All Things to All People: Some Brief Notes on Solidarity and Free Speech

If transgender people have a “superpower” it is our remarkable ability to stand for anything:  living, breathing “floating signifiers.” Our meaning d’jour is, for some on Fleet Street, “a professionally offended, Left wing lobby group” that is now the latest “post-Leveson” threat to free speech and a free press. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of things—fleeting as these meanings are, such that we can even speak of stable oppositions—Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill had accused trans people of dividing and distracting the Left from its “important” goals and its “true” cause. If this seems exasperating and contradictory, you ain’t seen nothing yet, as they say. But for now, it is enough to deal with these two absurdities one at a time and bring a bit of light to a decidedly un-illuminating heat. Free Speech: From Posturing to Substance Toby Young and all the other vacuous, fly-by-night defenders of “free speech” filch lovely rhetoric that whistle stops past all manner of liberal … [Read more...]

Sisterhood in Silence

Political questions- those nagging spectres both august and utterly debauched- linger and haunt if you take up the charge to be a citizen. Not just a citizen of a given country in some formalistic, legal sense, but a citizen in the sense of being a self-conscious member of a society (preferably without borders) with a sense of obligation to others. The tests of this political citizenship are always dictated to you by those bedevilling questions. One question that I’ve run from, that I have leapt breathlessly through intellectual halls of mirrors to avoid is this one that I will now stare in its smiling face: Am I Breanna Manning? Global Comment editor, theologian, and trans activist Emily Manuel recently spoke to the media silence and leftist silence around the fact that “Bradley Manning” may very well be Breanna, a trans woman that the US Government arrested before she had a chance to transition and claim her identity more publicly. Silence is a sinful little thing. Its … [Read more...]

I’m Being So Sincere Right Now: Gaming as Hyperreality

When I play certain video games I get the strange feeling of wandering through the weird and lurid landscape of a Dali painting; beholding the familiar, albeit distorted in the strangest of ways. One might expect this. After all, video games are not supposed to be realistic by default. They operate on their own internal logic, their worlds hewn out of something called ‘game design needs’ rather than say billions of years of geology and thousands of years of culture and history, for instance. But I came to realise it was something beyond that point which I could comfortably suspend my disbelief and immerse. What jarred me out of, almost consistently, was the fact that many games have had the pretension of being representations of the real. A artificially warped landscape is a good and interesting thing so long as one does not purport that it is, in fact, akin to a photograph. Rated M for Misconception Whenever one hears the word “gritty” or “grimdark” appended to other … [Read more...]

In Faith, I do not Know Thee by Thy Name

In my recent article for The Border House I took on a number of the arguments made by a few starry eyed technophiles in favour of ending the practise of online anonymity. This is a significant issue for me that, in its many facets, presents me with the ultimate intersectional landscape on which to grow my ideas about interpersonal politics. In other words, it is very easy to talk about sex, race, power, class, and a range of issues surrounding both individual and group behaviour (group psychology and sociology), identity, and just plain old techno-geekery. It touches on a myriad of issues that are important to me. What follows is a refinement of what I wrote for The Border House and an expansion of it. I.- Setting Information Free(?) It is very much worth mentioning that the central idea behind the anti-anonymity advocate’s vision is the firm belief that the death of anonymity will allow information to flow more freely. The reality, however, is that the end of anonymity means a … [Read more...]

Fatal Error

It is, by now, a cliché to suggest that transgender people of most any stripe are somehow acting contrarily to nature. This has numerous ideological expressions. On the political right we hear this from conservative Christians and “men’s rights activists,” from science we hear this from any number of would-be psychiatric colonists of our experiences, and from the left we hear this from any number of groups including a certain clique of radical feminists. What I have found interesting is that these types of feminists-- the Julie Bindel set, essentially-- come from a school of feminist thought that placed a good deal of primacy on the sacred, natural body; hence their obsession with SRS and the like. I am always reminded of my father (Goddess knows he was no feminist in the slightest) angrily asking me if I was saying that God had made a mistake. Clearly I was challenging Him by saying I was "born wrong" (or something like that). The whole theoretical construct relies on a welter of cis … [Read more...]

Raiders of the Lost Etiology

One of the rather fun things about being trans is that you live in a world where doctors poke and prod you hoping to find deep answers about why you exist- deep, award-winning, and powerful answers that will at last enable them to explain what the hell is up with us; because it’s not like we’re authorities on our own lives or anything. To set the snark aside, I’m of course talking about the endless quest to find an etiology- or medical explanation of origin- for trans existence, a recent example of which can be found here. It is a particularly transfixing matter that seems to occupy the place of El Dorado or the Fountain of Youth in the eyes of our medical masters. A Lost Ark of the Covenant with which to at last claim final dominion over us. The ultimate Holy Grail being a “trans test” whereby folks in white coats will be able to objectively prove that someone is trans. Yet like all the foregoing it is a myth, a legend. There is not likely to be any one coherent, purely … [Read more...]

Ignorance and Want

Trigger Warning for explicit discussion of rape and its attendant traumas. Rape culture is an institution, to be certain; one whose powerful manifestations and expressions are found in all too many quarters of our society and whose influence is wide as it is deep. But like any social phenomenon one is well advised to take a magnifying glass to the small drops of mortar that bind together the brick wall of this institution. In reading a thread on a popular website about rape, a woman, who has since deleted her account due to the shaming she endured, stepped forward to make passionate arguments against rape apologism. Eventually she would describe her own experience. I do not have her permission to republish her story, so I will only quote a powerful line from her post that speaks to a general experience: Have you ever been raped? Do you know what it feels like to be turned into someone else's object? The worst is how filthy you'll feel after. You just want to be clean. You want to … [Read more...]

Lest We Forget

There are ample things to be said about such a day as this. For me the Day of Remembrance is about remembering the lives of those we have lost as they would want to be remembered, as the people they truly were, not as the lie that cis media repeats ad nauseam. I have wondered aloud if journalists go to a special school where they learn how best to utterly trash and defame dead trans women. The rather unpleasant spectacle created by the British press- both populist and 'higher class'- surrounding the death of Sonia Burgess is just one all too contemporary example of the kind of slander that becomes so bad many have described it as a second death. Yet deaths like hers are often the ones that get the most attention; as the list on any number of TDOR websites will tell you, those we lose are often from groups less likely to be mentioned in the papers under any circumstances. The unremembered women on the front lines of sex work, impoverished women in Latin America just trying to get by, … [Read more...]

An Open Letter to Kate Bornstein

Dear Auntie Kate, (can I call you that?) I have had more than a few reservations about your gender theory for quite a while now but have held my tongue for a variety of reasons. Yet as I read through your latest op-ed in Out magazine, The Trouble With Tranny, I was profoundly troubled. I came to a point where I realised I just couldn’t stay silent any more because of the venues in which you’re promoting a certain kind of theory that is, perhaps despite your good intentions, very transphobic. If I haven’t already lost you, allow me to explain. You begin the article with fond reminiscences about your time with Doris Fish, a prominent drag queen, whose views regarding trans women you characterise in the following way: “I was afraid of her raw sexuality, but bowled over by her courage. Doris was amused by my quest to become a real woman.” (Emphasis mine)   “Like me in the late ’80s in San Francisco, the majority of MTF transsexuals just wanted to live their lives as closely … [Read more...]

A Social Symphony: The Four Movements of Transphobia in Theory

In analysing the place of transgender and transsexual people in the theorising of various disciplines one finds several common threads that link together the entire enterprise. Society can often be quite messy and yet paradoxically can also be found to have identifiable mechanisms of operation that grind certain social forces inexorably forward. So what am I getting at with this? What are the common threads? Well, with the invaluable assistance of an expert social theorist who happens to be a trans woman, I believe I have found four. Trans people are not the only group of people hard done by social and political theory; there is a lot to be learned from analysing how theoretical paradigms have utterly excluded other marginalised peoples. In her 2007 book Southern Theory, sociologist Raewyn Connell articulates an excellent exegesis of Western social theory that lays bare its deeply Eurocentric assumptions as well as the colonial enterprise that underlay it. The colonised world, she … [Read more...]