It is 1am in the morning, I am pondering over the hurtful ignorance of a particular person who shall remain unnamed- as I have been pondering on this for weeks now. They are gender critical, apparently.
Except they are totally uncritical of gender in any meaningful way- it would be more accurate to call them “trans-skeptic”. They were also quite homophobic, and bizarely misogynistic (especially for a feminist). I personally find the assumption that there is some sort of feminine essence that defines a woman misogynistic whoever it comes from and whatever direction that assumption takes (transwomen are women/women should be women are in my opinion two sides of the same gendered coin).
The intent from this person, I think, was to turn me into a “normie” and the more I think about normie life- the more I think it sounds suffocating actually. I have no desire for children, they look cute but so do mountain bears. You also need to be psychologically stable enough to raise them, and should ideally want to raise them (I don’t). The assumption was also that trans people couldn’t be normies- categorically untrue as I have met some stunningly normie and frankly boring trans people.
What irked me about the encounters with this person? They presumed that gender dysphoria in its entirety was fictional- they presumed the issue was about “growing up” and being unable to do so. Well, no, actually it is about mental illness, much of it severe. It is about nothing in your life being quite right until you take transition seriously. It is about inviting other people to let go of how they imagined you’d be and to accept you as you are, particularly when routine punishment for something you are unable to control is cruel and makes the world and the people in it appear much nastier than they actually are. A bit of “objects in mirror may appear closer than they actually are” but instead “people in rear-view may appear crueller than they actually are”.
It is also about being able, once taking transition seriously- to do things you’d never imagined you could do. I never imagined that I could have worked part-time whilst studying, maintain a somewhat active online personality that reaches thousands and makes people think. Whilst battling crippling dysphoria I would have had to have chosen one of those things and would have struggled to do it well.
What bothered me most was after having repeated discussions with this person about how ruinous of an impact gender dysphoria has had on my life, they still continued to insist that I was lying and needed to grow up. Why did this person bother me and not another? They said nothing I haven’t heard, in bits and pieces, from other people.
I think, in part it was continuous denial of the severity of my problem, denial of my analysis of its etiology, and insistence from this person that they knew my life better than I did, and that whilst denying the ruinous affects of gender dysphoria they somehow imagined that they could make better decisions about my life than I could. No one, of any calibre, would be able to make any effective decisions about my life if they also ignored the over-arching issue that has affected it the most, gender dysphoria. NB: This person had severe control issues.
Also what bothered me was that whilst denying the gender dysphoria and its severity, they continued to play into it- apparently it is feminist to presume that “women ought to be women” and that performing femininity was a part of “growing up”.
As another friend put it:
Against non-conformity, feminist, um no. Pick one.
They also presumed as many do, that a “normie” heterosexual (here comes the homophobia) lifestyle was one in which I would florish- a sincere misunderstanding of my very nature. Not just my masculinity, not just my attraction to women- but also a sincere misunderstanding of my short attention span. I suspect I would be bored if I am honest, even if married to a woman with a child. Then there was also this bizarre assumption that transmen do not get married or have children, they do- why else would they sue the NHS over fertility matters?
(A discussion which frankly deserves a blog post of its own- but for now I will say this: sueing the NHS in this manner appears to me like the genius plan of a Russian spy operative to turn British society against trans people, but it is instead actually the lunatic concoction of some very sincere and extreme trans-activists).
All that aside the insane level of control that this person wished to have over me and my life irked me. It was also control they wished to have without taking any substantive action because it suddenly made them realise how totalitarian this all was. They did not appreciate my masculine garb, but when I said “okay you dress me every day then. Let’s go shopping. You choose what I wear. No? Are you starting to realise how totalitarian this is with actual action behind it?”
This person was rather obsessed with the notion that the trans thing was about clothes whilst being very obsessed over what I wore. Projection I think.
This person also liked me, but did not like trans people (nor gay people, nor the gender-nonconforming very much either) so in order to square that- I had to not be trans. I had to “mature” into something I wasn’t. This person was doing what many had done before- expecting another fictional person to turn up and replace me. Not gonna happen kiddo. This person can not simultaneously like me but not like trans people- I am trans.
All of this has made me wonder about my place in the wider gender discussion on twitter- it is as someone who is trans. I get the sneaky suspicion that a small minority of my twitter followers are waiting for me to detransition. I am not detransitioning and if you are waiting for that you may as well wait for Godot whilst you are at it. People can not simultaneously like me, but dislike trans people. Most of the Gender-Crits I have met actually quite like trans people- their concerns are identical to my own- the rights of natal women to organise as women.
Now- on the flip side, trans-rights activists seem to be insistent that the thing that makes us who we are, our transness, should be or could be somehow imagined out of existence- so that we are men like men are men, and women like women are women with no differences there at all. They seem to be deeply ashamed of being trans. So ashamed, in fact, that they want to pretend that they aren’t trans.
I am not ashamed of being trans. I will likely live an idiosynchratic sort of life, full of friends and family, full of love, a full life, a whole one. My life could take many directions- I could become dreadfully normie, marry and have children (I doubt it but never say never), or I could lead an eccentric life (I suspect I will). But I will be leading that life, as a trans person, and as such I embrace that I *am* trans which causes tension with trans-skeptics/extremist Gender-Crits (who I think are a minority) but also causes tension with extremist trans-rights activists who seem to want to deny that they are trans (who I think it is worth noting are also a minority of trans people).
I’m also veering away from the language of “sides”. There are not two sides, one gender-critical and one trans. It only appears that way. There are sets of people who sincerely believe that they are doing and saying the right thing whatever their position. I hold up the humanity of the individual first and foremost, and compassion for all will always be my calling card. Extremists on both “sides” will find that hard to understand. They don’t call me Trans-Centrist for nothing. I think instead of sides though, we ought to think about this issue like this: there are reasonable people who want to find solutions that take into account both trans people and women, and there are unreasonable people who do not.
One of the reasonable people whose take I agree with is Dr. Kathleen Stock, whose excellent long-form piece for Quilette outlines a potential solution. I encourage you all to read it, even if it is the only other thing you read today or even this week.
If you are not already following her on twitter, you should do so- she can be found at @docstockk
Her solution accepts me as a trans person and supports my right to live in peace whilst *also* protecting women. In short though, I am carving out my own space and as far as my own place in this discussion, it is as trans and unashamedly so.