on marriage, hiv/aids, & liberation

locusimperium wrote:

I’m perennially sickened by people who distort the relationship between AIDS and the fight for state-recognized partnerships (gay marriage/civil unions/etc.). It’s not that AIDS and the backlash made people get “”socially conservative”” or “”homonormative”” or whatever the buzzwords are; it’s that the AIDS crisis illustrated how vulnerable our communities are without protections for our relationships. You can argue all you want that we shouldn’t need legal protections to be safe, but please understand that terminally ill gay men were evicted from their apartments immediately after watching their partners die horribly because they couldn’t inherit the lease or the property (or couldn’t do so without paying heavy taxes). Gay men were unable to attend the funerals of their long-term partners because homophobic parents had custody of the remains.

This still happens, in states without gay marriage; a woman in Indiana was told that she was an “unrelated third party” when she tried to arrange her wife’s cremation. Reducing this real suffering to “you want marriage rights because you want to prove you’re just like straight people” is horrible, and I don’t know how that argument ever left someone’s typing hands without them realizing that they were absolute garbage.

and i responded, at length:

this post has stuck with me for a long enough that i’m gonna be the killjoy old queen here again, and point out a few things, mostly because i’m old enough to have been around for some of them, and have tended to hang out with older queers and trans folks since i was quite young. everything i’m going to say is about the u.s.; i don’t know how this shit played out elsewhere (especially in the european social democracies), so in other contexts the story may be quite different.

brief theoryhead moment

i’m going to go long on this because OP’s argument is, to me, exactly what walter benjamin means when he says “even the dead will not be safe if this enemy is victorious, and the enemy continues to be victorious”. over the last five or ten years, all kinds of folks have been using the dead bodies of the folks who died in the pre-96 period of the epidemic as props for arguments against left and progressive queer and trans politics – to say that white gay men should be (re?!)centered in our cultural and organizing work (as if trans women and black/latinx folks wren’t the hardest hit), to say that tearooms and other public sex institutions should be highly policed, to push for extremely restricted issue-and-campaign efforts on a (deeply anti-intersectional) identity basis. i could go on about this for quite some time, but i’ll spare you, and talk about marriage, since it’s been a prime example of this kind of thing for a few years now.

the problem at the heart of the original post is the conflation of the push for marriage with other kinds of organizing for (strategic) state recognition of relationships. in gay & lesbian politics, those have never been the same – in fact, they’ve generally been in direct opposition to each other. up to the mid-1990s, the (generally mixed between left and progressive) mainstream of the movement worked for flexible, non-identity-based structures that involved state recognition of the actual structures of folks’ actual relationships, and aimed to allow as little state control and surveillance over our relationships as possible. the push for marriage, which began in the mid-1990s, was not only directly opposed to that project, it worked to undo the victories that had been won up to that point and undermine the coalitions that had been built through that organizing.

Continue reading on marriage, hiv/aids, & liberation

on trans demographics

valkyriethunderbitch wrote:

We’re both seen in many ways as embodying aspects of both male and female, but rather than cis people seeing both of us as simply “in between,” trans men and cafab trans people in general tend to be seen as somehow possessing the better qualities of men and women, while trans women are seen as abominations embodying the worst of both genders.

Trans mascs get to have their manhood validated while also being reassured (and reassuring everyone else) that they have no icky core of misogyny or oppressive maleness, and that they essentially have all these positive woman qualities in place of the “bad parts” of maleness.

and i commented:

yes this.

but also note, from the 2011 Injustice at Every Turn report (flawed in its sample, but the best we have in the u.s. so far), and the A Gender Not Listed Here report based on its data, these things (mainly using the survey report’s terms):

respondents were 60/40 assigned male/female at birth. the surveyers’ analysis broke that down into trans/gnc/crossdresser splits of 47/3/11 for MAAB, 28/9/3 for FAAB, which is about 78%/5% & 72%/23% trans/gnc, respectively.

those replying “a gender not listed here” (i.e not male, female, or switching between) were 73/27 FAAB/MAAB.


of respondents identifying as either switching-between or not listed here (a different analytic for nonbinary+fluid), it’s 61/ 39 MAAB/FAAB. and with a little work, we can discover numbers for a more limited definition of fluid gendered folks (id’ing as switching-between but not analyzed as crossdressers): 9% of MAAB vs. 1% of FAAB).

and we can learn that 9% of MAAB vs. 14% of FAAB respondents identified as their initially assigned gender.

both of which, i think, complicate the picture. but mainly on the level of how people think about themselves, which of course is different from how we present ourselves in the world, and how the world understands us. which is what the analysis above is about.

the category of gender

this is more of a placeholder than anything else… building off a few scrawled notes from this past spring that i’d been hoping to get back to in a more elaborated way, but i’m not sure when i’ll have the time to do that in a complete way. so this is gonna be partial and not necessarily something i’ll stand by forever, or even for all that long.

and yes, i’m putting this up now because i’m cranky about the current bit of drama around “gender nihilism”, mostly because i see smart people whose analysis i like seeming to miss the ways their positions seem to me to support each other rather than being in contradiction.

so here’s two or so cents, for whatever it’s worth:

talking about “abolishing gender” means completely different things depending on what we mean by “gender”.

Continue reading the category of gender

Don’t Celebrate, Organize! Learning from the Fall of MichFest

nowhere i’ve sent this to seems to want it, so i’m just gonna put it here. enjoy! or don’t.

the unaccustomed capitalization and more conventional punctuation is because of trying to get it published Somewhere Legitimate. my apologies to andrea dworkin, muriel rukeyser, gertrude stein, and all the other folks who are why i don’t generally do those things… (as dworkin says, in putting this into standard typography “I forced you to breathe where I do, instead of letting you discover your own natural breath. […] very few ideas are more powerful than the mechanisms for defusing them, standard form — punctuation, typography, then on to academic organization, the rigid ritualistic formulation of ideas, etc. — is the actual distance between the individual (certainly the intellectual individual) and the ideas in a book. […] to permit writers to use forms which violate convention just might permit writers to develop forms which would teach people to think differently: not to think about different things, but to think in different ways. that work is not permitted.”)

anyway – here’s hoping i can get through the next few decades without having to say anything else about this particular overpriced party with a fucked-up door policy.

Well, I’m as bored of talking about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival as any other trans dyke who came up in the 90s. But I’m finding myself unable to watch its last hurrah go by without reflecting a bit on what we – trans women, dykes, feminists, cultural workers – can learn from how and why it’s ending.

I’d love to claim victory.

To say: it took many years, but in the end a lot of cis women chose to honor the picket line that trans women held (physically and symbolically) for decades around a space that excluded us and fostered our exclusion from life-saving institutions across the continent.

To say: solidarity forced the Festival to choose between actually welcoming all women, or shutting down. To say: cis feminists have given trans women a reason to think that the era of purges that began in 1973 is beginning to end.

But that would be a lie. That solidarity did not exist.

Continue reading Don’t Celebrate, Organize! Learning from the Fall of MichFest

oh my, more to say about ‘genderqueer’ and terminology history because i am agèd

one. 3/28/2014

after some discussion by skysquids, i wrote:

there’s another thing going on here as well: the near-complete capture of the term “genderqueer” by female-assigned folks (largely white and expensively educated) to mean a specific, extremely limited range of their gender and style expressions.

when “genderqueer” was first being used (as far as i know) in the mid-1990s, it was a very broad umbrella term covering the whole space that we’d now refer to as “nonbinary”, as well as to some extent non-trans genderdeviant folks and trans folks who don’t have conventional gender expressions (butch trans women, fem trans men, etc – a zone we still don’t have good language for, except maybe by taking serano’s distinction between cissexual and cisgender more seriously).

“genderqueer” was very consciously created as a political project like “transgender” or “queer”, aiming at bringing together a very mixed group of people, not on the basis of ‘shared identity’ but on the basis of an analysis of structural power. in this case, an analysis of the enforcement of binary gender, as something that specifically targets women and other folks who are seen as imperfect men, and that affects in specific ways folks who aren’t easily read into a conventional masculine man/feminine woman box.

and it’s worth saying: a lot of the folks doing that creating were trans women. just like with “transgender” and with “queer”.

Continue reading oh my, more to say about ‘genderqueer’ and terminology history because i am agèd

about that asterisk / some trans women’s history

so i’ve been wanting to write something about the damn asterisk – the one in trans* – for a while now, and now i’m finally getting around to it despite a touch of flu. i suspect no one wants to read as much as i’ve got to say, so here’s a slightly passive-aggressive summary to encourage (?) that…


the asterisk in trans* was invented by (folks who now get called) trans women. specifically, by geeky trans women, as a tool in fights against assimilationist/One True Path trans women. you can like the * or hate the *, but it’s trans women’s term, and trans women’s history. trans women who hate it need to deal with that. folks who aren’t trans women and want to use it need to take that into account.

Continue reading about that asterisk / some trans women’s history

kids will not be pawns

building on a critique of the ‘think of the children’ strategy that liberal trans organizing has adopted (another layer of toxic on top of the ‘born that way’ rhetoric imported from the liberal gay/lesbian world):

beyond the strategic problems, another thing that the focus on ‘trans kids’ does is pushes kids towards an extremely restricted set of gender options.

we know from the world around us that some male-assigned kids will end up being binary-identified, conventionally feminine trans women; some binary-identified, butch trans women; some genderqueer trans folks of a variety of gender presentations; some fem gay men (cissexual, but not cisgendered); some butch gay men. and we know that folks may move among those positions many times in their lives. we also know – from our own lives and those of our friends – that kids who wind up in all of those places at, say, 28 years old, often express ‘cross-gender’ desires.

when what we do with all those kids’ cross-gender expressions is either track them as ‘trans kids’ towards binary-identified, conventionally feminine trans womanhood, or dismiss them as ‘not really trans’, we’re not supporting their self-determination, we’re obstructing it.

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