An environmental group gave a presentation in Kodiak last week, but instead of only discussing the state of the planet, the conversation turned to something unexpected — gender politics. KMXT’s Mitch Borden reports on how the community responded.
Deep Green Resistance was in Kodiak to talk about environmental issues and the state of the planet. But the conversation took a turn when protesters showed up with homemade signs.
“No terfs on our turf and transphobia is not feminism is my other sign and this one says transwomen are women.”
“Terfs” is an acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists — a term applied to people and groups like Deep Green Resistance.
The leader of the protest was a trans man who we’re going to call J. He asked to remain anonymous to protect his privacy.
When he heard Deep Green Resistance was going to be in town, J did some research. He thought some of the group’s beliefs were transphobic and he worried those views wouldn’t be explained.
“They came here with the impression that they were going to talk about environmental issues, which is a major concern of people who live in Kodiak. So I figured that would probably be a really easy to just kind of slide transphobia into the otherwise the progressive part of this community and that was frightening to me because that’s where I find solace and safety.”
So he and a few others decided to protest. They stood quietly holding their signs throughout the meeting.
Lierre Keith is one of the founders of Deep Green Resistance, she participated in the talk by video chat. She says the group’s stance on transgender individuals is pretty clear.
“We refuse to believe you can actually change your sex. I don’t care what you wear.”
This point-of-view is held by some who consider themselves radical feminists, like Deep Green Resistance does. Since the group went public with its stance on gender a few years ago it’s faced a lot of backlash.
Keith says the group’s received threats of sexual and physical violence and that some members have even been assaulted as a result. This reaction doesn’t make sense to Keith. She doesn’t think it’s that provocative to believe that you can’t choose if you’re male or female.
Keith: “I don’t know how you can be against basic biology. It just is. It’s not good or bad, it just is. There’s nothing wrong with having this body or that body.”
Ohana: “My body did not fit who I was. Who I am.”
Samuel Ohana is a trans man who helps lead a support group for trans adults in Anchorage. Ohana wasn’t at the protest.
But he explains that being assigned the wrong gender identity is like going through life wearing your shoes on the wrong feet. It’s uncomfortable and you don’t know why. But when you finally figure it out and put your shoes on the right feet, everything makes sense and feels better.
Ohana says settling in to being a man was one of the happiest times in his life.
“I finally felt right in the way I was being seen, right in the way I felt about myself.”
He says being trans isn’t about dressing up or hating your body.
“It’s being yourself. It’s being who you are. It’s learning and knowing you and expressing that regardless of what everyone else expects.”
Trans people often have their existence questioned says Ohana, similarly to what happened at the end of Deep Green Resistances’ presentation in Kodiak.
Lierre Keith explained the group’s stance on gender and the trans community, which the audience found surprising. Especially when she compared transitioning to body mutilation. That did not go over well.
Audience: “No, No, No, No…”
This response is exactly what J wanted. He hoped the group’s values would be rejected because he’s seen and heard plenty to remind him that trans individuals are not always accepted for who they are.
J’s not trying to offend anyone by being trans. He’s just trying to live his life.
“I go to college, and I use the men’s room, and I go to bed and nobody gets hurt. Trans people aren’t crazy, we’re just people.”
One of the reasons Deep Green Resistance held the meeting was to see if there was any interest in starting an Alaska chapter of the group. It didn’t seem like there was as the audience dispersed.