Tag Archives: feminism

What Would Grace Paley Do?

Women from the Greenwich Village Peace Center, 1968. Grace is in the middle.

Women from the Greenwich Village Peace Center, 1968. Grace is in the middle.

I’ve only had a few positive role models in my life. Most of my role models were negative role models. I didn’t want to be like my mother. I didn’t want to be like my grandmother. It wasn’t only a lack of positive female role models. Even though I wanted to be a boy, I didn’t want to be like my brother or my father. There were so many people I didn’t want to be like.

I saw, and experienced, their character flaws. Short tempered. Manipulative. Critical. Stingy. Greedy. Arbitrary. Narcissistic. Powerless. Resentful. I swore that when I grew up I would do better. I would not repeat their mistakes.

My early exposure to teachers, other kid’s parents, school psychologists, and librarians did not improve my attitude towards adults. I thought adults were boring, tedious, and rigid. They all insisted that I act like a girl.

It wasn’t until I came out, and started doing political work, that I met older adults whom I could relate to. They were non-conformists. I saw their flaws, but I also saw their strengths. I might not want to be just like them, but I definitely wanted to pick and choose from some of their character traits.

I admired the serious calm anger of the pacifists at demonstrations. How they would walk right up to a line of riot police and then sit down, without flinching, without showing fear. At demonstrations they took to the streets and blocked traffic as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I admired their clarity and how their actions were consistent with their beliefs. I studied the history of non-violence. I read Gandhi, Dr. King, and Barbara Demming. Some of it rubbed off on me. Continue reading

Surf and TERF

"And so castles made of sand, fall into the sea, eventually." Jimi Hendrix

“And so castles made of sand, fall into the sea, eventually.” Jimi Hendrix

An old friend of mine has become a hard-line Radfem. Donna asked if we could stop and visit with her on our way from New York to Cape Ann (she lives in the feminist stronghold of Northampton), and she said no.

She said a lot more than no. She’d read Gender Hurts by Sheila Jeffreys and agreed with everything in it. I sat on the beach, surfed the internet, and downloaded a copy (see notes below). I wanted to understand what I was up against.

If you are unfamiliar with the Radfem perspective, this is my brief summary based on reading the book:

  • Gender is a caste system constructed by the patriarchy to oppress women.
  • Gender should be abolished.
  • There are only two sexes – men and women. It doesn’t matter how you identify, what hormones you take, and what surgeries you have; there is no escaping your original genitals and chromosomes.
  • Changing your sex (Radfems don’t believe in gender) is an illusion, a delusion, or a fantasy.
  • Trans women are not women; they are men who claim they are women. They are out to destroy feminism and lesbian/women only spaces (by invading them and insisting on their right to be in them). Radfems believe that only “women born women” can know what it feels like or what it means to be a woman.
  • Trans men are women who claim they are men. They have mutilated themselves to gain male privilege. They are unwittingly destroying feminism and lesbian/women only spaces (by leaving the community and taking their partners with them).
  • Radfems do not recognize/use the terms gender binary, cisgender, non-binary, or genderqueer; you are either a Radfem or a dupe/puppet of the patriarchy. They consider the word cisgender to be a slur because they believe that women are by definition “women born women.”
  • Women should choose, as a political act, to be lesbians or remain celibate.

Whew. Radfems are a small (tiny) segment of feminism. I would say fringe, but I know that many mainstream feminists also sit in judgement. They doubt the authenticity of trans women’s lives (without demonizing them) and think that trans men are butch lesbians who drank the Kool Aid. On a really bad day, when I am wracked with self-doubt, those thoughts cross my mind, but then I talk myself out of it. All gender identities are valid, including mine. Continue reading

Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Right to Decide

The feminist who came up with the pro-choice chant “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Right to Decide” was probably not thinking about transgender butch lesbians contemplating top surgery. That slogan has been this week’s mantra. It has been a hell of a week.

I’ve struggled to understand why “suddenly” top surgery has become important to me. A few weeks back Donna told me to go ahead and start looking into it. She doesn’t like the idea of surgery, and when she stepped aside, I took it as a good sign. I made an appointment for a consultation with a surgeon in New York (Dr. Paul Weiss). Donna came with me. We liked him; he has no issues performing surgery on someone who is not on T and is not transitioning to male. We talked about nipple placement and keeping the nipple attached instead of grafting it back on. We went through his photo book. I was able to visualize my chest.

And then it hit me. It was my chest that I was seeing. It was the chest I used to have, the one I felt comfortable with and did not have to hide. I was not losing something I was getting something back. Continue reading