A few random thoughts on Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning

So. THIS happened.

The soldier we all knew as Bradley Manning has officially come out as transgender, and will henceforth be known here as Chelsea, in accordance with her expressed wishes.

Of course, her coming-out has been greeted with the predictable shitstorm from the usual poo-flinging monkeys. I hold out little hope for Erick Fucking Erickson, or the other random trolls of the Internet. They will always believe that she is really “he”, and that “he” is “crazy”, a “fag”, and what have you. A massive bullshit projection on their own part, of course, and one that I don’t expect to see changing anytime soon. So, fuck them. They are lost, and they can stay there. I’m going to talk here, instead, about my fellow feminists and what we can and should do to support Chelsea at this time.

For the past several months I’ve seen some disturbing indications that one particular faction of radical feminists is simply bound and determined to get the whole issue of gender wrong. They insist that transgenderism must somehow be “heteronormative” because it can take a gay man and turn him — presto! — into a heterosexual woman. Or some such. The fact that there are plenty of trans people out there who are L, G or B as well as T just never occurs to them.

And when this inconvenient fact is pointed out, they brush that aside by claiming that trans lesbians, for example, are “really” straight men who are just exerting male privilege by trying to winkle their way into women-only safe spaces (and the pants of “womyn born womyn”, as they call cisgendered women, by extension.) As for straight trans men, they are “traitors” to the lesbian community and seekers of male privilege, and therefore, also class enemies and oppressors of women. (I have no idea what they make of bisexual transfolk. Too confusing to tackle, maybe?)

The fact that a MTF trans woman gives up male privilege by coming out as trans, and that a FTM trans man does not qualify as a “real man” in the eyes of most penis-bearers-from birth, also does not register with them. Neither does the shockingly high hate crime rate against trans people. The murder of a trans person is a hate crime, and should be treated no differently, from a legal standpoint, than the murder of a woman by misogynists, or a gay guy by gay-bashers, or a black person by racist whites. Why should trans people be exempt from hate-crime protections, and even just basic human respect, simply because they don’t conform to society’s (and, ironically, certain radfems’) outmoded ideology of gender?

And yes, it is an outmoded ideology. More and more, science is coming out in support of the transfolk. It turns out that intersexed people who might voluntarily identify as one sex while still retaining characteristics of the other (or choose not to identify as either), are more common than we think. Add to them all the other gender-identity variants out there on the genetic and biological spectrum, and we get a sizable continuum of people who simply don’t fit that old Procrustean bed, and shouldn’t be made to. If we stuck to the “sex, not gender” paradigm espoused by religious conservatives (and, ironically, some radfems), those people would be abominations, or class enemies, instead of simply what they are: PEOPLE.

Of course, I fully expect that someone will accuse me of not “getting” radfem anti-gender ideology, which is supposedly opposed to chopping people’s bodies up to make them fit an assigned (and “socially constructed”) gender identity. Don’t worry, I get it just fine; I just happen to find it nonsensical, and I am done with it. Fuck ideology; this is a matter of human rights. While other feminists busy themselves worrying about the “mutilated bodies” of transsexuals, and fretting about how “heteronormative” they supposedly are, I respect them being able to make up their own minds, and support their right to live according to that choice. Nobody is MAKING them transition! I respect their lived experiences. I accept trans women as women, period — and conversely, trans men as men. I prefer to advocate for nonjudgmental counselling and safe, medically proven, publicly funded transitions, for those who wish them. I will refer to the transfolk by their chosen names and pronouns. (I will also put in a word for the singular “they”, which I like because it is so inclusive and non-specific, while still being an established usage of surprisingly long lineage.) I also choose to respect the fact that gender does exist, that it is in fact biologically based and not just socially constructed, and that it needs to be held distinct from gender roles, which ARE socially constructed (and massively unfair to women, as well as LGBTs and intersex, genderqueer and questioning people.)

The realization that so many of my radical feminist friends don’t seem willing to grasp these rather obvious things, distresses me and alienates me from that sector of the movement. I’ve avoided confronting them personally about this for the most part, as round-and-round arguments give me a whanging headache and eat up so much energy that could be put to better uses.

I want no part of the War Against Gender, which is an obviously losing battle being fought with weapons forged by fundamentalists, not radicals. If others want to cling to theories that have no consonance with the real world, fine. But not me, thanks. No using the master’s fundie tools to destroy the master’s fundie house. That means: I will not exclude, misgender, bully, concern-troll, gender-police, or snark on trans people. I have seen fellow feminists do all those things, which are shocking, shameful and unworthy. At times like that, I can’t tell them from the flying monkey rightard poo-flingers.

This is why I am coming out…as an ally, not a separatist.

And I will support Chelsea Manning just as she is, no matter what. Right now, she needs all the support she can get — and if not from other women, then where? And if we don’t respect her decisions regarding her gender, then who will? And who will respect our decisions regarding our own bodies, if we cannot respect those of another woman?

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