Being silenced by a Pro Trans lobby in Washington October 8th, 2019
I have never been to the USA Capital city before and it was only a few weeks earlier that I had been invited to speak in public on the steps of the Supreme Court on a legal principle that affects me and most women in the World. Of course, the Supreme Court only has jurisdiction within the USA but its decision on the matter of sex verse gender would be likely to affect all women of the World in due course.
On this occasion I shared a platform with some Christian Fundamentalists, including one Black man. I did not know, in advance, that they would be there, but I chose to speak my truth alongside them. It would be a strange politics that required that we all have to agree on everything. We did all agree that if the Supreme Court ruled that the category of Women does include Men, we have a problem.
My position on the issue of Trans is not to be reflective of all lesbian feminists in the UK or elsewhere and I did not speak (or should I say attempted) to speak on behalf of any other women, I have my own view on the matter of the Trans issue which is drawn from my personal and my political analysis and experience. I had given much thought to the matter on which I had been invited to speak having flown to Washington the previous day and from which I departed the following day. Since I was not heard because of the near violent and oppressive noise that was targeted at me and all other speakers by two women with megaphones, I now chose to put my argument against the claim that a man should be recognised as a woman merely by him saying that he is.
For me the substance of this Supreme Court decision rests on this matter alone. I happen to think that there is much that is problematic about the employer against whom the legal challenge is being made. They had/have a policy of employing men to undertake some functions and women to undertake others.
My argument is that in this case and others, the new Trans politics deliberately substitutes the notion of gender in place of biological sex. The effect of which is to limit women-only spaces, that lesbians have fought so hard for. Also affected are Women’s Sports, both in terms of having to compete with and share changing rooms with people who have the physiology of men. This is at a time when increasing numbers of heterosexual women are discovering feminism. Sex is not gender and gender is not sex. Both confer an unequal status on women based on their role in reproduction and a system of oppression to justify men’s power over women. Gender seems to have been reduced to what clothes you wear.
It is an argument that has blown up over recent years with the growth of a movement that asserts that gender, which to them is a changeable belief or feeling that supersedes a person’s sex. This is not to be confused with people who are born with some of the component characteristics of one sex or with the characteristics or genes of both sexes.
The current argument in the English-speaking World is between feminists who consider that we are oppressed by many men through our bodies and because of our bodies. In other words, because of our genetic makeup as women or men or girls or boys. The recent argument/dispute/fight is between those who believe that they can chose to be one gender or another. I would personally have a great problem with that assertion if it did not try to insist that they are more oppressed than others because of their Transgender.
Theirs is an argument that is foolish from any point of view. How can one establish an objective judgement of pain or hurt between one person or another, or one experience or another? What measurement could be used to gauge whether the racism I have/do experience is greater or worse that the pain or distress that a Trans person experiences? I have long argued against the notion or practice of competitive oppression. It has no use, it is useless. But what I am seeing and hearing are a number of White men and women who argue that Trans people are more oppressed than other categories of human beings, whilst many of them act like individuals who have greatest entitlement.
In Washington, I was intending to speak for my allotted 5 minutes on the parallels I experience within divisions of power over others that race and gender represent, both are notions of difference created to divide and exploit ‘categories’ of human beings. But the women using megaphone in front of the podium were intent on ensuring that none of us would be heard. They looked like a persons who felt 100% of entitlement.
My short speech was to be about the commonalities of oppression experienced by most women and Black people in the USA and UK. I am critical of those who confuse a man-made notion with a biological one. Gender and race are two such man-made notions. Racism is real - it is created by and for racists - that is usually White men - who assign themselves power over Black people. And we have a parallel notion of gender which has reinforced men’s position in society over that of women.
It is now 25 years since the notion of ‘race’ struck me as fundamentally wrong, based on an ideology that justified superiority based on melanin. And likewise, I have seen in recent years the creation of ‘gender’ occupying a similar role to justify the superiority based on chromosomes. But in the current situation chromosomes are disregarded and external appearances are the markers, this is mainly the wearing of ‘female’ clothing.
Those of us who are lesbians and feminists find ourselves not merely erased from the category ‘women’, we and heterosexual feminists are required to be silent when humans previous designated male now present as female. In ignoring the power differences created by their fathers and grandfathers, they take back the small gains won by women to be free to socialise and organise in women-only spaces. These are the small but significant concerns many of us have about womens spaces, such as Hampstead Ladies Pond in London. Here, women whose religious beliefs stop them going because naked men might be present, are deemed to have less worth or entitlement to recreation. My own major concern has been around politics and our political parties especially those that claim to be on the Left. Some in the Labour Party have appointed humans previously designated and living as males to be Womens Officers.
Would the same situation apply to a White man or woman presenting themselves as Black, and if not, why not? The physiological differences between skin colour is significant but not great. There are more physiological, cultural and historic differences between men and women and yet there appears more willingness to allow a man to present as a woman than for a White woman to present as Black.
What this tells me as a Black woman (admittedly a light skin Black woman), is that so -called ‘race’ is more important than so-called ‘gender’. But this is not or should not be a competition about who is the most oppressed. The issue is surely about creating a World in which all human beings are of equal value. But that can only be achieved when the categories of human being are accorded equal value without having to caricature the stereotypes of human differences. I shan’t hold my breath until that comes, but I will continue to play my part in fighting for equality, the equality of every human being, even the ones I do not like. End