It really helps to read some of the HBS writings to see where they’re coming from with regards to transsexualism and transgenderism. It also helps to read some quotations from actual online discussions. Yes, Drakyn does refer to some HBS advocates as bigots, but look at what they write about transgenderism in general, as well as those who continue to identify as transsexual:
Many of course will continue to see our condition as being transsexualism and many others, for whatever their reasons, will list transsexualism as a sub-set of transgender. Of course that is not correct and never was but for some they found comfort in not being linked to any term with ‘sex’ in it. Now they, those with true HBS, have no reason to make any claim but that they were born with the syndrome. We ask that a competent psychiatrist or therapist dealing with the condition to make a reasonable confirmation that the patient has Harry Benjamin Syndrome. It should not simply be a claim made by someone that they suffer from HBS as has often been done in the past with transsexualism. It should be a verifiable medical condition as is the proper procedure with almost all physical maladies.
Of course there will be some who will continue to use transsexualism and transgenderism to cover and mask what they really might be, sexual fetishists, sex merchants, exhibitionist, cross-dressers, delusional transvestites who ‘go the extra step’ and opt to have a ‘sex change’ so as to enhance their fetishism. They wish to mimic women but do not have the inborn need to be women physically reflective of the brain. Many call themselves lifelong pre-ops and even non-ops and never desire the affirmation surgery. To refer to them as having HBS is not only a misnomer but also an insult to those who actually have the syndrome and to those who have had corrective surgery that affirmed their body to their brains.
HBS advocacy is also tied up in some degree of heterosexism:
Harry Benjamin Syndrome is not in any way connected to sexual orientation nor should it be ever be compared to any deviance. It is a medical anomaly that often is compared to other conditions wrongly thereby causing great stress upon those with the syndrome being put into categories in which they do not and should not be placed. Those with HBS do not change gender and do not suffer from what had been commonly classified as transsexualism. Their brain gender at birth was not in need of correction even if that were possible. And, in reality, those born with HBS do not need to trans their sex since the brain sex was already set and only the genital sex needed correction so as to be affirmed with the brain.
Recently, while surfing the web I came across a blog in which the author posted a treatise entitled Sex, Lies, Transmisogyny, and the Heteronormativity of BDSM, pt 2. It was placed by the writer under her following blog categories: BDSM, MWMF, Oppression Olympics, anti-transgender feminism, feminism, horizontal oppression, lesbian, transmisogyny, transphobia, and transsexual.
Yeah…that’s what I thought too.
Having no interest whatsoever in reading what is clearly psuedointellectual rubbish, to put it kindly, I did find myself wondering what type of person would read something so contrived and meaningless. Skimming to the bottom of the page, I found to my surprise there were no less than 32 comments by readers who evidently did find the epic worth the effort. I also found out who might be interested.
The author dismisses the article on the basis of the title (based on the article I was fisking, “Sex, Lies, and Feminism” from the Questioning Transgender Politics website) and the tags and categories I used. A casual reading of “Enough Non-Sense” shows that many of the posts show little more thought than this – aimed as they are at attacking the “transgender movement,” delegitimizing it, and presenting it as a pack of pretenders, deviants, and perverts. Read the comments in the above quoted post, where several HBS advocates blame the LGBT movement for society viewing trans women as invalid women:
You are absolutely right when you say that men often leave HBS (Harry Benjamin Syndrome) women “because heterosexual society teaches him that transsexual women aren’t real women, and that being one makes him somehow gay.” I really don’t think anyone would argue that point.
However, though it’s not because the very vast majority of transgender activist use big words, it is because of what they say and their political position. And, I think many people would argue that.
It is all but impossible to find a transgender activist blog or web site that does not make it perfectly clear they fully support the GLB and the associated T. And THE issue is that association of the GLB with the T. It is that association that teaches, to use your term, the heterosexual mainstream.
Of course, looking at the quote in Drakyn’s blog post about “HBS bigots,” you can see an HBS advocate basically laying the blame for any discrimination or bigotry that trans people face at those trans people’s feet – it’s not because society really views trans people as invalid in our proper gender, it’s because we bring it upon ourselves. Transphobia and transmisogyny apparently didn’t exist prior to adding the T to LGBT.
But read the posts on “Enough Non-Sense” and see what HBS advocates bring to the table, and then read Cathryn’s lament on why there’s so much friction between HBS advocates and those of us who do not identify as HBS. For my part, I have little sympathy for HBS advocates because their definitions are restrictive and often bigoted. I have seen HBS advocates describe trans women who have not had surgery as “penis people,” and similar dehumanizing terms. They play gender gatekeepers, trying to establish a “trans hierarchy,” with them at the top as the only legitimate “women.” They insist that any true trans person (defined as HBS) will be able to pay for every aspect of transition – hormones, psychiatrist, surgery, electrolysis, etc – without any serious trouble, and those who cannot are simply not genuine.
Do I hate them? No, but I view them as categorically wrong and selfish. Uninformed and strangely unaware of the realities of living as a trans person, especially a trans person of color, or with low income, or with health issues that make surgery risky. Their viewpoint is black and white: You’re either exactly like them, or you’re a cross-dressing pervert.
And, of course, they’ve provided Heart with inspiration to yet again blog about how horrible trans people are. As is usual, Heart is quick to agree with anyone who is willing to say horrible things about trans people.*
Heart makes it clear she doesn’t even understand the debate she’s trying to comment on:
Evidently the objections of post-op transwomen are resulting in the kinds of no-holds-barred attacks from non-op transpersons (who never intend to “op” nor even live as women most of the time) with which some of us are all too familiar. I mean, what’s wrong with you.
Ignoring the fact that I absolutely loathe “non-op.” “post-op” and “pre-op” because of what they mean (“This is what my crotch looks like”), Heart simply assumes that Cathryn’s characterization is correct – that all trans people who disagree with HBS advocacy are automatically men who wear dresses and nothing more – no hormones, no surgery, and apparently no men who were born female-bodied. This is remarkably convenient for her to believe, since it lets her rush into bathroom panic scenarios, and discussion about how trans women are not and can never really be women like cis women are:
Being a woman is about being mistreated by patriarchy because of our female bodies. That mistreatment — in whatever its form — is what female persons know and share as women. It’s what those who have not lived as female persons and women do not know and so they dismiss what we, as women, say about our lives, our realities, our fears, what we need. Sometimes they don’t just dismiss, they steamroll over us, and so far, there has been little we could do about that.
This paragraph is ironic because Heart talks about trans women dismissing and sometimes steamrollering over her. This is the same cis woman who implied another blogger was guilty of plagiarism because said blogger used goddess imagery and is a trans woman, and who would not allow this blogger to respond on womensspace. She also aggressively moderates her blog to keep dissenting viewpoints to a minimum, and has been known to aggressively edit some of those dissenting viewpoints.
In my opinion, Heart presumes too much. She believes that it is impossible for trans women to understand womanhood, but is also more than willing to describe every aspect of a trans woman’s experience – this is a contradiction, but one inherent to privilege. It’s normal for people with white privilege to tell people of color what their lives are like, for able-bodied people to tell people with disabilities what their lives are like, for heterosexual people to tell gay men and lesbian women what their lives are like, and for cissexual people to tell transsexual people what their lives are like.
But this is a contradiction, a paradox. If a cis woman’s life is completely opaque to me as a trans woman, then I fail to see how a cis woman could possibly understand my life. If Heart wants to make sense, she should either stop describing what she thinks trans lives are like (considering that she’s so tied up in her prejudices, she’s pretty much always wrong), or she should accept that trans women experience more of womanhood than many radical feminists are willing to admit.
I’m not really addressing Heart’s basic argument – most of my early posts already address the foundations of radical transphobia and she literally has nothing new to add on this front, and hasn’t for the six years I’ve seen her online.
The beautiful and talented Queen Emily adds this in comments, which I wish I’d thought to say:
Yeah. The patently obvious problem is this:
HBS people advocate rights for only one kind of trans* person – a post-operative trans person. They not only sneer and disrespect any other version of transgender, but actively campaign against other trans* people having rights before surgery. The comments on Transadvocate, where the HBS Leigh said she’d fire pre-operative transgendered people, report them to the police, and so on are indicative of this.
This HBS woman suggests that a transgendered world would end in paedophilia and constant rape, in the lurid terms fundamentalist Christians use to describe gays and lesbians:
“Shut the hell up and don’t trouble the gender binary” is the very clear message from HBS. How exactly this fits with Heart’s brand of womyn-identified-womyn radical feminism I do not know. HBS is not progressive, indeed at worst it’s actively opposed to some pretty basic tenets of feminism. As you point out, it’s hugely homophobic.
In contrast, the transgendered organisation I work for supports rights trans* people NO MATTER their surgical status, and we have a very clear feminist ethos. But I guess, the enemy of my enemy is my friend for Heart..
* Heart should be aware that HBS advocates are fond of homophobic posturing, and Bailey has written on eugenics, and wrote a paper on why it’s morally okay to abort homosexual fetuses identified in the womb. Just being transphobic (internalized or externalized) probably shouldn’t be the best reason to rush to their side and join in on the trannie condemnation, you know?