Challenging Feminist Transphobia

There is a strong progressive lesbian feminist politic that recognizes that gender fluidity and transgenderism will help bring about changes in the rigid gender rules that restrain us. It also acknowledges that bisexuality and transsexuality touch the heart of our belief that all of us must have control of our bodies—we must own them. That is why we support reproductive choice, work to end sexual assault, and fight for all of us to be able to love and have sex with the person we choose. —Suzanne Pharr, "Afterword: Where We Are Now," Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism (Expanded Edition)

In the post "Is it Safe to Come Out?," I asked "What are we going to do about transphobia among feminist-vegetarians/ecofeminists?"

White ecofeminism and feminist-vegetarianism is heavily influenced by the reactionary and transphobic writings of some dominant radical cultural feminists. Most notably is Mary Daly (a past member of Feminists for Animals Rights' board of advisers) and her book Gyn/Ecology, which is filled with transphobia, cissexism, and trans-misogyny directed at transsexual women. A major influence on, as well as of, Daly's transphobia was Janice Raymond, who wrote the transphobic book The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male. Other transphobic influences on feminist-vegetarians/ecofeminists include Robin Morgan and Sheila Jeffreys.

The most famous feminist-vegetarian/ecofeminist writing on the oppression of nonhuman animals is Carol J. Adams and her book The Sexual Politics of Meat, which was first written as a paper for Mary Daly. And in Neither Man Nor Beast, Adams uses the Cambridge-Boston clique of feminists most closely connected with Daly to justify her inclusion of the oppression of nonhuman animals in ecofeminism. Furthermore, Rape of the Wild by Andree Collard, also came directly out of Mary Daly's influence, as well as the influence of Janice Raymond, and was published a year before The Sexual Politics of Meat.

Notably, Rape of the Wild is based on Daly's oppositional sexist concept of the inherent "biophilic" nature of cissexual women and their "gynergy" or female energy. In Daly's transphobic theory, transsexual women are inherently "necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul/spirit/life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses," and our exclusion from women's space is justified on the basis that we have male energy; Daly refers to trans women as a "necrophilic invasion." While defining ecofeminism as opposing dualisms like men/women, human/animal, nature/culture, by claiming that cissexual women are superior and "biophilic" and transsexual women are inferior and "necrophiliacs" Daly and other transphobic ecofeminists promote a cissexist, and oppositional sexist, dualism of cissexual women/transsexual women.

Re: Challenging Feminist Transphobia

And in my most articulate comment to date:

Ew, total grossness.

(Referring to the transphobia of course.)

Re: Challenging Feminist Transphobia

As a practicing vegetarian (not vegan tho) this makes me want to go out and kill and eat a cow...

Seriously, support ALL women... renounce feminism!

Mary Daly, may your transphobia be buried with you

Mary Daly is dead. Max Planck's famous quote applies equally well to social truths: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

Lots of people (e.g., Carol J. Adams) are celebrating Daly's legacy without acknowledging the real harm that her legacy is continuing to cause. Queen Emily explains the problem over at Questioning Transphobia: The legacies of trans-exclusive feminism (aka why are you angry).

The transphobic politics of Carol J. Adams

Precisely illustrating my point, Carol J. Adams deleted this comment of mine on her Remembering Mary Daly blog post:

I think it is equally important to acknowledge the harmful influences of Mary Daly. Daly's legacy of transphobia continues to harm women today.

Over at Questioning Transphobia, Queen Emily posted "The legacies of trans-exclusive feminism (aka why are you angry)" describing the very real harm that Daly's work is still causing.

Transphobic hate remains all too present in vegetarian ecofeminism as Ida documents at The Vegan Ideal. This too is Daly's legacy.

Of course, I am not surprised (hence the screen grab):

While Carol J. Adams praised Daly for "open[ing] up the space to have such lively disagreements!" she seems uninterested in creating such a space on her blog.

Yet she did allow another comment critical of Daly to remain, so it would seem that Adams is specifically excluding a discussion of trans women – making visible the exclusion that trans women face from even on-line cissexual feminist spaces.

Mary Daly may be dead, but her legacy will live on unless we actively challenge it and distance ourselves from those unwilling to change. Given this latest incident, past incidents, and the fact that I have privately emailed Adams on this issue and she agreed to disagree, I think that Adams falls squarely in the unwilling to change category.

Consequently, I do not think Adams is an appropriate speaker for vegan events. I hope that allies will question her about her transphobia at her speaking engagements and stop inviting her until she publicly renounces her transphobia.

Remembering Mary Daly

It is definitely important to acknowledge the sort of transphobia, and specifically trans-misogyny, that Mary Daly and her students advocate, as well as how it continues to harm women and other trans people. However, I want to encourage people reading this to not continue the cycle of animosity. I think it would be wonderful if readers would memorialize the death of Daly by making some sort of commitment to change and transform the hate she leaves behind.

For instance, I personally suggest making a donation in the name of Mary Daly to the Audre Lorde Project and designating that the donation be used towards TransJustice. This is just one example of a way we can use our anger and pain to mark Daly's passing in a positive way.

Re: Remembering Mary Daly

I am currently re-reading "The Sexual Politics of Meat". I am only on page 55 but I was wondering if you have specific pages in mind in which you feel that Adams is being transphobic so I know it when I see it. Transgender studies is still very new to me. I am only understanding it "theoretically" since I have always lived with and had CISgender privileged consciousness.

I am also wondering, in in general, eco-feminisms are transphobic when I read topics that suggest certain foods, chemicals, etc., will create human beings that do not fit into a 'male/female' binary. I can't name any specific articles, but I remember fears of "if we let the environmental polluters wins, our boy's hormones will be so altered that they may end up growing breasts." Is that what you mean by transphobia as well?


The Sexual Politics of Meat in context

Hi Breezie,

It's been a decade since I've read The Sexual Politics of Meat, so I could not refer you to specific passages, nor do any necessarily exist in that book. I understand why you are asking since you are reading it right now and you want to learn. At the same time, I just wanted to take the opportunity to emphasize that Adams' transphobia stands independent of whether she has publicly written it down anywhere.

I think when you write someone an email and say, hey, people are saying you're transphobic, is that accurate?, and the person replies and doesn't deny it, there is no wiggle room. When you delete a comment, that is a statement. So that is where Adams stands in my book.

So I think it's important not to lose sight of her broader philosophy and the broader context and her actions, which speak louder than written words.

I also don't believe The Sexual Politics of Meat can be understood outside of the context of The Pornography of Meat, which is based on her Sexual Politics of Meat slideshow, and is in some sense a culmination of decades of her work. The Pornography of Meat is a far less academic and therefore accessible book, so that is the one that is currently having an impact on people.

The Pornography of Meat exemplifies Adams' anti-porn, anti-sex, anti-sex worker philosophy. Mirha-Soleil Ross has done an excellent job of critiquing Adams on this point.

While it is not widely accepted in mainstream LGBT and feminist movements, the oppression of women and LGBT people is intimately connected with the oppression of sex workers.

Carol J. Adams is part of the old white, middle-class, anti-queer, anti-trans feminism. Her views represent a tiny faction of feminists, and we need to hear other vegan feminist voices. Ross explains the point here: Yapping Out Loud for Animals and Prostitutes!, An Interview with performance artist and animal rights activist Mirha-Soleil Ross.

As to your second point, yes,

As to your second point, yes, that could be classified as transphobia. Just as people saying eating soy will make you gay is homophobic, trying to scare people based on a gender binary is problematic. It also completely ignores the fact that intersex people exist and have always existed, that there are not rigid categories of male and female sexes, that some people are not clearly one or the other. Similarly, transgender people have always existed. We are not some mutation of the modern era. Getting rid of chemicals won't eliminate trans or intersex people, but the implication is that trans and intersex people are "mistakes" and that if we just lived more naturally, we wouldn't exist. Nevermind that we are perfectly natural variations.