reading list: an evening of left transphobia

here’s a list of what i read tonight while i was supposed to be studying, and a few thoughts of my own, because i want to have something to show for this for once.

the question posed by all this thinking is essentially, why does transphobia seem to be such a great litmus test for “Left Conservatism”? is being trans and defending trans rights inherently reactionary? (well, no.) did trans people exist before postmodernist theory? (yes) did being non-binary exist before tumblr? (of course) are people still different without the false consciousness of identity? (yes again) is it because i’m trans but otherwise hold a lot of social power over others, so i notice transphobia and not other vectors of oppression? why does transphobia overlap with theory-hatred so strongly in this sphere? why do all these people hate judith butler?

the following writers are crudely labelled pro- and anti- “identity politics” to make the discussion afterwards simpler.

pro
“Left Conservatism: A Workshop”
http://ccs.ihr.ucsc.edu/past-conferences/2836-2/

anti
“Journey back into the vampires’ castle: Mark Fisher remembered, 1968-2017”
https://thecharnelhouse.org/2017/01/16/journey-back-into-the-vampires-castle-mark-fisher-remembered-1968-2017/

pro
“All hail the vampire-archy: what Mark Fisher gets wrong in ‘Exiting the vampire castle'”
https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ray-filar/all-hail-vampire-archy-what-mark-fisher-gets-wrong-in-exiting-vampire-castle

anti
“Postscript on identity, intersectionality”
https://thecharnelhouse.org/2013/11/27/postscript-on-identity-intersectionality/

anti
“Deleuzeans of grandeur”
https://thecharnelhouse.org/2013/10/30/far-too-easily-impressed/

anti
“INTERSECTIONAL? OR SECTARIAN?”
http://www.metamute.org/community/your-posts/intersectional-or-sectarian

anti
“WHERE HAVE ALL THE ARGUMENTS GONE? Notes on the smugification of intellectual life”
https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/where-have-all-the-arguments-gone-notes-on-the-smugification-of-intellectual-life/

pro
“Bela Lugosi’s dead: A Reply to Mark Fisher”
http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=11364

pro
“Against Vampire Slaying: Reflections on Identity Politics, the Left and Monstrosity”
http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=11382

anti
“‘American Thought’: from theoretical barbarism to intellectual decadence”
https://adidasmarxism.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/american-thought-from-theoretical-barbarism-to-intellectual-decadence/

(here’s where it gets interesting to me, if you’ve made it this far. trigger warning for rape and transphobia)

anti
“Telling rape victims how they *must* process their rape is inherently anti-feminist”
http://elegantgatheringofwhitesnows.com/?p=2310

*phew*

ok. yes, the authors are mostly men, yes, they’re mostly white. however the exceptions here still fit at least one different pattern (transphobia) even when the author is a woman or a person of color, as happens occasionally. there are probably others too but i’m most experienced at recognizing transphobic rhetoric and philosophy. i’ll get to that at the end. the charnel house pieces are all your sort of typical brocialist-lite, chapo trap house type leftists. you know the brand. identity politics is ruining the left, they’re just painting over neoliberalism with a gloss of “intersectionality,” they’re fostering division within the working class when what we need is unity, they hate white men instead of capitalism, they’re never satisfied with how radical someone is, they’re infatuated with postmodernism whatever. if you don’t know me, i’m solidly on the pro-“IDPOL” side of things in these debates, if you can call them debates. i don’t actually have a problem with these people a priori, (they’re still comrades after all) and i do get a kick out of chapo excoriating reactionary youtubers and recipients of wing nut welfare in particular. but i think most of their arguments against “intersectionality” are bad, and in particular very repetitive. some of the pro-“IDPOL” writers above (sam kriss, at least) share variations of the following critique; my critique.

the standard criticism rests largely on so-called IDPOL leftists hating the metanarrative of traditional marxism and traditional marxist leftists (the effective philosophy, and white men, respectively) while eschewing them in favor of bourgeois individualism, the false consciousness of identity, and neoliberal guilt-and-shame tactics that divert attention from structural problems transcending the individual. it doesn’t quite divide along the theory-anti-theory line that we find when discussing politics with liberals, but it’s close in a lot of ways. there are the familiar shibboleths — judith butler is incomprehensible/secretly a neoliberal, poststructuralism is elitist/”common people” can’t understand it therefore it’s anti-leftist, etc. these are people who like their marx and think that nobody else has read it, and that leftist theory largely took a turn for the worse in the post-war era. they mostly think they’ve taken the “off-ramp from philosophy” offered by marx, and are confused that others haven’t.

the problem i have with this is that the most radical people i know personally would all probably be considered “IDPOL leftists” by this crowd, and none of the criticisms of us are accurate, at least from my perspective. the object of their critique is a straw leftist akin to the pink-haired feminist of 4chan reactionaries. i’m anti-capitalist. i base my criticisms first on structural factors and materialism. i don’t think that “diversity” or “inclusion” are inherently revolutionary (a hollowed-out caricature of intersectionality, to be sure). i don’t think “identity” transcends economic class (just look at the vitriol for caitlyn jenner among radical trans women). if the proletariat rose up tomorrow, i wouldn’t criticize it for being started by white men if those white men actually understood what they were doing and understood that the oppression faced by these “identity”-based minorities was legitimate even if our methods aren’t. the last part of that is a position that the above authors do not reject, as far as i can tell. the oppression is a legitimate social ill, it’s our ostensibly counter-revolutionary methods of callouts and such that are the problem for them. it is only communism that would entirely satisfy my political goals, and nothing less. this isn’t to say i’m completely anti-reform though, even as these writers accuse us of being against “slow boring of hard boards”-type change because it’s executed primarily by white dudes and doesn’t go far enough or whatever.

the pattern of transphobia i alluded to in the first paragraph is the part i can’t crack. it’s the one constant between all of these writers on the other side of the IDPOL problem, chapo trap house not included (they’re better on this than they have a right to be and i don’t get it). the last link is essentially the typical TERF complaint that trans women want into “women born women”-only safe spaces because women are raped by men and trans women are “socialized male” and (shocker) some of us have penises so we must secretly be men, or at least our inclusion would lead to admitting men pretending to be trans women. angela nagle (author of “kill all normies”) thinks the tumblr left has overrun real praxis with a proliferation of ridiculous non-binary identities, adolph reed wonders why trans women are so upset about being excluded because TERFs (real women) are scared of including us so they must have a point, jokes about trans women getting angry about conflating gender and genitalia abound. surprise surprise, the anti-intersectionality crowd is not very intersectional.

i already asked all the questions about transphobia at the top, but after about three hours today and countless more in the past, i still don’t get it. why are so many otherwise radical people of different genders and races and ethnicities almost universally transphobic?