that female athlete doesn’t look feminine enough

So one of the things I have said about my activism in the past is that my job is to work myself out of a job. I want to end domestic & sexual violence generally, fully fund services for all victims who have been (and will be) harmed before we finally do away with D/SV, and along the way to end heterosexist barriers to sex and gender variant victims ability to access relevant services. I want many other things, too, but these are at the core of my activist career, if I can be said to have had one.

I have always maintained that as the world changes, I’ll be the wrong person to talk to about next steps, because I won’t have lived my life where that next step is the biggest problem. i won’t have felt the lack of that next step so acutely. I won’t be able to speak from personal experience about how that next step would have changed my life for the better b/c we’ve already taken so many steps that it’s hard for me to imagine **only** lacking that next step.

And in many ways, I’ve been successful. Where once I was a voice in the wilderness talking about the interrelation between cissexism, heterosexism, and sexism, and how the first two play a role in how even straight, cis women are treated by our governments and our service providers, now many people are talking about these things, often with a specificity that makes them far more expert in their area than I could ever be.

But in some ways, I have been frighteningly unsuccessful. While I primarily discussed access to gender segregated services for victims of trauma, harassment, and stalking, as early as 1998 I was asked a question about trans athletes in women’s sport. Not an expert in sports (my close friends will recognize this as hilarious overstatement of the scope of my knowledge), I fell back on how I had seen cissexism and heterosexism used to exclude even straight, cis women from the services with which I was more familiar.

It is inevitable, I told the audience in approximately these words, that efforts to exclude trans people from any social pursuit will end up harming cis women. The reason is that people will look for hints that reveal a participant to be the stereotype of the deceptive transsexual who lies about her past to conceal the tenuous validity of her womanhood. This presupposes, however, that trans people can get away with passing as non-trans at least for a time. Clues revealing secret transness, then, must be subtle, and because they must be subtle, they can be found in any number of women. As a result, the desire to communicate cisgender and cissexual state of being will result in women voluntarily curtailing any social expressions deemed too masculine. Women who do exceed the boundaries of feminine behavior and presentation will initially receive the worst consequences of gender policing that nominally targets trans people, but as the outliers are pressured to conform, the boundaries of femininity collapse. As a result, freedom for all women is eventually constricted. And though trans people will suffer from gender policing, and out trans people will be the individuals who suffer more than any other individuals, because the group of cis women is so much larger than the group of trans persons, when considering all suffering in total, cis women will surely suffer more than trans people from any increased gender policing of social activities. 

Thus, I argued, even if you hate trans people, you should advocate against gender policing that targets trans persons. The investigation and accusation and prosecution process will never harm only trans people.

Well, if all y’all cis people had listened to me 24 years ago, we could have saved ourselves a world of hurt. Unfortunately some of you are bigoted Mormons who just can’t comprehend the benefits of gender liberation. Or, perhaps, they embrace sexism, so the incidental sexism of cissexist persecutions seem a feature not a bug.

From the Deseret News:

After one competitor “outclassed” the rest of the field in a girls’ state-level competition last year, the parents of the competitors who placed second and third lodged a complaint with the Utah High School Activities Association calling into question the winner’s gender.

Entirely unsurprising. Utah is one of the states that has legislated a system ostensibly banning k-12 trans students from participating in school sport save in categories open to their assigned gender at birth. What it actually does, however, is allow any random person to trigger a state investigation into the most private aspects of a child’s life. In the particular case here, the complaint was considered resolved through a thorough check of multiple records going back a decade or more, but more intrusive investigations, including medical ones, apparently are authorized by statute and cannot be said to be ruled out in the future.

And, of course, what’s compounding the horror here is that the excessive masculinity triggering the investigation wasn’t a tracheal prominence or tiny boobs. What triggered the investigation here was athletic excellence itself.

Given that the ostensible rationale for passing laws regulating trans children’s participation in school sports was to ensure that girls have a chance to experience being celebrated for their excellence, this punishment of excellence would seem to be proof that such laws not only fail to support and celebrate athletic girls, but rather punish them for their greatest successes, encouraging them to fail.

One might hope that this would cause some second thoughts, perhaps an effort to repeal this repellent and sexist regime. One would, of course, be mistaken. This is Utah, after all. Read and then weep over this most telling part of the Deseret News article:

Spatafore [David Spatafore, the UHSAA’s legislative representative] said the association has received other complaints, some that said “that female athlete doesn’t look feminine enough.”

The association took “every one of those complaints seriously. We followed up on all of those complaints with the school and the school system,” he said during an update on HB11, a ban on transgender girls from participating in female school sports, which was passed during the final hours of 2022 General Session.

And we come full circle. What I predicted 24 years ago has come to pass. Girls looking insufficiently feminine is now a complaint that the government takes “seriously”, and that the government then investigates.

I understand that women’s and girls’ athletic achievements are not sufficiently celebrated. And I understand that there’s fear that permitting trans children to participate in gender segregated sports in the manner that is most healthy for them, even if that means participating in sports originally conceived as being only for students of a different assigned sex at birth will inevitably mean a few celebrated wins for trans athletes that might otherwise have been wins for cis girls or cis women.

But giving the government the power to investigate deficient femininity, or to treat a woman or girl as an object of suspicion for her athletic excellence itself, does nothing to support cis girls or celebrate their achievements.

If you can’t oppose such laws because of their cissexism alone, oppose them for their sexist, for the power they give governments to crack down on anyone who violates gender norms even in so innocuous a manner as being a girl winning a medal in girls’ sports.

 

 

 

I’m just going to say this once

rather than comment all over the place whenever it comes up, and I sure as fuck hope that everyone else on FreethoughtBlogs and Wonkette and Discord is listening, because this is important.

There is a thing lately, a widespread thing, a thing that has happened in comments here but also in top-level posts, which is just pissing me off. Abe Drayton is the latest to do this thing that pisses me off with his post:

The Democrats are not blameless: Some thoughts about how we got here

Now, I’m not going to lie, there is some utility in examining how institutions such as the Democratic Party help (or not) and fight (or not) for things that are supposedly Democratic Party priorities. Examining that might help you make decisions going forward about how you interact with the Democratic Party and representatives thereof.

I will also stipulate that Drayton (and many other people implicitly criticized by this here blog post of mine) are not bad people. That’s not what I’m saying. (Abe Drayton is actually a good guy who does amazing work on climate and you should support that work.)

But this is a shitty take to promote right now, and let me tell you why. Because when you say, as Drayton does, that “the Democrats” are guilty of x or y sin of action or omission, you’re talking about a category that includes both men and also maybe possibly actual fucking women. Yes, that’s right. Women are occasionally Democrats. They occasionally get elected as Democrats to work within legislative bodies or as executive officers of states or other jurisdictions.

And here’s the thing that I’m only saying once, so LISTEN THE FUCK UP:

Democratic women are the ONLY political group who has made reproductive rights a priority. They are the ONLY group that has fought with any measure of consistency or effectiveness for reproductive rights. And they are the FIRST group to be targeted for shit from the right wing, such as when a woman testified before congress about the gross disparities between insurance coverage of mens sexual health and insurance coverage of contraception for women and other necessities for women’s sexual health and was then immediately tarred as a “slut” (yes, that actual word, no euphemisms) for testifying before congress on a public policy matter. That woman is Sandra Fluke and fucking hell yes I remembered her off the top of my head; I didn’t google this shit; I didn’t go hunting for examples through laborious internet research. I just know the name of this woman who was pilloried for doing exactly what Drayton and too many others say that “Democrats” are unwilling to do.

So the question is, if I know her name, why don’t all of you? Why are so many of you willing to blame “the Democrats” without qualification? If you want to bash some broad group within the Democratic Party you can bash Democratic men if you like, but at this moment, at this particular moment, lumping Democratic women, the ONLY people who have worked to create the environment that mades overturning Roe v. Wade even an issue the media would cover so that you would notice it to comment, with people who just don’t give a shit, well, that’s victim blaming and I won’t have it.

I know that people have done this without being bad people. They just made a bad mistake, yada yada yada. I don’t fucking care because this post isn’t about you. It’s not about how you’re a bad person. It’s not about how you feel.

This post is about how Democratic women are the only people who have cared about this for more than 50 years now, and to have Democratic women lumped in with the do-nothings has to fucking stop. This post is about not forgetting that women are people. This post is about not forgetting that Democrats include women and when you’re talking about “Democrats” you’re talking about women. And this post is important because Alito and his ilk would like you to forget that when you’re talking about “Americans” or “Adults” or “teenagers” you are also talking about women.

Ignoring the existence of women as independent human beings with our own needs, our own bodies, and our own agency is what got us into this mess. Continuing that mistake isn’t going to help us get out of it.

 

Originalism, Dobbs v. JWH, and Oblivious, Asshole Patriarchs

So, in keeping with a line of cases most recently exemplified by Washington v. Glucksberg (a right-to-die case), Alito demanded of the respondents (Jackson Women’s Health) that they establish not merely that bans on abortion were an imposition on liberty, but that there existed constitutional and statutory resistance to such bans at the time of the drafting of the US Constitution, or, failing that, at the time of the passage of the 14th Amendment upon which pregnant persons rely to defend against state and local limitations on the right to choose for oneself whether to carry a pregnancy to term or to seek an abortion.

Alito found that there was no constitutional or statutory resistance to abortion bans established by 1789 or even by 1868. And he has some examples to back that up. Let’s not fool ourselves that there’s no such thing as a coherent argument against a federal constitutional right to abortion in the USA. I think it’s a bad argument, but it’s at least coherent. Alito isn’t Marjorie Taylor Greene or Paul Gosar or Rand Paul.

But the historically-based reasoning of Glucksberg as employed in Alito’s decision leaves out crucial context, and that is that while abortion rights were not protected before the civil war, and while the law journals of prominent law schools didn’t have published articles asserting or even requesting a defense of abortion rights until after World War II, the people tasked with protecting rights – the appellate judges and ultimately the supreme court justices of the United States – included 0 women until 1934, when one woman was appointed to 1 circuit court of appeal. It wasn’t until after World War II that there was a single federal trial judge in the district courts.

To put it bluntly: the right to abortion has been protected for longer than women have been permitted to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. To this day we have never had a woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The reasoning of Roe has frequently been criticized as muddy, but when I read Roe, one thing that I believe those 8 men were trying to examine is, “Would abortion rights have been considered fundamental if women were considered people, considered valid authorities able to determine as well as men what was necessary for the ‘ordered liberty’ the court categorizes as essential to the democratic functioning of the United States?”

Alito would have us skip that question. Alito ignores that women were not considered persons, capable of contract and of holding property. Women were not considered capable of democratic self-determination throughout the period Alito examines. To expect the record of a country’s history during which women were not allowed the right to choose anything for themselves to reflect deep respect for a woman’s right to choose pregnancy or abortion is the grossest perversion of honest investigation.

Alito attempts (in at least one place that I remember from my first reading of this draft Dobbs decision) to distinguish the question of abortion as a question of so-called “substantive due process” and thus as a question of whether or not abortion is “intrinsic to ordered liberty”, meaning that it was a liberty with a “deeply rooted” history of legal protection within the early history of the United States and its forerunner colonies. He goes as far as to say that being pregnant is not a “sex based classification” for the purposes of the court. The import here is that he is trying – most desperately – to avoid any equal protection argument.

But the truth is that the very concept of “ordered liberty” fraught with equal protection problems for an originalist such as Alito. How can one say that the worship practices of Santeria are protected under such an analysis. For if you examine the record of protections (or lack thereof) for traditional African spiritual practices, you will find that Santeria is no more a religious classification than being pregnant is a sex-based one. Why, then, should a First Amendment analysis apply? And why should Santeria practitioners expect their practices to be protected equally with those of Catholicism’s practitioners? The history tells us that Santeria was not a “religion” in the meaning of the framers, and further that protection of Santeria cannot now be granted on the basis of the 14th amendment since there is no history of protecting its practices before the US civil war. One might attempt an equal protection argument, but Alito’s reasoning is clear: equal protection only applies when discussing two classifications within the same larger category. With Santeria determined not to be a religion to the minds of the elite landed men during the early history of White North America, there is no religion to which Santeria can be fairly compared.

In short: equal protection and “ordered liberty” cannot be fully divorced, and the plain language of the 14th Amendment prohibits much that was quite normal (and normalized) at the time. Different levels of analysis (rational basis tests, strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, and even “rational basis with teeth”) seem to arise in US Jurisprudence more to excuse the court from the responsibility of applying the obvious meaning of this most modern-relevant Reconstruction amendment than they do in order to justify applying the power of the courts.

Glucksberg and its predecessors were never cases with which I was happy, but Alito’s decision in Dobbs makes clear exactly where they lead: to an artificial parsing of liberty, of due process, of privileges and immunities, as separate from the context of equal protection -a guarantee contained within the very same sentence. Dobbs is an immediate threat only to rights supported by precedent drawing upon the Due Process clause, but the longer term threat comes from this notion that due process can be fully explored, explained, and protected without reference to the entirely separate concept of equal protection. And in this Originalist separation we find that liberty is exactly what the drafters of the constitution thought it was: a privilege of white men.

I leave the final thoughts to the incomparable Pamela Means:

Yes, I know, I’m reading the opinion right now. Let’s stay calm unt—GOD FUCK ALITO GODDAMMIT

Here is one excerpt I’ve already taken. We’ll discuss a bunch of quotes and my general analysis soon.

 

He thinks Roe was “highly restrictive” in what it imposed.

 

Um, Alito? Roe was the OPPOSITE of imposing a highly restrictive regime. OP POH ZIT. Look it up.

 

 

The Firing Squad

While not real yet, I’m not speaking of a metaphorical one. Prominent Mississippi Republican Robert Foster has called for the shooting deaths of anyone who “grooms” teenagers by encouraging them to believe that they can wear the clothing of the “opposite sex” and/or change sex. He has also called for the death penalty for anyone who tells others that “men can become women” or that locker rooms can be inclusive of both trans people and cis people at the same time.

He denies that he wants to kill trans people for being trans, he just wants to kill anyone who says a nice thing about trans people, ever. But this isn’t an attack on free speech rights, heavens no!

Foster … calls himself a “Man of Faith,” and a “Constitutional Conservative,”

He’s a constitutional conservative! Certainly the constitution says something about the government shooting people to death if you don’t like what they have to say!

Will any of the FREEZE PEACH squad show up to contest this assault on the First Amendment? Of course not. The First Amendment only applies when people criticize other people on twitter. Governments killing people because of their speech isn’t an idea to get alarmed about!

Lest you think I’m being alarmist, from the Mississippi Free Press:

“I said what I said,” he wrote, adding to what he had tweeted. “The law should be changed so that anyone trying to sexually groom children and/or advocating to put men pretending to be women in locker rooms and bathrooms with young women should receive the death penalty by firing squad.”

And all of this is from the last 36 hours. Expect more from Foster. And, of course, expect a lone wolf to kill some trans people or PFLAG members or random folks out for brunch at a queer-owned breakfast spot, because that’s how this works.

I’ve lived with a target on me since I was bashed in Portland in 1992, but now if you’ve ever said something nice about trans people you’re wearing the target as well.

Look out for each other. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

 

 

Here comes the sexism, WTF, people?

The Rittenhouse verdict hasn’t even been public for an hour and already I’m seeing supposed lefties criticizing Rittenhouse’s mother not for her parenting or her recent interviews but for her appearance.

People are saying she must be a drunk or a meth head or a victim or incest or a perpetrator of incest all because they’re

  1. pissed at the legal system, and
  2. offended by her unattractive (to them) looks.

I get that people are pissed, but if how you want to express your anger at our legal system is to trash a woman who didn’t commit a crime, don’t do it here and maybe don’t do it at all.

Fuck all that sexist shit. Fuck it right out of the universe.

kathleenzielinski’s “gay rights movement”

So, over on Pharyngula kathleenzielinski has been having a bit of a say. I will likely go into other things said by kathleenzielinski (and issues that they raise or raised) later. But for now, I want to talk about the Great kathleenzielinski Gay Rights Movement, which, she would like you to know, is much, much better than that icky trans rights movement to which she would like to compare her GRM:

I will say this: The gay rights movement moved as quickly as it did because we took the time to win over our opposition using their own language. Conservative arguments were made in favor of gay marriage and legal equality. Some of us even quoted the Bible. We didn’t demonize people whose real fault was that they didn’t understand us. We won them over.

The trans rights movement is, if we are to believe kathleenzielinski, both moving much more slowly than her cherished GRM and is also much less friendly and compassionate to the bigots who oppose trans rights than the gays were to the bigots who opposed gay rights.

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Being a Transphobe, the Great Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time

So first, I hate the words “transphobia” and “transphobe” but let’s save that for a footnote, or better yet another post (we’ll see if I can stop myself from rambling into that territory at the bottom of this). So setting that aside, I have noted that many, many people seem paralyzed with fear at the idea that they might do something which they consider reasonable, or good, or perhaps not good but a minor error which deserves no bad consequence, and despite the not at all truly bad nature of their conduct, end up labeled a “transphobe” or “transphobic”. They often cry out about their “fear” of being called “transphobic”. They positively scream about the injustice of it all:

Someone thought that I’m a transphobe, when really I just hate the idea of being inconvenienced in any way, except for all those ways that I am inconvenienced which I just accept as an unavoidable fact of life, like having to lie to my boss about how that watch is so cool and I wish I had one.

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Joyce Carol Oates and the great pronoun debates

So, I was hanging out on Wonkette early this morning, curating some artisanal tabs, when I came across an article I thought might be interesting to talk about. (You can find it here.)

Because it did actually generate some discussion, and because some people found it valuable and one person specifically asked to have it posted to my blog so that it could be found more easily than would be the case if it were left buried in Disqus comments, I’m going to cross post here the long ass thing I wrote over there.

Yes, it’s long ass, but you’re going to read it anyway, since you don’t want my diligent efforts to go to waste, do you?

I said, “DO YOU?”

Fine, don’t read it. I’ll just sit over here NOT being passive aggressive at you. So there.

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Bias does not exist, bring on the sportsball!

So you’re presumably familiar with Sha’Carri Richardson who will miss the Olympics. What I did not know is that the test she “failed” is notoriously inaccurate. We can say what we want about banning marijuana and not gewurztraminer (and I’ve said plenty this week), but this thing looks a whole lot worse when we find out the test isn’t even accurate:

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