I’m posting here the statement I made on behalf of Re-Sisters that’s being read on Women’s Liberation Radio News. Here is the episode where it was included.
My name is Max Robinson and I’m a member of Re-Sisters, an organization for detransitioned and re-identified womyn, as well as female-born trans people. Re-Sisters formed to build solidarity between these populations and to fight for female liberation, particularly when the battle at hand will be better fought when armed with our perspectives.
I’ve done a lot of speaking and writing about being a woman who stopped my ftm transition and re-claimed myself as a lesbian. Right-wing Christians have often moved to co-opt my experiences, and those of many other women like me, trying to utilize us against our own interests and the interests of females as a class.
Having my words taken out of context and used by the right led me to understand a lot about the dynamics at play when fundamentalists decide to “include” radical feminists in their platforms. They wouldn’t do that unless they knew that ultimately, the supposed “alliance” would serve their patriarchal order.
I could list many examples of hard-right-wingers utilizing the words of detransitioned women—for one, Michelle Cretella, formerly a Board member of NARTH, the foremost anti-gay “conversion therapy” organization in the US; and current president of the American College of Pediatricians, an activist group of conservative physicians against gay and lesbian parenting. Cretella recently wrote a glowing endorsement of feminist anthology “Female Erasure,” specifically mentioning all the detransitioned women’s narratives. Was this a heartwarming moment of female solidarity across political lines? No, Cretella blatantly lied about our essays, utilizing the idea of us for her own agenda. Conversion therapy advocates believe that being gay or lesbian is linked to childhood gender role confusion. They believe a wholesome Christian family—a Gender Correct Father and a Gender Correct Mother—prevents children from being gay or lesbian. Their issue with pediatric transition is that they believe it’s against God’s plan—that it makes permanent the “role confusion” of homosexuality, which should instead be “straightened out.” They think women like us are potentially useful as pitiable rhetorical objects. Or that we can be “perfected” into stereotype-conforming heterosexual women.
Most women who stop ftm transition are lesbians; many of us have no intention of leading stereotype-driven lives; many of us will continue to live socially passing as men whether we want to or not; and all of us want the best possible lives for our friends and loved ones who still live as transmen. Nothing that hurts gays, lesbians, and transmen is going to be acceptable to us. We don’t welcome someone like Cretella to use our words against us.
But this is one example in a larger trend. The Federalist put a reporter, Stella Morabito, on the “gender identity” beat. The Alliance Defending Freedom started funding a group calling itself Women’s Liberation Front. The Heritage Foundation hosted a panel discussion titled “Biology Isn’t Bigotry: Why Sex Matters in the Age of Gender Identity.” The power differences between these “allies” ought to tell us a lot. Why is the powerhouse think tank that helped elect Trump hosting radical feminists on a panel?
Who hosts the events? Who publishes the articles, or airs the news segment? Who’s got the money in their hands? Usually, it’s not radical feminists. Conservatives have demonstrated time and again that they are capable of extremely effective strategizing.
Their current strategy relies on exploiting the inherent weakness in LGBT “inclusion” practices which fail to differentiate between the needs of lesbians, gay men, transmen, transwomen, and other queer-identified people. By fighting against what they call “SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) laws”—which is any legislation impacting any member of these obviously distinct and internally diverse groups, the right utilizes legitimate feminist resistance against the excesses of “gender identity” against the entire range of lesbian, gay, and trans people, as well as women overall.
A feminist response would need to hold some nuance—defending lesbian, gay, and transgender housing and employment rights against the likes of the Heritage Foundation, for example, while also resisting laws which would render sex a meaningless category. A feminist response must be a real alternative, rather than throw weight behind either “side” when neither side represents the interests of females as a class—that is, all females, whether lesbian, straight, transgender-identifying, or other.
There is a difference between laws that allow gender-nonconforming people—trans-identified or not—to participate fully in society, versus laws that entitle someone with a penis to housing in a women’s shelter based on a stated “identity.” A feminist response needs to account for this discrepancy. There’s nothing feminist about allying with those who want to make discrimination against transgender, lesbian, and gay people as legal as possible.
When women are used to promote conservative values against our will, we have even less control over how they choose to represent our beliefs and experiences. Co-optation, whether consensual or not, undermines the goal of female liberation.
Under the cut I’m going to longer, unedited version.
My name is Max Robinson and I wrote this statement addressing collaboration with conservatives on behalf of Re-Sisters, an organization for detransitioned and reidentified womyn, as well as female born trans people, formed to protect the interests of this population.
Inclusion of radical feminists on conservative platforms would not happen unless the beliefs they are being allowed to espouse by explicitly heterosexual authorities are not any kind of threat to the conservative church or patriarchal family unit. Who hosts the events? Who publishes the article, or airs the news segment? Who’s got the money in their hands? Usually, it’s not radical feminists. I’m going to address several contemporary instances of conservatives utilizing radical feminists to promote their own positions.
Conservatives have demonstrated time and time again that they are capable of extremely effective strategizing. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank that helped to get Trump elected and has supported him in many ways since he took office.
This same organization also invited the well-respected lesbian activist Miriam Ben-Shalom, among others, to a panel discussion titled “Biology Isn’t Bigotry: Why Sex Matters in the Age of Gender Identity”. The moderator of this panel, Ryan T. Anderson, has numerous pieces published on the Heritage Foundation website opposing same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption, and anti-discrimination laws protecting all types of LGBT individuals. In these articles, Ryan often makes no distinction between gay men, lesbian women, and transgender people, using the term “SOGI laws” (sexual orientation and gender identity) to describe any legislation impacting any member of these obviously distinct and internally diverse groups.
In the same articles, Ryan consistently fails to differentiate between laws that protect transgender (and gay or lesbian) people’s rights to housing, employment, or the ability to charge bias-motivated assaults or murders as hate crimes, at no cost to the rights of women in general, versus those that entitle someone with a penis to access spaces like a female-exclusive spa on the basis of verbally stated identity. By participating in alliances like this, radical feminists are lending their support to a movement with the goal of keeping actual discrimination (including bias-motivated assaults or murders!) against transgender, lesbian, and gay people as legal as possible. Who was served by this coalition, and who was used?
This is not sitting next to the missionary’s son in the lunchroom, or bringing muffins to your Republican neighbor when her husband is sick. Personal relationships are distinct from political alliances. Ryan might be an awesome guy to talk to in the grocery store line, but he is paid to produce material undermining the rights of LGBT people to have families and access housing and employment without fear of mistreatment based exclusively on their orientation or history of transition. Beyond simply being anti-lesbian, the belief that the “natural family” consists of one man, one woman, and their offspring is directly in opposition to the foundational beliefs held by radical feminists.
An example even more pertinent to the members of Re-Sisters is the inclusion of Dr Michella Cretella in the feminist anthology Female Erasure. Here, a feminist did create and control the platform, but chose to include a conservative woman. Dr Cretella is the current president of the American College of Pediatricians, an activist group of conservative physicians founded in opposition to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ support for same-sex adoption. She served for years on the board of directors for NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), now rebranded as the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice. The sole purpose of this organization is to justify and promote reparative therapy, an abusively anti-gay practice.
Three members of Re-Sisters (Crash, Devorah, and Max) were also included in this anthology. We were not aware of Dr Cretella’s involvement until after publication. Cretella’s endorsement of Female Erasure includes specific references to the works of the Re-Sister members who contributed: “de-transitioned women view their transgender experience as having been pressured into chemically and surgically impersonating a man in order to role play a heterosexual relationship with another biological woman.”
Not only did none of us ever experience our transitions in the way she describes, none of us indicated this in our contributions to Female Erasure, either. This blatant lie about our lives and work serves the agendas of both the American College of Pediatricians and the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice much more effectively than the nuances expressed in our actual contributions, however. Anti-gay religious groups frequently describe homosexuality as stemming from “gender role confusion”, a formulation which implies that our deviant behavior can be corrected through reparative therapy. Flattening our unique experiences with transition in this way promotes her consistently expressed belief that homosexuality can and should be fixed whenever possible.
She later describes a “transgender tsunami” and “transgender tyranny”, but never differentiates between transgender men and women, or identifies men as the benefactors of misogyny. This does not serve women, and it certainly does not serve lesbian women, and/or women with a history of transition. Casting transgender people as a homogeneous pack of enemies is a conservative invention that lends itself readily to the misogynistic and homophobic basis of the conservative gripe with transition.
Another quote from Cretella’s endorsement: “However, the greatest gift I received from Ruth’s invitation to be a part of Female Erasure was the opportunity to have civil and heartfelt conversations with fellow women regarding topics over which we sharply disagree: abortion, homosexuality in children, and same-sex marriage and parenting. Together we discovered that while we may never fully agree on these topics, we are more alike than we are different.”
Yes, we may all bleed red, but upholding the father-controlled family unit at the cost of stripping rights from anyone who fails to perfectly recreate patriarchal structures in their homes is in direct opposition to radical feminist values. Cretella minimizes the importance of female reproductive autonomy, gay and lesbian children’s right to grow up in peace, marriage equality, and parental rights for lesbian and gay people with children. By choosing to work with women like Cretella, radical feminists support the conservative devaluation of female life.
Further evidence of right wing eagerness to co-opt the narratives of detransitioned women in particular is seen in this article published on the Illinois Family Institute’s website, whose “statement on the family” reads “We deny that “family” includes two or more persons of the same or opposite sex who live together outside the institution of marriage whether for convenience or homosexuality or romance or experimentation or otherwise.” Three members of Re-Sisters are quoted in IFI’s article (Cari, Carey, and Crash). None were asked for permission, and none would have given their permission if asked. The single woman IFI chose to include (before/after) photos of, however, is the only one of the three who is heterosexual and relatively gender-conforming in appearance. Although Cari and Crash are lesbians and all three of these women acknowledge that many detransitioned women are lesbians, there is no mention of lesbianism in the IFI article. Their experiences and viewpoints were sanitized in order to oppose what IFI terms “science-denying sexuality dogma”, a phrase which conflates homophobia with the critical thought these women applied regarding the role transition played in their own lives.
Collaboration with conservatives regarding issues of gender identity is intrinsically incompatible with radical feminist values. When it is willing, we are choosing to water down our beliefs substantially in order to be tools of anti-woman, anti-gay organizations. Making this choice demonstrates to other women that accessing illusions of power through patriarchal authorities is no less feminist than autonomous organization. When women are used to promote conservative values against our will, we have even less control over how they choose to represent our beliefs and experiences. Co-option, whether consensual or not, undermines the goals of the feminist movement.