trans people: what do you really want to know about them?

I’ve been talking with a Bristol friend lately about the current onslaught (or ‘debate’ if you prefer) on trans people in the media; indeed, it seems to be happening all over the place, including among Labour Party members, some of whom seem virulently anti-trans, and some who are trying to understand but are only hearing one side of it, perhaps because they really believe that any attempt to question what is going on will result in being shouted down with cries of ‘transphobia!”; perhaps because they don’t know who to ask.
I’m sure that we’re agreed that discussing a group of people without including that group in the discussion is potentially or actually very dodgy indeed; ‘nothing about us without us’, as it were. So, if you want to ask the sort of questions you’d feel embarrassed about asking face to face, go ahead. Post in the comments, and I shall do my best to answer your question. I’ll then paste up the Q and A’s to the main body of this post, below this.

Over to you.

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17 Responses to trans people: what do you really want to know about them?

  1. eve4m says:

    A good idea Dru, but we’re not all the same, due to arriving in a similar place via different experiences. For arguments sake, I didn’t know that I was female in a male body at an early age, (in fact I’m not sure that I ever did, I just wanted to be femme) whereas many did have that experience. So how do you explain to someone who asks the question why did you become trans, how did you know that you were in the wrong body?

    Cheers, Eve Wallis.

    • Dru says:

      I understand that, Eve, and I’m not trying to speak for everybody. And I wouldn’t exactly model my experience as ‘knowing I was in the wrong body’… I’m just trying to get a constructive dialogue going. …you’re obviously more than welcome to add your own perspective.
      To address your point, I first became conscious of something being wrong at about the time that puberty kicked in. It was difficult to model the experience because I didn’t have any context to put it in, until I read some stuff (it was the serialisation of Jan Morris’ autobiography in the Sunday Times, as it happens…). I felt it was wrong to feel that way and tried to suppress it. That went on for years and years, until I felt unable to continue as I had done. So I ‘came out’ and then transitioned. That’s the two kopek version, of course. What’s it all about? Feeling wrong before, and right after. That’s with social transition and hormonal intervention too, and then all the other stuff. It worked for me. My experience is consistent with that of many other trans people, going in both directions.
      There is a book about it… 🙂

  2. estnavafrica says:

    Females oppression and manipulation occurs from birth, and is embedded by the time girls go to nursery. Transgender people don’t experience this. Sure, they experience their own pain and oppression, but they are not oppressed from birth because of their sex. This is why I am concerned about transgender women taking the space preserved for females- such as all women shortlists. I am coming from the position that male entitlement is conditioned into all boys- including transgender women.

    • Dru says:

      Understood, ‘estnavafrica’; I did suggest that this was intended more as a Q and A thing, but you make a point that does need addressing. I did get some benefits from male privilege, of course; I had career options that would not have been available had I been officially female at the time, for instance. I did not welcome being treated as a male (in fact it became progressively more hateful…) and on transitioning I did make up for some lost time by getting a whole load of shit. But that is my personal stuff… maybe it’s more important to ask what it is that makes us male or female? -obviously upbringing and conditioning are important elements of what we are, but who are we? -are we not defined by more than our oppression? If you do not see transgender women as women, then of course you won’t be able to accept the legitimacy of their place on an AWS. So what, if any, are the qualifications for a transgender woman to be a ‘real’ woman in your eyes? What about the child I know who has been living as a girl since before she started going to school; or, as a hypothetical instance, what of a cis girl who’d been brought up in isolation. Which, if either, of them is a girl or will become a woman?

  3. Polly Phillips says:

    I believe transgender women are women, but for how long I don’t know. Will they die as old women? Maybe; maybe not. Nobody can say with certainty without surgical intervention. Almost all the debate is being framed by transgender people with relatively short life experience, without gender affirming surgery as women. The difference between the 5th year of transition and the 25th year is incredibly difficult to describe. It gets more difficult as you grow older. Societal? Perhaps. Legal? Absolutely minimal help. Many proposals seek to redefine biological women potentially by a narrative which offers little to the future of women who are transgender and biological women. This is troubling in many ways. Transgender people are valued members of society as much as women. Pieces of paper may seem symbolic to transgender people but in essence they are near useless. The goal is to engage and discuss with a collective of people who face a very, very difficult path. There is too much fighting and I am too nervous to help.

  4. Katie May says:

    I have a few questions. Genuinely interested in the answers, and open to your views

    We often hear ‘trans women are women’ (I agree!)

    Do you think the term ‘trans woman’ will continue to be a useful term, or are we aiming for this term to no longer have any relevance. This is about how useful these terms are – do we need to know someone is trans and recognise that experience / journey? By calling someone a woman, are we erasing their trans experience?

    • Dru says:

      No clear answer to that one, Katie. I don’t go round calling myself a trans woman all the time; just woman will do. The trans bit only tends to come up in situations like this, when there’s debate or dialogue between trans and cis people. I don’t go round calling cis people cis people either, unless (again) in situations like this! …I think (hope) the trans element of our identity will become less loaded as there is wider understanding and acceptance; and for people who transition young, it would become far less relevant. Have you any thoughts?

      • Katie May says:

        Like the nuance in your answer Dru. I hope it does become less relevant. Maybe as people stop arguing about the rights and validity of trans people, we can stop identifying some people as cis and some people as trans.

  5. Mal Sainsbury says:

    This has been posted in response to your blog post on a Labour Party page. I will comment that you are excluded and not given the chance to question and critique if not posted here as well?Could you respond to the questions from your point of view Dru?

    • Dru says:

      I started reading it, Mal, but honestly, it would take all day to go through all of that and respond to it! …that they should describe transsexuality as an ‘ideology’ tells me really as much as I need to know; it tells me far more about them than anything they may have to say about me. Sorry, but… is womanhood an ideology? -the problem with people who are happy to call themselves ‘gender critical’ is that they are usually entirely uncritical – of the notion that gender is a social construct, and therefore ‘transgenderism’ is a reactionary force attempting to reinforce the patriarchy. This is problematic because it has the intoxicating power of a very simple idea, and because it imposes a version of us which has nothing to do with the reality. I think that most trans people are more truly gender critical… having seen it from an outsider’s perspective!

  6. Mal Sainsbury says:

    And this – both prefaced by ‘information available here/and here’. Your thoughts?

    • Dru says:

      again, I would need to spend all day addressing this. What is it about the groups who were consulted over proposed GRA reform, that is unsatisfactory to this group? What do they think abut the original GRA? Do they realise that getting a GRC has got absolutely nothing to do with accessing female spaces? and how would they propose policing those female spaces? -I think that the end result of these self-described feminists would prove an increasingly repressive enforcement of gender norms for all women. And the recent track record of TERF groups shows that they either are, or are happy to align themselves with, pro-lifers and anti-LGBT people – this week’s meeting in the House of Commons hosted by David Davies demonstrates that quite clearly.

    • Dru says:

      Yes; they appear to be misrepresenting what the GRA is, and what you do with it. Possession of a Gender Recognition Certificate is already dependent upon self-ID, and the proposed changes would have simplified the process. And that GRC has got nothing to do with access to women’s spaces. Trans women have been in those spaces since long before the GRA was dreamed of, and will continue to. How would those spaces be policed, without impacting upon gender non-conforming cis women at least as much as trans women, and probably (from the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen) rather more so.
      It’s odd that a group who claim to be feminist are aligning themselves with the far right. Anti-trans activists have opposed the proposed repeal of the 8th Amendment in Ireland; and were hosted in the House of Commons this week by David Davies, an MP with a history of voting against women’s and LGBT rights. Check out the reports on that meeting; it’s a dirty business.
      Sticking archive photos of suffragettes on your website looks totally cool of course, but it doesn’t automatically make you a feminist, any more that Hitler’s branding of fascism as National Socialism was anything to do with socialism…

  7. Stephen says:

    Cool. I have questions…and these are based on ignorance not, I hope, prejudice.
    What’s the difference between a transwoman and a transvestite? I know there is one.
    Transition is a proccess. Does that proccess always conclude with surgery/medical intervention or does the trans person decide where they wish to conclude.
    Say a bloke transitions to being a woman. Say they have surgery and wotnot. Are they still trans or wouldnt it be easier to just be identified as a woman?
    What do my questions, all related to man to woman transition, reveal about my own biases? Thats rhetorical.
    So…those are my questions. If they offend anyone reading them, sorry. Dru knows me on twitter, Im not offensive but capable of being daft. 🙂

    • Dru says:

      hello Stephen. Oh… kayyyy! The difference between a trans woman (observe the important space there!) and a transvestite? -according to an old joke, about 5 years.
      …but also… one take on it is that someone who is a transvestite may be expressing a relatively mild form of gender dysphoria. Or (like Ru Paul) be into messing around with things, or fucking around with gender. Fair play to them. Though I admit I’m not well up on Ru Paul and all. There can be all sorts of reasons for transvestism; and of course it works both ways. I know plenty of cis women who wear clothes that look like men’s clothes…. and as Eddie Izzard says, “I don’t wear women’s clothes, they’re my clothes”…
      No, not everyone who transitions has surgery. It’s not obligatory! And as gender identity isn’t all about what’s between your legs, it’s a bit reductive to insist upon your genitals defining your gender. Some trans people can live with what they’ve got. Some experience acute discomfort with it.
      I only identify as trans in situations like this, when I’m trying to do something to further understanding. That’s also why Richard and I did that book Becoming Drusilla. I was also outed big time in the papers some years ago. I’m cool with all that. My trans history is part of who I am now of course.
      Yes, everyone does seem to be focussing on trans women. Trans men’s experiences are pretty similar though. Charlie Kiss’ book (it gets mentioned on this blog) is a very good insight into how it was for him…

  8. Coline Russelle says:

    Christine Jorgensen was a glamorous woman on the front page of every newspaper across America three generations ago.

    Willful ignorance and denial is still rife throughout the health service, the media and political life. How many more generations of suffering do you think they can impose before shame kicks in?

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