The “Clueless Moderate” Gap

There’s a gap in the data, see. And I want to give this gap a name. Maybe the Clueless Moderate Gap?

I’ve written before on two topics: The tendency of Moderates to advocate for something in the abstract but oppose it in practice; and how Canadians supported affirmation of trans rights in the abstract but oppose them in practice.


CBC posts a rather optimistic article that perfectly demonstrates this gap.

Eighty-four per cent of people surveyed by the Angus Reid Institute said they would support adding gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act — one of several questions in a poll on transgender issues where a firm majority said Canadians should “accept, accommodate, and move on.”

Then, not half a screen later…

Asked about a trans girl or trans boy using the washroom that corresponded with their gender identity, approximately 67 per cent said it was acceptable.

Right there. 84% saying they’re cool with trans rights, 67% saying they’re cool with trans bathroom access–and somehow, at least some people claiming to occupy one position but not the other despite the contradiction inherent thereof.

This is why I’m frustrated by this kind of reporting. 84% of respondents did not support trans rights, because some of those respondents still want to restrict our access to gendered facilities. That is the opposite of support. That’s throwing your weight behind the bathroom bill reactionaries. That’s eliminating our ability to go out in public. That’s putting us in danger. That is the fucking harmful status quo trans activists are trying to change.

Here’s what I want the next poll to do: Don’t ask people if they support explicit protections for trans folk. Instead, ask questions like “would you support a coworker or employee’s transition at the workplace?” “would you agree with letting trans folk share your facilities?” or “should trans women be imprisoned in men’s prisons [and vice versa]?” Then, instead of asking point blank whether trans people should be protected–which most people aren’t heartless enough to say “no” to–define “trans affirmation” as the logically consistent set of answers that actually supports us. 

I suspect you’ll take care of that Clueless Moderate Gap and paint a much clearer picture on the prevalence of transphobia, rather than shrugging and posting a useless feel good post about how accepting Canadians are–when they aren’t!


Now that’s a bit more compelling

I’ve always given the side-eye to proponents of Brain Sex theory (“neurosexism”), the idea that brains can not only be sexed but that those sex states are binary, on the grounds that their methods for measuring brain sex aren’t particularly good: MRIs. I haven’t found a brain scan study that had made me rethink this opinion. They’re still extremely weak for making any argument, even if I appreciate that most Brain Sex proponents tend to be affirmative of trans lives vis-a-vis “born this way” rhetoric.

It’s still a theory ripe for exploitation by sexists, and I still don’t find interpretation from brain scans convincing. There’s too much space between the observation and the interpretation thereof, space filled with magical thinking and after-the-fact justification.

What I have found–and for some reason, didn’t think to look for–is something a fair bit more compelling as evidence for the “gender variance as biological event” hypothesis. It’s a twin study Franksteined together from other twin studies.

Often the difficulty of trans twin studies is a lack of data. So the researchers just sewed together hundreds of twin studies, many of which reported at least one twin in at least one twin pair who was transgender and thus transitioned. Most of these studies weren’t investigating gender variance so it didn’t factor into the analysis, though they were obviously mentioned in the observations.

The findings have interesting implications: (Content Notice–like most cis researchers, the interpretation of results can be belittling or riddled with problems discussed in trans feminist discourse. Emphasis mine.)

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By what measure of “effective”?

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

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

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

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

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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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The misuse of the word authoritarian

Siggy touches on his post about Atheism 101 the simultaneous utility and flaw of definition use. The problem of definition is one of those epistemological headaches that wakes me in the middle of the night with a cold sweat. “If you replaced all the parts of a boat, is it still the same boat?!?!” I scream into the stars. My partner, roused from her slumber, cocks her eyebrow from the pillow, mumbling into the fabric “Who cares?”

Credible dictionaries choose to be descriptivist–which is to say, they simply describe the way words are used. Contrast prescriptivist, which claims “this is the way a word is supposed to be used.” Ultimately a language puritan will lose in their argument but for the simple fact that once a phrase catches on, people will continue to use it, and your dictionary will rapidly be out of touch if you don’t keep up. The utility in providing a definition is to aide communication, ensuring everyone knows what we’re supposedly talking about if I suggest we debate garbledina. Misunderstanding of what definition of garbledina we’re using in a debate is typically how an argument goes south.

Following descriptivist logic, I don’t actually mean to argue the way most people use the word “authoritarian” is wrong. Rather I have found another way the word is used in a book that technically wasn’t recommended to me by Marcus Ranum, but I ended up devouring it from start to finish anyway. It’s called The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer. That link is a free PDF hosted by the author himself. I at least recommend reading the first few pages–you might get sucked in, in part because the book was written in the noughties but practically describes Trump’s rise to popularity even though it didn’t happen for another 10 years.

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AFA continues to push blatant falsehoods when trans people are involved

The American Shitstain Family Association has had a thing for trans women for a while (and let’s be real, it’s trans women they’re freaking out about). In order to push the narrative that Target’s trans inclusive policy facilitated the entrance of men into women’s washrooms, they sent cis men into the women’s bathrooms to prove how predatory trans women are.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc, bitches.

Now in their next dishonest bigoted smear, they’re framing the criminal voyeurism incident that occurred at a Target as having been facilitated by Target’s policy, because the perp was allegedly a trans women:

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“Sex and gender are dials,” offers Psychology Today, citing multiple discredited researchers

Psychology Today attempted to step into the complex world of sex & gender diversity and it’s a flaming hot mess. It’s a pretty lengthy read (although it at least has citations), and it will take me quite a few writing sessions to get through it all.

So I’ll probably do another series, the same way I’m doing with CBS right now. Because it’s a lengthy read, I wanted to introduce folks to the article and get them reading along with me in bite size chunks.

The author, Dr. David P Schmitt, makes his foray into GSD with an okay start.

It has become more and more common for young people around the world to describe themselves not as a “man” or a “woman,” but as “something else.” One term for this something else is transgender. Transgender is an umbrella term for a wide variety of different identities (e.g., genderqueer, gender variant, gender fluid, gender non-conforming, hyper-feminine gay man, asexual, etc.). The common core of transgender identities is they don’t fit within traditional cisgender binaries of men versus women (“cisgender” refers to people whose sexual and gendered identities align in typical ways).

At face value, there’s nothing overly contentious concerning Dr. Schmitt’s representation of GSD theory. Of course, the first citation for transgender leads to an article with a number of follow-up readings. One of those readings performs the faux pas of using “transgenderism,” rather than something less gross like “gender variance,” to describe the concept of  non-normative genders.

This is a particularly uncomfortable phrasing of the concept, because it frames gender variance as an ideology, an -ism, when it simply broadly represents personal narratives that are mostly contrary to normative gender. In other words, I feel it can contribute to this notion that a personal decision to transition somehow has political implications for other people in the way that identifying as a feminist or capitalist does. This belief of gender variance as an ideology mischaracterizes gender variance as something besides a purely personal experience. It would be like arguing that contraction of cancer is a political statement and calling cancer survivors cancerists.

The second citation is the American Psychiatric Association, which has a less bad page, I guess.

Schmitt moves on:

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Canadian Blood Services p3: You’re like, halfway there

As part of an ongoing series investigating the research CBS claims to have in support of their new policy, you can follow the progress of my communications with related parties here (list updates with every new related post):

  1. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
  2. That’s Not The Question I Asked
  3. You’re Like, Halfway There


Canadian Blood Services has now posted an information page specific to trans folk, which is an improvement over inserting us as a foot note under the “men who have sex with men” policy. You can check it out here. There’s a few pieces I will draw your attention to.

The first:

We are also working on updating our computer system so that donated blood components can be processed to reduce the risk of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) without donors having to be identified as female.

Credit where credit is due, I suppose. As aggravating as CBS’ announcement has been, it’s still progress to acknowledge that trans men generally don’t want to be called women. TRALI is an elevated risk in blood from people who have at some point been pregnant. Under a cissexist system, this means any women who have been pregnant have their blood flagged for additional screening–this policy appears to redress the fact that trans men can also have pregnancy somewhere in their history, which still justifies flagging their donations as a TRALI risk, but without forcing trans men to suffer the indignity of misgendering in order to donate. As I observed previously, the correct risk factor is “has been pregnant,” not “was assigned female at birth.”

Things still crash and burn elsewhere, even if this policy is a good start.


The second:

Canadian Blood Services is dedicated to providing the safest possible blood to transfusion recipients. Donor criteria that affect recipient safety should be based on available scientific evidence. And, these criteria must be approved by Health Canada, our regulator.

I’ll also draw your attention to the word “available.”

There is little information available on the safety of subgroups of trans* individuals and blood donation.

That’s practically an admission they drafted policy this policy without accurate data.

There is very little information available on the risk of HIV in trans* individuals in Canada, as they are not included in a separate risk category by the Public Health Agency of Canada in their annual reports of HIV and AIDS in Canada.

You don’t say.

However, in a review of available studies,

The same ones that lump sex workers and needle-sharers in the same risk category as monogamous MSMs?

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Your definition of gender should include reality

Content Notice: Yet more clueless cissexist codswallop.

Author Rebecca Reilly-Cooper penned an article called, “Gender is not a spectrum,” with the tag line, “The idea that ‘gender is a spectrum’ is supposed to set us free. But it is both illogical and politically troubling.”

In this article, Reilly-Cooper partakes in a number of common mistakes made by cis people when they attempt to discuss gender variance. Let’s untwist the pretzel that is her argument (spoiler alert: it’s a circle).

Saran wrap your screens, you may vomit.

What is gender?

Please, cis person, please instruct me.

In everyday conversation, the word ‘gender’ is a synonym for what would more accurately be referred to as ‘sex’. Perhaps due to a vague squeamishness about uttering a word that also describes sexual intercourse, the word ‘gender’ is now euphemistically used to refer to the biological fact of whether a person is female or male, saving us all the mild embarrassment of having to invoke, however indirectly, the bodily organs and processes that this bifurcation entails.

Do not represent the concept of bio sex as “fact” unless you are about to refute the accuracy of that statement.

For the umpteenth mother fucking time I swear to dog I am so tired of having to repeat this: Human sex determination is not binary. It is, in fact, thousands of “facts.”

In addition I’ll note, sex squeamishness is specifically an American phenomenon. If we can stop assuming what happens in America describes the entire world, that’d be great.

The word ‘gender’ originally had a purely grammatical meaning in languages that classify their nouns as masculine, feminine or neuter.


But since at least the 1960s, the word has taken on another meaning, allowing us to make a distinction between sex and gender. For feminists, this distinction has been important, because it enables us to acknowledge that some of the differences between women and men are traceable to biology, while others have their roots in environment, culture, upbringing and education – what feminists call ‘gendered socialisation’.

Okay we’re pinging like 2/10 on my TERFdar, because when cis people start talking biology when the topic is gender, it’s usually to justify associating trans folk with something they’re not. I’m side-eyeing the socialization piece. Men and women are socialized in Da Rules of both binary genders*; fathers are perfectly capable of teaching their daughters arbitrary shit about modesty and chastity just as mothers can tell their sons to “man up.”

At least, that is the role that the word gender traditionally performed in feminist theory. It used to be a basic, fundamental feminist idea that while sex referred to what is biological, and so perhaps in some sense ‘natural’, gender referred to what is socially constructed. On this view, which for simplicity we can call the radical feminist view, gender refers to the externally imposed set of norms that prescribe and proscribe desirable behaviour to individuals in accordance with morally arbitrary characteristics.

Well gee, when you define gender as oppressive, of course your argument follows that gender is oppressive. Allow me to demonstrate the weakness of this particular rhetorical technique:

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Canadian Blood Services p2: That’s Not the Question I Asked

As part of an ongoing series investigating the research CBS claims to have in support of their new policy, you can follow the progress of my communications with related parties here (list updates with every new related post):

  1. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
  2. That’s Not The Question I Asked
  3. You’re Like, Halfway There



Following the announcement from Canadian Blood Services that pre-operative trans women who’ve had sex with men would be considered “males who have sex with males, (MSMs)”–and therefore subject to the 12-month abstinence requirement for blood donation eligibility imposed on gay men–I sent a letter to their public inquiry box stating a concern with the methodology. I have reproduced my communications so far.

I establish that health statistics on trans folk is shoddy and incomplete because of medical establishments subsuming us into cisgender male and female populations; and also that CBS, in lumping pre-op trans women with MSMs, was not only perpetuating misinformation, but also doing something flatly unscientific.

Their public email clerk responded thusly: (emphasis added by me in all emails)

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