Socialism and trans liberation – Workers World
Here is a selection of comments from panelists during an April 1 webinar: “Transgender Day of Visibility: a Socialist Perspective,” sponsored by Workers World Party, viewable on Workers World YouTube: tinyurl.com/35944sht. WWP comrades Ezra Echo, Devin Cole and Romeo Channer were joined by Dr Susan Stryker, author of “Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution”; Jupiter Peraza, an undocumented trans woman, activist, DACA recipient and program associate for the transgender neighborhood of San Francisco; and Indigo Lett, secretary and social media coordinator of the Gulf Coast transgender activist organization STRIVE.
Trans, cross-border history
Ezra: Can you tell us more about the history of building the trans movement in the United States and some of the struggles that the movement has allied with?
Susan: The trans movement dates back to the United States in the 1890s. A group was formed in New York at a place called Columbia Hall, which was a kind of bar, beer garden, performance hall, hangout. , meeting place for sex workers and hotel. Then there was this group called the Cercle Hermaphroditos in New York, which was made up mostly of trans women, who called themselves androgynous, who said they had come together to come together in a common defense against bitter persecutions of the world.
Trans activism really started to take off as a minority identity activist movement in the 1950s and 1960s. A journal called the Society for Equality in Dress was published in the 1950s. You start to see people advocating for the possibility of change their name on legal documents in the early 1960s. When the social movements of the 1960s begin, you see trans people organizing themselves into street politics and engaging in radical direct action against the police and the incarceration.
I made a movie “Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria”, about trans women in the Tenderloin [neighborhood] in San Francisco, who hung out in the cafeteria all night, a sort of chillout area for the whole neighborhood. Cops raided the scene regularly, and one night in August 1966 – three years before Stonewall’s most famous uprising – the cops entered and the queens fought back. As the best contemporary description of the event says, general havoc arose that night in the net.
I especially feel in the 21st century, after 9/11, a lot of what trans people have faced in terms of violence is state violence that has to do with borders – crossing borders and identity documentation and access to social services. Trans people – we are often lumped together under the LGBT umbrella, but in some ways I think trans issues have less to do with issues of sexual orientation than with questions about citizenship status, which can be counted as a member of the body politic.
And so, trans activism is very much aligned with the pro-migrant, pro-asylum, pro-open border type of activism.
Jupiter: About how the history of the trans movement was built in the United States – the trans movement kind of took leaps and bounds by getting attached to the movements and faces of history. For example, the industrial revolution brought people to urban centers, to this geographic location where they were not known to anyone else. Because when you live in a small town, in a small village, everyone knows you; there’s that pressure of having to be very conservative and limited in how you express yourself. During the Industrial Revolution, people flocked to cities and experimented with their expression.
Another example: after the end of WWII we saw an increase in international attention to Christine Jorgensen [a former U.S. GI who achieved sex affirmation surgery in Denmark in 1951]. She is both seen as fun and her participation in the war brings new light and attention to the trans movement. And if you fast forward a few decades into the AIDS epidemic, you also see trans people being affected and trans issues emerging in a new light.
But historically, cisgender heteronormative issues are more prominent than trans people. It’s something that I think trans people have always struggled with. Whatever is going on, we really need to bring attention to how this affects transgender people. For example, within the Black Lives Matter movement, with the murder of black trans women, we are now living the cry that “Black Trans Lives Matter!” It’s a perfect example of how we can highlight trans struggles in everything that’s going on right now – with police brutality, for example.
I will say that I think we do an amazing job of understanding trans issues and strengths and bringing attention to trans struggles to make it a better society for trans people.
Trans struggle for socialism
Ezra: Why is it essential to fight for socialism in order to ensure trans liberation?
Romeo: Perhaps a very obvious point is that health care is a human right – and access to health care is especially necessary and urgent for trans people. This is one of the biggest battles transgender people fight across the world. If you live in a socialist country, it provides health care for all of its inhabitants.
Soothsayer: You cannot have socialism without trans liberation, and you cannot have trans liberation without socialism. Capitalism and imperialism are designed and created to divide people, including by sex – to build oppression on gender.
Even though there are people who believe that transgender people are not that important in the struggle for socialism, this is essential! We have had comrade Leslie Feinberg, a member of the Workers World Party for over 40 years, who intricately and painstakingly established the connection that gender oppression is part of class oppression, in his historical Marxist analysis , “Transgender Warriors”. The fight for socialism is the fight for trans liberation, and vice versa.
Susan: To truly achieve a just, livable and sustainable society that treats everyone fairly – where everyone has enough, no one has too much – we need to think about the United States in particular, the colonial dimension of the settlers, the fact that the United States is built on stolen labor. and stolen land. To me, socialism is just the belief, the conviction that you can, in fact, have a just social order. And if a system of governance doesn’t fix that, it’s still settler colonialism.
Indigo: For me, socialism is about understanding how bad capitalism is. For the working class people, we have to understand the economic point, obviously, and the racism point, but we also have to understand the international point – understanding the role of the United States as a country and how it affects to other people in other countries. Historically, there are third sex communities everywhere, and they are affected by colonialism and capitalism!
Then, especially last year with the pandemic, it really showed that we are so badly in need of health care, education and so much more. This obviously leads us towards socialism. With the administration we have now, they’re basically going to try to get us back to where the United States was before the pandemic – which was still a very terrible place! So I think for us it’s just a constant and constant unlearning of our own toxic behaviors, to keep learning more about ourselves and pushing towards socialism in a way that we can all feel welcomed. , comfortable and lively.
Romeo: I just want to add that personally, I will not feel liberated if the hormones I take are made on stolen Palestinian land, where many hormone replacement therapies come from. This is just one of many examples of how all of these struggles around the world are materially linked. Not only in the way we have to look at structures and deal with structures, but there is the real material physical connection that globalization and capitalism have tied together. Our gender is still controlled and watched to a large extent by these systems of capitalism and imperialism.