Open letter to the media regarding the AG’s NC suit

Views: 10172

Dear news media:

Why is it that (almost) without exception, all news stories covering the US Attorney General’s suit against NC omits the rather significant fact that when NC took federal money tied to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Title IX, they signed a contract with the federal government explicitly agreeing to not discriminate against trans people?

Why is it that almost all news articles spin the story to make it seem as if the legal question in the DOJ’s suit is somehow ambiguous when, in fact, NC is contractually obliged to keep their side of the agreement they made with the federal government when they received  federal funding under VAWA and Title IX?

Why is it that instead of actually telling the truth about the legal issue at hand, you’re droning on about “dueling lawsuits” and focusing on the “transgender debate” trope?

At yesterday’s press conference, here’s what the AG told you :

  • “With respect to federal funding, the statutes we brought this lawsuit under do provide the opportunity to curtail federal funding under Title IX in the Violence Against Women Act.”
  • “The Violence Against Women Act specifically targets gender identity. The law and the case law around Title VII, Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act clearly indicates HB2 is in violation of federal law.”

Here’s what Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice told you at yesterday’s press conference:

  • “We also bring a claim in the Violence Against Women Act, a more recent statute specifically designed to prevent discrimination against transgender people by entities that accept certain federal funds. As with Title IX, entities that accept federal funds under VALA, including UNS and the NCDPS, pledged that they would not discriminate against sex or gender identity. Our complaint seeks to enforce that pledge and hold those entities accountable for the kind of discrimination required by HB2.”

Since you can’t seem to bring yourself to talk about what the VAWA –an Act WITH LANGUAGE PASSED BY CONGRESS AND THE SENATE… you know, the very Act that NC received funds under– says, let me spell it out for you. Under Section 3 of VAWA, the Universal definitions and grant conditions, sub-section 18 reads:

The term underserved populations means populations who face barriers in accessing and using victim services, and includes populations underserved because of geographic location, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, underserved racial and ethnic populations, populations underserved because of special needs (such as language barriers, disabilities, alienage status, or age), and any other population determined to be underserved by the Attorney General or by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, as appropriate.

Under the Civil Rights section, the nondiscrimination subsection reads:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity (as defined in paragraph 249(c)(4) of title 18, United States Code), sexual orientation, or disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds made available under the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (title IV of Public Law 103–322 ; 108 Stat. 1902), the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 (division B of Public Law 106–386; 114 Stat. 1491), the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (title IX of Public Law 109–162 ; 119 Stat. 3080), the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 , and any other program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds appropriated for grants, cooperative agreements, and other assistance administered by the Office on Violence Against Women.

Under Title I, subsection M(19), the VAWA states:

…developing, enlarging, or strengthening programs and projects to provide services and responses targeting male and female victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, whose ability to access traditional services and responses is affected by their sexual orientation or gender identity, as defined in section 249(c) of title 18, United States Code; and

Congress PASSED THIS LANGUAGE in 2013, 286 to 138. The Senate PASSED THIS LANGUAGE 78 to 22.

Why then, are you paying lip service to NC’s demonstrably false talking point that Congress hasn’t taken up the issue of “gender identity”?

Why won’t you report that NC is being sued because they agreed to the terms of the VAWA, received money under the VAWA, and then just declared that they’ve decided to not honor their contract with the Federal government?

Why have you REFUSED to print what the DOJ explicitly told you? Here it is again:

“We also bring a claim in the Violence Against Women Act, a more recent statute specifically designed to prevent discrimination against transgender people by entities that accept certain federal funds. As with Title IX, entities that accept federal funds under VALA, including UNS and the NCDPS, pledged that they would not discriminate against sex or gender identity. Our complaint seeks to enforce that pledge and hold those entities accountable for the kind of discrimination required by HB2.” – Vanita Gupta

The reality is that under the VAWA and Title IX, NC is contractually obliged to not discriminate against anyone based on “gender identity”. NC demanded the special right to not have to honor their contractual word. Not only that, NC then demanded that the federal government continue to fund them under a contract NC has declared they refuse to honor.

Why do you refuse to point out this simple — yet absolutely central — contractual fact?

A trans feminist perspective on the NY Times piece

Views: 14050

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trans “Brain Sex” Side Bar:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A Woman Trapped in a Man’s Body”

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

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

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

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

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

Tumblr TERFs Fire Back!

Views: 16226

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the reach NCHCT/OHTA reports had:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TERFs Fire Back: Cristan Williams is still Zoe Brain

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

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

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

TERFs Fire Back: Cristan Williams loves Paul McHugh

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

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

TERFs Fire Back: Obviously TERFs were never violent in 1973

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TERFs Fire Back: Trans people are dangerous

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

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

[hr]

NOTES:

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

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

#TERFpatriarchy, Germaine Greer and Radical Feminism

Views: 16284

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:

 

Michigan Womyn’s Music Fest is Evil

Views: 16383

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

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

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

What Happened

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

mwmf-terf

 

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

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

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

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

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

PS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

On being Cristan

Views: 7288

It’s been months since I’ve done an update, so here goes:

Most recently, I was included in the trans 100 list. It was kinda cool to get a personal congratulations from Fallon Fox:

1979618_10152680555318066_891174954_n[1]

I got to see the final proof of the piece I’ll have in the Transgender Studies Quarterly journal and The Queer South gave me the final thumbs up on publishing one of my essays.

Last month, I was in Atlanta and in DC.

I’m on the steering committee for Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS). We were having a trilateral meeting between UCHAPS, NASTAD and the CDC leadership.

Me and the Director of HIV Prevention at the CDC, Rear Admiral Dr. Kenneth Castro
Me and the Director of HIV Prevention at the CDC, Rear Admiral Dr. Kenneth Castro

No sooner did I fly back to Houston than I flew out to DC for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association convening. I thought the event was kinda of awesome. Generally, what I get out of meetings like this isn’t found in sessions; rather, it’s found in the one-on-one conversations that happen. In nonprofit-speak, what I find most valuable is the “Peer TA” (technical assistance). It’s those amazingly insightful and fortuitous conversations that  happen over coffee,  while we happen to be walking somewhere or in the hallways of the hotel. Over the course of one night, I made some amazing contacts and learned the sad truth behind not one, but two different TERF opinion leaders.

Me and Mason Davis at the White House.
Me and Mason Davis at the White House.
Me and Monica Roberts at the White House.
Me and Monica Roberts at the White House.
Me and Ellie Schafer, the highest ranking lesbian at the White House.
Me and Ellie Schafer, the highest ranking lesbian at the White House.

The right to body autonomy and being free from oppressive gender stereotypes is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve noticed that the same hubris people who stand in the way of trans people are generally the same people who are standing in the way of the right to safe and legal abortion services for many of the same reasons.

The Pacific Justice Institute, the very organization that hounded a trans kid to the brink of suicide, is also an anti-abortion group. The Salt & Light Council, the very organization that went on the news to falsely claim that trans children were scurrying up and and over bathroom stalls so they could watch cis people use the restroom, is also an anti-abortion group. Alliance Defending Freedom, the same organization that went to Fox News with lies about what happened at Evergreen College, is also an anti-abortion group.

Consider the gender stereotypes these folks appeal to as they take an anti-trans/anti-choice stance:

anti

In their anti-trans/anti-choice world, learning to be a good homemaker who pumps out as many kids as the males in her life wish is gender. People like me fuck with that world view.  I’ve also noticed they believe that they – not you – get to contextualize your life experience. They’re happy to tell me that I’m a man while shouting a clinic patients, “No matter what you do, you’ll still be a mother; you’ll just be a mother to a dead baby!” I’ve noticed that the people – be they TERFs or fundies – believe that gender only ever = males controlling females. I’ve also noticed that on top of that, both will smugly privilege themselves to define your experience for you.

I therefore spend my Saturdays defending clinic patients as they attempt to access an abortion clinic because a person’s right to hold agency over their body (and not the other way around) is also a trans issue. I do what I do because the enemies of choice are the enemies of my freedom.

I’m a Clinic Escort, or as the people who try to mob, intimidate and shame people entering the clinic call us, “Clinic Deathscorts.” (BTW, “Deathscort” would make an awesome metal band name!) I generally stand at the front gate and try to keep the anti-trans/anti-choice crew from mobbing cars as they enter the clinic:

I was happy to learn that the president of a state NOW chapter will be doing a TransAdvocate interview, echoing these sentiments. Additionally, I was happy to see Planned Parenthood and NARAL give voice to these intersections of oppression as well.

PPact

Speaking of TERFs, the last post I did was back in December 2013 and was about Cathy Brennan trying to bully my local queer community magazine into covering up the fact that she worked with an ex-gay group in targeting a trans kid who was pushed to the brink of suicide. I’m happy to say that she failed to bully the magazine and the article remains as it was when it was published because the evidence supporting my account of what happened is kinda irrefutable.

Oh, and the ex-gay group Brennan worked with? They were recently officially identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) due to the TransAdvocate’s investigative work:

This is really what caused us to take a hard look at them last year was the wild exaggerations about California schools and the claim that a trans kid was supposedly harassing other kids, the one you found out to be baloney. We look at groups that demonize minorities in our society in a way that makes them targets for real hatred and often violence and that’s what we’ve seen here. – Mark Potok, SPLC speaking with me

While the SPLC has not yet listed Brennan’s group as a hate group, once Potok learned that Brennan was bragging about sending SPLC donations, SPLC stated that they will no longer accept her donations. Additionally, the SPLC opened an investigation into TERF movement and its leadership:

We’d very much appreciate any information you or your allies could provide of the major players, websites, etc., in the anti-trans world. We would like to take a look at this for a possible investigative story for our magazine, Intelligence Report. I’m especially interested in links between the groups. Any help will be greatly appreciated. – SPLC

Brennan’s group responded by claiming that the SPLC has liberal bias and that it’s not adhering to its mission.

Also, over the past couple of months I spoke at the Texas Women’s University as well as the University of Texas, wrote a small grant for the Trans Center, and have been spending a lot more time with my 80+ year old grandmother who’s not in the best health. In-between, I’m still an active member of the City of Houston’s HIV Prevention Planning Group, I’m co-chairing our county’s Ryan White EIIHA committee and I’m on the Board of the Wellness Center – a newly minted FQHC trans inclusive low/no-cost health clinic.  Also, it looks like I’ll be designing the National HIV Testing site this year. Yay!

Cotton Ceiling: Uncovering the trans conspiracy to rape lesbians

Views: 25765

The mere mention of the “cotton ceiling” should send rapey shivers up your spine. If you’ve not heard of it here’s the lowdown from feminists:

Transgender cotton ceiling rapists hold male-only (Planned Parenthood sponsored) seminars, write books, host lecture tours, and endlessly spam lesbian websites and blogs with rape and murder threats over lack of male “inclusion” in lesbian social gatherings, lesbian organizing, lesbian events, lesbian music festivals, and – most importantly- lesbian bedrooms. 1

.

Planned Parenthood Toronto is helping to sponsor a March 31 conference in Toronto that includes a workshop inviting participants to discuss and strategize ways they might be able to “overcome” women’s objections to these participants’ sexual advances. We believe that no means no, that a woman’s right to say “no” to sex at any time is sacrosanct and that no explanations should ever be requested because none is ever necessary. The name of the workshop proposed is “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling: Breaking Down Sexual Barriers for Queer Trans Women.”

– Petition against the cotton ceiling 2

.

Activists want to force lesbians to consider them as sexual partners. 3

Sounds really horrific, doesn’t it? Transwomen, full of male-privilege, feel that lesbians must submit to having sex with them or else they’re transphobic. Right? I mean, multiple lesbian feminists are all saying the same thing. Even Cathy Brennan has a cotton ceiling tag. Certainly these self-identified lesbian feminists wouldn’t lie, right? Certainly these self-declared feminists wouldn’t purposely misrepresent cotton ceiling in an effort to make ciswomen fear trans people, right? RIGHT?!?

[Cotton Ceiling commenter] you are a male sexual predator, enabling your male predator brethren. Which is why you and all your Cotton Ceiling buddies creep me the fuck out… These dudes in dresses are trying to guilt-trip you into sleeping with them, and name-calling you if you don’t. There is nothing wrong with not liking penises or male bodies, and preferring female bodies. To say otherwise is lesbianphobic. 4

Horrific, isn’t it? Planned Parenthood held a workshop to teach transwomen how to make lesbians have sex with them. I want to reread the previous sentence and think about that for just a moment. Then reread the rhetoric about the cotton ceiling. With a straight face, these self-identified feminists asserted that Planned Parenthood taught transwomen how trick lesbians into sex.

Seriously. And you know what? A lot of people believed it.

Here’s the reality:

CC-workshop

 

There! See it? It says right there in the description: Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling will explore having sex with lesbians who don’t want to have sex with trans people! It says it right there… oh wait… it doesn’t say that at all.

Can you guess how many attended this,  the workshop-heard-round’-the-feminist-world?  Was it…

  1. 250 workshop attendees
  2. 150 workshop attendees
  3. 75 workshop attendees
  4. 50 workshop attendees
  5. 25 workshop attendees
  6. 10 workshop attendees
  7. 7 workshop attendees

If you guessed 7, you’d be correct. Let that sink in for a moment. All of this over a workshop with 7 people.

Care to guess what they talked about?

Would it really surprise you to know that what they talked about was body image and shame?

Seven people met to talk about body image and shame and Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) claimed that Planned Parenthood was organizing a meeting to teach trans people how to rape lesbians… and many, many people believed it. Were you one of the folks who believed that Planned Parenthood was teaching corrective rape?

TERF opinion leader and lawyer, Cathy Brennan
TERF opinion leader and lawyer, Cathy Brennan

I want you to pause for a moment and think hard about the notion that TERFs are pushing: transwomen support corrective rape.

Here, let me break down the basic TERF rhetoric:

TERF: Teh cotton ceiling is all about teaching trans people how to rape lesbians!1!!

Dupe: LOLWUT

TERF: Yeah, Planned Parenthood gave a workshop to teach trans people how to rape lesbians! No means no!

Dupe: That sounds a little strange to me…

TERF: Don’t believe me? Google any of the many, many, many TERF blogs that freaked over the Planned Parenthood workshop! #rapeculture

Cathey Brennan
Cathy Brennan

Dupe: Well, I did hear about how transwomen want to hang out in the women’s restroom…

TERF: Yup, it’s all about rapey rape culture!

Dupe: Yeah, I guess tranwomen are kinda rapey…

TERF: I KNOW, RIGHT?!?! Spread the word!

Dupe: I’m totally blogging about this!

Think about all the fear and enmity TERFs managed to generate over the Cotton Ceiling during this past year. They took a small meeting about shame and body image and purposefully twisted it to dupe people into believing that Planned Parenthood was teaching corrective rape tactics and MANY people believed it.

Planned Parenthood + Trans people = lesbian rape conspiracy... or not.
Planned Parenthood + Trans people = lesbian rape conspiracy… or not.

TERFs did what they almost always do. They equivocate in their arguments:

Original workshop description:  

Participants will work together to identify barriers, strategize ways to overcome them, and build community.

TERF Petition to stop the workshop:

Planned Parenthood Toronto is helping to sponsor a March 31 conference in Toronto that includes a workshop inviting participants to discuss and strategize ways they might be able to “overcome” women’s objections to these participants’ sexual advances.

Cathy Brennan, TERF Opinion Leader

Workshop supporters have suggested that “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling” is intended to facilitate a discussion about the social construction of sexual desire. Even if this were the case, being a lesbian is not a prejudicial social construct to be overcome by expanding lesbians’ limited political consciousness around trans women’s “gender identity.”

From there all a TERF need do is appeal the transwoman-rapist meme the radical right pushes while referencing the TERF petition and sit back and enjoy their malevolent handiwork.

TERFs making sure their 'trans people are rapists' narrative gets into women's magazines
TERFs making sure their ‘trans people are rapists’ narrative gets into women’s magazines

Back when all of this began, trans folk were really clear about what the cotton ceiling was about:

This, from the individual credited for popularizing the phrase, "cotton ceiling"
This, from the individual credited for popularizing the phrase, “cotton ceiling”

Or as a cisgender dyke organizer put it:

The idea of the “cotton ceiling” is intended to draw attention to how even in spaces that are politically and socially welcoming of trans women, transphobia often retains its influence on how we understand who is sexually desirable and who isn’t. It’s no different from other politicized criteria for desirability—people who are, for instance, fat or disabled are also often welcomed into queer women’s space but not seen as desirable compared to those hot slim, muscular, able-bodied sorts. This isn’t our fault—our entire culture tells us what’s sexy and what’s not, 24 hours a day, and that definition is terribly narrow. But it is really easy to forget how much influence advertising propaganda and social pressure can exert on what gets us wet and hard, and to let the mainstream’s terms dictate our desires. 5

If a small group wanted to talk about how ableism affected cultural notions of beauty and/or desirability, would feminist circles tolerate TERFs going on a yearlong campaign, claiming that those who aren’t able-bodied want to force lesbians to have sex with them?

In a culture that devalues and oppresses trans people, why is it not appropriate to discuss how these cisnormative beauty standards impact notions of desirability, how these biases relate to the fetishization of trans people and how all of this impacts the perception of trans people in queer spaces? Why is it not appropriate for transwomen to ask themselves how this affects the way we see ourselves and/or how this affects the way others view us?

Why don’t TERFs want trans people to have this discussion?

How would such a conversation affect the anti-trans TERF narrative they’ve been pushing for decades?

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.  6

Today the Frankenstein phenomenon is omnipresent not only in religious myth, but in its offspring, phallocratic technology. The insane desire for power, the madness of boundary violation, is the mark of necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul/spirit/life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses. This necrophilic invasion/elimination takes a variety of forms. Transsexualism is an example 7

[Transsexual surgery] could be likened to political psychiatry in the Soviet Union. I suggest that transsexualism should best be seen in this light, as directly political, medical abuse of human rights. The mutilation of healthy bodies and the subjection of such bodies to dangerous and life-threatening continuing treatment violates such people’s rights to live with dignity in the body into which they were born, what Janice Raymond refers to as their “native” bodies. It represents an attack on the body to rectify a political condition, “gender” dissatisfaction in a male supremacist society based upon a false and politically constructed notion of gender difference.

Recent literature on transsexualism in the lesbian community draws connections with the practices of sadomasochism. 8

 

This should be a simple issue. How could our oppressors – men – possibly become us? How? Just by saying they are?  By the male medical industry and doctors making money off this game, declaring that they can turn men into women?  Would you agree with these men if they claimed to be a different race than they are, a race they are in a position to oppress?  Would you believe them if they claimed to be of a different species?  Why not?

If you do accept them as Lesbians, would you (as a Lesbian) want to be lovers with one?  Why not?  If you are hesitant to say “no” to their claims and demands, in spite of what you feel inside, why?  What is it that makes you agree to something that doesn’t feel right?  Does it remind you of other times when it was hard to deal with a man who refused to take “no” for an answer? 9

How would a serious discussion about our transmisogynistic culture, and its influence over notions of beauty impact anti-trans TERF messages?

How does shutting down this discussion benifit the TERF narrative?

Does it benifit the anti-trans TERF aims and goals to not only stop this discussion, but to colonize it in such a way that feminists would instinctively view the discussion as being an inherent part of rape culture?

“Transwomen” are not and can never be women or Lesbians – they are simply men, trying to steal our identity and culture… One way to begin to fight their oppressing Lesbians and women is to refuse to give them what they want. At the very least, PLEASE stop calling them “women” in any form, and stop using female pronouns for them… they act like typical men and intimidate and guilt trip – everything is about them. And the hell with any Lesbian who gets in their way. Some have also learned what to say to sound believably female, but if you question a bit further, they revert quickly to male bullying techniques. As for those who do have surgery, men do a lot of bizarre things for sexual gratification, such as strangling themselves to have more exciting orgasms, which has resulted in some unintentional suicides (such as that by David Carradine.)

As Janice Raymond says, “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating their body for themselves.”  It’s actually reminiscent of the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” 9

I think there’s a reason TERFs have put so much effort into colonizing this discourse. I think there’s a reason that they framed their colonization of trans discourse as rape prevention and I think that reason is plain to see.

I submit to you that TERFs do not want the trans community to have this discussion and they certainly do not want the cis community to question where they picked up their views – good/bad/indifferent – of trans people. I believe that such a discussion would further isolate TERFs from the rest of the feminist world.

 


1. http://tinyurl.com/ms5289e

2. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/917/570/206/support-womens-sexual-autonomy/

3. http://tinyurl.com/oa3lsy9

4. http://tinyurl.com/mj3vlcc

5. http://www.transadvocate.com/if-trans-women-arent-welcome-neither-am-i.htm

6. http://factcheckme.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/rape-culture-birthed-the-neovag/

7. Gyn/ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism by Mary Daly, pp 70 – 71

8. Sheila Jeffreys

9. http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/bev-jo-radical-lesbian-writing/