Feedback on Sex and Gender Issues?
11 Wednesday Sep 2013
I‘ve recently been told from a number of sources that the articles I have written on sex and gender issues are transphobic. In some cases, I can see disagreements stemming from misunderstandings and assumptions about my thinking which are a result of my being imprecise in clarifying terms, in other cases, I think that there are substantive disagreements between the ways that I conceive sex and gender and the way that some trans people do. It has also been suggested that I do not listen to trans people, and that my writing would be better informed if I did.
Consequently I would appreciate feedback, particularly from people who identify as trans, on what the issues are with my writings. In soliciting this feedback, I wish to set out up front that I reserve the right to disagree. There are a multitude of positions on sex and gender within the trans community – Annie Lawrence, Jennifer Usher, Toni D’Orsey and Liza Millbank are just some of the women who write extensively about sex and gender from a trans position, however I strongly suspect that if you put them all in a room together, blood would be spilt, so radically different are their views. I appreciate the dialogue that I have already had over this with “A Frightful Hobgoblin” (part1, parts 2 and 3) which lays out some of the concerns they have over my thinking, although as I point out in the comments, some of these are based on assumptions which are erroneous, and also with Occasis, as well as individual conversations that I have had in private spaces.
The archives detail my writings on sex and gender, as well as a specific archive on transgender issues. I can identify some issues in some of my previous writings, for example when I was asked if Socialist Resistance could republish my article on Women Only Spaces, I re-wrote sections of the post to address some of the latent cis-sexism that I was unable to see at the time of writing. In the interests of intellectual honesty, the original is still on my site, however the updated version was published on Socialist Resistance and I am sure that with the benefit of hindsight I could pick out other parts of earlier writings which I either no longer agree with, or were written lazily and without due consideration.
The main issue that I am picking up which prompts the concerns that people have over my writings on sex and gender is that I consider sex to be fundamentally different from gender. That women need not be female and that females need not be women. That “woman” is a social and ideological construction and that “female” is a biological marker related to the mode of reproduction. This is distinct from both the radical feminist analysis, which considers that women is a ideological construction necessarily built on the back of biological sex – a position I find essentialist; and the dominant current within libertarian feminism which considers that sex and gender are synonymous and self-declarative – a position I find idealist.
As a Marxist, I consider that the ability to gestate and birth the future labour supply is a critical distinguishing feature between humans – that feature is one which we identify through the marker “female”. The control over these humans who are able to birth and gestate babies is enforced ideologically through the normative gender of “woman”, which is patriarchally constructed in a cishet fashion the better to control those who provide the future labour supply. Gender in its “true” sense, I see as being one’s sense as a “sexual-being-in-the-world”, in the “fun-squishiness” rather than reproductive sense of “sexual” and as such it is unique to each one of us, but we are socially forced into one of the two normative genders of “man” or “woman”, for there is no other way to “be” (in Western society).
Both lesbians and trans women are disruptive to that normative gendering of “woman”, as they break the ideological association between gender and reproduction. Being a woman without the capacity to conceive, gestate and birth is devient, you can see this not only in the aversion to trans women, but also in the historical construction of the “barren woman” who is unable to fulfill her biological desiny. Being a woman without engaging in PIV sex is deviant as it eschews the act which is central to sexual reproduction, by sexual engagement with other women, lesbians are implicitly refusing that act as, again, part of the patriarchal construction of “woman” is someone who does not have a penis.
I would be grateful for any feedback that people (particularly women, particularly trans people and especially trans women) would like to give, either on the fundamental constructions of sex and gender which I hold, or on the language and modes of writing that I use which people find hurtful, isolating or exclusive, with a view to developing the former and changing my writing style to be less alienating