Trans Sandwiched
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Trans Sandwiched

The Many Ways Queer Theory Hinders Trans Acceptance

How queer theory basically puts LGBT people on another planet.

Image from Pexels

Today, I want to go deeper into the ways queer theory actually hinders mainstream society’s understanding and acceptance of trans people.

As I previously described, queer theory is anti-essentialist in a fundamentalist way, and insists that all categories of gender and sexuality are entirely socially constructed. As such, its mission is to challenge, and actively ‘deconstruct’ in a postmodern sense, all stable meanings of terms like ‘male’ and ‘female’. While some may say that queer theory is about questioning established norms around gender and sexuality, it actually goes much further than that. The problem with queer theory is not with rejecting rigid binaries and categories. The problem is that is takes its anti-essentialism way too far, to the point that it simply can’t accept any essential core meaning in terms like ‘male’ and ‘female’. This means that, ultimately, no shared meanings are possible, which severely hampers meaningful conversation and understanding.

Queer theory’s refusal to accept at least some level of essential meaning for ‘male’ and ‘female’ hampers both trans people’s formation of a stable identity in themselves, as well as our communication with broader society. Many trans people, like myself, understand our identities as not feeling comfortable living as ‘male’ and more comfortable living as ‘female’, and vice versa. For me, I formed this view from a very young age, and it has been a stable part of my reality. Even non-binary people often form their identities in relation to not fitting with ‘male’ and ‘female’ as pre-existing concepts. If ‘male’ and ‘female’ were empty categories that meant nothing at the core, statements like these wouldn’t even make sense! By rejecting all essential meaning for ‘male’ and ‘female’, queer theory invalidates the stable self identity of trans people. Instead, it reduces trans identities, and indeed all LGBT identities, to opposition to stable meanings of ‘male’ and ‘female’. Not only is this not our authentic sense of self, and not how most of us arrive at our own understanding of what being trans is, it also has important harmful consequences for trans understanding and acceptance in wider society.

Queer theory robs trans people of an important way to build understanding and find common ground with the mainstream. Fundamental understandings of ‘male’ and ‘female’ are part of the common shared meanings of society going back to before civilization. This understanding isn’t always best reflected in rigid categories, but the basic archetypes of ‘male’ and ‘female’ are basically eternal. The old-school trans narratives that were rooted in our relationship to the widely understood archetypes of ‘male’ and ‘female’ thus provides a way to build a bridge between mainstream understandings and the trans experience of life. Even such oversimplified statements like ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’ were often useful to help people understand us. In a way, this is similar to how gay and lesbian people gained understanding and acceptance through the marriage equality campaign. Through striving for marriage, which has a widely understood meaning, gay couples were able to demonstrate their shared values and shared humanity with mainstream society, thus building a bridge between mainstream understandings and the gay experience of life. Queer theory activists are now trying to deny trans people the same opportunity to build bridges with the mainstream, because of their ideological commitment to anti-essentialism and deconstruction. This, in my opinion, is unfair and cruel!

Another particular concern is that, in reducing LGBT identities, particularly trans identities, to opposition to stable meanings of ‘male’ and ‘female’, it distracts from the actual experience of trans lives. Instead of discussing the challenges faced by trans people in our everyday lives, with a particular focus on the needs of people living with gender dysphoria, and how trans people can be accommodated, queer theory makes the trans discourse all about opposing stable meanings of ‘male’ and ‘female’. Queer theory activists are essentially turning trans people into a chess piece for their radical objectives, and in the process displacing the meaning of trans identity from one based in lived reality to one based in ideology.

Queer theory activism has already had harmful effects in the real world. For example, the media discussion of trans people rarely focuses on gender dysphoria and the needs of trans people anymore. There is also not much talk about the validity of trans identity from a scientific or empirical point of view. Indeed, I think the way mainstream media portrays trans lives nowadays sometimes makes being trans look like a lifestyle choice. All this allows the pseudo-scientific talk of anti-trans activists, including gender critical feminists (sometimes known as TERFs), to sound ‘more scientific’ than us, and hence more credible to many observers.

This, in turn, has led to a false narrative of trans identity being able to be ‘resolved’ by reducing gender stereotypes, as if issues like physical dysphoria did not exist at all. This narrative is now suprisingly prevalent, especially in certain circles, like IDW fans, and ‘anti-woke’ socialists. I think this just shows how queer theory and gender critical feminism ultimately have the same aim, i.e. gender abolition, and they are just using trans people in a different way to achieve their aim. Different methods but same goal. One might even observe that queer theory and gender critical feminism are actually playing out a false dialectical narrative that ultimately moves towards the ‘abolition of gender’ and the necessary erasure of trans people and gender dysphoria in the process. If one takes this view, the dominance of queer theory on one side of the trans narrative, and gender critical feminism on the other side, is indeed a scary situation for trans people, and one that we must urgently seek to change.

TaraElla is a singer-songwriter and author, who recently published her autobiography The TaraElla Story, in which she described the events that inspired her writing.

She is also the author of The Trans Case Against Queer Theory.



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Author & musician. Moral Libertarian. Disrupting the woke vs anti-woke echo chambers and making the West truly liberal again.