Many of us have got used to the internet, and social media in particular, being a force for good in trans people’s lives. As a small, geographically dispersed population, the internet has been a godsend and enabled trans people to connect with each other and create the kind of social capital and mutual support that has made it easier for many to come out and feel accepted and more comfortable in their lives as well as fight for the kind of human rights others take for granted.
However there are clear signs that the forces of conservatism and oppression are gathering and becoming more organised to push the genie of internet freedom and back into the bottle. In the United States far-right organisations and those representing conservative and oppressive religious bigots have combined to contaminate the web with lies and deception. This goes well beyond the dreary conservative blogosphere and includes right-wing conservatives organising to post bad reviews of left-wing books on Amazon, and good reviews of right-wing books. They have got organised to troll places like Comment is Free, where regulars can see right-wing comments posted by one-off posters with identities that never appear again.
The fact that is that this is all organised using money from shady right-wing organisations using money from even more shady right-wing millionaires or billionaires, to look like it is spontaneous is all the more disturbing. Not grassroots but Astroturf.
The fact that the Conservative Feminist Separatists (they call themselves “radical feminists” but they are about as radical as the Daily Mail) are using the same dishonest and deceitful tactics is both a cause for concern and for optimism.
It is a cause for optimism because they are losing the argument, their dubious and hateful arguments underpinned by a carefully concealed Heidegger-inspired desire for “gender purity” or “gender cleansing”. The esprit fasciste underlying this being something they try hard to obscure.
It is a cause for concern because they are resorting to the kind of duplicitous tactics of the right-wing conservatives. For all I know they may even be getting paid for this by the aforementioned shady ultraconservative organisations. The most recent example of this was a poster on Juliet Jacques’ article about trans history in New Statesman. In a clear attempt to drive a wedge between the trans and the LGB communities, someone using arguments which had, a couple of weeks earlier, been used elsewhere by a conservative feminist. The argument itself was as disingenuous as it is possible to be, blaming trans people for the actions of Iran’s cisgender religious bigots forcing one half of a gay couple to have gender reassignment surgery on pain of death.
Another Conservative Feminist Separatist has used her blog to attempt to ‘out’ trans people, despite the fact that doing this could have dire consequences for the individuals concerned, up to and including death. This is a serious cause for concern, the fact that they are prepared to put individual trans people’s lives in danger.
Of course these people have form in this area. The activities of so called “Radical” feminists in the US during the Reagan government, who connived with the Republicans to deny thousands of transsexuals in America access to the healthcare they desperately needed. There is no telling how many trans people have died as a result of this, either from suicide or as a result of going into prostitution to pay for private healthcare. The consequence of this hatred is a murder rate of 1:12 for American trans women.
The trans community has reacted impressively when faced with the institutional transphobia of the Royal College of Psychiatrists over their, abandoned transphobic conference. What we need to be careful of is the influence of the Conservative Feminist Separatist bigots. They know that they cannot win the argument by legitimate, open and honest debate, and as such they will resort to behind-the-scenes manipulation and secret back-door deals with influential individuals and organisations, as well as the kind of duplicitous anonymous interventions on social media, and in mainstream media as well.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, something which is likely to become more significant to trans people before long.