Academic transphobia and The Media: The persistence of the “activists vs science” false dichotomy

Content Notice: Transphobia

Introduction to the False Dichotomy of Scientist or Activist

The rise of visibility of transgender people correlates with an increase in the sheer and committed dishonesty of many media outlets any time they cover trans issues. There are the usual suspects: budding radfem academics penning unsubstantiated diatribes riddled with fallacies; established academics angrily penning burning letters to the editor any time their pet pseudoscience is called out for being pseudoscience; religious fundamentalists who can’t decide if they’re sticking to noninformation or disinformation; and the many ignorant journalists caught in between this shitstorm. Many of these trans-antagonistic figures are represented by said ignorant journalists as “martyrs for an inconvenient truth,” where trans-affirmative opponents to these figures are engaging in “pointless witch hunts” that result in these brave champions being “suddenly and unceremoniously fired” while repudiating Real Science™.

Jesse Singal is at the centre of this “activist versus Real Science™” narrative by implying both that activists were the ones that had Galileo’s Middle Finger pulled from Lambda and that said activists are uninterested in “truth, accuracy, or fairness in argument,” having shared on Twitter:

“Lambda Literary has withdrawn Alice Dreger’s book from consideration for its nonfiction literary award. The (very strongly) implied message here is that you can’t be an advocate for social justice and care about the principles of truth, accuracy, and fairness in argument.”

He also penned an article about Dr. Zucker, a notorious conversion “therapy” advocate who was finally discredited and shut down in Ontario after decades of abusing gender nonconforming kids. In this piece, Singal pushes the narrative that anti-science activists are at fault for the clinic’s closure: (emphasis mine)

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Thanks Pope Francis

Guys, the Pope has helped me come to an important conclusion.

See now, the problem with the trans rights movement is that we just don’t have snappy enough phrases. We’re trying to bring academic terms into common parlance, and that’s a tough battle when the general public views pesky things like evidence with suspicion. The Pope has it all figured out though. Gender transition is such a boring clinical term. Why not use something more memorable, more colourful? Something that speaks to the masses? Something with that certain je nais se quoi that captures the imagination of the ignorant, inspires the illiterate, and emboldens the craven?

Why not, “the annihilation of man“?

“We are living a moment of annihilation of man as image of God.”

Thanks Pope. That is much catchier than “gender transition.”

-Shiv, Annihilator of Man, Fashionable Communist

Signal Boosting: Convert, Cure, Closet, or Kill — the Religious Right’s Plan for Trans Folk

Medium has a post up that is equal parts delightful in its thoroughness (so many citations, thank you!) and also… horrifying, in its thoroughness (egads, that’s so much hate being cited). It explains that the plan the Religious Right has for trans folk can be reduced to “Convert, Cure, Closet, or Kill:”

Almost 60 anti-transgender bills were introduced this year, most of which targeted transgender youth, restricting access to public accommodations, defining “sex” in non-discrimination laws to exclude transgender people, or permitting health care providers to refuse to treat transgender patients. Another six states introduced laws banning protections for LGBT people, which would join Tennessee and Arkansas in nullifying local non-discrimination ordinances. Twenty-two states introduced “Religious Freedom” laws making discrimination against LGBT people legal and consequence-free.

The vast majority of these laws did not pass, but HB2 in North Carolina did. It functionally accomplished two of the Family Research Council’s goals by nullifying all legal protections for transgender people, and effectively banning them from public bathrooms, while setting a nearly impossible bar for obtaining legal recognition of a gender change.

Also noteworthy is that while NC requires “sex change surgery” (the preferred term is gender confirmation surgery) to change a gender marker, they are adamantly opposed to state provided insurance from covering such procedures. Many transgender people do not want such surgery, or are physically unable to have it. Most simply cannot afford it.

This is why the transgender community has reacted so vehemently to HB 2: it is the realization of many of the goals of hate groups intended to legislate a community out of existence. This is something that has not been pointed out in the mainstream media, though it should be. How would the media react if North Carolina had passed a law targeting black people that was explicitly proposed and endorsed by the Klan?

I strongly recommend this post in its entirety, as it demonstrates the contradictions and inanity of religiously motivated positions to antagonize gender diversity. It also demonstrates why trans folk are generally suspicious of researchers, as so-called scientists have been well known to abuse us to further political agendas (see: Dr. Zucker, asshole extraordinaire, standing proud among the ranks of abusive anti-trans researchers like Alice Dreger, J Michael Bailey, and Ray Blanchard). It predicts that these strategies, tried and tested as routine failures against the LGB, will ultimately flop as they did before–but not before they’ve claimed a body count.

The authoritarian war machine needs lives to fuel it, after all.

-Shiv

Trans rights passed in BC with dissent from… the LIBERALS?

Okay, okay, I’ve said before that I mock political incompetence and openly roast authoritarian assholes, and that the right-wing happens to attract the largest degrees of those. Today I make good on my promise and mock some bonafide British Columbian Liberal fucktardery, and not even of the hippie “mraaah chemicals bad” variety.

BC has (finally) amended its human rights code to include gender identity & expression. The proposed amendment passed with unanimous approval–all, except, for one:

Laurie Throness, the Liberal MLA for Chilliwack-Hope, said his religious beliefs prevented him from supporting legislation to specifically enshrine protection for transgender people in the human rights law. He said he believes in a fixed-gender, which is decided at birth, and described the LGBTQ community as a powerful lobby group intolerant of himself and others who disagree that the law would add necessary protections.

Why, yes Laurie, I am intolerant of you. Your religious convictions do not belong in Legislature, and unless you think the wannabe theocracy that is America is a model country, you should remember that we operate under separation of church and state. Further, your right to put your religious conviction into a fist ends where my face begins. What you refuse to acknowledge is that relying on case law and implicit protections results in delightful court rulings like this:

A transphobic court case decided that if the organization offering the service is a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to serve women, it is allowed to discriminate against trans women.

I have every right to be intolerant of you because you insist on perpetuating an actively harmful status quo. Your inaction is not you taking the high road. Your inaction continues to endorse an environment where trans women are routinely pushed to the fringe and criminalized–an environment you are empowered to fix, but choose not to.

I question what kind of moral conviction you must have to refuse to help when you are equipped to do so safely. Good thing you have a priest to pat you on the head every Sunday and assure you that the babble says you’re a good person. Maybe a mature person can develop a more sophisticated ethical code but it seems expecting sophistication from Throness is a bit like expecting coherency from dudebro atheists.

-Shiv

“It’s no big deal,” says bar owner barring trans people from peeing

Content Notice: Transphobia and harassment.

You can practically hear the mental acrobatics being performed by the management of Corona Tavern, one “Lorraine,” interviewed in a fantastic piece of journalism on Community TV about two incidents: one alleging the bar and its security staff harassed a trans woman patron, and another alleging the bar posted a transphobic sign regarding washroom use. The interview is only 5 minutes long, and I feel it is critical to witness first hand what it’s like trying to navigate through the tangled mess that is transphobia. If you consider yourself a trans ally, please check it out, either at the link above or again in the video below. Please try to truly comprehend what it’s like dealing with people who antagonize you without an ounce of rational thinking.

Corona Tavern is a bar in Medicine Hat, Alberta, that posted this lovely sign, which keen observers will know is a rather flagrant violation of Bill 7:

sign

This sign was shared on social media shortly after the account of a trans woman who states in her interaction with Corona Tavern that management said “[the owner] would’ve thrown me out of the bar for using that bathroom.”

Yes, you read that right–not for harassing patrons, not for assaulting patrons–for peeing. In the toilet, mind. Peeing where you’re supposed to pee is against Da Rules now.

Corona Tavern has two parts to this:

  1. The harassment they enacted on the trans woman patron who did sweet fuck all but mind her own business;
  2. The transphobic sign stating patrons “must use the bathroom of their birth gender,” despite the fact that this is now a criminal thing to require under Bill 7.

Regarding point #2, let’s review this interview from Community TV, a conversation between a journalist and the management of Corona Tavern:

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School district apparently forgets how the Nazis operated by ordering trans students to ID selves with green bracelets

I’ve officially popped my casket. (emphasis mine)

The Wisconsin lawsuit notes other problems with how the school treated Whitaker. He was repeatedly called by his birth name and referred to with female pronouns by school staff, wasn’t allowed to run for prom king (until the school received a petition and media scrutiny), and wasn’t allowed to lodge with boys during school trips. The district also requires staff to make Whitaker and other transgender students wear green bracelets identifying them as transgender to staff — which caused Whitaker to worry about stigmatization and harassment, according to his lawyers. The school eventually instructed security guards to ensure Whitaker didn’t use the boys restroom.

I have no words.

Sue this district into fucking oblivion, please.

-Shiv

AFA continues to push blatant falsehoods when trans people are involved

The American Shitstain Family Association has had a thing for trans women for a while (and let’s be real, it’s trans women they’re freaking out about). In order to push the narrative that Target’s trans inclusive policy facilitated the entrance of men into women’s washrooms, they sent cis men into the women’s bathrooms to prove how predatory trans women are.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc, bitches.

Now in their next dishonest bigoted smear, they’re framing the criminal voyeurism incident that occurred at a Target as having been facilitated by Target’s policy, because the perp was allegedly a trans women:

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Jason Kenney receives endorsement from another garbage fire

Jason “I don’t get caught up in the details” Kenney receives another endorsement from a gold star asshat conservative pundit, Sheila Gunn Reid. But this endorsement is a bit… erm, shall we say roundabout?

If you don’t support Jason Kenney’s bid to lead Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, some of Kenney’s allies might launch gender-based attacks on you.

Just ask former Alberta PC MLA David Quest who expressed concerns about Kenney’s leadership bid on Ezra Levant’s right-wing Rebel Media website last week.

Shortly after, fellow Rebel personality Sheila Gunn Reid took to her YouTube soapbox to tar-and-feather Quest, denouncing him as a Liberal and even taunting the former MLA for losing to a “gender-queer Colombian immigrant” during the last election.

…Sure. Roundabout. 

Basically, David Quest criticized Kenney’s bid for the “Progressive” Conservative leadership, citing Kenney’s history of being the political equivalent of cucumbers pickled in gasoline. So one of Kenney’s biggest fans, suspected garbage fire Sheila Gunn Reid, decided the best way to discredit Quest was by pointing out he lost his election to a, quote, “genderqueer Colombian immigrant.”

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#SayHerName: Another trans woman murdered

A black trans woman by the name of Deeniquia Dodds was shot on the 4th of July in Washington D.C. She passed away on Thursday after 10 days in the hospital.

The devastating trend continues: Today, NBC News reported that Black trans woman Deeniquia Dodds was shot in Washington D.C. on the fourth of July. Deeniquia, known as “Dee Dee” to her friends, was taken to the hospital where she was kept alive on life support for ten days before passing away yesterday. According to Dee Dee’s Facebook page, she attended Woodson High School in the greater D.C. area and graduated in 2012. She was 22 years old.

Autostraddle’s trans editor, Mey Valdivia Rude, stated better than I ever could why we need to double down on our protests, our activism for trans folk and especially trans women of colour:

Things are supposed to be getting better. Cis people are noticing us and writing about us and making TV shows and movies about us. But really it just seems like things are getting better for our “allies.” Trans people, mostly trans women of color, and again, mostly Black trans women who sleep with men, are being murdered at a higher rate than any measured year before. It’s hard to look at all the articles being written about how this is our time and our moment in history and not explode in anger when so many of our Black and Brown sisters and elders aren’t being allowed to see this “historic moment” happen by the same cis society that is supposedly giving us this moment right now. Trans people, trans women of color, Black trans women need to be protected, prioritized and not fucking murdered.

I strongly recommend additional reading here, from this trans WoC.

Remember her name.

-Shiv

“Sex and gender are dials,” offers Psychology Today, citing multiple discredited researchers

Psychology Today attempted to step into the complex world of sex & gender diversity and it’s a flaming hot mess. It’s a pretty lengthy read (although it at least has citations), and it will take me quite a few writing sessions to get through it all.

So I’ll probably do another series, the same way I’m doing with CBS right now. Because it’s a lengthy read, I wanted to introduce folks to the article and get them reading along with me in bite size chunks.

The author, Dr. David P Schmitt, makes his foray into GSD with an okay start.

It has become more and more common for young people around the world to describe themselves not as a “man” or a “woman,” but as “something else.” One term for this something else is transgender. Transgender is an umbrella term for a wide variety of different identities (e.g., genderqueer, gender variant, gender fluid, gender non-conforming, hyper-feminine gay man, asexual, etc.). The common core of transgender identities is they don’t fit within traditional cisgender binaries of men versus women (“cisgender” refers to people whose sexual and gendered identities align in typical ways).

At face value, there’s nothing overly contentious concerning Dr. Schmitt’s representation of GSD theory. Of course, the first citation for transgender leads to an article with a number of follow-up readings. One of those readings performs the faux pas of using “transgenderism,” rather than something less gross like “gender variance,” to describe the concept of  non-normative genders.

This is a particularly uncomfortable phrasing of the concept, because it frames gender variance as an ideology, an -ism, when it simply broadly represents personal narratives that are mostly contrary to normative gender. In other words, I feel it can contribute to this notion that a personal decision to transition somehow has political implications for other people in the way that identifying as a feminist or capitalist does. This belief of gender variance as an ideology mischaracterizes gender variance as something besides a purely personal experience. It would be like arguing that contraction of cancer is a political statement and calling cancer survivors cancerists.

The second citation is the American Psychiatric Association, which has a less bad page, I guess.

Schmitt moves on:

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