Trans Activism, Cerys Matthews and me

I’ve noticed that there are two ways to approach trans activism, every time a trans story hits the headlines and generates discussion across the community there is always one section who are shouty, issuing rallying cries for direct action, boycotts and more. I’ve written passionate blogs in the same vein, hell, I’ve even taken part in protests and called for people to be fired from their jobs. I do this because it works.

The second theory of trans activism is often talked about on social media and follows the idea that all trans people are activists in a sense, these people argue that the most effective way of gaining acceptance and educating the cis masses is by just living your life with quiet dignity, getting on with it by interacting with the people they meet in their lives, winning them over one person at a time. Again, this works too as some of the most surprising acceptance stories in my personal life have come from people I meet in everyday life.

The problem I have though, is that both sides always seem to be absolutely certain that their particular brands of gaining acceptance, of activism, are completely right. Conformation and commitment bias run rife and sometimes there is friction between the two camps.

Recently someone brought my attention to an issue about a trans woman being talked about on the radio who had transitioned more than 40 years ago and is a successful musician. The presenter, Cerys Matthews used the wrong pronouns to describe this woman and when I listened back to the show she seemed confused in general about how to address her. A discussion followed about how to respond to this with one side literally braying for blood, saying that enough was enough, she should be sacked and it’s time to start fighting fire with fire. Maybe it was all those years of walking to school in the morning, blissfully listening to Catatonia but this time I couldn’t bring myself to go all out on the attack over this.

I decided to send Cerys a tweet, no shouty shouty, just a calm message and see where that took me. I didn’t really expect a reply, I just like to speak my mind at randoms on Twitter, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

To my surprise, she answered me and we swapped a few tweets and Direct Messages…

And it concluded with:

I think we can call that a success.

As usual when two opposing ideas clash, neither of these theories are one hundred percent right or wrong. I had a very strict rules and regulation based upbringing and have always delighted in the idea that there is always an exception to the rule. Hard and fast ideologies are weak to the fact that every situation is different and deserves to be judged accordingly and we as a community need to realise that in general, people just aren’t educated enough about trans people. They don’t have the vocabulary to describe transgender issues like we do, remember that we’re are all human, we make mistakes occasionally.

What makes a person is how they respond to their mistakes and kudos to Cerys Matthews for admitting it, apologising and promising to learn from it. If the shouty shouty crowd had been listened to, there is a chance that the outcome would have been completely different.

Why ‘transsexual’ should be a word of the past.

 

 

I’ve been talking with a few people recently about the labels and definitions we all feel like we’re pushed in to and there is one thing all of these boxes have in common. Transsexual, transgender, cisgender, gender queer, transvestite and all the other identities which people feel define them fall somewhere on the spectrum between 100 percent male and 100 percent female. An identity can be fluid, fluctuating or fixed but from what I can see these labels just serve to divide people into smaller and smaller boxes.

Gender variant is a phrase not used enough in my opinion, the majority of people in this world have never had to think twice about their gender but the fact of the matter is that most cis identified people are not binary in their gender expressions. Men who society would call ‘in touch with their feminine side’ still fall on the male side of the spectrum but display gender variant behaviour, the hundreds of thousands of transvestites and crossdressers who identify as their birth gender fall under this definition too, the same goes for women who some people would call ‘tomboys’ and a multitude of other behaviours which go against the traditional stereotypes.

When we as a community talk about trans rights and acceptance I can’t help but feel that we are missing a trick here, using words like transgender and transsexual creates an ‘us and them’ mentality, it excludes the millions of people who are by definition gender variant. When I explain to the people I meet about gender being a spectrum instead of the male versus female binary system, it’s like a light bulb has been switched on in their heads, they get it, they finally understand why I say that I never felt like I was a woman trapped inside a man’s body or any of the other misconceptions they have about why a person transitions.

I truly believe that the whole of society is on the cusp of a gender identity revolution that will be on the scale of the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies, more and more young people are freeing themselves from the binary handcuffs of the traditional ideas of what it means to be a man and a woman. One of the reasons which held me back from attempting to transition for so long was that I just didn’t feel that I fit into what was expected of me to be transsexual, up until a few years ago I just thought that the word queer was just another gay insult and as I have learned more about the complexities of gender theory, my own identity has evolved.

I’m not knocking the people who identify as totally male or female, it’s their right to be true to themselves and I understand the merit of medical based definitions but I can see in ten years or so words like transsexual and transgender being viewed as old fashioned and exclusionary, while the conversation about gender variant people evolving and whilst it is yet another label, it’s one whose meaning is wider and helps society to understand that the fight for acceptance and equality isn’t one of a tiny minority but something that is relevant and means something to millions of people.

 

newspectrum

F*ck your gender binary

The last few days I’ve read some disgusting views, some written by cis people, some by trans women about that ‘transsexual murderer sleeping with women in prison’ story. (I’m not linking to the Daily Fail, find it yourself.) The ‘popular’ opinion is that she can’t be transgender because she likes to have sex with women, like, actually puts her penis in a vagina! Oh my fucking god, what horror, a trans person who uses their genitals to feel pleasure! If these idiots are to be believed, she can’t be a ‘true’ transsexual if she wants to have a sex life that doesn’t involve pretending that her arsehole is a pussy and ignoring her primary sexual organ!

Bullshit. Two points here, first of all, who the fuck is anyone to enforce their own idea of a gender binary on someone else? What right has one trans woman got to say who is a ‘true’ transsexual and who isn’t? It pisses me the fuck off when people moan that society won’t accept trans people for who they are when they themselves won’t accept other trans people without placing arbitrary rules upon them, saying they have to feel this, do that and say whatever before they are allowed to define their identity by some bullshit label? Since when does having a penis or a vagina make a person a man or a woman? I thought society was starting to move away from these antiquated definitions?

Second point, what right does anyone have to interfere with a strangers sex life? Perhaps the lady in prison has chosen to make do with what she has, make the most of a shitty situation regarding her genitals? Perhaps she wants gender conformation surgery in the future but for the moment, she’s working with what she’s got? What if she has a phobia of having a major operation or a medical condition which means she can’t have surgery?

She is an adult, the people she allegedly slept with are adults, I’m 100% sure that cis lesbians and gays have sex whilst in prison, why the fuck does it matter to you who she does or does not sleep with and how she does it? I could tell you things about my sex life that would make your grandmother spin in her grave and sing Waltzing Matilda but I don’t, it’s my private business what I do with my body, and the same applies for any other human on this planet.

Perhaps, just maybe, what you’ve read in the shit face transphobic Daily Fucking Mail is all a lie and you’ve fallen for their thinly veiled hate speech, stirring up the right wing ‘trans people are scum’ witch hunt crowds? It’s her business who she sleeps with and how she does it, stop judging people for having a sex life.

 

*I originally wrote this a few weeks ago on BookFace but am republishing it here because I’m just testing site functionality*

 

[donate count=2 type=default]