How “identity” became everything

dondawn“The phenomenon of the drag queen dramatically demonstrates such boundary violation. Like whites playing “black face”, he plays at incorporation of the oppressed role without being incorporated in it.” Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology – 1978

Three months ago, ABC news editor Don Ennis walked into work in a dress and a wig and told colleagues he now wanted to be called Dawn. At the time, he said his “female identity” had been ‘a soul-crushing secret’. Now, apparently after a bout of amnesia, Dawn has decided he is, in fact, Don after all.

Don Ennis is a white, middle-aged, middle-class male – in other words, he is a member of the most privileged of social classes. One of the arguments frequently propounded by supporters of MtT* is that no man would *choose* to become a member of a lower social class, ergo – so the argument goes – feelings of being “a woman trapped in a man’s body” must be real and involuntary.

Some opponents of gender (and thus transgenderism – without gender, there is no transgender) counteract this argument by pointing out the autogynephilia associated with men who like to dress as women – that is, that such men derive erotic pleasure from the thought or image of themselves as women. This view is substantiated somewhat by the selfies (i.e. self-taken photographs) some men post of themselves on social media sites, in which they are posing provocatively in frilly underwear. Is it such a stretch to imagine that autogynephiles also derive erotic pleasure from their new, lowly situation in life as a ‘member’ of the oppressed class known as women?

It is my contention that this is one reason why a white, middle-class male “transitions” (i.e. takes on a ‘feminised’ appearance, adopts a ‘feminine’ name etc). First, the very act of thinking of themselves as a member of the submissive class arouses them sexually (some men derive such sexual pleasure from submission that they pay a small fortune for some women to ‘dominate’ them). Secondly, if a white, middle-class man suddenly claims (as in the case of Don Ennis) that he is a ‘woman’, he automatically shifts from the most privileged social class to one of the ‘most oppressed’ – that is, the class of people known as MtT transsexuals. This shifting of class status, this swift movement from the very top to very near the bottom, suddenly gives the white, privileged male the chance to claim ‘oppression’, ‘prejudice’ or ‘bigotry’, probably for the first time in his life. He can now claim solidarity with other oppressed people in society, with people of colour, with disabled people, with prostituted women (whom he will euphemistically term ‘sex workers’) and in doing so he can garner sympathy from third-wave feminists and liberals who have bought into Queer theory.

It is quite a trick that the white, middle-class male plays. He can now claim to be even more oppressed than women – after all, so the argument goes, women who were born female have ‘cis privilege’ – that is, their “gender identity” accords with their biological sex. They are ‘privileged’ because they have the vagina, the breasts, the womb, the ovaries. They are ‘privileged’ because they menstruate. They are ‘privileged’ not to have male-pattern baldness.

Radical feminists wish to deconstruct gender – that is, we wish to do away with ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’. Radical feminists believe that gender roles constrict us all, female and male. If there was no gender, if there was no ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’, men could wear dresses to their hearts’ content. In a post-gender world, there would be no such thing as ‘trans gender’. There would be – as there has always been – females, and males, and a small number of intersex people. In a post-gender world, all these people could ‘present’, or dress, exactly as they wished without fear of discrimination.

The problem with pandering to MtT – whether autogynephiles or otherwise – is that in doing so other people suffer. Women and girls suffer because the misogyny they face is relegated to second place behind the sufferings of the MtT, who will claim ‘trans misogyny’. I am not suggesting that MtT do not face homophobia (if they do not ‘pass’) or misogyny (if they do). I am not for one minute condoning either. But the man who has been born as a male, brought up as a male, socialised as a male should not claim that his experiences of discrimination in any way match the discrimination faced by the person born a female and brought up under the cloud of misogyny. Unfortunately, all too often such men do claim just that (which in itself is a form of misogyny).

The problem with pandering to MtT is that male-bodied people are granted access to women’s facilities, such as changing areas, public toilets, and even shelters for vulnerable female victims of domestic violence. This places greater importance on the MtT’s “gender identity” than it does on the comfort and safety of women and girls. Do you see how pandering to “gender identity” directly places women and girls in harm’s way?  Do you see how, if gender was abolished, women and girls would not be put at risk in this way? (Someone asked me recently why I don’t feel so strongly about FtT using men’s facilities. Well, as you appear to have been living in cloud cuckoo land, allow me to enlighten you: men rape; women don’t.) There is no need for a male person to use the women’s toilets when there are perfectly adequate men’s facilities just next door. If biological sex was the determiner of who uses what facilities, males would be in the men’s room and females would be in the women’s. As it is, “gender identity” is increasingly becoming the determiner. This means that men like Don Ennis can claim to be a woman one day and thus be granted immediate access to women’s facilities. That’s it. Nothing else is taken into consideration. The “identity” is the determiner. The “identity” is everything.

A male on Twitter gloats about being able to use the ladies' room

A male on Twitter gloats about being able to use the ladies’ room

Another man gloating about legal rights being brought in to allow him to use the ladies' room

Another male gloating about legal rights being brought in to allow him to use the ladies’ room

Don Ennis, as a man, was using the male facilities. When he decided to “identify” as a woman he began using the women’s facilities. Now he “identifies” as a man again and is back to using the men’s facilities. Is this not the epitome of white, male privilege? The knowledge that his “gender identity” will be pandered to come what may? The knowledge that he can not only “identify” as a woman but in doing so he can claim membership of an oppressed group? That in purposefully placing himself in the oppressed group, liberals – feminists and otherwise – will fall over themselves to ensure he is accommodated, even at the expense of girls and women?

Liberal feminists sneer at radical feminists for being trans critical. They reject us. They reject our feminism. They ally themselves with males (trans women) and ostracise other members of their own sex. This is not feminism. Feminism is the fight for women’s liberation. The radical feminist puts her sisters first because we recognise that women are unfairly discriminated against from cradle to grave. If we don’t support each other, who else will?

If a large number of white people suddenly decided they “identified” as black, would that give them the right to claim they were more oppressed than black people? Would they claim black people had “cis privilege” for “identifying” with the colour of their skin? How about if a large number of able-bodied people said they “identified” as disabled – would that entitle them to claim Disability Living Allowance? (More pertinently, would the Department for Work and Pensions pander to this identity by *paying* them Disability Living Allowance?) Would theatres, cinemas and football stadia allow non-disabled people who “identified” as disabled to seat themselves in areas reserved for disabled people?

Of course, nobody in their right mind – not even liberals – would pander to white people who identified as black, or to able-bodied people who identified as disabled, not at the expense of black people or disabled people. They might even go so far as to say those people were being disrespectful, or appropriating. When it comes to men “identifying” as women, only radical feminists recognise this as disrespectful. Only radical feminists recognise this as appropriation. This is because only radical feminists truly recognise women as human beings who should be afforded the same rights and protections as men. As long as men want to “identify” as women, as long as men have their “identities” pandered to at the expense of our sisters and daughters, radical feminists will fight this because men’s “identities” and individual “feelings” can never be prioritised over the lives of women.

*MtT = Male to Trans. Some people use MtF (Male to Female) but I reject this term.

9 comments

  1. Autogynephilia. Sex and gender experts with the greatest amount of experience have long maintained that males transition to transsexual as a means of satisfying their compulsive sexual disorder.

  2. One thing that keeps me from getting in to trans-criticism is the choice aspect. Autogynephilia doesn’t explain it all for me. There’s a lot of marginalized young men – gays, minorities, impoverished – who go trans and identify as women and struggle (and usually fail) to pass and it just doesn’t make sense to me why anyone would sign up for that voluntarily.
    I do understand what radfems are saying about woman-only spaces, and I’ve seen a few conversations get the oxygen sucked out of them by some trans women (like women can be talking about a particular piece of abortion legislation and a transwoman will jump in to tell them how full of shit all feminists are because they’re not talking about trans women right then, a quintessentially dudely thing to do; or this twitter abuse thing where a report rape threat button would ostensibly harm and silence trans women more than anybody else in the whole wide world SOMEHOW and you’re a horrible oppressive bigot for questioning this)
    I just feel torn on the subject and I can’t talk about it on the internet or anywhere else without being subjected to a screaming pile-on. To be fair though, the pile-ons never come from the radfems, so there’s that.

    1. No, rad fems are usually the ones being piled upon.

      The problem with men “identifying” as women is that women and girls are adversely affected by this identity, as I’ve said above. If it wasn’t for gender and the strict roles we are forced into (I heard a man say the other day that he doesn’t feel “manly” enough) then no men would feel the need to “identify” as a woman. There are a lot of marginalised young men, yes, and they *shouldn’t* be marginalised for not conforming to societal gender expectations. These societal gender expectations need to be abolished.

  3. Sue Veneer · · Reply

    Many years ago I had a close friendship with a pre op MtT person. We were in a group discussing date rape and unwanted sexual contact/attention and he admitted that he would like to be date raped because it would give the stamp of approval to his ‘femaleness’ and would mean that he had ‘passed’ as a woman. If he had been socialised as a female and experienced unwanted sexual contact and sexual intimidation, he would not have had that view. After that, I just saw him as a man in drag.

  4. The very problem — being females within racial groups where males are the default human and females their appendages, being females within abled or disabled groups where males are the default humans and females their appendages, being females within gay groups where males are the default humans and females their appendages — that makes women’s liberation so vitally needed is exactly why every force of the patriarchy aligns against us.

    We if we are females of color are not seen as relevant or meaningful people of color (where the default humans are males) compared with white people (where the default humans are males) apart from our relationships to or with men.

    As autonomous beings, to the patriarchy females are invisible. The hype to the contrary, the greeting card industry, the roses on mother’s day, the everything men keep doing to stay in women’s pants, is hypocrisy beneath which women do not matter at all to men except for what men can get from us. There’s no community of men that includes women as autonomous beings. It does not exist where men are not controlling women.

    This is why radical feminism and its commitment to ending the erasure and invisibilization of women is the only philosophy that makes sense for a woman. Not fun feminism with its inherent relationships to males or things male (e.g., queer females who strap on dildoes, because they ought not call themselves lesbian, despite the media mind cocking of shows like the L-Word). Not liberal feminism or third wave feminism, so called, with its sucking up to phallocracy.

    Most women do not want to face how very invisible we are as Beings with our own integrity to men everywhere, and most women do not want to face how painful it is to realize the brain-washing that has denied us free will as man-made mind-bound women in patriarchy. Most of us and this included me until I became RF 8 years ago — because reading Mary Daly put the fractured pieces together for me — would prefer the more comforting denial of false ego as an addictive mood-altering process including the false belief that men appreciate us for our minds as well as our bodies.

    I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that blogs like yours to tell the truth so clearly are a huge part of the solution.

    1. A huge thank you for this comment. I *completely* agree with you. Any other “feminism” lets women down, badly. Radical feminism is the way forward. I hope more and more women come to recognise this.

      1. Your kind words are very appreciated, FireInMyBelly. It is an upside-down world (although Andrea Dworkin wrote about it in Right Wing Women) where my “red state Republican” mom can be outraged about CA’s governor signing a trans rights bill to let teen-aged boys with penises claiming ephemeral identity into menstruating girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms but the feminist next door is okay with it.

  5. Sue Veneer · · Reply

    A very good response Sally Archer. While I understand that some people feel they are trapped in the wrong body (for a variety of possible reasons) & I respect that this in itself causes all kinds of pain, I think we have to protect female-only space and fight for our own unique and varied identity as born woman. It feels as if the feminist movement has been hijacked. I reject the cis pronoun & I struggle to see what, if trans people are correct and woman-ness is anything they want it to be, it is about being a woman that they identify with?

  6. Thank you, Sue Veneer. So much good has already been written about the political harms to real women and girls of MtT politicking. Most women outside the blogging world would find “cis” ridiculous in general for how the word sounds (indirectly bashing sis-terhood as well as sounding like “sis-sy.”) You write well about our “unique and varied identity as born woman.” That’s what most women outside the blogging world know to be true. “Cis” is just sick politics.

    Plus we are neither geography nor chemistry experiments. Here’s what an online dictionary says about it at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cis-:
    cis-
    1.
    a prefix occurring in loanwords from Latin meaning “on the near side of” ( cisalpine ); on this model, used in the formation of compound words ( cisatlantic ).
    2.
    Chemistry . a specialization of this denoting a geometric isomer having a pair of identical atoms or groups attached on the same side of two atoms linked by a double bond. Compare trans- (def 2 ) .

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