A trans feminist perspective on the NY Times piece

Views: 1152

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: 3101

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.

#ProTransProChoice: defending body autonomy

Views: 3225

For a while now, I’ve done abortion clinic defence. Here’s a dude that I followed around filming for about 20 mins. I found it interesting that he chose to use many of the same tactics sex essentialists (TERFs) do: gender baiting, equivocation about women’s rights, hubris assumptions, projection, frustration displacement and stubborn ignorance.

Here are a few #ProTransProChoice images:



What the Texas phrase “come and take it” means.

 

Ray Hill, the TransAdvocate and Feminism

Views: 2526

Ray

Last night I attended a roast of my friend, Ray Hill. If you’re queer — and especially if you’re a queer Southerner — and you don’t know who Ray Hill is, then you don’t know the first thing about Southern queers. Ray Hill is an iconic living legend of queer rights. Here are some of his achievements:

  • Cofounder and President of Promethean Society (Houston’s first gay/lesbian organization (1967-1969)
  • Cofounder (1968), former Board Member and former General Manager (198o~1981) of Pacifica Radio, KPFT-FM (where I first found other local trans people in the 1990s)
  • Cofounder, Executive Director Houston Human Rights League (1976-1986)
  • Cofounder (1975), Past President (1989) of Houston Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Political Caucus
  • Winner of landmark First Amendment US Supreme Court Case Houston v Hill lob S.Ct 2502, 1987)
  • Cofounder/organizer (1976), Past Chair (1984-1985) of Houston Lesbian Gay Pride Week
  • Cofounder Kaposi’s Sarcoma Foundation (198o, became KS/AIDS Foundation, is now AIDS Foundation Houston)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, the trans Unity Committee
  • Chair of Executive and Coordination Committees for the First March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, 1979
  • Author of first “Safe Sex Pamphlet” in the country to help prevent the spread of HIV, published by Citizens for Human Equality CHE
  • Contributor to the first three International Conferences on Gender Law and Employment
  • Author of Model Transgender Policy for Jails and Prisons
  • Founder/producer/host of the Prison Show (the only show of its kind in the US) 198o to 2012
  • Convict (197o-1975) Texas Prison System

 

Ray is equal parts Mark Twain, Harvey Milk and Utah Phillips. Here are some photos from last night’s roast:

1. Ray Hill & Mayor Annise Parker; 2. Judge Phyllis Frye; 3. Monica Roberts, Parker, Frye; 4. Frye, Parker; 5. Me, Roberts, Daniel Williams; 6. Me, Parker

Feminism

I was asked to present at the University of Michigan’s New Articulations Feminist Conference. Here are a few slides from my presentation:

The conference was really interesting and I met numerous feminists from all over the nation and made some new contacts at the Feminist Times and Crunk Feminist Collective.

During the last several months I’ve made some amazing connections with several iconic Radical Feminist thinkers and it’s absolutely changed the way I’ve historically viewed Radical Feminism — which I’m really, really grateful for!

TransAdvocate

I have a couple of stories that are about to come out. There’s a really frank interview with [K], an intersex sex worker. They’re really honest about what it’s like and I really appreciated their views about the services that sex workers need.

I also have an upcoming interview with RadFem icon, Catharine MacKinnon that I’m really excited about. It will be interesting to see how some quotemine her to make it seem as if MacKinnon somehow doesn’t deride Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (whom I like to conceptualize as Sex Essentialist Feminists) ideology/morality but that she somehow really does believe that sex is a natural binary and that women’s liberation depends upon categorizing “women” in terms of a discrete biological group.

Moreover, other notable RadFems are collaborating on a significant piece that will be coming out in the coming months. It will represent a tangible and clear answer to the idea that SEFs represent their radical feminism. This should make it clear that  SEFs speak only for their own group when they pontificate about their “radical feminist,” “feminist,” or “lesbian” ideology.

Also, the TransAdvocate is contemplating starting its own press. Isn’t that cool?

Sheila Jeffreys’ source is now stalking trans kids

Views: 4220

A source Sheila Jeffreys used to construct her sex essentialist anti-trans book, Gender Hurts is currently stalking trans kids.

“I am grateful, too, to the new wave of radical feminism both online and offline. Radical feminist bloggers such as… Dirt from ‘Dirt from Dirt’, among others, have provided invaluable factual material, references and ideas on their blogs, without which it would have been harder to write this book. Indeed, over the period that this book has been incubating, radical feminist bloggers strengthened and clarified my analysis.” [1] – Sheila Jeffreys, Gender Hurts, Acknowledgements

The below conversation is between a trans advocate and the account run by a collective of TERF opinion leaders. The TERF account expressly endorses the harassment of children in the hopes that their adult gaze and assessment might make transition too difficult to undertake for other trans kids.


Notes:

1.) To be clear, while these individuals may self-identify as “Radical Feminists,” they reject core RadFem analysis on the patriarchal nature of a belief in a natural sex binary or sex essentialism. These self-proclaimed “RadFems” very much believe in a natural sex binary and believe that there exist certain essences which, if present, authenticates a human body as either male or female.

Such dogma is only found in an ideological offshoot of Radical Feminism known as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism. Actual Radical Feminists such as Wittig, Dworkin, Stoltenberg and MacKinnon reject sex essentialism. Moreover, the Radical Feminist movement has a long and courageous history of supporting trans people.

#TERFpatriarchy, Germaine Greer and Radical Feminism

Views: 5192

I have, on several occasions, pointed out the difference between actual Radical Feminism and a type of patriarchy that’s sold as “Radical Feminism.” This patriarchy is called Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism (TERF). Perhaps the biggest difference between Radical Feminism and TERF ideology is that TERFs believe in certain sexed essences which authentically, naturally and self-evidently marks one as eternally “female” or “male.” Depending upon which TERF you ask, that which is essentially “woman” might be menstration, XX chromosomes, socialized habits, childbirth and/or something else entirely. For long-time TERF opinion leader Germaine Greer that which is essential to being woman/female is a large stinky vagina.

As it turned out, Greer wasn’t the only TERF who seemed happy to take up and use the patriarchal stinky vagina trope against trans women. I deconstructed the power TERFs seek when they deploy this patriarchal trope against trans women and I was happy to see that Radical Feminist opinion leader John Stoltenberg both liked and tweeted the article. Here, I want to further explore the ways in which TERFs seek refuge in patriarchy.

Here’s the basic supposition I think will hold true: the ideological difference between RadFems and TERFs is that RadFems seek freedom from patriarchy and TERFs seek freedom by carving out a section of patriarchy as being their very own space. TERFs seem to believe that if they can simply protect their space within a heteronormative contextualization of us and them/male and female, true freedom will surely follow. Protecting their place within a heteronormative contextualization of humanity leads those who are trapped within TERF ideology to develop a twisted gender morality which validates their patriarchal behavior as ethical, thereby reinforcing their denial.

For instance, in her new book Gender Hurts, TERF opinion leader Sheila Jeffreys remarks on her gender morality:

“Another reason for adherence to pronouns that indicate biology is that, as a feminist, I consider the female pronoun to be an honorific, a term that conveys respect. Respect is due to women as members of a sex caste that have survived subordination and deserve to be addressed with honour.”

For Jeffreys’ ad naturam morality, it is dishonorable not to recognize that sex is a natural binary and that people like Jeffreys authentically occupies a special space within this heteronormative contextualization of humanity. Iconic Radical Feminist theorists have written about this problem for decades. In the 1980s, Wittig noticed this troubling tendency towards a reductive essence-based objectification of women within the movement that became TERFs:

[N]ot only is there no natural group “women” (we lesbians are living proof of it), but as individuals as well we question “woman,” which for us, as for Simone de Beauvoir, is only a myth. She said: “One is not born, but becomes a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society: it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.”

However, most of the feminists and lesbian-feminists in America and elsewhere still believe that the basis of women’s oppression is biological as well as historical. Some of them even claim to find their sources in Simone de Beauvoir.

Colette Guillaumin has shown that before the socioeconomic reality of black slavery, the concept of race did not exist, at least not in its modern meaning, since it was applied to the lineage of families. However, now, race, exactly like sex, is taken as an “immediate given,” a “sensible given,” “physical features,” belonging to a natural order. But what we believe to be a physical and direct perception is only a sophisticated and mythic construction, an “imaginary formation,” which reinterprets physical features (in themselves as neutral as any others but marked by the social system) through the network of relationships in which they are perceived. (They are seen as black, therefore they are black; they are seen as women, therefore, they are women. But before being seen that way, they first had to be made that way.) Lesbians should always remember and acknowledge how “unnatural,” compelling, totally oppressive, and destructive being “woman” was for us in the old days before the women’s liberation movement. It was a political constraint, and those who resisted it were accused of not being “real” women. But then we were proud of it, since in the accusation there was already something like a shadow of victory: the avowal by the oppressor that “woman” is not something that goes without saying, since to be one, one has to be a “real” one.

Witting noticed that this group is seemingly constitutionally incapable of seeing that the very thing they cling to and defend is the patriarchy within themselves. Wittig continues:

The ideology of sexual difference functions as censorship in our culture by masking, on the ground of nature, the social opposition between men and women. Masculine/feminine, male/female are the categories which serve to conceal the fact that social differences always belong to an economic, political, ideological order. Every system of domination establishes divisions at the material and economic level. Furthermore, the divisions are abstracted and turned into concepts by the masters, and later on by the slaves when they rebel and start to struggle. The masters explain and justify the established divisions as a result of natural differences. The slaves, when they rebel and start to struggle, read social oppositions into the so-called natural differences. For there is no sex. There is but sex that is oppressed and sex that oppresses. It is oppression that creates sex and not the contrary. The contrary would be to say that sex creates oppression, or to say that the cause (origin) of oppression is to be found in sex itself, in a natural division of the sexes preexisting (or outside of) society. The primacy of difference so constitutes our thought that it prevents turning inward on itself to question itself, no matter how necessary that may be to apprehend the basis of that which precisely constitutes it.

Wittig wasn’t alone in noticing that TERFs seem ironically happy – in their misguided quest for empowerment – to seek empowerment by making a place for themselves within patriarchy. Andrea Dworkin took Germaine Greer to task for promoting this misguided attempt at empowerment back in 1974:

Germaine Greer once wrote for Suck — she was an editor—and her articles, the token women’s articles, were sometimes strong; her voice was always authentic. Her attempt was to bring women into closer touch with unaltered female sexuality and place that sexuality clearly, unapologetically, within the realm of humanity: women, not as objects, but as human beings, truly a revolutionary concept.

But Greer has another side which allies itself with the worst of male chauvinism and it is that side which, I believe, made her articles acceptable to Suck’s editors and Suck acceptable to her. In an interview in the Amerikan Screw, reprinted in Suck under the tide “Germaine: ‘I am a Whore, ’” she stated:

Ideally, you’ve got to the stage where you really could ball everyone — the fat, the blind, the foolish, the impotent, the dishonest. We have to rescue people who are already dead. We have to make love to people who are dead, and that’s not easy.

Here is the ever popular notion that women, extending our role as sex object, can humanize an atrophied world. The notion is based on a false premise. Just as the pill was supposed to liberate women by liberating us sexually, i.e., we could fuck as freely as men, fucking is supposed to liberate women and men too. But the pill served to reinforce our essential bondage — it made us more accessible, more open to exploitation. It did not change our basic condition because it did nothing to challenge the sexist structure of society, not to mention conventional sexual relationships and couplings. Neither does promiscuity per se. Greer’s alliance with the sexual revolution is, sadly but implicitly, an alliance with male chauvinism because it does not speak to the basic condition of women which remains the same if we fuck one man a week, or twenty.

There is similar misunderstanding in this statement:

Well, listen, this is one of the things a woman has to understand, and I get a bit impatient sometimes with women who can’t see it. A woman, after all, in this country is a commodity. She’s a status symbol, and the prettier she is the more expensive, the more difficult to attain. Anyone can have a fat old lady. But young girls with clear eyes are not for the 40-year-old man who’s been working as a packer or a storeman all his life. So that when he sees her he snarls, mostly I think, because she’s not available to him. She’s another taunt, and yet another index of how the American dream is not his to have. He never had a girl like that and he never will.

Now, I think that the most sensible way for us to see the crime of rape is an act of aggression against this property symbol. . . (but I’m not sure about this at all —I mean, I think it’s also aggression against the mother who fucks up so many people’s lives). And I must think that as a woman, who has not done a revolution, have not put myself on the barricade on this question, I owe it to my poor brothers not to get uptight. Because I am that, I am a woman they could never hope to ball, and in the back of my mind I reject them too.

Here again, the alliance is with male chauvinism, and it is incomprehensible. Mothers fuck up people’s lives in direct proportion to how fucked up their own lives are — that fuck up is the role they must play, the creative possibilities they must abort. Greer surely knows that and must speak to it. Women who walk, as opposed to those who take taxis or drive (another relevant class distinction), are constantly harassed, often threatened with violence, often violated. That is the situation which is the daily life of women.

It is true, and very much to the point, that women are objects, commodities, some deemed more expensive than others —but it is only by asserting one’s humanness every time, in all situations, that one becomes someone as opposed to something. That, after all, is the core of our struggle.

Rape, of course, does have its apologists. Norman Mailer posits it, along with murder, as the content of heroism. It is, he tells us in The Presidential Papers, morally superior to masturbation. Eldridge Cleaver tells us that it is an act of political rebellion — he “practiced” on Black women so that he could rape white women better. Greer joins the mystifying chorus when she posits rape as an act of aggression against property (a political anticapitalist action no less) and suggests that it might also be an act of psychological rebellion against the ominous, and omnipresent, mother. Rape is, in fact, simple straightforward heterosexual behavior in a male-dominated society. It offends us when it does, which is rarely, only because it is male-female relation without shame —without the mystifying romance of the couple, without the civility of a money exchange. It happens in the home as well as on the streets. It is not a function of capitalism — it is a function of sexism.

Here Dworkin is rightly criticizing Greer’s “Radical Feminism” – the same brand of “Radical Feminism” that would later have Greer publicly claiming that trans women are not women because trans women don’t know what it is “to have a big, hairy, smelly vagina.” Dworkin, like Wittig, notes that the “Radical Feminism” of people like Greer is lacking a simple, yet fundamental, truth about the struggle against patriarchy. As Dworkin notes:

[Greer’s writing] did not change our basic condition because it did nothing to challenge the sexist structure of society…  it is only by asserting one’s humanness every time, in all situations, that one becomes someone as opposed to something. That, after all, is the core of our struggle.

As Wittig notes:

For there is no sex. There is but sex that is oppressed and sex that oppresses. It is oppression that creates sex and not the contrary. The contrary would be to say that sex creates oppression, or to say that the cause (origin) of oppression is to be found in sex itself, in a natural division of the sexes preexisting (or outside of) society. The primacy of difference so constitutes our thought that it prevents turning inward on itself to question itself, no matter how necessary that may be to apprehend the basis of that which precisely constitutes it.

As pioneering trans-feminist and academic Suzan Striker noted over 20 years ago:

[T]he Nature you bedevil me with is a lie. Do not trust it to protect you from what I represent, for it is a fabrication that cloaks the groundlessness of the privilege you seek to maintain for yourself at my expense. You are as constructed as me; the same anarchic Womb has birthed us both. I call upon you to investigate your nature as I have been compelled to confront mine.

TERFs seem to think power comes from protecting the boundaries of being a thing – a class: woman/female – instead of, time and again, returning to that which we all share: our humanity. TERFs seek a type of  freedom by carving out a sexed space within a heteronormative contextualization humanity; a natural sexed binary to which TERFs – finally and for a precious short time – get to taste the power of being a gender gatekeeper. To the precise extent TERFs work to culturally contextualize trans women as ghastly parodies of the mystical “natural woman” do they actively strengthen the very patriarchy they claim to hate. When TERFs wittily rebuke trans women’s validity by satirizing, explicating, analyzing and noting the various ways a trans woman’s vagina might smell, they’re validating the very vaginal smell trope Radical Feminism worked so hard to dispel.

TERFs – like women who seek empowerment through participation in raunch culture – try to make patriarchy work for them by deploying the tools of patriarchy against other women. Female chauvinists objectify women through their participation in raunch culture. TERFs objectify women through sex essentialism. For TERFs, there really is a sexed essence that a god and/or Nature endowed them and for female chauvinists, this essence must be sexualized. Both the TERF and the Female chauvinists are actors for the patriarchy and both are rewarded – in a Foucauldian sense – with power for their troubles. I find it telling that the  long-term TERF opinion leader Germaine Greer has a history of seeking empowerment through both sex essentialism and raunch culture.


If you’re wondering why trans and intersex people aren’t guilty as (ironically) charged by TERFs of “reinforcing gender stereotypes” let me first quote you Dworkin:

Hormone and chromosome research, attempts to develop new means of human reproduction (life created in, or considerably supported by, the scientist’s laboratory), work with transsexuals, and studies of formation o f gender identity in children provide basic information which challenges the notion that there are two discrete biological sexes. That information threatens to transform the traditional biology of sex difference into the radical biology of sex similarity. That is not to say that there is one sex, but that there are many. The evidence which is germane here is simple. The words “male” and “female, ” “man” and “woman, ” are used only because as yet there are no others.

There’s a reason trans and intersex people want to use prefixes like cis/ipso/trans and there’s a reason TERFs view such things as being problematic for their strategy of empowerment.

Consider reading:

 

“Gender Critical Feminism” = Heteronormative Sex Essentialism

Views: 12488

Gender Critical Feminism (GCF) is a euphemism for TERF. There is no ideological difference between the TERF and “Gender Critical Feminist” (GCF) movement; they are one in the same. GCF teaches that because sex is a natural binary, intersex people are actually just deformed men and women and trans people are always the sex they were assigned at birth. As Janice Raymond’s acolyte Sheila Jeffreys wrote, “sex” is fixed and referring to trans women with female pronouns is therefore immoral in the sense that it is a dishonorable act.

Postmodern and queer theorists share with transgender theorists the idea that “gender” is a moveable feast that can be moved into and out of, swapped and so forth. Gender, used in this sense, disappears the fixedness of sex, the biological basis that underlies the relegation of females to their sex caste. The inferior sex caste status of women is assigned with reference to their biology, and it is through their biology that their subordination is enforced and maintained through rape, impregnation and forced childbearing. Another reason for adherence to pronouns that indicate biology is that, as a feminist, I consider the female pronoun to be an honorific, a term that conveys respect. Respect is due to women as members of a sex caste that have survived subordination and deserve to be addressed with honour. – Sheila Jeffreys, PhD, Gender Hurts, pp 5-6

While GCF/TERFs claim that they apply a “Radical Feminist” critique to gender, they are actually an ideological offshoot of Radical Feminism because instead of rejecting sex essentialism, the GCF/TERF movement uses sex essentialism as its ideological foundation. GCF/TERFs are generally sex-essentialists who believe that sex is a natural binary because there exists some undefined male or female essence that is found in all men and women. Sometimes this sexed essence is viewed as habits acquired during early socialization and at other times it is some specific sex attribute.  The specific “essence” that GCF/TERFs appeal to changes from time to time, depending on the argument they’re making.

Many trans people are generally highly critical of a supposed natural sex and gender binary. In this way, the views of trans people can align well with the views of the Radical Feminist movement. The progenitor of Radical Feminism, Monique Wittig, rejected notions of a natural sex binary:

The ideology of sexual difference functions as censorship in our culture by masking, on the ground of nature, the social opposition between men and women. Masculine/feminine, male/female are the categories which serve to conceal the fact that social differences always belong to an economic, political, ideological order. Every system of domination establishes divisions at the material and economic level. Furthermore, the divisions are abstracted and turned into concepts by the masters, and later on by the slaves when they rebel and start to struggle. The masters explain and justify the established divisions as a result of natural differences. The slaves, when they rebel and start to struggle, read social oppositions into the so-called natural differences. For there is no sex. There is but sex that is oppressed and sex that oppresses. It is oppression that creates sex and not the contrary. The contrary would be to say that sex creates oppression, or to say that the cause (origin) of oppression is to be found in sex itself, in a natural division of the sexes preexisting (or outside of) society. The primacy of difference so constitutes our thought that it prevents turning inward on itself to question itself, no matter how necessary that may be to apprehend the basis of that which precisely constitutes it.”

Sandy Stone, a trans woman who was targeted for death by armed TERFs, said, “There is no ‘natural’ sex, because ‘sex’ itself as a medical or cultural category is nothing more the momentary outcome of battles over who owns the meanings of the category.” Most TERF/GCFs are ideological sex essentialists; most trans, intersex and RadFems are not.

“Hormone and chromosome research, attempts to develop new means of human reproduction (life created in, or considerably supported by, the scientist’s laboratory), work with transsexuals, and studies of formation of gender identity in children provide basic information which challenges the notion that there are two discrete biological sexes. That information threatens to transform the traditional biology of sex difference into the radical biology of sex similarity. That is not to say there is one sex, but that there are many. The evidence which is germane here is simple. The words ‘male’ and ‘female,’ ‘man’ and ‘woman,’ are used only because as yet there are no others.” – Andrea Dworkin, Woman Hating, pp 175 – 176

If one were to substitute “nature” for “god,” the sex essentialism found in the TERF/GCF crew is somewhat similar to the sex essentialism found in right-wing ideology. It is therefore not uncommon to find anti-gay propaganda mills and Tea Party politicians quoting TERF/GCFs and TERF/GCFs quoting anti-gay Tea Party propagandists. Just as right-wingers have token gay people, the TERF/GCF crew has token trans people. The GCF/TERF movement, much like other sex essentialist ideologies, encourages trans people to detransition.

So, let’s fly under our true colors, shall we? This group that professes to be “critical” of gender is so entrenched in it that they can’t even understand that they are acting agents of the very gender system they claim to hate. Or, as Wittig said, “The primacy of difference so constitutes our thought that it prevents turning inward on itself to question itself, no matter how necessary that may be to apprehend the basis of that which precisely constitutes it.

Here’s what most GCFs profess:

  • Females are a caste system because of “class analysis”
  • The binary is real; sex isn’t a continuum because “sexual dimorphism”
  • Intersex people are just deformed binary sexes because “sexual dimorphism”
  • Male and Female habits (socialization) are essential to being authentic males/females.
  • “Male” and “Female” sex identifiers should be compulsory and eternal
  • “Male” and “Female” gender identifiers are BS because “social construction”
  • “Gender identity” only ever means cultural identities

When pressed on their ideology, GCF will almost never be able to name the attributes of their “class analysis” or “social constructionism.” On a recent BBC interview, Sheila Jeffreys asserted, “the phenomenon of transgenderism [sic] which is a social construction…  is harmful to many groups of persons.” From what I’ve seen, these claims merely function as academic-sounding ideas whose value is purely rhetorical. Some of the brightest feminist thinkers of our time have noticed this too. Judith Butler notes that when GCF/TERF opinion leaders like Sheila Jeffreys burbles on about social constructionism, the things she says makes no sense to people who actually understand social constructionism. Butler observes that Sheila Jeffreys and Janice Raymond “offers a kind of feminist policing of trans lives and trans choices.” About Jeffreys’ “social construction” talking points, Butler said, “If she makes use of social construction as a theory to support her view, she very badly misunderstands its terms.” She goes on to say, “I oppose this kind of prescriptivism, which seems me to aspire to a kind of feminist tyranny.”

I read Jeffreys’ book, Gender Hurts. In the precise way she hamfistedly appropriates social constructionism to attack trans people, she appropriates the concept of class analysis to support her targeting of trans people. Gender Hurts is not a class analysis of gender; rather, it is merely an appeal to class analysis. If you want to see a GCF/TERF squirm, press them to explicitly map the precise attributes of their “class analysis.” They’ll simply appeal to the authority of this academic pseudo-radical terminology until they’re blue in the face. When they utterly fail to support their position, then inform them that the progenitor of Radical Feminism rejected such analysis as rhetorical woo.

Consider what Witting has to say about much of what we find in GCF/TERF ideology. Remember, the following is foundational Radical Feminist thought, not (as GCF/TERFs would say) “transgender ideology:”

[N]ot only is there no natural group “women” (we lesbians are living proof of it), but as individuals as well we question “woman,” which for us, as for Simone de Beauvoir, is only a myth. She said: “One is not born, but becomes a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society: it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.”

However, most of the feminists and lesbian-feminists in America and elsewhere still believe that the basis of women’s oppression is biological as well as historical. Some of them even claim to find their sources in Simone de Beauvoir.

Colette Guillaumin has shown that before the socioeconomic reality of black slavery, the concept of race did not exist, at least not in its modern meaning, since it was applied to the lineage of families. However, now, race, exactly like sex, is taken as an “immediate given,” a “sensible given,” “physical features,” belonging to a natural order. But what we believe to be a physical and direct perception is only a sophisticated and mythic construction, an “imaginary formation,” which reinterprets physical features (in themselves as neutral as any others but marked by the social system) through the network of relationships in which they are perceived. (They are seen as black, therefore they are black; they are seen as women, therefore, they are women. But before being seen that way, they first had to be made that way.) Lesbians should always remember and acknowledge how “unnatural,” compelling, totally oppressive, and destructive being “woman” was for us in the old days before the women’s liberation movement. It was a political constraint, and those who resisted it were accused of not being “real” women. But then we were proud of it, since in the accusation there was already something like a shadow of victory: the avowal by the oppressor that “woman” is not something that goes without saying, since to be one, one has to be a “real” one.

Besides, if we take as an example the perfect “butch,” the classic example which provokes the most horror, whom Proust would have called a woman/man, how is her alienation different from that of someone who wants to become a woman? Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

However, as Andrea Dworkin emphasizes, many lesbians recently “have increasingly tried to transform the very ideology that has enslaved us into a dynamic, religious, psychologically compelling celebration of female biological potential.” Thus, some avenues of the feminist and lesbian movement lead us back to the myth of woman which was created by men especially for us, and with it we sink back into a natural group. Having stood up to fight for a sexless society,” we now find ourselves entrapped in the familiar deadlock of “woman is wonderful.” Simone de Beauvoir underlined particularly the false consciousness which consists of selecting among the features of the myth (that women are different from men) those which look good and using them as a definition for women. What the concept “woman is wonderful” accomplishes is that it retains for defining women the best features (best according to whom?) which oppression has granted us, and it does not radically question the categories “man” and “woman,” which are political categories and not natural givens. It puts us in a position of fighting within the class “women” not as the other classes do, for the disappearance of our class, but for the defense of “woman” and its reinforcement. It leads us to develop with complacency “new” theories about our specificity: thus, we call our passivity “nonviolence,” when the main and emergent point for us is to fight our passivity (our fear, rather, a justified one).

She goes on to note that if we are to apply class analysis to “woman,” it can only be done as a political class aimed at deconstructing the “natural” sex binary. GCF/TERFs do the exact opposite and view “woman” as a natural biological class aimed at deconstructing the a political binary.

lWTMWBW[1]

Wittig continues:

Marxist theory does not allow women any more than other classes of oppressed people to constitute themselves as historical subjects, because Marxism does not take into account the fact that a class also consists of individuals one by one. Class consciousness is not enough. We must try to understand philosophically (politically) these concepts of “subject” and “class consciousness” and how they work in relation to our history. When we discover that women are the objects of oppression and appropriation, at the very moment that we become able to perceive this, we become subjects in the sense of cognitive subjects, through an operation of abstraction. Consciousness of Oppression is not only a reaction to (fight against) oppression. It is also the whole conceptual reevaluation of the social world, its whole reorganization with new concepts, from the point of view of oppression. It is what I would call the science of oppression created by the oppressed. This operation of understanding reality has to be undertaken by every one of us: call it a subjective, cognitive practice. The movement back and forth between the levels of reality (the conceptual reality and the material reality of oppression, which are both social realities) is accomplished through language.

It is we who historically must undertake the task of defining the individual subject in materialist terms. This certainly seems to be an impossibility since materialism and subjectivity have always been mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, and rather than despairing of ever understanding, we must recognize the need to reach subjectivity in the abandonment by many of us to the myth “woman” (the myth of woman being only a snare that holds us up). This real necessity for everyone to exist as an individual, as well as a member of a class, is perhaps the first condition for the accomplishment of a revolution, without which there can be no real fight or transformation. But the opposite is also true; without class and class consciousness there are no real subjects, only alienated individuals.

Here, Wittig explicitly notes that the subjective is the fatal flaw of Marxist theory. You cannot appropriate and objectify women as a class; as a monolithic “thing” called “sex.” It is the subjective that can’t be erased when being critical of the supposed natural sex binary. Again, this isn’t so-called “transgender ideology,” this is Radical Feminism. And yet, with GCF/TERF goggles on, even Wittig supposedly rejected the subjective regarding gender:

pEeYjaX[1]

GCF/TERFs offer a perspective of sex and gender that’s fatally warped to the point that it explicitly advocates for the very ideas foundational Radical Feminist theory rejected. GCF/TERFs might call themselves RadFem or “gender critical” but what they offer is the very poison chalice RadFems spent decades warning against; it’s an ideology at war with its own roots. The very perspective GCF/TERFs so viciously attack is the foundation of Radical Feminism. GCF/TERFs have such a long history of, with all the asperity of a hellfire creationist, asserting that sexing everyone is better/different/more natural than gendering everyone that I hold no hope they will see past their own obtuse equivocations.

Radical feminists have developed the most realistic framework for analyzing the social realities of gender. Specifically: gender is a hierarchy which is constructed on top of the (real, permanent, dimorphic) category of biological sex. – GCF trans woman, SnowFlakeEspecial

Stop me if you’ve heard this GCF/TERF meme before: unless the natural sex binary is embraced and enforced, gay men and lesbians will disappear. Wittig refuted that meme decades ago but GCF/TERFs don’t want you to know that:

To destroy “woman” does not mean that we aim, short of physical destruction, to destroy lesbianism simultaneously with the categories of sex, because lesbianism provides for the moment the only social form in which we can live freely. Lesbian is the only concept I know of which is beyond the categories of sex (woman and man), because the designated subject (lesbian) is not a woman, either economically, or politically, or ideologically. For what makes a woman is a specific social relation to a man, a relation that we have previously called servitude, a relation which implies personal and physical obligation as well as economic obligation (“forced residence,” domestic corvee, conjugal duties, unlimited production of children, etc.), a relation which lesbians escape by refusing to become or to stay heterosexual. We are escapees from our class in the same way as the American runaway slaves were when escaping slavery and becoming free. For us this is an absolute necessity; our survival demands that we contribute all our strength to the destruction of the class of women within which men appropriate women. This can be accomplished only by the destruction of heterosexuality as a social system which is based on the oppression of women by men and which produces the doctrine of the difference between the sexes to justify this oppression.

It is the system of heteronormativity that is at the root of oppression and it is the heteronormative gaze that produced the concept of the natural sex binary. It is only with a perspective rooted in heteronormativity that a GCF/TERF can assert that gender is an oppressive system that must be abolished by replacing it with a new set of taboos, norms, language and identity labels all must adhere to and somehow won’t be gender. A GCF/TERF seems to think that when they assert that a trans woman is male, insists upon using male pronouns, uses the person’s old name/old picture to construct a sex context for the trans woman to occupy within a cultural system, they aren’t engaging in forced gender performance.

If “he” is hurtful or if “she” is hurtful and you’re a friend, or someone who isn’t an asshole then I avoid using them. However I’m not, nor should I or anyone, actually be expected to lie to appease another’s feelings. When we (gender critical folk) are accused of “misgendering” what we are actually doing is telling the truth.  “He” and “she” denote sex, lets be honest about that and sex is immutable. – WhoIsCis, GCF affiliated with GenderIdentityWatch

In fact, most of them will assert that they aren’t performing gender, that they are instead honoring natural sex binary. They do this without seeing any irony. They seek to institutionalize the naturalistic essence-based sex binary as a means of taking ownership of sex labels, which they mistake for authentic empowerment.

Another reason for adherence to pronouns that indicate biology is that, as a feminist, I consider the female pronoun to be an honorific, a term that conveys respect. Respect is due to women as members of a sex caste that have survived subordination and deserve to be addressed with honour. – Sheila Jeffreys, PhD, Gender Hurts, pp 5-6

Let’s contrast the above GCF/TERF view with foundational Radical Feminist theory:

However, most of the feminists and lesbian-feminists in America and elsewhere still believe that the basis of women’s oppression is biological as well as historical. Some of them even claim to find their sources in Simone de Beauvoir… But what we believe to be a physical and direct perception is only a sophisticated and mythic construction, an “imaginary formation,” which reinterprets physical features (in themselves as neutral as any others but marked by the social system) through the network of relationships in which they are perceived. Lesbians should always remember and acknowledge how “unnatural,” compelling, totally oppressive, and destructive being “woman” was for us in the old days before the women’s liberation movement. It was a political constraint, and those who resisted it were accused of not being “real” women. But then we were proud of it, since in the accusation there was already something like a shadow of victory: the avowal by the oppressor that “woman” is not something that goes without saying, since to be one, one has to be a “real” one.

It is heteonormitive indoctrination that prevents GCF/TERFs from understanding that the “natural sex binary” is just another aspect of gender. While much of the rest of the feminist world is confronting both the causes and effects of oppression, GCF/TERFs spend a significant amount of time and energy in preserving, supporting and appealing to a binary sexed body system constitutionally incapable of working with concepts like cis, trans, gender queer, agender, intersex as it relates to reality of human bodies because such views of humanity are supplanted by the asserted preeminence of an ad naturam binary sexed essence.

Men appropriating our identity hate us, and want to take our skin to become us. Can never happen, but they sure want to destroy us in the process.

No, of all the oppressive forces against Lesbians and women in patriarchy, I believe the trans cult is at the top. Far more dangerous than the rest of the right wing like the nazis and clan and christian, muslim, etc. religious fanatics, THEY WANT TO DESTROY US FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

They are like the worst form of parasite, who tricks the victim into protecting and fighting for those who are killing them. So we don’t even end up fighting these men directly. We have to first face the women who are standing in front of them, working to destroy all women’s rights.  – Bev Von Dohre, TERF pioneer

GCF/TERF ideology is rooted in a twisted ad naturam morality, not radical-feminist-gender-critical theory. Jeffreys herself puts it: “Consider that Another reason for adherence to pronouns that indicate biology is that, as a feminist, I consider the female pronoun to be an honorific, a term that conveys respect. Respect is due to women as members of a sex caste that have survived subordination and deserve to be addressed with honour.” Jeffreys seems totally oblivious to the reality that when she explicitly appeals to the embedded ad naturam morality within her natural sex binary, she is publicly pronouncing her attachment to and support of behavioral norms and taboos predicated upon a coercive binary cultural system. Jeffreys’ hubris and morality blind her to her own hypocrisy while functioning to validate her cruel behavior. Not buying into the naturalistic binary of Jeffreys’ female-essence is, to her mind, a morally dishonorable behavior. Jeffreys’ drive to lay claim to labels rooted in a morally natural male/female essence means that she is privileged to dismissively or mockingly disregard another’s identity precisely because, within her gender system, such behavior is honorable and even preordained.

“There is a witness to the transsexual’s script, a witness who is never consulted. She is the person who built the transsexual’s body of her own flesh and brought it up as her son or daughter, the transsexual’s worst enemy, his/her mother. Whatever else it is gender reassignment is an exorcism of the mother. When a man decides to spend his life impersonating his mother (like Norman Bates in Psycho) it is as if he murders her and gets away with it, proving at a stroke that there was nothing to her… ” – Germaine Greer, PhD, The Whole Woman

In transsexualism, males put on “female” bodies (which are in fact pseudofemale). In a real sense they are separated from their original mothers by the rituals of the counseling process, which usually result in “discovering” that the mother of the transsexual-to-be is at fault for his “gender identity crisis.” These “patients” are reborn from males. As Linda Barufaldi suggested, this fact was symbolized in the renaming of the renowned transsexual of tennis, Renee (literally, “re-born”) Richards, whose original first name was Richard.” The re-birthing male supermothers include psychiatrists, surgeons, hormone therapists, and other cooperating professionals. The surgeons and hormone therapists of the transsexual kingdom, in their effort to give birth, can be said to produce feminine persons. They cannot produce women. – Mary Daly, PhD, Gyn/Ecology, pp 67 – 68

It is only through a moralistic lense that the trans experience can be constructed as being monstrousFrankensteinian and/or even vampire-like. Notice that GCF/TERFs like Janice Raymond make a point of ensuring that the morality of the natural is withheld when speaking about trans women through phrases like, “male-to-constructed-female.” TERFs, so focused on watch-dogging which essence is natural (ie, “real” and therefore valid) – predicated on the notion that their appeal to their own perceived woman-essence is natural – they fail to perceive their own hypocrisy.

Transgender activists such as Serano have developed a new vocabulary to advance their political agenda. One of these new terms is ‘cis’, which they apply to all those who are not unhappy with their ‘gender’. In effect the term ‘cis’ creates two kinds of women, those with female bodies who are labeled ‘cisgender’, and those with male bodies who are ‘transwomen’. Women, those born female and raised as women, thus suffer a loss of status as they are relegated to being just one kind of woman and their voices will have to compete on a level playing field with the other variety, men who transgender. – Sheila Jeffreys, PhD, Gender Hurts, p 50

Returning to what Wittig said, “The primacy of difference so constitutes our thought that it prevents turning inward on itself to question itself, no matter how necessary that may be to apprehend the basis of that which precisely constitutes it.” Jeffreys, acting to protect her steak in a natural binary sexed essence asserts that cisgender should not be used because it somehow impugns the nature of her own claim within a natural sex binary. This isn’t about biology or feminist theory, it’s about a morality.

Let’s be clear about what GCF/TERFs offer. It’s not a non-gender system, it’s merely a new incarnation of a heteronormative gender system in which trans and intersex people are erased. It is an enfeebled attempt at empowerment through forced appropriation and objectification by defining what you are by what you’re not and in this way, what GCF/TERFs offer is nothing new or radical:

“Authentication and denaturalization, the second pair of tactics, respectively concern the construction of a credible or genuine identity and the production of an identity that is literally incredible or non-genuine. We have chosen the term authentication in deliberate contrast with authenticity, another term that circulates widely in scholarly discourses of identity and its critique. Where authenticity has been tied to essentialism through the notion that some identities are more ‘‘real’’ than others, authentication highlights the agentive processes whereby claims to realness are asserted. Such claims often surface in nationalist movements, where a shared language becomes a powerful force in the formation and articulation of an imagined national unity (Anderson 1983; Gellner 1983). Here the process of authentication often involves the rewriting of linguistic and cultural history.”– Mary Bucholtz and Kira Hall, Language and Identity in A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology

So, meet the new boss, the same as the old boss. It’s called “Gender Critical Feminism.”

Michigan Womyn’s Music Fest is Evil

Views: 12455

I have a story that will be coming out sometime this month and it comes from several hours of interviews I did with members of the Lesbian Avengers. They told me about what happened to their group back in 1999, when a mob of violent Michigan Womyn’s Music Fest (MWMF) TERFs held a trans kid against her will and threatened to murder her.

I’ve already released some of the interview in a MWMF post I did for TheTERFs.com. The entire interview is very difficult for me to listen to. I mean, after the physical and mental mob assault happened, one of the MWMF womyn tried to get the trans kid to put out… directly after they had psychologically gang raped her in public.

When an activist friend of mine raised this issue with MWMF*, the Fest claimed that trans people are lying about what happened, that their victim was mentally ill and drunk. They said that what they did to her was for her own good.

What Happened

In 1999, Camp Trans was largely organized by the Lesbian Avengers. The group bought a 16 year old trans girl to the MWMF ticket booth and informed them that they were from Camp Trans and that they had a trans youth with them. While the MWMF sold everyone in the group tickets, the moment the group of Avengers entered the gates, TERFs began trailing the 16 year old trans kid shouting, “MAN ON THE LAND!” This continued until the group turned into a mob that had surrounded the youth, screaming at her until MWMF security moved everyone to a tent where the trans youth was made to stand in front of an enormous group of TERFs who spent the next 2 hours berating her.  One adult openly threatened the life of the youth without consequence. The youth was marched to the gates of the festival and expelled.

[Lesbian Avenger] S: About 10 TERFs were waiting for us when we came in. The whole ‘MAN ON THE LAND!’ started as soon as we walked in. I mean, at the time, we’re kids, we’re teenagers and these are all adults. I mean, when I think about it now, it was just so fucked up. We were trying to give out t-shirts and stickers about being inclusive. But, it was getting bad.

[trans girl in the group] K: A huge crowd of yelling people formed around us and I started crying at that point. It got so loud that Nomy Lamm, who was performing there as part of Sister Spit, came over and stood up for us… The crowd and me were walked over to a tent area. The way that it worked was that there was a queue of people who were going to get to say whatever they wanted to say. I remember, specifically, one woman looking right at me and telling me that I needed to leave the Land as soon as possible because she had a knife and didn’t know if she would be able to control herself if I was around her.

Cristan Williams: WHAT? How did people react to that death threat?

K: Because of the way they were queuing, as soon as one person stopped speaking, another would start, so nobody said or did anything about the death threat. At that point, I checked out. I was first I was sobbing and [B] was holding my face close to hers, telling me that it would be over soon, but then I just checked out.

S: The moderator did nothing. It was just a mud-slinging, hatred pouring out. It was just like one by one by one being like, ‘You’re a rapist! You’re raping the Land! You’re destroying womanhood! I don’t know what I’m going to do to you!’ – it was just violent, hatred, and I know that most of it was geared at [K]. I was up there being attacked, but I wasn’t getting the brunt of it. This went on for at least two hours.  At least 30 people were allowed to speak at us, but there were around 75 under the tent, and if you included the people around the tent who were watching and listening, well over 100.

 

mwmf-terf

 

How, exactly, did MWMF know that this kid was “mentally ill”? I spent hours doing interviews for this story and I’ve found no evidence to support this fact assertion. Moreover, the kid wasn’t “intoxicated,” the kid was terrified.  At one point K was telling me that her friend held her face in her hands saying, “Shhh… It will be okay. It will all be over soon. Just look at me. Don’t look at them.” Now, imagine that after all of this, one of them tries to get you to put out. This was psychological rape. Any adult who took part in harming this kid in this way should – at the very least – have the decency to be ashamed… and the truth is that I know that they aren’t.

A fucking mob of adults did this to a trans kid. Can you imagine being a kid and being made to stand in front of a mob of TERFs, yelling at you, pouring out hate at you, making no bones about how despised and disgusting they think you are and then being told that at least one of them has a weapon and wants to murder you? And then imagine that nobody cared to do anything about a fucking adult, threatening to murder a trans kid in public. Imagine if you were 16 and this happened to you. Now that the truth is finally coming out, imagine that your abuser said that you’re crazy, you must have been drunk and that you deserved it.

Before the full story comes out, I invite the MWMF to clarify how they obtained this kid’s mental health records and if they don’t have the kid’s medical records, I’d like them to explain why they’ve publicly claimed that this kid was mentally ill. I invite them to publish the evidence to support any of their claims. I invite them to issue a statement and explain to everyone why the kid deserved what the she got.

I’d love to see that MWMF has to say, especially since the 16 year old was a straight edge teetotaler who has never been diagnosed as being “mentally ill”.

I hope to have the whole story published on the TransAdvocate this month.

PS:

TERFs plan to harass HRC tomorrow (Friday, 10/3/14) because HRC joined the National Black Justice Coalition, the Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the Nation Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the TransAdvocate (and many other social justice groups) in asking the MichFest stop their decades of trans discrimination:

So, apparently HRC owes MWMF an apology for asking that they stop discriminating against trans people.

Irony: These MWMF TERFs are appropriating the “Amazon” culture to promote their bigotry. The Amazons are based on the Scythians, a TRANS-INCLUSIVE culture.

Note: When I use “psychological rape” in this post, I’m talking about being forcibly positioned to accept a psychological violation that puts one in fear of their life. Moreover, I’ve used this term because the trauma was sexualized by a MWMF womyn when the kid was most vulnerable.

Update: *While the above twitter account exists to promote MWMF and organizing aspects of MWMF, after this post went up, this account now claims that it isn’t associated with MWMF.

Update 2: In addition to now claiming no affiliation with MWMF, the twitter account is now saying that they were referring to some other instance involving a trans kid.