Monday, December 13, 2010

Interview with Julian Real on Transgender Realities and Racist Patriarchal Privilege, including the Pretense of Being An Ally With Two-Spirit People

image is from here

Preface to the interview that follows.

The image above is a useful reminder, to me, of what Two-Spirit people endure who must engage with dominant cultures. The challenges for many oppressed groups is to gain visibility by existing within a white male supremacist framework and understanding of gender and queerness. To say that this is a perilous road to visibility, would be an understatement. In one section of the conversation that follows, issues of white appropriation of Indigenous experiences are discussed. The larger conversation is about the politics of the transsexual activism I've witnessed, which may well be not at all representative of what most inter- and trans-gender activists, as well as asexual and intersex activists, are doing in our own political work. I welcome transsexual activists who embrace radical political projects to liberate all women from patriarchal oppression, and any non-Indigenous people who are allies with Indigenous activists, to come forward and introduce yourselves here. I welcome meaningful contact with Indigenous activists and Women's Liberation activists, across gender and ethnicity.

And if you are promoting ideas about gender that are implicitly or explicitly white supremacist, male supremacist, and supportive of Western Civilisation's agenda to destroy the Earth, to murder Indigenous People or steal their land, to pollute their communities with toxins, and to rape women across ethnicity, to subordinate women to men, to promote neo-Liberalism or neo-Conservatism as "progressive" or sustainable, then we are not likely to be allies in our political struggles.

The interview:

(The conversation is between a transsexual interviewer and myself.)

I: You seem to be making a few cases here, and some of them seem in conflict with one another.

JR: That wouldn't surprise me too much, if we're talking about human experience!

I: Do you mean to be saying that there is no such thing as cis gender privilege and that transgender or transsexual experience isn't real?

JR: Please keep in mind I am an intergender person who sees myself as someone who is also transgender, and who would have been transsexual were it not for the clarity of vision of radical feminists, most of them lesbian, who noted with astonishing clarity and incisiveness what is political and social (not "biological" or "natural" (meaning here, asocial and ahistorical) about gender-in-CRAP. I grew up in an era where the radical political project was to challenge to the core the fundaments and falsehoods of patriarchal worldviews, to note how what I term CRAP is deeply misogynistic, racist, rapist, genocidal and gynocidal. That it is also ecocidal has been increasingly discussed and revealed in the last thirty years, although any Indigenous group facing both ecocide and genocide has been telling us this for a very long time. It's only because white men like Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio are speaking out that some whites are paying attention.

I: You often drift off subject when it comes to matters of gender, I notice.

JR: What I'm trying to do is note that discussions of gender are not inseparable from discussions about race and the well-being of the Earth. Just ask Dr. Vandana Shiva--her books and work is all about noting these connections. You can't preserve CRAP and have health on the planet. You can't preserve CRAP and have liberty for women. You can't preserve CRAP and have white supremacy come to an end. The point is that pollution harms women, and so is woman-hating and gynocidal. Racism harms women and so is woman-hating and gynocidal. So too with all forms of environmental destruction and racism. I follow a fairly straight-forward understanding of such things, named quite simply by Andrea Dworkin: If it hurts women, feminists are against it. Or, in my case, "If it hurts women, profeminists are against it." And "women" is a gendered class of people at the bottom of a gender hierarchy, as CRAP determines such political realities. Women at the bottom means there is an oppressor-class and that class of people isn't women.

This is what I find so deeply misogynistic about much of what I see on and offline in discussions among transgender and transsexual people--that the anger about not being accepted or understood is primarily directed at women, not men. When it is overwhelmingly the case that transsexual and transgender people are not oppressed by women, and that much--if not all--of what trans people say is oppressive to them, or is a privilege we don't have, is also true of most women on Earth. And many of the privileges trans people have, the ones who are speaking for all of us, especially, are privileges women don't have.

I won't be so foolish as to pretend, as some ridiculously misogynistic men do, that women are in charge of male supremacist society, or that women oppress, marginalise, and stigmatise some people with male privileges.

I: But you do acknowledge, many times, that white women can and do oppress women of color, structurally.

JR: Yes, as the rich, irrespective of gender, oppress the poor. But, if you'll notice, "the rich" are overwhelmingly men, and white. And "the poor" are overwhelmingly women, and of color. So these things are not different phenomena, even while of course people occupy various positions in several hierarchies, depending on where they are located by race, class, age, region, religion, ethnicity, levels of ability, gender, sexuality, and so on.

I: So then you would acknowledge that SOME non-trans women do oppress SOME trans women?

JR: I will say that the realities that are transgender and transsexual experience are not understood very well by anyone at all, including those of us who are transgender and transsexual. I've had one transsexual visitor to this blog tell me ze is not transgender. Most transsexual people I know consider themselves under the social-political umbrella "transgender". So who is "right" about that? Who gets to decide who is right? We don't have leaders here. What we have are some VERY privileged transsexuals claiming to speak for all of us, laying down the social law, so to speak, about what is and is not privileged behavior, all the while ignoring how much of what these few transsexual activists say and do reeks of male privilege--unowned, unacknowledged, and irresponsibly acted out. If a group of marginalised and misunderstood people wishes to put forth understandings of our experience, the way to do it isn't to be misogynistic, racist, classist, and arrogant.

I: Is that what you think of transsexual activists?

JR: What I see too often, and usually, is that transsexual activists are targeting women as "the problem" population, when it is so clearly always men who are the problem oppressors of all of us. Why isn't that obvious to those of us who are transgender and transsexual, I wonder? Whose interests are served by being a patriarchy-denier? Whose interests are served by denying that men rule the world as we know it? A transsexual visitor here has stated again and again a very neo-liberal, individualistic view of gender, wherein individuals place themselves subjectively in a hierarchy, and proclaim that "non-trans women" are oppressive or marginalising to them. So what's the political project then? To bad-mouth women? To criticise non-trans women? Where's the part where you take on the powers that be? Where's the part where you challenge male supremacy and white het men's domination of all other people, all other life, including the Earth.

I simply think the political viewpoints expressed by some transsexual activists--disproportionately people who were not ever girls, btw--disproportionately by people who have had or still have male privileges girls and non-trans women never have had--are misguided and misogynistic. This blog calls out misogyny. Why would I not call out the misogyny of a population of people with some male privileges, past or present? Why would you want me to let that population of misogynists and anti-feminists out of view?

I: Because by your own admission, transsexuals aren't in charge. Non-trans men are.

JR: Yes, and I try and make that very point in every post I do about the subject. And the reason to take on the misogyny and patriarchal BS in what some trans people put forth is because it is being used as a wedge against women, to bolster male privileges and male supremacy, which in CRAP means also bolstering white supremacy and genocide. If you give a shit at all about genocide--including, of course the fact that over half of Indigenous people are, from a white Western viewpoint, females, girls, and women--why are you promoting a politic that protects Western Civilisation, that pretends it isn't what it is? That pretends that it isn't full of CRAP? That pretends it doesn't need complete composting ASAP?

If you give a shit about oppression, of any group, why would you target another oppressed group as THE people who are hurting you most? When there's no way that can be the case, structurally or socially. If you believe non-trans women are your primary enemy, then you're delusional about the role and power non-trans men have to destroy us all.

This is an activist blog, not an academic one. So I don't entertain much in the way of BS ridiculous pomo thinking about gender. I don't entertain much about modernist thinking about gender either, which holds it to be naturally binary, and inevitably male supremacist. Let's please not forget that: Modernism is grossly tyrannical when it comes to gender oppression. Modernism is the ideological view created by white men that puts white men at the center of the universe. Post-modernism, at best, challenges that viewpoint, arguing that white men's objectivity is SHITE. That's what radical post-modernism does. But liberal pomo theories aren't interested in doing shit about CRAP. And so they simply promote "diversity" of gender, not exposing how gender is a political system of tyranny and destruction. Derrida is often misunderstood, for example. And Foucault, while fucked up in some regards, was doing what Derrida was doing: pointing out how white male supremacist power "lives" in social experiences not usually termed "political", including in text, in writing. That was Derrida's contribution--how white male supremacy lives in text when the authors pretend it is apolitical, or "neutral" on matters of gender and race politics. Derrida said, basically, "BULLSHIT. Here, let me show you where your white male supremacy lives in this text." Foucault said it is bullshit that power is not exchanged in hierarchical ways in social experience. There is no "space" where politics isn't. That was his contribution.

But we now have a whole generation of people raised with very liberal understandings of both Modernism and post-Modernism. We have a whole generation of people who have been taught that radical feminism was and remains "essentialist" even while anti-radical, anti-feminists, trans and not-trans, put forth ideologies and political practices that do nothing at all to challenge the key power-brokers in CRAP. Again, whose interests are served by developing a political framework for understanding gender wherein male supremacy disappears? Where white supremacy disappears? Where anti-Indigenous philosophies and worldviews reign supreme, again?

I: But don't you see how transsexual reality is in keeping with Indigenous views of gender, such as the existence of Two-Spirit people?

JR: This is yet another attempt by whites--and it is primarily very privileged white people--to appropriate aspects of the cultures of many ethnic groups whites oppress and murder, and pretend there's alliance where in no way does that group (transsexuals) put forth a political plan to work in alliance with Indigenous activists to end Western Civilisation, to compost CRAP, to challenge male supremacy and white supremacy. To even end heterosexism. To even support land rights for Indigenous Peoples. To even support ending the dumping of toxic waste on or near reservation lands. To even find out what the struggles are of Indigenous People around the world. Where is this effort on white transsexual blogs? Where is this demonstration of solidarity on white transgender blogs? It's fucked up white supremacist bullshit to pretend that these transsexual activists are doing anything at all that's "good" for Indigenous people. As someone who has been working in alliance with Indigenous activists for several years, I can tell you that it's nothing more than white privileged racism for white transsexuals to pretend they are being a good ally to Indigenous activists by pretending that they are promoting bieng "Two-Spirit".

As I understand it, in my limited ways, being Two-Spirit isn't even part of a white male supremacist worldview. It isn't one experience. It isn't a way of being that translates easily into what we in the dominant English-speaking West call "sexual orientation" or "gender". It's not the same as being transgender or transsexual, because gender is different when we move out of the dominant WHM supremacist West. It's not our experience. So how can we claim to be promoting something we don't even fucking understand? How can we claim to be allies when we haven't bothered to find out what their political struggles are, for live and liberty?

If the core aim of your political project is to be included into privileged academic Queer spaces, and lesbian feminists spaces, and to be accepted for how you define yourself, and you don't bother to realise that most people don't have the goddamned luxury of naming or defining themselves, or of having their genderedness respected as inviolate, as honorable, as esteemed then in my view your politics are fucking oppressive and murderous, at their core. That's what I'd like to get across. If you are a trans woman, but you bash the hell out of radical feminism as "oppressive", I don't believe you're helping end Western male supremacist oppression. That's my viewpoint.

If your political work as a transgender or transsexual activist, as a trans woman, as a trans man, or neither, isn't inclusive of a view that girls and women everywhere are oppressed by male supremacist socialisation and institutionalised patriarchal power, through globalised economic terrorism, through globalised militarism, through globalised ecocide, gynocide, and genocide, then please tell me what your work is designed to do, and for whom, exactly? So if you care about gendered oppression, and view it has hurtful and harmful, please tell me what you are doing, if you are trans or not, to end globalised white het male supremacy?

I: So do you think transgender and transsexual people exist?

JR: Yes. I do. I am one of the people in that population and I exist. Yes.

I: Do you feel it is important for non-trans people to accept you as you define yourself?

JR: I'll be honest with you. I think it's important for me to be very careful to be responsible with the male privileges I have. And that's a lifelong struggle. And it's very important to me to own when my white privilege is rearing its ugly pale head. And it's important for me to be in solid alliance with half the human population who are girls and women who are not transgender or transsexual, who are being systematically raped, trafficked, and murdered as we speak.

I believe non-trans women should identify me as they experience me. If they experience me as a white or male supremacist, then that's what I am being. You see the difference in the politic? My politics are that globally oppressed people get to name who their oppressors are. And when the oppressors come back and say "Oh, no. You've got it all wrong. Whites are the endangered species! Whites are the threatened race! Men are being oppressed by a female supremacist society! Men are led around on a leash by women's sexuality! The problem is matriarchy! The problem is immigrants of color! The problem is African American people and Native American people wanting reparations!" I just say fuck you, basically. Go fuck yourselves, you self-serving oppressive pricks and bastards.

I: So you don't think transsexuals are an oppressed group?

JR: Not by women, no. By men, yes. But our oppression as transgender and transsexual people isn't structurally distinct or separate from the oppression of non-trans women, gay men, and gender non-conforming people. It's entirely bound up to misogyny and heterosexism. And to pretend otherwise is to be foolish. And it is to participate in political agendas which harm lots of people while pretending we're the only ones being harmed.

I: So what do you think transsexual activists should be doing?

JR: I think we all should be asking ourselves "What is male supremacist about my viewpoints and actions?" "What is white supremacist about them?" "How do our aims and goals for society help Indigenous women become free from white male supremacy's rule?" "In what ways do my own understandings of my experience reflect what CRAP enforces and mandates?"

I: Do your understandings of yourself as an intergender person reflect CRAP's rules and regulations about gender?

JR: My experience, when put through the lens of the views of those who are engaging in life and death radical, revolutionary projects, is seen by me as evidence of what's fucked up about CRAP. And, importantly, I work to not make my understandings of myself as intergender authoritative over non-trans women's experiences of me. That's where I part company with some transsexuals, including the one who has been visiting here a lot, promoting all manner of pro-patriarchal CRAP and neo-Liberal worldviews that are profoundly ignorant of what most girls and women in the world experience as oppression and threats to their lives, without the goddamned privilege of being able to "chose your gender identity".

I part company with that person and others who share in the neo-Liberalism, because I am THAT privileged. I have race, education, and some male supremacist privileges. I have Western cultural privileges, English-speaking privileges. The privilege of age and the privilege of whiteness. I have enough privilege to go into the world I can pretend is mine and tell people I structurally oppress that "You are being oppressive to ME by not honoring how I view myself, as an intergender person!" That's exactly how fucking privileged I am. I am so privileged, in fact, that I can presume and assume that someone might actually take me seriously, and submit to my wishes. And to bring that level of privilege to any non-trans woman, is to be acting out my male supremacist entitlements to demand that non-trans women take my word over their own experience. And that's fundamental to how patriarchy works, folks. That's it in one shriveled testicular nutshell.

5 comments:

justme said...

Hello there again, just wanted to add my two cents and maybe ask for clarification on some things.

I don't know who wrote the list of "cisgender privileges" or the intentions of trans activists who focus on women/feminists as their main adversary, but what is your response to the fact of discrimination, harassment and violence against trans people, particularly those who are low-income and people of color, and especially in the context of the criminal justice system?

I'm sure that you aren't ignoring those things, but rather focusing on the common source as WHM-supremacy as a whole (as well as pointing out the similar outcomes for many non-trans women, or non-trans people of color). But do you really think that trans activists should only be asking themselves questions about their own privilege?

Perhaps I don't know enough about the divide between trans and feminist activists, but I'm kind of struck by the harshness you exude in these few posts. I certainly agree with a lot of what you state re: some trans' activists' seeming lack of consciousness of their own privilege, but that doesn't mean there isn't such a thing as cisgender privilege whatsoever.

Have you read anything by Dean Spade? He is a trans law professor who founded the Silvia Rivera Law Project and has written some really interesting stuff on radical trans politics (including the inherent privilege of an academic discussion thereof). I'd be interested to hear how his work fits into what these other "transexual activists" are doing..

Julian Real said...

Hi justme!

Thanks for asking those questions.

I realise this post, in particular, is harsh.

I make it a point to be as emotionally honest as I can in my posts, as I don't really believe in being polite as a value in and of itself.

Politeness has gotten radical activism no where at all, as far as I can tell. You need to have Malcolm X behind Martin Luther King or the Kings of the activist world will be ignored or condescended to.

I'll respond to each of your points/questions below.

I don't know who wrote the list of "cisgender privileges" or the intentions of trans activists who focus on women/feminists as their main adversary,

But this is the whole context for the rage and upset. So we can't drift too far away from this. It'd be like me writing about how white men are raping women and someone responding, "I don't know about that, but what about poor men of color." You go on to say:

but what is your response to the fact of discrimination, harassment and violence against trans people, particularly those who are low-income and people of color, and especially in the context of the criminal justice system?

My response to harassment by men of any "feminised" population is that it needs to end, yesterday. The same for discrimination and violence. The ethic is the same: men need to stop their violence, degradations, and violations--their subordination and oppression--of all feminised peoples. And whites need to stop their subordination and oppression, including discrimination, harassment, and violence, of all people of color. And the rich need to stop their exploitation, harassment, degradation, subordination, oppression, including direct systemic and sexual violence against all poor people and all non-rich people.

I'm sure that you aren't ignoring those things,

Those are the core issues of this blog. My posts are generally supporting women of color who are not rich, who are actively engaged in stopping privileged U.S. men's and other white Western men's militarised, sexualised violence against all women and against the Earth.

Julian Real said...

but rather focusing on the common source as WHM-supremacy as a whole (as well as pointing out the similar outcomes for many non-trans women, or non-trans people of color).

And those outcomes are visited on trans people too, particularly and especially marginalised populations by race and class.

But do you really think that trans activists should only be asking themselves questions about their own privilege?

I think any and every white person should be interrogating their own privileges and challenging themselves and one another on how they express their structural entitlements. The same with all men. The same with everyone who has class privilege, especially the rich. The same with all English-speaking Westerners, and all people with privilege in the Global North. I think all white non-Indigenous males ought to be reminding each other about the fact that genocide is happening right now, globally, against Indigenous people.

Perhaps I don't know enough about the divide between trans and feminist activists,

justme, you can find this on most white transgender blogs. Just do a blog search for transgender, and see what is said about radical feminist activists, and note how, in almost all cases, Indigenous women and girls are completely outside the consciousness of such bloggers and their supporters.

but I'm kind of struck by the harshness you exude in these few posts.

I hope you read the conversation between the intergender and transgender folks. That one was loving, I believe. And I hope you note how one transsexual commenter here is a patriarchy-denier, at least with regard to North America, which is supporting pro- misogynistic and pro-rape, pro-genocidal perspectives on social reality. Because it is only white Christian patriarchy which has been mass murdering and otherwise waging war against Indigenous people, not just in North America, but surely in it too.

I certainly agree with a lot of what you state re: some trans' activists' seeming lack of consciousness of their own privilege, but that doesn't mean there isn't such a thing as cisgender privilege whatsoever.

I can (and do) challenge white gay men to look at white and male privileges without noting homophobia. To do so doesn't mean I don't think homophobia doesn't exist.

Have you read anything by Dean Spade? He is a trans law professor who founded the Silvia Rivera Law Project and has written some really interesting stuff on radical trans politics (including the inherent privilege of an academic discussion thereof).

This is the first I've heard of him. Thanks for letting me know about him.

I'd be interested to hear how his work fits into what these other "transexual activists" are doing.

I would too. I might have to look him up and ask him to engage in conversation about it.

What are his politics, justme? You mention his radical writings, but what campaigns and agendas of political action is he promoting or advocating or supporting, in those writings?

Owl Eyes said...

Great work, Julian.

Julian Real said...

Thank you so much, Owl Eyes!