The legendary Sheila Jeffreys. 2018. (photo: Venice Allan)

 

Men’s cross-dressing and feminism now and then

 by Sheila Jeffreys

My new book on the history of lesbian feminism, The Lesbian Revolution: lesbian feminism in the UK 1970-1990, is published on 22 August. It documents the breadth and scope of the lesbian feminist culture, theory, practice and community that we created and shows how this has all been disappeared from history. It demonstrates many differences between the historical context at that time and that of today in which a new generation of lesbians are striving to recreate a lesbian feminist movement. One difference is the existence today of an influential men’s cross-dressing rights movement which enforces men’s access to lesbians wherever we seek to meet or network. Back in the 1970s there were men who cross-dressed and tried to enter lesbian spaces, but these were very few in number. They were isolated individuals such as the man who attended the 1973 West Coast Lesbian Conference in Los Angeles and created hugely damaging divisions. Robin Morgan gave a speech against what she called ‘the obscenity of male transvestism’ at the conference in honour of his presence. In London too, there were just one or two of these men who sought to enter women’s spaces and they were overwhelmingly opposed. The term ‘transgender’ had not been adopted at the time. These men were called transvestites or cross-dressers if they did not have penectomies and transsexuals if they did.

They were unable to divert or prevent lesbian organising at that time not just because there were only one or two, but because they did not have a political movement or ideology to support them. It was not until the 1990s that some male cross-dressers were able to use the Internet to organise internationally and create a unified set of political demands for the right to act out their proclivities in public, under the rubric of ‘gender identity’ or ‘gender expression’. Today gay rights organisations, governments, the UN, political parties, education and medical systems support these men’s rights. The queer ideology which supports them has been taught to generations of young people in universities so that they now assemble to chant and jostle at any feminist meetings they have not been able to get cancelled. This is a very different context in which to recreate lesbian feminism.

In the 1970s cross-dressing was an entirely male and adult hobby. None of us (lesbian feminists) knew of any lesbians who were taking hormones or embarking on surgery to impersonate men. Children were not being transgendered at all. Rather than this behaviour being supported by a global ideology, as it is now, which argues that gender is essential and everybody has to have one and get medical treatment if theirs goes astray, the problem was limited to the weird antics of a few men. Knowing this history is important because it undermines the notion that transgenderism is something essential rather than a very recent political and historical construction. At that time, feminist organising was overwhelmingly and uncontroversially women only. In London, lesbians and feminists opposed the entry of cross-dressing men to women’s discos, meetings, marches and conferences on the straightforward grounds that they were clearly men.

My new book is based upon archive research into newsletters and documents from the 1970s and 1980s and from interviews with 12 lesbian feminists who were active in the movement. It covers the origins of lesbian feminism, lesbian culture, lesbian feminist theory, the critique of heterosexuality, and the forces which contributed to the demise such as sadomasochism, the revival of butch/femme roleplaying, identity politics and the Thatcher government of the 1980s which forbade the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ and transformed the political climate. The clarity with which men’s cross-dressing was understood at the time to be specifically a men’s rights issue, is startling, considering the extent to which transgender ideology has affected popular understandings today. The following extract from my chapter on separatism in The Lesbian Revolution illustrates the determination and strength of feeling that existed in the lesbian feminist movement on the incursion of cross-dressing men into women’s and lesbian spaces:

 

Cross-dressers mostly still kept their proclivities secret and they were not claiming to be women or lesbians. Also, the feminist politics of the time was strong. The very basis of the WLM was a belief in the importance and strength of womanhood, which was based on women’s biology and honed through growing up to face oppression as a girl and as a woman. There was an overwhelming sense, at least as revealed in the London Women’s Liberation newsletter in the late 1970s, that the handful of male interlopers who sought to gain entry to women’s discos could never be women and should be determinedly excluded.

The lesbian feminist, Maria Katyachild, for instance, wrote in the LWLN in 1979 that a male cross-dresser claiming to be a woman had attended a women’s disco,

On Saturday night a formerly accepted ‘womin’ confessed… to being a transsexual (male-to-constructed female) – i.e. a man who has had his prick cut off!… I personally am not a humanitarian, I am a feminist, there’s a difference! … It is a totally political issue…. which must …be worked out once and for all (LWLN 104, 1979, 24 January).

In the next newsletter, Pauline Long, later known as Asphodel, wrote in support of Maria, ‘And all of us say NO. Putting on skirts and make-up, even having “the” operation doesn’t turn a man into a woman. What makes us women is the put-down since birth’ (LWLN 105, 1979, 31 January). She expressed herself with much feeling, saying, ‘I am born a woman, and I reflect the pain that millions of women as well as myself have borne. I will not be put down by this new kind of person…. He does not and cannot feel it. He invades the Women’s mysteries. He degrades us’. Like other feminists at the time who sought to protect their women-only spaces, she exhorts these men to form their own groups to further their own interests. They should not ‘muscle in on us’. She says, ‘Do not divide us…  Transsexual infiltration of our groups is just one more male ploy to get us down’ (Ibid). My interviewee, Sandra McNeill, wrote a piece in the newsletter at this time entitled ‘Transsexuals and the Women’s Liberation Movement’ in which she rejects the idea that such men should be admitted to women’s spaces in no uncertain terms. She writes,

The issue is men.…. Whether there is a place for men in the Women’s Liberation Movement.…. it is an insult, an insult greater than a white choosing to wear blackface, an insult greater than a member of the middle-class choosing to drop out and not use their money or education to call themselves working class, an insult to the suffering and oppression of all women for these ex oppressors to claim to be women. To accept male-to-constructed female transsexuals as women is to allow men to reassert their control over women (LWLN 106, 1979, 8 February).

Lesbian feminist theory on transsexualism was honed by the first feminist book on the subject, which was published later in the same year, The Transsexual Empire, by the American lesbian feminist philosopher Janice G. Raymond (Raymond, 1994 1st published 1979). The issue of the right of men who cross-dress to enter women’s spaces continued to be the subject of passionate commentary in the Newsletter. On July 25, 1979 there was a one-day workshop on “Transsexuals – Men or Women” at the London women’s centre, A Woman’s Place (AWP). The policy of AWP was not to allow transsexuals to have access. The report back said that there were 25 women present and transsexuals were excluded (LWLN 131, 1979, 8 August). The majority of those at the meeting was firmly against the idea that men could become women. Furious discussion continued in the Newsletter.

In August, Mary Stott, feminist journalist, first and longest serving editor of the Guardian Women’s Page, set up in 1956, and later a Chair of the Fawcett Society and one of its original trustees, wrote a piece arguing that transsexuals should be in the WLM (LWLN, 134, 1979, 29 August). Stott’s views were those of an older generation of feminists whose politics were very different from the radical and lesbian feminists of the WLM. The historian June Purvis describes her as a ‘liberal feminist’ (Purvis, 2002). I joined in the discussion in October, stating that whether these men thought they were ‘women, ducks or Boeing 707s’ they were actually simply men and had no place in the WLM (LWLN 141, 1979, 17 October). The vast majority of the opinions in the Newsletter rejected the idea that these men should be admitted. The issue continued to be important, such that adverts for events in succeeding years specifically stated that they excluded transsexuals. The National Lesbian Conference, for instance, in January 1981, stated that they would not admit them (LWLN 199, 1981,18 January). This degree of unanimity is hard to imagine today, when a powerful movement of transgender activists has, in the absence of a strong feminist movement, made strides towards the inclusion of male cross-dressers not just in women’s meetings, but in women’s toilets, prisons, refuges and sport (Jeffreys, 2014).

https://www.routledge.com/The-Lesbian-Revolution-Lesbian-Feminism-in-the-UK-1970-1990/Jeffreys/p/book/9781138096578

[Bolding, images, added by me- GM]

MORE:

Wendy “Dee Dee” Kramer, Program Manager, Hormel Center

PANEL:

Q and A INTRO:

 

Q and A Part One:

 

Genderquake

May 11, 2018

Read the rest of this entry »

If you thought the age of scold’s bridles and dunking pools designed to torture and kill disobedient women were a thing of the past, you would be wrong. The San Francisco Public Library unveiled an exhibit this week featuring blood stained t-shirts encouraging patrons to “punch” feminists, along with several installations of deadly weapons painted pink: baseball bats covered in barbed wire, axes, among others, all designed by men to kill feminist women.

Display case of weapons

 

More weapons to be used against women who harbor what the designers call “oppressive belief-sets” against males, defined in the accompanying literature as lesbians.

The male creators of the exhibit also included a helpful manifesto, blaming lesbians, feminists and other uppity women for causing more deaths (by “harassing” men with their dastardly opinions!) than all the actual real murders committed by violent men.

The display, launched mere days after the mass murder of women in Toronto by “incel” terrorist Alek Minassian and echoing his philosophy, was funded by the non-profit Friends of The San Francisco Public Library and created by The Degenderettes, led by Scout Tran Caffee, founder of Trans Dykes: the anti-lesbian Antifa.  The group specifically targets lesbians as “oppressors” of men -because they exclude males from their dating pools. The men in the group identify as transgender and consider themselves to be male lesbians.

Materials include riot shields inscribed with the slogan “Die Cis Scum”. Cis is a transgender community term, generally used as a slur, for non-transgender people.

From the exhibit manifesto:

“The Degenderettes are a humble and practical club, fighting for gender rights within human reach rather than with legislation and slogans. Their agit-prop artwork has come to permeate internet trans culture, national television, and headlines as far as Germany.”   [From the San Francisco Public Library website here: https://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=1032262901 ]

Posted at the exhibition, MRA/incel complaints of “reverse sexism”: The fact that violence against feminists and lesbians is considered more likely to be perpetrated by males (as evidenced by all crime statistics worldwide throughout human history) is a conclusion that discriminates against men. Hmm. Never seen that one before. (sarcasm). Explicitly states that acknowledging male violence against women is “anti-transgender”.

Followed by bizarre claims that feminists “induce suicides” of men and threaten to kill them.

Posted at the exhibit. Part one.

Part two.

 

The largely heterosexual “heteroqueer” group’s claim that they created the slogan “Your Apathy Is Killing Us” in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting is incorrect. It was created by gay male Reagan era AIDS activists who were fighting for their literal lives demanding medical treatment for a deadly epidemic.

The Degenderettes slogan “Die Cis Scum” was popularized in 2012 by transgender White Nationalist “Char The Butcher”.

Char The Butcher (Clinton James Crawford) 2012

 

The San Francisco Public Library has scheduled a panel discussion for the “artists” to discuss their exhibit on Saturday May 12, from 2:00-4:00pm at the LGBTQIA Center, Main Library, 100 Larkin St.

Panel participants:

Mya “I Punch TERFS” Byrne (Jeremiah Birnbaum)

Gender-conforming “NonBinary” and heterosexual but “queer identified” Wedding Photographer Tristan Crane

“Male butch dyke” Uriah Ezri Sayres Cantrell

“Consent culture” activist married to an alleged sexual predator Kitty Stryker

Scout Tran Caffee

with moderation by Mason Smith.

Following complaints and negative feedback on social media, on April 25th the San Francisco Public Library removed the T-shirt that called on patrons to punch feminists:

“Due to concerns raised by library patrons, we are altering the degenderettes antifa art exhibit at the Main Library to remove a shirt, a piece of artwork that could be interpreted as promoting violence, which is incompatible with our exhibitions policy.”

At the time this report was published, the weapons as well as the anti-feminist and homophobic materials remain.

 

Men punching feminists.

 

RadFem Review

April 8, 2018

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Long or short, five stars or none, submit your post in the comment field on the site for inclusion.

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WOMEN ONLY.

Full audio of the Wednesday March 14 “Transgenderism and the War on Women” event at the House of Commons, London, UK.
Speakers:
Sheila Jeffreys
Julia Long
Anne Ruzylo
Parker Posey
Venice Allen
David Davies

The audio on the first few minutes is a bit rough, but this is otherwise an incendiary listen. Enjoy!