Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On Radical Feminism and Transgender Identity

Some radical feminists have issues with transgender people. That's not news to me - I've seen it in Internet Feminist Arguments for years. But I'm finally fed up with this shit enough to write about my coalescing thoughts surrounding it. As someone who probably identifies more closely with radical feminism than with any other kind of feminism I feel I must speak out against this problematic view. Many radfems get it, but there are so many who still don't, and I don't understand the clamor for willful ignorance in any form from people who cry for gender change in society.

Here are some of my qualms with transphobic feminists:

1. It seems like transphobic feminists don't actually know what transgender means. FFS, look it up. "Transgender" is an umbrella term that encompasses many identities. It isn't just a code word for MTF transsexuals. If someone insists on using a false definition of what transgender means I don't think it's worth further engagement with them on the topic until they establish understanding of the basic meaning of the word we are actually discussing. I'm personally not going to waste my time reading your anti-trans treatise if you demonstrate in the first sentence or two that you don't understand the meaning of "transgender."

2. One of the most fundamental roots of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is misogyny.

3. The fight against the patriarchy's tyrannical gender binary and gender dominance/submission paradigm necessarily involves anyone who wants to challenge those gender roles. This group of activists includes feminists, LGBQ people, trans* people, intersex people, asexuals, and our allies as well as others. The answer to the question from LGBQ people on why the T belongs in our acronym has the same answer.

4. It is an anthropological and historical fact that many cultures have a gender that falls outside of today's Western/American view of the gender binary. Cultures that have three (or more) genders are usually quite accepting of the "alternate" gender(s) because these gender(s) are actually encoded within their cultural rules. Therefore, to say transgender identity falls outside of history and has no context within societies is ethnocentric and factually incorrect.

5. Feminists frequently ask men to stfu and listen to women when women tell men something is sexist. In this vein, feminists who aren't transgender need to stfu and listen to trans* people when we tell you something is transphobic.

6. Although the burden of education regarding the issues oppressed people face frequently falls to those same oppressed people, it is our right as the oppressed to refuse teaching you "(oppressed group) 101" at any time if we're fucking tired of explaining shit. If as a feminist you don't believe it is necessarily always your duty to explain feminism 101 to people, stop demanding that transgender folks have to explain transgender 101 to you. Look it up on the internet. If you are educated enough to know how to use blogs or blog comments I know y'all know how to use the internet to look stuff up.

7. I really don't understand what feminism has to gain when feminists insist on creating a world outside of gender oppression and then demand of transgender folks that they recognize the essential nature of female gender. To me that's like saying, "We want to challenge the gender binary, so we're going to reinforce the gender binary against people who fall outside the gender binary in order to erase the gender binary." It's logically inconsistent thinking.

8. The idea of any sort of monolithic right-way-to-do feminism stands in contrast to feminist progress because it excludes certain feminists. While discourse is necessary in order to build a more successful movement, and while we all need to recognize our own internalized sexism, there is never a need to perpetuate hate speech against a section of society that faces extreme discrimination based on gender. If we want to create a movement that will accomplish further change we must examine our own prejudices and the stereotypes we hold. Many transgender people are active feminists even while frequently remaining excluded from feminist causes due to binary language (e.g., language about issues that affect all people assigned female at birth but only uses the term "women" to describe that group). All the infighting between feminists who identify as women and feminists who don't only serves to divide us. Name calling and insistence on ignorance are forms of horizontal hostility and do nothing to further our cause.

9. This one is closely related to but not quite the same as #5: Stop insisting that you're not transphobic even as you spew transphobia. If you are being transphobic, it is within the rights of trans* people and allies to call you out on your bias. If you need to include a "but" clause after professing you're not a bigot, you are still a bigot. Take feminist advice to heart and check your privilege.

10. Male to female transsexuals do need to examine the privilege they have previously experienced. Female to male transsexuals need to examine the privilege they gain as they are transitioning. Transgender people who fall outside these categories need to examine any gender privilege they may have. People comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth need to examine their respective gender privilege. Everyone needs to examine their other forms of privilege outside of gender. What's so hard to understand about examining privilege?

1 comment:

antony said...
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