A few weeks ago, a piece by Suzanne Moore called Seeing red: The power of female anger started a bit of a shitstorm. Moore was looking to get women riled up and she succeeded – just not the women she was aiming for. Trans women were furious at her comment that women are angry with themselves for “not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.” Roz Kaveney explains.
In the first place there’s the implied dichotomy between women on the one hand and Brazilian trans women on the other – as if Brazilian trans women are somehow not women. But far more important is the fact well over a hundred Brazilian trans women were murdered in the last year alone.
And if there had been any doubt that people were right about the trans hatred that lingered behind Moore’s words, we had only to wait for her and her friends’ responses. The most vile of which came from Julie Burchill, best bud and godmother to Moore’s children. Click through and read the hate if you can stand it. I’m just going to give you one quote. The first part refers to another of Burchill’s friends who has been supposedly harassed by the “trans lobby.”
she refuses to accept that their relationship with their phantom limb is the most pressing problem that women – real and imagined – are facing right now.
Similarly, Suzanne’s original piece was about the real horror of the bigger picture – how the savagery of a few old Etonians is having real, ruinous effects on the lives of the weakest members of our society, many of whom happen to be women
I had to google Etonian. That would be somebody who went to Eton College, one of those boys boarding schools where upper crusty Brits go. Do you see what Burchill did there? She just made conservative legislation in the UK take precedence over every other thing that women are fighting. Apparently, what some Tory does to a relatively privileged Brit is supposed to matter more to me than hundreds of dead Brazilian women, or even the trans women killed right in my own city.
I may still have a lot of 101 to do when it comes to pressing problems facing the trans community, but I feel quite secure saying that “phantom limb” doesn’t make the top ten. Moore thinks it is terrible that women are getting laid off from government jobs. I have news for her, U.S. trans people have double the rate of unemployment. A fifth of trans people have been refused a home or apartment. A fifth have been homeless. Those who are homeless are regularly turned away from shelters, even in the dead of winter. And trans people face massive discrimination when it comes to health care. Even those who have insurance can be denied routine care due to a trans exclusion. The stats are even worse for trans people of color.
No. The trans community isn’t concerned about a “phantom limb.” They are concerned about the basic necessities of life – work, housing, medical care, personal safety. Concerns that are, by the way, a hell of a lot more important to me than how many women are in the UK parliament, how patronizing UK leaders are, how women do more housework, how women feel bad about themselves because they don’t look a certain way – the things Moore was complaining about in her piece.
It is a shame that so many women are blinded by their animosity towards those who don’t neatly fall into the boy/girl roles they were assigned by some doctor at birth. I have to wonder how the Moore and Burchills of the world think that gender discrimination is going to end. Do they not realize that it is based on a false binary, on differences that are largely socially constructed? Trans people, queer people, any people who challenge rigid conceptions of gender, are on the front lines smashing those tiny gender boxes for all of us.
If anything, it is the liberal bullshit that the Moore and Burchills of this world focus on that is a distraction. They don’t really want to shake things up, just for Tory politicians to be less patronizing and for there to be a few more tits in parliament. They might claim radical women’s movements when it suits them – as Moore did when she claimed Pussy Riot and Tahrir Square in that piece – but ultimately all they really want is a little more power and champagne money.
And I might add that, far from distracting me, learning about trans issues has made me more aware of the social constraints that affect me as a cis woman. I am more conscious of the safety calculations I make on the streets and of how safe for me is not safe for everyone. I’m more aware of how much of femininity is stagecraft. And I am more aware of misogyny and self hatred. Because while it is often kept in check around me, that hate spews out freely when it comes to trans women.
Suzanne, Julie, et al. You can take your freely spewing hatred and shove it. You aren’t just making life more difficult and dangerous for trans women. You are standing in the way of dealing with the core issues that hold up this mess. And, as a dear friend of mine likes to say, I ain’t got time.