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Transgender Activism a Lesbian Feminist Perspective

Transgender Activism a Lesbian Feminist Perspective

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Published by Komal Gilani
An article by Sheila Jeffreys on transgender activism.
An article by Sheila Jeffreys on transgender activism.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Komal Gilani on Jun 06, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/29/2013

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This article was downloaded by:
[Canadian Research Knowledge Network] 
On:
26 May 2010 
Access details:
Access Details: [subscription number 783016864] 
Publisher
Routledge 
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Journal of Lesbian Studies
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t792306903
Transgender Activism
Sheila Jeffreys
aa
University of Melbourne, USA
To cite this Article
Jeffreys, Sheila(1997) 'Transgender Activism', Journal of Lesbian Studies, 1: 3, 55 — 74
To link to this Article: DOI:
10.1300/J155v01n03_03
URL:
Full terms and conditions of use:http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdfThis article may be used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss,actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directlyor indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
 
Transgender Activism:
A
Lesbian Feminist Perspective
Sheila
Jeffreys
ABSTRACT.
Feminist analysis of transsexualism such as that ofJanice Raymond has seen it as a deeply conservative phenomenon inwhich surgical mutilation is employed
to
maintain the genders ofmale dominance and female subordination. Transsexualism has anew face in the nineties in “transgenderism” which employs queerand postmodern theory to render transsexualism progressive. Thispaper argues that “transgenderism”
is
also deeply problematic froma feminist perspective and that transsexualism should be
seen
as a viola-tion
of
human
rights.
[Article copies available
for
a fee
jom
The HaworthDocument Delivery Service: 1-800-342-9678. E-mail addtws: getir@@aworth.cotn]
It is important that lesbian theorists and activists should analyse criti-cally the politics of transgender activism. The
1980s
and
’90s
have wit-nessed what
has
been described by its proponents as
a
transgender libera-tion m0vernent.l This has significant implications for the individuallesbians who are undergoing hormone treatment and surgery, perhaps ingreater numbers than before, for lesbian feminists who are being calledupon to admit
male-to-constructed-female
“lesbians” to lesbian space andevents, and for
a
lesbian feminist politics which is committed to thedestruction
of
gender rather than “playing with it.” Transgenderism is
a
political issue, not one which should be relegated to individualisticexplanations and solutions such as may be advanced by therapists anddoctors. In this paper I want to consider the implications of transgenderactivism for lesbian and for gay politics, using a human rights approach.Sheila Jeffreys is Senior Lecturer
in
Political Science
at
the University
of
Melbourne where she teaches and writes
in
the
areas
of
the
politics
of
sexualityand lesbian
and
gay politics. She
has
written
three
books
on the
history
andpolitics
of
sexuality:
The Spinster and Her Enemies
(1985),
Anticlintax
(1990),
and
The Lesbian Heresy
(1993).
Journal
of
Lesbian
Studies,
Vol.
1(3/4)
I997
0
997
by The Haworth Press, Inc.
All
rights reserved.
55
 D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ C a n adi a n  R e s e a r ch  K n o wl ed g e  N e t w o rk]  A t : 20 :31 26  M a y 2010
 
56
JOURNAL
OF
LESBIAN STUDIES
In the
1970s
the feminist philosopher of science, Janice Raymond, deliv-ered a swingeing critique of the medical construction of transsexualism inher work,
The
Transsexual
Empire.2
She argued that transsexual surgeryrepresented political manipulation of the gender dissatisfied by the pharma-cracy, government maintained by medicine as once it was maintained byreligion. Many feminists expected that this feminist perspective would grad-ually be adopted and that feminism would lead
to
the breakdown of genderstereotyping and
so
to the socially constructed “needfor transsexualism.This did not turn out to be the case. Transsexualism has a new face in thenineties in
ransgenderism” which employs queer and postmodem theoryand politics to render transsexualism progressive. These queer, postmodempolitics demand acceptance that
ransgenderism” is a part
of
the lesbianand gay movement and that the political interests of lesbians and gay menare inextricably linked to the legitimization
of
transsexualism. I will arguehere that transsexualism might more reasonably be seen
as
a
violation ofhuman rights and should certainly not be uncritically accepted as a sociallytransformative force equivalent to gay liberation.
TRANSGENDERISM-WHAT’S NEW ABOUT
IT?
Transgenderism purports to be more politically progressive than trans-sexualism. In theory, as Janice Raymond defines it, transgender “coverspreoperative and postoperative transsexuals, transvestites, drag queens,cross dressers, gays and lesbians, bisexuals, and straights who exhibit anykind
of
dress and/or behavior interpreted as “transgressing” genderr01es.”~Some transgender theorists include lesbians and gay men withinthe transgender phenomenon on the grounds that “anyone who didn’t feelcomfortable with hetero gender roles was a trann~.~n reality the publicspokesmen tend to be postoperative transsexuals.In the oldfashioned phenomenon of transsexualism, men, though smallnumbers of women are involved too, seek to “change sex” through sur-gery. They wish to become “real” women. Janice Raymond has pointedout that transsexualism is a construction of medical science designed toachieve three purposes. One is simple profit from the expensive surgery.Another is experimentation towards the achievement of mastery over theconstruction
of
body parts. The political purpose is the allocation toacceptable gender categories of those gender rebels who are seen to bedisrupting the two-gendered system of male supremacy.Transsexualism, in this analysis, is deeply reactionary, a way of pre-venting the disruption and elimination of gender roles which lies at thebasis of the feminist project. Transsexualism opposes feminism by main-
 D o w nl o ad ed  B y : [ C a n adi a n  R e s e a r ch  K n o wl ed g e  N e t w o rk]  A t : 20 :31 26  M a y 2010

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