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On feminists, and giving talks

December 10, 2010

This post is a sort-of sequel to “On gender, and giving talks“. That was written whilst preparing for The Event. This is a response to what actually happened at The Event, when it finally occurred.

The main part of The Event was mostly OK. There was a badly presented, hastily cobbled together Trans 101 at the start, and then we moved onto stuff like how shite the world is and how to be respectful of people.

Then we had questions.

The first question – from, as we found out later, a female lesbian feminist – was “Why do you transition when you should be smashing the gender binary?” The Trans 101 brought up non-binary folks. I had spoken, and pointed out that in this culture, it’s pretty much impossible to be accepted as neither male or female in everyday life, and impossible to do so legally. Yet apparently, none of us were “smashing the gender binary”, whatever that actually means.
I almost managed to point out that she had an ontological commitment to the concept of woman (ontological commitment is a philosophical term, meaning the things that must exist if a theory is true), but she misunderstood the phrase “feminism is about women” as “feminism is about making women better than men”, and it got dragged off topic.

If she’s got an ontological commitment to women, she clearly can’t be thinking of a world without gender, which is what she wants from “smashing the gender binary”, as she said that trans people wouldn’t exist in the world she’s aiming for as there would be no genders. And if she’s not committed to smashing the gender binary, why should the trans community be pressured into it?

Someone else asked her why she identifies as a woman, and she said that she had to identify as something. Human being was suggested. She took offence, saying that Human contained the word Man. This leads to two possible options: a) She has never considered that woman also contains the syllable man; b) She’s the sort of feminist that spells woman with a y. If the second case, I take that as evidence that she was never going to listen, and only came to troll.

I want the gender binary destroyed as much as any radical feminist womyn, but in a very different way. They want a gender unary, for us all to be the same gender, and thus no gender at all. I want a gender continuum, a n-dimensional space of gender, with free movement. For me, the problem is not that male and female exist, but that people consider them the only things that do exist.

As a tshirt might say: Some people are binary. Get over it.

The other main feature of the questions is that I think I may have got through to one of our usual suspects. Usual suspect was confused that people were saying that they had innate gender identities, as they hadn’t got one and thus nobody else could have either. I told them, in a stage whisper, “It’s weird, but some people really seem to.” They are currently at the stage of gender understanding I was 3 years ago, but have been stuck at that stage since before I got there. The way I moved on was through anecdotal evidence, but we’ve been feeding them that for 3 years and they haven’t accepted it. I’m not sure they’ll ever move on from this stage.

So, useful things that have come from The Event.

  • I may have managed communincation with the Usual Suspect.
  • I have learned to avoid radical feminist womyn in real life as well as on the internet.
  • I did public speaking and people could hear it clearly and liked it (mostly other speakers).
  • I got some people to consider the binary essentialism in everyday life (well, a thing can dream).

All in all, a productive if painful evening. I’m now off to Privilege Denying Dude, to pass on some of the more head-desky moments.


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