The Secret to Decoding Transbr0 Rhetoric
September 3, 2015
[Image text reads: The Secret to Decoding Transbr0 Rhetoric]
Overall, I think that the trans community is particularly vulnerable to men’s rights activism, particularly as it instantiates itself amongst trans men. A lot this has to do with the erroneous idea that there exists a singular trans community. But as I’ve written in the past:
the fiction that there is an ~umbrella~, that there is a ~trans community~ hurts trans women of colour most
The trans community is a curious community in the sense that it is one of the only I allegedly belong to that truly thinks that transness, on its own, is enough to overcome the differences that exist between men and women. Obviously, I don’t mean physical difference but differences in power and oppression. It treats ‘trans’ like this great leveler rendering trans women and trans men (and enbys) alike in our experiences of oppression.
Of course, reality shows us that this is far from the truth. Trans women (in general) do not experience gender-based oppression like trans men. Indeed, white trans women do not experience gender-based oppression like trans women of colour. Why? Because overlapping oppressions compound each other and cannot coherently be extricated from the whole. None of this is particularly controversial. Indeed, many of the transbr0s I refer to in this piece explicitly acknowledge that trans women of colour have it worse. The problem lies in how they use this information.
Nothing discussed in this essay is particularly new, especially not if you’ve paid any amount of attention to the arguments radfems typically use to dehumanize trans women. Which, on its own, should tell you something about the nature of these statements and why they should be treated with great suspicion.
I’m not using [female socialization] to justify excluding trans women from women’s spaces though, just because that idea has been used against trans women doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold any truth…The idea that trans men were never socialized as female hurts trans men.
I’ll discuss this example later on in greater detail. For now, simply take it as evidence that some of these transbr0s are fully aware that the ideas they espouse have been used to harm trans women. That this isn’t just some clueless men asking ‘what about teh menz?’. That this is a real problem that is growing and becoming mainstream. But becoming mainstream just as the wider trans community fully begins to grapple (at long last) with the violence that trans women of colour have to deal with. This timing isn’t accidental.
No, there isn’t a conspiracy or anything like that… but we are seeing the same growing backlash within trans discourse that feminism has been experiencing for a while. Elements that have always existed moving out of the fringe and into the mainstream. The fact that we have people within teh ~community~ taking up radfem ideology and dressing it up as ‘inclusive’ politics should concern everyone, given that trans men have the potential to damage and harm trans women in ways that radfems only dream of. Why? Because they (and many other people) think they are fully entitled to the spaces, energy, lives, labour, of trans women. Trans women are pressured to work with and accept trans men in ways that has never been true of radfems.
Since this is a guide, I will define basic terms so that everyone is on the same page.
MRA = men’s rights activist (the belief that feminism has gone too far and men are suddenly being oppressed and need equal rights or something)
transbr0 = a trans man who is an MRA. not all trans men are MRAs but the ones who are will be referred to as ‘transbr0s’ throughout this guide. mainly bc ‘transbr0s MRAs’ is a bit clunky. The ‘br0s’ part is meant to signal their willing participation in teh olde boys club known as the patriarchy.
The magic decoder ring…
So there is one basic strategy for decoding claims made by transbr0s. It is a rather simple strategy that removes most of the rhetorical force from a lot of the seemingly rational claims that they make.
What is this easy tactic? Remove the ‘trans’ from their statement (or ‘cis’ as the case may be). Here’s an example:
it’s amazing that shitty trans twitter thinks they’re being progressive by treating trans men like they’re as dangerous as cis men
Use your decoder ring and this becomes:
“it’s amazing that shitty trans twitter thinks they’re being progressive by treating men like they’re as dangerous as men”
See how simple that is? A statement that almost seems sort of rational suddenly becomes ridiculous once you use your decoder ring.
Why does this work?
Well… this relies on a few axioms of going around in the trans community. Axioms that, yes, even these transbr0s agree with.
- Trans women are women
- Trans men are men
Pretty easy right? A simple assertion of identity, in other words:
- a trans woman = a woman
- a trans man = a man
In logic, this is known as the law of identity. ‘a=a’ therefore, if a, then a.
Of course, one will say that the actual reasoning behind the original statement is that: a trans man == a cis man. Which, sure, but is ultimately meaningless since they are both men, thus, if I make a general statement about men, it includes both of them.
Why does this matter? Because of a feminist axiom that few people (other than MRAs) actually disagree with:
- We live in a patriarchy, thus men oppress women.
So, if I say that men oppress women, and thus are dangerous to us, this necessarily includes trans men. Because trans men are men.
Of course, some might say that the rhetorical force of that tweet comes from the relational statement ‘as dangerous as’. In the sense that one could assert that all men are dangerous to women, but not all men aren’t equally as dangerous to women. Sure. I mean… of course. Since overlapping oppressions are a real thing, men don’t all have equal access to institutional power. But this only works on a macro level. On a micro, interpersonal level? Yes. All men are equally dangerous to me.
Speaking as a member of the oppressed class? Yeah. Men are all dangerous. Who the fuck cares if some are a little less dangerous than others? How the fuck am I supposed to know, as a general principle?
Also? This statement is literally ‘not all men’. That’s what it boils down to. But it is all men. That’s how oppression works.
Here’s another example:
Trans women who consistently think that trans men experience no misogyny at all even when we are not cis passing. :’)
Decoded it reads “women who consistently think that men experience no misogyny at all even when we are not cis passing :’)”
Yes. How strange it is for women to think that men don’t experience misogyny…
In general, this tactic will serve you well in decoding transbr0 rhetoric. Use it.
Missing the bigger picture…
I think one of the key reasons why the trans community is so vulnerable to this vein of MRA garbage is because we don’t actually talk (often) about a critical issue within the community: misogyny and sexism.
Yes, yes, I know that some of the transbr0s I’ve cited have explicitely discussed how they are impacted by misogyny (lol). But that isn’t what I’m talking about. We do have discussions about how misogyny impacts our relationships with cis people. How transmisogyny does. How sexism and cissexism do.
What we don’t discuss is how this plays out between trans men and trans women.
Because the foundational premise to all of the transbr0 MRA rhetoric is that, somehow – magically – sexism and misogyny aren’t things that occur within the community. Or rather, if they do occur it is, amazingly, what trans women do to trans men. Its is literally backwards land.
This foundational issue is why the decoder ring works so well as a strategy for understanding what is really happening here. Re-read all of the above quotations (the ones I didn’t translate) using the decoder ring and you’ll see what I mean.
And this isn’t an accident, by the way. Remember the introductory quote?
I’m not using [female socialization] to justify excluding trans women from women’s spaces though, just because that idea has been used against trans women doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold any truth…The idea that trans men were never socialized as female hurts trans men. link to source
Female socialization has come up a few different times. But this is pretty clear. An idea that is used against trans women is not only true, but we should adhere to it because it hurts trans men. Read that statement again with your decoder ring.
Because doing away with the myth of female socialization hurts trans men (but helps trans women), it is a bad thing. Because hurting men to benefit women is a bad thing. The fact that this myth is regularly used to harm trans women? Who cares? The myth benefits trans men, so it must be true and good.
But the thing is, is that there is also a very large contradiction within this all. Because remember the axioms.
Are trans men, men? Are trans women, women?
If the answer is yes, then the usual dynamics of misogyny and sexism applies between the two groups.
Honestly? This is literally all I’ve been saying this entire essay. That sexism and misogyny are important factors for understanding how trans men relate to trans women. That’s it. This seems like it shouldn’t be an issue… and yet I know I’m exactly the sort of person these transbr0s are talking about.
Not because I actually trivialize what trans men experience, but because I focus on twoc and they have no space in my philosophy or anything else. I don’t spend much time talking to them or about them. If I were in a mixed space and discussing trans women, I would definitely shut down (if I had the power to do so) any attempts by trans men to insert ‘what about teh menz?’ into the conversation. Indeed, I would probably not even bother going to any mixed community event that was for focusing on trans men.
I simply have better things to do with my time, energy, and labour. And, above all, I don’t owe men anything. Ever. Nor does any trans woman. If you think that working with trans men is important? Great. Have fun. But it should never be considered obligatory for every trans woman to do so.