This is part of a series. You can find a link to Janice’s superb work and marvel that she predicted much of what is unfolding in 1979! Lesbians really are the canary in the coal mine on women’s rights and we owe our Lesbian sisters a great debt.
The last chapter included this quote, from 1973! In include it again here because it frames this chapter beautifully.
Raymond has an interesting footnote to this chapter explaining why she really did not want to write the chapter but felt she must. Even in 1979 there were some Lesbians keen to accept men who claimed to be both women and lesbians. Raymond was clearly keen not to amplify the divisions except for a damn good reason. This topic is the very best of reasons and we can now see how it played out all those decades later. Lesbians were removed from Pride Cymru for protesting the #CottonCeiling and Lesbians in Tasmania have lost the right to exclude males from Lesbian events. In 1979 things were just starting down this path.
The “transsexual” community would have been much smaller in 1979 but Raymond argues that their presence raises important issues for feminism.
The nature of the men claiming to be Lesbians was on display even 50 years ago as they inveigled their way into Lesbian/Women’s groups and rose to prominence.
Raymond notes that a trans identified male, Sandy Stone, took a role in a purported all women venture, Olivia Records. This became quite a contentious issue and Raymond noted that, had he been sincere, he would have recused himself rather than stoke divisions.
She mentions Renee Richard (“trans” identified tennis player) as causing similar issues and another name with which I was not familiar. 👇 Barsky seems to be somewhat in the tradition of Mridul Wadhwa, in Scotland, who infiltrated a rape crisis centre and became the Chief Executive.
Raymond’s point is that despite their small numbers these “lesbian identified” males bring with them a male energy and don’t have the baggage which comes with being a woman, and a Lesbian. Arguably this makes them more inclined to seek leadership roles and compete for dominance within the women’s organisations. Their numbers may be small but their impact is out of proportion to their numbers.
Raymond draws an analogy with the historic use of Eunuchs to control the leader’s harem.
Raymond cautions women to remember the role of eunuchs to police women’s spaces and notes that it was these men who were able to invade those spaces where other men were excluded. This gives them privilege over other men and the attraction of female only spaces is appealing to these men. All the more appealing is Lesbian spaces, which are women centred and therefore the ultimate validation for men who identify as women.
To Raymond the “transsexual lesbian” is a boundary violator who uses deception, where he passes to trick his way into female only, Lesbian, events but she was opposed by some Lesbians.👇
This conflict has played out in the U.K with prominent Lesbians (Ruth Hunt, Nancy Kelley and Linda Riley, to name a few) having taken a lead role in dismantling lesbian boundaries. It is perhaps the case that the aforementioned were simply motivated by money /career advancement but Raymond argues there are complex reasons for the way in which Lesbians have been seduced into accepting “male lesbians”.
Some may be naive and draw a false equivalence between the historic oppression of Lesbians and the new oppressed class of the “transsexual”. Some may not quite of shaken off an assumption of male superiority. Some were responding, as women, accepting a care giving role to this group.
Others are grateful to have been noticed in their struggle by any male and some, she argues, are acting from the remnants of being male-identified and subconsciously or otherwise prioritising men’s rights over their own. The effect of this incursion is to sap women’s energy, cause division and force women to fight battles on Patriarchal terms.
Raymond questions whether anyone has the right to “self-define” in a way that impacts on another group. We don’t look kindly on those who self-identify as black. for example. Whether it is biology or socialisation or a combination of the two the fact is men are different to women. “Transsexuals” may indeed have their own issues to resolve but the place to do so is not in women’s groups.
Furthermore, she continues, the “transsexual” is from the same stable as penthouse depictions of lesbians, a man made version of what a woman is.
As it is 1979 there is no coverage of autogynephilia which casts even more light on heterosexual men who identify as lesbians. Cotton Ceiling rhetoric had, presumably. reached the same heights as it has today. Even without these darker manifestations Raymond had a very clear understanding of the pitfalls of lowering boundaries for the benefit of *any* males.
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