The Transphobe Within

“Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women’s names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so. We pretend that all the people passing for female really are. Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusion that he is female.”(1)

“The lack of insight that MtF transsexuals about the extent of their acceptance as females should be an indication that their behaviour is less rational than it seems.”(2)

(Prof. Germaine Greer)

Before I began my transition, it is safe to say that I had a pretty grim social life. Defined by the perceived need to embody a certain image that I hated and had no desire to be read according to, nor interacted with on the basis of, I more often than not simply tended not to bother, and thus became both very creative and very lonely. For many years I had decided that this was as much destiny as my gender was, and always referred to myself as an introvert.

I am not so sure of that, now. While 2015 was very much about tentatively finding my feet as a self-confessed transwoman, 2016 has seen me at my most socially active, and being trans has itself opened social doors which I never anticipated: my Springboard career development course, for example. Although I was initially very nervous about being the only transwoman in my group, there has been no hostility or bad atmosphere whatsoever. My local LGBT support group continues to invite me to conferences, plays, and coffee mornings, and in a recent highlight my friends in the local queer scene invited me to Birkenstomp VII: a feminist music event and LGBT-friendly space, describing itself thusly…

Obviously, it’s trans-inclusive. Do we need to even say that?

…so why, in that case, did I feel so uneasy there, and afraid that I was intruding?

I have no good reason to believe that. Quite apart from having been invited, I wanted to see a friend’s new band that was playing their first gig there, and thus felt my reasons for attending to be basically supportive. Still, in spite of that and the fact that my presence there was never questioned, I found myself being sceptical and judgemental on everyone else’s behalf, second-guessing all of my possible ulterior motives for being there, and feeling guilty for the unnecessary strain I was putting on the tolerance of all of the non-trans women, as if I was cruelly taking advantage of their kindness… and in fact I know why I felt that way, and the reason is that I have brainwashed myself. Bravo me…

To be more specific, I have conditioned my mind to repeat a trope that I have often encountered in gender-critical discourse: that (non-trans) women, being socialised into politeness, kindness, and putting the needs of men first (which I do not dispute), would never think to confront a transwoman in public, but in private they all consider us as frauds, or at any rate the majority who have not bought into the delusion think so. That being the case, this discourse encourages us to distrust whatever acceptance we receive, especially from women, and to assume that we are more often than not merely pitied, or secretly held in contempt and derision. In effect, it aims to encourage suspicion and social disengagement, and to thus hinder meaningful social transition, although it may also be argued this is for our good if it encourages us to see transition as a hopeless, hollow sham, and to thus detransition and accept reality.(3)

Is there anything at all in this? It would be disingenuous of me to claim no sympathies whatsoever. I have, alas, suffered enough past sexual harassment at the hands of the local trans / drag scene that these days I assume the worst automatically and never set foot in those type of clubs (including, alas, the one Cal and I first met in), although to my mind the transwomen who frequent such venues have little in common with the dysphoric, innocent, endearingly nerdy lot who tend to constitute our support group. Still, a new transitionee or someone considering transition will sometimes join the group, and my instant mental reaction will, unfortunately, be “she looks and sounds just like a traumatised, effeminate man”… which I can hardly help but be aware is exactly the figure I cut when I first dared to seek help there.

Knowing that, there is certainly no part of me that feels I would do any good in this world by promoting a message that boils down to “who are you kidding?” Transition, for all of its trials and imperfections, brought me out of a profoundly low, dark place and has so far shown me an overwhelmingly positive side to humanity, and if acceptance is the reaction I get from almost everyone who isn’t the very worst type of unreformed alpha-male misogynist (or pretend alpha, at least), then distrusting it seems more than a little ungrateful as well as counter-productive to my social transition. Nor do I see that my internalised transphobia does anything positive for feminism. Rather, it probably just makes me look like a paranoid wreck, and hinders me from more positive and effective participation.

The other event that got me thinking along these lines was re-connecting with the dear friend whom I mentioned in my previous post, who heavily cut down her own internet activities after online transpolitics left her depressed and disillusioned. She had, prior to that, been known as a strong radical feminist ally and prepared to accept some fairly disheartening definitions of transwomen’s social status in the interests of this alliance. When, in spite of that, she still drew accusations of delusion, perversion, and seeking to divide feminists by playing on their sympathy, she renounced the cause altogether and pulled back from social media. She has also started to speak of her transition not as a limited, faintly tragic thing that might just about be excused in our flawed society, but as the miracle that healed and saved her (and me). For all of my self-conditioning, that is still how it feels.

So if I do not seem to be around so much these days, I can only offer my apologies, but I must beware of offering as open a channel to transphobia as I seem to have done. I know there is an abundant supply of it, but until real life starts to justify that deluge (and it has so far done very little to) I feel I can do no better than to ignore it. With any luck, I may thus hope to cut a less shy, uptight figure at Birkenstomp VIII, although I will still, I rather fear, be a cringing mess of embarrassment around the ceramic vulva craft stall. My inner transphobe may one day be exorcised, but never my inner Victorian…

1 The Guardian, August 20 2009, “Caster Semenya sex row: What makes a woman?”

2 The Whole Woman (London: Transworld Publishers, 1999), p. 93… and if there was ever a more ironic choice of publishing house, I would like to hear it.

3 In an excellent pseudo-public demonstration of this, I was once chided on Twitter for calling a transwoman friend of mine sister, with the following rationale…

“you don’t think it’s hypocrisy to call a man [sic] your sister? … if you shore up his [sic] delusions, he [sic] begins to expect other women to do the same.”

…and no, they had not realised they were talking to another transwoman, but one gathers they were even more displeased when they finally clocked me.

10 thoughts on “The Transphobe Within

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  1. I trust my wife and kids. 4 people. There is a chance one of them will turn on me. the Human experience is over. We are members of a dead civilization, living on a dead planet, in a dead Solar system. Science is a wonderful thing. It allows one to have clarity in the face of death. I am just going to enjoy my remaining time. The Human experience is over. As it should be. The only thing we will leave behind is some space probes and some radio waves. And there is almost ZERO possibility of ANYTHING stumbling across those lonely artifacts. Besides being immune to enlightenment, we also are great deceivers. We say that life matters. It does not. We live in a Universe that is DESIGNED to exterminate life, wherever it finds it. WE are an aberration. WE had ONE chance. We blew it. We’re done. Have a great weekend corpses! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ” I’m not sure this is a less depressing line of philosophy to take on the subject, but it certainly is a reminder that transwomen have as much right to carpe diem as anyone else. 😉 xxx ”

    Now you know what Presidential politics does to some people. I live in country where the politicians use the pictures of Vets who have given their final measure, and taken their own lives and the images of their children left behind in their personal political pissing contests with each other. The thing about the dead Solar system stuff? It’s just a tease. All those things will happen, in time. The Universe does not lie to us, just gives us some AWESOME mysteries to deconstruct 🙂 I want my Star Trek Universe, alas, I will probably never see it. NASA is never going to pull it’s heads out of Congress’ ass! But my grand children have a shot. I want them to be Star Ship Captains. I want them to have a chance to do what My Lord & Lady bid us to do. A very simple command. So elegant. “Take care of each other and go forth. Look what my hand has made for you”. The Goddess knows the potential she as stored in each one of us. If there is a person that looks up at a clear, dark night sky and doesn’t feel awe, they have no soul. I pity them. I wish they could see mankind’s future through my eyes. It is magnificent. If only we could stop hurting and killing each other and give the children a shot at a future they deserve. One can dream. It would be nice if our descendants upgraded they’re expectations. Carpe Galaxy has such a nice ring to it! 🙂 If I sometimes contemplate the utter darkness of despair, it is because of those brief moments when I have been Blessed to bask in the stellar light of creation, a candle lit by the Mysterious Hand of the Divine. It could also be that fact I’m looking at 18 inches of snow over the next few days. I don’t know. Time to pick myself up and keep on truckin’ ! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Care to recieve advice from one who actually reached the other shore? Someone who for decades has lived and loved, not as a “transperson,” but as an ordinary woman? Someone who isn’t read, and I’m not talking about hours, days weeks or even months, rather I’m talking years at a time And then, it’s the same accidental misgendering that happens to most women on occasion!
    First off, your assertion that women in particular will not tell you to your face is quite correct! I hear it quite often because my history isn’t known to any of my girlfriend’s, and no, I do absolutely nothing to counter it, because, I agree!
    Because in publicly qualifying your “teans-womanhood” you are strongly playing the male privilege card… and, if you’re unaware of the full depth and scope of male privilege, or how pervasive it is, or how it’s woven throughout our lives… or, why your doing this is misogyny to the max then you’ve a very long ways to go in understanding the hard cold reality of what it truly means to be female!
    More so, this out trans, “I’m whatever the fuck I say I am bitch” identity is not only misogynistic, it’s actually quite detrimental to your own growth!
    As a very wise sister said to me a long long time ago. When you are read, go home, have your cry, then go into the bath, look long and very HARD in the mirror, and… figure out where YOU failed, then? Fix it!
    Repeat this as many times as it takes to stop being read… (it’ll be years of doing) and I don’t want to hear the “I can’t” bs!
    I ‘ve known now more than a few sisters who started out rough as a cob, but who, unlike most these days were willing to do the work required to assimilate! And, guess what, they did!
    And lastly, that sense of discomforture in being out? You’ve a right to feel that way because trans is hot right now and cool folks like to show their cool credentials by displaying trans folk to other cool folk… sadly, it’s the ne plus ultra of exploitation! (See; what is said to your face isn’t what is said behind your back!)
    As to the feminists… radical and othewise? They are right way more often than they are wrong, and the way you find out which is which, is to leave the “community” as fast and far behind as possible, zip your pie hole, then? Just listen to women! Over and over and over! And when you think you know whats what, then stuff a sock in it! Because you ain’t there yet by a country mile… it’s ONLY when the same social constraints that apply to every born female have woven themselves into your own head will you be qualified to speak… but by then, you won’t, because of those same constraints!

    Lastly, this isn’t meant to be discouraging! I so get how transition is a life saver, (understand, the REAL transition doesn’t even start until after surgery) but in the pell mell yah trans pride ( see male privilege) erasure of both female as an actual thing and those who are transsexual actually being able to assimilate, most of the advice and guidance from my generation has been likewise erased… decades of knowledge is just gone!

    So, yes, you really can do this, and no your height isn’t a break point! You can do it! That is, if… you really want it! Sadly, most you hear from, don’t…


  4. I have managed to stay out of harmful spaces online. I’ve blocked those who are abusive a couple times but other than that I’ve been blessed. My advice, for what it’s worth, is to create a safe space for yourself online. Avoid toxic sites and people who seek to destroy your soul. Stay in touch with bloggers who are a positive influence. Avoid being dragged into debates about whether you or your significant other are the right kind of ___ (fill in the blank). I have avoided much of the toxic sludge that oozes online by following these principles. You clearly have support here and are welcome over at my blog anytime. Oh, and Happy Trans Visibility Day. I have a special post going live at 6:30 AM my time which is around 1:30 PM your time I believe. Love and Hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What Jerbear said! In all the many things I can add . . . being yourself is more than enough. And I personally resent the suggestion that women only welcome trans women because they’ve been socialised into being polite and kind. Certainly, there’s surface good manners which might owe a lot to a gendered culture. However, I reject the idea that kindness is gendered – and people can’t be welcomed because of – not despite – their differences. Please keep writing when you can (and as you’ve already done) xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will do, and thank you for that encouragement. 🙂 In spite of the interminable wait for us both, there has been much to be positive about, and I meant this blog to be positive and encouraging, though honest. Whatever happens with the NHS, I think this year will be an interesting and educative one, and I mean to share that. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

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