The Vegan Ideal Blog

Talking About Transphobia and Ecofeminism With Ida Hammer

The following interview was originally published on the Bitch magazine blog.

A number of ecofeminist writers have written in deeply offensive, often terribly misguided, ways about trans people and have done a lot of damage to the movement’s credibility as open, accepting, and working for the liberation of all people. Why do you think transphobia persists and continues to come up again and again in ecofeminist rhetoric and activism?

In order to understand why transphobia and cissexism persist and are continually perpetuated throughout feminist communities, particularly the vegetarian-ecofeminist community, it is important to consider the origins of anti-trans advocacy as a conscious project of prominent, elite White feminists in the 1970s. In the late sixties and early seventies, trans people were very active in the women's and queer liberation movements. The Compton's Cafeteria and Stonewall rebellions of the sixties are evidence of that, as are women like Beth Elliott of the Daughters of Bilitis, Sandy Stone of Olivia Records, and Stonewall veteran Silvia Rivera who was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance. (Read more...)

A Western Vegetarian 'Foray' into Non-Western Culture

A few months ago I got an email announcing a vegetarian get together at a Cambodian restaurant. Eating food associated with Cambodian culture is a perfectly valid basis for a vegetarian gathering, and I'm totally in favor of having an event at a place like a Cambodian restaurant. But what struck me was how the event was advertised as a "foray" into the food of Cambodian culture. I wanted to bring to the organizers attention a couple concerns regarding the use of the word "foray" in title of this event. (Read more...)

Why 'Vegan Oppression' Cannot Exist

I'm a strong believer that it's a mistake to appropriate the experience or struggle of any oppressed group or individual to further our own cause, especially if our advocacy is not designed specifically to address their exploitation. As such, I believe it is inappropriate when we use how other groups are the targets of oppression to describe being vegan or to use their struggles against oppression as a metaphor for the vegan movement. I say this for the simple reason that vegans as a group are not ourselves the targets of oppression. (Read more...)

Political Correctness, Political Expediency, and Veganism

The following is was written for and originally published on the Living Opposed to Violence and Exploitation (L.O.V.E.) blog.

While L.O.V.E. takes an anti-oppression approach based on the vegan ideal of nonexploitation, there are many nonhuman animal activists who fear that as long as veganism takes into account the oppression of human animals, it will take away from opposing cruelty to nonhuman animals. The argument goes as follows: if we advocate against oppression as it targets human animals whilst advocating against oppression as it targets nonhuman animals, then people – having a finite amount of resources – will refuse to oppose the exploitation of nonhuman animals since it would include the "baggage" of being "packaged" with also opposing the exploitation of human animals, something, it is assumed, potential nonhuman animal activists are likely to be disinterested in. (Read more...)

Class Privilege in Anti-Sex Worker, Anti-Homeless Activism

Jenna directed me to an important post by Johanna at Vegans of Color reminding us: "Don't Use Classism and Anti-Sex Worker Rhetoric to Protest Fur." Johanna's post provides a needed look at the anti-homeless and anti-sex worker rhetoric of a few nonhuman animal advocates.

In a post titled "Fur is for Beautiful Animals and Scary Hookers," "Vegan Shoe Lady" proudly quotes PETA's Ingrid Newkirk as saying, "Fur has lost all its cachet. It's yesterday. I see prostitutes in Atlantic City wearing fur." Shoe Lady goes on to suggest that nonhuman animal advocates refer to women wearing fur by saying, "She's probably a hooker. Tacky coat, lower-class manners – no one respectable presents themselves that way." (Read more...)

Mirha-Soleil Ross on Justice for Sex Workers and Nonhuman Animals

Today (Dec. 17) is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. In honor of this day I'd like to share some excerpts from a couple of interviews with Mirha-Soleil Ross, a vegan, transsexual and sex worker justice advocate, regarding her seven-part monologue, Yapping Out Loud: Contagious Thoughts from an Unrepentant Whore. In Yapping Out Loud, Ross addresses "anti-prostitution discourses and campaigns, detailing the way they impact, often tragically on prostitutes' working conditions and lives." In the following excerpts Ross confronts the anti-sex worker discourse in relation to nonhuman animal advocacy. (Read more...)

McDonald's to Trans Woman of Color: 'We do not hire faggots'

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) just filed a Complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations against an Orlando McDonald's restaurant for refusing to hire 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy because she is transgender.

In July, Bellamy applied online for a Shift Manager/Crew Leader position. Later in the month when she was called in for an interview, a manager forced her to check a box indicating her sex. Bellamy recounts that when she checked "male" the manager became visibly angry. At that point Bellamy was denied an interview and later that day received a hateful voicemail from the McDonald's manager stating: "You will not get hired. We do note hire faggots. You lied to me. You told me you was a woman." (Read more...)

Our Bodies and Lives: Questioning Cissexual Politics

Right after I drafted my response to the attack on transsexual men in pattrice jones' Aftershock, I came across a blog post perpetuating the same vegetarian-ecofeminist cissexism and transphobia.

Lagusta Yearwood posted about the boycott of Feministing, expressing doubt about the site's transphobia:

Claims of extreme transphobia and hostility toward trans women on the site: I can't claim to have read all of the long long long threads that the pages I've seen link to (and if you have specific examples of the perceived horrible treatment of trans women on the site, I'd like to see them), but man oh man! Trans issues are complex for a lot of cisgender people, myself included, and I appreciate Feministing's attempt to work through the more nuanced and complicated aspects in an inclusive way. Also, it seems that most of the problems people are having take place in the comments, and it seems ridiculous to blame the site for that.

Yearwood's doubts cannot be assessed without considering the cissexism and transphobia of fundamentalist "radical feminists" (radfems) in propagating a discourse that perpetuates anti-transsexual repression/oppression. This includes Yearwood's own active participation in perpetuating this hateful discourse about our bodies and lives. (Read more...)

Our Bodies and Lives: Transphobic Trauma, Transsexual Healing

Following up on how cissexuals dominate and exploit transsexuals' bodies and lives, in her book Aftershock, pattrice jones furthers the vegetarian-ecofeminist cissexist and tranphobic attacks by claiming, "Nowadays, more and more young women – having learned what happens to young girls in today's world – are literally turning themselves into men to protect themselves from violence." Following up in the notes section of her book, jones goes on to say, "Once very rare, female-to-male sex changes have become so common that there's a slang term for those who have gone through the process: FTM."

Yes, violence against women exists and is a persistent problem in our society. But transsexual men do not get sex changes to avoid violence against women any more than trans women transition so that we can experience violence against women. What's disturbing is that in a book that purports to be "Confronting Trauma in a Violent World, a Guide for Activists and Their Allies," jones is in fact perpetuating the cissexism and transphobia that is a significant source of trauma in the lives of many transsexuals. (Read more...)

Our Bodies and Lives: Transsexual Knowledge and Resistance

Cissexuals often opine about what they believe is the reason why transsexuals seek trans-related health care, such as hormones and surgery. This includes speculating about what are the social, political and/or cultural ramifications of our accessing this care. Too often our bodies and lives are seen as a threat to preconceived, cissexual assumptions about the world. As such, cissexism predominates these presumptions about us, and is backed up by a pervasive transphobic system of discrimination, exclusion and violence that oppresses us as a group of people.

In a way, our transsexuals bodies and lives are like contested "colonies." I'm not saying transsexuals bodies and lives are actual colonies – because they're not – but the domination and exploitation of our bodies and lives follows the logic of colonization. That is, external forces are vying for the full or partial political control over our bodies and lives. These "colonizers" include academics, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, feminists, queer theorists, theologians, politicians, pundits and even our own lovers, families and friends, and complete strangers who are constantly applying abstract theory onto our bodies and lives. In effect, these "colonizers" dominate and exploit us, the indigenous group, by seizing our bodies and lives to further theories and political agendas that don't actually account for our lived reality, and yet further our oppression as a group. (Read more...)