Wages for Transition

A cluster of hands caring for each other’s transitions, and breaking the chain that surrounds them.
Image © Han Deacon 2019. www.handeacon.com

Transition is Work

When a trans person in the UK seeks support for transition from the National Health Service, they enter a workplace in which they are abused, policed, oppressed and exploited, in which they do endless labour for which they are never paid. Liberal capitalism would cast our transitions as products we buy as individual consumers, or as treatments we receive as individual patients, but in fact a transition under capitalism is a commodity we labour with others to produce, a process from which surplus value is extracted to accumulate capital for bosses and in which everyone else is paid but us.

Trans-Workplace Solidarity

We do not pretend that all transitions are equal, or that all transition can be understood through the wage labour relation. Instead, we argue that the perspective of transition as work, of transition as the presupposition, product and negation of capitalist gender, is an analysis of transition as it appears under the rule of the imperial capitalism originating in European settler states. But we do assert the perspective of wages for transition as one perspective which can build trans-workplace and trans-transition solidarities. Indeed, just as the digital platform capitalist insists that his driver is an entrepreneurial “partner” in order to obscure the driver’s true role as a neo-feudal worker who rents the means of production from the boss, so too some transitions under capitalism are valorised as expressions of individual self-realisation in order to obscure the trans person’s role as labourer in the workplace of capitalist gender. Thus some trans people are granted elite surgeries, glossy magazine covers, columns in transmisogynist newspapers, wages as cops and managers of transition, in order precisely to deny other people their transitions, and all trans people their revolutionary subjectivity. Those so denied are most often those whose gender is racialised, disabled, colonised and otherwise excluded from the capitalist gender system. Obscuring the function of transition as work is a defence mechanism of capitalism against gender communism, while the labour perspective on transition expands the view of what counts as transition as a principle of worker solidarity.

Wages Against Transition

Let us be clear: we demand wages for transition because it is the demand by which our nature ends and our struggle begins, because just to want wages for transition means to refuse transition as the expression of our nature, to refuse precisely the limited role to which capitalism would confine us. When we struggle for wages we struggle unambiguously and directly against and through our social role. Wages for transition is a revolutionary demand not because by itself it destroys capital, but because it attacks capital and forces it to restructure social relations in terms more favourable to us and consequently more favourable to the unity of the class. In fact, to demand wages for transition does not mean to say that if we are paid we will continue to do it. It means precisely the opposite. To demand wages for transition is to make it visible that our minds, bodies and emotions have all been distorted for a specific function, in a specific function, and have been thrown back at us as a model to which we should all conform if we want to be accepted in this society. Wages for transition is only the beginning, but its message is clear: from now on they have to pay us because as trans people we do not guarantee anything any longer. We want to call work what is work so that eventually we might rediscover what is love and create what will be our genders we have never known.

Trans Strike

What are the forms of class struggle which the demand for wages for transition can engage? Surely, as a fragmented, unrecognised labour force, we are the archetypal invisibilised precariat resistant to so-called traditional labour organising, resistant to the single-workplace union and the paid compromise-hawking negotiator. But, of course, it is the precarious who have least to lose, who are most resistant to incorporation into the mechanisms of capital, whose wildcat power remakes the condition of labour as such. Trans people thus require full participation in one big union, and in the process of scaling to the general strike there is much we can do.

A cluster of hands caring for each other’s transitions, and breaking the chain that surrounds them.
Image © Han Deacon 2019. www.handeacon.com


I write as a we to make clear the collective possibilities of the text, and to acknowledge the many voices which which I seek to harmonise, but my errors are my own.



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