As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly


I don’t get Jesse Singal. I don’t pay much attention to him, but one thing I know is that he is the mainstream media’s go-to guy for ‘science’ reporting on trans issues, that he knows less about trans people than I do (and I don’t claim authority), and that trans people detest him. Julia Serano has been writing about this guy for some time.

Many people know of Jesse Singal as a senior/science editor at New York Magazine. Within transgender communities, Singal has garnered a reputation (particularly over the last two years) for repeatedly promoting ideas that are in opposition to, or which flat-out undermine, trans people’s perspectives on issues that impact our lives. He has done this in the form of seemingly serious-minded articles, but also in more flippant or provocative exchanges from his Twitter account (which he recently shut down).

He has a reputation, and not a good one. That should be the message you take from this. You could argue that it isn’t deserved (I’d disagree), you can say that you like his take on things or that he’s a good writer, but that’s all irrelevant to the main problem here: the community that he writes about, and weirdly frequently writes about, dislikes his take and frequently argues — calmly and dispassionately, as Serano did — against his opinions, and every time he intrudes into trans concerns, he is unwelcome and a lightning rod for anger. Serano isn’t the only one!

If you must know one thing about journalist Jesse Singal, it’s that he loves reporting on trans issues—trans kids, in particular. If you must know another thing, it’s that a lot of trans people, myself included, loathe his coverage of trans issues with a once-fiery passion that has since cooled into a dormant rage.

His reputation as a transphobe who is compelled to make frequent complaints about the trans community is the problem here…so why do major publications seek out his writings on the subject? They must know that transgender men and women are going to be angered by his positions.

On Monday, The Atlantic revealed that they are the latest mainstream publication to play host to Singal’s bullshit, publishing “When Children Say They’re Trans,” the cover story for their upcoming July/August issue.

I’m going to guess that the reason major publications like The Atlantic pay Jesse Singal to write is that they like dumping on the transgender community — that they are rewarded with profit by the cisgender masses, like me, for putting the seal of approval on Singal’s biases.

It’s a misleading article, too. The cover is all about the difficulties of transitioning and makes these alarming claims about 13 year olds wanting hormones (with pubescent kids, the question is about hormone blockers) and surgery (every article I’ve read by a trans person on this subject talks about how surgery isn’t required, that it’s a decision made only after long consideration, and why are you so concerned about what’s in their pants anyway?), and then the article itself focuses almost entirely on adults who detransitioned. It gives the impression that every trans man and woman eventually ends up unhappy and wanting to go back to their ‘natural’ state.

But here’s the big question.

Why has The Atlantic decided to publish as its cover story a cis writer’s article about trans people who aren’t trans—during Pride month, no less? Why is this the only detransition narrative that most media seems interested in covering?

Ooh, ooh, I can answer those! Because The Atlantic only wants to hear from the cis perspective, and they only want articles that cast doubt and discourage people from transitioning. And Jesse Singal is the man you go to if you want someone eager to express exactly those opinions.

Publications, take note: Jesse Singal is more than a little creepy on the subject of transgender issues. He is the last person you want gracing your cover.

Comments

  1. anchor says

    “…so why do major publications seek out his writings on the subject? They must know that transgender men and women are going to be angered by his positions.”

    Exactly.

  2. bloodforthebasedgod says

    I disagree with you heavily on Singal .
    So the thrust of the article is guidance to parents on how to support youth that may be experiencing gender dysphoria. He talks about it and the options. Many transition and experience relief , some experience desistance. He interviews clinicians ad parents and youth who have all kinds of experiences (both people who were happy with transition and unhappy with their transition and who decided not to transition). He also cites studies on the subject.

    “the community that he writes about, and weirdly frequently writes about, dislikes his take and frequently argues ”
    Eh , you write about religious people and a lot of people in that community hate and argue against you. Your reputation is no barometer of truth. What matters is the truth.

    “then the article itself focuses almost entirely on adults who detransitioned.It gives the impression that every trans man and woman eventually ends up unhappy and wanting to go back to their ‘natural’ state. ”
    This is completely untrue. He profiles 2 people happy with their transitions and stresses that transition does help a great deal of people.You’re erecting a transphobic strawman.

    “discourage people from transitioning”
    This isn’t true either.
    Imagine I did an article about people who were looking for vasectomies. In it I discuss none of the negative side effects of vasectomy and I said everyone who had one never regretted it and ignored all the surveys indicating some people do end up regretting the decision. Wouldn’t this be a misleading article?
    Why do you expect people to cover transition this way? The people who transitioned experiences are valid and so are the people who detransitioned.

  3. Susan Montgomery says

    @3 Who is saying that de-transtioning is invalid? What Singal is heavily implying is that because some people DT then the entirety of trans* is invalid. People oftentimes have legitimate, practical reasons for stopping transition – and, yes, there are people who really weren’t trans* in the first place. Which is why there are safeguards and procedures in place to ensure that nothing irreversible is done until the person is certain. And, yes, those safeguards aren’t foolproof but what is?

  4. jazzlet says

    bloodforthebasedgod @3
    In many ways PZ’s take is irrelevant, more important is the attitude of the trans community which is that he has a twisted take on the whole area. Do you think that is ‘untrue’?
    Do you know what proportion of people who transition detransition? Do you think that an article should reflect that proportion?

  5. jazzlet says

    Urgh, ‘he’ in that first sentence shoud be Singal in case it wasn’t obvious.

  6. says

    @3 bloodforthebasedgod

    (by the way, ‘Based’ in your username is a huge dogwhistle for pro-Gamergate/4chan)

    BULL. SHIT.

    The article is biased as fuck and deliberately constructed to encourage parents of trans children to re-closet them. Shut up and listen to the people who actually know, you right-wing Singal-sucking shill.

  7. says

    Eh , you write about religious people and a lot of people in that community hate and argue against you. Your reputation is no barometer of truth. What matters is the truth.

    So according to you, being trans is just like being religious, i.e. a delusion with no evidence behind it.
    But please tell us how you came here arguing in good faith.

    Re: Detransitioning
    It’s not only rare, but the most frequent reasons are lack of support, money, harassment, pressure from family and friends.

  8. bloodforthebasedgod says

    “@3 Who is saying that de-transtioning is invalid?”
    A few of Singal’s critics were claiming this and he addresses them in the article. But as he says in the article , all the clinicians he interviewed acknowledge it happens.

    “What Singal is heavily implying is that because some people DT then the entirety of trans* is invalid.”
    This is untrue. Singal goes out of his way to affirm that transition is good for many people and affirm trans people identities and point out people who are happy with transition.I think a lot of people read a strawman and not the real article.

    “People oftentimes have legitimate, practical reasons for stopping transition – and, yes, there are people who really weren’t trans* in the first place. Which is why there are safeguards and procedures in place to ensure that nothing irreversible is done until the person is certain. And, yes, those safeguards aren’t foolproof but what is?”
    I agree , but people are calling Singal a transphobe for saying exactly what you said here and interviewing clinicians and linking studies that say the same thing.

    @abbeycadabra
    My username is a reference to a hip hop track from Lil B.

  9. Susan Montgomery says

    @9 Well…….that’s not quite what I see in the article. What I do see is a lot of unsourced statements, exaggerated or omitted facts, several incidents of making a facially “pro” statement and then “just asking questions” (aka JAQing off) that undermine to positive point allegedly made. I also see very limited sample of interviewees, most of whose stories aren’t actually relevant to the point at issue. At best, it’s an attempt to muddy rather than to clarify an already complex issue.

  10. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I can’t contain myself to a reasonable comment length, so I wrote about this on Pervert Justice, here.

    Consider this a smackdown of @bloodforthebasedgod, among other things.

  11. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    BFTBG, as a white hetero-cis male, who do I listen to in order to hear and understand the experiences of women, the women themselves, or a mansplainin’ asshole who gets it wrong?
    Who do I listen to in order to hear and understand experiences of POC, the POC, or the white splainin’ asshole who gets it wrong.
    Who do I listen to in order to hear and understand the experiences of homosexuals, the homosexuals themselves, or a heterosplainin’ asshole who gets it wrong.
    Who do I listen to in order to hear and understand the experiences of trans people (and they are people), the trans people themselves, or a cissplainin’ asshole who gets it wrong?
    In every case, I know listening to real source and not the splainin’ asshole will lead to better and more thorough understanding.
    I learned how to shut the fuck up and listen a long time ago, as learning never occurs with one splainin’ or just listening to splainin’.
    Do you and Singal have the honesty, integrity, and empathy to shut the fuck up and listen? Obviously not. Try it, you might learn something.

  12. anbheal says

    With the exception of the exquisite Ta-Nehisi, The Atlantic has been drifting ever rightwards for 20 years. They publish intentionally provocative crap like this all the time now. And when they attacked Clinton and Obama, it was never for the right reasons (e.g., sexual harassment and welfare reform for Clinton, deportations and drones and Guantanamo for Obama), but for cutesily contrived little handwringings about their tone or choice of shoes or not understanding what racists really need.

    Emerson and Lowell and Holmes and Longfellow and Harriet Beecher Stowe would be rolling over in their graves. Apropos of which, their level of literary chops has fallen into the toilet as well. I find the rag borderline unreadable these days.

  13. says

    Eh , you write about religious people and a lot of people in that community hate and argue against you.

    Yes. But what I don’t do is claim to be a friendly, objective source who is sympathetic to religion.I do not pretend to working to help the religious community, and sell my services to magazines as an insider source on religion.

  14. says

    By the way, bloodforthebasedgod is lying about the origins of his username. His email is via cock.li, where you can find ads for the “date rape appreciation station”, and a list of user domains where 8chan is one the less offensive.

    Banned. Pretty sure he’ll be back trolling under a new name, though.

  15. raven says

    His email is via strong>cock.li, …

    I had to look it up.
    “.li is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Liechtenstein. The .li TLD was created in 1993. The domain is sponsored and administered by the University of Liechtenstein in Vaduz.”

    It’s a step up from .ru, the country code for Russia, I guess anyway.

  16. raven says

    I had to look up the .li domain.

    .li is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Liechtenstein. The .li TLD was created in 1993. The domain is sponsored and administered by the University of Liechtenstein in Vaduz.

    I suppose this is a step up from .ru, which is Russia.

  17. Cressida says

    “I’m going to guess that the reason major publications like The Atlantic pay Jesse Singal to write is that they like dumping on the transgender community — that they are rewarded with profit by the cisgender masses, like me, for putting the seal of approval on Singal’s biases.” No, that’s not why. Why would a major publication “like dumping on the transgender community”? That doesn’t pass the smell test. The reason is that sensible people understand that teenagers are dumb and shouldn’t be cutting off their breasts just because they saw some stuff on the internet, but rather should be evaluated by mental health professionals first. If anyone here thinks this is a controversial position, I suggest you examine your biases.

  18. Colin J says

    Cressida @18:

    The reason is that sensible people understand that teenagers are dumb and shouldn’t be cutting off their breasts just because they saw some stuff on the internet, but rather should be evaluated by mental health professionals first. If anyone here thinks this is a controversial position, I suggest you examine your biases.

    I agree completely. Furthermore if anyone here thinks that is a genuine summary of Singal’s position they should also examine their biases.

    Also, if anyone here thinks that teenagers are “cutting off their breasts just because they saw some stuff on the internet”, what the fuck…?

    Apropos of nothing, my parents used to own a Toyota Cressida. It was total crap.

  19. KG says

    The reason is that sensible people understand that teenagers are dumb and shouldn’t be cutting off their breasts just because they saw some stuff on the internet – Cressida@18

    Anyone who thinks that happens, or is likely to happen, is most certainly not a “sensible person”, and very likely, is a transphobic bigot.

  20. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Anyone who thinks that happens, or is likely to happen, is most certainly not a “sensible person”, and very likely, is a transphobic bigot.

    :HINT: Cressida :HINT:

  21. Susan Montgomery says

    @18 Yeah, that’s horrible. There really ought to be a long established system wherein potential trans* people are evaluated by trained professionals to evaluate their physical and mental health before undergoing profound and irreversible changes. But that is clearly the fevered imaginings of madmen!

  22. mythogen says

    The best propaganda doesn’t lie about reality, but instead cherry picks facts and shows only a selective view. That way, individual claims are actually true when you check them, but the aggregate view of reality presented is still false. Singal does lie outright sometimes, but mostly he simply presents an extraordinarily skewed selection of facts so as to reinforce a narrative which boils directly down to “access to trans healthcare is too easy and we should make it harder” and “claims of transgender identity are met with too much affirmation and we should be less affirming toward people who tell us they are transgender.”

    He focuses on children, because it’s much easier to assert that bodily autonomy is a bridge too far when it comes to children than when it comes to adults, but the implications strike every trans person of every age. Not least because every trans adult was once a trans child and those of use who transition in adulthood do so nearly universally because it was impossible to consider such a thing as a child. And it was impossible to consider specifically because nobody would believe our own understandings of ourselves, which is precisely what Singal drives toward. Be more skeptical. Be more cautious. Transitioning is scary and we must protect the children from it. Speaking as an adult who is transitioning in her 30s, pushing LESS affirmation and LESS access is pushing for children to grow up repressing their gender identity and experiencing years or decades of major mental illness and suicidality.

    There is a pre-existing discourse about all this, of course. This is not Singal’s first try at pushing the “less support for trans people” narrative, merely the most prominent. He’s been doing it for years, and others for much longer than that. Scholars, journalists, trans rights activists, have all responded in exhaustive depth, repeatedly, for years, to this stuff. And to have people who are clearly *completely* unaware of this body of work that decisively destroys Singal’s Atlantic piece before it was ever written come here (and, literally, everywhere else) to say that taking issue with Singal’s piece is just our bias is incredible. It is no different than a creationist coming here to say evolutionary scientists are biased, or a climate denier doing the same, or a “race realist” doing the same. You have taken the word of a prestigious, privileged authority figure that the marginalized people he writes about and advocates against are biased against him without ever being aware of the scope of the conversation. Without ever even trying to listen to the people who know the most about this issue. Not just because of our lived experience; people like Julia Serano, Zinnia Jones, Katelyn Burns, and FTB’s own Siobhan O’Leary have a depth of knowledge about the science of gender and the philosophy of trans feminism that Singal can’t even imagine.

    I cannot give any of the doubters a comprehensive bibliography, requests for which I am sure are pending, but start here with a long blog post by Julia Serano that discusses both Singal’s bad science, and his bad faith interactions with the trans community. It links to other, even longer pieces discussing the science, the bigotry, and the history involved in this controversy. There’s a lot. And until you have a passing familiarity with it, you cannot speak to “bias” about trans issues without looking like a complete fool.

    http://juliaserano.blogspot.com/2017/12/my-jesse-singal-story_11.html

  23. says

    That doesn’t pass the smell test. The reason is that sensible people understand that teenagers are dumb and shouldn’t be cutting off their breasts just because they saw some stuff on the internet, but rather should be evaluated by mental health professionals first.

    Ironically, gender affirmative care ion trans children and teens actually prevents people from “cutting off their breasts”* since it often prevents trans boys from growing breasts they hate.
    But what Cressida is doing here, of course, is framing the discourse in a certain way. the premises are easy:
    1. Trans youth are just confused. They don’t actually know who they are, they#re just researching trends on the internet, like dabbling in punk or being a bit emo.
    2. Trans healthcare is easily accessed, especially surgery.
    3. Surgery is performed on young minors.
    4. And this is a very important point: Natal puberty is neutral

    I just spent some time on Twitter with an increasingly aggressive TERF who, of course, ended up calling me a violent male. This were basically her talking points.

    *Just notice the language, how violence and mutilation are implied.

  24. Cressida says

    Crip Dyke, I don’t need any “hints.” I’m not operating under any misapprehensions.

  25. Cressida says

    What you people don’t understand is that trans isn’t a civil rights battle. Trans is nonsense, and I say this as a lefty person. Look at the increasing population of teenagers, whose birth certificates indicate female, who are now identifying as trans. These “trans boys” are girls, by definition. (1) They have female* anatomy, (2) there is no such thing as a male brain or soul that they can lay claim to, and (3) what else is there? We have female and male bodies; the expression of gendered or any other stereotypes is our personality. To consider personality to be *inherently* gendered – which the idea of a gendered brain or soul does – is antithetical to liberation from gender.

    I’ll probably get banned for this comment, and that’s fine. I’m not sure why I read PZ anymore anyway.

    *yes, this is a real thing. “Sexual” reproduction is called that for a reason. It requires 1 male + 1 female gamete. You can’t argue your way around that fact.

  26. says

    Ih mt fucking god. Another terf whose biology education stopped at 8th grade and who takes the most patriarchal definition of woman as “baby making machines” and happily embraces it.
    I know your fellows in Ireland decided that since trans inclusive feminists were campaigning for reapeal, they’d cut off their nose to spite their face and vote against it.
    Remember good old Simone de Beauvoir: one isn’t born a woman, one is made a woman.
    I was simply born with a body.

  27. Cressida says

    Giliell, please point me to a higher-than-8th-grade biology* program that teaches that “male” and “female” mean something other than the capacity for insemination and gestation, respectively. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

    Note: insemination and gestation are completely neutral. They imply nothing about how a person presents to the world. Sexual reproduction is a fact; it’s not inherently patriarchal. It’s been represented that way, undoubtedly and unfortunately, but that’s not an inevitability.

    *Biology. Not “gender studies” or some such.

  28. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    trans isn’t a civil rights battle. Trans is nonsense, and I say this as a lefty person.

    Saying you’re a lefty doesn’t give this crap any more credibility. Nor does the crap make me think you’re not lefty: there are plenty of left-leaning positions one can take while still shitting on trans* folks.

    Your “lefty person” is utterly meaningless … unless you mean it as some sort of camouflage/ cover/ ameliorating factor. In which case, fuck your “some of my best friends are black” disingenuousness.

    I’ll probably get banned for this comment, and that’s fine.

    Why do people who drop such shitty comments revel in the possibility of getting banned? You can’t tell the difference between codified social roles and gametes, but you’re the possessor of a truth that’s escaped everyone who actually studies this shit, and for stating that noble, otherwise unchampioned truth, you’re willing to pay the ultimate price: blog martyrdom.

    We shall mourn your great sacrifice of being able to comment anywhere on the entire internet except one blog. May you get the sympathy you truly deserve.

  29. Cressida says

    @30, your link doesn’t contain the words “education,” “classroom,” “teach,” or any variant thereof. So it’s not a response to the challenge I raised to your comment #28 in my comment #29. What I’m saying is that I doubt very much that any secondary or postsecondary biology course is currently teaching that the words “male” and “female” mean something other the potential for insemination and gestation, respectively. Therefore, even a person whose biology education didn’t stop at 8th grade would not have been taught anything different. So your taunt is incorrect.

    @31: Regarding your first comment, my intent was to emphasize that there is a left-wing (feminist) argument that trans is nonsense. It sounds like you’re aware of this, but not everyone is, and I wasn’t addressing anyone individually anyway. Regarding your second comment, I didn’t say I would “revel” in being banned; I said it would be “fine,” which is not the same thing. And I’m not the one who can’t tell the difference between codified social roles and gametes. The former are gender, and should be abolished. The latter are sex, and are neutral. This is exactly what I said above.

  30. chigau (違う) says

    Never lend books.
    I used to own a copy of this book
    Jones, Steve (2003). Y: The Descent of Men. Flamingo. ISBN 0-618-13930-3.
    by this guy
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jones_(biologist)
    I am remembering his argument that the only things that can properly, biologically, be called “female” and “male” are gametes. So that only works in haploids.
    (I ♥ that book.)
    …potential for insemination and gestation… actually works for that.
    But not for anything that happens after the InseminationEvent.
    .
    late
    ohwellwhatthehell
    post

  31. chigau (違う) says

    Cressida #32
    The former are gender, and should be abolished.
    That is soooo cuuuute.
    Do we all get a pony when that happens?

  32. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    The former are gender, and should be abolished. … This is exactly what I said above.

    And yet it’s not what you said above:

    sensible people understand that teenagers are dumb and shouldn’t be cutting off their breasts just because they saw some stuff on the internet, but rather should be evaluated by mental health professionals first. If anyone here thinks this is a controversial position, I suggest you examine your biases.

    And this position is surpassingly ignorant. Name a single person who ever cut their breasts off “just because they saw some stuff on the internet”.

    It has never happened. People aren’t calling your ignorant or ridiculous because they agree with that position, they are calling you synonyms of ignorant and ridiculous because “teenagers should be cutting off their breasts just because they saw some stuff on the internet” is the position of a grand total of ZERO people.

    If you think that there’s even one person who holds this position, then quote them, with references. If you don’t think that there’s even one person who holds this position than your initial statement on this thread is nothing but a malicious lie about the positions you falsely assert that other people hold.

    Then you said:

    trans isn’t a civil rights battle. Trans is nonsense,

    But that is nonsense. Not least because trans is an adjective. Do you even english?

    Then you said:

    Look at the increasing population of teenagers, whose birth certificates indicate female, who are now identifying as trans. These “trans boys” are girls, by definition.

    Not at all. Girlhood is not the same as femalehood. You yourself draw a distinction between gender and sex, and yet when you need it, you can’t tell the difference between “girl” and “female”.

    This more than anything indicates your incompetent incoherence on these issues.

    And yet, oh, look!

    I’m not the one who can’t tell the difference between codified social roles and gametes.

    That thing right up there where some commenter couldn’t differentiate between being a girl and being female?

    THAT WAS YOU.

  33. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Okay, I don’t know why I even wrote that. I know trying to get through is pointless, but whatever.

  34. Rob Grigjanis says

    CD @36: Trying to get through to Cressida might be pointless, but I (and I’m sure others) appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.

  35. says

    Dr. Meyers,

    Right off the bat, you say that you are not an expert on trans issues. I accept and believe that… because I am. I’m not only transsexual, I’ve been a very active (i.e. “real”) transactivist for four decades:

    https://sillyolme.wordpress.com/about/

    Further, for the past ten years or so, I’ve been writing a skeptical science blog entitled, “On The Science Of Changing Sex” in which I used my science background (undergraduate concentrations in physics, psychology… and one lab hour shy of the concentration in biology… though interestingly, accorded the GRE subject exams I took in each, it was my best subject at 99%tile)… (I won’t count the work I did as a graduate student in material science at Stanford… as I dropped out to work in high tech start-ups) and my decades of work in applied psychophysics in the design of color flat panel displays and digital signal algorithms… to explore the science with a critical eye, sometimes pulling together evidence to support a given hypothesis, sometimes very severely punching holes in some atrociously bad papers.

    So much for my CV… Now my comment. I’ve been reading your blog occasionally for some while and I admired that you stood up for transfolk… but this post? Not so much. In fact, not all at all. This time you are very, very wrong.

    Jesse Singal is one of the few science writers who gets things mostly right. And this time was no exception.

    Yes, I know that Julia Serrano doesn’t agree with that interpretation. But then, she would not agree with me either… nor I with her. Frankly, despite her being a biologist, when it comes to the science of transgender sexuality and transsexuality, she is a very serious science denialist. But then, so are many transsexuals. I would invite you to read my blog in its entirety… but that might be too much to ask of an individual who doesn’t have either a personal or a professional interest. However, just to mention one issue Serrano gets very very wrong. She denies that there are two etiologies ( and thus two taxons) for MTF transgender and further has tried desperately to deny the role that autogynephilia has in the etiology of one of them. She has written papers and blog posts on the subject, of which I have shown her position, popular though it may be with some transsexuals, to be based more on motivated reasoning than on the actual evidence (of which there are MANY papers).

    I’m not the only transsexual scientist to disagree with Serrano on this… one of the most prominent in the field, conducting actual research (unlike myself OR Serrano) is Anne Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D.:

    http://www.annelawrence.com

    Jesse Singal has written on this issue… correctly… and that is why Serrano disputes his veracity.

    Finally, Singal’s latest essay is both timely and correct, as there is a very serious demonization of people who find that social and/or medical interventions didn’t fit their unique needs. This is not a new phenomena. In fact, decades ago, it was part of the Standards Of Care that a built in “trial run” was considered to be useful so that iatrogenic harm would be minimized. This “gate-keeping” was considered by many to be overly restrictive and unwelcome… but it did reduce the number of detransitioning folk. But even with the “Real Life Test” as some called it, there were still those who life path included having “gone all the way” and yet still detransitioned later. It was just a fact of life. One that I first learned about BEFORE I had met any other transperson:

    https://sillyolme.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/detransitioners-are-not-the-enemy/

    Note that I included a link to Singal’s latest essay. Far from dissing it, I found it both truthful and useful for people to know… and invite other transfolk to find compassion for detransitioning people and not fear or hate them. As I pointed out, when no one else would help me, a detransitioner did… and gave me the encouragement to keep going in my own struggle.

    I invite everyone to read my blog, carefully, scientifically sceptical, but without rancor and defensiveness… and consider carefully the evidence before one makes judgements. But if you don’t read all of it, perhaps just three posts?

    https://sillyolme.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/four-out-of-five/

    https://sillyolme.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/once-again-with-feeling/

    https://sillyolme.wordpress.com/faq-on-the-science/

  36. says

    As the length of a trans-related discussion increases, the probability of Kay Brown appearing to drum up traffic to her blog approaches unity.

    I hereby move to add the above to the Laws of the Internets. Anyone to second this motion?

  37. Cressida says

    @35, if there were an existing noun that represented the concept that a person whose birth certificate says “female” can be a man and vice versa, I would use it. There isn’t, so I use “trans” as an abbreviation. It’s worth asking *why* that noun doesn’t exist, but whatever.

    You seem to think I’ve committed some logical error, but it’s not clear what that would be. In order to get to the bottom of the confusion, I would have to ask you how you’re using language. I sort of doubt you’re interested in engaging in that conversation, but I guess I’ll give it a shot.

    For example: You quote me saying that young people whose birth certificates say “female” who identify as trans are girls and not boys, and your response is (paraphrased), “no, they’re girls, because girlhood is different from femalehood.” This clearly implies that you think “trans boys” are girls but aren’t female. So are you saying that trans people derive their femaleness vs. maleness from their birth certificate, but their womanhood vs. manhood from a social role?

    I wouldn’t agree with that analysis, but I would say that it’s more or less coherent. I mean, sure it admits that trans is based on nothing but the embodiment of gendered stereotypes, but it’s coherent.

  38. Cressida says

    Sorry, there’s an error in #41 above. Should read: “You quote me saying that young people whose birth certificates say “female” who identify as trans are girls and not boys, and your response is (paraphrased), “no, they’re boys, because girlhood is different from femalehood.” This clearly implies that you think “trans boys” aren’t girls but are female.”

  39. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    are you saying that trans people derive their femaleness vs. maleness from their birth certificate, but their womanhood vs. manhood from a social role?

    yes and no. Femaleness is a quality of a body. However, it’s also a category created by human thought. We, collectively, decide what “female” means. If we used the same sounds and letters to mean a 3-masted sailing ship, it would mean a 3-masted sailing ship.

    So no one “gets” femaleness from a birth certificate, but it’s also true that the qualities of a body that we categorize as female would exist without language, they aren’t really “femaleness” until a mind categorizes them as such.

    sure it admits that trans is based on nothing but the embodiment of gendered stereotypes, but it’s coherent.

    No, not really. It’s not necessarily based only on “stereotypes” as people generally understand the term. However, stereotypes are part of it.

    Nonetheless, it describes the world as it actually exists. And since your view is entirely incoherent – using “girl” and “female” interchangeably is entirely incoherent when combined with certain of your other statements – it’s certainly an improvement on your view.

    You should read Kessler & McKenna’s “Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach”. You should be able to find it in any university/college library and most large municipal libraries.

    I think part of your incoherence derives from an inability to separate different components of gender: gender identity from gender attribution from gender assignment, etc. G:AEA does a great job communicating the basics of gender in a way that allows many people to separate those components from each other for the first time.

    But from wherever it derives, it is incoherent.

    Moreover, trans people suffer real deprivation and oppression. Whether you think the best response is eliminating gender or something else, the deprivation and oppression are clearly issues of justice, and where guarantees of right similar to guarantees granted to non-trans people that they will not be subject to discrimination on the basis of gender, you also very much have a civil rights issue.

    So you’re incoherent. You’re wrong. And when you suggest that trans people don’t deserve or shouldn’t have a civil rights movement, you’re cissexist & offensive.

  40. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    if there were an existing noun that represented the concept that a person whose birth certificate says “female” can be a man and vice versa, I would use it. There isn’t, so I use “trans” as an abbreviation. It’s worth asking *why* that noun doesn’t exist, but whatever.

    Also this: trans is an adjective. If you want the noun, you just say “trans identity” or “trans identification” or whatever the hell else you mean. If you’ve thought through your ideas, correctly describing your intended meaning shouldn’t be difficult. The hard part is thinking through your ideas, since our society actively discourages careful and deep thought regarding sex and gender.

  41. says

    There is no biological definition of “female” that includes all cis women and excludes all trans women.

    Pick a ‘female’ body part or function, and you have cis women born without or who have lost it; pick a ‘male’ one and there are trans women who never had it. 100%.

    This fact alone torpedoes all the biological essentialist arguments.

    Also I love how this purported “feminist” position, the one where it starts, was about “cutting off breasts because they saw something on the internet”. Let’s assume for a moment that this utterly absurd proposition is true, that there exist women who do this: Campaigning to prevent them is denying these hypotheitcal women agency, and stealing away their bodily autonomy.

    Such feminist. Much progressive. Wow.

    TERFs are always conservatives painting their lies with a sheen of fake leftist language.

    Oh, and Kay Brown is beyond full of shit, but I gather the locals are already well aware of that.

  42. Cressida says

    @46, that’s not true. A “cis” woman is a person who might or might not have the potential for gestation depending on the presence of illness or injury, but who has never had and will never have the potential for insemination. A “trans” woman is a person who might or might not have the potential for insemination depending on the presence of illness or injury, but who has never had and will never have the potential for gestation. Those descriptions don’t overlap.

    I am not a conservative.

  43. rq says

    A “cis” woman is a person who might or might not have the potential for gestation depending on the presence of illness or injury, but who has never had and will never have the potential for insemination. A “trans” woman is a person who might or might not have the potential for insemination depending on the presence of illness or injury, but who has never had and will never have the potential for gestation.

    Hmm. “A “cis” man is a person who might or might not have the potential for insemination depending on the presence of illness or injury, but who has never had and will never have the potential for gestation. A “trans” man is a person who might or might not have the potential for gestation depending on the presence of illness or injury, but who has never had and will never have the potential for insemination.” Hmm… Funny how that worked out so perfectly into an easily swapped binary. (Really, illness or injury? What about biology and its spectrum of variation?)

  44. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @rq:

    Cressida creates definitions as if intersex people don’t exist and have never existed. If someone has never had and will never have the potential for gestation and has never had and will never have the potential for insemination, then that person is neither cis nor trans using Cressida’s definitions, and yet is at once both cis and trans, according to Cressida’s definitions.

    For if I’ve never been able to gestate, that doesn’t rule me out as female and a cis woman unless at some point I had the potential to inseminate another person. If I’ve never been able to inseminate someone else, that doesn’t rule out being male and a trans woman unless at some point I had the potential to gestate a child.

    The many women who have never had the potential to inseminate someone else and have never had the ability to gestate a fetus, then, are both cis and trans to Cressida. It’s not a huge percentage, but it’s lots and lots of people.

    And don’t think I’m implying all those persons are intersex: no. There are many reasons why someone might never produce sperm and also never have the capacity to gestate a fetus. However, that’s no problem for Cressida: the victimization or oppression of people who aren’t just like Cressida if of no concern. Their struggles aren’t even civil rights struggles. Because reasons.

    @Cressida:
    I agree with you that merely being anti-trans isn’t enough to make someone conservative. Being anti-trans is a conservative position, but there are many issues for which someone’s position can be described as lying on a spectrum from conservative to progressive. Being conservative on one issue doesn’t necessarily make one “a conservative” just like doing one bad thing in one’s life doesn’t make one evil – and nor does doing one good thing in one’s life make one good.

    So feel free to call yourself a lefty. I won’t challenge you on it and I don’t even care. I’ve long since learned that feminists can be incredibly conservative on many issues while being progressive on many feminist issues. However, I will say this: from the time of Sojourner Truth to today, many feminists have been repeatedly called out for their unwillingness to embrace issues of justice that overlap with feminism. Those who fail to learn from those critiques are judged poorly by later generations. Read anyone from Hong Kingston to Yamada to Moraga to Anzaldua to Keating to Stone to Crenshaw to Rivera to Roberts. And, of course, don’t forget Kessler & McKenna.

    Perhaps if you read a few of their volumes you’ll begin to see how much you have yet to learn.

    Probably not, of course. But one can hope.

  45. KG says

    Crip Dyke@49,

    Cressida’s definiiton is also highly vulnerable to medico-scientific advance. Given that uterus transplants are now possible, what’s the betting they won’t be possible within a decade or two even for people who developed the capacity to inseminate as they reached puberty? And given that sperm can now be derived from skin cells, what’s the betting that people who developed the capacity to gestate as they reached puberty won’t also be able to inseminate?

  46. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @KG:

    I noticed that, but thanks for making it explicit.

    Of course, our definitions of male and female have always been contingent upon contemporary science and other contemporary understandings.

    For instance, gay men who simply don’t get erections from interacting with or fantasizing about women were in many cultures deemed something other than male. So, too, in Cressida’s definition, one has to wonder if someone who produces sperm but cannot deliver it to an egg is “capable of insemination”. Nowadays we can have someone masturbate into a cup and then check the ejaculate to confirm sperm are present and then further characterize sperm motility. In past eras, however, this simply wasn’t possible and it seemed reasonable to conclude that the person simply wasn’t capable of insemination. On the other hand, if a married couple had no children after many years, it could easily be that they simply didn’t fuck often, they had bad luck*1, and/or environmental conditions weren’t conducive to successful fertilization or implantation, but as a practical matter community stereotypes would determine whether the wife was considered barren or the husband impotent or both. If one attempted to apply Cressida’s definitions to historical figures, reading the writings from the times of those figures would help us very little not merely because “capable of inseminating” and “capable of gestating” are terms that would have been interpreted wildly differently in different social and historical contexts.

    If Cressida was at all knowledgeable, the definitions could be made much more specific by reducing them to what Cressida probably meant but was too ignorant to craft:
    1. If one produces oocytes at some point during a lifetime which would be technically/theoretically capable of being fertilized, whether or not those cells are capable being fertilized as a practical matter and whether or not any resulting fertilized egg would be capable of development to a viable, natal stage and whether or not that egg would be capable of gestating inside that same person, and if one never produces sperm during that lifetime, one is definitely female.

    2. If one produces sperm at some point during a lifetime which would be technically/theoretically capable of fertilizing an oocyte, whether or not those sperm are capable fertilizing an egg as a practical matter and whether or not any resulting fertilized egg would be capable of development to a viable, natal stage, and if one never produces oocytes during that lifetime, one is definitely male.

    3. Other cases exist, including especially persons who die too young to produce either, and some can be further defined as male or female, but that requires a great deal more intricacy than one is typically willing to put into a blog comment, unless of course one wants to act like a common Crip Dyke or something.

    What’s quite obvious is that Cressida is simply failing to appreciate the limitations of Cressida’s own knowledge and definitions. Like too many feminists with whom I interacted in the 80s and 90s, Cressida’s admirable commitment to ending sexism has overwhelmed any ability to appreciate and incorporate certain facts about the world, including certain aspects articulated by the disciplines of anthropology, biology, psychology and sociology.

    And, of course, I remain ignorant of huge swathes of knowledge as well: but I try not to tell everyone else that they are wrong about areas of knowledge where I’m ignorant. Cressida is apparently not limited in that way.
    ==================================
    *1: Bad luck for the purposes of our metaphor. Some may have considered themselves the recipient of good luck not to have children, of course.

  47. says

    Crip Dyke @51

    Not even that survives my claim, because:

    2. If one produces sperm at some point during a lifetime which would be technically/theoretically capable of fertilizing an oocyte, whether or not those sperm are capable fertilizing an egg as a practical matter and whether or not any resulting fertilized egg would be capable of development to a viable, natal stage, and if one never produces oocytes during that lifetime, one is definitely male.

    Even this falls over to CAIS. There exist women, AFAB, with CAIS who don’t even know it, who have internal testes instead of ovaries, working away at producing testosterone and sperm that get ignored. TECHNICALLY such could be used to fertilize an oocyte, even if practically no, but now we have an AFAB, as-far-as-she-knows cis woman defined as a trans woman.

    (Yes I know this is well in line with your reasoning, I just think it’s an example worth examining. I suppose the disingenuous would begin by defining all intersex conditions as ‘illness’. Of course that way lies swiss-cheesing the entire definition until it’s not just incomplete but meaningless.)

    Cressida’s definitions are based in a fundamental and willful ignorance of the complexity of biology, which she has in common with all other ‘biological essentialists’.

    Actual biologists, of course, consider the terms ‘biologically male’ and ‘biologically female’ to be uselessly imprecise because of all the assumptions in them, preferring to work with brute facts of structures and gametes… was it on this blog I learned that? I have a vague memory of hearing PZ say something like that, but I’m not sure.

  48. rq says

    CD
    I note also that you use the phrase “one is definitely female“, while Cresside, ultimate differentiator of social roles and gametes, uses the terms “woman”.

    The common Crip Dyke, with her fondness for spewing rich, lengthy commentary, leaves a distinct trail of long paragraphs with specific terminology known to blow the minds of the less educated into the stratosphere. Caution is advised, especially when approaching the common Crip Dyke with no prior research and a lack of experience. It is said that the common Crip Dyke uses facts as a bludgeon to destroy her prey, but this is an exaggeration, as the ensuing evisceration leaves the victim alive yet fundamentally unable to bluster their way out of their own entangled statements – the common Crip Dyke, master spinner of logic webs, uses this to her advantage to deliver the coup de grace, usually a surprisingly unerudite pejorative phrase such as ‘fuck you’. In her natural environment, the common Crip Dyke is known to enjoy music, potato jokes and the study of law.

  49. Cressida says

    You guys are confusing “capability” and “potential.” I used the latter word, not the former. (The latter acknowledges that sometimes the former is not present.) And you know that intersex people don’t like it when you coopt their narratives, right? Intersex people by definition are neither fully female nor fully male. They do fall outside the binary, but they’re the only people who do (and are around 0.2% of the population, generously). Trans people who don’t have a disorder of sexual development are, again by definition, within the binary. Their reproductive potential is one or the other, or (in the case of illness or injury), neither. But in no case is there a spectrum here.

  50. rq says

    Cressida @55
    Thanks, I wasn’t home when shame was being shared out, so it’s kind of you to take that on yourself. Also apologies for misspelling your ‘nym @53.

  51. chigau (違う) says

    Cressida #54
    Part of the problem is that your posts are not well-written.
    Like #54.

  52. Porivil Sorrens says

    Huh, I thought the random terf posters largely jumped ship here when Benson left. Guess there’s always a few stragglers.

  53. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @rq, #56:

    I wasn’t home when shame was being shared out, so it’s kind of you to take that on yourself.

    Brilliant. I really can’t express how much I enjoyed that.

    Also? I heard your #53 in the voice of David Attenborough.

  54. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @everyone not named Cressida:

    They do fall outside the binary, but they’re the only people who do

    Right. It’s a binary, where some people are in neither category 1 nor category 2.

    Trans people who don’t have a disorder of sexual development are, again by definition, within the binary. Their reproductive potential is one or the other, or (in the case of illness or injury), neither.

    Ah. Yes. More people who are in neither category 1 nor category 2, but these people are, by definition, within the binary. Because a binary categorization with 3 options is, y’know, binary by definition. Didn’t you read the word “binary” folks?

    It’s a good thing that how humans categorize sex and gender isn’t socially constructed or this would start to get confusing.

  55. rq says

    I heard your #53 in the voice of David Attenborough.

    Objective achieved.

  56. says

    “Don’t co-opt intersex narratives” is a TERF talking point. Cis allosexual transphobes say this. Intersex people don’t.

    Also the latest science strongly suggests that being trans is a KIND of intersex, so…. go fuck yourself, intersex people are not a shield for your bigotry. Own your bullshit, Cressy.

  57. Cressida says

    When I say “binary,” I mean a reproductive binary. Trans people don’t fall outside that (but intersex people do). With regard to gestation and insemination, trans people have one potential or the other (or possibly neither, due to illness or injury). Not both, not sometimes kinda one and sometimes kinda the other. Binary.

    @62, no, trans is not a kind of intersex. Intersex is a disorder of sexual development where a body’s reproductive function doesn’t fully align with either the potential for insemination or the potential for insemination. Most people’s bodies’ reproductive function does fully align with one or the other, including most trans people.

  58. rq says

    A reproductive binary, where a third group falls into neither category! #truebinary

  59. Cressida says

    @65, yes, a reproductive binary. There is a combination of traits that corresponds to the potential for gestation and another that corresponds to the potential for insemination (whether or not that potential is realized, as in the case of illness or injury). As far as sexual reproduction is concerned, that is a binary distinction. If there are certain humans whose bodies aren’t in one class or the other, because of a disorder of sexual development, that fact doesn’t negate the existence of the reproductive binary as a concept.

  60. Cressida says

    @64, are you suggesting that people whose first language is not English have trouble expressing themselves? I think you might get some pushback if that’s your stance.

  61. rq says

    Well, then blood groups are a binary, too – you have the potential to be type A or type B, but some people can be both, and some people can be neither! Binary!

  62. jefrir says

    Even if we accept this reproductive binary – so what? Why does this particular way of dividing people up matter, and why does it matter more than what people tell you about their identities?
    Reproductive capabilities matter if you’re breeding livestock. Social identities matter when interacting with other humans.

  63. jefrir says

    are you suggesting that people whose first language is not English have trouble expressing themselves?

    Yes, people who are not speaking their first language can have difficulty communicating. I didn’t realise this was controversial? I know I find it significantly harder to express myself in French or Russian than I do in English. That said, your issues read to me as someone with a dogmatic viewpoint who hasn’t thought things through very well, rather than being typical of a foreign language speaker

  64. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @jefrir:

    That said, your issues read to me as someone with a dogmatic viewpoint who hasn’t thought things through very well, rather than being typical of a foreign language speaker

    #trufax

    @everyone but Cressida:

    If there are certain humans whose bodies aren’t in one class or the other, because of a disorder of sexual development, that fact doesn’t negate the existence of the reproductive binary as a concept.

    Exactly, people! Sure there’s no binary in real life. You have to understand, though, that there’s still a binary in Cressida’s mind. What we really need is to make people conform to Cressida’s concepts. Then we will truly have a just world.

  65. says

    (ugh) Cressida:

    Intersex is a disorder of sexual development where a body’s reproductive function doesn’t fully align with either the potential for insemination or the potential for insemination.

    Citation needed.

    That is NOT the definition of intersex. That is your weirdly specific obsession with (repeated, in this case) “the potential for insemination”. Actually, that’s kind of telling. Have you considered basing your arguments on science instead of your personal obsession with penises?

    that fact doesn’t negate the existence of the reproductive binary as a concept.

    As a CONCEPT, no. Of course we also have the very common concepts of dragons, zombies, the flat earth, and compassionate conservatives. Just because we can conceive of a thing does not mean it exists.

    In the real-world usage, the fact that there exist entities outside the A and B in some supposed binary absolutely does incinerate it as “a binary that really exists”. In order to defend your anti-science position, you are forced to discount more and more and more real world examples until you are left with a “binary” so riddled with holes and exceptions and deliberate exclusions that it is completely meaningless. A binary is not the same as a bimodal distribution.

    Since you do not actually know what the words “intersex” and “binary” mean, I strongly recommend consulting first a dictionary and then some science books more advanced than ‘Kindergarten Cop’ before continuing to embarrass yourself in public with your bigotry.

  66. Cressida says

    First: edit to #63: “a body’s reproductive function doesn’t fully align with either the potential for gestation or the potential for insemination.” I will fully cop to sloppy internet commenting. I am not perfect. Though I think my meaning was clear.

    @69, the distinction matters because women have been marginalized for millennia because of our reproductive capacity. The reason we’ve been marginalized for millennia is NOT that we wear skirts in 2018 America. If we can’t talk about the source of our marginalization, we can’t solve it.

    @71, yes, I am talking about concepts, you are correct. Sexual reproduction is a concept. It’s a thing we can talk about in the abstract; for example, how does sexual reproduction differ from asexual reproduction? That conversation doesn’t have to reference individual people, as you put it; indeed, why would it?

    @72, you write: “In the real-world usage, the fact that there exist entities outside the A and B in some supposed binary absolutely does incinerate it as “a binary that really exists”. No, you are wrong. We’re talking about a situation where 99.8 percent of humans can be categorized as either 49.9 percent unequivocally female or 49.9 percent unequivocally male, and 0.2 percent some combination of female and male. The 0.2 percent is (1) tiny and (2) doesn’t negate the binary but actually reinforces it, because they don’t represent some third option, but a combination of the only two options that exist.

  67. rq says

    We’re talking about a situation where 99.8 percent of humans can be categorized as either 49.9 percent unequivocally female or 49.9 percent unequivocally male, and 0.2 percent some combination of female and male. The 0.2 percent is (1) tiny and (2) doesn’t negate the binary but actually reinforces it, because they don’t represent some third option, but a combination of the only two options that exist.

    Do you have a reference for those numbers?
    Also:

    because women have been marginalized for millennia because of our reproductive capacity

    Okay, but I thought this thread was about transgender issues, not the marginalization of women… I don’t even see how the reproductive capacity is relevant, except as a pillar of your three-categories binary system that you’re pushing on a thread about the non-binariness of human gender and sexuality, and that’s you being kind of an asshole about transgender issues – which, from what I can understand, you don’t consider to be issues at all (at least, not human rights issues). So I’ve changed my mind: you’re being an kind of an asshole.

  68. chigau (違う) says

    Cressida (note the use of you nym) #67 (in addition to the comment number)
    No.

  69. Porivil Sorrens says

    Even if those numbers were correct – hell, even if it was a true binary and there was a perfect 50/50 reproductive binary, so what? That doesn’t meant that binary should have any special weight, nor that it should trump people’s self identification, nor that it somehow erases the very real threats that transgender people face.

    At best, the case you could make is that a reproductive binary exists. Cool.

    I can demonstrate that apple trees exist. That doesn’t mean that we should order society based on whether or not any given person owns apple trees, or that apple tree ownership is a particularly notable fact outside of a very narrow field of agriculture.

  70. Porivil Sorrens says

    Insofar as the often bandied about “intersex people don’t like having their narratives co-opted” line, there are a nonzero amount of transgender intersex people who would beg to differ.

    If any specific intersex person has a problem with what we’re saying, I’d be glad to hear their concerns, but I’m not going to prima-facie take their word for it, much less the second-hand word of an anonymous internet rando.

  71. jefrir says

    Cressida

    @69, the distinction matters because women have been marginalized for millennia because of our reproductive capacity. The reason we’ve been marginalized for millennia is NOT that we wear skirts in 2018 America. If we can’t talk about the source of our marginalization, we can’t solve it.

    Reproductive capacity has indeed been a source of marginalisation for women – but that hasn’t stopped infertile or post-menopausal women from facing marginalisation, and nor does it for trans women. We can recognise discrimination based on childbearing or bodily autonomy as sexist in its motives and effects without insisting that it affects all women or only women – just as we can recognise the US war on drugs as racist even though it doesn’t affect all black people or only black people.

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