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Gender Wars History Series: The Lesbian/Transsexual Misunderstanding
Mansplaining at its finest
I’m not one to toss around the word “mansplaining,” but it was all I could think when I came across a 1975 editorial titled “The Lesbian/Transsexual Misunderstanding” by a trans-identified man named “Margo” where he mansplained to lesbians how he was a lesbian too. The editorial was published in volume 2 number 35 of Gay Community News.
“I sometimes feel as if the whole Lesbian community is down on me for being transsexual,” Margo begins. “My hope is that honest misunderstandings between the overlapping Lesbian and transsexual communities are at the root of most problems.”
Sorry, bud, there’s no misunderstanding. It’s just that men aren’t lesbians.
Margo actually starts off with some refreshing honesty about how many “male-to-female transsexuals” often display “sexism and heterosexual chauvinism,” writing:
They extol home and family as the essence of femaleness, reject gayness as immoral or unnatural, and define themselves in relationship to men.
A bit later on, he even admits that:
At this point in time there are many transsexuals who would throw Lesbians to the patriarchal wolves as long as they could live in their desired submissive “feminine” roles.
But, because he didn’t express these views, Margo thought that he ought to be an exception, bemoaning the fact that he had experienced a “great deal of pain from the conduct of some lesbians towards me as a transsexual.”
In fact, he considered his situation to be similar to the situation of lesbians in the women’s movement just a few years prior:
Last year I became involved with a group of Lesbian anarchists; I was immediately accepted as myself, a very freaky Lesbian. Then, at the beginning of the next meeting, everyone froze toward me: I had become a “problem” to them, as Lesbians were a problem for straight feminists not so long ago.
Still to this day, men like Margo use the fact that lesbians had their own historic struggles to argue that men should therefore be allowed in women’s movements and spaces, with the insulting nature of this argument completely lost on them.
Margo, you see, had been “living as a woman full-time for the past 16 months.” Why wasn’t that good enough for those mean lesbians?
He then tries to convince lesbians to accept him by trying to distinguish gender identity and sex roles, writing:
Sometimes, feminists have asked me why, if I consider sex roles both unjust and ridiculous, do I not just live as a man and express both my “feminine” and my “masculine” qualities in that way? In doing this they are assuming that somehow I have chosen to be a woman so that I can be “feminine.” In fact, I have chosen to live as a woman simply because that is what I am, and because only by affirming my femaleness and sisterhood with all women can I be myself, strong and filled with energy as well as sensitive.
It takes a high level of narcissism to require the participation of others in a blatant lie in order to feel like yourself. We all negotiate our identities with the people around us and we deserve respect when our relationships are based on truth. But demanding that others uphold a lie for your sake is fundamentally abusive.
And Margo requires lesbians to participate in this lie most of all:
Regardless of my native genitals, I feel myself to be a woman who loves women, or simply a Lesbian.
This is the pushy and creepy line of argument that crazy-eyed trans-identified men on Tik Tok continue to try on lesbians today. Yes, lesbians are women who love women, and women are adult human females, so that doesn’t include you.
Unfortunately, my sister Lesbians sometimes hold anti-transsexual attitudes. By anti-transsexual attitudes, I mean prejudices which would exclude from the Lesbian movement those transsexuals who are living full-time as women, and would exclude them for any reason which would not equally exclude their native sisters.
Sure, it would be prejudiced and exclusionary if lesbians were doing this to an entire category of actual women, but “trans women” are nothing of the sort, so there is no actual contradiction here.
The remark about living “full-time” as a woman also betrays the fact that Margo sees womanhood as nothing more than a performance, which is not at all surprising.
Margo then compares the plight of trans-identified males in the women’s movement to the civil rights struggles of black Americans—both during slavery and under Jim Crow—of women, and of gay people, concluding:
Thus it is not surprising that transsexuals should be treated in the same way that Blacks, women, gay people and Lesbians specifically have been treated, and all in the name of “revolution”…
All Lesbians (transsexual and native) should reject this logic of slavery and hypocrisy and all transsexuals who respect themselves should challenge it aggressively and without hesitation or apology.
This tendency of the trans movement to co-opt the struggles of other groups is among its most obscene. I am not without sympathy for the genuine struggles that trans-identified people do face in the world for being highly gender non-conforming members of their own sex. But framing men who want access to the spaces of women and lesbians as the next step on the ladder of various groups’ fights for civil rights is patently absurd, yet it remains the mainstream trans activist view today.
Margo’s arguments throughout the whole article are the picture of the bar being in the basement. Just because he isn’t one of the “chauvinistic” trans-identified men who desire to be feminine and submissive to men (classic autogynephilic pseudo-bisexuality, by the way), he thinks his own demands of women and lesbians are reasonable and justified.
Quite frankly, I am almost less annoyed at the men who bother straight men with their sexist fetishes and don’t involve me directly than the ones whose fetishes drive them to write editorials about how lesbians who don’t accept them as lesbians must be suffering a misunderstanding.
At the end of the piece, Margo makes one final call for the inclusion of penises in women’s and lesbian spaces:
The time has come to unite women regardless of native genitals.
Lesbians said “no thanks,” in 1975, and I’m going to continue saying it today.
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