Progressive Talking Heads Not Talking About California School Success And Opportunity Act
August 15, 2013
Dear Jennifer Usher, Please Do Keep Your Focus On Me
August 17, 2013

Transsexual Separatist Slacktivism Doesn’t Win Legislatively

Call them classic transsexuals or women of operative history; call them true transsexuals or transsexual separatists — whatever you call them, you can also call them ineffectual slacktivists.

Over at LGBT Weekly where I write the Trans Progressive column, the August 15, 2013 column is about this year’s California Transgender Advocacy Day. About fifty people, including trans adults, trans youth, parents of trans youth, and allies lobbied for three bills that will impact trans people — trans people who are visitors, residents, past residents, and citizens of the state of California.

Image: Approximately 50 California Transgender Advocacy Day Citizen Lobbyists Cheering At The News Governor Brown Signed AB 1266 (The School Success and Opportunity Act) On August 12, 2013While these citizen lobbyists were lobbying for AB 420 (Disruption and Defiance: Reducing Grounds for Harsh Discipline in public schools, author: Assemblymember Roger Dickinson), SB 716 (the Sexual Abuse in Detention Elimination Act of 2013, author: Senator Ricardo Lara), and AB 1121 (Gender Identity: Petition For Change Of Name, author: Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins), Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) signed a bill that positively impacts trans youth in public schools — AB 1266 (School Success and Opportunity Act; author: Assemblymember Tom Ammiano).

How did trans rights advocates and citizen lobbyists win on AB 1266? Well it’s the same way we’ve seen bills that impact trans people in a positive way pass into law in past years. 1.) California is a progressive state, 2.) there are LGBT community civil rights non-profits, such as Equality California, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center, which develop relationships with LGBT caucus legislators and propose legislation that positively impacts trans people, and 3.) these non-profits organize citizen lobbyists to lobby for legislation that in a positive way impacts trans people.

And, we vote for these legislators that cast votes in the statehouse for us, and so do our allies.

Lamenting that AB 1266 has been signed into law by Gov. Brown, transsexual separatist Jennifer Usher of Just Jennifer wrote an essay entitled A Very Bad Law. And in the same vein, back in 2011 transsexual separatist Elizabeth of Notes From The T-Side blog argued against AB 433 (the Vital Statistics Modernization Act) in her essay entitled The truth about California Bill AB 433.

Transsexual Separatists over at TS-SI website tried to organize an annual Transsexual Independence Day, and identified it as an annual event to contact legislator in 2011 and 2012. The effort of this lobbying day was described in 2011 as follows:

We urge that all of us, wherever we are in every country and political subdivision, write a letter to the leaders of our respective governments and deliver a direct message:

“People of transsexual history, those born transsexual, have a correctable medical condition that should not be confused with the sociopolitical and lifestyle activism of transgender activists. This is important because the willful confusion imposed by transgenderism deflects effective medical treatment from those who desperately need it.”

We vary in our opinions regarding the great issues of governance that animate our day, proceeding from separate assumptions about what is just, meet, and affordable in our separate countries. We do not ask in this appeal for specific policies or funding. We do not seek advantage over others, but we do ask for our liberty.

Thumbnail Image: 'Slacktivist' Autumn Sandeen with a cup of coffee and a bag of Cheetos -- not fully meeting the blogging standard of also blogging in one's PJ's from one's mother's basement. Photo was taken in November of 2010 a day after Autumn participated in the GetEqual direct action of chaining herself to the White House fence for repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.When lobbying for a piece of social legislation a group of people has to identify an area of concern, identify for a legislator a solution for that concern, propose legislation, organize a lobbying effort to tell legislators as why the solution proposed in the legislation is the right solution to the concern, then an even larger group of people has to lobby-lobby-lobby for that legislation. And, when arguing against a piece of legislation, one has to identify why a particular piece of legislation addresses an illegitimate concern, addresses a wrongheaded concern, or doesn’t provide a good solution to a legitimate concern. Then again, a group of people has to lobby-lobby-lobby against the legislation.

The message of Transsexual Independence Day was a complete non sequitur. The organizers weren’t lobbying for or against any legislation at all, and they weren’t proposing any legislation to address their concerns. In other words, there didn’t seem to be any point to contacting their legislators as they weren’t making any specific asks of those legislators.

Even Notes From The T-Side‘s Elizabeth saw problems with the organizing effort for Transsexual Independence Day.

TS-SI closed its doors in October of 2012, and no Transsexual Independence Day was organized for this year. It appears Transsexual Independence Day won’t be organized again in the future. Yet, even if it were organized again in a similar manner to how it was organized in 2011 and 2012, the non sequitur messaging would be just as ineffectual as the first two of those lobbying days.

Folk like Jennifer Usher and Elizabeth focus significant parts of their writing on a few bloggers and activists with significant internet presence, but don’t actually accomplish anything political in the brick-and-mortar world. They don’t even focus on the LGBT non-profits and the non-profit leaders that work on transgender issues with any sustained effort — again, they just focus on a few bloggers and activists with significant internet presence.

Lament all they want about past legislation like AB 433 and AB 1266 becoming law, and maybe lament some more about this year’s AB 1121 likely being signed into law sometime this or next year, but organizing and lobbying in any numbers to fight against legislation is beyond them and their peers’ capabilities.

Keyboard activism alone is just slacktivism. What passes for “classic transsexual” and “true transsexual” political activism these days seems pretty much limited to slacktivism directed at a few bloggers and activists with significant internet presence — slacktivism that doesn’t have any political impact whatsoever.

And, may this slacktivism by transsexual separatists always remain as ineffectual as it is now.

  • Autumn,

    Certainly you are aware that the effectiveness of your and others activism is not what propels their dislike of all things transgender? It’s that your and others activism – they feel -publically beguiles the very term ‘transsexual’.

    Run-ins with Elizabeth are not unknown to me. My first was a result of her blog post entitled something like, ‘I Will Never Understand’. The premise of her writing was two-fold. First she has difficulty in maintaining understanding of why a “man” would wait twenty, thirty, or more years, get married, have children, and THEN transition. Secondly, she simply could not fathom why, after transitioning, anyone would want to remain either in that same marriage, be ‘known’ as the “Town Tranny”, and/or be open to anyone (activist) about what she perceives as only a correctable medical condition which once corrected that individual should just then ‘melt’ into society living forever as the woman, or man they know themselves to be.

    To a large degree her, and the others just like her, do feel animus. They feel threatened. They feel repulsed at the concept, and the coercion, and the corrupting of the term ‘transsexual’ being co-opted in sameness as transgender. It’s their sincere desire to maintain a ‘purity’ for a term that really never even existed before one prominent Psychiatrist coined it some 60+ years ago. Some of them, Elizabeth included, claim that they were in fact treated by this man. And, they may well have been. I believe they feel it to be their collective duty to protect that term with a vengeance because ‘they’ received his blessing as themselves when no one else would even consider their plight. So they have developed an aggressive desire to protect that label for only those who ascribe to, and are willing to follow the protocol enshrined from his research. In that protocol, Dr. Benjamin felt that ‘blending’ back into a normative lifestyle in the sex you believe (know) yourself to be, and have transitioned to, was paramount to being successful and ‘true’.

    But, the fallacy as I see it in these ‘separatists’ is that they were from a time when the science behind transsexualism, and other labeled gender variances were scattered, essentially unknown, and uncoordinated in cross-referencing. Today, like so many other physiological human conditions, much more is known -professionally. The ‘knowing’ is a resultant factor of availability of information worldwide. No longer are such issues confined for weeks, months, or even decades buried in obscure manuals, or sheltered from even public awareness.

    This is where activism comes to play. Just because something might be verified clinically as true, that doesn’t always manifest to instant recognition and acceptance of what was once thought solely as a “taboo”, a maligned, and misunderstood condition. Without the foot soldiers (activists) who in many cases are the subjects of these issues themselves, how then is a public who is ever so willing to ‘light the torches and grab the pitchforks’ instead of utilizing calm discussion and reasoned thinking on such issues going to be made known the actual truth?

    Essentially, these ‘separatists’ are and will remain ineffective in their pursuit. Some of their ‘chosen few’ will follow in their foot traffic and their mean-spirited blogging. Some of those who become transitioned will desire not to be ‘known’ publicly. Some will seek the light of determined ambition to reach out and make a difference positively in whatever manner they can. Some of us will also aid that campaign in more quiet ways, just because we can and not because we are afraid or embarrassed.

    In other words, you do it your way, and I’ll do it mine. Activism is needed. Activism is good. But so too for some, is a need to stay more subdued. All efforts toward the positive will be effective in the end.

  • What really got me boiled enough to write this was just one sentence: “Keyboard activism alone is just slacktivism.” This is incredibly offensive, because it is ableist and extroardinarily untrue. It makes assumptions that you (that I) have to have certain resources, certain abilities to contribute to society and to making meaningful change in the world. I will tell you what, I have had a particularly successful involvement in social change, and not just while my illness was experiencing a merciful period of abatement during which I could leave the house, interact with crowds of people, engage in public speaking, teach workshops and seminars etc. I am unable to do much of that now. But, that is not to assume that I am unable to affect change in the world or to affect the tide of public opinion. I should hope that the Transadvocate will retract this article for its ableism at the very least, and then hopefully issue a sincere apology to trans persons with disabilities who are still doing their part for the community by using whatever means they have available to them. We’ve gone through enough hardship as transfolks living and working in hostile environments and trying to change things for the coming generations. So, please don’t ever tell me that I don’t matter. I’ve had my fair share of difficulties surviving, and i’m still here, and I won’t be erased in this way.

    • OneMultipleCode,

      Please look at the context of the statement. The folk I’m talking about don’t coordinate with others, rarely, if ever, write their legislators — and when they do they don’t have a focused message — and focus much of their efforts on blogging about other bloggers and folk with high internet presence instead of trying to affect change in the brick-and-mortar world.

      What you’re trying to do is change things in the brick-and-mortar world with targeted, focused effort, and that’s a whole different ball of wax. Do you work in conjunction with the efforts of others to change the world on the issues you care about? I’m betting that you do, and I’m betting that those folk at least sometimes are visible in the brick-and-mortar world. That would make your “keyboard activism” not keyboard activism alone.

      I’m not directly talking about individual efforts, although in a sense I am. What I’m talking about when I wrote about “keyboard activism alone” is keyboard activism by lone agents who are focusing pretty much on what they’re against without also focusing on what they’re for.

      Hey, I do write letters to my state and federal legislators too. And, I use the media platforms I have to try and change hearts and minds in the brick-and-mortar world. But, I coordinate with others with similar goals, and I work not only what I’m against but also for what I’m for.

      I have to deal with my own limitations too related to my own invisible disabilities — the ones that leave me with a 100% VA disability rating. There are days when all I can do is sit behind my keyboard and try to affect change…there are days I can’t even do that. There will likely be a time when I will have to fade from activism, and it will likely come with a period of time that will mirror your situation. But even then, I will still use email and my phone to coordinate with others to achieve our goals.

      I honor you because what you do with your keyboard is important and carries the real possibility of being effective in the brick-and-mortar world. That isn’t slacktivism.

      Again, take what I’m saying in context. One sentence in my essay taken without the context of the rest of the essay doesn’t accurately describe what I was trying to communicate.

  • Transgender has always been an umbrella term that includes transsexuals. I am a transsexual in textbook terms in every way however its not a term I use outside of the medical spectrum. I am simply trans. These separatists stand to do a lot of damage to much good work that has been achieved over the years. Thankfully they aren’t very smart. If they were they wouldn’t attempt to split hairs. They seem to lack any real political understanding what so ever. They lack vision and are very prepared to kick anyone under the bus that doesn’t join or embrace there misguided slactivist communities. They lack foresight and rational political thinking in ways that defy common sense. They would isolate themselves and the people they rope in to a life of fear and paranoia. They also are trying to re invent the wheel. I have been around long enough to know the origins of our language and labels and transsexual separatists don’t have the right to just change the definitions of our language willy nilly. I get really tired of their nonsense. Together we stand, divided we fall. Nuff said…

  • Why cannot women who prefer the label transsexual be permitted to use it to describe themselves? I fully support the right of others to use the label Transgender but do argue that transsexuals are being bullied into taking a label that they feel no longer includes them. Add some letters to LGBT and allow A to be used for androgynous, allow Q for queer and gender queer, and Transsexual for those of us who are compelled by our own identity to get surgery so that we can live as we were destined to be. If you must then use TG only for those who do not want to be transsexual.

    • What does your comment, Theresa, have to do with the essay at all? Your comment is a non sequitur comment that has nothing to do with the subjects of legislation, organizing, lobbying, and slacktivism.

      • I think Theresa’s comment had everything to do with your article Autumn. Your article was more an attack on what you label as Transsexual Separatists than much to do with laws. Look at your heading for a start. Transsexuals arent the separtists here but its those who seek to issolate and belittle those who believe as they do who are the separatists. Your comments are discriminatory and issolationist.
        All the so called TS separatists I know are happy to support Transgender initatives but they arent allowed to be recognised as who they are. Why are Trans (what do you mean by Trans?) allowed to identify as they wish but Transsexuals arent? Why do Trans (Transgender? Transsexual? Transvestites? Transitioners?) seek to force others to be engulfed in a barrel of obscurity and anonimity?
        Reality is Trans is a prefix and is used by people who are lazy and seek to force all to be same when we arent. Recognise the differences and allow ALL people to be who they are. Work together and not to issolate an already marginalised sector.
        Your article is more an attack on what you see as Transsexual separatists then about laws,

      • I’m so tired, Racheal, of the straw man fallacy being applied to what I say.

        You wrote:

        “Why are Trans (what do you mean by Trans?) allowed to identify as they wish but Transsexuals arent? Why do Trans (Transgender? Transsexual? Transvestites? Transitioners?) seek to force others to be engulfed in a barrel of obscurity and anonimity?”

        Where did I say anything to those affects in this essay? Where have I said or implied anything to those effects in anything that I’ve ever written? You’re giving a straw man argument: I’ve never said or implied that transsexual people can’t identify as they wish; I’ve never said or implied that transsexual people should be “engulfed in a barrel of obscurity or anonimity” [sic].

        Hell, I wish more of the anonymous “true transsexuals”/”classic transsexuals” were out and public like I’m out and public.

        “Reality is Trans is a prefix and is used by people who are lazy and seek to force all to be same when we arent. Recognise the differences and allow ALL people to be who they are. Work together and not to issolate an already marginalised sector.”

        Please read what I wrote in Why Transgender Activism and The Seven Goals Of Transactivism. Those essays describe what I believe — I don’t believe what you implied I believe.

        I’m so tired, Racheal, of the straw man fallacy being applied to what I say, and you’re just the latest in a long line of transsexual women who’ve straw manned me and my words.

        Read a little more of what I’ve written, note the actions I’ve taken in the brick-and-mortar world to further LGBT community members’ civil rights, read what Jennifer Usher and Elizabeth say in their blogs, as well as what the many opinion writers of TS-SI have to say in their online magazine, and note the lack of action in the brick-and-mortar world to further what they define as their community’s civil or medical rights.

        In the meantime, my point that the transsexual separatists — many of which associate themselves with identities such as classic transsexual, true transsexual, woman of operative history, or as women having a medical condition called Harry Benjamin Syndrome (that no medical organization or association recognizes as a real syndrome) — don’t engage in impactful political activism is a valid point. If you think it isn’t a valid point, give me examples of how they do engage in impactful activism for their cause.

      • I didnt respond to anything more than what you wrote Autum. I am not interested in having to go look somewhere else or to what you link to as ‘Strawman’. I deal in reality and reality is your article attacks and malign ‘Transsexuals’ and those you see and label derogitorially and discriminatorialy as Separtists. You can run an hide with fancy words but it is what you did.

        You sort to issolate them as separtist and belittle them as much as possible because, in your eyes, the way they are standing up, isnt achieving what you feel they should be. You make yourself judge and jury above them, doesnt matter if their goals are different than yours, they should be the same as yours.

        Sorry but your bigotry to Transsexuals is actually the greatest I have ever come across. You seem to discriminate more than anyone I know and profess its your way or no way.

        If you are so tired then I suggest you take a nap rather than seek sympathy as there is none under the ‘Trans’ umbrella but you may find some under the Transsexual umbrella.
        You have done alot of good in the past but this sort of somment seeks to divide us and isnt what should be happening and especially from someone many respect. Your comments here are discriminatory and from what I know of you, I am shocked as I thought you should know the harm discrimination can cause.

        Seems I was wrong.

      • I can’t please everyone with my opinions, and obviously my point of view doesn’t please you.

        Thank you for reading my essay.

      • OMG, Racheal, you have the nerve to accuse Autumn of “bigotry against transsexuals” when your entire HBS schtick is to try to distance yourself from “the transgender umbrella” because you don’t like being associated in any way with queers. You’re a wannabee straight, but they don’t want you at their party any more than they want Sister Boom-Boom, so you play your “crabs-in-a-pot” game of separatism and then have the nerve, the NERVE, to make accusations of bigotry to someone who doesn’t discriminate against queers the way you do.

        I transitioned under HBS standards of care in ’82, got my surgery in early ’85, have lived most of my life post-transition, and I find you and your ilk, with your rancid disrespect for other trans women, to be utterly sickening. You and Jennifer Usher can both go jump in the lake for all I care.

      • friday_friggin_jones, and none of this rant towards me was bigoted and discriminatory? You didnt just make your own decision to lump me in the barrel where you think I should be placed?

        Yes I see this article as solely an attack on Transsexuals who wish to be who they are and to be able to define as they wish. It has little to do with legislative decisions as claimed and is soley aimed at attacking and denigrating Transsexuals who wont conform as other say they should.

        For your information, I am not a supporter of the HBS crap but you judge me to be. You judge and go off with next to no information at all. What gives you the right to be superior to me? I am not interested in your history as if to justify who you are. You are a person the same as I am a person. You have a right to your opinons and beliefs as do I.

        But when people who should be aware of the harm discrimination causes, then turn and denigrate others, seek to issolate them for thier beliefs, attack them derogitorially, I see that as discrimination and bigotry.

        You say I am a wannabe straight and they dont want me at their party but the truth actually is the straight people accept me far better than the so called ‘Trans’ people. Trans what? Transgender? Transsexual? Transvestitte? Transitioner? All vastly different. No I am not Trans nor am I Queer. I am not weird, unusual, different or freaky. I am a person and a woman. I believe in the binary and am a female, thats all I need be.

        Trans folk attacking a sector under the Transgender umbrella do not help society understand any of us and just cause confussion and bickering. Those trying to exclude a sector from under the umbrella are the separatist.

      • …”the truth actually is the straight people accept me far better than the so called ‘Trans’ people…”

        Self-deluded much? We all have some straight friends, but step outside your little circle and into the public, and all that alleged “acceptance” is contingent on you never getting read as transsexual. As soon as someone notices the little physical differences then suddenly you’re no different in the eyes of the straight public than Sister Boom-Boom.

        Also, you really don;t seem to understand what “bigoted” means. It doesn’t mean “fridayjones is bigoted against me because we disagree about HBS separatism and she’s mean to me,” it means “those people despise me not because of what I say or do but because of what group they perceive me as belonging to.” And yes, you are a bigot, because you seem to believe that you’re somehow better than non-op trans women and cross dressers. Your own sense of sexual normalcy appears to depend on differentiating yourself from trans women like Autumn, as if you believe that you are intrinsically better because you’re buying into bigoted societal straight supremacy, as if being queer was somehow shameful or “less than.”

    • Why does the anti-transgender element of those who would call themselves transsexual get to monopolize that label? And why should I care about their preferences, when they so deliberately violate the preferences of those who do not reject ‘transgender’ as a label?

      • I honestly have never meet or run across anyone who is ‘anti-transgender’.
        I dont like the term but accept others do and that by others guidelines I fall under that term.
        Its not my choosing tho but where others put me.

        Why should I care about your preferance Lianne?

      • Racheal, your comment that you’ve never met anyone who is antitransgender appears to be commentary from willful ignorance. I’ve pointed you to places where you can read the deeply held, antitransgender viewpoints of transsexual people, but then you choose not to inform yourself about those folk by not reading what they’ve written.

        It’s hard to discuss anything of substance with someone who willfully chooses to be uninformed. And with that thought in mind, I’ll leave you to your own beliefs.

        Again, thank you for reading the essay.

      • Autumn,
        ” you’ve never met anyone who is antitransgender appears to be commentary from willful ignorance. I’ve pointed you to places where you can read the deeply held”

        You noted I said ‘met’. Meeting someone is entirely different than going looking for a website and READING something someone has written.

        Unlike yourself it seems, I choose not to go hunting and looking for stuff that might offend and upset me. I accept other people have a right, you included, to have an opinion that differs from my own. I dont feel as you seem to that I need to attack them, denigrate them, issolate them and basically discriminate against them, as I appreciate just how hurtful discrimination is. I have learnt by seeing the discrimination Transgender people have had to cope with. I dont need to inflict same on others to express my point of view.

        I dont have ‘willful ignorance’ as you put it but intelligence to ignore what might upset and cause vengful outbursts of a similar kind directed in vengeful retaliation that fuels fires.

        I have a right to my opinion, to express how I choose. Others have that same right and I can at least acknowledge it and not attack them for their beliefs and convictions derogitorially and bigotedly.

      • Again, thank you for reading the essay and commenting.