Monday, June 30, 2014

Feminism and Trans Women: A Bullet Point Overview

*An updated version of this post is available at Gender Apostates.

*Further explication, screen shots, and links at The New Backlash.



Preface: a note on the word "gender"

People outside of academia commonly use the word "gender" to mean "sex class of male or female" (in contrast with the act of sexual intercourse.) Feminist theorists, however, use the word "gender" to refer to the social expectations thrust upon men and women, otherwise referred to as sex stereotypes or sex roles. Transgender identity politickers, further clouding the language, use "gender identity" to mean an innate inner feeling that overrides and in fact determines biological sex.

Always stay alert to the context in which you see the word “gender,” and ask for clarification when needed.



Reproductive Difference

1.       As the continuance of any species is important to that species, sexual reproduction is important to humanity.

2.       Human beings reproduce via the fertilization of females' eggs by males' sperm, and the work done by females to gestate fetuses and birth infants. (That work is arduous and dangerous and should always be freely chosen.) Every single human being on Earth was created in this way, as were their parents, and their parents’ parents, et cetera.

3.       Human communication via language depends upon words having shared meanings. Humans codify our shared meanings via dictionaries. Dictionaries are your friend.

4.       Dictionary definitions:
Woman: An adult human female.
Female: Of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilized by male gametes.
Man: An adult human male.
Male: Of or denoting the sex that produces gametes, especially spermatozoa, with which a female may be fertilized or inseminated to produce offspring.

5.       The existence of infertile people does not render these definitions unusable any more than the existence of bilateral amputees means we can no longer refer to humans as bipeds. If you actually care about infertile people, good - support them rather than using them as a weapon against women's language.

6.       The existence of intersex people does not mean men can “identify as” women any more than the existence of mixed race people means white people can “identify as” black. If you actually care about intersex people, good – support them rather than using them as a weapon against women's language.

7.       The simple act of classifying human beings by sex does not assign to either sex any innate dispositions nor pre-determined behaviors and is therefore not essentialist nor determinist. (Again, dictionaries are your friend.) Knowing that women are female does not mean all we can do is have babies any more than knowing men are male means all they can do is produce sperm.

8.       Merely having words for classes of people is not only not-essentialist and not-determinist, but very obviously necessary for describing the material conditions, lived reality, oppression, and possible liberation of those people.

9.       Rendering female biology unspeakable for any reason is an act of misogyny.



Feminist Gender Analysis

1.       Female humans are expected and raised from birth to be submissive (“feminine”). Male humans are expected and raised from birth to be dominant (“masculine”). Feminists call this gender, and feminist gender analysis deconstructs the notion that there is anything “natural” about it. Gender in this context is seen instead as a social tool to naturalize women's dependence on men, and thereby ensure male access to female bodies.

2.       We are expected to signal our maleness or femaleness in various visual ways specific to our time and place, but gender is not about fabric color or hair length. Those are merely signals for others to know where we fall in the social hierarchy of male over female.

3.       Femaleness does not naturally equate to the human personality traits labeled feminine, nor does maleness naturally equate to the human personality traits labeled masculine. Human personality development should not be limited based on sex, nor, as in the case of male violence, excused because of it.

4.       In a post-gender world, all the stuff of human life would still be there, but access to it would no longer be limited by perceived reproductive potential. Boys and girls could all play with and wear whatever they like. Men and women could all explore their human personalities to the fullest. Men would not be pressured into violence nor excused for it. Men and women could share responsibility for the care of children. Feminism is by, for and about women, but would benefit anyone who longs for a more just world.

5.       Intersectionality does not threaten feminist gender analysis but expands upon it. Sex is one axis of oppression/privilege. Women are always oppressed based on sex but may have privilege based on race, class, or any other axis. Men are always privileged based on sex but may be oppressed based on race, class or any other axis.

6.   Gender non-conformity may be an axis of oppression which men wish to analyze. Women, on the other hand, are punished whether we do conform to gender expectations (as the feminine gender is about subjugation) or whether we don't. Thus men need to do their own work on this subject, although they are welcome to use feminist work as a guide!

7.      Women’s sex-based oppression matters, independent of any other oppression that can be shared by men.

8.       Feminist gender analysis is central to women's liberation and the act of deliberately suppressing, mischaracterizing or erasing it is a misogynist act.



Transsexual People

1.       Transsexual people experience a psychiatric condition, referred to as gender dysphoria, perhaps better labeled sex dysmorphia, which makes it very difficult to live in their sexed bodies. This is a painful and poorly understood condition occurring in less than one percent of the population.

2.       Sex is chromosome-deep and expressed in physical morphology beyond that of the genitals and breasts. It is not possible to change one's sex, any more than it is possible to change one's genetic ancestry. However, one can undergo hormone treatments and surgery in order to more closely resemble a member of the opposite sex, and this can help relieve sex dysmorphia.

3.      Social transition is just as important as physical transition, particularly for males who must work through their male privilege and learn what it is like to live in a sexist world while being perceived by others as women.

4.       The term “trans women” is a concession, made out of sympathy and respect, for males with sex dysmorphia who undergo physical and social transition.

5.       Transsexual people are capable of building healthy, happy lives for themselves, and do not need to be treated like they are made of glass or like their physical reality must be papered over with magical thinking.

6.       Women and trans women will have some important things in common (e.g. fear of male violence) and some important things not in common (e.g. socialization as a girl from birth, female reproductive biology). Accordingly, we will share some goals and spaces and not share others.

7.       Transsexual people deserve legal protection of their human rights to safety, education, employment, and housing.

8.       Gender non-conforming males experience violence at the hands of other males. That violence should be addressed at the source. Women are not responsible for putting male victims of male violence ahead of female victims of male violence. That expectation is grounded in the gender hierarchy. Many of us will, however, partner with anyone who wishes to help name and confront the social pandemic of male violence.

9.       As for women’s spaces, feminists have proposed compromises such as simple documentation of medical treatment for sex dysmorphia before accessing opposite-sex nude and semi-nude spaces. I refer you to Elizabeth Hungerford’s work at sexnotgender.com.

10.   Transsexual people furthermore deserve caring and effective medical treatment.

11.   It is, however, absurd to expect any woman who wants to talk about feminism to have an opinion on the proper treatment for a rare, complex and poorly understood medical condition.

12.   It is furthermore absurd to expect feminists to center males who experience a rare, complex and poorly understood medical condition; pretend reproductive difference does not exist or matter; or call themselves "cis women" in order to differentiate the 52% of the human population that is female from the less than 1% of males who experience sex dysmorphia.

13.   Most trans women are just trying to live their lives without receiving nor giving harm, and are not demanding that women jump through these absurd hoops for them.



Transgender Identity Politics

1.       It is an act of aggression to take away oppressed people's language.

2.       This applies to women, and also to transsexual people.

3.       Transsexual people experience sex dysmorphia and therefore undergo physical and social transition. Transgender identity politickers, however, dismiss the necessity of any experience of sex dysmorphia OR transition to claim the label "transgender" or "trans."

4.       According to transgender identity politickers, any male who simply states he “feels like a woman” is 1) “trans” and 2) a woman and also 3) female and also 4) has always been female, 5) because he says so. Such is the power of their special snowflake feelings, or "gender identity."

5.       To be clear, someone claiming the label “transgender” or “trans” could be transsexual, or they could be a part-time cross-dresser. You can’t know and you are not allowed to ask.

6.       According to transgender identity politickers, if a male person says he “feels like a woman” then his penis is female. If a male person says he “feels like a woman” than all blatant displays of male privilege and aggression no longer count as such.

7.       Transsexual people who object to this colonization of their language and experience are labeled "truscum" and dismissed. Women who object to this colonization of their language and experience are labeled “TERFs” and dismissed. Both "truscum" and "TERFs" are deemed fair game for violent threats and organized silencing campaigns.

8.       Transgender identity politics are thus not about protecting transsexual people, but about pushing the idea of brain sex (there is a way women innately "feel," and feeling that way makes you a woman) - dressed up in social justice language.

9.       A group cannot have boundaries against their oppressors if they are not allowed to define the basis of their oppression. By erasing the material reality of female bodies, transgender identity politics enable men to destroy women's boundaries, under cover of political correctness. 

10.    Furthermore, "gender identity” cannot be defined without reliance on sex stereotypes. This is because, once de-coupled from sexual reproductive capacity, human personality is just human personality.

11.    Transgender identity politickers cling to sexed labels for their personality because they fetishize women’s oppression. Autogynephilia is a whole big thing that will not fit into this overview, but:

12.   When you look at behavior rather than doublespeak, it becomes clear that transgender identity politickers equate “feeling like a woman” with the MRA myth of the sexually powerful woman.

13.   Feminists know that relying on one’s attractiveness to the objectifying male gaze in order to access power - in a misogynistic rape culture, rather than a fairy tale - is not a means of attaining safety or happiness, but a dangerous, no-win game. Therefore we have every right to object when that game is enshrined, by transgender identity politickers, as the essence of womanhood.



How did we get here?

1.       The use of transsexual people as cat's paws by misogynists on the Left, in order to push the regressive idea of ladybrain, is both cruel and ingenious.

2.       Leftists will naturally feel empathy for anyone with a painful psychiatric condition, yet conversely feel an equally natural aversion to major surgery on healthy genitals, leading to an aversion to considering this condition too closely. Combined with their pride in a high "disgust tolerance" (central to Leftist identity) this will lead them to the knee-jerk projection that anyone questioning trans politics is operating out of a low disgust tolerance (labeled "transphobia"), and prompt the Leftist to publicly scold that questioner as a means to prove their (imperfect) righteousness.

3.       If you can push a Leftist past this point, they will still have to confront the idea of larger systems of power outside of individual "identity," especially systems of power based on sex (what feminist theorists call "gender.")

4.       This point of existential crisis -between individualistic identity politics and radical class analysis- renders the Leftist vulnerable to ideological totalism, at which transgender identity politickers excel: Nevermind that difficult thinking stuff, our magical "truth" is all there is. Brain sex transcends mere science, all questioners can be renounced and declared sub-human, thought-terminating cliches ("trans women are women") are all the effort required. Just relax and submit.

5.       Another benefit reaped by proponents of brain sex who use transsexual people as their human shields: when people *do* get enough of the absurdity of transgender identity politics, the backlash is pointed towards transsexual people. And while some transsexual people have gone along with the ladybrain narrative, others have not; some have even bravely fought against it. Regardless, the enemy is not transsexual people, it is male supremacists of any stripe (including but not limited to men who think they get to re-define what "woman" and "female" mean.)



Why does it matter?

1.       Transgender identity politics (“anyone who feels like a woman is a woman”) are finding unprecedentedly rapid acceptance in the form of gender identity laws, which override sex-based protections for women.

2.       The language women need to describe their biological and social reality is under attack.

3.       Female-only spaces are under attack.

4.       Lesbians are labeled bigots for not accepting penis as female.

5.       Gender non-conforming children are being referred for life-altering medical treatment, when most of them will simply grow up to be homosexual.

6.       The valid concerns transsexual people have about medical treatment, safety, and institutional discrimination are drowned out by fetishistic transvestites performing histrionic hair-tearing about pronouns.

7.       And anyone who objects to any of this is labeled a hateful bigot.



In Conclusion

1.       Do not submit to the ideological totalism of transgender identity politics. I plead with you to use your brain, which is an organ of cognition, not sexual reproduction.

2.       Progressive causes should not require the abandonment of critical thought, the emptying of language, or the knee-jerk monstering of dissenters.

3.       Misogynists on the left should stop using transsexual people as a weapon against women and feminism.

4.       Feminists who see this happening should remember that transgender identity politics are about male supremacy, not transsexual people. Male supremacy is the problem, not transsexual people.

5.       Personality is not innately tied to sex, no matter which way the arrow goes. The notion that reproductive potential determines personality is sexist. The notion that personality determines sex is simply ludicrous.

6.       Women are female people, and both words matter there. Female, and people. We are not combination mommy-maid-whores created at the plastic doll factory, neither objects for sale nor costumes to wear. We are not the mere absence or malfunction of maleness, as we have all our own parts and all our own experiences. We are human beings born with female reproductive systems, in a world that assigns lifelong subjugation to that fact. We do not have to choose for our sex to mean everything or nothing, any more than men do. Our bodies are our own; not alienable property nor marks of shame, but integral parts of our human experience.

7.       We'd all be much better served if, instead of this constant, absurd, power-blind deconstruction of "What is a woman?" we asked "What are we willing to tolerate from men?"

8.       It is vital that "man" comes to mean *only* adult human male, with thousands of ways to inhabit a healthy, happy male body, none dependent on the exploitation or bullying of others.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Selves and Others and Language and More Love and Thanks

We are all both Selves and Others.

I am entitled to revel in love of this Self that is Mine, to care for it and defend it and to tell its truths.

All of the Others I encounter (or don't encounter) in this world are also Selves, entitled to the same.

Furthermore, because human beings are innately intensely social, we need Others to know our Selves; we define ourselves in relation.

How do we relate? In many ways. Some of those ways are shared by other animal species: touch and body language and pheromones and sharing of resources...

Uniquely human: the use of complex language.

I was recently struck by this line from Indre Viskontas and Chris Mooney's review of Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee: "Diamond's hypothesis is that it was the development and perfection of spoken language that catapulted us forward, making possible teamwork, collaboration, planning, long-distance trade, and much more." 

This is true: words can be used as tools, to help us understand the world around us and to then communicate that understanding to Others, who can question and present new information and agree or disagree and even possibly compromise, iteratively over the course of lifetimes. 

But words can also be used as weapons, to establish dominance over rather than understanding with Others. 

As we see constantly on social media, when women aren't even allowed to define "woman," much less talk about their lives without constant misrepresentation and outright attacks meant to silence.

We are all both Selves and Others, but women are constantly viewed - by others and by themselves, via lifelong training, as Other only. This Othering, this refusal to see and respect an Other's Self, can also be seen with white people and people of color, rich people and poor people, healthy people and disabled people. But it is only the Otherness of the mother that is reproduced in just about every family in the world.

Adrienne Rich speaks comprehensively and convincingly of this phenomenon in her book, Of Woman Born, a thorough review of which I plan to write sometime this summer. For now I will ask, what better way to establish widespread, deeply held misogyny than to create this myth of motherhood - we are all born of women, after all, no matter how offensive Tumblr and Twitter find that fact, and so now we will expect that woman to live for us and only us, and when she inevitably fails, for she IS A SELF OF HER OWN, we will call her selfish and hate her for it, and when she succeeds we will also hate her for it, because you cannot respect the Self of someone who voluntarily surrenders it.

And so we are all set up in our formative years to hate women as part and parcel of needing them.

And so a brave feminist posts her essay, her essay which she spent hours composing, laboring over the words to express her meaning, laboring under her knowledge of exactly how Others will twist and/or dismiss those words so as to ignore that meaning. She has no delusions that what she is offering is a timeless, universal truth, but it is her truth, and a truth that will be useful to other women figuring out their own Selves in contexts both similar and disparate. Out of respect and love for her own Self and theirs, she hits publish.

And so it begins, the dismissals without reading, the misrepresentations, the attacks, the silencing. Because so many willfully, gleefully ignore her Self. Because it is a woman's Self, and should therefore only exist in glorified subjugation and abnegation.

Please pardon the unladylike language: FUCK. THAT. NOISE.

Perhaps our biggest mistake, women, is to give one single fuck about the morons who can't even start off from a point of recognizing our Selves. 

I love your Selves, women. In all their imperfect glory. Whether we agree on everything or not. And when I see you fiercely analyzing the world around you, defending your Selves, building connections with and nurturing other Selves without losing your own, I am inspired. I am strengthened. And my bruised and battered Self can walk another day in this woman-hating world, knowing that your presence in it makes it that much less hateful.

Thank you.