Transgender Women and the Revolutionary Struggle Against Patriarchy

by Comrade Zohar

I made a mistake, a very stupid mistake, and it cost me my job. I wore a bra on my first day to work. As far as my bosses were concerned, I was a man, and I initially intended to play along with that act. But something broke for me that day. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t pretend to be a man. I couldn’t put on that mask again. So I compromised with myself, I decided to wear a bra as a silent protest against the categorization of me as a man.

Being on nearly a year of HRT, I was visibly not a man, but I didn’t look like a woman either, let alone sound like one. I was genderless and androgynous, as I prefer to be. Evidently, the management noticed. I did everything I was supposed to do on my first day and nothing seemed wrong, until I received a text message a couple of hours after my shift ended, that I was “not fit” for the job. According to my transgender friends, that is the common phrasing for “We see that you’re trans and we don’t want you here”. I think I cried that day.

I am now on the cusp of homelessness due to losing that job. As a Maoist, my friends often tell me that I “get how things work”, i.e. I know what capitalism is and how it functions so I know what to expect of it. But that knowledge doesn’t do anything when you have no money and you’re about to have no shelter. When everything you buy is from money borrowed from friends. When you have to drain other friends’ savings to get the rent paid on time. All the anti-capitalist theory in the world doesn’t do much when you’re without hope.

All of this because I wore a bra to work.

This humiliation and deprivation is what countless numbers of trans women have to live through. We either have to pretend to be men in our workplaces or get fired, or harassed out of our jobs, or worse. We end up doing sex work, and living on the streets. We die young, often by our own hands. It was this humiliation and deprivation that made me turn from Liberalism to Communism. 

I am constantly reminded of the suffering and torture of trans women. It goes beyond my personal experiences. So many of my trans woman friends are rape survivors. So many of them have done sex work. So many of them have been abused by their families. So many of them have been physically assaulted. Liberals debate about whether trans women are an oppressed group or merely entitled men. My reality has settled that debate. 

The philosopher Theodor Adorno once said “The need to let suffering speak is a condition of all truth”. If that is true, then the suffering of trans women in this society is a collective scream of agony echoing across the landscape, across communities, across streets, and across the pitiful and miserable “communist parties” that dominate the “Radical Left” in America, dominated by men who abuse and rape us and make fun of our very existence. 

The scream of trans women is a scream for subjectivity in a society that has made us into objects. It is a scream for self-recognition in a society that forces racial, gender and economic categories onto us. 

It’s a scream that every trans woman hears. And it tortures her. She is constantly reminded of it. It gives her nightmares. Night and day, she sees her fellow trans women brutally abused and deprived in unspeakable ways, she sees her fellow trans women isolate themselves, or commit suicide, and all the while she is thinking “When is my turn? When am I next?”. It doesn’t matter how bad she has it, she knows she has yet to suffer the worst. She doesn’t realize it, but she is already dying.

Most of all though, the scream of trans women is a cry for a classless society, in the truest sense of the term. A true classless society would recognize Monique Wittig’s dictum: “as there are no slaves without masters, there are no women without men.” The ruthless classification of human beings into male and female, the equivocation of all things through commodification, the racialization of colonized peoples: these are the roots of trans women’s oppression and suffering.

Thus, any true Communist movement– and by extension, any organization based on the principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism– must see to it that these roots are cut; that a society beyond the categories of “man” and “woman” is realized, where transgender women can exist beyond coercive categories, such as gender or race, free to define themselves as they see fit, as free people owning the means of production in common. 

This society can only be realized in the flames of People’s War and Cultural Revolution. Transgender women must be unleashed against the institutions of gender, colonialism and commodity fetishism, they must be given the power to smash these systems of violence with revolutionary zeal and dignified rage. Maoist formations must therefore completely open themselves to transgender women, transgender women from colonized peoples especially. Transgender women must be given positions of leadership in every level of organization, they must have the power to denounce and criticize elements of male chauvinism and transmisogyny in the formation. Transgender sex workers must be fully recognized as part of the revolutionary class and organized accordingly. Transgender women must be trained for Peoples War, to give them the means to destroy their oppressors.

Any true Communist Party in the so-called US must be a trans women’s party as much as it is a worker’s party. It can be a vanguard of the Proletariat in America only after it has integrated itself among the masses of transgender women. The violence and dehumanization that trans women suffer has afflicted countless people, but it has also turned many (if not most) trans women into hardened revolutionaries. Go into any trans women’s circle and you’ll find seething hatred and mockery of the police, the military, the wealthy, bosses and fascists. These women are burning for a workers revolution in America. They’re angry, they’re depressed, and they’re frustrated with the bourgeois political system. Any true Communist Party will see to it that this anger and depression is given a voice. 

Transgender women have been mercilessly harassed, beaten, raped, murdered, tortured, lobotomized, institutionalized, imprisoned, forced out of employment and pushed to suicide. This humiliation can only go on for so long before there is a breaking point.