Biased sources, motivated reasoning, and blithe assumptions: the TERF story


This is quite possibly one of the more horrifying sentences I’ve read online lately.

Since my recent lunch with my friend Graham Linehan, I have been learning more about the issues of biological sex and socially-constructed gender.

Graham Linehan is, of course, a notorious TERF with an infamous reputation in the trans community. He is precisely the wrong person to give you an introduction to trans issues, and he doesn’t have any particular qualifications in either biology or sociology.

Now to compound the horror: the author if this ominous sentence is Michael Nugent, who proceeds to spew out thousands of words of centrist rubbish that ultimately all comes down on the side the TERFs. There ought to be segregated bathrooms for “biological women”, sports ought to be segregated for “biological women”, the “idea of socially constructed gender…reinforces false and harmful social stereotypes about sex”, etc., and he concludes with flattering words of praise for his personal friend, Graham Linehan, who is most definitely not a bigot.

I am not going to address most of it, because I think the perspective most needed here would be that of actual trans people, not another cis het man. It is intrinsically offensive that a couple of guys would meet for lunch and decide what should be done about the LGBTQs, and another guy chiming in doesn’t help matters. I will say that I, as a biologist, categorically reject his blatherings about “biological sex” and reinforcement of the binary myth.

Here’s the problem: yes, you can identify single parameters that allow one to sort of, roughly, split people into two boxes of your definition, male and female. You can declare that possession of a penis makes one male, and lack of one, female. Fine; we can sweep the rare intersexes under the rug (sorry, intersex individuals, I’m just saying where this approach leads us). Or we can say it’s the possession of a Y chromosome; you either have one or you don’t, therefore, we triumphantly crow, sex is clearly binary! (again, ignoring any complicating genetics). Or it’s testosterone levels. Or it’s thickness of the skull bones. Or it’s muscularity. Or it’s testicles. Or it’s subcutaneous fat distribution. Or it’s laryngeal cartilages. Or digit length. Or it’s…you get the idea. Sexual characters are complicated and diverse, and you can only maintain the illusion of a gender binary if you have tightly focused tunnel vision and demand that your two categories are defined by a single parameter. As you add more, as you recognize intermediate states, it all becomes a continuum, a regular smear where every individual has a different combination of attributes.

You can either recognize that every individual is unique and doesn’t neatly fit into your binary assumptions, or you can go reactionary and insist that your two boxes are real and everyone must go into one or the other, ignoring the fact that you’ve already got a heck of a lot of boxes and insisting that there are only two is delusional.

Here’s a good thread by @transadvocate that discusses the continuum — and the fact that feminists have been saying that this is the reality of sex and gender for a long time (the book mentioned looks very interesting, but they don’t give a specific citation — anyone know it?)

I know what “biological sex” is. If I go into the lab and want experimental animals to produce embryos for my research, I will identify a male with the capacity to produce sperm and a female with the capacity to produce eggs, and put them together and hope they procreate (they don’t always do so, because even animals vary in these primitive functions). This is the only sense in which “biological sex” is meaningful. In our fellow human beings, though, and also in our experimental animals if truth be told, “sex” is far more varied and complicated in its meanings, and insisting that people must fit into one reproductive role or another is crudely reductionist and grossly inappropriate. When you announce that I am a “biological male”, you are defining me by a biological function that I performed only three times in my entire life, and I think maybe I’ve done a few other things in my 62 years. So has everyone. Many people live their entire productive, happy, interesting lives without ever reproducing biologically. I guess if the TERFs have their way, that would mean they are biologically sexless.

Here’s another quote from the TERF conflicts in the 1970s, posted by @transadvocate. I like it.

You are not the box a repressive society wants to put you in. Biology is not destiny. Be free.

Comments

  1. JoeBuddha says

    Having seen first hand the amazing transformation that happens when someone finally expresses their true gender, I have to say these folx are bigoted asshats.

  2. thirdmill301 says

    I generally agree with much of what PZ says. I do think, however, that there is an outer limit on “you don’t define us, we define ourselves.” If I were to define myself as Julius Caesar, I would not be taken seriously, any more than Trump is taken seriously when he defines himself as a genius. At some level, definitions need to be objective or communication becomes impossible.

    That said, what someone objectively is (and whether that objective “is” does or does not correspond to how that person self-identifies) has little bearing on whether that someone should be treated with dignity and respect, a point most anti-trans bigots fail to grasp.

  3. consciousness razor says

    At some level, definitions need to be objective or communication becomes impossible.

    If it were impossible, so it really is true that assholes must shut the fuck up about my gender and what that supposedly entails, then I don’t think I’ll be terribly disappointed.
    How about you? In what circumstances do you really need to know my gender, without consulting me? Could you say anything intelligible about why you should care? What would this “communication” be for, if it were one of the possible things you could do? Is it so bad that you’d have to do something else?

  4. Allison says

    Lies and smears. Whether it’s anti-semitism, islamophobia, racism (regardless how you define “race”), misogyny, and now transphobia, it’s basically the same story: lies and smears “all the way down.”

    At some point, I can’t get outraged any more, I’m just tired. (I must be a masochist to even read articles like this.) Haters gonna hate, and I think most of them were around me when I was growing up, making my life Hell. Being surrounded by people who hate me for being whatever the heck I am (whether or not they or I even know what I am) is, for me, an old, old story. And compared with the big-time haters who have the power of the State behind them, the folks discussed in the OP are just mosquitos.

    In fact, I still have trouble coming to terms with the fact that I’m not going to get killed (literally or figuratively) for being a known trans person. I realize I’m very privileged to live in a part of the world where it’s not just safe but even acceptable to be trans. I still don’t know how to react when people who’ve been seeing me since before I transitioned smile at me, or someone at the bank tells me, “you seem so much happier now.” It’s hard to get used to not being hated on.

    I’m glad there are people out there like PZ and Brynn Tannehill and Julia Serano to fight the lies and smears, they fight the good fight. I’m afraid I’m just too old and tired to fight any more. Just living as an out trans woman (even in a relatively accepting environment) takes all I’ve got left.

    I’m not an SJW. But, if you like, I can bake cookies. (Cf. the Woodie Guthrie song, “The Ladies’ Auxiliary.”)

  5. thirdmill301 says

    consciousness razor, I don’t actually care what your gender is, and whatever it is, if you’re happy, I’m happy. I was speaking more broadly about taxonomy in general. There are times and circumstances under which law and public policy are required to classify things. For example, should anatomical males with higher testosterone levels be permitted to wipe out women’s sports records? Whatever your answer to that question may be, it will involve making a classification. Any rule making of any kind necessarily involves making classifications. And if you are the rule making authority for professional sports, then other people’s gender, and how gender is determined, becomes something that you have to take a position on.

    And your first sentence proves my point. When you refer to assholes (however you define them), if someone whom you define as an asshole comes along and says, “Well, I don’t self-identify as an asshole; I self-identify as a gracious, magnanimous and thoroughly decent human being,” then the two of you are at an impasse — unless, that is, we have an objective definition for asshole. Otherwise, he makes the same claim: that you don’t define him; he defines himself. (I’m intentionally using masculine language for a reason.) And which of you is right about his alleged assholery becomes nothing more than a matter of opinion.

  6. PaulBC says

    Am I missing something, or are we talking about two men who believe it is their business to decide who’s allowed to go into the women’s restroom?

  7. Rowan vet-tech says

    Thirdmill, your OH! So Concerned! has already come to bite your ‘anatomical women’ with higher testosterone than the average in the butt so you can take your OH! So Concerned! and shove it up your preferred orifice.

  8. garnetstar says

    Just as an aside, bigots do know that there are trans men out there, don’t they? Also, non-binary people? The bigots seem to almost exclusively focus their animus and fear on trans women. Is that because anyone who was “born” (that’s how they say “identified at birth”) male is far more important than the underclass who were identified as female? That trans women are, like, letting down the “male” side in some way?

    Personally, I am checking my list of things to worry about for where having to know anyone’s “biological sex” falls. Oh yes, there it is, right after “invasion of space aliens from Jupiter.”

  9. PaulBC says

    Though I’m sure PZ is aware of this, I don’t think it’s common knowledge that a Y chromosome is far from dispositive. A woman with Swyer syndrome is anatomically indistinguishable from other women, though infertile. There are some differences, and some health risks, but they’re in the range of other women with endocrine issues that affect the onset of puberty. Yes, it’s rare (1 in 80,000). With egg donation, some have gone through successful pregnancy.

    Before karyotyping, nobody would have raised the slightest doubt about the sex of XY women (and today presumably even a total gender bigot would acquiesce in a case like this). The focus on chromosomes is a clear case of mistaking the map for the territory.

  10. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    thirdmill301,
    So, are you saying that our definitions of things that are inherently subjective must be objective? Shall we define the color blue in a restrictive fashion purely in terms of wavelengths of light? Shall we define race in an inflexible manner? Are we to go to someone and tell them that their current emotional state is not in fact, “sadness,” because it lacks 3 of the characteristics in the definition?

    The facts of the situation are that “high-testosterone” females are not in fact tearing up the record books for women’s sport; that we can in fact measure testosterone levels; and that one’s testosterone levels do not necessarily correlate with whether one “feels” masculine or feminine.

    So, basically, I’d say: “Call me if this ever becomes an actual problem.”

  11. thirdmill301 says

    Rowan, No. 7, did you miss the part where I explicitly did not take a position on womens sports; I said I was using it as an example of the need for classification? Please take your abyssmal reading comprehension and stick it up your own preferred orifice, sideways and with no lubricant.

    Ray in Dilbert Space, No. 10, I wouldn’t say nothing is subjective or that everything must be objective. I would say that if you are defining the color blue, or race, or an emotional state, you are defining it within a specific context and context matters, and what is blue in one context may not be in another. But even factoring that in, most of the time there will be objectivity even within a specific context. What is objectively clear is that a color with the wavelength for red is not blue, even if it’s not always crystal clear where blue begins and ends.

  12. says

    There’s always one. Every time trans issues come up here, there’s gotta be one guy who shows up in the comments and starts spouting obtuse conventions that completely ignore the reality.

    Thirdmill, out. Just stay out of threads about trans topics now and forevermore, or your ass will be banned.

  13. PaulBC says

    I’m not sure there is a “need” for classification in athletic competition. It presupposes the “need” to resolve winners and losers in entirely arbitrary activities. I realize this is important to a lot of people, but it makes about as much sense to me as religion. I also think that the organizations who manage these sports are entirely capable of working out appropriate classifications themselves even if they have to restructure them to avoid mention of presumed biological sex.

    There’s actually a bigger case to be made for something like girl’s softball because a lot of girls may be more comfortable with other girls as teammates (I’ve been involved as a parent, so I see this). The social aspect is more to the point than trying to compensate for pitching speed, etc. I’m divided on that, but it seems pragmatic and not intended to discriminate. Some girls play in mixed little league teams. It seems rare for a boy to want to join a girls softball team, but maybe there are some things than can be left to discretion at the most local level.

    There will never be a color-blind, sex-blind, etc. society. The question is whether these distinctions are used in a discriminatory fashion.

  14. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Completely off topic, but interesting. As I implied above, there is more to color than a wavelength. A spinning black and white wheel can give rise to an impression of color.

    The gemstone alexandrite is both red/purple and green/blue depending on whether it is viewed in white incandescent light or sunlight:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysoberyl#/media/File:Alexandrite_26.75cts.jpg
    There are tourmaline gemstones where the color may be red/pink or green, depending on very subtle rotations of the stone.

    And there are some cultures where some of the colors we take for granted don’t exist–blue is just a shade of green, for instance.

    The point is that even for something as seemingly straightforward as color, there is a great deal of subjectivity. How much more subjectivity should we expect for something as complex as human sexuality?

    If you go out and look for problems, you’ll find them. Even if the problems don’t exist in nature (e.g. bathrooms or sports), you can always create them.

  15. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    @15 Exactly. Edwin Land did some really wonderful research on the perception of color.

  16. Zeppelin says

    @garnetstar: I’d say the imbalance in fear/outrage exists because transphobia is an extension of sexism.
    Men are considered superior to women, so “a woman wanting to be like a man” (as trans men are perceived) makes some sense to a sexist. They don’t threaten the gender hierarchy as much because they’re seen as in some sense aspirational. Social climbers who acknowledge that masculinity is better than femininity.
    Whereas “a man wanting to be like a woman” is deliberately debasing himself, making himself inferior. So yeah, trans women are seen as letting the “male” side down by betraying their own masculinity. Since being a woman is worse than being a man, a “man who wants to be like a woman” must be deranged and/or sexually perverted.
    Homophobia works the same way, which is why male homosexuality is traditionally treated far more harshly under the law than female homosexuality.

  17. Jazzlet says

    PZ the thread from @transadvocate isn’t showing up for me, I don’t know if others are seeing it.

  18. Zeppelin says

    Yeah, I’m not sure why we need sex or gender segregation in sports. The objective is to find out who can run the fastest (or whatever), right? So what if the ten absolute fastest runners do end up being “””biological men”””? We can still check the records to see who the ten fastest “””biological women””” are, if we want to know.
    The fundamental problem clearly isn’t the unfairness of making someone compete against people who have innate physical advantages over them, or else we’d have basketball leagues segregated by height. Are we just worried that the hypercompetitive sort of person who becomes a professional athlete can’t stomach the idea of never getting to be at the tippy-top of the podium if an (on average) higher-performing demographic is allowed to compete against them?

  19. Sastra says

    garnetstar #8 wrote:

    The bigots seem to almost exclusively focus their animus and fear on trans women.

    Gender critical feminists have focused though on the sharply increasing amount of young lesbians deciding to transition to male. They don’t hate or fear these individuals, however, so maybe that wouldn’t count with you as bigotry. They’re worried about internalized misogyny, and health concerns.

    As for sports, trans men who join men’s sports teams lack the competitive advantage. Sports teams are segregated by sex for biological reasons.

  20. anat says

    garnestar @8, Zeppelin @17:

    There are also plenty of transphobic incidents involving transgender boys, for instance wrt using the boys’ restroom at school, notably the case of Gavin Grimm.

  21. says

    Sastra

    Gender critical feminists have focused though on the sharply increasing amount of young lesbians deciding to transition to male. They don’t hate or fear these individuals, however, so maybe that wouldn’t count with you as bigotry. They’re worried about internalized misogyny, and health concerns.

    The fuck they are, because if they were, they’d worry about the biggest health risk for trans people and that is suicide. Somebody’s got to have their head firmly up their ass to believe that trans men choose “the easy way out” into a life full of male heterosexual privilege. The fascinating thing about these people is, that they firmly see those trans men as women and then go on “oh no, dear, you really don’t know who you are, let us tell you who you really are. We cannot let you make decisions about your own body because you are too stupid to know what you are doing. ” Which is of course what cis men have been doing to cis women for millennia, but I guess the irony is lost here.

    +++
    As for bathrooms, during our holiday my little one remarked “I don’t understand why we have boys and girls bathrooms anyway. They’ve got stalls and locks!”
    Personally I want bathrooms segregated into “people who pee standing” and “people who pee sitting”

  22. microraptor says

    I’d like it if bathrooms were segregated into “people who can use a bathroom without making a mess everywhere” and “people who can’t.”

  23. chigau (違う) says

    Everyone should sit when peeing in plumbing.
    If you want to pee standing up, go outside and find a tree.

  24. says

    PaulBC @#13

    There’s actually a bigger case to be made for something like girl’s softball because a lot of girls may be more comfortable with other girls as teammates (I’ve been involved as a parent, so I see this).

    There are also some non-cis people who are effectively banned from doing any sports at all just because being lumped together with whatever gender feels uncomfortable for them.

    I am female assigned at birth, but I identify as agender. I prefer to live as a guy. I’m not taking testosterone, hence I cannot visually pass for a guy.

    I am not athletic at all. Whatever sports I do are purely for the sake of keeping my body in at least semi-decent physical shape. I’m not interested in competing anywhere.

    —I cannot do any team sports at all. Those are strictly gendered.

    —I cannot go swimming, because I don’t want to wear female swimwear, and I’m legally obliged to cover up my chest, I cannot just wear male swimming trunks in public places.

    —Even group training that’s non gender-segregated is a pain and forces me to make hard choices. I love martial arts, I have spent years attending Krav Maga lessons. Even though lessons are for mixed gender groups, I still run into problems:

    1) Before and after each lesson I must enter a women’s dressing room. I feel very uncomfortable in female-only spaces. I must change my clothes quickly in order to limit the amount of time I am forced to stay in a room where I don’t want to be.

    2) Martial arts trainers have a tendency to treat male and female students differently. Most of the practice is done in pairs, and my last trainer always paired women with women. Thus I got to practice with a guy only when the amount of women in the room was an odd number.

    My trainer also told women to do different things than what he told guys to do. Women were told to do less push-ups than men. Occasionally women were completely excluded from exercises deemed “too brutal.” It’s true that I’m in a bad enough shape, and I cannot do that many push-ups anyway. But I hated being excluded from exercises that I could have done. The very reason why I went to Krav Maga lessons was because I loved “brutal stuff.” People hitting each other, hell yes, count me in. Besides, I attended these lessons with a group of average people. It’s not like every guy was young and muscular. Unlike I, the fat dude who also was in a shitty physical shape and couldn’t do that many push-ups either was treated as a man by the trainer. Of course, I can ask the trainer to respect my gender identity and treat me as a guy. Assuming I get lucky with a trans-friendly trainer, I still have the job to convince all the guys in the room to take me seriously and hit me for real during all the exercises. And that’s no easy feat.

    Thus for me attending Krav Maga lessons was a cost/benefit tradeoff. I could go to the training and endure all the instances of getting treated as a woman. Or I could stay at home in my safe bubble of carefully curated experiences that doesn’t remind me of my gender dysphoria.

    But I do need physical exercises. What am I left with? Only the sports I can do alone and on my own. I can try cycling for my commutes. I can go to the nearest park and run there. I can swim in nudist beaches only (no dress codes there). My choices for things I can do in order to stay fit are severely limited.

    Sastra @#20

    Gender critical feminists have focused though on the sharply increasing amount of young lesbians deciding to transition to male.

    What about trans men who are sexually attracted to men?

  25. nomdeplume says

    @25 chigau “Everyone should sit when peeing in plumbing” – um, you obviously don’t have an old man’s prostate…

  26. Sastra says

    Andreas Avester #28 wrote:

    What about trans men who are sexually attracted to men?

    Yes, they write about that also, though for different reasons.
    My understanding is that trans men who are attracted to men may consider themselves gay, but gay men are generally uninterested. Straight men are more apt to find them sexually desirable. Same for trans women attracted to women. Is this also your understanding?

  27. says

    Sastra @#28

    My understanding is that trans men who are attracted to men may consider themselves gay, but gay men are generally uninterested. Straight men are more apt to find them sexually desirable. Same for trans women attracted to women. Is this also your understanding?

    It depends on how the trans man’s body looks like.

    I’m not taking hormones, nor have I had any surgeries (only because transphobic doctors keep kicking me out of their offices), thus I cannot visually pass for a guy. My only dating options are straight men and lesbians.

    Trans men who take testosterone and have had surgeries tend have a better luck with gay men and straight women. (At least that’s what I have heard from those trans guys I know.) Although dating is a huge pain when being trans, so the best bet are always bisexual partners.

    A trans man who has had a top surgery and is taking hormones looks like a regular guy from the waist up. Theoretically phalloplasty surgeries are possible, but they sort of suck. Plastic surgeons cannot create a penis that’s identical to a natural one. Therefore plenty of trans guys skip this surgery. I can only hope that in the future plastic surgery options for trans guys will improve.

  28. anat says

    Andreas Avester @26: Regarding swimwear, I just found https://www.thelingerieaddict.com/2015/03/trans-swimwear-part-two-trans-men.html – might be useful. (Unfortunately when I looked there was an Amazon ad with transphobic content.)

    I don’t know how many martial arts programs are available where you are, maybe try looking around for other instructors or other forms of martial arts? A female co-worker of mine does pretty brutal kick-boxing. Before he started transitioning my son did karate in a mixed-gender setting. Many of the students preferred to come already wearing their uniforms from home so changing was avoided.

    Also, regarding changing rooms, many facilities have some non-gendered options, whether intended for parents with a child of different gender of for disabled people with assistants of a different gender – you might be able to use something like that.

    Also, what I see around here is many community-based sports in games that are not official – I see groups meeting at playgrounds having a lot of fun and burning a lot of energy, but I wouldn’t know what the games they are playing might be called. I suppose they find each other through things like Meetup.

  29. says

    @Sastra #20

    If they are transitioning (unless they identify as gender neutral/genderqueer/agender) then they are men and therefore are not lesbians. Nothing to worry about. This could only be a concern if they are invalidating the existence of trans men.

    As for health concerns trans men have had hormones and transition treatments for years and they are largely safe. But I doubt you are referring to teaching them about the proper use of binders etc.

  30. specialffrog says

    @Sastra: I’m sure many of the people expressing concern that lesbians are become trans men would have been expressing concern about strait women becoming lesbians not that long ago.

  31. says

    @Sastra #28

    Have any data to back that up? Also it has no relevance to an individual’s identity who happens to find them attractive. Dating sites for gay men have a noticeable number of gay men asking for no Asians, no blacks. etc. This does not invalidate Asian or black gay men it just means those excluding them are bigots. Same for not accepting trans men/trans women.

  32. Sastra says

    @anna#31:
    I wasn’t making the case; I was pointing out that gender-critical feminists don’t just focus exclusively on trans women.

    @specialfrog #32:

    Well, not the lesbians, certainly. Nor likely the feminists. You’re talking about two different groups, I think.

    @anna #33:
    Homosexuality has to do with same-sex attraction, not gender.

  33. says

    @Sastra
    My comment is still relevant. A person’s attraction makes no difference to the existence of the person they are not attracted to.

    You bring up sports, who isn’t attracted to trans people, etc. What point exactly is it you are trying to make?

  34. John Morales says

    Heads up about your terminology, Sastra:

    Online roots of the term TERF originated in the late 2000s but grew out of 1970s radical feminist circles after it became apparent that there needed to be a term to separate radical feminists who support trans women and those who don’t. Many anti-trans feminists today claim it’s a slur, despite what many see as an accurate description of their beliefs. They now prefer to call themselves “gender critical,” a euphemism akin to white supremacists calling themselves “race realists.”

    [From a timely article on Vox, my emphasis]

    (https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/9/5/20840101/terfs-radical-feminists-gender-critical)

  35. Sastra says

    @anna #36:

    I was trying to address garnetstar #8’s hypothesis that “ bigots” focus only on trans men because they believe men are more important than women and thus “becoming a woman” is seen as a step down. I’m not sure who’s being included in that group, but the OP mentioned “terfs” and, assuming that means or includes gender-critical feminists, they don’t just focus on trans men. Or believe the second part.

    And of course people exist regardless of who finds them attractive. That’s an odd point to make. If personal preferences had that kind of magic, Trump would have disappeared with a ‘pop’ a long time ago. I probably misunderstand you, though.

  36. says

    @Sastra

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt but you seem to be asking a lot of questions and bringing up points that are used to be trans antagonistic. The who is attracted to who thing in particular seemed very problematic and I would like to see data before someone makes blanket assertions that gay men aren’t generally attracted to trans men (who are also in fact gay men if they are attracted to men) etc. As a trans women who is married to a women that gets my back up.

  37. microraptor says

    thirdmill @34: You’re not adding any dynamic to any conversation. You’re bringing up off-topic whatabouts and ignoring any evidence that doesn’t fit your argument.

  38. specialffrog says

    @Sastra: why are these lesbians and / or feminists comfortable using warmed-over anti-gay arguments and making common cause with religious fundamentalists?

  39. maeve57 says

    Sorry if this has been covered before, I’m still new and trying to learn.
    PZ, if binary biological sex is a myth, then why do you refer to spiders as either male or female? If biological sex is only meaningful for reproductive purposes, then why refer to spiders in the binary male/female way at all? I’m trying to understand the nuances.

  40. Sastra says

    @anna #39:
    I think I read about a study re the majority of gay and lesbian preferences excluding trans gender, but can’t remember where I saw it, so … no data. Sorry. Is “ the cotton ceiling” a common phrase/complaint in the trans community? I don’t know, but if so that assumes they’re being excluded.

  41. says

    @maeve57:

    Because if you are a dictatorial overlord who controls where other beings go and what other beings do and you’re interested controlled breeding of your controlled population, then the fact that some spiders produce sperm and some spiders produce eggs is relevant to your master control plans. You’re not valuing the males more than the females. You’re not saying that no variation exists or that spiders that are neither male nor female are an irrelevant myth or that their lives are best ignored. You’re simply controlling your population of underbeings in a practical and convenient way.

    Now, as it turns out, humans have treated other humans in the same way many times over the ages. However, it turns out that the human experience of having your existence denied is quite different than the spider experience of that. Moreover, when humans have done it, they generally do make value judgements preferring male over female. And it is when you perform these value judgements that it becomes relevant to ask, “Why?” You value men because they are better at carrying your cotton bales? Okay, maybe sorta on average, I guess I wouldn’t really know, but if you’re interested in cotton carrying, why don’t you just test people for their ability to carry cotton and not for their ability to produce eggs? In this case, it becomes vital to point out that variance in traits and abilities is a real thing, and that relying on the ability to extend your urinary meatus several inches from your torso as a proxy test for ability to run a fortune 500 corporation is just plain stupid.

    Yes, if you want sperm producers separated out for some reason, maybe to run experiments on sperm ejaculation and how quickly afterward the sperm producer is beheaded and eaten by a mate, then creating an operational definition of “male” as “sperm producers” for the purpose of your scientific investigation can be useful. However, biologists are perfectly well aware that we adopt operational definitions specifically because traits (phenotypes) are graded, complicated, and messy in real life. It is non-biologists who seem to want to cling to the belief that we can decide what is “really” male and “really” female and, worse, that once we do get it really right for really realzies, THEN we can finally start generalizing like crazy to other traits.

    It doesn’t work like that.

    And yet there are far too many people who think that it should work like that, who think that it’s okay if there’s a supreme overlord separating humans into binary boxes because the only problem is that sometimes humans make a mistake as to which box is truly appropriate for which human, but once we get just the RIGHT overlord, then everything will be fine. Humans can just go about their segregated way trusting some central authority to know their lives better than they themselves do, and thus make important decisions on their behalf.

    That’s the difference between being an arachnologist and being a cissexist fucktwaddle. One uses limited, specific traits like sperm production or egg production to make decisions that require that information and only impose them on non-humans. The other uses limited, specific traits like urethra length in centimeters and uses it to make decisions about who can be trusted to safely pee in the next stall over, and then imposes those decisions on other human beings.

  42. says

    @Sastra, #43:

    Is “ the cotton ceiling” a common phrase/complaint in the trans community? I don’t know, but if so that assumes they’re being excluded.

    If people are going to talk about the cotton ceiling, I’d just like to head some things off at the pass.

    If you read that, Sastra, you’ll find that a significant part of what the cotton ceiling metaphor tells us is that sexual attraction is complicated and that some relevant portion of people who turn trans* folks down for dates or decline to invite trans* people on dates when they otherwise might are actually avoiding dates with trans* persons not because of a lack of attraction, but because of community dynamics that tend to retaliate against persons who choose to date trans* folk.

    So I don’t think it says exactly what you were thinking, assuming I correctly understand your thinking.

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pervertjustice/2019/07/27/cotton-ceiling/

  43. PaulBC says

    PZ, if binary biological sex is a myth, then why do you refer to spiders as either male or female?

    I realize this was directed to PZ, but it is simple enough, that I’ll give it a go as a non-biologist.

    The idea that people are born with two kidneys is a “myth”. In fact about 1 in 500 people have a single horseshoe kidney which in many cases is asymptomatic and would never be noticed except when investigating some other condition. Yet even nephrologists say things like “your kidneys” as if they were always plural.

    The idea that people develop from a single zygote is a “myth”. Actually in exceptionally rare cases a human may be the result of chimerism and develop from more than one zygote (it’s more common in some other animals). Yet we refer to “your chromosomes” and “your genes” as if it was determined by a single zygote. Well, usually it is.

    And, you know, there are examples outside of biology. i might want to classify your dwelling as detached, duplex, or apartment, (and maybe a few others) but I could probably find someone who lives in a house that is really hard to classify.

    We have words to describe broad categories and these provide a simplified model of reality. The model is useful. The model is not reality. The map is not the territory.

    This is simply not a difficult concept unless one is so concerned with shoehorning everything into a category that it seems preferable to willfully ignore reality in order to avoid breaking the categories.

  44. says

    @Sastra, #35:

    Well, not the lesbians, certainly. Nor likely the feminists. You’re talking about two different groups, I think.

    Are you kidding? Are you telling me that you’ve never heard of the Lavender Menace?

    Of COURSE there were tons of feminists who ranted like the bigots they were when confronted with the reality that their organizations and their communities and :gasp: even their children included previously unsuspected queerbos.

    Of COURSE there were closeted lesbians who went along with that trend, reacting with horror at someone who actually acted on desires that they had convinced themselves were sins. That’s how heterosexism works.

    To suggest that lesbians and/or feminists couldn’t possibly have wished queer girls were growing up straight instead is to engage in the most silly and obvious denial of reality since … oh, wait. Trump is president. Let’s just say it’s a silly and obvious denial of reality and leave it at that.

  45. Silentbob says

    @ 20 Sastra

    Gender critical feminists have focused though on the sharply increasing amount of young lesbians deciding to transition to male. They don’t hate or fear these individuals, however, so maybe that wouldn’t count with you as bigotry. They’re worried about internalized misogyny, and health concerns.

    By sheer coincidence I was reading a trans man write about the “gender critical” (a euphemism for transphobic) trope that trans men are really “lesbians” just this morning:

    There is another aspect to the way transphobes treat trans men which is altogether more uncomfortable, and that is what I like to call the “butch lesbian fallacy”. There is an idea, in transphobic circles, that trans men are all confused butch lesbians. How this works varies from circle to circle. Some think we are “self-hating butch lesbians”, who simply need to be reassured that it’s okay to be a butch lesbian (which, of course it is! Butch lesbians are amazing! It’s just not for me – because I’m a man), and that if we could “accept” that we’re butch lesbians we would somehow “revert” back to being a cis person. On the other hand, some think we “would have been butch lesbians” but were forced into being trans, either by our parents, our friends, or some mysterious transgender cabal (I don’t think I need to point out that this is a ludicrous idea – nobody is forcing cis people to become trans, this rhetoric is a ridiculous attempt at fearmongering using the exact blueprints of the historic Gay Scare).

    [… ]

    At the heart of all of this is a desire among transphobes to control trans men. They obsess over our surgeries, our ages, and our presentations. The prospect of a trans man exercising his right to bodily autonomy horrifies them. They speak of trans men as “girls” even when we’re well into our twenties, and even beyond, and if they are older than us, or parents, they use age and/or motherhood as a form of rank – “I know better than you” – to silence us, belittle us, and undermine us – even as we speak about our own lives and experiences.  Transphobes wish to sensationalise our experiences, to make other trans men too scared to come out, or transition. They speak of “testosterone poisoning” (having normal male levels of testosterone in our bodies and maybe growing facial hair), of “mutilation” of “hacking off healthy body tissue” – they care more about the sexist ideal of the perfect untouched female form, than about the people whose bodies they actually are.

    Transphobes desperately want trans men to think they are on our side. But they are not. To transphobes, a well informed, successful, confident trans man is a problem that rocks the very core of their ideology – that all “trans issues” are just entitled overly sexualised creepy men attempting to appropriate womanhood to the detriment of “real women”. Simply by existing, trans men, form a hole in this ideological framework they can never close. This is why they try so hard to convert us. To undermine our voices and experiences. To make us seem silly, childish, brainwashed, or uninformed. We are a problem.

    You should read the whole thing. The gist is that, yes, transphobic feminists’ “concern” for trans men is indeed bigoted.

  46. says

    So, Thirdmill’s not welcome here anymore, but I have to call out this:

    At some level, definitions need to be objective or communication becomes impossible.

    No. Just absolutely no. At some level, definitions need to be mutually understood or communication becomes impossible. There is no “level” of communication in which pointing two fingers, curling two fingers, and extending a thumb upward creates a “gun”.

    And yet when volunteering at an event for kids with disabilities visiting OMSI together way back in 1991 or so, I watched two kids play at shooting each other. One kid decided to use both hands to pretend-shoot at another child who had only one. “No fair! You can’t have two guns!” the second child called.

    There were not two guns. Objectively speaking, there were not any guns. And yet… communication happened! It’s a miracle!

    As long as definitions aren’t hidden, as long as everyone has a chance to learn and understand what someone else is saying, then communication is completely, easily possible even where differences as to definitions exist and there is no objective way to determine which definition is “correct”. Indeed this pathological need to insist on objectively correct definitions in a world of messy multi-lateral communication is a significant problem in its own right.

  47. Sastra says

    Crip Dyke #47 wrote:

    To suggest that lesbians and/or feminists couldn’t possibly have wished queer girls were growing up straight instead is to engage in the most silly and obvious denial of reality…

    Your link doesn’t support this.

    Friedan, and some other heterosexual feminists, worried that the association ( with lesbians) would hamstring feminists’ ability to achieve serious political change, and that stereotypes of “mannish” and “man-hating” lesbians would provide an easy way to dismiss the movement.

    That’s not being afraid that girls or women would become lesbian, per se, it’s about tactics. It was wrong, of course, but not the same thing.

  48. Sastra says

    @SilentBob #46:
    garnetstar had claimed that “bigots” focused only on trans women. You agree with me that no — they also focus on trans men.

  49. Silentbob says

    @ 35 Sastra

    Homosexuality has to do with same-sex attraction, not gender.

    Of all the posts on which to make this silly claim, you make it on a post about how sex is not a single objective property.

    I think the claim that these people (trans women) are more likely to be attractive to androphiles than gynephiles, and these people (trans men) are more likely to attractive to gynephiles than androphiles, is absurd on it’s face.

  50. says

    @Sastra:
    The link to wiki’s article about the Lavender Menace was for general educational purposes, but also to prove that heterosexism has existed – widely and for a long time – within feminist movements and the thoughts and words of individual feminists. But mostly it was because you seem to be deeply ignorant of the hostility towards queer women that has existed within feminism in the recent past. I’m actually kind of shocked by it. I would have assumed you knew all this and maybe had a bad moment at the keyboard, but this?

    That’s not being afraid that girls or women would become lesbian, per se, it’s about tactics.

    No. It’s not about tactics. It’s about excluding a group of people because their existence is inconvenient for the privileged. It’s about oppression not tactics.

    Do you still cling to your implicit assertion that feminists never worried that their daughters might be lesbian because feminism somehow magically cured them of the same exclusionary hostility that was being practiced by prominent feminist leaders?

    Do you still cling to your overt assertion that lesbians never thought it would be better for lesbians to grow up straight? Because I know a fuckton of queer women who actually thought that about themselves. The idea that no lesbian ever thought it would be better to grow up straight is so ignorant it’s laughable.

    I didn’t realize the claim needed specific support – again, because I thought you knew this shit – but if you like there’s always actual research performed by actual experts in the field, like Wendy Rosen who describes the straight mother/lesbian daughter conflict as “inevitable”:

    Barbara’s mother will unavoidably miss the cues regarding her daughter’s sexuality, in general, and her lesbianism, in particular, throughout Barbara’s development. She will be, of necessity, selectively inattentive, and thus remain minimally attuned to the emotional manifestations of Barbara’s evolving sexuality. She will be unable to serve as an empathic resource for her daughter in this aspect of her growth.
    It is essential to note that the reverse is also true; that is, Barbara unavoidably will fail her mother empathically. As a lesbian, and thus as a woman who, of developmental necessity, claims active rights to and ownership of her own sexuality, Barbara is a living representation of her mother’s culturally determined failure in her role and the task assigned to that role. By not moving in the direction of heterosexuality and marriage to a man, and further, by evolving sexually in the absence of a man as the active catalyst of her flourishing sexuality, Barbara is defying the cultural prescription for a woman. She is not providing a comfortable “fit” with her mother’s requirements toward the cultural dictates for homeostasis. This creates friction and forestalls empathic resonance with the mother’s evolving needs as a heterosexual woman and mother in a sexist and heterosexist culture.

    It’s important to note that there’s no particular immunity granted by feminism against this dynamic. Just as we wouldn’t EXPECT leading feminists to toss lesbian feminists overboard for challenging restrictive stereotypes of women, we might not EXPECT feminist mothers to react with panic and denial to learning a daughter is queer, and yet – just like leading feminists in 1970 rejected the queer and lesbian feminists of their day, everyday feminists can and do reject their daughters. The reasons are complex, but some people have studied them and you can certainly read entire books on the subject if you choose. In the meantime, I continue to assert that feminist mothers of the past have indeed rejected their lesbian daughters, including wishing them straight as a form of that rejection. I don’t have a handy source right now, but other queer women have specifically told me that this happened to them and, as we know feminists aren’t immune to heterosexism, I have no idea why you would deny this has happened.

  51. says

    @Sastra:

    garnetstar had claimed that “bigots” focused only on trans women. You agree with me that no — they also focus on trans men.

    Do they? The fact that they mention trans* men is not equivalent to focussing on trans* men.

    Do you have any evidence that they focus on trans* men? Or, hell, that they “focus on” trans women? What does focus on mean in this context? Does it have to be 51% of their public writing? Do we get to exclude non-activist writing that is technically public, like, say, on facebook?

    I think the more reasonable interpretation is that this is a statement about the focus of such persons when they choose to address trans* issues. If that’s the case, then this is a relative statement and it would be impossible for it to be true about both trans* women and trans* men.

    But moreover, what Garnetstar said was this:

    The bigots seem to almost exclusively focus their animus and fear on trans women.

    If they do not “fear” trans* men, if they do not “focus their animus” on trans* men, then Garnetstar’s statement would appear to be true, given that the context makes clear that the “them” is anti-trans bigots and thus we’re talking about their cissexism, not their entire lives (in which “focussing” on trans* people at all might be said to be untrue since they almost certainly sleep more than they actively “focus animus” on anyone at all).

    Of course, I don’t spend time cataloguing all the anti-trans words written by cissexists around the globe, so I don’t actually have an indexed word count that determines the “focus” of the total animus is directed at any particular sub-segment of trans* persons.

    It’s certainly my impression that the focus is on AMAB trans* persons (which is probably what is meant by “trans* women” even though not all MtF trans* persons would identify as women), but, sorrowfully, I cannot prove it.

    Nonetheless, I think it’s pretty easy to show that not only do you not have any “proof” that the focus of animus actually falls on AFAB trans* persons, but that in this particular context your assertion that the focus of animus is on both AMAB and AFAB trans* persons is a nonsensical misunderstanding of the very nature of what is being asserted here: this is a comparative, and thus it would be impossible for the answer to be “both”. The best case for your argument would be that the answer might be “neither”.

  52. maeve57 says

    @PaulBC 45

    I’m trying to make sure I understand your argument. Are you saying that categorizing anything is a “myth” as long as there are exceptions to the categories, no matter how rare? If that’s true, then would you agree it’s wrong to categorize a spider as either “male” or “female”?

    Assuming PZ is right (and he usually is) and sex is a “continuum, a regular smear where every individual has a different combination of attributes,” and assuming this is true of humans and other animals alike, then why categorize anything, spiders included, as either binary sex?

  53. says

    @maeve:

    why categorize anything, spiders included, as either binary sex?

    Are you simply ignoring what I wrote? He is using a specific operational definition for a specific purpose, to which the traits cited in assigning spiders to groups are actually relevant. If you want successful spider mating, you put sperm-producing spiders in with egg-producing spiders. If it’s economically inefficient or technically infeasible to do a specific test for motile spider-sperm or fertile spider-eggs, you might use other characteristics as a proxy for separation in order to gain the greatest likelihood of successful mating for the least cost, but you don’t pretend that the proxy for the trait is the trait. Pretending the map is the territory is mythopoetic. Writing up a description of an experiment in which you assigned some number of spiders to the category “male” and put them in to mate with spiders assigned to the category “female” is a good description of what was actually done in the course of the experiment. That’s honesty, not myth making. I’m surprised you can’t tell the difference.

    And so, “why categorize anything,” turns out to be easily answerable and has nothing to do with self-deception or myth making.

    PZ categorizes his spiders because that categorization increases the number of spider embryos produced more than any other embryo-increasing strategy requiring similar investments of time and money.

  54. Silentbob says

    OP:

    (the book mentioned looks very interesting, but they don’t give a specific citation – anyone know it?)

    All is revealed:

    Adams Rib by Ruth Hershberger, 1948. It was republished in 1970.

    Amazon.

  55. John Morales says

    CD,

    It’s certainly my impression that the focus is on AMAB trans* persons […]

    Mine too.

    (Currently, formalised sports. Previously, bathrooms and prisons. Desperate for a wedge issue)

  56. says

    I was trying to address garnetstar #8’s hypothesis that “ bigots” focus only on trans men because they believe men are more important than women and thus “becoming a woman” is seen as a step down. I’m not sure who’s being included in that group, but the OP mentioned “terfs” and, assuming that means or includes gender-critical feminists, they don’t just focus on trans men. Or believe the second part.

    Is it just me or is Sastra constantly misgendering trans people. First by claiming that trans men are lesbians and now using trans men in a context that only makes sense if you talk about trans women.
    maeve
    Language is not reality. It’s a way to describe it. In everyday conversation we often work with imperfect and loose definitions and thus have to constantly clear up misunderstandings. In specific contexts people need very restrictive definitions, which is why many scientific papers start explaining their terminology, which might use a word differently than everyday use or even than a different paper does.
    To go back to Paul’s examples: standing in front of it, you’d call my house “semi-detached”, as it shares a wall with the next house. Yet, for official purposes, it’s a detached house since the shared wall does not reach a certain percentage of the total walls.

  57. says

    Silentbob @#48

    Thanks for the link. That was an excellent and well-written article.

    The gist is that, yes, transphobic feminists’ “concern” for trans men is indeed bigoted.

    Yep, it’s the exact same problem for me. The so called “concern” for my health is just patronizing and bigotry. I despise this kind of attitude so immensely. If some person hates me so badly, I’d refer them to at least be honest about it.

    I have written about my own (very similar) experiences here:

    https://andreasavester.com/my-country-wants-me-to-suffer-for-my-own-benefit/
    and
    https://andreasavester.com/dont-patronize-the-minorities/

  58. Sastra says

    @Giliell #59:
    Oops, I made a mistake there — I wrote “trans men” when I meant to write “trans women.” Mea culpa.

  59. says

    As far as spiders go I would assume we lack the evidence to know if there’s such a thing as a trans spider. Certainly the spiders have no way to communicate with us whether gender dysphoria is something they experience.

  60. bryanfeir says

    My personal suspicion is that the basis for the focus on trans women, especially with the pair in the OP, is that it falls into the patriarchal take that they are protecting ‘real women’ from people ‘pretending’ to be women. This is the core of the whole bathroom panic, which I have never seen focused in the other direction.

    It’s not so much about whether the people are ‘transitioning up’ or ‘betraying masculinity’ so much as it is about having the cover of being able to pretend they are doing this for women’s sake.

  61. latsot says

    Oh PZ. Your argument is bursting with straw and puts words in mouths that have never been there. You wouldn’t put up with such arguments in any other domain, I can’t understand why you do it here. It’s embarrassing.

    If you care to read you will notice that “TERFs” as you call them are for the most part not dismissive of trans people or their rights. Gender critical feminists are concerned about the female spaces and sports they spent decades fighting for being invaded by people who say that they are women. They are not, for the most part, dismissive or hateful of trans people, as far as I can tell. You willfully ignore the cases where men might – and have – deliberately invaded women’s spaces in order to cause them harm. You haven’t, for example, written about trans women who have raped women in women’s prisons. No True Trans Woman, I guess?

    You ignore the cases where men who haven’t been very successful at their sport have switched to women’s sport and done well, pushing women out of consideration for places in teams. I don’t understand why you don’t see this as unfair.

    That’s a concept we can and should argue about but your rhetoric is “STFU TERF” rather than trying to understand where an already marginalised half of everyone – who you occasionally purport to side with – stands.

    Do what you pretend to do, PZ: listen to women as well as trans women. Learn from both. Stop being a fucking idiot.

  62. says

    brianfeir

    My personal suspicion is that the basis for the focus on trans women, especially with the pair in the OP, is that it falls into the patriarchal take that they are protecting ‘real women’ from people ‘pretending’ to be women.

    It connects neatly with white supremacy and how it constantly constructs womanhood along very narrow lines, where the “real women” are suspiciously white.
    Look at how their tearing into Caster Semenya (who is, funny enough, the very kind of butch lesbian they’re claiming to protect) or the Chinese athletes in the OP. In my experience, ” gender critical” or “gender free” (their newest fad) people are those who most strictly and viciously police women’s bodies and appearances, down to shit you cannot even control like their jaws and height.

  63. Kreator says

    @bryanfeir, Giliell:
    Then, minutes after the post, latsot comes @#64 and provides direct evidence. How timely!

  64. says

    @latsot,

    You haven’t, for example, written about trans women who have raped women in women’s prisons.

    Because it does not happen that often to warrant any extra policy.

    I know of only one case of this happening and TERFs like you won’t shut up about it ever since. You may not realize it, but you essentially imply that cis women raping other women in prisons does not happen or it is not a problem. Because it does happen and it is a problem. In rape, the problem is the presence of a rapist, not their gender or sex. Even in that one case, it was the failure of a system that has put a known abuser in a cell with another person, not because the abuser just happened to be trans.

    Nobody claims that trans people cannot be assholes. The claim is that you cannot condemn them to second-class citizenship because of some carefully sought out assholes among them.

    You ignore the cases where men who haven’t been very successful at their sport have switched to women’s sport and done well, pushing women out of consideration for places in teams.

    There is no widespread invasion of women’s sports by trans women. Trans women have not taken over at the top echelons of any sport, anywhere. What you are essentially saying is that some trans women somewhere are sometimes successful at what they do. And how is that a problem?

    It seems that TERFs would only accept trans women as women only if they remain socially invisible and trans women athletes must always be worse at sports than 100% of cis women athletes in 100% of competitions. One trans woman winning some obscure cycling competition one time after a few years of not-winning is enough for the likes of you to scream bloody murder.

    And to use the same tactic you are engaging in on you:
    You seem not to write about the cases when trans women are raped in prisons because they are forced into men’s spaces. You seem not to write about how some trans men dominate women’s sports because they cannot compete with other men.

    Do what you pretend to do, latsot: listen to women as well as trans women. Learn from both. Stop being a fucking idiot.

  65. Curious Digressions says

    Assuming for the sake of argument, that a trans* person ticked all of the required boxes required by a specific definition for their “real gender”^, but claimed that they were, in fact, “the opposite gender”^, the gender critical^* arguments still don’t make sense.

    The issue of trans* takeover of professional athletics is a canard. Professional athletes comprise such a tiny portion of humanity, that deciding social policy for their sake is ridiculous. Looking at peak performers from any gender isn’t a good representation of the ability of all people of a similar gender. It simply isn’t happening en masse. Come back with that one when there are more than 5 instances in all professional sports in a year.

    The problem of forcing medical transition on children is also a canard. IF this is happening, it should be dealt with as individual cases of medical malpractice. Responsible physicians will not force gender reassignment surgery or hormone therapy on prepubescent children. Prescribing puberty delaying medication is NOT the same as medication that facilitates transitioning. Puberty blockers are used to treat a variety of medical issues, some of which are innate to childhood.^^^

    Crying about trans women invading spaces for “real women”^ is disingenuous. It rests on the implied assumption that trans women are necessarily more dangerous than other women. Clearly this is bigoted.

    Am I using this correctly? Professor Google appears to have some conflicting information on whether or not it is appropriate in all cases, some cases, or no cases.

    ^ – As defined by TERFs

    ^* – TERFs, TERFs, TERFs. Or FARTs.

    ^^^https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonadotropin-releasing_hormone_agonist

  66. Curious Digressions says

    Am I using this correctly? Professor Google appears to have some conflicting information on whether or not it is appropriate in all cases, some cases, or no cases.</i?

    “This” being the * following “trans*”.

  67. bryanfeir says

    @Curious Digressions:
    Not an expert, but my understanding is that it’s a matter of some debate within the community.

    The take I’ve heard most agreement on is ‘trans man’ or ‘trans woman’ (or ‘trans person’ for both): the idea being that ‘trans’ should be kept as a separate adjective to try and put more focus on the ‘person’ part.

    If there were a good construction along the lines of ‘person of colour’, that would likely be preferred by many due to the improved focus on ‘person’, but I don’t know of one.

  68. anat says

    bryanfeir @63: Bathroom panic goes both ways, at least where it comes to schools. I already referenced the case of Gavin Grimm in my #21. There was also that kid that had a principal(?) or other high ranking school official demand that he use a urinal in front of him to be allowed to be in the boys’ bathroom.

  69. PaulBC says

    maeve57@54

    Assuming PZ is right (and he usually is) and sex is a “continuum, a regular smear where every individual has a different combination of attributes,” and assuming this is true of humans and other animals alike, then why categorize anything, spiders included, as either binary sex?

    Because it’s often a useful shorthand. When it’s harmful, as evidenced by a person who can explain how it causes them harm, it ceases to be useful.

    Again, this is not complicated unless the categories are more important to you than the reality.

  70. says

    @Curious Digressions:

    Here’s a discussion of the asterisk sometimes used following the adjective trans.

    Although I think that there are still good reasons to use transsexual separately from transgender, different communities have different ideas about whether it’s acceptable for transsexual folk to be treated as a subset of transgender folk. If you think this is acceptable, then there’s a decent chance that the asterisk holds no value for you. If you think it isn’t acceptable, then it does have value.

    Me, I think at this point it’s more about usefulness than acceptability. Reminding people that, yes, there’s a difference between the perspective of people with body dysmorphia is different from the perspective of people without it, that does have value. And yet, it’s very useful to speak of a unified transsexual + transgender community (indeed these communities are much more unified than they were in the 1990s when the asterisk first came into use). “Trans*” allows you to both at one time. Other formulations either elide the differences (and the hard-fought accomplishments over the last decades in creating a more unified community out of what was once much more separate and hostile communities) or are simply much more cumbersome.

    Choose the asterisk or no asterisk, neither way is going to offend anyone.

  71. marinerachel says

    I’ve never encountered a “TERF” who believed the things being attributed to them in this thread or by transadvocate on Twitter and I know a lot of people who have been labelled TERFs by one segment of the population. This is just slimey.

  72. John Morales says

    marinerachel, really?

    I quote three such things as expressed in the OP: “[1] There ought to be segregated bathrooms for “biological women”, [2] sports ought to be segregated for “biological women”, [3] the “idea of socially constructed gender…reinforces false and harmful social stereotypes about sex””.

    So, you seriously claim not to have have met anyone who believes any of those things and has been (ahem) labelled a TERF.

    I don’t believe you.

  73. says

    latsot

    If you care to read you will notice that “TERFs” as you call them are for the most part not dismissive of trans people or their rights.

    Except, of course, of the right to live their lives as their actual gender, accessing things like healthcare, shelter and fucking toilets.

    Gender critical feminists are concerned about the female spaces and sports they spent decades fighting for being invaded by people who say that they are women. They are not, for the most part, dismissive or hateful of trans people, as far as I can tell. You willfully ignore the cases where men might – and have – deliberately invaded women’s spaces in order to cause them harm. You haven’t, for example, written about trans women who have raped women in women’s prisons. No True Trans Woman, I guess?

    You really need to decide whether those people who did horrible things are trans women or men. Oh, wait, you actually think that trans women are men, don’t you? So much for respecting trans people. For your “argument”: trans women who rape others are rapists. They aren’t rapists ’cause they’re trans any more than black men who rape are rapists because they’re black. Or are you seriously going to claim that no cis woman has ever raped another woman, especially not in a place as inhumane and dysfunctional as a prison. Though, since you just sort of claimed that “men invade people’s spaces to rape them by going to prison” I wouldn’t be surprised.

    You ignore the cases where men who haven’t been very successful at their sport have switched to women’s sport and done well, pushing women out of consideration for places in teams.

    I haven’t yet seen this happening, though I honestly don’t follow sports much. I’m sure you can provide evidence? What I have seen is the policing of women’s bodies as in the case of Caster Semenya, a cis woman who is now, ironically considered a female athlete in all disciplines except the one where she was winning medals.

    Also, quite frankly, professional sports is pretty low on my list of concerns. There’s open war on reproductive rights, fascism is rearing its ugly head, climate change is in full force, hitting women especially hard. When it comes to protecting women and children, the fairy tales spun about “parental alienation” are gaining more and more track, putting the lives of women and children who are fleeing violence at risk. Even if everything “gender critical feminists” said was true, the effects would pale in comparison to what is happening, yet they keep spending all their energy on fighting trans women, making it necessary for us to spend part of our energy protecting trans people. But the connections between the “gender critical people” and the christian far right are well demonstrated, so forgive me for no longer seeing them as “misguided”.

  74. Porivil Sorrens says

    Lol we’re getting raided by Ophelia Benson posters. Go back to your containment site and circlejerk about trans women in sports more, assholes.

  75. Silentbob says

    Giliell @ 76

    You willfully ignore the cases where men might – and have – deliberately invaded women’s spaces in order to cause them harm. You haven’t, for example, written about trans women who have raped women in women’s prisons. No True Trans Woman, I guess?

    You really need to decide whether those people who did horrible things are trans women or men. Oh, wait, you actually think that trans women are men, don’t you? So much for respecting trans people. For your “argument”: trans women who rape others are rapists. They aren’t rapists ’cause they’re trans any more than black men who rape are rapists because they’re black. Or are you seriously going to claim that no cis woman has ever raped another woman, especially not in a place as inhumane and dysfunctional as a prison.

    I want to expand on this, probably against my better judgement.

    latsot refers to “trans women who have raped women in women’s prisons”. As far as I’m aware this has never happened. lastsot is probably thinking of TERF propaganda which heavily features the case of “Karen White”, a rapist who claimed a transgender identity and sexually assaulted other inmates. The details of these assaults as reported in the media (which is all we’ve got) were:

    Prosecutor Miss Charlotte Dangerfield told the court White first struck in New Hall in September last year.
    She said of the victim: “The defendant would stand very close to her, touch her arm and wink at her.
    “Her penis was erect and sticking out of the top of her trousers.”
    The second allegation dates from September 26 last year when allegedly White struck up a conversation with another inmate.
    “She made inappropriate comments about oral sex, which made the complainant feel sick,” said Miss Dangerfield.
    “She took hold of the complainant’s hand and put it on the defendant’s left breast – she could feel her padded bra.”
    On a third occasion on October 5, White again made inappropriate comments about oral sex to another prisoner, a court heard.
    “She gave her a bear hug and the defendant pushed her hips towards her with such force that the complainant could feel his penis,” said Miss Dangerfield.
    She said the fellow inmate felt sick.
    Exactly a month later, White is accused of kissing another inmate on the neck.

    So not rape. I want to be very clear: my point is not to minimise what happened – all sexual assault including unwanted hugging and kissing is wrong. My point is that TERFs lie about what happened because they are motivated by a desire to demonise trans people as much as possible.

    The statistics are that one in five women in prison are sexually assaulted my another inmate. Do we think such assaults might include such things as unwanted hugging and kissing and lewd comments about oral sex? I think so. So why the obsessive focus on “Karen White” as though what she did would never happen unless a trans woman were present? Because of transphobic bigotry, that’s why.

    Once more with feeling – I am not in any way excusing the behaviour of “Karen White” – I am pointing out how that case has been weaponised by TERFs wanting to irrationally demonise all transgender people.

  76. says

    Wow cool these two are totally unbiased commenters with good faith arguments and not sealioning dipshits from a TERF blog

    No, really, nothing to see there. Did they also dismiss gay people who are afraid that they might die because medical providers might refuse them service? Or the cis women who are afraid to die because catholic hospitals deny them life saving abortions? Really, nothing but love and respect for trans people there.
    Just like those who will deny me the right to bodily autonomy in the name of “loving both”.
    And here we have Sastra trying to pose as a reasonable person who just represents the other arguments and who assures us that nothing could be further from the truth than claiming that “they” (i.e. she and her friends) don’t respect trans people while simultaneously claiming that trans people are just delusional like people who believe in gods because there is just the material reality of bodies (always forgetting about the brain part of the body). Funny thing, I don’t talk very differently here than I do in other places, my opinions and positions are very much on my sleeve. Sounds kind of dishonest to me to do otherwise…

  77. Silentbob says

    also Giliell @ 76

    You ignore the cases where men who haven’t been very successful at their sport have switched to women’s sport and done well, pushing women out of consideration for places in teams.

    I haven’t yet seen this happening, though I honestly don’t follow sports much. I’m sure you can provide evidence?

    Rachel McKinnon – a favourite whipping girl of TERFs because she’s a successful trans athlete – has a standing challenge to any cis person who wants to prove how easy it is change genders and win all the medals. No takers yet. Weird. Here’s your opportunity latsot! Transition and show us how easy it is!

  78. Sastra says

    Giliell #80 wrote

    And here we have Sastra …claiming that trans people are just delusional like people who believe in gods because there is just the material reality of bodies (always forgetting about the brain part of the body

    I’m not sure where you’re getting this.

    Funny thing, I don’t talk very differently here than I do in other places, my opinions and positions are very much on my sleeve. Sounds kind of dishonest to me to do otherwise…

    More a matter of choosing to address only a particular portion of a larger issue, I think. Of course, I didn’t address it very well because it’s all eventually connected to the other claims and assumptions and trying to keep a contribution small will look like ( or end up being) a sad case of avoiding the issue. I apologize for that.

    Though at the same time nobody seems particularly happy when the contributions have been larger. It’s not so much “ooh goody, a debate!” as “omg here they come again why can’t they stfu?” So I think if you really want me to say more you should ask me a very simple question so I can say “Well, Giliell started it.”

    Or maybe the thread’s too old.

  79. curbyrdogma says

    …or perhaps marinerachel knows better than to make a priority of expending too much time on posters who make a habit of gaslighting, logical fallacies and other playground tactics. So, “drive by” is the appropriate gesture towards an unreasonable mob who prefers flinging insults and playing ersatz Psychic Friends to actual, well-reasoned arguments. People also have lives to live, so take note that it’s not always All About You…

    Some examples, to wit:

    “Crying about trans women invading spaces for ‘real women’ is disingenuous. It rests on the implied assumption that trans women are necessarily more dangerous than other women. Clearly this is bigoted.” A lot of conjecture and implied mind-reading here. Clearly you have no clue as to what it’s like to be a biological women. Despite what you’d like to believe, NOBODY can read minds. There is an ‘implied assumption’ that everyone should know the ‘trans’ individual on a personal level. In fact, women are taught from childhood to avoid strangers, especially men — the operative word here being “stranger”. Why do you think bathrooms and other intimate spaces are sex-segregated to begin with? (And that’s not to say that I don’t think transwomen should be allowed to use women’s bathrooms, but your attempting to speak for others IS disingenuous).

    “We’re being raided by Ophelia Benson posters” Do you believe ‘Ophelia Benson’ is the sole originator of whatever ideas are being expressed?

    “You really need to decide whether those people who did horrible things are trans women or men. Oh, wait, you actually think that trans women are men, don’t you?” …Can we all say, CIRCULAR ARGUMENT, kids?

    “… So why the obsessive focus on ‘Karen White’ as though what she did would never happen unless a trans woman were present?” I believe this is known as a “Whataboutism” “… Because of transphobic bigotry, that’s why.” Or it could be about reality: the fact that men are typically many times stronger than women, can get women pregnant, etc. Tell us, why are prisons sex-segregated again?

    “Did they also dismiss gay people who are afraid that they might die because medical providers might refuse them service?” Did YOU also dismiss [a slippery slope conjecture that suggests you are totally callous and completely oblivious to the real concerns of biological women]? Can we evade the issue by making strawman conjectures about your thoughts and opinions?

    “TERF, TERF, TERF, FART…”. Namecalling and labels? Two can play at that… what dismissive label should you be called? “Opposite Day Adventists”? “The She-men Women Haters Club?” “Selfish Transactivists Uttering Patently Irrational Demands”? LOL

    “Sealioning”? So let’s talk about sea lions, shall we? I propose that sea lions, otters and the like be reclassified as Amphibians. …Because lifestyle apparently supersedes “material essentialism” with regard to biological classification! What say you?

    Do a Google image search of King Louis XIV. Aristocratic men of past centuries certainly enjoyed looking glamorous if they didn’t have to plow the fields, didn’t they? Look up “maned lionesses of Botswana” and tell us: why do scientists still refer to them as “females”, not “males”?

    Apparently some people cannot tell the difference between style and substance; confusing “masculine and feminine” with “male and female”. Why is that concept so pervasively complicated for people to understand? No one (including “TERFs”) is saying that the sexes must conform to stereotypes. …Indeed, anyone who has studied gender issues understands that gender stereotypes are often social constructs, and anyone who has studied biology and evolution at length) understands that sexual dimorphism is largely the result of natural selection, and secondary sex characteristics aren’t necessarily set in stone, especially when they aren’t being strictly selected for.

    Certainly, there are issues with not conforming to society’s stereotypes, as society prefers streamlined and expedient ways to identify and communicate. But your hasty proposals have the potential to create real issues for biological women* (cough cough “Jessica” Yaniv), and the fact that you are dismissing their concerns and refusing to acknowledge anything but Absolutely Only Your Own Way indicates you have no interest in coming to the negotiating table and trying to find more mature and constructive ways to resolve the situation, that all parties involved can feel comfortable with. How selfish and self-centered.

    (*Especially in lieu of the recent assaults on women’s reproductive rights, where abortion is denied even in cases of rape).

  80. says

    Sastra

    People know their gender the same way people know God. There is no debate, on that issue or anything touching it. God is foundational to reality. Atheists are defined/ described as Anti-God rebels. All true discussion can only take place using this vocabulary. An unrepentant Rebel, however, would only engage with those who accept God in order to attack the natural order in general and harm people in particular. Now throw in poisonous analogies, that the Rebels may understand we’re on to them.

    Does this ring a bell or was that a different Sastra who wrote it?

  81. consciousness razor says

    curbyrdogma:
    Please learn to use blockquotes. They are very easy.

    Why do you think bathrooms and other intimate spaces are sex-segregated to begin with?

    Sexism and a mix of other puritanical ideas. (You presumably mean public ones, where it’s actually true that they’re often segregated, in certain places and in recent history.)
    But wait… was that supposed to be a rhetorical question? You apparently had a different explanation, although you don’t clearly say what it’s supposed to be. At any rate, there may be several, and you shouldn’t ignore the others.

    Can we all say, CIRCULAR ARGUMENT, kids?

    Consistency can look like circularity, if you’re the one who’s confused, dishonest, etc. But consistency is nothing to complain about.
    You may be the one assuming your conclusion here. I don’t see any evidence, or even a hint of an argument which gestures at possible evidence, so that may very well be the case.

    I propose that sea lions, otters and the like be reclassified as Amphibians. …Because lifestyle apparently supersedes “material essentialism” with regard to biological classification! What say you?

    I don’t think that will be useful in biology.
    However, biologists have had no reason at all to ask sea mammals about their evolution, taxonomy, and so on. We at least can’t understand their responses (if they could even give them), and they don’t appear to know anything relevant about the subject anyway.
    Human beings do know many things about themselves (like their gender identity) and can report them to you. Disregarding useful evidence like that (when it’s available) is not standard scientific practice. It’s more like standard creationist practice, or that of climate change denialists, for another example. If that’s not the kind of thing you’re proposing, then it isn’t clear what you are proposing.
    So we have an entirely coherent approach on the one hand, and your approach which is at best mysterious on the other. At this somewhat high level of abstraction, I don’t have trouble deciding which type of approach is more rational, better supported empirically, less riddled with dubious assumptions and silly analogies … which one is generally more appropriate, useful, and so forth. One important principle here is pretty easy to identify: you shouldn’t just toss out data for no good reason. Did you think that you should be able to do that?

    Do a Google image search of King Louis XIV.

    As if that would get us anywhere. Your idea of what’s “constructive” (see below) is beyond weird.

    No one (including “TERFs”) is saying that the sexes must conform to stereotypes.

    False.

    Indeed, anyone who has studied gender issues understands that gender stereotypes are often social constructs, and anyone who has studied biology and evolution at length) understands understands that sexual dimorphism is largely the result of natural selection, and secondary sex characteristics aren’t necessarily set in stone, especially when they aren’t being strictly selected for.

    It sounds like you know that there are other people in the world, who don’t fit this description. Also, even if that were literally “no one,” it’s a non sequitur, because that doesn’t entail what people must think about conforming to stereotypes.

    But your hasty proposals have the potential to create real issues for biological women* (cough cough “Jessica” Yaniv), and the fact that you are dismissing their concerns and refusing to acknowledge anything but Absolutely Only Your Own Way indicates you have no interest in coming to the negotiating table and trying to find more mature and constructive ways to resolve the situation, that all parties involved can feel comfortable with. How selfish and self-centered.

    Do you really consider this crap mature and constructive negotiation, that all parties can feel comfortable with?
    Is it okay for you to simply be upset sometimes and say whatever is on your mind? Is that okay for others?

  82. Sastra says

    @Giliell #85;
    Yes, I wrote that on another blog — I thought you were somehow getting it from something I wrote on this post.
    That particular quote wasn’t making the point “ trans people are delusional like people who believe in gods;” iirc I was trying to say something about how presuppositional framing makes it impossible for someone who dissents to find common ground.

  83. says

    Yes, Sastra, you were totally not comparing trans people to religious people. No, not at all. But yes, trans folks are not obliged to debate their own existence with you like debating the existence of gods. Btw, what’s material reality for being gay? There’s obviously nothing in the physical body if we exclude the brain, right? I mean, people know their own sexuality the way the know god, right?

  84. Porivil Sorrens says

    @84

    “We’re being raided by Ophelia Benson posters” Do you believe ‘Ophelia Benson’ is the sole originator of whatever ideas are being expressed?

    Of course not, dipshit. The two people who are being talked about are long time Ophelia Benson commentators.

    Oh, also, because there are TERFs here – please die in a fire. You will have a much better impact on society dead than alive.

  85. Sastra says

    @Giliell:
    I’ve never denied that trans folk exists, nor that they believe what they profess to believe, nor that they prefer what they profess to prefer. Same with gay people. And the beliefs and preferences of individuals would be physically grounded in their individual brains, which is part of the body. I’m not sure why you’re separating them.

  86. says

    Sorry, I just had to laugh at this bit by curbyrdogma

    Indeed, anyone who has studied gender issues understands that gender stereotypes are often social constructs

    Then, of course, there’s this:

    let’s talk about sea lions, shall we? I propose that sea lions, otters and the like be reclassified as Amphibians. …Because lifestyle apparently supersedes “material essentialism” with regard to biological classification! What say you?

    This is curbyrdogma‘s giant gotcha of reductio ad absurdum, and yet…? Cladistically speaking, we are very probably amphibians, no more and no less than sea lions, otters, tuatara, eagles, and stegosaurs. Behaviorally speaking, sea lions and otters are amphibious though neither humans nor eagles nor stegosaurs are (I don’t know about tuatara).

    This is yet another example of an anti-trans* argument that relies on nothing more than the assertion that words only ever have one true, prescriptive definition and that they are the ones enlightened enough to know that definition while all other definitions are “materially” wrong.

    It’s sad, really, that “the dictionary said so, if you ignore definitions 1, 3, 4, and 6” is so frequently the best that they can come up with. It’s even sadder when, “Words mean just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less,” is the argument of someone naming themselves “curbyrdogma”.

  87. says

    So let’s talk about sea lions, shall we? I propose that sea lions, otters and the like be reclassified as Amphibians. …Because lifestyle apparently supersedes “material essentialism” with regard to biological classification! What say you?

    Speaking of classification…from Londa Schiebinger’s 1993 Nature’s Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science (Chapter 1, “The Private Lives of Plants,” and Chapter 2, “Why Mammals Are Called Mammals”):

    One might argue that Linnaeus based his system on sexual difference because he was one of the first to recognize the biological importance of sexual reproduction in plants. For this reason, he considered the stamens and pistils “the very essence of the flower.” But the success of Linnaeus’s system did not rest on the fact that it was “natural,” that it captured true affinities between organisms. Indeed, Linnaeus readily acknowledged that it was highly artificial. Though focused on reproductive organs, his system did not capture fundamental sexual functions. Rather, it focused on purely morphological features (that is, the number and mode of unions) – exactly those characteristics of the male and female organs least important for their sexual function.

    In view of this, it is striking that Linnaeus chose to highlight the sexual parts of plants at all. Furthermore,… Linnaeus gave male parts priority in determining the status of the organism in the plant kingdom. There is no empirical justification for this outcome; Linnaeus simply brought traditional notions of gender hierarchy whole cloth into science. He read nature through the lens of social relations in such a way that the new language of botany incorporated fundamental aspects of the social world as much as those of the natural world. Although today Linnaeus’s classification of groups above the rank of genus has been abandoned, his binomial system of nomenclature remains, together with many of his genera and species.

    Interest in plant sexuality in the early eighteenth century focused on male parts; the identity and nature of female parts went uncontested….

    Most flowers, however, are hermaphroditic with both male and female organs in the same individual. As one eighteenth-century botanist put it, there are two sexes, but three kinds of flowers: male, female, and hermaphrodites or, as they were sometimes called, androgynes. While eighteenth-century botanists enthusiastically embraced sexual dimorphism, conceiving of plants as hermaphroditic was more difficult: they could not or would not recognize an unfamiliar sexual type….

    Though eighteenth-century botanists were correct to recognize that many plants do reproduce sexually, they gave undue primacy to sexual reproduction and heterosexuality. Linnaeus was so taken with heterosexual coupling that he attributed this form of reproduction to his Cryptogamia (“plants that marry secretly,” by which he meant ferns, mooses, algae, and fungi) – organisms that display little fixed sexuality let alone long-term relationships….

    …Not only were his plants sexed, but they actually became human; more specifically, they became husbands and wives….

    …Linnaeus saw plants as having sex, in the fullest sense of the term. For him, sexuality in plants was romantic, erotic, sometimes illicit, and sometimes the sanctified expression of love between husband and wife.

    It was, therefore, not by chance or genius alone that Linnaeus’s system gained such currency in the eighteenth century, amidst upheavals surrounding the nature and definition of sexuality and sexual roles in that century. Linnaeus focused on sexuality as his principal taxonomic division because he saw the sex organs as the most important organs of the plant…. The new botanical sciences thus went hand in hand with the making and remaking of sexuality in the Enlightenment. Sexual images were prominent in botanists’ language at the same time that botanical taxonomy recapitulated the most prominent and contested aspects of European sexual hierarchy.

    In 1758…Carolus Linnaeus introduced the term Mammalia into zoological taxonomy. Linnaeus devised this term – meaning literally “of the breast” – to distinguish the class of animals embracing humans, apes, ungulates, sloths, sea cows, elephants, bats, and all other organisms with hair, three ear bones, and a four-chambered heart. In so doing, he idolized the female mammae as the icon of that class.

    …Linnaeus’s nomenclature is taken more or less for granted as part of his foundational work in zoology. No one has grappled with the social origins or consequences of the term Mammalia. Certainly, no one has questioned the gender politics informing Linnaeus’s choice of this term.

    It is also possible, however, to see the Linnaean coinage as political act. The presence of milk-producing mammae is, after all, but one characteristic of mammals, as was commonly known to eighteenth-century European naturalists. Furthermore, the mammae are “functional” in only half of this group of animals (the females) and, among those, for a relatively short period of time (during lactation) or not at all. As we shall see, Linnaeus could indeed have chosen a more gender-neutral term, such as Aurecaviga (the hollow-eared ones) or Pilosa (the hairy ones, although as we will see in chapter 4, the significance given hair, and especially beards, was also saturated with gender).

    …Linnaeus could have derived a term from a number of equally unique, and perhaps more universal, characteristics of the class he designated mammals.

    To appreciate more fully the meaning of Linnaeus’s term requires a foray into the cultural history of the breast…. Linnaeus venerated the maternal breast at a time when doctors and politicians had begun to extol the virtues of mother’s milk (Linnaeus was a practicing physician and the father of seven children)…. Linnaeus was involved in the struggle against wet-nursing, a struggle that emerged alongside and in step with political realignments undermining women’s public power and attaching a new value to women’s domestic roles. Understood in broadest terms, the scientific fascination with the female breast helped to buttress the sexual division of labor in European society by emphasizing how natural it was for females – both human and nonhuman – to suckle and rear their own children.

  88. Porivil Sorrens says

    Dear lord the vile shit these morons are posting about on their TERF hangouts makes me sick. Long screeds about how young kids are “getting their dicks chopped off” or about how transgender beliefs are just coordinated attempts to eliminate lesbians from existence.

    I reiterate, if you are a TERF, please remove yourself from the world in whatever way is most expedient in your current circumstances. I guarantee you that no one will miss your vile fucking rhetoric.

  89. Porivil Sorrens says

    @95
    Don’t give a shit if it’s helping. I’m not here to do activism. It is nonetheless true that the world would be better and safer if every TERF died.

  90. says

    Sastra

    I’ve never denied that trans folk exists, nor that they believe what they profess to believe, nor that they prefer what they profess to prefer.

    That’s quite a sentence. So you don’t think that trans people are liars, but you also think that their belief is similar to a belief in a deity. Also, I don#t actually separate body and mind. It#s people who insist that the junk between your legs is the one and only deciding factor. who do that.

    Porivil Sorrens
    That’s fucking over the top.

  91. Porivil Sorrens says

    @98
    Still don’t give a shit, it’s true. Less TERFs equals less people spreading violent transphobic bullshit.

  92. says

    @Porivil Sorrens, if you are not interested in helping, maybe you should consider not doing damage either, and shut the fuck up.
    Wishing people to “die in a fire” and “remove yourself from the world” is not cool and it is the exact sort of thing that lends itself to being propagandized by TERFs and other reactionaries for painting the SJW as unreasonable and aggressive. Especially since this very thread shows how readily they spin and propagandize even well-reasoned and formulated opposition.
    I understand that you might be passionate about the fair treatment of trans people. So am I. So are most regulars here.
    But suggesting that people should commit suicide is just vile and not only not helping, but harmful.

  93. Porivil Sorrens says

    @100
    Nah don’t care.

    It was good when the Nazis died, and it’d be equally as good if the TERFs died.

    It’s actually a very good and cool thing when regressive bigots die, and if they do it to themselves, hey, they managed to do at least one good thing in their lives.

  94. says

    There’s at least one trans woman here telling you that you’re not helping. You’re either interested in making the world a better place for trans people in which case you listen to them, or you’re interested in your own self righteousness in which case nobody should listen to you.

  95. Porivil Sorrens says

    @102
    Cool, I’m also trans. Regardless, how I feel on the matter isn’t based on group consensus. Even if I was the only person in the world who thought so, it is nonetheless true that the world would be a better place if every TERF walked into traffic.

    Which, by the way, they should do. Any violence against TERFs is awesome and deserved, but it’s even better when they kill themselves.

  96. says

    Giliell @#102

    You’re either interested in making the world a better place for trans people in which case you listen to them, or you’re interested in your own self righteousness in which case nobody should listen to you.

    It’s more complicated. Getting patronized and dismissed by TERFs hurts. There are multiple ways how a trans person can respond to transphobic rhetoric. Some people get depressed and experience self-loathing. I, on the other hand, tend to direct my negative emotions outwards—I get angry and feel hatred towards the transphobes. Calling them in nasty names helps me vent that anger. Sure, if I try hard enough, I’m capable of staying calm and polite while talking with a transphobe. But that requires conscious effort for me. Of course, I understand how being rude towards a person who is already hostile towards me only escalates the problem. I know that it doesn’t help to change their mind. But simultaneously I also do not want to be polite towards a person who dismisses my words and perceives me as delusional. I have wished for all the transphobic rhetoric to simply disappear from this world. If that happened, my life would be much easier and nicer. I wouldn’t tell somebody to commit a suicide, because personally I am not THAT rude towards anybody (never mind the splash damage such words would cause due to suicide being a problem in itself). But the fantasy of all the transphobes disappearing does seem appealing for me.

    Note: what I wrote here is purely about how I feel about this subject. I do not know anything about Porivil Sorrens and I have no idea whether their feelings towards transphobes are in any way similar to mine nor can I know their reasoning for writing what they wrote.

  97. Porivil Sorrens says

    @107
    You’re pretty much on the money vis a vis why I feel the way I do. A net decrease in the amount of living transphobes would tangibly make the world a better and safer place. The exact mechanism isn’t particularly important – I just think it’s poetic and neat when bigots do it to themselves, ala Hitler being the person who killed Hitler.

    Also, hi people hatereading this from butterfliesandwheels. Locate your nearest plastic bag and tape it around your head. Nature will do the rest.

  98. Rob Grigjanis says

    Porivil Sorrens @108:

    A net decrease in the amount of living transphobes would tangibly make the world a better and safer place.

    Sure. Also (with some overlap between groups) sociopaths, Republicans, misogynists, homophobes, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, religious fundamentalists, ideologues of all stripes, libertarians, etc. What would the body count be to achieve your better, safer world? Do you think airing your nasty little adolescent fantasies actually gets us closer to the goal?

  99. Porivil Sorrens says

    @109

    What would the body count be to achieve your better, safer world?

    Idk the sum total of all the members of the groups you decide. I’ll take just like, one at a time, though.

    Do you think airing your nasty little adolescent fantasies actually gets us closer to the goal?

    Nope. As mentioned, I’m not here to do activism.

    Anyways, back to the topic: Hey TERFs, do you own drain cleaner? Please, do not hesitate to chug it.

  100. says

    Humans aren’t…landmines. A net decrease in the number of landmines is good, because they’re landmines and can’t be anything else. Transphobes, misogynists, racists,…aren’t things. They’re human beings who choose in each moment to continue to hold that attitude and to act on it, and could choose to do differently in the next moment. Many people have come to this very blog with horrific ideas, saying terrible things, and changed completely over time. Everyone? No. But many people.

  101. Porivil Sorrens says

    @111
    Nah. TERF lives lose value the second they become one. The only good TERF is a dead TERF, and the only moral TERF is one that commits suicide.

  102. Porivil Sorrens says

    @113
    Yeah I did. I don’t give a shit if a TERF might someday change their mind for the better. Their lives lost all value once they became TERFs.

    @114
    Hey BaW poster. I see you and your little TERF buddies ranting about how trans people are all autogynephiles and how they’re trying to corrupt kids by idk giving them reversible ways to assuage their dysphoria. Kill yourself.

  103. John Morales says

    Porivil, at least you’re honest. I prefer that to the mealy-mouthed platitudes of self-proclaimed do-gooders.

  104. Kreator says

    I hate TERFs too, I really do (and I submit as evidence: one of my posts in Pharyngula being criticized in Butterflies and Wheels), but having a history of suicidal ideations that go back to childhood (thankfully kept in check with support, therapy and medication) I can’t endorse telling people to kill themselves for any reason. I’ve seen this routine by Porivil Sorrens go unopposed many times in the past but I didn’t complain because I’m a nobody and I didn’t want to “rock the boat” so to speak, preferring instead to avoid reading threads with this person’s participation altogether (this one was doing fine for a couple of days before they showed up), but now that I finally see that some people are pushing back I’m glad to be able to join the choir. If this isn’t a bannable offense, I don’t know what is.

  105. Porivil Sorrens says

    Oh no, I’m telling bigots to kill themselves. Next I’ll be implying that it was good when Hitler died!11!! Oh the humanity.

    If PZ wants to do something about it, that’s his prerogative, but I’m not going to pretend that TERFs are anything but human garbage that would make the world a better place by not existing just because it makes you all uncomfortable. I’ll start caring about TERFs lives when they stop driving trans kids to killing themselves and promoting bigotry.

  106. says

    Porivil Sorrens

    I’ll start caring about TERFs lives when they stop driving trans kids to killing themselves and promoting bigotry.

    And you, by suggesting TERFs should commit suicide and that it would be a good thing is not going to abate this attitude. In fact, if psychological research is worth anything, it is going to reinforce it. You are damaging the cause you pretend to care about.
    You have been told by people who suffer from depression and suicidal ideation that your attitude is causing splash damage, whilst you yourself admit that it is achieving exactly nothing positive.
    You are a living proof of what I said in #67

    Nobody claims that trans people cannot be assholes. The claim is that you cannot condemn them to second-class citizenship because of some carefully sought out assholes among them.

    You are one of those assholes who lends them self to being handpicked and readily used to justify further hate of and harm to trans people.
    You are not doing activism, but you are not neutral either – you are actively harming activism, helping to knock back hard gained progress. And you like doing it.
    You are repulsive and vile.
    And since I am one of those who combats suicidal ideation too, and who has a trans friend who fought with it for most of his life, I am out of this thread because I cannot handle this shit right now any more.

  107. Porivil Sorrens says

    The people who hate and do violence to trans people don’t do it because they saw buried anti-TERF comments in obscure atheist blogs.

    None of that remotely changes the fact that, as mentioned, the only good TERF is a dead TERF.

  108. Porivil Sorrens says

    Lmao more invective towards an anti-TERF trans person than the TERFs in this thread who are demonstrably out there contributing to trans suicides. What a fucking joke.

  109. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Porivil Sorens,
    I sympathize with your pain. I recognize your sincerity. I support your goals.

    When you dehumanize your enemies, you run the risk of diminishing your own humanity. Not to mention that your attacks distract from your message and build sympathy for those you are attacking. Your enemies don’t have to die for you to win.

  110. says

    Porivil Sorrens
    This isn’t about you being trans, it’s about you being an asshole. Now, I recognize that you have zero structural power and will never have, which means that no, your assholery will probably have zero effect, but just in your personal case, I’m damn glad about it.

  111. Kreator says

    Oh no, I’m telling bigots to kill themselves. Next I’ll be implying that it was good when Hitler died!11!! Oh the humanity.

    This is not about the bigots.
    Innocent people can get caught in the middle.
    My explanation: it’s one thing to wish these people were dead. I might even be willing to accept wishing they killed themselves. But by making the fantasies so detailed, morbid and specific, to lay down in such detail the kind of awful things that suicidal people like me tell ourselves sometimes… I firmly belive that reading them can lead to reinforce certain ideas and trigger rash actions even in people towards which the bad wishes aren’t directed. I dunno, maybe I’m exaggerating, I don’t know what other people in similar positions go through and how would they react, but I’d rather not risk it. Just by thinking about it I’m getting ideas already. Remembering bad times. I’m out.

  112. says

    Porivil Sorrens, STOP. I am sympathetic with your rage, but talking about TERFs killing themselves is not productive and undermines your cause.

  113. consciousness razor says

    Yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day — not a good way to observe it.
    Porivil Sorrens is just a destructive clown, with no coherent “cause” to undermine. So of course, I don’t know that the timing was intentional…. It’s like supposing that Trump ever comes up with some kind of evil plan, rather than merely being the hopelessly ridiculous asshole that he always is. Self-obsessed fascists like him just don’t stand for anything; they don’t have a point. Anyway, no matter what, I have zero sympathy for that garbage.

  114. vucodlak says

    @ Porivil Sorrens

    I agree with you that TERFs are despicable people, but exhorting them to commit suicide doesn’t accomplish anything positive. All it does is tell them that suicide is on your mind, and the TERFs love that. Don’t give them that.

    I offer this as an alternative:
    On my worst days, when suicide is constantly in the front of my mind, I channel that destructive emotion into something a little less corrosive to my will to survive- spite. I remind myself that every day that I continue to draw breath is better than my spitting in the faces of those who’d see me dead. Nothing expresses my contempt for them better than declaring that they aren’t worth even a wad of phlegm. I tell myself that I will live to watch all they care about, all those things that they love so much more than their fellow human beings, utterly destroyed. And, even if I can’t manage that, I’ll still outlive them.

    Deny TERFs any kind of satisfaction. I know it’s not always easy or even possible to do, but in this case it is- telling them to kill themselves makes them happy. Not only does it tell them that suicide is at the front of your mind, it gives them a propaganda tool. Don’t give them a single goddamn thing. Live your life, rub their noses in it, and piss on their graves in the end.

    One final thing:
    When I say “Nazis must cease to be Nazis, or cease to be,” I’m not calling for Nazis to kill themselves. I’m warning them: change your ways, or you will die. Either your would-be victims will kill you in self-defense, or you will be killed by your fellow Nazis when you fail to live up to their standards of purity. There is no other possible endpoint to their ideology.

    TERFs aren’t much better. Some of them already align themselves with the far-right. If the TERFs start building or helping to fill camps, then they’ll suffer the same fate as Nazis. Until then I hold out a tiny sliver of hope that they’ll see the error of their ways. Hell, I don’t believe that even Nazis are irredeemable, it’s just that I don’t believe it’s right to sacrifice the lives of innocents on the off chance that Nazis might someday see the error of their ways and stop slaughtering us.

    I realize I’m cutting a fine distinction here between Nazis, who always ultimately directly murder the targets of their hatred, and TERFs, who encourage and celebrate the suicide of trans people, but I think it’s a distinction that matters. If and when TERFs cross the line, then they’ll burn in the same fire as the Nazis. Unlike with Nazis, however, I still think that TERFs, vile though they are, still require a case-by-case assessment.

    And, in any case, telling either group to kill themselves only serves their interests.

    I hope this is helpful. Remember, every day we survive, we win.

  115. Porivil Sorrens says

    So, I just straight up reject that saying that bigots with blood on their hands deserve to die is morally wrong, so if that’s anyone’s argument, I’m just going to ignore them.

    @130

    On my worst days, when suicide is constantly in the front of my mind, I channel that destructive emotion into something a little less corrosive to my will to survive- spite. I remind myself that every day that I continue to draw breath is better than my spitting in the faces of those who’d see me dead.

    That does nothing to stop them from encouraging other trans people into killing themselves, though. And to be fair, I don’t really think telling TERFs to kill themselves on an obscure atheist blog will either, but mealy mouthed kumbaya bullshit does even less than that.

    That said, I do agree that telling TERFs to kill themselves emboldens them (at least, assuming it’s always unsuccessful), so yeah, I’ll stop doing that here. Hopefully we can someday bring about a world where we treat TERFs the same way we treated Nazis after the war.

  116. Silentbob says

    @ 116 John Morales

    It amuses me you assume people with a conscience cannot possibly be sincere.

    “Virtue signalling”, “woke”, “politically correct” – these are all terms used by assholes who are unable to believe that everyone else isn’t as big an asshole as themselves. They’re forms of self-flattery. “Hey, I may be an asshole, but at least I’m honest unlike all you assholes who pretend not to be assholes.”

    Dude, have you ever thought maybe it’s because they’re not assholes?

  117. John Morales says

    Silentbob:

    It amuses me you assume people with a conscience cannot possibly be sincere.

    I’m not particularly surprised that you imagine that.

    (Or, in your style, it amuses me you imagine only people with a conscience can spout mealy-mouthed platitudes, so that it was to them I perforce referred)

    Dude, have you ever thought maybe it’s because they’re not assholes?

    I intended to contrast with such as the people featured in the OP, who try to spin their true message; or: the contrast was not between people with a conscience and those without, but between honest people and the other kind.

    But fine, for you, it’s an asshole move to prefer honest expressions to mealy-mouthed platitudes.

    PS

    “Virtue signalling”, “woke”, “politically correct” – these are all terms used by assholes who are unable to believe that everyone else isn’t as big an asshole as themselves.

    I have no idea what relevance you imagine this has to what I wrote.

    [guessing] Is it where I noted how ‘gender critical’ is similarly euphemistic as ‘race realism’?

  118. says

    Wow. Quite the bastion of progressive thought here – I especially ‘like’ the “only good TRF is a dead Terf comments.”

    Captured,and of course, going up on terfisaslur.com as more evidence of this being totally on the right side of history.

    Violent death threats against women who defend their boundaries coupled with the bog-standard misogyny. This is the patriarchally approved silencing of women in action.

    Well done. :(

  119. Fleuret says

    I think FART really is an applicable a term for TERFs like the Arbourist here: noxius, transparent, and gone as quick as they came.

  120. says

    @Arbourist 134
    I understand being upset at the wish for death, that’s totally appropriate and I can see the value of documenting people who wish for the death of others.

    However you aparently missed the person getting called out, immediately, and by multiple people. If you conflate the behavior with the community you will be lying. An interesting lie, one I’ve seen bigots use before. Enjoy the effect dishonesty has on your mental hygiene.

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