Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Open Letter To Yale's Social Justice Activists

Addressing Global Social Justice at

image is from here

What follows is my comment/reply to Kate McDermott, who authored a piece called "Putting the Gender Back in Trans/gender Awareness Week", which may be read in full at the Midnight at Yale website, *here*.

Hi Kate,

It's really a discouraging time. Because there's so much pain and wounding going on in queer community, from where I sit right smack in the middle of it.

Lesbianism has become a taboo word--practically censored out of any conversations as a legitimate identity, unless it exists to turn men on. I'm not surprised that it has slipped to second place in many organisations that were once "LGBT" but are now back to being "GLBT". This places one of the more privileged groups of men in our community at the top--again.

But given the organising around "what's in" these days, the order appears to be "TGBI" with I being intersex and virtually nothing at all done to educate anyone about it. And L for lesbian being off the list. And never mind discussion about intergender reality.

I support intersex and intergender people's rights to be free from surgical and political interventions, am in regular dialogue with intersex people and also maintain plenty of contact with lesbians and non-lesbian women who are actively working to dismantle the gender hierarchy rather than pretending it doesn't exist in a "post-feminist" era that is far from "post-patriarchal".

Trans activists, to date, won't engage in conversation with me because I'm calling us out on the misogyny and male supremacy in our ranks--as others do too, like Joelle Ruby Ryan.

The only response I've gotten is from a non-trans man who is very white and very privileged by class, education (Harvard Law), profession and ability. His only response is to call me names and think he's doing "good education work" on behalf of people who are structurally, politically positioned below him.

What I see is many young lesbian women being truly afraid of being termed "transphobic" when we're all transphobic, after all, just as all whites are racist; everyone internalises it and some, like whites, institutionally, systemically externalise it too against people of color. So now that we're all done with the name-calling--we're all "all of the above", when do we begin constructive conversation across differences about how to radically transform society which is disproportionately mass murdering female people who are Indigenous, Asian, Brown, and Black?

One wonders if anyone cares any more about the "gender" that is defined as being a wh*re for men, from birth to death. And about the "gender" that exists, structurally, politically, to take care of men; about the gender that is either socialised, coerced, or forced to do so, depending on where you live. The gender that is enslaved currently at rates unseen at any other time in human history--by traffickers, pimps, and slavers (who are predominantly men). That gender is called "woman".

I wonder why non-trans and trans activism in the so-called First World isn't allied with and supportive of all the battles being waged for sovereignty, safety, and survival by women and girls across Asia--from Afghanistan (Malalai Joya and the women of RAWA) to Iraq (including Yanar Mohammed) to India (including the efforts of Ruchira Gupta and the escaped girls and women in Apne Aap), to the struggles of women and girls across Malasia, Thailand, Cambodia, and East Asia.

Why, in your own experience, does trans activism tend to focus so much on those "evil second wavers"--Audre Lorde being one its more brilliant spokespeople addressing the utter importance of meaningful respectful dialogue across difference while taking radical feminism seriously? Why have new populations and generations of anti-feminist queer and non-queer folks begun to once again dominate the scene, treating activism to root out a deadly gender hierarchy as off limits to discuss? Neither the Right or the Left will take on the matter of ending rape and genocide. Why?

Who benefits by taking the spotlight off of how we all need to survive and challenge and stop the abuses perpetrated and perpetuated by men, white especially, class-privileged especially, with professional and political power, structurally, who actually do beat and rape trans women, trans men, who perform unneeded and unwelcomed surgeries on intersex people. Why is challenging the most powerful class of men in our region of the world, and beyond--the rich white heterosexual ones--who control all media, not seen as a social emergency that college campuses should be outraged by.

For one thing, all your tuition keeps going up and up because the richest five percent of U.S. Americans won't pay taxes due to loop-holes, including bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. They earned 80% of all the money earned across class over the last ten years. Where's the gendered connection to economic justice, to challenging capitalist atrocity that thinks taxing the poorest 50% of the population is acceptable--which will always be disproportionately female and of color, while Exxon Mobil which has had a banner year, pays no tax at all?

Whatever happened to challenging racist, capitalist heteropatriarchy to the roots of its atrocious existence? What happened to listening to women like Audre Lorde? To listening to Alice Walker--still quite alive. To Patricia Hill Collins. To bell hooks. To Catharine A. MacKinnon. To Sheila Jeffreys. All of whom take women's lives very, very seriously.

Why the veering off to avoid the rather financially large and looming white het male elephant in the room?

I've been trying to engage folks in conversation at my blog, A Radical Profeminist, and if there are any folks there who want to engage, I'm very willing. I'm an intergender male. White. Gay. Asexual. Disabled. Jewish. Survivor of lots of sexual/heterosexist/male supremacist abuse.

When do we challenge class-privileged people are able to discuss re-valuing a politically lethal form of femininity that was designed by pimps to control, exploit, and violate women, while seven year old girls are being told to dress like wh*res for Halloween? When do formerly trafficked and enslaved women--Indigenous in Vancouver and everywhere else, Asian in Phnom Penh and everywhere else, poor Black and Brown globally, get to weigh in on this matter of re-appropriating the language used against them while they are being raped by procurers and pimps?

I welcome your response.

And thanks for caring about social justice issues and for getting involved.

Julian

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