How to Talk about Trans Issues — My First Article for Arc

The Atlantic’s Jesse Singal recently came under fire for an article about transgender youth. It focused on several people who first identified as transgender, went through medical transitioning, but eventually realized they weren’t trans and “detransitioned.” Critics noted that Singal used a study that was based on sketchy science, and presented a member of an anti-trans parent group called 4thWaveNow as an unbiased source. In response, Singal asked if transgender people are the only ones who can write about trans issues.

He probably meant this rhetorically, but it’s a question worth exploring. Yes, cisgender (non-transgender) people can talk about trans issues. However, when they do, they should practice some sensitivity, because language can either humanize or dehumanize people.

Read the rest here.

If you’re not a Medium Member, though, you might get stuck outside of a paywall.

Marginalized People Are Not Responsible For Ending Our Own Oppression — My Latest for HuffPost

In the months since Donald Trump was elected president, pundits have been endlessly trying to figure out how we got into this mess (and how we can get out). Many suggest that ideological echo chambers — from all across the political spectrum — helped create our current political divide. With the recent incidents of Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant and Kirstjen Nielsen being heckled while dining out, many have called for civility in our political discourse and for people to talk to those who disagree with them. Only then, pundits say, can we escape the pitfalls of motivated reasoning and tribalism.

In a 2016 study, three social scientists found that Facebook users shared articles that reaffirmed their personal narratives even when the articles were fake, and they doubled down when shown evidence that contradicted their worldviews. Brian Resnick of Vox refers to this psychological phenomenon as “motivated reasoning” and explains how two people with different points of view can look at the same piece of empirical data and come up with two completely different interpretations.

While there is no guaranteed magic formula to make a person completely unbiased, most experts agree that being skeptical about one’s beliefs and deliberately reading different points of view can help people see things from another’s perspective. I agree to an extent. I am a hard-left-leaning progressive bisexual nonbinary transgender person, but I read articles by Bari Weiss and Conor Friedersdorf — both of whom are to the right of me on many issues — just in case they might be right about something.

However, there are those who say reading articles isn’t enough. Some, like YouTube talk show host Dave Rubin, say that the only way to break out from an echo chamber is to have a civil conversation with someone who disagrees with you on everything. It sounds good on paper, but for many people, there’s a risk of exposing ourselves to vicious personal attacks on our humanity. What is meant to be an honest discussion about social justice can quickly turn into another example of the onus being put on marginalized people to end our own oppression.

Read the rest here.

And this should be the last update for the day. Some days everything gets published at once.

Blasphemy Laws for Puny Gods — My Latest for Splice Today

Even though I’m pro-free speech, I don’t talk about it at campus debates for two reasons. The first is that it’s repetitive (although I do like Amanda Marcotte’s solution), and the second is that historically those with the most power and authority have always been the bigger threats to free speech. This is especially true in the Middle East where freethinkers are routinely executed under Islamic theocracies for blasphemy. For example, I recently came across the story of Ahmad Al-Shamri of Saudi Arabia who was sentenced to death in 2015 for expressing his criticisms of Islam on social media. According to the International Business Times, Al-Shamri pled insanity during his initial hearing, claiming that he was drunk and stoned at the time. Last year, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court overruled his appeal.

I’d assume that an all-powerful god like Allah could handle criticism, but I guess not since many of his followers feel they need to kill everyone who hurts his feelings. In the words of the Incredible Hulk, “Puny god.”

Read the rest here.

Free Speech Goes Both Ways — My Latest for Splice Today

I forgot to share this yesterday.

My friend Helen Pluckrose of Areo Magazine spoke on a panel recently at Portland State University called “We Need to Talk about Diversity,” which also featured James Damore, the Google Memo Guy. Based on all accounts, everything ran smoothly, except for one incident where someone smashed audio equipment. Other than that, Antifa didn’t show up and burn anything down like last year during a Milo Yiannopoulos speaking engagement.

There’s a myth that Leftists are against free speech and want to shut down controversial speeches. I’m a proud Leftist, and consider myself one of the most pro-free speech people around. In fact, I believe the Portland State panel could’ve been more pro-free speech if they had actual people of color and LGBTQ people to talk about diversity rather than four white people.

Critics of identity politics often say that identity has nothing to do with the validity of one’s argument. When it comes to social and political issues, however, including people from different backgrounds creates a more diverse array of opinions on controversial subjects.

Read the rest here.

In Defense of Gender Neutral Pronouns – My Latest for Splice Today

My Splice Today colleague Chris Beck wrote about how polarizing Jordan Peterson is, and I want to highlight what first put Peterson in the public spotlight: his refusal to refer to transgender students by gender neutral pronouns. In 2016, Peterson released a series of YouTube videos in which he railed against political correctness, specifically how, according to him, Canada’s C-16 bill would throw him in prison for not referring to trans students by gender-neutral pronouns. Most legal experts disagreed with his assertion, Parliament passed the bill, and Peterson hasn’t been arrested since.

The reason why he’s so adamantly against gender-neutral pronouns is, according to a televised debate, he thinks they’re “the constructions of people who have a political ideology” and “an attempt to control language… by force.” Peterson also claims that while the singular they has been used on occasion, it has never been used as a replacement for he or she.

The truth is more complex than Peterson’s talking points. Technically all language is constructed. All words are made up. I don’t know the exact origin of human language (although this neat little pamphlet from the Linguistic Society has some speculations), but do know that as new ideas develop, words are created in order to express those ideas.

Read the rest here.

(So far no trolling from Peterson fanboys yet.)

Liberal Politics and Trans Rights — My Latest for Splice Today

Despite the fact Dudebro Classical Liberals have tarnished the word, I still consider myself a liberal. I believe in using free speech to criticize bad speech, a government that works for the people, and liberty and justice for all. I’m also transgender, so when I heard that Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay wrote an article for Areo Magazine called “An Argument for a Liberal and Rational Approach to Transgender Rights and Inclusion,” I had to read it.

I wasn’t expecting much at first, though. For starters, whenever cis straight people talk about a “rational approach” to LGBTQ rights, they end up sounding like the white moderates Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about. Also, Lindsay and I recently had an unproductive conversation on Twitter where I criticized him blaming Trump’s election exclusively on “social justice warriors,” and his response insinuated that I just shut up and go away. But I figured it’d be better if I read the article before criticizing them. It isn’t as bad as I thought, but still missed the mark.

The article begins with a false equivalence. “On the one hand,” Pluckrose and Lindsay write, “we have extreme social conservatives and gender critical radical feminists who claim that trans identity is a delusion and that the good of society depends on opposing it at every turn.” I agree; both social conservatives and TERFS (trans-exclusive radical feminists) perpetuate the deadly myth that trans women are really just men in drag that want to infiltrate women’s spaces in order to assault them (even though studies show trans women are more likely to be assaulted in public bathrooms than cis women). But then: “On the other, we have extreme trans activists who claim not only that trans people straightforwardly are the gender they experience themselves to be but that everyone else must be compelled to accept this, use corresponding language, and be fully inclusive of trans people in their choice of sexual partners.” I can understand objections to the last one, but what’s wrong with the first two? What’s so extreme about trans people wanting to been seen and accepted for who they are?

Click here to read the rest.

And in a strange turn of events, Helen Pluckrose loved the article!

When “Free Speech” Silences Marginalized Voices – My Latest Ravishly Article

Contrary to popular belief among certain YouTubers, I’m a social justice warrior who actually loves free speech. In fact, the main reason I write is to use my free speech rights to challenge people’s preconceived notions about gender and sexuality and create conversations about complex social justice issues. One of my favorite philosophers, John Stuart Mill, summarizes it best in his 1859 classic essay On Liberty:

But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation, those who dissent from the opinion still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

Of course this opens up a wide variety of questions regarding free speech in the 21st century: Is it censorship when a private organization disinvites a controversial speaker? Would racist slogans like “Blood and soil” be considered hate speech that directly leads to violence? Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to answer all these questions right now. I do, however, want to point out a disturbing trend I see:

Those who advocate for free speech the most vocally tend to be silent when marginalized people are censored.

Click here to read the rest.

WDYT?: Is Hate Speech Free Speech?

CN: Racist slurs/slogans

In the wake of the Charlottesville rally, there’s been a lot of talk about whether or not hate speech is free speech. Maybe I’m just a Regressive Leftist who wants to censor everyone who triggers me, but I don’t think there’s a simple answer.

First, let’s define what hate speech actually is. As Andrew Torrez told Morgan and I on the Biskeptical Podcast a few months ago, the law usually defines hate speech as any hateful speech that directly leads to violence. In other words, it’s one thing to stand on a stage and say white people are the superior race; it’s something completely different to stir up a crowd of white supremacists to go out and commit violence against ethnic minorities right there and then. This is pretty much John Stuart Mills’ approach to free speech. He believed there should be no government censorship whatsoever even when it comes to the most bullshit and inane ideas, but he also said “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

I agree for the most part, but I do have some questions.

Technically anyone can say “Blood and soil” and “1488” on social media, even if they’re not serious. So if someone says “Blood and soil” on Twitter as either a joke or just to vent but has no intention of actually going out and murdering Jews, would that still fall under the category of hate speech? By that I mean should the government get involved, or is it best for regular folks to use their free speech to say, “Hey man, that’s racist as fuck”? I think in this situation it’s best to use your free speech to call out hateful speech because even though hateful speech like that doesn’t directly incite violence, it indirectly feeds into a culture of violence.

I hate to quote Sam Harris, but he was right about one thing: beliefs have consequences. If you feed into a culture that says certain minorities are inferior to others, you create a culture of discrimination, hatred, and, ultimately, violence. Language itself can be violent, but I like to think in this case the best thing to do is use your free speech to condemn hateful speech without the government getting involved.

Charlottesville is where things get tricky. Not only were the white supremacists chanting “The Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil,” but according to the people who were there, they also came with bats, brass knuckles, shields, and other weapons. They were ready to fight. Would their chants of “Blood and soil” and “The Jews will not replace us” count as hate speech in this case? Should the government keep a closer eye on future white supremacist rallies (not that the government cares about black and brown people, of course)?

What do you think?

ICYMI, Three Recent Splice Today Articles I Think You All Will Appreciate

As you may or may not know, I recently started writing for Baltimore-based website Splice Today which covers politics, art, and culture. Here are three recent articles I wrote for them that I think y’all might like:

Fear Builds Walls: How Pink Floyd’s The Wall Predicted Trump

Gender Dysphoria as a Still, Small Voice (It’s pretty emotionally raw, so discretion is advised)

The Failure of Classical Liberalism (Oh boy, this is gonna piss off the Free Speech Warriors!)

So yeah, hope you like them.