Transcendence 2: Gender terrorists

Previous attacks underscore Al-Qaeda's ability to employ suicide bombers - a tactic which can be used against soft targets and VIP's. Terrorists will employ novel methods to artfully conceal suicide devices. Male bombers may dress as females in order to discourage scrutiny.

Department of Homeland Security press release September 4, 2003 [1]

This meme was revived just in time for the 2-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on US targets in New York and Washington.

"Transgender terrorism" as a fear is resurfacing in the wake of renewed Pentagon/"Homeland Security" interest in Gillo Pontecorvo's 'The Battle of Algiers', the film that in the late 1960's was required viewing and something of a teaching tool for radicalized people around the world. [2]

I rented it the other night after reading the Pentagon had been re-screening it at their headquarters.[3] It's an interesting film from a transgender perspective, as it is about controlling an invisible threat.

Basic plot: the French occupation force faces insurrection from Muslims tired of 130 years of colonialist rule. As tensions mount, the Algierians are forced to submit to greater restrictions of free movement, including more rigorous security checkpoints and additional government identification (sound familiar?).

The French soldiers resort to increasing violence and intimidation against the Algerian Muslims, which leads to terrorist activity in the European parts of the city. The film is among the first to detail the cell structure developed by the French Nazi resistance (currently employed by al Qaeda), as well as the counterterrorism methods (aka Guantanamo Bay-style torture) employed against cell structures in Algieria by the French, who were now in the role of the occupiers.

One of the recurring themes is the freedom that assimilated women have in moving around the city. There's a scene where Muslim freedom fighters get rid of their hijabs and cut and color their hair to "pass" as Francophilic Muslim women. The scene is shot in a very intimate fashion, and it is designed to show the sacrifice of their "true" identities for the greater good.

By flirting with guards at checkpoints and by bringing children, the attractive women are allowed to move through carrying bombs and messages without waiting, while the men get harassed. There's also a scene where the male leaders of one terrorist cell put on hijabs in order to escape a dragnet. They are given away by their boots, once again showing how men are hopelessly lost when it comes to accessorizing.

I'm sure all of this has the Total Information Awareness program in the Department of Homeland Security extra-jumpy about us.

The movie was both fascinating and chilling, and it made me worry even more about the direction this country is headed. Anyone who does not conform is suspect, and those in the transgender community who do conform are even more suspect, as they are viewed by the fearful as liars, deceivers, and traitors.

For more on transsexuals as an invisible threat, please see "'Illegal immigrants' vs. the border patrol of sex and sexuality."


1. DHS Advisory to Security Personnel, No Change in Threat Level, Thursday, Sep 4, 2003

2. La Battaglia di Algeri (1965), directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, screenplay by Pontecorvo and Franco Solinas

Screenplay online:

Amazon listing

IMDb listing

3. What Does the Pentagon See in 'Battle of Algiers'? by Michael T. Kaufman (NYT) New York Times, 7 September 2003, Section 4 , Page 3 , Column 1