Archive for the ‘Stonewall UK’ Category
Further to my recent post Unravelling Stonewall, I’m obliged to my good friend and TFW co-blogger Holly for sending me this link to AllMedia Scotland, which states that Stonewall has dropped its controversial nomination of Bill Leckie for their Journalist Of The Year Award.
Unsurprisingly there’s no mention of this on the Stonewall website, although his name has definitely disappeared from the nominees’ list.
Now, about those GRA and SSM issues…
Stonewall UK, “the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity”, has recently – and not for the first time – found itself the centre of perhaps unwanted attention following a number of controversial statements by its executive chief, Ben Summerskill. The tale over recent weeks has been long and tangled and this post is more of an attempt to unravel it than anything else.
First, Mr Summerskill was reported to have said at a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrats’ party conference last month that he was opposed to the same sex marriage (SSM) equality policy – which would allow straight and gay couples to have the option of both marriage and civil partnerships – because it could cost up to £5 billion.
To which the Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert, who proposed the policy, argued that it should not be subject to a cost/benefit analysis and was later reported as saying that “It should not be for me as an MP to lobby Stonewall to support gay equality, it should be for Stonewall to lobby me”.
The exchange was believed by some of those attending to be an argument against SSM by Mr Summerskill although he said he was still consulting with Stonewall supporters about it. The policy was subsequently adopted at the Liberal Democrats’ party conference.
Then, a week later, Mr Summerskill caused another stir at another fringe event, this time at the Labour conference in Manchester, when he attempted to defend Stonewall’s apparent lack of any position on marriage equality. He stated that Stonewall would not be “jumped into” declaring a position on the issue and that there remained a “wide range of viewpoints” on the matter.
At the same meeting a member of LGBT Labour, Darren McCombe, raised the subject of the current legislation enacted in the Gender Recognition Act which requires transsexual women and men to end their marriages in order to obtain full Gender Recognition Certificates. Mr Summerskill acknowledged the “terrible unfairness” of this situation but said he had been in talks with ministers and officials about amendments to the GRA. This sudden and unexpected interest in trans issues by the GLB charity caused an interesting variety of responses from members of various trans communities.
Now it seems that a further controversy is about to erupt following the announcement of the nominees for their 2010 awards. In 2008 there was a groundswell of opposition to Stonewall’s nomination of a journalist known to many TS/TG women and men for her transphobic views, and which culminated in the largest recorded public protest in Britain by TS/TG women and men outside that year’s awards ceremony in London.
Could history be about to repeat itself? I begin to wonder if it might be a possibility, now that the nomination of Bill Leckie for the same Journalist Of The Year Award has been made public. In 2007 Mr Leckie was criticised by, of all people, Stonewall Scotland for his writing on trans issues, which was held up by that organisation as an example of extremely transphobic writing. The following year, 2008, he wrote that those trans people who are convicted of criminal offences should be denied the right to assert their own gender identities.
Stonewall’s deputy chief executive, Laura Doughty, has now attempted to justify the nomination, claiming that it’s for Mr Leckie’s “recent, pro-equality journalism”. It transpires that Mr Leckie wrote an article for The Sun in December 2009 about a sports star which “showed a passionate, powerful defence of LGBT equality in sport”. So apparently just one relevant article in an entire year is enough to qualify Mr Leckie for a nomination for the Journalist Of The Year Award. I can think of a few people who might be somewhat less than impressed by that news.
Be that as it may, it will be interesting, to say the least, to see how this latest controversy continues to develop over the next few weeks as we count down to this year’s Awards Ceremony on November 4th. And for anyone wishing to Demonstrate against Stonewall duplicity and transphobia, there’s a Facebook event page here.
The photo is from 1queer1′s Stonewall Protest photo set and used in compliance with the Creative Commons License for non-commercial use.
Cross-posted from Bird of Paradox by Helen, who has been a regular contributor here at QT for nearly two years. That’s Helen. Not ‘Helen of Troy’, not ‘Helen Hunt’, not ‘Helen Keller’ – and categorically not ‘Helen Boyd’.
My brain is a bit overwhelmed at the moment (plus stress from 12 hours of downtime on my new PC…stupid chkdsk), but I wanted to point to some stuff:
I admit, the backlash from the white queer community aimed wrongly at people of color instead of the religious right that’s been funding and organizing anti-LGBT rights activism for decades doesn’t make sense to me.
Apparently Ben Summerskill of Stonewall UK claimed that the police dispersed the protest. First, way to misrepresent events, Ben. Second, way to totally and completely betray what “Stonewall” was. Also, per one of Roz’ posts above, Bindel’s decided that the trans community wasn’t nice enough to her, so she’s going to attack us in the press again.
Oh, and President-Elect Obama: I don’t have words to reflect how I feel about this, so I’ll link Monica Roberts instead.
My lack of words are due to a headache, but I am beyond happy with his victory.
Nov 04, 2008 at 07:47 PM Issued: 3rd November 2008
The London Transfeminist Group, http://www.transfeminism.org.uk/
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Outraged at the nomination of the notouriously transphobic Guardian writer Julie Bindel for “Journalist of the Year” award by Stonewall and the silence from established Trans campaigning groups, the transexual and queer communities have come together to stage an unprecedented protest outside the £125-a-head “champagne and canape reception” for the Stonewall awards at the V&A Museum in London on Thursday, 6th November 2008. In what will be a major embarassment for Stonewall over it’s controversial nomination, over a hundred people are expected to be attending the protest from all over England and will be waiting outside the V&A for the arrival of the guests, which is expected to include celebrities such as actor Richard Wilson, who is hosting the event and award nominee and Daily Mirror agony aunt Miriam Stoppard.Under pressure from the community to retract the nomination, Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall labelled any retraction of the nomination an “empty gesture” and nothing more than a “publicity stunt” when speaking to some of the many people who complained to Stonewall. However, beyond vague reassurances added quietly to their web site that the nomination does not endorse all the views of the nominees, Stonewall itself has failed to comment publicly on the issue, further calling into doubt their already shakey credentials as so-called “champions of diversity”.
Speaking out against the nomination, veteran campaigner and journalist Roz Kaveney said “[Bindel] is advocating talking therapies for trans people in a way that almost entirely parallels the advocacy of talking therapies by the Christian right as a way of extirpating all LGBT people. If she does not understand that, as a lesbian, she is a turkey advocating Christmas for turkeys in an adjacent bit of the farmyard, then she is being obtuse; what she is doing is betraying not only the trans community but the entire LGBT community, and it is wrong to honour her for her other work when there is this colossal stain on her career.”
Notes to editor
1. Stonewall UK, the LGB rights campaigning organisation, is holding it’s annual awards this year on 6th November 2008 at the V&A Museum. Further details on Stonewall and the awards are available at http://www.stonewall.org.uk/events/1404.asp
2. Julie Bindel became notorious within the Transexual community for her controversial 2004 article in the Guardian, “Gender Benders Beware”, which resulted in an apology from the newspaper and carefully worded apologies from Bindel herself for the “tone” of the article. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/jan/31/gender.weekend7) She further caused controversy by proposing the motion “Sex Change Surgery is Unnecessary Mutilation” for a “Hecklers” debate on BBC Radio 4 in 2007. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/hecklers/pip/o29wl/)
3. As a result of her controversial views, the National Union of Students LGBT Campaign voted to “No platform” her – i.e. their officers would never share a platform with Julie Bindel. (Motion available at http://resource.nusonline.co.uk/media/resource/CD6%20Motions%20Document%20LGBT.doc)
4. Roz Kaveney is an author, co-founder of Feminists Against Censorship, ex-deputy chair of Liberty and an independant journalist who also writes reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and Time Out Magazine.
5. The London Transfeminism group meets once a month to discuss how feminism and feminist discourses can be applied to the issues that we as transpeople face in today’s world. We as transwomen and transmen, through our experiences are acutely aware of the rigidity and oppressiveness of stereotypical gender roles and we seek to challenge this and instead to promote the idea of allowing people to flourish as individuals. Members of the group have, in the last 12 months, also been involved in protests at the Queer Up North festival, who booked outspoken anti-trans performer “Bitch” and against Dr.Zucker, a doctor who believes in reparative therapy for gender variant children as young as three.
So, Christine Burns was annoyed with the number of responses to her rather controversial podcast interview with Julie Bindel. She ultimately locked comments, the last comment being rather inflammatory toward trans women:
I’m a woman with a trans history, and whilst I do not agree with many of Bindels views, this is one which I do agree with her. Why does it have to be about the transwomen Kate P? In a rape counselling situation, the most important woman is the one who has been raped, surely??. Is this not just typical male privilege to make it ‘all about teh transwoman’??? In such a sensitive situation, how will she feel about a transwoman trying to counsel her, especially if that transwoman does not even pass, or has no experience of being raped, being born and raised as a female.
Apparently, according to Jane, a trans woman either can’t be raped, or she’s unaware that Kimberly Nixon – who rightfully sued Vancouver Rape Relief for discrimination – is a rape survivor, which is why she wanted to work as a rape counselor. Apparently, Jane is also unaware that Ms. Nixon did work as a rape counselor elsewhere, and the primary reason she applied to VRR was because the shelter that she visited didn’t allow survivors they’d served to volunteer until 12 months had passed.
But that’s beside the point – Jane is trying to shift the discussion from “trans women are denied access to women’s services” to “how can trans women be so selfish and have so much male privilege to think they should have access to women’s services?!?” Of course, it’s a pretty standard silencing tactic among anti-trans radical feminists (and others, let’s be honest) to accuse trans women of exercising male privilege. Please ignore the fact that trans women are women and do not benefit from male privilege due to being women. She’s not talking about privilege here, but the idea that trans women act from a sense of male entitlement. Of course, the entitlement in question is “a woman is asking for access to women-only space,” and how is a woman asking for access to women-only space any sign of male entitlement? It’s not, this is a catch-22. Trans women either acquiesce to active exclusion wielded against us (go read Beyond Inclusion by Cedar Troost right now) and we’re excluded, or we assert that as women we belong, and we’re accused of using non-existent male privilege to gain access.
Jane also throws in a particularly vile comment about how trans women who don’t pass shouldn’t be allowed near cis women as a rape counselor. What she means is “trans women who really look like men,” which is another form of looksism, or the idea that a woman’s value is directly related to her appearance. To Jane, a trans woman who doesn’t look feminine enough is not valuable, and definitely shouldn’t be allowed near cis women.
Jane also throws in the canard about “not being born and raised female.” This is simply a matter of holding trans women’s history against us – that something we have no control over, that we were raised in a coercive system that demanded an attempt to make boys out of us (and failed to do so, ultimately) is an ineradicable original sin, staining our lives forever. Jane seems fascinated with holding every trait that’s not under our control against us – our appearance, our upbringing, how we may have been treated pre-transition.
Also, if a rape survivor doesn’t want to deal with a counselor for any reason, there’s usually other counselors available. The hypothetical woman who’d be triggered by dealing with a trans woman (or who is simply transphobic) can simply deal with a cis woman.
What utter nonsense Helen G! Both LGB(T) and Feminism movements are broad, you don’t really expect them to always be agreeable of inclusive of trans surely? I’ve met a lot of transpeople over the years that are equally homophobic and some are mysogynist – so I don’t get the point here? And, Feminism is a movement that women have had to create themselves, to break down the patriarchy and the abuse that has been laid to them by men, yet, transpeople think they can just storm right in and force Feminists and women to just accept them and not challenge how trans issues affect them?? Sounds like male privilege again as its mostly vocal transwomen doing this!
What Helen G said is actually true – feminism did spend a lot of effort expelling trans women starting in 1973 (with the expulsion of Beth Elliott/Mustang Sally from the Daughters of Bilitis San Francisco chapter), followed up by Robin Morgan demanding a vote to see whether Beth Elliott would be allowed to remain and perform at a festival later, followed by trans women being expelled from collectives and other feminist spaces, followed by a boycott against Olivia Records (complete with death threats against Sandy Stone) until Sandy Stone left Olivia, with The Transsexual Empire. And of course, there’s Mary Daly’s writings comparing trans women to Frankenstein’s Monster, Sheila Jeffreys’ writings demonizing trans women, Germaine Greer’s Pantomime Dames in The Whole Woman describing trans women as equivalent to serial killers and rapists. There was the expulsion of Nancy Burkholder from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, followed by a redefinition of the term “womyn-born womyn” to mean “a woman born female, raised as a girl” to explicitly exclude trans women from the festival land, that remained in place until 2006 or 2007, with various degrees of enforcement. At this point it’s mostly a guideline, which means trans women can enter, but should be aware that Lisa Vogel does not approve.
But all this history means that trans women have been excluded from feminism. Our activism, our work as feminists is erased, and we’re told that cis women have done all the real work in feminism, and despite the fact that we’re women too, we have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition for our own efforts in feminism, and that’s in addition to being told that we’re bad feminists (and not really women anyway) if we ever ever ever put trans issues ahead of what feminists consider to be real feminist issues.
This is echoed in the gay rights movement. In the early 70s, after Stonewall (in which trans women started the riot), groups like Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries were consistently marginalized. Further, trans rights were constantly used as bargaining chips, left off of civil rights legislation in exchange for getting more votes for gay and lesbian rights. When trans people finally received acknowledgement that we were essentially dealing with very similar or often the same oppression as gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, our needs were still being sidelined by organizations such as HRC and other mainstream gay rights groups. We’ve been told that we have to pay our dues and earn our place at the table, even though we were there from the beginning, have been doing activism all along. That since the T was only added since the 90s, we only started doing work since the 90s. I guess this is slightly better than what we hear from feminists, which is that trans women have done nothing at all for feminism (despite the fact that we’ve been in the women’s liberation movement and feminism for the past forty years).
Jane also repeats the standard anti-trans radical feminist line that trans issues affect cis women negatively, and that trans people have to somehow address how our very existence enigmatically harms cissexual women before we can be taken seriously. This is just another indelible Mark of Cain, like male privilege or “not passing” above.
Oh, and Christine? I understand why you locked your comment thread, but locking it on that note? After endorsing Julie Bindel? Seriously?
I thought Jane might be a sockpuppet, but Ashley/Profgreen vouched for Jane’s existence.
Sarah Brown posted this earlier today. It’s prompted by the recent Stonewall UK thing, Christine Burns’ podcast interview of Julie Bindel, as well as her request that we be nicer to Ms. Bindel. Also, other details:
Many people will be aware of the current furore surrounding the UK GLB rights group, Stonewall, and their nomination of notorious journalist, Julie Bindel, for their “Journalist of the Year” award (note, a nomination – the indications are that she hasn’t actually won it). For those not familiar, there is some background via lisaquestions‘ superb blog, Questioning Transphobia where she’s done a good job of collating much of what’s been happening.
Anyway, it feels like a line has been drawn in the sand over this issue, with many grass-roots transpeople in the UK absolutely incensed over it. This seems to have caused a division between many transpeople who are seething with a sense of betrayal which is getting an outpouring on social networking sites, especially Facebook, and the older generation of trans campaigners, who seem to be taking, by and large, an approach many regard as capitulation.
In the last two days, this is escalating as a result of an interview of Bindel that veteran trans woman campaigner, Christine Burns conducted. Christine seems to take the view that an apology over the tone of Bindel’s infamous “set of Grease” article, which the Guardian has already apologised over anyway is reason enough for everyone to calm down, even though Bindel clearly remains unrepentant about her core message – that she wants to open a “dialogue” about why trans people shouldn’t be allowed medical transition.
When this didn’t happen, and people continued to be angry, Christine got a bit upset, and suggested that the continued anger at Stonewall’s essentially indifferent attitude towards the offence caused to transpeople shows that we are “not the kind of trans people I’ve spent all these years thinking I was representing”.
This seems to be going down badly, and much as I admire the work that Christine has done for transpeople over the years, and appreciate her adding to the body of evidence which shows Bindel’s evasiveness and unrepentant nature over her attack on the trans community, I think she is going too far here and risks alienating the large numbers of trans people in the UK who are, frankly, utterly fed-up of the GLB movement tolerating and turning a blind eye to the transphobia within its ranks.
This is an issue which, I think, came to a head in the US last year over the HRC/ENDA debacle, and now the Stonewall incident seems to (somewhat aptly, given the name) be becoming a catalyst for the same wave of anger breaking in the UK. A lot of trans people seem to have decided that the time is right to draw a line in the sand over GLB-transphobia, and it’s notable that many non-trans GLB youth seem to be right alongside us on this.
Attitudes are shifting, and some of the veteran campaigners of both the trans movement, and the trans-exclusive GLB movement are perhaps starting to look a bit like dinosaurs safe in the knowledge that they understood the way the world worked and would continue to work, while the comet that now marks the K-T boundary blazed overhead in the night sky.
I just want to re-affirm here that this isn’t about Julie Bindel, although she’s been the topic of much conversation. This is about Stonewall nominating an openly transphobic journalist for a “Journalist of the Year” award.
Zoe on LJ posted this:
Most people are probably aware by now of the fuss over the well-known lesbian feminist and transphobe Julie Bindel being nominated for a Stonewall award. There’s a lot of anger in the community over this, understandably. With the Bitch protest earlier this year and also the Zucker/Royal Society of Medicine protest, there was a sense of “This is the kind of thing we need to make our voices heard over” but we understood that largely it was education that was the problem – we were there mostly to make the organisers sit up and notice the trans community and take our views into account. It’s notable that these aren’t “organised” events in the standard sense. There’s no politicl lobby group trying to score points behind it all and the only coordination was someone letting the police know there would be a bunch of people handing out leaflets outside the RSM (So they could come and babysit) and someone actually knocking up a few of those leaflets to hand out.
There was nowhere near the level of anger there has been over the Stonewall awards, because it was recognised that these organisations were not involved in LGBT politics. But this is bigger, far bigger, than the previous two demos, largely because Stonewall should have known better. The trans community has long been uneasy about Stonewall (Witness the “Some people are trans, stonewall need to get over it” posters at Pride London 2008) and these awards have generated multiple spontaneous groups arranging protests, including people organising group trips via a hired coach from places like Manchester – it would be pretty hard to argue that there’s anything but solid grass-roots support for a protest against Stonewall.
The Gender Trust then joined in the fight. Lunchtime yesterday, they posted a newsletter in which they wrote Julie Bindel has “…publicly stated views on the care and treatment of trans people which the Trust considers are seriously transphobic”. They continue: “The Gender Trust opposes this nomination which it considers is inappropriate for an organisation such as Stonewall, which holds to the principle of acting to overcome prejudice and discrimination” and close by urging everyone to write to Ben Summerskill, the Stonewall Chief Executive, “as soon as possible… to stop this pernicious attempt to reward an individual who undermines the lives and needs of the transgender community.”
All good stuff. But it didn’t last. Just before 8pm tonight, another newsletter appeared. Apparently, it would be “churlish” (They like their long words, don’t they? I had to look that one up to check it meant what I thought it did) to protest further because of “reassurances given”. Stonewall apparently claimed they “stood foursquare with the trans community in fighting transphobia” and “nominations had had to meet criteria which related to the work that a nominee had been involved in during the preceding year”, so prior work of Bindel’s wasn’t taken into consideration. That’s a pretty fine line to walk, given that the anti-trans-themed debate on Radio 4 that Julie Bindel herself proposed and claimed was “her mission” took place in August 2007 – 14 months ago. But wait, 30 seconds with my web browser and I find an article about this years Lesbian and Gay Film Festival where Julie Bindel whines about the very trans-inclusive policy of the organisers of having unisex toilets. The date? 10th April, 2008. I don’t think I need to start counting pages on the calendar to figure out that’s less than a year ago.
Julie is someone that the NUS LGBT voted this year to refuse to share a platform with, because her views were so blatantly transphobic. (As far as I’m aware, she’s the only person to have that honour. She was certainly the only one to have a motion to that effect even proposed in 2008)
I, for one, am calling the Gender Trust out on this. Why have they so quickly done a U-Turn and sold out the community they are supposed to be representing? One can only assume politics are involved somehow. Someone knows someone, or someone put pressure on someone on the Gender Trust board and they turned their back on the community they were supposed to be helping over the one issue that has the community the most incensed it’s been since I’ve been a part of it – and all without doing any basic research on the issue at all.
It’s clear there’s a growing grass-roots movement against many organisations that inadvertantly act transphobically. It’s sad that it seems that the “grass roots” are also turning against many of these groups that claim – but fail – to represent us.
In response to Stonewall’s decision to put Julie Bindel on the short list for “journalist of the year” to celebrate her transphobic reporting over the years, someone formed a Facebook protest group.
Julie Bindel has already joined to express her concern over this protest:
I joined the group to monitor the level of bullying and harassment aimed at me.
Another radical lesbian feminist, Kate Cook, dropped in to express her opinion of trans people protesting Julie’s placement on this short list:
Radical feminism is a freedom movement and not (as some posting hear appear to think) something which wants to harm anyone. Radical feminism is the cradle of progress in work against violence against women and children, around the world. We know that rape is common, that child abusers are dangerous, that domestic abusers kill women and that stalkers are also husbands and boyfriends (plus much more) all because of radical feminism.
This feminism is also the home of lesbian feedom fighting and was the birthplace of all of the later ideas about women’s space and all women’s right to choose (life, sex, partners,or even death). It spawned the radical ideas that women are human and that lesbians might even be human too.
So, when you are all yelling that Ms Bindel is a transphobic I am tempted to ask what you have done for freedom; or whether you consider yourselves to be anti-women or anti-lesbian.
For freedom fighting lesbian feminists, you may appear pretty phobic too.
My issue is with the labelling here. It appears that you do not see yourselves as lesbophobic, and at least some of you don’t want to be anti radical feminist. So, how is it that you holding a different view from Julie is not “phobic” and yet her radical feminist argument with the trans position, is?
I don’t see that my radical feminist lesbian position is any less a part of Stonewall than this protecting trans (from debate, discussion and dangerous lesbians) position.
This is the reaction to protesting Ms. Bindel’s nomination for a “journalist of the year” award: harassment, bullying, anti-woman, anti-lesbian, lesbophobic. That somehow, protesting Ms. Bindel’s bigotry is exactly the same as the bigotry itself. She also ignores the fact that many of those protesting (myself included) are lesbian women – or is she claiming that “lesbian” and “woman” belongs only to cis lesbians and trans women are somehow interlopers?
But, really, why would trans people want to protest Ms. Bindel’s eligibility for such a reward?
I look back on them with affection and, yes, nostalgia. At least those women were women, and hadn’t gone to gender reassignment clinics to have their breasts sliced off and a penis made out of their beer bellies. Their attitude was, we’re comfortable in our own skin, let’s be women but subvert what that means. Could we really have imagined back then that unpicking constructions of gender would result in Kwik-Fit sex changes on offer to all and sundry?
Twenty years ago, when I worked on an advice line for lesbians, I would take call after call from self-hating, suicidal women who had experienced horrific homophobia. Thanks to feminism and gay liberation, that situation has altered radically. What a disgrace, therefore, that our legacy amounts to this: if you are unhappy with the constraints of your gender, don’t challenge them. If you are tired of being stared at for snogging your same-sex partner in the street, have a sex change. Where are those who go berserk about the ethics of genetic engineering yet seem not to worry about major, irreversible surgery on healthy bodies? Also, those who “transition” seem to become stereotypical in their appearance – fuck-me shoes and birds’-nest hair for the boys; beards, muscles and tattoos for the girls. Think about a world inhabited just by transsexuals. It would look like the set of Grease.
To go back to my five men and a toilet, I don’t have a problem with men disposing of their genitals, but it does not make them women, in the same way that shoving a bit of vacuum hose down your 501s does not make you a man.
Or maybe this:
Having looked into the medical research on transsexualism, she claims there is a lack of science behind the diagnosis, no satisfactory research into the outcomes for patients and individual stories of post-operative regret.
I’m curious what science she looked into. Lynn Conway records the stories of many trans women who profess no regret, after all. Maybe she looked into the highly flawed study that Paul McHugh had done to justify closing the Johns Hopkins gender clinic?
In fact, I’m curious where she gets her science at all, if she’s asserting – contrary to medical science for the past 40 years – that transition is good for no one. It seems to me that she’s discarding the accounts of many transsexual men and women who themselves state that they are happy to have transitioned – but as can be seen above, she seems to think that transsexual voices are inherently dangerous.
During the debate I argued that sex change surgery is modern-day aversion therapy treatment for homosexuals. The highest number of sex change operations take place in Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death. Sex change surgery, therefore, renders gays and lesbians “heterosexual”.
It was one of the most challenging and stimulating debates I have taken part in. Not because the panel or the audience conceded much to my arguments, but because I was given a platform for my opinions, which are so often censored by those accusing me of bigotry and ignorance.
I was outvoted at the end of the debate, but I felt I had done my job. All I intended to do was to ask the questions, “Are we right to support sex change surgery, and is it right to apply a surgical solution to what I believe is a psychological problem?” After the debate I spoke to several transsexual men and women, and gained much insight from them. I did not change my mind, and I doubt if any of them did either, but this much-needed debate has been a long time coming.
She completely erases bisexual and pansexual trans people, as well as lesbian trans women and gay trans men in one swift stroke: “sex change surgery is modern-day aversion therapy treatment for homosexuals.” A shock to me, speaking as a trans lesbian. I like that in the very next paragraph after making this ignorant assertion that “sex change is all about becoming heterosexual” she then complains that she’s accused of bigotry and ignorance, because this is obviously as bad as her saying that she doesn’t want transsexual people to exist, right? She seems to believe that transsexual people can somehow be cured, even though scientifically, this has been determined to fail – the only treatment that works for transsexual people is hormones and surgery. If Julie had done a tenth of the reading into the actual scientific literature that she wants us to believe she did, she’d be aware of this. I suspect her science goes as far as The Transsexual Empire, whatever tripe Sheila Jeffreys wrote wherever, and Pantomime Dames, and no further. That is, completely unscientific, unfalsifiable claims about transsexual people made by people with a political and bigoted agenda, and not by anyone who was actually interested in determining anything true about transsexual men and women.
Now, the quotes from Facebook: Transsexual voices raised in protest to an LGB-oriented organization honoring someone who has made it clear she wants to expunge transsexuality from the world, that her own conclusions about what drives transsexual people to transition are correct, and that they conflict with her politics – and therefore, in a fight between the needs of real people and Ms. Bindel’s politics, the real people should step aside. That Ms. Bindel wants transsexual people to not exist.
And when we protest that? We become anti-woman, anti-lesbian, lesbophobic. We’re bullying and harassing. It’s almost as if they see our voices as inherently violent. As Amanda Baggs wrote recently,
I was talking to a friend recently, who was confused about why it was that people encouraged her to become more assertive, and yet became angry when she actually was more assertive and it conflicted with their wishes.
Which reminded me both of a lot of my own experiences, and of one of my favorite passages from the first Harry Potter book:
(Harry Potter quote at Ballastexistenz)
Anyway, what I said in response was that people seemed to be a lot like water. Water spreads out to take up whatever space the container it is in allows it to take. People, also, seem to spread out in a similar way in terms of what actions they view as okay for them to be doing. And they rarely notice all the space they are taking up, until some person or event makes it clear to them. It just feels ‘natural’ to take up as much space as they’re allowed.
So Ron Weasley sees Neville being bullied by Draco Malfoy. And he sees this isn’t good for Neville, so he encourages Neville to stand up for himself and stop being a doormat.
At that point in time, though, Ron is not even imagining all the things he himself does, that Neville might object to. The space that all his actions take up, and their effect on Neville, and Neville’s possible opinions of them, are totally invisible to him. So he is not even thinking about that when he tells Neville to grow some backbone and stand up to people more. He is thinking only of the actions of other people. He is outside of those actions, and therefore more readily able to see their effects on other people. It’s much harder to see those effects of your own actions.
So Ron is used to taking up a certain amount of space with his actions, and to Neville not resisting in any way. When Neville does resist, and relates it back to Ron’s encouragement to assert himself, Ron is totally surprised and not at all pleased. Aside from the urgency of Ron’s actions at that point in time, Neville is now forcing him not to take up all the space he’s accustomed to taking up.
What she’s talking about is how people with privilege are used to taking up space, and that marginalized people are expected to not impinge upon that space. Instead, we’re supposed to remain quiet even while we’re under discussion. And that when we do impinge upon that space, displace that water, the simple act of using our voices becomes a violent attack. It’s perfectly reasonable for Ms. Bindel to say that transsexual people shouldn’t be allowed to transition – to do something that is essentially liberating for us – but for us to say “No, you’re wrong” is harassment and bullying. It’s misogyny and homophobia.
As Amanda says later in her post:
Unfortunately, our society has tended to equate terms like racism with Nazis or KKK members, and therefore people equate it with “calling people a monster”. But it has nothing to do with being a monster. It has to do with being a member of a society that (yes, still) puts some people at an unfair advantage because of the color of their skin, the shape of their body, or the country many of their ancestors come from. And being immersed in that as someone with that advantage is like being a fish in water, you don’t notice it all around you, and you don’t notice when you’re acting on things you ought not to be acting on.
Like the time I explained, politely I thought, to a parent, that describing a developmentally disabled child as not becoming a real adult contributed to widespread harm of disabled people. I explained about the ‘eternal child’ stereotype, and the problems it has caused for many disabled people: Being denied the right to marry, live on our own, have and choose our own sexual relationships, hold jobs, etc. Even being forcibly sterilized. The idea that we don’t become adults has serious consequences, and I pointed out that broadcasting that idea all over the place, even with good intentions, still contributes to the stereotype, and to the harm it causes.
At that point, I was told that the parent in question was only honestly expressing her feelings, which she had a total right to do. In other words, she had a total right to take up that space at the great expense of other people. Her emotions were more important than other people’s uteruses. And if she didn’t intend to contribute to all that negative stuff, then she wasn’t contributing at all to it, right? And I was calling her a monster who didn’t care about people, right?
Well, no. I wasn’t. I even wrote a post trying to explain that I wasn’t making people into good guys and bad guys. And even that I’d been on the other side of this one, I’d been told that it was wrong to say things like this about one of my brothers. Things I’d been taught were okay to say, and never questioned. And that when someone did tell me it was wrong to say it, I listened and I stopped saying it. I pointed out that there are ways to discuss these feelings without condoning them. All the person had to do was explain why, while these were feelings, they weren’t the reality, and treating them as the reality could cause real harm to some people. Or else they could refrain from discussing it altogether.
Oh, as for Stonewall UK’s position on this deep insult to the trans community:
Thank you for your email.
Julie Bindel was shortlisted for a Stonewall award in recognition of her journalism during the last 12 months which often brings a lesbian perspective into the mainstream press.
The awards nominating panel are not endorsing everything she has ever written. A nomination in any category does not mean that the awards panel agree with all of someone’s opinions. Stonewall recognises that some people may disagree with shortlisted nominees.
This is a form letter sent to many of those who contacted them with concerns about Stonewall possibly rewarding a woman who describes surgeries trans people undergo to improve our quality of life as mutilation. Clearly, it shows that Stonewall UK is completely unconcerned with the trans community, including that portion of the trans community that is gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
I also want to point out how Stonewall erases the fact that trans people were directly involved with the Stonewall Riot, completely appropriating the event and eliding critical participants.
Edit to add: Remember, protesting that Julie Bindel might receive a reward is exactly like silencing her:
Rally with other radicals to support radical lesbian feminism in our national press – JB is our only out and open journo writing regularly in our national broadsheet ‘The Guardian’. Rally to support her nomination as ‘Journalist of the Year’. Join us outside the V&A on Thursday 6th November at 6.30pm to shout 3 cheers for Julie Bindel and her work. More power to her. Say no to silencing – make your voice heard at this important rally. Bring banners, noise makers, loud voices, choirs, radical cheerleaders, friends.
Sylvia Rivera in Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Binary:
“And after all these years, the trans community is still at the back of the bus. I despise that. I’m hurt and get depressed a lot about it. But I will not give up because I won’t give the mainstream gay organizations the satisfaction of keeping us down. If we give up, they win. And we can’t allow them to win. The reason we, right now, as a trans community, don’t have the rights they have is that we allowed them to speak for us for so many damn years, and we bought everything they said to us: “Oh, let us pass our bill, then we’ll come for you.”
Yeah, come for me. Thirty-two years later and they’re still coming for me. And what have we got? Here, where it all started, trans people have got nothing. We can no longer let people like the Empire State Pride Agenda, the HRC in Washington, speak for us. And it really hurts me that some gay people don’t even know what we gave for their movement”
With thanks to andrajames on livejournal for posting this.
From the LJ trans feminist community:
Transphobe Bindel Nominated as Stonewall’s Journalist of the Year
LGB campaigning organisation, Stonewall are hosting a glitzy event on November 6th at the Victoria and Albert in London, where they will announce the winners of their annual awards.
Nominated under the “Journalist of the Year” category is Julie Bindel, who is well known for her transphobic writing. In 2007, I sat in the audience of Radio 4′s “Hecklers debate” on sex reassignment surgery and listened to Bindel explain how she wanted hormonal and surgical treatment of transpeople replaced with reparative therapy (which she euphemistically referred to as “talking cures”).
Stonewall, despite being named after a riot in which trans people were instrumental, has achieved a certain notoriety within the UK Trans community for the apparent low regard in which it holds trans issues, but nominating an actively transphobic journalist for this award could be seen as a direct slap in the face for the UK’s trans community.
Stonewall can be contacted by email on: email@example.com
Julie Bindel pushes the belief that trans people are tricked and coerced into surgery, rather than seeking it out ourselves, and would like all such medical treatment to be banned.
She shouldn’t be rewarded for not being a bigot to everyone, but should be called out on her bigotry.