Investigating the Lesbian Klan: The Rise of Cultural Feminism

Not all lesbians are members of the anti-transsexual Klan.  Nor are all lesbian feminists or even many lesbian separatists.

There is nothing inherent in the left/liberal precepts of lesbian feminism that requires the systematic bigotry that a minority within the lesbian community have deployed towards transsexual and post-transsexual women.

In spite of their claiming the label “Radical Feminists” their over all policies share little or nothing with the original “Radical Feminists” who grew out of the left and had more in common with the women of Weatherman, and the Trotskyites than they do with with those who claim that label today.  In the early 1970s to be a Radical Feminist meant that one acted radically rather than sitting around theorizing and engaging in vicious word games.

As early as 1972 there was a divergence from that form of feminism, which tended to view women’s oppression within the context of the oppressions of race and class.  This meant erasing the contributions Marx and Engels made to analyzing the origins of the family.

One of the early demands of what Red Stockings came to describe as “cultural feminism” came in the form of Robin Morgan’s Good-bye to all that… *1

Women had played a major role in every aspect of left wing movements in the US since the days of  the Abolition Movement.  They were part of the Labor Movement (Mother Jones and Elizabeth Gurly Flynn) They were part of the Communist Party (Dorothy Ray Healy).  The Anarchist Movement (Emma Goldman Lucy Parsons) The Black Civil Rights Movement (Angela Davis, Elaine Brown)  The Anti-war Movement, the Environmental Movement ETC.

In “Good-bye to all that” Morgan demanded women leave movements where they had worked for years, movements they had committed their lives to working with all to join what was at the time a middle class white women’s movement.  She laid out all the crimes of the alternative hippie communities yet never much focused on the misogyny of the mainstream media or corporate America.

This actually kept me from fully committing to feminism as I was working class and saw how oppressions of class and race meant that while all women were oppressed by sexism, many women carried much heavier burdens of oppression than others.

You see I was part of the anti-war movement and the counter-culture being trashed by Morgan, a well to do, former child star.  We were trying to build a new society and dealing with sexism wasn’t the only issue.

A couple of years later Jane Alpert, an acolyte of Morgan wrote Mother Right:

Letter from the Underground:

Dear Sisters in the Weather Underground:

I am addressing this piece to you, in spite of the fact that my concern at this point is with a far broader spectrum of women than your tiny band of forgotten leftists, because it was our arguments of the past year that convinced me to publicize my conversion from the left to radical feminism. I realized after these arguments that for me to keep silence would only support the illusion that the “underground” is united around the male politics which you still espouse, and these politics and practices are too reprehensible to me as a feminist to protect them by silence. I know that seeing this letter, which you thought you would receive as a private communication, here in print will shock you and that you will regard much of its content as a breach of the tacit code of honor among political fugitives. Nevertheless, my own politics demand that I share with all women my knowledge of the sexual oppression of the left, if only to warn other sisters against the pain that has been inflicted on us. Perhaps you personally will never open up to feminism; yet the experiences I am going to relate may speak more effectively to women involved in other branches of the left, from McGovern organizers to Socialist Workers Party members. And I have some hope that the impact of a public statement may do what none of my private arguments have succeeded in doing: persuade you to leave the dying left in which you are floundering and begin to put your immense courage and unique skills to work for women-for yourselves.

This letter and Morgan’s overt support of both Jane Alpert and this position struck me and many other left wing feminists as a betrayal on the order last seen by those who named names at the HUAC and the McCarthy hearings during the Red scare of the 1950s.

But even more insidious was another part of “Mother Right” which renounced the truly radical thinking of Shulamith Firestone while furthering the separation from the Left and counter-culture that had been started by Morgan.

“Mother Right” argued against the idea of women as female people  endowed with same abilities as male people.  While earlier feminists asserted that differences were not biological but  rather the result of patriarchal conditioning “Mother Right” introduced the idea of biological essentialism, the concept that men and women were completely different and didn’t share a wide variety of overlapping traits and talents.

For centuries feminists have asserted that the essential difference between men and women does not lie in biology but rather in the roles that patriarchal societies ( men ) have required each sex to play. The motivation for this assertion is obvious: women’s biology has always been used to justify women’s oppression. As patriarchal reasoning went, since “God” or “nature” or “evolution” had made woman the bearer and nurser of the species, it logically followed that she should stay home with the children and perform as a matter of more-or-less ordained duty all the domestic chores involved in keeping and feeding a household. When women work outside the home, we have the most menial and lowest-paid tasks to perform, chiefly because any labor a woman performs outside the home is thought to be temporary and inessential to her, no matter how she herself might be inclined to regard it. Naturally, then, the first healthy impulse of feminism is to deny that simply because women have breasts and uteruses we are better suited to wash dishes, scrub floors, or change diapers. As newly roused feminists, we retorted to evidence that women might be intrinsically better suited to perform some roles than others by pointing out that men have been forcing these roles on us for at least five thousand years. After such time, conditioning and habit are so strong that they appear to be intrinsic and innate.

However, a flaw in this feminist argument has persisted: it contradicts our felt experience of the biological difference between the sexes as one of immense significance To begin with, it seems obvious that biology alone would, in primitive societies, have dictated different roles and different powers as appropriate to each sex. And biological scientists have indeed assumed, for the most part, that the physical passivity of the female mammal during intercourse and the demands of pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing clearly indicate a role of women as biologically determined, and inferior. In response to this, Shulamith Firestone, with the publication of The Dialectic of Sex in 1970, articulated the definitive feminist antithesis to this idea by denouncing biology as reactionary. Agreeing that biology had necessarily been an all-powerful determinant of social roles in the past, Firestone went on to argue that the advances of technology made this tyranny potentially obsolete. Women are still enslaved to their bodies not because of biology but because the patriarchy will not permit the use of technology to interfere with men’s power over women. However, in Firestone’s view, the dialectic of history, in which the sexual relationship underlies all other power relationships, indicates that A feminist revolution is inevitable. This revolution will put technology to work to literally free women from biology, from pregnancy, childbirth, and the rest, thereby eliminating the last difference of any importance between the sexes and ultimately causing the sexual difference itself to wither away, in the course of evolution, together with all forms of oppression.

I think that Firestone is visionary in perceiving the sexual relationship as the basis of all power relationships, and in predicting that feminist revolution will therefore result in the end of all oppression. However, the evidence of feminist culture, which has accumulated largely since the publication of her epochal book, suggests that her analysis of the role of biology was deficient and that a third possibility, which is indeed a new synthesis of the previous views, may well be correct. The unique consciousness or sensibility of women, the particular attributes that set feminist art apart, and a compelling line of research now being pursued lay feminist anthropologists all point to the idea that female biology is the basis of women’s powers. Biology is hence the source and not the enemy of feminist revolution.

The root of this idea lies perhaps in buried history. It has increasingly been acknowledged that the most ancient societies worshiped a female diety or deities, and that menstruation, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and all other phenomena associated with female biology were surrounded with taboos. Furthermore, a number of these ancient societies were matrilineal: property and social identity were inherited through the mother rather than the father. Whether women had any secular power in these societies is a subject of dispute, and most archaeologists and anthropologists have felt that women didn’t have any power except over a few religious rites. But most archaeologists and anthropologists have been men, whose imaginations could not quite grasp a society in which women held real power, even a pretechnological society. (For example, the section on “Amazons” in the authoritative Oxford Classical Dictionary spends all of one sentence dismissing the notion the Amazon tribes ever existed–though these tribes were acknowledged by nearly every ancient historian who wrote about preclassical times.) Feminists in many branches of science and historical research have been reexamining the evidence for the existence of ancient gynocracies, or women-ruled societies. Among the more visionary and lyrically persuasive (if somewhat factually problematic) of these recent studies is The First Sex by Elizabeth Gould Davis. Davis hypothesizes that patriarchal society began only after barbarian male tribes violently overthrew the ancient, peaceful, and relatively advanced gynocracies, in which women were not only worshiped but were actually temporal rulers. These ancient gynocracies may have existed throughout Asia, northern Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and the Mediterranean area and persisted as late as 2,000 B.C. in some areas, such as Crete. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that Davis may be proved correct in the near future, and her thesis has been stated in a more tentative style than hers by several other highly respected scientists.

Those of us who considered ourselves radical feminists in the original sense of the term i.e. left wing Marxist-Leninist feminists felt utterly betrayed by the direction Morgan and others seemed to be moving in.

Eventually our branch of feminism became known as “Liberal Feminism”.  The branch that goes out and demonstrates for rights.  Some times in a manner that is reformist and sometimes in the case of those who fight globalization and the corporatocracy, radical.

Cultural Feminism, also referred to by some as “gender feminism” diverged from political feminism which was denounced as “reformist”. Something I always found strange given the reactionary positions masquerading as radical thought one found in in the writings of the cultural feminists.

As an atheist, I found it very difficult to get caught up in and devote much energy to the whole goddess worship movement that seemed to be an essential part of cultural feminism.  If the concept of a sky-god already seems absurd, it doesn’t much matter if that god is male or female.  Honestly I found some of the “research” on pre-historical matriarchies to be sketchy at best and requiring the same level of skepticism I used in reading Erich von Däniken’s “Chariots of the Gods”

Dancing naked around a fire with a bunch of other women was edifying in terms of fun and a fuck of a lot less work that working to elect a candidate that would support the ratification of the ERA. Except, it somehow seemed less relevant to smashing the patriarchy than doing the hard work of organizing.

Yet the cultural feminists started using their essentialism to dominate the political discourse.  They did this by claiming ultimate victimhood and wearing that ultimate victimhood as a badge of honor that gave them veto power over the political feminists and lesbians.  After all it was their goddess ordained, mother right, to have the voice of authority.

This essentialism along with ultimate victimhood became a tool of personal power and dominance.  A tool for shutting down the politicals and assuring the destruction of any sort of broad based feminism that worked on a wide scope of issues.

The attacks on transsexuals starting with Beth Elliott showed the basic elements of what became cultural feminism.  Particularly the essentialist elements.

There was a popular feminist button in 1969 that read, “Biology is not Destiny”.  I remember this button because I had one and wore it.  It was a statement of liberation that said one was not limited by their biology to specified roles.  In those days we talked about the sameness of men and women, the overlapping of talents, skills etc.  How male dominance was a product of social engineering.

Incidentally Dr. Benjamin and others who pioneered the treatment for transsexualism reinforced the idea of an over lapping of the sexes rather than a sharp dividing line.  Dr. Benjamin spoke of the many criteria of sex differentiation.

The essentialism of cultural feminism on the other hand was very much into the “Women are from Venus/Men are from Mars”  dialectic.  This like any other fundamentalist line of thinking  requires that ideology trump any possible form of contradictory evidence. Even when that contradiction is a living, breathing, thinking person standing there messing with your theory.

Transsexuals mess with Cultural Feminism’s Essentialist Theory

In later posts on this subject I will go into some of the contradictions the existence of transsexuals create for the Cultural Feminists prime theory of essentialism.  Like creationists they tie themselves in knots, presenting arguments not supported by evidence.  They will resort to lies, slander and false accusations to gain support for purging not only post-transsexual women from the ranks of lesbian feminism but anyone who supports post-transsexual women.

Who can blame them.  Transsexuals are the contradiction that devastates their ideologically self contained world.

1.  I confess to a love hate relationship with Robin Morgan.  Many of the books she compiled and edited are and have been a part of my essential feminist library since the early 1970s.  On the other hand I have felt that Morgan’s claiming to be a lesbian while in a heterosexual marriage and enjoying heterosexual privilege was an insult to actual lesbians.  While other women who wrote the works featured in many of Morgan’s anthologies were being trashed as seeking stardom for the mere act of putting their names on the writings they worked to produce, Morgan was never shy about putting her name on the anthologies she produced and edited.

Gender… Schmender #$%@&^*

The whole ideology of gender is purely sexist bullshit.

Gender is a pure social construct, a fiction that oppresses both men and women but more women than men.

When I hear “gender assigned at birth” I want to slap someone. I wasn’t assigned a gender at birth.  The doctor looked between my legs and said, “It’s a boy.”  I was assigned male by reason of having a penis there later in life I had an operation that reassigned me to female based on that same genital appearance factor.

When I came out in 1969, I came out as a feminist.  Women in the collective gave me clothes. While the guys claimed they respected me but they also started treating me in a way that told me they expected me to adhere to the sex roles both hippie and movement women were expected to adhere to.

When other movement women saw this they introduced me to feminism.  When SDS split into Weatherman and other factions I became Weather, largely because of Bernadine Dohrn.  You see there weren’t very many strong women’s voices in SDS and the Anti-War Movement.

Bernadine Dohrn gave great rants…  Maybe months later on reflection you went WTF but at the time…  Oh how I admired her audacity and how she inspired me to act courageously.

I also learned from other radical women. Putting women and the interests of women first yet never forgetting that sexism was only one axis of oppression. Consciousness raising and analysis gave me/us an understanding of what the world expects of women.

Many of us who were dealing with having been born with transsexualism owe far more to feminism and the feminist movement than we ever did to Stonewall and the Gay Liberation Movement. We weren’t gay men even if we had male lovers.  Especially if we had male lovers… being transsexual and having a male lover meant we were straight or more accurately heterosexual since straight also had other connotations.

We weren’t some “T” so recently grafted on to what was first a Gay Liberation Movement.  We were women in transition to female having to deal with the same sexism as natal female women had to deal with.  It didn’t much matter if we were radical feminist Weather Nation women or Cosmo “Sex and the Single Girl” women.  We had to deal with sexism and pay discrimination as well as sexist assumptions based on what are now called “gender” stereotypes.

Gender was something used to keep women oppressed.  It was the idea that women are weak and stupid; fit only to be sex objects or mothers. Daddy’s little princess until given to a man only to lose her last name and become his property.* Gender became a way of telling feminists that they were not real women since they questioned the marketing of very high profit items based on pandering to a sense of insecurity in one’s own womanhood or attractiveness.

When feminism challenged those who were dealing with transsexualism part of the challenge was due to the tendency of so many of us to embrace all the marketing of gender without insight or even a sense of irony.

But gender as it is so often used today is if anything a far more sneaky and loaded with subtextual readings semiotic. Gender has now replaced sex in so much of the common discourse that we look at the construct as reality and skip over the subtextual readings of the semiotic.

Whereas once upon a time the Cockettes Troupe in San Francisco deconstructed gender and showed it as performative through the usage of exaggerated costumes and the performing of equally over the top stereotypes taken from films of the 1930s and 40s I now have some people ask if these performers were transsexual or transgender. The answer is maybe some were.  One was in the Stanford program at the same time I was, others were gay men and some were natal females.

By breaking the rules of gender through Absurdist Theater they created both campy comedy and a critique of sex roles. One of the crucial mistakes in feminist criticism of more traditional drag is the assumption that women are the target when it often seems the aim is more a matter of ridiculing roles portrayed in movies.

But Second Wave Feminism went even further in delivering a devastating critique of sex roles as defining what the proper role of women was.  When women dared step beyond the stereotypes and enter male dominated career field they were told that doing so would un-sex both women and men.  Fashion magazines and all sorts of corporate interests dished up massive loads of propaganda aimed at undermining the confidence of women seeking equality of opportunity.

One of the critiques of transsexual to female people is that we have not been socialized as women. This is an assumption that is often times contradictorily both true and false. Transsexual to female people grow up as transkids and are influenced by the same sales pitches and indoctrination as natal women yet they are told it is something they must adhere to and we are told it is something to be ashamed of.

This makes it hard for us to have a critical eye regarding this propaganda when we first come out. We may acquire it with experience but it is equally possible for us to join the masses of women who march to the beat of Sex in the City rather than to NOW and more radical feminisms.

At some point sex became gender and roles acted replaced that which was written upon the body. The ironic labeling of sex as a definer of maleness or femaleness as essentialism has resulted in many people with a poor understanding of feminist theory using it as a careless accusation.

Dividing people into classes of male and female based on the appearances of genitalia would mean that heterosexual post-SRS women and men would be able to legally marry partners of the other sex.  No more Christie Lee Littletons, no more Nikki Araguzs.

But when the misogynistic reactionary forces of both religious fundamentalism and ultra right wing politics united to defeat feminism as well as LGBT/TQ liberation and the progressive movements of the 60s and 70s they seemed to unite with corporate interests in reasserting misogyny.  Trying to sell sex roles and their importance after 15 years of serious feminist critique was more of a struggle than repackaging sex roles as gender.

The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan was supposedly a self help book for women.  In reality this 1974 publication was grounded in the rising right wing Christo-Fascist backlash that also spawned the rise of the homophobic bigotry of Anita Bryant and crew.

Along with Phyllis Schlafly these genderists put forth an ideology that could have been penned by the late transvestite activist pioneer, Virginia Prince.  The ideology was one that kept women in their places by telling them that they weren’t real women unless they filled this total woman gender role.  The same gender role feminists had critiqued under the name of “sex roles.”

Now I view “gender” as a culturally defined social construct that varies a great deal according to culture and time (see Margaret Mead’s work.  BTW her “debunker” were right wing McCarthyites).

With western modernism the naturally occurring over lapping of sex traits and abilities lead to a lessening of rigid gender roles that are more often found these days in non-western cultures.

Defining people as real men or real women based on gender is a characteristic of conservative values often based in religiously fanatical cultures which is why I find the embrace of “gender” as definer by Transgender Inc. to be more reactionary than progressive.

I read a story on Bilrico about some creep beating an infant boy to death to make him act like a man. http://www.bilerico.com/2010/08/man_kills_17-month-old_boy_for_acting_like_a_girl.php This is the problem with putting so much emphasis on gender.

In the real world an Emo boy even with nail polish and a magenta streak in his long black hair is still a boy.  The rocker girl with facial piercings, tats and black leather motor cycle boots is still a girl.

Of course without the ideology of transgender Thomas Beatie is a masculine woman who dresses and acts like a man when she isn’t having children.  But c`est la vie.  And no I wouldn’t mis-gender him like that even though I am supremely irritated by the neo-quiver full thingie.

Gender is masculinity or femininity not maleness or femaleness.  We got suckered into discussing that core identity of male or female as being gender based on Stoller’s book (Sex and Gender) way back in the 1960s.  We didn’t have a whole lot of information to operate on and lacked a vocabulary to describe what we were feeling.  We should have used “core sex identity” for that sense of being female trapped in a male body.
Little did we realize that even then introducing “gender” in to the discourse was using poisoned seeds from the fruit of a poisonous tree.  The misogynistic world according to Virginia Prince became the bullshit crop of the transgender social construct of gender.

The way Transgender Inc. uses gender is not the least bit liberating.  It can’t be as it is based on a construct that defines membership in the sex class of female or the sex class of male not based on what one commonly uses.  Male and female are generally based on whether one has a penis or vagina.

Yet the simple reality of hole or pole unites both Transgender Inc and the religious fanatic/right wingers in finding ways to tell women born transsexual that their pussies do not really make them women.

Human Rights Campaign Submits Official Comment on APA’s DSM Review

Human Rights Campaign, DC, USA

Addresses issues related to transgender people in American Psychiatric Association’s Review of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

4/21/2010

Washington – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, submitted comment yesterday on the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) proposed changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, pressing the APA to do more to eliminate the stigma transgender Americans face. The public comment phase of the review process ended April 20.

“Upon reviewing the APA’s proposed revisions, it appears that they no longer consider gender identity that differs from birth sex to be a basis for psychiatric diagnosis,” said HRC Associate Director of Diversity Allyson Robinson. “By focusing instead on the experience of incongruence, an often distressing conflict between a person’s
physical characteristics and their sense of gender identity, the APA has made an important step toward the destigmatization of transgender lives.”

While affirming this shift, HRC President Joe Solmonese pressed the APA to do more. “These diagnostic categories are frequently used by opponents of equality to deny basic civil rights to transgender Americans, and in that way become a significant source of emotional distress themselves,” said Solmonese. “The APA must address this
heinous practice and do more to empower mental health professionals as they seek to heal the damage caused by stigma, bias, and prejudice.”

HRC also called in its commentary for the complete removal of “transvestic disorder,” which pathologizes male-to-female cross-dressing, from the final DSM-5 document. “The persistence of this archaic category contradicts the positive shift the APA made with gender incongruence and tacitly affirms an understanding of gender
based in sexism, not science,” said Solmonese.

The proposed changes are slated to go into effect in 2013.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights
organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end
discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that
achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

© 2010 The Human Rights Campaign. All rights reserved

http://www.hrc.org/14322.htm

Fighting for a hate-free union

By Christine Darosa

From Socialist Workerhttp://socialistworker.org/2010/03/30/fighting-for-a-hate-free-union

Christine Darosa reports on the fight of a transgender union activist in Service Employees International Union Local 1021 to remove a union supervisor from his position because of his reported prejudice.

March 30, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO–On the heels of the reform slate “Change 1021” victory in Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021’s first elections [2] comes another victory: a supervisor in the union’s San Francisco office has been fired for what activists say is his prejudice.

Andre Spearman, one of the staff supervisors in the Union’s San Francisco office, had reportedly created a hostile work environment through a heavy-handed, top-down approach to working with both staff and rank-and-file membership, combined with blatant disrespect of the membership and staff.

Gabriel Haaland, Local 1021’s political coordinator for San Francisco, and a target of what he calls Spearman’s harassment, described Spearman as having “a very anti-membership-participation perspective” in a progressive local where the membership has historically been very engaged. In fact, Haaland feels that Spearman’s presence and conduct were part of a systematic effort to tamp down rank-and-file activity and involvement in advance of the election.

Over time, Haaland says that an obvious pattern of dismissiveness and derision emerged, though it was difficult to challenge due to Spearman’s abusive management style. As workers in the office began to share their experiences, it became clear that Haaland in particular seemed to receive an extra share of abuse due to his identity as a transgender man.

For example, when Haaland was not in the room, Spearman would refer to Gabriel as “he” in a sneering, belittling way–treatment Spearman also reserved for a transgender woman in the rank and file who crossed his path.

In November, Haaland filed a grievance on behalf of the unionized staff with SEIU management. When the grievance was ignored, he filed a complaint with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION is still all-too-common for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. A 2006 San Francisco study by the Transgender Law Center (TLC) and Bay Guardian newspaper found that 57 percent of transgender people surveyed had experienced employment discrimination in some form, despite the city having had transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws since 1994. Further, only 12 percent of those surveyed had filed a formal complaint.

Haaland, a longtime local progressive figure, has been involved in drafting protections and raising visibility around the harassment of transgender workers, and was part of the group of people who worked to get the TLC/Bay Guardian study underway.

Still, it took Haaland some time to make the decision to file the complaint against Spearman. This was due in part, he explained, to not wanting to give ammunition to union-bashers and his belief that, surely, the union could do better–but also in part to the personal difficulty of taking this step.

If deciding to file a complaint was so challenging for Haaland, it is clear how much harder it would be for people in more precarious situations or those who are isolated in their communities. With the threat of repercussions–such as job loss in a population where unemployment is as high as 75 percent–it is easy to understand why so few people might come forward.

Haaland said that when he found out that the Change 1021 slate had won 26 out of the 28 contested union positions, he knew immediately that the new leadership would be responsive to the issues raised in the grievance. He “knew and respected” the people who won, having worked alongside them in the union for years, he explained.

As Larry Bradshaw, the new third vice president of Local 1021, commented recently:

[M]ost of us that were elected to office on the reform slate knew that there were many internal problems with staff and staff management, but we had no idea that there was this sort of harassment occurring. The first we heard about it was when we read about it in the local press a couple days before we took office, and our new rank-and-file chief elected officer moved within a couple days to remove Mr. Spearman from his position in the union.

Haaland feels that Local 1021 is now returning to the “long tradition of progressive, democratic unionism” that he had signed on to when he took his job with SEIU. He also feels that Change 1021’s win is connected to the actions happening elsewhere at the grassroots–from labor to the LGBT movement to the March 4 Day of Action against the budget cuts in California.

“Things are different now in a number of different contexts. Old ways of doing things are shutting down,” he said. “It excites me…We’re winning a lot–in transformative ways, not in traditional ways.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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  1. [1] http://socialistworker.org/department/Labor
  2. [2] http://socialistworker.org/2010/03/09/sweeping-victory-for-seiu-reformers
  3. [3] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0

Alternative Medicine or Quackery?

Over the last year this blog has cast a seriously skeptical eye on the proliferation of highly dubious claims by people with transsexualism or transgenderism to being physically intersex rather than TS or TG.

The examination of these claims to improbable intersex conditions was prompted by things we were reading on a mailing list that was founded with the purpose of removing GID from the DSM.  We were going WTF? WTF? Particularly, considering  the majority of these claims were not coming from kids who might have exhibited a physical appearance that would have caused someone  looking  at them, even as they were dressed as boy. and say, “My that kid looks more like a girl than a boy”.  Kids whose bodily build would indicate a failure to masculinize.

Instead, the bulk of these claims were coming from transsexual or transgender people who had fathered children.  In some cases these  people were also claiming they were physically disabled and therefore could not actually transition.  Nonetheless they were real women and those of us who did not join them in these claims of intersex no matter how improbable, were not.

We are seriously concerned that this proliferation of dubious claims of intersex conditions by all these people who were and are transsexual could be used to hinder the effort many of us are exerting to remove GID from the DSM.  After all we are in the unfortunate position of having to prove our sanity, something that is difficult enough for a stigmatized class of people to accomplish.  One of the major charges against us is that we are delusional, detached from reality, perhaps even psychotic.  Another charge is that we are compulsive liars, incapable of telling the truth or perhaps in even recognizing it due to our detachment from reality.

Several of us have been on line friends for years now.  We have seen the vicious results of the frauds with many names who burned not only us but respected researchers.  I speak of Kiirea Tirea and Cheryl Chase as well as their many sock puppets who taught us to question the often carefully researched claims of obscure and exceedingly rare conditions.  Particularly since these very same individuals were also engaged in supporting Bailey, Blanchard, Lawrence, Zucker et.al..

Often times the same people making these bizarre claims to improbable if not impossibly contradictory forms of intersex are the very people most actively engaged in attacking transsexual and transgender people as perverts and “men in dresses”.  It doesn’t take a degree in psychiatry to see the internalized transphobia on the part of these individuals.

Some of these same individuals regularly push HBS as a replacement for transsexualism and claim membership in an elite group of “classic transsexuals”.

Oddly enough even though our exposing of the dubious nature of these bizarre claims of improbable intersex conditions was not originally aimed at specific individuals beyond Tirea and Chase as well as the people on GID Reform, various people acted like the cinematic vampires who are suddenly exposed to sun light.

Zoe, a resident of New Zealand, who seems to spend some 18 hours a day on line posting her claims everywhere and anywhere has been one of these vampires, accidentally caught in the sunlight when people on this blog mainly myself and Andrea Brown pierced the cloak of self serving deceit.  We were not initially focused upon her but her claims of spontaneous mid-life change of sex challenge anyone with any real knowledge of the conditions she cites.  Yes it is true fish do change sex in at least certain species.  And yes there is a small group of people with a hormone processing defect that delays physical masculinization until the onset of puberty.

But this does not make what Zoe states terribly credible.  Zoe is transsexual and has a great deal of internalized transphobia this causes her to have to justify being transsexual with an elaborate web of contradictory claims to being intersex.

Her basic impulse is to not own up to her dishonesty but to try piling on more BS.  This cause her to become more and more like Tirea and Chase.  She uses someone,  as an assistant, M. Italiano, MB BS (AM) Board Certified in Alternative Medicine (India) in an attempt to discredit Andrea.

Neither Andrea or myself are angry about having been operated upon as infants.  Because we are just plain old fashioned women who were born with transsexualism.  The person claiming we are angry because of having been mistreated as infants is confusing us with Tirea or with Chase.

But back to Italiano, Certified in Alternative Medicine means exactly nothing.

I am a stone Atheist. No god, no spiritual crap either.  No crystal healing, no aroma therapy.  I am as skeptical regarding all the new age “ancient wisdom of the east” as I am the pope and all other forms of religion.

Even Italiano’s description of premarin as a synthetic hormone belies a level of ignorance that is staggering.  Many of the objections to premarin are not due to its being synthetic (it isn’t as it is extracted from the urine of pregnant mares) but rather due to the level of animal abuse required to obtain it when ethinyl estradiol can be synthesized in a laboratory.

There are numerous sites and books that raise serious doubts regarding almost every form of “alternative medicine”.  Scientific research has failed to validate the claims of nearly every form of “alternative medicine” and label it of questionable if of any value.

http://skepdic.com/tialtmed.html is one such site Google will give numerous other sites debunking “alternative medicine”.

The fact remains that the people who currently seem to be the most upset were not the original targets.  But since they seem to think the shoe fits.  So be it.

Ron Gold, Jim Fouratt, Norah Vincent et.al.: Why Do We Attack Gays and Lesbians While Giving Transgenders and Transsexuals a Pass when they Say the Same Thing?

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?

Class Structure in Transworld vs the Reality Based World

Sara Seton asked me:

So what do you think of someone’s proposed caste system amongst TS?   Here is how I think the grass roots sees this “ladder” as ranked, from top-to-bottom:

“Post-Op TS, living as female
Pre-Op TS, living as female
Non-Op TS, living as female
CD, living as female
Pre-Op TS, living in both genders
Non-Op TS, living in both genders
CD, living in both genders
CD, living as male, but appearing publicly
as female on occasion
CD, male exclusively, but at home “en-femme”
among family and/or friends
CD, only “dressed” when alone
AND THEN, ME: Pre-Op TS, on HRT– living as male, never dresses
as female, and may never will. It’s not my issue!
There is much trouble ahead for me. I will undoubtedly be an object
of derision and scorn at that meeting. I can understand why, too.
They will think me a pretender or a coward. THEY fight the battle in
the trenches, I choose the path of least resistance, where the outside world is concerned. So, I will be the pariah…the laughingstock… the object of negative attention, in spite of my wishes and best efforts, even among my own sisters! This really hurts me!”  (from a winner at Laura’s suicide site.)

It seems to me that this is a very male competition based form of class structure that is at once both misogynistic and very TV fantasy based.

I think that the idea that the poor closet transvestite or even worse closet hormone taker is some how on the bottom rung is akin to the white guy who blames affirmative action for giving all those unqualified women/people of color the position he deserves.

Excuse me while I go hunt for the world’s smallest violin.

I’m one of those post-ops, the flawless kind who had my operation what seems like a hundred years ago and I sure don’t feel like I’m atop some sort of freaking pedestal.  Plus I’m seriously feminist enough to see the pedestal as being as much a form of misogyny as any other form of de-humanizing objectification.

Being at the top of the TV fantasy class structure and a pre-paid ride card gets me on the subway and little else.  You see if one is flawless, even pretty and passes well enough to assimilate in to the world of women then one becomes part of the class “woman”.

The patriarchal systems structure of oppression means that no matter how far up or down the socio-economic scale she is she will in the vast majority of cases always be consider as less than a man of the same class and talents.

Always First Lady and never the President because the idea of there being a First Gentleman seems on the face of it to be absurd.  Such is the reality of sexism, misogyny and gender/sex roles.

This means that one’s place in the real world is determined by education and the amount of class privilege one brings to the table.  If you are a lumpen poor trannie sex worker and you have sex reassignment surgery you become a lumpen poor sex working female.  If you are a high status person before and you are in a protected field then your status has a good chance of translating into your continuing that status.

Your status can also be dependent on your being heterosexual and the status of the man you marry.

I would also disagree with the placement of the CD at the bottom in any world outside the mind of the TV fetishizing other people’s lives.  The closet TV, even one who takes hormones continues to possess and be able to exercise male privilege.  Unless he is so obvious as to be viewed as an effeminate gay man this means he has a “male” job and is a man in what still remains a man’s world.

This level of male privilege means he generally speaking does not need to be as good at his job as a woman would be in the same position and that he will probably earn more over a life time than a woman would and that he will enjoy greater autonomy than a woman.

That said it is possible to lose both male privilege and what “Questioning Transphobia” would call “cis-sexual privilege”.  That happens when one comes out publicly and starts to transition.  It is particularly true if one’s appearance makes them so obvious as to subject them to public mockery.  If it makes one the actual “man in the dress”, rather than the often cited mythical one who supposedly haunts rest room scaring nice right wing Christian ladies, then there is good chance homelessness and unemployment will ensue.

Hardly the step up envisioned by the closet CD creator of this mythical hierarchy and in fact a step downward.

Even for the person who presents well and offers an acceptable image as a member of the sex they are transitioning to in their profession and class faces having to do some serious explaining while executing some pretty fancy footwork to avoid the down button on the class and status elevator.  But let us say for the sake of argument the newly transitioned person manages to stay in the same profession and maintain the general respect of peers in their field. As the person moves further and further into transition and eventually into assimilation one’s status ceases to be related to trans and becomes more related to the status of other members of the sex one has become.  Generally women have a lower status than men.

Often coming out involves a complete loss of status and instead of being a respected if closeted heterosexual CD one finds oneself on the streets.  If one is a pretty transkid, the hot envied by cross dressers, babe, who is also a throwaway kid with no resources…  TVs envy this kid but not what she has to do to survive.  They envy the image, put her on a pedestal but how many envy the turning tricks to survive part?

Listen to how the respectable CDs talk about the “trannie whores” and you will find the real answer.

One of the most problematic ideas that came out of Dr. Benjamin’s book was the idea of a Kinsey sort of scale with closet heterosexual CDs on the 0-1 portion of the scale and those who get SRS on the other.  The leap of presumption in the formulation of that theory based on the miniscule number of patients Dr B had actually seen is astounding.

That leap pre-supposes that all those trans prefixed words are descriptors of a continuum of the same phenomena when there is an equal likelihood that there are a number of different phenomena that only bear a superficial similarity most closely tied to the Biblical injunction against cross dressing.

At any rate being transsexual is not like entering either a sports event or an academic competition if for no other reason than the objective being ordinariness rather than the perceived extra-ordinariness projected by the above cited cross dressers projected hierarchy.

The lack of reality based world experience can be seen in the total neglect of the misogyny factor that even the prettiest and most capable of assimilation post-SRS women face simply by being ordinary or even exceptionally brilliant and talented women in a world where women are still by and large the second sex.

At any rate the idea of the hierarchal structure projected by the above cited CD seems far more Transworld based than reality based.

Posted in Male Privilege, Misogyny, Sexism, Transgender, Transphobia, Transsexualism. Comments Off on Class Structure in Transworld vs the Reality Based World