The Guardian’s readership continues to depress me

“Sisterhood” discourse is deader-than-dead, yet The Guardian‘s readership clings to it like a fucking life raft.

On the topic of cis and trans women “having differences.”

To say we are the same is ridiculous.

Paging all cis people. I repeat: paging all cis people.

Nobody is making this argument.

 

Will somebody help me tell The Guardian’s readers to smarten the fuck up already? I mean, kudos for keeping straw farmers in business, I guess, but this shit is getting tiresome.

-Shiv

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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BBC’s “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” p3: My old friend, eighty percent

This series on BBC’s “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” is co-authored by HJ Hornbeck and Siobhan O’Leary. It attempts to fact-check and explore the documentary’s many claims concerning gender variant youth. You can follow the rest of the series here:

  1. Part One: You got Autism in my Gender Dysphoria!
  2. Part Two: Say it with me now…
  3. Part Three: My old friend, eighty percent
  4. Part Four: Dirty Sexy Brains

 

Eighty percent is tired. Eighty percent has had thrust upon its back the concern trolling of every clueless media pundit from Sarah Ditum to Jesse Singal. And the exterminationists, the “transsexuals will sort themselves out later” types, they too abuse my poor poor friend eighty percent. Eighty percent is the one and only quote the antagonists will reliably provide. Eighty percent is the crux of hundreds of thousands of very, very concerned words printed in very, very concerned columns.

Eighty percent is just exhausted, being expected to carry all this.

Eighty percent deserves a rest.

Recall from part two:

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BBC’s “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” p2: Say it with me now…

This series on BBC’s “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” is co-authored by HJ Hornbeck and Siobhan O’Leary. It attempts to fact-check and explore the documentary’s many claims concerning gender variant youth. You can follow the rest of the series here:

  1. Part One: You got Autism in my Gender Dysphoria!
  2. Part Two: Say it with me now…
  3. Part Three: My old friend, eighty percent
  4. Part Four: Dirty Sexy Brains

 


 

Say it with me now…

…Kenneth Zucker was not “fired by transgender activists.” He was fired after a review of his practice by his peers in psychiatry.

There are quite a few questionable claims within BBC’s “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” Perhaps the most glaring is who they decided could answer the hypothetical question posed in the title: Kenneth Zucker, whose public statements have the dubious distinction of being refutable by his own research; and Ray Blanchard, the father of a unfalsifiable transsexual taxonomy that characterized trans women as either self-hating gay men or as sexual fetishists.

Not to point too fine a point on it, but calling this balanced is a bit like calling in an arsonist to lecture about fire safety.

This documentary recycles numerous specious claims that I’ve discussed elsewhere in my work. This puts me in an awkward position, since the temptation is to simply say “start from June, and just read every single post I’ve done on trans issues.” Seriously–the documentary parses like someone began with Julia Serano’s guide of pitfalls to avoid in this conversation and then said, “yeah, let’s do all 8 of that.”

For instance, the narrator at one point asserts that gender affirmative healthcare models have been advanced by “transgender activists.”1 While not false by any stretch of the imagination, the documentary also attributes to transgender activists Ken Zucker’s firing2, the unseating of Zucker’s aversion methodology3, “unnecessary meddling” with children4, and reinforcing gender stereotypes5. It completely fails to mention the academic criticism involved in all these points, a persistent theme throughout the work.

It’s a wonder how us activists get anything done, with how busy we are meddling with families, getting doctors fired, their methods discredited, and somehow bearing sole responsibility for reinforcing cultural gendered stereotypes despite being outnumbered by cisgender people 500:1. Make no mistake–the documentary is repeatedly poisoning the well when it mentions “transgender activists”–no attribution made to us is ever complimentary. And it also makes sure that anyone who supports gender affirmation is understood by an unknowing audience to be inherently anti-science, even though the model is supported by evidence, and even though many activists know the science and many scientists do at least some activism to propagate it.

Compare the above claims made by the documentary to my previous response to Jesse Singal’s well-paid concern trolling. Quoting Singal, I previously wrote:

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Stop with the psychosexual nonsense

I make it well known that I seldom have the patience to dialogue with the most hardened and dedicated advocates for the cluster of trans-antagonistic positions derived from the sort of radical feminism that makes other radical feminists grimace. There are many reasons why, but today I wanted to expand on one of them specifically, exhibited in this dialogue from Skepto that I signal boosted yesterday. Note that my response cannot be generalized as a response to all arguments suspicious or antagonistic of trans people and our rights; it could only be transferred to any other argument premised similarly.

Content Notice, again, for virulent trans-antagonism, the kind that triggers so much adrenaline you have to do a lap around the neighbourhood not to explode. Additional content notice as I cover the history of abuses perpetrated by medical systems against trans folk.

In the dialogue, the TERF in question advances the following claim:

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Transition Reactions p13: Legitimate academic inquiry

In my readings on feminism in Islam and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), there has been a consistent thread across all views within this specific area: Establish what work already exists before entering the discourse, lest you look like an utter nincompoop. It’s good advice generally for anyone considering entering discourse in any area in which they have no expertise. That’s why you kinda need a bachelor’s in your area before you can become a researcher.

The problem, of course, is that when it comes to discourse on gender variance or civil/human rights for trans people, is that so few people follow this advice. Whether it’s so-called “gender critical” bloggers or a professional whinger like Dr. Jordan Peterson, the existing body of literature is often ignored as these imbecilic martyrs cloak themselves in “legitimate academic inquiry” to open a “debate” on a question that’s comparable to, say, “is the Earth round?” Fucking Pythagoras figured this out ~2,600 years ago and there are people acting like they’ll win a PhD by reopening this question.

You won’t. The maths are settled. Keeping an open mind doesn’t mean revisiting the fucking obvious. At least, not without reason.

My hope is that one day many of the questions seriously asked by ignorant amateurs about gender variance today are regarded with the same relevance we give to Flat Earthers. I’m sure I could get the point across to Dr. Peterson if I were to sign up for his class and then spend Every. Single. Day. for Eight. Fucking. Weeks. interrupting his lectures with “but Sigmund Freud said something else!” and then running off to the media for daily interviews whining about how oppressed I am because Dr. Peterson has better shit to do than represent the findings of a long-discredited quack with any seriousness.

Yeah, something like that. I think that’s the part that pisses me off the most: This notion that trans people haven’t thought it through, that our questioning process doesn’t count, and that it’s only real or legit questioning if a cis person does it (abstractly, mind you). As if being a living embodiment of these questions doesn’t count.

Cis people feel entirely justified in entering the discourse without stopping to fact-check some of their basic assumptions, which is why a lot of us trans feminists tend to sound like we’re repeating ourselves. And when those folks (who already disrespect the topic and feel qualified to enter it) find a posterboy to represent their explosive cocktail of ignorance and arrogance, we have a recipe for misconceptions seemingly coated in Teflon, immune to all doubt and inspection.

It can all depress a girl, and quite badly at that. “That’s not what the evidence says” is my language. I’m not sure I know how to step outside of it. I think it’s one of the reasons I am reluctant to publish on other platforms. Here on FtB we are, ostensibly, concerned about what the evidence says. Y’all speak my language. We can have an actually intelligent conversation on what something means. But moving to MSM means having to throw myself at the feet of False Equivalency in service to Both Sideism. It punches holes in any potential aspirations to bonafide journalism, although I still try to do primary reporting within my means.

I feel like academia has no place for me either. You’d be a bit naive to think Dr. Peterson was the only professor who harbours prejudice against trans folk. I wear it on my sleeve–quite literally, if I get that tattoo I’ve been mulling over. Closeting myself for the duration of a post-secondary education seems entirely unconscionable… and yet, I wonder if actually getting any credentials would require such an act, knowing what tenured professors can get away with.

I think the only avenue to satisfy my ambitions is to write a book. It’s a format that allows the citations this ridiculous “debate” so desperately needs. It’s long form, meaning we can unpack and dissect what those citations say and how they relate to the topic. I may lack the degree for now and for the forseeable future, but there’s no reason my work can’t stand on its own merit. I’ve already navigated the publishing industry before and have a pretty decent grip on its ebbs and flows. I feel reasonably confident in this goal.

Nonetheless, the information will be useless without consumers willing to, you know, consume it. And I think that’s one of the biggest barriers: Not simply the ignorance by itself, but this notion that one’s ignorance is somehow adequate when governing the lives of other people.

It’s not. It shouldn’t be. We ought not to let that shit slide. End of story.

-Shiv

Debates, duels, and disagreements

Remember the Good Old Days when disagreements were settled with a duel? When disparagement of character could be challenged by the superior marksman, or swordsman, whichever the case may be? It coasted on a perverse sense of honour, predicated in the belief that the only reason one would put their life on the line to defend an idea is if they thought that idea was true enough to risk it.

The actual matter of accuracy or lack thereof, however, was not investigated by these duels. They may have proven that the idea–whatever the idea actually was–was important to the dueling participants. That’s it.

Debates are no different.

I can’t help but roll my eyes to near fatal degree when I hear debate proposals being positioned as acts of truth and discovery. They’re not. Just like the duels of yore, they simply illustrate that two people care enough about a topic to make a public spectacle of their disagreement, and in the absence of a corpse the “winner” is simply whoever the audience liked more–an attitude influenced no doubt by whether or not either speaker pandered to their pre-conceived ideas and prejudices.

After all, if debates were about discovery, the questions would focus on actual research findings, and not reductive buzz words inevitably miring us in the swamplands of linguistic nihilism. It’s not a demonstration of acuity or accuracy of belief. It’s a pissing contest to see whose stream reaches farther. It’s a format that rewards theatrics and melodrama, not logical structure or thoroughness of fact-checking.

So here’s a prediction: Jordan Peterson will win his debate. He will win his debate because suspicion of trans people is the activity du jour of hand-wringing reactionaries. His premises will not be accurate and his conclusions will not be valid, but it won’t matter. His detractors already know he’s full of shit and all the debate is likely to do is contribute to his weeks long gish gallop, his supporters will accept his flawed reasoning because transphobia is the Soup of the Day (but only as long as you call it free speech rather than transphobia). No one will learn much except for whether or not their disdain for one idea or another is represented by one of the parties present. His supporters, confirmed in their prejudice by a fancy academic (hey I guess those fuckin’ nerds are good for something, as long as they agree with me), will carry on with their lives heads firmly planted up their asses. The addresses and phone numbers of his detractors will remain on the internet forever. Fact and reason will fall by the wayside, buried ironically by a man who claims to wear the very concepts as his banner.

Nothing will change. Not from this debate. Not from any debate. Educators will carry on educating despite the ditches Peterson tries to dig for us.

-Shiv

Signal boosting: When your existence is up for debate

I will one day try to articulate what it feels like to know an overwhelming majority of mainstream media that an overwhelming majority of voting people access are determined to accept the most dangerous trans-antagonistic premises as simply given when debating our rights. This was the case with Judith Shulevitz’s predictably inaccurate contribution to trans rights discourse, an article I could generously describe as a hit piece rather than a think piece: Is It Time to Desegregate the Sexes?

I struggled with how to formulate a response without repeating myself, as many of the assumptions made by Jesse Singal during his defamatory works on trans people have already been challenged by me, and many of those same assumptions are here. It feels a bit like I’m Hercules fighting the hydra–cut off one head and two more take its place. And chances are the only way I will avoid reproducing the same refutations to the same bullshit peddled by strange bedfellows (religious biological essentialists and radical feminists? ableist hippies and the alt right? under one banner? wtf?) is to eventually collect the bullshit in one place to deal with it all at once.

Thankfully, this time, Chase Stangio stepped into the ring for me, sparing me another grueling analysis and hours of research that trans-antagonists won’t even bother to access.

Whether appearing in the New Yorker, New York Magazine, or the New York Times, these pieces follow the same formula — a non-transgender writer poses a question about the impact of respecting transgender people’s bodies and identities framing it as a “debate”, “culture war” or “clash of values” then interviews a lot of non-transgender people, and concludes that the issue is difficult because unlike other civil rights struggles, transgender people’s demand for humanity infringes the rights of others. Or, as Elinor Burkett put it in a June, 2015 Sunday New York Times op-ed, “the trans movement isn’t simply echoing African-Americans, Chicanos, gays or women by demanding an end to the violence and discrimination, and to be treated with a full measure of respect. It’s demanding that women reconceptualize ourselves.”

What Burkett and Shulevitz do is normalize the idea that demands by trans people to, as Burkett says, “be treated with a full measure of respect” necessarily hurt others. For Burkett this is by “demanding” that “women reconcentualize” themselves and for Shulevitz it is by implicating/upsetting the privacy and modesty rights of others — mostly cisgender girls. Though their frame takes these tensions as a given, they are anything but given. Instead, this framing reflects the authors’ ideological views about transgender people disguised by the sanitizing language of clashing values. It is dangerous to accept the premise of these pieces without interrogating those underlying views.

Lacking the voices of any transgender people or advocates, Shulevitz’s “debate” is set-up to reinforce all the assumptions about transgender people that many people share — the view that transgender girls and boys are not real girls and boys, the view that the bodies of transgender people infringe the rights of others, the view that inclusion of transgender people would disrupt educational and extracurricular settings.

She systemically introduces voices to reinforce each of these assumptions and never offers the expertise of individuals who can show that none of these assumptions is correct. She quotes Alliance Defending Freedom, a libertarian law professor, a so-called “radical feminist” organization defined by their belief that women who are trans are actually men, and a select group of educators to ostensibly highlight the challenges that transgender people pose in educational settings. Absent from her piece are the voices of transgender people, advocates, medical associations, pediatric associations, school administrators, and others who could clearly explain based on concrete experience that none of these assumptions comports with reality.

If she is going to deem protecting transgender people “a revolution” of notable “magnitude” then it might be useful to include the many school administrators who have testified to the exact opposite of her provocative warning — that such protections caused no disruption at school and were implemented seamlessly. This hyperbolic suggestion that merely allowing transgender people to be present in the locker room with their peers — most of whom love and respect them for who they are — is a revolution is offensive to both the concept of revolution and to the humanity of trans people. All Shulevitz has accomplished through this framing is to reinforce the talking points advanced by anti-trans groups like Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

When I challenged Shulevitz about this on Twitter, she responded dismissively and defensively and then deleted her tweets and ended the conversation. My intention was never to demonize her but to draw attention to the risks of what she did on a platform as powerful as the Sunday Times.

As writer Imogen Binnie explained on Twitter, when reading pieces like Shulevitz’s, one must ask “what does this article propose trans people should do”

“[I]f the answer is something like ‘not be trans,’ please consider that most trans people have tried that and it didn’t work,” Binnie tweeted.

And the effect of Shulevitz’s piece is no better demonstrated than the comments over on the NYT. Self-professed Butlerians high-fiving evangelicals interspersed with calls to arms to “protect America’s women.”

Guys, I’m tired of fighting. Jesus Christ.

-Shiv


Zack Ford has also taken Shulevitz to task.

Transition Reactions p11: Facts don’t care about your feelings

It cannot be understated that the sheer volume of ignorance about gender variance weighs down on me. I see the same shit repeating itself over and over. It is not the ignorance that is the problem, at least not by itself–but the belief that knowledge is somehow unnecessary to form an opinion on something, which is likely the sole contributor to my blood pressure problems. That is a belief which should be nuked from orbit, because if people actually practiced it, we wouldn’t have cis people passing shitty laws about trans people based off of knee-jerk “eww cooties” reactions or an entire lobby calling itself pro-“life” despite advocating for policies that continually endanger women.

i pun gud

i pun gud

As today’s Transition Reactions is about facts, I will not be including the usual disclaimer about anecdotes and personal experience.

So let’s dismantle one of the more irritating bludgeons used against trans women: “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

Facts exist regardless of how we feel about them–that is true, unless you’re a solipsist. The problem is the people employing this deepity seldom understand the establishment of what makes a fact to begin with.

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Johns Hopkins faculty disavow Paul McHugh’s homophobic and transphobic report

Paul McHugh is at least partially responsible for this odious missive titled “Executive Summary on Sexuality and Gender.” The summary in question was picked up by a number of reactionary lobby groups in short order, adding to McHugh’s long history of being one of the selective citations used when attempting to justify homophobia/transphobia as scientific.

What will no doubt be denied by those same reactionary groups is that the faculty at John Hopkins are aware of the report, and in fact they have published what might be missed as a withering condemnation of it:

Science, and particularly the fields of psychiatry and psychology, has made major advances in our understanding of the complex issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. For instance, accumulating data support the concept that gender identity is not strictly a binary phenomenon. And scientific evidence clearly documents that sexual and romantic attractions to people of the same and/or different sexes are normal variations of the diversity of human sexuality.

That is why the recent report, released by one current and one former member of our faculty on the topic of LGBTQ health, is so troubling. The report, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological and Psychological and Social Sciences,” was not published in the scientific literature, where it would have been subject to rigorous peer review prior to publication. It purports to detail the science of this area, but it falls short of being a comprehensive review.

We wish to make clear that there are many people at Hopkins who hold a profound and long-standing commitment to the health, wellness, well-being, and fair and non-stigmatizing treatment of LGBTQ people and communities. We do not believe that the “Sexuality and Gender” report cited above is a comprehensive portrayal of the current science, and we respectfully disassociate ourselves from its findings.

“We respectfully disassociate ourselves from its findings” is academic-speak, a sort of scathing disagreement, the equivalent of coming upon one’s car and finding the tires have been slashed by your nemesis.

Because reactionary lobbies are well known for their creative work (/extreme sarcasm), we ought to be surprised to see this exact scenario has already played out. Parents for Choice in Education, a reactionary lobby group advocating for the continued special snowflake status of Catholic schooling in Alberta, propped up two doctors from the University of Alberta to grant some kind of scientific credence for their prejudice. The U of A, having caught wind of this, immediately disavowed the two doctors in question. Yet, much like the reactionary groups propping up McHugh, PCE is suspiciously silent on how it continues to justify supporting doctors who have been told by their employer that their opinions are “inadequate,” which–again–is academic-speak for “fucking ridiculous.”

Perhaps that might suggest that scientific accuracy is not, in fact, their main priority?

-Shiv