and finally: the real insight!

Gosh, I’m taking my time getting to the insight. However, here goes…although I suspect it is just a development of some stuff I worked through a LONG time ago.

One of the principal criticisms of us trans folk that comes from the talking therapists and rad fems alike seems to be situated around the idea that we “think” we’re women. Here’s an example of the sheer ignorance displayed by the idiosyncratic Hakeem (and others) in a letter from 2002.

This alone, seems to be grounds for realising that the guy knows next to nothing about his field of supposed expertise. Its little more than a hosue of cards built on the back of a legion of straw men (how’s THAT for mixed metaphor!).

The underpinning idea seems to be that we have a sexual fantasy about “being” women (the old essentialist “canard”). That surgery is an attempt to make that fantasy real. And that if only we’d sit down, pay charlatans like the good Doctor thousands of pounds to talk to us, we’d realise the deluded nature of our fantasies: realise that our real problem lies within the social construct known as the gender binary.

And once we’d come to terms with the realisation that the gender binary is unreal, why: we’d be cured.

Sorted, like!

Except, of course, I’ve never heard such TOSH in all my life. I don’t believe in the gender binary. I don’t believe I can ever be a “real” woman in the born bio sense of the word and…most such debates about whether I will fit some abstract category within an intellectually-generated bestiary of genders seem to me utterly, mind-numbingly pointless.

I’m me. That’s all. Me – or rather, I – just happen to regard myself as female and a trans woman. I’ve always been as much/more female than male: but for most of my life, I’ve not understood how to come to terms with that.

The process began with recognising what I was and with the start to transition which gave me permission to be me. But…sorry to disappoint all those rad feminists who think I am usurping some particular idea of womanhood…that is not my intent.

I consider myself a sort of woman…and that’s about that. I don’t NEED the surgery and the hormones to make me such. But first, they help. And second, they are part of a process of self-expression as a woman.

And that’s the real, real insight here.

Us trans women are got at by critics because they – not us – put forward the specious argument that we believe that surgery and such like makes us women. Only I know, and trans woman after trans woman that I talk to, all know that it doesn’t. The femaleness comes from within and is there irrespective of the surgery.

The surgery is not a “because”: its an “and”. I am a woman who enjoys living as a woman AND I want hormones and grs to help me live my life to the full. Not, ever: I will be a woman because I’ve had my dick cut off. Ugh!

The irony.

The tragedy is that in order to access the second part of our transition, we must all, supposedly, fall into line with a world view espoused by the ultimate gender binarists – those good doctors who gate-keep the path to medical intervention. Their’s is the world view that imposes gender binary and how conformity to societal norms, both in behaviour and body morphology is what makes a woman.

In other words, JB has the wrong target in her sights. It ain’t us trannies who are claiming an essentialist view of womanhood: it’s the establishment that polices us.

And its about bloody time we stood up and made that a lot clearer.



7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Phoebe Queen said,

    Agreed. And I think we may have already, but it needs telling again and again and louder and clearer still.

    I’m sure you may have come across this particular text, but I’ll link it anyway. Unfortunately it’s been formatted horribly:
    “The Empire Strikes Back: A post-transsexual manifesto” by Sandy Stone.

  2. 2

    Jennie Kermode said,

    Very neatly put.

    As somebody who does not identify as male or female, I run into related, albeit differently manifested prejudices. I have been told on a number of occasions that I cannot be who I understand myself to be because I look too female – I’d actually rather look more masculine, as I used to, but my muscle-wasting illness (a not uncommon co-morbidity for intersex people, ironicall)y) has put paid to that. The thing is, why _should_ I have to express myself in a particular (now impossible) way in order to be respected as who I am? The people who have these issues with me don’t seem to have them with my partner, who wears dresses and make-up and identifies as male but happens to have been assigned male at birth, so it’s essentialism coming from the very people who purport to celebrate gender fluidity. I have also been told, of course, that I am using too restrictive a definition of femaleness (it seems impossible to broaden it much without losing the usefulness of the concept altogether), and that I am rejecting and insulting women by rejecting _being_ a woman. In fact, there are plenty of women I respect greatly, and I am happy to call myself a feminist; I just don’t happen to experience myself that way. I don’t want to be welcomed into the club. I’m sure it’s great, it’s just not for me.

    We are who we are, and although it’s great if we can express ourselves more successfully that way, it’s not the expression that defines us.

  3. 3

    Lucy Melford said,

    Yes, I more or less agree with what you say.

    I would add that after surgery, once you really do have the proper physical female form, there is a psychological development which takes you a stage further. You find yourself integrating more completely into the female world, and begin to regard yourself as an ordinary female person.

    It’s natural: you look female, you sound female, your manners and gestures and expressions and behaviour are all female, and you dress female. You not only buy lipstick. You buy panty liners too, and need those bins you find in loos. It’s so easy to identify yourself as a bog-standard, everyday woman. And most of the time – and increasingly all the time – everyone treats you like one. Men in particular.

    I’ve more than once heard trans women say of themselves ‘I never claimed to be a woman – i just wanted to be the right version of myself’. I said as much once. But lately…well, what exactly is the clear distinction between me and a natal woman? I can’t think of one that really matters, now that i’m definitely no longer of child-bearing age.


    • 4

      janefae said,

      eeek! panty liners? No-one warned me about that…

      OK. That’s it. Its all off. I’m back to slippers and a pipe in the morning…

      But, seriously: i can do little other than bow to your superior wisdom. This blog is about my personal experience and…i am constantly nervous about sounding as though i believe i’m the first and only person ever to have thought these things.

      I so am not.

      First, the insights i gain into womanhood are, for the vast majority of women, wholly banale. They’ve lived them all of their lives – and for them, my “discoveries” are nothing of the sort. I know that.

      Then there are my trans sisters who have gone before.

      Some, like Liz, can’t wait to say “I told you so” – and i know on some things (not all) she’ll be proven right.

      Stuff i “knew” at the outset, i realise now i didn’t.

      How i will feel post-op… is anyone’s guess. What i write here, now, today is what i feel here, now today.

      Tomorrow i could well feel different. So all respect to you, Lucy…


  4. 5

    Christina Steel said,

    Thank you Jane,

    It’s such a fresh change to read something sensible and relevant.

    Please, I’m just chatting. I’m not looking to have this published on your blog

    I only have one comment really – transition didn’t give me permission to be myself. I gave myself permission to be myself. I stopped hiding from myself, faced my fears & anxieties. It was scary. Transition followed.

    At age four my understanding/knowing/saying I was “a girl” had nothing to do with any adult sexuality. Nor do I ever recall thinking “I want to be ….”. I am female. I may be an XY female, but I AM female. End of story.
    I’ve no interest in jumping into bed with any of the second way feminists. Please, they’re ugly people – with their doctrines of hate. Same with the Christian heretics. They need to get over themselves. There’s nothing about them I want to know of lust after.

    As for the frauds who call themselves therapists – not one of them ever said anything apart from that I wasn’t allowed to entertain lustful thoughts about them, and “we won’t talk about that”, “that’s not important”. I consistently stopped seeing anybody who expected me to titilate their morbid curosity about my deep & private thoughts, and then tell me they weren’t interested, because my baser thoughts weren’t sordid enough.

    I believe there needs to be some challenge to what the fraudsters demand we talk about. I’m happy with my garden, my familiars & going for walks. If they want to know about other people’s sexual fantasies, watch some porn (yuk). The sad truth however is, these are not OUR fantasies (or desires). They’re other peoples – what they fantasise about us. Go away.

    I’ve ticked the square to receive your blog by email.


    • 6

      janefae said,

      just in case anyone wonders about publishing this…i asked christina…explained her comments were very thoughtful and worth hearing…and she said OK: hit the approve button.

      So here they are!


  5. 7

    Dear Jane,

    Thank you for writing such an intelligent, thoughtful, open and transparent blog which Lucy Melford drew my attention to.

    I am a transsexual MtoF with a “wife” and to children. I came out “full time” 21 months ago and have been on hormones for 19 months now.

    I regard to your posts of the last couple of days, an issue that I have written about repeatedly in my own blog and bothers me about the like Bindel is that I do not feel myself to have “changed sex” (?!)

    Rather, I was not perceived at birth to be the female I am due to the fact that I have the “wrong” genitalia. My medication and eventual operations are to correct the malfunctions that occurred during my prenatal development. What I would like to think is more accurate is that I have come to realise and accept, over the years, who and what I am.

    Like you and many others, I am horrified at the upcoming psychiatric conference in May at which various speakers imply that my transgender condition is simply “in my head” (!)

    Anyway, I’ve lost track of what I’m ranting about so I’ll be quiet now. Please keep writing as openly and IMO as intelligently as you have been.

    By the way, are you familiar with the book Whipping Girl by Julia Serano?

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