One of the things the feminist blogosphere conveniently didn’t talk about when feminist writer and poet Adrienne Rich died March 27 was her role in planting the seeds of transphobia that infect radical feminism today
In the acknowledgments section of the transphobic waste of trees Janice Raymond penned in 1979 called The Transsexual Empire, Raymond said, “Adrienne Rich has been a very special friend and critic. She
has read the manuscript through all its stages and provided resources,
creative criticism, and constant encouragement.”
In the chapter of The Transsexual Empire entitled “Sappho
by Surgery”, Raymond cites a conversation with Adrienne Rich in which Rich described trans women as “men who have given up the supposed ultimate possession of manhood in a patriarchal society by self-castration”
So why am I and other transpeople fired up about Adrienne Rich’s transphobia being swept under the rug by feminists? It’s because that 1979 Raymond book that Rich provided creative criticism and constant encouragement for was the building block not only for trans hatred in radical feminism, it was also used to justify denial of medical coverage for low income transpeople and deny trans people access to basic public accommodations..
So yes, Adrienne Rich was an important, influential and inspirational writer. But she also like Mary Daly never apologized for her transphobic words and actions. She also played a role in helping Janice Raymond compile The Transsexual Empire book that has deleteriously affected trans women’s lives for over three decades.
May she rest in peace, but I’m not giving her a pass on her transphobia either.