Trans women’s economic justice demands total social transformation: IWD 2021 speech

On March 7th Gabriela BC, an anti-imperialist Fillipino women’s organization, held an online event titled “Unity Across Distance: International Working Women’s Day 2021” in commemoration of this year’s International Women’s Day.

The event addressed the heightened struggles of working class women all over the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gabriela’s IWD event brought together various organizations, including: the International Women’s Alliance, Pinay Quebec, Migrante BC, Anakbayan BC, Samidoun, Sulong UBC, Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, Collective Visions of a Liberated Philippines, Pinoy Pride, UNITE HERE Local 40, VANDU, and Bread, Roses & Hormones. Laura spoke on behalf of Bread, Roses & Hormones, and her speech is below.

My name is Laura June Rose and I am here speaking on behalf of Bread, Roses & Hormones, a trans liberationist group active in parts of Metro Vancouver and Nanaimo, on occupied Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Kwantlen, Katzie, Qayqayt, Kwikwetlem, and Snuneymuxw territories. Gabriela asked us to speak on economic struggle. 

The violence that Indigenous women and communities face is genocidal, focused on the complete elimination of Indigenous nations and people. This violence is wrapped up with the national assertions of Indigenous sovereignty and for that reason is larger than the scope of economic or class struggle.

I will restrict my speech to the class struggle of working class women against patriarchy, which impacts us in a disciplinary way. By disciplinary I mean that violence against women functions to organize working class people into different roles that benefit the capitalist. 

As autonomist Marxist feminist Mariarosa Dalla Costa claims: “the capitalist buys two workers for the price of one.” He buys the wage-labourer and whoever cares for the labourer, making it possible for the worker to return to work day after day. But he does not pay a wage to the person, usually a woman, who does the work of re-energizing the usually male wage-worker.

The way this works out for poor trans women is that when we fail to clean and care well enough and give our souls and bodies to the people we depend on economically, they cast us away into the streets where we are barred from many of the services that exist for non-trans women.

The 2015 Trans PULSE survey of trans people in Ontario found that their median income was $15,000 a year. Trans people disproportionately live in poverty; we struggle to afford our hormones, psych meds, rent, food, and other basic necessities on our own.

Part of the reason we are so poor, and thus so dependent on others, is that many of us cannot get or maintain a job because of discrimination and harassment. But even if we could get jobs and keep them, that would not mean that rent is capped, healthcare is free and high quality, or that the inflation of the price of goods will stop. And it definitely won’t mean the suicide and killings will come to an end.

In other words the class struggle of trans women, like all women, includes but is larger than the struggle over the wage that is paid out to us by the boss man, the welfare man, or even our own man.

Our economic struggle includes the struggle for meaningful work but also universal trans care, universal housing, unrestricted access to proper nutrition and leisure time, and safety from misogynist violence. 

These are things that cannot and will not be won through refinements to the capitalist mode of production, adjustments in the leadership of the colonial administration, or by more sophisticated systems of redistribution. Our labour, health, homes, safety, and our lives can only be freed through a total social transformation led by the poor and suffering masses of women and trans people ourselves through institutions that belong to us: revolutionary organizations.

On this women’s day, Bread, Roses & Hormones is proud to celebrate alongside other powerful women and looks forward to the day when we meet each other on March 8th not as Indigenous and proletarian women, but as free and fully-developed human beings in a sovereign and socialist world.

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