I’m going away again for a week and a half or so; I will have to cancel my show at Lerena Vineyard on the 18th. My favourite niece is getting married to the Afghani soldier she rescued from the Taliban, and I can’t miss it! Their story is epic and I expect it to be a book someday. Tomorrow (Tuesday) will be my first show there; I’ve been practicing and falling deeper and deeper into love with my music, the songs I’ve written and the cover songs I love. I love music that is deep and real, that says something, and I’ve been waiting for my voice and guitar playing to grow into itself. Thanks to the angels, Marc, Angel, Denis, and Blues Fest, I am ready! It’s been a long time coming. (This isn’t a promotional paragraph; the show will be over before you see it. But it’s a big deal for me!) After that, you can hear me on August 1st and 22nd at the Vineyard, and of course at the Festival on the 12th. (Okay, a bit promotional.)
Now I must speak on a very difficult and divisive topic. I’ve been asked by a few readers to please address it; I’ve held off for a long time because I didn’t know how to approach it. The Hornby Denman Health Care insert in the Grapevine recently for Pride Month gave me inspiration, especially the definition of ‘transphobia.’ It was simple, clear and made sense. It’s this: “Transphobia: Systemic violence against trans people, associated with attitudes such as fear, discomfort, distrust or disdain.”
Systemic violence is very bad, for obvious reasons. Trans people do, as all humans do, have the absolute right to live their lives as they choose, not be questioned about their personal choices, to express themselves and their identities freely and proudly. I say ‘do,’ rather than ‘should,’ because a right is a right. No one should be shamed, insulted or excluded for how they feel or how they express themselves in the world, providing they do no harm. The trans folk I know personally are kind, lovable humans, part of the rich variety of human culture, and they deserve to be celebrated for shining their light into this crazy world against such terrific odds.
Do I feel ‘fear, discomfort, distrust or disdain’ around trans folk? Never, truly. I gender people correctly (except one still-embarrassing on-air error from years ago!), I respect identity, I treasure diversity, of expression and opinion and everything else. What a glorious garden of different forms we humans are! Most trans folk, it seems to me, simply want to live their lives as their chosen gender and contribute so much. I see my community as a whole, and some of its members happen to be trans. I don’t see them as ‘different,’ just uniquely themselves, much like me. Could I fall in love with a trans man? Yes, certainly, if he were the right person and we ‘clicked’. Why not?
That’s me. I don’t impose my preference and choice on others, and I stand to defend the rights of others to express theirs. Everyone deserves respect, agency and self-definition. We need to listen to each other in these troubled times, and treat with respect even those we disagree with.
The real issue is this: if we are not allowed to discuss the very real problems and unintended side effects that rise, may rise, or are feared to rise around the recent changes to the law the land, then what we have is no longer a democracy. Whatever happened to nuanced discussion and due process? I’m talking about the recent laws designed to protect trans people, which I believe to be kindly meant but rushed and poorly thought through.
Despite the firestorm of opinions raging online, most people in real life are scared, hunkered down, talking only within their circles. I myself kept silent since the issue first came to light, back in 2017, when the new laws were imposed. Around that time, I dared to suggest on Facebook that maybe, just maybe, people born with vaginas had a shared lived experience and unique vulnerability, and maybe, just maybe, it could be ok that they have spaces for themselves, sometimes, in certain vulnerable situations. It seemed reasonable. Still does, if I’m honest, and I do strive to be.
People I loved, respected, and liked in real life were shockingly swift to pile on. I was told that as a ‘cis woman’ (I didn’t think I was, but even if??), my opinions didn’t matter, were harmful, would result in the deaths of trans people. They didn’t say exactly how that would happen. I was advised to be silent. Several others chimed in to support and agree with me, and all later deleted their comments. I didn’t wish to harm anyone, and not knowing what harm might come, I was effectively silenced. Since then, I have worked hard to educate myself. I’ve learned, but it’s a mess.
I’m scared to say anything still–I don’t like to be yelled at. I am compelled, though. I feel a responsibility to a certain group of humans. Why is there no word for that massive group, the majority of humans who only recently, less than a hundred years ago, gained the status of persons in this country? We had a moment in the 80s, when it was acceptable in feminist circles to be proud to own a vagina, to celebrate what made us uniquely powerful and valuable, including our physical nature.
Now? Pride is for others, not for vagina havers, breeders, baby factories. We are told that enjoying, let alone celebrating our biology is despicable and transphobic, and though we number in the vast majority, we are expected to defer to their definitions of us. We are again designated the role of supporters and cheerleaders for the ones who deserve to be celebrated. This is a frighteningly familiar feeling–it’s what I grew up with. It’s called misogyny. What is going on?
I can’t simply suck up what I’m told. It’s not fair to expect it. Make it make sense! I fought too hard to get free of the gendered expectations that oppressed me all my life. I fully agree with “Trans women are women,” as a kindly meant legal fiction for the purpose of inclusion. Identity should not be questioned or policed. You be you, of course. But please. Let me be me, and think my own thoughts, and speak my own mind. Yes–I feel angry–but it’s an old rage, I grew up with it. I try to keep it in check. But it keeps getting triggered. It’s not about trans folk, or anybody else. It’s about feeling shut down, squished into a shape that doesn’t fit me. I don’t like it. Nobody does.
The issue goes beyond inclusion and into erasure of people like me, who identify as their biology, who feel nothing inside themselves that is ‘woman’ except bulgy baby making bellies and boobs. We may be comfortable with those bodies (as likely not!), but reject the roles assigned to them. Nothing about gender feels innate to me. What is gender identity? I don’t deny that you have one, because I believe you. But to be told, and have it made into law, that everyone has one without exception, where does that come from? Who asked the rest of us how we feel? Who has done the research to ascertain that this nebulous thing called gender identity is innate? Are we making a giant mistake?
There has to be a better way to include. Inclusion means everyone, without exception, or it is not inclusion. These changes have been too swift, too sweeping, unprocessed. People must be allowed to discuss, to disagree, to argue, to work toward some sort of accommodation that works for all–trans and non-trans. It’s not easy! And it shouldn’t be too easy. Real, deep change takes time to evolve, to be effective and lasting. Let’s face it: some of these laws simply beg to be abused by predatory males. Predators are opportunists, and where loopholes exist, they will take advantage.
Take prison self ID. Sexual predators exist, they are concentrated in maximum security men’s prisons, and why should that be denied? Why would a convicted serial sex predator NOT take advantage of the opportunity to self-ID as a woman in order to escape a dreary, dangerous men’s maximum-security prison to a women’s prison, where conditions are relatively cushy and, I dare say, where they might have access to their favourite prey? I’m not talking about trans women. I’m talking about male predators who self ID only after having been convicted of repeated horrific sexual crimes, and all of a sudden, ‘oh, you’re a woman, that makes you harmless.’ And the fox is in the henhouse. If you say, ‘that could never happen,’ I suggest you look up a recent study by Correctional Services Canada, entitled “Gender Diverse Offenders with a History of Sexual Offending.” The implications are troubling.
I hope no one is hurt, offended or in any way feels violated by what I have to say, though I expect the act of saying anything at all will be triggering. I am sorry for that. I needed to. Please do not shout slogans at me. If you think I have been transphobic in this article, please explain to me how. Thank you for listening, if you have.
What do you think? Email me at email@example.com