Monday, July 8, 2013

7.8.13 Sheila Jeffreys

I want to dedicate this next post to academic and author Sheila Jeffreys.

When I first encountered Sheila's work, I was in the midst of my senior project for my Sociology BA.  My project, entitled "Feminist Perspectives of Transsexuals within the Feminist Movement" was focused around a topic I had uncovered during my transsexual activism.  I had noticed feminist bloggers decrying that trans women (or as I call them male-to-trans MtTs), should not have access to female-only spaces.  This piqued my interest as I wondered how feminists would feel about female-to-trans (FtTs) people in women-only spaces.  As I was still a student at the time and new to conducting research, I decided to conduct a limited study, which focused on students (at the time) currently enrolled in Women's Studies courses.  I distributed a 10-question long paper-based survey.  The surveys were returned anonymously to me in an envelope in a unused classroom.  This ensured that participants were guaranteed anonymity.

The survey distribution and analysis of results was only half of my project.  The other half involved an extensive literature review of any prior work written about my topic.

You can imagine that my findings were scarce.  Very scarce.  I was scraping the bottom of barrels.  The only substantial work that contained any relevance to my project was "Unpacking Queer Politics" by Sheila Jeffreys.

This book was my worst enemy at the time.  It really was.  Even as I attempted to remain neutral for the sake of my project, it hardly takes any reading between the lines for the average person to see that when I reviewed her work, I was skeptical of it at best.

During this timeframe, I had been the host of local "Queer and Ally" open mics.  People could use the space to share their poetry, music, artwork, and books they found that were relevant to peoples experiences.

Seething, I attended open mic one week, "Unpacking Queer Politics" in hand and laid out quite a diatribe for the audience, some of whom were transsexuals and were just as angry as I was for having the validity of our identities brought into question.

However, deep inside I remained curious.  I wanted to know if there were other people who had written about this subject.  So, I began asking some of my professors, and one of them pointed me in the direction of a couple more authors.  However, the deadline to my frenzied final semester's project was approaching fast, and I worked with what I had at that point.  I also didn't even know such a thing as "radical feminism" even existed, and in fact my university is brilliant at censorship.

For those who haven't read this book, I do recommend it.  Not only does this book focus on issues regarding transgenderism, but Sheila also tackles BDSM, body modification, and more.

More recently, she is working on a book regarding transition regret and it will be out early next year.  I look forward to reading it when it is released, and if you look closely, you might notice me in there too.

Sheila, if you see this post, thank you so much for the work you've been doing for women and girls, and for people who are trapped in gender fog.

Heath Atom Russell


Anonymous said...

Glad to see you back, Nymesis! I'm sorry about all of the hate you and your girlfriend received. People are cruel.

Unknown said...

Thanks for telling a bit of your story and the courage it took to come back to a proud female identity. Hopefully others we ill read about your journey and not have to repeat the difficult and harmful experiences that you went through.