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!

Bi Any Means Podcast #117: Life in a Pentecostal Cult with Devyn Lennex

My guest for today is my friend Devyn Lennex. They are 20-something non-binary person who grew up in an extremely conservative Pentecostal cult where they had to wear skirts and couldn’t go anywhere that served alcohol. At 17, they were in what was basically an arranged marriage, but got out at 19 and began their journey to self-discovery and self-agency. So today we’re going to hear Devyn’s story.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #117: Life in a Pentecostal Cult with Devyn Lennex” on Spreaker.

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Two New Articles on Ravishly and Splice Today

Forgot to mention last week that my first article for Ravishly went online. It’s called “I’m Done Trying to ‘Prove’ My Non-Binary Identity.” So far it’s gotten good feedback.

I also have a new article published on Splice Today called “A Humanist Struggles with Nonviolence.”

Hopefully once I become more financially stable, I’ll go back to blogging more often.

Is Biological Sex a Social Construct? It’s Complicated — New Paste Magazine Article

Much has been said already about YouTube sex educator Laci Green’s supposed “taking the red pill,” so I don’t want to rehash everything. I do, however, want to bring up one of her latest Twitter threads regarding the phrase “biologically male/female.” Teen Vogue recently published an article about anal sex where they used the terms “prostrate owner” and “non-prostrate owner” instead of “male and female.” Green criticized the article’s use of the terms on her Twitter feed,where she said, “’Female’ and ‘male’ are not identities or genders. They are biological sexes and refer to someone’s literal body parts (for reproduction).” This, along with her latest videos debating whether or not there are more thantwo genders, led many to criticize Green for being transphobic. Although she does affirm trans and gender non-conforming people’s gender identities in her latest video, the debate sparked by her recent tweets brings up a question I often hear from my fellow trans people: Is biological sex a “social construct?”

According to another YouTuber, Riley J. Dennis, the answer is yes. In a video she did back in February of this year, she explains biological sex is a social construct because not everyone experiences secondary sex characteristics the same way. “Some people with penises don’t develop much if any facial hair,” she says, “while some develop beards, and the amount of facial hair that they have doesn’t make them more or less male. The same goes for people with vaginas. Some of them will develop large breasts, some will develop small breasts, but neither of those is more or less female.” She also points out many trans people have genitals, hormones and other secondary sex characteristics altered during transitioning, so how would “biologically male/female” still apply? Ultimately the biggest criticism towards the term “biologically male/female” is that, according to Dennis, “when people say that a trans woman is ‘biologically male,’ they use that as a way to attack trans people. They use it as an excuse to exclude us from bathrooms, locker rooms and other women’s spaces. It’s just a more subtle and more socially acceptable way of discriminating against trans people.”

Biologist Jerry Coyne, on the other hand, disagrees. For example, he writes, Dennis’ example of medical transitioning “irrelevant to the argument from biological sex as a reality at birth. I could use lasers to remove the sex combs of Drosophila males (stiff tufts of bristles on the forelegs that males use to grasp females during copulation), but that doesn’t mean that sex in Drosophila is a social construct.” Coyne later clarifies that he affirms transgender people’s identities, and acknowledges bigots often use biological sex as an excuse to discriminate against trans people. However, he continues, “The concept of biological sex has been extremely useful in biology—it’s a linchpin of a ton of research in evolutionary biology and other fields, and, with very few unclassifiable cases, it’s an objective reality.”

While both Dennis and Coyne made good points, I decided to ask trans activist and biologist Julia Sereno for her take. It turns out that, like with most science, it’s complicated.

Click here to read the rest.

Bi Any Means Podcast #107: Laci Green, Toxic Leftists, and Egotistical Podcasters (Random Thoughts)

Due to the lack of a guest this week, I just turned on the recorder and talked about a few things on my mind for about 22 minutes. Hopefully it’s not too boring.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #107: Laci Green, Toxic Leftists, and Egotistical Podcasters (Random Thoughts)” on Spreaker.

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The Biskeptical Podcast #26: From Russia with Love

On today’s episode, we talk about Trump’s alleged ties with Russia, and whether or not it’s enough to get his ass impeached. We also discuss the Manchester bombing, a Mississippi representative who wants to lynch people, and why that shitty social construct penis hoax article doesn’t prove the entire gender studies field is bullshit. To top it all off, the Social Justice Galaxy Warriors take a trip to Wootopia and discover it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #26: From Russia with Love” on Spreaker.

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The Biskeptical Podcast #23: Debunking Transgender Myths

CN: Transphobia, Sexual Assault

Today’s show comes from our friend Ingrid who suggested we talk about myths surrounding being transgender and transitioning, which is exactly what we do on this episode. We get into the science behind gender identity, deconstruct what sociologists actually mean by “gender is a social construct” (spoiler alert: it’s complicated), and, yes, explain why there’s no comparison between Rachel Dolezal and being trans.

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #23: Debunking Transgender Myths” on Spreaker.

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Is Gender a Social Construct? Kinda

“Social construct” is one of those weird terms that gets tossed around a lot online without knowing what exactly it means. A lot of people think “social construct” means “made up” or “fictional,” but it’s more complicated than that. Now I’m not a sociologist, so don’t take my word as gospel, but based on what I’ve read, hopefully I can clear up some things.

For starters, according to Dictionary.com, a social construct is “a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is ‘constructed’through cultural or social practice.” Wikipedia goes a bit deeper and explains, “A social construct or construction concerns the meaning, notion, or connotation placed on an object or event by a society, and adopted by the inhabitants of that society with respect to how they view or deal with the object or event.” So when it comes to gender being a social construct, it means our society’s ideas about what it means to have either a penis or a vagina are determined by society, not necessarily biology.

Simone deBeauvoir sums it best with the classic line from The Second Sex, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” To be a woman in society is to meet certain preconceived expectations and roles, and if you don’t meet those roles, society says you’re not doing it right. Judith Butler echoes deBeuvoir’s observation by explaining “gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time–an identity through a stylized repetition of acts.” Hence, according to Butler, gender is performative.

Unfortunately, the social construction argument overlooks one key factor that goes into gender: the scientific basis for gender identity.

As I’ve mentioned before, several studies show a connection between neurological patters and gender identity, so the catchphrase “gender is a social construct” doesn’t always show the full picture. I think trans activist and biologist Julia Serano explains it better than I can:

While [queer theory and post-structuralist] feminism differs from [identity-politics-focused/cultural] feminism in many ways, it shares its predecessor’s tendency to artificialize gender expression. This is often accomplished via gender performativity, a concept developed by Judith Butler to describe the way in which built-in expectations about maleness and femaleness, straightness and queerness, are constantly imposed on all of us. Butler uses the term “performativity” to highlight how feminine and masculine norms must constantly be cited. She uses the example of the child who becomes “girled” by others at birth: She is given a female name, referred to with female pronouns, given girl toys, and will, throughout her life, have her “girlness” cited by others in society. Butler argues that this sort of reiteration “produces” gender, making it appear “natural.” However, many other [queer theorists and post-structuralist] feminists have interpreted Butler’s writings to mean that one’s gender is merely a “performance.” According to this latter view, if gender itself is merely a “performance,” then one can challenge sexism by simply “performing” one’s gender in ways that call the binary gender system into question; the most often cited example of this is a drag queen whose “performance” supposedly reveals the way in which femaleness and femininity are merely a “performance.”

In other words, the idea that gender is just performance doesn’t tell the full story.

I think a better way of explaining it is this: gender identity has a scientific basis, but gender roles are social constructs. Rosey Grier isn’t less of a cis man because he crochets. Dori Mooneyham isn’t less of a trans woman because of her butch presentation. AFAB non-binaries are no less non-binary if they present as feminine. Society may say they’re not performing their genders right, but that’s because our society has some fucked up views about what it means to be either a man or a woman. We’re better than this, right?

So yeah, hopefully this clears things up some.