I am now four sessions into my IPL (intense pulsed light) therapy, and have discovered that quantum theory is true beyond a doubt. At any rate, the photons that have been punching me repeatedly in the face seem to have had a fair bit of mass behind them, or is it just my expectation of pain that switches their superposition from “mild sting” to “eye-watering slap”?
Not to complain. They’ve certainly burned out their share of follicles, and even if I stopped being transgender tomorrow (as if) I would have to resign myself to never again growing a thick mass of Middle Earth-worthy beard. A sad little evil goatee like the classic “Doctor Who” Master’s would be my best bet now. For the upper lip and chin follicles are, alas, clinging on like grim death, and may take something stronger, such as actual laser treatment… which will mean more expense and even more wonderful photon-related pain. Woohoo.
Meanwhile, for the sake of closure, here is what will (hopefully) be my last word on the vexed issue of the trans* vs. radfem “debate” / slanging match. Whilst I had naively hoped I could be some sort of moderate voice in this, I had grossly underestimated the extent to which the battle-lines were entrenched, and had grossly overestimated my own eloquence… although it has left me with a few interesting battle-scars to ponder. The proposition that people with gender dysphoria would be a more positive force in society, and do much more to explode oppressive gender paradigms by finding ways to express themselves without seeking any physical reassignment bothers me. Partially because I can’t shake the feeling that there might be something in it, and mainly because I know full well that I will continue to raygun my follicles and take my herbal estrogen pills in any case. The spirit is half-convinced, but the flesh is weak (and committed)…
That much being accepted (or confessed), I would not presume to make my closing address to the radfem community itself. It would a) be construed as deeply patronising, and b) have very few readers on this site. I will just summarise a few thoughts I’ve had on the topic that may be pertinent to the trans community – my community, whom I would love to see representing themselves only at their best.
When certain people conspire to restrict or deny our rights, directly endanger us, or sneakily attempt to sabotage our already difficult lives, it is vital for us to stand firm and fight our ground. No questions about that. However, on certain wider issues, I would suggest it would be as well for us to choose our battlegrounds very carefully. No-platforming of transphobic / trans-critical speakers, for example, is something I have always doubted the value of. What better way to lend an enemy credibility than by implying that one is afraid to let them state their case? We can speculate ad infinitum about whether or not if the Weimar Republic had no-platformed Adolf Hitler, he would have risen to power, but if the only way we can think of to defend our freedom is through censorship, then we have already screwed up quite spectacularly and ironically…
Another issue I have had to view with deep scepticism is the “Cotton Ceiling” trope (coined by actress Drew DeVeaux), which is summarised by feminist Avory Faucette as “cis lesbians’ tendency to support trans causes generally but draw the line at sleeping with trans women or including trans lesbians in their sexual communities.” There may be subtle issues I am not grasping in all this, but even so they are surely trumped by one undeniable thing: that consent (or denial of) is a legal and moral absolute, and it does not require justification. To put this in its baldest terms, if an anti-semite agrees to casual sex with someone, then shortly later discovers that their prospective partner is Jewish, they have the right to withdraw their consent, no questions asked. We may (quite properly) deplore their attitude, but their consent belongs to them, and is theirs to give or withdraw as they please. Questioning that on any grounds whatsoever is a very dangerous game, and not one that is likely to endear many feminists, radical or otherwise, to trans causes. To reiterate, let us pick our battles carefully, in ways that will reflect well on us. Both our most dedicated enemies in the trans-exclusionary radfem camp, to say nothing of the bigoted powers-that-be, would love nothing more than to see us wasting all of our ammo shooting ourselves in the feet.
Lastly, to address the issue of trans exclusion from radfem events and organisations, which leads some of us (and our allies) to protest and boycott them. To be honest, I think it is a very good thing that those feminists who distrust, disapprove of, or despise trans women are fully facilitated to have their own clearly-defined groups, which I thus have no danger of accidentally walking into and mistakenly supposing I am in friendly company… At the end of the day, people will have their preferences (or their prejudices), and though we are quite right not to let those ride roughshod over us, trying to police them out of existence altogether is both illiberal and counter-productive. The Romans tried to police Christianity out of existence and forced it to meet only as an underground organisation, and we all know how that ended up (Not very well for the LGBT community, certainly). In any case, if I was to take action against every organisation – political and religious – that, legally or not, operated a trans-unfriendly policy, I would probably have no time for anything else in my life. There are feminist groups out there who are indeed welcoming and open to trans people, albeit to the chagrin of the trans-critical radfem community. If the TCs were the sole voice in feminist or global politics, we would certainly have reason to fear that things would get a lot worse for us before they got better (if ever), but for present I think we do much more by adopting a constructive approach and giving our support where it is welcomed, rather than railing at those who scorn it. That is, after all, their choice. No-one is (or should be) morally or legally obliged to like everybody, and I for one can live without the dubious privilege of forcing people who dislike me to put up with my company.
My thanks to Elle Kacee, the webmaster of Culturally Bound Gender, Charissa Grace, and everyone else whose names have escaped me but who have helped guide me, one way or another, though this tangled mess of issues. I hope some day (not too distantly) it may all be resolved. Horizontal hostility of any form is a painful sight while our real oppressors are still laughing all the way to the bank.