In part 1 I discussed sexual dimorphism.
I concluded part 2 with
“Maybe gender is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe it really doesn’t matter. I’m still me.”
In some ways it doesn’t matter. On a philosophical level I don’t mind what words people use. But what I do mind is when people use words with the intent to hurt or demean.
But there are wider, deeper much more important issues than that. Issues of safety, oppression, violence, control.
I am by my own admission a naive optimist and idealist. I strive for the world to be a better, safer, fairer place for everyone in it. Irrespective of race or creed, sex or sexuality. Or indeed gender expression. My words let me down a bit here. I want to concede that gender is a social construct that should be de-constructed, but I also don’t want to minimise or trivialise my own experience or of others who are genuinely dysphoric about not just their social gender, but our whole physical manifestation of a sex that is anathema to us.
And as that naive optimist I don’t see that it needs to be one or the other. I don’t see how true altruism and human compassion can put one group of people’s rights over another.
And I see this kind of parochialism in all directions. I see dogma and rejection. I see justified anger transgress into hate. I see denial. And I can understand why. But I can’t prescribe to it. It seems to me that people who try to act in the best interests of vulnerable groups whilst ignoring the needs of other groups do everyone a disservice.
So far I haven’t been very specific. Here’s where I risk alienating myself and opening myself up to abuse from the groups that purport to represent me, and certain members of the feminist movement. I risk being labelled a TERF by transactivists, and a mysogynistic man wishing to exert my male privilege on women. But none of that matters to me. There has been a lot of noise, but little constructive dialogue around the potential issues of access to rape crisis centres.
The needs of women
As I’ve said in part 1, I am not female, and as I said in part 2, I lived in the social role of “man” for forty years. This is really important.
Our experiences shape who we are. No matter how much I reject being a man (and I do) these facts mean that I have not been shaped by:
- being leched at by men from hitting puberty;
- being pressured by men to have sex with them for all of my adult life;
- living with the risk of getting pregnant;
- living with fear of male violence;
- being discriminated against at work in terms of progression and pay;
- being expected to stay at home to bring up children for free;
- having post natal depression;
- and the list goes on….
Now I don’t for one second infer that all women have to experience all of these things to be women. I also recognise that trans women who transition early experience some of these. I still hold that I identify more as a woman (based on my experiences of men and women), and whether anyone else accepts that or not, I can be honest about the fact that my experiences are different and that makes me different.
This means that whilst I think I’m more in tune with the needs of women than other males (and a large part of this is through socialising with women), I do not claim any right to exert any view on the needs of women.
What I can say, is that I am honest enough to say that I have a penis. I hate it. I don’t view women sexually. I would really hope that I present no actual threat to women. But I have a penis. Fact. Therefore I can accept that a woman who has been raped or subject to male sexual violence has every right to a safe space where there aren’t any penises. That is not transphobic. It’s respectful of the fact that any person in that position is vulnerable, and damaged and needs to be believed, trusted, cared for. That is not the time for dogma.
I can also be honest enough to say that some transwomen, who have inevitably been socialised as male for large parts of their life, whether they are aware of it or not, still display behaviours associated with men and some retain male physical characteristics. Therefore I can accept that a woman who has been raped or subject to male sexual violence has every right to a safe space where there aren’t exposed to people who they may (rightly or wrongly) consider to be men. Again, that is not transphobic. It’s respectful of the fact that any person in that position is vulnerable, and damaged and needs to be believed, trusted, cared for. That is not the time for dogma.
The needs of trans women
Again, my words let me down somewhat. Whether we use trans woman, gender non-conforming male or use insulting terms like dick-in-a-dress doesn’t change the fact that we exist, we are vulnerable and we also have needs. I’ll use trans woman as it’s a term the wider population recognises even though it has it’s issues.
Whilst I have been violated by men in many ways, I’m lucky that I haven’t been raped or subjected to excessive male sexual violence. As such I claim no right to express the views of those that have.
What I do know is that trans women are also subject to male sexual violence, Trans women are raped. Trans women are murdered. Trans women also need to be supported.
I don’t necessarily think that I’m representative of the wider trans community (which is wide and varied), but I am a person that has always rejected the gender role assigned to men. If I were in the position of having been raped by a man, being isolated at that point in time because I am also considered to be a man would be extremely emotionally damaging. Treating me as a victim of male violence would not be anti-feminist. It’s respectful of the fact that any person in that position is vulnerable, and damaged and needs to be believed, trusted, cared for. That is not the time for dogma.
Is there a conflict?
Yes there is and I don’t know the answers. There are certainly issues here that need to be discussed, honestly and openly without slurs, without hate. With love, with respect, and with genuine altruism and humanity. To make provision to treat every victim of male sexual violence in the best way for each and every victim, whether that victim is a woman, a trans woman, a trans man or a man.
Those that seek to deny this, or seek to demean others are not, in my humble opinion, the voices that matter, even if they are the loudest.
I’ll discuss the wider implications in part 4.