Someone recently asked me to breakdown the link between the TERF opinion leader Janice Raymond and insurance policies that exclude trans care. Here’s the link to the original article. This article meticulously exposes a few less than truthful fact assertions Raymond has made, but it’s quite long.
So, here’s the TL;DR article excerpt version:
It was Raymond’s NCHCT report that allowed the OHTA report to assert that trans medical care was ethically “controversial”.
Therefore, exclusionary health policies which appeal to Raymond’s “controversial” claim constitute Raymond’s fingerprint. Consider the following:
1.) In 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Departmental Appeals Board reversed the HHS rule banning trans medical care. In the document, HHS reviewed the reason HHS had originally banned trans care:
The HHS Appeals Board Decision continues (NOTE: “NCD” = National Coverage Determination):
The NCHCT’s May 6, 1981 memorandum, the 1981 NCHCT report, and the notes of the HCFA Physicians Panel meeting on May 11, 1982, are the materials in the NCD record containing analysis by HCFA or PHS of the issue of Medicare coverage of transsexual surgery. Although the NCD was not issued until 1989, it is clear that the NCD was based on the NCHCT report and memorandum from 1981.
In other words, HHS has concluded that it was the 1981 report that HHS used to issue an NCD banning trans services.
2.) Recall that Raymond’s controversial claim is the very first sentence in HHS’ review of how and why trans services were banned from public health insurance policies. What follows is from a 2009 United Health policy banning trans services:
Note that the exclusionary language in this private insurance policy is the same word-for-word language as the exclusionary language from the HHS’ public insurance policy, as quoted by HHS:
This then, is the smoking gun. Here we have a private insurer quoting word-for-word a governmental policy which relied on Raymond for 1/3 of it’s findings; specifically, it’s finding that trans care is ethically controversial. Thus we can easily follow the timeline for Raymond’s part in the decimation of trans care in America:
1979: Raymond writes in her book, “I contend that the problem of transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence.”
1980: Raymond is contracted by the NCHCT to write a report on the ethics of trans medical care because the NCHCT must, by law, report on the ethical implications of medical technologies. In Raymond’s 1980 NCHCT report footnotes, her second citation reads, “See Thomas Szasz, review of THE TRANSSEXUAL EMPIRE: THE MAKING OF THE SHE-MALE by Janice G. Raymond, New York Times Book Review, June 10, 1979, p. 11.”
1981: Raymond’s NCHCT report and Raymond’s own citation are used to make the ethical case that trans medical care should be excluded from public insurance policies because it’s “controversial.” Thomas Szasz’s review of Raymond’s 1979 book (in which she calls for trans care to be morally mandated out of existence) is also cited.
1989: The National Coverage Determination (NCD) to exclude trans care from public insurance is published in the Federal Register.
1989 – 2013: Trans medical care is routinely excluded from both public and private health insurance plans.
2012: The State of California finds that barriers to trans health care “was a more reliable predictor of suicide than depression, history of alcohol/drug abuse treatment, physical victimization, or sexual assault.”
2013:HHS finds that the 1981 rational for excluding trans care is “no longer reasonable.”
2014: Private healthcare providers, citing HHS’s ruling, begin rolling back their trans healthcare exclusions. Janice Raymond sets up a webpage to publicly diminish her role in the revocation of trans health care (to which this fact checking article is a response). Raymond clarifies that when, in 1979 she wrote, “I contend that the problem of transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence,” she meant, “that I want to eliminate the medical and social systems that support transsexualism…”
Here’s an excerpt from titled Radical Inclusion: Recounting the Trans Inclusive History of Radical Feminism published in TSQ by Duke University Press:
This article reviews the ways in which radical feminism has been and continues to be trans inclusive. Trans inclusive radical feminist opinion leaders, groups, and events are reviewed and contrasted against a popular media narrative that asserts that radical feminism takes issue with trans people. Reviewed are historical instances in which radical feminists braved violence to ensure their feminism was trans inclusive.
In this article, I will review some of the ways in which the inclusion and support of trans people by radical feminists has been hidden from trans and feminist discourse, thereby creating the perception that radical feminism isn’t supportive of trans people. John Stoltenberg, a radical feminist author and long-term partner of the pioneering radical feminist opinion leader Andrea Dworkin, wrote (pers. comm., February 13, 2015), “The notion that truly revolutionary radical feminism is trans-inclusive is a no brainer. I honestly do not understand how or why a strain of radical feminism has emerged that favors a biology-based/sex-essentialist theory of ‘sex caste’ over the theory of ‘sex class’ as set forth in the work of [Monique] Wittig, Andrea [Dworkin], and [Catharine] MacKinnon. Can radical feminism be ‘reclaimed’ so that its trans-inclusivity—which is inherent—is made apparent? I hope so.” It is to this hope that I wish to draw attention to in this article.
To this end, I will utilize the feminist term trans exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) to distinguish the “biology-based/sex-essentialist” ideology Stoltenberg identified as being different from the analysis of the radical feminist opinion leaders he explicitly noted. In 2008, an online feminist community popularized TERF as a way of making a distinction between these two types of feminism. While this lexical distinction is useful, online TERF activists sometimes assert this term to be a slur, since some Internet users have used it in derogatory ways. Internet conflicts aside, I use this term in a manner consistent with its widely known original context, as asserted by the progenitor of the term, cisgender feminist Viv Smythe (Williams 2014a): “It was not meant to be insulting. It was meant to be a deliberately technically neutral description of an activist grouping. We wanted a way to distinguish TERFs from other RadFems with whom we engaged who were trans*-positive/neutral, because we had several years of history of engaging productively/substantively with non-TERF RadFems.”
Absent this distinction, much has been written of the various ways in which “radical feminism” is critical of the trans experience. It is commonplace to find popular media outlets assert that “radical feminists” take issue with trans people. The Globe and Mail asserted (Wente 2014), “In fact, the most bitter battle in the LGBT movement today is between radical feminists and the transgender movement.” The New Yorker recounted (Goldberg 2014) how a conference calling itself “Radfems Respond” was “going to try to explain why, at a time when transgender rights are ascendant, radical feminists insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women.” The National Post said (Kay 2014) that radical feminism and Paul McHugh are of one mind when it comes to trans people: “True sex change is simply not possible; you end up as a ‘feminized man’ or a ‘masculinized woman.’ Which is exactly what the radical feminists believe.”
Lost in these popular representations of radical feminism is its long and courageous trans inclusive history…
“I have been somewhat overwhelmed with J’s dominating conversations and manipulative style. J’s comments rarely bring any positive discussion and seem to frequently derail conversation. I feel like they threaten the safety of the group for the voices of transwomen and people of color.” – Complaint made to me from a PoC TCP group member yesterday
As many of you know, I’m involved with a historical project that seeks to uncover an erased trans-inclusive radical feminist hirstory. This effort is called The Conversations Project (TCP). Here’s what TCP clearly says that its purpose is:
From TCP’s “About” page
I personally think that it’s important to reclaim the voices of those women who risked even physical violence (from TERFs) to make sure that that trans women were included in their fight for the liberation of all women. As a primer, check out the feminist courage that can be found in the trans-inclusive radical feminist hirstory TCP is interested in examining:
In upcoming interviews, you’ll hear how a Black Lesbian radical feminist MichFest ride organizer related to Camp Trans. You’ll hear how TERFs destroyed one of the early militant radical feminist groups. In fact, there’s a year’s worth of upcoming interviews still to come.
As a historian, it’s hugely problematic that these stories appear nowhere else in feminist hirstory. Instead, we (especially trans people) are taught to believe that “radical feminism” is anti-trans and that “radical feminists” are transphobic. Such narratives go a long way towards erasing the very real courage of radical feminist women who risked their groups, organizations, and even put their own bodies in harm’s way to ensure that their feminism was trans inclusive. That courage should have its place in feminist hirstory.
Some disagree. Some, in the name of “radical feminism,” think those voices need to remain lost; they say time spent examining those voices is wasted time.
MAAB: Male Assigned At Birth
Primary Emergency: This is the term Andrea Dworkin used to language the primary problem facing the trans community. Andrea identified this problem as being exclusion from the women’s liberation movement.
SET: Sex Essentialist Theorist
TCP: The Conversations Project
TERF: Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist; a feminist term used to acknowledge that some “radical feminist” identified people seek to exclude trans people from some/all aspects of the women’s liberation movement.
Here’s the long and short of a drama that’s been unfolding around TCP for months now. The project has a FaceBook group whose purpose is quite clearly spelled out:
The pinned TCP FB group guidelines.
Part of TCP is the serialized publication of a discussion between John Stoltenberg and I that began more than a year ago. This conversation is important because it represents a trans feminist and a radical feminist (finally) coming together to have an in-depth talk about radical and trans feminist hirstory and how that hirstory has affected the lives of just about every trans person in America. Through that context, a lot of radical and trans feminist content is covered. I know of no other book-length discussion like this. In some significant ways, this is what reconciliation between radical and trans feminism looks like.
John Stoltenberg is a radical feminist author and was the life partner of Andrea Dworkin. That John would be willing to break ranks and engage in a conversation like this with me, a trans woman and editor of the TransAdvocate, has been viewed as (in certain circles) a heresy of the highest order. For John’s (perceived) betrayal, TERFs have spent the last couple of months character assassinating John. Here are the basic BS criticisms of John and, of course, TCP:
John didn’t really know Andrea the way that her friends knew her. A couple of people who knew Andrea (and who tends to think that Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys had powerful insights into what they call “transgenderism” and “transgender ideology”), think that they, not her life partner were privy to Andrea’s true feelings towards trans folk.
A friend of Andrea used Andrea to submit her anti-trans screed to a publisher who rejected it and this proves that she was anti-trans. Nikki Craft asked Andrea to please submit Nikki’s anti-trans essay* to Psychology Today. Because Andrea did this for her friend, this proves that, contrary to what Andrea herself wrote, Andrea was anti-trans. Moreover, passing along an essay, means that Andrea actually co-wrote the essay. Yup, physically touching a paper to hand it off to someone else is apparently now enough to bestow full co-author status to Andrea, thus proving that Andrea didn’t support trans people accessing trans health care.
Talking about what Andrea wrote in Woman Hating about trans folk is wrong because Andrea actually later repudiated it. Where? Nobody seems to be able to actually point to anything specific, but I’m told that if I “read Dworkin’s other books” (which I have, more than once) I’ll see that this is true.
People of color won’t participate in TCP because it’s all about white people. (*cough* quote at the beginning of this post *cough*)
I’m not going to innumerate that attacks against me because they’re just the same stuff TS Separatists used to say about me when I was researching “transgender.” Except now they’re saying it about “radical feminism.” Basically, it’s all different shades of this nonsense:
So, Julian Real is someone who has been publicly open about being a member of TCP group. Julian is also a supporter of the cis woman who’s promulgating many of the above claims. After numerous group member complaints and innumerable moderation incidents relating to Julian’s posturing within the group, Julian was recently removed from the group by unanimous consensus of all six group moderators. As a result, Julian (a white non-trans woman MAAB) is now running around bemoaning TCP’s purpose and talking up how much more radical and feminist their understanding of everything is and how the voices of TCP are really just neoliberal pablum.
So, for the record, here’s how things went down:
Julian attacked a commentary about a specific passage in a specific book that was written in a specific historical context… for not being commentary about something other than that specific passage of that specific book in that specific historical context. Then, after being confronted for trying to derail yet another group conversation, Julian began to again posture in the group. Here’s the response to Julian’s behavior that I posted:
Your reply is erasure from a place of privilege.
You’ve privileged yourself in deciding for poor trans women of color that exclusion -as full Sisters- from the women’s liberation movement should be subordinate to your ideas of how to overcome “capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy” (as if we’re talking about fundamentally different things). The irony is that you rhetorically subordinate their inclusion from women’s liberation from an asserted position of speaking *for* them. It’s sometimes a bit like hearing the rich of the USSR tell the poor -in the name of anti-capitalism/colonialism/patriarchy- that work will make them free.
Your persistent effort to, in violation of the boundaries of this group, advocate that its members should to spend their group time thinking about the rationals SET “feminists” cite when projecting, popularizing, and promoting their anti-trans fears, anxieties, and animus is an act of hostility against this group and its membership. Moreover, it’s an act of profound the group members and the erased, hidden, and silenced inclusive radical feminist hirstories we meet here to respect.
I 100% reject your premise that focusing our group on the radical feminism that bravely fought to include trans women as Sisters in women’s liberation = being pro-capitalism/colonialism/patriarchy. Additionally, I think the fact that you are not a trans women whose existence has been defined by the (as you privilege yourself in seeing it, irrelevant) actions of a “few white lesbians” (as you call it), contributes to the problematic ways you’ve engaged in this group. While I also reject this characterization as being patently false, that you state it as fact provides some insight into the place of (apparent) unexamined privilege you engage from.
As a trans woman who lived through deaths and hardships caused by the very ideology you claim must be considered, in the name of life and liberation no less, I experience your verbal gesticulations as a (possibly clueless) hubris born of privilege that is very toxic.
It’s not only me that experiences your privilege as toxic, numerous individuals of various racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds have, since your arrival in this group, contacted mods to express exasperation with the position/way you approach group participation. In fact, I’ve noticed that we’ve lost members and that *many* others no longer participate.
It’s not that people are turned off by the theory you sometimes share. I very much enjoy some of the books, resources, etc. that you share. I think they enrich the experience of this group. That’s not the problem that I and others have with your participation… It’s the way you privilege yourself to define for others what their primary emergency is that’s the issue. From what I see, the fact that you’ve not shared that primary emergency seems to color much of the way you interact with this group.
At this point, I find the sound and fury coming from the side that wants TCP to just go away ridiculous. It’s a bunch of wasted time and energy. Do these people really think that we’re going to stop interviewing the people who were on the ground in the 70s and 80s? Do they think we’re just going to stop publishing those hirstories?
If anything, as evidenced by this very post, their hyperbole just brings attention to the very thing they wish to mandate out of existence. Yes, their blogosphere chamber might well echo, but really… Why lie about Andrea co-authoring anti-trans screeds? Why spend months personally attacking and defaming John? Why use (as in, appropriate) the oppression and pain of POC as a tool to disrupt conversations about silenced feminist hirstory? How does any of these online teapot tempests advance the liberation of women as a sex class? How can they claim to do all of this in the name of feminism?
Personally, all of this feels very familiar to me. It feels a lot like the pushback I faced when researching the history of “transgender”. When I was researching the history of “transgender,” the demonstrable historical record conflicted with the history a certain identity was founded upon and they attacked. Now I’m researching the historical narrative that asserts “radical feminism” wants to mandate trans bodies out of existence. Both John and I have faced significant pushback for our efforts.
Even so, I expect that what will happen is that, regardless of these attacks, this hirstory will become part of the feminist hirstorical record. I expect that it will become harder for international news outlets to propagate the false narrative that “radical feminism” is anti-trans. I expect that those who are fighting to keep an erased feminist hirstory lost will find that people are actually interested in what these silenced voices have to say:
So, hopefully this will be my one and only post regarding the hyperbole spewing from a certain section of the internet.
*NOTE: The “anti-trans” essay Nikki Craft wrote was written upon the (absolutely wrong) premise that trans folk love Dr. John Money. Money was an ass who was willing to hurt people in furtherance of his bogus gender theories. He was willing to force children to live as the sex assigned them, telling them to accept their bodies. Moreover, Money promoted the ridiculous idea gender stereotypes and roles came from neurology, not culture. While it’s true that one must have a brain in order to become indoctrinated to sexism, Money was wrong; sexism isn’t innate to brains.
I’m fairly happy with the response I’ve received from radical feminists of all ages who are trans inclusive and want their stories and voices heard. As it was with the so-call “TS Separatists” who sparked my interest in the etiology of “transgender,” the TERF crew sparked my interest in understanding how it was that “Radical Feminism” came to be regarded as an anti-trans movement. From learning where “TERF” actually came from to having the privilege of interviewing some really amazing RadFem people, I find myself paradoxically grateful to all the anti-trans people who caught my attention with their anti-trans animus wrapped up and sold as “radical feminism.” They are the ones who inspired me to fact check their historical claims.
Most of all, I feel incredibly honored and privileged to receive the history of elder radfems who put their own personal safety on the line to remain trans inclusive. When I think about all that has been done in their names, it’s fucking heartbreaking. Thank you (you know who you are) to the peer reviewed journal that’s publishing some of this history. Thank you to a certain radfem who opened my eyes to all of this rich, yet hidden history. Thank you to all of those who have agreed to be part of the book. But most of all, I’m just so sorry that I can’t publicly thank you without you being attacked for your truth, your history and your trans inclusion. I hate that I can’t thank you without an anti-trans mob harassing you in order to keep your herstory hidden. I’m just so damn sorry for those of you who declined to be part of this research project because you said you feared reprisals from TERFs.
My firm hope is that your compassion, exclusivity, and commitment to a world without sexism is, at some point, publicly recognized and honored.
BTW – if you’re a RadFem and you wish to share your history of trans inclusion, please contact me here. All of the interviews and oral histories I collect will be donated to the Trans Archive so that the truth of your feminism is preserved.