Mind Your Own Fucking Jizz (or, the CUM Manifesto)

Mind Your Own Fucking Jizz (or, the CUM Manifesto)

I have always felt a surprising connection to the the transmisogynist term “autogynephilia.” Not that I ever casually refer to myself as an autogynephile during any of my once every three year ALO’s that I go on, but more that I find a certain power in exploring its history of repression. For me at least, understanding how transphobic discourses code my body and my desires as pathological is key to refuting their logic. The term itself was coined in the nineties by Canadian sexologist Ray Blanchard in an endeavour to delegitimize transfeminine embodiment. According to his “theory”, transwomen fall into one of two possible categories: we are either homosexuals who pretend to be women in order to lure innocent heterosexual men into our insidious loins, or else we are autogynephiles, heterosexual men with  such a deep sexual perversion that we can only be aroused by the image of ourselves as women, going as far as surgically altering our bodies to satisfy our sick and twisted lust.

I am drawn to autogynephilia in much the same way that I am drawn to many other forms of transmisogynist history and practice, even something as basic as the slur “tranny” (which I may or may not have forced a dear friend to tattoo on my arm with a somewhat intoxicating fervour during a recent 4am cocaine gala). Our history of oppression as gender non-conforming people is long and often brutal. While it is quite disturbing to me how entire fields of research and industry have been mobilized to produce consistent streams of harmful knowledge about our lives, I can’t deny that I also see a power there too. Practices which are meant to delegitimize or pathologize us as a class of people only thinly mask the anxiety which drives them. Behind the necessity for theories like “autogynephilia” is the deep-seated fear that if left to our own devices, transwomen actually pose a threat to social order, that we are in fact dangerous beings (which is true). When we reclaim these histories, I do believe that we are able to not only subvert their power over us, but also express our own will to be whoever the fuck we wanna be.

Autogynephilia is of course laughable as a plausible theory of gender, not to mention sexuality. While I am indeed not a sexolologer nor a Phd. Candidate in the sciences of medicines and biologisies, I do believe one could argue that even a slight decrease in gender dysphoria brought about by the adoption of any form feminine expression could have dramatic effects on desire, pleasure, and sexual autonomy. I’m pretty sure it’s called “ i’m feeling sexy” or “my cunt is wet” or any of the other six million normal things people say when they feeling hot and also thirsty af. I’ve also heard like 6 different prononciations for “autogynephiliac” because it’s a really dumb long stupid word and so literally only people who speak ancient classical romantic latin can probably say it good.

Autogynephilia is funny to me because in a way, it’s true. The vast majority of transwomen actually do experience a surge in desire and pleasure after coming out. This is even and maybe especially true for people taking estrogen and testosterone blockers which are supposed to decrease libido. In fact, all medical practitioners who prescribe hormones make damn sure to let us know over and over again that hormones will negatively impact our “sex drives” and procreative capacities. What they really mean when they say this is that our ability to have choice boners and spray vital(?) jizz all over the place including into our own eyeballs will probably not be super possible anymore. Considering the fact that many of us have immediate plans to get our dicks chopped off this is actually a very baffling warning. For others who may not experience genital related dysphoria, the way this claim is framed as permanently and negatively impacting our sex drives is simply frightening. Unless your sex life already consists of you dressing up as a rainbow hued donkey and just licking a foot with salt on it for an hour, this would scare anybody. Honestly, in 2017 why the fuck is sexuality still universally framed under a heteronormative and transphobic framework that centers orgasm and the procreative viability of cum? It’s not an exaggeration to say that sexual beings are directly equated with ejaculation and, furthermore, for people who have penises, that entrance into the sacred realm of sexuality is premised upon the possibility of erection.

Even within queer and feminist communities, this reductive framework of sexuality is still largely unchallenged. Admittedly, reseizing pleasure from the iron grip of a world that despises you and your body and your sexuality is very chill. The widespread historical repression of womyn’s sexualities and the criminalization of gay and queer subjects has been and continues to be devastating. The pathologization of vaginal orgasms which swiftly followed the “discovery” in the 18th Century that vaginal pleasure was not an essential criteria for procreation had enormous effects on the lives and sexualities of many womyn and those coerced into the position. “And as soon as female (sic.) orgasm lost the legitimacy of a direct connection to reproductive capacity, it came to seem either non-existent or pathological. (Plant, 200) In response to such a repressive project, some 20th Century feminisms took “orgasms on any terms!” to be a rallying cry for a movement which was increasingly aware of how deeply their sexualities were confined. “It was imperative that women have orgasms. Measures had to be taken to liberate them and make them climax.” (Plant, 200)

Similarly, the pervasive repression of homosexuality and the subsequent criminalization of sodomy, cross-dressing, public sex, and HIV non-disclosure which contributed to coding gay sex as dangerous to some abstract “public”, politicized any expression of homosexual desire. Under a system of law which considers HIV “non-disclosure” to be a form of aggravated sexual assault, people living with HIV and their bodily fluids, such as cum, are considered to be weapons. In this context, it is obvious that reclaiming orgasms as manifestations of freedom and pleasure is imperative. So it’s not like people are just ejaculating willy nilly all over the place for no good reason, and even so, it’s not like we “need” a reason to cum. In a world organized around the principles of production and accumulation, Bataille thought that “our only real pleasure is to squander our resources to no purpose.” Or, in other words, to cum, just because. In doing so it is argued that we are able, even if just for an instant, to connect with the moment of our own death, or that singular state which lies completely outside the boundaries of capitalism and labour.

The issue at hand here is not orgasms, it would be rather silly to claim that they are not worthwhile experiencing. The real sticky point, however, is orgasm’s exalted status as the point of transcendence, the moment which supposedly grants us entry into a liberated and fulfilling sexual state. Without orgasm, sex becomes a slippery concept to define because in our culture cumming is the equivalent of a litmus test. When we orgasm it is assumed that we have been freed. I’m sure I do not have to describe the feeling, that sudden release of anxiety and surge of accomplishment that comes with the knowledge that we helped someone cum. On the opposite side of this spectrum is the feeling of potential failure that we were unable to provide release, or, disappointment that we ourselves did not reach orgasm. In these cases, it is not uncommon to throw the entire event into question as in “did we just completely bomb on doing the funky rn???” Or even, “am I the worst persyn at sex in the entire world? Yes, yes, in fact, I must be.”

Global medical diagnoses such as “sexual dysfunction” which supposedly categorize together a diverse range of sexual problems exceptionally address symptoms relating to penetration and orgasm. Under the diagnosis of sexual dysfunction we find some of the following symptoms: premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory incompetence, sexual arousal disorder, orgasmic disorder, vaginismus, and painful intercourse. Not to say that any of these are not valid sexual problems, but more to point out that the ideological scope of what constitutes sex is obviously quite small. Wilhelm Reich, a prominent Austrian pyschoanalyst and author of the book The Sexual Revolution was so convinced of the centrality of orgasm that he believed orgasmic disturbance was responsible for almost all emotional problems. “The severity of every form of psychic illness is directly related to the severity of the genital disturbance. The prospects of cure and the success of the cure are directly dependent upon the possibility of establishing the capacity for full genital gratification.” (Reich 96)

A principal component (amongst other more explicitly brutal practices) of gay conversion therapy programs was an intervention that was called masturbatory reconditioning. This practice, more than any other example I could find, points clearly to the ideological function of the orgasm. During masturbatory reconditioning, a gay man would be placed in front of a screen and told to masturbate while watching a series of images. For the arousal and stimulation periods, gay pornographic content would be played on the screen. Once the stimulation was heightened to a point that orgasm was imminent, the images would instantly switch into what was considered “appropriate” stimuli, or, heterosexual pornographic content. It was believed, that if the moment of orgasm could be trained over a period of time to associate directly with heterosexual stimuli, then people would be forced to seek out heterosexual situations, or else stop cumming altogether. To not cum, of course, was absolutely unthinkable so people would obviously be forced to seek out heterosexual stimuli. While masturbatory reconditioning was but one component of a variety of techniques (or, tortures) that made up gay conversion programs, it nevertheless shows how central of a role orgasms play in normative discourse. Masturbatory reconditioning was not concerned with intervening in someone’s sexuality, but just training them to cum at the right place at the right time regardless of desire.

You may be asking yourself at this point if my deep distrust of orgasm is actually a coping mechanism for being left out of the cum cocktail party. Well, in order to be entirely fair and unbiased I have decided to try and connect with my awesome (as in inspiring of awe) orgasmic potential so as not to discredit my specs as a journaliste of merit. What follows is a description of what I did yesterday, which was masturbate.

First, I did all the normal stuff to set a sexy mood like deep clean the fridge and make a simple collage about the history of recycling. After, I decided to get very autogynephiliac and put on things only girls wear like socks and underwear. Then, I decided to mix it up by putting on a very gender neutral and very short summer dress, red lipstick, and thick mascara. Not only did I look good but I was feeling very revved up. I thought at this point it would be a great idea to think about things that turned me on, so I remembered my completely wasted transgirlfriend accidentally knocking over a small child during an early afternoon psychedelic troll stroll a few months prior. This image made me THIRSTY but still I couldn’t feel anything stirring in my bone zone. I definitely was going to need some extra help.

What I thought would be useful was to look up sexual videos of transgender lesbians doing lesbian stuff like putting their mouths all over each others dongs. This is, all we all know, is undeniably hot and I felt a trickle of desire forming within me as the images washed over my eyeballs. Next, I lay down on the couch on my stomach watching the porn and thought that even though things were clearly heating up, I was going to need a dynamic approach. To accomplish this I first slapped myself in the face (which caused pain), then I bit my arm for a while (also ouchie), and finally I licked a book that was on the ground nearby cause I find intelligence to be very sexy. I was feeling quite wet at this point so I slid off my underwear and used them as a drying cloth.

After this, I got up on my knees and slid a lubed up dildo under my dress and pushed it inside me. This felt quite excellent and had the wondeful effect to make my whole body feel like a warm wet noodle. Poppers seemed very appropriate at this point and after a sniff sniff I melted way down into the couch. Oh shitttttttttt I thought, maybe instead of this whole cumming thing I’ll just fuck my ass on infinite repeat. Yes… forever, I moaned, forever…..forever…..yes yes…till the end of time….there’s no other way….eternal…asshole…ad infinitum

WAIT!!! NO ESTELLE, NO. The plan was to release a tidal wave of orgasmic energy to soothe and liberate my psyche, not to just ream my own dumb butt till I fucking die. So I pushed the dildo as far in as it would go and then got to the real work. I licked my hand and after a while of touching myself I got pretty much 63% erective which was A LOT. Then I just started full on jacking off which felt decent but required a lot of deep sexy concentration to maintain hard state. This kind of unpaid emotional labour didn’t deter me though because I knew it was my destiny to get that jizz out into the world. After five or ten minutes or so of this kinda up down thing, something really interesting started happening in the porno which really saved me. These bitches were about to cum.

I turned to see these girls stroking their dicks with a laborious abandon and the sounds escaping their mouths were telltale signs of a cosmic struggle. I felt wholly connected to these women and the impossible tasks they were confronting. Why oh why were we all subjecting ourselves to this horrible pain I bellowed? One by one they screamed out things like “Oh yeah baby, are you ready for this cum load?!” Loads? Is she serious rn?

Quite suddenly a girl shrieked and the camera zoomed in on her dick right by someone else’s mouth as she’s saying “Fuck, fucccccccccccck” which were clearly said in such a way that someone who was about to have an orgasm would say. Then the person whose head is right bye the penis starts foaming at the mouth, amassing saliva all over her lips which she then expertly places on the penis right at the orgasm moment in such a way as to confuse the audience. Wait a minute, did she cum? Is that splooge on her dick?? Or is that just spit from the other persyn’s mouth??? In sequence, this exact same thing happens to all the girls and I’m transfixed with a lascivious lust that will not loosen its grip. This deep confusion and clearly total lack of actual cum is so hot that I become extremely aroused. Within seconds some horrible force takes over my body and I close my eyes and embrace what must undoubtedly be my oncoming sexual liberation. My butt muscles squeeze a few times and then a tiny little drop of splooge falls on my stomach. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Get it off, get it off me!!

If we could only begin to approach sex a little differently sometimes, outside of the orgasmic framework, I believe this could only proliferate the possibilities for new kinds of empowering interactions and intimacies. This does not mean we need to stop cumming, quite the contrary. Sex, as many of us know, can be a very fulfilling creative space and queers have always been creative masterminds. If fisting was the great sexual invention of the 20th Century, then I think that muffing, a practice created by transwomen where the inguinal canals in the scrotum are penetrated and fucked might be a top contender for the 21st Century, but there is clearly still so much space left to explore. If we were able to take a step back from an orgasm centric understanding of sexual liberation, people who don’t want to cum, or who can’t cum, or have problems becoming aroused, including some transwomen, wouldn’t need to feel so anxious about sex or their bodies not “working properly” or living up to heteronormative standards of sexual functioning. Considering how much actual abuse and violence transwomen endure just for having penises, it’s actually absurd to get even more shit during sex because our “aberrant” dicks may not be hard and we may also not want to fuck you with them. Orgasms are cool and everything, but there are infinite sexual dimensions to be explored and frankly I’m v bored of hearing “did you cum? Did I make you cum? Can I cum now all over your bitch face?” No. The answer to all of your questions is no. Now please let me continue licking your foot that is covered in salt and mind your own fucking jizz.

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Y’all Better Quiet Down: On Liberal Transgender Assimilation.

Y’all Better Quiet Down: On Liberal Transgender Assimilation.

 

 Y’ALL BETTER QUIET DOWN

                   KIMBERLY NIXON and the Canadian Legal Precedent of Transmisogyny

In Canada there is a horrifying legal precedent that has almost embedded trans-misogyny into the law. It goes to back to Vancouver in 1995 when Kimberly Nixon, a transgender woman, attended a training session for volunteers who wished to become counselors for the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter (VRRS). Vancouver Rape Relief is a women only organization that is, according to their mission statement, committed to advocating for women’s equality. The centre “works as an active force dedicated to challenge the social attitudes, laws and institutional procedures that perpetuate male violence against women and children.” Amongst other things they run a 24 hour rape crisis centre and provide shelter for women and children escaping male violence.

Prior to participating in the training, Kimberly Nixon had passed a screening process intended to identify those who do not agree with the core beliefs of VRRS, in particular, the belief that women are never to blame for the violence to which they are subjected. She was motivated to volunteer her services because of misogynist violence she had experienced in her lifetime both before and after coming out as a transwoman. During the training session, a facilitator, solely on the basis of appearance, identified Nixon as transgendered. Nixon was asked to confirm that she had lived her entire life as a woman and, when she responded that she was a transgender woman, was asked to leave. (Chambers, 318, 2007)

Infuriated and humiliated by this experience, Kimberly lodged a formal complaint against VRRS to the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Kimberly did not challenge the “women-only” policy of VRRS, rather she asserted that was a woman and therefore entitled to both access the space and undergo training. VRRS contested that while Kimberly may claim she is a woman, she is not woman enough to be a peer counselor. VRRS found it irrelevant that Nixon had “previous experience working with women in crisis, as she had been a peer counselor at Battered Women’s Support Services and had worked at a transition house for women dealing with male violence and/or mental health concerns.” Evidence during the trial confirmed that Kimberly had been very effective in her work. VRRS argued that these life experiences could never compensate for the reality that she had been born a man. The VRRS asserted that “there is significant danger that a male counselor, someone who may still have some male characteristics though dressed as a female or a man in disguised as a woman” will be disturbing to someone (seeking counseling) who is already extremely disturbed and afraid. (Chambers, 318, 2007)

An article written by the VRRS in response to Kimberly’s complaint clearly laid out their position:

“Assaulted women call us to receive feminist assistance from other women. Across the country they choose women’s services like ours over police, medical facilities, and de-gendered counselling services. They do so precisely to assure they will be greeted by women, that is: by others who have suffered the same basic life long conditions and therefore can understand the assaults and resistance in the same way. Among the women who came forward offering to testify for us were women who had very particular sets of such expectations. One mother had been herself attacked by a police officer in Europe during the war, by a husband later in Canada. She brought her adolescent daughter to us after an attack saying very clearly that she did not want to discuss such things with a man or someone who had been a man. Women told us they did not want to guess at the door whether or not this was a man. Even deep voices, male insignia like baseball caps and boots can make women nervous. Men are always chaperoned by one of us if they are in the entry of the shelter. The sound of a male voice sends tension through the house. But more often the worry was that someone who had grown up being treated as male simply did not share the reference women make in our telling each other about assaults, the objective or subjective experiences of being raised from girlhood to womanhood.” (From, https://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/shelter-movement/women-only-space/women-only-space)

While choosing to not even touch the claim that baseball caps and deep voices send women into panic, one of VRRS main arguments states that misogyny and pervasive sexual assault, while indeed violent, are unique shared reference points for women in a patriarchal world. If this is indeed the case, it is deeply hypocritical to exclude transwomen from this analysis considering that transwomen statistically experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault and abuse. According to the 2009 NCAVP report on hate violence, one in two transgender individuals are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives and transgender survivors experience rates of sexual assault up to 66 percent. Furthermore,

“50 percent of people who died in violent hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people were transgender women; the other half were male, many of whom were gender non-conforming. Sexual assault and/or genital mutilation before or after their murders was a frequent occurrence. Hate crimes are more prevalent against people of color. In 2009, 53% of LGBTQ hate crime victims were people of color.” (from https://www.ovc.gov/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html):

During the trial, the VRRS argued that since “woman” is defined by the VRRS as someone who has lived their entire life as a female, Ms. Nixon was not, and could never be, a woman for the purposes of the shelter. However, as Barbara Findlay, counsel for Kimberly Nixon, put it, the “argument that the dignity interest of a transsexual woman is not engaged by being expelled from a women’s organization is startling. It is the quintessential nature of the oppression faced by transgendered people that their gender and their right to be in or participate in gendered spaces is constantly and derisively challenged. For a transsexual woman to be denied participation in a women’s organization is perhaps the most humiliating experience she can have.” (Chambers, 322, 2007)

In 2003, after eight years of tedious legal battles and multiple appeals, it was decided by the Supreme Court of British Columbia that discrimination had not occurred in the case because Kimberly Nixon was not a woman and that gender difference was not a basis for a discrimination claim. Even if Ms. Nixon was determined to be a woman, the court stated that the VRRS was entitled to prefer a sub-group of women under section 41. Nixon can say she is a woman, and, in most contexts, the law will support her self-definition. Yet other women, and women’s groups, are under no legal obligation to accept her as the woman she claims to be. (Chambers, 322, 2007)

While this case only played out at the provincial level (meaning it did not go to Supreme Court of Canada), it has still set a dangerous legal precedent, whereby special interest groups (such as women’s shelters) are legally entitled to define the boundaries of their own membership. This means that they can privilege certain subsets of a particular group over other subsets and it is not considered discrimination. On the ground, this translates to a disastrous reality whereby women’s shelters are under no legal obligation to work with or accept transwomen into their services. Even considering the fact that transfeminine people in general are considered to be very high risk for homelessness, poverty, and sexual assault. At ASTTeQ in Montreal (Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transexuel(le) du Québec) a trans-led support and advocacy organization, one of their main mandates is to push homeless shelter’s into adopting and centering trans-inclusive policies. This is still today an extremely hard sell. A frightening number of transgender people are turned away from shelters for “looking like a man” or “pretending to be a woman” and left with nowhere else to go.

                                           What exactly does it mean to be a woman?

“Woman”, much like, “man”, is no longer a self-evident category of analysis. Third wave feminisms, queer theory, and critical gender theory among others have all challenged longstanding and repressive understandings of sex and gender. The biological criteria that we usually associate with sex, including genetics/chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive morphology, external reproductive morphology, hormones, and phenology/secondary sex features, are infinitely variable and can be contradictory. Moreover, psycho-social aspects of identity and experience do not inevitably correspond with any particular aspect of one’s biological makeup. Third-wavers, queer theorists, and critical gender theorists assert that woman is not only made, not born, but also that ‘woman’ is an artificial category. (Chambers, 310, 2007)

In many ways, the history of feminism is a history of struggles against biologically and socially deterministic understandings of the world. If gender and sex are both constructed, contradictory, and mutable, then we must recognize that there will be many women who do not possess XX chromosomes, many men who do not have XY chromosomes, and many non-binary people with all different kinds of chromosomes. To do otherwise would be to subscribe to biological determinism which is frequently used to justify social determinism and the horrors of oppression. The deep-seated hypocrisy in the claim that biology is destiny for Kimberly Nixon, but not for cis-gender women cannot be tolerated. This is misogyny in full form.

Michele Landsberg, a prominent Canadian journalist and “feminist”, followed this line of thinking and asserted at the time of Kimberly Nixon’s case that: “Out of politeness, I’d be willing to call that surgically altered person a woman and use the feminine pronoun. But a part of me will always feel outraged that a ‘woman’ could be defined as an outward set of physical characteristics-lack of penis, fake breasts-along with an ultra-sexist ‘female impersonator’ style of clothing and gesture.” Going even further, however, she explicitly positioned Kimberly Nixon as an enemy of the women’s movement and compared her to a rapist: “Woman-centred services are besieged with enemies enough in this backlash era. What a twisted irony it is that the latest and perhaps fatal blow should be inflicted by someone who wants to be a woman-but doesn’t hesitate to inflict potential ruin on a woman’s service that tried to say ‘no’ to her unwanted advances” (Chambers, 325, 2007)

This brings me to possibly the central question of this piece. Namely, why are transwomen and transfeminine people so often accused of being rapists? Even, and especially, in cases when we are the ones on the receiving end of violence?

    Transgender Deceivers as seen through the murder of Gwen Araujo.

In Newark, California, on October 3, 2002, Gwen Araujo, a transgender woman, aged seventeen, was beaten, killed, and then buried 150 miles away in the Sierra wilderness. On October 3, 2002 she attended a house party with a few of her friends, including two men she had previously engaged in consensual sex with. At the party, she was discovered by forced inspection, meaning they pushed her into the bathroom and ripped her clothes off of her body, to be a transgender woman. The men with whom she had sexual relations became enraged and violent. One of her killers, after vomiting, put her in a choke-hold. Afterwards, she was punched in the face, choked, struck in the head with a can of food and frying pan, kneed in the head, strangled with rope and struck with a shovel until dead.

The tragic and brutal case of Gwen Araujo illustrates quite succintly the way in which victims of transphobic violence and hate are subject to blame through accusations of deception with intent to cause harm. To put in another way, that transgender people are concealing a hidden “truth” and that this hidden truth needs to be both “revealed” and “penalized” for it is dangerous.

WHAT LIES BENEATH THE DECEPTION?

After her violent assault and murder, it was suggested by many close to the defendants that Gwen had herself engaged in wrongdoing by perpetuating “sexual deception.” For example, Jose Merel (one of the murderers) was quoted after her death saying “Sure we were angry. Obviously she led us on. No one knew she was a man.” Part and parcel of the accusation of wrongdoing is blame-shifting rhetoric which attempts to excuse the murder. Jose Merel’s mother, Wanda Merel, was quoted as saying “If you find out the beautiful woman you’re with is really a man, it would make any man go crazy.” On top of this, despite the fact that the only sexual assault we know to have occurred was the forced genital exposure to which Gwen was subjected, some commentators like Zach Calef from the Iowa State Daily, argued that Gwen’s murder was not a hate-crime because Gwen had raped her killers. “The men did what they did because Araujo violated them. He used lies and deception to trick them into having sex. He was not honest with them and had he been, none of this would have happened. A hate crime should not even be considered. No one killed him because he was a cross-dresser. These men were truly violated. They were raped” (Bettcher, 244, 2007)

This position, while it may appear extreme, was actually upheld during the court proceedings when the defendants attempted to use the “trans panic defense” clause to justify their murder.

WHAT IS TRANS PANIC DEFENSE?

Trans panic defense is a legal defense usually used against charges of assault or murder. A defendant using the defense claims that they acted in a state of violent temporary insanity because of a purported psychiatric condition called transsexual panic. The defendant claims that they have been the object of homosexual romantic or sexual advances. The defendant finds the advances so offensive and frightening that it brings on a psychotic state characterized by unusual violence. This defense is currently available for use in all US States besides California.

Gwen’s murder is a horrifying example that reveals part of the way in which transmisogynist ideology functions. According to her killers and their supporters, Gwen’s murder was justifiable because she herself had both deceived and sexaully assaulted her murderers. Like the anti-trans bathroom bills in United States, like corrections policies that place transfeminine people and transwomen into male detention facilities, like homeless shelters which refuse access to transgender people, and like the murder of Gwen Araujo, not to mention countless other transwomen of color, we can see that underneath the “deception” of being trans is a threat of harm which relies on the accusations of sexual assault and violence to maintain legitimacy. This goes as far as indicting trans people for the violence inflicted upon them. Transmisogyny and transphobia cast us as pretenders who wish to enter into private spaces, whether this is bathrooms, bedrooms, shelters, community organizations or prisons in order to take advantage of and sexually assault others. The trope of the transwoman rapist literally equates the existence of our gender non-conforming bodies and even our genitalia with assault outside of any actual violence. Our bodies in this transmisogynist context are threats to be preemptively disarmed and punished. Many cis-gendered people and non-transwomen still to this day consider penises to be weapons, literally. Instead of understanding patriarchy to be a series of power dynamics spread out across society and legitimized at material sites like governments, the military,the courts, patriarchal family structures, the media, etc., penises take the blame. LOL.

It is critical in this discussion to also centre the way that assault and danger are embedded and coded within white supremacist ideologies and therefore take on different connotations across race and class. For example, the myth of the black male rapist which was used to justify lynchings in the United States is a racist trope that continues to code black bodies as dangerous in a white supremacist context and effects blackness specifically. Black transwomen, therefore, face racist and transmisogynist danger tropes at the same time.

The Double-Bind

Because transgender people are understood to be deceivers in a transmisogynist context, we are very often pushed into a dangerous double-bind into which we cannot escape. The double-bind rests on the belief that there is a contrast between our outward appearance (which is fake) and our hidden biology (which is real).

On one side of this bind we can choose to disclose that we are transgender and mark ourselves as pretenders and masqueraders. On the other side, we can refuse to disclose that we are transgender and run the risk of being “found out” which means being marked as a liar. Both ends of this double bind run the risk of potential violence, there is no escape from that. It is important to note, that femininity is naturally understood as artifice in patriarchal orders, and so transfeminine people appear as doubly artificial. (Betcher, 50, 2007)

PASSING

However, this is all based on the assumption that a transgender person can pass as a cis-gendered person. For many transgender people, trans-feminine people of color especially, passing can quite literally be a question of life and death. To pass a cisgendered person means you may be able to enter into the realm of the living. You are no longer marked as a fake, a deceiver, or a pervert.

Passing is very often a product of class privilege which is in and of itself a racialised concept. Upwardly mobile transgender people have wider access to a range of costly medical and cosmetic interventions that can drastically increase their odds of passing and therefore increase both their quality of life and their life chances. What many non-trans people may not realize is the sheer amount of both financial means and time invested required for many transgender people to achieve any amount of successful passing ability. A transwomen may need hormone replacement therapy, significant amounts of laser hair removal, electrolysis, a tracheal shave, a vaginoplasty, facial feminization surgery, breast augmentation, a new wardrobe, an extensive makeup collection including concealers, and wigs in order to move through the world discretely. It goes without saying that the costs of all these interventions are significant. In Québec some of these procedures are covered for people who have RAMQ but many are not and, more importantly, people without healthcare have no coverage for any treatment whatsoever. Electrolysis, laser hair removal, tracheal shaves, and breast augmentation are all considered cosmetic and are therefore not covered by RAMQ, despite the fact that these surgeries are the ones typically relied on the most for « passing » purposes. Non-status migrants and those people without healthcare must pay upfront for everything. This leaves many people, especially trans migrants in desperate situations. Inaccessible and arbitrary healthcare practices leave countless people out in the cold.

There are a number of transgender people who question the concept of passing altogether. They believe that emphasis on passing reinstates harmful cis-gendered norms within the transgender community that negatively affect everyone, cisgender people included. Transgender lives should not increase in value as we appear more and more cisgendered. Our lives are always inherently valuable no matter what. One of the most beautiful things about trans communities is that we collectively demonstrate and prove the incredible diversity of gender embodiment and expression in humyn beings by just simply being us.

The dynamics of passing can also create competition and tension within trans-communities. We sometimes fall prey to evaluating each other based on cis-normative ideals and judging a person’s commitment or validity as transgender based on how hard they are trying to pass. It’s important to note that these attitudes come from cisnormativity but we still have the ability to perpetuate them on ourselves and each other. These attitudes not only contribute to transmisogyny, racism, and classism, fatphobia, and ableism amongst other things but also ignore that many people have no interest or desire to pass as cis-gendered. We are not failing nor less valuable when we do not pass.

In addition, passing can also contribute to a dynamic where transgender people who can move through the world as invisibly trans may distance themselves from others who don’t because they do not want to be “found out” which could be dangerous, or even because they no longer wish to associate with non-passing people. This unfortunately re-inforces hierarchies and makes community building difficult.

The « neutral » trans subject

There has been a growing tendency in liberal feminist discourse to speak of a neutral trans subject, a trans person removed from any material context who is “at risk.” (Namaste, 18, 2009) Popular feminist critics like Judith Butler for example speak about a “continuum of gendered violence across the trans-spectrum.” These types of uncritical analyses allow for super millionaire white celebrities like Caitlin Jenner who have bodyguards, mansions, unlimited amounts of cash, and complete access to gender affirming surgeries to understand themselves as oppressed. At a more grassroots level, generalized analyses can also allow trans-organizing to shift away from more radical models into liberal ones. At ASTTeQ, an organization that was started by transwomen sex workers living with HIV who were fighting for their lives, we are seeing more and more that the people who access our services are neither sex workers, HIV+, transfeminine, or even necessarily in financial dire straits. Not to say that transgender people all across the board do not need support (they often do), but only to say that moving from a specific context to a generalized one usually means the most privileged subsets of a population may begin to monopolize discourse and benefit from the available resources at the bereft of others.

In contrast to liberal analyses like Butler’s, Mirha Soleil Ross and Viviane Namaste point to a category of feminist analysis that recognizes the sheer amount of violence enacted against broke transfeminine sex workers of colour.

From Mirha Soleil Ross :

“I invite people to take a minute to look at the Web site for theTransgender Day of Remembrance. You’ll find four people from Toronto: Grayce Baxter, Shawn Keegan, Deanna Wilkinson, and Cassandra Do. They were all trans prostitutes who were murdered while working. According to the web site, they were killed because of “anti-transgender hate or prejudice.” But Grayce Baxter-who was a completely passable, post operative transsexual woman-was working as a genetic woman and was killed by a client who didn’t even know she was a transsexual. He learnt it from the newspapers’ headlines-“Transsexual Hooker Disappears”-before surrendering.” (Namaste, 17, 2009)

Mirha Soleil Ross and Viviane Namaste counter popular feminist discourse that mobilizes this neutral transgender subject by refusing to generalize. What they offer in its stead is an analysis of the regulation of public space which considers “not only the repression and violence against transvestites and transsexuals, but also that directed against the homeless, street vendors, and street prostitutes. In such a framework, violence against trans people is part of a continuum of violence against the poor and the disenfranchised in the broader context of global capital. The repression and displacement of “travestis” is linked to the forced removal of street people, prostitutes, and “undesirables” from specific sites. This process is enacted again and again with gentrification, heightened surveillance and policing policies, safe neighbourhood acts, and the increasing criminalization of poverty, homelessness, sex work.” (Namaste, 23, 2009)

As we honor and fight the violence that many transgender people have suffered, we must never forget the conditions and the context under which this violence has overwhelmingly taken place. To centre a “neutral” trans subject who experiences violence outside of colonialism, misogyny, racism, anti-sex work violence, anti-drug use violence, serophobia, mass imprisonment, classism, and the hatred of the poor is pretty much just gonna lead to a trans MRA tbh.

Chelsea Manning : Truth vs. Truth Telling

In many ways, Chelsea is the perfect figure of the transfeminine deceiver because not only is she “a man masquerading as a woman” but she is also a whistleblower inauthentically and illegally leaking classified documents into the public. For those who are unaware of Chelsea Manning, she is a United States Army soldier, who in 2010 leaked almost three quarter of a million classified and sensitive Army documents to Wikileaks. For these actions, Manning was ultimately convicted with 17 offenses and sentenced to a 35 year prison term. However, her term has recently been somewhat miraculously commuted and she is slated for release later this year.

Through an analysis of Chelsea’s story we can begin to break down and resist some of the more harmful transmisogynist ideas which cast transgender people as threats to be disarmed and punished. Her story is interesting because at the same time that she was thrown into the public eye for her whistleblowing activity, she was simultaneously coming out as a transwoman. When we compare these two processes side by side new points of analysis emerge that open up spaces for resistance.

Necessary to analyzing Chelsea’s story are the heavily regulated yet differing spheres of the private and the public. While these are obviously vague terms they can still help us understand a logic which motivates trans related punishment. “Whistleblowing” is an activity whereby information which is legally protected through systems of law within a private sphere (like for example classified military documents) is “leaked” by an unauthorized person outside of that regulated sphere into a separate public not legally entitled to view such information. As such, this illegal movement of information from the private to the public is understood as inauthentic. The person who facilitated this movement is usually punished for breaking the law.

Similarly, non-conforming genders and sexualities through systems of violence and hyper-visibility, are understood not only as inauthentic within public discourse, but also unfit to even appear. Street based violence and assault, the dual processes of hyper-visibility and non-recognition (OMG look at that faggot!!), and gender regulated public spaces (like washrooms for example) cumulatively act as not welcome here policies. These dynamics affect almost all visibly gender non-conforming individuals, but homeless and street-based trans sex-workers or drug users, people who spend the majority or all of their time in the public (no private home or place to escape to) are adversely affected. Modern anti-trans discourse promotes the idea that transgender people should not be allowed in public SPACE at all. Joseph Grabowski, one of the masterminds behind the “Free Speech Bus” which is touring America to promote the idea that biology is destiny, claimed that transgender people should not be recognized in public settings, “They can live that out privately.”

Chelsea, by both coming out as a transwoman and by leaking classified Army documents is challenging the regulation of private and public spaces and her positions within them. Through the eyes of power she is labeled a traitor both to the patriarchy (as she appears to renounce “manhood”) and as a patriot of the United States. In fact it is her very status as a transwoman that illegitimizes her whistleblowing, and it is her whistleblowing that questions her legitimacy as a transwoman.

Whistleblowing is often understood to rely on the power of truth, but Lida Maxwell argues that Chelsea Manning’s activities are more accurately described by a process she calls “truth-telling”. Unlike truth which is abstracted from both the person speaking the truth and the context from which it emerges, “truth telling” centers the individual and the actions she undertakes.

“Truth on the one hand is ultimately concerned with validity that is abstracted from any action or person that vaults the truth into the public sphere, while truth telling concerns both the persons and the actions that lead to moments of telling. Truth has the ability to re-instate the status quo – while truth telling has a much more profound potential, to transform both the person speaking and the public into which she speaks. Truth telling can transform the social order in such a way that someone previously considered illegitimate to speak the truth, may now become a proper truth-teller. It is in this sense that transformative truth-telling differs from whistleblowing. The whistleblower seeks to restore the social world by putting an end to deception, while the transformative truth-teller, through challenging our conception of proper truth-telling, seeks – at least in part – to imagine and build a new world.” (Maxwell, 2015)

In this sense, Chelsea is not necessarily concerned with “righting a wrong”, but is more invested in actions which challenge the notions of legitimacy and illegitimacy altogether. This is a process which seeks to transform and even eradicate the dominant order rather than reproduce it. Trans-inclusion policies in the Government for example, may one day allow for a transgender member of Parliament to like vote on omnibus bills to put more people in prison, but this does literally nothing to transform the violent nature of the State.

LIBERAL TRANS POLITICS IN A NEOLIBERAL AGE

Neoliberalism is a term that refers to a series of dramatic shifts in political practices and policies that have reshaped the current social landscape in the last 35 years or so. In as few words as possible, Neoliberal policies have pushed to the forefront political changes which have centered National debt, austerity measures, the war on terror, the rise of criminalization and immigration enforcement, the dismantling of welfare programs and trade unions, and an ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor.

In Canada, the Parliamentary process has come to be defined by massive Omnibus Bills which alter hundreds of policies in one quick swipe of the pen. Due to their size and scope, Omnibus Bills severely limit the process for debate and scrutiny in the House of Commons. In the last ten years, the passing of multiple large Omnibus Bills intended to encourage a massive growth in the structures of law enforcement, both in criminal punishment and immigration contexts have taken place. Some examples of these Bills include:

Bill C-10 was introduced in 2011 and it instituted mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking, sex crimes, child exploitation, and some violent offenses. It cut down on the possibility of conditional sentences and eliminated double time for time served. It implemented harsher sentences for young offenders and also eradicated the pardon system to put in its place the record suspension system which has many more barriers. It also allowed immigration officers to deny work permits to those at risk of being sexually expoited.

Bill C-36 was introduced in 2014 and criminalizes sex work. It specifically makes communication for the purposes of prostitution a criminal offense by criminalizing clients and restricting the advertising of sex work. It also criminalizes people who benefit from the money made off of sex work and makes almost all street-based sex work in “public” places illegal.

Bill C-51 was introduced in 2015 and set out to extend Canada’s anti-terrorism laws. It instituted information sharing amongst 17 Federal institutions, gave police extended powers to preventatively detain or restrict “terror” subjects, banned the promotion of terrorism, and gave CSIS new powers beyond simple observation.

Ironically, at the same time that we are seeing this incredible growth and economic investment in policing, imprisonment, surveillance, and the war on terror we are simultaneously hearing Neoliberal Governments arguing that the economy and paying off the “National Debt” are number one political concerns. The common tactic that Governments are using to respond to National Debt is the application of austerity measures, meaning the consistent slashing of social programs, health programs, and money to the community sector. So even though Governments like Canada have a supposed debt problem that needs to paid off, spending on the Defense budget has gone up 27% in the past decade, and spending on the Criminal Justice system has gone up 23% in the past decade.

In 2015 the Harper Government committed 292.6 million dollars in new funding to intelligence and security agencies to investigate and fight terrorism. In 2016 Canada Border Services received 77.4 million dollars in new funding to prevent the spreading of “weapons of mass destruction.” Several Immigration centers across the country are getting complete re-hauls. The hypocrisy evident in this kind of spending in an age of National debt and austerity is beyond obvious. The Liberals under Trudeau are seemingly much less concerned with balancing the books this year, yet it is important to note that even though in 2017 there has been no increase in spending on Defense, past spending increases made by Harper still stand. In the USA under Trump it is obviously a completely different scenario. His budget released in March 2017 proposes 54 billion dollars in reductions to “non-defense programs” and the defense budget is set to increase by ten percent, the largest increase since Reagan was in office. There is also, of course, the 4 billion dollars Trump is committing to the southern border wall.

In Canada, the application of these Neoliberal policies have had undeniable effects. The number of “visible minorities” in prison has increased by 75% in the past decade and white inmates have significantly declined. Even though the crime rates have been steadily decreasing in Canada in the past two decades, the prison population has increased from 12 000 inmates ten years ago to over 15 000 today. Close to a quarter of these inmates are indigenous people, and the incarceration rate for indigenous women in Canada is up by 80%. Over five million people in Canada live in poverty, that’s one in every seven people. Between 1980 and 2005, the average earnings among the poorest people in Canada fell by 20%.

In the face of a Neoliberal world, trans-activists have a choice to make. We can either choose to respond and fight back against the policies and changes that Neoliberalism is bringing, or we can go with the classic yuppie bullshit model and use Neoliberal logic to advance our goals and attempt to assimilate within the system. Bill C-16 which was introduced in the House of Commons in 2016, provides a perfect example of this kind of yuppie assimilation. The Bill adds “gender identity or expression” to the list of protected classes under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It supposedly protects transgender people (after the fact) from transphobic hate speech, but what it really does is increase criminalization, most likely against communities who are already criminalized. It does absolutely nothing to help transgender people get off the streets, get out of prison, gain financial autonomy, access education, or have a better quality of life. Hate crime laws have very little effect if any on the livelihood of any communities, except rich ones.

While Bill C-16 is being touted and waved around by the Government as a tremendous commitment to improving the livelihood of the transgender community, they simultaneously cut funding to transgender organizations doing on the ground support work to its most marginalized members. Bill C-16 gets voted in and ASTTeQ, an organization that has been supporting broke, HIV+, sex working, drug using, migrant, and homeless transgender people for almost 20 years, has its entire budget cut. How does an anti-hate speech law do anything for the thousands of transgender people who will be adversely affected by ASTTeQ shutting down? Short answer is: it doesn’t.

Furthermore, ASTTeQ was not the only community organization affected by these cuts, many longstanding HIV organizations, including the Canadian Aboriginal Aids Network and the Canadian Aids Society, which collectively represent over 100 organizations had their budgets significantly cut. What is rarely mentioned is how the increasing criminalization of immigration, sex work, HIV “non-disclosure”, the endless war on people who use drugs, and the ever expanding war on terror severely limit the life chances of many of the most marginalized people within and outside of the transgender community.

As the modern liberal transgender movement fights for inclusion into white capitalist society, they will become predictably preoccupied with electing a transgender official into government, getting more transgender police, lobbying for easier laws to change identity documents for Citizens only, pushing Governments to adopt hate crime laws, and trying to rise up the corporate ladder. I just read an article last night about a transgender woman who was explaining how coming out as transgender made her a better C.I.A officer. I actually barfed on myself. We have finally reached the moment where transgender assimilation is possible. We must stay vigilant. When we celebrate every supposed “success” through policy, we must ask ourselves how this fits into the bigger picture of resistance and who exactly the policy prioritizes and who it forgets.

Any trans-politics that centers inclusion into dominant society, will only ever reproduce the system. It will create a privileged class of transgender people who are able to climb up the ranks, while the rest of us continue to swim in open water, trying not to drown.

STREET TRANSVESTITE ACTION REVOLUTIONARIES

In thinking about ways to move forward and challenge this trend toward assimilation, I think its important to remember the historic roots of trans and queer struggle as a movement that actively sought to transform societal conditions, redistribute wealth and power, and centered the livelihoods of those people who are the most marginalized within society. I think actually Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera who founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries or S.T.A.R. is a rich example of trans activism that resisted assimilation and centered a politics of solidarity.

“Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were not respectable queers, nor were they poster-children for the modern image of “gay” or “transgender.” They were poor, gender-variant women of color, street-based sex workers, with confrontational, revolutionary politics and, in contrast to the often abstract and traditionally political activists of Gay Activists Alliance, focused on the immediate concerns of the most oppressed gay populations: “street gay people, the street homeless people, and anybody that needed help at that time” (Sylvia
Rivera quoted in Feinberg ). Within the predominantly white, non-gender-variant, middle-class, reformist gay liberation movement, Sylvia and Marsha were often marginalized, both for their racial, gender, and class statuses, and for their no-compromise attitudes toward gay revolutionary struggle.” (Nothing, 6)

After participating in the Stonewall Riots and fighting back against police brutality, Sylvia and Marsha implicated themselves heavily in the burgeoning gay and lesbian activist communities that were forming in and around New York City. Sylvia was an extremely active member of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), two groups forming in the wake of Stonewall. S.T.A.R. was formed in 1970 partly in response to the limitations of the GLF and the GAA which were focusing their efforts on getting the first ever gay rights bill adopted in New York City. Pissed and disillusioned that the language of the bill, which both Sylvia and Marsha fought for, offered no protection whatsoever for drag queens, sex workers, and street-involved people, S.T.A.R. put its efforts elsewhere.

“With the dropping of transvestites from the New York antidiscrimination bill – which Sylvia was arrested climbing the walls of City Hall in a dress and high heels to crash a meeting on (Wilchins) and which she attacked a Greenwich Village councilwoman with a clipboard in the service of (Highleyman) – the gay liberation movement turned toward assimilation and reform and began to distance itself from revolutionaries, street people, queers of color, and gender-variant individuals.” (Nothing, 8)

From the beginning, survival, as both an attempt to provide for the basic needs of living and as a tension toward self-defense and offensive struggle against a society that threatened them, was central to all of S.T.A.R.’s activities, and is key in understanding their positions in the conflict within the gay liberation movement. The immediate concerns of life – food, housing, money, safety – were central to all of S.T.A.R.’s projects. Sylvia and Marsha – who, in a common practice amongst street queens and queer sex workers, had secretly turned hotel rooms into temporary communal living spaces, sometimes for 50 or more people, began work on self-organizing spaces and projects to provide for their needs and those of other street kids.

Equally important to establishing living situations and securing food was the need for self-defense against bashers and police. The generalized sharing of skills amongst queer street kids and sex workers focused heavily on discerning what situations were safe and which weren’t, and protecting each other from police. Police and imprisonment were violent and intense, especially for broke street queens.

“It is no surprise then, that S.T.A.R. originated in the frustration with gay liberationists’ failure to confront police at NYU; that S.T.A.R.’s first public appearance was at a Young Lords demonstration against police repression; that Sylvia’s impassioned 1973 speech indicted the gay liberation and women’s movements for forgetting its prisoners of war; or that, upon reentering gay struggle in the 90s, Sylvia focused on police violence against Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima, in addition to the murders of Matthew Shepard and Amanda Milan. Sylvia’s attitudes on the police are clear: “We always felt that the police were the real enemy. We expected nothing better than to be treated like we were animals-and we were.” (Nothing, 10)

At the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day rally in Washington Square Park. Blocked from speaking and physically attacked by cisgender feminists for parodying womanhood, Sylvia stormed onto the stage, grabbed the mic, and confronted the audience for its whiteness, class privilege, and lack of concern for prisoners.

Y’ALL BETTER QUIET DOWN
SYLVIA RIVERA’S SPEECH AT THE 1973 CHRISTOPHER STREET LIBERATION DAY RALLY:

Y’all better quiet down.
I’ve been trying to get up here all day, for your gay brothers and your gay sisters in jail! They’re writing me every motherfuckin’ week and ask for your help, and you all don’t do a god damn thing for them. Have you ever been beaten up and raped in jail? Now think about it. They’ve been beaten up and raped, after they had to spend much of their money in jail to get their self home and try to get their sex change. The women have tried to fight for their sex changes, or to become women of the women’s liberation. And they write STAR, not the women’s group. They do not write women. They do not write men. They write STAR, because we’re trying to do something for them. I have been to jail. I have been raped and beaten many times, by men, heterosexual men that do not belong in the homosexual shelter. But do you do anything for them? No! You all tell me, go and hide my tail between my legs.
I will no longer put up with this shit.
I have been beaten.
I have had my nose broken.
I have been thrown in jail.
I have lost my job.
I have lost my apartment
For gay liberation, and you all treat me this way?
What the fuck’s wrong with you all?
Think about that!

I do not believe in a revolution, but you all do. I believe in the Gay Power. I believe in us getting our rights, or else I would not be out there fighting for our rights. That’s all I wanted to say to you people. If you all want to know about the people in jail – and do not forget Bambi L’Amour, Andorra Marks, Kenny Messner, and other gay people in jail – come and see the people at STAR House on Twelfth Street on 640 East Twelfth Street between B and C apartment 14. The people are trying to do something for all of us, and not men and women that belong to a white, middle-class white club. And that’s what you all belong to! Revolution now! Gimme a ‘G’! Gimme an ‘A’! Gimme a ‘Y’! Gimme a ‘P’! Gimme an ‘O’! Gimme a ‘W’! Gimme an ‘E! Gimme an ‘R’! huh— Gay power. Louder! Gay Power!”

Works Cited

Betcher, Talia Mae, 2007, “Evil Deceivers and Make Believers: On Transphobic Violence and the Politics of Illusion.” Hypatia, Vol. 23, No. 3, Summer 2007, p. 43-65, https://muse.jhu.edu/article/218001

Chambers, Lori, 2007, “Unprincipled Exclusions: Feminist Theory, Transgender Jurisprudence, and Kimberly Nixon.” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 19., N. 2, 2007, p. 305-334, muse.jhu.edu/article/240046.

Maxwell, Lida. “Truth in Public: Chelsea Manning, Gender Identity, and the Politics of Truth-Telling.” Theory & Event, vol. 18 no. 1, 2015. Project MUSE, muse.jhu.edu/article/566093.

Namaste, Viviane. “Undoing Theory: The ‘Transgender Question’ and the Epistemic Violence of Anglo-American Feminist Theory.” Hypatia, vol. 24, no. 3, 2009, pp. 11–32., http://www.jstor.org/stable/20618162.

Nothing, Ehn, “Queens Against Society.” In Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries: Survival, Revolt, and Queer Antagonist Struggle. Untorelli Press, p. 3-11, https://untorellipress.noblogs.org/files/2011/12/STAR.pdf

Conclusively Gay?

Conclusively Gay?

This month, I have decided to once again adorn my furred scarlet robe, attach my full bottom grey wig and dust off my centuries old hardwood Gavel in order to bring you, dear readers, another conclusive, 100% certified, official verdict of GAY or NOT GAY (while retaining my legal right, mind you, in some circumstances to deliver an equally valid, yet certainly less-titillating verdict of MAYBE COULD BE GAY) on some random celebrity of my choosing. It is not very often that I choose to wield this particular type of permanent judicial power (even if I did go deep into debt doing the 12 years of schooling in the most prestigious institutions that the post requires) for I know what consequences indeed arrive whenever I do and it is not my intention to reproduce the logic of the closet. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, not at all you see. In fact, I reserve this right in only one instance: to serve the advancement of total queer liberation. As a judge of the highest order it is of course my duty as a Representative of justice to commit myself to the struggle for full revolution (it’s part of our oath we all must take in order to be judges as you surely are aware).

Anyways, enough with all this political mumbo jumbo and onto the juice. Yoko Ono is probably one of the baddest bitches there is and I can’t even tell you how excited I would be if she was indeed gay. I must assure you, however, that as a judge, my personal excitement about this prospect would never influence my investigation. Still I can’t deny that a verdict of gay for Yoko Ono would be huge for us. Not only does Yoko Ono have a lot of cash which she would then have to donate to radical organizations doing queer liberation work, but also a gay Yoko Ono would mean that she was one of the first gay people ever because she is quite old and would therefore be a trailblazer and an elder with lots of homosexual wisdom to bestow. Unfortunately after searching google with the words “Is Yoko Ono gay?” I came up with approximately no damning evidence on the very first page of results. What this means is that Yoko Ono is officially and 100% certified MAYBE COULD BE GAY. This is quite excellent news if you ask me (personally) and a huge leap forward for homosexual visibility in the age of hyper-surveillance. Anyways Yoko Ono was quite happy to receive the verdict the bailiff tells me and has started attending a lgbt discussion group at a local college near her home, so let’s wait and see how this one plays out.

As happy as I was to find out that Yoko Ono MAYBE COULD BE GAY, my researches into her led me to an unexpected case that was much less interesting, but which had much more bland mass appeal. For whatever random reason, while searching Yoko Ono, I came across numerous articles alleging that John Lennon, the singer songwriter from a soft rock outfit called “the Beatles” was indeed heteroFLEXIBLE. This was a tasty accusation, one that my overworked and exhausted judge brain (from the previous Yoko Ono investigation) could not turn down even if I wanted to. While I found John Lennon to be horrendously boring as a human being, I knew this was the case of a lifetime, one of undoubtedly tremendous importance. Honestly, at this point I didn’t even know if I was up to the task, but I knew the world needed me in this moment, and I leaped into the dark chasm before me with nothing but my little gay heart lighting the way. This could make or break my career, I thought, a risky case to say the very least, but it didn’t matter, this was bigger than me, much, much bigger.

The very first component of any investigation of mine involves, of course, a scientific read of my gaydar machine, which I assure you is of the highest quality. After running John Lennon through my slightly rusty HOMOTRACKER XM300. Mdf , my interest was indeed peaked because the machine’s arrow fell directly in the middle between the two extremes of “HOMO” and “NO”. This was not going to be easy I thought. One thing that I knew for sure is that John Lennon preferred to spend the majority of his time in close proximity with other men, playing indecent, sweaty, and debaucherous music. This meant that heteroflexible sex was at least always in the background of their musical project, if never in the foreground. I began to ruffle through their catalogue of songs and one track in particular that John Lennon wrote entitled “You’ve got to hide you’re love away” caught my glittered eye. At first, it struck me as a totally straight title of a straight song about a straight individual, but then I thought, hey, wait a minute, heterosexuals don’t normally have to hide their love! They normally flaunt it like a giant rainbow lollipop in front of sugar deprived homosexuals! Where could John possibly be hiding his love? Where oh where would he be hiding it?  And then it hit me, like a thunderbolt out of the sky. THE CLOSET, I bellowed????????

This is when the heterosexual curtain began to unhinge itself from its hooks letting the deeply heteroflexible moonlight shine through. An intense cross-reference search through John’s acquaintances turned up the deeply shocking fact that the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, was very much gay. This was undeniable proof that John not only knew, but also spent time with a gay person. The odds of him being heteroflexible just shot through the motherfucking roof. A further look into Brian Epstein revealed that John Lennon and him actually vacationed together in Barcelona in 1963, a top contender for the gayest city in the world during one of the gayest years we currently have on record. What could one gay man and one potentially heteroflexible individual be doing in Barcelona alone together I ask? There’s only six answers to that question possible and two of them are quite indecently homosexual in content.

I did also learn that John Lennon was married to a woman, which definitely confirmed the “hetero” part of “heteroflexible” which was an enormous breakthrough for the case. When I looked into their marriage I found the nail on lid of the coffin in an interview she did just after he died. After his death she told the worldwide press that John Lennon admitted to her that the reason he liked her was because “she looked like a bloke in drag, she was like a mate.” And that did it folks. Even though it’s completely ridiculous to base someone’s gender on their physical appearance, this deeply confirmed that John Lennon was certified 100% heteroflexible, emphasis on the flexible. You heard it here first.

Don’t Shave My Rump

Don’t Shave My Rump

A PIECE OF RETRIBUTION

I really don’t know a single frocking thing about Bruce LaBruce, acclaimed northern darling of the queercore movement except that he’s a creep fuck shitbag. As I’m sitting down to write what I feel like is going to amount to something roughly equivalent to a wednesday evening angsty teenage journal entry, I can honestly only recall that one of his movies was called “Don’t Shave My Rump”, or something somewhat similar, but I wouldn’t cite me on that. I’m not a film scholar, nor a reviewer of cinema, in fact, I don’t care much for celluloid at all, unless it’s an uncut director’s edition documentary about real life with no color correction or weird distorting lenses like the fish one, because, for real life and truth, I much prefer my daily newspaper which I receive a free prescription for (is that the right word) every single day at the nearest metro station, which is either Rosemont or Beaubien, I don’t really remember. I’m not even clear whether or not his last name should be spelled with a space in it or not, like « La Bruce » and to be quite honest, given details that will be revealed as this story progresses, I don’t freaking give a hoot.

In case it hasn’t already come across, this is not a review of Bruce’s movies or even an intimate, yet laudatory look into his life and times. This, dear readers, is about something much more interesting: revenge, and more specifically, me trying to get just a little tiny bit of it in order to feel right in my boots again. This impulse for very mild retribution against a famous successful man may seem brute and callous to some but there is no use denying that it has taken a strong hold of me and despite my best intentions does not appear to be diminishing. In more hollow moments, I have framed this desire as a beautiful sapling in a winter field, rooted in the celebration of collective retaliation that my foresisters have taken against the cold machine of misogyny, but I also fully realize that to fight back, in a much more profound sense, is about feeling kooky and groovy. When I can be honest, and I try to be, I admit that I do not seek justice (as if there even is such a thing) but rather the rapture and merriment that may rush through my body when I think about Bruce’s mouth slightly frowning for a second on the very slim chance that he hears or even cares about this article which is hovering around a very low 1% odds.

Some scaredy-cat alarmist cravens have warned me that vengeance can only lead to a never-ending cycle of retribution which will surely end in my shameful demise. What these bitches don’t realize is that besides researching different kinds of bugs on the internet, I really don’t have that much on my plate right now and I would kind of love to have a new passion because I just turned thirty and it would be excellent if I had something to discuss at the next vernissage I attend which could honestly be any day now. Becoming fully embroiled in a back and forth revenge affair with Bruce LaBruce could really help me meet new people, learn new skills, and even travel the world, because the latest intel I have received is that he lives in Toronto, which is not only the capital of Canada, but also an international centre of business, finance, arts, and culture OF THE EARTH. It could really spice things up for me if I had an excuse to visit The Big Smoke every once in a while. I haven’t fact checked yet, but since he’s an A-list celebrity it would make sense that he chose Toronto to live in because other well-known celebrities live there, like Don Cherry, and it’s important in life to be around others who are similar to you or else you might be misunderstood and feel sad. I imagine he probably lives in the CN Tower, at least I would if I were a rich celebrity and wanted the best view money can buy. Actually, it would be incredibly silly for Bruce not to live there, considering there is a very good restaurant close by and the radio reception is probably quite exceptional being, as it is, a radio tower and all. Not only that, but being closer to our Sun, his clothes would dry a lot faster on the clothing line which is a huge time saver when you are busy making films destined for the screens of cinema and beyond.

The big question on everyone’s lips however, is what could someone who has selflessly dedicated his entire life to the production of a new language, the language of cinema, a world that recreates life as a dream and makes everyone happy possibly have done to merit such vitriol and slander from a self-identified cinephile and Bruce LaBruce fanatic like me? Well if you have a few moments, I would like to tell you the story, but you’ll have to let me travel back in time, all the way back to the beginning, back to the moment that the story actually happened.

The incident in question took place during the summer of 2015, a sweltering and hazy series of bright flashes and mumbling noises that don’t really make that much sense to me. Not because it was unremarkable mind you or because things didn’t happen, but mostly just because I wasn’t paying much attention to my surroundings (I had textos coming in on my cellular telephone) and I forgot to register everything that was happening on a movie camera like I had planned. It sucks for sure, but I’m not gonna shave my rump over it or anything. I do remember one thing though but it’s pretty boring so I won’t waste time speaking about it here or really even mentioning it because then I might leave you wondering about the unknown, the unarticulated, the unclear, and the unreal, if you will, and it may distract you from the known and real parts of this story, which absolutely cannot happen, because I need your full attention.

The interesting thing is that I had no idea that Bruce LaBruce was even in town when the events in question came to pass. If I had known, I assure you, I would have taken the steps necessary to prevent such a crisis. Normally, when people similar to Leonardo DiCaprio or Clint Eastwood come to town the whole city is buzzing about it. My daily newspaper usually averts me to the movements of the stars in the celebrity gossip section and I make a point to take note whenever anyone of import visits our fine city. It seems to me, however, that on this particular day, there must have been a major slip up at the Montreal newspaper building because I don’t remember seeing anything, LIKE ANYTHING AT ALL, letting the people know that Bruce LaBruce was visiting. I mean maybe it’s hard to do top-notch celebrity journalism when you don’t charge any money for newspaper prescriptions, but if I had known that Bruce LaBruce was in town I would have definitely put a sign on my front door stating my number one political position which is « ABSOLUTELY NO CELEBS MAY ENTER HERE AT ANY POINT ». See, the thing is, celebrities constantly have to reproduce their celebrity in order to be celebrities and this means that they consistently engage in sketchy behavior in order to attract attention. The most important thing to me at every single moment in my life is that celebrities are not welcome, but since I didn’t know any stars were in town on this sweltering summer evening, I mega blew it by forgetting to put up my sign. Some people seem to think it’s really charming when celebs show up to a party and start going off about all the cocaine they did on their yacht with Jennifer Garner last Tuesday or whatever, but I find that particularly distasteful because first of all there are whales all over the ocean and I’m scared of them and second of all I really don’t want to hear about all the fancy good cocaine celebrities get to do while boating because I become jealous and enraged. Plus, I always want celebrities to sign my tits at parties and I find that to be a pretty dehumanizing and objectifying experience for me. To be honest, I was in such a good mood that day and the sun was shining so warmly on my skin, that I may have even unconsciously decided in my brain before the party started that “celebrities aren’t actually that bad, they’re just normal people like you and me” which is absolute fucking bullshit!!

The other thing that needs mentioning is that I really wasn’t planning on having a party that evening. In my head my night was going to play out something like this: I put on a conservative and restricting sweater (grey turtle neck most likely), attend the local bank down the street from my home, pay my bills on time, walk quickly back to my place without making eye contact with anyone, drink some warm milk and a slice of apple, then retire prematurely and decently like all girls should in order to arrive at work early the next morning to please my superiors. Except this is not at all what happened! Something went terribly amiss that evening and the  strangest thing occurred. As I was strolling down the street whispering the lord’s prayer over and over to myself, an extremely beautiful and scary group of what could only have been homosexual dancers taking a break from grooving circled me and forced me to take a puff from a cigarette stick! Once the menthol flavor crossed over my lips and into my mouth, a horrible feeling of fervent abandon began to rise within me. I felt…..wet. I immediately entered into the dark venue with a curiosity that was unknown to me and the deep grooves the dance DJ was making with her rectangular button box took a hold of my body and I absolutely could not stop wiggling my knees. I knew this meant trouble was brewing because no one, let alone me, can ever predict what sort of deceit, double dealing, and loitering the night may bring into our lives. For if we know anything, we know that the night is NOT the day because scientists have discovered that at roughly 7:45pm each day it is quite a lot harder to see when you’re outside. The results of many studies show that this is not good, not good at all. Not only are we much more likely to bump into tree branches and pylons which are dangerous but also how can you even gush about Justin Trudeau or ask people when they are going to get married when you’re yawning every ten freaking seconds? But on this particular night I thought to myself, why not stay up a little later, why not let my hair blow free in the wild winds of chance, and seize life by the horns just this one time? Am I not alive? Do I not deserve to experience pleasure and freedom and orgasm? Does my skin not have nerves so I may be touched and feel desire tingling inside of me? Is a mouth not perfectly designed to swallow pills of different sorts? Is the nose not just a direct inward passage for fine and fanciful powders to enter into the nervous system?

Why yes, I thought, yes they must be.

I could describe the dance event to you but I fear you could hardly understand the things that took place inside those walls. But I will anyways. If you can imagine, it was like a movie that was in a dream, upside down and playing backwards through an ultraviolet harp. It was like living inside a balloon full of ultraviolet moss that was on a cloud traveling through a wormhole towards the time when dinosaurs were alive and they all hung out underneath a giant sparkling crystal dome and drank constantly from a river of Cristal Champagne. It was, in other words, fun.

At some time early in the morning the music was shut off and we were ushered outside on the street in what I considered to be a very rude and abrupt manner that didn’t make me feel very good. As all of us dancers were standing around on the sidewalk, I glanced around and could distinctly see the despair sinking in on everyone’s face. The reality of returning to our bedrooms alone to stare out our window’s desperately seeking any action on the street like a cat to pass by, or an empty chip bag to blow in the wind in order to distract the swell of our empty lives was much too much too handle. I decided that maybe I should take action and pondered suggesting that a few people could continue getting to know each other at my place a few blocks away. It was actually an exciting idea because I had just moved into a new apartment and needed to show off the curtains that I purchased with money and also it would be a perfect opportunity to finally use that chip and dip bowl purchased I believe with my debit card.

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ABRUPT TRANSITION IN TONE – I’M NOT A PROFESSIONAL WRITER FOR THE NEW YORKER SO CHILL

Maybe more importantly though, at the dance party I noticed that a friend who I hadn’t seen in many years was unexpectedly (at least to me) back in town. While I didn’t necessarily know them very well, this persyn had made a tremendous impact on me when I was first moved to the city about ten years ago. They weren’t someone that I hung out with, but they were someone that I explicitly saw and paid attention to. It was a fearlessness in the way they embodied and expressed their own queer-ness and it deeply affected me. I believe that seeing them navigate the world confidently and glamorously when I was an extremely closeted young transwoman helped me find the resolve and tenacity to begin embracing my desires and exploring parts of myself that I had only ever known before in brief moments of what I will describe as shameful rupture. A small part of me hoped that if the party continued that I would get maybe a small moment to talk to them. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for in this encounter exactly, but I knew that at the very least, I wanted to thank them, even if they didn’t remember who I was.

Surprisingly, as we were all mulling around outside the space with sweaty clothes and smeared makeup all over our faces, they actually ended up approaching me long before I had enough courage to make the first move. It was a wonderfully sublime moment, because even though it’s mildly embarrassing, I can’t deny that on some basic level I was hoping to get attention from them. As they began to speak, their words sent a butterfly loose in my stomach. They didn’t just notice me that night as a person they had briefly met years before, but actually saw me as someone who was resplendently coming into my own. They looked right at me and with a sincerity that was impossible to ignore said to me “girl, you are absolutely fucking stunning”. Underneath their voice wasn’t the suggestion that this had much if anything to do with the way that I looked, but rather that they saw a joy in how I looked, a happiness and maybe even a confidence that I was projecting through my newly claimed femininity. Right there on the sidewalk, I actually got to thank them for being such an inspiration to me years before and how in some small way, seeing them move around the world helped me find courage to be myself. I was ecstatic. Feeling elated and open about the possibilities of the evening I started spreading the word right there on the sidewalk that the after party was at my house, just down the street, and everyone was invited.

I can’t remember if we left the sidewalk together that night or if we both just happened to reach my place before most people got there, but either way, I found myself giving this persyn a private tour of the house . The tour was quick, I’ll be honest, and we ended up in my bedroom just as waves of people started to come into the house. I am normally quite inept at reading thesecues, but when we were in my bedroom together I was positive that there was a tension between us. We started passing a wine bottle back and forth and in between swigs I was asking them about life in Toronto and a performance they had done earlier in the evening. We sat down on my bed and they looked at me and I remembered, like somewhere in my deep in my body, how radiant and piercing their eyes were. I started to feel a nervousness and excitement rise within me and as I was contemplating whether or not I should kiss them, they leaned over closer to my chest and asked me what it felt like to be so beautiful. Rhetorical questions usually annoy me, but in this moment it didn’t really matter, I was craving a little bit of flattery and I felt my body beginning to melt.

They leaned over to kiss me and as their soft lips pressed firmly into my own a warm shiver ran across my skin. We began to make out pretty heavily on top of my sheets and the reality of what was happening finally set in, I was completely beside myself. They swung one leg over my waist to straddle me and I felt their crotch press slowly into my chest, the excitement building. Grabbing my face and looking down at me they asked if they could spit in my face and I breathed out a deep and affirming yes. I knew at this point that the door to my bedroom was still open, but I figured that as long as our clothes stayed on, it wasn’t such a big deal, it was only my friends here anyways. Then, of course, clothes started to come off. Their tank top flew into the air and my dress was pulled up over my chest. I could hear their breathing close to my ear and soft moans escaping my own throat as their fingers pushed slowly into my mouth.

At this exact unfortunate moment, my hostess duties suddenly came rushing to the forefront of my mind. I had invited hordes of people into our apartment and I wasn’t even out in the party to make sure everything was okay and that everybody was having fun. I fully started to panic. I’m not proud to admit it necessarily, but I take hosting really seriously. I told them that this was really fun but that I needed to go out into the party to scope the scene. I tried to get up but I felt some resistance from them, which was definitely surprising. No, they reassured me, the party is going fine stay in here with me we can go out into the party afterwards. I tried to take a moment to relax, but I couldn’t do it, I could hear how big the party had become in the last twenty minutes and I absolutely had to get out there. I tried to get up once more but they stayed right on top of me. I really want to lick your ass, they said to me. I really want to taste your asshole in my mouth. I could see the desire on their pulsating on their lips and I didnt know what to do. In the background I heard a sound like someone shut the door to my bedroom. That sounds really hot, I responded, like really fucking hot, but not right now, I just want to run out into the party and make sure that everything is chill, we can come back later. Your ass is so hot, they responded, just let me eat you out really quickly, it will only take a minute. No, honestly, I said, not right now. Please, they pleaded, just let me lick you, it will be really quick, I just want to taste you on my lips. Fine, I finally said. I got up on my knees and they pulled my tights down over my ass. I felt their warm tongue and mouth on my asshole and I let out a sigh of pleasure. They licked me up and down for about a minute and it did feel good, but not as good as it could have had we negotiated that moment together. I pulled up my pants and left the room feeling disillusioned.

A few months later a really good friend of mine let me know that Bruce LaBruce had posted a picture of me having sex in my bedroom on his Instagram and Facebook accounts and that unfortunately the pictures had been up for months. It appears that he was in my house the night of the party and figured it was completely appropriate to take a picture of me having sex in my room and upload it to his thousands of followers. I wonder where we have arrived in the realm of queer politics when entitlement over other people’s bodies and the complete erasure of consent is considered a banal gesture. How did I not find out about this for months? I am aware that Bruce LaBruce’s whole shtick is transgression against what he calls the institutionalization of politics, a concept that I find deeply appealing, but when the transgressive act in question becomes a simple reproduction of misogyny, then we are not moving in a radical direction at all, but a reactionary one. In a social moment where so-called “revenge porn” is being leveled against a whole range of people in order to inflict coercive harm and punishment, you would think that someone like Bruce LaBruce who is invested in queer liberation would be able to see the obvious parallels between this practice and his decision to take and post a picture of two trans people having sex without their consent to his humongous online network. It boggles my mind how Bruce LaBruce could be so completely unaware and unsympathetic to how harmful this was. Not to mention the fact, that I was at the same time, navigating a tricky sexual situation where I was being pressured to perform. Now I have a physical memento of that double erasure of consent, woohoo.

I know that in many ways, queer and homosexual liberation movement’s were entrenched in and used a radically and militantly sexual approach to challenge state repression and attempt to liberate our desires from heteronormative and colonial frameworks. I fully believe that pleasure and desire contain trans-formative potential, but sex in and of itself (queer or otherwise) does not, I mean how could it really? One of the most important parts of engaging with the world and with each other is to attempt to create liberatory relationships, and I have trouble imagining this process outside of collective action. When we are talking about sex, we have to realize that pleasure does not exist in a vacuum, but that it is always negotiated between bodies affected by power, desire, trauma, and memory. Truly radical sex is not measured by what kinds of acts we are participating in necessarily, but rather how we negotiate and bring those acts into being collectively. Bruce LaBruce says it himself when he echoes John Waters’ statement that “being gay is not enough”. We often confuse “being” as a static state when really, in order to “be”, we must constantly become, meaning, we must act in the world. Sex is the most empowering and pleasurable, I believe, when we negotiate our desires together, when we act together, and when our bodies communicate. I believe that Bruce LaBruce found it pleasurable to watch us have sex, take a photo of us, and post it on the internet, but unfortunately, it was a type of pleasure removed from collective negotiation and action. When queerness becomes equated with a vapid form of essentialized pleasure (anal sex! Orgasm!) and becomes detached from collective actions of solidarity, I believe it loses transformative power. And really, if we want to get down to it, this type of entitlement over other people’s bodies that an uncritical approach to desire and pleasure can produce, is one of the main dynamics driving misogyny and rape culture.

So, I know I have said it before, but I’ll say it again because this kind of venting is the only revenge I will ever get, fuck you Bruce, all you had to do was ask.