The Trans Fight for Liberation

My Body is a Battleground; The Trans Fight for Liberation

Sept. 15, 2023 | by Riley Joannah | Socialist Action

The institutions which codify the binary view of gender harbour profound contradictions. When faced with the people they seek to regulate, these systems become torn in twain. On the one hand there are the repressive mechanisms which seek to uphold the binary, and on the other hand, there are those whose status is not legible to the broader systems, whose very presence turns back the gaze of these systems and points to something beyond them. Each half of this divide presses against the other in a struggle for dominance.

Friends, Siblings, Comrades: the dialectic will be resolved only when one side of this contradiction consumes the other. Let us not be devoured by systems of oppression, and by those who seek to uphold them. Fight against them with all that we are! Make our victory an inevitability! So long as these institutions and their ideologies are enforced by repressive regimes, they will reproduce the oppressed class, and thus, sow the seeds of their eventual downfall. We the queer, we the trans, we the gender non-conforming – our communities are the site of our rebellion, our bodies are the site of our struggle, and our souls are the locus of our liberation!

We find ourselves immersed in crisis – economic, ecological, and existential. It is no understatement to say that malady lingers in the air with the smoke from the world’s burning forests. I worry that this malady will continue to crystalize into an aggression directed towards the Queer community. Indeed, during a crisis, ideology becomes explicit. Racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist narratives surface. The norms of the day loudly announce those who do not conform as outsiders to the order of things. Comrades, we are in the midst of a crisis. In the heat and confusion, the masses know that something is wrong, but are without a framework of critique to leverage against our ailing condition. They are in free-fall, grasping at what they can. And in this confusion, a moral panic has emerged to seize the minds of masses.

South of the border, most states have become hostile and outright uninhabitable for our American siblings, who face (at the time of writing) 566 anti-trans bills – 83 of which have passed, 125 which have failed, and 358 which are still pending[i]. We are beginning to see the moral panic creep into Canadian legislatures. In New Brunswick, Bill 713 has been amended to require students under the age of 16 to receive consent from their parents before they can be called by a preferred name and by pronouns which differ from the ones which they were assigned at birth[ii]. In Saskatchewan, a similar policy has been put in place[iii]. Finally, we have Pierre Poilievre commenting that LGBTQ issues should be left to parents in the home[iv].

The logic of these policies and statements are implicitly queerphobic and immediately harmful to queer and nonconforming children. It is no secret that some households have members (parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, etc.) who harbour queerphobic views. These policies ensure that the kids who most need a safe environment to express themselves and explore their identity freely – who cannot do so at home – have no place to go. Children in these situations can be faced with a range of reactions from their family if they are outed, from uncomfortable and awkward dinners to violent and abusive behaviors. To place a child in a position where they must disclose queerness to their parents in order to be granted access to queer expression and self-determination is, for many children, no choice at all, and simply presents as a repressive mechanism which aims to suppress queerness.

Furthermore, within these policies and statements lurks an assumption which at its core feeds transphobic and reactionary narratives. If queerness must be permitted from an external body – in the case of the policies, the consent of the parents, or in the case of Poilievre’s comment, relegated to the home as something which is discussed away from the public domain – then it becomes something which is administered rather than something which develops naturally in the environment of the child. Where straight and cisgendered expressions are permitted, and more, that they occupy a ‘neutral’ position, queerness appears as an aberration, and as Other. It is accepted only when ratified by an external entity. Thus, queerness is presented as an external imposition.

It is common for a moral panic to point to children as the victims of some evil or perverting conspiracy. We saw it with the Satanic Panic, it appeared not too long ago with the Gay Panic, and we are seeing it now with the Trans Panic. The bigoted narrative asserts that external forces are bent on corrupting children. This appears in its extreme form in the shape of the ‘groomer’ narrative – a disgusting conspiracy theory which relies heavily on homophobic and eugenics talking points – and in more ‘polite’ liberal forms, such as indicated above, in current Canadian political discourse.

These narratives are far from harmless. According to Statistics Canada, hate crimes in general have been on the rise, among the recorded groups hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation have more than doubled between 2017 and 2021[v]. According to Ottawa Police, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is one of the predominant communities targeted[vi]. Considering how many hate-motivated crimes and acts of aggression go unreported, these numbers are certainly under-representations of actual occurrences. It is important to note that hate crimes are on the rise, with a large portion of these hate crimes motivated by racism and religion.

In the context of class struggle, our Queer and trans siblings suffer doubly as members of the working class. The broken healthcare system, which is underfunded and understaffed, presents to cis and trans individuals alike. Both are subjected to long wait times, and when they are finally seen, it is by their worn and weary comrades in the healthcare system, who must constantly rush to catch up to the mass of patients. For our trans siblings, this system is what must deliver (often) life-saving medication and care. Where queer individuals suffer discrimination (though it is illegal, it still happens), they may be unable to find jobs, and consequently may not be able to find adequate lodging.

Let us speak bluntly: the moral panic emerges dialectically with socio-economic conditions of crisis (namely housing precarity, food precarity, job precarity, etc.). These challenges doubly affect Queer and Trans individuals who must navigate these institutions while subject to discrimination. Though Queerphobic and Transphobic narratives pervade the dominant ideology of society, we should challenge this ideology directly through education and class struggle, and challenge the material conditions which allow such hateful ideology to arise.

Comrades, there is so much to say. What matters more is what needs to be done. I plan to write more comprehensively on the issues with which we are confronted. For now, please keep this in mind: our philosophy, our practice, and our purpose begin and end with the people. We the oppressed, we the marginalized, we the workers stand in solidarity, and draw from the lived experience of those who we seek to uplift.

Trans Power – Queer Power – Power to the Oppressed – Power to the working class.