Five years later and they still haven’t read That Fucking Swedish Study

I couldn’t help but notice in the comments on BuzzFeed’s LGBTQ+ rights strategy in the United States that the mythical trans rapist trope came up yet again, citing what I’m starting to call That Fucking Swedish Study. The ire is not directed at the study itself, but dear dog is it ever misapprehended with reckless abandon by trans-antagonistic lobbies.

The 2011 study in question was lead by a Cecilia Dhejne and it found two points of revelation oft-repeated in these misrepresentations: The first being that gender affirmative healthcare did not reduce the rates of suicide among trans women to that of the general population; the second being that trans women exhibited a “male pattern of criminality” in one of the cohorts studied. The misinterpretation ensuing has been so widespread that Dhejne has been in a protracted campaign to challenge the many outlets that have distorted her study, to the point of having to give an interview telling these people to fuck off.

And still, 5 years later, these distortions persist despite the fact that the article has been cited by trans-antagonists so many times.


 

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.


Error #2: Trans women exhibit “male patterns of criminality,” which means they’re at least as likely as cis men to commit sexual assault.

Second, regarding any crime, male-to-females had a significantly increased risk for crime compared to female controls (aHR 6.6; 95% CI 4.1–10.8) but not compared to males (aHR 0.8; 95% CI 0.5–1.2). This indicates that they retained a male pattern regarding criminality. The same was true regarding violent crime. By contrast, female-to-males had higher crime rates than female controls (aHR 4.1; 95% CI 2.5–6.9) but did not differ from male controls. This indicates a shift to a male pattern regarding criminality and that sex reassignment is coupled to increased crime rate in female-to-males. The same was true regarding violent crime.

Dhejne clarifies in her interview with TransAdvocate:

As to the criminality metric itself, we were measuring and comparing the total number of convictions, not conviction type. We were not saying that cisgender males are convicted of crimes associated with marginalization and poverty. We didn’t control for that and we were certainly not saying that we found that trans women were a rape risk. What we were saying was that for the 1973 to 1988 cohort group and the cisgender male group, both experienced similar rates of convictions. As I said, this pattern is not observed in the 1989 to 2003 cohort group.

This is harder to fit on a billboard, as every word is important. At the very least, Dhejne didn’t anticipate this particular bit of fuckery, so it wasn’t included in the original study.

What the study found was merely that trans women were as likely as cis men to be charged and prosecuted for crime, in general. The study never at any point compared the types of crimes for which the two groups were arrested, meaning being arrested for prostitution contributes to the statistic in the same way that an arrest for sexual assault would. And on top of that, this is only true of the older cohort–1973 to 1988–and that this pattern disappeared in the later cohort, corresponding with better healthcare as well as improved legal and social climates.


 

The mythical trans rapist trope is unlikely to budge any time soon, but basic fact checking about That Fucking Swedish Study has been circulated for over a year now. Please link people to the TA interview and this post when you see them pulling this shit again.

-Shiv

31 questions to ask me before you ask about what’s in my pants

Henry Giardina introduces part of “The Trans Experience” in an excellent post over on fourtwonine. In addition to signal boosting his post, I am going to answer his suggested 31 questions.

So here’s the crux of what he’s trying to convey: As fucking violent as transmisogyny and trans-antagonism are, some people’s sense of empathy doesn’t shatter upon contact with gender variant people. The problem is that in their bid to try and relate with a trans person, they ask a lot of invasive and really personal questions (which we sometimes try to answer anyways–see the comments section of his article).

Now I don’t want to antagonize efforts to humanize trans folk, but nor am I particularly interested in letting up on the privacy to which I am entitled. Thankfully, Giardina proposes many questions that do the trick of humanizing without me having to answer the frankly ludicrous question of “cock or pussy?”

1. What was the first time you remember feeling like you were doing something wrong by being you?

I knew from the strict, patriarchal confines of the masculine role assigned to me that donning make-up is treated a bit like taking a chainsaw to school. Nowadays I’m not super in to make-up, at least not all the time, but I can still distinctly remember a very intense duality, a shame that burned alongside a defiant rush, a little voice that told the world to fuck off because I definitely wasn’t going to stop here no matter how much it wanted me to. It was a bit of powder and paint but people acted like I wanted to play with matches.

2. Where did this guilt come from? (i.e. religion, community, social beliefs of parents, class expectations etc.)

It cannot be understated that this guilt was sourced from literally fucking everywhere. Advertising, TV, caregivers, parents, teachers, peers, pastors, neighbours, books. I went the first 19 years of my life not knowing the word “transgender” because the world never at any point wanted me to know that was an option. So every time I tried to voice this periodically crippling disconnect with my sense of self, I was inevitably met with a silence that said more than any screaming or cursing ever could.

3. When was the first time you realized it might be okay to be you?

About the same time I started to improve my mental health by limiting the amount of fucks I gave regarding other people’s opinions about me. Not transitioning or asserting my identity was something I only did to please everyone else. Once I stopped pleasing everyone else, the choice became obvious.

4. What was the reason for that?

In general I was beginning to be persuaded by a lot of movements and arguments that we currently call social justice. I noticed a lot of people didn’t know or didn’t care that these movements were doing good, incredible work, they were just buying in to the smear campaigns uncritically. To be a feminist was to be a bra-burning man hater. That opinion just seemed incompatible with what we were actually doing.

5. Describe the first friendship you made as ‘you’ (after you came out)

Kay, which isn’t her real name, but if she’s reading this she knows who I mean. She will always have a very dear place in my heart despite the difficulties we had in the latter portion of our relationship. She had a great sense of snark and could direct it to the numerous dipsticks that raised my ire. God damn did she know how to hug when I needed it. She saved me… which is too much damn pressure for someone who isn’t ready to rescue anyone. Not fair to either of us.

6. How did your friendships change once you came out (both friendships you made and friendships you’d had before)

Prior to transitioning I overcompensated on my personality to try and make up for my debilitating insecurity. After transitioning my confidence is less boisterous and more assertive. I’m probably less annoying.

7. Who disappointed you the most when you came out to them?

My friend D, also not his real name. We aren’t friends anymore. I kinda wonder why I kept him around considering years before my transition he legitimately tried to argue that homosexuality was bad because the Bible said so. That really should’ve been my first hint.

8. Who disappointed you the least?

My friend C. She responded in the exact correct way: “Okay.” She knew better than to transgress on my boundaries and allowed me to come to her if I needed any tutorials on femme stuff.

9. Who surprised you?

My Dad. I was devoured by the fear that he’d disown me. In reality, he caught up to speed faster than my mom. I think he’s one of my readers, too. Hi Dad. Thanks for having human decency. It’s in shockingly short supply lately.

10. Has your identification changed since you’ve come out?

Yes. I’m more comfortable with ambiguity now. I don’t need to fit in a box. There’s some squiggly-lines in my identity, and I am at peace with that.

11. What about your ideas about gender?

Of course I was indoctrinated into the cissexist belief system and much of my mental health improved when I disentangled that mess. I had a TERF phase during that process which thankfully wasn’t recorded.

12. When did you learn about trans history?

TransAdvocate does a lot of work on that. I got about as far back as 1970s during Janice Raymond’s campaign to have transition services removed from healthcare. She succeeded. I try not to think about how many trans folk died between then and now because of it.

13. Did someone tell you about it or did you seek it out yourself?

During one of my gender frustration rants a friend sat me down and asked me point blank. My kneejerk response was “No, of course I’m not trans.” A week later I phoned him to admit I’m totally trans.

14. What was the first violent event you associated with being trans (the first suicide you heard of, movie or tv show you watched, book you read)

The first trans support group I ever attended, the facilitator said he had an announcement to make about one of the regulars. One of the other women asked “who was it this time.”

This time.

And two more times since.

15. How did it affect you?

It generated a lot of resentment towards people who don’t know about the extent of the problem. You have cisgender academics howling brimstone and hellfire from the safety of their gilded towers, talking about gender variance as if it were a distant, alien theoretical. Meanwhile my community was getting stabbed in the street. Must be nice to have requests for gender-neutral pronouns be the most pressing issue in your life.

16. Who was the first trans person you met?

A group, so I don’t really have a single person to remember.

17. What was (is) your relationship?

They were a support community.

18. In your current life, do you have to tell people you’re trans?

“Have” to? No. But I have the privilege that I can disclose on a regular basis without too much worry, so I do.

19. If so, how does the relationship change afterward (if at all?)

With respects to dating, people get scarce quickly. I’m used to it. I think most people are a lot less likely to turn tail and run in other contexts.

20. If not, how does it affect you?

n/a

21. As a child, when and where did you feel the most safe?

Watching Veronica Mars. Mars was a powerful counter-example to the docile, meek femininity I so often saw depicted in other media. It helped me realize transitioning didn’t have to mean being polite or demure, that my ambition and my femininity as I understood it were not mutually exclusive.

22. As an adult, when and where do you feel the most safe?

…Watching Veronica Mars. I’m also trying to straighten out my money so I can go back to music lessons for this reason.

23. If you could have picked a perfect time to ‘come out’, when would it have been?

I came out without using those words at 6, 14, and 19. What would have been perfect is being believed the first time.

24. What was your first experience with suicide or a suicide attempt (your own, or someone else’s)?

I made a plan to jump off a very high bridge. Called the crisis line the moment I realized what I was planning, and have kept vigilant about suicidal ideation since. Every year or so someone from the support group doesn’t reach out for help, and we never see her again.

25. When was the first time you felt you had established a chosen family (if at all?)

This is going to be a bit sad but my abuser convinced me her & her web would be that chosen family. At the moment, I feel a bit like a stray.

26. When was the first time you felt someone really got you?

My relationship with Kay.

27. What was your first positive mental health experience (if any?)

Coming to terms with my gender identity did wonders all by itself.

28. What was the first representation of transness that you saw that made you angry?

A rape victim shared a post on Facebook about how including trans women in women’s spaces meant introducing rape threats in spaces she otherwise considered safe, which made me double angry because 50% of the people who’ve raped me were cis women.

29. What was the first representation of transness that you saw that left you feeling positive (if any?)

If we’re counting non-fiction, Janet Mock is the on point-est person ever.

30. Do you feel like you had a childhood?

Not really. I felt like my childhood was spent watching a tape projected onto a screen of someone else’s life.

31. What’s something you hope to do for a young trans person growing up that you wish someone had done for you?

Give you the vocabulary to name yourself. Had someone given me the word “transgender” at age six I would’ve started this shit a lot sooner.

-Shiv

Transition Reactions p12: Well, *I* don’t talk like that

We return to my personal experiences and so require the should-be-obvious disclaimer that I am not a spokeswoman for the entirety of trans folk.

So obviously I am preoccupied with the extent of trans-antagonism even here in Canada, where the government is finally tackling institutional discrimination by mandating nondiscrimination policies. But par for the course, a lot of people don’t understand what discrimination actually is, and think that if something is made illegal it “stops happening,” and now that it might be illegal to discriminate against trans folk in a few more months we can all go home and stop complaining.

What this attitude overlooks are two things: structural discrimination and personal discrimination. I’ll cover structural discrimination another time but even with personal discrimination there’s a fair bit going on.

It’s been criminal to discriminate against cisgender gay people for years, yet cis gay Canadians still exhibit lower socioeconomic outcomes compared to cisgender heterosexuals (“cis het”). Now if you’re the type of person I can’t speak to politely, you blame cis gays for this. Unfortunately for you, all evidence points to cis het folk still enacting–and getting away with–homo-antagonistic discrimination.

Which creates a problem if I try to talk about homo- and trans-antagonism. This is a problem that starts with the actions of cis het people. That means it is impossible in a thorough analysis not to, at some point, examine the role of the majority in the socioeconomic outcomes of the minority.

Which also means, at some point, I have to talk about you. Yes, you, even the ones who take the time to read a trans voice (I’ve recommended many, hopefully I’m not the only one). While I am grateful that you put your money where your mouth is and remember to seek out information before forming an opinion, it is still necessary to discuss how suspicion and denigration of trans folk, especially trans women, is baked into the common understandings of gender itself, and that all of us (even me) may not be able to reach into the corners of our mind to root it out.

Let’s start with an example from a fellow critic of my favourite punching bag: The Roman Catholic Church. There are no shortage of odious reasons to dislike the Catholic institution: They exploit their publicly funded organizations to proselytize to vulnerable people; they lobby for religious exemptions from secular law so they can continue endangering and abusing women and queer folk; they are openly and unabashedly patriarchal and put an alarming amount of effort into conditioning their congregation to accept and propagate this; they shield the perpetrators of child sexual assault; they compare gender variance to nuclear weapons; they guilt-trip their congregation into financing these human rights abuses; and they make sure their church bells are obnoxiously fucking loud.

I could go on, but the point is that there are a few criticisms floating around where the most cutting criticism an atheist can muster against the Church is that its figurehead wears a “dress.” I think that reflects a very interesting system of values where all those other egregious crimes against humanity are somehow unworthy of mention. From a Humanist perspective, “patriarch” is an insult–or at least it ought to be. You needn’t bring in a morally neutral activity such as crossdressing to suggest the Pope is worthy of condemnation. I think you can reach a little higher for better fruit than that.

So it manifests among otherwise well-meaning atheists who are generally in favour of QUILTBAG rights & affirmation yet haven’t made the connection between mocking people like Trump because of statues depicting him as fat and ostensibly intersex; and how this message simultaneously denigrates fat & intersex people. As with the Pope, it’s not like there’s a shortage of reasons to really rag on Trump here.

Having written about these issues for a long time I won’t suggest we reduce our coverage trying to understand the impact of deliberate, willful trans-antagonism. I am all too happy to render individual Catholics uncomfortable when I suggest their institution advocates for my psychiatric abuse and that they are complicit in this. And the damage Catholic lobbyists have done to human rights issues is undeniable across the globe.

But supporting a community as embattled as the trans community means understanding that a broader body of accidental, unintentional bias still contributes to our difficulties, and in that respect I need myself and anyone who calls themselves a trans ally to not write ourselves off when we talk about trans-antagonism. That means when I say stuff like “cis het people do this,” don’t walk out of the room and count yourself out because you’re “one of the good ones.” It’s quite likely that you have and will do ‘this,’ even if by accident.

It’s okay, the same is true for me. I just hope we all have the patience and maturity to sit ourselves down and learn from it. What we don’t need is for you to tell us what a great ally you are, we need you to show us by contributing to the accountability of those advancing trans-antagonistic positions, even if unintentionally. Which includes yourself.

 

-Shiv

Death threats and doxxing: The rent we pay for our rights

If you search “Jordan Peterson” and “University of Toronto,” you’ll find nothing but stories about his freeze peach being suppressed by counter-protests following his remarks that he would refuse to respect the gender identities of transgender students. Suspiciously absent from the reactionary hand-wringing over non-existent “privacy concerns” and “thought crime” is that the protesters responding to Peterson’s remarks were doxxed, have received death threats, and fled their homes for their safety.

The threats come as the university grapples with controversial comments made by Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor who refuses to use gender neutral pronouns and been critical of efforts amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include protection for gender identity.

One Facebook message shared with Metro by Lourenco appears to threaten an attack.

“There will be a time when the Western world wakes up from its shackles and smites down people like you … It won’t be tolerance kindergarten-land tomorrow. There will be blood. Be very afraid,” reads the post sent to Lourenco.

Lourenco said other posts have revealed trans students’ addresses, forcing them to leave their homes.

“We are working closely with University of Toronto Campus Police, Toronto Police Service, and the UofT Community Safety Office to support the individuals who have received these threats. The situation is being actively monitored,” the university said in a mass email to students Friday.

Lourenco believes the threats are related Peterson’s case, and he criticized the school’s administration for not taking a stronger stand against the professor.

This is why we have the phrase “freeze peach.” Reactionaries are quick to stand up against “political correctness” yet suddenly vanish in a puff of smoke when threats of violence are used to silence people who disagree with them. This hypocrisy we mock. You are not in favour of free speech if you tolerate the publishing of private information expressly for the purpose of issuing threats of violence.

That is vile. That is fucking terrorism. And I am frankly sick of the way so many media outlets are spinning this as an assault on the free speech of the professor when it is the transgender protesters receiving death threats for expecting the most basic of human dignities to be extended to them.

Unbelievable bullshit. I am sick of the false equivalency. I am sick of the hypocrisy. I am sick of being called a rape threat, a totalitarian, because I support laws that redress the crushing rates of discrimination affecting my community.

And I am sick that doxxing and death threats are the rent we pay for our advocacy.

Peterson and his supporters are ignorant and fractally wrong. Suck on that fucking free speech.

-Shiv

Bill C-16 passes second reading

Bill C-16 hit Parliament for the second time and was passed 248-40, now proceeding along to the next step of Canadian law resolution. All 40 votes against were from the Conservative party.

A bill meant to enshrine the rights of transgender people by adding gender identity and expression to human rights and hate crime laws is heading to the justice committee.

The House of Commons voted by a margin of 248 to 40 to pass the legislation, known as Bill C-16, at second reading.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen – political rivals who have found common ground on the issue of trans rights – hugged each other on the floor of the House after the vote.

The legislation would, if passed, make it illegal under the Canadian Human Rights Act to deny someone a job – or otherwise discriminate against them in the workplace – on the basis of they gender they identify with or outwardly express.

It would also amend the Criminal Code so that gender identity and expression would be included in hate speech laws.

The bill will ultimately have to get through the Senate, where an earlier private member’s bill put forward by NDP MP Randall Garrison was gutted and died when the 2015 election was called.

While I am glad that we may finally have some legal recourse when we are discriminated against, it is still worth noting that it is mostly accessible to those trans people who already had some privileges in other ways. We still have an ongoing crisis for health, housing, and violent crime especially among trans women of colour, and I stress that this is meant to be the first–not the last–step to empower trans folk.

Assuming the Senate doesn’t gut it, again.

-Shiv

I wish this was easy to answer

Content Notice: Discussing bi erasure, intersex erasure, street harassment

*twitch twitch*

This is a splendid example of why trans feminists often struggle to be succinct. There are layers to this question and follow-up statement. I’m not really interested in razzing on trans women who aren’t academic or more generally feminists, simply because we as a demographic are a lot less able to access academia. But I am going to make an honest attempt to address the question and statement, because there’s a lot that makes my eyebrow twitch here.

1) Nobody calls gay people “straight to gay”

…Except that they do. Any time a bi+ individual engages in a hetero-passing relationship after having been in a same gender relationship, it is often assumed–even by other stripes in the rainbow–that the person has “gone straight,” the assumption being they were “gay.” People really do suck at wrapping their head around polysexual identities. It is worth noting that fixed notions of sexual orientation have certainly contributed to the discourse around gay rights by framing it as an immutable human characteristic, but in so doing the same discourse refuses to acknowledge the fluidity of other identities. Someone like me specifically identifies as Queer in part because of its political association with fluidity.

This is also to say nothing of the fact that the reason closets exist is because people assume you’re straight until you tell them otherwise. In a sense, coming out is going from straight to gay, at least in the perception of others. So, you know, this is a thing.

2) So why do people call trans females “male to female”?

[Read more…]

Transition Reactions p7: Feeling unsafe vs. Being unsafe

Content Notice: Abuse and violence of all stripes.

Context

I haven’t had a great year, so far. I left an abusive relationship in which I was sexually assaulted, and my vindication (snark) was to lose my chosen family because I spoke out about it. I had all the sting of family rejection–plus a generous helping of self blame. After all, I chose them. I don’t even have the excuse that they were thrust upon me by circumstance. I trusted them, and was rewarded with cold shoulders, victim-blaming, “taking no side”ism, etc. I had trusted friends tell me they believed my story and then… nothing. My abuser was still welcome at every venue we shared. “No drama” became the watchword. Shouting me down was the response any time murmurs of coming forward surfaced. That’s what my reputation became: dramatic, a ticking time bomb. Unreliable. Untrustworthy. Don’t play with her, she’ll malign you over a silly mistake (a “silly mistake” that has landed me in trauma counselling). Soon the rumours make a round trip through all the lovely cogs of rape culture and I get the freeze for “spreading rumours.”

Trying to grapple with that and the fallout of leaving an abusive relationship, including the PTSD?

Yeah. 2016–worst year of my life. And it’s not even over.

During all that I lost gainful employment, just as the economy started to really tank. What was painful about that was that it was a work place where I could be openly trans. I swore off the private sector after routinely being told to endure abuses from my coworkers. My boss basically said it was on me to go back in the closet if I wanted the workplace harassment to stop. Government employers actually did something about it, when it happened. And non-profit? I’ve never had a problem with a bigoted coworker. After all you don’t get far working for crisis resources by being an insensitive asshole. Emotional intelligence is a prerequisite.

[Read more…]

Signal boosting: A Guide for Understanding Transgender Children Debates

A brief preamble before I give you today’s recommended reading material.

Julia Serano–yes, that Julia Serano–penned a piece on Medium called Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation: A Guide for Understanding Transgender Children Debates. Before I give an endorsement of her piece, I’ll reiterate a few important points for you to consider as a presumably trans ally:

The first is that because Serano is discussing transphobic “debate” tropes in the media, she is using the same rhetorical technique that I frequently use–she is accepting the premise of her opponent’s argument in order to demonstrate that the reasoning itself is flawed. The premise that she argues from is rather unsettling, and it has been pointed out to me by self-identifying cisgender gender non conformists (whew, that’s a mouthful) that classifying gender nonconformity per se as trans has unsettling applications for Othering children with uncommon gendered interests. In addition, she accepts another premise–that it’s necessary to separate those who seek medical intervention in their transition from those who don’t–only for the sake of argument. She tears that premise apart later on in the article, but it could be distressing to see someone try to argue by accepting that point, even if it’s to demonstrate why it’s problematic to believe.

The second is that Serano does take time to point out why it’s a superbly bad idea to conflate GNC with trans, but that comes after she tries using the premise in an argument. So please don’t panic–a highly influential trans feminist hasn’t gone full TERF, she’s just demonstrating how misinformed these debate tropes are and how they’re not even internally consistent.

The third is that I have a largely semantic disagreement with Serano on her use of the word transphobia. She recognizes that deliberate actions manifesting an anti-trans bias could easily be called transphobia, but then uses the same word to describe things like “the assumption that cis identities are valid while trans are not.” I preferably delineate this with the term cissexism to differentiate it from actions. “Cissexist beliefs inform transphobic actions. All people are cissexist, however we can interrogate that prejudice and reduce the likelihood we manifest transphobia.” Serano does not subscribe to this model. Cissexist is a word that shows up at no point, despite describing multiple instances where the word popped in my brain.

C’est la vie. This does not take away from Serano’s fantastic work.

Anyways, the intro to her post:

But lately, as transgender people have become more visible and have garnered increasing media scrutiny, trans-unaware politicians, pundits, and journalists have suddenly swooped in to weigh in on these important issues — issues that (conveniently) they themselves are not personally invested in. Some of these people have very clear anti-trans agendas. Others are (perhaps well-meaning) interlopers who believe that by simply reading a few research papers and interviewing a few people here and there, they can acquire an “objective understanding” about this complex subject that spans a half-century of history. And sadly, they often center their op-eds and think-pieces on an especially vulnerable segment of our community: transgender children.

You’ve probably seen some of these articles. They raise concerns about “80% desistance,” and offer examples of trans people who have since “detransitioned,” and they will leave you with the impression that trans health practitioners are engaging in some kind of reckless sociological experiment. Whenever transgender people object to these misrepresentations or the old gatekeeper ideologies, these pundits and journalists will decry “transgender activists are attacking science!” without ever acknowledging the countless trans advocates, researchers, and health providers who actually agree with us on many of these matters.

Rather than write a short pithy critique or rebuttal of the latest “children are at risk!” or “activists are out of hand!” article-du-jour, I decided to write this lengthy nuanced piece. It is intended to be a step-by-step guide for anyone interested, one that fills in all the holes, reads between the lines, and unpacks the many assumptions that riddle the typical op-ed or think-piece about transgender children.

Many of the aforementioned problems begin with an over-simplification of either trans terminology and/or the breadth of transgender experiences, so that is where this guide will begin. I will also provide necessary background regarding gender transition in adults before addressing the more controversial topic of transgender children.

Go check it out. (Don’t read the comments).

-Shiv

Academic transphobia and The Media: The persistence of the “activists vs science” false dichotomy

Content Notice: Transphobia

Introduction to the False Dichotomy of Scientist or Activist

The rise of visibility of transgender people correlates with an increase in the sheer and committed dishonesty of many media outlets any time they cover trans issues. There are the usual suspects: budding radfem academics penning unsubstantiated diatribes riddled with fallacies; established academics angrily penning burning letters to the editor any time their pet pseudoscience is called out for being pseudoscience; religious fundamentalists who can’t decide if they’re sticking to noninformation or disinformation; and the many ignorant journalists caught in between this shitstorm. Many of these trans-antagonistic figures are represented by said ignorant journalists as “martyrs for an inconvenient truth,” where trans-affirmative opponents to these figures are engaging in “pointless witch hunts” that result in these brave champions being “suddenly and unceremoniously fired” while repudiating Real Science™.

Jesse Singal is at the centre of this “activist versus Real Science™” narrative by implying both that activists were the ones that had Galileo’s Middle Finger pulled from Lambda and that said activists are uninterested in “truth, accuracy, or fairness in argument,” having shared on Twitter:

“Lambda Literary has withdrawn Alice Dreger’s book from consideration for its nonfiction literary award. The (very strongly) implied message here is that you can’t be an advocate for social justice and care about the principles of truth, accuracy, and fairness in argument.”

He also penned an article about Dr. Zucker, a notorious conversion “therapy” advocate who was finally discredited and shut down in Ontario after decades of abusing gender nonconforming kids. In this piece, Singal pushes the narrative that anti-science activists are at fault for the clinic’s closure: (emphasis mine)

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Transition Reactions p5: Feelings

Starting with the usual disclaimer: Transition Reactions is a mostly anecdotal series covering the weird shit people say to me when they find out I’m trans, please do not take this as a monolithic commentary on gender variance in general.

There are a few tropes that are quite stubborn in the trans community, and perhaps the most determined of these is the notion of being overwhelmed with emotions when transfeminine folks start estrogen or get a boost in their estrogen dose.

Sigh.

Hormones occasionally take an almost religious role in parts of the trans community. It’s difficult to dispute their effects on physiology. For transfems, skin becomes softer, hair becomes lighter, beards grow a lot slower, fat moves from your tummy to your hips, muscle doesn’t bulk as quickly, your breasts grow, your skeleton over decades will tweak your profile, etc. These changes are easy to observe, and in many cases are even theoretically measurable. These changes are sometimes enough to alleviate dysphoria in some trans women. They’re important changes.

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