The Conversion of Aoife: There’s No Flash of Light After All

“Sexual difference is probably the issue in our time which could be our ‘salvation’ if we thought it through.” -Luce Irigaray

 

A note:

I’ve substantially updated by About Me section, which now provides forthright, if also preliminary, statements of my current feminist analysis. They are — at this rudimentary present — in the form of sketch book, rather than a formal essay. I hope to provide more lengthy posts in due course.

I completely understand that my theories are not everyone’s cup of tea. I am not claiming to have the only truth. But I respect my readership with the utmost care: I respect everyone enough to be honest about how my theoretical lens is refocussing. I will, perhaps, explain in more detail how this “conversion” to utilising gender critical frameworks to query trans narratives within them.

Quite frankly, if the media orchestrated carnival of Goldberg v Trans-Central-Station suggested anything, contestation is profitable in capital of money as well as commentary. There has to be another approach.

I have plans for a forum for gender critical discussion. But, for now, I am not so much as even writing.  I’m not entirely certain of my framework. I’m not prepared to explicate with the nuanced, detailed gender critical positions that I now insist are essential for the interrogation of sex, gender, and being. Mostly, I’m still learning. I am always trying to learn. It’s the single most persistent attribute of my being.

Pax,

Aoife

PS: There will never, ever be any misgendering on this blog. I swear to the best of all of my ability. Likewise, I believe ‘TERF’ has taken on the rhetorical praxis of a slur and I will no longer use it. I recognise resorting to acronyms is sloppy intellectual practice.

Well, I’ll deploy it one last time: the RadTransFems have an announcement. Since it’s “#TERFWeek” — so …

A toast!

Cider! The office drink and official beverage of #TERFTokens everywhere! 

Sláinte!

image

Hiatus from the Comitatus: On Divergence and Damnation in Trans Blogging

I never really had a teleological purpose for this blog, as such. Except maybe blasphemy and iconoclasm … also known as my religion that isn’t a religion, AKA satanic feminism. We all knew this wasn’t going to be voted most congenial, so I’ve lingered in philosophical indiscretions because the rant — the “pain of speech” as a colleague of mine called the anti-genre — was the only discourse I trusted.

From what I can tell, mainstream trans feminism has turned into a comitatus, a clan structure of conflict and scions.

I truly think the Goldberg v Trans-Central-Station incident initiated some kind of nervous breakdown in my writerly sense of queer culture’s impossibility. I saw something very unholy happen in the peace treaty that concluded the “dispute”. This is, no doubt, for profit. Identity politics are for sale; and I’ve never seen a civil rights movement for intent on selling their invented subjectivties as memoirs than with trans activism. The cling wrap rhetoric will be the new glahanded discourse of politesse, and trans feminism swings in such directions I don’t belong in that category anymore. I quit, or I can only revolt.

The whole reason I became an academic was to give myself freedom in the venturing of my thought. To have my thoughts beholden to no one. I am, Cassandra-like, aghast as at the congenial collaborating that’s restructuring feminism into but a new order of control: the genre and discourse change, but the hierarchy remains. I’ll probably write more on Marxist feminism — it’s eerie how trans popularity is now dividing into ‘entertainer’ and ‘intellectual’ classes, with obvious race and class distinctions . . . I know these women are doing the absolute best they can, but the very structures their platforms are built upon will raise them up to different levels.

I will now most likely be saying some analysis that will no doubt be getting me meme’d as a TERF . . . [oh, and I will no longer use 'TERF" on this blog, and instead will use 'RF' for Raymondian feminism]; or the usual anti-intellectual jibes such as ‘academic’ or ‘pretentious’, or an HBSer [an acronym intended to belittle, n'est-ce pas? Hence why I will no longer say TERF] . . . anyway, I’ve  also  been told I’m geeky and unemployed . . . or Pro-Ana, because I support Deleuzian readings of anorexia that do not stigmatize the woman anorexic’s body as a female blood sacrifice for patriarchy … trans community me arse …  by a crowd under the anthem of “always was! always was!’ spoken with a Born-Again’s zealotry.

Look : I’ve been called of the above things by other trans women — we know the tables are always turning, and we turn on each other, I’ve my regrets and apologies — so I soon renounced my place, but really the bolts to my seat were screwed undone. “We didn’t really mix together”. It’s impossible to trust movements — are not new orders just systems redone?

To be honest I’m really most happy writing in psychoanalysis and philosophy and connecting our activism to the traditions of critical enquiry. I’m exhausted of having to play “Serano Says” and trying to defend untenable ideas about sacrosanct ‘gender identity’ and ‘unconscious sex’ kernels, or definitions of ‘cis’ that have been crumbling under the slightest of critical analysis. Trans feminism needs to lose its Jungian romanticism. I would like to write more introductory essays to famous texts of second and third wave feminism to help introduce readers. Write more esoteric readings on popular subcultures in Japan, perhaps translating cool, geeky feminist blogs from the Japanese. That’s certainly a direction I’ll more earnestly be going; and if I accrue a circle of an erudite audience who wants to think through these critical, radical issues of women with me — then I am blessed by a readership. No longer interested in movements, but in  thinkers — and the truth is I find such individuals all over the terrain of radical feminist throughout. I want there to be a counterpoint to gentrification of trans activism, the queer capital of vonnections and background checks. (“A Trans Women Struggles With Irigaray And Radical Feminism” will be my next forthcoming essay.) The purpose was never numbers or handshakes. What we need is revolution not reform. My flag is with radicalism.

I would trust, despite the most intense periods of self destructive depression from gender dysphoria that I survived for so very long, that I have something to offer and live and work for. I hope. I type.

My next post will be “One Trans Woman’s Irigaray: Me, Luce, and Radical Feminism”. Reflecting on my preparations to lecture on The Handmaid’s Tale, I revisited some of the radical feminist works of the early 90s, especially Grosz and her relationship to psychoanalysis and reproduction rights. This material feminism has strong critiques of transsexual ontology that are not easy to shrug off. I’ll consider my experiences rediscovering radical feminism, especially by French authors, in how I approach teaching patriarchy and anti-womanism in Atwood. As my readership will no doubt be further shrinking, I’ll be posting essays less frequently. I’ll be taking the rest of the month on the next one, I reckon. I hope you’ll be about when it’s published.

Non serviam,
Aoife

The Goldberg Variations: Trans Exclusion and Old School Dialectics

 “Shit on your whole mortifying, imaginary and symbolic theatre!”

– Gilles DeleuzE, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

 

You know the joke? . . . how are Londoners like smarties?

They both melt in the tube!

And outside a London tube station in 2012, avoiding the summer broil, a nondescript gathering took place. A dozen or so biological women … emh … “women born women and living as women” were standing about. Note the wording change: the original phrasing as to who were  permissible attendees was changed when their somatic illogic of “biological” were pointed out.

The summer light had sufficient gloss that concessions to sunblock were required. The hurried commotion of British metropolitan transit, that up and down smash of a commute between passengers and time constraints, didn’t even notice the patriarchy smashing going down, right there, in the open.

They were planning — preparing — for the universal elimination of gender.

Dossing, chatting, comparing blueprints for dismantling the symbolic order of caste structures based on the ‘feminine’, exposing the latest transgender conspiracies to reinforce said ‘femininity’ — these activists collaborate under the ideology loosely known as radical feminism. And these tube station bystanders were permitted participants for an international conference, widely advertised and receiving copious attention from the Big British press, known as RadFem 2012.

Typically, such a forum of scholars and activists would meet in more suitable environs than the clatter and shake of a hot subway line. There’d been a snag, however.  The hired venue cancelled the booking when they learned that almost all of the entirety of the programme would be dedicated to excluding and excising transgender women, since they’re covert operatives of men’s rights activism. Given that Conway Hall has historical connections to both the anti-slavery movement and Irish expat communities, and thus knowing a thing or two about discrimination . . . they were most swift to disassociate themselves with an event predicated on expulsive labels of “us” from “them”, of the valid and invalid. They decided that this private, closed congregation, dedicated to securing legitimate womanhood from non-legitimate womanhood, wasn’t a monologue they wanted to host. Like the RadFems, they made a decision about who could and could not “belong”. And Conway Hall wasn’t alone in this; the usual institutions of conversation and conferences had no interest. No universities had any interest in sponsorship.

And so RadFem2012 transpired outside of a Tube station — or so that portion of the conference transpired, as was  related to me by a “woman√woman + lives as a woman” individual who dropped in on the sunburned colloquium.

Despite almost 40 years of activity, this group remains almost entirely unknown, even to the most RSS-obsessed feminist issues reader. Yet Michelle Goldberg selected this sect as an article for the hallowed New Yorker. Because, as she lets us know, “transgenderism” has achieved too much visibility and, as she quaintly puts it, “cachet”. (“Transgenderism is getting to be kewl!”)  Corrective balance — the dispute must be given its due — is required.

But Goldberg is seeking “debate” in some kind of false equilibrium of comparison.

“Balance”, as an introductory plea to begin an essay, whistles out of the sheathed paragraph like a blade. And if I read that word at the beginning of a pop media essay on trans issue? — my eyeballs roll back inward as far as they’ll go and I think “oh, shite.” It never ends balanced.

Continue reading

America’s Got Abjection: The Trans Subject as Sacrifice, from Stage to Street

“On the edge of non- existence and hallucination, of a reality that, if I acknowledge it, annihilates me. There, abject and abjection are my safeguards. The primers of my culture.” — Julia Kristeva

 

As this essay introduces some basic concepts of Kristeva’s feminist philosophy — namely, abjection and contractual sacrifice — I’d like to foreground my analysis with a descriptive personal reminiscence.

Continue reading

Your Natal Sun I Do Not Accept

[Editorial Note: this is another personal essay, written more out of a steam of frustrated consciousness, than from care and critical reflection, for my natal birthday -- which I do not celebrate, as such.

My forthcoming blog post -- "America's Got Abjection: The Trans Sacrificial Subject from Stage to Street" -- will be up in a short while from now. I've opted to write two personal pieces for this week]:

 

Continue reading

Trig Reciprocal Functions: I’m a Trans Woman Adjunct Prof and I Use Trigger Warnings

“… Without a sense of identity, there can be no real struggle…” 
― Paulo Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

An odd scenario has evolved in how we negotiate art, politics, and interpretation when considering the relationship between intersubjectvity and the circulation of meaning in the teaching of literature. A new morality has emerged: forget a ‘spoiler alert’ and you’ve committed a punishable heresy. Who dies at the end of a season of Breaking Bad? Serious business, people. Existential necessity. Just Good manners. But as for ‘trigger warnings’ [TW]?  Shit, that’s just crybaby neoliberal self-petting for the snowflake and kleenex crowd, for those disposed to “fragility of mind“.

Now, I’ve procrastinated on writing on this topic in the same way I sidestep “death of the humanities” debates. The arguments are vociferous and dispersed, with a conglomerate of tenured professors siding together in detecting a “chilling effect on our teaching and pedagogy“, with the frigidity of puritanical TW advocates and millennial whingers collaborating in the straight jacketing of literature and its magnanimous task to challenge the naive. You’d need a page to list the entire bibliography of this point of view, which has enjoyed a fair whack of “father knows best” in big academic publications.

However, those supporting trigger warnings or content notices have either been ignored, miscast as proponents of censorship and pedagogical restriction, or just unremarkable ableism that implies that those of soft constitutions should best stick to Archie comics. There have, however, been several very good defences  — I recommend Shakesville and Samantha Field for start. And, this morning, Julia Serano proposed some evaluations, in an essay over 6000 words. Serano notes a generational issue in play, but I’m not so sure of that. Regardless, one does sense that an older professoriate has absorbed too much Admin-think; and they now preach that tough love is the TruthHurts.edu for the weak-soled kids of the now.

Really, I would probably have jogged past the subject, throwing my hands up in dismay at the fray, if not for a scholar I greatly admire, Jack Halberstam, offering a much-discussed intervention into the field.

In terms of joining the debate, Halberstam’s essay felt like a second-half substitute of another striker in football (soccer), a fresh pair of legs rushing onto the pitch to replace a wearied captain playing midfield. To put it another way, Halberstam brings flash where for too long we only heard administrative arguments against TW. Halberstam’s dazzling style of aggressive play, albeit appearing somewhat late in the match, is mostly tooth and less tactics: “all social difference in terms of hurt feelings and that divides up politically allied subjects into hierarchies of woundedness,” he writes gnashingly of TWs.

With the dozens of heavy footed pieces out there, I realize the contribution I might make is how I — as an openly transsexual woman in university classrooms — use TW in my syllabus and course dynamics

Continue reading

Aoife’s Birthday

I don’t believe that I, as a trans woman, have a ‘horoscope’ in the influential sense, as in stardust destinies and calibrated retrograde planets. Of born this way by cosmically housed roulette personalities. But if astrology is the study of cycles, then transition has taught me to unlearn more than a few repeated patterns that doomed me to never being truly born. I refused to live in that lifeless way: I picked my own sign.

Continue reading

Eyeliner, Menstrual Blood, and the Nostalgia for a Body Occultism

 “Transies who attack us only care about themselves. We women need our own culture, our own resourcing, our own traditions . . . . But if you claim to be one of us, you have to have sometimes in your life a womb, and overies and MOON bleed and not die.” – Z. Budapest, commenting on how “real women” are to worship the Goddess in Dianic Wicca [her emphasis and spelling]

Zsuzsanna Budapest believes in the sacramental secretions of menstruation as determinative of the “female life cycle“, which serve as secret gateway mysteries to the Goddess. She both affirms the specificity of the female experience, whilst concurrently rejecting the culturally oppressive way womanhood is constructed, by liturgy-fying the female body as altar of worship. As such, Budapest has been an iconic figurehead in the project to reclaim female perspectives by consolidating them in the fixed notion of a singular biological body that can be accessed and celebrated in a metaphysical fashion, outside the providence of patriarchal authorisation.

And it’s on this point of argument that her thinking overlaps one of the primary tenets of radical feminism that excludes the placement of trans women as women: the female body is a distinct, discreet ontological unit that, determinatively, defines female experience in strict biological accord.

Considering how this exclusion is determined, and why it has been so influential in the criticism levied at me recently, is important in understanding why intersectional feminism differs from previous body occultism of some second wave thinking.

Dianic Wicca prioritizes a gynocentric form of worship in which women, as defined according to their reproductive biologies which constitute the true female experience. Largely ahistorical, culturally non-comparative, and ultimately occultic — Budapest’s Dianic “priestess hood” and its “womyn only” policies have created repeated controversies in the dogmatically flexible world of public paganism.  Budapest has found herself debating this position that posits all women as sharing in a uniquely positioned bodily configuration, and having to fight off the manner in which expectations are foisted upon them according to that configuration. Transsexual women are anatomically pre-destined never to experience this Venus-gnosis of the Divine Feminine.

Continue reading