Archive for August, 2008
[ETA: Re-arranged a bit and changed some language per discussion in comments with Zoe Brain.]
Heya everybody, GallingGalla here, she of the recently-nuked blog. Yeah, I was just getting so weary of constantly battling cis feminists defining their theories all over my body. But, there’s one subject that I felt like I need to speak out on, and I am honored that Lisa invited me to write a guest post about this subject here.
Anyway, from Wikipedia, kapo:
The German word also means “foreman” and “non-commissioned officer“, and is derived from French for “Corporal” (fr:Caporal) or the Italian word capo‘. Kapos received more privileges than normal prisoners, towards whom they were often brutal. They were often convicts who were offered this work in exchange for a reduced sentence or parole, however they were usually murdered and replaced with a new batch of prisoners at regular intervals.
Evangelina Carters is a therapist and an HBS woman who offers this handy classification guide to help us distinguish between the rare flawless gem that is the “true transsexual” and the rest of us, shall I say, “damaged goods”. Please go read it. I’m not going to fisk this in detail, because, really, my stomach has limits.
I think that this piece is rather well representative of the attitudes of HBS women. It is clear that she writes it from the perspective of a white, middle-class, heteronormative woman who views the world through a cis lens. In and of itself, writing from that perspective certainly won’t make you any friends outside of that narrow little world, but I don’t think you’ll be sent to the lake of fire, either. However, saying that yours is the only valid perspective, and using that perspective and your privileges to split yourself off from the community that you are part of while actively enabling those who are oppressing that same community is, in my mind, a moral outrage. And that is exactly what Ms. Carters, and many HBS women, are doing.
HBS women define an extremely narrow life trajectory that they think is the only legitimate one for trans* women to follow (I say “woman” because, like many other transmisogynist women, HBS women all but erase the existence of trans men): that of the woman who senses her target gender at an early age; who transitions fully, with the proper hormones and proper surgery, as soon as possible; who is heterosexual upon transition; who is completely and totally stealth; who absolutely will not associate, in any way, with any element of the LGBTQ community. (You’ll note that she calls trans women who do not fit that exact trajectory “transgender men”.) Those who follow that narrow trajectory account for only a very small part of the trans* / genderqueer / gender-variant population.
HBS women then proceed to argue that cis society (including, notably, anti-trans radical feminists and white, middle-class feminists in general) grant them special privileges to them and only them while at the same time they pull rank with that same cis society in oppressing those trans* / gq / gv people that are not part of their special club.
Carters uses gender-essentialist language that is ludicrous on its face:
True transsexuals have a greater number of sex markers congruent with the sex of their brain: hands tend to be smaller, feet smaller, noses smaller, physical frame smaller, and generally slightly wider hips than normal for a male. Often the effect of puberty was not as dramatic as in normal males, though not in all cases. This physicality also explained the marked difference in ages that the affected people became aware that they had something different about them.
This has to be one of the finest examples of just-so “science” that I’ve seen in a long time. Talk about warping inventing reality to fit your pet theory. Carters could teach anti-trans radical feminists a thing or two.
HBS women are:
(1) trying to carve out a chunk of special cis/heteronormative-society-granted privilege for themselves while actively and knowingly participating in the continued oppression of the vast majority of trans* / gq / gv people;
(2) making hateful statements that are very similar to those made by anti-trans radical feminists, and therefore directly participating with them in the oppression of trans* / gq / gv people, including enabling their murders. Both anti-trans radical feminists and HBS women are using cis men as their proxies to commit acts of violence that they are too embarrassed or too ‘pure-wymynly-non-violent’ or too properly ladylike to commit. This may not be their (anti-trans radical feminists and HBS women) conscious intent, but that is the *effect*;
(3) engaging in blatant classism (including statements to the effect that trans women who are so poor that they are living on the street “just aren’t committed enough, they can scrape up the money somehow”);
(4) engaging in blatant racism; they know or *should know* how race and class are tied together. Here’s a very ugly example of simultaneous racism and transmisogyny – HBS-er Cathryn Platine write regarding Autumn Sandeen, a blogger at Pam’s House Blend:
When trans identified people approach women’s space as trans, they are confirming the accusations of the radical separatists, they are essentially trying to colonize or invade women’s space. This would seem to be a no brainer to me, but is a rather simple concept that immediately raises the back hairs of the transgendered crowd. It apparently is so threatening a concept that Pam Spaulding’s of Pam’s House Blend Blog house tranny, Autumn Sandeen, branded it hate speech! Sandeen is someone who is actually trying to raise money to go to the Democratic Convention for the specific purpose of causing a bathroom incident! Holy crap Batman. If this isn’t a perfect example of someone who claims womanhood on the one hand and denies it on the other trying to invade women’s space, I have no idea what would. It would seem self evident to me that if you are not woman identified you do not belong in women’s space.
(“House tranny” references the term “House Negro“.)
(5) engaging in blatant ableism, by stating that every trans* / gq / gv person except themselves, is mentally ill / “paraphilic” / “fetishistic”;
(6) are in general creating yet another structure of privilege and therefore actively reinforcing kyriarchy;
(6a) as part of that, are silencing trans men and those on the f-to-* spectrum.
HBS women are doing this for privileges that are illusory. Calling yourself an “HBS woman” will not protect you from losing your job when you are outed. Spitting in the faces of other trans* / gq / gv people will not protect you from being beaten up in the women’s bathroom by Alix Dobkin’s friends who just clocked you, or from being arrested, abused, and possibly raped by those transphobic cops. And splitting yourself from the rest of your community will not stop the ever-present, low-level, subconscious fear of being clocked, outed, scanned, questioned, doubted, delegitimized, silenced, erased. HBS women are part of the trans* / gq / gv community whether they like it or not.
Zoe Brain has a more nuanced and complex take on HBS and the question of transsexual / intersex. Please read the entire article. I will say, however, that I am uncomfortable with these two paragraphs, as there seem to be some mixed messages and I will admit that I was triggered by the third sentence in the first paragraph below, and I’m having trouble fitting it into the context of the rest of the article:
I place zero weight on my own self-perceptions, that I’m just a woman with an interesting medical history . Likewise my own desires as to what “should be”. For if I had my druthers, there would be a nice neat binary, with HBS men and women easily and clearly distinguished from a variety of self-advertising publicity-seeking “TG Pride” paraphiliacs and fetishists.
For that matter, I would like to be either regarded as Intersexed or Transsexual(ie only neurally Intersexed), and not something in-between, with characteristics of both. Still, if I’m going to dream, let’s go back to conception and give me 46xx chromosomes and a standard factory model female body, one that matches my brain.
It is time to call out HBS women who actively participate in the oppression of trans* / genderqueer / gender variant people for what they are: Kyriarchists. Kapos.
And it is time for the trans* / gq / gv community to stop tolerating their behavior.
[ETA: I neglected to link to Zoe Brain's post, and also, as requested in her comment, I extended the quotation from her article.]
Copied from Sylvia:
New Orleans Craigslist: Rideshares — ignore the creepy one about BBW needing help evacuating, eww
New Orleans Craigslist: Volunteers — offers for family help and help with caring for pets
On Twitter: GustavAlerts
On Twitter: #gustav
Received via e-mail:
ICE has put out statements that it will not arrest anyone at any checkpoints and that the undocumented should evacuate along with everyone else. And it’s not just NOLA, but the entire region. Some Spanish language media is sending the ICE message out. Let’s hope people hear and believe it.
Many thanks to bfp, Andy Carvin, KM (via e-mail), robvato (via e-mail) and Prof BW for links.
An excerpt from Lynn Conway’s report:
Summary and Findings:
The APA Task Force Report on Gender Identity and Gender Variance [APA08 - PDF here] greatly underreports the prevalence of “gender identity disorder” by a factor on the order of 10 to 20.
The underreporting of GID prevalence derives from a deliberate misuse of clinical definitions and a failure to mention known calculation errors in sources.
The unreasonably low prevalence numbers are given to three significant figures in the Report, as if they were precisely accurate – while failing to mention well-known sources of estimation error.
The Task Force then dismisses recent work by Olyslager and Conway that had exposed large errors in earlier studies by calling that work a “minority position” – as if a scientific analysis must be certified by a majority vote, rather than judged on its merits.
The Task Force further dismisses the work of Olyslager and Conway by insinuating that citation by “transgender activists” somehow reduces its validity – while failing to cite it themselves.
Finally, the Task Force fails to mention recent scientific studies that report far higher-levels of GID prevalence than does their Report.
Please read Helen G’s post for more details – she covers it in pretty much the same detail I would.
The short form is that the APA task force is claiming that GID occurs approximately 1/20th the rate it actually does in the real world, allowing them to claim it’s a rare condition and probably supporting Zucker’s reparative therapy for trans children, since he’d be able to assure parents that it’s unlikely their child really has GID.
Spooked by predictions that Hurricane Gustav could grow into a Category 5 monster, an estimated 1 million people fled the Gulf Coast Saturday…
The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — Spooked by predictions that Hurricane Gustav could grow into a Category 5 monster, an estimated 1 million people fled the Gulf Coast Saturday, even before the official order came for New Orleans residents to get out of the way of a storm taking dead aim at Louisiana.
Mayor Ray Nagin gave the mandatory order late Saturday, but all day residents took to buses, trains, planes and cars, clogging roads leading away from New Orleans, still reeling three years after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city and killed about 1,600 across the region.
The evacuation of New Orleans becomes mandatory at 8 a.m. today along the west bank of the Mississippi River and at noon on the east bank. Nagin called Gustav the “mother of all storms” and told residents to “get out of town. This is not the one to play with.”
Complete article linked above.
I hope everyone comes through this okay.
On multiple occasions, when sucked into one of those soul-destroying conversations with anti-trans radical feminists about whether trans people actually have the right to alter our bodies, I’ve read a variation of this argument:
I get worried when academics and activists spend so much time discussing performativity, the possibility of multiple genders, and ways transgendering and crossdressing (before you get all up in arms–Im not equating these two) challenge gender studies and how we can create art and literature exploring genderbending, etc. etc. etc. What ever happened to the radical stuff–analyzing gender as an inequality? What ever happened to changing social structures such that people can be happy and healthy in the bodies they’re born with? What ever happened to the dreams feminists had of one day no longer having gender and its shackles?
It just seems to me that at base, trans is about not getting rid of gender. It seems to be about maintaining masculinity and femininity, when you cut to the chase. While I’m no authority on the issue, I have yet to see trans organizations or really any trans theorists and activists calling for an abolition of gender itself. I hope I’m wrong.
This is a perfect example of what I mentioned in my I Blame the Porno-iarchy post about how some feminists talk about utopian goals and neglect practical solutions. Or more specifically, how they tend to impose utopian goals on those whom the goals would affect most.
But this goes beyond that – beyond the insistence that since feminism supposedly has this goal to end gender, that all trans people everywhere must also want the same thing. That trans people must somehow fit into feminist theories about what gender is and why it exists. Per these theories, womanhood doesn’t really exist, therefore making it impossible for trans women (but not cis women) to be women. Cis women get to exist because they were born female. The reason that gender doesn’t exist is because it’s a social construct.
Social constructs include, but are not limited to: laws, governments, national borders, police powers, marriage, religion, families, property, citizenship, loyalty, love, money, cities, states, and nations. Few would argue that any of these things do not exist – people may question the basis of their existence, but the fact is that existing as a concept does not make these things imaginary, for good or ill. Similarly, gender is not imaginary. Gender is real, and part of our everyday life, again for good or ill.
This is also an incredibly patronizing attitude: The assumption that there is something inherently more valuable about not wanting to change your body than there is about wanting to change your body. That trans people would welcome a world where transitioning would never happen. That if we change our bodies, they are somehow no longer the bodies we are born with.
When they tell me these things, I feel like they’re trying to show me the true light of civilization, that perhaps they believe that transitioning is a prison that trans people are forced into. That society’s demands require us to transition, because we don’t behave like the sex we’re born into. And that when the glorious revolution comes and destroys the binary, then these demands would no longer exist, and we could exist as we truly should be, free to express ourselves without kowtowing to the oppressive medical profession.
Or in other words: This utopia that radical feminists describe to me is one in which people like me shouldn’t exist, that being trans is the result of living in an immature society. That my ability to transition, to stop living as a male, stop being seen as a boy, and start living as a woman, was anything but personal liberation for me.
Regardless of what newspapers constantly print about wheelies or people with illness or disability, I am not “Wheelchair bound”, nor am I “bound by my disease” or “bound by disability.” And I am NOT “House bound.” I say that because today, while I went down to the video store on the off chance they had released Supernatural Season 3 early (they do sometimes if it is a long weekend). The person denied that and wondered why I didn’t call and then said, “Oh….that’s right, you like to go outside.” Spoken to me as if I was some rare and unusual form of human or odd for a person with a disability.
I’ve seen multiple people with disabilities make the same point, and I have to wonder why cis people seem to see trans people as trapped by gender in a similar fashion.
But this is a cis privileged perspective: We’re asked to participate in a revolution that would (so they believe) erase us. We’re asked to put our lives on the line for a utopian ideal that is not going to come to pass. We’re blamed for reifying the gender binary despite the fact that there are six billion men and women who reify the gender binary without the need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on hormones, surgery, electrolysis, etc. It’s a cis privileged perspective that by stepping outside of cisnormative society and crossing that line – going from man to woman or woman to man – that we’re reinforcing cisnormative society.
It’s also a cis privileged position because it places “no one ever transitions” as the ideal state for society. That this ideal society is one in which “everyone is cissexual.” It erases people who are different from the norm, treats them as part of the norm, and expects them to comply. I find the idea of such a society highly oppressive.
I also wish that feminists who talk about the social construction of gender would spend some time examining the social construction of sex. And yes, it is socially constructed even if you remove trans people from the equation. Decades of surgery inflicted upon intersex infants should make this clear.
Edit: Right after completing this post, I followed a trackback to Coilhouse, and found a discussion relevant to this post.
Edited to remove a problematic comparison
I’ve posted in the past about the debate in Montgomery County, MD about the passage of civil rights protections for trans people and the ensuing campaign to have those rights stripped on the basis that a man might enter women’s restrooms or showers.
Obviously, Not In My Shower’s campaigning is based on deceptive, shady tactics – they gathered signatures for their petition to put the civil rights up for a vote in a general election on the basis of scaremongering. That is, as posted on Vigilance:
TTF supports a new county law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. A small group of radicals has redefined the issue, saying the bill is about predatory men claiming to be women and lurking in ladies locker-rooms.
Check out the blog and read more. Not In Our Showers is campaigning rather heavily, and Basic Rights Montgomery apparently needs to get into gear. They need help and support – organizations like Focus on the Family are backing NIMS, after all.
I hope any of you who read here who are (or were) in New Olreans are and remain safe.
Tulip, this means you. Stay safe.
Hurricane Gustav Strengthens, Heads for Cuba, Gulf (Update1)
By Patrick Donahue and Robin Stringer
Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) — Hurricane Gustav strengthened and picked up speed as it headed toward western Cuba and the U.S. Gulf Coast cities ravaged by Katrina and Rita in 2005, after lashing the Cayman Islands with torrential rain.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center declared Gustav a Category 3 hurricane today, with winds of almost 120 miles (195 kilometers) per hour, and said the storm could become Category 4 before making landfall in Cuba. It may reach central Louisiana on Sept. 2 before moving northwest into parts of Texas.
“Gustav is expected to pass over western Cuba as a major hurricane,” the Hurricane Center said in a bulletin at 8 a.m. local time, locating the eye of the storm about 225 miles east- southeast of the western tip of Cuba.
President George W. Bush yesterday declared a state of emergency for Louisiana, three years to the day after Katrina left more than 80 percent of New Orleans under water and caused more than $81 billion in damage. That hurricane was followed three weeks later by Rita, which ravaged central Louisiana and parts of eastern Texas, the same areas now threatened by Gustav.
“A land strike to the west of New Orleans will place this great city within the most dangerous part of the storm,” said Jim Rouiller, a senior energy meteorologist with Planalytics Inc., a forecaster based in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “Gustav has the potential to generate much more damage than Katrina did.”
Last Updated: August 30, 2008 09:10 EDT
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) — Exactly three years after deadly Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans, authorities on Friday began bussing people out of the city ahead of the possible landfall of Gustav, forecast to hit the area early Tuesday as a powerful Category Three hurricane.
Residents of the Big Easy were fearing the worst as Gustav regained hurricane strength on its deadly rampage through the Caribbean, where it has killed at least 78 in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
President George W. Bush on Friday declared a state of emergency in Louisiana and Texas, empowering federal authorities to lead disaster relief efforts in the two states, the White House said.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall near New Orleans on August 29, 2005 as a Category Three hurricane and smashed poorly-built levees surrounding the city. The subsequent flooding destroyed tens of thousands of homes and killed nearly 1,500 people.
Bush’s approval ratings at the time plummeted amid widespread criticism that he paid too little attention to Katrina.
Louisiana and Mississippi state authorities have already declared emergencies, and several oil companies evacuated workers from their installations in the Gulf of Mexico, where a quarter of US crude oil is produced, as Gustav loomed.
The United States could tap its strategic oil reserve if Gustav damages oil installations in the Gulf, a Department of Energy spokeswoman said Friday.
State and city officials have vowed to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2005.
Officials in Saint Charles parish, in western New Orleans, on Friday began bussing out residents who want to leave the city.
While the evacuations were voluntary, authorities in all six New Orleans parishes were planning mandatory evacuations starting noon Saturday if Gustav remains on the same path.
Saint Charles officials “are extremely concerned about storm surge flooding” that Gustav would cause, read a statement from the office of Parish President V.J. St. Pierre.
“The entire parish remains at risk,” St. Pierre wrote. “All residents should be taking steps to secure their homes and prepare for evacuation NOW.”
Separately, the Red Cross announced it is preparing to assist residents in the storm’s path with evacuation shelters, food, and other services.
Hurricane Gustav is forecast to make landfall early Tuesday just west of New Orleans, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
There is “a very distinct possibility” that it will strike the area as a powerful Category Three hurricane, Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen told AFP.
Category Three hurricanes pack wind speeds of up to 130 miles (209 kilometers) per hour and nine to 12-foot (2.7-3.7-meter) storm surges.
Many New Orleans residents are preparing for the worst.
“This is driving me nuts,” said Liese Dettmer. “It’s like double down or get out.”
A musician and club booking agent, Dettmer lost everything in Katrina, and was set to mark the third anniversary by moving into her new home in the Musicians Village, a community designed for displaced musicians to help restore the jazz city’s culture.
But because of delays she and 28 other families must wait until September 5 to move in — provided Gustav spares New Orleans.
Dettmer was one of many New Orleanians who evacuated at the last moment before Katrina hit on August 29, 2005.
She rented a car and drove to her parents home in Tennessee at 2:00 am on Sunday August 28, barely 24 hours before Katrina’s outer edge reached the city.
Dettmer’s mid-city apartment of 12 years was flooded. The roof was ripped off by high winds and she lost everything.
“I am in a complete state of panic,” said Mary Clancy, a professor of biology who lost a subzero freezer full of enzymes when power went out for months after Katrina. “I still can’t bring myself to throw out those tubes.”
Clancy’s laboratory building still isn’t ready for another major storm. It was slated to get a rooftop generator to protect against loss of research materials due to power failure. It hasn’t been installed.
“We’re supposed to get a temporary generator before the weekend,” Clancy said. “It’s not here yet,” she said, sighing. “This (storm) can’t happen.”
Mayor Ray Nagin said Wednesday that nobody would be allowed to stay in New Orleans should Gustav achieve its forecasted strength and path. “Everyone will be getting out,” he said on CNN.
Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu told Fox Business Network that state and city authorities have been holding emergency meetings “for the last three or four days.
“The state police, the national guard, everybody is ready to go,” he said.
As of 48 minutes ago it’s 20 years since my legal name change, and a few more months than that since i started my “real life test.”
And to activists who say “don’t trust anyone over 30?” Fuck you. :)
Considering where all of our civil rights movements started, where they learned how to fight.
I have been thinking about hope a lot lately, and its relationship to oppression, to the transphobia I deal with every time I leave the house.
As Little Light so eloquently put it in this post:
I think it does something to people, to grow up transgendered in this world. It does something to grow up knowing you are considered expendable if not an abomination, that crimes committed against you don’t matter, that laws aren’t for you, that futures aren’t. It does something knowing that in most places the best you can hope for is to be a punchline, and the worst a pulped, shattered, ragged statistic. It does something to grow up constantly having your perceptions of reality called delusional until the only way to survive is to convince yourself that you are indeed insane. It does something to go so far off the map, even leaving aside our own experiences, the batterings small and large, whether we have families who look out for us or families who cut us deeper than anyone, the endless funerals for people we’ll never be.
I think that “something” is, as much as anything, the extinguishing of hope for something better. Oppression is not just an abstract thing, it’s something you live with, day by day. It’s that cold feeling in your chest when you walk into the room and you know you’ve been scanned, the constant threat of violence, the fear in the back of your mind that you could be the next trans woman is murdered. The frustration of dealing with institutions that don’t recognise your gender, the way it affects you in ways you’d never imagined, having to fight for rights you used to take for granted–housing, employment, adequate medical care, traveling.
And politics? There’s the bone-crushing inevitability of yet another bloody feminist conversation denying our genders, the blatant tokenism of most GLB activism.
It’s the expectation that this is how life is, that you have no right to happiness. The constant waiting for the next thing to happen.
Part of the way oppression works is by convincing you to accept it as the “natural” state of being, that you’re presumptuous or angry because you dare to expect to be treated as a full human being. That you deserve this. That you don’t have the right to expect people to do better. That there are no alternatives.
And yet. We dare to exist in a world that tells us we shouldn’t, we couldn’t, we don’t. Hell, we dare to take joy in our identities. And slowly–way too slowly–we’re making some headway, and that gives me hope too. But more than anything else, it gives me hope to see how fierce, intelligent, brave and talented my community can be, to see those talents put to use in making life more liveable for all of us.