DISCLAIMER: This article will really piss some people off. Consider before reading this whether you are open to all sides of the gender discussion, because I’ve learned those who are not don’t enjoying hearing the opposite side of the story to their own experience.
I am CIS female (born female and brought up as a woman, for those that don’t know the terminology). Some people think, because I’m not generally seen as part of the LGBT community, that I do not have the right to speak my truth. I’m a person. So are trans-people. So are alpha males, non-gendered people, radical feminists, in fact everyone. We all have a right to speak.
I have been considering the whole gender debate this week as a result of responding too readily to some posts on Facebook, and the furore that has resulted has driven me to really think about this thing. I have had several relationships over time with men at various stages in the transition journey to becoming women. As a result of that I have seriously investigated my own perceived gender to see whether or not I might be a trans man in hiding, or even a closet lesbian with no gender issues.
I am none of these things.
I have spent this year going through the menopause. The person whom I have been for the last 35 years is gone. Physically, emotionally and hormonally. It’s likely I will live at least the same amount of time again, as a person for whom these aspects are radically different, a “new me”, even. Defining myself is really difficult. I hadn’t even noticed I’d had a definition for myself. That definition was what I called WOMAN. Because that was my experience of being a woman was, the same for many similar beings around me, and society in general supported this, from education in school, to fear of molestation on the street, TV adverts, shopping experiences, and reactions of the other humans I met on a daily basis.
I consider myself a disabled woman. I have been recently diagnosed with joint hypermobility syndrome, but actually much of my life has been spent managing unexplained injuries, damage to my body, surgical procedures, and of course the issues around equality of physical access. For a long time I worked promoting the rights pf people with a disability, especially women. Inserting a tampon if you cannot sit or stand safely or without help is a uniquely female experience. That’s just one example.
This week, a transwoman called me out about how I described my life. I shall paraphrase it here:
My life as a girl/woman has been about having periods. (When you are a teenage girl, especially one with heavy irregular periods, it completely rules your life. Free-bleeding is for the modern hipster few. It is expected that you will not bleed everywhere and make others embarrassed or uncomfortable by letting them see it. Starting age 12).
Prior to that, of course, I had it drummed into me that every strange man was a potential assailant, and to scream for help and run if any such person approached me. Starting at about age 4.
When I grew breasts, all the boys who had previously bullied me for being clever bullied me because I had breasts. As time passed, I realised this was because most of them wanted to touch them.
As a result, I had to learn about birth control, because if I let any of those boys near my breasts, I’d be the one potentially ending up “in trouble”. It’s troublesome to get a girl pregnant, sure, but getting pregnant can mean something that will be there for the rest of your life. Not to mention all the attendant discomfort and the very really possibility, even in modern times, of actually dying while giving birth to aforementioned lifelong commitment. The boy COULD just walk away.
Of course, not every touching of a breast can lead to this result. But it was drummed into me that it COULD. So I had to consider that EVERY TIME.
I was never warned about the gut wrenching, absolute physical need to get pregnant and procreate that literally throttled me with its urgency and led to me having my daughter by choice at 19. That was a surprise. So were the terrible stretch marks, absolute agony of birth, the fear, terror, the complete intrusion of emergency cesarean section to get at the baby before she died in transit, confusion, post natal depression…. and the sudden realisation that without a grandma living next door to babysit, everything Thatcher’s Britain and feminism had promised me, about being able to have everything, being able to be a mum and have a career, was a LIE.
I sat in a council house at the back of beyond, smoking cigarettes, eating cheap food, buying cheap baby clothes, wondering what the hell went wrong. The only thing that kept me sane was the company of other women like me, thinking the same thoughts, sharing cigarettes, cooking in bulk and sharing together so our kids had social skills and a half decent diet. No men were involved in the making of that movie, they were on the periphery.
Aged 26, after some months of calendar watching and coitus interruptus proving a reasonable method of birth control which did not interfere with my anti-depressants, I felt sick as a dog, and couldn’t stomach coffee, not even the smell. Oh, and I was instantly constipated. Coitus interruptus, as they had told us at school, is NOT a reliable form of contraception.
For the entirety of the nine months carrying my son I felt like I was inhabited by an alien. The sickness, the brain fog, it was nothing like carrying my daughter had been. I knew he was a boy before a scan told me. Or a male. Whatever. He was not the same as me, and I could feel it in my entire body. Especially when the (we now know) hypermobility caused my symphysis pubis ligament to fail, so that from six months on every step was an agony of red hot lancing pain through through my groin and, my mum tells me, I waddled so much it looked like the child was literally going to drop out of me every minute. I sat home in the searing heat and the humidity, crying, naked in front of a fan, looking at the ever expanding welts on my tumescent belly and wondering how it could possibly stretch any more.
I’m sure that you don’t need a blow by blow account of what a ripped vulva caused by an emergency forceps delivery feels like.
After three months I finally got my brain back after giving up breast feeding with enormous boobs that were bigger than the baby’s head. I got rid of the stoner boyfriend who, my parents told me, was a millstone round my neck who would never amount to much. (He still is, and hasn’t amounted to much, but he saw his boy like clockwork every school holiday via trains. planes, automobiles and every kind of access visit juggling, remains a friend and very close to our boy. Because I considered it my responsibility to do the best for my boy and allow him a relationship with his father). Oh, then I was made homeless by a callous landlord and was in temporary accommodation with a six year old and a baby.
Wind on some years, and I went back to college, begging childcare and financial support from every agency available…. met a man who said he could only date me because I was at college, as his family would have a fit if he took up with a single mum on benefits.
Moved in together, like a good girl I went to uni to get my degree, took a semester off to have massive hip surgery, juggled the childcare, got married, got pregnant, as you do, had a beautiful son, got my degree despite the brain fog (yet again, I knew within the first fortnight he was male), got a job, and the childcare bill was more than my wages.
My marriage fell apart because I was unable to fulfil this image of a working mum that my generation was told to desire, that was supposed to be attainable but was not.
I took my kids, begged my way into a tenancy with a guarantor, moved near my parents, dipped in and out of periods of self employment when I could work from home at 11pm. I got sterilised to prevent any more surprise family members, and so I could stop stuffing my poor body with fake hormones to achieve the same result. Then my periods became so bad I couldn’t leave the house, more fake hormones and iron supplements to control it and a potential hysterectomy were added to the mix. And a couple of hip replacements, and rehousing due to the unsafe conditions I was living in.
Fast forward to this year.
Two years of massive night sweats, daily bed changing, and I’m 9 months without a period. 9 months of brain fog and ridiculous hot flushes. My handbag is still full of “just in case” sanitary equipment, but I’ve now added Tena pads because urge incontinence is not only part of a hypermobility disorder, but also very common during menopause. I’ve entered into the secret club of “women of a certain age”, where a hot flush at a checkout elicits a conspiratorial whisper from a complete stranger: “I used sage tincture and it was really good.” For the first time, I feel part of something that is deeper than cultural norms, more real than anything Thatcher fed to us. For time immemorial, women have whispered these secrets to each other.
It seems my 30 years of fecundity is drawing to an end. What will I be now?
There was a rather untidy online altercation with a transwoman who claims publicly to have actual bleeding periods and wants access to women-only Red Tent spaces because of this. Rumour has it she has not even had gender reassignment surgery yet. Even if she had, where would the blood come from actually? When I privately messaged her with great concern for her health, I was told abruptly that I wouldn’t ask such a question of a biological man or woman. WRONG. See above. Women DO discuss these things together. If a female friend had no uterus and was bleeding, I’d be driving her to a hospital.
I have been publicly slated as a TERF and transphobic because I challenged this woman. To back me up, she CANNOT have uterine bleeding, reassignment surgery or not:
I was completely flattened. What hope is there, if I treat a transwoman as a woman and then she tells everyone I’m transphobic???????
What the fucking hell would be the right thing to say or do, actually?????
Yes, lovely Readers, I’m getting to the crux of the matter here. In brief, here is what I have recently learned:
- There are some great trans people out there, some of whom want to educate people to gain support and understanding.
- There are people out there who are so self centred that even if you treat them the way they say they want to be treated, it will never be enough.
- Every single person I have met with a gender issue can tell a story about a difficult or restrictive upbringing
I had a great meeting with a young trans-man and his partner. In which the young man said actually he’d always been a tomboy, but really wants to display whichever gender he feels on a given day, because he is really non binary. He also wants to be referred to as a man while using his uterus to have a child before reassignment surgery. He feels transitioning to a man is the only way he can access his true self. He is 19, and a kind, smart individual. But because gender neutrality is not forthcoming in this country, his wants and needs will not be met. This is why.
If you think, act and present as a man, women are less likely to share “women things” with you. So the entirety of cultural support that kept me sane as a mother will not be forthcoming. Men will not be able to use shared experience as a basis on which to offer mutual support.
That’s not transphobia. It’s PEOPLE.
1% of the population are unhappy with their gender. That leaves a whopping great 99% who are fine with theirs.
Almost 1 in 5 of the population have a disability, yet television is being made today examining how inaccessible the world is.
And finally, 2% of the population regard themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
I’m told gender and sexuality are completely separate. I disagree. I haven’t met many trans people who do not maintain the straight orientation they had pre-transition. Actually, I have met one. Most transwomen still want a female partner. Most trans-men want a male partner. This is my experience, please provide me with the statistics if I am wrong.
So, on these stats, 3% of the population are LGBT. GIRES ( https://www.gires.org.uk/ ) states this might be as much as 7%. OK, in the interests of being pro choice and a decent person, I’ll go with the higher figure.
93% of the UK population consider themselves a man or a woman, and have sexual relationships with the opposite gender.
What I’m saying is, we should all be good to one another as best we can. But if 20% of the population cannot change the attitudes of the rest, even when disability is something that could happen to anyone, why is it that a 1% of the population gender dysphoric group seem to think they can, on a pinhead, turn around the views of a 99% who operate under the societal norms of a binary gender system based on biological furtherance of the species? The societal and cultural norms are what made me seek help from other women when I wanted to throw my child at a wall. Without that gendered support, the human race would not survive.
Communities have broken up, people move around. A lot of valuable menopause support I received came from absolute strangers, and that could not have happened if we did not have the cultural norm of “WOMAN” as a behavioural guide.
One thing the trans-man I spoke to did say, is that no way would he consider reassignment surgery until he’d had massive amounts of therapy to be sure it was the right choice. A woman I spoke to recently almost had gender reassignment surgery when she was younger, chose not to go ahead, and now enjoys a simple relationship with a guy, and presents as a woman. She reports a horrifying number of suicides among her transgender friend group, from people who had reassignment surgery to then find that gender was not actually their issue and reassignment destroyed their lives.
Frighteningly, it is now in many wys easier to get through the system for gender reassignment because the whopping 93% of straight, binary gendered people are too afraid of being branded transphobic by the loud mouthed militant fascists who think we should all be like them or we are evil incarnate, that the paperwork gets signed.
Children are now being branded as gender dysphoric, when maybe they will grow up to be gay. How homophobic is that?
Dare I say it, it’s also possible that it’s a phase they might grow out of. Like my daughter nattering for an action man and a gun, because her friends had one. Or because her father didn’t want to know her and she felt her Barbie dolls needed a male role model she herself was lacking?
What about the sweet, kind, caring and gentle guy who cross dresses, claims to be non binary, doesn’t want surgery because he likes sex with women, but then acts a strange version of femininity when dressed up….. whose mother made it clear he was the result of an accidental pregnancy that ruined his life, and did as little guiding and nurturing as she could possibly get away with? Who is constantly told by the conditioning he received in public school that he is not a MAN. (Like most of our countries leadership elite, by the way).
The world IS changing. Funny, that. These things happen. But when I see a tiny minority forcing a dialogue onto the majority that does not reflect the vast majority of life experience they see, I also see people messed up and needing more than a change of clothes to fix them. In this dialogue I see so much sadness, lack of love, and lack of care, that people are being damaged by it. And this means that the people around them suffer too.
This is not about gender, it is about people. It’s about people who do not have the love, care and intrinsic value for themselves as an individual in the first instance. The overwhelming majority of these people need help to look into themselves and find the person they really are.
Some people really are born into the wrong body. I do believe that, and I believe that gender reassignment has value for some.
I believe that the biggest problem on post war Britain is the breaking down of communities and the elevation of the “Individual” at the expense of the rest. An Individual without community is alone.
Alone and unloved people try to make communities with people like them. Not being part of a community, with its rules, norms and support providing a safety net for the ever changing risks associated with the human experience makes people AFRAID.
Afraid people fight or run. It’s a biological impulse. In the dark underworld of this impossible gender dialogue are introverts who hide away, people who run from relationships, radical feminists with unfeasible demands for an equality they don’t even understand.
In a good community, an individual lacking love from a parent would get love from someone else, and still feel nurtured. The rise of the insular middle classes has allowed isolation, while championing the right of the individual. So a clever woman resents her child because she can no longer pursue the individuality she is taught to desire. A beautiful man becomes a lonely small boy obsessed with with the gentle femininity and nurturing he craves. The girl who likes to climb trees and wear jeans and a hoodie rather than a pretty dress has to define herself in a binary way and consider dangerous surgery to become the opposite of her biological drive.
When did this appalling state of affairs become ok?
Ask one of the 93% of straight men and women who are just trying to get along and, as they rush to work or hurriedly acquire more consumerist crap with the cash they earned in a job they hate, they will mostly say it doesn’t affect them. They don’t even notice it, until someone shouts in their face. They are far too busy trying to survive in a world which says they can have everything, however impossible, and does not celebrate what they actually have. Why would changing the majority view of gender or sexuality have any value to them whatsoever.
We need therapy. We need community. We need sexy tomboys to climb trees, beautiful men to care for children, workplaces to value the full range of human skills, regardless of whether they are displayed by a man or woman. We need men and women to love who they are, and to have that reflected back at them with joy. We need families to be able to care and support each other, because as a whole we will become more than the sum of our parts. I think you’ll find that was how we moved out of the caves, how we changed, grew and became what we are today.
What’s been lost needs to be found.
EDIT: Where possible I have used stats from decent sources. I haven’t met anyone in same sex relationships who do not identify as gay or bi, and I haven’t spotted any stats on the topic. I appreciate that coming out is tough, but I can’t apply equality to people I know nothing about. Remember, I’m just an ordinary woman. Even allowing for a margin of error in my numbers, in favour of all the diverse groups I have not mentioned, I stick to my guns and say, I’m an ordinary woman, and a very large majority of the population consider themselves to be pretty ordinary too.