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Local environmentalists reject trans-misogyny

Ancestral Pride and Rising Tide Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories speak out against Lierre Keith

by Sasha Mann

Ancestral Pride logo
Ancestral Pride logo

Also posted by Sasha Mann:



The radical anti-capitalist environmental collective Rising Tide Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories and indigenous land defense group Ancestral Pride are among the nearly forty groups, including Greenpeace USA, who signed a mass letter voicing opposition to a notably trans-misogynist speaker.

The letter, posted on February 17 on the Earth First! website, is addressed to the organizers of the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC), an annual event at the University of Oregon, in Eugene.

The event generally boasts an attendance of over 3,000 people, according to its website, and is considered one of the most prominent environmental law conferences in the world.

The controversial speaker in question is Lierre Keith, co-founder — with Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay — of the environmental group Deep Green Resistance and a trans-exclusive self-identified “radical feminist”.

Trans-exclusive radical feminist (TERF) is a term coined in 2008 to describe a subsection of feminists who, starting in the early '70s, attempted to negate trans women's identities and to push them out of “women only” feminist spaces.

Keith and other TERFs are often characterized as transphobic, but trans-misogynist may be a more accurate term, because the brunt of their disdain is directed towards trans women, not trans men or non-binary people.

The clearest example of Keith's contempt for the identity of trans women is an article she co-authored with Deep Green Resistance member Derrick Jensen. The article, “The Emperor’s New Penis,” (heavy trigger warning for transphobia) published in CounterPunch on June 21, 2013, refers to trans women as men, and compares the transgender movement with eugenics.

A frequently-cited leaked email and the testimony of Aric McBay, a DGR co-founder and former member, provide further evidence of Keith's transmisogynistic views.

Xhopakelxhit, a founder of Ancestral Pride, finds anyone mixing transphobia with environmentalism suspect.

Ancestral Pride is a group based in Maaqtusiis, off the coast of Tofino, BC, that exists to support “indigenous reoccupation of ancestral lands,” according to their website.

“All I can say is transphobia and gender stuff has no place in the fight for the planet and anyone who is bringing these matters up and using them to obstruct and create divisions smells like a fucking rat to me,” Xhopakelxhit said in an online interview with the Vancouver Media Co-op (VMC).

Xhopakelxhit noted that the brand of radical feminism espoused by Keith and Deep Green Resistance goes against many Indigenous concepts of gender.

According to Xhopakelxhit, “spirits are as they are,” which contrasts with the radical feminist view that sex is biological, while gender is a social construction.

“Trans people are highly respected among many indigenous tribes because they carry medicine,” Xhopakelxhit said. To her, if Keith wants to be an ally to Indigenous struggle, then she should show more respect for Indigenous world views.

In their “Radical Feminism FAQs,” section, Deep Green Resistance skirts the question “What about two-spirits or other indigenous third/other gender roles?” by saying that “non-indigenous people have no right to an opinion on this issue.”

For Rising Tide Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories, the decision to sign on to the mass letter posted by Earth First! was unanimous.

Rising Tide has a Basis Of Unity statement which is used to guide the collective's actions. The principles reject all systems of oppression, including patriarchy and transphobia.

Collective member Lisa Barrett, speaking as a member, but not on behalf of the group, told the VMC making Rising Tide a safer space for marginalized people was a key priority, and that the group makes a deliberate effort to not assume a person's gender.

At the start of Rising Tide meetings, members introduce themselves with their names and their preferred gender pronoun. Barrett says that simply asking that “basic question” goes a long way.

“When it came to the issue of transphobia and the [PIELC] conference,” Barrett said, “I don't think there was any question in any of our minds about the fact that that was pretty odious.”

Barrett sees transphobia as a contemporary example of a group being set up to be hated and feared in order to maintain power relations.

“The perverseness of essentially saying that [trans people] are anti-feminist by choosing to be who they are is just absurd,” Barrett said.

Not every group in Vancouver disagrees with Keith's trans-exclusive stance on gender though.

Hilla Kerner, of Vancouver Rape Relief, wrote a letter in support of Keith speaking at PIELC.

The letter calls Keith an “outstanding radical feminist environmental activist.”

“We are aware of some vicious attempts to discredit and undermine Ms Keith’s important analysis of women’s oppression and her fight for women’s freedom,” Kerner writes, “including women’s right to gather and self-organize in women only space.”

Vancouver Rape Relief has encountered controversy before for not accepting trans women into their women-only spaces. In 2000, in response to accusations of human rights violations, VRR released an article called “Feminists Protect the Idea of a Woman-only Space,” which argues that trans women have male privilege due to their socialization. The article says, “we do not agree that every person that honestly claims to be a woman or to wish to be a woman is one.”

In contrast, Barrett said that though Rising Tide collective members were aware of not wanting to create more divisions within the environmental movement, it was ultimately decided that not responding to transphobia would be against the group's principles .

“What kind of future are we fighting for?” Ancestral Pride's Xhopakelxhit asked. “One where we abuse two spirits and trans spirits because of white women's fears about being displaced? Or do we want one free of this kind of bullshit and where everyone is free to be who they are?”

Sasha Mann is a journalism student and musician living on Coast Salish territories, with a particular interest in queerness, intersectional feminism, radical environmentalism and science fiction.

 

 

 

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Comments

bullshit

i call bullshit on this article.

erasure of concerns and tokenism does not make one an ally. ancestral pride has shown nothing of the sort, but homo/transphobia and vitrol ignorance. sad indeed!

 

Curious to know more

Hi Tami,

I'm a local editor with the VMC and I helped out with pursuing this story. If there's an angle/voice/facts that you feel we missed or misrepresented, I'm curious to know more and would be interested in talking more about it over email or phone. Feel free get in touch at nmarshik[at]mediacoop.ca.

Thanks,

Nat

allyship, capicity building, meaningful solidary takes work*

yes - do email me at tamistarlight at gmail.com

 

and gender stuff ..........pretty telling quote.

hiy hiy

tami

ps....just so you and anyone else who comes online can see not everything is as some claim. i don't go out of my way these days much for stuff like this, but my experience is much of the opposite of this story, with a small exception (somewhat) of Lisa Barrett. i support her intiatives because she does come from a good way.(motives & life experience)

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