So. I can’t possibly be the only person who is really fucking pissed off that there’s a link to a transphobic piece of bullshit in the latest Carnival of Feminists, can I?
I’m not linking to it, but it’s the very last post in the carnival, and unless you’re also an anti-trans bigot or merely ignorant about trans issues, a title like “Deconstructing Transgenderism” will probably stick out at you like a sore thumb. Honestly, I got a trackback from the carnival but didn’t remember submitting anything recently, which is why I was even looking. I wasn’t planning on reading the carnival, but I did skim the page, and that just jumped off the screen. Truly, I’m embarrassed to have a piece of my writing included alongside it. Though it is a bit ironic and definitely fitting that the post of mine in question is about certain feminists acting like stupid assholes.
The argument in the transphobic post is an old one, that transgender people are buying into the patriarchy by rejecting the concept of “fluid” gender roles and instead promoting a gender binary. The first laughable thing is what is always so laughable: the concept that transgender people are the ones with repressed views on gender. I’m sure there are a few (get any group, and you’ll always find a few people who are ignorant, hateful or not very bright), but in my experience, transgender people tend to have the most liberal views on gender and what it means in a person’s life. (After all, when did fixed ideas of what “man” and “woman” mean become progressive?) The second laughable, well okay just offensive, thing is the complete and utter inability to understand the feelings and experiences of transgender people (like with all things I’ve personally never been through, I don’t claim to entirely “get it” either, or pretend that all transgender people feel and experience the exact same things). There’s also a total like of desire to even try to understand, and a stubborn, grotesquely selfish insistence that other people suffer miserably to meet the writer’s personal political standards regarding how one should live their life.
Next, there’s the puzzling, just plain ignorant and uninformed understanding of transgender transition as always resulting in genital reconstruction surgery. Uh, for those wondering, it doesn’t. Not all transgender people can afford the expensive surgery, not all want it, and contrary to the writer’s belief, not all transgender people — in fact, seemingly much fewer than cis-people, hence the huge misunderstanding — base their whole gender identity on the appearance of their genitals. So let’s reject this myth right away. But we can’t just ignore this entirely incorrect part of the writer’s argument — especially since it all seems to be one big lead up to the assertion that transgender people make surgical changes to their genitals as an “accessory,” as one might swap out a wardrobe choice, or as a thrill for a sexual partner. Also, she ends this repulsive diatribe by portraying transwomen as overly emotional (no sexist stereotypes there) and saying that transwomen deserve to be spoken to as though they’re subhuman since they have the audacity to refer to themselves as “real women” rather than “a permanent member of the respectable third gender.” (And as a last note, how ridiculously clueless is it so suggest that even if transgender people were not “real men” or “real women,” something I of course entirely disagree with, that they would all fall under a single gender???)
One question: when is this going to stop?
Now, I don’t regularly read Philobiblon, and don’t know what her intent was in including this piece. I don’t know what her general feelings are towards transgender people and transphobia. I do know that I’m terribly insulted by the decision as it reinforces the idea that bigotry against transgender people is a legitimate feminist view. It’s not.
As we often discuss, there are many feminisms. And there are many feminists I disagree with on many issues. There is a lot of legitimate room for feminists to debate and contradict each other, and I don’t think that we should try kicking someone out of the feminist club every time they say something we personally think is wrong. But there are a few things that I believe ought to result in revocation of a feminist card, to the extent that one exists: a desire to outlaw abortion, a tendency to make apologies for sexual assault, and bigotry in any form.
Transphobia is not a legitimate point of contention, it is bigotry, plain and simple. We wouldn’t allow a white woman to berate black women for calling themselves “black” because it just reinforces the entire cultural construction of race, and pass it off as a feminist point of view. We wouldn’t allow a straight woman to berate lesbian identity as illegitimate and pass it off as a feminist point of view. Or, I at least certainly hope that we wouldn’t. And I can’t see it being included in a feminist blog carnival. Transphobia is a similar attempt to patronize and mock a person’s identity and should be treated no differently.
I don’t think that most feminists need to hear this. It seems that a majority of feminists now reject transphobia, at least in theory. But I’m astonished, saddened and outraged that it needs to be said at all. I remember in college, I took a class called Sex, Gender and Social Relations. One of the topics was transgender identity, and one of the texts we read (of which the professor was critical) was by Janice Raymond, I’m pretty sure a chapter from her infamous book attempting to illegitimize transgender identity and whose arguments seem to be a continued basis for transphobic “feminism.” I was still at the beginning of my process of feminist awakening (though at the time I’m sure I thought I was very advanced), and at a total infancy in my understanding of transgender issues. This was, in fact, the first time I had ever dealt with transgender issues in an in depth way. And I wrote an essay ripping Raymond’s thesis too shreds, getting an excellent grade as I remember, and thinking that this bullshit written in the late 70s must be long gone. By that I mean, it had to be gone in feminist circles, since we’re all so so very socially and intellectually advanced. The naivety makes me laugh bitterly, now. If you told me then that I’d be writing about similar modern “feminist” views a few years later, I would have stared at you slack jawed.
This isn’t feminism, and it’s not feminist disagreement. Transphobia is prejudice and hate, and I’m not going to give it pass based on age, ignorance, fear, understandable distrust of men (something I personally struggle with) or repeated use of the word “patriarchy.” These excuses don’t fly. We need to stop allowing transphobia to be shrugged off as somehow defensible from a feminist standpoint.
If we refuse to actively reject this shit as feminism, refuse to stop linking to it, we are a part of the problem. I’m astonished by the number of comments on that post which praise the writer, insist on using incorrect pronouns for transgender people, and portray transwomen as misogynistic fetishists. I’m made physically fucking ill by it. And I can’t watch it being linked to in a general roundup of feminist thought and just shut up about it. None of us should be able to.
Fellow feminists, I beg you to stop this fucking nonsense. Just stop it.