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.