Archive for March, 2008
Call For Papers
“Feminism For Freaks”
At its best, feminism offers an emancipatory potential from gendered
oppression, inequality, and violence. At its worst, however, feminism
can work to simply affirm the rights of middle-class, heterosexual,
white women, and exclude the voices of already-marginalised groups
such as women of colour, trans* women, sex workers and so on. Like
Derrida’s democracy, a truly liberatory feminism is mostly a feminism
Not un-coincidentally, those marginalised groups of women are often
demonised by the dominant culture, rendered as monstrous,
simultaneously invisible and hyper-visible, compelling and
threatening, desirable and disgusting–and forever denied a voice of
our own. The question of if and how monstrosity can be reclaimed or
re-worked is a vexed one for feminists.
We therefore invite proposals that affirm the voices of socially
excluded people, that seek to create new and exciting knowledge and
address themselves to feminist theory and activism or the wider
culture, on such topics including, but not limited to:
* Monstrous bodies and identities
* Social marginalisation and exclusions (for instance, borders, walls,
and immigration laws, and the silencing of voices such as those of
women of colour and transgendered people)
* sex work
* queer sexualities and genders
* Visible signs of difference (Muslim women wearing the veil, disabled
* religion and spirituality
* freaks in popular culture, body modification etc
* fat positivity
Academic, non-fiction and creative work will be considered–the call is
broad, and we’re willing to accommodate new and interesting work by
freaks of all kinds.
*Note – Given that some contributors may not feel safe or comfortable
telling their stories in the public sphere, submissions under
pseudonyms will be accepted.
Bint Alshamsa had some very good news the other day.
I just want to celebrate it a bit.
BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand’s military will stop branding transsexual conscripts as mentally disturbed, and will list them in a new “third category” as neither male nor female, a senior officer said Wednesday.
Thai men are required to report for the draft once they turn 21. Under the current system, transsexuals are rejected as suffering from “a mental disorder.”
Gay rights groups complained that the label penalises transsexuals for the rest of their lives, because men are required to prove if they have completed their national service when they apply for jobs or bank loans.
When transsexuals submit their military rejection forms declaring they have a mental disorder, they are automatically disqualified from many jobs and mortgages.
Lieutenant General Somkiat Suthivaiyakij, head of the defence ministry’s Reserve Command Department, said the military would immediately stop using the mental disorder label.
The military is trying to find a new word for a “third category” that is neither male nor female, that would not discriminate against transsexuals, he said.
Until the army decides on the new category, transsexual conscripts will be turned away with a form saying they have an illness that cannot be cured within 30 days.
“It’s a temporary measure to deal with the problem as the defence and interior ministries work on a permanent solution,” Somkiat told AFP.
To qualify for the third category, transsexuals will have to report for the draft for three years in a row to prove they are really trying to live as women, he added.
The annual draft takes place in April, and transsexuals make up less than one percent of the conscripts each year, Somkiat said.
This is good, in that these Thai women will no longer be branded as incurably mentally ill in ways that will affect them in many aspects of their lives. It’s still disturbing that they can’t be categorized as women in this regard, and are still othered as a “third category,” but that may be my cultural centrism speaking – I don’t really know.
Hopefully, more steps will follow.
Speaking of othering, though – it still makes me twitch to see people referred to as “transsexuals,” sort of like people with cancer referred to as “cancers.”
Apologies for not posting this sooner.
Debs at Burning Times found out about Sheila Jeffreys’ reaction to a young man’s transition from several years ago, and apparently believes Jeffreys’ statement that a utopian world where people no longer care about what they look like is remotely plausible.
I already responded to Sheila’s uninformed criticism of that case, but to repeat the basics:
Alex would be put on hormone blockers for three years and begin testosterone treatments at 16, assuming he still wanted them.
Alex would receive surgery at 18, assuming he still wanted it.
There’s more, of course. But, that’s not the part that got my attention:
Debs, in the comments:
I fail to see why ‘name calling’ (because that is what it is) is necessary at all. If someone is female, is it so hard to just call them female, if you have to call them anything other than their name?
But then we have an anonymous commenter:
This is court sanctioned abuse, and a judge caving to ‘politically correct’.
What I’d like to know is where is that *now* 18 years old GIRL (I don’t care what she’s had removed or attached). Where is she and what’s happening to her?
My article linked above already responds to the allegation that this is court-sanctioned abuse. Alex wanted the treatments, and was not required to go through them. Further, Alex’s current status isn’t really anyone’s business but his own. Finally, what was that about name calling? Oh yeah, why call a man a girl? Why deny his identity? Why impose your own prejudices on him, trying to force him back into the box he wanted to get away from? This is essentialism, and neither the name calling nor the essentialism are called out.
But we see why fairly quickly, because Debs posts to put us disagreeable women back in our place:
Here’s a thing I have just discovered:
Sometimes transwomen sound just like men. Sometimes they speak in the same terms, with the same obvious idea of entitlement and privilege as men. Sometimes allowing transwomen to speak on your blog is just like allowing men to speak on your blog.
Yeah, no transphobia here. Falling back on your cis privilege (your sex and gender are not questionable) to tell those of us who lack that privilege what we really are? Yeah, that’s entitlement right there. Complaining that us disagreeable women are calling you insulting names by simply describing you as “not trans” while at the same time not calling commenters who deliberately and aggressively refute our identities to do so? That’s hypocrisy. This whole comment is just the tone argument, anyway. Apparently, if aggression and violent language come from a radical feminist, then it’s fine. It’s coming from an empowerful woman. If a trans woman disagrees with being othered and asks to be respected as a woman? That’s male entitlement.
In relation to cis privilege, everything disagreeable women do is discreditable. If we are too feminine, we’re trying too hard. If we show any sign of a backbone, we’re acting like men. If our bodies aren’t perfect, we’re torn down for it. If our bodies are too perfect, we’re torn down for it. It’s a double-bind, and one Debs is more than happy to impose on us.
And why do I write about radical feminists when I’d rather ignore them? Because they – as a group – keep writing hateful lies about women like me, and it’s just not right to let that pass without comment.
Plus, it’s not like most of them can be engaged on their own blogs.
Oh, yeah, the subject line: Sheila Jeffreys’ living fossilhood comes from two things:
Her rabid anti-trans bigotry
Her belief that straight women should appropriate lesbianism and colonize lesbian spaces under the pretense that “lesbianism” can be “women who choose not to sleep with men” rather than “women who are attracted to women.” While there’s more to being a lesbian than who you want to sleep with, the basic definition is pretty clear – if you’re not into women like that, you’re not a lesbian. You’re just celibate.
Renegade Evolution has posted her perspective about all this stuff I’ve been posting about lately.
For those radical feminists who keep asking stuff like, “How can you call yourself a woman when women are telling you that you aren’t?” Aside from it not being a vote, other women acknowledge and respect my womanhood. If I have to pick someone to acknowledge or deny my identity, you’ll lose every time. Plus, I don’t have to.
And now, a few thoughts on this whole transgender thing that blew up while I was chillin’ in the sun…
I don’t get a lot of it. I don’t get a lot of folks objection to the term “cis”. I don’t get how folk who are so all about being women, yet warriors against gender-which yep, is largely constructed by society- but still, love their woman/female-ness and all, love, love, love it, get so riled up when some woman who might have been born with different parts, but felt that woman/female-ness all along just wants to be seen as who and what she is, and accepted as such. Then there are the lists of things that “real women/women born women” (puke) can do that those other women can’t…like have babies. Produce breast milk. Have periods. Except, you know, a lot of cis-women can’t do those things…they can’t have babies, or produce breast milk, and sooner or later they all stop having periods.
Does that make them “not women”? No one seems to want to answer that, but sometimes I feel like the answer out of some might be yes…
I also don’t get how some people who claim so much not to care about appearances get so angry at the appearances transwomen take on, be they gender ambigious or plain or “passing” or down-right girlie.
I don’t get how people who are so against gender turn around and attempt to enforce it themselves.
Read the whole thing!
But her trans hate site is still active. The frames and backgrounds are broken, but the site’s still there.
To be honest, I don’t mind if it’s still up or not. I don’t know how many people are aware that Amy is the current owner of Questioning Transgender, or, really, if anyone cares.
I just want it noted for the record.
Polly Styrene has made an epic attempt to put us mouthy trans activists in our place. Check it and the discussion out.
This was my response to her list and some discussion in the comments:
1 – Since when are trans people of any kind speaking for other people (like intersex people)? Sure, some have an awareness of intersex issues and refer to them (I do), but I don’t pretend to speak for them. This strikes me as a distraction and an evasion. A sort of tu quoque as it were.
2 – This doesn’t even make sense. Where has anyone said you’re not born female? Witchy Woo claimed that the cis- words implied that, but the torture required to coax that meaning from cisgender or cissexual is pretty epic.
3 – If, as a trans person or activist, I had the privilege of telling you that you have to accept me in all of your private spaces, I wouldn’t need to point out how excluding trans women from women-only spaces is discrimination – you’d just let us in because I, or Marti, or Zoe Brain, or Dyssonance, or Autumn Sandeen – just to name a few – said so. It is discrimination, and it’s not a privilege to experience discrimination or be dismissed when that discrimination is pointed out.
4 – I hate the word trans, but it’s the word everyone knows and uses, often against my will. I stick with it now to distinguish my experience as a woman from a cis woman’s experience as a woman. Believe me, I’d rather do away with both entirely, but since cis society won’t let me forget, I need a way to describe cis people without centering them as normal and leaving people like me on the fringes as aberrant freaks. The insistence that “cis” is an imposition, a redefinition, and offensive is not unlike the concept of – in English – male being the assumed, neutral gender. That is, that the default for human must be male and female only noted as a difference from male. A more blatant expression of this would be if only men get to be human, and women are explicitly noted as different from default humanity. Not something I believe, just to be clear. But, it’s similar to how cis people sound when they insist that we have no right to distinguish them from us as equals.
5 – The truth is, I have used a similar argument, but not this argument. What I have said was not what you describe in point 5. My argument is, if you insist that there’s no possible way that I can relate to or understand your upbringing as a girl who was born female, please do me the courtesy of not telling me what my upbringing as a girl born with a male body was like. If I can’t know what your life was like, you certainly can’t know what mine was like.
In other words, It goes both ways. Telling us that we can’t have any idea what it’s like for you, but telling us extensively what it’s like for us is a double standard. I’ve only said this in response to women who use that argument.
You’re getting into the existential blackmail (see Nezua’s/The Unapologetic Mexican’s glosario – Wite-Magik Attax) concept here, where if it’s not okay to define trans people’s experience for us, then how can we have a conversation at all?
6 – You’re conflating sex and gender, or you’re trying to say we do. Maybe both at the same time. I’d draw a flow chart if I could in this comment, but I’ll have to settle for just text:
A transsexual person is someone who knows that his or her body should be the other sex. Someone born male knows her body should be female, and someone born female knows his body should be male.
Society tells us that female-bodied people are women, and male-bodied people are men. Society treats women in a set of ways and men in a different set of ways. So, if you see yourself as female, your participation in society is in that context – you may choose to embrace, reject or ignore what society presents as womanhood, or aspects of womanhood.
Now, transsexualism is not specifically about how society sees you, but about how you see yourself. It ultimately includes how society sees you because if you know your body is wrong, and everyone treats you according to that wrong body, you know they’re treating you incorrectly, and this causes stress, depression, anxiety. Fun stuff.
Now, I’m not reducing womanhood to body parts here, before anyone assumes that, or decides to assign it to my argument. I’m saying there’s two things here – the physiology, my body – and society. It also doesn’t mean that I am happy or agree with everything society assigns to women. If I were, I wouldn’t identify as feminist, nor would I get into bitter arguments with anyone who even implies that there’s something wrong with abortion, or that male privilege doesn’t exist, or that MRAs have even a modicum of a point (rather than simply mindlessly bashing women in revenge for feminism and losing custody of their children to their ex-wives).
If we removed the trans distinction, we’d have a lot of common ground.
7 – This isn’t really a valid complaint. Everyone can endlessly carp. You’re endlessly carping here about alleged trans privileges, after all. At some point, everyone does endlessly carp about a minor disagreement. Your other post, about cisgender privilege and how you don’t have it, was carping, although it had an end. Some of my posts are carping. That’s not the primary substance of what I write, or what any other activist writes. I assume that the majority of your writing isn’t carping. To be fair, I don’t think any of your other complaints are valid, either. I just wanted to point out the double standard implied in this one.
8 – This is pre-emptive dismissal. It is, itself, non sequitur. You’re calling our arguments hysteria, or overly emotional. I’m sure if you knew what that was like, you’d be a little more sensitive about applying it to someone else.
Yes, that was sarcasm.
9 – Possession of certain body parts are privileges as well as accidents of birth. That’s why there’s male privilege, am I right? That’s why, there’s white privilege? That’s why there’s able-bodied privilege? If it’s possible for a man (who sees himself as male, and doesn’t want to transition) to be privileged just for being born male and growing up with that, it is absolutely possible for a man or a woman who is comfortable with his or her body and doesn’t want to transition to have privilege over those who do transition. This is why so many trans people have trouble getting jobs, why so many end up working as prostitutes, and have trouble finding a place to live. This is why so many who do have jobs or go to school are asked to use unisex bathrooms, even if it means taking a long circuitous walk to get to those bathrooms. This is why many cis women believe that trans women don’t deserve to be around “real women.” This is why so many cis people try to put us in our place by referring to us by our birth sex – calling the women “boys” or “men” and calling the men “girls” or “women.”
The privilege is real, it’s there. You know that men deny until their faces turn blue that male privilege exists. You know that white people deny until their faces turn blue that white privilege exists. Saying that you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there, especially if you’re treated as cis – as if you’ve never transitioned and you don’t want to transition. That’s what the cisgender privilege checklist is supposed to point out, just as the male and white privilege checklists point that privilege out.
10 – This is accusing trans people of playing the trans card, that we try to use prejudice as a reason to criticize anyone who disagrees with trans people. It’s another preemptive dismissal, saying that pointing out actual prejudice against trans people is somehow frivolous or a crutch. It is exactly like talking about playing the race card or the gender card. It’s a silencing tactic meant to shut down talk about that prejudice, it’s not a criticism.
11 – Gender exists, although holding that perspective doesn’t equate to holding essentialist views. Gender is a social construct, but so are taxes, laws, government, marriage, civil rights. All of these exist despite being something collectively created by society and not having an actual physical existence.
Also, you distort the arguments. If I argue that a particular radical feminist is an essentialist, I’m referring to the fact that she insists that once born a male, always a man. That any experience of male privilege must taint and corrupt the possibility of a trans woman’s life, preventing her from ever actually being a woman. She ignores that woman’s lived realities and experiences in favor of her own prejudices that reject that woman as a woman.
Meanwhile, I, who feel that a person can change physical sex, and interact with society as a member of that sex, am somehow an essentialist? When I do in fact believe that the “binary” is permeable and that people can live outside that binary. At least in their definitions – society, by way of people, will continue to try to put them back in the binary as well as their so-called “places.” Society constantly tries to put me back in my place – either indirectly through slurs about transsexual people in general, or directly, like your trans privilege checklist.
12 – I’m not sure how you can say this. I talk about the oppression that women experience quite frequently, as do other trans women. We’re really quite aware of it. I’ll admit, there was a time when I knew that sexism existed and had seen it in action, but I hadn’t really experienced it – or rather, what I had experienced was minor enough that I wasn’t really aware of it, because I didn’t know what to look for. Believe me, though, I got the message when I asked the owner of a business I worked for if he could give me a ride home because it was after the buses stopped running, and he said “Sure, if you give me a blow job in the back seat.”
That was blatant, it was disgusting, it was offensive and insulting and objectifying and I don’t even have enough words to describe it. But at that point, I understood so many things, and the daily sexism I got to deal with became that much more visible. And I try to talk about sexism, because I do experience it, as do other trans women. We get that, on top of the prejudice for being trans, or if you’re lesbian, you get that. If you’re a woman of color, you get that. It’s intersections, so you can have privilege or lack of privilege in more than one category. I’m not just a transsexual person, I’m a white lesbian woman who is also trans, and I’ve had to deal with the sexism, the homophobia (both for being seen as gay prior to and during transition, and for being seen as lesbian), and I’ve continued to benefit from my white skin.
The ability to create a woman-only space and define it as exclusive to one kind of woman is a privileged position. The fact is, that because a large part of society doesn’t except trans people’s sex and gender as valid, that our inclusion anywhere is precarious. If we’re read to be trans, then we could end up getting mocked, bullied, assaulted, ejected, murdered. No space is safe around cis people – we really do have more to worry about from you than you have from us.
But the truth is that we’re (trans women) also women, we’re interested in and a part of women’s culture. We have a place in women’s culture – setting aside those who see us as not having a place around them. In setting up women-only spaces, you’re saying that the trans aspect is far more important than the woman aspect. That we must be forever defined by our history that amounts to an accident of birth – something you use to defend the idea that cisgender privilege doesn’t exist.
So, why should we be judged as unworthy because of an accident of birth? I couldn’t control being born in a male body any more than I could control the fact that I knew I should have been born with a female body. Neither of these facts were under my control, so why is my womanhood so situational that I must be excluded from spaces set aside for women?
13 – This is like characterizing trans women as hyperfeminine flouncing girls who dress too flamboyantly to be proper women. While there is no doubt that trans people exist who hold rigid and outrageously essentialist views about womanhood, manhood, femininity, and masculinity, this is also true of the greater populace, and it’s not a fair criticism to level at just us, or treat it as if it’s some indelible characteristic of being trans. It’d be more accurate to lob this petard at society.
14 – Speaking of essentialism, I have to ask why “assigned at birth” is the definitive feature you use here. Obviously, trans women are assigned male at birth, but that’s an accident of birth as I point out above. What you use in your response above is a slippery slope. “If we let those who were born male but have done everything in their power to become female to enter women-only spaces, then what stops actual men from entering?” I would answer, “They’re actual men.”
Rich doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s a sexist prig, and I can only imagine that he’s tolerated around radical feminists because he’s a rabid dog when it comes to talking about trans issues. Seriously – he was raped by Zoe’s response to him, he talked about trans women as if we’re commonly rapists – or he resorted to an extreme argument to make a fallacious point. He talked about how unfair it would be to not let him into women-only spaces because he had the fortitude to not transition, when the fact is that he probably doesn’t know or care why trans women (or trans men) transition in the first place.
I’ll take commentary about trans women from a man who refers to us as freaks under advisement when I can buy tickets to the Inferno Ski Resort.
Actually, no, not even then.
15 – It’s good that you linked that. Some of the transphobic comments attached to that article are a good example of what passes for “gender analysis” around some radical feminists.
I like the comment that says that women were under a curfew that wouldn’t apply to trans women. I don’t know about you, but if my community were under a curfew for women only, I’d be stopped if I walked outside my door, and I’d enjoy it just as much as any other woman.
More generally, the specific nature of how many women disagree with me about the definition of “woman” is that I include myself in that definition. Since many other women agree with me, I guess it could come down to our word against yours. I’m not sure why you’d think that just because some women think that other women can’t really be women, that those women have the final word – especially when those women aren’t every woman on Earth.
Maybe the next time an employer demands a blow job, I can have y’all come down and tell him I’m not a woman and so he shouldn’t be objectifying me like that?
16 – Right, of course. See my reply to point 12.
17 – Okay, this is pretty patronizing. You’re not allowing these men their own agency to decide to transition on their own. Instead, you’re assuming that they’re pressured into it to conform with straight society – a nightmare scenario Catherine Crouch put on film in The Gendercator, but not related to reality. People who seek transition do so because they feel it’s right for them. It’s true, some people start transition and discover it’s not right for them, and it may even be possible that they were pushed/convinced into doing it, but this doesn’t mean that trans activism is homophobic or that the majority of trans activists want people who shouldn’t transition to transition.
Also, a lot of trans men who formerly lived as butch lesbians turn out to be gay men. A lot of trans men who formerly lived as straight women turn out to be straight men. But if someone transitions and ends up straight, so what? It’s their sex life. No one is stealing people from the lesbian community. It’s up to people to decide whether belong in it or somewhere else.
18 – No, but as a trans activist, it is my prerogative to focus on trans issues.
Amananta’s post fails at what it sets out to do, as it privileges the radical feminist/cissexual point of view by presenting both the trans woman and radical feminist sides of the argument as equal.
As for women invading women-only spaces to legitimize our gender? No, that’s not how it works. Our gender is already legitimate. You’re telling us that our gender is in fact not legitimate and that we do not belong. When we say that “Yes, we think we do belong, and we’d like to participate” you call that invasion.
Also, being as these trans activists are women, I don’t think they’re denying that women suffer from sexism, because they likely experience sexism. It’s just that trans issues tend to take priority when they mean you can’t find work or a place to live.
And finally – As a trans activist I am wholly entitled to whinge, cry, and scream “you’re oppressing me, you big meanie” if anybody criticises me in any way whatsoever. Particularly if they do to me the stuff I do to everybody else. I will get away with this because certain trendy liberals who are desperate to appear cool and edgy will go along with anything I say, no matter how ridiculous. I have the privilege of being able to tell everyone else they can’t see their own privilege while not being able to see my own privilege.
This is just a big dismissal of any complaint any trans person dares to make. It’s like the tone argument – “I’d listen to you if you weren’t so mean,” or perhaps the fallacious flip – “can’t see their own privilege.”
I don’t do to other people the stuff that many radical feminists do to transwomen. Not all criticisms are valid, and dressing prejudiced declarations as criticism doesn’t magically make them not prejudiced. I know I have privilege – white privilege. And I experienced male privilege for the first 18 years of my life, but that somehow doesn’t help me much now. I also know that when people tell me my place is not among women, that I’m not the one exercising privilege or prejudice.
To quote nexyjo on my blog,
oppressed groups do have one privilege; we get to label our oppressors with whatever name we choose. as one example, jews have been calling non-jews “gentiles” for thousands of years. and we don’t give a rats ass whether they like it or not.
The Ottumwa Courier reports that the city council of Ottumwa, IA has deleted gender identity protections from its sexual orientation ordinance intended to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and formerly trans people from discrimination in housing and employment.
What were the arguments presented against protections for transgender and transsexual people?
Citizens who spoke against it said the ordinance would enable a man to put on a dress, enter a women’s restroom and molest or kidnap a female youngster.
Because, of course, it’s totally not possible for a man these days to put on a dress, enter a women’s restroom, and molest or kidnap a female youngster. It’s completely impossible for a man these days to not even bother with the dress, enter a women’s restroom, and molest or kidnap a female youngster. That symbol on the door that shows a stick figure in a skirt? It’s a magic talisman that keeps men from entering women’s restrooms as long as there are no laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
Okay, so back to the real world: Pedophiles will do pedophile things until they are caught. Civil rights for transgender and transsexual people will not liberate them from restrictions that do not currently exist. They are already molesting children, why would they care whether it’s legal or illegal for them to enter a restroom set aside for the opposite sex? And, I’ll be honest, they can and do kidnap or molest female and male youngsters in a variety of settings outside the restroom.
Blocking civil rights for people on the basis of gender identity will not make anyone more vulnerable to sexual predators. It will not encourage sexual predators to take advantage of those civil rights. This is fearmongering and nothing more, and the fact that the Ottumwa City Council allowed such blatant lies to sway their decision to deny human beings the same rights guaranteed to everyone else who lives in Ottumwa just shows either their gullibility or lack of a backbone.
Crip Chick posted about the really cloying, condescending pity that people like to dump on people with disabilities. How people will use that pity to turn her into an inspirational symbol rather than deal with her as a human being.
It’s something I’ve received too, as a trans woman. Not as often – more often, it’s hate, but sometimes people want to show just how accepting and tolerant they are, and tell me “You’re so brave for doing what you’re doing.” I guess if I can’t be a symbol of patriarchal oppression I get to be a symbol of how good a person someone is.
Anyway, yeah, I totally sympathize here. Go read her post.