Shrinking to survive: A former trans man reports on life inside queer youth culture

Originally posted at 4th Wave Now

There is power in naming. It’s how we find each other, how we connect to our histories, how we connect to our futures. Driving us apart from each other is the easiest way to keep us from learning to recognize attempts to redefine our realities.

I didn’t know this then. I subscribed to an incredibly misogynistic set of beliefs for years. “DFAB privilege” was a common phrase in our community – “designated female at birth privilege.” It was accepted fact that being born female gave you a lifelong advantage over a male who transitioned. This included men who used transition only to mean using different pronouns on Tumblr and having an anime girl as their avatar. We believed that, as “dfabs,” we needed to shut up about our petty problems. We could never have it as hard as any “dmab women or non-binary people.” Everyone in the trans community agreed that it was our responsibility to uplift “dmab voices.” None of this seemed outrageous or strange to me; it felt pretty intuitive. Growing up under male domination is a grooming process that leaves many girls and women extremely vulnerable to manipulation.

The first experience that did make me start to feel suspicious of male transition was when I was 18 and a genderqueer-identifying man who had never pursued any kind of transition raped my best friend, a woman unacquainted with insular trans community politics.

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G.S.A. now means Genders & Sexualities Alliance

Originally posted at Purple Sage

Gay-straight alliances were originally created to support gay and lesbian students, but young people don’t want to identify as gay or lesbian anymore, even if they are actually homosexual. These designations are old-fashioned now, and much too “binary.” The cool thing to have now is not a sexual orientation, but a gender. In fact, sexual orientation is bigoted; anyone who has a sexual orientation is exclusionary and therefore oppressing people (especially if they are female and their orientation excludes males).

The goal of a gender and sexualities alliance is not to support gay and lesbian students, it’s to desegregate school washrooms and promote the idea that there are infinite numbers of genders that people may choose from, and that bodies need to be medically altered to reflect people’s “gender.” This does not help gays and lesbians at all, and in some cases it harms us. It reinforces sex stereotypes by claiming that anyone who is masculine is male, therefore lesbian women are encouraged to identify as male and change their bodies so that they appear male, instead of identifying as lesbian women. In addition, gender theory does not allow for lesbians to exclude males from their dating pool as long as those males “identify” as women, which is abuse toward women who are exclusively lesbian.

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There Is No Such Thing as a Lesbian With a Penis!

Originally posted on YouTube by Magdelan Berns

The infallibility of the oppressed: Story of one influential trans activist

Originally posted at 4th Wave Now

I predict that unless something drastically changes, we will be seeing many more youth like ours caught up in this trend: Kids who have been educated that being transgender is a normal variation of the human condition; that it is possible to change sex; that society needs to accommodate them; and that transitioning will solve all of their problems. These messages are especially attractive to children who have difficulty navigating the turbulent adolescent years.

Initially, the goal of trans activists may have been to make it more acceptable for boys to wear dresses and play with dolls and girls to be on soccer teams and play with trucks (which I think is a noble aim), but the activism has gotten out of hand. Now there are many confused children that are convinced that altering their bodies is the only option for happiness. And it has literally become a nightmare for many families.

I wonder at what point, if any, trans activists and their allies will start to question their crusade. I hope for the sake of our children that more of them, like the social justice warrior quoted at the beginning of this piece, wake up to the harms that their campaign is causing.

And, I hope that more people will start challenging the premises of trans activism. We need more people to realize that members of an oppressed group are not infallible. Being transgender doesn’t mean they know best. They are human like everyone else and their views should be assessed as such–not as all-knowing experts.

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The Politics of the Single-minded: Lessons From North Carolina’s ‘Bathroom Bill’

Originally published at The Huffington Post

Years ago, I left the board of Equality N.C. because the group decided to publicly oppose a national antidiscrimination law that would have covered gays and lesbians. The reason given was that the law didn’t cover transsexuals. I thought this was terribly bad politics. Transsexuals already had more employment discrimination protection than gays because of the way in which courts were interpreting “sex” in Title VII cases. Nobody seemed to care much about the legal reality. But more than this, anyone who understands civil rights politics knows that change is most often incremental. Legislative progress, whether it is at the local, state, or national level, rarely accomplishes all of our goals in one fell swoop. Instead, progress is achieved in baby steps, with each victory forming the basis of renewed activism and accomplishment. But instead of supporting protections for gays and lesbians while we could, some folks wanted to oppose a law that had the potential to relieve the suffering of countless gays and lesbians across the country and advance the movement in a way that only national employment antidiscrimination legislation can. I didn’t think it was fair to ask gays and lesbians to sacrifice ourselves in this way. It was a self-defeating single-mindedness that I could not abide.

After years of negotiation over the Charlotte ordinance, I was horrified to see that same single-mindedness rear its head again. And this time we’re all paying the price. Advocates and groups, loosely denominated “gay,” opposed any antidiscrimination ordinance without the controversial bathroom edict. The governor in no uncertain terms warned the Charlotte city council that if it proceeded with a law containing the bathroom-specific language he would call a special legislative session for the purpose of repealing it. Of course, given his history of crafting some of the ugliest, most racist, most misogynist legislation in the country to date, there was every reason to believe he meant it. But the single-minded “gay” groups and their allies pushed it anyway.

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Bruce Henderson’s Letter to the Lambda Literary Foundation

Originally posted at Alice Domurat Dreger

I have followed the complex history of the conflict between J. Michael Bailey (and now, by extension, Alice Dreger) and certain subsets of the trans communities for many years.  I believe there are things for which Bailey can reasonably be criticized (primarily rhetorical rather than methodological), as does Dreger, and she is honest and straightforward about them in her book.  I also know of the threats made against both of these individuals by their opponents, some of which involved their children, and many of which seemed to verge on the criminal.  It would appear that this is the intellectual “side” your foundation is choosing to take.  I would have advocated taking no side, and either nominating the book on its merits, understanding that such a nomination might raise hackles and, more importantly, support the continuation of the free flow of dialogue and discourse over ideas that are upsetting, even offensive to some, or not nominating it in the first place, had that been the collective wisdom of the judges.  Dreger has a long history of supporting intellectual, sexual, and personal freedom, and has been an advocate for such underrepresented groups as intersex people and conjoined twins.  Whether you agree or disagree with her particular stances should be immaterial, once a panel has decided her book had sufficient merit to be forwarded as a finalist.

And this is where your foundation has failed–and failed miserably and, it would seem, by your own choice, publicly, in ways that I firmly believe will be difficult for you to recover from, at least if you have any interest in the support of scholars and other writers and readers who take intellectual freedom at all seriously.  I can conclude only two possible reasons for the rescinding of the nomination.

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An Open Letter to the Lambda Literary Foundation

Originally posted at Alice Domurat Dreger

When I wondered who might have advocated for the book to receive a Lammy, I am happy to say that so many people I respect came to mind: Jim Marks, Victoria Brownworth, Dan Savage, Anne Lawrence, and others. The more I thought about it, the more finalist status made sense to me. Why should the Foundation, thirteen years after it was harassed unjustly, do anything other than march on without cowardice?

So I joyfully answered the congratulatory email I received from Lambda and started making plans to attend the awards ceremony in New York. Not too surprisingly, Conway and James soon launched a campaign against my book’s finalist status, but I pretty much ignored this. I figured the Foundation knew this would happen and was prepared to weather the storm.

But no. You caved. And quickly—much more quickly than the Foundation did under Marks in 2003. In spite of all the LGBT people who have actively praised my book, who have thanked me for the work, you quickly caved to a small group of bullies who have proven time and time again that they will do anything they can to get attention and to force everyone to adhere to their singular account of transgenderism, even when it negates the reported childhoods of gay and lesbian people, even when it denies the reality of many transgender people and attempts to force them into closets because of their sexual orientations.

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