Terf Wars

The New York Times had an interesting piece on transgender people at women’s colleges,  “When Women Become Men at Wellesley.” Women’s colleges like Wellesley are grappling with how to maintain their status as women’s colleges in an age when gender is no-longer binary and is decoupled from sex. As the trouble at Wellesley shows things aren’t easy for anyone in this hyper-politically correct atmosphere.

Brian O’Rourke who oversees enrollment at the college says “We had a national speaker on trans issues join us on campus about a year ago, and one of the things she suggested is that we stop referring to Mills as a women’s college, because that concept is exclusionary. In the auditorium, there was an audible gasp. We’ve had a lot of conversations about how to stress women’s leadership and women’s empowerment and at the same time, include people who may not identify as women. The answer is: We don’t know yet.”

An audible gasp! I’m surprised no one fainted especially among those of the fairer sex, which to be fair, is hard to discern at Wellesley these days.  Not to be outdone a student group at Mount Holyoke has banned the Vagina Monologues because it discriminated against “women without vaginas.” The group sent an email to students on campus stating, “At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman.” The Vagina Monologues were written by Eve Ensler in 1996 to “celebrate the vagina.” Two years later Ensler changed the purpose to stopping violence against women. No word on whether her intent was to exclude violence against women without vaginas.

Back in the Day a few of my friends and I decided to form a group “Female Athletes in Bondage” even though we weren’t female, we weren’t athletic and as far as I know, we weren’t in bondage. Nevertheless we claimed we were lesbians trapped inside male bodies for what reason I don’t recall. Back then we were just horny teenage boys attending an all-boys Catholic prep school, so creating a club with the word “female” in it was enough. But today… Our lives would have been completely different. We could use our little club to gain entrance to a woman’s college. Then again, perhaps it’s a good thing we were ahead of our times. I pretty much wasted my entire first year in college in a girl’s dorm room as it was without the support of the administration; I can imagine what trouble I would have gotten into had the college sanctioned my (ahem) “gender studies.”

As it turns out there is such a “thing” as lesbians who feel they are trapped inside the bodies of men. Dr. Brian G. Gilmartin, in Shyness & Love: Causes, Consequences, and Treatment (University Press of America, 1987) writes,

 

Specifically, a “male lesbian” is a heterosexual man who wishes that he had been born a woman, but who (even if he had been a woman) could only make love to another woman and never to a man. Unlike the transsexual, the “male lesbian” does not feel himself to be “a woman trapped inside the body of a man”. Moreover, none of the love-shy men studied for this research entertained any wishes or fantasies of any kind pertinent to the idea of obtaining a sex change operation. All wanted to keep their male genitalia; all wanted to remain as males. However, all deeply envied the perogatives of the female gender and truly believed that these perogatives fitted their own inborn temperaments far more harmoniously than the pattern of behavioral expectations to which males are required to adhere.

 

An internet search of the opposite, a gay man trapped in a woman’s body, finds a lot of speculation and anecdotal evidence supporting this concept although I didn’t see anything vaguely empirical. Still it’s clear from experience that gender identity is complex, and since it’s impossible for us to live life in a different body it is also impossible to imagine what life is like as a woman, a man, or anyone else for that matter. So to avoid offending people writers like Eve Ensler either have to include everyone born with vaginas (heterosexual women, lesbian women, gay men trapped in women’s bodies) and those without vaginas (transgendered women, lesbians trapped in men’s bodies), excluding only gay and heterosexual men – men who self-identify as the male gender. And yes, if my teenaged self were around today he would likely demand Ensler include members of the “Female Athletes in Bondage” in her monologues, because he was a bit of a sacred cow slayer and rouser of rabble (blame the Jesuits.) And by doing so Ensler would end up writing a worthless piece of pablum that would be even worse than the tripe she’s come up with in the Vagina Monologues.

You see, the bottom line is that whether or not a guy feels like a lesbian trapped in a man’s body, he’s going to keel over if someone kicks him in the nuts. Similarly a transgender woman will never know the misery of menstruation or the pain of natural childbirth no matter how many operations she has. She also will never know “the feminine experience” – an empty concept since it’s impossible to know what it means to be anyone but ourselves.

Feminists like Ensler get this, which is why they are being attacked as “TERFs“  – transphobic exclusionary radical feminists. Using Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals #12, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it,” feminists who believe that sex and gender cannot be altered through surgery and that biology is in fact destiny, are being defined by those who think otherwise and are determined to destroy those who disagree with them. And when feminists fight back they immediately play the victim card. Transgender woman Kelsie Brynn Jones writes, “Merely by taking a stand against them, I and others like myself have been subjected to threats against our personal safety, been bombarded with spam, pornography, and signed up to various mailing lists in an attempt to silence our voices.” And the same thing and worse is not happening to biologically born women?

Nonetheless some feminists are fighting back. Deep Green Resistance (DGR) is a group of radfems (the preferred term of radical feminists who support excluding the transgendered – any more terms and I’ll need a glossary at the bottom of this post similar to that at the back of Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange) that believes “a person born with male privilege can no more shed it through surgery than a white person can claim an African-American identity simply by darkening his or her skin,” writes Michelle Goldberg in the New Yorker. Good point. Michael Jackson’s skin treatments didn’t stop him from being a creepy pedophile. Paleofeminist Germaine Greer says it’s impossible for a man to understand what it’s like “to have a big smelly hairy vagina,” although BritFem Sheila Jeffreys points out the man-made vaginas owned by the transgendered “do not resemble vaginas… and cause serious smell issues for their owners.” Jim Goad writing at Taki’s Magazine notes “leftist intersectionality has devolved to the point where real women and fake women are arguing over whose vaginas smell worse.”

To a white person born of male privilege all this fighting is about as violent and meaningful as a catfight – a lot of hissing and spitting but very little damage. A dose of perspective is in order. Not more than a long plane ride away there are men throwing gay men off buildings and stoning to death those who survive.Women are being raped and forced into slavery. Adulteresses are stoned to death. A fellow Sunni Muslim was burned alive in a cage. What would the psychopaths at ISIS think about such screeching? I doubt female-to-male transgendered individuals would get a pass from such barbarity, nor would male-to-female transgendered avoid a long fall from a high place. As the lives of women slide slowly back into the Stone Age the privileged elite in the US creates acronyms and emails hate porn.

Me-0w!

 

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9 Comments

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  7. Bookworm:

    My sister’s best friend returned home one day after her mother died, knocked on the front door, and, when the door opened, was confronted by the spectacle of her father in full drag. He explained to her that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body and that now, with her mother gone, he was going to have a sex change operation. The relationship was not close, so she didn’t see or speak with him for a couple of years after that revelation. When next she saw him, she was quite surprised to see him dressed and presenting as a man. He explained to her this time that his experience in women’s clothes taught him that he was a lesbian trapped in a man’s body—and he had much greater success as a lesbian when he presented as a man.

    Some people are pathetically and seriously messed up.

  8. Scott Kirwin:

    The experience of your sister’s best friend’s father is one reason I am concerned about the certainty expressed by those calling for transgender rights. I’ve always believed the brain is the most complex machine known in the universe, and since human sexuality is based on the brain, human sexuality is just as complex. An attribute of complex systems is that complex systems usually evolve over time. While transgender supporters often recite examples of men seeking sex changes late in life, as is evidently the case with Bruce Jenner, they ignore examples of men like the father you mentioned who thought they were one thing but then they changed back.

    The problem is the pressure for – and ease of sex change operations. In the past cross-dressing would have sufficed for many, and there would be no permanent damage should these people change their minds and pursue a more conventional sexuality. Surgery changes this. Suddenly the body becomes permanent whereas the mind is free to change again. I haven’t seen one transgender activist raise this point, perhaps because it weakens their goal of acceptance (and insurance coverage for sex change operations).

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