Why I banned Andy Lewis, Maria Maclachlan, and Alan Henness


Last week, I banned Andy Lewis, Maria Maclachlan, Alan Henness and a few of their friends. Oh, the weeping and wailing and rending of robes! The grief at this cosmic injustice! I have received so many messages of concern: Lewis/Maclachlan/Henness are so nice, so rational, such good skeptics and humanists, such upstanding members of the community, how could I possibly do this? And there lies the problem. Once someone joins a tribe, all the other members of the tribe are expected to assume that they’re good and nice and rational, and bugger all the evidence.

Andy Lewis is not nice and not rational. As evidence, I give you this: his response after being banned.

No one was banned for being in a relationship, which is simply stupid and absurd. I only noted that they were using the same IP address when I was trying to untangle the snarl of strange people brawling in the comments. Likewise, no one was banned for being the victim of a crime. This is all blatant dishonesty intended to stir up sympathy for these poor, innocent people who did nothing at all but love each other and get beat up by bad people. It’s hard to believe that anyone would fall for it, but they did — they were stumbling all over themselves in a rush to tell me what good skeptics they all are and gosh, aren’t they just the sweetest couple?

I’ll just point out that that tweet is such an obvious lie that it calls your judgment into question if you accept it.

Here’s what really happened. An anti-transgender activist (TERF) who has never commented here before found a post he didn’t like, and started trolling the group with aggressive and fundamentally dishonest comments to stir up conflict. His very first comment was disingenuous and misleading: Are we all so devoid of scepticism and full of misogyny that all here cannot bring themselves to accept the objective, material existence of women?

This was a thread about acceptance of transgender individuals, not about debating the existence of women. It is not misogyny to recognize the rights of transgender men and women. But Lewis just barreled in with misrepresentation as his opening gambit.

Note also: he kept this up, making 72 comments over less than a week, constantly stoking the flames and bloating the thread up to over 350 comments, many of which are addressing bogus issues he brought up. It’s a classic example of trolling. Andy Lewis is a troll, and also kind of an obsessed bigot about transgender people.

Furthermore, he recruited his friends to join in. It was a boiling wrangle with multiple TERFs raging when I finally stepped in and shut it down.

So, for instance, we quickly got mariamaclachlan jumping into the fray, and it’s an excellent representative of the fallacious arguments used throughout.

Oh for crying out loud, PZ! The word ‘woman’ means adult human female. Women do NOT have penises.

No, women don’t stop being women if they lose their ovaries any more than you stop being a man because your dick gets lopped off. Your sex is defined according to which of the two reproductive classes you were born into – you KNOW this really but you’ve drunk the ideological kool-aid and are in denial.

Thankfully, there are still some like Angelos who haven’t.

ALL SWANS ARE WHITE! If you find a black swan, we’ll just use our definition to exclude them from the category of swans. It’s an argument as old as Aristotle, and you would think that a skeptic would be familiar with the dangers of an argument from false premises. You don’t just get to blithely wave away counter-examples by referring to a cherry-picked definition.

I also don’t accept the automatic equating of “female” with “woman”, of confusing sex with gender. It also baffles me that anyone would do that: are they in the habit of checking the genitalia of every person they meet? There are almost 7½ billion people on the planet; I’ve met thousands of women; I work regularly with hundreds of them. I have never once asked any of them to show me that they don’t have a penis before accepting their gender. In fact, I’ve only seen the genitals of a handful of human females in my life; should I be skeptical of the identity of every other woman on Earth? How awkward.

I also don’t ask for a karyotype, or a demonstration of what kind of gametes they make.

The fact is that “woman” is a rich cultural artifact with many cues used to designate that aspect of their identity — I accept the reality of girls’ names, women’s styles, women’s manner of speaking, women’s traditional roles, women’s typical careers, women’s make-up — all the signals that people use to mark their gender. I don’t freak out when a girl is named “Mike”, when a woman is a fighter pilot, when a man uses eye shadow, when anyone uses vocal fry, when a woman interrupts a man. We’re seeing people break out of the stereotypes we impose on men and women in many ways, and I think that’s a great step forward. Let’s treat people as individuals rather than representatives of only two allowed gender classes.

The presence or absence of a penis is possibly the worst gender signal ever, because we keep those hidden in almost all of our social interactions. I’d have to be really close, very intimate friends with a woman before she’d show me her penis.

And then, in that comment, one of the most annoying, bullshit argument tactics ever: the declaration that she KNOWS exactly what I know. I’ve heard this from creationists, too, the claim that since I’m a biologist, I must know that all the evidence for evolution is false, and I must deep down agree with them except that I’ve drunk the ideological kool-aid, or possibly, am in the thrall of all the money from Big Science.

You are incorrect, Ms MacLachlan. I am a developmental biologist, which means I know that sex is not a unary operation. It is not decided by a single gene or chromosome, or a single hormone, or a single organ, and is a layered complex process of interlinked interactions. The path from SRY to brain development is not linear and fixed, and other genes and environmental factors can shift the pathway both subtly and profoundly. Sex is not one decision that splits the population into precisely two types. It is a multitude of decisions that modify a multitude of traits and produces a range of complex outcomes. That this process is strongly canalized developmentally to produce a majority of two reproductive types does not mean that variation is excluded, or that we should simply ignore or discriminate against anyone who differs. Biology doesn’t say what you claim it says, and it’s extremely obnoxious to claim the authority of science for your bigotry.

I’m not even getting into gender. That’s the domain of psychologists and sociologists, and to even pretend that human beings emerge from the complexity of biological sex determination to then find a binary simplicity and clarity in psychology and culture is ludicrous. The only reality behind that is that there exist some gatekeepers who are deeply committed to the idea of there being only two allowed types of people, and who try desperately to enforce their narrow preconceptions by harassing people at transgender events or by trolling blogs. Or, I suppose, in some societies or in history, setting the deviants on fire.

So please, don’t tell me what I “KNOW”, and imply that I secretly agree with your anti-scientific bullshit. I don’t. It’s a great way to antagonize me and get yourself banned, unlike, for example, being married.

The whole is like that: the TERFs interject their standard bad arguments, equating sex and gender, insisting that transgender individuals believe they have gametes corresponding to their professed gender, suggesting that transgender women are trying to violently oppress “True” Women, bringing up anecdotes of criminals who dressed as women, etc., etc., etc. The regular commenters here were ably responding to it all, so I just stayed out of it, and they also seemed to take my absence as cowardice on my part and permission for them to amplify their lies. That led to me finally shutting them down.

Let me be crystal clear on this. TERFs tend to be assholes, and I’m not particularly impressed when you try to tell me that this particular set of TERFs are “nice” or “rational”. Biology does not support your gender essentialism, so quit pretending it does. Your species is specified by your genetics (and sometimes even that is fuzzy), but it is not the entirety of your identity, and the people who claim that who you are is a product of a chromosome or a single organ are simplistic to the point of simplemindedness, and given that these same people are often quite intelligent, I have to assume that they are motivated by prejudice or malevolence, and I don’t want them hanging around here.

I’m also not impressed by your membership in a particular tribe, whether it’s skepticism, atheism, humanism, or Catholicism.

Comments

  1. says

    Ye, poor Andy made me cringe more than once with insisting that gametes are the only thing that matters, despite the fact that even this extremely reductionist line of reasoning leads to the conclusion of sex NOT being binary as well. I had to admire how others managed to respond to him over and over and over when it became aparrent that his undestanding of biology is somewhere at kindergarten level and he actively refuses to change that.

  2. DexX says

    I went and read the Twitter thread, and holy fuck, it’s a quagmire of standard-issue TERF talking points. They say men don’t get to define who women are, only women do, conveniently ignoring the fact that they are denying trans women precisely that freedom. They also fail to acknowledge that, y’know, trans men exist. By their transphobic logic, this is “women defining what it is to be male”, but somehow they never, ever mention this idea.

    Their entire argument revolves around a paranoid fantasy about transgender identities existing in order to allow men to covertly invade women’s spaces, which is ludicrous nonsense. The only person being put in danger when an apparently cis man comes out as a trans women is the trans woman herself, because she makes herself the target of transphobic bigots.

    It’s also infuriating to see this hateful creeps describing themselves as free thinkers when they’re all reciting TERF doctrine word-for-word.

  3. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    Does anyone remember that guy who argued that gay marriage shouldn’t be legalised because the only marriages that were legitimate were those that could result in procreation? When it was pointed out that straight, but infertile couples are allowed to marry he retorted that this was ok because their sex was “reproductive in type.”
    I’m often reminded of that guy when talking at/listening to TERFs.

    They also fail to acknowledge that, y’know, trans men exist. By their transphobic logic, this is “women defining what it is to be male”, but somehow they never, ever mention this idea.

    I do see TERFs refer to trans men, although in my experience (which I know is limited as they do go after trans men too) it’s mostly accusing us of misogyny for not talking about trans men (because of course they have to misgender them too) while we’re being forced to defend the existence of trans women, rather like Sauron huffily complaining that Aragorn doesn’t talk about where Frodo is. I mean, hey, maybe we’d rather not spread your hateful attention over to our friends?

  4. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    @me
    To be fair, there are probably a lot of guys who made that argument… I’m thinking of a particular American political guy though? I think they talked about him on Godless Bitches once? Anyway, it’s not really important who he is.

  5. monad says

    I have a tangential question that I hope is not too insensitive to ask here (I don’t want to derail the objection to attacking trans* people, which is a serious problem). It relates to the whole sex is not one decision that splits the population into two types bit. I’ve seen this discussed before, and it makes sense and is important. But it usually just gets applied to humans.

    For other animals I still see lots of talk about XX/XY determining sex in things like other mammals or beetles, or ZZ/ZW in birds, or temperatures in crocodiles, or so on. The linked article talks about a more complex system of chromosomes in platypuses, but still as one determining sex. Lots of different mechanisms but generally described as single decisions.

    Is this only a case of oversimplifying things in other animals, because we really only care about the most common cases in them, whereas in people different individuals should be important to us? Or are humans actually one of the more diverse species, which it seems might be very natural in one where reproduction is no longer the primary purpose of life and sex?

  6. DexX says

    Sorry, I spoke a little too broadly. The TERFs I’ve encountered online have been entirely preoccupied with trans women as part of their dark fantasy about men pretending to be women to breach women’s safe spaces. I’m a cis man though, so I can’t speak for the experience of trans men.

    One of the other ironies of all this is that, in my experience, they tend to ignore cis women who are trans allies. They’ll rip into cis men like me, accusing me of being in on this misogynistic conspiracy, and of course they will harass the shit out of trans women, but objections from non-TERF cis women just seem to roll off them like a bead of water off a duck’s feathers.

  7. says

    #4: It’s oversimplifying other animals, and ignoring those other animals that use other mechanisms (like environmental influences) for sex determination.

    It is generally true in diploid genetics that we’re only interested in organisms that can reproduce — this is a huge factor in simplifying our approach. Other forms that fail to breed are simply ignored, usually. It’s a shame, too, because we made great strides in understanding development when people like Wieschaus and Nusslein-Volhard realized that another category of variants, embryonic lethals, were actually extraordinarily informative in understanding the process.

  8. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    @DexX
    FWIW, I wasn’t trying to berate you for suggesting they don’t go after trans men – they do but it’s really easy to miss among the attacks on trans women. They seem to see trans men as traitors to the sisterhood, but trans women as invaders, and that goes a long way to dictating where they put their energies.
    Of course, they make it entirely about themselves, rather than conceding that other people actually have inner lives of their own.

    Also not intended as a berating comment, but they do also seem to enjoy accusing cis women who object to them of being trans.

  9. rpjohnston says

    @3: That guy’s definition of marriage is bullshit; everyone knows that the only marriages that are legitimate are the ones created to facilitate TP’ing that guy’s house

    @4: A year or so back I enjoyed a thread on tumblr about a guy who found a caterpillar he named Chicken Nugget. When it metamorphed, it turned out to have wings of different sizes because they were mixed m/f. (I think that’s how it went, anyway). I’m pretty sure the first sentence of your last paragraph is correct.

  10. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    Marriage: It’s between one person with a boss throwing arm, and one person with a lifetime’s supply of Andrex. <3

  11. DexX says

    Athywren, as weird as this may sound, when I as a cis man talk trans issues, I try to always kind of assume I’m fucking up, at least a bit. Keeps me humble and reminds me that, as proud as I am to be a trans ally, my knowledge will never trump a trans person’s live experience. I do the same when I move in feminist spaces. The only time I allow myself to come over all authoritative is when I’m talking bi issues, since that is my lived experience.

    So please don’t think you were being overly harsh or critical. It’s just me trying very hard to carry my privilege lightly. ;)

  12. mcfrank0 says

    As a gay man and a feminist (see what I did there?), I wholeheartedly agree with both this post and PZ’s decision to ban the TERFers. (Are there AtroTERFers?)

    Anyhow, I found this line particularly memorable and I am now struggling to figure out a way to use it in the future:

    " I’d have to be really close, very intimate friends with a woman before she’d show me her penis."

  13. monad says

    @6, 8: Thank you. It might be less important than the actual genders of people, but this is a key piece of context I needed to actually understand the biology being brought up.

  14. jazzlet says

    They seem to be having a bit of a campaign going on, they infested the comments on a couple of posts over on SBM a fortnight or so ago. Mind both the posts were at best tone-deaf so they were given an easy in.

  15. says

    Maybe I’m being naive, but what the fuck (and that is le bon mot in this case) has the sex, orientation, or whatever of another person got to do with anyone they aren’t about to have sex with?

  16. says

    Exactly. I don’t get it, either.

    I’m also not worried about the sex of someone who needs to use a restroom, either. It’s not as if we’re going to poop or pee together.

  17. says

    Here’s what really happened. An anti-transgender activist (TERF) who has never commented here before found a post he didn’t like, and started trolling the group with aggressive and fundamentally dishonest comments to stir up conflict. His very first comment was disingenuous and misleading: “Are we all so devoid of scepticism and full of misogyny that all here cannot bring themselves to accept the objective, material existence of women?”

    Note also: he kept this up, making 72 comments over less than a week, constantly stoking the flames and bloating the thread up to over 350 comments, many of which are addressing bogus issues he brought up. It’s a classic example of trolling. Andy Lewis is a troll, and also kind of an obsessed bigot about transgender people.

    Somehow they never stop to wonder why they’re so obsessed with other people’s identity, or whether that obsession stems from their own psychological issues. I mean, if you perceive trans people’s mere existence as some sort of existential threat, you might have some things to work through.

  18. Ed Seedhouse says

    I always just assume that whomever runs a blog or online forum and pays the shot is entitled to ban me or anyone else for any reason or no reason. I’ve been banned from an online forum and didn’t like it, but I didn’t complain because I didn’t think I had moral any right to. I swallowed my bitterness and got over it and moved on.

  19. psychomath says

    @16 PZ Myers

    Well, given the frequency with which they bring up their fears on non-trans women being assaulted by trans women, they must be very concerned with the safety of women. I mean, if they are so worried about something that virtually never happens*, they must spend all of the rest of their time defending women from the things that actually happen all the time. When do they even find time to sleep? I applaud the efforts of these brave champions of women’s safety if they are able to spend so much time defending women from a problem that is imaginary.

    *As near as I can tell it never happens, but there are 7 billion people, so I guess it might have at some point.

  20. says

    In fact, I’ve only seen the genitals of a handful of human females in my life; should I be skeptical of the identity of every other woman on Earth? How awkward.

    I also don’t ask for a karyotype, or a demonstration of what kind of gametes they make.

    This, this, this.
    No-fucking-body does this in real life.
    Though TERFs do have a different method of determining who’s a woman. Because, you see, no real woman would ever agree with “trans ideology”, therefore any woman supporting trans people must actually be a “man”.
    I don’t know a cis woman who hasn’t been abused and misgendered by transphobes online because they must pretend that they speak for all cis women (especially the transphobic cis dudes. Oh the irony).

  21. psychomath says

    A little clarification: I was in the mindset of reading the Andy Lewis comments in the other thread regarding men pretending to be trans women in order to assault non-trans women. I think this would be exceedingly rare. Trans women are people, and certainly some trans women are abusive and certainly some of the people they abuse are non-trans women. I was trying to say that the fake trans women idea was ridiculous and phrased my comment badly. Sorry about that.

  22. Rob Grigjanis says

    psychomath @21: I thought the sarcasm in your #19 was obvious, and quite nicely put.

  23. John Morales says

    Things nice people say:

    Over at ThoughtFreeBlogs, halfwit @pzmyers
    What fuck-witted nonsense is going on here
    What sort of cowardly boneheadedness
    The morons commenting on the site
    He left it to his flying monkeys

    (Poetic :) )

  24. John Morales says

    psychomath, having exchanged comments with him, it is clear to me he doesn’t realise he’s being as dogmatic as he accuses others of being.

    I note neither he nor the others acknowledged that PZ effectively provided them with an extended opportunity to make their case, of which they duly and greedily availed themselves, before taking action. Judiciousness, not prejudice.
    This sorta thing is very discomforting to trans readers, so it comes at a cost.
    So, they got to have their say, but not to keep pestering once it was dead clear their claims had no traction and became repetitive.

    This, they deem cowardice. Being so nice and all that, they need exhibit no graciousness whatsoever for PZ’s extended tolerance.

  25. says

    The thread was fascinating. All that time spent on arguments that smuggle the conclusion in with the premises (“women don’t have penises!” hinging on a definition of “woman” that means “person without a penis”) and arguments from analogies and hypotheticals (the cases of Kevin and Jacinta) and goalpost shifting (“sex is determined only by genitals—and reproductive capacity—and gametes—and chromosomes) and denial of science/citation of ideological cranks (“people don’t have gender,” “read Bailey and Blanchard”), and then they have the temerity to compare trans people to homeopaths. Look. in. the. fucking. mirror.

    The bathroom thing is mindboggling to me, because they don’t actually have a means of addressing the problem. “A cis man could falsely self-identify as female to creep on women in the women’s room!” Great, so ignoring the fact that any establishment could throw anyone out for misbehaving in the bathroom or locker room, how does banning trans women from your restroom solve this? If people are required to use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth, then a cis man could falsely claim to be a trans man, forced to use the women’s bathroom by this assigned-at-birth policy, and you have the exact same situation. Not to mention that these brave “gender critical feminists” who so despise trans people for allegedly propping up gender stereotypes are already harassing cis women trying to use women’s restrooms when they don’t look sufficiently feminine.

    I was a little surprised that nobody asked for a definition of “penis.” It’d be interesting, I think, if a bit prurient, to do a version of that experiment where you set out the spectrum of hominid skulls and ask a series of creationists to split them into “ape” and “man” categories, except with the spectrum of female to male genitals. At what point is a micropenis with penoscrotal hypospadias distinct from a particularly enlarged clitoris and labial fusion? TERFs, like so many bigots and pseudoscientists like to pretend that terms and categories are sharp and distinct and perfectly representative of real distinctions, when even terms we think of as very clear, like “penis,” have a good deal of fuzziness to them.

    Their arguments, at bottom, are no different from Sam Harris’s “ticking time bomb” hypothetical to justify torture and “just stating facts” defense of racial profiling. What’s mostly surprising is that so many skeptics find both sets of arguments so compelling. Sad, more than surprising, I guess.

  26. rpjohnston says

    @18: same. I think I got moderated over at Zvan’s blog a few years ago, or something. I occasionally commented on things in case she felt like letting one through. Meh.

    @25. Reminds me of the pointlessness of arguing anything. No one gives a shit. Crack their skull, Make things your way, and let them whine and cry in powerlessness.

  27. gmcard says

    ” “hinging on a definition of “woman” that means “person without a penis” ”

    AKA the actual definition of “woman” since time immemorial. Women don’t have penises. I know it, you know it, PZ can bleat feeble nonsense but he knows it. Absolutely there are other physiological indicators; humans are pretty good at categorizing female and male bodies even without genitalia visible. But PZ is also being disingenuous when he talks about penises not being seen. Feminists are rightly fighting back against male invasion of female spaces. We’ve already seen M2T swinging their dicks in women’s changing rooms, flashing in women’s bathrooms, and pushing for penis acceptance in lesbian spaces.

    Pharyngula is a misogynistic haven, and PZ is a damned hypocrite. He can rant against Pinker all he wants, but PZ and Pinker are standing right fucking together promoting this antifeminist “ladybrain” bullshit.

  28. John Morales says

    gmcard, argumentum ad antiquitatem? Really?

    (Lemme guess, you’re one of those nice people)

  29. DexX says

    It isn’t even a GOOD argumentum ad antiquitatem. Dozens of cultures define genders differently today or did so in the past. This “boys have penises and girls have vaginas and that’s how it’s always been” argument only works if you’re culturally insulated and ignorant of history and anthropology.

  30. Rob Grigjanis says

    gmcard @27:

    AKA the actual definition of “woman” since time immemorial

    To some kindergarteners playing doctor maybe, not to thinking adults who actually observe and think about their humanity.

    Are you equally childishly dogmatic with other words? How about “family”? We all “know” that means “group related by blood” since time immemorial. There can’t possibly be cultural dimensions ignored by that definition, right? You know, like adoption, or relation by marriage. I suspect most people who adopt consider their adopted kids to be part of their family. But surely they must be “bleating nonsense” if they say so.

  31. wzrd1 says

    @20, not entirely correct, but it’s extremely rare that a physician would inquire to ascertain if a specific reproductive or genetic disease is causing a specific problem. Rare, as in the majority of physicians would never have to make such an inquiry.

    @PZ #6, I do believe that mules also taught us a lot of interesting things about the genetics of reproduction. Don’t they make for an additional class? Or are they a subclass of some sort?

    @12, well, perhaps a female hyena, but then, you’ve got a host of other issues to deal with. Largely involving a female hyena being aroused, you can see her pseudopenis and while other hyenas wouldn’t likely be around, she can still outrun you easily.
    Most of us avoid hanging around with hyenas, to better avoid an interspecies communication error, such as they start thinking that food is following them around. ;)

    @PZ #16, well, I have been in a barracks latrine at an antiquated pre-WWII barracks where there were no stalls in the outhouse latrine, only a row of very closely spaced toilets. Close enough to borrow the section of newspaper of one’s companion without stretching at all. Said latrine also had a trough urinal.
    Still didn’t give a flying fuck about who had what equipment nearby, as I had a specific mission, ridding myself of waste and getting back to getting ready to go to the field or getting ready to come back home.
    That was at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Laughably, the superior barracks we were supposed to use was obliterated by a tornado that struck two days prior to our arrival and thankfully, abated 100 feet from the post elementary school.

    Frankly, there are enough things to be concerned about, the subject that these intentional idiots concern themselves so greatly over is really a matter where anyone with an operational mind just flat out ran out of fucks to give about.
    All, while the intentional, idiots ignore the herd of elephants in the room that they’re attempting to anger.
    For, when one arouses the ire of a herd of elephants to attempt to have the herd harm an adversary, it’s quite often that the herd goes right through the rabble rouser.

    And I’ll remind one and all of a simple fact. Freethoughtblogs.com is a private group, we’re all essentially sitting in their virtual living room. Hence, the sponsor’s living room policy applies, you’re on private property and the host’s rules apply.
    And a thanks again to PZ’s temperance with me while I was ill.
    Which reminded me that I forgot to take my PM dose of methimazole and metoprolol, which I paused to administer. It’s nice to not be perpetually irritable or angry and not to perfect a AAA. Aortic dilation is more than enough, thank you.

  32. ginckgo says

    To quote your old ‘friend’ Dawkins: “The Tyranny of the Discontinuous Mind”

    I’m a taxonomist by trade, and I love to frustrate my colleagues when I say to them that there is no clear reality to the concept of ‘species’ in nature, that it’s just a box that scientists invented to make sense of the complex world and to be able to talk about it (How many Species Concepts is John Wilkins up to now? about 26 distinct ones?)

    It’s even worse with sex and gender groupings, as these were invented thousands of years before science.

  33. DexX says

    Excellent point. I once had a creationist hammer at me about the definition of speciation being “when two populations of a creature change enough that they can no longer interbreed”. When I pointed out that the vast majority of living things on earth don’t use sexual reproduction he changed the topic.

  34. Meg Thornton says

    gmcard @ 27:

    We’ve already seen M2T swinging their dicks in women’s changing rooms, flashing in women’s bathrooms, and pushing for penis acceptance in lesbian spaces.

    You’ll forgive me, I hope, for asking some questions like “can you point to any evidence of these claims?”. By “evidence”, by the way, I’m meaning “actual, documented evidence this has happened” rather than anecdotes – things like police reports, mentions of trespassing charges, and so on. Because I’ve been hearing for decades that the horrible transwomen were coming to invade my sacred spaces and take away my privacy for some nefarious reason or other, and to be honest, I’m not really seeing the evidence in my day-to-day life. I am seeing a lot more evidence of people policing gender a lot more strictly in the hope of being able to catch out a transperson, however.

    A person’s gender identity and whether this matches their genitalia are their business, and only yours if they’re asking you whether you’d be interested in copulation and/or reproduction.

    If there’s a transwoman in the stall next to me in any public lav, the only way I’m going to know about it is if there isn’t enough paper in the stall they’re occupying and they ask me for some. (So, easy fix – keep the loos well supplied with toilet paper). If they’re changing in the same change room as me at the gym or the swimming pools, I’m going to be polite and not stare (because as a fat woman, I’d like this same courtesy extended to myself). I’ll reply politely if they make comments about the weather. I’d probably speak up and say “you’re being rude” if anyone passed remarks, but that’s about the end of it. (But quite honestly, I suspect most transwomen would be dealing with the issue by changing in the showers (which generally have doors which can be locked) or in the toilets (ditto) in order to avoid having to face any potential nastiness from everyone else in the space).

    Trying on clothes in the shops? Well, given I’m sitting here writing this in a pair of jeans I purchased from the Men’s section of one of the local discount department store chains (tried them on in the ladies cubicles, because I identify as female) and a jumper I pinched off my (male) partner, if I see someone trying on clothing that doesn’t appear to suit their “appropriate” gender configuration, the most I’m going to do is offer constructive advice (“yes, that works really well”, “you might want to try a different colour/style, that doesn’t quite suit you”) if I’m asked for it. If not, I’ll just shut up and let them go for it – it’s their life, and they’re welcome to live it however they like, provided they don’t harm me in the process.

    Maybe Australian public spaces are designed with a bit more privacy in mind than the ones in the USA? Or maybe Australians just have a better grasp on the concept of “mind your own fucking business” than USAliens.

  35. MichaelE says

    I’ve got a quick question regarding a thought I had reading this post and the following comments.
    (I’d like to begin with a quick apology. I’m not as familiar with correct terminology as I’ve never felt a need to treat LGBTQ people as anything other than, y’know, people)

    But doesn’t it have something to do with that whole “weaker sex” thing? Women are seen to be weak and therefore men who wants to be women are by definition also weak and must then be reminded of that.
    Whereas women who wants to be men could at least be excused as trying to escape said “weakness”? (Of course they’ll never be as strong as TEH REAL MENZ!)

    It’s a misogyny thing, right?

  36. andyo says

    I follow both you and Simon Singh, never heard of those other people, but seeing Singh defending them without even having looked at the thread, and going by that whining first tweet about it, it was very disappointing.

  37. andyo says

    #14, do you have a link to the SBM threads? I’m curious to know if Novella got involved, or the other SBM regulars. From all I’ve heard from him he agrees with PZ’s position, and him being a neurologist is another relevant, useful perspective.

  38. says

    Tom Foss

    ? If people are required to use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth, then a cis man could falsely claim to be a trans man, forced to use the women’s bathroom by this assigned-at-birth policy, and you have the exact same situation.

    Yeah. Trans men have raised that arguments and posted pictures of themselves to make the point. Those dudes would definitely raise my eyebrows if I met them in a ladies’ room without, say, the presence of a small child.
    Which brings me to the probably one case where “what about the boys” is a valid argument. Transphobes will hark about the safety of “girls and women” in restrooms yet never lose a word about the safety of boys in men’s restrooms where due to the urinals the chances of actual dick wagging are big and even though boys make up a huge percentage of the victims of child sexual abuse.

    gmcard

    AKA the actual definition of “woman” since time immemorial

    How to be racist, transphobic, misogynist and also completely uneducated in 11 words.
    Now, the transphobic part has been explained a lot. The racist part? You assume that the definition has been the same everywhere because obviously the western definition is the correct one, ignoring the variety of ways in which sex and gender have been defined in cultures across time and space.
    The uneducated part? No, dude, you have it backwards even for our own historical tradition. In the christian tradition the body was seen as a vessel for the soul, which was the defining part of a person. We can still see this in the equation of ugly or deformed with evil, because surely if a person were deformed it was a sign of their soul being tarnished.
    Same about sex. The genitalia, the outward appearance were an expression of the soul that a person had been given by god. This is btw still the Catholic reasoning of why trans people mustn’t be allowed to control their own bodies: They are a gift of god.
    Defining a person by their genitals is something that happened with the triumph of science, when bodies were no longer seen as bodily vessels for heavenly souls but as biological entities, together with the forcible regulation of intersex bodies.
    The misogyny? that “definition” of men and women “since time immemorial” of course doesn’t stop with “penis and vagina” but has a ton of other baggage attached, which you cannot just ignore.

    Meg Thornton

    blockquote> We’ve already seen M2T swinging their dicks in women’s changing rooms, flashing in women’s bathrooms, and pushing for penis acceptance in lesbian spaces.

    You’ll forgive me, I hope, for asking some questions like “can you point to any evidence of these claims?”. By “evidence”, by the way, I’m meaning “actual, documented evidence this has happened”
    Usually their evidence amounts to evidence they created themselves, like stalking women in bathrooms and changing rooms or entering those spaces themselves like the terfs in the UK who put on ugly beards and went to a men’s swimming pond as a protest, where the men simply shrugged. Much like MRAs showing that false rape accusations exist by making them, they create incidences of “people abusing self-ID” by doing so.
    As for the “dick acceptance in lesbian spaces”, I’ve seen a lot of cis lesbians being accused of being “straight women who appropriate lesbianism” because their partner has (had) a dick. Not to mention the fact that they claim that two trans women are actually gay dudes.

  39. says

    #27:

    ” “hinging on a definition of “woman” that means “person without a penis” ” AKA the actual definition of “woman” since time immemorial.

    You can, of course, cite a source for this definition, and you might also want to pin it to a specific culture. Otherwise, this sounds like a person spewing their prejudices out of their butt.

  40. Allison says

    John Morales @24:

    This sorta thing is very discomforting to trans readers, so it comes at a cost.

    I’m so used to ignoring my feelings that it took me a minute to sort out how I felt about all this debating of my very existence, but, yeah, it’s hella uncomfortable. Especially since it brings back (painful) memories of my childhood, when it seemed like I was always surrounded by people who hated me for being whatever-the-heck I was and nobody saw any reason to have my back.

    But seeing people, many of whom aren’t even trans themselves, defending the right of people like me to exist and to simply be who we are, got right through my armour. It brought tears to my eyes. Just thinking about it still does. Kindness that I “haven’t to deserve” (phrase stolen from Robert Frost.)

  41. says

    Feminists are rightly fighting back against male invasion of female spaces. We’ve already seen M2T swinging their dicks in women’s changing rooms, flashing in women’s bathrooms, and pushing for penis acceptance in lesbian spaces.

    You’re so full of shit.

  42. says

    Meg Thornton @ 35:

    gmcard @ 27:

    We’ve already seen M2T swinging their dicks in women’s changing rooms, flashing in women’s bathrooms, and pushing for penis acceptance in lesbian spaces.

    You’ll forgive me, I hope, for asking some questions like “can you point to any evidence of these claims?”

    They don’t have any, of course. There are, however, documented instances of TERFs making nuisances of themselves at swimming pools (apologies for link to Daily Fail, BTW) by turning up and claiming to “self-identify as men”. Such brave hero. Much woke. Amaze.

    I’ve started to expand the initialism TERF as Trans-Exclusive Raging Fuckwit in my head as there’s nothing “radical” nor “feminist” about it.

  43. dianne says

    I’ve seen a lot of cis lesbians being accused of being “straight women who appropriate lesbianism” because their partner has (had) a dick.

    Making their views the same as that well known radical feminist organization the Texas legislature. Which at one point didn’t recognize trans identity or same sex marriage so a trans and cis lesbian could be legally married but not two cis lesbians. Or two trans lesbians.

  44. logicalcat says

    Marriage is defined between a man and a woman. Always has been since time immemorial.

    Whats that? Oh, this thread is about another stupid argument where ppl try to hold onto archaic definitions and fallacious reasoning to justify their prejudice? My bad. I’ll see myself out.

  45. Khantron, the alien that only loves says

    @vmcard and the three banned “skeptics”

    Get those appeals to “women’s rights” out of your Tory mouths. Ratfucking conservative liars. And for Andy Lewis especially, I’ll leave you with this quote from Karl Popper

    If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force;for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive…

  46. KG says

    A little clarification: I was in the mindset of reading the Andy Lewis comments in the other thread regarding men pretending to be trans women in order to assault non-trans women. I think this would be exceedingly rare. – psychomath@22

    One possible case has been in the news in the UK recently. A convicted criminal claiming to be a trans woman was sent to a women’s prison, where they sexually assaulted at least two inmates. Whether this person genuinely identifies as a woman I don’t know, but they had prior convictions for sexual offences against women (and children), which should have warned the prison authorities to take adequate precautions to protect the inmates under their charge. Naturally that famous bulwark of radical feminism, the Daily Express, used the occasion to fulminate against “this transgender madness” (I’m not linking to it, but you can find it if you really feel the need).

  47. Khantron, the alien that only loves says

    Btw, does anyone know what Andy Lewis’ twitter handle ending in eggplant coconut and kiwi emojis means? Eggplant usually means penis, is that the case here? What could the rest mean?

  48. rpjohnston says

    Gmcard: You’re fulla shit, everyone knows it, nobody gives a fuck about you, fuck off and eat a bag of suggestively-shaped gummi lighthouses.

    @37: Likely. Of course with the usual caveat that psychological speculation is never certain. But yes, a lot of the underpinning of transphobia and its focus on transwomen comes from misogyny. To especially insecure cis dudes, if it’s possible to dilute the Holy Virility so easily, if the border between Manly Essence and Woman is so fuzzy, why, it means that their own claim to superiority is questionable. They need to deny the possibility of transness and enforce those immutable borders as a general principle in order to protect their special claim.

  49. says

    @28 “promoting this antifeminist “ladybrain” bullshit.”

    You absolutely don’t need an existentialist view of neurobiology to think that trans people’s gender identities are valid. There’s complex and divergent science (AFAIUI) on that issue, but it’s absolutely not a requirement for any part of this discussion to believe in “ladybrains”. I don’t, and I don’t recall PZ ever having stated a position on that either.

    As someone said on Twitter today, misstating your opponent’s arguments is the first sign of bad faith.

  50. genderskeptic says

    I think the issue here is that John Morales was not banned after having “a chuckle” at the video of 3 trans activists beating up Skepticat. If you’re going to ban people for transmisogyny, then why isn’t regular misogyny enough to get someone canned? Violence against women is not funny, is it? I watched the video, she is a senior citizen being struck about the face and shoulders by young people who are much bigger than she is. That is what the court saw when they convicted one of the perpetrators.

  51. Khantron, the alien that only loves says

    @genderskeptic

    To answer your question about why John Morales should not be banned for chuckling at violence used to suppress irrational bigotry, as I posted before from Karl Popper:

    If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force;for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive

  52. Khantron, the alien that only loves says

    Furthermore henderskeptic, characterizing violence against a person for the purpose of suppressing intolerance as violence against a person because they are a woman is a lie. And I might remind you that lies are not rational arguments.

  53. Porivil Sorrens says

    Yawn, not gonna shed any more tears for some fash terf getting bashed than I am for Richard Spencer getting decked. Cry me a goddamn river. If you’re going to go out to represent a hate group that attempts to deny basic civil rights to transgender people, be prepared to get your ass beat.

  54. says

    @gmcard #28

    ” “hinging on a definition of “woman” that means “person without a penis” ”

    AKA the actual definition of “woman” since time immemorial. Women don’t have penises.

    Interesting. So, under your definition, “woman” includes newborns, toddlers, and adolescents without penises, people with Androgen Insensitivity, trans women who’ve undergone bottom surgery, the guevedoces of the Dominican Republic (until they turn twelve), lots of people with disorders of genital development, and any man who’s lost their penis in some kind of accident or injury.

    It’s true, in some cultures this has been the definition of “woman” since time immemorial. It’s the source of the attitude that persisted from Aristotle to Freud, that women were merely incomplete men, an idea that predates the discovery of the uterus, egg cells, and chromosomes, among other potentially relevant things. But while you’re spreading millennia-old misogynist mythology, do please explain who the real woman-haters are.

    I know it, you know it, PZ can bleat feeble nonsense but he knows it. Absolutely there are other physiological indicators; humans are pretty good at categorizing female and male bodies even without genitalia visible.

    Almost like sex and gender (if there is a distinction to be made, which I’m not convinced there is or that we’re equipped to make it) aren’t based on one solitary characteristic. Almost like there are a wide variety of indicators, both biological and cultural, that we use and recognize to make distinctions between “male” and “female.”

    Anyway, people are pretty good at categorizing patterns too, but it doesn’t mean every instance of pareidolia is representative of something real.

    But PZ is also being disingenuous when he talks about penises not being seen. Feminists are rightly fighting back against male invasion of female spaces. We’ve already seen M2T swinging their dicks in women’s changing rooms, flashing in women’s bathrooms, and pushing for penis acceptance in lesbian spaces.

    Citation very much needed. Most trans women are terrified of using public bathrooms and locker rooms as they’re intended to be used, let alone “swinging their dicks.” You’ve mistaken right wing political cartoons and TERF urban legends for actual reality.

    Pharyngula is a misogynistic haven, and PZ is a damned hypocrite. He can rant against Pinker all he wants, but PZ and Pinker are standing right fucking together promoting this antifeminist “ladybrain” bullshit.

    The most feminist thing is insisting that womanhood boils down to a set of genitals.

  55. jazzlet says

    Andyo @#39
    https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/rapid-onset-gender-dysphoria-and-squelching-controversial-evidence/
    https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/gender-dysphoria-in-children/

    genderskeptic @#56
    Some quotes from reporting of the court case that put a different light on the assault:

    “Ms Maclachlan, who blogs and tweets about gender issues, admitted grabbing hold of Wolf’s girlfriend and kicking her, believing she had snatched her camera and thrown it to the ground, adding that Wolf’s partner – who was never identified – had kicked her first.
    Wolf denied one count of assault by beating, but admitted striking the complainant, saying she acted in defence of her partner and to prevent any footage being posted online that might make members of the group the target of online abuse.”

    “Ms Maclachlan admitted that following the event she had sent out a tweet featuring a close-up of the defendant’s face with the words: “Hiya, got any hair restorer while I’m in hiding? Love Tara.”
    She had to be repeatedly told to refer to the defendant as female by the judge during her evidence.”

    “However, Judge Grant refused to grant Ms Maclachlan any compensation, saying: “Compensation would not be appropriate, particularly due to the unhelpful way in which the victim was present [at the protest] and the way she was filming.
    “She was asked at different stages not to film but continued to do so.
    “Another factor I have to take in to account is the Twitter post that has been submitted that was posted after the case had been brought to the attention of the police and there were criminal proceedings pending.
    “It was foolish of her to post that tweet in the way that she did.
    “It was notable that when I asked Ms Maclachlan to refer to Ms Wolf as ‘she’, she did so with bad grace – having asked her to do so she continued to refer to Ms Wolf as ‘he’ and ‘him'”.

  56. jazzlet says

    The way that Maclachlan’ supporters report that incident is a classic case of the use of language to portray her as far more vulnerable than she is in reality. For instance “60 year old grandmother” is factually correct, but omit that she is perfectly healthy and quite capable of attacking someone herself, or that she has made a practice of outing transwomen to rightwing groups, an activity which physically endangers those women.

    So genderskeptic, you can take your faux concern and stuff it up your arse.

  57. Porivil Sorrens says

    @62
    It’s more or less a complete misrepresentation of the context and power differentials involved.

    Might as well characterize the D-Day landings as “Brave patriotic soldiers fight foreign horde intent on destroying their way of life” or an anti-black lynching as “Local community punishes accused criminal”

  58. John Morales says

    genderskeptic @56, you obviously didn’t pay attention to PZ.
    “Here’s what really happened. An anti-transgender activist (TERF) who has never commented here before found a post he didn’t like, and started trolling the group with aggressive and fundamentally dishonest comments to stir up conflict.”

    I think the issue here is that John Morales was not banned after having “a chuckle” at the video of 3 trans activists beating up Skepticat.

    I wasn’t trolling, that’s why.

    Thing is, that scuffle at a protest was all built-up as some sort of vicious assault, then someone posted actual video of the incident. It utterly changed my perspective on the claims, for the better. Subliminal catharsis of the weak variety, perhaps.

    And, still, the desperate effort to characterise it as violence against women is unconvincing. And anything that follows from that is therefore also unconvincing.

    (But this was already hashed out in the other thread)

  59. Onamission5 says

    The other week I was at the DMV, and there was a line building at the door to the women’s restroom behind a couple pre teens who were, or so it sounded, amusing themselves via a lengthy period of splashing in the sink. The men’s room was unoccupied and had been for a while so I decided to go swing my secondary sex characteristics around in a designated men only space. I probably flashed, too, since it’s difficult to urinate without removing part of one’s clothing. Why, I even touched the facilities with my naked flesh! Cooties everywhere! Won’t anyone think of the poor men who only want to urinate in spaces which they can be assured have not been contaminated by gross lady cooties!
    Ahem.

    So far nobody has ever been able to explain to me how I, a cis woman, am protected by the act of barring my daughter and I from being able to try on clothes in the same part of a store, or from utilizing locked public stalls which are located in the same room. Nor have they explained how I’m safer because my kid got her tires slashed while on a road trip, or from her late partner’s family driving him to suicide by refusing to acknowledge his gender. Maybe gmcard will address those issues in this thread since zie totally ignored my #32 in the last.

  60. Onamission5 says

    Sorry, the first paragraph of my above is meant to demonstrate how ridiculous the arguments re: mandatory assigning of restrooms according to one’s AAB gender are, not to imply that I take remotely seriously the egregiously false claim that trans women are men.

  61. says

    Porivil Sorrens @59

    Yawn, not gonna shed any more tears for some fash terf getting bashed than I am for Richard Spencer getting decked. Cry me a goddamn river. If you’re going to go out to represent a hate group that attempts to deny basic civil rights to transgender people, be prepared to get your ass beat.

    Damn right. And I’d like to remind y’all that violence in defense of one’s self, or in defense of a party unable to defend themselves, in the face of imminent danger, is 100% ethical.

  62. John Morales says

    Mmmm. I think the physical attack at the person, rather than to wrest the camera, was counter-productive. Not just unlawful. And it was not imminent danger, either.
    And ultimately futile, except as a gesture.

    A gesture of frustrated defiance, perhaps. A momentary youthful burst of anger, probably. Poor impulse control, very probably.

    (But it was most certainly not “beaten up by three thugs” as most would envision that, and it wasn’t because she happened to be a woman, but rather despite that)

    In passing, it seems that Porivil has become notorious outside this blog.

    (Nice!)

  63. Porivil Sorrens says

    I noticed my name showing up a fair amount, but hey, if the awareness of people like me keeps them from showing up at their insipid little rallies, infamy among FARTs is a small price to pay

  64. Athaic says

    Apropos of caterpillar (re: #9 rpjohnston)

    When it metamorphed, it turned out to have wings of different sizes because they were mixed m/f.

    For anyone nearby, there is such a butterfly (or two) on display at Montréal’s Insectarium.
    (as pinned, dried husks, unfortunately. I would be very curious to watch one flies)

  65. says

    The way that Maclachlan’ supporters report that incident is a classic case of the use of language to portray her as far more vulnerable than she is in reality. For instance “60 year old grandmother” is factually correct, but omit that she is perfectly healthy and quite capable of attacking someone herself, or that she has made a practice of outing transwomen to rightwing groups, an activity which physically endangers those women.

    Crying “violence against women” is one of their favourite strategies, same as screaming “male entitlement” and “violation of women’s boundaries”.
    Last time I had an argument with a transphobe over Twitter, she was asked to please leave the conversation.
    At that point she went off how I was the one violating boundaries and showing my male entitlement, thinking that I had a right to be in that debate (like, my own Twitter timeline). You can read it up here

  66. says

    re: gmcard

    Obvious transphobia aside, I think it takes a special kind of strategic brain to read a posting about certain individuals being banned from a blog for X behavior and decide that the comments of that very post is the right place to start up the exact same assholery.

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