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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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

Drinking from the well of poisoned waters

This popped into my head while reading a ThinkProgress post on Michigan’s trans affirmation policy. My idea is a bit dramatic, and click-baity, and campy, and I love it nonetheless. While reading a comment we will discuss in a moment, it came to me in some kind of mock interview where I’m asked what it’s like to be a trans feminist, and I reply:

“It’s like drinking from the well of poisoned waters, only everybody’s throwing different poison in.”

What I’m getting at is that the opposition to much of my work exhibits unconscionable degrees of rhetorical nastiness–rhetorical used in the Aristotelian sense of “persuasive.” Note that persuasive does not mean correct, and certainly attacking gender variance in a society that considers the very concept to be perverse or dangerous is something of a low hanging fruit. Even without the rhetorical guttersniping we’re about to examine, it would be a difficult prospect to be the opponent in this scenario.

I present Exhibit A by a “Penny White,” a wonderful demonstration of the multi-faceted and fractal wrongness that informs some of the more virulent strains of transphobia. So I’ll put a hypothesis to the test over the next few months: Refuting transphobic statements takes a 15:1 word ratio.

Content notice, transphobic nastiness:

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By what measure of “effective”?

While reading some of Julia Serano’s work, there was one statement she made about the battle between gender-affirmation treatment models and gender-antagonistic treatment models pointed out by anat in our comments that made me take a second (actually fifth or sixth) look: (emphasis mine)

We can continue to debate the efficacy of gender transition, or of gender-reparative versus gender-affirming approaches, and each side will be able to find statistics to support their side of the argument. But what is really driving this debate is a difference of opinion with regards to what constitutes a “good outcome.” Trans activists and advocates like myself generally think that a good outcome is a happy child, regardless of whether they transition or not, or whether they grow up to be transsexual, non-binary, gender non-conforming, lesbian, gay, bisexual, etcetera. Trans-antagonistic and trans-suspicious people (who constantly cite “80% desistance”) seem to think that a good outcome is a cisgender child, and they seem to be willing to make transphobic arguments and subject transgender and gender non-conforming children to clinically ordained transphobia (i.e., gender-reparative therapies) in order to achieve that end goal.

I’ve certainly tried to explain how frustrating the media can be when it comes to covering trans issues, including trans research. In addition to the media, trans women* have to contend from misinformation perpetuated by religious fundamentalists and/or TERFs as well as academics whose work is completely imbecilic. Common among the many, many groups that antagonize trans women is a refrain that transitioning doesn’t “fix” anything, sometimes citing (when they remember evidence should back up their claims) a Swedish longitudinal study following two cohorts of transgender women over the course of several decades. The Swedish study found that many of the health outcomes of trans women were still poor after transitioning, including gender affirmation surgery.

The problem, of course, is that the numerous trans-antagonistic lobbies didn’t actually finish reading the paper. The primary author of the Swedish study, Cecilia Dhejne, is not pleased with the way her work has been hijacked by motivated reasoners:

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What trans people mean when we say “misgendering is violence”

Content Notice: Dissecting hate speech, TERFs and transphobia

I’d like to introduce you to a concept, of which there seem to be multiple sources or authors. It’s often called The Violence Pyramid, or another derivative thereof. As would be suggested by the notion of a pyramid, each level facilitates movement to the one above it, the same way one builds a pyramid. In this case, reaching the top is not desirable.

Source: cindywatt

Also from cindywatt:

Psychotherapist Howard Halpern, in a brilliant New York Times piece in 1995, gave a spot on summation of gradual escalation of hate and violence.  He said, “ Social psychologists and demagogues have long known that if ordinary citizens are to be provoked to violent actions against individuals or groups of fellow citizens, it is necessary to sever the empathic bond with those to be attacked by painting them as different and despicable.   We are unlikely to harm a friendly neighbor because she has strong views about equal rights for women, but if we call her a “femi-Nazi,” she becomes “the other” — evil, dangerous, hated.  We are unlikely to harm the couple down the block who are active on behalf of protecting endangered species, but if we call them “environmental whackos,” they become “the other” — weirdos who must be vilified and suppressed as enemies to “normal” Americans. When our shared humanity with those with whom we disagree is stripped away, it becomes acceptable to blow them up. The answer is certainly not to censor such speech, but those who recognize this danger must challenge it wherever it exists, even in those with whom we politically agree.” 

Not to pull a Godwin, but the above proposed pyramid is practically a timeline for Hitler’s rise to power. He unified a particular demographic of Germans and whipped them into a froth over how unfairly they were treated, then he tapped into a pre-existing prejudice (antisemitism) and over the course of his election, and after it, gradually escalated his chosen boogeyman until at least some Germans–enough Germans–felt justified in state-sponsored violence against Jews.

When I react strongly to misgendering, this pyramid is what comes to mind. The bottom stripe mentions “insensitive remarks and non-inclusive language.” I have to wonder: This person is already denying me a critically important aspect of my identity–is there anything else they will take hostage?

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