11 December 2009

"No" to the proliferation of transphobia

This blog is in response in Ronald Gold's post at the Bilerico Project entitled "'No' to the notion of transgender." (If the link goes dead, we can assume that Bilerico has pulled the post.)

Update: Bilerico did indeed pull the post, but over at Pam's House Blend they have the original article in PDF  that you can view and even download in case you missed it.

Interestingly, the blog opens with a few paragraphs that deny biological sex as behavioral destiny, which is an idea that is vital to breaking down patriarchy and the related misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and all other systems of sex and gender based violence and oppression.  Mid blog he seems to come to an underwhelming crescendo of post-modern gender theory, writing

Let me state it categorically. There is no such thing as a male or female personality. Personality is not a function of gender." (Emphasis original)

On a queer blog in 2009 this is hardly revolutionary; regardless, I see no harm in rehashing that notion, even if it seems to be preaching to the choir.  Where things become outlandish, disturbing and offensive are in his very next statement:

So where does that put the concept of transgender? In my view, down the tubes! And that leaves the further questions of how transsexuals got to think the way they do, and what to do to resolve their dilemmas.

I won't repost his theory in its entirety here but he essentially states that transgender people are simply reacting to early societal and parental admonishment for transgressing traditional gender norms.  Additionally, he hopes to be "forgiven for rejecting as just plain silly the idea that some cosmic accident just turned these people into changelings."  He goes on to suggest that transgressing gender taboos such as clothing, hairstyle and have same-sex relationships can all be achieved without changing one's sex.

I have no idea where to even start, other than sending Mr. Gold to a gender studies 101 course at any decent liberal arts college.  He fails to clearly differentiate transgender (an inconsistency between a person's perceived/assigned birth sex and their gender presentation) and transsexual (alteration of one's physical sex via hormonal and/or surgical intervention.)  By including gay sex as a fading gender based taboo he would seem to imply that all transsexual people are actually gay but are altering their gender so that the sexuality would instead be straight.  This not only fails to properly disentangle notions of sex and gender from sexuality, but is also flat wrong, given that some transsexual people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer in their sexuality.

His bizzare closing paragraph supports legal protections for "cross-dressers and post-op transsexuals" but closes with this statement:

I would, however, get after the doctors - the psychiatrists who use a phony medical model to invent a disease that doesn't exist, and the surgeons who use such spurious diagnoses to mutilate the bodies of the deluded.

My only response to that is to ask Mr Gold, have you ever listened to a transsexual person tell their story?  He is not the first person I've heard put forth an opinion about transsexual people being delusional about their bodies.  I've heard a physician compare performing gender affirming surgery on a transsexual person to stapling the stomach of an anorexic.   Again, you have to wonder who or what these people are listening to.  I would submit it is their own internalized ideas and fears about sex, gender and sexuality because from where I stand, most transsesxual people whose stories I've taken the time to listen to describe a journey of greater and greater harmony between mind and body by way of their transition.

The question now becomes, aside from addressing the fallacies and offensive statements, how do we repsond?   The post is already prefaced by a standard editor's note/disclaimer.  Additionally, the tagline to the Bilerico Project is "daily experiments in LGBTQ."  This is clearly a failed experiment, but any scientist worth hir/her/his salt will tell you that a failed experiment doesn't get trashed; rather, it's mined for the invaluable data that will move you forward to the correct answer.

So yes, if Mr. Gold refuses to reconsider or apologize to those he hurt, then boot him from Bilerico.  With transgender and transsexual people the group most targeted for hate crimes and  trans women of color being disproportionately attacked and killed, we cannot continue to promote transphobia from within the queer community.  But before his dismissal or a boycott of Bilerico or anything else happens, let's make sure that the course of action we take is one that moves the dialogue forward and makes this world a place more loving and safe for our transgender and transsexual brothers and sisters.

With love and solidarity

1 comment:

  1. i'd have to agree with @nj_linguist re: 'transphobia'. Seems to me Gold is uninformed about the issue and, worse, uncaring about spreading his ignorance to his readers. That's far worse in my book than simply reacting out of fear. He's an educated man; he ought to know better.