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!