Gender is not a punchline
This week has been unusual for trans* people in the UK. Their existence has been noted and commented on in the press. There have already been a couple of people who have done good round up posts of this week. My small part in the story can be found here at the New Statesman.
I got chatting about this with my trans partner and thought I understood what the problem with the original comment was. I missed it, by a country mile.
So, the original comment by Moore was:
We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.
Without going into any of the stuff about how and why trans* people reinforce gender stereotypes, and any of the other stuff brought up in later interactions, here’s where I got it phenomenally wrong.
I thought that the reason why the line was so out of order was because it was using as a punchline a group of women who are murdered at a horrific rate. I thought that if the words ‘Brazilian transsexual’ were replaced by Katie Price, as someone who consciously plays up to gender stereotypes, that it would make it okay.
At this point, I ought to explain something about the way that my partner and I communicate. We are aware that our mental training is different, and thus the ways that we look at the world are different. You can probably figure out the shape of the lenses I look at the world through from looking back through my blog, but generally it’s a bit feminist, a bit left, a bit economic and whole mess of other stuff. I don’t really have a specific training, but the reading I’ve been doing over the last few years has led me in the direction of an economic and left wing perspective.
My partner sees the world through the lenses of gender. He sees gender the way the rest of us see road signs. And through those lenses he saw something I missed entirely.
Every gender expression is valid and should be treated as such. The gender and presentation of trans* women on Brazilian beaches. The gender and presentation of a British celebrity with variably-sized tits and frankly amazing skin. My gender and presentation which today includes scruffed-up hair with 2-month roots, a hand made dress and DM boots. The gender and presentation of the entire cast of TOWIE and Geordie Shore.
To use the phrasing Moore did in the context that she did, and particularly, to defend it in the way she did, was to use the gender and presentation of those women as the punchline to her anger, and to imply that they weren’t really women.
Her implication was that certain forms of gender presentation are more valid than others, and that trans* women do not measure up, that their mere existence can be a cause of legitimate anger for cis women. Viewed this way, Moore’s comments cannot be anything but offensive.
Of course, now that I’ve seen this, I realise that whole swathes of my behaviour and conversation now need work. I have been taking the piss out of the gender and presentation of so many people. We are all a work in progress, and I’ve just realised a whole new area where my language and behaviour needs work. Moore does too. I hope someone shows her this and that it helps her identify the roots of the anger that have been directed at her over the last few days.