The cis/trans binary is used to flip the hierarchy of oppression

That discussion about use of the word “TERF” at Daily Nous has generated a lot of useful comments – some useful for the horrible clarity with which they spell out that yes, women do indeed have privilege in relation to cis women while the reverse is most definitely not the case, and others for less tooth-grinding reasons.

For a top example of the latter there is Jane Clare Jones’s comment this morning on a thread about what is meant by “oppression” and how/whether it applies to women and/or trans women:

Homophobia is not a form of oppression, it is a form of discrimination, which arises as an adjunct of patriarchal oppression. The same is true of the discrimination against trans people. That is not to say that discrimination is not a form of limitation that affects people’s flourishing – it is. But it does mean that there is not a structural force which is invested in the maintenance of that limitation in the same way. If we compare the amount of progress we have made with respect to removing the discrimination against homosexuals, vs. the progress we have made with the liberation of women, I think that tells us something interesting. Male persons are invested in maintaining the oppression of women. It turns out that straight people, by and large, are not actually that invested in maintaining the discrimination against homosexuals, because it doesn’t impact their material privileges.

Straight people don’t (particularly) extract labor from homosexuals. Cue jokes about designers and florists, but the distinction is real.

Anti-semitism is a different case – because it has a rare and unusual structure. It is a prejudice against a group of people for their purported dominance, power, and the allegedly malign influence of that power. There is no material motivation for the oppression of Jewish people as a class by non-Jewish people. It is rather, an axiomatic form of scapegoating/auto-immune fear directed at people who are conceived to be foreigners inside the body politic.

The point here is that the nullification of women’s claims in this argument is entirely predicated on the idea that non-trans people are the oppressors of trans people, and the way the cis/trans binary is used to flip the hierarchy of oppression, and hence to position women’s concerns as analogous to racism. This is predicated on an incorrect reading of the structure of oppression. Both women and trans women are subject to limitations which arise as the result of patriarchal oppression. Women are oppressed on the basis of their sex, and through the system of gender. Trans women are discriminated against because they do not conform to patriarchal gender norms which tie bodies to behaviours and expressions. That is, we have two groups facing limitations imposed by the same structural system, and we should deal with this as a rights conflict between two disadvantaged groups, not as act act of structural oppression by a dominant group against an oppressed group.

I find that immensely clarifying and helpful. I’ll just repeat the key bit in case y’all want to commit it to memory.

The point here is that the nullification of women’s claims in this argument is entirely predicated on the idea that non-trans people are the oppressors of trans people, and the way the cis/trans binary is used to flip the hierarchy of oppression, and hence to position women’s concerns as analogous to racism.

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