“I support the concept of radical inclusion and I believe the outcome of such would be a more productive movement of political resistance. As the allied sibling of a gay man, my awareness of LGBTQI oppression was acute and early. As a survivor of the plague years, the years between 1981 and 1996, I’m sad to say that I lost many friends, co-workers and an infinite amount of acquaintances. These experiences sparked in me a deep concern for LGBTQI rights.
Riki Wilchins book ‘Queer Theory, Gender Theory’ is a call to political and social action. Ze defines the concept of transgender rights using a broad umbrella and states that all people who are visibly queer face common political problems, thus making natural allies. Ze argues that gender is a legitimate human rights issue and underscores the importance of it’s inclusion in the civil rights movement. Emphasizing that these rights not only require laws, governmental policies and judicial verdicts but also social rights; the right to be you without fear, shame, or omission.
Foucault demonstrated for us how the church, state, and medicine have become the regulating bodies over peoples identities and sexuality, so much so that individuals have been coerced into willingly managing their own private behavior in ways they would not have ever done so before. The different and the marginalized have frequently been those who suffered the most under this new Science and are often those with the most to lose. Sadists, masochists, transsexuals, cross-dressers, the intersexed, homosexuals, and lesbians - all were deemed deviants in need of treatment.
Riki also addresses the issue of internal discrimination causing fractures in the
movement and stresses the need for movements of liberation to focus on flattening hierarchies not establishing new ones. Along the lines of Goffman, Riki describes how informal social control has and is placing limitation on individuals. Gender-based oppression is accomplished through the power of the state: police, courts, and laws but it is also accomplished and reinforced through peer pressure, ridicule, shame, and ostracism. If we wish to succeed in transcending gender lines we must not only change laws and policies but also social attitudes around gender harassment.
Interestingly this book was published in 2004, a decade ago, yet it remains critically relevant today. There has been some external shift in public awareness and we can see that some progress is occurring. However, don’t be fooled, discrimination both formal and informal continues to abound. Internal fractures of the movement continue to abound as well: one can cite how feminists such as Shelia Jeffreys still wish to exclude trans women from the movement. Additionally, in most states, it’s legal to fire someone for being transgender, and transgender people can’t serve in the military. The time is now to heed the call of voices such as Riki Wilkins!”