Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Bridging the gulf with coffee and a chat

This week we have seen alot of discussion around transphobia in the media. Following some upset and anger myself at some of what I had read, I decided that the best way to engage and challenge ignorance of the trans community was through talking and sharing experiences. We have seen alot of anger from across different communities over the last few days and its important we recognise how strong some of those feelings have been especially from vulnerable and often abused members of the Trans community. 

If we are to move past this and continue our move for equality and campaign for the end of violence and abuse against all women, trans people and people in general we need to look to build bridges and help people understand our feelings and experiences rather than simply through the expression of anger. Inspired by the always fantastic Paris Lee's letter to Suzanne Moore I thought inviting Julie Burchill for coffee and the chance to exchange views and experiences might be a positive way forward :)

Dear Julie,

I am writing as you would put it as a member of the “trans lobby” you described in your recent article.
I am not writing to give out hate however but to invite you to share a coffee and a chat to share our experiences.

This week a lot of people have been angry, angry at the injustice towards women in the world (Suzanne Moore), angry at ignorance of how trans people are perceived (Trans community), angry at how hurtful people can be when they are upset (Yourself), angry at allies in the fight for equality turning on one another like dogs (all of us).

This anger all started from an article written by a woman who has spoken eloquently in the past around the need for equality for all women where she not in a malicious manner but an ignorant one used “Brazilian transsexuals” as the butt of her argument within the article. Now this I agree did not make me jump off my seat with shock or anger (I see worse published every week in the Daily Mail) however was uncomfortable to see an ally in the fight for equality ignorantly using language in an unhelpful way that further perpetuates the abuse many Trans people face. 

Unfortunately words were had and I am sure Suzanne received messages that were not helpful and completely out of order, all be it made by people feeling vulnerable and threatened. As a result Suzanne made some comments in the heat of the moment that well really made me go “WOW has she just said that?”

You then felt the need to come to the defence of your friend, sister and ally in the fight for women’s equality a sentiment I can understand whilst not agreeing with your methods.
What I found most sad about reading your article was the very generalisations and stereotypes you and other feminists like myself have been campaigning against you seemed able to throw right back at the transgender community you felt had upset your friend. You talked about the fight for equality and the big issues in the world and the need for a focused women’s movement, but then with insulting upsetting and clumsy language drove many of your fellow sisters and allies away.

Reading your article was upsetting not least because I’m not a Shemale, Shim, a dick in chicks clothing or a Tranny, but I’m a women just like you a sister and a feminist who wants us to work together against the violence and abuse faced by women from all backgrounds. What was most upsetting was seeing allies in the fight for equality been turned against each other like dogs in a dog fight instead of sisters united against misogyny.

Often what appears to be Transphobia is often based on lack of knowledge or experience all of us are born ignorant and its only through talking and sharing experiences do many people understand the issues that can often lead to upset and anger from the Trans community.  When it comes to heated arguments and entrenched positions sharing experiences can also help bridge the gulf of viewpoints and help to cool the anger that has resulted from polarised views.

That in mind as a trans women I would like to extend an olive branch over the modern cultural sanctuary of a coffee and a chat, an opportunity to share experiences and views and move beyond the hate and anger we have seen over the last few days. Like you I’m prone to controversy having been a Labour Party Officer who defected to the Conservatives last year and now a lay Trade Union Officer and Conservative Party Campaign Coordinator, I know we can share some common ground on breaking the mold and I hope you will consider accepting my offer.

Kind Regards

Tara Hewitt

Feminist, Diversity Consultant, Trade Unionist, Conservative Party Member and Trans Women

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