Joel Novak: Notes for slide show on detransition, and my own ruminations on trans activism
Joel Nowak recently posted the notes for a slide show on detransition which he proposed to do as a workshop at a trans conference. Unfortunately, the proposal was rejected. The rejection in itself is a sad commentary: on the other side of the fence, MWMF has been actively recruiting detransitioned ftm’s to do a workshop there next summer. If only the trans community had a similar level of self-awareness and ability to be self-reflexive!
Joel’s last point is my favorite: the trans community needs to own this! Indeed, as people harmed by gender (which trans people must be, otherwise we wouldn’t seek to transition), one would think our natural allies would be all other people harmed by gender, even if they made different choices for themselves.
However, both the mtf and ftm communities seem to be perennially invested in “us vs them” constructions of identity, seemingly to reinforce our own, extremely fragile identities as the men and women we wish to be. I don’t think this is an irresolvable conflict, but it’s a difficult one.
One obvious takeaway is that the trans people leading activism should probably be the ones who are most settled in their identities, since they will be the people most likely to look for solutions which help us all. But in practice, it’s just the opposite: consider the anti-Vanvouver Rape Relief “trans flashmob” organized last week by Ronan/Morgan Ogre, who started “living as a woman” in September 2013. When Ogre says they have been “living as a woman”, they mean they started taking estrogen, and told a few friends that they wanted to transition. Quite obviously, that has nothing to do with living as a woman! Not to mention, this person is a man! Why are they getting to do trans activism? They haven’t spent the time to become a trans woman (in any meaningful definition of the word) yet.
Or take as another case my least favorite trans activist, Red Durkin. A week or two ago on facebook, Red posted in response to someone critical of her activism:
people like [the critic] are going to have NO CHOICE but to watch the people like me represent “their” community more loudly, more fiercely, and more openly than they would ever dare…and there’s not a god damn fucking thing people who think I’m a “fake” can do about it. I am the future. Deal with it.
(I can’t for the life of me understand why Red left out the “more woman-hating” part - oh wait, actually I guess I do.)
The idea that a self-appointed community leader “doesn’t give a fuck” about what the community thinks says it all. I bring this up because the same people who said no to Joel’s thoughtful, hearfelt, and much needed proposal are the same people applauding Red. And quite frankly, Red has no business being an activist. In fact, Red clearly has a lot of difficulty taking care of her own emotional health, as evidenced by her frequent use of self-harm and suicidal ideation to bolster her activist demands.
I’ll put this really bluntly: self-appointed trans community leaders who aren’t actively addressing misogyny within the mtf community and the needs of detransitioners need to stop and ask themselves what their real motivations are. If they aren’t ready to address these difficult questions, it’s time for them to take a step back and listen to what gender-critical trans women and detransitioners are saying. Gender hurts.