None of our business

I’m going to open and close this post by asking you to please listen to trans people and their families. (Or any group about whom there is a campaign of “legitimate concerns”.) If a discussion about them doesn’t include them or their perspective, it’s not a true exploration.

I’m only posting this because I think we need to vocally stand with our trans friends right now, when the discourse around this is shifting, being manipulated, here in Ireland, and I’m not sure what else to do. But please, most importantly, listen to trans people and their families.

Something people who identify as feminists worked hard for during the campaign to Repeal the 8th amendment: bodily autonomy. The greatest authority on your body, life and future is you. This discussion is, at its core, exactly the same.

Incidentally, our trans pals worked incredibly hard on Repeal, often putting up with a lot of crap to do so. Thank you.

Listen to trans people and their families. I’ve learned so much about my own ignorance and prejudice by just listening. I’m ashamed of it, but working on it. And I thank them for educating me. I still get things wrong, but I’ve been grateful for kind – even funny – messages pointing things out and offering me the chance to correct my course. I’ve got defensive along the way, on this and other issues. I know have. I regret it. I can be a terrible tool. So, thank you!

Beware of fearmongering or demonising. If anyone applies a rare or one-off event, or the behaviour or experience of one person, to a whole group…that’s…not good.

Listen to trans and non-binary people and their families.

I’m 51. In Ireland in the ‘80s, similar fearmongering and demonising was commonplace, but then it was about the gay community. We should all be a ashamed of that now. The best way forward is to acknowledge that it happened and not let it happen again. When I was 14, the 8th amendment went into the constitution. “Unmarried mothers” were pariahs. Divorce was illegal. Magdalene laundries would still be open for another 13 years. All founded on irrational fear and a presumption of knowing what’s best for other people.

A horrid accusation and association being thrown at trans people and their allies of late, is that of being like “Ireland’s old priests”. Honestly, nothing is more resonant with Ireland’s old priests than an obsession with and wish to control other people’s bodies and, in particular, their genitals. I know, right? None of their business. None of ours.

Listen to trans people and their families. Follow TENI and BelongTo. Donate if you can.

Trans people have always used the same bathrooms as the rest of us. We just haven’t noticed because we’re all too busy peeing – or doing whatever you’re doing in your cubicle (none of my business: ‘s’your cubicle). Predators should be dealt with as predators, or violent prisoners, or whatever the situation is, regardless of gender. People don’t have to alter a thing to commit a crime, let alone get into a bathroom. They’re just flimsy doors! Or 30cent! It’s easy to get in. (I agree 30c is a bit steep for a pee, but still.) Bathroom panic seems to me one of the silliest arguments of all. Please, just let people pee in private.

I’m nervous about posting this.

One: because I’m no expert. Listen to trans people and their families. They’re people, like you and me, who want to live their lives in peace and privacy.

Two: because too many of those who purport to be “just asking questions” throughout this discussion have tended to have been absolutely vicious. There’s a ferocity to it that we didn’t even see during Repeal. You can ask questions (which I suggest might best take the form of listening to those with lived experience) without assassinating someone’s character. Abuse – of anyone – isn’t the best way to go about things. Just a thought.

The Gender Recognition Act passed in Ireland in 2015. Nothing happened, other than people getting on with their lives, a bit happier, a bit freer.

I’m a woman. A relatively short woman. A Cork woman. A cis woman – i.e. I’m not trans. Being cis has made my life a bit easier than if I weren’t. I’ve still had the usual shite women get, including my trans sisters. No one is asking me to stop calling myself a woman – which I do, ‘cos I am a one – or suggesting changing the word or any of that nonsense. Honestly, this stuff is exhausting if you’re cis; imagine what it must be like for trans people?

People. Now there’s a useful word, when talking about more than one situation, more than one gender. Women are people. I’m a people. If the word “people” is used sometimes, “women” isn’t erased. I’m not erased, because I, a woman (when referring to myself), are also am a people. There we are, right there, under the “people” umbrella! I like people. People are cool. “People” is cool. #funwithwords

“We must hear everyone out!” Right. Sure. OK. My preference is not to platform easily debunked falsehoods or bigotry, but sure. Let’s hear everyone out. I know I’ve had questions, and I’ve got plenty answers by listening to those directly affected. Why then are there no regular columns by trans people, on this, or anything? Why aren’t they on our airwaves – apart from playing token “balance” to someone dealing in debunked falsehoods and bigotry? That old chestnut. We in Ireland have been here before, publicly debating people’s rights. It was ugly. Humiliating. False balance is a dangerous thing. There have always been limits to free speech, and in my view those limits should be based on people’s safety.

I’m not an expert. I’m listening and I hope I’m still learning. And, having posted this, I won’t be debating people’s right to exist, or live their lives with as much freedom as I have.

Listen to trans people, non binary people and their families. Listen with an open heart and mind. We’re all different. We’re all the same. It’s magic.