Primarily among the Left that is centered on “activism” that only manifests itself on the internet, Deep Green Resistance, a group dedicated to resisting corporate greed’s effects on the planet, an organization that is also equally dedicated to the liberation of women, is being accused of transphobia. In reality, female Deep Green Resistance activists were assaulted — by males. For the males who assaulted these female activists, gender is an identity. For the female Deep Green Resistance activists, gender is a shackle. We believe that all oppressed people, especially women, have the right to smash all shackles that bind them to the oppressive society.
By transphobia, these e-activists mean to insinuate that Deep Green Resistance is an organization that shares the same dedications of those who continually make life ever more difficult for individuals who identify as transgender. Employers who discriminate against transgender employees, “tough guys” who spend their afternoons brutalizing, beating and raping people who do not fit into the gender identity their biology socially prescribes for them, and other, real, authentic, physical threats, physical forces that seek to harass and harm transgender-identified individuals.
Deep Green Resistance partakes in none of the above. What Deep Green Resistance did do, is the following:
a.) Make a class based analysis of gender as a structurally induced social-construction, manifesting itself as the organized control and restriction of men and women to sets of actions to empower one sex over the other, and subjugate the female sex to the dominant male sex’s control
b.) Make a distinction between women and ‘trans-women,’ and analyze the political connotations of the transgender phenomenon
In this post, we’ll be exploring both the “abolitionist” approach to gender taken on by Deep Green Resistance, and the distinction made between women and transgender-identified individuals by Deep Green Resistance.
Gender, Sex, & Class
Lets take a look at what Deep Green Resistance actually said about gender and transgender people. First, lets take a look at their political summary of gender, and gender abolitionism:
Firstly, they make the comparison of gender to race – or rather, the set of actions that are associated with specific races:
“The point is that race is not biologically real. Politically, socially, economically, race is, of course, a brutal reality around the globe. But the concept of race is a creation of the powerful. If we want a just world, the material institutions that keep people of color subordinate need to be dismantled. And the concepts of “whiteness” and “blackness” themselves will ultimately be abandoned as they make no sense outside of the realities of white supremacy.” (1)
Basically, They’re arguing that race seeks to tie whole groupings of human beings into collective, unabridged classes, manifesting in power-relations between one another. This can be biologically confirmed. It’s reported, for example, that:
“Possibly only six genes determine the color of a person’s skin,” Graves, a professor of evolutionary biology and African-American Studies at Arizona University, said in the Times interview.” (2)
Six genes out of the 30 to 40,000 genes that make us human determine the color of our skin. Something that can seem so important, so relevant, so determinant, is in reality a non-factor. When whole economic systems, wars, and religions have been developed on the basis of the perceived color of one’s skin.
The article, published by Fox News titled Biologically Speaking, Race Doesn’t Exist, continued to say:
“Black, white, Asian—all are artificial, really. A black man and a white man from Manhattan, for example, are likely to be more genetically similar than a black man from Manhattan and a black man from Nigeria.” (2)
“Artificial,” that is to say, socially-constructed. If race, or at least skin color and race-relations in general, are socially-constructed, as the biological as well as historical evidence seems to suggest, then where did it come from? It must mean that it is the result of a certain kind of society, or rather, specific kinds of societies, that are heterogeneously connected historically and structurally to one another. For example, the transformation from slave society to industrial capitalist society in the Southern regions of the United States. America had shed the old form of slave holding society for industrial and post-industrial capitalism, while remaining, in terms of American infrastructural power as it relates to the black population, the same.
In regards to gender, the writers for Deep Green Resistance continue:
“A lot of people get confused when asked to apply the same radical analysis to gender. But from a feminist perspective, the parallels are obvious. Are there differences in skin tone across the human species? Yes. Why do those differences mean anything? Because a corrupt and brutal arrangement of power needs an ideology called racism. Are there differences in the shapes of people’s genitals? Yes. Why do those differences matter? Because a corrupt and brutal arrangement of power—patriarchy—needs an ideology called gender.” (1)
In this case, what they are arguing is that whole sets of human interactions, emotions, and perceptions are relegated to classes of interaction, reserved for people who biologically meet society’s’ ‘requirements’ for these actions; in the 1800’s, pink for boys, blue for girls; today, pink for girls, blue for boys. Socially, this color-class dynamic becomes football for boys, ballet for girls; dresses and high-heels for girls, pants and boots for boys; etc. Deep Green Resistance, as an organization, feels that any description of gender as a binary is a reformist viewpoint. Its analysis of gender is that of gender being an oppressive structure, one they seek to do away with, to alleviate the particular kinds of oppression they, as women, face.
Emma Goldman commented on this reality, referencing the Christian religion and the Bible’s role in enforcing gender:
“Religion, especially the Christian religion, has condemned woman to the life of an inferior, a slave.” (3)
What substantiation is there for this claim? We need only look at the Bible itself. The Bible has quite an amount to say about woman and her place in the family unit. This quote, from verses Titus 2:1-5, is telling:
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (4)
Here we see the ways in which the Bible enforces what Deep Green Resistance calls the “gender-structure.” In regards to “femininity” and “masculinity,” the writers for Deep Green Resistance say the following:
“What of femininity? Femininity is a set of behaviors that are in essence ritualized submission. Female socialization is a process of psychologically constraining and breaking girls—otherwise known as “grooming”—to create a class of compliant victims. Across history this breaking has including so-called “beauty practices” like FGM (female genital mutilation) and footbinding as well as ubiquitous child sexual abuse. Femininity is really just the traumatized psyche displaying acquiescence.” (1)
What Deep Green Resistance is directly implying is, gender manifests itself as a restrictive classing of men and women into sets of actions that seek to dominate, or submit, men and women to one another. There is an idea, there is a concept of “femininity,” but in reality, it does not exist, it is not something that we can touch. Its physical manifestation may be a dress, or a pair of high-heels that damage the foot’s bone-structure not unlike that of Chinese foot-binding, but this manifestation is merely symbolic; an outgrowth of the idea, the conceptual understanding we undertake of “feminine.”
What did Deep Green Resistance say about transgender in regards to their analysis of gender? Lierre Keith has said a number of things concerning the transgender phenomena, one of which is this:
“Gender is no different. It is a class condition created by a brutal arrangement of power. I can’t fathom how mutilating people’s bodies to fit an oppressive power arrangement is frankly anything but a human rights violation. And men insisting that they are women is insulting and absurd.” (5)
Interestingly enough, the article that claims that Deep Green Resistance is transphobic refers to the group as “Derrick Jensen’s Deep Green Resistance” in the title. Nowhere is Lierre Keith mentioned.. until it becomes convenient to the effect of labeling the group as “transphobic.” I suppose the sexist e-left considers Lierre Keith to be nothing more than a female counterpart to Derrick Jensen, despite the two being co-founders. My question now is, where did Lierre Keith incite violence towards transgender-identified people? How did this statement physically affect transgender-identified people? If women cannot offer any structural, class-based analysis of gender because the identities of those affected by gender are much more precious, even moreso than the bodies and minds of these women, then women cannot in any way contend with the system’s coercive nature. Women have the right to theorize on these issues, and to confront the particular types of oppression, especially and particularly the ones that cohabit the social-structure of this society, and by all means this right must be respected. Another claim by the same article attempts to make the case that Deep Green Resistance discriminated against transgender members of the organization:
“I left the organization at the beginning of 2012 after a trans inclusive policy was cancelled by Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith. Many good people and good activists left the organization for that reason.” (5)
While the author does not substantiate this claim in any way, I’d like to take a moment to comment on the pressure queer-activists make for “inclusion.” Inclusion into what? Women’s spaces? Feminism? In the context of transgender activism, the term “transphobic” has become a sort of misused scare-word. Rather than identifying real threats to transgender people, sections of e-activist circles hurl the word at radical women – feminists, in particular, as they did against comedian and feminist Roseanne Barr (6), for her insisting that women’s bathrooms be female-only spaces. For Deep Green Resistance, words weren’t the only thing hurled:
“Two women were tabling, handing out DGR literature and selling books. A group of five transgender/queer activists came up to the table. One of the male queer activists began shouting at the women, using aggressive language. This man made threatening gestures toward the women. He grabbed and defaced table materials. When one of the women went to protect the materials, he marked her arm and hand as well.” (7)
Is this the kind of inclusion that queer-activists demand? Inclusion that disrupts the activity of female-only spaces? That drives women to the wall, having the very word “woman” seized violently from their grasp, forced to hold tightly onto the only thing left, a biological fact; female? If anyone resorted to physical attacks, it is the queer-activists who swarmed onto the Deep Green Resistance activists, who were peaceably distributing materials. The Deep Green Resistance article continues:
“A half an hour later, a male DGR member tried to engage in respectful conversation with these queer activists. They began chanting at him and insulting him, culminating in them throwing trash and food at his head.” (7)
Immature, unacceptable behavior. Apparently, women standing up against their social-constraints is violence, but assaulting peaceful Deep Green Resistance organizers isn’t.
‘Queer’ Politics and Feminism
Germaine Greer said in her book The Whole Woman:
“Governments that consist of very few women have hurried to recognize as women men who believe that they are women and have had themselves castrated to prove it, because they see women not as another sex but as a non-sex. No so-called sex change has ever asked for a uterus and ovaries transplant, if uterus and ovaries transplants were made mandatory for wannabe women they would disappear overnight. The insistence that man-made women be accepted as women is the institutional expression of the mistaken conviction that women are defective males.” (8)
The 78-year old veteran feminist writer and activist was also attacked by self-described queer activists (organized on the internet) for this paragraph. It seems that these post-structuralist, queer-activist types only express themselves with the rage of testosterone; through physical force against women: male-on-female violence.
That isn’t to say that violence is specific to males; but overwhelmingly, male violence is directed against women, often institutional or as a result of institutional influence, through the functioning of the larger society as a whole. An example: for the male, the loss of a job could eventually entail the entering into crime; anything from a legal means of keeping one’s head above ground to illegal means, like drug dealing. For the woman, the loss of a job potentially entails the selling of the only commodity she has left: her vagina.
That also isn’t to say that men cannot enter into prostitution, that they cannot be exploited as prostitutes. But overwhelmingly, this reality is faced by women: the ones who grew up as girls, who were conditioned into patriarchal notions of femininity, who have penetrable vaginas, who normally have the ability to become pregnant with a child, and all the economic hazards that come with that in this society. If the woman grew up in the Third-World, she may have, as a young girl, been subject to genital mutilation. For the majority of women who enter-or should I say, are forced into-prostitution, the nightmare begins with childhood. It’s reported that 75% of women who are involved in prostitution started as children. In a society that views women as the property of men, how can anyone be surprised without being disingenuous? (9)
It is also reported that women are threatened on the basis of their biology according to the following statistics: 74% of women cite poverty as the primary motivator for entering into prostitution, up to 70% of women in prostitution spent time in care, 45% report sexual abuse and 85% physical abuse within their families; up to 95% of women in prostitution are problematic drug users, including around 78% heroin users and rising numbers of crack cocaine addicts; more than half of UK women in prostitution have been raped and/or seriously sexually assaulted, at least three quarters have been physically assaulted, 68% of women in prostitution meet the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the same range as torture victims and combat veterans undergoing treatment. The mortality rate for women in prostitution in London suffer is 12 times the national average, and a global study of prostitution found that 9 out of 10 women in prostitution would like to exit if they could. This is substantiated by object.org. (9)
The Feminist proposition is that women, in this society, constitute a sex class, not unlike that of the classing of individuals as being white, black, or otherwise. This is why Feminist women object to the notion of transgender individuals who “identify” as females, being females; and there are transgender people who understand why Feminist women feel that way, who have reached out over the internet to express their understanding of this, and who have acted on the whole in a very courteous, mature manner. (10) I should admit that, on the whole, I consider much of the queer-activism prevalent on the internet today, such as privilege theory, to merely be a consequence of today’s late-capitalist social-formations. On that note, I should also admit that I’m not greatly interested in dealing with the topic, other than my support for individuals who identify as transgender to the right to self-defense and security in their lives. I’m much more concerned with why the psychiatric and medical establishment would seek to normalize a great deal of the arguments espoused by queer-activism into the greater society. I think this is because it is less threatening to the larger, oppressive establishment to struggle with individual identity rather than to identify with collective struggle.