Transphobia and Carol Adams

Another example of vegetarian-ecofeminist transphobia and cissexism is described in the keynote address presented on June 17, 2005 at Queer Communities and Controversies, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education's second annual conference in Toronto, Canada, by transsexual, sex worker, and animal liberation activist, Mirha-Soleil Ross. In her keynote address, Ross describes an encounter with Carol Adams that occurred on July 15, 2000 at the World Vegetarian Congress.

Ross talks about Adams' cissexism, starting with trans-interrogation. Adams uses a metaphor about "fish in the water" to invalidate Ross' gender identity. Adams intrusively attempts to force Ross to answer personal questions about her transsexuality, and reduce her to the status of an object. Adams also uses trans-fascimilation to portray Ross as merely imitating a woman by claiming the Ross simply "chooses" to be a woman. As Ross explains:

So I finally figured that the "fish in the water" metaphor was Adams' passive-aggressive way of forcing me to state publicly, to her and to anyone within hearing distance, that I was a transsexual. I briefed her on the fact that a transsexual, maybe I was, but that I had not "chosen" to be a woman, that being a "man" would have been impossible — physically, socially and sexually — for me. ... I calmly said that I resented being forced to divulge very private information about my medical history to people I didn't know at all. I said to Tom Salsberg that it had been very inappropriate for him to out me as a transsexual to these people, probably only seconds after I had turned my back and left on good terms with them. But Carol Adams defended him, arguing that I should have told her right from the beginning that I was a transsexual, that she had the right to know, and that it was obvious I had deliberately attempted to conceal that information from her because I knew it would have been extremely damaging to my earlier argumentation over pornography and prostitution. She said that being a transsexual was an essential piece of information, one she should have been provided with before engaging into any kind of discussion with me. She said it coloured my analysis and positions in the debate we had. I responded that I hadn't told them I was a transsexual because it had no place in a conversation about veganism, animal rights and sex work and that it was not the sort of personal information I shared with strangers. This being said, considering my history as an activist, being accused of hiding my transsexuality is truly insulting — it was like being slapped in the face.

When Adams originally spoke with Ross, she was operating from the cissexual assumption and presumed that Ross, and everyone else attending her slide show, was cissexual. Adams then turns her own assumption, which is based on cissexism, around and insists that Ross was hiding her transsexuality. Adams operates from a position of gender entitlement when she privileges her own interpretation and evaluation of Ross' gender over Ross' own gender identity.

Adams uses a logic that is much like how heteronormativity is used by heterosexuals to attack gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other queer and questioning people for not announcing their sexuality. Claiming she has a right to know if Ross is transsexual works in the same way as when the Right wing claims the right to know if an anti-violence organization includes lesbians. In the same way that this Right wing attack on lesbians is used to discredit feminist and anti-violence organizing by appealing to homophobia, Adams' attack on Ross' gender identity is used to discredit her by appealing to transphobia.

While claiming to seek to abolish all oppressive "isms" and the liberation of all women, those feminist-vegetarians/ecofeminists who engage in and promote transphobia are actually perpetuating sexism. When it comes to trans women, these so-called "feminists" replicate a version of the very sexism and misogyny they claim to oppose. In attacking transgender people they further the structure of patriarchy.