Trans


Sly is in pain, folks. Something is pretty seriously haywire with my neck…so there are gonna be more docs today, and hopefully we’ll get this all sorted out.

In the meantime, queer moments of what the fuckery up next.

From the coverage on Michael Glatze, a newly minted ex-gay…and former leader of YGA:

On the other hand, perhaps Glatze was never gay to begin with. Sexual orientation can be a confusing thing and it is certainly something that a person has no immediate control over. Perhaps Glatze was confused and was straight the entire time.

That’s Matt Comer, which Pam links to at the Blend.

Say what? Perhaps he was *really* straight the entire time? What a miracle! I just don’t get the idea of this external object to the self, “orientation” that is entirely immutable but can be acted against. He can be straight and have lots of gay sex….or he can really be gay and now is in self-denial. How about psychological drive to be in self-denial, or a sub culture? Maybe gay got too common, and he needed to take another step outside the mainstream? I have no idea, and these guesses make about as much sense as saying he was *really* straight. So what gives. Why are we still locked in an immutable binary of a sexual orientation that cannot be chosen in any way shape or form?

The other note I’ll make is that several comments on this article focus in on Michael noting that anal sex gave him intestinal cramps. The snark boils down to: you’re doing it wrong. Which, while a nice barb of liberals have better sex, is largely unwarranted. It happens. It’s not a sign from God to stop doing dudes, and it’s not proof that you’re incompetent at sex.

And in Liberals Gone Wrong, part five trillion and three…

..Y’know, one of my very, very gay women friends wrote me an email and said Honey, let me just explain something to you. When transsexual, when…when they’re going through the…the…the transgender op…they infuse the man with the female hormones, and they go wack-a-doodle on you. And, ah, Ann [Coulter] is obviously getting the hormones…big doses. That’s why she’s so bizarre right now.

That’s at Randi Rhodes of Air America.

Story at Transadvocate, with a hat tip to Autumn at the Blend.

That’s all for the morning…

-sly

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From time to time, Sly leaves orphans. Unfinished pieces, strands of thought drifting off into the ether. I regret this, but it is a natural by-product of writing. Sometimes, I lose focus on what would be a fine piece, and sometimes you are spared the most asinine of my musings that I might have been tempted to consider profound.

In the spirit of there being nothing new under the sun, particularly when it comes to blogwarring, i offer the following. This first came up a long time ago, when someone (i really do forget who) offered the ill-timed sincerity of relating to us just how awful those terrible Chinese were for practicing foot binding, right during the middle of Burqa-Photo-Gate-Shop-Wars. This has again risen to view in light of the strange and continuing conflation of transgender and racial issues in feminism.[1]

I will refer to both periods of time in which this piece is written as recent history, so take note, keeping in mind that we’ve been down this road before.

Technically, this post might be entitled: “The Other, Other, Worst Thing” and i’ll explain. In all the recent discussions on how western feminism relates to the burqa, one of the statements of why cultural relativism sucks is to bring up FGM. The most annoying thing about this is that I don’t know of a single cultural relativist, anywhere. [2]

It’s a frigging bat that conservatives use to whack “us” and now that we’ve found one to hit back, we’re trying it out. The attack that anyone who doesn’t support cultural intervention or colonization is a “relativist” is a particularly vicious strain of this new “progressive” teaching.

I don’t like to admit it much here on these pages, but Sly Civilian used to have a grand narrative. I wasn’t Sly back then, and many things have changed since. And one thing was my relationship to modernity. One part stubbornness, two parts ignorance, folded into a base of Western Acculturation which was then seasoned an uncritical and fucked up version of pomo washed around the halls of Undergraduate Institution. (I should be clear here that the problem primarily resided with New Converts, and not with the faculty. Get a bunch of 19 year olds to all think the same thing when they think said act is totally rebellious, and you’re gonna have some issues. Most got over it.)

So, in the midst of clinging desperately to my Grand Narrative, I was introduced to this work: Aching for Beauty, by Wang Ping.

She writes a fascinating cultural and social history of foot-binding, with special attention to women’s stories, reflections, and language around the practice.

I was intrigued. And my intrigued, I mean outraged. I knew I was beat if I went for the direct assault, so I ended up writing a very intense piece that tried to be fair to her argument for the first half, and take to to town in the close. I went to Orwellian linguistics, and the morality of simple speech, for crying out loud.

I know, dear friends, I know. My naiveite is painful, but you must read on. For it is a cautionary tale of how a well intentioned youth could end up being so very very wrong. That, and I had a point. The act of description is in fact, a moral act. Recall Subcommandate Marcos’ call for truth telling about the ongoing struggle in Oaxaca. The people’s move for justice is accomplished at the same time that the injustice is fully named. I was not just being a neo-con dilettante, but I had a genuine concern for the moral implications of speech.

The comments were, as I suspected, fairly withering. One sticks out. In a impassioned plea (imagine the pathos of a “won’t someone please think of the children” cry), I asked for the simple, honest truth…

“Isn’t that what she did?”

But…her narrative was ambivalent! It talked about how Westernizing pressure damaged society, and how women whose feet were already bound were summarily barred from civil society. It discussed the ways in which foot binding was both a violent and intimate act, and how women used that space to communicate, write, and be in community with each other…

Orwell is right. It is a dastardly thing to think that the glaze of the writer’s flourish is a replacement for sober honesty. And this is not just a peculiar flaw to the creative set, but an endemic malady of the age. Classics like “Down and Out in Paris and London” help form a blueprint for writing as moral act, and offer youths like myself something to aspire to.

But my professor was correct as well. I was faced with a very accurate truth telling. I just didn’t like it. The indictment of the West was searingly understated, the display of how ham-handed the interventions were, how painfully racist the rhetoric was…it made me hurt. I wanted to see progress, for something to address the queasy unease with which i regarded these stories of pain. But in that desire I did not care see the full dimensions of the social practices at hand, nor the self-interest of those who “opposed” them. For what were they opposed to? The image of the bound woman? The sexual rhetorics? The social status made available to women via this practice? Women’s intimacy and communication? The cultural self-definition of China? This was a truthful narrative, and the truth was ambivalent.

The worst thing in this world is not FGM, or a burqa, or footbinding.

What is? The answer to this does not lie at the end of the Oppression Olympics, but far closer to home. It’s the the way in which we abandon the ability to be truthful about our own exercise of power, however limited or expansive as it might be.

-sly

1. I don’t mean strange as in incomprehensible. I mean strange as in frustrating. As I’ve remarked previously, I think this has to do with conceptions of state power and knowledge. But it was squickfantastic to see folks like Bint totally disrespected over at heart’s, yet…it’s not like this is something new. Threads to read include Bint’s reaction here, and Kim’s take here. (Read the comments, too… Belle offers some really great moments, including the new to me information that Heart used to be a hot commodity in the Christian Home Schooling movement. You don’t say…) As for the nasty, transphobic, racist shit that got spewed…again…in the words of my great puppeteer, belle, “fuck you and the “we” you rode in on.”

2. That’s a lie. I did meet people who claimed to be in undergrad. That said, given the utter incoherence of their defense of what they thought cultural relativism to be, I’m going to chalk those cases up to them being idiots. Feel free to prove me wrong, though.

Dearest Sister, Brothers, Siblings, and Friends;

What the hell just happened?

I saw the thread a Twisty’s fairly early on, and for some reason I thought it might go the way that 99% of twisty threads go, with limited uproar at certain venues. A full scale blogwar, complete with delinking? I must be dreaming.

That said, y’all picked a good one. Transphobia is a steaming pile of shit right in the middle of the living room of the 2nd wave, and it’s a right moment when somebody calls that out. But it’s unfortunate in so far that such fights are rarely rewarding. Nobody is in a particularly good mood at the end of it. BFP and BA, my confidential to you is to send my love and/or beer. Take care and we’ll see you around soon.

About the only thing I can pull out of this is a reminder of how important it is to think about where the State is when you do your work. My friends, intellectual and activist co-conspirators, consistently tend to de-center the state when speaking about the future. Born of a deep distrust of the claims to justice and law given by the same, this aesthetic of dissent has about jack shit for time when it comes to promoting what desperately reeks of the old order. Whether it be welfare “reform,” the State backed “knowledge” of gender essentialism, or the criticism of whatever kink or expression came under fire today, I just can’t be arsed to see such profound differences in your project and that of conservatism. Yes, your motivations may be pure as something really pure, and so, so, soooo different than that of the state’s. But surely granting that y’all have a very legitimate grievance, must it be said that in responding, not all targets are fair game? When you find yourself lining up with the most powerful forces in society in getting squicked by genderfuck…what conclusions do you draw?

That genderfuck is pro-patriarchal?

This projection is why i stick out my tongue at Heart for claiming that Rad Fems have but only advocates against the all powerful might of Pornsitution. Yes, they as Rad Fems control few of the major resources at play in the Feminist World. Sure. But when Johnny Law is in your rolodex, and you have a history of snitching? Oh, see that’s a different game. So your “idle” talk of getting rid of blowjobs and S&M (which Heart explicitly endorses*) isn’t so idle.

Did you know that: until recently, sodomy was criminal in several states and that these laws enacted the marginalization of queer community? The more you know, because knowledge is power.

If you want to understand why a lot of us are getting together in this, why oh why it seems like there is a posse, cult, sliced bread appreciation committee, or other organized groupthinking going on, all you have to do is read Janet Halley’s “Sexuality Harassment” and then Bfp’s blogging on Oaxaca. Then, if you enjoy puking in your mouth, re-read the BJ and Trans wars, courtesy of Texas’ most abstractly queer woman.** For deeply held reasons, there are POC and sexual minorities, persons in poverty, and assorted other radicals, and combinations thereof who find themselves looking for alliances with people who get it. Who are just plain suspicious of state power and the reproduction of it’s values. Who understand that the Oppression Dick Measuring contests are all pointless, when the fact is you have to be alive in order to participate. Judging by that, there are two things I can tell you:

1. There is someone, now dead, who was until very recently way more oppressed than thou, causing said death.
2. You have something better to be doing with your time.

With this firmly in hand, alliance looks a little different. Like Halley points out, not all things converge onto a single point. The language of one struggle may choke when taken to new territory. And most of all, it forwards a new vision of conflict. If one struggle for liberation conflicts with another, I’m not looking for which one has to go under the bus. Understanding someone else’s movement from the perspective of how useful their idenity is to your cause is a problem. If your language and frames of thought require this conflict? Hold fast to what is good. And incinerate the rest.

Lesbian SM play parties are not going to bring down the revolution. Consensually kissing the ass of a human being is remarkably less damaging than consenting to kiss the ass of the state. And whether or not you explicitly reference the state in your post-radfem apocalypse or not, the fact of the matter is that it’s right there. There is a history of not only state interference in certain sexualities, but of radfem cooperation with the same. Halley speaks to this in the article linked above, where emerging theories of feminist law and practice increasingly engaged the state. But as Halley notes, the act of legislating sexuality in the work place both provides protection as well as creating a mechanism capable of legally excising queer idenity.

Moreover, you are speaking in state vocabulary. The mere act of thinking to remove an act of sexual expression from the face of the earth, is not just impractical or impossible, but a fantasy deeply rooted in the kind of sexy sexy power that only a legitimate monopoly of violence can afford. Community organizing your way to the end of porn? You’re kidding me. The claim to powerlessness requires that we actually believe that this is their sole avenue of recourse. Yet you have a state, just standing there, waiting to do the same. Coincidence? Sure.

The state continues to enact extra-legal harassment, as witnessed in the devastating violence levied against transpersons by police, both directly and by the consent of inaction. Cries that “real women’s” issues will get sidetracked in the great trans conspiracy evaporate into nothing when two of the headlining causes that the radfems (SaltyC cites Slade’s article) claim will go away as “men invade feminism” are sexual assault. Uh, what? WHAT?

Most of the rest revolve around health care access that respects the needs of individual women. Which is also not an issue for transwomen. *headdesk* Do you understand the words coming out of your own mouths? Just by the taste alone, you might realize that your speech is unsavory, but I’ll keep calling it out if I have to.

Now go do something better than reading.*** I believe hugs and/or consoling alcohol is in order, so go show love for everybody who got targeted, everybody who got derailed from their work, and remind each other that we’re here for a reason.

It would warm my queer heart.

-sly

* I am aware that the charge that rad fems want to ban X, is a controversial one. A fair reading of Heart gives no other option. In the comments at “Are Feminists Allowed…” she states an open goal of eliminating certain sexual practices. There is a special level of irony of decrying the ability of Rad Fem to impose internal standards, all while engaging in sexual bullying of those engaged in alternative sexualities. Why for instance, a straight woman takes it upon herself to police the content of lesbian space in the name of feminism is beyond me.

** Twisty’s actual sex life is, duh, none of my fraking beeswax. Her public writings on sex, however, are fair game. As Belledame has written about (sorry, can’t find it right now. Belle?), twisty’s focus is consistently on heterosexual sex, mores, practices, etc… The fact that queer perspectives are getting conflated with “pornstitution” in her thought seems to hark from a heterocentrist feminism.

*** I hereby announce the Nth semi-regular Radical Fun Day, if BFP would be so kind as to let me borrow the idea. Formal announcement pending approval and the cessation of my impending hangover.

Snarkity is at it again. Today’s “I don’t really mean this, but I’ll say it anyways” Award goes to:

Here, my experience, again, is, if someone offers a differing view of transgender issues than the one you hold, bfp, then that person gets immediately labeled “transphobic.” At that point, the discussion really ends. There’s nothing more to be said. Which is why I am saying, I hope space will be made at some point for the discussion I think needs to be had.

That’s from Heart at BFP’s place.

She’s got a point. I will now stop using the following discussion ending terms: racist, homophobic, sexist.

It’s not discrimination. It’s a difference of opinion!

Can’t we just learn to agree to disagree about whether or not you’re actually a person?

-sly

PS: I may or may not post more comprehensively on this later. But in the mean time, read BFP’s full thread, and also go to SE for commentary on the “crazy” baiting that accompanied the anti-trans rhetoric.