Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation?

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.




6 Responses to “Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation?”

  1. Bev Jo Says:

    You are such a good writer, and so clear. It’s not about age at all. That woman who said it’s generational is just being ageist and doing the usual mindfuck/gaslighting. Truth doesn’t change with age. Some of my closest friends, including politically, agree that men can never be women and believe not one trans cult lie, and they are in their twenties. We are all ages, across the world….

  2. red Says:

    In my opinion, it’s not about age, or generational. It’s about a complete lack of biological science knowledge. I knew our schools had dropped history (males history, women’s history was never there) in subsequent generations to mine, but science? Apparently they dropped that too.

    That is what needs to be taught Kitty. There should be a running Bio 101 workshop at Michigan Women’s Music Festival.

    xxx Thanks for your essay.

  3. Morag Says:

    “I guess it is just a generational thing, then.”

    Wow. This made my blood boil! It’s incredibly insulting, not that she disagreed with you per se, but that she said THAT. Ageist, yes, and also so dismissive.

    I’m in middle age, my forties, and I do realize it’s a function of the very young–and it has always been and will be–that they think they know more than they do. This is to be expected, since we, as it’s said, “can’t know what we don’t know.” However, I find it much more difficult to tolerate this type of narcissism that ignores history, and assumes that it pretty much invented the progressive world, such as it is, out of thin air; this narcissism and unearned high self-esteem which does not acknowledge the hard work that came before, and upon which its own thinking is built (so maybe this is about more than age, and about education, as red commented). But, in my opinion, this kind of behaviour should be called out and corrected on the spot. Not that I’ve actually ever done that …

    Not long ago, when I had just started a new job, both my female supervisor and male workmate were quite a bit younger than I. We all three worked together in a cramped little office, and the two of them would have personal conversations, almost as if I wasn’t there. One of these conversations was about a public exhibit of some kind, which the young (white) woman found to be racist. She explained to the young man why she found it offensive and said, “I swear *I* was the only one there who noticed it! Because, like, most of the people around were older–you know, in their forties at least.” The young male nodded his head vigorously in agreement. Anyone past youth, as they see it, isn’t “in the know,” apparently, about matters pertaining to politics and social justice.

    Ugh. This is not merely youth; it is foolishness. And it’s mean-minded, and self-involved and insensitive to the other person in the room, which, at that moment, was little ol’ me. I do have to wonder if not only my age, but also my female status, made my actual, physical presence so easy to ignore?

    Sorry for ranting, this being my very first comment on your blog. Hope it fits into the discussion. Oh, and thank you Kitty, for all the energy and many years you’ve put into the movement for women’s liberation.

  4. Sally Archer Says:

    It’s good for you to tell the truth about the internalized misogyny that makes the faux radical feminists of any age betray the movement, betray other women born as such, and ultimately betray themselves by short-sighted meanness. I’m sorry you were dissed with the “generational thing” label. I’ve been dissed, too, by much younger pretend-rad fems and it is simply wrong.

    The women’s liberation movement has always been both a shining light and internally troubled, as are all human movements, by divisions among personalities and political factions. Maybe in this century of seeing meanness in globally disseminated blog print online we can come out of denial and start healing what needs to be made whole. Kowtowing to hatefulness and then pretending women don’t treat each other badly is wearing blinders because men chronically behaving badly are beyond our reach but — among ourselves — we might expand our women’s alliances to change our global and local circumstances as sentient beings deserving of compassion and understanding for when it’s hard, encouragement for when it’s possible, and laughter that we ever thought the patriarchy’s shifting and hypocritical standards of perfection were an option.

  5. lemonshrub Says:

    This is awesome. Well put. “It’s a generational thing” is also infuriating when there are women in their 20s spouting off gender criticism, documented online for all to see. It’s ageism and ignorance and arrogance and erasure. >:-(

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