Transsexual, Transgender, Trans… and that damn asterisk

I’ve been asked again about why I sometimes use an asterisk after the word “trans” when describing the broader transsexual and transgender community (which, tbh, aren’t even thought of that anymore so much as just “the trans community”). Me being me, I didn’t just throw up a link, but I attempted to write again what it has meant in my life. I like this version, so I’m copying it from where it was originally written over to here. This way, hopefully, this bit of community and individual history is less likely to get lost, and maybe next time I can simply offer someone a simple link instead of spending 3 hours collecting my thoughts on the topic again.

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llyris, daulnay, & Iran give us a lesson in correlation and causation: Part 1

So by placing this here, I’m guaranteeing that it will be missed by many, but again I have to say some things that feel inappropriate as a comment (lest they take up too much space) and also might risk being lost on the internet if I ever wanted to track them down again at a later date. So here we are, making an OP out of molehill, again.

The need to say these things arises out of a thread over on Pharyngula. It’s this one, if you couldn’t guess. While PZ’s OP is fine and most of the discussion is as well, a few things crashed together destructively. I think this is important to tackle because it is an example of how people who think of themselves as allies can get called out for good reasons, but the imprecision of everyday language makes it hard for anyone to get past the fact of calling out to actually learn any lessons from it. Trans folk may think that people aren’t honestly trying to be on their side (because, frankly, we’ve seen a lot of bad faith arguments and it can be hard to tell the difference between “bad faith deployment of misinformation” and “good faith repetition of misinformation”) when, yes, they are trying. People working to be allies may simply not understand the lessons on offer and conclude that some is – wait for it – being hysterical. They may even quit listening. And this too is not entirely outrageous since merely being trans doesn’t guarantee that one is a good or even reasonable source of information. Being trans doesn’t prevent someone from saying stupid shit about being trans or about cissexism.

But in this case there is a problem (or two), and a huge one (or two), with things embedded in the comments of Ilyris & daulnay, and I think this needs discussion.

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Gender Neutrality is Wrong … Sometimes

Okay, so this is a quick note for those folks who aren’t completely turned off by pedantry and appreciate thinking more deeply about gender. If you ain’t both, this probably isn’t for you.

When “gender neutral” was first used in the context of trans* advocacy, access to bathrooms was probably a driving motivator of the language. In this sense, “gender neutral” is reasonable: the bathrooms themselves might easily have little to nothing to do with gender, including (importantly) things that humans tend to project gender on to even when they are not in any way associated with any particular human. So “Gender neutral” began largely communicating the idea of having no gendered connotations whatsoever – the sense we’ll use for the rest of this brief note. Bathrooms in the home are generally gender neutral in this sense, though we could certainly make a bathroom communicate femininity or masculinity by decorating it in particular ways. Still, when one tenant moved out, presumably those gender signifiers would also go: so, at least intellectually, we can separate the gender neutral bathroom from the gendered decor.

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Explaining Horizontal and Intra-Community Hostility: An Introduction by way of the FAE

So, over on Mano Singham’s blog, our resident physics expert wonders about a question outside his beam-control house:

[Given support for some aspects of the struggles against oppression targeting LGBTQIA folks for their gender, sex, or sexuality] what factors exist that are so strong that they can overcome the natural desire for solidarity with all the communities under the LGBTQIA umbrella[?]

Mano’s a smart guy, as are both my readers, so he already has some potentially informative analogs in mind: immigrant communities and nativist/colonial forms of oppression:

It is the case that on other issues such as xenophobia, some people may view some immigrant minorities as ‘worthy’ and others as ‘unworthy’ and favor the former over the latter

but this is only helpful because it establishes that such distinctions are possible and are not unique to LGBTQIA folks. It doesn’t answer the specific question about what forces divide what some might expect would be a [more] unified LGBTQIA community. So let’s work on answering that. I’m not exactly sure how many posts we’ll do in this series; I’ve not got it all mapped out. But it will be several, I’m sure, each trying to break off of this larger topic one manageable chunk.

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The Trumpian Defense of Cissexism

Lately we’ve been seeing a lot of assertions that lefties who support trans* advocacy are engaged in some outrageous, anti-free speech labeling of persons and actions as cissexist or transphobic. The argument goes something like this,

It has become impossible in some quarters to have an honest conversation about what is, and is not, a reasonable demand because anyone who questions any demand is simply branded as a transphobic bigot.

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Follow up to the Punisher cops: Logo Lawyer is Troubled

And FREEZE PEACH activists, for that matter.

One of the things that struck me the hardest in that story, at least after excluding the revelation that cops had actually placed punisher logos on their patrol cars anywhere, ever, much less huge logos covering nearly the entirely of the hoods, was the DeepThoughtsing™ of batshit dingleberry Roy Gutterman, head of the Syracuse Tully Center for Free Speech.

What did this “expert on communications law and the First Amendment” have to say that could help us appreciate precisely what had happened in Catlettsburg, Kentucky?

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PZ’s Pull Quote Leaves Me Cold: Racism, Sexism, & the Adjunct Crisis

PZ, as is his wont, has a post up about higher ed jobs and the outsourcing to adjuncts and guest lecturers of work that used to be done by the professoriate. It’s a good problem to highlight, but the article he quotes leaves me cold:

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I’m Convinced: Pineapple Does Not Belong On Pizza. Also? Feminism is better than its defenders argue.

Although what led me to that first conclusion wasn’t Hitler’s Pineapple Pizza rant.

HJ over at Reprobate Spreadsheet has been discussing – in quite helpful details – a number of aspects of the recent Boghossian, Lindsay & Pluckrose*1 hoax.

But I’ve read a bit about this hoax at quite a number of outlets – not just here at FtB – and one of the things I’ve found to be glaringly omitted amongst the accounts of this hoax is the possibility that the hoax does more to disprove the claims of BLP than it does to support them.

The central claim of B, L & P is that feminists will accept any assertion that claims to be feminist and pays a certain lip service to feminist dogmas (real or imagined). To prove this, BLP borrowed some words, phrases & structures from a certain segment of Mein Kampf and used them to dress up some vague bullshit about how solidarity and single-mindedness win political victories generally, so solidarity and single-mindedness would probably have defeated sexism by now had feminists embraced those two qualities earlier and more universally.

But here’s the thing: I fucking am a feminist, and as a trans* woman who tries very hard to balance harm reduction with eradication, I’m constantly finding feminist opposition to my identity, my views, or both. Seriously, at the extreme margins feminists have disagreed whether it is even possible to do more to dismantle sexism during a lifetime than participating in heterosexual marriages promotes it, and thus whether or not it’s possible for any woman to have a net-positive effect on the feminist cause if ever once that woman gets married to a man. There is “dogma” in feminism, but really only by definition: if you love sexism and want to support it, by definition you can’t be a feminist. Also by definition, to be actually feminist one must believe that sexism deserves opposition. This inevitably leads to certain broad sharing of opinions, but this is a consequence of defining a group of people in ways that they must oppose sexism to be included in the group.

So what about this conclusion: feminists are willing to entertain a wide variety of ideas, even vague, daffy or ill-conceived ones, for long enough to be sure that they’re being rejected for their vagueness, daffiness, or poor conception*2.

Let’s consider for a moment what it would mean if the BLP paper had actually been published but feminists reading the paper wrote new papers opposing the ideas presented, showing (or attempting to show) that reflexive solidarity and true single-mindedness do not lead toward the feminist society most feminists want. In that case, the BLP paper would have played a role in the debate by sparking thought and making a new articulation against a rigid feminist movement once again relevant. It would not have made english-speaking feminist movements more fascist (or fascist at all).

It is not shocking that such bad thinkers as BLP wrote a paper advocating that feminism embrace movement-totalitarianism, a concept that has been rejected in feminism over and over again. It is also not shocking that BLP thought that feminists being willing to publish an idea that has been rejected time and again by movement feminism signals a feminism that is dogmatic.

What is shocking, however, is that no one seems to be pointing out that publishing ideas with which the majority of feminists disagree actually constitutes evidence consistent with the opposite of BLP’s hypothesis.

I strongly suspect, not being a reviewer of this journal article, that the reviewers may very well have thought something like “the benefits of single-mindedness haven’t ever convinced a majority of feminists, and since the general topic has been well covered it might seem appropriate to reject this, but if current feminists are deriving an argument for single-mindedness from important feminist writings, then those current feminists should have their ideas distributed and critiqued so that either they learn better or the current feminist movement has a chance to consider rejected strategies in light of new scholarship.”

Thinking like that, which is entirely consistent with acceptance of the Mein Kampf rework, is antithetical to the BLP hypothesis.

So what did BLP do to enable them to consider and reject that interpretation? Well… nothing.

So the antithesis position can’t yet be said to be proven by BLP’s own study, but the failure of BLP to even consider this explanation of their hoax’s success in getting a few papers published further demonstrates that BLP cannot collectively think themselves out of a paper bag.

I wish that more of the persons writing about BLP’s hoax in the immediate aftermath of their original article (especially but not only the higher-profile articles included in well-funded media outlets) had challenged BLP on this specific point.


*1: Lest anyone think otherwise, I put these in alphabetical order, not knowing whether any of them are more responsible for the approach and/or content of the hoax then others. Partitioning of credit and blame is neither implied nor should it be inferred from this order.

*2: As the right often fails to appreciate, feminists fully support good conception.

PZ is Right in Everything He Says, But He Didn’t Say Everything

There have been many articles and classes and books and lectures that have attempted to productively address toxic masculinity. And, though this may surprise many of you, there have been blog posts as well. PZ has his own up right now, which is itself responding to another (and thoroughly incompetent) attempt to address toxic masculinity in a blog post.

Nothing PZ says is wrong, but it reminds me that I am ever surprised at how often 2 of the most important points to remember about TM are left unstated. It’s not that people aren’t aware of them, at some level, but I think we get much farther much faster if we make them explicit.

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Ignorance, Dunning-Kruger, & Trans Rights

Goodness me. Areomagazine has an “article” up by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay that takes itself far more seriously than it deserves. The intro and premises can be found in the opening paragraph:

The rights and social inclusion of trans people is a heated topic right now and, as usual in our present atmosphere, the most extreme views take center stage and completely polarize the issue. On the one hand, we have extreme social conservatives and gender critical radical feminists who claim that trans identity is a delusion and that the good of society depends on opposing it at every turn. On the other, we have extreme trans activists who claim not only that trans people straightforwardly are the gender they experience themselves to be but that everyone else must be compelled to accept this, use corresponding language, and be fully inclusive of trans people in their choice of sexual partners.

What the hell?

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