Internet Drama: The Handmaiden of Cis Fragility

Views: 863

“I have been somewhat overwhelmed with J’s dominating conversations and manipulative style. J’s comments rarely bring any positive discussion and seem to frequently derail conversation. I feel like they threaten the safety of the group for the voices of transwomen and people of color.”  –  Complaint made to me from a PoC TCP group member yesterday

Some Context:

As many of you know, I’m involved with a historical project that seeks to uncover an erased trans-inclusive radical feminist hirstory. This effort is called The Conversations Project (TCP). Here’s what TCP clearly says that its purpose is:

From TCP’s “About” page

I personally think that it’s important to reclaim the voices of those women who risked even physical violence (from TERFs) to make sure that that trans women were included in their fight for the liberation of all women. As a primer, check out the feminist courage that can be found in the trans-inclusive radical feminist hirstory TCP is interested in examining:

In upcoming interviews, you’ll hear how a Black Lesbian radical feminist MichFest ride organizer related to Camp Trans. You’ll hear how TERFs destroyed one of the early militant radical feminist groups. In fact, there’s a year’s worth of upcoming interviews still to come.

As a historian, it’s hugely problematic that these stories appear nowhere else in feminist hirstory. Instead, we (especially trans people) are taught to believe that “radical feminism” is anti-trans and that “radical feminists” are transphobic. Such narratives go a long way towards erasing the very real courage of radical feminist women who risked their groups, organizations, and even put their own bodies in harm’s way to ensure that their feminism was trans inclusive. That courage should have its place in feminist hirstory.

Some disagree. Some, in the name of “radical feminism,” think those voices need to remain lost; they say time spent examining those voices is wasted time.

The Internet Drama

Here’s the long and short of a drama that’s been unfolding around TCP for months now. The project has a FaceBook group whose purpose is quite clearly spelled out:


The pinned TCP FB group guidelines.

Part of TCP is the serialized publication of a discussion between John Stoltenberg and I that began more than a year ago. This conversation is important because it represents a trans feminist and a radical feminist (finally) coming together to have an in-depth talk about radical and trans feminist hirstory and how that hirstory has affected the lives of just about every trans person in America. Through that context, a lot of radical and trans feminist content is covered. I know of no other book-length discussion like this. In some significant ways, this is what reconciliation between radical and trans feminism looks like.

John Stoltenberg is a radical feminist author and was the life partner of Andrea Dworkin. That John would be willing to break ranks and engage in a conversation like this with me, a trans woman and editor of the TransAdvocate, has been viewed as (in certain circles) a heresy of the highest order. For John’s (perceived) betrayal, TERFs have spent the last couple of months character assassinating John. Here are the basic BS criticisms of John and, of course, TCP:

  • John didn’t really know Andrea the way that her friends knew her. A couple of people who knew Andrea (and who tends to think that Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys had powerful insights into what they call “transgenderism” and “transgender ideology”), think that they, not her life partner were privy to Andrea’s true feelings towards trans folk.
  • A friend of Andrea used Andrea to submit her anti-trans screed to a publisher who rejected it and this proves that she was anti-trans. Nikki Craft asked Andrea to please submit Nikki’s anti-trans essay* to Psychology Today. Because Andrea did this for her friend, this proves that, contrary to what Andrea herself wrote, Andrea was anti-trans. Moreover, passing along an essay, means that Andrea actually co-wrote the essay. Yup, physically touching a paper to hand it off to someone else is apparently now enough to bestow full co-author status to Andrea, thus proving that Andrea didn’t support trans people accessing trans health care.
  • Talking about what Andrea wrote in Woman Hating about trans folk is wrong because Andrea actually later repudiated it. Where? Nobody seems to be able to actually point to anything specific, but I’m told that if I “read Dworkin’s other books” (which I have, more than once) I’ll see that this is true.
  • People of color won’t participate in TCP because it’s all about white people. (*cough* quote at the beginning of this post *cough*)

I’m not going to innumerate that attacks against me because they’re just the same stuff TS Separatists used to say about me when I was researching “transgender.” Except now they’re saying it about “radical feminism.” Basically, it’s all different shades of this nonsense:

“Cristan is a MAN and MUST be hiding something!!!! Also, let’s pretend that the TransAdvocate didn’t out the Woolbert story!!!”

So, Julian Real is someone who has been publicly open about being a member of TCP group. Julian is also a supporter of the cis woman who’s promulgating many of the above claims. After numerous group member complaints and innumerable moderation incidents relating to Julian’s posturing within the group, Julian was recently removed from the group by unanimous consensus of all six group moderators.  As a result, Julian (a white non-trans woman MAAB) is now running around bemoaning TCP’s purpose and talking up how much more radical and feminist their understanding of everything is and how the voices of TCP are really just neoliberal pablum.

So, for the record, here’s how things went down:

Julian attacked a commentary about a specific passage in a specific book that was written in a specific historical context… for not being commentary about something other than that specific passage of that specific book in that specific historical context. Then, after being confronted for trying to derail yet another group conversation, Julian began to again posture in the group. Here’s the response to Julian’s behavior that I posted:

Your reply is erasure from a place of privilege.

You’ve privileged yourself in deciding for poor trans women of color that exclusion -as full Sisters- from the women’s liberation movement should be subordinate to your ideas of how to overcome “capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy” (as if we’re talking about fundamentally different things). The irony is that you rhetorically subordinate their inclusion from women’s liberation from an asserted position of speaking *for* them. It’s sometimes a bit like hearing the rich of the USSR tell the poor -in the name of anti-capitalism/colonialism/patriarchy- that work will make them free.

Your persistent effort to, in violation of the boundaries of this group, advocate that its members should to spend their group time thinking about the rationals SET “feminists” cite when projecting, popularizing, and promoting their anti-trans fears, anxieties, and animus is an act of hostility against this group and its membership. Moreover, it’s an act of profound the group members and the erased, hidden, and silenced inclusive radical feminist hirstories we meet here to respect.

I 100% reject your premise that focusing our group on the radical feminism that bravely fought to include trans women as Sisters in women’s liberation = being pro-capitalism/colonialism/patriarchy. Additionally, I think the fact that you are not a trans women whose existence has been defined by the (as you privilege yourself in seeing it, irrelevant) actions of a “few white lesbians” (as you call it), contributes to the problematic ways you’ve engaged in this group. While I also reject this characterization as being patently false, that you state it as fact provides some insight into the place of (apparent) unexamined privilege you engage from.

As a trans woman who lived through deaths and hardships caused by the very ideology you claim must be considered, in the name of life and liberation no less, I experience your verbal gesticulations as a (possibly clueless) hubris born of privilege that is very toxic.

It’s not only me that experiences your privilege as toxic, numerous individuals of various racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds have, since your arrival in this group, contacted mods to express exasperation with the position/way you approach group participation. In fact, I’ve noticed that we’ve lost members and that *many* others no longer participate.

It’s not that people are turned off by the theory you sometimes share. I very much enjoy some of the books, resources, etc. that you share. I think they enrich the experience of this group. That’s not the problem that I and others have with your participation… It’s the way you privilege yourself to define for others what their primary emergency is that’s the issue. From what I see, the fact that you’ve not shared that primary emergency seems to color much of the way you interact with this group.

It’s ridiculous

At this point, I find the sound and fury coming from the side that wants TCP to just go away ridiculous. It’s a bunch of wasted time and energy. Do these people really think that we’re going to stop interviewing the people who were on the ground in the 70s and 80s? Do they think we’re just going to stop publishing those hirstories?

If anything, as evidenced by this very post, their hyperbole just brings attention to the very thing they wish to mandate out of existence. Yes, their blogosphere chamber might well echo, but really… Why lie about Andrea co-authoring anti-trans screeds? Why spend months personally attacking and defaming John? Why use (as in, appropriate) the oppression and pain of POC as a tool to disrupt conversations about silenced feminist hirstory? How does any of these online teapot tempests advance the liberation of women as a sex class? How can they claim to do all of this in the name of feminism?

Personally, all of this feels very familiar to me. It feels a lot like the pushback I faced when researching the history of “transgender”. When I was researching the history of “transgender,” the demonstrable historical record conflicted with the history a certain identity was founded upon and they attacked. Now I’m researching the historical narrative that asserts “radical feminism” wants to mandate trans bodies out of existence. Both John and I have faced significant pushback for our efforts.

Even so, I expect that what will happen is that, regardless of these attacks, this hirstory will become part of the feminist hirstorical record. I expect that it will become harder for international news outlets to propagate the false narrative that “radical feminism” is anti-trans. I expect that those who are fighting to keep an erased feminist hirstory lost will find that people are actually interested in what these silenced voices have to say:

Presenting on The Conversations Project at Rice University

So, hopefully this will be my one and only post regarding the hyperbole spewing from a certain section of the internet.

*NOTE: The “anti-trans” essay Nikki Craft wrote was written upon the (absolutely wrong) premise that trans folk love Dr. John Money. Money was an ass who was willing to hurt people in furtherance of his bogus gender theories. He was willing to force children to live as the sex assigned them, telling them to accept their bodies. Moreover, Money promoted the ridiculous idea gender stereotypes and roles came from neurology, not culture. While it’s true that one must have a brain in order to become indoctrinated to sexism, Money was wrong; sexism isn’t innate to brains.

Talking Dworkin with trans folks who were taught to hate her

Views: 2208

I’m sharing this Reddit conversation since it covers the way trans people were taught to view Andrea Dworkin (and radical feminists, in general).

Passage (point 3) cited by TERFs to assert that Dworkin sought a future without trans folk

In response to a post from The Conversations Project, Transcience wrote:

Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it

Which, based on what we know about medical research into transgender identity over the last 20 years is complete, and utter, bullshit. While a broken society is certainly a cause of the high suicide rate, it is not the primary one:Gender Dysphoria gets better with HRT even if the individual does not present or read as their identified gender.

^ That medical fact makes no sense based on a RadFem interpretation of gender and sex…

Radical Feminism is still stuck in 1970’s conceptions of what transgender people are and what gender dysphoria is, and seems to think it can “help” trans people by making society androgynous and then trans people don’t need to transition! We solved ALL THE THINGS!

Even in a perfectly androgynous society, trans people would still exist, HRT would still exist, SCS/SRS would still exist. Dworkin was wrong about trans people, and since then RadFems have been wrong about trans people.

I reply:

Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it

I think you’re overlaying a sex essentialist narrative on Dworkin by taking her words out of context. Dworkin is referring to the “primary emergency” defining the trans experience of 1974. Page 186 of Woman Hating is almost always misquoted as:

“Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency as a transsexual.”

However, what’s actually written is:

“Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency (see p. 185) as a transsexual.”

Without this nuance, MANY TERFs* assert that the “primary emergency” is gender identity and that if gender goes away, Dworkin says that so will the transsexual. However, if you go back to page 185 (as Dworkin asked), the “primary emergency” that’s referenced is as follows:

How can I really care if we win “the Revolution”? Either way, any way, there will be no place for me. – A transsexual friend, in a conversation

Her phrase, “primary emergency” is the central issue of her book. On pages 22-23, she writes:

The analysis in this book applies to the life situations of all women, but all women are not necessarily in a state of primary emergency as women. What I mean by this is simple. As a Jew in Nazi Germany, I would be oppressed as a woman, but hunted, slaughtered as a Jew. As a Native American, I would be oppressed as a [woman], but hunted, slaughtered as a Native American. That first identity, the one which brings with it as part of its definition death, is the identity of primary emergency. This is an important recognition because it relieves us of a serious confusion. The fact, for instance, that many Black women (by no means all) experience primary emergency as Blacks in no way lessens the responsibility of the Black community to assimilate this and other analyses of sexism and to apply it to their own revolutionary work.

This analysis represents early intersectional feminism. Thus, Dworkin is speaking to the trans woman’s experience of “primary emergency” and the emergency is exclusionary practice based upon our transness. She’s saying that this defining social experience must be abolished.

Dworkin’s analysis is that the sex binary is BS and that we are a “multisexed.” Dworkin uses “androgyny” as a synonym for this reality.

Androgyny myths are multisexual mythical models. – p 153

The concrete implications of multisexuality as we find it articulated in both androgynous mythology and biology necessitates the total redefinition of scenarios of proper human sexual behavior and pragmatic forms of human community. – p 183

Substitute “multisexed” for “androgynous” in the snip you quote:

Three, community built on multisexed identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it.

You know what? She’s right. If the sex binary wasn’t the basis of our society, it would “mean the end of transsexuality as we know it.” Moreover, what would such a society mean for the “primary emergency” defining the trans experience of 1974? I dunno, but in the last line of that section she says that our “sexual identity” (our sexed identity) would would represent a “new mode,” something other than what it meant to be a “transsexual” back then. Again, she’s right.

On page 186, Dworkin says that claiming that trans people are the result “faulty socialization” is an untenable position to take. Instead, she says that which defines “transsexuality” is a “faulty society”. Again, she’s right. The state of being trans was, and continues to be, defined by a shitty society.

She wrote all of this in 1974, more than 40 years ago. Think about that a sec… This was during a time when leading psychologists were asserting as fact that being trans was caused by socialization. Her position was that making that fact assertion was BS. Back in 1974, trans people who got “sex changes” were told to go stealth, were taught – as part of their medical transition – to conform to sexist stereotypes, roles and hierarchies. Even so, Dworkin said that each trans person should be able to go through this process. That’s the exact opposite position of Janice Raymond, who said (in 1979) that she wanted to “morally mandate [transsexualism] out of existence.”

The only way to make Dworkin sound like a Raymond is to take her words out of the context of her time and dialectic. Please don’t help TERFs promote the falsehood that their BS represents the radical feminism of Dworkin. It doesn’t.

Remember, Dworkin and MacKinnon promoted very similar views and in 2015, MacKinnon said, “Male dominant society has defined women as a discrete biological group forever. If this was going to produce liberation, we’d be free.… To me, women is a political group.”

In Summary: the single line you quote is out of context. Dworkin is talking about the way society defines “transsexualism” through the “primary emergency” trans people face. She’s saying that if that BS went away and, moreover, if society abandoned the sex binary altogether, “transsexuality as we know it” would (thankfully) disappear and the energy we all waste trying to deal with the way society defines us would be better used.

Suchega_Uber responded, saying that while my response was illuminating, it really didn’t deal with the idea that if society became multisexed, being transsexual would go away. Here’s how I responded:

Yes, transsexualism “as we know it” would cease to exist. We’ve see this proven true as some of the ridged sex/gender roles, stereotypes and hierarchies have changed, so has the transsexual context of 1974.

While I’m not expected to learn how to wear high heels by my medical docs, that kind of training was part of “transition” back in 1974. While I’m not expected to be sexually stimulating to my doc’s eye, that was one of the metrics a trans doc noted that he used back then. I’m glad that I don’t have to pretend to be heterosexual and I’m glad that if you happen to be married, you’re not forced to divorce as part of your transition. In short, I’m glad that the transsexual model of 1974 is dead and I’m glad that the energy I would have put into learning to walk in heels, as a condition of my transition, was put to better use.

I would say either way, people would still be born with bodies they are inherently uncomfortable with.

I’d say that you’re very likely right and I would hope that trans medical care is alive and well for them!

I can only speak for my own experience; my issue was my body, not that l liked pink. I don’t know why at the age of 3 I was very aware of my body not being right and I don’t know why at the age of 5 I began to pray that god would fix my body or let me die in my sleep. All I can say is that it was the central crisis of my life from my earliest memories and that whatever gender performance I engaged in: macho, fem, genderqueer, it didn’t fix the issue. My sense of embodiment was never okay until after my physical transition.

Or is it saying that moving towards an androgynous society will make it easier for people to live by destigmatizing trans livelihoods in a broader sense?

This is correct.

The emergency Dworkin identified was that trans people are excluded in everything and in every way. The word she used was “despised.” She acknowledged that even with all the Revolutionary thought going on at that time, it didn’t include trans people.

Since Dworkin uses androgynous and multisexed interchangeably, my sense is that trans people wouldn’t have to deal with essentialist BS situated around being a “real man” or a “real woman” or grinding oppression in a multisexed society.

*TERF means Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. It’s a feminist term used to acknowledge that some “radical feminist” identified people seek to exclude trans people from some/all aspects of the women’s liberation movement (the precise “primary emergency” Dworkin identified). TERFs claim that this term is an inherent slur because social media uses the term in the same way that it uses homophobe, misogynist and racist. I use the term because it doesn’t matter what term is concocted to identify this group of self identified “radical feminists” because TERFs would simply come to assert that term is also a slur the moment social media began using it the way it uses homophobe, misogynist and racist. In this post I am speaking about “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists”.

Trump scam artist gets me instead of my grandmother

Views: 780

I was at my grandmother’s house today when the phone rang and I picked it up. A man with a thick accent informed me that I, [insert horrible mispronunciation of my grandmother’s name here] had won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes worth 2 million in cash and even a new BMW. I thought it would be fun to record my fucking with the scam artist until I figured out what they were after. After that, shit got real.

This is an edited version of two calls I had with this crook. During the call, he mentioned that he had paperwork on my grandmother’s home he wanted her to sign and he said that she would have to pay 50,000 in taxes before she would be able to collect her prize. The taped conversation in full is over an hour and a half long. The guy spent a lot of time trying to groom me (again, he thought I was my grandmother) into giving him access to bank accounts, pressuring me to sign some set of papers regarding my grandmother’s home to “protect” her from the IRS taking her house after winning the Sweepstakes.

What you here is me having fun just knowing that I’m wasting his time. Then you hear me working to get identifying information about his scam. He then gave me the name and address of his accomplice, which I will publish here. I’m publishing it here because my grandmother’s local cops refused to even take a report. They instead told me to call the FBI, who also wasn’t interested. The FBI gave me the number to the Federal Trade Commission where I guess they thought that reporting what was certainly as spoofed number would help. Anyway, when I called the FTC number the FBI gave me, the office was closed. So, I reported the accomplice to the sheriff local to the scam artist’s accomplice who did at least take a report.

It pisses me off beyond belief that there are people out there who’d be happy to scam my grandmother out of her money and even (apparently) her home. It’s even more frustrating that law enforcement seems to not really give a shit. I mean, I live in a country where people like me are being monstered on national news every minute of every day, but when have I ever heard of an investigative news sting into BS like this? Legislators are working hard to stop people like me from being able to simply function in society, but what laws are they passing to help elder folk like my grandmother who are obviously targeted specifically because of their age?

So, here’s the edited version of the scam call:

Here’s the information on this guy’s accomplice:

Deborah Beitler
407 North Locust
Whitewater, KS 67154

The week HERO was voted down

Views: 7511

It’s been a tough week. While El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Austin and even HISD have trans inclusive non-discrimination policies, an argument popularized by Houston’s KKK swayed voters to vote down protections for vets, the differently abled, women, racial and ethnic classes and others because, as the Klan did in the 1980s, anti-equality activists told people that should equality happen, women and children would be endangered.

The KKK’s political message is equality will endanger children. The Klan sign reads, “Save Our Children Vote No.”

While it sucked to see the Klan’s argument embraced by so many, it sucked harder that so many were hesitant to talk about the reality that the anti-HERO argument was the Klan’s argument back in the 1980s. The Klan’s values were able to foment a diverse voting bloc united under transphobia to defeat the equality of practically every category the Klan hates. This week Houston embraced the KKK’s political values and it’s a sad day indeed. The Klan’s argument worked in the 1980s and it worked with voters in 2015.

How quickly people forget that one of the leaders of the anti-equality movement told a Jewish Houston city councilmember that it’s her Christian right to be able to discriminate against Jews. While the Klan-values vote bloc celebrated the apparent defeat of equality, HERO is not actually completely dead.

Mayor Parker made it clear that bringing a ERO to Houston is a major political goal. Maybe that will look like court battles. Maybe it will look like another prop vote but it will certainly look like taking the battle to those who support the Klan’s vision of Houston.

On a lighter note, I discovered a slowed down Blondie cover by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Because it’s a slowed down version, it comes off sounding a lot like what a Joy Division/Bauhaus (with a dash of the Smiths) cover of Blondie might have have sounded like. Enjoy:

RadFem Reboot

Views: 10398

I’m fairly happy with the response I’ve received from radical feminists of all ages who are trans inclusive and want their stories and voices heard. As it was with the so-call “TS Separatists” who sparked my interest in the etiology of “transgender,” the TERF crew sparked my interest in understanding how it was that “Radical Feminism” came to be regarded as an anti-trans movement. From learning where “TERF” actually came from to having the privilege of interviewing some really amazing RadFem people, I find myself paradoxically grateful to all the anti-trans people who caught my attention with their anti-trans animus wrapped up and sold as “radical feminism.” They are the ones who inspired me to fact check their historical claims.

Most of all, I feel incredibly honored and privileged to receive the history of elder radfems who put their own personal safety on the line to remain trans inclusive. When I think about all that has been done in their names, it’s fucking heartbreaking. Thank you (you know who you are) to the peer reviewed journal that’s publishing some of this history. Thank you to a certain radfem who opened my eyes to all of this rich, yet hidden history. Thank you to all of those who have agreed to be part of the book. But most of all, I’m just so sorry that I can’t publicly thank you without you being attacked for your truth, your history and your trans inclusion. I hate that I can’t thank you without an anti-trans mob harassing you in order to keep your herstory hidden. I’m just so damn sorry for those of you who declined to be part of this research project because you said you feared reprisals from TERFs.

My firm hope is that your compassion, exclusivity, and commitment to a world without sexism is, at some point, publicly recognized and honored.

BTW – if you’re a RadFem and you wish to share your history of trans inclusion, please contact me here. All of the interviews and oral histories I collect will be donated to the Trans Archive so that the truth of your feminism is preserved.

A trans feminist perspective on the NY Times piece

Views: 11884

While the first half of the article titled There Is No Reason to Deny Trans People Necessary Medical Care does a good job at deconstructing the fraudulent, entitled and obtuse assertions featured in a recient NY Times piece, it is the latter half of the article that, I felt, is useful as a compacted overview of trans feminist thought. From Katherine Cross’ piece on Reality Check:

This is to say nothing of the fact that not all trans people want or need reassignment surgery—it is no longer as definitional of transsexual existence as it once was, and new generations of trans people are finding countless new and interesting ways of having a trans body. It’s a flowering deftly ignored by articles like Friedman’s, except inasmuch as he briefly uses the existence of such people to suggest that perhaps those of us who need surgery don’t. To truly respect trans existence would mean not trying to use our diversity to pit us against one another.

What afflicts us is not surgery but a world under the oceanic pressure of norms and prejudices.

Even leaving aside the more dramatic cases of trans women being murdered, we live in a world where we are seen as strange at best: something to stare at, something to passively exclude, some thing, rather than an equal person. Our bodies seem to exist as amusement parks for the fantastic curiosities of others. We are the conversation piece in cisgender society’s living room.

Ask yourself how that would make you feel, regardless of what medications you took or what surgeries you had.

Gender dysphoria as a whole—bodily and mental—is something imposed on us from without as much as something that manifests from within; it certainly finds its origins in deeply felt, physical sensations of wrongness, but it is also wildly exacerbated by the way trans people’s bodies are talked about, publicly possessed, and seen as inherently violable. In its subtle way, the Times editorial feeds that sense of objectifying entitlement.

This wider issue forms the foundations of all violence against us.

Men can often get away with doing absolutely anything to trans women in particular, especially if we do sex work: that double stigma is a brand that says “no one will miss you” in invisible ink all over our bodies. Even as men lust after us, they want to destroy us as an extraverted act of revenge against all womankind. Because they can.

They say we’re not “real women” and yet do to us the things they wish they could do to other women: their wives, their mothers, female politicians, the ball-busting boss, the ice queen who won’t date them. We are, in fact, the canvas of so many cisgender men’s own deeply unresolved psychological crises, which themselves never make it to the front page of theTimes’ Sunday Review in the form of handwringing editorial piety.

You live with that knowledge and you learn to make peace with it, uneasy as it may be, and hope for the best.

Time and again, well-meaning cisgender people tell me and my sisters, brothers, and siblings, that we are so very “strong” and “courageous,” as if they intuitively sense how poisonous our world’s atmosphere is for us.

For my own part, I’m simply trying to fashion a liveable life, partially through these words, partially through the perambulations of my career, and in every case I find that the freshest air I breathe in this world is the result of work done, past and present, to help cisgender people see my existence as a way of being human.

But I needed medical transition in order to breathe in the first place.

Cross’ review contextualizes some of the same themes my pithy TransAdvocate response to the same NY Times article did. I too spend the first half of my article debunking the nonsense pushed by the Times, but it’s the second half that contextualizes – through a trans feminist perspective – the deeper problems that support the type of behavior featured by the Times and other terribly concerned cis people who only listen to that which reinforces their apriori conclusions; namely, that the memes cis people create to think about the trans experience actually represents the trans experience and that structurally, their critiques of trans people are intelligible only to others who insist on misusing trans feminist language. From my TransAdvocate piece:

Friedman [ed: the author of the NY Times piece both Cross and I critiqued] remarks on the way transsexual brains are different from cisgender brains and opines that maybe if there were more freedom around gender roles, trans people wouldn’t really need to physically transition:

Of course, people should have the freedom to assume whatever gender role makes them comfortable and refer to themselves with whatever pronoun they choose; we should encourage people to be who they really feel they are, not who or what society would like them to be. I wonder, if we were a more tolerant society that welcomed all types of gender identity, what the impact might be on gender dysphoria. How many transgender individuals would feel the need to physically change gender, if they truly felt accepted with whatever gender role they choose?

I know this is terribly difficult for some people to understand, so let me make it very clear: gender identity, expression and orientation IS NOT the same thing as gender hierarchy, stereotype or role. Trans discourse is at a significant disadvantage when terribly concerned cis people like Friedman speak on behalf of the trans experience. People like Friedman seem to rely upon equivocation, credulity and ignorance when presenting their trans critical points to (usually) non-trans people. (* cough * Janice Raymond * cough *) Not only does Friedman seem to conflate gender role, gender and gender identity, his assertion that biological factors may drive trans people into new gender roles is highly problematic since gender roles aren’t biological.

Trans “Brain Sex” Side Bar:

I have for years asserted that I am largely agnostic to the claim that trans people have neurological brain issues which cause us to experience our bodies in the way we do. While I don’t think this is out of the realm of probabilities, I do think that we need more research. I myself interviewed Dr. Diamond whose twin studies made him conclude that trans people have an intersex condition in our brain. I am, and continue to be, interested in these studies. I think that just dismissing them all as BS (or for that matter, uncritically accepting them all as gospel) is a sign of ideological bias.

Having said that, I also recognize that brain sex studies in general are not infrequently problematic; that the specter of gender roles often asserts an unacknowledged force on brain sex study outcomes. Cordelia Fine’s 2010 book, Delusions of Gender does a good job at exposing this problem. However, even Fine herself stumbles when even she habitually conflates gender role with gender identity in her description of what she observes. In this way, Fine’s work suffers from some of the same problems I review below.

Moreover, some cis researchers – especially those who’ve assumed a place of authority with regard to sex and gender issues – seem to never acknowledge a simple truth trans advocates have pointed to since the 1950s: sex essentialism is a cultural construct. Whether it’s two boxes (male and female) or three boxes (male, intersex and female) researchers seem to be largely incapable of understanding that those boxes were constructed by their culture’s hands .

For decades, trans advocates have struggled to describe sex and gender from a trans perspective. Back in 1958, Christine Jorgensen challenged the concept of a natural sex binary in her interview LP Christine Jorgensen Reveals. At the 23 second mark, the non-trans interviewer asks Jorgensen if she’s a woman. Jorgensen replied, “We seem to assume that every person is either a man or a woman. But we don’t take into account the scientific value that each person is actually both in varying degrees. Now, this sounds a little evasive and I don’t mean it to be in actuality. To that, my only answer is that I am more of a woman than I am a man.” Working from within the confines of a 1950s pop lexicon, Jorgensen challenged the non-trans interviewer’s presumption of a natural sex binary and instead proposed that sex might be conceptualized as more of a spectrum. Later in the interview she challenged the idea that clothing habits have anything to do with sex. “One isn’t born to wear clothes, actually. Clothes are a habit that one accumulates.” Throughout the entire LP, Jorgensen is continually bumping up against binary sex and gender presumptions as she struggles to frame her answers in a way that the cisgender interviewer might grasp.

To be clear, within trans discourse should I speak in terms of identity, I am speaking in terms of personal and expressive form; should I speak in terms of role, I am speaking in terms of cultural function. I as a trans person did not transition in order to choose a new gender role. Being placed into a role is something that culture forcibly does to people; nobody can choose to live in a gender role. Should society deem that one is a male, that person will be placed into a male role by culture; should society deem that one is female, that person will be placed into a female role by culture. A gender role isn’t chosen, it’s inflicted and much of trans discourse is situated around ways of challenging and undermining those roles.

When trans people speak of their gender identity, we are speaking about any 1 of 3 things:

A.)   One’s subjective experience of one’s own sexed body attributes;
B.)   One’s sexed identification within the context of a social grouping; or,
C.)   Both A and B

(ProTip: Some trans people will sometimes refer to Category A as one’s “gender orientation.”)

So no, even if we had a billion new gender roles, that wouldn’t address the need of trans people to medically transition, nor would it help to force a billion people into a billion new gender role boxes. The motivation to medically transition was not about me living within a gender role box; it was about my subjective embodied experience.

“A Woman Trapped in a Man’s Body”

Cis people came up with this sophomoric way of describing the trans experience to each other and it has, in a Foucauldian sense, stuck to descriptions of the trans experience ever since. The earliest known usage of a phrase like this comes from page 236 of Emily Grant Hutchings’ 1922 book, Indian Summer: “David is a woman. More than that, Sydney, Mrs Trench is a man — trapped in a woman’s body. When nature makes a blunder like that, there’s usually the devil to pay.” In his 1966 book, The Transsexual Phenomena, Harry Benjamin tried to make the trans experience intelligible to the cisgender population. On page 19 Benjamin wrote, “The transsexual feels himself to be a woman (“trapped in a man’s body”) and is attracted to men.” Consider the way this meme was used on page 265 of the 1967 book Sexual Deviance:

While, as suggested, few lesbians become committed to this totally masculine role as a near-permanent life style, many more lesbians may experiment with this kind of strategy for a short period, particularly during the identity crisis that occurs at the time of the first self-admission of a deviant sexual commitment or at entry into the culture of the homosexual community. During this early phase of career development, it is not unlikely that many lesbians overreact because they are still imbued with the essentially heterosexual language of their earlier socialization and think of themselves as an accident of nature: a man trapped in a woman’s body.

I find it interesting that some contemporary gender pontificators are putting forward new iterations of this very argument. Here we find that should a lesbian step out of her gender role (function) within the context of heteronormative culture, it may very-well make her think that she’s a “man trapped in a woman’s body.” Friedman essentially makes the same (il)logical leap in his article: since it must be gender roles that are driving trans people to transition, instead of medical care, a better solution might be the creation of even more gender roles. Friedman assures his readers that “gender” shouldn’t be binary, “it [doesn’t] mean that conventional gender roles always feel right; the sheer number of people who experience varying degrees of mismatch between their preferred gender and their body makes this very clear.” * every facepalm meme ever goes here *

If people like Friedman (or Raymond for that matter) actually cared about the well-being of trans people (as they inevitably claim they do) maybe they could start by being honest about the data, stop conflating trans terminology to muddy the discursive waters and start honestly engaging with trans people about what their body experience is like.*

*And no, being trans isn’t the same thing as wishing to be paralyzed or to have sections of one’s body removed (body dysmorphic disorder). This “analysis” is popular with smug cis people who think trans people want to “chop off” parts of their bodies. If you think that trans surgery is about chopping off body parts, you probably need to sit down, shut up and listen to trans people talk about their experience without assuming that you understand it better than they can.

Tumblr TERFs Fire Back!

Views: 13962

A couple of days ago I wrote about my feelings of disgust regarding the behavior of some Tumblr TERFs. While I was responding to an older Tumbr TERF post, they continued to fire back at trans people on Tumblr who were citing my work.

TERFs Fire Back: The 1999 TERF Death Threat didn’t happen in 2000

In 1999, a TERF mob forced a 16 year old trans kid to stand before them for hours while they systematically berated her, even going so far as to openly threaten her live with a knife. In refutation, they linked to an Off Our Backs article coauthored by MichFest organizer, Lisa Vogel and Karla Mantilla in which they discuss the 2000 MichFest. I invite you to reread the previous sentence. The incident in question took place in 1999 and the Tumblr TERFs’ “proof” that the events of 1999 never happened is an article that discusses the following year’s events as asserted by MichFest organizer Lisa Vogel. Do I really need to spell out why an article about an event that took place in the future – in 2000 – doesn’t constitute evidence refuting what happened to a 16 year old at MichFest in 1999?

TERFs Fire Back: Janice Raymond isn’t Culpable because THIS!!1!

To support the assertion that Janice Raymond had nothing to do with the 1981 study that precipitated the end to public and 3rd party trans care funding in the early 1980s was to selectively quote a 2013 HHS finding:

The author of the post I’m responding to,”radFem-mama” chose to quote that HHS’ decision was based on 2 primary findings, which she highlights in bold: rates of complications and the efficacy of a “transsexual” diagnosis. Unfortunately for radFem-mama, anyone who cares to read the original 1981 report will immediately note that this report concluded THREE findings and that the third finding drew upon Raymond’s research alone. Also, let’s be clear about something. The 2013 findings state:

The NCHCT forwarded its 1981 report to officials of the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), now called CMS, with a memorandum dated May 6, 1981 recommending “that transsexual surgery not be covered by Medicare at this time.” HCFA issued the NCD language as part of its Coverage Issues Manual of coverage instructions for Medicare contractors; CMS published the manual in the Federal Register on August 21, 1989. – Page 4

To be clear, the 1981 report was available to it’s targeted audience at that time. Who were the NCHCT/OHTA target audience?

Providers, generally; physicians; acute facility administrators; long-term care facility administrators; other care givers; health/medical professional associations; consumer associations; employers; unions and other employee organizations; third party payers; government regulators; biomedical researchers; public policy-makers, legislators; policy research organizations; Federal health programs. – National Academy of Sciences, National Center For Health Services Research and Health Care Technology Assessment Office of Health Technology Assessment, 1988

Consider the reach NCHCT/OHTA reports had:

With the creation of NCHCT and the development of a formal assessment process, these third-party payers began to request the results of evaluations. These insurance carriers included both those in the government (CHAMPUS and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program) and those in the private sector such as Mutual of Omaha, Nationwide, Travelers, Aetna Life and Casualty, Connecticut General Life, Equitable Life Assurance Society, John Hancock Mutual Life, Metropolitan Life, Prudential Life, and Lincoln National Life. – Seymour Perry, M.D., Health Affairs, 8/1982, p 124

Let’s return to the original 1981 NCHCT/OHTA (by 1981 the NCHCT was in the process of becoming the Office of Health Technology Assessment) findings. Raymond is the only researcher that the government agency thanks and that’s because NCHCT/OHTA “was directed to consider broadly the implications of new and existing medical technologies, including their legal, ethical and social aspects.” [1] Raymond’s research alone represented the whole of NCHCT/OHTA’s consideration regarding the “ethical and social aspects” of trans care.

The “Discussion” section of the NCHCT/OHTA report reviews three findings:

  1. One paragraph supporting the claim that trans care is “experimental”
  2. One paragraph supporting the claim that trans care is “controversial”
  3. Four paragraphs supporting the claim that trans care is “expensive.”

The NCHCT/OHTA report drew upon several sources to support these three claims. In determining that trans care was “experimental,” the NCHCT/OHTA report relied on the National Institute of Mental Health of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration’s research. To support the claim that trans care was “expensive,” the NCHCT/OHTA report relied upon research from Health Information Designs. To support the “controversial” claim, the NCHCT/OHTA report relied upon just two sources, one of which was Raymond. The following is the “Discussion” paragraph which supports the “controversial” claim:

“Over and above the medical and scientific issues, it would also appear that transsexual surgery is controversial in our society. For example, Thomas Szasz has asked whether an old person who desires to be young suffers from the “disease” of being a “transchronological” or does the poor person who wants to be rich suffer from the “disease” of being a “transeconomical?” (Szasz 1979). Some have held that it would be preferable to modify society’s sex role expectations of men and women than to modify either the body or the mind of individuals to fit those expectations. (Raymond 1980).”

At no point prior to this section does the report claim that trans care is “controversial.” “But Cristan,” you say, “didn’t you just say that Raymond’s research alone was used to support the ‘controversial’ claim?!? It cites somebody named Szasz. Obviously that means that Raymond’s research and somebody else’s research was used, right?!?”

Wrong.

The Szasz citation refers to a newspaper review of Raymond’s 1979 book, The Transsexual Empire: the making of the she-male. Raymond’s research alone informed 1/3 of NCHCT/OHTA’s findings. In fact, in the 1981 report’s Acknowledgement section, it states the following, the “National Center for Health Care Technology commissioned paper on the social and ethical aspects of transexual surgery by Janice G. Raymond, Ph.D., of Hampshire College, University of Massachusetts, were used in this assessment.”

RadFem-mamma then (ironically) cites a 2009 United Health insurance policy barring “transsexual surgery” as representing what “insurance companies” covered in 1981. The reason her citation is ironic is that she’s apparently oblivious to the fact that she just proved my fact claim Regarding Raymond’s capability in a way that I, until now, have been unable to do. Let’s review, shall we?

 A.) The 1981 report states, the “National Center for Health Care Technology commissioned paper on the social and ethical aspects of transexual surgery by Janice G. Raymond, Ph.D., of Hampshire College, University of Massachusetts, were used in this assessment.’

B.) Producing a “social and ethical” report finding was mandated and, in fact, Raymond’s research alone informs the report’s finding that transsexual surgery was “controversial.” Prior to citing Raymond’s book, The Transsexual Empire via Szasz, the 1981 report never mentions transsexual surgery being “controversial.” Let’s review the 1981 “controversial” claim once again. The first sentence shifts the report’s attention from the “medical and scientific issues” it discussed prior to the “controversial” section and turns to Raymond’s work:

Over and above the medical and scientific issues, it would also appear that transsexual surgery is controversial in our society. For example, Thomas Szasz has asked whether an old person who desires to be young suffers from the “disease” of being a “transchronological” or does the poor person who wants to be rich suffer from the “disease” of being a “transeconomical?” (Szasz 1979). Some have held that it would be preferable to modify society’s sex role expectations of men and women than to modify either the body or the mind of individuals to fit those expectations. (Raymond 1980).

C.) Let’s review the very first sentence of the section the 2013 HHS ruling considered:

Now, let’s review the very first sentence justifying the 2009 United Health policy barring “transsexual surgery” that radfem-mamma herself cited as proving her fact assertion that Raymond had nothing to do with the revocation of public and private coverage of trans health care:

Notice anything similar? Gosh, it seems as if the first line of the 2009 United Health policy barring “transsexual surgery” is a direct quote from the very 1981 NCHCT/OHTA “controversial” findings that Raymond’s research alone supported.

Thank you, radfem-mama for finding this smoking gun. Until you, in your fumbling attempt to disprove that Raymond had anything to do with the revocation of PRIVATE funding of trans care, I’d not been able to find an example this incontrovertible. You’ve just proved the conclusion of my research correct.  Thank you for finding this!

TERFs Fire Back: Cristan Williams is still Zoe Brain

Apparently in radfem-mama’s reality, I’m still Zoe Brain. Radfem-mama is worked up over an opinion piece Brain published on the TransAdvocate wherein Brain estimates the number of trans lives lost since 1981 due to the revocation of public and private funding of trans care:

Here’s a link to the first copy cached by the Wayback Machine. Note that then, like now, the author is Zoe Brain, not me and that it is, in fact, listed as an opinion piece. Apparently that doesn’t matter to Tumblr TERFs who are on a roll:

As far as “credibility,” my historical research on TERFs is being published in a peer reviewed journal you’ll be able to read and critique to your heart’s desire. Radfem-mama, please point me to where I can check out your peer reviewed work on trans people or radical feminism. I’d be interested in checking out your work.

TERFs Fire Back: Cristan Williams loves Paul McHugh

For the record, the TransAdvocate has a few well-cited article about MaHugh. Here’s two:

When critiquing ideologically driven TERF behavior, it’s usual to focus on TERF behavior. It would probably seem strange to readers if in the middle of a critique of ideologically-driven TERF violence the piece suddenly focuses on the behavior of anti-abortion activists who hate trans people.

TERFs Fire Back: Obviously TERFs were never violent in 1973

Obviously pioneering radical feminist activist Robin Tyler totally lied about being beaten by TERFs who rushed the stage, amirite? Maybe since radfem-mamma cares so much about the truth, she could contact Tyler and tell her why she thinks Tyler is lying.

I find it interesting that radfem”I care about the truth” mamma failed to quote the following part of Morgan’s speech…

“I charge [Elliott, the trans woman] as an opportunist, an infiltrator, and a destroyer—with the mentality of a rapist. And you women at this Conference know who he [sic] is. Now. You can let him [sic] into your workshops—or you can deal with him [sic].” [2]

… you know, the pertinent bit that precipitated TERFs beating radfems for protecting a trans women from a TERF bashing?

TERFs Fire Back: Rivera forgave O’Leary, therefore TERFs didn’t organize an attack on Rivera

Radfem-mamma is correct, right up until the last sentence. It says a lot that Rivera was able to forgive O’Leary and even regard her as a friend. Everything about Rivera’s behavior suggests the enormity of her heart’s capacity for compassion and love. Those truths in no way change the reality of what happened before or after Rivera was filmed on stage:

“Women in the GLF were uncomfortable referring to Rivera – who insisted in using women’s bathrooms, even in City hall – as ‘she.’ Pressure mounted. The year 1973 witnessed a clash that would take Rivera out of the movement for the next two decades… As they passed out flyers outlining their opposition to the ‘female impersonators,’ Rivera wrestled for the microphone held by emcee Vitto Russo, before getting hit with it herself. Rivera explained, ‘I had to battle my way up on stage, and literally get beaten up and punched around by people I thought were my comrades, to get to that microphone.” – Benjamin Shepard, That’s Revolting!, pp 126 – 127

Sylvia Rivera recounted the event: “Jean O’Leary, a founder of Radicalesbians, decided that drag queens were insulting to women… I had been told I was going to speak at the rally. And that’s when things just got out of hand. I’m very militant when it comes to certain things, and I didn’t appreciate what was going down with Jean O’Leary stating that we were insulting women… She told Vito Russo to kick my ass onstage… but I still got up and spoke my piece.” – Susan Glisson (Ed), The Human Tradition in the Civil Rights Movement, p 325

“[T]his incident precipitated yet another suicide attempt on her part… the events of that day in 1973 ultimately took something out of Sylvia Rivera. In the succeeding years, Sylvia Rivera’s participation in ‘the movement’ waned. Although she attended every Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade (with the exception of two) until her death, Sylvia’s formal participation in organizations like the GLF and the GAA came to a halt.” – ibid.

Critiquing videos that do not discuss the above realities because they deal with other issues isn’t evidence that supports the idea that Rivera lied about being beaten at a TERF’s behest.

TERFs Fire Back: Trans people are dangerous

A favorite trope off practically all hate groups is to focus on people who are part of the group they want to oppress and insinuate that those the group hate act criminally due due to being part of that oppressed group. The Klan loves to report on Black criminals to justify marginalizing Black folks and likewise, TERFs love to report on trans criminals to justify marginalizing trans folks. It’s called the fallacy of composition but since the Klan made it famous, I call it the Klan Fallacy:

Yes, and I can make a list of cis female criminals who murder, rape and violate women and children and the list would be on orders of magnitude larger than any list of trans criminals any TERF could put together. It’s amazing to me that TERFs seem to revel in this fallacy. Would it not be absurd for me to say that since a 2004 Department of Education study found that 42% of student molestations came from their (presumably cis) woman instructors –
– that we should conclude that cis women are an obvious, clear and known danger to school children? Of course not. Claiming or insinuating that trans people should be marginalized and/or feared because within the history of human crime, some minute percentage turn out to be trans, those making the such a claim should be roundly condemned and mocked by all rational people.

[hr]

NOTES:

[1] OHTA, Health Care Technology And Its Assessment In Eight Countries, 1994, p 292

[2] Blasius, Mark. We Are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics. New York: Routledge, 1997. 429.