I don't think I'm one of them either. I'm one of mine.

Category: Gender/Sexuality (Page 1 of 2)

Conversion therapy is bullshit

(These are old memories, once thought to be lost, but they’re back again. Trauma tends to do that to people.)

I’m a survivor of conversion therapy.

No, I wasn’t diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, but I did have a childhood diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), otherwise known as atypical autism. And it was the PDD-NOS diagnosis that my family used to suppress anything that was “abnormal,” including my gender dysphoria. They used Applied Behavioural Analysis, which uses operant conditioning (aka, the methods used in dog training) to get people to conform to a particular behaviour pattern. If I did anything that was “for boys,” I’d be punished with an aversive stimulus, like having water sprayed in my face or forcing my hands to touch glue. (I’m transmasculine.) The goal was to get me to act traditionally feminine, even though I’d been androgynous or masculine before then. I’d never really liked dolls or anything like that before ABA. But after that, I was showered with doll after doll after doll on Christmas and birthdays. I did end up liking dolls after a while, but they were mostly characters for me to enact stories with, not a thing to enjoy in themselves. (I kept getting into trouble for giving them weird haircuts and drawing tattoos on them anyway.) If it wasn’t normative, if it wasn’t prissy, if it wasn’t cutesy, it had to be stamped out.

Everything was treated like a symptom, and therefore invalid and in need of cure. Of course, every single bit of the conversion therapy washed out. I was still masculine. I still preferred to play with other boys, since girls were socialised to be dainty and refuse to blow things up or get dirty. I still preferred to run out and play in the mud instead of have tea parties. When Mattel came out with Flying Hero Barbie, I was disappointed that she was rescuing cats from trees instead of beating up supervillains. (Not long before that, I’d drafted a letter to Mattel asking to create a superhero Barbie who defeated gun-toting evildoers. My mom confiscated it for her own amusement.) And whenever I imitated voices on TV, they were virtually always those of deep-voiced men. Of course, tomboys exist, but I wasn’t a tomboy. When I was much younger, I could tell that I wanted to be like the deep-voiced, flat-chested adults who were called “he.” Everything else matched that.

But nobody affirmed my gender identity and expression, and the only thing that changed when the conversion therapy wore off and I came out at 20 was that they were blaming Satan instead of autism, thanks to years of right-wing evangelical radicalisation. Regardless of whether it was Satan or autism, they saw it as a matter of behaviour that could be changed, not something integral to me and who I was. (Anti-gay conversion therapists think the same way. Virtually all sexists see gender nonconformity as correctable behaviour, not anything connected with a true self.)

I wasn’t even a person to them, just a flesh robot to be programmed. That’s what happens when you have a weird kid and want them to look normal and be compliant instead of wanting them to be happy. This is what happens when J.K. Rowling is connecting autism with trans self-discovery among youth. Leelah Alcorn’s suicide is what happens when you refuse to acknowledge who a trans youth is. And it’s what’s happening when Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene make trans youth a political football in the run-up to this year’s elections.

But there is a word for parents who don’t care about their child’s happiness. And that word is “abuser.”

Conversion therapy is abuse.

 

Arguing against transphobes

Fighting back against transphobes (as well as other sexists) is the right thing to do. But you need to do it strategically and make it clear for the average person to understand. Right now, the bigots have the upper hand because they can just raise common sense, even though the reality is more complicated for trans people. Unfortunately, a lot of trans people and allies are pulling out a bunch of 102-level postmodernist arguments that confuse Joe Schmo—and get conservatives, so-called rationalists, and TERFs to howl that because the pro-trans arguments are circuitous and incomprehensible, they must be right. And this leads to more bathroom bills, more athletics bans, and other attempts to enforce gender normativity by law or social custom.

Here are a few tips, for what they’re worth:

  • Transphobes are sexists. A sexist is anyone who uses one’s reproductive or chromosomal configuration to determine people’s social role. Sexists do not care what what you think, how you view the world, what matters to you. All they care about is your organs and chromosomes. They are dehumanising you by doing so. A sexist is equivalent to a racist in repugnance, and their arguments are little different. Whenever you argue against transphobia, tie it to all other sexisms, including misogyny and homophobia. (And when you examine this further, all sexisms are misogyny, since they are all centred on restricting the role of women, punishing people assigned male at birth for being too close to women, punishing people assigned female at birth for wanting to leave the restrictions enforced on women, punishing cis men for being too womanly if they show feelings… all of it, ALL of it, is about diminishing, policing, and controlling women.)
  • Referring to sex (however defined) as “socially constructed” will merely make transphobes double down, since their normative arguments are easier to understand to the average person. It goes over people’s heads. Instead, you’ll want to point out that people’s recognition of their gender precedes their perception of their reproductive organs. Like trans people, cis people learn their gender identity from observing same-gender adults and peers, but they never learn about a dissonance between their gender identity and assigned sex at birth. Everything is simple for them. Trans people, on the other hand, learn this as soon as they are taught about sex. For our social species, gender precedes sex. I repeat: Gender precedes sex. This is why trans people know who they are at a young age.
  • On the other hand, the TERF/conservative argument that “sex is real” or that being trans “denies biological sex” is sophistry. No trans person is denying what their reproductive organs are. That is the very definition of gender dysphoria. If trans people were actually “denying biology,” they’d say they were cis. They are questioning the idea that they have to fill a social role that aligns with their reproductive organs. TERFs and conservatives are pushing for gender conformity. Pronouns, documentation, clothing, bathrooms, and hairstyles are all gender, not sex. Enforcing gender roles based on biology is called sexism. Once you say that sex must determine gender roles, you are being a sexist, since nobody but a sexist would treat biology as destiny. And never fall for the canard of “sex-based rights.” (See the previous point.)
  • Transphobia, like all other sexisms, is the “radical idea that people don’t have brains.” (See the first bullet point.)
  • Avoid truisms and platitudes. Yes, trans women are women, but simply saying that won’t convince the other side. You need to tell a coherent story.
  • Acknowledge that trans people are a relatively small minority, but that oppressing that minority is still wrong, and there should be procedures in place to support trans people should you come across one. The same goes for other small minorities. There may be very few Jews and Muslims in the United States, but that doesn’t mean that you exclude Judaism and Islam on a census. Only about 1% of the population has an intellectual disability, but schools still offer special education classes for students who learn significantly slower than the average.

Racism and sexism are the radical idea that people don’t have brains

And for that reason, these prejudices are the height of stupidity. To be racist or sexist* is to dehumanise oneself, not just your victim. It is to pretend that penises and dark skin, or vulvas and light skin (none of which are the seat of cognition) trump (or Trump) the content of one’s thinking.

(*As always, “sexism” refers not just to misogyny, but homophobia and transphobia as well.)

How (binary) trans identity works

Infants and toddlers observe the voices, secondary sex characteristics, mannerisms, and dress of adults around them. In languages with grammatical gender (whether that’s pronouns in English or past-tense verbs in Russian), they also notice these references. They map their self-perception based on the adults whose gender presentation resonates with them. They do not learn about the reproductive apparatus associated with their assigned sex until later.

For children, gender precedes sex. To put sex before gender is to put the cart before the horse and express a lack of empathy, curiosity, and imagination about trans people and their internal experiences. People notice social roles first. (An example of this is how Henry Darger drew girls–since he’d never seen AFAB anatomy close up, he drew girls with penises—he mapped his own bodily characteristics onto his subjects. He wasn’t trans, as far as I know, but the analogy still holds up.)

Russia’s not the only source of anti-queer moral panics

… as anyone who’s watching US news closely should know. A Florida state rep recently filed a bill that could target LGBTQ+ content as “grooming,” reminding one of Russia’s various “gay propaganda” bills filed over the past ten years or so. This isn’t to let Russia off the hook, of course, but this is a worldwide problem led by coordinated “anti-gender” actors, mostly extreme-right politicians (e.g., Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán) and conservative Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christian groups, as well as their useful idiots: TERFs and members of centre-right parties like the British Conservatives. The anti-gender movement’s role is to enshrine rigid gender roles by pushing anti-LGBTQ+ policies, banning abortion, and encouraging women to stay home and have children.

According to Sonia Corrêa of CREA, a Global South–centric feminist NGO, the Vatican had a huge hand in establishing the anti-gender movement in the 1990s. Corrêa also goes on to say that the anti-gender movement is a reactionary backlash against the increased position of women and gender minorities in various societies. And in modern-day Europe, the biggest financial supporters of anti-gender political activism are European Catholic groups, US right-wing Christian organisations like the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Putin regime, and a few Russian oligarchs. The rise of Russian funding seems to be recent, but then again, Russia has redoubled its efforts to destabilise Western countries over the past decade.

TERFs are being taken for a ride by these fundamentalist nutjobs, but I don’t feel sympathy for any movement that is focused on restricting others’ rights. Also, the reactionaries behind the anti-gender movement know damn well what they’re doing. They want to disenfranchise women. It’s less about trans people on their own and more about their obsession with the patriarchy. TERFs’ “sex-based rights” bullshit is a one-way ticket to depriving women of the vote by claiming that it is men’s “sex-based right” to make political decisions and women’s “sex-based right” to be protected from predatory men by being excluded from the public sphere.

It is not just Russia and it will never be just Russia. Patriarchal oppression must be defeated, both there and everywhere else.

I am sick to death of genteel transphobia.

As much as I despise the cultish Christian-nationalist evangelical movement, at least they don’t claim to be feminists. They’re patriarchal and proud of it. The same goes for right-wing bloviators (or outright dictators) like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Rhonda Santis Ron DeSantis, Jair Bolsonaro, Viktor Orbán, and Vladimir Putin.

The genteel transphobes, on the other hand, cloak their authoritarian gender normativity in rhetoric about feminism and “fair play for women.” They’re often in their forties or fifties, typically younger than the fulminating family-values crowd, but still old enough to have grown up in a society where gay sex was often illegal and trans people were nowhere to be seen outside parodic figures. And this is why they get so much traction, especially in the UK, where sticking out too much is Not The Done Thing, unless you’re doing it in a vaguely ironic way like a panto character. Even lefty, ostensibly progressive and socialist publications like The Guardian, The New Statesman and The Morning Star have a history of publishing transphobic content. The BBC constantly tries to play both sides, publishing both pro- and anti-trans content, as though opposition to a minority group’s rights is as valid as that minority group’s right to exist. (This also happens with homophobes and anti-abortion conservatives. Would they do this with antiracist activists and white nationalists? Sexism, including homophobia and transphobia, seems to slip through in ways that racism does not, at least in the respectable press.)

As bad as “TERF Island” is, it’s not the only source of virulent transphobia masquerading as concern for children or right-on feminism. The UK is arguably the birthplace of genteel transphobia, but it has become much more widespread in American discourse, too, especially in upmarket publications like the New York Times (home of the obsessive transphobe Pamela Paul) and The Atlantic (which often publishes Helen Lewis’s TERFy screeds). Anti-trans activists in red states aren’t pulling out the Jesus card any more, since they know it won’t work in 2023 the way it did twenty years ago. Instead, they’re referring to fairness in sports, equal chances for women, women’s safety, irreversible damage. Of course, many of those activists are evangelical conservatives. But they’ve honed their playbook over the years to try to pull moderates onto their side. And since trans people are a small and marginalised minority, it’s hard for them to fight back when they’re being portrayed as freaks and predators rather than normal people. (It probably doesn’t help that transphobic laws are being passed in the kinds of places that trans people leave after they come of age because they’re isolated and homogeneous. There are few or no people left who can push back, so the DeSantis types can push through all kinds of regressive legislation.)

Genteel transphobes’ prattle about “sex-based rights” is a smokescreen for the same regressive agenda that evangelicals promote. Unfortunately, many self-styled feminists believe it because they have been conditioned to see trans people as a threat for a variety of reasons—it could be because they simply don’t understand gender dysphoria and are susceptible to conservative arguments, they’ve had the fallacious “groomer” argument drummed into them (even if they know it’s bullshit for gay people, they’ve fallen for the same warmed-over propaganda about trans people), they have underlying patriarchal ideas that remain unquestioned, they have authoritarian-follower personality traits, or they are simply bigoted bullies. Or many other reasons, all of which are wrong because they rest on the idea that there are some people who aren’t real people worth listening to through no fault of their own.

Genteel transphobes are sneaky and dangerous. And I’ve had enough of them.

On throwaway politics

The world has seen an epidemic of throwaway politics over the past decade or so. What do I mean by “throwaway politics”? Throwaway politics is the practice of treating entire demographics as expendable, useless, superfluous. Throwaway people are second-class citizens, Others, subalterns. They are often ethnic, racial, religious, gender, or sexual minorities, but not always—for example, Black South Africans were throwaway majorities under apartheid.

Politicians and constituents who adopt throwaway politics are usually on the right, but the right doesn’t have a monopoly on the practice—consider left-wing Hamas supporters’ callous attitude towards Jews, or certain left-wing politicians, such as Sahra Wagenknecht, who vilify migrants to outflank their right-wing counterparts.

The demographic characteristics of throwaway residents may vary, but the underlying dynamics are the same: there are some people who are less equal than others. In Europe and European-influenced countries, typical throwaway people are often Muslims, immigrants from the “wrong” countries, refugees from the Middle East (who are typically Muslims), LGBTQ+ people, and occasionally Jews.

Once you’re a throwaway, nobody cares about your rights. You’re not worth listening to. You may as well not even exist. You are no longer deserving of empathy or consideration.

We know where this leads: the events of 1933–1945. Hitler’s primary target was Jewish people, but Jews were not the only throwaway Germans. Disabled people, dubbed “ballast existences,” were targeted through the Nazis’ Aktion T-4. So were the Roma. The Nazis didn’t care much for Russians, either. Queer and trans people were also fodder for Hitler’s hate machine.

Why the hell are exclusivist ideologies, or the remnants of exclusivist ideologies, given any credence in supposedly inclusive (most Western democracies) or anti-fascist (Russia) societies? We know where this can go. It’s not as though we’re in 1920 and had no record of an industrial-scale genocide. Hitler’s Germany is still in living memory. Why are TERFs’ arguments taken seriously, especially when their “sex-based rights” model is a few steps away from Kinder, Küche, Kirche? Why is the Russian government endlessly pursuing LGBTQ+ people and claiming to be “anti-fascist” when their attitudes towards the community are little different from those expressed by the Nazis? Why are Christian fundamentalists, whether American Protestant or Russian Orthodox, treated as a legitimate political constituency when the same liberal or progressive politicians see right through their Islamist counterparts? Why do American police officers disproportionately target Black people with violence? Why are US presidents calling neo-Nazis “very fine people” and calling for the “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”? Why is the new, modern, liberal, European government in Kiev treating ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers as fifth-column traitors, in a shadow of what the US government did and has done to Arab and Muslim Americans after 9/11 and now the Hamas attacks? Why is the Israeli government bombing Gaza instead of trying to live alongside the Palestinians? And why are supposedly “woke,” enlightened people claiming that every Israeli Jew is a throwaway person blocking Palestinians from their freedom?

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A queer antinationalist on Ukraine and Russia

I am queer. I am also a vehement antinationalist. These facts make it impossible for me to offer ideological support to either Moscow or Kiev.

Let’s start with the obvious one: the Putin regime. Russia has heightened its repression of LGBTQ+ people, including a new Supreme Court ruling that effectively outlaws pro-queer activism as “extremist.” LGBTQ+ activists face the risk of fines and imprisonment up to 12 years. Putin has already used these tactics against dissidents like Boris Kagarlitsky, Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza. Putin’s Russia tries to contrast itself with the “decadent” West with its persecution of LGBTQ+ people, even though our right-wing politicians hold views that are just as bad as Putin’s. Like western conservatives, Putin weaponises religion—in this case, the Eastern Orthodox Church, rather than evangelical Protestant denominations or the Roman Catholic Church—to impose an authoritarian social agenda. And I could go on about Russia’s other reactionary, repressive policies and laws, but there’s already ample coverage in CNN, the New York Times, NBC, The Guardian, etc.

Ukraine, for its part, is aggressively pursuing an ethnonationalist agenda that conflates Russian ethnicity and language with Putin’s vile regime. Even soldiers in the far-right, extreme nationalist Azov Battalion have been attacked for speaking Russian, primarily by the now-fired Lviv Polytechnic professor Iryna Farion, who used to be a member of the Nazi-adjacent Svoboda party (link in Russian). Nationalism has infected even otherwise progressive circles in Ukraine: according to the Kharkov-based anarchist group Assembly (link in Italian and English; English is on the bottom), many feminist and LGBTQ+ activists are closely tied with Ukraine’s nationalist movement. Instead of uniting the entirety of the Ukrainian people against the Russian state, the Ukrainian government and many of its supporters have chosen instead to create even more divisions. As I’ve said before, Kiev’s own-goals push people towards supporting Russia, even though it’s unlikely they’ll get any more freedom there than they do in Ukraine.

The situation is undoubtedly worse for people who find themselves ostracised from both sides—for example, I can’t even imagine what it feels like to be a queer leftist in occupied Eastern Ukraine (especially one who primarily speaks Russian) who runs the risk of being persecuted by Kiev or the Russian occupiers. Or for pro-Ukraine (or merely anti-war) Russians who want to leave the country: many of Russia’s European neighbours have closed the border; Ukrainians, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Poles distrust Russians, regardless of their support of Putin; and Putin’s dictatorial rule has made it impossible for them to stay home in Russia with the people they love the most. They’re being told that there is something inherently evil inside them for being from Russia, and they’re also being told that there’s something inherently wrong with them for opposing the Russian regime.

I can’t support either position. Both Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ repression and Ukraine’s ethnonationalism are incompatible with a functioning pluralist society. They imply that if you’re not an ethnic Ukrainian who speaks Ukrainian, you’re not a real Ukrainian, or that if you’re gay or bi or trans, you’re not a real Russian. If you’re not a nationalist, you’re not a real feminist. If you’re a leftist, you’re not a good Ukrainian. If you’re a liberal or progressive, you’re not a good Russian.

And once you’re no longer seen as a real member of your society, you’re open to persecution, since civil rights and liberties are reserved only for real people, not superfluous ones.

I don’t know what the right answer is, either to put a stop to Russia’s increasing repression or Ukraine’s nationalist obsessions. I don’t think anybody does, no matter how many thinkpieces are written, no matter how many declarations are made on TV, no matter how much people rant and rave on Telegram and Reddit and Twitter.

What I do know is that people are suffering, dying and praying for a better chance for themselves, their families, their friends and their communities. And neither Russia’s sexist repression nor Ukraine’s reactionary ethnic nationalism will bring their people the peace they so desperately deserve. You don’t want real liberation or justice if your goal is to make a new group of second-class citizens.

My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse…

…I mean, a left movement that manages to avoid the following things:

  • Praising Hamas or other theocratic terrorist organisations (eg, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah)
  • Writing in a way that’s inaccessible to the people they claim to stand for (usually the working class, and sometimes disabled people if it’s disability-studies scholars who sound no different from their non-disabled counterparts in all the worst ways)
  • Politicising identity to the point that people turn into two-dimensional “oppressor” and “oppressed” classes (usually based on ethnicity, race, or gender) without nuance or distinction
  • Thinking that YELLING LOUDLY WITHOUT CLARIFYING YOUR POSITION is a GOOD WAY TO MAKE A POINT IN AN ARGUMENT. Extra points if you use the clapping 👏 hand 👏 emoji 👏 or repeat your sentence three times, first time in regular type, then italicised, then boldfaced
  • Promoting ideas that are impossible to implement on a large scale unless there’s a transitional period between the current and ideal states
  • Claiming that state propaganda organs like RT (Russia), Sputnik (Russia), TASS (Russia), the Korean Central News Agency (North Korea), Xinhua (China), Press TV (Iran), Global Times (China), TeleSUR (Venezuela), Prensa Latina (Cuba), Al Mayadeen (Lebanon), or Orinoco Tribune (Venezuela) are real “anti-imperialist news”
  • In contrast, relying solely or primarily on Western state media like Radio Liberty/Radio Free Asia (USA), BBC (UK), Deutsche Welle (Germany), or France 24, though this is more of a centre-left phenomenon. Although these sources are much more reliable than their Russian, Chinese, or Iranian equivalents, they tend to gloss over the faults of pro-Western regimes like Ukraine, South Korea, Japan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia
  • Using only pro-government sources (there are sites that criticise the government without defending Russia) about the Ukrainian conflict, including Kyiv Independent, Kyiv Post, Ukraine Crisis Media Centre, Euromaidan Press, and Ukrainska Pravda. Ukrainian propaganda is less likely to make shit up than Russian propaganda, but it often treats Kiev’s repression and ethnocentric nationalism as a good thing
  • Using conspiracy-theory-laden websites like The Greyzone, MintPress News, Donbass Insider, and Moon of Alabama as reliable sources about China, Russia, or Syria
  • Spreading conspiracy theories in the name of “anti-imperialism,” including debunked claims about Syria’s gas killings and Ukraine’s purported biolabs
  • Treating activism like the Oppression Olympics, even though that’s a game nobody actually wants to win
  • Creating new political parties instead of trying to push existing ones further to the left (yes, I’m kind of an entryist; deal with it)
  • Related to the last point, running presidential or other candidates that have no chance of winning—why run anyone for office if you know damn well that a candidate from the People’s Socialist Party of Freedom, Equality and Liberation has zero chance of winning against the Democrat or Republican (or mainstream equivalents in other countries, like the Tories and Labour in the UK, or the German Christian Democrats and Social Democrats)
  • Refusing to build coalitions across the left because purity politics makes it impossible, thereby allowing the right to split us up and indirectly help leaders like Donald Trump, Geert Wilders and Jair Bolsonaro come to power
  • Expressing essentialist ideas about genders, races or cultures (“Russian culture exists to oppress Ukrainians,” “Indigenous Americans are noble sages,” “men are all rapists,” “‘real’ women are delicate flowers who need ‘sex-based rights’ to protect them from evil trans women”)
  • Calling anyone who disagrees with them “reactionary” or “pseudo-left” (Trotskyists do this a lot)
  • Focusing more on style than substance (“trans women” versus “transwoman”, #KyivNotKiev)
  • Venerating past and present tyrannical dictators like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, “respected comrade” Kim Jong Un and the rest of his family, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin (who isn’t even a leftist, much less a communist), Xi Jinping, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro, Daniel Ortega, ad nauseam
  • Focusing on foreign policy to the exclusion of domestic policy
  • Focusing on domestic policy to the exclusion of foreign policy
  • Treating Volodymyr Zelensky (and by extension the bumbling Ukrainian central government) as though the were the second coming of Winston Churchill
  • Throwing around jargon like “anti-imperialist,” “settler colonial,” “decolonise,” “bourgeois,” “proletarian,” “imperialist,” “neoliberal,” and “geopolitical economy” without being clear about what they mean
  • Reducing all relationships of dominance and oppression to the control of the means of production or the lack thereof (which is silly, since racism, all sexisms and xenophobia can occur under any economic system, including socialism)
  • Supporting right-wing authoritarian states because they’re opposed to US policy (mostly Russia and Iran)
  • Supporting authoritarian communist or socialist states because they’re opposed to US policy (mostly China, North Korea, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Syria)
  • Treating politics like a sports game
  • Spouting ableist views—including fat-shaming—because their concept of class or identity organising completely ignores the idea that disability is political
  • Treating the writings of Marx and Engels (or sometimes Lenin, Stalin, and Mao) as holy writ
  • Siding with anti-Western states because they’re “anti-imperialist” (as though China and Russia weren’t expansionist empires, which is the analogue of Japanese, Ukrainian or Taiwanese boosting of Western imperialisms because they’re against China and Russia)
  • Supporting reactionary, xenophobic movements like Brexit (a common view among some British communists, as well as the perennial candidate and professional fruitcake and anti-vaxxer Jill Stein) because they’re against the EU’s neoliberalism
  • Dismissing reports of sexual abuse because they’re a “distraction” from the class struggle
  • Denying genocidal actions of anti-US regimes (China in particular)
  • Claiming that their movement, whether Trotskyism, orthodox Marxism–Leninism, anarchism, or any other tendency, is the only way to solve society’s problems
  • Uncritically defending Ukraine or other pro-Western countries with deeply problematic policies (more common in North American and Western European mainstream media, though views like this sometimes appear among social democrats and other more moderate leftists)
  • Dismissing, defending or promoting racism, misogyny, homophobia or transphobia on the grounds that feminism, pro-LGBTQ activism and antiracism distract from the class struggle
  • Constantly putting political one-upmanship over the real lives, concerns and feelings of actual human beings

Unfortunately, this seems impossible to find, at least for now. I know I can’t agree with everything I find, but the lacuna between my views and theirs is staggering. (But mainstream centre-left politics leaves me unsatisfied, too, and anything on the right is obviously out of the question.)

On the cynical use of “open dialogue”

… why is it that “enlightened centrists” who want “open dialogue” just want an excuse to be racist, sexist (especially transphobic, but also homophobic or misogynistic), xenophobic, ableist, classist, or otherwise prejudicial?

It’s to the point that I distrust anyone who calls for “open dialogue,” because I know that people who want me dead or miserable are going to be brought onto the stage. I don’t mean talking to a dominant or privileged group—as I have said repeatedly, I do not see people as being The Oppressor just because of their skin colour, ancestry, gender, or any other characteristic other than their actions. I am talking about people who actively argue for sex-based restrictions on religious fundamentalist or “feminist” grounds, claim to be “race realists,” or raise the question of severe disabilities to strip all disabled people of their agency.

I don’t like a lot of the woke movement either, but it’s time to distinguish vulnerable minorities from our ostensible spokespeople. (I’ll write more about that later.) I am sick to death of feeling that I have to choose between woke assholes who defend Hamas as a decolonial movement or just shout slogans instead of explaining their position, or chauvinistic majoritarians who cast themselves as iconoclastic (Look, I’m straight and white and that’s not allowed any more!) even though they’re just like everybody else.

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