The next time someone tries to start a discussion about whether transness is morally acceptable, I will ask:

Is it logically possible for you to choose to live in a world where choosing your own gender is universal law? (whether or not you’d actually choose to live in that world)

Yes, it is. Therefore, choosing your own gender is morally acceptable. 😛

I’ll even give you a more suitable-to-transphobic-logic maxim to formulate the categorical imperative: is it logically possible for you to choose to live in a world where transitioning is universal law? (whether or not you’d actually choose to live there)

Yes, it is. Hell, I kind of wish we lived in that world. Think about how many wars would be averted! Plus, so much less transphobia, homophobia, sexism… and we wouldn’t have jerkfaces like George Bush! Therefore, transitioning: morally acceptable.

Let’s try the other formulation of the categorical imperative:

Does transitioning treat anyone solely as a means to an end rather than simultaneously an end in hirself? No. Does choosing your own gender? Nope. Morally acceptable. We’re good.

Yeah, I know, Kant’s not so popular with feminists, anti-racists, and radicals, whatever.

My jumping off point here is a post by Helen G, of Bird of Paradox, Trans-Friendly Books for Children (and some related (and obnoxious, transphobic) discussion here):

There seems to be a comparatively large number of books written around the subject of gay and lesbian relationships but we could find nothing about transsexuality. It occurs that this is an area which perhaps should be given more attention by authors and publishers, given that it’s not uncommon for trans children to know at quite an early age that they have a degree of gender dissonance.

OK, I say, this is a good point, but I think it’s missing something–the analogy is flawed. But! My POV was (kind of) expressed in a cited post:

There was a time I naively assumed that I wouldn’t have to worry about sexism in my child’s books until at least story books, maybe not even until chapter books. Surely board books, written to start reading to infants so young they only understand the rhythm and rhyme of the words, would be immune!

That naivete lasted until maybe five minutes after the Boychick got his first book.

The truth is even board books, even modern board books, are rife with sexism, heterosexism, racism, and of course, what’s a good word, cisgenderism? (One can’t even call it transphobia, for it’s more the complete lack of acknowledgment that gender isn’t always obvious, simple, and binary. Transphobia might be a step up.)

I disagree with the terminology question–refusal to incorporate the fact of our existence in one’s actions in the world is one of the most deadly forms of transphobia:

When these corporations do justify their denial of basic medical care to trans people, one rationalization comes up repeatedly: the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration has not given approval for the use of any medications for transgender body modification. The Federal government does not supervise, regulate, approve or acknowledge the use of hormones to alter the gendered characteristics of one’s body. The FDA has never acknowledged, I believe, that trans people even exist.

When I buy my finasteride and delestrogen, they come to me, as most medications do, with small neatly-folded inserts outlining their proper use and potential side-effects. These texts are carefully regulated by the FDA. Nowhere in those long texts am I mentioned. They never discuss their use by transgender people, never acknowledge their potentially transformative effects when used with certain bodies, never even acknowledge that anyone under 50 would ever have a reason to take them. Similarly, I am never reflected in the advertisements for these drugs. Their extensive websites or occasional magazine ads have no trace of trans bodies. In the vast, proliferating world of consumer capitalism, trans people just don’t constitute a market niche when it comes to drugs.

I am invisible to my health insurance company, invisible to the FDA, and invisible to the pharmaceutical industries. This invisibility is how these institutions express their transphobia and the hatred of trans bodies. We are not seen. For some, this lack of institutional acknowledgement has dire consequences. Already excluded from the wage economy, many poor trans women in Philadelphia turn to sex work to pay for their hormones. Poverty, police abuse and HIV have taken a severe toll on the lives of trans women in the city. As trans people modifying our bodies, we are using these corporation’s drugs towards unapproved and unacknowledged ends: the gendered rebuilding of our bodies. We pay the bill, and we live with the consequences. For me, choosing to take hormones is the best decision I’ve ever made.

Michelle O’Brien, “Tracing This Body: Transsexuality, Pharmaceuticals, and Capitalism”

But regardless, I’m right there with Arwyn when I say that transphobia is integrated into these books, that it’s part of our culture down to the way infants are taught language, and that that foundationalism (ha!) is true of sexism, racism, homophobia, etc etc., to the point that explicit/bigoted transphobia can even be helpful, in that it acknowledges our potential existence, and only denies that existence a place in our understanding of reality through violence.

When Helen writes I can remember very clearly the day when, aged five, I realised that “something wasn’t right with my body”. But I had neither the language nor the resources to say or do anything about it, I think she elides an even more crucial point–that by the age of five, she had been successfully indoctrinated into believing that her identification as/desire to be/discomfort with ‘not being’ a girl was an affront to symbolic reality. It’s not. Without a preexisting identification of cissexuality with Reality, that wrongness, that lack-of-fit, doesn’t exist. The only thing separating pre-pubescent trans kids from living their genders is the demand that they not do so–not hormones, not height, not anything, physical differences between cis boys and cis girls at that age are practically nil.

Before trans kids can think of themselves as “wrong,” they have to be introduced to the idea that their genders are inauthentic–the separation of cis and trans has to occur, and then the possibility of transsexuality has to be, in psychoanalytic jargon, foreclosed–the incompatible idea is rejected as if it never existed. The very potential for transsexuality would make our theoretical “ground” when writing about sex and anatomy nonexistant. Western culture depends on transphobia to create meaning in the world. I’m not saying that the whole thing would come crumbling down without transphobia, but that concepts we can’t even think currently would have to come in to replace it in order for the whole thing to *not* come crumbling down. Refuting cissexuality-as-reality, cissexuality-as-default is tantamount to refuting positivism/the scientific method/the idea that Truth is or can be objective–which is part of why we have to search for a “cause”–because we need something to help us acknowledge being trans as valid while maintaining that there isn’t anything wholly interior/subjective/qualitative about personhood. I hope you see the problem.

I hope I’m not reading too much Spivak to make sense anymore.

So here I come back to transsexuality-as-an-issue:

Targetting that particular demographic makes good sense, but I wonder if perhaps children themselves should be given access to the tools they need to help them in their own self-identification. To paraphrase Ruth, “I am thinking of something the five-year old Helen could have read that might have helped… but also something that the five-year old Helen would have actually been likely to read rather than have been stuck in a ’specialist’ bookshop like News from Nowhere whilst Helen read Thomas the Tank and the Hobbit”.

On one hand, I want to praise the move toward “trans kids need access to this info, it’s normal, and it’s something five year olds need to have info about and yes are actually capable of understanding.” But on the other hand, if we approach the world from a perspective that cissexuality isn’t “natural,” if we come from the perspective that all gender & sex are self-determination, then there isn’t a book about dealing with being trans–in the background of every children’s book has to be an assumption that kids are uncovering gender for themselves and making what they wish–it may or may not be foregrounded, but the idea that a kid could look at another kid and say “that’s a boy” or that a character could be glossed as a girl in some abiding, permanent, unconditional/absolute/non-tentative way is impossible if we dare to think gender self-determination. In a trans positive world, there are no trans books because there are no cis books–which, currently, are essentially all books.


So, now we come to the drama. The original offending comment:

Don’t you think offering “trans-friendly” books to CHILDREN is a bit like offering pro-plastic-surgery books, or pro-limb-lengthening-surgery books, or gastric-bypass-friendly books to kids? I mean we’re talking about major pharmaceutical dependence, the long-term consequences of which aren’t yet known, and major surgical intervention against what is in actuality healthy flesh. Are none of these trans-advocates concerned at all about children being indoctrinated and influenced to do themselves bodily harm, when they might under less woman-hating circumstances simply be lesbian women or women who otherwise do not adhere to societal gender roles in style or behavior?

So, this whole bodily harm/self-mutilation idea. Mayhem. What does that really signify? What does self mutilation signify?

“major surgical intervention against what is in actuality healthy flesh”–we are changing something from the real, healthy order of things, the natural to the unnatural–that is the essence of self-mutilation. It’s not self mutilation to have, say, an appendectomy or Laparoscopic Anti-Reflux Surgery–even though both involve the removal of healthy tissue–because the tissue in question is irrelevant to our understanding of personhood and reality–whereas in all the cited cases of surgery, one is talking about social characteristics of the body.

The commenter’s presumption is that one can somehow avoid the “subject” of transsexuality entirely, that existing children’s books are not the opening salvos in a war against trans kids. Every single statement she makes about “boys” and “girls,” by assuming that reality is cissexual, are immediately dependent upon a foreclosure of transsexuality. (that is, rejecting it as if it had never existed) That one can be “trans friendly” but not portray it as part of symbolic reality, as “normal”:

guess I was thinking of “trans-friendly” as being more “pro-trans” because that’s the aura it’s taken online. If it were possible to simply portray it, without making it seem like a good thing, or without making it seem like it’s just as normal as being a non-gender-conforming female, intersex, or male person, then, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

She’s saying–so long as transsexuality is talked about in a way that makes it clear that it’s still up-for-debate, not a-part-of-the-underlying-reality-that-makes-this-discussion-even-possible, and not “normal”–part of the real symbolic order–just a deviation therefrom, an aberration that doesn’t have to be accounted for when we think about the world, it’s ok with her. Her position isn’t even one of wanting to make sure to denounce being trans, because she’s fine if there’s no material out there–she has *no concern* for the “girls” that she’s supposedly advocating for, only for maintaining cissexual dominance over the meaning of reality.

If I need to back that up I’ll need another post–it just gets kinda convoluted. The short version is that she acknowledges that a certain group is suffering distress, but is only interested in making sure they *don’t* get a certain kind of resource, rather than making sure that they do get other resources. Furthermore, her paranoia about even a single children’s book that “pushes drugs and self-mutilation” on kids is demonstrative that she isn’t really worried about how many kids it might cause to transition–because individuals’ cissexuality is much more robust than that, but society’s isn’t.* Society’s myth of universal cissexuality *is* incredibly fragile, and has to be protected at all times–but what has to be done is not to create a stronger foundation (which they never ever do) but to disrupt any other conversation that’s happening. (see my Radical Feminist Troll series, especially parts two and three)

This is why these “discussions” cannot continue to be tolerated in feminist spaces–because the premise is to keep our very reality in check, our existence and validity as people at bay, our lives up for debate. That frame unmakes us, it strips the connection between transsexuality and personhood, its very point is to undo us, making us objects that make funny sounds that seem almost like speech. They demand that all participants ground themselves on earth that doesn’t hold our weight.

Margie’s whole deal with “oh I don’t care what adults do, just don’t indoctrinate the children” is precisely about making sure that no one comes into this world without the cissexuality-as-reality frame. She has no concern for whether people actually “mutilate” themselves, no concern for the welfare even of her putative victim, let alone trans kids–only that that “mutilation” remain aberration, unreal, only that our purchase on reality is too unstable to actually give us the support to go interpreting that reality, challenging the cissexual supremacist one, and have it taken seriously.

*Ruth’s comment here is kind of amazing:

“We were talking about the gullibility of young children and whether it’s ethical to exploit that in order to make adult people feel better about their pharmaceutical and surgical choices.”

Arrrgh! No we weren’t! Not sure what conversation you were having but the original post was about trans friendly books for children… and now they’re being exploited? What, you think the kind of books we meant were ones that went like this?

“Sally,” said Sally’s Mum, “if you want to play with Lego Technic and have a train set, you’ll have to have an operation.”

“Really?” said Sally, puzzled.

“Yes. And you’ll have to take some special tablets too.”

“Oh,” answered Sally. “I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”

“Well, it’s either that, or you go back to playing with my little pony.”

“Well,” pondered Sally, “I couldn’t cope with any more Rainbow Brite dolls, so I guess I’ll just have to do as you say.”


Comic version by Drakyn:

“A [woman’s] penis is a weapon. A sword. A knife. Dominance and sexism incarnate.”

Yes–a weapon against her. A weapon threatening her life, a weapon demanding her submission to both male and cissexual supremacy. Rather than symbolizing her power over [cis] women, it symbolizes her powerlessness within a transphobic/gender coercive society, the patriarchal order’s unjust demands on her person.

When her penis symbolizes maleness-as-violence it symbolizes the violence of making her male. The violence done to her at birth, classified then mutilitated against her will, the violence enacted to put her back in that classification–her penis symbolizes her vulnerability to violence, discrimination, rape, and murder.

Before transition, her penis, symbolizing patriarchial violence and sexism, symbolizes her body as dangerous and unsafe, threatening to women–including her. It symbolizes the isolation she faces as someone unable to be with her own kind, that she & her emotions and her inner truth are inferior because they don’t match up to the prescribed ideal…her penis symbolizes her Otherness, her danger to others and to herself, her inability to access community and support, her toxicity to the people she loves, the impossibility of ever joining the real and the human on her terms–it Others her not only through difference but also as a threat. It tells her to feel shame & self-loathing because she is threat and violence, the very violence enacted upon her–that is, her own body symbolizes her as the criminal causing her victimization, her own body tells her she is not merely ‘asking for it’ but doing it herself. And by supposedly symbolizing her invulnerability, it is the cited reason she should be left vulnerable to the very violence that organ makes her vulnerable to–it is both the reason to attack and the reason that attack is unimportant. Her penis symbolizes her lack of importance, her lack of humanity, symbolizes the justness of the violence done to her–rather than symbolizing her worth and superiority, her penis symbolizes her worthlessness and inferiority. Her penis symbolizes not pleasure or power but pain and powerlessness. Her penis is trauma, not because of anything inherent but because of trans misogyny.

In that her penis symbolizes male supremacy, it symbolizes her inferiority as a woman, as someone who wants to be a woman. Her penis is made to symbolize her insanity, her instability, hysteria, and weakness. Her penis symbolizes her forced receptivity to social control by a cis male order, symbolizes her lack of control over her own body and its sexuality–the control wrested from her.

it symbolizes her objectification
her fetishiziation, her inhumanity, cis male control over her sexuality
–and through the Standards of Care it symbolizes cis male authority, dominance, and control over her body
it symbolizes institutional abuse and violence
it symbolizes infantilization and lack of authority; it symbolizes her as so dangerous she needs protection from herself.
it symbolizes the necessity to protect her–from herself, from her danger to herself and others

Her body symbolizes patriarchial violence–against her. That everpresent symbol cannot be erased or ignored except by surgery, it is inescapable, that trauma is re-presented every day, sometimes at the level of consciousness, sometimes not.

Her penis symbolizes Patriarchy, it symbolizes her inability to remove Patriarchy from her body and her life, it symbolizes her subordination, misogyny, it symbolizes her inability to escape subordination and misogyny, it symbolizes the naturalness of her subordination and the justness of misogyny against her.

Her penis is symbolized as ugly and incongrous, her penis symbolizes her as freak and outcast. She is taught shame and self-loathing over both the genitals she has and the ones she wants.
Just as it symbolizes her forced receptivity, it symbolizes her inability to receive, to receive love and pleasure and support,
it symbolizes normative masculinity’s emotional numbness
it symbolizes her Otherness, the impenetrability and incomprehensibility of her emotions
it symbolizes her sexlessness,
her alienation from biology and reproduction,
her alienation from the Real
her inhumanity
it symbolizes her alienation from truth and meaning
her “phallus” reflects her unintelligibility, her meaninglessness
her isolation from meaning, representation, knowledge
–her phallus represents her lack of the Phallus

it symbolizes the demand that she be hard and unyielding
and by contrast her longing to open and release; it symbolizes the impossibility of being fully open with others
it symbolizes the trauma that makes her unable to feel
it symbolizes her unreliability, her manipulation, her insanity, and her deception
it symbolizes her truth as deception
it symbolizes her oppression as truth and as Truth.

“dick” and “prick” and “schmuck” to her symbolize only violence, there is not the support given to cis men of their penises as good and natural, as creating life not just destroying it
they symbolize her body’s inherent shamefulness
they make her body an object of contempt
her body becomes ans argument for her dismissal, her irrelevance, her ejection and exclusion

it symbolizes her forced isolation
as “unemotional” and “unfeeling”
as a threat held at bay
as unnatural and inhuman
–in short, as monster.

EDIT 7-27-2009/RE-EDITED 1-27-2010:: This piece got linked to at Susan’s place, and without the context of the rest of this blog, almost all of the commenters misinterpreted what I mean by “symbolize.”

Hint: remember the phrase, “not because of anything inherent but because of trans misogyny.” As in, I wouldn’t characterize this as satire, though irony… kind of fits. There is an irony I’m pointing out, and I’m not actually this much of an essentialist…

Sheesh.

Genocide & Julie Bindel

October 20, 2008

Genocide.

It’s a strong word. A frightening word. A word that seems far too terrible, far too extreme for what an especially transphobic journalist or filmmaker advocates–even when you consider the existence of multiple forms of genocide, cultural genocide as well as genocide based in mass murder. That seems far too extreme for describing actions of Dr Zucker, [cis] gay historians, [straight][cis] historians, previous gatekeepers in the medical establishment.

But when Zucker’s method of therapy is to isolate and terrorize, to create PTSD in response to gender-variant behavior in order to stop it, when he says that our way of life is so depraved that it’s preferable for us to end up alcoholic and self-injuring
when Janice Raymond’s “solution” to transsexuality is to “morally mandate it out of existence[emphasis mine]
when historians hide every shred of knowledge we have about our cultural ancestors,
when other historians find that knowledge and deliberately erase the gender aspects, appropriating those figures for their own, entirely apart from us–thereby cutting us off from our history and our ancestors,
when gender clinics made silence about our existence a condition for treatment, did everything they could to isolate us, kept us from talking to each other in a common language, kept us from finding each other, only treated those of us who will be in no way distinctively trans in appearance, action, or speech,
when doctors “treating” intersex children not only mutilated their genitals, but deliberately kept the knowledge of their intersexuality from them, taking great pains to ensure that intersex people would not reach out and find each other, their common ground, share their stories–

Amongst all that, how are we to take this:

I chose the title, “Sex change surgery is unnecessary mutilation”. … Are we right to support sex change surgery, and is it right to apply a surgical solution to what I believe is a psychological problem? (link)
But a leading feminist campaigner claims that sex reassignment surgery is based on unscientific ideas – and could be doing more harm than good. (link)

To use Sarah Brown’s words, “her core message [is] that she wants to open a “dialogue” about why trans people shouldn’t be allowed medical transition.” And by nominating her for journalist of the year, Stonewall UK, at minimum, agrees to that ‘dialogue’.

I hope it’s clear that Bindel conflates SRS with medical transition as a whole (because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, surprise).

So let me translate this one step further:
She wants to wipe transsexual bodies from the face of the earth. She wants to make trans bodies cease to exist.

There’s a word for that.

Where next?

September 6, 2008

So, I’ve been pontificating enough here, I want to shift gears a bit and go into facilitator mode.

there are times when I’ve responded to trolls for my own sanity, knowing they won’t listen. But that’s because I felt cornered, unsupported, etc, and in order to prevent damage within my head I have to argue/fight back–which is the real problem, right? The problem is that our ‘allies’ leave us out to dry when the shit hits the fan. (an entirely different context, and to mix metaphors, but still). The problem is that we don’t have the confidence to not do that–for good reason. [link]

What do we need, as trans female spectrum folks, as trans folks, and as cis allies, to not do that?
What do we need to feel secure?
What do we need for our activism to be sustainable?
What do we need in order to devote our energy to change rather than our own emotional survival?
What do we need for “fighting with cissexual feminists” to mean alongside not against?
What do we need to celebrate all of our (consensual) sexualities–no exceptions?
—while calling out the abuse of power, fetishization, objectification, disempowerment and ‘degrading’ evident in cissexual men’s porn featuring (but not about) trans women, and the s-word archetype as created for the pleasure of cis straight men?
—while simultaneously supporting those of us who identify with the s-word or reclaim it, or who depend on that system for survival?
—and calling out the appropriation, erasure, and just plain cluelessness re: trans misogyny that’s central to trans men’s porn projects, while supporting everyone’s efforts to produce positive images of their sexualities.

What do we need from our allies, and from each other?

Then, when we’ve got that, let’s go to feministing and demand it.
Let’s go to Feministe and feminist and demand it.
Let’s go to transgender and Alternet and demand it. Demand it of AlexTM, too. (hint: holding you accountable is not “hitting” you)
Let’s go to Gender Odyssey, FORGE Forward, and Philadelphia Trans Health Conference and demand it.
Let’s go to WPATH and demand it, or failing that doctors and therapists in our communities.

But let’s figure it out, first.

Apparently, Questioning Transgender is down, perhaps permanently? Who knows.

Anyways, while for the most part this is good, those of us who want to critique or analyze their writing/hate/whatever-but-they-aren’t-really-arguments should take note. There are few archives of intentional trans misogyny more valuable, and most of them cost money. So, trans historians (particularly historians of transphobia)–download it from the google cache while you still can.

Please resume your regularly scheduled celebrations…now.

EDIT: Apparently unnecessary, already been done. Thanks Drakyn!

Part I; Part II; Lisa Harney’s response/continuance, and ! a wonderful example of what we were talking about.

So, finally, it went differently. We were all very tempted to take the bait, but we didn’t (well, Lisa, you kinda did). I *would have taken the bait* if I hadn’t seen other people not do it, despite having just called out the dynamic, because it is so deeply ingrained into my head that my place in feminism, in ‘woman,’ and in fact in humanity, is precarious and must be defended at all times.

And we broke that. We kept having our own conversation. We talked about m Andrea, not with her. We said, no, not this time. no, not here.

So, while this is partially falling prey to this very same trap, I’m interested in analyzing the dynamic further.

1)m Andrea comments at QT, not here. That is, she comments not at the source of the criticism, but at the place people congregate, the place where there would likely be a conversation otherwise, the place where she can disrupt. She doesn’t want to start a conversation, she wants to prevent one, disrupt one.

2)Her comment is practically boilerplate. No, seriously:

i Hi Lisa!

ii Lots of declarative statements in your post, without any supporting reasons.

iii I’m particularly interested in the assumption that the only options are inclusion into women-only spaces or death.

iv Every oppressed group has had to justify themselves — why does transgenderism get to be the lone exception? Women are used to having our every right to equality questioned, and the requirement that we prove our assertions is taken as a given after thousands of years of constant criticism; so it appears quite peculiar to many of us that transgender people claim a special exemption.

i)pretext, since she has no intention of actually engaging with Lisa, but it makes her comment look a bit more like it’s about this post, which it isn’t.

ii)Really? Really? Like what? If you had *any intention of engaging in discussion*, would you maybe bring up a specific point you thought was unsupported?

Translation: “You’re stupid and you can’t form real arguments. You are an incompetent feminist, you are making shit up, you are fake.”

–This has nothing to do with the actual post. She could have put that *anywhere*.

iii)Where does Lisa say this? Where has she [edit: m Andrea] proposed any other option? If she and those like her are responsible for spaces that turn away folks who are desperately marginalized, aren’t they responsible for coming up with that answer?

Translation: “You are incompetent and incapable of analysis/rational thought. You are the one failing trans women because you’re so stupid you can’t come up with a way to help them, which is your responsibility”.

–Again, nothing to do with the actual post. This reads as if it was copy and pasted from some other comment she made in another blog where she thought we wouldn’t be reading.

iv)Is she arguing for hazing, or is she seriously arguing in favor of the oppression of women? I suppose she could be pretending that everything we say is just whining about how it’s not fair as opposed to demanding change, but does she really believe that?

But again, this is a classic conflation of dominance and support, accountability and subordination. It’s totally obvious that not having to justify oneself is support/having to do it is subordination, but she claims that our not liking it is dominance.

Translation: “You are ignorant and stupid. You don’t have a clue about feminism or oppression, and you need to accept the basic facts of life. You believe you deserve a basic need because you’re unaware of the basic facts of life; you believe you deserve a basic need because you’re privileged, which makes you morally abhorrent. The fact that I am oppressed in this way justifies me oppressing you this way. ”

–While this engages with the post, 1)it only does so in a totally superficial way and 2)it could easily have been written having only read the first paragraph, and mentions *nothing* after the opening quote. She didn’t even scroll down.

I don’t think she read the rest of the post. I don’t think she cared. She went to the absolute minimum effort. She commented *for no other reason than to make the space unsafe, to prevent meaningful conversation from happening, and to waste our time*.

She’s a troll, plain and simple. She wants to hurt us, shut us up, and get rid of us, nothing more.

Think about the *extremely patronizing* language in her “logic” post “proving” we weren’t legit. She is saying: you’re stupid, you don’t know feminism, anyone who argrees with you can’t form an argument or think their way out of a paper bag, etc etc.

This is what they do. This is why what they say is damaging *even if their points are refuted*. Because they say, over and over again, that we are stupid, incompetent, and worthless–and all that kind of abuse needs to function is repetition. All it needs to sneak into your heart is to be taken seriously.

Who’s being shouted down and unable to speak, again?

PS m Andrea, don’t even bother trying to comment here.

What gets missed

August 29, 2008

Radfem recants transphobia, transphobic radfems plus one very confused and hateful person come in and attack, all the comments are about arguing with them and the legitimacy of trans people, period, and the OP never gets questioned for her remaining transphobia. (ok, she does once)

But Maia is still being really transphobic! She still sets up good transwoman [sic] bad transwoman, she still uses “woman” in opposition to “transwoman” [sic] as if we weren’t women who are trans but some other gender, she still frames woman only space as us/them, she still claims that [cis women] “we” get to “draw the line” about who enters, to “keep out the dangerous elements”, says this is SO HARD, fails to ask how other __ only spaces keep themselves safe, still engages with the notion of the over-privileged trans woman without interrogating the difference between entitlement and external privilege–and in particular says that the trans women who are most vocal about protesting our exclusion “give transfolk a bad name”, and on and on. I am especially fond of She said very little – she was attending a workshop / discussion about what it means to be a woman, and she was there to listen, not to speak.

Why doesn’t she get called on it? Because the first commenter is a class-a-asshat, that’s why.

No, that’s not why. It’s because the first commenter is a class-a-asshat, and Maia let him post, and keep posting–even after he claimed that he’d been raped by a comment.

I don’t think Maia did it intentionally, but it’s hard not to see her inaction as self-protection. The same goes for other cis feminists.

I don’t think Maia is a horrific bigot, but the fact remains that she is trans misogynistic. Prejudice + power and all.

Even more importantly, the ideas and questions she brings up–how do we do this, make women’s space that works? –they go unanswered (for the most part). We *need* to work on that shit, and almost all space for it gets eaten by trolls. And for a trans female spectrum person to participate in a discussion of how to do those things, who wanted to take her at face value, ze/she would have to pick through pages and pages of attacks for any kind of *relevant* discussion.

To the extent that consistent internet access is class privilege, as is the time to sort through bullshit, to the extent that being able to stomach that shit is correlated to privilege (ability, cis privilege, male privilege) and to be able to speak and remain confident and be taken seriously in a “debate” setting is also privilege, we keep out trans women’s voices, and the more disadvantaged the more kept out. And thus, to the extent that there *were* any discussion about moving forward, it’s still institutionally transphobic/trans misogynistic, racist, classist, etc.

Transphobic cissexual radfems know they can’t convince us, and I don’t really think they think they can convince our allies. What they can do is paralyze us, what they can do is make feminism such an unsafe and scary place that they won’t have to deal with us even if we *are* “allowed in”, what they can do is make it seem like it is “so hard” and “a huge issue” when it’s just not. It’s not hard, in fact it’s a non-issue if you’re willing to treat it like one. and actually most cissexual feminists aren’t like Heart or dirtywhiteboi or Polly Styrene. (I refuse to label Rich any kind of feminist.)

“Most” cissexual feminists are more likely to complain that people are boycotting Le Tigre when they’re a feminist band–as if they couldn’t say, on stage, that they disagreed with the not-policy.* As if it was ok to say “trans women’s participation in feminism is a negotiable issue, but one I’m in favor of” and still call yourself an ally. That’s not ok, and they need to get schooled. But, they’re the ones that could be educated, and aren’t.

*(We can leave aside the question of attending or playing there at all; accessing and funding a resource that supports trans misogyny [while speaking out against it, educating people inside, changing the culture] is a stickier issue than publicly supporting and bankrolling that institution and remaining silent, and really it depends on the situation whether it’s appropriate or not.)

Before you go saying we can’t “censor”, consider two things: 1)questioning transgender claims to be shut down and unable to speak, not because they actually can’t but in order to prevent anyone from saying “not here”. They know full well that they can say what they goddamn please and get away with it, and they want to make sure it stays that way. 2)the editors of the blog that I linked to in bypassing authority and trolls edited a friend of mine’s essay in their upcoming anthology to prevent her from calling out second-wave feminists (as “divisive”). Granted a book is a different medium, but it stands that there is “censorship” happening–and it all comes down in favor of cissexualist feminists.

This is tangentially in response to this shit about Michfest but it could be in response to just about any iteration of this cis feminist conversation, so I’m not really going to link to more. You get the point. I’m thinking more about how the way Michfest’s not-policy is being discussed currently is counterproductive–LV & co have given up in all but name, and the folx defending it are little more than trolls. (if there was a (I’m-not-a-)troll bingo card, I’m sure Corey would send more than one person to bingo) While I like how the OP repositions it from controversy to discrimination in name, I feel like it’s not actually being treated that way any discussions I’ve seen, including this one. If it’s discrimination, shouldn’t our efforts be more focused on helping / encouraging / supporting the women who break that line, who enter when LV doesn’t want us/them to but isn’t going to stop us/them?

I guess what I mean is–there comes a point when the fact that there are folx who defend discrimination need not hold us back from living our lives. I feel like there’s a level of this-has-to-be-fought-until-the-jerks-agree, which in the case of Michfest is completely untrue. The battle to get in the door is won. Camp Trans sent, eight trans women that I can think of to the land this year, entirely without incident. Some Festies even *donated money,* *unasked* so that trans women could attend. A CT/Fest cooperation plans to create a shared workshop space next year. So really, it just doesn’t matter.

…and you don’t do your best educating work talking to trolls. See how much energy Corey took up? It’s dumb, it’s pointless. Say ‘That’s not ok, you’re out of touch with reality, educate yourself and come back later when you have half a clue what trans folx’s lives are actually like.’ There are folx you can educate, and you can work on creating accountability in the spaces you control. And, frankly, even if you aren’t in control of a shelter/rape crisis center/etc, you can affect the culture, provide services to trans women and other trans folx, and create accountability there without being in charge. Why are we acting on this as if the people in charge are actually the people in charge–a notion that’s deeply classist anyways? If we’re acting on this official-change level, then 1)the actual lives of trans women aren’t being improved, [cis] feminism’s image/karma is being improved and our lives incidentally, and 2)we’re waiting for the people statistically most likely to want to exclude to change (i.e. middle-class, middle-aged, white, vanilla, radfem womyn) before we take our place. Support trans women entering those spaces, support folks providing services they’re “not supposed to”. Make pressure about accepting trans staff and volunteers–something the folx in charge can actually control… Support civil disobedience when staffers are asked to kick a trans person out or if a trans person is asked to leave. create response teams, create groups of folx to advocate for trans women et al when we try to access services, create support buffers for all these times and in particular if we choose to access spaces involving “unavoidable public nudity” (one of the places the “inclusive” ENDA says it’s ok to discriminate against us)…

Promote our writing, our music, our workshops; fund our activism; educate shelter staffers, boards, volunteers; educate or become doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, social workers, clerks at public institutions such as courts, DMV’s, etc; do prison and/or police accountabilty work, check in with the trans women who access spaces you do and see what they (or, in particular, their friends that don’t access them) need. Write about the ways that trans misogyny reinforces misogynistic-not-otherwise-specified gender roles–and in particular, how it enforces them; how transphobia justifies rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, how the trans misogynistic appropriation of the term woman-born-woman has erased an important concept from the feminist lexicon, and similarly the term woman-identified-woman… write about how explicitly trans misogynistic trolls serve to eliminate accountability for more subtle transphobia, and create that accountability. Do outreach to trans women’s communities for activism you’re doing and spaces you’re creating–not just attending but also organizing and planning. Consider how and if your work improves the lives of trans folx and trans women in particular (trans women of color experiencing homelessness in particular)–and how to make it do that better. Draw the pretty-fucking-obvious connections between the radfem policing of trans bodies, makeup/heels/femininity, and BDSM/sex. etc etc.

And, you know, blog about our murders and shit. But, really, don’t make us another pawn in the 2nd wave / 3rd wave wars, erasing our own perspectives; don’t make us tokens.