Over the past couple of days my Twitter feed has been full of people getting angry about Richard O’Brien. He was interviewed by a tabloid newspaper and asked to give his opinion on Germaine Greer. Regrettably he agreed with her that trans women can never really be women.
I have no idea what O’Brien was thinking here, but he won’t be the first non-binary person to hold such opinions and he won’t be the last. Some silly transsexuals look down on people who opt not to have medical treatment, and some silly non-binary people look down on anyone who does. A plague on both their houses.
However, I’d like to look a bit more closely at what being “really” a woman means. The USA had (and still has in some cases) a legal concept known as the One Drop Rule, by which if a person has the slightest trace of non-white African ancestry then that person is considered to be black. Germaine Greer’s definition of a woman is a bit like that. The slightest infraction can disqualify you. Assigned male at birth? Then you are “really” a man, no matter when you transitioned, or how long you have lived as a woman. Have a Y chromosome? Then you are “really” a man even if you were assigned female at birth, have lived as a woman all of your life and have borne children (and yes that is possible).
Greer aside, there are obviously ways in which I can be considered not as fully female as other people. I don’t have periods, which I gather is a very good thing. Well there are intersex women who don’t have periods, and indeed don’t have ovaries or wombs, but they still live as women all of their lives and absolutely deserve to be considered as women if they wish to be as far as I am concerned. I can’t give birth, but there are many cis women who can’t conceive but who adopt and become wonderful mothers. I know of at least one trans woman who is a single mother. So motherhood is not that simple either.
And this brings me back to Lilly Wachowski’s press release from yesterday. She says:
To be transgender is something largely understood as existing within the dogmatic terminus of male or female. And to “transition” imparts a sense of immediacy, a before and after from one terminus to another. But the reality, my reality is that I’ve been transitioning and will continue to transition all of my life, through the infinite that exists between male and female as it does in the infinite between the binary of zero and one. We need to elevate the dialogue beyond the simplicity of binary. Binary is a false idol.
We’ll all be better off when the media, and those who have access to it, let that sink in.