Activism often makes for strange bedfellows. The arduous work of coalition-building involves strategic compromises and trade-offs. Most importantly, solidarity necessitates an agreement to disagree… with minimal malice.
Being an ally, accomplice, or fellow traveler requires a fundamental understanding that disagreement is not the same as oppression or violence. If a particular activist contingent will tolerate nothing less than marching in lockstep, well, that’s not solidarity or ally-ship. It’s thought policing.
Which brings me to a situation involving my friend and comrade, Cindy Sheehan — someone who has connected with an astonishing array of dissident individuals and groups.
CS: It started when this letter by the Women’s Alliance was brought to my attention. In it, the authors declare: “Veterans for Peace is aligning itself with a belief system that says that we, as women, are the bigots. VFP is rising up against ‘transmisogyny’ (a term not defined in your statement), but ignores male on female hate speech and violence completely bypassing the matter of misogyny.”
It was based on a new statement by Veterans for Peace on transgender politics in which VFP “affirms the rights, humanity and identity of trans and gender diverse people and will not accept trans-phobic or trans-misogyny behavior or remarks.”
I made a comment supporting the writers of the Women’s Alliance letter, and immediately began to be attacked for my mild support. So, I had the authors of the letter on Cindy Sheehan’s Soapboxand got the most hits for any show I have done recently. To be fair, most of the response has been positive and grateful for the show.
MZ: Have other women reached out to you?
Yes, for example, I was asked to sign a letter of midwives to the licensing org which has changed all of its materials at the bullying of the trans community to exclude the words: breastfeeding, mother, and woman.
Breastfeeding has to now be called “chestfeeding” because the other term that’s been around for centuries offends women transitioning to male who have had mastectomies yet get pregnant. Women, woman, or pregnant must now be called: Pregnant partner and birthing individual.
Incredibly misogynistic to deny women the very thing that our biology makes us uniquely suited for.
MZ: I’ll assume your stance has inspired more than a few personal attacks in response.
CS: Once I supported Lisa Blank, Cheryl Biren, and Anita Stewart in their quest to get answers from Veterans for Peace as to their transgender-related rules and to define some terms it used, I was immediately attacked.
I have been told many times that I am “on the wrong side” of this issue, that I am “transphobic,” that I am a “TERF,” that my support for my three friends means that I have made the entire “antiwar movement” irrelevant and anything I did for Private Manning is also irrelevant because I deny Private Manning her “womanhood.”
I have also been told that Caitlyn Jenner is more of a woman than I am. The trans-bullies (as I call them) obviously only support the “ideal” of a woman in this culture and can’t even wrap their minds around being gender abolitionists nor around male supremacyand why that prevailing paradigm is so dangerous.
MZ: In other aspects of social justice activism, comrades can agree to disagree but in this case, you are being smeared and ex-communicated for owning a differing opinion. But, to state what should be obvious, let’s be clear: It’s quite possible, of course, to support transgender issues while not agreeing with every aspect of trans politics/queer theory.
CS: I fully support each and every individual’s right to be whomever they want to be. To be with whomever they want to be with. As long as there is no exploitation or anyone else is being harmed.
MZ: How do you believe we can join together to fight for social justice, educate about the upcoming elections, work to save the environment, struggle against militarism, and expose patriarchy while under threat of silencing and thought policing?
CS: I don’t know if I have shared this with you, but everyone I have come into contact with lately (those doing real, revolutionary grass-roots work) are all having the experience of being bullied by transgender activists. From struggles in small southern towns to Black Lives Matter movements around the country, transgender bullies are moving in with their “our way or the highway” approach.
To bully people who would stand with them in their right to safety and to be whoever they wants to be and to tear apart movements for their own narrow identity politics ends is counter-revolutionary.