If you’re reading this many years after it was written in 2013, I’d urge you to read the comments. Some great learning (mostly mine) in the discussion.
If you’ve missed what this is all about, I suggest you either google Suzanne Moore/trans/twitter, or have a look at these links. I’m pretty sure there are plenty more.
Suzanne Moore’s New Statesman piece
Suzanne Moore’s Guardian response
Stavvers WordPress response
a Pink News response
So, a younger friend and colleague, asked me today if I thought she should agree to write a piece about some work she’s made – related to trans issues, made with trans people. And because of all the stuff that’s gone on with twitter this week – aka the Suzanne Moore thing – I wrote her this reply.
In writing it I realised I should be posting it.
Gah, well, with all the Suzanne Moore stuff I’d say no and make for the hills, keeping your head well down. I read the original article, I didn’t think the Brazilian trans comment was that big a deal – or at least, initially I didn’t think it was a big deal at all, I am a woman (I will not say cis-gendered*, that is someone else’s label, I choose not to use it, I choose to use the label woman and anyone who insists I use their label can piss off, like the binary lezzers who want to call me femme, again – their label, not mine. I choose to label myself as I wish, when I wish, not as other people – from any part of the spectrum, gender, sexual or political – want to label me), anyway, as a dyke/gay/working class/white/lesbian/woman of (very nearly!) nearly 50, brought up in this society I – and most women my age, Suzanne’s age – knew exactly what she meant when she said that.
The unattainable straight-male-desired body that many of us have seen (and loved) stunning trans-women with. Long legs, great tits, big hair. That thing I could never attain, don’t have the legs for it for a start. Let alone anything else. And that we have been told we must strive for, want, desire, work for, since we were little girls.
But then I saw the comments about murdered Brazilian transexuals and figured yes, that is a valid point, and perhaps it would be something I’d question for myself in future. It’s not a phrase I’d readily use anyway, most of my Brazilian friends are gay or lesbian, not trans – but I do know what Suzanne Moore meant, and I suspect many readers would, AND I also (now) understand why the upset. Stupid of me perhaps, but I don’t immediately equate the term ‘Brazilian transexual’ with the murder of transexuals. I will now.
BUT I will also equate someone using that term with a twitter storm, a media outrage and a load of nastiness. Coming from all round, all sides, and I read what I could bear to in the past few days, and then I stopped because I found it too much.
I do think there is a bigger fight to be had.
I do find the term ‘intersectionality’ to be both classist and educationalist – or rather, not the term itself, but the way the twitter fight had people using it as if everyone knew what they meant. Working class me, non-academic me, often finds those terms daunting, the ones so many people in so many political groups bandy about easily (and yes, I don’t live in the working class now, I work in the arts and have a fortunate – in some ways!!! – life, but I do still come from where and what I come from) and those terms, that tone of debate, especially when it gets very academic, not only shuts me out, but it also makes me feel badly educated, incapable of engaging, and stupid.
I do think the right adore the left in-fighting and they have always adored it and they always will. Because it is our in-fighting, our passion, our huge upset about the things of our hearts and our souls, that lets them get away with what they’re doing. And right now, even while acknowledging the vital power of language and that it can hurt and it definitely matters, I honestly do think that our efforts need to be concentrated on the enemy without – right now, this current government – rather than the real and/or perceived enemy/enemies ‘within’.
And I really want to say all this publicly. And I’d love to put it on my blog. But, in truth, I’m scared to, because I don’t want to be the subject of attack. Like anyone else, I want to be understood, I want to be heard and yes – I admit it – I want to be liked. I’m human, I have no desire to be villified. I’m not sure I understand those people who do enjoy that, who want to be the object of other people’s discussion and anger.
So what this debate has done, which I’m sure – again, the right must love – is that it has made me (and you, because this is why you asked if you should write something) wonder if we should speak up at all.
I know that I, for one, will be much less likely to mention trans at all, in any context, because the upset and anger over ‘getting it wrong’ (and it does seem there are some varying reactions, so this too is subjective) is too painful. And so we shut up. And nothing is said. And that’s really depressing.
(nb, I was asked recently how I felt about straight people writing gay people, I said I’d rather they did it than not, I’d rather we were mentioned than ignored, that I will always make mistakes as a writer, I cannot have had every life, every experience, and I’m sure other writers will make mistakes too – I’d rather they tried and had LGBT people in their writing, even if not ‘correctly’ presented, than pretended we didn’t exist at all.)
And even in writing this answer to you, I feel it could, should, be a blog.
Because the problem now is that, far from opening up debate and discussion, the furore has made me – the only person I know to have written a lovely, loving, sympathetic trans character (who wasn’t a serial killer!!) AND almost 20 years ago! – feel like I can’t mention trans issues or people at all or I will be told I’ve got it all wrong and have no right to speak/write.
Ah fuck it, maybe this IS my blog …
ps – I REALLY would be grateful to anyone who chooses to comment here, or on twitter, facebook, elsewhere, to please use your real name (if you can do so without threat to yourself or your loved ones).
I use my real name on facebook and twitter and here. Suzanne Moore uses hers – many of her critics have used theirs, but very many have not. Real names are good, they let us fully stand up for what we are putting out. And they help us make sure we’re saying what we really want to be saying. What we want to be known for saying.
edited to add : thank you all for these comments, yay, nay and in between. I’m trying to approve them as they come, but there was a bit of a backlog, so forgive me if I take a while. I’m especially grateful to queeriodical for the great cis explanation. I still think it’s up to each of us, individually or collectively (if people want to), to use whichever labels we choose for ourselves, not for others to put labels on us, but it’s a great explanation and the first time I’ve read anything that helped me understand how useful it is as a term. thank you.
*I’m adding this asterisk in 2018 when I now feel fine using cis for myself and other people using it of me. The comments to this blog (PLEASE read them, they’re really interesting, and many helped me think more/differently/deeper, about some things I thought I had thought and about some things very new to me). I wrote this blog about that. I’m keen on my thinking growing and changing, I’m keen on us all supporting each other to do so. And I’m especially keen on a diverse, inclusive LGBTQ+ that is for all of us.