29 November 2010
Recently, The Magazine Project published an article called, “‘Transwomen’ Are Merely Castrated Men”. Following is my response to the article, which has now been taken down because of the vast outpouring of criticism by trans people and their supporters that it generated.
The article is an extremely transphobic screed that consists of the same tired Second Wave Rad Fem rants about trans people. Helen G at Bird of Paradox has a PDF of the Google Cache of the original article if you want to read it, here.
Wait! It looks like the article is back up, now enhanced, extended, and improved, and with Part II to follow, in which the author said she would attack trans men. This should be…interesting.
It should be noted that The Magazine Project currently has no trans people involved, but they have put out the word that they would like for trans people to be involved. They have also issued a disclaimer for the views expressed in the article. Somebody ought to let them know that disclaimers don’t excuse their giving such trash a platform.
Here is my response to the original article (also here):
mleig said (and it should be noted that I’m not particularly picking on her, just making an example out of her):
She falls back on the same academic, liberal idea of “gender” that radicals simply find appalling. The radicals in this thread have different politics– not a lack of knowledge about science, the experiences of MtFs, or language. I get why the article and comments come across as hateful to those with apolitical notions of “gender” and those who have been “educated” by any one of the strains of transactivism. My own such education had me using terms like “cisgendered” for a regrettable minute, but I had a lack of exposure to materialist and realist politics at that time. It was actually through further exposure to transactivists and sex science that I came to see males as males and females as females. When I was merely a kid with a library card and internet connection I was very much willing to jump on the gender bandwagon.
I have to say, I find it curious that so-called “radicals” use the term “liberal” about as well as the authoritarian dupes that are still persist in calling themselves conservatives, when they are, in actuality, nothing of the sort. I’ve found this to be true not just among radical feminists, but radicals of other stripes, as well, even in the trans communities. I also find it rather curious that people who declare themselves to be Lesbian Separatists are so concerned about engaging those they declare men in public debate. If you want to separate, by all means, do so. I promise no one will stop you, and if they try, I’ll be among the first to prevent them from doing so, because I believe it is one of my many callings to fight for the right of all people to self-determination.
Unfortunately for the “radicals in this thread”, politics–materialist, realist, or of any other sort–are not an appropriate substitute for proven knowledge gained through scientific study methods, if one expects to partake in a public debate and be taken seriously by people of wisdom. These radicals most certainly, refutations aside, possess a severe lack of knowledge about science, or they would know that every scientific basis for their essentialist notions of sex, gender, and their relationships to biology is misleadingly outdated.
The more that scientists and medical practitioners study the subject of gender variance, the more it is understood that there is, in fact, a biological basis for gender variance, that gender is not absolute or exclusive, nor is it solely the domain of either biology or social conditioning. I suppose it is worth noting, however, that many among the communities of radicals may summarily dismiss science, in general, as being the purview of, or at the very least subject to pollution by the designs of, the patriarchy, despite the examples that I have personally known, and the many more publicly known examples, of highly accomplished female practitioners of the sciences and medical fields.
FAB4Life says, “Females are those with certain sex organs.” Do you happen to know what the most important sex organ is? I’m sure you can work that one out as an exercise for the reader.
The “radicals in this thread” also evidence not only an appalling ignorance about the lived experiences of trans people, they also evidence that they do not care to learn such. They are so proud of their ignorance and their lack of desire to educate themselves that they wave it about as if it were the red flag of revolution, rather than a banner attempt to halt the progress of human understanding which terrifies them so.
Language? The use of language by the radicals here is nothing short of anti-feminism at its worst, using the language of the patriarchy to reify the normalization of the normative gender roles prescribed, and proscribed, by that very same structure of oppression. They recoil at the term “cisgender”, because, like all privileged groups, they recoil at being labelled by those they have Othered. Oh, but silly me…that’s right, how could I forget the persistent insistence of rad fems that they, as women, could not possibly possess the sort of systemic power to oppress and police those less empowered in society as they as those higher up the privilege chain do to all beneath them. After all, trans people aren’t people at all, are we? We’re Other. Trans women are really men, trans men are just misguided women. Flying in the face of inconvenient facts is a political and propagandistic exercise, not a scientific one, which denies trans people their lived experiences and their rightful agency. The which should sound familiar to any self-respecting feminist, because once again, it is nothing more than the disguised tactics of the oppression that feminists were among the first to identify and combat.
Yes, those of us with “apolitical notions of gender” do react with shock and dismay when we hear the radicals in this thread tell us gender is nothing more than politics, because not only do we understand our genders innately, we know our innate understandings have been confirmed by tested and repeatable scientific certainty, and that that confirmation is becoming more concrete with each passing year. Yes, we do believe it to be hateful. It is hateful to dehumanize other people based on nothing more than old wives’ tales and superstitions about the nature of reality.
Our most respected institutions of medical knowledge the world over and our most progressive and insightful legal thinkers, men and women alike, have declared over and over again that it is time to stop the dehumanizing pathologization of trans people and accept the natural variance of gender in all human beings. Will you set yourself as their betters, based on a mere political argument with a flimsy foundation? Do you honestly think they are all tainted? If you do, allow me to refer you to the DSM, because that is clear evidence of disorder. Speaking of disorders, even the APA is awakening to the fact that the inclusion of GID in the DSM is at odds with their principles.
One set of memes keeps appearing in the rhetoric of rad fems that I find deeply troubling, and this is the appropriation of the term “rape”, its usage as part of such terms as “rape culture”, and its application by rad fems, to all males. This is a dangerous diminution of the seriousness of forcible coercion, and contributes to the trivialization of women’s concerns about their integrity and safety, not to mention what it does to perpetuate patriarchy among boys and men.
As someone who spent a large portion of my life under the patriarchal strictures of masculinity, I would even go so far to say that no person who has not lived that experience is in a position to pass ultimate judgment on the benefits, or more accurately, obligations, it entails, and since the people rad fems would define as women are, by design, cis, rad fem women cannot know.
You are more than free to tell us about the other side of the coin. Trans people, both trans women and trans men, understand that we cannot, by nature, be privy to all aspects of womanhood; however, no person could ever claim such, just as no person could ever lay claim to a complete understanding of manhood. There is no universal experience. I suspect, though, that one of the things that angers rad fems the most about trans people is that they are the only people in a position to truly see the coin from both sides.
I’m not here to regale you with pleas not to hurt my feelings, or dismiss me, or any other such personal argument, since not only would it fall on deaf ears, it’s not particularly pertinent or necessary for me to make my points. Rad fems don’t care how many trans people die as a result of the mistaken beliefs they perpetuate. Hell, rad fems don’t care about how many cis people die as a result of their mistaken beliefs, so why should we think they’d care about monsters like us? Their lives are ruled by fear, most evident in the way most of them hide behind pseudo-intellectualism and pseudonyms, and they take so much care in covering the tracks of their identities that you’d think they were trans, or something, and in fear of possibly losing their lives for being outed.
That, friends, is a privilege to which I’d love to lay claim, but my life has taken a different turn. My safety lies in being truthful and open, lest I give mean-spirited people the power of secrets over me. You will note, friends, the number of trans women commenting here in this thread whose public identities are easily accessible. You may discover my own simply by clicking upon my name at the top of this post. Many of us don’t have the privilege to hide behind a facade of normalcy, ubiquity, and anonymity, but those of us who do not can at lest take comfort in our honesty, intellectual, political, and otherwise.
Radical feminism, as it was known to those who founded that movement, has run its course, and is now obsolete. This is the reason why Deb can rail, above, at the young lesbians who don’t “give a damn about their elders”. It’s not because “the culture hates old women”, it’s because the culture doesn’t value people who don’t grow with wisdom as they age, and retorts that amount logically to fallacies, irrationality, and hypocrisy are not even worthy of being described as debate, let alone wisdom.