initial thoughts on trans*nationalism
March 16, 2015
People will notice that I’m using the asterisk in this title and this is on purpose, despite my fairly well-known criticism of the asterisk. ‘Transnationalism’ is already a term that exists with a set of meanings and this isn’t what I want to evoke when talking about trans*nationalism. As many people know that asterisk in ‘trans*’ is supposed to represent the notion of an umbrella of identity, of overlapping communities that have something important in common. Others might be familiar with the idea of homonationalism (or the place where Gay Inc (or the gay and lesbian movements) intersection with nationalism. ‘Trans*nationalism’, thus, is meant to reference the intersection of trans* movements and politics with nationalism.
As such, the asterisk is actually an important indicator for demarcating trans movements and methods of organizing from trans(asterisk) movements and methods, such that – as in my previous criticisms – the asterisk, as wildcard, not only can represent things like ‘transgender’ or ‘transsexual’ but also necessarily must allow for ‘transmisogyny’ as one its proper permutations. First and foremost, what demarcates and indicates that a trans related movement is a trans*nationalist one is transmisogyny as its proper foundation. This isn’t to say that just because an organization, movement, or term is transmisogynist it is also trans*nationalist, but rather to say that trans*nationalism _requires_ transmisogyny for its coherence and articulation.
In this, we see an important commonality between homonationalism and trans*nationalism, as both depend on transmisogyny for their articulation. Gay Inc and homonationalism distinguished itself in its early days by the swift and deliberate expulsion of trans women of colour from the movement we started. The (racialized) transmisogyny of trans*nationalism, however, is somewhat more subtle but still just as exclusionary. Rather than attempting to claim that twoc are not trans (which not even trans*nationalism can claim with a straight face), instead twoc (and other racialized ppl who experience transmisogyny) are only included as ghosts and statistics. Our lives, deaths, and everything in between are kept at a distance and only used when they legitimize trans*nationalist claims and goals.
Indeed, this is the first and most important characteristic of trans*nationalism: that it exploits the deaths and lives of twoc (and other iaopoc who experience transmisogyny) while never actually and meaningfully including us. Our entry into the movement is a body bag or a faceless number via statistics.
And in this way, we see how trans*nationalism is already aligned with the (settler) state and its imperial goals.
Of course, the relationship between various trans* movements and organizations and the state is key to how/why they are nationalist. We can see that many of these movements and organizations not only collude with the state, but seek to strengthen it and expand its territory.
What does trans*nationalism look like in practice?
- it is inviting the police to attend trans marches
- it is reifying and supporting the medical model of transness (via transsexual separatists, True Transsexuals(tm), or Truscum(tm).
- it is doing little to nothing to support incarcerated trans ppl (much less getting involved with prison abolitionism itself)
- it is hyperfocusing on (the very real problem) of state recognized identify via documentation
- it is the general disregard and ignorance surrounding the issues of sex work
- it is the ignorance and lack of concern for trans refugees and immigrants
- Etc and so on
Anyway. As noted in the title, this is mean to be just initial thoughts on trans*nationalism, rather than a comprehensive list, since it occurred to me the other day that I don’t think I’ve seen much or anything specifically framing current trans* organizations and movements in this way.