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]

Cover Art by Claudia Kunin

Cover Art by Claudia Kunin

Less than 48 hours since the announcement of the upcoming Female Erasure anthology and the anti-women, anti-lesbian, anti-speech activists are already swarming with efforts to stop its publication. 

The book, to be published by Tidal Time Publishing under editor Ruth Barrett, features a forward by Germaine Greer and the writings of fifty women from various perspectives and backgrounds. The volume should serve as a wonderful primer for anyone interested in the conflict between women and “gender”. 

Needless to say, the individuals who are invested in forcibly imposing “gender” on women and girls -wish to censor female speech about the worldwide, violent, reproductive sex-based oppression of women and girls which transcends all cultures and eras.  

 

Female Erasure Activists discuss how sexuality absent a penis (Lesbianism!) strips it of "anything recognizably human", and book burning feminist texts.

Female Erasure Activists discuss how sexuality absent a penis (Lesbianism!) “strips it of anything recognizably human”. Oh, and book burning feminist texts.

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Anti-feminist and anti-gay activists -mainly of the transgender variety- are already waging a campaign of harassment against the editor, the contributors, and the fundraising website being used to crowdfund the project. 

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female erasure 2

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Regular GenderTrender readers know that it is a rare occasion indeed that I request readers and supporters to take a particular action. I figure readers are grown-ups who can make up their own damn minds about any action they want or need to take, without me nudging them. Same with the editorial content. I present information, people can take it or leave it. I’ve never promoted my work, and I’ve never tried to censor sites with opposing views.

I am making an exception in this case. Please donate to the fundraiser for this book, and also publicize it using your blog, personal contacts or social media. If you can spare ten bucks or more, please kick it in the pot. Whether you are gay or straight, black or white, female or male, left wing or right wing, anti-gender or trans, please support the free speech of feminists critical of “gender” (and free speech in general). Thank you.

A personal note about myself. Which is even more rare than a nudge to take action on this site. I am in this book. Specifically, my book review of convicted murderer Robert Kosilek’s “memoir”, a piece I am incredibly proud of and exemplifies the best of GenderTrender in my opinion. I can’t tell you how incredibly proud I am to be published alongside Germaine Greer! Sheila Jeffreys! Elizabeth Hungerford! Lierre Keith! Julia Long! and the rest- too many fabulous names to list here. This is a really big deal to me- one of the proudest moments of my life!

YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Please make it happen. You can do so here:

http://www.femaleerasure.com/#!indiegogo-fundraiser/uc8c8

 

Cover Art by Claudia Kunin

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This is such a great photo of Julie

This is such a great photo of Julie

From the Independent:

The lesbian writer and co-founder of the Justice For Women campaign says she has been sent 30 unsavoury messages, some including death and rape threats, with three so severe that she reported them to the police.

Bindel was invited to speak at the Manchester Debating Union event against the motion that porn empowers women, but her role in the lineup alongside No More Page 3 founder Lucy Holmes and former porn actress Renee Richards was met with fierce criticism from students and transgender activists.

The opposition is thought to stem from an article on transgender issues that Bindel wrote for The Guardian in 2004, in which she described gender reassignment clinics as places where lesbians can go to ‘have their breasts sliced off and a penis made out of their beer bellies”.

Further controversial comments included the apparently dismissive conclusion, “I don’t have a problem with men disposing of their genitals, but it does not make them women, in the same way that shoving a big of vacuum hose down your 501s does not make you a man”.

Following the announcement of the speakers, a demonstration was organised by Loz Webb, trans representative for the university’s LGBTQ Society. Webb felt that it was wrong to give a platform to someone with “a track record of transphobia” during Welcome Week, when making all students feel safe and included is particularly important.

However, after hearing that Bindel had received violent threats over her attendance, Webb sent his “deepest sympathies” to her, insisting that the “unacceptable” hate messages had nothing to do with him or those he represents.

Explaining her decision to withdraw from the debate, Bindel told student newspaper The Mancunion: “I apologised for the tone in that article because I made really inappropriate jokes. I apologised but obviously that wasn’t good enough as I’ve been made a scapegoat.”

Bindel said that she chose to back down because her presence risked shutting down debate of an issue she feels is highly worthy of discussion. “I was coming to debate pornography. I was censored from speaking about something that has nothing to do with ‘transgenderism’, nothing at all,” she said.

A statement from Manchester students’ union called the threats “utterly unjustified”.

It went on: “We respect, support and celebrate the right of our students to protest and to feel safe on campus. The union has seen no evidence that any University of Manchester students were complicit in sending Julie Bindel rape or death threats but we wholly condemn anybody who has done so.”

Bindel reacted to claims on social media that her appearance would make trans people feel unsafe, calling the suggestions ‘ludicrous’. Yet she insisted that ‘silly, stupid, idiotic, we’re too cool for school so we’ll kick up a fuss students’ will not put her off returning to the university in the future.

“I would love to come back and do something again,” Bindel confirmed.

"JackieTS": Hunting Lesbian Witches

“JackieTS”: Hunting Lesbian Witches

Some of you may have witnessed a little “chat” between G/T and Autumn Sandeen on twitter the other evening. What you didn’t see was the portion of the conversation which took place via DM after Autumn threatened to target and stalk a random African American Lesbian woman if I refused to converse with him. Here is the entire “chat”. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

The following is National Gay and Lesbian Task Force director Sue Hyde’s response to rejected Lesbian workshops and complete lack of Lesbian-specific  programming at NGLTF’s Creating Change conference.

This response was NOT freely offered but was prompted by the following inquiry sent by Lesbian Caucus facilitator Shannon Avery:

Dear Sue,  Read the rest of this entry »

FIGHTING THE LIE OF “TRANS”

 

Bev Jo

Women don’t have it easy and Lesbians have it even harder. We are oppressed in patriarchy — by institutions and individuals – we are oppressed by males, by het and bisexual women (who women choose to love is a choice, not something as trivial as “sexual orientation”), and also by men who claim to be women and men who claim to be Lesbians. Not only do they appropriate our identity, including some saying they are more woman than real women (though that’s true in terms of men’s definition of women). Anyone who protests gets death threats. (I have witnessed horrific Lesbian wars since 1970, but I have never seen or heard another Lesbian, no matter how severe the disagreement, threaten another Lesbian with death.)

When you let a woman think for herself and don’t bully or threaten her, don’t call her a “bigot” and “transphobic,” compare her to nazis, and don’t use pseudo-feminist politics against her, what actually is her instinctual reaction to men claiming to be women?  From what I’ve seen and read, it’s an immediate refusal to accept an obvious lie.

But then the pressure starts and most succumb to the harassment and also the flattery, impressed with the attention of these men since, of course, most women have learned the patriarchal rule of valuing men more than women and “keeping the peace” at any cost. Those who think for themselves will see the incredible narcissism of these men. They will also see how these female impersonators have no clue about what it means to be female. If asked, the “transwomen” men will reveal their fetishized, pornified, and objectified image of women that has nothing at all to do with us. It’s also obvious that they have been watching too much male-directed “lesbian” porn.

You can see female impersonators talking endlessly about themselves, groping Lesbians they don’t know in sexually invasive ways, and you can hear them trying to imitate their idea of what a woman is, but their domineering and aggression still comes through.

It is all so obvious, yet Lesbians try so hard to understand and be compassionate and not hurt anyone’s feelings.

But far more than feelings are being hurt. Real women and Lesbians are being bullied and stalked, lectured about how oppressive we are for staying with the truth, and we are losing our last tiny bit of remaining female-only space. We are also getting death threats.

You know what we call men who don’t take “no” for an answer?  Try saying no to these men and see what happens.

I’ve been trying to say no for over forty years to one who stalked me as a teenager right into my Lesbian community, and I still can’t get away. (When he could not get me to be his girlfriend, no matter how hard he pushed, he changed his name to one as close to mine as possible and now slanders me and other Lesbians.) Do know that some of these men have learned well what lies to tell. This one is now saying that he always felt like a girl, which is not at all what he said when he first went after me. He was incredulous that I was in love with another girl, and my being a Lesbian meant nothing to him until he later figured out that he would get a better deal with Lesbians than het women. As a typical het male, he was too pathetic to get into the power positions he later got into in the Lesbian community.

No female should be forced to be in “women’s” space with any man who has sexually harassed her. How many of these men have raped?

These men have histories. Many of them don’t declare they are Lesbians until decades after living with full heterosexual male privilege and sense of entitlement (including the much higher incomes that men get) with wives and children.

But having het male privilege is not enough for them. Some write about hating and being bitterly jealous of little girls who they fantasize as having the “pink bedrooms and ballet lessons” that they were denied. Not many girls want or get those things, but most little girls do get sexually assaulted and all are sexually harassed by boys and men. Why are these men so oblivious to the reality of what real girls suffer?

I have yet to read or hear a story from a man claiming to be a woman that sounds remotely like what a girl felt growing up. On the television series, “Sex Change Hospital,” a man says he knew he was meant to be a woman because when he was four, he got excited seeing his mother’s bra and put it on. Do you know of any girl or woman “excited” from seeing her mother’s bra?  (There is nothing about a bra that is intrinsically female – it’s a device men manufacture and tell women to wear so their breasts stick out.) This man’s wife was surprised he wanted to be a woman because he was such a “macho” man.

Female impersonators never look like real women. They are obsessed with the artifice that men demand women adopt. Their idea of “womanhood” is male-defined, male-identified “femininity,” so that they look like drag queens with their heavy, ugly makeup, plucked unnatural eyebrows, garish costumes, etc. When this man’s surgery was finished, he asked his father to look at his new “vagina.” Does that sound like a woman to you?

Meanwhile, the wives of these men have lost out on the deal that het women make with their husbands, which is heterosexual privilege. (Although some do still get the monetary benefits since some men who claim to be women get a contract guaranteeing their male salary post surgery.)

And then there are the 80% of “transwomen” who don’t have surgery and are some of those who invade our last spaces like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival so they can expose their pricks to girls and women.

Besides the immediate knowing that these men are not women, why do those who are conned believe that a male medical system with male surgeon, synthetic hormones, and castration can make women out of men? Do they really think that we are just the absence of male parts? Would women so easily believe that someone could use those means to change race or species?

“Transphobia” is a lie. Of course women object to and find it offensive when men mimic us with misogynist ideas of “womanhood.” It’s like expecting African Americans to like Euro-Americans putting on blackface and doing minstrel shows. It’s insulting and oppressive. Do Lesbians bemoan how oppressed transvestites and drag queens are? They are caricaturing female oppression, which is exactly what men claiming to be us are doing.

Part of the problem is that throughout patriarchy there is an ingrained sense that all females somehow belong to all males, to comment on, to order, to possess, to oppress, to own. That is part of why men can feel so comfortable with just appropriating our identity. We are their possessions to play with as they like.

Drag queens and “transwomen” ridicule us. We are not “transphobic.” They oppress us.

II

STRATEGY

 

It’s a basic weapon of patriarchy to divide women. Men are appropriating Lesbian identity and re-writing our Lesbian history and getting into power positions in our Lesbian community. They go where they want and take what they want, ignoring our objections, which is a very male trait. They enjoy the attention of getting women to fight over them. They have no respect for Lesbian culture and community and try to destroy what little we have.

I know very few Lesbians who do not defer to these men and obey them by referring to them as “transwomen” and give them our pronouns. Those of us who refuse to betray our own kind are yelled at, insulted, and threatened. (If you don’t believe me, try it.) Our Lesbian culture, which is SO liberal and tolerant, does not allow any Lesbian to respect her own heart and mind about how she thinks of these men. The men simply come first.

The enforcement of this mass lie is like a brainwashed cult, with absolute obedience demanded. You are not allowed to think for yourself or speak for yourself on behalf of other Lesbians. Your wanting to protect and defend your beleaguered and almost destroyed people is called “hatred.” Middle class rules of “etiquette” and manners are enforced. (I have literally been told to obey Wikipedia’s etiquette on how to properly address a “transwoman.”) And we certainly are not encouraged to make a fuss over something as irrelevant as the truth. We are treated in parental and controlling ways where we are virtually told “How dare you talk back!”

Some “radical feminists” have been so desperate to try to figure a way to not lose more of what we have that they have resorted to betraying themselves. They are trying to work with some of these men as allies, hoping that they will police other female impersonators. They don’t seem aware of past feminist history in regards to trusting men. It doesn’t work. It never will. Those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it.

The point at which you give up your basic knowledge to participate in a lie, you have lost the struggle and they have won.

What these men want more than anything is for us to accept them as women, publicly refer to them as “transwomen” and give them our pronouns. Agreeing to call them “transwomen” is betraying real women and giving these men exactly what they want. It also opens the door to losing everything. They can then call us more names, such as “misogynist,” for refusing to give into their increasing demands.

It is not sensible strategy to cooperate with defining us out of existence by defining men as any kind of women.

The next stage of complicity is to disrespect and betray other Lesbians and women by telling us to shut up on behalf of these “special women” who are actually men. It is considered more important that they might be offended by us telling the truth than that real Lesbians are insulted and silenced. This has happened on more than one “radical Lesbian Feminist” facebook thread. How is this any different than what has been happening for years where men are lauded at the expense of the Lesbians and women who are oppressed by them?

Have these “radical feminists” changed their plan for their own status and careers or because they mistakenly think this is a good strategy? So few of us have the courage to say the truth, yet you still want to silence us? For men?

This reminds me of Neville Chamberlain triumphantly waiving his worthless piece of paper with Hitler’s signature, declaring he had secured “peace in our time,” while betraying Czechoslovakia to Hitler.

III

Why Not Try this Strategy?

 

Instead of trying to work with men who are part of the problem, why not organize a much bigger group who could get righteously outraged over the issue of men invading women’s space? I’m talking about het women, who certainly outnumber the “good” men claiming women’s identity. I think this has never been attempted simply because of fear of their lesbophobia and Lesbian-hatred.

Though the loyalty has only gone one way, in terms of Lesbians supporting gay men, many Lesbians are afraid to break rank even to be publicly opposed to NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association.) I think the fear is that all of het women’s fear of queers will surface and that somehow we will be betraying gay men and “transpeople,” as if we really have anything in common with them.

Lesbian Feminism came out of alliances with het feminists. Lesbians soon separated because of het feminists’ Lesbian-hatred (though a lot of het feminists also came out.) But really, we are more natural allies with women than any kind of men, especially since it is all a choice and any het woman at any age can decide to join us. They are also oppressed by men and patriarchy. At this point, I think I trust even non-feminist het women to recognize “transwomen” as simply the men that they are more than I do some Lesbian feminists. Certainly these women would not want female impersonators using the same public restrooms as their little girls. This isn’t “transphobia.” This is sensible women recognizing that these men, like all men, are prurient and dangerous to girls.

So how about it?  Has anyone fighting to stop female impersonators from invading our space considered allying with het women on this issue? I would think we might even get a few concerned het and gay men who are fed up with the bullying of female impersonators and are worried about laws changing that might make their daughters vulnerable.

Whatever strategy you choose, remember that it is important to not be conned or mindfucked in any way by men claiming our identity. They are not our friends or allies, no matter how much the LGBTQuerty is shoved down our throats. That group has never supported Lesbians. We have always supported ourselves. So let’s not give them any bit of what they are demanding – FEMALE IMPERSONATORS ARE NOT WOMEN!  Please, do not support them by calling them “transwomen,” “transsexuals” or “transgender.”

Instead, please do what Lesbians rarely do — support other Lesbians. Put females and Lesbians first for a change, since no one else does.


For more of Bev Jo’s writings visit her site at:  Bev Jo Radical Lesbian