What do transsexuals and feminists who support women’s rights to control their own bodies when it comes to reproduction and abortion access have in common?
Janice Raymond has written books attacking both.
One of the problems of looking at the world from a strictly trans-centric point of view is that it causes people to neglect to examine other positions that the person attacking TS/TG people has taken.
The same is true if one views the world through the lens of pro-choice feminism. One sees the limiting of women’s abortion access being advocated by someone who claims to be a feminist. But by solely focusing upon that one particular position one avoids seeing other anti-woman, misogynistic positions taken by this self proclaimed “feminist”.
In reality Janice Raymond and her mentor/as well as alleged lover Mary Daly were more influenced by rigid Catholic theology than by feminism. Their brand of feminism was so rigidly defined as to be exclusionary rather than inclusive.
Monica Roberts has recently pointed out something that she has long argued and with good reason; much of feminism has been about privileged white women. This paradigm, true or illusory had caused women of color to not feel they have a place at the table when it comes to being part of “Feminism”.
The same can be said for working class white women. Something is wrong when it seems as though you have to have a degree from a prestigious university, a middle class or better life style and with it attendant power and privilege to have a voice in a movement that is supposed to represent you.
TS/TG women are not all white nor are we all blessed with class privilege. Some of us grew up working class, some of us are people of color, more than a few of us either ran away from home or were thrown out by our families.
Our taking hormones and having surgery to feel at home in our own skin isn’t the same as a non TS/TG person having plastic surgery for reasons of vanity. For us to not have access to this has the same sort of impact upon our lives as being forced to bear and raise an unwanted child (unwanted for any reason, not just rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother). I thought that autonomy and control over my own body should be of the same level of agency. That was the essence of personal freedom and autonomy, as well as one of the core tenets of feminism.
But as the 1970s wore on I saw that so much of feminism seemed aimed at furthering the lot of women who were further up the class structure than I was. While women who were further up the class structure talked about law school, advanced degrees and glass ceilings in male dominated fields they seemed to think it would be great if women of my class were able to get into construction and auto repair.
The lack of class consciousness was stunning and I started getting the feeling that lots of feminists were not my sisters.
A lot of women who were people of color seemed to feel the same thing.
We started looking for a kind of feminism that we could make our own.
For TS/TG sisters Janice Raymond’s book “The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male” was pure abuse. Suddenly TS/TG sisters had to listen to all sorts of filthy lies and double binding criticism by assholes who thought Raymond was brilliant. But Raymond was really in the vanguard of the backlash. All sorts of reactionary Cultural Feminism came to dominate a movement that had already alienated many people.
The face of feminism became white and privileged, if there were lesbians involved they were safe and invisible because too many obvious lesbians found their needs were not being met by mainstream feminism.
Thirty years of backlash and the erosion of rights and freedoms. If TS/TG people want to get hormones or surgery they have to submit to being diagnosed with “Gender Identity Disorder”, a mental illness.
The demand for abortion rights has become the wishy-washy plea for “choice” and sanitized into “reproductive rights” when the whole core concept of abortion rights was about the right to not reproduce.
Doctors are murdered and a right secured nearly 40 years ago has been under constant threat. If not by laws then by lack of abortion providers.
RU486 was supposed to permit women to exercise their right to have an abortion if they chose to terminate their pregnancy without access to a doctor who performed the surgical procedure.
But the religious right waged a war against RU486 and prevented access to the drug without a prescription. First banned, it became legal due to the actions of the Clinton administration. The restrictions requiring prescription and a source to purchase the drugs continue to limit access.
While Raymond was hailed by many feminists for her attacks on TS/TG people these same feminists were oddly silent regarding another book she wrote “RU486: Misconceptions, Myths and Morals“. This work was used to argue against the approval of the drug.
Perhaps it is time to reexamine feminism and get rid of the sort of feminism that gets used to maintain class and racial discrimination. Maybe it is time to look towards radical women like Emma Goldman and Rosa Luxembourg. Women like Angela Davis. The sex positive women who are not afraid to embrace sex workers as feminists instead of victims. And yes embrace women born TS/TG too.
Instead of letting the anti-sex religionists dominate the debate, we need to demand the right to control our own bodies.