the threat of fundamentalism

23/02/2009

In a post entitled “The Taliban of the GLB Movement” over at tgnonsense, Leigh Smith argues that transgender people are largely responsible for the backlash gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people are currently experiencing in the US and in some regions elsewhere in the world. She goes on to explain how they provide a huge big bullseye for a resurgent Religious Right to take aim at, and consequently elicit hatred and bigotry against everybody in the LGBT “community”.

I don’t think anybody can realistically disagree with her. Transgender people are indeed singularly visible, and to an ideology so rigidly conformist as religious conservatism, gender variance is like a huge big red flag.

But to blame the target makes no sense.

I’ve been watching the whole transgender vs. transsexual thing in the US for a couple of years now, reading blogs and articles and forum posts that sometimes get so nasty (from both sides), you expect nothing so much as bloody murder.

Once you look beyond “American” shores (always loved how you guys appropriated the entire continent in naming yourselves) it seems to become something of a non-issue. The “great divide” between transgender and transsexual nearly never even occurs to most people, and with obvious exceptions, gender-variance is accepted legally and medically, and for the most part tolerated. Way-out transgender people might be seen as odd or weird or “out-there”, but most people just go about their lives with a wry grin or a sneer and a shake of their heads on the rare occasions that they actually encounter one.

It only seems to be in the United States that acceptance of GLB and especially T has become no less than a battle for the very fate of all mankind, emphasis on the MAN.

And I suppose that’s a big part of it. America seems to need enemies, to be locked in a heroic struggle of good against evil. At least if you judge by how quick it is to name them. In the 50’s the big evil was the Communist Threat. Before that, “Japs” and Nazi sympathisers were undermining the very fabric of the United States. Not too long ago we had an “Axis of Evil” knocking on the door and today the Gay Agenda threatens no less than the destruction of America in righteous hell-fire and brimstone. And let us not forget the dark threat of Al Qaeda and “Islamic TERROR”…. which the US just so happens to have created, trained and funded way back when they were fighting the Commies.

Whatever the cause, those “enemies” breed fear, and fundamentalism thrives in that sort of environment. Add climate change and an economic collapse that spells uncertainty for all of us, and fundamentalists are going to look for scapegoats to blame their woes on. If transgender people didn’t exist it would be black people or women, both popular targets in the past, immigrants or just foreigners in general, or they would invent a new group to hate. Anything rather than to accept responsibility for their part in creating the circumstances we face in this world right now. And of course, you have to be the good-guy if you’re going to be fighting the Great Enemy.

I understand the urge to be normal, to sanitise ourselves and become as acceptable and palatable as possible, but no matter what we do, whether we are “true transsexuals” or screamingly genderqueer or just garden-variety gay, we’ll never conform closely enough to their idea of what a man or a woman is supposed to be. After all, most cisgender men and women don’t either. Indulging in a bit of scapegoating of our own won’t change that.

Religious fanaticism isn’t part of the problem, it is ALL of the problem. Ignorance at least can be reasoned with, most of the time, but fanaticism has to be opposed. Because as long as we’re all busy scratching one-another’s eyes out, with transgender accusing transsexual of being deluded in their binary identity, or transsexual accusing transgender of subsuming and subverting the plight of “true transsexuals”, or GLB really not wanting anything to do with either group ’cause they’re well, weird, the fanatics will be taking the United States away from everybody, and that influence will spread beyond its shores, as is the case with everything that happens in “America”.

Mina.

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9 Responses to “the threat of fundamentalism”

  1. ariablue Says:

    I’m curious how you would feel if you lived here. I guess you don’t really understand the argument between the transsexual men and women in this country, and the political construct known as transgender. This is a case of the medical care and human rights of a minority being used as a cover to advance a particular political agenda.

    When the people using transsexual men and women are done with them, what is left of our scant dignity and public reputation will be tossed on the garbage pile,. Then they will move on to the next minority they feel they can use. That’s US politics.

    “America” is short for United States of America. The continent was named before it existed, I think.

  2. Mina Magpie Says:

    Thank you for visiting ariablue.

    I don’t know how I would react, but I’d hope that I could let my head and not my heart do the thinking. Which I don’t mean to be a judgement against how you and others feel about transgenders, simply that the fighting and recrimination only benefits those who would do us harm.

    I do understand your feelings though, and I take as much exception to anybody calling my identity as a woman into question as I would in defending the right of somebody who doesn’t identify as either binary to be who they are. To me the gender deconstructionist crowd who attack EVERYBODY’s gender is as bad as the crowd of “true transsexuals” who deny the identities of androgyne people or genderqueer or others.

    In my opinion though there’s alot less difference between the two sides than we may think. I worked as a TEFL teacher in Taiwan for a year and spent two years after that in the UK and Europe, and something that struck me was how rare transgender people actually are everywhere I’ve been – real “huh? binary?” types who find both male and female equally alien or identify with both or fall somewhere inbetween. They do exist, I’m friends with a few, but nowhere near the impression I get of how many there are in the US.

    I have a theory about that – Taiwan has a public healthcare system as does most of Europe, and they cover GID. And here in ZA we have two academic hospitals that do colovaginoplasty and FtM surgeries practically for free (works out at about $20), though you go on a waiting-list as long as my arm and still have to pay for your own hormones and therapy (though you can get those at state hospitals if you know the system). I suspect that, were there more economic equality in the US, many people who previously identified as transgender would suddenly be only too happy to be transsexual instead. But I think people can learn to live with alot of things and even accept it as part of themselves when they have no choice.

    Mina.

  3. Mina Magpie Says:

    Oh and PS. I didn’t mean to attack the US by making the comment about using “America”, it just seems wrong to me that a word that describes two continents gets used to refer to only one nation of people amongst dozens.

    EDIT: I wikipedia’d it (yay wiki!), and there are like three theories of where the name came from – either the explorer Amerigo Vespucci named it after himself, or it was named after a place in Nicaragua, or it was named after a merchant named Richard Amerike. Either way,they were referring to the entire landmass.

    Mina.

  4. Leigh Smith Says:

    Well … I am British .. so there goes that theory

    🙂

  5. Mina Magpie Says:

    Cool beans.

    Though I would argue that my original premise that there is much less acrimony around this issue outside the shores of the US is still valid. I mean, we have a couple of loud voices on both sides of the argument here as well, but generally most gender-variant people just don’t get involved.

    Anyway, thanks for the feedback. And for writing the article. 🙂

    Mina.

  6. Leigh Smith Says:

    Mina,

    And I could argue that the british have a whole different system of social welfare than we do in the states which means that all those tranny’s that can’t get a job can live quite well on the dole.. FOREVER! Thats why you don’t see them pushing for laws like ENDA and seeking rights to housing and medical care … it’s pretty much all free in England. But here in the states its another story entirely. In the states the transgender try to monopoliize the term transsexual even when they are no more than crossdressers or transvestites. They try to claim the medical model of transsexuality as a means to push for laws to force employers to hire them or allow them to sue if fired. They constantly whine that society singles them out and they cling to the Gays and lesbians thinking that they will have a better shot at passing stupid laws that almost nobody outside the transgender community wants or needs. They whine that they can’t get a job because society is transphobic and homophobic, never once taking responsability for their own actions. It never occurs to them that there are consequences involved in become a gender varient, that nobody is holding a gun to their head to do it, that nobody cares very much about their problems when they have plenty of their own problems. They whine that the gender binary is flawed and that they should be allowed to live as they see fit, in whatever gender role they feel suits them on any particular day. Thats their right to do so, at the expense of everyone else that has to work alongside them. Many of these gender bending tranny’s wouldn’t have surgery done if it were free, yet they whine that it costs too much. They point to legitimate post surgical transsexual women and call them transphobic, self loathing, elitist, and privledged, not stopping to think for one moment that most of us worked and saved and went without in order to afford surgery. Then they tell us that our surgery means nothing since it is nothing more than an inverted penis and they claim they don’t need or want surgery to be the woman they know they are.

    So should I tell you how I really feel ? LOL Yes the debate across the pond does not have the same fire it does here. You don’t have to deal with 50 states all with different laws and a federal government that wont even go so far as to recognise that post surgical transsexuals should be afforded the rights of their target gender. As post surgical women of transsexual history, many states recognized our legitimacy way back to the 1950’s and in the period up to the 1980’s, many states had quietly passed laws that allowed us to fix our birth certificates and marry opposite sex partners, but all that has changed since the Transgender and GLB came along. Now we don’t even know if our marriages are valid any more. Various states are enacting stricter rules on documentation changes, we are being murdered by the basketfull, and what society once understood as a medical condition has been sold to the GLB painting all Transsexuals as gay men.

    The Transgender have a lot to answer for, and we intend to hold them accountable.

    EDIT: I’ve removed the link to the petition as I would prefer it not being promoted from here. I hope you’ll understand.

  7. Mina Magpie Says:

    When it comes to anybody calling me out for being stealth and just getting on with my life, I’ll agree with you, they’re wrong.

    Where we start to disagree is the whole either-or argument that you (and granted, some transgender activists on the other side) advance. I don’t see how transgender people getting the same rights and protections as everybody else is a bad thing, because there is NO excuse in my mind for discrimination or violence against somebody based on their gender identity, whatever it might be. When gender-deconstructionists, whether rad-fem or transgender or whatever other shade start targeting my own gender, believe me I have something to say about it, but in my experience the vast majority just want recognition for their own circumstances.

    You know, I know that the comparison has been made before, and that many people strongly disagree, but when the Nazi party came to power, much the same sort of gradual vilification took place. Jewish people were blamed for every ill, but it didn’t end there. Homosexual, Bisexual, Gender-Variant, Polish, Romani, dozens of other groups. And of course there were the “morality” and “ethics” enforcers and the censors and all the rest. And the German public ate it up hook, line and sinker because they were afraid.

    Today they call it the “Culture of Death” in the US and go on about morality and ethics just as loudly. People were hit for a six by 9/11, and with the assorted crises since, they are looking for something to blame, something they can target to set things aright, and LGBT people are it because they’re easy – the n’th mistranslation of the n’th version of the Bible makes it easy. It won’t end there though. Between the “evangelical womanhood” movements and the pro-life people and the creationism-in-school people, I honestly can’t see how you can’t see the targeting of LGBT people as just a small part of a larger and scarier picture. Religious Conservatism is a rising force everywhere and targets LGB people and transsexual people whether there are visibly transgender people out there or not because they’re afraid of being turned into pillar’s of salt, not because transgender people are visible. The only reason that they’ve not found the sort of voice they have in the US is because they haven’t nearly as much political influence. Though worryingly they do seem to have a louder voice very day in other places as well.

    Bigotry has to be opposed wherever it rears its head in whatever form. Just because somebody is different from me does not make them any less of a person, or any less worthy of the same benefits I derive from society.

    Mina.

  8. Jennifer Says:

    I appreciated the refreshing “outsider” opinion of the US. (And that’s why i call it US or United States, btw, since it’s not fair to just call it “America” and steal the name from the Brazilians.)

    I think you do overestimate fundamentalism, though. Yes, it’s bad… because everything’s becoming polarized… but I was shocked when I got out of my little evangelical subculture and realized that, despite everyone supposedly believing in God and creation to some degree, most people see the Religious Right as nuts. Outside the conservative church, I’m accepted as a woman even by people who know my past, and some of them are actually pretty religious.

    The Gay Marriage thing is ugly, yes, but you can see how much progress has been made in the last 30 years alone. Give it another 30 and we’re going to have gay marriage, and the fundies will have disenfranchised themselves. They’re vocal enough (and were represented by Bush enough) to get some international press, but they’re not really the big story here; their power is waning, even if the bite is still very poisoned. The 80’s were probably the height of their dominance, and it’s taking time to cleanse the culture of the stank.

    • Mina Magpie Says:

      >> I appreciated the refreshing “outsider” opinion of the US.

      LOL. I wouldn’t call it refreshing. More like angry. Reading this post again now a few months later … oi. I wasn’t exactly being fair. .>_> I think you do overestimate fundamentalism, though.

      I really hope so, because it does seem to be gaining more and more power here in ZA, which has me really deeply concerned. I’m glad though that you’ve had such positive experiences for the most part – it does leave one hopeful for the future.

      Mina.


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