Really. I hardly know where to begin. But thanks to my oldest son, in the last couple of days I’ve become aware of the controversy pertaining to the transphobic policies of the environmental group, Deep Green Resistance, and the laudable actions taken by those who have decided to withdraw their support of DGR for that reason, including Earth First! Here’s a quote from their blog:
“However, in light of DGR’s continued assault on trans people, with language and analysis that denies the struggles of trans-people and even goes so far as to deny the value, worth and power of their existence in radical movements, labeling trans people as somehow “not real,” or as Post-Modern manifestations of individualism, the Earth First! Journal collective will no longer print or in any way promote DGR material. While we don’t need to agree with an individual or organization to find their words or actions relevant for discussion we will not continue to include those whose core expression of values continues to promote exclusion and oppression.”
So, a little background. I first became aware of DGR a couple of years ago, listening to an interview with Lierre Keith on KPFA. She was talking about “the vegetarian myth,” and I thought she had an interesting perspective. I even… (now I shudder to think of it)… bought her book on this topic. But I had no idea that my small purchase was going to support a person who holds deeply transphobic feelings and even goes so far as to deny the right of trans and gender variant people to exist.
Later, I found out that Keith belongs to the category of feminists who simply hate erotica. I am a sexologist and erotologist, so I realized that she would find my views on this topic abhorrent and might even view me as some kind of patriarchal dupe. Even so, I still had no idea that this was a person capable of spewing hate-filled words and creating hate-filled policies against people who are gender diverse.
Now, according to the Earth First! Newswire blog, Lierre Keith’s views can be described as “assumptions that trans people are some sort of Post-Modern expression of liberal individualism and that trans womyn in particular are manifestations of patriarchy in disguise.” The Earth First! blog article also featured a video of a rather smarmy young woman, apparently one of Keith’s followers, claiming to be a former “teenage age liberal” on the topic of gender. She sounded just like that misguided (and also smarmy) young woman who made a YouTube video to argue against the inclusion of a young trans girl in a Colorado Girl Scout troop. I hope some day she’ll feel ashamed of herself.
And I guess that brings me back to kids. And me being a mom and all that. People like Keith and Derrick Jensen of DGR just haven’t got a clue. They haven’t got a clue about the loooooong history of gender diversity in human beings, and they have no idea that very young children can be accurately aware that their inner sense of gender does not match their gender assignment at birth! Little “girls” who are really little trans boys are not going after “male privilege” and little “boys” who are really little trans girls are not patriarchal tools seeking to subvert all that feminism holds dear. They just want to be who they are, with names and clothes and toys and friends and parents who feel good to and about them. Experts in transgender and gender variant issues, including the parents and family members of such people, know this. And they know that acceptance is crucial to the survival of these kids!
So the astounding cruelty of denial coming from people like DGR is – let’s say it – an exercise in the very worst of adult privilege. Yep! Privilege! What Keith and Jensen and their ilk do is not just transphobia and cis-centrism, it’s also a very deliberate way for them, as powerful adults and opinion-leaders, to deny people of all ages their right to define themselves in the most basic manner without fear of reprisal, violence, abuse, or exclusion. And that’s frakking dangerous. It’s dangerous to the survival of innocent children, just like it’s dangerous to the survival of trans youth and trans adults.
I challenge Keith and Jensen to read Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, to understand the widespread social injustice caused by their kind of oppressive positions. I challenge them to visit the Transgender Day of Remembrance sites, to see the kinds of corpses their hate-filled language can make. I challenge them to watch My Life in Pink to feel the gender struggle through a child’s eyes, and to get some much needed cultural perspective from Ke Kulana He Mahu and Two Spirits. I challenge them to read The Transgender Child by Rachel Pepper and Stephanie Brill; Transitions of the Heart – Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children, edited by Rachel Pepper; and Diane Ehrensaft’s books.
Finally, I challenge Keith and Jensen to humbly attend the Gender Spectrum Family Conference in Berkeley this summer, so they can see and feel with their own eyes the joy of trans and gender variant kids in the act of being themselves, and the love of their supportive families. I challenge them to offer their snarky little gender analysis directly to parents who wonder hourly if their child or teen will come home intact after using the school bathroom or if their adult child will end up on the Day of Remembrance website. Such experiences might help Keith and Jensen to transform their own narrow, sadly pathetic little minds and their cramped, vicious little hearts. Perhaps there is hope for them and their ilk, but I’m not counting on it.
I write as the mother of two. One kid is cis-gender, the other is trans. I challenge Keith and Jensen to talk to me.