Lierre Keith, trans-hatred, veganism, feminism, liberation: a start

I want to thank the Transmeditations Blog for bringing this information to our attention in a post that elucidates Lierre Keith’s really unsettling (to say the least) and quite explicit hatred, sterotyping, and writing off of trans/gender queer folk. Please read it.

I repost this not in an attempt to take a shallow dig at Lierre Keith, though it is challenging for me not to take that dig. Indeed, this post, Keith’s simplistic and offensive comparisons between various complicated social identities, her lack of willingness to see the vast, matrix-like complicatedness of gender, sexuality, bodies, and minds, her use of assumption and stereotype, and her rehashing of old theories/writings from a particular group of notoriously trans-hating “radical”, white, US second-wave feminists — this all gave me a sick feeling in my stomach and made me feel deep anger and sadness. However, I’m reposting it because I want to question the whole idea that one can be effectively involved in radical food politics without a substantiated, nuanced, creative, and non-reactionary (a.k.a. fear based, backwards-looking) exploration of gender.

Another radical vegan explores Lierre Keith’s rabid trans-hatred here.

For now, let me say this: In this blog, we seek to challenge not only Lierre Keith (honestly, she doesn’t matter all that much in the grand scheme, not even really in the semi-grand scheme) but to challenge ideas being put forth by generally well-intentioned but reactionary critiques of veganism. Often these ideas leave out veganism’s critical and real connections to ecology, capitalism, gender, racism, and human rights in general. Lierre Keith represents just one of a group of thinkers who disconnect these issues explicitly and implicitly (usually implicitly). Indeed, hardly any of her core ideas are original. It is the picture she paints, the picture she supposedly lives, which lends itself to a larger analysis that goes far beyond her.

We are not only vegans, but human rights advocates. We see human and non-human liberation as intricately intertwined. We see connections between gender and veganism that go on for miles. These issues go beyond, even, ecology and environmentalism, leading us to questions like: What of domination, cages, jails, in general? What of questioning the very existence of breeding animals to be captive farming instruments/objects? What of our rabid defensiveness around this issue, our unwillingness to even entertain the  idea of a world without hundreds of billions of animal objects? What of the fact that animal agriculture represents the most large-scale, violent manipulation of reproductive systems, others’ sex, and bodies-in-general that has ever existed? What of challenging the deep-seated construction of the human/animal dichotomy that so mirrors the false dichotomies of human identities (black/white, man/woman, et al.?) I want to write a larger post on this issue at some point… a post about vegan feminism, about human and animal liberation, about so many ways in which veganism must be considered as a radical, liberatory philosophy and practice directly related to, and intertwined with, human liberation. I’ll write that post soon. For now, good night, and don’t forget to revolt.

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6 Responses to Lierre Keith, trans-hatred, veganism, feminism, liberation: a start

  1. Noah says:

    Did you get my comment explaining that Carol J. Adams is cut from the same cloth as Lierre Keith? I was wondering if you are actively choosing not to publish it or if there is another explanation. Thanks.

  2. Noah says:

    I appreciate the effort to not merely take a “dig” at Kieth, but in order to do so, you would have to be accountable for transphobia not just among people who are anti-vegan, but among vegans as well. It was ironic to critique Kieth’s “use of assumption and stereotype, and her rehashing of old theories/writings from a particular group of notoriously trans-hating ‘radical’, white, US second-wave feminists” and then direct people to Carol J. Adams’ work when she is cut from the same cloth.

    Uncritically promoting the work of people like Adams is transphobia in action. You linked to The Vegan Ideal in order to bash Kieth without noticing that there are far more posts there confronting transphobia among ecofeminists such as Adams. If you want to be an ally, educate yourself about why Adam’s wealthy, white, cis, anti-sex, anti-sex worker, pro-police feminism is obsolete and harmful to the vegan movement. Here are some articles to get you started:

    The Sexual Politics of Carol J. Adams
    Talking About Transphobia and Ecofeminism With Ida Hammer
    Anti-Transsexual Investigations of Embodiment and Bodiliness
    Transphobia and Carol Adams
    Feminism Beyond Transphobia
    Transphobia and Feminists for Animal Rights
    Challenging Feminist Transphobia

    And those are just the posts that specifically mention Adams, but there are other posts there that further explain transphobia among vegan advocates.

    If you “want to question the whole idea that one can be effectively involved in radical food politics without a substantiated, nuanced, creative, and non-reactionary (a.k.a. fear based, backwards-looking) exploration of gender” then you need to ask Adams (and yourself) some hard questions about how trans women fit into her feminism. Because they don’t. And continuing to promote her directly contributes to the erasure of trans women and has real-life consequences such as exclusion from women’s shelters, violence, denial of health care, and oppression by the police.

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I do want to clear up that we don’t uncritically support anyone, and we’ve never uncritically supported Carol Adams or anyone else. We have a couple of Carol Adams books posted in our resources space, and, I think, this one link in this post, which I think is a far cry from uncritically supporting her. I also want to point out that I think you are making assumptions about our genders by linking to your “baby with the bathwater” piece and, it seems, lumping us in with cis folks and non-queer folks without knowing who we are, or how we define.

    What’s up here is that I haven’t read the sources you posted, and thus far haven’t known about Carol Adams’ transphobia, so I will definitely look at those and educate myself. I certainly don’t intend to give undo credit to people who are so problematic and I certainly apologize if I’ve done that by accident. Thank you for the information, sincerely.

    Best,
    Carolyn

  4. Cerien says:

    Okay, I’m transgendered. I’m also vegan, and a radical feminist. My roommate/non-romantic life partner is a fucking FTM. This conflation needs to stop. Saying radfems are transphobic is, at best, hugely misleading, simplistic, and a lot of the time it’s just straight-up fucking lying. I get this shit all the time, and I get pissed at it all the time, because every time I want to think about transsexuality and transpolitics in more than a black and white way, I get slammed as being “transphobic.” Fuck that noise twice.

    On a milder note, I’m largely uninterested in Carol Adams’s work because she’s… pretty dry. It’s a huge mistake to confuse academic dehydration with being logical, reasonable, or worthy of attention, but everyone gets drawn to that concept and it fucking pisses me off.

    • Cerien- I’m with you on this in a lot of respects. There is definitely one particular strand of white US feminists from the second wave who are transphobic, and Lierre Keith seems to come right out of that strand. But the word “radical” means a lot of complicated things and not all “radical feminists” are of Lierre Keith et al’s ilk.

      As for Carol Adams, I appreciate some of her work, and there are other parts of her work I don’t appreciate so much. As for her alleged transphobia specifically, after going through almost all the posts linked in the above posts, I haven’t seen any claims Adams has personally made that are remotely as problematic as Keith’s (I could be totally missing something and am open to reading more.) There are some interesting and important critiques of her anti-pornography stance. While that’s related in some ways to some aspects of some trans movements, being anti pornography is not the same as being transphobic. Most of the Adams critique re: transphobia seems to stem back to the fact that she admired and worked with Mary Daly. The fact that an association can be made between two people does not mean that, if one was intensely transphobic, the other is too. I guess where I stand is that I don’t uncritically accept Adams or anyone else, nor do I feel it is useful to uncritically reject them.

      cz

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