Leading feminist launches bizarre ‘racist’ attack on trans community

Leading feminist launches bizarre ‘racist’ attack on trans community

MEMBERS of the Indigenous and trans* communities have slammed bizarre comments by a leading feminist academic comparing trans women to racist entertainers who only “pretend” to be female.

University of Melbourne Professor Sheila Jeffreys, who is a lecturer in sexual politics and international feminist politics, made the claims during a feature interview on ABC Radio’s Sunday Night Safran with hosts John Safran and Father Bob Maguire last month.

An influential figure in the second wave of feminism of the 1970s, during the interview Jeffreys suggested trans women were no better than the racist entertainers of the early to mid-20th century in the USA who engaged in blackface.

“In the States for instance they (trans people) were often compared to the black and white minstrels. The black and white minstrels were white men who dressed up with blackface to imitate what they thought were the behaviours of black singers and entertainers. That was seen as very insulting by the black community,” Jeffreys said.

“Transgenderism for men is about the right to imitate and pretend to be members of the subordinate class even though they are members of – biologically and were brought up in – the superior class. That was problematic for the black and white minstrels. It’s problematic generally when a group of people claim to be another group of subordinate people.”

Jeffreys also suggested that all trans women fell into one binary: “homosexual men who don’t feel they can be homosexual in the bodies of men”; as well as cross-dressing fetishists whom women were afraid of sharing space with such as in domestic violence refuges.

“The vast majority though are heterosexual men who have a sexual interest in wearing women’s clothes and having the appearance of women. So it’s about sexism and homophobia,” Jeffreys said.

“But we’re not allowed to talk about the politics of it really, we’re only allowed to talk about the stories of individuals and feel sorry as I genuinely do for the life experience of those men who have this form of very serious mental distress.”

Indigenous queer sistergirl, Andrew Farrell, who was brought up on the NSW South Coast and is currently undertaking postgraduate studies at the University of Wollongong told the Star Observer that Jeffreys’s understanding of gender/sex categories was in many ways an anachronism of essentialist radical feminism which has not carried well into a progressive period of race and queer politics.

“There is a fear that racist, mysoginistic, queerphobic and transphobic people will take her message as truth and enact these prejudices against trans identified Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

“By reducing transgender identities to that of histrionic mimicry is more reflective of her prejudice than it is of my understanding and practice of gender as a genderqueer Indigenous person,” Farrell said.

“I argue that Jeffreys opinion is reductive and reinforces the divisive lines of a binary that is not of valid use in various cultures worldwide including some Aboriginal cultures here in Australia. Genderqueer sistergirls, such as myself, do experience overlapping dimensions of oppression highlighted by Jeffreys hypothetical.

“I cannot change my racial configuration. I can however mould and express my gender identity as unique and valid to my culture.”

LGBTI community activist and Transgender Victoria spokesperson Sally Goldner admitted to the Star Observer that listening to Jeffries’ theories were difficult to stomach.

“Denial that a group even exists is the first and most intense form of prejudice/vilification. The next most intense form is hugely inaccurate representation re trans women being lumped into one of two categories as either homosexual men or fetishists,” Goldner said.

“This shows no awareness of the truth re the infinite possibilities for trans and gender diverse experiences and confuses gender identity, sexual orientation and other factors.

“The idea that trans women – or anyone in the trans and gender diverse kaleidoscope – are pretending in any way gets close to the deception idea portrayed by offensive fictional media such as There’s Something About Miriam and Bamboozled. All of these sort of comments are the equivalent in degree of inaccuracy to the religious supremacists saying being gay is more dangerous than smoking.”

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83 responses to “Leading feminist launches bizarre ‘racist’ attack on trans community”

  1. SJ left the UK because she found feminism here to be unacceptable to her. She was speaking out against BDSM/ kink sexual practices at the time. She censored debate on those issues, and generally is not the sort of feminist I want to be associated with!

    I do not blanketly accept the idea that you are a woman (or man) if you say you are, but I have always been broadly accepting of transpeople because I see no reason not to be! I have known many transwomen and I have never encountered the attitude that it is some sort of game or fetish for them. I am with Dworkin on this – in an ideal society we would not NEED to surgically alter our bodies as our gender would not be the determining factor in our lives, and an overriding aspect of our identity, but we do NOT live in an ideal society!

  2. Just what we need another stupid and insane crackpot on the left-wing side, there is already one on the right-wing side called Tony Abbott!

    She and Tony Abbott should both be in Bloomfield, Orange NSW!

  3. Professor Jeffry’s analogy is neither bizarre, nor racist, and this article is a piss-poor attempt at a hatchet piece on a vibrant contemporary thinker that cannot be shooed back to the 70’s as the male author would like.
    The Star-Observer’s editing standards are disappointing.

  4. The most important principle underlying Jeffrey’s work is the bedrock, nonnegotiable FACT that male transwomen are, in fact, men. Human beings who are physiologically male (men) are raised as privileged in patriarchal cultures – privileged over human beings who are physiologically female (women.) Therefore, social gender is neither a binary nor a continuum – it’s a hierarchy with males/men in domination over females/women. When men put on lady-face they are no different, politically speaking, than when whites put on black-face. It’s a grotesque appropriation of the gender role of the subordinate class by members of the dominant class. As an indigenous North American, I find it repugnant and hurtful.

  5. The point that Sheila is making is not that transgenderism in itself is unnatural, it’s that it arises out of societal ideas of gender – just with many of her views on sexuality, basically everything to do with masculinity/femininity etc. She doesn’t “hate” transgenders, she’s arguing that they reinforce stereotypes of gender. I get that it’s hard to separate these concepts from a personal attack, but I think people are making incorrect assumptions about what she’s trying to say. If you do proper research and keep an open mind, you’ll actually realise she makes a lot of valid points…

  6. To the person who claims trans people know they are trans due to gender stereotypes… No. I am a trans man (FTM). I know I am FTM because I don’t want breasts, I want a flat chest. I don’t want female anatomy down there, I want a penis. I don’t want a female body. I know I am male because female pronouns feel wrong and make me cringe. I detest my birth name because it is utterly female, and not even unisex. I have known from a young age – with out being influenced by my parents. My mother tried to convert me to a completely heterosexual female – which I wasn’t having. But you know what? I am a more feminine bisexual trans man. Most people don’t know I am trans unless I tell them. Even then I am fine liking “girly” things. I understand fully that the colors, clothes, and toys you like don’t make you a man or a woman, nor how you act. I know for a fact I am male, I also won’t pretend that I don’t like the color pink, that I didn’t love girly toys as a kid. Shit, I liked boys and girls as a kid (because sexuality and gender are two different things.) — In the end people shouldn’t assume that we identify as trans based on stereotypes. I know I don’t, and I never will.

  7. As a middle age trans* I want to talk in general about the generation gap in relationship to gender issues. The socialization of the professor generation is showing. A simple example is her focus of MtF trans* she doesn’t even talk about FtM trans* or all of us who fall in between. Besides this basic lack of understanding she and a few commenters do not realize the trend for the trans*community in general has changed tremendously since the late 60s and is getting stronger, but more importantly younger.

    Things have changed so much. My first feelings of transition began when I was 5 that was 1975. There was no support no nothing. Instead of being loved I was called sissy and teased, beat up for being around girls and being interested in what they were interested in. I ended up suppressing my feelings and was reduced dressing in private to stereotypes until I came out decades later to my wonderful friends who have taught me so much. I have friends from the 80s and 90s who transitioned as young adults or early 20s They have been living now for years maybe decades as their chosen gender.

    Flash forward to 2010. Informed parents are being so much more enlightened in their approach to gender. We have children as young as 3 self identifying as trans* and parents are raising them in that gender or genderless environment. There are now camps and support groups for young children. This means that for all practical purposes young trans* are being socialized as their gender and receiving all the benefits and negatives of the gender they identify as. A FtM child is a boy and will grow into a man.

    We trans* are fighting against violence, discrimination transphobia and cis privilege and now radical feminist not just for us but for these children. The fight is on and we cannot afford to lose the battle for these children.

  8. I will not take any notice of a feminist who rants about transwomen and does not even care to mention transmen. This makes it a very one sided argument and seeks to erase half of the community. It also makes transsexualism a fetish that only biological men at birth experience.
    All of the above is complete rubbish. There are transwomen who are lesbian. There are transwomen who do not work as sex workers. There are transwomen who dress like tomboys.
    There are transmen who are gay. There are transmen who are sex workers. There are transmen who are as femme as anything and work selling fabric at Spotlight.

    There is freedom of speech in this country, and countless theories abound out there about what makes us transfolk tick- but there are also facts. The facts are that we are living, breathing, functional members of society out there that work in all different kinds of places, live in all different areas, dress differently, look different, come from all races and cultures. Some of us are stealth, and some of us are activists, Some of us, like some of my friends, work in welfare, helping other transfolk. And some people, like me, work in the electrical industry or have some other trade. Some of us are nurses, some of us collect the garbage. Some of us are at university. And some of us have disabilities and some of us are parents and stay home.

    But we are all diverse people. The only difference is that we started out being born identified as one sex, and somewhere along the way, we changed in some way and now are on a scale of identifying and/or living as the other sex.

    There is no shame in being a crossdresser. There is no shame in being a transsexual. There is no shame in deciding that transitioning is not for you, and never doing it. It is a personal journey.

    What is shameful is academics like Jeffreys, who are cisgendered and dont seem to care to get to know any transpeople to dispel the stereotypes she is so keen to promote. If her theories are so spot on, then why havent I met her? She hasnt asked me what my life story is, and why?

    Because she would rather talk shit about us than actually find out what our lives are about. And if she were to find out they were quite normal, then she would have nothing to bang on about.