Carol Adams and the Annihilation of Trans People

In "The Oppression of Universal Assumptions: Rhetoric vs. Reality," I discuss some recent online activity by Carol Adams concerning transphobia. When Adams was called out for being transphobic during a Twitter exchange, she responded by tweeting: "again, this is based on a 5 year-old report of a 10 year incident; I remember it differently. Can you cite anything else?" Yes, as a matter of fact, we can cite something else.

On May 27, 2003, "VeganUU," a user on the online forum Vegan Represents, posted the following:

She [Adams] spoke at Liberation Now! (a AR conference for students and younger folks) in February, and I thought half the women in the room were going to attack her (she was speaking with Marti Kheel of Feminists for Animal Rights... such a depressing organization! They still have a woman-born-woman only policy for membership. Crazy!). Anyway, I argued with her in front of everybody (twice).

... She was saying some pretty oppressive things: men can't be feminist, transgender people simply reinforce gender stereotypes and shouldn't exist, all porn is bad all the time, etc. But, it spurred some good discussions amongst ourselves. [Emphasis added.]

OK, I hope that nothing further really needs to be said about the emphasized line above. But, basically, at the Liberation Now! conference in February 2003, Adams is reported to have claimed that trans people "reinforce gender stereotypes," which is itself the enforcement of an oppressive stereotype used to control trans people, as well as advocating the annihilation of trans people!

The above quote supports what's already been presented on this site about transphobia with regard to Adams and similar vegetarian-ecofeminists. So, as horrifying as Adams' position on trans people in this report is, it is not at all surprising. As I've discussed elsewhere on this site, calls for the annihilation of trans people are inherited from the intellectually legacy on which Adams has built her own works — an allegiance Adams is often pointing out herself.

However, just in case people think the above report is from someone who is simply out to get Adams, VeganUU continues:

Interestingly enough, Carol is coming to speak on my campus in September. I've been organizing the event, and we're very excited to bring her here. I think her ideas have a lot of potential if we can move past the anti-sex, transphobic, gender binaries found therein. I wish there were more feminist vegans of all genders writing about gender oppression and animal oppression. It's definitely something that needs to be dealt with. With that said... buy Carol's book everybody! We need to support animal rights authors!

What's to be gained by insisting that "We need to support animal rights authors!" when it comes at the expense of the very existence of other folks in the greater community? Are trans people and sex workers even being acknowledged as members of the feminist and nonhuman animal advocacy communities at this point?

Given VeganUU's acknowledgment of Adams' obvious antagonism towards trans people, it's disturbing that VeganUU is "very excited to bring" Adams to campus and enthusiastically demands, "buy Carol's book everybody!" After we're told how offensive and oppressive Adams work is, we're then told to ignore all that and support her work no matter what. Um, sorry, I don't believe we need to support the works of anyone who calls for the annihilation of a group of people — even when I don't happen to belong to the group being targeted.

Just as I encounter Adams' work as a whole person and can't separate out the part of me that is trans from the parts of me that are a woman, a feminist, or a nonhuman animal advocate, the idea that we can easily separate out the oppressive character of Adams work is no less flawed. Those oppressive elements are interwoven into the whole and are integral to the very structure of her work.

Re: Carol Adams and the Annihilation of Trans People

Thanks for this post. I've been wanting to read her work for some time and wasn't aware of her transphobia. Now I will know to keep it in mind when I do read her books (from the library, since I'm not sure I want to give her any money!)

Re: Carol Adams and the Annihilation of Trans People

I think she means that if gender stereotypes didn't exist then everyone would feel like they belonged in their own skin no matter what type of sex they were born with.

However, that might work in her defense if she didn't say men can't be feminist. That sounds pretty gender stereotypical to me.

This Comment Exemplifies Transphobia

Victoria, even if what you are suggesting is true, Carol Adams' comment would still be cissexist and even genocidal.

This comment wrongly assumes, as Adams had in her public statements at Liberation Now!, that trans people, particularly transsexual people, transition because of gender stereotypes. This ignores the fact that transsexual people come in every gender imaginable. There are trans women who identify as butch dykes and there trans men who identify as femme fags — these people are hardly slaves to stereotypes. So you and Adams are using your own stereotypes, which are also sexist and heterosexist, to defend your own cissexist assumptions about who trans people are and why we seek access to medically necessary health care.

Transsexual people are not changing their sex to meet some assumed gendered stereotype. There is a dangerous biological essentialism behind your claim that transsexual people "belonged in their own skin no matter what type of sex they were born with."

This statement is not only anti-transsexual, it is also anti-intersex. We are not born as a sex. We are assigned a sex by a medical professional. This assignment is made on one basis only: genitals. Sex chromosomes, reproductive systems, sex hormones, secondary sex characteristics, and sex differentiations in brain structures can't be determined by one's external genitalia. Genitals are given dominance because they enforce heterosexual relations and reproduction as the only appropriate form of sexual interaction. What you claim is the "type of sex they were born with" is itself a social construct, only this is one you and Adams would have us believe is natural and unalterable — normal.

Instead of centering yourselves as the norm and thinking you have the authority to force everyone else to conform to belonging within your socially constructed system of cis supremacy, please stop and listen to the real, lived experiences of trans people. We know more about our bodies and needs than you do. Rather than telling us what to do with our bodies, ask yourself why it bothers you — why is the existence of transsexual people who change their bodies a threat to you?