Commentary | Radical, schmadical

Labels aren’t as important as content

I’ve been reflecting on some comments people have made about my column. A friend of mine mentioned that her women’s studies class discussed my column. A Daily colleague mentioned sharing my column on suicide with family members. I’m immensely grateful for these comments. They have kept me motivated to write.

But what really interests me is that some of the reactions to my column contradict each other. The No Committee on the Daily Publications Society fee referendum this year used my piece on black market hormones as an example of content that didn’t resonate with many students, in the context of arguing that The Daily was too “radical” – but I have also heard people at McGill critique my column for not being “radical” enough.

I can see why people might think my column wasn’t “radical.” For example, when I discussed trans people in prisons, I didn’t mention the arguments in favour of reducing the number of people in prisons, let alone abolishing prisons. I’ve also kept away from queer politics’ third rail – how much of gender and sexuality is biological and how much is socially constructed – which could play a part in “radical” analyses. And I’ve argued against the idea that religion is inherently anti-queer; in the present left/right division of attitudes, being positive about religion seems to push people further right, not left, but that’s not necessarily the case.

 In large part, my column has rested on a few basic ideas. First, all human beings should be equal, even though society doesn’t treat them equally. Second, society systemically treats people of different genders and sexualities differently – and it’s women, queer people, trans people, intersex people, and others who pay for these inequalities. Third, issues that supposedly only affect one discrete class of people often affect other groups as well – for example, full-body scanners affect a number of different groups of people, such as members of religious minorities and people with disabilities, even though society doesn’t usually see them as facing the same issues. Fourth, society should listen to members of marginalized communities and recognize their experiences in developing its policies and sense of equality.

To people in queer circles, though, these ideas often aren’t “radical.” Instead, they’re the starting points. What’s “radical,” then, are even broader critiques of how we structure society, including arguments against the existence of marriage or even the state itself, or arguments over what methods we should use to change society, including both civil disobedience and violence. Many of us dismiss these ideas out of hand.

But the principles behind my column are still outside the mainstream. What’s mainstream is the idea that being trans is abnormal, and that trans people should be ashamed of themselves. And, for those who wouldn’t go that far, there’s always the notion that trans issues aren’t really worth hearing. In that context, writing any kind of column as an openly trans person could be “radical.”

 Really, though, the label “radical” is unimportant to me. I’m sure that whoever reads this column can make up their own mind. What does matter to me is that I have been open and spoken my conscience.

Quinn Albaugh’s outta here. It’s been real, do you feel me? Write her at quinn.albaugh@gmail.com.


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