2015 was apparently the year of the Trans. Whether it was Caitlyn Jenner or The Danish Girl, or the rest of us simply breathing a sigh of relief that we could be more true to our inner identity, it seems a lot of progress was made. The UK Gov’t even announced this week that people will be able to choose their own gender identity without having to go through tedious and degrading legal loopholes. Most of us think this is great.
Not Antipodean friends Germaine Greer and Barry Humphries. In October, Greer infamously stated that, ‘Just because you wear a dress and lop off your dick it doesn’t make you a woman.’ Her remark has been backed by Humphries in a Daily Telegraph interview.
Both born in the 1930′s, it would be easy to dismiss their remarks as those of old fogeys. For those who once held the media limelight it’s always tempting to invent ever more dramatic ways to recapture the moment, which is ironic as this was Humphries’ criticism of Jenner.
Like Chris Gayle, Greer and Humphries have come in for criticism as much for the manner of their remarks as their content. There’s a current vogue amongst some liberal elite, probably reacting to Daesh (IS), that anything you say goes. It clearly doesn’t, for instance in the case of racism and sexism, and as Stonewall have pointed out today, Trans people need support, not these kind of ill-tempered remarks which enflame phobic responses and violence.
But did Greer unwittingly touch on an idea that not all gender fluid people might find abhorrent? In seeking the holy grail of womanhood, Greer has played into the hands of gender fluidity. For all the bra-burning of the 1960′s, it is becoming increasingly clear that ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are reductionist terms and, as such, pre-modern. A woman is no more defined by her breasts, vagina, or womb than a man is by a penis, beard of whether he farts (to quote from Blackadder). This isn’t what Greer meant by her comment, which makes it all the more delicious to reclaim it from her. Gender is infinitely more fluid and complex than the bits with which we are born, or which we subsequently adopt. The truth is that we all exist somewhere on a spectrum between the binary poles. Many of us knew this from a very young age.
Sure, there is still a lot to be done in terms of equal pay but this might all be helped by doing away with redundant ‘male’ and ‘female’ categories. Or by introducing another mid-stream one for those of us who either don’t want to be reduced to such simplistic primary school thinking, or who do actually exist physically, mentally or emotionally somewhere in-between, and whose journey is somewhere on the continuum. Thailand recognises this by accepting a Trans category. The kathoey, who often look far more feminine than any women I’ve ever met, help make a complete nonsense out of Germaine Greer, not that Trans living is just about looks either.
The biggest problem with all of this though is judgmentalism. Why does it matter how you self-identify or what you wear? If you’re not flashing your private parts why should it matter how you dress, if you wear makeup or want to identify as a man, woman or trans? How dare anyone tell someone else, who may have lived with their identity for decades, that they are not this or that? I love Thailand for this reason and perhaps the UK will catch up in time. In this sense, I’m afraid Humphries and Greer really do show their age.