Today we are happy to introduce Tranarchy, a column of revolutionary trans action and analysis, written by radical journalist Evelyn Kronfeld.
Why Trans Culture Is Attracted To Revolution
As a transgender woman, my most treasured daily ritual (obviously after binging on all the phytoestrogen-packed soy product I can get my mitts on) would have to be jumping onto Reddit, and diving into the grandest, most lovely page known to earth: r/traaaaaaannnnnnnnnns.
On this popular subreddit of trans-related memes and whatnot, you’ll find a good amount of posts which adopt the aesthetics and sentiments of left-wing politics. This includes references to trans cat-girls overthrowing the State, fashionable anarchist imagery, comics that frolic with Marxian agitprop, and so on.
Obviously the internet is not the only vehicle for the radicalization of young trans people, but from my perspective, the online arena stands out as the most potent and accessible platform with which subversion can be spread. And anyone with intimate experience in the online trans community knows that this is not just a Reddit thing – it is common across a wide array of social media platforms. But why is that=
While anyone may be drawn to radical philosophies such as anarcho-communism, there are, arguably, a handful of possible reasons why many trans and gender-expansive folks in particular will ally ourselves with free-associative proletarian movements.
The Legacy of Queer Anarchism
It actually makes a lot of sense that anarchism seems to be gaining traction in contemporary trans circles, given the long history of queer empowerment being embedded in anarchist struggles.
The best example of this, if you ask me, is in the writing of the dynamic Irish writer Oscar Wilde. Aside from being a legendary playwright and poet, as well as a victim of homophobic imprisonment, Wilde famously employed the principles of collectivist anarchism.
In his famous Kropotkin-inspired essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891), he wrote with eloquence, vigor and wit about the crushing weight of capital; the society Wilde wished to foster would be rooted in anti-authoritarian Socialism, which would “relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others which, in the present condition of things, presses so hardly upon almost everybody.”
A queer artist’s love for anarchism seems incredibly sensible; the liberation of sex, identity, and expression has long felt right in line with overall socio-economic liberation.
What is also important to note is that this concept has frequently manifested in direct action. The Queer Liberation movement was sparked by the 1969 Stonewall riots, which involved patrons of the New York gay bar Stonewall Inn (many of whom were trans women of color such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson) responding to a police raid of the space with spontaneous violent resistance. An international wave of radical queer demonstration erupted from this event – and while plenty of currents fizzled out over the years, as has been the case for many related countercultural movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s, a number of contemporary militant groups draw inspiration from this legacy of queer radicalism.
Though they’ve since faded, a few years back, there existed a network of insurrectionary American queer anarchist cells known as Bash Back!. This was described by Fray Baroque as “not just a group or organization, but a militant tendency on the part of queer individuals,” which consisted of “bar fights, outrunning lynch mobs, glamdalization, attacking the homes of heterosexist murderers, outright chaos, alleged lootings, theory discussions, self-defense tips, social gatherings, beatdowns, the acquisition of large quantities of pepper spray, and attempts at sexual liberation.”
So now that more and more folks who don’t conform to cisnormativity are proudly, openly congregating, there exists a clear precedent for us to adopt these radical values.
Modern Obstacles to Trans Existence
In the United States, from 2013 to 2018, at least 128 trans people were victims of fatal transphobic violence, predominantly trans women of color; the killing of trans people is a pressing disaster, with law enforcement often failing to properly identify victims. And this isn’t just an issue of off-hand violent men – the abuse against trans people can be greatly enabled by those in places of power.
Jair Bolsonaro, the recently-elected president of Brazil (where more trans folks are killed than any other nation), has spoken openly about his hatred of LGBTQ citizens, once saying that if a parent perceives their child to be behaving “a little gay”, that they should “take a whip and … change their behavior.” Further, Donald Trump (who has praised Bolsonaro’s political ascension) has overseen the attempted banning of trans people from the military, attacks on the rights of trans students and prisoners, an erasure of trans identity in an HHS memo, and the disenfranchisement of trans sex workers through the SESTA-FOSTA acts; while there are a plethora of factors present in the growing prevalence of transphobic violence, it seems clear that oppression and lack of care from the State plays a substantial role.
So how does this relate to trans affection for anarchism? Well, our community is in danger, and we need to defend ourselves.
Ruling-class power structures put pressure on the downtrodden to be civil with those who would like to see the us cut out of society. Anarchism, as an ideology of liberation, rejects this bullshit, and encourages the persecuted to aggressively organize against their persecutors. Look around – fascists and their helpers are committing terror and taking political power, and trans people are one of their major targets. We can’t afford not to take a revolutionary angle.
The Adversarial Nature of Capital and Hierarchy
The things which anarchism aim to break down are, arguably, things that are especially harmful to trans people.
Rigidity is inherent in the pernicious hierarchies of capital, and the State which protects Capital; the sharp norms and values which are produced by a centralized and privatized atmosphere tend to exclude those who don’t adhere to the roles of their assigned sex, or dismiss the gender binary. Many have seen that our worth is determined primarily by our ability to feed machines; people are cast off whenever we fail to serve the interests of the bourgeoisie.
And this outlook spreads to every corner of life, including gender. If you fall outside the narrow confines of cismasculinity and cisfemininity, than you are lesser, and fail to serve the machine of “family values”, or whatever they want to call it.
Defiant anarchists not only fail to feed the machines of capital and the State, they actively work to destroy them. And defiant trans people not only fail to serve the machines of cisnormativity, they actively work to destroy them.
These struggles are essentially shared.
The Aesthetic of Revolution
This is quite simple: the disruption of the State, and the construction of a brave new humanity, is kinda sexy. As much as the powerful might try to appropriate the style of anarchism, the substance of bona fide Revolution can’t be shallowly replicated.
So in short, anarchy is punk rock…and trans people can definitely get behind that.