Until our legal system changes to allow more than two genders, we are stuck. We would then be operating in a structure that acknowledges and gives rights to more diversity of existence. Until then trans rights are trying to fit into an outdated system which doesn’t do them or anyone else justice.
Until a child can grow up knowing it could be more than male or female and there is a meaningful place for that in our world, people who are gender diverse may only imagine their lives as they ought to be, whilst limited to fitting themselves within the binary for all sorts of functional purposes. That in itself can be harmful. I also believe it contributes to some divisive strategies happening within feminism today. Personally I sit on the fence regarding the gender debate. It may not be fashionable, though to be honest I’m not sure what is! I mean, I think both sides – because that’s what it is (after all we’re stuck in a binary) have elements of sheer value and goodness. I cannot pick a side. I have time for trans activist arguments and gender critical ones. I deplore the negative aspects of both, and as well the fact that they are necessarily at ideological war – a political war for power. They ought to be helping each other.
It’s a distressing situation that sometimes puts me off feminism, or getting more involved. I can’t fit into the current factioned polarity, so I reckon I am better off outside it. I express my feminism as an artist, however my openness to open debate will affect where my work appears and with whom.
I want to hear more lesbian voices. I love this video (below) which showcases a few prominent lesbians in the arts in New York last year. When I see and hear the video, I wish more young girls in particular, but all kids, could see this sort of representation. It normalises female masculinity, in such a way that may or may not be trans; it might be trans that accepts itself as it is. So it offers another perspective that quite often gets missed out in today’s arguments for “inclusivity”. I’m not saying transitioning is wrong; it’s clearly the right thing for many. I just think young kids today might not see enough options to really empower them. If you can truly accept yourself in the body you’re born, that is a very fortunate thing. It’s certainly simpler not to rely on taking hormones for the rest of your life for example. The current pandemic shows how sometimes the modern lifestyle we take for granted can be pulled suddenly from under our feet.
This article explains more about the idea behind the video. The image I have put at the top of this piece, is from the article and it shows a bunch of queer womxn posing for a photoshoot. I am using ‘womxn’ rather than women, as I don’t wan’t to assume their identity.
“…we’re simply not out to appease the male gaze. We disregard and reject the confines of a sexualized and commodified femininity.” Said actor Roberta Colindrez in the article about butches.
I’m not going to write a huge essay on this now. I wrote a bit more last year about gender inclusivity in women’s spaces, for the Spirited Bodies site. It states my position clearly. I embrace the multiplicity of gender and urge a change in the law and the structure of our society which dismantles the binary. I want to see more representation of different types of femininity and masculinity. Until we live in a world that is ok with every version of gender, it’s a lot harder for some of us to know who we really are, and feel safe.
I’ve noticed a current drive by trans activists to push feminists and women’s organisations to make a stand demonstratively. I understand they feel very urgently about promoting their cause, but I think it can sometimes be divisive. The other side has important points too and I will not deny that – like about how gender neutral language can be problematic and erase the experiences of girls. This is very pertinent in addressing violence against women and girls. I also appreciate the need for more varied gender language – like when I used ‘womxn’ above. There is so much to this discussion – and it does contain a lot of nuance – I am just lightly touching on here. I am avoiding linking to either side, but just search on Twitter for examples of them.
The divisiveness is very toxic. I want to hear more people standing up for an open discussion that is not shut down. The message at the moment can sound a bit like it’s from George Orwell’s 1984. If you can’t comply with every part of the activists’ mission, you are their enemy. It needn’t be like that. It would be healthier if it wasn’t. There is another way! That’s why I’m encouraging you to watch the video and read the linked article, as these express in a bit more detail a type of middle ground, and it’s coming directly from some of the queer community. They are people who are more connected perhaps to the issues and I think their voices are so extremely relevent.