For our sophomore interview, Elle O’Rourke and Jules Joanne Gleeson, editors of the essay collection Transgender Marxism, chat with librarian Fiadh Tubridy about the topics covered in the book as well as the past, present and future of transgender Marxism.
Transgender Marxism is available to loan from the Small Trans Library Dublin and Glasgow catalogues! Follow the guidelines on our homepage to borrow it from anywhere in Ireland or Scotland.
Our thanks to John Howard for helping with the production of this interview. A transcript is provided below the audio, lightly edited for clarity.
Jess: Welcome to the Small Trans Library’s inaugural interview series. The Small Trans Library is a community organization in Dublin, Ireland, that hosts a lending library of queer and trans authored books as well as events, reading groups and a number of other artistic projects. We are also host to a number of mutual aid projects, including a grocery fund that has distributed over forty thousand euro to trans people in Ireland and in the UK during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a fundraiser in support of the Creme de la Creme Trans Safe House in Nigeria.
We recently started this interview series with the aim of introducing you to some of the authors that we’re most excited about. We hope the series will create space to reflect on the development of trans literature, on common experiences and challenges, and provide insights on how we can make the world a better place for trans people.
Today librarian Fiadh Tubridy is joined by Elle O’Rourke and Jules Joanne Gleeson to talk about Transgender Marxism, a provocative and groundbreaking union of transgender studies and Marxist theory published in May 2021. Transgender Marxism has been recognized as an immense contribution to the trans liberation struggle, to trans studies scholarship and to Marxist theory more generally.
Jules Joanne Gleeson is a writer, comedian and historian. She has published essays in outlets including Viewpoint Magazine, Invert Journal and Vice, and performed internationally at a wide range of communist and queer cultural events.
Elle O’Rourke is a political economist and gender theorist, currently researching critical theories of financialization. She is cofounder of New Socialist, a magazine of left thought and commentary, where she serves as economics co-editor.
Fiadh Tubridy is a researcher who writes about cities, nature and climate change from a Marxist perspective. They are also an organizer with a Community Action Tenants Union, Small Trans Library, and Trans Harm Reduction.
With those introductions out of the way, let’s move on to the conversation.
Fiadh Tubridy: So I guess for our listeners, of which I’m sure there are going to be many: I’m Fiadh Tubridy, I’m joined by Jules Joanne Gleeson and Elle O’Rourke who are the editors of Transgender Marxism, a new collection of essays published by Pluto Press.
So I’m super excited about the conversation because the book touches on a lot of topics that I guess I personally find super interesting but previously by no means had the resources or analytical tools to explore, to do with the kind of different dimensions of Marxism that can be useful to think about trans politics, like, I guess, why there are resonances and thinking about trans experience and the kind of work that goes on in trans communities to produce and reproduce our lives and identities and so on. But rather than gushing about how much I liked it, I should ask some questions.
So firstly, I just wanted to ask about the contributors. So throughout I spent a lot of time thinking about who were all these amazing authors, like, really interesting authors who were doing all this work, and I wondered if you could talk a little bit about their kind of backgrounds, particularly like to what extent this work has kind of been produced inside or outside of academia, or also, the kind of experiences of organizing or struggle that have fed into the work in this collection.
Elle O’Rourke: Cool, yeah thank you. So I guess a substantial amount of the work in the book is like the product of the innumerable discussions and connections formed over many years on the internet, but primarily in the Leftovers discussion group, which Jules has spent a great deal of time and effort cultivating and nurturing into this sort of lively and fruitful network of militant intellectualism. I think you can read a good number of threads back in this group where the basic ideas, some of the essays were batted back and forth between people before becoming essays in the book.
I mean, some of our contributors are in academia. They’re adjuncting or PhD students so we have Michelle O’Brien, Kate Doyle Griffiths, Nathaniel, Nat and Jordy Rosenberg, who is the most famous one, I guess, in the book. But most of the contributors do not come from an academic background. They’re not in academia currently. Rather, these pieces are the work of many people who are often excluded from the formal circuits of, quote unquote, intellectual knowledge production or never had any interest in it regardless.
Personally, I haven’t been in academia for a long, long time, and my political activity has been mostly limited by disability over the years. I’ve worked on New Socialist magazine for many years now as this political project in movement journalism, documentation, theoretical disagreement. And I’ve been involved in the trans feminist care organization in the UK called Queer Care, although I’m taking a step back at the moment because of my health. But we’re involved in protest medicine, patient advocacy, care, intervention and support navigating the GIC system and benefits and entitlements. Basically extending to support people often excluded from that sort of peer support in queer communities or formalizing and assisting with a lot of the labour that already goes on. I mean, that’s my background, I guess. Jules, do you want a contribute?
Jules Joanne Gleeson: Yeah the contributors, I suppose, have this mixture you kind of expect from contemporary trans theory, I think. Like Elle was just saying, we do have some lecturers in there, but there’s a big difference at this point in academia between having a casualized, semester basis employment as a lecturer and having, like, an actual academic post. So at this point, we have some people in that position. We have some people who have dropped out of grad school, some people who never completed an undergraduate degree. So in terms of the formal training, it’s a pretty varied bunch in that respect, as Elle was kind of saying.
Mostly, these were people who sort of demonstrated themselves previously, often through other projects or other often informal modes of expression or else kind of like community founded projects like Michelle O’Brien, who Elle already mentioned, was the head of the NYC Trans Oral History Project for some years. And I guess that’s one of the more institutionally supported examples, but primarily, I would say the previous places people had venues for their thoughts prior to this book was sort of like what you call para-academic, so stuff which was sort of outside of academia, but also still in dialogue with it.
But at this point, it’s very much the case that it’s increasingly difficult for people of any kind of, like, social science or humanities minded orientation to really have a stable and fixed career. So it’s pretty typical for people I know to have, like, two or three other side hustles, even if they are still holding out a dream of one day securing a post as a professor.
FT: Yeah. I mean, I can attest to the distinction between insider and outsider academic work being fairly muddy having worked on short term research contracts for the last few years. Yeah. But that’s super interesting. I guess I was thinking about the intellectual networks and kind of ecologies, like sustaining this work, and the material conditions under which it was being produced while I was reading it. So that’s really interesting to hear about. Yeah.
Like, related to who the contributors were, were you thinking a lot about the international scope and finding people from different countries and stuff when you were putting together?
EOR: Yeah, how the book ended up is kind of different from my original ambitions, because one of the difficulties was expanding the international scope of the book, because I originally had this fairly ambitious outline where one section was going to be called Marx worldwide or something like that, with a large number of international contributions.
We were in talks at one stage with, like five people from Brazil, one from Lebanon, and there was another contribution from India. But that fell through. A significant problem happened with the dramatic shift in the political climate in Brazil in the wake of Bolsonaro’s election, which was also obviously driven by lots of transphobia and queerphobia as well. And lots of people just weren’t able to contribute in the way that we wanted.
And partly it was being a small project, and with a small press, we did find ourselves really under-resourced in making some of these chapters work. We were vastly constrained in the contacts we could make, and there was no money for translations, and this eventually limited what we were able to publish but what we did get was really wonderful. We had Virginia, who was a militant in Brazil, and has a long chapter on Bolsonaro, which kind of thinks through the various beats of capitalist oppression and gender freedom and its relation to the historical socialist movement in Brazil but in Europe, Germany, the Social Democratic Party, the Russian Revolution. She has a fairly historical scope in what she is interested in.
The CAACD, which is the Centre of the Advancement of Cultural Degeneracy, is this trans collective from India who present this dialogue, weaving Deleuze, Spinoza and Foucault to kind of sketch a genealogy of capitalist governmentality and trans oppression. But kind of moving forward, I’d hope that were we to revisit this again, maybe with a sequel of sorts in a couple of years responding to and building up on the book, we kind of would be in a much better position to broaden the scope of our inquiries than we were when we were putting this together.
I mean, there is already a Portuguese translation by a Brazilian publisher in the works, which is really astonishing for a small press book. And we’re looking forward to seeing how this book travels and the sort of the intellectual comradeship and friendships it brings along the way. So it’s been really exciting to finally get this book out.
FT: Yeah, I really enjoyed Virginia’s chapter the kind of, like, broad scope of it was really impressive. And I hadn’t realized until I watched another of your YouTube videos about the book that the CAACD was Indian based, but yeah, an expansion scope would be amazing. Like, it would be great if someone would write an Irish chapter. [laughs]
JJG: The thing with the CAACD and to a lesser extent also Virginia’s chapter is we were very determined to take an approach that we would include as many viewpoints and perspectives as we could. But similarly, we didn’t want anyone placed in the position of kind of playing the representative, whether we’re talking about, like a non binary contributor saying this is what life is like for a nonbinary person. That’s the sort of thing which we wanted to welcome but not make kind of mandatory, not expect people to have to do. That’s very much like that’s the ethos I’m in favour of.
In terms of the the stuff we were able to include I’m very pleased and very proud of it. Obviously, the painful absences besides multiple Brazilian perspectives, because we had a friend of mine helping us out with Brazil, and that didn’t quite work out as we planned. But also the Philippines and Africa are really striking by their absence.
However, the perspectives we’ve got in here, there is a large number of Americans and Australians. [laughs] A wide range of people. And I think the easy aspect of it is Marxists are pretty prone to being an international bunch and the conversations we were having did seem to sort of go across national context to a degree, while also often being very focused on particular national struggles or particular national contexts and the struggles those throw up for trans people. So maybe we can talk about that in a minute.
But the hope is that overall there was scope for people to talk about their own specific issues and so on, but also hopefully more stuff, which is more all purpose methodologically delimited approaches. So that’s the kind of thing we wanted a combination of. There’s more to say about the topic of confessional writing but maybe we’ll get to that in a bit, writing about ‘I’ statements and people’s own experiences and stuff, because that’s something the collection includes but is not not reducible to.
FT: Yeah I mean, in terms of how it traveled, I certainly spent a lot of time thinking through how it applied to our situation and the kind of particularities or challenges that we’re faced with and stuff which was really, like thought provoking to have that to begin from.
But from the background to the book to some of the maybe key themes particularly for our listeners, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about liberal approaches to trans politics, because it struck me as kind of a key aspect of what the book is resisting or opposed to, and it would help to situate the work a bit.
EOR: Yeah. So trans liberalism, I guess, is kind of an identifiable political force at the moment and in identifying trans liberalism and critiquing it in the book as various contributors do as this social phenomenon, it’s kind of an extension of a critique of this liberal queer optimism that developed in the 90s and 2000s.
So we had this narrative where after the long, dark night of the AIDS crisis and the arrival of antiretrovirals LGBT rights were also seemingly moving from strength to strength. Corporations, workplaces, legislatures were increasingly hospitable to their gay citizens, consumers and employees. And wider social attitudes were shifting remarkably fast as well. So with the passing of, say, antidiscrimination laws or equal marriage, equitable treatment in hospital visits, wills, mortgages, credit access, and employment opportunities, there would be seemingly little left for the LGBT rights movement to do, sort of fulfilling the historical destiny to be, after all, just like everyone else except in our choice of partners.
And so in the 90s and 2000s you have to sort of critique of this, a big fierce debate in radical queer politics. And so in the works of Lisa Duggan on homonormativity or Jasbir Puar on homonationalism and his critique at the racial, sexist and queer predicates of this assimilationist politics in which a certain minimal recognition and quiet domesticity for some is contingent on or indeed coextensive with social violence to other queer subjects at home and imperial violence in its name abroad.
So in her essay “The Limits of Trans Liberalism”, Nat Raha, who is a contributor to the book, but she published this essay a few years ago for the Verso blog, she sketches out a critique of what she sees as the emerging form of trans liberalism. Was it back in 2015 or 2017? It’s kind of a long similar lines. So in the UK, this takes on the fairly anodyne and feeble claim of trans rights are human rights, the content of those rights are forever pending, or a greater expansion of trans representation on screen. So maybe the adverts of the future will finally have a transgender woman eating your yogurt or something like that. And there’s massive investment in reforming the GRA as this, like rallying slogan of trans politics, which was a fairly small piece of legislation that has only really gathered so much interest because radical feminists have decided that the Equality Act of 2010 is some sort of freeman of the land type agreement between the sovereign and the sacred feminine or whatever you want. It’s just really weird. [laughs]
But what’s left behind here is the sort of medical violence and suffering at the hands of the NHS, the broad exclusion of trans people from large sectors of work, housing, unemployment, precarity, social abuse and the violence on the streets or in the home and the longstanding health issues that all of these injustices kind of visit upon trans people. So trans liberalism is a little to say about any of this, but really if it does recognize it, it has a difficult time integrating it into a politics that is kind of largely premised on lobbying and legal reform and networking with, well-connected parliamentarians, media figures and industry representatives. And that was kind of what we were making a stand against and expanding the sort of vision that we could offer in terms of transgender Marxism and radical politics and organizing.
JJG: Yeah I think that was a really cogent summation of what we were trying to do, but I suppose at this point I would like to turn it around a bit, maybe just to recap.
So Nat Raha essay “The Limits of Trans Liberalism” back in 2015 is talking about recently published memoir by Juliet Jacques, who actually hosted one of our little launch parties. I think she hosted the official Pluto one. Anyway, so Juliet Jacques wrote about this moment where she was invited to a little soiree being hosted by some politicians. And she was given an opportunity to meet Theresa May, who at this point in time was the Home Secretary and was in charge of these notorious deportation wagons menacing East London and telling people they were going to get thrown out of the country and so on. And this was prior to Theresa May becoming Prime Minister of the country as she briefly was.
And this is sort of like the moment of this quandary that Juliet Jacques encounters, where she has to decide whether she’s going to shake hands and make nice and try and ingratiate herself and show she’s a respectable lady or whether, you know, she’s going to take the course she ultimately did, including in her journalistic career, which is just like, fuck this. So what I like about this essay by Nat is how she really captures how this is often kind of a decision we get sort of forced into. Once we become noticeable, once we become high profile or something, we’re often extended a strange olive branch from the state.
Now the thing I kind of want to turn back to you—as a host based in Ireland—it feels like in Britain, this is kind of a bygone issue, because at this point, the British government is just so ferociously hostile towards trans people that I think, you know, you don’t actually get this olive branch very often, but I get the impression, well not I get the impression I’m an Irish citizen right. I was raised in Britain, but my dad was from Derry, but I doubt I’ll be using my British passport again soon. You know what I mean? Like, the national context in Ireland on the official level is clearly much more favorable. So it seems like this is more of a kind of live wire, right. Like this prospect of civic emancipation without social transformation, maybe more the case. You know, Britain’s kind of, like, gone on its own bizarre reactionary cultural way. But I think in the United States and Ireland maybe there’s still, like, a potential politics there, right?
FT: I think that’s super interesting. And I yeah, considering that point when I was reading about it. And I think I had it, like, almost slightly reversed in that I feel like in Ireland we—maybe I’m over generalizing here, but—have a pretty acute sense of the limits trans liberalism in the sense that there are, you know, those gains have been made. But there’s this really awful paradox where your gender may be recognized by the state, but when it comes to confront the health system, you still have to go and go through the medicalized diagnostic process. So when it comes to access any forms of actual resources, your legally recognized gender suddenly means absolutely nothing. And therefore, I think a lot of attention is focused on, like, healthcare for that reason.
And I think a challenge, a key challenge that we’re faced with in Ireland is articulating those limits of liberal reforms, you know, because obviously, in some cases, they can provide, like, important benefits, like maybe an example is in the context of health care and given there’s more liberal approaches to reform a trans healthcare in Ireland or alternatively you might hold out for more fundamental democratization or change. I don’t of that if you want to say anything else about that.
JJG: Should we move on to talking about health care?
FT: Yeah! So I guess you described in the introduction, there has been there has been writing about trans healthcare from maybe slightly different perspectives about how we’re kind of constructed in medical discourses and from a more kind of cultural political perspective. And I’m aware Jules you’ve written about it a bit elsewhere, but I would be super interested in outlining what you see as maybe a trans Marxist approach to health care. And particularly if you have comments on that kind of there being a liberal or more radical approaches to it.
EOR: Yeah I mean health care is often rarely considered a site of social oppression until you really experience it yourself. And it’s like, often those who need the care the most who are so consistently failed by the health care system by sort of eugenic and disabling social systems of care. And this is kind of not exclusive to trans people, but it is common to us. And care as it currently stands is really substandard or minimal with long waiting lists and doctors who really should have been struck off a long time ago.
You have lots of these ossified ideas about trans people and their needs based on outright bigotry, really, from the literature that was published decades ago. It’s like that bit in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars books, where he’s talking about how everyone lives longer because they’ve all extended their lives forever and he notes that old ideas in science don’t really die it’s just that people who held them eventually retire or die themselves. And it’s kind of like a big system of healthcare at the moment where you have all these people hanging on who are just completely reactionary. And that’s been a big cleavage if you follow some of the WPATH stuff closely. You have lots of older clinicians who are really bigoted and sort of imposing their ideas and and lots of people in the Tavistock case who dissented from expanding treatment or are just opposed to actually giving treatment at all. They were much older clinicians in their 70s, 60s, 50s.
So if you follow it closely, I guess there is sort of a generational shift, and it’s partly come about because trans people have staged numerous interventions into WPATH and have undertaken health research themselves. I think the trans masc health researcher is kind of like an archetype now, a stereotype. [laughs] They’re providing a definite alternative to practitioners and clinicians in a way that wasn’t there before, or at least was so marginal that ignoring it was easy. And I think that’s kind of changing. But still, for many, there’s a liberal approach to health care where it’s just like your doctor is your friend and it’s just back and forth and you agree to help each other out and blah, blah, blah. And it’s also like they take the medical frameworks and just tweak them a bit, or reliance on brain science and brain scans.
Some of the more radical ideas about how to reorientate trans healthcare have died by the wayside for lots of people. I mean, the idea of GIC, abolition, democratizing health care, just making hormones much more easily available is kind of not really on the scene at the moment. I think everyone’s just reacting to TERF wars or fights and so just feeling very defensive about what’s happened within the healthcare system.
Jules has written elsewhere with JN Hoad, a long piece on gender identity communism, like changing the healthcare system to make it more amenable to human flourishing. I think Jules probably wants to talk about that.
JJG: So this piece with JN Hoad, so JN Hoad has an essay in the collection as well, which is pretty different. It’s kind of more about her experiences in Lancaster, which I find quite delightful, but it’s quite a different thing. The “Gender Identity Communism” piece with Salvage Magazine is mostly looking at Britain’s gender identity clinics, so that’s the little pun in the title, GIC vs GIC.
But I think the issue is with comparisons with Ireland is I don’t know enough about the history of the Irish health care system to really speak in any informed way on this point. But the more people tell me about the kind of parallel two clinic system you’ve kind of got going in Belfast and Dublin, the more the more similar it sounds. I’ve never had a conversation which makes the situation sound less similar, which you see especially with children where the Irish state was, I believe, funding trans kids to go to the Tavistock Centre in London, which is notoriously slow even if you live in the same country. But I would love to hear some more about that from you.
But with regards to the clinic system in Britain, yeah. There’s not very much nice to say about it. And the whole ethos and the whole approach and the commonality is that its whole purpose is to sort out the intractably, the unavoidably transsexual from the kind of a victim of the fad or the faker or the confused, the deluded, cross dresser individual. [laughs] So this is like its whole purpose. So everything that’s kind of like, I was going to say evil, but maybe that’s a moralizing word but everything evil about it kind of stems from that basic origin story, and that its basic purpose in the British context. This is why I say the British-Irish thing I’m not so sure about. In the British context, this is very much part of the overall picture of the NHS just having almost no clue or no clue about what to do with mental health or when it does have a clue it has a very malign idea about what to do with mentally unhealthy people.
So this is the kind of like nature of the gender identity clinic system. But the reason I wrote this piece is not just to bemoan, the reason I suggested this collaboration I should say, is not just like to bemoan the situation, but also to kind of talk about the different ways in which British trans people have been navigating or simply kind of avoiding the system through self administered care, which I think at this point in Britain is at least tacitly accepted by clinicians as the underside of trans health care. So in conversations, in medical discourses if you will, doctors are very much like, well, we have to improve our situation because there’s always this lurking shadow of self administered endocrinological interventions which people are going to do for themselves. And that kind of gives me some delight. And I think we need to bring bring that whole process into the foreground. We have to bring that networking and that community provisioning a bit more into view, at least into the view of Marxist theory, maybe not into the view of everybody [laughs] because that’s the aspect that gives me hope.
But with that said, of course, the reality is we can’t be too celebratory and say, well, we defeated the state. There was a story I was seeing just yesterday after just read shared by her friends, which is about Sophie Gwen Williams, who was born in 1992 and died this year and she died after moving from Britain to Belfast. So she moved to Ireland and was told that she had then have to wait another four years. So at this point, she had reached five years and a half without state provision health care, and then she sadly committed suicide. So this is the kind of cost which these systems have on people who are not able to escape them and people who are not able to operate outside them.
So that’s why I kind of think that it’s definitely like, the ideal outcome would be some kind of civic breakthrough where we have an informed consent system similar to what they have in much of the United States, not all of it. But I think in the meantime that there’s going to be ongoing community provisioning which we need to support and grasp in whatever way we can, but maybe not detail.
EOR: I can’t wait for people to write the story of all these Internet hormone shops and these little groups on the Internet where everyone just got their hormones from an anime woman in Brazil, or just someone in Ukraine who did it at home and stuff like that. It’s just a brilliant story I think. Is it Jules Gill Peterson is writing a history of that in the US? It’s just like a really, really important and brilliant fount of trans creativity that nobody knows about apart from us.
JJG: I mean I haven’t even been living in Britain since 2013 and I’ve still been connecting one person with another, you know what I mean?
FT: Yeah, that’s all so interesting. Like, there’s so many connections there. Like the Sophie Glynn Williams tragedy brings up… I think she was originally from the North and moved from Belfast to London. But like, her position on waiting list in Belfast speaks to the fact that the Belfast is notoriously, like, awful, even by NHS GIC standards. I read recently it doesn’t even have a waiting list because that would imply movement of some type on a waiting list.
With the Irish system there are parallels with the generational issue that you raised, I think possibly even exacerbated by the fact there’s like, one. And therefore one blockage person at the person at the top. So it’s not even a social shift. And then the Tavistock issue is just like a continuation of exporting needs from medical care as prior to the Repeal referendum. I think there are many parallels with that.
Like an interesting issue I find about imagining informed consent as well in an Irish context is like, like the Irish health system, even compared to the NHS, from my experience of living in the UK is like historically, just like hugely under developed because we never had a welfare state of any meaning and then, it was even more ravaged by austerity the UK one. So the idea of grafting on a kind of informed consent model just kind of strikes me as very hollow. Where do you go? Do you still continue to pay your GP, like 150 quid for a visit or blood test or something like that, which is how it works if you can get them to do a blood test currently.
But I totally agree with your points above. The community alternatives and groups, while important maybe not to romanticize what they’re doing and given the constraints they’re faced with and, you know, just a huge amount of work it entails. Likewise, I’m part of a Dublin and Scotland based group called Trans Harm Reduction that offers support to people who are self medicating. At least that model does offer some hope and ideas for more democratic and humane health care.
JJG: I’ve got one more bit to say, maybe we can move on to the state after this because it seems to be moving quite smoothly. But the one final thing I’d say while talk about harm reduction groups and, like, different focused organizing like that and the people involved in that kind of community resourcing, what I find—maybe Elle can talk about this as well in the context of Queer Care which is like the British equivalent that kind of harm reduction approach—what you find is that people involved end up with this knowledge base, which is just remarkable. The practical knowledge often just ends up remarkably outstripping the people who are fully qualified in many cases and being paid however much, six figures every year to treat these patients, supposedly, almost as if they’re being paid for some other reason. You know what I mean? [laughs]
But the mismatches, the bizarre amateurism, which is an amateurism that’s not. Like, often the people involved in this, they have backgrounds in bio-research, they’re registered nurses. Just as you saw in earlier HIV activism groups, Act Up and the Treatment Action Group, the exact same story. People are reapplying their knowledge bases, they are coming up with these problems, they’re overcoming these problems in their own fashion.
And that sense of showing up to an appointment and knowing more than the doctor does about the side effects, that’s exactly the moment that I think we need to hone in on and hold on to and say, well, that’s actually what the capitalist economy leaves us with. Like I’ve been looking on WebMD and scrolling through random, you know what I mean? Like, this is this mismatch in which I think we really have to not forget and not deny ourselves. And that’s kind of the basis of something beautiful. Well, that’s what I think. And that’s what JN Hoad is also bringing in this piece. So anyway, I won’t go on anymore.
EOR: Yeah I think you wait so long to go through the GIC system. And when you get there is just really shit. [laughs] They don’t know what they’re talking about. They think that the estrogen that you’re taking is exactly like horse piss estrogen from forty years ago or something like that with the same health effects, or they just do not have an idea about levels or are just really stringent about what you can put in your body. They have all sorts of worries about risk or whatever that don’t have any basis in the medical research, specifically the recent medical research, which they do not seem to keep up with.
It’s just really remarkable that we have all this knowledge base and a fount of knowledge that is just practically, politically far outstretches whatever’s being put through the system at the moment. I mean, it is just a very sclerotic institution. I think nobody, like most cis people don’t go into healthcare to become a GIC doctor. There’s a particular type of person who ends up there, or at least there was a particular type of person who ended up there.
And there are definite horror stories from that sort of system and the way it was set up and the way it treated people and the sort of ideas it brought to bear on people it was subjugating into the sort of treatment outline that it wanted. It’s very abusive, maybe less so now, but still you still have the same people. Lots of the same people are still in the same positions.
So I think that’s really interesting in terms of health care and what we do and how we get around the constraints that have been put up in our face to make us ill, make us sick, to make our lives not worth living in many cases. I think a big part of this is not just that we need informed consent and that sort of thing but the expansion of resources devoted to it, and also in ways that are just not predicated on excluding people from these sort of ways of redefining themselves and coming to terms with their own body as well.
JJG: Right. So, like, on the one hand, medical processing is supposed to be this indispensable, this crucial stage. And on the other hand, these doctors clearly they don’t want to be there. They’re all like, ‘oh, I can’t believe I ended up working here.’ [laughs] ‘This is what I did ten years of med school for, my God, working with a transgender.’ That’s the reality that we live. Right. That’s the reality we confront.
FT: Yeah on the point of amateurism. [laughs] I was just reading an article there on that transfem science website which you’ve probably come across.
EOR: Yeah, she’s quite astounding.
FT: But like, I have no background in it and don’t understand the majority of it. Clearly, what I think about it is that I can try to make something of the information, but at the same time, like, I need, like, technical expertise and resources dedicated to it, you know. Therefore, it leads me and my kind of thought process to think about, you know, more complex developed health systems that do these things. I’m kind of leading into that state question.
And it’s kind of an awkward segue, but I’m trying to talk about a question about the state and stuff, because you’re talking about they’re being lots of trans people interested in Marxist theory. And I encounter a lot of people like that online. And healthcare seems to be essential impetus towards, in my experience socialist thinking, but I don’t know to what extent like that underpinned by, like, just wanting, like, a socialized and not dehumanizing health system and is that the horizon people are thinking of, and also your perspective on states, whether capitalist or otherwise might be.
EOR: Yeah I mean it’s really intriguing, like when thinking through what transgender Marxism might mean. I was thinking like, it’s like, transgender Marxism is kind of really concerned about how does the state treat its transgender populations. And what does that reveal about how it operates across the entire social order? What does the regulation of sexual difference through the administrative state say about gender as a category of social oppression?
And I think we discussed this quite a bit in the introduction, which I hope people read. And it also reminds me of… because of the Marxist state debates are really bad. They’re just like going back and forth with Miliband and Poulantzas or something really boring, and it’s just like beardy lads just going on and on about it. But what I was thinking about when writing the book is a similar book by Margot Canaday. I work in economics and do finance and stuff like that. And her sister is Greta Krippner, and she wrote a book called… I forget it now it’s about the financial crisis and she’s currently writing a book about finance and how it treats different categories of social oppression and stuff like that, which is really relevant to my interests.
But Margot Canaday writes this book called The Straight State, and it’s about how the state did not have, like, a category of heterosexuality. It had to build it. And it particularly built this in the postwar period with suburbanization and the growth of benefits and the welfare state and marriage, and how it organized and politicized marriage in ways that it didn’t before, and how that created the category of heterosexuality as an important locus of social oppression and discrimination, and how it excluded so many people from immigration and welfare and housing and jobs.
And this is sort of like a particular current of thought in transgender Marxism as well is how the state treats sexual difference and people who cross those boundaries. What does that say about how the state is organized around sexual difference and remaining within certain sexual categories as a point of capitalist oppression? I think this is really a big part of Michelle O’Brien’s chapter, which is about trans work and how certain sectors of work become really feminized, like care work or stuff like that, or how certain sectors of work have a big gay male population or a lesbian women working in certain categories of work. She kind of extends this to trans work and how come trans people end up working in tech or sex work or sex shops or AIDS crisis sort of stuff. And this is kind of like a discussion about how the state operates and how it works with capitalist accumulation. I think Jules has more to say.
JJG: Yeah, I definitely do. I suppose the simplest way I can say it is this is a topic which there is a huge amount of confusion and vying definitions and the same bit of terminology being used in different ways. But with all that confusion aside, I am definitely of the point of view that Marxism has a critical and abolitionist and unforgiving perspective when it comes to the state and when it comes to statecraft, I think the reason this becomes confused is that historically Marxism has had this strangely oppositional and yet interweaving relationship with anarchism.
But it’s very much my point of view that any Marxist perspective I would align myself with takes ultimately a view towards the state which says that the state is a historical development. It has its own history; previously it oversaw surplus extraction, it oversaw bringing a whole kingdom or a whole empire or or whatever together in a way which no individual surplus extracting landowner was able to do. And now it tries to secure the valorization of capital, the accumulation of whatever. It serves this function which no individual capitalist would ever be capable of, or that often they actually even work against. So this is where the state comes from. This is what it is primarily there to do.
But this isn’t to say I think we should have nothing to do with whatever states are attempting to dominate us. And as I’ve said in this conversation, you can even be discerning and say, oh, well, this state is giving me a hard time and another one is providing me with a certain privilege which lets me move around and stay outside of either of them. So this is not to say we shouldn’t have an opportunistic relationship now and again. So this is my viewpoint. That’s like the fundamental dogmatic point I guess I would like to make. But like social democrats were kind of what you were asking about. There is this kind of weird porous boundary between Marxism and social democratic politics. But this is also a thing in Ireland right?
FT: Well, specifically amongst, like, trans people, not that I’m especially aware of—but in terms of like people’s interpretation of, like, socialism, then yeah absolutely. I guess coming from, like I said, coming from a context in which there has been like, no meaningful welfare state, any form of like state provision starts to become very appealing, I guess, for obvious reasons. And I think, like as you say, like having a strategic or opportunistic relationship to that, it seems pretty sensible.
JJG: Well, I feel like in in Britain—which as I say is a country I’ve left [laughs]—I feel like it comes and goes there as well. It comes and goes in the United States. I mean, obviously, in Britain, the big story is the downfall of Corbynism which had absorbed far more trans people into the Labour Party than I had ever expected to see in my life. At some point it felt like almost all of them, which isn’t the case but you know what I mean. That was like a big success story in a similar kind of context, right. In the context of the welfare state being completely devastated by prolonged austerity, now twelve years of it I guess.
But with regards to social democracy, I felt like the thing with social democracy is, it’s always going to draw in a lot of well, not only a lot of transgender people, but a whole lot of oppressed people of whatever description. It’s always going to be an obvious and almost like an intuitive response. But I guess, like, what I would say about social democracy and what I would say about social democrats and what I think is the important thing which this collection retains, and I think trans Marxism is always going to have to retain is, that there is always this sense that the whole Marxist argument when it comes to the state, when it comes to society or whatever, is that, like, you can’t really go far enough, right? It’s that a political revolution may seem unimaginable at this point in time when you consider your conditions, when you consider the state you’re living in, it’s hard to even imagine a political revolution. But what you have to hold on to is that a political revolution wouldn’t even be enough. Like, the social revolutionary aspect also has to be there. You have to actually transform the relations on an even deeper level than imagining the police force being dismantled, imagining your doctor [laughs] being fired, whatever else. This is not necessarily going to suffice.
And what you always get with political movements is you get a whole bunch of heavily oppressed people drawn into them. So I could give you all kinds of examples. But you get people pulled into these political movements because they think, well, this is the way to improve my wretched social conditions but then along the way, as soon as, not necessarily a political revolution, but as soon as a social democratic party looks like it’s going to succeed, there’s this moment where they’re like, well, we’re doing very nicely. And now we’ve kind of got these irritating freaks who we’ve got to do something about, because how are we going to be taken seriously and succeed in the terms of the game if we have these irritating stigmatized people around?
There’s a moment where suddenly people drawn into these movements are made dispensable and that happens in all kinds of ways. But also this is something which, if you’re never invested in social democracy in the first place, or never fully a believer in it, you don’t get surprised by that. This is my little strategic, my strategic viewpoint, in a nutshell, it’s always expect to be made dispensable.
FT: Cool, thanks very much for those points and strategic insight which is useful to bear in mind. I should probably move on because there are other things that I would really like to get to, like in terms of key themes and topics covered in book.
Like, a lot of attention, I guess, is given to social reproduction theory and discussions of the work that goes on, that trans people do to enable us to continue living. But even, like, an aspect of it that I found particularly interesting is like in the formation of trans identity and making that like even imaginable or possible in the first place. I guess it would be great if you could explain that argument a bit, because I’m doing a bad job of it, but also where that argument leads us to in political terms. I guess that alternative understanding of identity that is arising not just from an inherent and essentialist perspective but one that is actively produced.
EOR: Yeah. I mean, I like a good, like quarter of the essays of concern, like the social reproduction of trans identities. But I think Jules has written, like a huge essay on this in the book. So I’m just going to say that it’s probably Jules’ question.
JJG: Yeah. So do you want talk about social reproduction, like, what I think of it or what’s doing in the book? There are several different essays in the book, which is the concept in several different ways I would say. But where should I start? What do you think?
EOR: I guess in critiquing essentialist narratives and elaborating one that’s based on social reproduction. I think that’s kind of the work that your essay is doing in outlining how these narratives of the identity are built around certain views of how identity is formed, and kind of what expanding our understanding of identity allows us to do, and what it means as a political claim as well as epistemological claim.
JJG: Yeah. Well, I feel like in a way, you could even say that my essay, Noah’s essay and Nat’s essay are all kind of taking the same framework in different directions, right.
So my essay is called “How do Gender Transitions Happen”, and that’s focusing on the ways in which people approach these things often as an individual process like ‘oh, I’ve got to leave my house and go to the shops and hopefully be taken for a man rather than’, you know what I mean, that kind of thing. And then there’s the community aspect which is where the social reproduction aspect comes in. And that’s kind of what my theory has been focused on for the last five years now.
Noah’s essay is kind of like using that same framework, like SRT, social reproduction, approaches to also understand the development of cognition. So Noah’s essay is more informed by contemporary clinical psychology and just kind of seeing what those two frameworks can speak to each other. And Nat Raha’s essay in this collection is very historical. It’s very much about the work which different community organizing groups, both cisgender lesbians and also trans people have kind of been doing to try and, like, both navigate their circumstances and also, like, render these into, like, a political framework. I think Michelle might also talk about social reproduction, but now I can’t remember.
There’s a lot of SRT in this book. Social reproduction theory for people who don’t you know what it is, this is a recent current in, particularly in Marxist feminism, which tries to look at the ways in which workforces are sort of expected to labour to make themselves labourers, basically. So, the life making activity which people pass through towards that end. Yeah, that’s like an overview of what it’s doing.
FT: I guess kind of the next related or particular related question I had was about, you know, coming from a community organization perspective, like as the Small Trans Library and other groups that our members are involved with, those chapters and particularly the emphasis on making trans life possible and identity formation, were for me really valuable in understanding what that work does currently.
But I was wondering, like, what you think we should take from the book, you know, in terms of, like, challenging what we do currently or pushing it forward, or speaking to trans community organizing audience and what do you hope people would take from it?
EOR: I guess transgender Marxism is a broad outlook. I feel like there’s always a need to pull the camera back in terms of what trans politics has often turned its attention to. So we’ve become so used to a sort of reactive politics where we’re always fighting battles on a terrain that was already selected for us by people who don’t particularly like us. And so with that, there’s become a narrowing of concerns and a narrowing of radical horizons. And what part of the book is doing is that slow and patient work that is lesser attuned to the sort of stimulus response mechanism of social media, but also describing how things are and how they could be otherwise.
So I think when you come to stuff in the UK, I think lots of trans people get wrapped up really unhealthily in responding to the latest media story or the latest Newsnight bulletin or all that sort of thing. And it often is a very draining sort of activity for those involved with it, rather than the sort of longer term politics or organizing with people you know. And I think it’s like part of what’s important about that is we need to draw this away from being good at posting or something like that and getting involved in the sort of community medicine, health care and all those sort of struggles that are away from the sort of stimulus response media bulletin cycle. And, what else—Jules?
JJG: Yeah I think that’s exactly right. And I think there are questions which—it’s just exactly leading on from what Elle was saying about the stimulus response and the surface level kind of nature, especially what happens when you get too wrapped up in the media, as in the news media, as in like bylines and headlines and whatever else. Like, a lot of really obvious questions kind of don’t get asked or don’t get even posed. Or if people have answers they’re often incorrect. The answers which pass themselves off, like anti-trans materialism you know, are these incredibly vague and sort of untenable positions. Oh, it’s all about pharmaceutical company health care profits, as if, like, sex hormones were as expensive to fabricate as insulin or as profitable? Just very weak arguments tend to prevail.
But for the most part, people don’t even kind of ask these questions, like, for instance, how gender transitions happen, as for one in my book, but also the stuff which I suppose I tackled earlier on in my theory. So I had this long essay out with Viewpoint magazine back in 2017—which they didn’t really know what to make off [laughs] because they’re more of a kind of an abstract Marxist theory journal—which is called “Transition and Abolition”, and this was sort of like, the reason I got into social reproduction theory and the reason the people have been developing these ideas have been interested in, it is sort of, I feel like that kind of needs to be an answer to how are these things even possible? How is a gender transition even taking place?
And I think once you start to look at communities and you start to look at whatever you want to call it, like healthcare organizing, labour of this kind, it becomes easier to see why this is like a movement anyone’s talking about, you know what I mean? Why these gender identity clinics are suddenly having to, like, service people on these different numbers and so on. And I don’t think any of us in the book provide a completely comprehensive, convincing argument for why that’s happening now, but we can at least try and understand the way that this is unfolding and like what that seems to suggest to me in terms of, like, existing groups, which is where we started, which is what you’re asking about. I guess what we’re trying to do, I think it’s fair is try get hold of what’s already happening, right, as well as hoping to transform it and make people more conscious of what they’re contributing to in a sense. But also just come to an understanding of what all of the existing networking and resourcing and provisioning and stuff is sort of like contributing to and where this kind of like, whole process which we all know about. As I was saying, you can’t not know about it on some level. People are getting in touch with you saying, ‘well, I don’t want to wait for two years to get on the meds, so can you put me in touch with someone?’
This is something which we’re all aware of on some intuitive, immediate level, but also I feel like it’s part of a larger picture, and it’s part of a broader thing. And hopefully what this will help people realize. I don’t think it’s going to convince everyone, but hopefully it will help convince the important people to this process, that these aren’t disjointed struggles. It’s not coincidental that so many people are drawn simultaneously, like towards revolutionary politics and gender transition. Those are two things which are continually informing each other a lot of the time, which is obviously not to suggest there’s a one to one relation. [laughs] Like anyone could tell you that but the overlap is non coincidental.
FT: Yeah, it’s super interesting. And that question that’s introduced at the start of the introduction about why so many trans people are drawn to Marxism and why there seem to be so many trans communists around is really interesting to me, and something I had thought a lot about but not in any rigorous sort of way.
But also the point you’re making there of blaming things on pharmaceutical companies is also a argument that just completely fascinates me. That kind of vulgar Marxist perspective that you sometimes get, in terms of a national articulations of transphobia is not something that comes up as much in Ireland. I don’t know, I have various theories about the national context and stuff and how we articulate transphobia differently here.
Like on the the trans communist theme—that was something I was really interested in and found illuminating, your discussion of why that might be the case. Then I was kind of interested, drawing semi on my own experience, of which I’m, you know, part of a national Community And Tenants Union. Myself and Jess were talking about this the other day and how, like, it’s a very trans union in some ways.
But, like, if you have a sense of, like, what the role or, like contributions of trans people in those organizations are, and their position—I was kind of vaguely thinking about Kate Doyle Griffiths description of transitional organizations and the kind of bridging of different struggles, and which for us in the union that I’m talking about is super interesting because there’s an aspiration anyway to bridge from housing specifically to other issues like crises of community care and these are difficult things to bring together. But in my experience anyway trans people within the union have been good at making those connections. I wonder if you’d like to speak to that point at all?
JJG: Well, Kate is one of the contributors to the book who has probably the most extensive experience with union and labour organizing. That chapter is very much is very much kind of like following the stuff you’re talking about, about these struggles kind of informing each other. And in their kind of view, they’re trying to approach this idea pulled from Kim Moody, the idea of chokepoints and understanding what the capitalist system is kind of like relying on in ways we wouldn’t normally realize. And so, yeah, that’s definitely one of the more strategically oriented chapters. I’m glad that we included it and provides, I hope, provides a bit more kind of, like, of a framework for how that aspect of social production theory I was kind of talking about could be used in more all purpose left wing organizing, and especially why, like, we kind of shouldn’t accept arguments that these are things we should have to put one side or like secondary or like extraneous considerations.
EOR: Yeah. In terms of labour politics, if we think about the traditional image of labour politics and the union man, we kind of have a very masculinist sort of conception of how it is that union demands are won. And what Kate’s really good at is—reflecting on our discussion before of Michelle O’Brien’s idea of certain sectors being predominated by trans people or queer people and stuff like that—Kate’s kind of drawing on the idea that Kim Moody thinks of certain sectors of the labour market as more strategically placed than others. So, you know, stuff is easier to organize or less easy to organize in plants, factories, coal mines, shipping these were the old big traditional ideas of union life. You could shut down a shipping yard and you could shut down the whole city. In Britain, you could shut down the coal mines and you could shut down the whole country.
So generally, labour organizing and discussions about it have been organized around the sort of masculinist conceptions of these industries as the key to everyone else’s liberation and Kim Moody has kind of shifted in response to a certain feminist criticism over the years, saying that service work is increasingly growing in our economy. Gabriel Winnant has a book recently about what happened in West Virginia when all the coal mines shut down and it was replaced by a healthcare sectors and labour, like looking after people. And so Kim Moody has responded to feminist criticism about chokepoints being this sort of masculinist domain, by recognizing the sensitivity of certain sectors of the economy, like health care, education, to being shut down by feminized labor forces.
And what Kate is really good at is drawing out why queer people might be predominate in these worlds. Like, you read Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues. They spent a long time working in shipping and ports. You know, queer people used to predominate and hang around like ports and sailors. That’s a big stereotype and it’s a stereotype for a reason. If you read like Chauncey’s Gay New York and stuff like that. And they draw on their experience from South Africa anthropology and the struggle against apartheid. You had sectors where it was illegal to break the colour line. It was also illegal to be gay and homosexual and so gay bars just became this fount of movement activism because if you’re breaking one law you may as well break another. And it’s interesting how at every point queer people have been involved in these sort of struggles and it’s not incidental. It’s kind of structurally produced by how queer people experience work, how queer people experience the world at large.
JJG: Yeah I definitely see Michelle and Kate’s chapters as sort of tackling the same the same picture from different views. Kate’s view is very much like the aerial, like macro picture and Michelle’s kind of drawing more on workspace ethnography, people she was meeting, people she was interviewing and her research in this respect. As a point, actually both of them have done things the other way around. Like, Michelle’s got grand sweeping pieces and Kate has got workplace ethnography stuff as well. But in this collection, it works out that way. It’s like two different angles on the same story of labor struggles and fraught gender identities.
FT: Yeah. I can remember precisely which chapter but the history of the—is it Marine Stewarts Union?—is really fascinating as well and something I’d like to look into further.
So yeah, I don’t have a huge amount left to talk about. I know we’ve had, like, a longish conversation. I do have one other question about the introduction and how it draws out the different aspects of Marx that are applicable in this context. And one that really struck me was, like, kind of by challenging the idea that Marx’s theory is not concerned with the body and physicality and kind of like sensuality and things like that. And the more I thought about it, the more obvious it seemed. You know the description of the labour process as the exercise of muscles and nerves, it’s a very physical thing or hunger and so on, is the material basis of Marxist politics. I’d love to hear you talk a bit more about why you thought that was important to highlight?
EOR: Yeah. I mean, that’s a big concern of the introduction because trans issues, obviously, generally run across the body, and there’s no way out of confronting the body.
I kind of wanted to draw out a particular aspect of Marx’s work that I find to be really under appreciated when it comes to discussions of Marx’s writings. And that was kind of Marx as a theorist of the phenomenology of capitalist oppression. So often when we read Marx in the Capital Volume 1 reading groups, there’s the fellas who come to it with a particular approach and it’s an approach of Marx as a fairly abstract and technical thinker concerned with value and the sort of accounting identities, so relations of productive or unproductive, relative and absolute surplus value of fixed and circulating capital, with his recurring and resonant metaphors about vampires and ghosts and this vast array of literary references merely kind of an expressive but longwinded means of making these deeper points.
But in reading Marx like this, we end up missing the wood for the trees and attributing the position of bourgeois political economy, that Marx was just intending to send up and make fun of, to Marx himself. Capital is very much a self deconstructing text where positions that are offered in one part are shown to be absurd and deliberately absurd in subsequent bits. So what Marx is attempting to do is kind of to underscore that bourgeois economy in treating people as automatons, or just as adjunct to machines or their interdependent actions as this unfolding of god, of these providential laws of the economy are kind of misapprehending the very grounding of the social categories of thought which they’re putting to work. And they are doing so in a way that is kind of deeply inhumane, deeply unethical, deeply harmful to human flourishing, and incredibly callous to boot. And that price is extracted from the working class, from how the system which oppresses them extracts its output through the air they breathe, through the backbreaking labour they must perform that is consigning them to an early death, the bread that the eat or the disabling injury and penury it extracts from all too many people. So that’s the Marxiological point just to just to show that I’ve read Marx to all the Marx lads who think women don’t read these sort of things.
But so what? What’s the upshot of all this? Well, for me, it kind of highlights that any rigid separation from materialist analysis and bodily practices is just untenable, but all too often we’re kind of presented with material analysis where this is coded as such. So we’re presented with the demonizing polemics which explicitly excludes the body, the endocrine system, how a society treats and receives you, and how people understand themselves in relation to you. Yet that claims to be the sine qua non of a materialist analysis. And this is quite common of radical feminist analysis or whatever you may want to call it.
So I think many of this book’s contributors are really keen on offering a different story. Many of the chapters are about the body and sensuality and how it’s put to work. Trans people know all too well that the seemingly abstract dynamics of capital accumulation hinge on these all two real distinctions between individuals. Abstractions like race and gender often operate as like a form of social domination where your appearance and comportment relegates you to certain forms of work or rules you out entirely from others. And so there are plenty of industries that are heavily feminized, as we’ve already said, to which gay and our lesbian women are attracted. Lines of work where they are there in greater numbers than in other industries. And this is kind of a well observed sociological phenomenon that requires a social explanation.
Moreover, how we put our bodies in motion, how we style ourselves, how we get about the world is just so important to trans politics that you cannot write a book without discussing it. And that was just kind of my point. And that was how I wanted to approach Marx and bring him to fore, like, claiming him as one of ours and on our side, more than anything else. [laughs]
JJG: [laughs] Well that point about the phenomenology labor that’s an ambition, that’s an approach to Marx stuff, which I definitely share with Elle and have been doing my very best to develop for some years because, sadly, in the academic context, very often Marxism is approached as this very strict, very austere even, this kind of exclusionary realism. So it’s specifically like a realism that focuses on only these acceptable things and other approaches phenomenology, psychoanalysis, these are extraneous. These are optional things to one side. And that’s definitely where I disagree.
And so we’ve got a phenomenology chapter, philosophy of experience chapter in this thing, and it closes with a psychoanalysis chapter as well by Xandra Metcalfe which is really excellent. This approach to Marx isn’t new. We’re not inventing it. There’s a bit in the introduction when we’re talking about Bataille and his criticism of surrealism, and it’s like, oh, the Surrealists try and just get over realism. They just try and soar like the Eagle. And really, we need to get into the belly, into the stomach of the proletariat, into the hunger. And I think that’s exactly right. That’s what Marx was originally trying to do. And there’s scholarship like Caston Sutherland and Maya Gonzalez, which we’re drawing on, that has also been taking that approach in recent years thankfully. So there are there are definitely Marxists in the academy who are making these similar arguments and similar points about what we can and can’t do with Marxism and a more expansive approach to that.
So that’s kind of what we’re part of. And I suppose that what I’m hoping we do, and I think what we’re hoping to do, is just not make people feel that we’ve got to do this choice where we can be like historical materialists or we can use frameworks from Lacan and Merleau-Ponty and those are like, opposing vying options which we’ve got to decide between. And I don’t really see any reason why. And I hope that people who read the collection are going to see that there’s different things we can glean from all of these different approaches. Anyway, I’m sounding very pluralistic. [laughs]
FT: Yeah. No, I guess that put me in mind of a specific idea of, like, you’re saying, I know about Marx’s theory being very kind of austere but also the idea that Marx politics and Marxists should be very austere and severe and not interested in pleasure, joy and things like that.
So I just wanted to ask a last question about, like, what you might hope to see next in terms of developments in transgender Marxist theory and practice, or alternatively, about projects that you might have that you might like to mention?
EOR: Yeah. I guess Transgender Marxism is just part of this broader wave of trans literature and theory at the moment. It’s a really exciting time because so much trans creativity is kind of finally finding a broader audience than it would have a few years ago, and we’re having the development of conversations and we’re kind of moving past sort of things that we were kind of stuck saying over and over again.
But in terms of Marxist theory, I would be excited to see how and where the book travels and responses to what people have written or elaborations and novel extensions. And I kind of think the next thing in transgender theory will be more surprising rather than from figures we already know and already think with and I’m sure the outline is already being batted around the Discord server as we speak. So I don’t really have a definite plan. I can’t really think of much of the moment. We’ve had lots of great books in recent years. I’m not sure what’s coming up next, but I’m sure it’ll be interesting and surprising.
JJG: Yeah [laughs] I feel like it’s always the role of revolutionaries to make ourselves obsolete right? We’re always supposed to abolish our own conditions. If we’re successful revolutionaries, that’s what we do. And I feel past it already. To some people this collection may seem very edgy and innovative and whatever else, but I can feel that obsolescence coming. You know, even before it was officially released, it was on these Discord servers. I’m old enough that I remember using IRC late into the night, but now apparently it’s Discord. It’s this new thing. There have been TikToks about it, and I don’t even have a TikTok account. There’s no way we could possibly keep up. I’ve sort of given up trying to keep up with the new turn of transgender Marxism or whatever is going to come next, which is delightful.
It’s good to have too much to keep track of because I can remember things were very different back in 2016, not that long ago, when you were trying to get this material pitched into the serious journals and stuff. Some of them still won’t have us, you know, New Left Review or all of these irrelevant rags, they’re not going to hear it. But on the one hand, it’s like edgy and too much. But in these contexts which I’m talking about in the kind of further reaches of community spaces, the internet, I don’t know what else. I probably am not even mentioning important apps in this process that I’ve not even heard of. You know what I mean? There’s a lot of stuff afoot and there’s a lot of things which are transforming, and I’m really very excited to see where it comes and very much looking forward to being completely out of date problematic and whatever else.
EOR: I’m looking forward to being surprised, which is always nice.