Pippa Fleming in The Economist!

July 4, 2018

In The Economist today

 

The gender-identity movement undermines lesbians

Its attempt to rebrand lesbians as queer erases their identity, writes Pippa Fleming, a performance artist

There’s an African proverb that states: “If you don’t know where you come from, how do you know where you are going?” Some of the most powerful black people known for their political analysis, social commentary, activism and legacy during the civil-rights, gay-rights and feminist movements were black lesbians. Oops! Did I just say “lesbian”, that dirty seven-letter word that has the GBTQI community scrambling to apologise for or afraid to associate itself with? Lesbianism is as ancient as the cosmos, yet it is a threat to patriarchy because it does not centre males, nor does it seek male wisdom, power or validation. Instead of finding solace within our community against the threat of misogyny and homophobia, lesbian identity is being written out.

When black lesbians attempt to navigate pop culture’s “gender-identity matrix”, searching for their kindred’s place in history, they often come up empty-handed. What matrix, you ask? It’s that maze that has people running around in circles, as they attempt to reconcile new language and theories forced upon them by the elites in education and the corporatocracy, like “cisgender”, which means you were cool with the sex you were born in, or that biology is irrelevant and as has no connection to one’s concept of self.

Pippa Fleming

Whether it be in feminist studies, gender studies or the history of gay pride, black lesbians often go without their names or sexual orientation being mentioned. The trend towards claiming that “all sexuality is fluid” and to brand everyone and everything queer and transgender, means black lesbians are rendered invisible. A queer identity embraces sexual and intimate relationships with males, females, and intersex people who identify as transgender, gender-queer, trans masculine or gay, just to name a few. My, we are a diverse crowd.

In this current wave of “free to me” gender politics, any man with a penis can claim to be a female and expect entrance into female-segregated spaces, such as locker rooms, sports teams or colleges, without question. But don’t twist it; the generosity does not flow in both directions. Just ask the women who crashed the party at the male lido in Hampstead Heath in London in May: they were promptly escorted out by the police. Lesbian identity is now being dubbed as exclusionary or transphobic. You’re damn right it’s exclusive: lesbians have a right to say no to the phallus, no matter how it’s concealed or revealed. Imagine if white folks ran around claiming they were black or demanded access to our affinity spaces. They would be called deluded racist fools!

Shush, I hear the snickering. Who’s this tired-ass dyke that nobody wants to hear from? And why hasn’t she dropped any names? I like luring in my audience with provocative statements and short-circuiting any thought process that may prevent critical thinking.

Do the names Stormé DeLarverie, Audre Lorde or Angela Davis, ring that black gay history bell? The more important question, especially for those claiming to be the “down”, Black Panther activist type is this. Why don’t you know the roles they played? Without their dauntless activism and allyship, none of us would have the vocabulary of resistance or a notion of what’s required to create tangible alliances and an empowered LGBTQI community.

Let me drop a few herstorical truths.


Read the rest of this post here:

https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/07/03/the-gender-identity-movement-undermines-lesbians

17 Responses to “Pippa Fleming in The Economist!”

  1. GallusMag Says:

    Text for people behind a paywall:

    Open Future
    The gender-identity movement undermines lesbians

    Its attempt to rebrand lesbians as queer erases their identity, writes Pippa Fleming, a performance artist

    Open Future
    Jul 3rd 2018

    Pippa Fleming is an African-American lesbian performance artist, writer and spiritual practitioner. She has dedicated her life to chronicling and preserving the art, culture and achievements of black lesbians. She fears that a war is being waged against female-to-female love and that lesbian identity is fighting for its life.

    There’s an African proverb that states: “If you don’t know where you come from, how do you know where you are going?” Some of the most powerful black people known for their political analysis, social commentary, activism and legacy during the civil-rights, gay-rights and feminist movements were black lesbians. Oops! Did I just say “lesbian”, that dirty seven-letter word that has the GBTQI community scrambling to apologise for or afraid to associate itself with? Lesbianism is as ancient as the cosmos, yet it is a threat to patriarchy because it does not centre males, nor does it seek male wisdom, power or validation. Instead of finding solace within our community against the threat of misogyny and homophobia, lesbian identity is being written out.

    When black lesbians attempt to navigate pop culture’s “gender-identity matrix”, searching for their kindred’s place in history, they often come up empty-handed. What matrix, you ask? It’s that maze that has people running around in circles, as they attempt to reconcile new language and theories forced upon them by the elites in education and the corporatocracy, like “cisgender”, which means you were cool with the sex you were born in, or that biology is irrelevant and as has no connection to one’s concept of self.

    Whether it be in feminist studies, gender studies or the history of gay pride, black lesbians often go without their names or sexual orientation being mentioned. The trend towards claiming that “all sexuality is fluid” and to brand everyone and everything queer and transgender, means black lesbians are rendered invisible. A queer identity embraces sexual and intimate relationships with males, females, and intersex people who identify as transgender, gender-queer, trans masculine or gay, just to name a few. My, we are a diverse crowd.

    In this current wave of “free to me” gender politics, any man with a penis can claim to be a female and expect entrance into female-segregated spaces, such as locker rooms, sports teams or colleges, without question. But don’t twist it; the generosity does not flow in both directions. Just ask the women who crashed the party at the male lido in Hampstead Heath in London in May: they were promptly escorted out by the police. Lesbian identity is now being dubbed as exclusionary or transphobic. You’re damn right it’s exclusive: lesbians have a right to say no to the phallus, no matter how it’s concealed or revealed. Imagine if white folks ran around claiming they were black or demanded access to our affinity spaces. They would be called deluded racist fools!

    Shush, I hear the snickering. Who’s this tired-ass dyke that nobody wants to hear from? And why hasn’t she dropped any names? I like luring in my audience with provocative statements and short-circuiting any thought process that may prevent critical thinking.

    Do the names Stormé DeLarverie, Audre Lorde or Angela Davis, ring that black gay history bell? The more important question, especially for those claiming to be the “down”, Black Panther activist type is this. Why don’t you know the roles they played? Without their dauntless activism and allyship, none of us would have the vocabulary of resistance or a notion of what’s required to create tangible alliances and an empowered LGBTQI community.

    Let me drop a few herstorical truths.

    Stormé DeLarverie, born in 1920: drag king entertainer, MC and bouncer. What made her a trailblazer? During the Harlem Renaissance she was the only black butch lesbian to emcee and perform in The Jewel Box Revue, North America’s first racially integrated drag review. Most infamous moment: she was the dyke who threw the first punch at a police officer during the Stonewall riot in New York in 1969. “It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil-rights disobedience—it wasn’t no damn riot,” she said.

    Audre Lorde, born in 1934: author, poet, librarian and academician. What made her a maverick? She focused the discussion on differences, as well as the complexities of a black lesbian identity that included internalised racism and homophobia. “Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference—those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are black, who are older—know that survival is not an academic skill,” she said. “It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

    Angela Davis, born in 1944: prison abolitionist, academic and author. What makes her a saint? She survived incarceration for legally acquiring firearms that were discharged in a courtroom takeover in 1970, where four people were killed. She is also the co-founder of Critical Resistance, an organisation dedicated to abolishing the prison-industrial complex. “As a Black woman, my politics and political affiliation are bound up with and flow from participation in my people’s struggle for liberation, and with the fight of oppressed people all over the world against American imperialism,” she said.

    Stormé, Audre and Angela were born during the Jim Crow era of segregation in America. A time when war was declared against the black female body and she was considered chattel. Undaunted by the collective trauma of the era, these three women found their voices and created a legacy of activism, with receipts. These three black females also came from generations for which “queer” was merely an epithet, not a community of folks who see themselves as having partners of any sex or gender identification. They claimed a lesbian identity because they unapologetically knew who they were.

    The GBTQI community has used the genius, bravery and intelligence of these black lesbians to strengthen and fortify the modern gender-identity movement—without mentioning their lesbianism. That’s like asking the question, “what’s in peanut butter?” and failing to mention peanuts as the main ingredient!

    The erasure of the black female’s intelligence and contributions to American history ain’t nothing new. Remember the movie “Hidden Figures”? You can bet your history teacher didn’t mention or know that black women were crucial to the white man landing on the Moon.

    Come on, people, it’s time to have a “Come to Jesus” moment, where we tell the truth and shame the devil. If you aren’t hip to the historical racism, sexism and homophobia that the black American lesbian has faced and continues to battle, try picking up a book like “This Bridge Called My Back”, “Sister Outsider” or “Toward a Black Feminist Criticism” and you’ll get the picture. Patriarchy and sex-based oppression are real, and they remain the driving force behind the invisibility of black lesbians. The gender-identity movement’s attempt to rebrand the lesbian as queer, and the pronouncement that “anyone can be a lesbian”, are nothing short of erasure.

    And this is not happenstance. The educational establishment was the lead car when it came shaking up women’s studies and replaced it with gender studies. That damn radical feminism was a thorn in the side of patriarchy and they needed some heavy-duty tweezers to pull it out. All those trickle-down theories of gender trumping sex strike like lighting and folks are charged by the idea that they can identify however they please, even if it means co-opting lesbian identity. We don’t call a cat a dog simply because both have four legs. Nope, we easily appreciate their differences and know dogs have owners and cats have staff.

    There’s a reason for every one of those letters in the LGBTQI acronym. Each group fought tirelessly to be recognised as vital members of a community that is expanding. As activists and allies, it is our responsibility to educate each generation about the torchbearers that preceded them and to name their unique identities. By taking the time to name who we are and our contributions to society, we have a chance of finding that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

    [end]

  2. blindsided900 Says:

    I think that it’s kind of scary on how words are being rebranded nowadays.

    If you don’t want to be intimate with someone it’s “whatever-phobic.”

    And criticism is akin to violence.

    But I’m glad that someone else is pointing this out.

    And I thought to be queer is to live well outside the gender-binary?

  3. Rosemary Says:

    “The GBTQI community has used the genius, bravery and intelligence of these black lesbians to strengthen and fortify the modern gender-identity movement—without mentioning their lesbianism. That’s like asking the question, “what’s in peanut butter?” and failing to mention peanuts as the main ingredient!”

    Perfectly stated.

  4. May Loo ok Says:

    The queer community will twist any historical fact to fit their transagenda. Why don’t the LGBs drop the Ts? Time to claim back the term female for born females, heterosexual and homosexual.

    • blindsided900 Says:

      Looking at some of the articles on this site, I’ve kind of wondered what does being trans have in common with the rest of acronym? I mean, it feels that they care more about themselves than what society thinks.

  5. Kei 2.0 Says:

    All lesbians of different races, cultures etc should be joining together to keep our culture, history and terms including for the lesbian youth who need to know about this. Since the mainstream groups are generic corporations and taken over by trans people, does anyone know about private email lists and private groups that lesbians can join.

  6. Mrs. Q Says:

    Good piece – however the author forgot to mention that Angela Davis along with Harvey Milk endorsed Jim Jones’ and his cult. This includes Davis’ encouraging calls played from speakers encouraging “participants” in Guyana to stay, even when Jones became increasingly erratic. Almost 1000 people voluntarily and by force were poisoned & died and they were mostly black women including lesbians. When people wonder how the gay rights movement went wrong, it’s wise to examine those who speak one way and act another, and this includes Ms. Davis.

    • Gerry Capone Says:

      This bears a little similarity to the problem radical feminists have when invited to share conservative forums on subjects like transgender, pornography, and prostitution. When there’s practical support coming from these quarters and none from progressives, you sometimes accept and make the best of the situation.

      Jim Jones came through in countless ways over the years for the Black liberation movement, and might have even become a kind of white version of Dr. King, but he turned in an extreme messianic direction which soon became cult-like, and then, towards the end, pure cult. Angela Davis’ support for him was no doubt the debt she thought the movement owed him, but it showed a lack of perception of his erratic authoritarian persona.

      One of his errors may have been to become too trans-racial too. At first he meant it as a call to a identification as in “We are all Vietnamese” of the anti-war movement, but then it became too hyper-personal, and at times he claimed he was a black man.

      • GallusMag Says:

        Very interesting derail.

        “Jones: (Voice rises throughout) And I know that I’m black, and I’ve got a little bit of this and I’ve got a little bit of that, I got a little Indian, I got a little Jewish, and I’ve a little Scotch, and I’ve got some Welsh, but I recognize that I couldn’t begin to identify what I am. So black is a consciousness. Black is a disposition. To act against evil. To do good. So I’m not going to sa— uh— to typify people and labelfy— uh, label people and typecast.”

        [bolding by me]

        https://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27630

  7. Peggy Luhrs Says:

    I admire Angela Davis and especially the work she has done on the prison industrial complex. I also note that she thinks transgenderism is some wonderful new .

    • Susan Siens Says:

      That’s extremely disappointing. I totally support her work against the prison-industrial complex, but when I heard her actual words she said she wanted to shut down prisons, which is not the same thing. As we can see from gendertrender, prisons are needed for violent males and the predators who run our government, corporations, military, etc.

  8. Margie Says:

    OMG, here’s news from London Pride. Lesbians won the day!

    https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/07/07/pride-in-london-says-parade-set-off-as-planned-amidst-condemnation-of-anti-trans-lead/

    Although this news makes me so happy and so proud of those women, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that “LGBTQ” – the hegemonic mechanism by which LGB people are compelled to identify with, contribute financially to, and labor on behalf of, trans/queer activism – is institutionalized. To win back our community so that lesbians don’t have to sneak into Pride like subversive protesters, “LGBTQ” must be de-legitimized and de-institutionalized.

  9. ephemeroptera Says:

    This essay is part of a larger series of invited essays that the Economist hopes will further public discussion:

    https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/06/29/transgender-identities-a-series-of-invited-essays

    I read Fleming’s essay here without realizing that it was part of this larger series, then happened upon another essay elsewhere… I wanted to point that out, in case other GT readers are interested.

      • Margaret Says:

        Just wanted to let you know that the transgender mtf Evie Amati is on trial for three counts of attempted murder. Because his axe attacks were filmed by CCTV he’s going for not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. His defence centres on the difficulty of transition and the hormones and antidepressants he was on + drugs and alcohol. This will be an interesting case to follow if only to learn whether transitioning is a viable excuse for attacking people. see Evie Amati video at news com au, and trial info under Evie Amati trial. Buzfeed, which usually backs trans brigade has a particularly detailed report on its website.


  10. Changing the concept of “woman” will cause unintended harms
    There are more things to consider than some trans activists would have you believe, argues Kathleen Stock, an academic

    Kathleen Stock is a Reader in Philosophy at the University of Sussex. She writes on the philosophy of fiction, and on issues in feminist philosophy. Her current research project focuses on conflicts of interests between trans women and natal women, and how to resolve them. Here, she examines arguments against expanding the concept of “trans women” to include anyone self-identifying as such.

    What are concepts for? At least: for categorising things into useful groups. Concepts tell us what gets included and what doesn’t: for instance, books don’t normally get into the category of plates. This isn’t “exclusionary” in any sinister sense.

    Some philosophers do “conceptual analysis”: roughly, tracking our current concept use and its implications. Let’s focus on the sentence “trans women are women”. It’s occasionally said that this is already widely accepted as an implication of the current public concept of “woman”. Certainly, some speakers sincerely believe it, but still, I think, the usage hasn’t spread widely enough for this to be persuasive. Most use trans people’s preferred pronouns and names, but arguably this only shows a wish, which I share, to be compassionate and respectful. It’s also true that British law recognises trans women as women, but again, this was not intended to settle conceptual disputes but to alleviate discrimination against trans people.

    In the same vein, in recent philosophical discussion a different focus has emerged: “conceptual engineering”, or deliberate conceptual change, towards good social ends. In particular—sticking with our example—some philosophers say that, even if the current public concept “woman” doesn’t include trans women, we should actively engineer it to do so in future. It’s argued that this will vastly improve the experience of trans people, ultimately helping to minimise both their sense of gender dysphoria (distress caused by a mismatch between felt and perceived gender identity) and their susceptibility to transphobic violence.

    Trans activists emphatically agree. But crucially, they also effectively suggest that the concept “trans woman” should simultaneously be engineered. Namely, “trans woman” should include anyone who isn’t already a natal woman and who sincerely self-declares as a woman. Putting these two proposed acts of engineering together, we get: anyone who isn’t already a natal woman, and who sincerely self-declares as a woman, should be counted as a woman.

    In public discourse, there’s a lot of focus on whether trans women should be counted as women. Whatever the ultimate answer, that’s obviously a reasonable question, despite trans activists’ attempts to count it as “transphobic”. But I think we should also ask whether self-declaration alone could reasonably be the only criterion of being trans. There’s little precedent elsewhere. In a superficially comparable case, such as coming out as gay, there is still another underlying factor, sexual orientation, that secures your membership. It’s not just a matter of saying that you are gay. And though, as in the notorious case of Rachel Dolezal, a person might “self-declare” that she is “trans racial”, it has seemed clear to nearly everybody responding to this case that such a declaration would be not only false, but also offensive to genuinely oppressed members of the race in question. There is no such thing as being “trans racial”; there is only thinking falsely that you are.

    If it’s not self-declaration, but some other factor, that makes you trans, what’s that factor? Not all trans people seek surgery or take hormones; not all consistently dress or self-adorn in a stereotypical feminine or masculine way; not all have gender dysphoria; and neither trans women, as a group, nor trans men as a group, have any common sexual orientation. Equally, some people have gender dysphoria and yet resist calling themselves trans; some surgically add feminised features without being trans. And so on. All we seem left with is self-declaration.

    If we agree, and also accept that trans women should be categorised as women, then ultimately this leaves us with: anyone who isn’t a natal woman, and who sincerely self-declares as a woman, should be counted as a woman. Both Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister, and Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour party, have apparently enthusiastically taken up this conclusion. They want to change the law to allow gender self-identification via an administrative process of self-certification as the only criterion for legally changing the sex recorded on one’s birth certificate. However, I’ll now suggest that such a move is not cost-free. In particular, certain harms to original members of the category “woman” should be weighed against any gains.

    One problem is that, since “woman” and “female” are interchangeable in many people’s minds, we’re likely to lose a secure understanding of the related concept “female”. (Indeed, some activists advocate stretching this concept to include trans women, too.) Yet the existing concept is in good order. It designates a person with XX chromosomes, and for whom ovaries, womb, vagina and so on are a statistical norm, even if some females are born without some of these, or lose one or more later. That intersex people exist doesn’t seriously threaten this category, since most categories have statistical outliers.

    Nor does the existence of males born with none of these features, who then take hormones or undergo surgery to gain some such features artificially. Maintaining the concept “female” as it is is crucial to an understanding of a particular kind of lived physical experience, already significantly under-investigated in relation to other medical and academic specialties. To put it bluntly: if we were to lose this concept, and with it the concept “male”, we would have to reinvent them.

    The category “female” is also important for understanding the particular challenges its members face, as such. These include a heightened vulnerability to rape, sexual assault, voyeurism and exhibitionism; to sexual harassment; to domestic violence; to certain cancers; to anorexia and self-harm; and so on. If self-declared trans women are included in statistics, understanding will be hampered. A male’s self-identification into the category of “female” or “women” doesn’t automatically bring on susceptibility to these harms; nor does a female’s self-identification out of those categories lessen it. In a sexist world which often disadvantages females, as such, we need good data. We need good data about trans people too, of course, but the two tasks should be separated.

    Even more pressingly, if we lose a working concept of “female” in the way indicated, self-declared trans women (males) may well eventually gain unrestricted access to protected spaces originally introduced to shield females from sexual violence from males. We are already seeing the erosion of these, as companies and charities open formerly female-only spaces such as changing rooms, shared accommodation, swimming ponds, hospital wards, and prisons, to everyone out of a desire not to appear transphobic.

    The problem here is male violence. The category of self-declared trans women includes many with post-pubescent male strength, no surgical alteration of genitalia, and a sexual orientation towards females. And, even currently, gender reassignment can legally change sex category on birth certificates. This leaves the future of “same-sex” spaces unclear. Note that this is emphatically not a worry that self-declared trans women are particularly dangerous or more prone to sexual violence. It’s rather that we have no evidence that self-declared trans women deviate from male statistical norms in relevant ways. There’s also a separate worry that violent males who do not consider themselves trans will eventually take advantage of increasing confusion about social norms about such spaces. Sex offenders already go to great lengths to access vulnerable females; there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t use this situation to their advantage. The construction of social spaces is necessarily coarse-grained. Once sex-based protections are gone, we can’t easily keep out only the dangerous people.

    And changing the concept of “woman” to include self-declared trans women also threatens a secure understanding of the concept “lesbian”. Lesbians are traditionally understood as females with a sexual orientation towards other females. Again, the categorisation is socially useful. It helps members of the category understand themselves in a positive, distinctive way, despite living in a heteronormative society. It motivates them to create their own social spaces. It gives them special protections, as a discriminated-against minority; and access to special sources of charity funding. Some trans activists seek to engineer the concept “lesbian” too, arguing that, since self-declared trans women are women, or even female, self-declared trans women with a sexual orientation towards women, or females, are “lesbians”, and should have access to exactly the same social spaces, protections and funding. Furthermore, many self-declared trans women retain male genitalia. Some trans activists have it that female lesbians are “transphobic” for ruling out sexual attraction for those with male genitalia. The upshot of this is likely to involve confusion and shame for some emerging young lesbians, socially pressured into considering sleeping with males to whom they are fundamentally unattracted, as determined by their basic sexual orientation.

    These are only some of the harms associated with introducing self-declaration as the defining criterion of being trans, whilst simultaneously counting trans women automatically as women. Harms also arise for females having to share already meagre sex-based resources with self-declared trans women (such as all-women shortlists for political candidacy, representation in the media and sports scholarships). They arise for post-operative “transsexuals” in relation to the approaching massive expansion of their defining category. And they arise for gender-nonconforming children, whose emerging world-view can be strongly influenced by trans-activist rhetoric about self-declaration. In sum, when deciding what the law should say, or even what our concepts should be, there are more things to consider than some trans activists would have you believe.


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