by Be Scofield
Trigger Warning: Contains Transphobic Content Below
In case you didn’t already know, some of the most hurtful and hateful speech against transgender people comes from radical feminists. Not radical in the sense of radically inclusive, rather they are radically exclusive. Led by lesbian separtists these groups say really awful things about trans people. Many believe the only reason a man would transition to a woman is to rape women, while any woman that would transition to a man only does so to escape sexism and assimilate into patriarchy. Entire websites are dedicated to the discrediting, dehumanization and shaming of trans people and the queer movement. This undoubtedly contributes to the culture of violence, suicide and harassment that trans people face on a daily basis. Fortunately, these extremist views are shunned within the feminist movement at large. However, as a vocal minority they certainly make their presence felt.
What you may not have known is that the organization that acclaimed author Derrick Jensen co-founded and is the figurehead of, Deep Green Resistance (DGR), is one of the more vocal and prominent supporters of the radical feminist and anti-trans agenda. In addition to referring to trans women as men and denying the existence of transphobia they’ve also posted links on their Facebook page to the most hateful transphobic websites. Even more, the transphobia and bigotry known to many activists within the organization was publicly confirmed on Saturday when DGR released a video that they claim represents their “official policy and position towards gender.”
It’s important to note here that while Aric McBay co-wrote the Deep Green Resistance book with Jensen and Keith he left the organization in 2012 due to their transphobic policies. He writes:
I left the organization at the beginning of 2012 after a trans inclusive policy was cancelled by Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith. Many good people and good activists left the organization for that reason.
I find these transphobic attitudes to be disgusting and deeply troubling, and it bothers me a lot to have any past association with people promoting transphobia.
For me, trans rights and trans inclusion are fundamental to building effective movements and to building a world worth living in.
See his full statement here.
One prominent example of the transphobia comes from Derrick Jensen’s response to a DGR member asking him to clarify their position on transgender people. Jensen wrote:
I have no ego investment in the following. I liked what I said to Julia or whatever his name was who wanted to join DGR: You are not a woman. You are a man who believes he is a woman.
Rachel Ivey, the 23-year old activist who gives the newly released Deep Green Resistance presentation on gender, acknowledges that their position is controversial. It’s their only perspective that has caused them to be banned from speaking at events she states. Deep Green Resistance factions have defected over it. She also explains that “there is no debate” acceptable within the organization about their policy on gender. Further evidence of DGR’s unwillingness to engage in dialogue or conversation about gender comes from an incident where they were banned from the Flying Brick Library. They state,
When we responded to DGR, we made it clear that we were willing to host them as a group – as long as they were willing to discuss these issues and how environmental and anti-civ work are intrinsic to resisting gender oppression – and vice versa.
Sadly, Deep Green Resistance made it clear that they are not willing to let anybody but themselves guide the conversation, and that as we insisted on such, that we are not ready to fight the (so-called) “real fight”.
Further evidence of the absolutist position DGR takes on gender comes from a former member who is trans. In addition to being denied access to female spaces she highlights how Jensen and Keith played central roles in spreading the anti-trans message.
I was told that in wanting access to women’s spaces I was implementing the male violation imperative. Saba Malik, Lierre Keith and Derrick all sent emails to my chapter and one other chapter that supported trans folks with the usual rad fem attacks. Gradually my group and the other chapters were presented with a choice: put up with trans phobia or hit the road. To be in DGR was to be rad fem in the exclusive sense.
In the 40-minute video Rachael reads the words of DGR co-founder Lierre Keith. Keith is the author of the provocative book “The Vegetarian Myth” and editor of the “Derrick Jensen Reader” in addition to co-author of the book “Deep Green Resistance.” What exactly does Keith believe? Among other things, that the “phenomenon of trans” was created from porn culture and “that men insisting they are women is insulting and absurd.” Rachel not only celebrates Keith’s position but she labels it as DGR’s official stance and states that she can’t understand why people were bothered by it. After hearing Keith’s statement those in attendance break out in applause.
As the video above states this view on gender the “core of DGR.” After making this claim she went on to read part of this quote from Lierre Keith (see video below),
Well, I’ve personally been fighting about this since 1982. I think ‘transphobic’ is a ridiculous word. I have no strange fear of people who claim to be ‘trans.’ I deeply disagree with them, as do most radical feminists.
Try this on. I am a rich person stuck in a poor person’s body. I’ve always enjoyed champagne rather than beer, and always knew I belonged in first class not economy, and it just feels right when people wait on me. My insurance company should give me a million dollars to cure my Economic Dysphoria.
Or how about this. I am really Native American. How do I know? I’ve always felt a special connection to animals, and started building tee pees in the backyard as soon as I was old enough. I insisted on wearing moccasins to school even though the other kids made fun of me and my parents punished me for it. I read everything I could on native people, started going to pow wows and sweat lodges as soon as I was old enough, and I knew that was the real me. And if you bio-Indians don’t accept us trans-Indians, then you are just as genocidal and oppressive as the Europeans.Gender is no different. It is a class condition created by a brutal arrangement of power. I can’t fathom how mutilating people’s bodies to fit an oppressive power arrangement is frankly anything but a human rights violation. And men insisting that they are women is insulting and absurd.
There is no such thing as ‘woman’ or ‘man’ outside of patriarchal social relations. These are not biological conditions–they are socially created, by violence in the end. If I can’t be a rich person born in a poor person’s body, then I can’t be a woman born in a man’s body. Not unless you are going to argue that man and woman are biological or essential conditions. The whole point of feminism is that they are neither; gender is social to the roots, and those roots are soaked in women’s blood.
So there it is.
I would highly recommend reading the work that radical feminists have produced critiquing the entire culture of queer, including s/m and porn, that gave rise to the phenomenon of ‘trans.’ Sheila Jeffreys’s books _Unpacking Queer Politics_ and _The Lesbian Heresy_ would be a great start.
[The Trans Community is] in fact deeply misogynist and reactionary when it comes to any understanding of male power. Indeed, they often claim it ‘oppresses’ them to even use the words ‘men’ and ‘women.’ Meanwhile, men are raping and brutalizing women on a mass scale. I hate to say this, but it’s porn culture that really created the whole concept of trans. I watched it happen… for your own edification, you might want to read up on Pat Califia, whom I talk about at length, and whose life and writing proves every point radical feminists make about queer politics, pornography, violence against women, sado-masochism, the eroticization of power and breaking boundaries (including the boundaries of children), and trans. All of it is right there.
This is a short clip from the talk. See below for the full talk. (The entire video has been downloaded just in case it gets taken down.)
Any flack that Keith has received for her transphobic statements is “unfair” according to DGR. This isn’t surprising given that Keith’s statement reflects the core of the organizations beliefs.
I’m not going to respond to Keith’s entire statement, but we know that people have deep felt experiences of gender throughout life which of course differentiates it from things that aren’t biological like an experience of race or class. This is why Rachel’s question “Why is being a trans woman acceptable when deciding that I’m trans black is not?” is ridiculous. Gender is influenced by both biology and society. And of course trans or gender variant people existed long before the advent of “porn culture,” in a wide variety of societies.
I’m also not going to write about the entire 40-minute video but there are a few other things I wanted to touch on. Deep Green Resistance claims that the term “Cis Gender” or “Cis Woman” is deeply oppressive and offensive on many levels. Furthermore, like other radical feminist groups, they deny the existence of cis gender privilege. However, here is a list of 30 cisgender privileges. And of course cis privilege means, at the most basic level, trans women being denied access to much needed housing, health or medical services that would be granted to cis women.
Another astounding claim (see video below) of Jensen’s Deep Green Resistance group is that a trans woman retains all of her male privilege despite being female appearing. Why? Because for some length of that persons life they were socialized male. This socialization, no matter how small, means they retain male privilege and socialization for life. Thus, Kim Petras, the youngest person to undergo sex reassignment surgery still retains her full male privilege because for some part of her life she was socialized as male. It’s simply stunning how someone could look at Kim Petras and believe she hasn’t lost male privilege now that she is female appearing.
In the video Rachael Ivy states, “Being raised with the knowledge that you are fully human and that you deserve rights and that your body is not fair game and the court system considers you human is the privilege and that doesn’t just go away.”
I’m not sure how long DGR thinks one must be socialized male to receive the lifelong privilege that never leaves but some kids begin transitioning at the age of 3-6 years old. Is that enough time? Secondly, some trans people don’t feel fully human given the internal struggle over gender identity living in such a transphobic and oppressive culture. Thirdly, trans people are often treated far worse by court systems. To claim that the court system considers trans women more human than cis women is simply not true. Just look at the case of CeCe McDonald, a 23 year old black trans woman who was sentenced to over 3 years in prison for defending herself from a violent racist and transphobic attack. And of course the benefits of this life long male privilege are no where to be found when hundreds of trans women, particularly trans women of color are murdered every year.
Fortunately, Deep Green Resistance and it’s leaders are becoming more isolated. Lierre Keith has had talks canceled when her views were made known. DGR is increasingly banned from tabling, speaking or presenting at events. The same should apply to Derrick Jensen, who is the figurehead of the movement, just as it should to anyone who is the founder of a movement with “core” beliefs in any form of bigotry, whether sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia.
firstname.lastname@example.org is a public email and can be used to contact DGR for inquires of any kind.
Here is the full talk:
UPDATE: A former Deep Green Resistance member shares their experience of being trans and being in the group. She highlights how Jensen and Keith sent emails about how central the transphobic perspective was to the group.
“Well, it all started with my seeking access to the DGR forum women’s board and gender appropriate housing at the DGR conference. Early on in my membership of the group I came out as trans. At first, the forums permission process just seemed to be taking a long time, but then it started to spiral out to higher and higher up folks. Eventually someone asked why I wanted access when I admitted I had experienced male privilege. From there I was told that in wanting access to women’s spaces I was implementing the male violation imperative. Similar things were said in response to my desire to be housed appropriately. Saba Malik, Lierre Keith and Derrick all sent emails to my chapter and one other chapter that supported trans folks with the usual rad fem attacks. The head organizer Premadasi Amada was asked to leave as a part of this process. Gradually my group and the other chapters were presented with a choice: put up with trans phobia or hit the road. To be in DGR was to be rad fem in the exclusive sense.”