Ron Gold over at Bilrico managed to get himself trashed for daring to write about transsexual and transgender people from the limited perspective of a gay man who probably came out in the World War II period.
He displayed a remarkable level of ignorance regarding the nature of the “Transgender (as umbrella) Community”. From his point of view the transgender community was either drag queens and butch dykes or transsexuals.
The big question should be… Why do we expect gay men and lesbians to be more understanding than heterosexuals? Do straight men show a whole bunch of sympathy or understanding towards straight transvestites? Or for that matter, why do transsexual and transgender people get a pass when they say the same thing?
Perhaps we need to ask ourselves some serious questions.
In the words of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all get along?”
Why is it that every time I get a serious questionnaire asking about a serious topic regarding people described at one point or another in their lives by a transprefixed word, can’t I ever get past about the forth or fifth question. Seriously… I wasn’t fucking assigned a gender at birth. I was assigned a sex. I didn’t change my gender, I changed my sex.
Perhaps transsexual and transgender people need to look at the bullshit they have been putting out for the last ten to fifteen years with all the gender this and gender that crap.
Even those of us who have libraries full of the books and theory see it as an attempt to dazzle with brilliance and baffle with bullshit.
We substitute myth for actual history. Outside a few of us who have actually made a study out of transsexual and transgender history and culture most people are woefully ignorant regarding the lives lived by actual people transsexual or transgender people could claim as their own pioneers.
Yet there is a reluctance to claim much of anyone other than Sylvia Rivera as if simply being at Stonewall was more important than all the work done organizing.
You can argue that transsexual and transgender people have traditionally occupied a space in the gay and lesbian world as drag queens and bull dykes, but even then the dykes and queens occupied a special class, who were often excluded from the political discourse aimed at furthering the rights of gays and lesbians.
The Daughters of Bilitis didn’t want to be associated with stone butches, in part because stone butches were an under class, who couldn’t or wouldn’t pass as straight, something that femme lesbians were capable of doing. See: Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold and Stone Butch Blues.
Remember the argument was, “We are just like other women, except we love women.”
When the Mattachine Society picketed the Capitol demanding equal rights the gay men wore suits, the lesbians wore dresses. Queens and dykes need not apply.
After Stonewall we saw the emergence of the cult of, “I am a masculine gay man who is attracted to other masculine gay men.” And so it goes… The dykes and queens who had been the face of gay and lesbian, the shock troops for gay and lesbian liberation were once again left by the wayside with the lesbian community arguing against dykes because they were mimicking men and gay men arguing against queens because gay men were not supposed to be feminine.
A few years back when there was the big emergence of F to Ms I quipped, “There really are two kinds of lesbians, women and men.” Nasty but true. Norah Vincent wrote a really snotty piece in I believe, Out Magazine, or perhaps The Advocate attacking transsexuals. Considering Norah’s book about passing as male for a year and the gender issues Norah has shown since just who was Norah arguing against? Internalized self hatred in dealing with issues of her own, perhaps.
Jim Fouratt was another case of open mouth, insert foot. I bumped into Jim a couple of times in 1967. We were both radicals involved the anti-war movement. He was a feminine looking angelic blond hippie boy who looked rather queenish.
Me.. . I was following the road map laid out in John Rechy’s City of Night looking for sisterhood in the gay world and having a hard time finding it among gay men. Queens were a separate underclass. I first connected with transsexual and transgender sisters in jail, the queen tank of the San Francisco city jail to be exact.
You see I explored enough of the gay world to know it wasn’t a place for me. I had too many gay men tell me I was a girl and they weren’t into girls. My explorations taught me of the differences, just as getting to know non-op queens helped me to see I wasn’t one of them.
But back to Norah Vincent and Jim Fouratt, their snotty remarks are reflective of a certain mindset common in gay men and lesbians. Transsexual and transgender people remind them of the abuse they received as kids for being too girlish or too boyish.
Actually though gay men and lesbians have been taking shit for not being real men or real women from time immemorial. After Stonewall both gay men and lesbians distanced themselves from the queens and butches. There were the class issues. Queens and dykes didn’t clean up nice and were not someone the “community” could present to the corporations as a marketing demographic. The queens and dykes were too lumpen, too down by law for that one to fly.
Earlier I mentioned a transgender rewriting of history, a substitution of myth for history that places a paradigm that came into being in the mid 1990s anachronistically into situations where the historically accurate terminology would suggest using the language of the times and referring to those people as queens and butches or transsexual. The term transgender wasn’t in common usage then.
Even today an awful lot of people reject the hegemony of the transgender as an all inclusive paradigm. The paradigm of transgender as umbrella has always had a synthetic feel to it. Further its supposed inclusiveness tends not to extend to a fair number of people with legitimate claims to citizenship within the gay and lesbian world such as the female impersonators and “she-male” sex workers. Perhaps they are too queer for a movement that has many of its roots within the heterosexual cross dresser world.
Ron Gold managed to insert not one foot but both into his mouth showing remarkable flexibility for a man his age.
. As for adults struggling with what to do about their feelings, I’d tell them too to stay away from the psychiatrists – those prime reinforcers of sex-role stereotypes – and remind them that whatever they’re feeling, or feel like doing, it’s perfectly possible with the bodies they’ve got. If a man wants to wear a dress or have long hair; if a woman wants short hair and a three-piece suit; if people want romance and sex with their own gender; who says they can’t violate these perfectly arbitrary taboos? A short historical and cross-cultural survey should establish that men and women have worn and done all sorts of stuff. I recall reading something by Jan Morris in which it seemed that he thought he needed a sex change because he wanted men to hold doors open for him and kiss him goodbye at train stations. For starters, I’d have told him that I’ve had these nice things happen to me and I’ve still got my pecker.
Perhaps it isn’t needless to say that a No to the notion of transgender does not excuse discrimination against cross-dressers or post-op transsexuals in employment, housing and public accommodation; and I strongly support legislation that would forbid it. I would, however, get after the doctors – the psychiatrists who use a phony medical model to invent a disease that doesn’t exist, and the surgeons who use such spurious diagnoses to mutilate the bodies of the deluded.
Oooh, what a pissy queen, he is. I know the type. He is someone who makes grand pronouncements from total ignorance. He correctly identifies GID as a politically created mental illness but conveniently forgets that until 1973 so too was homosexuality.
In his ignorance he fails to conceive of transsexualism and transgenderism as being like homosexuality; something people are born. On top of that he is a phallocentric misogynistic pig.
The real bitch of the matter isn’t what he said. Really…
The real bitch of the matter is that I have read the exact same bullshit from numerous people in the so called “Transgender Community”. My mother always told me that it takes two to make a fight. I took that message to heart when I started this blog and declared a moratorium on name calling.
I have heard far worse than anything any of the aforementioned people are being pilloried for come from mouths of both sides of the transsexual/transgender wars.
Hell, I’ve grown used to some transgender activists describing post-SRS sisters as mutilated men with inverted penises. Indeed Monica Roberts, who I often agree with regarding the racism among not only transsexual and transgender people but within the greater LGBT/T alliances has a tendency to go off on post-SRS women and use the same filthy abusive language to describe our bodies as Ron Gold did in the above quoted excerpt. (see her current post).
While Ron Gold is probably a lost cause, I actually feel I would have a greater potential for a reasonable dialogue with Vincent, or Fouratt than with some people in the world of transgenders and for that matter transsexuals. I know Jim to have shared some common history and I actually agreed with some of what Norah said about the replacing of sex with gender although her right wing politics put me off.
Generally speaking I have had vile things said about me by some of the most militant pushers of transgender as umbrella and by heterosexual post-SRS women than I have from gay men or lesbians.
In point of fact the first people to hit my permanent shit list were several of the “classic transsexual” faction. Mainly because I would not put up with their homophobic, right wing hostility. So these people who shall remain nameless regularly trash me on their blogs as being a transgender activist.
This is odd because trying to pin me to the transgender cause is so limiting. People who regularly read this blog have probably come to realize I am involved in dozens of causes.
In the end though I have to reflect on the wisdom of an old saying, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” The nature of prejudice is such that we all too often take the opinion of some asshole and apply it to everyone who shares a common characteristic with the person who is an asshole. The difficult trick is to oppose the opinion, even a commonly shared group think opinion without opposing a class of people based upon their membership in that particular class.
I’ve learned a lot by turning down the volume and not immediately attacking or calling name. One thing I have learned is that dialogue is possible if one gives reasonable respect in exchange for the same.
As the Jill Sobule song puts it “I know everyone’s a good person inside, everyone wants to be loved inside, so whenever I think what a dick what a liar, I try to remember the good things inside.”
Fundamentalist ideology, be it religious, right wing, feminist gender theory, or queer theory gets fucked with by transsexualism. The tendency is to lash out with something that fucks up your otherwise perfectly constructed dogma.
Transsexualism is not homosexuality although people with transsexualism may be gay or lesbian after SRS as well as straight. We are not drag queens or drag kings who have gone too far.
Transsexualism is not transgenderism, in spite of the efforts to lump us all together. Transsexuals may share common oppressions with transgenders (or cis- LGB folks) and have the need to fight those oppressions as a coalition based on common interests but we are not the same thing. Pretending we are and focusing all the energy that has been and continues to be expended on constructing the political fiction of transgender as the universal descriptor just creates a lot of anger.
But back to Ron Gold, Monica Roberts, Jim Fouratt etc. I know they have all done good things in the past and continue to do good things. When ever they run their mouths that song by Jill Sobule just pops up on my mental i-Pod and I try to think they are good people inside and remember we are ostensibly on the same side.
The nagging question is always one of why do these folks feel the need to expound so nastily regarding others whose life experiences are different from their own? Who are nonetheless expected to work for shared political goals such as marriage equality, health coverage, employment and housing non-discrimination etc.
And I will not let those claiming the dubious status of classic transsexual (post-SRS heterosexual) off the hook. Their homophobia and general right wing bullshit sucks just as much as anything put forth by Gold , Fouratt or Roberts and Vincent.
Whey should those of us post-SRS folks who are lesbian, gay or bisexual defend your heterosexual privilege when you will not defend our rights to marriage equality?
December 22, 2009 at 3:53 pm
Right wing bullshit? Homophobia?
Hey, I am post-SRS heterosexual and I am left as a loon!
Good article, though.
December 22, 2009 at 7:15 pm
The umbrella don’t work no more,
The umbrella don’t work no more,
I tried everything in this god almighty world
But this umbrella don’t work no more.
December 23, 2009 at 5:55 am
My problem with the whole Ronald Gold thing was that Bil Browning approved the post as it was. And his explanations afterward – why do trans people need to be challenged by the same tired, pedestrian arguments that get trotted out every time someone takes a gender studies course and decides they’ve discovered the gender rosetta stone?
December 23, 2009 at 7:03 am
to me the term transgender as an umbrella does include drag queens, bull dykes, people who are transexual as well as everyone else who is in the greater queer commuity including gay men lesbians, drag kings, etc
December 23, 2009 at 7:25 am
I do not see the need for an umbrella term that hegemonically erases the different lives, needs, identities etc of groups of people who are quite different. Transgender as umbrella is like declaring all people from the different Spanish speaking nations of the Americas to be Mexican when they are actually from a variety of nations.
Even more problematic is how the insistence on the use of Transgender for everyone has turned into a battle royale that prevents the co-operation as a coalition to work together for goals we have in common.
Using transgender for everyone rather than respecting the various group has an almost neo-con/neo-lib sort of reactionary feel to it as well as the sort of identity politics plastered with Judith Butleran post-modern bullshit I abhor.
I think it better to let transgender return to its original meaning of someone who lives 24/7/365 without SRS and who is not working towards SRS.
December 23, 2009 at 9:20 am
“do not judge, and you will not be judged”
December 23, 2009 at 6:16 pm
Cryptic and vague with religious overtones. It would have gone to the spam file had I not googled you.
December 24, 2009 at 1:50 pm
“”I do not see the need for an umbrella term that hegemonically erases the different lives, needs, identities etc of groups of people who are quite different. Transgender as umbrella is like declaring all people from the different Spanish speaking nations of the Americas to be Mexican when they are actually from a variety of nations.””
Not completely true. Because we, the human race use such a term as an umbrella to encompass those humans in the world, does not erase the various cultures, countries that lie within the human race.
Just the same as when we use people of colour, it doesn’t erase the various cultures with in that umbrella. Nor are any forced to only use POC when describing themselves or their history/future.
I see no real coloration with using the Spanish/Mexican dichotomy, unless you are suggesting that all people in the U.S. aren’t intelligent enough to understand the differences.(personally I’d like to think there are intelligent people in the U.S. myself)
“”Using transgender for everyone rather than respecting the various group has an almost neo-con/neo-lib sort of reactionary feel “”
And you are entitled to your feelings and how you wish to describe your own feelings, of course.
When I suggest that all the many different communities fit within the umbrella term, I am in no way suggesting one must use that term but rather pointing out how flawed such a term is since in reality it has no true meaning.
But I will also point out that if all fit under such a term
it in no way then excludes those communities working against one another but working with each other since in effect by way of the umbrella, they are the same(closer) and share closer issues which need to be worked on with each other to better the lives of all members.
I considered something else you said.
If we were to go back to it’s true meaning then really we would not be going back to using for people who live the life of one without medically correcting their genitals. but rather more so focusing on those who were at that time considered “transvestities”, as did Prince once announce being.
Either way, since the term seems to not be going away but rather spreading further across the globe to places where only a few years ago it was unheard of, there will always be differences in thoughts.
Definitions will always continue to evolve. Just look at two words, gay and fag. Both bring up different thoughts in the mind today then when they were created.
December 24, 2009 at 5:12 pm
I can see transsexual as completle distinct from transgender in the same way lesbians are distinct from gay men with the name of each being given equal prominence and yet both working on what is generally speaking common cause.
But I am not nor will I ever consider myself transgender.
December 24, 2009 at 10:29 pm
I don’t really object to the modern usage of transgender (although I don’t think it’s appropriate to apply it to people who don’t want it), but I don’t really see myself as transgender, and when someone else describes me as such, it really clashes with my sense of myself.
And when I wrote my early posts in response to transsexualphobic radfem articles, they constantly addressed “transgender” while meaning transsexual, and it was just easier to not go into the etymology while responding to the substance of their fallacious arguments.
Of course, most of those who insist on calling me transgender are other transsexual women who seem to think I want a feud with them (and clearly want a feud with me), but I think that kind of battle is a waste of time and energy.
December 24, 2009 at 11:58 pm
Lisa said, “Of course, most of those who insist on calling me transgender are other transsexual women who seem to think I want a feud with them (and clearly want a feud with me), but I think that kind of battle is a waste of time and energy.”
The other group are people so wedded to the political identity of transgender that they get pissy with me for insisting on being transsexual (especially the being born transsexual part) instead of caving and self identifying as transgender.
This is especially fucked when I’m the one hitting Kinkos and printing up the leaflets on my dime and going around passing them out trying to get people to march as a group on Gay Pride Day. And people wondered why I threw my hands up and asked the WTF question.
I think if people admitted there are communities and not “a community” there would be a lot less fighting. But that might threaten some people who have staked positions and built fiefdoms.
December 27, 2009 at 12:53 pm
Last time I looked it’s near the end of the first decade of the 21st century — 2009 to be exact.
The Ron Gold style attacks have been going on since the 1970’s,
The anti-“transgender as umbrella” issue has been around almost as long as the use of “transgender as umbrella” has.
The arguments are just non-productive, useless.
Even the use of something as simple as “transgender and transsexual” seems beyond the ability of so many who have staked a claim (and their future employment) on “transgender as umbrella”.
When it comes to gay guys and lesbians rejecting our very existence (over and over again), what can I say that has not been said in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s 90’s, 2000’s, etc.
Much of this transgender hoopla, and the attitudes held by some in the greater gay and lesbian communities, has also affected the way WBT’s, post-op women, Women of Transsexual History, HBS women, etc. are seen by our “greater straight communities” — and, not in a good way.
Is it any wonder that many (most?) post operative transsexuals / ex-transsexuals still make such strong attempts to remain anonymous, if not quite “stealth”?
Does anyone still wonder why so many almost totally leave “the community” as soon as they can?
As well as there being no future being the “T” in LGBT, there is no future fighting the exact same battles over and over.. With every new generation it seems we fight the very same battles — only some of the names change, the words are the same.
Why transgender folks insist on claiming a population that is clearly NOT transgender is beyond me. Most posties (my temporary “umbrella term” that includes all the different post-ops — including even the homophobic, anti-expanded-marriage-rights — because then some folks MIGHT think ME “queer” types —– just temporary, mind you) do NOT personally identify as transgender — we identify as WOMEN, albeit women with a different history.
There is absolutely no advantage to us being seen as a “third”, being seen as “transgender”, or even as “transsexual”, unless that particular identity is how we make our living, survive.
Most “posties” I’ve spoken to just want to lead fairly “normal” lives — often for the very first time in their lives.
If you stop to think, older gay and lesbian couples are just couples. It is the young, active, gay guys and lesbians who gain an advantage by being militantly “out and proud” — for one thing, it’s a way to find partners, and have sex, without skulking around (think “wide stance” Larry Craig). Put simply, it makes getting laid easier, less dangerous, more honest.
Being “out and proud” only makes “posties” less able to find decent employment, limits their potential partners to “trannychasers” (though even many – most? – of those folks do NOT want “posties”), and brings no true social benefits. “Posties” usually just want what they have always seen as a “normal” life, in their CORRECT sex (NOT “gender”).
That does not mean we will not work for ALL human rights (unless we happen to be bigoted, misguided, right-wing types — working against our own self interest).
It’s just that we might like a REQUEST, instead of the various DEMANDS placed upon us by so many of the “transgender as umbrella” and gay / lesbian “allies”.
We are NOT the “shock troops” — and, we would like to be invited to the afterparty, instead of just being relegated to cleanup.
December 27, 2009 at 1:08 pm
By the way, just as a sort of postscript (postie-script?) — the over all “postie” world is just as varied as is the greater world of women.
There are vast class differences, huge differences in education levels, political stances, sexuality (and non-sexuality), etc.
The only thing we ALL share is a medical history. We also tend to be rather strong willed (I think you have to be to do what we’ve all done).
That may be enough for some empathy, but it’s not enough to form a monolithic front.
Many of us are more involved in the fight for women’s rights than we are in the “transgender struggle”.
Just the varied nature of “posties” makes our inclusion in “transgender” even stranger.
Why not something as simple as “transgender and transsexual”?
Try it — you might like it.
December 29, 2009 at 2:59 pm
Good luck on that transgender and transsexual thing…I tried and tried and tried for many years and got death threats, attempts to utterly destroy my life, turned into Homeland Security as a terrorist and people like Helms personally trashing me for over a decade.
And Helms brags about getting along with you Suzy when Helms has been one of the worst offenders about neogynophobic insults of post corrected women’s bodies along with Abernathey of the “you’ll never be a real woman” school of drag everyone down to transvestite level.
The faces change but the transgender umbrella or kill you continues forever. No peace is possible, coalitions are out of the question and it ‘taint our side that made it so.
December 29, 2009 at 10:33 pm
So you are still around after all. I thought you gave up the fight when your blog went quiet. I put your link back up or let me know if you have a different one.
December 30, 2009 at 4:50 am
I’ve pretty much said all there is to say about the TG vs TS issues I think. I had sat down to write an entry about the Pope and the woman who tackled him last week only to see you’d beat me to it.
I’ve been working on one of my half finished books about the Cybeline Revival, devoting almost all my energy to our ongoing court fight to have our legal recognition of our property restored and will never stop fighting the good fight for women’s rights and Pagan rights. Not to mention putting on our first Pagan Pride Day event, our Orphan’s Thanksgiving and then Yule events here. I also got knocked on my ancient ass by the flu, the first time in almost a decade I’d caught one.
The nastiness that was directed at you, of all people, by some of the post-corrected housewife crowd left wanting to distance myself from them. I have been commenting here and there on various blogs.
I’ll probably resume blogging on my “Telling my Stories” blog first only the fact almost no one reads it has slowed me down there.