“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” ~ Martin Niemöller
*The following article contains a mini-critique of ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ and ‘Gaslighting in the Age of ‘Misgendering’ ‘ by Julian Vigo available at http://www.counterpunch.org. There are those better equipped than me to do a proper and in-depth job of critiquing these: mostly this article is the result of the doxxing of a trans* woman which is stupid, dangerous and in-excusable. Any accusations of lack of substance are therefore probably justified.
Existing even on the periphery of feminist and LGBTIQ discourse on social media, as I do, it would be nearly impossible not to notice the debates – and sometimes outright rows – around Transgender, privilege and intersectionality or Kriarchy (1).
As I have previously noted on issues surrounding transphobia, my approach is simple (2) – it is prejudice, it is oppressive and it is wrong. Even if you are unable to accept the idea that someone might not identify in accordance with their biological or birth gender, creating theories as to why they are deviant (or just plain ol’ confused) and exerting time, effort and energy in to publishing and publicising those theories is behaviour which is transphobic. And like any other prejudice, it has it’s defenders and those who will justify it, rationalize it and create great long diatribes as to why they are right. And when criticised for doing so, why they are being ‘victimized’, or silenced, or sidelined.
As part of the Church of England, this behaviour is nothing new to me: the former Archbishop of Canterbury – Lord Carey – regularly spouts in a similarly phobic manner with regard homosexuality and equal marriage. Other Christian groups expend time and effort claiming to be able to ‘cure’ homosexuality. As a heterosexual Christian I must, on a regular basis, stand up to say that neither they (or the erstwhile Archbishop) speak for me.
The BNP and EDL (and other racist right-wing organisations) expend similar energy, ire and time attacking people of colour and those of the Islamic or Jewish faiths. In the US, far right groups such as the KKK do the same. And as a white person I stand up and say that they do not speak for me.
This week, we have seen this rationalized and justified transphobia in 2 articles online in Counterpunch by Julian Vigo, who baldly states that SRS for a trans* woman or man is no less than ‘medical fiction’. The first of these articles ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ opens with the following statement:
“Since January of this year, the word ‘transphobia’ has been bantered about in mass media and social networking circles to such intensity that its definition has been expanded and in some instances grossly misrepresented.”
My first thought on reading this was – would she say the same about homophobia, or racism? Does she consider there to be a ‘gradient’ of bigotry? If so, is my chauvinist work colleague ok to call women ‘cunts’ and ‘sluts’ all the time because if I complain about that, am I somehow ‘grossly misrepresenting’ such misogyny ? If a person of colour complains anytime they are referred to in a racist way, are they ‘grossly misrepresenting’ the racism? If Vigo would argue differently in the case of misogyny and racism then clearly there is a degree of cognitive dissonance here. This idea that radical feminists should be allowed to be bigoted with impunity – for fear that they might feel overly-criticised – is no different in practice to the Lord Carey’s of the world who think that their homophobia should be beyond reproach because they are Christians.
I have often observed that fear is at the heart of much prejudice – and it is not that I lack either understanding or compassion for people who are afraid. But however afraid a person is, it cannot and should not excuse or justify bigotry. And you’re fear does not make that bigotry rational, or reasonable.
Vigo also address violent language used by some in the trans* community – and I must make it clear that under no circumstances whatsoever is this violence ever justifiable – but she does so without addressing any of the issues that play into such violence.
Let me clarify (lest I be misunderstood). Both the EDL and Islamic fundementalists are groups of people who have become radicalised and extremist, both in their language and behaviour. To any reasonable person, neither is justifiable – yet there are issues which play into the increased use of both violent language and violent behaviour which should be addressed if they are to be tackled and contained.
That fear is at least part of the problem – for both sides – is an observation that would be difficult to miss, although the reasons for that fear differ. For the radical feminists, I wonder if perhaps this fear is internalized – certainly Vigo displays that fear blatantly, along with the accompanying justification that trans* people are somehow sick or deviant, blaming the trans* community for their fear (trigger warning):
‘There is one guy who insists that not only does he have a vagina, but he has a cervix. How could he have a cervix? Yet he believes it and yet we are supposed to believe that he is not mentally ill? If I was being asked to have compassion for someone who is mentally ill, I have no problem. But I find it frightening that we cannot object to this.’ ~ Lierre Keith of Deep Green Resistance
That trans* community too live in fear; this fear has external causes – they are subject to violence, loss of work, home and family on a daily basis. When anti-trans activists (including the Lord Voldermort of the radical feminists) make it their business to out trans* people, and – as above – try to portray those they deride as ‘sick’ or part of some MRA conspiricy, it can do little but stoke that fear.
A response to the article by – ‘These Are Not The Radicals You Are Looking For’ (3) – by Dorian Adams followed, which Vigo characterised as an ‘attempt to shut her up’.
Um, yeeaaahhh – no. It was a critique of your publically published article.
But this further response – ‘Gaslighting in the Age of ‘Misgendering’ ‘(note the quotation marks around misgendering) – went one stage further. It publically outed (doxxed, in the parlance) a trans* woman.
And Counterpunch published it.
Lucy Meadows might be a name that you don’t know. Or you might have seen the hashtage #hernamewaslucymeadows on twitter and wondered what that was about. Well, Lucy Meadows was a school teacher who, with the support of the primary school where she worked and the vast majority of the parents and children – began the process of transitioning and went from being known by her birth name and being identified as a male teacher, to using her chosen name of Lucy and being identified as a female.
And then the press got hold of it and outed her.
Shortly after that, she took her own life.
So how bloody dare Counterpunch be so wreckless, stupid, irresponsible, dangerous, idiotic and callous (at best) as to allow this.
How Vigo can even think this is okay is beyond me, though I do not doubt she has her justifications. The bitter little joke of it is that she does this in defense of the Lord Voldemort of radical feminism who has a long history of outing trans* people and putting in them in danger.(4)
I can only pray that the decision to publish does not put a life in jeapordy. And I can only distance myself from such ignorance and hate, and stand with the trans* community as the best ally I can be.
And state – not for the first or last time – that as a cis-gendered, white, heterosexual woman (which is the privilege I have been given) : you bigotry is absolutely not in my name.