Awful joke, I know, but I have to play up my Welshness from time to time.
Rarely have I suffered a bout of post-post remorse so quickly, but thanks to the feedback I have received – some of it truly educative, some of it merely depressing, and all of it in the comments thread below – my thoughts on this subject have undergone a minor revolution, so please consider the following as chiefly archive material…
I deactivated my Twitter yesterday, after having gotten myself hopelessly entangled in the #istandwithmissourigirls debacle. For anyone with the good fortune to have not heard of this, it relates to one Lila Perry: a 17-year old transgirl who, having recently come out (though with an established history of trans identity), has apparently rebuffed her school’s offer to make staff WC and changing facilities available to her, and has requested or demanded (depending on the political affiliation of the news site carrying the story) access to the standard girls’ facilities. This was granted, but what is commonly reported is that many of the female students at the school opposed the decision, leading to a protest and a counter-protest.
I was, myself, somewhat sceptical of Lila’s stance, worry that it had the potential to do more harm than good, though I felt at her young age she probably supposed that she was taking a bold political stand, and may have lacked the historical perspective to realise that it is only very recently that society has tolerated transpeople, and enabled them to be themselves at all. Not so long ago (late 20th century) mental health sectioning and electroshock were practised for trans therapy in some UK regions, and the fact that Lila’s school already had a policy of allowing genderqueer students to use staff facilities did seem to me an encouraging sign. There are places of business even in this liberal city, where if I asked to use disabled or staff facilities, I would be curtly pointed towards the men’s room…
And I would still state that showing appreciation for these sort of efforts, imperfect though they may be, is a necessary part of trans activism, as it encourages society to persist in them and improve them by degrees, which also has potential to be good for non-binary people (trans being, for good or ill, the only very visible part of the genderqueer spectrum, and thus the best placed to win benefits for the whole). Insisting on having all-or-nothing in the here and now runs a risk of discouraging unconvinced people in high places from trying to help trans / non-binary people at all, though with the conflicted news reports it was (and remains) hard to know if Lila made angry demands that were reluctantly granted, or polite requests that the school board were more than willing to grant to demonstrate a progressive policy. If so, their own misjudgement of or indifference to the reaction of the female student body would perhaps be the more proper target for Lila’s legion of Radical Feminist critics, but I digress.
At any rate, hoping to put a more moderate impression of trans people out there, I thus decided to join the Twitter debates and speak my piece. I was encouraged in this by my friend Jaqueline Sephora Andrews, who felt I could be a voice of reason. Jaqueline, alas, has exposed herself to all amount of flak from the transactivist community for having taken a gender-critical stance, but I admire not only her tenacity but her ability to absorb that flak with dignity (A rare gift on Twitter). Attempting to follow her example, I plunged into the hashtag swamp…
A day later, having been surprised to find so many people angry at me for basically agreeing with them (with minor reservations), I groped my way back to the surface and pulled the plughole on it. #wasteoftime… I did learn, or rather re-learned, that trans activism, flawed though it is, is well-matched by the vitriol of its critics, who see us (and please to note, that means all of us: for they would make little to no distinction between Lila, Jaqueline, me, or any other transwoman) as women-hating sociopathic beta-male narcissists, who should not be “enabled” in our “fantasies” but should rather be shamed and counselled into renouncing them, until we can rejoin society as chastened, humbled, and probably very depressed “effeminate men”. But that, to their minds, would be us accepting reality and doing the responsible thing.
There is no point in engaging with this mindset. I am committed to my transition, and if I may give Lila Perry her due…
(From The Independent)
Speaking from Missouri, the teenager told The Independent the last few days had been “crazy” and that she was trying to take things day by day. She said her transition had not initially been easy.
“I didn’t manage things very well. I broke down a lot,” she said.
“Now, I stay very close to my friends. I have a very good support network.”
The teenager said she had become more at ease since February and more outgoing.
“I was very anti-social before I came out. I feel more confident about making friends and meeting people,” she said.
This testimony rings so very true with me that I will most definitely not, like the most vitriolic of her critics, stoop to questioning Lila’s gender identity. Say what you like, call it “delusion” and “fantasy”, but the experience of transition is still one of rebirth and liberation for the transsexual, and not one I would give up easily or encourage others to. By the same token, I do not want people to think that transpeople care nothing for the sensitivities of those around them, or are inconsiderate of the fact that their words and actions can affect how people come to perceive the entire genderqueer spectrum. But I begin to feel the only meaningful difference I can make to all this is by trying to set an example in real life, and leave social media to the more eloquent (and resilient).
Hwyl fawr am nawr, sisters and allies…
(END OF ORIGINAL POST)
…though I would add, however conflicted I feel over Lila’s situation, I remain a great admirer of Jaqueline Andrews, who has taken a very difficult but honest stand within a community that, sadly, has a tendency to be unkind (and in her case, even racist) to those who refuse to toe the party line. It is not as if one can actually choose whether or not to have gender dysphoria, so one must expect (not to mention respect) that not everyone with that condition will be blessed with exactly the same political opinions.
As for Lila, although I am still not wholly convinced she chose her battle wisely, I think she at least did so sincerely. I suspect things will get harder for her before they get easier as a result of this, but I am glad she has supporters around her, and perhaps now is the time for fearlessness and intransigence rather than appeasement. If nothing else, she has certainly succeeded in making me feel like a jaded old wallflower… so perhaps I should be thanking Lila (to say nothing of my friend and mentor Fairy Jerbear) for having given me cause to believe that my own activism could use a bit of a kickstart, though heaven knows in what direction.
My Twitter, alas, is active again, though I will try to refrain from using the damn thing as a soapbox. The lure of reaching out to millions of people on social media is compelling, but ultimately an exercise in futility and frustration (and probably for them as well).