Image by Sam Taylor
Unless you're a fucking loser, you probably haven't been following the ongoing "war" between a few transgender activists and some so-called radical feminists. They've done their best to suck me into their collective madness recently, but I'm not playing ball. Let me fill you in. First up we have TERFs, short for "trans-exclusionary radical feminists." Basically, they're full-on internet weirdos hell-bent on telling trans women that we're not "real" women. They want to stop us from using female bathrooms, going to shitty music festivals and, uh, accessing healthcare. I know, right? Throw a few obsessive trans folk into the mix, and a handful of privileged white feminists with nothing better to talk about and, well, you've got yourself the perfect pointless shitstorm.
You're all insane, and you're all behaving like assholes. I'm sick of you all. It's gone past the point where it matters who I agree with—though of course that's trans people and their right to get on with their lives without hassle—but this isn't about rational debate any more, it's about an over-educated and time-rich bunch of narcissists on both sides who are completely and utterly addicted to a never-ending mudslinging match about absolutely nothing. That's right. You are talking about nothing. Absolutely. Nothing. I can't even tell you how disgusted I am to have waded into this "debate" just to tell you that you are talking about nothing, because it means that I am also talking about nothing. I am talking about you talking about nothing.Take the debate around the word "cis." It's Latin for "not trans." So far, so neutral. Well, a group of bloggers known as "Mean Girl feminists" (although they're nowhere near as cool as that name would suggest) hate the word "cis." The Meanies desperately wanted to be the popular girls at school but everyone else thought they were the sullen weirdos, so now they're taking it out on any trans peeps that want to join their woman gang. They objected to the term cis from the start because they basically refuse to see themselves as anything other than transparently "normal"—as I'm sure some people hated being told they were "heterosexual" when the gay rights movement made clear that being "straight" was just another sexual orientation.
But well done to you, too, angry trans people. Well done for the "die cis scum" hashtag and all the rest of it that has given Meanies ample excuse to now claim that "cis" is a slur. Good work.
Meanies—if you don't like the word cis, can you just fucking pick another one, please? Literally just make one up. Like "kokadillo." Or "flumbledumpling." I don't know, maybe they can do a call-in for suggestions on The View or something. Because it really would be useful to have a word to describe people, like you, who don't experience extreme dysphoria in relation to their body sex. Of course, maybe it's not the word "cis" that you object to at all, but the idea. Maybe you don't believe in the word because you don't really buy into all this trans business either? Who knows.The TERFs and the Meanies call themselves "gender critical," but they're not, not really. They aren't obsessed with Derek Jeter, or Katy Perry, or the billions of other people who aren't trans who perpetuate gender every day. Just trans people, who they can pick on. "Gender critical feminism" is a special form of bigotry paraded as legitimate concern. It's a modern twist on "Love the sinner, hate the sin." All they want to do is talk, but they have nothing new to say. And I don't buy into their "all discussion is important" crap either. Most people are full of shit. It's like the "discussions" about immigration that are used by bigots as an excuse to express their hatred of foreigners. It's just ugly prejudice dressed up as fancy debate.
"The TERF war is just over-educated and time-rich narcissists having a never-ending mudslinging match about nothing"
Behind this facade of valid discussion hides a bunch of overgrown school bullies pointing at people who are different and demanding they explain that difference. Asking someone why they are trans is no better than asking them, "Why are you so fat?" Gia Milinovich is the girl in the playground shouting, "You're not pretty like us!" but who never gets into trouble because she's banging the head of science, Mr Cox. She'll tell you what being trans is all about. Me, teacher! Call on me! I know the answer! I've read the next chapter!Then there's Sarah Ditum, your best friend's mom who won't sign the consent forms for the school trip. She hates FUN. I don't. I'm the girl with the short skirt and too much makeup on hiding behind the bike cage with a bong, a pack of Parliaments and Derek from 12th grade. And don't forget Julie Burchill, the chatty girl who everyone's heard of even though she was expelled years ago. No one knows that we're secretly best friends. She buys me the cigarettes.The Trans Activists are the kids with thrift store shoes sitting in the library crying about Meanies and TERFs, quoting Judith Butler and prattling on about some impenetrable gender theory they believe is gonna change the whole fucking world. At least trans people have a reason for being interested in trans issues, though. You know, because we're trans. Still, it's reciprocal insanity—and I should know. I used to be a bit obsessed with Julie Bindel before I realized that she's actually a professional concern troll. So I "get it" when I say what I'm about to say next.
Trans people, ignore the bullies. I'm not here to bash trans folk who, by and large, don't have the platforms these radical feminists enjoy—but a large number of you are driving me nuts. If people upset you, block them. Report them to the police if necessary. If they're trying to influence policy makers who hold real power over your life, talk to those policy makers yourself. TERFs wrote a shitty blog about me a few years ago, calling me "Mr Lees." I left them a comment along the lines of "Yeah, good one. Love, Mr. Lees." They haven't bothered me since. Don't let them bother you. Buy some flowers. Run a bath. Masturbate. Look on Facebook to see how the real people who were horrible to you at school are all ageing badly as their rotten souls shine through. Basically, just do absolutely anything other than engage with their bullshit. You'll be happier. They have no power over you. Stop giving them power.And stop pushing people away that might otherwise be our allies—all those well-meaning but woefully uninformed people on the edge of the scuffle. Some people are prejudiced, but the best way for us to change that is by helping them get to know us, not backing them into a corner. Of course you are right to be angry, but your anger isn't making anything better. It's just upsetting you and goading them. Trust me. I'm a selfish bitch and I know how to get what I want—this isn't how you go about it.
Also, a tiny, unidentified, minority of people, presumed to be trans, have even been making death threats—and the TERFs and Meanies are, disgustingly, using shit like this to tar all of the trans community with the same brush. And there's no excuse for misogyny, or transphobia, from anyone. Who benefits from that? No one. It doesn't help women, trans or otherwise. It's a shame so many "natural born" women are unhappy with their lives, and it's a shame so many trans women are too, but no one is forcing you to get together and multiply that misery by being shitty to each other. It's called nativism and it serves no one.
They tried to talk to me about identity politics and I was like…Of course, there are good points being made on either side—but good luck picking them out. Juliet Jacques penned a very thorough and very well written 9,000-word essay for the New Statesman recently, providing some background to the bickering. It doesn't surprise me that Mrs Ditum praised it, for it was more "discussion" and endless discussion is what these people and this war depend on. As with any heated conflict, though, understanding the history doesn't really help. The only way any dispute is resolved is by both sides agreeing to stop shouting and hurling missiles at each other, forgetting the past and starting to respect each other's human rights. Sorry, but we're not going to "think" our way out of this one.
As for you, Meanies, you need to get over yourselves. If you asked 1,000 women in the street what issues matter to them most, I doubt anyone who isn't trans or named "Glosswitch" would say "trans people." If you're that concerned with us, you really do need to ask yourself why. Seriously. Get a fucking life. If Caroline Criado-Perez has a few spare hours to write about the oh-so important issue of how she feels about the word cis, good for her. I'm no more interested in that than I would be in her innermost thoughts on the term "white people." Let her get on with it. It has absolutely nothing to do with me or the struggle for equal rights.And there is no such thing as "feminism that opposes transgenderism." Opposing equal rights for trans people is called bigotry. Women have always existed and trans people have always existed, the only thing that truly changes is the way that other people agree to treat us. "Transgenderism," if that's what some people want to call it, is nothing more than a push for the equal rights of trans people—just as feminism is nothing more than a push for the equal rights of women. It's not complicated. It's not a fucking competition. Everyone deserves respect. If there are any instances where people's rights appear to compete—such as the important conversation about how we make sure every woman has access to safe spaces in rape crisis centres—let's talk about it sensibly, practically and with genuine compassion.
Discussing other people's identities though is, to borrow a turn of phrase these people will all recognize, "Peak Chattering Classes." A bunch of boring, middle-class, middle-aged people arguing about who is "right," and prattling on about shit like, "If Imogen identifies as X, how does that affect me?" I've seen sad fuckers from both sides of the fence jabbering about this on social media and it's like, Hello, have you guys never heard about sex? Where I come from people don't sit around on the veranda dissecting the minutiae of identity politics—we're too busy looking for jobs or, in the absence of those, that ever shrinking social security blanket that you pampered pricks will never have to worry about wrapping yourselves in.The thing that annoys me most is, while we don't need Gia Milinovich wondering out loud if trans babies would be better off aborted, we do need proper fucking feminism. Sarah Ditum writes about important issues like rape and abortion sometimes… imagine what we could do if we all focused on stuff like that with her. If we put real people before ideology. If we all pulled together to fight the good fight instead of fighting each other!Finally, TERFs do sometimes pose a real threat to our rights, especially in the States. So, trans crew, if you want to fight, fine, but fight about something real. Like healthcare. Julie Bindel describes hormone blockers for trans teenagers as "child abuse" and genital surgery as "the operation that can ruin your life." We don't tolerate twats who say you can "pray away the gay" and we shouldn't suffer fools like Bindel who advocate "reparative therapies" to "cure" us of being trans. Sheila Jeffreys repeats the same evil lies in her most recent book without a shred of evidence. Trans woman Geena Rocero WHO'S ACTUALLY HAD THE ACTUAL EFFING SURGERY says it was like a rebirth: "I never enjoyed having sex before, and all of a sudden it felt good. I was much more in touch with my sensuality, and I went crazy exploring it." I don't know about you, but I'm more interested in listening to any nuggets of wisdom Geena's vagina has to offer than Julie Bindel talking out of her asshole.Just to be clear: Any operation can ruin your life if it's botched. That doesn't change the fact that every reputable medical body in the USA, UK, Western Europe and elsewhere agree that medical therapy (science Gia, science!) is THE effective treatment for trans people if we seek it. It's just not up for discussion. The real issue is simple. You either support trans people's rights or you don't. Everything else is just noise.Maybe you think my contribution to the "debate" isn't that helpful either, but hey, it can't be much worse than anyone else's. Most outsiders are appalled or just fucking bored by all this—if they're even aware there's a fallout in the first place. So listen, TERFS, Meanies, Trans peeps—I reckon most people peering in on your obsessive online squabbling about identity and terminology will see it for what it is: ugly, childish, inward-looking nonsense. Y'all need to start talking about some real fucking shit.Follow Paris Lees on Twitter.