Germaine Greer tells Q&A her trans views were wrong, but then restates them

Greer accused of transphobia online after telling the Australian TV show Q&A that it ‘wasn’t fair’ for a man to decide he was a woman

At first, it appeared Germaine Greer was backing away from her view that trans women were not “real” women.

“This is so difficult,” she began.

“I agree that when I first was thinking about what is a woman I fell for the usual view that women were people with two Xs and men were people with an X and a Y, which made life nice and easy for me. And I now realise, partly because I’m not entirely immune to information, that this was wrong.”

The pioneering feminist and public intellectual was responding to a question on the ABC panel show Q&A on Monday night from journalist Steph D’Souza, who introduced herself as a former fan.

Germaine Greer: Why do you believe there is such a thing as a “real woman”? #QandA

— ABC Q&A (@QandA) April 11, 2016

“When I was younger I found your work a great source of strength and inspiration,” D’Souza said. “It helped me resist the limitations that society or even misogynists could place on me but I find really confusing views you’ve expressed that transgender women are not real women. Why do you believe there is such a thing as a real woman? Isn’t that the kind of essentialism that you and I are trying to resist and escape?”

But it wasn’t to be. After conceding she had been wrong in the past, Greer offered an observation about the intersex spectrum and declared that a transgender person could not know their real gender identity, because “you don’t know what the other sex is”.

The Female Eunuch author then said it “wasn’t fair” that “a man who has lived for 40 years as a man and had children with a woman and enjoyed the services – the unpaid services of a wife, which most women will never know ... then decides that the whole time he’s been a woman.”

The internet responded by again accusing Greer of transphobia, a word which, last year, she joked did not exist.

When you think Germaine Greer is about to backtrack on her transphobia, and then she takes it back up to an 11. #qanda

— Tim Christodoulou (@tim_chr) April 11, 2016

Germaine Greer is transphobic and proud. She doesn't even seem to be trying to understand how mtf transsexual people feel

— AJ Hive (@EnnaTheGreat) April 11, 2016

Germaine Greer argues against transgender women by employing major gender stereotypes and its v uncomf #qanda

— Mitch Groenewald (@mitchgrow) April 11, 2016

“At the beginning of your answer I thought you were digging yourself out of the hole and now I wonder if you’ve just shovelled it back in,” host Tony Jones observed.

“I belong in this hole,” Greer replied, shortly before launching into a discussion of intersex gender reassignment surgery and saying people should be allowed to live outside the gender binary – so long as they did not attempt to become the other gender.

“If you’re a 50-year-old truck driver who’s had four children with a wife and you’ve decided the whole time you’ve been a woman, I think you’re probably wrong,” she said.

She has previously rejected claims that her brand of feminism was trans-exclusionary, telling BBC Newsnight last year: “Apparently people have decided that because I don’t think that post-operative transgender men are women, I’m not to be allowed to talk. I’m not saying that people should not be allowed to go through that procedure, what I’m saying is it doesn’t make them a woman.”

Greer was on the panel with Liberal MP Sharman Stone, Tasmanian Labor senator Lisa Singh, columnist Theodore Dalrymple, and Aria-award winning oud player Joseph Tawadros.

Dalrymple sided with Greer on matters of gender identity, but had earlier earned her scorn for offering that, in his extensive clinical experience, domestic violence was rooted in sexual jealousy.

“I probably would have thought that actually what drives it is misogyny, is actual dislike of women and not understanding them,” Greer said.

The comment was made in response to a question from a woman named Mary McArthur, who suggested efforts to curb domestic violence ought to focus on why women ended up in relationships with abusive men and target the women who had made “poor relationship choices”.

Stone and Singh said victims of domestic violence could not safely walk away from their abusers and should be supported, not blamed for what had happened to them.

“It’s the most dangerous time for the woman and her children when she does choose to leave,” Stone said. “She is more likely to be killed when she does choose to say, ‘It’s over. I’m going,’ and on average a woman tries seven times in Australia to pack up and leave.”

However she said teaching girls from a young age that abuse was not acceptable and encouraging financial independence could help.

“It’s a range of things we’ve got to do but never blame the victim, the woman, because she hasn’t walked away or she’s chosen a rotten man to be the father of her children and she can’t escape without endangering their lives,” she said.


Calla Wahlquist

The GuardianTramp

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