Yet again, there are moves being made to ‘drop the T’ from LGBT, a campaign which attracted attention two years ago with a petition addressed to HRC, GLAAD, Lambda Legal, The Advocate, HuffPost Gay Voices and Out magazine. The reasoning behind the resurgence of this campaign is explained in this video, by the excellent YouTuber PeachYogurt, who argues convincingly for the dropping of the ‘T’ from ‘LGBT’ on the basis that ‘transgender’ does not respect sexual orientation, instead it denies both biological sex and physical attraction based on sex. This is fair comment, and whereas I used to support the ‘Drop the T’ campaign, as I state in the comments section:
My position on this shifted last year, when I saw how many females were ‘transitioning’ to men, especially young people. From what I have seen, there is a commonality among so many of these young women that prior to ‘transition’ they were identifying themselves as homosexual, e.g. lesbians. My worry is by dropping the T, these women have no place to turn to for support, and certainly may end up finding themselves without a community of lesbians who can show them it’s okay to be a homosexual female, and that talking these women out of a broader support network they’ll be left to the mercy of the (generally straight male dominated) T.
Although I disagree with ‘Drop the T’, I do sympathise, understand and accept the arguments of those who commented to argue otherwise. A particular problem I can see originates within the LGBT organisations themselves, which in the quest for power and money and in the name of ‘inclusivity’ appear to have moved far from their original remit, which of course was championing the interests of lesbians and gay men.
LGBT is big money, you need only look at the list of sponsors of London Pride 2017 to see the effect of the commercialisation of what was originally an act of civil disobedience. It really is quite amazing to see how far LGBT organisations are willing to flex their own objectives to get a slice of this by shifting pretty much anyone under the incredibly convenient ‘transgender umbrella’.
There are few greater examples of how far off the deep end this has gone with the appointment of Alex Drummond to the Stonewall ‘Trans Advisory Group’, which has to be the single greatest sell-out in history since that other scruffy old hippy, Bob Dylan, went electric in July 1965. Speaking to Buzzfeed in July 2015 in ‘This Trans Woman Kept Her Beard And Couldn’t Be Happier‘, Drummond states:
I was aware that I was unlikely ever to pass as natal female, so what I wanted to do is to see if it was possible to create another space… what I want to do is to widen the bandwidth of gender, to make it more possible for more people to come out as a transgender, to live authentic lives. If all you ever see is trans women who completely pass and are completely convincing as natal females, then those of us who just don’t have that kind of luck won’t have the confidence to come out.
For the people who don’t pass I can say “don’t be afraid” because what I’ve discovered is you don’t need to pass, what you need is to act authentically. And if a child sees me and thinks, “Bloody hell, so it’s not as simple as pink or blue or football or ballet – there must be 101 possibilities in between,” then maybe I can serve the greater good.
Now, potentially there isn’t a lot wrong with this; I think most people could sincerely get behind someone who wants to bend the rules in order to live their own ‘authentic life’. The problem is of course where Drummond goes with this; instead of saying ‘I am a man who thinks gender roles are unfair and restrictive and I’m going to change what it means to be a man’, Drummond hurls themselves straight out of the ‘man box’ and right into the middle of the ‘women’s box’, just like when the older, oversized bully throws himself into the toddler’s sandpit and kicks everyone else out. Here, clear as day, is the conflict of interest inherent in advocating for transgender rights while at the same time advocating for the rights of homosexuals:
I identify as lesbian as I’m female and attracted to women… I’ve been in a long-term committed relationship for a long time now so I’m spoken for, but certainly I draw out the inner lesbian in women!
Drummond is very candid about autogynephilia, examples of which are described in the interview, but stops short of admittance; like almost every other autogynephilic male, Drummond appears to confuse ‘feeling sexy’ with ‘feeling like a woman’. The foundation of autogynephilic transsexualism is itself problemic, being based upon the sexualisation of women, women’s culture and, in particular, the artefacts and mechanisms of women’s oppression. (I can even link some cases of autogynephilia developing into transgender identity explicitly to the consumption of porn). It is notable that many lobbyists see the sanitisation of the reality of autogynephilia as a key component in validating their own transgender identity, see for example Julia Serano’s work, much of which is based upon promoting the public misunderstanding of autogynephilia.
Autogynephilia itself presents a distinction, that there are two types of transsexual male, the homosexual transsexual (HSTS) and the non-homosexual (NHSTS), the latter who is autogynephic. Both categorisations appear to apply to those claiming to be transgender. As a concept, autogynephilia has been around for at least a century and because of the prevalence of transgenderism it is in front of people’s noses almost every day: (NSFW) the internet is awash with examples of autogynephilia. The public understanding is almost non-existent, and with the trans community denying it exists there is very little self-examination by trans people of the role autogynephilia has played in the evolution of their own identity. Again I’m not claiming the validity of one group over another, HSTS over NHSTS, rather within the context of my observation of transsexual over transgender, I see both as equally valid ways for males to become ‘women’, and of course the reality is that neither group does.
Where the damage from autogynephilia really bites is with individuals like Drummond (as representative of a significant proportion of the transgender and transsexual male population) who, purposefully or otherwise, confuse their own autogynephilia with them ‘being a woman’. We can see how like many others Drummond uses ‘transgender’ to avoid taking responsibility for, or even confronting, their own autogynephilia:
I had been dressing up in secret because of all the shame I had, I believed it was some kind of perversion. I identified as female but didn’t have a framework, a language or an understanding of it. I was really struggling with internalised shame. But the more I read, the more I realised it wasn’t a pathology, it was a natural phenomenon, and I suddenly got introduced to this term “transgender” and had a healthy way of understanding how I felt… I get some really nice affirmations. I never got complimented when I was living as male and trying to pass as male and yet as a woman I regularly get complimented on how I look.
I’m not suggesting that Drummond has no claim to the label ‘transgender’, on the contrary my argument is that identities such as Drummond’s are exactly why the transgender umbrella term was created, and that Drummond has a voice within the Stonewall advisory structure demonstrates acceptance at both an individual and institutional level of Drummond as representative of whatever it may mean to be transgender. If anything, Drummond’s narrative appears to be more typical rather than atypical of how many males arrive at their ‘transgender identity’.
Drummond is not unique. The shortlist for the 2017 British LGBT+ Awards ‘Inspirational Leaders’t included one (or a pair of?) ‘Pips Bunce’. Bunce is described as:
a Director and Head of Global Markets Technology Core Engineering Integration Components at Credit Suisse, and also co-lead of their LGBT and Ally network.
How is Bunce uniquely qualified for this role? The citation explains:
Pips identifies as gender fluid spending half her time as Phil and the other half as Pippa both at work and at home with her wife and children.
Not only are Bunce’s hands firmly holding on to that male privilege, he is using that privilege to claim female honorifics and wield his institutional power:
She works closely with other firms educating around Trans* and non-binary identities and has produced articles and documentaries on the subject with organisations including the Financial Times and the BBC.
Bunce’s Twitter profile states Bunce is a ‘lucky husband’ (I hope he realises just how lucky) and a ‘Biker Guy, Fashionista Girl’ as if women cannot be bikers and men cannot appreciate fashion; why are these men so blind to their antiquated sexist stereotyping of gender roles? (Rhetorical question, we all know it’s power). He also claims to ‘love life and authenticity’. In ‘Mx matters as much as Lord, Prof, Ms and Mr‘ published by the Financial Times, Bunce writes:
I like to be Phil one day and Pippa another, using different forms of dress and make-up to do so… I am straight… married for more than 20 years and have two children.
It’s 2017, and this is what it takes to be shortlisted as an inspirational LGBT leader.
Reading further, it is possible to be sympathetic to some of Bunce’s ideas, even if some of his phrasing demonstrates a staggering lack of self-awareness, equating often sexist and oppressive female workwear requirements or the cultural observance of religion, to being ‘gender variant’ (isn’t that exactly what women who eschew a high heels, tights and minidress look are doing?) or just being ‘simply eccentric’:
there is a real value in allowing employees to bring their authentic selves to work, whether they be gender variant, gay, women, Sikh or simply eccentric.
I could write another 2,000 words on Bunce, however the central point I’m making concerns Bunce’s own claim to authenticity (‘gender fluid’) the grounds under which this is made (clothes and make-up) and in particular the way in which his power is leveraged at an institutional level. On the whole, Bunce’s efforts may appear superficially positive, yet instead it could be suggested that what underpins this is in fact a very deep and very regressive sexism. Furthermore, like with Drummond, the institutional power of LGBT organisations which, as part of their remit are supposed to be championing the interests of homosexual females, is being leveraged to accolade heterosexual males who are in stable heterosexual relationships, males (like any other trans identified males) whose rights claimed ‘as women’ explicitly conflict with the rights and objectives of organisations who advocate for the rights of lesbians and gay men.
It is possible to link the narrative of Bunce to a history of autogynephilia, whereas in Drummond’s case this is explicit (yet unacknnowledged) within their own description of their path to their own ‘transgender identity’ and as we have seen Drummond prefers to jump out of the ‘man box’ thus turning revolutionary into reactionary. With Bunce, this is barely concealed beneath the revealing dress and their pigeonholed diametric gender presentation: Pippa is very clearly Phil being Phil’s idea of what it is to be a woman.
I desperately want to be charitable to Bunce; I wish he would connect his own ‘gender fluidity’ to sexism, or even meaningfully address the structural sexism his own activism literally skirts around but again, this is just another missed opportunity which turns the potentially revolutionary into the properly reactionary; say ‘I am a man and it’s okay for me to do this because gender roles are unfair on everyone’ and you might make a meaningful difference; men can wear dresses without claiming either to be a woman or access to women’s spaces, and this should, in our enlightened and progressive society, be completely acceptable.
It seems perverse that the institutional power of LGBT organisations is wholeheartedly supporting the socially conservative rigid boxing of gender stereotypes, given the damage that gender does to lesbians and gay men. LGBT organisations themselves are benefitting from the inclusion and the widening of the ‘T’ within LGBT, yet there is little consideration given to the implications of LGBT organisations centering heterosexual males like Bunce and Drummond, who are afforded institutional power within LGBT groups. We have a serious conflict between the LGB and the T over sex and sexual orientation, yet there is a vacuum where LGBT organisations should be showing community leadership, replaced instead by a superficial feel-good veneer of glitz, glamour and glitter. The need, the obligation, to fight for the right to be homosexual has been quietly depreciated in favour of the command to submit to ‘inclusivity’ and ‘diversity’, all fuelled by neoliberal identifarian ideals and neoliberal capitalist money. What a complete mess.