Recent reports out of Greece reveal a campaign of terror being waged against the trans community.* The horror of this campaign is a prime teaching moment for the actual dangers posed to the gender non-conformists of both sexes, as opposed to the misstated dangers that are projected onto those who critique transgender theory and its implications for both gender non-conforming people and female-born and socialized people. This is an important time for all of us to stand up and condemn the violence done to other people. However, it is also an important time to ask the questions of how to stop this, of how to move beyond oppression associated with gender. As a feminist who rejects current transgender theory, I abhor this violence. I want to see folks who currently identify as trans living in a world where gender isn’t a thing, so there is no basis for the fascists to use to attack or oppress those who don’t comply with gender…because there is no gender. No one looks at anyone else and associates ways of thinking, ways of acting or ways of being simply because of their sex.
Those who target the trans community for the type of violence currently occurring in Greece are doing so because of a deep, intractable commitment to gender and gender conformity. Not only do these groups believe gender exists and is natural, they are willing to go to extremes to enforce conformity. This is not the position of people who want to see gender abolished altogether, as is the case of those who criticize current transgender theory because of its reliance on the continuation of gender—whether it be binary or otherwise.
Unfortunately, transgender theory does not stand in opposition to the philosophy of those who carry out the type of violence occurring in Greece; it also holds to the idea that gender is a natural, in-born characteristic. It does hold that there is a naturally “feminine” way to experience the world and a naturally “masculine” way to experience the world. It just holds that gender isn’t tied to the biological sex of the individual; that a person’s “brain sex”** may contrast to that person’s “genital sex”. Sadly, I believe this insistence on perpetuating gender can only lead to more oppression and violence against the gender non-conformist, whether that person identifies as trans or not.
We already know that people who do not conform to gender stereotypes are treated as outcasts within society. For those who seek to enforce conformity between “brain sex” and genital sex—such as the fascists in Greece—this means violence or discrimination against them. For those who hold to transgender theory, this means labeling anyone who doesn’t conform as trans–whether that person identifies that way or not. Indeed, we are seeing very young children labeled trans by their parents simply because these youngsters prefer the dress or activities stereotyped as “belonging” to the other sex. The idea that we should simply celebrate and support these children as gender non-conformists is harder to come by.***
I believe that we can only hope to defend both the gender non-conformists of both sexes and the female-born and socialized by abandoning the defense of gender altogether, by destroying gender completely. We must encourage the gender non-conformist to refuse to comply. In fact, we should encourage (insist upon?) gender non-conformity as a revolutionary act, especially by men. That is, men should “refuse to be men”, to paraphrase John Stoltenberg. We must also encourage the female-born and socialized to refuse to comply with the limits, roles and behaviors forced upon them by society and the gender hierarchy. We must make it safe for both the non-conforming and the female-born and socialized to do so. We must not ignore the very real differences between the oppression of the female-born and socialized (whether she is gender compliant or not) and the oppression of the male gender non-conformist. It is not the same.**** What’s more, the oppression of the gender non-compliant male is the doing of patriarchy, not the doing of feminists, as some would claim. In fact, we must look hard at the interplay between trans theory and the oppression of the female-born and socialized. Adopting the stereotypes of the other gender or even the genitals of the other sex doesn’t get us to the point where all people are free of the tyranny of gender hierarchy and conformity. Only the complete eradication of gender will do that.
*An interesting and telling aspect of this campaign is that it is an outgrowth of a campaign that also targets prostituted women. Trans folks are being accused of being prostituted, and forcibly being taken in for HIV/AIDS testing. At this point, they may be sent to detention camps. This campaign has been waged against prostituted women with little notice, it appears. I only heard about it from this article.
**The entire concept of “brain sex” is misogynistic. It holds that the behaviors of the male and the female are genetically programmed. It is pseudo-scientific essentialism. It is also one of the more recent attempts to use science to justify the subjugation of and discrimination against those born female. Any theory of social constructionism is incompatible with the concept of “brain sex”. It is precisely the kind of thinking that allows someone like Lawrence Summers to claim that women don’t hold as many positions in the sciences due to a lesser innate “aptitude”. MRA claims often fit well with theories of “brain sex”, which is another reason feminists should look long and hard at such theories and anyone who touts them.
***There does appear to be a smaller movement to do just this, however. More of this, please. Don’t label your child; just let that child be. Fight gender by allowing your child to be a male who refuses to be masculine or a female who refuses to be feminine.
**** Socialization begins at birth, and discrimination against the biologically female often begins even before birth (e.g. sex-selective abortion). To insist that the oppression of the gender non-conformist is the same as the oppression of the female-born and socialized is to ignore that. To insist that those born and socialized as female not be allowed to discuss that in female-only spaces is flat-out misogynistic.