On July 4, the Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) published an editorial in which a transsexual, Cei Bell came out in support of Victoria Brownworth, the journalist at the center of a recent controversy about unethical (and possibly criminal) practices concerning what CPS called, “child exploitation.” Brownworth has been recently criticized for, as one commenter put it:
… speaking out of both sides of her mouth. Calling trans women men and suggesting they’re sexual predators in one sphere and, the same month, doing an article like this. And it was about how the PGN seems to have real issues understanding why using someone spouting the attitudes of Ms. Brownworth to do pieces on the trans community is not okay.
Brownworth published an article on PGN about transwomen who are forced into sex work due to oppression and bigotry. The idea that a supporter of the ideological underpinnings of the very system of oppression which forces trans women into sex work seemed ironically cruel to some.
In response, PGN has worked to support Brownworth. Last week, they published a piece supporting her, the article which has come under fire for “child exploitation” seems to have been quietly redacted and this week PGN found a transwoman to write a piece supporting Brownworth. Brownworth’s transsexual supporter writes:
Victoria and I discussed the Leslie Phillips/Sisterspace incident when it happened. There is a nuance that is overlooked. Victoria was asking specifically why Leslie had to be in a leadership position at Sisterspace as opposed to simply being a member. She was questioning whether the need to be in a leadership position was a result of Leslie’s history of white male privilege. If a transgender person benefited from a successful lifetime of white male privilege, can she suddenly authentically become a feminist woman? Why was it necessary to be in a position of power?
I understand the danger the young women Victoria wrote about are living with… I am very happy that Victoria wrote this series. We need more people to take up this issue… My concern is that blacks and transsexuals are often hyperssexualized by white cisgender people. Writing about the specific sexual acts that the sex workers perform feeds prurient interests and stereotypes in readers.
A glowing endorsement to be sure – which is interesting because apparently Bell’s views on Brownworth have… evolved:
Lesbians would never put up with gay men critiquing and picking apart their lives, community and political relevance.
You sound very much like a Christian ex-gay who is trying to reinforce herself by convincing others that if they too adopt your dogma/idealogy and repent then they will also be saved.
If you have always felt that you should have been a man why are you dressing femme? I haven’t worn pants in almost 20 years, not that there is anything wrong with pants. Did you decide to dress in femme clothes because it was advantageous professionally? Does that make you a transsexual man who is crossdressing? Yet you have the nerve to question whether this transgender “trend…is the byproduct of assimilationist politics.” I have heard of a lot of things over the years but never a transsexual assimilationist political convention. Many transsexuals have chosen to live quietly because it is dangerous to draw attention to ourselves but that is not assimilation. You refer to the psychiatric community considering gender dyphoria a disorder. This is the same psychiatric community that regarded homosexuality as an illness that could be cured.
You speak about Kate Bornstein and Renee Richards having ambivalent feelings about the limitations of sex reassignment. I’ve got news for you, life isn’t perfect. Life is never going to be perfect. Each of us has to learn to live with the limitations of whatever we decide to do. We make the best of the options we have (or don’t) and the choices we make. It would also be nice to not have our gender “dysphoria” be the most important issue in our lives and it would be easier if other people didn’t bother us about it..
It is not our role to sacrifice our lives to fight feminist culture battles for you. We transsexuals know our gender from the time we are first conscious of our identities at ages two, three and four. We know who we are in ways more certain than gays and lesbians, who often don’t know who they are till 30, 40 or even older. Transsexuality has nothing to do with feminism. For that matter neither does homosexuality or lesbianism. While one can be a feminist it doesn’t cause anyone to be a lesbian. Making a pseudo-intellectual feminist issue of transsexuality a psychiatric-medical condition we are born with, makes as much sense as proclaiming homosexuality an abomination before God.
Instead of critiquing transsexuals why don’t you and others such as Mary Daly, Janice Raymond, Alix Dobkin and Lagusta critique yourselves and ask what the effect of your bigotries has had on your lives? Seriously, who do you think you are? There aren’t that many of us. Are we an easier target than a real threat such as John McCain who wants to repeal Roe v. Wade?
I don’t care if I can’t go to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I’ll start the St. Tropez Music Festival and lay out on the beach topless sipping champagne and singing Sarah Vaughn songs. Anybody want to join me?
I want to be very clear. I don’t give a flying fish whether you think transgender people, transsexuals specifically, have an appropriate relevant place in the movement. Get the f___ out of our lives.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
A commenter hits the nail on the head, writing:
I, like you – find the idea of attending Michigan tedious. I do however think businesses shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate regardless of my personal interest in what that business is selling. But – it’s not really something I’m going to invest much energy into as I don’t care to attend.
We all have nostalgia for your youth – we all deserve memories. Like Sally Jupiter those of us of a certain age feel to some degree “You don’t know. Things change. What happened happened 40 years ago. I’m 67 years old. Every day, the future looks a little bit darker. But the past……even the grimy parts of it… …keep on getting brighter.”
I will, however note that five years ago you were angry as someone with virulently transphobic opinions was allowed to speak for the very same part of our community she’s writing about today. You felt that her views would inform the work and that part of her motivation for writing it was to infuse those views into the public discourse about us. As she noted when writing that piece – it provided her the opportunity to discuss the issues she wished to address about us.
If the current article avoids some of her editorializing in her news pieces it’s due in no small part to the response five years ago and the response today ensuring her editor and publisher take great care with what they print and try to not let her slip those purposeful underminings of trans people into the story under the guise of how much she cares. Even if she does so right now in other venues and persists in misgendering women and men with trans histories while writing this series…
The bottom line is that someone with decades of behavior at variance with respecting trans people shouldn’t be given a platform to write about trans people. And you’re right – the lame excuse given that trans people can’t be objective while writing about ourselves is laughable coming from a venue peopled with gay people writing about themselves.
Regardless of how much her friends wish to rehabilitate her on this issue or how many awards she’s received from people who aren’t trans people.
You were right.
And you were right to be angry.