Media debates

Juno Roche reflects on the sustained onslaught of misinformation published lately about trans people, especially in the British press. While I’m a bit dubious as to how their reflection concludes, I thought I’d still share it:

Then something changed. People started to ask more questions about the spaces in which trans bodies, they felt, might collide with theirs, with others, with cis bodies. How would we manage the spaces in which we might mix; toilets, changing rooms, prisons, swimming pools, marriages, beds, dating? The question of how would we keep these spaces safe started to become a narrative – first innocent and then toxic.

Often I’d sit in a room discussing trans pupils and their aspirations, and the toilet issue would come up. Somehow the trans pupil, often between the ages of eight and 15, would change from being brave and wonderful, to being perceived as a danger – a potential rapist, aggressor, abuser or assaulter. I defended these pupils, feeling that people would realise the spite inherent in their often hysterical unfounded fears. And so I would bat back and forth: the facts we had that there had been no cases of trans children abusing others, in fact quite the opposite; trans kids being bullied right across schools; trans kids dropping out of school and becoming fearful non-attendees. I felt that if I presented the truth and a sense of moral reality around these brave kids, then there would be an end to the panic and a sense and sensibility would be restored. But then the insidious concept of ‘trans femme as dishonest male danger’ started to grow legs and leave the playground, the myth splashed across the news.

It only takes one voice to make that happen.

Read more here.

-Shiv

Friendly fire

I mentioned in my last “real” published piece that a lot of self-declared left leaning media outlets were seriously shitting the bed in their coverage of trans issues. As it turns out, one of the mother’s anonymously interviewed for one of the pieces I criticized–Katie Herzog’s “They Were Transgender–Until they Weren’t”–has echoed many of my concerns.

I didn’t pull this two-in-one-hundred ratio out of nowhere. I got it from the articles themselves, which both quote a Swedish study in which just 2.2 percent of transgender people experienced “transition regret.” That means the other 97.8 percent didn’t. Herzog cites a therapist who had worked with transgender clients for more than 20 years, who “knows of only one client who fully transitioned and then later detransitioned.” (Let me just restate that: One client in twenty years.) The program manager of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Gender Clinic told Herzog that they have “never had a patient fully transition and then transition back.” (Never? Never.) And both articles point out that the number of people who regret their nose jobs is eight times greater than transgender people who regret their medical transitions. It’s actually kind of bizarre how these authors carry on about the perils of transition while simultaneously citing statistics and quoting experts that illustrate the rarity of both transition regret and detransition.

Perhap the most troubling feature of both of these articles is that they are, strictly speaking, largely “true” (with the notable exception of the bogus 66-80 percent statistic). Yes, some people change their minds. Yes, peer pressure exists. Yes, transition is not without its risks and complications. These are all important points to make. What’s wrong here is that the choices the authors have made about what to include and not to include add up to a highly misleading whole, one that makes transition look a lot scarier and more controversial than it actually is. When you’re telling a story, everything hangs on which details you include and which ones you leave out. For example, Herzog and McCann both highlight the potential health risks of taking cross-hormones, but make no mention of the far greater health risks that transgender people face: The widespread lack of access to any kind of quality medical care, let alone health care that is responsive to the particular needs of transgender patients. They also makes no mention of the alarmingly high rate of suicide attempts among trans people (upwards of 40 percent; but this rate goes down when people are able to transition). I’d call suicide a pretty significant health risk, wouldn’t you? Nor do either of them mention the fact that research shows children who transition exhibit levels of psychological health indistinguishable from their cisgender peers. In pieces that purport to be represent balanced presentations of the pros and cons of supporting the transition of young people, surely this kind of information merits inclusion, no?

It’s a long read (cis journalists come up with a lot of bullshit!), but there is more here.

-Shiv

“Ridiculous straight panic” is my new band name

Take it away, Samantha Allen:

Remember how I joked that that there aren’t enough of us—something like 1.4 million transgender people in the United States—to go around? Our rarity also makes the internet a lifeline for us—just as it is for any other minority—allowing us to connect with each other across great distances and feel less alone.

So it’s especially unfortunate that we can’t talk about a vast swath of human experience without being surveilled by people who are obsessed with hating us.

Those haters act as if we’re complaining that no one wants us when what we’re really complaining about—more often than not—is that the people who do want us can’t seem to be chill about it.

The same survey that found that 27 percent of Americans wouldn’t be friends with a transgender person also found that four percent of Americans said that they had been on a date with a transgender person in the last year.

Considering that just 0.3 percent of the population is estimated to be transgender, that is staggering. Unless there’s a small handful of transgender people who are cleaning up while everyone else stays home, it means that a great number of us are dating. But tellingly, the survey also found that over 25 percent of people wouldn’t tell anyone if they did have sex with a transgender person.

The fact that transgender people are desirable is one of society’s worst kept secrets. And people are still trying to keep that a secret because they’re worried what other people would think about them if they slept with us.

I’m so over this panic, too.

Read more here.

-Shiv

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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Speaking different languages

Yesterday I recommended a humorous and justifiably salty piece by Sex, Drugs, and Mental Health regarding the predictability of anti-trans claims. Today I want to switch modes to one of their more serious recent pieces about the problem of ignorance. The author writes a good blag:

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Social constructionism in sex

My inestimable colleague Crip Dyke reminded me that I’ve never justified the vocabulary I use in my writings on trans issues. In her post, “Every Other Trans Person is Wrong,” she explains that consensus is seldom achieved among minority communities, and yet this does not excuse inaction in the face of oppression on the part of majorities. It’s true–I couldn’t possibly hope to wrangle in the entirety of all trans people on the planet, but she is correct when she writes elsewhere that my word choices on trans issues are deliberate and calculated to achieve specific ends, despite the lack of universal agreement among those for whom the terms may apply. So today I’d like to show my work and demonstrate that calculation. I can’t form The Official Consensus of Teh Trans, but if you understand why I use the words that I do, you’ll be better equipped to respond to differences of opinion within the trans community, and thus the lack of apparent consensus may be less intimidating in your wish to materialize your good will towards trans folk into substantive action. (This post obviously assumes you have that good will. If you don’t, that’s a tirade for another day.)

Content Notice: I am going to invoke cissexism and endosex supremacy specifically as a means to discuss it. In addition there is a sex ed component where I show variations in genitalia in a non-sexualized fashion, but in our sadly unenlightened society that is nonetheless NSFW.

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Autogynephilia: A method of character assassination, not a scientific theory

Content Notice: Trans-antagonistic nonsense of many varieties.

Miranda Yardley has, much to my despair, started clogging the “transgender” tag on Medium, which is one of many ways I try to track what is being discussed about gender variance. For those of you who don’t know her–congratulations, count yourself lucky–she’s a self-described “transsexual male” who has politically aligned herself with a group of people who gleefully argue for her own subordination. She gallivants about the United Kingdom, coasting in on the benefits hard won for her by trans activism, all while arguing how harmful trans activism is. It’s the sort of hypocritical blinkered nonsense you typically see from the forced-birther movement, who often access the very services they protest. She is, basically, a British Blaire White, carving out a niche in profiting from telling the trans-suspicious what they want to hear while being simultaneously trans. This includes her latest invocation of one of the anti-trans types’ favourite cudgel: Autogynephilia, an idea (calling it a “theory” would be an insult to science) promoted by Dr. Ray “transsexuals will sort themselves out later” Blanchard.

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“Biological male”

It takes a lot for me to endorse a Twitter thread, mostly because if your message takes more than one tweet I think you should just get a blog. Still, Zinnia Jones has made an argument for why insistence on labeling trans women “biological males” has troubling ethical implications, aside from the overly reductionist interpretation of science.

(Click on the embedded tweet to view the thread).

-Shiv

This is what transmisogyny looks like

When a Twitter user at the handle afroSHIRL requested a voluntary sterilization, she was told she shouldn’t get the procedure because she wasn’t married and her future husband might want kids. She rightly pointed out that this implicitly meant to the doctor that her body belongs to a man she hasn’t even met yet. The trope itself is the meeting point of two virulently misogynistic ideas: The first that a woman’s worth is defined by her appeal to men; and the second that procreation is her duty. 

Most self-identified feminists will recognise why these premises are troubling. What I hope is that we’ll start to recognise them when they’re being wielded against trans women, too:

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Intersex devbio, gender variance, and sex essentialists

Dr. Cary Costello has a piece up about the interactions between intersex folks, sex essentialist/trans exclusionary feminists, and gender variance.

It’s a nice piece because it demonstrates the impact of sex & gender assignment and how this procedure is generally undisturbed upon the discovery of intersex developmental biology–the intersex individual is often still given a binary sex assignment, and this generally remains true across the world. If the medical establishment ever pulls its head out of its ass and stops doing this to intersex newborns, trans feminism (including my own) will have to account for persons who are assigned intersex at birth or risk being obsolete, in addition to the very notions of “cis” and “trans” not mapping neatly onto intersex experiences.

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