Thursday, November 18, 2010

First Guest Post from Cerien! When Some Transgender Activists Demand Inclusivity But EXCLUDE almost all Genderqueer/Transgender/Intersex People, We Gotta Speak OUT!

image for a conference on combating the Christian Right's attempt to Convert Queer people is from here
An excerpt from what follows, by Cerien:
If you don't feel male, or don't present as male, then presto-chango! All that nasty privilege has gone away, and now you can claim to be the #1 oppressed group in the world!
Whether progressive or radical, most of the genderqueer folks I know are engaged in anti-CRAP work of one form or another. Many are anarchists, animal rights activists, anti-racism activists, pro-feminist activists, and anti-corporate/anti-capitalism activists. I used to identify as genderqueer, before creating a term for myself, "intergender" and then looking it up online and finding out it has existed for at least a dozen years!!! Why didn't I get the memo from the trans/queer activists??
Why doesn't media discuss being intergender?
Why doesn't media discuss being genderqueer, gender-varient, non-gender conforming?
Why will dominant CRAP-loaded media only talk about a very, very, very tiny percentage of transgender people: primarily those who identify as M2F--people with MALE PRIVILEGES?
What's going on here? 

Well, folks, we're beginning the conversation. RIGHT NOW. I want to give a shout out to ALL the genderqueer/intersex/transgender/intergender/GNC/gender-variant people who are living on the streets, who are selling themselves for money to survive, who are being pimped and trafficked, and to ask us to speak out against the forces that seek our complete destruction--the forces of CRAP: corporate racist atrocious patriarchy. And I am calling on us to gather our voices in solidarity against all the men, all the media, and all the M2F trans people who claim to represent US ALL, and who DO NOT.

If they're pro-prostitution, pro-procurment, pro-drugabuse, pro-poverty, pro-rape, they don't speak for us, IMO. Cerien agrees. So that's two of us. And, as I've said ALL the INTERSEX and F2M transgender people I know are FEMINISTS, PRO-RADICALISM, PRO-FEMINISM,  and don't trash feminist women in order to promote a pro-patriarchal activist agenda that requires MISOGYNY, RACISM, CLASSISM, ANTI-RADICALISM, and ANTI-FEMINISM to gain a voice and an audience online and off.

Cerien may be posting here occasionally. This is the first one. It is in response to *this post* I did recently on transgender and radical feminist issues. So please read that one, if you haven't yet, for the context for what follows. Thank you. All that follows was written by Cerien.

*          *           *

OMFG! You must be transphobic! How dare you insinuate that transfolk aren't the most oppressed group, ever, in the history of the universe!

... [recalibrates sarcasm-o-meter]

I have a couple thoughts on this. I hope you don't mind me splitting this up into a couple comments, because it's going to take a while.

1. Divinity[33372, of Medusa's Arrow blog] is actually fairly representative of "trans activists". When she talks about "the transgendered", she isn't talking about gender-variants, body-dysmorphics, genderqueers or even transsexuals at all. She's talking about MTFs.

Mikhaela Reid does this, too. Her comic, http://m1khaela.blogspot.com/">the Boiling Point, in the four comics that mention transsexuals explicitly (with a total of 10 transfolk), only one is not an MTF. When people talk about "transfolk", when people talk about "transgendered", they aren't talking about 80% of all transpeople: they're talking about MTFs.

I'm gender fluid/variant. They aren't talking about me.

My best friend is a male-identified gender-variant (i.e., genderqueer FTM). They aren't talking about zem.

I have more friends: gender-fluid, agendered, genderfucking, and so on. They aren't talking about them, either.

So, all this yammering from the "trans activists" about "inclusiveness" is bullshit.

Sub-rant #1: "MTFs don't have male privilege; they give that up when they transition."

This fucking pisses me off, because it is possibly the most covertly anti-feminist statement you could make today.

First because it ignores everything we know about privilege; it isn't something that leaves you untouched because you don't really identify with the privileged side of the binary. When you grow up being treated with privilege, you develop entitlement in tandem with it. Entitlement expresses itself without you consciously knowing it; it can be something as simple as defining/naming reality when contradicting a woman if she is hurt or offended by something you said/did - "No, it's like this. (And so you have no reason to feel that way.)" - or as blatant as MRAs whining about how all women are whores and bitches because their ex-wife got fed up with being treated like an intellectual and social invalid.

And privilege is mostly designed to work against people who don't have it. Most women were never raised with (gendered) privilege and the ensuing entitlement, so they don't have any defense or resistance to others' entitlement. What a man does and says comes off differently to another man because he was raised in the same privilege, and can resist someone else's socially-approved selfhood to keep it from overpowering his own sense of self. Women are not able to do this because they were never taught to or intended to.

So no. People may respond to you differently in some ways, but privilege doesn't just "go away" once you decide to transition.

Second, because it assumes that privilege is either a) the fault and responsibility of everyone else in the world, or b) inherent to... "maleness".

The latter doesn't need any explanation. But the former explains privilege as something you just lose if you start passing as something else; it's all the fault of other people. Brilliant thought! If we all just stopped treating privileged people with privilege, then it wouldn't exist anymore!

Ridiculous victim-blaming.

And third, because it assumes a certain amount of biological determinism. If you don't feel male, or don't present as male, then presto-chango! All that nasty privilege has gone away, and now you can claim to be the #1 oppressed group in the world!

Sub-rant #2: No one gives a shit about genderqueers.

Let me lay this out. "Transgender" is a misnomer when applied to transsexuals. (And again, they're not talking about anyone but MTFs.)

"Trans" has a few possible connotations. One of them is "across; to traverse." When it's made into "transcend", however, it means to break the boundaries of; to have a realm in which the transcended concept has no influence.

When the word is "transsexual," we're talking the former meaning. Because transsexuals aren't making the binary irrelevant, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst.

When the word is "transgender," we're talking about the latter. Transgender is gender abolition, where the sex/gender binary has no power and where you can identify as anything you feel like and have that respected, because you are a person first.

I have had MTFs openly disrespect my wishes for gender-neutral pronouns, not to mention the aforementioned "trans activist" people. I have had both whine at me that we shouldn't be referring to people with gender-neutral pronouns until they tell us what they'd prefer - because (I shit you not), they work hard to be seen as female, dammit!

Because it's not privileged at all to demand someone else's identity be disrespected and invalidated just so you can be validated immediately.

I have had "trans-friendly" people repeatedly refer to my best friend with female pronouns even after being told, over and over and over, that zie prefers gender-neutral pronouns.

Too often, the "trans activists" are the actual transphobes. I have felt more respected, accepted, and loved in radical feminist communities than I ever have in "trans-friendly spaces".

Sub-rant #3: If you're not rich enough to transition, or if you don't want to transition for whatever reason, you're not really trans.

Right. I'm going to hearken back to your point that "transgendered" does not mean "visibly transgendered", just as a point throughout.

When MTFs prostitute themselves to make money for hormones and SRS, they're those poor transfolk who are just trying so hard to be who they really are.

When FTMs prostitute themselves to make money for harder-to-get T, mastectomies or the woefully-underdeveloped phalloplasties, or hell, even just for food, they're just more pros.

The part about transpeople in prostitution needs to be more specific. There is no, or virtually no, demand or sympathy for FTMs. The allure of the "tranny" is based primarily on the penis; so, back to phallocentric sexuality we go.

You'd think Divinity would be more offended that MTFs were being sexualized and fetishized for something that they feel no love for, something they want to get rid of, and which probably caused them a lot of mental anguish. But remember, this isn't about actual empathy: it's about the right of the entire world to exploit women, children, and occasionally men for a quick wank.

(As an aside, it's interesting that her automatic response is to decry radical feminists for being against prostitution instead of to decry capitalism for enforcing prostitution as a necessity of survival for far too many people. Why am I "transphobic" when I see it as wrong that anyone would have to prostitute themselves for SRS and hormone therapy? If anything, Divinity is the transphobic one for thinking that making transsexuals sell the use of their bodies for SRS and hormones is acceptable, let alone good.)

And then we have the issue of transition itself. Phalloplasty is a half-assed procedure by the standards of the 1800s, mastectomies are hell to get unless you make up something about how breast cancer is in your family (and even then, you won't be able to get chest reconstruction - but you can get implants!!!), and some people just don't want to have to deal with people who sit in a well-furnished room the entire day, thinking about how awesomely intelligent they are for paying $150,000 for a piece of paper recognizing their booksmarts instead of observing humans.

FTMs who don't want to transition are routinely told that they might just be genderqueer; I haven't heard this happening to an MTF yet. Then again, I see many more MTFs who choose to transition - probably because their procedures and drugs will be less expensive, less painful, and have less hoops to jump through to get.

Oh, and then we have yours truly, the genderqueers. We're not really "trans," you see, because we may not feel horrible enough about our bodies to want to change them... or we may just not care. If it's society that causes us mental anguish instead of our bodies, we're labeled as "cisgendered". You have to loathe your body to qualify for the oppression olympics, apparently.

Let's not even get into the idea that the cisgendered have privilege over the trans... wait. Changed my mind. Let's get into that.

Sub-rant #4: Being transsexual means you are extra oppressed, so there!

Admittedly, I think a whole lot of the oppression transfolk experience is tied in with sexism and misogyny, too. I just don't think that an issue that is mostly or in part caused by something external means that it's not worth pursuing, or that it's not "real," or whatever.

Most "trans activists" will talk a whoooole lot about the gender binary and shit, but they rarely actually seem to get that when an MTF gets beaten to death for being a "fucking shemale," it's because of the gender binary. She was beaten to death because she defied the immutable gender roles of our society. And yet you're transphobic if you point out that it's the same issue - lesbians get beaten to death because they defy gender roles, "adulterous" women get beaten to death because they defy gender roles, gay men get beaten to death because they defy gender roles (how dare you like balls more than vulva! I am no longer secure in my sexuality! RARGHH), FTMs get raped and/or beaten to death because they defy gender roles (that'll teach that bitch), etc. ad nauseum.

At the same time, why would society not be a harmful force on transpeople? And if that gender binary is harmful, why would gender abolition not be a good thing? What if there are people who are trans because society has fucked them up so much? It doesn't mean they're not "really" trans.

(I hate this idea that, to be valid, it has to come from "inside," without external influence whatsoever. It's all part of this capitalist individualism bullshit. Even if you're not genetically gay, so the fuck what? That doesn't mean you're not gay; that doesn't even mean that your gayness could have been changed or prevented. It doesn't mean it's not a good thing. "It's innate" is beside the point... but it does seem to provide a wellspring of justification whenever someone wants to be a privileged asshole.)

I am strongly biased against "trans activists" and the "trans community" because every time I try actually thinking about some issue, I get called transphobic and bigoted. Fuck that noise! These questions need to be asked, and these issues need to be raised.

If I'm not allowed to think critically, I don't want your revolution.

Sub-rant #5: How dare women want to define their own space and community after millenia of having privileged men usurp that right from them!

This apparently needs to be laid out simply.

Men have, for a long-ass time, defined what women have been allowed to do.

Men have defined who women were allowed to be with.

Men have defined what is "valid" for a woman to feel unsafe about.

Men have even defined whether or not a woman is "allowed" to feel safe or not - physically (through letting people in regardless of her comfort) and mentally (through deciding what fears are baseless or not - and if they're baseless, they're nonexistent, for all intents and purposes).

So yes.

When you have been raised as male, paid a lot of money to alter your physical appearance, and then waltz into what's defined as "born-women-only space"?

You're acting with privilege.

You are defining what are and what are not valid boundaries for them to have.

And when you act entitled to inclusion? Yes, there are many women who are going to feel unsafe around you.

My question is: why do you want to force someone into accepting you into their community? And, given men's long history of feeling entitled to inclusion regardless of the feelings of others in that community, how are you NOT acting with privilege? Your entitlement didn't come out of nowhere; and it is entitlement if the members of that community have stated that they don't feel comfortable with you being there.

When you try to force a community to accept you, regardless of its' members feelings, you are an invader. Even if you do identify with that sex. This is not about how you're really a woman: you're acting with privilege. You're acting like a fucking rapist. You're not allowing them to define their own boundaries and limits. That's what men do. That's an inherent part of male privilege.

"Identity" is a good excuse, but it doesn't solve the problem that you are violating a community's boundaries. A community made up from a group that has a long history of having their boundaries violated, invalidated, disrespected, dismissed, mocked and sneered at.

Look. We need transsexual-only spaces. We need genderqueer-only spaces. We need women's spaces that include MTFs, and women's spaces without, because you get to define the boundaries for what you feel okay with and that doesn't mean you're transphobic, or hysterical, or delusional, or wrong. We've needed lesbian-only spaces for a loooong time, but we still have only three or four lesbian-exclusive bars in the U.S., but many many more gay-exclusive clubs and bars.

When someone else feels unsafe with you there, you're proving that you ARE unsafe by trying to prove to them just how ignorant and bigoted they are for feeling unsafe. Especially when, again, that person belongs to a group with a long, and still-standing, history of being communal property.

Go make a women's safe space that includes MTFs.

As much as you seem to think that a women's safe space that is not inclusive of MTFs is treating MTFs like "second-class citizens," it's the other way around.

You won't accept their boundaries or feelings of being unsafe. And it is a profoundly male-privileged thing to be offended when someone won't magically stop feeling unsafe, or shut up, about you and your behavior.

It is offensive to assert that you're a woman when you remain effectively ignorant about how women live, and what women need to deal with.

And a last note: being able to loudly proclaim your identity and have it largely respected - or at least ignored - is a sign that people accord you privilege. FTMs do not proclaim that they are transsexual because they need to pass, or men will rape and beat them. There are no FTM Kate Bornsteins. Why is that?

Unless you can come up with a better answer (and one that doesn't involve individualism), the obvious thought is privilege.

Sub-rant #6: If You Call Me "Honey" One More Time, I Am Going To Punch You In Your Stupid, Stereotypically Sexist Mouth (or: the artificial MTF)

This is a really big issue for me, because there is never a safe space for it. Gender representations are all valid, no matter how caricatured or two-dimensional, because to question an MTF's presentation is apparently to question whether they are transsexual at all. (See note about external factors not being an invalidation above.)

So, basically what it amounts to is: some asshole (who doesn't have male privilege!) gets to be offended at my questioning their presentation behavior (because that isn't a part of male privilege at all!), but I should just shut up and not be offended (because that's not an entitled expectation!) at that asshole acting in ways that no woman I've ever known has acted, and actually that asshole has integrated stereotypical behaviors that, despite no woman I've ever known having them, are widely used to discriminate against them.

Oh yeah, I'm totally not going to be offended that this asshole has essentially put on a very expensive version of gendered blackface (because it is almost exactly similar) and then expects me to just sit there and smile, like a good little slut.

I gotta newsflash: we learn gendered behaviors from societal depiction and expectation.

Even a little kid who desperately wants to be a little girl won't miss that. There aren't enough stone slabs in the world that you can hide under.

But here's the thing - someone being raised male, even if they don't agree with it, isn't going to be able to tell the difference between stereotype and reality. Not a single woman I have known acts like that depiction, or thinks other women act like it. The oppressed are forced to observe those in power to ensure their survival in ways that the powerful never are; when you're white, straight, male, hell - human (because non-human animals still know observe about us than we do about them!), part of your privilege is to be ignorant of the way your societal inferiors really are.

So you can see why, when an MTF is acting like the ultra-femme caricature, I believe that it isn't inherent to their self-expression; I think they learned it from the idea and picture of women that's presented to men from a very young age.

That doesn't mean they're not an MTF, duh, but it does mean that their gender expression isn't innate.

The idea that all forms of gender expression are valid - from the ultra-violent macho male to the syrupy-sweet femmy femme - is offensive to me in a number of ways, not least of which is that it's a pretty limited selection even if you include everything we have available. But even with the really dumb and reprehensible expressions, there's something else there... something that every radical feminist will be accused of at least once: essentialism.

Saying that an MTF's gender expression just happens to match up with the unreasonable and male-centric representations of women available because that's just the way they (or about 80% of the MTFs I've met) are is fucking essentialism, straight-up.

The idea that MTFs just have this innate femininity is dumb and reprehensible. MTFs learn their gender expression. Everyone does. Women, men, gender-variant, we all learn our gender expression; it doesn't come pre-programmed. You can argue that we have inherent personality characteristics that are them molded and modified by our environment, but if you want to argue that gender is just that way then you can go sit in the corner with the rest of the MRAs. Fuck you. MTFs learn their gender expression the same way we do, just on the other side of the aisle, so they have a limited perspective of the personhood of women.

Women don't act like that because it is soul-crushing to try to fit yourself into a two-dimensional cutout. And it is fucking offensive to "enjoy" that two-dimensional cutout, because people have suffered and died trying to fight it. If you're into BDSM and you call yourself a slave, you're being fucking offensive: you're co-opting something that generations of people have been oppressed by and trying to make it titillating. You're not reclaiming it. You're erasing what it actually means. Call yourself something else, but fuck you, acting like it's all just hunky-dory is fucking oppressive because you are a privileged little fuck.

/end... more later.

Sorry for taking up so much space with the comment; I'm not able to blog and there's no way I can express this otherwise.


7 comments:

Owl Eyes said...

comment 1:

"Why didn't I get the memo from the trans/queer activists??
Why doesn't media discuss being intergender?
Why doesn't media discuss being genderqueer, gender-varient, non-gender conforming?"

This is exactly how I feel about asexuality. Very few spaces acknowledge intergender, two-spirited or asexual individuals.

It hurts to be left out of spaces, it hurts to be sabotaged by a group of people who claim to speak for all queer folks. I guess this is more of my personal experience, but i wanted to get it off my chest, I'm sure you understand since you are going through the same thing with spaces disregarding intergender individuals.

Luckily SOME spaces do take notice, but a lot don't. Luckily the one I hang around on occasion, on campus, does acknowledge intergender, two-spirit and asexual individuals. It makes a big difference for some to add those few extra letters :)

Owl Eyes said...

Now, i must begin my long winded comments, haha. First I want to thank you for clarifying the difference between Transsexual and Transgender, I think a lot of people believe they are the same thing.
Now, to dive in, if i may...
You said,
"She's talking about MTFs."

Exactly. A lot of people, like Divinity, seem to think that trans = mtf and completely disregards genderqueer folks. Gotta love their apparent "activism" and "inclusion" of everyone" bullshit.

It irritates me to no end!!!!

"Sub-rant #1: "MTFs don't have male privilege; they give that up when they transition."

Someone just left a comment saying just this today, actually they said "They become women, so they ARE women"

I'm glad you pointed out the anti-feminist stand point this idea takes. Explicitly ANTI-WOMAN stance = explicitly anti-feminist, yet Divinity and co. identify as "feminist" which boggles my mind, like it does yours!

"People may respond to you differently in some ways, but privilege doesn't just "go away" once you decide to transition."

Dead the fuck on.

Same with touching on biological determinism. Last time i checked, gender was a fucking social construct, not a biological imperative for life. Why are we so concerned with how one's genitals look? How genitals should reflect who we feel to be on the inside?

Why are we always cut into pieces, into parts, waited to be examined as several objects as opposed to fully human?

It's interesting to deconstruct this idea of "gender" as based on genitalia, or "parts".

Also, as for your next point, genderqueers are NOT recognized, i have noticed this too. I was commenting about the exclusion of queer-identified groups being excluded from queer spaces earlier today, and the damage that does to people's sense of self. Do they forget the big T at the end of LGBT? There's barely any mention of two-spirited/intergender/genderqueer/asexual/ and i'm sure even more...

So, trans folks, as they do experience oppression, I'm not denying that, DO have a space to be included in, feel safe in. Where are intergender folks supposed to feel safe? Where's there inclusion? How about asexuals?

No one gives a shit.

Owl Eyes said...

If anything, Divinity is the transphobic one for thinking that making transsexuals sell the use of their bodies for SRS and hormones is acceptable, let alone good.)

EXACTTTTTTTTTTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'd love to see her response to this. It's an extremely important issue.

I love your points about gender binaries actually CAUSING the oppression for a lot of trans people. Most people, myself included, wouldn't have thought of that before...really makes a lot of sense to me.

Julian Real said...

Hi Owl Eyes,

I've been dealing so much with a process of coming out as intergender, well, of using that term and really being prepared to describe what that has meant over the course of my whole life--to feel something and not have a name for it, mostly--that I've not written as much about being asexual, although that's part of "me" as well.

I'm so glad folks like you and Cerien are showing up here. I feel infinitely less alone.

dedgurlcingztheblooze said...

I am one of those people whose identity has been impacted by the conflation of transsexual with transgender. You know, I had actually done research on this subject. Had seen that genderqueer and two spirited people fit under the Trans category, but because the label had only been associated with MTF's in society and on occassion FTM's I just assumed I wasn't covered under LGBTA (and I am including A even if others wont). I am a two spirited indivdual who has been socialized as female, and I pretty much thought I was on my own. Like no community for me existed.

This really articulates a lot of what I have been feeling, but didn't know how to explain. I've been attending meetings in my area, and while there are some FTM's, I'm the only two spirited person (I'm actually the only a lot of things in this group, but that's another subject) and the group is really white MTF dominated. I can feel a lot of the entitlement, and I've been trying to decide if these meetings are really designed for folks like me.

Julian Real said...

Welcome, dedgurlcingztheblooze!

I was sooooooo (add a few dozen more oooo's) hoping you'd speak out here. So, thank you.

Hugs. Extra big welcome.

I am one of those people whose identity has been impacted by the conflation of transsexual with transgender. You know, I had actually done research on this subject. Had seen that genderqueer and two spirited people fit under the Trans category, but because the label had only been associated with MTF's in society and on occassion FTM's I just assumed I wasn't covered under LGBTA (and I am including A even if others wont). I am a two spirited indivdual who has been socialized as female, and I pretty much thought I was on my own. Like no community for me existed.

A First Nations acquaintance of mine told me that he thought it was very odd that white folks had to designate themselves as "this" or "that" with regard to gender, as his own ethnic heritage had eleven genders, fully recognised. He was among those eleven, not among the two.

When I asked if he felt like "transitioning" he sort of laughed at my question. I hope we can interrogate what it is about CRAP that leads people to seek out medical solutions to political problems. This obviously goes WAY beyond anything currently called "gender dysmorphia"--a politically problematic term in and of itself. This also speaks to things like the diagnoses of Borderline Personality Disorder, ADHD, depression, and more. Similarly, in CRAP, all those conditions (well, maybe with the exception of BPD) do exist, but they are used to diagnose individuals, rather than the society in which the individuals are trying to live.

I did a post a while ago, which I'll link to here:

http://radicalprofeminist.blogspot.com/2009/03/whats-so-revolutionary-about-being.html

about WTF is going on with never mentioning Two Spirit people in "LGBT" contexts and spaces. I think it's called racism. (I know it is: anti-Indigenous, genocidal white supremacy, specifically.)

This really articulates a lot of what I have been feeling, but didn't know how to explain. I've been attending meetings in my area, and while there are some FTM's, I'm the only two spirited person (I'm actually the only a lot of things in this group, but that's another subject)

For a guest post???

Or, for an email to me? I'm eager to engage on these issues and make friends in the process; maybe we could set up a small email list/group, to not feel so alone. This is to say, I welcome you corresponding with me. My email address is in the top right corner on the blog.

and the group is really white MTF dominated. I can feel a lot of the entitlement, and I've been trying to decide if these meetings are really designed for folks like me.

I'm going out on a short limb: No. They're not designed for folks like you, or for folks like me, or for folks like Owl Eyes or for folks like Cerien.

White male-privilege-dominated spaces aren't for most of us on Earth.

Here's some related A.R.P. posts, btw:

http://radicalprofeminist.blogspot.com/2008/09/lgbt-community-white-supremacy-and.html

http://radicalprofeminist.blogspot.com/2009/12/l-gbt-not-g-lbt-ladies-before-gentlemen.html

Chris O. said...

BRAVO!

That was really good and really well thought out. I am also really tired or I would be more specific.