I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how language works, how we as a society adopt ideas, and how we can achieve a kind of liberation by reframing our thinking.
In Kathleen Stock’s book Material Girls, she lays out four philosophical claims that trans activism makes:
- You and I, and everyone else, have an important inner state called a gender identity.
- For some people, inner gender identity fails to match the biological sex – male and female – originally assigned to them at birth by medics. These are trans people.
- Gender identity, not biological sex, is what makes you a man or a woman (or neither).
- The existence of trans people generates a moral obligation upon all of us to recognise and legally to protect gender identity and not biological sex.
This was very much in my mind as I was watching the recent controversy surrounding Adam Graham, a rapist who was convicted in the Glasgow High Court recently but who declared that he was a woman after arrest and changed his name to ‘Isla Bryson’. Graham’s case seems like the worst nightmare for the SNP, which recently claimed a victory in passing a reform to the Gender Recognition Act which allows for self-ID for trans people. The SNP even rejected an amendment which would have not allowed sex offenders to gain a Gender Recognition Certificate. As soon as he had declared that he was a woman, Bryson was destined for a women’s prison and his victims were even forced to call him ‘she’ in court. A public outcry has seen him moved to a male prison, but we will have to see how long that lasts.
Thinking about Stock’s axioms of the trans rights movement, we can accept that people have the freedom to believe the first three, however misguided we feel them to be, but why do we have to accept Number Four? Why should there be any moral obligation upon women to call Bryson ‘she’ or have him transferred to a women’s prison?
This has certainly created a massive headache for SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, whose recent interviews have had a car crash quality as she tries to justify why she thought this double rapist should go into a women’s prison. The mantra ‘Trans Women are Women’ clearly can’t survive the harsh light of reality.
Nicola Sturgeon flounders on trans policy for female prisons – YouTube
I wish we could go right back to the beginning of this movement, back to when Jan Morris released Conundrum perhaps, and talk about Number Four.
(Speaking of Morris, after a recent biography was released, new revelations appeared about Morris’ cruelty to his daughter. Suki Morys, who believes that her father’s cruelty was not to do with his gender issues, describes the most awful sexism on his part. I wish that Suki could see what I do, which is the pattern of behaviour in autogynephile fathers. Celebrated writer Jan Morris was a bully who couldn’t even hug her children, daughter claims | Daily Mail Online)
Jan Morris, April Ashley, Caroline Cossey… all these very public transsexuals were in many ways pushing a kind of propaganda which was insidiously aimed at women. They were in the “wrong body”. They were suffering. The Number Four, the obligation upon women to comply, to “be kind”, just seems to be assumed (although I recently discovered that one of the reasons my father was put ‘on secondment’ for several years was because women at his work wouldn’t share a toilet with him. Good for them). Our cooperation is assumed right up until the point where we are raped by a man in prison or a shelter, or even beyond where we are threatened with punishment if we don’t talk about our rapist as using “her penis.”
Phrases I have used a lot on social media have been around how women and girls are treated as “human shields,” “collateral damage” and “emotional support humans” when we look at propaganda from the trans movement. Perhaps it resonates with me so much because that’s exactly what I was for my father. It’s that moment when I look back, the realisation that I just assumed my moral obligation to do anything to make him happy, that has really affirmed my feminism. As if in stark relief, I can see the misogyny that I accepted as the truth as a child. And now as an adult I feel that I must challenge it. The assumption on the part of so many people that women must accept a moral obligation to comply with the trans movement is how we know that women are not seen as fully human, with our own agency, but as a form of support for men. See the sheer surprise, horror and aggression we receive when we don’t comply.
The first people subject to the demands of trans people and the erosion of our female boundaries are the families. Our fathers insist that we treat them as something they are not. We are coerced into calling them women, sometimes even mothers, and then there are the safeguarding concerns. Sometimes our mothers can protect us, or in the worst case scenarios that doesn’t happen. But often the message we absorb is that our fathers are sanctified in society and that schools, local authorities, social workers, police and support agencies do not want to listen to us. Pride events at school don’t help and cause distress to us when our families are falling apart.
While a lot of feminists are becoming more aware of our plight, it’s something that gets buried almost completely in the mainstream media. I was so heartened to see this lovely scene at the recent Standing for Women rally in Glasgow. Resistance is liberation. Thank you so much, Joyce.
Hi, my name is Joyce and I am a trans widow. And I promised I would speak here for all the others who are being abused and gaslit into believing their husbands are women and their children having to think their husband is whatever. It is outrageous. I am a long time trans widow. I’ve never spoken. But it gets worse and worse and worse. And some of the abuse these women are suffering and the dissonance and having to believe and having to say. And my ex-husband is… a man. [big cheers from crowd]. I just want to highlight that he never… I went to my MSP, who is the lovely one in front of that placard threatening to behead me. And she did nothing… she just thought, ‘I’ll be a trans ally.’ We never get any press, we are never spoken about, nobody cares. [“We care!” from the crowd]
Forty-six minutes in:
Let Women Speak – Glasgow – Full event! – YouTube
But on the other hand…
MSPs at a trans rights rally… note the ‘Decapitate Terfs’ sign.
Imagine that this was your representative in Parliament. It’s people like this, and others who might be more sympathetic, that we are trying to reach. We need them to understand our perspective and consider that perhaps we shouldn’t be decapitated. In fact, we might even be worthy of political representation.
What frustrates us is that it’s the trans person who is the focus of legislation and attention, and not the partners and children caught in impossible and distressing situations. When it comes to issues like ‘trans conversion’ we are dealing with ideologues whose thinking is so intractable that it’s difficult to know where to start.
Because they believe in the first of Stock’s trans rights axioms, the trans lobby and its supporters cannot acknowledge the things that we understand from our experiences of living around these men – mainly that this is usually an escalating paraphilia. And because they believe in Number Four, it leaves us with no protection from that escalation and no means for anyone to help our fathers stop.
A political representative may be happy to go along with the idea that transgenderism is innate, but they don’t have to watch their father explode their family, won’t have to deal with the grief of losing your Dad, won’t have to see your father start crossdressing, won’t have to meet his new partners or help him with his make up or clothes. Or, sadly, be there at the end of our fathers’ lives when dementia means that they forget their transition and they keep waking up to the horror of what they have done to their bodies.* “Nitty gritty” is a grim word if you know its history, but here indeed is the nitty gritty. The grim stuff, the reality. Perhaps dealing with social workers and the police and courts. Perhaps issues at school. Perhaps someone at our father’s care home who is in trouble for trying to help him if he wants to use he/him pronouns. And all the time the judgement for using our own language, for trying to get people to understand and respect our family history.
We don’t see the reality in the media. Here’s a good example:
I think Trans Widows Voices is right to point out that articles like this are propaganda. They are meant to convey the idea that all we need to do is change our way of thinking, to embrace the axioms, and it will all be fine. In fact, in this article the children seem to have embraced the fact that they are now “part of the LGBT community.” Meanwhile, in private, “Kate told her wife how she felt, and … ‘We had to deconstruct all our internalised social biases as to what we thought success and happiness was.’”
Imagine your dad reframing “success and happiness” for your Mum. In the article, his children say, “At the core, she’s just the same person, just with different clothes and longer hair.” I can’t tell you how many times someone has said this to me online. But it’s not true. The reframing is deliberately simplistic to deny the issues behind the story. If he’s the same person, why does everything have to be changed to accommodate him? More than anyone, wives and children are assumed to have a moral obligation to cooperate with his sexual expression. I wrote about this in my first essay on this site, “On the Pressure to Pretend that it’s all OK.”
And yet you will see these articles all the time. And articles about CoTs or Trans Widows are very scarce. In fact, we have to do all our own work on this. We don’t have a sophisticated PR machine. So here we are, writing to MPs, creating our websites, and even going to a rally and speaking into a microphone.
*Thanks to @DonovanCleckley on Twitter for collecting these: