Transition Reactions p15: Just being descriptive

By now, what I learned in genetics is rusty enough that new genetics papers are starting to get unreadable, but I can remember distinctly what it was like to read the scientists that had been mapping and describing the human genome. Contrary to the claims of the many antagonists to trans rights, there was–and still us, upon blowing off the dust to review–very little objectionable about the way they described human sex determination, and it is quite compatible for trans feminism. The key difference was that these geneticists weren’t flying off the rails to draw grand conclusions–they knew they were still trying to find all the puzzle pieces, never mind ready to assemble the picture.

I suppose if I were to be karyotyped and have my genome mapped, I would still have no qualms with the geneticist performing this making statements like “you have a y chromosome, therefore you only have one copy of certain genes ordinarily housed on the X chromosome.” That’s a statement that is testable, something that can be affirmatively proven. The problem is that so few people outside of developmental biologists and human geneticists can actually keep their conclusions conservative and in line with the evidence. I have never once had the statement “you have a y chromosome” ever actually end in a neutral statement, despite the claim from trans-antagonists that they are simply trying “to be descriptive.”

If being called male were only ever a prelude to testable statements involving genetics, I would be considerably more indifferent to the designation. But it’s not. Specifically in the context of trans rights, my theoretical* y chromosome is rolled up into a paper bludgeon and continuously smacked against my head during arguments that suggest anything from a propensity to rape to invented sexual motives for transitioning.

One of the inevitably predictable “gotchas” lobbed at me is a strawman of this argument. They’ll say something like “but you could get someone pregnant” in order to support the idea that some predictions can be justifiably drawn as to the nature of my actual sex. But I have never objected to empirically supported observations like capacity to impregnate or that the gametes I used to produce were smaller than ova. That’s all fine. What they sail past is that my reason for bristling at the whole “you’re still male” conversation is that it is never about the well supported observations on the likely natures of any given human, it’s about hitching a long-ass baggage train to those concepts.

Instead what I get is, you have a y chromosome, therefore:

  • You’re a man
  • Men produce testosterone
  • Testosterone makes a person violent
  • You’re violent

If this never ending baggage train ceased to be predictably hitched onto the term “male,” I’m sure I wouldn’t read such assertions as the snarl of a trans-antagonist revving their engine in preparation to run me over. If it were simply, “you’re male, so you probably produce gametes smaller than ova” or “you’re male, so you only have one copy of [gene housed on X chromosome],” I’d have nothing to write about.

But then, you know, TERFs are getting paid handsome sums to compare me to rapists, so. Bristles. Probably here to stay.

-Shiv


 

*I’ve never actually been karyotyped, so I don’t know for certain I even have one. It is quite likely I do, as I was assigned male, but I try to use the word “know” for things that have been repeatedly tested.

 

Julie Bindel is not a woman

Content Warning: Virulent TERFy trans-antagonism

I imagine I would be rightly discredited if I spent my entire career honing in on Julie Bindel and publishing defamatory essays justifying my frankly bizarre obsession with whether or not Bindel counts as “a woman.” Yet antagonizing trans folk is still so politically palatable that you can do exactly that and still achieve success. On no other topic can I imagine it is possible to have columns on both The otherwise-queer-friendly Guardian and the misogynistic half-fake conservative rag The Daily Mail.

Yes, that’s right, an essay comparing trans women to serial killers and rapists was published on The Guardian, a supposedly progressive news site. Somehow Bindel has mastered the art of making transphobia look simultaneously progressive and reactionary. It’s Schrodinger’s Bigotry, if you will.

Nonetheless, there are vast tracts of Bindel’s career dedicated to obfuscation and false equivalency. In her wake virtually no productive conversation on trans issues will prevail, because she kicks up enough dust that all you can do is cough. And the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, UK, decided this was who they wanted to represent their “LGBT” History month.

I’m not going to try and appeal to Bindel or her supporters–their “feminism” is little more than a gangrenous limb that refuses to fall off. Nor is this post meant to be a direct response to Bindel’s work–a quick search for “criticisms of Julie Bindel” produces hundreds of posts responding to Bindel’s nonsense.

Instead, I’m going to issue a very straightforward question for the WCML:

Do you have the integrity to be honest and rename your event the AFAB, Lesbian Separatist, Cisgender Supremacist History month? Because not even lesbian separatists want anything to do with Bindel’s particularly virulent strain of bile-spewing done in the name of “feminism.” Certainly bi folk and trans folk–you know, the “B” and “T” in your initialism–do not in general support their own defamation through bigoted talking piece Julie Bindel. So why on Earth is Bindel your “LGBT” speaker if she represents a highly specific, extremely hostile iteration of lesbian separatism that aggressively alienates the other letters?

Oh, right. “Freeze peach.” Just not for the B and T, apparently.

I’m starting to feel at this point that the only argument anti-rights advocates can muster on this topic is that it isn’t literally illegal for them to state their position. Somehow it doesn’t occur to anyone that this is the flimsiest, saddest defence one can imagine for a position. But Julie Bindel will carry on doing the patriarchy’s work and calling it feminism, and there’ll be no shortage of venues simply handwaving away criticism as “sensitivity.” More dust, less talk, and a lot of trans people struggling to cope with the stress knowing that the wrong conservative crusader could pick up these ideas and try to legislate us out of existence.

-Shiv

 

Sarah Ditum: More smoke screens and white noise in service to transphobia

While it’s likely going to take me an enormous amount of page space and several weeks to form a full, detailed critique of BBC’s “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best”*, I thought that there was nonetheless enough information within Sarah Ditum’s article “Transgender Kids: why doctors are right to be cautious about childhood transition” to respond to. This is because she admits that she hasn’t yet seen the documentary. Neither have I, which at least allows us to respond in specifics without consulting it altogether.

Knowing how much is going to be dusted up in this documentary, no doubt peddled by well meaning but ignorant cis folk, the trans feminists you know and love on the internet are likely going to have to work overtime to overcome the sheer injection of misinformation we can anticipate from trans-antagonistic feminists.

Ditum, in brief, says absolutely nothing new, and nearly nothing correct.

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Signal boosting: Some red flags in trans issue “debates”

I’ve not had the spoons to dive into anti-trans nonsense as of late, so I’ve been plundering the interwebs for trans commentators who have. I recently discovered Singularly Bizarre, a blog that has discussed Jesse Singal at length. The author is considerably wordier than I am (and that’s saying something) but they’ve also documented a pretty thorough inventory of well-cloaked dishonesty employed by anti-trans pundits.

One in particular I’ll signal boost is the tendency to start a conversation about trans children, and then make the illogical leap to discussing surgery. Undermining this trope–which does crop up a lot in Singal’s work–is this basic fact: No trans kids qualify for surgery under the prevailing standards of trans healthcare set out by the Worldwide Professional Association of Transgender Health. In fact, if we want to talk about subjecting children to “mutilation,”* we ought to be discussing the egregious human rights violations enacted on intersex children virtually everywhere in the world.

Yes, it’s this peculiar double standard that should immediately be recognized as a red flag. The idea of trans people voluntarily seeking changes to our body seems to reliably get a chorus of hoary-throated screams, but when you point out that the one of the epidemics of genital mutilation happening to children in mature Western democracies is on intersex children and infants, you get nothing but crickets.

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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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Rosie DiManno: Anti-trans garbage chute

I wish I got paid as much as anti-trans pundits to discredit them as they get paid to invent shit to get outraged over. Sadly it seems Canada’s corporate media has identified that anti-trans sentiment sells better, and those of us who insist on high standards of evidence are relegated to “alternative media.”

The next hit piece to grace my feed is Rosie DiManno’s fabulously victim blaming article, “End of binary gender proves to be a passport confusion.” Insert usual disclaimer for all your predictable anti-trans codswallop.

Earlier this month, Tracy Ayre took her 16-year-old son to renew his passport at the Toronto office. She brought with her his birth certificate, health card with photo, student ID card, bank statement, expired passport and her obviously boy teenager.

I have to interrupt this story already as there is an important detail here. “She brought with her his birth certificate.” According to Service Ontario, the administration responsible for government ID, the birth certificate contains: (emphasis mine)

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Thoughts on the ethics of disclosure and gender identity

Brynn Tannehill penned a piece for lgbtqnation on the ethics of disclosure for trans folk in dating, as in whether or not it meets some criteria of right or wrong to disclose (or not disclose) our status as transgender or our “gender history.” For the most part I agree with her arguments, and wanted to offer some additional thoughts.

By far the most predictable piece of white noise injected into the discourse is the claim of a cis person asserting they couldn’t date a trans person or find us attractive. The problem is… well, yes you could.

To clarify, there isn’t any consistent way to spot a trans person, because there isn’t any variance in our bodily characteristics that cisgender people don’t also have. Some women have hair loss. Some men have breasts. Some women are tall. Some men are short. The belief that trans people as a demographic can be identified upon sight is predicated in the belief that there is a certain way to “look trans.” This is how trans people have been using the washroom with you long before trans panic gained traction in 2014. Most of you never knew most of us were ever there, so we minded our business and left the loo like everyone else.

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Mistakes were made: An apology

For a brief time, you may have noticed this cute little button below my “About the Author” widget.

About the same time that I was going to announce that I had been added to a progressive blogging aggregate feed, I realized I was sharing space with at least one TERF.

I don’t know who clicked on the little Progressive Bloggers button–I know I drew a few readers from the PB feed but I don’t have enough data to confidently say they stuck around. Regardless, when I sought out an invitation to be added to this feed, I should have vetted the existing participants more thoroughly.

Alas, my posts briefly appeared next to a self-styled “gender abolitionist,” and my sigh was drawn out enough to warrant a concerned glance from my roommate’s cat. Regardless of whether or not anyone from FTB noticed the material in question, I nonetheless feel responsible for associating, even unknowingly, with the nauseating tripe that is Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism. My trans readers know as well as I do that preparation is often needed for us to confront these materials and if even one of you was exposed to it, unprepared, that is on me.

I am sorry, and you certainly should expect better of me.


 

Now, to PB’s credit, their administrator responded very professionally to my nastygram requesting AtG’s removal from the network. I don’t want to reproduce those communications without permission (in part because I don’t want to actually identify the offending TERF blog for a number of reasons) but I’ll paraphrase part of their response. They gave a brief throwaway line about how the network “had disagreements” on it before and that it was okay to “criticize” each other.

While the response was professional, it is nonetheless a demonstration of how supremacist bigotry is normalized. TERFs don’t “disagree” with me. They’re a form of Cisgender Supremacists. When they’re not denying I exist, they’re making the argument, without hesitation, that my needs are less important than theirs and that the conditions which would culminate in my suicide are an acceptable loss for their comfort. This isn’t a “disagreement.” Disagreements are for arguments over which animal makes the best house pet. What happened here would be like telling the Jews they just needed to “hash it out” with the fucking Nazis.

We need to start recognizing that trans feminists endure abuse when we dialogue with TERFs, and we need to stop minimizing trans feminists when we say that this is an activity we can only do on our terms because of the emotional labour involved.

We do not “owe” our abusers understanding, nor am I obligated to start a pissing contest with an ideologue who would sooner see me dead.

PB has also received an apology from me for wasting their time, and that’s about the last I wish to hear concerning this momentary lapse in judgement.

-Shiv

Cis expectations: Or, why I stopped giving a fuck

I’ll start this by saying there are limitations to who it is safe for me to “not give a fuck” about. In principle, this includes people in positions of institutional authority (parents, legislators, police, schools, doctors, lawyers, judges, etc.) whose opinions can and do have a very real potential to impact me, to a much greater extent then someone who occupies none of those positions (i.e. a “peer”). Similarly, a peer can position themselves in a position of great impact by threatening violence against me, so even in the absence of institutional authority there can be contexts where I really do have to care about what someone says or thinks. Because, you know, violence.

I speak of the contradictory and impossible expectations thrust upon me: As a woman, as a trans woman, as a kinkster, you name it. This particular phenomenon isn’t actually unique to any given identity group, though minorities are disproportionately affected by it. It’s the Catch-22.

Imagine this: I am possessed by an episode of masochism and so attempt to dialogue with two sex-negative TERFs. I admit during this conversation that I enjoy BDSM. One TERF argues that my submission indicates a misguided belief in the supposed inferiority of women (having sought submission and womanhood at the same time); the other TERF argues that my dominance indicates that my gender identity is a ruse altogether cloaking misogynistic attitudes that insist on a woman’s “proper place.”

Here’s the trick: They’re the same TERF. That’s because people in this scenario have started with their conclusion and they’ll work their way backwards to ram their immediate surroundings into their construct. They start with “I’m dangerous” and will torture any circumstances presented to them to get a confession thereof. Without the slightest hint of irony they will predictably contradict themselves, sometimes within the same sentence.

(Setting aside the pseudo-Freudian bollocks altogether, I could write in detail about the nuances of my kink and I assure you it has nothing to do with either of the above scenarios.)

If I’m feminine, it’s obviously because I think womanhood is defined by sex-stereotypes. If I’m masculine or non-conforming, I’m obviously not “really” a woman and just doing the trans thing for attention.

If I’m attracted to women I’m “really” just a straight guy and if I’m attracted to men I’m “really” just a gay guy–“guy” being the foregone conclusion.

If I’m ambitious it’s because I had male socialization but if I’m content it’s because I’ve internalized the helplessness of womanhood.

If I’m stone cold, it’s because I have too much testosterone. If I’m emotional, it’s because I have too much estrogen.

It never stops!

For whatever reason, enough cisgender people think my gender expression–or any aspect of my personal, private being–is a matter of public spectacle. And on top of that, they think this is a fair one-on-one interaction. They don’t realize that they are voice number 1,232,104 offering unsolicited opinions about me and my morally neutral choices.

Ultimately this isn’t about communicating reasonable expectations. If it were reasonable, there might be a way to win.

As there isn’t, I’m not playing. That’s where “fuck off, I don’t care” comes in–at least with peers. That’s why absolutely none of my morally neutral choices are up for debate.

I don’t fucking care about what you think about the way I wear my hair. I don’t care what you think about my glasses. I don’t care what you think about my kink, my dating, my sexual practices, my job, my volunteer work. I Don’t. Fucking. Care.

Because pleasing you means pissing off someone else.

So remember that next time you offer up these sorts of opinions. Even if we accepted the premise that I require constant external validation, such a requirement would leave me mired in the quicksand of ignorance surrounding gender variance and the act of transitioning.

-Shiv

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