A Toxic Culture of Violence and Shame: How DGR’s Denial of Transphobia Exposes Worse Tendencies

Lierre Keith / photo courtesy PM Press

Lierre Keith / photo courtesy PM Press

by The Letter Collective

Lierre Keith’s Platform of Hate

Deep Green Resistance’s gender doyen, Rachel Ivy, has posted a new attack on trans* people, called “A Partial List of Lies (With Corrections) in Recent Anti-Feminist Letter.” Cloaked as a defense against a sign on letter that we organized, Ivey’s screed attempts to deconstruct the letter signed by more than 30 organizations across a broad spectrum of social and environmental causes.[1] Even when insisting that they are not trans* phobic, Ivey makes numerous trains* phobic claims.

The open letter, co-signed by the Earth First! Journal Collective, Greenpeace USA, Rising Tide North America, local groups ranging from the Cascadia Forest Defenders to the Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, and other groups like Tar Sands Blockade, the Queer Caucus of the National Lawyers Guild, RAMPS, and Peaceful Uprising, presents three main principles: (1) Lierre Keith is transphobic and does not support safer spaces policies, and (2) Keith’s gender analysis has led to increasingly divisive behavior by DGR, which is deleterious for the environmental movement as a whole (3) Keith should not be allowed to give a keynote speech at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC).

Calling this huge list of groups across Turtle Island “liars” and “anti-feminist” for taking a strong stance against transphobia is something we have come to expect from such an alienated and isolated group as DGR. In fact, a majority of those who contributed their ideas, time, and words to the sign on letter were women. This fact was totally skipped over by DGR, an organization that reflexively assumes activists who are critical of the ideas of their advisory board are automatically liars and anti-feminist.[2] For instance, in another post, Ivey even attacks the Civil Liberties Defense Center, an incredibly important legal organization with women in the positions of president and executive director, for “horizontal hostility” after they released a solidarity statement against DGR’s transphobia.[3] The first comment on the website comes from a DGR supporter who caustically states, “Because the most entire important thing in the world is bullying women into believing penis is female!… Accepting the Ladystick into lesbian vaginas is much more important than long-term survival.”

Although she usually presents the same sentiments in more sophisticated terms, Lierre Keith has published attacks on trans* people amounting to harassment and subtle calls for violence,[4] yet DGR maintains that it is not the source of divisive antagonism, and that DGR has always maintained a defensive stance. This posture would make sense if there was not so much evidence to the contrary. Just a few months ago, supporters of DGR such as Cathy Brennan[5] teamed up with Right Wing hate groups, so-identified by Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD, in order to mount an internationally-watched campaign against and falsely accuse a high school trans* woman, falsely accusing her of sexual harassment for using the women’s restroom.[6] If Keith’s community stands in solidarity with known hate groups, what does that make DGR?

If Brennan had not threatened to sue Jacobin magazine for printing a critique of her trans exclusionary politics, we would accept TERFs’ brand of “defensiveness” as less than paranoid attempts at censorship and intimidation.[7] If members of DGR had not, according to the Eugene Weekly, publically outed trans* members of the community by posting naked photographs of them, we might be able to appreciate DGR’s “defensive” stance.[8] DGR’s slander against trans* women has gone so far that Derrick Jensen and his cohorts have given support to the phrases, “Taliban in a skirt,” “trans boys,” and other incredibly hostile slurs.[9] At what point can we call Jensen and Keith’s sick quest to bring their own version of the War on Terror into the bathroom offensive?

Ivey argues that they are being judged for actions and words said or written by TERFs who are not DGR members, but this claim is deeply disingenuous at best. DGR is based upon, as is proudly stated on their website, and takes a majority of its support (including substantial monetary donations and all of its membership) from TERFs and the TERF community. They are Facebook friends with notorious TERFs like Bev Joe and Cathy Brennan, and DGR members “like” their hateful posts, which mock trans* peoples’ bodies, belittle their oppression, and more. DGR cannot have it both ways. They cannot on the one hand proclaim to be proud TERFs, go to their conferences, accept donations, accept the TERFs massive support, and schmooze with them while TERFs spout grotesque comments and writings about trans* people, claiming all the while that they are not implicated by and responsible for the TERF community’s culture of hatred and exclusion.

Outspoken Transphobia

DGR’s most recent statement claims that Keith is not an outspoken transphobe. Lierre Keith gives frequent speeches at TERF conferences outlining an elaborate ideology identified by Ivey, herself, who has the unfortunate privilege of being the mouthpiece for DGR’s trans* exclusionary ideology in her speaking tours and online videos. In her video, “The End of Gender,” Ivey states bluntly that, when it comes to gender, Keith “does not hedge her words, does not hold her tongue, and really does not accept Liberal bullshit.”[10] In case it is not clear to DGR, nothing else is required to reveal Keith’s true position on trans* people’s identity—no so-called “lying,” “thieving,” “abusive,” “woman hating” ex-DGR members needed other than Keith’s own words in the notorious leaked email. It is worth quoting Keith at length:

“Well, I’ve personally been fighting about this since 1982. I think ‘transphobic’ is a ridiculous word. I have no strange fear of people who claim to be ‘trans.’ I deeply disagree with them, as do most radical feminists.

Try this on. I am a rich person stuck in a poor person’s body. I’ve always enjoyed champagne rather than beer, and always knew I belonged in first class not economy, and it just feels right when people wait on me. My insurance company should give me a million dollars to cure my Economic Dysphoria.

Or how about this. I am really Native American. How do I know? I’ve always felt a special connection to animals, and started building tee pees in the backyard as soon as I was old enough. I insisted on wearing moccasins to school even though the other kids made fun of me and my parents punished me for it. I read everything I could on native people, started going to pow wows and sweat lodges as soon as I was old enough, and I knew that was the real me. And if you bio-Indians don’t accept us trans-Indians, then you are just as genocidal and oppressive as the Europeans. Gender is no different. It is a class condition created by a brutal arrangement of power. I can’t fathom how mutilating people’s bodies to fit an oppressive power arrangement is frankly anything but a human rights violation. And men insisting that they are women is insulting and absurd.

[The Trans Community is] in fact deeply misogynist and reactionary when it comes to any understanding of male power. Indeed, they often claim it ‘oppresses’ them to even use the words ‘men’ and ‘women.’ Meanwhile, men are raping and brutalizing women on a mass scale. I hate to say this, but it’s porn culture that really created the whole concept of trans. I watched it happen.”[11]

To add insult to injury, Ivey reads part of the email, and with a shrug of her shoulder feigns incredulity that anyone would have a problem with it, while in the background DGR members chuckle, egging her on as they enjoy a moment of collective mockery of those whom they are hurting.[12] It is ironic that DGR openly anthologizes the practices and practitioners of BDSM by claiming that tops “share the mentality of rapists, sex offenders, and pedophiles,”[13] while at the same time reveling in the TERF community’s trashing, in their public comments on Facebook, of trans* people’s lives, bodies, and struggles to survive, going so far as to question the legitimacy of trans* people’s identity in their videos and emails. The politics of cruelty and sadism, indeed.

Displaying a stunning arrogance and ability to disregard the impact of this hate speech, in the “End of Gender” video, Ivey cavalierly states: “When people criticize DGR based on the text of that email they seem to expect us to be so ashamed of it or so offended by it ourselves that we won’t even address it… People told me about this [email] before I actually read it and once I actually read it I was kind of underwhelmed, because I didn’t really see what’s so not straightforward about calling gender a class position.”[14] Ivey conveniently leaves out parts of the same leaked email where Keith says, “I can’t fathom how mutilating people’s bodies to fit an oppressive power arrangement is frankly anything but a human rights violation. And men insisting that they are women is insulting and absurd” (So much for universal human rights!) And of course, Ivey also did not read the portion of the same email where Keith tries to demonize a whole people, saying, “I hate to say this, but it’s really porn culture that created the whole concept of trans.” Sorry DGR, no one else is underwhelmed.

Indeed, the notion of “transgenderism,” as it is deployed by DGR, is not unlike the notion of homosexuality deployed by the Christian Gay-to-Straight Conversion Camps. It is not surprising, then, that the same organizations that organize and run these conversion camps are allied to the TERF and DGR community.[15]

Exclusionary Trasphobia

Ivey’s next mistake occurs when they claim that the sign on letter in question contains the sentence “DGR bans trans people from their organization.” There is no such sentence in the letter. However, their denial of this is one of their worst and most disingenuous canards. Since they have brought it up, DGR does not, in fact, allow trans* people in their organization. And on top of this, they purposefully try to mislead everyone, particularly well-meaning people who aren’t familiar with these issues, by saying that they allow trans* people in DGR. This is a bold faced lie and a direct insult to the intelligence of trans* people and everyone. It’s DGR doublespeak. It is like the Catholic Church saying, “you can be homosexual, but you can’t practice homosexuality.”

What DGR actually means when they say they allow trans* people in DGR is that trans* people can join if they agree to set aside their civil rights. Trans* women, for example, are not allowed into “women only” spaces in DGR, and they have to accord to DGR’s TERF statement of principles that denies the very existence or merit or validity of trans* people as a group. We imagine that not many trans* people would view these strictures as an invitation to join, much less acceptance for who they are.

More than this, Derrick Jensen has recounted in a leaked email that DGR does not deny, “I liked what I said to Julia or whatever his name was who wanted to join DGR: You are not a woman. You are a man who believes he is a woman.”[16] This is the truth behind DGR’s claim to allow trans* people to join. Beyond Jensen’s in-your-face, dismissive, imperious erasure of a human being’s identity, we shudder to think about what kind of conscience these people have, or lack thereof, to then spin this behavior into meaning “allowing trans* people into DGR.”

Keith is a member of groups like RadLesFes, which promote the work of notable TERF, Janice Raymond, famous for asserting that trans* people should be “morally mandated out of existence.”[17] So much for inclusivity! Hence, the quotation, “trannies will be eradicated by radical feminism,” which DGR falsely attributes to us, appears to be a lucid reflection of the TERF community’s line of thinking.

That DGR has openly disavowed Lisa Compton, who made the latter quote, shows how ready and willing the organization is to cut their ties with supporters who represent their unpopular opinions when they become inconvenient. Compton not only supports, but viciously defends DGR’s statement of principles in several posts, yet it is important to note that membership for DGR is not open. There is, in fact, a serious screening process that includes, among other things, “genital inquiries,” according to a recent statement made by a DGR activist. If Compton has not gone through the correct procedures for membership, so much the better for her. DGR claims that we presented Compton as a member of DGR. We did not. We merely called her a “RadFem/DGR activist,” implying that she actively supports DGR through a RadFem perspective.

The ironic thing about the rejection of Compton is that, in another misquote, DGR’s response claims that Keith’s larger community has never been responsible for “insisting that all trannies will be eradicated by radical feminism.” They left out the correct quotation mark, possibly because the correct quotation—“trannies will be eradicated by radical feminism” (their quote, not ours)—so clearly shadows the words of Janice Raymond (trans* people should be “morally mandated out of existence”), whom Lierre Keith and the TURF community promotes and supports. The misquote also includes the word “trannie,” further obviating their offensive and insincere misrepresentation of our position. By misquoting us four times in the space of a short response piece, DGR puts their dishonesty on display for all to see.

Aside from Keith’s promotion of the “moral mandate” line through RadLesFes, Keith also founded the magazine, Rain and Thunder, and in her capacity as editor published a very controversial article that appears to call for violence against trans* women if they use women’s restrooms.[18] When Rain and Thunder published these articles, a tremendous debate began to swell across the spectrum of radical causes, with numerous survivors insisting that trans* women stand more of a chance of being raped or murdered if they use the men’s bathroom. The jeering, mocking response from TERFs exposed their iniquity.[19] No conference can be considered a safe space when someone who has promoted violence in the bathroom is giving the keynote speech. 

Direct Action?

In part due to their gender dogma, DGR has not had much of a presence in the direct action environmental movement. To rebuff this claim, Ivey notes that one of their members is depicted on the cover-illustration of the Earth First! Direct Action Manual (DAM). Really, what is depicted is an action, not an individual. The occupation of a prospective tar sands site in Utah that forms the cover image of the DAM is not even mentioned on DGR’s “What We Do” timeline. By this omission, DGR seems to admit that they had no visible or meaningful presence in the action. The Utah action emerged out of the Canyon Country Action Camp, which did implement both safer spaces policies and trans* inclusive policies.

Not only is DGR not named amongst the allied organizations of the action camp, but two out of the three organizations involved in the action camp have signed onto the letter against Lierre Keith’s invitation as keynote speaker (we forgot to contact the third group). To be clear, the participation of one or two DGR members in an action camp that operates in direct opposition to DGR’s core policies does not constitute an organizational presence whatsoever. Similarly, the appearance of a DGR member on the cover of the DAM cannot be twisted into evidence of DGR’s presence in the direct action movement against ecocide.

More than half of our collective lives and works in the environmental movement of the Cascadian bioregion where the PIELC is located. Deep Green Resistance has not worked on the movements to end clearcutting and fossil fuel shipments here. If you check the “What We Do” section on DGR’s website for actions over the past year, you will find precisely two in Cascadia—(1) speaking up at a public hearing and (2) helping with a wildlife restoration project. If you widen the lens to the rest of the world, you will find DGR’s members participating in a smattering of symbolic marches and trainings, but only two direct actions in defense of the Earth. For a group that raises thousands upon thousands of dollars, boasts permanent staffers and a nonprofit arm, and claims an international network of direct action groups, this number is disappointing to say the least. DGR’s nonprofit wing, Fertile Ground Environmental Institute, has an almost-entirely white, male board directors/advisors gleaned straight from DGR, and has fundraised with events like “Earth at Risk,” a November 2011 event that drew international luminaries like Arundhati Roy, Chris Hedges, and Thomas Linzey together in Berkeley, California for a Derrick Jensen love fest served up at a $40 admission fee. While it appears that Fertile Ground is not running any events or programs currently, it still represents a piece in the tangled web of online fundraisers, speaking tour honorariums, which accrue funds for the organization. So if DGR, a supposed direct action group, cites only two direct actions in the past year, where does the money go?

To put things into perspective, as an all-volunteer group without the help of a nonprofit fundraising arm, Portland Rising Tide has managed about two actions each month since November, including a port shutdown in Vancouver, Washington, several office occupations and disruptions, and a couple of road blockades.

So what are the two decisive actions that DGR has participated in? The first action that they list is an action that their members helped organize, but which occurred under the auspices of 350.org’s FearlessSummer campaign. It was not a DGR action.[20] The other action consisted of DGR members traveling to the Unistoten blockade, where, presumably, support was offered. While simply traveling to a pre-existing blockade in support of First Nations with little-to-no police presence on site is commendable, it is debatable as to whether or not it really constitutes direct action.

One former DGR activist elucidated some of the reasons behind DGR’s lack of action and lack of presence in an email to the advisory board:

“[T]he organization has become too educational based with not enough emphases on action. If we want to have a culture of resistance and have UG [underground] action occur that comes from being on the ground with the people on the front lines. Resources spent on educational events during a time of year where actions are happening all over the country in my view was a bad strategic move. Furthermore, while I understand that not everyone can be front line activist I feel like those who are should have just as much if not more power in shaping the organization than those who are not on the ground. This is not the case within DGR.”[21]

One serious problem with DGR is that direct action is inherently decentralized. All direct action takes is the know-how and a little elbow grease (and it helps to have bail money and a support crew). While DGR attempts to present itself as horizontal, there is ample evidence to the contrary.[22]

When the DGR Portland chapter issued a statement autonomously with regards to hostility they experienced at a local conference, Jensen intervened with the advisory board, stating,

“We–the board–are taking over, because so far the way this has been handled is a classic example of how battles are lost. We have had every advantage against a completely incompetent opponent, and we are still somehow managing to lose. When I engage in a conflict, I aim to win it. And as of this moment DGR is fighting to win this conflict.”

According to former members of DGR Portland, who left the organization after the terrible mismanagement shown above,

“We have grown increasingly concerned with DGR’s decision-making structure which lies exclusively in the hands of the three-person advisory board: Jensen, Keith, and Saba Malik, and a half-dozen hand-picked staff members. The staff members are all young, all lacking in much non-DGR organizing experience, and often reside in Crescent City with Lierre Keith. The process for the selection of staff and board members is unclear, and requests for clarification of the decision-making process have been aggressively shut down.”[23]

To be frank, a centralized advisory board and staff removed from radical action can only detract from the dynamics of true resistance struggles.[24] That is why, while their members may have some presence within Earth First!, and may in fact be EF!ers if they value anti-oppression, their organization does not.

Turning Their Backs

The story of the power struggle that lodged the TERF analysis within DGR reveals how the same hierarchical dynamics explained above came about. A majority of DGR’s founding ideology, was devised by Aric McBay, and had nothing to do with TERFs. Aric McBay left DGR along with Premadasi Amada, due to the power games of Keith and Jensen in opposing trans* inclusive policies in DGR and ultimately consolidating power under the banner of “Radical Feminism”—driving out everyone who disagreed. The DGR response to our sign on letter claims that people who received attacks from TERF organizers are lying, and that Amada was asked to leave the group by her own organization due to personal complaints rather than her advocacy for trans* inclusiveness and other issues.

Ivey’s claim is contradicted by DGR’s own members, for example—who else?—Rachel Ivey, herself who states in “The End of Gender,” “[gender is] the only reason, as far as I know, that we’ve had chapters defect from DGR.” Ivey continues, DGR’s gender policy is “not up for debate,” and “forms the core of DGR.” Ivey insists that activists who have joined the group in good faith to discuss and challenge DGR’s gender stance have “failed miserably,” drawing laughter from her audience.[25]

It is clear that DGR would have us all believe that everyone is a liar and abuser, particularly ex-DGR members, and that DGR is just a perpetual victim waging a heroic battle for women. But as we have seen, DGR’s sad attempts to distract people are not working. This struggle is not about Amada or Aric McBay or anyone else they would like to discredit and malign. This is about DGR’s own words and actions. It is, then, sadly predictable that DGR’s reaction to the sign on letter turns towards another distractive attempt to personally smear yet another (former) principle DGR organizer. In this case, it is another person of color, TR McKenzie, who takes the brunt of DGR’s attack. Saba Malik claims that McKenzie cannot be trusted, due to his rocky relationships with some indigenous people. Malik denies the veracity of McKenzie’s claim that Keith called the Lakota “patriarchal,” but does not provide defense beyond admitting to also have also made similar statements.

There is, however, a leaked email from the advisory board (comprised of Saba Malik, Lierre Keith, and Derrick Jensen) to members of DGR in which the advisory board admits that both Malik and Keith called the Lakota patriarchal. The advisory board states in this email, “The real issue seems to be that she [Jessica, ex-DGR Great Plains chapter member] is upset that Lierre [Keith] and Saba [Malik] stated that the Lakota are a patriarchal culture…Lierre and Saba are not going to apologize for stating something that is simply a fact.”[26] This evidence clearly shows that Lierre Keith called the Lakota “patriarchal.” The only question is, when documents like this are so readily available for all to see, why continue lying in such a public and flagrant manner?

Perhaps DGR is so bogged down by digging itself deeper that its advisory board cannot keep track of all the dissembling and outright lying. Perhaps they just plain forgot that this letter had already been leaked just months ago. Perhaps DGR does not realize that they are their own worse enemy.

Much of DGR’s reactionary anger towards McKenzie stems from his accusation that it is a racist group. Malik admits, DGR “is a white-dominated as well as male-dominated” organization, but insists, “If TR [McKenzie] wants to accuse me of racism he is going to have to accuse many people of color through history.” McKenzie, however, has never accused Malik, who is of Indian descent, of being a racist. If her claim that a person of color calling a white-dominated organization racist will ultimately ricochet onto other people of color, she is making a deeply problematic contestation—particularly considering McKenzie’s vocal asseveration that “reverse racism” does not exist. Malik’s efforts to use her own person of color status to protect Keith is outrageous, given their foundation in the lies exposed above. In fact, all of DGR’s lying and dissimulation substantiates McKenzie’s claims by further showing the depths to which DGR will sink to slander their own former members.

These kinds of problems are tacit throughout DGR’s analysis, as Keith and Jensen made clear in an article written last year for Counterpunch: “We see nothing in the creation of gender to celebrate or embrace… This is also our position on race and class… We want a world of justice and equality, where the material conditions that currently create race, class, and gender have been forever overcome.”[27] Simply put, Keith and Jensen do not recognize the validity or vitality of traditionally marginalized struggles; for instance, Black Nationalism, Black Power and/or Pan-African movements.

Adolph Reed Jr., explains that the “erasure of black experiences” is overcome in the effort to “vindicate blackness.”[28] What stands opposed to blackness, then, is not whiteness, itself, but the erasure of blackness—the generalized default of whiteness as a system of acceptable norms and values. For Joseph Jordan, “[r]eimagining ‘blackness,’ African consciousness,… and maroon identity provides a means for an extra-national citizenship,”[29] and for Leith Mullings “‘Blackness’ acquires its full revolutionary potential as a site of resistance only within transnational and Pan-African contexts.”[30]

Huey Newton’s cogent internationalist communalism proposed that the enemy is not black or white people as they are, or race itself, but the “technology and military might of the United States [which] made it possible… to violate the territorial integrity of the peoples of the world, creating an empire here and destroying all their qualities of nationhood and making them dispersed communities of oppressed people.” Newton preached solidarity, and taught that “the physical and social characteristics of the people of our communities shall never be used as a basis for exclusion.” Hence, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense organized coalitions with LBT communities, feminists, and resisting populations around the world.[31] The enemy is not trans* people, gender, or race, but the erasure of the definitions that give us as people power by a neo-colonialist militarized death machine for which white supremacy is only one of many means of accumulating capital.

The “colorblind” erasure of race is merely a defaulting to a white, patriarchal mindset of indifference to and ignorance of alternative ideas and systems of power. This is why racism, homophobia, sexism, and trans* phobia are systemic, not personal. As Kwame Touré famously put it, “If a white man wants to lynch me that’s his problem. If he has the power to lynch me, that’s my problem.”[32] There is a long and important history of power here that is impossible to satisfactorily discharge in the context of this essay,  but suffice it to say that the contours of this history are erased by DGR’s “radical” analysis in much the same way that they avoid, marginalize, and betray the history of LGBQTTI struggle.

It is well known that different genders have been deployed across time to empower people in different ways.[33] By comparing trans* people to white settler people pretending to be Native or poor people pretending to be rich, Keith insults everyone involved, exposes a lack of materialist class or race analysis, and thumbs her nose at the tragedy of oppression that we all experience on a daily basis, all the while taking her mostly-white, well off TERF support to the bank.

Yes, class and race play a role in the conditions of gender, but the three should not be conflated into some form of vulgar negationism that annihilates all categories of thought under an epistemological causa sui of oppression. Must we constantly repeat what everyone already knows—that trans* people do form a kind of undergender, are more likely to be fired, are less likely to be picked for a job, and are more likely to become victims of both civil and state violence—particularly trans* people of color? As CeCe McDonald recently stated, “Black trans bodies are under attack.”[34] Rather than listen to marginalized groups, allowing them to identify as they see fit, DGR seeks to level all distinctions and construct a singular plateau of norms defined and regulated by their advisory board as natural, while generalizing, mislabeling, and insulting marginalized and racialized populations.

Yes, Keith’s TERF transphobia is essentialist, eliding all dialectical complexity with overarching categories and divisions, but we are not debating ideological quarrels here. This is a question of life and death. 41 percent of trans* people and gender non-conforming people have attempted suicide in the USA. People are dying, because of the trans* misogyny and transphobia not only displayed, but actively promoted by Keith and her ilk.

Concluding Thoughts

When TERFs claim to receive threats of rape, violence, and even death threats, we hear their sadness, we it saddens us deeply. We do not wish violence against anybody. That is one reason we stand strongly opposed to trans* misogyny, and the DGR/TERF community’s frequent usage of antagonistic and hate-filled rhetoric. It remains ignorant and discriminatory to malign, as DGR members and TERFs have done in comment boards and Facebook posts, an entire group of people, because of the actions of a few individuals (who may or may not be on the payroll of the FBI).

According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 78 percent of students who express transgender or gender non-conformity are harassed. By maintaining their hardline anti-trans position, the TERFs are taking part in this harassment and violence. Members of our community have sent heart-felt pleas asking them to stop their campaign against trans* people, but mockery and the usual attacks follow.[35] One Earth First!er had his Gmail account hacked after extending what can only be considered a conciliatory open letter to Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith last year. That same EF!er received no response to an email that he sent to the conference inquiring into the availability of childcare at PIELC. Given the fact that Cooper Brinson, one of the co-directors of PIELC is a member of DGR, and another director, Mallory Woodman, is a supporter of the DGR/TERF community, one find it difficult not to draw conclusions as to why an activist critical of Keith and Jensen, even in the most polite and reflective manner, may have been ignored and/or excluded.[36] It is perhaps more apparent why a letter asking for Keith’s removal, involving some of the most important environmental organizations on the continent, and indeed in the world, has gone so brashly ignored by PIELC’s administration.

The only ethical response in a situation of this kind of conflict of interest is for the DGR/TERF members and supporters in the conference’s administration to step down. If that is not forthcoming, we call on the Dean and Friends of Land, Air, and Water to remove both Cooper Brinson and Mallory Woodman from the conference for violation of conference ethics and for conflict of interest through their unyielding support of such an unpopular and dishonest keynote speaker, who has promoted violence against and exclusion of trans* people, and we call on PIELC to show solidarity with LBQTTI people and the radical environmental movement by rescinding Lierre Keith’s invitation immediately.

The Letter Collective is an ad hoc, trans-regional convergence of eco-warriors struggling for justice with love and solidarity. We wish to remain anonymous to protect our identities.


[1] We do not know the author(s) of the statement, so we will simply refer to the letter as “DGR’s response.” It can be found at “A Partial List of Lies (With Corrections) in Recent Anti-Feminist Letter,” bendittillitbreaks.blogspot.com, February 20, 2014

[2] For example, advisory board member Derrick Jensen once wrote, “The anarchists are liars.” See “Deep Green Truth,” Pastebin, May 16, 2014, http://pastebin.com/Aeb67Bj1 and Lilac, “Derrick Jensen’s Hateful Rant,” Earth First! Newswire, May 17, 2013, http://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2013/05/17/deep-green-transphobia-iii-derrick-jensens-hateful-tirade/

[3] “CLDC Jumps on Bandwagon of Distortions and Horizontal Hostility,” BendItTilItBreaks, February 18, 2014 http://bendittilitbreaks.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/cldc-jumps-on-bandwagon-of-distortions-and-horizontal-hostility/

[4] Cristan Williams, “Your Help Requested: HRC condemns fake trans harassment charges, ex-gay group dodges my fact checking, family and friends open up,” Trans Advocate, October 18, 2013, http://www.transadvocate.com/your-help-requested-hrc-condemns-fake-trans-harassment-charges-ex-gay-group-dodges-my-fact-checking-family-friends-open-up.htm

[5] Brennan is a donating supporter of the group, while her social network presence (Facebook, twitter, etc.) is intimate with DGR. For evidence of her more-than $1,000 worth of contributions, check out “Chip in for PIELC food/housing costs!” http://www.gofundme.com/6e147c and “Resistance Rewritten Tour,” http://www.gofundme.com/resistancerewritten

[6] TheTERFS, “Attorney Cathy Brennan: More extreme than an ex-gay hate group,” October 23, 2013, http://theterfs.com/2013/10/23/attorney-cathy-brennan-more-extreme-than-an-ex-gay-hate-group/

[7] Bhaskar Sunkara, “Help Defend Jacobin,” Jacobin, July 12, 2013, https://www.jacobinmag.com/2013/07/help-defend-jacobin/

[8] True to form, Derrick Jensen chimed in on the comments thread calling the article, “libel,” Shannon Finnell, “Transphobia Spurs PIELC Protest,” February 6, 2014, http://www.eugeneweekly.com/20140206/news-briefs/transphobia-spurs-pielc-protest

[9] Comment by Derrick Jensen made on May 13, 2013 at 10:10pm, at GenderTrender, “Feminists assaulted in Transgender Attack at Portland conference for Social Change: Women’s books destroyed and bodies defaced with permanent magic markers,” May 13, 2013, http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/feminists-assaulted-in-transgender-attack-at-portland-conference-for-social-change-womens-books-destroyed-and-bodies-defaced-with-permanent-magic-markers/

[10] Rachel Ivey, “The End of Gender, Revolution Not Reform.” Youtube, May 10, 2013. Minute 3:50; 5:00. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ot8cBm0YmXo

[11] Be Scofield, “How Derrick Jensen’s Deep Green Resistance Supports Transphobia,” Decolonizing Yoga, May 13, 2013, http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/how-derrick-jensens-deep-green-resistance-supports-transphobia/

[12] Ivey, Minute 21:00

[13] Sam Krop, “A Radical Severing of Violence from Freedom,” Counterpunch, June 28-30, 2013, http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/28/a-radical-severing-of-violence-from-freedom/

[14] Ivey, Minute 24:00

[15] Zach Ford, Pacific Justice Institute Invented Transgender, Student Harassing Classmates, Think Progress, October 17, 2013, http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/10/17/2797141/pacific-justice-institute-invented-transgender/#

[16] Lilac

[17] There are also the regular claims coming from the RadFem community that trans* people only transition to rape women. See Ray Filar, “You can’t smash patriarchy with transphobia,” thefword, September 3, 2011, http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2011/09/radical_feminism_transphobia

[18] For the direct article, see Alix Dobkin’s column in Rain and Thunder: A Radical Feminist Journal of Discussion and Activism, issue 5, 1999. For a nice, recent analysis of it, see Ida Hammer, “Questioning Lierre Keith’s Transphobia,” Vegan Ideal, May 8, 2009, http://veganideal.mayfirst.org/content/questioning-lierre-keiths-transphobia

[19] Some of these debates are well documented in back issues of the Earth First! Journal from 1999 – 2002.

[20] In this single action in Chicago, May 21, 2013, DGR members were arrested along with a Rising Tide Chicago activist in FearlessSummer nonviolent civil disobedience action.

[21] “Leaked DGR Resignation Letter & Members Forum Post: Why DGR GP Dissolved, November 15, 2013, https://www.facebook.com/notes/ab-irato/leaked-dgr-resignation-letter-members-forum-post-why-dgr-gp-dissolved/10152062875572612

[22] See “Deep Green Truth,” Pastebin, May 16, 2014

[23] former members of DGR Portland, “Deep Green Resignation and Reclamation,” Earth First! Newswire, May 16, 2014, http://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2013/05/16/deep-green-reclamation/

[24] For more on direct action and Earth First!, see David Graeber, Direct Action: An Ethnography, Baltimore, (AK Press: 2009).

[25] Ivey 21:00

[26] “Leaked DGR Resignation Letter & Members Forum Post: Why DGR GP Dissolved, November 15, 2013, https://www.facebook.com/notes/ab-irato/leaked-dgr-resignation-letter-members-forum-post-why-dgr-gp-dissolved/10152062875572612

[27] Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen, “The Emperor’s New Penis,” Counterpunch, February 23, 2014, http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/21/55123/

[28] Adolph Reed Jr., “Dubois’s ‘Double Consciousness’ Race and Gender in Progressive American Thought,” Ibid 141

[29] Joseph Jordan, “Afro-Colombia: A Case for Pan-African Analysis,” found in pp. 90

[30] Leith Mullings, “Race and Globalization: Racialization from Below,” Ibid 2

[31] Besenia Rodriguez, “Long Live Third World Unity! Long Live Internationalism,” Ibid 166

[32] Kwame Touré, “Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael at UDC,” Youtube, March 3, 1993, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tug8RJyLoz0

[33] See for instance Catheryn Bailey, “Embracing the Icon: The Feminist Potential of the Trans Bodhisattva, Kuan Yin,” Hypatia, Special Issue: Transgender Studies and Feminism: Theory, Politics, and Gendered Realities, Volume 24, Issue 3, pages 178–196, Summer 2009.

[34] CeCe McDonald and Laverne Cox, “’Black Trans Bodies Are Under Attack,’ Freed Activist Cece McDonald, Actress Laverne Cox Speak Out,” Democracy Now!, February 19, 2014, http://www.democracynow.org/2014/2/19/black_trans_bodies_are_under_attack

[35] Sasha Ross, “An Open Letter to Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen from a Member of the Earth First! Journal Collective,” Earth First! Newswire, June 24, 2013, http://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2013/06/24/an-open-letter-to-lierre-keith-and-derrick-jensen-from-a-member-of-the-earth-first-journal-collective/

[36] Her Facebook page reveals her photographs and friendship with Rachel Ivey and DGR member Sam Krop.

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