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The Biotic Woman: Transphobia and Ecofeminism

Transphobia and anti-trans sentiments are not uncommon among ecofeminist writers and activists. It's a disgusting and painful reality. Feminists working on all sorts of issues know that transphobia and anti-trans sentiments are not uncommon among radical groups of any kind that nevertheless label themselves as open and tolerant. What's particularly disturbing to me is not that this happens in any one place—context aside, oppression sucks—but that in a movement of people working on issues around valuing all life, human and non-human alike, there are still vocal opponents of trans rights and inclusion. How completely bewildering and shameful.

I will admit that I was largely unaware of the anti-trans sentiments of many ecofeminist writers for many years because while I personally was drawing together my concerns for the environment, animal rights, and human rights, I wasn't reading a lot of the specifically veg*n/ecofeminist literature that has been so blatantly hurtful and anti-trans/transphobic. Becoming aware of this damaging, exclusionary legacy has been startling and disconcerting and outright shameful, and I'm honestly confused as to why this wasn't long ago dealt with by a feminist community that is (at least in my mind) supposed to be working to end all intersecting oppressions. Some ecofeminist writers—a disturbingly large proportion, in fact—have openly attacked transsexuals in the past, something that is often overlooked as these writers are eulogized or praised by up-and-coming activists. However, a few really terrific bloggers have been pointing out these contradictions for a while, especially L.O.V.E., The Vegan Ideal, and Questioning Transphobia.

I know as someone with cissexual privilege, it took me some time to learn how to recognize and undo my privilege, and it's something I continue to work on. For a long time, I was quite confused by trans issues, said some awfully hurtful things, and while I have learned a lot from my jarring missteps, there's always space to improve. No one person can be expected to know all history, but it's also our job as allies to educate ourselves.

I encourage you to read the links in this piece, as well as the pieces linked below, which shed more light on this problem than I eloquently can. I hope folks will take time to reflect on this and educate themselves instead of instantly responding, possibly defensively. In my next post, I'll be talking to Ida Hammer, who runs the indispensable blog The Vegan Ideal and has long dealt with hostility as a trans women in veg*n/ecofeminist circles. Her words are wise and generous in the face of mistreatment, and I'm looking forward to further highlighting her incredibly insightful work.

Further reading:

L.O.V.E.: Feminism and Animals: What You Won't Find in the 101

Questioning Transphobia: The legacies of trans-exclusive feminism (aka why are you angry?)

The Vegan Ideal: Challenging Feminist Transphobia

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Comments

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"Ally"

While I agree that the problems of transphobia and outright attacks on trans communities from within the political and academic spheres of feminism are a HUGE issue, I would like to address the use of the word "ally" (actually, "allies") in this post because ti's something I've been seeing a lot of on various blogs and fora lately.

I don't believe that a person can label themselves an ally. It simply does not work that way. Only a community (in this case, the trans community) can assign that label to those who it deems are acting as allies to that community. Labeling oneself an ally, assuming that one has the right to do so, smacks of privilege to me. It silences the very community that one believes they are supporting.

What is the alternative to ally, then?

@ennyl How do you suggest people label themselves? I see what you mean regarding how the group to which one is trying to be an ally should decide if you are one or not, but at the same time it seems odd to have to wait for the nod of approval to be one. Is one a "want-to-be ally" or "a potential ally" until one gets that nod? Can one person from the group declare you an ally or do you have to have many people agree to it? It seems like it'd be alienating for someone who knows they come from a privileged perspective or background and is trying to overcome that and trying to fight all kinds of oppression to then be told they're not an ally unless someone labels them as one. How do we make sure not to lose sight of our common goals in the process of determining who gets to label who an ally?

No idea.

Ha. I mean, I'm cis and incredibly involved in and supportive of the little slice of trans community that I'm lucky enough to be a part of, but I would never call myself an ally. From what I've seen, people who give themselves that label either do it when deflecting the issue of their privilege or when they start taking up space/time when people are discussing trans issues. I think that calling oneself an ally can (not always, obviously) make someone feel that they have the right or should constantly be speaking on behalf of the community to which they believe they are an ally. I have a problem with that because I believe it silences members of the very community of which one is supposedly an ally. I hope that makes sense. It's a sensitive issue for me. :)

Thank you for writing about

Thank you for writing about this

Thank you

Transphobia is mentioned so rarely, and I really look forward to checking out the links you provided. Thanks!

feminist/trans

more background reading:

"Feminist Perspectives on Trans Issues" http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-trans/

links to the following articles (in addition to a number of other related articles) here: http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/tbettch/
"Trans Identities and First Person Authority"
"Evil Deceivers and Make-Believers: On Transphobic Violence and the Politics of Illusion"

confusing and disappointing

This is so confusing and disappointing to learn. i consider myself an ecofeminist and i cannot see how you can revere nature and not revere the diversity of gender and sexuality in nature. i read some mary daly but never anything of her transphobic writings. well, the earth will swallow even the ignorant. and alas, she has swallowed mary daly.