Noble’s “Trans. Panic.” and Black liberation

While parsing through this week’s readings I found myself consistently struggling with the complex concepts presented in Noble’s “Trans. Panic.”. Noble begins by introducing basic structures of labor and the role of labor in capitalism, using this as the groundwork for understanding the institutionalizing of women’s studies. They make the important distinction between ‘trans’ in the sense of movement across and ‘trans’ in terms of gender identity, however they are closely linked in understanding the role of gender studies within the larger framework of women’s studies. . The exclusion of trans voices and bodies from women’s studies’ curriculum is denying an essential part of its history. Noble makes the argument that women’s studies cannot progress within the academic framework unless it breaks away from the oppressive and hegemonic forces that influence its teachings. In order to do this there must be a trans-ing of women’s studies.

Noble’s article made me reflect on recent events and their importance to the Black liberation movements. Historically, Black LGBTQ+ folks have been excluded and silenced in Black liberation movements. Black lives Matter, a movement started notably by black women – one of which is queer- presents a new and developing front on how to approach activism. Over time social rights movements have ebbed and waned in terms of their strength, starting off strong and then slowly eking out due to a number of reasons. BLM as a movement presents a new sort of front on activism in its stance on inclusion and the uplifting of LGBTQ+ voices, more importantly recognizing the violence faced by Black trans women. By trans-ing the movement we can hope to see a lasting growth that benefits all black lives and not just a cisheterosexual ones.

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4 thoughts on “Noble’s “Trans. Panic.” and Black liberation

  1. The African-American Civil Rights Movement that occurred in 1954–1968 was mainly about ending racial segregation and discrimination and thus it is normal that LGBTQ black people were silenced in that movement because: First because it was a movement about bigger difficulties encountered by all kind of black people (LGBTQ or not) and second LGBTQ black people at that time couldn’t even talk about their sexual freedom when they were denied from their basic human rights, which means that they have bigger priorities at that time. Thus, everything comes at its time and it makes sense that now LBM movement has evolved and now includes Black LGBTQ people’s right. You can’t complain about not getting fries with your hamburger when you’re prohibited from getting a hamburger at the first place.

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    1. I am in complete accordance with you on what the aims of the civil rights movement, I think anyone who has studied civil rights during the 50’s and 60’s would agree with that statement. I initially struggle with your positioning on the normalcy of silencing LGBTQ Black people and thus, necessary for the targeting of “bigger priorities”. I want to wrestle with your use of the word ‘normal’ in this context. Normal is an off shoot of what is considered the norm and therefore acceptable in wider society. Just because something is viewed or deemed as normal does not mean that it is acceptable. It is never acceptable to silence LGBTQ people, or any marginalized group for that matter, to further a cause or movement.
      The civil rights movement was spearheaded by a few notable Gay Black men and I would argue that without their commentary, insight, and abilities the movement would not have progressed as well or as far as it did. James Baldwin was a contemporary of MLK who wrote extensively about the intersections of homosexuality and Blackness. He is considered one of the most prolific voices of the civil rights movement, using his own personal experiences to critique American society. Bayard Rustin was integral in MLK’s success during the early civil rights movement, helping to organize the SCLC where King solidified his leadership in the Black community. Though these two individuals were key figures during the civil rights movement, yet they still faced homophobia and criticism for their sexuality. The distancing of the MLK Jr. from Bayard Rustin and James Baldwin was not because it benefitted the movement, but because of pervasive homophobia and a desire to maintain the social order concerning sexuality.
      I understand that issues affecting LGBTQ Black folk do not affect all Black folk, however that does not minimize the importance of these issues being tackled alongside racism since they often work hand in hand. Freedom is not something that should be obtained in increments, where one group’s suffering is deemed less pressing for the greater good. You mentioned that “everything comes at its time[sic]” and I find this notion to be slightly ahistorical. It minimizes all the work that Black LGBTQ people had to do to get to a point where a national movement centered them. BLM did not center LGBTQ rights because it is “time”, they centered it because it was necessary for Black liberation. Martin Luther King said it best in Letter from Birmingham Jail, “(…) Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills (…) Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability”. Liberation for some is not liberation for all, and in that same vein any movement that does not seek to eradicate oppression in all its forms is a movement that is flawed. Black academics often note that the biggest setback for the civil rights movement was the erasure of sexism and homophobia to center racism. This erasure continued into the Black power movement in the 70s, where Black women were often painted as trying to ruin the Black family for trying to critique sexism and patriarchy. Audre Lorde and Angela Davis were critical figures in deconstructing why Black liberation is useless unless it centers the voices of those most marginalized, in my blog I assert that the most marginalized amongst us are trans Black women and men.
      I do not believe that the biggest obstacle faced by Black folk is/was solely racism. Oppression occurs on multiple axis’ (hence the introduction of intersectionality). I am not entirely too sure what you mean by “sexual freedom”, but I will state that the ability to live freely and openly with your sexuality without fear of persecution or death is and should be a basic human right. My sexuality and my race do not exist on separate planes of my identity; they are deeply linked and I would argue that this was as relevant during the civil rights movement as it is now. Audre Lorde pointed this out in her piece Age, Race, Sex, and Class: Women Redefining Difference. She notes, “Certainly there are very real differences between race, age, and sex. But it is not those differences between us that are separating us. It is rather our refusal to recognize those differences, and to examine the distortions which result from our misnaming them and their effects upon human behavior and expectation” (Lorde 855).

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      1. Listen I think you didn’t understand what I meant, I’m not saying that it’s not a priority or that it’s normal in the way that it’s not important so please don’t take it personally and try to understand what I said. I didn’t mean anything offensive ! And this was the point of the hamburger example to say what I meant in the simplest way

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