Vague rhetoric and female “spaces”

Siobhan — then you agree that cis women have a right to their own spaces, that trans women have privileges from having been brought up as boys, and that cis women have a right to talk about how their female bodies shape their experiences of oppression?

This is an extremely common tactic I see deployed in criticisms of my work. I don’t know if the people using it realize just how loaded some of those word choices are, and I wanted to pause a moment to unpack that.

For starters, a lot depends on what exactly we mean by the word “spaces.” Are we talking about a Sunday scrap-booking club or a crisis shelter? The differences between the two touch many areas–legal, practical, ethical, just to name a few. A private interest group needs absolutely no justification for setting its boundaries. In addition, no self-respecting trans person wants to curry favour with people who treat them like they’re untouchables. But when trans women (and it’s usually trans women who are the subjects of exclusion) talk about accessing “female” spaces, we’re not typically signing up to be the subjects of mockery at a poncy tea party. We’re usually talking about accessing the same life-or-death safeguards as cis women, those precarious flotation devices tossed overboard in a desperate bid to keep the drowning above water.

The problem is when a service that typically falls under “public accommodations” is treated as if it were legally and morally equivalent to a private interest group. The standard sleight-of-hand for the trans-exclusionary type is to drop a byline about “supporting trans resources” but unsurprisingly, not a single “womyn-born-womyn” radfem cent ever actually goes to trans-specific startups for that exact purpose. If a particular jurisdiction has few or no resources to help trans women in crisis, I feel fully justified in interrogating the motives of trans-exclusion from the existing services. It is, after all, directly and immediately contributing to the catastrophic civil and health outcomes of trans people.

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Transmisogyny is still misogyny

I think most feminists would do a double-take if they had received the endorsement of evangelicals, but not Meghan Murphy. Undeterred by the fact that the Conservatives have selected her to share the limelight alongside evangelical pastor Paul Dirks, Murphy has the privilege of taking her transmisogyny to a national stage as a “witness” for the Senate’s third reading of Bill C-16.

The sad part is that there are legitimate critiques of Bill C-16. Advocates pointed out (and I’ll admit I was a bit late to the party on this one) that trans women are already disproportionately targeted by police and are therefore more likely to be represented in prison–the same prisons that would house hate crime offenders for longer periods of time thanks to Bill C-16’s hate crime provisions. But that’s not the argument Conservatives or Murphy are making.

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A familiar story

I have asked at multiple points in my time here on FTB whether those taking various anti-trans positions have bothered to read the material they claim to be criticizing. The answer, at this point, is most often “no,” but sadly ignorant cisgender editors of otherwise respectable media outlets continue to publish these dog awful jokes.

So how do they get away with it? Zinnia Jones explores that. Her answer–“through denialism.

This exercise, of searching outward from a given state of the world in order to map the many tendrils of its implications, can be a very efficient way of detecting errors, distortions, or outright nonsense. If you have an idea, does that idea imply anything about reality, or concretely connect to the world in any way? At which points does it come in contact with reality? Does it make testable predictions? Can it be disproven, and what would disprove it? What elements of the world changing would affect the validity of this idea?

The facts of the world generally don’t support transphobic arguments, and transphobes don’t really have the option of making robust arguments based on an honest assessment of the current state of our knowledge. They know this – they make use of this same technique of pondering counterfactuals. The difference is that they work backwards to fabricate an entirely new counter-reality, tailored to support their positions and vast enough that it can substitute for reality itself in a person’s mind. It’s called denialism: an entire ideological support system made to preserve a desired belief by rejecting the overwhelming evidence that would threaten this belief.

Denialism is wrongness with an infrastructure – ignorance with an armored shell, a whole fake world weaponized against the real world. Denialism can be observed in the various forms of “scientific” creationism, where facts of evolutionary biology and earth science contradicting certain readings of the Bible are targeted for incompetent rebuttal by non-experts working for various conservative Christian “institutes” of “creation research”, which is not a real field. It can be seen in climate change denialism, where the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming is discarded in favor of fringe nitpicking, oversimplified misunderstandings of the science, and so very many conspiracy theories.

Some forms of transphobia have grown so well-organized that they, too, now constitute an instance of denialism. Diethelm and McKee (2009) describe five core themes of the phenomenon of denialism:

Jones outlines the following themes of denialism, and just to help support her point, I’ll link to some of the works I’ve examined to corroborate them.

  1. Allegations of conspiracy are used as grounds to dismiss a well-established and consistent body of science.
  2. Fake experts are presented to lend apparent authority to denialist claims.
  3. Denialists will be extremely selective when it comes to the evidence and facts that they accept as valid.
  4. Standards for scientific findings are shifted in order to be practically impossible to meet.
  5. Shoddy arguments, fallacies, and deliberate misrepresentations are deployed to mislead the public.

As Jones concludes, if the factual arguments for transphobia existed, transphobes would just use them. Instead a heavy reliance on lies fiction gets them where they want to be.

-Shiv

“I can’t go two paragraphs without contradicting myself”

But apparently that’s the sole qualification for writing at LifeSiteNews.

Hey, you know what we haven’t done in a while? Tuned in to some bonafide Catholic hysterics occurring in the Province of Alberta. Behold the beauty that is LifeSiteNews’ totally unbiased coverage (or don’t, you might want to save your brain cells).

EDMONTON, Alberta, April 18, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A Christian political action group and a parents group are responding to the controversy over a pro-life group comparing the Holocaust to abortion by accusing the New Democratic government of promoting unscientific and dangerous gender ideology.

Basically: Steve Weatherbe, the intrepid reporter on this scoop, is freely and literally admitting that the only thing Conservatives can do when presented with criticism is change the topic rather than defend their actions.

Off to a good start.

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You Were a Trainwreck Before Estrogen

An addendum to Rae Rosenberg’s “You Were a Misogynist Before Testosterone

 

Trans communities often have something that resembles religion in my estimate–hormones. On the topic of testosterone and its masculinizing effects, Rosenberg criticized a This American Life episode featuring a trans man who justified his sexual objectification of women by citing testosterone as his excuse. Rosenberg notes (and rightly so) that misogyny is a learned behaviour and that there was no basis to connect a biochemical molecule to social norms about expressing sexual attraction.

As much as I would like to think otherwise, there’s no reason a trans person will be any better educated on the notions of biological essentialism or the Euro-colonial gender binary, so it follows that you will also find among trans women a range of anti-feminist or misogynist behaviours. Rosenberg’s article deals with the stereotypes associated with masculinity, and so I thought I would do the same for trans feminine folks and femininity–specifically the trope that we become emotionally fragile simply because we take estrogen.

With trans men, testosterone is often used to reinforce ideas of toxic masculinity, encouraging stereotypes about men as hypersexual, aggressive, angry, emotionally stunted beasts who want to hump everything they see. I see these narratives everywhere, from ‘activist’-leaning online forums to mainstream media.

If I go to a local trans feminine support group, I could ask each member to stand if they could answer “yes” to a few different questions. I could ask if anyone has been raped, and around two-thirds of the group will stand up.  I could ask if anyone lost their jobs and has struggled in their careers, about a quarter. If they are on poor terms with their parents, about two-thirds. How many lost their marriages, maybe a third. Assaulted? Half. Victims of domestic violence? Half again. Harassed on the street? All of them. Most of the circle will have experienced two or more of these things.

These same ladies will insist, vociferously and from the bottom of their heart, that it’s the estrogen making them cry.

Don’t get me wrong, as a trans woman and someone who has the liberty and dumb luck to have the option of hormone replacements, I’m well aware of its effects. I felt that I had been gasping for air at high altitude for two decades before I transitioned, and just starting hormone replacements alone felt like I began to breathe for the first time in my life. But I am quite confident that my sudden inability to remain stoic had everything to do with surviving multiple assaults and a domestic abuse situation and nothing to do with a steroidal hormone, despite both occurring at the same time.

And let’s not forget the suffocating effect untreated gender dysphoria can have long before we figure any of this out. The oft-quoted 41% statistic referring to the rate of attempted suicides in trans Americans isn’t actually lifelong or spread out evenly–it’s mostly clustered around coming out and the planning thereof, usually settling to be no different than the general population as a person’s transition progresses. The closet is no place for a person, yet I see its effects seldom recognized by those crediting estrogen for their newfound emotions–something which usually begins shortly after coming out.

One thing I appreciate about Rae Rosenberg’s piece is that it reminds us that oppression is something you do, rather than something you are.

When trans men argue that they can’t be misogynist because they were socialized as women, it further erases that women can also reinforce and reproduce misogyny.

I would certainly say it is also misogyny–albeit of the internalized variety–for us trans feminine folks to look at the ruins around us and assume we’re emotional because of estrogen. I think this does a disservice to us all when we don’t recognize that anybody would be right in feeling a bit fragile in the circumstances I described above. We’ve earned our tears, estrogen be damned.

All this occurs alongside and in addition to our hormone replacements. I’m just not convinced causation has ever been teased out. It sounds far more likely that we are just reproducing the idea that expressing emotion is effeminate, rather than an ordinary adaptation to stress, something most of us are under a tremendous amount of. And while it is validating in the context of a support group, let’s not forget that it will just as easily be the justification of our dismissals by transmisogynistic people when we leave it.

-Shiv

 

Don’t get *too* optimistic, there

Abby Brockman strikes me is a bit too optimistic despite catching a critical detail in this scoop: The United States’ border patrol agencies are bleeding out employees faster than they can hire. However, it’s not because the employees in question are having crises of conscience--it’s because the conditions in which they work are shitty.

Trump has ordered the agency to add 5,000 agents to beef up patrols and surveillance in advance of his proposed border wall. But its current 19,000-strong force is already 2,000 shy of a target set during the Obama administration.

Officials said tough screening, especially a lie-detector test, rejected many qualified candidates, and that tough conditions such as living in remote, rugged areas prompted more than 1,000 agents to quit every year.

“Some people just don’t want to live there,” said Randolph “Tex” Alles, acting deputy commissioner of CBP, a 60,000-strong agency that includes Border Patrol. “Hiring challenges are not new. Attracting and recruiting high quality individuals is a challenge for us.”

I wish I could claim optimism and say more people are becoming aware of the imperialist functions required by a state like the USA and consider said functions morally unconscionable, but those functions typically attract the bullies and sociopaths anyways. Boredom definitely strikes me as a much likelier culprit than the sudden discovery of a moral compass.

As ever, authoritarians give us a glimpse into their mindset with delightful(?) Freudian slips: (emphasis mine)

Tony Crowder, the executive director of Air and Marine Operations, told the Guardian his agency was struggling to retain and recruit enough pilots.

Commercial airlines were luring pilots who in some cases were expected to work in remote areas and participate in arrests. “They pay more and it’s a different type of work.”

Another problem is the attitude of young people, especially those for whom 9/11 is distant history. “They have a different view of public service. I don’t want to indict an entire generation but it’s harder to sell self-sacrifice for the common good.

I would argue the reverse, Mr. Crowder. Millenials are more likely to accept that the brown people you’re abusing count as part of the “common good.” To say nothing of how the Mexicans and South Americans brutalized by your practices had sweet fuck all to do with 9/11. That my generation is less willing to blindly accept authority is in my estimate a virtue we must desperately cling to. By the time we’re your age, the coastal cities will be flooded and we’ll need to start electing politicians governments who can think farther ahead than 4 years.

-Shiv

An open letter to Albertan parents concerned about GSAs

When I first began volunteering for LGBTQ+ social resources, one of the first rules I learned was to Never tell a dependent youth that they “need” to come out to their parents or guardians. By now, those parents concerned about Alberta’s student run Gay-Straight Alliances (alternatively Queer-Straight Alliances) are likely aware that professionals and volunteers affirming LGBTQ+ youth tend to follow this rule, and now we have a law written by the New Democratic Party setting the same as policy for school administrations. The leadership of both the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives have gone on record to disagree with this policy, stating that they think students joining the student-run GSA clubs ought to result in a notification for their parents, along with hundreds of other community organizers stepping into the conversation to concur.

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I find no problems when I investigate myself, too

I gather that some of the arguments made in favour of abolishing Alberta’s parallel-to-public Catholic education system are about costs–there’s a redundancy in management, so amalgamating the two services would find the public budget a few extra million after restructuring. And Adriana LaGrange writes a cheery “alternative reality” for the Edmonton Journal about the state of Catholic schools, arguing–among many other things–that the costs probably wouldn’t be lower if we were to amalgamate.

There are a few statements which get a good giggle from me, considering the context of the ACSTA splinter group scandals.

Compare LaGrange’s words here:

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Glenn T. Stanton didn’t read That Fucking Swedish Study either

It’s back! I said I was serious when I said I could predict which doctors transantagonists would quote (or in the case of Cecilia Dhejne, misquote).

Me on November 14th, 2016: Five years later and they still haven’t read That Fucking Swedish Study.

Error #1: The study found that gender affirmation increased/didn’t reduce rates of suicide, therefore gender affirmation is ineffective/harmful.

The overall mortality for sex-reassigned persons was higher during follow-up (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 1.8–4.3) than for controls of the same birth sex, particularly death from suicide (aHR 19.1; 95% CI 5.8–62.9). Sex-reassigned persons also had an increased risk for suicide attempts (aHR 4.9; 95% CI 2.9–8.5) and psychiatric inpatient care (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 2.0–3.9).

“For controls of the same birth sex” ought to be printed on a giant neon billboard, as that unfathomably important comparison is lost in this error.

In other words, this only supports that trans people, even if they access gender affirmative care, are a higher risk of suicide than cisgender controls. Indeed, the study itself points out that it is not a comparison between trans folk who have and haven’t received affirmation care:

It is therefore important to note that the current study is only informative with respect to transsexual persons health after sex reassignment; no inferences can be drawn as to the effectiveness of sex reassignment as a treatment for transsexualism. In other words, the results should not be interpreted such as sex reassignment per se increases morbidity and mortality. Things might have been even worse without sex reassignment. As an analogy, similar studies have found increased somatic morbidity, suicide rate, and overall mortality for patients treated for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This is important information, but it does not follow that mood stabilizing treatment or antipsychotic treatment is the culprit.

IT’S RIGHT THERE IN THE STUDY. AND PEOPLE STILL THINK THIS STUDY SUPPORTS THEIR CONCLUSION THAT GENDER AFFIRMATION IS HARMFUL OR INEFFECTIVE. A;RKEHAEKTH;ALJET;LJ

That’s it. There isn’t some elaborate maze to guide you through, a slog of logical fallacies to hack apart as if their argument were the untamed wilds of an inner Brazilian jungle. They. Literally. Didn’t. Finish. Reading. The. Paper.

Glenn T. Stanton on April 4th, 2017:

A 2011 Swedish study, a long-term follow-up of men and women who underwent gender reassignment surgery, indicates that cutting bodies and administering hormonal treatments are not as ameliorative as many think.

Me on March 11th, 2017:

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