Was Janice Raymond Right?

Why trans people are often their own worst enemies

by Cathryn Platine





As I write this it has been well over a decade since I transitioned and during that time, while I had some employment discrimination issues, far and away the worst treatment I have received from the world has been at the hands of transgendered people themselves.  The House of Representatives has just passed a non-inclusive ENDA with a Senate version due to be introduced any day now by Teddy Kennedy.  My own hopes of a legislative acknowledged right to my basic civil liberties in my lifetime are dashed but then I always just exercised them anyway as my right as an American citizen under the Constitution.

I've seriously thought about writing this essay for many years and always left it undone out of the sure knowledge some will feel the need to "punish" me for talking about the dirty little secrets of the trans "community"; that it often is not reality based and has a huge amount of both gynophobia and patriarchal thinking as part and parcel of it's makeup.  These observations are specific to the so called male to female part of that community.  While transmen can be just as screwed up, normally it is not in this fashion ironically for the reasons given by Raymond and company, early socialization as women.

So were Janice Raymond and Mary Daly and the other radical lesbian separatists right?  For a significant part of the community today I would have to answer "yes, absolutely".  In the mid 1990's, when I transitioned, a major shift was taking place in the so called "trans" community, one I witnessed first hand and even fell victim to.  Prior to this time the only trans individuals that had any exposure were transsexual women and the assumption made by the general public when discovering a transwoman in their midsts was she either had surgical reassignment or was on route to it.  We live in a bi-gendered world meaning most of the world's population sees a clear division between men and women and understands trans issues within this framework.  While this might not be accurate and ignores those with intersexed conditions that give lie to it, nonetheless it is how most people think.  If one is to actually live in the real world, you must at least acknowledge the ground rules that world sets whether or not you agree.  Anything less is considered grounds to be seen as insane.  And it is here that the "transgender revolution" lost their way and went insane by talking only to themselves.

If you have read my series on involvement in trans activism you have already encountered some of my experiences back then.  My first surprise was learning that all the fine words about the womanhood of transsexual women were just words to the non-transsexual part of the community.  The reality was something entirely different and they viewed transsexual women as some sort of "super crossdresser" that was living out their own fantasies of pretending to be women.  That last part is important.  This notion that transsexual women are something less than women in the "real" sense literally is part of almost all current trans centred thinking.  Notions of "passing" imply this by themselves, the idea that a transsexual woman must "pass" in order to gain her womanhood contain the subtext that she never will be an actual woman but must continue to play the part just not to be treated like crap.  Today the average new transitioner you encounter is much more concerned with facial surgery and getting breast implants then she is in genital surgery.  This is a very new development.  As a feminist, this makes me very uncomfortable since it buys into directly the whole "Barbie-doll" model of women and being honest most of the feminist women I have discussed this with feel the same way.  So how did it come to this from the days of Sandy Stone and other feminist transsexual women?  It required a complete rewrite of the very meaning of the terms used by the transgender community and it was done deliberately while viciously silencing those who objected.

Do a search on the terms transgender and transsexual today and you will find definitions that simply did not exist 15 years ago.  This can easily be verified by just reading the books on the subject written then and those today.  For decades the word transsexual had a very specific meaning often stated in terms of being "trapped" in the wrong body.  A transsexual was someone driven towards congruence of soul and body and since gender identity is fixed at a very very early age if not pre-natal, a transsexual is driven to change their body to conform to who they feel they are.  It is this drive that actually defines the term.  People like this are somewhat rare even in terms of a wider "trans" community but Joe Sixpack and Sally Homemaker never had that much trouble understanding them once the strangeness wore off.....afterall it conformed to their own idea of how the world works.  Men have penises and women have vaginas and breasts which is the level of understanding of gender and sex issues 99% of the world gets.  Transsexual women were very involved in the development of the internet and in fact one of the very first internet discussion groups in the early days was among transsexual women.  Even by the mid to late nineties my own webpage definition of the terms showed up in the top five of all the early search engines!  Now if you find it at all, it would be after wading through literally thousands and thousands of she-male porn sites and crossdresser vanity pages.  The internet proved to be a decidedly mixed blessing to transsexuals.  Back in the day, those with gender issues had precious little contact with each other and it was divided by types.  Crossdressers/transvestites had their magazines sent out in plain brown wrappers or sold in adult (dirty) bookstores and support groups that met in secret in seedy motels complete with all the paranoia of a secret society.  Transsexual women, when they actually met in person at all, met at gender clinics and group sessions as part of getting letters for surgery.  As part of the recognition that some transsexual women take time to come to terms with their own identity, some crossdresser oriented groups started including them in their support groups probably as some of their members came to this realization.  Some groups ruthlessly kicked out transsexual women as soon as they reached this point.

With the explosion of the internet this all changed.

I am going to be blunt here and make some observations that will endear me even less to those who disagree with me.  Transvestites and crossdressers (is there really a difference?) LOVE to see images of themselves as women as part of the fantasy.  Their fantasies are driven by sexual images of women rather than women as people and so they are often done up in the same provocative outfits found in pornography or as a reflection of some poor woman they sexualized when they developed their fetish in puberty.  The image is everything.  Part and parcel to this is an internalized sense that being an actual woman is something less or even shameful so they also internalize this shame of wanting to appear like women and our patriarchal society has always been ruthless in suppressing any expression of femininity by a male starting from the earliest childhood and enforced by both women and men at any rate.  This is the polar opposite of feminism.  The relative anonymity of the internet brought a literal explosion of websites by crossdressers who now could share images of themselves as "women" with others without being exposed, the ultimate expression of their fantasies.  But this was not accompanied with a lessening of the sense of shame of those desires fueled by the underlying sense that women are somehow inferior.  At the same time this was happening, a shift also occurred with talk shows on American television.  Prior to this time, transsexuals were a regular staple of these talk shows but suddenly they were mostly replaced with crossdressers, some of whom used the media as an extension of their sexual fantasy fulfillment.  Middle America, which sort of "got" transsexuals thanks to the talk shows now was presented with the concept of men dressing as women for kicks rather than identity issues.  The sexual nature was usually softpedalled, but it was there.  This is when the term "transgendered" suddenly went from it's former specific meaning to including anyone remotely gender non-conforming.  Coined by rabidly transsexual phobic Charles "Virginia" Prince who published many of those crossdresser fantasy magazines of earlier days and who founded Tri-Ess, a rabidly homophobic and transsexual phobic network of support groups for crossdressers, "transgender" and "transgendered" suddenly were sold as shorthand for transsexual.  The reason for this was actually quite simple.  Transvestism is sexually driven, transsexuality isn't and anything other than plain vanilla heterosexual sex is both verboten and shameful in our society, at least as far as the public face of people is concerned.  Now I am not saying there are not those actual transgendered but not transsexual individuals who crossdress and even cross live for non sexual reasons, indeed they have always been around but the majority of those pushing the inclusive usage for transgendered were transvestites trying desperately to divorce their own sexual drives from themselves in the public view and using transsexuals to do so.

Suddenly the term "transsexual" included whole new variations such as the "non-op" transsexual in addition to the prior pre operative and post operative.  Never mind that the term transgender was coined for exactly this meaning originally, transgender was still tainted by those nasty sexually driven transvestites and so while it was being recast as "inclusive" (always hard to fight being "inclusive", it's one of those terms with high positive politically correct context) it was also stripped of it's original meaning.  Transsexual was a medical term defining a very specific condition, the individual driven to bring a nonconforming sense of personal identity in line with their bodies finally understood to be a neurological intersexed condition, now it was being redefined leaving the very essence of it's meaning out in order to be colonized exactly for it's supposed "legitimacy" AS a medical term and then mostly erased afterwards.  And it is here that transgender logic starts a sharp turn away from reality.  Part and parcel of current transgender orthodoxy is the idea that what's between your legs (genitals) does not define who you feel you are.  This begun from the reality that a transsexual woman and a transsexual man faces this very reality as the point they start from.  A pre-operative transsexual's own body is at odds with who they feel they are and reality is such that some will not be able to follow through with full congruence of body and soul for financial or medical reasons.  Female to male transsexuals in particular have lousy surgical options due to the often extremely expensive and often poor results of constructing a functioning penis.  From this jumping off point, transgendered individuals who WANT to maintain their born genital configuration point to these transsexuals, totally ignoring the drive towards congruency, as proof that they themselves are transsexual!  This mental slight of hand goes almost un-noticed by professionals and the now totally confused general public because in order to accept that transsexuals are the gender they feel they are and were so from the earliest age, one has to accept that in the pre-operative stages they are still that gender and so it's easy to miss the point that someone who wants to remain physically male and even enjoys that is hardly the same as a pre-operative transsexual woman who by definition wants nothing to do with those parts. Instead the slight of hand is avoid anyone seeing the motive and pointing to the body instead.

Any woman of transsexual history who even attempts to object is immediately branded a "post op nazi", "transsexual separatist" or "gender essentialist" or some other such term and immediately driven from the community with a viciousness that has to be experienced to be believed.  I lost my first decent post-transition job after being outted by a transgender who disliked my politics, have received many credible death threats, been magazined bombed and out and out banned from activist email lists just for pointing these things out.  I was recently even abused out of my own home by transgenders posing as transsexuals I took in and nearly left homeless when I was trying to keep them from this fate.  My experiences are not unique. The very internet that transsexual women started and first used has become a means of exclusion while at the same time the "transgender community" now claims to represent them even as they are silenced!

This transgender community is a product of the internet which has the ability to isolate individuals into tight knit groups as well as serve as a means of communication.  These tightly knit communities often feed upon their own versions of reality fueled by contact with others convinced to share them allowing an entirely new type of group psychosis.  Penises become feminine, up is down, black is white and reality can completely be ignored while online with a group that shares your illusions.  The danger comes from the dogged insistence and shouting down of any voice that varies from this new reality and these individuals being accepted as "spokespersons" for their communities by virtue of endlessly living within this cyber wonderland on the other side of the looking glass.  Silencing opposition voices becomes simply a matter of the exact same colonization used to establish it.  Oppose this and you are failing to be "inclusive".  Transsexuals are literally excluded in the name of "inclusion" in an Orwellian twist Karl Rove would be proud of.  The result has also been an entirely new type of transsexual, those who identify mainly as transsexual rather than women or men, finding comfort within this cyber community and using it to avoid actual socialization in the world outside the internet.  Enough transsexual women are insecure enough to crave this cyber community, which is now reinforced by "real world" gatherings of the ideological pure giving the illusion of participating in the real world.  Still, the vast majority of these cyber transies never venture forth into the real world at all but are still quite vocal and noticed online.  The internet was transformed from a tool to reach other isolated individuals to one that actually fosters avoidance of reality.  And of course these new cyber trans people don't have to risk losing jobs, family and friends or deal in any fashion with the realities of a woman's life in a man's world.  They can literally reap the rewards of patriarchy while claiming, even demanding womanhood.

And it is thus that a community that claims womanhood ruthlessly uses the very tools of the patriarchy to exclude women.  Post operative women are now the enemy if they point out any of the illogic involved, ask respect of their own identities or even the term transsexual and the community extends gynophobia to them as well in a new form I call neo-gynophobia since it is driven by exactly the same fears because they are ironically finally seen as women when they refuse to be transgenders.  Interact with one of these cyber communities and one of the first thing you may notice is that the voices of supportive non trans-women, spouses and girlfriends are silenced with such as "you couldn't possibly understand what we go through" as justification.  Any mention that these self styled women act less than womanly is a deadly insult that must be punished even while they demonstrate total ignorance of what women's lives are like.  Often their wives will privately tell another woman "he's a bigger male pig now he claims to be a woman than he was when I married him". But the proof of the pudding comes in other forms.  While there were plenty of feminist transsexual women 20 to 15 years ago and even a journal for it, today they are all but invisible.  I've had supposedly transsexual women tell me that NOW (National Organization for Women) is not their community.  I have been personally attacked for my own participation in NOW as a woman instead of a "transsexual" ignoring that I am not even transsexual but intersexed and a feminist woman.  A large number of transsexual women today never associate with other women, just transgendered transsexuals even to the extent they only partner with other "transsexuals", often non-op, women if lesbian identified.  Many of them flee any activity deemed "male" they took part in prior to transition and far too many of them are teetering about the world on high heels and in skirts in some sort of twisted vision of womanhood.  Others wear transsexuality as a badge rather than participate in any women's communities and then complaining about not being accepted when they came as transsexuals and not women!  A transsexual woman who feels women's issues are not her issues should not be surprised when women reject "her" claims of womanhood.  Often they are openly disdainful of those women of transsexual history who did integrate with other women in the world calling them stealth and claiming they are ashamed of their histories when often it's the antics of these new transgendered "transsexuals" they wish no association with and not their own pasts.  And worst of all, having driven these women of transsexual history and woman identity out of their communities "transgenders" have become the new voice representing women of transsexual history in the political and public arenas to the utter confusion of politicians confronted with "women" who insist on talking about having penises with absolutely no idea why they seems so bizarre to the straight world because, in trans-wonderland, penis wielding women are an article of faith.  As women integrated in the real world, women of transsexual history as opposed to transsexual identity have no voice in the debates or are easily ignored or dismissed using the very tools of the patriarchy always used for this purpose.  And should these women of transsexual history organize themselves they are immediately invaded by transgenders crying any exclusion of them is discrimination!

The past several years I have encountered some women who parrot the ideas Raymond and Daly espoused but what changed is I no longer can dispute many of their arguments when I have personally seen so many examples proving them right.  As is often the case the only problem with what they say is trying to make it universal and absolute.  So yes, Janice Raymond was right, she just got the timing wrong.  Those transsexual feminists she drove off were her sisters, it's the new breed that embraces the patriarchy and in some odd fashion reflects it.


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