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Trapped in the Woke Ideal
Sex Work, Suicide, and Hatred of the Hips
I hope you, my dear readers, don’t mind a few fragmented dispatches from me. While I usually craft essays that I publish here, sometimes I just really need to blast my emotions out into the aether.
Honestly, working on this manuscript is probably one of the most emotionally difficult things I’ve ever done. I’ve never had to take so many breaks from writing, nor have I ever found myself constantly looking for distraction, for anything else I could possibly be doing rather than working on this.
The problem is to write this I have to constantly immerse myself in all the bizarre and disjuncted logics of wokeness, and especially its many contradictions, and it’s actually quite heartbreaking.
One thing I read which recently wrenched all of my guts inside out was a short essay by a detransitioned woman on the parallels between anoerexia and gender dysphoria online:
If you scroll through Tumblr, that fertile blue Pandora’s box from whence all our troubles began, you can find a lot of pro-ana stuff. You can also find a lot of material written by young trans men. You’ll find things like fundraisers for surgery, #genderenvy posts depicting the ideal look that the user wants to inhabit, text posts about gender dysphoria, and pictures of trans men with thousands of notes.
Both trans and anorexic communities indulge in rumination about the desired body states.
Some of it is hopeful and dreamy:
“inspiration: in a year I will be skinny. I will look good in everything. I will wear oversized sweaters and look adorable instead of fat.”
“Why I want top surgery: To be shirtless in public. To look good in a t-shirt. To not have to bind. To be able to hug closer.”
Some of them are roiling with self-hate:
“I’m so fucking disgusting, I’m so fat, I can’t believe I ate.”
“My dysphoria is like a gaping hole between my legs, like I’ve been ripped apart.”
The violent, visceral discomfort with the body contrasts with the pastel-colored images of the ideal, transformed body. There is a salvation of the body, and it can be saved, but only through transformation.
This stuff is so fucking tragic, especially because it describes a much more widespread human experience with the body in capitalist societies. I’ve written before that I also experienced what I felt to be gender dysphoria, which really was just deep alienation from body. I’m fucking glad that the internet wasn’t so pervasive when I struggled with all this, otherwise it would have been a lot harder for me.
Incidentally, I’ve seen many of the “gender goals” TikTok videos that have become viral. I won’t link to any, but I suggest that, if you are really curious about what is happening for people, go find a few of them. They’re painfully unrealistic, more so I think than even the “ideal body” constructed by capitalism through glossy magazines.
As I’ve mentioned in several recent posts, half of my recent gym training program has focused on hip flexibility in order to better do deadlifts and rack squats. That’s meant rediscovering the hips, realising suddenly their power and beauty, and dealing with a lot of grief “stored” there.
That’s what makes the ‘thigh gap’ desire the writer mentions in that essay feel particularly tragic. Once you understand the hips themselves, how they work, and how male hips and female hips are anatomically different, the obsessive desire to have completely different hips starts to sound more like a spiritual crisis verging on suicidal ideation.
That leads me to another emotional bit. I’ve had several trans-identified friends commit suicide during my life. One of them was technically still non-binary at the time of that suicide, which occurred two weeks before a scheduled ‘top surgery’ (complete breast removal) that I and many other friends helped raise the money for.
I remember the sense that the world had killed this friend, rather than this friend having committed suicide. I realise now that this was only my way of processing my grief and avoiding feeling angry about this friend just fucking leaving us.
Trans and non-binary identified people have very high suicide rates. We all know this, but the explanations vary for why this is, and no one really can decide whether the depression which leads them to suicide was caused by society’s lack of acceptance of their identity or if the depression was part of what may have led to the identification as trans or non-binary.
The same debate occurs over the murder rate of trans-identified sex workers. In 2021, 58% of the 375 trans people murdered throughout the world were working as prostitutes. This percentage holds steady throughout the previous years as well.
The woke way of approaching this issue is to insist that “sex work is work,” and to argue for de-criminialization of prostitution globally. But also, there is a contradictory postion in these arguments: on the one hand, trans-identified people are seen as shunted into sex work at higher rates because of societal pressure and have little choice but to work as prostitutes, but on the other hand, sex work is also often painted as “empowering” and “liberating.”
This latter part of the equation has an unstated class element, by the way. I know many, many sex workers (and engaged in it myself in my early 20’s), and those of them who argue that it is inherently empowering and liberating aren’t the sorts of people who had no other choice. They all have college degrees and come from middle-class backgrounds, and most of them are white. None of them got into sex work because they were homeless, or undocumented immigrants, nor were they single mothers desperately trying to feed themselves and their children.
This is the same problem we see across all other areas of woke ideology. The woke race theorists are all “professional managerial class” sorts, just like the gender and disability theorists are. Their material conditions are radically different than those of the people they are supposedly defending and attempting to liberate. What does an “activist” trans-identified person living in Los Angeles with a highly-funded OnlyFans account actually have in common with an undocumented trans-identified Ecuadorian working and sleeping on the streets of that same city?
This same class difference manifests in ‘influencers’ on social media. The costs to look like an ideal version of your chosen gender identity are staggering. “Top surgery” (whether to remove or add breasts) can cost up to 10,000 US dollars, and “bottom surgery” another $25,000. Neither of these even begin to address the costs of aesthetic changes, such as ‘facial feminization’ ($20,000 for basic changes, $50,000 and more for more artful ones). So, just to have anatomical features that look more like your preferred gender identity rather than your ‘assigned sex’ identity, you’ll need at least $50,000 just to start.
Most young viewers watching and sharing the viral video dreams of “gender goals” aren’t going to have that money. Instead, they’ll have to live “unsatisfied” lives, constantly imagining themselves as something else rather than settling into the body which has always composed their existence.
The extreme costs may also explain why there has been such a recent move to redefine trans identity towards “declarative gender” rather than transexualism. This is the debate we see involving the so-called “truscums” (Buck Angel, for example), people for whom trans identity is fully predicated upon physical surgery. The other side (the woke ideological position) argues that a person should be considered their declared gender immediately upon that declaration. Thus, a man with a deep voice and fully-operative penis and sexual desire for women (the “male lesbian”) who does not take estrogen or in any other way modify his body or social expression—and who also has no intentions to do so—should regardless be recognised as a woman if he merely states it as such.
It’s hard not to suspect that such a position has arisen not out of ideological reasoning or any kind of theory, but rather as a compensation for the unstated reality of surgical intervention costs. Rather than admitting openly that the ideal trans body is only available to the wealthy, an admission which would then re-open all the earlier feminist and Marxist critiques of capitalist gender conceptions, it’s just easier to change the definition of what makes a person trans.
The thing is, this is precisely why more traditional feminisms fought against gender in the first place. Gender was a social restriction placed upon women, a capitalist ideal for how women should look and act. Thus the glossy magazine covers predating trans-identity, and all the relentless marketing of products promising to make you look and feel more like a woman. From the view of these earlier frameworks, trans-identifying people are just further casualties of this marketing.
This has really uncomfortable implications for the matter of early-age gender identification, as well. One of the most common themes I’ve encountered through researching the accounts of de-transititioners is their report that idealised gender representations through social media were a key factor in their early gender dysphoria. Puberty is absolutely the worst time of a human’s existence, and adding in pressure from imagined social media “communities” into a child’s consciousness during that time is just really fucking unfair.
Again, we need to remember this isn’t just related to trans-identification. Do a quick search on YouTube for “teen workout plans” and watch some of the ads that show up in the videos. While many of the videos themselves are made by teenagers trying to give each other advice on how to get ripped or muscular, the advertisements directed to the teenaged men are for untested muscle-building supplements and expensive training apps, and for the teenaged women they are for untested fat-reduction supplements and beauty products.
Marxist feminists would point to all of this as part of the capitalist war on the body, a framework woke ideology sometimes gives lip service to yet otherwise has completely abandoned. In fact, woke ideology tends to see the body itself as what we need liberation from, which is fully in line with what the capitalists would have us believe as well.
That’s the most heartbreaking part of all this, actually. People are torturing and even killing themselves because they are not ideal. They try desperately to become something else without ever even trying to understand what they already are, and because woke ideology can only function in the realm of the Idea(l), it can never lead people back to themselves and their bodies.
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