Transgender Liberation: A movement whose time is now!
This article elaborates remarks made by the writer on a Nov. 19 Workers World Party webinar, “Leslie Feinberg: ‘Remember Me as a Revolutionary.’” View the webinar on Facebook @WorkersWorldParty – Political Organization.
Nov. 20 – Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. As of today, 2020 is the deadliest year on record for transgender violence in the U.S. Over 30 murders of transgender people have been recorded in the country, with 350 murders recorded worldwide. Since 2008, at least 3,600 transgender people have been murdered worldwide. (tinyurl.com/y5a2kcdq)
Of these killings, 98 percent were committed against transgender women and trans feminine people, primarily Black trans women and other trans women of color. Transgender sex workers were 62 percent of the people who died.
Those figures do not count the countless trans people who died “in the closet,” not having publicly revealed their identity, or those whose deaths were covered up by hateful family members. The figures do not count the countless trans people who have died by suicide, died due to inadequate healthcare and/or constant mistreatment, or died unhoused on the streets.
Capitalist war on trans and gender non-conforming people
“Transgender liberation” is a phrase that may seem like a distant dream right now. Oppressed people might very well respond: “We are a million miles away from that!” The odds for survival are still stacked very high against transgender and gender non-conforming people.
But trans liberation also seemed far away almost 30 years ago, in 1992, when Leslie Feinberg released hir groundbreaking pamphlet, “Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come.” (Free download at tinyurl.com/y5vg2r43.)
One month after Leslie released this work – which liberates the history of trans and gender non-conforming people from behind the lock and key of capitalist oppression – revolutionary Black transgender advocate Marsha P. Johnson was found dead in the Hudson River in New York City. What a hopeless time it must have felt for so many – to have a beacon of revolutionary hope dashed out in such a cruel fate.
But in the same way that our comrade Leslie Feinberg’s legacy and fighting spirit lives on, so does the legacy and fighting spirit of Marsha P. Johnson, and that of Latinx trans leader Sylvia Rivera, and all the others who have lit the way by which we now march.
Does not the revolutionary die? Of course. Does not the revolution live on? Of course! Transgender people, given the tools by revolutionary transgender warriors like Leslie Feinberg, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and those still living, like Miss Major and Jennicet Gutierrez, have seized the moment – today!
A trans revolutionary struggle
Our time of liberation has arrived. It is here.
On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we must take our time to mourn and grieve those we lost and celebrate their lives – and also celebrate our lives as transgender people still living.
Then we must continue to wage a revolutionary struggle against capitalism – both its imperialism and its continuation of colonialism in the 21st century. This is the exploitative, oppressive system that unleashed transgender oppression around the globe.
In hir 1995 book, “Transgender Warrriors” – the first extended Marxist analysis of transgender oppression – Leslie Feinberg traced the roots of hatred and discrimination against trans people to their origin in the formation of class society.
The struggle for transgender liberation is part of the class struggle. Trans people are part of the working class and the oppressed. At various intersections, one will find Black trans women, who face the highest amount of violence of any other demographic, as well as Brown trans people, Indigenous Two-Spirit/trans people, undocumented trans people, disabled trans people, HIV+ trans people, incarcerated trans people, trans sex workers, homeless trans people, and, of course, trans workers of all kinds.
Feinberg said,“Bigotry against transgender people is a deadly carcinogen,” and ze was, and still is, correct. It is a poison in this world. Transgender people who dare to wage the struggle against this bigotry have the antidote and the cure: revolutionary socialism.
To win revolutionary socialism means to struggle for solidarity between and among oppressed people and workers. So it is mandatory that the transgender liberation struggle within the U.S. – and the LGBTQ2S+ struggle as a whole – unite with other struggles: with the Black Lives Matter movement against police terror, with the Palestinian struggle against Israeli apartheid, with the struggle to abolish police and prisons, with the struggle to decolonize this land for Indigenous people to have it once again, for the struggle for reparations for Black and Indigenous people – and with the struggle against low wages, high-tech capitalism, homelessness, and the chaotic, unplanned capitalist economy that keeps us poor and starving.
For there to be transgender liberation, there must be socialism.
Devin C is a transgender Marxist and member of Workers World Party. They are the president of Strive (Socialist Trans Initiative), a transgender advocacy organization) in the Gulf Coast West area of Florida/Alabama.