Staff Sergeant Mildly Annoyed, reporting for duty in the Outrage Brigade

“Don’t feed the tone trolls.”

One of my first experiences with in-person transphobia was actually a feminist context, rather than an atheist one. One of the other participants had made a classic bungle in trans-antagonism: conflating gender identity and gender role. This isn’t a terribly uncommon mistake. In the admittedly esoteric field of trans feminism they are terms of art, generally heading in the direction of consistent meaning within the discourse; the mistake is analogous to using chromosomes and genes interchangeably, or conflating quarks with protons. It’s a sign the person is unfamiliar with what trans scholars have actually written about ourselves, and although this conflation is a foundational premise in many trans-antagonistic strains of feminism, I try to assume it is simply a matter of ignorance.

It was eventually my turn to speak. I introduced myself as well as my area of interest, and explained that many definitions within trans discourse often use the term “gender identity” in relation to an experience of the body (comfort, apathy, distress) and use the term “gender role” to describe external expectations thrust upon you specifically because of your assumed sex assigned at birth. [ex: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5] In this way many feminist observations are easily reconciled with trans liberation: All people are in part oppressed by these rigid and unrealistic expectations, in different ways and to different degrees, and we should unlearn them. All will benefit–cis, trans, man, woman, both, neither, sometimes either, all or none of the above. This is not to say that gender roles account for all people’s oppression, just a part of it. From this perspective the alleged “spat” between trans folk (chiefly trans women) and feminism is utterly nonsensical. There need be no disagreement.

And yet. And yet…

I was accused of being “angry”–by someone, and I kid you not, red in the cheeks and raising her voice–even though I was flatly stating what trans discourse actually says. I hadn’t even accused the speaker of malice (again, I assume ignorance first). All I meant by my comment was that the basic idea motivating the other participant’s bizarre animus against trans folk wasn’t rooted in any material I was aware of–material I continue to be unaware of, as the people using this premise seldom cite sources, or when they do, cite each other saying the other said this in a fashion that would have had me laughed out of my undergrad.

One would hope that as the self-styled paragons of debate and rationalism and/or empiricism, atheists would recognize a straw-stuffing exercise when they see it, and applaud someone for speaking up in the name of rigorous debate.

And yet, and yet

Here we are: Staff Sergeant Mildly Annoyed, reporting for duty in the Outrage Brigade. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, because I’m so numb to people’s ignorance on trans issues that “anger” is actually a relatively rare emotion I experience anymore. In fact I am pleasantly surprised whenever someone manages to speak on the issue without unknowingly spewing bile on their audience. So at this point, expect y’all to be, at best, clueless. My bar is so low for atheist dudebros that they gain a point of approval just for figuring out that “transgender” is an adjective.

Nothing you say ever really surprises me anymore. Maybe it stings your ego that you are not the Paragon of Perfect Thought in every subject, that you sound like a child when you wander into areas beyond your expertise. That’s not writing you off or putting all your work in a trash bin. It is, in fact, a demonstration of the precious debate that many of you claim to admire. Sometimes y’all are really fucking wrong, but somehow when we discuss that, we’re “dividing the movement.”

If I could be assured I were inoculated against the consequences of asinine men, I would consider it immensely amusing that many of atheism’s much-vaunted leaders say, with no hint of irony, that those of us concerned with fairness and justice are being divisive, after tweeting third-rate shit like this:

I’m not outraged. I’m no more outraged than when a toddler throws a tantrum. It’s the sort of immature, emotional outburst you simply expect from them, and while it certainly may be annoying, we would not say that a parent trying to coax their toddler back down to Earth is “outraged.”

Some toddlers continue to express anger nonetheless. At least in their case it’s sometimes because they can’t articulate between degrees of necessity and desire because they lack awareness of abstract concepts.

I wonder, then, what your excuse is.

Staff Sergeant Mildly Annoyed signing off. Ten four.


A comprehensive review of objections to trans womanhood

I was actually starting to build up a list of arguments that are frequently used as a bludgeon to question the authenticity of trans women (and it’s always trans women) when Julia Serano published her comprehensive review of all that bullshit.

The “trans women refuse to acknowledge any distinction” fallacy

People who make the trans-women-aren’t-women case will often insist that there is a distinction between cis women and trans women, yet trans women refuse to acknowledge this distinction. I find such claims endlessly frustrating. I have never once in my life heard a trans woman claim that our experiences are 100 percent identical to those of cis women. Indeed, the very fact that we in the trans community describe people as being “transgender” and “cisgender” points to an acknowledgement of potential differences!

The problem isn’t that we (i.e., trans women) refuse to acknowledge any differences, but rather that the trans-women-aren’t-women crowd refuses to acknowledge our many similarities.

This has come up a few (just a few) times in my work.

Read the other forms of “real woman” gobbledegook here.


Who needs enemies with “allies” like these?

Imagine a world where the virulently misogynist words of Phyllis Schlafly were held up by feminists as representative of the opinions of all women. Imagine a world where the discrimination-denialist positions of Christina Hoff Sommers were held up as the pinnacle of women’s advocacy by feminists. Imagine a world where hundreds of feminists surfaced from the crevices of the internet to hail me as some kind of valiant free speech defender after campaigning for women to be banned from public life because one time, this woman threw hot coffee at me and no, I don’t have an independent link for you to verify that but I promise I’m trustworthy *pinky swear* smiley-face emoji :)

I don’t live in this world because it is, sadly, limited to cis feminists. A feminist publication called Athena Talks, whose mission is “to help young women mature, [to help] budding professionals become leaders and [to help] leaders become advocates for equality,” decided that all of the above absurdities were suddenly worthy of their editorial attention, strictly because it was re-purposed for animus against trans women.

To be clear, I don’t consider it a bad thing that my feminist works are usually held up to a higher standard. If I were to deploy the venom-spitting baffelgab passing for “reasonable dialogue” in the start of this post, I would be rightly shredded as a derivative thinker and deemed an asshole with an axe to grind. Instead I want to draw attention to cis feminism’s problem with shoddy double standards: If the topic is trans women, y’all start giving the “deer in headlights” look as if you’ve never encountered a logical fallacy before. (#NotAllCisFeminists, of course, but enough of you).

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the latest candy-glossed hate piece to make waves in feminist discourse: “I am not a ‘cis’ Woman, I am a Woman and that Matters.

Content Notice for trans-antagonism, in case it wasn’t already obvious from the title.

The author opens thusly:

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How to poison the trans well in five easy steps

Cis women occupy a unique position within the discourse between sex essentialist/trans-exclusionary radical feminists and trans feminists. As we’re about to see below, TERFs sometimes employ a subtle technique of rhetorical manipulation that disarms any trans critics long before we’ve even spoken. Since cis women in these sex essentialist constructs lack the various boogeymen and spectres that TERFs raise as evidence of trans women’s “male essence,” they’re able to more directly interface with the material without having to first waste time on specious accusations of “aggression” or “violence.” This is why I made a post eons ago briefly thanking M. A. Melby for her work–she not only acknowledges this unique position but actively uses it to expose the intellectual fraud of sex essentialist feminists.

Here I document a specific strain of rhetoric which has the intention to demonize the transgender critic regardless of their actual behaviour. My hope is that cis women step up to the plate when they see it deployed, because they undermine its fundamental strategy simply by voicing a criticism while being neither transgender or a man. We’re looking at a recent piece by Julian Vigo, but the rhetoric used here is likely to make an appearance again.

All emphasis seen in the quotations are added by me unless marked otherwise. Typos are from the original material. Lastly, I use “trans feminist” to refer to a specific tradition of trans-inclusive feminism, not as “a feminist who is also transgender,” though they often overlap.

Content Notice for trans-antagonism and sexual assault.

1. Frame your critics as oppressors.


It’s not exactly difficult for those who experience misogyny to paint that experience as rather harrowing. There are countless disparities between men and women in virtually every metric you can think of from violent victimization to wage earnings to health outcomes. If one is invested in evidence as their basis for beliefs, it is virtually inescapable to conclude anything except that women as a demographic are treated unfairly in a myriad of ways (not that people don’t try). Despite the ceaseless statistical evidence, Vigo opts to use a personal narrative instead:

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Updated comments policy

Howdy folks.

In the interest of fairness I decided to spruce up my comments policy to be a bit more detailed and explicit. Regulars have more or less already been following these conditions anyways, but I also decided to explicitly document the Points Refuted a Thousand Times. This is to help make more available the myth-busting information, and also to point out that I’m under no obligation to repeat myself when my previous work stands, a demand which has occasionally cropped up in the filtered comments.

Everything below is listed here.

The first comment you post on Against the Grain is automatically sent into moderation. This is to bring your commentary to my attention. There are a number of things I have little patience for on this blag, detailed below, and if you run afoul of them your comment may be edited, filtered out, or your account banned altogether. Your participation is contingent on the following:

1. Stay on topic

If your first instinct is to change the subject, you’ll likely be called on it. If I start a conversation about the angles Jesse Singal employs in his trans-antagonistic journalism, braying on about this obscure murder committed 30 years ago by a trans woman is not relevant.

2. Make disagreements about the argument

Attack the argument. Question its premises, or question the logical construction. I am not generally fond of attacking the arguer as opposed to the argument. On a related note…

3. Definitely no hate speech

Ad hominems usually net you warnings, unless you employ language that singles out a person’s immutable characteristics as inherently inferior or undesirable, in which case I toss you out. This includes but is not limited to language demeaning gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ability, sex, etc.

4. No Points Refuted a Thousand Times

My material on trans issues is occasionally repetitive because the opponents to trans rights offer repetitive discourse. If something was wrong six months ago, it remains wrong today unless new information has been produced. So no, I am not going to tailor-suit a refutation to something that has already been shown to be bunk nonsense, and reciting these points uncritically will not impress me.

Some PRATTs relevant to this blog include:

Yes, this tedious, fact-free nonsense tends to repeat itself.

Note that bringing up a PRATT doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from the comments, if and only if you can introduce new information that wasn’t discussed the first time.

5. Breaking these rules on other blogs on the network will also get you banned.

I regularly read the works of my colleagues, so even if you aren’t accountable to my conditions on their blog, you’re still subject to them when you come to mine. A history of violating the above conditions elsewhere will generally burn any goodwill I might otherwise assume when you pop up in moderation.


Anything but trans

Given that trans-antagonism still possesses enough social capital to be routinely published in mainstream media outlets, we ought to consider its influence on those questioning their gender identity. There is an entire sub-genre within the topic of “questioning” prompted by notably not-trans people that I’m calling the “anything but trans” narratives.

Questioning your gender? Take a shot of Pimozide. Results supporting this idea may be based on a single case study and not an actual sample, but anything to not be trans, right? (This is entering not even wrong territory–the WPATH recommends psychosis be “managed” before transitioning but no longer considers it an automatic exclusion from gender dysphoria).

Questioning your gender? Hey, this anonymous Tumblr survey circulated by TERFs says 20% of “detransitioners” actually had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder instead, they just fixated on gender. What a relief you’re not trans!

Questioning your gender? Hey, this “expert” says autistic people are disproportionately represented among gender dysphoric youth. You’re “just autistic,” and not trans. Whew!

Just Autism. Just OCD. Just a perception disorder. Just mommy issues. Just a sexual fetish. Just a phase. Just personal preference. Just PTSD. Just just just. On and on it goes, a never-ending refusal to actually listen to trans people in a desperate bid to find a cis explanation for a not-cis phenomenon.

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A familiar story

I have asked at multiple points in my time here on FTB whether those taking various anti-trans positions have bothered to read the material they claim to be criticizing. The answer, at this point, is most often “no,” but sadly ignorant cisgender editors of otherwise respectable media outlets continue to publish these dog awful jokes.

So how do they get away with it? Zinnia Jones explores that. Her answer–“through denialism.

This exercise, of searching outward from a given state of the world in order to map the many tendrils of its implications, can be a very efficient way of detecting errors, distortions, or outright nonsense. If you have an idea, does that idea imply anything about reality, or concretely connect to the world in any way? At which points does it come in contact with reality? Does it make testable predictions? Can it be disproven, and what would disprove it? What elements of the world changing would affect the validity of this idea?

The facts of the world generally don’t support transphobic arguments, and transphobes don’t really have the option of making robust arguments based on an honest assessment of the current state of our knowledge. They know this – they make use of this same technique of pondering counterfactuals. The difference is that they work backwards to fabricate an entirely new counter-reality, tailored to support their positions and vast enough that it can substitute for reality itself in a person’s mind. It’s called denialism: an entire ideological support system made to preserve a desired belief by rejecting the overwhelming evidence that would threaten this belief.

Denialism is wrongness with an infrastructure – ignorance with an armored shell, a whole fake world weaponized against the real world. Denialism can be observed in the various forms of “scientific” creationism, where facts of evolutionary biology and earth science contradicting certain readings of the Bible are targeted for incompetent rebuttal by non-experts working for various conservative Christian “institutes” of “creation research”, which is not a real field. It can be seen in climate change denialism, where the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming is discarded in favor of fringe nitpicking, oversimplified misunderstandings of the science, and so very many conspiracy theories.

Some forms of transphobia have grown so well-organized that they, too, now constitute an instance of denialism. Diethelm and McKee (2009) describe five core themes of the phenomenon of denialism:

Jones outlines the following themes of denialism, and just to help support her point, I’ll link to some of the works I’ve examined to corroborate them.

  1. Allegations of conspiracy are used as grounds to dismiss a well-established and consistent body of science.
  2. Fake experts are presented to lend apparent authority to denialist claims.
  3. Denialists will be extremely selective when it comes to the evidence and facts that they accept as valid.
  4. Standards for scientific findings are shifted in order to be practically impossible to meet.
  5. Shoddy arguments, fallacies, and deliberate misrepresentations are deployed to mislead the public.

As Jones concludes, if the factual arguments for transphobia existed, transphobes would just use them. Instead a heavy reliance on lies fiction gets them where they want to be.


Glenn T. Stanton didn’t read That Fucking Swedish Study either

It’s back! I said I was serious when I said I could predict which doctors transantagonists would quote (or in the case of Cecilia Dhejne, misquote).

Me on November 14th, 2016: Five years later and they still haven’t read That Fucking Swedish Study.

Error #1: The study found that gender affirmation increased/didn’t reduce rates of suicide, therefore gender affirmation is ineffective/harmful.

The overall mortality for sex-reassigned persons was higher during follow-up (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 1.8–4.3) than for controls of the same birth sex, particularly death from suicide (aHR 19.1; 95% CI 5.8–62.9). Sex-reassigned persons also had an increased risk for suicide attempts (aHR 4.9; 95% CI 2.9–8.5) and psychiatric inpatient care (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 2.0–3.9).

“For controls of the same birth sex” ought to be printed on a giant neon billboard, as that unfathomably important comparison is lost in this error.

In other words, this only supports that trans people, even if they access gender affirmative care, are a higher risk of suicide than cisgender controls. Indeed, the study itself points out that it is not a comparison between trans folk who have and haven’t received affirmation care:

It is therefore important to note that the current study is only informative with respect to transsexual persons health after sex reassignment; no inferences can be drawn as to the effectiveness of sex reassignment as a treatment for transsexualism. In other words, the results should not be interpreted such as sex reassignment per se increases morbidity and mortality. Things might have been even worse without sex reassignment. As an analogy, similar studies have found increased somatic morbidity, suicide rate, and overall mortality for patients treated for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This is important information, but it does not follow that mood stabilizing treatment or antipsychotic treatment is the culprit.


That’s it. There isn’t some elaborate maze to guide you through, a slog of logical fallacies to hack apart as if their argument were the untamed wilds of an inner Brazilian jungle. They. Literally. Didn’t. Finish. Reading. The. Paper.

Glenn T. Stanton on April 4th, 2017:

A 2011 Swedish study, a long-term follow-up of men and women who underwent gender reassignment surgery, indicates that cutting bodies and administering hormonal treatments are not as ameliorative as many think.

Me on March 11th, 2017:

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Trans 101: Put Down the Map

[Note: This post was revised on August 7, 2018. You can find the previous version here.)

One common theme you’ll see throughout the work of some trans feminists is a distinct reluctance or distaste for ever broaching the topic of “Trans 101.” Asher explicitly says as much in his “Not Your Mom’s Trans 101” (which is officially recommended by me) when he says “Trying to teach a new perspective to the victims of this extremely aggressive brainwashing can be daunting.” Cristan Williams, whose work is exemplary within The Discourse, makes no explicit sentiment in this vein–but her Trans 101 is also enormous, and the lack of brevity is itself a message that we resist quick and easy reductions.

This is in my estimate because “trans” isn’t a 100-level topic. Embedded in the culture in which we live are many assumptions which often muddy The Discourse, rendering productive conversation impossible, causing countless instances of two people talking past each other. This does not mean that my attempt will be overly complex, but it’s probably not something that could be captured in a Twitter hashtag.

To bring us to the task at hand, we must first acknowledge a few guiding principles:

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It’s my blagaversary

Happy blagaversary everyone. It’s officially been one year since I started on FtB. In that time we’ve fact-checked an irritatingly popular documentary, picked rhetorical fights with clueless media pundits, rebutted a histrionic U of T professor (several times), reviewed some really bizarre political theatre in Alberta, blasted shitty journalists, skewered Canadian Blood Services enough that they flew me in to consult on their LGBTQ donor policy, and got published in a genn-yoo-ine paper.

Here’s the good news: I still love doing this, and I still have a lot of will to continue the long-form fact checking, debunking, and essay writing.

Here’s the bad news: This shit takes time, and I need to make a living. To that end, I want to ask two things of readers who think they’d like to support me.

  • Support The Establishment. They have smaller donation options as well as a store from which to buy swag! Although several publications have given me tentative acceptance for long-form work that I’ve taken to them, only The Establishment offered any kind of compensation. I’m not doing this shit for free, yo. (cough cough Huffington Post)
  • Consider supporting me through Patreon. To be confirmed soon–I had hoped to navigate the financial bureaucracy before March 14th, but alas, bureaucracy takes its sweet time. Look out for my Patreon announcement and consider chipping in as little as $3 USD/month to help make my Serious Business writing a reality.

At any rate, thank you all for your participation and support. I look forward to doing it again another year!