A story for these troubled times
As readers of this LJ will have noted, I have a tendency to make everything all about me. Or, to put it another way, almost everything that happens reminds me of a funny thing that once happened to me. Inhabiting, as I do, the Land Where Urban Legends Start, and moving between urban villages faster than the speed of thought, stuff just happens to me, and a lot of the time it is weirdly apposite to other things that are going on.
So, over the last few days, the whole claim has come up that the behaviour of crusading trans women is ' awfully male ' and whatever, and some of my friends have brushed this aside and more have been a bit upset by the accusation. So here's my story about that one...
Some years ago, shortly after I stopped being endlessly sick with the consequences of my surgery, and just about the time I was starting to identify as lesbian - at a point somewhere between my first crush, my first shag and my first omigod! I so totally love this woman - I was hanging round the Lesbian and Gay centre a lot. I met the woman I will call A., a talented artist a few years older than me, with a long history of involvement in lesbian feminism and socialist feminism and queer theatre, with whom I would drink in the bar late at night and who quite charmed me. It never ever occurred to me that she did not know I was trans because I always assume that I don't pass, and have never particularly tried to pass - six feet plus, voice mellow to throaty, big feet...
A asks me to a brunch party at her house, which is quite near where I live, and so I go and hang and am entirely pleased to be hanging with these women. At the end of brunch, as people start to leave, I get up to go and A asks me to stay - other people were coming over later to play Trivial Pursuit and I could open another bottle of champagne and sit around while she gardened and I occasionally moved bunches of weeds to the compost.
So, we chatted, and I mentioned the complexities of my past. In due course, I realized that we were at cross-purposes - she thought I was talking about coming out as lesbian after some years of heterosexual life where I thought I was talking about coming out as trans. So I said that she had better sit down, and have another glass, because I did not want to be in bad faith with someone I genuinely liked. Let's be clear, I certainly fancied her to bits and I rather get the impression that she was not uninterested.
It was all a bit awful, but not very. A. has always thought that trans was a big deal for her; she thought we were all dead gender-stereotypical and that she would always know a trans woman, and disapprove of them, if she met one. Here I was, just ordinary and fat and not wearing much slap and hanging out in an ordinary fashion without much fluttering or faff. And she liked me.
A is a good person, and one I went on to be friends with for many years. She got over the shock and surprise before it was time to pour another glass and asked me to stay anyway. I did, though with misgivings, and had a moderately enjoyable afternoon coming second in a game, and then leaving because I had another engagement.
After I left. A felt that she had to spill the beans, out of a mixture of ethics and gossip, and outed me to those people still present.
'Ah' said the woman who had won the game,'that explains why she plays Trivial Pursuit so aggressively.'
All of this stuff is silly and hurtful, and almost incapable of being disproved - it also depends on some very unexamined ideas about who is capable of what. Trans women have been so totally crippled by our circumstances pre-transition, that it is pretty hateful to demand that we adopt, post-transition, all the areas in which many cis-women have been crippled by sexism so as to evade the charge that we are acting male. Of course, we do need to learn to shut up, some of the time, but most of us do; on the other hand, a lot of us are feeling able to speak in our own voice for the first time ever, and people should not confuse that with other things.