15027759_1194747040564251_6652761205529161030_n

The Shoe Doesn’t Fit: How Centrists Maintain Oppressive Power Dynamics

Published by

Becci Cat

Queer, disabled, polyamorous transgender lunatic. She/her. ✨✨ Kvira, malkapabla, pluramema transgenra frenezulino. Pronomo: ŝi.

There is a theory that political beliefs are best arranged as a horseshoe rather than a straight line, where extremists are on the left and right sides of the horseshoe at the bottom, and moderates are at the top and middle. This theory says that extremists on both sides are more similar to each other than they are to moderates.

As a trans woman, the worst part about transition for me, so far, has been the horror of learning that most of the enemies of trans people are not extremists. It’s never pleasant when extremists show up to troll us anonymously or commit violent acts against us (I’ve personally been a victim of at least three physical assaults at their hands that were directly related to my being trans), but without the moderates who enable this, it would not be possible. Moderates enforce their oppressive agenda more subtly: splaining, tone policing, false equivalence, playing devil’s advocate, free speech fetishism, denial of our lived experience, etc..

Even worse, once the extremists have put the humanity of a marginalized group up for debate, our assertion that we are human becomes just one side of a “two-sided debate” in the eyes of moderates. And you can always depend on moderates to police us in any debate, telling us not to get angry, saying we’re being too emotional over the matter of whether we should be allowed in public, etc.. You can count on them to treat “the two sides” as being equivalent. Without moderates, the far right would have no real power.

Recently I learned that Esperanto-USA’s land congress would be held this year in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I found this to be a typical example of how the Esperanto movement makes no effort whatsoever to be accessible to marginalized people, preferring to pat itself on the back over its inherent righteousness and goodness for “la tuta homaro.” A “debate” over the exact same issue on Reddit originally led me to leave the UEA and Esperanto-USA. Still, I felt like I had to say something, and I don’t know why. Why allow the movement to occupy even more of my time as I’m worried about bigger things than constructed languages? But I thought that maybe I was the one being unreasonable, and maybe if I would just say something, they would immediately say “oh, we never thought about it that way!”

Instead I found myself once again being dismissed and tone-policed by a cisgender man, this time from North Carolina. As is almost always the case, if not always, the man who was dismissing me and tone-policing me claimed to be on my side. Despite my initial complaint pointing out that the pseudo-repeal of HB2 had no impact on trans people, and my follow-up showing that there was widespread consensus on this, he repeatedly insisted that HB2 had been repealed, as though a nominal repeal invalidates any practical complaint. When I said he could not possibly understand the situation of a trans person, he responded by telling me that I seriously underestimate the empathy of other people. The fact that this argument was happening at all shows, to me, that I was overestimating it by ever raising the issue to begin with.

At another point in the argument, he said that the fears of “both sides” were exaggerated. To me, it’s statements like this that are mainly responsible for our continued dehumanization. “Both sides” are not the least bit equivalent, and this false equivalence leads to our basic humanity becoming a legitimate “issue of political debate.” The fear of trans people being harassed in bathrooms is real and substantiated; trans people of color make up the vast majority of victims of hate crimes nationwide, and unlike “male sexual predators invading women’s restrooms,” many instances of violent crime against trans people in bathrooms have been reported:

Apart from these official reports, 1% of trans people reported being sexually assaulted in public restrooms in the 2015 U.S. Trangender Survey, which was taken before trans bathroom rights were in the news. 1% reported being physically assaulted and 12% reported being verbally harassed. Transphobia disproportionately affects people of color and disabled people. I doubt Raleigh is special in this regard.

The fear of “male sexual predators invading women’s restrooms” is scaremongering by so-called religious conservatives, a cynical way to get out the vote to elect the candidates they want, based on zero evidence, zero reports, nothing whatsoever except their hunger for power and the maintenance of their careers. Trans people in North Carolina, and elsewhere, are the prey of these psychopathic political predators.

But these politicians are never the ones who do the footwork of dismissing our concerns; they have no interest in our opinions. It’s always “moderates” who end up falsely equating them with us in order to pat themselves on the back for how reasonable and empathetic they are. And in doing this, they practically become the principal instrument in the maintenance of oppressive power dynamics. Their “supporting us” and “not being transphobic” is purely abstract, and its material consequence is the exact opposite of their alleged beliefs.

(Rachel edit: Changed the URLs to links and bulleted them to make it easier to read)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *