This weekend, I had the privilege of attending Radfems Resist in London. It was my first real life interaction with radical feminists and lesbian separatists and it blew my mind. I met so many different women who were fascinating, funny, kind, uncompromising, opinionated. I was exposed to a whole bunch of different perspectives. I found community, which I’ve never really had and I wholeheartedly desire to keep these women in my life and talk and drink and laugh with them again. I want to make clear that this is not an attack. This is the start of a conversation that I and a few of the younger women attending wanted to have but maybe didn’t have the words or bravery for at the time.
What I want to write about here is the trans issue, and the way it was handled at the conference.
I first heard someone use the word tranny in the “No Tomboys Allowed” workshop, which addressed the increasingly aggressive pressure to conform to gender roles for young girls and the resulting pressure to either perform femininity perfectly or to transition. This felt like a particularly important topic to explore for me, as I know for certain that if trans rhetoric had reached the fever pitch it has now during my teen years, I would undoubtedly have ended up “identifying” as trans. My experiences were similar to two other young women in the workshop, both gender non-conforming women, who had experienced pressure to not identify as women but as men or genderfluid. They were 8-10 years younger than me, and during this time trans ideology has become far more entrenched and embedded, particularly within universities with the rise of queer theory and disappearance of women’s studies. The three of us had managed to resist this pressure but I know there are many who have not been so lucky.
When the word tranny was first used by the workshop leader, I exchanged uncomfortable glances with some of the women present. Trans ideology has been extremely damaging to radical feminism, and there is bitterness and anger at this that is understandable. But as someone who very easily could have gone that way myself, my reaction to particularly trans youth is not one of hatred and anger but sadness and empathy. Radical feminism saved me from the cesspool of identity politics, but if radical women dehumanise young trans people then they will not see our politics as the truth but as an attack, and will become even more defensive.
Trans ideology operates as a cult. You cannot question trans ideology from within the trans cult. It is important then that radical feminism, the place where questioning trans youth can get their answers, is a place where they can find them. Young trans people are men and women who have been brainwashed into thinking that they are not men and women. When you see vulnerable people being brainwashed by a cult, should our reaction not be a desire to rescue them rather than to dehumanise them?
There was undoubtedly a generational divide at the event, and I can only theorise as to why. I think a lot of the older women had been able to form strong communities away from mainstream gender worship. Mainstream feminism has become a shitshow-as one older woman attending said, “what we’re doing today used to just be called feminism.” Many were separatists, many had managed to acquire jobs where they work exclusively with women. The cultural landscape has shifted. Trans ideology is accepted, endemic, and unquestioned at present. Atomised and lonely, the few of us who were raised in this climate who have managed to find radical feminism see it as a life-raft. I don’t want to steer that raft away from people who desperately need it.
MtF trans people undoubtedly make up the majority of the trans commuity and particularly the most vocal trans activists. This deserves exploration I believe, as it explains why a lot of trans rhetoric is so aggressive and toxic, and helps us to understand the movement as a whole. The work of Ray Blanchard and Michael C. Bailey is particularly despised by vocal male trans activists, and I believe it is because it strikes closest to the truth. As Michael C Bailey describes so vividly in The Man Who Would be Queen, a book which resulted in attacks on his family and the threat of losing his professorship, there are two kinds of male transexuality-homosexual transexuality and autogynephilic transexuality.
Homosexual transexuals are gender non-conforming men. Their gender non-conforming starts at a very early age, and will usually be noted before they are of school age. They will act in a very feminine way and eventually grow up to be gay men. Of this group of gender non-conforming boys, only a tiny proportion will end up transitioning, although now that transactivism has hit the mainstream we can expect to see this number increasing as well-meaning but brainwashed parents push their healthy male children into medical transition and compulsory heterosexuality.
Autogynephilic transexuals are very different, and Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner is a textbook example of this. Autogynephila is best described as an erotic targeting error, where the man is still attracted to women but the erotic target is themselves as a woman. They will be gender conforming men, typically late transitioning, after they have reaped the rewards of a life of male privilege. Interestingly, autogynephilia used to be accepted by some transexuals, but after a cultural shift towards the acceptance of the “male/female” brain explanation this acceptance has been abandoned as “self-hating.” Autogynephilia is a paraphilia, a fetish, and it is autogynephilic men like Julia Serano, Caitlyn Jenner and the thousands of examples we see on Gender Trender that are the leading lights of the trans movement. They set the tone and agenda. It’s been noted that the most vulnerable of boys-young, gender non-conforming ones-are joining a “movement” led by dangerous people-older, late-transitioning, entitled men.
Young women who have fallen for trans ideology have it even worse. They are expected to toe the party line, which is set by autogynephilic men. They are young GNC women, trying to escape compulsory heterosexuality and gender worship. And there is nothing for them. Mainstream lesbian websites like Autostraddle regularly feature disgusting grooming articles-how to date a trans woman, how to sleep with a trans woman. This is a particularly egregious example-http://www.autostraddle.com/so-you-can-fuck-us-whats-next-going-beyond-sex-with-trans-women-265262/
I know that I and many other women have been told we are violent bigots for refuting the idea that the penis is a female organ and refusing to sleep with men, autogynephilic men, who are not lesbians. This is rape culture. This is compulsory heterosexuality. I’m sure lesbian women of every age here have been told, repeatedly, that they need to take dick. Twisting the language of social justice against us-calling us bigots-is just the newest way of being punished for saying no.
At the same time, young gender non-conforming lesbians are disappearing. We’re being told to bind, take T, have a mastectomy. We’re asked what our pronouns are. Lesbian spaces are all but gone, but queer spaces are everywhere. It’s infuriating and lonely. And for young teenage girls who are just coming to terms with their attraction to women and revulsion at performing femininity, we need to think hard about what we can do to help them and where they’re likely to seek help. Will they head to the queer group, who will tell them that they love and accept them as a boy, that their body is their enemy, that they need dangerous, life-shortening, invasive medical intervention to be whole and healthy? Or will they go to the radical feminists, who have all the correct answers, but call them trannies? I know that much of the vitriol is reserved for the older trans males who have abused so many of us. But when we use that word, or say we hate trans people, we’re pushing those young women away into the hands of the gender worshippers.
There’s no single straightforward way to address all the issues I’ve spoken about, but I know that my politics is a politics of kindness as well as righteous rage. I am furious-furious at the pressure to have heterosexual sex with autogynephilic men who would colonise our spaces and call themselves lesbians. How fucking dare they. But I am filled with compassion for the young girls who are told they are boys, asked if they use male pronouns, asked if they want to cut their breasts off and deny who they are, because if we don’t reach out to them, a lot more of them will eventually just say “yes”.
We need to raise up the voices of destransitioned women, as happened at Michfest. Online radical feminism, being dominated by a younger crowd, is a very different entity to offline activism, and there are a few prominent detransitioned women with amazing blogs setting an example for young gender non-conforming women. We need to name the problem-violent men-without alienating the people who need our help the most-young lesbians. I don’t feel like we struck that balance at the conference, and I want to talk about how we can do that better.