Letting the Side Down

[Previous post redacted, due to having become stupidly redundant…]

Originally on this blog, I posted some questions to the deep ecology group Deep Green Resistance, just in case tags and keywords actually work and they felt like dropping by… which, unamazingly, they didn’t. I have since followed the rational, nay obvious course and just taken my answers from the extensive FAQs on their website… duh, or words to that effect. Contrary to popular conception, I will at least say that the tone of DGR’s site is not as virulently transphobic as is often reputed would suggest, but it is still best to assume TRIGGER WARNINGS if you decide to take a look there.

Going back a little way… I had for some time been taking an interest in the Radical Feminism movement. Some called that masochistic and pointless of me, but I begged to disagree, as I had encountered a willingness to engage and compromise from the webmaster at Socialessentialism blog. It was through that blog I stumbled upon the Deep Green Resistance presentation “The End of Gender: Revolution, Not Reform” (Speaker: Rachel Ivey), which disturbed me greatly: not for any blatant transphobia, as such, but for the linking of the idea “revolution” with the arguably necessary, and total elimination of gender – and thus transgenderism – as a concept. Call me paranoid (some already have) but historical revolutions based on the uprooting of unwanted ideas / belief systems have had a tendency to make life uncomfortable, intolerable, or very short for those people unable or unwilling to relinquish those ideas. Since Rachel Ivey described DGR as “a group advocating the forcible dismantling of civilization” I supposed she meant “revolution” in its literal sense, and such movements rarely occur without collateral damage. With great trepidation, I paid their site a visit…

Having now got the lowdown on their FAQs, I will at least admit that they are frank about the human cost of their revolution, but trans people would certainly not be the only sufferers: in answering a question about the likely effects of their proposed mass sabotage of civilisation, their leader Derrick Jensen admits “No matter what you do, your hands will be blood red,” though he goes on to state that since he is seriously ill and his own life is dependent on manufactured medicine, he would be one of the first victims of the social collapse. That is definitely putting his money where his mouth is…

And why is all of this carnage necessary? Because civilisation, in DGR’s view, is “irredeemable”, and any passive participation in society, however seemingly ethical, merely contributes to the unsustainable atrocity that is modern high-tech society. Which brings us to their perspective on transgender issues… Simply put, DGR endorse the view of Radical Feminism that gender is an artificial system of control designed to shoehorn biological males and females (who would otherwise have no binary behaviour and expression norms) into the respective roles of abuser and abused, to facilitate the patriarchal-led abuse of the planet in general.

Some of their views ring true. It takes little enough thought to come up with a myriad of sickening examples of misogynistic abuse, historical and present-day. Some of DGR’s views, however, smack of conspiracy theory, and do their thesis no favours. Their insinuation that ‘”gender dysphoria”‘ (extra inverted commas theirs) does not even exist, for one thing, chimes false with my partner, with myself, and with quite a lot of our social network. Their further statement that GD is a eugenics-related ploy to bring about “the medical erasure of gay and lesbian youth” is worthy of David Icke, and begs the question of why the evil powers that be did not just stick with the effective if less convoluted methods of criminalising and mentally sectioning gay people, if that was their priority.

DGR’s insistence that they are not a transphobic group is probably sincere, since trans-denialism is an arguably necessary concomitant of their rigidly anti-genderist stance. That assertion, however, rings pretty hollow in the face of their evident disgust of “people who describe themselves as trans”, however, and their indifference towards the very real issue of transphobic violence. The site author applauds male-bodied people who “fail at masculinity” and states that this is a good thing, but then also states that any harm they suffer as a result is their own problem. This is not so much putting their money where their mouth is… Their statement that women have a right to define their own safe spaces and to exclude trans people if they so wish, I do accept as a matter of sensitivity. This is the policy in my own workplace, and in any case I have never wanted to be anywhere I was unwelcome, though I do wonder why DGR could not also allow safe spaces for gender non-conforming people, agree to differ on a few points, and thus increase their pool of potential allies (though, arguably, they are keen not to antagonise their already large and lucrative radfem membership pool. Cynical but practical, if true).

One might allow that DGR is not transphobic in the sense that it is not actively campaigning (as far as I am aware) for transpeople’s legal rights and access to care to be curtailed… except of course insofar as they wish to collapse the entire medical infrastructure of society, but we can assume that to be a fairly slight risk for the forseeable. Nevertheless, they are proudly insensitive in their attitudes to trans issues in general and misgendering in particular, though I suppose a hardcore anarcho-primitivist movement can only afford to be so touchy-feely. One would, however, have thought they could allow gender to be an issue of belief for those people to whom it is an important part of their identity, just as long as they are not harming anyone, and thus on a par with religion. I have no idea how accepting and respectful DGR is of religious belief within its movement,* but I offer the suggestion that a modicum of tolerance in general is a good way not to alienate potential allies. Particularly since the FAQ author acknowledges that trans people do actually undermine rather than support the patriarchy by their very existence: “Women who resist femininity and men who refuse masculinity are living proof that patriarchy is not inevitable.” Bit of unnecessary implied misgendering there, but you get the idea.

Since I can’t actually see myself joining DGR, and since they have no ambition to take over the organs of state, but rather throw as many spanners into their works as possible, one might well ask is any of this remotely important to me? Well I will admit to being troubled over one thing: the implication that gender transitioning is an attempt to fit in, rather than to stand out defiantly in society, the latter course being conducive to change. While I, like many late-transitioners, am aware that I have very little chance of fitting in perfectly even with full surgery, I can’t deny that I would love the option to be able to “go stealth” completely, if only…

My dysphoria is a powerful feeling when it kicks in, as it often does, and it might be worth Derrick Jensen and co. taking note that the feeling it gives me is not of having “failed masculinity” but of doing perfectly well at masculinity and hating every bloody minute of it. Gods, how I then wish I was way more effeminate than I am, less muscular, less tall. I can dress and make up to the nines with little fear of being attacked, but not because I “pass”: just because not many random thugs like to try attacking a tall, muscular, and often very annoyed-looking male-bodied figure, however much eyeshadow it happens to be wearing… I could fit in perfectly well as a man if I so desired to, but the desire has never come to me. I have tried absenting myself from society altogether, and been much happier as a result, but hermitude is no longer an option. At least not for the short term, though my partner and I are saving and researching to build a tiny home or eco-pod in the French countryside one of these days. That at least should better prepare us in case DGR’s doomsday scenario is more accurate than I would like to believe it…

The politics of gender dysphoria are apt to lead me around in circles, and not make this blog an overly encouraging place, I rather fear, so in conclusion… I will have to admit to being one confused and morally troubled trans lady. I had braced myself to take no end of flak from the political right, but the unexpected surge of hostility from the left flank took me completely by surprise. Suddenly finding myself in the black books of both feminists and environmentalists has been a sobering experience for a lifelong socialist, though on that note Soviet Russia was scarcely embracing of LGBT rights.** Nevertheless I can’t see myself ever embracing the title of “man” however much DGR or anyone else foists it upon me, and if I am offered any means of making myself better resemble a physical female, I can’t see myself refusing it. On the other hand, if I am denied any treatment or surgery at all, I can see a long and frustrating future involving tons of concealer, padding, wide-brimmed hats, neck scarves, and me still not embracing the title of man… which I guess would actually please Derrick Jensen, as it would certainly rule out fitting in.

But fitting in is improbable anyway. I will always cut a bizarre figure, much more likely to offend the stalwarts of the patriarchy rather than please them, and I confess that prospect does not entirely please me. Having said that, I am not doing any of this out of any desire to fetishise submission and weakness. The women of my own family have given me powerful examples to follow, and I’d be loath to let the side down…

_________________________________

* As of 2/4/15, I have discovered how tolerant DGR is of religion within its movement…

The following comments were left by Lonesomeyoghurt, posted in reply to mine at https://sheisrevolutionarilysuicidal.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/i-was-born-a-baby-not-a-boy-sex-gender-and-trans-liberation which is actually a really inspiring article. The comments have since been deleted, probably for not being overly sensitive to anyone…

“As a Deep Green Resistance member, I can tell you that we *would* refuse to cater to the misogynistic and abusive assumptions of Christianity or Islam just as much as we would refuse to cater to the same in trans ideology. Deep Green Resistance is an anti-civilization radical environmentalist organization, and for that reason Christianity and Islam are fundamentally opposed to our vision. That doesn’t mean we would bar all Christians and Muslims from joining, but we aren’t in the habit of pretending to ignore male supremacy to protect people’s feelings. In the same way, we’re not going to ignore the misogyny of trans ideology and label it a “freedom of belief” issue. We’re radicals, not liberals. We don’t think truth bends to individual opinions. […] It’s not about individual religious folks. It’s about the ideology. Individual Christians and Muslims can be great activists (my mother is a long-time socialist activist and an ordained pastor) but that doesn’t mean the ideology of those religions as social institutions are not odious. DGR is a radical feminist organization, and central to that is the belief that female biology exists and that the exploitation of female bodies forms the core of patriarchy. It is not “dogmatic” for us to reject an ideology that turns “woman” into an identity. Would it be “dogmatic” for a feminist organization to reject men’s rights activists? DGR does not take a position on quite a lot of things. We have vegetarians and meat eaters, atheists and spiritual folks, people with all manner of beliefs about science, medicine, lifestyle, and other individual choices. We are not dogmatic. But we all share a belief that gender must be abolished, not liberalized or made more comfortable for males. We’d rather have solidarity with women who name their oppression than open our ranks to men who are unwilling to break their identification with the gender system.”

At any rate, this should clear up any lingering doubt on the issue of whether or not DGR-US has a trans-exclusionary membership policy (It does). Some confusion may arise as the British DGR chapter is more liberal and nuanced in its statement. However, this is possibly only due to the fact that it is illegal under the terms of the Equality Act 2010 for clubs within the UK to have discriminatory membership policies. Without actually knowing the experience of a trans person in the UK who has tried joining DGR, it is hard to say how much this statement actually counts for:

“DGR UK does not profess to tell anyone what they are or are not. We believe that every individual has the right to survival on her/his own terms, and this includes trans-identifying individuals. DGR UK is sympathetic to the experiences of trans-identifying people who are also likely to have suffered in different ways as a result of living in a patriarchy. Trans-identifying people are welcome to become members of DGR UK. However, we would ask that they respect the need for women to have safe spaces free from male patriarchy at certain gatherings.”

Am I curious (or masochistic) enough to try attending a DGR seminar if they ever come to Cardiff? Probably…

** “Soviet legislation does not recognize so-called crimes against morality. Our laws proceed from the principle of protection of society and therefore countenance punishment only in those instances when juveniles and minors are the objects of homosexual interest … while recognizing the incorrectness of homosexual development … our society combines prophylactic and other therapeutic measures with all the necessary conditions for making the conflicts that afflict homosexuals as painless as possible and for resolving their typical estrangement from society within the collective.”

Sereisky, Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1930, p. 593

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3 thoughts on “Letting the Side Down

  1. Trans erasure is transphobia, period. Just because they’ve developed a (loony) set of justifications doesn’t mean it isn’t bigoted hate speech.

    And claiming that we are the products of a gov’t conspiracy hits the hate speech AND conspiracy theory hat trick.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My suspicion (and it is no more than that) is that Derrick Jensen himself is not transphobic by instinct. In earlier writings, he refers to transgendered people without the rather lame qualifications he now uses (“people who think of themselves as…” etc). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derrick_Jensen#Criticism

      Possibly he has changed his position on that to make the movement more attractive to transphobic radicals, while trying to keep a “diplomatic” tone, or possibly they all genuinely believe that gender dysphoria does not exist.

      I will admit that I’m doing my best, such as it is, to be generous in this post. It’s Easter Week, I’ve been inundated in negative thoughts, and I’ll at least concede that the environmental catastrophe is a real and pressing issue that requires urgent solutions. I certainly don’t think spinning conspiracy theories is a productive way of solving it, though…

      Like

  2. Pingback: Happy Mutant | A Belated Existence

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