#BlackAsianSolidarity, ‘women of color’ and ‘people of color blindness’

I’m not necessarily saying anything new in this post. People generally familiar with my writing and opinions about stuff will know that none of this is new (or necessarily original).

I don’t even know where the hashtag being discussed comes from. Some panel somewhere? Idk. In any case, as always, I have a lot of feelings and opinions when it comes to ‘Black-Asian Solidarity’. Most of them… generally negative.

I can never forget how ‘women of colour’ is a thing given by Black women to the rest of us. This link will take you to a specific timestamp of the video of Loretta Ross talking about how ‘women of color’ (and, thus, ‘people of color’) came from:

Well, a funny thing happened in Houston when they took the Black Women’s Agenda to Houston then all the rest of the minority women of color wanted to be included in the Black Women’s Agenda.

I hope it is apparent why this poses such a problem, when we consider the possibility of Black-Asian solidarity (or any kind of interracial solidarity between any group and Black people). I’ll take out the important part of the quote:

the rest of the minority women of color wanted to be included in the Black Women’s Agenda

The level of entitlement to Black people’s labour and bodies required to think that we (non-Black ‘women of colour’) ought to be included in the Black Women’s Agenda is pretty fucking amazing.

I can’t help but make connections between this and Jared Sexton’s “People-of-color-blindness: Notes on the Afterlife of Slavery”:

This point allows us to understand better the intimate relationship between the censure of black inquiry and the recurrent analogizing to black suffering mentioned above: they bear a common refusal to admit to significant differences of structural position born of discrepant histories between blacks and their political allies, actual or potential. We might, finally, name this refusal people-of-color-blindness, a form of colorblindness inherent to the concept of “people of color” to the precise extent that it misunderstands the specificity of antiblackness and presumes or insists upon the monolithic character of victimization under white supremacy thinking (the afterlife of) slavery as a form of exploitation or colonization or a species of racial oppression among others.

We can see that this specific poc-blindness is a pre-requisite for non-Black movements towards ‘solidarity’ (or coalition building) with Black people. Like, this specific attitude/disposition towards the flattening (and thus erasure) of the specificity of anti-Blackness is necessary for the non-Black women of color in 1977 to think that they ought to be included in the Black Women’s Agenda.

It’s over forty years later and nothing has changed.

(non-Black) ‘Asian’ solidarity isn’t possible with Black people so long as our “refusal to admit to significant differences of structural position born of discrepant histories between blacks and their political allies, actual or potential” remains constant. It also will not be possible so long as we keep approach Black people with this idea that we ought to be included in their agendas (whatever the agenda might be). In essence, solidarity isn’t possible so long as non-Black Asians continue to believe that Black people and their work are property that we are entitled to.

IDAHOT 2015: homoimperialism and progress

So today is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Yay.

What caught my eye today is this story, “LGBT Movement Making Inroads in Vietnam”. The story identifies two examples for how the ~LGBT~ movement is making inroads:

  1. “It has entered public debate, been given airtime by Vietnam’s mostly state-controlled media and debated at the National Assembly”

  2. “In late 2014, Vietnam repealed a law banning same-sex marriage. The new law does not recognise nor protect same-sex couples, but the move is widely seen as an official, and surprising, nod to the LGBT community.”

The first point is, yes, a good thing. The second part demonstrates the ways that the ~lgbt movement~ broadly understood is a white homonationalist thing. Or, because we aren’t talking about the US, homoimperialism. Why, exactly, is gay marriage1 being seen as the ultimate measure for progress? Well, because this is pretty much what the white cis gay movement has declared as its number one priority.

It all seems extra strange when you look at one of the quotes from an activist in Vietnam:

“Only five years ago, I think none of us thought about working with the law, changing the law. We were only discussing (how to address) stigma and discrimination”

Thus, we can see that locally, this law banning same-sex marriage hasn’t been a priority.

The interesting omission in this story is the news I’ve been seeing recently about Vietnam’s progress re: trans rights. From the story, it isn’t much, saying that the government is only considering recognizing trans people, but this has the potential to allow trans people in Vietnam to access trans-related healthcare and update their identity documents. Two things which would have a huge impact on their lives.

However, via the dictates of white homoimperialist standard of ~lgbt~ progress, only the repeal of a ban (not legal recognition or protection) is considered progress worth mentioning. And, no, this isn’t a condemnation of the article itself or the person who wrote. This is discussing the ways that a US-based homonationalist narrative becomes global and frames all narratives around LGBT rights and progress.

  1. I know that the preferred term for ‘gay marriage’ is ‘same-sex marriage’ but I really think that this ends up being a euphemism. Especially in the context of this post and how US-based homonationalism creates a hegemonic discourse, ‘gay marriage’ is more ideologically correct. 

why i don’t respond or listen to ‘criticism’

Realizing that I must be true to my nature, I am going to talk about this alleged critique of me. Because, yes, I’m petty like that. I already understand that all this blog post will do is demonstrate to that person (should they read it) that, yes, I accept no criticism unless it is for ‘cred’. When, in reality, I actually accept any and all criticism offered in good faith.

This? Was not in good faith. It was disingenuous and dishonest. And the years I’ve spent writing and discussing various things online have sensitized me to when people attempt to criticize me in bad faith.

The first and primary indication that this ‘criticism’ is disingenuous?

I have zero interest in getting into it with the OP

Okay… so why did you put your comment on my post? A person with a genuine lack of interest for ‘getting into it’ with me wouldn’t have made this comment where I’d be guaranteed to see it. This is the primary rhetorical trap of the criticism. Especially when considered in context:

I have zero interest in getting into it with the OP about this because it’s pretty obvious that they only respond to criticism from people they want cred from…being about as receptive to criticism about your bullshit as Amanda Marcotte

So. We can discern from this that this person has at least some familiarity with me. They know who I am. I do not, however, know who they are. This also implies that they’ve seen me respond (or not) to criticism in the past. Thus, this sentence’s main purpose is to bait me into responding. If I don’t respond to them, then I confirm their claim. However, and this is where the trap is, if I do respond ‘appropriately’ (however this is defined by them) then I legitimize their criticism of me. If I respond in an inappropriate why, I still confirm their claim that I don’t respond to criticism.

People can see that I responded in the ‘inappropriate’ way. What is the main problem with their ‘criticism’?

They’re critiquing a position they attribute to me, rather than my actual position.

“hey, radfems are mainly just targeting sex workers now so lol at trans women still thinking they’re the problem.”

This is a paraphrase that misinterprets my argument and puts words in my mouth. This is also the position they are criticising. But this is not my actual position. While it does turn out that this interpretation is understandable based on the ambiguities in the post they are criticising, at no point do they seek clarification from me.

Yet, as I pointed out, their inability to read for context or nuance isn’t, in actual fact, my problem. And it isn’t. Just as their misinterpretation of my position and words isn’t actually my problem, especially not if they haven’t made any effort to seek clarification on my position.

Of course, their misinterpretation of me (and my positions) goes further than this…

they only respond to criticism from people they want cred from, but this is radical politics at its worst

The assertion that I respond to criticism (or do anything, for that matter) for the sake of ‘credit’ again relies on attributing motivations and a position to me that isn’t actually mine. Who is giving me this credit? What purpose does it serve? To me, this reads as if they think that I write and socialize online out of the belief that it is a popularity contest. Or that what matters to me is the appearance of “giv[ing] a shit about marginalised people because it is politically useful for you personally at that point in time”.

Politically useful? Personally useful? How?

I’ve been open and vocal, in the past, about the fact that I’m not part of any movement. I’m not an activist. This isn’t my career. I do make a small amount of money from publishing my writing (basically enough to cover my t-blocker prescription every month). I don’t organize things. This ‘credit’ I gain from pretending to care about maginalised people doesn’t do anything for me. In terms of absolute numbers, I’m not a popular blogger (or tweeter). I won’t say that my writing doesn’t have influence, it does. But this influence doesn’t do much of anything for me.

Or, rather, what it does ‘for’ me is get random assholes on the internet convinced that they are entitled to my attention and time because of some position they’ve misattributed to me.

That this person is attributing positions to me that aren’t mine is also clear from the ‘radical politics at its worst’ comment. I feel like I’ve written, on multiple occasions, how I disavow radical politics. Actually here is a tweet from the past week:

i’m not radical. i’m very happily not radical. i don’t want to be radical.

So, again, this isn’t real criticism of me or my ‘politics’. On one valuation, their critique is correct, my politics are radical politics at their worst because… they aren’t radical. But wait… if my politics aren’t radical, then why would I do anything for ‘cred’?

Amusingly, one of the things I hate about ‘radical’ politics and its respective community, is the political posturing that goes along with it. The constant jostling for who is most radical and who has the ‘right’ politics. Shit like this is exactly why I have no interest in being perceived as radical. I’m not and I want it that way.

But what does any of this matter? The important thing is the rhetorical trap. Unless I respond to this ‘criticism’ in whatever way this person has deemed acceptable, I’m exactly like amanda marcotte. And the acceptable way to respond to criticism is apparently allowing people to put words in your mouth and pretending like this is actually a position you hold. The acceptable way is treating disingenuous, dishonest, and bad faith arguments like they aren’t disingenuous, dishonest, or made in bad faith.

None of which I’m about to do, so I guess I’m just like amanda marcotte. C’est la vie. Please allow me to remain a cautionary tale of what terrible radical politics looks like. And all oranges suck because they are bad at being apples.

But this person should, at least on one level, be gratified. Here is a thousand word response to your criticism! I hope you enjoy it.

clarifying intent

So now that I understand where this criticism of this post is coming from, I do feel like I need to clarify what I meant in that post, since the conclusion my interlocutor drew from the post is reasonable (although not correct). I can definitely understand why that person thought that what I was saying is that (white) trans woman shouldn’t bother with radfems any more bc, in recent times, they focus (at least publicly) more on sex workers than trans women.

In a lot of ways, I still find it fascinating that fakecisgirl’s post on MRAs being the biggest enemy of trans women remains so controversial. I mean, it shouldn’t be a wild thing to assert, that men are a bigger threat to women than other women. Men have more access to power and resources. They are, in fact, our oppressors. Women can and do oppress other women, as in the case of cis radfems oppressing trans women. Yet, to me, it seems uncontroversial to point out that men pose a bigger threat. This statement doesn’t imply that cis radfems aren’t a threat and, thus, we don’t need to resist or oppose them. All it asserts is that men are our greatest threat. That’s it.

(I hope if I’ve mischaracterized fcg’s post, she’ll let me know.)

This explication is necessary because it provides the context for my comment. My comment is posted to agree with fcg, re: men(‘s rights activists) are the greatest threat to trans women. As evidence for my agreement, I make note of the fact that contemporary radfem discourse targets sex workers far more than it does trans women (although, we aren’t entirely off the radfem radar). I conclude with a statement about how white trans women always frame their opposition to radfems in terms of transmisogyny, rather than recognizing that sex workers are the number one target of radfems these days. I make this comment as a way of marking the ways that white trans women centre themselves in their opposition to radfems and don’t actually care or do much about the ways that radfems violently oppress sex workers. It is a comment about how sex workers are erased from much of white trans women’s discussions about why radfems are awful and ought to be opposed.

What I’m saying here, is that, as one example, when white trans women attempted to shut down the radfem event at the Vancouver Public Library, they primarily cited transmisogyny/transphobia as the reasons why the group is hateful. When, in reality, the focus of that event was on sex work. Thus, the white trans women who attempted to shut down the event erased the impact on sex workers and centered themselves. What ought to have happened, is that the white trans women ought to have opposed the event because it targeted sex workers and sex worker’s rights/protection/safety is an important (or ought to be treated as important) priority for the trans community (particularly for trans women of colour).

So the intended take away from the post is that radfems should be resisted and opposed based on their current focus on sex workers, rather than invoking their past focus on trans women. Not that trans women should stop resisting radfems because they focus on sex workers.

However, since I do understand that ‘intent isn’t magic’, I will apologize for the harm caused by the lack of clarity.

(And, should my interlocutor ever read this post, I respond to criticism offered in good faith, which yours wasn’t.)

the start of the gay rights movement (or the birth of Gay Inc)

One of my tweets seems to be getting a lot of notes on tumblr…:

the 'gay rights movement' doesn't start with stonewall. no it starts with pushing out sylvia rivera and twoc for respectability.

I want to provide some context to explain why I make this assertion. One of the most interesting things on Sylvia Rivera’s wikipedia page is this statement from Michael Bronski:

After Gay Liberation Front folded and the more reformist Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) became New York’s primary gay rights group, Sylvia Rivera worked hard within their ranks in 1971 to promote a citywide gay rights, anti-discrimination ordinance. But for all of her work, when it came time to make deals, GAA dropped the portions in the civil rights bill that dealt with transvestitism and drag — it just wasn’t possible to pass it with such “extreme” elements included. As it turned out, it wasn’t possible to pass the bill anyway until 1986. But not only was the language of the bill changed, GAA — which was becoming increasingly more conservative, several of its founders and officers had plans to run for public office — even changed its political agenda to exclude issues of transvestitism and drag. It was also not unusual for Sylvia to be urged to “front” possibly dangerous demonstrations, but when the press showed up, she would be pushed aside by the more middle-class, “straight-appearing” leadership. In 1995, Rivera was still hurt: “When things started getting more mainstream, it was like, ‘We don’t need you no more'”. But, she added, “Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned”.

Encapsulated in this paragraph is such an important bit of context and history for understanding how we got from rioting in the streets to Gay Inc.

The way history is usually told, the ‘gay rights movement’ started with Stonewall. This paragraph reveals how this is a lie…

Instead we see how Stonewall veteran Sylvia Rivera was an active participant in the post-Stonewall organization and mobilization. Except… we see how her labour was exploited “It was also not unusual for Sylvia to be urged to “front” possibly dangerous demonstrations, but when the press showed up, she would be pushed aside” but the issues she advocated for pushed out of the ‘movement’ born in the aftermath of Stonewall: “for all of her work, when it came time to make deals, GAA dropped the portions in the civil rights bill that dealt with transvestitism and drag”.

And the key terms of how the GAA differed from the Gay Liberation Front — “reformist” and “increasingly more conservative” — because the “several of its founders and officers had plans to run for public office”, here we see within just a few years post-Stonewall, the language of the ‘movement’ shifts from ‘liberation’ to ‘rights’ and how the people and organizations themselves shift to a politics of assimilation.

Drag and trans women of colour cannot be a part of the ‘rights’ bill because we are ‘extreme’ elements. Trans women of colour and queens like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson are required to be on the front lines but not in the spotlight.

This is the true beginning of the ‘gay rights movement’. The year is 1971 and Gay Inc1 is formed using the exploited labour of trans women of colour while at the same time strategically and purposefully pushing us out. And so the formula and pattern for gay rights activism is set out… and repeated time after time thereafter (see also: Human Rights Campaign).

In other words, ‘gay rights’ has always been homonationalist. And homonationalism requires both the exploitation of twoc and our continual exclusion/exile. It depends on being perceived as working on behalf of ‘lgbt’ people in general while strategically working to ensure that trans women of colour are never included as actual human beings (only as tokens, as exploitable labour, as bodies, but never as fully human, complex people who require safety, care, and dignity).

The year is 2015 and nothing has changed for Gay Inc.

Stonewall UK just this year began to advocating for trans issues. And no sooner does this happen than white cis gay men claim that “the Stonewall riots were a violent reaction by gay men and lesbians… They were not led by representatives of the transsexual community”.

One of the reasons why I keep going back into the history of the early days of Gay Inc and teh ~gay rights movement~ is precisely this. The riots remain a contested site of history, with white gays and lesbians actively working to ensure the violent erasure of twoc from this revolutionary moment and its impact on the world (as well as our violent exclusion from the organizations they built on our labour and backs). This is also why I want the story to change.

The ~gay rights movement~ begins in 1971, not 1969.

  1. And when I say ‘Gay Inc’, I used to mean this in a general… corporate/capitalist sense, but it turns out that the Gay Activists Alliance actually incorporated, something which is deeply ironic to me. 

comments on “being safe, being me”, the national canadian trans health report

Since this is kind of a big deal in my neck of the woods (Canada), I do want to make a few comments about the recently released report on trans youth, “Being Safe, Being Me” (this link takes you to the pdf). This is the first national report for trans people in Canada, not just the first report for trans youth. While it’d be great to have a report on the entire trans population, this is definitely a good thing.

In today’s climate of ‘data-driven’ or ‘evidence-based’ decision making, reports like this are crucial for funding services for marginalized populations. Unless you are quantified and, thus consumable, by the state, you will be ignored and left outside of the sphere of social services. This, of course, is a distinct problem that isn’t necessarily a criticism of the report itself.

However, it is a problem in the sense that, and I’m seeing this in many articles about the report, this is being marketed as a ‘report on trans youth’ in general. Except, that once you get into the actual demographic data for the population surveyed in the report, nothing could be further from the truth.

In section two, we get these demographic details:

  • 74% of the youth surveyed ID’d as white (10)
  • “nearly three quarters of trans youth in our survey were assigned female at birth” (13)
  • for youth age 14-18 “over 60% of them did not work for pay” (20)
  • only about 32% of youth 19-24 worked at a paid job (20)
  • 80% never went to bed hungry because of lack of money (29)

Basically, this survey and report gives the current health of middle-class+, white, afab trans youth. Essentially the same people who tend to already be at the top of the general trans community. The most advantaged within the community.

The report also, unfortunately, does not give any information or analyses based on these various factors. Like… was there a difference in food security and race? What about poverty indicators and experiences of discrimination? Anything nuanced at all?

No. None of that.

Which is a real shame because this survey had a high response from Indigenous youth (10%). This is pretty much one of the only trans-related surveys I know of that has such a high Indigenous participation rate. It would be incredibly useful to know how the health of this population is specifically, rather than in aggregate with settlers.

Basically… I know that this report will feed policy and be discussed re: trans stuff in Canada until we get a new survey with better data and analyses. And this is a problem because this survey doesn’t represent ‘trans youth’ but rather the most privileged subset of the group.

a relatable, humanizing champion

One of the things I’ve been talking about on twitter since the Bruce Jenner interview everyone is talking about, is some of the reactions I’m seeing from the trans community. Particularly, white trans women. On seeing my third story that essentially calls Jenner the relatable/human/champion the community needs, I feel like the time has come for a proper blog post about this. Because, well, white trans women are white women and white women have a really long history of silencing, exploiting, coopting, erasing, etc women of colour. White trans women are no different from this.

In another sense, this is going to be a post about celebrity, fame, and (hyper)visibility.

The first story I read was “Jenner Humanizes transgender cause”. This wasn’t written by a white trans woman, but one is attributed as saying “Jenner’s openness humanizes the issue” (the ‘issue’ being trans/gender).

The second story I read is by a white settler in new zealand who wrote an article called “we need a champion for transgender acceptance”. She writes:

Despite all the hype, Bruce Jenner has started the transgender community on the road to acceptance.

It has been going on for a considerable time with the stories of Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, Geena Rocero and so many others, but we have needed a ‘champion’.

The third story, on the surface, appears much better since it mentions the reality of everyday trans people, also written by a white trans woman. She writes:

Life isn’t as bad for all of us as it has been for Ms. Diamond1, but it’s bad enough, for enough of us, that to call Jenner brave is like praising my cat for all her hard work in curling up on a warm cushion and sleeping all day. It’s not right that we’re so taken with him, so impressed, when so many others are forgotten or maligned or thrown away to die.

And yet, that’s exactly why Bruce matters so much. Yes, of course the public should care more about transgender people who aren’t white or famous or rich. But they don’t. That’s human nature. We sympathize better with others we perceive as being like us. For the white, middle-class majority, that’s someone like Bruce Jenner.

I hope that people are beginning to notice a pattern, here. During the same period as Jenner’s interview, Laverne Cox became the first trans woman to win an Emmy, for her documentary on trans youth. Big deal. Janet Mock also just got interviewed by Oprah. Again, a big deal. Ms. Cox was probably the most ‘famous’ trans woman before Jenner came out… but both her and Ms. Mock have been, as the second story notes, trailblazing for trans people for years now. Importantly, as I noted on twitter yesterday, they’ve done a great deal to educate the mainstream media on how to respectfully interview trans women.

In many ways, their work and selves create the ‘road to acceptance’ that Diane Sparks attributes to Jenner’s coming out.

All of this is deeply important for how the white trans community has been reacting to the interview. These three stories build a fairly clear picture that white trans people have been waiting for any given white trans person to overshadow Ms. Cox, especially.

Now, as I’ve also been saying, this isn’t about Jenner specifically. Part of the problem I have with how the (white) trans community is responding to this is that Jenner is being lauded as a hero, despite not have had the time or opportunity to actually shows us what kind of trans advocate/activist he is planning to be (or if he is planning to do any advocacy at all). We just don’t know. All we know is that he is a white, wealthy, republican trans woman who just came out. That’s it.

And, yet, it is Jenner who is the ‘champion’ who got ‘us’ started on the road to acceptance. He is the person who humanizes trans/gender. He is who the ‘public’ can relate to. This speaks to the general systemic issue that many Black women have to navigate. Jenner literally does nothing but be himself and already is more accomplished and praised than Ms. Mock and Ms. Cox. Their years of advocacy and work? Secondary to Jenner’s mere existence.

All of which is to say “Black trans women aren’t human” and/or “trans women of colour aren’t human”. This is what is fundamentally being communicated by this framing of Jenner’s interview. Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Geena Rocero are not champions, despite literally being the path Jenner (and these white woman) walk on. Janet Mock obviously cannot ‘humanize’ trans/gender despite having written a personal and beautifully written best-selling memoir. Laverne Cox also cannot humanize trans/gender despite how she talks about she isn’t reliably coded as a woman or her insecurity about her body and beauty. And these things can’t be related to by the ‘public’, so long as this ‘public’ is understood to represent the default cis, white, middle class human.

Part of the problem is ‘audience’ and/or ‘public’. Maybe trans people can relate to Ms. Cox and Ms. Mock, but cis people can’t.

But, of course, the notion that a wealthy, white, conservative is more humanizing, relatable, and a champion compared to (hyper)visible Black trans women isn’t something that a lot of people seem ready to explore. But also how these white trans women project onto the public how they perceive the interview. By their own framing, they are not the ‘public’ as trans women. And so, because they find Jenner more human, relatable, and champion-material, thus so must the cis, middle class, white ‘public’.

I also pointed out on twitter that the reason I care about this, is because of how history is currently being written. With Jenner’s interview being placed on the same level of historical significance as Elle’s coming out, we are currently in the middle of history being re/written. This is just the beginning. From this point on, regardless of Laverne Cox’s 2014 TIME magazine cover with the headline “The transgender tipping point” (already being appropriated to talk about Jenner’s interview), Jenner’s interview will be treated as the ‘tipping point’ for trans ‘rights’.

Within a week of the interview, we are already seeing how white trans women are working to diminish and erase the monumentally important role that Black trans women and/or trans women of colour have had in reshaping modern transgender discourse. This is exactly what white revisionism looks like. And, sadly, I know that this one blog post and my recent tweets won’t make much of a difference. White supremacy is a powerful thing and, regardless of Jenner’s own actions, it has an important investment in him and how the trans community perceives him.

  1. For those who don’t know, “Ms. Diamond” is Ashley Diamond. She is a Black trans woman incarcerated in Georgia who just won the right to access (some) trans-related health care. This link will take you to a video of her talking about her case, TW for assault, rape, medical abuse 

umbrellas, reclaiming slurs, and community

Inasmuch as I’m not really interested in having a discussion over the edge cases of ‘queer’, I find myself — after a nice sleep — troubled by certain elements of the shit that went down on tumblr over this post.

The most troubling assumption was, especially amongst the teens who were arguing against me, that ‘queer’ isn’t a slur… because it has been reclaimed. And, thus, even if you aren’t, have never been, and will never be a target of the slur, you can use it to identify yourself.

This is false.

Queer is a slur. Yes, it has been more widely reclaimed than many other slurs, but it is still a slur. This isn’t even an historical argument (ie, it’s violent past). It is used hatefully and violently today. There are people properly under the ‘umbrella’ of queer who are actually triggered by the word and do not want anyone (including other queers) using the word in reference to them. You are denying the lived experience of these ppl when you act like ‘queer’ is no longer a site of violence, but rather something aspirational.

The next troubling aspect is people equating ‘lgbttqia+++’ with ‘queer’ as if both of these things refer to the same thing.

They don’t.

Here’s a great example:

asexuals are usually excluded from LGBTQ groups. it’s hard to find sanctuary with other queer people because

‘Queer’ and ‘LGBTQ’ aren’t interchangeable. They don’t refer to the same set of individuals.

Saying someone doesn’t have the right to reclaim a slur, is not the same as saying someone isn’t under the ‘lgbtqia++’ umbrella1.

Why isn’t ‘lgbt’ the same as ‘queer’? This leads into the third thing that is something I’ve talked about a lot:

There is no ‘lgbtqia++’ community.

It is an umbrella acronym that refers to distinct (but overlapping) communities. Each of those letters stands for a community with its own experiences and its own needs.

It is a terrible mistake to think that there is a general ‘lgbt’ community that exists and that people can join. Terrible on an individual level because it leads to nothing but disappointment and disillusionment when you find out that, for example, cis gay men literally do not give a fuck about anyone other than themselves but hold most of the power and wealth. And that most of the national/large ‘lgbt’ organizations really only cater to cis gay men and their needs2.

It is also a terrible mistake on a inter-community level. Acting like we are all one community elides and erases the fact that our distinct communities actually have different needs and different priorities. It also, importantly, prevents any real movements towards solidarity between communities.

What people really communicate when they say that the lgbt community is a ‘community’ rather than a collection of communities, is that they want admittance to Gay Inc, which claims to represent and BE the ~community~ but actually serves the interest of a select few. All of this built on the backs of trans women of colour.

  1. And, yeah, I was around when the alphabet soup acronym was first being used… unfortunately, the ‘A’ did, originally, stand for ‘allies’. And I’m so fucking glad that it doesn’t any more. Asexual ppl belong in the umbrella, allies do not. 

  2. See also: homonationalism. 

defending the right to oppress…

Days later and I still find myself irritated by this exchange on twitter:


I’m not surprised how that person decided to explain their defense of ‘women’s right to be transmisogynist’ via ‘free will’ (I had blocked this person by this point and only saw the explanation just now).

But do you see how explanation is disingenuous and displays a real lack of understanding of power and oppression?

In the first response, we see that they “defend cis women’s right to be inclusive or not”. Then I ask them straight out ask if they really mean they defend cis women’s right to be transmisogynist. They concur.

Now. The greater context for this twitter exchange is my post about free loaders/bad actors and legislation being written to exclude trans women from accessing gender appropriate public accommodations. So, to be clear, we are talking about real and actual policies and legislation. The context for this is actual stuff happening in the real world that has a material impact on how trans women (of colour) are marginalized.

And then…

Suddenly I’m indirectly being accused of being the ‘thought police’ and we are talking about ‘opinions’.

When in reality, the thing we are talking about is stuff like Vancouver Rape Relief and the cis women there excluding trans women from accessing the service. When you “defend cis women’s right to be inclusive or not” this is what you are talking about. This isn’t theoretical or just about people’s opinions and thoughts. Sure, the person says they don’t have the right to act on this…

But again: this demonstrates a dangerous misunderstanding about power and oppression. Transmisogyny isn’t an ‘opinion’ but a system of oppression. Cis women excluding trans women from institutions, spaces, etc. is a part of this system of oppression. Indeed, they are enforcing and perpetuating it. Happily participating rather than passively supporting.

No one has the ‘right’ to be oppressive. End of story.

And acting like the ideologies people subscribe to has no actual impact on the real world is both contrary to fact and a way to elide the responsibility oppressors have to STOP OPPRESSING PEOPLE. Ideologies structure and determine how our actual institutions and social structures. They have real world impacts and lead directly to things like Vancouver Rape Relief and the exclusion of public accommodations in Bill C-279 bc of the supposed danger trans women pose to cis women.

Cis women have no right to be transmisogynist.

White women have no right to be racist.

Able women have no right to be ableist.

Etc and so on.

No such ‘right’ actually exists. Even in the most liberal of shitty discourse, there is no right to oppress. And, no, trying to back peddle and make this about ‘opinions’ while evoking 1984-esque ‘thought crimes’ is fucking bullshit. You’re bullshit.

bad actors, the freeloader problem, and transmisogyny

I’m writing this post, in part, because I haven’t seen too many trans women talking about it and I think that trying really really really hard to pretend like the case of Christopher Hambrook doesn’t actually exist1 but, sadly, it does. We can’t ignore that this happened because it is a real world case that confirms for every conservative and radfem out there that their dire warnings about passing public accommodation laws for trans women will allow predators access to vulnerable people.

(tw: I’m going to talk about what happened in non-graphic language but this does deal with rape and sexual assault)

Basically. The facts are these: a previously convicted sexual predator name Christopher Hambrook assaulted two women at a women’s shelter. He was staying there because he lied about being a trans woman in order to gain access to the shelter. In the link in the footnote, it mentions that there was no law on record (at the time) saying that the shelter had to accommodate self-identification, rather the shelter had its own policy for this.

Now, I have actually read at least one radfem who referred to this event as a way to critique current legal movements towards enshrining the right to public accommodations for trans women. And, in the link, we can see that conservatives are also using this documented incident to directly impact policy and the law.

Up to and including now, a lot of trans women have taken the tactic of saying ‘there is no incident of trans women assaulting cis women in washrooms/shelters/etc’. And this claim is still true but ultimately meaningless. The thing is, is that radfems and conservatives do not see a difference between trans women and predators like Hambrook.

In a lot of the stories/articles I’ve read in relation to this people make a lot of the fact that being on HRT or doing GCS is a way to determine which trans women are ‘real’ and which aren’t. Except, given that we are talking about a homeless shelter in this particular example, are we really expecting a homeless trans women to have access to hormones and the money for surgeries? This is literally an impossible requirement. Even in a context like Ontario, where the crimes took place, it is impossible. Hormones for HRT are not covered by the state prescription insurance provided to poor ppl (I know bc I’m on this plan). Yeah, surgeries and the like are covered, however the only surgeon in Canada is in Montreal and homeless people just don’t have the money to travel AND the ability to spend weeks recovering from major surgery.

However this doesn’t actually address the real problem. Nor does trying to rely on stats and whatever to say “trans women don’t do this” when, to those who hate us, there is no qualitative difference between us and a man pretending to be us. As awful as this is to think about, this is the reality we are dealing with. And it we must grapple with this because it has real, material impacts on our rights (I mean, again, that link is about a senator who referred to the case as a way to amending a bill to prevent public accommodations for trans women).

The actual problem with all of this is a problem that is a constant thorn in social/ethical/political philosophy for a long fucking time (which is why I get that most people simply have been content to ignore it). This is the problem of ‘bad actors’ and/or ‘free loaders’ (the latter if we are talking about economic policy).

In general, the problem here is that if your policy/ethics is oriented towards the inclusive and humane, it becomes difficult (or impossible) to distinguish between genuine people and those pretending to be so.

The problem of free loading is pretty much exactly why most social services continue to be either cut or have increasingly greater barriers towards accessing them. In visceral racial terms, this is the spectre of the ‘Welfare Queen’ (who, in America, is always coded as Black). It doesn’t matter how many times actual facts and statistics are used to disprove this myth, it remains omnipresent and relevant because it hits on this problem of free loaders. The people who, yes, game the system (or try to). And the difficulty of systematically distinguishing between those who are in genuine need and those who aren’t.

And as we can see with how this plays out in welfare and other social assistance policy, the general ‘solution’ to this problem is to create more and more barriers to access it. To set up more gatekeepers and more stringent rules for access.

What you almost never see is anyone advancing the thesis that the free loader ‘problem’ isn’t actually a problem and that blaming the existence of bad actors/free loaders on the system rather than holding the individuals themselves accountable misses the point. Ultimately, there really isn’t a way to have a broad, inclusive policy or ethics without admitting the possibility of abuse.

Why? Because the choice to abuse a system can’t actually be influenced by the system itself. People who behave unethically will do so and there isn’t, ultimately, anything anyone can do about it. Which is why they and not the system are responsible2.

In trying to understand how this plays out in the real world, we can talk about this shelter and its policies. How could the shelter have prevented this from happening?

Well, they could’ve done a criminal record check… but that also takes weeks and he was homeless right now. But also, from what the stories say, Hambrook gave no identification other than a self-identification as a trans woman.

This means that, their other, best option of preventing this from happening is having a ‘womyn-born-womyn’ policy.

Ok. But what of the actual homeless trans women who need shelter? They can just safely go to men’s shelters, right?

You see what the problem is here? There isn’t any actual solution to this, but people pretend like there is and this is why we end up with Senator Plett saying that legally preventing public accommodations for trans women is the solution. This is also the favourite solution for radfems.

But. There is no solution. Or, at least, no good solution has been found. The problem of free loaders has been a major issue in philosophy for a really long fucking time.

So how do you deal with the conservatives and radfems who constantly worry about this problem? Well… you can’t. Why? Because the problem is real and, as the Hambrook case demonstrates, it can happen. Worse, it’ll probably happen again in the future. The real problem here is living in a world where rape culture exists and is generally supported. The real problem, here, is that men exist in the world who are predators and will find a way to target and victimize vulnerable people. The real problem is that Senator Plett and his ilk do not consider trans women to be vulnerable women (or even people at all).

All of which gets you into arguing over the humanity of trans women. And… this is not a debate any of us should be willing to entertain.

I’m struggling with how to conclude this essay because… well, I have no real recommendations for anyone. Other than… choose your battles and choose your battlegrounds carefully. Getting sucked into a debate over the freeloader problem (especially if you accept the conservative/radfem framing) is a no-win situation because no solution to the problem exists. So too (as always) getting sucked into a debate over whether or not trans women are human is a battleground designed for you to loose, since entering the field at all is a tacit acceptance that the premise might be true.

But also… as a community, we can’t sit around and pretend like Hambrook doesn’t exist, not when he is being used as a weapon against trans women. We can’t pretend like pushing for trans inclusive policy doesn’t actually create the free loader problem. Our energy is best spent not in denying that this exists, but in trying to figure out real strategies of mitigation and (hopefully) prevention that can actually work in practice. Our energy and efforts are best spent in directly engaging the issues of rape culture and on creating a victim-centric approach to organizing.

  1. I’m including the link in a footnote bc I want to trigger warn for sexual assault, rape, and transmisogyny. Especially if you google the name. This particular link gives details but isn’t too sensationalist, please keep all warnings in mind. 

  2. I’m flattening out a lot of different things. But I’m purposefully speaking of ethics and not legalities here, since we know that there are a lot of social/environmental factors for which bodies are criminalized and treated as inherently unethical.