2009-09-03 09:54 pm

Get Your Agenda Off My Body

(As a note: This applies to womanism too, as womanism only fully expands the women's rights lens to issues of race but still leaves trans women in the dust more often than not.)

I'm sure we all have a pretty good idea of the cardinal elements of feminism. Feminism, at its most simple is a movement designed to combat the effects of sexism, misogyny and the power structure and marginalization created by the patriarchy. A social reform specialization of humanism/egalitarianism, if you will.

There are certain lacks in it that are understandable. It doesn't specifically handle a lot of men's issues (mostly because its hands are full with women's issues). It doesn't directly address things like race and disability (although some feminists try to). It doesn't directly address general trans issues (although it should be addressing transmisogyny as that's basically sexism squared.)

There's also womanism that attempts to address the racial issues that intersect on the bodies of WOC.

There are many subcategories, branch offs and connected zones of feminism. Gender deconstructionism, rad fem, essentialist feminism, etc. The ones I'm going to concentrate on right now is gender deconstructionism and rad fem (and some of this is also extendable to womanism).

There is this inclination to theorize on why trans people exist. After all, we flip a lot of apple carts just by being around. This inclination doesn't just take place in trans folk (we would naturally be curious as to our origins) but also among rad fems and gender deconstructionists. Unfortunately these attempts to figure us out usually involve a good chunk of generalization and ignorance of our experiences, mindsets, psychology and histories. But even the analysis being flawed isn't a serious issue. Where the serious issue arises is how people decide that suddenly trans bodies and trans lives come after the agenda.

I'm sure at least some of you had read over clarifications on Dworkin's viewpoint on the matter over at Daisy's locale. Her views are still pretty transphobic but for her time she was quite a bit ahead. And the things she points out in as guidelines for dealing with it are words to live by.

"every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions. This is an emergency measure for an emergency condition."

Yes, certainly a product of her times, in that the wording is transsexual, surgery and binary specific (and as is abundantly clear there is a wide wide world of transgender beyond the transsexual zone, that has entirely different needs and is classified differently within the trans movement) but here, let me highlight the really important part:

"...every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms."

Allow for social change and the expansion of the world comprehension to future day where the transgender community exists (and for the purposes of this post, I'm going to operate the terms normally, so TG includes TS under the umbrella envelope, as well as nonbinaries, who have enough fucking problems as it is) and you can extend this basic statement's intent to incorporate all those suffering from the misalignment that a gendered world at least contributes to badly:

"...every person in the TG umbrella has the right to survival on his/her/hir/their own terms"

It really doesn't matter what you think causes the varying types of "trans-ness". And quite obviously, even if you have a pet theory for one of the types (like why people crossdress without dysphoria or why transsexuals have dysphoria) chances are that won't yield much on the others. And for some things (like GID, which is based on symptoms and likely multicausal) even your pet theory may not describe every case. But really, it still doesn't matter what you think causes it, because in the end, any action you take must still honor our right to our own bodily domain and our self determination.

Any rights/social reform ideology, of any kind, that demands one group give up their basic self determination to what they do with their own bodies, is broken. Full stop. A social reform and rights movement can not hope to have the basic credibility it requires if it marginalizes another group based on its theories.

And when you interfere in things like transsexual surgeries and hormones, nonbinary self expression, crossdresser clothing choices (and etc) you are denying those groups their self determination. It is no different than a woman forced into being a housewife or forced into being a businesswoman. It is no different than the slut shamers demanding that you not have sex. But it goes even further than that. Even if you take no action, even if you don't interfere directly, just attacking it, demanding that I (and they) live according to your theories or views is unacceptable.

When you demand that a nonbinary just step away from gender entirely or tell a transsexual woman that her surgeries are encouraging the patriarchy and demand she stop, you are impinging on self determination. And in the end denial of choice for one's own body is against every fucking iota of what feminism and womanism stands for. Sure feminism might be specialized towards protecting women's choices and options regarding our own bodies. Sure womanism might extend that to include race. But that basic principle of bodily domain is central to feminism and womanism, to violate it on anyone else is the worst, most heinous, most disgusting form of hypocrisy. And to stand by while it happens, to not stand against it, is just as bad.

It is a hypocrisy that wears away at the very fabric of of your movement's credibility (for either movement). A hypocrisy that begs the question, "if you can't honor the bodies of others, why should anyone honor yours?" This makes you as bad as the patriarchy. This makes you as bad as the enemy you fight, because you dehumanized a group that has less power than you, all because it makes you feel like you achieved something.

This is unacceptable. This makes you a shit poor feminist if you do it or allow it to happen on your watch. Same for any womanist guilty of this. This is why many trans women do not trust you. This is why even those who do trust you are wary and careful, lest we get attacked or faced with unreasonable demands too.

The responsibility lies upon you to clean up your movement (whichever one it may be). To stop the abhorrent transphobic hypocrisy and the using of our bodies for your agenda. Every single one of you shares in that responsibility. Every single one of you bears that similar burden that every single one of men bear to fight violence against women, speak out against the rape culture and break the social cycles of oppression. And for the womanists, it's that similar burden that every single one of white folk bear to fight silencing of POC, see through the White Noise and fight the social cycles of oppression there. It's about damn time you all starting doing what you ask of, no DEMAND, men and white folk to do for you.

Get your agenda the fuck off my body.

Now.
2009-08-31 10:36 am

Nonbinaries: The Secret Punching Bag of Everyone

In a discussion that originally was built around Kennedy's pragmatic (but sucky) dropping of the trans community in the ENDA during the Bush era (on the post about Kennedy on Alas, A Blog), the topic eventually turned to the visibility of nonbinary folk as a part of the trans community (and shifted to the link farm post as it started to get off topic). Well, a few comments in, it became abundantly clear that one of the commenters had some serious bigotry against nonbinaries. Ampersand, always a calmer speaker than me, put it best: "And since you’re not, as far as I know, non-binary, I find it more than a little arrogant of you to lecture non-binary people on what term they ought use to describe themselves and their lives." (You can scroll up and view most of the comment line, the only stuff relevant to this entry is the nonbinary parts)

It goes beyond just that particular conversation though. A pretty firm bunch of binary TS folk are actually pretty damn bigoted against nonbinaries. I've seen it in multiple support sites and even in an IRL support group (the anti binary bs was stamped down quickly in my favorite support group, unfortunately the one who ran it so well is moving on to other things. I've already wished her luck in person but I'm gonna miss her skills in keeping that place safe and supportive). On the Site That Shall Not Be Named (because seriously, I think the owner is just crazy enough to sue me over this truth and I can't afford legal costs even though I'd win. The STSNBN First mentioned here) the section of the forum for androgynes (the most prominent of nonbinary umbrella terms) was actually shut down several times for some seriously bullshit reasons and sometimes no reason at all. Numerous people on the site regularly hassled androgynes, claiming that they were just transsexuals who were on the fence or confused, or calling them "trendy" was regularly let go by the moderators, despite the rules against hate speech.

You would expect this mostly from the fallacy and paranoia driven vehement hate machine of the Neo HBS separatists but it's not just them doing this. In fact some of the Neo HBS separatists have actually done better than the rest of the TS community and taken a live and let live, just separately, approach with nonbinaries, which is hella better than attacking their very existence. I don't know whether some binary TS folk see nonbinaries as a threat to their own identity or if it's just the "omg difference" bullshit that sits at the center of every instance of bigotry in every case. Or if it's even an attempt to garner more safety by getting cookies from the cis oppression factory by kicking "those freaks" to the curb (which tends to be the Modus Operandi of the Neo HBSers). I do know that a lot of the arguments come down to the concept that we "have two sexes" and ergo can't have more than two identities. We already know that split between male and female and the exclusion of other variations in body structure is pretty much cissexist bullshit and a massive, even dangerous, oversimplification of bodily development. So right from the beginning, that argument is rife with failure. But there are also arguments that have their basis in the hypothesis that something about the brain creates the identity and the dysphoria. The Neo HBSers go with some kind of neurological intersexed (NI) model (which tends to just impinge on IS folk, but another story for another time) and others, like myself, attribute a bodily integrity instincts (BII) model which isn't essentialist and doesn't colonize IS folk. The previous theory's essentialist aspects are what makes them feel threatened by transitioning nonbinaries with dysphoria (essentially a nonbinary transsexual, although currently the terminology fails to reflect this) because it apparently challenges the concept of a "female/male brain". Well actually it doesn't, one only has to add more sexes onto the essentialist theory to accommodate nonbinaries. But that's not a great solution due to the flaws in essentialist theory to begin with.

And the latter theory is often coupled with a complete lack of realization that hey, if there's bodily instincts that reflect body structure (or fail to reflect it and create dysphoria in cases of BIID and some instances of GID) then they could reflect multiple types of body structure, even those outside of the male/female dichotomy. Which goes back to the brokenness of male/female binarism as already linked in the oversimplification mention above. So really, pretty much all of the theories (social model, NI model, BII model, psychological model, etc) are nonbinary inclusive, they just require people to get the fuck over their binarism and their binary privilege.

That's right, there's binary privilege. It's the privilege of having the very concept of one's identity and one's designation as far as gender goes accepted, unchallenged and validated by society. Binary trans folk, like myself, might get challenged on the basis of our bodies or transphobia, but the word woman and the word man and their connected pronouns are not themselves challenged and attacked. Unlike nonbinaries, who have to defend on two fronts. Specifically whether their pronoun is applicable and whether their identity exists at all.

Binary privilege (or bin privilege as I call it sometimes) is something I have and it is something my partner does not have. I've made some stupid statements about nonbinaries before to my partner, who was understandably upset, so like any form of privilege, it can affect (and often does affect) everyone within its zone whether you empathize with or care for a nonbinary. Including binary trans folks too who you would think would know better.

It's just absolutely enraging when bin trans people use the exact same fucking broken logic that is used against us to attack and marginalize nonbinaries. Hypocritical bullshit like that boggles the mind.

The conversation linked at the beginning was a bit of a first, though. I had yet to meet someone who used the misconstrued rad fem rhetoric to attack just nonbinaries and not transsexuals or individuals of transsexual history (when the twisted rhetoric is easily applied to binary transition and often is by rad fem transphobes). The sheer level of mind boggling hypocrisy and lack of awareness as to how inconsistent that was sort of blew me away. But it does give me an opportunity to address the rad fem twisting arguments as applied to nonbinaries and binary folk.

In the end, no matter how hard we fight, gender will not be stripped from society and removed as a force of harm any time soon. Which means that the people suffering need to do something in the meantime to survive. Marginalized women need to operate feminist discourse (even though it uses gendered language), transsexuals (binary or nonbinary) need to transition in some way to reduce the dysphoria and non TS transgender folk (binary or nonbinary) need to assert their identities and safeguard their self expression. All of this is done in the meantime. None of this means people aren't fighting the gender system. Any rad fem or person using rad fem rhetoric who tries to justify preventing these mid term survival methods is a fucking idiot transphobe and is also setting up cis women to be harmed (or alternately is inconsistent about the argument, since it can be applied to feminist discourse's language itself, fuck even the word feminism itself.)

So in the end, I've addressed trans binarism, rad fem transphobic bullshit used to skewer nonbinaries, and how the hypotheses of gender dysphoria don't exclude nonbinaries if you aren't a binarist asshole.

Because really, I think it's time we started taking note. Nonbinaries should not be our punching bags.
2009-08-13 11:29 am

The word "cisgendered" makes privileged folk cry, apparently.

Welcome to clusterfuck city. In order to give you folks a little bit of background here, there was a bit of an incident involving Pam's House Blend and a wonderful concept known as privilege enabling (or as I like to call it "oppression collaboration". More poetic that way.)

There was some fine commentary on how asinine it is to let people dodge their privilege and continue othering trans folk on QT and a really brilliant analogy for the kind of nasty power cis people (I refuse to stop using that term. Outright. Refuse.) have over trans folk at Femmessay (which I commented on in thanks)

I won't go too deep into the details (that's what the links to the wonderful blogs are for, with the exception of Pam's little coffee shop of privilege) but the basics are as follows:

A gay cis male decided that the word cis is offensive to cis folk and compared it to several common trans slurs. And then discourse on the topic (and by "discourse" I mean any attempts by trans folk and allies to address this pretty clearly privileged bullshit) was silenced. Gotta love enablers, right? Nothing makes it easier to stomp on the heads of trans folk than someone discouraging the critique of privileged behavior and encouraging the use of othering and cissexist separation of terminology like trans vs. normal.

I may have expressed some things on this blog that folks have found privileged, but I've never once silenced the discourse on it. I address those comments because privilege is a serious goddamn problem. So if you're in the position of being accused of using it or speaking from a privileged perspective, it is always a good idea to keep that discourse open in case you are actually privileged and didn't realize it.

I'll do a relatively mild analysis of cis as a word here and why that is epic and privileged bullshit on the commenter's part to act that way. I may follow up with a slightly less enraged "For The Uninformed" post after this one rehashing the description of cisgender as a term and discussing privilege in general (I'll throw in some other important descriptors too). They're closely intertwined because cisgender is a word used to articulate the differences (including privilege) between those who are or are not trans without othering the fuck out of us trans folk.

Oh look, just that sentence alone summarizes it doesn't it? You see, a marginalized group and their allies have to be able to create discourse on not just their marginalization but the privilege of the majority/empowered group(s) that either oppress them or benefit from the oppression of them (usually both).

One of the key important cardinal needs of that discourse is to avoid phrasing, word structure and tone that is in and of itself a component of that marginalization or the privilege of the oppressing/majority/empowered group(s). I know, I'm getting verbose and science-y.

To make it basic: if the words we use to talk about our problems, our oppression and another's (i.e. cis folk) privilege are oppressing to us then we are just defeating our own efforts. Language has an effect on things. It's why slurs actually do have power and marginalizing language can actually train marginalized people to submit to their oppression.

The single most best example (and most relevant to the term cis) is the othering of trans people. Before cisgender came into play as a term the way that trans folk and cis folk were referred to was as such:

Transwoman
Woman
Transman
Man
(nonbinaries weren't really mentioned back then and they still get screwed now. Oppression is like a layer cake made of fail.)

After the word cis came into play (and we cut the qualifier from the gendered word itself):

Trans woman
Cis woman
Trans man
Cis man
Agendered/neutrois
Androgyne
(unfortunately, as you can see, nonbinaries are still othered quite a bit. Not a lot of great solutions have been come up with there)

Notice the difference? The above (old school version) made trans folk out to be an abnormality, an adjusted man or an adjusted woman. Cis folk were assumed to be the natural state because the phrase applied to them was the overall phrase for man or woman (if anyone has more knowledge of nonbinary terminology back then and now, please comment. This description is incomplete without nonbinaries). By applying the word cis to cisgendered people's descriptors when discussing a comparison of trans and cis folk (and just applying the actual gender word itself to the people it applies to, whether cis or trans) we succeeded in reducing the othering effect of the terminology we use for discourse on trans oppression and cis privilege. It also, as you can see, offered up a term that can be used to describe that privilege that cis folk have. I mean fuck, what did we even call it before then? "Normal privilege"? "Non-Trans privilege"? That's terrible for discourse and othering as hell.

So the phrase has a defined, specific purpose that is only relevant in certain contexts (much like trans ought to be). I'm not going to walk around and call cis folk, cis woman or cis man when I introduce them to people. "This is Candice, she's a cis woman." Just like no one should introduce me like "This is R.P., she's a trans woman." Although in Candice's case, she won't get beaten, killed, raped, denied jobs or etc etc etc for being revealed as a cis woman. But quite honestly there's no reason to apply the word in a day to day basis. Only for trans related discourse.

So now we know why it's around. What if someone finds it offensive? What if it makes a "privileged person cry" as I so cheekily put into my title? Well, let me put this as nicely as I can:

Get the fuck over it.

As described by the very nice lady at Femmessay, there is a huge worlds' of difference between having your feelings hurt by a phrase that doesn't sound nice or seems unfun being applied to you and being subjected to a level of oppression that defies description. Many of us aren't even fucking allowed to piss in a bathroom that is safe for us. Yeah, I'm sure privileged tears are so awful in comparison to that.

It's like us white folk saying it's offensive to be called privileged. Oh boo fucking hoo, folks. Or calling affirmative action "reverse racist" (the most godawfully stupid phrase in the universe, by the way). Here's a more prickly barb for the commenter himself: It's like straight people saying that the word straight is offensive, because "omg I'm normal, not straight". Yeah. I went there. Because its the same exact thing.

There are straight folk who have done that. Who have said, to my face and others faces, that the word straight is offensive and why is it necessary for gay people to apply a word to them? Well because its awfully hard to have a discourse about gay rights and straight privilege if the word gay is compared to the word "normal, assumed, expected, standard state of affairs". Welcome to being othered. Your hypocrisy, commenter on Pam's house blend, has been noted.

So there's the comparison. The fact is, the only thing, the exact only thing the word cisgendered can do applied to a cisgendered person is make some hurt feelings. Just like the word straight applied to a straight person. Guess what the word trans can do? Some helluva worse things than cis can do, that's for sure. Not only can it hurt our feelings, it can act as a reminder of past oppression or be accompanied by beatings, rape, murder, denial of service, denial of use of bathrooms, denial of medical care, denial of children, denial of bodily domain and self autonomy, denial of a home and loss of family, friends and loved ones.

And you know what? If cis is removed from discourse and we just use the word trans, the othering will make it all worse. So wow, folks, I'm really choked up about how hurt you are with the word cisgendered and all, but really, you're just going to have to get the fuck over it.

Be a little more mindful of your privilege, offended cis folk. As for Pam and Co.? I used to go to that site pretty often (I wasn't a member yet) but I will gladly avoid your privileged bullshit (and privilege enabling) site from now on. For the transfolks working there, I hope the pat on the head and the hair ruffling from the oppressors was worth alienating the rest of us.

Must have been a damn good hair ruffle.
2009-08-10 08:47 pm

AH HA. Niche obtained.

I finally found my niche. Angry trans girl. After all, I am pretty fucking pissed off when I write in here.

I'm not always pissed off though, it's just that blogging reminds me of all the stupid awful shit people do to trans women, among ten billion other marginalized minorities... arrrrgh fuck I want to BREAK THINGS NOW! ...oh, there it is. Angry again. See?

The fact is, I'm done letting people push me around with the word bitch. I'm going to wear it as a flag. A flag that says, "fuck you, misogyny. Fuck you, transphobia. Fuck you, homophobia. Fuck you, society. You calling me a bitch won't stop me now. It's my fucking word now."

And really, my posts had always had a slightly antagonistic nature to them. Privilege is stagnant. It's easy to just do nothing when you aren't directly affected by marginalization and bigotry. To sink into the mud and just shrug at the rest of us. So don't be surprised when you get the firm kick to the head to wake you the fuck up. And frankly, I won't be surprised if I get a few firm kicks myself, because I have various kinds of privilege myself. White privilege, abled privilege, etc. If I need to be drop kicked, I expect it to be done. No mercy, folks. Because I sure as hell won't give it. XD

So, new look and feel, new name for the blog and embracing the angry bitch in me. Overall a very very good beginning to August.

~RP