WLRN Edition 3 Transcript

Women’s Liberation Radio News Podcast Transcript

Episode 3: Trans Politics and Youth Culture

Transcribed by Amanda T. and Amy B.

 

***

“Real Voice” by Thistle Pettersen:

But through the hallways of academia

And on the face of the moon

The footprints of conquest

Haven’t left us any room

To say what we think, or

To speak what we know

To hear different voices

At least a sound from below.

***

Chante HOLSEY: Greeting and welcome to the third edition of Women’s Liberation Radio News. WLRN produces a monthly radio broadcast, to break the sound barrier women are blocked by under the status quo rule of men. This blocking of women’s discourse and ideas we see in all sectors of society, be they conservative, liberal, mainstream, progressive, or radical. The thread that runs through all of American politics and ties it all together is male dominance and entitlement in all spheres. My name is Chante Holsey, and I sit on the board of Directors of WoLF, Women’s Liberation Front. Today’s program focuses on trans politics and youth culture. We will hear from Sarah Barr Fraas, a college student who was told by her professor she had to take her women’s studies course at home and not attend lectures due to “transphobia”. At the end of program, we will explore the terms and narratives used to describe both trans and feminist politics in an interview with Catina Hyman, IT analyst from San Diego, California.

Thistle PETTERSEN: And hi, I’m Thistle Pettersen, based out of Madison, Wisconsin. I wanted to give a shout out of appreciation to Selene Michaels for the WLRN logo design that you can now see on the WLRN Facebook page, Twitter account, and also the WLRN website. Thank you Selene–it’s beautiful, we love it. We hope to make coffee mugs and t-shirts with your logo design in the future.

Tasha ROSE: And hi I’m Tasha Rose, sitting in for Elizabeth McKeown this month. I have a master’s in English Literature from St. Catherine University, and I’m the director of “Our Dancing Daughters”, a teen girl mentoring program in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’m also the mother of six beautiful children, and live a radical life in St. Paul in a family of eight. Here are today’s headlines and news for July 7th, 2016.

*Audio clip of Women Speak Out Conference*

ROSE: A historic press conference called “Women Speak Out” took place in Tacoma, Washington on the University of Washington’s campus on June 16th. The speakers that included Miriam Ben-shalom, Maya Dillard Smith, and Blair Tindall faced the insults and threats of an unruly audience, as the women tried to engage in civil discussion.

In Minnesota last week, President Obama honored the Minnesota Lynx for the third time in five years. The new NBA champions finished their undefeated season after edging out the Los Angeles Sparks, 72 to 69.

In other sports news, legendary University of Tennessee women’s volunteer basketball coach Pat Summitt died early morning June 28th at the age of 64.

In Pakistan, clerics have legalized transgender marriage. The law grants transgender people full marriage, inheritance, and funeral rights under Islamic law. Gay marriage in Pakistan, however, remains illegal with life imprisonment.

Amnesty International last week voted in Dublin to decriminalize sex work to the anger of many women’s rights groups the world over.

The Supreme Court of the United States made a large move last week when they banned domestic abusers from owning firearms in a 6 – 2 decision. Those committing reckless domestic violence and abuse face misdemeanor charges and now ownership restrictions.

Another Supreme Court ruling has angered many anti-choice voices in Texas, as they reaffirmed and strengthened constitutional protections for abortion rights. In a 5 – 3 decision, they struck down parts of a restrictive Texas law that would’ve significantly reduced the number of abortion providers in the state.

And finally, a story that leads us into the topic of today’s podcast. Trans politics has taken a hold in youth culture across America and throughout the world. What does this mean for today’s youth growing up in a society that embraces and even creates legal protections for gender identity, overriding the protections for girls and women based on sex? WLRN set out to explore the impact of genderist culture on youth, who are speaking in favor of it, and also those who are speaking out against it.

We did a simple YouTube search, with the key words “young trans” and hundreds of videos came up featuring young people talking about their hair styles, their clothing choices, and their desire to be loved and accepted as trans. One young woman tells the BBC that she was “always attracted to girls” even before she became trans, but that she always knew she was a straight male. What is this sort of identity politics doing to today’s youth? Is it beneficial to girls and woman, especially lesbians, for more and more to identify as straight males? When enough young girls identify as transmen, what sort of long-term impact will that have on lesbian culture?

We turned to two lesbian youth speaking out about trans politics, and what it is doing to their generation. Max Robinson is a 20 year old lesbian who used to be a transman until she started noticing that trans ideology serves the interests of males and is heteronormative. She writes on the Fourth Wave Now blog, “We genuinely believe some off-the-wall garbage like that its wrong and evil not to be attracted to penises because of ‘internalized cissexism’. We have been successfully brainwashed to serve males at the expense of our own health and sanity.” Sarah Barr Fraas is another young lesbian who is speaking out against the misogyny inherent in trans politics. Later on in today’s program, you will hear excerpts from a phone interview Thistle Pettersen did with Ms. Fraas about her story of coming to terms with trans politics and youth culture.

***

“Just Cells” by Ali Bee:

We’re all just cells when you get down to the heart of it

When you break it down from the end right to the start of it

We’re all just one big cluster, you’d best believe it buster

Yes, we’re all just cells.

 

Your penis is just cells, your brain is just cells too

So it doesn’t really matter what you call yourself or do

You can call yourself a lady, though you’ve still got a dick

You know it’s all just cells, so it can be your lady stick

 

And we’re all just cells when you get down to the heart of it

If you break it down from the end right to the start of it

We’re all just one big cluster, you’d best believe it buster

Yes, we’re all just cells.

 

And if you’ve got two working legs and you’d rather they not work

They’re just cells, just call them broken and deny that you’re a jerk

Just tell ‘em you’ll rape and kill ‘em if women disagree

Cos there’s a competition, you will be the best lady

 

Because we’re all just cells when you get down to the heart of it

If you break it down from the end right to the start of it

We’re all just one big cluster, you’d best believe it buster

Yes, we’re all just cells.

 

So wave your penis proudly, call it positively female

You’re a proper modern woman, you’re a lady not a she-male

Put your high-heeled shoes on, cos that’s what ladies do

And tell your brother Brian he can be a lady too

 

Because we’re all just cells when you get down to the heart of it

If you break it down from the end right to the start of it

We’re all just one big cluster, you’d best believe it buster

Yes, we’re all just cells.

 

And if you’re feeling sad because your period won’t come

Just buy a super tampon and shove it up your bum

And if you need to change it or need to do a poo

Don’t forget to check which door takes you to the lady’s loo

 

Because we’re all just cells when you get down to the heart of it

If you break it down from the end right to the start of it

We’re all just one big cluster, you’d best believe it buster

Yes, we’re all just cells.

 

I was born this way, it’s biological

I’ve got a lady brain, you see, and so it’s logical

That I should be in charge of setting women free

And by women, I don’t mean women, I mean ladies just like me

 

Because we’re all just cells when you get down to the heart of it

If you break it down from the end right to the start of it

We’re all just one big cluster, you’d best believe it buster

Yes, we’re all just cells.

 

And you can call yourself a sister

And deny that you’re a mister

Yes, it’s all just cells

 

You know it’s really not surprising

They’re so good at menstrualizing

Cos it’s all just cells

Apparently, it’s all just cells.

***

HOLSEY: And that was Ali Bee of alibeemusic.com and her song “Just Cells”. We will now hear an excerpt of the interview Thistle Pettersen did with Sarah Barr Fraas, a college student who lives on the west coast with her girlfriend and her cat Rocks. Sarah spent a lot of time during her first couple of years in college advocating for the admission of men to her women’s college Smith, under grounds that they identified as women. Since hitting peak trans during her junior year, she has worked extensively on developing a healthy skepticism for political ideologies and on creating real sisterhood with actual women. She hopes to pursue a career in law, particularly focusing on sex discrimination.

The excerpt begins with Sarah telling the story of how she was told by her professor that the only way she could stay in the women’s studies course she was enrolled in was to take it at home “and not be in the classroom with the students who felt unsafe in her presence–the transwomen”. Students complained to the professor of feeling unsafe because Sarah raised her hand on the second day of class and made reference to how the uterus is a key importance to female experience. The full length extended interview can be found on WLRN’s website under the “Interview” tab.

***

Sarah Barr FRAAS: Quickly what happened to me was that I signed up for a class that was based around a book by Sylvia Federici called Caliban and the Witch and it’s a historical, critical, Marxist look at the witch hunts of women in Europe. So we’re going through this book and I’m really liking the class. We get to about the second day and someone points out that Federici does not include transwomen in this analysis and that Federici refers to the female body, and that Federici says that uteruses are a female organ. And they’re very upset about this. And I raised my hand and say–because we’re all going through our paper topics so this person is going to be writing about how awful the book is and how exclusive it is. And I raised my hand and I said, “Well, maybe I can write about why the uterus is important to female experience.” And so, I get an email that day from my professor saying—and the subject is “A spot of drama”—that kind of tells you where her, you know, that it’s all about people’s feelings and not necessarily about a classroom learning environment. So, she says basically people are really upset with what you said in class today—I can forward you this email too, it’s kind of too crazy to believe, but she eventually tells me: Look, the transwomen in this class feel unsafe when you question gender identity and she said to me—I’ll never forget—the idea that transwomen are women is not up for debate.

PETTERSEN: Right.

FRAAS: And this is the senior womens’ studies professor at my university. And in many ways, I guess I wasn’t surprised because she’s a queer studies Foucault scholar. I guess I was surprised that it was stated so blatantly, that I couldn’t debate or question that idea.

PETTERSEN: And in writing.

FRAAS: Yes, in writing. And so eventually she just asked me to take the class from home because she said that if I couldn’t, basically, shut up—not that she said it that way—but if I couldn’t stop questioning gender identity stuff, even though our book was supposed to be about female experience, if I couldn’t, you know, basically stop doing that, then I should just take it from home. So, I paid the regular fee to not go to any lectures, or any discussions, and to just send in my papers. And at the end of the class, we had to write a political manifesto, and so I wrote a manifesto about how this, this felt very sexist and I got credit for that! But it was really frustrating to not be able to take the class because I was so interested in the course. And I was willing to sit there and have them think badly of me, I’ve gotten more of a thick skin so I was willing to do that, but it was shocking that I was asked to leave, I guess, yeah.

So my biggest advice to women my age is besides, you know, before you get in any type of group, investigate for yourself, question it, don’t let men no matter what they identify as tell you what to think. Don’t let anyone tell you what to think. But also, I would say, just some other advice, is that, is to get offline as much as possible. Talk to people who you disagree with as much as possible and to form sisterhood as much as possible, especially with women who you might not, from the outset agree with on politics. I found that a lot of my growth as a person and some of my best friendships are really with women who, you know, at first I thought were TERFS! *Laughs* And things like that. So I was really encouraged, you know, use the internet to make groups and then go meet in person, and then go do real activism. Don’t get stuck in these insular, safe space types of liberal communities. I think in general feminist activism, you know, needs to be kind of freed from all of that.

So yeah, I guess just for women to stay strong and to realize that, you know, you know your truth, you know you’re not a horrible bigot. And to just have the, even though it’s so hard the way we’re raised, to just have the confidence to assert your own beliefs and debate them and be open to new ideas because I think that’s what being in college should be about. And I do think I, you know, wasted a lot of time trying to press my ideology onto others even though I thought it was, like, for the greater good instead of listening to all the, you know, amazing women with different opinions and all of that. So, I guess for me it’s really about having the guts to speak your truth, but also to be open to new ideas. That’s really crucial. And I think that’s very undervalued right now in campus activism in general.

PETTERSEN: Thank you Sarah Barr Fraas for a wonderful conversation. What grade did you get in that class that you had to take off campus?

FRAAS: I got a great grade. I think in some ways they might have been trying to cover themselves—

PETTERSEN: Their back.

FRAAS: Because I think they knew that if I, you know, failed this, I mean I think—

PETTERSEN: Right.

FRAAS: By the college policy, I should have failed for not going to the lectures, right?

PETTERSEN: Right.

FRAAS: But I got a good grade, so—

PETTERSEN: But they gave you a—

FRAAS: I’m definitely uncomfortable with that and I’ve been talking to the administration to the school about all of this, about all of the TERF hunt stuff, and letting them know that that was unacceptable. And hopefully some change will happen.

PETTERSEN: And you’ve got a small group of women who you’re working with, you said I think—

FRAAS: Yeah, six of us more every day.

***

“Real Voice” by Thistle Pettersen:

So speak out, speak over, speak under

Speak through the noise

Speak loud so I can hear you

I wanna know you, I wanna hear your real voice

I wanna hear your real voice, your real voice

***

PETTERSEN: To conclude today’s program focused on trans politics and youth in our society, we have WLRN’S Chante Holsey interviewing Catina Hyman, Boston University graduate and IT analyst living and working in San Diego, California. Catina is an African American lesbian, and the mother of a teenage son facing the shifts and struggles in our society regarding gender ideology. Chante began the interview by asking her to tell WLRN listeners why she would like to speak about trans politics and youth.

HYMAN: I was born and raised in Philly, to tell you a little bit about myself. I moved out to California in the mid-90’s after joining the military. I met the love of my life out here. I got married and went on to pursue my BA and my MA in IT. I wanted to speak about trans politics related to transitioning of kids because it’s really heavy in the media today, and I think these kids are being affected by what they see, a lot the messaging that’s going out there. I also wanted to try to get a little human perspective about how these issues affect women like me.

I mean, I see data suggesting that a lion’s share of kids expressing confusion in their younger years, don’t continue to have these feelings past adolescence. Plus, a lot of kids don’t persist in their gender dysphoria. They come to realize that they are, in fact, homosexual or bisexual. The problem I have is that, instead of encouraging questioning kids to take a more conservative latency approach, kids and their parents are being told by trans advocates, doctors, and even politicians, that they have to identify with a gender role as soon as possible or else there could be harm. And thinking back to myself growing up in the eighties and nineties, I guess you could’ve considered me your typical tomboy. As a young girl, sex roles and their rules were pretty oppressive. I don’t really think I was alone in the thinking, but coming to terms with my lesbianism, as I came into young adulthood, pretty much meant a rejection of most of society’s assumptions and expectations, specifically those related to gender and sex roles.

So, for me as a young woman, gender roles and those who enforce them were just overseers, setting the standard of how I as a woman should behave, who I should be attracted to, how I should dress, even what time I should be in at night. So, I and many other young lesbian women of my era rejected them. Things seem different today.

I’m pretty sure if I was growing up in today’s social and political climate, I would’ve been convinced that I must be trans too, which couldn’t be further from my truth. As a lesbian and as a black woman, I’ll probably never conform to society’s gender roles or expectations. So, I’m here to advocate for a world where gender plays no part in our lives. For me, society’s ideals about gender and their roles have always been something to be critical of and not embrace. It’s been great to connect with other women like you, Chante, and the women of WLRN who share this perspective.

HOLSEY: Oh great, thank you, and it’s an honor to work with other women as well. It’s just so good that we can kind of just get together and share our stories.

HYMAN: Yeah.

HOLSEY: How do we shift the narrative so girls and women are not attacked by trans activists and advocates?

HYMAN: Hm, that’s a good one. I think radical feminists get a really bad rap. When we speak on a lot of issues, we get villainized as “man-haters”, ashamed or uptight. So, let’s be honest: most of that criticism, whether from the left or the right is just misogyny.

The other hidden side effect of this is that people get the impression that we’re somehow male rights, and unworthy of the pain. We’re not invincible, and we do have emotional and physical vulnerabilities. I’m of the view that we shouldn’t shy away from exposing those vulnerabilities. In order to not only connect with each other, but to make a more nuanced argument as to how these systems of gender have a very real, negative impact on our lives

HOLSEY: Next question: what is “peak-trans” and how did you reach it?

HYMAN: *Laughs* I say I reached peak trans when I began to see how the gender identity craze is starting to hurt kids, including my own. I think the moment was actually one day, after telling a gay male friend that my son was sweet and caring and didn’t really get into the hookup culture so that opened him up to bullying at school.

This guy turns to me and says my son is probably trans. I kid you not. Just from that little bit of information. I thought that was the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. And that’s kind of the moment that I realized that this ideology was not just horrible to trans-identifying kids, but to anyone who doesn’t live up to society’s silly expectations of gender.

HOLSEY: Wow, that’s terrible. You can’t—it’s not like you can be a strong woman or a sensitive man, you have to be some kind of a weird special snowflake type of thing.

HYMAN: Exactly.

HOLSEY: Wow. What are some resources online you like to refer women to help them grow in their understanding of gender politics in youth?

HYMAN: I just started reading a lot of radical lesbian feminist foundational text, specifically Sheila Jeffreys “The Lesbian Heresy” and “Gender Hurts”. It was a good intro to a lot of the perspectives as related to gender identity and lesbianism. Audre Lorde is also a really good resource for some intersectional perspective. I spend a lot of time on social media accounts like WLRN Facebook, of course–their website is also a great resource. Feminist Current on Facebook is a really good one too, so follow that if you’re not already. Females Like Us and Actual Dykes on Twitter are go-to resources for me, so I’d recommend anyone interested in not just lesbian identity politics but also feminist theory, as well as some of the gender critical stuff we’ve been talking about today, I would check out those resources.

HOLSEY: Thank you so much, Catina, for your time. Thank you.

HYMAN: Oh, you’re welcome Chante, it’s been great. I look forward to hopefully having many future conversations with you.

HOLSEY: Alright.

***

HOLSEY: And that concludes our third edition of Women’s Liberation Radio News for July 7, 2016. Thank you for tuning in. If you’d like to get in touch with us to volunteer or comment, please email wlrnewscontact@gmail.com. We are looking for other women to join us and this radio news service, and would love to see a copy of your resume and references. Though you need not have experience in radio to apply, we are all-volunteer run member-powered radio and are happy to work with you in whatever level experience you have in radio journalism.

Thanks again for listening. I’m Chante Holsey, your co-host.

PETTERSEN: And I’m Thistle Pettersen, signing off from this third edition of WLRN. Be sure to tune in next time on August 4th. We’re always interested to hear what you think, so that email address again is wlrnewscontact@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you.

***

“Michigan” by Thistle Pettersen:

But how will we find our way out of this?

What is the antidote for the patriarchal kiss?

How will we find what needs to be shown?

And then after that

Where is home, tell me

Where is my home?

Cos gender hurts….

 

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