November 3, 2013
I’m quite sure the young woman did not mean to insult me, I don’t think she believed that what she said to me was anything but just one of those simple facts. We were at a Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival fundraiser in the Midwest, in the fall of last year. I was fifty-seven. She, I’m guessing, was in her mid-twenties. The topic of our brief conversation was transgender-ism (or whatever I ought to be calling it this month) and why I am opposed to biological males–that is, men–attending a private event for women; I went further, and explained my opposition to the whole phenomenon of gender itself.
The back and forth was typical, nothing I hadn’t heard before; I tried to explain my political position. She, in turn, questioned me on how I felt about individual people, so disturbed and miserable that they turn to this radical ‘cure.’ “Don’t they deserve to be happy? They were born in the wrong body.” (Every time I see that in print, it looks more and more ridiculous.)
I said something like, “I’ve worked for more than thirty years to change the world so that we can all be accepted just as we are–changing our bodies to fit in to a patriarchal idea of what ‘men’ and ‘women’ are just reinforces gender stereotypes, based on sex, and in fact makes them the law in some jurisdictions,” etc. etc.
She then came up with what I’m sure she thought of as a real zinger: “What do you make of it when someone is trans at three or four years old?”
My answer was easy, and took no thought at all. “I call it child abuse.”
She looked me in the eye, got up to leave, and said, “Well, I guess it’s just a generational thing, then.”
In that little sentence, she managed to let me know that for the last three decades, I’ve been hiding out on the Isle for Old Radical Feminists, where there is no communication with the world at all, just biding my time. (Or perhaps re-writing a book I co-authored in 197-nothing, not with anything new, just a different draft of the same old ideas.) She told me, in effect, that because I am old, VERY old to someone her age, I cannot possibly be in touch with modern–excuse me, post-modern thought; I just DON’T UNDERSTAND.
I got into some hot water in a Facebook group for Michigan Festival goers when I pointed out what I thought was a little strange. I said something like, “The only time in my life when I have to confront trans people personally is at the one place where I shouldn’t have to.” Meaning the festival. Because I don’t have any trans friends. I don’t have any Tea Party friends, either, or friends who are in the Michigan Militia. Why would I? How could I?
The gender-worshipping movement mocks the experiences of girls and women around the world. It tells us we don’t actually exist, that our biology is not destiny when, in fact, for many females, it is exactly that. This movement, for lack of a better term, is, at its core, anti-feminist.
Nonetheless, there were women who considered my not befriending trans-people to be ‘hateful.’ But if I don’t know any trans people personally, how can I hate them? I just don’t. I have a lot of emotions around the whole thing, that’s true, but honestly, hate speech? I only said that I don’t have any trans* friends. I guess that old Cotton Ceiling is getting thinner and thinner. But for some reason, I’m expected to disregard everything I’ve learned in the last thirty or forty years, all my work with lesbian/gay organizations, my formal schooling and my informal schooling, along with everything I’ve survived. I came out as a lesbian when I was fourteen, in 1969, and have been a feminist since I understood what that meant. I was an athlete and a Tomboy; today, I could easily be a candidate for puberty-blocking hormones, later, surgery, if I happened to have liberal parents with money–or who wanted to get on the Jerry Springer show.
I always liked girls. I remember reading about Christine Jorgensen, the trans-sexual, and thinking that I would have to do that if I wanted to marry a girl, and I did want to marry a girl. First, my next door neighbor, Chrissy Johnson. But then my life changed. Someone brought to our house a copy of the underground newspaper “The Berkley Barb,” and there on the front page, was a photograph of women, marching arm-in-arm down a street, holding signs that said “Lesbian Power!” and the like. I was enchanted. I knew I had found my People. And from then on, I had a name for myself. I was gay. I was a dyke. I was a lesbian. I didn’t have to pretend I was a boy or a man, and I didn’t want to.
And so my life has been dedicated, in one way or another, to My People. I got into womyn’s music for the same reasons I got into athletics–I could be with other women. We could do whatever we want to without men. We felt and we were powerful.
I’ve had hundreds of hours of discussions, put in thousands of hours of volunteer work in feminist and lesbian organizations, created and co-created one or two, spoken before national audiences as an out dyke, written and performed music for lesbians, toured for years, and made a record. I was a worker at the second Michigan Festival, and performed at the 4th National Women’s Music Festival in 1977.
I’ve met with police chiefs, State and Federal Representatives and Senators, lobbying for equal rights. I’ve also worked as the only woman on a construction crew, a track repair crew on the railroad, the only woman in a car dealership, as the parts manager. I worked as a messenger, and spent four years as a corrections officer (a.k.a. prison guard) at a women’s prison in Wisconsin. Then I went to law school, after finishing a BA in political science.
I was not out on an island during those years. I wasn’t in a coma. The trans* issue has been one that I, as a radical lesbian feminist, have had to deal with since the early 1970’s. On womyn’s land, at womyn’s festivals, the groups we created for mutual support, we often had to ‘process’ the issue of someone who was born and raised as a boy and lived his life as a man now claiming womanhood, and lesbianism as well. This is not a new issue for me. As ‘T’ has become one of the letters in the “community” I am wrongly presumed to belong to, my political position has evolved, of course, as these things do with greater knowledge and perhaps even wisdom. One can hardly avoid gaining a little of it, with even a minimal habit of living an examined life.
“I guess it is just a generational thing, then.”
I do my best to be respectful of younger people. Seriously, I do. I remember what it’s like to be treated as some sort of a mascot rather than to be taken seriously when I was young. I was very young when I started in this movement, and as many young people do, I thought I knew a lot more than I actually did. Now, I know a lot less, but I know less about more than I knew back then. And I really DO understand, politically and personally, what the gender movement is, and how it harms women. That belief did not automatically arrive in my mind when I turned forty, or fifty, or thirty-five, or whatever a generation consists of.
My political beliefs are the result of experience, study, trial, failure, and love. I love women. I love lesbians. I want us to be free. I want every little tomboy to grow up to be whoever she wants to be, and no one to tell her she’s ‘really a boy.’
And I’m still not ready to retire to the Island for Old Feminists, where time stands still and we just hang around, waiting for the young people to explain it all to us.