Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"There are not two sides to a debate about whether a group of people should exist."

In Jacobin, Samantha Allen responds to the TERFs (or Trans*-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) one is finding in some radical spaces:
if the anti-trans* rhetoric that has appeared on CounterPunch over the last two months were transposed onto gay or lesbian identity, leftists would instantly recognize it as homophobic. If Julian Vigo questioned the existence of “straight privilege” instead of the existence of “cisgender privilege,” she would be instantly shouted down by a chorus of gay-affirmative voices. If she posited that lesbians are “confused” in the same way that she argues that transgender folks “confuse sex with gender,” she would be shown the door at any leftist publication worth its salt. Let there be no mistake: the only reason this bigotry can proceed unchecked, unexamined and unquestioned in leftist circles is because trans* folks are so vulnerable... We need other radical thinkers to recognize and repudiate anti-trans* argumentation. I shouldn’t have to explain the facticity of my existence in the same way that a lesbian should not have to explain why lesbianism is a viable sexual orientation. But, in the interest of equipping potential allies with the tools to dismantle the anti-trans* arguments that are currently circulating in radical communities, I’ll do myself the disservice of taking their arguments seriously enough to expose their flaws. Simply put, TERFs hate transgender women for two reasons. First, TERFs want to eliminate gender roles and they believe that transgender women shore them up. Second, TERFs define transgender women as men based on the anatomical circumstances of their birth and believe that “actual” women must be protected from these men in order to be safe. With regards to the first point, it takes a particularly twisted calculus to value the politics of representation over the lives of the vulnerable. Just like cisgender women, some transgender women adopt stereotypical gender roles and some do not. To single transgender women out for the perpetuation of gender roles is a leap in logic... Even as TERFs claim to desire the destruction of gender, then, they cling fervently to a reactionary and reductively biological definition of sex in order to keep transgender women out of “women-only spaces”... TERFs paradoxically believe that they must hold fast to an illusory, iron-clad distinction between “male” and “female.” They hold themselves up as the adjudicators of sex difference and act as if they and they alone have the authority to decide who is female... Penises are not inherently male just as vaginas are not inherently female. Our bodies are not objective pieces of matter that pre-exist the inscription of social meaning; rather, our “beliefs about gender” inform the very notion that a penis is a male sex organ. And, indeed, the penis is at the center of TERF politics. One of the most famous images of Catherine Brennan shows her holding a sign, addressed to transgender women, reading: “Sorry about your dick.” Over six decades after Simone de Beauvoir refuted the Freudian notion that “anatomy is destiny,” the folks in Brennan’s camp vigorously defend it in all its reductiveness. It’s past time to stop listening to feminists whose politics have an expiration date of 1949 and it’s high time to start fashioning radical communities into safer places for trans* folks.
Follow the link for the whole piece. It's an important and clarifying and fierce argument.

No comments: