Silencing the TERF within
I can understand the attitude behind trans activists trying to get Sheila Jeffries work pulled. I detest transphobic thought because it impacts me so negatively. Despite being years into my transition, I still find reading transphobic writing or attitudes plunges me into the mental state when I first realized the intensity of the conflict between my desires and the way the world sees me. I suspect there is a similarly intense feeling stirred up in a lot of transwomen, we’ve had to experience so much bigotry against our selfhood that it is in reading it,one re-experiences the bigotry of everyday life in a compressed and intellectualized fashion. It’s that much more insidious because the hatred is framed in the disinterested verbiage of academia. You feel like your self hood is being stripped from you into the vision that society has created for you, of a mentally ill monster.
All that being as it may, I understand the attitude but it seems that the tactic had backfired on activists. I was upset when I read on Julia Serrano’s blog about a forthcoming New Yorker article which talks about the controversy but seems to come from a perspective of the so-called TERFS ( Trans Exclusionary Radical Femininist)Trasngender community) I will await the article and don’t want to harshly judge it as I haven’t read it as of yet, but what this brought to mind was that Transgender activists were able to create an ideal situation for Sheila Jeffries to play the victim, the sensible feminist brought low by hysterical activist overkill. Now that there has been an attempt to surpress the views of Jeffries, these views are being taken more seriously than they would have had they simply been left to wither in the open marketplace.
In reality, ignoring people like Jeffries is the best way to argue with them. When one considers how dated and tired the philosophy of many of the TERFS is, there really is no way that anyone would be talking about Jeffries to the extent which they are now. Trans activists have basically charted her on the map of popular culture, puling her up from the world of academic publication.
When I was in college, I was taught by Sarah Hoagland (Lesbian Ethics) and she brought up the example of a debate that had once occurred on the college between feminists and male faculty on whether women were inferior. Hoagland brought up that to even participate in such a debate was to doubt women’s competence. The best day was to refuse the debate until it could rephrased in a way that acknowledged the same human level of the two participants.
But yet the perpetual debating with trans-exclusionists of all stripes is the way we have undermined our own humanity. We’re constantly arguing with bigots whose views haven’t evolved since the stone age of the late 1970’s, we’re constantly restating “their’s nothing wrong with us, we’re not mentally ill, our gender is not born out of a perverse and sexualized idea”. Much like a political debate, when one is put in the defensive position of having to refute accusations , these accusations, no matter how ridiculous, are confirmed in the mind of the spectator.
The truth is the reason we can’t help debating with people who hate us, is perhaps we have internalized the societal attitudes their hatred represents. Despite our loving friends and partners and all those who support us, we go on taking the word of our enemies more seriously than that of our friends. We have trouble shaking the feelings of inferiority which were drilled into us by other people as we first transitioned.
While it is important to continue to challenge conservative activists who directly attempt to challenge our human rights, much of what Jeffries and the like do can be pretty safely ignored. It’s a feedback loop which is stuck in the attitudes of 1970’s feminism and views any ideas outside of those as capitulation to patriarchy. Part of the reason, we go on having these debates is because society as a whole is not fully convinced of our humanity but that’s it’s problem not ours. Value your own mental health and stop debating your humanity, I think we’ll find when we can do that we’ve already won.