“I disagree, I don’t think it is that simple — these conversations need more nuance” she said gently, with characteristic tact.
The headline that week had read ‘London Pride: Anti-trans activists disrupt parade’ and I was angry and hurt.
On Twitter, I called Get the L Out a small hateful minority. And I was certain that must be true. We knew we were on the right side of history. We knew that anyone was a woman if they identified as a woman. We knew that anyone who disagreed was a bigot. That someone so close to me had bought up this tweet and disagreed with me went against everything I had known until that point.
She was fiercely intelligent, loving, liberal — how could she support the actions of this protest? Either I had been wrong about her all this time, or I had been wrong about Get the L Out. As I trekked across London to visit another friend, I already suspected it was the latter.
“Anyway, I think she’s a T*RF.” She passed me a cigarette, and I told her the story as she listened patiently.
One glass of wine turned into a bottle. Partly driven by a sense of proving ourselves right (and perhaps partly driven by a sense that we weren’t), we started looking at the sort of Twitter accounts that the queer community T*RF-block.
We had never considered a narrative outside of the ‘queer community’ bubble until then. We didn’t find the hate our friends had warned us about. Instead, we found rational, considered, thoughtful viewpoints that we had never considered.
“.. She’s sort of got a point though,” my friend said about one tweet. And I agreed.
Is it really progressive to believe in boy brains and girl brains? Is it really progressive to believe rejecting the sterotypes of your own sex means that you are not a woman?
It was the final tap of an already wobbling domino. And the rest of the dominoes fell quickly.
It is difficult to completely reassess everything you knew to be true. It is human nature to identify ourselves by our groups beliefs. ‘T*RFs’ are the bad guys, we are the good guys. They’re wrong, we’re right. They’re evil, we’re good. It’s easy to polarize like this, but it isn’t condusive to a progressive society.
All belief systems deserve scrutiny, and polarization like this only closes the door on complex and nuanced thought.
When I was faced with the science and philosophy opposing queer theory, I was forced to change my mind — much like the way Richard Dawkins’ books had backed my young Christian fundementalist self into a corner.
I could no longer ignore the evidence.
Women are oppressed because of their sex.
Telling children they could be born in the wrong body is harmful.
There is no such thing as a ‘girl brain’ or a ‘boy brain’.
Crucially, I could not ignore that a happier healthier future for our society would be one that abandons gender norms entirely rather than propping up the binary by medicalization the gender non conforming.
Perhaps the most difficult part of this journey was reassessing my own identity. As a teenager, I had believed too that I was not a woman. I had always been scruffy, disorganized and cared very little for my appearence. I kept my hair short, and chose suits for formal occasions.
All of my interests were traditionally masculine — boxing, cars, beer. My friends were always boys, I always played ‘Dad’ in playground games, and would audition for male roles in theatre class. Of course I wanted to be a boy — boys got to do all the cool stuff I loved.
But is the solution to really to change my body because somehow it doesn’t ‘match’ that life?
In a progressive society, my disregard for gender norms would be celebrated. Instead, because I didn’t feel like a girl I was told I was not a girl. I was told that the best treatment for this was to have transitional surgery — to match my brain to my body. I understand now that the problem is not with me — my personality is not something that needs to be fixed with hormones and surgery.
I’m still the same liberal gender non conforming woman I was a year ago when I wrote that tweet. The only thing that has changed is an openness to read literature that challenges my worldview, and a willingness to call out the harmful bits of a movement that is accepted without question.
We have more in common than you think — these conversations just need more nuance.
NB. I am very very proud to call the women of GTLO my sisters today. Thank you for your unwavering support and solidarity.