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Stop the far-right campaign against trans and non-binary people!

Canan Sahin

May 23, 2023
Anti-trans hatred is one of the two pillars of far-right mobilization today, the other one still being anti-refugee hatred, which seems to have been dormant to a certain extent in the US and in Canada after a peak in 2015 and 2016, but still vibrant in the UK. 
The distinguishing character of the far-right historically is their vocal, dangerous and militant racism. Now, this movement of hatred has wedded its racism to transphobia seamlessly everywhere. Just as they target the most vulnerable of migrants, refugees, they attack the most vulnerable among the LGBTQ2S+ people: transgender, non-binary, transsexual, gender non-conforming and even gender-questioning people. Sadly, gender-critical or trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) choir gives the anti-gender diversity right-wing legitimacy from the left. 
We are encountered with a situation of double-fencing: one around biologically reductionist binary gender norm and the other along the borders today. The putative anti-trans mobilization of the far-right seems to have been concentrated on trying to block Drag Story times in public libraries and some other venues. In that very community event where children of various genders listen to a story from a Drag Queen, whose visible transgression of biologically reductionist sex-gender congruity potentially helps children to open their horizon about possibilities about human gender variance, the far-right perceives a threat to the rigid structures of gender binary and repackages this fear under the guise of child-protection. 
They are right in sensing a threat to biological essentialism because for almost a century, trans and gender non-conforming people have been fighting for recognition, affirmation and transition without being pathologized medically, stigmatized socially and discriminated politically. All the gains that have been made in terms of human-rights clauses (Bill C-16 in Canada), gender-affirming medical and psychological care during childhood and adolescence (some states in the USA), gender-recognition based on self-declaration of identity rather than medical certification (Gender Recognition Act in the UK) have been won after decades of fierce fight by trans people. 
Reproductive justice and trans rights
Given that restriction on abortion rights in the US happened in the same atmosphere a year ago, it is safe to say that the priority of the far-right agenda is geared towards controlling gender expression, sexual orientation and reproductive rights globally. The same way pro-life movement intends to block the safe paths available for women who choose not to reproduce, anti-trans hatred intends to block the safe paths available to children and adults of gender-variance to transition and public expression. 
In its core, they aim to surveil human bodies, secure binary cis-gender norms and heterosexual family institutions. The outrage of the far-right is facilitated and given a green-light by the conservative right-wing politicians, coercive state institutions like the police and right-wing media sensationalism. 
In the US, this year alone, 533 anti-trans bills have been introduced across 49 states by the Republicans. Sadly, 54 of them have passed so far with alarming consequences for trans children, their families, trans-affirming educational consultants and mental and medical healthcare practitioners. Some of the legislation bans trans and non-binary kids from joining sports teams; some lock them out of the bathrooms; some introduce punitive measures for the parents seeking gender-affirmative care; some oblige school and community members to out the children they are supporting; some ban healthcare providers from prescribing puberty blockers and hormones to trans adolescents; some even introduce penalties for prosecutors who refuse to take legal action in compliance with the new legislations. 
This is a full-fledged legal-political attack on trans children and their parents by the Republicans in preparation for their 2024 election campaign. While the state assemblies carry out the legal-scriptural attack, the far-right carries out the same function by mobilizing hatred physically on the streets. Without beating the latter with a united front by mobilizing the workers’ unions, community activists and the youth, we cannot defeat the former. 
Instances of anti-hatred mobilizations in so-called Canada in Peterborough, Toronto and Ottawa against far-right show us how our ranks can indeed expose the far-right agenda, inspire solidarity at a greater scale and debunk the hypocritical arguments of the far-right about child-protection.
One critical question for us to answer is the timing of these attacks. Why are we witnessing “a war on trans people” now? 
Today, global capitalism is grappling with a multitude of crises: cost-of-living crisis which manifests itself with high inflation rates globally, climate crisis which has taken the earth to the brink of collapse, and a political crisis which has destabilized the centrist status-quo, creating far-right tendencies on one hand and triggering massive movements of workers and youth on the other. Whenever capitalism is faced with a deep and systemic crisis, there are two major forces in place. 
One tends to be the fascistic forces who aim to obscure the real class antagonism at the heart of capitalism by creating false hostilities through scapegoating ethnic minorities, marginalized communities and gender-variant people, and the other one is the tendency of working class politics, which serves to demystify the roots of oppression and expose the class nature of this exploitative system. 
The former tendency responds to the crisis by attempting to tighten territorial borders, redefine so-called nations and draw contours around binary gender-roles. Their motivations have always been reactionary and conservative, full of fear for change and full of hatred for those who threaten the class-harmony, heterosexual family and national integrity. 
We have seen more secular versions of the far-right pathetically trying to base their cissexist, transmisogynist and colonialist rhetoric on so-called evolutionary biology and psychology; and we have witnessed a resurrection of religious bigotry whose naturalization discourse of inequalities is mainly borrowed from a transcendental order of things that should not be disturbed. With its secular and ascetical wings, the far-right today seeks to develop a response to the crisis of insecurity in society so that they can manufacture a coherent interpretation of the crisis for the masses. 
Using Trotsky’s words, fascism is in fact a plebian (commoner in ancient Rome – resonating today with the “ordinary” masses the far-right frequently refers to) movement of the masses endorsed by big capital to restore order. 
In the collaboration between the far-right and the Republicans today in the US, we can sense a glimpse of this tacit alliance. As the crisis of capitalism deepens, which is the most highly likelihood, we will witness further polarization. Therefore, it is the task of the revolutionaries everywhere to mobilize workers, students, and all the community activists in defense of the trans rights. Those who think it is the task of the police to protect the Drag Queens, or it is the task of the elected officials to prevent anti-trans bills are at great fault.
Without mass mobilization of the workers and the oppressed, it is not possible to defeat the far-right, crush their legitimacy, weaken their ranks, confuse their supporters and prevent their growth.
Another critical question that concerns those who seek to understand the centuries-old gender prison concerns the root of the oppression on transgender people. Does anti-trans hatred emanate from the cis-heterosexist system? Yes. It does. Then, where does the cis-heterosexist system come from? How is it related with the class character of capitalism?
The premise of Marxist theory is that ideas that prevail in society do not come from thin air. Human consciousness is embedded in the social and material context that provides a constant flux of input towards and feedback into the ways we make sense of ourselves, others and our conditions. When matrimonial or matrifocal societies transformed into class societies based on tilting the land using tools and animals like oxen, not only the division of labour changed, but also it acquired a gendered dimension. Reproductive capacities of cis-women came to be perceived as disruptive when it came to working the land and beneficial when it came to meeting the needs of those who controlled the surplus since this capacity can be used to reproduce the prospective generations of labor force. 
Historical defeat of cis-women went hand in hand with the reinforcement of the biologically essentialist notions of womanhood and manhood, whose union must be secured in a wedlock both to reproduce the division of labor at publicly and domestically and produce the next generations of labourers. This consciousness, in this case, consciousness of the ruling class cis-men, permeated the masses, creating gender norms through both overtly coercive mechanisms and pervasive theological or mythic ideologies. 
What colonialists such as the Portuguese, the Spanish, and the British did in the Americas, Africa and the East Asia was subjecting gender-variant and non-heterosexual existences and orientations to genocide. Two-spirited people in so-called Canada came to embody the non-conforming and rebellious features of Indigenous peoples, giving further legitimacy to violent colonial practices. 
Capitalism and reproduction
Modern capitalism, on the other hand, was oriented by a profit-motive without a clear formula to address the reproductive imperatives of capital accumulation. Early mass migration into urban areas as a result of enclosures in Britain created a workforce consisting of women, children and men, whose average life-span was almost half as long as the upper class people. 
By redrafting civil codes around marriage, family and childcare, capitalism sought to solve the crisis of reproduction similar to the early class societies, albeit by generating more mature institutions. With scientific and medical developments, capitalism also created taxonomies of sexual orientations and gender expressions, pathologizing some and normalizing others with a more secular language. 
When we think of set of discriminatory ideas around sexism, homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny and cissexism, on surface level, they seem to be operating in an unequal power dynamic between men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, and cis-gender and trans people. However, each set of ideas have a source and a purpose related with the class interests, which underpins the social relations in capitalist system. 
As a system based on appropriation of surplus value from labor, be it in manufacturing or service industries, the primary objective of capitalism is to secure its extended reproduction by displacing the cost of subsistence of workers out of its inventory as much as possible. For capitalism, the episodes of deep crisis – now we are in a prolonged crisis of stagnation – are also times when reproduction of the system as a whole is faced with a crisis: a crisis of care. 
Privatizing healthcare by opening a vitally important sector to profit, abandoning the long-term care to the mercy of private institutions, distributing welfare crumbles only aimed at families with children, leaving people who do not have kinship support and children on their own without affordable housing, the state and capitalists make deliberate choices in service of the long-term interests of capital accumulation. 
The far-right responds to the erosion of safety nets by assuming the role of a public police for our bodies. Our response, on the other hand, should be based on a desire to smash the binary gender prison since working class does not have any interests in the surveillance and policing of gender roles. 
By showing a broad based and united solidarity with trans people in our schools, workplaces, unions and neighbourhoods, we can expose the far-right for what they are: “a bulk of fascists consisting of human dust”. 

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