I have no control over how others use a word that came about simply to save typing a phrase out over and over again
Wed 28 Nov 2018
Recently my colleagues discovered that I happen to have a peculiarly niche level of internet notoriety because I used to blog a lot. It was a critique of a strong strand of transphobia in British media referencing a trans-ally piece I wrote a decade ago that clued them in. Due to a short series of blogposts from 2008, I have retrospectively been credited as the coiner of the acronym “Terf” (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists). I suspect I’m merely the first person who wrote it on a website that still exists – I wonder how many Elizabethans already used words now attributed to Shakespeare long before he (or the Jacobean actors whose annotated Folio transcripts are the earliest extant versions) incorporated them in a play?
It was passionate trans women activists online whose strong advocacy of their right to exist as women in the world showed me just how dehumanising the trans-hostile rhetoric is from some radfems about them. Yet as a cis-het woman with a mainly digital activism history, I have been credited while contributions of dedicated trans inclusion advocates such as Lisa Harney to those discussions have been overlooked. The pseudonyms common back then do complicate attributions, but it’s also an ongoing problem in this feminist discussion – it’s rarely been trans women who are handed the microphone to voice their own experiences, although social media has meant they they could build their own platforms, have their concerns heard, and some at least addressed.
The Guardian’s own Opinion pages on transgender issues outline the divisions regarding trans-inclusion advocacy vs trans-critical hostility, proving once again that feminism is no monolith.
I do find the renewed interest over the last few years in writing of mine from a decade ago disconcerting. The Terf acronym has long since left that particular discussion (and me) behind, and been weaponised at times by both those who advocate trans-inclusion in feminist/female spaces, and those who push for trans-exclusion from female-only spaces. I have no control over how others use a word (as it has now become) that came about simply to save typing a longer phrase out over and over again – a shorthand to describe one cohort of feminists who self-identify as radical and are unwilling to recognise trans women as sisters, unlike those of us who do.
So how did I come to be writing about transphobia and trans-exclusion in the first place? Because I was running a Feminism 101 FAQ blog with a tight focus on factual information.
As that blog gained first an audience and then a community, non-FAQ posts began to appear. Then I was sent a blurb promoting an event associated with the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival [Michfest]. I posted it and then rapidly edited with disclaimers that should have been there from the start as commenters sent me on a rapid learning curve regarding trans-exclusion issues both specific to Michfest and in general. I later posted An Apology And A Promise on that blog, following a post on my primary blog, which seems to include the earliest instance of “Terf” online:
implicitly aligning all radfems with the trans-exclusionary radfem (TERF) activists, which I resent”
I also mentioned another term which didn’t catch on, perhaps at least partly because it was less ambiguous about who exactly was being described:
After a bit more reading, I think the trans-exclusionary set should better be described as TES, with the S standing for separatists. A lot of the positions that are presented seem far too essentialist to be adequately described as feminist, let alone radical feminist.”
For most feminist cis women considering the rights and safety of trans women rarely intrudes upon our feminist practice until somebody wants to exclude trans women from our spaces and expects us to agree. That’s when we realise women we know have very different reactions to the question of whether to include trans women as part of our sisterhood, or deny their womanhood and exclude them.
The Trump administration’s petition to the Supreme Court Friday to bypass the appellate courts and rule on the president’s policy of banning transgender people from serving in the armed forces has been described by one transgender service member as a “desperate and cowardly tactic.”
The leapfrog request filed on Friday to the Supreme Court has become a standard operating procedure for President Donald Trump’s administration, as it seeks to skirt the appellate courts entirely on various policy decisions aimed at unraveling Obama era accomplishments.
Typically, the Supreme Court does not review cases until at least one appeals court has weighed in. The Supreme Court rules stipulate the court will only intercede before an appeals court ruling “only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this court.”
“It’s a desperate and cowardly tactic. He wants to undermine our rights and erase the people he loathes, but he is clearly afraid of the full attention his toxic policies deserve,” Jack Schuler, a transgender man and former U.S. Marine signals intelligence linguist turned U.S. Army soldier, told Newsweek.
Representing both the president and Defense Secretary James Mattis, Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in his petition that the Trump administration’s transgender ban, known as the Mattis policy, satisfies the Supreme Court’s standard for review. The solicitor general said the issue is of “imperative public importance: the authority of the U.S. military to determine who may serve in the Nation’s armed forces.”
Francisco argued that prompt action was needed because district courts erred in their decision to grant preliminary injunctions, which prevented the Mattis policy from taking effect.
It was a day of ironic contradictions: The Trump administration filed the petition on the same week as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance that honors the memory of those lost to anti-transgender violence, and just a day after Thanksgiving, when most Americans are out searching Black Friday deals and not the day’s headlines.
Schuler told Newsweek that the president’s political tactics are easy to spot. But the stark paradox on Friday centers on the White House request coming on the same day the president bashed a federal district court judge for striking down a version of Trump’s travel ban, prompting a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts.
Continue reading at: https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-transgender-ban-military-1231958
Nov 26, 2018
Beyond all else, cisgender people have a compulsive need to imagine that transgender people are miserable. In telling transition stories, it’s often the pain that is centered—the pain of loss, of discrimination, or even physical pain. Those stories do nothing for trans people and exist merely to fulfill the voyeuristic need of curious cis people. Trans storytellers who are willing to dig deepest into their own trauma are thus too often elevated to the biggest media platforms.
In a New York Times op-ed published Saturday, trans writer Andrea Long Chu became the latest to take advantage of that dynamic, describing how she has become more depressed, dysphoric, and suicidal after starting hormones and claiming that her forthcoming bottom surgery won’t make her happy. Chu skillfully exposed her very raw pain on the country’s largest print platform, presenting a very important counter-narrative to the idea that trans people are universally happy after transitioning. The thesis of her piece is that it shouldn’t matter whether transitioning makes us happy or not, and fundamentally, she has a point.
But whatever she hoped for cis readers to take away from her piece, it’s overshadowed by her inaccurate and offensive claim that a post-op vagina is a “wound,” and her insistence that trans people aren’t happy after transitioning. “There are no good outcomes in transition,” she wrote, projecting her own transition difficulties onto everyone else.
The act of inverting a penis into a vagina is so extreme and offensive to society that misery is the only prerequisite justifying the procedure. “People transition because they think it will make them feel better. The thing is, this is wrong,” Chu wrote, before launching into a beautiful monologue detailing her own painful experience. But without qualifying that her statement is merely her own, she perhaps unintentionally asserts her own experience as universal. In truth, studies have shown that trans people are generally happier after transitioning and that most of their difficulties in life come from discrimination and social rejection.
Many trans people have responded to her op-ed by explaining that they are happy with their transitions, but Chu asserted later on social media that trans people lie about how happy we are after. As Chu noted, there is a basis for her assertion because trans people are forced to follow a script to satisfy the gatekeeping demands of cis therapists and doctors who determine who gets which treatment. The issue again is that this merely creates more fodder for the cis people who ultimately have the power to decide who gets to transition or not.
If none of us are happier as a result of transitioning, and anyone who claims happiness is a liar, how is transitioning an ethical treatment option for gender dysphoria? Why should we allow these tortured souls to serve in the military or even access these “mutilating” surgeries, one might ask. Chu is playing a dangerous game with transition care access currently threatened by the Trump administration.
By: Eli Erlick
27 Nov 2018
Much like my testosterone blockers, the truth is a bitter pill to swallow. Andrea Long Chu’s recent polemical op-ed in the New York Times polarized the trans community. Within hours of the release of “My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy,” thousands of responses flooded social media. Some trans writers claimed it will harm trans people and cause cis audiences to doubt our transitions. Others applauded it for generating a discussion on trans dissatisfaction without petitioning to take away our healthcare. The piece’s central purpose, obfuscated by vague language and generalizations, is that trans people do not need to become happier to get access to the care we need. Chu contends we should be able to talk about our complex relationships to transitioning undisturbed by cisgender medical or psychological gatekeepers. Regret, unhappiness, and discomfort can and often do become part of this process. Yet we still deserve care. Nobody knows our own bodies and narratives like we do.
Chu’s op-ed distances itself from the “liberal counternarrative” to anti-trans pundits who claim that being trans is a “clinical delusion.” This liberal story — trans people are inherently suffering and must receive care to become happier –- is limited in scope and usefulness. Chu, like many other trans people, became viscerally less happy while transitioning. She explains that estrogen allowed her to access repressed emotions that make her feel worse. She still stays on hormones. Transition exacerbated her dysphoria, made her suicidal, and caused her to question transness. Yet, as she explains, “desire and happiness are independent agents.” She is arguing –- nebulously –- that we should not set happiness as the “benchmark of success” for trans healthcare. Rather, the desire to transition is enough. If we confine the ability to transition to the ideal of happiness, we may be allowing medical and psychological professionals to withhold treatment. They would judge our qualifications by a potential “successful outcome” (being happier). Wanting to transition is ample rationale for transitioning on its own.
Many critics pointed out that while Chu’s arguments are important and strong, the New York Times may not be the best venue for this op-ed. The newspaper caters to notoriously anti-transgender readers and writers, meaning the article will inevitably be misinterpreted. If your op-ed is in the New York Times, it probably isn’t that radical. But Chu never asserts that being radical was her intention. Her writing will almost certainly lead to people withholding care from trans communities, especially trans youth. Nevertheless, this critique also pivots Chu’s narrative on its palatability to cisgender people in power. It’s not pragmatic, but she never claimed that’s what she aims for. We shouldn’t have to lower our standards to respectability.
The other, more pointed criticism of the piece focuses on Chu’s decision to universalize trans experience by paving over the narratives of other trans people. She writes, “people transition because they think it will make them feel better. The thing is, this is wrong.” Perhaps this was wrong for her, but the majority of trans people, according to nearly every narrative, community space, and study, says otherwise. If we want to get exact with language, she is correct that transition “may make them feel better.” It’s not a guarantee. Still, the majority of trans people do, in fact, feel better when we transition. When confronted with this fact by trans researcher Samantha Allen on Twitter, Chu responded that trans people are simply lying to researchers and themselves when we claim that we’re happier.
Continue reading at: https://www.intomore.com/impact/must-trans-narratives-cater-to-cis-audiences