Belated Response to Germaine Greer’s transphobic comments

You’d think that ‘are you a feminist’ would be an easy question to answer. Enthusiastically, you’d say ‘of course, I believe in equality, don’t you?’ In fact, if asked, I do say yes, not least because it is important to acknowledge all the changes that have brought us to the position we are now in. The women who won votes for us, women who were firsts, who fought for whatever reason. And I do believe in equality. Obviously. Not just for women but for everyone.

And therein lies a problems with feminism. It isn’t inclusive. You’d think that being on the wrong side of prejudice might make feminism open its arms to all women who have suffered. This does not seem to be the case.

A recent example of this was Germaine Greer saying in her usual subtle way that trans women can’t be women. (Does this mean you’re only a real women if you have all the correct body parts. What if you have had a mastectomy? What if you are intersex? What if you happen to look rather boyish? Do you have to prove your female parts before you are allowed to have a voice?)  I do not think that the entirety of my personality – or anyone else’s – resides entirely in their genitals. I do not look at someone else and think I wonder if they have the correct genitalia for the clothes you are wearing. Greer goes on to say that transwomen don’t always look or sound like women. The assumption is then what do women sound or look like. Is she suggesting you have to be suitably feminine to be a feminist? Surely not but clearly there are some rules. Whatever it is she thinks about women and what they are like, it is very narrow and confining.

If you are going to live as a woman, you are going to face female problems, regardless of what body parts you may have beneath your clothing. If you are going to face sexism in any form then you are surely allowed a voice within feminism. Of course, I am not the same as a transwoman, just like I am not a black woman and I am not a lesbian but that doesn’t mean that I think that feminism should be open only to those who are like me. Difference is important, probably more important than sameness.

Transfeminism exists, has its own identity and doesn’t need the likes of Greer to offer support or otherwise. But it would be nice if mainstream feminism – the view that the majority of people get of the movement – would be a bit more supportive. Greer is listened to and has an enviable position in the media. It is a shame she uses this position to be a bully. Maybe it is true that once you have some form of power, you can no longer relate to others who don’t, regardless of what sex you are.

 

Books Read in 2015 23. I am J – Cris Beam

eclecticreader15Genre: GLBT, Young Adult

Narrative Style: Third person, chronological

Rating: 3/5

Published: 2011

Format: Kindle9780316053617

Synopsis: J may have been born a girl but he has always known that wasn’t who he really was. Now he is seventeen, he realises that he needs to do something to bring his body into line with who he feels he is. However, his parents and friends don’t always find his new identity easy to deal with. 

Reading challenges: Eclectic Reader Challenge – genre diversity.

I always find it a bit of a problem reading accounts from a teenage point of view because the main characters always seem so self centred and difficult. Perhaps it is just too long since I was that age for me to really be able to identify with them. I’m sure that if you were the same age as J then you wouldn’t have this problem.

J is quite difficult to like. While I understand that being trans is difficult and would make you angry, there is little more to J than his anger and his gender. There is little sense of what sort of person he was. Perhaps this is because he is so desperately trying to be like the other boys that he never really develops his own identity. Again, I can see how this might be the case but it still made J difficult to get on with.

There is a lot of gender stereotyping in this book – and I have found this with other trans books I have read. A lot of boys do this, girls do that. This is never really questioned and I found that and J’s homophobia very irritating.

This book was not written by someone who is trans but by someone who has had a lot of dealings with people who are trans and this comes across I think. J is an amalgam of everybody who has ever been in his situation and Beam throws everything at the story – lying mother, distant father, friend who can only think of herself, older wise trans woman and so on.

There is no doubt that it is good that books about being trans are now being written and maybe if I was trans I would find more to identify with here. However, instead, I  felt detached and unable to completely empathise with J and that made me feel a little sad.

Books Read in 2014 – 1. Luna – Julie Ann Peters

Genre – Young Adult, GLBT

Year of Publication: 2006

316445

Narrative Style – First Person narrative, chronological timeline

Format: Kindle

Published: 2004

Synopsis: Regan’s brother Liam really wants to be a girl. He has always known that he was a girl. At night, he dresses as Luna, his true self and named in honour of the moon. The story is told from the point of view of Regan and shows the problems that both Liam / Luna and Regan face.

Rating: 2/5

I was quite excited to start reading this. It seemed it would touch on gender issues that I find very interesting and also be something new and exciting. It is exactly the sort of issue that books for teenagers and young adults should be tackling. And it does, successfully I think, show some of the issues that transgender teens face and also the effect on their families.

However, ultimately this book did not fulfill that promise. There were a number of reasons for this. The first was stylistic. I found Regan intensely irritating. To be fair, her voice was recognizably teenage and I am willing to admit that if I was sixteen or so, I probably wouldn’t have found it so annoying. She came across as having very little personality of her own. It may be that this is a side effect of her family situation where she focuses on Liam / Luna so much but it didn’t lead to her being a very engaging protagonist. Personally, I think it would have been more interesting for Liam / Luna to have the narrative voice as after all this was her story.

This lead to difficulty at the end of the novel which ends at a positive moment for Liam/Luna but leaves the story hanging in terms of Regan. As we have found out about other aspects of her life, it would be nice to have some closure on these too. It’s as if she isn’t even the centre of her own first person narrative. Even the writer just dismisses her in the end. Also, it lets everyone else off the hook. Because Liam leaves, the opportunity for just not dealing with the situation is given to his parents.

The other issue I have is to do with stereotypes. This novel seems to be full of them. The stereotypical masculine father who only wants his son to play sports and never gives up hope that one day it will happen. The pill-popping working mom who ignores all family issues. And of course, any feminine gender stereotype you care to mention in terms of Luna’s personality. There was some danger of associating femininity with vanity as when she was Luna, she became obsessed with her looks. Understandable I suppose, given the circumstances. But a little irritating all the same.

Maybe it is true that when you feel you are living a life that is not your own, that you will take any opportunity to dress as your alter ego, but there seemed to be a suggestion that Liam was unable to control his urge to be Luna. This led to him dressing up at a neighbours house, going through the wardrobe of the mother of the children he was supposed to be baby-sitting. This, and the extreme reaction of the children’s parents when they returned, was one of the least convincing moments in the book. It made Liam seem less sympathetic and I didn’t really believe he would risk it all in such a way. Not when he was so careful about other aspects of his life.

Overall, it was an interesting attempt to tackle a difficult subject but one, for me, that didn’t quite make it.