It's spooky season! Drawing on Frankenstein and his Monster, a comrade reflects on Silvia Federici's Beyond the Periphery of the Skin from a trans- perspective.
In this article we hope to outline a basic understanding of our stance on the forces at play in the LGBTQ+ community’s battle for equality. To do this, we will observe gender oppression under the patriarchy, and the deducible conclusions for people that defy gender normativity and heteronormative behaviour. We will then observe the bourgeois response to the movement within the community and the resulting, necessary, position of the LGBTQ+ community.
Gender oppression under capitalism
Before we engage in the specific dialectical struggle of the LGBTQ+ community, we must first observe the inherent gender oppression under class society, particularly under capitalism, and the resistance in such societies to granting gender equality. For in order for the Capitalist to impose their dominance, it is necessary for them to exploit divisions within the working class to cultivate animosity amongst the proletariat, so that they may maintain their rates of profit.
Historically, for example, women have been paid lower wages than men, driving a wedge between male and female workers and causing them to believe each other enemies. So too has gender normativity driven LGBT people into unsteady employment, causing an increase to the ranks of unemployment; an imperative tool for bourgeois control of the working class. Gender oppression itself is at the heart of both of these examples and it inherent under capitalism. In fact, it has long been one of the chief tasks of capitalists to reinforce the patriarchal nature of capitalist society, within which women are forced into the gender normative role of those who perform the duties of reproduction and homemaking.
This societal division under capitalism has been reinforced within the remit of increasing the capacity of male productivity. As such, women are lumbered with the tasks of reproduction and homemaking, within and beyond those times when bearing child, so that she may be chained into the role of recreating the male’s environment for production of the means of subsistence. This is the case in capitalist society because if women are bound to this role of those who are recreating (both daily and generationally) male labour, then it allows increased surplus labour, and as a result, greater profitability for the bourgeoisie.
Morgan Artyukina explains it as follows:
“Every mode of production must also contain, as part of its cycle of production, a set of processes that reproduce the original conditions of the cycle; if it did not, then it would cease to exist as other productive processes replaced it, and it would no longer be the same mode of production. In all class societies, but most strictly under capitalism, the task of reproduction is assigned to women. Women are the gender created by class society to describe the person responsible for reproduction in two senses: first, on the daily level, and second, on the generational level. The man, by contrast, is assigned the role of producer, and it is the women’s job to support his productive power, a productive power that generates surplus value for the ruling class.”
Morgan goes on to say that:
“from the logic of securing the reproduction part of the production process, two forces emerge: binarism and misogyny. Binarism, better known as ‘the gender binary,’ is the set of rules that we have just described, assigning the roles of producer and reproducer to men and women based on the two roles of the biological reproduction process as performed by humans, and the insistence that these are the only two valid gender categories. Included in the definition of gender is the clause that as a member of one gender, we must pair and mate only with the other gender. We might call this the compulsive heterosexuality clause: men must only mate with women, nobody else, and women must only mate with men and nobody else... Misogyny, the force that oppresses women directly, is a conditioner of this binaristic relationship: the one gender, woman, is inferior to the other one. That is why the man is entitled to enforce his will upon her, to be assigned control over her and her reproductive capacities. The ultimate origin of this relationship is private property, which is what caused the ‘world-historic defeat of the female sex’ as Friedrich Engels described it.”
Historically, in the last century as other modes of production were displaced by capitalism in Europe, there were many cases of opportunistic deployment of existing misogynist tropes that were present in tributary and aristocratic ideology. Gender oppression, already present in religious tributary ideology (and as such, much of feudal society), was adopted and reinforced in order to create the societal dynamic described above. Capitalists require these gender roles to maintain low unemployment, and target women because of previous societal misogyny, as they are required to exploit whatever means possible in order to create a better environment for profit.
Today, the capitalists must continue gender oppression if they wish to maintain rates of profit, both by keeping women out of the role of producer of subsistence, and maintaining the high unemployment rates that are beneficial to the bourgeoisie. Under capitalism, ‘In times of crisis women are always called on to do their bit ... Today it seems that unemployment and inflation have made it imperative to convince women that their place is in the home because the country cannot afford to employ them or pay for the support facilities they need.’
Women are thus prescribed a lower position than men within capitalist society, and have fewer chances of advancing themselves, which may lead us to the conclusion that the traditional gender-roles and gender-normative behaviour may be challenged by the mere existence of the LGBTQ+ community. If the LGBT community rejects binarism by rejecting gender-normativity, and reject compulsory heterosexuality with non-heteronormativity, then the community is positioned as the antagonists of the Capitalist stance on gender roles. We will now briefly discuss the different ways in which the some of the groups within the LGBT community challenge the patriarchal capitalism rife in society today, and they ways in which capitalists have sought to intervene.
The LGBT community under capitalism
To be transgender in the climate of a binary, capitalist system, is to cross over the gender normative divisive barrier necessary within capitalist society, as trans are not defined by the gender-role was assigned to them at birth. As such if one is assigned the gender-division of “male” at birth, and is treated this way within a patriarchal system, their rejection of the role thrust upon them by the patriarchal society is a blow at the dividing line of gender itself, and if one is assigned the female gender role at birth but rejects it, within a gender normative society the patriarchy, and rates of profit, are weakened. Trans people must refuse to take on either the normative role of reproduction, or the normative role of producer of the means of subsidence, and instead remove themselves as either reproducer or removes themselves as the normative producer of subsistence. The result of this capitalist contradiction is that surplus labour suffers. To be transgender is a rejection of gender roles as inherent within society on an individual level, and as such is at its core threatening to capitalism.
This has led several amongst the bourgeoisie to attempt to reconcile transgenderism to binarism. Harry Benjamin, for example, proposed that transsexual people have a different brains to cis-gendered people. He insisted that only those people who had undergone social transitioning, found hormone therapy insufficient, and had an immediate desire to undergo gender reassignment surgery, could be considered transgender. Thus he forced a direct distinction, attempting to confine transgender people into binary gender roles, the result of which for the capitalist would be that even if someone is transgender, they still fall within the gender roles that are necessary under capitalism.
Bisexual, pansexual, gay, lesbian (or any non-heteronormative) proletarians face a similar situation, for if they chose a partner who is not of the opposite sex, then within their partnership at least one member must defy the traditional gender roles, as within their paring the roles of homemaker and producer cannot be confined to the normative genders. The capitalist is then left having to answer a question on the necessity of gender roles; how is it that a non-heteronormative couple are able to function without the divisions that the patriarchy have encouraged amongst the proletariat? The answer to which is that gender roles are only necessary under systems which require an ever increasing rates of profit. Furthermore, it should be noted that same sex sexual encounters themselves strike a blow to the heart of patriarchy by challenging the idea that one sex’s dominance over the other can be seen by the reproductive capacity and binary purpose of those involved.
Asexual comrades too find themselves facing the opposition of the capitalist system, as they find themselves not complying with the normative roles thrust upon them. They cannot conform to the patriarchal, misogynistic sexual preferences and instead have to reject the very nature of the institution of normative sexuality as they, by not mating in the way that the bourgeois would historically have insisted that they must, cannot participate in the patriarchal system of sexual ownership.
The bourgeoisie then is left to defend against anything that undermines the gender roles that are necessary for them to continue in their existence. This is the typical narrative for capitalism, and is a position that the bourgeois often find themselves condemned to; the very divisions that are necessary for their survival they find themselves having to appear to bridge over in order to retain their power over the abused people-group.
This has been attempted with the two, typical capitalist tactics:
- Granting small legal reforms and concessions to the community.
- Handing power to the bourgeois members of the movement itself.
These concessions, such as the legalization of same-sex marriage within England, Wales and Scotland (though notably not in DUP run Northern Ireland) in 2013–2014 are brought in with as much liberal apathy as possible, meaning that certain homophobic institutions are still allowed to refuse to marry gay people where they would marry straight people.
There has been no real effort by the Labour or Conservative governments in the wake of and run up to these concessions to truly educate people on LGBTQ+ equality. There has been no drive to fix the underlying issues of gender roles and patriarchy. Rather they hope that by giving concessions that allow LGBT people to have some of the same rights as straight people, that the anti-capitalist movement will have its sting removed without true equality being achieved.
Bourgeois intervention and continued oppression
To further this aim, those members of the bourgeoisie who have found themselves within the LGBT community have been handed all power. One only has to look as far as gay pride events, for example the Manchester pride event this year, during which, members of the LGBT community began dancing with the same police officers that defended homophobes outside the event.
It should be noted that a survey in a survey in 2013, one in six lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the U.K. said that they had been victims of hate crimes, whilst only one quarter of those people felt that they could report it to the police. The police clearly do not have the trust of the working class LGBT community, many of whom who do not trust that their claims will be taken seriously, or fear that reporting the issue would result in further homophobia from those they report the crime to.
Further evidence that the general LGBT community are mistrustful of capitalist perceptions can be observed in the numbers of LGBT people who choose not to come out in the workplace environment. On average, 60% of bisexual men are not out to their colleagues, 15% of gay men, 37% of bisexual women and 6% of lesbian women. In total in 26% of gay, lesbian and bi sexual people do not feel they can come out in their work environment. Additionally, 42% (nearly half) of all trans people feel that they cannot permanently live in their preferred gender, as they are afraid that it would threaten their employment.
These figures directly reveal the fear that members of the LGBT community feel over the relationship between employment and their sexuality and identity, but also reveal the wider impact of the oppression that LGBT people face in capitalist society. The hate crimes that are committed against LGBT people permeate not just the workplace but wider society, the bourgeois aggression towards the community and the oppression that they face is a daily threat and constant struggle within all of capitalist society. The capitalist is antagonised by the LGBT community’s undermining of the patriarchy, and so meets them with violence, oppression and hatred.
Despite this, the leaders of gay pride events are content to celebrate alongside the capitalist governments that perpetuate this struggle, and at best favour a reformist stance. Gay pride events should represent so much more, they should be a protest of the abhorrent treatment of LGBT people at the hands of Tory and Labour governments, by the police department of the same governments that have misgendered transgender people in imprisonment and represent years of brutal oppression.
The gay pride movement today is seen as the celebration of a community which rightfully should be celebrated, but now (at its highest levels) fails to protest the lack of equality that LGBT people face. This is a far cry from where the gay pride movement started and the movement still does possess the capacity for positive impact, but this impact has been limited by the participation of the liberal bourgeoisie in its leadership. The gay pride movement (in the U.K. At least) is becoming to the LGBT struggle, comparable to what Barack Obama is to the black rights movement of the U.S. An admittance that the only way the members of an abused community will be treated with respect by the bourgeoisie under capitalism is by participating in the bourgeois system itself; by becoming a part of the oppressive system that they should be protesting, by celebrating alongside the police of a Tory government who are in an alliance with the homophobic DUP, or with Labour governments that have done little to defend them.
However, despite their concessions and attempts to invade LGBT movements, those movements are always going to be inherently antagonistic at their grassroots level and, as a result, threatening to capitalist and imperialist powers that rely on suppressing the freedom of the working class. It is the working class members of the LGBT community, who continue to suffer the most at the hands of the gender oppression that shall lead the anti-capitalist sections of the movement.
In conclusion, it is a clear necessity for the Capitalist to impress binary gender roles onto the proletariat and create homemakers and producers. As such the natural stance of members of the LGBT community is in opposition to capitalism. It is thus the responsibility of communists to defend their cause, and likewise the responsibility of the working class members of the LGBT community to refute the bourgeois intervention within the movement, and to take the side of a system that does not rely upon binary gender roles. All LGBT people should be primarily opposed to the gender roles that keep up the capitalist rate of profit, becoming anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and, by nature, socialist.
Written by JC
 Vogel, Lise, Marxism and the Oppression of Women (1983) pg. 152
 Engels, Friedrich, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State: in the Light of the Researches of Lewis H. Morgan (1902)
 Artyukhina, Morgan, “Asexuality, Gender Oppression, and the Limits of LGBTQ as an Identity” (online article)
 The Sunday Times 2 November 1975.
 Benjamin, Harry, The Transsexual Phenomenon, (1966)
 Homophobic hate crime: The Gay British Crime Survey (Stonewall and YouGov 2013), p.4
 Homophobic hate crime, p.5
 Gay in Britain: Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people’s experiences and expectations of discrimination (Stonewall 2013), p. 19–20