Private Parts

Last month I wrote a blog ‘about’ a certain person’s genitals: I understand it upset some readers. The offensive references have since been removed.

It appears few people read beyond the headline. The point I was making – achieved in an even more spectacular fashion than I’d anticipated – was how offensive it’s usually considered simply to draw attention to another person’s genitals. I didn’t actually say anything about the configuration, size, state, attractiveness or not of this particular person’s genitals. I merely used the word ‘genitals’ in combination with someone’s name. The result was outcry and opprobrium from some quarters. Had I been a person of significance, it might have been classed as a storm brewing…


Why, therefore, do certain people feel so uninhibited when discussing (in detail) the genitals of those who happen to be transsexual? What business is it of theirs? What subjective experience do they have of another person’s genitals? What gives them the right?

My point was made by doing no more than referring to somebody’s genitals without actually saying another word about them. Yet it sparked staggering vitriol from some silly people.

Luckily, I can laugh at such nonsense, but what did get to me is that someone I respect, Johann Hari, branded my blog ‘disgusting’ and has now blocked me from following him on Twitter. I really admire Johann. Just listen to him take on Richard Littlejohn – or maybe try this podcast which asks: Why is it wrong to protect gay kids? It has some interesting parallels with what I have to say.

And this is definitely worth a read. Extract below:

“Claire’s is a typical story. The transphobic parts of the media – step forward, the Daily Mail – says that all transsexuals are miserable, and surgery only leaves them “even more unhappy, but now with mutilated genitalia to make it even worse.” In fact, the vast majority of Britain’s 5000 transsexuals have found that surgery has made their lives bearable for the first time. Only 2% of transsexuals decide to reverse their surgery, an almost unparalleled success rate; over 90% describe themselves as “much happier” ten years after the transition.”

I think we’d agree on quite a lot if we were to sit down and have a cup of tea. But then even my incredibly trans-friendly/aware/on-the-ball editor at DIVA, Jane Czyzelska, was also slightly confused why I’d written something which seemed so personal. Jane and Johann’s reactions led to the blog you’re currently reading.

Trans people are the subject of abuse and bullying from childhood onwards, and for me this was both violent and sustained. This can lead to depression, despair and low self-esteem. The oldest and most despicable tool of the transphobe (just as with the homophobe) is to claim that, because of this, trans people are innately miserable and incapable of knowing their own minds – despite decades of evidence to the contrary.

It’s been an interesting experience to be tarred with this brush, to be misgendered and abused by some people with very curious ideas lurking somewhere behind pseudonyms. All I can say to them is this: mind your own business, and genitals. Or don’t expect people not to mind yours.

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7 thoughts on “Private Parts

  1. Jacktivist says:

    I think, more than anything, the reaction your blog received demonstrated the point which it was designed to make. Unfortunately, it appears as though it was taken out of context by people who either had little knowledge of what Bindel had written about trans people, or by people who had read her stuff, but were unable to perceive the parralells you were trying to draw. So, I guess the answer to your question is simple: in the eyes of the transphobe, our genitals are considered fair game for being mislabled and mocked, but to do the same to a cis person is unacceptable. It seems as though our cis-centric society regards our bodies as specimins to be openly examined and dicussed, whilst those of cis people are exempt from such treatment since cis people’s bodies are a private matter.

    Clearly the transphobes don’t like being given a taste of their own medicine, and many of the cis spectators failed to understand the analogy which was being drawn.

    • You know who says:

      Absolutely, just the silly peoples’ claim that bindel had ‘shown nothing but love’ to trans people shows total ignorance and hate of the subject. I’d have more respect for them if they just admitted they hated us, at least they’d be being honest. It seems like they’re so obsessed with how oppressed they are, they’re not capable of noticing that they’re really not that oppressed…. And if they’re really into what they say they’re into, why aren’t they posting about ooh, i dunno, darfur, or the congo, or afghanistan, all places where systematic abuse of women is part of the culture…

      They seem to have this idea that randomly copying and pasting bits of other people’s blogs out of context is ok, rather than, y’know, engaging in discussion and putting their point across (hi silly people! Copy and past this! :P). And ridiculing and policing how other human beings relate to their own bodies is somehow ok in their world.

  2. misswonderly says:

    The lack of awareness … even blindness … about trans issues among otherwise enlightened cis people no longer surprises me. Things so often need spelling out in the most simple terms … and even then it can often take a long time or sometimes even shock tactics before they get it. Of course we’ve been here before with the class system, racism, feminism, discrimination against disability, LGB rights etc.. In fact, as David Allen Green said at TMW’s MOU launch with C4, trans is not a minority, special pleading case. It is a mainstream issue and, when it is seen as such, it often seems surprising to people how little more there is to be said. TRANS PEOPLE JUST ARE … and, as with all people, their human rights and autonomy over their own bodies deserve and require respect. Is that so complicated?

  3. janefae says:

    Was thinking of you when i wrote this, Miss:

    http://janefae.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/and-an-insightful-post/

    Beware the agents provocateuses!

    jane
    xx

  4. charlotte monroe says:

    You know, if i wanted to be really controversial i could suggest that actually my transsexualism is caused, or at least exacerbated, by feminism…

    I come from an abusive home with a sexually aggressive father. Great male role model there, for a start! I got PTSD counselling but it was less about helping me get over the trauma i’d suffered and more effectively telling me off in advance in i turned out the same! – Then there was my exposure to 90s feminism through the gay scene, reading stuff about how ‘all men are rapists’ and ‘possession of a penis is a fascist act’ and yes, i have actually seen that in print..!

    Why then, after being educated about how awful men were through experience, counselling and politics, would a sensitive and delicate boy want to remain one!?

    I don’t actually think that at all, i think its innate, effectively a brain/body map issue. I know the copy and paste fairies don’t believe that, and i doubt they’ll copy and paste this disclaimer either, by hey, who cares what they think anyway?

    Bit of an idea really. Seeing as the inconsequential shouty bloggers are pretty much in their ghetto ranting at each other about whatever their guru has said now, maybe we should try and call some kind of truce. She leaves us alone, we’ll leave her alone. Maybe she can write about something important instead of where a tiny minority of people go and pee…

  5. Ashlee Kelly says:

    “Luckily, I can laugh at such nonsense, but what did get to me is that someone I respect, Johann Hari, branded my blog ‘disgusting’ and has now blocked me from following him on Twitter. I really admire Johann. Just listen to him take on Richard Littlejohn – or maybe try this podcast which asks: Why is it wrong to protect gay kids? It has some interesting parallels with what I have to say.”

    As much as I like Johann Hari, that’s made me lose a lot of respect for him. To block you on Twitter and brand your blog ‘disgusting’ over one post seems seriously childish.

    This is the first time I’ve seen your blog and I think it’s awesome, not disgusting 😀

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