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Sarah, The Bringer of Tea - The Perennial Transgender Toilet Debate
29th August, 2010
05:50 pm

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The Perennial Transgender Toilet Debate
The toilet debate seems to have flared up on my twitter feed today, with much discussion taking place at Jack of Kent's blog.

I always find this very frustrating, but I think an important point is highlighted by the way this debate is typically framed.

The "trans people in public toilets" debate is almost always framed in terms of protecting cis women from trans women

Quite often this framing is not explicit, but is implicit in the language used to frame the issue, and in terms of what is and is not said.

Let's take Jack of Kent's framing of this issue as an example - he asks:
Or should the law relating to, say, breaches of the peace be used to prevent transgendered people, especially male to female (MTF), intruding into the "space" reserved for a particular gender?


The emphasis is mine. Now I'm not having a go at Jack of Kent here - his framing reflects wider societal attitudes, but I do think these attitudes, as displayed in the way this question is so oft approached by cis people, are inherently transphobic, and misogynist.

Firstly, there's the more obvious objection - the idea that trans women in a space reserved for women can ever be considered to be intruding. Since trans women are women, it's not possible for us to intrude into women's space, which by definition we have as much right to enter as any other woman. We can be excluded by an act of transphobia, but even asking the question of whether we should be allowed contains an assumption that trans women are not women. This is cissexist (cissexism is the statement or belief that trans people's identified genders are less authentic or less valid than the genders of cis people)

Secondly, notice the "especially" bit in there. The issue of trans men in men's toilets always seems to be considered less important. On the face of it this is perverse. Certainly here in the UK, typically women would not see each other in any state of undress when using a public toilet, because the actual act is done in a cubicle. In the gents, one would often expect to find urinals. Should one decide to deviate from the 1,3,5 rule, and also from the expectation that one should look straight ahead and not even glance sideways while using a urinal, one is afforded the opportunity to see someone else's penis. That this debate is so often framed in genital essentialist terms, that it concentrates on trans women at all is really odd, given the much greater opportunity for genital exposure in a men's loo.

This is one reason why I think this argument is misogynist. It is deemed less important that a trans man (who, it is presumed, does not have a penis - the general public tends to be quite ignorant on these matters) might see a cis man's penis than it is that a pair of adjacent locked cubicles might contain a cis woman, with vagina, and a trans woman, with penis (those trans women who are post vaginoplasty seem to be all too often conveniently ignored by this). This is presumably because men are tough, pragmatic sorts who won't be bothered by having someone who doesn't have a penis seeing theirs, but women are fragile, delicate, pathetic things and must be protected from the possibility of someone pissing through a penis the other side of a wall.

Yeah, right.

Thirdly, and I think this is the most insidiously transphobic part of the whole deal, is the unstated assumption (actually, it's not usually unstated, but in this case Jack of Kent seems to attract a better class of commenter); the "man who thinks he's a woman" might commit sexual assault/indecent exposure in there.

Corollaray - since there's no reason to expect trans women would be any more prone to doing this in a public toilet than anywhere else, we can add, where there won't be a proper man to protect the women folk! Yup, we're back to misogyny again too.

This is predicated on the idea that trans women are likely to be sex offenders. This is stigma that gay men are only just starting to emerge from - the idea that somehow being gay makes them likely to be sex offenders (if you doubt this is still an issue, take a look at how the gay adoption debate is often framed, especially in the US). With trans women, this offensive sterotype is still firmly entrenched.

The irony is enough to make one weep - I'm not aware of sexual assault ever being committed in a women's toilet by a trans woman where a cis woman is the victim. Long time readers will, however, be familiar with the case of a trans woman who was sexually assaulted at Pride London 2008, after being made to use the men's toilets by transphobic stewards. I'll also state for the record that I have also been sexually assaulted in a public toilet - in this case it was a woman's toilet and a cis woman apparently felt that grabbing my tits while I was washing my hands was a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

I know the plural of anecdote is not data, but the reality for many trans women in toilets is that we are far, far more likely to be the victim of sexual assault than the perpetrator. We are vulnerable in toilets, especially if we are read as trans - expulsion, humiliation and violence are the least of the expected consequences, but nobody ever seems to talk about how we can be protected from cis people. It's always the other way round.

Dismayingly, the way trans people are treated by the so-called Equality Act, 2010, seems to be almost completely influenced by this idea that "normal" people must be protected from trans women (I guess those responsible for drafting this repulsive piece of legislation never attended a transgender day of remembrance), and gives barely lip service to the idea that trans people, trans women especially, are vulnerable people who are often the victims of violence and discrimination and need the protection of the law.

No, instead everything is framed in terms of protecting everyone else from the distasteful idea that they might encounter us, or that "proper" women might somehow be contaminated by proximity to us. This attitude needs to change, but we seem as far away from that as ever. In the meantime we will continue to be beaten, assaulted, ridiculed and murdered by the same society that regards us as a dangerous predators.

Also posted at http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/245672.html - you can comment here or there.

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[User Picture]
From:krissie_r
Date:29th August, 2010 06:17 pm (UTC)
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Firstly, there's the more obvious objection - the idea that trans women in a space reserved for women can ever be considered to be intruding. Since trans women are women, it's not possible for us to intrude into women's space, which by definition we have as much right to enter as any other woman. We can be excluded by an act of transphobia, but even asking the question of whether we should be allowed contains an assumption that trans women are not women. This is cissexist (cissexism is the statement or belief that trans people's identified genders are less authentic or less valid than the genders of cis people)


I understand and entirely follow the flow of that argument, but I'd like to pose a question that I don't think I've ever seen posed in relation to it.

An act of any given 'ism' requires, on the part of the perpetrator, an intent. That intent could be conscious, or it could of course be under the unconscious direction of a prevailing societal 'common sense' narrative... but the latter, of course, would still therefor require intent on the part of acceptance of that narrative, and therefor that narrative in order to be the causal factor in cissexism would need to refer specifically to the genders of trans people, whereas (or so I suspect...) the view of those that would apply or further such an argument typically revolves around either the concept of sex, or the non-culpable ignorance of any distinction between sex and gender.

Given that premise, can it really be described as cissexism?
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From:nikobelia
Date:29th August, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
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re: "...in order to be the causal factor in cissexism would need to refer specifically to the genders of trans people, whereas (or so I suspect...) the view of those that would apply or further such an argument typically revolves around either the concept of sex, or the non-culpable ignorance of any distinction between sex and gender."

Speaking as someone cis: that argument isn't new. Cissexism is born from this exact misconception, that physiological sex (as assigned at birth) is the same as gender. And for a lot of people engaging in these debates, they're ignorant of any distinction not because they've never heard anything to the contrary, but because they refuse to google it and educate themselves when they see terms like cis/trans. These "-isms" come about when a group of people - straight or white or male or cisgendered - form a social norm, and then by virtue of being that visible, socially powerful, advantaged norm they end up blind to how the culture that they recognise themselves in alienates these other groups. For that reason, it doesn't stop being "cissexism" when the causal narrative behind these debates about toilet rights doesn't acknowledge that gender isn't sex - that absence of distinction is in itself cissexist.
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From:snakey
Date:29th August, 2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
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An act of any given 'ism' requires, on the part of the perpetrator, an intent.

Why?
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From:krissie_r
Date:29th August, 2010 08:12 pm (UTC)
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Because an 'ism' is a prejudice, predisposition, or class of discrimintaion based upon an attitude towards its target. It requires the attitude to pre-exist the resulting action in order that that action can be based upon ideas/sentiments about the target.
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From:jessie_c
Date:30th August, 2010 02:19 am (UTC)
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cissexism is so deeply ingrained that most people aren't consciously aware of it yet it informs the majority of Society's attitudes towards gender. It is the foundation for homophobia, transphobia sexism and all similar -isms.
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From:krissie_r
Date:30th August, 2010 02:49 am (UTC)
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Oh yes... absolutely. I wouldn't dream of suggesting that the intent has to be conscious... merely that it has to exist.

I'm just not sure that cissexism is nessecarily an adequate explanation for the appearance of many isms (or more precisely, certain applications of them). That's not to say that I find 'x'phobia or its applications to be unfounded... merely that I have a nagging feeling that there's something more to it - that there's something else important going on that's easily overlooked when it's readily put down to cissexism...

... it's the social scientist in me coming out. lol
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From:jessie_c
Date:30th August, 2010 02:59 am (UTC)
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I think it's the Patriarchy's deep-seated need to be completely in control and to police all expressions of gendered behaviour to ensure that transgressions of any and all sorts are stamped out. We are indoctrinated in the Patriarchy's ways from our earliest moments, even before we can reason and speak. Boys are put in blue rooms and given 'boy' toys, while girls get pink and 'girl' toys. Parents who defy these standards are given grief and must defend their actions in the Court of Public Opinion. We are all dupes for the Patriarchy, and those of us who defy the Patriarchy's Norms are made to suffer for our "choice".
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From:krissie_r
Date:30th August, 2010 03:24 am (UTC)
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There's quite clearly some truth in that... though my experience suggests to me that it may not be the only thing going on, nor the most poignant...

I've got parents who all but called me a freak over my 'choice'.... actually, my father said "I think what you're doing is freakish", to my face, and in my own home. They've come round somwhat since, but that's besides the point. My point is that even with that attitude, they chose to educate themselves to understand that their view wasn't the only view - and we're talking working class south wales valleys people here. Likewise, I don't think for a minute that they have or have the slightest concern in the ever present 'great toilet debate'... they certainly aren't particularly pressed to give trans people in general a hard time.

I've actually found that the grand majority of people don't display the traits of cissexism on a personal level, and don't especially support it on any level - it seems to be the vocal few that cause the problem, along with a majority who don't consider it to be their problem... but that's not unlike a great many things in society that people should really be showing more interest in. It's less about some kind of cissexual led collectivism in that sense, and actually speaks more to the "each man for himself" attitude, if you'll pardon the patriarchal turn of phrase lol, where people are determinedly unbothered by anything that doesn't affect them directly, allowing the minority that are the zealots and the bigots to run riot.

It's somewhat easy to argue "this is about gender, and therefore cissexual people not knwing that there's a difference between sex and gender is an example of cissexual privilege in operation", but the more I think about it, the more I realise that while that might be true back from a time before the term cissexual (and even transsexual) existed, in this day and age, it's quite possibly no more cissexual to be ignorant of it than it is for those same people to be ignorant of, say, politics, the plight of alcoholics unfairly treated as scum for their 'choice' to drink, or, from a recent TV advert in this country, that diorrhea isn't actually funny, but is a killer of millions. Many, if not most, that I've encountered, are willing to learn that there is a difference between sex and gender... the biggest problem being the lack of mass education of this fact - pointing it out to people one by one is more like a one man turkey shoot in a jungle with a hundret thousand targets (no offence to turkeys or turkey shooters of course lol)
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From:terry_terrible
Date:30th August, 2010 03:43 am (UTC)
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From:krissie_r
Date:30th August, 2010 03:49 am (UTC)
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I never said it was, and if it appears that it did I would have to politely suggest that you've misread me somewhere.

Just because there's no intent behind a destructive, hurtful, discriminatory or otherwise harmful action, it quite clearly doesn't make it any less destructive, hurtful, discriminatory or otherwise harmful. It merely means that it's cause/driving force cannot be attributed to any class or mechanism that nessecarily requires intent.

For example, if the perpetrator of such an action, once informed of the reason that that action was wrong, then understands, perhaps apologises, and is willing to avoid such wrongdoing in future, then that action can only be placed down to ignorance or general wrong-headedness or mistake, rather than an 'ism'.
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From:krissie_r
Date:30th August, 2010 04:07 am (UTC)
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Or of course, there's another analogy...

Someone starts a hoax on the internet (yeah, right.... like anybody would be THAT dishonest lol), 10 people read it and believe it, one of whom passes it on to a further 10 people (ad infinitum)... does that mean that 10% of people who read the hoax are liars, and that the remaining 90% are culpable in lying? Or does it mean that most of them simply didn't realise that it was wrong because they had no cause to?
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From:jessie_c
Date:30th August, 2010 04:10 am (UTC)
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By contrast, my step-father has yet to truly accept me while my mother does, and she was the one who educated herself. I transitioned in place in a warehouse, and the resistance was split between the extreme homophobic men, and the women who didn't want a "man" in their washroom and locker room. I'll agree that these were vocal minorities, but they chose not to educate themselves even when the company brought in an expert to talk to them.

it's quite possibly no more cissexual to be ignorant of it than it is for those same people to be ignorant of, say, politics...

It stems from the blissful ignorance that a problem even exists. This is the privilege of the majority; the privilege to remain ignorant. This is where all -isms are rooted.

...the biggest problem being the lack of mass education...

Yes. Education is the key to curing ignorance. The challenge is making the privileged aware of their need to be educated.
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From:hoiho
Date:29th August, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC)
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It's a peripheral matter, in relation to your your argument, but Jack of Kent's jumping-off point (Breach of the Peace) is based on a misapprehension regarding the nature of the charge in Scots law, as discussed by Loveandgarbage (a Scots lawyer).
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From:auntysarah
Date:29th August, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC)
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Interesting post, and the presumed link is also interesting - that trans identities are something to do with clothes...
From:jack_of_kent
Date:30th August, 2010 06:45 am (UTC)
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The presumed link was not "something to do with clothes".

The link was instead a discussion I had on Twitter with Christine Burns about how the law seeks to regulate personal autonomy.
From:jack_of_kent
Date:30th August, 2010 06:43 am (UTC)
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No, this is incorrect, It was based on a Twitter exchange with Christine Burns. It was not based on a misapprehension of the charge in Scots law.
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From:darkwaterfairy
Date:29th August, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC)

OMG! There's X in box of X! >:O

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Ah, but Sarah, when it comes to Men's toilet there is no need to nominate trans men as a boogieman, since they've already got one, Gay Men. >_<

I've no scientific data, but I've heard of a lot of closures of public toilets being justified as "neccessary to clamp down on gay men having sex", as well as it being a key causal reason for the tide of toll toilets starting in London railway termini way back when I was small. I also come across a fair few public toilets where the women's is open and the men's is locked and permanently mothballed.

Edited at 2010-08-29 18:48 (UTC)
From:natachakennedy
Date:29th August, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)

Re: OMG! There's X in box of X! >:O

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Excellent post Sarah!

Please also see mine on this matter. The toilets debate is about much more than relieving onesself.

http://uncommon-scents.blogspot.com/2010/08/toilet-debate-historical-deconstruction.html
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From:auntysarah
Date:29th August, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)

Re: OMG! There's X in box of X! >:O

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Thank you.

Everyone - Natacha also makes a bloody excellent point here and you should read this.
(Deleted comment)
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From:darkwaterfairy
Date:30th August, 2010 12:04 am (UTC)

Re: OMG! There's X in box of X! >:O

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Oh, I never said that I understood fears of gay sex to be the only reason, just relaying what I've heard and observed. I expect drug use has been another contributing factor amongst several (gay sex / drugs / an invisible budget cut / ?) to the decline of public toilet provision.

(FYI multiple sexual health workers have informed me that HepC is (at least today) the dominant risk, due to it being a hardier and more adapt protein (effective infectivity per fluid volume and being magnitudes greater than HIV, harder to disinfect for, and a longer out-of-body lifespan). It's also less treatable than HIV/AIDS is now.)
(Deleted comment)
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From:ailbhe
Date:31st August, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)

Re: OMG! There's X in box of X! >:O

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Around here they have blue lights so you can't see a vein. Or the loo roll. But anyway.
From:natachakennedy
Date:29th August, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
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You have relly excelled yourself this time Sarah. Very passionate. This post makes excellent points about the cis majoroty needing to be protected from the trans minority, and the Equality Act being written without consideration for the safety of trans people, especially transwomen.

However one other thing I would like to pick up from Jack of Kent's blog is that he uses the word 'choose' as in 'which toilet transgender people choose' as if we are exercising a kind of free choice each time. This reflects the nastiness I got from Hazel Blears department when they originally started consulting on the Equality Bill a couple of years ago. Her department suggested that me living as a transgender - as opposed to a transsexual person was a 'lifestyle choice'. There are those in the cis world who seem to think, or at least who put it about, that trans people choose their lives. I know for a fact that I was born the way I am and every transsexual I know has not had any kind of choice in the way they are, they have simply had a struggle against all sorts of barriers to be who they are.

It is this notion of "choice" slipped into Jack of Kent's blog which was the most telling aspect of it; revealling a belief (which he would probably not have expressed openly) that trans people chose to be trans and are really just cis people playing a game. How prevalent this view is amongst cis people I don't know, although the fact that it was used by the department of Communities and Something Else by Hazel Blears suggests that it is not unwidespread. It's effect is to erase or deny transpeople's existence, and THAT is transphobia at its most fundamental and mosty pernicious.
From:jack_of_kent
Date:30th August, 2010 06:42 am (UTC)
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Please see my fuller comment below, but I would like to say that I am concerned my word "choose" reflects nastiness and that somehow I am showing "transphobia at its most fundamental and most pernicious".

I do not believe those allegations to be true.
From:natachakennedy
Date:30th August, 2010 10:14 am (UTC)
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Jack;

The 'nastiness' I referred to was in relation to the way Hazel Blears department dealt with me in response to my taking up their words in relation to the use of the word 'choice' not about you personally.

Perhaps I was a little clumsy in my wording, I get like that when I am angry, but I intended to show that this is how transphobia is so deeply embedded in the way cis people think that it becomes pretty much subconscious. That is why my deconstruction of your blog post centered on the word 'choice' because that revealed how cis people tend to see trans people. I got this not just from Hazel Blears incidentally, but from Harriet Harman and Vera Baird also. Despite being a Labour supporter and critic of the ConDem government, especially in terms of education and economic policy, this is the one thing that the current government has at least got right so far (although their watyering down of an already inadequate Equality Act is very bad for trans people); Lynne Featherstone has listened and championed our cause.

However, this also reflects my dealings with cis people who make assumptions about me and other trans people. Your blog was simply just another example of what happens all the time. In that respect I am criticising your use of the word 'choice' as an example of cis people's understanding of trans people generally.

I think the best way to think of this is Bourdieu's concept of "Doxa". This is when something is so deeply ingrained in our social consciousness that it is accepted without ever needing to be discussed. The idea that trans people have a 'choice' is clearly one of those things; it is part of society's unspoken understanding of trans people. That is why I picked up on 'choice'; it is an issue which has plagued me and plenty of other trans people for a very ong time, and it colours people's attitudes towards me on a very regular, almost daily basis. It also represents an example of Spivak's 'subalterns' when she asked the question 'Can the subaltern speak?' since the language needed for people in positions of relative powerlessness to express their position still has to be that of those in relative power, which by its very existence makes this at best very difficult to do. As such my criticism should probably not have been aimed at you personally but at this tendency amongst the majority of cis people, to assume things about trans people.

The toilet debate is one which trans people have to deal with from time-to-time. One thing people seem to forget about it is that whatever happens, trans people still need to go. One of my (transsexual) friends had to threaten to go on the carpet in a pub once because someone was being funny about her using the ladies. There are as such issues to do with toilets which affect trans people's civil liberties and human rights, so please read this as well. It would be a pity if you stopped including trans issues in your blog, since there is probably quite a lot cis people could learn about trans people from you. But please remember we have the same daily bodily functions as everyone else and ought to have the same right to civil liberties as well.

http://uncommon-scents.blogspot.com/2010/08/toilet-debate-historical-deconstruction.html

Natacha



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From:aumentou
Date:30th August, 2010 12:48 am (UTC)
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I don't really have anything to say except: Good points, well made.
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From:techiebabe
Date:30th August, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
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What's the 1-3-5 rule? I followed the link and even spent 10 mins watching the vid - nothing mentioned it.

(I dunno - 10 mins of my life I can never regain - etc.... ;-)
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From:jessie_c
Date:30th August, 2010 01:04 am (UTC)
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Look at the picture. Notice that if urinals 1, 3 and 5 are occupied, then 2 and 4 are forbidden territory; anyone who violates that taboo is a social pariah or gay (which often means the same thing).

This is a semi-serious rule, observed by many less-than-mature-and-secure-in-their-identity boys and men.
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From:techiebabe
Date:30th August, 2010 01:13 am (UTC)
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Yes, I can see that, but nothing seemed to specify a "1-3-5 rule" as such.

I wondered if perhaps there should be 1 sink to 3 stalls to 5 urinals?

Whichever way, there was no explicit statement of any rule of this ilk.
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From:jessie_c
Date:30th August, 2010 01:17 am (UTC)
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It's nothing so sophisticated and never explicitly stated anywhere. It's just one of those 'everybody knows it' things that boys get ground into their heads at an early age by being humiliated when they break the rule. The Patriarchy's indoctrination techniques are harsh and unforgiving.
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From:desiarcy
Date:30th August, 2010 07:01 am (UTC)
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I've never seen it enforced to the degree that 2-4 are totally off limits; just you're "supposed to" only use 2-4 if 1-3-5 are occupied, i.e. never take a urinal directly adjacent to one that is already being used unless you have no other choice.
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From:parmonster
Date:30th August, 2010 08:22 am (UTC)

THE RULES

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The rules as passed down from on high by Lord God Almighty:

First guy uses Urinal #5; It's farthest from the door, and safe from someone walking behind to reach other urinals.

Second guy uses Urinal #1; It's farthest from Urinal #5, and thus safest from the gay.

Third guy settles for Urinal #3; This maintains a buffer zone of one urinal on either side.

Fourth guy pisses on an outside wall; This both avoids the risk of seeing another dude's winky, and projects a macho air of marking one's territory.
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From:auntysarah
Date:30th August, 2010 10:19 am (UTC)
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NO! If 1, 3 and 5 are occupied, you are supposed to pretend you really wanted a shit.
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From:diffrentcolours
Date:30th August, 2010 09:45 am (UTC)
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In my experience, it's usually because urinals are spaced slightly too closely for a comfortable peeing experience when somebody is adjacent (and I mean physical comfort in terms of standing with your legs apart rather than emotional comfort). In toilets with more widely-spaced urinals, the 1-3-5 rule is much less likely to be followed.
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From:auntysarah
Date:30th August, 2010 10:24 am (UTC)
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Nkbody ever explicitly mentions it, because they'd obviously be showing their silly neuroses about peeing in public. However, it's something which nearly all men follow, and speaking as someone who used the gents for 30 years, it's just something you know, without ever having it explained to you.

I guess it's a bit like fight club, only in an unwritten sense. This is why it's a great source of comedy material - they all know it's silly, and exposes a latent fear of being seen to be homosexual (and I'm sure even gay male friends still generally follow the rule when in a loo together), but they do it anyway.
From:jack_of_kent
Date:30th August, 2010 06:38 am (UTC)

Sorry and explanation

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When I wrote my blogpost, I did not know how to frame the questions. My intention was to introduce the topic to my readers, many of whom have an informed and liberal interest in how the law operates in given situations.

I tried to make my questions as general and neutral as possible. The first question was to introduce how equality law is relevant; the second is how (I understood) the law of breach of peace had been used in such circumstances. In both cases I took my cue from a fascinating discussion I had had on Twitter with Christine Burns earlier that day.

In view of the analysis placed on the words I used in the replies above, I clearly got my choice of words wrong. For that I apologise. But there was certainly no intention to be transphobic.

The reference to especially MTF was because Christine had confirmed that the incidents of which she was aware had involved MTFs and that I was vaguely aware of a (second wave?) feminist critique in respect of MTFs entering into female "space".

I write a "mainstream" legal blog - I generally write on libel reform and police abuse of power. I would like to write more about trans issues, as I have a suspicion that the law operates in an unfair and discriminatory way against trans people.

So please give me a chance without criticising me too harshly on my clumsy choice of words in my first attempt to raise the profile of trans issues and the law.

The unfair and misconceived application of law in any given situation needs a wider audience.
From:jack_of_kent
Date:30th August, 2010 07:07 am (UTC)

Re: Sorry and explanation

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I have now added a link to this thread in the comments on my blog.
From:jack_of_kent
Date:30th August, 2010 07:53 am (UTC)

Re: Sorry and explanation

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On reflection, I think I will leave trans issues alone and move onto other legal topics.

Not comfortable with the allegations of transphobia and nastiness.
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From:andrajames
Date:30th August, 2010 08:49 am (UTC)

Re: Sorry and explanation

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You were doing ok right up to 'I'll stop giving a shit about $minority if they start being upset and/or calling me out, in which case fuck them'. Enjoy your privilege.
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From:auntysarah
Date:30th August, 2010 12:00 pm (UTC)

An olive branch of sorts

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Please permit me to try again here - doing this via rappid fire twitter is perhaps unhelpful and prone to misunderstandings.

We are both bloggers, and I'm sure we both appreciate that one has to consider ones audience when writing. My audience is generally well versed in trans issues, and I wrote this to engage with the place in the debate that they are perhaps at.

Your audience is, as yo uhave said, more general in nature, and that's fine. I think there is value in both. Indeed, you have stated as your aim that you wanted to open these issues up to a wider audience.

In order to do so, you naturally write in terms that an audience unfamiliar with trans issues would understand - it's part of being a good writer. I guess your point could be summarized as, "hey, here are some issues that affect this group of people, let's talk about them". Here I am addrssing a different audience and my point is more like, "hey, thinking abiut the way this debate is seen by society makes me realise that society has some deeply ingrained transphobic assumptions".

Your blog post was what helped me think about this in these terms, at least enough to write it down, and for that I am grateful. However, when I say that the way a wider audience engages with this debate reveals some of the transphobic and misogynist assumptions in society, I don't think I am accusing you of being transphobic and misogynist. If I am accusing you of anything at all, it's of being part of society.

Take my article here - aimed at a general audience it would have fallen completely flat, but aimed at trans activists, who like to think about this stuff and the assumptions behind it, it seems to have worked well. It's upsetting that you seem to be offended for a number of reasons: Firstly, you seem generally like a decent sort, and I feel bad if I have offended you. Secondly, this represents something of a distration/derailment from the issues we both wanted to talk about, and that's a waste of all our time. Thirdly, this distraction provides an "in" for people who I *would* accuse of being transphobic to talk about the nasty trans people, and how horrible we all are.

Fromy point of view, if I have accused you of anything it is of being part of a society which generally treats trans people and women very badly indeed, and of writing in terms that your audience undestands, but I am part of that society too. If being part of that society makes you transphobic and misogynist, thenit makes me the same things, and that's perhaps a discussion for anoth time, but I do think this is only about us as individuals if we choose to make it so. I absolutely did not intend to write about the attitude of individuals, and I had hoped I made that clear, but perhaps I did less well than I had hoped.

I do hope this is well received, and clears things up a bit. You do seem generally like one of the good guys, and it's a shame that we seem ro have got off on the wrong foot. However, I do not think that I owe you an apology for calling you transphobic, because I don't think I did, and because if it's not possible to write this sort of article, and point to examples, and not have to spend ages apologising for offending cis people, then trans people's voices are silenced, and that *is* transphobic.
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From:jessie_c
Date:30th August, 2010 12:57 pm (UTC)

Re: Sorry and explanation

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Fail. Thanks for not helping.
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From:hellmutt
Date:2nd September, 2010 12:55 pm (UTC)

Re: Sorry and explanation

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Hi Jack,

From someone without cis-privilege: I think you've done nothing wrong. Sorry you seem to have wandered into a pit of venom and hate (from some commenters, not all, obviously).

This whole thing is probably why I don't involve myself in more trans community stuff.

Take questionable comfort in the fact that I've seen feminists behaving just as rudely.
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From:auntysarah
Date:2nd September, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Sorry and explanation

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How can I put this politely?

Oh, I can't.

Piss off.
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From:snakey
Date:3rd September, 2010 09:18 pm (UTC)

Re: Sorry and explanation

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Please read auntysarah's comments below. The interests of justice are not served by ignoring difficult topics, even if they are painful to engage with.
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From:auntysarah
Date:30th August, 2010 10:18 am (UTC)

Re: Sorry and explanation

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I am not criticising you - I'd hoped I had made that clear in my article, as I very directly said so. Indeed, I am grateful to you for giving me the jumping off point for writing his post.

The thing with transphobic is that it is insidious. Society is inherently transphobic, and we all grow up absorbing that, you, me, everyone. The way trans people are portrayed in the media is often ridiculously offensive, and it skides by without comment or censure, except from trans people. We are, in fact, quite used to various regulatory bodies telling us we should just get a sense of humour.

Your article frames the debate in the way it's usually framed. You weren't nasty to anyone, and indeed it is clear you are coming from a place that is generally supportive. However, the points that you felt compelled to make illustrate the underlying transphobia and misogyny of society. That doesn't make you transphobic, or rather no more transphobic than anyone else (myself included). It just shows how deep it runs.

Or to put it another way, if I were to write an article about trans people in toilets, intended for general consumption, I suspect I would have to address the common "man in the street" argument that trans women might rape someone in there. Someone could then quite rightly point out that the need to even say this illustrates how deeply transphobia runs in society. This would bot be a criticism of me, however.

I hope that makes things somewhat clearer?
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From:mirabehn
Date:30th August, 2010 11:16 am (UTC)
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Nothing very intelligent to say (and I have cis privilege and don't think there's much that I *should* say) except that you are wise and sensible, and thank you for writing this. And that I will try to keep these points in mind when talking about the issue with other cis people.
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From:notinventedhere
Date:30th August, 2010 09:07 pm (UTC)
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Sarah - I'm so sorry to read this. I wanted to say that I don't understand these attitudes at all. And being assaulted like that is ... unreal. Thank you for posting.
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