It was a couple of days after it actually aired when I decided to give Channel 4’s ‘GenderQuake’ a watch. I normally avoid shows like this, because every time I give a documentary style series about trans issues on TV a go, it usually often focuses on young teens who are currently going through their transition, at a heightened time when everything is an extreme, from taking hormones to trying to date.
I firmly believe that any visibility of trans life is a positive step forward, but I grew tired of always watching real-time stories and seldom saw documentaries from trans people, particularly of colour, who had already gone through their transition and told their story from a more objective standpoint.
But I decided to give it a go. Social media was lighting up and all I kept hearing about was a Channel 4 series that was causing controversy. I wanted to know what was going on so I gave it a try. I sat in the living room and started watching. The first two episodes were about a bunch of people, all at different places on the gender spectrum, living in a house together. It was interesting, but I didn’t take anything from it other than a sense of forced drama that you tend to see in this type of reality tv show set-up. Snooze!
Then the next episode started to load, but before it even began, my husband got up. ‘I’m going to bed Yvy.’ He said, looking frustrated. ‘I don’t think I can sit through this.’ I knew he had reservations about this episode, the ‘GenderQuake Debate’. It had nothing to do with him not supporting trans rights, to the contrary actually. My husband is a major supporter of trans rights, and being married to me has strengthened this belief as he’s open to educating himself on trans subjects that he wouldn’t necessarily have insight on. He’s a good egg!
No, his objection to watching it came from comments made about it online. Well, that and he can’t stand Germaine Greer, given some of the awful things she’s spouted in the past. He left the room, and the episode started. What happened after can only be described as a fucking omnishambles (Malcolm Tucker rules, by the way.)
When I wasn’t trying to zone out Greer’s attempt at backpedaling on transphobic comments she’s spewed, I was mortified at the fact that this whole charade was called a ‘debate’. A debate. A motherfucking DEBATE! I mean, why the fuck is a discussion about trans rights being called a debate? The transgender community is not up for debate. We are here. End of story.
Then, the TERF’s chimed in. ‘PENIS! PENIS! PENIS!’ They yelled, heckled and downright verbally attacked trans panelists with their abhorrent, anti-trans beliefs. It was an embarrassing display of Channel 4’s inability to handle a situation that should never have happened in the first place, and an even more embarrassing display of the audience, exhibiting behaviours that was truly pathetic.
You might be thinking at this point, what exactly is a TERF? Well, to put in the most suitable terms, TERF, or Trans-Exclusionary Radicle Feminism, is a term used to describe an individual who believes that trans women are not real women, and wish to enforce the past belief of gender binary. In a nutshell, they’re a bunch of backward thinking, transphobic idiots who hold on to the ideal that unless you have a vagina, you’re not a woman.
Now, to think that people still think this way in this day and age is incredible sad. Anybody who believes that gender can be marginalised into a binary of ‘boy/penis’ ‘girl/vagina’ needs a bitch slap with heavy rings. I mean, just because you may not have been aware of a particular gender type, doesn’t mean it’s a fad or that it hasn’t existed for a very long time without your knowledge.
Let me put to you this way. Think about your own gender identity. Whether you identify as male or female, it doesn’t matter, just think about it. Think about what it feels like to be you, and what it feels like to be where you are on the gender spectrum. Now, think about the body you inhabit and imagine if one day you woke up and you were in a completely different body that didn’t match your gender identity. Ask yourself, would that make you change the way you see yourself? If you’re a cis woman, in a body that presented as female, and you woke up one day presenting as a man, would you stop feeling like a woman? Would you suddenly think ‘Hey! I have a dick! I guess I’m a man now! I think I’ll change my name to Lord Flashheart! Woof!’ Then again, even he enjoyed wearing a dress every now and then!
To have such a warped way of thinking is one thing, but to hold those false beliefs as facts is not only ridiculous, but incredibly damaging to an entire gender type that is just as valid as anyone else. Trans people aren’t strangers to this sort of behaviour, and for a very long time we’ve stayed quiet. For years, decades, even longer, we have fought for our rights whilst maintaining an air of anonymity to protect ourselves from those who wish to harm us. But the thing is, we shouldn’t have to live in the shadows. We want to be visible, but for some reason, there are people who’ve warped their brain into thinking we want to cause harm, when all we want is to be left alone to live our lives.
The struggle continues to progress despite our efforts, but we persevere. At the end of the day, what choice do we have? I’m sure as fuck not going to be cowed and let negativity win the day. This year, we saw a bunch of anti-trans protesters gatecrash the London Pride parade. The disappointing turn in this incident came when the march officials allowed them to lead the march, while they held up signs like ‘trans activism erases lesbians’. The fact that these people really believe this is astonishing, but for London Pride to actually let these people march in a parade that wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for trans people, of colour I might add, is infuriating.
So how do we tackle a problem like this? The same way we’ve always done, we fight back. Not with violence, not with harm, but with knowledge. TERFs and anti-trans wankmuffins will always be around, there’s no eradicating this type of behaviour, just like homophobia and racism. It would be great if we could erase this sort of thinking, but the sad truth is that it just won’t happen. But we are living in 2018 God damnit! We are more progressive than ever, and we have a voice. The trans community and every trans ally mustn’t stay silent. We are in a position where our voices can be heard just as loudly as theirs.
During Sparkle this year, I met some great people, from all walks of life who came together at Manchester’s Canal Street to celebrate the trans community, and it was fabulous! It’s great to be more visible, but at the same time, the more visible we become, the more we see just how afraid people are of the unknown. We see trans rights being taken away, we see TERFs trying to demean us, we see transphobic behaviours that try to brainwash others to hate us. For a trans woman such as myself, that’s a lot of bullshit to have to deal with and still keep a smile on my face.
But there’s one thing I remember, all of their actions mean nothing, because it all comes from ignorance and fear. They fear the unknown, but instead of educating themselves, they live in ignorance. It’s then that they let their ignorance turn to hated and we see this disgusting sort of behaviour.
To ignore what’s happening in the world right now when it comes to trans rights would be a mistake. This is not the time to bury our heads in the sand and hope that it all goes away. Too much is at stake and we have to pay attention. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism is, in my opinion, an inaccurate way of describing the people who follow this way of thinking. To have feminism associated with this sort of behaviour is incredibly disrespectful to feminists who believe and fight for equality, including trans rights.
I may not know the intricacies of how TERF formulate the rationale behind their beliefs, but I know enough to see that it’s wrong. To oppress others based on nothing but ignorance is wrong. We see this type of behaviour all the time, even I have experienced it first hand as an Indian trans woman who was raised in a Muslim community, but we have the power to not let this destroy us.
The trans community is definitely moving in the right direction, and although there are others who are attempting to pull us back, it simply won’t work if we stick together. The way to do this is to continue to celebrate who we are, to educate and support others, and embrace our allies who want to join us in the march forward. We have a bumpy road ahead, but let’s face it, the roads we’ve travelled to get to where we are now have not been easy, but we did it nonetheless.
I remember when I was younger, a counsellor once told me something that stuck with me to this day:
“Let me tell you a story. There were two rabbits trying to climb up a steep hill, one white and one grey. At the bottom of the hill were all the other animals, shouting and cheering. The first rabbit to reach the top of the hill would be the winner. The race started, and both rabbits started climbing the hill.
As they both started climbing, one the animals in the crowd started yelling. ‘You’re a loser! You won’t make it to the top!’ The white rabbit lost his grip and fell to the bottom of the hill, having to start again. The grey rabbit continued climbing.
As the white rabbit started over, he got a little further than before. The crowd started shouting again ‘You won’t make! Give up!’. The grey rabbit continued up the hill, but the white rabbit was shaking, and lost his grip again, tumbling down to the bottom.
The grey rabbit made it all the way to the top, triumphant. When he was asked why he didn’t fall when the crowd were yelling, he took out his earplugs and said ‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’”
At first I asked why a rabbit even had a pair of earplugs in the first place. And who the hell taught the animals to speak english?! But afterwards I understood why she told me that story. She wanted me to know that although I was aware of the people around me trying to bring me down, if I taught myself how to zone out their negativity, they’d never break me.
Today, instead of a story about cute, fluffy animals, we have a tangerine-tinted President, a psychopathic Russian leader, countless anti-LGBT officials around the world and TERF, anti-trans bigots to deal with. And although we hear what they’re saying, I refuse to listen to any of it. I refuse to allow them to bring us down. I refuse their negativity. Let’s stay strong. We belong here.