What fresh cis nonsense is this

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: An otherwise sharp-witted feminist has a very public and very unnecessary meltdown after being posed with a question in the vein of “are trans women real women?” As if this were kryptonite, all of the critical thinking skills she ordinarily exhibits will shrivel up and die, reducing this feminist to an incoherent blubbering mess who can’t argue herself out of a wet paper bag. Instead of identifying the appropriate rhetorical error (define “real”), they happily and freely frolic into a minefield performing a response that could only be described as “interpretive dance.” Wells are poisoned, dictionaries are consulted, ontologies are confused with empirical fact, migraines are had, shots of rum are quaffed, questions are dodged, and my eyes roll out of my head because I can’t believe people haven’t figured out that the rhetoric of realness is a dead, dead horse.

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place!” And raising herself to her full height, and her voice to a pitch like rolling thunder, she asked. “And ain’t I a woman?”

–Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?”, 1851

Eighteen fifty one. I’m sure Truth’s speech is far from the earliest example.

And yet, here we are, 166 years later.* Apparently we haven’t learned a fucking thing.

Jenni Murray…

Murray, writing in the Sunday Times magazine, said that she was “not transphobic or anti-trans” and called for respect and protection from bullying and violence equally for “transsexuals, transvestites, gays, lesbians and those of us who hold to the sex and sexual preference assumed at birth”.

However, the piece appeared under the less nuanced heading: “Jenni Murray: Be trans, be proud – but don’t call yourself a ‘real woman’. Can someone who has lived as a man, with all the privilege that entails, really lay claim to womanhood? It takes more than a sex change and makeup”.

Murray wrote: “I know that in writing this article I am entering into the most controversial and, at times, vicious, vulgar and threatening debate of our day. I’m diving headfirst into deep and dangerous waters.”

And Chimamanda Adichie…

In the interview, broadcast on 10 March, Adichie said “I think the whole problem of gender in the world is about our experiences. It’s not about how we wear our hair or whether we have a vagina or a penis. It’s about the way the world treats us, and I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges that the world accords to men and then sort of change gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are.”

…are apparently uninterested in how this dialogue has played out before–and no, I’m not merely referring to Ophelia Benson.

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Sadistic Catch-22s

The legalities of gender variance in its most benign form can be a matter of tedium. This is what I have to cope with–an initial not insubstantial cost to request my first legal change to my name, and from there, just a long series of much smaller requests with much smaller fees. For the most part, my difficulty is discovering the sheer number of databases in which I exist–and in which I must request changes.

Compare that to this trans teacher in Wisconsin. State employees recently had a policy change instituted seemingly without warning on gender designation changes, and now it has suddenly erected onerous bureaucratic barriers that needlessly involve courts and doctors. Perhaps the most insidious requirement is “proof” of gender change–in this case, surgery.

Remember that the Affordable Care Act prevented discrimination from insurers against trans people, and that the provision was removed by a Trump order. Having had no direction to include trans people within their coverage, the State of Wisconsins’s health insurer reinstated the ban on transition-related surgeries. Now trans people have to pay between $15,000-$25,000 out of pocket to get bottom surgery, assuming they even want it in the first place (which most don’t).

On top of that, after yanking out coverage for surgery, Wisconsin is now implementing a requirement for the surgery they just denied coverage to in order to change your documents. Talk about sadistic!

Before I get to discussing the additional demands ETF is making, let me point out a very broad problem, and that is the idea that agents of the state can change one’s legal status retroactively at any time. Imagine, for example, if the state decided that it wished to make it harder for people to get married, and so it imposed a new requirement–that in order to have a marriage recognized, residents would have to provide DNA evidence proving they and their spouse are not related (an expensive prospect). Then imagine that all married state employees were informed that their status had been reverted to single in employment databases and systems, because they had not complied with the DNA test requirement when documenting their marriages. That’s not the way regulatory changes, mundane or shocking, operate–they are applied going forward, but not retroactively.

Now, as for the new procedures for gender transitioning, there are three requirements listed by ETF. The first is that the employee must notify ETF directly, providing their old and new names, old and new gender markers, ETF ID number, and a declaration that they are gender transitioning. Previously, employees notified HR at their place of employment, and employer HR staff changed the gender marker directly in the benefits system. But now ETF will centralize control over implementing transitions, and maintain a database of gender transitioners. In essence, we are being required to register with the state. As a Jewish person who lost extended family in the Holocaust, I find this extremely creepy.

The second thing trans people are required to do is provide “proof of identity,” such as a driver’s license or military ID showing the new name and gender marker. That’s what we had to do in the past, and my wife and I can easily produce our Wisconsin driver’s licenses showing our names and most correct binary gender markers. But now ETF is demanding more.

We are now being required to produce a third item, “proof of gender.” This is very strange, because a driver’s license already provides state-recognized proof of one’s gender. Requiring more serves no purpose other than to make it harder for people to get their identified genders recognized. And the new “proof of gender” items are difficult and intrusive items to get.

Let’s look at the options. One is a court order of gender change. To get one of these is difficult, expensive, and in many states, like Wisconsin, requires a doctor to testify that one has had surgical sex reassignment. Now, some people cannot have such surgery for medical reasons. Others do not want it–they desire social recognition of their identified genders, not a program of body modifications. And nonbinary gender transitioners often find they are denied access to surgeries. But let me underline that in any case, the very surgeries that ETF is making necessary in order to have one’s transition recognized it has also categorically excluded from insurance coverage. My wife and I have been waiting for years to access some surgical interventions that would make our lives easier on many levels, one of which is being able to access things like a court order of gender change. But we can’t afford them without insurance coverage. It’s a Catch-22, and seems deliberately cruel.

All of this contributes to a very roundabout “unpersonhood” of trans people. The retroactive editing of legitimately modified documents is un-fucking-believable and nothing less than a directed attack against us.

-Shiv

Shit cis people say, trans & intersex athletes, and warped double standards

As with the ethics of (non)disclosure concerning one’s gender history, athletics is one area of trans rights where otherwise sympathetic voices routinely fly off the rails. I have noticed two areas in which this manifests: Ignorance on how hormones actually work; and conflation of statistical averages with the specific outcome of a given individual.

Fallon Fox is a mixed-martial arts fighter who was invited to speak at Skepticon back in 2015. She is also a transgender woman. Fox has been subject to a great deal of scientifically illiterate criticism following Fox’s victory during a match between her and another fighter who was assigned female at birth. The substance of the criticism was that Fox had fundamentally violated the conditions on which they agreed to fight by “being male,” despite having lower testosterone than her opponent and despite having a similar body frame. Out came the weird pseudoscience.

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Conservatives blast NDP for following conservative energy plan

I’ve been blindly poking and prodding at the Mythical Centre everyone seems to insist exists in Albertan politics, insistently pointing out that our current government run by the New Democratic Party isn’t all that aggressively socialist after all. In fact, I don’t even have to go as far back as Peter Lougheed, widely considered one of the Progressive Conservative’s most reasonable and productive Premiers, to find similarities between the energy plan of the NDP and the PCs–Rachel Notley’s policy is nearly identical to that of the late Jim Prentice.

Which seems… odd… given how Canada and Alberta’s mainstream media has a never-ending lineup of pundits screaming of the coming plague over the NDP’s governance.

Yesterday, journalist Jason Markusoff published a story in Maclean’s Magazine outlining Mr. Prentice’s recommended approach to making Canada a true energy superpower, as opposed to the blustering would-be powerhouse we saw during the years Stephen Harper was Conservative prime minister.

“Prentice’s arguments are striking not only in their closeness to those of Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but also in how far they diverge from the orthodoxy of today’s Conservative Party, where Michael Chong is the clan’s black sheep for daring to advocate a price on carbon,” Mr. Markusoff wrote.

In the book, Mr. Markusoff observed, Mr. Prentice “gives Notley credit for instituting a carbon tax and suggests he’d helped lay the groundwork for her approach.” (Emphasis added.)

Mr. Prentice also credited the approach taken by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Notley with more success than the “amateurish” bullying favoured by Mr. Harper and his acolyte Mr. Kenney.

These so-called Centrists that everybody insists exists ought to then be confronted with the basic reality that Notley’s NDP is behaving a lot more like Lougheed’s PCs and not the Communist Diktatorship Post Media pundits have cooked up in their feverish imaginations.

Hell, Jim Prentice even answered the open-ended question I was concerned with regarding Indigenous treaty rights: (emphasis mine)

Mr. Markusoff quotes Mr. Prentice’s argument that if Canada won’t commit to serious coastal protection measures as demanded by so many people in British Columbia, “then we shouldn’t be shipping oil at all.” The late Conservative premier also advocated that Alberta help bear the costs of protecting the West Coast and include Canada’s Indigenous peoples as full partners in our national energy policy.

There remains the big question–with Jason “I don’t get caught up in the details” Kenney slated to win the PC leadership race and steer the party into an iceberg, are the Centrists everybody insists exist going to wake the fuck up and vote for the not-terribly-liberal NDP? Or are they going to continue slamming back that delicious Red Scare whipped together in the dingy basements of Alberta’s gasbag political pundits?

-Shiv

A shared frame of reference should be a necessity

I exchanged a rather grating series of messages on one of my private Facebook groups about transition regret. With such a politically loaded trope I said early on in the conversation that we should pick a specific story–bearing in mind it would be anecdotal unless it was accompanied by data–so that we have a shared frame of reference.

They said they would refuse to divulge the personal disclosures from their friends. I never actually asked for those, nor would I. I literally said pick a story. Pick just one. Her response was to flippantly tell me to Google it.

That badly missed the point. We need a shared point of reference because otherwise we’ll keep trading in hypotheticals and get nowhere. I’m well aware that stories of transition regret exist and I’m also aware that of the minority who regret their transition that the cited reason is most often poor surgical outcome and not a mistake about their identity. But that particular observation lacks political traction and doesn’t propagate as quickly as “TEH TRANS ARR RECROOTING TEH CHILDREN!”

I’ll go–but what about the fantastic mental health outcomes of youth who are supported in their transition?

They’ll go–but what about those who regret it?

And nothing will be actually achieved, because without specifics we can’t identify whether there was a failure in the service provided or if the service provider was competent or if the actual cause of their regret is discrimination or surgical outcome rather than having made a mistake about their identity and on and on and on it goes.

This is one reason–there are many–but one reason why I moderate my comments extensively. You could say the guiding principle is “stay on target.” People making references to “those damned children!” without actually providing some kind of shared frame of reference by which we can participate are usually filtered precisely because the sort of circle jerking that ensues annoys me deeply.

It reminds me of one of the most important lessons I learned in my time at university. Open-ended questions were often posed in essay projects and the only way a student can stop floundering in such prospects is to select a reference to which the professor (or more likely the professor’s teaching assistant) can compare your argument. Students who neglected to pick a specific topic found themselves failing because their essay ended up being a bunch of fluff.

Needless to say, a chorus of insults followed when I bowed out of the conversation by saying that without a shared frame of reference, I would not participate. I was accused of trying to cover up the “dark side” of transition.

Patently ridiculous considering my job is doing exactly that.

Was providing that link so difficult?

-Shiv

 

I’m not actually happy about what happened to Milo Yiannopoulos

Professional garbage fire Milo Yiannopoulos finally had his book deal retracted. He also was also set to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference and that too was cut.

I’m not particularly happy at this change of events. Not because I want to hear him speak–I’d sooner swim through a sea of thumbtacks–but because it wasn’t his blatant racism, xenphobia, sexism or transmisogyny that was considered unacceptable. No, apparently all those are still fine, but if you advocate for pederasty, that’s the straw too much!

Let me be clear here: I do not think debate is the correct response for Milo. He knows he’s full of shit. He embodies the nihilistic performative sadomasochism endemic to 4chan. He is not there to expand the knowledge of his audience, he is there to pump them up with a victim narrative and set up a plethora of still-mistreated minorities as the villain of a cheap video game. I will stop just short of endorsing the Black Bloc’s disruptive tactics–Canadian Intelligence has something of a hate-on for anarchists and this post will inevitably be mined by them for dirt should I be arrested–but debate and protest don’t work on him. You need to deter him. You need pain, or the threat of it at least, to get him to give up. The Black Bloc achieved something where peaceful protest did not. That is undeniable.

And that’s what pisses me off. When he was running around the country, performing acts that would be considered criminal in sane democracies, everything was just fine because he was targeting other undesirables. Seriously, he got paid to sexually harass a trans woman so badly she had to flee campus for her safety. This is not a man embarking on a quest for knowledge. This is a man whose mission is to cause pain as some kind of divine retribution for succeeding where insecure basement dwelling entitled white men have not.

Why hasn’t the school been sued to oblivion for permitting this? Why does it seem like enough people don’t give a shit about his inciting violence against trans people?

No, none of that mattered. It was pederasty-while-gay that finally did the deal.

In canceling Milo’s book contract, Simon & Schuster made a business decision the same way they made a business decision when they decided to publish that man in the first place. When his comments about pedophilia/pederasty came to light, Simon & Schuster realized it would cost them more money to do business with Milo than he could earn for them. They did not finally “do the right thing” and now we know where their threshold, pun intended, lies. They were fine with his racist and xenophobic and sexist ideologies. They were fine with his transphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. They were fine with how he encourages his followers to harass women and people of color and transgender people online. Let me assure you, as someone who endured a bit of that harassment, it is breathtaking in its scope, intensity, and cruelty but hey, we must protect the freedom of speech.

-Shiv


 

Edit Feb 22, 2017: Following reader feedback I have removed a poorly worded reference to Richard Dawkins’ dismissals of the impact of pederasty.

Spouses are more dangerous than terrorists

Content Notice: Sexual assault.

There’s this obsessed guy who runs around on every political article that pops up in my feed screaming at the top of his lungs about “rapefugees.” It’s an immediate red flag–I noticed a long long time ago that most people can’t be arsed to give a shit about the violence committed within their own communities but holy shit what changes when the perp is brown!

This is where it is useful to lean back and look at big picture statistics. Sexual assault is sexual assault regardless of who does it to whom, so if our justice systems weren’t massively flawed we would expect roughly the same outcomes across the board in terms of what is reported and what is prosecuted. Except with sexual assault, when you look at the big picture, you see a pretty big gaping hole between reporting and prosecuting under certain specific circumstances.

A ridiculous proportion of sexual assaults are accounted for with these three components:

  1. Targeted an acquaintance, not a stranger;
  2. Used alcohol rather than force or drugs;
  3. Denied allegations of sexual assault should they be raised;

YesMeansYes breaks it down further: (emphasis original)

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I’ve asked and answered

Random musings from another nattering TERF cloud that recently bombarded my feed: “Just asking questions of gender identity” was one of the ways this particular TERF piece of shit cloaked her bigotry.

So, thing is, gender variance as a concept is already being investigated. By researchers, not anonymous bloggers on the internet. Even I don’t perform original research, I merely propagate its findings in the naive hope that facts will eventually enter this fucking conversation. But when TERFs say this, they don’t mean they’re investigating gender variance as a concept–more of them would be actual researchers if that were the case, and they’d have more than one citation that will inevitably be That Fucking Swedish Study–they mean they have taken it upon themselves to question my questioning as to how it applies to me.

Frankly I just want to stop and ask them how many times they think I’ve wrestled with this question. Did I come to terms with my gender by popping up one morning and saying “oh yeah, this’ll be a laugh”? Or was this a process delayed unnecessarily for 15 years between the first inkling that something was wrong and having the vocabulary to articulate myself because the very culture I live in treats my existence as some kind of baby-eating taboo?

It’s fucking offensive, and that’s not a word I use a lot, to tell me I haven’t thought this through. Every day. Every morning. At most finding distractions for half an hour to get my mind off it. I’ve spent more time questioning my life than living it, so the sheer arrogance of some self-appointed fucktwit spouting off a bunch of invasive and uninvited psychosexual nonsense just blinds me with anger. Don’t you dare fucking tell me I could’ve found better ways to cope when those “other ways” would involve me drowning myself in drugs and pain all because you misapprehended Judith Butler in first year women’s studies. Like if I say I don’t want any motherfucking blueberries, that doesn’t mean I want you to keep giving me blueberry pie or blueberry tarts or blueberry salads until we find a format I might like, it means don’t. give. me. blueberries.

Fuck me I’m so done with TERF bullshit. I think after I get these projects up I’mma do a couple weeks of something else.

-Shiv

The Guardian’s anti-trans bias isn’t exactly subtle

Full disclosure: I have an axe to grind with any organization, publication or person that styles itself/themselves as progressive but consistently pushes anti-trans bullshit.

Check this out: Of the articles tagged “transgender” that allow commentators to participate, all five are about cisgender anxieties about trans people–transition regret, bathroom bills, housing in prisons, Sarah fucking Ditum, more bathroom segregation. This is an editorial choice, not an accident. There’s an editor out there fully cognizant of the fact that you can get 1,000x more clicks on a page that’s willing to call trans people “grotesque” than something thoughtful and evidence-based.

And I’m fucking sick of it. Look at the comments of this article. Moderating voice that tries to make the distinction between anxiety of sexed attributes and dissatisfaction with gender role? 4 likes. “Trans activist” conspiracy theory quoting the much-discussed-long-misapprehended 80% desistance myth? 107 likes.

Fact checking? 11 likes.

Trans cabal? 142 likes.

Fact checking? 20 likes.

Contradicting themselves in the same paragraph but hey it’s transphobic who cares? 80 likes.

Anecdote about “some people say”? 116 likes.

Smarten the fuck up, Guardian consumers. I’m so done with faux-progressives.

-Shiv

Journalist or Activist?

Borrowing from the tradition of anti-intellectualism, activist is now a snarl word in journalism, too. 

As a gender variant person who writes on gender variant issues, I am routinely accused of being “political” in my writings.* What I find utterly bizarre is that I label any contextualizations of my personal experiences as personal experiences. In the absence of that label, I stand by that work on the basis of its adherence to evidence.

I am utterly baffled as to how drawing upon sources to make statements supported by scientific consensus is now a “political” activity. Let me be perfectly clear: If evidence-based argument is “activism” rather than a strain of politics, then by definition your politics don’t include facts. This is ultimately what has alienated me from mainstream media, this strange and frankly broken idea that all opinions are equivalent, even when one is bullshit from start to finish and the other is well-researched. It has groomed an entire generation of self-appointed experts who quite frankly are amazing at wasting my fucking time.

Of course I’m hardly the first person to encounter this and I doubt I’ll be the last. Stephen Colbert (apparently) called this out back in the era of Bush Jr.–“reality has an anti-conservative bias”–but it’s quite another thing to actually experience it first hand. When it comes to gender variance, the bottom line is that enough people consider themselves equipped to participate in the conversation, spouting off shit that’s already been refuted forwards and backwards, or more commonly not bothering with citations at all.

My politics require facts. I will not be made to apologize for that.

-Shiv


 

*Even the, uh, political posts.