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.

http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/14246/thanksgiving-week-thankfulness-for-pam

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:

http://aroomofourown.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/no-such-thing-as-a-transsexual/

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

3 Responses to “Transphobia: The Hate Anyone can Exercise including Feminists like those on A Room of Our Own”

  1. robbi cohn Says:

    So true, Suzan…the inability for self assessment…self criticism has been the downfall of many, not just the radical feminists. (I was in SDS as well…it eventually got to us too). You write how it has always escaped you how those demanding autonomy are so short sighted, and I am with you. I will never understand the kind of elitist BS and horizontal discrimination some are capable of dishing out. I guess they must forget our own repression experiences, or else just strap those blinders on.

    I grew up seeing racial horizontal bigotry…for anyone living in or near a big city it was unescapable. How does this cycle continue to perpetuate itself?? How do you break the cycle??

    • Suzan Says:

      As an anarchist I see autonomy as a good thing. The freedom to do with your own body. The problem with people like the women posting to this thread on A Room Of Our Own is that are Stalinist who want to dictate to others what they must do, hardly a liberationist position.

  2. Suzan Cooke on AROOO « ENDAblog Says:

    […] Cooke on AROOO My only real issue with Suzan’s take is referring to the A Room of our Own bit as […]


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