Radical Metaphysics: Responses to Zizek and Anderson and the Building of Marxist Trans Theory

To preface, I should say that this article is primarily an article on philosophy and economics. It discusses the trends in modern opposition to “trans ideology” both from the right and from the left, in a more academic context than most are willing to address them. I am writing a modern Marxist response to reactionary ideological trends, and doing so as a much more broad overview, not discussing several trends within broader streams of trans philosophy themselves. There are some streams in modern gender theory which I find worthwhile, mostly Viviane Namaste, but most of the theories of gender and trans identity are rooted in postmodern ideology. Hopefully, by the end of this essay, I will have created an alternative to that postmodern ideology and thought. The body of the essay will be a response to three articles (one written by Slavoj Zizek, an article from the Communist Party of Great Britain-Marxist Leninist, one written by Ryan Anderson) which both oversimplify and mischaracterize trans theory in general. There is also a section where I will attempt to synthesize several ideas of trans ideology into a Marxist core. Note that as a Marxist, I am attempting to describe the world as it is. I do not attempt to make moral or value judgments on the things discussed.

Since many pseudo-leftists often point to Zizek as a modern Marxist or New Left philosopher, it is important to address his own “leftist” perspective upon philosophy. It is also important to address gender theory in the wider context of Marxist thought. Because Zizek represents a postmodern strain of thought, an abandonment of materialism, and a reversion to Hegel rather than advancement to further materialist arguments, I will refute his arguments on psychoanalysis.

Among the first things we need to critique is the simplistic appeal to “transgender dogma,” which compresses all valid gender theories into a single whole.

Let us first analyze the main argument of the essay, framed in the difficult process of psychoanalysis, a trend towards the individual, rather than systemic. There is some merit in pointing out that gender transition is a mental health nightmare. It is traumatic. We understand that. Perhaps it is important to note that this trauma is not necessarily resultant from individualized thought patterns or behaviors. In analyzing the trend away from Freud, Zizek analyzes a trend away from the individual itself, and towards a collective explanation of traumatic experience. The most important and difficult part of transition is self-acceptance, which is driven by ideas that are the result of social processes.

He discusses two examples, the positive and the negative, of gender transition, the Belgian film, “The Girl,” and a Gilette commercial which portrays the act of a trans man shaving with some coaching from his father. Zizek focuses upon the guarantor of stability and acceptance, the father, in which the patriarchal relation is reconstituted. If we read Zizek in this context as an observer of the ideology, we may find that he is critical of this guarantee by the patriarchic figure, which is important, but he also distinctly ignores the role of production which occurs for the reconstruction. He later states that “psychic sexual identity is a choice,…but not a conscious choice,” in other words, he focuses upon the unconscious reproduction of the relation of patriarchy, and the man as central to the guarantee of a stable transition. This argument is distinctly flawed. The patriarchal structures are produced not by the unconscious actions of individuals, nor is it so in these cases in particular. It is a concerted action of the oppressing classes (in the case of patriarchy, of the male capitalists and males in general) that produces and reproduces certain spheres of activity, not the subconscious.

Here, we should turn to Gramsci, who places the intellectual in a class context. According to Gramsci, “Every social group…creates together with itself organically, one or more strata of intellectuals which give it homogeneity and an awareness of its own function not only in the economic, but also the social and political fields” [1]. In other words, all material classes of person have a group of intellectuals that they create unconsciously, but which consciously inform them of their position in society. This is the case in the several class structures in which we exist. Colonizer and colonized have particular groups of intellectuals that inform their own socioeconomic and sociopolitical interests. Bourgeoisie and proletariat have the same analogous structures. So do men and non-men.

From this, we will turn to Althusser, another 20th Century intellectual. He frames our own question of social relations rather succinctly in “Ideology and the State,” asking “how is the reproduction of the relations of production secured?” [2]. This question is the driving force behind labor and ideology. Althusser, in his own analysis of labor, makes special distinction between intellectual labor and physical labor. I would make no such distinction. The labor of the intellectual is in the production of the social force present (in gender, the binary and the ideas of man and woman in themselves) in order to receive a certain effect. In other words, social concepts like masculinity, femininity, and the binary of gender, are created and enforced by conscious action, and enforced both economically and socially. They are necessary for the maintenance of the patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism.

As such, we may understand that the social concepts are produced as commodities. They have a particular use and exchange value, that exchange value being assigned as a product of labor relations. In other words, the forms which the social concept takes is, as Marx refers to value in general, as coalesced human labor. It takes its value form in the exchange value of that labor as a particular money form, and takes its use value from its social utility as classification and division of labor and other activities.

We also need to respect the ideas of the Marxist dialectic. Man and woman, in particular, are material categories, and trans and non-trans may be materially related as well. If we treat man and woman as material categories, implicit in the actions related to masculinity is the action related to femininity. These are material actions and relations, dedicated to production. The actions one intellectual takes and a member of a material class takes, may be considered production. Because we produce ourselves, we are commodities. Each action in which we associate ourselves with male or female is an act of producing ourselves as a male or female. It is because of the increasing contradictions between male and female spheres that the tension towards gender has become socially prescient. Masculinity and patriarchy are ever dwindling as women enter the center of power (that is to say the white, capitalist, colonialist class). Because of this, masculinity is weaponized as a tool of class warfare, the deprivation of women in particular, and the deprivation of the colonized and proletariat as well.

Briefly, I will describe the theory that informs the above processes. There are several material dialectics at work, to borrow both from Black Red Guard, Mao, and Jose Carlos Mariategui. Mariategui stated that Latin America is between several different stages of materialist development. In other words, it is between feudalism and serfdom, slavery, and capitalist development, with primitive economic development mingling among different modes of production. This is visible in his Seven Interpretative Essays and other writings. Others have suggested that we adopt this model for economic and class development in the United States. Mao himself analyzed several classes (the comprador class, the class of landlords, the bourgeoisie and the peasantry) which form multiple class structures.

The settler colonial United States is also composed of several different material structures which we might not reduce to a single binary class structure. These binaries are often confusing and difficult to disentangle. Race, gender, and industrialization combine to create a superstructural and structural oppression which modern postmodern discourse refuses to analyze. The postmodernists deny the materiality of categories which are distinguished by divisions of labor and activities, and aid in determining how the individual interacts with the world around them. These are the most basic and fundamental elements of Marxist analysis. Race and gender are material categories, despite other “leftists’” dismissal of these as ideological, and not material; the race and gender of the individual manifest in the behaviors of production that individual occupies.

We also have to adopt the mindset of Althusser. If the interest of the bourgeoisie is to preserve the dominant mode of production, they must perform tasks to ensure the reproduction of the conditions of production. That means that the gender structure of the industrial revolution must be preserved. The racial dynamics which ensure the conditions of production must be reproduced and reinforced. This occurs cyclically as the economic condition of the country varies. In times of crisis and low public opinion of capitalism, repression and oppression are common tools to ensure the preservation of the conditions of production. This means that during times of crisis, traditional lies about gender, race, and wealth are commonly enforced in order to ensure the dominance of one group over another. This results in increased popular support for the dominant mode of production.

Under a class society, power radiates from the governing class. In the United States, this is the class of settlers, who occupy roles of capitalist, imperialist, and masculinity. These are entangled together to form a center of power. The periphery of power, then, is the imperialized (or colonized), proletariat, and femininity. These binaries function along lines of repression and oppression. The colonized, the proletarian, the woman are all repressed and oppressed. Along other lines, we may make material distinctions between the experiences of trans and cis individuals. Trans individuals have experienced the expectation (and thus the attempts at reproduction of gender roles) of or more particular genders. Now, we turn again to Althusser.

Althusser came up with a mechanic he called “interpellation.” To define it briefly, it is the imposition of a label and expectation of material activity upon a person. If I call you a “citizen,” that enforces a certain activity upon you. If I call you a woman I enforce such an activity upon you as well. This goes for all other material categories that have such expectations of activity, and serves to perpetuate the class system. This is where the idea becomes material. This is where the metaphysics meets reality. When we discuss the ideas of one group and the ideas of another group, we are really discussing the effects those ideas have on the individuals within and outside of that group. We cannot discuss things otherwise.

The center of power is the group that has the power to interpellate, and delegates that ability to the oppressed and repressed. Thus, we have prejudice from within groups against the groups themselves, because people have forced themselves into certain patterns of activity. Women take pride and comfort from the rigid and strict gender roles (represented by women such as Phyllis Schlafly) and defeat material progress in the name of these groups. We may represent them as collaborators with the colonial-capitalist-patriarchy, or we can explain this by explaining her own material interest as a member of the bourgeoisie, regardless, her interests as a person in the center of one of the binaries overcomes her interests as a person on the periphery. She is a member of the bourgeoisie, and a white woman, and so represents the interests of these classes over her peripheral position of power as a woman. Schlafly was a member of the intellectual class of both the whites and the bourgeoisie, and helped to establish neoliberal thought during a time when economic stagnation threatened stability of the United States.

In some ways, then, the individual at the periphery is also at the center, and those at the center in some cases are also at the periphery in others. And then there are those who do not fit into the binary categories. Does this mean that other genders do not exist? No. Genders, as the relations of the individual to their roles in production, is virtually infinite, but all of our activities are gendered into either portion of the binary in this power structure. As such, the binary is merely imaginary. And so, gender fluidity is the natural state of society at large. Because of the traditional rigidity of gender roles, the individual commodifies themselves as woman or man, and the breaking of these categories is considered socially transgressive. As Marxists, I repeat that we do not make judgments on social phenomena, we merely observe them. We do not take normative stances, merely observe that there are material contradictions, and that these have consequences.

Multiple organizations have lodged critiques of “Gender fluidity” or “Gender Ideology,” claiming they are manifestations of a wide-ranging bourgeois conspiracy to discredit the Communist movement. The most significant of these was the stance of the CPGB-ML (Communist Party of Great Britain — Marxist Leninist) see their positions here and supporting argument here. The Party’s 2019 Congress decided that it would expel members advocating “LGBT Ideology” whatever that’s really supposed to mean. They do not seem to understand that the very sentiment they express is not Marxist.

Why is anti-idpol agitation against gender fluidity contra-Marx? It is quite simple. They don’t seem to have read much Marxist Feminist writing, or deeper Marxist Analytical writing. Zizek, although he likes to portray himself as a leftist, is a Hegelian, and so are these impostor-leftists. They don’t seem to understand that Marx himself believes that we cannot consider concepts independent of the relations of labor that produced them. What society produced the concepts of womanhood or manhood? That is a tricky question. If we were to take the examples of Engels, citing the Athenians, then we would take the stance that the first property-owning societies necessitated the strong bifurcation in labor between men and women and the isolation and oppression of the latter [3].

Now that we understand where the bifurcation came from, we understand that it is now a division of labor necessitated by economic conditions. Women have a certain pattern of work in Athens, and this spread throughout the Greek world where property relations began to mirror those of Athens. Property was passed patrilineally, and so paternity needed to be guaranteed. Because of this, women, who had the responsibility of guaranteeing the heirs of their spouses, were isolated and designated to a different set of tasks, beginning the creation of the public sphere/private sphere distinction. This division of labor and activities is what we refer to when we speak of gender.

In other words, sexual relations were determined by economic conditions, and nothing more, and they remain so today. To ignore sexuality and gender in the face of this is contra-Marxist. They accuse gender theory of asserting that “there is no material reality” and of arguing about such fundamentals as whether reality is objective. This is not the case. Marxist gender theory is grounded fundamentally in the understanding of human behavior, not in the absence of objective reality.

Then these great minds have the audacity to say that sex (the biological characteristics of one’s DNA which determine development of sexual organs) is a synonym for gender. This is at times both bemusing and irritating. Gender as such is the division of activities and labor between the sexes. To be more specific, it originated as the association of particular forms of labor and sensuous activity with a particular sex, which, taking from Engels, is derivate of property relations. I’m not entirely sure what they’re trying to imply, in all honestly, aside from that objective reality is on the side of anti-LGBT sentiment. That is what I take from their “discussion” of gender and sexuality. If we take from Marx’s own words and quote the Theses on Feuerbach, then reality is that of “sensuous human activity,” not some abstract “objective reality” that the scientific positivists have suggested [4].

I am not all gender theorists, but I must say that their allegations that we believe “gender is a medical conspiracy” is something more ignorant than what the author said is preposterous, that 2+2=5. It means that they are arguing purposefully in terms that simplify and ignore many portions of theory. Or perhaps that they are so woefully misinformed that their previous argument that “you have to win [Marxist] ideological bedrock through study” becomes incredibly ironic. It wouldn’t surprise me if they hadn’t read any Marxists after Mao, or even studied much Marx at all.

As such, we analyze the reactionary trends in Leftist ideology with a very skeptical gaze. The material world is not something outside of labor. Marx makes this very clear if you read the “Theses on Feuerbach,” which state directly that “The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism — that of Feuerbach included — is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively.” In other words, the fundamentals of all reality is human behavior, not the contemplation of what a human is. Not the “objective” definitions of what x or y is, as even Marx understands these types of “objective” definitions are subject to long historic processes, that is, subject to change.

Speaking of more modern Marxist strands of thought, I will begin to construct the metaphysics I previously promised to create.

If we want to build a metaphysics around gender, we will begin by discussing a concept introduced by Lukacs. Namely, the concept of Reification.

Reification refers to how human characteristics are forced into the form of a commodity in human thought. He wrote about the commodity form:

“[it] stamps its imprint upon the whole consciousness of man; his qualities and abilities are no longer an organic part of his personality, they are things which he can “own” or “dispose of” like the various objects of the external world. And there is no natural form in which human relations can be cast, no way in which man can bring his physical and psychic “qualities” into play without their being subjected increasingly to this reifying process.” [5]

In other words, our own characteristics form into commodities which are now alien to ourselves. Our sexuality simultaneously is not ours because it is commodified. We ourselves are commodified. If any person is to exist within a society of commodity production, they are within the labor market, and if we allow ourselves to analyze our labor relations, we are commodities. We are discreet units of labor. We are produced by our parents to have certain characteristics that make us more or less valuable to our employers. Those characteristics are commodified, and as such, not a part of us.

That is akin to the position that both the Conservative Anderson and this “comrade” from the CPGB-ML take. Our labor, then, is a part of us which is no longer a part of us, and if we take the broader view of dialectical materialism that Marx does in his Theses on Feuerbach, we then understand that all sensuous human activity is treated as a part of their commodified self. What does that mean? All things we do in public create a person that we are, and we are commodities because we participate in the market of labor. Because being a man or woman or neither is a division of those things we do in public (speaking in the manner of gender), then all our activities mold us into either of those two spheres (or divorce us from both). This increases our use value and subsequently decreases our exchange value (e.g. wages).

How is this the case? Let us pose an important question here. Is it better for society to have a large exploitable population or a small exploitable population? For the capitalists, who govern our society, the former is the case. It is better for the capitalists, whose interests govern our entire society, to have a greater exploitable population, which forms what Marx called “the reserve army of labor.” This labor reserve is most often the most marginalized in society, i.e. the lumpenproletariat of the colonized masses, the colonized masses themselves, women (although less so in recent times), and trans individuals. This is the value of race and gender to the capitalists in the social sphere.

The value takes on a particular money form as well. For those who read Capital, this will sound familiar. These social constructs are simultaneously real and not real; real in that all our actions are expressed through them and they are the articulation of our social value, but not real insofar as that social value takes on the imaginary form in the price of human labor. In other words, the price of the individual, if we may term it so [6], is expressed in the money-form of the commodity. No people wish to consider humans as commodities, but as we sell our labor-power in the market, we are commodities. This is not to imply any normative judgment. As communists, we do not seek to understand the world through normative judgments, only through the understanding of society and its functions through dialectical materialism.

However, continuing on in that thought, our valuation is determined in a concrete form. Wages. We already see that our society values some people more than others, and this means that the wages and incomes of people who perform labor is itself skewed in favor of the center of power. That is to say, cis, white men are primarily valued in the field of exchange rather than, so to say, a trans black woman or non-binary person. They, on average, earn far more and have much greater value in the money form. However, this seems to contradict the increased social value of the exploitable masses. Why is this? Let us continue to another Marxist concept.

This is a major contradiction among the bourgeois ideology of identity politics, merging with the concepts of exploitation. How do you maintain a stance which casts you and your class in a favorable light while maintaining a significant exploitable population? Now we arrive at our previous theory, the center of power, once again. The bourgeoisie is concerned primarily with the maintenance of their class status, especially if we presume a classical liberal perspective or any modern conservative one. The class interests of the bourgeoisie are the driving force in their actions. They wish simultaneously to increase the market breadth of their company by maintaining “inclusive” practices, but they simultaneously need to exploit the oppressed masses.

The crises of capitalism bring these competing forces to the forefront. We see it in the recent reactions to the death of George Floyd. They seek to maintain the same racial relations that provide for exploitation, but somehow to retain colonized people in their market pool. This plays into one of the key functions of capitalism: the reproduction of the conditions that allow it to exist in the first place. Thus, the intellectuals of the capitalist class are enlisted to labor to reproduce these labor relations, and so the anchors on Fox News, right-wing media moguls such as Alex Jones and Jordan Peterson, and the President himself stoke the flames of racial tension. And not only this, they stoke the flames of anti-periphery sentiment. Those on the periphery of the center of power are pushed further and further away from it, ironically increasing their social use value while debasing their value. This is a material contradiction that must lead to the collapse of the entire capitalist system.

In his article, mentioned at the beginning of this response, we see Ryan Anderson make a very contentious claim. Primarily, that “we live in a postmodern age that promotes an alternative metaphysics.” Typically I would be skeptical of any attempt to describe a Marxist metaphysics. But since right-wing intellectuals seem to insist upon this type of debate, I guess I should point out that they don’t understand whatsoever what they’re talking about.

They lack any sort of critical study of gender theory. This is obvious, but let’s just say it again. They seem to not understand that the whole of transgender ideology cannot be compressed to a single strain of this ideology, and note tensions within liberal strains of transgender ideology. He begins his discussion with another widely debated assertion “the rhetoric of transgender moment drips with ontological assertions: people are the gender they prefer to be.” This is another obvious oversimplification.

There is a concept we have to address first in his critique of “transgender ideology.” What is a person? Do they have an individual existence within society? As a Marxist, I say that this is not the case. The individual does not exist without relating to others in certain ways; they are not an individual, but a person which is categorized in a certain way. The person is the sum of their behaviors, according to Marx, and once again referring to the Theses on Feuerbach, where he refers to “sensuous human activity” to define the focus of his studies.

In this way, as I have discussed in Part III, the person is not a distinct individual, but rather the sum of their interactions with the society in which they live, and more specifically, the sum of their interactions within their own immediate environment. This is how Marxists define the self. The person is the sum of their sensuous activities. Marxist trans theory develops because of the assignation of labor to certain sexes, and we do not accept that sex and gender are the same. Anderson seems to think that his quotation of Dr. Deanna Adkins is representative of all strands of trans theory. She asserts that gender identity is the primary determinant of biological sex. This is, of course, not our position. The Marxist position is that the actions the person undertakes, ultimately determines their gender. So yes, the person makes choices on what they find more comfortable which aligns with their own interpretation of gendered activities, and this is the grounds for their establishment of their identity.

Yes, the individual may have a different birth sex, but the actions which that person has performed, both in labor and sensuous activity, determine their gender. Does this imply that gender is purely choice-related? No. Psychology is as much determined by the society in which the person exists as by the individual’s biological proclivities. I am also not saying that the individual’s individual gender relations are entirely socially determined. I do not seek to attempt to state that the individual is wholly one gender or another. Gender is far more complex than that.

Individual gender expression is implicit in the person’s social relations. It combines several factors. There is tension between two forces, the interpretation of the person and thus the actions they take (which are informed by their interpretation of relations and activity in social space), and the society’s drive to categorize the individual in order to determine their social use value. Their social exchange value is determined by their actions, as they are interpellated into either masculine or feminine, or possibly into cis or trans.

Another critique Anderson brings up is that trans activists claim one is not only now the gender they proclaim, but that they always were the gender they proclaim. This is true. Their gender identity is determined by their individual social relations of labor and their expected relations as interpellated. We turn again to Lukacs, whose discussion of reification is particularly relevant. The individual participating in the labor market becomes alienated from portions of themselves as their own actions and interpretations are commodified. They act in a certain way in order to make themselves marketable on the labor market (becoming alienated from their own social relations to gendered activity), until their contradictions with that interpellated identity become intolerable, then they toss aside their prior gender to eliminate this intolerable alienation. Then, we understand that the individual’s conceptions of self are determined by the center of power and complex reproduction of the conditions of capitalist production, which produce certain social valuations which are no longer relate to natural use-values, but exchange values (wages).

The individual, then, is historicized. They are now all of the collection of their previous experiences and social interactions, which means yes, they were once considered to be a man or woman socially (whether correctly or incorrectly). However, that is the past. We label them currently based upon their social role that they have fulfilled, which means only that they are trans, not that they are or were not not a man or woman. We do not seek to render judgments on whether the person was or was not x, y, z, etc. gender, we simply state that they were treated socially as x gender. In other words, they passed as x gender; they were not necessarily x gender insofar as they related to the society in which they labored or conducted their sensuous activities.

So what does this mean? When Anderson criticizes the metaphor of being “trapped” in another gender, he seems to misunderstand that the relation of the laborer to the society in which they labor, and mistakes this for how society reproduces the concept of gender in order to maintain production practices. In other words, the individual is interpellated into the gender they were assigned at birth, rather than being the gender to which their sensuous activities seem to relate. So, the center of power reproduces the man/woman distinction, this binary being the difficulty the trans individual must overcome. This binary are constantly reproduced by a group of intellectuals who are primarily funded by the capitalist, settler, and masculine material classes. So yes, one may be forced into a certain category in an act of social reproduction of necessary conditions of production.

This is the metaphysical grounding of Marxist Trans theory. It is based upon human activity, purely and simply, and how that human activity relates to society’s material organization, not some abstract universal concepts of “facts” which, by nature of their scientific investigation, are impossible to completely verify in the traditional empirical model. Because the scientific community is wont to argue about definitions, we toss out their “material scientific” interpretation of gender. They don’t seem to understand how social sciences work; they don’t work along the same lines as the preconceptions of empirical positivism. That is to say, social science is not based on the philosophies of individualism that drive positivism and empiricism. Marxists understand that our understanding of the society in which we live depends upon the reproduction of the conditions of capitalism, and in so doing, it creates a structure of power based entirely upon the material world, upon material class.

What does any of this mean? Good question. Most of the discussed theorists, Zizek, Anderson, and the Dogmatist from CPGB-ML, force transgender theory into a single “mainstream” trans theory. This oversimplification seems to suit none of them particularly well. None of these theorists seem to have a concrete understanding of Marxist Theory, except Zizek, who has abandoned it in favor of Hegelian idealism.

Zizek’s theory of gender relies upon the reproduction of certain gendered roles even in the development of a trans consciousness, that is to say, the coming out of a trans person. The patriarch is guarantor of stability and of what is tolerable within society; they guarantee the acceptability of the transition from one expression of gender to another. He seems not to realize that this is not a sexual mechanic, as he describes, but purely a reproduction of the center of power, which drives all economic activity and behavior, in a way so as to reproduce the conditions of labor exploitation. In other words, the reproduction of the patriarchal relation is the reproduction of conditions necessary for capitalist/imperialist/patriarchy.

Anderson doesn’t understand that one trans theorist is not all trans theorists, and one trans authority is not all trans authorities. He furthermore, ignores ontological claims from some schools of trans thought that easily relate to the subjects he’s critiqued. He clearly hasn’t studied Marxism, either. He doesn’t seem to understand flaws in scientific positivism, particularly in the mainstream empiricist interpretations of that theory nor has he apparently read any critiques of the type of empiricism he’s advocating.

Then we arrive at the “Marxist” interpretations of that unnamed member of CPGB-ML. Their depth of study seems to end at Lenin. It seems unnecessary to mention that other theorists, although primarily Europeans, have discussed the Marxist implications of social identity. They then proceed to treat the individual as the singular and unitary piece that the classic liberals pioneered into biological theory. They have not considered how Marx himself critiques the positivists, and how Marx acknowledges that his own ideas are the result of a particular time, place, and mode of production. Subsequently, they haven’t read Gramsci either, as he discusses the production of ideas as a result of class conflict. Then synthesizing this with Althusser, we get the understanding that the person is forced into a certain pattern of action that helps to determine their own social use value, which contradicts their exchange value, in the same way that money is based upon both social relations and somehow absent social relations.

The money-form of the individual is purely imaginary, as the price of the person’s labor is not determined by their relative social use value. Else they would be paid more than their labor. This reproduces the reserve army of labor, where the most exploitable are those who often suffer most during economic downturns and are placed in the most dangerous positions. Their wages do not represent accurately their social use value to the capitalist society (without their labor, the mode of production would collapse). This is a major contradiction of the current economic structure in the United States. In other words, their primary use value is in the enabling of the original relations of labor between the oppressor and oppressed classes, and so their social use value is high in contradiction with the lesser wages with which they are compensated, that is the money form of their sensuous activities.

Gender, then, is based upon the activities of the person, and how they relate to their roles as interpellated by the Center of Power. Thus, it is useful to the bourgeoisie to maintain that central power structure of economic categories, namely masculine/feminine, bourgeois/proletarian, and colonizer/colonized. These categories are not reflective of an “objective reality” to which the empiricists refer, but are reflective of the material relations of production that created them. How people exist in the relations of production determine how they view the world and how they view the concepts we have just discussed. As such, we are concerned with how the world functions, not the understanding of the “objective reality” of the world itself. Those who claim to be interested in “material reality” are often conflating it with “objective reality,” whereas there is a limited overlapping of these terms. Material reality is relating only to social interactions, and these form the metaphysical underpinnings of all reality; without social interactions, there aren’t two parts of the dialectic. Without the organization of labor, society and social concepts like masculinity/male or femininity/female do not exist, primarily because society as we know it today would fail to exist based upon a lack of social or labor organization, and without the property relations which are the results of long social processes.

The Marxist doctrine is flexible, not absolute. It is a tool which should be used as such, not a gospel in which we place faith. We know that we are correct because we analyze the material relations and what society requires to reproduce itself in the current mode of production. We look into the mechanisms of society in order to change it, not in order to maintain the old theories of long-dead bourgeois scholars like Darwin or Malthus, where nature mingles with the absolutes of liberal doctrine. Part of that change is attacking the reproduction of capitalist production, not in reproducing the same tired mechanisms over and over again. Marx is correct: “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” And an interpretation of all material forms of class oppression should be considered valid in order to change the world. We should not stop at interpretation, but organize along lines that will bring us further, not to adopt the reactionary trends of the masses, but to investigate and distill their greatest ideas to organize them.

What should we take from this? There are several ideas we should emphasize. When a person exists in a particular mode of production, they are forced (in order to maximize their exchange value) to adopt the mannerisms of the center of power. In order to achieve a greater exchange value, they have to dissociate from the periphery, ironically decreasing their social use value. So the woman or non-man is encouraged through economic means to adopt masculinity to increase their exchange value. The colonized is implored to adopt the methods and mindset of the colonizer, etc. So when the person acts in a certain way, they are putting themselves out of themselves. They are behaving in a certain way to increase or decrease their use value or exchange value. Each part of them is commodified, and each contradiction to the center of power within their behavior decreases their exchange value. If they refuse to stand within one particular binary (e.g. patriarchal, capitalist, etc.), then their money form decreases in value (in wages).

When an individual consciously attacks one of these class structures, they do not necessarily attack all class structures. A refusal to take part in the binary of patriarchal relations does not indicate a refusal to take part in capitalist relations, or that they take part in the reversal of those conditions of production. Simultaneously, a refusal to take on multiple class oppressions simultaneously will result in little progress; as soon as one mechanism of capitalist reproduction is attacked, the others will return fire, so to speak. Attack one head of the governing structure, and another will counterattack.

So when we state that there is no coherence in trans philosophy, what does that mean? It means that there are multiple gender theories, and that some are likely more correct than others. I will not state that these are the only attacks on a Marxist gender theory, but merely that these are often the most pernicious. They derive from the intellectuals of the ruling classes, and not those of the masses. I have undertaken the creation of a solid framework here, based upon the theories of Marx and other communist philosophers. It is not complete, and I welcome any criticisms. I will work through them and make amendments to this theory where necessary. However, trans philosophy may be easily grounded in Marxist thought, and certainly not “contra-Marx” or born of idealism.

[1] Antonio Gramsci, “The Formation of the Intellectuals,” in Selections From the Prison Notebooks, translated by Quentin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (London: Elecbooks, 1999), 134–135.

[2] Louis Althusser, “Ideology and the State,” in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, translated by Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review, 1971), 148.

[3] Friedrich Engels, Chapter II: “The Family,” part 4: “The Monogamous Family” in The Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State, via marxists.org

[4] Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach,” via marxists.org

[5] György Lukács, “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat” in History and Class Consciousness, via marxists.org

[6] Note that when I say price, I indicate price of labor power and price as a distinct unit of human labor. I do not indicate any real value based upon the individual’s actual characteristics, as because there is always a surplus of labor (or almost always) the laborer is constantly in a state of exchange value, and not specific use value. Marx explains in Capital chapter 2 that commodities only gain exchange value when there is a surplus of the commodities over consumption, and thus that they may be exchanged.

Genderfluid trans person; they/them. I organize in Kirksville at the moment.

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