A misogynist by any other name would smell just as putrid

On August 10 earlier this year, I concluded that the weakly supported theory of autogynephilia (AGP) remains popular among a certain subset of sexologists because of its utility for dismissing trans women. A careful look at the methodology that produced the theory quickly demonstrates its fatal flaws, and yet the theory is, to this day, occasionally cited as a reason to dismiss a trans woman’s opinion as unreliable. In brief review, the theory posits that there are two (and only two) etiologies by which gender dysphoria is produced in trans women: The first, the bizarre and easily falsified notion that it is easier to be a trans woman than an effeminate gay man; the second, sexual arousal at the thought of oneself as possessing culturally female attributes. The former are confusingly named “homosexual,” (as in women attracted to men), the latter “heterosexual” (as in women attracted to women). Science!

Ray Blanchard was only able to propose this conclusion by ignoring vast portions of his data and framing his subjects as liars, thus rendering his theory unfalsifiable when tested with his own methodology. The theory, naturally, doesn’t pan out when investigated by Blanchard’s peers.

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Some concessions about Twitter

I still despise Twitter as a platform, principally because it refuses to do anything about its infestation of Nazi shitheels. Twitter has, through its inaction, become an inadvertent hotbed of white supremacist recruitment in the North American context. I imagine similar extreme views have gained traction as a result elsewhere in the world, for the same reason.

The only way I’m even able to use the problem at all is by subscribing to a user-made function called block lists, which are exactly what they say on the tin–a list of users defined by certain parameters who can be added to your personal block list. I have a “Deplorable Blocker” and a “TERF Blocker” active. Of course, the administrators of these lists are human, and therefore imperfect, so in order to access this platform at all, I have to contend with the possibility of false positives on my block list, and most of them seem to be minorities who were added because the block lists’ code can’t account for context. Slurs, for example, take on a very different meaning depend on how they’re used and who they’re used by, but if you’re coding a spider to pick up user handles of everyone with a slur in it, you’ll sweep up everyone without that context.

It’s very frustrating. Even as I make a few concessions, I am still pretty pissed at Twitter’s lethal incompetence.

However, there are two benefits I’m now willing to admit, even with these problems:

  1. Last time I had work published, the paper’s platform combined with FTB gave me a respectable view count in the 1000s within a week or so. Since my average FTB post attracts about 600 pairs of eyeballs, many of which share the material, I considered this a smashing success. Now with my most recent published paper shared on Twitter, it got 25,000 views in under eight hours. As a promotional tool, it’s extremely effective.
  2. Lots of minorities use Twitter to self-promote, and as a result I’ve widened my reading material to include a lot of perspectives & data that I would otherwise miss.

I still desperately want Twitter to recognise abuse and do something–literally anything–about it. The blocklists are an imperfect solution, because abusive shitheels tend to run astroturfing campaigns under new handles that can weasel around them, but I now see Twitter’s utility in promoting material. I’ve only used it for a few months and it’s become the biggest source of new and, more importantly, consistent readers.

Then again some of them might be Nazis, so. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

-Shiv

Oh, I have not self-flagellated sufficiently for The Cis, what monster am I

Back in the good old days of 2011 when Nazis were indisputably punchable and the President of the United States did not issue orders via Twitter, a fellow by the name of Paul Elam launched a website called “Register Her.” It was a domain dedicated to publishing the photographs, home addresses, phone numbers, routes to work and/or any other personal information folks could acquire–a practice commonly called “doxxing”–of women who have caused “significant harm to innocent individuals.” Alongside convicted female sex offenders and murderers were… women whose sexual assault allegations were defeated in court. Most feminists would recognize the problems immediately: How there exists a gap between morality and legality; how courts must convict with evidence that proves the defendant performed the deed “beyond all reasonable doubt;” how an acquittal doesn’t necessarily mean the action had not occurred. And that’s without taking into account the evidence that most law systems perform poorly when attempting to prosecute sexualized violence. The final, perhaps most critical detail, is that he wasn’t the sole contributor. His followers can and did propose their own profiles for the women who had, in their view, wronged them, and doxxing soon became a mainstay of online “men’s rights activism.” It became an assumption that if you were being filmed by MRAs, your face could end up on the darknet, and your details shortly thereafter.

Most people would agree, given this context, that if Paul Elam walks up to you with a video camera and you’re a woman, he’s engaging in an act of intimidation, because we know what he does with those images. Now the courts might say “it’s legal to film someone in public,” but, again, recalling our morality/legality gap, courts have also said upskirt photographs are legal too. Again, it’s not a particularly difficult analysis to perform–the law is behind most people’s conceptions for morality, so the argument “it’s legal” should be understood to be irrelevant when the actual discussion is ethics. It is, in essence, surrendering the argument altogether, though to those of an authoritarian bend it is convincing.

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TERFs and the Big Lie

If you can hold your breath long enough to read a few posts in a TERF forum, you find that a significant amount of energy is spent hand-wringing over every minute detail of trans women’s lives. They’ll frequently create threads obsessing over candid photographs, speculating wildly (using patriarchal psychosexual theories, in case you were under the illusion they’re interested in liberating women) about her sexual interests, over something as asinine as a trans woman leaning over a table to catch some dribble from the soup she’s eating.

Lately TERF twitter has been a-flutter over a video of a SUPER ULTRA VICIOUS ATTACK BY TRANSGENDERING MALES… in which Maria McLachlan, a British TERF, chokes out a trans teen for about a minute and a half before being punched. Rather remarkably, UK Media have been sharing McLachlan’s edit of the video (which, you know, also shows her choking this teen) and they’re citing it as evidence of… [CW: TERF bullshit] “trans male” violence…???

Apparently it’s impolite to not pass out when being choked in the United Kingdom.

It’s a page from the patriarchy playbook: Deny deny deny. Deny it to their face. Deny it without hesitation. Deny it repeatedly. The more ambitious the lie, the better. And I can’t think of a lie much more ambitious than saying being choked by someone constitutes an act of violence.

What I was a little bit unprepared for was how readily UK Media pushed the TERF narrative.

1) Transgender people defending themselves against violent attack by TERFs is now ‘condemned’ by Stonewall. Fuck. Cis. Gay. People. Fuck them. It is profoundly telling how easily trans people get thrown under the bus when the Gay Inc.’s respectability machine is threatened. Trans people must just take this shit now? No. Fuck you. You’re just as bad as the fucking TERFs and Nazis.

2) Transgender people defending themselves against physical attack is ‘retaliation’? This is a fantastic example of the intellectual dishonesty of cis white people. Defending ourselves shouldn’t be framed as some sort of point we’re making. We’re not ‘retaliating’, we’re not engaged in ‘revenge’, this isn’t some sort of philosophical exercise we’re contemplating, we’re trying to survive physical attacks by violent and hateful bigots.

3) As @nonbinarygxd on Twitter says: “Ummm…. this ahistorical liberal nonsense is treacherous. Newsflash, violence in the hands of the oppressed vs. oppressors is not the same.” [2]Of course forgetting history is the first thing that happens when a group started by trans women of colour is taken over by white cis men. It is a profound act of privilege and ignorance to pretend that Stonewall was born out of “pacifism” when queer people were literally beaten up, jailed, and killed so you can have your wedding cake. As @_hoemo on Twitter says: “…….so…what the hell do you think Stonewall was? A peaceful talk over tea and orgies?” [3]

etc. etc. Read more here.

-Shiv

Bad survivor

Whenever “call out culture” is critiqued I typically approach the piece with skepticism–it’s a term so loosely used to the point of being useless at this point, and I just want people to define their terms precisely. Regardless of what we actually call it, this piece is about non-state methods of community policing, and has some valuable observations on how messy the process can be:

Content Notice: Abuse, threats of violence.

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Signal boosting: “The guards were organized criminals”

Concern over the treatment of inmates is generally my litmus test for how thought-out someone is with the concept of social justice. They’re an incredibly easy group to demonize–hell, even being accused is all it takes for some juries to condemn some defendants–and once that work is done, otherwise knowledgeable people can fumble and overlook the human rights abuses. Often the temptation is to immediately think of the unrepentant serial criminals, especially the violent ones, rather than appreciating that a wide range of individuals are imprisoned for a wide range of activities, some of which have relatively low social cost.

Even so, I have objected to the mistreatment of high-profile murderers in my local prisons because I have good reason to believe it doesn’t stop there.

Susan Ashline, on behalf of an inmate named Jon Fontaine, posted Fontaine’s writings on his lawsuit against the prison that housed him. What’s quite remarkable is that Fontaine screencapped his former guards’ public Facebook postings, which actually helps him corroborate some of his accusations.

Over the past four years, I’ve communicated with a few dozen people by mail, most wanting to know what prison is like. I’d tell them if they’ve seen any “reality” shows about prison, New York prisons are nothing like that. There is no professionalism, no respect. I’d write them, “They literally put unconvicted criminals in charge and let them do anything they want. It’s legal organized crime.”

I’d go on and list all the things officers do, from singular assault to gang assault, murder, rape, planting weapons and drugs, selling weapons and drugs, extortion, and more.

Some believe me, some don’t.

If the public isn’t convinced by the criminal prosecutions now that the Office of Special Investigations was formed to replace the Inspector General’s Office (which was made up of former corrections officers);

If they’re not convinced by the federal charges brought by the US Attorney General’s Office, which stated brutality in New York’s prisons has reached critical levels;

If they’re not convinced by the tens of millions of dollars New York pays out each year to settle lawsuits brought by inmates;

Just look at the corrections officers’ own public statements. They’re playing their positions.

Many thanks to those officers for contributing to my credibility.

Read more about it here.

Community growing pains

A lot of my long-form work is sitting incomplete since I’ve been spending the past couple weeks with my boots on the ground. March on! Edmonton, the successor to the Women’s March (an American incorporated “Women’s March Canada,” because nothing says “intersectionality” like embracing your inner capitalist scum), had a town hall and I’ve been networking with various community organizers in a bid to coalition-form for the 2019 provincial election and 2020 federal election. It’s a ragtag bunch of misfits, and we’ll see how it goes.

In the mean time, my palm has been glued to my forehead in some of the most migraine-inducing nonsense I’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with. Edmonton’s BDSM scene is going through some growing pains and it is neatly cleft in twain along an aggravating but not surprising fault line: Consent. There’s my peeps, who are principally concerned with organizing around sexual ethics, and the other peeps, who are literally complaining that our spaces have rules and standards.

Maddening. Utterly maddening that it’s 2017 and people are still trying to pretend that sexual ethics is difficult. I seriously do not have any respect for this debate anymore. We live in a culture that provides a fertile ground for honing sexual predation as a technique, why in the everloving fuck of Dog would you create a space that is especially vulnerable (lots of naked people high on adrenaline) and not police the shit out of it?

Answer? Some of them are the fucking predators. Others are just clueless. I don’t think the distinction matters to me. I’m trying to fight for an ethical BDSM space and that includes telling rape apologists they are unwelcome. But the sheer amount of resistance to a space that affirms bodily autonomy is not encouraging in a broader political landscape that increasingly targets minorities as disposable.

-Shiv

Signal boosting: Trans people shouldn’t have to be perfect

Alex DiFrancesco touches upon the observation that trans women with high visibility are held to ludicrous standards, and that these standards stifle perceptions of us as just ordinary flawed human beings:

None of this made it into the final piece. I am shaking just writing these things now. Because I know, as a trans person, as someone writing about trans people, as an ally to trans women, that I am never ever supposed to publicly suggest something that could make any trans person look bad. I am never supposed to write that I was abused by a trans woman, because this is exactly what the people who want to see all trans people disappear off the face of the earth want everyone else to think is true of all trans women. I am never to suggest that a vulnerable population (which I am part of) could be anything less than perfect.

For the record, the idea that a relationship with one abusive trans woman validates all the horrible things trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) and others say about trans women is absurd. Were a cis person, male or female, to be abusive in a relationship, no one would ever take that to mean all cis people are abusive.

My ex-wife is one person out of the large community of trans people I know and love. The wonderful people I know among this community, most of them transgender women, have taken me into their homes when I was homeless, supported me mentally and emotionally when I was at my worst, helped me find jobs, and fed me when I was hungry and broke. They are people I turn to when I am unsure about my own often imperfect politics, or the many issues I myself have as a person. And yet the fear instilled by TERFs is so real that many trans writers, when telling their stories, feel we are not supposed to talk about anything that questions any trans person beyond the confines of our own community. Certainly not in venues for public or cis consumption.

You can read more about it and the silencing effect of TERF-perpetrated oppression has here.

-Shiv

I’ve asked and answered

Random musings from another nattering TERF cloud that recently bombarded my feed: “Just asking questions of gender identity” was one of the ways this particular TERF piece of shit cloaked her bigotry.

So, thing is, gender variance as a concept is already being investigated. By researchers, not anonymous bloggers on the internet. Even I don’t perform original research, I merely propagate its findings in the naive hope that facts will eventually enter this fucking conversation. But when TERFs say this, they don’t mean they’re investigating gender variance as a concept–more of them would be actual researchers if that were the case, and they’d have more than one citation that will inevitably be That Fucking Swedish Study–they mean they have taken it upon themselves to question my questioning as to how it applies to me.

Frankly I just want to stop and ask them how many times they think I’ve wrestled with this question. Did I come to terms with my gender by popping up one morning and saying “oh yeah, this’ll be a laugh”? Or was this a process delayed unnecessarily for 15 years between the first inkling that something was wrong and having the vocabulary to articulate myself because the very culture I live in treats my existence as some kind of baby-eating taboo?

It’s fucking offensive, and that’s not a word I use a lot, to tell me I haven’t thought this through. Every day. Every morning. At most finding distractions for half an hour to get my mind off it. I’ve spent more time questioning my life than living it, so the sheer arrogance of some self-appointed fucktwit spouting off a bunch of invasive and uninvited psychosexual nonsense just blinds me with anger. Don’t you dare fucking tell me I could’ve found better ways to cope when those “other ways” would involve me drowning myself in drugs and pain all because you misapprehended Judith Butler in first year women’s studies. Like if I say I don’t want any motherfucking blueberries, that doesn’t mean I want you to keep giving me blueberry pie or blueberry tarts or blueberry salads until we find a format I might like, it means don’t. give. me. blueberries.

Fuck me I’m so done with TERF bullshit. I think after I get these projects up I’mma do a couple weeks of something else.

-Shiv

Journalist or Activist?

Borrowing from the tradition of anti-intellectualism, activist is now a snarl word in journalism, too. 

As a gender variant person who writes on gender variant issues, I am routinely accused of being “political” in my writings.* What I find utterly bizarre is that I label any contextualizations of my personal experiences as personal experiences. In the absence of that label, I stand by that work on the basis of its adherence to evidence.

I am utterly baffled as to how drawing upon sources to make statements supported by scientific consensus is now a “political” activity. Let me be perfectly clear: If evidence-based argument is “activism” rather than a strain of politics, then by definition your politics don’t include facts. This is ultimately what has alienated me from mainstream media, this strange and frankly broken idea that all opinions are equivalent, even when one is bullshit from start to finish and the other is well-researched. It has groomed an entire generation of self-appointed experts who quite frankly are amazing at wasting my fucking time.

Of course I’m hardly the first person to encounter this and I doubt I’ll be the last. Stephen Colbert (apparently) called this out back in the era of Bush Jr.–“reality has an anti-conservative bias”–but it’s quite another thing to actually experience it first hand. When it comes to gender variance, the bottom line is that enough people consider themselves equipped to participate in the conversation, spouting off shit that’s already been refuted forwards and backwards, or more commonly not bothering with citations at all.

My politics require facts. I will not be made to apologize for that.

-Shiv


 

*Even the, uh, political posts.