Distinguishing between unaware, suspicious, and antagonistic

One of the ways Julia Serano and I diverge, apparently, is our positions on linguistics. I’m an extreme descriptivist, which means I acknowledge that individual words will take on different meanings for different people. This is what facilitates miscommunication, and my position is to always abandon the loaded terminology and say what we mean every time. Although I disagree with the conclusion of this article (that we should police our application of the label “TERF”), there was one piece in it I wanted to share that I thought had merit:

Upon considering this, as I was writing the essay Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation: A Guide for Understanding Transgender Children Debates, I used three different terms to differentiate between underlying sentiments or motives that often drive expressions of transphobia. I have found them useful on subsequent occasions, so I recently added these terms to my online trans, gender, sexuality, & activism glossary. That new entry reads as follows:

Trans-antagonistic, Trans-suspicious, Trans-unaware: terms I have increasingly used since the mid-’10s (e.g., see here) to make distinctions between various types of anti-transgender attitudes or positions. Some expressions of transphobia stem from people simply being “trans-unaware” — i.e., uninformed (or under-informed) about transgender people and experiences. Other individuals may be downright “trans-antagonistic,” in that they are fundamentally opposed to transgender people for specific moral, political, and/or theoretical reasons. From an activist standpoint, this distinction is quite pertinent: Trans-unaware individuals tend to be “passively transphobic” (e.g., only expressing such attitudes when they come across a trans person, or when the subject is raised), and may be open to relinquishing those attitudes upon learning more about transgender lives and issues. In contrast, trans-antagonistic individuals often actively promote anti-trans agendas (e.g., policies, laws, misinformation campaigns) and are highly unlikely to be moved by outreach or education (unless, of course, they undergo a more comprehensive philosophical transformation). The “trans-suspicious” position acknowledges that transgender people exist and should be tolerated (to some degree), but routinely questions (and sometimes actively works to undermine) transgender perspectives and politics. For example, a trans-suspicious individual might treat me respectfully and refrain from misgendering me, yet simultaneously express doubt about whether certain other people are “really trans” or should be allowed to transition. While they often consider themselves to be “pro-trans” (on the basis that they tolerate us to some degree), their strong cisnormative and cissexist biases lead them to spread much of the same misinformation, and push for many of the same anti-trans policies, as their trans-antagonistic counterparts (e.g., see here). In a world where trans-antagonistic and trans-unaware attitudes are pervasive, trans-suspicious arguments tend to strike the average cisgender person as relatively “objective” or “reasonable” by comparison (although trans people readily see through this veneer).

The distinction between the trans-antagonistic and trans-suspicious positions was central to my “Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation” essay, as I was attempting to articulate (to a largely trans-unaware audience) why trans-suspicious views from the likes of Jesse Singal and Alice Dreger (both discussed in that essay) are so invalidating from a trans perspective. While these writers tolerate trans people to some extent (e.g., they are not calling for us to be entirely excluded from society), they clearly value cisgender identities, bodies, and perspectives over transgender ones, and they are inherently suspicious of anything transgender people say about our own lives (unless, of course, it aligns with their cisnormative presumptions). Hence, they push for many of the same policies (e.g., pro-gender-reparative therapies and anti-gender-affirming approaches to healthcare) and spread much of the same misinformation (e.g., psychological theories that have been rejected by most trans health professionals) as their trans-antagonistic counterparts, despite the fact that they seem relatively benign to outsiders.

You can read the rest here.

-Shiv

#MeToo as a queer and trans person

I’ve been somewhat open on this blag about my experiences with abuse, and yet I was hesitant to add my voice to the #MeToo hashtag started on Twitter. It was proposed in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations as a way to “get people to see the gravity of the problem”–yet, the ways in which the conversation were carried out led me to believe I would be met with more hostility than support.

Sam Hope concurs.

“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

My trans and trans-friendly connections started to throw up alternatives to this original copy&paste meme: “women and non binary people” was one alternative, “women and femmes” another, as people struggled to include the complexity of how gendered violence impacts our diverse world. What was less surprising, perhaps, was how many of my trans friends could say #MeToo: Statistically, trans people, whether men, women or non-binary, are at greater risk of sexual violence as children than cis women, and this extra vulnerability continues into adult lives. Lesbians and gay men also experience more sexual violence than their straight counterparts, and bi people even more than lesbian and gay men.

There’s a reason this is not often talked about. For years, we have been told, without foundation, that somehow abuse turned us queer. The truth is a mirror image of this – queer/trans kids tend to be more easily isolated and have more strained relationships with caregivers. This creates conditions where they are more easily preyed upon. Social exclusion continues to mark out LGBTQ+ people as targets into adult life, and fear of being outed can also give abusers a hold, particularly for people from certain families or communities that hold hostile attitudes to LGBTQ+ people. In a world that was not sexist, cissexist and heteronormative, they would be as accepted and socially included as everyone else, and they would not carry this additional vulnerability.

We see similar themes of elevated levels of abuse within other vulnerable groups – autistic people, disabled people, people who grew up in care, to name but a few.

It was only after my abuser had attempted to burn bridges with a well-respected cis man in the community that people began to believe the trail of allegations that followed her. That’s… hard to forgive.

Read more here.

-Shiv

New Zealand: it would be “unduly harsh” to send British trans woman back

Apparently the United Kingdom is so verifiably transphobic that a British trans woman successfully appealed to New Zealand immigration to grant her residency on humanitarian grounds. In essence, she made a refugee claim against the United Kingdom. 

Content notice: The Guardian, progressive-rag extraordinaire, using outdated and trans-antagonistic terms.

A transgender woman who suffered years of discrimination and abuse in the UK has been granted residency in New Zealand on exceptional humanitarian grounds.

The 57-year-old woman was granted New Zealand residency by the immigration and protection tribunal in Auckland, who decided the woman was safer to remain in her adopted country where she had experienced no abuse or discrimination since arriving in 2009.

The tribunal deemed it would be “unduly harsh” for the woman to be forced to return to the UK, where she suffered years of “persecution” due to her gender identity disorder.

The woman, who works as an IT specialist and has a degree in engineering, was described as a vulnerable but “highly intelligent and skilled” individual by a psychologist who assessed her. The woman declined to be interviewed by the Guardian.

In 2005, whilst living in the UK, the woman transitioned from a male to a female, after decades of escalating confusion and mental health problems arising from her undiagnosed gender identity disorder.

(The current version of the DSM emphasized that gender dysphoria is a pathology, but not the identity of transgender itself.)

The rest of the article unnecessarily focuses on the trans woman’s confidential medical choices and is a splendid example of well-meaning coverage utterly butchering journalistic ethics. However, I thought I’d share the surprising bit of news. Surprising not because I think the UK is overly tolerant to trans folk, but surprising because exploiter countries are seldom held to account for social failings the way exploited countries are.

-Shiv

While we’re at it, the Daily Fail can fuck off too

I apparently have to start a series like this.

The Daily Mail, July 30 2017:

Daily Mail seeks out opinion of an artist (?) expressing the opinion that puberty blockers are bad “because sterilisation.”

 

The Daily Mail, October 1 2017:

Preserving fertility of trans teenagers is bad because it’s “too expensive.”

This is why I don’t play optics with avowed trans-antagonists. There is no way for me to please the Daily Fail except to fucking die so they can sell magazines about why I should be locked up with men in prison.

Fuck off you poncy fascist sockpuppets.

-Shiv

 

 

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

 

Let’s talk about trans suicide

Paris Lees is an anti-bullying campaigner, but because transgender and gender variant British children are such heavy targets for abuse (no doubt caused in part by the UK’s bizarre and steady exports of TERFism) she spends a lot of her time talking about trans issues. Last month she tackled the issue of self-harm and suicidal ideation in gender minority youth, and drew a direct line to the stigma caused by pundits playing kickball with trans lives on TV and radio.

[Read more…]

“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