Internet Drama: The Handmaiden of Cis Fragility

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“I have been somewhat overwhelmed with J’s dominating conversations and manipulative style. J’s comments rarely bring any positive discussion and seem to frequently derail conversation. I feel like they threaten the safety of the group for the voices of transwomen and people of color.”  –  Complaint made to me from a PoC TCP group member yesterday

Some Context:

As many of you know, I’m involved with a historical project that seeks to uncover an erased trans-inclusive radical feminist hirstory. This effort is called The Conversations Project (TCP). Here’s what TCP clearly says that its purpose is:

From TCP’s “About” page

I personally think that it’s important to reclaim the voices of those women who risked even physical violence (from TERFs) to make sure that that trans women were included in their fight for the liberation of all women. As a primer, check out the feminist courage that can be found in the trans-inclusive radical feminist hirstory TCP is interested in examining:

In upcoming interviews, you’ll hear how a Black Lesbian radical feminist MichFest ride organizer related to Camp Trans. You’ll hear how TERFs destroyed one of the early militant radical feminist groups. In fact, there’s a year’s worth of upcoming interviews still to come.

As a historian, it’s hugely problematic that these stories appear nowhere else in feminist hirstory. Instead, we (especially trans people) are taught to believe that “radical feminism” is anti-trans and that “radical feminists” are transphobic. Such narratives go a long way towards erasing the very real courage of radical feminist women who risked their groups, organizations, and even put their own bodies in harm’s way to ensure that their feminism was trans inclusive. That courage should have its place in feminist hirstory.

Some disagree. Some, in the name of “radical feminism,” think those voices need to remain lost; they say time spent examining those voices is wasted time.

The Internet Drama

Here’s the long and short of a drama that’s been unfolding around TCP for months now. The project has a FaceBook group whose purpose is quite clearly spelled out:


The pinned TCP FB group guidelines.

Part of TCP is the serialized publication of a discussion between John Stoltenberg and I that began more than a year ago. This conversation is important because it represents a trans feminist and a radical feminist (finally) coming together to have an in-depth talk about radical and trans feminist hirstory and how that hirstory has affected the lives of just about every trans person in America. Through that context, a lot of radical and trans feminist content is covered. I know of no other book-length discussion like this. In some significant ways, this is what reconciliation between radical and trans feminism looks like.

John Stoltenberg is a radical feminist author and was the life partner of Andrea Dworkin. That John would be willing to break ranks and engage in a conversation like this with me, a trans woman and editor of the TransAdvocate, has been viewed as (in certain circles) a heresy of the highest order. For John’s (perceived) betrayal, TERFs have spent the last couple of months character assassinating John. Here are the basic BS criticisms of John and, of course, TCP:

  • John didn’t really know Andrea the way that her friends knew her. A couple of people who knew Andrea (and who tends to think that Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys had powerful insights into what they call “transgenderism” and “transgender ideology”), think that they, not her life partner were privy to Andrea’s true feelings towards trans folk.
  • A friend of Andrea used Andrea to submit her anti-trans screed to a publisher who rejected it and this proves that she was anti-trans. Nikki Craft asked Andrea to please submit Nikki’s anti-trans essay* to Psychology Today. Because Andrea did this for her friend, this proves that, contrary to what Andrea herself wrote, Andrea was anti-trans. Moreover, passing along an essay, means that Andrea actually co-wrote the essay. Yup, physically touching a paper to hand it off to someone else is apparently now enough to bestow full co-author status to Andrea, thus proving that Andrea didn’t support trans people accessing trans health care.
  • Talking about what Andrea wrote in Woman Hating about trans folk is wrong because Andrea actually later repudiated it. Where? Nobody seems to be able to actually point to anything specific, but I’m told that if I “read Dworkin’s other books” (which I have, more than once) I’ll see that this is true.
  • People of color won’t participate in TCP because it’s all about white people. (*cough* quote at the beginning of this post *cough*)

I’m not going to innumerate that attacks against me because they’re just the same stuff TS Separatists used to say about me when I was researching “transgender.” Except now they’re saying it about “radical feminism.” Basically, it’s all different shades of this nonsense:

“Cristan is a MAN and MUST be hiding something!!!! Also, let’s pretend that the TransAdvocate didn’t out the Woolbert story!!!”

So, Julian Real is someone who has been publicly open about being a member of TCP group. Julian is also a supporter of the cis woman who’s promulgating many of the above claims. After numerous group member complaints and innumerable moderation incidents relating to Julian’s posturing within the group, Julian was recently removed from the group by unanimous consensus of all six group moderators.  As a result, Julian (a white non-trans woman MAAB) is now running around bemoaning TCP’s purpose and talking up how much more radical and feminist their understanding of everything is and how the voices of TCP are really just neoliberal pablum.

So, for the record, here’s how things went down:

Julian attacked a commentary about a specific passage in a specific book that was written in a specific historical context… for not being commentary about something other than that specific passage of that specific book in that specific historical context. Then, after being confronted for trying to derail yet another group conversation, Julian began to again posture in the group. Here’s the response to Julian’s behavior that I posted:

Your reply is erasure from a place of privilege.

You’ve privileged yourself in deciding for poor trans women of color that exclusion -as full Sisters- from the women’s liberation movement should be subordinate to your ideas of how to overcome “capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy” (as if we’re talking about fundamentally different things). The irony is that you rhetorically subordinate their inclusion from women’s liberation from an asserted position of speaking *for* them. It’s sometimes a bit like hearing the rich of the USSR tell the poor -in the name of anti-capitalism/colonialism/patriarchy- that work will make them free.

Your persistent effort to, in violation of the boundaries of this group, advocate that its members should to spend their group time thinking about the rationals SET “feminists” cite when projecting, popularizing, and promoting their anti-trans fears, anxieties, and animus is an act of hostility against this group and its membership. Moreover, it’s an act of profound the group members and the erased, hidden, and silenced inclusive radical feminist hirstories we meet here to respect.

I 100% reject your premise that focusing our group on the radical feminism that bravely fought to include trans women as Sisters in women’s liberation = being pro-capitalism/colonialism/patriarchy. Additionally, I think the fact that you are not a trans women whose existence has been defined by the (as you privilege yourself in seeing it, irrelevant) actions of a “few white lesbians” (as you call it), contributes to the problematic ways you’ve engaged in this group. While I also reject this characterization as being patently false, that you state it as fact provides some insight into the place of (apparent) unexamined privilege you engage from.

As a trans woman who lived through deaths and hardships caused by the very ideology you claim must be considered, in the name of life and liberation no less, I experience your verbal gesticulations as a (possibly clueless) hubris born of privilege that is very toxic.

It’s not only me that experiences your privilege as toxic, numerous individuals of various racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds have, since your arrival in this group, contacted mods to express exasperation with the position/way you approach group participation. In fact, I’ve noticed that we’ve lost members and that *many* others no longer participate.

It’s not that people are turned off by the theory you sometimes share. I very much enjoy some of the books, resources, etc. that you share. I think they enrich the experience of this group. That’s not the problem that I and others have with your participation… It’s the way you privilege yourself to define for others what their primary emergency is that’s the issue. From what I see, the fact that you’ve not shared that primary emergency seems to color much of the way you interact with this group.

It’s ridiculous

At this point, I find the sound and fury coming from the side that wants TCP to just go away ridiculous. It’s a bunch of wasted time and energy. Do these people really think that we’re going to stop interviewing the people who were on the ground in the 70s and 80s? Do they think we’re just going to stop publishing those hirstories?

If anything, as evidenced by this very post, their hyperbole just brings attention to the very thing they wish to mandate out of existence. Yes, their blogosphere chamber might well echo, but really… Why lie about Andrea co-authoring anti-trans screeds? Why spend months personally attacking and defaming John? Why use (as in, appropriate) the oppression and pain of POC as a tool to disrupt conversations about silenced feminist hirstory? How does any of these online teapot tempests advance the liberation of women as a sex class? How can they claim to do all of this in the name of feminism?

Personally, all of this feels very familiar to me. It feels a lot like the pushback I faced when researching the history of “transgender”. When I was researching the history of “transgender,” the demonstrable historical record conflicted with the history a certain identity was founded upon and they attacked. Now I’m researching the historical narrative that asserts “radical feminism” wants to mandate trans bodies out of existence. Both John and I have faced significant pushback for our efforts.

Even so, I expect that what will happen is that, regardless of these attacks, this hirstory will become part of the feminist hirstorical record. I expect that it will become harder for international news outlets to propagate the false narrative that “radical feminism” is anti-trans. I expect that those who are fighting to keep an erased feminist hirstory lost will find that people are actually interested in what these silenced voices have to say:

Presenting on The Conversations Project at Rice University

So, hopefully this will be my one and only post regarding the hyperbole spewing from a certain section of the internet.

*NOTE: The “anti-trans” essay Nikki Craft wrote was written upon the (absolutely wrong) premise that trans folk love Dr. John Money. Money was an ass who was willing to hurt people in furtherance of his bogus gender theories. He was willing to force children to live as the sex assigned them, telling them to accept their bodies. Moreover, Money promoted the ridiculous idea gender stereotypes and roles came from neurology, not culture. While it’s true that one must have a brain in order to become indoctrinated to sexism, Money was wrong; sexism isn’t innate to brains.

RadFem Reboot

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I’m fairly happy with the response I’ve received from radical feminists of all ages who are trans inclusive and want their stories and voices heard. As it was with the so-call “TS Separatists” who sparked my interest in the etiology of “transgender,” the TERF crew sparked my interest in understanding how it was that “Radical Feminism” came to be regarded as an anti-trans movement. From learning where “TERF” actually came from to having the privilege of interviewing some really amazing RadFem people, I find myself paradoxically grateful to all the anti-trans people who caught my attention with their anti-trans animus wrapped up and sold as “radical feminism.” They are the ones who inspired me to fact check their historical claims.

Most of all, I feel incredibly honored and privileged to receive the history of elder radfems who put their own personal safety on the line to remain trans inclusive. When I think about all that has been done in their names, it’s fucking heartbreaking. Thank you (you know who you are) to the peer reviewed journal that’s publishing some of this history. Thank you to a certain radfem who opened my eyes to all of this rich, yet hidden history. Thank you to all of those who have agreed to be part of the book. But most of all, I’m just so sorry that I can’t publicly thank you without you being attacked for your truth, your history and your trans inclusion. I hate that I can’t thank you without an anti-trans mob harassing you in order to keep your herstory hidden. I’m just so damn sorry for those of you who declined to be part of this research project because you said you feared reprisals from TERFs.

My firm hope is that your compassion, exclusivity, and commitment to a world without sexism is, at some point, publicly recognized and honored.

BTW – if you’re a RadFem and you wish to share your history of trans inclusion, please contact me here. All of the interviews and oral histories I collect will be donated to the Trans Archive so that the truth of your feminism is preserved.

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: 24457

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.”

A conversation with a “gender critical” trans woman

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“Gender Critical Feminist” is the euphemism TERFs use to describe themselves and is a movement of TERFs and their sycophantic crew of intersex and trans quislings who are exempted from being LOL’d at as long as they agree to occupy a subordinate position within the group.

This group believes that there is a binary sexed essence which, if present at birth, defines all people. Intersex people, according to this crew, are deformed men and women because sex is a binary and not a continuum. In addition to “Gender Critical Feminists,” they also like to call themselves Radical Feminists (even though they reject the foundational RadFem theorists who rejected a natural sex binary and who were supportive of both intersex and trans people).

I recently had a twitter conversation with one of these trans TERFs, to learn more about the power dynamics between trans tokens and the TERFs they attach themselves to:

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On being Cristan

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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!