Ten Thoughts on the Current Conflicts Between RadFem and Transgender Activists
This is cross-posted from my blog, A Radical Profeminist.
Keywords for this post could include “Sheila Jeffreys” and “RadFem2012”, although the post is about issues beyond any one activist and that single event. Nonetheless, for some of the most current discussion serving as partial background for what follows, please see *here* and *here* (each at The Guardian).
1. I strongly believe female women ought to able to organise politically in social spaces free from harassment and interruption from male men, and from males who don’t identify as men, and from transgender and transsexual-identified people, and from queer-identified and male-identified people who are anti-radical and anti-feminist. To the female women who are attempting to do so: Good luck with that.
2. The current conflict between RadFem-identified women and transgender-identified people is glaringly white. As far as I can tell, the spokespeople for both groups are white with other structural advantages too; they appear to represent white-majority and white-dominated groups. Nowhere are the experiences of women of color and trans people of color centered. This means that it is likely that only white ways of resolving conflict will be employed and that other-than-white ways of resolving conflict will be avoided and ignored.
3. “RadFem” is not a synonym for Radical Feminism or Revolutionary Feminism, if Radical and Revolutionary Feminism, in and also beyond the U.S., is centrally (read: not peripherally, parenthetically, or through footnote) the work of activists and authors including Flo Kennedy, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Barbara Smith, bell hooks, Andrea Smith, Patricia Hill Collins, and hundreds of other radical, womanist, and feminist women of color. “RadFem”, as far as I can tell, is a term owned and promoted by an exclusively white group of female women. Such exclusive whites-only and/or white-dominated organising functions to maintain white supremacy even as it seeks to eradicate male supremacy.
4. “Transsexual” and “Transgender” are anglo-centric, white-centric terms and ways of dealing with a white male supremacist sex-race hierarchy based on the subordination of girls and women to everyone else. The analysis and practices that come from white transsexual and transgender activists often minimises or overtly ignores male and white supremacy while promoting liberal ideas and theories about sex and gender. Overall, white transgender theory and practice is, in my view, anti-radical and anti-revolutionary. Its theorists and spokespeople refuse to put women of color—many of whom do not embrace terms like “transgender” or “radical feminist”—at the center of their theories and practices. Many women of color who resist euro-/anglo-/white supremacy and Western cultural imperialism have their own understandings and experiences of gender and resistance that are not linguistically (or otherwise) existent in the white trans and non-trans imaginations.
5. White het male supremacist societies, such as many in the West, are dominated by liberal and conservative economic and social philosophies and value systems. In such systems and societies, there are two fundamental and ruthlessly enforced rules or codes of conduct:
- female girls and female women are supposed to exist in service to everyone else of every age. This includes being accessible, accommodating, acquiescent, appeasing, pleasing, arousing, submissive, silent, subservient, and subordinate.
- people of color are supposed to be of service to whites across sex. This includes being the opposite of “uppity”, being respectful to whites in ways whites determine to be respectful, not being threatening, and being submissive, silent, subservient, and subordinate.
A third rule is that whites and men ought never be fully or consistently accountable to women of color. If it appears to happen it will be accidental or in service to maintaining white control and male power.
6. There is a map of gender that whites have constructed and live by. It is a map detailing various routes of conquest and access into the lives of females of all ages, including girls and women across region, race, and age. It is a map of how to be a male man, which posits “man” as the opposite of and in a supremacist position over everyone female and feminine, as male men define and enforce such terms. It is a map of how to be white while ignoring the meaning and power of whiteness, including in progressive and radical white groups. It is a map that currently while marginally allows for the existence of transsexual and transgender people. But beneath that map are other, older maps. If you peel away or scrape off the surface map, you may find these older maps with other languages and ways of being. There are also contemporary social spaces where people of color are redefining and re-inventing non-white ways of being gendered without ignoring or minimising the power and prevalence of white and male supremacy. The disruption and interference, both psychically and physically, perpetrated by whites and men over and against female, intersex, and other people of color is so ever-present as to be unremarkable and unnoticeable by whites and men.
7. In many of these current debates, what female girls of color experience globally is ignored or unknown. How heterosexualised white and male supremacy, Western cultural imperialism, globalised corporate capitalism, and formal and covert militarism each impact the lives of girls of color is not consistently centralised in the theories, policies, and practices of whites who claim to be fighting for liberation. When girls of color are mentioned, it is usually to make points that (consciously or not, intentionally or not) either reinforce the rampant white supremacy in liberal and radical political struggles by and for whites, or reinforce the ruling male supremacy in conservative and orthodox political systems by and for men.
8. Right now, there are non-trans female people of color, and trans people of color, and third gender, and other-than-trans, and other-than-cis-gender people of color who do not see or experience each other as “the enemy” and who work together on small-scale and larger-scale liberation projects against the many forces that seek their invisibilisation and destruction.
9. I support female and intersex women and trans people of color being centrally involved in all revolutionary liberation struggles in ways that they determine to be politically viable and mutually respectful. Indigenous and non-Indigenous women of color are organising and sustaining most liberation struggles around the world. Far too many whites and men ignore them or try to subordinate and silence them, ignoring the destruction, disappearance, and deaths of girls and women of color, by murder and other means, including in the midst of very contentious debates between RadFem-identified whites and transsexual- and transgender-identified whites.
10. If your own liberation work doesn’t name, address, and consistently centralise the many economic, sexual, and raced hardships and horrors that over-determine and destroy the lives of millions of girls and women of color globally, and if your own civil rights and human rights work doesn’t employ the survival strategies and revolutionary values and practices of Indigenous and non-Indigenous activist women of color, why doesn’t it?