Talking Dworkin with trans folks who were taught to hate her

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I reply:

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

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

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

However, what’s actually written is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Androgyny myths are multisexual mythical models. – p 153

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is correct.

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

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

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

A trans feminist perspective on the NY Times piece

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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.

#TERFpatriarchy, Germaine Greer and Radical Feminism

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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: 24376

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.

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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:

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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.”

Gender Orientation, Identity and Expression

Views: 7303

I’ve seen so many arguments and misunderstandings pop up over the conflation of these THREE dimensions of what we collectively refer to as gender:

  1. Gender Orientation: One’s subjective experience of one’s own physical sex.
  2. Gender Identity: One’s culturally influenced identification of one’s sex within the context of a social grouping.
  3. Gender Expression: One’s situational expression of cultural ques which communicate gender identity.

Note that gender identity and expression are absolutely culturally influenced. However, even if you stick me on a deserted island, I am still going to have a subjective experience of my physical sex. It’s through culture that I label my gender orientation and situationally express/repress it. Just because someone’s gender orientation is female does not automatically mean that the person’s gender identity and expression will also be female. So-called reparative/curative  therapies focus on controlling one’s gender identity and expression in an attempt to change one’s gender orientation. Ironically, this approach reveals the reality of a fixed gender orientation:

I had become addicted to certain forms of behavior in order to nurture that fantasy. I had chosen to abandon my manhood, one of God’s good gifts to me… Eventually I could see that abandoning that behavior was best for my life. Daily I continued to yield my life’s choices to Christ in the pursuit of personal wholeness… My own reflection in the window pane is different now. It’s no longer a stylish woman, waiting for the receptionist’s announcement. Now I see the man God created me to be. No longer must I be seen as Jennifer. My real identity is contained in the name I proudly answer to: Jerry. – Reality Resources, Jennifer or Jerry?, p.23

The individual in the above narrative is attempting to change their gender orientation through a perpetual practice of ritualized rejection which involves demeaning their orientation while taking on male identity and expression. The foundational falsehood of this strategy is immediately apparent to those who understand that gender is more than cultural modalities for if there is no innate subjective experience of one’s own sex, the “ex-transsexual” would not require a daily ritualized practice of denial and repression.

This strategy is again employed in the following religious “healing” narrative:

He could see that I was processed of this thing, which only now, I realize was demonic. I knelt on the study floor, in tears, I was choking, forces were telling me not to do it, to walk out; freedom as a woman awaited me, after all, I had made such progress. I fought back, I cried aloud, I repented, I rebuked what had gone on in my life… All this happened 18 months ago… I gave them my suitcases of dresses, clothes, make up etc. It made me feel sick, and it was a major thing for me to do. I had to get rid of all that had held me before. They disposed of the stuff. I stopped having manicures, and cut my nails short, I grew a small beard. I threw all the [hormone] tablets away, and turned away from anything that had to do with my desires. I asked my Pastor for a verse that I could look at every day and enjoy my new freedom as a man, a father and a husband. I put a piece of paper next to my bed, with encouraging verses, which I read every morning when I got out of bed. I knew that the woman inside was dead. The power of Christ had destroyed her, and all she stood for. Eighteen months on, the devil still tries to persuade me, but he knows that I will not go down that path, as the consequences for my family would be immense. I am accountable to several people, and I am enjoying my manhood. – Sam’s Story

Again, the strategy is to change one’s orientation by assuming an identity and expression in opposition to their orientation. The failure of this approach is apparent in their need to engage in a daily ritualized practice of denial and repression. RadFems make the same mistake that anti-trans religious apologists make when they conflate gender identity and expression with gender orientation:

My main conclusion is that transsexualism is basically a social problem whose cause cannot be explained except in relation to the sex role and identities that a patriarchal society generates. Through hormonal and surgical means, transsexuals reject their “native” bodies, especially their sexual organs, in favor of the body and the sexual organs of the opposite sex. They do this mainly because the body and the genitalia, especially, come to incarnate the essence of their rejected masculinity and desired femininity. Thus transsexualism is the result of socially prescribed definitions of masculinity and femininity, one of which the transsexual rejects in order to gravitate towards the other.

Thus I will argue, in Chapter III, that the First Cause of transsexualism is a gender-defined society whose norms of masculinity and femininity generate the desire to be transsexed…. I believe that the primary cause of transsexualism cannot be derived from intrapsyic attitudes and/or behaviors, or even from family conditioning processes. One must begin with the roles of a gender-defined society, as the First Cause of transsexualism (that which, in the Aristotelian sense, sets all other causes in motion.)

– Janice Raymond (1979), The Transsexual Empire, page 16

There you have it: framing the transsexual experience in terms of gender identity and expression. Raymond asserts a belief that the transsexual’s subjective experience of their own physical sex is cause by (and can therefore can be cured by) modifying the cultural gender modalities available within the context of a partiality society. After asserting her views of transsexualsim with all the hubris of the religious fanatic, a year later Raymond wrote the brief that the Reagan Administration used to justify excluding trans health care from care plans:

While there are many who feel that morality must be built into law, I believe that the elimination of transsexualism is not best achieved by legislation prohibiting transsexual treatment and surgery but rather by legislation that limits it and by other legislation that lessens the support given to sex-role stereotyping, which generated the problem to begin with. Any legislation should be aimed at the social conditions that initiate and promote the surgery as well as the growth of the medical-institutional complex that translates these stereotypes into flesh and blood. More generally, the education of children is one case in point here. Images of sex roles continue to be reinforced, at public expense, in school textbooks. Children learn to role play at an early age. – Raymond (1980), Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery

Here again we see the RadFem narrative mirroring the religious fundamentalist narrative by asserting that the issue transsexuals face is one of identity and expression. Nowhere in Raymond’s burbelings does she recognize that each of us has a subjective experiences of our own physical sex.

To be clear: The issue for the MTF transsexual isn’t that we are a culturally constructed woman trapped in the physical body of a man; rather, a MTF transsexual’s subjective experience of their physical sex is female. When I assert that my subjective experience of my body has been always female, I mean exactly that. I only acquired a pervasive horror about my body shape when I learned around the age of 5 that my body shape was different from other girls.  That particular horror is called dysphoria… as in, Gender Dysphoria. My issue wasn’t that I wanted to necessarily wear certain clothes or act a certain way; of course I wanted to be treated and identified as any other little girl in my culture, but my dysphoria wasn’t primarily situated around this secondary issue. I went to bed praying to have a god fix my body or allow me to die in my sleep not because my gender identity and expression wasn’t feminine; I began praying to die around the age of 5 because my body betrayed me.

While RadFems and religious fundamentalists seem particularly invested in asserting that the issue of gender orientation for transsexuals is simply a question of cultural modality, all one need do to test the real-life efficacy of their theoretical framework is to look at the suicide rate among transsexuals living within systems which attempt to modulate gender orientation through controlling their gender identity and expression (BTW, in a study of 6,400 trans folks, the rate of attempted suicide was 41% as compared to 1.6% in cis folks). While transsexuals generally point to our innate gender orientation at an age long before we’ve developed a sophisticated vocabulary to describe our experience, RadFems and religious fundamentalists seem perpetually poised to focus on, describe, critique and literally demonize the finger with which we point. In other words, RadFems and religious fundamentalists seem to forever miss the point. Our issue only becomes defined by gender identity and expression when people like RadFems and religious fundamentalists use gender identity and expression as a means to “cure” our innate gender orientation.

Nonsexist counseling is another direction for change that should be explored. The kind of counseling to “pass” successfully as masculine or feminine that now reigns in gender identity clinics only reinforces the problem of transsexualism. It does nothing to develop critical awareness, and makes transsexuals dependent upon medical-technical solutions. What I am advocating is a counseling that explores the social origins of the transsexual problem and the consequences of the medicaltechnical solution. – Raymond (1980), Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery

And here you have it, Raymond herself advocating for the development of a curative therapy model focused on gender identity and expression as a way to readjust gender orientation. If you want to know what happens to a someone who is forced to adopt a female identity and expression even though his orientation was male, I suggest you read up on the cautionary story of  David Reimer.

Feminists like myself envisage a time beyond gender when there is no correct way to behave according to body shape. In such a world, it would not be possible to conceive of a gender identity clinic. The idea of GID is a living fossil – that is, an idea from the time when there was considered to be a correct behaviour for particular body types. – Sheila Jeffreys

Contrast RadFem/Fundie dogma with what the evidence has born out over the last half century:

In over 80 qualitatively different case studies and reviews from 12 countries, it has been demonstrated during the last 30 years that the treatment that includes the whole process of gender reassignment is effective. Accordingly, all follow-up studies mostly found the desired effects. The most important effect in the patients’ opinion was the lessening of suffering with the added increase of subjective satisfaction. – Pfäfflin F, Junge A. (1998). Sex Reassignment. Thirty Years of International Follow-up Studies After Sex Reassignment Surgery: A Comprehensive Review, 1961-1991 .

Now, contrast the above demonstrable reality with the apparent schadenfreude RadFems enjoy by conflating gender orientation, identity and expression with sexual orientation, identity and expression:

“because the fact of the matter is that unlike born-women, who have everything (literally, everything) to lose from rape culture, transwomen have at least something (everything?) to gain. to a transwoman, cutting off her dick and turning it (inside out) into a fuckhole between her legs makes her feel better. from transwomens own mouths, we know that these fake fuckholes alleviate transwomens suffering. turning their dicks into extra-large condoms for other men to penetrate (or not, whevs…thats my hat-tip to the internet “lesbian transwomen”) actually tamps down their anxiety, and feelings of dysphoria.”  – factcheckme.wordpress.com

In the above purportedly feminist representation of  the issues facing transsexuals, the subjective experience of one’s sex is reduced to sexual function.  In the above context, my issue at the age of 5 was that I wanted a “fuckhole” so that men and/or women could sexually gratify me. In this version of feminism, it is represented that my 5 year old death wish fueled by anxiety and feelings of dysphoria could have been cured by a man penetrating me.

Either the RadFem/Fundie position mirrors reality or it doesn’t. Either bringing the body into alignment with the transsexual’s subjective experience of their physical sex is demonstrably beneficial or it isn’t. Either the neurology of MTF transsexuals has been shown to be female over and over and over and over and over and over and over  and over and over again or it hasn’t. Either controlling gender identity and expression changes one’s gender orientation or it doesn’t. Either the RadFem/Fundie position harms people or it doesn’t.

Since Raymond asserted her belief about gender as it relates to transsexuals, I will take the liberty of doing the same about the RadFem and religious fundamentalist effort to cure gender orientation: I assert that concealed under the hyperbolic anti-trans rhetoric of RadFems and religious fundamentalists is a purpose. I assert that this purpose seeks to control gender identity and expression as a means of reparative/curative conditioning. I assert that RadFems and religious fundamentalists have been very clear about voicing this specific purpose. When viewed in this context, their nonstop effort to halt and overturn anti-discrimination protections based on gender identity and expression can be more clearly seen as both insidious and cruel.

Trans Community: Sense of Community?

Views: 6618

There’s now a short survey looking at the sense of community within the trans community. A sense of community is tied to everything from one’s overall wellbeing to the efficacy of health interventions. In fact, community is so important, the APA has a specific division focusing exclusively on community psychology.

community-word-cloud-v5

For more info on this survey, click here.

To take this short survey, click here.

Samsara

Views: 8638

I was wasting some time and stopped by nordstrom.com, saw this and thought it was so funny that I had to take a screenshot. Anyway, I thought I would share this with you all:

So what is so interesting about this page you might ask? Irony says I!

“Samsara” is the Buddhist term for the state of delusion from one moment to another – the complete inability to see the truth of the way thing are… to not really know what causes your suffering. Here is the actual page.

Bundle Theory

Views: 1958

I discovered a label to use for the way I view consciousness and self and it is called “Bundle Theory“! For Western Society, a Scottish philosopher from the 1700s came up with the idea. This is the idea that there is phenomena and then there is the interpolation of phenomena by other phenomena with the ability to frame such phenomena as being differential due to the brain’s ability to retain memories. The observer creates the perception of the observed. This process is what we call “self”. A sense of self is the direct result of our brain’s ability to place events sequentially (which is called Personal Identity Theory and is part of Bundle Theory).

Bundle Theory is what made Ghost in the ShellThe Matrix and several other Japanese animes interesting to me. It digs right at the heart of what we think we know about experience, suffering and happiness. It shows consciousness, “reality” and the self as being what it truly is: an perception of experience. In other words, there is no ego. Mind is a process that recalls and compares any stimulus against  memory then interpolates a stimulus/thing/experience as being good, bad or indifferent based upon previous memories of the same experience thus providing the context for the experience of “self”. This is how suffering arises. This is also how happiness arises. In some ways, I think Bundle Theory is physiological equivalent to quantum theory.

Bundle Theory rejects the notion of self as well as the notion of non-self. It rejects the idea of an abiding self; rather, it states that “self” is an experience that is recreated, moment by moment.  It also rejects the idea a soul. In fact, there is the classroom discussion tool whereby the teacher asks the class:

If we had a perfect machine that never made mistakes and that could scan the entirety of you body (each body cell down to each brain cell), destroy the body and then recreate the body in a location thousands of miles away, would you do it? Yes, your physical body at the starting point would be killed, but the new one is recreated with each an every memory of you… if fact, it would be you. You would remember stepping into the transportation machine and arriving at a new place. If you feel some resistance to the idea, but are also a SciFi fan, you would probably feel better about it if I said that I was explaining the transportation machine from Star Trek. Your body is scanned, memorized, destroyed and then reassembled somewhere else.

If you are not a fan of Bundle Theory, you would feel incredibly wrong about this process because you would wonder what would happen to your soul or non-corporal essence.

Of course, I’m so totally biased.  Once western Bundle theorist were exposed to Zen in the 50s, they found out that their theory was just Buddhism LOL!