Trans Rights are Human Rights
by Eréndira Munguía, Partido Obrero Socialista (Socialist Workers Party) - POS, México
(Originally published in Spanish at: https://posmx.org/transfobia-y-feminismo/)
Transphobia and feminism in Mexico: Las Brujas del Mar
Mexican feminism is experiencing a wave of transphobia that has wreaked havoc on many feminist collectives, forcing them since last September 28 to position themselves for or against the implementation of "trans laws" in their respective regions. One of the most influential feminist groups in Mexico is Brujas del Mar (Sea Witches). This group initiated the 9M (March 9) 2020 International Women’s Day strike protests. This action was a great success, since it was organized around a call to implement a working-class tactic of mass mobilization that received popular support, including the approval of the Business Council of Mexico. It was based on a winning formula. No one can deny the success of the event.
Now a year-and-a-half after 9M 2020
The strike provided a good opportunity to promote discussion about violence against women in the workplace, as well as against school age students in the classroom. Moreover, the Brujas del Mar’s past affiliation with PAN (the conservative bourgeois party) provided a lesson for the feminist left, which did not recognize the growing opposition to violence against women and failed to take advantage of this to build protest action.
Today, however, we are faced with a great challenge because Brujas del Mar has proven to be transphobic and is currently legitimizing dangerous hate speech. This hate speech has become so widespread in Mexico that every feminist group is currently discussing the challenge presented by anti-trans feminism (TERF-ism).
TERF-ism in Mexico revolves around a political program presented by Women's Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) whose program is supported by Brujas del Mar and other groups in the feminist movement such as Brujas de la Sal, Women's Liberation Front (WOLF), Feminist Party of Spain, Women of the PRD, in addition to other groups. All these groups are united in support of the TERF program. These are class-collaborationist political groups leading the feminist movement where they forge alliances with the most retrograde right-wing forces such as PAN in Mexico, VOX in Spain and the Family Policy Alliance in the U.S.
TERF-ism is a political program that the mainstream parties in Mexico from PAN to AMLO’s MORENA use to vie for leadership of the feminist movement by dividing it. At the same time, senators in legislative chambers representing these parties pass progressive laws and party bureaucrats offer support to the feminist movement. These forces understand the importance of exercising leadership over the feminist movement in the streets.
Transphobia disguised as feminism
One consequence of having PAN, PRI, PRD, MORENA or PVEM cadres leading the feminist movement is that these parties transfer their programs and methods to the movement. We are already beginning to see commercial cronyism, lack of democracy and a frank dissociation from reality in the style of the current ruling regime. This causes divisions in the movement. The risk becomes dangerous when these anti-trans feminist groups target a particularly vulnerable sector, such as the trans community.
Corruption in feminist ideology allows hate speech to pass without much resistance or scrutiny into the activist base of the women’s movement. Thus, we see many feminist activists advocating discrimination against the trans community This is taking place even though much of the rank-and-file base of the feminist movement continues to support the targeted trans group.
From what can be understood from their documents and debates, TERF is upset because the UN now recommends that governments no longer finance charities that have exclusionary policies. TERF places its discourse in terms of human rights and what these anti-trans groups say the UN should or should not do in terms of funding. TERF accomplishes this by combining legitimate slogans -- such as defense of human rights -- with hate speech and pseudoscience.
To take one example, WHRC states that "Recent changes in UN documents, strategies and actions that replace references to the category of sex, which is biological, with the language of 'gender', which refers to stereotypical sex roles, have generated confusion that ultimately jeopardizes the protection of women's human rights."
It is true that the UN has produced new documents around the trans issue, but both TERF’s assertion that sex is biological and its definition of gender are both only partially true.
To say that biology defines sex and gender is defined socially is fine for a high school class. However, to discuss this issue with documents such as the Yogyakarta Principles, which is what TERF is proposing, requires a much deeper understanding of these human phenomena. Neither biology nor sociology are correctly represented by the WHRC statement, since scientific discipline understands sex and gender as complex phenomena that cannot be simplified in this way, especially when it comes to creating laws.
In fact, scientific institutions usually dissociate themselves from these discriminatory discourses, because it does not really matter why a person is a woman, why they are trans, why they are gay, whether it is biological or social, etc. What is important is not to discriminate; that the state does not deny any right or procedure just because a person is trans.
Only two sexes?
What biology really says about sex in the human species is that it is a complex mechanism with the potential for change, something much more than having XX or XY chromosomes. Although there are clearly two types of groups in humanity, male and female, it does not mean that these categories correspond to well-identified biological objects or processes. Moreover, the human experience of sex is not comparable to that of other animal species. To do so is to put human cooking recipes on the same level as recipes for dog food, just because both species need to eat to survive. Clearly legislation regarding food cannot proposed based on the standards shared by puppies and babies.
Moreover, there is no biological or physical law that says that every person must fit into one of the two categories, because these categories are constructed based on one's experience. We all have a notion of what it is to be a woman or a man, but that does not come from biology. It comes from what we observe every day. Therefore, we cannot force someone to place themselves in any one category by our own individual perspective. Much less can we deny them civil rights for not doing as we wish.
Nor do we have the right to question a person's existence just because they have a particular characteristic. Questions such as “Why are you trans?” are equivalent to asking, “Why are you not trans or why are you a lesbian or why are you heterosexual?” These are questions are understood to be politically incorrect since no one knows the answers and are usually used to attack vulnerable communities. We should be satisfied without knowing why we are gay or straight. The important thing is that a person is not discriminated against for belonging to these various categories.
But TERF takes up as its banner the questioning of the trans community. Its arguments are built on a non-existent great evil, the "queer lobby." In its response, TERF presents itself as the “Great Savior” against this great evil. But who is TERF proposing to save? Their two-fold, dichotomous position and their own political interests fuel their pressure campaign on feminist collectives and activists to adopt their vision regarding trans issues.
If someone decides to take a contrary position or question the very existence of an organized “queer lobby", TERF attacks them, accusing opponents of being ignorant, sexist, out of touch or alienated. They go after other feminist activists with these accusations. They exploit the reactionary cultural image of trans people as deviant, sick and perverse. At the same time, they spread this hate speech disguised as feminism.
This black-and-white, dichotomous discourse is convenient for TERF. Their political alliances are neither questioned nor even discussed. What needs to be addressed beyond the single-issue human rights framework? Could there be class enemies within these feminist groups? What other funding mechanisms, outside those dependent on the U.S., are valid?
By the way, George Soros does exist (lol), and he does fund groups that support trans rights (LOL). But Soros is a member of the capitalist class. He’s “the man who caused the Bank of England to fail" and who became a billionaire during the financial catastrophe in England known as Black Wednesday. However, TERF does not question the legitimacy of Soros' fortune nor the damage to the working class that his profits imply. No, they oppose Soros’ financial contributions and charitable works, such as funding UN projects and others that oppose discrimination of the trans community. However, it’s noteworthy that Soros does not contribute to other efforts taken up by the trans solidarity community, such as expanding the number of women’s projects that admit both cis and trans women.
The phrase of "Lenin" The phrase of "Lenin"
The Feminist Party of Spain led by Lidia Falcón dares to affirm in one of its twitter accounts: "Our goal now and always has been that the Trans Law is not approved; and as Lenin once declared: ‘We will align ourselves with the devil to get what we want’.” With this statement Falcón seeks to justify the Spanish Feminist Party’s political alliance with VOX, the currently rising rightwing party in Spain.
Señoras, in the first place, this phrase is Trotsky's not Lenin's. What you fail to say in the tweet is that this an excerpt from a 1931 statement by Trotsky entitled, “For a Workers' United Front Against Fascism.” Here, we post the original text of the quote:
“No common platform with the Social Democracy, or with the leaders of the German trade unions, no common publication, banners, placards! March separately but strike together (at fascism)! Agree only to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike! Such an agreement can be concluded even with the devil himself, or his grandmother, and even with Noske and Grezesinsky. On one condition, not to bind one’s hands.”
What Trotsky meant by this phrase is to break the sectarianism of the socialists. He called for building a tactical alliance with all those whose interests lie in opposing the rise of fascism. However, this tactical alliance entails maintaining complete ideological freedom in a united effort to strike at fascism and prevent its rise.
What you are doing is using this Trotskyist phrase to justify alliances where you ideologically subordinate yourselves to the extreme right wing
Discriminate? How old-fashioned!
In the words of Marina Sáenz, the first trans professor in Spain: "When you accept the genitalist model promoted by TERFs you are accepting the same model that patriarchy has always offered us... We [trans women] have existed for decades and this has never brought into question the existence of women.... What TERF is defending is the exclusion of certain people from the public space, and if that is what they [TERFs] are defending, let them say it clearly that they are aligning with certain fundamentalist and ultra-nationalist groups that are profoundly anti-feminist."
As Láurel Miranda, journalist and trans activist, stated: it is necessary in the current situation to counter the transphobia of Brujas del Mar and other groups. We need to warn the media about the danger of these retrograde ideas. We need to make visible the real positions of the trans community and listen to their voices and analysis. We need to support this sector which is one of the most beaten down groups.
Are we afraid to criticize because they are feminists?
Dhalia de la Cerda, co-director of the feminist collective Morras Help Morras, (Girls Help Girls) says that transgender feminists are anti-civil rights: "And we have to say this without fear just as we do with pro-lifers, anti-immigrants, fascists, racists and nationalists. Or do we retreat from criticism because we stand in opposition to other feminists?... What offends me most about anti-rights feminists is that they present their position as applying sophisticated rational thinking and commonsense logic to complex questions. Their thinking is not logical. It is biological determinism. Their thinking is not critical. It is fallacious and promotes emotional blackmail. Their questions are superficial, not profound." It does not matter where these fallacious arguments are raised, even if it is from Marcela Lagarde herself, the pioneering Mexican feminist.
In the words of Elsa Ruiz, a trans YouTuber, "It is very sad that if we talk about Lidia Falcón today it is because of her hatred towards trans people and not about how 'Billy the Kid' tortured her and so many other people during Franco’s regime under which so many people died; and that Franco was never tried for his crimes.... A strong hug to all trans people. They will not be able to beat us!"
Feminists need to strengthen our critical thinking, question what we read beyond asking whether it seems logical to us or not, investigate from what class position we are fighting from and be aware of the repercussions of the ideas we defend. We must denounce those who use the label of feminism to spread anti-civil rights propaganda. It must also be said that "feminist anarchism," which does not seriously take up studying history and does not propose realistic political strategies grounded in a clear class position, ends up playing into the hands of the bourgeois apparatus.
Our strategies cannot only revolve around defending the right of women to appear on the ballot or promoting diversity in representation. We cannot be satisfied with just picking up the crumbs that the state distributes via welfare programs. Setting up trans-friendly open-air markets is not a revolutionary strategy. Instead, it is a commercial strategy that other groups such as the PRD have already used. While this strategy may support the lives of some trans women, it does not alter the fact that the vast majority of goods that are needed and sold are still marketed and produced by a system based on the exploitation of many women, men, and children. Our struggle must always move in the direction of the eradication of all forms of exploitation and oppression, otherwise what are our efforts all about?
¡No pasarán! They shall not pass!
Trotsky in "Bonapartism, Fascism and War,” one of his last writings, characterizes the conditions in which fascism develops:
“Both theoretical analysis as well as the rich historical experience of the last quarter of a century have demonstrated with equal force that fascism is each time the final link of a specific political cycle composed of the following: the gravest crisis of capitalist society; the growth of the radicalization of the working class; the growth of sympathy toward the working class and a yearning for change on the part of the rural and urban petty bourgeoisie; the extreme confusion of the big bourgeoisie; its cowardly and treacherous maneuvers aimed at avoiding the revolutionary climax; the exhaustion of the proletariat, growing confusion and indifference; the aggravation of the social crisis; the despair of the petty bourgeoisie, its yearning for change, the collective neurosis of the petty bourgeoisie, its readiness to believe in miracles; its readiness for violent measures; the growth of hostility towards the proletariat which has deceived its expectations. These are the premises for a swift formation of a fascist party and its victory.
The Partido Obrero Socialista (POS), unlike TERF-ism, does not think that currently a wave of fascism threatening to wipe out women, or any other sector of society, has been unleashed. What the POS does believe is that the fascist phenomenon, whose threat is particularly disturbing in times of crisis, needs to be very carefully studied, since major crises are its breeding ground. And when a great crisis emerges like the current one provoked by the global Covid pandemic, sectors of the petty bourgeoisie come together to make dangerous political alliances to attack vulnerable sectors of the proletariat. When this happens, watch out, my friend, and be very careful. Any example of this type deserves, if not outright alarm, then our careful attention.
No “queer lobby” is going to erase anyone, and those leading the campaign against transsexuals are not going to erase the rights of trans people because we will not allow it! Let's not wear ourselves out trying to dialogue with the Feminist Party of Spain or with Brujas del Mar. Let's concentrate on being prepared, on developing the necessary theory and practice for what may continue to develop in the current pandemic crisis. In our continent we have multiple examples of societies where gender is not binary. Hateful discourse cannot alter this reality. We must be able to counter anti-trans organizing and any other discourse we face that justifies discriminatory behaviors and divides us by poisoning our critical thinking
In the words of Charlotte Strauss Swanson of Radical Women:
"To continue the fight against right-wing transphobia requires a strong multi-racial, multi-generational coalition of all genders, feminists, and workers...it is the jobs, the livelihoods, the legal recognition, and civil rights... in short, the human rights of trans people that are at stake.”
Let's build a working-class feminism. Let's join organizations built around inclusive political programs respectful of the human rights of all people that recognize the importance of permanent mobilization. Organizations such as POS, Aborto Legal Mexico, CRIR, and Radical Women are examples of this.
Come collaborate with us.
Let us never forget that the enemy is not the trans community, it is patriarchy, it is capitalism.
(Translated by Stephen Durham, 11.7.2021)