My knowledge of transgender began when, after posting an anti-porn comment on a liberal political site, I was recruited to join one of its forums. Although I understood, and was opposed to, trans-sexual, I wasn’t sure about the term “transgender,” but flattered by such a rare personal invite, I decided to check it out.
After randomly reading several posts, I was disturbed, confused, and startled. Why was this guy recruiting me? Where was feminism? or feminist issues? And women’s voices? Why the sexist slurs? The dearth of humor? What was I doing here?
Did these guys actually believe they were women? Is that it? Did trans actually mean trans? Were they born again as if from the head of Zeus? Or had they simply given birth to themselves?
My naivety embarrassed me. I obviously took the recruiter as some stripe of pro-feminist, and vaguely thought that trans might at least include extending the definition of male, as in incorporating some strong female attributes like courage, sensitivity, patience, commitment, competence, interdependence.
But my own harmless delusion was far outmatched by their more insidious one. To them, women’s identity was a pure social construct, biology be damned. It stole the most effective insight of feminism, women’s socialized subordination, and then inverted it into a weapon against them. By making the term “socialization” absolute and not subordinating (“gender fluidity”), it eclipsed women’s biology, history, and culture thus bypassing any resistance to their trans ritual.
So it was only too transparent that women’s absence here meant men could be more convincingly present as females. In fact, the displacement of women in cyberspace, and out in the real world, was trans’ logical conclusion. Women were so indeterminate that a definitive fantasy inside a male head bore more weight and import than women’s material selves, which could be erased with impunity.
These guys were impersonating male-imposed gender attributes which marked off women as other. To them women and sex were interchangeable. Women were sex. So, to be her, was to be sex, to have sex, and to signify her as no more than sex. This was called “transgression” into some “forbidden” zone, but it seemed more like the fulfillment of the adolescent fantasy of projecting females as erotically charged.
Yikes, but this was worse. Was I experiencing the next major backlash on feminism? Wasn’t this the newest version of the erotic assumption that upheld prostitution and the porn industry? Is this what the trans-sexual had rapidly morphed into? Via a buzz-brained shortcut? A brand new, unearned self-identity, assumed by the fiat of sex fantasy?
The forum was indeed evocative of the Men’s Rights Activists in terms of its cathartic misogyny (no “sissy stuff”) its circular logic, and its callow individualism. I sensed the same impersonal energy, the kind that reeks of corporate backing, the same men’s-camp bonding, and the same vapid assertions.
Was this the beginning of the end of women’s political basis, of women’s spaces, of women’s privacy, of Title XI? If so, this would be one more distortion, one more obstruction, and one more huge distraction set up by men to occupy women’s liberation.
The few posts I managed to compose drew silence. One was about their reactionary gender politics. Another questioned the fetishistic impulses and extreme stereotyping behind it. I think it must have been in the last post that I said: “thanks for ratcheting up the suspicion level of women for men, and specifically for pro-feminist men.”
For this was not the male supporters of women marching at the end of a “Take Back the Night” march, but men seizing the banners and taking over the parade; it was not men welcoming and recruiting women as guides in their pro-feminist groups, but men squelching the very idea of women-as women; and it was not men questioning all their prerogatives and entitlements in response to feminism, but men mustering every male advantages on behalf of a misogynist agenda.
Trans was a language of power, appropriation, and sex; indifferent and/or hostile to women’s lives, and experiences. In its re-invention of male as female, it steepened even surrealism commitment to fantasy’s power.
For, if men could be women, then who were women, and who were men; or, more critically, who was oppressed, and who was the oppressor? For, transgender not only erased the “binary” sexes, but concealed the domination of one, and the subordination of the other. It was the ultimate de-politcalization of women and of sexual politics.
Finally, transgender was so integrated into liberalism that I thought it must be bound for the same normalization process that both pornography and prostitution had undergone under this convincing arm of male hegemony.
But it also seemed that transgender’s extreme abdication of reality might self-destruct the cause, and undermine its liberal base. That was a wish.
I was wrong.