04
Dec
10

An open response to the author of “‘Transwomen’ Are Merely Castrated Men”.

Dear Bev Jo,

Wow.  I had to sit down and pour myself a large glass of Irish whiskey before I tried to respond to your essay, entitled, “’Transwomen’ Are Merely Castrated Men”.  I always seem to forget that such hatred still exists among folks who should understand us the best.

First of all, I am glad that this essay was reposted, despite it’s initial removal.  I do not believe in censorship or the suppression of ideas in any way shape or form.  I am also glad to see your essay returned to this forum Bev, because of a basic rule I learned in High School journalism class.  Or rather the explanation of the rule.

The rule was an admonition against editorializing unnecessarily.  The explanation we were given was that, if you give enough rope to someone with a bad or hateful or simply misguided opinion, they will as sure as the sunrise hang themselves from their own words.

Fortunately for this response, I ended up not as a strict journalist, but as a columnist.  I hang myself from my own words for (a tiny portion of) a living!!

The first time I came across this essay, I just skipped past it.  Given the headline, I was pretty certain of the brand of hate I would find.  I’ve been forcing myself to read Janice Raymond’s “The Transsexual Empire” recently out of a desire to be as fully and accurately informed about the material which has been used to support and to justify the oppression of my sisters and brothers for so very many years.

“Know thine enemy,” as it were.

You can imagine my surprise when I realized that Prof. Raymond’s book was classic Science Fiction!!!  It was a familiar formula to any sci-fi nerd.  She starts with ideas and examples that are pretty close to things that are actually going on in the real world of today.  The male dominated medical establishment for example.  An establishment that for many years forced transwomen into very heteronormative boxes and roles if they wanted to be able to transition, to receive PERMISSION to be themselves.

But then Prof. Raymond takes these examples and spins them out into pure paranoid fantasy!!  She imagines an evil cabal of men and their occasional female lackey-puppets, who conspire in backrooms and high offices to infiltrate female spaces and minds through the crafty deployment of their “She-Male” shock troops!!

I’m not even trying to refute the long-held and insidious power of our overly-Patriarchal society here.  I’m just saying that what Prof. Raymond suggests would be a dumb plan!  If it were an episode of Star Trek, you’d accuse the writers of being cheap hacks!!

So I skipped your article Bev Jo.  Daily life was beating me up pretty badly as it was this week and I had little desire to be insulted or belittled by the words of a Raymond acolyte.

But then this afternoon a friend from the local LGBT community posted the link for your essay to my facebook page with the comment that I should, “(… )get all on top of this! I couldn’t read past the 4th paragraph…… completely aghast….”  So I clicked the link and began to read.  And while I always try to keep an open mind, it was much as I expected.  Vintage venom.

I’m left wondering about some things Bev.  And yes, I’m talking to you as much as I’m talking to the other folks reading this.

You make wild assumptions and broad categorizations about transwomen.  You seem to think we are all of one mold.  So I ask you this:  Are you exactly like your lesbian sisters?  Are every one of you “man haters”?  For that matter, do all cisgender women, in your opinion, have the same motivations and desires?  Is there an agenda you are all following?

How would you feel if someone seriously suggested these things to you?  Stated them as fact.

I noticed that one of your supporting commenters was using the name of a famous female serial killer.  Does that mean all women are killers?

That’s basically the type of analogy you use to link transwomen to the individuals who fired guns at Michigan Womyn’s Fest.  Where you actually use concrete examples, you make exceptionally broad inferences about all transwomen based on very small samples.

Would it be okay if you said, “All black people are… “ or “Catholics are simply…”?

You seem so full of hate and willful ignorance.  Your words indicate that you haven’t even considered expanding your worldview, or even considering any new arguments in at least 3 decades.  I find that sad.

Probably you think of yourself as a good person.  Passionate and caring even.  It’s an odds-on bet that you have loved and been loved.  At least I hope you have.

So why such hate?  What horrible things have transwomen done to YOU, that you are able to justify such strongly-spoken bigotry?

I have been extremely fortunate myself to have known and worked with a great many absolutely wonderful lesbian identified women.  I was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, popularly known as “Lesbianville USA”.  I write for an independent LGBT newspaper, run by an amazing lesbian couple.  I serve side by side with an inspirational and opinionated group of lesbians on the Board of Directors of Noho Pride as the first transwoman to do so in it’s 30 year history!  I speak out and fight as an activist for LGBQ rights as much as I do for Trans Rights!!

And though I identify as very openly Queer and find myself attracted to folks of all manner of gender presentations, I have been in a long-term relationship with another woman for some years.  I have never identified myself as “lesbian”, but I am often identified as such because of the person I choose to love.  I am honoured to be so identified when that happens.

More broadly, I was raised by and grew up around countless very, very strong women, many of whom counted themselves as feminists.  My Mother and Grandmother were both lifelong feminists, who lived the ideals of feminism in their lives and taught me those ideals as well.

Along with those ideals though, they taught me the value of tolerance and compassion.  They taught me to respect all people and all of nature.  To celebrate the many differences between us as well as our commonalities.

But more than anything, they taught me that no person is inherently better than any other.  We may have our individual strengths and weaknesses and our peculiar quirks and those are good, but they do not make us superior in any fundamental way.

The one thing I was never allowed to say in my Grandmother’s presence was the word “hate”.  I might strongly dislike something, but hate was to be avoided.

So I ask you Bev Jo, to strongly reconsider the ideas you are putting forth into the world.  They may seem well-founded and worthwhile to you, as much or more so now as 30 years ago perhaps.  But please believe me when I tell you, as an Out, Queer, Transwoman living my life with the daily fussilade of slings and arrows that are routinely hurled at me.  Who is regularly and sometimes brutally oppressed for simply trying to be myself, to live life simply as the woman I am.  Please believe me when I tell you that your words have consequences.  Your anger waters the flowers of hatred and bigotry against transpeople.

I’m not even asking you to like us, or completely accept us.  As much as I support your right to speak up about what you believe, I am asking you to consider the violence of your words.  Realize that we transpeople are often denied the basic necessities of life and all too frequently even beaten or killed as a direct result of the justifications you offer.

Instead of tearing our communities apart, we should stand together against our various oppressors.  It is the only way we may all of us redress the systematic imbalances that continue to bedevil not only the LGBT community but Women generally!

Sincerely,

Lorelei Erisis


21 Responses to “An open response to the author of “‘Transwomen’ Are Merely Castrated Men”.”


  1. December 4, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Bev Jo comments:

    I don’t want to reach the evil fuckers and give them more information, to teach them how to con more Lesbians. I want them gone permanently.

    On the same site, threats…

    Pseudo, you’re right — they’re the ones who kept taking about violence and murder. But really, they should be careful about giving some angry women those ideas. I can’t imagine that every one of them hasn’t raped or molested a female at some point. They’re male and that’s what males do!

    No need to comment on this one

    I knew those fuckers were disgusting, but really, they’re worse than I thought in how they don’t even pretend to care about females. To blame us for them being killed by other men? Their arrogance and oppressiveness is amazing. It is funny though that they are so used to Feminists immediately bowing before them that they don’t know how to deal with that we don’t care what happens to them. They expect we’ll be shocked to see statistics about them being killed, and don’t realize, some of us wish they would ALL be dead.

    Or this

    oh my god, Margaret and Fab — I can just imagine their gloating if they can get female body parts and reproduce (not to mention how reproduction is destroying the earth and the likelihood of birth defects and bad health from babies coming from such a place.) There are no words to describe them. There are tiny parasitic wasps who paralyse small animals (spiders, caterpillars, etc.) and lay their eggs on them, so the animal is alive while being slowing eaten by the growing baby. But the wasps aren’t deliberately cruel. These men remind me of a deliberately female-hating version of that. They’ve prove what I’ve been saying for decades — they are more female-hating than even many het men. The character in Silence of the Lambs who skinned women to wear really seems more accurate all the time.

  2. 2 Mara Keisling
    December 4, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Thanks so much for this open letter, for your thoughtful words and reasonable, peaceful tone. Well said and well done.

  3. 3 TransGriot
    December 4, 2010 at 6:39 am

    Good luck trying to get through to the Bev Jo hater and the rest of the RadFem Borg collective writing to the disco beat…

    thump, thump, thump…thump thump thump, thump thump…….

    • December 4, 2010 at 4:16 pm

      The concern isn’t really with getting through to them
      as it is with intercepting them;
      preventing them from exporting their beliefs
      and converting new believers.

      I hadn’t thought of the SciFi parallel;
      reading BevJo’s piece I recognized that by changing a surprisingly small number of words,
      I could have changed it into a White Supremacy pamphlet.
      It’s that same presumption of an innate superiority,
      the same formulaic justification/rationalization of violent hatred.

  4. 5 Henry
    December 4, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    This is by far one of the most well worded and polite arguments I have ever heard against something that would make others rage like angry bulls. After reading this a gained a whole new level of self confidence. Thank you very much Lorelei.

  5. 6 Jedi-Mouse
    December 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I agree with these other folks that your piece is a very civilized response. I don’t bother with transphobes like Bev anymore but something had to be said and kudos to you. Next time start with more whiskey and less diplomacy. Slay the bitch.

  6. 7 David Wainwright
    December 4, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    You are a credit to your grandmother and mother and all that they imparted to you.

  7. December 4, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    I’ve been dating a budding transwoman for the past year and a half.

    She’s the second I’ve dated, technically, though the first hadn’t come out to even herself until months after we broke up. The first initially tried to get me to accept that I was somewhat trans: “he” was into butches, bi-dykes, transmen and the like, and wasn’t entirely comfortable with being attracted to a somewhat femmy bi-girl. It was then that I really started doing some research into gender variance, but even with the pressure and “his” insistence on referring to me as his “Sir”, cisgender female vacillating between butch and femme is pretty much my default. Later, when just starting to face her issues, the first went into a big rant about how transmen didn’t “really” seem to be men, and why not — what were they missing? We had a long discussion about what, if anything, they were missing with the understanding that we were having a very broad discussion full of generalities. We finally settled into the idea that, based on her complaints, it was likely early socialization that was the issue. Being oblivious, I suggested that “he” simply hang out with other queer cismen so that “he” could be closer to the sort of male that interested him. I have no idea if she took my advice, but before the year was over she came out.

    I really have to wonder if the people who are the most loudly shouting down transgenderism and upholding the Male-Female polarity don’t also have some sort of gender issues, and that considering transsexuality gets them thinking about things they don’t want to think about. This, I think is the basis of the phobia: it’s not jumping and screaming whenever one sees another human being who doesn’t somehow “pass” as the gender they seem to be presenting, but reacting more to internal reinforcement of deep issues.

    During my discussion with that first transwoman, I tried researching both masculinity and femininity on Wikipedia. The Masculinity article was full of examples from religious and philosophical texts, career examples and other sources about the roles of and expectations of men; while the the Femininity article had mostly to do with appearance.

    That discrepancy bothered me then and it alarms me now. I’m in my early 40′s and the budding transwoman I’m dating now is in her mid-20′s. I have no illusions about the fact that, for good or ill, my behavior is being analyzed as a possible example of how to be female. I don’t know of that many resources I have faith in about how to be feminine that don’t somehow suggest that being masculine is somehow horrid. The best I can do for her, I think, is be the best person I can for myself and expose her to examples of how others strived to be the best they could be, respect her decisions that don’t seem harmful and hope for the best.

    Are there places I can’t take her until she has an “F” on her ID? Yes. Are there places I’ll never be able to take her? Yes. But the lovely thing is that, being in Seattle, we have access to pockets of very knowledgeable, caring, supportive people and organizations. I’ve been learning more about the gender spectrum, thinking more about how “male” and “female” are barely the very ends of said spectrum; reading Bell Hooks works on love and women, thinking more about what I can do with her than what I can’t.

    And besides, Wikipedia is editable.

    • 9 Misha
      December 4, 2010 at 10:09 pm

      Dear Birdie;
      That is a very beautiful and, I believe, accurate summary of the state of gender and the poison that we as a civilization are just now starting to express from our wounds and get out of our system. You are a very beautiful person and your compassion is saintly.
      It will be a hard and difficult road to travel which lies ahead of us. Your work here and where ever else it may be found will be part and parcel of the wall we must tear down, each of us brick by brick, to recover humanity for all people, male, female, trans, queer, or otherwise.
      Thank you, Misha.

  8. 10 Karen S
    December 4, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    This is a very nice response to Bev Jo’s letter. But honestly, she has so little impact on the people who matter in my life, that I just can’t do anything more than lump her in with all the dinosaurs in LaBrea…

    The most important thing I have learned from my transition is to be myself. Myself, in this case, is someone who likes cars, shooting, cooking, sewing…who sees herself as a tomboy, or a soft butch. Someone who is real.

    Bev Jo, while she may be a very real person herself, wants everyone to live within the artifice she has created for them. Sadly, the oppression against women is not alleviated by her musings, as her musings build walls that hold oppression in, rather than keeping it out.

    I agree with radical feminism that men must change in order for women and men to be fully realized human beings. Oppression is out there.

    Crystalising people into evil stereotypes won’t change anybody. It leaves the world frozen and ugly, and ultimately, feminism is lead to failure by such women as Bev Jo (and Janice Raymond) because NO ONE is allowed to be real, to be loved, or to grow.

  9. 11 Misha
    December 4, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Dear Lorelei;
    I too initially avoided the article for many of the same reasons. Issues in my personal life at the moment make time a precious thing. The editorial re-poster of the article called for trans-ally commentary but my reaction was that any rebuttal to such an obviously fallacious set of arguments would be up against rhetoric of the most lethal kind, and that any additional comments to the article not addressing all the false pretenses to the highest degree would just fan the flames giving her more credence and attention, and open our community up to further violent attacks allowing her to tear down another defense, and scaring the bejeezus out of more delicate personalities just coming out. Then a member of our new FB group, Trans Menace – South Puget Sound chapter, posted it and wanted to challenge this viscous attack. I told him, “Good luck”.
    As the article continued to be posted about Facebook I became more irritated by the persistence of this diatribe of crap and scared of the few who might find some solace in the idea that they could hate us to solve some deep issues of theirs by scapegoating transpeople as the cause of the stalling of feminist issues.
    Your “Open Response” is the type of “positive” reframing of the issue that I might not have been capable of in my current state of mind. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your ability to post this and your tactful address to this most horrid and unjust vilification of the trans condition.
    Misha.

  10. December 6, 2010 at 3:39 am

    Valerie M is now removing all the comments on TMP that she finds objectionable. Including all the neuro-anatomical citations, and in fact, most of the posts by Trans people.

    She’s also been tasked by JC with locating acceptable Trans contributors.

    I just want to clear something up. I’ve been offered editorship of The Magazine Project. This will be a paid position although I won’t be making much for a while.

    My first official assignment is to choose an MTF and an FTM for our trans representation. I have accepted because it is the only place that is allowing any criticism of trans, although it has to be kept within the bound of the law as we have been threatened with a lawsuit.

    http://wewillnot.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/wtf-is-with-the-intersex-comments/#comment-1024

    I have to choose trans writers and will make sure they won’t be publishing misogynist and lesbophobic articles (beyond the fact that misogyny and lesbophobia are fundamental to transitioning in the first place).

    http://wewillnot.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/wtf-is-with-the-intersex-comments/#comment-1040

    I have just been given admin access at the magazine. I was instructed to delete any reference to Beth Elliott for legal reasons, but I also was allowed to remove comments abusive to women. I have just spent two days reading through over 900 comments. Although I did have to remove a handful from women I love because they mentioned BE, which was painful, those comments were far outweighed by trans-supporters making misogynist attacks on women, and I deleted everything I thought I could get away with. I may have missed some, but as far as I know I deleted everything that blamed women for men raping/killing trans, stealth-trans rape apologism, racist comments, insistence that women and trannies are the same, calling women stupid/bitches/illogical, etc., attacks on abortion rights, equating the sexual assaults that women sometimes commit with rape, comparing radfems with genocidal maniacs like Hitler, and overtly personal attacks on feminists. There were over 200 such comments.

    If I owned the magazine, trans would have no place there, same as my blog

    http://aroomofourown.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/transwomen-are-merely-castrated-men/#comment-10363

    Val of course is now being criticised by the rest of the pack for being “Trans Friendly” – being editor of a magazine which is not LGB only.

    • December 19, 2010 at 4:07 pm

      “… calling women Bev Jo stupid/bitches/illogical…”

      There… now Valerie M’s claims will… potentially… approach accuracy! (Asymptotically, as with us all, poor wretches we!)

      - bonzie anne

  11. 14 Hexydezimal
    December 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    More on that story:

    “As some of you already know, I quit editorship of The Magazine Project due to the involvement of MTFs and their pushing of their agenda. I would like to announce that I have been reinstated as editor, on the condition that biological males will no longer be participating.” Valerie M

    http://wewillnot.wordpress.com/2010/12/ … utta-here/

    Anybody who’s read “Transwomen” Are Merely Castrated Men knows why we felt the necessity to take them down a peg. If they plan to up the ante on hatred, I believe we should be prepared to respond.

    Feel free to complain here -> community@themagazineproject.com

  12. 16 Robin Stanwa Nelsan
    December 18, 2010 at 12:30 am

    Thank you for taking the time to refute Bev Jo’s sick fantasies. I only wish that lesbian and feminist trans women had our own website and resources so that when an attack like Bev Jo’s happens, we can respond immediately. “There is no liberation without community” — Audre Lorde.

  13. December 25, 2010 at 5:32 am

    This is seriously frightening. Normally, bigots just make me angry, but… the sheer frothing-at-the-mouth these people get up to is really sobering. And the justifications, how easily people can fool themselves (and others) into thinking that they are merely “fighting the oppressor”, when what they are actually doing is just plain old abuse… um. I’m at a loss for words, and I don’t even have to deal with this kind of hate in my life.

    So, anyway, much respect for writing this. I know I’m just some random stranger on the Internet, but for what it’s worth, I wish you the best of luck and I think you’re a damn hero.

    Also, would you mind if I gave this a Signal Boost on my blog? I’d like to help spread the word about transphobic hatred in the guise of pro-woman sentiment.

  14. January 20, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Do those ladies forget that they are only here because of a male AND female? Do they hate their Dads? Grandfathers? Mothers? Good grief, I have never seen this much hate in a group of people. People that think the way they do need help from a therapist.


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