A horribly effective silencer


I have to reply to some of the garbage that’s being spewed on PZ’s post about me from yesterday. I’m going to do it here because – oh well the reason’s obvious.

It’s all people who have been examining everything they can see of my Facebook activity going back months – which is creepy and disgusting all by itself. Even if I’m a raving Republican, that’s creepy and disgusting. Since I’m not, it’s all the more so. (If I were a Republican lobbyist or politician or influential think-tanker, ok, fair game, but a minor blogger? Not such fair game.)

One major item in the indictment: I read and sometimes comment in a Facebook group called Discussing gender critical & gender identity. It’s an open group. At the top of the group’s page it has a note on rules, which starts with this:

This group offers a space for people with very different views about “gender” and “gender identity” to engage in respectful discussion. We require people to be civil and we request that group members listen to one another. The point of the group is to foster dialogue and allow for a broader discussion of these issues between those who advocate for gender identity, those who hold gender critical or abolitionist views and those who are exploring and/or undecided.

It has a range of views. Nobody agrees with all of them, because that would be incoherent. It has some interesting discussions, with people who disagree with each other. I don’t agree with everything said there (see above), to say the least. I don’t endorse the group, and neither do I denounce it. I think I have a right to read posts in the group and even (gasp) comment on them without being hauled before the Court of Asshole Opinion.

People have told me Elizabeth Hungerford, one of the admins, is a TERF…but then I’ve learned to be wary of that label, because I’m not sure it’s applied carefully in all cases. In any case I’m not endorsing her, or denouncing her either. People have pointed out that letter to the UN – that looks like a bad idea to me, but I don’t know enough about it to pronounce on it. Elizabeth friend requested me on Facebook and I accepted. That doesn’t mean we go to each other’s houses and put our jammies on and talk about boys – it means we can see each other’s walls. I’m pretty sure I disagree with plenty of her ideas, but then…that’s the case with everyone. Yes, it’s a matter of degree, but I’m still not convinced that this is something the Pharyngula Horde gets to decide for me.

I have on occasion made a joke in that group. The people on PZ’s post are brandishing a couple of those jokes as evidence of my thoughtcriminality. This is how low we’ve sunk – or maybe it’s how low we’ve always been, I don’t even know at this point.

I make jokes about things all the time. I say flippant things. I try not to do it on sensitive subjects, but sometimes I get that wrong.

Well obviously someone like that doesn’t belong on Freethought Blogs. The horror!

And then there’s this one from someone called “Thumper” –

From anteprepro’s link at #101

Ophelia Benson: I know. The TERF panic is a horribly effective silencer.

Oh my god, NO!! How could I possibly have said that?! It’s so obviously NOT TRUE at all in any way!!!

You could not make it up.

Comments

  1. qwints says

    People have pointed out that letter to the UN – that looks like a bad idea to me, but I don’t know enough about it to pronounce on it.

    It’s not that long a letter, and it’s motive is pretty explicit:

    our growing concerns about American “gender identity” legislation and the threat it presents to the preservation of female sex-segregated spaces

    To every trans* person I’ve talked to, that’s a morally reprehensible concern. AFAB segregated spaces harm trans women, and people seeking to limit protections for gender identity to maintain them are doing the wrong thing for a bad reason.

  2. says

    What do you want? Blood? An affidavit? Money? A whipping? What?

    I didn’t write the letter, I don’t endorse the letter, the letter is not in any way my fault.

  3. says

    Instead of saying “I don’t like it so I’m not going to read B&W anymore,” those on the attack are saying, “I don’t like it so nobody else should read B&W anymore.” More and more, they sound like JT Eberhard circa 2013, suffering a severe case of foot-in-their-own-mouth disease, trying to tell other people how to live and think.

    It truly amazes how some people obsessively read (or look at) things they say they disagree with instead of simply not reading them. It’s not hard to do.

  4. says

    Well that part doesn’t amaze me by itself. We can all just not read racist polemics, for example, but it would be better to read and counter them. But here – the obsessive looking coupled with the utter trivia of what they come up with for the purpose of trashing me is not quite the same sort of thing.

  5. qwints says

    I’d like you and others reading my comment to understand what some people think is wrong with Elizabeth Hungerford’s position in that letter.

  6. sambarge says

    qwints @ #1

    Your link to the letter doesn’t seem to work for me. Can you re-link or let me know the title so that I can find it?

    Mostly, I’m wondering if the letter is on that FB page about gender or linked there or if the page is being used to garner support for it.

  7. says

    Why, qwints? What does Elizabeth Hungerford’s position on anything matter at all?

    Ophelia doesn’t endorse or approve of her. So unless you’re pulling the guilt-by-association route, it has no bearing. And if you are taking that route, I suspect that you’re going to get a two-word response.

  8. sambarge says

    Never mind, qwints. I found the letter. I can’t see that it had any effect at the UN though. Does anyone know?

  9. qwints says

    Sorry about the link – 2012 Letter to the UN on the Status of Women

    @Ophelia
    No worries. I absolutely understand the response given the context.

    @MrFancyPants, I brought up Elizabeth Hungerford’s position because Ophelia said she didn’t know enough about it to pronounce on it. I think the letter represents a position that if widely adopted would be harmful, so I said so. I hope people take a look at it and agree with me.

  10. polishsalami says

    I’m not wading too much into the clusterfuck so I’m going to ‘do a John Morales’ and go [meta].
    Here’s why the atheist blogosphere needs networks like FtB to succeed:
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/prestigious-infectious-disease-doctor-attributes-antibiotic-resistance-to-development-rather-than-evolution/

    It’s dumb, it’s weird, and its also more than a bit paranoid. The author doesn’t realize that “developing resistance” is a standard term when describing this mechanism, probably for fairly straightforward reasons (“develop a cure” etc.).

    Why bring this up? This is a blog with 34,000 subscribers; its owner is a well-known atheist. If FtB were to disappear then this quality of work would be considered the pinnacle of the atheist blogosphere. Surely we can do better than this?

  11. says

    polishsalami #11,

    Surely we can do better than this?

    Well to answer your question: Coyne can like, anyone else, be a jackass at times and can miss the target at times. But to your point: perhaps FtB bloggers can do better at writing about science and evolution than WEIT, but to date it has not demonstrated that it can even come close.

  12. says

    The trouble is, I would rather not make this thread be about that letter. I’m not in favor of it. I haven’t done anything to support it. I don’t think I need to answer for it. It’s nothing to do with me – no, having accepted a Facebook friend request from Elizabeth Hungerford doesn’t make it anything to do with me – so I don’t want to make it an issue here.

    This business of trying to pin every bad idea and bad action on me because I sometimes comment in a Facebook group and accepted a Facebook friend request from an unapproved person is just more of this policing bullshit. I want people to stop policing me. Dragging in a letter that is nothing to do with me is not going to help with that.

    (Nothing is, but at least I get to say which parts are bullshit. [spoiler: most of them])

  13. doubtthat says

    The same people who label you “TERF” have labelled other people “TERF’s,” then use your VERYveryvery loose connection to those people as evidence that you are a TERF. It’s a powerful cycle fueled by sanctimony and confirmation bias.

    And maybe those other people are horrible, who knows? I don’t do background checks on distant acquaintances who send me a facebook friend request.

  14. deepak shetty says

    I try not to do it on sensitive subjects, but sometimes I get that wrong.
    It does seem that a lot of this could have been avoided if people just assumed this instead of nefarious motives.

    As to your associations – I think a similar analogy can be drawn about people who follow Dawkins
    a. There are those who agree with him on everything
    b. There are those who think his voice is still useful for Atheism/Evolution and thats all he should talk about (and disagree with him when it comes to feminism)
    c. There are those who think his voice is still useful for Atheism/Evolution and arent really concerned about feminism and ignore whatever he has said – the topic doesnt interest them and they dont follow it with any level of detail
    d. There are those who follow him precisely because they disagree.
    e. There are those who follow him and hope to convince him with reason that he is wrong about some topics
    I dont see why following Dawkins necessarily implies a) –
    But thats what a lot of people are assuming about you.(Though personally I agree – if they did petition to take away trans-people rights , then I’d say goodbye!)

  15. says

    Ah, but Ophelia, before you have denounced every possibly suspicious action/utterance of every person you have ever spoken to, how can we be sure you don’t harbour some unapproved views? And of course, even if you do denounce them, how can we be sure you mean it? (As we’re not believing what you do say about your own views re respecting trans people’s identities.)
    .
    This is absolutely textbook “demonic fighting”, see Alon/Omer, The Psychology of Demonization, chapter 4 try here.
    Essntial Asymmetry – we are good, they are bad. The Obligation to Win, The Principle of Retaliation, the Urge for Total Control, Suspicion and Secretiveness.
    It may not be a comfort, but it’s a known phenomenon. BTW The book is very interesting, and offers some alternative strategies.

  16. John Horstman says

    I was just reminded of this excellent article from a year ago (looking at some of the theoretical underpinnings/implications of the rise of use of “triggering” as a silencing tactic, among other subjects) by Jack Halberstam, a radical queer anti-capitalist anarchist who may or may not be considered trans. I’m a product of the 90s scene and theoretical perspective Jack describes in that first link, and indeed influenced by zir writing directly, which likely explains a fair amount of my views on the subject. A not-insignificant part of what makes arguments like this (which Jack notes go back decades – a point I and others have raised) so frustrating is the insistence of your recent detractors that their preferences and viewpoints are settled questions with universally-agreed-upon answers when that’s not even close to true (the first linked article discusses the insistence that “tranny” is universally a slur, irrespective of context, as another example). I encountered similar frustration with Heina’s post where they blithely asserted that, “The fact that cis women are women is not disputed by anyone, not trans women nor non-binary trans folk nor men nor trans men. Even on the very fringes of radical non-cis thought, spaces where I often find myself, I’ve yet to see anyone questioning the legitimacy of cis women’s status as women,” which is similarly untrue, not only from a radical queer gender-critical perspective, but with respect to the constant reinforcement of cis-normativity through continual demands that cisgendered people ‘prove’ their ‘real’ gendered status through normative presentation and behavior. I’m seeing an ongoing problem with people uncritically generalizing their personal experience, and I’m sorry to say that doing so isn’t only a problem when people in relative positions of privilege do so.

    @qwints #1:

    To every trans* person I’ve talked to, that’s a morally reprehensible concern. AFAB segregated spaces harm trans women, and people seeking to limit protections for gender identity to maintain them are doing the wrong thing for a bad reason.

    This is another one of those issues that gets treated as a settled question with universal agreement by a particular subset of the trans activist community, when that’s simply not true. As I think I noted in a comment elsewhere, I’ve encountered plenty of trans people who disagree. The most prominent example I can think of is when Kate Bornstein came to speak at my campus and was asked about her position on the Michigan’s Womyn’s Music Festival controversy. Her response was basically, “Why would I want to be around a bunch of people who don’t want me there?” She doesn’t think AFAB-only spaces are particularly harmful in and of themselves, as long as they are not the only spaces available for some kind of necessary service (and I would be happy to consider music festivals socially necessary for some, and there are a lot of music festivals that don’t have any restrictions around gender – I should know, as I’ve been to Summerfest plenty and SXSW Music once) and neither do a lot of the more radical (and gender-critical) trans and genderqueer people I interact with in our local scene.

  17. Shan Dynasty says

    I wish I knew what to say about this awful business, other than that I’m just flabbergasted that so many people would gang up to denounce you as a horrible person just so that they can feel the righteous glow of virtue themselves.
    Sending many good wishes and thoughts to you, and I hope you’ll continue to have a satisfying and productive life in or out of FTB.

  18. Kaethe says

    Unfortunately,most people do not read the letter in the context it was written. Nor does anyone analyze what either the intent or the position is Hungerford took in the letter. I think this might assists:

    “People who bravely defy sex-based stereotypes remind us that being born into a male body does not naturally lead one to act or feel masculine and that being born into a female body does not naturally lead one to act or feel feminine. These people, whether they apply the trans* label to themselves or not, deserve specialized legal protection from harassment and discrimination. But this protection should be effectuated as a legal prohibition against the enforcement of gender roles and related stereotyping. Redefining “sex” as an amalgamation of pre-existing stereotypical characteristics that we currently associate with females or “women ”– ostensibly as a means of protecting trans* people– is harmful to the rest of the world’s women.”

    How can anyone disagree with this? Stereotyping of women based on gender is at the root of every inequality and indignity women suffer in this society, starting with pay inequities and ending in the treatment of women by health care providers.

    Being called a terf is pure invective. Most people don’t even know what a trans exclusive radical feminist really is. Elizabeth is certainly not one of them. But then it’s the great new fashion to shout down anyone who might have a critical view of gender identity and it’s implications for the rest of society. The trans community is doing itself no favors with this tack. Instead of meeting these criticisms with engagement in conversation shutting people up in some way or another is preferred.

  19. deepak shetty says

    @John horstman
    She doesn’t think AFAB-only spaces are particularly harmful in and of themselves, as long as they are not the only spaces available for some kind of necessary service
    While I agree with the general thrust of your comment – isn’t it similar to a baker refusing to serve a cake for gay weddings ? Sure there are other bakers and why would someone want to pay this bigot – but there is a broader principle in question. This is discriminatory to trans folks and whether or not every single trans person is bothered by it , is hardly the point.

  20. Al Dente says

    Kaethe @20

    Being called a terf is pure invective. Most people don’t even know what a trans exclusive radical feminist really is.

    Calling someone like Cathy Brennan a TERF is not invective, it’s descriptive. However TERFs like Brennan get very upset about being called TERFs. However when a feminist like Brennan openly and enthusiastically displays transphobia and transmisogyny then calling them TERFs is warranted. Link to the Rationalwiki page on Cathy Brennan.

  21. says

    Speaking from personal experience, trans activists have been incredibly successful in making this LGBTQ journalist afraid of writing in any depth about trans issues. Whenever I write an article that touches on the trans community I read and re-read for anything that might get me in trouble with the very vocal, hair-trigger segment of that community which decides who are the mortal enemies of trans folks and who is warily tolerated. Even so, I’ve gotten in minor trouble with them a couple of times, and for articles that had been painstakingly combed over to remove anything controversial or critical. Online friends who knew me before I started writing for a larger audience regularly make fun of the sorts of tortured caveats about cisgendered this or dismantling the gender binary that, which I work into my articles in the name of keeping on the good side of the trans community and living to write another day.

    I simply don’t experience the same thing with an other subset of the LGBT community. I’ve written about bisexuality without being bi, and about celibate gay Christians when I am not remotely one of those- no one policed me for doing so in an honest, plainspoken way. Trans activism is just in a really weird place right now, I think. I hope as that community gains more acceptance they’ll settle down, but there’s a real sickness in the sorts of witch hunts, almost always against people who could or should have been considered potential allies, that they’re in the habit of conducting right now.

  22. says

    @Kaethe, I think where you’ve gone wrong is in thinking that trans people want to redefine sex as an amalgamation of stereotypes. That may have been sort of true of the trans community 15 years ago, but it’s not current. Believe me- I got taken to task by trans activists for using “butch women” when they believed I should have used “cis butch women”, so I know.

    Modern trans women aren’t necessarily feminine and they don’t necessarily adhere to any particular stereotypes about femininity. Modern trans men are perhaps even more likely than trans women to openly embrace their feminine sides. While I also struggle somewhat with what “man” or “woman” really means if it means neither biological sex nor any sort of stereotyped gender behavior, modern mainstream trans men and women aren’t claiming they are men or women because of their masculinity or femininity, that much is clear.

  23. says

    It seems very likely that as that community gains more acceptance they will settle down. The sickness has to be a product of the lack of acceptance…something which can be very sick-making.

    Great comments.

  24. Kaethe says

    @aldente
    As far as I am concerned Cathy Brennan is not a terf but rather an ass. She is as much a fascist as some of the more radical trans activists who want to burn down the houses of the mothers of people they disagree with. People like that are not worth even having a conversation with and a waste of time.

    @Vanessa
    I believe the use of the invented preposition “cis” is just an attempt by trans activists to “other” those that are not them. Like it’s payback time. Cis in trans circles has become a dirty word, to connote non trans persons as somewhat suspect, smelly and “dirty”, not fully human.

    Female or male is a biological distinction. Women and Man is a social distinction in my view. Femininity and Masculinity are performances imposed by gender as a construct. Telling you to say “cis butch women” is erasing an entire lesbian grown history in one stroke. How is that appropriate. It is bizzare to me how such inversion of lived reality can be imposed. And people fall all over themselves to accommodate as if they had checked out their critical thinking skills.

    And before you get all uptight I am a trans woman and I live in a world of women and men not cis women and cis men.

  25. Sebastian Willert says

    @John Horstman #17

    Another issue I noticed is that there is so much hyperbole thrown around that some of it tends to stick, even with people critical of this particular subset.

    I know Ophelia doesn’t want this thread to be about the letters (After I hit reload before posting it seems to be already to late for that) but I think it’s important to stay intellectually honest, especially when criticizing the actions of others. The narrative that this letter “petitioned the UN to strip trans rights from human rights declarations” has also been used to indirectly attack Ophelia all over the place and I don’t want to let that stand.

    First of all: there are at least two letters and the part qwints quoted in #1 is just a short reference to an earlier one that can be found here: 2011 LETTER TO THE UN ON “GENDER IDENTITY” LEGISLATION

    From that letter:

    We fully support anti-discrimination protections for transgender and transsexual people that do not run rough-shod over laws that protect females. We support the following definition of “gender identity” – a person’s identification with the sex opposite her or his physiology or assigned sex at birth, which can be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of a transsexual medical condition, or related condition, as deemed medically necessary by the American Medical Association.” Such a definition would protect the classification of sex, while simultaneously providing a cause of action for discriminatory practices on the basis of a persistent and documented “gender identity.” We welcome people who fit into this definition into space segregated by sex in recognition of their perceived need for access and in the fervent hope that we can achieve such protection for identifiably transgender or transsexual people without harming females.

    So no, it doesn’t even call for AFAB segregated spaces but for a strict and in my opinion overly medical definition of gender identity for the purpose of access to sex segregated spaces.

    That said, I still think this letter is harmful and that Hungerford is seriously transphobic but I also think a discussion how to best codify protection for trans people into law without making them jump through dehumanizing hoops while e.g. still allowing women shelters to keep men out is important. Unfortunately it is a discussion that seems nearly impossible to have in the current climate.

  26. kevinkirkpatrick says

    People who bravely defy sex-based stereotypes remind us that being born into a male body does not naturally lead one to act or feel masculine and that being born into a female body does not naturally lead one to act or feel feminine. These people, whether they apply the trans* label to themselves or not, deserve specialized legal protection from harassment and discrimination. But this protection should be effectuated as a legal prohibition against the enforcement of gender roles and related stereotyping. Redefining “sex” as an amalgamation of pre-existing stereotypical characteristics that we currently associate with females or “women ”– ostensibly as a means of protecting trans* people– is harmful to the rest of the world’s women.”

    How can anyone disagree with this?

    Since you ask.

    I can disagree because it erases the actual experience of people who are transgender. My son’s experience does not fit into the narrative – he did not
    1) Perceive the amalgamation of pre-existing stereotypical characteristics that we currently associate with females or “women”
    2) Perceive the amalgamation of pre-existing stereotypical characteristics that we currently associate with males or “men”
    3) Decide, from before he could talk, to try to convince everyone he was a boy simply based on preference for the latter / male forms of expression.

    In my experience, TERFs are ignorant – they have NO IDEA how deep this goes – and deliberately so: brazenly refusing to see the lives of trans* people for how they actually are. At age 2, my son was frantic for an answer to, “When will I grow my penis?” (and talk about heartbreak – you can’t imagine how much it hurt to correct him when he proudly proclaimed that he’d looked, and found our “mistake”, that he actually had one, it was just small/hidden). At age 3, he burst into tears, then entered a multi-day depressive episode, upon hearing that he’d be growing breasts some day. No, he was lamenting the discomfort of eventually wearing a bra. TERFs erase the hell of wondering why one’s 2, 3, and 4 year-old was already exhibiting signs of anxiety and depression; and why those emotions always tied back to his being labeled as a girl. They erase the transformation that came when trans kids are allowed to transition. They block out the instantaneous “snap” disappearance of layers of despondency, daily tantrums, and overall worry with the simple “Okay, we get it, you really are a boy and we’ll call you Mark from now on.”. They’d prefer to not hear his 4-year-old mouth answer, when asked “How long do you want to have a boy name”: “Until I am dead, mommy. I’m going to be a boy until I am dead.”

    For crying out loud, teen-aged transgender girls are not walking in front of oncoming trucks, choosing death over a continued existence as the “wrong” gender, simply because they prefer skirts and ponytails to jeans and crew-cuts; or over disappointment that they won’t be able to ogle all the “real girls” they’d tricked into sharing changing rooms.

    TERFs erase all of this. They erase the experience of transgender parents with such “insights” as [the current active topic of the Gender Critical and Gender Identity Facebook page]

    I truly don’t think most supporters of the trans-child narrative have thought it through at all. They’re just going along with being a good accepting inclusive liberal without a critical thought in their heads- a critical thought would be exclusionary bigotry, right?

    Yep, that’s my wife and I – we just didn’t think things through! Something tells me I’d be hard-pressed to “be civil” enough to last long on that page! Where else have I seen the admonition that conversations, above all else, must remain civil?

    Even aside from its transphobic stench, the model of gender that underlies the UN letter is garbage science that does not describe the world we live in. Like any other falsified model, it needs to be tossed into the waste-bin of bad ideas (not used as a basis for public policy – we don’t say, “Well, even though we now know that vaccines don’t cause autism, maybe we should modify vaccine schedules in order to reduce rates of autism.”)

    Both in terms of parsimony and explanatory power, any correct model of gender must account for 2 facts:
    1) For at least some people, there is a sense of gender identity (NOT preference of pink/soft things, agg!) which is independent of their reproductive organs and perception of cultural stereotypes
    2) Forcing such people to adopt a gender identity different than their perceived gender is psychologically damaging, leading to drastically increased rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide.

    Don’t get me wrong – there’s some good ideas mixed with the garbage. I’d love to see the world rid of gender roles and gender stereotypes. Yes, absolutely, these roles and stereotypes hurt women (transgender or not) (and often hurt men (transgender or not) as well). But I’m not okay to see one false (and harmful) construct simply replaced with another, and “Gender=Biological Sex” is one of the garbage stereotypes that needs to be dumped with the rest.

    So, yeah, since you asked… I guess that’s one way “anyone could disagree with this”.

  27. Kaethe says

    “At age 2, my son was frantic for an answer to, “When will I grow my penis?” (and talk about heartbreak – you can’t imagine how much it hurt to correct him when he proudly proclaimed that he’d looked, and found our “mistake”, that he actually had one, it was just small/hidden). At age 3, he burst into tears, then entered a multi-day depressive episode, upon hearing that he’d be growing breasts some day. No, he was lamenting the discomfort of eventually wearing a bra. ”

    I am very sorry and with all respect but I was one of those children and what you describe is a lie for the purpose of over-inflating the narrative. Those are not experiences of a 2-3 year old.

    Gender is a social construct and the press and weight of such constructs on children is enormous. Gender identity is not a thing unto itself but a comparison a child makes with the prevailing expectations of girls and boys. Children are not born with such an identity but are shaped by the expectations associated with their sex That this may raise issues early on and often does is not denied, but to parley that into an innate personality trait is neither justified nor real. This has nothing to with clothing or play toys.

    I also would be interested whether your son experiences more what he is missing or more does not experience what is there.

  28. says

    I’d be interested in the author of this post actually reading the UN letter and telling us what she disagrees with therein. That female biology is a defineable reality? That transsexuality is also a defineable reality? That female people and transsexual male people will have some conflicts that can be rationally mediated by defining terms and balancing interests? That refusing to define terms and balance interests gives non-transsexual male people a free pass to ignore the boundaries of both women and transwomen? Inquiring minds want to know.

  29. John Morales says

    Sass, I don’t even know to what “… gives non-transsexual male people a free pass to ignore the boundaries of both women and transwomen” refers.

  30. John Morales says

    I probably shouldn’t be pedantic, but the locution “both women and transwomen” only makes sense if transwomen aren’t women.

  31. kevinkirkpatrick says

    “I am very sorry and with all respect but I was one of those children and what you describe is a lie for the purpose of over-inflating the narrative. Those are not experiences of a 2-3 year old.”

    I am very sorry. What you are experiencing is called “denial”. I have relayed what both my wife and I have witnessed, discussed between ourselves, and reviewed with therapists, my son say and do. None of the behavior is out of the norm of that widely reported for transgender children. Your deliberate detachment from the reality of our world, with all respect, is creepy.

    By the way, just because the world works in ways that make you uncomfortable, and not everyone’s experiences of it conform to your pet theories, does not make it “civil” to accuse others of lying. Civility is more than avoiding 4 letter words. With all respect.

    “Gender identity is not a thing unto itself but a comparison a child makes with the prevailing expectations of girls and boys”

    Actually, that is incorrect. Gender identity cannot be merely a comparison a child makes with the prevailing expectations of girls and boys. If that is all it was, then our having a female-bodied child, named, raised, and cherished as a girl would’ve led to a present situation in which I’d be talking about my daughter, not my son.

    “Children are not born with such an identity but are shaped by the expectations associated with their sex”

    Untrue. Some aspect of gender identity does come from beyond a child’s sex and the expectations associated with that sex. For the first 18 months of life, my son experience no “shaping” of gender identity outside of those expectations associated with his assigned-female-at-birth sex. His upbringing differed in no significant manner from the cookie-cutter / traditional “raised as a girl” experience (no, I wasn’t a “good feminist” 6 years ago, and no, he wasn’t allowed out of wearing a flower-girl dress to his aunts wedding without a huge fight). His preference to be treated as a boy was evident from before he could talk, and it was unwavering, expressed daily, and increased in intensity with each passing year of his life. This was not learned behavior, it was not encouraged, it was not praised; if anything, I can still say I’ve got lingering guilt over how hard we worked to counter/stifle it.

    “That this may raise issues early on and often does is not denied, but to parley that into an innate personality trait is neither justified nor real.”

    Nobody parleyed anything into any personality trait. Good lord, what a sexist idea. Gender identity is not a personality trait. I could write pages about my boys’ personalities; at no point would gender come into play. By confusing gender identity with personality traits you are revealing that you’ve got some sexist misconceptions bouncing around your head – frankly, you’d do well to work on those.

    “This has nothing to with clothing or play toys.”

    This is truer than you can imagine. From ages 3.5 on, we still had hopes that, deep down, maybe that’s all it really was. We were kind of hoping we’d get away with “just let her be a tom-boy”; a phase to be grown out of. Boyish haircut, boyish clothing, etc. But it definitely wasn’t enough; your statement is 100% accurate in that this truly had nothing to do with clothing or play toys. Clothing and plWe noticed that when he’d run up to a group of neighborhood friends, their immediate question was “What’s your boy name today?” The formal setting of preschool was the tipping point; neither teachers nor classmates were okay to just roll with “Today pretend that I am Michael and I am a boy.” After just a couple months of suffering endless references to a girl name and female pronouns, he sat my wife and I down, explained the problem, and told us that he needed a boy name for real.

  32. biogeo says

    Kaethe @30:

    I am very sorry and with all respect but I was one of those children and what you describe is a lie for the purpose of over-inflating the narrative. Those are not experiences of a 2-3 year old.

    With all respect, your experiences do not generalize. It is frankly bizarre that you are so confident that because you were “one of those children,” all of “those children” (you mean trans children?) must have similar experiences and relationships to their gender identity as you did, and therefore kevinkirkpatrick must be lying about his son because that doesn’t match your experience. I think there is room for civil disagreement regarding constructivist vs. essentialist vs. other viewpoints on gender (but this does not mean all viewpoints are equally valid), as long as the rights and human dignity of trans, genderqueer, and people claiming whatever label they like for their gender identity are respected. But regardless, lesson #0 from the modern cultural dialog on gender ought to be that other people’s experiences aren’t necessarily like yours.

    Also, regarding your earlier comment:

    I believe the use of the invented preposition “cis” is just an attempt by trans activists to “other” those that are not them.

    This is also a bit weird. “Cis” isn’t invented — it’s the antonym of “trans,” deriving from Latin, and has been part of English for centuries. Admittedly, until the term “cisgendered” was coined, it didn’t have much usage outside of academic technical jargon (e.g., in chemical nomenclature, cisregulatory genetic elements in cell biology, and cisalpine Gaul in Roman history), but it’s not a particularly obscure root. As a cisgendered person myself, I don’t see how it’s particularly othering, merely descriptive. Just as transgendered means a person’s gender identity is “on the opposite side” of their assigned gender, cisgendered means a person’s gender identity is “on the same side” of their gender identity. That describes me accurately enough, so when the context demands a qualifier I’m happy to use it in the interest of efficient communication.

  33. says

    Chiming in here in support of kevinkirkpatrick. Two/three-year-olds can be very precocious, and alarmingly insightful. I see no reason to disbelieve his narrative, much less to deem him a “liar”.

  34. says

    John Morales@33:

    I probably shouldn’t be pedantic

    Only for a pedant like you would a pedant like me note that you really didn’t need that opening qualification.

  35. Holms says

    OP
    People have told me Elizabeth Hungerford, one of the admins, is a TERF…but then I’ve learned to be wary of that label, because I’m not sure it’s applied carefully in all cases.

    If nothing else, your treatment lately exemplifies how liberally it can be thrown around. The ease with which it is applied is borderline facical.

  36. says

    OB #4 –

    the obsessive looking coupled with the utter trivia of what they come up with for the purpose of trashing me is not quite the same sort of thing.

    The more-or-less torch bearing mob (TMB) congregates and conflates so it can conflagrate.

    I can easily picture them trying this next:

    OB’s blog post: “Racist christian group finally admits climate change is real”

    TBM: “OB agrees with racists! She is one!”

    Antigonize (adapted from Hughes Mearns’s poem, “Antagonish”)

    Yesterday, as I did surf,
    I met a mob who screamed “A TERF!”
    They weren’t thinking again today
    I wish, I wish they’d go away.

    When I logged in last night at four
    The mob was raking muck some more
    “A TERF! A TERF!” they rabidly call
    When there wasn’t a TERF to turf at all!
    Go away, go away, you perfect idiots!
    You’re odious and perfidious.

    Last night I saw on FTB
    Sad little men witch hunting OB
    They were whining again today
    Oh, how I wish they’d go away.

  37. says

    I apologize if this gets a little confusing, but there are patterns in science literature that I struggle with that are relevant to this debate. I’ve just been struggling with how to present them as someone who has a place in the sex/gender debates, but it’s a place that is helpful only by how the general ideas apply to this situation. The female and woman connections are issues I try to be very careful with because of reasons that I hope will be obvious. If I have come off badly or messed up somewhere (like if there is a view of that paper below that I am unaware of and should consider) I would like to hear how.

    I have not quite been sure how to bring up the relationship between gender and sex that I am familiar with. I’m pretty strongly (but still tentatively) convinced that there are inherited factors that can shape how personality is expressed, and that these factors can be present at varying degrees, or absent. And I’m convinced that these factors have a functional relationship to sex that does not make their effect exclusive to either sex (I’ll explain below).
    On that basis I would say that in a social context speaking/typing as if a gender binary universally existed, and speaking/typing as if gender is only a social construction would be rude. Yet somehow society has to figure out how to let people with perspectives in the historical and modern perceptions of sex and gender constructively converse between and within themselves as “groups” (ill defined, but definitely there). You are part of how we need to figure this out.

    I am a male with TS. The personality characteristics match many features of what get associated with “masculine”. Female people with TS also show these characteristics, with some small changes in distribution of tics and OCD (and timing of developmental details) between the sexes. TS has a strong inherited component that shows “imprinting effects” based on the sex of the parent they inherited it from. Female people with TS also have more gender dysphoria. As far as I am aware no study has looked at how this may correlate with sex and gender-related communities withing the larger LGBTQ+.

    I can imagine some people might be a little uncomfortable with all of the above and how it might relate to this current conflict. I hope that the rest of this helps to explain. To repeat what I said above in other words, there is a level where instinctual and emotional biases are affected by inherited effects. Some of those effects result in “stereotypically masculine” (by historical western standards) characteristics in male and female human beings, and an apparent increase in gender dysphoria in female human beings (other effects in both sexes too, but as directly relevant to this situation). But…

    “Inherited” is a concept that needs to be used more carefully nowadays because of a way that biology can regulate development that has not really penetrated the public consciousness very deeply and robustly, epigenetics. That “imprinting” that I mentioned above is an epigenetic phenomenon. It behaves a lot like a “gene effect” in that it can involve inherited changes in gene expression that can be tied to phenotypes, but it’s not about changes in gene sequence. They can last many generations, or they can be established in the womb and not last longer than one generation. I have not found much work even trying to tie epigenetics mechanisms directly to TS (only the imprinting signatures in genetic data). However they are seeing a lot of epigenetic mechanisms in autism, and did I mention that both conditions involve an extremely similar bias in number of male:female people with the condition? (Don’t get me started on the effects on my social emotions, I think I know in a general sense why the arguments are so damn intense. Pattern sensitivities…)

    (From here I’m pointing out areas that I want future research to investigate because these are rational speculative connections that I can provide citations and explanations for if anyone wanted).

    If that last fact is also concerning to some people here, that does not rule out social effects that must be addressed by how we collectively choose to structure society and our interpersonal interactions. These transgenerational epigenetic imprinting effects are passed down generations in a “reversible” manner (from the perspective of a collection of generations of a family) with different “penetrance” (sort of like “phenotype intensity”). When I read about the rules that epigenetic mechanisms seem to follow, the rules pay attention to sex of parent and sex of child. So you get:
    *male parent to descendents of both sexes.
    *male parent to female descendents only.
    *male parent to male descendents only.
    *female parent to descendents of both sexes.
    *female parent to female descendents only.
    *female parent to male descendents only.
    (There is a link between grandmothers who smoke and grandsons with ADHD on that last example. Also I have heard about reports that sexual orientation seems to have epignentic connections, but need to read that for myself still.)

    Now if a bunch of male apes and a bunch of female apes with such a sex-sensitive system of intergenerational regulation ended up concentrating certain things, like behaviors and social roles (and other gendered things) on one side or another I wonder what the effect might be? Pile up a bunch of aggression, dominance and assertiveness over the generations and force the female and male people to express it differently on a social level and that is likely to have to have effects on things. Male and female humans seem to me universally capable of anything that gets associated with “masculine” and “feminine” in a sense that people like to use as social tools on one another, yet there are patterns in what humans are that are affected by a mix of sex and society. I think I see patterns in the research that echo what many people here are saying on both sides of this debate.

  38. brucegorton says

    This to me illustrates so many weaknesses in American liberalism.

    I don’t always agree with our esteemed author – but those disagreements don’t reduce my respect for her, because part of what I respect about Ophelia Benson, is the fact that she will never be the sort of comfortable unthinking ally some people dearly want everybody else to be.

    What I mean by that is, if she holds a “problematic” view, she will state it and discuss it. Sometimes she may change that view, or may actually have a point, but it is honestly held and not hidden out of some misplaced desire to go along to get along.

    There is going to be an argument, rather than automatic capitulation.

    This also means however that she is not a complete asshole who systematically destroys any movement she is a part of, because she expects unyielding obedience to the *whatever* agenda.

    I look at Jamila Bey’s blog – and you know eventually I came to the conclusion that she was wrong to give that speech at CPAC. That said, the fact that the last post on that blog is “CPAC was awesome” – that was not a victory.

    I hear a lot of people talk about wanting more women and POC in atheism, well, that was an example of a black female voice and she made one speech which people disagreed with – and her lost blog post is “CPAC was awesome”.

    When one pushes inclusivity to the point where there is zero tolerance for people being wrong, well it explains how the Republicans do so well in elections doesn’t it? Because nobody wants to go to a rally for liberal causes, only to be told they’re the enemy because their wording is slightly off.

  39. cubist says

    bruce gordon, if you think that “one speech which people disagreed with” is the reason why Ms. Bey’s last post received strong condemnation… you really need to actually, like, read the actual words of the people who condemned it. And read said words for comprehension, yet.

    Because as best I can tell, nobody criticized Bey on the basis of she’s wrong! and just leaving the “she’s wrong!” accusation there, bare and unsupported. Nobody criticized Bey on the grounds that she didn’t say the Magic Words/Phraseology. Rather, they criticized her on the basis that her explicit, specific goal was to attract the extreme rightwingnutty wing of the GOP to the atheist movement. Bey probably wouldn’t describe the CPAC in the same terms I did, of course, but let’s face it—the CPAC is the extreme rightwingnutty wing of the GOP.

    There’s Form, and there’s Content. Disagreements over the specific character strings someone used to express a concept are disagreements over Form; disagreements over the actual concept which someone expressed are disagreements over Content. The pushback Bey received was a direct consequence of the content of what Bey did; the pushback Ophelia Benson is getting, over her putative TERFiness, sure seems to have a lot more to do with Form (specific character strings) rather than Content (actual concepts). And if you can’t tell a disagreement on the basis of Form, from a disagreement on the basis of Content… well, if that is indeed the case, then yeah, you really do need to work on your reading comprehension.

  40. sawells says

    Part of the Form/Content issue seems to be people insisting Ophelia say the Correct Form Of Words when ordered to do so – that’s how this whole clusterfuck started. There are times when I wouldn’t say “the earth is round” when ordered to do so. An awful lot of the subsequent commentary seems to boil down to “if Ophelia really does like to dance, why won’t she dance for our amusement?”

  41. A Masked Avenger says

    An awful lot of the subsequent commentary seems to boil down to “if Ophelia really does like to dance, why won’t she dance for our amusement?”

    Quoted for truth. And well expressed

  42. doubtthat says

    @biogeo

    As a cisgendered person myself, I don’t see how it’s particularly othering, merely descriptive.

    There are a lot of problems with that term, beginning with what, exactly, it describes. When it was first used with repeated to trans issues, it basically meant, “does not have dysphoria.” It was a way to talk about transpersons without relying on the destructive “trans vs. normal” construct that was prevalent.

    Then, as knowledge and the discussion progressed, more people were included in the “trans” category (rightly so), but this left the cis category blurry and unexplained. Thus, we end up with this definition:

    “Denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex.”

    After a couple of centuries battling against that gender assignment and what it means, all of a sudden women now “self-identify” with the restrictive, oppressive social construct. It’s also now used – not exclusively, but often – as a way to denote someone as privileged, which is sort of strange considering what is entailed by that assignment in our society.

    The initial aim of using “cis” was exactly right. Also, the root concept captures something very real. There is a meaningful distinction between the life experience of people who are trans and people who aren’t, but identifying with a socially imposed gender assignment doesn’t describe that distinction very well, at all.

    Consider the historical struggle of women against that assignment: No, we do want to go to college, participate in the work force, control our own reproductive health, join the military, become doctors and lawyers, vote…etc. Those were all battles against gender assignment: “You are woman, that means X.” So again, strange to then declare that women “self-identify” with that assignment. Both people now called cis and trans people are battling against that assignment, often in very similar ways, often in very different ways. That’s a clear case of language erasing experience.

    Discussing the term leads right back to questions like, “what is gender?” There’s that minefield. It shouldn’t be a minefield, especially when people agree on substantive rights, but it clearly is. And, of course, there are a ton of real bigots jumping in and out muddying everything up.

  43. Holms says

    bruce gordon, if you think that “one speech which people disagreed with” is the reason why Ms. Bey’s last post received strong condemnation… you really need to actually, like, read the actual words of the people who condemned it. And read said words for comprehension, yet.

    This is the sort of snide bullshit that serves no purpose except to take a shit on someone.

  44. says

    #29 @kevinkirkpatrick
    .

    1) For at least some people, there is a sense of gender identity (NOT preference of pink/soft things, agg!) which is independent of their reproductive organs and perception of cultural stereotypes”

    You seem very convinced that one’s “sense of gender identity” can be coherent without reference to cultural constructs. Can you explain how that is possible? Or must we accept these statements about “gender identity” on the basis of faith alone? Because I won’t do that. It is entirely irrational that females should be regularly subjected to accusations of bigotry from people who cannot adequately define the central concept under discussion beyond “because someone has very strong feelings about it.” Yeah, people have strong feelings about God too. That does not make “God” a reasonable basis for the creation of public policy. #skeptic
    .
    Also, you must not have read the UN letter. “Even aside from its transphobic stench, the model of gender that underlies the UN letter is garbage science that does not describe the world we live in.” There is no SCIENCE or “model of gender” in the letter, only legal analysis. Because the legal definition of “gender identity” is vague, overbroad, and self-referential. It’s utterly meaningless. Further, “brain sex” is garbage science. There is no brain area/location or brain activity/function that is uniquely male or female, only statistically relevant patterns (like height, for example). So to claim that your brain is somehow in the “wrong body” makes no biological sense.
    .
    Finally. Supporting sex-segregated space is not attack on trans people. That’s like believing that because I like blue that I hate red. These two things need NOT be in opposition. Unless you are trying to erase one in favor of the other, that is…cue the “transwomen are women” thought-terminating false equivalency.

  45. brucegorton says

    Cubist
    I read for comprehension fine.
    Bey’s speech was more about the fact that there are conservative atheists who the Republican Party should woo.

    Or to put it thus: “Atheism has wingnuts too. Cut the anti-atheist rhetoric and they might vote for you.”

    The objection to it largely being that conservative policies are generally bad ones (which is something I agree with) thus her speech ended up endorsing those bad policies, thus throwing other people and the planet under the bus.

    The worry wasn’t that she was making more conservatives atheists, it was that she would make the conservatives more effective.

    Just saying she was wrong would have been fine, the problem was there was a push to remove her from the network.

    And it largely worked.

    Do you know how that was used outside?

    #FTBullies Class: Nick Gotts, possibly the classiest of the Horde, welcomes Jamila Bey to FTB. pic.twitter.com/qfjl0H6FDt— Shermertron (@Shermertron) February 28, 2015

    That was not a victory.

    Within atheism there is a problem with a tide of anti-social justice. That tide is in part caused by the fact that atheism is largely an apostate population.

    We’re all disagreeable types, otherwise we would be a lot better at keeping our mouths shut about being atheists.

    And we’re all in unfamiliar territory trying to figure shit out – and some of us are slower at that then others and will get things wrong.

    But there is no room for that now is there? There is no basic patience being exhibited, there is attack and defense.

    And do you know what happens with that? The lessons that are learned, aren’t the ones we seek to teach.

    People have told me Elizabeth Hungerford, one of the admins, is a TERF…but then I’ve learned to be wary of that label, because I’m not sure it’s applied carefully in all cases.

    Would Ophelia have said that two months ago?

    It undermines dealing with issues because suddenly that very handy label? It isn’t useful shorthand anymore.

  46. doubtthat says

    Male and Female brains is a thing. It’s pseudoscience:

    http://www.amazon.com/Brain-Sex-Difference-Between-Women/dp/0385311834

    Why it’s wrong:

    http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2013/08/05/3816216.htm
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/opinion/sunday/the-tangle-of-the-sexes.html?_r=3&buffer_share=7a48f&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer%253A%252BRabidFeminist%252Bon%252Btwitter

    Elizabeth is responding to an argument no one here made but is out in the ether. It’s a theory distinct from gender dysphoria, though some people have used it as an explanation. In other words, falsifying Brain Sex notions does not mean that there is no legitimate basis for gender dysphoria, just that you can’t take a scan of someone’s amygdala and know anything meaningful.

  47. says

    @ #49 and #51

    Gender dysphoria is culturally created; it is not some biological aberration that requires medical “correction.” Gender dysphoria is a perfectly reasonable and foreseeable (legitimate, if you prefer) psychological response to our deeply gendered society. This is the central point of having a “gender critical” political analysis. There is no such thing as physical “match” between our bodies and our feelings. That is the central mistake of trans ideology.
    .
    I’m still interested in a coherent definition of “gender identity” that does not rely on cultural constructs.

  48. A Masked Avenger says

    Gender dysphoria is culturally created; it is not some biological aberration that requires medical “correction.” Gender dysphoria is a perfectly reasonable and foreseeable (legitimate, if you prefer) psychological response to our deeply gendered society.

    Can you elaborate? What does this actually mean?

    I.e., we all live in a “deeply gendered society,” but most of us do not experience dysphoria. Some of us because we reasonably conform to gender norms (whether by inclination or by indoctrination). But many of us despite failing to conform to gender norms. In the case of radical feminists, there is rage against the existence of the norms, a concerted effort to abolish them, all manner of non-conformance, and yet in most cases no dysphoria. There are LGB people of every description who deviate from gender norms w.r.t. sexual orientation, yet without dysphoria. Including radical feminist lesbians, who rage against “pretendbians,” and don’t experience dysphoria.

    So what are you claiming is actually going on in the people who experience dysphoria? How does our “deeply gendered society” lead to dysphoria in some people but not in you, specifically?

  49. biogeo says

    @52:

    Your dichotomy between the cultural and the biological is a false one. You could as easily argue, “schizophrenia is culturally created,” or “depression is culturally created,” or “heart disease is culturally created,” or “bad breath is culturally created.” These statements are true in the trivial sense that all of these phenomena exist within a cultural system that names, interprets, and reflects them back at the sufferer, and what it means to have schizophrenia/depression/heart disease/bad breath is ineluctably linked to culture. Nevertheless it is also true that these are phenomena that involve distinct, identifiable physiological processes within the individual, physiological processes which are targetable by medical science using techniques ranging from psychopharmaceuticals to tooth brushing, and that by choosing to alter these physiological processes the lives of affected individuals can be improved. Please explain why gender dysphoria is different.

  50. says

    Elizabeth Hungerford @52,
    Is this your description of your own personal experience and identity or are you claiming this as objective truth? If the latter from where do you derive such confidence (as demonstrated by your declarative statements) given that these questions seem far from settled scientifically?

    How do you characterize a person who says they do in fact feel that their physical body is intimately connected with their feelings and their self identity? Are you saying those people are wrong or confused? That they have been essentially brainwashed by “deeply gendered society” into feeling that way?

  51. Olaru says

    I go on red alert when people start talking about brain sex, but that’s because there is such a history of of magnifying and distorting whatever differences are found or claimed. There’s a huge amount of motivated reasoning out there, meaning that some will find a way to argue that, for example, small variations in the size or shape of the corpus callosum prove that every gender stereotype out there has been proved true.

    If you look around PubMed, you will see that the literature on sexual dimorphism in brains and behaviors is enormous. There are differences in humans, though they are few and small compared to the similarities. Also, we can observe and/or measure differences in brains, but our ability to say what those differences might mean in terms of perception and behavior is limited to nonexistent.

    Here’s a fun observation:

    Common lore tells us that sex differences in the brain cause sex differences in behavior. This review entertains the possibility that sex differences in the brain may also do the exact opposite. Specifically, sex differences may allow males and females to display remarkably similar behaviors, despite major differences in their physiological and hormonal conditions.

    From: Behav Brain Res. 1998 May;92(2):205-13.
    Double duty for sex differences in the brain.
    De Vries GJ1, Boyle PA.

    Understanding human social behaviors just about always requires consideration of genes, environments, cultures, individual experiences, and on and on. I don’t see how anyone can reasonably claim that, for example, abolishing imposed gender roles would definitely abolish gender identities or gender dysphoria. I think and hope it would at least help, but I can’t know.

    Finally, how can I get a blank line to show up between paragraphs? I’ve tried leaving extra spaces. Sometimes it works but more often it doesn’t.

  52. says

    @#53 and #54
    .
    The difference is…wait for it…GENDER. If people talked about “sex dysphoria” rather than “gender dysphoria,” we might be having a different conversation–about body identity integrity disorder. If “gender” had some coherent meaning beyond “identification with sexist cultural constructs,” we might be having a different conversation. If pluralistic ignorance about the naturalism of sex-based social roles aka GENDER were not so widespread, we might not be having a conversation at all.
    .
    And I’m sorry, do you think “gender dysphoria” is a mental illness? Like schizophrenia? Or major depression? Sounds transphobic to me. o_O

  53. doubtthat says

    It’s also worth pointing out that dysphoria exists in all Western cultures. There is more dysphoria reported, not less, where the gender binary system is less coercive and traditional. That seems to contradict the notion that it is purely a result of our particular culture.

    Dysphoria, whether called such or not, exists in all cultures. Some are more intense about punishing it violently or suppressing reality, but it is not purely the result of Western society.

    Now, the distress caused by gender dysphoria is largely determined by culture. Samoan culture, for example, allows for a class of people who fit neither gender binary. These folks do not suffer from the same sorts of depression and discontent that transgendered people in the West do.

  54. says

    Anything that claims to show why men have trait x or why women prefer pink is BS.
    But there is actually evidence that the brains of transgender people show some differentiation similar to that of the brains of their gender identity, and not of the one assigned at birth. This doesn’t mean that we know what causes dysphoria. But we do have evidence that being transgender has some biological roots, and it’s not purely cultural. Which is not to say that culture doesn’t play a (major) role. Cf. here, or some quick summaries here.

  55. Jennifer Chavez says

    I have no current position on any of this topic, I’m learning and asking questions. I also have no medical expertise. That said, this seems not quite right, or at least incomplete:
    .
    “You could as easily argue, “schizophrenia is culturally created,” or “depression is culturally created,” or “heart disease is culturally created,” or “bad breath is culturally created.” these are phenomena that involve distinct, identifiable physiological processes within the individual.”
    .
    I think you could make an argument that at least a subset of each of those illnesses is “culturally created,” not simply because our culture names and then reacts to them, but because our culture can actually cause them. Take heart disease. In a culture that encourages high consumption of cholesterol you will have lots of heart disease, while a culture whose foods contain little to no cholesterol would have negligible rates of heart disease.
    .
    So, isn’t it valid to reason that a culture that embraces a highly fluid notion of gender would have negligible rates of gender dysphoria, because the culture will have removed the things that a person would otherwise have dysphoria about?

  56. says

    Society and culture is biology. Gender dysphoria is biology. Gender is biology. Feelings and emotions are biology. If someone wants to speculate well there is information on what we know, and that information makes it look like elements on both sides of this debate are focusing on parts of biology and experience and ignoring other material as context.

    Some arguments seem to emphasize what is innate in terms of what feeling and consistency with perception have to do with gender and anatomy. I strongly respect emotion and feelings and think that these people are pointing at real things. Some arguments seem to emphasize the effect of culture on biology through emotion. These people are also pointing at real things.

    Emotions according to “Self on the Mind” by Antonio Damasio and the research supporting that book, are layered things that in part represent the “self” (body) in the mind. The “self” is assembled in three definable layers that actually look related to the descriptions of gender I have been reading on trans community related sites (gender orientation, gender identity and gender expression).

    *A “primordial self” that assembles the body, it’s integrity, status, form, function and similar. The “self” assembled.
    *A “core self” that assembles how your body relates to what it senses. The “other” assembled and connected to the “self”.
    *An “autobiographical self” that based on emotionally-encoded past experience stores and retrieves: the meaning associated with object(s)* in perception, how the object(s) in perception relate to the self, the proper responses (manipulation/action rules) to object(s) in perception and context modifiers.

    Genitalia (and similar) is anatomy. It’s in your emotions and involved in that process. Words are symbols emotionally tied to genitalia as a fact of how the process works.

    But what about “gender”? And what about innate differences? Honestly, when I think about words like “man”/”woman” or “masculine”/”feminine” they are symbolic placeholders for the associated roles, behaviors, identity signifiers, symbolic expressions and more. Gender is to me a time and place specific shell of cultural and social symbols that run off of a cognitive engine that uses instinct and emotion.

    Instinct and emotion are things that are variable based on inheritance. We already have good evidence that fear (and introverted tendencies) can be influenced by inheritance (PTSD/anxiety disposition), including genetic and non-genetic inheritance (the second one is the one that matters on a species level, think veterans and abuse survivors). Aggression and dominance behavior (and extroverted tendencies) is also in this category based on what Tourette’s suggests about people in general (my previous post). Both of those have been tied to sex through gender.

    If emotions are anatomy and emotions can be influenced by non-genetic inheritance…I can’t see how this does not strongly imply both “sides” are talking about things that exist, and exist together.

    *”Object” is anything here including people. People are classified as special objects and empathy has to do with how that process works which is why sexual objectification is a thing.

  57. Olaru says

    doughtthat @58 says

    There is more dysphoria reported, not less, where the gender binary system is less coercive and traditional.

    Can you point me toward some sources for reading more on that?

  58. says

    Isn’t this culture versus biology question a false dichotomy?

    Where does culture itself come from? Maybe an emergent phenomenon that results from the interactions of individual biological agents? In any case, unless we believe in creationism we should all be in agreement that the biology came first and the culture second. The biology provides a means and constraints within with the culture can emerge, and over time the culture can come to influence the biology.

    Thus it seems that it’s not an either or question. It seems there is a fundamental interplay between biology and culture that flies in the face of any attempt to completely separate the two.

    Is there any other facet of human experience that is not some combination of both biology and external factors like culture? Is gender the only such facet that supposedly is wholly the product of culture, or are there others you would point to as well (by way of example and comparison)?

  59. says

    You could as easily argue, “schizophrenia is culturally created,” or “depression is culturally created,”… Nevertheless it is also true that these are phenomena that involve distinct, identifiable physiological processes within the individual

    I’m not seeking to get involved in this discussion (though I hope more people do), but I let about 9 out of 10 such statements go, and I feel obliged in general to set the record straight. This is not, in fact, true. There are no distinct, identifiable biological markers for any (barring a few neurological diseases/conditions still in there for some reason) of the so-called mental illnesses listed in the DSM, much less anything “targeted” by psychopharmaceuticals. None for “schizophrenia,” none for “Major Depressive Disorder.” It’s a myth the majority of people in our society have been led to believe, but it’s a myth nonetheless. (For more information, see several of the sources listed here.)

    Carry on.

  60. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    Doubtthat wrote,

    “Denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex.” After a couple of centuries battling against that gender assignment and what it means, all of a sudden women now “self-identify” with the restrictive, oppressive social construct.

    I disagree profoundly. I have a biological sex and a gender identity, but it’s not accompanied with a great deal of performative gender. Nevertheless, I’m sure of my gender without conforming to stereotype.

  61. biogeo says

    Elizabeth Hungerford @57:

    If “gender” had some coherent meaning beyond “identification with sexist cultural constructs,” we might be having a different conversation.

    Unless you take it as a given that cultural constructs involving sex are necessarily sexist, then I think it’s clear gender has a coherent meaning related to identification with certain biocultural constructs. What’s wrong with cultural constructs? Hell, there’s no such thing as “coherent meaning” outside of cultural constructs. To the extent that cultural constructs like gender are sexist, of course, they do harm and should be changed. If your position is indeed that no cultural constructs around sex can exist without being sexist, that’s something I’m interested to hear an argument about, but which doesn’t really bear on the coherence of gender as a construct.

    And I’m sorry, do you think “gender dysphoria” is a mental illness? Like schizophrenia? Or major depression? Sounds transphobic to me. o_O

    I’m pretty sure this is just an attempt at baiting, but you know what, I’ll address this. To be clear, and to avoid the trap that Ophelia unfortunately fell into, if the question is, do I think trans people are mentally ill, the answer is unequivocally no. Having a sense of your own gender which does not match other people’s notion of your “biological sex” is not a mental illness. Regarding the status of gender dysphoria as a condition, the DSM-V takes the approach that the diagnosis is not about the mismatch between a person’s gender identity and their apparent sex, but rather about the psychological stress an individual experiences as a result of that. Under this approach, a trans-identified person who is comfortable with their body and the way others perceive them is not experiencing gender dysphoria. A person who has transitioned and is living comfortably while performing their self-identified gender is not experiencing gender dysphoria, though if their transition involves hormonal therapy they may require continued treatment to stave off dysphoria. A trans-identified person who is unhappy with their body and/or the way their gender is culturally received is experiencing gender dysphoria. I think the DSM-V’s approach here is pretty good: the degree of anguish that many trans people describe as a result of their gender identity absolutely merits psychiatric help for those who want it. But this doesn’t mean they’re “mentally ill,” any more than someone suffering from, say, PTSD is “mentally ill.” Also, for what it’s worth, I suffer from clinical depression, so if you feel that merits slapping the label “mentally ill” on me, go right head.

    Jennifer Chavez @60:

    I think you could make an argument that at least a subset of each of those illnesses is “culturally created,” not simply because our culture names and then reacts to them, but because our culture can actually cause them.

    Yes, exactly so. But they are not culturally created in the same sense that, say, folklore is culturally created: there is a clear biological substrate which is affected by, and in turn affects, the cultural milieu. Some individuals will get heart disease no matter what kind of culture they inhabit; others never will. And in fact we can identify specific biological factors that make some individuals more susceptible to certain cultural factors, such as differences in the way certain nutrients are metabolized.

    So, isn’t it valid to reason that a culture that embraces a highly fluid notion of gender would have negligible rates of gender dysphoria, because the culture will have removed the things that a person would otherwise have dysphoria about?

    I will absolutely agree with you that many cases of gender dysphoria would not exist in a culture with more fluid conceptions of gender. And I think that a society with a highly flexible conception of gender which permits individuals to explore and develop their identity within an accepting cultural framework is obviously more desirable than what we have now. But it is quite a leap from there to saying that in such a case gender dysphoria simply would not exist, or even necessarily be negligible. From the experiences of people like kevinkirkpatrick’s son, it seems there are some people who would experience distress at the mismatch between their “inner feeling” and their apparent sex, regardless of the cultural milieu. And, for all we know, there might be a population of individuals who are “wired” to identify with a strong gender template, and would experience dysphoria in a cultural context without one.

    Salty Current @64:

    There are no distinct, identifiable biological markers for any (barring a few neurological diseases/conditions still in there for some reason) of the so-called mental illnesses listed in the DSM, much less anything “targeted” by psychopharmaceuticals.

    “Biological marker” is different from “identifiable physiological process.” A “biological marker” for a disease is something you can reliably identify with a test, aiding in diagnosis. The absence of clear biological markers for most DSM-defined disorders is indeed noteworthy, but the reason people like NIMH director Tom Insel emphasize this fact is to highlight the failure of categorization approaches based on psychiatric function to facilitate research in biological mechanisms yielding clear treatments. However, we nevertheless do understand something about the physiological processes at play in disorders like schizophrenia and depression. Certainly what we don’t know vastly outweighs what we do, but we know a fair amount about what brain regions are involved in a variety of mental disorders, and in some cases even some of what’s going wrong. Furthermore, even though the mechanisms of action are often still poorly understood, there are indeed a variety of psychopharmaceuticals which are highly effective for some individuals in managing their symptoms. For example, I take an SSRI for my depression, and it’s made a huge change to my quality of life. What has people like Tom Insel concerned is not that we have no drugs for treating mental disorders, but that we have no way of determining why some individuals will respond well to a certain drugs and others won’t.

  62. says

    “Biological marker” is different from “identifiable physiological process.”

    Nope.

    A “biological marker” for a disease is something you can reliably identify with a test, aiding in diagnosis.

    So you’re acknowledging that there are no such tests for the diagnosis of “mental disorders.” That would seem to be contrary to your claim above.

    The absence of clear biological markers for most [all] DSM-defined disorders is indeed noteworthy, but the reason people like NIMH director Tom Insel emphasize this fact is to highlight the failure of categorization approaches based on psychiatric function to facilitate research in biological mechanisms yielding clear treatments.

    This obfuscation would be funny if the consequences weren’t so serious. Put it however you want – no biological markers, no identifiable physiological processes. (I’ll note that even if there were identifiable physiological correlates for some of these mental states, this wouldn’t show any biological cause.

    However, we nevertheless do understand something about the physiological processes at play in disorders like schizophrenia and depression.

    No, “we” do not. There are no such disorders. And above you acknowledged the “failure of categorization approaches.” Now these categories are somehow valid. It’s so sad.

    Certainly what we don’t know vastly outweighs what we do, but we know a fair amount about what brain regions are involved in a variety of mental disorders,

    Again, you’ve disavowed categorical approaches.

    and in some cases even some of what’s going wrong.

    Bullshit. I encourage people to read the quotes and works at my links above, and to ask themselves whether these assertions equal evidence. This claim is bullshit.

    Furthermore, even though the mechanisms of action are often still poorly understood,

    In other words, you’re acknowledging that in fact there are no distinct, identifiable physiological processes targeted by psychopharmaceuticals, which was the claim to which I was responding above.

    there are indeed a variety of psychopharmaceuticals which are highly effective for some individuals in managing their symptoms.

    Experiences and emotions aren’t “symptoms,” because these “disorders” do not in reality exist.

    For example, I take an SSRI for my depression, and it’s made a huge change to my quality of life.

    That is what we skeptics refer to as an anecdote.

    I’ve had it with these irresponsible, harmful, bullshit assertions. You’ve effectively admitted that what you claimed above – that there are “distinct, identifiable physiological processes” for “schizophrenia” and “depression” and that these are targeted by psychopharmaceuticals – is not true.

  63. says

    You’ve effectively admitted that what you claimed above – that there are “distinct, identifiable physiological processes” for “schizophrenia” and “depression” and that these are targeted by psychopharmaceuticals – is not true.

    The only response that could save your case is to point to the distinct, identifiable physiological processes in individuals in “schizophrenia” and “depression” and how they’re targeted by psychopharmaceuticals.

  64. brucegorton says

    Hungerford

    I’ve been kicking around your ideas in my head for a bit, and I can’t honestly say as I understand them.

    We can broadly define sex as the equipment you’ve got, and gender as what society decides to do about it. Just what roles are female and male may vary from society to society, but the harm is mostly from the fact that societies tend to divide the sexes and come up with stereotypes for them.

    And stereotypes are in fact bullshit, mostly formed by a shallow understanding of current social classes and general identifiers for who falls into which one, without really trying to figure out why those classes have arisen, hence perpetuating injustices by liberal application of “that’s just the way things are”.

    Anyway if you maintain sex segregated spaces, aren’t you introducing and in fact reinforcing gender? Isn’t separating the sexes inherently gender?

    In a more practical aspect, isn’t someone else’s genitalia where your nose doesn’t belong – unless invited of course?

    Segregation requires policing to be effective – and how would you do that in this case in a way that does not violate people’s privacy?

  65. kevinkirkpatrick says

    Elizabeth Hungerford @48

    You seem very convinced that one’s “sense of gender identity” can be coherent without reference to cultural constructs. Can you explain how that is possible? Or must we accept these statements about “gender identity” on the basis of faith alone? Because I won’t do that. It is entirely irrational that females should be regularly subjected to accusations of bigotry from people who cannot adequately define the central concept under discussion beyond “because someone has very strong feelings about it.” Yeah, people have strong feelings about God too. That does not make “God” a reasonable basis for the creation of public policy. #skeptic

    What I am firmly convinced of is that genitals + cultural influence cannot account for the lived experience of my son. If gender identity is *purely* what genitals a child is born with, plus what our culture tells those children their genitals say about them, then my son’s life could not have unfolded in the manner it did.

    If you want to have a discussion, you’ll need to at least show me the respect of reading and addressing the experiences I’ve described of parenting a transgender child. Kaethe couldn’t – she says I’m a liar (“with respect” though, which I guess made her feel like she was being “civil” in doing so). Seriously, that’s all she had: my child’s life doesn’t fit her conception of how gender works, therefore my child’s life is a lie.

    In essence, your response has been no different. You’ve clearly got a little more practice here (did Kaethe perhaps reach out for assistance after realizing the actual transphobic nature of her stance was beginning to shine through?). You don’t so much overtly dismiss my son’s experience as outright ignore it, skimming passed it with sweeping, practiced platitudes. And credit where it’s due: you do this in a well-polished way – almost (almost!) ripping the conversation away from the point I’m making. To reiterate: the foundational principal that gender is *only* sex + cultural influence utterly fails to predict that the lived experiences of my son’s, and similar lived experiences of millions of transgender people like him, could possibly emerge.

    Technically, the “E” in TERF stands for “Excluding” – but I think a better word my be “Erasing”. You want to talk about this with me? Fine, but you’ll need to put your eraser away, go back and read what the actual life of a transgender child is like, and keep that front and center.

  66. sawells says

    SC, when you say the “disorders” do not exist, do you mean that there is no such thing as a hallucination or a delusion? Or do you mean that those things do not indicate a disorder? You seem to be jumping from “lack of simple biomarkers” to “no such thing as a biochemical disorder of the brain” – these are two entirely different things. Doctors were successfully treating scurvy centuries ago, even though their concepts of what the disease was and what their medicines were doing turned out to be 100% wrong.

  67. kevinkirkpatrick says

    @ Elizabeth Hungerford

    Let’s start here: my son will soon be entering first grade at an elementary school with restrooms marked “Boys” and “Girls”. If you had to set a school policy that was consistent with the UN letter – which would you have him use?

  68. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    I wonder what might happen if the people who are utterly convinced that Opehlia is a TERF would just read some of the comments in this thread and play a game of Spot The Difference…
    I can think of some things I’d criticise, but I’ve seen very little in the way of blanket dismissals of actual events or strongly asserted statements of fact that demonstrate very little understanding or genuine curiosity about the issue at hand from her. I’m just saying that the difference seems, to me, to be similar to that between Giorgio Tsoukalos and SETI.

  69. says

    Salty Current @67,

    This obfuscation would be funny if the consequences weren’t so serious. Put it however you want – no biological markers, no identifiable physiological processes.

    Five minutes with Google suggests that you don’t know what you are talking about. These are just a few examples from the first page of results for “biological markers for mental illness.” All of which fly in the face of your declarative statements to the contrary.
    First biological marker for major depression could enable better diagnosis and treatment
    New biomarker identified in women with mental illness
    Findings could lead to easier diagnoses, new treatment options

    Endophenotypes and biological markers of schizophrenia: from biological signs of illness to novel treatment targets
    Biological Evidence of Bipolar Disorder

    Experiences and emotions aren’t “symptoms,” because these “disorders” do not in reality exist.

    Wow, just wow.

  70. kevinkirkpatrick says

    @Athywren – Frustration Familiarity Panda

    Agree 100%.

    In lieu of all the other drama unfolding, this may be a pipedream… but I’m actually holding out a bit of hope that Ophelia might find time to jump into this comment thread, and use the opportunity to thoroughly fisk some of the actual transphobic sentiments and trans-antagonistic policies being pushed by the likes of Kaethe and Elizabeth Hungerford.

  71. says

    SC, when you say the “disorders” do not exist, do you mean that there is no such thing as a hallucination or a delusion?

    Not at all. Our experiences and emotions are entirely real.

    Or do you mean that those things do not indicate a disorder?

    That.

    You seem to be jumping from “lack of simple biomarkers” to “no such thing as a biochemical disorder of the brain” – these are two entirely different things.

    No. Evidence of a “chemical disorder” would be a biomarker. There is none.

    (What happened is that when the drugs were first developed, people – some believing the drugs were effective and others just wanting to sell them or to advance their guild interests – claimed that, since the drugs affected neurotransmitters, what they were treating must be an imbalance of brain chemicals. But this was always speculative, and research in the decades that followed has not found it to be true. The chemical imbalance idea has been falsified. In fact, it’s now so discredited that several representatives of psychiatry have taken to insisting that no reputable/knowledgeable/serious psychiatrist ever made this claim (apparently they were never concerned that the drug companies were making it, and continue to make it).)

    Doctors were successfully treating scurvy centuries ago, even though their concepts of what the disease was and what their medicines were doing turned out to be 100% wrong.

    First, there were biomarkers for scurvy (including bleeding leading to death). Second, the treatments were demonstrably successful. Psychopharmaceuticals are not.

    I know you’re skeptical, but please read some of the sources I cited above @ #64 – several of which are freely available online.

  72. says

    @70 KPK
    I read your long, personal story and personal interpretation about your son’s experiences with gender. Contrary to your apparent belief, I have no obligation to address everything you have said. Nor does your anecdotal evidence convince me of the existence of an innate “gender identity” that operates independently of culture. It is impossible for any conscious being, including your child, to be unaffected by their environment and the belief systems of those s/he interacts with. Basic psychology.

    Not to mention that trans kids are not monolith from which you can draw grand conclusions about human nature. You also seem unaware of the research demonstrating that most children referred for gender dysphoria DESIST, rather than persist. And than many of them become homosexual, not transsexual, adults. Currently, medical trans-ition seems to be the only politically acceptable treatment for sex-based body dysphoria. Scary!

    I asked a very pointed question about the conclusions you have drawn. You are unable to answer my question. In fact, your reply is largely ranting about how I dared to challenge your conclusion and some peripheral insults to another commenter! That is hostility that I’m not interested in engaging with. I’m getting quite enough in this thread already.

    Disclaimer: I’m posting from my phone today, so I apologize in advance for any formatting weirdness.

  73. says

    Five minutes with Google

    Really, really not the way to go about it.

    All of which fly in the face of your declarative statements to the contrary.

    My declarative statements are backed up by citations, including statements by the authors of the DSM admitting that no biological markers exist. Every other month for the past several decades, someone has proposed some new biomarker for one alleged disorder or another. None – not one – has panned out.

    First biological marker for major depression could enable better diagnosis and treatment

    Single study from 2014 proposing “high levels of cortisol and depressive symptoms [!]” as a biomarker for depression. Setting aside serious causality issues, note that this is 2014 and they’re calling it the first potential biomarker, openly acknowledging that there are no established biomarkers.

    New biomarker identified in women with mental illness
    Findings could lead to easier diagnoses, new treatment options

    Single study from last month. Note again: “For the first time, researchers report identifying a biological marker:…”

    Endophenotypes and biological markers of schizophrenia: from biological signs of illness to novel treatment targets

    Single article from 2013 describing several proposed markers. Again: “the diagnosis of schizophrenia is still based on clinical criteria, which are subjectively assessed…”

    Biological Evidence of Bipolar Disorder

    Article from 2012 claiming that such biological evidence is beginning to be found, without citations. She admits:

    The Holy Grail in bipolar disorder diagnosis would be a biological marker that we could test for that would definitely indicate the presence or the absence of bipolar disorder. For example, a brain scan that would point to the illness.

    Unfortunately we don’t have that, yet. But we’re steadily moving in that direction.

    Sure you are. (Obviously they didn’t have it by 2013, because that’s when the most recent DSM was published and the heads of NIMH and the APA had to admit that their diagnoses lacked scientific validity. I’m just going to say that again, for emphasis: They admitted their diagnoses lack scientific validity.)

    Once again, you can go back through the past several decades and find an abundance of such “suggestive” studies being hyped. Not a single one has panned out. The fact that articles claiming possible biomarkers published in the last few years are saying they would be the first such biomarkers found should tell you something. (By the way, a number of claims have been made about specific brain features of people with “schizophrenia,” and used as a justification to put people on long-term drugs, even forcibly. It turns out these were caused not by any disease but by “antipsychotic” drugs themselves.)

    And now I’ll bow out, since this is a derail, anyone interested can read the sources I cite above and link to at my blog, and I want people to get back to the important topic of the thread.

  74. says

    #66 @biogeo

    “Unless you take it as a given that cultural constructs involving sex are necessarily sexist,”
    .
    Actually, I do. More or less. Sex-based social roles as a general matter necessarily deny humans their special snowflake individuality. I’m not kidding. They hinder self-determinism. And are undesirable for that reason.
    .
    Specifically, the sex-based cultural constructs of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ as we currently understand them are undeniably sexist.
    .
    Now, even if you disagree to the extent that you think that sex-based cultural constructs could *in theory* be value neutral, I cannot imagine how you could possibly disagree with the well documented *disparate impact* the historically understood gender roles (‘man’ and ‘woman’) have had on females in relation to the accumulation of power and material resources. In other words, power and resources are overwhelming in the hands and control of male people. Even in 2015. This is not an accident. Further, females are the victims of male violence on a massive scale. I could go on almost endlessly about sex-based inequality. Huge problem is an understatement. It never ceases to amaze me that so many leftist thinkers can honestly suggest that “gender” might be somehow reformed because this disparity in power between ‘men’ and ‘women’ is all just some big MISUNDERSTANDING. I mean, seriously.
    .
    I don’t want to violate Ophelia’s request not to discuss mental illness (pls edit this out as desired), but I also take an SSRI for chronic depression. Oh, and I’m a lesbian. It doesn’t follow that I was necessarily “born this way” or that my sexuality and depression have a biological parallel or causal relationship.
    I believe that cultural influences *can* be the cause of “mental illness,” as evidenced by the high rates of depression and anxiety among those who are bullied, discriminated against, and otherwise oppressed. Just as homosexuality was removed from the DSM, so should GD be. The depression, anxiety, and suicidality of both homo and gender non-conforming people can be treated under those diagnoses, rather that pathologizing the perfectly harmless desire to express oneself in violation of social norms.
    .
    Body dysphoria is BODY dysphoria. The dysphoria needs to be treated, not necessarily the body. The beliefs parallels body identity integrity disorders such as anorexia.
    .
    Gender dysphoria is GENDER dysphoria. This means unhappiness with social constructs (gender!) applied to the individual by society.
    .
    We don’t help anything by confusing these two types of dysphoria. In fact, we reinforce what you might call “cis sexism” when we are complicit with the notion that there can be a gender-related “match” between the body and the mind. I call that straight up sexism. It’s not progressive. It’s the same old shit females have been fighting against since well before I was born. I’m just picking up that torch.

  75. says

    #69 @brucegorton
    .
    The female demand for public sex-segregated spaces is a form of *defense* (not offense). It is reactionary to the widespread hostile treatment of males towards females, presumably caused by the two groups’ distinct social role indoctrination. In other words, I want to urinate and change my tampon in the absence of both the “male gaze” and the “male ear.” I will defend the female right to public sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms, etc, until the term “male gaze” and its attendant sexual voyeurism no longer make any sense to the average female. All females, no matter their gender or appearance, are welcome into these sex-segregated spaces (according to me). So no, it’s not reinforcing a particular way of being female. It’s a direct response to the lived experiences of females and how our bodies are regularly treated by males as free, cheap meat. See street harassment as an example. Single stall unisex is fine with me, btw.
    .
    Now, very interesting…
    This is precisely my problem with naturalizing the concept of an innate, unchanging “gender identity:”
    .

    mostly formed by a shallow understanding of current social classes and general identifiers for who falls into which one, without really trying to figure out why those classes have arisen, hence perpetuating injustices by liberal application of “that’s just the way things are”.

    .
    I sometimes say that playing musical chairs with these pre-fab social roles isn’t doing anything to challenge the system. Nor does identity libertarianism help us to understand or deconstruct the mechanics of (female) oppression. We should question the roles themselves (‘man’/’woman’) and how they operate to form hierarchies of power. <That's social justice political analysis! Reinforcing these sex-based social roles 'man' and 'woman' as normal and natural is New Boss same as the Old Boss.
    .
    Everyone is welcome to read my little blog if you are interested in further details on my views.

  76. biogeo says

    SC,

    This seems like a pretty significant derail from the topic of the thread so I’m going to make a few final comments and then drop it.

    Nope.

    Your bald denial of the definition of “biological marker” doesn’t change the fact that this is in fact the actual meaning of the term as used by the people you’re quoting in your links. I gave the definition that is understood by medical professionals, as well as by WIkipedia. For you to simply assert that this term means something different is a distortion of your sources’ words and undercuts any argument you make based on them.

    So you’re acknowledging that there are no such tests for the diagnosis of “mental disorders.” That would seem to be contrary to your claim above.

    I am acknowledging no such thing. You are convinced I mean something other than what I said I meant when I said “biological marker,” but I assure you I meant exactly what I said. The absence of a biological marker for a condition does not mean there are no diagnostic tests for the condition: biological markers are only one possible (albeit highly desirable) diagnostic test. But because mental disorders are defined in terms of mental function rather than physiology, it is unsurprising that the best diagnostic tests we have are ones of mental function. For example, does a person describe lack of motivation, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, and distress because of these? This is diagnostic of depression. A biological marker for depression would be great, and even better would be biological markers identifying different causes and therapeutic approaches for depression, but biological markers are not necessary for diagnosis.

    No, “we” do not. There are no such disorders.

    I see. You want to infer from a lack of reliable biomarkers and an incomplete understanding of the physiology (which you also seem insistent on conflating) that mental disorders do not exist. Okay.

    And above you acknowledged the “failure of categorization approaches.” Now these categories are somehow valid. It’s so sad.

    I did not “acknowledge the ‘failure of categorization approaches’,” there where a bunch of words that came after those which were part of the same idea, which you conveniently cut. You also conveniently omitted the fact that I was describing NIMH director Tom Insel’s position, not my own. What I said was, “the reason people like NIMH director Tom Insel emphasize this fact is to highlight the failure of categorization approaches based on psychiatric function to facilitate research in biological mechanisms yielding clear treatments.” Since perhaps I was unclear, in other words, Tom Insel and some others think that categories based on psychological function are less useful to psychiatric research than categories based on biological mechanism. This is because they believe that the same observed psychological phenomena may be caused by a variety of different biological mechanisms in different individuals, and that biological mechanism gives better insights into “druggable targets” for the individual patient. This does not imply that the psychological categories are invalid, and in fact for therapeutic approaches at the psychological level (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy), psychological categories are more useful than biological mechanisms. As for myself, I am largely sympathetic to Insel’s position, though I also understand the objections of some in the psychiatric community.

    In other words, you’re acknowledging that in fact there are no distinct, identifiable physiological processes targeted by psychopharmaceuticals, which was the claim to which I was responding above.

    What? How do you get from my saying “the mechanisms of action are often still poorly understood” to “there are no distinct, identifiable physiological processes targeted by psychopharmaceuticals”? This is like a creationist arguing that because we still don’t understand the details of how human intelligence evolved, evolution is false. In fact we do understand the distinct, identifiable physiological processes targeted by psychopharmaceuticals in the overwhelming majority of cases. For example, SSRIs act by interfering with the ability of serotonin to bind to serotonin transporter molecules, which clear them from the synapse. Consequently, when serotonin-producing neurons release serotonin, it remains active in the synapse for longer. Over time, homeostatic mechanisms cause the synapse to remodel itself in response to the altered signalling properties, in ways that have measurable (via fMRI) impact on circuit function, particularly in the prefrontal cortex which receives strong projections from serotonin neurons. In animal models, we can observe that animals with a deficit to serotonin function exhibit behaviors which resemble those of humans suffering from depression and anxiety, and furthermore that treating these animals with SSRIs causes them to return to more species-typical behaviors. What we don’t fully understand is in what ways exactly the alteration in serotonin function by SSRIs contributes to cognitive and behavioral improvement, because we are still working out how these phenomena are supported by neural processing. For example, we don’t know if depressed people have a primary deficit to serotonin function, or if altering the activity of the serotonin system allows the brain to “compensate” for deficits in other systems. But this uncertainty is not saying that there are “no distinct, identifiable physiological processes targeted by psychopharmaceuticals.” To the contrary, it is the result of new questions raised as a result of our understanding of these physiological processes.

    That is what we skeptics refer to as an anecdote.

    In your posts here and your linked posts, you are asserting that the overwhelming scientific consensus on mental illness and psychiatric therapy is flat-out wrong, and support your case by quote mining and distorting the words of experts who I know for a fact would disagree with your interpretation of what they said. This anti-scientific, anti-intellectual “skepticism” is the same as what climate-change deniers practice.

    The only response that could save your case is to point to the distinct, identifiable physiological processes in individuals in “schizophrenia” and “depression” and how they’re targeted by psychopharmaceuticals.

    I am well aware I won’t convince you, but for anyone interested in learning about the biology of these diseases, the Wikipedia articles on the biology of depression and the mechanisms of schizophrenia are actually pretty good.

    Anyway, as I said, rather than derail the discussion further and fall into SIWOTI syndrome, I’m going to drop it there. You can have the last word if you want it.

  77. biogeo says

    Ophelia, sorry for the continued derail: I started writing my comment before you posted. Feel free to delete.

  78. says

    Well, I would, but you put a lot of work into it, so…I didn’t. I did delete a shorter one by someone else (the more easily because the someone – “Plethora” – has been trashing me elsewhere on the network).

  79. says

    From the UN letter:

    My objection to “gender identity” is that where legal definitions of sex are reducible to the subjectively felt “gender identities” of trans* people, the connection between sexualized violence and reproductive exploitation of female bodies becomes invisible. The unintended consequence is that it also becomes impossible for women to specifically address this aspect of our oppression on an institutional level. [v]

    I don’t believe this to be true.

    I also think the concern about people who aren’t women taking advantage of laws protecting trans people, leading to demands for trans people to jump through legal and medical hoops to have their identity validated, is about as well-founded as the concern about voter fraud which has led to Voter ID laws.

    Body dysphoria is BODY dysphoria. The dysphoria needs to be treated, not necessarily the body.

    I’m not sure what this would entail, but it’s creeping me out. Also, I don’t see why, if altering your body to make it more consistent with your deep sense of who you are is fundamentally important to your well-being and happiness, and can address a major source of suffering, anyone should care, much less suggest that you shouldn’t. That’s people’s free project, I’m happy they can do it, and I think their choice should be culturally and materially supported by society.

    The beliefs parallels body identity integrity disorders such as anorexia.

    I see it as (clearly not a disorder, for a number of reasons) more parallel to the use of reproductive technologies, from contraception to abortion to voluntary sterilization to fertility treatments. Technology exists that enables us to live our free projects and greatly enhance our well-being. I don’t see why anyone should be able to deny it to us, and societies should culturally and materially support our ability to use it or not.

  80. says

    #88 @SC, just to be clear, you are quoting from the 2012 UN letter. It is the 2011 letter that is referred to in this thread and causes much outrage to genderists.
    .
    I see. Based on this comment, it seems to me that you have a libertarian view of identity and body modification, including the belief that society should foot the bill for my tattoos because they help me “express myself.” This is what I call a fundamental disagreement. I believe that a standard of “medical necessity” is a necessary limitation on public funding for body modifications. Your solution is a neoliberal consumerist model of “self,” which entails all kinds of false consciousness, unnecessary medical risk, and emotional angst when things don’t turn out as planned. As if you could buy “pieces of yourself” on the open market. I find that creepy. But since we are so far from each other on this point, I’ll leave it at that.
    .
    My only other comment is that the personal motivation for using reproductive technologies is generally not emotional angst, depression, or suicidality. Nor are repro technologies generally considered a solution/treatment for such symptoms (unlike hormones and SRS for the symptoms of GD). So that’s not a good analogy, in my opinion.

  81. says

    #88 @SC, just to be clear, you are quoting from the 2012 UN letter. It is the 2011 letter that is referred to in this thread and causes much outrage to genderists.

    OK. My point remains the same.

    I see. Based on this comment, it seems to me that you have a libertarian view of identity and body modification,

    …Your solution is a neoliberal consumerist model of “self,” which entails all kinds of false consciousness, unnecessary medical risk, and emotional angst when things don’t turn out as planned.

    …As if you could buy “pieces of yourself” on the open market. I find that creepy.

    LOL. In fact, I’m an anarchist. Anyone who’s read my comments and posts and other writing over the past several years would know how absurd this is. It’s also bizarre, since you proceed to argue against my stance that specific technologies should be publicly funded. That stance is not exactly consistent with a libertarian, neoliberal, consumerist view. You’re flailing.

    (And by the way, the regret and emotional angst argument is a standard tool of those arguing against abortion rights. So well done perpetuating that sort of thinking.)

    including the belief that society should foot the bill for my tattoos because they help me “express myself.” This is what I call a fundamental disagreement.

    Oh, it most certainly is. My analogy was to reproductive technologies. I’m left speechless that you’re actually comparing the bodily alterations trans people undertake to tattoos. I lack words to express my contempt for this attitude.

    I believe that a standard of “medical necessity” is a necessary limitation on public funding for body modifications.

    OK, so no funding for most reproductive technologies. Or people should have to prove to the satisfaction of some group (of doctors or lawyers or something) that their use is medically necessary. Wonderful.

    My only other comment is that the personal motivation for using reproductive technologies is generally not emotional angst, depression, or suicidality. Nor are repro technologies generally considered a solution/treatment for such symptoms (unlike hormones and SRS for the symptoms of GD). So that’s not a good analogy, in my opinion.

    Wait, so now you seem to be acknowledging that trans people wish these alterations in response to emotional angst, depression, and suicidality. Not exactly tattoos we’re talking about, here.

    In any event, what you’re saying isn’t true. Access to reproductive technologies is actually a means of avoiding emotional angst, depression, and suicidality that can and will often result from the denial of or lack of access to these technologies. A relative of mine suffered for years with debilitating depression due in no small part to the Catholic Church’s dictates about the use of reproductive technologies.

  82. says

    If “gender” had some coherent meaning beyond “identification with sexist cultural constructs,”

    Defining gender identity as subscribing to a gender role doesn’t make sense to me either. None of the roles currently on offer seem particularly attractive. And I can see how some people find this idea offensive.
    What does make sense to me is group identity. “If we divide society roughly along the lines we do now, which group do I belong to?” – I think that’s a question most of us can answer. And for those who can’t it may be a question of “with whom do I want to start a new group?”

    When science makes progress on the brain question I referenced earlier we may also get a model for how the group identity works biologically for transgender people, I suppose the working hypothesis is that it’s some kind of neuro-type recognition.

  83. brucegorton says

    Hungerford

    The issue with the male gaze and male ear though is an issue with gendering. Male’s are gendered to have it,

    Females who were born with male genitalia, don’t have it but do feel squicked by it when they want to go to the toilet.

    Similarly trans men – because lets not forget this is a two-way thing here – well they may not feel comfortable going to a woman’s rest room either.

    So in real terms I am not entirely sure that the gaze and ear is an issue with regards to trans individuals.

    The upshot of this being, to be honest, men’s and women’s toilets – okay. We exist in a culture which has gendering and that has consequences for men and women which make it somewhat impractical to have unisex public toilets.

    But this should be an issue of gender rather than born sex.

    I think if someone requested to look up your dress to check before letting you into the loo would get a well deserved slap. So in all honesty – even just from a practical standpoint – I don’t see how enforcement is supposed to work without violating people’s privacy.

    Trans women, being women, go to the women’s rest room. Trans men, being men, go to the men’s. Why complicate issues further?

  84. says

    So in all honesty – even just from a practical standpoint – I don’t see how enforcement is supposed to work without violating people’s privacy.

    Oh, come now. The toilets could contain small cameras equipped with Genital Identification software and machines to perform instant hormonal and chromosomal analyses of our urine. We’d all get used to it and soon forget it’s there, and after a while no one would mind!

    Jokes aside, I think I’m going to have to stop reading. The tattoo remark suggested a sort of bigotry I don’t even see as worthy of responding to. That’s not someone with whom I care to discuss or even debate these issues.

  85. says

    #91 @SC, if your style of engagement is to insult those who challenge you, this be will be my last reply to you.
    .
    So I guess you think I should “know who your are.” Lol. Sorry, I don’t. I don’t really care either. You may identify as an anarchist (again, don’t care) but I don’t see how that squares with organized funding for self-serving body modifications.
    .
    I detest the idea that one’s “gender” or “true self” can be “matched” by making certain changes to the physical body.
    .
    SRS is fundamentally cosmetic; you cannot actually change your body’s reproductive functionality. It’s mere imitation of the thing that is desired. Tattoos are also cosmetic and form of “personal expression,” though they generally do not carry the same medical risks as SRS and cross-sex hormones. “Medical necessity” has a very specific meaning in relation to healthcare coverage (maybe you didn’t know that). It requires the presence of a functional limitation in either physical ability or Activities of Daily Living. In NO case (besides gender dysphoria) is psychological/emotional dysfunction treated with interventions designed specifically and *solely* to modify one’s physical appearance. That’s unprecedented “medicine.” And it’s fiscally unsustainable given the recent increase in referrals to “gender clinics,” especially for children.
    .
    Now. Extreme emotional angst is NOT a justification for any/all society-funded technologies such as breast or penile augmentation, liposuction, or erectile dysfunction medication. Emotional angst is not a justification for *everything you want really really badly.* We need to make some finer distinctions here.
    .
    I mentioned body identity integrity disorder and anorexia because the parallel is that sufferers deeply, desperately believe their body is somehow “wrong” and must be changed. You know, like people with sex dysphoria. Even though their body is perfectly fine. It’s a thought disorder, not a physical lack of function.
    .
    Your analogy to reproductive technologies is simply bad. I’m not going down that road. Although it did make me think of Ireland’s suicide exception to abortion access.

  86. says

    So I guess you think I should “know who your are.”

    Mmno. I was saying your attempt to dismiss my argument by characterizing my perspective in that way was absurd in light of the evidence.

    I detest the idea that one’s “gender” or “true self” can be “matched” by making certain changes to the physical body.

    Yes, I think we all get that. I see that as evidence of callousness and bigotry, and a complete failure to even try to understand or empathize with trans people’s experiences.

    SRS is fundamentally cosmetic; you cannot actually change your body’s reproductive functionality.

    Why are you talking about reproductive functionality (which, as you certainly know, differs across individuals and within individuals throughout the life course, and can be changed by many procedures)? Changing reproductive functionality isn’t any sort of determinative element for whether an alteration is merely cosmetic. The standard that should be used is whether an alteration or other procedure is socially recognized as sufficiently important to people’s emotional and psychological well-being and living their lives and not being able to choose that alteration or procedure a cause of substantial suffering. People have increasingly come to recognize, through listening to trans people and taking their experiences seriously, that the alterations many choose to make, like the alterations and other procedures people use in controlling their reproduction, meet that criterion. It’s a decision we make collectively, on the basis of our understanding of people’s real needs and experiences, and once we’ve made that decision we don’t need to demand that people in each individual case justify their need to access that procedure or technology.* We don’t exclude fertility treatments because they treat a dysfunction that’s only seen as such because of people’s wish to have a child (it wouldn’t be a dysfunction for those who don’t want a child), because we recognize that for many people having a child is deeply important for their lives and infertility a cause of profound suffering.

    The reason you don’t get this is that you’re determined to see trans people’s experiences in the most superficial terms.

    For years, we’ve faced people who’ve denied us access to reproductive technologies or refused public funding for them by claiming that they’re not strictly necessary for our health and just desired for convenience, or demanded that we show sufficient evidence of our need or determination or suffering (there have been several laws like Ireland’s). That’s the situation you seem to want trans people to be in – or not even: it doesn’t seem like there’s anything they, including all of the people who’ve altered their bodies and experienced it as decisively life-changing and liberating and an end to their years of suffering, could say that would convince you that bodily alteration is a real and pressing need for some trans people, just like birth control, abortions, sterilization, fertility treatments, etc. are for others.

    It’s a thought disorder,

    No, it isn’t. You’d think that as a lesbian you would be a lot more wary of dismissing people’s profound experiences and desires as thought disorders.

    * That doesn’t mean that some procedures regarded as cosmetic and unnecessary in most cases couldn’t be deemed necessary in these terms in some cases.

  87. says

    In NO case (besides gender dysphoria) is psychological/emotional dysfunction [sic] treated with interventions designed specifically and *solely* to modify one’s physical appearance.

    Reconstructive post-mastectomy surgery is arguably that. In any case, what you’re clearly doing is trying to define categories and motives in such a way as to specifically exclude trans people’s bodily alterations from the category of those recognized as valid and necessary. It’s, well, pretty obvious, and gross.

    That’s unprecedented “medicine.”

    Even if it is/were, so fucking what? That’s not an argument against it.

    And it’s fiscally unsustainable given the recent increase in referrals to “gender clinics,” especially for children.

    Oh, bullshit. Good grief, why don’t you just acknowledge that you’re prejudiced and be done with it?

  88. kevinkirkpatrick says

    Elizabeth Hungerford @78,

    This is not a rhetorical game for me. I have zero interest in what you believe, and I don’t get to cash in “internet points” at the local bank.

    This is real life, in the here-and-now:

    1) My son is happier and healthier when identifying as a boy than he was when forced to identify as a girl.

    [Aside: On our decision to support his transition, I do not budge. Ideologically, I’ve long held to the basic parenting principle of respecting what your kids tell you. Empirically, there’s overwhelming evidence that enforcing “you really are a girl and just need to accept that” leads to drastically increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide.]

    2) Post-transition, any suggestion or reinforcement of the idea that he is “not really a boy” causes him harm [and that harm is significantly magnified if the message is communicated from a figure of authority]

    3) A school policy which forces him to use the restroom labeled “Girls” would be such a message, and would cause him great harm, likely on a daily basis.

    4) A policy which allows him to use the restroom labeled “Boys” will harm nobody.

    On that note, I’ll repeat my last question:

    Let’s start here: my son will soon be entering first grade at an elementary school with restrooms marked “Boys” and “Girls”. If you had to set a school policy that was consistent with the UN letter – which would you have him use?

    Unless I’ve misread, your justification for any such policy is to avoid the harm the lack of such a policy could cause to people born with vaginas. Specifically, you are at risk of harm ala:

    “I have a vagina. Some things that I do which involve my vagina, such as switching tampons or urinating, I do in full view of others who are using the same restroom, so that they may gaze upon me. When I perform these vagina-specific shows for everyone else in the restroom, it makes me uncomfortable to think that someone in my audience might be gazing upon my performance while having *not* been born without a vagina. This discomfort is a human rights issue that the UN itself must look into. The UN must work to set global policies. When I choose to change my tampon in full view of a restroom full of people, it’s a fundamental right that I be ensured my audience is limited to people born with vaginas.”

    If so – perhaps a compromise – what if we all just agreed to urinate / switch tampons / apply jock-itch-cream / whatever in a “stall” like enclosure, and not under anyone’s gaze?

  89. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I’m with you, Kevin Kirkpatrick, and I’m disturbed at the ignorance and callousness coming your way. I too have a young transgender family member who expressed herself to her parents just as your son did. In almost eerily similar words.

    Elizabeth Hungerford, I cannot stress enough how misguided and unethical your stance on bathrooms is. Despite your stated rationale (which is puzzling to say the least), it’s hard for me to truly understand what motivates this. Regardless, I think it’s awful, and I think it’s cruel, even if you truly believe it isn’t and find it shocking to hear. I don’t know you except for a few comments I’ve seen of yours recently, so I have no deeper agenda. I sorely wish you’d reconsider this.

  90. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Besides which nobody changes their fucking tampon in full view of an entire restroom.

    Just what kind of bullshit is this if we have to pretend we don’t know that stalls exist? I’m serious. What in hell are doing?

  91. John Morales says

    [EH] I see. Based on this comment, it seems to me that you have a libertarian view of identity and body modification […]

    [SC] LOL. In fact, I’m an anarchist. Anyone who’s read my comments and posts and other writing over the past several years would know how absurd this is.

    [EH] So I guess you think I should “know who your are.” Lol. Sorry, I don’t. I don’t really care either.

    I attest to truthfulness of SC’s claim. She’s the reason I read Kropotkin, quite some years ago now.

    Elizabeth, that little dig of yours was informative, as was SC’s response.

  92. teslalivia says

    Elizabeth Hungerford. Thank you for what you do. That you do it under your own name takes guts.

  93. says

    If anyone had any doubt about Elizabeth Hungerford’s prejudiced attitudes toward trans people, this conversation alone should be enough to dispel them. In the course of this one exchange she’s:

    – equated the bodily alterations performed by some trans people to consumer purchases, and characterized support for the freedom to undergo these procedures and for them to be publicly funded to consumerism, libertarianism, and neoliberalism.

    – called the bodily alterations performed by some trans people fundamentally cosmetic and likened them to tattoos and vanity cosmetic surgeries.

    – inconsistently, recognized that the pre-transition experience of many trans people is characterized by extreme emotional angst, depression, and suicidality.

    – argued that trans people’s experiences and desires, however they might see them, are a “thought disorder” that requires “treatment,” but not the remedy they themselves desire.

    – suggested that trans people’s experiences are a form of false consciousness.

    – expressed her disgust at the very idea of altering your body to make it congruent with your understanding/creation of your real self.

    – trotted out the tired anti-abortion trope about risk and regret.

    – defined the procedures and bodily alterations she deems valid and worthy of public support so as to exclude those desired by trans people from that category, on grounds that are silly or irrelevant.

    – seriously suggested that public funding for trans people’s bodily alterations is fiscally unsustainable, like in countries that spend trillions on weaponry and warmaking and waste untold sums in health care, funding transitioning is what’s going to break the bank. Because nothing says you’re not prejudiced against a category of people like singling out an intervention that applies to them for denial of coverage.

  94. says

    Elizabeth, you are being extremely unkind to trans people. The distress and dysphoria are clearly real, as is the persecution. However you or they theorize it does not matter at that human level. I support your use of the sex/gender distinction, and I think It is a very helpful concept. But trans people are very clearly suffering.

    In my own experience, I remember a lot of gender dysphoria, because gender totally sucked. It meant I was not supposed to be clever, good at maths & science, have a career, and that I was supposed to be some kind of natural housekeeper. I remember very little sex dysphoria. I did, at 5, wonder when I was going to get a penis, but it wasn’t a lasting thing. I also remember thinking I could change sex by cutting my hair. Kids have some odd ideas on gender – heh, where might that come from?

    Just because I experienced it that way doesn’t mean everyone else was the same. For some the physical dysphoria was profound and eased only by hormones, surgery or suicide. Trans women suffer from the indignities of the second class status of womanhood, too, as much or more than cis women. The changes they experience in social treatment are profound, but they still prefer that over being treated as a first class human! To me that says it all. Whyever would anyone choose this status, who didn’t have to?

    (Trans men get it the other way, of course. Fascinating.)

    Goddamnit babies, you’ve got to be kind.

  95. says

    Elizabeth won’t be back.

    Very happy about that. Her views are odious.

    I suspect she’s been provoking us on purpose.

    Why? (Not why do you suspect it, but why would she have been doing that?) (I’m also curious about why you suspect it.)

  96. dogeared, spotted and foxed says

    Women’s space is a tricky one. I honestly don’t know where I stand.

    Trans women are a subset of women. Because they are women, they are also subject to the negative social aspects of being women. Trans women need safe spaces. They might also need/want spaces that are only open to transpeople or even just transwomen because their background/socialization/current situation is understood best by other transwomen.

    Cis women are also a subset of women. Some of them might also want spaces for themselves because background/socialization/current situation is understood best by other cis women. For some reason, this is not allowed. There are to be no spaces for cis women. That doesn’t make sense to me.

    For bathrooms, transwomen should use the ladies room if that’s where they feel most comfortable. I don’t see how that’s a big deal. Shelters, I don’t know. Two things bother me. In the US, there is so little funding for shelters of any kind. I wish that transwomen would fight for their own shelters if only so there would be an additional area of funding. I also worry that someone who is homeless or escaping from violence might not have the spoons at that moment to deal with their own feelings about transwomen. Michfest is just weird. It’s one of those “no cis parties allowed” things. I don’t get it.

    Like I said, I don’t know where I stand. There’s a part of me, the deepest most feminist part of me that wants to put cis women first. It’s visceral and I can’t explain it.

  97. chigau (違う) says

    In NO case (besides gender dysphoria) is psychological/emotional dysfunction treated with interventions designed specifically and *solely* to modify one’s physical appearance.

    What about facial deformities?
    You got eyes, a nose and a mouth.
    Who cares about the arrangement?
    Really?

  98. biogeo says

    SC, I just wanted to say you and I may not see eye to eye on mental health issues, but thanks for helping fight the good fight on trans issues in this thread.

    I know Ophelia has said Elizabeth Hungerford won’t be back, but just to address one of her claims in case anyone is concerned by it:

    In NO case (besides gender dysphoria) is psychological/emotional dysfunction treated with interventions designed specifically and *solely* to modify one’s physical appearance. That’s unprecedented “medicine.”

    This is absolutely false. In addition to reconstructive surgery post-mastectomy, as previously mentioned by SC, there are also a variety of reconstructive cosmetic surgeries done for people who have suffered disfiguring trauma, as well as repairing birth defects. These surgeries are done precisely to improve an individual’s ability to interact normally with their society; despite what we may like, people do automatically judge or react poorly to individuals with severe disfigurements. If we had a culture in which human appearance was entirely immaterial and everyone was fully accepted no matter how they looked, would these surgeries be necessary? No, probably not. But that’s not the culture we have, nor is it any culture I’m aware of ever having existed; maybe it’s not the sort of culture humans can create. Because humans are cultural creatures, “cosmetic” surgeries are sometimes medically necessary. Hungerford’s characterization of reassignment surgery as a cosmetic surgery, with the implication being that it is trivial, like tattoos, is gross and ignorant of medical reality.

    I also wanted to address her comparison of gender dysphoria to anorexia nervosa, but as I started to write something I realized I was probably heading back into the mental health derail, so I won’t. Suffice it to say, AN is more complex that Hungerford seems to understand, and her comparison is both inapt and does a disservice to both trans people and sufferers of AN.

  99. says

    This hasn’t gone well.

    I’m not sure what you mean by that. I think Hungerford has clearly presented her prejudiced views and others have argued with them. She might have been presenting them more starkly due to anger or annoyance, but I don’t doubt that these are her real opinions and beliefs. And they are seriously bigoted. Calling trans people’s bodily modifications self-serving, disgusting, sick, cosmetic, equivalent to tattoos, unworthy of support, and so on, suggesting, as she does in one of the UN letters, that “Being female, and therefore being subject to a lifetime’s worth of female-based sexual exploitation and stereotyping, is an immutable condition for all but a few self-appointed trans* men who are able to successfully pass as the opposite sex” – has nothing to do with feminism or gender criticism. It has everything to do with prejudice. Nonbigots don’t talk like that.

    So I think it went well. Hungerford showed her true colors; several of her arguments, such as they are, were openly contested; and a bigot is annoyed with you :).

  100. sambarge says

    She’s annoyed at me.

    You’ve managed to piss off both sides of the debate?! You must be doing something right.

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