No Room for Dissenting Opinions: Statement from a Former Member of Deep Green Resistance

17 May

deep_green_transphobia

cross-posted from Facebook

I am an ex-member of Deep Green Resistance. The entire chapter of DGR that I was a part of left in the spring of last year, largely in response to the trans-exclusive policy and the Radical Feminist position on gender that was being adopted by the organization at that time.

When I had first joined the organization, I was told by key founders of the organization, including Aric McBay – who is the primary author of the book Deep Green Resistance and the sole author of the strategy that the organization promotes, Decisive Ecological Warfare – that the Radical Feminist position was not the official position of the organization.

When it became clear that the staff of DGR was intent on making the Radical Feminist position the official position of the organization, our local chapter tried to open spaces for dialogue on this issue. We were denied. It was made clear to us that there was no room in the organization for dissenting opinions on the subject of gender, and that if we didn’t like what the organization was doing on this front, then we had to leave.

It was also made clear to us that a particular member of our chapter, a wonderful organizer who also happened to be a transwoman, who consistently expressed a tremendous amount of willingness to compromise with the national organization on their position on trans people and trans access, was not going to be met halfway. There was to be no meaningful conversation. There was to be no debate. There wasn’t even a compassionate attempt to break down and explain where people with the Radical Feminist position were coming from. We were told to get with the program or leave, so we left, and other chapters and individuals followed, including Aric McBay himself.

Since then, I have been honest with people asking about my former involvement with DGR and about the organization itself, but I have refused to bash the organization entirely. Most people who I have heard criticizing the ideas of DGR clearly have never read the book and clearly do not understand anything about what the organization is actually saying about how the strategy of Decisive Ecological Warfare can help stop the destruction of the planet in the time we have left. They have often grossly mischaracterized DGR’s position on a number of things, and I have done everything that I can to correct them. The one thing that I have not been able to defend – and will not defend – is the behavior they exhibited at the time of our departure and their adoption of an unyielding Radical Feminist position on trans people.

The reason I am stepping forward now is this: I do not want people unfamiliar with the material in the book Deep Green Resistance, the writings of Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen, and anti-civ thought in general, to associate or equate these things with transphobia. One of my greatest fears has been that people would come to do so, which is one of the reasons that I and many ex-members of DGR have gone out of their way to not bash the organization. But in the conversation that’s unfolding right now on the internet, I can see that people are beginning to associate anti-civ thought with the Rad Fem position on gender and with trans-exclusivity.

I am a queer male (and for the Radical Feminists reading this, I refer to myself as queer not because of a post-modernist understanding of gender and sexuality, but because I am against assimilation and the mainstream gay rights movement agenda and identify myself as “queer” and not “gay” in order to make that distinction). I am in community with a number of beautiful, powerful trans people. I completely support their right to dignity, their freedom to do what they will with their own bodies and spirits, and their struggles against the violence that they experience. I am also anti-civ. I believe that it is crucial that radicals of all stripes come to understand the fundamental links between civilization and patriarchy, empire, slavery, genocide, and ecocide. I am also in full support of the strategy to save the planet that was written by Aric McBay, and that DGR is promoting, Decisive Ecological Warfare. I think everyone who cares about the fate of the planet should read that strategy and do what they can to promote it, engage with it, and support it.

I also think that radicals should be reading Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability and the work of Derrick Jensen. More than that, I plead that y’all do. Lierre Keith’s book is quite possibly the most powerful, compassionate, and critical primer on ecology, food politics, nutrition, and the destructive legacies of agriculture out there. If I could give every person in my life a copy of one book, it would be hers. I have never stopped promoting her work, or the work of Derrick Jensen, who writes some of the most thorough and brave explorations of the origins and manifestations of the dominant culture’s violence that I have ever seen. I think the second and third book I would give everyone in my life are volumes one and two of his Endgame. Further, I think that these two people are in fact really good people. I disagree with them on trans people, and I have critical questions about their silence on the existence and struggles of queer and gay people in general, but I agree with them on nearly everything else and recognize them as wounded people who have shortcomings like the rest of us.

I don’t say this to belittle the importance of the conversation on the nature of gender and what that means for trans people. What I am saying is that people shouldn’t dismiss the entirety of what these authors, and the organization Deep Green Resistance, have to say. In fact, I am pleading that radicals get their hands on a copy of the book Deep Green Resistance, the book of which Aric McBay is the primary author. It is a crucial read for everyone who cares about the fate of the left and the fate of the planet. Disagree with it or not, it needs to be engaged with, and on its own terms, and not through sweeping dismissal grounded on heresay and rumor. If you’re going to critique it, read it first.

I am also pointing out that we as radicals often find ourselves learning from people who we wouldn’t agree with entirely. An example: Frantz Fanon was crucial to my radicalization around racism and colonialism, and I took a lot from his work, despite the fact that he is a patriarchal homophobe. Hell, gay and queer experience is almost entirely absent from most of the anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and otherwise radical literature that I’ve read, but that hasn’t kept me from taking those analyses and ideas and giving them a home in my own queer heart, mind, and body. When it comes to Lierre Keith, Derrick Jensen, and the book Deep Green Resistance, I am asking that people do the same.

And the reason why is because the planet is being murdered. We are losing the world. We’re about to blow past the 400 ppm mark, and another two hundred species went extinct today. The most important thing that we on the left can be doing is fighting against what the powerful are doing to the planet, the indigenous, and poor people around the world. Instead, I see us fighting with each other. This horizontal hostility has got to stop. We can still engage with one another critically. In fact, we must engage with each other critically. But we need to recognize the difference between doing that and being ineffective, dismissive hecklers.

I think the organization Deep Green Resistance is effectively dead in the water. It grieves me to say so, because the heart of what they are saying is so important, and virtually no one else is saying it. I am astounded with what seems to be a profound and abiding death urge on their part. They know that the position they are adopting on trans people is alienating and isolating them from the overwhelmingly majority of the communities that might otherwise support them and work with them. They are committing political suicide, and they know it. They seem to think that holding on to this position is more important than the health of the work that they set out to do in the first place. They seem to think it’s more important than the fight to save the planet. Regardless of what people like me say, many people will come to associate anti-civ analysis and Decisive Ecological Warfare with transphobia. Regardless of what people like me say, more and more people who might otherwise listen to what people like Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith have to say about the planet, about civilization, and about resistance are going to tune them out instead, and even prevent them from speaking publicly about these things. This is more than sad. This is an awful, horrible thing to witness happening. I am almost beside myself with grief.

When I watch the video of Rachel Ivey presenting DGR’s position on gender, what I hear and see is a lot of defensiveness. The tone of this video is also smug, condescending, self-righteous, and isolating – characterized by some of the very things that Lierre Keith has called out about the adolescent nature of the culture of the left. Rachel has a lot of things to say that are really compelling, and that I think should be critically engaged with by everybody, and she could have given the same talk in a completely different spirit, in a spirit that was inviting to the curious and to the dismissive alike, in a spirit that was compassionate and open-hearted. And this is the thing that I would express to DGR directly: y’all are going about this the wrong way. If y’all really believe that the position on gender that y’all have is crucial to dismantling patriarchy and our collective liberation, and the fight to save the planet, then y’all need to approach people with the same level of compassion, openness, and just plain respect that y’all would have when talking to people who’ve never heard of anti-civ analysis, or who don’t know the difference between liberalism and radicalism, or any number of the things that y’all probably find yourselves having to educate people about on a regular basis.

The truth is that many of the public proponents of the Radical Feminist position on gender are incredibly disrespectful, mean-spirited, crude, and downright ugly when talking about and talking to trans people. To be certain, I’ve also seen disrespectful, mean-spirited, crude, and downright ugly responses by trans people and their supporters to Radical Feminists. But what I’m saying is that if Radical Feminists – including members of DGR – really want people to understand what they are actually trying to say, then they need to have – and express – a basic level of respect and compassion for trans people and trans experience. You can have an entirely different analysis of gender and still treat trans people as human beings worthy of basic consideration. You can still talk to people in a way that’s not smug, condescending, vitriolic, or hateful. Having a different analysis of gender than most leftists does not have to be an inherently hateful thing, but many Radical Feminists are being hateful in the way that they express their position. If DGR actually wants to have an impact on the conversation and an impact on the culture of the left with their message, then they need to publicly distance themselves from the hateful, hurtful language of many Radical Feminist leaders and authors, and they need to themselves engage with people on the topic in a compassionate and respectful way.

In general, people with different analyses of gender need to be able to work together, or at the very least not go out of their way to attack one another, just like people with different analyses of civilization need to be able to work together, or at the very least not go out of their way to attack one another. With everything that’s at stake, if this is all it takes for us to actively attack one another, then we’re done for as radicals and we’re done for as a species.

I ask that people who are anti-civ and/or supportive of the strategy and tactics outlined by Aric McBay’s work, including Decisive Ecological Warfare (DEW), and who are also gay, queer, trans, or supportive of trans people’s basic dignity, experience, and rights step forward publicly. Please help people understand that being anti-civ and supporting DEW does not mean taking up the Radical Feminist position on gender. Please help people understand that there is more to the work of authors like Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith than this. Please help people understand that even though there isn’t a home for gay, queer, and trans folks in the organization Deep Green Resistance, that there is a home for them in the greater struggle against the meta-culture of civilization and the struggle to bring down industrial civilization itself.

With a Full Heart :: aidan

16 Responses to “No Room for Dissenting Opinions: Statement from a Former Member of Deep Green Resistance”

  1. meander May 17, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    thanks, aidan!!!!

    this is the second-most-eloquent piece i have read this week about this issue. thanks for allowing room in your full heart for all perspectives and for pointing out the necessity of continuing to stand against industrial civ despite everything that’s occurred.

    you are a hero to those who aspire to organize independently against civ and and patriarchy. keep up the great work!

    -a friend

  2. William Calhoun May 17, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    Excellent and heartfelt analysis. It focuses and clarifies another tragedy in the world of leftism: dogma over compassion. And isn’t that what really defines so much of the monsters of the right ?

    • gaian May 17, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      couldn’t agree more – once again the evils inherent in political organizations rears its ugly head! can’t believe that anyone has patience for authoritarians in the 21st century.

  3. GUnnERGUSTafSON May 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    this so right on! i too am sorry and confused about the Jensen/Keith hari-kari. But why?!! FBI? How counterproductive can they be those stupid jerky faces?

  4. Razer Ray May 18, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    I’ve been sort of put off by DGR ever since I read Jensen’s collaborated book on the subject where the takeover of the New York RAT underground paper by ‘feminists’ was discussed. The person who wrote that shallow piece of tripe OBVIOUSLY wasn’t around to witness it. I was. The so-called ‘feminists’ were middle class bourgeoisie disruptors who took the best radical paper in New York and ran it into the ground in short order.

    The person who wrote about it seemed OK with that.

  5. ooppoddoo May 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Wow. Thank you this!

  6. ooppoddoo May 19, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Sigh…too much coffee this morning. Of course I meant to write, thank you for this. Apologies.

  7. T.R. May 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    I am chicano gay man and on the staff of DGR, and Coordinator of the Great Plains Chapter, I am still 100% behind our stance on gender, and DGR is a welcoming place for gay folks, I take offense to much of what is said in this essay. Too much of the talk on the white left has to do with philosophy and theory, we are losing this fight everyday all of us collectively. Solidarity is what we need regardless of our ideologies. We need to be discussing tactics and strategy everyday, until we win.

    • Earth First! Journal Cascadia Office May 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

      If we need solidarity, then why do u ignore trans folks? Seems like this denial is based entirely on theory to me. It’s also a big blind spot in your call for solidarity. Keep in mind that DGR doesn’t want us as allies—Derrick has made very clear his dislike for anarchists (like most of us) and trans folks (who contribute a lot to our struggle).

      • T.R. May 21, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

        Last year during one of the actions against White KKKlay NE we had a couple trans identified people at the action and everyone got along great and everyone was respectful to everyone else.The action was successful. That is what I mean by solidarity. Derrick is entitled to his opinion as am I, as are you. We can all criticize each other all we want for what we see as faults. However, the work continues and the destruction of the planet continues. That to me is primary. I will be on the frontlines on many actions this summer I hope to see you all there as well. May we win a couple victories.

    • Lisa May 30, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

      T.R. you live with white male privilege. If you deny that you are not being honest with yourself. While you may identify with your chicano roots it does not brown wash your privilege.

      Solidarity, whether it is working with trans people or indigenous folks means having mutual respect. DGR lacked this necessary respect when a highly respected member of my community contacted them about your conduct regarding slumming for funding on the page of a murder victim. And I see you are once again slumming for money, regardless of the living conditions of the people you are supposed to be allied with. Shame on DGR and shame on you.

  8. Deep Roots Jessica May 21, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    Sigh this is what happens when white people lead shit. This among other reasons is why I have very little desire to work with you all on actions. Yall have too much time on your hands to squabble about ideological differences. Who needs the FBI to split it up when activists do it themselves.

  9. Sylvia May 22, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    “I ask that people who are anti-civ and/or supportive of the strategy and tactics outlined by Aric McBay’s work, including Decisive Ecological Warfare (DEW), and who are also gay, queer, trans, or supportive of trans people’s basic dignity, experience, and rights step forward publicly.”

    Well, okay, I love coming out.😉
    I’m an anti-civ queer feral transfemme shaman (and former DGR member), and I support this message!
    Thanks, Aidan! ❤ Sylvia

  10. F. Elaine Anderson May 30, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    Thanks so much, Aidan. I hope, in the coming years, we see a lot more of your precious heart in leadership in the struggle to bring down civ. OXO

  11. ogichidaag May 31, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Wow, I can only say wow, Europeans are awfully strange critters and continue to baffle me everyday.
    I am not an Earth First person I stumbled across this on accident.

    Here is what I think, based on 4 decades of being a part of the American Indian Movement that has had an entire wing of the FBI dedicated to it’s destruction.

    I think this whole thing has been invented on both sides to fracture and splinter the environmental movement to save the earth from ruin.

    That is not to say that there are valid points being made by both sides from people who feel very passionate about their positions. What I mean is that I feel there are parties who are agents of oppression on both sides working overtime to fan the flames of anger between warriors of the truth.

    I asked one of our spiritual elders tonight to ask advice on this. Our tradition is one which is constantly being misappropriated by Europeans and is commonly called the Two Spirited person.

    As an indigenous person I know that our people had a place within our culture for people who were born to be warriors but also were born with womyn’s reproductive organs. People who were born to walk as womyn who were born with male bodies. These people were sacred and revered.

    That said there are ceremonies for people born to the cycle of the moon, whose bodies give blood to the earth as the tides of the moon pass and who gave birth. There were certain ceremonies that only they could participate in and circles to talk in. These lodges were protected and revered.

    There are certain circles that were for those who gave birth from their wombs.

    There were other ceremonies and circles for womyn where all womyn including the Two Spirit womyn participated in regardless of their relation with the moon.

    I asked my elder tonight if the two spirit womyn participated in ceremonies regarding fertility, and birth. The ceremonies of womyn whose bodies gave back to the earth during each cycle. She said “they did not” those ceremonies were not for them.

    So for god’s sake please do not use our traditions to fit your arguments. Our people did not battle each other over such things. There was no need. All had their place.

    There were no chemicals or surgeries. I am not condemning those who have those things today but I bring this up because I hear Europeans using our culture within these discussions to justify this position or that one.

    So here we see here a battle between Europeans who emerge from a society of oppression who has no place for womyn to gather their power whose bodies are in harmony with the moon and give back to the earth. Nor does your male dominant society have a place for the two spirited ones to be respected and revered. We see a society that sees womyn and labels womyn based on their organs alone. That is dominated by men and is destroying everything in it’s path.

    Here we see even those who are allegedly on a mission to save the earth and who are in harmony with the earth fighting tooth and nail over the definition of woman.You say there is one definition and so all who call themselves womyn are to be in all places at all times womyn.

    I say a two spirited person is more than woman or man but a different person altogether. They are after all called a two spirited person. They are where they are to be in matters that pertain to them and they are not in places that do not pertain to them.

    So I am asking in a good way and in earnest. Is this an issue of offence taken because some womyn who wish to share certain spaces that pertain to them are being attacked for this simple fact?

    I can also say that womyn whose bodies gift to the earth with the moon endure a certain oppression that the two spirited do not endure in this socalled civilization you live in. I can also say that two spirited people endure an oppression that those reproductive womyn do not endure.

    They are not the same oppression. They are vastly different.
    The oppression two spirited people endure as being cast away as useless by this society drives them to many extremes trying to become accepted and feeling at home in their bodies.

    There are no bad guys here. Please stop this insanity. If someone does not want to have a conversation with you, sleep with you, it may not mean they hate you, it may just mean that they can only share these things with others of their kind.

    It would be insanity for womyn born with bodies who give back tot he earth to say their experience on this journey was the same as the two spirit. It is not. By the same token, it would be insanity for the two spirit to say they were on the same journey as the former.
    It is also insulting for either party here Trans man, trans woman, or a person with ovaries, share the same oppression. They do not. The thing they share is oppression. Their journeys are different. Both deserve respect. Both deserve the space to be separate when they wish.

    One thing I do know is that all this oppression that is being claimed one against the other in this argument, is almost laughable in the face of the genocide that has been and continues to be wrought upon our people and our land by all of you. It is amazing you are so determined to fight with each other over which one is being the most oppressed. Seriously? In Congo since 1998. Over 9 million people have been killed over the metals in your cell phones, Your oppression is not even on the map when I think of millions and millions the European people continue to inflict.

    This fight was designed to keep white people for the most part and those obsessed with your politics fighting among each other, while your very existence is an infliction upon all the indigenous people of the earth and all their ways of life.

    This anti-culture your people have produced is self absorbed, a bunch of whining over who can use the bathroom where the rest of the planet is desperate to just eat. Anything.

    We actually get confronted as indigenous people about our continuing way of consumption of meat as oppression by many environmentalists. We never took more than we needed. Our animals on our land are being driven to extinction by whose way of life? By whose agriculture? You speak of animal rights? Where are you with the invasive species, pigs, pythons, and the like that are killing our animals on our lands? Let me guess many of you think they should be able to roam our land.Who brought the 2 million pigs roaming the southwest here? Who brought the 1 million feral pigs roaming Florida here? Who brought the roughly 400 million pigs on two feet to this land? You want to speak of oppression? Oppression is the hundreds of millions killed in the Western Hemisphere by Europeans. This continues on to this day to every indigenous people on this planet except the European.

    I pray for all of humanity that you recognize the futility of these arguments and redouble your efforts on saving the earth and it’s people from the American beast!

    I know people on both sides of this discussion (can it be called a discussion?) who are doing great and amazing work. They are beautiful people and the movement would be much worse off if they were not in it.

    I implore you, Love each other. Honor each other. Love those who are fighting this evil system that oppresses each and every one of us. We need every warrior we can get.

    • ForlornCoast June 2, 2013 at 3:40 am #

      Your knowledge of DGR may be incomplete. Specifically, the two-spirit tradition (with which I have been familiar for over a decade now) is incompatible with DGR’s radical feminist stance on gender and transgender, which holds that gender does not exist inherently, and is instead purely a product of society. By contrast, the two-spirit tradition dictates that people are born with an inherent gender or component of gender that does not match the birth body. This tradition is much closer in spirit to transgender theory than radical feminist theory.

      When you flippantly dismiss the issue with restroom access, you ignore the following:
      1) Cis women (or so-called women-born-women, as you may prefer) face no more statistical threat of assault or rape from trans women than from other cis women.
      2) Trans women face substantially more threat of rape and assault from cis men than from cis women or other trans women.

      A compassionate soul would not toss aside these realities as something trivial.

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