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I am not a Man or a Woman, I am a transexual

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madashell's picture
madashell
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Sep 7 2010 22:59
I am not a Man or a Woman, I am a transexual

So this Speech from Hackney pride has been posted around a few places. I reckon it's worth discussing, given the attitudes of some posters here towards trans people.

Quote:
Society is organised into men and women and I don't fit into either. If I were to have to go to prison, I could either be a man in an all female prison, or a man with a vagina in an all male-prison where privacy is not exactly a priority. If I were to be arrested and strip-searched I've got a choice between a male officer or a female police officer. But I'm not a man, that is not my sex, I am a transexual. There is now a Gender Recognition Certificate so that I can be recognised as either a Man or a Woman by the state. But I am not a Man or a Woman, I am a transexual. I could be treated as a man, go to a male prison, be searched by a male officer, get married to a woman. But I don't want to get married, I don't want to live in a society where people are sent to prison and strip searched by police. I don't believe in leading a fight where we're asking the government to deal with us more efficiently, to oppress us better. I don't want to be integrated better a rotten system, I want something different altogether. I want to take part in creating a better world.
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Sep 8 2010 00:03

I don't see how there's a huge amount to be discussed, the person you quoted seems to be just saying "it's a complicated situation and the best way to go is to create a world that can accommodate for such a situation".

Sounds about right to me.

Yorkie Bar
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Sep 8 2010 00:21

admin - no flaming

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jef costello
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Sep 8 2010 10:44

I'm not sure what the point is of that statement.
Is he arguing against getting rights for trans people in their chosen (for want of a bettter word) gender on the grounds that it does not truly recognise theri choice? I think that allowing trans people to access services based on the gender they've chosen is practically useful and the example he's picked of going to prison to my mind supports that. I don't think it would be very safe to be a 'man with a vagina' in a male prison.

I can't tell if he's arguing 'don't bother with trans rights because capital will never properly grant them' but that seems to be it. I would agree that the alienation we feel based on gender, sexuality and a whole bunch of other things will not change unless we change the system that creates them but I don't think that gaining some practical things that help some people is a bad thing either.

Yorkie Bar
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Sep 8 2010 12:39
Yorkie Bar wrote:
admin - no flaming

Admin: Last chance.

Yorkie Bar
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Sep 8 2010 13:02
Quote:
I can't tell if he's arguing 'don't bother with trans rights because capital will never properly grant them' but that seems to be it. I would agree that the alienation we feel based on gender, sexuality and a whole bunch of other things will not change unless we change the system that creates them but I don't think that gaining some practical things that help some people is a bad thing either.

A recognition that gender issues will never be totally resolved without a revolutionary change in society doesn't rule out agitating for improved conditions for trans people in the here and now, surely?

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Sep 8 2010 13:54

Admin: practice what you preach.

I thought the point was obvious; that the Hackney Pride march (no idea where Hackney is btw) is centred around the apparent freedoms of conventional middle-class gay men who have dropped any pretence of solidarity with "working class queers… who still live surrounded by homophobia, transphobia, sexism." Jamrat Mason, it seems, thinks this should be otherwise and that the pride march there could help in this project.

I can't see any question over full systemic change versus immediate reforms, but maybe others are aware of this being part of a broader argument that I'm not. In any case, arguing that pride marches and activism can help bring about an end to these things would suggest that he isn't waiting until ATR for things to get better.

Is Jamrat Mason part of A-Fed or something? Or were they just republishing it on their blog because they liked it?

I thought it was a good speech, anyway.

Yorkie Bar
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Sep 8 2010 13:59

Yeah, he's in london AF.

Full speech now in the libcom library.

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Sep 8 2010 14:04

I don't see any reason why the situation couldn't be changed within the framework of our own society. Oh, actually I do. With the example, who exactly does this person want to search them, if not a man and not a woman? A transsexual? And if so, which type? A 'man with a vagina', to use the same words, or a woman with a penis? Or does it matter, would either suffice? I admit, I can see reasons why it may be improbable that a local police station could ever be able to provide a range of transsexuals for strip-searching other transsexuals. I don't actually think that a post-revolutionary society could really be expected to provide that, either. Nor could any society be realistically expected to provide dedicated prisons for transsexuals. Or, they could, but there would maybe be only one or two facilities nationwide, and then these people would surely complain that it's difficult for friends and family to travel so far to visit them.

To be honest, I don't think the fact that this person is transsexual is really the deal here. I think it's just tacked on to the statement at the end, of not liking the system, and not wanting to be arrested and strip-searched, with nothing to do with being transsexual. Unless the problem is that this person, presumably with the physical appearance of a man, may be too embarrassed to say to the arresting officer that he / she (I don't know which to use, as they don't seem to associate with either) is transsexual, and may(?) prefer to be searched by a female officer. I don't know...and I think that there could be a problem with all this, anyway, being able to choose what you are more comfortable with. In this way, a male, homo- or heterosexual, could request to be searched by a female officer. Perhaps the officer won't feel particularly comfortable doing so, and if anybody freely chooses to be searched by the gender that they feel sexually attracted to, there's a risk that this could be abusive. On the part of the prisoner, I mean. I think we could all imagine a drunk guy waving his semi-on around, making crude sexual comments towards the female he picked to search him. Though I guess the homosexuals are already automatically put into this position by having same-sex officers forced on them...

Wow, this really is a far from coherent post, I'm not even sure what I'm arguing here! Constantly changing from side to side. Would anybody like to take something out from it and refine it into a more focussed comment? roll eyes

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Sep 8 2010 14:30
Krimskrams wrote:
There's not many transsexuals so they can't realistically have their own prisons and cavity searches, so there's always going to be scope for abuse (on both sides) of the grey areas around gender and crime. What really needs to change is social attitudes and the system itself

Along those lines?

Yorkie Bar
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Sep 8 2010 14:48

Obviously unless the state is overtly forcing people to do something it is of no political relevance. Ffs.

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Sep 8 2010 15:01
Rob Ray wrote:
Krimskrams wrote:
There's not many transsexuals so they can't realistically have their own prisons and cavity searches, so there's always going to be scope for abuse (on both sides) of the grey areas around gender and crime. What really needs to change is social attitudes and the system itself

Along those lines?

Haha, yeah, thanks for that, mate laugh out loud

I think it extends outside of that, too. Toilets and so on, I often hear about transsexuals getting a bit touchy about having to pick between the male or female toilet. Of course this problem would be solved with the addition of two more toilets, for the two subsections of transsexuals. But, really, is it the responsibility of, for instance, a restaurant, to provide two more toilets for the very small minority who would want them (and, in fact, it would of course draw attention to the transsexuals, so people could easily, I don't know, hang out in there waiting to beat people up, if they so wish), or should transsexuals make the best of what there is for them? I guess this also asks what we're supposed to do with those who identify as genderless, as well...do they want their own toilets, too? Or do they want 'genderless' as an option on the census form? I think it's a question of where we draw the line between making it easier for people who don't fit into the male-female system, and when we decide that we've done enough, and they should just learn to adapt themselves to the 'imperfect' parts of the system...

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Sep 8 2010 16:00
Yorkie Bar wrote:
Quote:
I can't tell if he's arguing 'don't bother with trans rights because capital will never properly grant them' but that seems to be it. I would agree that the alienation we feel based on gender, sexuality and a whole bunch of other things will not change unless we change the system that creates them but I don't think that gaining some practical things that help some people is a bad thing either.

A recognition that gender issues will never be totally resolved without a revolutionary change in society doesn't rule out agitating for improved conditions for trans people in the here and now, surely?

That's what I was wondering, I only read the extract.

Yorkie Bar
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Sep 8 2010 16:07

Thanks for sharing that, not really the point that was being made. Marriage was being used above as an example of a part of a normative masculine role within soceity - the point being that such gender roles are often undesireable or impossible for transpeople. Hence the title of the thread: since transpeople will never be fully equal in a soceity where the gender binary is king, the only path to real freedom for trans people is one that challenges gender itself, and by extension the whole system of social relations of which gender is an integral part.

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Sep 8 2010 16:47

Admins have just had to delete a load of flames and/or role-eyes premptively complaining about the quality of discussion. Newsflash: being a cock is what brings down the discussion, read the board rules.

Boris Badenov
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Sep 8 2010 17:03
JK wrote:
being a cock is what brings down the discussion

I believe I was making a salient point actually, albeit by way of satire.
I don't see anything remarkable whatsoever about the speech quoted in the OP. It is the same gender essentialist argument disguised as gender subversion. What is a transsexual? A person who defines themselves as neither man nor woman, a person who therefore defines themselves in accordance with the same old gender binary, precisely like self-identified men and women.
The point that radical egalitarians should be making about gender is not that people whose gender is unorthodox socially but orthodox in relation to the binary, need special rights, it is that gender as a category of human society should become an irrelevance. Transsexual politics is the opposite of "abolishing gender" (as some dramatically put it) because it is inherently gendered.
Yes transsexual people face bigotry and violent attacks, and they should be defended and supported on these grounds, but this does not mean supporting genderist politics, for the same reason that fighting against racism doesn't require a "third worldist" political angle (indeed genuine anti-racism entirely precludes it)

petey
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Sep 8 2010 17:30

nothing much to add, but:

revol68 wrote:
the obvious answer is unisex toilets but that's utopian nonsense only workable in unfunny quirky tv series about a mental anorexic high flying lawyer.

and at mcsorleys

so, not unworkable

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Sep 8 2010 17:46
petey wrote:
nothing much to add, but:
revol68 wrote:
the obvious answer is unisex toilets but that's utopian nonsense only workable in unfunny quirky tv series about a mental anorexic high flying lawyer.

and at mcsorleys

so, not unworkable

And I've seen many unisex toilet doors in Sweden, but these doors generally just lead to single-cubicle restrooms. I guess it would be workable to have unisex toilets with a variety of isolated cubicles. Though something tells me that the problem here would be women claiming they feel vulnerable and / or uncomfortable sharing their toilets with men. Or the other way round, of course. So I think this, as a solution for the trans issue, actually just shifts the discomfort from the minority to the majority. Which hardly solves the issue...

But me, I'd have no problem using a unisex toilet. But I don't know if many women would be as keen on the idea...women, tell us!

On a side note, which isn't actually serious: if the gents' is like the stereotype, and the ladies' is, too...what would a unisex toilet be like? Half way between the two, or would masculine filth overpower the perfume? laugh out loud Feminists, don't hurt me!

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Sep 8 2010 18:26
mateofthebloke wrote:
I believe I was making a salient point actually, albeit by way of satire.
I don't see anything remarkable whatsoever about the speech quoted in the OP. It is the same gender essentialist argument disguised as gender subversion. What is a transsexual? A person who defines themselves as neither man nor woman, a person who therefore defines themselves in accordance with the same old gender binary, precisely like self-identified men and women.
The point that radical egalitarians should be making about gender is not that people whose gender is unorthodox socially but orthodox in relation to the binary, need special rights, it is that gender as a category of human society should become an irrelevance. Transsexual politics is the opposite of "abolishing gender" (as some dramatically put it) because it is inherently gendered.
Yes transsexual people face bigotry and violent attacks, and they should be defended and supported on these grounds, but this does not mean supporting genderist politics, for the same reason that fighting against racism doesn't require a "third worldist" political angle (indeed genuine anti-racism entirely precludes it)

Did you even read the speech?

Quote:
As soon as we're born boys and girls are treated drasticallly differently- boys are given lego, girls are given dolls (and then people wonder about the lack of female engineers); girls are encouraged to care and talk about their feelings, whilst boys are told to be tough. Every boy and girl, to some extent, has to grapple with the difference between who they are, and what a Real Man is. What a Real Woman is. Every body suffers from the invention of the Man and the Woman. And I consider myself an extreme casualty of this- I don't really consider myself a Man- but I know, violently, that I'm not a woman. I think that transpeople generally are an extreme casualty of this problem.

"Transexual politics" is an invention of people who want to project some shitty argument onto trans people, regardless of whether they're actually making that argument in the first place. Jamrat explicitly isn't making a gender essentialist argument, he's criticising gender essentialism from the point of view of a trans man who doesn't really see himself as a "real man".

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Sep 8 2010 18:29
krim wrote:
But me, I'd have no problem using a unisex toilet

It has it's draw backs. Once I was at at this gayclub that had unisex toilets with a few friends and a laydee friend I wan interested in. Had me a mexican dish before I meet up with them and...o I bet you could finish the rest of the story. embarrassed

When I opened the stall, she had a look of pure disgust on her face. I just tried not to look into her eyes.

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Sep 8 2010 19:15
revol68 wrote:
Basically for me if you are born with a dick you are a man and if you are born with a vagina you are a woman (excluding the very rare more complex cases) but I think that's were the definition should end, we should look to do away with the narrow and restrictive gender roles that gets mapped to these basic biological categories, so that comments like 'feel like man or woman' are meaningless beyond the actual ability to feel you're sexual organs instead of being tied into gender ideals.

Thank you thank you! For people who want to break free from the binary gender idea, a lot of trans people sure do a good job in legitimising it! "I feel like a woman", as if to say that there is a particular way that men and women feel. Seems a contradiction of terms to then call the binary system inelastic...

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Sep 8 2010 19:22
revol68 wrote:
yeah that's fair enough but I don't think his/their position is that representative of most transsexuals nor trans politics in general, which is much more focussed on transmen and women being recognised as men or women.

That's probably true, but he's an anarchist communist making a speech at a political event, obviously he's going to argue for his politics rather than what may or may not be "representative" of other transsexuals, if you seem what I mean.

Quote:
In terms of Jamrat I'm interested in why they know violently they aren't a woman, do they mean they aren't the gendered stereotype of the female sex or do they also mean a rejection of their biology? Also when you say he's a trans man who doesn't feally see himself as a 'real man' what does that mean, does it mean they don't identify with an idealised and stereotypical masculine identity?

I can't really speak for Jamrat, but I'd guess from what he's said in the speech and in discussions elsewhere that he means he sees being either a man or a woman as a social role that he rejects, consequently, while he has transitioned from female to male in terms of hormones and surgery, he doesn't really identify as a "man" either.

In a way, I think it'd be helpful to look at the political arguments being made by trans people on their own terms, rather than trying to relate it back to their personal gender identity. I don't think I'm a gender essentialist by any means, but my gender identity (as a cis man) is as much shaped by patriarchy as any trans person's, it's simply a fact of my upbringing and my environment rather than something that defines my politics. Though if I'm honest, I'm not sure how I'd square that with acknowledging the role that personal experiences play in shaping people's politics.

Quote:
Basically for me if you are born with a dick you are a man and if you are born with a vagina you are a woman (excluding the very rare more complex cases) but I think that's were the definition should end, we should look to do away with the narrow and restrictive gender roles that gets mapped to these basic biological categories, so that comments like 'feel like man or woman' are meaningless beyond the actual ability to feel you're sexual organs instead of being tied into gender ideals.

That is the ultimate goal, of course, but part of that process has to be standing in solidarity with trans people, who are, as Jamrat says, "extreme casualties" of patriarchical social relations.

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Sep 8 2010 19:25
Krimskrams wrote:
For people who want to break free from the binary gender idea, a lot of trans people sure do a good job in legitimising it!

Not all trans people "want to break free from the binary gender idea" though.

Probably most trans people have crap, essentialist ideas about gender, as do most cisgendered people.

Boris Badenov
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Sep 8 2010 19:31
madashell wrote:
Did you even read the speech?
Quote:
Every body suffers from the invention of the Man and the Woman. And I consider myself an extreme casualty of this- I don't really consider myself a Man- but I know, violently, that I'm not a woman. I think that transpeople generally are an extreme casualty of this problem.

In what sense are trans people an "extreme casualty? If in the sense that transexual people are subject to violent bigotry, then yes I agree, and as I've said above they are absolutely deserving of support in that respect. But if it's in the sense that trans means being more exposed to the psychological and social violence that gender implies, I don't agree. How is a trans person any more of a casualty than a woman who is addicted to cosmetic surgery or a man whose lifestyle consists only of macho posturing? Don't tell me this has nothing to do with identity politics because it clearly does. The whole idea of a "working class queer" smacks of it. You are a worker and that's that. If you experience violence because of who you fuck or how you dress you deserve support from your fellow workers. But if you want "pride" in "not feeling quite like a Real Man" (whatever the fuck that is) and all that shite, fuck off.
That is where I stand on this issue.

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Sep 8 2010 19:36
mateofthebloke wrote:
In what sense are trans people an "extreme casualty? If in the sense that transexual people are subject to violent bigotry, then yes I agree, and as I've said above they are absolutely deserving of support in that respect. But if it's in the sense that trans means being more exposed to the psychological and social violence that gender implies, I don't agree. How is a trans person any more of a casualty than a woman who is addicted to cosmetic surgery or a man whose lifestyle consists only of macho posturing?

Well they would also be examples of casualties of patriarchy. As the speech that you obviously still haven't read properly points out, patriarchy limits and oppresses straight, cisgendered people in much the same way as it does transgendered people or LGBTQ people.

gypsy
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Sep 8 2010 19:56
revol68 wrote:
petey wrote:
nothing much to add, but:
revol68 wrote:
the obvious answer is unisex toilets but that's utopian nonsense only workable in unfunny quirky tv series about a mental anorexic high flying lawyer.

and at mcsorleys

so, not unworkable

I thought the irony of unisex toilets being utopian was obvious, oops.

Not that into dogging or anything. But if you get a coach to victoria bus station, the incoming station has unisex toilets. I found it abit bizare first time I used it.

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Sep 8 2010 20:04

I've always seen the "pride" thing as more of a rejection of shame. Just as the slogan "black is beautiful" represented a rejection of the idea of "blackness" as something inferior to "whiteness", saying "I'm proud to be trans/a lesbian/gay/bi/queer" or whatever is a part of the process of rejecting the idea that you should be ashamed of your sexuality or your gender identity. Of course taken literally as a statement of affirmative identity it's just as problematic as Class Wars "class pride" shit, for very similar reasons.

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Sep 8 2010 20:49
revol68 wrote:
I don't think those examples are comparable because to my mind hormone treatment and surgery are articulations of a kind of self loathing of what sex you were born as, just as skin bleaching and the like are. Black is beautiful was a rejection of such self loathing..

I mean the very words 'I know violently I am not a woman' should raise alarm bells, what is wrong with being a woman, with having breasts and a vagina? Isn't this really just a surrender to the sexism and narrow gender ideas that try to tell women their place. I mean what would we say about a black person bleaching their skin and talking about 'knowing violently they aren't black' because they don't fit into racist discourse of how a black person should be?

Well given that Jamrat is talking about gender as a social construct, I think that by "I know I am not a woman" is a rejection of the social role of women, rather than having breasts and a vagina. Biological sex is a matter of unalterable fact (even if it is, at times, a little more complicated than just male or female), all the hormones and surgery in the world won't make any significant difference to your chromosomes.

I also think you have to take the bit you quoted in context, it's immediately preceded by "I am not a man", it's a rejection of the whole gender binary.

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Sep 8 2010 23:36

If you feel that you are neither a mon nor a woman then surely taking hormone treatment etc because you are merely 'not a man' as opposed to 'violently not a woman' is an exercise in self hatred and far more about the fucked up situation of the person than anything to do with gender. What's the difference between that and saying I don't feel like I have huge tits but I'm violently against being flat-chested so I'll get GG implants.
Due to alientation we all feel unhappy with who are at times. I don't want to sound as if I am legitimising different types of alienation but to be honest while ~I suppport the right of people to do who they want and be who they want I'm not going to support surgery that I'm not convinced makes people any happier with themselves.

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Sep 9 2010 10:34
revol68 wrote:
madashell wrote:
I've always seen the "pride" thing as more of a rejection of shame. Just as the slogan "black is beautiful" represented a rejection of the idea of "blackness" as something inferior to "whiteness", saying "I'm proud to be trans/a lesbian/gay/bi/queer" or whatever is a part of the process of rejecting the idea that you should be ashamed of your sexuality or your gender identity. Of course taken literally as a statement of affirmative identity it's just as problematic as Class Wars "class pride" shit, for very similar reasons.

I don't think those examples are comparable because to my mind hormone treatment and surgery are articulations of a kind of self loathing of what sex you were born as, just as skin bleaching and the like are. Black is beautiful was a rejection of such self loathing..

I mean the very words 'I know violently I am not a woman' should raise alarm bells, what is wrong with being a woman, with having breasts and a vagina? Isn't this really just a surrender to the sexism and narrow gender ideas that try to tell women their place. I mean what would we say about a black person bleaching their skin and talking about 'knowing violently they aren't black' because they don't fit into racist discourse of how a black person should be?

surely the fact that race is a social construct and sex is biological makes that comparison a bit unfair

It seems to me from the small bits Ive read about trans people that we don't really know whether its caused by social factors or biological ones. I dont think it is inherently reactionary to think that maybe something biological can make you feel you are in the wrong body in terms of sex

no1
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Sep 9 2010 14:41
revol68 wrote:
race and gender are both social constructs built upon biological signifiers, in gender's case it is sex and in race's it is skin colour or facial signifiers.

The biological aspects of race and gender aren't comparable at all. With race the delineations are entirely arbitrary and black vs white as a binary has no biological basis at all. However male vs female as a binary has a well defined biological basis, namely XY vs XX chromosomes in humans. It is also a binary with very deep evolutionary roots, I think all vertebrates have sexual dimorphism, and even something as primitive as yeast (a single-cell organism!) have two different types of cells of opposed mating type. That's not to say that in all organisms sex works the same and that there are either male or female individuals, e.g. in nematodes, individuals are either hermaphrodite or male, with only one in 2000 individuals being male, but it's still a binary controlled by sex chromosomes.
I have no idea what political conclusions ought to be drawn from all this, but race and gender certainly are not comparable in this respect.