Transgender liberation, class politics & anarchism

“It is a tragedy, I feel, that people of a different sexual type are caught in a world which …. is so crassly indifferent to the various gradations and variations of gender and their great significance in life.”

Emma Goldman  (prominent Lithuanian-American anarchist) 1916

Trans (or transgender) is a term for people whose gender identity and gender expression are different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Trans people have a history of receiving bigoted responses from some sections of the left, of the lesbian and gay community and some strands of feminism. One attack on transgender people has been based on the idea that trans people, by “changing gender”, reinforce existing rigid gender roles. Moving across borders of perceived gender does not reinforce existing gender-roles, any more than migration across borders of nation states reinforces the system of nation states. Many trans people are actively involved in fighting current, sexist gender stereotypes.

Anarchists believe that we will not achieve an equal society by ignoring issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia or by pretending that they will automatically be resolved by revolution. We do not tell minorities to wait until after the revolution for their demands to be met. We see class as the central and fundamental form of oppression, but we do not see it as the only form of unacceptable hierarchy and we do not see it as possible to separate class issues from those of gender, sexuality, race or sex. Trans liberation is a class issue. Wealthy trans people can, for example, afford private surgery, use private transport and choose where they live, thus avoiding potentially dangerous situations. We see means and ends as intrinsically linked, and so a revolutionary movement that does not actively oppose transphobia will merely end up replicating the same oppressions that exist under capitalism.

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