are trans people and half-breeds revolutionary just by existing?

Mischa Haider is a trans activist, the kind who writes about how motherhood doesn’t require a uterus and suchlike things.

Stating my biases up front, I disagree that the whole trans thing is theoretically sound or inherently subversive of anything. Inverting the binary doesn’t change it. It reifies gender categories to such an extent that people feel the need to surgically alter their bodies to conform to them. Gender is a crappy, external thing imposed on everyone, not just trans people. Everyone has a blend of masculine and feminine traits. More accurately, everyone has a collection of traits that, within a given culture, will get assigned to either side of a binary opposition.

We should just have gender-neutral virtues that society values and see people’s personalities as ok.

Haider came to my attention because of this article in The Guardian.

Attacking transgender people – especially transgender women – has become a favorite strategy for authoritarians, and Trump is no exception. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration is attempting to narrow gender identity to the one assigned at birth – thereby denying transgender people their place in society.

This is a deliberate attempt to deploy tried and tested transphobic messaging to rile up his voter base ahead of the midterm elections. Trump wants to rally conservatives while engaging in attacking a marginalized group that it is still socially acceptable to target. Unfortunately, support and inclusion of transgender individuals even among mainstream progressives is lacking, and even some self-proclaimed feminist movements advocate for trans exclusion in ways similar to the recent Trump directives.

This is fair enough, although I don’t think lumping “gender critical feminists”/”TERFs” with Trump supporters adds any clarity. It’s downhill from there:

The irony in this is that if we peel the onion it becomes clear that transgender people are not actually the real target of such authoritarian leaders. Though transgender people will be the ones annihilated on the frontlines, figuratively and literally, by this tactic, we form too small a minority to pose a serious threat to authoritarianism. Women’s liberation is what autocrats are attempting to quell with anti-trans measures. Strongmen have made their hostility and contempt for women clear, whether it is through promotion of rape as was done by the Filipino leader Rodrigo Duterte, or pushing a US supreme court nominee credibly accused of sexual assault while insulting his accusers, in the case of Donald Trump.

Posing a serious threat to authoritarians is not a requirement for authoritarians hating you. In fact, bullies prefer targeting people without the power to fight back.

Yeah, the patriarchy hates women, trans people, gay people, lots of people. There are various reasons: controlling women’s sexuality and reproduction, enforcing norms of masculinity, etc. The patriarchy can do lots of bad things without all of them being exactly the same underneath. This passage seems to be more about making the point that “trans women are women” than assessing the patriarchy’s motivations.

Substantial evidence exists showing that gender equality and greater participation of women in the democratic process leads to more inclusive and socially oriented forms of government. Autocrats rely heavily on the “might is right” model and perpetuation of socially constructed violent models of misogyny in order to exert power, and women’s equality and liberation challenges basic tenets of totalitarianism. It is not a coincidence that with increasing pushes towards gender equality and justice across the globe, patriarchal forces are striking back violently and propelling anti-women leaders such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro towards power.

There’s a real jargon fetish here. “Socially constructed violent models of misogny?” As opposed to what other kinds?

Greater participation of women in government is certainly good.

Reactionaries lash back. News at 11.

Progress on transgender issues, and the very existence of transgender individuals, also challenges the basis of male hegemony, because it blurs the boundary between men and women. The directives from the Trump administration on strictly delineating and defining sex as binary, immutable and determined by chromosomes and natal genital anatomy are basically attempts to demarcate a red line between men and women. The recent actions by the Hungarian leader to withdraw funding from any educational programs that deal with gender theory and an insistence on binary immutable sex is part of the same effort of transgender erasure.

And yet transgender people accept this binary opposition and simply want to be on the other side of it. How does that not reinforce traditional gender roles?

Transgender erasure is a weapon being used to fight against women’s equality. In order for a mechanism of oppression to exist between two classes in society, differentiation between them is crucial. In the same fashion as interracial relationships and mixed-race children were anathema to segregationists, transgender people pose a serious challenge for patriarchal structures. The inviolable superior status of white people over black people is challenged when there are people who are both black and white. Similarly, in creating gray space between male and female, transgender people subvert the patriarchy.

Mulatto here. This is not entirely true. While it’s true that our existence does challenge some ideas about race and make people uncomfortable, it’s absurd to say that our existence is inherently revolutionary. Slave owners like us just fine. Raping their fancy maids produced offspring, which was profit for them. There’s a long history of mixed-race people serving a very specific function in the racial hierarchy. Colorism is a problem.

Being transgender is treated the same way: there’s a lazy assumption that merely existing is somehow revolutionary. Not necessarily. Is Caitlyn Jenner a win for women? The first transgender fashion models and Playboy models? Yes, in Haider’s universe. As a dude, it’s not my job to be the arbiter of all things feminism. However, it’s fair to say that those “milestones” aren’t consistent with positions taken in a lot of the feminist canon.

So I’m skeptical.

Close