February 11, 2014

How post-structuralist feminism has become a weapon used to invalidate transgender

I have spent some time over at tumblr, lately, mostly discussing the lives of female to male crossdreamers and girlfags. Sometimes it feels like being back in the school yard, with bullies honing in on you from all directions. This is probably because so many of the participants are very young and have still not developed the necessary empathy and patience needed to treat others with respect.
Using the fetish theory of modern feminists, lesbians
are invalidating the lives of FTM girlfags and crossdreamers,
arguing that these persons have no male identity.

There are some patterns here, the most important being the use of modern "post-structuralist" feminist theory to invalidate girlfags in particular and trans people in general.

Lesbians attack girlfags for "fetishizing" gay men. Since most of my readers do not spend much time on tumblr, I will republish a couple of my entries here.

The following is a response to impostoradult, who gives a very good presentation of post-modern accounts of sex and gender in her response to my blog post om sex, gender, mind and body. You do not have to read the original posts to make sense of this one.

Dear impostoradult,

I have actually no problem in accepting most of what you write here, both as regards post-modernism and your understanding of understanding in itself.

I guess I am more of a 'philosophical hermeneutics' kind of person myself, but the basics remain the same: Our life word, the sum of our experiences, put limits to what it is possible to think.

And yes, categories like gay, girlfag and crossdreamer only exist in our mind. You will not find them 'out there', in the 'real world'. However, our sense of self and our bodies are anchored in the real world, so we do have some access to "the world in itself", if no through language.

My admittedly popularized and simplified presentation in this blog post was aimed at those that systematically use parts of post-modern theory to invalidate the experience and identity of girlfags, crossdreamers and other gender variant people. And in this respect reminding people of their animal nature makes very much sense.

The current atracks on girlfags and crossdreamers, reducing them to unreal 'fetishes' and body-less 'semiotics' have their roots in the thinking of the post-structuralist philosopher Judith Butler and her fans. Having read all the books written by the lady, I can confidently say that this is a woman who have left the physical world behind and is now living in a mirage of literary references.

Not all post-modernists or post-structuralists think like this. Michel Foucault did not, but many of the thinkers dominating women studies and queer studies most certainly do. You are right in the sense that they do not deny the existence of a real, physical, world "out there". They do not deny the fact that I have a body, but since their method stops them form saying anything meaningful about this body this makes no difference in practical terms.

I like to think of post-structuralism as a step by step retreat from any hope of understanding the world in itself. It started with Kant, who realized that we have no access to the world in itself ("Das Ding an sich"). That is: we have only access to the world as it represents itself to us in our minds. This led to the philosophy of phenomenology, which also collapsed, as the new dogma stated that the phenomena as they appear to us can only be understood via language and symbols (semiotics).

This is where post-structuralism is now, trapped in never-ending self-referring systems of words and symbols. The next step should have been some kind of Zen Buddhism, but I am afraid few of these thinkers have the religious heart needed for that kind of enlightenment.

All of this would have been fine, if these thinkers really accepted the limitations of their own method. If you have a tool for analyzing language and symbols, stick to analyzing texts. In practice, however, far too often these thinkers make statements about the world in itself.

To give an example. They move from the position that cultural gender is socially constructed to arguing that even sex (the body) is socially constructed. Yes, our interpretations of the physical body is interpreted through language. It has to be. But they go further. They now dismiss any argument to the effect that physiology, genes and hormones have an effect on gender development. Sex is nothing but a social construct.

(My cat smiles when I  tell him this. He knows better.)

David had, as you probably know, his penis damaged after birth. Dr. Money decided it was best to raise him as a girl. David developed severe gender dysphoria, being convinced that he was in fact a boy, regardless of what his parents and his doctors told him. Intense conditioning and deliberate 'social construction' did not work. His sense of being male did not abate.

Butler's anaylysis of the medical brutality is brilliant, but her treatment of David is horrible. She pretends to respect what he says, while at the same time losing herself in endless unintelligible paragraphs aimed at undermining the same man's sense of self. In parts of the text she even uses the female pronoun when referring to him.

Why? Because accepting David's identity would open up for the possibility that sex is more than a social construct, that the body and its animalistic instincts and drivers may contribute to our feeling of being a man or a woman.

The political effects of this way of thinking is found in the transphobia of many radical feminists. Since gender is totally socially constructed, only persons raised as women can be women. Female to male trans men must therefore be traitors seeking male privilege, while male to female trans women have to be perverted men invading women's spaces. Currently rad femme bloggers like GallusMag and Dirt are combining the philosophy of Butler with the sexist theories of Ray Blanchard in order to persecute trans women. This is post-structuralism reduced to fascism.

The reason they are able to combine post-structuralism and the psychology of fetishes in this way is also found in Butler and her admirers.

Butler's main challenge is to explain why (given the enormous social pressure young girls and boys are put under to force them to adapt to the gender stereotypes) homosexuals and transgender people exist in the first place. Her solution to this problem is to make use of Freud, another thinker who ultimately left the body behind.

And this is where the fetishes enter the scene. She does not use the term fetish herself, but her she makes use of the same line of reasoning as Freud. Childhood experiences and imprints creates constellations of desires that makes the child go off course, so to speak.

Young people schooled in gender theory have now been given the ultimate weapon to invalidate gender variant people: The combination of social construction and psychologically constructed sexual preferences: fetishes. The gilfags and the crossdreamers are nothing but fetishists! There is no inner sex identity! Their sense of self is nothing but a mirage.

Anyone who have read [Michel] Foucault will understand what is happening. The Powers that Be, the dominant world view, the Patriarchy is now using post-structuralist radical feminism to keep those who threaten the status quo under control. And the social system does not give a damn about logical coherence.

This is why I this week had to wrestle with a lesbian who, full of indignation, reduced all girlfags to fetishists, not realizing that by the same logic she is one too.

The recent tumblr truscum debate, where FTM trans men try desperately to take over the 'transgender' term in order to cast out the crossdressers is another example. They are basically gender essentialists, [gender as an inborn phenomenon] and therefore Butler's opponents, but that does not stop them from using post-structuralist theory when it suits them. They, the truscum, are real men. The crossdressers and the crossdreamers are delusional fetishists.

On the male to female side I find both conservative 'classical transsexuals' and 'forced feminization fetishists' actively using post-structuralist thinking to dismiss the identity of those in the gender twilight zone.

The classical transsexual believe they are the only 'real women' around, while all those icky crossdressers and crossdreamers are fetishists. The forced feminization enthusiasts use the theory to calm any fear they might have of being transsexual. In this way they all help uphold the gender binary. The price is paid by all those who do not fit into this perfect scheme of things.

I am not a naive essentialist. I do not think there is a 'woman chip' in a woman's brain that contains everything from a desire to bake cakes to a fascination for Gucci handbags. While a lot of intersexed boys raised as girls have suffered from gender dysphoria, others seem to have adapted well to the lives of women.

If anything this tells me that our sex identity is the result of the interaction of an insane number of biological, psychological and cultural factors. But right now very few are looking at the whole picture, which is why both the social sciences and the natural sciences so easily can be used to invalidate the lives of the marginalized.

Ultimately we will never get to the objective truth of what shapes sex identity and gender. But by using our sense of self as a starting point and engaging in a discussion with both the social sciences and the natural sciences we may develop a kind of triangulation that makes sense to more of us.

I want us to look at biology and neurophysiology, and even those naive and sexist evolutionary psychologist, not because they are right, but because they at least try to understand the other side of our being. They are as caught up in the mental maps and the language games of our culture as everybody else, I know, but we have to start somewhere. Post-structuralist philosophy is an excellent tool for analyzing language, but is useless in the meeting with hormones and synapses. We need both approaches.

For an excellent review of the post-structuralist invalidation of trans, read Julia Serano's book Excluded.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!