THE BLOG
11/30/2011 02:43 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Degender Her, Erase Her, Deny Her, Quip She's an 'It'

I had been ambivalent about Gloria Steinem's return to a public stage she'd never really left, particularly on The Huffington Post, a site that at least makes a passing, cursory attempt at noises that sound supportive of trans people and trans rights. (I mean, after all, they invited me to write for them, so they can't be all bad.) But I figured, exposure is as exposure does, and this may be something of a rehabilitation tour. After all, after you've said something like this about trans people...

In other words, transsexuals are paying an extreme tribute to the power of sex roles. In order to set their real human personalities free, they surgically mutilate their own bodies: anything to win from this biased society -- where minor differences or hormones and genitals are supposed to dictate total lives and personalities -- the right to be who they individually are as human beings.

...I would expect it would be time to, after 43 years without retraction, do the Kelly Osbourne circuit and at least acknowledge that you'd said something ugly instead of denying the words were ever published in 1977 and republished without comment in 1995, in Outrageous Acts and Rebellions. So I was, well, saddened is too sedate a word, when I heard she was taking the stage once again with Robin Morgan, who received particular mention from celebrated trans feminist author Julia Serano when she wrote for Alternet:

While lesbian-feminists derided many forms of what we would now call transgender expression, the bulk of their contempt was directed squarely at trans women and others on the trans feminine spectrum. This attitude stemmed both from the assumption that trans women are "really men" (i.e., oppressors) and that femininity is tantamount to a "slave status." Thus, according to this logic, trans female and trans feminine individuals were viewed as oppressors who appropriate the dress and identities of the very people they oppress. For example, feminist Robin Morgan claimed that trans women "parody female oppression and suffering," and Mary Daly equated trans feminine expression with "whites playing "blackface.'" Many (including Morgan and, most famously, Janice Raymond) even described trans womanhood as a form of rape. [Emphasis mine]

Julia being bi, and I being a lesbian (except maybe when it comes to David Bowie in the video he did for "Life on Mars," but he looks like my ex-girlfriend there, so I have an excuse), I find the words of two women who have married men lecturing trans women on lesbian feminism to be somewhat ironic. Nevertheless, moving on...

I would, in the spirit of a gleeful, parodic, kidding-on-the-square reply to Gloria Steinem, like to offer my own list of 15 ways the media would be different if it were 97-percent run by second-wave cis feminists (rather than those feminists with a more inclusive view) instead of being 97-percent run by (presumably cis) men:

  1. Anderson Cooper's attempts at understanding trans people would be replaced by yet another half-hour of Rachel Maddow segments that erase trans people.
  2. Boss Ladies would be replaced with something considered to be more representative of the trans experience, like reruns of There's Something About Miriam. Or the scene in Ace Ventura Pet Detective when Jim Carrey scrubs his tongue.
  3. At the end of romantic comedies, the cis female lead would mock the emotionally open cis male lead for being too much of a girl.
  4. Intimate partner violence against men would still get next to no coverage, despite men being the victims in roughly half of domestic violence cases. And www.1in6.org, which tries to combat the erasure of male-presenting victims of rape, would still get not a single mention in the press.
  5. Fox News would still manage to find commentators to make outlandish assertions about working-class people being privileged over the rich, would call for the denial of benefits to those they deem unworthy, and would call any pushback by Democrats against Michele Bachmann to be simply veiled sexism.
  6. The New York Times would still assert that trans people are required to out themselves before grabbing a coffee with someone -- and the New York Post would still write headlines this horrible.
  7. Goodbye slasher flicks with cis women as victims of violence. Hello slasher flicks with bad caricatures of trans women as victims of violence or villains.
  8. King of Queens would be described as a show empowering men.
  9. The Daily Show's correspondents would never be allowed to get another Joy Boner, including Samantha Bee.
  10. The Huffington Post would still run articles that drive-by mock people for having an above-average body mass index, but they'd make sure only to tell those jokes about men.
  11. No one would ask Warren Farrell for an opinion on anything again.
  12. Glenn Close would still get plaudits for degendering a fictitious trans man on film.
  13. To preserve ideological credibility, Amanda Peet would still be criminally ignored for playing a pregnant woman on Studio 60, while pregnant... trans women would still be played by cis women... or men.
  14. Ms. Magazine would never run an article like this.
  15. If a trans woman did manage to get into a place of power, there'd be an angry petition demanding that the media outlet stop perpetrating a fraud by accepting her as a woman.

Today, Nov. 30, I am reminded that I love feminism, that I love a movement that says our bodies are not our destiny, and then I will remember that sadly, the leading lights of the movement have a few serious failings that many stubbornly refuse to address more than four decades later.