several years now to own up to what happened.

    I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a corporate HR person once about company policies towards lesbians and gays. I made the comment that if they (corporate) wanted to prove to me (individually) that they “learned their lesson” that discrimination against lesbians and gays was improper, they needed to undo some of the harm that had occured prior to the corporate policies being changed. The response was “No”. So, don’t trust corporate all that much on the subject of lesbians and gays as a result.

  90. 390
    BritGirlSF says:

    FurryCatHerder asked – “Anyone here non-trans-anything have a voice in their head telling them they are man / woman / whatever? By show of hands? ”
    I’d define myself as non-trans, and I don’t have any internal voice saying anything about my genser/sex at all. I’d say I just always felt comfortable that the exterior and the interior matched, and that the whole thing has always been a non-issue. Maybe that’s the way to define the trans or not trans divide – is there any sense of one’s own biological sex being an issue that causes discomfort? What does everyone else think?
    To be clear – I’ve always had PLENTY of issues with gendered expectations as far as behavior is concerned, but I think that’s a completely different issue.

  91. 391
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Charles,

    I owe you a longer response than I have time for. I’m really behind on life and your post at 392 says some things I’d like to respond to. I’ll try and break my response into managable chunks.

    The basic theme of my response is going to be “Is anyone really happy with the rigidity of the current gender system?”

  92. 392
    cicely says:

    Oh dear, my apologies to everybodies eyes. I have blockquoted my entire long comment. Can you fix this, Amp?

    [I tried! –Amp.]

    You done good. Perfect in fact. Thankyou :-)

  93. 393
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Charles, I have a few minutes. Let me see if I can type this out really fast :)

    One of the things that I profoundly dislike about the transgender movement is the emphasis on “identity”, as if people who are affected by gender “identify” as someone … who is affected by gender.

    I like the definition “Gender: A system of oppression based on sex” because it matches my own experiences as well as those of people I’ve been close to. I didn’t always understand things in those terms, but since about age 17 I did understand there was a connection between the valuation of masculinity and the devaluation of femininity. Not that people “identified” as being “valued” and “devalued”, but that there was an externally imposed social ruleset such that “masculinity” was value and “femininity” wasn’t, and there were social forces that tried to enforce the rules. When I first really got into radical feminism, believe it or not courtesy of Renee, I was very impressed because it had a framework that explained a lot of my life from about age 6 until about age 27 or 28 better than anything else I’d encountered. And that included the “transgender” concepts about gender — that gender is something people “identify” as. I didn’t “identify” as a victim of physical and sexual violence because of my appearance, mannerisms, behavior, mode of thinking, etc. I actually was a victim of … physical and sexual violence.

    Does anyone really like the rigid gender system we’ve got? Certainly I suspect that women don’t. I forget where I read it, but back when I was a budding young feminist a woman I knew pointed me at a book which said, basically, that if you asked young girls if they’d rather be boys that a lot of them said “Yes”. And if you asked the same question of boys, all, or all but one, would say “No”. Further investigation showed that girls don’t want to be boys, they just want to be treated as well as boys are treated. If transgender isn’t just about body mods, that means that most women are “transgender”. Putting it in those terms, I can understand why Q Grrl and others are offended by “transgender” and “cisgender”.

    If “cisgender” is about being happy being an “F”, what does that say about being happy about the crap that comes with being an “F”? Then we get into the issue of transgender people whose solution to being “unhappy” is changing sex. Do we expect all women who are “unhappy” (and therefore “transgender”) to likewise change sex? The solution presented by “transgender” doesn’t seem to be dismantling “gender” for everyone, but rather individual solutions which revolve around personal “happiness”. I think the “Me Generation” was a bad idea. I’m not sure “Me Feminism” is such a hot one either.

    About 20 years ago I ran across this quote –

    I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute.

    I don’t think those women are identifying as doormats or prostitutes, or identifying as not doormats and not prostitutes. I think Rebecca West is talking about what she and other women experienced. She doesn’t sound too pleased about it either. Perhaps she was also “transgendered”.

    Do you see at all where this is going? I think men are starting to find out how much “gender, as a system of oppression based on sex” hurts them. I’d like to see men find solutions other than “I identify as neither male nor female”. I’d like to see men work towards solutions that benefit all men and all women alike.

    Anyway, shower time.

  94. 394
    Charles says:

    FCH,

    Thanks, that made sense. I think there is a major aspect that you are not focusing on, but much of what you are saying does make sense to me. Let me think about it for a while, but I think this is a much better basis for continuing with the discussion. If nothing else, you have definitely made me understand the problem with the term cis-gendered (a term I’ve previously liked). I think your reasons are similar to Qgrrl’s, but I was having a hard time getting it when Qgrrl was describing her objections earlier (I’m not sure why, she was quite clear, and I generally find Qgrrl’s positions very understandable, but it just wasn’t clicking, but it clicked on your description).

    I think there is still a major problem with the degree to which you are universalizing interpretation that agrees with your lived experience in ways that cause you to, simply out of hand, reject the validity of other people’s lived experience.

    Actually, I think maybe I should start a new thread [I have mod powers here], as 400 posts takes a long time to load, and a long time to read. Anyone have any suggestions on which topics from the tail end of this thread we should focus on in the continuation thread?

  95. 395
    nexyjo says:

    …my point is that all of the actions that surround “transition” don’t just happen, and they don’t happen without significance.

    well, sorry to disappoint you that the significance of my transition doesn’t:
    1) support your ideas about gender
    2) support your ideas about how one must identify
    3) support your ideas about what a man or a woman is or is not
    4) support your ideas about what male or female is or is not
    my point is that you have no idea who i am, or what my motivations are with regard to my transition. so please, for once, try to understand that not everyone transitions for the same reasons that you did. and not everyone buys into your ideas about women, men, and transsexuals. and not everyone ignores what people say about themselves, their experiences, and who they are or are not.

  96. 396
    Charles says:

    FCH,

    Also, while I think nexyjo’s “[back the fuck off]” is the more important point, there is also a really basic disjunct in your attitude to nexyjo’s narrative that I think bears pointing out. You say that you reject the idea of gender identity, and that you also reject nexyjo’s self description as not having a gender identity. So you are insisting that nexyjo has something you don’t believe exists, and is wrong when she claims that she doesn’t have this thing that doesn’t exist.

    nexyjo,

    Sorry to keep using you as the example. I’ll stop if it is bugging you.

    Actually, should there be some sort of rule about how you are allowed to use other people as examples if I spawn a new thread off of this one? It seems like a rhetorical technique that gets abusive really really fast.

  97. 397
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Charles,

    I don’t believe in the little birdy whispering “You’re a girl! You’re a girl!” that people call “Gender Identity”, or that “Gender Identity” (even if not some little birdy) is what makes a person a man or a woman. That’s what I don’t believe in. I believe that people are men and women because that’s how they are seen, and thus socialized, interacted with, related to, etc.

    It follows from that belief that if someone says “I don’t identify as a man or a woman” and everything they’ve done (transition-wise) results in them being seen as a man or a woman, that whatever it is they are seen as — a man or a woman — is what they are.

    Gender, as I see it, isn’t a private experience that happens inside someones head. Gender, as I see it, happens out in society. When a baby is born the doctor checks the crotch, declares the child’s sex, and from then on that’s how the baby is seen. In very few instances does someone ask a complete and total stranger “Are you a man or a woman?” People base their presumption of someone elses gender based on appearance. The person looks like a man, or looks like a woman.

    On the subject of “I don’t identify as a man or a woman”, it reminds me of a quote from “A League of Their Own” –

    What if at a key moment in the game my, my uniform bursts open and, uh, oops., my bosoms come flying out? That, that might draw a crowd, right?

    – Mae Mordabito, “A League of Their Own”

    Changing sex doesn’t happen by accident. Like, “Oops, I had vaginoplasty! How’d that happen?” For many male-to-female transsexuals, changing sex really works. Remove the facial hair, take the little pink pills, change the voice, and next thing you know, everyone seems to think you’re a woman. Go figure. How can someone not know what’s going on? How can changing sex not be an intentional act with an intentional outcome?

  98. 398
    nexyjo says:

    Sorry to keep using you as the example. I’ll stop if it is bugging you.

    feel free to use me as an example charles, and thanks for the support.

    How can changing sex not be an intentional act with an intentional outcome?

    perhaps i missed the part where i said that i transitioned unintentionally, or without knowing exactly what i was doing. you argued that *everyone* was equating the state of womanhood to body mods and clothes. now you’re shifting your stance to *everyone* “changes sex” intentionally, perhaps as a step in an attempt to somehow prove your previous assertion.

    let me outline my beliefs so that there is no confusion.
    1. i don’t believe a person can change sex.
    2. there are many motivations for transition.
    3. many people can be motivated to transition for two or more reasons.
    4. the language that’s been developed to describe the trans experience is sexist and very much inadequate and inaccurate, and i pretty much disagree with each and every term and phrase. unfortunately, in order to be even marginally understood, we are forced to use said language until we develop new language.

    i knew that by eliminating my beard and growing my hair longer, people would see me as a woman. after all, before i could grow a beard (like up until age 25 or there abouts) and when long hair was very much in style for men, people very often saw me as a girl – so it followed reason.

    however, unlike many trans women i know, i don’t believe myself to be a woman (or female for that matter), at least in the same sense that my two sisters, my mother, my female friends, and virtually all women are women.

    of course i understood that by transitioning, i would be seen as a woman, and of course i transitioned intentionally. but i didn’t transition because i believed that i could magically “become” a woman or female. i transitioned because i believed that it would improve the quality of my life. i could legally marry a man, i could stop taking steps every day that gendered me as a man, and i could avoid social situations that i believed put my life in danger. so if that means “woman” to you, then i’d argue your understanding of “woman” is not the same as mine.

  99. 399
    ArrogantWorm says:

    Charles,

    Anyone have any suggestions on which topics from the tail end of this thread we should focus on in the continuation thread?

    If there’s a continuation thread, maybe the differences in why people choose to transition? Seems to be a muddy topic.

    FCH,

    How can changing sex not be an intentional act with an intentional outcome?

    The first part (changing sex) does not necessarily mean the second part (social interaction) is the goal, although it could be for some people.

    Changing sex is an intentional act, but I think the intentional (social, right? You are talking about social?) outcome isn’t what some people are changing sex for. I think that’s just a by product of changing itself, not the reasons that some do it.

  100. 400
    ArrogantWorm says:

    FCH,

    In other words, if I was doing it for social reasons I’ve so far failed miserably, as I receive the same gendered identifications from other people as before I started. Granted, I’m in the beginning/middle, depending on people’s idea of where transition starts. But I’m not planning on changing my state of dress or the other myriad cues people read as gendered, so I don’t understand how being seen and ‘normally’ interacted with in the gender of my choice is the goal of changing sex or the reasons that I must be doing it, if that’s what you’re talking about.

    Nexy,

    I don’t believe people can change sex either, not literally anyway, and the language used to describe the experience needs a drastic overhaul. But then I don’t believe biological sex itself is particularly static, either.