I know what the antis will say before they’ve even said it

It’s become something of a running joke in the tran hivemind:

Kent Host: Hi, and welcome. Today, we’re discussing transgenderismology. We’ve got our experts, Miranda Nimby from Concerned Mums Who Have Never Met A Trans Person, and Professor Doctor Barry Scienceman (area of expertise: Astrophysics).

Miranda: Thanks, Kent,

Barry: Great to be here.

Kent Host: So, Miranda, why don’t you start by outlining your concerns?

Miranda: Well, Kent, I just think that all these things are moving too fast. When I was a child, I loved reading about George in the Famous Five. But did you know that if George existed today, she would be forcibly bundled off to a Gender Reassignment Camp, force-fed hormones, sterilised, have a beard superglued to her face, and then indoctrinated into the patriarchy?

Kent Host: Wow, that sounds dreadful. Barry, what’s your perspective?

Barry: Well, as an astrophysicist, this isn’t really a subject I’m qualified to comment on. But if I were to wildly speculate, I would assume that this is the end of civilisation as we know it, and a probable contributor to the heat death of the universe.

Kent Host: So if I understand you correctly, the existence of trans people could be the end of life on Earth?

Miranda: Absolutely.

Barry: That is a very strong possibility.

Read more here.

-Shiv

AFAB trans women and the bog of eternal linguistic nihilism

Pizza is just a kind of very large cheese biscuit. An adequately large cheese biscuit is a pizza.

If you want to waste someone’s time in a debate, one of the best ways to do it is to hurl the balloon full of sticky goo we call linguistic nihilism at them. In terms of the value of the technique, I think my colleague Marcus characterizes it best: like “sneaking off the battlefield under cover of darkness.” Other suitable metaphors include “stepping into quicksand” or “navigating a quagmire.” If we imagine a debate to be a duel of swords, linguistic nihilism is not a technique of parrying or striking, but rather manoeuvring the opponent into knee-deep mud.

One iconic example of linguistic nihilism is captured in a low-stakes joke: “Hot pockets are a kind of sandwich.” The crux of the argument, not (typically) made with any seriousness, is that we can define a “sandwich” to possess certain attributes (e.g. a pair of bread slices with fillings in-between), and then label all things with those attributes “sandwiches.” Hot pockets, being quite literal bread products with cheese and meat stuffed in between, could arguably “be sandwiches.” But the vast majority of people reading the word “sandwich” probably don’t picture hot pockets. We can chase our tails all day as to whether or not we could argue that hot pockets are sandwiches, but it won’t change the fact that enough people, when polled, will picture distinct and different things when asked to imagine a hot pocket and a sandwich in their mind. The attributes of any given hot pocket and any given sandwich could all be described, but what those attributes mean is a linguistic and philosophical dispute, not an empirical one. There is no “essence of sandwich” one can detect in hot pockets to measure their sandwichness. What we call sandwiches is a negotiated, social process, meaning if it is suitable to all parties involved, we can decisively say one way or the other whether hot pockets are sandwiches, and then proceed with our discourse.

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They’re on to me!!!

Joe Miller and William Briggs apparently spoke on a Conservative radio show about a new brain study that has them in a tizzle. Now, brain studies which attempt to draw conclusions from “activity”–images where the exchange of oxygen are highlighted by pretty neon colours in the brain–are notoriously fickle. To me there have always been an indeterminate amount of dots to connect between x behaviour and y region of the brain being active during that behaviour. So this is less about the study, to which I am largely skeptical, and more about the hilarious and improbable panic displayed by Miller and Briggs:

Joe Miller and his guest William Briggs, a statistician and adjunct professor at Cornell University, had a long discussion about the recent UCLA study. According to a release by the University of York, the study sought to understand how the posterior medial frontal cortex influences ideology, specifically religion and nationalism.

Using transcranial magnets, the researchers were able target and temporarily shut down the region. Subjects were asked questions about death and to rate a negative essay about the United States they were told was written by an immigrant. The result of the magnetic destimulation of the area of the brain in question resulted in less belief in religion and greater acceptance of immigrants.

This prompted Briggs to fear that the study would lead to “eugenics” targeting conservatives.

Considering “religion” and “nationalism” are absolutely taught behaviours, there is no way to detect their presence in a newly fertilized zygote, and thus no way to terminate a zygote with these qualities (deemed, perhaps not unfairly, undesirable to progressives). So right away we’re off to a bad start.

“Basically what they’re doing is they’re trying to bring back eugenics even, in a way,” Briggs said, his voice wavering. “Because they’re identifying what they say are biological constituents for belief. Therefore they’re able to test for these biological constituents.”

This is a pretty stunning error. There is a much needed moment to slow down and define precisely what we mean by “biological.” Neurology forms because of biological constituents, yes, but it is influenced by its input from environment. It sounds like we’re stumbling down the nature/nurture distinction which desperately needs to be retired. It doesn’t really exist, because our nurture affects our nature (and frequently vice versa).

He worried that people might think he was joking or being paranoid.

“But no, this is exactly it,” he continued. “There was a story this week too.. that some employers are now asking for DNA samples, not just to detect potential medical maladies, but to look for these kind of character traits they think they have identified that make one a lesser person.”

I mean, as I said, causative mechanisms from “having a trait in DNA” to “having that trait’s phenotype” are far from a straight line. There is no way anyone with even basic genetics literacy would actually support this. While I imagine employers are trying to do this, it’s not immediately apparent why so-called liberals would favour it.

Then, here’s the bombshell:

Miller then hinted that the magnets may be used by transgender people against people of faith.

I don’t know if paranoid is my word of choice. “Improbable,” perhaps.

“The whole transgender crowd, they see their main opponent as being those of faith and so obviously they’re going to use any aggressive tactics they can to move forward that agenda,” Miller said. “This is still minority opinion though, right? In psychology and elsewhere?”

There it is folks. I’ve been doing it wrong the whole time. Screw fact-checking, consciousness raising, building community resilience, leafleting, campaigning, and education.

I’m using MAGNETS.

-Shiv

Spelling it out for Jesse Singal

On October 9, 2017, the CEO of a UK charity called Mermaids released a statement regarding her support of gender variant youth, reproduced below. Just a day later none other than Jesse Singal chimed in claiming that this supportive charity was not being roasted for saying the same thing he said. Now Jesse Singal is one of the regular subjects on this blog due to the combination of his wide reach and his stunning incompetence when it comes to covering trans issues. That he continues to be paid to write on them is certainly a detriment to my health.

The particularly annoying thing about Jesse Singal’s type of wrong is that there are layers to it. I could just throw up my arms and say “no” but he makes an illustrative example of the overlapping assumptions most people carry with them while they are uninitiated on trans topics. So I’m feeling generous. Despite the fact that Jesse Singal is extremely unlikely to ever encounter these words or engage with them seriously on account of my “trans hysteria,” I’m going to spell it out for him.

Let’s start with the trans support charity called Mermaids. This is their October 9 statement, and we’re interested in the first paragraph. I’ve added the bold emphasis:

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The High and Holy Church of Both Sides preaches on gender variance

Crip Dyke has a stupendous analysis on the trainwreck calling itself “An Argument for a Liberal and Rational Approach to Transgender Rights and Inclusion.” Like Crip, I was made aware of the piece through Trav at Bi Any Means, as well as their article for Splice Today Also like Crip, I thought Trav was a bit mild when they describe the piece as “missing the mark.” Crip goes into detail about the blinkered arrogance required to style oneself rational whilst equivocating trans feminists and anti-trans hatemongers. Content notice for trans-antagonistic nonsense quoted & characterized by Crip for the purposes of criticism:

Take, for example, their second premise. They don’t actually quote anyone saying the things they suggest are believed by one “extreme” side. I have no doubt that they could find such quotes if they wanted, but it still would not help them because they simply and utterly fail to show any evidence that they understand why there is such a divide between people who believe that some people are deluded about their genders and others believe the first group are horribly wrong.

Consider the feminists among those who belong (as much as anyone belongs) to anti-trans* faction described by the authors. While there are those who, more or less, would describe trans*-asserted gender identities as false (very few use “delusion”) do so because they believe that gender is sex and sex is gender. To produce sperm is to be male biologically, and I don’t know of any trans* persons who would contest that. The question is whether this is all that it takes to make one a man. There are trans* advocates (yes on freethoughblogs, even) who use the word female to describe trans* women and male to describe trans* men, but this is a considered position. It’s not an inability to understand that some people are born with uteruses. It’s stressing that the social relationships are primary and, since most of the time we don’t know what someone else’s genitals look like and nearly all the time we don’t have first hand chances to examine another’s chromosomes or genome, “male” should be used in a way similar to how “men” is used. It’s a position that is in part a reaction to the victimization of trans* people by non-trans* folk, and it does flow out of reasoning that finds past definitions of male and female inadequate, but it’s not a delusion.

What is on display is a disagreement about definitions, about what words mean and what they communicate (intentionally or not). You could find the most extreme anti-trans* feminists and the most extreme pro-trans* activists and if you got them to adopt a single definition for the purposes of communicating for a day, no one in the room would have trouble actually using the definition correctly. This isn’t about how trans* people are initially perceived. It’s about how they are categorized and how the socially-constructed categories of man and woman and male and female and trans (and many others) are defined. It’s about how people think these words are best used. Frankly, I’ve met many a trans*-exclusive radical feminist who demonstrated more knowledge of these important issues than Pluckrose and Lindsay, so I’m not sure what the authors use to justify thinking they have anything to contribute if they are not more informed than at least one of the factions that they consider to be ruining the possibilities for fruitful communication.

As I said in Crip’s thread: *chef finger kisses.*

Read more of Crip here or Trav here (or here).

Lastly the “High and Holy Church of Both Sides” is a term coined by American political commentator driftglass, who is, to put it mildly, exasperated with the Beltway’s capacity to equivocate Republican crimes against humanity with Democrat incompetence. I thought comparing “stop killing me” to “I want trans people to die” would be an apt application of the concept.

-Shiv

Edit October 17: I format html like a profeshunal.

Siobhan in The Establishment: How the Media’s Bullshit ‘Both Sides’ Punditry Harms Trans People

On May 15, 2017, a Medium user published an article to her personal handle arguing — among many other things — that the presence of trans women in women’s spaces constituted an act of aggression, and that the vocabulary proposed by trans men to describe themselves “erased” cis women.

Despite the rather extreme premises assumed in the piece, a feminist publication by the name of Athena Talks decided to pick it up shortly after it was posted, resulting in a second round of sharing among feminist outlets.

I am, unfortunately, rather used to having my mere presence likened to violence. Calling myself a feminist as a trans woman has meant that I’ve had to share spaces with people who argue, in all seriousness, that my health care is a conspiracy theory to eradicate gay people.

What I haven’t acclimatized to is the practice of abandoning any commitment to discovery or knowledge, something that seems distressingly widespread in media practices today. Because what Athena Talks did next also follows a well-established pattern: They published another article that was critical of the first piece, without any acknowledgement that the arguments previously presented were both based on inaccuracies and illogically constructed.


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At this point the anti-trans crowd isn’t shy about lying through their fucking teeth

Lydia Bilton (nor her editor, for that matter) couldn’t even make it one article without contradicting herself.

An expert gets it wrong? Do tell.

Journalism pro-tip:

The mom

is not

an expert

And frankly, she’s blaming the doctors because she didn’t follow their orders. That’s bad enough, if she wasn’t trying to “warn” people about the fucking healthcare regime that she deliberately defied.

Fuck off, 9News, and fuck you, Ali.

-Shiv

 

 

Seriously, the conveyor belt of transition is not a thing

Shortly after BBC did their dog-awful anti-trans hit piece on trans kids, I contacted a gender affirmative practitioner to hear from her directly as to what her clinic’s treatment methodology is like. For those of you just coming in, “gender affirmation” is a method of clinically approaching gender questioning, gender role non-conforming, and transgender youth in a way that is more likely to produce resilient adults for all three populations. They’ll all have differing needs, but one of the biggest differences between this practice and the gatekeeping systems of, for example, Kenneth Zucker, is the abandonment of “Doctor Knows Best.” The client leads the way, the clinician listens rather than interrogates.

As Dr. Ehrensaft explains, gender role non-conforming children mostly need counselling to deal with the inevitable bullying, but there is no inherent pathology to non-conformance–nothing needs to be “fixed,” and there is no intervention except for the effects of bullying. Gender questioning children may need vocabulary and informed consent on what their range of options are to help them explicitly articulate their internal goings-on. Minors who have persistently and insistently identified with a gender not in correspondence with their assigned sex are given the option of puberty blocking and hormone replacements. For these populations (questioning, insistently transgender) the intervention may be halted or stopped altogether.

You wouldn’t know that, though, if you only got your information from Jesse Singal or Sarah Ditum, who have hand-wrung and grieved over all the cis children being erroneously transed at the first sign of nonconforming behaviour. This isn’t a thing that happens but don’t let that stop your imagination.

Zinnia Jones reviews some of the literature on puberty blocking.

But in recent years, some anti-trans advocates have claimed that puberty blockers should not be considered reversible, alleging that all youth who take blockers will inevitably go on to transition. Others have speculated that these medications may in some way affect the natural development of a child’s gender identity, making it more likely that they will transition when they otherwise would not have done so. Michelle Cretella, president of the transphobic American College of Pediatricians activist group, has asserted that “There are no cases in the scientific literature of gender-dysphoric children discontinuing blockers”, and Paul McHugh coauthored an article in The New Atlantis making this developmental argument at length:

The lack of data on gender dysphoria patients who have withdrawn from puberty-suppressing regimens and resumed normal development raises again the very important question of whether these treatments contribute to the persistence of gender dysphoria in patients who might otherwise have resolved their feelings of being the opposite sex. As noted above, most children who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria will eventually stop identifying as the opposite sex. The fact that cross-gender identification apparently persists for virtually all who undergo puberty suppression could indicate that these treatments increase the likelihood that the patients’ cross-gender identification will persist.

Such concerns are heavy on questions, but short on answers. As it turns out, these claims range from unsupported to outright false, and have already been extensively addressed in the literature on treatment of trans youth.

I’m really not trying to be melodramatic here, but seriously, the anti-trans crowd lies. A lot.

Read more here.

-Shiv

Your editorial guidelines on trans people need major surgery

The few corporate media outlets out there that are even slightly not-hostile to trans people routinely make egregious editorial choices when they write about trans people. Publishing our prior names (especially if we were not a public figure before we transitioned), objectifying our bodies, pigeon-holing us, focusing on surgery (especially when the trans person’s personal life is irrelevant to the article–e.g. Chelsea Manning), not respecting our boundaries or requests, not consulting us on how we wish to be referred to pre-transition, or just in general not consulting us at all as participants in your piece–this is just a short example of the ways these marginally not-hostile outlets dehumanize their trans subjects, even if their slant is intended to be sympathetic.

So here’s another editorial guideline. GLAAD has one but doesn’t explain why its provisions are important. The Radical Copyeditor spells it out for you.

The purpose of this guide is to help people of all gender identities and experiences practice more care toward those on the margins. Trans people must be understood as the authorities on ourselves and the language used to describe us. Not only does this mean that cisgender (non-trans) people need to practice humility and care toward trans people, but it also means that trans people—particularly those with educational, financial, and/or racial privilege—need to practice humility and care toward other trans people—particularly those who are folks of color, low-income, less educated, and/or elders.

If you are trans, I highly recommend inoculating yourself against the temptation to police other trans people’s language by reading “words don’t kill people, people kill words” and the glossary introduction “there is no perfect word,” both by Julia Serano, as well as “I Was Recently Informed I’m Not a Transsexual,” by Riki Wilchins.

A final note: Like all style guides, what follows is about language usage, not definitions; for a comprehensive glossary of transgender-related terminology, check out this one from Julia Serano.

The short of it is: Actually ask us what language we use to refer to ourselves. Not so difficult.

Read more here.

-Shiv

 

And then what?

Suppose I were to accept one of the common rallying cries of trans-antagonism: “Trans is a mental disorder.” I can completely sidestep the semantics of what should qualify as a “disorder” simply by replying “Sure. And then what?” There’s never any clear roadmap. “Therapy.” Well I went to therapy. That’s why I transitioned. >_>

It’s a simple and superficially appealing line of reasoning. It’s also completely wrong.

Those making this argument seek to apply the expertise of psychology and psychiatry – yet they wholly disregard the expert consensus of those fields on the treatment of gender dysphoria. The American Psychiatric Association, publisher of the DSM, stated in a 2012 report that “Overall, the evidence suggests that sex reassignment is associated with an improved sense of well-being in the majority of cases”, and “Gender transition can foster social adjustment, improve self-esteem, and relieve the anxiety and mood symptoms that can accompany gender dysphoria” (Byne et al., 2012). In a position statement, the APA concluded that transition is beneficial and medically necessary (Drescher, Haller, & APA Caucus of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Psychiatrists, 2012):

Zinnia Jones discusses more here.

-Shiv