Transphobia and Pseudo-Allies

In her keynote address presented on June 17, 2005 at the "Queer Communities and Controversies" conference in Toronto, Canada, Mirha-Soleil Ross describes an encounter with the transphobia of Carol J. Adams specifically, as well as the transphobia of Feminists for Animal Rights (FAR) more generally. In her description of the events, Ross mentions Greta Claire Gaard, whom she calls "an eco-feminist who support trans rights, at least in theory." I think Ross is right to say "at least in theory," as opposed to in practice, and I wonder if "in theory" is even too gracious.

As someone who is well aware of the history of lesbian feminist theory and its influence on vegetarian-ecofeminism, Gaard is undoubtedly familiar with the anti-trans writings of feminist theorists such as Janice Raymond, Robin Morgan, Mary Daly, Gloria Steinem, etc. In fact, Gaard acknowledges this legacy in the essay "Hiking without a Map: Reflections on Teaching Ecofeminist Litarary Criticism" in the book, Ecofeminist Literary Criticism: Theory, Interpretation, Pedagogy, which she co-edited with Patrick D. Murphy. Citing Raymond and Steinem, Gaard writes, "In the 1970s ..., feminists saw transgender as part of transsexuality and saw both as a form of privatizing a political problem, blaming the 'victim' instead of the culture." While she acknowledges this legacy, she fails to clearly condemn it as transphobia nor does she acknowledge its direct role in shaping vegetarian-ecofeminist theory.

I believe by suggesting that transsexual and transgender issues are the fault of "culture," Gaard is simply trading an overt form of transphobia for a transphobia that is more subtle and covert. That is, while Gaard seems at least tentatively supportive of some transgender identities that fall outside the gender binary, she is unclear whether she is willing to support transsexuals who identify as men or women.

In her essay "Towards a Queer Ecofeminism," Gaard includes "transgendered" in her definition of queer. Additionally, she discusses "transgender persecution," specifically citing Joan of Arc being burned at the stake and the Spanish colonialists' assault on Native American Two-Spirit people. Gaard discusses how the Native American's "tolerance or even respect for transgendered persons" fueled the colonists' genocide and how the colonists "prayed 'that these accursed people will disappear with the growth of the missions.'"

While Gaard discuss the transgender persecution of Joan of Arc in the 15th century and the persecution of Two-Spirit Native Americans by the Spanish colonists in the 16th century, she ignores the on-going persecution of Two-Spirit people as well as the transphobia of the feminists who helped create the very ecofeminism she is herself advocating. So while aware of this anti-trans legacy within feminism, and aware of the anti-trans sentiment of Adams and other vegetarian-ecofeminists, Gaard offers no condemnation – quite the opposite actually.

In "Vegetarian Ecofeminism: A Review Essay," Gaard has an abundance of praise for Adams, FAR, Mary Daly, the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, the Bloodroot Collective, and various other transphobic feminists whom she cites as essential contributors to vegetarian-ecofeminism. Yet Adams, FAR, Mary Daly, MichFest, Bloodroot and others who Gaard cites as the originators of vegetarian-ecofeminism each played their part in perpetuating the systematic persecute and suppress of transgender and transsexual people beginning immediately after the Stonewall Rebellion and are continuing that legacy to this very day. This persecution is no less real nor any less damaging than that of past centuries. So while in her review essay Gaard claims the "misunderstanding (and the subsequent misrepresentation) of vegetarian ecofeminism must be addressed," she conveniently leaves out how from the very start, vegetarian-ecofeminism has been intimately connected with transphobia.

It's one thing to condemn transphobic violence that took place 500 and 600 years ago, but a true ally would not remaining silent regarding the transphobic violence that is a reality here and now, especially when that transphobic violence is rooted in the ally's own community. Worst of all is giving praise to that transphobic community and claiming that it offers a theory of a "more inclusive, liberatory movement" and "one that strives for justice on behalf of diverse humans, animals, and all life on earth."

Re: Transphobia and Pseudo-Allies

U good encouraging Spirit n Brain n Soul for ones, like me, too old n tired to speak n write n talk back... The persecution and mise-à-mort of "Two-Sprited People" go unnoticed today by those who avoid the Fire and comfortably choose to denounce past colonial genocidal practices rather than current ones... Gaard and others would have, just a few years ago, stand back and watch so called "Berdaches" being burnt alive, die literally as we, and loved ones n family n Lovers die, today, In the Flesh... They'd then shed a "croc" tear and go on with their studies, career, exhilarating sex and rich amourous life... Short term amnesia that allows one to retain, protect, prolong, through colonial space and time, a relative, such a relative, in the larger scheme of things, amount of comfort...
Much regards... mirha-soleil xox