Sorry About Your Dick: An Interview with Cathy Brennan

Why Cathy Brennan Blocked Me on Twitter and Facebook

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{editor’s note} TERF isolation from mainstream feminism and the lesbian community was accelerated exponentially by Cathy Brennan’s ‘sorry for your dick’ images. TERF’s, excommunicated from mainstream society have since associated with right wing transphobic organizations such as Deep Green Resistance, even speaking on behalf of known hate groups

I remember the first time I saw my pretty little face on Gender Identity Watch. I was thrilled; it meant that I had finally written something worth getting the attention of the most feared blog on the internet by transgender women all over the world…well, the U.S. anyway. Since that early November 2014 appearance, I’ve been “featured” on their site two more times and relished each and every moment.

They like to tell you when you appear on their site. Tweets flood your notification box from @JenderFatigue with a simple link to what they believe is your mug shot. In my case, they used an incredibly high resolution picture of me looking cute and innocent; hardly the image of the gender fiend I was being made out to be.

According to their website, Gender Identity Watch is a blog devoted to tracking harmful legislation and case law that attempts to codify harmful “gender identity” into law and Cathy Brennan, the main force behind Gender Identity Watch , co-authored a letter to the United Nations insisting that the gender identity of Transgender people should not be recognized or protected legally.

Contributors to Gender Identity Watch felt that I had been unfair in not consulting them on a recent article I had written concerning violence in the trans community, thus erasing the female voice from my article. So to ameliorate their concerns, I was happy to contact Cathy Brennan through her blog and after a few exchanges she granted my request for an interview via email. With the exception of all link redirections having been removed, the following interview is Cathy Brennan’s unedited response to that article.

In terms of what you are trying to accomplish, how would you describe yourself?
I am an organizer for women.

When was G.I.W. created and what was the original intent of G.I.W.?
That’s on the blog.

Has the original intent of G.I.W. become something different today than when you started it?
No.

Do you believe that being transgender is a choice or do you support the studies built on Australia’s Prince Henry Institute that transgender is based on biology and genetics?
Gender is a social construct, external to people. Gender is not innate. As Lierre Keith has said, “Gender is not a binary. It is a hierarchy. It is global in its reach, it is sadistic in its practice, and it is murderous in its completion. Just like race, and just like class. Gender demarcates the geopolitical boundaries of the patriarchy—which is to say, it divides us in half. That half is not horizontal—it is vertical. And in case you missed this part, men are always on top.

Gender is not some cosmic yin/yang; it’s a fist, and the flesh that bruises. Okay? It is the mouth crushed shut, and the little girl who will never be the same. Gender is who gets to be human, and who gets hurt. And that has to be made very clear, because men know what they are capable of. They know. They know the sadism that they have built into their sex. So what they say to each other is “Do it to her. Not to me, the human being, but to her. The object. The thing”. So they have to make it very clear, both visually, and ideologically, who she is. So see, there she is, unable to walk. Or there she is, on display. Or there she is, um, you know, covered and secluded, for your eyes only.

And how much easier if you can say “God made her this way, to lie beneath me”. Or easier to say, “Nature made her this way, the thing with the hole”. Or, if you can say, “She made herself this way, the slut who asked for it”. Because we always ask for it. The rape, the battering, the poverty, the prostitution— even the murder. We asked for it.

Now, all of those practices in aggregate, those are what Andrea Dworkin named the barricade of sexual terrorism. And gender is what demarcates that boundary, very exactly. And this is really simple, people. Barricade. Women live inside the barricade of sexual terrorism. Men live outside the barricade of sexual terrorism. In fact, men built that barricade. Fist by fist, and f*ck by f*ck. It is exactly those violent violating practices that construct a class of people called “women”. That is what men do to break us, and to keep us broken. And that is what gender is: the breaking, and the broken.”

If you believe it [being transgender] is a choice, what do you have to back that up with? Also, then wouldn’t that make homosexuality a choice?
Yes. Sexual orientation is also a social construct. You are the one putting forth that these concepts are innate. You bear the burden of proving that. For evidence that Gender is a social construct, you can start with Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender.
Do you still stand behind your 2011 letter to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women? If so why?

Yes. Have you not even read the letter?

Yes I have, the crux of the letter reads:

unletter

In a 2011 interview you stated, “We support the following definition of “gender identity – a person’s identification with the sex opposite her or his physiology or assigned sex at birth” However, on your site, you stated, “Claire Kohner is a Man who identifies as a Woman” when referring to me. This seems to contradict your statement of supporting a person’s gender identity.
No. Do you think passing laws requires someone to address you as you wish to be addressed? It doesn’t. You are in fact a man. A law doesn’t change that. If you want people to treat you in a certain way, you should be respectful to others. No one owes you a pronoun. And no one owes you their eyesight, their observations and their experiences of interacting with men our whole lives. I am more than happy to treat transwomen as they wish to be treated when they extend the same to me. That rarely happens online.
Also that definition is from the UN Letter. Have you not read that?

You have stated that “I am no longer willing to accept trans-women as anything other than men.” What made your views change so drastically from 2011?
The Cotton Ceiling. Transwomen calling lesbians bigots and transphobic for our sexuality is rape culture. I do not support rape culture movements. Transgenderism has sadly devolved into a rape culture movement with the goal of eradicating women’s ability to establish a boundary. We are being deprived of our ability to say “no.” Please consider all of my activism on this issue a loud, emphatic and very public “no.”

You seem to focus mainly on MTF transgender individuals, what are your views on FTM individuals?
No verbal answer – Pointed to a website

Are FTM, male or are they still woman? Are you willing to accept that trans-men are men? If so, then how can you not accept trans-woman are not woman?
No Verbal answer – Pointed to a website

Should FTM be allowed in woman’s spaces or should they be confined to men’s spaces?
See UN letter.

What I think personally is irrelevant. Laws are made to advance public policy and should protect people without harming others. FTMs in women’s space does not create any risk of harm because FTMs are female.

If not allowed in woman’s spaces…why?
Males should be excluded from spaces where vulnerable populations of women are confined to a space from which they cannot easily escape and where there is an expectation that women will need privacy (i.e., prisons, homeless shelters, DV shelters). FTM people are female. I am not aware of any case in which an FTM actively fought for inclusion in a men’s prison, for example. The reason for that is such a person would most certainly be raped in a men’s prison.

This whole conversation is necessary, in part, because of the GLBT community’s unwillingness to have an honest conversation about male violence. Transwomen activists do everything in their power to distance themselves from the fact that they are male. So, for example, Christopher Hambrook identified as Jessica and gained access to a women’s shelter, where he raped women. Transwomen activists claimed he wasn’t really transgender. Except, under the law, he was. Transwomen are male. If you weren’t male, there would be no need to transition. There’s no shame in being male and there’s also no shame in transitioning and living socially as a woman. But that transition doesn’t change material reality and shouldn’t require the entire world to cater to your preferred narrative.

If they are allowed in woman’s spaces, then should they [FTM] be excluded from men’s spaces?
You don’t seem to understand how anti-discrimination laws work. These laws allow an impacted person to assert a claim of discrimination based on the possession of certain characteristics. (i.e., race, sex, class, gender identity). I want to limit the class of people who can assert a claim of ‘gender identity’ discrimination to people who are on the path to transitioning. With regard to public accommodations that people can freely move in and out of (like bathrooms, locker rooms at a gym, changing rooms at a clothing store) nothing in an anti-discrimination law will require papers at the bathroom door. The ‘gender identity’ legislation discussed in the UN Letter specifically addresses civil rights causes of action for discrimination.

In most states it is not a crime, or even a statutory violation, to enter the bathroom designated for the sex opposite one’s own. This will not change.
No one can stop you from using whatever publicly accessible sex-segregated facility you want. We are simply arguing that no one should have an actionable right in court to claim that ‘gender identity’ discrimination trumps sex in sex-segregated spaces without some serious gating on the definition of ‘gender identity.’

Why would someone’s gender identity matter to you?
What matters to me personally is irrelevant. Gender identity matters, for example, when women are imposed upon to accommodate a man’s belief about himself. So, for example, it matters when female employees are required to provide intimate service to a male, as in the Kylie Jack case or female civilians are required to be patted down by a transwoman TSA guard or women and girls are forced to share intimate space with a male. These are instances where a man’s gender identity is imposing on women’s comfort. So far, there has been zero effort put towards addressing whether it’s reasonable to require women to touch or be touched by males in intimate settings. Instead, women are simply assumed to be objects who exist to accommodate what the trans-woman desires. This is wrong.

What do you feel you get out of posting photos and descriptions of trans-women on GIW?
What is this singular focus on what “I” get out of things, or what “I” personally believe. I am not a transgenderist. My politics aren’t navel gazing or narcissistic. We highlight public news stories and we also publish information about abusive people. Women have a right to consider public news stories. They also have a right to see that the “woman” harassing them online is actually a man.

What is your relationship with the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC]? There are documents online that suggest/assume that your past donations to SPLC were a quid pro quo for not having GIW listed as a hate group. Can you explain your relationship with them?
That’s false and if you believe that, I suggest you gather evidence to prove it. There are “documents online” that suggest all sorts of things. They are put online by known liars with an agenda.

I sent Cathy a link to the online documents and she responded:
That blog is run by a Man who has posted false information about me online for years. If that’s your source of reliable news, I suggest you need to go to a credible journalism school.

Title IX has paved the way for girls to play on boys athletic teams [in public schools] but does not allow for boys to play on girls teams. Do you consider this a double standard?
No.

Why?
Girls are born into second-class status because we are female, and our femaleness is held against us. This is the very basis of feminism. I support all measures to undo the systemic inequality women and girls face. I also support affirmative action and reparations for African-American people.

Let’s talk about the term TERF, to your knowledge, where did the term come from and how does this affect the feminist movement [if at all]?
TERF is a slur created by liberal straight feminists who believe in gender. Use of it marks you as an anti-gay MRA [Mens Rights Activist]

In an undated picture, you are wearing a Joy Division shirt, what’s you favorite Joy Division song?
Who has only one favorite Joy Division Song? Closer is the best JD album. ‘A Means to an End’ and ‘Colony’ are my favorite tracks in that record. There is a picture of me wearing it at Radfem Reboot in Portland, where I did a craft indicating my sorrow about the male penis in connection with sexual violence against women. As a rape survivor, expressing this sorrow is cathartic. Transwomen might be sorry about their dicks, but I guarantee you that you are not half as sorry as women who have been subjected to sexual violence are about them.

At the end of the day, I’m just really trying to understand why this [transgender identity] matters to you…how does this affect you? What would cause you to call people out on their gender identity when so few people care?
If this issue didn’t negatively impact women and girls, I wouldn’t ever think about it.
It is postmodern idea that one should only care about injustice if it “affects the individual.” I am not a post modernist. Material reality exists and women and girls are discriminated against globally because we are born female. Transgenderism impacts women & girls negatively socially, politically and legally, and has been wholly overlooked by groups that should care about women & girls. Indeed, women are told that even using the language that identifies our sex – the very basis on which we are subordinated – is oppressive or “cissexist.” So, for example, women aren’t supposed to talk about abortion as a women’s issue or FGM as something that happens to girls. This is wrong. Why don’t you care about that, since you are apparently so desperate to identify as a woman?

It’s easy to pick and choose quotes in this interview to throw back into Gender Identity Watch’s face. In response to a posting on the G.I.W. Facebook page concerning the patriarchy involved in the Butch Lesbian article by Vanessa Urquart, I responded with “No one owes you a pronoun” and quoted Ms. Brennan’s own words.

Tweet after tweet, post after post can be answered with, “no one owes you their eyesight, their observations and their experiences” or “Yes. Sexual orientation is also a social construct” when asked if homosexuality is a choice. The result of using her own words against her got me blocked by Cathy Brennan on Twitter and from leaving comments on Facebook.

Portions of this interview have run in various publications since I had my contact with Cathy Brennan and some in the trans community have accused me either sidling up to “the enemy” or selling out for a quick read but, there is a certain je ne sais quoi when you are trans-woman that has been blocked by Gender Identity Watch [as opposed to you blocking them]; I was told by a friend that if I was on Gender Identity Watch three times, I would get a free T-Shirt. Cathy, I’m still waiting for my shirt.

My name is Claire-Renee Kohner and in January of 2014, I came out as transgender. My family fully supports my transition and, along with the Minneapolis trans community, my transition has been extremely positive. My journey should be fun, so keep your arms and legs inside the cart, it's going to be a wild ride.

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22 Responses to Sorry About Your Dick: An Interview with Cathy Brennan

  1. loveunderlaw January 25, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Cathy is a truly worthless individual full of hate for people just trying to be themselves. Instead of her focusing on attacking transwomen & men, she needs to start improving the person staring her back in her mirror.

    She hates others because she’s unhappy with her own life & who she is on the inside. She needs to see a psychologist IMO & be put on some powerful medication to help her deal with her issues.

  2. Nicole H January 25, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Cathy Brennan is a very angry person. I’m not sure what happened to her to create this level of anger and hostility. Her anger and victimization mentality is what warps her perception of Trans and Gender Queer people and men. It’s surprising that someone who is lesbian could believe Gender Identity is a choice.

  3. Nicole H January 25, 2015 at 10:00 am

    What is almost laughable is that Cathy Brennan obviously presents as a “tomboy” or butch, which is gender nonconformist. How would she feel if she was forced to wear a frilly dress, make up, and high heels? She presents as “butch” because that reflects her self image and how she feels comfortable. How hard is it for her to make the leap that Trans people feel the same way but just more so?
    I think her anger towards men is just clouding her grasp of reality. She needs therapy in a bad way to help resolve her anger issues.

    • loveunderlaw January 25, 2015 at 10:09 am

      Well said & agreed ! She’s such a hypocrite, with Cathy you’re never going to get someone with any empathy, or sympathy for others.

  4. Octavia January 25, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    Today, Cathy Brennan , Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, and the book “Gender Hurts” are the best proof that transphobia is silly. All of them come off as a sad example of a woman obsessing over a single sub-group of women with no understanding of its members.

    Please note, ‘Cotton Ceiling’ is a dated term. It may have described relations between cis and trans lesbians in 2007. It is no longer valid. In my own life in San Francisco, lesbians see me as another interesting lesbian.

    • Rose January 26, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      Dated? Not at all, there is progress, but I can attest that it is still pretty strong today. I know the person who coined that term personally, have for years, and living in the same city as them I can say it is still relevant.

  5. Shelley January 25, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Rather then call Brennan a “kook”, I would simply like to point out
    That, as someone who was chronically depressed since puberty, and, considering that depression can be treated as a mental illness, I’d like to point out that transition “cured” my depression within a month after starting Testosterone suppressants and hormones.
    My continued travel down road has only improved my life.
    Yes, I believe that being transgender can easily be considered biochemical.
    As a result, I discount anything she has to say.
    She’s not an endocrinologist, a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
    She’s a lawyer, and, like the late Fred Phelps,a sadly deluded one.

  6. Claire-Renee Kohner January 26, 2015 at 9:47 am

    First of all, I wanted to thank everyone who has commented on this article. I appreciate the civil discourse taking place in the conversation and that it hasn’t been driven down to her level…name calling and hyperbole.

    Shelly, you are spot on when it comes to what you are saying. I took suffered from massive depression and although beginning my transition significantly reduced my anxiety and depression, the chemical imbalance of it still affects me. The good news is that my depression is only ancillary to my happiness now instead of the driving force in my life.

    Although this is not bobble head response concerning CB, I am aware of her back-story [to the point of what she has commented on] and it’s not pretty. That’s her story and not mine to tell, but if you dig hard enough, you can find it. It explains everything.

    I like to reach out to the people that for some reason hate me and try and understand what the energy behind it is. The question I always have is, “What is it about what I’m doing to myself [or for myself] that makes a segment of the population hate me.” I didn’t really get that answer directly from her, but again, from her back story.

    I knew that this would be an unpopular article within the community. The main question I’ve been posed is, “why are you giving her a platform?” My answer to this is, “It’s not a platform, It’s journalism.”

    I went to college oh-so many years ago and majored in Journalism [back then it was called Mass Communications]. I was taught to keep it clean, honest and always get the POV from the opposition. I did that. I did my job. They called me out, I responded and asked for an interview and it was granted. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed of that.

  7. Chris January 27, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Cathy Brennan is a sad, sick and delusional woman, this is obvious even to people who aren’t trans. She must think she’s quite a hottie considering how many hundreds and hundreds of people she claims want to have sex with her. She needs to get psychiatric treatment, not only for her ludicrous delusions, but for the trauma of the rape she was subjected to, which is clearly the cause of her insane behavior.

  8. DarlieB January 29, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    pic.twitter.com/C2OM2KMG5t

  9. Jessica Pennell January 30, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    Claire I’d like to applaud you, for your patience and honesty. You gave her absolutely nothing whatsoever to validate her view of us, and responded instead with kindness at every turn.

    If you’re getting flack from the trans community for what you said, then I’d like to stand by you and offer something that might be controversial as well. It is very, very difficult to find an article about Cathy Brennan that doesn’t spend a few paragraphs telling me how evil she is. A lot of the articles online, written by trans women, I find really insulting. I get that she is threatening, and other women need to vent, and that’s what I tell myself every time I read. It was a breath of fresh air not encountering that here.

    I am not a fan of her, but that’s because I’ve read her blog and listened to what she had to say on her own soapbox. I was capable of coming to that conclusion myself. What I decided about her was far from the “thunder crackling in the distance at the mention of her name” description I was given elsewhere. She’s a lawyer. Lawyers make their living on their chutzpah and acting abilities, by preaching to choirs, by telling people what they want to hear. She’s good at it.

    So that’s all. I really appreciate being able to read something honest. Let Cathy damn herself with her own words. Let her show us just how much of a lawyer she really is.

    That said, the Buddhist in me won’t let me view any human being, even – especially – Cathy, as worthless. I’m really glad at least some of her concern for women’s issues isn’t just show and political football. Maybe one day, she’ll stop focusing on people like me, and actually do something about things like female genital mutilitation, or found a not-for-profit focused on educating women like I’ve done, instead of deciding who gets to walk into a room by themselves to try on a bra in a country full of straight couples who share bathrooms with houseguests.

  10. Claire-Renee Kohner January 30, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Thank you Jessica Pennell, I appreciate that you took time to comment on my article.

  11. Jessica February 3, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    If only Cathy would put her vast energy into something good, like helping to feed starving kids, she could do some real good in this world.

  12. kismet July 2, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    I have read Cathy Brennan’s articles and facebook. I love her, she says what we are all thinking, but are afraid the backlash of violence and hate. Women are used to it from men. Just more of the same really.

    • Jessica Pennell December 30, 2015 at 4:30 am

      And that said, kismet, it’s my experience that people who applaud people like Donald Trump and Kathy Brennan for “saying what we’re all thinking”, are typically thinking incredibly bigoted things. We are not “all thinking” what you’re thinking. Mexicans are not stealing your car stereo right now unless you build a giant wall to keep them out, and castrated trans women are not hatching evil plots to rape that hinge on legal access to public restrooms.

      You are, of course, welcome to go out and check your car and local public restrooms if you can’t take my word for these things.

  13. Chris July 11, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Kismet, Kathy Brennan is scapegoating gay men and transwomen for the behavior of heterosexual men. I suspect you are doing the same. The lies that Brennan posts about people, her contacting of people’s employers, schools and doctors, is sick behavior. Her behavior has turned thousands and thousands of decent people against the women’s community. These are all people who might have otherwise supported your issues had they not been subjected to Brennan’s bullying, libel, lies and hate. Brennan’s conduct directly led to the destruction of Michfest, the annual women’s music festival.
    No one has done more harm to the lesbian community than Cathy Brennan.

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  17. David December 29, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Kismet, what you are suggesting is that people like Cathy Brennan should be free to spout her hate filled and biased opinion in the public domain but any man or transperson who disagrees and makes it clear that they do are part of a ‘backlash of violence and hate’. Your opinion is not only faulty and ridiculous but the reason that ‘feminist’ has become a dirty word. Well done.

    • Jessica Pennell December 30, 2015 at 4:25 am

      David, I share the opinion that Kathy should be free to say anything she wants to, and that silencing her is in fact counterproductive. Saying my opinion is “faulty and ridiculous” does not make it so. I would love to have a discussion as to why you feel that way, I can keep an open mind and hear you out. But it’s my opinion that people like Kathy are begging for someone to censor, and thus validate, their opinions, and I don’t intend on giving her that kind of satisfaction.

      If your feminism is the type that supports censorship, then I guess I feel about as good about sharing the feminist umbrella with you as you’ve said you do about sharing it with me or the OP.

      If we can have a discussion about this, that would be very cool. But, closing with the “well done” stinger makes me a little pessimistic.

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