Of Julie Burchill and Bitter

It was in November that, channel hopping after watching Chelsea lose in the Champions’ League, I switched to BBC3 and, by chance, watched the documentary about Jackie Green, the transgender beauty queen. I am still not sure why she wants to be a beauty queen but I was very impressed by her courage and strength of character. The following day I sent her a message of support on Facebook. I got a reply. Jackie had hundreds of messages and tried to reply personally to all of them. This says a lot about her.

There were, inevitably, offensive messages, some from the usual suspects and, sadly, a few from older transgender women who seemed bitter that she had, in their view, had it easier than they did.   I don’t think she did. She was suicidal before her parents paid for her to undergo gender reassignment surgery on her sixteenth birthday.  The thing that Jackie, apparently, gets most upset by is that is the suggestion that she used to be male. She maintains that she has always been female but trapped in the wrong body. All of which raises the question of what actually makes a woman a woman.

Julie Burchill, in her rant in yesterday’s Observer, is clear. You need to have been born female and had the experience of feeling shit for a few days every month. Transgender women beware. You are fakes and Julie is going to get very angry with you.

The essence of woman is, then, the period and the menopause; to menstruate or to have menstruated, so that older women are not excluded. But isn’t this a narrow, impoverished view of what it is to be female? If you didn’t get the right chromosomes forty weeks before you breathed your first, tough.  Apart from the obvious fact that Jackie, and others, live fulfilling lives as women and are accepted as women by those Burchill would class as “real women”, it is a sad and dismal definition of the feminine. No joy, no celebration. She probably prefers vinegar to champagne.

Enough of Burchill. I am sure that those reading this are as appalled as I am at her ravings. But I do wonder why so many transgender women so keenly embrace the stereotypically feminine, frocks and heels and so on. It strikes me as betraying a lack of confidence in their femininity. I once chatted to some members of a TV/TS Group in Birmingham on their weekly social night in a gay pub in Birmingham. To a woman they were drinking girly drinks, like Babycham with a cherry on a stick. I bet most of them didn’t even like Babycham. I say to them: welcome to the sisterhood but some girls drink real ale. Next time I dare you to come in jeans and I’ll buy you a pint of bitter.

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