Transgender Solidarity?

“This absolutization of identity, this quick abrogation of universality, strikes me as politically very dangerous. For a start: if in the constitution of your identity, I have no rights of cognition, participation, criticism, then on what basis may you ask for my solidarity with you except on the basis of some piety, some voluntaristic good will that I may withdraw at any moment?”

— Aijaz Ahmad, Indian Marxist scholar, “Culture, Nationalism and the role of Intellectuals” in In Defense of History, 1997


Those in solidarity with transgender people would do well to think hard about this comment by Aijaz Ahmad. It was made in another context but its relevance is striking. I see a dangerous trend throughout the land: anyone who questions the notion of gender or takes a critical stance on the phenomenon of transgendering–even a critically supportive stance–is likely to be condemned as transphobic. Indeed parts of the trans solidarity clique is acting very much like the Catholic Inquisition of the 17th Century. If you are found to be transphobic, your political position is not argued, you are simply banned. It has become nearly impossible to have open conversation about the issue of transgendering.

Robert Jensen, Professor of Journalism at University of Texas at Austin is a recent victim of the modern day Inquisition. His piece “Some Basic Propositions About Sex, Gender and Patriarchy” published on a blog called Dissident Voice caused a complete break with former allies, members of MonkeyWrench Books. The bookstore has said it will no longer even carry his other writings. In defending their decision to cut all ties with Jensen, the members of MonkeyWrench Books write,

“While Jensen’s article does not specifically advocate for physical violence against trans women, his statement both attempts to erase the experiences of trans folks and contributes to a dangerous culture of transphobia.”

Indeed, Jensen “does not specifically advocate for physical violence against trans women”–quite to the contrary! He approves of the radical feminist position:

“Most radical feminists believe liberation is achieved through a political project that transcends patriarchal gender, rather than accepting those gender roles and merely seeking to allow people to move between the categories”

He adds—and this is significant—that 

“Nothing in a radical feminist analysis minimizes the social and/or psychological struggles of—nor provides support for violence against—people who identify as transgender or people who do not conform to patriarchal gender norms but do not identify as transgender. Radical feminism is not the cause of those struggles or the source of that violence but rather advocates for an egalitarian society with maximal freedom without violence.”

How Jensen, the first man to our knowledge to take a position on the issue of transgendering, “contributes to a dangerous culture of transphobia” is not explained by the folks from MonkeyWrench books either. It surely seems that no one has “rights of cognition, participation [or] criticism” when it comes to the transgender issue.


For further reading:

Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Criticism of “Gender”

Women’s Liberation is Based on Sex Not Gender

What is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism

Transgender / Transracial: Why is one “courageous” and the other “outrageous”?

Gender, Patriarchy, and all that Jazz

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