Are Some Trans People Disabled? Are Some Disabled People Trans?

Yes and yes, and these are two (but only two) of the reasons why feminist philosophers need to do a much better job than they have thus far done to integrate analyses of ableism into their interventions in the ongoing debates in philosophy about gender and transgender and their work more generally. The interventions into the debates thus far have largely isolated the apparatuses of sex and gender from other apparatuses of power with which they are co-constitutive and mutually reinforce. As I pointed out in a post here earlier in the week, when feminist interventions into the current debates or philosophy more generally fail to take account of ableism (or for that matter racism, or nationalism, or ageism, for example) they must be confronted and challenged for the role that they play in the perpetuation of hierarchies and exclusions in philosophy and elsewhere.

The other day, only three days after I put the aforementioned post on the blog, and for the second time in little over a week, I requested that members of the BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Facebook group not promote a particular item produced in the gender/transgender debates in philosophy within the group because it is ableist. (I have never had occasion to make such a request before.) There are at least five disabled trans people in the group, some of whom I have known for years, whose self-respect and humanity could have been jeopardized if these interventions in the debates had been posted with commendation in our group. The self-respect and humanity of other disabled members of BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Facebook could have been likewise compromised if these pieces of writing had been posted in our group.

The first item that I asked group members not to promote in the group is Mark Lance’s Inside Higher Education article, which is motivated and conditioned by the terms intellectually dense and morally obtuse. As I pointed out in a recent post here, the article demeans disabled people. I can’t find the words to adequately convey how disheartening it was to see nondisabled feminist philosophers who actively claim to advance the interests of disabled philosophers share and commend links to that article on Facebook, even after I drew attention to the ableism of the article on various posts about it and was disparaged in comments for doing so.

The second item that I asked members of BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Facebook not to promote in our group comprises the letter posted to the Blog of the APA in which dozens of feminist philosophers protested the singularity that gender critical feminists claim to perceive in current feminist philosophical work on sex and gender. The singular focus on sex and gender that the feminist philosophers who signed the letter recapitulate through it is thus startling, especially given the composition of this array of signatories. As I noted in our group, this letter too is ableist: it implicitly endorses the ableism of Lance’s article, ignores the ableism of the letter that Lance criticizes, and disabled specialists in feminist philosophy of disability are underrepresented among the list of feminist philosophers who composed it.

On Facebook posts of some philosophers who shared the Blog of the APA letter, a number of disabled scholars have articulated their deep dismay and disappointment in the feminist philosophers who composed/signed the letter. I sincerely hope that at least some of these feminist philosophers took notice of these sentiments, will reflect on the consequences of their actions, and will find ways to make amends to disabled philosophers (among other disabled scholars).

The BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Facebook group is designed to be a mutually respectful space in which disabled and other marginalized philosophers and our associates can educate and support each other about the systemic apparatuses of power that shape the material character and horizons of our lives; about how these apparatuses are constituted and operate in philosophy, the academy, and society at large; and about strategies of movement to transform them.

I will not share with members of BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Facebook a letter or other contribution to feminist philosophy (or other area of philosophy) that implicitly and actively disregards my existence in philosophy; ignores the existence of other disabled (feminist) philosophers, including disabled trans philosophers; and systematically precludes attention to ableism when it should instead work to do otherwise.

Follow BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY on Twitter @biopoliticalph

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