Stonewall demonstration: Freak Power!


3:38 pm - November 8th 2008

by Laurie Penny    


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Thursday’s event was the largest trans demonstration in British history. One hundred and fifty transsexual, transgender, transvestite, intersex, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queerfolk and allies gathered in front of the Stonewall awards, yelling ‘Stonewall: hyp-o-crites!’ as wonks in spangly dinner jackets made their way up the steps. A fantastic evening, although I did feel a little sorry for the seven to twelve members of the ‘Julie Bindel fanclub’ that gathered on the other side of the steps before leaving early. Early press reports seem to be firmly on the side of the protest, with even Stonewall award-winners lamenting the exclusion of the trans community.

Bindel was not, in the end, named ‘Journalist of the Year’ by Stonewall – the honour went to Dr Miriam Stoppard of the Mirror. But will someone please take Julie’s pen away before she pokes her eye out with it? Today, in the Guardian, in a piece which contains not one scrap of research but a great deal of bile, she’s having a little tantrum, telling the whole queer spectrum to go ‘way and just leave normal people like her alone:

‘It is all a bit of an unholy alliance. We have been put in a room together and told to play nicely. But I for one do not wish to be lumped in with an ever-increasing list of folk defined by “odd” sexual habits or characteristics. Shall we just start with A and work our way through the alphabet? A, androgynous, b, bisexual, c, cat-fancying d, devil worshipping. Where will it ever end?’

Spouting such paranoid filth in a national newspaper and then demanding not to be held accountable for ‘hate-speech’ would be funny if it didn’t make me want to eviscerate the nearest Guardian editor. It is clear that Ms Bindel does not want to be associated with anyone apart from other lesbians, literally or figuratively, and then only those she deems ‘good’ lesbians. If this hadn’t been made plain already, her prudish, achingly unfunny little ‘alphabet’, where she links ‘androgynous’ and ‘bisexual’ people to ‘devil-worshippers’, spells it out. She resents the expansion of the Queer nation beyond the tidy little enclaves of ‘gay’and ‘lesbian’, and seems to pine for ‘the 1970s and 80s’ when ‘lesbians were left to our own devices, and mainly organised and socialised separately from gay men.’

And that’s alright. That sort of rampant bigotry is what we have come to expect from Bindel and Rod Liddle’s breed of biscuit-eating armchair prudes, sneering at the young, the freakish and the brave. What’s not okay is that organisations like Stonewall and the Guardian continue to give people like Bindel a platform for her horribly right-wing views. Please believe me: the only difference, now, between Bindel and any fun-hating Daily Mail hack is that Julie likes cunt. But being gay, by itself, does not make anyone a liberal, nor does it excuse gender fascism.

Sarah, a young transperson and organiser of Thursday’s demo, commented: ‘I do genuinely feel sorry for her. I think she so wanted to be a big crusading journalist, who uncovered some great big medical plot to turn gay and lesbian people straight through surgery. But all she’s succeeded in doing is managing to unite most of the trans community in annoyance at the organisations who are so keen on ignoring their own communities in order to cosy up to her, and make herself look increasingly stupid in print.
To the people behind her nomination for “Journalist of the Year”, I think you should be ashamed of yourselves for the way you’ve treated trans people by proxy, and you should also be ashamed of yourself for nominating someone who produces articles like today’s, because lots of people can recognise quality journalism, and that’s not it.’

Bindel and her supporters have abandoned any notion of solidarity within the women’s rights movement or within the queer rights movement. It’s up to us to stand up for our generation of freaks and rule-breakers and say: we will not permit you to pull up the ladder of progress behind you. We are not ashamed. We’re coming to rattle your complacent little cages: sexual deviants, transfolk and gender magicians, bisexuals, pansexuals, pagans and atheists, angels and demons, black, white, Asian, mixed-race, boys and girls, men and women and everyone in between. We will not ghetto ourselves any longer. We will not be denied again. In fact, you know what? We’re here. And we’re queer.

Get used to it.

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About the author
Laurie Penny is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She is a journalist, blogger and feminist activist. She is Features Assistant at the Morning Star, and blogs at Penny Red and for Red Pepper magazine.
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Reader comments


Yes. Absolutely. Totally.

Thanks for this, and i totally agree on the point of, aside from her views, why does someone who writes such self-centred rubbish as that get nominated for anything?

A piece – in the Guardian – which contains no research, only bile?

Whoever heard of such a thing?!

Although a financial supporter of Stonewall this is not the first time I have had my doubts. Well done.

*Applause*

Once again, you have put into words what was in my head in nebulous form.

Well done for writing this. Despite having long been a Guardian reader there is no way I can align myself with the views of someone such as Bindel. I was stood at that protest and am proud of the fact, now is the time for a new generation to stand up and take on the fight against inequality, the grass roots have been left wilting in the shade for far too long.

Hear Hear!!

I’m not happy with this article.

Firstly, there’s no comparison with Rod Liddle and Julie Bindel. At least she apologised for what she said… Liddle is a regular hate monger and bullshitter.

Secondly, there are way worse hate mongers towads trans gendered ppl than Julie B. Maybe all those people who went to the demonstration should try reading the right wing press once in a while instead of juust the Guardian. My point is, they would be better off directing their anger at the real enemy than living in the cosy Guardian world where Julie B inspires 150 ppl to come to a protest.

All this reminds me of typical left-wing myopic behaviour about the nature of the threat. People are arguing over who throws out the rubbish while the house burns. This is why Proposition 8 was passed in Califiornia – left-liberals never get organised against the real enemy until its too late.

Compare that to a several thousand demonstration here in LA against Prop 8 by LGBT ppl after the damn thing had passed – why couldn’t they protest loudly before-hand?
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-longbeach8-2008nov08,0,7928936.story

Making Bindel into enemy number 1 is an easy but idiotic strategy for trans gender rights.

‘All this reminds me of typical left-wing myopic behaviour about the nature of the threat.’

In this case, I don’t think so, Sunny. The point we’re trying to make is transfolk deserve to be given space by the people who are supposed to be on our side – left-wing newspapers, Queer rights organisations and the like. The trans movement is, for the most part, made up of shy people who need more in the way of support and understanding before we can take on the biggest fights of all.

And in fact, despite what Julie thinks, the protest wasn’t all about her – although her article may well mean that the next one is! We were protesting the propensity of establishment queer organisations and liberal platforms not acknowledging the trans community. What we want acknowledged is precisely what you say – that trans issues are continuous with all gender issues and transpeople should be allowed to be part of that fight, rather than sectioned off.

People who are transgender face some of the harshest social prejudice anyone encounters in this country. They are regular victims of hate-crime and victimisation, and the types of treatment – psychological and physical – which they require are little understood and badly provided for within this society. The feminist movement and the left in general needs to move with the times – that’s what this protest was for. A wake-up call.

I agree there are far worse things in the right wing media, but that it where I expect to read bigotry, not in a supposedly left leaning newspaper. I am not ignorant of the right wing media, but that does not mean that the trans community should shut up and take the beatings when it comes from people closer to them. Perhaps the reason why this provoked so much reaction is the sense of betrayal that comes when your supposed “friends” close the doors on you; after all, the right wing is where you’d expect to see this coming from. The trans community hasn’t divided the left wing through protesting, after all, it is the community within all this which has been advocating co-operation, the left wing has been divided by those who sit there telling trans people that they don’t exist.

She did not apologize for what she said, only the tone she used, the core content of her arguments remained the same, she made the assertion that transgenderism isn’t a legitimate identity and never retracted these comments. Therefore she still stands by the use of “talking therapies” (a euphemism for reparative therapies) to “treat” (or “cure”) trans people. She follows in thee footsteps of writers such as Janice Raymond, a feminist who, actually supported the “eradication” of the trans community.

Yes, we should stand side by side and be united, but how do you propose this can be done when there are those within our ranks who seek to exclude those who would otherwise ally with them?

>’cat-fanciers’
>’devil-worshippers’

>‘hate-speech’

I’m not sure I followed this one. Are you upset because zoophiles and pagans are included with TS and others, or because you consider ‘cat-fancier’ and ‘devil-worshipper’ terms of abuse?

I’m not defending Julie – I’m questioning the use of our energy in runniing a witch-hunt against someone on the left. The appriopriate response would be to protest Stonewakll quietly and then move on. There are bigger battles to be fought, even on behalf of 6trans-gendered people.

Starting another splitter movement with every disagreement on the left is not how we build coalitions.

11. Publicansdecoy

Awesome post. Thank you for articulating this.

A very interesting situation. Here we have a person (Laurie) that has previously on this site said that her feminism is one that shouldn’t include those that would actively pursue an end to abortion…yet is railing against a woman (Julie) who says that her homosexuality shouldn’t include those that are transgender or otherwise. Is there not an hypocrisy here?

I for one can actually see the point Julie is making (for once). What she wants is little more than what has been argued vehemently for on this very site…for the boundaries of a grouping to be curtailed and managed short of what others would consider to be inclusive. This is, of course, something I don’t agree with so in that sense am glad Laurie has highlighted it.

But ultimately Sunny is right, it’d be nice to sort out these sort of issues, but energies could be so much better spent on much bigger issues and bigger groups.

Lee: “energies could be so much better spent on much bigger issues and bigger groups.”

the issues at the extremes of societal experience evoke a sharper contrast which makes the ideas behind them so much more vivid – the ultimate test of a society is how it treats the most vulnerable among its’ number.

Well, alright, Lee, but that’s because you’re ignoring the interactions of the terms in your example. Actively seeking an end to abortion is directly contrary to seeking to maximise the rights of women. Being trans and gay is not similarly contradictory (explanation and links, if you’d like). Moreover, it’s not just the transpeople she’s not happy with in “her” homosexuality, it’s bisexuals and various others as well. It’s not her homosexuality, and she doesn’t get to decide who gets in. Bindel can’t normalise lesbianism and leave out all the other queers who have as much right to inclusion as she does.

I do agree that there are, of course, far worse socio-cultural ills than J.Bindel, but I feel that dealing with this kind of bigoted shitwittery needn’t be a zero-sum game. Furthermore, the publishing of her most recent abomination in the Guardian means that the soft-left section of their readership, who might well become trans and queer allies if addressed correctly, are instead presented with a screed of what I regard as hatespeech. Furthermore, though Bindel is not comparable in /extent/ to someone like Liddle, Laurie has correctly identified that her rhetoric partakes of an insidious schema of suburban othering and can be directly compared in these terms to far-right demagogues.
She is speaking the same language now, and that says a lot about her method of political and theoretical engagement. Aside from anything else, she makes the rest of the queer and feminist movements look out-of-touch, hateful and self-centered by, I feel, hijacking the rhetoric of these rights movements for her own, mostly unaligned aims.

I’m not getting in to that debate again. All I’m saying is that it’s interesting that we constantly debate about the boundaries of inclusion to our little “groups” rather than simply getting on and doing what we need to do.

What I also mean to say is for a group of liberals (not that I’m even beginning to suggest Julie is one) we worry an awful lot about who should or should not be included in our groupings or organisations rather than making sure that we keep those groups or organisations simply moving forward and managing them effectively enough to keep them on track.

Yes, to this I will agree. Intersectionality of movements rather than expansion of “clubs” is the paradigm to go for. Which still means that Bindel’s exclusive rhetoric and attempted historical revisionism of the queer movement is a massive problem, because it creates or reinforces divisions that don’t need to be there.

BTW, thomas, I wasn’t aware that transgendered people lacked a voice. Yes Stonewall might be defining their boundaries in the way they are…god knows why, maybe it’s simply a resourcing issue, maybe it’s greater prejudice, someone enlighten us…but within trade unions, students unions, as well as at least one specifically tailored advocacy group that I can find, there is a huge amount of voice there.

Is Julie a bit prejudiced? Probably, from reading her work, but what Stonewall is doing is not repressing trans people. Is there more of a voice they could be given? Possibly, but why is Stonewall the organisation to do that? Why can’t more support go to existing organisations with more of a focus on the issue at hand?

At it’s heart I agree totally with an LGBT movement as it is a movement so centrally focused on sexuality and gender in society, but if self defining organisations wish to not include all those aspects it is up to them whether we agree with that method or not.

They are doing something, at least, even if not for everyone and that is their right. If we don’t think that enough is being done for transgender issues then we need to find a different banner to support, or start a whole new one…not try and brow beat an organisation “among our number” that is doing good work but, according to some of our readers here…not enough good work in their opinion.

It’s ridiculous, they’ve not done anything wrong but define a boundary to their operations, not made a statement about the viability or not of transgendered people in society and their right to equality. Yet supposedly we’re attacking them with this stick of supposedly being against transgendered people? It’s not a fair analysis and it completely skews the arguments.

So.. in a much more rambling manner than I intended, that’s why we shouldn’t be wasting energy on this particular issue here, and that’s why there isn’t an issue in the first place because stonewall isn’t treating the vulnerable in our society badly in the first place!

Withiel…as far as I’m aware Bindel’s main overarching aim is to keep the gay movement as a gay movement, whether you’re gay, lesbian, transgender and homosexual, or are homosexual and like to also have sex with wild animals. What I believe, from what I read, was that she doesn’t understand why gay rights has anything to do with also standing up for the rights of non-gay transgender people…etc…etc. Though, of course, that in itself has to be a very grey area in debate.

I don’t think she expressed it very well, and as such I’m not entirely sure just how much of her prejudice does slip in to also not wanting to support non “normal” (in her eyes) homosexuals, but essentially is it necessarily wrong to think that a gay rights movement to only concern itself with gay issues?

one small point
the T in LGBT was for transgender.

Transgender people challenge ‘traditional’ assumptions about gender, this includes drag queens, cross-dressers, butch women, m2F and fTM transexuals, androgynes, femme men, drag kings, transvestites, gender queer and numerous other labels and groups etc

Transgender people exist all over the sexual spectrum be in kink and/or str8, homo/bisexual.or asexual

and yes people from all over the spaces were there – there were even intersexuals!!!

21. Jonathan Best

This has been an ugly, intolerant spectacle – a crowd of censorious bullies attempting to silence and humiliate a journalist. Yes, she can be abrasive. Yes, the 2004 piece she wrote was cruel and misjudged – and Julie has apologised with utter sincerity for that. But no, that’s not enough for these bullies. She’s dared to transgress what some in the trans communities see as the limits of permitted speech on these issues, and so she must be destroyed. Well this stinks, I reckon. Julie Bindel is NOT the enemy, at least she’s not the enemy that deserves this level of vitriol.

She is not ‘transphobic’, she is not guilty of ‘hate speech’ (whatever that is), and she is not a bigot.

Go find the real bigots and give THEM a hard time. Leave Julie Bindel alone.

“Leave Julie Bindel alone.”

Why did I get a sense of that whole “Leave Britney Alone!” thing in this post?

“I’m not defending Julie – I’m questioning the use of our energy in runniing a witch-hunt against someone on the left.”

A witchhunt? This is rather like if a Civil Rights group had nominated for a high profile prize someone who mocked hispanics and said that he wanted to live alone with just blacks. The irony of an organisation aiming to eradicate one form of bigotry nominating an individual who has engaged in another, highly similar, strain is surely one which requires opposition. I fear that you may be playing the partisan here, Sunny.

Clearly Bindel does not follow your ecumenical view in the slightest, given that she apparently wishes to be “Left alone” to live with the few other lesbians that can put up with her narrow minded invective. I am not exactly sure how someone with your “Everyone just get along and agree to channel all of that negative energy into bad-mouthing the Tories” attitude (which, I should add, I in many ways find highly admirable) can really respond to that. I would be interested to see an article from you or any others who share your convictions with regards to left unity on the matter. I certainly should get around to writing one.

My take on the matter for now is here: http://liquidatethekulaks.blogspot.com/2008/11/whats-difference.html

Lee, it’s reasonable that Stonewall should support transgender people, if only because they were at the very front and centre of the Stonewall riots the organisation is named for.

For what it’s worth, Stonewall Scotland is much more trans-inclusive (their homepage reads “Equality and Justice for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people”, as opposed to England & Wales’s “for Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals”.) I get the feeling they have much the same relationship with Stonewall that Scottish Labour do with New Labour – ranging from mild embarrassment to head-desking frustration.

“But I for one do not wish to be lumped in with an ever-increasing list of folk defined by “odd” sexual habits or characteristics. Shall we just start with A and work our way through the alphabet? A, androgynous, b, bisexual, c, cat-fancying d, devil worshipping. Where will it ever end?’”

It’s a bit sly of her to put odd in sneer quotes when she actually means odd.

Ben

“there’s no comparison with Rod Liddle and Julie Bindel. At least she apologised for what she said… Liddle is a regular hate monger and bullshitter.”

Julie apologised for her tone rather than her opinion and it was her opinion that was the problem. She suggested that people who transition need therapy rather than the space to live their lives as they choose and that is a completely regressive opinion that was unbelievably offensive and ill thought out. It should bite her back because it was atrocious.

She has consistently ignored professionals who have questioned her articles and views concerning trans issues as if she knew better than people who tread the line in making decisions about these issues every day. Her intentions are questionable in the face of her consistent reluctance to examine her opinion and she reinforces transphobia in people who hold this as their last big prejudice. It’s not uncommon to meet liberal and left wing people who are critical and prejudiced against those who are transgender and Julie Bindel makes that worse not a Daily Mail columnist.

Julie Bindel’s opinions are wrong and it’s time for her to face what she has written and understand what it really means to the people she was writing about.

“Julie Bindel is NOT the enemy, at least she’s not the enemy that deserves this level of vitriol.”

Maybe she’s not your enemy, maybe she’s not mine but if I had surgery to change gender and she called it mutilation and suggested I should have sought counselling instead would I feel the same?

Julie Bindel’s opinions are wrong and it’s time for her to face what she has written and understand what it really means to the people she was writing about.

Opinions are opinions – it’s a free country. I’m not saying I agree with her opinion, I just don’t see the need to start a fight over the issue when, as I’ve said above, JB is not the biggest enemy of trans-gendered people. There are bigger enemies out there.

And lastly, someone said above that this sort of stuff shouldn’t be appearing in the Guardian. Look, the Guardian is not the whole universe.

My point is precisely that we have to take on the people in the Daily Mail, regardless of the fact that you expect bigotry there. That is the bigger and more important battle – not the easy ones with the likes of JB.
If we want to change attitudes, we cannot live in the cosy world of Guardian readers – we have to take on the Daily Mail. And this is why I’m questioning all this effort and time put into Julie B.

Sunny – you have a point, but if any group on the liberal/left was trying to formulate policy in this area, in order to take on the Mail, you’d spend a vast amount of energy trying to get Bindel (and her allies – there’s a long history of this kind of thing amongst radical feminists) to pipe down so something more humane can be agreed upon.

That said, I gave up on pretty much anything she wrote a long time ago: the current row just confirms why.

“If we want to change attitudes, we cannot live in the cosy world of Guardian readers – we have to take on the Daily Mail. And this is why I’m questioning all this effort and time put into Julie B.”

I fail to understand this at all…How can the Guardian be both cosy AND inhabited by a transphobe? Surely it should be a concern that a barbarian is not merely outside the gates, but already within the walls? I fear that your partisanship is blinding you here, Sunny.

Ok so I am being asked to believe that someone who is biologically male can be a a ‘woman’. I’m not saying that’s what the queer community or anyone else who is asking believes -that’s what the law of the land says. If you have ‘gender dysphoria’ – even if you’re biologically male you’re a woman if you have a piece of paper that says so.

So as a woman who is sexually attracted to women (my definition of a lesbian) I’m being asked to say that I should accept people with penises as women because they identify as women. In other words they’re saying THEY have the right to define what a woman is.

But I don’t apparently. Even though I’m a woman too.

Can you see the problem?

To Polly: You are defining them by what’s in their underwear. They are defining themselves by what’s in their brain. Mental overrides physical. You know, rather like your mentally-based attraction to women overrides the fact that you are physically set up for reproducing with men.
Also, accepting someone as a woman doesn’t oblige you to be attracted to them.

Finally, you seem to assume that all transsexuals are male-to-female, which ain’t so.

To address the main subject: It’s not Bindel that I object to half as much as a supposedly progressive paper publishing her bigoted whining. Sure, the bigger fight may be with the greater mass of bigots on the right, but that doesn’t mean that prejudice should be permitted within the ranks, so to speak.

Polly – neither they nor you have the right to define what “woman” means.

You can self-define (or not) as “woman”, and every other individual can also self-define (or not) as “woman”.

So there’s no problem.

“Mental overrides physical”

Well it patently doesn’t or people wouldn’t want surgical intervention.

“You can self-define (or not) as “woman”, and every other individual can also self-define (or not) as “woman”.”

Why stop with gender? What if I want to self-identify as ‘black’ despite being Asian or ‘young’ despite being middle-aged or ‘old’ despite being young or ‘deaf’ despite having perfect pitch? Or as a horse despite being a human being? The reincarnation of a surgeon? A twin despite being a singleton? A little person despite being seven feet tall?

Well of course I *can* but only in a free-speech sort of way. My legal rights shouldn’t change every time I pick a different identity.

If someone’s actually changed what’s in their underwear, I think it’s at the very least polite to treat them as the gender they’ve swapped to. There’s a real philosophical difficulty about whether they’re ‘really’ a man or woman, but frankly if you’ve tried that hard I think it’s only fair we should take your identity at face value.

But if you want to swap clothes and put on makeup and change your name – without changing the continents of your underwear – fine, it’s your clothes and your makeup and your name, and let’s make sure you’re not subject to abuse or discrimation for making that harmless choice. But you can’t lay claim to all the privileges and problems of membership of a sex if you can take the wig off at the end of the day. And if you wander into a women’s toilet without bothering to shave off your beard first, you can hardly cavil if old ladies shriek.

“Why stop with gender? What if I want to self-identify as ‘black’ despite being Asian or ‘young’ despite being middle-aged or ‘old’ despite being young or ‘deaf’ despite having perfect pitch? Or as a horse despite being a human being? The reincarnation of a surgeon? A twin despite being a singleton? A little person despite being seven feet tall?”

This argument is often brought up in these kinds of discussions and I’ve always thought it’s completely impractical. How many people do you really think WOULD self-define as a horse? The problems associated with the handful of people who might take the piss are much less severe than the problems with not accepting people’s self-definitions.

What if someone changes what’s in their underwear but refuses to shave their beard off? Are people entitled to abuse them then? Where are you drawing the line?

> Are people entitled to abuse them then?

Absolutely not. Beards, horses and underwear should all be entitled to walk the streets in safety, seek employment without discrimination, vote, marry whoever the hell they like, all that entry-level stuff needed for a society to consider itself civilised. But if you’ve gone through the surgery but kept your beard and want to walk into a woman’s changing room, the onus to be considerate and make it clear what’s going on is on you. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be allowed in there, it just means that accusing a roomful of startled retirees of transphobia is frivolous.

What seems disingenuous to me is the assertion that it’s a simple issue: that your definition of whatever you’ve decided to be is as valid as anyone else’s, and that’s the end of the story. With roles and contexts as complicated, politically charged and primally powerful as masculinity and femininity, it can’t be straightforward. And imputing ignorant bourgeois sensibilities to people who won’t accept novel forms of self-identification at face value doesn’t really advance the debate.

>How many people do you really think WOULD self-define as a horse?

Some. More than would change what’s in the underwear and not shave the beard off, I’d think. Most of those examples above are real (all of them might be for all I know). People decide they have a special kinship with animals, and go on to consider outre behaviour or interference with those animals justified on those grounds.

The point I’m making is not that no-one would self-define as a horse, it’s that no-one would self-define as a horse to make some kind of personal gain, whilst secretly believing or at least wanting to be a horse. I’m saying no-one (or at least a very small insignificant number of people not worth taking into account) would fool others by falsely self-defining as a horse.

No-one “picks” an identity at random in the way you insinuated earlier when you said “My legal rights shouldn’t change every time I pick a different identity.” Very few people choose their identity flippantly or for selfish gain hoping to achieve some new set of rights. So why can’t we just be fine with letting people self-define how they wish?

I’m not accusing the startled retirees of transphobia, btw. Some of them might be transphobic, many of them wouldn’t be after getting over the shock of being exposed to something new to them. But I will say let’s not place boundaries on how people express themselves because we think too little of startled retirees.

How exactly would someone who’s undergone surgery but kept the beard be expected to “make clear what was going on”, anyway? Are you expecting them to make a public service announcment every time they need a pee? “Hello, I’m Debbie. You may be startled, dear retirees, at seeing someone with a beard walk into the ladies’, but fret not, I’ve had the operation. I will now allow you time to adjust your gender expectations before sitting down and relieving myself.”

38. Jonathan Best

I’ve been watching this row from the sidelines for the last couple of weeks and it’s sometimes seemed ugly. I’d like to try and explain why I think that, because as a queer man I should feel more solidarity with those who are angered by Julie Bindel – but, for various reasons, I find that I do not.

Firstly, I can understand why JB’s views on gender reassignment surgery are strongly disagreed with by many of those who have undergone, or wish to undergo, such surgery, together with many others in the trans and queer or LGBT communities. Julie B addresses these issues from a radical feminist point of view, whereas those self-identifying as trans do so from point of view of their own identities. So there’s a clash which is thoroughly bound up in identity politics, and it’s right that there should be argument and debate about it.

But using the language of phobias is counter productive. If Julie Bindel is ‘transphobic’, what language is left to describe those who seek to deny civil rights to trans people, who would attack attack them or encourage others to do so? The terminology we employ needs calibrating more carefully. (And don’t tell me about the Stonewall ‘definition’ of transphobia – they’ve no innate right to define terminology.)

Personally, I’d advocate a total end to the language of phobias in identity terms – homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, the whole lot of them. We slap the label on someone as a way of placing their views beyond the bounds of the acceptable, and to dodge having to actually make a positive argument against them. This case is a classic example of that short circuiting of democracy that this use of language creates.

Many people, on Facebook and other blogs, have expressed a desire to deny Julie Bindel platforms for her work, to censor her. This is worrying. Most of JB’s work is around issues such as violence against women, rape, and prostitution – all vital subjects which get too little exposure in the national press. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of seeing Julie Bindel solely through the prism of her opinions on GSR and trans issues. Attempting to silence her is not justified.

In the end, making such a witch hunt of Julie Bindel is indulgent and rather misses the point. She is not guilty of whipping up or expressing ‘hate’, she’s not doing anything other than expressing a series of opinions that are informed by her own brand of radical left politics and her commitment to human rights. Disagreement with her needs to be more proportional, more focused, and less censorious. It’s true, she doesn’t experience the world from a trans perspective, she can be abrasive (and downright rude sometimes), and she often adopts such extreme positions that she deserves to be argued with passionately.

But, as I said earlier, she’s not the big enemy. She has supporters in the trans and queer community – people who don’t necessarily agree with everything she says, but who are sickened by the tenor and viciousness of the campaigns against her. I count myself among them.

I hope this is dying down now and that, in time, calmer and more thoughtful voices will emerge to move this difficult argument on more productively.

(PS – Lee Griffin – Ohmygod you’re right. I did sound like ‘Leave Britney Alone’. I hope this post is a little calmer…)

Nice post Jonathan – agree fully.

the first “whilst” in my last comment should read “without”, dammit

An attempt to draw an analogy for Jonathan and sunny – it is nor reflective of my acyual beliefs

“so jonathan
Its good that you recognise that you are a man working to overcome your gender confusion. Recognising that its women who are attracted to men, and that anything else is a perversion of nature. Its good that you admit to having homosexual tendencies, this i a good sign and its the first step in your recovery.

Recognising that these perverse feelings whilst powerful must be put aside if you are to be a normal man. I assume that you have been seeing a therapist to help you with treatment. You must be aware that a significant number of community have a fascination with young boys and thus you must keep yourself away from such thoughts and avoid contact with children until you have lived as a normal secure man for several years. Obviously in time you hope to have a wife and children. if you have not got a therapist as yet may I urge you to find one as soon as possible less you sink back in your deprivation and sordid perversions. May I recommend you find one who can support reinforce your manhood, someone who is expert in the use of aversion therapy

Be aware whilst some strident homophiles have been shouting abuse at people only trying to help people such as yourself, they are only opening themselves to a slow death both in mind and body. It is import Jonathan that you help yourself overcome this sickness before you are loose all possibility of securing your manhood forever

analogy mode off.
If you find the above paragraphs in any way homophobic understand what julie bindel says in her hatred of transexuals make those words seem tame

Actually what i failed to say as a lesbian feminist I would find those three paragraphs highly offensive and homophobic just as much what the self styled “radical”, but in my opinion reactionary. feminists have spewed out against all sorts of groups that they feel justified in abusing

“Lee, it’s reasonable that Stonewall should support transgender people, if only because they were at the very front and centre of the Stonewall riots the organisation is named for.”

What other common yet vitally irrelevant attributes can we find that Stonewall also have to support actively then? Stonewall don’t NOT support transgender, they’re more than happy to point them to groups that are better served to support and advocate for them, but should they also be a support group for brunettes? Perhaps those front and centre also had asthma so Stonewall should be a Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Asthmatic support group?

The reason that the Stonewall riots happened was because of persecution of gays and lesbians, a grouping that happens to include a lot of transexuals. There is a muddy water, say you are a man who’s had a sex change to a woman, and you like men…are you gay? Perhaps to some people you are, but to you you’re not. Why is a lesbian and gay campaign group like Stonewall the sort of place you should expect support for your own situation?

Keep it simple, that’s what Stonewall are doing and in doing so are keeping their funding focused and on point, this kind of outrage is baffling to me.

“The reason that the Stonewall riots happened was because of persecution of gays and lesbians, a grouping that happens to include a lot of transexuals. There is a muddy water, say you are a man who’s had a sex change to a woman, and you like men…are you gay? Perhaps to some people you are, but to you you’re not. Why is a lesbian and gay campaign group like Stonewall the sort of place you should expect support for your own situation?”

lee is there any other bit of history that you want distort out all recognition? Hows about selma where gay men fought for the right to vote and to live free. How’s about when a dyke was killed trying to grab the kings horse as part of “congenital invert” pride. Hows about the olympics in 68 when two gay men stood with fists aloft showing their pride in defiance of str8 society or when neal armstrong and his boyfriend walked hand in hand on the moon?

If it wasn’t for the trans community gay men and lesbians would still be paying back handers and blackmail. If it wasn’t for those who could not hide fighting back against all the str8 acting homo/bisexuals and str8’s there would have been no gay rights at all. Gay rights in America was largely funded by a transexual millionaire. The stonewall bar was a trans bar, the stonewall riot kicked off because the patrons were sick of the police coming and looking for their payoff and then harassing them for not wearing correctly gendered clothing. The early GLF was full of radical drag i.e. transgender. Oh and whilst were at please explain how you know what the sexuality of everyone involved in stonewall riots and GLF was because i know people who were part of GLF and they are defiantly Bisexual. Transgender and bisexual people have been a part of the queer community since before the 19th century

Oh and btw if a woman chooses have surgery to correct her genital anatomy so that she doesn’t have to drag a penis around any more she is still a woman. she was born woman she was never a man. If she chooses to have relationships exclusively` with men then she is str8, if exclusively with women then she is a dyke.and if love counts more than gender she is probably bisexual

“If it wasn’t for the trans community gay men and lesbians would still be paying back handers and blackmail.”

I do not wish to belittle the trans community, and don’t believe I’m doing so. If the gay trans community hadn’t been the primary instigators of change then it would have been some other gay group. Like I say, had it been a group of gay cannibals then no doubt we would be hearing that cannibals should also be represented by Stonewall, but that would be equally as irrelevant as to the base reason why the riots happened….infringements on the civil rights of gay people, no matter how they look or act.

“Oh and btw if a woman chooses have surgery to correct her genital anatomy so that she doesn’t have to drag a penis around any more she is still a woman. she was born woman she was never a man. If she chooses to have relationships exclusively` with men then she is str8, if exclusively with women then she is a dyke.and if love counts more than gender she is probably bisexual”

I don’t disagree, however she may define her sexuality differently, and others may define her sexuality differently. The point that you didn’t wish to address is that she can be transgender and not need the services of a gay support group.

46. Jonathan Best

“I do not wish to belittle the trans community, and don’t believe I’m doing so. If the gay trans community hadn’t been the primary instigators of change then it would have been some other gay group. Like I say, had it been a group of gay cannibals then no doubt we would be hearing that cannibals should also be represented by Stonewall, but that would be equally as irrelevant as to the base reason why the riots happened”

Lee, I think you are belittling trans people – by not recognising their proactive role at Stonewall (the riot, not the charity), and then by making a frankly insensitive comparison with, of all things, cannibals. Really, Lee – I know you’re just trying to illustrate your argument, but it’s not a very humane way of going about it.

Describing the trans role in instigating Stonewall as ‘irrelevant’ is mistaken. I take your point that the instigators of the riot were responding to a large injustice – as you say, the denial of human rights to all gay people ‘no matter how they look and act.’ I sympathise with your desire to wrest this from the clutches of identity politics – indeed, this whole row over Julie Bindel and Stonewall (the charity this time) is an example of how little identity politics has to offer us at this stage in our democracy.

But – and it’s a big but – the fact remains that the Stonewall riot WAS initiated by a group of queens and trannies. That’s what the Stonewall clientele was mostly made up of. it was the people who couldn’t ‘pass’ as straight who turned and fought, and that included the trannies.

Stonewall is a much-cited event, surrounded by cliché, rumour, and inaccuracy – but it’s important not to forget the fact that it was those who don’t ‘pass’, those who couldn’t rely on the security of the closet, who chose to take the risk and fight, and in so doing ignited a wave of protest which was to transform life for millions of lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer people in the West.

The issue of who can and can’t ‘pass’ is still relevant today, as the wealthy white males rely on their privilege and rise to the top, too many of them apparently embarrassed by their ‘obvious’ brothers and sisters, whether trannies, queers, or anyone else who stays visibly non-hetero. This is one of the things that incenses many about Stonewall (the charity) – it’s so nu-Labour and patronising and driven by an intellectually lazy type of identity politics, and it sweeps under the carpet those who are not immediately acceptable to polite society (for want of a better phrase). That’s part of the reason that it’s important not to efface the importance of the queens and the trannies to the Stonewall riot.

So yes, let’s move beyond identity politics and collapse the divisions and difference – but not by misrepresenting important history.

“Lee, I think you are belittling trans people – by not recognising their proactive role at Stonewall (the riot, not the charity), and then by making a frankly insensitive comparison with, of all things, cannibals.”

Let’s stop the bullshit right here, eh? Firstly I have not once *not* recognised their role. I am also not comparing transpeople to cannibals and to assume that I’ve done so is ludicrous.

“Describing the trans role in instigating Stonewall as ‘irrelevant’ is mistaken.”

I’m not arguing that the role of trans people was irrelevant, I’m saying the fact they were transpeople is irrelevant to the wider reason Stonewall as an organisation has set up and set up its purpose.

Once again for posterity…Stonewall is a support group, they took their name from a set of riots that occurred because of oppressive police measures against homosexuals. As such they are perfectly entitled to decide what they do and do not spend their money on supporting, and no matter how much you or anyone else would prefer that they (due to their name) would also actively support transpeople, the fact that they don’t does not make them transphobic or non-inclusive for their purpose (in which they will happily support transgender people on homosexual issues).

Let’s take some of the emotion out of this and start looking at it rationally rather than half reading what I’m saying and jumping to frankly absurd and annoying conclusions.

48. Jonathan Best

Sorry Lee, but I can read what you’ve written – “Like I say, had it been a group of gay cannibals then no doubt we would be hearing that cannibals should also be represented by Stonewall, but that would be equally as irrelevant as to the base reason why the riots happened”

So, clearly, you did make a comparison with cannibals. It’s right there in black and white. I’m not saying you are arguing for similarities between the categories of trans people and cannibals (god help us), but you plainly are making a comparison in your text. And it’s a slightly crude argumentative approach.

“I’m saying the fact they were transpeople is irrelevant to the wider reason Stonewall as an organisation has set up and set up its purpose.”

Well, of course – you’re right. I agree. But that wasn’t what you said in your earlier post. What you said was:

“that would be equally as irrelevant as to the base reason why the riots happened….infringements on the civil rights of gay people, no matter how they look or act.”

If you’re retracting that, then fair enough. But if you do think that the trans identities of the initial rioters is irrelevant to the reason the riots happened, then I think you’re wrong. It is a vital fact.

The issue of Stonewall the charity is separate. I completely agree with you that is unreasonable to accuse them of ‘transphobia’ – in an earlier post I’ve stated my disdain for that term, and use of the terminology of phobias generally.

Also, I’m not arguing with you about whether Stonewall should or shouldn’t support trans people more – that’s a separate (and parochial) issue. I’m just concerned that you suggested, plainly, that the fact that the Stonewall riots were driven by trannies is “irrelevant as to the base reason why the riots happened”.

Sorry if you think I’m ‘half reading’ your words – I’m trying to read them fully. Equally, I’m not trying to draw ‘absurd or annoying conclusions’ – I’m just looking carefully at what you’ve written and trying to engage constructively with it. I’m not a supporter of the hard-core of trans extremists who are driving the nasty row over Stonewall and Julie Bindel, and I agree with many of your sentiments. I just think you go a little too far by revising the history of the Stonewall riot.


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