I call myself transfeminist, because I identify as trans (with a little help from our wonderful society which does so much to keep me from forgetting it) and feminist. Usually this isn't a problem: I identify as a woman, and  feminism is about furthering the causes and rights of women, and I am. so. there.

But at the same time it has to be acknowledged that feminism and transgender activism often have found themselves in at best an uneasy alliance, and at worst completely divorced from each other. A certain strain of radical feminism (see: Heart, Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and my friends at AROOO) maintain a richly transphobic tradition of never seeing trans women as women (or trans men as men, for that matter; that's why so many trans men have had no problem getting into MWMF), using such all-time hits as "mutilated men," "colonizers," and still number one with a bullet, "rapists." (I always like that one. I once went looking for statistics on how many trans women get raped a year. The numbers proved very elusive--it seems most trans victims are either killed instead of being raped, or killed right after being raped.)

I'd love to say that this tradition is an out-of-the-mainstream offshoot of more mainstream feminism, but I think we should confront and be honest about heritages--that in fact, this transphobia is almost genetic to the modern feminist movement that began in the '60s and is usually called Second Wave feminism. Consider how many of the leading lights of that movement--the heavy-duty theorizers--have proven to be extremely transphobic: Germaine "ghastly parody of women" Greer, Janice "morally mandating it out of existence" Raymond, and Mary "Frankenstein Phenomenon" Daly. (Andrea Dworkin will get an Incomplete on this excercise--she seemed to feel that transition was the best thing for us poor deluded souls until the Genderpocalypse would come and we'd advance into the genderless utopia.)

Mary Daly's recent death has highlighted that split again. Many feminist blogs picked up the story and either presented Daly as completely laudatory with maybe a few distracting foibles, simply ignored the transphobia that was a not insignificant part of her career (she was Janice Raymond's thesis advisor, fercryinoutloud), or both. Sadly, that even included Shakesville, where Melissa McEwan posted an uncritical obit of Daly from the Boston Globe (theologian, radical, wouldn't teach men, etc.) without any mention of her transphobia or problems with feminists of color (see Audre Lorde's famous "Open Letter to Mary Daly", to which Daly never publicly replied.) Normally Shakesville is both very trans-friendly and usually quite quick to correct oversights--and Liss did put up an update that addressed the problems with Daly. And I have no reason to doubt her statement that she simply did not know about the darker side of Daly. (Although the only reason I can think of for that is that she simply didn't know much of anything--like me, though at this point I pretty much assume a Second Wave feminist is anti-trans until proven otherwise--about Daly; the Lorde-Daly feud, at least, was a famous controversy of late-Second Wave feminism.)

And that probably rated more than just an update to the original entry. Certainly Liss's own eulogy of Teddy Kennedy (a terrific piece of writing) remained ambivalent, and Kennedy did much more for many, many more people than Daly ever did. And it's frustrating to not see a similar kind of piece right off the bat for Daly--as one of the commentators at Shakesville said, "how horrible DOES a feminist (or other activist supposedly on 'our' side) have to be before we (the general we, humanity, not necessarily Shakesville) condemn hir rather than laud hir?"

The thing is, to someone like me Daly wasn't a mostly good person who had some regrettable flaws; to me, she was the enemy, and all the economiums by feminist women who were so positively influenced by Daly's erudition and the real sisterhood she gave people during her life--all those stick in my throat, because Daly would never offer them to me. To her, I am a monster. She not only didn't want to be my sister, she wanted me to not exist.

That doesn't mean, like some trans activists, I'm ready to give up on feminism. (I love Genderbitch's writing and I groove on her radicalism, but I'm not quite ready to throw in the towel myself on either Shakesville or feminism.) Not the least because there are feminists out there who do feel that trans women are integral to feminism--the irrepressible Sady of Tigerbeatdown (who had hands down the best and most balanced obit of Daly), the way that Feministe has tried to increase its trans awareness after some spectacular failures last year, and Laurie Penny's recent remarkable post at The F-Word:

"Many otherwise decent and sensible cis feminists have fallen prey to lazy transphobic thinking. In the vast majority of cases, cis feminist transphobia does not stem from deep, personal hatred of trans people, but from drastic, tragic misapprehension of the issues at stake. Recently, outspoken feminist Julie Bindel declared in an article for Standpoint magazine: “Recent legislation (the Gender Recognition Act, which allows people to change sex and be issued with a new birth certificate) will have a profoundly negative effect on the human rights of women and children.” Her views are founded on the assumption that “transsexualism, by its nature, promotes the idea that it is ‘natural’ for boys to play with guns and girls to play with Barbie dolls… the idea that gender roles are biologically determined rather than socially constructed is the antithesis of feminism.”

Bindel and others have, initially with the best of intentions, misunderstood not only the nature of transsexualism but also the radical possibilities for gender revolution that real, sisterly alliance between cis feminists and the trans movement could entail."

Articles, and feminists like these, are what keep me a feminist; because they keep alive bell hooks' maxim that "Feminist movement is vital both in its power to liberate us from the terrible bonds of sexist oppression and in its potential to radicalize and renew other liberation struggles." That kind of solidarity--that kind of movement against all kinds of oppression--are kept vital by many feminists today, and are why I still choose to call myself a feminist.

The trans part I just have to live with.

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