Warning: This post contains opinions which may be offensive to some readers. It is the authors intention to develop debate and inquiry not offend or ostracise transgendered people from the feminist sphere. Any transgendered feminists who would like to respond would be very, very welcome, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a problem with transgender.
Not transgendered people or transgender activism like the push to have it removed from the DSM as as mental health problem but the actual thing in and of itself.
As a feminist, one of my big, long term political aims is what I like to call the X Utopia. A world in which gender does not exist. Where sex organs can define exactly how you have sex (as in physically) and determine your potential to become pregnant, but play no other part in your life, your ambitions, your ability to get a job, the way you are treated when you are at school etc. Where pink and blue are just colours and skirts and trousers just clothes. This is my X Utopia and transgender is getting in its theoretical/philosophical way.
Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh, maybe I am just struggling with how to engage with the people with whom I should share the greatest affinity when it comes to this struggle but yet find myself at odds with them. See in my understanding, by “being” transgendered, you are buying into what gender is. Ungendered is something I can understand, an anarchist refusal to accept that the gender you were assigned at birth and most importantly the way it is constructed in society and the expectations that construction puts on an individual, that I can understand. But choosing to live as the other gender in your clothing, actions, manner etc feels to me like a conservative acceptance that gender exists, instead of the refusal to be defined that I dream of.
Transex and intersex I do understand. To me that is about a deep seated physical need to be and do something that your body is unable to do (either through birth or intervention by medical “professionals”). To me that is a sexual and physical desire, at its base level the desire to penetrate or be penetrated, that makes total sense to me. It fits with the call from trans people not to always be lumped with homosexual issues, that they are not one and the same, that trans people are not always gay but sometimes they are and sometimes their desires change with their physical changes. This is all stuff I can understand and get behind.
Now to make this clear and to out my own personal privilege, I am a gender conforming lesbian woman. I have long hair, I often wear skirts and dresses and pretty shoes, I often wear make up and paint my nails and wax my legs. So I am a far cry from anything remotely resembling qualified to talk about this issue with authority. But as a feminist, striving to be allowed to do all those things above while also not shaving my arm pits and relishing my luscious pit curls, being physical and strong and building great big rippling guns (year of the arms), wearing a suit and tie to work one day and a party dress the next I feel somewhat undermined by a fellow movement to which I am both strongly aligned and yet challenged and confused by.
As a social activist I refuse to denounce or deny the importance of trans issues, in fact, they really do lie at the heart of feminism as they bring into focus a discussion of gender and power that is important for feminism. But I’m trying to be brave and ask the world to help me understand them better. When a little boy says he really wants to be a little girl, he is saying he likes dresses, and pink and playing with dolls and baking cupcakes (massive generalisation alert!). And yet these are all the things that I as a feminist am trying to deny ARE the realm of only girls. So is that transgendered dreaming or is it just life?! And if we are to move forward in the goal of the X Utopia then are we better off supporting that little boy from a transgender perspective or an X perspective?
I don’t have the answer and would really appreciate your views, particularly if you do identify as transgendered and would like to educate me, or at least tell me what I’m missing.
I have one small theory, which is based in my own experience that I’m going to float with you for your approval dear readers.
I am a feminist community worker, so I spend my professional time working almost exclusively with young women on various issues including gender, relationships, sexuality, leadership, power and influence etc. By only working with young women am I buying into the exact same gender thing? And if so, does that mean I am working with the system in trying to break it or am I accepting the system? When I use the greeting “Hello Ladies” as my standard am I recognising and celebrating that women are occupying my space or am I buying into gender and gendered pronouns?
How do I reconcile a desire for the X Utopia with a need to strengthen young women’s voices at the expense of young men’s? Are my actions the same as trans activists looking for recognition and acceptance of the fallacy of gender assignment at birth? But doing so within the gendered society which we currently have?
Help! I would appreciate your inputs dear readers!
Image taken from PhotoComiX‘s photostream on Flickr under Creative Commons Licence