I was one of the transactivists on the channel 4 documentary, I regret what I did — this is why
Esther Betts
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The first time through, I read this and was simply angry and defensive; if I were in the UK, I could well have gone to that event, particularly since it was at a time I had read a lot about trans issues and was trying to see why there was an opposition, other than from conservative women who wanted private bathrooms. (I’ve learned a lot since then!) I have just re-read it, and noticed that I’d missed the more self reflexive tone, and particularly appreciated your ending, where you acknowledged being intimidating. Friends have expressed suspicions whether such an apology is sincere, or simply trying to erase the kinds of events which have finally started the media and political parties noticing that there may be another point of view. That’s inevitable when bullies change tactics; but as it happens, I believe you. And appreciate the apology.

Having been enthusiastically pro-trans rights for years, and then slowly beginning to realize there are some dark, vicious strands in the movement, I want an alliance between women raised as women and people raised male but identifying as women. (No, not all. Someone who presents as female sometimes and as male sometimes can opt out of being oppressed as a woman, which seems to me to destroy the whole point of “identity;” as in the old song, “Which side are you on?” But if anyone’s on my side, I’m on her side too; and that makes her my sister, no matter how she came to stand there.)

I’m glad you had that discussion where you felt you knew more at the end. That’s how they’re supposed to go! A lot of us don’t have a teensy tiny absolutist position which will never change; but when stonewall tactics are used, and attempts are made to get someone on the other side fired, doxxed, terrified for their families and selves, we all tend to hunker down and draw lines in the sand. Since all of us who reject the existence of gender as a desirable concept are at least theoretically natural allies, this is a shame. But it’s a shame which is fed by material factors. Nonprofits are getting LOTS of money from extremely wealthy donors, many of them getting rich off of lifetime medical procedures and hoping for more; I used to write grant proposals and work with funding sources, and I know how nonprofits can simply lose all perspective with the prospect of funding. I’ve been an organizer all my life, and I agree that talking about an issue with allies and then coming up with shared goals — or anything along that road — can be liberating in a way fighting doesn’t provide. We have plenty of people to fight. I hate it when we fight each other.

If I were going to recommend one thing which would back up the hostility (a bit) but which the alphabet soups would resist completely, it would be that we try first for a definition of “woman.” Mine is radical feminist influenced, though I’m a socialist feminist myself; this means that I define women by their treatment as a class, under patriarchy. Melania Trump and I (poor older woman on Social Security only) are subject to similar stereotypes and expectations; because she’s rich and able-bodied and younger, she can buy out of some of the punishments elderly, disabled, poor women experience; but she is nonetheless required by the patriarchy to navigate those issues, producing expectations on her, a non-elected, non-official, former non-citizen, because her partner is none of those things.

For me, that’s a woman; the historical division of labor leading to a lesser valuing of those presumably able to bear children. (Some therefore exclude all with male bodies; but if one presents as a woman, the presumptive reproductive ability still defines you; it’s just that you’ll be a woman lacking even more value than most, making all of us without uteruses or egg supply failures at being women, regardless of the reason.) But this is my working political definition, and it does shift a bit. One of the MANY things I want to discuss with women who re-identify as female instead of being automatically assigned that space.

At any rate, thank you for your writing. Look forward to hearing more of your story, as you stand your ground but do it without a mask or other threats of violence, and perhaps shift your ideas a bit, as people who listen to you shift theirs…