On 5 March 2017, an article by BBC Radio Woman’s Hour presenter, Jenni Murray, appeared in the Sunday Times. I thought it was a very good article and, apart from her description of Germaine Greer’s plain speaking as “crude and distasteful”, I agree with the sentiments expressed in it. There is nothing in it that can reasonably be described as “transphobic” in the true sense of the word. It simply points out that male-born trans folk who identify as women are not actually women and gives reasons why. Her arguments are clear and strong and I found the response to it absolutely staggering. See the daft comments on this ridiculous petition calling for her to be fired, for example.
Naturally I was disgusted to learn that she had received a warning from the BBC for expressing a “controversial” opinion and for the double standard evidently in operation, given what BBC presenter Gary Lineker gets away with on twitter (and more power to his elbow).
Worse was to come in the shape of a couple of stunningly stupid rants from Oxford University Students Union LGBTQ+ Society and Women’s Campaign. The first, viewable here, was a shameful attempt to get her no-platformed as a speaker at Oxford Literary Festival. The second one is viewable here and below I paste the response I made at the time.
“We condemn Jenni Murray for her comments about trans women recently published in the Times. Such comments propagate transphobia and transmisogyny,”
And your evidence for this is….? Please give an example of how expressing a view shared by some trans women themselves (see the comments from Miranda Yardley in the same article, for example) “propagate transphobia and transmisogyny”. On the contrary, I submit it is the attempted suppression of such views that is likely to lead to negative feelings about trans women. See the 40-page thread generated on the mumsnet forum, for example (the thread has now been archived).
“These comments also infer a single, unified experience of womanhood…”
No, they don’t and if you’re going to make this argument, at least be prepared to support it with direct quotes where you think she infers this. What are you doing at university if you aren’t even willing or able to do this?
“What Murray fails to see is that trans women have lived their lives as women, just with different experiences of what it is to be a woman, male privilege does not extend to trans women as they are not male, therefore Murray’s argument is defunct.”
Rubbish. The reason Murray “fails to see this” because it’s not true and simply asserting that trans women “have lived their lives as women” doesn’t make it true. Are you able to explain what “living as women” even means? It sounds as if you think there is some single, unified experience of womanhood when in fact the only common experiences we have are those arising from being assigned our biological sex according to our primary sex characteristics and potential role in reproduction and being expected to conform gender roles shaped by society and culture. That these are traditionally different for men and women holds true across cultures and social class.
Before transitioning, trans women live their lives as boys and men – not as girls and women. They have been able, as Murray points out, to enjoy “the privileged position in our society generally accorded to a man” and even as trans women their experiences are unique to them and different from those of us who’ve never suffered from gender dysphoria or the discrimination and violence visited on those who have suffered it. Jenni Murray made it clear she doesn’t have a problem with trans women other than their claiming to be “real” women. It does, however, sound as if YOU have a problem with trans women that you should be so anxious to call them women in spite of their very different and particular lived experiences. What, exactly, is wrong with calling trans women ‘trans women’?”
Re-reading the comment I made then all these months later, what strikes me is realising how much further I’ve moved away from pandering to trans ideology. If I were writing that same comment today, one thing I would change would be my use of the term “trans women”, which I hardly ever use now (and, when I do, I write it ‘transwomen’). Another thing is that I wouldn’t have used the word ‘assigned’.
I am eternally grateful to the Oxford students for their help in getting me to peak trans.