Laurie Toby Edison

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More on Hypersimplification

Debbie says:

BC Holmes posted a long and thoughtful response to Laurie’s and my post last week on “the politics of hypersimplification.”

BC, who is trans, says, among other things:

Well, where apprehension about transfolk exists, I am at the receiving end of it. Forgive me if I’m not taking extra time to acknowledge the subtle differences in the ways that people are rejecting me. I’m a little busy fighting back against being rejected.

BC is right. Laurie and I absolutely should have been clear in our post that we both stand in opposition to gender essentialism, wherever it comes from and however it is expressed. I apologize profoundly for leaving that out.

I continue to believe the substance of the original post, despite its incompleteness. To unwrap it just a little bit, I think that part of the distinction between the stereotypical anti-trans conservative Christian and the stereotypical anti-trans feminist is that the former is opposed to/afraid of anything that undermines the concept of manhood and masculinity, and committed to defending a strong man/submissive woman dynamic, while the latter is opposed to/afraid of anything that s/he perceives as male inroads into “female territory.”

Both are not only wrong-headed, both are dangerous. At the same time, if the feminist in the cartoon and the Christian in the cartoon dig much deeper into their anti-trans “agreement,” they will find profound disagreements between their two positions, which was our point. BC quotes Janice Raymond, the poster child of anti-trans feminist theory: “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves …. Transsexuals merely cut off the most obvious means of invading women, so that they seem non-invasive.”

In contrast, men’s ownership of women’s bodies is part and parcel of the equally repulsive conservative Christian rationale (often based on Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church… But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”)

Two equally wrong-headed and exclusionary positions can be in profound opposition to one another.

As a side note, following the various discussions of both our post and the original cartoon, I notice over and over that “radical feminist” or “radfem” is the pro-trans community’s short-hand for “anti-trans feminist.” I take personal exception to that one, as I consider myself and many, many of my friends, colleagues, and fellow activists to be both radical feminists and passionately trans-inclusive.

I am especially struck by BC’s last point. She is “… wondering where are the cartoons that celebrate trans inclusion. Why do I feel like the person with no power being asked to make concessions?”

And I only have one answer for her: because you are the person with no (or at least with substantially less) power, and you are being asked to make concessions. If I was a cartoonist, I would close with a cartoon that celebrates trans inclusion. Anyone know of the location of one I could republish here? Anyone who would like to draw one? Extra points if it clarifies that a person can be both trans-inclusive and a radical feminist.

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One Response to “More on Hypersimplification”

  1. Eyesee Says:

    I don’t have a problem with trans gender people, it’s obvious to me that this has been present in every culture, in one form or another, throughout all time.
    Without gender essentialism as you call it, what is a trans woman or
    man for that matter?

    If gender means nothing or has no parameters, then there is no continum to move around in, surely whatever trans people are moving to is a form of essentialism, or what exactly is the trans gender instinct?

    There are undoubtedly different kinds of wo/men, cultural societal differences, but there must be certain central things that we all agree on or how does even homosexuality make sense, they are attracted only to something that doesn’t exist, straight people are attracted to well what exactly?

    As for whether radical feminist’s argument about trans are the same as conservatives, that’s worth noting, but who cares really, there are only so many plots in existence as they say, I don’t care what ends of the political/ social spectrum, you are going to agree on something. I found some of the comments on BCHolmes’s blog somewhat dubious to say the least, radfems always ‘emotional’ isn’t Amp’s cartoon wholly emotional.

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