Transgender Day of Remembrance and Transgender Awareness Week

This post really should have happened last Monday, at the beginning of Transgender Awareness Week, which was Nov 11th – 17th. So I massively failed there. OTOH there’s really never such a thing as the wrong time to make people aware of an axis of oppression, the consequences of that oppression, and the way in which it is being fought and the ways in which allies can make themselves useful.

November 20th specifically is Trans Day of Remembrance, a day to honor the memory of victims of lethal transphobic violence. GLAAD publishes a long but probably non-exhaustive list memorializing trans people who were murdered every year. They are mostly women, and most of them are women of color. Monica at Transgriot wrote two amazing blog posts on this. 238 names is about remembrance being not just passive experience of mourning, but about the active anger, about being “fed up” with all the things that lead up to there being over 200 trans people being murdered and needing this commemoration; Thinking About The Girls Like Us Who Didn’t Get A TDOR Memorial is about memorializing trans women who were killed before there was ever a TDoR. Another amazing post on the Transgender Day of Remembrance was written by Emily at Planting Rainbows. In her post Al Heyt for Transgender Day of Remembrance, she applies a Jewish tradition to the act of remembrance, transforming it from an act of mere listing and memorializing of names to an act of recognition of the sociocultural patterns we all engage in and with that lead to these deaths and to other violent acts against trans people.

What TDoR unfortunately also often is, is the one and only day a year that cis people remember victims of anti-trans violence at all. And I’m not excluding myself from that, since I’ve been extremely neglectful in writing about anti-trans violence and also about the trans-eliminationist sociocultural patterns that make that violence common, invisible, and socially acceptable to the point of being able to walk away from it unpunished.
I have, for one example, not written about the clusterfuck going on in California (and Colorado), in which the passage of a law giving students the right to the use of sex-segregated facilities in accordance with their gender identity, rather than listed gender has caused transphobes (primarily as represented by the ex-gay group Pacific Justice Institute) to start a prolonged and toxic shitfit to attempt to a)stop the law from taking effect in January, and b)put it on the 2014 ballot in an attempt to repeal it by popular vote. Transadvocate has been writing about this for months, documenting the lies and assertions that posit the very presence of trans children as a threat to cis people; the support for the anti-AB1266 campaign by trans-exclusive feminists; the fraud and scaremongering involved in gathering signatures for the repeal; etc. This clusterfuck? Prime example of what trans-eliminationist sociocultural patterns look like: it’s a law protecting small children from discrimination, but the very presence of those children is interpreted as violence against cis people. This isn’t the only example of course; they gay-panic defense is a more well-know version of this. There are many other, subtle as well as extremely blatant patterns that make up our anti-trans culture (some of which are described in the essay from Planting Rainbows linked above). Trans-eliminationism functions in many ways that parallel rape culture: where rape culture creates an environment in which rape is the victim’s fault and rape is minimized or not allowed to be recognized as rape, and consequently rape ends up very common, invisible, and consequence-free for the perpetrator (but double-victimizing for the victims), trans-eliminationism creates an environment in which the trans identity is being seen as an attack, moving victim-blaming further still, to the point where a trans person is definitionally excluded from innocence (thus re-framing all anti-trans aggression as self-defense, but all self-defense by trans people as aggression, as happened for example in CeCE McDonald’s case). And of course, trans people and especially trans women have to live in a culture that’s both a rape culture and a trans-eliminationist culture.

So: let’s remember the victims of anti-trans violence. And let’s also act to distrupt and eventually destroy the toxic patterns that make up trans-eliminationist culture, so that there will be fewer and fewer such victims in the future.

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A TERF not-pologizes

The well-known and influential radical feminist Gloria Steinem has written an apology (of sorts) about her past anti-trans writing.

On the one hand, she’s AFAIK the only well-known TERF who’s ever bothered to do even that much; on the other hand, the apology follows a notpology script just a tad too well*: she blames any harm caused on the internet, devotes most of the essay to explaining why she didn’t mean harm, and phrases the apology-line as very close to the standard “I’m sorry you were offended” notpology, saying “I’m sorry and sad if any words floating out there from the past seem to suggest anything other than support, past and present”. And then there’s the problem noted by activist Janet Mock in a tweet earlier today:

[Janet Mock ‏@janetmock
Not once in the op-ed does @GloriaSteinem write “trans women.” Doing so would recognize the fact that trans women are women. #girlslikeus]

Further, Toni D’Orsay points out that Steinem did more than write an essay. She actively contributed to the inclusion of TERFs into a feminism that had until then accepted trans individuals**:

IT wasn’t until Daly and similarly like minded lesbian separatists started getting really loud, really angry, and really offensive that trans people became an issue.
They did that at first from outside the mainstream of radical feminism.
[…]
Steinem was one of the people who helped to bridge that divide. Who worked to secure that change so that lesbian women could be included, and one of the ways she did that was to bring in Daly’s work and Raymond’s work into the awareness of mainstream readers through the vehicle of MS magazine and the New Yorker.

Monica Roberts at TransGriot similarly expands on Steinem’s actual contributions to cissexism:

Because you referred to SRS surgeries multiple times as ‘mutilation’, it gave credibility to the 1980 paper that Raymond wrote to Congress that led to SRS being eliminated from Medicare and Medicaid coverage and the insurance company medical exclusions on trans related health care.
It co-signed the anti-trans attitudes in feminist circles that have led to the suffering and deaths of far too many trans people. It led to trans people being cut out of desperately needed LGBT human rights legislation in the 80s, 90’s and early 2k’s.

Still, she said something that wouldn’t come out of the mouth of a dedicated trans-exclusive feminist; she said that “transgender people, including those who have transitioned, are living out real, authentic lives. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned. Their health care decisions should be theirs and theirs alone to make.” That is a big admission. An admission that she will, however, have to follow up with real deeds to undo the damage she’s caused and use her influence in feminism and in society as a whole to fight for the rights and acceptance of trans people; including trans women. Probably the simplest thing to do right now (for example) would be to sign the Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism. And Monica Roberts provides another (non-exhaustive) list of actions for Steinem to take:

Lobby with the trans community in Washington DC for a trans inclusive ENDA. Call out the trans exclusionary radical feminists and help us get the Southern Poverty Law Center to declare them as a hate group. Declare there is no room in feminism for anti-trans hatred and bigotry. As a Smith alum you can help us ensure that your alma mater puts admissions policies in place that allow qualified trans feminine students to enroll there.

Then, of course, there’s the other toxic effects of her paricular flavor of feminism. She’s yet to even do this kind of acknowledgment in the context of her anti-sex-work activism. She’s still promoting the Rescue Industry, and just today she tweeted support for a petition to get the UN to alter its stand (which is based on research and on listening to sex workers) on the decriminalization of sex work:

[Gloria Steinem ‏@GloriaSteinem
United Nations: #ListenToSurvivors — don’t jeopardize efforts to prevent #sextrafficking http://tinyurl.com/m8chxo5 ]

Overall, I’d say this is a babystep in the right direction. Not something she should be given any ally-cookies for, since it still fails to acknowledge the entirety of the harm done as a result of her anti-SRS work and her promotion of TERFs in feminism, and doesn’t so much as acknowledge that there’s anything wrong with any of her sex-work-prohibitionism. At this speed***, she’ll likely be dead before she arrives at a genuine apology for all of it; and even if not, many trans people and sex workers are going to suffer and die before she ever gets around to undoing the damage she helped/helps cause to them.

***Trigger Warning: TERF reactions to Steinem’s op-ed***

However, even this microscopic step forward has pissed off other TERFS. Maybe if they’ll now spend their time sniping more at each other, and less at trans women and trans rights activists, that would be an improvement [/wishful thinking]. Examples:

[Incendiary Lover ‏@incendiarylover
absolutely devastated & pissed that @GloriaSteinem has opted to erase women & lesbians w/transjacktivist sell out #radfem #cottonceiling]
[Actual Dykes ‏@ActualDykez
As Lesbians, we feel @GloriaSteinem has no idea what is happening to Lesbians under Transgenderism #cottonceiling http://fb.me/6CR6zgeZT ]
[E. Hungerford ‏@ehungerford
Gloria Steinem adopts #neolib identity politics as a means to end oppression against women. WHAT? GENDER hurts women http://goo.gl/XkcFTO ]

– – – – – – – – –
*also, I’m thinking “twin-spirited” is a mangling of “two-spirit”, the term adopted by North American tribes to describe gender minorities. It bugs me that she didn’t bother to even do a google-search to get this right (I did, to make sure “twin-spirited” isn’t an accepted alternative, or some other concept I hadn’t heard of).

**please do read the entire essay, it’s eyeopening if you’re not familiar with the history of and current actions by TERFs in feminism! the linky again. And also read the TransGriot piece in its entirety: linky again

***the text in question**** was written over 36 years ago, and supposedly she only now realizes that it’s criticism of SRS might get interpreted as being anti-SRS, even though it was part of the discourse that led to SRS (and other even vaguely transitiony medical treatments) being dropped from public aid and private insurance, as Monica mentions in her piece. Snails and glaciers would be insulted by a comparison.

****which also describes mutilation of intersex babies as “rescue”. Jesus Fucking Christ. Has she apologized for that yet?!