OPINION: Refugee From Liberal Feminism

In preparation for my explant operation, I found solace in radical feminist literature. Little did I know, it was a step that would lead me towards being branded as ‘transphobic’ and excommunicated from the only spaces I’d ever known.

The surgeon who initially fit me with my breast implants had told me that without the sex industry, he wouldn’t have a career. In the same respect, the sex industry wouldn’t exist without the imperialist agenda the western world had positioned in the war torn country that my family fled from decades ago.

Arriving in America from Iraq in 1997, my family was uniquely impacted by the social and economic vulnerabilities many refugees face when fleeing from their home. But as I grew, life didn’t become any easier. My so-called ‘sweet sixteen’ was spent watching my family wade through the global financial crisis, and the toxic cocktail of hardships that persisted as I aged resulted in me having to work three minimum wage jobs while attending a local community college.

At age 20, I made the decision far too many young women do, and began working at a strip club.

“Sex work is work,” right? It was just a job like any other, but one which offered the shallow promise of at least some economic relief. But where you become a product, you cease to be a human, and the sex industry possessed my humanity for nearly a decade.

During my time in the trade, I’d witnessed women overdosing in bathroom stalls, pimps beating my co-workers, and had run-ins with violent johns who mutated the way I viewed men. I felt trapped, and I partook in coping methods that disillusioned me into rationalizing things that I wouldn’t otherwise have done.

I moved to Las Vegas on a whim and got breast implants. Out of survival, I had created an identity around one of the most horrifying facets of female sex-based oppression and the mutilation only affirmed it.

When I began to come to grips with the darkness I had existed within for too long, others viewed me as tarnished. Employers didn’t want a person like me amongst their staff, and the lack of economic support resulted in exiting taking years. It was only after I was able to secure financial aid and attend a city college where I studied philosophy and law that I was able to leave the industry behind.

But… some of it came with me.

The implants in my chest were more than just reminders of my time in the seedy trade of women’s flesh, they were burdens on my health. Breast implant illness left me with debilitating pain I endured day in and day out.

Yet despite the agony, I’d spend an entire year worried that if I removed my implants, I would no longer be valuable or profitable.

No one could convince me more that I needed to go through with the operation than Sheila Jeffreys, whose writing in Beauty and Misogyny echoed inside of my head when I awoke from the 3 hour explant procedure I undertook in February of this year.

Within a few weeks of the operation to remove my implants, the illness they’d wrought upon me dissipated, but the lingering upset I had inside of me swelled to an impassioned anger. I tore through literature to learn more about feminist oppositions to the prostitution and beauty industries, and found affirmation of the fury I had at the experiences I had been subjected to on the basis of my sex.

But when I took my knowledge to Twitter, intent on sharing my feelings with fellow ‘leftists,’ I was immediately met with criticisms that my disgust with both the sex and cosmetic surgery industries were rooted in unacceptable –phobias.

Transphobia.

Whorephobia.

The smears struck me as odd.

I was a refugee. A survivor. A woman of color who had been debilitated by a capitalistic industry. How could I be a bigot?

But it quickly became obvious to me that the perspectives I had adopted from the literature I had read were simply not welcome in the spaces I had once thought to be progressive and feminist. Decrying women’s unique struggles were ‘TERFy,’ opposing the sex trade was ‘SWERFy,’ and challenging the necessity of cosmetic surgery was an affront to ‘transwomen.’

The more vocal I became, the more backlash I was met with from the people I had once considered friends.

My social media profiles were inundated with mass-reports. I received death threats. Even one particular organizer — a trans-identified male — who I once deeply respected for advocating for sex trade abolition participated in a 4-day smear campaign that painted me as experiencing a mental health crisis for the views I held.

But never one to buckle, the more resistance I was faced with, the more opposing research I did into the very things they were telling me to ignore. The final nail in my would-be social coffin was opposing the mutilation of young women in the name of ‘gender.’

Looking back upon it all, the backlash wasn’t the least bit shocking.

There is a point where someone can become so ‘open-minded’ that their brain falls out, and the terminally online leftist ‘organizers’ had become so consumed with liberal virtue idolatry that they were unable to recognize the own glaring contradictions in their ideology.

The so-called ‘feminists’ of the liberal left were entirely confused as to why I’d become opposed to the things that had almost killed me. They were just as flabbergasted as to why death threats and demands for my ideological submission weren’t working to bring me back into their fold.

Out of the minefield of their judgement, and I began to realize that those who branded themselves with the virtue of standing up for the oppressed had become unable to address the material reality of women’s sex-based oppression. They barely knew what a woman was anymore. And how can you fight for something you cannot even acknowledge the existence of?

No amount of obfuscating my womanhood or identifying otherwise would have spared me the very unique torment I had been subjected to in the sex industry. No amount of flippantly dismissing the reality of my sex would have made the trajectory of my life any less female.

I had to say ‘goodbye’ to the people I once called ‘comrades.’ I removed them from my life just like I had explanted the toxic implants from my breasts. And just like with the surgery, I felt myself healing — becoming stronger, becoming healthier.

This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been a refugee.


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Lavy Shwan
Lavy Shwan
Lavy is a contributing writer at Reduxx. A refugee from Iraq, she currently lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she immerses herself in Marxist and feminist theory, and advocates for women's rights.
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