Via Persephone Magazine.
So I discovered on Monday that the phenomenal Julia Serano, author of Whipping Girl (#1 on my picks for Ms. Magazine’s feminist nonfiction reads), has started blogging again. Hooray!
Her first few posts are full of juicy goodness, so I thought I’d share a few snippets with you and urge you to wander on over and subscribe to her feed.
First off, on returning to blogging… (5 Sept 2011). Whether or not you’re actively interested in trans issues, I encourage you to read this piece because it’s a really thoughtful reflection on both the difficulties of online conversation(s) in the blogosphere and also some of the reasons why blog-based writing can be useful:
Over time, I realized that the more regular bloggers in the feminist, queer, trans, and other social justice-related blogosphere(s) seem to be fairly rigorous about keeping up with everyone else’s blog posts. I know that this helps to create a sense of community, where everybody is cross-posting each other’s posts and commenting on them. But it also creates the expectation that anyone who blogs on the aforementioned topics *should* be aware of all previous posts and controversies. This can lead to an “in group” phenomenon that leaves newbies and occasional bloggers such as myself fearful that we may inadvertently say something or do something that results in a flame war. I am all for keeping people accountable for what they have said/written. But it is also important to extend the benefit of doubt to those who may not be privy to previous discussions and debates.
But perhaps the main reason why I became burnt out on blogging is all the hate speech and ad hominem attacks that inevitably seem to break out during internet-based discussions (whether they be on blogs or old-school email lists). Like many of us who write about feminist, queer, trans and social justice politics, I have a lot of anger and emotion and hurt inside me that sometimes comes raging out when I hear someone make a problematic claim about gender, sexuality, or some other subject that is important to me. When I am writing for the page, generally all of that emotion (and sometimes outright venom) gets edited away over the course of several drafts. But the immediacy of the internet often results in back-and-forth name calling and flaming rather than serious, thoughtful discussion.
From A “Transexual Versus Transgender” Intervention (8 Sept 2011):
Over the last year or so, I have read a number of blog entries and Facebook rants about the so-called “transsexual versus transgender” issue. For those who are unaware of this debate, it stems from a subset of transsexuals who feel that the transsexual community is not served well by being included under the transgender umbrella (some even go so far as to insist that there is a mutually-exclusive dichotomy between transsexual and transgender people). Along similar lines, these transsexuals also argue that inclusion under the LGBT umbrella does a disservice to the transsexual community, as it conflates two very different issues (i.e., sexual orientation and gender identity), and emboldens many cissexual LGB folks to appropriate trans identities and experiences, and to claim to speak on our behalf.
I have purposefully tried to avoid entering into this debate, primarily because many (albeit certainly not all) of the umbrella critiques that I have read invoke horrible stereotypes, and sometimes even hate speech, to help bolster their case. I have seen blatantly homophobic and biphobic remarks made by some anti-umbrella advocates. One post I saw described bisexuals as sexual predators who fetishize and prey upon transsexuals – this comment draws on a long history of monosexist stereotypes of bisexuals as “sex crazed” and desiring “anything that moves,” and it deeply offended me as a bisexual trans woman.
Along the same lines, anti-umbrella advocates often self-describe themselves as “real transsexuals” and dismiss those who support the transgender and LGBT umbrellas as being posers and mere fetishists. Some even cite Ray Blanchard’s sexualizing and scientifically incorrect theory of autogynephilia to make their point. It is one thing to disagree with another person’s views about whether or not transsexuals should seek inclusion under the transgender and LGBT umbrellas. But when people stoop to the level of sexualizing those they disagree with, or dismissing them as “fakes,” then they are engaging in name calling rather than intellectual debate, and I want absolutely no part of it.
So like I said, I have mostly avoided this debate because of the name calling, disparaging stereotypes and nonconsensual sexualization that are sometimes associated with it. But recently, I read a post where someone referred to me as being firmly in the “transsexual” (rather than “transgender”) camp. This was the second time that I had seen such a claim, and frankly, it surprised me. Granted, in my book Whipping Girl, I argued that the transsexual experience is different from other transgender trajectories, and I also decried the manner in which some cissexual gays and lesbians appropriate transsexual identities. But I never once advocated that transsexuals should completely split off from the transgender or LGBT communities. Rather, my intention was constructive criticism – I hoped to make those alliances more aware and respectful of transsexual voices and perspectives.
This second piece also has a follow-up post in which Serano addresses some of the comments that followed from her piece above.
I believe that trans issues are feminist issues, both because they are inextricably part of the social and cultural inequalities based on sex, sexuality, and gender, and also because there are trans people who are (or want to be) part of feminist activism. Therefore those peoples’ experiences and perspectives need to be a part of feminist conversation. So I’d encourage all of you who read Harpyness to check out Serano’s work.