A trans writer by the name of Aoife coins the term “GATE”–gender abolitionist, trans embodied–to describe those trans folk who subscribe to sex essentialist theories which posits that they themselves do not exist/are mentally ill fetishists/mistaken about themselves in one way or another. These hypocrites reap the benefits hard won by trans advocacy whilst campaigning to see those gains reversed, hence a dichotomy characterized by the phrase “male in the tweets, female in the streets.” I noticed this dichotomy thrust upon any trans woman (and gendercrits usually obsess over trans women specifically) any time we encounter a gendercrit in the wild. Our life is expected to sit still for a picture over which the TERF can pen in a bunch of lines, meanwhile we carry on minding our business as they frantically wave their picture around insisting we stay in place. Rani interviews an ex-“gender critical” trans person and discusses how attempts for GATEs to organize are often short lived.
The gender abolitionist position arose vigorously from 1970s feminist analysis (particularly lesbian feminists), who argued power and sexism were embodied predicaments, in which “gender” shoves people into social locations based on patriarchal expectations. They don’t “criticize” gender as a kind of conversational interrogation – they want to abolish gender, which will inevitably require some kind of massive overthrow of the social order. In such a political analysis, trans women or “transwomen” are universally male, and whatever enactment of “femininity”, the “feminine”, or the replication of the true female form through patriarchal pharmacology are direct appropriations of the female as sexed universal. In short, trans women have absolutely nothing to offer actual women in terms of feminist revolt, and in fact distort and derail the cause.
That would make being a gender abolitionist/trans embodied individual (GATE) in a wickedly impossible predicament. What exactly are they proposing to accomplish?
Other than a few hit pieces or some twitter conflict? Nothing. This, to my mind, is why there was no New Narratives 2. What more could be said from a dissipating middle ground of quicksand that GATEs tread, sinking further with every ideological stretch they make? The short-lived and totally ineffectual project Gender Apostates likewise collapsed. The SETs saw it as a lead-balloon intervention, of males in dresses diluting true radical feminism. Of men in makeup more likely to occlude feminist analysis than augment it. And, as the record shows, Gender Apostates failed to find a committed group of cis women, of trans-masculine, or destransitioned trans folk: the very groups who claim to be erased from the conversation that gender critical seeks to bring into the conversation. Even sympathetic, big-name “moderate” media writers were rarely directly supportive of the project – why risk the radical base of their audience by co-authoring with ladyfacers? Michelle Goldberg’s article on gendercrit, far from forwarding conversation, just led to more confusion: “Wait, they have F-passports, go around presenting as women with female names, but say they’re male?” This was by far the most common response I read to Goldberg’s interviews.
In short, the gendercrit movement’s moment strolled in circles with an uncertain inertia, and no direction to turn. r/gendercrit is little more than an insult forum with tautologies: “trans women take selfies; some narcissists take selfies therefore, all trans women are narcissists.” Same with tumblr. Twitter. Facebook. The voices of “gender abolition” in social media are largely hectoring brays of targeted insults and denigration, all on the anonymous.
Gender abolitionism wants a world without gender, and therefore transgender people, in it. That’s the political objective: no more trans.
Thus, is “gender abolitionism” an ethically accountable system, rejecting yet possessed of compassion for transgender people . . . perhaps in a “love the sinner, hate the sin” sense? Varies by the individual, of course. (And whatever is most politically opportunistic at any given time.) Sure, there are gender abolitionists (GA) who are great mates with GATEs. Some distantly sympathize with trans women. What I notive about the ‘sympathy’, however, is an admixture of pity and intrigue for the ramifications of our existence. Is it ‘compassionate’ to assess all trans woman as emotionally traumatized by-products of masculinist gender agendas, hapless puppets to gender therapists and victims of Father Knows Best medicine?
Because the compassion fades right f’ing quickly before the abolitionist strategic design for the future. Abolitionists, by ideological default, must condemn transition as a reckless, untested aberration for the confused and selfish; and so SRS is always mutilation. And, predictably, the attacks go straight for trans health care, since treatment for the “defect” of gender dysphoria is a clumsy, misogynist intervention at the individual level. Collectively, trans health care equals the phallo-pharmaceutical destruction of womankind.
So — being ‘compassionate’ in a clinical sense, sure — yet being selective in who gets that compassion, on what terms . . . pronoun cherry-picking, appointing “right-thinking” trans women, sticking to the same researchers and eliding over a very broad scholarly conversation about sex and gender in society . . . it’s not compassionate to be telling a young trans woman preparing for her SRS that she’s about to become a Living-Wound of permanent defilement. That seems like a pretty shitty kind of bully, really. Not what they say – what they do.
Let me rethink of it this way . . . what I mostly saw as “compassion” was pathos; and as for the cudgel? We’ve all been hit by the cudgel. Blame, punishment, condemnation … anytime, any place, any reason. I’m not denying poignant individual friendships exist between individual GA feminists and trans women. Nor would I deny the outright tokenism and exploitation of the “TERF pet”. It happens.
Kind interactions can often slide into confrontations, with peer pressure and group think ensuring the GATE doesn’t step out of line. Because in their view the most compassionate thing to tell a GATE is to destransition! Thus, at a certain point, ‘compassion’ or ‘cudgel’ are not readily distinguishable amidst a political vanguard possessed of an extreme gender-scepticism. The trans person, attempting to hold gender abolitionist views, is a glaring paradox. How does one experientially benefit daily from the civic and social accommodations that trans activism has won for us, yet denounce or discredit the principles and civil rights issues that led to these accommodations?
Read more here.
Edit June 6, 2017: Corrected a typo involving the speaker’s name.