On being a traitor
April 29, 2014 § 13 Comments
So, inevitably, the essay I wrote on genderqueer feminism and being accused of being a traitor for being open about being trans…has led to more accusations of being a traitor for being open about being trans. Not particularly kind ones, I have to admit. And they do hit a nerve.
Because, the thing is – I have worried – I have worried a great deal that I am, indeed, a traitor and a sell-out and a coward who can’t ‘admit’ that they’re a woman. I know many trans men, trans masculine people, FAAB genderqueer people who have the same worry. It was a party line we were told, both by mainstream ‘straight’ society and by a great number of feminists, of cis queer people. That trans people have so bought into myths about what men and women are that they would rather ‘mutilate’ themselves than face up to being a rebellious woman, or man. And that trans masculine people, that FAAB people who aren’t women – we’re all secret or not-so-secret misogynists. We’d rather turn our backs on the concept of womanhood than admit that women are diverse, strong, oppressed by patriarchal systems but still fighting back, and worth fighting for.
I wrapped myself in knots about it, as a teenager, trying to find some hidden vestige of misogyny in me that could explain why I felt myself to be trans, why I couldn’t be a woman. I loved and respected and admired and looked up to so many different women – women I aspired to be like, women I wanted to emulate – but couldn’t fit myself into that category, that word. No matter how much I valued bodies of all kinds, I knew that I needed to alter my body to make it a home I could live in.
The thing that helped me out of that place was the same thing that saved me with my OCD – that endless interrogation of the self in the belief that I was evil, terrible, deserving of nothing. It was the realisation that, ultimately, even if there was this part of me that was hateful, that was bad, that was misinformed and prejudiced and wrong – that it didn’t matter. Because I didn’t have to act as though it mattered.
If that part of me does exist – if a misogynistic, self-hating place is there, but hidden – it doesn’t stop me from leading a feminist life. It doesn’t undo my actions. That unknown, unbidden place couldn’t take back the money I’ve raised for women’s charities, or erase the protests, campaigns, events I’ve organised and worked for to promote women’s liberation. It can’t burn the performance scores I’ve made of forgotten women’s music, or unwrite the lectures I’ve given on the genius and importance of women artists. It can’t get rid of the support, respect and encouragement I’ve given to female friends, colleagues, students, loved ones.
I don’t say this because I want a cookie – I’m not a special case. I’m not saying it to justify myself to people who don’t want to listen. But I am saying it because I think this notion of ‘purity’ we have politics, in liberation movements, in our personal relationships, is bullshit. That you have to be one thing or another – with us or against us – perfectly aligned to a notion of what’s right or working against the cause.
Do I think I’m secretly a misogynist and a traitorous woman because I’m gendequeer and trans masculine? No, not at all. But, to be totally honest – I struggle to see what difference it would make. If not only the overriding goal, but the overriding work in support of that goal is to respect and support the equality of all people – then don’t those actions mean far, far more than a unvoiced thought that is never acted upon?
If I’m living a life that helps others in tangible, concrete ways then what is it to you which pronouns I use, which body I inhabit?