Identity and saying sorry.

I have been thinking about this issue for a while…the whole Bolt-saga in which he asserted his right to the idea that we (for a given value of ‘we’) have the right to tell others how they should identify themselves. How they should think about themselves. To tell others that our outsider assumptions are more meaningful than their own internal knowledge of themselves and their cultural or gender identity.

And I feel shame. When I was in my mid-teens I was at a seasonal gathering to celebrate the pre-Christian time of Beltane, beginning of Summer, time of fertility and renewal and sun. The men and women were separated into two groups to do their own thing. At this particular gathering there was a trans woman attending, and sadly her presence caused a great deal of confusion and controversy. I am ashamed to admit that I was well in the camp of ‘She is pre-op, so therefore she does not belong in the women’s circle.”
(Not that there was nudity or anything ANYWAY.)
It did not occur to me that she certainly didn’t feel that she  belonged in the men’s circle, although I am sure I had vague uncomfortable thoughts on the subject.
I wish I had been more educated. I wish  had been more understanding and less bigoted. I wish I had realised that just as I don’t want my external genitals to completely define my being, nor do many other people.
I am a woman because I am a woman in my head. I am lucky that I was born into a body that allows me to not have the sort of presumably painful dissonance between my mind and my body. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be born this way. It is hard to confront one’s privilege at times – it is hard to look back and wince at the arrogant judgmentalism of one’s youth. Something I will try to continue to do in my life is to make amends, in some way, for errors and misdeeds. I don’t know if it helps that I now accept that people have the right to their own identities. (Given of course, the right of others not to be imposed upon by actual frauds.)

But for what it’s worth, if it happened now I would welcome a transwoman into a women’s circle. And for what it’s worth, I am so sorry I judged you and discriminated against you, L.

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3 responses to “Identity and saying sorry.

  1. Don’t be too hard on your mid-teen self. I don’t know if L is still in your life, but hopefully she knew you were just a kid with loads of growing (up) to do.

    • I only met her the once, and I can’t even remember talking to her, specifically. But I am sure she felt unwelcome, and I am sure she would have felt hurt.
      I guess I just want to feel like I have genuinely repudiated positions I used to hold that make me wince. And who knows, one day she may even read it and know that at least one person is sorry.

  2. Maree Robertson

    i remember the time when there were many such controversial decisions being made at *Women’s* events, catering to the vocal minority of separatists involved…. there was at one point a definition of *woman born woman* to supposedly make it clear… I was never in a position to make such a judgement myself, but I also am ashamed to realise my perspective would definitely have been about *me* feeling comfortable. What this reminds me of now is the Michael Leunig poem *Love and Fear*.. “There are only two feelings Love and Fear”…sadly I’m sure its the (individual) women’s fear of (collective) men that causes such closed mindedness.
    Judy Small once said to me in an interview I did with her for a feminist magazine…I’m not a separatist, cos that would mean I would have to be separate from all the women who AREN’T separate from men, & I want to be able to connect with ALL women….wise words, xm

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