Sunday 23 November 2014

Interview with Miranda Yardley

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Miranda Yardley, a British accountant, music magazine publisher, blogger and businesswoman. Hello Miranda!
Miranda: Hello Monika! Thanks for asking me to do this and for helping my voice to be heard.
Monika: You can boast a considerable number of music magazines such as Terrorizer, Dominion, and Sick Sounds, which specialized in extreme music. Has your music preference changed over the years? 
Miranda: Terrorizer is the only one of these magazines that is still regularly published. My taste in music has always been very broad, I’m open-minded to most kinds and I continue to search out both old and new music that interests me.
Monika: How did you enter the publishing business?
Miranda: I had an accounting client who owned Terrorizer and wanted to drop the title. The rest is history!

Monika: Music magazine publishing must be a very competitive business …
Miranda: All business is highly competitive, especially in this environment. There have been enormous changes in both the music and publishing industries over the last 10-15 years.
Monika: Some people call you to be a TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist) or a 'self-hating trans woman’…
Miranda: That’s more someone lashing out and making an ad hominem attack rather than making a coherent political point. If people disagree, which of course they are perfectly entitled to do, they should attack my words, not me.
Monika: Your TERF label made Paris Lees and Fred McConnell refuse to participate with you in BBC's Newsnight in August 2014, during which all of you were asked to discuss the coming-out of the boxing promoter and UKIP candidate, Kellie Maloney…
Miranda: There should be room in the trans community for honest dialog and debate rather than the apparent ideological totalism that exists in much of the community which results in ostracism and bullying of anyone who appears to not follow the dominant narrative. This is a sad state of affairs, how can the community evolve if this is what happens? It’s very telling that in the aftermath of ‘Mirandagate’ there has not been a single meaningful critique of the arguments I presented in my New Statesman piece, my Feminist Current podcast or the many blogs I have published since.
I believe this is indicative of a community that is afraid to ask questions about itself. and instead constantly seeks validation, both of and by itself. Trans people should be critical of gender, and it is something we as a community should be prepared to debate bravely. The present state of affairs is to shut down debate, to no-platform, to silence dissent. This suffocates any ideas and reduces them to dead dogma.
The Kellie Maloney story was a great opportunity to really tackle some of the ideas that concern transwomen directly. What does it mean to ‘identify as a woman’, is it really just a matter of identity? What does Kellie mean when using phrases like ‘born in the wrong body’, ‘female brain’ and ‘I have always known I was a woman’?
I view the use of the word ‘TERF’ as being a pejorative, and it is used as a way to throw abuse at those whom someone may disagree with, usually women. The indiscriminate way in which it is used makes it devoid of any positive or useful meaning. How can I, or other transwomen who are regularly branded ‘TERFs’, be ‘trans exclusive’? How can we even be ‘radical feminists’?

To be clear, I also reject the use of the ‘cis’ prefix. We already have a word to describe non-trans adult females, and that word is ‘woman’.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the British society?
Miranda: In my lifetime, there have been enormous changes in attitudes towards race, sex and sexual orientation. A lot of these changes of course happened in the ‘70s and ‘80s although work still needs to be done. It is good that we live in a progressive society that to a degree embraces ideas of equality. People should be allowed to be themselves, to love someone based on mutual attraction, choose the career they are most interested in or talented at, wear whatever they may wish, and reach their full potential as human beings.

All these things would be achieved if we lived in a world without gender (feminism views gender as an oppressive structure, and concerns itself with the liberation of women from patriarchy and the gender system). I found a really interesting piece on imagining a world without gender which was written by Judith Lorber.

I think it would be worth my stating I do not consider myself ‘transgender’, which is defined as “denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender” in particular in common use it acts as an umbrella term to include various ‘identities’ such as transvertites/cross-dressers, genderqueer, androgyne and bigender, as well as a myriad of other identities.

I consider myself to be ‘transsexual’ or a ‘transwoman’ which is separate and distinct from these ‘identities’, in particular we suffer dysphoria. It is my belief that transwomen should position themselves as political allies to women as we share similar political goals. It is my belief that the political goals of the transgender movement and particular genderqueer movement are directly in conflict with those of women and transwomen.

I have experienced such conflict first hand, especially from self-professed ‘allies’ who have even sought to prevent transwomen from having debates to examine what it does actually mean to be a transwoman, or policed the language transwomen use to describe ourselves and our experiences. 
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Miranda: I transitioned in 2008, I was 40. The day I did the sun came out and it’s never gone back in. I would emphasise that I do not consider that the process of transition makes one into ‘a woman’.

I accept that I am still biologically male, as are all other transwomen. This is not a statement of condemnation nor am I intending to antagonise, it’s just how things are. It’s not judging anyone to say this, on the contrary it’s about coming to terms with one’s self. I have written about this quite a lot because I think it is important.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Miranda: No.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Miranda: The effect on my family, although even there it has had a number of positive effects it even brought myself and my grandmother closer together for a few years before she passed, aged 103, in March 2013. She really supported the path I chose and responded with unconditional love.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Miranda: Women (and by that I do not mean transwomen) still have so much to fight for. Male violence and entitlement to women’s bodies continues to be a blight on societies across the world and women are treated appallingly across the globe.
This is a battle transwomen should be getting behind, instead of the fighting against women which dominates a lot of transactivism at this present time. Again, we should position ourselves as allies: men are the class who oppress and attack transwomen, not women.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Miranda: ‘Some Like it Hot’ is still one of my favourite films. Obviously, I am aware there is some controversy over non-trans actors playing the part of trans people in movies. 
Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBT communities. Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBT group?
Miranda: The causes that affect transsexuals are, I believe, more closely allied to the causes affecting women. My own position would echo that of Andrea James.

Monika: Is there anyone in the British transgender society whose actions could be compared to what Harvey Milk was doing in the USA in the 60s and 70s for the gay activism?
Miranda: I see almost no campaigning in the transgender community against male violence, which is a significant problem. Indeed, much of the ‘transgender’ activism in this country is bogged down in fighting women for the right to share their spaces, organisations, and meetings. This type of activity involves pressuring an already oppressed class to relinquish rights, freedoms, and structures they have fought hard to create and is plainly unfair and destructive.
Any interface between transgender rights and women’s rights is a ‘rights balance’ question, whose rights matter more? This is not a positive battle for transwomen to engage in. Transowmen (and those who are transgender) should take the initiative and campaign on issues that directly affect them, instead of fighting against women.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Miranda: I’ve been involved with environmental politics in the past but my work life is too busy to fit much more in. I’ve written a fair amount of things I guess you could call ‘political’ in the sense they address politics in the trans community and this is certainly something I am to continue to do, I’m pleased to say I have a number of commissions which will see more political writing from me from now into next year.
I would like to think the trans community could evolve to a point where debate is not derailed by identity politics and cries of ‘TERF’ and I feel it is important that trans politics moves away from confrontation with women, whether radical feminists or not.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Miranda: I am lucky to have a large number of friends, some of whom I am very close to.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Miranda: I keep getting asked to, so yes! Whether this happens or not is a different matter.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Miranda: I am always working on new projects and ideas to reinvent what I do.

Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Miranda: I believe almost everyone, not just transgendered individuals or transwomen, would benefit from reading about feminism and also learn not to take scientific ideas at face value. Understand the ideas and concepts that feminists hold to be true, and try to understand why and what this political system seeks to achieve. Try to understand the effect that gender and Patriarchy has on women.
I’d recommend reading the following:
  • Greer’s ‘The Female Eunuch’ for a good overview and perspective on what it actually means to be a woman under the oppressive system of partriarchy;
  • Janice Raymond’s ‘The Transsexual Empire’ for an understanding of what that most misunderstood and quote-mined phrase “I contend that the problem with transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence” actually does mean;
  • Andrea Dworkin’s ‘Pornography’ for an understanding of the dehumanising effect that pornography has on women;
  • Bell Hooks’s ‘Feminist Theory’ for an understanding of what intersectionality actually means;
  • Cordelia Fine’s ‘Delusions of Gender’ for a thorough debunking of the idea of gender being innate.

I’d also recommend the above-mentioned videos which I believe are essential: Rachel Ivey on the difference between liberal and radical politics and gender, Gale Dines on pornography, Cathy Brennan, in her own words. Note she is interviewed by a transman and a transwoman in this broadcast.
Monika: Miranda, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Miranda Yardley.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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