Wednesday, August 01, 2007
July 30, 2007 | 02:22 PM (EST)
In the last four months or so, I've traveled to 10 or 12 states in the USA, followed by trips to Amsterdam, London, and a tiny village named Inderoy, just an hour's drive north of Trondheim, Norway. And no matter where I go, I can see that most people are convinced there are two kinds of people in the world: men and women. But I hang out with people who, mostly, are neither men nor women. I would call most Neither/Nor people my tribe. It's a difficult place to live, being neither/nor in an either/or world. Nah, it's not difficult... it sucks. Don't get me wrong, being neither/nor is GREAT in a neither/nor world, and thank heavens there are more and more spaces like that in the world. But there's not enough of those kind of spaces to keep up with the increasing number of people around the world who are calling themselves not-men and not-women.
Just look at this email someone sent me through my website:
I am a [35-39] year old in [the Midwest, USA], born female. For many years I felt masculine. However; I don't believe I am male or female. I am so afraid to live the way I have [become] because I am living a lie, but I don't necessarily want to die. Is there such thing as being neither? How do I help the "professionals" understand that I am not a pathological freak? I just don't identify with either one of those genders. So what does it make me? I need to know how can I continue to live in this world now that I have come to this realization? [unsigned]
Ouch. I answered the email as best I could, but I realized that I could be of more help to this person and the rest of my tribe of neither/nor people if I started talking more directly about it on this blog. So that's what I'm gonna do. Gloves off. People who are not men and not women really live in the world, everywhere, and it's high time to stop ignoring that and insisting on some archaic binary system of genderfying people.
Just look at this poem sent to me by my righteous neither/nor friend, the M word, from Myspace.
I'm not either/or
this or that, I'm not
here nor there;
Shit, I'm everywhere
not to look
I'm so much more
I won't pick and choose
Good or bad
Black or white
Single out or accept
Bitch or bombshell
Opt or decide for
Saint or sinner
Homo or hetero
Goddess or whore
I won't let binary
into selection submission
I won't let one or the other
I won't name my desire
by sex/parts alone
man or woman
or in between,
or none of these
beings, my Self
I can't assign identity
through DNA or race;
You can't define, this face
simply won't give you simple
The M word said I could include a link to her MySpace home page. Totally worth a visit.
Okay, that's enough for today. Over the next three weeks, I'm gonna be writing about some wonderful spaces for folks of the neither/nor persuasion, as I chronicle my visits to the 2007 Amsterdam Transgender Film Festival, London's Transfabulous '07, and Jafnaðr the 2007 Nordic Queer Youth Festival. All these events and places sure opened my eyes and my arms to a great many of my tribespeople.
Kiss kiss, and remember: we are everywhere.
One of my earliest memories is of being three years’ old and joyfully hurtling down a slide wearing a dress and a policeman’s helmet. I was going to have to stop that sort of thing at some stage and fortunately I did. After all, you can get into serious trouble for impersonating a police officer. Unfortunately, you can also get into serious trouble for wearing a dress, especially if you’re not female. Needless to say, I only grew out of the dress size and not the actual dress wearing.
For me, gender identity is more complicated than masculine and feminine or even transvestite and transsexual. I don’t want a gender reassignment/‘sex change’ yet at the same time my motivation to cross dress goes way too deep for an uncomplicated case of transvestism. Dressing ‘en femme’ now and again won’t satisfy me. I’d more readily describe myself as transgendered, or even third gendered - neither male nor female. Modern science may well have found physical evidence to explain why we’re like this. Meantime, we struggle under a bi-polar gender regime in which only two mutually exclusive gender options are recognized.
How does it feel to be transgendered/third gendered in an either/or society? It hurts. It’s suffocating. I’ve read pieces in which the pain of trans is described as being treated by others like a non-person, feeling invisible. Yet worse still is not merely having your identity disregarded by others but having no choice other than to endure their insistence on choosing a different one for you that they superimpose upon you without permission.
Despite the influence of feminism encouraging greater overall awareness of gender as a patriarchal construct, in mainstream society it’s still virtually impossible to avoid being categorized as either female or male. Bi-gender apartheid pervades all; manifesting itself in male or female (either/or) tick boxes on application forms, airport security queues, public lavatories (naturally), car insurance, pub quiz teams, and of course, in how we’re expected, or even told, to dress – at least for those all-important job interviews. Strictly conforming to one of the two socially, legally legitimised genders is considered a prerequisite for respectability and treating women and men differently is seen as the height of good manners. They call it chivalry; I’d call it ‘respect a gender’. . . .
August 1, 2007 2:00 PM
There can be no doubt that transsexual people are often targets for abuse and cruelty. Good liberals should find this appalling, and add our voices to those within the transgender rights movement, calling for an end to discrimination towards this community. However, for many years I have felt uncomfortable accepting a diagnosis created by reactionary psychiatrists in the 1950s which claims that it is possible to be born "trapped in the wrong body".
Feminists want to rid the world of gender rules and regulations, so how is it possible to support a theory which has at its centre the notion that there is something essential and biological about the way boys and girls behave? As someone who spurned dolls and make-up as a child, I find it deeply troubling that, had I gone to one of the specialist psychiatrists while growing up and explained how I did not feel like a "real girl" (which I did not, because I wanted to be a lesbian), I could be writing this as a trans man.
In 2004 I wrote a column in the Guardian Weekend magazine complaining about the fact that a male-to-female transsexual had sued a rape crisis centre in Canada for refusing to let her counsel rape victims, on the grounds that it was a "women only" service. I had, in my piece, referred to one transsexual as a "man in a dress".
The then readers' editor, having received 200 letters of complaint, wrote, "[This column] abused an already abused minority that the Guardian might have been expected to protect."
In hindsight, the sarcasm I used in my column was misplaced and insensitive ("Imagine a world inhabited just by transsexuals," I wrote, complaining about the way many transsexuals parody traditional masculine and feminine styles of dress. "It would look like the set of Grease."). However, the hundreds of angry emails I received, and the levels of vitriol contained within them, made me realise just how much of a sacred cow - at least among us liberals - the issue had become.
As a result of the article I was firmly branded "transphobic" by the community. No other topic I have addressed in this newspaper has attracted such fury, even though I regularly express controversial opinions.
This realisation made me determined to further explore why any criticism of transsexuality seems to be deemed unacceptable outside of homophobic, rightwing circles. Which is why, when the producer of the Radio 4 debating series Hecklers approached me, asking if I would argue a controversial point in opposition to four leading experts, I chose the title, "Sex change surgery is unnecessary mutilation".
My concerns about the increasing acceptance of "transsexuality" as a diagnosis are based upon my feminist belief that it arises from the strong stereotyping of girls and boys into strict gender roles. . . .
By Innes Bowen
Producer, Hecklers, BBC Radio 4
Julie Bindel believes sex change operations are wrong
But a leading feminist campaigner claims that sex reassignment surgery is based on unscientific ideas - and could be doing more harm than good.
"I should never have had sex change surgery," Claudia MacLean, a transsexual woman told the audience at a recent debate organised by the BBC Radio 4 programme Hecklers and the Royal Society of Medicine in London.
"As a result of the surgery, I am incapable of sex and I have lived a life apart."
Claudia was speaking out in support of Julie Bindel, a radical feminist and journalist, who was trying to persuade medics and trans people that sex change surgery is unnecessary mutilation.
Radical feminists have ideological reasons for opposing sex change surgery.
To them, the claim that someone can be "born into the wrong sex" is a deeply threatening concept.
Many feminists believe that the behaviours and feelings which are considered typically masculine or typically feminine are purely socially conditioned. . . .