Nature is an ecoterrorist!

Posts tagged ‘oppression’

The Erasure of Dicks

In about forty different ways.

Now for your daily dose of transactivist transphobia!

This time it’s “the majority of transphobic violence is committed against MTFs.”

It’s a general sentiment, but Julia Serano has actually written this in her book Whipping Girl (very closely paraphrased). And it is an unexplodey piece of shit.

This claim is bullshit because of two things: first, it’s unsubstantiated; and second, if you actually consider the actual way the world works, it’s very likely false. For simplicity’s sake (and honesty’s), I’m going to consider “violence” to be specifically physical violence, because even I know that having something shouted at you from a passing car is not nearly as traumatizing and intimidating as being physically attacked.

The first problem is self-explanatory; let’s focus on the second. Without any actual evidence, for example a survey that takes into account the relative time spent outside versus online, we don’t have any idea how often MTFs:FTMs are attacked—we don’t actually know how often either of them are attacked. Surveys are not very enlightening when it comes to the most vulnerable and abused, because they are the least likely to have the leisure and safety to fill one out.

And that’s part of the problem. From my observation, corroborated by the FTMs I’ve had the pleasure to meet, MTFs are by far the most prominent voices in the trans community. Put simply, FAAB men are not heard or counted as much or as loudly as their male-born counterparts.

This is not a trend isolated to the trans community. Reporting of eating disorders are similarly confused on a class and race basis: because of the way eating disorders are reported, they are incorrectly assumed to be largely specific to upper-middle class young white women. Here are the problems with assuming eating disorder reporting is correct:

1. Reports are gathered from medical and psychiatric authorities. Consider monetary and time expenditure, as well as cultural values and expectations (stigmatization, bootstraps fuckery, et cetera).

2. Eating disorders are often well-hidden until an extreme point; for example, Lierre Keith has gone more than twenty-nine years with an eating disorder without anyone recognizing what it was.

3. Those who are typically victimized by “authorities” are more likely to be suspicious of medical and psychiatric authorities, for good reason, and thus more likely to hide their eating disorders, if they go to aforementioned establishments at all.

4. The majority of eating disorders are not recognized and acknowledged; severe emaciation and/or constant self-induced vomiting is required for it to be seen as a “real” eating disorder.

5. Whether or not someone’s eating disorder qualifies as a “real” eating disorder is also highly dependent on sex, size, age, race/ethnicity and class.

That’s a lot of societal crap standing in the way of that nice, neat conclusion. Fact is, street kids—generally the poorest of the poor and marginalized so much that the word doesn’t even work to describe it—have eating disorders. All the time. All of the street kids I’ve met have eating disorders; the vast majority of the street kids Aslan has met (dude, Denver Five Points Area) also have eating disorders; almost none of them were white. I’ve got way more than enough evidence that the “profile” of people with eating disorders is worth less than the bananas I ate yesterday.

And even then, street kids have one more thing working against them—something that FAAB men do, too: they’re usually starving anyway, so any intentional starvation on their part is obscured and rendered as invisible as the lives of street kids generally are.

Same with FTMs, which the people crowing about how MTFs are the primary target of trans-related violence always miss: when violence is perpetrated against FTMs, how much of it is just violence against women? How much violence against FAAB men is identified as “merely” another woman killed, raped, beaten?

Certainly, that’s what their attackers mean it to be; it’s virtually certain that an FTM’s attacker is going to be MAAB, and even more certain that he is going to be viewing the violence as not against someone who is trans as it is a woman. Generally, MTFs get beaten, raped and killed for being “freaks” and “fags”; FTMs get beaten, raped and killed because they’re girls. The reality of violence is different for MTFs and FTMs, and it is exceedingly male-centric to deny these two things: first, that MTFs are more visible because of their at-birth assignment (that is to say, as male); second, that MTFs are not the standard by which transphobic violence can be measured.

We can see that to deny these things is patriarchal, also, because of the history of homophobic violence and the focus of the recent gay rights movements. When gay men are beaten or killed, it is horrific, although not so much for rape (since sexual violence is still a big no-no in the hot-to-trot social justice scene); when lesbians are beaten, killed and raped, it’s more of the same. The rape of lesbian women is so institutionalized, in fact, that we have a fucking name for it: “corrective rape.” And you can bet how widely-used that is—I found it via surfing a bunch of feminist blogs.

What about the New Jersey Four? What about the lesbians who have been subjected to male violence because they were lesbians? What about the lesbians who have been subjected to male violence because they were women? What’s the fucking difference between those two things? The life of women—people who are put into boxes labeled “women,” a fucking social reality—that landscape is covered with so much blood and violence that it becomes virtually meaningless. Violence against women is normal; as it is said, “the water we swim in and the air we breathe.” When an MTF actually goes beyond a refusal to see and avoid dealing with the privilege and behaviors she was socialized into from birth, when she reaches the point of being just a woman, when that woman experiences rape, battery, abuse, murder at the hands of men, she isn’t experiencing it because she’s trans. She’s experiencing it because she’s a woman. That’s what life means; that’s what the social reality of “woman” is.

And it is important too to ask the questions: Who is doing the beating? Who is doing the raping? Who is doing the abusing? Who is doing the murdering?

If transactivists are genuinely interested in stopping trans-related violence, then the answer to that question cannot be fudged. You can’t argue these words are beating, raping and murdering you. I am doing no such thing and, furthermore, no person who ever reads these words and agrees will be doing any of those things to you, either. Get over yourself. You either care about trans-related violence or you don’t. And if you want to stick the responsibility of violence to people who are not perpetrating actual violence against transfolk, then you don’t care about ending that violence at all.

FTMs are not given this extra-special kind of respect by the holders of power (that is to say, MAAB men as a social reality) because they want to be one of the guys or whatever. They’re still seen as women. When they get attacked, they get attacked because they’re seen as women. And their safety is exponentially more at risk, because they are traveling into the domain of those who are most likely to beat, rape and kill them. Invisibility is paramount. Invisibility is passing, and passing is safety.

But when you’re an MTF, and you’re exploiting that invisibility to argue that you’re the most specialest and oppressed, you’re just acting like everyone born with a dick is trained to act. Which is, well… a dick.

In the Transitive

Just a small note.

Trans can be used in several ways, because it is merely a prefix that means to move. For example, transition means to move where you are positioned. It stands to reason that trans means different things depending on what it is placed before.

Next, sex is a binary: male and female. There is such a thing as “intersex,” but there’s a reason that the word means “to lie between” or “to take from both sides.” Sex is a binary only in that there are two clearly-defined sides, not to erase the existence or naturalness of intersexed people.

Gender, however, is not a binary. As a sensation or feeling, it does not have any clearly-defined sides whatsoever, and would be better explained by a sphere where all colors and luminosities exist, amorphous and unstable.

Granted, gender can also be understood as the inner feeling supposed to correspond to a given sex, with behavioral (and to a point appearance) stereotypes associated with those sexes described as gender roles.

When you are transsexual, it means you want to be identified as the opposite sex of the one you were assigned at birth. You can be genderqueer and also transsexual, but apparently it’s fairly rare—or maybe not, depending on how the individual interprets gender. Someone who is transsexual may very well simply associate their gender with their chosen sex regardless of “accuracy.”

The trans in transsexual means to go across—because there are two binaries. Like transcontinental, the prefix specifically refers to linear travel.

Transgender is to fall entirely outside of the gendered sex binary: your inner feeling of gender has no reflection or relation to your sex, regardless of whatever similarities it shows to gender roles. In this way, the trans in transgender means to transcend—to rise above or outside, that is, to move from the binary (feminine/masculine and assumed genitalia) outside of it, to the color-light gender cloud described above.

It is virtually impossible to tell who is “cis” or not because of two inarguable facts about the state of gender-sex relations right now:

1. Someone who you would define as transgender were you to see their gender-flavor might not define themselves as transgender for a number of reasons—because they assumed their gender corresponded to their sex, because they never wanted to actively change their sex, or just because they don’t feel any particular importance in identifying as transgender.

2. Large swaths of people—especially those who were assigned the sex of “female” at birth—are not comfortable with their assumed gender, gender roles, and the way they are treated and perceived.

There are serious ethical and ideological problems with focusing so strongly on dis-identification with one’s genitalia and the desire for surgery. Assuming that merely because someone does not want to alter their secondary/primary sex organs, they can be described as “cis”—which is shorthand for not oppressed by the gender-sex system. Similarly problematic is the assumption that someone also oppressed and trapped by the gender-sex binary is privileged simply because they “win,” even though it’s a pretty harmful thing to “win” at.

Destroying the gender-sex binary can only be a good thing for everyone involved. Transfolk, please stop treating people who were assigned “feminine” at birth as enemies: they aren’t in control of the gender-sex binary—in fact, they’re forced to compete in it as well, with consequences just as dire as you have seen for any transperson—and are not the people who are likely to enact violence against you at any level. Those assigned “female/feminine” gender roles at birth do not hold significant social or economic power over you.

Solidarity is working with everyone who is oppressed, marginalized and maligned by the status quo—not slandering them with accusations of nonexistent privilege.


I picked up this story from my roommate last night and asked permission to transcribe it. Zie repeated the entire thing to me this morning—it’s an anecdote about a conversation zie had with a close friend of zeirs a few years ago.

Lou liked talking about all the political shit with zem, all the things she was passionate about. Well, there was this guy who’d been stalking her for a week or so—he stopped after suddenly finding himself in a particularly violent crowd who happened to not be very understanding about this behavior of his—and Lou was speaking about how the reason men thought it was ever acceptable to do this was because men don’t see women as having these boundaries set up. For a guy, of course a woman doesn’t have boundaries, because he never observes them—or at least that’s how guys subconsciously think.

She said, guys didn’t have to fear having stalkers because the reason women can have stalkers is because they don’t have any boundaries, whereas the inverse was true for their stalkers: guys had boundaries that just so happened to include being allowed to stalk women.

That was part of male privilege, but no guy would really understand that, because to see privilege means you can’t have it. Or to meaningfully see privilege means you can’t have it, is what she said.

“And it just pisses me off, and that’s the reason I’m a lesbian.” She looked over and Aslan and said, “No offense.”

Aslan answered, “None taken. I understand I’m a guy, I have that privilege.” Zie then followed that up with, “and that’s just the way life is a lot of the time.”

And Lou looked at zem as if expecting zem to continue zeir sentence, but when zie didn’t continue, she prompted zem, “AND?”

Aslan replied, “And what? That was all I had to say.”

“And what does this mean to you? I’m not the one with the privilege here. I’m not the one who needs to change. I’m not the one who admits to being the one with the privilege here. I’m not the one who needs to do something about that.”

“What can you expect me to do?” Aslan pointed out. “I said I have privilege, but I’m a guy, what can I do about that?”

And Lou told zem, “Think about it. Think about what you did when you admitted that being human gave you privilege over animals. Now think about what you should do when being male gives you privilege over women.”

It took Aslan years after her death to think about what she said and what the meaning of that was, because the first thing zie said was, “What, so I shouldn’t eat out girls anymore?”

That’s when Lou decked zem. Really fuckin’ good. It still hurts thinking about it, said Aslan. And zie damn well started thinking about things differently after that.

But it’s still where most men stop. After admitting you have male privilege comes… What? I said I had privilege. There’s no AND. There’s just the statement and then nothing.

When you grow up with the people you have power over being actively involved in your everyday life, you unconsciously develop behaviors that continue that oppression. There are two ways that oppression can progress: passive, which is where the power structure is largely maintained through segregation, and active, which is when the power structure is maintained through direct browbeating from the privileged. Most of the time it’s a little of column A, a little of column B. In the case of male privilege, it’s a little of column B, a lot of column A.

Male privilege is actively maintained by men acting like total jerks to women so that when it comes down to it, women are too unsure, humiliated and intimidated to disagree in any meaningful way. It helps that men get to define reality for women, that even when a woman says, “I’m feeling threatened,” the man will just think she’s being too much of a pussy to admit he was right. The fact that men are so used to being right by popular opinion, and the aggressive way they react to having their rightness called into question, maintains the power differential between men and women.

The gendered power structure is maintained by men’s behavior. Men expect to be praised, so they have no qualms about being in the spotlight—they assume they are awesome. And they usually are given praise. When women venture out, they are met with silence at best and outright hostility otherwise. History is filled with glorified male idiots and brilliant women who kept their silence because they knew it’d never be listened to.

Especially you men who like to think they’re progressive and rights-oriented. You say you have privilege. AND? And, and, and?

Talking about it is not enough, because by talking you refuse to actually do. Where is your actual renunciation of privilege? When are you listening to people who call you out on being privileged even when you don’t want to hear it? Why are you still acting defensive when you’re told how to change your behavior? How do you even justify talking with women if you aren’t going to change your behavior so they don’t feel unsure, humiliated and intimidated into silence on whatever subject?

You have male privilege. AND?

Tag Cloud