Guest blog: Someone else’s peak trans story

I’m grateful to the author of the account below, which was posted on Twitter a few days ago, for granting permission to re-post it here. I don’t know who she is. It’s a sign of the times that she feels has to remain anonymous.


I don’t know if anyone will ever read this. I’m a new account with very few followers. If anyone sees this and considers it worthy of an RT (retweet) I’d be grateful: I so much want to be heard, if only this once.

See, I joined Twitter a few months ago in a different ID, to discuss Labour politics. I like lefty Twitter. I’m happy there. I’m a party member. I knew nothing about the GRA (Gender Recognition Act) debate at that point; but did see mentions of transphobia. Naturally, I was against that.

I saw as well mention of horrible bigoted people called “TERFs,” and obviously I was against them too. And when I learnt what TERF stands for, I was surprised. What’s happened to feminism over the last 20 years or so while I haven’t been paying attention? Has it got nasty?

I thought, I’ll investigate further.

Start with Stonewall; they’re a respectable authority. They say, “trans women are women.” I am a woman. And a feminist, albeit one who’s a bit out of practice. And this doesn’t immediately compute, because, well, what makes me a woman?

Two things: (1) biology; (2) the intense socialisation-from-birth process that goes into the creation of a female.

Which of those does a transwoman share? Neither. So I can’t at first glance see any mechanism by which they could be a woman.

“Trans women are women” doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not against it, you understand. I just don’t see it.

But I may be wrong not to. I may be out of date. After all, my grandma sincerely believed that having children out of wedlock was wrong. That belief made sense to her; but it’s one that hasn’t stood the test of time. Maybe my lack of comprehension about this will look ridiculous to my grandchildren. Maybe it will be obvious to them that trans women are women.

I need to look into this with an open mind. WHY are trans women women? How? What is the reasoning behind that assertion?

I looked online for articles, videos etc. First lesson: there’s a lot out there saying TWAW, but surprisingly little saying WHY that’s so. One article told me not to conflate biological sex with genitals, as though doing that was ridiculous. But it’s no good, call me ‘Grandma’ if you will, but I DO conflate them. I’d need a bloody good argument to persuade me to change that view. I don’t find one in the article.

Another one says it’s all about hormones in utero. Lots of female hormones cause a female brain to develop, occasionally in a male body. And it’s the brain that determines your sex, not the body. And this, apparently, is now understood by science, although I confess its discovery had passed me by. The only problem with this (and admittedly I speak as a non-scientist) is that it’s drivel. My mind may be open. But it isn’t completely empty. (It’s also those hormones, apparently, that result in the “motivation to be visually attractive” in the female of the species. Which — oh really, fuck it, life’s too short).

My open mind is wanting to creak shut at this point, but I tell it no, absolutely not, and I prop it open with cocktail sticks because I’m gonna keep looking. Who knows what we’ll find next? What I found next was this:

Trans women are women AND THIS IS NOT UP FOR DEBATE.

Ah. Bit of a brick wall there, comrades. I’m genuinely trying to understand your point of view. I’m considering adopting it as my own once I’ve understood it (after all, I don’t want to be one of these horrible “TERFs”). But help me out here! How can I if you won’t discuss it?

Only it turns out that merely asking the question makes me a bigot. I know this because a man in a dress on youtube tells me so, with maximum hostility. And I start to wonder: is it possible that the trans side of the debate has set the bar for bigotry just a bit too low? So I read on. And I find this;

Terf is a slur

And I’ll be honest, at this point it becomes too much for the cocktail sticks. They buckle and snap, and my mind begins to close. Because there is only so much I can be impartial about. And no, I don’t know much about trans issues. But I know misogyny when I see it. And yes, it bothers me. And it frightens me. Yes, I lose my objectivity at this point – and with it, the ability to keep my mind open. Which is just as well, because what I learn next would – if my mind was still open – have made my brain fall out:

  • Lesbians pressured to have sex with TW with penises? (How rapey is that?) — TW in women’s sport? How can this possibly be okay? Who ever thought it was?
  • TW saying they’re the only true representatives of womanhood (for reasons so ridiculous I can’t be arsed to repeat them here)?

And most of all, most tragically and awfully of all,

  • confused children being permanently deprived of their fertility and sexual function before they’re old enough to choose their A-level subjects??

And by this point I’m realising that maybe those awful TERFs might just possibly not be so awful after all. Maybe they’ve actually got a point. In fact, astonishingly, many of them seem hugely intelligent and insightful. And anything but bigoted.

I’d like to discuss this in Labour circles. But here’s the thing: I am scared. I am ACTUALLY SCARED to put into words that I’m worried, that I think there are genuine issues to be considered, that there may be competing rights here.

Now, my cowardice is my own problem, and I can’t blame anyone else for it. I know this. But for what it’s worth, I’m a barrister: I argue, confront and piss people off for a living. I enjoy debate. I don’t think I’ve ever before found myself too scared to express my point of view before, ever, about anything. So I do ask: what is going on here?

Yes, I’m pathetic. Yes, I ought to speak up and accept the ostracism that I know will follow. But I can’t, at least not yet. And much as that speaks volumes about me as an individual, I wonder – does it say something too about the debate itself?

Massive respect to those of you who have spoken up and taken the consequences.

Thank you for listening.

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