An Example Of Controlling Antitrans Sentiments
Sheila Jeffreys recently complained about how trans activists have successfully petitioned a number of feminist and womens conference organizers to pull her invitations for her to speak at these conferences. The issue has been the antitrans sentiments that Jefferys expresses.
Here’s Sheila Jeffreys stating that in the Radfem Hub article The Need For Feminists To Challenge The Practice Of Transgenderism:
I was pleased to be invited to speak at the ‘Feminist’ Futures Conference that took place in Melbourne 28/29 May, because in the last couple of years I have been disinvited from or vetoed as a speaker at a number of feminist events such as conferences or Reclaim the Night marches.
Usually what happens is that members of a collective veto me, or they succumb to a campaign by transgender activists that pressures them to disinvite me, on the grounds that I am a ‘transphobe’. In the case of the Feminist Futures Conference the committee was brave enough to hold out against the campaign to disinvite me, which was mounted not just by transactivists but by pro sex work activists. I remained invited, but the campaign against me on the conference Facebook page, on a number of blogs and in letters to the committee was vitriolic and led to the committee inviting 4 representatives of the bullies to speak, and the placement of one of them on the panel I was to be on. I decided to withdraw and there follows the gist of the talk that I gave at an alternative event, named the ‘Real’ Feminist Futures Conference, which was organised at the last minute as a side event, and was very successful.
The campaign against radical feminists who criticize the harmful practice of transgenderism has been quite effective up ’til now in preventing any rethinking.
Radical lesbian feminist Sheila Jeffreys just explained how confronting antitrans sentiment works.
Let’s again first reprise what the concept of antitrans sentiment is. From Bayard Rustin’s essay From Montgomery To Stonewall, found in the book Time on Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin:
[T]he job of the gay community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual community. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.
To add the concept of “antitrans sentiment” to Bayard Rustin’s take on what our job today is, I’d restate his commentary in this way:
[T]he job of the gay community and the trans community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual and trans communities. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay and antitrans sentiments.
Some of the antitrans sentiments of Sheila Jefferies are found in Transgender Activism: A Lesbian Feminist Perspective:
If a solution apart from self-mutilation is to be available to the gender dissatisfied then it is important to interrupt the confident promotion of chemical and surgical solutions, even to the very young, by the medical profession, the popular media and fashionable queer politics. Janice Raymond does not consider that legislation outlawing surgery is the right way forward. I am not so sure, and classifying transsexualism as a human rights violation would be a step towards making surgery illegal…Feminist human rights theorists have suggested that the state may be held responsible through its acceptance or promotion for violent practices against women. The state support for the agony of transsexualism though funding of the operations, for instance, and acceptance of the promotion of chemical and surgical solutions in its hospitals could be tackled via the recognition of transsexualism as a form of violence against the person and therefore as a human rights violation. It does seem that transsexualism is growing in significance as a form of the violent destruction of lesbian bodies, supported not just by the pharmacracy but by queer, postmodern theory and popular culture’s exploitation of lesbians as freaks. It is time to open serious discussion of what the political response should be of lesbian activists ant theorists to this old by newly vigorous form of lesbian oppression.
Since transsexualism is socially constructed then it is important to consider how to counter the promotion of the practice.
…The medical profession need not direct the gender dissatisfied to surgery. Counselling is possible to encourage clients to take a more political approach to their situation and to realize that they can rebel against the constraints of a prescribed gender role, and relate to their own sex in their native bodies. Unfortunately many doctors are so convinced of the existence of a phenomenon they define as transsexualism that they do not offer any approach apart from self-mutilation.
From Jeffreys’ piece The Need For Feminists To Challenge The Practice Of Transgenderism:
Sterilization of the unfit is regarded with near universal opprobrium. This, I am quite sure, is the same fate that awaits the practice of transgenderism.
There are similarities and some dissimilarities between the two practices. The similarities include the forces that created the practice, scientists and the medical profession, the explanation, biology, the support from ‘progressive’ sectors of society, in some cases a similar set of victims, lesbians and gay men, and the aim, social engineering,. In the case of transgenderism the social engineering should be abundantly clear. The practice straightens out those who are a problem for the politically constructed gender structure that founds male domination. Those who do not conform to gender rules, and homosexuals, are surgically reconstructed to fit in. A whole industry and politics has developed to carve ‘gender’ onto the bodies of adults and children. Maintenance of the gender system is vital to the survival of male domination. Any challenge to the idea of gender threatens the main justification for the subordination of women.
Another similarity lies in the result of transgenderism, i.e. the removal of reproductive capacity…[T]he offer by the medical profession of in the present of transgenderism as a cure for the extreme psychological distress that those who suffer anxieties created by the gender system can experience, can be seen as an inducement that negates the idea that the practice is freely chosen. Quacks have always thrived out of the despair of their victims.
1.) Display solidarity with all our trans brothers and sisters.
2.) Build alliances by getting involved as ourselves in other areas of politics.
3.) Refuse to let journalistic and intellectual attacks on our community go unanswered – we can have and keep the moral high ground.
4.) Be creative, be smart, be ourselves, and don’t let anybody tell us who we are and what we do.
5.) Refuse the pathological model – we are not sick, just different.
6.) Refuse those politics – heterosexism, body fascism – that work against all of the above, but especially #1.
Sheila Jeffreys is attempting to define who trans people are, and what trans people do. She’s attempting to use the pathological model to define us as sick. Confronting her intellectual attacks — by informing feminist and women’s conferences she’s slated to speak at by telling the conference organizers that her comments about trans community are unacceptable to trans community, and stating the opinion that she shouldn’t be given a platform for the antitrans sentiments she expresses — is trans community confronting antitrans sentiments per Bayard Rustin’s concept of controlling the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay (and in Jeffreys’ case, antitrans) sentiment.
This isn’t squelching free speech — this is just our intra-community allies, at trans people’s request, to deny a platform to to people who express antitrans sentiments. It’s a way for trans people and their intra-feminist community and intra-womens community to stand against stigmatizing rhetoric about a particularly oppressed subcommunity of the feminist and womens communities.
Sheila Jeffreys believes the times are changing, however. She states in her piece The Need For Feminists To Challenge The Practice Of Transgenderism:
I think a tipping point has been reached [in the campaign against radical feminists who criticize the harmful practice of transgenderism]. Support for the practice has been almost total on the left, amongst all those who see themselves as progressive, amongst feminists and queer theorists and activists. Now it is clear that a rethinking is beginning, in the medical profession and amongst an increasingly broad swathe of feminists.
I believe she’s wrong, but we’ll all see if her statement is true in years to come.