When “Gay Rights,” “Trans Rights” and “Women’s Rights” Are White Rights

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“People all over the world, people all over the world”

An indispensable quality of the white identity is the political disconnect of the white individual from our class– as European colonizers– and from the historical and material impact that our class has on people all over the world, and on the planet itself.

Isolated in the cozy confines of our own subjective view of the universe, white colonizers in the United States can feel entirely comfortable, thousands of miles from Europe, on land that is stolen from Indigenous peoples.  To the white colonizer, the beautiful, green trees and rainy skies of Oregon– disconnected within our collective imagination from their historical and material reality– are just “home.”

One might say, “Well, that was a long time ago when Oregon was settled by whites through our genocidal violence, and that’s why we’ve forgotten it.”  But history didn’t simply stop one day.  Everything that had happened up to a certain historical point didn’t simply disappear overnight, as a more liberal and humane social arrangement suddenly appeared: the same patterns of colonial genocide continue, and the material connections remain intact.  The freeway that goes through an area of Portland, Oregon that once was a thriving Black neighborhood; a sports arena in St. Petersburg, Florida that sits on the ruins of Black lives; the accumulated wealth of whites whose great-grandparents burned down the Chinese section of town in La Grande, Oregon; each of these is the physical embodiment, the new shape formed from the old pattern, whose deeply engraved historical record is connected to white supremacist, colonial capitalism.

Once the European colonizer has been isolated inside our class, and has been disconnected from our history of white supremacist violence, then we can be selective about which parts of this system benefit us and which parts are harmful.  By obscuring the line that divides the colonizer from the colonized— that is, by erasing the dialectical relationship shared by the white identity and the identities of Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity– we don’t recognize that the entire capitalist system and history of the United States is based on systemic violence.

This constant erasure of the primary dialectic that exists between the colonizer and the colonized is how Senator Bernie Sanders can say he is eager to work with President Donald Trump on infrastructure and trade agreements, even as he denounces the President on other issues.  Yet infrastructure and trade agreements are racism, are patriarchy, are colonialism.  The same system that builds a wall across land stolen from Mexico and Indigenous nations also builds bridges and schools, and also builds prisons, and constructs skyscrapers where white men and white women in pinstriped suits plot their next attack on the world.  But this view of the world (the colonizer’s view of a peaceful street in Oregon under calm, gray clouds) only becomes possible when we ignore the larger context– the colonial genocide, the violent marginalization of oppressed identities–that has empowered the white person to hold this perspective.

If the European colonizer is a woman, or gay, or transgender (or all the above), we are empowered by this system of colonial capitalism to focus on our specific oppression(s) within the white identity, while ignoring the larger objective reality of our class status.  And by “class status” we don’t simply mean how much money we earn from our job (if we have one), or if we own a house, and have any other investments– we mean the status of whiteness, the political (not biological) identity of whiteness that is inherently reactionary, bourgeois and parasitic.

This is the dividing line that capitalism seeks to erase from our perspective of the world: the dialectical relationship of the colonizer to the colonized.  Once capitalism has erased this primary contradiction in the world from our own consciousness of class oppression, then we can focus on our individualistic need to escape the system’s discrimination against gays, women, trans people (or all the above).  As long as we gain rights that allow us to enjoy the benefits of capitalist oppression, the same as any cisgender, heterosexual, white man with money, we won’t care that all the wealth and power that has made these benefits possible comes from the violent exploitation and colonization of Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples and so-called “people of color.”

In relation to monarchy or feudalism, the most revolutionary class within the white identity (which contains all classes) is the bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie and that murky category of working class whites– together making up the “99%.”  Whenever we don’t get what we believe is rightfully ours, the white masses grow extremely restless.  We start talking about “throwing the bums out,” and we form “Tea Parties,” and we begin to “Feel The Bern”– good, old-fashioned white nationalist populism.

In relation to the global proletariat that is outside the white identity, the white bourgeoisie, white petty bourgeoisie and white working class are– taken together– the most reactionary class in history.  We are the last people on earth who want a violent revolution that will overturn capitalist democracy, because our very existence, and all our wealth and power, have come from this system’s ongoing violence against Africans, Indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity.

Liberals of the white petty bourgeoisie and “working class” (and even some of the white bourgeoisie) love to see American flag-hijabs, and love to chant “USA!  USA!,” in protests against Trump, because “American exceptionalism” reaffirms the existing status of the white colonizer on Indigenous lands: Muslims of color are “welcomed here” in our country.  “We” have the power to welcome “them.”  But the driving force behind our class consciousness is our fear that the system will begin to take away our rights– the rights of the bourgeois, the petty bourgeois and the working class white colonizer– the same as it has wiped out anyone else who stands in the way of “American” progress.

Because we are revolutionary– in the same way as Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and all those guys– white colonizers won’t give up the rights that we have gained– as women, as gays, as transgender women– without a fight … at least a peaceful fight, because the sanctity of private property is central to the “American” conception of “freedom.”  Even if we have to borrow– or steal– lines from Black Lives Matter organizers, we will express our anger that Trump would do this to our government, our country, our way of life.  “This is what [bourgeois] democracy looks like!”

Inspired by the revolutionary struggles of Africans/Black people in the U.S., and revolutions in Africa, Asia and Latin America, white people rose up in the 1960s and 1970s and made tremendous progress when it comes to our rights as gays, lesbians, and cisgender women (transgender women and men and nonbinary identities had to wait a bit longer).  Now that we have gained these rights, we won’t give up them up so easily. A wealthy cisgender gay white couple can get married and live right next to the conservative white family who have the house across the cul-de-sac.  White cisgender women aren’t imprisoned in the plastic palaces of suburbia, forced to spend their days wearing aprons and pearls while baking sunshine cakes.  They can go into the white man’s world and dominate in the same way that he does– though for slightly less money.  Transgender white women, with jobs in the white man’s world, can sometimes benefit from health plans that cover some of the costs of the surgeries we need in order to be accepted into the violently cisnormative white bourgeois society.  Taken together as a class, we are on the rise: we’ve been emboldened by our gains, and it’s not so easy for President Trump to take away– with one stroke of the pen– the progress we’ve made.

Of course, if we belong to the left-wing of the white colonial identity, we want “people of color” to be included in this progress.  We want them at our marches, that we lead.  We want them in our nonprofit organizations, that we lead.

Capitalism’s erasure of the primary class contradiction that exists in the global economic system today– the dialectical relationship of the colonizer and the colonized– means that white gays, lesbians, women (trans or cis) can look directly across the horizontal plane of our class consciousness and see no “color,” but simply gays who happen to be Black, lesbians who happen to be Latina, transgender women who just happen to be Indigenous.  Our fight is their fight.  Their fight is our fight.  And, yes, we’re fighting against racism too.  But that’s just one fight on the same plane– one isolated aspect of the individual’s identity.  We want them on our side as women, as transgender women, as lesbians or gays.

Our perspective of progress is that of the white bourgeoisie and white petty bourgeoisie and the white working class who have struggled to make “America” what it is today, as part of our long fight against the forces of monarchical rule.  We fear Trump the tyrant.  But 90% of Republicans approve of Trump.  And two-in-ten Democrats seem to be totally fine with his “fascist” moves.  Congress is controlled by Republicans.  The majority of state governments are controlled by Republicans.  And the whole map of “America”– red and blue– sits on stolen Indigenous land, benefiting from the imperialist subjugation of brown people here and abroad.  It is this global subjugation– this democratically-chosen white terror– that has made “America” possible.  The progress of “America” and the white identity exist in dialectical opposition to the progress of humanity.

Capitalism gains its wealth and power through the rigid principle that profits matter, not people.  However, capitalism must be flexible about the methods by which it gains greater wealth and power.  The rigid class structure (including patriarchy) remains intact, but the methods of class oppression adapt and change as the contradictions within the capitalist system threaten to pull it apart.  So the ruling class reluctantly takes one step back in order to take two steps forward.  Capitalism will take some steps that cut into its profits by instituting reforms that place the rights of white women (trans and cis) and white gays before the greater accumulation of wealth.  The ruling class recognizes that, once the insurgent identities within the colonial class feel that we are part of the system, the “progress” that we enjoy can be exploited for the overall consolidation and expansion of capitalism’s power.

Capitalism wins our loyalty by recognizing our rights– the rights that cis/het white men already have– so that we will become even more dependent upon the institutions and structures of the existing society, and therefore oppose any socialist revolution by the masses of colonized peoples whose further subjugation has made our newly-won “rights” possible.

It’s impossible for capitalism to recognize the rights of all classes or identities under its control– if it were to do this, the entire basis for its wealth and power would collapse.  Capitalism could no longer dominate the world.  At the same time, there are enough whites on the left– liberal, socialist or whatever– who might see the racism written into the progress of the insurgent white class if these rights totally excluded “people of color.”  So, once again, capitalism takes a couple steps back in order to take a few steps forward.  With all the flexibility of a snake, the ruling class recognizes the rights of some gays and lesbians of color, and some trans and cis women of color, aware that the illusion of “diversity” can become a buffer or barrier between the white colonial class and the colonized classes.  Furthermore, the talent, energy and resources of the upwardly mobile class within each colonized community can be exploited by capitalism in order to increase the wealth and power of white people.

By isolating every individual within their class, capitalism creates greater loyalty to the white ruling class, because it can pick off– one by one– each person who sees a way out of colonial oppression in regard to all their intersecting identities.  White gays tell gays of color that the fight for [white] gay rights is the way out.  White women (cis and trans) tell women of color that our fight is the way out.  Yet the wealth and power that we enjoy– at whatever level we enjoy it, rich, poor, or middle-class– would not be possible without the colonial domination of the vast majority of people in the world, including Indigenous peoples and Africans/Black people on this continent.  In a system where profits come first, the only “rights” that can be recognized are those that do not jeopardize the wealth of the white-controlled ruling class– and under this system, it would be impossible to extend the recognition of gay rights, women’s rights, and transgender rights to all people.

Only through socialist revolution can there be the complete redistribution of land and resources to colonized communities that is necessary for the rights of all people to be recognized.  The wealth of the white identity– the white colonial class– must be redistributed on a global scale to those identities who continue to be robbed and murdered for the benefit of whites in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Israel, South Africa, and wherever we parasitically exist in the world.

All whites– regardless of gender, sexuality, or income– benefit from this colonial relationship within a world economy controlled by racist, patriarchal capitalism.  If we wish to create a society based on egalitarian principles, we must organize to replace capitalism with socialism, and support the self-determination and empowerment of all colonized peoples.  Then perhaps we will be able to join together with our transgender sisters, our queer or lesbian sisters, on the same plane, the same material level, no longer divided by an oppressive system in which one class (the white colonizing identity) enjoys material benefits at the expense of colonized identities.

The fight to dismantle systemic oppression against all gays, all lesbians, and all women (trans or cis) is– in historical, material and dialectical terms– the revolutionary struggle against colonial capitalism.

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When “Gay Rights,” “Trans Rights” and “Women’s Rights” Are White Rights

Minimizing the Damage to the People During the Trump Era

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“I’m for peace, but I believe that any man who’s facing death should be able to go to any extent to see that who’s trying to kill him doesn’t have a chance to do it.” — Malcolm X

 

One of the goals of revolutionary armed struggle is to maximize damage to the enemy while minimizing damage to the people.  However, the primary goal of the revolution is power, because, once a subjugated people have gained power, then they will be free to create peace and a system (socialism) that is based on egalitarian and just principles.

It seems fair to say that, in the United States today, and particularly among European colonizers (whites), there is little or no desire to do the first part of the above statement: “to maximize damage to the enemy.”  In fact, the opposite is true: white people (most of whom voted for President Trump) are more focused on maximizing the damage to the people– to oppressed communities who are already the most endangered and the most marginalized by a racist, patriarchal, colonial system (capitalism).

Yet there are many whites in the U.S. today who do want to minimize the damage to colonized or oppressed communities. So let’s focus on this second part of the statement: “minimizing damage to the people.”  And the two parts are actually very much connected.  But perhaps we can talk about that a little bit later.

For now, let’s think about what it means to minimize the damage to the people who are most endangered during the Trump Era.  And it may help us to understand the meaning of this effort if we try to think about it in dialectical terms.  This isn’t the same as looking at both sides of an issue.  Instead, we want to look at the one sideour side, because you’re either on the people’s side or you’re not– and then examine the two sides within this one side, or the unity of opposites.

When we talk about objects– and people aren’t objects, although they are objectified and must therefore become the subjects of a mass movement against their objectifier– then we can say each object or thing in nature contains this unity of opposites: two opposing forces that hold the thing together while also threatening to tear it apart.  These are the internal contradictions of the object.  And contradictions not only keep a thing together– it’s not really at rest, it just appears to be at rest as these forces of tension struggle within it– they also create self-motion.  The contradictions of the object affect its ability to move and to change, according to its relationship to all the other objects around it.  Its power for self-motion is based on the strength or weakness of this object in relation to the objects with which it interacts (and their own strengths and weaknesses).

So, what do these dialectics mean when we are talking about resisting Trump, and (more importantly) resisting the system that elected him (the system of racist, patriarchal capitalism)?  First, what we’re not talking about here is the frequent mistake that people in this country make (particularly white people), because it’s how we are taught to think: we believe that, in order to improve the lives of those who are oppressed by this system, we should focus on reforming the system (re-forming it, that is making it stronger so it can do more good, or harm).  But a dialectical analysis of conditions teaches us that strength comes from within.  Power comes from the process of how unified opposing forces are resolved within an object (such as an individual, a community, an organization, a class, or a nation).  Once the object is stronger within, and has resolved its own contradictions on its own terms (rather than being overpowered by a stronger force from without), then it has the ability to move forward and to transform all the things that it confronts.

Therefore, if we wish to “minimize damage to the people”– to oppressed and marginalized identities– it seems we ought to focus on taking steps that will allow them to become stronger within, and to gain power on their terms.  When an organization, a class, an identity, or a community is stronger within, and when it has resolved its internal contradictions on its own terms– rather than being controlled by an outside force– then it can move, really move: and that’s when we have a mass movement.

People in oppressed and colonized communities– Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples, Latinxs, immigrants of color, Muslims of color– don’t need to experience any additional danger to their lives and well-being.  The dangers that they face are great enough already– far too great.  And so it seems that whites on the political left– liberals, socialists, anarchists, whatever– should focus on “minimizing damage to the people.”  Revolutionary violence will hit colonized communities first and hit them the hardest.  And they are already being hit by the system of reactionary violence, by capitalism.  Once we recognize this reality, then we can say: let’s focus on minimizing that blow, but not from the outside, not on the terms of the capitalist system that sits on top of them– no, instead, by materially contributing to the empowerment of the people from within their communities, people who are struggling to survive below the violent force of capitalism.

The key for the white left today– and every day during the Trump Era– is to materially support individuals and organizations in colonized communities.  Support Black trans women.  Support Safety Pin Box.  Support trans Latinas.  Support Indigenous peoples at Standing Rock and across their stolen continent (and Hawaii).

We need to give or pay whatever we can– “we” meaning white people who belong to the colonizing class, the identity that benefits the most from the systemic violence of capitalism.  For, when colonized communities have the resources to grow stronger within, and to work out their own contradictions on their own terms, then they are empowered to resist Trump and the system that Trump represents– on their own terms.  Through their organization, their mass unity, oppressed identities can then move to transform the larger society.

And no matter who we are in the white colonial class– cisgender women, transgender women, nonbinary, agender, Muslim, gay, bi, pansexual, disabled, differently-abled, impoverished– we will benefit from this transformation of society by colonized communities whose identities may intersect with ours.  Even cis/het able-bodied, middle-class white men will benefit because they will no longer exist– like all white people– off the murder and theft of Africans, Indigenous peoples and the majority of humanity.  That in itself is a kind of freedom, because– it has been said– no one is free if their liberation is based on the oppression of someone else.

And so (it seems to me) this is the key for those of us who want to protect the people from Trump (and from “America”): allow the people who are the most marginalized (and always have been, since 1492 or before) to gain power from within.  When we pay their organizations (and white people owe reparations to Black people), not only do we allow colonized communities to grow stronger, and more unified against a violent, reactionary system, but we weaken that system.  That’s the beauty of it.

By “minimizing the damage to the people” we also begin to “maximize damage” against the enemy.  Whenever capitalism is stronger, and the white bourgeoisie is unified to “save America” by reforming the system, it has the ability to inflict greater damage on the people whose land, resources, labor and very lives are the basis for its power.

If we love the people, we should be thinking about how to create chaos within the capitalist system– weakening it at every turn.  We want disunity in the white identity.  We want to demoralize the enemy by making them recognize that they aren’t as strong as they used to be.  Capitalism moves against people of color, but now people of color are more unified, and are stronger within: the blow isn’t as great, because it has come against a greater force.  Then capitalism staggers– it is confused.  And now the wealth and power of “whiteness” and the “American” identity don’t seem so attractive, once we expose the contradictions of capitalism and reveal to ourselves and to the world that “white power” is a parasite, that it exists off the murder and theft of the host (the colonized peoples of the globe, including people of color in the U.S. settler colony).

We aren’t ready for armed struggle, and– at any rate– we want peace.  Anyone who seems eager to go to war, who wants to harm people– we should take them aside and try to figure out what sort of contradictions they are struggling with, and what sort of hurt they have experienced that would lead them to show such violent behavior toward others.  Revolutions are about people.  We want to protect people who are already enduring violence, right now– the violence that comes from simply being Black in “America,” or being a Muslim of color (not necessarily a white Muslim), or being a transgender woman of color (not white) whose life expectancy is just thirty-five years.  The Black Panther Party did this with “survival programs”– free breakfast programs and free health clinics.  This is a wealthy society– we can take care of one another if we just grab what already belongs to the people in the first place.

Now, some whites are going to say that our focus on “minimizing the damage” is just white guilt or that we’re trying to play the part of the white savior.  In one sense, whites are guilty– we have committed genocide.  And we’re still committing it, in the U.S. today.  But we will never condemn ourselves to death for our crimes against humanity.  So white guilt is useless.

Even so, who wants to live in a society that is based on violence against the majority of the people on the globe, and against the planet itself?  Capitalism was born out of violence– imperialist violence.  Capitalism has expanded its wealth and power on account of violence.  And capitalism itself is violence.  Capitalism is like pointing a gun at someone and saying, “Work all day then give me the fruits of your exploited labor so I can turn them into profits and enjoy more wealth for the few in my class.”  Nobody puts up with that kind of social arrangement, unless they are violently controlled.  Capitalism kills.

So we have to kill capitalism– we have to destroy this system of violence before it completely destroys people and planet.  But (judging from all the [white] Women’s Marches last weekend, and– thinking dialectically– also recognizing that they did have their positive aspects) we are nowhere ready to wage armed struggle against the system of capitalism.  We would only inflict minimum damage to the racist, patriarchal bourgeoisie while increasing damage to the true proletariat of the world: colonized communities.

Therefore, European colonizers in the U.S. (whites) should consider placing our focus on protecting colonized peoples who are the most endangered by racist, patriarchal capitalism.  Let communities of color determine for themselves their own principles, goals, strategies, and tactics.  Let them organize for resistance on their terms, not ours.  That’s not white guilt– it’s the scientific, humane thing to do.

Capitalism is a cruel, inhumane system that is all too eager to grind up anyone who poses a threat to it– especially if they are a Black person or a person of color.  This system has locked up Jalil Muntaqim, Sundiata Acoli, Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Leonard Peltier, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal and many, many other political prisoners– prisoners of war– just because they wanted their people to be free.  So if we want to throw at the enemy our fragile skin– our bodies that are so easily pierced by bullets and the weapons of the oppressor– capitalism will be more than happy to bruise, tear, break, and lock away our flesh (if not spirit).  Capitalism has locked away generations of colonized peoples with no more incentive to do so than the usual one for the United States– it has been profitable.  Capitalism is an expert at growing stronger and wealthier off human suffering.

No– weaken the enemy.  And today, it seems that the best way to maximize this damage, and to weaken the reactionary force of capitalism, is to pay resources to the people who are most endangered by Trump (and the forty-four previous Presidents).  If the people are stronger within (particularly the most marginalized: transgender women of color), then they will become a tightly-knit, singular, mass force, an indestructible movement against all the interlocking systems of capitalist oppression.  And then they can transform society, on their terms.

Do something revolutionary today.  Buy a book written by a Black trans woman.  Make a donation to an organization led by trans Latinas.  Give to organizations that are led by queer and trans people of color (QTPOC).  Support the blogs and art and emotional labor of Black people and people of color.  My main goal here is to part me and other white people from our money, again and again.

We can weaken Trump’s ability to do harm to the most marginalized in this society by contributing resources to individuals and organizations who are just struggling to survive in this system every day.  Minimize the damage to the people, and then … the power that the system has to harm them will implode on account of the increasing chaos and volatility of its own contradictions.

 

Minimizing the Damage to the People During the Trump Era

Medium As Meaning

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The rationality of capitalist society is not to be found in its content but rather in the outward forms that contain its diverse expressions.  For example, familial relationships in bourgeois society are arranged around the ideology of the ruling class, which is mainly interested in more profits, resulting in more capital and more power.  This rationality for the arrangement of the family creates chaos in any expression of these relationships that is not directly connected to the capitalist ideology.  The capitalist form creates its own content, thereby determining its meaning as well: the meaning is in the form.

And we could extend this observation beyond the family, or any other necessary interpersonal relationships, to the relationships between producers of food and clothing and the people who need these things– which is to say, everybody.  It is entirely irrational for anyone to go hungry, and to lack access to material necessities, in a society that produces great wealth.  Yet the rationality for capitalism is not based on feeding and clothing all the people.  The institutions and structures of capitalist society exist to create greater wealth for the ruling class.  Therefore, the meaning of these irrational behaviors by capitalist institutions and structures can only be explained when we examine their meaning according to capitalism’s rationale for their creation in the first place.  Under capitalist rule, food is not meant to feed, but rather to bring profit as a commodity.  The same is true for clothing and all other material necessities of life, and even life itself.

The same is also true for interactions between people, and for the ways we communicate: under capitalist rule, communication is not meant to educate, and it is not meant to connect us in terms that we might call rational or humane.  Each medium of communication under capitalism only has rational meaning when we consider the reason for its existence within this system of power: to increase the wealth of the ruling class and the people who benefit the most from its rule, or white people.  The meaning of the content which is expressed within capitalist media may often seem irrational and, well, meaningless– but this is only because its main purpose is to further enrich the white-controlled ruling class.  What the forms may contain is of far less importance than the rationale for their container: greater and greater profits to the white ruling class.

The rationality for social media– specifically Facebook and Twitter– is not to create better understanding among people, nor is it to educate, or even to entertain.  If the content of Facebook and Twitter does these things, the capitalist class will allow such meaningful exchanges to exist (although, from time to time, it must lock Black people who are “too outspoken” out of their Facebook accounts, and, at all times, make sure they are harassed by racist trolls).  But just as the capitalist class has the power to allow content that is based in humane and rational principles, it also has the power to allow entirely inhumane and irrational content– and, in both instances, the only meaning this content has (to the capitalists who control the forms or media for its expression) is to create more and more profits.  When the fundamental rationale for a medium has no other basis but the creation of greater profits, it can only lead to an increasingly irrational, violent and oligarchical society.

The world has changed drastically in the past century or century and a half, and one of the most drastic changes has been the development of mass media: radio, movies, television, the internet and social media on the internet, as well as the expensive devices that are necessary to consume these things.  We live (some of us more precariously than others) in a global economic system.  Changes in one part of the world not only affect other parts of the world but are controlled by one global economic system: European imperialist capitalism.  The numerous advances in technology, and the benefits of these advances, during the last century and a half have taken place in a global context– a context in which one class enjoys the benefits of the subjugation and exploitation of all other classes.  Therefore, the technological advances of mass media have not had the purpose of benefiting all people, or even the majority of people.  Perhaps society has improved as a result of these developments in capitalist media; yet the rationale for their growth has not been to benefit the world, but rather, to create greater profits for the ruling class or identity: the European (white) minority that dominates the world.

And so, during this present period, there is the appearance of a sort of frenetic “free speech,” an endless, chaotic exchange of information, insults, art, jokes, memes, and (less frequently) love and spiritual support.  The diversity of expressions within the forms of media creates the illusion of democracy: we are able to express it, therefore we are experiencing freedom.  Yet the context for these countless expressions cannot be found in the words, images, ideas, and sounds that are expressed, or even in the fact that they are allowed; the context is the container itself, the form that a racist, transphobic, misogynistic, homophobic, ableist, Islamophobic system– capitalism– has created for the sole purpose of expanding its wealth and power.

Since the context for these media cannot be found in humane or rationale principles, but only in the self-serving rationality of the profit-motive, the content– no matter how varied– repeatedly takes on the shape of this container.  When human thought and speech become commodities, the primary rationale for our communication will tend to lose any meaning that is not directly related to the expansion of capitalist wealth.  The algorithms and formulas for human interactions of any type, within the context of a racist, patriarchal bourgeois system, will tend to reward those behaviors that create greater profits while suppressing those behaviors that do not.  And while we are free (for the most part) to express whatever we want, our expressions only gain meaning, in this capitalist context, based on their ability to create greater profits.  And this context– the one that gives shape to all interactions on social media– will tend to increase the oppressive capacity of the bourgeois oligarchy.  The skeleton of the capitalist design is not completed by flesh or spirit; it grows according to the monstrous, machine-like embodiment of the profit-motive.

C.L.R. James once said, “Capital controls man.  Man does not control capital.”  The meaning of the capitalist medium is not to be discovered in its content, but rather in the medium itself.  The reason the capitalist medium has been created, and has taken on its present form, has not been to serve any rational, humane purpose (nor has it been developed for the benefit of people and planet), but rather, to make the wealthy, powerful white class even wealthier and more powerful, and more oppressive.

Medium As Meaning

The Transphobia of Cis People Who Say They Won’t Date Trans Women

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[Content warning: r*pe, transphobia, misogynistic violence, gender dysphoria]

At the personal level of sexual relations, “no” always means “no.”  Otherwise, it’s rape.

However, in a system that is white supremacist, patriarchal and colonial– the system of capitalism– gender and sexuality, like race, are not just personal; they also exist on a political level.  And, in this tiered society, personal relationships always reflect the power that one has within their class.  The entire structure of capitalist society– and every tier or level within it– is controlled by a ruling class that is wealthy, racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, and Islamophobic.

So it’s one thing to say “no” to an individual when it comes to dating, sex, or any other personal interaction.  And it’s quite another thing to say “no” to an entire segment of an oppressed category.

In the first instance, we are simply asserting autonomy over our own personal identity and decisions.  But even this individual power comes from the masses, and from the political, economic and social system that the masses support.  Because an enslaved African certainly said “no” to enslavement and to colonization by Europeans (whites), just as the Indigenous person said “no” to Europeans who have occupied their land.  This interaction wasn’t based merely on an individual choice.  It came down to a question of power, and it still does: genocidal colonization is a choice that isn’t based on the individual but, rather, on the power of the masses, or the collective (class) power expressed by European (white) colonizers who still occupy this land and still support the violent system of capitalism.  Without this unequal relationship of power, the United States (and Canada) would not exist, nor could any white people (trans or cis) be able to live in the “New World.”

In the second instance of saying “no”– to an entire group within an oppressed category– we’re talking about a word or an act that also reflects this unequal relationship of power.  When cisgender people say in advance that they won’t date trans women, what they are really saying is that they are using the power gained from a transphobic system to erase one segment within the historically oppressed identity of women.  Capitalism oppresses women.  Trans women are women.  Therefore, to rule out any sexual or romantic relationships with trans women is simply to reinforce the unequal amount of power that cis people have within the capitalist hierarchy.

Furthermore, when white cis people (lesbians or straight men) say they refuse to date trans women, they are engaging in racist behavior and misogynoir.  Why?  Because trans women are women, and Black women are women, and Black trans women are women.  So, by saying they won’t date trans women, cis white lesbians and cis/het white men are effectively negating multiple, overlapping identities.  They are using the power given to them by an oppressive system in the U.S. and Canada (as well as much of the world, since capitalism is a global economic system) to erase (or attempt to erase) the womanhood of trans women– all trans women, including (or especially) trans women of color.

They aren’t just saying “no” to one person.  Cisgender people who say they won’t date trans women are saying “no” to the very existence and identity of one group of women.  Cis people who say they would never date a trans woman, when they would date a cis woman, are saying to every trans woman in the world: “You don’t get to be a woman.  To me, you’ll never be a woman.”  And this is violence.

But one might ask, “What about the Black person [trans, cis, woman, man, gender nonconforming, agender] who says they won’t date white people?  Isn’t that the violent erasure of identity too?” Setting aside the intent of these questions, we can still argue that Africans/Black people who say they won’t date whites are not engaging in violent behavior against us because, from the beginning, we indicated that these questions are always about relationships of power.  Black people are not empowered to oppress whites– any whites.  Historically and materially, the dialectical relationship that exists is that of the white oppressor/colonizer and oppressed/colonized Black people— so one can understand why, under this current system, Black people wouldn’t date whites.  And within the Black community, if Black cis people refuse to date Black trans people, even in this case, the power they have to do this only comes from a system that was created by whites and for whites– racist, patriarchal capitalism.

Yet our focus here is on European colonizers (whites).  Cis white lesbians are oppressed within the white identity, as are all white women, because capitalism requires this type of hierarchy in order to function, just as it requires the entire white identity to sit on top of colonized communities of the world (Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples, the majority of humanity).

Within the white identity or class, it’s an undeniable reality that white cis women are endangered by the toxic masculinity of white cis men– on account of a system of power whose ideological force is based on misogyny as well as class and race oppression.  But, since we’re speaking in terms of systems, white cis women (including white cis lesbians) don’t need to be protected from trans women.  There aren’t any statistics or patterns of behavior at the group level (the political level) to indicate that trans women pose even the slightest danger to white cis women– in fact, the opposite may be true.  And if they are trans women of color– for instance, Black trans women– statistics and reported patterns of behavior at the group level demonstrate beyond a doubt that Black trans women are the most endangered and marginalized identity in the United States.  The average life expectancy of a trans woman of color is just 35 years.  So, by saying they won’t date trans women, “today’s shameless [cis] lesbians” are simply reinforcing the reactionary power given to them by capitalism, and are doing so in order to move against an oppressed segment of the same identity (the one we share): that of women.  And if they refuse to date trans women of color, their behavior is racist as well as transphobic and sexist.

This isn’t to argue that trans women even want to go on a date with these cis lesbians or cis/het men in the first place.  After all, we may say “no” to them before they even get the chance to remind us (yet again) that they believe we aren’t real women and don’t “deserve” their approval.  But many trans women struggle for years, and sometimes for decades, trying to make our bodies “beautiful enough” to gain acceptance from cis people.  After all, the vast majority of people are cisgender, so if we do not wish to die alone, chances are we’ll need to find a date with a cis person.  And the wish of trans women to go on a date, and to no longer be lonely, belongs to the political sphere of activity as well as the personal sphere.

In this respect, the politics of womanhood for trans women may differ little from that of cis women who are told they are too fat, too ugly, too poor, too uneducated, too educated, too slutty, not slutty enough, too tall, too short– too whatever to get a date with cis people (men or women).   The difference here is (in a system where the accumulation of profits and capitalist wealth are all that matters) it is extremely expensive for a trans woman to have the surgeries and procedures necessary even to reach this basic level of rejection for women (in general) by the cisnormative patriarchy. So cisgender people saying “no” to us– all of us– in advance is a collective kick to our face: it’s misogynistic violence.

Trans women are women.  Cis lesbians, according to their self-defined sexual identity, are attracted to women.  Heterosexual (or bisexual) cis men are attracted to women.  When they rule out dating an entire category of women, that’s transphobia.  And that makes it misogyny too.  And it’s racism against trans women of color, because it excludes women who are Black, Latina, Indigenous (or all the above).

Perhaps a cis person (like most people) has certain preferences for the type of person they want to date: tall, brown eyes, lots of tattoos, liberal, loves dogs and likes going on hikes and water skiing … the list could be endless.  But if they were to reject every person who didn’t fit that description, this cis person would have to filter them out only according to these specific categories.  Or they could meet them for a date and discover face-to-face whether the person does or doesn’t make the grade according to their preferred type.  In either case, they aren’t excluding an entire oppressed group within the oppressed identity of women.  If anything, they’re just being picky!

But we might ask, “What about the straight person who says they won’t date people of the same gender– how could that be oppressive behavior?  Are you arguing a straight guy should be forced to go on a date with another guy?”  Setting aside the intent of these questions, it’s not very hard to answer them: we can just say– again– that trans women are women.  Straight men (trans or cis) are attracted to women (trans or cis).  So if a straight guy wants to go on a date with a woman, he should know that a trans woman is a woman.  If a lesbian/queer woman (trans or cis) wants to go on a date with a woman, she should know that a trans woman is a woman.

We could talk about how some trans women pass so successfully as cis women that the identity which cis lesbians or cis/het men thought they were rejecting may turn out to be the very person they just fell in love with– the trans woman who is stunningly beautiful.  But this line of thinking simply reinforces the violent cisnormativity in these arguments about dating trans women.  It doesn’t matter if she has a beard and a penis, or looks like Janet Mock, a transgender woman deserves to be loved and respected for who she truly is: a woman.  She may choose to live just the way she was born, or have multiple surgeries: either way, it’s her body, and a trans woman is still a woman as much as any cis woman is.

The reactionary ideology of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) seeks to confuse us about the political aspects of these sexual relationships among all genders.  If we’re speaking about the individual, it’s always their choice, a choice that needs to be respected.  And we know that patriarchal capitalism limits the choices of women– choices about reproductive rights and other access to healthcare, and in countless other ways.  Capitalism tries to control our bodies.  And that’s when we’re speaking on the political level– the level of systemic power.  TERFs reinforce the patriarchal ideology of the bourgeoisie by trying to erase the identities of trans women from the overall identity of women.

It seems we should be fighting together against the same enemy.  Trans women often show up to fight for a woman’s right to an abortion and other reproductive rights.  Yet TERFs want to erase us from their definition of womanhood.  And when they remind us (again and again) that they won’t date us– when we’re an entire category of women— cisgender lesbians who are TERFs simply reinforce the reactionary and patriarchal ideology of capitalism.

The Transphobia of Cis People Who Say They Won’t Date Trans Women

Transphobic Sexism and Anti-Blackness in the White Left’s Critique of Liberalism

robertjensen
Professor Robert Jensen: “a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin.”

We could say that people get the leaders they deserve.  Or we could say that leaders get the followers they deserve.  For instance, the inability or unwillingness of Senator Bernie Sanders to deal with the connections between racism and class oppression in the United States may have led to the anti-Black language within the anti-capitalist language of his white supporters.  In other words, Bernie Sanders got the sort of followers he deserved.  Bad leadership leads people to behave badly.

Looking at it another way, the rise of Bernie Sanders may have been the result of a need on the white left– a need that is similar to the one on the white right– to elevate a leader who speaks on our behalf and for our [white] interests.  White people are asking, “What went wrong?”  After half a century of “upward mobility” in the post-World War II era, the white middle-class has been struggling for three decades.  The wealth gap between CEOs and workers has been growing.  What happened?  And who can rescue “us”?  As inarticulate as President-elect Donald Trump is, he seemed to better express the deepest aspirations of the masses of white people in the United States by blaming the failures of capitalism on Mexicans, Muslims, “the blacks,” and the usual suspects.  Donald Trump, with all his evil buffoonery, got the followers he deserved.  But it was Trump, not Bernie, who filled the void among increasingly anxious whites during this period of imperialist crisis.  Trump was more effective than Bernie (or Hillary) at voicing and tapping into the extreme racism of “America,” as well as the reactionary “white” identity– which includes impoverished and working class whites.

For all his talk of “our revolution,” Bernie Sanders is basically a reformist liberal.  Yet his political views appeal to white socialists because Bernie Sanders doesn’t challenge our status as colonizers within the global dialectic of the bourgeois white identity and the colonized proletariat (Africans/Black people, Indigenous peoples– the majority of humanity).  In Bernie’s view, we get to be part of the “99%” too.  Whites “get to be oppressed” too.  And, because Senator Sanders failed to recognize the primary dialectic or class antagonism in the world today, and approached the crisis of capitalist oppression in whitewashed terms (with a dash of “American” exceptionalism), many of his followers have been thoroughly misguided– specifically his white socialist followers.

Of course, this crisis of white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist imperialism is much bigger than Trump or Bernie.  And the roots of misguided behavior on the white left go much farther back than the past few months.  But as we attempt to understand this current era we are in, it may be instructive to examine the growing trend among white leftists that can be found in our critique of liberals and liberalism.

In ableist language, the white left is using the same “colorblind” approach in its critique of liberals and liberalism as it has used in its critique of capitalist oppression.  If a white person is a socialist, or a radical feminist, then it seems we believe that we automatically have a free pass to criticize Black liberals and (more generally) people of color who are liberal.  Our failure to recognize the connections between race and class— both historically and materially– and their dialectical relationship within a global system of colonial domination, has led white leftists to engage in abusive behavior towards oppressed identities that hardly differentiates us from supporters of Trump.

As an example, let’s look at the way the white left is treating the organization Safety Pin Box, and two unapologetic Black women who founded Safety Pin Box— Marissa Jenae Johnson and Leslie Mac.  Apparently the approach of Safety Pin Box— to pay Black women for their organizing work and their survival during the increasingly dangerous Trump era– is “too liberal” for the white left.  And what is both fascinating and infuriating at the same time is how quickly the white right (or alt-right) jumps on board with the white left’s critique of Black women, adding to this racist, sexist critique their own strange accusations that Safety Pin Box taps into “white liberal guilt,” and all that sort of nonsensical talk.

Lee Fang, a writer for the website The Intercept, is not white, so we’ll leave any critique of his behavior for people of color to articulate.  But many of his followers on Twitter are white.  And we might say– again– that he gets the followers he deserves.  By attacking Marissa Jenae Johnson, Lee Fang legitimatizes the anti-Blackness of his white followers.  They feel safe in this white space (capitalist social media) to unleash their unprincipled and anti-Black brand of white leftist attacks on Marissa Jenae Johnson– attacks that seem to be based mainly on a grudge still held against her after she disrupted (because that’s what organizers do, disrupt) their bourgeois candidate, Bernie Sanders, at one of his events in Seattle two years ago.

For a deeper look at this example, let’s consider Lee Fang’s retweet of a Tweet by one of his white cis male followers who had “dug up” an article by Marissa Jenae Johnson from six years ago that apparently “exposed” her homophobia.  This unprincipled, irresponsible and reactionary behavior by a white cis male was given a platform on social media– and that’s the problem we’re focused on.  The focus here isn’t on Lee Fang, but, instead, on a system which consistently gives a platform to anti-Blackness, sexism and transphobia, further endangering already marginalized identities.  The white left, because of its colonial status in the U.S., can use this platform to shut down the work and survival of Black women (trans and cis).  And the reason the white left can do this is we are empowered by the same colonial system that empowers the white right– capitalism.

This toxic behavior on Twitter by white leftists seems to ignore– quite willfully and intentionally– Marissa Jenae Johnson’s current views on homosexuality, and her current political consciousness in general.  The sole purpose of this Tweet by a white cis male was to destroy Marissa Jenae Johnson– to silence the voice of a Black woman.  In this instance (among many others), the white left is no different from the white right.

Another example of reactionary behavior by the white left is an article by Robert Jensen, a cisgender male professor from the University of Texas at Austin who is writing a book titled The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men.  The title of his article is “How feminists can challenge liberal bathroom politics” [emphasis added] and it was republished on the Trans Exclusionary Radical [White] Feminist website Feminist Current.  This article was first published in The Dallas Morning News, a white-controlled bourgeois newspaper.  These details are important: Robert Jensen is a cisgender man, and a professor at a bourgeois institution, whose views have been given a platform by capitalist and white feminist media.  All of this is very instructive.

Robert Jensen’s article is extremely transphobic (that is to say, misogynistic), and you can go to “White Man’s Google” if you wish to read his garbage.  But the point here is to demonstrate how the voices and views of white cisgender men like Robert Jensen (who is on the board of a “Realistically Radical” organization in Austin, Texas called the Third Coast Activist Resource Center) are given a platform to attack trans women.  Meanwhile, Black trans women are expected to perform organizing and educational labor for free, or for disrespectfully low compensation.  So their work must be unrealistically radical?

But the key issue here is how the views of Lee Fang’s white followers, and those of Robert Jensen and Meghan Murphy (founder of [White] Feminist Current), are presented under the guise of an anti-liberal critique, when, in fact, they are aligned with the reactionary ideology of white supremacist, transphobic, sexist, homophobic, ableist, Islamophobic, colonial capitalism.  And they get the followers they deserve.  Because the people on Twitter rushing to their defense (most of whom have been blocked) are not only “Bernie Bros,” but also “social conservatives,” Trump supporters, and transphobic fake progressives and TERFs who attempt to dehumanize women like me.

The white left is misguided, and so, it follows quite naturally, we choose the wrong targets to attack.  This growing trend among white leftists of attacking “liberals”– including Imani Gandy, “Angry Black Lady,” on Twitter– under the guise of promoting radical politics is, in reality, nothing more than anti-Black, anti-trans, sexist, and reactionary behavior.  Rather than letting him deal with the violence of white cisgender men, Robert Jensen is given a platform by transphobic white feminist Meghan Murphy to question the identity of trans women.

The white left needs to deal with the problems of the white left, and we need to leave Black women (trans and cis) alone.  Our analysis of colonial oppression in the United States (and around the globe) is woefully off-target.  For one thing, too many of us on the white left are bitterly preoccupied with Senator Bernie Sanders’ defeat in the Democratic primaries of a bourgeois election to be the next President of a white supremacist, patriarchal empire.  Bernie Sanders is one individual– if the white left can’t build a movement without his candidacy then we don’t really want to seize power from the bourgeoisie, and burn this system down, we just want to “Feel the Bern” (whatever that means).

Furthermore, we can’t be anti-trans and be revolutionary at the same time.  The idea that trans liberation is a “liberal” thing is reactionary thinking at the root level.  We can overlook the fact that bourgeois Professor Robert Jensen is a cisgender male who is writing about radical feminism.  But we can’t allow him to define who is a woman and who is not.  White cis men don’t get to create the definitions of identity for women, particularly women in colonized communities (Black trans women, trans Latinas, all trans women of color).  So Professor Jensen made his first big mistake by thinking he gets to decide, in some universal (read: European) way, who is part of white feminist Meghan Murphy’s club of “real women.”

This territorial war over the definition of womanhood is an expression of white colonial control.  And the white left (like the white right) only gets its power to define womanhood from capitalism– the dominant economic system of the globe ever since Europe attacked Africa and the Americas more than five hundred years ago.  The same system that is racist, sexist and capitalistic is also transphobic– and Black trans women, in particular, are the targets of these intersecting forms of oppression.  Robert Jensen’s language is racist, sexist, and pro-capitalist, because it further endangers Black trans women.

If the target of the white left is Black people (Black women, trans or cis, and all Africans), then our analysis, as well as the leaders and writers who articulate this analysis, are no different than Trump and his followers.  There is one main enemy: capitalism.  If white leaders and white writers on the left aren’t clearly articulating who or what the main enemy is, then we need to find new people to follow.  And, the fact is, the correct analysis of capitalist oppression has rarely come from the white left.  We’re too loyal to our white identity– and we’re too loyal to “America.”  Therefore, instead of aiming our critique at communities who are already struggling to survive capitalist oppression, whites on the left should consider paying our resources to organizations and individuals in these communities, and centering their voices, work, and survival.  We should be paying Black trans women.  We should be supporting Safety Pin Box (even if we can’t afford to join, we may still be able to donate money).

The white left needs to start paying reparations to Black people, and stop paying attention to these fake progressive leaders who misguide us with their critique of “liberals.”  And this begins with our recognition that the political (not biological) identity of whiteness is inherently reactionary or bourgeois– it’s the identity of the colonizer– and, therefore, any Black “liberal,” or liberal person of color, who is just trying to survive our colonial oppression (or go to the bathroom as a trans woman), SHOULD NOT BE THE TARGET OF OUR CRITIQUE.

Transphobic Sexism and Anti-Blackness in the White Left’s Critique of Liberalism