Did they even check?

(The answer is “no.”)

One of the more annoying rhetorical sleights-of-hand deployed by anti-trans feminists is their tendency to claim they “speak for women.” One brilliant Scot decided to test that theory by contacting every women’s crisis resource in Scotland to query their policy on trans women. As it turns out, antagonistic positions are far from guaranteed to be the norm, or even represented at all:

It was stated that Scottish Women’s Aid don’t speak for individual Women’s Aid services, so unless we somehow managed the impossible task of ringing round all 40 to check if they were trans inclusive, we couldn’t possibly know. Spoiler alert: the only reason that’s impossible is because there’s actually 36, but more on that in a bit.  I had a midweek day off and my maw got me unlimited minutes for Christmas, so I rang them and asked.

Catriona ‘We Simply Don’t Know’ Stewart is a senior journalist at the Herald & Times Group.  To me that means she’s got a fancy desk, a big salary and every contact under the Scottish not sun at her fingertips.  But rather than try and find out so she didn’t give ground to the misrepresentation of services and instill fear in women who might need to one day present at their local Women’s Aid and might also be trans, she sent a pointed and scary tweet, then logged out.  Brass neck points for pulling us up for not speaking to individual services, while choosing to imply something more than a bit dodgy without… speaking to individual services.  (Just ring them, Catriona, and if you can’t be arsed surely there’s an underpaid intern somewhere who’s fed up shredding Iain Macwhirter’s draft novellas).

We weren’t surprised that frontline workers and specifically support and refuge workers were the people this mibby, mibby not but probably transphobia was being attributed to.  No one is else going to say it so I will because none of you know my real name: that’s because those workers are more likely to be working class women. And of course the implication is that while national officers might understand the ever so complicated dance of being sound to trans women, workers on the ground have been caught in a whirlwind of confusion and outright rage, turning up to work head to toe in trans panic alarms for the last 10 year. Gies peace. And let them do their job.

Antagonistic positions are still taken elsewhere in the world, and they’re devastating when they happen because a person in crisis is pretty much, by definition, going to lack the resources to combat that. But it’s worthwhile to remind anti-trans feminists that they represent a minority, and not “women.”

Read more here.


An example of material support

One of my peers in journalism, Katelyn Burns, interviewed the founder of Hypatia Software Org (unrelated to the journal of a similar name). Burns’ interview highlights a few key points to providing substantial, material support for trans people:

The cycle of systemic poverty and homelessness is nearly impossible for anyone to break out of. The combination of not having enough funds for everyday necessities under capitalism and a lack of a suitable shelter under which to sleep can be crushing to the human spirit.

Under structural transphobia, trans people are at increased risk for unemployment and homelessness, with trans women of color—who are three times as likely as the general population to be unemployed—bearing the brunt of this oppression.

When I began my own transition, of course, homelessness lingered as a fear in the back of my mind. I’d watched too many trans women be run out of their jobs under suspicious circumstances and subsequently struggle to find another job to believe I was entirely immune to the possibility.

Housing insecurity is a major issue for the trans community and already sparse shelter resources could potentially be a hostile environment for a trans woman, myself included.

As a trans woman, I have a natural fear of cis-operated spaces, as the potential for transphobia is ever present. For example, the Salvation Army has been accused several times of harassing or even banning trans women from their shelters. I wouldn’t even risk availing myself of their services.

Taking into account that a great many shelters and anti-poverty charities are affiliated with or operated by churches, I would be leery of seeking the same help as a homeless cis person.

And with trans people making up just 0.6% of the population, it’s especially difficult for organizations to provide appropriate local trans-specific resources and a welcoming support system in order to help folks breakout of the systemic poverty cycle.

In order to figure out the best ways to help trans people breakout of systemic homelessness, I turned to the trans-run organization Hypatia Software Org.

According to President/CEO, Lisa-Marie Maginnis, Hypatia’s mission is “to end homelessness and the disenfranchisement of people who experience transmisogyny through peer mentorship, emergency cash relief, and community building.”

Here are 4 ways they say we can help get trans people out of poverty now:

Read more here.


Trans feminism and the law

Florence Ashley opens this essay by distinguishing between the “rule of law” and the “rule of man,” describing the latter as a widely undesirable state of governing (or lack thereof) while the former is supposed to be a steady and reliable foundation of order:

The rule of law is a lot like gender. The analogy is puzzling, at first glance. Coming from a trans experience, the parallels are much more visible to me: “Then an analysis can focus not on what the rule of law is, or what it should be, but on what it does, what it accomplishes, what it produces. Indeed, if the only thing we know for sure about the rule of law is what any of these many state actors say it is in any particular instance, the rule of law will turn out to be as messy and diffuse a concept as the state[2].” This passage is perfectly intelligible, and yet every reference to the rule of law in the passage was a replacement of the term “sex”. Both the rule of law and gender, in legal contexts, are normative notions which seek to define the proper relationship between citizens and between citizens and the state. Whereas the supported relationship is a cisheteronormative[3] one with regards to gender, the rule of law promotes a law-abiding relationship between citizens and state. In the negative chasm of each conception, we find transgender people and emancipatory actors. Gender as a state construct makes trans lives either impossible or difficult, whereas the rule of law makes emancipatory lives either impossible or difficult. That trans lives are often led as emancipatory lives attests to importance of transfeminist analyses of the rule of law. The analogy is also interesting insofar as the enforcement of gender as a legal-administrative category to the disadvantage of trans people is frequently defended by appeal to the rule of law.

However, Ashley argues that it’s a false distinction: Man must apply the law, and discretionary power brings us back to square one.

The notion of the rule of law implies that we are ruled by law. However much a truism as this sentence may be, it is not a trivial point. There must be a meaningful way in which laws, rather than people, are what rule our lives[4]. For some rule of law theorists, the enforcement of laws satisfies the rule of law if it is exercised by those in power in their role as agents of the law, in a good faith belief that the law mandates them to exercise their powers in that manner[5].

Inherent in this notion is that being ruled by law is possible. We have room to doubt this assertion on two grounds. First, discretionary power is distributed widely and unevenly. Too many people have too much discretionary power for us to realistically ensure that they always act in accordance to such a good faith belief. Second, good faith beliefs cannot be so detached from the agents which hold them that their imposition can be reasonably interpreted as a rule by law rather than by men.

Ashley then examines what it means for the agents of law to import their own experience of the world into legal constructs, and relates that to the current state of struggle for trans folk. I thoroughly recommend it.




Cissexist vocabulary

I have a very specific set of vocabulary I use when discussing gender variance and trans issues. Although it has tweaked and developed over time, I don’t always stop to explain my reasoning for why I use one particular term and not another. Florence Ashley reviews some of the vocabulary used commonly in the media, and explains why other terms are preferable.

Prioritisation of cisgender embodiment

Terms such as “biological woman”, “genetic woman”, “chromosomal woman”, “woman-born-woman”, “biological sex”, and “real woman” are common. This terminological family prioritises cisgender embodiment by associating gender to cisgender anatomy, erasing the possibility of transitude, or relegating it to anomalousness or liminality.

These terms — let us take the term “biological woman” as an example — insinuate that trans women are not biologically women. Cis women are designated as women in every aspect, whereas trans women are excluded from the category of “woman” in some aspects of their being. If cis women are biological, genetic, chromosomal, and born women, it must be that trans women are biological, genetic, chromosomal, or born men. Quite contrary to terms that are closer to trans realities, such as “assigned male at birth”.

By affirming the invariable character of gender and by privileging the experience of cis people, trans women are relegated to the background as quasi-women, sometimes-women. The lived experiences of trans women who have identified as such since childhood is ignored. An artificial and undue division between trans women and cis women is created, weaponising the body of trans women in a way that excludes them from sisterhood.

Read more here.


“In practice, cis people are never satisfied by the sacrifice of trans people’s dignity”

The UK’s current system of acquiring a legal gender change is needlessly onerous, and absurd in its implied assumption that a council of disinterested bureaucrats can determine the “truth” of an applicant’s gender. However, after the proposal to make the process less difficult, TERFs and the media have responded by grossly exaggerating what these updates to the Gender Recognition Act entail. Heather explains:

In fact, none of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act pose any risk to any of the cis women in the UK. The changes serve only to benefit transgender men and women who, for whatever reason, would be unable to prove they meet the current criteria to the satisfaction of their local council. While it certainly is a lot easier to access a counselor or other medical services in the UK than it is in the USA, there’s never a guarantee that said professional would be willing to diagnose a transgender person properly and there is no demonstrable need for this barrier in any case. Exactly zero overly impulsive cis people have been stopped from making silly mistakes. The hurdles in place serve only to satisfy the anxieties of cisgender people. In practice, transphobic cisgender people are not satisfied anyway and the sacrifice of transgender citizens’ dignity and agency so far has been in vain.

Since threats to cisgender women have already been addressed and in changes to these protections aren’t actually a part of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, the clown car vomiting op-eds and TERF concerns can and should be easily ignored by members of government reviewing the proposed changes. It cannot be ignored by transgender people in UK and anywhere else they might be subjected to the dialogue. It is neither necessary nor acceptable for the conversation on transgender rights to be dominated by noise about crimes that cisgender men might commit as though transgender people are enabling them. Law abiding transgender people are never to blame for the crimes of cisgender men.

Read more about the UK media’s fever pitch here, and why it’s baseless scaremongering.


I thought the Section 28 boat set sail already

Section 28 was a British law until 2000 that required government authorities to censor and omit any information on homosexuality. Nearly two decades after its repeal, gay Brits lambasted the law for the damage it caused it in their youth–the deafening silence of the resources available to them led many to believe something was inherently wrong with them. Its heinous effects haven’t deterred the press from quoting Section 28 arguments verbatim, only this time against trans people.

[Read more…]

Dr. Becky, PhD

A teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University was recently disciplined for making the dignity of trans people the subject of a debate. Lindsey Shepherd–or Dr. Becky, PhD as I’ve come to call her–recorded audio of her meeting with the administration, and leaked the subsequent recording. Since then, a horde of tedious dudebros have followed her every tweet, and Dr. Becky has taken up the reactionary dipshit speaking circuit. Whatever benefit of the doubt I might have given her before vanished once she signed up for generously paid speaking circuits to lambast the evil transes.

Her fans sound suspiciously similar to Jordan Peterson’s, for reasons that should be transparently obvious.

Still, I didn’t feel the need to respond myself because there has been nothing I’ve said about J Pete that doesn’t apply to Dr. Becky, PhD. But Florence Ashley looked at the typical frozen peaches lobbed in the name of ceaselessly litigating my humanity, and I’m sharing what she found:

Free speech only benefits those who have a voice. If you’re not invited to speak, freedom of expression is pointless. Those who have a platform don’t concern themselves with the difficulties of obtaining one as much as those who don’t have one.

When free speech is reduced to a justification for one’s intuitive reaction or opinion on a given case, it is instrumentalized in defence of those we agree with. It becomes a mere shadow of the right we have enshrined in our Constitution.

There is much to be said about balancing free speech with other human rights, such as the right to equality. But even for free speech absolutists, a lot more can be done without talking about other rights. The distribution of outrage and the equality of access to platforms are free-speech issues.

Read the rest here.


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.


The real transition regret

Cis journalists are notoriously shitty at having this conversation. They often bias their piece, badly, by selecting specific interviewees to paint their twisted narrative. Nowhere is this more clear than transgender children, where journalists notably omit actual clinicians who work with transgender children.

Zinnia Jones reviews what the research actually says. A more common regret than transitioning? Not transitioning young:

However, one phenomenon of gender identity development in youth is far more substantiated than these concerns about transition regret, while receiving far less attention: cases of de-desistance (or “re-persistence”). These youth express gender dysphoria in their childhood, report that their dysphoria desists in adolescence, but later find that their dysphoria has not desisted and go on to seek out transition treatment.

Read more here.


Our bodies are not ours

The premise of pro-discrimination laws is that not only can another person unilaterally dictate where you can be with your body and what you can do with it, but that they should do so. North Carolina’s House Bill 2 is one such example:

Although House Bill 2 (HB2), or “The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” is known as “The Bathroom Bill,” it is about so much more than bathrooms. In February 2016, thanks to the efforts of local queer and trans community organizers, the city council of Charlotte, North Carolina passed a nondiscrimination ordinance extending legal protections to LGBTQ people. By law, Charlotte businesses could no longer deny someone service or a job because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The ordinance also granted transgender people the right to use public bathrooms marked for the gender of their choice. While the new law itself did not include any protections against many of the systemic barriers trans women of color face – like discriminatory access to housing and medical care – conservative rich white state officials clapped back.

Almost overnight, North Carolina then-governor Pat McCrory and his cronies in his legislature began drafting a state bill to shut down the nondiscrimination ordinance in Charlotte, and prevent future anti-discrimination bills from arising on the local level across the state. HB2 had five points:

(1) Transgender people must use the bathroom that matches their gender assigned at birth, regardless of their gender identity.
(2) City governments cannot pass laws protecting LGBTQ people from job discrimination or from being denied service because they are queer or trans.
(3) City governments cannot pass laws protecting working people under 18.
(4) All pre-existing laws passed by city governments protecting LGBTQ people, as well as local laws about worker wages and benefits no longer exist.
(5) People can no longer sue for any type of discrimination on the state level.

Through these five points, HB2 attacked LGBTQ people and annihilated all workers’ and marginalized people’s rights. With one law, North Carolina’s state government granted businesses and employees the right to discriminate against people. Most people in our cities had no idea. To most, it was simply “The Bathroom Bill” because Governor McCrory, as well as local, state, and national news sources built traction for HB2 by marketing it on their hatred of (and fascination with) trans people, in particular trans women of color.

Read more here.