LETTER


In Response to the Veterans for Peace Transgender Statement

July 31, 2015

To the Veterans for Peace Executive Committee and Executive Director:

We are writing in response to VFP's recent "Transgender Statement."

First, a brief introduction.

Lisa Blank is a VFP member and an activist who has been involved with CODEpink, Military Families Speak Out, National Organization of Women and local peace, social justice and immigration rights advocacy groups. She was one of three women creators of The Military Sexual Trauma Awareness Garden in Phoenix, Arizona and has spoken on the correlation between militarism and sexism/racism/classism in multiple venues. Lisa moved to Mexico after a long career in healthcare and healthcare management.  She continues her involvement in elevating the status of girls and women worldwide and describes her feminist beliefs as 'the lens thru which I view the world and my moral compass.'

Anita Stewart is a Green Party member, a veteran, a long-time member of Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, a broadcaster and talk show host, journalist, licensed medical healthcare worker and activist. She stands for truth, human rights and social justice, equality for all, safe food and water, ending fracking and offshore oil drilling, supports the Equal Rights Amendment and ending the US wars and occupations. She has broadcasted her own shows that elevate the stories of amazing women; Wise Women Media and Challenging the Rhetoric and she writes extensively for a number of different websites and blogs. She believes that right now the global war is being directed towards women. 

As a managing editor for OpEdNews from 2007-2011, Cheryl Biren served as the Veterans for Peace point person promoting campaigns and publishing VFP related articles. As an OEN photojournalist, she covered numerous VFP actions in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. She is a longtime ally and has been a VFP lifetime associate member since 2012. She is committed to the liberation of girls and women and is a member of the Women's Liberation Front. Her work as a case manager in community mental health programs centered around the inequities resulting from institutionalized racism and classism. It was through her engagement with the antiwar left that she came to apply a class analysis to sexism. 

There are numerous female VFP members and supporters who contributed to the writing of this letter. They include women who not only suffered rape while in the military, but retaliation for reporting it and for waging a public battle to end rape culture within the military. Only three women have put their names to this due to fear of online doxxing and threats of rape and violence. This is a harsh truth of openly challenging gender and identity politics.

We understand that sex (that is, female, male, intersex) is a biological state and that humans are a sexually dimorphic species. We assert that gender is a patriarchal social construct in which females from birth are socialized to be feminine/submissive and males are socialized to be masculine/dominant. This gendering process oppresses girls and women. As women who endured this brutal socialization (that continues into adulthood) we recognize and we support the profound desire of those who seek to break free of these sexist gender roles. We are gender abolitionists. We do not believe in, nor does science support, the idea of "female brains" or "female souls." We believe that gender is not innate and not a binary, but a constructed hierarchy that serves male supremacy.

Because we have the apparent audacity to declare such things, we are called bigots and "TERFs." To be clear, "TERF" is not language with which we identify, but which is thrust upon us. It is a slur leveled at any woman - feminist or not - who makes even the slightest murmur of disagreement with queer theory. The aim is to intimidate women and to shut down dialogue. It is a modern-day term for "Witch." Go to Terfisaslur.com to see what we are subjected to for refusing to remain silent. Often these threats of rape and torture and murder are made directly to individual women (ourselves included). Lisa has examples of the threats she has personally received for publicly stating a 'penis is a male sex organ.' They are available to anyone who cares to understand the serious risk of women questioning Queer Theory.  

Veterans for Peace may disagree with our analysis, but does our analysis make us bigots? Do we not have the right to formulate these ideas and express them freely without being threatened? Without having resolutions passed that seek to silence our voices and restrict our movement in political discourse and action?

On a recent social media thread some of those who petitioned VFP for a Transgender Statement determined that the following remarks were "transphobic" and "transmisogynistic" and equated them with hate speech:

"Sex is the biological state. We are a sexually dimorphic species. That is, male and female. A very small percentage of people are born intersex." 

"When I listen to parents who label their kids transgender they say things like, "He always liked playing with girls, dressing up like a princess..." or "She cried and had a tantrum whenever we tried to put her in a dress." They say that is how they knew early on that their kid was born in the wrong body. Are you kidding me? This is what people are saying. It reeks of homophobia really and, again, it reifies stereotypes." 

"Did you know that surgeons are performing bilateral mastectomies on teenage girls? I am talking UNDER age 18. Girls who because of this nightmare that is gender don't feel like girls or who have been taught to hate their bodies are undergoing irreversible hormonal and surgical treatment."

"For that they are giving children powerful hormones to block puberty and to prepare their healthy bodies for future surgery. We're talking 10 and 11-year-old kids. Doctors and clinics are raking in the dough over this. How is this okay with leftists and progressives?"  

"This does affect girls and women directly. Women have fought long and fought hard to create safe spaces because girls and women are targeted by males simply for being females. Because of queer theory, women who are in domestic violence shelters after having been raped and brutalized by men are being faced with the prospect of sharing intimate space in those shelters with male-bodied persons. And, most male to trans persons cannot or choose not to undergo surgery to remove their genitals. Should a woman who has been traumatized have to share intimate space with someone who was born male and socialized male?" 

Is this what Veterans for Peace calls hate speech and is there no class analysis in this male-dominated organization when it comes to females? 

Having been born female into a male supremacist world, having survived girlhood in a male supremacist world, we have earned our right to claim and define woman. Too many have not survived. Woman is not a feeling. We are survivors of and we struggle within the sex caste called female. Demanding that we remain silent about our own bodies and our place in this world is unconscionable and we will resist it.

Trans identified individuals are at risk. They are at risk of physical violence almost exclusively at the hands of men. They have a right to safety and Veterans for Peace should be called to consider the safety of all its members and the community at large. 

We have been calling for Veterans for Peace to address the issue of male violence and masculinity and the role they play not only in wars abroad, but here at home and within the organization itself. Have you asked yourselves why there are not more women in Veterans for Peace? If you are not familiar with the struggle of women against misogyny in the antiwar movement since the 1960s, then we would all be well-served for you to educate yourselves.

"Marilyn Webb was 26 and a well-established leftist when she took the stage at a Washington rally to protest the war on the occasion of Richard Nixon's inauguration in 1969. Facing a crowd of 20,000 protesters, she began a speech she considered extremely mild, given the passion of her convictions. "Women must take control of our bodies," she told the crowd. "We must define our own issues." 

That was as far as she got, before the heckling began with, "Take off your clothes!" and a barrage of other, cruder propositions. Fistfights broke out, and Dave Dellinger, the head of Mobilization Against the War, who had introduced Webb, accused her of causing a riot. 

"It was terrifying," recalled Webb, now a journalist and author in New York City."

"Webb's experience was one of countless incidents in which women opposed to the war were belittled, ignored and marginalized within the antiwar movement they had helped to build, and the animosity pushed women toward an equal-rights movement all their own. The atmosphere among antiwar groups was "saturated with toxic sexism," feminist Robin Morgan said. That led to a split in the alliance of the two leftist causes."

This struggle continues. We have been present and we have experienced this first hand. We have heard the stories told by female veterans, female associate members, and female allies of Veterans for Peace that point to systemic sexism within the organization.

We witnessed it three years ago under the VFP tent at Independence Mall in Philadelphia that was set up to promote our organization’s mission and to recruit new members. Conversations under that tent and in the presence of female veterans and allies, both members and passersby, included male veterans reminiscing about "cheap pussy" in Vietnam. The "cheap pussy," of course, representing girls and women who were traumatized, exploited and raped in a war zone by those men and the United States military.

It was seen when a female reporter (Cheryl) discovered that a male VFP member and journalist had written an account of her arrest and jailing during a VFP action and published it on a site that was known to use hard-core pornographic images. Having received a Google alert to that article, she was confronted with photographs on the same page of women gagged and bound, one with semen dripping from her face. A VFP board member was informed of this yet the matter was never addressed. The same Veterans for Peace journalist published a critique of reporter Lara Logan laden with objectification and sexual innuendo and referred to Logan as "one hot mama" in the context of a brutal gang rape in Egypt. 

We have listened to the stories of sexual harassment of women by male members including some in leadership positions. We have heard the stories of physical assault and threats by male members against women. Stories of objectification and marginalization at the table, at the barricades and the newest front - social media.

When the insults and attacks occur as they often do, for example, on the Veterans for Peace FB group page, many women are compelled to walk away in response to attempts to intimidate and silence them. Some stay and push back and are attacked in return. It is especially disturbing when it is directed at female veterans on the VFP group page. This from a post about female soldiers, PTSD and suicide is one of countless examples. When a female veteran resisted a man's derailing attempts she wrote that 1 in 3 women in the military are sexually assaulted. She expressed how damaging that was and that she knew because she was one of them. His response was to tell her that she was using "female logic" and playing the "victim card."


When we, on several occasions, requested that the administrator who is a current Veterans for Peace board member make a statement in the "about" section that sexism and misogyny will not be tolerated, we were told that there was no need for that. That it would fit under the umbrella of "mutual respect and courtesy" and nothing more needed to be said. 

These sexist and misogynistic assaults by men against women are written off by Veterans for Peace as individual acts and not part of the larger system of institutionalized sexism. Women are dismissed.

Now Veterans for Peace is aligning itself with a belief system that says that we, as women, are the bigots. VFP is rising up against "transmisogyny" (a term not defined in your statement), but ignores male on female hate speech and violence completely bypassing the matter of misogyny.

Now Veterans for Peace (and its all-male executive committee and executive director) is moving in a direction where female members - some of whom endured military sexual trauma at the hands of the men with whom they served in a vicious male-supremacist military system - will not be free to define their boundaries, where they will be called bigots, transphobic, TERF, if they choose to gather, organize and heal apart from males.

Queer theory/identity politics does not simply ask females to be respectful, it demands our complete submission.

Queer theory/identity politics demands that women deny our female bodies. Bodies that serve as the basis for our oppression from the time we are in utero until our death. Bodies that are explicitly connected to our place in this world - politically, economically, socially. Bodies that are mined, abused, exploited.

Queer theory/identity politics tells us that it is bigoted to say women have vaginas and at the same time it tells us that a penis can be female if the person who has said penis "feels" like a female or woman. Lesbians are threatened, harassed, called bigots and trans-misogynists for choosing not to enter into sexual relationships with trans individuals who identify as lesbian. Google the "cotton ceiling" to learn more about that.

Queer theory/identity politics demands that individuals born male and socialized as males be granted access to the most intimate of female spaces; locker rooms, rape crisis centers, battered women shelters, consciousness raising groups, jail cells. It calls us "exclusionary" if we don't submit or if we even dare to question. It calls women violent if we choose to use pronouns to delineate the sexes.

Queer theory/identity politics says that if a person who is born male, who navigates through life as a male and who later identifies as a woman is elected to the VFP executive committee that females/women are then represented in that group. Does Veterans for Peace agree with this? 

Queer theory/identity politics argues that females are the oppressors for saying no to all of that. It demands that we suspend disbelief, it seeks to strip us of our language, our right to set boundaries, our dignity, our safety and our right to fight back against our oppression. Queer theory colonizes.

Regarding the statement that, "VFP affirms the rights, humanity and identity of trans and gender diverse people and will not accept trans-phobic or trans-misogyny behavior or remarks," we have the following questions. We recognize that for some of you this language is new as it is for many. On issues as important as this, it is critical that we have a clear understanding of how these terms are being used. 

Questions Part 1:

1.  How is trans-phobia, as you are using that term, defined? What are examples of trans-phobic behavior and remarks?
2.  How is trans-misogyny defined. What are examples of trans-misogynistic behavior and remarks?
3.  How is gender defined within the context of VFP's statement?
4.  What is gender diverse?
5.  Does VFP consider it bigoted or trans-phobic to hold and express differing views regarding the theory of gender?
6.  Does Veterans for Peace recognize and affirm the struggle of Females from a sex-based class analysis perspective?

Regarding the announcement that "The Veterans For Peace Board will introduce a national VFP resolution calling for Equality for all transgender veterans and active duty military as well as a call for Equality for all transgender people in all aspects of society," we raise these issues and ask the following questions:

While the word "Equality" has served as a cornerstone of progressive thought, we would be remiss to not explore what that means in terms of material conditions for girls and women. 

H.R. 3185: Equality Act was introduced this month by Rep. David Cicilline. The resolution defines gender identity as, "the gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth." 

What does that mean? It suggests that there are specific mannerisms and characteristics that correspond to and are inherent to our sex. In other words if a male expresses "mannerisms" that are associated with females solely because of enforced gendered socialization then they can "identify" as a woman and gain access to women-only spaces. Feminists have been pushing back against that biological essentialism for decades. It is sexist on its face. Have Veterans for Peace considered its female members in this regard? 

Again, trans identified individuals are at risk of violence committed by men, but should women be compelled to accommodate that, to put our concerns, comfort, safety and rights aside because men are a threat to trans individuals? 

Taking into account thousands of years of history and recent studies and events, males are also a threat to females. Further, according to a peer reviewed, long-term (30 years) clinical study as reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH): "Regarding any crime male-to-females had a significantly increased risk for crime compared to female controls but not compared to males. This indicates that they retained a male pattern regarding criminality. The same was true regarding violent crime." 

In terms of employment settings, the Equality Act would result in Gender Identity overriding Sex. In the case of security positions, for example, if passed, girls and women would not be free to object to pat-downs and invasive body exams by males who simply identify as women. This protection that women currently have would be eliminated because employers would be subject to lawsuits if they attempt to bypass this. 

Additionally, while many states ban discrimination in public accommodations, many make an exception for public accommodations for which there is an expectation of privacy. The Equality Act as currently proposed would override this allowing access to women's shelters, dressing rooms, etc. to any male who claims a female identity. It is well documented that predators have already used this to gain access to females for violent criminal purposes (details available upon request).

Then, there is the matter of Title IX. A law that women fought hard for that prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded educational programs and activities. If you require additional information on how critical this has been for girls and women, please ask and we will assist you. In the age of identity politics, this important program is at risk of having identity/feeling supersede sex as a class. This movement is the only one in the history of civil rights that has advanced its own rights at the expense of the rights of another oppressed group. 

Questions Part 2:

1.  Did Veterans for Peace consider these concerns before announcing that it supports "equality for all transgender people in all aspects of society?" If so, how did you reconcile these conflicting issues?
2.  Will Veterans for Peace ensure and support female-only spaces for female veterans and associate members as well as female supporters within the organization?

We respectfully request that the proposed resolution be suspended while the questions and issues detailed in this letter are addressed. We ask that this letter be included in upcoming VFP discussions as they relate to the Transgender Statement and Resolution. Along with your answers to each of the questions above, we request a copy or link to past VFP statements and resolutions concerning sexism and misogyny.

We look forward to your reply.

Lisa Blank, Anita Stewart, and Cheryl Biren     

23 comments:

  1. This letter is one of the most articulate article/letter that I've read about the problems with transgender issues as they relate to women and girls. The three women who have signed their names and the women who helped write this but were unable to be known because of the backlash that will probably come have hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head. I urge everyone to read and consider these words carefully, as well as all the other articulate women who are writing about the effects of transgender issues on women and girls.

    I hope that the Veterans For Peace representatives consider what has transpired here and, at the very least, give answer to the very reasonable questions that have been posed in this letter.

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    1. I am already getting tons of "backlash" for my two sentences of support.

      I don't think people who are attacking me have actually read this letter.

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    2. We are simply asking that VFP define the terms they used in their Statement posted on their public website. We are also asking that females be permitted to maintain the female only spaces we build. What other class of oppressed people would liberals and the left say didn't have a right to meet without the oppressor present?

      There is such fear in speaking out in the defense of women. We saw it writing this letter. So many wonderfully brave and outspoken women veterans helped to write this letter. They encouraged us, thanked us, patted us on the back and let us know they were with us 'in spirit' but were unable to sign due to fear of being doxxed, or worse.

      The first clue that something is wrong is when you are not allowed to have a conversation with differing points of view. All conversation is shut down quickly with some level of a threat of violence.

      We are hoping to be able to have a civil conversation, sharing viewpoints and allowing those women who don't feel free to speak to hear all viewpoints.

      If Male Violence did not exist, this would not be an issue. But Male Violence DOES exist. Women aren't raping and killing each other or transwomen. Men are. Saying 'Male Violence' also is an invitation for trouble.

      Margaret Atwood said 'Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.' Very true.

      We learn to never hurt men's feelings. We know what happens.

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  2. A very important, and timely, letter which should be read and seriously considered by any who value a social compact, and peace on this earth.

    VFP's basic principles & ethics protect universal human rights, and what the trans lobby is doing to eliminate female-only safe spaces is actually misogynistic. The reality is that we live in a rape culture, and many biological girls & women do not feel safe when male-to-trans people are in our locker rooms and dorms.

    It's very important to take a step back and listen to actual women warriors and hear what we're saying. There is no reason why transgender people can't have their own spaces without threatening or disrespecting the needs of the oppressed classes, including biological women.

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  3. You have my support!
    Thanks for this great letter and lesson.

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  4. Well done! Thank you for standing up to this colonization of women.

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  5. As a veteran I find these repeated attacks on women to be utterly cowardly and something that all veterans should fight against. As it is the men continue to practice the worst & vilest behaviors ever that can be directed towards another human being. Until women veterans have the respect and honor that we deserve then there can be no such group as "veterans for peace". You may be anti-war but you are not about peace.

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  6. Well said and insightful for many of us. Thanks for shaking the tree.

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  7. Additional comments can be found at the Contact Us page.
    http://thewomensalliance.blogspot.com/p/contact-us.html

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  8. As a woman Veteran and a survivor of military sexual assault I am disappointed that Veterans for Peace is refusing to provide a safe place for biological women Veterans. Women Veterans deserve to have their voices and concerns heard. We also need a safe space just for us to help us connect with other biological women veterans that went through similar experiences while serving our nation.

    I was one of the Veteran that helped write the letter but due to fear of retaliation and abuse from those at VFP who are opposed to a safe space for biological women Veterans only I am choosing to remain anonymous. Veterans for Peace seems to care about creating Peace for everybody other than those in their organization who are biological women.

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  9. Thank you so much for doing this! It is brilliant, gentle, and caring, and will STILL get you backlash. I'm so sorry that it will happen; I stand with you, for what it's worth. I support women. Bless you.

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  10. Thank you so much for bravely entering this fractious arena. I support this letter and I support safety for everyone. Ellen Barfield

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  11. This is the third time I am writing a comment in support of Cindy, Cheryl, Lisa and Anita's efforts to expose the sexism in VFP and IVAW. I have erased my last 2 comments due to fear of retaliation, primarily from male leaders in IVAW. I decided today I am going to sign on in support and regret I am doing it anonymously.

    The sexism and sexual harassment in the military was traumatizing enough and in no way did I ever imagine it would continue after service in the group I expected to find solace and understanding. I have dreamed of starting an all female veterans group not associated with VFP or IVAW but I am unwilling to face the bullying from het women, gay men and liberal kumbaya types that follow along believing men who take a pill become women and deserve entry to female only spaces, including the vaginas of lesbians.

    Thank you women for going public with what many of us talk about in private.

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  12. I support the questions in this letter wholeheartedly and would like to hear a response from Vets for Peace about the important issues raised. Women's rights must not be relegated a back seat!

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  13. I support this letter and demand to hear a substantive response to the issues raised by Veterans for Peace. The lack of response is hypocritical.

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  14. This is an incredibly important, and articulate letter that lays out precisely why women must speak up against this "trans-agenda" that apparently seeks silence anyone who dares to even question its orthodoxy. It's terrifying, and it marginalizes women, yet again.

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  15. Thank you so much for your courage and wisdom.
    -Lorna Garano

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  16. I fully support the content of this letter. These discussions and questions must be addressed. Thank you! Susan Smyth Vancouver BC Canada

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  17. I support this discussion and these questions. My children's grandmother served in the Canadian forces during the Second World War as a nurse. She and a group of other women started the Raging Grannies in Victoria BC over 30 years ago. I know that dear Bess would also support this letter if she was still with us all. Thank You!

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  18. Thank you for this very well written letter. Male violence is the #1 reason I can't post unless anonymous. I would like to know their answers. We are going to have to be stronger, tougher, and -I'm sad to say, going to need to get a little more like them before anything will change. Safe spaces for women, women's only spaces, and females being able to call out their oppressor are just some of the things we need to fight for again. The trans rhetoric is very damaging to women. Sexism against females is rampant in this culture and it needs to be nipped in the bud. It is unacceptable.

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  19. I have long thought that facilities should be provided for all genders separately, making them safe for all. It wasn't that long ago the 'male' work places said they couldn't employ females because they only had male toilets! Life has always been in favour of 'manly males'!

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  20. Thank you all for taking the time to compose such a deeply thoughtful brilliantly conceived article/letter that pretty much covers all the important implications and concerns regarding ‘gender’ and ‘sex/biology’ politics. I agree that something serious is going on here if women are threatened because they express an opposing view or choose to define themselves. Remember the ‘Queer/Identity’ lobby is driven by aggressive, often violent ‘male-energy’—whether they wear a dress or not. The male always needs to dominate, control, take center stage, lead, colonize, and impose.
    I realize that transgender individuals have a lot to deal with within themselves and do struggle with finding their place in the human family which is historically and biologically composed of males and females. However, they must forge their own path. They chose to be different, and deserve to be treated with respect just as much as any human being does. But they don’t get to infiltrate, co-op, or colonize womanhood by redefining what it means to be a woman, or threatening women who do not agree with their views nor want them in our private women-only spaces. Transgendered individuals should not disrespect Mother Nature by diminishing women’s biological power to bring life into this world just because they were born with male bodies or wish they were born with male bodies. We women ARE our biology, period. No pun intended. All the repression and aggression against us is precisely because of our biology! Male supremacy seeks absolute control over women’s bodies and sexuality, and now want to alter the very definition of women to exert even more control.
    BTW, Men do not menstruate, women do.

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  21. This letter is too right. Trans-women get their delusions supported because of male-supremacy. Their bodies are valued when actual female bodies are not. Veterans for Peace should change their misogynistic ways.

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