I’ve had some fairly unpleasant comments on my Radfem 2012 post. Until today, these messages have generally taken the form of polite disagreement: the difficulty comes in the content of that disagreement. I, like many other trans people, regard the refusal to recognise my gender (and other trans genders) as valid to be discriminatory and bigoted. Most of the radical feminist commentators who participate in this refusal draw their perspective from feminist theory, and argue that their position naturally follows from this. The conflicting truths explored in my original post were further drawn out, as both “sides” of the argument (and oh, how I wish there weren’t “sides”!) were inevitably hurt by the “other side”‘s refusal to let go and leave them alone.
My partner asks me why I’m spending so much time reading these comments and engaging in this kind of discussion. I’m just hurting myself and making myself angry, he says. It almost feels worth abandoning the whole affair, closing the thread and forgetting about it. There’s a lot of other things going on in my life, after all.
And yet we are essentially fighting it out for the heart of feminism. This matters because these arguments shape our approach to the equality battles of the present and future. When I turn up to a feminist meeting about the pay gap, or sexualisation, or the the gendered impact of austerity, will I be welcome? Can I fight alongside my sisters, and under what circumstances? Can I expect my cis* sisters to stand up for me when I fight for my trans friends who need access to rape crisis centres, women’s shelters, advice and counselling services? Can we all pull together to offer solidarity to intersex people when surgeons who would mutilitate intersex children hold a conference on our shores? How are we to understand sex and gender? What is this feminism, who is it for, and what do we want to achieve?
And so I leave the discussion open, and attempt to engage with individuals whose outlook is so similar and yet so different to mine, in the vague hope that this might contribute in some tiny way to some kind of reconciliation, years down the line. I’ve not yet blocked or deleted a single post.
I’m leaving unmoderated comments that I consider to be blantantly transphobic*, language that reeks of ignorance, if not hate. In a different space, perhaps one with a safe(r) space policy, these would have been deleted long ago. But this is my blog, and I suppose part of me wants to see this discussion happen.
I’m particularly disturbed by some of the more recent comments. DLT states: “I wish harm on every male on the planet. Plain and simple. No matter how you play dress up. If you are male, no thanks.” Take out the transphobia and that’s still horrifying. Surely the systematic empowerment of men at the expense of women (and non-binary individuals!) is the problem, not men. Like, all men. I find the concept of “misandry” somewhat concerning and so-called Men’s Rights Activists downright terrifying, but the moment you start “wishing harm” upon any group of people is the moment you’re straying into serious Godwin territory.
And yet. These comments tell a story, a truth, one that I would prefer to see aired than not. Part of the reason these arguments are so virulant is that so many women and so many trans people (women, men and non-binary alike) are very damaged. Some of us have had truly awful things happen to us, meaning we’re more likely to lash out at others in a storm of emotion. I don’t for a moment agree with the transphobic* perspectives of the many cis* women posting on my blog, and I don’t think unpleasant experiences are an excuse for this, but I’d rather listen than not before wholeheartedly rejecting these discourses.
Finally, I find myself agreeing entirely with smashmisscontest – a radical feminist with whom I disagree so much – on one key point:
The opinion of this Bev Jo noted Radfem, a person which I have never heard about by the way, do not voice the politics of radical feminists as a whole (and certainly not mine), as much as Valerie Solanas does not voice the politics of feminists as a whole by wanting all men exterminated, and as much as the “die cis scum” rhetoric do not represent the feelings of the trans community as a whole, and therefore should be placed in the category of unfortunate extremes I was talking about in my first post.
Obviously extremists, rad-fundamentalists or trans-fundamentalists, are not about politics at all but about hatred which maybe have originated by their personal experiences, and they will not participate in any type of building bridges anyway. But there is the rest of us who want to work on that, and do not identify with hate speech of any kind, so please don’t put me in the same bag. If you are trying to shock the people reading this comments, there are also plenty of examples of hate speech against feminists and women coming from trans individuals, but i do not see the point in getting into that loop type of distressed and non constructive conversation, if its not to create even more hatred and distress.
So let’s acknowledge and listen to the most hateful of comments, but remember that they do not represent the crux of the issue. The problem is a more nuanced one than DLT would have us believe. I still believe that smashmisscontest is, through her brand of radical feminism, promoting (in some senses) and tolerating (in others) a harmful transphobia*, but I believe this arises from a fundamental misunderstanding rather than from hatred. I get the impression she thinks similarly of me. And that gives us something to work with.
I will continue to openly and actively oppose Radfem 2012, because I continue to believe that it effectively promotes views that would harm trans people. But as part of that process, I hope dialogue remains open.
As for my original Radfem 2012 post, I think I’m going to just slap a trigger warning on the end of the post and leave it be – for now, at least.
* I will use these words because this is my blog and I, as part of an oppressed group, have a right to define the nature and actions of those who hold power over me