THE BLOG

#NotADebate: Why Feminists And Trans People Should Be Working Together, Not Apart

11/04/2017 07:58 BST | Updated 11/04/2017 07:58 BST
Shutterstock

I had to scour the leaflets and propaganda that were sent to me when I became a card carrying member of The Trans Party™, but I'm proposing new additions to the formal List of Nope: BBC's The Big Question and Cis Women Of A Certain Age Or Sociopolitical Standing.

I knew before I started that watching hashtag-bbctbq was going to be a painful thing. In some respects, I can't wholly blame Nicky Campbell - a human who seems much closer to a kindly father-figure than Voldemort Morgan - it's just he repeatedly and consistently finds himself out of his depth. In that respect, he's the perfect avatar for what's going on with The Trans Debate of 2017, particularly as portrayed on the BBC. Auntie has been trying for a while now, with tv shows and talking points, but the reality is: they're just not so sure they believe in trans people. What I don't think they fully appreciate is just how apparent they make this belief to any trans or gender non-binary human who interacts with them.

What people think happens when they set up a trans debate is this: they think that if they set up a debate like, "is gender neutral language good for mankind?" and get a disparate group of people in to discuss it, then everyone will hash it out and go away happy, because all sides of the argument have been represented. Doesn't that sound like jolly good fun?

Yet at the heart of every single one of these "debates" is a turning point - the point where conversations that start "should we have gender neutral language?" turn into, "should we have gender neutral humans?" Where "should trans-women be allowed to use women's restrooms?" becomes, "should trans-women be allowed?" (I apologise here for using my transwomen and non-binary friends as examples, but also abundantly clear is that the BBC, as is true of the world at large, mostly considers transmasculine creatures such as myself to be less realistically viable than, say, a unicorn.)

It doesn't seem to matter what, or where, the "debate" takes place, eventually there's a sharp turn on the road and we end up talking about the reality of -- oftentimes -- people who are sitting right in front of their faces, and this isn't just damaging, it's fucking reprehensible and the BBC should be ashamed.

Human rights aren't like pie. If I get some rights - say, for example, the opportunity to use Mx on my driver's license, or to pee without facing an inquisition - then I am in no way suggesting that you shouldn't be allowed to use Mr, or Mrs, or Ms, or Miss. The pie I'm getting a slice of is, in fact, a different pie to your pie - I'm getting the one that means that the small and large indignities I face on the daily will stop. I know you think I'm a snowflake, too delicate for this world, but the truth is, sometimes I just want to pee in peace. I don't want you to experience the world the way that I do because frankly? It's overrated. I'd like to stop being referred to as "an ordinary gay" when I am an out and proud bisexual, and I promise you that it's okay if you stop worrying what's going on between the legs of every person that you meet.

Every step of the way, in the slow grind of human equality, people have attempted to argue using false science, false history, and false language to negotiate the amount of pie that they get. Just like women's rights, gay rights, and the legal rights of people of colour, affording people basic human dignities to live doesn't take anything away from you, and it's distressing to see how few people seem to realise this. Just because I don't call myself a woman doesn't mean you can't call yourself one. Just because I'm different to you doesn't make me wrong, or a threat. I promise you, I haven't even looked at your pie.

People like Janet Street Porter, a woman whose brassiness and unabashed feminism I've grown up admiring, does not need to defend her pie from me. We should both be working in the giant cosmic bakery that acknowledges a sociopolitical system that still defines worth of a human by how much money they make. We should be handing out slices of pie to everybody who suffers violence, intimidation, oppression or repression, because we make all kinds of different pies and they're all delicious.

I was raised female in a house where Feminism wasn't a dirty word, but one to wear proudly, and while I don't feel biologically or socially that I am a woman, I will absolutely defend women's rights. These women -- from Fay Weldon to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- are doing incredible, vital, and important work, but they're falling at the first hurdle into a trans-exclusionary world that only the status quo benefit from. They keep being asked how terrifying it is when the transfolk come for their pie, and the great glaring truth they're all missing is: we're not.

Here's what you need to know: nobody is saying that the experience of a transwoman is exactly like the experience of a ciswoman. But the indignities and abuses that women suffer is a collective - transwomen are just as likely to suffer from sexual violence, intimidation, repression, issues with having and keeping jobs, and marginalisation. The experience of transmen is not just that of "a butch lesbian who wants an easy route through society" - this is offensive to butch women, and to transmen. Non-binary people aren't "politically correct" although many may be political. Fundamentally, calling somebody what they've asked to be called is just good manners. Nobody, and I say this with as much respect as I can muster, cares whether or not you believe in our 'ideology', we just care that you use our names, our pronouns, and stop pretending that it's an effort to do so.

Here's what you have to remember: transgender people aren't just transwomen. We are transmen, non-binary people, third gender, two-spirit, hijrahs, and those who live within and outside of the gender binary across global, social and political lines. We are not all white, we are not all middle-class, we are not all university educated - some of us are also all of those things. Transgender isn't a "new fad", wasn't invented by the internet, and by admitting that you haven't read or heard about it, you're highlighting how ill-equipped you are to have an opinion about it.

If you take away nothing else, just try to remember this: If you find yourself debating the experiences or existences of a person sitting across from you, then congratulations, everything you claim to never stand for has won. It isn't about "political correctness", it's about acknowledging the existence of people who are different to you, and mean you absolutely no harm. At the heart of most people's existences, we're just trying to get by and find our place in the world, and if you're so threatened by people figuring this out, maybe it's time to ask yourself why. It's not because of a pie shortage, I promise you, because there's more than enough to go around.