I’ve noticed that there seems to be some confusion about what a TERF* is so, here’s a quick guide to help you figure out if you’re a TERF. Chances are that you’re a TERF if you believe that you’re a feminist when you…
18.) Claim that trans people transition due to political or social pressures.4
19.) Claim that when you work to halt the propagation of anti-feminist stereotypes it’s empowerment, but when trans people work to halt the propagation of anti-trans stereotypes it’s censorship .
20.)Assert that trans women transition because they’re actually gay men and that transmen transition because they’re lesbians wanting to escape the patriarchy.
* Over the past year or so, much of the trans community has stopped referring to TERFs as RadFems. We’ve done this because there’s a number of radical feminists/2nd wave feminists/lesbian feminists who find the above demonstrated behavior abhorrent to feminism. Out of respect for actual RadFems, the trans community has stopped supporting the appropriation of the radical feminist identity by what is essentially a hate group. Thus, we instead use Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs).
1.) They expect we’ll be shocked to see statistics about them being killed, and don’t realize, some of us wish they would ALL be dead.
– BevJo, TERF opinion leader, author and speaker
While there are many who feel that morality must be built into law, I believe that the elimination of transsexualism is not best achieved by legislation prohibiting transsexual treatment and surgery but rather by legislation that limits it and by other legislation that lessens the support given to sex-role stereotyping, which generated the problem to begin with. Any legislation should be aimed at the social conditions that initiate and promote the surgery as well as the growth of the medical-institutional complex that translates these stereotypes into flesh and blood.
– Janice Raymond (1980), Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery, TERF opinion leader, author and speaker
2.)Now one of the things I find puzzling about it is that, when I look at the House of Lords debate on this legislation, those I agree with most are the radical right. Particularly the person I find that I agree with most, in here, and I’m not sure he will be pleased to find this, is Norman Tebbitt… Tebbitt also says that the savage mutilation of transgenderism, we would say if it was taking place in other cultures apart from the culture of Britain, was a harmful cultural practice, and how come we’re not recognising that in the British Isles. So he makes all of these arguments from the radical right, which is quite embarrassing to me, but I have to say, so called progressive and left people are not recognising the human rights violations of transgenderism or how crazy the legislation is.
3.)[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.
4.)My main conclusion is that transsexualism is basically a social problem whose cause cannot be explained except in relation to the sex role and identities that a patriarchal society generates. Through hormonal and surgical means, transsexuals reject their “native” bodies, especially their sexual organs, in favor of the body and the sexual organs of the opposite sex. They do this mainly because the body and the genitalia, especially, come to incarnate the essence of their rejected masculinity and desired femininity. Thus transsexualism is the result of socially prescribed definitions of masculinity and femininity, one of which the transsexual rejects in order to gravitate towards the other.
Thus I will argue, in Chapter III, that the First Cause of transsexualism is a gender-defined society whose norms of masculinity and femininity generate the desire to be transsexed…. I believe that the primary cause of transsexualism cannot be derived from intrapsyic attitudes and/or behaviors, or even from family conditioning processes. One must begin with the roles of a gender-defined society, as the First Cause of transsexualism (that which, in the Aristotelian sense, sets all other causes in motion.)
– Janice Raymond (1979), The Transsexual Empire, page 16
A significant number of transmen are lesbians who report that they want to transition in an attempt to escape misogyny – their own internalized version as much as society’s. A significant percentage of transwomen are homosexual males, pressured into transitioning by conservative society that hates gender non-conforming gay men.
It might be of interest to know that in the 1974 3rd edition, this book uses transgender as an umbrella term. However, in this 2nd edition from 1965, transgenderism is clearly used as a term that might better describe the transsexual experience.
In the book, The Transsexual Phenomenon (1966) – published a year after the above book came out – Harry Benjamin used transsexual as an umbrella term, inclusive of people who occasionally crossdressed and didn’t want hormones or surgery (Type 4 Transsexual), those who wanted to take hormones but not have surgery (Type 5 True Transsexual) as well as those who need to take advantage of every avenue of transition: legal, hormonal and surgical (Type 6 True Transsexual). Clearly, the 1965 book suggested the use of transgenderism for those who would be a Harry Benjamin Type 6 True Transsexual. In other words, in 1965 folks were making the same lexical argument the transsexual classic, The Uninvited Dilemma (1983) would later make.
Until 1979, transsexual could be used to describe a Type 4, 5 or 6 transsexual. Dr. Paul Walker, a gay man from Galveston, Texas who was working with transgender activist Phyllis Frye at the time, codified transsexual in the 1979 HBIGDA Standards of Care to mean what we currently take transsexual to mean: a Harry Benjamin Type 6 True Transsexual. That same year, Christine Jorgensen publicly rejectedtranssexual in favor of transgender, noting – in the same way that the 1965 usage notes – transsexuals do not transition because of their sexuality.
After Prince wrote transgenderal once, she didn’t use a trans+gender lexical compound again until 1978 – not even when she was trying to classify different types of trans people in 1977. By then, YEARS had gone by while the trans community had used trans+gender lexical compounds (and their derivations, eg transies, transperson, transpeople) in ways which parallel current uses and in ways that do not.
Either this is true or it isn’t. Either I have evidence to support my fact assertions or I do not. Either I’m lying and have conjured my evidence through the magic of Photoshop (or perhaps time travel?) or I’ve not.
I know that the Prince Fountainhead Narrative is fundamental to the True Transsexual/Harry Benjamin Syndrome/Transsexual Separatist folklore, but damn… If you’re going to assert a faith position, at least do it honestly. Stop trying to justify dogma with assertions that can be easily proven false. Simply come out and say that no matter what, your faith in the Prince Fountainhead Narrative is unshakable and that you will reject any and all evidence which calls the Prince Fountainhead Narrative into question.
The reality is the Prince encouraged people to believe that she bestowed transgender upon us. She was kinda egomaniacal in that way:
Prince’s self-promoted importance has been way overstated. Prince didn’t coin transgender nor did she pioneer the term. She wasn’t the first to use transgender, transgenderist, trans, transpeople or transgenderism nor was she where these terms got their cultural currency. These terms were ALREADY in use within the trans community – by transsexuals and non-transsexuals like – years before Prince used them. For example, years before Prince used transgenderist, the term was used in the first national trans study performed by the trans community itself in 1975.
A stwarman argument is when you want to attack a position, have no logical reason to attack it, and so instead lie about what the other person said. Simply compare what I actually said (blue quote) and what this person claims I said (the first sentence after my quote). Strangely, just prior to this she recounted how TERFs attempted to murder one of her dear friends for not being cisgender:
The post drones on and on, creating one fake position for me to take after another, so that she could (presumably) enjoy attacking absurd ideas I’ve never promoted. Apparently lies are the only rhetoric folks like this have left to cling to. IMHO, these folks are the young earth creationists of the trans experience. They seem to have no argument to make that isn’t laughable and yet, their place in this world seems to be predicated upon their fantasy being true:
A lesbian transsexual was targeted for not being non-transsexual; cisprivilege isn’t real.
Prince didn’t coin or pioneer trans terms; Prince is where transgender comes from.
In what other arena of discourse is this level of intellectual turpitude tolerated? In what arena of discourse are equivocation and strawman arguments so prominently featured?
I owe debt of gratitude to folks like this for inspiring me to respond to their fact assertions. None of the history I’ve discovered would have been uncovered and published in books and peer reviewed journals had they not thrown their historical fallacies in my face. All of that history would have stayed hidden and nobody would have been able to question their historical assertions about transgender. So, thank you creepy internet troll, for giving me yet another opportunity to put the evidence out there!
Victoria Brownworth, self proclaimed “award winning” TERF journalist (though she calls herself RadFem), hates me. Like, a lot. I wrote the following factual account of how she used her privilege to coerce a trans minor (actions Brownworth herself describes as both creepy and wrong) to expose his genitals to her:
I recently responded to some TERF hyperbole via this tweet. This post in no way mentioned Brownworth. Nevertheless, my tweet seemed to enrage Brownworth. Instead of responding to any of my points about TERFs, she instead – YET AGAIN – lied:
Is this how a professional journalist behaves? If Brownworth was your employee, how would you feel if she publicly and falsely claimed that YOU were filing suit against someone on her behalf? She’s done this before, just ask her editor, Jen Colletta.
And let’s be honest here. It’s been 1354 days 2 hours 29 minutes 52 seconds since I requested that Brownworth produce ANY evidence to substantiate her libelous claims and she’s failed to do so. Here, yet again, this professional “award winning” journalist is caught in the act of spreading more malicious lies about me. Lying to libel others seems to be a pattern for Brownworth.
Brownworth claims to be an “investigative journalist.” Surely she saved emails, texts, tweets or carrier pigeon notes substantiating her claims against me. One must wonder why in all this time Brownworth has failed to produce any evidence to support her assertions about me. Perhaps that’s because they are, in fact, malicious lies traded on her self-proclaimed status as a trustworthy journalist?
BTW, check out what other feminists think of Brownworth’s behavior:
This excerpt is from a HuffPo Live roundtable discussion on feminism. In the discussion were feminist opinion leaders, including Victoria Brownworth (the voice on the phone line).
Again, I ask the Advocate, SheWired, The Real Curve, The Philly Gay News and the Huffington Post why they pay this individual to be the voice of trans people? If you need a story about the hardships of being a trans POC, why not instead hire any number of trans POC bloggers? Why do you time and again hire this white, affluent, hubris (IMHO), lying “journalist”? How many times must her obdurate behavior be exposed before you finally figure out that there’s a problem?
In any event, I’m still waiting for Victoria “I despise Cristan Williams” Brownworth to produce ANY evidence to support her cruel and libelous claims against me.
Supposedly, as the RadRight narrative goes, the California bill protecting trans kids in school is anarchy and madness. Unsurprisingly, TERFs and H-BSers jumped on that narrative:
You know what?
Here in TEXAS – yes, conservative TEXAS – we’ve had these California-style policies in effect for YEARS. And you know what’s happened? Nothing… Except trans kids got to go to school without having to face institutionalized bigotry.
Yup, from kindergarten to high school, here in Texas towns like Houston, trans kids have been able to transition and be protected on the basis of gender identity for years. Worse (for the nutty narrative on offer by fringe groups), Houston isn’t the only Texas town with these protections on the books. Other Texas towns with these California-style policies are Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso and San Antonio. Worse still, most Texas universities have similar California-style policies.
Here I am helping to get these policies passed here in Houston, Texas:
While these fringe groups have collectively gotten the vapors over this California law, a lot of Texas towns went further. We’ve even extended gender identity protections to the SCHOOL EMPLOYEES too!
Nutty groups like TERFs, H-BSers and fringe radical right groups have asserted all kinds of hyperbole in the hope that it will scare you into helping them harm trans kids. There’s a reason you’ve never heard any of them clue you in on the fact that these policies have been in effect for years throughout conservative areas of the nation.
Let’s be honest, how likely is it that all of these extremist groups are clueless that California-style policies were already enacted all over the country – for years – before taking to various media outlets to encourage you to help them harm trans kids? Why is it that they never talk about that? What purpose does it serve to pretend that liberal California is the first to enact these policies? What purpose does it serve to not tell you that this isn’t anything new? What purpose does it serve to not tell you that these policies haven’t been the harbingers of doom they claim them to be?
Let’s be clear:
These policies are about the well-being of trans kids in a cis privileged system.
These policies have been in effect for years in even conservative areas.
These policies haven’t produced the hellish urban dystopian future these fringe groups are forever promising looms just over the horizon.
These groups like to pretend that gender identity means something like “how you feel” when you wake up in the morning. Here’s what the FBI says gender identity means:
“A person’s internal sense of being male, female, or a combination of both; that internal sense of a person’s gender may be different from the person’s gender as assigned at birth”
When the term was first popularized, here’s what it meant:
Gender identity is the sense of knowing to which sex one belongs, that is, the awareness ‘I am a male’ or ‘I am a female’. This term gender identity’ will be used in this paper rather than various other terms which have been employed in this regard, such as the term ‘sexual identity’. ‘Sexual identity’ is ambiguous, since it may refer to one’s sexual activities or fantasies, etc. The advantage of the phrase ‘gender identity’ lies in the fact that it clearly refers to one’s self-image as regard to belonging to a specific sex. Thus, of a patient who says: ‘I am not a very masculine man’, it is possible to say that his gender identity is male although he recognizes his lack of so-called masculinity. – International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 1964, v 45, pages 220 – 226
I dunno, but it seems to me that the meaning of gender identity has been fairly consistent over the past HALF CENTURY or so.
Opponents of trans protections often claim that we don’t have exact definitions for gender identity because… Well, who the hell knows what that even means, amiright?
The term is as well defined as other terms used in policy – like, say sex. I could make equally preposterous arguments against any policy containing the term sex because, well… what exactly is sex anyway? Are we talking about genitals and if so, exactly how do we deal with the 1 in 500 intersex births? Are we talking about a binary chromosome set: XX & YY and if so, what does sex mean when dealing with the many other types of chromosomal configurations like XO, XXY, etc? Are we talking about whatever is put on your birth certificate and if so, what does that mean when 1000s of them are changed/corrected year year in America? Are we talking about socialization and if so, why would anyone oppose a trans kid in transitioning at an early age? Are we talking about secondary sex characteristics and if so, what does that mean when we talk about transsexual and/or AIS/PAIS people? If we are talking merely about the way a body functions to facilitate sexual reproduction, what does sex mean for the 1000s of kids born each year without this ability?
Any term we use in any bill or legal argument can be picked apart in this way. These arguments are called equivocation. Who remembers Clinton asking exactly what is is?
Fringe groups like to tout this rhetorical tactic around as if they have something really insightful to say.
What about those dreadful appeals to emotion? You know, those arguments that sound a lot like the following ridiculous appeal to have non-transgender women banned from schools and female hygiene facilities:
Look at the above image.
ALL of these are women born women and they’re dangerous. These non-transgender women are guilty of rape. They’ve even stalked their young victims and raped them at knife point. This is undeniable proof that cisgender women are a danger and for the sake of creating safe places, we need laws on the books that will keep kids safe from cisgender women. It’s not that I hate cisgender women; that’s not the issue. I support rational equality; and besides, this isn’t even an equality issue here… I’m not a bigot. From the evidence presented here, one can only rationally conclude that cisgender women can obviously be dangerous predators. The women in the image are just a small sample of the long, long list of womyn born womyn perverts.
The list goes on and on. Lives were ruined by these cisgender women perverts. This isn’t about the adults. This is about the safety of YOUR family. What would YOU do if one of your kids found themselves alone in the bathroom with a cisgender woman?!?
If you can stand it, read a sample of how disgusting a cisgender women can be:
!!! TRIGGER WARNING !!!
I’m not saying that all cisgender women are perverts, but I just don’t want to risk the safety of my child around a non-transgender women. Would you risk your child? Of course not.
Did you know that non-transgender women are even organizing to expand their power in influence in society? They even hold annual gatherings to plot their next move. They’re already in the classrooms and the bathrooms picking their next victim. They’ve already used their position as cisgender women teachers to prey upon YOUR children. Again, this is a real issue that the media isn’t covering… and do you know why? It’s not politically correct to go on record as taking a stand against non-transgender women.
America has a long tradition of putting the well-being of children first. Who are you to tell my family that we have to suddenly tear down that tradition? Things have worked just fine and now our nation’s tradition of doing the right thing – the rational thing – is being discarded at the cost of safety, security and well-being.
Let’s cut through all the politically correct BS. Do you really want a cisgender teen or adult hanging out in the bathroom with YOUR child? What about your child’s school shower? Do you really want to take that chance? I know I don’t!!!
I know that you’ve heard media outlets make these very arguments against trans people. These BS appeals to emotion pimp out the actual suffering of very real and horrific violence, debasing the real hardships people have faced by using it in an effort to trick people into harming trans kids:
We’re talking about trans children and their ability to make it through school without dealing with the same institutionalized hate I faced. When you hear bigots try to sway you with equivocation and/or appeals to emotion and tradition, simply ask them:
In what way does gender equality nullify laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance?
It always seems to derail their rantings because you know what? It doesn’t.
Anti-trans RadFems, AKA Trans Exclusionary RadFems (TERFs) – not to be confused with non-hate radical feminism (AKA, feminism) – claim that gender is a fallacy. As an ironic (though the irony is completely lost on them) substitute, they’ve invented a binary system they call FAAB and MAAB. Once someone is Male Assigned At Birth (MAAB), they are endowed with a privilege that can never be removed, degraded or overcome. A homeless monolingual undocumented transwoman escaping her country of origin due to anti-trans violence has more privilege as a MAAB than a rich, white Female Assigned At Birth (FAAB) corporate banking attorney. The transwoman proves this by demanding access to the same homeless shelter space as non-transgender women. If the transwoman uses the same restroom as the FAAB corporate banking attorney might, the rich attorney is being oppressed by MAABness. Also, if the transwoman gets frustrated by the FAAB corporate attorney taking the transwoman’s picture and putting it on her blog to “warn” FAABs of a MAAB who’s gaining access to women’s spaces, the transwomen has just proven her MAABness through “male rage.”
See? Gender is an illusion and we’d all be better if we could understand this. FAAB/MAABness is real, omnipresent and can’t ever be changed and we’d all be better if we could put our everlasting faith into the inerrancy of the MAAB/FAAB doctrine. Whatever a FAAB needs to do to free herself from MAAB oppression, is morally correct: she’s fighting against male violence. Male violence looks like transwomen exhibiting any of the behavior FAAB TERFs exhibit because that proves that she’s MAAB.
On July 4, the Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) published an editorial in which a transsexual, Cei Bell came out in support of Victoria Brownworth, the journalist at the center of a recent controversy about unethical (and possibly criminal) practices concerning what CPS called, “child exploitation.” Brownworth has been recently criticized for, as one commenter put it:
… speaking out of both sides of her mouth. Calling trans women men and suggesting they’re sexual predators in one sphere and, the same month, doing an article like this. And it was about how the PGN seems to have real issues understanding why using someone spouting the attitudes of Ms. Brownworth to do pieces on the trans community is not okay.
Brownworth published an article on PGN about transwomen who are forced into sex work due to oppression and bigotry. The idea that a supporter of the ideological underpinnings of the very system of oppression which forces trans women into sex work seemed ironically cruel to some.
In response, PGN has worked to support Brownworth. Last week, they published a piece supporting her, the article which has come under fire for “child exploitation” seems to have been quietly redacted and this week PGN found a transwoman to write a piece supporting Brownworth. Brownworth’s transsexual supporter writes:
Victoria and I discussed the Leslie Phillips/Sisterspace incident when it happened. There is a nuance that is overlooked. Victoria was asking specifically why Leslie had to be in a leadership position at Sisterspace as opposed to simply being a member. She was questioning whether the need to be in a leadership position was a result of Leslie’s history of white male privilege. If a transgender person benefited from a successful lifetime of white male privilege, can she suddenly authentically become a feminist woman? Why was it necessary to be in a position of power?
I understand the danger the young women Victoria wrote about are living with… I am very happy that Victoria wrote this series. We need more people to take up this issue… My concern is that blacks and transsexuals are often hyperssexualized by white cisgender people. Writing about the specific sexual acts that the sex workers perform feeds prurient interests and stereotypes in readers.
A glowing endorsement to be sure – which is interesting because apparently Bell’s views on Brownworth have… evolved:
Lesbians would never put up with gay men critiquing and picking apart their lives, community and political relevance.
You sound very much like a Christian ex-gay who is trying to reinforce herself by convincing others that if they too adopt your dogma/idealogy and repent then they will also be saved.
If you have always felt that you should have been a man why are you dressing femme? I haven’t worn pants in almost 20 years, not that there is anything wrong with pants. Did you decide to dress in femme clothes because it was advantageous professionally? Does that make you a transsexual man who is crossdressing? Yet you have the nerve to question whether this transgender “trend…is the byproduct of assimilationist politics.” I have heard of a lot of things over the years but never a transsexual assimilationist political convention. Many transsexuals have chosen to live quietly because it is dangerous to draw attention to ourselves but that is not assimilation. You refer to the psychiatric community considering gender dyphoria a disorder. This is the same psychiatric community that regarded homosexuality as an illness that could be cured.
You speak about Kate Bornstein and Renee Richards having ambivalent feelings about the limitations of sex reassignment. I’ve got news for you, life isn’t perfect. Life is never going to be perfect. Each of us has to learn to live with the limitations of whatever we decide to do. We make the best of the options we have (or don’t) and the choices we make. It would also be nice to not have our gender “dysphoria” be the most important issue in our lives and it would be easier if other people didn’t bother us about it..
It is not our role to sacrifice our lives to fight feminist culture battles for you. We transsexuals know our gender from the time we are first conscious of our identities at ages two, three and four. We know who we are in ways more certain than gays and lesbians, who often don’t know who they are till 30, 40 or even older. Transsexuality has nothing to do with feminism. For that matter neither does homosexuality or lesbianism. While one can be a feminist it doesn’t cause anyone to be a lesbian. Making a pseudo-intellectual feminist issue of transsexuality a psychiatric-medical condition we are born with, makes as much sense as proclaiming homosexuality an abomination before God.
Instead of critiquing transsexuals why don’t you and others such as Mary Daly, Janice Raymond, Alix Dobkin and Lagusta critique yourselves and ask what the effect of your bigotries has had on your lives? Seriously, who do you think you are? There aren’t that many of us. Are we an easier target than a real threat such as John McCain who wants to repeal Roe v. Wade?
I don’t care if I can’t go to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I’ll start the St. Tropez Music Festival and lay out on the beach topless sipping champagne and singing Sarah Vaughn songs. Anybody want to join me?
I want to be very clear. I don’t give a flying fish whether you think transgender people, transsexuals specifically, have an appropriate relevant place in the movement. Get the f___ out of our lives.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
A commenter hits the nail on the head, writing:
I, like you – find the idea of attending Michigan tedious. I do however think businesses shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate regardless of my personal interest in what that business is selling. But – it’s not really something I’m going to invest much energy into as I don’t care to attend.
We all have nostalgia for your youth – we all deserve memories. Like Sally Jupiter those of us of a certain age feel to some degree “You don’t know. Things change. What happened happened 40 years ago. I’m 67 years old. Every day, the future looks a little bit darker. But the past……even the grimy parts of it… …keep on getting brighter.”
I will, however note that five years ago you were angry as someone with virulently transphobic opinions was allowed to speak for the very same part of our community she’s writing about today. You felt that her views would inform the work and that part of her motivation for writing it was to infuse those views into the public discourse about us. As she noted when writing that piece – it provided her the opportunity to discuss the issues she wished to address about us.
If the current article avoids some of her editorializing in her news pieces it’s due in no small part to the response five years ago and the response today ensuring her editor and publisher take great care with what they print and try to not let her slip those purposeful underminings of trans people into the story under the guise of how much she cares. Even if she does so right now in other venues and persists in misgendering women and men with trans histories while writing this series…
The bottom line is that someone with decades of behavior at variance with respecting trans people shouldn’t be given a platform to write about trans people. And you’re right – the lame excuse given that trans people can’t be objective while writing about ourselves is laughable coming from a venue peopled with gay people writing about themselves.
Regardless of how much her friends wish to rehabilitate her on this issue or how many awards she’s received from people who aren’t trans people.
A much older adult, who was famous in the eyes of a kid, talked the minor into exposing themselves to the adult. The adult then took a good long look – long enough to memorize the details of the kid’s genitals. The adult then wrote an article featuring the explicit details of what the underage kid’s genitals looked like.
While this might elicit a strident response from folks who care about things like the age of consent, the use of power, corrosion and exploitation, nobody seems to care in this case – especially the Philadelphia police department.
Yes, a minor really was talked into exposing himself to an adult but here’s the rub: the kid was trans and that, apparently, changes everything.
A reporter named Brownworth decided to do a story on a dangerous underground body modification scene which uses silicone injections to change the shape of the body. This practice is called “pumping.” It’s illicit because pumping kills. The resulting story was gritty. However, it was pushed into the lurid territory when the reporter went into explicit detail, recounting what the minor’s genitalia looked like:
“Devon tells me he should have been a boy… He’s handsome and, in the loose shirt, no one would ever guess he was born female… I ask him how old he is. He turns away as he mumbles “18″ and I subtract two, possibly three years.
Devon has been getting testosterone and steroids from Rolanda for over a year… Devon drops his pants and gets a cartoon-large injection in his thigh… Then Rolanda applies the breast pump to what was once his vulva and what is now being turned, slowly in this cut-rate plastic surgery clinic, into his scrotum. Rolanda says she is very pleased with how Devon is progressing.
It’s awkward, but I ask if I can look. Devon looks away and then asks Rolanda to remove the pump.
He turns toward me and places his hands on his thighs. There is thick black [CENSORED] and in the middle of this is a [CENSORED] — his [CENSORED] is growing from the testosterone injections and now looks like [CENSORED]. It’s very [CENSORED], but [CENSORED]. The [CENSORED] had become [CENSORED] also, and looks almost like [CENSORED]. I ask Devon how it feels. His right hand moves involuntarily toward the [CENSORED] and he smiles a little for the first time. “Good,” he says softly.” – Excerpt from Brownworth’s article
Here’s the original article. I’ve edited the part where she describes the 15-year old’s genitalia because it’s disgusting and likely criminal. The article is actually good – right up until Brownworth it gets into describing what the minor’s genitals look like for the sake of a little sensationalistic flair.
It should be noted that Devon, the minor in this story, made an explicit attempt to have some privacy. He never offered to let Brownworth see him. He never extended that invitation to her; rather, the adult who (is described by Brownworth as the “high priestess of the pump”) was supplying his testosterone and body modification made that invitation to Brownworth on his behalf:
…everyone is watching me, I’m equally sure that they would prefer I just leave so that they can just get on with it. But I don’t leave. I go to the kitchen, sit down on a chair and watch Rolanda prep her first patient, one of the boys. – Brownworth’s article
Brownworth clearly knew that the minor didn’t want her there. Devon tried to give himself some privacy. Devon turned his back to Brownworth. However, just looking at Devon’s back wasn’t enough to satisfy Brownworth’s morbid curiosity. She wanted to see it all.
Let’s be clear about Brownworth’s power and status in this moment. For Devon, Brownworth was a famous gatekeeper who was revered by the only person who he thought cared enough to help him transition (nevermind that this “priestess of the pump” – this adult – was knowingly putting Devon’s life at risk for some quick cash). Brownworth had the power to tell Devon’s story and make even more people care:
Everyone in the room had been warned I was coming and apparently been told by the breathless Rolanda that I was “famous.” The pomegranate juice and the signed copy of one of my recent books that I had brought for Rolanda solidified my status.
Brownworth was someone that promised to tell people Devon’s story and she wanted him to give up the little privacy he had made for himself:
It’s awkward, but I ask if I can look. Devon looks away…
What does that body language tell you when you see it? When you ask a 15 year old something personal and they look away, what is that body language generally communicating to you?
Our culture has a very strong bias towards believing that it needs to know – and/or has a right to know – what the genitalia of trans folks look like. I’ve found that this bias has influenced the way people have viewed this incident. For example, some feminists – who have an otherwise finely tuned moral compass when it comes to exploitation – have asserted that the 50 year old had a right to get the minor to expose himself. Others have excused any possible criminal activity on the part of the adult because it was a story about “pumping.”
When I made a report to the Philadelphia police about this incident, the officer asserted that the reporter had a right to have access to the minor’s genitalia because it was a “freedom of speech issue.”
I want you to pause just for a moment and let that sink in.
Fortunately, Child Protective Services viewed it differently. They said what the reporter had done is called “child exploitation.” The case has now landed in the DAs office… though I’m doubtful that it will go anywhere (more about that later).
For those of you who are still struggling with this because of the trans thing, ask yourself how you’d react if someone your 15 year old kid thought was famous asked them to show them their genitals – and worse, your kid did it. Then ask yourself how you’d react if they wrote an article which explicitly detailed what your child’s genitalia looked like? How would you as the parent feel? What would you do about it?
On July 2, this image [warning, graphic] made the front page of Reddit. The older man in the image had looked into the window of a fully clothed 15 year old. Within 19 hours, the image had been viewed 638,562 times. The internet seems to think the pummeling this older man received was warranted.
However, quite a number of people seem to take no issue with what happened to the 15 year old Devon. I know I won’t ever forget hearing the Philadelphia Police Department endorse what happened to him.
Strangely, the reporter at the center of this issue is the self-identified radical feminist journalist, Victoria A. Brownworth. The newspaper that published the article is the Philadelphia Gay News newspaper. Here’s an article that they just published wherein they defend and support Brownworth.
Even more strange, Brownworth recently sent the motorcycle group, Rebecca’s Army a long and rambling diatribe about how she’s really the one who was victimized after they had sent her a very respectful email with simple questions about a recent article. A self-identifed radical feminist site known as GenderTrender came out in support of Brownworth and denounced the motorcycle group for bothering Brownworth with the few questions they asked, asserting that the group is anti-lesbian.
Also, here’s another very important detail: The article in question was published FIVE years ago. And in that time, apparently nobody thought there was any problem with Brownworth’s behavior:
Some self-identified feminists seem to think that there’s nothing wrong with a 50 year old requesting that a 15 year old give them access to their genitals:
What’s Brownworth’s defense for gaining access to the 15 year old’s genitals?
Because: They asked me to.
Let’s revisit what Brownwoth wrote in 2008:
…everyone is watching me, I’m equally sure that they would prefer I just leave so that they can just get on with it. But I don’t leave. I go to the kitchen, sit down on a chair and watch Rolanda prep her first patient, one of the boys.
Now, in 2013, she claims that theywantedher to have access to their genitals.
It’s telling that Brownworth admits that she felt that what she was going was “creepy” and “wrong.” And yet, she did it anyway. Moreover, she used graphic descriptions of the kid’s genitals as a shot of sensationalism for her story.
I could almost understand had she waited in another room and simply reported what Devon said his experience was. But she didn’t do that. Allowing Devon to interpret his own experience to her wasn’t what Brownworth was looking for that night. Even though she felt it was wrong and even though she felt awkward and creepy about it, she was nevertheless really curious about what this minor’s genitalia looked like. The need to satisfy her curiosity was apparently so great that it overrode her own internal moral compass and she just had to have a good look.
She went on to assert that what she did helped this kid.
Did she clothe him?
Did she see that he was housed?
Did she feed him?
Did she try to even set up a free Hep C and/or HIV test?
What about spending even just 30 mins. of her day advocating for access to appropriate medical/social services for Devon?
Clearly she knew that what Devon was being duped into was possibly deadly. Did she even call in an anonymous tip about the person doing the underground injections?
The reality is that after Brownworth’s story, the individual doing these underground injections wound up killing people with her illicit silicone injections. The reality is that had police caught this back alley surgeon after Brownworth’s story, lives would have been saved.
If I had to, I’d bet that she offered no actual help and that she never lifted a finger to stop a butcher from going on to kill other vulnerable people. I’d bet that Brownworth tells herself that her behavior was motivated out of real concern. I bet that’s easy for her to do.
Was she investigated for her actions? Nope.
Was there public outcry? Nope.
Actually, she was given an award for it.
Of course, Detective Marabella of Philadelphia PD agrees with her. The Detective reviewed the story and concluded that Brownworth’s apparent right to know – well, not only to know, but right to actually see – what was in the minor’s pants was a matter of Brownworth’s freedom of speech.
Cisprivilege: It’s a thing
Cisprivilege refers to a set of unearned advantages that individuals who represent as the gender they were assigned at birth accrue solely due to having a cisgender identity and it’s a problem when one’s privilege distorts perception to the point so that it becomes okay for adults to talk minors into exposing themselves.
With the cisprivilege blinders on, it’s wrong to notice that Brownworth’s behavior was possibly criminal. Nevermind that Brownworth herself already states that she felt she was both “wrong” and “creepy” for what she did.
From a place of cisprivilege, an adult requesting access to a 15 year old transkid’s genitalia isn’t problematic. In fact, it’s a right. Just ask the Philly PD!
From a place of cisprivilege detailing what a 15 year old transkid’s genitalia looks like for the titillation of a newspaper’s readership (just to give an otherwise gritty tale that little something extra) isn’t problematic. In fact, according to the Philly PD, it’s freedom of the press!
Should a transperson take issue with what happened to the minor, Brownworth becomes both a victim and a hero.
From a place of cisprivilege, nobody will notice that Brownworth’s factual recounting of the incident seems to be inconsistant. In 2008, she strongly suspected that she was asking to look at the genitialia of a kid. When I interacted with her on twitter, she clearly states that she knew Devon was 15. When she’s talking to Autumn, she didn’t know until after the story was published. When she’s talking with other TERFs, she knew Devon was 15 but claims that she made it clear that he was “emancipated” (BTW, at no time in the story does she say that Devon was emancipated).
Cisprivilege means that our society won’t care. It means that YEARS will go by without anyone taking action because from the perspective of those with the privilege, no wrong ever occurred. In fact, society will give her a freaking award for what she did. It means that when the police are notified, the cop will claim that adults get to have access to a kid’s genitals “because of freedom of the press.”
My prediction is that because it’s been 5 years since Brownworth wrote her article and because Devon isn’t likely to be available to testify, Brownworth will get away with it.
I’ve done everything I know to do to advocate for the transkid I believe Brownworth took advantage of. It seems like the Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) doesn’t care. It’s obvious that Brownworth and numerous self-identified feminists feel satisfied about what happened. It seems that much of the cis-establishment – up to and even including the police – are defending Brownworth’s right to have access to a transkid’s genitals. Devon’s own invisibility due to being pushed to the fringe of society will work in Brownworth’s favor (if he’s not, in fact, dead due to the pumping). It seems like PGN is happy to cover up Brownworth’s tracks (the story at PGN has been erased) and pretend that the trans community is being unreasonable in their criticisms of Brownworth.
At its core, Thompson’s argument — and Vogel’s — is essentially based on gender identity and socialization. It contends that being assigned female at birth is a life experience that differs from that of being assigned male. “The internal struggles and social pressures are different,” says Thompson. “We live in a patriarchy. That is still true. And that has real, cultural effects.”
Syd Mutcher, another Michfest participant, agrees, saying that trans women are informed by their boyhoods and by male privilege, as well as by womanhood as they transition. “That is why I support the inclusion of trans women in most spaces but also hold a space that is based on the lived experience of being female since the day we were born,” Mutcher says.
That’s a fallacy. The truth is that the acculturation experience of being trans differs from the experience of being a cis male who is MAAB. I’ve no idea what it’s like to be a cismale. I know what it’s like to be a trans kid – afraid, ashamed and gender dysphoric all the time. Is being in the closet about one’s gender orientation the cismale experience? Is praying to not wake up in the morning if god wouldn’t fix my body at just 5 years old the cismale experience? Is being part of a population in which 1 out of 2 are raped the cismale experience? The FAAB/MAAB narrative willfully obtuse and cruel.
I’ve also noticed that folks like Vogel take the pareidolia effect to new and strange heights. Should a transwoman be assertive, angry, opinionated, willful or have boundaries, such human traits are almost always seen as being evidence of some sort of lingering maleness and therefore affirms their MAAB/FAAB binary dogma. If a transwoman behaves/sounds/looks in some way stereotypically female, then the transwoman is guilty of a MAAB need to enforce patriarchal notions of femininity upon the female form, which is evidence of some sort of lingering maleness which therefore affirms their MAAB/FAAB binary dogma. This is how you play tennis without a net; their MAAB/FAAB binary beliefs are unfalsifiable, set in stone faith positions. The MAAB/FAAB experience is a rubric that’s untouched by being trans (Why, you ask? What a male question! You’re obviously a MAAB or a FAAB enslaved to the patriarchy!).
The transwoman experience is the transwoman experience and the ciswoman experience is the ciswoman experience, to be sure! However, neither is the male experience and both are victims of rape culture, benevolent/aggressive sexism and BS cultural restrictions on how women are suppose to be. At its best, pretending that this isn’t so in order to preserve the stereotypes of MAAB/FAAB dogma is bigotry; at its worst, it’s lateral violence.
Michfest has a legacy of fostering an open-armed community among a multiplicity of types of women, from across the spectrum of femininity to masculinity. Yet its history is also marred by discrimination. In 1991, Nancy Burkholder was expelled from the festival after being asked if, and confirming that, she was a transsexual woman.
MAAB: male assigned at birth FAAB: female assigned at birth Gender: a generic term we use to refer to any/all aspects of gender orientation, gender identity and gender expression; the subjective result of the brain’s neurology with the context of a society’s culture. Gender Orientation: one’s subjective experience of one’s physical sex. Gender Identity: one’s subjective experience of one’s cultural sex. Gender Expression: one’s subjective experience of communicating gender orientation and identity. Gender Dysphoria: the sometimes debilitating experience of having a gender orientation and/or identity that doesn’t align with one’s sex assigned at birth. Transgender: (AKA: trans, trans*, TG) an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of people including transsexuals, crossdressers, drag kings and queens, as well as bigender and androgynous individuals. Transgender, came into common usage during the 1970s, but was popularized as early as 1965 as a way to refer to transsexuals who wanted genital reconstructive surgery. Today, the term transgender is used to refer to individuals who are not cisgender. Cisgender: (AKA: Cis, cissexual) is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of people who are not transgender. For example, this term is used to refer to someone who was sexed male at birth, subjectively experiences their sex to be male, identifies as a male and expresses his identity in a manner consistent with a generally accepted cultural male gender role.