Transition Reactions p13: Legitimate academic inquiry

In my readings on feminism in Islam and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), there has been a consistent thread across all views within this specific area: Establish what work already exists before entering the discourse, lest you look like an utter nincompoop. It’s good advice generally for anyone considering entering discourse in any area in which they have no expertise. That’s why you kinda need a bachelor’s in your area before you can become a researcher.

The problem, of course, is that when it comes to discourse on gender variance or civil/human rights for trans people, is that so few people follow this advice. Whether it’s so-called “gender critical” bloggers or a professional whinger like Dr. Jordan Peterson, the existing body of literature is often ignored as these imbecilic martyrs cloak themselves in “legitimate academic inquiry” to open a “debate” on a question that’s comparable to, say, “is the Earth round?” Fucking Pythagoras figured this out ~2,600 years ago and there are people acting like they’ll win a PhD by reopening this question.

You won’t. The maths are settled. Keeping an open mind doesn’t mean revisiting the fucking obvious. At least, not without reason.

My hope is that one day many of the questions seriously asked by ignorant amateurs about gender variance today are regarded with the same relevance we give to Flat Earthers. I’m sure I could get the point across to Dr. Peterson if I were to sign up for his class and then spend Every. Single. Day. for Eight. Fucking. Weeks. interrupting his lectures with “but Sigmund Freud said something else!” and then running off to the media for daily interviews whining about how oppressed I am because Dr. Peterson has better shit to do than represent the findings of a long-discredited quack with any seriousness.

Yeah, something like that. I think that’s the part that pisses me off the most: This notion that trans people haven’t thought it through, that our questioning process doesn’t count, and that it’s only real or legit questioning if a cis person does it (abstractly, mind you). As if being a living embodiment of these questions doesn’t count.

Cis people feel entirely justified in entering the discourse without stopping to fact-check some of their basic assumptions, which is why a lot of us trans feminists tend to sound like we’re repeating ourselves. And when those folks (who already disrespect the topic and feel qualified to enter it) find a posterboy to represent their explosive cocktail of ignorance and arrogance, we have a recipe for misconceptions seemingly coated in Teflon, immune to all doubt and inspection.

It can all depress a girl, and quite badly at that. “That’s not what the evidence says” is my language. I’m not sure I know how to step outside of it. I think it’s one of the reasons I am reluctant to publish on other platforms. Here on FtB we are, ostensibly, concerned about what the evidence says. Y’all speak my language. We can have an actually intelligent conversation on what something means. But moving to MSM means having to throw myself at the feet of False Equivalency in service to Both Sideism. It punches holes in any potential aspirations to bonafide journalism, although I still try to do primary reporting within my means.

I feel like academia has no place for me either. You’d be a bit naive to think Dr. Peterson was the only professor who harbours prejudice against trans folk. I wear it on my sleeve–quite literally, if I get that tattoo I’ve been mulling over. Closeting myself for the duration of a post-secondary education seems entirely unconscionable… and yet, I wonder if actually getting any credentials would require such an act, knowing what tenured professors can get away with.

I think the only avenue to satisfy my ambitions is to write a book. It’s a format that allows the citations this ridiculous “debate” so desperately needs. It’s long form, meaning we can unpack and dissect what those citations say and how they relate to the topic. I may lack the degree for now and for the forseeable future, but there’s no reason my work can’t stand on its own merit. I’ve already navigated the publishing industry before and have a pretty decent grip on its ebbs and flows. I feel reasonably confident in this goal.

Nonetheless, the information will be useless without consumers willing to, you know, consume it. And I think that’s one of the biggest barriers: Not simply the ignorance by itself, but this notion that one’s ignorance is somehow adequate when governing the lives of other people.

It’s not. It shouldn’t be. We ought not to let that shit slide. End of story.



  1. invivoMark says

    As a biologist, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that biology is messy. Evolution is a sloppy process, and we’re all kluge jobs of various bits and bobs that usually work and always have side effects. Why the hell shouldn’t sex and gender be messy? They’re not even determined in a consistent way across all mammals. And on top of that, evolution has only tinkered around with our big brains – which store the drivers for our sexual and gendered behavior – for less than 10 million years.

    It drives me nuts when people adamantly insist that it’s simple, as if it’s a yes-or-no, one-or-the-other kind of thing (and to my regret, I once insisted that, too), but for an academic to do it is just shameful.