Saturday, January 13, 2018

A fact of life: men can't be women, and women can't be men


I Am Woman, sung by Helen Reddy, 1973.

I heard that women on Mumsnet and elsewhere have been considering starting a new political party for women, so I asked what was wrong with the Women's Equality Party, and was shown a statement from the WEP that includes:
Women, as a class, are discriminated against and oppressed. There is a shared experience as a class but that discrimination and oppression will often express itself differently for cis women and trans women, just as other factors such as age, ethnicity, economic background and disability are likely to have an impact.
Women aren't a class. We're a sex. The opposite of men. Anyhow, it annoys me that thanks to someone (inevitably) complaining that trans women are being excluded from a women's organisation, they're considering changing their principles, so I've emailed Sophie, Catherine and Sandi. My email contained errors because I was so cross.

Dear Sophie, Catherine and Sandi,

I was very disappointed to see that the WEP had fallen into the trans trap and has used the term "cis women". I am not a cis woman. I am simply a woman. Trans women are men, pretending to be women. They should have no place in the WEP. This isn't transphobic; it's common sense.

Transgenderism is a cult, a meme, spread by peer and social media influences. It was described as 'Gender Identity Disorder' or 'Gender Dysphoria Disorder', before trans activists claimed that this was 'transphobic', but has the same status in terms of mental disorders as Body Dysphoria; a condition that prompts people to have cosmetic surgery to correct what they regard as the 'wrong' parts of their body, like the main character in Fay Weldon's book, 'The Life and Loves of a She Devil'. You could also argue that anorexia is a form of body dysphoria, since sufferers think that their bodies are too fat, despite evidence to the contrary. Trans activists claim otherwise, quoting 'studies' suggesting that gender dysphoria may have biological causes associated with the development of gender identity before birth. No creditable studies support this hypothesis. Dysphoria is "A state of unease or generalised dissatisfaction with life", such as adolescents with depression, dysphoria, mania, and anxiety disorders’. The opposite of euphoria." (OED). Would you encourage people with dysphoria to believe that it's a natural or healthy state of mind? I would hope not, any more than you would encourage an anorexic that their behaviour is normal.

Unfortunately, many who should know better, including Stonewall, have come to regard transgender people's status and problems as equivalent to those experienced by homosexuals until campaigning won them rights in law. This is because they fail to understand that homosexuality, common in the human and other species, is about natural sexual attraction. It doesn't require you to change yourself; it's part of who you are, like your hair colour or freckles. Lesbians are among many women who regard trans women as men with a problem, especially those who complain when lesbians reject their sexual advances. A woman with a penis isn't a lesbian; he's a man.

Transgenderism is about feeling dissatisfied with your gender and confusing it with your sex, then seeking to change the latter to solve the former. We feminists have been fighting for the freedom to reject stereotypical roles, dress and behaviour for years. We can change gender roles without changing our bodies. However, one of the problems we have with trans women is that most don't change their bodies. They are still entirely male, with male genitalia. The government is planning to allow trans people to change their gender by simply form-filling, without surgery or hormone treatment. In other words, you have only to insist that you are a woman to be a woman. In some places, this is already being accepted as a fact, and treated accordingly. For example: a young man called Travis Alabanza complained that he'd been prevented from using a women's changing room in a branch of Top Shop. Top Shop responded by declaring their changing rooms "gender neutral", and welcomed trans women. As you'll know, Top Shop's main customers are teenage girls. Would you be happy for your daughters to share a changing room, or other so-called "gender-neutral" spaces, like women's toilets or showers, with men, however they describe themselves? We know that women have been sexually assaulted and even raped by trans women, and the Soham murderer Ian Huntley wants to change his gender so he can be moved to a women's prison.

Would you feel comfortable about challenging someone who looks like this when he uses the ladies' loo? The man in the red dress was on the BBC's 'The Big Questions', complaining that he'd been asked to leave a women's toilet in a department store by security staff. How could you tell if he was genuinely trans or a voyeur taking advantage of the situation? It was suggested that he might use the disabled loo, which is transgender. A change in the law is being resisted by trans women as well as by real women, because of the potential for confusion.

It's not surprising that when trans women talk about changing their gender, and how they feel that they're real women, most seem to go for stereotypical girly clothes and make-up. If you saw the ITV programme called 'Transformation Street' last week, about a Harley Street transgender clinic, you might have found it sad, like me, to see the men in the waiting room, mostly very obviously masculine in appearance, sharing their plans to wear nice dresses, learn to walk like women, and wear wigs and make-up designed to make them look more feminine. Even after surgery costing £10,000s most won't fool anybody, and no one asked them what they thought a woman is, or how women feel? In fact, since taking an interest in this issue and researching it online, I haven't found anyone who's asked any trans women what "feeling" like a woman means? It's never occurred to me to ask myself that question. I am a woman. I have ovaries and a vagina, I used to bleed every month, I've given birth, I had a uterus, then a hysterectomy, then a sacrocolpopexy (for a prolapse), and I have a breast (the other one had cancer). This is what a woman's about; not a "feeling".

I'm 73. I've experienced my fair share of sexual assaults, prejudice and discrimination. In the early '70s I was a member of the executive of the National Council for Civil Liberties, now Liberty, with Tess Gill, Anna Coote and the renowned lawyer Ben Birnberg, among others, after I'd proposed the appointment of a women's officer, and I campaigned with a women's group in Oxford for equality legislation. Women around the world are still experiencing all the dangers associated with simply being female; infanticide, FGM, fistulas and death from early childbirth, domestic violence, the dowry system, ostracisation during menstruation, etc. Yes, transwomen are subjected to assault and abuse, but the numbers have been wildly exaggerated. Women's injuries and deaths are not. I'll be damned if I'll share campaigning for women's rights with men who've enjoyed male privilege but want to change their sex; it's not possible.

The phenomenon of transgenderism is complicated. It doesn't just affect trans people themselves, many of whom come to regret decisions taken in haste. It affects women, and our hard won rights to safe spaces. It affects women when trans men claim that childbirth isn't necessarily a feminine thing (see Victoria Live on BBC TV). It affects teenage girls, an increasing number of whom are demanding that they're actually boys, binding their breasts and flocking to gender clinics staffed by charlatans, largely influenced by social media sites like Tumblr. See Lily Maynard's blog. It affects children, who are being falsely identified as trans when they adopt non-conformist roles in play. The organisation called 'Mermaids' encourages this nonsense. Can you think of anything more ridiculous than asking young children to consider which gender they are (something that never occurred to us when we were young) by teachers and others? Or banning the use of pronouns that define your sex, at risk of being accused of "misgendering"? Or selling fake penises for little girls to stuff inside their pants?

I suggest you might like to look at some of the information provided by my friend Maria, who was physically assaulted at Speakers' Corner by a young man who claims to be in transition. I can provide more links.

I strongly urge you to reject the inclusion of trans women in the WEP and stick to being a women's organisation.

Sincerely, Margaret Nelson

Friday, October 27, 2017

Don't grow old. It's no fun.

Found myself sitting next to an older woman who'd brought her husband to see the consultant in a hospital outpatients clinic today. They both struggled to get out of their chairs (hospitals need higher seats for strugglers like us) and shuffled, rather than walked. Growing old is no fun, she observed. She and I had a nice chat while he was with a nurse. It began when I admired her cane, which had a pretty silver top, like some I've seen on 'Bargain Hunt'. It was her father's, she said, and she thought he'd have been pleased that she still used it. We agreed that the families on the TV programme 'Eat Well For Less' were ridiculous. She confided that her husband, in his nineties, had dementia, so wasn't really sure why he was there. It must be difficult, I said. Yes, she said. Did she have any help? No, she said, she managed on her own. She had suggested getting someone in to help him dress, but he wouldn't have it, so she struggled on. I have a broad back, she said. Women do, I said. (Sorry men!) She agreed, but said that he didn't appreciate it. I didn't ask if she had any family, but she said she had some good neighbours. Just one among very many strugglers. I'd like to have given her a hug, but it wasn't appropriate. Besides, we might both have fallen over.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pep talk.

I get the impression that an increasing number of people feel depressed and overwhelmed by negative news stories, so switch off. Trouble is that that leaves fewer people to challenge and campaign, while the perpetrators of abuse, destruction, corruption and other negative influences gain in confidence.

It's quite hard work, being well-informed. You need to trust your sources and have a wide range of them. You need to think independently. Many people choose to ignore what doesn't directly affect themselves, which is understandable.

So maybe it's good to remind the politically-detached of some facts.

  • There's a huge amount of good stuff going on, but it took effort by the committed, and they deserve our support.
  • It's natural to feel that there's not much you can do, so why bother? But mass movements that achieve change, such as an end to apartheid, civil rights in America, the fights for enfranchisement, have all succeeded through many small contributions.
  • Future generations may question why we didn't do enough to make the world a better place. "I couldn't deal with it", or "I couldn't be bothered", aren't really good enough, are they?
  • So what can we do? Outnumber the prejudiced and destructive by challenging hatred, discrimination and ignorance. Write letters, to the press, politicians, local and national government, businesses and powerful organisations - it's how Amnesty works. Get involved. Do something.
  • Remember that most of us are free to express our opinion and live our lives without fearing violence - "Sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us" - so develop a thick skin.
  • Have fun and enjoy life while you can, while being grateful to all those people who fought for your privileges.

Oh, and some poor unfortunate souls don't have a sense of humour but I recommend cultivating one, if you can. It helps.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Reboot.

I deleted all the posts on this blog recently. They were mostly irrelevant, considering how fast things were changing. Rather too fast.