This post isn’t going to delve too deeply because it’s really just an opening to discuss the massive increase in people, and especially children, identifying as ‘trans’. Having had half an eye on the subject for the last four, maybe five years, I’ve involved myself directly over the last eighteen months. I immersed myself in the Twitter wars and read plenty elsewhere – arguments from both sides of the fence and even stuff by those who were sat on it. The transition of Caitlyn Jenner is obviously the most public within recent memory. He had more press coverage than necessary and before he’d even finished his transformation (he still had a penis), he adorned the cover of Vanity Fair and even won an award for woman of the year (complete with his penis). The media appeared to be largely in support of the whole process and as usual, the do-gooders, social justice warriors, and the so-called left-leaning liberals all came out in full force to say what a great thing it was. There seemed to be little criticism, or more accurately – little critical thinking about the issue as a whole. I found it disturbing to see the way everybody was supposed to celebrate his transition and see him as brave or you were labelled as shit.
Fake it – especially when you’re making it
I couldn’t help but think of his family – a mainly female household, and in particular his kids. As the weeks moved on, we were encouraged to forget his past and any reference made to his former life as Bruce was automatically assumed to be hostile. I was uncomfortable with the clear sexualisation of his image as a woman…and he was so often heavily airbrushed. And, let’s not forget how much money he had at his disposal to pay for the surgery. So, yes, there was much that pissed me off yet much of it, I felt, was me being trivial. I didn’t initially want to look closer at the reasons I was being so reactive to the whole event when it clearly wasn’t my personal life being affected. Instinct can be funny at times. Funny in the sense it’ll scream at you and it takes your rational mind a while to catch up. So, what was it about the Bruce Jenner situation? He was sixty-four when he came out of the tranny closet. Sixty-four? Essentially, here we had someone who had lived an outright lie for over forty fucking years and yet it was spun as some kind of victory when he was finally able to be the person he always was? Not only was he sixty-four, but he also had an incredibly successful life as a former athlete. Not only was he a man, but he had been successful at being a man and taking all it had to offer. Marriage and children too…so he clearly didn’t mind using what was between his legs. Lots of advantages… and fair play to him regarding the athletic stuff and making the most of his testosterone and all else he had. But if he really thought he was a woman, why had he not been more feminine in his youth? I thought trannies were supposed to be more like your stereotypical woman? Did he counteract his femininity deliberately by pursuing manly sports?
Courageous or coward?
The thing is, men have been transitioning for a few decades now and there has been limited public interest for the most part. Sure, there have been a couple of ‘high-profile’ trans-identified males – I’m thinking of Lily Elbe and Christine Jorgensen, who undoubtedly had considerably more challenges to face than any man wanting to transition these days. They both managed it…1882-1931 and 1926-1989 respectively, and with respects to Christine Jorgensen – had an enormous amount of popularity and acceptance. My point being, if Jenner wanted to be an honest man, he could’ve been – the precedents were there in history and if he wanted to pretend to be a woman he could’ve done so. I don’t deny it takes strength to defy stereotypes and neither am I ignorant of the abuse some trannies receive. People can be cruel, horrifically so, but it’s been a long time since it was deemed acceptable to level cruelty at someone for simply being a tranny. Many who don’t have Jenner’s public status or bank balance have, and are, living as they see fit and have done for years. Oddly, there’s a good number of them who refuse to lay claim to womanhood and can perfectly accept themselves as men. That’s not to say those men haven’t at some point flirted with the idea they were real women too…but their journey ultimately led them to accept who they were without shame. Some of those same people lived their truth through the 1970’s and had an inordinate amount of shit to tolerate – all without the cushion of wealth, status, or celebrity. I’d consider those types brave. But is Jenner? Is he fuck. He’s a privileged male who knows exactly how to court the media and make money from it.
Politicising the personal
With the identity of Caitlyn Jenner firmly established there was a shift to make it political. The media slant made it clear that no one was to question why people chose to transition – the preferred narrative fell along the lines of ‘born this way’ and that it should be seen as no different to sexuality. Except, being trans has fuck all to do with sexuality. In the UK, there has been a stream of constant pressure to relax laws around who can declare themselves a woman, and up until recently (like a month ago), I bore witness to some shocking stances by mainstream politicians and councillors who categorically stated that anyone who wanted to identify as a woman could do so and to call them men was a hate crime. They further insisted these men had the rights of women, as women, and should be allowed access to women only areas. I saw tweets by green party spokespeople who referred to women as ‘non-men’ so as not to marginalise the blokes who wanted to be seen as women – by this point, there had been a fair few public disagreements over who could actually be called a woman. I think it was their way of getting around the issue of what to call anyone with a penis who didn’t want to be called a bloke. Seriously. Then there’s a Labour party ‘women’s officer’, an official position, held by a then-teenage boy (he only recently crept into his twenties) who still has a cock and balls – demanding that all women shortlists be open to anyone who saw fit to call themselves a woman, even if they still had a cock. The elephant in the room here is those lists are seen as essential to get more women into politics – kinda defeats the purpose if half those women are actually blokes. But, more on the politics another day.
Down the rabbit hole
And then I fell down the rabbit hole. Honestly. I’m not quite sure when I realised what a complex issue I was looking at. It wasn’t as simple as some bloke getting more publicity than he was worth or Joe Public fighting for acceptance without exceptions. I’ve studied many subjects in my life and if ever there was one which needed someone standing there with a hand up saying ‘wait, it’s not what you think’- it’s this one. I began in earnest, fearing I had an irrational prejudice and simply needed to understand something. I sit here now wondering what fucking planet I’m living on..admittedly it ain’t the first time I’ve pondered that one.
Acknowledging the tree
I’ve been fearful of saying anything at all until I had the bigger picture, and part of the problem is there are many branches coming off the main trunk. It didn’t seem fair to have a half-arsed opinion when there was so much at stake for the individuals who are directly affected by it. I’m not. I have an interest in identity in general, and I feel strongly that people should be able to live their lives without too much interference by 1) the state and 2) shitty people who think it’s okay to abuse other people for lifestyle choices. Although to say I’m not directly affected isn’t entirely true – as a woman, it does affect me if there are men wanting to change in the same room as me if I go swimming. And do I really want any of my daughters having to deal with a grown man in the female toilet? Or my granddaughters? There has always been a part of me which felt compassion towards regular trans-identified men and women. I had long-since wondered what drove them to reject their bodies so vehemently and how hard it must’ve been to not just acknowledge those feelings, but to actually try and do something about it. I still feel that compassion – probably even more so now, and if anything, I’m more likely to shout louder in support of those regular trans people who have always battled with an intense rejection of their bodies. But, there’s a problem because not all trannies are cut from the same cloth. I’m not talking about your average human differences here – I’m talking a gulf so wide between the two main groups you’d need an aeroplane to get from one side to the other. Tis the group of ‘others’ who are the main problem in this whole debate and they really do not stand in representation for all trans-identified males. I’ll be posting about these ‘others’ next because I feel it’s important to differentiate between these two obviously different types early on. And yes, I’ve already found exceptions to the rule and will make sure to quote them. To end this introduction, I’ll say a heartfelt thank you to Miranda Yardley for writing so honestly and being brave enough to openly stand against the narrative.
Just a couple of links but much more worth reading.