This is very long. Sorry. I can’t help it that words flood out. But it does have a happy ending, I promise.
I’ve been reading about a meeting of “Woman’s Place UK” in Brighton last night and a counter protest organised by “Queer AF Brighton,” an LGBT+ organisation that accepts and includes transgender people.
WPUK was founded in order to campaign against reforms of the Gender Recognition Act. I posted about that a couple of days ago in connection with how reforming it would allow a man who has lived as himself for longer than I’ve lived as myself to get married and be legally called husband rather than wife in the ceremony and in matters following.
WPUK say reforming it would endanger “real” women, mostly for reasons that make no sense whatsoever and the few valid points they make and which actually do need discussion are lost under layers of that nonsense. Much of it concerns who can and can’t use a toilet. For the record, this women with a penis has has been using women’s toilets for six years and so far the worst that’s happened has been that I said a mild swear word once when the toilet roll had run out.
I’ve written about the gender recognition process several times, mostly last year during the government’s consultation period before the reform process, a process that keeps being knocked back because of Brexit. And then again this year while finally going through the process of getting my certificate and being legally female after six years of using women’s toilets without that certificate – a psychological necessity and currently, strictly speaking, a legal necessity too if you want such a certificate.
I’ve read accounts of the counter protest in both the Daily Mail and Pink News. Unsurprisingly the accounts are different, coming from a source that often treats transgender people like crap and a source that mostly treats transgender people like people. The contrast between the reports is staggering.
Julie Bindel was there to film it but her video doesn’t really show much. Both the Mail and Pink News include it. She’s the kind of person who would call someone like me a “man in a skirt” who looks to render “natal” women obsolete and would always want to use the pronouns for me “he, him, his.” Not somebody who I would feel safe to be around.
We can argue whether there should or should not be a counter protest at a WPUK meeting, the kind of place where Pink News notes people like me have been referred to as ““horrible, hateful, misogynistic bastards” and “parasites.” We can argue whether making a lot of noise to disrupt a meeting held legally is acceptable.
On the other side, we can argue about whether WPUK members throwing cups of urine on protestors is acceptable. We can argue about whether it’s acceptable for anti-transgender groups to hijack Pride parades and try to march in front of them with highly transphobic placards and literature. [It isn’t! We can’t argue that one. There should be no argument on that one.]
I’m not here to discuss the nature of acceptable protest. People on both sides of arguments will always stage protests. Sometimes they’ll go further than others deem acceptable. Personally I stayed at home when there was a WPUK meeting here while being saddened that the Irish Centre hosted it.
I’ve been told that protests at WPUK meetings shouldn’t happen. Either they inflame and solidify transphobic views expressed at a gathering for which permission has been given by a venue, which is perhaps a fair critique, or because it shows campaigners for transgender rights and acceptance actually hate women, which is most definitely an unfair critique.
I’ve been told that if transgender women have anything to say they should just attend the meetings. Which might be reasonable. Except transgender women are banned from the meetings because, it is said, it’s a women’s place and we are deluded, dangerous men so cannot attend.
Taking a look at Facebook I find an apparent WPUK member whose name I’ve seen before is arguing on the Queer AF Brighton page. I say “apparent” because in a Facebook thread there’s no certain evidence one way or the other. I note the Queer AF page is liked by only one of my friends, a cisgender lesbian. She’s hardly the “misogynistic deluded man” that WPUK activists might talk about when referring to someone like me. She’s just a woman who knows that someone such as myself is no more a threat than any other person. Most members of the campaigning group aren’t transgender.
It’s just a campaigning queer group that rightly includes us just as Chilli Studios or SHE Choir or the spoken word events in Newcastle rightly include us and treat and accept trans people of all kinds as themselves. The exception to that of course is that SHE Choir won’t include transgender men – because it’s a women’s choir not a men’s or mixed choir. The acceptance and inclusion of transgender women is explicitly written into its description.
The apparent WPUK member argues that trans women are men. And that trans women are transvestites and dangerous to real women.
I’ve heard that before from WPUK members. I’ve had it said to me quite a few times alongside statements that I, like all transgender women, hate all “proper” women. Nobody pointed out that was wrong. I’ll always remember that statement just because it is so extremely ridiculous. My cisgender women friends could only react with horrified laughter because they know that I don’t hate them and that I’m not a danger any more than anyone else who messes up from time to time, which all of us do.
I unfriended someone at that point, after much patience beforehand, someone who claimed repeatedly not to be transphobic in the slightest and claimed to be my friend. Some friend! She liked that comment and other comments directly attacking me and shared videos that among other things called for people such as myself to be forced to used the men’s toilets. She’s spoken at a WPUK event. Several of my cisgender women friends had already got totally fed up with her views on transgender people and unfriended her.
[Cisgender, for those who may not know, refers to anyone whose gender roughly lines up with the male or female they were assigned at birth based on their genitals. Many of my cisgender friends use the word of themselves as a perfectly good description.]
It’s really hard to coexist with that kind of view, though I’ve been told sometimes that I should. I tried for a while and the number of charitable things such people said to me totalled zero. I’ve developed a much thicker skin since coming out in 2013. I had to. Even so, sting me enough and it bloody hurts even if the stings aren’t from people I have emotionally important relationships with.
Eventually I went from trying to say very simple and reasonable things like “I am me” or “I don’t hate you” or “I only want to use a toilet and wash my hands in the public loo, not sexually assault everyone,” simple and very obvious things, and to try to show some compassion and love even to those who couldn’t begin to accept me, to getting hurt by a deluge of abusive words. There comes a point you just have to walk away.
Nowadays I just steer clear entirely because I know people like that are dangers to my well-being and that saying something reasonable like “I don’t hate women” only ever resulting in vileness and hate being thrown at me.
My life is too short to waste my time on that kind of thing when there is so much positivity and there are so many amazing activities and people around me. I just want to live as best as I can after many years of not being able to live so well due to being trapped in a gender life that didn’t reflect who I actually was and a self-hatred that went along with that trap.
I’m safer just getting on with my life with a ton of cisgender women friends – and some men friends too – who accept me for who I am and some of whom are very wary of many feminist groups in case TERFs, (“trans exclusionary radical feminists”), a term my cisgender friends use but which TERFs don’t like show up. Such as when a cisgender friend of mine was called a black bastard by one after daring to say trans women should be included in feminist meetings.
It’s hard to have a happy time with that. But it’s easy to have a happy time at SHE Choir!
See, a happy ending.