Friday, December 31, 2010

Toward a Revolutionary Radical Queer Agenda

photo still of Honey, in the film Born in Flames, is from here
Revised on 15 January 2013.

Foreword to the post that follows:
This blog has historically done two things primarily: called out Western white het men's (WHM's) misogyny, racism, and heterosexism, and promoted the activist efforts of radical women of color, Indigenous women, and radical lesbian feminists (groups which are not mutually exclusive). I began to get criticism about my focus on, for example, heterosexual pornography--why would I not discuss gay pornography too? This is one response to that critique:

Over the two and a half years this blog has existed, I've increasingly realised how much of a waste of time and energy it is to try and get the most privileged people in society to be accountable to the atrocities they protect and defend as their "rights". I engage very seldom with WHM at this point. As I see it, there's little to no reason to do so: they don't care to listen, to engage, to be respectful, or to even acknowledge the depth and breadth of their power, privileges, and entitlements. If there are white het men who are radically anti-CRAP, let them take up the challenge to confront their brothers. It's not the job of queer and trans folks, women, and people of color (again, significantly overlapping populations), to educate straight folks, men, and whites, respectively.

In the last month or so, especially, I have begun a systematic examination and critique of dominant Western queer culture. Some of this critique has happened in conversation with Theory-Q at the blog Below The Belt. I have been in a process of coming out as intergender, and feel it is the obligation of those of us in trans/intergender circles to call one another out when misogyny, racism, and classism is present in our communities and conversations.

I tend to generate posts based on the issues which are before me and which make clear the relative positions of power various social groups have; it has never been the contention of this blog that anti-feminist, anti-radical transgender women occupy a more oppressive location over and against radical lesbian feminists than do dominant pro-CRAP cisgender men, for example. Nor is my belief that white M2F trans people are oppressed by cis women of color, or by cisgender lesbians, feminist or not. We can and unfortunately do hurt and alienate one another. Because we often share community spaces, we are terribly vulnerable to one another's insensitivity and ignorance. But some of us are also politically threatening, structurally oppressive, and historically and presently murderous in our endeavors. I contend that those most targeted for destruction are people of color--trans and not trans, and females--cis, trans, and intersex. In my lived experience, and based on everything I have learned about the history of humanity, those most politically threatening, structurally oppressive, and historically murderous are white and male.

I'll never have enough time to critique the barbaric and savage practices of WHM--they are endless and on-going with no sign of slowing down. But this blog will likely continue to focus most often on what WHM do that oppresses everyone else or, at least, to place oppressed people's many struggles in the context of seeing how WHM supremacist society shapes how and what we do to survive, and also, hopefully, sooner than later, achieve liberation by placing at the center of our analysis the experiences of girls and women globally, particularly those of color, those who are poor, and those who live in the Third and Fourth Worlds.

Please also see these related posts:

The rest of this post was revised on 2 Jan 2010 ECD. With great thanks to ll for all her support and critiques. Further revisions occurred on 15 January 2013.

We understand that Life is imperiled by the ways of the White Het Man, and as his ways are increasingly globalised, made foundational, made to seem functional, made to seem sane, made to seem necessary, made to seem good, moral, natural, and--especially--indispensable and inevitable. We recognise that these ways of being in the world and doing civilisation are structural and political while also cultural, social, and personal.

In societies dominated and ruled by the White Het Man, gender is not what it is in other societies which pre-exist and survive his savage and brutal invasions and occupations of us and our land.

In the societies of the WHM, we endure, resist, challenge, and seek to radically transform gender through the eradication of the institutions and interpersonal practices which bolster and protect it as a cornerstone in WHM society, along with race, region, and class hierarchies.

We ought not seek assimilation into WHM society as our goal, while we understand that some of us will sometimes acquiesce and accommodate for individual survival; also because the dominant society only gives us queer-hating, trans-hating, and woman-hating options for how to survive. But accommodation and acquiescence, assimilation and acceptance, and the defence and enabling of WHM values, systems, and institutions ought not be our collective aim. Radical transformation of WHM society is a process and goal worthy of our time and energy, wherever and whenever we have it to give.

We don't seek transgression of gender as performance; we work for the eradication of gender as power exercised over and against all who are not WHM. The kind of drag show performances white gay men enthusiastically promote as acceptable, which overtly mock and degrade non-trans girls and women as a specific class of gender-oppressed human beings, ought to be challenged not applauded. (These shows are also notoriously racist, classist, pro-prostitution, and pro-child molestation.)

Gender, for WHM, is a structural, political system of subordination, dominated by men, of all beings deemed "female" or "feminine", particularly and especially everyone named "girls" and "women" by men. In the West, the gender system is ruled by WHM, oppressing and stigmatising of all us who are not deemed white enough, heterosexual enough, or manly enough. For our collective survival, we ought not seek to become who they want us to be even while we find ourselves caught in ways of being they want us to learn, practice, and support. The path is never easy. We don't pretend it is.

For survival, we're better off creating safe and loving environments, systems of support-in-community in which to raise our youth; we required dignified care-in-community for our elderly. We don't pretend our ancestors don't exist or don't have spiritual relevance to our current lives. We respect and honor Earth-centered spiritual traditions but do not seek to exploit them, as so many middle-class whites do. We are, many of us, Indigenous. Those of us who are Indigenous have not disappeared. The many forms of exploitation and invisibilisation of our people by non-Native queer and trans people, and by non-Native heterosexuals, is not just problematically racist; it is pro-genocidal.

We seek to undermine and overthrow WHM supremacist systems and practices, and the authority and abuses which inhere in them, to take what is ours, including our land and Ways, and to bring justice and liberation to our people. We do this for the Earth and for all Life, with the assistance of the Earth and all Life. We join with the forests and seas to restore the Earth to a vibrant heavenly place of increasing diversity, not a death-adoring hellish purgatory adorned with pavement and pollution.

We recognise that dominant Religious, Economic, Educational, Medical, Psychiatric, Immigration, and Criminal-Justice practices and policies are historically and presently used against our people, to punish and quarantine us, to silence us and remove us from the population where the people in power live, to take reproductive choice from us, to take capability of feeling sexual pleasure from us, to produce in us a sense of shame and self-hatred, to render us invisible to the powerful and disdainful towards one another.

We understand that among English-speakers and readers, the term "surgery", for many of us without raced, ethnic, economic, educational, gendered, and regionalised power, is not positive; nor is it a desired medical intervention. The very mention of it triggers many of us. It has been used against our bodies in violating and disabling ways. Those who vocally promote surgery as unproblematically "positive" in dominant media are among the most privileged and powerful queer and non-queer people: they do not speak for all of us, while they are part of our community. We ask that those who are most privileged and powerful inside and outside queer community, be responsible to the ways that surgical interventions are used to terrorise and traumatise many of us who are trans, intergender, intersex, or not. We also demand it. This is not to say that non-dominant people do not find reduced levels of emotional and cognitive dissonance with the assistance of the dominant medical establishment; it is to say that this happens in contexts in which traditional Indigenist approaches have been systematically degraded and eliminated from our lives.

We do not consider the promotion of "shopping" for a vagina or breasts to be respectful of those of us who were labeled female at birth, raised as girls, and who are structurally located and socially mistreated as women. Some of us many choose to have surgical procedures that include modifying our genitals. We acknowledge that many who do seek out medical or surgical interventions to alleviate anxieties about gender identity are not transgender or transsexual; many cisgender men and women seek out these surgeries, for example. But the net result is one that promotes and protects, rather than undermines, WHM supremacist power.

There is no indication that liberal Western WHM supremacist societies cannot accommodate M2F and F2M people, as long as they accept the heteropatriarchal standards and practices enforced on everyone, trans or not. And as long as our people, particularly women and transsexual people of any gender, remain subordinate and subservient to those in power, especially sexually in systems of exploitation and rape.

Because most of us who are transgender and transsexual will never be able to afford or otherwise access such surgeries or medical interventions, we must respect the fact that most of us not only do not "pass" as "women" and "men", but many of us do not wish to, even while this decision does not keep us safe from threats and acts of violence and discrimination by non-trans people.

White M2F and F2M transsexual people are a minority population among all trans people; this is not something the dominant media will alert the masses to, because it would mean acknowledging that many of us do not accept or find any kind of emotional-psychic restorative home living inside the confines of a Western white patriarchal gender binary. Those of us who are intergender and transgender, for example, as well as many of us who are transsexual and intersex, are not interested in gender-specific surgeries to change our sexed bodies. Because of this decision to refuse surgical interventions, or simply to not choose them, we are never made visible on talk and chat shows. The general attitude among white liberal non-trans people is this: "I sure hope they can get that top and bottom surgery, so they can fully be a man or a woman". This is not only misogynistic and male supremacist; it is anti-lesbian, anti-intergender, and anti-transgender too. And it is racist and classist, promoting ways of being that are outside of traditional Indigenist and oppressed ethnic worldviews and values.

We understand that the problem with mass corporate media isn't simply that it represents us in stereotypical pro-gender binaried (heteropatriarchal and white male supremacist) ways, but that it doesn't represent or present most of us at all. We also understand that whether we are Black, Brown, Asian, Indigenous, or poor, homeless, trafficked, enslaved, or imprisoned, our experiences are not part of what the dominant society (and its media) imagines "who queer people are".

Access into racist, heterosexist, capitalist, and misogynistic institutions such as marriage and the military ought not be not our aim: why do some of us fight for the right to commit racist atrocities against citizens of the world who are targeted solely because they are Brown, Black, Latina/o, Asian, African, Indigenous and not white and North American, European, and Australian? Why do some of us fight for inclusion in an institution--marriage--that remains dangerous for most cis women, including especially economically disadvantaged women, immigrant women, and women who come from cultures that have other ways of creating intimate unions, families, and communities? Why would we support, in our conscientious activism, the systems and institutions that oppress and kill us, globally. We would we support, in our communities of choice, the ways of WHM that destroy people of color, the poor, women, and the Earth and its many expressions of Life?

While we acknowledge that we each must find our own ways through this life, we aim to honor and respect those without the power of those atop gender, race, class, and region hierarchies. We can demonstrate this respect by not appropriating the names and labels race- and gender-oppressed people cannot escape. We can choose to not call ourselves the names that cisgender girls and women have no choice but to negotiate and endure. We can affirm ourselves as transgender, transsexual, intergender, intersex, asexual, genderqueer and otherwise queer people, along with many names and identities that aren't white-centric, euro-centric, and Anglo-centric. We ought not be required by anyone to use only English terms, Western terms, and non-Indigenous terms to name ourselves.

We can, as gay males, reject the politics of affirming manhood in media and in society-at-large; we can affirm a politic that states and expresses unequivocally that there is nothing wrong with being unmasculine and unmanly; and, in fact, our collective survival depends on het men stopping their masculinist and manly ways. If gay males are ever to be respectful, trusted allies to girls and women's struggles for liberation globally, we must embrace a politic that doesn't promote oppressive manhood.

We must not forget that lesbians and queer women of any color, female or intersex, are oppressed not only for being lesbian and queer; they are oppressed for being female, girls, and women. And most non-heterosexual women are also oppressed by class, race, and region.

Let us reject as inhumane and destructive to our collective humanity the sexual values and practices of WHM supremacist societies. Let us work together to stop erotically or economically valuing domination, subordination, humiliation, and degradation: those values and practices are unbecoming, repressive, oppressive, and hostile to collectivist liberation.

For too long those with race, ethnic, class, region, and gender privileges and power who are queer have dominated and defined our agendas, our approaches to activism, and our erotic and intimate lives. We must keep at the center of our struggles, those of us with the least access to the most power, especially those who are poor, of color, Third and Fourth World, and female. We must do so with accountability to and in alliance with anti-capitalism/militarism/imperialism/colonialism queer activists; with womanist activists; with radical feminist activists--white, of color, lesbian, and queer; and with Indigenous women activists globally.

image is from here


feminazi said...

Ha, you're awesome!! Anyway, just thought I'd insert my entitled two cents.

We do this for the Earth and for all Life,

People always claim they are seekings rights "for god, love, or country". It's a justification, not a reason. It is enough to claim and demand human rights because one is entitled to human rights -- no justification is ever necessary.

Julian Real said...

Hi feminazi,

I appreciate those two cents!

What people do for "god, love, and country" seems to awfully close to what people do for something more akin to the devil, hate, and male ego, so whenever I hear about those being the motivations, I'm skeptical about whatever the agenda is.

I agree with you: working for human rights really ought to be a rather obvious thing to work for, not for country or god or even for love.