HJ Hornbeck has a post titled Watch Your Language, criticizing Laci Green for a series of tweets on Trump’s ban on trans people in the military. I have numerous disagreements with HJ’s post, and it feels too long to leave as a comment. On the other hand, this is a bit arcane, so I don’t actually recommend people read this unless they’re especially interested in the topic.
TL;DR: It is reasonable to call trans discrimination gender discrimination (as opposed to gender identity discrimination).
This is all related to a twitter thread Laci Green posted, criticizing Trump’s trans military ban. Laci Green has recently come under criticism for, um, a number of things that I won’t touch, but suffice it to say that many feminist activists are very suspicious of her. HJ asks us to identify something wrong with her twitter thread.
IMHO, the most obvious thing wrong with her tweets is that she hints here that she thinks there is a reasonable argument to be had about excluding transitioning from “basic” care. But that is not what HJ talks about.
HJ complains that Green refers to the trans ban as discrimination that is based on gender (rather than gender identity). This language, I admit, is a bit odd. “Transgender” is not itself a gender. It’s supremely annoying when surveys ask, “What is your gender?” and the options are “Male,” “Female,” and “Transgender.” However, “gender” and “gender identity” are at least somewhat interchangeable, so I’m guessing Green dropped the word because of Twitter’s character limit. (I checked, she is running right up against the limit.)
HJ makes his argument on the basis of how “gender” and “gender identity” are defined in Canadian law, and by the American Psychological Association. This is a strange argument, since there’s no particular reason that someone in a casual tweet would use the same definition as some official institution. Furthermore, I would argue that we should not be using those definitions.
As far as the law goes, it is true that trans people are often not covered under gender discrimination. However, I believe they should be. And this is in fact an argument that people have used to improve policy! To give an example in recent memory, the Obama administration interpreted Title IX laws to apply to gender identity and assigned sex, even though these are not explicitly covered. Of course, Trump reversed this decision. Along similar lines, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual orientation discrimination is covered under sex discrimination in Title VII laws.
As activists, we should definitely push to interpret these anti-discrimination laws to include trans people. We should also push for laws to mention gender identity explicitly, to prevent the Trumps of the world from taking other interpretations.
HJ further argues that Green’s error is not an error of ignorance; previous comments by her indicate that she already understands the distinction between gender and gender identity. I also disagree on this point. Let’s take a look:
Transgender is when your gender identity doesn’t match the gender assigned to you. Your gender is assigned to you by the world. External forces. It’s assigned to you at birth by the doctor, by your parents and just how everyone perceives you.
I’m not sure how much to make of this, because it isn’t a direct quote from Green, but rather a comment from someone she’s talking with and agreeing with. But the above statement is a bit awkward, apparently confusing “gender” with “assigned gender”. Your assigned gender is not necessarily the same as your gender, that’s kind of the whole point. Your gender = the gender you identify as != the gender you’re assigned.
HJ also shows a couple people on twitter calling Laci Green out for her awkward language. Green acts a bit confused by both of these people. I would argue that she is correct to be confused, because the tweets calling her out are very ambiguous about which side they are taking. I looked at “Peacock Pete” and they appear to be quite transphobic, and so the suspicious/confused stance was the correct one. I also checked “Magical Poo Baron” and I honestly can’t tell what they’re arguing. (Obligatory note: I do not endorse harassing either of these people or really interacting with them in any way.) Although for the record, like Green I am unaware of any research claiming that gender dysphoria comes from hormonal imbalances.
On the other hand it’s really weird that Green thinks the stress from gender dysphoria is mostly external (no actually that’s not weird, it’s a common TERF and gender abolitionist position).
Oh, and one more thing. HJ incidentally links to an article “Why Gender Dysphoria should no longer be considered a medical disorder“. By Alice Dreger. I’ve heard that name before. Anyway. I also happen to think there is a good case for considering gender dysphoria, in some form, to be a disorder.
Laci Green’s statements on gender have a lot of problems, and I get along with HJ, but yeah…