When the worst of bad takes comes from a former friend…


It stings when someone you once considered a friend, who you respected as a thoughtful, philosophical feminist, goes off the deep end into TERFdom and starts making shallow, irrational arguments. You might be able to figure out who it is — she used to have a blog here. Now she likes to sneer at trans people. It’s very disheartening.

She’s responding to the recent article about Elliot Page. That’s a good article; her response, not so much. Even the first sentence is a sneer.

So, in the article, Page mentions being emotional about talking about his transition. Clearly, this is wrong.

No, because men don’t cry, especially not before the interviewer has even said anything besides “Hello.”

So he can be dismissed…with a gender stereotype? Seriously? I’m a man, brought up in the era of repressed masculine emotions, and I have a hard time expressing my feelings. I don’t think this is a strength at all. I’m glad Page has escaped that trap.

Then the article mentions that more people are transitioning now: “1.8% of Gen Z compared with 0.2% of boomers”. This, apparently, is bad.

Let’s think about this. “Increased social acceptance has led to more young people describing themselves as trans”…which can be seen as tolerance and liberality, or as social contagion that encourages “young people” to make drastic and irreversible changes to their bodies. It can be seen as both.

I just mentioned how I, a boomer, have difficulty expressing my emotions, and that I don’t consider this a good thing. I am caged up in old notions of masculinity. Why would a feminist dislike the idea of a new generation liberating themselves from stereotypes?

And then, this idea that transitioning is a product of “social contagion”…what nonsense. Does she think men just wake up feeling feminine one morning, and on a whim, toddle down to the local clinic to have their penis snipped off, and the clinic cheerfully obliges? Or that, because several of my friends are trans men and women (or gay, or ace, or bi), that I decide to change my sexual identity to conform? You know, the majority of the people I associate with are still cis het — note that 1.8% of the general population is considered a soaring frequency — why aren’t we considering that all the social pressure from friends and family and TV and the internet is forcing everyone to conform to a pure masculine/feminine dichotomy and not be who they want to be?

As for drastic and irreversible changes to bodies…medical transitioning, the irreversible bits, is preceded by months and months of clinical evaluation. I really can’t walk into a clinic and ask to have it snipped off. I couldn’t even get a vasectomy without doctors tut-tutting and insisting that I make sure this is what I want, and refusing to do the procedure. I know women would have even more examples of the medical establishment refusing to carry out surgical sterilization.

So you think people just do this because they saw a post on Instagram or an article in Time magazine? This is nuts.

it’s not just conservatives who see that “increased social acceptance” can be a euphemism for “social contagion” and that the latter is not always beneficent. Given the inherent absurdity of what people mean by “trans,” it’s inevitable that it’s not just conservatives who think the whole idea is futile and destructive. Constantly framing “trans” as the latest expansion of human potential rather than a perverse and anti-reality daydream just throws more wood on the fire.

Again with the sneering belittling. Being trans is not a product of “social contagion”, nor is it inherently absurd. The people who make this change are acutely aware of what reality is, experience huge amounts of pressure to accept a socially determined gender role — even trivial matters like “men don’t cry” are fiercely enforced — and are taking deliberate steps after much thoughtful consideration to be who they want to be. Respect that. Accept people for who they say they are, rather than demanding that they be what you want them to be. Like this:

Nobody is debating anyone’s existence, what we’re disputing is the description. We think you’ve got the description wrong.

My god. Who are you to tell another person how best to describe themselves? Can I also dispute some descriptions?

She goes on to defend JK Rowling, who opposes transgender equality in the name of feminism.

No, not in the name of feminism. She really is a feminist, she’s not faking it. It’s funny how fans of the ideology think changing sex is completely real while feminists who call themselves feminists are fake.

Oh. JK Rowling really is a feminist, because she says she is one. But someone who rejects stereotypes, who goes through the pain and expense and social stigma of transitioning, can’t be who they say they are, because a TERF declares that you aren’t allowed to change sex.

I note that she does not disagree that Rowling opposes transgender equality, which is the real reason she is disliked. I’ll take that as stipulated, then, that JK Rowling is an opponent of equality.

P.S. Changing sex is completely real. People do it all the time. Why do TERFs deny reality?

Comments

  1. microraptor says

    Not only is this person wrong, most of what they said was an incoherent word salad.

  2. William George says

    I’d never team up with someone who wanted to take my rights from me yet here are TERFs playing footsie with fundies and fascists.

  3. JoeBuddha says

    I know the plural of Anecdote is not Data, but a person I worked with who was this mousy, introverted guy who came to work early to avoid people, after transitioning, became this gorgeous vivacious woman who got into modeling and cosplay and is now part of a cheerleading team. How can you hate on that?

  4. robro says

    “No, because men don’t cry.” What the…!? Did I read that right? If so, guess that leaves me out of the “men” category. I’ve always been a crybaby. I can hardly watch silly romcoms because I get teary. It’s my partner who is the strong, stoic, cool headed one keeping her cards close. I’m the emotional mess, and I’ve got the years in the therapy chair to show for it. Good riddance to that “men don’t cry” blarney. It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

  5. says

    Given the inherent absurdity of what people mean by “trans,” it’s inevitable that it’s not just conservatives who think the whole idea is futile and destructive.

    The fuck is this, even? Bigotry rots your brain.

  6. kome says

    I just want to shake these transphobes and ask “what, exactly, is this person being (gender identity) doing to hurt you?”

  7. says

    Bloviating Whatsername, right?

    Seven years ago, Page spoke at a GLAAD event and talked about why he wore track clothes after the “entertainment media” criticized him for not “dressing fashionably”. His answer: “Because they’re comfortable.” Page looks more content, comfortable and relaxed in that Time cover than any promo pic or movie still I’ve seen. You can see it in his eyes.

    Whenever people in groups ask, “Do I pass?” I respond, “Are you happy?” because that’s what makes the difference. Aside from the family rejection and societal hate, they always are happier. Feeling normal is – and changes – everything.

  8. christoph says

    @ kome, # 9:
    Someone called in to a right wing talk show in Boston and asked that same question. The show’s host’s response was to blow up and throw a tantrum about people asking “stupid” questions.

  9. christoph says

    “I really can’t walk into a clinic and ask to have it snipped off.”

    They don’t actually snip it off. They surgically reshape it.

  10. says

    As usual, it falls to the degenerate SJW to point out the value of studying the Western Canon. Odyssey, book 5:

    “But the great-hearted Odysseus he found not within; for he sat weeping on the shore, as his wont had been, racking his soul with tears and groans and griefs, and he would look over the unresting sea, shedding tears.”

  11. Rob Grigjanis says

    Benson is demonstrating all the intellectual depth and fellow feeling of an anti-masker spitting on random people.

  12. phlo says

    “social contagion”

    They used the same “argument” to rail against homosexuality. Many still do.

  13. Bruce says

    I imagine some Victorian men saying this 150 years ago: now: “1.8% of this generation compared with 0.2% of the prior generation” of women are writing publicly, instead of asking their fathers or brothers to create paragraphs for them. Some people would never think of saying this now, yet seem ok to use the same logic on other topics. Ironic.

  14. says

    @phlo so many of the antitrans arguments are just antigay arguments with the serial numbers filed off. Which makes them especially headshaking when they come from people who wouldn’t accept them being applied to gay people.

    Is interracial marriage a “social contagion?” The numbers of interracial marriages has risen over the years, and the number of people who disapprove of them has followed.

  15. lotharloo says

    I have a question though. What is wrong with people like Benson? Or more precisely, what goes wrong with them? What I mean is that ultimately and broadly speaking, the issues of trans rights is easy, it is simple, it is basic humanity, but somehow they don’t seem to get it. When people don’t get easily demonstrable truths (e.g., that Earth is older than 6000 years), then as far as I know there’s an ideology, or something like in the background rotting their brains. Is it the case that these people have fallen off the deep end of feminist theory? What is it about trans people that they find so threatening that they are willing to reject the reality and live in a fantasy world?

  16. daulnay says

    This is an anecdote, and also data; an outlier data point that needs to be accounted for.

    A member of my family, who I’ve known well their entire (20ish years) life, is transitioning (M->F). At age 6, they were drawn to female characters. Throughout childhood (and beyond) when they played computer games, they would make a female character. They strongly resisted coaching to conform to male stereotypes, like stiff-upper-lipping pain or putting up with discomfort. A few years after puberty, they became more and more depressed, then suicidal. They described feeling that the body they were in was wrong, and felt life was unbearable. After starting transition, the suicidal urges disappeared. They’re much happier, and planning to live a long life.

    For her relatives, this lifts an immense dread. The family she sees day-to-day is very accepting, and she’s found a larger trans community online. Where there was despair, now there’s bright hope for the future.

    This is what transition is about, not a ‘social contagion’ but fixing something fundamentally askew.

  17. says

    TERs like to say they aren’t conservatives, but they really give the game away when they reveal that the one thing about trans people that scares them more than anything else, the one thing they are trying to prevent, the thing they believe causes “irreversible damage,” is medicine.

    There is nothing more quintessentially conservative than trying to stop people other than rich cishet white men from getting health care. Whether it’s their opposition to “socialized medicine,” their opposition to “abortion-causing” birth-control, bans on medical marijuana, vaccine denial, and now bans on gender-affirming care, conservatives absolutely despise health care.

    Human bodies without health care are not healthy. The goal of medicine is, and always has been, to improve the human body.

  18. vucodlak says

    Speaking as a crybaby who has lived as a man their entire life, I can say definitively that men do cry, they just get shit on a lot when they do. My personal favorite is the nurse practitioner who, while performing (un-consented-to) surgery on me (sans anesthetic) sneered at me when I cried and begged her to stop, “Oh for Christ’s sake, you’re 19 years old! Be a man!” She went on to sneer that my “breasts are too big” and ordered some tests in that regard, again without my consent, intended to further shame me.

    But hey, maybe Benson and the good nurse are right after all, because I’m not so sure I am a man after all. I’ve been told I am a man all my life, and I’ve tried so long to be a man without ever understanding what it means for me to be a man, so perhaps they’re on to something. I cry because I am not a man.

    Nah, they’re just hateful assholes. Like all hateful assholes, people like Benson make things unnecessarily difficult for others. Regardless of whether I’m a man or not, men can and do cry. There is no reason they can’t, no reason they shouldn’t, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

  19. says

    SC (Salty Current) @23

    That video is amazing. I strongly believe that one of the big reasons transphobes oppose puberty blockers outside of just hating trans people is that they really want trans kids to be damaged by puberty and even more importantly to them, to ensure that the transphobes “can always tell”.

  20. Allison says

    My own take on this “former friend,” based on her postings back when she was blogging here, has always been that she needs someone to hate. The objects of her hate have changed over time, but the hate remains the same.

    It didn’t seem to bother anyone here when it was, for example, Muslims she was hating on. It was when she started to treat trans people, and trans women in particular, the same way that she got a lot of pushback. She evidently prefers to be among people who will admire and encourage her hating, so when she got the opposite here, she left and found a community that thinks hatred of trans people is a Good Thing.

    I can understand that people who were angry at many of the people she hated might not have noticed this about her and thought of her as an ally, and that it was a shock when she turned her “guns” on groups that people here did not see as deserving of it.

    I think it is very important for people who want to make the world a better place to keep in mind that even the people they can’t stand are human and that their humanity deserves respect, even if their behavior does not. To do otherwise — to treat anyone as less than human — is to set out on the road to Hell on Earth.

  21. naturalistguy says

    P.S. Changing sex is completely real. People do it all the time.

    So, how do you change your sex Professor Myers? Details please, as you are a biologist. If anyone else here is a professor of biology though, feel free to chime in.

  22. Bernard Bumner says

    Claiming to be a reasonable commentator on trans issues whilst recycling precisely the outmoded and discredited anti-gay arguments used by homophobes. That makes someone obviously either a very stupid bigot, or a very cynical bigot playing to the peanut gallery.

  23. Bernard Bumner says

    If anyone else here is a professor of biology though, feel free to chime in.

    Why do we need to defer to professors of biology to explain this?

  24. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    As someone else who once considered her a friend, after the blowup, I kind of realized the signs were always there of her unreasonableness. Her refusal to listen to anybody say anything vaguely bad about Charlie Hebdo, for one. And there was the time she ripped into me in the comments at B&W because I apparently didn’t agree with her on an issue strongly enough (don’t even remember the issue, just remember I was like ‘Yes, that’s pretty bad’ and her response was ‘Pretty bad? It’s horrible! Why would you say it’s only pretty bad???”).

    Sigh. I don’t know, it’s disappointing. Just disappointing.

  25. esjr says

    Why engage the bad faith argument of the TERFs and bathroom hysteria people ?
    How do we know it is a bad faith argument ?
    Chaz Bono.

  26. says

    Claiming to be a reasonable commentator on trans issues whilst recycling precisely the outmoded and discredited anti-gay arguments used by homophobes.

    Right? She’s making all the exact same arguments Vanilla Isis is making about gay folks and have been making for a long time. It’s a fad, it’s social contagion, they are grooming the kids. Larger numbers of people than ever before are identifying not just as trans, but also as LGB (not to mention ace or plain “queer”). And I’ve always said that the conservatives do have a point: There will always be people who can be reasonably happy within the expectations of cis heteronormative society, but who are neither cis nor hetero, and who will be much happier in a place where they can be who they truly are. Those people would not identify as LGBTQ 50 years ago, with too much to lose an too little to gain. But they feel comfortable doing so now. Or maybe they just got a language to describe who they are, when their grandparents only had some nagging feeling that they were different.
    Oh, I would like to add that their other arguments are basically just right wing misogyny and homophobia recycled as well. Trans women simply get classed as sexual perverts, while trans men get the nicely condescending ” those young women don’t know what they really want, let me make their decisions for them”.

    Eric
    Hmmm,l know. I clashed with her prior to her huffing and puffing and leaving the network and the final straw came over something silly (I think I used the expression “good old …” which she considered me making an ageist dig at her). by now I’m pretty universally hated by her and her followers, who are ironically overwhelmingly cis men, with their accusations reaching Slyme pit levels, like me abusing my students with “gender ideology”. But the important thing is that those cis men have now found a way to hate and abuse a woman in the name of feminism and don’t you dare question their credentials!

  27. PaulBC says

    “Men don’t cry” is an astoundingly poor choice of opening argument. What am I supposed to take seriously after that?

    And as we all know by now, even big bad Nazis cry.

  28. llyris says

    Vucodlak @ 26 spoke about being shamed for not behaving enough like a man. I think that’s important.
    When I was younger I didn’t fit the stereotype of what a woman should be, and want, and feel. I was told so many times that I was born the wrong gender and I felt like I was born the wrong gender because how I felt and what I wanted didn’t line up with feminine things.
    There is a layer of feminism in society that hides a very deep and fundamental foundation of gender structure that poisons everything.
    25 years ago I felt like there was something wrong with my body because the way society viewed my body didn’t line up with my thoughts. Today I would probably be told I’m trans.
    But I’m not. I’m a cis het woman. The problem was never my body but the hidden gender norms I was pushed into. And they are deeply hidden.
    I wonder if some of the increase in trans and intersex expression is not so much a fundamental problem within a person, but a problem with how they intersect with society. This isnt an argument against trans though, because if that’s what makes you feel comfortable and happy then go for it. It’s an argument for greater acceptance of diversity of behaviour and greater examination of gender assumptions.

  29. says

    @38

    25 years ago I felt like there was something wrong with my body because the way society viewed my body didn’t line up with my thoughts. Today I would probably be told I’m trans.
    But I’m not. I’m a cis het woman. The problem was never my body but the hidden gender norms I was pushed into. And they are deeply hidden.
    I wonder if some of the increase in trans and intersex expression is not so much a fundamental problem within a person, but a problem with how they intersect with society.

    Do you really think that the people who want to force you to conform to stereotypical gender roles would be accepting of trans people? That’s the only way your comment makes any sense. The people who want you to behave in a particular way because you’re a woman would not be any more tolerant of you if you said you were a trans man. Everyone who accepts trans people also accepts GNC people, but there are an awful lot of people who hate trans people more than they hate GNC people.

  30. woozy says

    About the “men don’t cry” comment.

    Ophelia’s viewpoint is that Page, and all trans men, are women because that is their “biological sex” and gender and gender identity either doesn’t exist or doesn’t mean anything or doesn’t matter. So if person chooses to change gender identity it can only mean adapting expected gender roles– otherwise they “should” just be women living life on their own terms.

    So Ophelia has twisted her logic into knots that if you are going to transition, it can only mean embracing gender roles. So “men don’t cry” is Ophelia’s attempt at snidely pointing out what she thinks is a clever inconsistency that if you embrace some gender roles you are inconsistent if you don’t adopt them all.

    Ophelia did say one thing I agree with

    “Gender” is what you do with it, so by all means disrupt that if you want to, wear the “wrong” clothes if you want to (and can get away with it, which is where it does get complicated, but not the way Katy Steinmetz means), just don’t pretend that the social rules about gender are identical to the physical facts of sex.

    I do agree with that, but it takes a strange anger and hurt to twist this the way Ophelia has, to hate and refuse any attempt to transcend biology.

    I am reminded of the simplistic tadpole/frogs, collections/heap, and poor man to rich man by giving them a penny at a time philosophical arguments; If gender roles are completely arbitrary and don’t exist what can the words “men” and “women” mean other than biological sex. Yawn.

    The thing is the pointing out it is impossible (or difficult) to determine when a frog definitively stops being a tadpole or at exactly precisely how many pennies does a man stop being poor, should not act to convince anyone that tadpoles are frogs and rich men are poor. But if you have some strange anger I guess one could, if one really, really could if one needed to. It’s sad, really.

  31. woozy says

    Do you really think that the people who want to force you to conform to stereotypical gender roles would be accepting of trans people? That’s the only way your comment makes any sense.

    No, but TERFS like Ophelia would say the one and only true solution to the issue, is to reject gender expectations altogether …. and be a woman who rejects gender roles…. but be a woman… for some reason that’s important to the TERFS… that you stay a woman… because whereas rejecting the gender roles is feminism… rejecting the biology is… well, somehow it hurts the TERFs…. not entirely sure why but…

  32. says

    @36 “Vanilla Isis” is so stolen. To someone with the black-and-white worldview of a reactionary, a trans woman is an invader and a trans man is a traitor. I shouldn’t wonder if reactionaries see those roles flipped.

  33. says

    @41, I should have said “radical” first above, because radicals (as with reactionaries) need to keep the fight going regardless of the fundamental contradictions that they need to ignore or even how much it undermines any of their previous arguments.

  34. Tethys says

    So more young people identifying as trans is a social contagion? A rational person of a certain age might notice it’s the same tired argument for why women shouldn’t be allowed to work outside the home/ go to college/ choose to not have children, be in the military, etc. All of those social changes were also a social contagion that failed to destroy civilization as we know it.

    yak, it was a terrible argument when it was being used to erase gay people, and women’s rights to control their own uterus. It still amounts to sticking your head in the sand so you can’t see reality.
    Spouting harmful BS will not change the fact that the medical experts estimate that 1 in 1000 people in a population do not fit in a binary pigeonhole. Trans cooties aren’t a thing. You can’t catch it from trans people, just as nobody became gay from the gay cooties.

  35. PaulBC says

    woozy@40

    it can only mean embracing gender roles.

    Well, I don’t like football or any sports. I’d usually rather watch a romantic comedy than an action film (even a classic like Dirty Harry). I drive a Prius, not a Ford F-150, and I have even been known to eat quiche from time to time.

    So I’m not really sure what these gender roles are supposed to be. There’s nothing very special about me. I am cis-hetero-nerdy-liberal man and nobody would mistake me for a woman. To the extent that I hold back or let loose emotions, that’s mainly due to the kind of reaction I’ll get. I don’t cry much (especially not in middle age) but if I did, I’d just be that whiny guy who cries, but very definitely male.

  36. hemidactylus says

    Certain intense scenes in movies or television shows have made me cry especially in action or war movies: We Were Soldiers, The Last Samurai, etc. When Detective Carter got murdered by a corrupt cop in Person of Interest it set up a really emotional vengeance episode.

    Hardcore black ops guy Reese cried too:

    https://youtu.be/RNATgb5kr3s

    I’m in good company then.

  37. daulnay says

    @38, 39;

    I think it’s complicated, and some of both. Some people really do feel bodily dysphoria, that they are in the wrong sex body. Some people feel like their body is the wrong gender – that the gender norms for their body’s sex don’t correspond with how they are. I used to believe that gender was just a socially imposed construct and that we were basically all the same underneath. Instead, we seem to be incredibly varied; there are people who are solidly cis-het and completely comfortable with the gender norms for their sex, people who feel no real gender, people who feel they’re a mix, people who feel like they’re a mix but believe that there are only two genders and something’s wrong with themselves, people who feel one sex and the other gender (and that’s perfectly fine), people who feel both sex and gender are wrong, and many more. It’s not simple, period; it’s messy and complicated. Some of the bigotry comes from knowing how you are inside, and not realizing/understanding that some other people may genuinely be very different. Getting that across might be a first step towards general acceptance for us all.

    At least one society treats homosexuality and gender identity as a medical body dysphoria problem – Iran. So trans people are so more accepted there while GNC people are fiercely persecuted. The Iranian government and religious rulers accept that trans people exist, allow (and even pay for) gender reassignment surgery, and allow official documents to reflect the change. Gender norms get vigorously and viciously enforced, with the death penalty for homosexuality. So, the opposite of what @39 claims. Cultures and people are complicated and messy.

  38. llyris says

    @183231bcb #39
    Wow. Thanks for telling me my lived experience is invalid. And then justifying it with a bunch of assumptions so deeply fundamental to your worldview that you don’t even notice them. The people telling me I should have been born male were friends, people who liked me and cared about me, people who were often misfits themselves. They were not the judgemental conservatives you assume them to be and you are completely off the mark. The judgemental conservatives never said I should have been a boy, they said I should shut up and act like a proper female and stop rocking the boat.
    BUT…. and this is the bit that is so obvious you don’t see it at all…. my friends were working with exactly the same unseen assumptions as everyone else. Regardless of their well meaning, regardless of their conscious rejection of obvious stereotypes. Those assumptions that are so fundamental to our worldview that we don’t see them at all.

  39. says

    @Woozy #40,
    Thanks for explaining the context, since I can’t imagine enduring B&W to see it for myself. I figured Benson’s remark was meant to be some variety of ironic, but I consider it unacceptable regardless. “Men don’t cry” is a really nasty thing to say to anyone.

    The imagined inconsistency between Page being a man and Page crying is not Page’s inconsistency, it is Benson’s. Benson is imagining that trans people are motivated by gender roles, and is finding that the reality of trans people is inconsistent with her beliefs.

  40. Daniel Storms says

    I seem to recall from Siddhartha Mukerjee’s “The Gene” the argument that sex and gender identity are so much more complex than simply outward genitalia. People like to reduce it to that, or to XX vs. XY, but the presence or expression of that X or Y kicks off a cascade of other gene activity affecting everything from hormone production to brain chemistry. Many ways for that cascade of effects to diverge from “normal” (expected) streams into just as valid branches. Not a biology major, so I’m probably misremembering and misinterpreting some of that, but it seems to me that means sex/gender exists as a spectrum (a rainbow, if you will) rather than a binary black or white. Anyway, that’s how I like to see it and I’d hope others could see it that way, too.

  41. says

    @Ilyris #38 & #48,
    You’re repeating a common narrative among TERFs, where they worry that kids today are being “transed”, or that if they were kids today, that they would “transed”. I can’t tell if you’re trying to troll, or play devil’s advocate, or just share a personal experience, but maybe think about how you come off?

    When you say “Today I would probably be told I’m trans”, how do we know that? And how do we know if it would have been the same? That’s not your lived experience, it’s hypothetical. Today, thanks to increased awareness of trans people, you might have had many more resources to consult in exploration, and for all we know it might have been easier to determine that you were cis.

    You seem indignant that anyone would ever suggest to you that you are trans, when in fact you are cis. If so, why do you feel that way? I am not trans, but I am gay, and I have to say, it’s weird when straight people are extremely offended that anyone would think they’re gay. That’s the vibe I get from this too.

  42. woozy says

    @45 So I’m not really sure what these gender roles are supposed to be. There’s nothing very special about me. I am cis-hetero

    But that’s it. You’re cis.

    To the TERFs, like Ophelia, gender roles are non-existent. Therefore there is no reason to not be cis except to take on supposed gender roles. So cis people can do whatever they want. But if you are trans anything you do will be judged and condemned as conforming to gender roles or snidely and sarcastically dismissed as hypocritical if they do not.

    Of course if there no reason to not be cis, there’s no reason to be cis either.

    And it seems a bit bullying to think “I’ve defined exactly what being man and woman means and what supposed gender roles are and exactly how everone must reject gender roles (because of what I think) and body dysphoria must be illogical to me so therefore can not exist and yet even though I insist sex is not important, it is important to the recognition of the history of sexual oppression that we stick to our sex out of loyalty (and not allow the other sex in) and dedication to my agenda”.

    I mean, I have my own hypotheses and opinions and they are a bit messy around the edges but have what I believe is a solid core (we all should have an expectation of some self-determination). But they are just my opinions. I certainly can’t insist I must be right and everyone else is wrong.

  43. garnetstar says

    I am with lotharloo @22, in that I wonder, why all great fear about gender? I can hardly think of anything more innocuous than trans and NB people having full human and civil rights, which include social acceptance.
    I mean, what could really happen? Trans and NB people would go about their lives doing the same things cis people do: going to work, taking care of their kids, getting their cars fixed, watching TV, etc. In other words, nothing. How does this make people afraid? If we change to all introducing ourselves with our pronouns, it would actually help a lot even with cis people whose gender presentation isn’t stereotypical. So, that’s just a benefit all around.
    Trans people have been part of societies since the beginning of recorded history, and their presence and their “social contagion” didn’t lead to the fall of any empires or city-states or even villages or tribes. So, even if, what I suppose these people think is the worst happens, and everyone on earth suddenly all got “transed” by a cloud of irresistable social contagion, so what? It wouldn’t change anything, we’d all go on with our lives, right? We’d still be too busy thinking about climate change and increasing fascism to fret about personal issues.
    And, it isn’t that trans people’s “description”, whatever that may mean, is “wrong”: it’s that there is a group of people, who have always been part of every known society in history, who want equal human and civil rights, which include full acceptance, in society. Is anyone really against that? A group, which is here and has always been here, having equal rights, even if you personally don’t believe in them (or whatever it is?) How is it scary that a group of people who have always been in all societies, and never destroyed any of them, get equal rights?
    Like, if I, a cis woman, chose to get extreme breast enhancement or severe breast reduction, w or a hysterctomy, would they call that a “drastic and permanent mutilation”? Because, that happens every day, and no one has to go through much medical evaluation to get it. Or, how about nose jobs and all the rest that plastic surgery addicts get, including the men who get their penises re-shaped to some imaginary better-looking standard? Isn’t that a permanent and drastic alteration? But they’re not “multilations”, or even bad, if cis people do it. It’s considered cis adult people’s right to choose to change their bodies permanenty and drastically, if they wish. So, if trans people choose to do such body alterations, I fail to see how that would stop the earth from spinning.

    So, all these “terrible” things are already going on, with both cis and trans people, and I can’t figure out why it is scary for trans people to have equal rights and acceptance in society?

    I thought, with homophobia, that openly gay people were just too much of a blow to patriarchy (men who don’t find that sexual domination of women is a necessary part of male biology, women who remain independent of a man to control them and form families with women intsead.) OK, if patriarchy is the bedrock of your mental picture of the world, I can see that that would frighten you. But I really can’t figure this one out.

  44. John Morales says

    woozy, you left out the basis of her opinion: it’s science, it’s logic, it’s factual. It’s, as far as she is concerned, utterly indisputable.

    Anyway, I am sufficiently sanguine about B&W becoming primarily focused on TERFyness, but dismayed Sastra went there too.

    Shame. But, ah well. So it goes.

  45. says

    I am a trans woman, I am 50+ years old, and, after a lifetime of suffering, I am starting hormone therapy in (hopefully) three weeks. Ms. Benson and anyone who shares her bullshit sentiments can go fuck themselves. I have wrestled with my gender my entire life, telling myself lies like “oh, I just have a strong feminine side” to avoid facing the reality of who I am, and I finally reached the point I was too exhausted to continue living a lie, so exhausted that I am risking my marriage, social ostracism, poverty, and harassment just so I can take off the damned mask I’ve been hiding behind for so, so long.

    And to Ms. Benson, in the unlikely case you should ever read the comments here, you have no idea what you are talking about here, and in your ignorance you are reinforcing the same social attitudes that helped keep my in hiding all this time despite the misery…..and yes, Ms. Benson, I am crying as I write this, proving, by your own “logic”, I am, indeed, a woman. Go fuck yourself.

  46. says

    Oh, an addendum – I chose the name I am transitioning into in honor of a particular feminist activist for having stood up to injustice her entire life and fearlessly fighting for what is right. Suffice to say that name is not “Ophelia”.

  47. says

    Woozy @40 and @45

    Traditional gender roles damage our society is oh-so-many ways, and they need to go the way of the dinosaur. That said, they have absolutely nothing to do with why I am transitioning, and, if I weren’t more or less forced to performative femininity in order to be social accepted for my gender, I absolutely would not do it, and would forge my own path.

    I don’t doubt that the people you are talking about thin more or less the way you describe, I’m just offering myself as a counterpoint demonstrating they are dead wrong. I am transitioning because my brain and body are at odds, and after fifty years of trying, my brain shows no sign of bending. I am transitioning because the conflict between my brain and body causes me continual and ongoing suffering that I cannot bear any more. It has nothing at all to do with wanting to wear pretty dresses or makeup, reading poetry and sighing at vapid romances as I braid flowers for my hair. It has everything to do with relieving suffering and trying to mute the dysphoria screaming in my head from the moment I awaken in the morning to the moment I eventually manage to fall asleep at night….and if any one of these so-called feminists could spend even a week in my head to experience what this feels like, their arguments against transition and their sneering at trans people would instantly cease.

  48. llyris says

    Siggy @51
    I’m not a troll and I’m not a terf. You’re the second person on this thread who has tried to invalidate my lived experience. You are going to just have to trust me that the words have changed and the trappings have changed but the message hasn’t significantly changed. It is still the message ‘you aren’t quite right’.
    Yes, I am indignant about people telling me what I am and what I have to be, telling me that I’m wrong within myself because I don’t fit not just obvious social expectations, but also the ones that aren’t obvious. Why on earth would you think there was something weird about being angry about pigeonholing? Do you like being shoved into a box that doesn’t fit and told that’s you? How do you make that into transphobic?
    It’s one thing to say you don’t want to stay home and do the ironing but it’s another to say you intersect the world in an un-female way – something that is elusive and impossible to define. That people who know you see you as not quite really female despite them also seeing your body as completely female. And coming to the conclusion you must have got the wrong body (often while also trying to get their dick inside it). And because I was young and trying to work out who I am I often felt they were right. What I am saying is sometimes it’s not the wrong body, but the underlying assumptions of what a woman or a man fundamentally is. That in a way trans is the path of least resistance, not because it’s easy (I’m sure it isn’t) but because it doesn’t challenge those most structural fundamental assumptions about the world. To reject that is to go right back to basics and say ‘what makes a woman a woman?’ Even progressives seem to end up at a helpless sort of ‘someone who feels they are’. Because this stuff is learned before language it’s very hard to pin down.
    I am also not saying that anyone shouldn’t transition to whatever gender expression they feel is right for them. The point is to be able to be yourself, and to find a way to intersect with the world that makes you happy. My wondering is not just whether transitioning is more acceptable so people are seeking it as a solution, but also that despite society’s thin veneer of progression we really haven’t changed at all. Some assumptions are too deep. You cannot see the light because the light is what you see with.

  49. says

    @26

    There is more than one taxonomy used to determine biological sex, and they often vary on what bin to sort people into and they all have gray areas where, when people fall into them, they are nigh on impossible to sort into neat stacks. Of the three most commonly used of these taxonomies, your “biological sex” can change over time. One of these changeable taxonomies was overwhelmingly likely to have been the one used to decide what box to tick on your birth certificate. But you and your ilk cling to the generally least useful of these taxonomies outside of a reproductive health clinic, because it’s (conveniently for you) currently beyond our capability to change.

    So yes, I will forever be chromosomally male barring some miraculous breakthrough in the next twenty years, but I will in time become increasingly phenotypically female, and I will become fully hormonally female as my body responds to hormone therapy at the cellular level and gear their behavior accordingly. Oh, and I’m neurologically female already and have been since birth.

  50. PaulBC says

    Electric Monk@57 My default position is to take people at their word when they express what they want. I often feel there other people, not associated with a specific ideology, but represented across the spectrum, left and right (or in any other way of dividing it), whose default is to pull out a big book of rules and try to argue, no: this is what you should want, or worse, this is what you actually want.

    I just wonder who has the time for it. I can’t read Elliot Page’s mind, and I can’t read yours. I will take self-reported experience at face value. That seems like the simplest approach. I hope it all works out. We need more happy people, not more miserable people.

    I suppose it would be too facile for me to say that gender roles have never done me any service. Certainly “macho” male stereotypes work against me, and thankfully that hasn’t mattered since I was in high school. On the other hand, being nerdy and technical is also a male stereotype, and it lines up enough with my actual behavior that I’m comfortable in my own skin.

  51. says

    @58

    Going back to read your comments and….you’re not helping. You talk about your lived experience and feeling like you were encouraged to transition because you didn’t feel you fit the box you were being shoved into, and you posit that it is possible that this is convincing people in similar situations to transition. But interestingly, you neglect the part of your own lived experience where you never went on to transition. You neglect the part of your experience where you knew this was not the right thing for you, even though you may have felt pressured toward it and may have actually considered it.

    Now it’s time for you to listen to the lived experience of a trans person: most of us spend good chunks of our lives knowing deep down we are trans and trying hard to play our assigned gender in order to avoid the repercussions of facing what we are and what it means to accept our transness in an (often violently) transphobic world. My lived experience is one of hiding behind a mask out of fear, not of being pressured toward transition because I didn’t conform. You, the one who felt pressured to transition, didn’t. Me, the one who was never pressured to transition (quite the opposite, actually), am. What does that tell you about your fears of people being “transed”? I’d suggest it’s a pretty good indicator that your fears in that regard are unfounded. I’d also suggest that the incredibly high rate of satisfaction among the transitioned – something around 96% – also bely your fears. Plus the considerable amount of gatekeeping we face in order to even begin transition acts as a break against the kind of pressure you’re suggesting might be occurring, again suggesting your fears are unfounded.

    But here you are, reinforcing, just a little, a popular TER talking point despite the evidence your own lived experience presents to you – you knew you were not a man, so you did not transition despite feeling pressured for whatever reason to do so – telling you it’s actually likely bogus. Please stop.

  52. vucodlak says

    @ Electric Monk, #59
    …what? I meant that I’m beginning to suspect I’m not the gender that I (and everyone else) have always assumed I must be. I wasn’t talking about “biological sex.”

  53. says

    @60

    I am nerdy and technical myself, having spent several hours today optimizing meshes in Blender. That’s not going to stop just because I’m transitioning, and anyone suggesting it’s inherently masculine to be technically minded has never met a woman in STEM.

    And thank you for accepting me at face value – half the reason I’m transitioning is because I am so fucking tired of wearing a mask.

  54. says

    @62

    Sorry, you sounded an awful lot like one of the myriad “if you’ve got a Y, you’re a guy!” trolls I continually have to swat down in my day-to-day life. If that wasn’t what you were trying to say, sorry – I’ve had to explain that “biological sex” is a slippery, messy notion to so many people, the second I see someone offer what appears to be a challenge like “as a biologist, how to you go about changing sex?”, I’ve started answering by reflex just to swat the “sex is immutable because chromosomes” crowd down.

  55. John Morales says

    PaulBC:

    I will take self-reported experience at face value.

    That seems imprudent. Lots of people lie about a lot of things, not excluding lived experience.

    (Me, I take it with a grain of salt, and only accept it arguendo, until and unless sufficient consilience of evidence occurs)

    Electric Monk (to llyris):

    But here you are, reinforcing, just a little, a popular TER talking point despite the evidence your own lived experience presents to you – you knew you were not a man, so you did not transition despite feeling pressured for whatever reason to do so – telling you it’s actually likely bogus. Please stop.

    What? That’s your opinion, but not mine — and I have no chips in the pot to bias me. I do like to be exposed different perspectives.

    (If you find that someone expressing themself is painful to you, perhaps consider that you expressing yourself may also be painful to them, especially when you plead to them that they should shut up — which they did not do to you)

  56. Pierce R. Butler says

    John Morales @ # 54: … Sastra went there too.

    I had a “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” moment at that, but after lurking through several TG-related threads at B&W and searching for Sastra’s name, have to concede you got it right. :-( :-P

    This piles up in my mind with stories of several activist friends who flipped sides: a lesbian who turned Republican; an antiwar activist now a Trump Chump; a Green Party chair cum anti-vaxxer; an eco-activist couple siding with local racists … I could go on.

    What the hell kind of mind virus is going around?

  57. says

    @65

    I never asked her to shut up – I asked her to stop reinforcing TER talking points and suggested she was taking the wrong lesson from her experiences.

    And the reason I asked her to stop? Has nothing to do with hurt feelings and everything to do with my rights and very humanity being questioned daily of late as a matter of “politics” and “opinion” and “debate” as if they – and you – have lost sight of the fact that real human lives are at stake here. I asked her to stop because the rhetoric she was reinforcing, intentionally or not, is helping nudge my society toward even more violence and discrimination against people like me.

  58. vucodlak says

    @ Electric Monk, #64
    Ah, now I see. This:

    So, how do you change your sex Professor Myers?

    was naturalistguy, at #29. #26 was my comment, but I am not a number. My name is vucodlak. I don’t recommend conjuring with it.

  59. garnetstar says

    My best wishes and congrats to Electric Monk on her transition!

    And, I would like anyone, the writer of the artilce in the OP or any other TERF, to tell me why Electric Monk, or anyboday else, having full civil and human rights and full social acceptance as a trans woman (or trans man or NB person) is frightening to anyone at all in any way at all.

  60. John Morales says

    Electric Monk, I grant your antennae (metaphorical) are more sensitive than mine regarding this topic.

    Don’t know if you’re aware, but the trans people on this network (and associated spaces) picked out the person about whom the post refers much earlier than the rest of us did.

    Anyway, happy for you and your transition. Best wishes.

  61. says

    @68

    Ah, sorry about that – it’s been a long frikkin’ day and I’ve been pounding my head against social media off and on for most of it, in part because of the recent anti-trans laws popping this past week and the stir around Elliot Paige. I’m dead tired. Mea culpa.

  62. PaulBC says

    John Morales@65

    That seems imprudent. Lots of people lie about a lot of things, not excluding lived experience.

    (Me, I take it with a grain of salt, and only accept it arguendo, until and unless sufficient consilience of evidence occurs)

    Fine, but in any case, I have no interest in adjudicating. Let other people find their happiness in a way that doesn’t interfere with mine. For my part of the bargain, I won’t make up imaginary reasons for my unhappiness, such as the fact that other people apparently want things I cannot begin to understand. That point was already clear to me in many other contexts, and from an early age.

  63. PaulBC says

    EM@63

    anyone suggesting it’s inherently masculine to be technically minded has never met a woman in STEM

    I hope you don’t think I was suggesting that, and yes I have met women in technical fields from as far back as college in the 80s (some of the campus computer operators, some active in Society of Women Engineers, some living on my dorm floor which was established as an engineering “interest house”), later as a grad student, and later in industry in both software and biotech. Peers, managers, you name it. So yeah, probably protesting too much here, but there is nothing very new about women in STEM.

    But it’s still true that if I were to take comfort in my stereotypical gender role, it is the nerd role not the jock role.

  64. llyris says

    @61. Electric monk – I was never encouraged or pressured to transition. 25 years ago it was considered much more extreme and weird than it is today. It wasn’t seen as a viable way to fit in. And it is also not in any way true to say I rejected it “knowing it was not the right thing” for me. You are making completely wrong assumptions and trying to put me into a box. And it is still the wrong box. Stop it.
    Nor have I said there is anything wrong with your lived experience. Nor have I said there is anything wrong with transitioning if that’s how you feel ‘right’. Nor have I made any moral judgement about whatever course of action you choose for yourself. But while you insist on making me a TERF you’re missing the point that I’m presumably not making in a way you understand.

  65. chrislawson says

    I used to read Ophelia’s blog avidly and even maintained a semi-regular correspondence with her. Can’t anymore. The hardest part for me is seeing someone who used to advocate so energetically for human rights, inclusivity, and the importance of honest scientific inquiry abandon all those principles just so she can keep promulgating a spiteful belief.

  66. says

    @75

    Not assumptions, but impressions I have gotten based on your own words. If I got it wrong, I apologize – but that doesn’t change the fact you have been running dangerously close to echoing TER rhetoric in this discussion, and that rhetoric in turn bolsters such actions as the recent passage of the Alabama law threatening up to 20 years in prison for anyone offering any kind of transition services including gender counseling to young people. And I haven’t said you are a TER – that’s entirely you leaping into the box and getting offended at being placed there, not me shoving you into it. At the risk of being repetitive, what I said is you were treading awfully close to TER rhetoric, to the point your words could be used to support it. I also pointed out that you were awfully quick to take issue with people discounting your “lived experience” when the conclusions you draw from it appear very strongly to negate the live experience of others, including mine, and honestly, my impression from what I’ve seen here is you really need to sit down and actually listen to a few more trans voices before going on about the dangers of pressuring kids toward transition.

    @74

    I was meaning more to extend the point you made about gender roles than anything else.

  67. chrislawson says

    woozy@40–

    Ophelia did say one thing I agree with
    “Gender” is what you do with it, so by all means disrupt that if you want to, wear the “wrong” clothes if you want to…, just don’t pretend that the social rules about gender are identical to the physical facts of sex.

    I hope you don’t agree with her on this. Remember that she’s using a trojan horse. She is drawing a false dichotomy between the social determination of gender and the biological determination of sex as if these are 100% disentangleable. And when Ophelia or any other transphobe talks about “the physical facts of sex” they are not being honest about these “facts”. What they mean is that chromosomes and genitalia are the sole scientific determinants of sex, a position that was known to be scientifically untenable by the early-to-mid 20th century (i.e. not long after the discovery of sex chromosomes). Anyone who knows more than high school biology understands that this is not even remotely a “fact” and is, in actuality, a ritualised biological determinism pretending to be scientific to deflect criticism.

  68. says

    @29

    So, how do you change your sex Professor Myers? Details please, as you are a biologist. If anyone else here is a professor of biology though, feel free to chime in.

    Get your estrogen level tested. Now wait a week and get it tested again. With probability 1, you will not get the exact same number, no matter what you did in the intervening week. Therefore your biological sex has changed without you even needing any medical intervention.

    Of course, you could try to play a semantics game and redefine “biological sex” to exclude estrogen and testosterone levels, but that doesn’t lead where transphobes want it to. Hormone levels are overwhelmingly the most important aspect of sex in most areas of medicine, as well as the only aspect of sex relevant to most sports. So if you define “biological sex” independent of the estrogen and testosterone levels in your bloodstream, then it becomes completely irrelevant for the purposes transphobes want to use it for.

    @53

    I am with lotharloo @22, in that I wonder, why all great fear about gender? I can hardly think of anything more innocuous than trans and NB people having full human and civil rights, which include social acceptance.

    I bet at least some of it is projection. Transphobes spend a lot of energy trying to force people to be cis, so they imagine trans people, if given the opportunity, would force them to be trans. It’s the same reason misogynists are terrified of women getting rights: they assume women will treat them the same way they treat women.

    Like, if I, a cis woman, chose to get extreme breast enhancement or severe breast reduction, w or a hysterctomy, would they call that a “drastic and permanent mutilation”?

    Some of them would. Others wouldn’t. The deciding factor is whether they hate gender-affirming health care because they believed God gave humans perfect bodies (in which case they probably also hate all other health care) or whether they are just looking for an excuse to dunk on trans people and don’t care about internal consistency.

  69. Bernard Bumner says

    @75, llyris – I think what people are bristling against is not your experience, which I think you’ve explained well. I think it is only to do with your speculation that:

    Today I would probably be told I’m trans… I wonder if some of the increase in trans and intersex expression is not so much a fundamental problem within a person, but a problem with how they intersect with society.

    To me, at least, it is potentially a superficially similar argument to:

    Let’s think about this. “Increased social acceptance has led to more young people describing themselves as trans”…which can be seen as tolerance and liberality, or as social contagion that encourages “young people” to make drastic and irreversible changes to their bodies. It can be seen as both.

    Of course you don’t espouse the same anti-trans bigotry that is quoted in the OP, and I don’t think anyone is suggesting that.

    But, as you’ve expressed it, your speculative social commentary carries at least an echo of that same concept. The concept that trans identity is something the unwary are wrongly inculcated to because of progressive efforts to normalise acceptance.

    You imply it again here, that your own experience was not to be encouraged to transition only because 25 years ago, it “wasn’t seen as a viable way to fit in.”

    I’m not qualified to judge, but my understanding of most accounts of transitioning is that although accepting one’s own identity following confusion or denial can be a relief, it is most usually the start of a difficult and complex journey. Social acceptance is important, but even with that it seems as though social and physical (for those who do) transition is still immensely challenging. Does it still make sense that any significant numbers of gender nonconforming cis people are driven down that road by the hidden strictures of gender assumptions? And particularly when there is also very active discussion of gender conformity that challenges traditional roles?

    I’d love to think that your experience would be more positive today than 25 years ago, and I really hope that another 25 years will see more progress.

  70. says

    @Ilyris, from comment #58:

    What I am saying is sometimes it’s not the wrong body, but the underlying assumptions of what a woman or a man fundamentally is. That in a way trans is the path of least resistance, not because it’s easy (I’m sure it isn’t) but because it doesn’t challenge those most structural fundamental assumptions about the world.

    You know, I respect that you want to make a positive contribution here, but it would be fantastically nice if you could just acknowledge that trans lives actually do challenge those most fundamental assumptions about the world. The idea that Leslie Feinberg or Christine Jorgensen or Jan Morris or Alan Hart didn’t cause people to question fundamental assumptions is, frankly, bullshit.

    I worked in anti-domestic violence shelters for many years and I can tell you right now that the entire agency was upended the first time my then-partner suggested I talk to them about whether there’s a group in which I could participate to process my experience of being abused in an intimate relationship.

    Two years after that, they were still freaking out, though I didn’t know it because I was talking to the people who acquaintances & friends-of-friends in the queer community that had worked with me on activist projects for those years. They’d gotten over it even if their co-workers hadn’t.

    So the by-then-ex-partner (and still best friend) who had encouraged me to ask about support groups encouraged me to volunteer. I didn’t think they would want me. But I called, I gave it a shot, and I was told fuck no, they wouldn’t have me.

    Three years after that I was working with someone who was the volunteer coordinator at the shelter in my part of town – always the most liberal one – and she encouraged me to volunteer. She actually challenged me to step up and put my time where I said my values were and offer to help. I told her that I had offered to volunteer and was told to stay away, She looked stunned, as if it never occurred to her that for the last 3 years they hadn’t had my work and energy because of their own cissexism. She told me that as volunteer coordinator she could promise it would be okay. I told her that, will all due respect, I wasn’t going to put myself forward until the agency as a whole addressed the topic & decided everyone was okay. I didn’t want to show up and have people treat me like dirt and then have my supervisor tell me that they didn’t know if cissexist statements were against any policy and maybe I should just shut up and take it for a while until everyone has a chance to get to know me.

    So then three months later. MONTHS. I get a call back, they have a policy, they’d love to have me volunteer.

    Needless to say this wasn’t at all welcoming, but I felt obligated to better to the people getting services from the agency than the agency had ever been to me. So I went to work with them.

    But again, that was after FIVE YEARS and then three more months. These were trained, committed feminists who had already been taught to question stereotypes and it took them FIVE YEARS.

    The idea that gender non-conforming people challenge fundamental assumptions but transsexual people don’t is complete bullshit, not least because being transsexual doesn’t mean conforming to gender stereotypes.

    So please, just stop spreading the counterfactual and hurtful myth that trans people don’t challenge fundamental assumptions. Hell, you still seem to have intact your fundamental assumption that transsexual people are gender conformists. Maybe as a trans person I can inspire you to work on that one for a while.

  71. says

    llyris (which I’ve discovered begins with two ls rather than il):

    When I was younger I didn’t fit the stereotype of what a woman should be, and want, and feel. I was told so many times that I was born the wrong gender and I felt like I was born the wrong gender because how I felt and what I wanted didn’t line up with feminine things.

    25 years ago I felt like there was something wrong with my body because the way society viewed my body didn’t line up with my thoughts. Today I would probably be told I’m trans.
    But I’m not. I’m a cis het woman. The problem was never my body but the hidden gender norms I was pushed into. And they are deeply hidden.

    It’s one thing to say you don’t want to stay home and do the ironing but it’s another to say you intersect the world in an un-female way – something that is elusive and impossible to define. That people who know you see you as not quite really female despite them also seeing your body as completely female. And coming to the conclusion you must have got the wrong body (often while also trying to get their dick inside it). And because I was young and trying to work out who I am I often felt they were right. What I am saying is sometimes it’s not the wrong body, but the underlying assumptions of what a woman or a man fundamentally is.

    I was never encouraged or pressured to transition. 25 years ago it was considered much more extreme and weird than it is today.

    Hm. As a cishet woman, some of these experiences and feelings as you describe them sound odd to me. At first, I thought you were trolling or a TER (I’m going to adopt this!), but now I’m thinking perhaps you have some unresolved questions about your identity. Or maybe past experiences with others that are distorting your understanding of the subject? I don’t know. What I mean is that however incongruous my wishes, preferences, goals, etc. were with the prevailing sex roles (and it sounds like I’m older than you are), I never saw that in terms of something being wrong with my body or felt my body as wrong for me. I’ve heard enough of trans people’s descriptions to understand that their experience is qualitatively different. You seem to be suggesting that being trans is just an extreme form of gender-role nonconformity (or, really, conformity! – “a viable way to fit in,” as you put it), but that’s not the case.

  72. says

    Pierce R. Butler @ #66:

    I had a “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” moment at that, but after lurking through several TG-related threads at B&W and searching for Sastra’s name, have to concede you got it right.

    I had the same experience several months ago, checking in there because I imagined things must’ve gotten better and then seeing that not only had they not but that Sastra was in the mix. I’m going to try not to attempt to analyze what happened (though my hypothesis in OB’s case is social networks, particularly British ones). Many of us were learning about these questions around the same time, and people made their choices. Whichever direction anyone went – and some people surprised me in a good way – we could probably look back and see supposed clues that this was the way they were headed. But everyone made choices about their alignments and positions every step of the way. And continue to – no one’s fated to be a transphobe, and there’s always the possibility they could change.

    Electric Monk @ #57:

    Traditional gender roles damage our society is oh-so-many ways, and they need to go the way of the dinosaur. That said, they have absolutely nothing to do with why I am transitioning, and, if I weren’t more or less forced to performative femininity in order to be social accepted for my gender, I absolutely would not do it, and would forge my own path.

    When I first started (shamefully recently) thinking about this, one of my fears was that trans women embraced and reinforced traditional gender roles and stereotypes. It took a while to realize that this was a stereotype, and based on a misunderstanding, and that trans women often perform “femininity” for the same reasons cis women do (survival, acceptance, peace,…) (which isn’t to say all behaviors or choices culturally categorized as “feminine” are performance or conforming, of course).

    Also, congratulations and best wishes!

  73. says

    @80

    You nailed exactly what I was responding to, and expressed it far better (and more civilly) than I was able to muster last night. Thank you.

  74. says

    To SC on stereotypes – it’s a journey for all of us, full of all kinds of traps for us to stumble into. I’m glad you got out of the “trans people reinforce gender stereotypes” trap. Thank you.

    Crip Dyke – thank you as well. You’re far better at the trans advocacy game than I am, and have more patience to boot.

  75. says

    llyris

    Vucodlak @ 26 spoke about being shamed for not behaving enough like a man. I think that’s important.
    When I was younger I didn’t fit the stereotype of what a woman should be, and want, and feel. I was told so many times that I was born the wrong gender and I felt like I was born the wrong gender because how I felt and what I wanted didn’t line up with feminine things.
    There is a layer of feminism in society that hides a very deep and fundamental foundation of gender structure that poisons everything.
    25 years ago I felt like there was something wrong with my body because the way society viewed my body didn’t line up with my thoughts. Today I would probably be told I’m trans.
    But I’m not. I’m a cis het woman. The problem was never my body but the hidden gender norms I was pushed into. And they are deeply hidden.

    Hey, I think I get where you’re coming from, because my childhood experience was similar. At 11 months, for my first christmas, I got a doll from my grandparents (Because what else would you give a baby girl). Apparently I started to unwrap the present, and then I unwrapped the doll, apparently still looking for the present. When all the clothing was gone and there was still nothing interesting, I went and played with the box. My grandfather yelled it was the last doll I’d ever get, and true, for my birthday a month later I got a big plastic truck that I loved for many years.
    I was a wild kid who came home at dusk with bleeding knees and torn clothes. And my hair was short (there wasn’t a lot of it anyway) and it was the 80s and people who didn’t know me mistook me for a boy and those who did said I’d “better been born a boy”.
    The thing is: those people weren’t telling me that I was a trans boy. I doubt my elderly neighbour ever learned that trans men existed and if she did, I’m pretty sure she would have disapproved. Those people were telling me that I was doing “girl” wrong. They didn’t want me to be a boy, they wanted me to stop climbing trees and put on some white stockings.
    I got very angry at those people , and I also hated being misgendered and I got my ears pierced the moment my parents allowed me to, so yeah, I got some lessons in gender identity and gender performance as well as gender expectations before i could read and write.
    Now, just like you, I’m a cis woman. And I’m pretty happy in my gender identity nowadays, but it was a long way to go. I didn’t like the gender roles associated with being female, and I also went badly into femme phobia (which is another strong tendency among gender critical people), feeling forever bad for liking “feminine things” like all my fucking crafts, because there’s this idea that the cool girls are into dinosaurs (I am!), but not into make up (I am as well!). I only came to piece with myself when I started to analyse how all of these discourses are built and that I cannot in fact escape them, so I just do what makes me happy.

    I’m not a troll and I’m not a terf. You’re the second person on this thread who has tried to invalidate my lived experience.

    Oh bullshit. He has done no such thing. He has rightly pointed out that you cannot know how people would react to hypothetical you nowadays and given you feedback on how you come across.

    Yes, I am indignant about people telling me what I am and what I have to be, telling me that I’m wrong within myself because I don’t fit not just obvious social expectations, but also the ones that aren’t obvious.

    Nobody here is doing that. You are pretty much fighting windmills at this point. I started this lengthy comment reading the thread and I started writing thinking you were arguing in good faith.

    That people who know you see you as not quite really female despite them also seeing your body as completely female. And coming to the conclusion you must have got the wrong body (often while also trying to get their dick inside it). And because I was young and trying to work out who I am I often felt they were right.

    So you’re saying that cis men tried to tell you you’re a trans man while trying to fuck you?
    Or did they try to invalidate you and take you down and make you insecure so they could manipulate you better into letting them fuck you?

    @61. Electric monk – I was never encouraged or pressured to transition.

    By now I’m really not sure what your point is. You claimed, as I quoted above, that people told you you got the wrong body, but people also didn’t tell you you were trans. If you’re arguing in good faith, then you need to work on your communication.

  76. says

    Gilliland @89

    Thanks for affirming I wasn’t just spooking at shadows there and that what I was responding to had validity. Having come here fresh off of other, more hostile social media platforms, I was worrying in retrospect my gain might have been set a little too high when it comes to this stuff.

  77. says

    Electric Monk, I was just noting your first post above, specifically where you said “I am risking my marriage, social ostracism, poverty, and harassment.” In light of that, my “congratulations and best wishes!” probably sounded blithe, to say the least. I hope you have a good support network and resources to help you through it. You can always come here to vent, and I’m sure CD and others can help if you need it.

    But, you know, also congratulations and best wishes. :)

  78. says

    SC – No worries, I take it in the spirit in which it was offered, and say “thank you” again. It’s going to be an adventure, for sure.

  79. Bernard Bumner says

    @86 Electric Monk, ​I appreciate knowing that I wasn’t misrepresenting the issues.

    I thank you for sharing your experiences, and I hope that no-one thinks they are owed a temperate response from you. However, for what it is worth, I thought you were quite clear, measured and charitable in your replies.

  80. daulnay says

    Thank you, each and everyone (except the one troll) for a thoughtful discussion that’s been enlightening and challenging. ‘Most everyone here, including Illyris, seems to have a piece of the elephant of truth, and it’s been really helpful. The conversation here has changed my views on gender and sexuality some, which I didn’t expect at all.

    Illyris has a really good point, that our social norms about sex and gender are very deeply rooted in the culture. As a gender non-conforming male married to a gender non-conforming female I have been fighting them all of the 25 years of our marriage. It becomes hard, sometimes, to distinguish between deep gender norms and basic personality. Some are weirdly trivial (why am I the one who smishes the spiders and other bugs? why can’t one of the other (female) people in the family do it?) Some are not (how/when/why we interrupt one another).

    It makes sense that some people, especially someone very emotionally comfortable with gender stereotypes, might embrace transition when they don’t fit the stereotype for their sex, rather than accepting gender-nonconformity. Iran’s a clear example of rigid conformity to gender stereotyping forcing people into transition, a cautionary(?) (or nightmarish?) case. To me, Illyris’ point seems to be that some people today might feel that transition is the right choice because of the deep sexual stereotyping they absorbed, and it’s confusing/difficult to sort out what’s underlying biological sexuality and what’s profound absorbtion of cultural stereotyping.

    I read that Illyris feels it’s important to her that she’s sorted it out and remained female. While what she wrote might seem awfully close to a TERF talking point, it’s not. It’s pointing out that human experience is complicated and diverse. She explicitly said, in her first post, “This isnt an argument against trans though, because if that’s what makes you feel comfortable and happy then go for it. It’s an argument for greater acceptance of diversity of behaviour and greater examination of gender assumptions.” Too many of us feel uncomfortable with complexity and diversity and end up fighting over which simplification is correct when both are (partially) and neither are (completely).

    A few people in the heated part of this discussion seem to feel that other participants were disregarding their lived experience. To me, it looked like both sides were mis-understanding what the other was trying to say. Everyone here seems to be engaging in good faith and trying to understand, aside from that one troll (naturist-something?). When someone’s describing their experience and trying to understand it that doesn’t mean they’re denying yours. It means that the understandings that you’ve both reached are incomplete (and maybe you’re inferring a denial where there isn’t really one — I saw that a few times above).

    I completely support my family member who’s transitioning, and their experience makes it clear that some people are simply, profoundly, in the wrong body. Others, like my partner, me, and Illyris, are in the right body, but are way outside the norms for our gender. Life is diverse and complex. We all should be able to share our experiences without being attacked for “supporting XXX talking points”. Please read carefully, especially when your blood is up. It’s way better to pause, consider, calmly comment than to hit out and then apologize.

  81. says

    @95 daulnay

    You, like llyris before you, have ignored the fact that the pressure put on trans people is against transitioning in our society. Friends might encourage you toward it, thinking it may help you….but nobody gets to proceed without confronting it social cost they’re going to pay.

    Seriously….how did either of you get through the past five years without seeing the shift of the political right toward villifying trans people, up to and including fomenting violence? Have you missed the recent anti-trans laws currently being passed in several US states? The massive backlash against trans people happening right now in the UK? Congress people just today stating we are an affront to God’s law?

    No? Well, I’ve been very aware of it.

    Tell me if either of you have read the WPATH Standards of Care that lay out how transition is pursued as a medical treatment? Read about the years of gender counseling young tansitioners, those most vulnerable to being “pressured” to change, are subjected to before anything permanent is done, much of that counseling geared toward making them aware of what they are facing and making absolutely sure transition is necessary treatment?

    No? I have.

    And tell me if either of you have spent the last year confronting TERs and other transphobes and seeing the kinds of arguments they employ again, and again, and again, and seen all the variations of the “they’re coercing the children into transitiining”?

    No? I most certainly have.

    Then there is only one word I can use for your easy dismissal of my statement that llyris and her concerns surrounding pressure on young people to transition are 1) ill founded and 2) feed TER narratives that do real harm to trans people: Privilege.

    You may think you’re an ally, and maybe you mostly are….but in this particular instance, you’re not listening, you’re not helping either.

  82. says

    To me, Illyris’ point seems to be that some people today might feel that transition is the right choice because of the deep sexual stereotyping they absorbed, and it’s confusing/difficult to sort out what’s underlying biological sexuality and what’s profound absorbtion of cultural stereotyping.

    Do fuck off.

  83. ibyea says

    As someone who used to read her blog posts, it’s sad how how badly she seems to have fallen into bigotry. And I remember a lot of people from this blog saw it coming too.

  84. daulnay says

    @96 Electric Monk
    Since someone close to me who I love very much is transitioning, and I am assisting them in navigating the medical bureaucracy, I think I know more about the realities of transitioning than many of the people here, you excluded. I know that I am an ally; I have been supporting and encouraging the transitioning person in my life to face their fears, holding their hand as they deal with the medical people, coaching them through phone calls, embracing them in their change, and fully accepting who they are. Like you, I’m worried and fearful about the anti-trans rhetoric. I’ve seen the anguish being in the wrong body causes, comforted and encouraged, and talked them out of suicide. The trans experience is a salient and often painful part of my daily life (and now, thank the gods, getting better).

    I think your own pain and anger is blinding you. And that you need to buff your reading/listening skills. Illyris did not express any concerns that people are being pressured to transition that I could see. She did point out that the intersection of body and gender is complicated, that acceptance of transitioning has increased, and that there is social openness to transitioning that wasn’t there earlier. She also provided her experience, that it’s possible to be one sex while feeling like the other gender. In my opinion, 1) it is your characterization of her posts that is ill founded, that you are putting words in her mouth that are not really there. 2) from that mis-characterization, you claim she feeds TER narratives. Your mis-characterization does, certainly.

    In my opinion, it’s better to face unfavorable things head-on than to bury them. The silencing of ideas that might give comfort to an opponent prevents us from thinking about them. It keeps us from considering whether they have an actual kernel of truth, and thereby prevents us from finding a way to lead the opponent from that kernel of truth over to our side of the argument. I am not claiming that there’s a kernel of truth to TERF arguments. There is certainly something TERFs think is true. Doesn’t matter – them being wrong doesn’t make us right, necessarily. I’d much rather talk things out, and try to figure out what the world is actually like. So I am not inclined to silence people who say uncomfortable or even painful things. I’m especially skeptical when someone says “that feeds the bad X narrative”; far too often that’s a rhetorical technique to avoid addressing some uncomfortable fact or argument.

    Be aware that some of your claims are absolutely false. The person I am helping is over a year into their chemical transition, and has had ZERO counselling. No phone counseling, no online, no in-person. In this place, at this time, it is possible to begin transition without anything more than an hour of interview. Counseling’s encouraged, but not (so far) required, and they’re talking about arranging surgery soon.

    Yes, this feeds the TERF narrative. Doesn’t matter, it’s a fact. There are some places where counselling requirements are sometimes ignored. We have to deal with that, and with the stupid people who argue that because it’s absent some places that transition should be banned or restricted everywhere. And with the stupid people who argue that ‘young people are too uncertain/inexperienced to make such a choice’. Which is certainly true of some, and painfully false for others who need to make the change, sooner the better. We should (and I think, do) have the ability to help both properly. It’s not an either/or thing, its both/and.

  85. says

    @99

    ….says I need to “buff my reading skills” while using an adult to counter my mention of extensive counseling given to young transitioners.

    Enough said.

  86. says

    You know the fuck what? I was already exhausted from fighting with people when I got here, expecting a place I could relax and let down among allies. I was mistaken. Take your efforts to “debate” and shove them, @daulnay. Your “young” transitioner is obviously not a minor, or they’d be in counseling per WPATH SOC.

    I’m gone, back to lurking. I don’t have the energy to fight my supposed allies too.

  87. daulnay says

    I was wrong – they are definitely not a child. Read the section in WPATH, which distinguishes between children, adolescents, and full adults. Definitely not adult, either, but that explains why we had a different definition of child. And it looks like the medical care people may not be following WPATH completely here.

  88. PaulBC says

    daulnay@103 Your claim of being an ally is undermined by posting a 550 lecture followed by a 600 response to objections (measured roughly using “pbpaste | wc”).

    It doesn’t mean you don’t perceive yourself as a helping, but you’re also clearly judging others who are (again clearly) not in the mood for it. You may perceive this as necessary and important. But you cannot demand that others share the perception.

    And yes, I can get very verbose. What I don’t do is claim to be helping anyone other than myself. I sometimes write defensively when I’m pulled into an argument. Other times I may even imagine other people are interested in what I have to say. Sometimes my writing is purely impulsive. I hope to avoid undue offense. I do not presume to be anyone’s “ally” unless they invite me into their alliance.

  89. publicola says

    @11: I’ll bet it was the Howie Carr show. @46: Person of Interest was SO underrated! In general, studies have shown that the brains of conservatives are wired differently. In my experience, they must control; acquire; protect. Anything different is automatically a threat. That’s why it’s so hard to reason with them. They must protect their world view because that is the foundation of their identities. It often takes some kind of “Road to Damascus” moment for them to see the light. Sadly, it’s almost impossible to get lightening to strike in the right place.

  90. publicola says

    Y’know, I wasn’t gonna mention this, but then I figured, “what the hell.” maybe someone will find it interesting. Many years ago, when I was 22, I was lying in bed on a sweltering summer night, trying to fall asleep. I was staring out the window when this feeling sort of crept over me. I sort of followed it with my mind as it grew, and for about 15 seconds, I became female. I kind of laid there experiencing the feeling, wondering at the strangeness and newness of it. Then, just as gradually, the feeling washed away. But for those 15 seconds, my whole identity was female! It was the most astounding thing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve always been male, I like being male; it’s who and what I am. But this just blew my mind. I lay there for a long time, thinking about it. I even tried to make ti happen again, without success. It’s as if my brain had been flooded with estrogen or something. Anyway, I thought it was the neatest thing. I still do. Maybe this is why I can empathize with trans folks.

  91. Bernard Bumner says

    @99, daulnay,

    Illyris did not express any concerns that people are being pressured to transition that I could see.

    I’m reticent to do this, because llyris seems to have exited this discussion, and I don’t want it seem as though I’m continuing to pile on. But let me draw you the lines that I perceived.

    There is a layer of feminism in society that hides a very deep and fundamental foundation of gender structure that poisons everything.
    25 years ago I felt like there was something wrong with my body because the way society viewed my body didn’t line up with my thoughts. Today I would probably be told I’m trans… I wonder if some of the increase in trans and intersex expression is not so much a fundamental problem within a person, but a problem with how they intersect with society.

    @58

    What I am saying is sometimes it’s not the wrong body, but the underlying assumptions of what a woman or a man fundamentally is. That in a way trans is the path of least resistance, not because it’s easy (I’m sure it isn’t) but because it doesn’t challenge those most structural fundamental assumptions about the world

    @75

    I was never encouraged or pressured to transition. 25 years ago it was considered much more extreme and weird than it is today. It wasn’t seen as a viable way to fit in.

    The corollary to that are the assumptions that 25 years later transition is considered less extreme and weird, and more of a viable way to fit in. And that people might – given similar circumstances to llyris – be encouraged or pressured to transition.

    I think you are absolutely wrong that llyris didn’t imply that “people are being pressured to transition”.

    And I think you should be ashamed of your petulant response where you attack and dismiss Electric Monk. You cannot patronisingly tell someone that they should be grateful to have you as an ally when you are equivocating about the experience they are living.

    Your vicarious experience of transitioning qualifies you about as much on the subject as I am on childbirth having supported my partner through two pregnancies and labours. I would not dare to dismiss her experience, or her ability to talk more broadly to the general experience. And I certainly wouldn’t angrily chide her for telling me to stop, listen and think if I suddenly started pontificating on apocryphal edge cases that, maybe yes, carry echoes of misogynistic MRA talking points.

    (And I apologise to everyone for the comparison of transitioning with one of the most socially accepted and enthusiastically enabled experiences. It seems offensively trite, but it is the only genuine experience I have at hand to draw an analogy.)

  92. says

    Thanks for that post, Crip Dyke @ #109! Really helpful and clear. (I have one very minor suggestion: The indented paragraph that follows “So the interpretation that most naturally flows from llyris’ somewhat ambiguous writing is,…” could perhaps be italicized or something – some manner of setting it apart from the actual quotations from llyris. It’s not particularly confusing or misleading given that introductory phrase; it’s just that it follows close on the heels of a couple of direct quotes.) Looking forward to reading the next one (or two).

  93. KG says

    It didn’t seem to bother anyone here when it was, for example, Muslims she was hating on. – Allison@28

    Not true. I objected repeatedly, for one, as did a number of others.

  94. PaulBC says

    KG@114 I would have objected if I had been there to observe it. At least, I think I can state that with some credibility.

  95. anat says

    Much of what I could possibly say based on my own experience was said by others, especially Giliell. There is still a bit that I think might help clarify some of the exchange between daulnay and Electric Monk.

    When my son started his medical transition at the age of 17 we were recommended a few doctors by the support groups we were attending (parallel groups, one for transgender and gender expansive teens, one for their parents or other adults in their lives). We were fortunate to get an appointment with a doctor who was recommended by multiple group participants. One of the things this doctor said was that there has been a move in transgender care from WPATH Standards of Care towards a more Informed Consent-based model (see for instance Informed Consent in the Medical Care of Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Patients , where the attending clinician listens to the patient, establishes the presence of gender dysphoria, presents the pros and cons of hormone treatment, just like with any other medical condition. In the case of transgender adolescents, one needs the consent of a guardian and the assent of the patient. (It gets more complicated if guardians are divorced and in disagreement with one another.)

    Now, for surgical treatment there is still the requirement of one (for chest surgery) or two (for genital surgery) letters from mental health professionals, and insurance companies may impose additional requirements. How much interaction with the mental health practitioner takes place before one gets the letter varies and is up to the practitioners.

    Of course any patient may seek mental health care as they feel needed beyond anything asked from them as part of any medical approval process. But the short version of the above is: If you are seeking transition care for yourself or a minor in your care, ask if they are following WPATH SOC or an Informed Consent model.

  96. says

    daulnay

    Try not hitting at your allies next time.

    If the people you want to be an ally to are pretty pissed with you, maybe try being a better ally?

    It becomes hard, sometimes, to distinguish between deep gender norms and basic personality.

    How on earth would anybody be able to do that? I do not have a “basic personality” that is somehow separable from the society I live in. My personality was formed and grew within a deeply sexist society. I mean, I like cooking and baking, but I have no clue if I would like it if I’d grown up in a world where those were seen as male activities and where I would have watched my father and grandfather bake cake after cake instead of my grandmother and mother.

    I know that I am an ally; I have been supporting and encouraging the transitioning person in my life to face their fears, holding their hand as they deal with the medical people, coaching them through phone calls

    The person I am helping is over a year into their chemical transition, and has had ZERO counselling

    Care to explain which one it is?

  97. KG says

    I have litte-to-no relevant personal experience here, other than being educated on the issues, on this blog and elsewhere, by trans people. But I’d be interested in others’ views of a hypothesis (not original with me) about the origins of TER(F) transphobia: that at least in part, it’s because trans people, particularly transwomen, challenge a belief held by some radical feminists, that both gender expression and gender identity are inventions and tools of the patriachy; and that if we could get rid of the latter (patriarchy) they would disappear, and what genitals (and secondary sexual characteristics) you had would be of no more social significance than whether you can waggle your ears*. Seen in terms of this ideology, trans people (and particularly transwomen, as their gender identity is so important to them that they have chosen to risk subjecting themselves to misogyny – transmen can be explained away as “traitors”, wanting to join the oppressor) are living evidence that this belief is founded on a fundamental error.

    *It took me some time to come up with a physical characteristic that genuinely is of little social significance!

  98. PaulBC says

    KG@119 Tongue rolling would work too I guess.

    It’d be interesting to hear an informed opinion on your hypothesis and I’ll leave it at that.

    I have a pragmatic view on diversity, and this comes up especially in discussions of workplace diversity. You fill a team with different people to avoid group-think. If the women and men working as engineers were literally interchangeable, then there would be no benefit to diversity, and it would be nonsensical to talk about it in terms of adding value to a team (though there would still be the fairness issue).

    This is one the reasons I found James Damore’s little tantrum so tiresome. He completely missed the point of diversity initiatives. Nobody said men and women are the same. That’s a strawman. (He also missed the point that a corporation is not a democracy and even Google can fire you if you state point blank that you are against an objective that was determined at C-level, and probably will if you wreck your CEOs vacation in the process–you could learn that lesson just watching the Flintstones.)

    Of course, there may be women engineers who really are very like their male peers in outlook or vice versa. I can only say that in practice, having known many high-achieving men and women in computer science (academic and industry software developers) they do not seem interchangeable, though their skills and aptitudes are identical. I have a very male approach to things, which is not a positive in my view. I can be disorganized and may show disregard for keeping to a clear timetable, and maybe it’s just male and white privilege that I think I can get away with it. It’s a good thing nobody thinks cloning me would make a team (and I’m not that irresponsible, and I try hard to make up for my default settings).

    Who knows, really? I do know that I like being part of a diverse group. Some of my least favorite industry experiences have been in male-dominated “bro-grammer” environments. (word count exceeds 300, yes I can be verbose)

  99. says

    KG

    that at least in part, it’s because trans people, particularly transwomen, challenge a belief held by some radical feminists, that both gender expression and gender identity are inventions and tools of the patriachy; and that if we could get rid of the latter (patriarchy) they would disappear, and what genitals (and secondary sexual characteristics) you had would be of no more social significance than whether you can waggle your ears*.

    I think that in some parts, and some cases, and probably some time ago, your hypothesis is sensible. But in terms of current transphobic discourse, those people have jumped the shark. “Traditional” feminist discourse has always centred on equality. Much of current transphobic discourse actually holds that women are truly less than men, and that we therefore need special protection, like, I don’t know, a panda bear. They also absolutely uphold the gender binary and want it rigorously policed and enforced. One of their “leading thinkers” (I’m using the term loosely here) K. Stock has proclaimed that she’s ok with having gender non conforming cis women kicked out of women’s bathrooms and spaces if that also means she gets to kick out non cis passing trans women.
    They also seriously seem to think that women’s oppression was actually due to our biology. Now, don’t get me wrong, reproductive control is absolutely a reason why people considered women are oppressed, but that is not founded in our biology. Seriously, neither my vagina nor my uterus nor my tits are oppressive. They don’t cause oppression. They don’t make men magically lose control over their actions. that’s like saying black people are oppressed because of their skin colour, instead of of white supremacy that systematically exploits black bodies.

  100. says

    But I’d be interested in others’ views of a hypothesis (not original with me) about the origins of TER(F) transphobia: that at least in part, it’s because trans people, particularly transwomen, challenge a belief held by some radical feminists, that both gender expression and gender identity are inventions and tools of the patriachy; and that if we could get rid of the latter (patriarchy) they would disappear, and what genitals (and secondary sexual characteristics) you had would be of no more social significance than whether you can waggle your ears*.

    Anti-trans reactions among feminists preceded any justifying theoretical framework. If you’re familiar with The Transsexual Empire, it was considered so important at the time because feminists hadn’t bothered to address the subject significantly at any time before that. In the 60s there was very little attention paid to transsexual people at all, and “transgender” as a concept hadn’t come into existence (so we certainly didn’t have the umbrella term “trans” (or “trans*” as it was typically spelled back in its early days) to unite transsexual communities with their transgender peers – seeing as there were, as yet, no peers who might call themselves transgender.

    Instead what precipitated the creation of a theoretical justification was a series of dialogs (and/or “fights”) about women’s separatism (especially, but not only, lesbian feminist separatism). Although separatism was a niche movement, never very popular, there was a long time where it was popular to visit or interact with separatist communities, who were often seen as a place for rejuvenation and for fertile feminist discussion that could then send out this wisdom, hard won on separatist land, to the feminist sisters still living in community with (cis-) men. There was a beautiful mythology of separatist land, and there’s some underpinning reality that makes the mythology all the more compelling: it really does take work just to deal with everyday sexism. Getting away from everyday sexism can free up emotional energy, and therefore time, to get other things done. Plus when you get a bunch of feminists together in a single space cooking & eating & weeding gardens & fucking & trying to start a fire with wet wood in the wood stove because Beth fucking let the evening fire go out again without banking it, well, they inevitably have conversations. And some of those conversations are going to be very fruitful because different people have read both some of the same feminists but also completely different feminists and so there’s both a common social understanding and language to assist communication and cooperative learning, but also a diverse set of background experiences & knowledge, along with different ideas and opinions.

    So separatist land played a small but key role in the development of feminist thought. But not all separatism was on rural land deliberately separated from men such that you couldn’t even see any. There were separatist collectives that pursued activist causes & even businesses set up as by-and-for women, separatist in philosophy if not in geography. One such business was Olivia Records, based in or near San Francisco (I was never sure exactly where in the bay area, for all I know it could have been Oakland). No one debates the fact that Olivia was staunchly feminist. Nor does anyone debate the fact that their sound engineer, Sandy Stone, was a transsexual woman one (or some?) of the original employees had met. They definitely felt her out for her commitment to feminism, found her philosophically compatible with Olivia, and hired her.

    But if Sandy Stone was (and is) not a woman, and given that part of what separatism looked like included not spending any money on men or men’s businesses when women were so underrepresented in so many fields, then some separatists were going to have ethical questions about whether they were living up to their own ethics if they spent money on Olivia recordings while Olivia was spending money made to pay their sound engineer.

    This was a key event in the development of anti-trans feminism, but not the only one, and certainly would have been less influential outside the US & Canada (yes, Olivia sold a lot of recordings in Canada). Many people were divided. Some felt that if Stone had renounced manhood that that was a positive thing that should be encouraged as part of a long & complex path to a complete gender revolution. Others had complex points about how Stone’s background might have given her disproportionately easy access to the training required to be a sound engineer, and that employing her as such in a feminist recording company would be to permit the legacy of sexist privilege to affect who could and couldn’t work in Olivia and other feminist businesses. (This was a forerunner of the fear that women’s athletics would fall apart if an MtF trans person were ever to take part.) What if men sound engineers transitioned just to take jobs in feminist recording studios when they couldn’t find jobs in mainstream studios?

    Yes, you can laugh. But it was something people discussed.

    There were less serious people as well, though, People whose analysis was no more nuanced than, “Ick!” While sticking to, “Ick, I don’t want to interact with or financially support men, and there’s something very ickily mannish about Sandy Stone” might work for a while, separatism itself was a limited ideology. Where do separatists get groceries? Where do they buy fertilizer and seed for their gardens? Some level of interaction with (cis) men was always inevitable, and while feminist collectives still exist here and there, they’ve been in decline since the end of the 70s, if not before.

    Then The Transsexual Empire hit, with a prominent chapter specifically focussing on Sandy Stone. Some people were convinced that trans people were devils & rapists, and some weren’t convinced, but nearly every active feminist recognized at that point that there was at least a need for a serious theoretical effort to understand trans people, understand how trans people interact with society and how society interacts with trans persons, and then use those new understandings to make normative statements about how trans persons should be viewed by feminists and to what extent interacting with trans women might be a “compromise” of feminist ethics the way that going to a grocery store might be. How much a compromise? What principles, precisely, did interaction with trans people compromise? What outcomes did new theories predict would occur as a result of including or excluding trans people from various efforts and communities? Should trans people be welcomed into the feminist fold? If so, when? Should there be conditions? What would those conditions be?

    The 1980s and 90s were a time when many of these theoretical discussions were being had, but none of them quite framed the question as you did, not least because language had yet to be standardized, and so even the people who might use the term “gender identity” wouldn’t necessarily use it to mean precisely the same thing as someone else in a similar conversation down the proverbial road (or, sometimes, even in the same conversation).

    There was not much immediate pushback against The Transsexual Empire, but by the time it was rereleased in a new edition in the 1990s, there had been significant pushback. The author – whom I will not publicize here – wrote a new forward discussing the threat of “transgender”. It’s been many years since I read that foreward last (though the book is still somewhere in my book boxes), but as I remember it many of the tropes that would become popular among the “gender critical” crowd, whom I will here name Anti-Trans Reactionaries (ATRs). Transgender was supposed to be a more threatening phenomenon, almost a contagion. Gender identity was discussed as a fantasy completely divorced from the bodies that defined the center of feminist investigation. Some of this is foreshadowed in the original text of The Transsexual Empire, but some of it simply wasn’t possible in the original since transgender as a term was unknown when TTE’s author was first writing.

    It’s to this time period, not to the new forward to TTE, but inclusive of that forward as an important contribution, that the rise of a theoretical framework to oppose trans equality came to be. In the original TTE the thesis of the book was more against medical interventions and feminist inclusion than against social equality for trans people. That simply wasn’t a possibility of which the eventual ATRs had not yet conceived. The “gender clinics” (this was what they called themselves) were critiqued in TTE (often for good reasons, though bizarrely attributing their structure and rules to trans people themselves, rather than to the cis people who ran the clinics for the benefit of cis individuals and cis-supremacist society), but if surgeries were shut down and if feminists individually shunned trans people, that was sufficient to the problems TTE articulated. There was no need to advocate that there should (or shouldn’t) be housing or job discrimination against trans persons in 1992. There simply was such discrimination and the future ATRs simply did not care a whit. So long as they didn’t have trans people interacting with them, what happened to trans people, good or bad, was dismissed as irrelevant before the early-to-mid 90s.

    The mid 90s changed things, and in particular the advent of transfeminism (with which I am happy to be associated). While there had been a great deal of trans advocacy and activism around HIV disease (originally called HTLV-III disease, but of course most popularly known during the period as acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and around trying to change the gatekeeper model upon which so-called “gender clinics” operated and opposing anti-trans hate violence, there had been very little activism on general social equality. Nor had there been much activism in areas that would overlap with historically feminist domains of political and social action, like anti-sexual assault and anti-domestic violence activism.

    This last seems odd, of course, if you think about it. Much of the anti-trans hate violence being opposed came from dates or from johns of trans sex workers, and a great deal of it involved rape or sexual assault. Still, there was little overlap between cis feminists’ anti-violence groups and trans advocates’ anti-violence groups before the 1990s. There was little to indicate then that anti-discrimination laws might someday include protection based on gender presentation or gender identity, but there were clear hints by that time, and ultimately the origins of modern ATR ideology can be traced to those days.

  101. says

    neither my vagina nor my uterus nor my tits are oppressive. They don’t cause oppression. They don’t make men magically lose control over their actions. that’s like saying black people are oppressed because of their skin colour, instead of of white supremacy that systematically exploits black bodies.

    This is why the phrase “wheelchair bound” is so simultaneously confusing and irritating to me.

    The wheelchair doesn’t bind me you schmucks. It liberates me to move around in ways or to locations or for durations that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve.

    “Wheelchair bound” is indeed a thing, of course, but unless you are intending to offer bondage play to someone, I don’t suggest you use it.

  102. PaulBC says

    Giliell@121

    Much of current transphobic discourse actually holds that women are truly less than men, and that we therefore need special protection, like, I don’t know, a panda bear.

    That’s an intriguing image and also strikes me as completely removed from reality. As far as I can tell, the shift away from a heavy manufacturing economy and emphasis on education have created an increasingly even playing field for women (or anyway for what is culturally perceived as the strengths of women). This is true in healthcare, and true in biotech from my experience, less so in pure tech, but maybe not for long. Women strike me as diametrically opposite to an endangered species with diminishing habitat.

    In fact, I’d go as far as to say that is where a lot of male resentment comes from. I am not sure it explains the anti-transgender reaction, though I could imagine someone suspecting the motives of someone who is biologically male transitioning to a woman (emphasis on “imagine”; that is pure speculation).

  103. says

    Not only is this person wrong, most of what they said was an incoherent word salad.

    To be honest, her blogging in the past frequently struck me as word salad. It’s true that I did like her blog and considered her a fellow skeptic, which is why I, too, am disappointed to see what’s become of her. Sadly, she’s far from the only “skeptic” to fall into this gutter.

  104. fernando says

    The key word in “trans people” is people.
    There is no need to treat them like some kind of abnormalities!
    They are, simply, people…

  105. Bernard Bumner says

    @ Orac,
    I’m amazed at the extent to which her blog content now consists of angry assertions. I don’t remember her style, clipped as it was, being that superficial. Although she is prolific, there is very little substantial content. Most of it just seems to be aggregated links, punctuated with vicious sneering assertions.

    Obviously, I find her opinions repugnant, however I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with ridicule as a rhetorical device. But just lashing out whilst pointing at other sources? I’m not sure what her followers are getting from it, other than a sense of collective outrage. I think it is very fair to say that she doesn’t seem at all interested in educating or changing minds.

  106. PaulBC says

    CD@122 Not important, but since you left the location of Olivia Records as a loose end, and I like to Google.

    Sandy Stone was Olivia’s sound engineer from ca. 1974-1978, recording and mixing all Olivia product during this period. She resigned as the controversy over her working for a lesbian-identified enterprise increased because she was a transgender woman.[12][13]

    Following a sold-out tenth-anniversary best-of concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Olivia’s idealist and inexperienced business practices led to significant financial hardship. Meg Christian left the record label in 1984.[10] Olivia moved first to Los Angeles to stay on top of the burgeoning music scene and then to Oakland.

    BTW, I think this changes your chronology but not in a material way. It sounds like Stone left before they were in the Bay Area.

  107. Bernard Bumner says

    @ 122, Crip Duke – this and your own blog post are really fantastic and digestible resources. Thanks.

  108. Bernard Bumner says

    CD – just noticed the autocorrect error in your name @131. Apologies, my phone’s vocabulary is as reactionary as my proof-reading is slapdash.

  109. garnetstar says

    Crip Dyke, I looked up the book you mentioned and read the description of it. Saw that the loathesome subtitle is “The Making of the She-Male”, and that most of the ranting is against trans women.

    So that’s it, is it? Fear of trans women. I’ve noticed that before with, say, RWNJs: when they bloviate on why all trans people should be oppressed, they always focus only on the danger of trans women. One would think, listening to them, that they are unaware that trans men and NB people even exist. (Although, in their private lives, they are mighty fine with enacting discrimination, harassment, and violence and murder, on trans men.)

    And, would the “feminists” who read that book ever have sunk into such animosity if trans people consisted only of trans men and NB people? If there were no trans women, would this fear and hatred and rejection of all trans people have gotten started?

    Is it the fear of trans women somehow taking things away from cis “feminists”? The book you mentioned seemed to rant a lot about how “mothering” could only belong to cis women. Like, these cis “feminists” were so shaky in their self-conception or self-worth that letting anyone who wasn’t them into the club was a threat to all of them?

    I noticed that, in the past when gay sexual orientation was a widely-hated and feared idea, the very existence of gay men seemed to be considered a lot more threatening than that of gay women. In the 1940’s, for example, Britain’s laws allowed passport control agents to simply refuse entrance to England to any foreign man whom they even suspected might be gay. Because, having gay men in the country, even just on tourist visas, would be so damaging. But there was not a single law on the books about banning, or anything, the entry of suspected gay women. Because, they weren’t dangerous, too trivial to worry about. As a contemporarty writer stated, the laws were displaying a basic contempt for women.

    It’s almost as if people identified at birth as male are the only important ones, the only ones whose actions and activities could seriously damage or topple society if they do not conform. Those identified at birth as female are, seemingly, simply not valuable or important enough to worry about much: they can be treated as objects and used at will like objects, and controlled by strict social norms, but whatever non-conformity they get up to can just be punished by violence or murder. They don’t pose any existential societal threat.

  110. anat says

    garnetstar @134: An actual argument I once saw on B&W was that if it turned out to be true that brains of transgender women were more similar to brains of cisgender women than those of cisgender men then it would mean there was a meaningful difference between the brains of men and those of women, and thus all of feminism would be over. (Wasn’t there an argument by an early feminist that even if men on average were better than women at whatever this was no reason to exclude women from that thing?)

  111. PaulBC says

    anat @136

    Wasn’t there an argument by an early feminist that even if men on average were better than women at whatever this was no reason to exclude women from that thing?

    I don’t know about the specifics, but an argument that has always worked for me is that it is nonsensical to apply aggregate measures to an individual, when you can measure them directly.

    Suppose for the sake of argument that there’s a pinochle gene, and the 99%tile of pinochle players all possess this gene. Suppose it even correlates to lower levels of play. But for whatever reason, you just need the 75%tile of pinochle players for a friendly tournament. In that case, it makes more sense to look at ability and forget about the gene. Even at elite levels, you still have better ways of measuring aptitude. So the existence of a gene remains a scientific curiosity, not a useful way of ranking pinochle players.

    In reality, we need lots of people who are only “very good” at something, and not necessarily “best of the best.” It is unfair to deny opportunities to those capable of doing a job, and in fact bigotry normally works to protect less competent members of a privileged category by denying access to those outside categories perceived to be better at the job.

  112. says

    Wasn’t there an argument by an early feminist that even if men on average were better than women at whatever this was no reason to exclude women from that thing?

    That’s long been mainstream feminist policy/philosophy. I don’t think that anyone believes cis women will complete SEAL training or Army Ranger training at the same rate as cis men, but it’s still sexist to exclude whatever number of women can complete the training.

    It’s also worth noting that conceding that ground would be stupid for feminism. All men have to do is claim that any existing occupational or other disparity is due in part to embodied differences and BOOM, no equality for you.

    Lest you think that’s an unlikely scenario, we actually have research that shows that the taller a person is, up to a certain point, the more that person is perceived as a natural leader. Simply by virtue of a lesser average in height, women could be excluded from any leadership position if we didn’t take the position that we do: even if men are better on average at women, there should be no discrimination. Just make the hiring/firing/promotion decisions based on actual ability and there will be no problem, even if that means that 55% or 85% of people in a particular occupation or speciality are men.

  113. garnetstar says

    @136 anat, thanks for that info. That sure is a wild fantasy (physical brain similarities = people??? Do they make the same argument about gay women and straight men’s brains?), but again it seems to be primal feat of trans women as the main threat, which then envelopes and folds in fear and loathing of any and all trans and NB people, in order to try to support their position.

    I still don’t get it. There was a funny diagram going around when gay marriage was very contested (not that long ago!), which showed a pie chart, and was called “Consequences of gay marriage”. Blue sections meant “Russia invades”, green “Judgment Day begins”, yellow “Families are destroyed”, pink “Icecaps melt” and red “gay people get married.”
    The whole circular pie was, of course, solid red.

    Would like an analgous chart for "Trans people get full rights and social acceptance", with different colors being "Children get transed", "We lose all lesbians", "Feminism is over", etc., and then the chart is one solid color that means "Trans people lead normal social lives."

  114. Prax says

    Wow, the copypasta is hot on this thread. daulnay, why are you copying my old posts? I have enough trouble trying to copy myself. PZ, purge this thread when you get a chance.

  115. Prax says

    And likewise Electric Monk. Is it “fuck off” that we say to impostors? Fuck off.

  116. John Morales says

    [At least some comments from Electric Monk and from daulnay are direct responses to other comments on this thread. That, and the evasiveness from Prax, are indicative.]

  117. blf says

    It is very intriguing that Prax@140 wrote (my added emphasis), Wow, the copypasta is hot on this thread. daulnay, why are you copying my old posts?

    As others have noted, this is PZ’s blog (not Marcus’), and solid evidence of plagiarism is needed (e.g., a link to an older post). I cannot speak for PZ, but presume evidence of plagiarism (i.e., the link(s?) & a concise summary) can be sent directly to him by e-mail, which given the purge this thread demand (also in @140), might be worth considering? (poopyhead, apologies if this results in additional rants in your e-inbox, albeit evidence with a concise summary is not a rant.)

  118. says

    garnetstar

    An actual argument I once saw on B&W was that if it turned out to be true that brains of transgender women were more similar to brains of cisgender women than those of cisgender men then it would mean there was a meaningful difference between the brains of men and those of women, and thus all of feminism would be over.

    Wait, isn’t that the same people who regularly yell “biological reality, men are not women because I learned that definition in middle school”?
    So apparently they can have their cake and eat it.
    The whole “brains” argument is grounded in half- knowledge and incorrect premises. It is true that on average women’s brains are different in several ways from men’s brains. One of these is size. IIRC, larger brains need different mechanisms to make things work than smaller brains. And because men are on average taller than women, they have on average larger brains. Tall women and short men do indeed have brain structures according to their size, not their sex.
    The second point is that our brains are, of course, also formed by our lived experiences. Scientists can very easily find differences between men and women and then some people will say “see, men and women are different” while disregarding that they are the result of years of being a man/ woman in a sexist society.
    Thirdly, of course, as CD has pointed out, even if there were significant 100% biological differences, this still wouldn’t mean that feminism was over. If we lived in feminist utopia where no gender norms dictated who should do what and still the ratio of primary caregivers was 2:1 with the majority being women it still wouldn’t follow that we should change back to a world where women are expected to be caregivers and men expected to be breadwinners.

  119. says

    I’m getting complaints about this thread getting all glitchy — I haven’t seen it yet & can’t replicate it, but I’ll keep an eye on it.

  120. klatu says

    Fuck, this thread has blown up and I’m late to the party again…

    @woozy #52

    To the TERFs, like Ophelia, gender roles are non-existent.

    I think it’s the exact opposite.

    TERFs are gender essentialists. They believe there is some inherent value to their “bio sex” that translates directly to the value of their identity. That there is some nature-given worth in their “de facto” femaleness. Nature has decreed them female, and that makes it immutable and sacred.

    It’s dumb, of course. Society has decreed them female (nature ususally keeps its mouth shut about these things). Either way, their so-called identity is not one they assigned themselves and is therefore not really an identity worth owning. The bargain-bin, discount variety we all get for free (whether we want it or not).

    And subconsciously, these fools know it. Which is why they get so angry about it all. Because an alternative pathway to being a woman (or a man or whatever) implicitly cheapens their own unearned status as such.

    @Electric Monk hit the nail on the head when she called it gatekeeping. That’s exactly it. It’s a boys-club mentality. And these women fucking suck for adopting it.

    (Okay. I’m done sniffing my own farts now. Back to listening to experts like CD, now.)

    @John Morales #54

    Anyway, I am sufficiently sanguine about B&W becoming primarily focused on TERFyness, but dismayed Sastra went there too.

    I remember that nym from years ago. Shame.
    Oh well. Yet another person not worth knowing, I guess *shrug*.

    @Electric Monk
    You are appreciated here. I mostly lurk myself, and I get super anxious about everything I post.

    It’s kind of disappointing that you were made to feel the need to defend yourself in this space. I wish people were a little less combative around here, myself.

    I wish you all the best and I hope you can give this place another chance.

    @daulny
    You’re not an ally when you get angry about not being appreciated enough for being an “ally”.
    (Fucking learn to read the mood, at least?)

  121. says

    @8 klatu

    Pretty much nail on the head there. I was exhausted from several hours and something like 30 comments on other forums penned in defense of trans identity and rights. I wasn’t expecting to have to do that on Pharyngula, too, of all places. “Exasperation” definitely applies. And while I very easily could have had my “gain” turned up too high and been oversensitive in my response – I’m still not entirely sure on that one – I don’t think I was horribly in the wrong overall in being upset. I could very likely have read more carefully and exercised the principle of charity more, though.

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