I’ve had an exchange of letters with a prominent liberal journalist who thinks that the trans community should enter dialogue with Julie Bindel rather than engage in tactics which alienate her further. I would love to know whether he has ever said to her that maybe she should try not to be deliberately offensive – but I guess that members of the serious commentariat do not criticize each other like that. ( I am of course not a proper part of the commentariat because you have to be cis for that…)
So, anyway, I wrote him this letter.
Of course I respect your position, but I’d like to trespass on your time a little further to explain mine some more.
Like a number of other trans people, I have been having this particular argument for the last thirty years – I reviewed Janice Raymond’s book The Transsexual Empire back when it first came out in 1979. In that time, I have lived the debate in my personal life – I have been verbally assaulted, excluded from women-only space to which I had been invited by friends and lovers, watched my women lovers be abused and threatened. Nonetheless, I have become someone regarded by a lot of feminists as a feminist scholar of worth. I have served as Deputy Chair of Liberty and was one of the founders of Feminists against Censorship.
I have tried to open personal discussion with Julie Bindel and she has always refused on the grounds that there is no talking to any of us. She holds all of us accountable for anything any trans person says or does. At the same time, she entirely erases our experience – she tends by the way to entirely erase the existence of trans men by talking as if they were not part of the conversation.
I specifically made to her the point that some of us have been engaging with her particular feminist critique of trans for almost as long as some of the community have been alive and she simply refused to discuss the issue. When Sarah Brown pointed out to her that her advocacy of ‘talking cures’ for trans was a mealy-mouthed advocacy of reparative therapy, Julie Bindel’s response was to threaten to sue her for libel – not much respect for free speech there.
Christine Burns engaged in an extended dialogue and has now stated that she regards it as having been an utter waste of time in which Julie Bindel acted in less than perfect faith.
In a sense, it does not matter whether she is personally bigoted or cruel – the consequences of her politics, which are not hers alone and have a long history, have produced bigotry and cruelty on a regular basis.
As to the specific issue of her freedom of speech, there have been three trans demonstrations involving her. When she spoke against us at the BBC radio programme Hecklers, we went along and asked questions from the floor with most of which she refused to engage. People afterwards tried to interact with her in a friendly and non-confrontational manner; things she has subsequently written indicate that they wasted their time.
The demonstration at the Stonewall Awards was not against Julie as such, but against Stonewall primarily for consistently refusing to engage with the issues of the trans community, and most especially with that part of the community which identifies as lesbian or gay – a significant part these days. In that context, their considering honouring a well-known transphobe was salt in the wound – but it was a demonstration against Stonewall, not against Julie Bindel, as all film and other documentation will show.
The same applies to Friday night’s demonstration – it was against QQT for giving a platform to a transphobe in a space that we regard as one of the few venues which is trans-friendly. We might have been placated had QQT allowed us to make a statement or asked one of us onto the platform, but this was not the case.
In the end, what you are arguing is that we are making a good argument in the wrong tone of voice. As I am sure you are aware, this is a standard trope of arguments about prejudice and is a classic derailment technique.
Seventy trans people THAT WE KNOW OF were murdered last year world wide; two of them, in London and Brighton, were people that were part of our extended community. Andrea Waddell was a college chum of friends of mine and Destiny was a friend of my own ex-flat-mate. We have reason to be angry and telling us not to be is telling vulnerable people to shut up.
I know you think of yourself as a defender of trans rights, but I would honestly suggest to you that one of the best ways you can do this is to listen to what we are saying rather than telling us what we ought to say.
He really is a cisplaining AllyFail twit, I fear.