Saturday 19 January 2013

Feminist transvestites.

I spent much of last week arguing on Twitter and in online comment arenas (blogs, CiF). Most readers will probably know what that was about, but for those that don't...

It all arose from a casual (and unnecessary) jibe by Suzanne Moore (about Brazilian trans women), which quickly progressed (after Moore was challenged and took umbrage) to direct insults (from both sides), then out-and-out hate speech (from Julie Burchill in The Observer, prompting 2000+ complaints), followed by a ridiculous non-argument about "press freedom" (after Burchill's article was taken down again) – and the affair continues to rumble on.

I'm not going to link to any of that here. You can easily find it for yourself. Instead, I want to highlight a related article in The Guardian: ‘Why I'm trans … and a feminist’. The sub-headline reads: “In the light of this week's row between two prominent feminists and the trans community, we asked four trans writers to reflect on what feminism means to them”. This “trans-feminist panel” comprised Paris Lees, Jane Fae, CL Minou, and Stuart Crawford. The first three I know as prominent trans activists, but Stuart Crawford I didn't. He starts:

I'm a transvestite, in that I often wear what are generally deemed women's clothes. I don't set out to "pass" as a woman; it's just that most people tend to assume that I am one and I'm disinclined to correct them. While often reluctant to describe myself as such, I consider myself to be a feminist.

Stuart makes a lot of good points in his short piece – such as “There's not much that draws out violence like causing people to question their own sexuality. Misogyny, transphobia, homophobia: these things are interwoven.” and “Trans people have unique perspectives on sex and gender, and to exclude our voices from the discussion is to do feminism a disservice.” – as you can read for yourself. But it's the first three words that got me.

A lot of people are erased from these debates – trans men in particular – but transvestites (my own constituency) generally aren't even engaged. So it's very refreshing to see a fellow-traveller with the desire to talk seriously about feminism and being given the media space in which to do so.

Thanks, Stuart. And to The Guardian as well – this is the right way; please keep it up.