This should be the last Minstrel Blood political commentary for awhile. I need to complete my memoirs, a project I began almost a decade ago and one that should be a book already. Therefore, this final ( I hope ) bit of procrastination is offered as closure and an attempt to summarize my thinking since "The Emperor's New Gender" appeared in Chicago's Outlines in January. Although many people have thanked me for speaking out, others took issue with me. I tried to respond with an open mind and reasoned replies based on my understanding of feminism, which to me means embracing womanhood and honoring all people. As always my point was, and is, to further the love of women in a woman-hating world.
Like veteran gay activist, writer and thinker Jim Fouratt, I firmly believe and have written that everyone should be treated with respect. We both strongly defend everyone's right to express their love for themselves and for each other no matter what form that may take. We agree that, as Jim puts it, "... the fundamental difference between male and female is deeper than socialization and acculturation of identities" and neither of us believes that it's possible to create a woman from a man or a man from a woman. We each question pressures on gender-variant youth for surgical and hormonal intervention and express concern about, "... how one makes an informed or free choice."
Both of us object to sexual as well as cultural appropriation, and I especially worry about the narrowing of women's identity and the erasure of women's history. For voicing these considerations we have been attacked as "bigoted," "transphobic" and worse, but are these not credible concerns?
As I acknowledged back in January, much remains to be discovered about this experimental process, so I try to learn more about this most volatile of community questions, as well as mentioning some GLBT unmentionables.
In the past couple of months I have engaged with quite a few transsexual and transgendered individuals and have been struck by the amazing variety of experience and identities they represent. Each conversation deepens my understanding, and increasingly I have come to appreciate how interesting and unique each story is. Rather than consensus within the trans community, I have encountered a deep and wide divergence of perspective. Within that spectrum, some disagree with my views but others see eye-to-eye.
Besides the enormous variance between individuals, I have learned a bit about transsexual history. For example, that the term, "transsexual" and "transvestite" first appeared in Germany in 1919 and the term, "transgender" was subsequently introduced in the U.S. as a way for "entitled men to distance from those icky transsexuals," as one of my transsexual educators described it.
In fact, older transsexuals have impressed me with their efforts to preserve and defend themselves from a postmodern social constructionist movement which they feel has blurred, misrepresented and co-opted them. Certain older, long-time transsexuals I've met recently are extremely distressed with the arrogance of certain privileged male publicity seekers as they select and appropriate elements of women's constructed identity and attempt to transgress women's space. The same opportunists likewise disappear those genuine transsexual allies who stand with us to honor women and defend our space, as I stand with them to defend their singular history.
The "stone butch" transgendered identified woman I talked with last month could easily be taken for a young man and was eager to share her story with me or anyone else. I've discussed theory with a serious FTM ( female-to-male ) feminist and exchanged fascinating email with a good-natured FTM pragmatist. Unafraid of disagreement, each reflect entirely different backgrounds, sets of circumstances and points of view. Interesting, sweet, and intelligent, they come across to me as thoroughly female young Dykes who, rather than obsessing about being "mistreated," appreciate Lesbian feminists and understand that raging assholes rage in every community.
In the woman-loving universe we all envision, everyone would treat everyone else respectfully, none would be ridiculed ( unless they deserved it ) and woman-loving females of every variety would consider each other simply as another measure of womanhood. Unfortunately we're not there yet, but until we do, I won't be held responsible for any bad conduct but my own.
Speaking of my behaviors, both good and bad, I hope you'll stay tuned for tales of my memoirs and the times in which they occurred. Meanwhile, I sincerely hope the commentaries have provided you with some food for thought and nourishment for your own growth.