Germaine Greer tastes the rainbow

Germaine Greer is one of the stalwarts of feminism in the later 20th century, and contributed greatly to the freedoms that women enjoy today. She is also, however, a transphobic idiot:

“Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women’s names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so. We pretend that all the people passing for female really are. Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusion that he is female.”

So, Queer Avengers in Wellington turned up at her book signing the other day, and glitter-bombed her.

Yes, she said offensive things, but to ruin a perfectly good glass of wine with glitter? Unconscionable.

Her statements on transwomen are so ridiculous they would be laughable if they weren’t so damaging. She thinks that they are just men who’ve put on a dress and castrated themselves—she seems to be unaware of what being trans actually entails. That she’s been saying this stuff since the 70′s, and has been called out on it time and time again, shows that she’s wilfully ignorant, and that she’s refusing to even listen to criticism. I get that she’s trying to defend womanhood, but if you’re defending womanhood from people who actually are women, then you either need to refocus your sights, or shut the hell up.

“The insistence that man-made women be accepted as women is the institutional expression of the mistaken conviction that women are defective males.”

She denies the rights of transwomen to exist, as well as the rights of women with AIS, which prompted Prof. Milton Diamond to respond,

“While you might readily admit that feminists can differ in their views toward their own femininity or identification with their woman-ness (whatever that might mean) you deny that right to others and see it as some sort of charade. You see it as a weakness that other women accept AIS individuals (and male to female transsexuals) as bone fide women.”

Transphobic feminism should be a thing of the past, and people like Germaine Greer do all of feminism a disservice by spouting such nonsense. And she did more of a disservice in the 1980s and ’90s when she effectively went on a witch-hunt for transwomen:

In 1996, Greer outed Rachel Padman, a physicist at an all-women college at Cambridge University. She stated that the “dignity of this college is marred by this unfortunate event.” Greer apparently had no interest in the dignity of Rachel Padman, who survived Greer’s repeated tabloid attacks and retained her position at Cambridge.

There’s a lot more to being a woman than having two X chromosomes and the matching set of gonads. You’d think that a feminist would agree, but for those like Germaine Greer, you need a full set to enter her house.

Glitter away, good heroes. Glitter away.

Maybe ego trippers shouldn’t write op eds…

“Maybe having kids is egotistical. You think you’ll somehow live on forever through your amazingly gifted and beautiful descendants.”

I guess it kind of is… for shallow narcissists… but most of us aren’t. Most of us have kids because evolution saw fit to fill us with the desire to procreate.

But that’s just a weird aside to set readers up so that the people in the article look like they’re having kids purely to inflate their egos.

When actually they’re having kids because they actually want them—because animals have evolved to breed.

Rosemary McLeod, who’s previous editorial ejaculations have included an article that reads like “Kim Dotcom is both rich and fat! Isn’t that weird? If he gave me his money, I’d save a failing clothing retailer!”, goes on to talk shit about trans* men who have given birth:

“Thomas Beatie was born a woman, had sex reassignment surgery and legally changed his/her identity in Hawaii to male. He/she is now married to a woman, had all along kept his/her ovaries and stuff, and never opted for a surgically created penis thingy.

“This, to my mind, makes him/her a woman who may shave in the morning and have short hair and a deep voice, as may many women with a hormonal imbalance. But if you called him/her a gay woman you’d hurt his feelings. I’m a bit lost here.”

That after a weird throwaway non sequitur about abortion rates and “the pill”, which have nothing to do with anything else in the article. You’re a bit lost because you’re an idiot. You don’t need a penis “thingy” to be a man. Likewise, possessing ovaries does not make you a woman.

The article is full of the “he/she” nonsense, instead of the male pronouns that these men have opted to use. That’s discrimination. McLeod is insisting that her opinions of gender should override those of the person that the gender belongs to. Using “he/she” is an attack on the very concept of being trans*.

This, combined with lines like “if you called him/her a gay woman you’d hurt his feelings,” are an attempt to silence trans* people, and bully them into conforming with antiquated sex/gender roles. To pass a trans* man off as just a “women with a hormonal imbalance” is to belittle him, and all trans* people, as just being confused.

“Why should I care? Because if it’s happening today in California, it’ll be happening here next week.”

Should I tell her that it already is? There are already plenty of trans* people having kids, just not that many who go public about it in the mainstream media. Not everyone wants to draw to themselves the attention of people like Rosemary McLeod. Trans* people already face enough discrimination and bigotry in their day to day lives.

“He/she can give birth to live goldfish for all I care, but I dislike ego trippers bent on being famous, especially at other people’s expense.”

And she completes the circle. These people aren’t “ego trippers”. They’re just people who want to have kids because we all (well, most of us) want to have kids.

At the expense of whom? At McLeod’s expense? At the expense of people who try to tell others what to do with their bodies? Or at the expense of the kids?

“It would be all very well if their mother/father had kept his/her unusual situation private, but he/she has boasted about it publicly, and that stands a good chance of rebounding against the kids, which hardly seems fair.”

So, the only problem with trans* people having kids is the bigotry of other people. That’s not a reason to deny them their rights, that a reason to tell people like McLeod to shut up and let people live their lives.

I get so tired of the cry that queer people only want kids to inflate their egos, or as fashion accessories or whatever. We’re human beings, not heartless fashionists. To accuse queer people of wanting children purely for show is to deny us our very humanity.

If she’s accusing these particular men of ego tripping for inviting the press into their lives, then she is also mistaken.  Trans* people face a huge amount of discrimination in their day to day lives, constantly having to defend themselves against cissexism. There are 5 trans* men who have been pregnant that I know of who took their stories to the media. They went to the media, not looking for their 15 minutes of fame, but to show that it is possible, to break down misconceptions of sex and gender, and to contribute to a building a world where all trans* people can be comfortable and free in their bodies without fear of discrimination.

“To think we once relied on Asti Spumante and the back seat of a Ford Cortina. But that was when reproduction was – it seems so silly now – sexy.”

If that’s what McLeod finds sexy, then she’s welcome to park up any time she likes. I’m not even sure what she’s trying to say with this closing line; something to do with insinuating that sex used to be like a cheesy high-school drama, losing-your-virginity cliché, but now it’s different. I don’t know, her writing doesn’t seem to make much sense…

As I write this, there is a protest under way in Wellington outside the offices of Fairfax Media, who own the Dominion Post in which the article was published. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

[UPDATE: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/6475995/Trans-gender-community-protest-against-column]

This post on The Hand Mirror has a nice list of points about the article. No. 7 is a good one: “Have you ever considered the fact that maybe the couple are modelling pride in who they are, openness and the fact everyone is entitled to respect for their children?”


† I do know plenty of people, both queer and not, who don’t want to have kids at all. Just as a fun aside, I used to think I never wanted kids, but then I turned 26 and I was all like “I want babies!” Now I’m looking for a nest to feather. Not that I’m typical, but wanting to be a parent is instinctive and we all have that right.

“Tolerance is a two-way street”

The New Jersey Legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill, which Governor Chris Christie swiftly vetoed, renewing his push for it to go to a referendum. Because apparently, minority rights are supposed to come at the explicit approval of the majority .

But onto Alaska. Proposition 5 is going before the Anchorage voters which would add “sexual orientation” and “transgender identity” to the list of protected classes.

Of course, this has a few people frothing at the mouth.

The Alaska Patriarchy Family Council has a cry. They’ve posted a list of 10 reasons to oppose the proposition [pdf]. Most of them are banal hand waiving—claiming it’s poorly worded or not needed. But there are a couple that I’d like to address, because the same arguments pop up here as well.

Prop. 5 forces our city government to take sides in the “culture wars”

That’s the government’s job. When it comes to human rights, the government has to take sides—and they must side with liberty. Should they have not taken sides, there’d probably still be slavery, and segregation.

Religious institutions are not adequately protected

Translation: “It’s a breach of my human rights to prevent me from breaching other people’s human rights!”

*cry*

This one pops up a lot. In New Zealand, the Human Rights Act 1993 has a provision exempting organised religion from being subject to the legislation. This is indefensible. You don’t get to claim your religion exempts you from not being allowed to discriminate against other humans, without forfeiting your own protections.

No matter what your religion tells you to do, you cannot discriminate against people. That’s the law. If you want to live in a free society, you have to make concessions. You can believe whatever you like in your head, but you cannot discriminate.

This brings me to their last point:

Tolerance must be a two-way street

Right back at you.

I’ve been yelled at, I’ve been called names. I’ve had straight men look at me as if they’re worried I’m going to rape them. I’ve had friendly, jovial conversations suddenly turn to painful silence, getting looks across the table as if he would have stabbed me if he had a knife. I’ve feared for my safety. I’ve feared for my life.

Mostly from people who were previously pious—people who preached compassion and love, now revealing their bottomless pits of hate.

And when I try to defend myself, when I try to call them on it, I’m the bigot.

The first thing they demand is that I respect their beliefs. Their beliefs that I’m evil, that I’m a sinner, that I should die.

Simply by being open, I’m intolerant. Simply by existing I’m breaching their freedom.

Tolerance is a two-way street? I wouldn’t know, because people like the Alaska Family Council are taking up both lanes, and have set up roadblocks.

It’s the whole privilege thing, and it needs to end.

As Rachel Maddow says in the video I linked to above, you don’t vote on human rights. That’s why they’re called “rights.”

[Belated] Transgender Day of Remembrance

Sorry this is a day late. I’ve been incredibly busy and haven’t been able to organise a post for International Transgender Day of Remembrance (20th November — it still is in some parts of the world)

I was pointed to this post over on the Empty Closets forum by my friend Aya, which details it better than I ever could (certainly considering my current busy schedule):

[Trigger Warning for discussion of suicide, transphobic violence and murder]

Clicky click.

I’m afraid I’ll have to leave it at that, as I have rather a lot of work to do.

The Fight to be Human

[This post was originally published in Gyro zine, #18, 2011.]

I

n 1986, we were granted legality — we were allowed to exist. In 1993, we were granted the right to exist — to be free from discrimination. In 2004 we were granted legal recognition of our relationships, and in 2005 those relationships were granted the same legal status as straight marriage.

In 2009, killing one of us was now considered murder (before that, it was only manslaughter; a “normal” person would be expected to fly into a homicidal rage when propositioned by a gay man — instead of, you know, politely declining). While we still can’t adopt, legally we have it pretty sweet in New Zealand.

Now, of course, when I say “we”, I mean gays. Bisexuals are still largely thought not to exist, trans* people still have no explicit laws protecting them from discrimination — unless they allow bureaucrats to pigeonhole their bodies into boxes they may not be comfortable with; technically trans* discrimination is illegal, but that’s never been tested in court, and discrimination does happen. The medical community still seem completely incapable of comprehending intersex bodies. And anyone who falls outside of the rigid binaries of sex, gender, and orientation are told they have to conform.

We were promised equality. We were promised freedom. We were promised a country where we could be ourselves; to love whom we want, to love how we want. Yet, we still have to put up with the Paul Henrys and the JTs in the media, the Tau Henares and the Trevor Mallards in our parliament, and the Bob McCroskies and the Larry Baldocks in the lobby groups. We still have to put up with the words we use to identify ourselves being used by straights as insults. We still have to put up with the bullies in our schools, who are driving our young queer people to suicide. We still have to put up with being yelled at or spat on down the street, or being dragged down an alley and beaten. We have to put up with our houses being vandalised and our businesses burned. We still have to put up with being raped to ‘correct’ us, or as punishment for not conforming.

We have a long way to go.

New Zealand should be a country where we are all free to be ourselves; to express ourselves however we see fit. But we’re not. When queer/LGBT issues come up in the media, people have run the gamut from telling me I’m taking things too seriously, to accusing me of trying to create a homosexual new world order where everyone will be forced to have gay sex all the time.

Often, people will ask if I’m “one of them.”

No. I’m one of us.

We are all human, and we all have to share this small mote of dust we call Earth. We all have the right to this thing called life. And we should all be able to demand to live it with the dignity and respect we all deserve.

Political parties tacitly endorse bigotry

by Mr Wainscotting

National’s Tau Henare, Labour’s Shane Jones, Maori Party’s Pita Sharples and Mana’s Hone Harawira all attended, by invitation, Destiny Church’s conference, with the aim of helping to secure their vote.

Destiny, famous for its fiercely homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic stance, and infamous for its ‘Enough is Enough’ rally during the Civil Union debate, were not challenged on their views by the politicians, who seemed to not want to rock the boat in return for looking like people the chuch members can vote for. Church leader Brian Tamaki is known to tell his congregation who to vote for at the election, and all the MPs seemed to be wanting his approval.

This has drawn condemnation from the Greens, as well as Academics and bloggers. And rightly so. By trying to appeal to them, these MPs have shown that they don’t care for the rights of gays, lesbians, trans people and women, so long as there are votes to be gained. That’s a rather large section of the population to exclude for a miserly share of the votes.

[EDIT: Harawira, to his credit, did take a pro-gay stance at the conference (via GayNZ.com)]