Comments Policy

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.




Why I need Pride, 2016


It’s the actual Pride Parade today, although in my city “Pride” is about a week and a half long and includes all kinds of Queer events, not just the parade.

I do one of these each year, although this is the first time I’ve had a platform like FtB to do it on.

So, discrimination is bad, right? Most people will pay lip service to that idea. Discrimination bad. *nods along*

But what does discrimination look like?

Generally speaking, discrimination occurs in three areas: individually, institutionally, and structurally.

If you live in Canada, you’ve probably heard of Bill C-16, which in recent memory is the government’s second attempt to explicitly protect trans rights at the federal level (thereby obligating the provinces to follow suit). That means discrimination’s over!!

…Except, not really. First of all, the Bill hasn’t passed yet. The Senate is still stacked with Conservatives, including Don Plett, who was responsible for killing the last Bill. Even if it passes in Parliament, it still has to go through them before it goes to the Queen for rubber stamping Royal Assent.

Second, those pesky levels of discrimination come into play anytime a minority’s rights become enshrined in law. Institutional discrimination, where minority rights are either omitted, unaddressed, or actively antagonized, is what ends when a government declares that this is unacceptable and follows through with changes in its own policy.

And if everyone subscribed to their various institutions flawlessly and without question, that would be the end of discrimination. However, there’s still structural discrimination (where minorities receive unintentional fallout as a result of a law that never had them in mind) and also personal discrimination.

Thirdly, just because something is illegal, doesn’t mean it never happens.

Unfortunately, there are many sectors of life where opportunities for personal discrimination can occur. An employer can still secretly dismiss a candidate for being trans, as long as they pay lip service to something about merit. A landlord can still evict a tenant for being trans, as long as they find some slight to exaggerate as a violation of the tenancy agreement. A teen can still lose their home if their parents decide to kick them out. People legitimately feel justified in murdering trans women in what would otherwise be recognized as barbaric “honour killing.” That murder has always been a crime and, with Bill C-16, a hate crime, is small consolation to my deceased sisters and brothers.

So, how much of this or this goes away because of Bill C-16?

Sixty-three percent (63%) of our participants experienced serious acts of discrimination—events that would have a major impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally. Participants reported that they had faced:

  • Loss of job due to bias
  • Eviction due to bias
  • School bullying/harassment so bad the respondent had to drop out
  • Teacher bullying
  • Physical assault due to bias
  • Sexual assault due to bias
  • Homelessness because of gender identity/expression
  • Loss of relationship with partner or children due to gender identity/expression
  • Denial of medical service due to bias
  • Incarceration due to gender identity/expression

“Despite being very well educated, we found that trans people have a median income of $15,000* a year,” she said.

*$15,000 CDN/year. To put that in perspective, the general population for non-family adults had a median income of $23,000 CDN/year in 2013.

You know which ones I’ve endured? School bullying, loss of job and sexual assault. I couldn’t get the latter prosecuted as a regular crime, never mind a hate crime, so Bill C-16 offers me no vindication on that front. As for the loss of job, it’s laughably easy for an employer to exaggerate the faults of an employee and fire them under the pretense of performance. Or not hire them in the first place for the same reason.

Change isn’t going to occur until people start changing their minds about the trans community, until they understand the needs unique to our lived experiences, until they understand the poison that informs so much of our discrimination on a personal level. People need to acknowledge and yes–check–their privilege, because without doing so explicitly they will find their opinions to be subconsciously informed by prejudice. Some of these people will have institutional power over me. Some of them will know to pay lip service to the areas (skill, merit) where it’s legal to discriminate. Those people will not have their mind changed by Bill C-16 alone.

So, this year? I need Pride because the people opposing Bill C-16 are trying to paint me as a predator despite the fact that I’m several orders of magnitude more likely to be a victim at cis hands than their cis, gender conforming girls. I need Pride because there are wiseguys picking up on the cues offered up by the likes of Governor McCrory and bringing that bullshit here. I need Pride because trans activists are being assassinated, whose murderers are treated to judicial slaps on the wrist, whose deaths broadcast a message: “you are more expendable than a man’s so-called honour.”

Most of all, I need Pride because there are a lot of people, including ones in Pride, who don’t seem to give a shit about these problems. The cis gays might be ready to just throw a massive week-long party, but I’ve still got swords to sharpen and battles to fight. I can celebrate that Bill C-16 has been introduced while also acknowledging that it has a long way to go before becoming law, and even if it passes, that informal social change is still necessary for integrating trans people into broader society.

It's a visual pun. "Leather" and "Pride." GET IT?

It’s a visual pun. “Leather” and “Pride.” GET IT?

That’s why me and my conditioned booties need Pride this year.


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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Vague rhetoric and female “spaces”

Siobhan — then you agree that cis women have a right to their own spaces, that trans women have privileges from having been brought up as boys, and that cis women have a right to talk about how their female bodies shape their experiences of oppression?

This is an extremely common tactic I see deployed in criticisms of my work. I don’t know if the people using it realize just how loaded some of those word choices are, and I wanted to pause a moment to unpack that.

For starters, a lot depends on what exactly we mean by the word “spaces.” Are we talking about a Sunday scrap-booking club or a crisis shelter? The differences between the two touch many areas–legal, practical, ethical, just to name a few. A private interest group needs absolutely no justification for setting its boundaries. In addition, no self-respecting trans person wants to curry favour with people who treat them like they’re untouchables. But when trans women (and it’s usually trans women who are the subjects of exclusion) talk about accessing “female” spaces, we’re not typically signing up to be the subjects of mockery at a poncy tea party. We’re usually talking about accessing the same life-or-death safeguards as cis women, those precarious flotation devices tossed overboard in a desperate bid to keep the drowning above water.

The problem is when a service that typically falls under “public accommodations” is treated as if it were legally and morally equivalent to a private interest group. The standard sleight-of-hand for the trans-exclusionary type is to drop a byline about “supporting trans resources” but unsurprisingly, not a single “womyn-born-womyn” radfem cent ever actually goes to trans-specific startups for that exact purpose. If a particular jurisdiction has few or no resources to help trans women in crisis, I feel fully justified in interrogating the motives of trans-exclusion from the existing services. It is, after all, directly and immediately contributing to the catastrophic civil and health outcomes of trans people.

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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.


Silver-lining-in-genocide Senator Lynn Beyak strikes again

Apparently not satisfied with the concentration of garbage water that is her existence, Lynn Beyak decided to one-up her prior remarks about calling on the survivors of colonial genocide to seek out the silver lining from their circumstances, by insisting the LGBT Community wouldn’t have to suffer discrimination if only we stuffed ourselves back in the closet.

During a debate over a trans human rights law.

Last week, Beyak, during a debate on C-16, the transgender rights bill, went on a bizarre rant bemoaning that the radicals of the gay movement expect “all of Canada to be their closet.”

I–what? What? I can’t.

She continued to pine for a happier time when folks like her simply didn’t have to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that gay people exist because they weren’t flaunting their homosexuality in her face.

“By living in quiet dignity, they have never had to face any kind of discrimination or uncomfortable feelings,” she said, without a hint of irony. “I would assert that is how the vast majority of the LGBT community feels.”

“Quiet dignity.” That’s some real good Christian doublespeak you’ve got going there.

Fuck me. When did we start importing neanderthals from Texas? Get this lady all the chairs so she can sit the fuck down.


Dear Sarah Ditum: Scapegoating trans women is never the answer, either

I’m gettin’ real tired of tedious “gender critical” horseshit.

The latest flapping firehose to hit my feed on this topic is Sarah Ditum in a grating piece titled “Scapegoating feminists is never the answer.” Although Ditum links to a specific piece she is responding to–which is more than I can say of PBog–she also interjects a number of assertions important to her argument without citations, leaving me to guess at whatever the fuck she’s referring to.

Because if there’s anything a convincing argument should do, folks, it’s leave you guessing.

Content Notice for the usual trans-antagonistic garbage plus t-word reclamation.

The piece Ditum responds to isn’t a particularly strong argument either, “Trans respect, not transphobia.” And if I’m cheesed off at Ditum for the stunning lack of citations, I have to at least level the same criticism at this author, Emily Brothers. It is, in short, a post appealing to UK’s Labour Party to take up the mantle of Gender & Sexual minority rights as a portion of its labour empowerment mission. But today’s post isn’t really about the inadequacies of Brothers’ appeal to Labour*, it’s about Ditum’s hamfisted response to it.

Ditum begins:

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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!


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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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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