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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Signal boosting: Trans people shouldn’t have to be perfect

Alex DiFrancesco touches upon the observation that trans women with high visibility are held to ludicrous standards, and that these standards stifle perceptions of us as just ordinary flawed human beings:

None of this made it into the final piece. I am shaking just writing these things now. Because I know, as a trans person, as someone writing about trans people, as an ally to trans women, that I am never ever supposed to publicly suggest something that could make any trans person look bad. I am never supposed to write that I was abused by a trans woman, because this is exactly what the people who want to see all trans people disappear off the face of the earth want everyone else to think is true of all trans women. I am never to suggest that a vulnerable population (which I am part of) could be anything less than perfect.

For the record, the idea that a relationship with one abusive trans woman validates all the horrible things trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) and others say about trans women is absurd. Were a cis person, male or female, to be abusive in a relationship, no one would ever take that to mean all cis people are abusive.

My ex-wife is one person out of the large community of trans people I know and love. The wonderful people I know among this community, most of them transgender women, have taken me into their homes when I was homeless, supported me mentally and emotionally when I was at my worst, helped me find jobs, and fed me when I was hungry and broke. They are people I turn to when I am unsure about my own often imperfect politics, or the many issues I myself have as a person. And yet the fear instilled by TERFs is so real that many trans writers, when telling their stories, feel we are not supposed to talk about anything that questions any trans person beyond the confines of our own community. Certainly not in venues for public or cis consumption.

You can read more about it and the silencing effect of TERF-perpetrated oppression has here.

-Shiv

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

Further thoughts on the pink pussycaps

My feed has been inundated with a conversation that splits along the usual fault lines between a feminism that hasn’t aged particularly well, and the flawed-but-sincere attempts to investigate the finer points of intersectionality and inclusive 3rd wave feminism. The flash point for this flame war was the Women’s March on Washington and specifically the pink pussycaps.

Consider much of the “you” to be a “Royal You.” I’m not necessarily accusing you, the reader, unless you identify the habits I describe in yourself.

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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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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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Signal boosting: A very smart guy

“Omphaloskeptomai,” or Skepto as I can thankfully call him, writes excellent and detailed posts. I don’t have any particular work of his I want to signal boost more than the others, so I just want to link the whole blog.

I like his work because he demonstrates what it’s like to attempt to dialogue with a self-professed antagonist to trans rights (that’s a “Content Warning” for the link, btw). Skepto is detailed and thorough and if I were the one attempting to respond to the TERF in his dialogue, I imagine the experience would be akin to trying to nail Jell’O to the wall. There’s a reason I typically prefer to respond to high profile “gender critical” arguments–it’s abusive as shit, and a lot of emotional labour on my part that I can’t spare easily. There needs to be a better payoff for that kind of work, and in my estimate my time is better spent elsewhere than an obscure anonymous peddler of pseudofreudian nonsense. Nonetheless, Skepto’s responses are insightful, and entirely cogent even if you ignore the TERF he responds do.

Check him out here. And, uh, content warning and all that, given the arguments he is responding to.

-Shiv

Dear Sarah Ditum: Scapegoating trans women is never the answer, either

I’m gettin’ real tired of tedious “gender critical” horseshit.

The latest flapping firehose to hit my feed on this topic is Sarah Ditum in a grating piece titled “Scapegoating feminists is never the answer.” Although Ditum links to a specific piece she is responding to–which is more than I can say of PBog–she also interjects a number of assertions important to her argument without citations, leaving me to guess at whatever the fuck she’s referring to.

Because if there’s anything a convincing argument should do, folks, it’s leave you guessing.

Content Notice for the usual trans-antagonistic garbage plus t-word reclamation.

The piece Ditum responds to isn’t a particularly strong argument either, “Trans respect, not transphobia.” And if I’m cheesed off at Ditum for the stunning lack of citations, I have to at least level the same criticism at this author, Emily Brothers. It is, in short, a post appealing to UK’s Labour Party to take up the mantle of Gender & Sexual minority rights as a portion of its labour empowerment mission. But today’s post isn’t really about the inadequacies of Brothers’ appeal to Labour*, it’s about Ditum’s hamfisted response to it.

Ditum begins:

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