Scratch a Transphobe: Pt 2 How Can We Respond

Opinion

9th May 2023
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In Part One, I discussed fascism and the anti-gender movement, here I will discuss how we can respond to this ever increasing threat.

What Is To Be Done?
Recognising the anti-gender movement as part of a wider fascist movement is the important first step. It necessarily implies the need for an anti-fascist response. This has already been happening among anarchists and anti-fascists for years, though not without its fair share of criticism among some corners of anarchism.

Transphobia And Anarchism
Not to bring up a sore point, but the London Anarchist Bookfair 2017 and its subsequent fallout displayed the mismatch in thinking between these different corners. To sum it up simply, self-styled ‘TERFs’ (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists who aren’t really feminist at all) attempted to leaflet the bookfair and were met with a hostile response by those who already understood and internalised that they were, in fact, fascists. Those who did not have this same analysis did not like the escalatory response of a militant anti-fascism to the leafleters. This caused a rift within British anarchism that remains today. However, the relevance of this rift has waned, with the majority of anarchists today seeing the transphobe threat for what it really is. I point this out to show what can happen when there is a vastly different level of understanding. Without context, the anarchists who wished to confront the transphobes may have looked like needless aggressors attacking their own. Within anarchism, it is best to have constructive debate on points of disagreement rather than outright confrontation. But what needs to be understood is that this is not a disagreement requiring a debate, it is a creeping fascism that managed to find its way into even anarchist spaces. If you didn’t see it for what it was then, I hope you can now. I believe this happened because sections of anarchism and the left, having failed for years to seriously engage with feminist politics (as is evident based on the many abuse scandals that have occurred), were caught out and befuddled by the anti-gender movement. Some took at face value the rhetoric about women’s rights and single sex spaces. This served to create a wedge between women’s rights and trans rights as if these were separate and competing things that needed reconciling. Some anarchists prefer to dismiss any discussion around trans people as ‘liberal idpol’ (short for identity politics), whilst Marxist-Leninist organisations have embraced the anti-gender movement as part of an increasing red-brownism.[1][2] Of course, the truth is that there is no such competition between feminism and trans rights, quite the opposite, fascism and patriarchy are the enemy of us all.

The Need For Militancy
What is required is a militant anti-fascism. We need more people in the street taking a stand (who aren’t the SWP). Based on my own experiences, the anti-fascist movements of the recent past appear to be missing in action, meaning a new generation has had to take up the reins with little guidance. Many don’t know what anti-fascism is and what it really involves beyond standing in a location with a banner. Many counter-protests are organised by ad hoc groups with vast differences in experience and ideology. There has been an uphill battle to instil in the minds of counter-protestors that cops are not our friends and that cameras are cops (stop taking pictures of counter-protestors!). Some organisers come from liberal or NGO backgrounds that wish to police crowd behaviour toward fascists. This means that a diversity of tactics is not respected. There is a strong current of non-violence in these spaces, which is not a problem on its own, but beyond preaching non-violence is the enforcement of a politics of respectability that hampers the range of responses open to us. Multiple protests have also tried to enforce a positive attitude, with chants that deride the enemy becoming a social taboo, even simply swearing isn’t allowed. Instead they say, “you must only sing happy songs and positive chants, after all, we’re bringing our kids to this one!” This has been endlessly frustrating to have to deal with and feels like an attempt to silence trans rage, when rage is something we need right now. With time, however, comes experience and there has been a slow uptake of the fundamentals among this new generation.

Allies And Accomplices
But there is also burnout. As mentioned previously, transphobic rallies happen multiple times a month, every month. We need networks of support and community, particularly from cis allies. Up till now, it has been trans people fighting this fight with little support. Monitoring far-right and transphobe activity can be triggering and upsetting. In ‘Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex’, Indigenous American activists make a compelling point about the need for accomplices rather than the vague notion of an ‘ally’ (speaking within their own specific context) which could mean virtually anything. Businesses can call themselves LGBT ‘allies’ and put pride flags in their windows during pride month, but it provides no material benefit. [3] Within our context, I am also calling for accomplices in defying cissexist society, but I think we need a bit of both. Those who are willing to directly fight alongside us and those who will support us emotionally. Some will find one easier than the other, some will do both. Community and mutual aid allows us to build ties with each other and other struggles (for example, the refugee struggle). It also helps us survive the multiple axes of oppression we face, after all, the anti-gender movement is but one angle of attack.

Target The State
Recent times have seen an increase in fascist activity around hotels housing asylum seekers, whilst the government has announced its heinous ‘Stop the Boats’ policy. There needs to be a greater focus on the state when it comes to our anti-fascism. The state has the greatest capacity to harm trans people and we have already seen genocidal policies take root in various American states.[4] This shows that the rights given to us by the state can be easily taken away, at the drop of a fascist’s hat. In places where genocide becomes an increasing reality, we must target the infrastructure of genocide. The state oppresses trans people every day. Trans liberation will only come when we have the freedom to choose what we do with our own bodies, instead of getting a cis doctor to decide if we have ‘gender dysphoria’. Liberation comes when we no longer need permission to transition or a certificate to recognise our gender. As things are now, the state is the primary enforcer of patriarchy and the borders of the gender binary, just as it violently enforces its borders at sea.

We also need greater international solidarity, because the backlash against gender and queer rights is everywhere, from Russia (used as part of the justification for war with Ukraine), to Poland, to Brazil and the United States.

Community Defence
We need to defend ourselves. Self-defence is community defence and community building is an essential part of that. Last month in Colchester, Essex, a drag queen story hour was due to be targeted by far-right conspiracy theorists. Whilst groups like East Anglia Anarchist Federation, Trans Activism UK, and Colchester Pride all made public callouts on social media for numbers to counter-protest this threat, it was primarily the pre-established personal connections the LGBTQ+ community had that allowed people to come out in such large numbers on such short notice. With Twitter going the way of the dodo, and otherwise becoming a more hostile place for anarchists and trans people alike since Elon Musk’s takeover, it is our more traditional, interpersonal ties to each other that are more important than ever before.[5] This means anti-fascism has several different elements needed to counter different areas of attack, confrontation and community building. You cannot have one without the other and be successful. If we want to spread anarchist and anti-fascist ideals, then building community is the best way to do it. Mutual aid can mean distributing things like binders, clothing, even hormones (along with the knowledge of how to do these things safely). Building community consciousness helps trans people understand the threat we face, but also provide a route out of the dark. If we support each other and fight for each other, we can do more than just survive, we can build a queer future from the ashes of patriarchy.

Solidarity is our greatest weapon. See you on the street. ■

Luther Blissett

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20220131153528/https://redfightback.org/read/transphobia_in_the_left

[2] https://web.archive.org/web/20221224084527/https://redfightback.org/patriarchal-violence-in-british-marxist-parties/

[3] https://www.indigenousaction.org/accomplices-not-allies-abolishing-the-ally-industrial-complex/

[4] https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2023/03/here-are-all-the-anti-trans-bills-that-have-become-law-in-2023/

[5] https://eastangliaafed.noblogs.org/en-GB/post/2023/02/13/conspiracy-cranks-have-terrible-day-out-in-colchester/

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