Monday, February 7, 2011

An Honest, Open Letter to the LGBTIQA Blogging Community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender /Transsexual, Intersex/Intergender, Queer/Questioning, and Asexual)

image is from here

Dear Queer Community,

It seems to me there's kind of a general culture online of throwing around of hateful and disrespectful speech, particularly if not uniquely in the queer blogosphere. I see this in many blogs which I won't name in part because there are too many to name. That said, the list isn't uncountable. It's a definite number--perhaps growing, perhaps not. But what I'm seeing is a rather nasty, almost compulsively snarky, and generally unconstructive way of engaging that seems to do little more than demonstrate that yes, we can insult each other and treat each other in emotionally harmful ways, while never really engaging in meaningful dialogue and respectfully agreeing to disagree.

I also find that our online blogging community both is and is not a voice for the offline community. After checking this out with several people in our community as citizens and activists, what I find is that many of the terms we use to divide ourselves up, to fuel tensions and deepen disagreements do not exist offline in general discourse. This means one of three things:

--the realities we discuss here are not relevant to the lives of people who do not blog, or
--what we discuss does not reflect actual lived life of most LBGTIQA people, or
--how we discuss things is elitist and removed from how people offline speak of their lives and their struggles

I think particular environments are likely to creating their own ways of being and doing things. And in the blogging world, it seems, being snarky, nasty, mean, and hateful is too often held as both acceptable and a worthwhile endeavor.While it may benefit a few individuals to write about other groups of people in demeaning and grossly stereotypical ways, I wonder what the effect is generally on our capacity to care about one another or at least see one another as full human beings.

I hold out little hope that white het men will "come around" and care about the concerns radical activists working to end male and white supremacy, and Western corporate tyranny, and U.S. militarism-as-foreign-policy. I want them to get it and challenge one another accordingly. But I don't have much hope for that. The levels of protections and privileges, the forms of power and the range of entitlements, that WHM possess and maintain, are so encouraging of living in denial about what everyone who isn't a WHM experiences. The denials is a consequence of not experiencing what most people around the world experience.

If you are not raped, or your body isn't socially targeted for rape, and your gender isn't targeted for rape, how are you to know what it feels like to hear that another woman has been raped? How are you to register "rape" as a form of gendered terrorism that men commit disproportionately and intentionally against women and girls? If  you are white, how are you to know the forms of invisibility and stigma people of color carry within them that are inflicted and maintained by white society?

What people raised with male privileges (however modified they might be by other factors), don't generally acknowledge, is the degree to which they shape the behavior of the people with them. I find the same dynamic operating among whites: willful denial of privileges based on race.

What I see in our community is men and males who (intentionally or not) disrespect and hurt women--lesbians and women who are not lesbian--without regard for the effect, except to take pleasure when the effect is damaging to women.What I have observed is gay men, bisexual men, trans men, and trans women raised with male privileges, discounting women's experience as not sufficiently real or valid to take seriously. Or to cause one to make changes in one's own male-privileged and/or misogynistic behavior.

I would say that white racism, male supremacy, and an attachment to the values of corporate capitalism are three forces that combine to make our community one more place where many women are not safe from abuse and harassment. I see this harassment and abuse online, on blogs that seem to think that radical feminists--the few they name--are able to inflict oppressive harm systematically against some in our community the way that men do. To me, that's utter nonsense. How, structurally, would that even be possible? How could that happen systemically, when radical feminists aren't in charge of any dominant systems? Men and males are in charge, not women, not females. And in the West, whites are in charge--not people of color.

Unowned and irresponsible use of white and male privileges are two things I see being acted out on blogs. Gay men disrespect women, lesbian or not, and male-privileged people, trans or not, disrespect radical lesbian feminists--the few they name or believe they know.

I have yet to see one book written by a radical lesbian feminist responsibly and respectfully engaged with. Not one. Why is that? I see writings by men engaged with as if the author was a person deserving of respect and regard. Whole academic disciplines are organised around the ideas and ideologies of men, too often white men. But when the author, the historian, the social and cultural critic, the activist, is a lesbian-identified woman who is not transgender or transsexual, there is not such engagement or care to understand the meaning of the work.

I welcome someone linking me to even one gay male-privileged, bi male-privileged, or trans male-privileged blogger who responsibly, thoughtfully, carefully, respectfully analyses and engages with just one book written by a radical lesbian feminist. Just one. Or with just one activist who is a radical lesbian feminist. Just one. Because I'm beginning to wonder whether anyone who is not a radical lesbian feminist is even capable of doing this. I mean emotionally and intellectually capable. I mean spiritually and politically capable. I have "virtually" no evidence of such engagement happening. And I believe that ought to be a concern for all of us. Because radical lesbian feminism is one of the most pro-liberatory and intentionally anti-status quo movements to rise out of our community, or one portion of it. I know many lesbians do not identify as queer or feel a part of queer community. But het male society does locate lesbians of any political affiliation or identity as "who is queer", and we are defined, often enough, by our oppressors.

Why won't non-lesbian, non-feminist, non-radical people engage responsible and respectfully with radical lesbian feminist authors and activists? I'd like someone to explain why without being anti-feminist, misogynistic, or arrogantly male supremacist when doing so.

Yours in the struggle,

Julian

15 comments:

Bluetraveler said...

This is so powerful and true, Julian.

If I identified as FTM for years it was also because of fun-feminism and the confusing (gay) male supremacy theory that is Queer theory. I haven't actually even read a single radfem author (but I want to soon) and I'm already accused of being a "gynocentrist radfem" for saying the original Snake God was female, which is just the truth. UGH!

I am not a lesbian, but I support both radfems and lesbian feminists, as long as they don't claim female superiority (I believe all humans, male, female or intersexed, are equal). And there's nothing in what I've written advocating "female superiority" like Hexy believes. I'm just advocating for female humans being seen as worthy as male humans. Radical, I know.

Julian Real said...

Hi Bluetraveler,

I'm so glad you've been speaking out about your own experiences. I know there are many other people within our community who have bought into the male supremacist (or "liberal") values about gender who then choose hormones and surgery to resolve issues that are political and structural, not hormonal and physiological. This isn't to say that some people won't experience relief or some sense of well-being by going that route. But it is to say that it promotes a privileging of gender-as-biological experience over gender-as-political hierarchy. And male supremacy thrives when it is rendered invisible by our collective actions.

How do I know that some people are tempted to make choices to see and treat gender as a biological condition needing physical changes, not a political one needing social change? Because I am one of those people who would have chosen the path of seeking out biological changes instead of politically activist efforts to change the whole damn system. I contemplated doing so, as I never felt like the sex/gender I was assigned to.

I have spoken with a few radical feminist women about this too. We all concede that if we were raised through the 1990s, with the current absence and total disregard and disrespect for radical feminist understandings of and challenges to white male supremacist theories and practices of "Gender", we too would be transsexual. I have little doubt about that, speaking only for myself. Radical feminism saved me a lot of grieve, by alerting me to the social problem that is gender, and to not accept that it is a biological or natural condition.

Julian Real said...

Who among us isn't at least somewhat vulnerable to media and the medical establishment with its grossly capitalist (white/male supremacist) interests? We are bombarded with images of fake constructed gender passed off as authentic being. This has always been oppressive to women and in service to men's patriarchal needs for women to be things-for-(het)men. Such masculinist and racist theories and practices are devoid of any understandings of human beings as holistic--spiritual and material both. And dominant society is determining enough to render each of us inextricably bound to the dominant values and viewpoints of oppressor culture. It is no surprise that we think in ways that are misogynistic, racist, and capitalistic. And that we behave in ways that are those things as well. How can it be otherwise? We at least can challenge ourselves and each other using the tools of radical activists who see through the oppression presented as natural and inevitable.

With the collaboration of media and medicine, those of us who refuse NOT to name misogyny and racism when we see and experience it are made silent and invisible, or when we speak out enough, are turned into people who are "crazy", "extremist", "fascistic", and "haters". Nevermind that each of those words have always most applied to the most oppressive and privileged among us.

We are usually denied a dissenting voice and we are denied any media coverage at all. Gender-specific surgeries and other medical interventions are promoted on television as "acceptable" or "good" or "my right!!!".

Julian Real said...

I've always said that most people who use consumption of hormones to "feel more like [the gender they believe themselves to be] are men; het men; non-trans men. Men tend to use T to feel more manly, to be the kind of men they see being esteemed and valued socially. This is entirely cultural and political, and it's rather obvious to me that any man who chooses to take T is doing so not because of a "biological" condition or a medical condition, but because his peers believe in an idea that men should be muscular, tough, competitive, aggressive, and strong.

And many non-trans women are (mis)prescribed "female hormones" or other forms of estrogen to resolve issues that are not specifically or primarily endocrine system-related. Many feminist doctors and media critics have written about how male-dominated medicine and media necessarily will influence some of us to believe what dominant society says is "true" about gender and race.

So I'm very glad there are places on the web where people can go who feel like they might be transsexual, or who are non-trans men who might feel like taking T, or who are women who have been told lies about the proper uses of estrogen, and at least get another point of view--one that names the male and white supremacy embedded in the dominant viewpoints.

You are one such person speaking out--from very personal experience. And so are radical feminists, a few pro-feminists, and lesbian feminists. And so too are many intersex people. Collectively we are presenting a sound critique of the dominant viewpoints, even when they show up in queer community and become regarded as "progressive" and "in need of protection from radicals". As if radicals have any power at all to stop dominant media and medicine from pushing its agenda!

Is it really not terribly obvious that the men who (mis)use T, the women who seek out breast enlargement surgery, and some trans people who promote surgery as an unproblematic "solution" to a deeply political problem are all not acting in a patriarchally conservative way? There's nothing radical or progressive about maintaining beliefs and supporting behaviors which make it seem to all of us that gender is something prenatal. Politically conservative (politically correct) support of status quo solutions to political problems is what we are all supposed to do, no questions asked. And if anyone asks anything, questions anything, we are called all the names that men have always called women.

A few trans, queer, and het blogs practice white and male supremacy while calling it "progressive". How is insulting women progressive? How is demeaning a women's liberation movement, and its activists, "progressive"?

Julian Real said...

The most misogynistic blogs are not those of trans people, in my experience. Not by a long-shot. The most woman-hating blogs are not queer either. The most patriarchal blogs are het men's blogs. Most are those promoting men's rights [wrongs] and father's rights [wrongs]. And I think it is a mistake to believe that somehow trans people have more power than non-trans men to oppress women, structurally or systematically.

But some of this misogynistic anti-feminism is found on gay, trans, queer, or pro-gay, pro-trans, and pro-queer blogs. And because those blogs help shape the views of those who look online for answers, those of us who are unwilling to accept dominant cultural explanations of experience as "the only truth" must speak out.

That some non-queer and non-trans people are backing the most socially conservative "solutions" to our collective challenge to resist white het male supremacy (and white gay male supremacy) means that anti-radical, anti-feminist forces are winning in ways that are beyond disappointing. To witness those in the ranks of the oppressed (who will never be seen and treated as white het men by white het men) means WHM supremacy remains effective in its strategy of divide and conquer. It means Flo Kennedy's cautions about horizontal hostility are either forgotten or unheeded.

I won't promote hatred of or bigoted views of trans people here. To do so is to engage in the tactics of the White Master. And I obviously won't promote anti-feminism here.

Julian Real said...

Oppressed people spending enormous quantities of energy fighting each other is what WHM supremacists require us to do so we have little time or energy to work together to challenge white non-trans men.

As a practice, as a strategy, horizontal hostility, acted out, is regressive, conservative, racist, and misogynistic. It's done in the name of being progressive or, even, "radical". What's so radical about doing the White Master's work?

If I identified as FTM for years it was also because of fun-feminism and the confusing (gay) male supremacy theory that is Queer theory. I haven't actually even read a single radfem author (but I want to soon) and I'm already accused of being a "gynocentrist radfem" for saying the original Snake God was female, which is just the truth. UGH!

I've seen that on your blog, Bluetraveler. And the reactions you are getting reveals the male supremacy embedded in their views and social behavior.

I am not a lesbian, but I support both radfems and lesbian feminists, as long as they don't claim female superiority (I believe all humans, male, female or intersexed, are equal). And there's nothing in what I've written advocating "female superiority" like Hexy believes.

Bluetraveler, you are experiencing what virtually everyone who identifies as a radical woman of color, a lesbian feminist, a radical feminist, or a radical profeminist experiences: being labeled a man-hater, a promoter of female superiority, and being stimatised as an advocate for believing that men are not human.

Julian Real said...

Below I link to two speeches by one of the radical lesbian feminists most vilified by anti-feminists: Andrea Dworkin. The speeches clearly demonstrate--as clearly as any writing could--that she did not believe in or promote belief in "female superiority" or any idea that "men are not human".

How it is the men who hate Dworkin never manage to quote from either of these speeches when "proving" online that she hates allegedly men and thinks women are superior is proof of their willful ignorance and refusal to engage with someone's work honesty and with integrity.

These speeches are online, available for anyone with Internet access and English-reading skills to study. So it is easy to show how someone is misquoting from them, or taking snippets out of context. That's why so few people who hate radical feminist quote from them. Instead they offer up misquotes from materials that are not readily visible online, so people might actually believe their lies are true.

I'm just advocating for female humans being seen as worthy as male humans. Radical, I know.

Yes, it is radically feminist. And that's why all the anti-feminists and anti-radicals will come after you for stating such things. Sad, sad, sad, and all too predictable.

Here are those speeches:

The first very clearly rejects any ideas of "female superiority":

Biological Superiority: The World's Most Dangerous and Deadly Idea

There remain some typos and formatting problems in this next speech, in the online version. Nikki and I are working on getting that corrected. But the I believe the text reads as it should, except for the typos.

I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour Truce During Which There is no Rape"

Stay strong, Bluetraveler. Many other people need to read what you know to be true.

Bluetraveler said...

Thanks Julian. You are a passionate person with an eloquence I will never have, as a physicist-turned-writer for a cause way bigger than me, and which no one else seemed interested in supporting (I have since learned that's not so true, luckily). I know there are people out there who NEED my help, and that's why I am writing and have started my blog. I can't but offer support to the "radfem spectrum" (all the people who in a way or another support radfem theories, of female humans being returned to full humanity!) even if I am still quite ignorant on radical feminism, because if it had been popular I would have never thought of myself as trans. Everything I wrote on the site about feminism I discovered it myself at a great price, I didn't read it from anywhere else, much less from radical feminists: I don't consider myself a "genius" for having made some of their same "discoveries", just someone who's a bit more in-tune with how reality works than most people due to my history of being in trans communities for a long time, and so that's why what I have said in some posts "sounds like a cookie-cutter version of radfem thought" - because it's an objective reality that can be seen by anyone! If everyone destroyed every radfem piece of writing on the Earth, they would still be written again sooner or later if society doesn't change! Now the same thing really can't be said of fun-feminism, which depends on the approval of men, uh?

Thank you for the links, I am checking them now. And I want you to know you will be accepted anytime commenting in my blog :) . You really are a great counter-example to those who believe MABs can really never be reformed. I don't hold the same stance; among other people, it was a man, a writer who saved my life, by showing me what life is. And what I am writing in general on life, biological sex, freedom, theories, I think, it's not really "mine": it's like a sort of dusty tablet overlooked by time, already fully formed, but laying alone in the dust. What I really am doing is the work of an archaeologist (by polishing it again, or trying to at my best) and of a logician, by putting the pieces back in their correct order. I believe my blog is a choral work most of all, "put together with glue" by me, but containing the comments of other people and especially the lives of many other people in this time and others. I hope I am not sounding grandiose and delusional now but I really had a vision when I escaped from the Black Hole of trans thought, and it's the vision that keeps me burning. Part of that vision was the really important realization we are all One, and taken piece by piece only mutilated parts of One - that's why I hope I am not sounding narcissistical and delusional (or "maniac" in the Platonic sense). My writings could never have been done without others, and they are aimed to others first and foremost. I am only a piece of the big breathing animal that is Humanity, part of the Cosmos - paraphrasized quote by Giordano Bruno, one of my favourite philosophers :)

Bluetraveler said...

I added a disclaimer to the Snake goddess post after reading those articles by Dworkin; really powerful, thought-provoking and ACTUAL stuff! I want to be clear that I don't think being female means being fertile / childbearing or mother either.

Julian Real said...

To me, Bluetraveler, your life, as lived, is proof of the value of radical feminism to womankind. That it has value for men who hopefully wish to behave humanely in the world by challenging male dominance should go without say, but needs to be said over and over.

Thank you for the links, I am checking them now.

I'm eager to know what you feel and think about each one of them.

And I want you to know you will be accepted anytime commenting in my blog :)

Thank you!! That's lovely for me to read and know.

You really are a great counter-example to those who believe MABs can really never be reformed.

I think Dworkin's speech to men demonstrates that she knew that men are not inherently evil. She wrote somewhere that were she a man, she'd likely have behaved quite oppressively to women. She understood that where you are positioned, structurally, in society, shapes a lot of how one behaves and thinks. Not in an absolute or totalising sense, but in an undeniable one. If she believed male supremacy was absolutely deterministic, she would have no reason at all, as she says to the men, to address them at all. There'd be no point.

My experience is that too many men need to hold onto oppressive practices of "doing manhood" because their identities and social status is bound up in the behaviors. I know for a fact, reading what men write when being honest, that many do not wish to do to women what they do, but they do it for the approval and acceptance of other men who willfully and recklessly do harm women. In this way, I see most men as cowards, or, as I've termed it on my blog, "dick-whipped". That they call me names only proves my points. What I have going for me is that there's nothing they can call me that I haven't already been called. And I figured out when a child that what boys say is out of insecurity, not wisdom. So I learned to find wise people to believe in; boys afraid of being called girls are not wise; they are silly and quite unable to think for themselves.

Julian Real said...

I don't hold the same stance; among other people, it was a man, a writer who saved my life, by showing me what life is.

I respect any oppressed person's right--not one that is given by dominants, but is developed in the context of being systematically abused and subordinated--to hate their oppressor. The oppressor's role is to get the oppressed to do one of a few things:

Adore him.
Worship him.
Respect him.
Obey him.

Love may or may not be there. But the male ego, as constructed in patriarchies, is as fragile as a cracked eggshell. The issue is whether or not one views fragility as weakness. I see the cracking as signs that humanity might shine through, that a new life may be born from the moral wreckage that is "being made, socially, to behave like a man". When men eagerly wish to patch up any cracks in their egos, they are re-asserting their need to be inhumane. It's a familiar thing to witness.

And what I am writing in general on life, biological sex, freedom, theories, I think, it's not really "mine": it's like a sort of dusty tablet overlooked by time, already fully formed, but laying alone in the dust. What I really am doing is the work of an archaeologist (by polishing it again, or trying to at my best) and of a logician, by putting the pieces back in their correct order. I believe my blog is a choral work most of all, "put together with glue" by me, but containing the comments of other people and especially the lives of many other people in this time and others.

I also feel that your specific story, and the details of it, shed light on exactly how patriarchy works to instill in women a dread or disdain for their own being-as-women. That being is social, political, structural, not biological. But it is being that is embodied also, in this view. So it is a view that holds "womanness" cannot be manufactured in a surgeon's operating room. But it can be manufactured socially. But, as Lee Lakeman and many others have argued, it is a cumulative process, a socially lived process that begins with infancy and ends with death, for each woman. It is a reality that while false is real, as Dworkin wrote in her first feminist book. Gender hierarchy is real but not true. This means it isn't a spiritual truth, a truth beyond culture. It is a political truth, but not a biological truth. And so any claims that gender is something one is born with and can be born with incorrectly, must be challenged for the sake of womankind and for the individual too. Humanity isn't served by telling the same stories over and over again when the moral of the story is that some people are meant, as if by G-d, to be denigrated and degraded.

Julian Real said...

What I am trying to emphasise is that it is the deepest truths dug out of your life's experience that will assist humanity. As is the case for all of us.

I can't even begin to think about how many people will find your blog and tear up when realising they've been duped by queer theorists and liberal society into thinking things about themselves that are not spiritually true.

I hope I am not sounding grandiose and delusional now but I really had a vision when I escaped from the Black Hole of trans thought, and it's the vision that keeps me burning.

I hope my blog functions as a light breeze over the flame of your awareness, Bluetraveler, fueling it gently.

Part of that vision was the really important realization we are all One, and taken piece by piece only mutilated parts of One - that's why I hope I am not sounding narcissistical and delusional (or "maniac" in the Platonic sense).

I agree with you. We are One that appears as Many. And to believe only in the Many and miss the Oneness is to lack depth of intuitive/non-rational perception.

My writings could never have been done without others, and they are aimed to others first and foremost.

And I surely hope they serve you as well!!

I am only a piece of the big breathing animal that is Humanity, part of the Cosmos - paraphrasized quote by Giordano Bruno, one of my favourite philosophers :)

I'm not familiar with Giordano Bruno! Someone to look up. Cosmos is an old idea. An old myth that precedes the violence of the White Man, and has existed while the White Man has done his damage to the Earth and people and other beings across the globe. Marimba Ani writes about this in detail in her amazing book Yurugu. She and Andrea Dworkin, along with Audre Lorde and James Baldwin, are among my very favourite philosophers. The wisest people I know are not white men. And this gets back to the matter of digging the depths of one's experience for the deepest truths. Whiteness and manhood, as constructed in the West, tend to produce people unable to dig very deep, or to recognise realities beyond the worldviews of the White Master. However wise, they tend not to speak to the conditions women face daily. They tend not to view Indigenous viewpoints as anything other than valuable in a very exploitive, appropriative way. As if many exist for the benefit of a few.

I support the re-emergence, and the continued existence (and not the appropriation or exploitation), of many traditional Indigenist ways of being and thinking, that never tore humans away from the intricately and amazingly woven fabric of Life. I support this knowledge and wisdom primarily so that many Indigenous Nations will not disappear, not so that whites can learn from them while ignoring the global genocide.

Julian Real said...

The denial of horrors on Earth is a common practice among most white men, I find. And when I speak with white men about these horrors, they shudder as if the news is unbearable. As if the news is news, not reality. When horror is someone's reality, it ought not be regarded as "only news". This applies, for me, to the realities of men's rape of women, battery by men of women, and trafficking of girls by men for men. There are many other horrors too. But to really feel the horror of them bodily, not intellectually only, is to know what must be done and what practices must be ended on Earth, so that Life may live unafraid of forms of cruelty the non-human world doesn't conceive of or practice.

For the father-husband to make his child or his wife pick which implement he will use to impale the child or the woman genitally or rectally, is one such horror. It is not one men wish to think about, unless to turn it into some kind of sex fantasy. Men live too much in fantasy.

When men move into the world of women's horrors committed by men, but not as perpetrators--and instead as friends--they might feel something they can then dig into for understanding, compassion, and the will to make society be radically different. To do this, one has to believe the horrors are happening, right now. One has to turn down the volume of privilege and entitlement, and listen to the screams, and for the silence of those too terrified to scream.

Bluetraveler said...

I don't have much time to reply now, sorry because your answers deserve much more, but, to be concise, I believe men's inhuman behaviour towards women and "femininity" in particular is socialized. Most of my friends are and have been men, I have grown up among men, so I can totally see that. I remember a serious, honest, good-hearted guy who once teased one of his friends because his e-mail reply sounded "too gay" (because it was too affectionate). Patriarchy is based on dividing One (which is composed by Many) by denying the fact every single one of the Many contains all One in itself (....if it doesn't sound right at first don't worry, it's an 'illogical' concept by Giordano Bruno, who for being a white man understood quite a lot I think [the Universe is one and many, God is in everything, everything is God, God is the Holy Ghost - read the 'female' part of the Christian Trinity, akin to the Native American Great Spirit]. To understand Bruno, you must discard ordinary finite logic). In this case, it denies the fact men are complete human beings, capable of feeling "female" emotions. Patriarchy's spreading IMO happened when God conquered the Snake Goddess, who as the Ouroboros represented immanent infinity. In more practical terms, when agriculture (control and submission of the (spiritually "female") earth, which by native people CAN'T be owned) was discovered.

Bluetraveler said...

http://questioningtranssexuality.blogspot.com/2011/02/whats-wrong-with-patriarchy.html

I wrote this about Bruno because I think non-finite logic is awesome, and also because he is so very unknown and undervalued as a philosopher. In patriarchy, this doesn't surprise me any :)