August 31, 2012
2012 Submission to the UN Commission on the Status of Women: The Legal Category of Sex and Understanding the Status of Women
August 28, 2012
Elizabeth Hungerford follows up last year’s widely debated 2011 Submission to the UN Commission on the Status of Women with this year’s version: brilliant and compelling.
“This communication represents a fundamental shift in the framing of feminist concerns about the legal codification of “gender identity.” It refocuses attention on the experiential realities of being born female by demanding that sex be prioritized as independently significant to both understanding and improving the status of women.”
An important announcement follows the text.
July 26, 2012
CSW Communications Procedure
Human Rights Section
220 East 42nd Street, 17th floor
New York, NY 10017
To Whom It May Concern:
In response to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women’s call for communications dated June 26, 2012 [i] regarding allegations of human rights violations affecting the status of women, I am writing in follow-up to the collaborative communication I submitted last year in association with Cathy Brennan, Esq. (see attached). At that time, we brought to your attention our growing concerns about American “gender identity” legislation and the threat it presents to the preservation of female sex-segregated spaces as a consequence of deliberately vague and overbroad definitions that frame one’s internally felt “gender identity” as a substitute for legal “sex” without any duration, medical documentation, improper purpose prohibition, or other requirements.
I do not wish to dismiss the feelings or experiences of trans* individuals who may sincerely identify with the mythology of femininity (or masculinity). I sympathize with their human pain and firmly believe that everyone has a right to express their “gender” by any and all means possible without social punishment. I agree that being born into a male body does not naturally lead one to act or feel masculine; and that being born into a female body does not naturally lead one to act or feel feminine. In fact, if we were to accept such an antiquated theory of gender essentialism, it would logically require us to conclude that male violence [ii] has a biological component, implicitly justifying the behavior and rendering it inevitable. I do not believe this. Feminists do not believe this.
This year, my singular appeal to the Commission on the Status of Women is that all future policy directly or indirectly affecting sex does not, under any circumstances, confuse or replace physical sex with ambiguous notions of self-defined “gender” or “gender identity.” Particularly in the context of formal decrees, the words sex and gender must not be used interchangeably. This is because it is inaccurate, [iii] but more importantly, because it limits the ability of women to seek protection for the full range of human rights violations that we face as a result of our sex from birth. “Gender identity” laws, including the UK’s Gender Recognition Act of 2004,iv create a legal understanding of sex that reinforces normative and strictly oppositional stereotypes of sex-based appearance and behavior. This is regressive, not progressive. The analysis below will illuminate why maintaining a strong conceptual distinction between sex and gender is critical to understanding the status of women and, therefore, to the protection of all women’s human right to be free from stereotypical attitudes towards the role and responsibilities of women.
Women’s oppression can be understood as operating on at least two separate axes. The first is reproductive exploitation of female bodies. The systemic nature of this sex-based abuse is both achieved by and evidenced through widespread practices such as religiously mandated heterosexuality, arranged marital ownership of women by men and enforced by violence, and rape as a weapon of war (including ethnic cleansing). These represent the specific institutionalized mechanisms by which female bodies are sexually colonized and exploited by male bodies. The end result is that women, children, and human reproduction generally, have been traditionally controlled by adult men and adult male interests.
The basic physical nature of sexual dimorphism, characteristic of all mammalian reproduction, is inevitable. It is imminently reasonable to assume that sexed bodies will continue to exist as long as humans do. No amount of legislation is going to change that. Feminism’s central point is that the institutionalized exploitation of sexual dimorphism for the purpose of creating and maintaining patriarchy (i.e., male domination of females) is not inevitable. Addressing and eliminating human rights violations against women therefore requires us to acknowledge that the existential reality of sex-and-reproduction is fundamental to understanding the social status of women–past, present, and future.
My objection to “gender identity” is that where legal definitions of sex are reducible to the subjectively felt “gender identities” of trans* people, the connection between sexualized violence and reproductive exploitation of female bodies becomes invisible. The unintended consequence is that it also becomes impossible for women to specifically address this aspect of our oppression on an institutional level. [v] Women’s attempts to discuss state control of female reproductive issues are considered “cissexist” and “transphobic” by some members of the trans* community.[vi] Yet in order for the full scope of human rights violations against women to be rectified, we cannot ignore the ways in which reproductive exploitation of females has been leveraged to sustain patriarchy. The inevitability of physical sex and reproductive dimorphism must be understood as legally relevant in its own right and separate from any notion of a subjective “gender identity.”
The second axis on which women’s oppression operates is via stereotypical attitudes towards the role and responsibilities of women. Stereotyping is the act of making an assumption about an individual based on her membership in a specific group, which then serves as moral justification for the enforcement of sex-based social roles that limit women’s autonomy and right to self determination. These heteronormative social roles are inherently unequal because they prescribe male control of the public sphere–including governmental participation and ownership of all public spaces– while simultaneously relegating females to the unpaid private sphere where women are responsible for virtually everything, but are actually in control of almost nothing. Largely shocking to many modern Western minds, even human rights champion Gandhi was once convinced that he, as a man and as a husband, was morally entitled to beat his wife.[vii]
To quote feminist Gloria Steinem:
…Olof Palme, the great former prime minister of Sweden,  said that gender roles are the deepest cause of violence on earth, and it’s up to governments to humanize them. Gender roles may give us our first idea that it’s okay for one group to eat and the other to cook, one to talk and the other to listen, one to order and the other to obey, one to be subject and one as object. The most shared characteristic of original societies in which violence was only for self-defense, not armies — and of the most egalitarian societies now — is that gender roles are fluid and not polarized.[viii]
In last year’s communication, Brennan and I explained how “gender identity” laws reify these gender roles by recasting them as freely chosen “identities” magically detached from all social and historical contexts, rather than recognizing that such gender roles are both arbitrary and harmful, especially to female-born humans:
…definitions of “gender identity” that suggest or codify into law that there are ways of expressing one’s self (or behaviors or appearances) “consistent or congruent with biological sex” present a risk to females, as such definitions codify the notion of stereotypes based on sex into law. Traits stereotypically assigned to females – such as care-taking, emotionalism, and weakness – have served as sufficient legal justification for women’s exclusion from employment, participation in government, and many other critical social functions. Archaic stereotypes are directly responsible for the denial of female credibility and intellectual authority, in addition to causing the historical marginalization of females, lower social status vis-à-vis males, and lack of power to engage equally with males. Even where law has evolved to formally prohibit sex-stereotyping; women continue to suffer from the lingering effects of sexist ideologies about female inferiority. So although we support every individual’s right to freely express their gender identity, it is absolutely critical that law not confuse “feminine expression” with [sex].
The moment a female human is born, the hegemony of sex-based stereotypes are attached to her and coercively direct the social trajectory of her life. Her possibilities are severely restricted; there is no conscious beginning and no voluntary end to this sex-based social tracking for most women in the world. Being female, and therefore being subject to a lifetime’s worth of female-based sexual exploitation and stereotyping, is an immutable condition for all but a few self-appointed trans* men who are able to successfully pass as the opposite sex. For the vast majority of the world’s women, however, the demands of the female gender role are not cause for celebration. We did not consent to these stereotypes. We did not ask to be treated as second class citizens; we have no choice. It is not our “gender identity” to embrace stereotypes about the role and responsibilities of women. This is a second significant way in which framing “gender identity” as a substitute for legal sex, by failing to capture the mechanics of female oppression, invisibilizes the experiential reality of being born into a female body and makes it more difficult for women to address the complexity of human rights violations against us as a class.
People who bravely defy sex-based stereotypes remind us that being born into a male body does not naturally lead one to act or feel masculine and that being born into a female body does not naturally lead one to act or feel feminine. These people, whether they apply the trans* label to themselves or not, deserve specialized legal protection from harassment and discrimination. But this protection should be effectuated as a legal prohibition against the enforcement of gender roles and related stereotyping. Redefining “sex” as an amalgamation of pre-existing stereotypical characteristics that we currently associate with females or “women ”– ostensibly as a means of protecting trans* people– is harmful to the rest of the world’s women. Compliance with feminine stereotypes and gender roles is not what constitutes being a woman. “Gender identity” laws that “…codify the notion that there are traits, manners of expression, or modes of appearance that are inconsistent or consistent with one’s biological sex“[ix] is a violation of the human rights of women.
The Commission on the Status of Women should not reinforce stereotypical attitudes towards the role and responsibilities of women by confusing sex with “gender” or “gender identity” in any future policies or formal communications. “Gender identity” misrepresents the status of women as being solely about internal identification with sex-based stereotypes and gender roles, thereby making it more difficult for females to address the full range of human rights violations that we face as a result of our sex—from cradle to grave.
Thank you for your time. Please contact me with any questions.[x]
Elizabeth R. Hungerford
[ii] See Lauren Wolfe and Gloria Steinem’s article published February 24, 2012 in the Guardian: Sexual violence against women is the result of the cult of masculinity. Accessed July 23, 2012.
[iii] See Journal of Applied Physiology September 1, 2005 vol. 99 no. 3 785-787. Accessed July 25, 2012:
http://jap.physiology.org/content/99/3/785. See also International Journal for Equity in Health 2009, 8:14;
describing sex differences in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. Accessed July 25, 2012: http://www.equityhealthj.com/content/8/1/14.
[vii] See Gandhi the Man, a biography of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi written by Eknath Easwaran. The book was originally published in the US in 1973.
[viii] Read more: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-02-09/news/31040430_1_domestic-violence-womenprisoners-war#ixzz21TdgpL16. See also: http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2012/steinem-awakens-young-and-oldencouraging-%E2%80%98outrageous-acts%E2%80%99
[ix] See previous communication to the UN signed by myself and Cathy Brennan, Esq., attached below.
DOWNLOAD PDF FILE BY CLICKING HERE.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Sex Not Gender Workgroup forming
GenderTrender is pleased to announce that Elizabeth Hungerford–attorney, lesbian feminist, and author of the Sex Not Gender letters to the UN Commission on Women–is forming a Sex Not Gender Workgroup for women (and men) who support the importance of biological sex and the removal of gender and related stereotyping language from the social, political, and legal spheres.
The group will highlight current events that impact the legal and social realities of sex; provide commentary and analysis regarding how and why sex matters; and identify institutional targets for potential reform actions.
August 25, 2012
I’m posting this thread from May 2011 because I think it would be useful for us all to reflect on where we have been, and where we are going. I’d like to express my gratitude and appreciation for all the women who have worked so hard and accomplished so much over the past year. All comments are closed to this post. But do stay tuned for an important post and announcement in the coming days. -GM
REDACTEDMay 3 at 9:38am Reply • Report
Ursula PunkMay 3 at 10:38am Reply • Report
I’m so glad you’re looking at this legislation. As a group, I think we should do more of this.
Well, it looks like some of the language has already been removed. YAY!
“GENDER IDENTITY” MEANS A GENDER–RELATED IDENTITY OR APPEARANCE OF AN INDIVIDUAL REGARDLESS OF THE INDIVIDUAL’S ASSIGNED SEX AT BIRTH.
Ok, I think that VISIBILIZING the masc/fem constructs that are being “protected” here is VERY important. You can’t say
a “goob identity” means a goob RELATED identity or appearance.
WHAT IS A GOOB?? Duh. And that’s what I mean by referencing masc/fem. THAT’S what this is about– disembodying masc/fem expression from sexual organs, then codifying it as SACRED.
At this point, any person can appropriate any aspect of masculinity or femininity and demand legal PROTECTION.
REDACTEDMay 3 at 11:05am Reply • Report
“the worst part is, nobody in the community knows who I am anymore, so when I speak my mind and they yell at me, they just say, you don’t know, you’re cis you couldn’t possibly know.
but I know. I know too much and I wish I didn’t.
“I’ve spent the last couple of years obsessing over the idea of medically transitioning. For the past few months I’ve spent more and more time analyzing why I felt those things, and I’ve spent a hell of lot less time absolutely hating myself. It’s still a struggle because I’m not completely comfortable with my body, but at least I’m not lying to myself about feeling like a man anymore.
“They always say “there’s somebody out there for everybody!’
I have a hard time believing it. At least when I was calling myself a lesbian in the trans community there was this expectation that you could be a bit different, socially speaking. Now, I dunno. I realize now that I’m a heterosexual male. Straight women always want me to be more masculine, more like a real man. It’s not going to happen.
I don’t know, this maybe isn’t all that coherent, it’s just irrational thoughts maybe.
“There’s something brutally funny about, hormonally speaking at least, basically being on my third puberty. In all seriousness though, I need my natural hormone production to level out again. Mid twenties is just too damn old for this shit.
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August 23, 2012
August 23, 2012
Is adherence to sex-role stereotypes a faith-based religion? Some transgenders say yes, and worthy of religious property tax exemption. After a multi-year legal battle, the NY State Supreme Court has declined to authorize property tax exemption for the IRS registered 501©(3) non-profit Transsexual Church “The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, Inc”, formerly “Gallae Central House Inc”.
The Catskills transsexual castration cult was founded by longtime transgender activist Cathryn Platine, a man who also uses the public monikers Catkisser, RadicalBitch, and “Reverend Mother Battakes: Transsexual Pagan Priestess: Battakes of the Maetreum of Cybele”. [hahaha I love that-GM] Although granted tax exempt status from the federal government for his transsexual church, Greene County NY officials declined to grant property tax exemption for the Reverend Mother’s residence after a prolonged legal battle, even though rites to the goddess Cybele are held there.
Why the goddess Cybele? The pagan cult of Cybele was, uniquely, a cult of castrated males. Cybele had a priesthood of castrated male eunuchs called the “Galli” that were referred to as “priestesses”, and Cybele also had a castrated male consort named Attis, who was worshipped. It’s the original pagan Pretendbian cult!
From “Maarten J. Vermaseren, Cybele and Attis: the myth and the cult, translated by A. M. H. Lemmers, London: Thames and Hudson, 1977: “The Galli castrated themselves during an ecstatic celebration called the Dies sanguinis, or “Day of Blood”, which took place on March 24. At the same time they put on women’s costume, mostly yellow in colour, and a sort of turban, together with pendants and ear-rings. They also wore their hair long, and bleached, and wore heavy make-up. They wandered around with followers, begging for charity, in return for which they were prepared to tell fortunes. On the day of mourning for Attis they ran around wildly and dishevelled. They performed dances to the music of pipes and tambourines, and, in an ecstasy, flogged themselves until they bled.”
According to Platine : “Our theology starts from the simplest basis: That the Divine Feminine principle is the basis of the universe. That all of us, all that we encounter is Her in the aggregate. We are all the Great Mother learning about Herself. From this simple beginning springs our organizational models, our rituals, the principles of what we call Wholistic Feminism, our mission of charitable outreach and indeed the way we, as Cybelines, live our lives. We are sometimes called the “scholarly Cybelines” because we have invested many years of strict historical research in order to embrace the essence of what proved to be literally the oldest surviving religion in the world.”
Platine alleged that his property, the three story historic formal Central House Inn on three acres of property located on heavily traveled route 23a was a shrine to the goddess Cybelle. The feds disagreed, and declined tax exempt property status, finding that the locale was primarily a residence for Platine and company.
From the Watershed Post: “[T]he primary and predominant use of the property was to provide cooperative housing for a small group of individuals, with the religious and charitable uses of the property merely incidental to this residential use,” [Judge] Platkin wrote.
The judge wrote that the property’s temple area, where regular rituals were held, made up only a small part of the entire parcel. He wrote that the rest of the 12-room former inn is used as living quarters for the religion’s members, only three of whom live there full-time.”
In one hilarious exchange in a 2010 article in the local Greene County Daily Mail Platine alleges that local authorities simply fail to recognize the religious underpinnings of most of the home’s décor:
“According to Platine, a tour of the property by town officials, including Vincelette, yielded, to them, little sign of religious iconography.
Though to an unfamiliar vision, and without knowledge of their significance, Platine said, the Cybelline themes and traditional pagan symbols abounding throughout the hotel property may seem obscure.
“Here is a Minoan lily,” Platine said as she pointed to an inconspicuous hand-painted blue and yellow flower on the kitchen’s wooden bar.”
“[Judge] Platkin also dismissed the Matreum’s argument that it deserved a tax exemption on non-religious grounds because it offers free emergency housing to women and transgendered women. The house’s use as an emergency shelter is too “limited and infrequent” to qualify on charitable grounds, the judge wrote.”
Playing “Little Edie” to Platine’s “Big Edie” at the decaying Catskills transgender Grey Gardens inn (which the NewYork Times gently described as “increasingly decrepit”) is the interesting and historically significant Caillean McMahon.
Cai is apparently a psychiatrist and is the purported author behind prolific fake internet lesbian (and wealthy jet-setting international human rights attorney and captain of the Spanish armada, haha!) sock-puppet “Maureen Hennessey”. He was also the plaintiff [Tronetti v. Healthnet Lakeshore Hosp 2003] in what was arguably one of the most important legal cases in the modern transgender movement, a case whose ruling will long outlive the noxious anti-female “gender identity” classification that is now being challenged by feminist and women’s rights legal experts. Like the recent Vandizer Elizabeth Glenn 11th Circuit ruling widely celebrated as historic in the LGBT movement for affirming the rights to free gender expression under existing title VII sex-based equality protections (as opposed to codifying and enshrining anti-female sex-role stereotypes into law as “gender identity” does), Tronetti/McMahon successfully won his 2003 second circuit NY case which explicitly ruled that transgenders are protected under Title VII on the basis of sex , not gender discrimination.
Cai and his daughter also maintain a telegraph museum with working telegraph on the grounds of Platine’s gender church, where Cai produces painstakingly accurate reproductions of historical documents related to telegraphy and commuter trains.
If I was a budding documentary filmmaker- well actually I’d be filming heterosexual male transvestic lesbophobe MRAs attacking lesbians at Dyke Marches. But my second choice would be Grey Gardens 2013 at the decaying manse of the Church of the Castrated Men. Any takers? Not only would they make fascinating subject for a cult documentary but perhaps with the increased visibility Platine and company could charge admission to the estate and run things like a proper roadside attraction, amusing and mystifying weary Catskills “seekers” looking for a respite from their spiritual touristing at any of the neighboring “Eat Pray Love” cult compounds. There is simply no excuse that someone as commitedly whackadoodle as Cathryn Plantine and company should have to struggle for nickels when the market for crackpottery has never been stronger.
Seriously what is wrong with the transgender community that they will chip-in thousands of dollars to disgusting predators and pornmongers like Tobi Hill-Meyers and yet leave insane fabulists like The Reverend Mother WhateverTheFuck Platine to go to dust trying to maintain a weird decrepit inn housing a stupid religiousy thing that never hurt anyone [as far as we yet know, the backyard diggings have not yet begun-GM]? Priorities, people.
All you autogynephillic IT magnates and coders, put aside the fake lesbian porn for long enough to extract a few dollars from your facial feminization savings account and send a few bucks to Platine. Spend well, spend large, and support a truly unique example of Americana and religious kookassery.
You can read the court decision here, although I can’t imagine why you’d want to:
August 17, 2012
This is a REPOST of a blog entry from THIS blog: http://ataulfomangos.tumblr.com/
*THIS IS A GENDERIST/TRANS SITE THAT IS GENDER-CRITICAL*
SO BLESSED TO BE XX
I’ve seen the argument that females have privilege over males in trans* politics. That due to political positionality, trans men will invariably be privileged over trans women.
If you’re talking about people that blend seamlessly with people who aren’t trans, we can talk conditionally. However, most of the trans men I know will never know the male privilege that their trans sisters knew growing up, and here’s why. Their bodies will never conform to the expectations of society. Once their history is known (even within trans circles), it’s all misogyny from there.
Take this “female privilege” argument. I was on T. Some of my closest friends are still on T. Yet, every doctor’s appointment was an exercise in being called hysterical. Our menstrual and pelvic pain are “psychosomatic” as opposed to terrifically unusual and perhaps warranting investigation. Our visits for testosterone aren’t prefaced with discussions about cervical and endometrial cancer risks. Why? Because we have vaginas, and we don’t matter shit to the medical institution. Once they have our copays, they could care less what happens after the fact.
Let’s even look at trans politics for a minute, shall we? Trans women say that trans men should shut up in political circles. That their position is privileged and that mere identification alone (barring whether they are transitioning or even fucking blend) somehow lands them in some upper echelon of society. This is patently ridiculous, and is indicative of a politics that devalues the opinions and lived experiences of female-bodied people. This is just another way to make female-bodied people feel bad about having a fucking opinion. It is another silencing tactic, pure and simple.
On an interpersonal level, I and other people with transmasculine experience have been talked over countless times in political discussions with our so-called sisters. We’ve had our opinions diminished. If the conversation gets especially nasty, our sisters usually feel it relevant and polite to comment upon our bodies — that they wished they had X or Y feature of yours, and isn’t it all just so unfair? Surely, you get it.
In other words, another plea to our socialized emotional responses.
While I’m sure a lot of the genderqueer/gender-variant/gender non-conforming boom has a lot to do with escapism from rigid gender roles, I cannot help but wonder if it is also born out of a desperate desire to have some form of political leverage in an ever increasingly male-made political landscape. If you aren’t in a female-only space, it is nearly impossible to get a word in as a female in a feminist arena in 2012.
I’m not privileged to be female. The trans men in my life are not either. Not when they, like me, have to worry about somebody kicking in a bathroom door and taking advantage of their physiology. They’re just that much closer to people who typically commit such heinous crimes. Listen to your brothers. You might learn a lot from them.
This particular brand of horseshit leaks into other areas of feminist thought, and is a clownish reversal of the things radical feminism calls for. Oppression and social dynamics cannot be boiled down to a mere equation. Transfeminists who claim that trans peoples’ power balances are somehow reversed in transition are again losing the greater picture by completely eradicating the category of sex from both lived experience and political analysis.
[Okeefe image added by me- GM]