Excerpt for Feminism Isn't A Political Party: My Case for a Real Liberal Feminism by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Feminism Isn't A Political Party: My Case for a Real Liberal Feminism

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While effort has been made to describe accurately the historical events referenced in the book, the accuracy of such events described cannot be guaranteed.


This is a book about liberal feminism, why feminism should be liberal, and what real liberal feminism should look like, in my humble opinion.

This book is actually made up of excerpts from my other books. I could have written a similar book with similar ideas from scratch, but I thought this approach was better. Firstly, a theoretical book about liberal feminism, arguing its case from front to back, really looks too similar to some of what's already out there. While I believe I do have something new to contribute, there is a possibility that the similarities will drown out any differences for many readers. To effectively introduce new ideas, a fresh format is often a good option. Secondly, I have already, in the past, chosen to make my case for liberal feminism via fiction, again for effectiveness reasons. To select excerpts from that novel to highlight and make my case more clearly and succinctly would be a good idea, I think. Thirdly, liberal feminism is actually liberalism as applied to gender issues, no more or less, and therefore liberal theory in general can directly apply to liberal feminism too. As liberalism is already universal, there is no need to rewrite liberal theories and ideas specifically for applying to feminism, just like there is no need to reinvent the idea of freedom of speech for each kind of speech one may encounter in society.

Stay strong and keep the dream alive,


Chapter 1

Why Liberal Feminism, Part I

Taken from Liberal Revival Now: A Moral and Practical Case for a 21st Century Back-to-Basics Liberalism

Right now in the early 21st century, it appears that feminism has come of age. The equality of the genders is a mainstream concern like never before. We have a great opportunity to right the historical wrong of gender inequality, once and for all.

However, there appears to be a complication. Feminism is supposed to bring about freedom and equality for everyone regardless of gender. However, many of the very people feminism should benefit most do not feel that feminism is doing this right now. For example, many young women still feel that feminism is about boys vs girls which they want no part in, or that feminism means supporting specific viewpoints which are incompatible with their own ethics. When so many mainstream celebrities are voicing these viewpoints, it really poses a problem for the future of feminism. Some young women feel that feminism, at least in its current form, is all about the aspirations of career women only, and doesn't care about stay-at-home mothers. Some women even associate feminism with hairy legs and butch attire, thus thinking that their feminine high-maintenance attitude makes them a poor fit with feminism. And this is not to mention LGBT women, who have actually sometimes suffered discrimination at the hands of so-called feminists. It's not much better for men, who are simultaneously told to identify as feminists too and told that identifying as a feminist is 'cultural appropriation'.

Many dedicated feminists will quickly cry out that the aforementioned are merely misunderstandings about feminism, and that more 'education' on what feminism is (sometimes by shouting down or mocking opposing viewpoints) will change things. However, I believe this is an authoritarian attitude. The liberal attitude is to be inclusive, respect others' viewpoint, and acknowledge its existence. If so many people view feminism this way, then maybe feminism really comes across like this sometimes! What is clear is that feminism is failing in its mission of freedom and equality regardless of gender, at least in the eyes of these people.

And a lot of mainstream feminism right now isn't exactly liberal. In the current quest for equality, illiberal currents have surfaced, and some have received substantial support within the feminist movement, unfortunately. These include an increase in political correctness, marginalisation of certain viewpoints, restrictions on freedom of speech, and an increase in gender boundaries and their rigidity. For example, feminists who have concerns about affirmative action or who are pro-life are increasingly excluded from the feminist movement. Even those who want to speak up for their inclusion are sometimes seen as 'traitors'. Trans people are told to put up with outdated second-wave feminist policies that make their life painful, in exchange for 'inclusion' in the sisterhood. Other young women want to speak up, but don't dare. In order to keep your feminist cred, you must shut up and 'respect' your overlords, it seems. This dog's breakfast of a situation will become the undoing of feminism itself, if things don't change. But how can things change?

Enter liberal feminism. It is actually returning liberalism to its origins. Feminism is about freedom and equality after all, the very things liberalism is about. Liberal feminism is thus simply liberalism as applied to gender issues, and this is also what true feminism should be, no more, no less. In this way, liberal feminism is no more than a subset of broader liberalism, and no less than a very important part of broader liberalism, being concerned with issues that affect arguably the majority of the population deeply. Thus liberal feminism, like liberalism, is also all inclusive in its nature, and does not require adherents to toe a particular 'party line', except for a general and sincere belief in freedom and equality for all. No longer will anyone feel that they are misfits with feminism, unless they actually do not believe in freedom and equality for all.

Chapter 2

Why Liberal Feminism, Part II

The following are excerpts from my novel, 3 Movements (Feminism, LGBT Rights, Marriage Equality), 2 Diaries, 1 Trans Woman's Message

I could have written a manifesto of inclusive feminism, but I know that some of you would still be unconvinced.

So instead here is a story, inspired by real life stories I have known. I am sure many of you will be convinced of the need for a more inclusive feminism after reading this.

Natalie is a young trans woman living in the early 21st century. Her diaries chart both her own transition story, and the cultural and political events of the 2000s and 2010s in the US, UK and Australia. In the beginning, she had felt rejected by feminism all her life, and also decided to reject feminism. Feminism's complicated relationship with marriage equality, something she was passionate about, became yet another reason for her to reject feminism. However, as feminism changed, so did her perspective. Did Natalie ultimately decide to become a feminist? And if so, on what terms?

May 2003

Does School Have To Be Like This?

I hate putting on my school uniform. Why? It marks me out as 'male'. But the rules say I have to wear it anyway.

Why do schools have to be so mean, to make rules that make people unhappy? Well, you may say that they don't make these rules for trans people. That's definitely true, trans people are so rare that schools and rule makers are generally unaware of our existence. I mean, my school isn't 'bad' anyway, they have made an effort to make gay students feel included, for example, which is better than what many other schools are like. You can't expect them to know about trans students, right?

But why does the school have to have a male and female uniform? Out there, in the real world, many clothes are unisex nowadays. But schools are like, stuck in the 19th century, where all clothes are either male or female.

Let's ask another question. Why can't trans students go to school as their real gender? This would work well, right? But there would certainly be an uproar from other parents. There have indeed been a few cases around the world where trans students have attempted to go to school as their real gender, but it hasn't always worked out well apparently. Which explains why there have only been very few cases of this happening. This also only happens in some very open-minded, 'progressive' areas, and I'm sure where I live doesn't count as one. Furthermore, all of the handful of cases I know of are in places where students don't have to wear a uniform. I guess this makes it easier too.

Which brings me back to the uniform, and rules in general. Rules are bad for minorities. Rules are inflexible, and minorities who aren't well catered for get caught up in them. Which is why society shouldn't have that many rigid rules, in my opinion.

April 2004

Trans Girls Not Welcome?

Lately I have been very into reality TV. American Idol is my favourite, but there are many others. I like watching people chase their dreams, stepping up to new challenges week after week, trying to do their best. In fact, their spirit has become great inspiration to many people around the world. For most shows, there are also internet forums, where fans can gather to discuss the show, and of course, cheer on their favourites. Quite a few on there have also said that their favourites have inspired them to try out next year.

So what about me? Do I want to try out? It's complicated. In an ideal world, I would. But I wouldn't want to go 'as a boy'. It's not the real me, and I don't want people cheering on someone that's not the real me. Can I go 'as a girl'? Maybe. After all, drag queen Courtney Act was on last year's Australian Idol. But then, she didn't get into the top 12. Besides, drag queens are often seen as just a bit of entertainment, actual trans girls may be seen quite differently. So it's probably not worth it.

Feminists complain about the glass ceiling limiting women's advancement. But then, trans girls don't get even the opportunities average people enjoy. How can this not be a bigger problem?

November 2004

The Worst Result

It was never likely to end happily, but this year's US elections were horrible. Anti gay marriage referenda passed in every state they were on the ballot, meaning that the introduction of gay marriage by courts or state legislatures is now prohibited in more than 30 states. The Republicans' strategy to court the religious vote also triumphed: not only has President Bush been returned, but they now control both houses of Congress. Analysts are already wondering if the Democratic party has any chance at all of getting back into government in the short to medium term. With the Republican party benefiting so much from the religious right, this bloc is expected to have an increased say in future government policies.

Post-election analysis have paid particular attention to the religious vote, or 'values voters'. Which is probably just a nicer way to say voters who were stridently opposed to gay marriage, given that this was the only 'values' issue being widely debated this year. There are now suggestions that the Democrats should engage with these voters, and perhaps somewhat alter their platform to suit these voters. This makes me very worried indeed. While the immediate results of this election was bad enough, if a 'bipartisan consensus' forms around a need to bow down to the demands of the religious right, a lot of needed reform will be blocked for a generation or more.

Perhaps it was only a 'messaging' problem, other people have suggested. For example, the religious right has painted gay marriage and its supporters as anti-family, and their platform as pro-family-values. But what's so anti-family about encouraging gay couples to get committed and 'settle down'? These election results have also prompted the rise of a 'religious left', who criticise the religious right for failing to address the economic needs of many struggling families. How is this consistent with family values? The truth is that the religious right agenda is not 'the family values agenda', and its opponents are not anti-family either. We need to get this message out, before it's too late.

Perhaps what we have got is a wake-up call. We really need to fight for our values. We really need to engage with the public and explain and argue for what we believe in. Otherwise, our opponents will gain the upper hand, by default.

October 2005

Is Feminism Relevant Anymore?

Today, I read an article discussing if feminism is relevant to our times anymore. The author made the point that most young women don't actively identify as feminists nowadays, because they do not feel its relevance to them. They feel that the main goals of feminism, like voting rights, equal pay for the same work and anti-discrimination laws have all been achieved even before they were born. They just don't feel that feminism has anything to offer them.

I think that if young women today don't embrace feminism, it's not their fault. Rather, it may be the fault of feminism itself. If feminism claims to be a movement that is about empowering women, it certainly isn't living up to its ideal, from the point of view of today's young women. Maybe it's because feminism isn't listening. What I mean is, it hasn't been inclusive and adaptive enough to meet the needs of modern young women.

Speaking as somebody who identifies as female, feminism has also failed me. While they claim to be against the 'patriarchy', many feminists are even more transphobic than the patriarchy itself. Moreover, the 'rights' that the feminist movement are all about sometimes feel like another layer of exclusion to me. The anti-discrimination that they support is clearly for 'women born women' only, and some feminists have even opposed anti-discrimination laws for trans people. The affirmative action they support is again for 'women born women' only, and every time I apply for something and know that I will be considered as a 'man' for the purposes of affirmative action, it increases my gender dysphoria ten-fold. Most feminists don't even care about the likes of myself.

The point is, if feminism has ceased to be relevant, it's because older feminists haven't actually listened to what young women really want, and haven't been inclusive enough.

August 2006

The Paper Trail

One of the hassles of gender transition is the need to change your documents. And even though I am only 20, and I don't have bank loans, mortgages, insurance policies, or even a car, there are actually many documents to be changed. To make things more difficult, each document is handled by a different organisation or government department, each with different rules on what other documents you need to bring, and what forms you need to fill out. (In contrast, most people only change their name due to marriage, and a marriage certificate would generally suffice for that.) To make things even more difficult, some departments are only open on certain days, and some are located at inconvenient locations I've never been before.

The key to success here is to have good organisation. Firstly, you need to decide which ones to change first. Doing them in a certain order can make everything more convenient. Secondly, each document to be changed needs to be treated like a project on its own, ideally with its own folder. For every such 'project', there are forms to fill and supporting documents to keep track of. Finally, you need to arrange for times to visit the departments, some of which require bookings. I guess in this regard I'm luckier because I'm still a student.

And then there's the nervousness, and the surreal quality of it all. Throughout the process, I kept wondering what the man or woman reading my application was thinking. Did they see me as weird? Have they handled other trans cases before? (Probably not.) Are they surprised to receive my case? (Probably yes.) Everyone I've come across have been very professional, though.

It's no wonder that some trans people just keep putting off the whole process for years, or only do some of it. Besides actually costing some money, it is also both intellectually and emotionally demanding, especially if you want to get it right in one go. I guess it would be particularly difficult for those in a depressed mood.

Shouldn't it be easier?

March 2007

Not That Much Has Changed

A favourite topic of discussion among the internet trans community is 'how is life different now that you're perceived as a different gender'.

To be honest, not that much has changed. I love the way I look and I love my clothes, but I don't see much of a change in my life. Certainly, you would expect that people who know already me wouldn't treat me differently. But I am a university student and I meet new people every day. I can say with confidence that I have not noticed any substantial change in the way strangers or newly introduced people treat me.

There have been a few subtle changes, like other women complimenting me on my clothes and accessories, and that's very nice. I feel that men are more likely to hold doors open for me, but this is not a consistent thing, nor did this consistently not happen last year. I like the subtle changes, but I have to say they are subtle.

Maybe more changes will come. Maybe not. We'll see.

May 2007

Trans and Feminism

The relationship between transwomen and feminism is, complicated.

Feminists are currently divided on how they perceive us. There are those who think that only 'women born women' (as if we aren't) should be included, and there are those who believe that transwomen should be included too. Those who want to exclude us have traditionally been the majority view in feminism, but some younger generation feminists are now arguing for change in their movement. Still, it appears that those who want to exclude us continue to have the upper hand.

On the other hand, many transwomen actually want to be feminists. It is as if they see being a feminist, and acceptance by other feminists, as the ultimate validation of their identity as a woman. Transwomen who are feminists often call themselves transfeminists. In fact, there are websites dedicated to the idea of transfeminism. Transfeminists regularly join with other trans-friendly feminists to argue for trans inclusion, against old-school feminists, using the internet as their battleground.

I see it this way: I have no interest in joining a club that doesn't want me there anyway. I do appreciate that quite a few younger feminists want to welcome us into their movement, but it is clear that many feminists, maybe the majority, are still hostile to us. I feel that, in the feminist club, I would have to battle even harder to have my identity recognised than in the outside world. So, no thanks.

By the way, it's not as if you have to be in the feminist club to be a real woman. Just two years ago, I read a newspaper article questioning if feminism is still relevant. Many young women our age actually don't want to identify as feminists. Some feel that the term is associated with a 'boys vs girls' attitude, and others think that the big feminist fights are over in the West anyway. So not belonging to the feminist club doesn't make you less of a woman. In fact, it may mean that you are simply with the majority of young women nowadays.

August 2007

Maybe That's The Way It Should Be

A few months ago I recorded whatever (few) changes I saw in my life as a result of being perceived as a different gender. At the time I was semi-expecting to see more changes as time went on.

But I have to say, no, my life is still mostly the same as before. I love not being referred to by a male name and male pronouns, but apparently I'm still the same person. As I'm still the same person with the same personality, the way I interact with people and the way people treat me have remained very similar to before. What else should I expect?

And in this day and age, it's not like that men and women are treated very differently anyway. We don't live in the 1950s anymore, and I'm thankful for that. So what was I thinking, expecting that people would somehow treat me 'very differently'?

I guess the idea of being treated 'very differently' as a result of gender transition comes from the observation that masculine men and feminine women are certainly treated in different ways by their peers, mainly as a result of the different ways they interact with the world. But trans people don't go from very masculine men to very feminine women. I didn't put up a masculine act two years ago, and I don't put up an ultra feminine act now. I wouldn't have interacted with the world like the very masculine man back then, and don't interact with the world like the very feminine woman today. Whatever gender I am perceived as, I always interact with the world as myself, in my own style. Consequently, it shouldn't be surprising that I am received in a similar manner.

Many internet trans women love to say things like they lost 'male privilege'. I don't know if it's a genuine reflection or just another attempt to look 'feminist'. Even before transition I did not notice much 'male privilege' in everyday life, but back then, as I had not experienced living as a girl my opinion probably wasn't as valid. But recent experience has, if anything, confirmed my previous view. Certainly, there may be an element of 'male privilege' if you want to be a CEO or a politician, but to experience 'male privilege' or 'female disprivilege' everywhere in everyday life is a bit of a stretch of imagination in my opinion.

One of the surprisingly important things I have learnt through gender transition is that gender is only one 'property' of a person, and not the most important one by far. It doesn't undermine the importance of my transition though, as I had to do it to get the gender 'distraction' out of the way. (It DOES undermine the argument that marriage must be between a man and a woman, and I feel glad that I can now use my personal experience to argue for same-sex marriage.)

November 2007

Getting Back Into Politics

The upcoming Australian election has gotten me back to paying attention to news and politics.

Long serving Prime Minister John Howard is up against Labor opponent Kevin Rudd this time, and polls are indicating that Rudd will win. Which is good news because it means Australia will likely pull out of the Iraq war finally.

There's recently been some controversy around Rudd's refusal to support same-sex marriage. As I understand it, Labor's platform will provide for equal rights for gay couples through both extending the nation-wide de-facto (cohabitation) relationship recognition system to all couples, and the recognition of civil union or registered partnership systems to be set up by state governments. In other words, gay couples will have equal rights finally, but not 'marriage' itself.

It's really not surprising, given that this appears to be the most common approach among 'progressive' side major parties in the Western world at the moment. Two years ago the UK Labor government set up a civil partnership scheme for gay couples, but maintained that marriage would not change. The New Zealand Labor government also made similar moves. It's really about electoral politics, I guess. Polls have indicated 38% support for same-sex marriage in both Australia and the UK just a few years ago, and you wouldn't expect majority support at this point. We just need to take what we can, and aim to win the battle over the long run. Progress comes in steps.

The other thing that can potentially hold back same-sex marriage is the lack of enthusiasm for it among some gay activists. Both in Australia and the UK, some gay and lesbian commentators have even said that they prefer civil partnerships because they did not like the idea of 'marriage', presumably because of their own feminist or radical beliefs. Just last year some local gay groups and leaders refused to support pushing for the reform, citing other priorities. I think this attitude is unhelpful. Since some gay couples want to get married and denying them this right is discrimination based on sexual orientation, gay activist groups are indeed obliged to fight for this right, whether the leaders themselves like the idea of marriage or not! Wake up!

January 2013

What's in a Name?

As I said in my last entry, same-sex marriage is now called 'marriage equality' by most supporters and activists. The name most favoured by opponents remains 'gay marriage', which confusingly is still a name sometimes used by supporters.

There are two justifications for using 'marriage equality'. Firstly, it highlights that gay couples do not want an additional right, and are merely asking for equal treatment under the law. Secondly, it is inclusive of trans and intersex people, who may not be in a same-sex relationship but would still require legal reform to be able to marry. I think these two issues are very valid, and therefore have adopted the new term myself.

I am concerned that some activists have indeed become very 'politically correct' here though, almost as if 'same-sex marriage' and 'gay marriage' are now homophobic terms. Guess what? They are not. I remember that former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin indeed called it 'same-sex marriage' when he presided over the reform in 2005, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron called it 'gay marriage' in his now famous speech about supporting marriage equality and his conservative values. If these are terms that our supporters use too, they should not be derided, even if they are not the best terms. Political correctness turns people off, remember.

So here is what I'll do: I will use the term 'marriage equality' myself, but defend the right of people to use 'same-sex marriage' and 'gay marriage' if they feel like it.

April 2013

The Conservative Case for Marriage Equality

New Zealand has become the second English-speaking country where marriage equality is passed under a conservative government. In fact, because unlike the UK the legislation does not need to go before the upper house for confirmation, we should probably say it's the first. The fact that this contrasts with Australia's left-wing Prime Minister Julia Gillard's refusal to support the reform has also not gone unnoticed in Australian media. It just shows that even conservatives may support marriage equality, while 'progressives' are not guaranteed to do so.

Ever since UK Prime Minister David Cameron's speech last year, where he said he supported marriage equality because he was a conservative who believed in marriage, there has been an increased interest in the so-called conservative case for marriage equality worldwide. It's actually nothing new. I remember reading articles about this idea written by some US Republicans, going as far back as 2009. At that time, it was treated as just a curiosity. But Cameron's stance has propelled this idea into the mainstream.

I remember saying that a new approach to LGBT rights and marriage equality, where they are seen as an extension of 'family values' rather than something radical and challenging to existing society, will help the reform gain widespread support. It appears that my prediction has come true.

Meanwhile, Australia's conservative opposition party still refuses to grant their MPs a conscience vote, which actually represents the biggest roadblock to reform here. (Despite Gillard's personal objection, most of the Labor party already support equality.) Local marriage equality activists have recently sought to bring about discussion of the conservative case for marriage equality here, in an attempt to increase conservative support and solve this impasse. I think this is a brilliant idea. Reform can only be achieved when we bring as many people together as possible, ideally from across the political spectrum. As activists often like to say, no one party can achieve marriage equality alone.

However, even the beginnings of this new phase of the marriage equality campaign has drawn fire from more radical activists. They claim that this focus will leave the more radical elements of the LGBT community behind. Guess what? Marriage is not meant for those who want radical relationships anyway, gay or straight. Those who believe in radical relationships have left marriage behind already, in this sense. Marriage equality is mainly a reform that is important to those gay couples who want to get married, and to achieve it soon. Such couples cherish marriage, in the same way as Cameron and other conservatives do. Therefore, the conservative case for marriage equality is actually the voice of a substantial number, perhaps even the majority, of those marriage equality will affect most. I believe that radicals are in effect oppressing gay couples who believe in marriage if they disallow this voice to be heard.

October 2013

Gillard's Explanation

So former Prime Minister Julia Gillard has finally given a proper explanation as to why she does not support marriage equality. As many people suspected, it is indeed related to her 1980s style feminist views. She simply does not believe in marriage. The fact that she had never married any of her partners should have given everyone a strong hint.

Many marriage equality supporters remain disappointed in her stance. They maintain that one can choose not to participate in marriage but still offer the choice to others. But then, from my understanding, many 1980s feminists feel like they have a responsibility not to encourage marriage in any way. Furthermore, as Gillard herself suggested, historically many gay and lesbian people actually held the same view on marriage as herself. In fact, since Gillard offered her explanation, plenty of older generation gays and lesbians have indeed 'come out' to 'cheer her on'.

Some overseas people apparently believe that all 'progressives' and all non-religious people must support marriage equality. This belief is especially common in countries like the US, where almost all opposition to marriage equality comes from the religious right. But in Gillard we have a good example of someone who opposes marriage equality on 'progressive' grounds, just like in (British PM) Cameron we have a good example of someone who supports marriage equality on conservative grounds. It just shows that marriage equality is ultimately not owned by 'progressives' alone.

November 2013

Feminism vs Marriage Equality

This is a discussion on the fact that some feminists are actively opposed to marriage equality.

Don't get me wrong. Most feminists today actively support marriage equality, in the name of advancing equality to the LGBT population.

But some don't, because they think marriage is a bad thing, so bad that nobody should have it. As a personal stance, I believe that's fine. But then, a substantial number of such feminists actually actively oppose the extension of marriage rights, almost in the same way as the religious right. For example, if they were a politician in parliament they would vote against marriage equality bills, and if there was a referendum held they would vote no too. Some even go out of the way to make a mockery of gay couples who sincerely want to get married.

You know, feminism should be about upholding the equal rights and dignity of all people, with a particular focus on women and others denied their equality by the patriarchy. Going by that spirit, wouldn't that require supporting marriage equality, if only as equality? What you, a particular feminist, think about marriage itself is a non-issue here. The issue is that there are many gay couples out there who want to get married, and the patriarchal religious right is denying them that right. In other words, the issue is not what you, a particular feminist, think is a good choice to make, but what some LGBT people want and are currently denied.

If the feminist movement is serious about 'fighting patriarchy', it needs to be serious about LGBT rights and equality. And if it really is serious about LGBT rights and equality, it needs to support what many LGBT people want, rather than imposing its view upon them. It's time that old-school feminists really opened up their minds and start listening.

February 2014

Growing Out Hair

As part of her transition, Maria is growing out her hair, and it's currently stuck at the length where it's very irritable.

So hair became part of our conversation today. The vast majority of trans women grow out their hair during transition. Which is probably not a surprise, as short hair is considered masculine in our society, and long hair is considered feminine. Maria, however, made the observation that many trans men didn't cut their hair for transition, as many have had short hair to begin with. The conversation then turned to why trans women don't often already have long hair to begin with, despite this being their preference.

The truth is that, when it comes to presentation, 'women' (or who society perceives to be a woman) have more freedom. Just think about it. The 'male' equivalent of a tomboy would be considered socially unacceptable in a wide variety of settings. The 'male' equivalent of butch women? I don't think I've seen one. 'Males' are practically still in the mid 20th century or so compared with women, when it comes to socially acceptable dress.

And why is this the case? Historically, both men and women were subject to oppressive gender norms in presentation, as in other areas of life. However, the feminist movement changed all that, for women. As for people who were male, the feminist movement didn't care for them much, at least not until the third wave. But even today, this glaring inequality is just accepted as normal, even by a lot of young feminists. Shouldn't a movement dedicated to gender equality and liberation think harder, and try harder for change?

Of course, there's another very important reason why feminists should be concerned with this inequality. As women can dress butch and be respectable but men can't dress femme and be respectable, this de-facto means that masculinity is to be preferred and femininity is to be shunned. Any numerical 'equality' that feminism can win on such a playing field will be just numerical, where women can have equality, but only if we behave more like men.

March 2014


Marriage equality has officially begun in England and Wales. Scotland is set to follow suit later this year. Nearly 20 US states are also on board now. Australia? Who knows when?

So I have been out and about, both on social media and in the real world, drumming up support and momentum for marriage equality, doing whatever one individual can about the issue. The marriage equality activists in this country are unfortunately not playing it right at the moment, in my opinion. Unlike in the US, where they are riding on the wave of momentum, here the latest action seems to be a campaign telling the whole country that 'We're Waiting'. That's really not good enough.

But what's worse are the excuses I have encountered from other activists or potential activists. They say that there are more important issues. Like homelessness - except how is that an LGBT-specific issue? Or like the inadequacy of LGBT representation in mainstream media - except how is that as important as marriage equality to the actual lives of people? I suspect that these people really do not want to fight for marriage equality at all. It's really not that surprising, when you think about it: many of the 'more radical' LGBT activists have long resisted having anything to do with marriage equality, and in recent years many have given the 'other priorities' excuse. I thought that progress on this front internationally would have changed their attitudes somewhat. But perhaps I was wrong.

This may be controversial, but let me say it: I actually think that the 'more radical' activists are dodging reality, and indulging in fantasy. Fighting a real political fight is tough and draining work. But it has to be done, if only for the benefit of future generations. On the other hand, one can choose escapism: like saying how 'marriage is unimportant, and so I don't care about marriage equality'. Withdrawing from the civil rights battle of our time maybe an easy choice, but it's definitely an irresponsible one to make, in my strong opinion.

May 2014

The Social Justice Warrior Problem

Like many people undergoing transition, Maria has built a network of trans friends going through transition, mostly at a similar phase to herself. As I've personally experienced, it is very helpful to go through the process with other people.

However, Maria is also worried that her new friends is pressuring her to take particular political stances, and join in certain political activities, all in the name of social justice. Like myself, Maria also thinks that social justice is a good thing, but she is sceptical of her new friends' politics.

I have come to the conclusion that Maria's new friends are in fact 'social justice warriors' (SJWs). SJWs essentially believe that all social inequalities need to be eradicated as soon as possible, and can resort to extreme, illiberal means sometimes. For example, SJWs have called for businessmen who have funded anti-marriage-equality campaigns and scientists who have made sexist comments to be sacked, and many support an increase in speech restrictions on university campuses in the name of protecting minorities. The internet and especially social media have become their favourite platform for organising and 'collective action', often in the form of sharing or retweeting similar messages together, creating a 'critical mass' that demands to be noticed.

SJWs are kind to trans people. In fact, that would be an understatement. Since they are all about protecting the welfare and equality of underprivileged people, they are very protective towards trans people. They take their opposition to transphobic behaviour and transphobic speech extremely seriously, perhaps more than even we transpeople ourselves. It is unsurprising that a substantial number of trans people have been attracted to their ranks.

But trans-friendly as they are, Maria and I both remain sceptical of their ways. Our first criticism of them is about freedom. Oppressed minorities only found their voice and got heard due to freedom of speech in the first place, something that SJWs clearly don't cherish enough. The first people to help such oppressed minorities also often had to act against social expectations using their freedom of conscience, another thing SJWs clearly don't cherish enough. Our second criticism of them is that we fear their ways may alienate people, paradoxically entrenching racist, homophobic and transphobic attitudes. For example, in high school I had a friend who was opposed to marriage equality because he thought that it was part of the cultural elites' way of forcing the rest of us to embrace a radical agenda. Years later he became convinced of the need for marriage equality and the importance it held for many people's lives, and today he is almost as dedicated to the cause as myself. I think that if SJWs were around in the early 2000s, their behaviour would essentially have confirmed his earlier views, and he may never have changed his mind. Our final criticism of SJWs is that they essentially aim to increase the number of rules which society has to observe. I have always had a strong view that rules often unintentionally disadvantage minorities, something that my own lived experience as a trans person has taught me.

SJWs may mean the best for us and for the world, but we really can't say that we accept their agenda in good conscience.

June 2014

Re Affirmative Action

The recent renewed interest in feminism in the Western world has reignited interest in affirmative action. There has been a new found zeal to set up affirmative action quotas where none has existed before, and to increase quotas to 50% where affirmative action already applies. (Quotas like 33% or 40% were more commonly used in the past.)

Here's a truth I haven't dared to speak up about yet: I feel quite uncomfortable about all this. Before my transition, affirmative action quotas, which never included trans people back then, were a major source of gender dysphoria for me. Nowadays, some (but not yet all) affirmative action programs include all 'non cis-men', which I think is a great improvement. But still, what about those trans women who are still too scared to come out? I feel like supporting affirmative action means that I will be complicit in increasing their dysphoria.

Furthermore, over the years where feminists haven't been the best friends of gender non-conforming people, we trans women have instead formed alliances with other LGB and gender non-conforming people. Over the years, we have fought side-by-side for acceptance and rights. Now, should I support affirmative action programs that will leave behind those 'cis-men', who are gender non-conforming, who are often also gay, and therefore actually suffer at the hands of patriarchy, often even more so than us? I really don't feel comfortable doing so. It would feel like betraying your best friend.

I haven't spoken up because I fear that I would be seen as a traitor to the sisterhood if I did. But here's how I feel. Unfortunately, many feminists are still quite judgemental of those who don't think the same way as they do. Meanwhile, real people are suffering.

August 2014

Just Blame Abbott

Recently, someone in an online discussion asked the question of why the momentum for marriage equality in Australia seems to have slowed in the past six months. The answer most people gave? Tony Abbott.

Excuse me, but I'm not aware that Tony Abbott has banned discussion on marriage equality, or that he even has the power to. It's true that the Prime Minister is not a supporter, but that's just the same as under Julia Gillard, except that we actually now have a supportive opposition leader. So how is Abbott responsible for the lack of discussion on the issue?

If Abbott is not responsible, then who is? Those who should be discussing it but are not doing their part, of course. Every social change relies on those who believe in it to champion for it, to say the obvious. If those who claim to be supporters start dropping the ball, a rapid fall in momentum will be inevitable. For the record, I've done my part, but too many supporters have simply dropped the ball ever since Abbott came to power.

Too many so-called activists in this country would like to have their prize handed to them by the government on a silver platter, rather than going out there and putting in years of hard work to fight for it. I'm not joking here - there's been plenty who have said we should wait for Abbott to get voted out and pile the pressure on the next Labor government to deliver. They want to go about it in what they see as the 'route of least resistance'. But that's not how good activism works. You want to know why Australia is lagging behind the US on marriage equality? Let's look back to a decade ago. Australia had Howard, the US had Bush, both were strongly opposed to marriage equality. The difference was that US activists worked hard, while Australian activists avoided the issue, mostly content to settle for the limited rights the governments had granted us. Apparently, local activists have not learnt that lesson, and are intent on wasting the 'Abbott years' as well.

I know from my personal life the importance of putting in the hard work to persuade people to change, whether you feel you are close to victory or not. Bit by bit, I brought my own family on board in my gender transition. It took years before they became accepting, but over time they did. Change is something to be created day by day, month by month, and year by year, whether it is on a personal or a political level. If you seek to wait for the 'right moment' to act, that moment will never come.

September 2014

A New Landscape for Trans Youth

Maria was talking to me yesterday, about how she hoped she could have transitioned earlier. I simply told her that it would be unwise to make a mess of one's life if the circumstances are not ready yet, and her decision to stall transition back in 2007 was the right one. Surprisingly, she told me that it wasn't even just 2007 she was talking about. She had come across several recent articles about the lives of trans teenagers nowadays, and she regrets not transitioning at their age. She went on to list the things that she 'wouldn't have had to miss out'. I had to remind her to be rational, to remember what the world was really like back when we were in high school, and how a successful transition there was very unlikely.

(Some) trans youth really have it much better nowadays. I'm not saying that there's no discrimination or bullying, because I know that would be false. (Maybe in another generations' time.) But at least they can come out (as long as their family is not super conservative), schools are often accepting, they can live authentically, and they can receive proper treatment from dedicated medical professionals. They probably still don't have an entirely 'normal' life, but at least they don't have to 'miss out on everything watching life go by' like we did.

None of us had this opportunity. But then, the world moves forward step by step, and we should be glad that the next generation gets a better deal than we did, rather than regret upon the limitations of our own lives.

Trans youth today also know that they have more opportunities than ever in life. Granted, discrimination still exists. But when trans women are even allowed to enter Miss Universe and its associated competitions (and at least two have already done so), you feel like the sky's the limit, and don't feel like you need to compromise on your dreams that much. On a more everyday, 'realistic' level, news reports of trans people making it as professionals of all kinds, models, actors, sportspeople, even YouTube stars are becoming increasingly common. The very low 'trans ceiling' that I felt back when I was a teen has certainly been lifted much higher.

The world owes it to trans youth to not limit their life potential via discrimination and disapproval. I'm glad we're moving in the right direction.

January 2015

Becoming a Feminist

Maria had a talk with me about feminism last week. She has become a dedicated feminist, and she asked me if I identify as a feminist too. I told her I would get back to her later.

All those years ago I decided to reject feminism because it rejected me. I remember writing a diary entry about this in 2007. Essentially, feminism was a club where a large number of its members rejected transwomen back then.

But things may have changed. At least among feminists of our generation, acceptance of transwomen has become nearly universal. Moreover, many young feminists actually fight side-by-side with us on LGBT rights. And young trans-friendly feminists have become increasingly confident about taking on transphobic feminists, even if they are otherwise long-respected figures in the movement. Partly as a result of these changes, more and more women's colleges in the US are opening their doors to transwomen for the first time.

Transwomen who want to identify as feminists today don't have to fight for their right to do so like a decade ago. They are welcomed into the feminist fold readily by the increasing majority of trans-friendly feminists.

Feminism is changing. And it's not just in relation to trans women. Marriage equality is another area where feminism is evolving. While many old school feminists like Julia Gillard oppose marriage equality, the new generation of feminists not only support marriage equality, they demand that everyone else support it too. It is still true that some feminists, both young and old, remain sceptical of marriage. But for younger feminists, even if they don't want marriage themselves, they tend to see marriage equality as an equal rights issue rather than an endorsement of marriage itself.

Moreover, it has become 'fashionable' to identify as a feminist again, probably for the first time since the 1970s. Celebrities and popstars are increasingly identifying as feminists, and their popularity have generally increased if they do so. In contrast to a decade ago, nobody questions if feminism is still relevant nowadays.

All this just shows that feminism, like everything else, is not fixed through time. So should I reassess my approach to feminism? I think it's time I did so.

At the core of it, feminism is just about gender equality. I guess I can call myself a feminist if this is what I believe in. It's OK that I don't agree with many feminists over many issues. Many young feminists disagree with Germaine Greer over trans issues and disagree with Julia Gillard over marriage equality too. It doesn't mean they can't be part of the movement. Feminism is not a political party with a black-and-white platform, after all.

April 2015

Pronoun Rounds

Today I attended one of the LGBT support meetings Maria regularly goes to, because I was invited to talk to several trans people there about what life feels like in the long term after transitioning.

You know, before this invitation, I had never even thought about 'how life is like now that I'm long-term post-transition'. It's not something you naturally think about. Life just goes on, and whatever new features of life that came about as a result of transition gradually becomes the 'new normal'. Furthermore, while I don't feel 'gender dysphoria' anymore, my life is still quite similar to the way it was before transition, except for gender-specific features. So there really isn't much to talk or think about. But then, I realised that this is exactly what some people in transition need to hear from people like me: they want to know that there is a future after transition, that life can feel 'normal' and just right.

Attending the meeting itself was quite an experience for me, something unexpected. While this was a regular support meeting for LGBT young adults in the area, trans people did make up nearly a fifth of those in attendance. This stands in contrast to my experience with the so-called LGBT support groups and services that I came into contact with during transition. Back then, they had generally not even seen a trans person, and I became fed up with having to explain myself eventually. Statistically, this change would also likely mean that many more trans people have come out in the past decade. I calculated that if the proportion of gay people vs trans people in this sample is reflective of the wider reality, then trans people would actually have a frequency of about 1 in 500, many times more than previous reports. In fact, I wonder if there are actually many more trans people than we believed there were all along, with many just hiding in fear or unaware of their true identity all along.

Another interesting feature of the meeting was that it started with a 'name and pronoun round', where everyone introduced themselves providing their name and pronoun. It was the first time I had seen something like this. So here was a solution that can solve all the pronoun problems trans people have ever encountered! I'm still unsure if this is going to be realistic to apply in the wider world where the vast majority of people aren't trans. But then, I was told by someone there that this practice is actually also being introduced in some college-level debating tournaments. Apparently, another reason was that some people wished to be referred to as 'they' rather than a gender-specific pronoun.

October 2015

More on Social Justice Warriors

I don't agree with the agenda of the social justice warriors (SJWs). Previously in this diary, I gave my reasons for this decision. It's not that I don't agree with the idea of social justice or the need to address bigotry. It's just that I believe in using more 'liberal' and 'rational' methods.

Recently, an SJW asked me what I think of the anti-SJW movement, and how I can in my good conscience let these people use their 'freedom of speech' to encourage hate and bigotry. I have indeed come across some of the things people have said in the name of 'protecting freedom of speech' against SJWs. And trust me, there's plenty of racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic things they have said, some of which are quite hurtful to me personally as a trans person.

I do not support the self-proclaimed anti-SJW movement. But then I do support freedom of speech, and the existence of this noisy minority is not going to change my mind. My belief is that whenever people 'use' their freedom of speech to spread false or hateful statements, it is our responsibility to stand up for truth and equality, using our own freedom of speech. For example, while it hurts me to hear someone say that 'trans women are not real women', I am strong and rational enough to argue confidently as to why they are wrong. I believe that while these arguments may be painful, they are something we need to have, in order to progress society. While I cannot in good conscience support the SJW movement in its current form, I will wholeheartedly support an alternative movement that seeks to address misunderstandings and spread the message of equality and acceptance using our freedom of speech.

Sometimes I wonder if SJWs act the way they do because they don't have faith in the liberal and rational approach to progress society. They see that there is still plenty of bigotry around, and think that the only way to truly change things is via more radical action. But from my own personal experience, change comes in steps, and things are already getting better all the time, proving that the liberal and rational approach actually works. Today's discussion about trans rights draws from discussions about gay rights and women's rights society has already had, which in turn have drawn on the idea that everyone should be equal, something once considered radical but is generally accepted today. Today's marriage equality movement builds on the gradual increase in gay rights, including importantly the civil union and de-facto rights type reforms gained in the previous decade, and the increasing consensus that LGBT relationships are part of the fabric of families that form society. At each step along the way, we need to secure the changes we can, and continue to push society along through ongoing liberal and rational discussion. Radical action undermines our ability to do these things, therefore I believe it is ultimately unhelpful.

January 2016

What If Stealth Disappeared?

Traditionally, many trans people chose to live in stealth mode - that is, post transition, they don't let people know they are trans at all. Stealth comes in many 'levels'. On a most 'shallow' level, you could even say I live in stealth mode 90% of the time, simply because I don't tell people that I'm trans generally, even though I have never attempted to actively deny it either. Most definitions of stealth however describe an existence where one actively prevents others from knowing their trans history, for example by fabricating a gender appropriate cis (i.e. non-trans) past. On the deepest level there is 'deep stealth', where possibly even one's partner does not know.

By definition, nobody knows how many people choose to live in stealth.

But recently, some trans people are wondering where the opportunity to live in stealth is disappearing. Firstly, everything has become computerised and records are easily traced. The popularity of social media also means that one's past cannot be easily completely hidden. Secondly, trans awareness has increased greatly in the general population in just the past few years, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to 'pass' 100% of the time. Recently, there have even been quite a few stories of genetic women being misidentified as trans! Remember, just one or two failures to pass can make stealth mode unravel completely.

I agree that the opportunity to live in stealth is fast fading away. But I don't think it's something we need to regret. Many trans people only 'chose' to live in stealth in the past due to the kind of discrimination they would face otherwise. In a society increasingly accepting of trans people, why would we want to live in stealth? I mean, it involves being 'fake', like being in a new closet, and makes one's life very paranoid in general. In an era where the vast majority of gay and lesbian people come out and live authentically, wouldn't living in stealth be contrary to this spirit of authenticity and acceptance for all?

I think stealth isn't something we should cherish or celebrate at all. It was just a necessity of life for many trans people historically. With the evolution of society towards accepting trans people wholeheartedly, one day, hopefully soon, nobody will feel the need to live in stealth.

February 2016

My Feminism Anniversary

A week ago was my one year anniversary of deciding to embrace feminism. Here are some reflections.

What finally made me able to embrace feminism was the more inclusive form of feminism that I encountered from some in recent years. For too long, I had felt that feminism was somehow exclusive of people like me on many levels, and even with the more trans-friendly style in recent years, I had felt that to be a feminist would be like joining a political party, and having to toe the party line. This really wasn't something I can take. While I was happy that the trans-friendly feminists appeared to have generally won the debate within feminism by early this decade, the whole thing still seemed too much like individuals trying to bring a reluctant political party along to embrace change, like more enlightened members trying to bring a conservative party to reluctantly accept marriage equality. This, for me, reinforced the view that joining feminism is like joining a political party even more than anything else.

But more recently, I realised that real feminism isn't that 'political party'. While some feminists have unfortunately overly politicised the whole idea and have also policed acceptable stances to take, this really shouldn't be how the concept of feminism operates. And while I am totally put off by this reality, it shouldn't be a barrier for me to embrace what feminism really is: that is, a movement where women and gender minority voices can get heard, and society can be changed to make things more equal. I have become a feminist, but I will never join that 'political party' and toe that party line, because to me, that would be betraying the real idea of feminism. I hope that more feminists can reflect on this idea, too.

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