We need to talk


Jane Clare Jones at Trouble and Strife puts it this way:

Feminism, as a political movement aimed at the liberation of women, has long theorized gender not as an innate essence, but as a hierarchical system enforcing women’s subservience. Characterizing certain personality traits – compliance, nurturance, the desire to be pretty or objectified – as ‘natural’ to women, is, according to feminist analysis, a primary mechanism for maintaining gender hierarchy. As a result, many feminists have genuine questions about trans ideology’s assertion that ‘gender identity’ is both natural and universal. It comes perilously close to naturalizing the oppression of women.

This is not trivial, and it needs to be discussed. But it has been decreed that it cannot be discussed, because to discuss it is to ‘deny the right of trans people to exist.’ Trans ideology collapses the fact that trans people exist into the theory of why trans people exist, and judges anyone who questions the theory to be a transphobic bigot intent on denying the very existence of trans people. Indeed, even those trans women who persist in existing despite subscribing to the feminist critique of gender are denounced by many in their community as self-hating or treacherous. This is argument by non-argument, and it functions to close down discourse by rendering feminism’s long-held analysis of gender unsayable.

Well it doesn’t make it unsayable in general, I think – but it makes it unsayable in a context of discussing trans issues. Maybe cis feminists shouldn’t be discussing trans issues. But then again trans issues are becoming more mainstream – which is a good thing, right? More visibility, thus (eventually, one hopes) more understanding? But the more mainstream the issues are, the more influence they have. That’s why I felt the impulse to do a very brief post asking questions about Jezebel’s commentary on Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover, certainly – because it was out there.

Undergirded by an appeal to boy-brains and girl-brains, trans ideology’s core commitment is that a person’s gender is nothing other than their gender identity. Gender resides entirely in an individual’s private experience of ‘feeling like’ a man or a woman, and therefore, if an individual declares that they feel like a woman, then they are a woman, and moreover have always been a woman, in exactly the same way as non-trans women have always been women.

Ahhh but that’s just it, you see. I never have straightforwardly “felt like a woman” – and neither have many of the women I know. For all I know none of them have. It’s not like that. It’s much more muddled than that. Most of the time I don’t feel like anything in that way – I just be; I exist. I don’t just straightforwardly identify with being a woman; I never have. I can more easily say I identify with being a feminist than I can with being a woman.

Maybe that itself is cis privilege – not identifying that way because you don’t have to. But it’s not always a privilege, certainly. Much of the time I would rather just be a human. That’s part of the appeal of gender-neutral nyms, isn’t it.

From a feminist perspective what is lost in this account is the entire structure of gender as a system of oppression, a system which functions by identifying a person’s reproductive potential and then socializing women to fulfil the role of a member of the reproductive class. For many non-trans women the idea that the essence of being a woman resides in ‘feeling like’ a woman, is not so much wrong as incomprehensible. Our experience of womanhood is not an internal feeling, but a lifelong process of being subjected to – and revolting against – very specific social sanctions and expectations. Be quiet. Look pretty. Make yourself small. Smile. Don’t be too demanding. Accommodate other people.

Quite. That’s not something women necessarily identify with, or something they “feel like.” It’s something imposed.

I don’t for instance “feel like” the Bravo TV conception of women, which is a series of “Real Housewives” and other brands of wives or girlfriends or other related-to-man categories. That’s not my idea of women and it’s sure as hell not my idea of myself.

But it’s also the case that I don’t feel wrong or not at home or anything like that about my gender, but other people do. People vary. That’s fine.

But we need to be able to talk about it.

Comments

  1. says

    I never have straightforwardly “felt like a woman” – and neither have many of the women I know. For all I know none of them have. It’s not like that. It’s much more muddled than that. Most of the time I don’t feel like anything in that way – I just be; I exist. I don’t just straightforwardly identify with being a woman; I never have. I can more easily say I identify with being a feminist than I can with being a woman.

    Replace “woman” with “man” and “women” with “men” and I could have written this, myself, although I do identify with being a man. I don’t know how else I would. But I have defied many social expectations of what “a man” is in our culture, my entire life (e.g. I had long hair and dangly earrings as a 24-year-old engineer in 1990 living and working in Amarillo, Texas, an extremely socially conservative town). I see stories about trans men and they beat me out on the socially acceptable Man Meter in almost every way; I’m not a body builder, nor do I have a desire to grow a beard, and even the pastimes that I like (e.g. technical rock climbing) are done better by women. Hell, I’m getting my 78-year-old mother to show me some of her unique knitting tips soon, so that I can try them out.

    I can certainly understand identifying much more strongly with something else, as a result.

    “Muddled” is the best word in this case, but it somehow lacks the proper emphasis.

  2. says

    “As a result, many feminists have genuine questions about trans ideology’s assertion that ‘gender identity’ is both natural and universal. It comes perilously close to naturalizing the oppression of women.”

    This. This is extremely trans antagonistic, as it blames trans people for essentially being an example of gender not being a *completely* socially defined element of human existence. Parsing aspects of gender is necessary in order to have productive discussions.

    I’ve found this framework very on-point: http://www.transadvocate.com/gender-orientation_n_8267.htm

    I hope you find it useful. I mean – “Gender Identity” is much more fundamental than gender expression or gender-related archetypes of femininity or masculinity. Being at-odds with gendered expectations is not the same as having gender dysphoria – conflating all of that together is one cause for unnecessary acrimony when discussing gender as a topic.

    Acknowledging real physiological sex-linked differences in brain development, for example, is NOT the same as saying that AFAB have a “ladeeee brain” and can’t do math, for example. Yet – so many high-profile feminists – have conflated these things; seeming to believe that nuance is giving up ground.

  3. Sara says

    I see this has hit Secular Woman. And again the claims of “Trans Women Erasure” are being made because “cis women have no right to talk about Trans Women. At all. Other than to support whatever we say, that is.”
    Nonsense!

    There is no “erasure”, I dont want them to “not exist”, and we do in fact have a right to talk however about how Trans Activism affects women born female, and how it has DEEPLY impacted feminism and what we are told we can and cannot say…. in areas as simple as about the female body! About our own damned bodies! Reproduction, vaginas, menstruation, menopause, reproductive health, abortion, childbirth – we’re not allowed to talk about them as women’s issues without being chastised at best, no-platformed, called a TERF, and rejected from feminism at worst when we say, “NO! We can and will and must talk about these as issues as those that affect most women!” It’s like a woman telling her friends that they mustn’t talk publicly about any problem they may have with their own pregnancies because some women haven’t been able to have kids. Ridiculous!

    The last straw for me was the university cancellation of The Vagina Monologues for not being “Trans inclusive.” Who is erasing who as a result?

    “Cis” women aren’t erasing trans women…. but many trans activists are working hard with their feminist allies to control and police language and the direction of feminism, and erase both the harsh and unique realities of women born as female and socialized as submissive second class humans from the moment of birth.

    The article was a good one, finally saying what needs to be said about the realities of women who were born and socialized as females since birth and how they are being made to capitulate to demands made by trans activists within the feminist movement – demands which do not help women as a group to overcome patriarchal society.

  4. says

    M.A.Melby@2:

    “As a result, many feminists have genuine questions about trans ideology’s assertion that ‘gender identity’ is both natural and universal. It comes perilously close to naturalizing the oppression of women.”

    This. This is extremely trans antagonistic, as it blames trans people for essentially being an example of gender not being a *completely* socially defined element of human existence. Parsing aspects of gender is necessary in order to have productive discussions.

    The sentence you quoted seems to be saying “many feminists question the idea that gender identity is wholly innate.” You replied by saying that was trans antagonistic because trans people are persons with gender that is “not *completely* socially defined.”

    That seems like it’s setting up a false conflict. “Many feminists question whether gender is wholly innate” is not the same as saying that gender be defined as being “*completely* socially defined.” Surely there is a middle ground in this age-old nature versus nurture debate.

    I’ve found this framework very on-point: http://www.transadvocate.com/gender-orientation_n_8267.htm

    Thank you for the link, I shall read it now.

  5. Seth says

    I think Ian Cromwell (www.crommunist.com, formerly of this very blogging nexus) has made some very cogent analyses of race that can, mutatis mutandis, be appropriated to gender analysis with respect to gender identity and gender expression. To paraphrase Ian, race is a social construct, and as such is equal parts ‘how one sees oneself’ and ‘how one is seen by everyone else’. (There is more involved, to be sure, but Ian’s archives are free for the perusal of the curious.)

    Similarly, I think gender can be described as a confluence of ‘how one sees oneself’ and ‘how one is seen by everyone else’. Ophelia, MrFancyPants, and I are more-or-less comfortable with the gross dynamics of how we’re seen by ‘everyone else’ in regards to our genders, though indeed we all have some very strong disagreements of the specific assumptions that come along with that assignation. None of the three of us particularly identify with being men or women very strongly, in the same way that Ophelia and I don’t particularly identify with being white people. We understand that that is how we fall under the social classification system, we acknowledge it, and we don’t feel misidentified when other people look at us and say ‘Oh, there goes a [woman/man/white person]’. (Of course I’m being a bit presumptive, but I think it’s a fairly safe presumption, given my familiarity with Ophelia’s archive; I’m open to correction.)

    Indeed, this is the very definition of what it means to be cisgender: when society (aka ‘everyone else’) looks at us and shoves us into a box, we do not grumble about the label on the lid of the box. We don’t feel a fundamental wrongness with the overall shape of the box. We could take or leave it, really. For many people like us (and, indeed, for the three specific people I’ve named here, including myself), we might disagree with the colour of the box, or with some of the other items that get shoved into the box along with us that we’re expected to contort ourselves to accommodate, but the box itself isn’t the issue.

    For transgender people, however, the box is very much the issue. When they get shoved into their box, they cannot recognise the shape that it contorts them into. Or, more analytically and less analogously, their self-identification does not match with how ‘everyone else’ identifies them. And, when you know that EVERYONE ELSE is wrong about you in such a fundamental way, when you feel it in the marrow of your bones, it is very, very tempting to build up mental systems wherein your own perception of yourself is the only valid and acceptable perception. The seeming alternative is self-invalidation and self-alienation, wherein you try to conform to the society’s identification of you instead of the truth you know about yourself…and I don’t need to spell out how that tends to work out, I hope.

    Currently, some transgender people are staking the claim that their own perception is the only one that should matter in the social construct of gender. To descend into analogy again, they are climbing out of the boxes that other people have shoved them into and are crawling into boxes that they feel more comfortable in. The more comfortable boxes are very important to their self-identity, and their broader mental and emotional health.

    One of the goals of modern feminist critique, as I understand (and attempt, in my own inept way, to practice) it, is to liberate everyone from the necessity for the (gendered) boxes entirely. To build a world in which the only relevant box is ‘human’ or even, perhaps, ‘sentient creature’, into which more-or-less everyone should be able to find a corner that fits them well without causing anyone else harm. A world in which people are ‘just folks’, where there isn’t a such thing as ‘people’ as opposed to ‘female people’. The more proximate goal is to make all of the individual boxes more accommodating, looser, so that each person in their own box has freedom to shift around without being packed so tightly by all of the objects (read: gendered expectations) that are also shoved into the box with them. To someone with such goals, the fact that someone else wants to crawl into a box, with all its constricting objects, can be somewhat incomprehensible.

    Contrariwise, to someone who’s spent their whole life railing against the confines of their box, it can feel like any criticism of their decision to find a more personally-accommodating box is the same as saying ‘Your ill-fitting box shouldn’t bother you so much! In fact, you should stay in it and make it fit *you* better, and help all of us eventually destroy the boxes!’ Even if that isn’t what the critic is implying, or even intending to imply. Even worse is the all-too-frequent ‘You aren’t even in the box you think you’re in; you’ve just redecorated your own box, badly, into a parody of what our box is supposed to look like.’

    After enough time having to battle those kinds of perceptions, of having your own self-identification invalidated by (almost) everybody, it is not surprising that so many transgender people are not only claiming the fact of their boxes, but championing them, and using what few means are at their disposal to try and reframe the narrative to support their self-identification. At the same time, this seems like an invalidation of literally centuries of work that have gone into deconstructing gender roles.

    The boxes need to be destroyed, but that is going to take a lot of hard, long, slogging work. In the doing of that work, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the boxes still exist, and must be made as comfortable as possible for as long as that’s true. I hope there is a way to unite the seemingly-disparate goals of gender critique and transgender activism. Both goals are worthy, and necessary, and I firmly believe the conflicts within them are mainly topical and surmountable.

    Trans people are people. One day, “people” will have to be enough for the lot of us. Until then, though, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

  6. Emily Vicendese says

    “Maybe cis feminists shouldn’t be discussing trans issues.”

    Yes they should, so long as it fits with their broader discussion about the construction of gender and is therefore not a “singling out” but an inclusion. Just as a post-colonial Western person can critically discuss Islam as part of a broader discussion about religious issues, in spite of a socio-historical background of Western global hegemony. Just as a man can criticise aspects of feminism, types of feminism or claims made by particular feminists without necessarily being anti-feminist, so long as the critique is not a singling out.

    Does Malala Yousafzai represent the dominant West against the colonised other or does she represent the subordinated woman speaking out against patriarchy? But why should the power relations be the only important thing? Why should the only thing that matters about an individual’s speech act be the group to which we consign them? Yes, group identity of a speaker can be relevant in the analysis of the speaker’s speech act, but other things can be relevant too, such as an individual’s speech history, the truth or coherence of their claims, etc. There is more than just power relations between groups: there are also issues which run across groups; there are also individuals and there is also the epistemic content of speech.

    Absolute silencing on account of one’s group identity has got to stop. Dialogue is the way to go.

  7. says

    “Gender” is a vague concept.

    Jones is setting up a false-conflict by conflating the existence of innate gender orientation with innate *gender*.

    Gender (as many feminists define it) is not innate. Nobody in this conversation thinks “gender” is innate. What? Girls naturally like pink flower dresses and boys love dinosaurs? That’s asinine.

    However, attempts to *pray away the trans* does not work – and experts generally view it as torture. It has also been often disastrous to impose a sex and gender identity on intersex infants or (notably) an infant who had a botched circumcision, David Reimer.

    In that respect – gender orientation is OBSERVED to be a characteristic of a person – even at a very young age. There are also possible physiological casual mechanisms for this – unlike the ridiculous notion of “trans race” which only exists as a form of body dysmorphia (which is viewed very differently than gender dysphoria – and is NOT the same thing.)

    Conflating all aspects of gender would put anti-trans “reparative therapy” in the same category as trying to get more girls into STEM fields. It’s over-simplified nonsense and it’s destructive.

    Jones setting up a straw argument – which is bad enough – but she’s essentially constructing a straw argument concerning the validity of trans identities – setting up trans people as somehow an enemy of women’s liberation.

  8. PatrickG says

    @ M. A. Melby:

    gender orientation is OBSERVED to be a characteristic of a person – even at a very young age.

    If not too much trouble, could you link me to some info on this? Specifically in terms of the framework you linked earlier, i.e.:

    Gender Orientation: One’s subjective experience of one’s own physical sex.
    Gender Identity: One’s culturally influenced identification of one’s sex within the context of a social grouping.
    Gender Expression: One’s situational expression of cultural cues which communicate gender identity.

    Something that’s very difficult for me (as a cis-hetero male) is searching for reliable info on these matters. Even here on FTB people are not always precise in using terms — understandable, of course, given the quick back and forth of commenting — which raises the bar for people trying to learn. I also get the impression that there are competing/parallel frameworks in use. Then I go to the wider internet… I might as well try to find reliable information on time travel. :/

    My own limitations in research noted, I’m particularly interested in how gender orientation manifests during child development, especially given my (non-expert, non-deep) understanding of how infants respond to gender expectations (in this framework, gender identity) from parents, extended family, etc. I think this would go a long way towards helping me understand and differentiate, because right now, I have to confess I simply don’t get how the 3-part framework you describe works. I simply don’t see how this can be isolated/identified, and I would appreciate education on the subject, if you have time.

  9. luzclara says

    So interesting that during the past few days of horrible nastiness, name calling, and rudeness no one had the brains or intellect to propose that it might be useful to complicate gender as gender orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

  10. says

    There are a lot of words and expressions here with unclear definitions. “Gender.” “Gender identity.” “Gender orientation.” “Innate gender.” I’m not educated enough in gender studies to be at all able to peel these onion layers apart.

    Jones is … setting up trans people as somehow an enemy of women’s liberation.

    Hmm. Can we step away from assertions/assumptions of intent? Jones wrote:

    many feminists have genuine questions about trans ideology’s assertion that ‘gender identity’ is both natural and universal.

    I dispute her assertion that anyone thinks that identity is universal, but I have encountered people in the past who have asserted that their gender identity is “natural”, M.A.Melby. By which I mean to say that I have inferred to mean “how I have innately felt all of my life.” I have no reason to question that. If someone says that they have felt themselves to be part of (class of people) their entire lives, I accept that at face value. That being true, however, really does create a tension with the traditional narrative that gender is a social construct rather than a reality. It’s a false dichotomy, imo.

    But that’s what we’re pondering here. It’s not to say that trans people are wrong or that the traditional narrative is right, or vice versa. It’s to talk, and to ponder.

    Too, this statement of yours jumped out at me:

    Gender (as many feminists define it) is not innate. Nobody in this conversation thinks “gender” is innate. What? Girls naturally like pink flower dresses and boys love dinosaurs? That’s asinine.

    I am truly surprised that you wrote that. I have chatted with you enough to believe that you don’t think that “Girl” means pink flower dresses and “Boy” means dinosaurs and trucks, and surely nobody else here does. Either I’ve misinterpreted your intent with that statement, or you didn’t convey your meaning well enough.

    But, again, half of that equation is what people have told me. “Who I am is innately (gender)” is something that I’ve been told by trans people. And to be honest, I’ve heard that a lot about sexual preference, too. Why should I not believe both statements? If Josh tells me that he’s been gay since the day he was born, well, then, okay. I have no reason to doubt him. If HappiestSadist says that (pronoun) has been trans from the day they were born–again, who am I to dispute that? I’m happy to accept it at face value.

    Perhaps this just gets back to my initial comment about unclear definitions.

  11. PatrickG says

    Follow up to M.A. Melby (or anyone else)… from Melby’s link, gender orientation is characterized as:

    However, even if you stick me on a deserted island, I am still going to have a subjective experience of my physical sex.f

    I confess absolute ignorance as to what this means, outside of the most banal and misleading interpretations. Reading further does nothing for me:

    When I assert that my subjective experience of my body has been always female, I mean exactly that. That experience took on a sense of horror when I learned around the age of 5 that my body was indeed shaped differently from other girls. That particular horror is called dysphoria… as in, Gender Dysphoria. My pain wasn’t about a need to wear certain clothes or act a certain way. I went to bed praying to have a god fix my body or allow me to die in my sleep not because my gender identity and expression wasn’t feminine; I began praying to die around the age of 5 because my body betrayed me.

    I literally do not understand what that subjective experience is, except insofar as the horror that occurred at age 5. The horror I can grasp, the suicidal ideation as well. The previous subjective experience, I struggle with greatly. I can absolutely “get” (or try to) #2/#3 in the framework above (identity/expression). For #1, I’m just at a loss.

    I should also note that I find the Reimer case to be a singularly bad illustrative example, given the initial surgical trauma, that the “reassignment” began at 22 months, that “therapy” involved some rather horrific surgical and psychological procedures, including the unnecessary removal of testicles and crude, grotesque socially-constructed gender “games”. Far, far too many confounding variables. I simply don’t find this convincing. I could easily be wrong, but this seems to be much more in the category of gender identity overdetermining gender orientation.

    I realize I’m asking what may be 101-level questions, and I’m really not trying to demand some kind of answer. I also apologize if my words read as antagonistic — I sincerely don’t mean them that way, and I know my writing style comes across that way, despite efforts to the contrary. I don’t expect to ever fully understand, since by this terminology my subjective experience has matched my lived experience, and I have no basis for comparison. Despite my confusion, I’d really like to understand.

  12. says

    “I’m particularly interested in how gender orientation manifests during child development…”

    Your best bet for decent information is to go to the websites of professional organizations (APA AMA) – they often have informational statements that are well researched.

    I know that sometimes children will begin insisting that they are a boy or girl at around age 3. They might say “God made a mistake” or similar things, and sometimes they are distressed by their genitalia and call it “wrong” – or just correct people when they say that they are a girl or boy. Many kids that do this don’t eventually transition as the persistence of their assertions decrease in time. However, if their assertions persist into early adolescence, it is unlikely to change. If they are receiving adequate transition related care they will be placed on puberty blockers and, then when they are a bit older given the option of “cross-sex” hormones.

  13. PatrickG says

    Appreciate the answer.

    The major barrier to understanding I have is that by the age of three, gender expectations/roles are already heavily ingrained. How do you separate variables (e.g. orientation vs. identity) at that point? I’ve read some dumbed-down medical reviews, but they tend to focus on gender presentation at fairly advanced ages, as opposed to pre-presentation causes (which to my understanding are basically not understood at this point, so that’s fair — science as process, etc.). It really seems we’re still at the categorization stage when it comes to, what, gender science?

    I do find your indication that gender orientation questioning may exist as more of a spectrum than an absolute to be very interesting, with what is apparently a threshold value above which the exhibited/experienced gender orientation is fully persistent.

    I must say that I find it a barrier to understanding when people assert memory/experience at young ages. Given what we know of memory plasticity, I am extremely skeptical of memory recounted from the age of 3, or 5, etc… yet this is often cited as definitive proof of gender orientation. To wit, “When I assert that my subjective experience of my body has been always female, I mean exactly that… at the age of 5…” I’m quite willing to acknowledge that something very real is occurring (it’s obviously observable!), but this really clouds the issue for me.

    Uck. I’m re-reading my comment and feeling like it’s insensitive. I’m going to go ahead and post it, but I think I’ll just stop after this.

  14. PatrickG says

    Next time, I’ll also make sure copy/pasting doesn’t result in clunky paragraph breaks that impair readability, too, and not fail to include the sentence “I’m genuinely attempting to understand, and I hope that my clumsy writing doesn’t convey otherwise”.

    Stupid copy/pasting.

  15. says

    #11

    The VERY next thing Jones says is this: “It comes perilously close to naturalizing the oppression of women.”

    I’m not just reading into things, k?

    Even using the phrase “trans ideology” is extreme whistle language. 1) “Trans ideology” isn’t a thing & 2) Trans people asserting that their gender identity is a characteristic of who-they-are has little or nothing to do with everything else mentioned in that paragraph.

    When someone says “I am a woman” that doesn’t somehow mean that they are happy with various social constructs of gender – it just means that they identify as a woman. If they are cis, it likely means that they do not feel a discomfort with their body’s sex-typical attributes. They likely do not feel distress or anxiety if they are socially perceived as a woman. If they are trans, that doesn’t magically mean that they embrace gender constructs any more than a cis woman might.

  16. says

    btw – #11

    I’m talking about Jones seeming to imply that innate “gender identity” meant innate social gender constructs. So – take my “nobody in this convo believes” statement at face value.

    None of us think that.

  17. says

    Wait, what? “trans ideology is not a thing”? So you’re claiming that trans people have not built a narrative around themselves? That’s bullshit. Of course they have. That is the entire point of this discussion. How the trans ideology has tension with the traditional feminist theory.

    Come on, M.A.Melby.

    At this point, I’m willing to just leave it. I’m tired of debating whether Ophelia rises to the level of TERF or not. She’s not a TERF.

  18. says

    #9

    I don’t think the three aspects can be completely isolated from one another – but they are distinct enough to be useful.

    I know that the concept of gender orientation is really difficult and I’ll share a quote from elsewhere:

    “I think it’s extremely difficult for people who haven’t had any experience with dysphoria what-so-ever to wrap their brains around it. I wish they could trust others – but it seems that some can’t. If they can’t gasp it – it must not exist – or it has to be some OTHER thing that they do understand better.”

    Essentially, if you’ve never felt a disconnect between your gender orientation and your body or gender assignment (what gender others ascribe to you) – your gender orientation is invisible to you. Much like, maybe, body localization is invisible to you. It’s just so fundamental to your everyday being you don’t think of it as an actual persistent aspect of how you perceive yourself.

  19. says

    “At this point, I’m willing to just leave it. I’m tired of debating whether Ophelia rises to the level of TERF or not. She’s not a TERF.”

    That’s not the debate we’re having – not even a little bit.

    “Trans ideology” isn’t a thing – in that much of what is presented as “trans ideology” is 1) not even remotely universal to all trans people or trans activists and 2) nearly equivalent to the “gay agenda” or “atheist conspiracy” in it’s whimsy.

  20. says

    That’s not the debate we’re having – not even a little bit.

    Perhaps it’s not the debate that you think you’re having, but it’s why many of us are here. This all started as trans people screaming that Ophelia is a TERF and a horrible person.

  21. says

    #12

    Yes, the Reimer case is absolutely horrid on many levels and a sample space of one is not reasonable for almost any purpose anyhow. Thankfully, there aren’t a lot of cases like his. However, his situation is something that happened – and is consistent with the idea that gender orientation is an innate characteristic of a person.

  22. PatrickG says

    Essentially, if you’ve never felt a disconnect between your gender orientation and your body or gender assignment (what gender others ascribe to you) – your gender orientation is invisible to you.

    This is what makes it so difficult. It seems that gender orientation only manifests once other people ascribe gender to a person. To use the link you provided, how on earth would someone on a desert island know — subjectively (I really hate that word, by the way, it feels really misleading — what their gender orientation is. Particularly at such a young age.

    I have no emotional or physical basis with which to make that connection, but it seems extremely real to many people, to the extent that I have to conclude there’s really a there, there. You describe it as something that’s “invisible” to me, which is an excellent word. I literally cannot “see” it, and yet I’m expected to accept it. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation, it’s just something outside my experience. Closest analogy I can find is my own struggle with mental health issues (“normal” people just don’t “get” it). Thus, trying to understand.

  23. PatrickG says

    @ 24:

    However, his situation is something that happened – and is consistent with the idea that gender orientation is an innate characteristic of a person.

    I guess I just find the whole situation too much. Again, too many confounding variables, including the fact that he was treated as a boy for 22 months prior to “reassignment”, at which he was brutalized and subjected to ludicrous simulacra of “girl” behavior. Repeated trauma is not a great indicator of anything…

    I’ll continue listening to people as they talk, but I’m still having a great deal of trouble with gender orientation as an innate characteristic of a person. Again, this is primarily because I have yet to hear of it discussed without explicit exposure to gender identity, and I simply will never be able to experience the subjective memory of someone else as a young child.

    Like I said, I’ll keep listening, and in the meantime I will of course continue to respect the gender identity and expression of people I encounter. I don’t have to understand in order to accept variations in people that really aren’t any of my business.

    And thanks for indulging my questions. I’d ask more (and may in future), but I’m past my bedtime here.

  24. says

    #27

    No – you mean – A trans person that was mad at Ophelia said nasty things to her.

    Not “TRANS PEOPLE” – there are literally hundreds of thousands of trans people who did no such thing.

    And to bring that statement out of the realm of a personal conflict – that’s the sort of casual use of blanket statements that I’m pointing out in Jones’ article. As if the thoughts of trans folks (or even just those who see themselves as activists) can be distilled down to a “trans ideology”?

    Or Jeffries’ use of “transgenderism” or “transgenderist”. They aren’t talking about gender theory coming out of the trans community – because that is not remotely monolithic.

    They are referring to the validity of trans identity – absolutely.

  25. Silentbob says

    I’m pretty much in “shut up and listen” mode. I just wanted to delurk to say thanks M. A. Melby. I think your comments are hitting the nail right on the head.

    (And MrFancyPants: easy Tiger! Nobody in this thread (so far) is calling Ophelia a TERF. Least of all Melby.)

  26. says

    #29

    It’s difficult to parse gender orientation and identity – I think the reason that Cristan made that distinction is because different cultures discuss gender differently. Not all cultures have a binary system. So, gender identity is essentially the language used to describe and conceptualize one’s gender orientation. However, across cultures gender dysphoria exists; and some people raised in a particular culture experience it and most do not. Gender dysphoria appears to be persistent – in that talk – therapy or other attempt to change it are unsuccessful. There is some research on the subject, but we obviously don’t know everything. All those observations though – seem to point to some sort of innate characteristic of a person rooted in human diversity – not a product of social gender constructs.

    But yeah – regardless of all of that – bottom line is to avoid imposing a gender assignment or gendered ideals onto the unwilling.

    btw. I’m @mamelby on twitter if you want to find me later.

  27. says

    “…and moreover have always been a woman, in exactly the same way as non-trans women have always been women.”

    btw – I challenge anyone to find a quote from a trans woman that says that trans women, before transition, experienced being a woman *in exactly the same way* as cis women do – preferably a quote from someone without a nym mentioning Rustling Jimmies. (I’m looking at you CCP.)

    Just sayin’.

  28. says

    “For feminist women, the axiom ‘trans women are women,’ when understood to mean ‘womanhood is gender identity and hence, trans women are women in exactly the same way as non-trans women are women’ is experienced as an extreme erasure of the way our being-as-women is marked by a system of patriarchal violence that aims to control our sexed bodies.”

    I mean – Jones practically explicitly states that she’s creating a straw argument.

    Real statement: “Trans women are women”

    What she re-writes the statement to mean: “Womanhood is gender identity and hence, trans women are women in exactly the same way as non-trans women are women”

    And then she explains that such a statement (her rewrite) can involve extreme erasure of the experience of being assigned female at birth.

    Somehow a trans woman being respected as a woman erases my childhood – er – something?! I suppose since I gave birth to two children, I should get all mad that childless people are calling themselves “women” when they haven’t even USED their wombs. How could they possibly understand the struggles inherent in “womb-man” reproductive capacity? How dare they erase my experience!

    *face palm*

    Her argument appears to be that categorizing a person as a “woman” means that they are *exactly* like every other woman – that’s not true of cis women or trans women.

    I mean, the straw argument is so extreme it borders on circular logic.

  29. oolon says

    The linked post is a perfect example of what I was saying about terfs subtle and not so subtle bigotry, they provide a very polite reasoned argument that trans women are a danger to feminism and women. If you can’t see where that is heading then there’s no hope.

    Seconding SC’s spitting at phrases like “trans ideology”, ffs change that to “black” or “gay”, how does it seem now.

  30. xyz says

    Good points M.A. and oolon.

    Seth: One of the goals of modern feminist critique, as I understand (and attempt, in my own inept way, to practice) it, is to liberate everyone from the necessity for the (gendered) boxes entirely. To build a world in which the only relevant box is ‘human’ or even, perhaps, ‘sentient creature’, into which more-or-less everyone should be able to find a corner that fits them well without causing anyone else harm. A world in which people are ‘just folks’, where there isn’t a such thing as ‘people’ as opposed to ‘female people’.

    For what?

    Now, I’m going to just guess that different women (cis and trans) have different goals for how we want to be perceived and treated. But let me just say that I have zero interest in my womanhood becoming irrelevant to the way I am treated. I want to be treated with equal respect and I want to be considered to have equal agency to others, and the fact that I am a woman – that I am feminine – isn’t a confounding factor in the way of that respect. Sexism is. So let’s not get it twisted. In my ideal world, respect would simply not be tied to gender or gender presentation.That doesn’t mean gender or gender presentation would be irrelevant.

  31. Emily Vicendese says

    “trans ideology’s assertion…Trans ideology collapses… trans ideology’s core commitment… ”

    I think I can see how SC and Oolon interpret this in a problematic way, but the author clearly distinguishes between transexuality and “trans ideology” in her article. She claims that trans ideology is the discourse aimed at justifying transexuality in a trans hostile world. The author isn’t saying that transexuality shouldn’t be justified in a trans hostile world, but that feminist critique of trans ideology is not the same thing as hostility to transexuality, and that hostility and violence toward transexuality is a result of heternormative patriarchy, not feminist critique of trans ideology.

  32. Athywren, Social Justice Weretribble says

    But it has been decreed that it cannot be discussed, because to discuss it is to ‘deny the right of trans people to exist.’

    Ok… so this is interesting to me, because I subscribe to the notion that gender is largely socially constructed, and yet I’ve never been accused of denying trans people the right to exist. Am I just not spending enough time around them? I actually don’t see why there would be any conflict there, to be honest. I’ve experienced what seems to be the exact opposite, however; I’ve seen a fair number of people claim that trans people, in calling themselves trans, assert that gender is a wholly natural thing, and in doing so, support the oppression of women.
    It’s funny, I was trying to think of an example to paraphrase here, but I just noticed that it’s exactly what she’s saying in that first paragraph. Must read harder.

    As a result, many feminists have genuine questions about trans ideology’s assertion that ‘gender identity’ is both natural and universal. It comes perilously close to naturalizing the oppression of women.

    This just seems like a false dichotomy to me. If somebody is a trans woman, does that mean they have to be compliant, nurturing and pretty? Or does it just mean that there’s some core of womanness that is in some way different from a similar core in men, and to which those people feel somehow drawn? I don’t know, I’m not trans (unless you count non-binary to be trans, in which case I’m not going to argue about it because if you think it fits, fine, but I still don’t know if that’s an anything-like-accurate idea of it for binary trans people) but it seems ridiculous to claim that “trans ideology” asserts that the greater part of the concept of gender is natural and universal when all that’s really being said is that there’s something there for me.

  33. xyz says

    Athywren… yes I don’t see how that’s not a false dichotomy.

    Another question I have is why the language of innate gender has to be universalized – either universally applied or universally rejected. Maybe it’s useful and meaningful to some people and not so much to others? Maybe we don’t all have to agree, since our experiences of gender can be so varied?

  34. Emily Vicendese says

    Ergh, what a doofus I am, my comment should have said “transgenderism” not “transexuality”. Apologies. It was a stupid mistake, but I don’t think it should detract from my overall point.

  35. jenniferphillips says

    This all started as trans people screaming that Ophelia is a TERF and a horrible person.

    Mr FancyPants, I’m a fan of your comments in general, and I think you know I’m as outraged as you are at how Ophelia has been treated, but I think it’s important to be careful about this kind of phrasing. This bullshit narrative about OB being a TERF has come from multiple sources, not all (perhaps not even the majority, even) of whom are trans people. From these very arguments we’ve seen how overstatement and misinterpretation can take on a life of its own and do real damage. Similar missteps on our side would be best avoided.

  36. theobromine says

    @xyz (#36): I have zero interest in my womanhood becoming irrelevant to the way I am treated.

    Speaking only for myself: I have *immense* interest in my womanhood becoming irrelevant to the way I am treated, except by those with whom I am in romantic/sexual relationships.

    I have for some time sought to understand how other people feel about this. I’ve listened to women lament their hysterectomy as a loss of an organ that they found inherent to their personal identity as a woman – even late in life after bearing all the kids they wanted (I said good riddance to mine ~23 years ago, and haven’t missed it since). I’ve often felt uncomfortable at closed events limited to women (or more recently to “everyone who identifies as a woman”). For myself, I consider being female to be simply how my body is – like being short, with light skin and dark hair – but not part of my inherent personal identity. Is this due to “cis-privilege”? Perhaps.

    But my own experience aside, I have to emphatically say that I do categorically, publicly, and absolutely support anyone who considers that *their* body is important to their personal identity and wishes to address a mismatch between their body and their identity. I also completely support the idea that transwomen *are* women and transmen *are* men and have the basic human right to be treated as such by all people and institutions.

  37. says

    M. A. Melby @ 17 –

    When someone says “I am a woman” that doesn’t somehow mean that they are happy with various social constructs of gender – it just means that they identify as a woman. If they are cis, it likely means that they do not feel a discomfort with their body’s sex-typical attributes. They likely do not feel distress or anxiety if they are socially perceived as a woman.

    Is that so.

    That’s exactly what I’m disputing, because it doesn’t describe me. I’m not disputing that gender dysphoria is much much worse than what I’m describing as my experience, but I am saying that it’s just not as simple as “no gender dysphoria=total contentment with one’s assigned gender.”

    I think “If they are cis, it likely means that they do not feel a discomfort with their body’s sex-typical attributes” is a quite ludicrous thing to say. Do cis women “likely” love menstruating for example? And “They likely do not feel distress or anxiety if they are socially perceived as a woman” – bam, there goes all of feminism. What have we been talking about all this time?! Gosh, I just can’t imagine.

    A lot of people are in a fine old rage at me for posting this, but I’ll be damned if I can understand why. I’m not saying I get to decide how trans people describe their experience. I’m just saying that not being trans does not equate to being totally at home in one’s assigned gender.

    Why can’t that thought be a bridge rather than a wall or a gulf? Why can’t it be something people have in common? It’s only a lucky few people, if any, who get to be 100% content with their bodies and gender assignment and social place and all the rest of it.

  38. xyz says

    For myself, I consider being female to be simply how my body is – like being short, with light skin and dark hair – but not part of my inherent personal identity. Is this due to “cis-privilege”? Perhaps.

    theobromine, I think that’s fine, although yeah I do have an inkling that the desire to have our embodied selves just be considered part of the “default” may be a point of view more attractive to cis women than others. You might also consider that the ability/desire to describe one’s body neutrally might be partly a consequence of having a less racially marked body than some other women. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that in particular. It’s just one indicator that not all women are the same. “We’re women” does not mean we want the same things.

    Ophelia: And “They likely do not feel distress or anxiety if they are socially perceived as a woman” – bam, there goes all of feminism.

    What? Why? I know you’ve had to deal with a lot of aggression the past few days. But I can’t emphasize enough how much nearly all the statements you’ve made about what feminism is about over the past few days, are totally 100% mystifying to me and I’m guessing, very alienating to many.

    I’m perfectly happy to be a woman and to be perceived as a woman. It’s all of the sexist shit that goes along with being perceived as a woman that I dislike. I’m firm in the belief that I can be seen as a woman without being harassed on the street, intellectually dismissed, judged by my appearance, etc. I’m not going for being seen just like a man would be seen. I want to be perceived as me and to be liberated and have equal access to basic rights and resources.

    Again, the perception of “xyz is a woman” is not necessarily the issue. it’s “xyz = woman = weak” or “xyz = woman = exploitable” or “xyz = woman = vapid” that are the perceptual problems here.

    Womanhood is not a problem. Sexism is.

  39. AMM says

    Not to say that anyone in particular in this thread is exactly right or exactly wrong, but the way this discussion has been going kind of creeps me out.

    I’m trans. (Ghod, I feel like I’m in a 12-step program: “I’m John, and I’m trans.”)

    It’s taken me something like 50-60 years to frame a lifetime of experience in these terms. I suspect I’m not alone.

    And one big reason is that we are forced to use language and logic and reasoning of a universe in which people like me cannot exist. We are square circles. We are logical contradictions. (All in our own unique ways, of course.) When we try to describe our experiences and make sense of our experiences, we are having to twist language to express things whose existence is denied by the underlying logic of the language and thought it represents.

    To add to that, there are lots of people, especially people with power over us, who wish to define us and interpret who we are (or simply deny our existence) in terms that fit into their understanding of How Things Really Are; that is, in terms that make them feel comfortable. They get to decide what is logical, what is rational, what is sane, and what is normal. And so many people seem to hope that we’ll just vanish in a puff of logic (or a few shots of thorazine.) So some of our language and our so-called “ideology” is an attempt to assert the validity of our existence in the face of a dominant way of thinking that wants to erase us.

    I have no clue as to which people in this thread are trans (if any) and which are not. But so much of what I’m reading reminds me of when cis “experts” (whether credentialed or simply self-appointed) discuss transgender people. For non-trans people, it is about reason, about philosopy and political arguments. For trans people, it is about our very existence.

  40. xyz says

    Internet hugs if you want them, AMM. I’m sorry that this discussion is so creepy to you and I’m really sorry if I have contributed to that.

  41. jenniferphillips says

    I appreciate the input, AMM. I am really trying to shut up and listen.

  42. says

    AMM – why? Why does so much of what you’re reading here remind you of when cis “experts” (whether credentialed or simply self-appointed) discuss transgender people?

    Also – “For non-trans people, it is about reason, about philosopy and political arguments. For trans people, it is about our very existence.”

    That’s a very dismissive thing to say. Political arguments about feminism and gender are not some trivial fluff, even for non-trans people.

  43. xyz says

    O_o

    Really Ophelia? It’s “dismissive” when AMM points out this is life and death for trans people?

  44. Jenora Feuer says

    Some of this has been discussed over at We Hunted the Mammoth as well; not always politely. (Granted, the really acrimonious part was a few months ago now.)

    One of the things that came up that ties into what Ophelia is saying is that different people have different levels of attachment to their GENDER as well as their SEX. One person noted that the people they had known who had problems with trans people in general fell into two categories: those who were so attached to their gender that they could not imagine anybody wanting to change it, and those who had so little attachment to their gender that they could not imagine why anybody would consider it important to change it.

    I actually feel like I fall into the latter category somewhat. This isn’t the same thing as asexual, it’s more a statement that I just don’t really care about my own gender. (And yes, this is almost certainly a form of privilege in itself, the ability to not care. But obviously pretty much all trans people do care or they wouldn’t be what they are, and obviously a lot of cis people do care as well or they wouldn’t react so badly to the concept.)

    I’m thinking we need another axis in the discussion, not just biological sex, presentation, internal gender… we need an axis that boils down to ‘how strongly do I feel about where I am on these axes and where I should be’. Because at least some of the difference I’m seeing between Ophelia and some of the others here seem to be differing significantly along THAT axis.

    There’s a big difference between those for whom gender is a visceral thing that cannot possibly be ignored, and those for whom gender is a much more loose thing that society pushes you into.

  45. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I don’t think it’s hard to understand where AMM is coming from on this one, Ophelia. I know well what it’s like to have one’s sexuality (in my case) spoken of as if it was and I were an abstracted object of study. It’s the feeling I get when I see an essay about “homosexuals,” as one example. That’s a peril in these sorts of conversations. It may not be possible to avoid it, but it’s not hard to understand and I think AMM should get some charity for their remarks.

  46. oolon says

    @Emily Vicendese, “She claims that trans ideology is the discourse aimed at justifying transexuality in a trans hostile world. ” … the discourse? There is no trans ideology just as there is no PoC, gay, etc ideology, trans people are a small minority but there are more than enough humans to not agree about almost anything and everything. To suggest this group of diverse people, this class of people have *an* ideology is ludicrous and offensive. To then as part of the dominant group posit this fantasy is a *threat* to the dominant group, jezis, it would be a first to say the least.

    … hostility and violence toward transexuality is a result of heternormative patriarchy, not feminist critique of trans ideology

    That is a claim that has been tested, I gave examples in a previous post where feminist critique of “trans ideology” has led to the view that trans people should not get medical treatment. If gender identity is socially constructed they posit, there can be no such thing as trans people. They are mentally ill gay people (mainly), I’ve seen the usual suspects say Caitlin Jenner would have been brave if she’d come out as “a gay man”. They believe this based on cis ideology presumably /sarcasm. Denial of healthcare was enacted in law as a result of feminist lobbying (At least partly) and trans people had treatment denied, it killed trans people. There are plenty more examples, I suggest you start reading http://www.transadvocate.com, transgriot.blogspot.co.uk, and plenty more. The right wing narrative of trans predators in “women’s spaces” is straight from the trans exclusionary feminist playbook for example, they’ve worked together to demonise trans women in the media. So people should step very carefully when they claim their “critique” does no harm.

    Personally I’d argue their “feminist critique” is based on bigotry and not the abstract concept of “feminism”, equality for all. The distinction is probably not one that is going to be of any comfort to trans people.

  47. says

    Ok, sorry, I didn’t mean to be harsh to AMM, I’m just saying that how gender is understood does have real-life implications for – I was going to say for women but really it’s for everyone. I apologize for doing it harshly.

  48. says

    What Jenora said @ 51. Yes, exactly that. And I do get that that’s privilege and that it’s not like that for people with gender dysphoria.

  49. jenniferphillips says

    I hate to keep bringing it back to Dawkins, but he does provide a perfect object lesson in how not to do it, i.e. discussing real, traumatic events or ideas as if they were abstract thought exercises with no personal stakes. I’m not saying that anyone has actually done this here–I don’t believe that to be the case, but what I’m hearing from AMM makes me want to be extra careful to not do it with careless phrasing or tone.

  50. says

    Doesn’t he though. Just yesterday he posted yet another crude tweet, saying “If your belief has any value, you should be able to defend it with something better than ‘Your argument against it hurts me.’ Grow up.”

    I used to have an infuriatingly simplistic and belligerent commenter, who used the phrase “Grow up” constantly. It’s cringe-making to see Oxford professor Dawkins doing that – and at the end of such a terrible “argument.”

  51. says

    But anyway – the only reason I’m trying to talk about this is because I do have a personal stake in how we think about gender. Very much so.

  52. jenniferphillips says

    As do I, Ophelia, and I think it’s a really worthwhile thing to talk about, so I’m grateful to you for providing space in which to do so. I agree with Jenora @51 as well, that it’s important to find the conversational axis that everyone can have a stake in. There is common ground to be found, although it might not be where we expect to find it.

  53. AMM says

    I think my point (assuming I have one :-) ) is that if cis feminists and trans people are going to talk, the cis feminists are going to have to recognize:

    1. Trans people are dealing with an experience that (by definition?) cis feminists aren’t having. One reason some things that cis feminists say go so wrong is that they think they know more than they do.

    2. Trans people are IMHO at the beginning of figuring out how to come up with (maybe reconstruct?) language to express what they need to express. Even trans people don’t necessarily understand what other trans people are saying, at least not without a lot of work. So cis feminists are going to have to accept that they’ll misunderstand a lot of what trans people are saying.

    3. A lot of trans people are still trying to figure out what is going on with them. For each of us, it’s a long process with lots of false starts. My understanding of who I am is, I’m sure, a lot different from what it will be in a year or two.

    4. As mentioned, most trans people have had a lifetime of being invalidated, by language, by “reason”, by science. It makes me, at least, skeptical of arguments that aren’t rooted in our experience. Not to mention that it’s possible to invalidate people’s experience without knowing you’re doing it. Trust is a big problem.

    FWIW, one of the books about trans experience that I’m fond of (and which doesn’t sound like a French post-structuralist tract) is Whipping Girl.

    Also see: Stephanie Zvan’s post on this subject.

  54. jenniferphillips says

    I appreciate your comment, AMM.
    Regarding #1–I sort of rephrased that in my (cis hetero woman’s) head as “[cis feminists] don’t know what they don’t know”. It’s certainly true of me.
    Regarding #4–to clarify, are you saying that arguments about feminism that aren’t rooted in the experience *specifically* as a trans person of being invalidated by language/reason/science are suspect?

  55. says

    “I think “If they are cis, it likely means that they do not feel a discomfort with their body’s sex-typical attributes” is a quite ludicrous thing to say. Do cis women “likely” love menstruating for example? And “They likely do not feel distress or anxiety if they are socially perceived as a woman” – bam, there goes all of feminism. What have we been talking about all this time?! Gosh, I just can’t imagine.”

    I have ovarian cysts – I have had “discomfort” with my periods that left me screaming in agony, double-over in pain, so f’ed up I literally couldn’t see straight. Do you honestly think that what I meant by “do not feel discomfort with their body’s sex-typical attributes” that I meant loving periods? I doubt that men with prostate cancer question their gender assignment due to having problems with their “sex-typical attributes”. I was talking about having gender dysphoria related to your body – which you must understand well enough, since you have stated you haven’t experienced it.

    “I’m just saying that not being trans does not equate to being totally at home in one’s assigned gender.”

    Just like Jones magically inserted “exactly” into the conversation in order to attack it – you have used “totally”. Please let me know who has said that – that all cis women are “totally at home” in their body and assignment? Are you using “gender” in the same general – almost completely useless way – as if being comfortable with your gender identity equates to being comfortable with all gender constructs, expectations, etc?

    “I’m describing as my experience, but I am saying that it’s just not as simple as “no gender dysphoria=total contentment with one’s assigned gender.””

    I mean – where did this quote come from? Cause it’s not a quote – it’s just a cliche straw argument that I have been bashing my head against for years.

    xyz – I think you’re totally spot-on – “Womanhood is not a problem. Sexism is.”

    I mean CCP – wrote an article about how she was all peeved at being called “cis”. She did this on her blog called WEEK *WOMAN* and didn’t see the irony.

    Then she said this: “I do not identify as cis. I am not cis. I am a woman…”

    O.o

    CCP does not appear to have any anxiety about *calling herself a woman* and being perceived as a woman – in fact – it seems that she takes every opportunity to point it out to everyone.

    Why the heck does she think that “identifying as a women” is *identifying* with all the baggage that’s culturally attached to it? She proudly and loudly identifies herself as a woman – while at the same time berating people who say that their gender identity is “woman” by accusing them of “identifying with” a list of REALLY horrible things.

    http://www.transadvocate.com/et-tu-caroline-criado-perez_n_14058.htm

    I don’t know how to make this clearer.

    For example: I said, “When someone says “I am a woman” that doesn’t somehow mean that they are happy with various social constructs of gender – it just means that they identify as a woman.” – right before the part you quoted, trying to make sure you didn’t interpret what I said next the way you did.

    I think oolon and AMM are spot-on with pointing out that how trans folks perceive themselves and what language they use to describe their experiences is not, the least bit, risen to some sort of orthodoxy. Not all trans folks are the same – not only in how they describe their experiences, but in what those experiences actually are. More reason that using the contrivance of “trans ideology” is so indefensible.

    And I should apologize to AMM – because I know that I tend to approach subjects a particular way and am likely contributing to the creep-factor of this sort of “academic” discussion about how cis and trans folks relate to their gender.

    I mean – it’s true – at some point we’re no different than the groups of Reasoned Philosphers of Yore ™ who often blithely discussed whether or not women were human in the same sense that men are – or some odd white talking-head on good ol’ Fox News opining about problems within the black community.

    The bottom line is that societal acceptance of trans folks as their authentic selves is paramount and it is unnecessary to use trans lives as fodder for discussion. However much a certain number of often published feminists with strong media platforms – would like to float the story that they are being silenced by a powerful monolithic trans cabal into never talking about vaginas – that’s just not the case.

    Case in point:

    Vagina.

  56. says

    As a result, many feminists have genuine questions about trans ideology’s assertion that ‘gender identity’ is both natural and universal. It comes perilously close to naturalizing the oppression of women.

    No not really. There are just two camps that are talking past each other due to different use of jargon.

    And that’s me being generous, really it seems that the few feminists who hold that quoted view also have ridiculous paranoia when it comes to trans people. The “naturalizing the oppression” accusation is just nonsense.

    It’s all very poor thinking skills on their part.

  57. says

    Trans ideology collapses the fact that trans people exist into the theory of why trans people exist, and judges anyone who questions the theory to be a transphobic bigot intent on denying the very existence of trans people.

    Another wildly false assertion.

  58. says

    Quite. That’s not something women necessarily identify with, or something they “feel like.” It’s something imposed.

    Indeed. Being imposed is also not what trans people are saying they identify with. See what I mean about people talking past each other? They are clearly talking about different things.

  59. says

    @Seth

    To build a world in which the only relevant box is ‘human’ or even, perhaps, ‘sentient creature’, into which more-or-less everyone should be able to find a corner that fits them well without causing anyone else harm. A world in which people are ‘just folks’, where there isn’t a such thing as ‘people’ as opposed to ‘female people’.

    Words for groups and sub-populations exist for a reason. People need ways of talking about sub-populations that have general trends, statistical differences, in various ways. The issue is when they are fallaciously considered relevant (or whatever) when they aren’t. But there will be other times when they will be non-fallaciously relevant.

  60. theobromine says

    @Brian Pansky:
    Can you provide an example of when gender is non-fallaciously relevant? I would say that knowing that I am a woman provides exactly zero information about who I am, what my needs/wants/preferences/inclinations are. Nor does it provide any conclusive information about my physical characteristics. So what’s left?

  61. says

    @68 theobromine

    Statistically, I should be able to guess some things about you more accurately based on which sub-populations you belong to (but not conclusively, only probably).

    Feminism itself has many relevant uses for this. For instance, women disproportionately earn less money. Women are most often the ones to raise children, or have abortions (and so, yes, I think it does make sense to say that childcare and abortion are women’s issues, or feminist issues, even if women are not the only ones who face hardship in these areas).

    It’s also true for me to say I’m (by far) most often attracted to women.

  62. theobromine says

    @Brian Pansky:
    You might call it statistical guessing; I might call it making unwarranted assumptions. I’ll grant that the stats can be useful when addressing some issues, as long as sufficient attention is allocated for outliers. For example, the fact that women do the majority of childcare and therefore a parent or guardian with small children in a public spaces is most likely to be a woman. So, based on those stats, we should not be putting baby changing facilities in men’s washrooms.

  63. says

    @theobromine

    I didn’t say it’s ok to make any assumptions about individuals. That’s not what I described. And your last sentence doesn’t logically follow.

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