Transphobia: The Hate Anyone can Exercise including Feminists like those on A Room of Our Own

Autumn Sandeen pointed out the following on Pam’s House Blend.

As a left wing anarcha-feminist I tend to not spend much time in cultural feminist land as I really do not like hanging out where I am considered down by birth.  Feminism, even Lesbian as in LGBT/T Feminism offers me enough space where my very humanity is not held up to abuse or the very legitimacy of my existence questioned.

I have barred certain people of the HBS political identity from posting here as they are abusive of people with transgenderism.  Racists, homophobes, religious ideologues and right wingers are not welcome here.  So if you are a follower of A Room of Our Own and think you will be able to turn this post into a forum for your bigotry…  Think again..

My take on things may be a bit different than the sisters who run Questioning Transphobia as our experiences are different and so is our language. But, even if I put things differently from them or for that matter from Julia Serano, I’m fairly certain that we are seeing the same bigotry standing in opposition to it.

The piece of verbal diarrhea I am referring to may be found at:

It is by Margaret Jamison.

I have been out for over 40 years and an activist longer than that.  I have watched the history of the movements from within those movements. I have seen their rise and fall, the internal wars that often destroyed them.

The loudest and most vicious forms of anti-transsexual bigotry have often been reflective of what I see as the worst tendencies within the various movements.  Julia Serano titled her book “Whipping Girl” and put forth the proposition that transphobia is misogyny directed towards a convenient scapegoat.

Within the early feminist movement there was another tendency.  Women who worked the hardest and were among the most dedicated as well as talented were seen as trying to rise above the other women.  Some of us who were in the feminist/lesbian movements in those early days did what people with transsexualism have always done.  We threw ourselves into that movement whole heartedly, working harder than anyone else.  This was because we were raised thinking ourselves to be inferior and never good enough therefore we felt we had to prove our worth by working harder than anyone else.

Over compensation for poor self image.  No matter how it gets directed.  In one sister it might mean thousands of dollars worth of plastic surgery, another constant schooling and the pursuit of the Ph.D.  Or being the best feminist one could possibly be.

There was a sister named Beth Elliott, in the Bay Area.  She was a member of Daughters of Bilitis.  She had the honor of being the first sister I know of who was publicly trashed first in “It Ain’t Me Babe” and later by Robin Morgan.

I didn’t understand it at first.  But over the years I learned how Cointelpro worked and sowed seeds of destruction within various progressive groups by attacking people who were dedicated hard workers.  Take down one and destroy her or him and you have not only destroyed an individual but any who share a common trait with the person destroyed.

Turn the attacking and defending of the individual into a factional split and the organization is destroyed.  It doesn’t matter if the individual was innocent of every charge, fictitious charges; lies told loudly enough in a practice called “bad jacketing” can tear an organization, indeed a movement apart.

I can’t say for sure that what happened to Beth was Cointelpro.  It doesn’t matter because even if it wasn’t, the result was the same.  One more element in the destruction of the first Lesbian Organization promoting lesbian liberation..

Oddly the charges leveled against Beth and outlined in her book Mirrors: Portrait of a Lesbian Transsexual became the script for every bit of filth that could be leveled at women of a transsexual history by self proclaimed radical feminists and lesbian feminists.

A few years later Sandy Stone, recording engineer for Olivia Records, a lesbian music collective was hit with similar if somewhat different charges setting off a back and forth war of words within the feminist and lesbian feminist press regarding the legitimacy of women of a transsexual history.

Then Janice Raymond dropped her bigoted polemic, The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male. Previous attacks had often been directed at those sisters who were closest to the socially acceptable feminine stereotypes or who were in touch with their sexiness and embraced their sexy female side leaving those of us who were good feminists in our jeans and movement t-shirts feeling safe.  Raymond changed all that.

Now those of us who were good feminists, working doing leaflet layout and production, petition signature collecting and all the grunt work of the feminist movement were suddenly as bad as our sisters who were enjoying being sex positive heterosexual women during an era far less uptight than the present.

Things I wish we knew or thought about then that we know now.  Raymond was a former Catholic nun and her mentor Mary Daly was originally a professor of theology who became involved in some pretty weird cult like magical thinking regarding theories of hidden matriarchal cultures.

The reactionary cultural feminism that had first stirred with Jane Alpert’s “Mother Right” and was embraced by Robin Morgan, who coincidentally led the lynch mob attack on Beth Elliott.  (Morgan’s side of it can be found in Going too Far).  Alpert laid out a form of binary gender essentialism that posited the same sort of black and white binary innateness one found in the traditional patriarchal bullshit that ordained the role of women as inferior to men.

It was seriously reactionary at a time when so much of feminism was based on the overlapping abilities and traits of men and women.

Long before GID and the million post-modern word games transsexual and transgender people play now people with transsexualism and transgenderism used that overlapping of traits to argue that maleness and femaleness were a continuum rather than a binary and that we were simply more predominately at the end not indicated by our at birth sex assignment.

But back to Daly and Raymond.  Their Catholicism is the source of their ideology not feminism.  I may blend anarchism and Marxist class consciousness with my feminism but they had to do an even bigger trick, that is to say they had to build their feminism on a foundation of misogyny.

Raymond’s position reflects that form of Christo-fascism that I first saw at 14 when the priest my mother sent me to for counseling basically told me that I would have to live my life in total denial of what I was or face an eternity in hell.  That I couldn’t even think or fantasize about something so intrinsic to my being that I would discard family and risk a life of social ostracism to be.  I was born with transsexualism.  That was something I can not change.

Yet both the priests and the Ramondites would have me commit suicide either physically or by repression by denying me the legitimacy of my being.  This is a denial of my humanity, a form of abuse so severe as to be unacceptable when directed at groups based on race or ethnicity or for that matter when directed at gays or lesbians.

It becomes far more egregious when a lesbian or gay man or for that matter someone claiming to be feminist starts attacking transsexual or transgender people.  It is almost as though those doing the attacking are unaware of the real basis for those attacks and how it can be traced back to a chapter in the Bible that is filled with widely ignored rules.

I am speaking of Deuteronomy 22: 5 (King James Bible)

“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”

Now most gay and lesbian people as well as most feminists have questioned the manner in which these ancient books of mythology have been used as tools of oppression.  One does not have to look very hard to see the Bible as the source of both homophobia and misogyny.

However, the label of abomination is particularly harsh and is followed if memory serves me correctly with the part about how our blood should be upon us suggesting that any manner of violence including murder is justified.

When one listens to the vile and often contradictory slander that is laid upon transsexual and transgender people by bigots like the woman at AROOO one has to ask exactly what TS/TG folks are supposed to do?

We are attacked if we manage to get an education and develop a career.  We are attacked if our educational opportunities in childhood were destroyed and we only managed to do sex work.

We are attacked for getting breast implants even though they were not developed specifically for us and the majority of women getting them were assigned female at birth.  The excuse for not attacking natal females is that they get them due to having a flawed body image since male dominated media regularly shows ample breasted women as sexy and glamorous.

Ahh, but that is different. Actually it is not.  TS/TG people are immersed in the same cultural soup as normborns.

TS/TG people both T to F and T to M can be either straight or gay/lesbian.  Some are bisexual yet it often seems that the only form of sex that is acceptable to the bigots is asexuality and even that is probably reason for condemnation.  Even self pleasuring is suspect in spite of there being feminist run businesses merchandising sex toys for women including Smitten Kitten and Good Vibrations.

If we get SRS we are mutilated men (or women as the case may be).  If not we are men in dresses of which there is no T to M equivalent.

One of the nastiest rejoinders is the one that directs us to remain as we were assigned no matter how miserable we are and to fight sexism and the gender binary from our originally assigned sex.  Now I opposed the draft back in the 1960s and as an anarcha-feminist I find the very idea that someone else should be required to fight a war for someone else’s cause questionable at best.

At worst it is like demanding that gay and lesbian people have reparative therapy and live as straight working to end the tyranny of the patriarchal oppression of women in marriage by changing it in a way so that gays and lesbians will no longer have to be gay or lesbian to find relationships where they are equally respected partners.  Oh and BTW erase homosexuality.

We have progressed far beyond that, besides Audre Lorde gave us the tagline about how the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

Anarchists do not demand others sacrifice their lives and pursuit of happiness to fight ill defined quixotic battles.  Existentially that form of behavior is ethically questionable.  It is more characteristic of hate groups than liberation movements.

I saw the purity purges on the left. In the 1970s I actually had someone tell me that in spite of her misogyny Phyllis Schlafly was her sister because of birth and in spite of my being a hard working feminist because of my birth I could never be.  That for the same reasons the homophobic Anita Bryant was her sister but no matter how hard I worked at The Lesbian Tide, I was not.

It has always escaped me how people who demand autonomy for themselves when it comes to intimate matters on issues like abortion access and birth control can not see the contradiction in denying TS/TG folks the same self determination and autonomy regarding decisions they might make regarding their own bodies.

Perhaps it is time for those resurrecting the anti-transsexual/anti-transgender rhetoric to engage in what we in Weather called criticism/self-criticism because their bigoted politics suck and are in contradiction with both feminism and gay/lesbian liberation.

Perhaps the people exercising this anti-TS/TG bigotry would be happier among the right wing racist and homophobic hate groups that share the same sorts of bigoted language that show class hatred towards entire classes of people based on fictitious stereotype, even when some in that group may actually exhibit that stereotype.

Smash Transphobia, Smash Bigotry

No gods, No masters

Friday Night Fun and Culture

Kaki King “Playing with Pink Noise”

School pupils to learn about transphobic bullying

From Pink News UK

By Jessica Geen • November 25, 2009 – 9:49

Children in UK schools will be taught about transphobic bullying and gender equality, it was announced yesterday.

As part of the revised personal, social and health education (PSHE) plans, the lessons will be taught from age five, although ministers stressed this would be age-appropriate.

Schools minister Vernon Coaker said: “The appropriateness of what you do with someone who is five years old is totally different in terms of content and how you will be taught to someone who is 15 or 16.

“You can teach [younger pupils] about not bullying people and how names can hurt people.”

The lessons, which also include teaching about gay relationships and HIV, will begin in 2011.

Professor Stephen Whittle, president of trans group Press For Change, told Metro: “We welcome wholeheartedly this move. When children are stifled through bullying they are more likely to feel gender reassignment is their only option later in life.”

The plans, launched by the Home Office and Department for Children, Schools and Families, will also combat violence in teenage relationships. An NSPCC study found that a quarter of girls had been subjected to violence by boyfriends and one third reported being forced into sexual activity.

Teachers will be given new guidelines on tackling sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying.

All schools, including faith schools, will be required to teach the new PSHE curriculum, although faith schools will be permitted to teach lessons in line with their beliefs.

Parents will retain the right to withdraw their children from the classes but only up to age 15, rather than the current age of 19.

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Doctor Promotes Medical View of Transgenderism

[There is a confusing of transgenderism and transsexualism that tends to point out the need to inclusively refer to both conditions ratherr than rely on the political identity of transgender superseding all the differences between people who are transgender and those who are transsexual.]

Harvard Crimson (Harvard University), MA, USA

Clinic founder decries labeling transgenderism as a psychological issue


Published: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Norman P. Spack, a pediatric endocrinologist who works with transgendered youth, promoted the treatment of transgenderism as a medical condition, as opposed to a psychiatric disorder, during a talk hosted by the Harvard Transgender Task Force yesterday evening.

During the event, which was held to kick off Transgender Awareness Week, Spack said that looking at transgenderism from a medical perspective will change the public perception that it is a psychological problem.

Spack, the senior associate in the endocrine division at Boston Children’s Hospital, co-founded the Gender Management Services Program, a clinic that provides treatments to delay the onset of puberty in children questioning their gender.

“People ask me, how do people know at age eight or nine?” he said of children’s self-awareness of gender. “And I look at them and say, well how old were you when you knew?”

Spack said that stalling the start of puberty delays the development of physical characteristics that do not correspond to a person’s psychological self-perception.

According to Lily J. Durwood ’10, who works as one of Spack’s research assistants, the clinic is currently working with approximately 100 patients between the ages of 6 and 21.

“Dr. Spack’s help has made such a huge difference in the patients’ lives,” Durwood said. About 35 percent of the patients served by the clinic have physically harmed themselves or contemplated suicide prior to seeking medical attention, Spack said.

“Post-medication, the patients give testimonies of better interactions in school, a better environment at home, and functioning a whole lot better,” said Stanley R. Vance, a student at Harvard Medical School who also works in Spack’s clinic. “Dr. Spack is a trailblazer in an area of medicine that hasn’t gotten adequate attention.”

Transgenderism is currently classified as the psychiatric condition “Gender Identity Disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

However, Spack said that he and other members of the medical community recognize transgenderism as a medical condition and are pushing to have it viewed the same way by psychiatrists, insurance companies, and the general public.

“These people aren’t crazy,” Spack said. “It’s a medical condition.”

Members of TTF said they were pleased to hear a different angle on transgender issues.

“I think this event is a great opportunity to see trans issues intersect with the medical sciences,” said TTF member Jia Hui Lee ’12. “Trans issues have always been looked at from a social and legal perspective but never medical, and we’re excited to explore this intersection with the event tonight.”

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FBI report: Sharp increase in anti-gay hate crimes

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, November 23rd, 2009 — 12:31 pm


WASHINGTON — The number of US hate crime victims rose slightly last year to nearly 9,700 from 9,500 in 2007, with most people targeted because of their skin color, the FBI said Monday. However, as Think Progress notes, “Hate crimes based on sexual orientation had the largest increase — nearly 11 percent.” More than half of hate crimes committed in the United States were racially motivated, and three-quarters of the victims were black, the FBI’s annual report on hate crimes said. Of the 6,927 known perpetrators of all hate crimes — which include attacks driven by not only racial bias but also by the victims’ religious affiliation, sexual orientation, ethnic origins or disability — 61 percent were white. Blacks perpetrated attacks in around 20 percent of cases. The report was compiled after the issue of race was thrust into the center of US politics with African American Barack Obama’s successful bid to be elected the first black president of the United States.

Around 17 percent of hate crime victims were attacked because of their sexual orientation, the overwhelming majority, 96 percent, because they were gay or lesbian.

Nearly 20 percent were attacked for their religious affiliation, with Jews making up around two-thirds of the victims of those attacks.

Muslims were the targets of less than eight percent of religious hate crimes, putting them in third place behind Jews and followers of unspecified “other religions” attacked in 13 percent of religion-fueled hate crimes.

In 2007, Muslims represented about eight percent of victims attacked because of their religion, and in 2006 they made up 12 percent of victims of religion-motivated hate crimes.

Members of the large US Hispanic community were victims of 64 percent, or nearly two-thirds, of the 1,148 hate crimes driven by a bias against a person’s ethnicity or national origin.

Most hate crimes targeting individuals were intimidation or simple assault, but seven murders and 11 rapes were counted among the hate crime statistics.

The FBI compiled the report using data submitted by 13,690 law enforcement agencies in most of the 50 states. More than 80 percent of the participating agencies reported no hate crimes in their jurisdictions in 2008.

Barbara Ehrenreich: Our Maniacal Optimism Is Ruining the World

From Alternet and In These Times
By Anis Shivani, In These Times
Posted on November 23, 2009, Printed on November 23, 2009

In her new book Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (Metropolitan/Holt, October 2009), Barbara Ehrenreich traces the origins of contemporary optimism from nineteenth-century healers to twentieth-century pushers of consumerism. She explores how that culture of optimism prevents us from holding to account both corporate heads and elected officials.

Manufactured optimism has become a method to make the poor feel guilty for their poverty, the ill for their lack of health and the victims of corporate layoffs for their inability to find worthwhile jobs. Megachurches preach the “gospel of prosperity,” exhorting poor people to visualize financial success. Corporations have abandoned rational decision-making in favor of charismatic leadership.

This mania for looking on the bright side has given us the present financial collapse; optimistic business leaders — assisted by rosy-eyed policymakers — made very bad decisions.

In These Times recently spoke with her about our penchant for foolish optimism.

Anis Shivani: Is promoting optimism a mechanism of social control to keep the system in balance?

Barbara Ehrenreich: If you want to have a compliant populace, what could be better than to say that everyone has to think positively and accept that anything that goes wrong in their lives is their own fault because they haven’t had a positive enough attitude? However, I don’t think that there is a central committee that sits there saying, “This is what we want to get people to believe.”

It took hold in the United States because in the ’80s and ’90s it became a business. You could write a book like Who Moved My Cheese?, which is a classic about accepting layoffs with a positive attitude. And then you could count on employers to buy them up and distribute them free to employees.

AS: So this picks up more in the early ’80s and even more so in the ’90s when globalization really took off?

BE: I was looking at the age of layoffs, which begins in the ’80s and accelerates. How do you manage a workforce when there is no job security? When there is no reward for doing a good job? When you might be laid off and it might not have anything to do with performance? As that began to happen, companies began to hire motivational speakers to come in and speak to their people.

AS: Couldn’t this positive thinking be what corporate culture wants everyone to believe, but at the top, people are still totally rational?

BE: That is what I was assuming when I started this research. I thought, “It’s got to be rational at the top. Someone has to keep an eye on the bottom line.” Historically, the science of management was that in a rational enterprise, we have spreadsheets, we have decision-trees and we base decisions on careful analysis.

But then all that was swept aside for a new notion of what management is about. The word they use is “leadership.” The CEO and the top people are not there so much to analyze and plan but to inspire people. They claimed to have this uncanny ability to sense opportunities. It was a shock, to find the extent to which corporate culture has been infiltrated not only by positive thinking, but by mysticism. The idea is that now things are moving so fast in this era of globalization, that there’s no time to think anymore. So you increasingly find CEOs gathering in sweat lodges or drumming circles or going on “vision quests” to get in touch with their inner-Genghis Khan or whatever they were looking for.

AS: The same things are happening in foreign policy. We’ve abandoned a sense of realism. You had this with Bush and also with Obama, although he is more realistic. Is there a connection between optimism and the growth of empire?

BE: In the ’80s, Reagan promoted the idea that America is special and that Americans were God’s chosen people, destined to prosper, much to the envy of everybody else in the world. Similarly, Bush thought of himself as the optimist-in-chief, as the cheerleader — which had been his job once in college. This is very similar to how CEOs are coming to think of themselves: as people whose job is to inspire others to work harder for less pay and no job security.

AS: Would you say that Obama is our cheerleader-in-chief?

BE: I haven’t sorted it out. He talks a lot about hope. And as a citizen I’d rather not hear about “hope,” I’d rather hear about “plans.” Yet he does strike me as a rational person, who thinks through all possibilities and alternatives.

AS: You write about the science of positive thinking having taken root at Ivy League universities. It’s amazing to me that a course in happiness at Harvard would draw almost 900 students.

BE: That was in 2006. And these courses have spread all over the country — courses in positive psychology where you spend time writing letters of gratitude to people in your family, letters of forgiveness (whether or not you send them doesn’t matter), getting in touch with your happy feelings, and I don’t think that’s what higher education should be about. People go to universities to learn critical thinking, and positive thinking is antithetical to critical thinking.

AS: You have written a lot about Calvinism. Is it correct to say you have a deep problem with Calvinism?

BE: In exploring why America became the birthplace of positive thinking, I come up with an explanation that is quite sympathetic to the early positive thinkers. Positive thinking initially represented a revolt against the dominant Calvinist stream of Protestantism in America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. That kind of Calvinism was driving people crazy, literally. To think that you were a sinner, that your entire existence for all eternity would be one of torment in hell. It caused depression. It caused physical ailments. It was a nightmare. So you got some people in the early- and mid- 19th century that said, “Wait a minute, things aren’t so bad.” Ralph Waldo Emerson would probably be the best known example.

AS: Couldn’t you go back farther to the Enlightenment — the ultimate optimistic philosophy? Our founding fathers were very informed by that. Is that a kind of optimism that you endorse? And ultimately what’s different between the pursuit of happiness as a manifestation of optimism and the current optimism that you’re talking about?

BE: When the founding fathers undertook the Revolutionary War, they didn’t say, “We are going to win because we are visualizing victory.” They knew perfectly well that they could lose and be hanged as traitors. It took existential courage to say: “We are going to undertake this struggle without knowing whether we will win, but we’re just going to damn well die trying.”

AS: So, where does this shift come from?

BE: The shift had a lot to do with down-sizing, when corporations grabbed onto it as a means of soothing their disgruntled workforce. The alternative is realism. Let’s think about what’s actually going on: let’s get all the data we can; see what our options are; and figure out how to solve this problem. It sounds so trite and simple-minded, but that’s not how the thinking has been.

AS: Is the progressive movement infected by bright-sidedness?

BE: Progressives are not immune to this. I remember Mike Harrington [a founder of the Democratic Socialists of America] as a public speaker and he always, always ended on an upbeat note. No matter what was going on, he would end by saying there was a huge opening for the left. Today, I don’t know if we can do it. But we have no choice but to try.

AS: You mean we need to have optimism, but grounded in reality?

BE: I don’t call it optimism. I call it determination. One of the things I’ve devoted so much time to has had to do with poverty, class and inequality. Those things are not going to go away in my lifetime, but it won’t be for my lack of trying. And that’s a different kind of spirit than optimism.

AS: Some will say your approach is rational, incremental and just not exciting. How would you respond to that?

BE: I don’t think mine is an arid, overly intellectual approach. Consider what we’re up against on the economic and environmental front. Huge numbers of people are not getting by. There are the ecological threats to the human species. Let’s do something about it. What could be more irresponsible than to say, “If we just think it’s going to be alright, it’s going to be alright.”

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Exemptions allowing churches to refuse to employ gays to be scrapped following pressure from EU

Proof that Europe is much more respectful of freedom and equality than the US and its kowtowing to Christo-fascism.  Time to eliminate “faith based initiative funding” at tax payer expense that discriminates against LGBT/T people.  It is no different than the government funding the KKK.  While we are at it de-license groups like the Catholic adoption services, who have actually acted like extortionists recently by threatening to end services in Washington DC if DC recognizes and legalizes equal marriage rights.

By Staff Writer, • November 22, 2009 – 16:37

The European Commission is putting pressure on the British government to drop the exemptions from equality legislation by religious organisations who currently have the right to refuse to employ LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) staff.

The opt out allows churches and other organisations to refuse to employ gay people in order “to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers”. Although there have been successful cases at employment tribunals questioning the implementation and interpretation of the opt-out

The Observer reports that the Commission wrote to the British government to warn that it has not fully implemented EU directives that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexuality.

The National Secular Society had complained to the commision saying that the current exemptions “illegal discrimination against homosexuals”.

The Commission reportedly agreed with the complaint saying “exceptions to the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for religious employers are broader than that permitted by the directive”.

EU equal opportunities commissioner, Vladimir Špidla, told the Observer: “We call on the UK government to make the necessary changes to its anti-discrimination legislation as soon as possible so as to fully comply with the EU rules.”

The ruling means the government will be be forced to place new clauses into the Equality Bill which is currently making its way through parliament. But it will still allow churches to refuse to employ a gay man as priest for example.

“This ruling is a significant victory for gay equality and a serious setback for religious employers who have been granted exemptions from anti-discrimination law,” gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told the Observer.

“It is a big embarrassment for the British government, which has consistently sought to appease religious homophobes by granting them opt-outs from key equality laws. The European Commission has ruled these opt-outs are excessive.”

Christian charity Care told the Observer: “If evangelical churches cannot be sure that they can employ practising evangelicals with respect to sexual ethics, how will they be able to continue?”

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