Tuesday , 21 January 2020

Germaine who? I really don’t give a damn


Trans Exclusionary, Radical (No, strike that), Reactionary Feminists do not frighten me, and I feel a creeping sense of that old ennui stealthily pulling me back into the past.

Oh Dear! Here we go again! The oracle has has been consulted, she had declaimed and we are now enlightened. Thank you, Germaine. Will you please now shuffle back into the dark, and trouble us no more?

How can you argue with Dr. Greer? She’s clever, she knows everything, like a female Stephen Fry. But less cuddly. She has decided that I am not a woman. My friends, Susan, Dee, Maria, Mhoira are not women. This issue was settled at birth, apparently, according to rules brought into being at a time when only men were doctors. Yikes! This is scary stuff. I’m being flippant. I know. It’s my first response to ill-considered, unqualified invective.

I have never seen much point in confronting Trans Exclusionary Reactionary Feminists or TERFs, (No! I’ve made no mistake. These women are reactionary, not radical) they are rare creatures. That Ms Greer needs to resort to shock language (“flopping off fucking cocks”) is a clear indication that she is fighting a rearguard action.

Political and social – and religious – extremists and cults love their celebrity supporters. It seems to offer them a cachet that they might otherwise lack. The TERF is a subset of a subset of feminism and has no meaning for women genuinely concerned with liberation or equality feminism. Their influence is shallow, and ill defined.

Religious intolerance, and poor education and ignorance, and male rage are the principle causes of suicidal despair and depression among emerging trans-women, and violence against them. In time, woman by woman, transsexual women will emerge from hiding, and each one contributes to a better future for herself and her sisters, and for all women. We will enter public life and the arts and politics, we will influence public debate around social rights and prejudice. We will make a difference. We cannot afford to be sidelined, and should not fight fire with vitriol.

It isn’t easy for me to dislike Germaine. Indeed, I don’t dislike her. When I returned to the closet after a disastrous in/out phase in my late teens/early twenties, I took with me and derived comfort from several feminist classics. They were among the books that had reinforced my acceptance of myself as a woman – Greer’s “The Female Eunuch”, and De Beauvoir’s “Le Deuxième Sexe” were among those confirming works, and they remain a part of my armoury against self doubt, violence and oppression.

Germaine has a D. Phil, so she must be smart. Her thesis on “The Ethic of Love and Marriage in Shakespeare’s Early Comedies” is a classic [no! really!] and qualifies the author to speak on matters relating to biology. medicine, psychology, sociobiology, psychiatry, anthropology, genetics and Genesis and . . . well . . . yes . . . just about everything else.

See! I’m being flippant again.

Everybody is entitled to an opinion. Yes? Of course they are. It is only fair. Learned doctors, lawyers and men of science may offer an opinion on their area of expertise, and do; bearing in mind, of course, that there are no absolute truths, these men and women are qualified to offer their professional opinion.

As for we mortals, we do not, we cannot have an opinion in this sense. Our opinion must be constrained by our lack of expertise, just as Ms. Greer’s opinion must be constrained by her lack of qualified expertise. She has an opinion, just as a loud mouthed drunk on the bus or a London cabby or the man in the street might have an opinion on many things, on cabbages and kings.

Ms. Greer’s often repeated assertion that transsexual women are not women is more than, or maybe less than, an opinion; it is a statement of faith, an article of belief and it is nothing more than that. It has no validity other than that.

I disagree with her protestations, her faith, her folly. But you cannot argue against faith. The faithful listen only to the truth as revealed by themselves. So it is with Ms. Greer.

I visited a friend in the “nut house” recently. I should know better than to use that word. When my friend does use expressions like this I tell her that she is not a “nut”; she is sick and she needs help. Of course, all that she is doing is putting her condition in it’s place. “I am a nut, this is the nut house, and when I am a little less nutty I will get to go home.”

In the weeks since I began visiting my friend, I have come to know many of the woman who share her temporary home. Some of them are very damaged, and some of them were curious about me, and not too shy to ask questions that might get a sharp “Piss off” in other circumstances. I try to be polite, always! In a better world I could tell my interlocutors to mind their own business. I don’t have that luxury. Transsexual women are striving to make a better life for themselves. We do need the world to know that we are women like other women are women. We are not different women, or special women and we are often damaged by our lived experience just as any woman might be damaged by her lived experience. The women I spent that evening with are damaged. I am damaged.

A survivor of several failed suicide attempts, depression that might crush a humvee, and years of self destructive behaviours, I have a great deal in common with these women who are mostly recovering addicts and alcoholics. I explained how I felt about myself as a woman, how I had always felt. I told them that a few months before I had been brought to the same hospital by the police to be assessed because I had been blown off course, and had threatened to take my own life. When I left I hugged the friend I had gone to visit, and another woman to whom I have become close, and the other women with whom I had spent a wonderful evening. There was common ground, so much we unknowingly accepted and understood about each other. Girls are like that. Oh. God, did I just write that?

I am a recovering alcoholic. In recovery I have met many women of immense courage who acept me as their sister in adversity. Our common experience has created a bond of affection, and we have also discovered interests in politics, sexual politics, current affairs, poetry, the arts, literature, music, fashionc, men, women, life, the universe and everything, and feminism. The acceptance of these strong, caring women has helped me on a journey of self assessment, and self judgement, and acceptance. They have helped me in finding what I have lacked since I picked up my first drink more than four decades ago; they have helped me discover myself, my identity, my weaknesses, and my strengths. They have helped me discover my womanhood after decades of self destructive behaviour.

Because these wonderful women accept me, and accept my womanhood, and accept my friendship, I can more easily than before dismiss Ms. Greer’s rantings as I dismiss the sideways glances, the stage whispers, and the out and out hostility I meet every day.

I will not be a freak in Greer’s Travelling Circus of Medical Misfits. I will not snarl when she commands.

About Lesley Stafford

Lesley Stafford
Lesley Stafford was active on issues around the treatment of male to female transsexuals within the NHS, and is co author of a report by the Women Thinking Trans Issues Group. She is a freelance grumpy old woman.

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  1. “bearing in mind, of course, that there are no absolute truths”


    How about the following? –


    “The Queen was crowned in 1953.”

    “Ben Nevis is Scotland’s highest mountain.”

    “Paul Brownsey is gay.”

    “The Guernsey is a breed of cow.”

    “Andy Murray played tennis in London in November 2015.”

    • Well, if you want to be picky…

      “2+2=4″ is not true in certain bases of arithmetic, e.g. in base 4: 2+2=10

      “The Queen was crowned in 1953″ Ask someone from Denmark when the Queen was crowned and they’d say 1972. Crowned can also mean a whole selection of ghastly things (see urban dictionary) which definitely do not apply to any reigning woman-identifying monarch. Well, I certainly hope not.

      “Ben Nevis is Scotland’s highest mountain” Ben Nevis is nowhere near Scotland County, North Carolina. Also, anyone with the name Scotland could own or administer land, which could include a mountain, which could be bigger than Ben Nevis. Finally, Ben Nevis (in Svalbard) is not Scotland’s highest mountain (by any current definition of the word Scotland).

      “Paul Brownsey is gay” There are many Paul Brownseys and they’re not all gay, unless they are the key to the discovery of the mythical ‘gay gene’ and (therefore) thoroughly deserving of a place in medical history. Well done, Paul.

      “The Guernsey is a breed of cow” A female dolphin is referred to as a cow and The Guernsey is certainly not a breed of dolphin. Although I’m sure I’d be a fool to try and lecture you on animal husbandry.

      “Andy Murray played tennis in London in November 2015″ Andy Murray is very unlikely to have played a Chris Rea album from 1980 at that time and place. I can’t say for sure, as I don’t know his tastes. I reckon he probably listens to mash-ups of K-pop and Status Quo when he visits London.

      • Nice.

        But I think you exploit different possible meanings of words (or different references of words) to get to your point.

        Yeah, sure, “David is a bachelor” may be true if “bachelor”=”unmarried” but not if “bachelor”=”B.A.”

        But the truth in question remains absolute, even if the words we used to express it vary in their meanings or can be used to pick out other things, too. Isn’t it true, and absolutely true, that Andy Murray (Wimbledon winner, etc) played tennis in London-on-Thames in November 2015, even though the words and names we employ to express that can be used to express other truths, too?

        And, of course, though this may be a cheapish trick, but also may not be, if there are no absolute truths, then by your criteria, “There are no absolute truths” isn’t an absolute truth, either.

        • Was there a bad line call that went unchallenged? If so, then a part of the game was played outside of the rules of tennis. Would that invalidate part of the match or the whole match?

          “There are no absolute truths” is a statement. A statement is just a container of words that are untested for their meaning or validity, so a statement can contain truths, untruths, paradoxes or incoherence.

          I guess the overall point is that, over time, knowledge becomes outdated. Over generations, decades, months, weeks or days, in every field of life, the knowledge we have is replaced by newer, more accurate knowledge. In time, we look back and the old knowledge seems ridiculous by comparison. So when dealing with contemporary or near-contemporary truths, we have to work with them but also work with a degree of flexibility because we know that so much of that knowledge will be superseded (but we don’t know which parts).

    • “But I think you exploit different possible meanings of words (or different references of words) to get to your point.” does rather undermine your own argument, Paul.

  2. Yeah fuck chromosomes and D.N.A. I’m sorry you may identify as female in gender, but facts are facts you are not technically/scientifically a woman, you lavk a womb.

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