Back when Little Light wrote that post about sacrificing virgins to Harry Benjamin, or whatever it was, she and I had this exchange in comments to the follow-up, after it fell apart for a long stretch.
What is a diplomatic way of turning aside the “…And I’ve always wondered something–why is it that you have to transition anyway? Isn’t it really about [misconception]?” It happens over and over again, on the Alas threads especially. I don’t know if it’s conscious, but it makes for some defensive, circular conversations.
And she said:
I’ve been trying and trying to figure that one out, lately. I was kind of hoping you had an answer. It seems like the very first and most lasting derail in every one of these discussions.
Indeed. My post was not about whether or not transpeople should transition, or whether or not it makes any sense for them to identify with any gender other than the one handed to them at birth. Nor was it about the impact that this decision from that community might have on the cohesion of feminist arguments. Little Light’s original post and follow-up, so far as I can tell, weren’t precisely about that either. And yet, my post and hers have become a place for this debate to be resolved:
I’ve been reading… I’ve Netflixed “Transgeneration”… and I still can’t help but feel like we’re going somewhere very dangerous with the assertion that sex is something one can feel.
I don’t want to feel opposed to transpeople. In fact, if someone wants to identify as another gender, I’d never be so rude as to refuse to refer to them in which ever mode they preferred. But I’d be lying if I said that I had reconciled the whole thing with the idea that women should have equal rights because we’re human and indistinguishable from men, with the exception of parts of us that contribute to our ability to reproduce.
If there IS some underlying difference, what does that mean? And is it ever really something that can be bridged? Why is it enough for a biological man to grow breasts, have his penis flipped into an approximation of a vagina, and take some estrogen? Women also menstruate for a good part of their lives: does a man who wants to be a woman feel an urge to cramp and bleed once a month? To feel the flutter of ovulation? Does he feel a need to be pregnant? To give birth? These are all things that only females can do and no amount of surgery can enable a male to, so I can’t help but feel that it’s largely a cosmetic change, in deference to the binary system. Why can’t he be a man in a dress?
(I left a response to it. Now I’m not so sure I want to handle this situation that way.)
I find this discussion kind of obnoxious, since it tends to interfere with discussions that are infinitely more interesting to me and which actually require responses from actual transpeople. I increasingly doubt that this one does. I am also, of course, implicated in it–my right to identify as anything at all is as suspect as that of the transsexuals Kim questions. And, of course, I’m not sure whether or not I can safely process my own thoughts and take questions at the same time.
So I thought maybe I’d turn the tables.
Transpeople! How do you feel about this kind of sidebar to trans-related discussions? Do you enjoy participating in it? Does it piss you off or make you uncomfortable? Does it seem to you to be worthwhile either for the sake of the answers or to clarify your own thoughts on the matter? Would you like to set some limits on it here in future? Would you like, perhaps, to devote this or another thread to it? Do you have any thoughts on how best to resolve it?
Thank you for your time!