MSPEN -- Trans Liberation: a movement whose time had passed

Annunziata Faes


While there has been a recent increase in the visibility of transgender lifestyles, the behaviors associated with this visibility -- transvestitism, transgenderism, transexualism -- are themselves a relatively new iteration of a cross cultural phenomenon which, nonetheless, has a historically specific, modern character. In modernity, these behaviors have challenged the biological basis of gender and the fixed nature of sexual identity to procreation within traditional family structures. This separation of procreative sex from gender has depended on an ability to lead life outside of the traditional family. This opportunity has been historically presented by both wage labor, which has allowed for a private life formed by the exchange of one’s wages, and by the movement for an international socialist revolution, which had fought for advances in legislation and scientific research and had fomented the genesis of concepts we often take for granted today such as transvestite and transsexual. Advancements in sexual science and reforms for both the SPD and sexual reformers were conceived of as a means of achieving a larger goal of revolution. However, in taking the November Revolution as the realization of this goal, the raison d'être of trans liberation shifted to one of existential conformity which resembles the goals of the movement today, viz. that simply being or embodying a trans identity within society as it already exists is a political or revolutionary activity in and of itself. Today the movement for trans liberation has focused on the opposition between capitalism and transgender individuals, which has elided the constitutive character of both wage labor and the political party, and advocates a redistribution of wealth achieved through increasing medical coverage, legal protections and public representation. Instead, I would recommend a historical approach to understanding the trans phenomenon, which has its roots in Germany as a function of the homosexual emancipation movement. It was here that the fundamental aspects of contemporary transition -- including the distinction between homosexuality, transvestitism and transexualism -- were formulated and institutionalized. Hopefully, in doing so, the struggle for the emancipation of gender can be understood as a part of the broader history of the struggle for freedom, not opposed to it.

trans - transgender - transsexual - LGBT - LGBTQ - political economy - Germany - Weimar Republic - November Revolution - reformism - revolution - gender identity - sexual identity - technology - gender studies - gender violence - party - SPD - sexuality - sexual liberation - trans liberation