Louder for the TERFs in the back

I’ll signal boost the actual piece I want to share in a moment–I just want to focus on this one line of TERF fuckery so we can all appreciate it. I mean really stew in it, soak in it, like it’s a warm bath. This isn’t even artisinal TERF fuckery. This is gourmet TERF fuckery.

It is also worth pointing out that approximately two thirds of transgender people have reported undergoing some form of gender-confirming surgery, meaning that the majority of transwomen are in possession of a penis

You know, if I hadn’t seen it in the wild, I would have accused Heather McNamara of making shit up. But no. They are really this blinkered. This is the genuine article.

Without further ado:

Those of us who have been in the trans activism game for a while are familiar with the mental and linguistic gymnastics that TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) perform in order to justify transphobia while simultaneously pretending they’re not transphobic. One of their little terms, however, recently went relatively mainstream as blogger Claire from SisterOutrider leveled it at bestselling author (and one of my favorites), Roxane Gay. That term is “lesbophobia.”

If lesbophobia charges were in good faith and meant lesbian phobia where “phobia” is used in line with its colloquial meaning to describe aversion or hate, perhaps it would apply to these sorts of behaviors:

  • Exclusion of lesbians from events or social situations
  • Exclusion of lesbians from discourse on sexuality or gender
  • Preference of straight or bisexual women over lesbians
  • Insistence that lesbians are actually straight or bisexual and erasing their identities
  • Violence leveled at lesbians for being lesbian

These are the sorts of things to which we refer when we discuss homophobia, so naturally it would follow that “lesbophobia” being used in good faith would apply similarly, with the exception that the target was exclusively lesbians. Roxane Gay’s words, however, fit absolutely zero of those descriptions.

Read more here. Content notice for TERF nonsense and evangelist dog-whistles, because of course a TERF would use evangelist dog whistles without the slightest hint of irony.

I swear to Dog.

-Shiv

 

Youtube censoring educational content for trans people

A few months ago YouTube once again updated their community guidelines such that certain content could be age-restricted, and that age-restricted content couldn’t be monetized. Professional sex educators were understandably upset, as now their means of earning money was going to be denied to them. YouTube’s administrative staff seem to largely operate from America’s sex squeamishness such that even the most benign, descriptive and frankly unsexy video would be flagged. It’s not quite censorship, but it does force sex educators to volunteer their time rather than get paid for it.

Cue the institutional transphobia. Chase Ross, a transmasculine youtuber who I follow, has had vast portions of their content restricted following the guidelines update. The videos that were flagged? They were reviewing prosthesis. Not sex toys. Just implements to facilitate the health of gender dysphoric transmasculine individuals by reducing their anxiety and depression.

This seems to be operating from an aggressively transphobic, and distressingly popular, notion that anything related to transgender health qualifies as “sexual,” which plays into one half of trans-antagonists’ simultaneous hypersexualization/desexualization complex.

Much of what I do here is likewise meant to be educational. One reason I’m a lot less likely to migrate away from FreethoughtBlogs is precisely because so many other networks, in their bid to attract ad revenue, will impose restrictions upon the content they can host. And the restriction is almost always related to sexual content–again, American squeamishness (this despite the very obvious hypocrisy of what the ads on these site say. They’re very obviously trying to exploit sex. So you can sell it–if you’re an advertiser–but you can’t teach it, if you’re an educator). And the portions of my content on trans people could very well end up being called “sexual,” even if it’s as stimulating as a Donald Trump speech.

-Shiv

Signal boosting: Some red flags in trans issue “debates”

I’ve not had the spoons to dive into anti-trans nonsense as of late, so I’ve been plundering the interwebs for trans commentators who have. I recently discovered Singularly Bizarre, a blog that has discussed Jesse Singal at length. The author is considerably wordier than I am (and that’s saying something) but they’ve also documented a pretty thorough inventory of well-cloaked dishonesty employed by anti-trans pundits.

One in particular I’ll signal boost is the tendency to start a conversation about trans children, and then make the illogical leap to discussing surgery. Undermining this trope–which does crop up a lot in Singal’s work–is this basic fact: No trans kids qualify for surgery under the prevailing standards of trans healthcare set out by the Worldwide Professional Association of Transgender Health. In fact, if we want to talk about subjecting children to “mutilation,”* we ought to be discussing the egregious human rights violations enacted on intersex children virtually everywhere in the world.

Yes, it’s this peculiar double standard that should immediately be recognized as a red flag. The idea of trans people voluntarily seeking changes to our body seems to reliably get a chorus of hoary-throated screams, but when you point out that the one of the epidemics of genital mutilation happening to children in mature Western democracies is on intersex children and infants, you get nothing but crickets.

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Signal boosting: Interesting critique of hate crime legislation

I adore much of Sam Hope’s work, and recently encountered an old post of theirs where they gave some cogent critiques of hate crime legislation. Unlike reactionary dingleberries who literally complain that the law theoretically acknowledges specific and targeted forms of violence, Hope makes a number of complex points highlighting minorities’ relationship with media representation as well as our elevated rates of incarceration. It’s a refreshing break from the standard “we’re already equal” bullshit apologists for the status quo spew out that still points out flaws in the logic behind hate crime legislation.

We know that many marginalised minorities are over-represented in the prison population. For trans people this is no different, and the reasons are complex and multi-layered. Trans people suffer disproportionately from poor mental health which is directly related to lack of social support, discrimination, poor healthcare, poor housing, unemployment and psychological trauma. Trans people are less likely to be in employment, and more likely to be harassed or discriminated against at work. Trans people are even more likely than other LGBT people to become homeless or be poorly or vulnerably housed. Massive health inequality was recently flagged up in the Government’s Transgender Equality Inquiry as a major issue for the trans community. As with many oppressed communities, drug and alcohol abuse are issues within our community. Some of our medicines, if not prescribed to us, are considered class C drugs, and of course some of us in desperation turn to illegal markets for the drugs we need. Trans people are more likely to live in poverty. Trans people are more likely to find opportunities through sex work when there is a lack of other opportunity, and when we are sexualised and objectified. Trans people are more likely to experience sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. Trans people’s experience of domestic violence is disproportionately high. We are often, as with other LGBT people, considered the aggressors if we defend ourselves against attack, simply because people look on us with prejudice.

So, like most other minorities, we are thought to be over-represented in the prison system, and we might not always feel that prison is the answer in the way others who have never brushed with the law might feel. And we might not feel safe and trusting to approach the police. We might not expect a fair hearing. We don’t always act like the model minority and our sometimes messy lives may invite more judgement than sympathy.

Read more here.

Peter Boghossian: “Critical thinking” apparently means “pretend this field of study doesn’t exist”

Hands up:  Who thought atheism needed another arrogant atheist douchebro who cloaks himself in rationality and then proceeds in a spit-flecked rant rife with fallacious reasoning to tell us we are irrational about stuff?

Peter Boghossian raves about “Gender studies professors” who “are pumping out complete bullshit” in Areo Magazine, producing something resembling less of an argument and more of a rancid onion. And for some fucking reason, I’m feeling masochistic enough to peel back the layers of entitled manbaby whinging. Tears to ensue.

One would think that an example of critical thinking would explicitly identify the premises of a presented argument, compare peer-reviewed literature to see whether the premises are accurate, and use formal logic to determine if the conclusion is sound. But Boghossian’s rant is devoid of any particular specifics–aside from quoting one of Jordan Peterson’s critics–and on top of that he has the gall to represent himself as some kind of model freethinker. The problem is that the sort of freethought that lacks any resemblance to reality is the sort of “freethought” we’d expect to see from mushroom-tripping hippies reacting to psychedelic phantoms rather than what’s in front of them.

Compare, for instance, how Boghossian opens up his interview with some pontificating on critical thinking:

Malhar Mali: What in your opinion is the best way of fostering critical thinking when it comes to religious and supernatural beliefs?

Peter Boghossian: I think the whole way we’ve taught critical thinking is wrong from day one. We’ve taught, “Formulate your beliefs on the basis of evidence.” But the problem with that is people already believe they’ve formulated their beliefs on evidence — that’s why they believe what they believe. Instead, what we should focus on is teaching people to seek out and identify defeaters.

What is a defeater? A defeater is:

IF A, THEN B, UNLESS C.

All of which is sound epistemology…

Then, minutes later, Boghossian expels this adorable piece of absolute claptrap:

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Transition Reactions p14: You need therapy

I still haven’t quite adjusted to the realization that trans rights discourse is so primitive at this stage that some of the most blatantly fucking obvious statements perpetrated in this conversation are treated as “serious points of debate.” One of these is the appallingly clueless “You need therapy,” and it’s ableist cousin “you’re just messed in the head.” It is, in my estimate, the strongest predictor of a fruitless conversation, because anyone who thinks trans folk don’t receive therapy hasn’t bothered to check their most basic assumptions which distort their opinion.

Join me as we run through the gamut of my healthcare process to illustrate why the assumption underlying the response “you need therapy” is an observation as asinine as “you have skin.”

Step one: I need to figure out I’m trans

In order to access any kind of gender related care, I first have to know I need it. In the absence of comprehensive vocabulary, many of us gender variant folk are really confused and disgruntled, which often compels us to seek–wait for it–therapy. If we’re lucky, the therapist might lift the fog and say “you have some gender identity problems,” and either address them or refer us to someone who can, at which point our pre-existing questioning starts to gain traction.

Step two: I have to convince my general practitioner or existing therapist I’m trans

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Labels as relational

Something struck me last week when I was doing my Trans Sex Ed presentation for ASPECC. In order to make sure everyone was on the same page I had to start by making sure the word “transgender” was clear. Ultimately I think this is one area that could turn into an entire presentation itself, because the more I thought about it the more I realized this was a topic that could run deep.

I’ll illustrate with some other identity labels of mine: atheist. I mean, that’s a given on a freethought network, right? But I also live in this progressive little urban bubble where people are largely indifferent to religion. My coworkers, my boss, my previous landlord. Nobody cared. If I had been “outed” as an atheist, I think fuck all would have happened. People would’ve shrugged and moved on. People have shrugged and moved on.

In terms of importance or relevance to me, personally, that makes my relationship with atheism weak at best. I don’t often do posts about the epistemology of the Christian god, mostly because I consider the matter settled, and so do enough people in my life that it’s just not an important question anymore. So I mean, sure, I’m an atheist. And yes, I’ll accept that label because it’s accurate. But no, it isn’t the sort of thing that actually gets the people around me to respond differently, so its relevance is negligible, as long as I do my homework and steer clear of traveling to, say, Iran.

Being trans, on the other hand. Well, every asshole on the internet has a strong opinion. No PhD in gender variance, mind, or even a passing attempt to actually read the research they claim supports their position, but hot-damn does being transgender carry a significant gravity to it, drawing in dickheads and assholes in orbit like some kind of black hole hurdling through a solar system. If were talking about labels in terms of their importance to other people, then hells yes, “transgender” is a heavy and influential label indeed.

So I arrive to a different use of labels altogether, one that doesn’t involve describing my relationship with myself, but one that describes the world’s relationship to meFramed like that, it contextualizes things like how my personal, morally neutral choices such as my clothing or grooming is suddenly subject to public debate on whether I’m reinforcing feminine stereotypes or just doing the trans thing for attention. Now it makes sense to take up the label transgender, not because I may or may not want to grow my hair long, but because a choice of such minimal relevance to other people’s lives is somehow granted importance through some invasive and kindy creepy entitlement to know every detail about my body. An entitlement that is present because of the world’s relationship with being “transgender.”

If I lived in a post transphobia society, I imagine I would feel about my gender identity the same way I do about my religious identity: Meh. Something to be acknowledged and make a few changes to make things comfy, but not the sort of sordid public spectacle that it is now.

The only reason trans issues ranks so highly is because of the damage these hamfisted attempts at policy writing cause, ensuing upon discovery of our existence. That’s a relationship I don’t want denied, how I’m some kind of walking-talking time-bomb for all the comfortable assumptions people make about gender. I may not particularly care about being trans, personally, but I think you’d have an incomplete picture of what it’s like as a cis person to be a trans person if you didn’t comprehend how much mutually contradictory bullshit we’re put through.

Thus, even if you personally don’t have a strong relationship with your gender identity–which is only natural, because nobody reacts to it–you could accept cisgender as a label for those circumstances and that relationship, the same way I accept the label atheist despite living in a peaceful bubble of religious irrelevance. It’s not any kind of commentary on you. It’s more of a commentary on your circumstances. Less of an identity unto itself and more taking stock on the relational behaviour of those around you. How, for instance, nobody has asked you about your genitals, or what your “real name” is. Or, perhaps the most salient to our current political climate, sex-segregated spaces are a no-brainer for you where they reliably get a trans person to start sweating under the collar.

This sidesteps the entire issue of trying to communicate what you do or do not feel, not that the people dismissing gender dysphoria as “just” feelings are the sorts of good-faith commentators who’d actually listen to my alternative (hey, there’s another relationship to describe between trans people and our environments: We’re “just” feeling a certain way, but you? You’re taken for-granted). I don’t have to share any kind of deeply personal struggle with my body. In fact, I can point out that the curiosity for said struggle perhaps better defines my existence as a trans woman than does the struggle itself!

Food for thought. What do you think?

-Shiv

The Vultures of False Equivalency Descend

I really shouldn’t be surprised that even the much beloved Humans of New York decided it was Trump supporters who needed to be humanized in the wake of at least ~700 hate crimes committed since Nov 8.

 

Okay, so, I have some thoughts.

Commentators rushed forth to declare that the working class had been unheard, and that this justified the package deal that came with Trump. The mistake is immediately apparent: “Class issues” has never and will never be separable from the minority’s struggle, as if the middle class somehow has a monopoly on “economic anxiety.”

Poverty manifests in discrimination and it’s minorities of all stripes who are disproportionately represented in the working class–the ungainful labour kind. Marxist analysis is critically useful here: No picture painted merely with the “economic anxiety” brush is complete unless it acknowledges that no member of the proletariat is immune to it, and no proletariat’s struggle is without this anxiety. That includes the weird proletariat.

Of course the proletariat has gone unheard. That’s what the bourgeoisie do, their entire raison d’etre, is to effortlessly coast through life on the backs of the silent. And when you start to smarten up about who is on the other end of the leash, they throw a juicy bone to their shock troops–the middle class, the still-proletariat-but-with-extra-bones–to distract us. Those men bring women with them. And so it goes.

The problem isn’t merely that we are in this position–it’s that the shock troops will accept their mistreatment at the hands of the handlers as long as they keep getting juicy bones, or at least more juicy bones than we do. So along comes someone like me, a Marxist, a feminist, a queer trans woman, and she says “your handler starves you to trick you into thinking its bones are generous.”

How many handlers will take that for an answer? Their juicy bones are at stake! Sure, I could point out that he has the supply of bones and us hounds could take them for ourselves, change the system so they are not given to us at the whim of our handlers. But that terribly inconveniences the handlers, so they wave a bone, point at me, and command “sic em!”

Two problems solved at once. The uppity Marxist is too preoccupied with the snarling in her face, and the hound who might’ve won some dangerous ideas is enticed by the bone in his immediacy. No vision or foresight to question from whence the bone comes.

There needn’t be any discussion of class struggle without minorities. They are inextricably linked. If this is truly your chief concern, however, you will need to abandon any benefits you receive to be the bourgeoisie’s shock troops. You’ll never be one of them, but they’ll tempt you by offering you superiority over someone else. The rest. The other. Enough of you will take that bait, dooming us all to try and survive the infighting while our handlers gorge themselves on fat and meat, chuckling as they prepare the next bones to throw to us. It means putting away the petty hatreds, the racisms and homophobias and transphobias. No, it’s not symmetrical. We weren’t ever the shock troops to begin with, at least not to any appreciable scale, because by definition as minorities we did not have enough bodies to fill out a legion.

This is what I referenced when I said reactionaries didn’t need to benefit from humanization. They’re the pup willing to take an extra bone to kill us. They’re willing shock troops for the bourgeoisie. Sure, some of them are insecure, or at least feel that way, and some may even try to feel bad about being told to attack you. But we would be making a mistake not to recognize the capacity for distraction in the systemic nature of discrimination the rich tolerate and perpetrate. This, in my experience, is the more common reaction. If you can corner a “not sexist/racist” Trump supporter and drill to the core of their issue, they’ll inevitably parrot out something about jobs. And what about jobs of the black in their midst? The gay, the queer, the non-Christian? Who will be awarded our jobs once discrimination is legalized by “religious freedom”–yet another bone for their shock troops?

Why do you accept this dilemma when it is our handlers that deprived us of the nourishment we need to begin with?

Why have you accepted the lie that there aren’t enough bones to go around, even though you can clearly see them stuffed in your handler’s pocket?

Have you no ambition?

-Shiv