Category Archives: transgender

The Ladies of Llanystumdwy

Jan Morris and her partner of over 60 years have tied the knot.

This is a heart-warming story, but not just because two elderly ladies have taken advantage of the new law to formalise their 58 year union with a Civil Partnership ceremony.  This is heart-warming because this is not the first time Jan and Elizabeth Morris have got married.  They were married in 1949 when Jan was James and then divorced in the 1970s when James became Jan.  They have lived with each other throughout.

Jan has always made prurience irrelevant by treating her change of gender with dignity and matter-of-factness. So far as she is concerned, it’s not the most interesting thing about her and if you think that it is then that is your loss and not hers.   She wrote about it in ‘Conundrum’, and then got on with the rest of her life.

When she finally leaves us, she’ll leave us a legacy of thoughtful writing comprising travel books, history books, essays, autobiography and fiction.  All of this gives us the clear message that as time passes being the wrong gender for a while fades into the past and becomes neither the most interesting nor the most important thing in a trans-person’s life.  The more of us, both trans and cis, for whom that’s true, the better.

In the meantime, who can deny the power of such a love story?  So I’m raising a glass to celebrate the two weddings of Jan and Elizabeth Morris.

Sisterhood is for bitches

I tumbled across a this on FtM Doctor’s blog today, and have been choking on my reaction ever since.

The story is about a feminist music festival in Michigan which is explicitly for “womyn-born womyn” and explicitly excludes trans women. Presumably they also explicitly excludes trans men. In fact, it is not actually a story, it is a press release, explaining the organisers’ point of view.

The language is interesting, veering between the hate-filled and the overly emotive. At one point the organiser of the “womyn-born womyn” sends the following email to the leader of “camp trans”.

I deeply desire healing in our communities, and I can see and feel that you want that too. I would love for you and the other organizers of Camp Trans to find the place in your hearts and politics to support and honor space for womyn who have had the experience of being born and living their life as womyn. I ask that you respect that womon born womon is a valid and honorable gender identity. I also ask that you respect that womyn born womyn deeply need our space — as do all communities who create space to gather, whether that be womyn of color, trans womyn or trans men . . . I wish you well, I want healing, and I believe this is possible between our communities, but not at the expense of deeply needed space for womyn born womyn.

The self-righteous emotional manipulation of this is nauseating, with its talk of “deeply desire[ing] healing”, “respect” and “deeply needed space”s.

We strongly assert there is nothing transphobic with choosing to spend one week with womyn who were born as, and have lived their lives as, womyn. It is a powerful, uncommon experience that womyn enjoy during this one week of living in the company of other womyn-born womyn. There are many opportunities in the world to share space with the entire queer community, and other spaces that welcome all who define themselves as female.

Is it unkind of me to consider the spaces and places that I have spent with “womyn-born womyn” this past week, which include a women-only gym and the WI? It is not hard to find women-only groups, if that’s what you need for a while. I’ve been on women-only holidays and women-only retreats. I was educated in part at an all girls’ school.

Of course the gym, and the WI aren’t full of radical feminists or …

womyn who could be considered gender outlaws, either because of their sexual orientation (lesbian, bisexual, polyamorous, etc.) or their gender presentation (butch, bearded, androgynous, femme – and everything in between). … gender variant womyn …. ” or women who ” … consider themselves differently gendered

… so far as I know.

I find myself wondering why the organisers exclude trans women if the spread of women at the festival is so broad, (yes, I know, the “deeply-needed space” thing) and also whether or not there are any straight married mothers there, or whether monogamous heterosexuals are not welcome either.

Rather than rant on and on about this, I will conclude with three final comments.

Firstly, it would be acceptable for the “womyn” of Michigan to create an activity exclusivly for “womyn-born women” if, on other occasions, they created events which were exclusively for other sub-sets of women, for example women who have been abused, or widowed, or who are lesbians, or indeed trans. But to exclude trans women and only trans women smacks of the “all men are rapists” school of separatist radical feminism which de-personalises half of the human race in a way which is as unjust and unacceptable as the de-personalising of women by men which went on for centuries before.

Secondly, I wonder if this is actually personal. If it isn’t about all trans women, but about one particular trans woman, if the organisers lacked the balls to exclude her and if they therefore decided to exclude them all. I find this theory rather compelling, given how petty, emotional and factional groups of women can become. See quotes above.

Finally, I put the press release through Gender Genie, and it scored 30% female and 70% male. Which made me snigger. Bitch that I am.

Abortions, sex changes, genetic defects

I offer you two thoughts from two different sites.

First – 21st century data in the UK: “A patient will not be entitled to refuse to make their personal data available to the [NHS] Spine [data systems]. Data about all patient events may be routinely communicated to the Spine without the consent of the patient. … The citizen has no legal right to stipulate what will and will not be recorded … nor where those records will be held.”

And secondly – 20th century data in Germany: “Only after Jews were identified — a massive and complex task that Hitler wanted done immediately — could they be targeted for efficient asset confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, enslaved labor, and, ultimately, annihilation. It was a cross-tabulation and organizational challenge so monumental, it called for a computer. Of course, in the 1930s no computer existed. But … punch card technology did exist. … [and] Hitler was able to automate his persecution of the Jews … from the identification of the Jews in censuses, registrations, and ancestral tracing programs to the running of railroads and organizing of concentration camp slave labor.”

The problem of course is not with data, per se. NHS staff are a pretty benign bunch. The problem comes when people with strong convictions have relatively friction-free access to data, and it is compounded when data becomes more enduring.

In this world of increasing fundamentalism, I am not comfortable that the health service can record abortions, gender re-assignments, genetic abnormalities, and other politically, socially or financially sensitive information, that they can record it in ways that mean that the data is pervasive and enduring, and that they can record it against our will.

“… but transsexuality is NOT a sexual orientation…!”

OK. It was dumb of me to yelp that out at 60% volume into a silent and almost empty office, but I really was astonished and outraged. I was user-acceptance testing some on-line diversity training software and found the question:

“What is your sexual orientation:

(a) bisexual
(b) gay
(c) heterosexual
(d) lesbian
(e) transsexual?”

(Note the careful alphabetization of the options to avoid prejudgement and offence. *sigh*)

I don’t know where to start with this, to be honest.

The woman sitting opposite me was startled by my outburst as well she might be. We discussed transsexuality for a while (or I talked about it, while she listened and made the odd comment). She did ask if I was being overly politically correct, but she was shocked by the only discrimination story I told her. Like most people she thinks she can always tell when she sees a transsexual. I said “well, my transdar’s pretty good – and I went to Alton Towers with four transguys, and I would only have known with one of them”.

I wrote a fairly clear explanation of why transsexuality is not a sexual orientation in the feedback form, and pointed out that asexuality is, and suggested that they include it for the sake of inclusiveness. I also gave them the web-page and email address of one of the UK’s most respected legal specialists on gender issues and suggested they contact him to ask what the best way to word a question about transsexuality and transgender would be. I even offered to ask the question informally if they liked.

It remains to be seen what happens next. I am aware that I can get a little shrill on this subject, and it is quite clear that the training providers had no idea what they’d be unleashing on themselves when they asked me to test the software. I want to ring them tomorrow to put my point of view across, but I think it is probably better if I wait and see how they reply.

But honestly…..