A paper presented by a student at the London School of Economics in the gender studies department calls for direct and sustained violence against women, specifically those who hold gender critical views. The paper was presented first in April 2021 and then again in June at a conference in the Department of Gender Studies, which is organized by doctoral students.
Author of the paper Matt A. Thompson read from his work: "We go unnoticed, right up until the moment they scream for mercy. Am I a threat to you? Do I send chills down your spine? Picture this, I hold a knife to your throat and spit my transness into your ear. Does that turn you on? Are you scared? I sure fucking hope so."
The work was done as part of a course called Transnational Sexual Politics, taught by Dr. Jacob Breslow and Professor Clare Hemmings. The session, called "No Time, No TERFs, No Norms," featured four papers, including Thompson's "Trans* Endemics: Embodying Viral and Monstrous Threat in Times of Pandemic," as well as "Nationalism's Cannon Fodder: the Birth of Transpatriots," "Is Letting Trans Children Die "Common Sense"? And "Vomit and Time."
The organizing principle for the session "No Time, no TERFs, No Norms" was to engage "with trans as a site of collective affinity, these student scholars take a stand for solidarity to say: No TERFs on our turf!"
Thompson's paper was toward his masters degree, and constituted 30 percent of the final grade for the course. The author identifies as "genderf*ck," a gender identity designation that, according to LGBT Wiki, is an intentionally "self-conscious effort to 'f*ck with' or play with traditional" gender roles and expression; "it falls under the umbrella of the transgender spectrum."
In Thompson's "Trans* Endemics: Embodying Viral and Monstrous Threat in Times of Pandemic," they (preferred pronouns are plural) explore their own threat to women as a trans person. Thompson writes, in rather confusing academic prose:
"Taking seriously the transphobic notion of transness as an endemic threat to feminism, gender, and rights, I present 'trans* endemics' as a political and scholarly strategy that asks, what does an embodiment of threat, indeed, being a threat, do as a possible site of survival and resistance for trans* bodies? I take the toxicity and virality of trans* threat to its theoretical limits to piece together avenues for embodied resistance."
Thompson writes: "In drawing from contemporary trans* explorations of posthumanism, nonhumanism, and inhumanism, and critiques of the racial and colonial dimensions of transness and animalities, I re-explore early work on trans* monstrosity to argue for a revisitation of virality and toxicity through a trans* politics that harnesses the endemic. Trans* will forever be threatening; what happens when we take threat as a site of politics to say: 'Yes, we are a fucking threat'?"
Thompson has since made his WordPress site private.
Comments on the paper were decidedly positive. One person identified as Alice said that the piece was "provocative," "poignant, funny and enraging all at once."
Chrissie agreed, saying that it was "insightful and provocative," as well as "really clever." This person also liked the "take on Andrea Chu," an author who is a biological male who identifies as transgender. Chu has previously said: "People transition because they think it will make them feel better. The thing is, this is wrong."
The London School of Economics took down the paper once they were alerted to its content, stating on Twitter that they appreciated it being brought to their attention "This presentation," they wrote, "did not abide by the School's Code of Practice on Free Speech and has been removed from the relevant student conference pages."
After LSE claimed that they were not aware of the paper's content, and had taken it down, Sex Matters, a UK based group that advocates for women's rights, called on the school to "make an urgent public commitment to commissioning an independent review of these events by a discrimination lawyer" and to publish "the findings and recommendations of that review."
At issue for Sex Matters is more than just Thompson's paper, but the entire programme for the masters course on Sexuality, Gender and Globalisation, which is "an interdisciplinary course within which intersectional, black feminist, postcolonial, queer, crip, trans, and critical race perspectives are used to interpret particular sexual phenomena and contexts – rights, citizenship, fertility, representation, kinship, asylum and technology, for example. The course will allow a thorough grounding in sexuality and gender studies and includes a high element of student participation."
They demand that LSE then explain "the steps the university will take to address its findings so as to ensure that female students and staff, and gender critical students and staff do not encounter a hostile environment across LSE as a whole."
The full paper reads:
"Tell me, what do you find threatening? The police? Men? Me?
"When you see me walk down the street with my long blonde hair, heeled combat boots, and make up to die for, are you scared?
"You should be.
"When I walk down the street, I see people who hate me and admire me; want to kill me, and want to fuck me. They see a threat, and I see a weakness.
"I am both threat and threatened. I am the monster in your nightmares, I am the lamb for the slaughter, I am the butcher. Watch me take my knife to your throat.
"My body is a threat and my body is a disease. Or so you would believe if all you ever read were books by Janice Raymond.
"TERFs see transness as an endemic threat to feminism, a 'social contagion', the frontier on which they're going to defeat patriarchy. They don their JK Rowling masks and shout bloody murder about 'female erasure'. They see trans* people and gender studies departments as brainwashing the population against the sanctity of biological sex. Actually, on this last point, they're not too far from right.
"This, in the midst of a global pandemic.
"A pandemic that has trans* organisations across the world fighting for survival. And I don't mean survival as in stocking up on toilet paper or making masks on your home sewing machine. Survival as in, access to gender affirming health care that can determine whether you want to live or die. Survival when living with family members that would rather beat you than use your correct pronouns. Survival when living on the street or partaking in sex work, as many trans* people do, are no longer viable ways of living.
"And yet, TERFs declare these very people fighting for survival are the primary threat to feminism. Forget men, it's them trannies we have to look out for.
"And its the conflation of the imagined trans* threat and the lived experiences of trans* people that is the problem. To TERFs, the trans* body on the brink of suicide in the wake of a life-shattering pandemic is the same as the man in a dress who just wants to attack women in bathrooms. The trans* threat is very much alive and well in the mind of the TERF.
"But, what if trans* is threatening? What if, all along, instead of pretending thatt rans* is nice and pretty and wouldn't dare hurt your precious gender, we've been yelling: yes we fucking would! In a heart beat. Give me a stage to stand on, or a website to upload a recording to, and I will cut your gender to shreds with my words like knives.
"Andrea Long Chu, in all her provocative glory, somewhat malignantly argues hat trans* studies is over. That transing isn't really a theory. That trans* studies hasn't been aggressive enough. For Chu, the dangerous prerogative of queer theory that has been assigned to trans* studies precludes trans* studies from reckoning with its non-transgressive sides, such as the highly normative transsexual body.
"To pull a Chu on Chu, I call bullshit. Trans* studies has been more than aggressive and contentious. And yes, some trans* bodies are more normative than others, but, as Jack Halberstam highlights, to assume a homogeneity of the transsexual and to reduce all other trans*nesses to mere transgression is exactly as it seems: transphobic. In fact, it's bordering on TERFy. I agree, we shouldn't push transgression for transgression's sake. But trans* is always first and foremost a threat. We still get Germaine Greer enraged at the idea of having to share a bathroom, regardless of how normative we are.
"And what of the 'social contagion' that TERFs fear so much? Well, maybe we are contagious. So what if trans* is endemic?
"An endemic is localised, it is a parasite, both precursor and successor to the epidemic. An endemic is enduring, it is underlying. It's not life threatening, but threatens your well being. You can live with the endemic, but you really fucking wish it wasn't there.
"Trans* is endemic.
"I am not blind to the problematics of this. Sexual and gendered deviancy as plague is by no means a new concept, and we can be only too aware of the dangers of this kind of language. So, let me make a distinction, for god knows the TERFs won't. It is not the material bodies of trans* people that are contagious, but the imagined trans* body that spreads like wildfire.
"The imagined trans* body is always monstrous, it is always toxic, it is always a freak of nature, and it is always a transsexual woman. It is the imagined trans* body that TERFs find so terrifying, so threatening.
"Susan Stryker invites us to accept the rage that this produces and embrace the monster. Stryker's monster has been rightfully criticised for its racial and colonial complications. These criticisms remind us that, in the same ways this pandemic has disproportionately devastated marginalised communities, the consequences of claiming the monster will be disproportionately distributed. Claiming the monster, the animal, the wild, does very different things for those who are already racialised as monsters and animals.
"Claiming threat, then, needs to be different. It needs to work beyond an aesthetic of transgression that promulgates that very power that we're transgressing in the first place. Embodying threat is similar to Stryker's occupation of the monster, Eli Clare's embodiment of the freak, Mel Chen's harnessing of the inanimate, but differs fundamentally as it sits just outside of transgression. It exists as underlying, as an additive, as an asterisk.
"Embodying the viral in times of pandemic seems controversial, and it is. We spend so much energy trying to protect ourselves against the toxic these days.The toxic has become an everyday part of our lives. But this energy also further imbues the toxic with a new power. The pandemic is not only life threatening but world threatening – capitalism is sh*tting itself.
"But toxicity has always already been a part of our lives. Trans* has alwaysbeen in the air, in the water; it has always been just out of sight, slowly eatingaway at you.
"Trans* as lived experience, as mode of survival, is exemplified and characterised only too well by the trans* organisations fighting for trans* lives during this pandemic. This experience is concrete, tangible, and real. But so too is the imagined trans* threat. This threat is made of matter, it is the stuff of bodies, it is the alchemical, the cellular, the alien. It is mattered, and yet it is figurative. It exists in the minds of those who wish to see these bodies destroyed.
"Let us harness this parasitic imaginary and suck the cis out of feminism. Let us be the endemic. Let us exist as the evil twin to queer theory, and let us bleed it dry for all it can offer us. Chu is wrong: trans* is more than ancillary notion to queer. But do we have to depart from queer entirely? Is trans* even fucking here yet?
"If TERFs think trans* is an endemic threat to feminism, let us be the threat to feminism. We are the endemic, the viral, the toxic onslaught of ideology that attacks the very core of what you hold dear. We go unnoticed, right up until the moment they scream for mercy.
"Am I a threat to you? Do I send chills down your spine?
"Picture this: I hold a knife to your throat and spit my transness into your ear. Does that turn you on? Are you scared?
"I sure fucking hope so."