Tag Archives: Gender

Does Feminism Need a Rebrand?

Straight off the bat, fist in the air and hollering like a macaque, I am a feminist. Of course I am a feminist. Gender equality is something we should be ashamed that we haven’t reached. As a species we have put twelve men on the moon, observed distant galaxies, cured diseases that were once thought fatal, and created ABBA, yet equal pay, equal corporate and political representation, and even not hacking a girl’s lady bits to pieces in some parts of the world STILL prove elusive.

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

That is what people are conditioned to hear whenever issues of equality and prejudice are brought up. The words “I am a Feminist” to many people is just giving them permission to tune you out, talk over you or repeat some ‘witty banter’ about women not knowing their place.

Indeed it is seemingly acceptable to sneer and ridicule, as if holding said beliefs are an open and aggressive challenge to the sneering party. There are three groups of people who it is deemed totally okay to heap scorn upon with no ‘legitimate’ objections.

Feminists – Environmentalists – Vegans

Yup, even we much scorned and oft mocked Transfolk are starting to get ‘normal’ people fighting our corner (keep it up guys, you’re stars!).

Now, I could bang on about how those big three labels are consciously and constantly discredited by a patriarchal, fossil fuel loving, steak chomping cabal of wealthy (mostly) men, who use their assets to influence media and politicians, but all people are conditioned to hear is:

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Since when were universal human equality, environmental preservation or just not eating animal products considered to be bizarre, far out political extremism?

“BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Okay, okay I’ve lost a lot of the readership by this point, so I won’t labour it.

The actual core message of Feminism in particular, is one that even most naysayers would agree with, but the word has been toxified. A grotesque stereotype has been carefully crafted and bandied about as if it were cold, hard fact. When a negative portrayal of something is so crafted for so long, it begins to self-perpetuate and those who spun it can sit back in their gentleman’s clubs, joke about all the women they have groped and then run for President.

We live in a world of brands, slogans and logos. If something cannot be summed up by a simple image or a brief tagline, it fails.

Conditioned Public: “Why do we have this problem?”

Brand A: “There are numerous causes for our current situation, not least of all is…

Conditioned Public: “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

Conditioned Public: “Why do we have this problem?”

Brand B: *Shrugs* Brown people.

Conditioned Public “YAAAAAY!”

Ye get me bro?

Now, Feminists can be massive pricks. Believing in women’s equality does not automatically prevent you from being rude, aggressive, divisive, cruel or elitist. In the Venn diagram of “Pricks and Feminists” there is a little bit of a crossover.

feminist pricks

Yes, there are several high profile Feminists that seem to get an awful lot of media time because they outright despise Trans people (so much for your genitals not dictating your destiny eh?). There are those who would rather fight against the women that don’t adhere to their own narrow views of what is, and is not acceptable for a Feminist to be.

But what of the rest of the Feminists who stand in solidarity with their Trans kin, who embrace a woman’s right to choose her own form of self-expression, set her own standards of beauty and fashion… those who argue that it is no less oppressive to ban an item of women’s clothing, than it is to enforce its wearing? Because that is most of us, isn’t it?

Of course that pesky old hyper-male governed media only give coverage the to the divisive and hypocritical…

BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Okay, so we can’t go in with the complex ideas off the bat. It also doesn’t help that the letters ‘F.E.M’ get a whole other heap of scorn all to themselves when placed in that order. They have been made to mean ‘weak’, ‘contradictory’, ‘stupid’, ‘less than’… The whole language of being female, or even feminine has been toxified. Men suffer as a result of this too. The pressure to be emotionally distant, repressed, stoic, insensitive and unaffectionate creates an ‘ideal’ that one would have to be a narcissistic sociopath to live up to… and yes guys, since you’ve always been told that everything is really about you when it isn’t, this actually is, at least in part. I am glad that so many guys nowadays actually get this and proudly label themselves as feminists, but the status quo as ever pushes back against challenges with increased vigour and severity. Let’s push forward together.

I am no marketing genius of course (I couldn’t sell shit to a Dung Beetle), and I never sought to offer a solution to the whole ‘rebranding’ option, but in a world where short answers trump correct ones, I feel it is inevitable that we must come up with some way of approaching our argument that cannot be toxified and filtered out of debate.

Or, in other words…

BLAH BLAH Patriarchy, BLAH BLAH Pay gap, BLAH BLAH Glass ceiling.”

Oh, just a side note. I spent waaaaay too long looking for an easy to use Venn Diagram generator online that didn’t require some kind of coding or payment for use so I gave up and did it in MS-Paint like a techno-illiterate from the late eighties (which I am). I’m not sure the gag was worth it, except that I really REALLY can’t stand Germaine Greer.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Activism, Body Image, equality, feminism, Gender, gender roles, Inequality, trans community, trans issues, Transender, Transsexual

#Transgender – The story of how I died

First off, many apologies for the long absence. I have had some pretty nasty health issues these past few weeks that have kept me free of the blogosphere, for want of a better buzzword (If you have ever prolapsed a disc in your back you will know my pain). I sit here, Handel’s Sarabande Suite playing, its melancholy tones fitting the reflective mood I am in. Of all the times to return to my blog, this seemed the most fitting.

12006205_691455714287469_3533776040249448600_n

There was someone many people knew; someone who knew such sadness wiithin themselves and could never see their future. They had a name but tomorrow begins their final journey. They are about to be erased.

Tomorrow begins the legal process of getting my GRC (Gender Recognition Certificate). It is a majorly positive thing and a huge milestone, but there is that tinge of sadness to the thought of erasing the person I used to be… It was that person that met many of you, became your friend and, for some strange reason, was even loved by some of you. There are also those that hated who I was too, those who couldn’t handle the unpredictability, the self-destructiveness…and there were those that I loved who walked away from me, and those I had to let go.

I need it to be known that every time I held your hand, gave you a sympathetic ear, or my shoulder to cry on was real. Every hug, kiss and friendship was utterly me. The face may have not been me, the name didn’t truly belong to me, the voice didn’t sound like mine, but the place all that love came from is the same as where it comes from now. I did good things, and I did bad things; I said ‘I love you’ and meant it in absolute earnestness, and I have said it and not meant a word of it. I am not looking to offload my mistakes onto a construct of someone else.

Tomorrow I will start the process to officially erase that identity. There are those who have told me that the person I was felt dead to them and had been replaced with a stranger. I have looked into the eyes of people grieving my death, and suffered their resentment for it. I have been mourned in vilified in the same moment, but what you have instead of a mask, is the truth of me. The name, the face, the voice… they have had their time. My face was the lie, but my heart was the truth.

I grieve for those whom I loved, but who never got to see the real me. From beloved relatives, to friends taken too soon. I am wracked with guilt that whilst I got the best of them, I never felt I could be honest enough to give them the best of me.

In my darkest days there was one friend who was always there, and without him I would not have made it this far. To be given the news he had been killed in accident before getting to know the real me was like being shot in the heart. I firmly believe that when you love a person, it is unique; you never love someone the same way as you love anyone else, and I deeply loved him. His absence from this world leaves a gaping hole that nothing could ever fill.

This process I am going through is not optional for me, but I do not want to forget the good things that old version of me had, and not just the things I have lost. On the days when the Dysphoria is bad, when the brain turns on itself and torments me, it is hard to remain positive, which is why it is all the more important to fight. Many friendships have ended, but others have grown these past years. The best lesson I have learned is, perhaps, to know who to embrace and who needs to be let go, however close.

As for that name, that face, that voice… although they are dead to me, the beautiful times and the love that was shared in that time has not gone anywhere… and some of them were truly, truly beautiful.

I called this piece ‘The Story of How I Died’. As a writer, I feel that there are many forms of death… the kind that fundamentally change you, the ones that grow new life, and the ones that just end everything. I have never been so full of life as I am now. So many deaths in our community are of the kind that just end, but if we all tell our stories, we may help towards making that number go down.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gender, GRC, LGBT, Transgender, transition, Transsexual

#Transgender – Are Trans People Pressured Too Much to Adhere to Gender Stereotypes?

I often find it quite ‘poncey’ when people talk about ‘narratives’ …’what’s your Narrative?’, ‘Gender Narrative’, ‘Social Narrative’ etc. I am fully prepared to accept that this attitude, and indeed the specific wording of my feelings are based on a personal narrative of growing up in a no-nonsense, plain speaking environment. Indeed, I can often be poncey, flowery and pretentious with my prose but when you grow up around the cultural vacuum of a ‘New Town’ like Stevenage where there is sadly a culture of distrust towards anyone who is different, one doesn’t have to season their vernacular too much before being labelled as all these things.

It does concern me, however, on a deeper level than just how self-important it can make one sound. The sad truth is, as a Trans person, we are all judged upon our Narratives. One cannot simply walk in to a GP and, like Ricky Gervais satirically speculated on one of his standup tours say “You see all this? Get rid of this… pop on a fanny!”

In the UK we have to bare our incorrectly housed souls to psychiatrists in order to be diagnosed with a condition that they don’t even want to classify as a mental illness (which it isn’t if the recent discoveries of the variation in androgen receptors is true). This is where we give our narratives.

Did we want to play with the toys of the opposite sex when we were younger? Did we want to dress as the opposite sex? Did we express our Dysphoria to family and friends from a young age? Did we even experience Dysphoria when we were young? Were we effete little boys, or tomboy girls? These are relevant to our past narrative.

There is, sadly, an element of one-uptranship within the Trans community? Woe betide any poor Trans person who didn’t experience Dysphoria until puberty, or who never wanted to dress as the opposite sex when they were younger. Born male? Played with Ninja Turtles and not Barbie? You don’t qualify! I am considerably Transer than you!

Our current narrative is also under scrutiny. How do we present ourselves? Many Transwomen I know, especially early in their transition are afraid to attend GIC appointments and assessments without a full face of makeup and as typically feminine an outfit as is humanly possible for fear that their expression of their gender identity will be deemed inadequate. There is this permeating fear that if you rock up in jeans and a hoodie like half the women you pass in the street, you will be dismissed as ‘not serious enough’.

There is this concept in the Trans-critical feminist circles, that Transwomen are walking parodies of femininity. This is of course an absolutely absurd and downright offensive notion, but does it gain weight from the fact that out current healthcare system seems to be encouraging Transwomen especially to overcompensate? The fact that we are expected to present as feminine fulltime (RLE) for nearly a year before receiving and benefiting from any feminising hormones, has the unfortunate side effect of making us far more visible to those around us than we feel comfortable with. Jeans, T-Shirt, Hoodie, Trainers, hair in a ponytale… is that ok? Are we still presenting as female? Are we negating our RLE? Are we at risk of losing our support or being hurled back to square one? Are we even allowed to have our hair short if we want?

RLE (Real Life Experience) is a misleading concept, as it is not really experiencing life in your preferred gender role, as much as it is seeing how you cope with the shit you are going to get when others perceive you as Trans. Unless you are fortunate enough to be naturally very androgynous, you are going to look like a guy in a frock or a stereotypical ‘butch lesbian’ until you get medical intervention. ‘Passing privilege’ doesn’t often come until later, and for many, not at all.

No one comments on Trans people who blend in, only on those who stand out. I suppose I can count myself fortunate that I can sit near a group of people saying nasty things about Trans people without realising that one of these ‘abominations’ is within muffin launching distance from their ignorant faces. It sometimes feels that the less you think you pass, the more you overcompensate, and the less you actually pass as a result.

Femininity is highly subjective. Masculinity is highly subjective. Is it wrong to push transitioning people to the extremes of gender expression? Is this not the issue many think it is and just an internalised aspect of Gender Dysphoria? Is there not enough consensus on the parameters for gender expression to use it as a suitable judge for the criteria of RLE?

I prefer to wear dresses or skirts, love shoes, don’t usually wear much make-up, play tabletop games, video games, collect Warhammer stuff, love sci-fi and history, laugh at dirty jokes… there’s a mix of typically both genders in there, yet I identify strongly as female… are Transwomen allowed to be Tomboys? Are Transmen allowed to be effete? The gender binary is far from just a Trans issue, we are all a hodgepodge of different traits and interests that have been gender labelled. Compassion is seen as feminine, yet there are many compassionate men whose Gender Identity is never in question. Competitiveness is seen as a typically male trait, but try telling that to a women’s Roller Derby team.

I always knew what my brain needed my body to be, but that is not negated by the fact I liked Ninja Turtles and Action Man when I was a child, and it doesn’t negate my identity if I can’t be bothered to shave my legs for a fortnight.

6 Comments

Filed under Body Image, femininity, gender dysphoria, gender roles, masculinity, Privilege, real life experience, RLE, Trans, Trans Activism, trans issues, Transgender, transition, Transsexual

Who gets to define our identity?

Every time sour-faced bint Julie Burchill plops out another scathing article, the attached comments section comes alive with vigorous debate. Julie’s stance on Gender Identity is well known… she believes that Trans people shouldn’t have the right to live fully as their own perception of their identity would dictate… and on the attached forums and comment threads there are many responses both for and against her assertions.

Now my views on Burchill are on record and I will save any further criticism of her until the next time she gets sand in her vagina over Trans people having rights and pinches out another opinion piece in order to desperately seem ‘cutting edge’ and relevant. But it leaves me wondering about the identity of everyone, and who it is that gets to define us.

Of course we get to define a lot about ourselves. We can express ourselves through fashion or creative outlets. Being an old-skool Goth with a thing for black lace, satin, heavy eyeliner and masses of hair (and that’s just pre-transition) was never questioned, and I took the rough with the smooth. For all the times I walked down the street in a long leather coat and had barely polysyllabic simpletons shouting ‘Matrix’, ‘Goth’ and the imaginative ‘Fuckin… fuckin… goth! Fuckin… matrix… fuckin…’ not one of them felt the need to go ‘Pfft, you’re not fooling anyone!’ That was left to other Goths.

So my identity as a Goth wasn’t questioned by the masses, only by a select few who felt my identity as a Goth detracted from their own. Why is it then, that Trans people are so often challenged on their identity? Why is it that someone presenting as a Goth is accepted as such without question, when someone presenting as the opposite gender to their birth sex creates divided opinions? I wonder, were subcultures, music tastes or football teams assigned at birth like Gender, if there would be a lot more hostility towards people who don’t conform to these labels.

There is a struggle between how we define ourselves, and the labels that are assigned to us to make us more easily identifiable. I have sadly known many people that assign their own prejudices and preconceptions to the identity of someone because of their race, religion, gender or sexuality. Trayvon Martin, for example. The assertion of someone else’s opinion of his identity led to his being murdered, and the perceptions of others regarding race, led to Trayvon’s murderer walking free.

What about when prejudice over identity is enshrined in law? What about where it is illegal to be gay, such as Nigeria, Uganda, Iran, Saudi Arabia or any of the other grotty little piss-hole nations out there? Even though any reputable scientist will attest to the role of Nature in determining one’s sexuality, these nations impose the added aspect of ‘criminal’ to the identity of anyone who happens to be born a certain way.

Ultimately the issues over Gender Identity and sexuality are caused by good old fashioned sexism. Think about it, if we weren’t raised to assign different values to people based on their gender, then there wouldn’t be such a clash of belief structures when one person failed to conform to gender roles. With same sex people, it is those who appear to adopt the roles or characteristics of the opposite sex who face the most ridicule. ‘Butch’ Lesbians with their stereotypically more masculine appearance, or effeminate, overly camp men who give a lot of attention to their hair and speak with a softer voice are given a harder time than those who have a more typical, conventional appearance or behaviour. People take comfort in an established order and so are reluctant to challenge it, even when they are in the perceived inferior camp (i.e. Women). Better to be bottom of a stable pile than the top of a shakey one right?

If there were a universal sense of equality between men and women, Gender roles would be irrelevant and so anyone who identified differently would not be seen as either degrading themselves or trying to elevate themselves above their station. There is a massive correlation, I find, in those who have a very strong sense of Gender roles, and who express homophobic and transphobic opinions, while conversely those who are more accepting of LGBT persons are also very critical of any gender divide.

So for my initial thoughts about identity, the very concept of identity is changing. Time was that, at birth, you were assigned your Sex, Race and Social Class with all the accompanying expectations. They were immutable, set in stone and enshrined in scripture. Even radical feminists like Burchill, who espouse the artificiality of gender roles, still cling to that ‘olde worlde’ view that some aspects of identity are pre-ordained.

This leads me to ask. Who has the RIGHT to define our identity?

My answer: We do, and the only other people who get a say are those who love us, and those we hurt. If I were to callously break someone’s heart, then I would deserve the title of ‘bitch’. If I murdered someone, I would deserve to be labelled a murderer, but I do not see how one’s relationship to traditional gender roles is causing harm to others, and surely if those who love us truly do so, then they will accept us no matter where I am on the spectrum.

So basically, in the grand scheme of things, blowhards and hate preachers can bang on about gender roles all they like, but that will not change who I am, nor how I see myself. It helps to have a slew of scientists, psychiatrists and the British legal system on my side.

All this is coming from someone who can legally have an ‘F’ on her passport.

Boo-yar!!!!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

If Gender Transition were Sci-Fi

If Gender Transition were Sci-Fi

Leave a comment

February 27, 2014 · 4:47 pm