When you put it that way, who wouldn’t want to be Pocahantas?

There have been multiple instances of white people posing as Indians — after all, you can suddenly acquire the illusion of authority and wisdom by calling yourself Grey Owl and claiming to have been taught the sacred ways by a native American elder. You don’t actually need to be wise, just attaching an animal to your name and sticking some feathers in your hair does all the work.

Oh boy, here comes another example: Carrie Bourassa has been an advocate for indigenous rights in Canada (that’s good), but the way she has done it is to appropriate indigenous identity. She wears a costume and claims to be a member of a growing list of native tribes, expanding from Métis at first, to now claiming Anishinaabe and Tlingit origins.

Caroline Tait, a Métis professor and medical anthropologist at the U of S, has worked with Bourassa for more than a decade.

She said early on in Bourassa’s career, she only identified as Métis. But more recently, Tait said, Bourassa began claiming to also be Anishinaabe and Tlingit. Tait said she also began dressing in more stereotypically Indigenous ways, saying the TEDx Talk was a perfect example.

“Everybody cheers and claps, and it’s beautiful,” said Tait. “It is the performance that we all want from Indigenous people — this performance of being the stoic, spiritual, culturally attached person [with] which we can identify because we’ve seen them in Disney movies.”

Right. It’s reducing identity to a performance. It’s all a sham, though — she isn’t the slightest bit Métis, Anishinaabe, or Tlingit. She’s of Eastern European descent.

Tait said Bourassa’s shifting ancestry claims made her and other colleagues suspicious. They also recently learned that Bourassa’s sister had stopped claiming to be Métis after she examined her genealogy. So Tait, Wheeler, Smylie and others decided to review that genealogy for themselves.

“We start to see that no, as a matter of fact, [Bourassa’s ancestors] are farmers,” Tait said. “These are people who are Eastern European people. They come to Canada, they settle.”

Tait said genealogical records show that Bourassa’s supposed Indigenous ancestors were of Russian, Polish and Czechoslovakian descent.

“There was nowhere in that family tree where there was any Indigenous person,” said Wheeler.

She also claims cultural affinity, being brought up in the ways of the native by her grandfather (who was the child of Czech-speaking farmers), and that she was raised in a poor neighborhood, subject to discrimination and oppression (her parents owned a Saskatchewan real estate development, and her father owned Ron’s Car Cleaning, the “No. 1 detail shop in the province”). That would be contrary to her indigenous stereotype, though!

Wheeler says she’s offended by the way that Bourassa has described her childhood, “feeding into stereotypes” of poverty, violence and substance abuse.

“Maybe she did have a dysfunctional childhood and it was full of pain. But to bring that into a discussion about her identity and under this flimsy umbrella of her Indigeneity, I think, was really manipulative, because it suggests that she is Indigenous, that she experienced Indigenous poverty.”

Wheeler said Bourassa’s claims of Indigeneity are offensive.

“It’s theft. It is colonialism in its worst form and it’s a gross form of white privilege.”

Be who you really are, it’s always better. I try to pretend I’m actually a raging Viking berserker, and no one is fooled — my ancestors were all unglamorous peasant farmers. Maybe if I called myself Paul the Bloody Handed and wore a horned helmet to class, and demanded that all student essays be written in futhark? Yeah, that would add authenticity.


  1. cartomancer says

    There are complex fault lines of identity being revealed here.

    I have noticed that a lot of immigrant-descended New World types tend to think of ethnic identity rather like clothing choice, hairstyle or taste in music – a quirky, fun bit of self-expression. It doesn’t really have a lot of deeper meaning, because such people tend to be a part of a much larger, more generic “white” culture and enjoy privileges from that. PZ’s jolly invocation of Norse culture here is a good example – what he has inherited of it is surface-level and doesn’t really determine much about who he is and how he is treated beyond window-dressing.

    This quite annoys Europeans. The number of Americans I’ve encountered who call themselves “Irish”, because they had an Irish ancestor four or five generations back, is considerable. My father is Irish, but I most certainly wouldn’t claim that identity for myself, having never been to Ireland, never learned any Irish languages, and being culturally about as Middle Class English as it gets. To actual Irish people being Irish is more than just ordering Guinness at every bar and wearing a gaudy plastic green bowler hat on St. Patrick’s Day. But that’s what ethnic identity means to a lot of white Americans.

    To some extent it is understandable that such people would then assume that all ethnic identities are fair game for this kind of one-step-up from playing dress-up fun. When ethnic identity isn’t something that is important to you it seems that way to everyone. So I can see why one might want to swathe oneself in a bit of mystique and alight on unusual ethnic identities with certain cultural connotations.

    And being interested in, committed to and keen on a culture other than one’s own is not, in itself, a bad thing. One can be a committed fan of French culture without claiming Gallic ancestry, or a fanatic for African folk art without pretending you are actually from Benin. My own brother is about as steeped in Japanese culture as it is possible to be, working as he does for a Japanese company as an English-Japanese translator, and being married to a Japanese person. But he doesn’t pretend he actualy is Japanese, and doesn’t feel the need to.

    The pernicious bit, I think, is the idea that it is important to actually have some kind of genetic link to a culture to appreciate it and promote it. That you lack credibility if you are not “from that people”. I don’t see why you actually have to be from a native Canadian culture to promote it and advocate for its rights. Indeed, the assumptions underlying this seem to be quite racist ones – that culture is genetic and cannot be shared and appreciated beyond its natural racial proponents.

  2. consciousness razor says

    cartomancer, #1:

    But that’s what ethnic identity means to a lot of white Americans.

    For example: a trig teacher in Riverside, CA, who’s been wasting valuable class time with that shit, going on like that for a couple of minutes or more, purportedly in an attempt to teach SOH-CAH-TOA, a thing that was already and by design easy to learn.

    Once people started complaining, the school district did the typical thing of disowning it and promising to “investigate.” But this has been going on since at least 2012, when it was highlighted (favorably!) in the school yearbook.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    … all student essays be written in futhark…

    Perhaps if our esteemed host would start to blog in futhark…

  4. garnetstar says

    Marcus @2, yes, something like that. More like, this person felt oppressed in her childhood or life, and wants to wallow in self-pity by adopting an identity which she equates with oppression, in order to be publicly pitied.

    My family were Italian peasant farmers for centuries, perhaps longer, back. I don’t say I’m Italian, but I do say that my family is, because we were definitely raised in that culture: thrifty, frugal, mend the house a lot, talk with your hands, phrases in Italian, real Parmiggiano-Reggiano, lots of red wine, olive oil, and salad. I’ve always been happy with it.

  5. JoeBuddha says

    Yeah, family lore has me as part Native American. Great great grandmother. No idea what nation. And, I’ve never used it as an excuse to pretend to understand their traditions.

  6. Erp says

    @cartomancer If your father was an Irish citizen born in Ireland, I think you can claim Irish citizenship, and, English is an official language of Ireland which just about everyone speaks (Irish is being revived but it is not the primary language of most Irish). You have more claim than most (for some countries that closeness might even make you a citizen whether you wanted it or not especially if you are a young able bodied male needed for the military).
    I suspect for most making a claim is an attempt to be distinctive. People also claim to be descended from royalty (almost all of European descent are though knowing how is a lot rarer).

  7. planter says

    I am faculty at the same institution. I don’t have any knowledge of the case beyond what you can see in the news reports. A big problem here is that this individual appears to be in a position intended for an indigenous faculty member, and receiving research funding intended to support indigenous faculty working directly with indigenous communities. Assuming the news reports are correct, having a pretender in this position means that someone else did not get the position and that those research monies are being wasted.

    Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan are marginalized in many ways, and relatively few students from those communities come to the university. Faculty like me (white, male etc.) can do our best, but will never be the critical bridge builders to these communities that we need. Unfortunately, this incident will once again erode the limited levels of trust and engagement that we are struggling to build.

  8. Akira MacKenzie says

    Annnnnd cue some right-wing asshole braying about Liz Warren or flogging the corpse that is the Rachael Dolezal matter.

  9. Jazzlet says

    My kid brother has in the past tried to claim working class identity on the basis that my great (?) great grandfather worked in a tin mine in Cornwall. He certainly did, but being the engineer that tended the pumping engine, while running a farm on the side, isn’t quite the same as hewing out the ore by hand. Add to that that both grandfathers were ministers – admittedly Methodist so not as firmly upper middle as Anglicans but still firmly middle class – as well as a father who was an Oxford professor and we are firmly comfortable middle class, thank you very much ancestors. It is more reasonable to claim Cornish heritage as both sides of the family are Cornish from way back, but it’s never meant anything in practical or emotional terms. We are the typical children of a middle class professional, rootless with little attachment to a specific area, moving as the jobs we or our partners took dictated.

  10. Thomas Scott says

    My great grandmother was Czech or more correctly, Bohemian. I do my best to honor my cultural heritage by adopting a bohemian lifestyle.

  11. R. L. Foster says

    When I lived in Ohio I briefly associated with a ‘tribal’ group that called itself the Shawnee United Remnant Band (URB.) They claimed to be the remnants of those Shawnee who refused to be ethnically cleansed and make the move west. They said their ancestors took to hills and hollows of Appalachia and blended in. They were, and still are, quite convincing. They go all in and with the deerskin, beads and feathered headdresses. Regalia they call it. They have powwows, practice New Agey religious ceremonies, and have initiation rites overseen by a tribal elder. At one point they even gulled the State of Ohio into officially recognizing them (the state has since backtracked on this error in judgement.)

    But there were serious inconsistencies in their origin stories. They also did not look native at all. (Unless you want to say that everyone with black/brown hair, brown eyes, and pronounced cheekbones can plausibly claim to have North American Indian ancestry.) I, and others, became increasingly suspicious of the URB. They kept making things up. They’d pull Shawnee sounding words out of the air. The more I learned about them the more I suspected them to be fake Indians. So, I endeavored to conduct my own genealogical research. The advent of the internet has made this much easier than in years past. The LDS website Familysearch was a gold mine of revealing information.

    Here a few examples of what I found.

    Chief Hawk Pope. Born Jerry L. Pope 1941 in Hancock Co., Indiana. His parents and ancestors were all listed as white on the Indiana census records as far back as 1850. They came to Ohio via Kentucky. Before that they were in Pennsylvania. His immigrant ancestor was a German named Peter Pope (anglicized from Popp or Bopp) who landed in Philadelphia about 1750. Not a single Indian ancestor has eve been found in his tree.

    Dark Rain Thom. Born Claudia Lee Cahill 1942 in Dayton, Ohio. The wife of the author James Alexander Thom (They have a symbiotic relationship and have perpetrated a decades long fraud in their portrayal of their Indian bona fides.) She now leads a splinter group she laughungly calls the East of The River Shawnee. Her paternal ancestors are Irish. Her family can easily be traced back to Dennis Cahill circa 1740 in Maryland. He may have been the immigrant. Their settler trail goes from MD, to PA, to OH. Not a single Indian has ever been found in her tree.

    Snow Owl Bunch. Born Stephen R. Bunch 1952, Urbanna, Ohio. He is more difficult to research. By his appearance he definitely has some Black lineage. Researching Blacks prior to the Civil War is nearly impossible. But beginning with the 1870 census the Bunch family suddenly emerged from obscurity. I was able to learn that Stephen Bunch’s ancestors were listed as mulattoes. They came from Virginia. They were apparently free people because they do show up in other records. They came up through Gallia county in the 1820s and made their way to the Champaign county, Ohio area. Were they part Indian? Possibly. No way to know for certain. On the Ohio censuses the family is listed as ‘Negro.’ My guess is that they were a black-white mix. But whatever Indianness they may have had they were definitely not Shawnee. They weren’t even in Ohio until the 1820s, long after the Old Northwest Indians ceded their lands. Snow Owl is a particularly egregious fraud. He assisted in the musical score for the film Pocahontas. All that ‘Indian’ music you may have heard? Totally made up.

    Needless to say I became disgusted with these parasites and let them know my true, unvarnished feelings. I was quite rude. I have had nothing more to do with any of them in many years.

  12. kathleenzielinski says

    OK, this is an honest question: How is this different from being a transgendered woman? (And just to be clear from the beginning, I support both the transgender woman and Carrie Bourrassa.) Hear me out:

    So far as I know, I don’t have a drop of Native American blood in my veins. But, if Native American religion and culture feel more real to me than my own; if being around Native Americans makes me feel like I’ve come home; if my own culture and heritage feel totally alien to me; if deep in my gut I feel Native American, then don’t I have the right to identify as Native American? Because what I just described is, as I understand it, the transgendered experience, only applied to another arbitrary distinction, race and national origin.

    As I’ve said before, I’m a veteran of the early gay rights movement. It seems to me that one of the things we were fighting for back in the day was the right to not be constrained by other people’s boxes and classifications and taxonomy. The fact that YOU choose to identify me as one thing doesn’t mean I have to pay any attention. That’s a noble and worthy principle. It deserves support. And I’m willing to extend it to white people who do not feel like they belong in their own culture, just as I’m willing to extend it to anatomical males who deep in their gut feel female. It’s expanding equality.

    So how are these cases different?

  13. says

    @14 kathleenzielinski

    Fuck you SO MUCH.

    Just because you claim your post identifies as an honest question doesn’t mean we can’t see the absolute dearth of good faith here. You didn’t even have the good courtesy not to say ‘transgendered’ in your question designed entirely to JAQ off about pretending trans people are equivalent to blackface.

    TERF talking points listed here:
    – The whole premise of the question, ‘aren’t trans people just like fake natives?’
    – ‘transgendered’
    – claming, for the sake of shitting on trans people, that their gender is an arbitrary distinction
    – asserting ‘gay rights’ bona fides as somehow protecting you from being an obvious transphobe
    – ‘anatomical males who deep in their gut feel female’

    Fuck you, fuck this, and fuck off.

  14. Craig says

    I often wonder if some of the white Americans who claim Native American ancestry aren’t trying at some level to hide African-American ancestry or persistent fears of it.

    I too have done the genealogical deep dive to try to make sense of the hash of ancestral claims on my father’s side, starting with the many-times greatgrandfather who was supposedly respected as a great “hunter of Indians” (sic), to the bigamous ancestor who supposedly married an “Indian princess” (sic) with whom he sired my ancestral line before running off with a white woman and leaving the family money with her.

    What I learned from my research was, first, that the “hunter” ancestor was probably the jerk his descendants claimed him to be and venerated him for. Second, there was no “Indian princess” in our ancestry. The bigamist appears to have simply divorced his wife, moved to Indian Territory (i.e. modern Oklahoma) and married a European immigrant via Canada. (She may have gotten all his wealth.)

    The stories we didn’t hear about, however, included at least two of my paternal ancestors, who both held slaves and had children by them. My father’s side of the family are largely deceased, though we have abundant distant cousins who I can see from LDS FamilySearch are enamored with our common Confederate ancestors, so I don’t imagine they’re any more open to the facts of our ancestors than my direct line were.

  15. says

    To onlookers, a note about the above:

    The premise, the underlying assumption required to make kathleenzielinski’s question make sense, is that trans people are not real. She’s asking “Why should we not put up with THAT set of identity-appropriating liars when current leftist thought says we have to put up with THIS set of identity-appropriating liars?”

    The correct and true answer is “Because trans people are real.” She’s not going to accept that, though. Kathleen’s asked enough questions and been around long enough to know this, but she chooses not to. Between this and her argument in another thread that had pro-right-wing positions as their unstated premises, I think we have good evidence that she is a subtle, hides-hate-with-civility troll. The free speech absolutism in that other recent thread supports this: the only people who are unquestioning absolutists about free speech are the ones who are very comfortable that there won’t be rallies held against them or anyone they care about.

  16. James Fehlinger says

    Safer to identify as Otherkin, I guess. You can claim to be
    a grey owl “in spirit”, and nobody can adduce evidence to the contrary —
    not genealogical records, not DNA analysis, nothing. Or a Tolkienian
    Elf — you can blame your apparent lack of eternal youth on the
    pernicious effects on the world of the Dominion of Men — the radioactive
    fallout, the car exhaust, the PUFAs and CFCs and dioxins and POPs
    and poops in the air and the water and the soil “The world is changed.
    I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air.”

    Alas, nobody’s offering self-styled Elves scholarships or professorships
    or speaking engagements. And your friends would probably be laughing at
    you behind your back, Un-dumb-iel. Or, more charitably, trying to get
    you into therapy.

  17. says

    What Abbey said. It’s the differences between living your actual identity, and pretending to be a caricature of an identity that isn’t actually what you are.

  18. whheydt says

    Hmmm…. So far as I know, I have neither Indian nor Black ancestry. Parts of the family (my paternal grandmother’s family goes back Charleston, SC in the 1740s) have been in the US long enough that collateral relatives with Indian ancestry wouldn’t be a surprise, and Black relatives are a virtual certainty, even if I don’t know of any (yes, I am acknowledging that some ancestors or their relatives were slave owners and also there were a fair number of them that lived in slave-owning areas).

    Other parts of the family tree…not much chance. Both of my mother’s parents were born in Denmark. My surname comes from a paternal great-grandfather who was born in Prussia and–so far as we can tell–ducked out of being drafted to fight in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, ending up in the US.

  19. Allison says

    I’ve seen people asking how Ms. Bourassa’s case is different from trans women’s situation.

    I see two problems with how Ms. Bourassa is doing things. First of all, she is lying. Apparently, she bases her authority on having Métis ancestry, which it turns out is not true and thus makes all her claims suspect. I think if she had learned enough about Métis culture and history to have a good idea what it is like to be Métis, and maybe even got to the point that many Métis thought of her as “one of them,” but did not claim ancestry, there wouldn’t be a problem.

    Second of all, this is all in the context of the ongoing cultural and at times literal genocide of First Nations/Native American peoples. White people pretending to be “Native” and presenting their parodies of Native cultures as authentic (insuring that that is all most people know about Native cultures) has been a part of this cultural genocide. Ms. Bourassa may have the best of intentions, but by pretending to actually have been born Métis (and now other Nations!), she is contributing to this cultural genocide.

    By contrast, most trans women would not claim that they are cis women, or even that they really know what it’s like to grow up as a cis woman. (I don’t know of any trans woman who makes such a claim.) Most of us just want to be dealt with the way people in our society deal with cis women (and not have to worry about being killed if someone discovers we aren’t cis.)

    And given what a small portion of the population that trans women and men represent ( much less than 1%), there is no danger that trans women could possibly overwhelm the cis culture.

  20. cartomancer says

    kathleenzielinski, #14,

    A trans person has already pointed out the numerous worrying signs in your post that suggest you may not be arguing in good faith here. That is certainly worth reflecting on, and I, too, am somewhat suspicious of your motives here, but for the sake of argument let us assume you are asking in good faith. If only because there may well be people out there reading this who are tempted to formulate similar questions from a position of unfamiliarity with the issues.

    The question you pose, shorn of its problematic framing, essentially boils down to “what are the differences between ethnic identity and gender identity?”. This leads on to other questions: what does an identity consist in, where does it come from and how should society deal with it? Are our personal identities in all sorts of ways determined by factors external to us – the society around us, our biology, our history, etc., or is there an intrinsic, intra-mental component? And is this intra-mental component reductible to just “gut feeling”, whatever that is?

    Needless to say these are complex philosophical issues that can lead to all kinds of discussion and debate. But in overview it is not all that complicated at all.

    All forms of identity and self-definition involve an interaction between personal, intra-mental factors and the structures and assumptions of the wider society an individual moves within. It is certainly possible for an individual to see themself very differently, and use language very differently, from those around them. We see these kinds of conflicts all the time. An individual entirely divorced from human society would have little need for identities of this sort – racial, sexual, gender-based, etc. Were human beings entirely isolated groups of one then it would make sense to assume that identity is entirely a matter of personal whimsy and dictated entirely by “what you feel like at the time”. But in the real world where we live in societies and have to interact with others, Identities are, on a definitional level, part of being social animals and distinguishing oneself from others within a group.

    So we have to look beyond the intra-mental, entirely personal landscape of the isolated mind and think about how the various types of identity function in society. We need to think about how they are conceptualised and what the consequences of them are. On this level, gender identity and ethnic identity are not at all the same, though there are (some) similarities.

    In the case of Native American identity, it is not all about appreciating the culture and it is not all about having some kind of lineage or ancestry or genetic link to the group. Anyone can appreciate the culture, and plenty of people have Native American genetic ancestry who are entirely unaware of it and would not think of themselves as Native. Another crucial factor here, probably the most relevant one in the context of the story in the OP, is the experience of opression within mainstream US society and membership of groups that have to navigate that. That is a social and cultural reality of this kind of identity that cannot be ignored. The obvious fallout here is that someone who has not suffered this kind of historical oppression is taking up a position and resources earmarked for those who have.

    Furthermore, she is pretending to be a part of Native culture in a way she demonstrably is not. If all she said was “I have a deep and abiding love of Native culture and wish to do all I can to support and promote it”, that would be fine. If she said “I have experience of hardship and oppression myself, so I can empathise with and relate to some of the sufferings of Native peoples”, no problem. But that’s not what she said – she said she was actually from a Native culture and suffered because of it. The situation would be different if Native culture occupied a different place within Canadian society. If Native peoples could treat their ethnic identity in the same low-stakes, jovial, lets-play-dress-up way that white Canadians can, this wouldn’t be a discussion. But for that to happen centuries of ingrained, systemic and harrowing prejudice and its consequences would have to have been entirely undone.

    The case with a trans person (Abby didn’t bring this up, but I will – you said a trans woman, but there are plenty of trans men too, and non-binary people, who are invariably ignored by TERFs . It’s a telltale sign) is very different. The socio-cultural realities of gender and how it plays out are very different. A trans person is simply asking that society interrogate its understanding of gender and realise that the way gender has traditionally been constructed is limiting, contradictory and damaging to many, who would benefit from a more expansive, more inclusive understanding. A trans man wants society to recognise that maleness is not limited to cis people. Ms. Bourassa is not asking that she be considered a Native because she is deeply involved with Native culture, she is PRETENDING to fit in to society’s existing understanding of Nativeness in order to be considered a native.

  21. Christopher Klenz says

    Pocahontas is the maternal grandmother of wife of father-in-law of 1st cousin 9x removed. Do i get to claim indigenous?

  22. James Fehlinger says

    When I was in — what, 5th grade, 6th grade? or around
    that age — it was summertime, in any case. I knew this
    kid I’d see at the local public swimming pool. I no longer
    remember his name, alas, and I only have a vague impression
    now of what he looked like.

    Anyway, he was Irish (I think) — or at any rate of Irish
    ancestry (and looked it, IIRC), and knew some words in
    Gaelic (IIRC), and he pretended to me that he was a
    leprechaun. He had a good shtick, and I was more than
    willing to go along with it, and even to half-believe

    Cushla macree!


  23. Snidely W says

    It should be pointed out that tribal membership and genetics (genealogy) are two separate things.

    Any tribe can admit anyone into the tribe. Pale, blond Swedes, or tall, black Sudanese can be admitted, if the tribe says so. (Remember that John Smith was adopted into Pocahontas’ tribe, back in the day).

    The tribe can also kick out ‘full-blooded’ members. There are people who are 100% Native American (by ancestry) who are now tribeless, even though they may have grown up and currently live steeped in the culture of the tribe. They were kicked out by the tribe.

    It has been ever thus.

    Does Bourassa have the genetics? Apparently not.
    Was she admitted to a tribe at any time? It doesn’t sound like it.

    Sounds like Bourassa has some ‘splainin’ to do.

  24. kathleenzielinski says

    I have no doubt that trans people are real. I do not think they are appropriating liars; I think trans people really are the gender with which they identify. And I’ve said that. So Abbey, please don’t attribute to me beliefs that I don’t hold. In your zeal to tell me to fuck off, please don’t make me into something I’m not. Cartomancer doesn’t agree with me either, but they at least gave a reasoned explanation for their position that gave me something to think about. And it’s not about denying trans people the right to their own existence and identity; it’s about whether that same right should be extended beyond sex and gender. Sometimes the line between what something is, and what someone thinks they are, isn’t that clear.

    The reason I specified trans women is the political reality that there is, at least in my experience, far less hostility toward trans men. Nobody gets up in arms about the prospect of them using the men’s room. Nobody makes wild claims that they are out to get the children. No, that crap is mostly directed at trans women, so that is the group most in need of protection. In my experience.

    I will say this: The gay rights movement moved as quickly as it did because we took the time to win over our opposition using their own language. Conservative arguments were made in favor of gay marriage and legal equality. Some of us even quoted the Bible. We didn’t demonize people whose real fault was that they didn’t understand us. We won them over.

    I fear for the transgendered community because that lesson seems to have been lost. Using self righteousness as an argument to shut down dialogue may work in the short term, but it also tends to generate backlash in the long term. I will candidly admit that there is much about being transgendered that I don’t get. There’s probably a lot about me that you don’t get either. Maybe turning down the volume and not screaming at one another would be a good first step.

  25. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @25: Then… you know the difference, Kathleen. Because being a woman has no inherent specific cultural reality. You don’t need to be taught to be a woman, or a man, or non-binary. But ethnicity is taught. It’s part of being in a community. And, yes, the barriers between groups are porous, and people occupy many such spaces at once, and we learn from each other… but there’s still an authenticity to some experiences, and others try to lie by pretending like they have that experience.

    And, yes, you saw that there was more hostility toward one group more than another. Did you interrogate why? And did you consider that the commentariat here isn’t going to have any hostility toward either group?

    As for the gay movement: Stonewall. So… you’re just wrong. Both moderate and radical gay movements have been a part of the conversation, and radicals make it possible for the moderates to gain ground. Your revisionism is pretty telling here. (And there are studies to this effect, by the way. For example, it’s fairly well-established at this point that riots and radical black movements encouraged moderates outside of the movement to donate to the moderates, in ways they never did ahead of time).

    If you came into any gay bar, no matter how upscale and tolerant, and asked what the difference is between a gay man and a man in a dress, you would not get a warm reception. You came into a space and asked a question that was silly. The host responded to you briskly but politely, other people responded to you politely, and some responded aggressively. You are now making generalizations about an entire movement as a result of cherry-picking a few examples from a small data pool. You know what that’s called? Bigotry.

    This isn’t that hard. Put the shovel down and admit you may have not thought carefully enough about the question.

  26. John Morales says

    OK, this is an honest question: How is this different from being a transgendered woman?

    After a while, one gets to recognise certain commenters’ hobbyhorses.

  27. says

    @25 kathleenzielinski

    Good lord, and you have the Olynmpus-scaling hubris to call someone ELSE “self righteous”?

    Your opinions are not being assigned, they are being observed. You originally came out swinging for TERF positions on Pharyngula a while back, I haven’t forgotten. You got slapped down, and seemed to change your tune. But…

    Thing is, if you can bother to take the beam out of your own eye for a moment, you have chosen to ignore the fact that you keep holding forth on a marginalized group that is very much used to being treated badly and talked to and about in bad faith. As someone with at the very least an explictly TERFy past, the onus is on you when engaging with these things to demonstrate that you are in fact being respectful and at the very least believe trans identities, trans selves are truly, deeply, real.

    You consistently do not do this. Moreover, your observed modus operandi has been to use coddling, condescending “Mother knows best because mother is a leftist” type language to consistently display a deep and abiding lack of respect for trans people, particularly trans women, and then retreat into pearl-cluthing tone policing when you get called out for it. It’s old hat, it’s standard ‘oh poor me, you’re such loud activists!’ nonsense that oppressors dressed up as allies, like TERFs, do all the damn time. We’re sick of it. You’re just the example at hand, one in an ocean of the same bad faith behavior.

    You have been TOLD these answers before. You have had ample opportunity in the months you’ve been here to educate yourself: had you ever asked for resources, those would have been enthusiastically provided.

    In your martyrdom post to which I am replying, you did not even bother to engage with the fact that you DID use a series of outright TERF talking points in it. That betrays massive disrespect right there, both in the use, and in the ignoring criticism. Even if I waved off everything else, just the fact that you conceive of trans women as, quote, “anatomical males who deep in their gut feel female”, is a denial of the reality of trans people, because you reduce us to a body you have applied a sex to, but with ‘feeling’ to the contrary. It is a thing that can only be said by someone trying to tolerate what she considers aberrant behavior in (in this case) “anatomical males”, not accepting that they are women, happy to describe them in ways you know, you DAMN WELL KNOW, is insulting.

    And then, at the end of it, having been told IN THIS THREAD that “transgendered” is considered an insulting term, you used it again, right in the middle of your pearl clutch.

    If you want us to accept that you are not a transphobe and that you have queer rights bona fides, madam, FUCKING ACT LIKE IT.

    And if you want to, here’s your opportunity. Go ahead. Reply. Say “Trans women are women; trans men are men; and nonbinary people are valid.” Do it. Without qualification and asterisks and whatever.

    Petty and trivial? Sloganeering? I suppose so. It’s also something an actual ally would not hesistate to sign their name to, and something TERFs will tie themselves in knots to avoid saying no matter WHAT kind of ally fakery they’re engaged in, so it’s a pretty damn effective shibboleth.

    Go on then. Show us you’re willing to do the barest minimum to be an ally.

  28. says

    Maybe turning down the volume and not screaming at one another would be a good first step.

    Oh boy. The civility argument now. If only you knew how it makes my hackles rise.

    It’s entirely possible to casually dehumanize someone without “screaming” at all, so volume is not a particularly useful metric.

  29. kathleenzielinski says

    Abbey, without using those precise words, I’ve already said, multiple times, that trans women are women, trans men are men, and nonbinary people are valid. I’ve now said it again. So cut the crap that I’m a TERF. This goes back to something I said earlier, which is that the bar for being called a transphobe has been set so ridiculously low that basically any disagreement on anything at all is enough to be called a transphobe. So now your turn: Can you give me an example of any issue at all on which it is possible to diverge from trans orthodoxy without being considered a transphobe? Anything at all? I’d love to be proven wrong, but I suspect you won’t be able to come up with anything.

    PZ, you are absolutely right that it is possible to casually dehumanize someone without screaming. But why not be civil if you can be? That’s an honest question too.

  30. brucegee1962 says

    Hey Kathleen,
    I’ve heard various versions of your question before, and it made a lot of sense the first time I heard it. So I’m willing to believe that you’re asking in good faith, and that you have nothing but good intentions towards trans folks. But I’ve also been watching these cultural conflicts for long enough to know that it is wise to step very carefully indeed when one is talking about the identity of a marginalized and socially+politically besieged minority.
    You just stepped on one of the mines that litter our the minefield of liberal discourse, and it caused people to jump on you. It’s happened to me, and probably other people here as well on various issues. Nobody can slam a liberal better than another liberal.
    The trick now is figuring out how not to say to yourself “Those trans people are too touchy! Don’t they realize that I mean them well? They should learn how to be nicer to allies like me!” and instead try saying “Apparently I don’t understand these issues as well as I thought I did. Time for me to talk less and listen more for a while until I can figure out how to say things that don’t infuriate people.”

  31. says

    @32 kathleenzielinski

    Cool. Now stop using their talking points, you’ve been told over and over they are hurtful.

    This goes back to something I said earlier, which is that the bar for being called a transphobe has been set so ridiculously low that basically any disagreement on anything at all is enough to be called a transphobe. So now your turn: Can you give me an example of any issue at all on which it is possible to diverge from trans orthodoxy without being considered a transphobe? Anything at all? I’d love to be proven wrong, but I suspect you won’t be able to come up with anything.

    Back to bad faith, I see?

    See, the thing you (and other bad-faith interlocutors) enjoy calling “trans orthodoxy” and the like are our lives. It’s not “orthodoxy”, and those “disagreements” don’t make sense if you really believe trans women are women, trans men are men, nonbinary people are valid. It’s not orthodoxy, it’s where you’re being horribly inconsistent but refusing to acknowledge that.

    If we are actually operating from that premise, then the insulting question you arrived with instantly is destroyed: “How is [pretending to be Native] different from being a transgendered woman?” Trans women, per your own accepted premise now, are women. White people pretending to be Natives are… pretending. One is real. The other is not. And the fact that one is real and the other is not are now in the very premises of the question.

    Do you now see why it’s so insulting, and why calling this “disagreeing with the orthodoxy” implies, REQUIRES, that you don’t believe in trans identities? This is the case for Every God Damn Thing that fake allies like to call “can’t disagree with the orthodoxy” and such nonsense.

    “Is it fair to have trans women in women’s sports?” It must be, because trans women are women, therefore they are in the group referred to by “women’s sports”. To say otherwise is to logically refute “trans women are women”.
    “Is it safe to have trans women in women’s bathrooms?” It must be, because trans women are women, therefore they are in the group referred to by “women’s bathrooms”. To say otherwise is to logically refute “trans women are women”.

    And goddamn so on and goddamn so forth. So you tell me, are there ANY “disagreements with the trans orthodoxy” you have, any hills you have to die on here, that are NOT of the form “Is it safe/fair to permit trans women in women’s X?” or perhaps, rarely (because it is painfully obvious which group you consider threatening), “Is it safe/fair to permit trans men in men’s X?”

    Because this is WHY we say “Trans women are women, trans men are men, nonbinary people are valid.” The premise ANSWERS THOSE QUESTIONS. All of them.

    Frankly it just demonstrates your lack of respect that you are so very interested in trying to find some way to condemn us, trying so hard to find something you CAN ‘disagree’ with our lives on.

  32. says

    #32: What “trans orthodoxy” do you find objectionable? Be specific. What “divergence from trans orthodoxy” do you hold that you fear will be used to label you a transphobe? Just spell it out.

  33. kathleenzielinski says

    PZ, thank you for asking. Since Abbey wants to make it about “our lives,” let’s do that.

    In addition to being a lesbian, I am also a rape victim. I never want to see male genitalia. Ever. And I shouldn’t have to explain why. So if we’re talking about clothing-optional female spaces, I think I’m entitled to a safe space where I’m not going to be triggered. It’s not that the trans woman changing clothes next to me isn’t a real woman; of course she’s a real woman. It’s the presence of male genitalia, regardless of the gender of the person it’s attached to, that’s the issue. And, so you see me as a vile transphobe, while I, on the other hand, am positively appalled at the lack of empathy for rape victims and others who’ve suffered sexual abuse that frankly borders on misogyny when it doesn’t actually cross the line.

    I also understand that trans women have needs too. The problem is, though, that anytime someone tries to work out a compromise that allows her access to a changing area without causing me emotional pain, that person gets shouted down as a vile transphobe and I get told to just suck it up. This has happened with schools that have offered to provide trans-only changing areas, and women’s bath houses that have offered either trans nights or trans-only changing areas.

    And here’s how it appears to me: There are two extremist positions. You’ve got actual transphobes on the one hand who think that trans people are simply delusional and society should not promote their delusions. You’ve got the other extremist view that ignores the needs of women like me who need lives that don’t include male genitalia. And in between, you’ve got people like me who are generally trans supportive but who recognize that cis women have needs as well.

    Now, if my position is mistaken and there’s something I’ve overlooked, fine, I’m open to learning new things. But calling me names isn’t going to do it. And, FWIW, I don’t comment here on most trans threads, though I do some of the time. I know I’m the minority opinion and as brucegee1962 points out, it’s a minefield. (Thank you, brucegee1962, for your thoughtful and moderated response.)

  34. John Morales says

    FWIW, I don’t comment here on most trans threads, though I do some of the time

    Was I too subtle, earlier?

    This thread was not (originally) about trans people. Not until you made it so.

  35. says

    @38 kathleenzielinski

    “Cis women” as a group do not have those cited needs. This is a much narrower usage. The question becomes, how fair is it for you to demand other people behave differently to accomodate you?

    It’s not that the trans woman changing clothes next to me isn’t a real woman; of course she’s a real woman. It’s the presence of male genitalia, regardless of the gender of the person it’s attached to, that’s the issue.

    “Male genitalia”, you see. On the surface, this is a reading where you consider all penises as weapons, and are indeed viewing this hypothetical trans woman as a threat.

    In addition to being a lesbian, I am also a rape victim. I never want to see male genitalia. Ever. And I shouldn’t have to explain why. So if we’re talking about clothing-optional female spaces, I think I’m entitled to a safe space where I’m not going to be triggered.

    No. You’re not. Here’s the harsh fact: nobody in the world, under any circumstances is ENTITLED to freedom from the simple presence of a demographic they find distasteful. What happened to you was awful, but it does not in any way entitle you to disenfranchise a marginalized group.

    I’ll cite the usual example, which remains quite apt for all of its usual-ness. Suppose some unfortunate white woman had been assaulted by a Black man. She could legitimately suffer the same ‘that’s a threat’ involuntary trigger by the presence of any Black man, or any Black person. Would she be therefore entitled to any public-facing space guaranteed to be free of Black people so she would not be triggered into a panic attack by their presence?

    Obviously not. This is a situation where she will ahve to protect herself as best she can, and should be granted all the inviolate private space she needs, but demanding a publicly-accessible space where a demographic cannot be present for her comfort – to avoid her quite legitimate extreme discomfort – would be obviously wrong and a palpably racist thing to demand.

    Note that I have said nothing about this hypothetical person being generally racist or bigoted. This could be someone who marches with Black Lives Matter, donates to the NAACP, anything. But trying to carve out a piece of the public square excluding someone for her comfort remains wrong.

    What she must do in this situation is work on her issues. That’s a long hard horrible road, and I should know. But, it’s the only thing she could reasonably do because it is not the fault of the people she is excluding that she is suffering.

    The same applies to you, and I note there might be an extra piece of you managing to somehow view a trans woman as a woman “except that male piece right there”. I presume as well you have never been in this situation, because it doesn’t take long into transition for a trans woman’s genitals to not much resemble a cis man’s.

    You come off as a transphobe when you are trying to “work out a compromise”, because you are putting your comfort over the rights of a whole class of people. That is a bigotry. You’re acting like you expect that any trans woman in your space is going to intently involve you with their genitals, which is a hard thing to believe if you really view them as women.

    There are two extremist positions. You’ve got actual transphobes on the one hand who think that trans people are simply delusional and society should not promote their delusions. You’ve got the other extremist view that ignores the needs of women like me who need lives that don’t include male genitalia.

    Here we have you asserting that, for your comfort, there are ways that trans women should not be fully treated as women. Not many ways, but still, ways… and you call that an “extremist” position. Meanwhile, the position you are asking for here is the exact one that gets trans women chased out of bathrooms and changing rooms all over the place by people screaming for the police that there’s a man in there.

    You have approached this as though your requirement is Obviously Resonable and anything arguing with it is extremist. This is not so. It’s time for you to examine just what demands you feel entitled to make of entire populations of people.

  36. says

    @38 kathleenzielinski

    … and while I was writing that above response, John Morales at @39 threw in an important point.

    This wasn’t a thread about trans people. This was a thread about white people appropriating an identity that wasn’t theirs. Effectively, this was a thread about brownface.

    And you said you couldn’t tell that from a trans woman.

    You can’t see how that’s SCREAMINGLY BIGOTED?

  37. whheydt says

    Re: kathleenzielinski @ several posts…
    The First Law of Holes: When you find you are in one, stop digging.

  38. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @32: No response to anyone who has engaged with you in good faith, I see. You know how that comes off? Like someone who came into a space, started some shit, and then got mad when some people finished the shit they started.

    So you think trans folks are valid. Great. Do you see why that instantly means that there is a huge difference between gender and ethnicity? Look at the original case. Someone claimed to have an experience they didn’t have so they could get something from others. It doesn’t matter what that thing is, from ethnic experience to a commodity one claims to have for sale and doesn’t. The issue at question was, “Did Carrie actually have the kind of experiences immersed in a culture and life circumstances she claimed she did?” No. She didn’t. In contrast, when a trans woman says she is a woman, she’s not saying that she has had the same experiences as every cis woman or even any one cis woman. Just like cis women’s experiences vary. It’s disanalogous, and obviously so.

    Another way of coming at it is thinking why it matters. Policing gender and sex is virtually always to give some power over others. But policing ethnicity isn’t the same. There are tons of bad ways to do it and tons of bad reasons to do it, sure, but what happens in reality is that groups with different perspectives, experiences, cultures, ways of relating to the world, etc. need to make sure that they can maintain their heritage (yes, balanced with all sorts of considerations of justice and equity and so forth) and protect their communities. The inequalities made by ethnicity come from people exploiting something real, that makes real differences, for bad reasons. The inequalities from gender come from people making up differences whole cloth.

    Your claim that any point of disagreement causes a strong reaction is also fallacious to the fucking extreme, for reasons I have no doubt you know.

    1) Even actually totally benign questions can have bad followups when disingenuous actors can be involved. “Can’t we question historical narratives?” is a reasonable idea in isolation; in practice, it’s a dog whistle for 9/11 truthers, Holocaust deniers and conspiracy theorists. While we all need to have some charity and assume ignorance is possible in some instances, that must be paired with people being careful about what they ask and argue. And you didn’t just ask a question. You made an argument, at some length.
    2) Your disagreement wasn’t on a minor point. As you are pretty much conceding at this point, your question only makes sense if you make the assumption that trans people aren’t real. Otherwise, there’s not even a basis for a question. It’s like asking if there really is that big a difference between a liquid and a solid. It’s transparently obvious that there is.

    People aren’t critiquing you because you attacked the eighth paragraph of the thirteenth book of some mystical Transgender Bible you fallaciously and insidiously seem to imply people are using, against the evidence. They’re critiquing you because you asked a really poorly thought-out question with some ugly implications, in a space that frequently gets brigaded. You pointed to gay movements: You surely know what JAQing off is. If you had a valid point, you could have easily apologized for having given a mistaken impression and then explained your point. Yes, some folks may still have disagreed with you, but you wouldn’t be tone policing. Instead, you chose to pick exactly the most suspicious response.

    @38: You don’t want to see male genitalia? Understandable! So therefore society shouldn’t have nude beaches, and if someone has a clothing malfunction they should be executed on the spot, and…

    Yes, I’m exaggerating, but I am making a reductio ad absurdum here. Your concern to not see male genitalia is a valid one. The rights of trans people to exist are also valid. So what we might do would be something like, say, have people go into the bathrooms of their choice, but make sure we have both social etiquette and designs for bathrooms such that you never need to be exposed to genitalia.

    You may think you are making a reasonable request, but you’re not. I have worked with dozens of rape victims at this point. The triggers that they can have can vary from someone raising their voice to something that sounds like gunfire to scenes from movies. Society can’t accommodate a world free from all of those things. So we do our best with content warnings and safe spaces and reasonable environments.

    What would you do, for example, if a mom needed to take her son into a bathroom and found that the bathroom you were in was a problem? Would you make a scene? Or would you find a space for yourself and not get in the way of a woman trying to take care of her child?

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with a lack of empathy for rape victims. Just like people pushing back against racist policing are not showing a lack of empathy against women who have been victims of sexual abuse by racist minorities. And countless other examples that you clearly could understand. I don’t need to point out that, for example, trans people are at spectacularly high risks of sexual abuse, and so making sure that society respects them and gives them the ability to go where they need is actually critical to help reduce their abuse. I can empathize with a reason for a request you make and still say the request isn’t fair to accommodate. Of course, it would help if you actually said the quiet part out loud and got to your actual problem rather than vaguely alluding to it, but I assure you, whatever your valid concern may be, respecting the rights of trans people isn’t part of it.

    You say that when there are compromises that are offered that let folks do what they need to without causing you pain, they’re shouted down. Do you have specific examples? Are you so sure that in fact the compromises are reasonable? It sounds like you’re engaging in bigoted reasoning, the kind you would instantly identify in someone saying that civil unions were a compromise to gay people: You are assuming that all those Others are all behaving irrationally and cruelly, rather than having needs that you don’t understand. We could be wrong about that, but your vagueness makes it impossible to check.

    You then go on to make a fallacy of an argument from moderation. It’s possible that the “trans extremist” position is the correct one. To assess that, you’d need to actually say their position, clearly and without misrepresenting it. You can’t do that. Instead, you are doing the intellectually lazy thing that lets bigots keep being bigots. You can point to phantasms of extremists all day long; it doesn’t make your position the actual reasonable middle.

    And framing it as if you are being called a “vile transphobe” is just buck passing. May you be a conscious transphobe hiding it? Sure. But you could also be implicitly transphobic, despite conscious views, and need to fix that bug in your software. I’d like to think you are just operating from some biases and sloppy thinking. But you should do something about that. So instead of taking personal responsibility to be an ally toward other marginalized people, including trans women and trans men as well as trans and non-binary folks who are also lesbian or gay or bisexual, you’re doubling down on defensiveness. This is not making you a good ally or a good member of a social movement.

    You say your position is open to change. Great! Start by doing something like

    1) Actually describing what you think is a fair compromise that has been shot down, and then be ready to listen when others explain why it might not be so fair
    2) Simply ask trans people what problems they may see in your perspective (“shut up and listen for a second”, you know, something I am sure you have heard before and maybe even used as a line yourself as a victim)

    I just want you to think for just a moment: How many more trans women would need to be raped because they were forced by one of your compromises to change, or do any business, in a male-dominated space, for your empathy to switch to them? Less than ten? A hundred? What degree of risk of a horrible fate are you willing to impose onto others for you to not have to deal with a triggering event that has nothing to do with anyone else being malicious but just has to do with them having whatever biology they happen to have and happening to be around you?

  39. brucegee1962 says


    (Thank you, brucegee1962, for your thoughtful and moderated response.)

    I’m glad you like it. So please listen to my advice.

    When you step on a mine, the normal response is to go into defense mode. That’s perfectly natural, and if you’re dealing with enemies, it may be a productive strategy. But if you’re dealing with people that you want to be allies, defense mode is indistinguishable from attack mode. Notice that you aren’t even defending your original analogy any more — instead you jumped straight to bathrooms. You blew up one mine, then leaped directly onto another.

    You’ve made your points, but you aren’t likely to persuade anyone at this stage. If I were you and I didn’t want to permanently antagonize the trans community (which I hope you don’t), I would apologize for inadvertently making a poor analogy in your original post, and then go into listening mode for a while, as I said before.

  40. Patricia Phillips says

    Oh wow as a Native I have too many thoughts to even sort out about this. No doubt many books have been or will be written about non-Indians “playing” Indian.

    @13 – there is a Shawnee geneologist that runs a ‘Fake Indians Blog’ that exposes fake groups like the “Shawnee Remnant Band” you mentioned. There are something like 200 fake Cherokee groups out there, several fake Shawnee groups, a few fake Delawares…most based in the east.I am sure because in many eastern states, ethnic cleansing was so successful nearly every Native person was run out (usually to OK) or killed. That created a ‘vacuum’ of sorts for frauds, for their own monetary or psychological reasons, to create fake tribes (much to the annoyance of the actual tribes).

    White people are not the only ones playing Indian. I’ve noticed a phenomenon where some black people claim that Africans are the actual indigenous Americans and we are ‘Mongols’, etc. They also call us “5 dollar Indians”. (Exactly how or why millions of “mongols” are spread over both continents, speaking hundreds of languages not found in Asia or anywhere else, are ‘newcomers’ is never explained). This is based on what some Olmec statues look like, the fact that some actual eastern tribes intermarried heavily with black people, and a bunch of handwaving. And these groups too are mostly in the east – since the majority of the tribes today are based in the west.

  41. says

    @kathleenzielinski, #38

    In addition to being a lesbian, I am also a rape victim. I never want to see male genitalia. Ever. And I shouldn’t have to explain why. So if we’re talking about clothing-optional female spaces, I think I’m entitled to a safe space where I’m not going to be triggered. It’s not that the trans woman changing clothes next to me isn’t a real woman; of course she’s a real woman. It’s the presence of male genitalia, regardless of the gender of the person it’s attached to, that’s the issue.

    You connect this to sexual orientation and also express this as a personal desire (“never want to see male genitalia”) but later also use the word “triggered”. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and interpret this as not a mere preference, but lingering trauma of the sort that is often categorized as PTSD (whether or not you have enough other indicators to give rise to that specific diagnosis: I use this as illustrative, it’s not meant to say that your history of mental health treatment is relevant here and I’m not asking you to disclose that).

    I, too, am the victim of childhood sexual abuse, adult sexual assault, and adult rape. I don’t talk about this often, but for several years I was often triggered by a particular skin tone when I saw it fleetingly out of the corner of my eye. When I saw a person full on, I knew that they weren’t my rapist and I was not triggered by skin tone, but when I saw only a small part of the person and the skin tone matched my rapist’s skin tone, I often panicked. I was diagnosed with PTSD. This was not trivial, and though it’s over now, it was not short lived. It happened very, very frequently for a couple years, and less frequently for more years after that. It took perhaps a decade before the very last occurrence of being triggered by someone’s skin tone in this way.

    Now, like literally everyone I feel more vulnerable in a bathroom or changing area than elsewhere. We are socially conditioned to equate physical exposure with vulnerability.

    So, honest question: Should public accommodations in the 1990s and earliest 00s have excluded people of a certain race or skin color because I had a very understandable (and reasonably common) human reaction to rape, assault, and victimization?

    My answer is no. And for quite a number of good reasons. One is that the particular skin tone to which I was sensitive was unknown in the demographic majority where I lived, and the minority where it could be found had been stigmatized and subjected to racism.

    Even if my reaction was understandable, reasonably common, and very human, it does not justify stigmatizing that group as would inevitably occur if establishments put up signs indicating that people of a certain race or a certain color skin (maybe with a paint chip for people to compare their skin to?) were not welcome in that bathroom.

    Like your traumatization after rape, my traumatization after rape, assault, and victimization deserves care, deserves compassion, and deserves an adequate community and public policy response.

    But like my traumatization, your traumatization does not justify literally any community or public policy response. The benefits of a response must be weighed against the disadvantages.

    So what are the disadvantages? The biggest one that I see is that your response is classic apology for rapists.

    WAIT, WHAT? I can hear you ask. You are resolutely opposed to rape, I am sure. But here’s the thing: trans people aren’t traumatizing you. Trans people aren’t injuring you. Your rapist did that, and left you with horrible injuries I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But your implied solution (banning trans people from certain public accommodations, I won’t guess which, precisely, since I don’t want to speak for you, but others making similar arguments have discussed public restrooms and swimming pool locker rooms) punishes innocent trans people for the bad acts of someone who is almost certainly a cis man.

    “I am unsafe, so trans people cannot be allowed to use this space,” makes it seem as if someone other than your rapist made you unsafe. NO ONE is responsible for the injuries inflicted on you other than your rapist. NO ONE. While our true friends will help us heal despite bearing no responsibility for what happened to us, no one should be forced by public policy to bear the responsibility for your injuries other than your rapist.

    Now, that also makes it seem as if trans people are unsafe because of who they are instead of because of what they choose to do, while also assuming that cis women are completely safe because of their identity instead of because the choices that they make.

    But we are not safe because of the demographic group to which we belong. Lesbians assault other lesbians. BDSM practitioners ignore the safe words of other BDSM practitioners. Straight cis women assault other straight cis women in public bathrooms. Trans people sexually harass other people. But these are all choices. None of that indicates that lesbians or straight cis women or BDSM practitioners or trans folk are generally unsafe.

    The problem here is the injury inflicted upon you by a criminal who made a choice to injure you.

    So how to we respond, as a community? How do we respond in public policy?

    We could ban all people convicted of a crime committed in a public bathroom from using public bathrooms, sure. It’s somewhat inconvenient, and what if the person gets a short sentence? Should the ban be for life? What about 50 years later when they’re a different person and age or acquired disability makes using only their home bathroom impractical? Should we accept that sometimes a bus seat is going to have urine on it because a 70 year old who raped someone 40 years before can no longer control their bladder? Is that the price we’re willing to pay?

    But would that really address your sensitivity? Your sensitivity is a “trigger” to use your words. Triggers aren’t logical, they are psychological. Aside from being reactive (only banning people after they have been caught, which leaves open the possibility that you’ll be victimized by someone who has never been caught before) if triggers are triggers, then it doesn’t matter that the other person is a rapist or is dangerous in any way. You yourself say that:

    It’s the presence of male genitalia, regardless of the gender of the person it’s attached to, that’s the issue

    Since you’ve also said elsewhere that you don’t see trans people as inherently predatory, I assume you would also say that it’s the presence of certain genitalia regardless of whether those particular genitalia are those of a person who has committed a rape.

    What you’re suggesting is that a certain subpopulation, which you know constitute a despised minority, should bear the responsibility for caring for the injuries inflicted by someone who chose to rape you.

    This simply isn’t ethical.

    Again, it doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve care or consideration or a community or public policy response. What it means is that it’s unethical of you to ask trans people generally or trans women specifically to shoulder the burden that ought properly be borne by your rapist.

    Ultimately, stripped of its particulars, you are asking rapists’ responsibilities to be borne by innocent people. Yet failing to hold rapists accountable for the fullness of the damage that they do to both individuals and society as a whole is a known problem that predates the rise of public discussion about nondiscrimination efforts with respect to trans people by more than 100 years.

    So what would a reasonable policy look like? One that doesn’t treat trans women as responsible for the injuries inflicted by rapists, and stigmatize trans women in the process?

    Well, you could join trans people, many of whom are also saying that they aren’t comfortable in public bathrooms and changing rooms in advocating for single occupancy bathrooms and changing rooms that are available to anyone without special request.

    You could advocate for laws that require a minimum $20k fine to accompany other aspects of sentencing for anyone convicted of certain crimes that are known to be associated with later development of PTSD (or PTSD like symptoms) in the victims of those crimes. Hate crimes. Assaults. Rapes. All of these could carry this penalty. The money, in turn, would be made available to small businesses to remodel in such a way as to create parent friendly, wheelchair accessible, single occupancy bathrooms, perhaps with 100% matching from state general funds.

    You could advocate for laws requiring government buildings (or government areas within larger buildings) to provide single occupancy bathrooms & changing rooms, available for anyone, for any reason.

    Note that this achieves what you want (security from seeing male genitalia) without ever even mentioning trans people. Because you are not a special snowflake. It’s not all about you. And nothing about what you’re saying is the fault of trans people or should be the responsibility of trans people to fix.

    And, so you see me as a vile transphobe, while I, on the other hand, am positively appalled at the lack of empathy for rape victims and others who’ve suffered sexual abuse that frankly borders on misogyny when it doesn’t actually cross the line.

    Let’s be clear: a lack of empathy for you is not the same as a lack of empathy for rape victims generally or sexual abuse victims generally. You propose that because guilty, violent cis people rape, trans people should be stigmatized and denied common services.

    It is more than possible to reject that out of hand as unethical and wrong WHILE ALSO strongly supporting things like private, genderless, single occupancy bathrooms and changing areas, which the vast majority of trans people do.

    Just because a rape victim is treated badly, and even if a rape victim is treated badly after asking for an accommodation for PTSD, that doesn’t mean this is necessarily misogyny or hostility toward survivors of rape and sexual assault.

    If I had proposed race specific bathrooms to help me deal with my PTSD in the 1990s, it would be entirely reasonable for people to call me a racist and show my proposal no sympathy at all because it relies on racial classification to put the responsibility for the consequences of violence on a group of largely innocent people and exacerbates racism at the same time. It’s got nothing to do with my rape, or whether I was really really raped, or whether I’m telling the truth about my rape, or whether people are cis supremacist assholes, or whether the people dismissing my proposal actually care about ending rape and caring for rape victims. The reason for treating me that way is because, in this hypothetical scenario, I would have been acting out racism and making a despised racial minority responsible for what one rapist did to me.

    Rape deserves community and public policy responses. You as a human, and even more so as a survivor of violence and discrimination, deserve care and support.

    But when you propose that segregating common public services to exclude innocent but despised minorities as a solution to the damage inflicted upon you by rape, that proposal deserves harsh scorn. As harsh as any scorn given to a white woman who proposes banning Black people from public restrooms so that she doesn’t have to see Black skin, even if she is triggered by it.


    As a final note, let me just say that you seem quite disappointed that people won’t have a reasonable public policy debate with you about how best to respond to the needs of rape survivors. Look, I sympathize. You’ve got needs and you’re afraid that they won’t be met. You want some reassurance. that’s okay.

    That said, you’re very fortunate that I am actually an expert in providing trans inclusive gender segregated services, including trauma-informed counseling and care. Very few people are. It’s easy enough to identify as unwise, unethical, and/or undesirable an effort to push responsibility for your comfort and care for your injury onto innocent people, while stigmatizing them and reducing their ability to access otherwise freely available public accommodations. But having the education and experience to craft public policy isn’t universally available.

    it shouldn’t be necessary to have answers to all possible public policy or community response conundrums before you’re allowed to speak up and say, “Segregation, stigmatization, and discrimination targeting trans people is wrong.”

    Sure, that’s not the only important societal issue, but raising one issue, a real issue, isn’t the same thing as dismissing all other issues, nor should we require people to be experts before they get a public say. Look at yourself. I’m sure you’ve thought deeply about rape and its consequences, not merely individually but also societally. And yet with your education and experience you still fell into the age old trap of making people who do not rape responsible for the consequences of people who choose to rape. You’re not trying to be nice to rapists, and yet your ideas let rapists completely off the hook. There’s no thought at all for even taxing/fining rapists to pay for your segregation ideas, which while stigmatizing trans people and segregating them into separate bathrooms and changing areas would at least put the financial burden for the consequences of rape on rapists themselves.

    You are not bad because you failed to escape the trap of relieving rapists from responsibility for healing the effects of their rapes. But someone who is a paid expert who works on these issues full time is much less likely to make that mistake.

    So when you enter a space with random people whom you don’t know to be professional public policy experts, i think you should be more forgiving of the fact that most of them won’t have a detailed proposal at the ready to respond to your concern.

    You deserve respect, care, and compassion, and I fight for a world in which you have what you need to fully participate in society despite the injuries inflicted upon you by your rapist.

    But I will not support inflicting discrimination, segregation, and stigmatization on trans people (or any population) who have never committed sexual assault merely for their membership in a demographic group or even for the presence of, to use your language, male genitalia. And it should not surprise you that many people here are upset that your idea for responding to the needs of rape survivors is to inflict those things on nonrapists.

    You wouldn’t have let me do that based on skin color in the 90s had I been racist enough to propose it, and it would have been wrong of me to suggest that you have to support my discriminatory, segregationist ideas merely because they (hypothetically, I didn’t actually do this remember) arose out of the PTSD I developed as a survivor of rape.

    So if you want to have a conversation about how to respond to rapists and/or how to respond to the needs of survivors of rape and sexual assault, try to come up with a proposal that doesn’t start with the idea that discrimination, segregation, and stigmatization of innocent people is the right response to the actions of bad people.

    If you do that, I’m sure many people here, if you haven’t burned all your goodwill, would be willing to have conversations about how to help end rape and care for its survivors. Though of course even then you should not expect (much less demand at the cost of thinking people misogynist or prorape) that all people participating in the conversation will only have good, well thought out ideas that work for you, personally. That conversation is the kind you find at a professional conference, not an internet blog.

  42. brucegee1962 says

    Crip Dyke, I read your entire wall of text, and you made your argument beautifully well. When you are moved, you are one of the most powerful bloggers here, and a real treasure. That is all.

  43. GMBigKev says

    @ Christopher Klenz, 23: Actually with regards specifically to the Pamunkey you do. They’re extremely lenient on who gets to consider themselves part of the tribe – basically if you can trace your lineage back to one of them you’re in the club. (My great-grandmother was a member of the tribe.)

  44. GMBigKev says

    Oof, I’ll add to the praise of Crip Dyke’s response… after my little off-hand quip it seems a little out of place there…

  45. Bruce Fuentes says

    The responses here are why I think this is one of the most important blogs on the net. The majority of the Freethoughtblogs fall under that praise.
    It is always stunning how promoters of hate turn things totally unrelated to their hobbyhorse into a forum to spout and expose their hate. Great job from CripDyke, abbeycadabra, and others to shut this down and expose it for the hate it is.

    Back to genealogy. My father is Puerto Rican, born and lived there till 10. My mother is a classic New Englander, with the vast majority of ancestors coming through Canada. My grandmother and 3 of my 4 great-grandparents on that side were born in Canada.
    I have always been curious about my ancestry and also had DNA testing done. The vast majority 75%+ is classic western European, primarily Scots and English, followed by Spanish and Portuguese. Then we come to the interesting part. Indigenous Puerto Rican is the next highest at about 10% or so. Then Irish and Welsh followed by assorted African. The African ancestry is somewhere around 5-20%. Family on my mother’s side age is fairly easy to trace. I can follow all lines back to Scotland, England or Wales. No Irish yet, there is a good chance that actually comes from my father’s line. Catholics and all that.
    On my father’s side it is impossible to go back further than a few generations. I assume records disappeared when the USA colonized the island in 1898 and a lot of records were kept by the Catholic Church. When a church or cathedral burned all the records were lost. I will never be able to trace my ancestry back to my indigenous and African ancestors. Records for indigenous people and slaves just didn’t exist. The indigenous ancestors were probably from 1500’s as the Taino were all but wiped out in 30 years. The African heritage could very well come from the same time period. The vast majority of early Puerto Ricans were a mixture of African and Indigenous.
    Why do I bring this up? I have some compelling evidence that I have a fairly significant heritage that is African and Indigenous Puerto Rican. I take extreme pride in that. I flew the Puerto Rican flag and La Bandera De Lares(flag of independence) before I knew my genetic heritage. I would never presume to claim to be indigenous or African. I can have extreme pride in knowing that is where my ancestors came from without appropriation.

  46. Chaos Engineer says

    OK, this is an honest question: How is this different from being a transgendered woman?

    I’m a bit late to the party but I thought I’d take a stab at this.

    Trans rights is a politically and emotionally charged issue, and it’s difficult to work with your analogy without bringing in all of that baggage, even though it’s irrelevant to the original topic. The fix is to change the analogy to something less fraught, like religion. So the question might become “How is this different from converting to Orthodox Judaism?”

    Orthodox Judaism discourages conversion but it’s possible to join a community if you’re sufficiently motivated. If the community thinks you’re sincere and accepts you as a member, then you’re justified in calling yourself an Orthodox Jew. (Actually, let’s say “a significant part of the community accepts you”, because there are always going to be bigots who hate outsiders just on general principles.)

    But suppose I see a yarmulke and think, “Wow, what a cool hat! I’m going to start wearing this everywhere!” And then I go around saying, “I’d like to order a bacon cheeseburger. Oh, and a kosher pickle, please! I’m Orthodox Jewish.” People would be justified in thinking I’m a phony.

    So it’s something that depends on context. You can decide for yourself if Carrie Bourassa is more like the first type of convert, or more like the second type.

  47. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @47: God… damn Crip Dyke. You are always incredible, and that was such a good, powerful explanation.

    That having been said… people will happily debate her when she actually makes a position. Right now, she’s just waving at the possibility of debate, in a way that is incredibly suspicious as it is exactly the way every other disingenuous person will.

  48. says

    I’m late to the thread, but add one more trans voice weighing in: Kathleen sets off all the “TERF JAQ-off Troll” alarm bells. I have a hard time she’s at all acting on good faith here.

  49. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    I neglected to mention that the idea of writing all essays in runic sounds awesome.

  50. says

    I disagree with CD on one point. Kathleen does not deserve sympathy. She deserves to be tossed out with the trash, because she’s worse than a rapist with her transphobic bullshit.

  51. says

    @53 simonhadley

    Going to need the old sarcasm tag on this kind of thing, I thought you were waltzing in here to make a racist joke troll-wise right up until I began to write this and thought better of it.

    @61 WMDKitty

    “Worse than a rapist” is… I don’t know if I can put ‘not okay’ on that one, but it definitely seems over-the-top harsh, and I’d say it was shameful of you to say that about an actual rape survivor, despite her many many many failings displayed in this thread.

  52. Badland says

    Good lord CD, that was magnificent. Smart and compassionate and absolutely irrefutable. I learned a lot just now, thank you!

  53. simonhadley says

    @62 abbeycadabra

    Yeah, the sarcasm tag would help but I tend to let people be adults and figure it out themselves. It allows me to sort out who the grown ups are and who are the ones who just can’t or won’t get it. The latter folks tend to be hyper sensitive and actively look for anything to be outraged about and that’s something we need a lot less of from all ends of the socio-political spectrum.

  54. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @61: Yeah, not to tone police but that is a fairly dehumanizing way of thinking. Victims very often end up doing deeply irrational and hurtful things, and if we tossed them out whenever they crossed lines, nearly every victim I’ve ever met would have been tossed out. Doesn’t make it remotely okay, but just saying some words on the Internet, however potentially triggering (and, yes, the hypocrisy is massive in terms of using triggering language while demanding others respect her triggers), isn’t in the same universe as actual sexual assault.

    However, there is some truth to the fact that what she is actually ultimately asking for, though apparently not being cognizant of it, is secondary victimization. Her victimization means that others need to be in positions where they are exposed to danger. The impact of her policy proposal is worse than any one rape, because it will insure many sexual assaults and hate crimes occur.

  55. Ed Peters says

    I usually don’t read through a thread as long as this, but PZ recommended it and he was right to do so.
    This thread taught me a lot and changed my mind. I confess I was on kathleenzielinski’s side initially.
    But after reading this thread I am now on the other side, and believe her posts are in bad faith. At first, her harsher critics put me off and made me sympathize with her. Then, as I kept reading, I changed my mind about that, as I did about her “right” to trans-free public facilities (with its unspoken assumption that trans women are just dying to show everyone their genitals rather than being more inclined than most people to use the stalls to undress). People operating in bad faith should be informed that such dishonesty deserves a harsh response. Still, I also very much appreciate those giving her the benefit of the doubt. It had the effect of allowing them to cover more ground (especially CD). I come here for education and you guys have never disappointed me. So kudos and thanks for such a good thread.

    About her motives, I am just speculating, but, her entire set of posts would be what I’d expect from someone gathering intel to hone her arguments. It has that look and feel to me. But your responses to her were so good, I don’t think she will be able to use them to advance her agenda. I would not be surprised if she ignores them.

  56. Ed Peters says

    John @68. Thanks. I assumed she was a rando. In her Feb 1 comment she said:
    “I’m even fine with people with penises who identify as women using the same bathroom I do.”
    Then she says she’s fine with:
    “excluding people with penises from some women’s social groups”
    “I want to spend my time with people that I understand”
    Now she wants to ban them from restrooms too, ostensibly for fear of seeing their genitals. A fear she didn’t have in Feb.
    I wonder what her fear and lack of understanding hold in store for tomorrow?

  57. says

    This may be a foolish question, so feel free to stamp on me if I’m out of line. As a man, I’m familiar with male toilets, where it’s possible to observe the genitals of others. I somehow imagined that with stalls, this was not feasible in women’s toilets. Is it even possible for Kathleen to see someone else’s genitals in such a space?

  58. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @70: Kathleen has been so vague that it’s difficult to tell, but she said “changing clothes”, so she may have been referring to locker rooms and such. Of course, I don’t much like having penises around me when I change as a man. Should I be allowed in the women’s locker room if we aren’t using gender non-binary ones? What if I had been a victim of sexual abuse by a man? Once again, Kathleen’s perspective is fundamentally transphobic because it fundamentally does not think about the possible permutations of biology, gender and sexual orientation.

    And while I figured she had been on some BS before, I didn’t realize that she appears to be quite venal. She does indeed say “’I’m even fine with people with penises who identify as women using the same bathroom I do. But I do draw the line at people who tell me — and I have been told — that I’m a transphobe if I’m not interested in dating someone with a penis”. She may be cheating by referring not to bathrooms but to changing areas more broadly, but still, it is deeply, deeply telling that the supposed line Kathleen had (a line that everyone demonstrated was based in transphobia, in that she defined being a lesbian as not dating people with penises rather than dating and being attracted to women, a distinction that only makes sense is if you don’t think that trans people are real) is now not the line. And every line she has drawn all serve to circumscribe trans identities, assume they are not real, and limit them.

    So, yeah, “Fuck off, TERF” is starting to form on my lips. Kathleen has some charge on this issue she can’t honestly face here, and until she does, she is indistinguishable from every other conservative bigot. All of whom are charged on this topic too.

  59. says

    @70 leebrimmicombe-wood

    We think she is on about a locker room, where… it could be possible, depending on the particular room. You’re quite correct about women’s bathrooms; it is not possible to see anyone’s junk in the normal course of affairs.

    Sometimes it’s really weird when TERF men make arguments that palpably are based on not knowing what a women’s bathroom looks like.

  60. says

    Kathleen hasn’t come back since she tried to drop the mic with her survivor story and nobody bought it.

    What are we bet she’s off to one of the TERF sites to tell them how horrible we were to her, that ‘the trans cult has no sympathy for rape survivors’, etc etc?

  61. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @73: Yeah, obviously I hate to be skeptical in this context, but… she followed the TERF playbook perfectly, and invoking an abuse background as an argument is a way of allowing her to claim that any response was intolerant, because there is no good response to a survivor. And people in such an echo chamber would never see CD’s careful reaction. And she has flat out said that “This is how you make TERFs”, so she has abrogated any responsibility for her own biases and beliefs.

    Of course, in reality, no one questioned her status as a survivor, because it wasn’t necessary. It didn’t matter. One survivor asking other people to be victimized for her is wrong.

  62. says

    @74 Frederic Bourgault-Christie

    Perhaps you misunderstand me. I meant nobody bought the rightness of her demands.

    I, and I suspect at least the vast majority of others, believe her story of being assaulted, unquestionably.

    Sadly, in this world that’s not an extraordinary claim and does not require extraordinary evidence. It’s an all-too-common injustice.

    Plus, there’s the fact that everything she said tracks emotionally. Being assaulted by a man, particularly for a lesbian, can easily leave a deep lingering distaste for anything ‘manly’. Kathleen says she is an old-school second-wave lesbian, and that tracks too: the second wave was when critical analysis of oppression by gender became common in queer, especially lesbian, circles; this early analysis simply neglected the existence of trans people in its formulation and thereby was based around this oppression being of and by and “natural” to men (which means all penises), and done to women-which-means-wombs because of their biology. It held a lot of water, because reproductive injustice absolutely was and is a huge component of misogynist oppression.

    But it was also an early concept. A lot of the people who “grew up” with that just… stayed with it, did not accept more advanced analyses, and wound upe ventually doing the conservative-style thing of trying to force the world to conform to their theory because it was easier to understand.

    This analysis, when it grew up, is what evolved into the modern concept of “the patriarchy”, being a systematic cultural force that promotes (but also constrains) certain kinds of people, at the expense of others. Since the 70s, the two big changes to this analysis (AFAIK, not a scholar) were intersectionality – no one axis is the Only one, ever, and the nature of oppression at intersections changes – and the focus changing from people to systems: ‘men’ per se are not the enemy, patriarchy and toxic masculinty are; ‘white people’ are not the enemy, whiteness and systemic racism are; etc.

    In her way, I can see Kathleen is, on some level, trying. She doesn’t really understand this in her bones, but she seems to intellectually. She does not appear to be making (now, at least) any of the TERF arguments that claim trans women are privileged, and appears to have at least an inkling that trans people in general represent a huge thorn in the side of the patriarchy. If she were to make that final genuine step and believe in the well-established reality of trans identities, she would be an actual ally.

  63. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @75: Well, yeah, I mean… she wasn’t even trying to make an argument.

    And, yes, everything tracks. But trolls can be trolls, and can make up anything they want. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to tell what disingenuous people are being disingenuous about.

    What bothers me about the entire “second-wave” excuse thing is that it’s transparently easy to get from that to respecting trans folks. The notion that most feminists thought any of this was about biology is just fraudulent: that’s a tiny minority (and it doesn’t surprise that the people who speak in biotruths end up agreeing with the right wing!) Rather, what becomes transparently obvious is that biotruths about what people can and can’t do by gender were used to keep them unjustly out of certain spheres. So any person who’s done any feminist activism and has heard people casually talking about why women can’t be leaders because they’re too emotional or get periods or what not knows when totally silly arguments that a) ignore the actual complex biology and b) wouldn’t be true even if the premises were granted (e.g. given how shitty our leaders often are precisely because they ignore conclusions drawn from emotional intelligence, we’d be obviously better off with more leaders who nurtured and cooperated and used emotional intelligence) should instantly be able to track the same shit in the anti-trans “discourse”, especially when they’ve also queer and have heard the same bullshit also used to police lesbians and gay folks. Actually, LGB issues to me are far less of a stretch than T issues when it comes to feminism: When it comes to sexual orientation, you’re at least hypothetically talking about a different axis; but trans people are just a special case of the idea (that TERFs themselves propagate!) that the arbitrary restrictions of gender need to go away.

    The only even hypothetically valid argument that feminists could have about trans issues is that trans men have probably experienced sexism as a result of being perceived as female and trans women probably have experienced less sexism (until they transitioned). That argument requires intersectionality and an actual commitment to ending gender to understand. But even without that rooting, someone should recognize that, just as women should be free from sexism, so too should trans folks. Anyone who identifies as a woman shouldn’t be getting any shit for it. And the opportunity to stand up for people who are presenting as female should be an instant win for feminists, because it lets them attack deeply rooted sexism. Instead, some of the worst proponents of transmisogyny are TERFs.

    And the idea that second wave feminists didn’t think systems were the enemy is I think the opposite of reality. In fact, if you track the history of feminist resistance, it starts overtly with systemic reform (gaining the vote, gaining equal access to the workplace, etc.) There was a hope that men would automatically get used to women being equal in power. It was the later waves of feminism that started pointing out that “softer” cultural trends are also pernicious and can survive, say, the banning of de jure sexism in institutions. It’s later leftist praxis that’s understood identity to a greater respect, which is what I think is a big cause of the conflict between those who have accepted older liberal and leftist ideas and those who are advocating for ostensibly newer ones (see the way that liberals will divide on the issue of affirmative action, for example).

    In any case, the idea that sexist institutions would hurt women in lots of ways couldn’t be new to someone like Kathleen.

    And it is possible that she’s trying, yes… or it’s possible that she tailored her aggressiveness and concessions exactly to the point that she got to recenter the debate where she wanted and so she could let everyone look irrational. “I conceded that trans people are valid and they still yelled at me!” Again, disingenuous people are disingenuous. I too am inclined to think she’s trying, but I’ve been burnt by emotionally manipulative people enough times to keep an eye out.

    @76: My problem with it is that it is a straightforward abandonment of responsibility. It’s deeply hilarious to see conservatives who will talk about how people need to own their circumstances then turn around and talk about how “the left is making me racist!” or in this case “Trans people and their allies not swallowing my shit is making me transphobic!” (not that Kathleen is necessarily actually conservative). I’ve never once been tempted for very long to be shitty to someone out of spite: The idea that one would do that, and then make that into an ideology, is at best an indication that someone is not only a deeply spiteful and crappy person, but also that they’re still bigoted.

    Because what’s going on is that a person is saying “Because I experienced backlash against a view I held, I am going to actively promote bigoted ideologies, knowing that this means openly committing to denying others’ humanity, because I value them less than me”. That in and of itself is bigoted, without any need for broader ideology. And on top of that, the idea that a person can become a sexist because they got treated badly by feminists (or whatever the specific case is) pretends that they had no preexisting disposition to think any given way, and that they adopt ideologies based off of irrational applications of their personal treatment by some to an entire group, which is itself bigoted reasoning.

  64. says

    kathleenzielinski @ #14:

    anatomical males who deep in their gut feel female

    I notice that you refer to “anatomical,” but I’m curious…are you sure you’re “biologically female”? Like 100%? In every aspect, at every moment? What if you discovered that sometimes your hormonal balance was “male”? What about when you were pre-puberty? If you have a hysterectomy, or when you go into menopause, is your category then questionable? What if you discovered that your external genitalia at birth were ambiguous and were surgically altered to place you in one category – would you question your identity as a woman? Has the cultural message that lesbians aren’t “real” women ever led you to question your identity as a woman? If not, why not? Because you deep in your gut feel female?

  65. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @82: What’s your objection? Trans folks want to be treated like cis women, by and large. Women and their allies want to be treated with dignity and respect. They’re not mutually exclusive. Gains for women and gains for trans people are simultaneous, and trans women find themselves at the intersection of cisheteronormativity and patriarchy. Yes, there are going to be times where trans women will need to be treated differently from cis women, just like cis women need to be treated differently from each other, but those are rare cases.

  66. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @82: What’s your objection? Trans folks want to be treated like cis women, by and large. Women and their allies want to be treated with dignity and respect. They’re not mutually exclusive. Gains for women and gains for trans people are simultaneous, and trans women find themselves at the intersection of cisheteronormativity and patriarchy. Yes, there are going to be times where trans women will need to be treated differently from cis women, just like cis women need to be treated differently from each other, but those are rare cases.

  67. says

    Agreed. I cringed just a bit at that. It carries a whiff of accepting the way that cis women are treated in society currently, rather than acknowledging that we have a long way to go in fighting sexism.

    That said, I didn’t take seriously the idea that this is what was meant. I took it to be careless phrasing and something has to be a lot more consequential than merely an internet comment carelessly phrased so that it’s possible to interpret as acceptance of the status quo before I feel like putting effort into addressing it. (Which is why I didn’t mention it before, but since SC is being questioned about it, I want to throw my support behind SC: they’ve got the right of it.)

  68. says

    Have to agree with SC and CD, and speaking of careless phrasing:

    Trans folks want to be treated like cis women, by and large.

    That is at best broadly true of trans women. I absolutely guarantee you trans men do not want that in any way, and I doubt most nonbinary folk want that either.

  69. says

    Thanks, Crip Dyke @ #86. (And your #47 was a phenomenal comment!)

    It’s all the same shit! I suppose that’s why I (finally) felt the need to respond to this idea. We need solidarity.

  70. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @85: Which isn’t cogent, because “Women should be treated better” is not mutually exclusive with “Cis women should be treated like trans women”. You surely aren’t arguing that trans women should be treated better than cis women! They’re two separate topics. Raise the ceiling and make sure everyone is there.

    @86: I always take something like that as an acquiescence to brevity, and also a separation of policy issues. It’s one thing to win, as cultural or legal “policy”, that trans women are treated like cis women. It’s another thing to win that women in general are treated equally to men. It’s a third thing to win that patriarchy means everyone, men and women, are treated better. All those are separate concerns, and trying to explain to someone like Kathleen all three is not a winning approach. If we want to list everything we on the left want, that’s a huge list. But equalizing treatment between trans/non-binary and cis folks on the one hand does not necessitate, at all, equalizing treatment between men/women on the other. It’s true that one could hold that we should do the former and not the latter, but that’s a separate conversation.

    Someone like Kathleen needs to be reminded that, actually, trans folks aren’t interlopers, they’re not coming for her safe spaces, they as a group don’t want to hurt her or have special privileges, they just want to be accommodated and protected like we would do to anyone else. That’s the core point here: Trans folks are not actually asking anything beyond what feminists would ask for.

    Maybe it’d be better to say “Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect irrespective of their gender, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity and presentation”.

    @87: Big ooops. Yes, “trans women…” not “trans people”. And the only thing that I think can be cogently said about non-binary folk as broad summary would be that they’d want to be treated as valid, but now I’m going beyond the original statement and my own expertise and position.

  71. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Correction: It’s a third thing to win that ending patriarchy and replacing it with a gender and kinship norm that is not discriminatory and allows people to express themselves means everyone, men and women and non-binary, are treated better (as maximally well as can be reasonably expected along gender and kinship lines).

  72. says

    Frederic Bourgault-Christie @ #90:

    @85: Which isn’t cogent,

    Of course it’s cogent.

    “Most of us [trans women] just want to be dealt with the way people in our society deal with cis women.”


    “What’s your objection?”

    “That ‘the way people in our society deal with cis women’ is…not good.”

    I’m at a loss as to what eludes you here.

    They’re two separate topics.

    They most certainly aren’t. Do you think transphobia arises in a vacuum?

  73. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @92: No, I don’t think transphobia arises out of a vacuum. I also don’t think that transphobia can be separated from class, race, or state either. Would it therefore be inaccurate to say that women would like to be treated equally, because poor women are treated pretty badly and as are minority women? Nothing is eluding me.

    In other words: Transphobia, patriarchy, statism, racism/colonialism, and classism/capitalism are all linked, but they are also separable. You can deal with the one and not the other. Forgetting that has been a pretty big leftist problem, I imagine you agree.

    And practically, I can actually say “I want trans women and cis women to be treated equally” without demanding a single improvement to the treatment of women, trans or cis. I shouldn’t, but they are in fact separate, though linked, topics.

  74. says

    And practically, I can actually say “I want trans women and cis women to be treated equally” without demanding a single improvement to the treatment of women, trans or cis.

    Indeed you can.

  75. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @94: So… you see my point, then. You can’t determine if someone is in favor of improving treatment for cis women or not from their position on the idea that trans and non-binary people should be treated equally, and it’s not necessarily a part of the discussion. The only way in which the topics aren’t separate is that they are cogently related… but everything is cogently related.

    Now, there’s two objections. One is that that phrasing was so misleading that it should have come with the caveat (“And cis women need to be treated a lot better”), which could have been a smart move to make to further appeal to Kathleen and remind her of the shared interest that feminists should have with trans activists. But TERFs will often respond to that as if it’s more intrusion on their space, or as a way to just shove to feminist topics more broadly instead of having to live in the space of having their ideology confronted for what it is.

    The other objection could be that, in theory, one could demand that, if cis women aren’t going to be treated equally and well, then trans women should go for it on their own. And that would have some kind of logic, I guess, but still, the goal pretty much everyone reasonable has is 1) close gaps in treatment between men and women, including by addressing systemic sexism; 2) close gaps in treatment between trans and non-binary people on the one hand and cis people on the other, including by addressing systemic transphobia and its association with systemic heteronormativity and homophobia; and 3) raise the conditions for everyone by eliminating demeaning ideas inherent to organized sexism. Saying “We want #2!” doesn’t imply “We don’t want #1!”

    So the only complaint is that Allison said “just want”, rather than “want”. But I don’t think it’s reasonable to object to Allison saying “just want” because in that context it seemed as if it was being used not as a literal statement of everyone’s agenda but an emphatic statement from someone very tired of being accused of having a broader agenda in this topic. (Indeed, she was hedging against precisely that misinterpretation, by noting frustration that a broader agenda is assumed!) And she was contrasting Bourassa with a hypothetical trans individual, so the “just” was in that context, noting that Bourassa was asking for something far more broad. And from experience talking about these issues, capturing every possible aspect of oppression when discussing a focused topic often tends to lead to people making claims that are too broad, because each aspect of oppression is subtly different in terms of its mechanics and why it’s wrong. (Which actually is what takes us back to Kathleen’s question and its fallacious foundation!)

    (Also, as a factual statement, lots of trans women don’t think that we need to improve cis women’s treatment much. They’re wrong, but I know a few trans women who are either anti-feminist or very middle-of-the-road when it comes to the topic. So part of it is also that the original claim was about what a majority wants. Of course, that could be false, but given the antipathy towards feminist agendas, I wouldn’t be surprised if it remained true).

  76. says

    @95 Frederic Bourgault-Christie

    lots of trans women don’t think that we need to improve cis women’s treatment

    Lots? LOTS? Citation very much needed, my lad.

    A few, sure. A few hold insane politics, outright TERFs and nazis. But lots?

    … There is advice above, directed towards Kathleen, about “stop digging”. You may wish to consider it for yourself.

  77. indianajones says

    Love your work CD.

    Perhaps little it of house keeping ‘Trans women should be treated just as cis women should be treated’ is what was initially meant.

    And for Kathleen. I want to draw an example here. I do NOT meant to imply anything in my drawing of it as an endorsement of the behavior I will describe, But to make my point I do need to illustrate it. Having said that. If you were really and truly being attacked here. If you were being really and truly being engaged with in bad faith. If that were true. Then.


    Then you would have your particular and personal trauma, your rape, called into question. People here would never ever do this without being absolutely and rightly banned. But how would you feel if someone who was not a rape victim pretended or identified as, in the way you use the term for Native American Identity, to be such? I hesitate to make the equivalence or near so especially as I am in neither of the 2 groups in question. So I don’t know either whether they are anywhere near each other in terms of potential harm done. But I suspect that pretense of being a member of either group does at least the same type of harm to those groups with only severity varying.

    And I very much must apologize if I have hurt or harmed anyone, including Kathleen, here by wandering in this minefield. I am not trans anything. Neither am I a rape victim. Nor a Native North American either. And I recognize that I may not have been careful enough about land mines that have the very high potential to blow up in other peoples faces.

  78. indianajones says

    sigh wants an edit function, oh well

    ‘Perhaps A little BIT of housekeeping’

    ‘is what was initially meant I THINK’

  79. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @96: Yes, lots. Even if it’s a minority of a community that is a percentage of the population, that’s still lots.

    Also, you just conflated people who are hostile to feminism to TERFs and Nazis. That’s… just not a valid comparison. I despise anti-feminists, but hostility to feminism is decently common. And while there is an extreme fringe of MRAs and incels and so forth, they are mostly playing off of a lot of anti-feminist mythmaking that has become successfully entrenched. Scratch at the surface of a lot of self-identified liberals and a lot of voting Dems, and you’ll get some anti-feminist mythology.

    So, for example: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/07/07/61-of-u-s-women-say-feminist-describes-them-well-many-see-feminism-as-empowering-polarizing/ finds that 61% of American women see themselves as feminist, and https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/american-women-and-feminism has one poll that finds that one third do. The global average for women seems to converge around 58%. Polls of trans people themselves are hard to find, if anyone has one that’d be great, but the numbers here vary.

    So even if trans women are twice as likely to self-identify as feminists as the average member of the population, that’s still going to be about a sixth who won’t identify as feminist. And I don’t think I need to point out that there are many self-identified feminists who actually don’t think that there needs to be much change in the public square: Not just disingenuous lying anti-feminists like Christina Hoff Sommers, but also libertarian feminists like Wendy McElroy, and just very centrist feminists who would reject patriarchy theory.
    https://news.gallup.com/poll/317009/americans-regard-gender-equality-unfinished-business.aspx finds that most Americans think gender equality still needs to be improved, for example, but even among women it’s still about three-fourths. And, again, that’s not cognate of the stronger position the commentariat here tends to hold.

    It’s not just the trans women I personally know who would be skeptical of feminist claims to varying degrees (and one who has become radicalized but at one point was a right-wing libertarian). The statistics for the population show that there will be a huge number of women, “lots” in absolute terms, who are not going to accept the general consensus here that there is a patriarchy that needs to be addressed. Now, the 2015 Transgender Survey did show that only 2% of transgender respondents were Republicans, but 48% were Independent, and Independents will include a lot of people with right-wing views.

    See, I’ve been a lifelong feminist, but when I started addressing what I thought were really anodyne conclusions (there’s a wage gap, there’s organized sexism, etc.) I suddenly would get brigaded on Quora and Facebook and elsewhere by severe anti-feminist hostility. And it wasn’t just the outright MRAs, but also libertarians and run of the mill conservatives. And people who marked themselves as outright liberal would still be very skeptical, not just of more radical ideas like patriarchy but even basic ones like the presence of the wage gap. It takes some serious messaging to overcome that. And, yes, one of the people who was privately skeptical is a friend of mine who is a trans woman.

    So the only data I’ve been able to find, like the Transgender Survey, just don’t address this, so it is possible that being in a conservative county I’ve seen outliers, but still, you take 700,000 adults, even if only 10% of them would not accept that we need to drastically change how cis women are treated, that’s 70,000 people. That’s larger than the town I live in. It’s “a lot”. Globally, it’s not that big, and proportionally, it’s not that big, but it’s still worth bearing in mind, and that share of the community will be able to be disproportionately heard because they are useful for conservative myth-making.

    But hey, if anyone has any data that shows that actually trans folks would directly address the question “Do you think that there is a massive gender equality problem?” in the affirmative, I’d love to see it.

  80. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Oh, and as a direct result of what I’m talking about: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-transgender-conservatives-who-are-sticking-with-trump . How many of those folks do you think are going to accept that we need to massively change gender equality? Some will, because the people they interviewed claimed to lean right-wing on issues like immigration and the economy, but still, they couldn’t be that feminist or else they’d have been pretty turned off by the guy who was openly bragging about sexual assault. Conservative mythology goes deep; the Log Cabin Republicans show that you can get a large movement of gay folks (again, large in absolute, not proportional, terms) to side with an openly homophobic party because they value other stuff (to say nothing of the Milo self-hating type). And as more trans folks come out, and inequality against them declines, some are going to go conservative. That’s just politics.

  81. says

    I’m so tired. Nothing inclines me to bail once and for all on humanist and freethought spaces as much as the dudebros who are so dedicated to deciding they need to be proven right that they don’t consider the greater context of what they’re saying, or the implications, or the effect they’re having on the people they’re talking to.

    It’s not that I can’t rebut you, Frederic. It’s that you’re just exhausting, and I don’t have the spoons to deal with a cis guy explaining to me that in his opinion “lots of” trans women are suicidally stupid.

  82. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    So, wondering if I had missed something on the topic, I talked to a trans woman friend of mine, Isidore, and asked about the perspective. She did say that among the people she spent time with the number of trans/enby folks who wouldn’t be fairly strongly feminist would be less than 1%… but once I pointed out that I meant beyond her network she did agree that, for example, 4chan has plenty of extremely right wing, nasty, anti-feminist trans folks. In addition to the folks who have messaged me who claim to be trans and anti-feminist, the folks she knew, and the folks we both knew, there were a non-trivial number of people who would either be non- feminist, anti -feminist or who would self-identify as feminist but if you pushed them they would, say, think the gender wage gap isn’t real. That’s the reality of feminist activism at this point.

    But “rebut”? I straight up asked if there was some data I didn’t have, or some complication I was missing. Of course you don’t owe me that, or your time. But to call me a “dudebro”, when you have no goddamn idea who I am? Neither rhetorically very useful nor true. I’m talking about nuances of views from a decent amount of experience at this point. The notion that I want you to “rebut” me is just bullshit. I’m happy to listen. Just talking to Isidore helped me think about the complexities of the issue further.

    And if trans folks are incapable of being suicidally stupid, then they are literally the only people on the planet like that. Rich people with plenty of education drive us to climate disaster. There are self-hating gays, self-hating people of color, self- hating atheists. Tons of poor people keep voting Republican. The notion that it is obviously the case that the number of trans folks who would be to the right of the commentariat here is less than 5% is an extraordinary claim. You don’t have to spend your time schooling me if I am indeed clueless as fuck (wouldn’t be the first time!) But I have no duty to believe an extraordinary claim on your say-so, and I’ve done the research I am capable of.

  83. says

    Didn’t make an extraordinary claim. Thanks for demonstrating that you didn’t listen to the important part of what I said. How nice it is to have to be constantly dealing with even sincere “allies” who can’t stop explaining to us what we are.

  84. John Morales says

    Frederic, you’re missing the point.

    Took me a while to get it, but basically, many trans people (even here) get sick and tired of discussing and establishing and explaining and clarifying and debating and justifying (and so forth) their status, even to ostensibly well-meaning people such as you.

    And expecting them to keep so doing is an imposition.

    They don’t owe you that.

    And if trans folks are incapable of being suicidally stupid, then they are literally the only people on the planet like that.

    Again, you miss the point.

    (I know that you imagine that’s the only basis for rebuttal, but really, it ain’t)

  85. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Abbey: Then you may be talking past me, and me you. I am only talking about the claim, in isolation, that “Lots of trans people would not think that we need to do a lot of work to improve cis women’s standings”, full stop. And by “lots”, I would mean, like, say, more than 10,000 people. (Since I would find it very uncomfortable dismiss any trend of thought among a small subsection of the population as not worth listening to because the number is in absolute terms pretty small). That is all I am talking about, because to me that’s critical to Allison’s original point, and also to very important broader concerns. Whatever broader concerns and context you are seeing, I would love to hear! Sincerely. I know that can sound like sarcasm on the Internet but it is meant seriously (since I care about policy and culture), and, again, I know that you have no duty to instruct me if you are stressed or busy or whatever else. I basically have stopped my Quora posting for two years now and feel stressed and awful about it, but working with children and then the pandemic just drained a lot out of me.

    One objection to my point, for example, could be to say (and I don’t know if this is true or not but it could be) that, while my experience with the general population that there’s antipathy for feminist causes is true, among trans folks it really is more about just raising consciousness, tying issues together, etc. And maybe I am missing that sometimes people just don’t have the benefit of my policy education, and may just need to have something explained to them. That isn’t my experience, to be clear, but my experience has inherently ended up being very combative, and it’s easy to forget that the kind of people who will offer some anti-feminist trope on Quora aren’t the same as the kind of folks you may encounter in other activist contexts. I would love to know if any of that is true or not, again time and energy permitting.

    John: I wasn’t talking about anyone’s status. I was talking about the actual ideological commitments of folks on the ground, not based on the armchair but based on me having to answer thousands of the same anti-feminist PRATTs even among people I know should know better. And my broader context for that is from having the experience of thinking that a claim, like the gender pay gap, that should be easy to educate on, is actually really controversial, precisely because it is not actually that well-accepted in our society that cis women need to be treated a lot better.

    And, no, I don’t imagine that’s the only basis for rebuttal. In fact, I just said that I don’t give a shit about rebuttal at all. I could be 100% right on everything I said and Abbey could still have a totally valid way of reframing it, or explaining why it didn’t matter, or discussing some emotional context I wasn’t talking about. So… it feels like to me that two people have put words into my mouth, pretty blatantly.

  86. John Morales says

    John: I wasn’t talking about anyone’s status. I was talking about [blah]

    You’re harassing Abbey.

  87. says

    @106 John Morales

    Well. Not HARASSING, that would be an overstatement. But a 5% strength version of that.

    @105 Frederic Bourgault-Christie

    I will try to explain. John has it right at #104, in a nutshell.

    Being a trans person… no, being any minority is exhausting. There is an endless parade of people who are members of more privileged groups who talk amongst themselves about what you are and try to ‘explain’ or ‘solve’ you. Sometimes they deign to actually talk to a member of the minority, but if they do it’s always patronizing, with an air of trying to explain you to yourself.

    It’s particularly acute for trans people, because while you’d be hard pressed to find anyone outside of the most shriekingly rabid fringe hate groups who will claim Black people are anything other than “humans with comparatively dark skin”, it’s quite mainstream to argue about us being real at all – qv the entire Kathleen issue. We get people telling us trans people aren’t real, or they are real but only when done the right way, or we’re all a hallucinatory delusion, or we’re just the gayest possible gay, or we’re entirely real but a birth defect that needs to be corrected, etc. etc. We get people telling us the trans community is silly and irrelevant, is just whinig children, is an army of violent men, is too incoherent to listen to, etc. etc.

    You just did that last one.

    I am not convinced by some of your specific statistical claims. I am VERY not convinced by your definition of ‘lots’, which by itself strikes me as very low per capita and based on absolute numbers in a way that frankly reminds me of climate change denier style claims that there are “lots” of scientists that don’t believe in anthropogenic global warming. And I absolutely do not have the energy to go through point by point by godfuckingdamn Gish gallop point with you to explain why the claim that “lots of trans women are anti-feminist and/or against trans rights” is probably not really correct and DEFINITELY a harmful thing to argue for.

    You’ve cast yourself in the role of the latest cis dude telling us what we are, and there are just so MANY of you and you are always so godsforsaken certain in the Rightness of your Argument and your Correctness… of this thing that is to you an academic exercise and to me is my daily life… that just the thought of trying to engage with that is enervating, exhausting, just makes me want to go away and not bother.

    Because in my experience, people who do that don’t listen. You might well be different, but that would definitely make you stand out from all the other cissplainers as an anomaly. This is a ‘cut my losses’ situation, because either I ignore you or you listen, and that will end it THIS time, but that just sets the clock ticking for the next one to wander in.

    It hurts having to defend ourselves all the time, from people who are telling us what we are. That includes politically. And it was very exhausting trying to explain all this, too.

  88. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Abbey: Please quote me as saying anything that even implies you are too incoherent to listen to. Aside from me suggesting we may be talking past each other (we, not you), I have said nothing to that effect. Notice how I used non-violent language to say that I felt like words were being put into my mouth? You didn’t say “I feel like you just did that last one”. Or “However unwittingly, you just did that last one”. Nope. I just did it. And I just flat out didn’t. I loudly did the opposite. I loudly said I knew I would never have the on-the-ground experience and that you would have a different perspective and a hugely valuable one. And I went and consulted a different trans person because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something, precisely because I know I will get shit wrong. I don’t think trans people in general or you in specific don’t know your own reality, or anything of the sort. You are clearly a deeply smart, creative, intelligent writer. I just think you happen to be wrong here.

    I appreciate that you have the perspective. Hell, I’ve seen folks who use my rhetorical approach and thought the same thing. But I have a perspective too. I’m someone who has seen a lot of people get burnt when they forgot that the kind of radical demands we tend to have here are not automatic to people we think should get it. My Mom has been on an Islamophobic kick, not overt but pretty strong, for a very long time. Because of a history in abuse from the Catholic church, she is viciously anti- religious, and it combines with some really biased thinking. She is not a racist, she is a feminist and even has anarchist feelings… but getting her to admit something as basic as the rights of Muslim women to dress as they please when they work in schools is pulling teeth. She should know better. But she doesn’t.

    I am not disagreeing with you because of a fucking paper. I am disagreeing you because of work I’ve done for almost twenty years now. And I don’t think the disagreement is a minor one. I think it’s important, and on a complex issue where I have a ton to learn but also a ton I have experienced (specifically, the broader feminist context). Take that for what you will, but this is already a shitty year for a lot of reasons, and while I will never have anything like your stress, this interaction is stressing me out and I don’t deserve that.

    If you don’t feel like responding, that’s fine. But if you do, I will try to redouble my efforts to talk to you like a human, but please, please, I would like to feel as if I am having the same done to me. Thank you for your passion and your struggle.

  89. says

    christ on a crutch

    We get people telling us the trans community is silly and irrelevant, is just whinig children, is an army of violent men, is too incoherent to listen to, etc. etc.

    The Trans Community. Not me specifically. The fucking community as a whole.

    Arguing that the community is hugely split with “lots” taking the position against our own rights IS arguing that the community is too incoherent, too split, to listen to!

    You did that.

    You didn’t read what I wrote. You didn’t listen. You’re not going to. You’re so wrapped up in being seen as Right.

    Enough. I regret trying to explain. Congratulations, you exhausted me all the way. You win. Well done. Raise your banner of Correct from on high. Well done, O Savior.

  90. says

    i didn’t even get to address the painful corollary to what cartomancer said way back at #1. we just went straight from there into terfland and now the conversation has foundered on the rocks of Cissplaining Reef.

  91. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @109: No. No it fucking just straight up isn’t. That is a conclusion that is beneath your clear, substantial intelligence.

    If I were to say “Democrats are a house divided”, would you conclude that I meant “Democrats have seen the Color from Space and lost their mind?” I hope to God not! Even if I was a writer for Forbes that would neither be sensible nor intellectually charitable!

    Communities disagree. They disagree on lots of stuff. I am a proud radical feminist. But if you were to ask me if it’s some indication that feminists are not coherent because not every feminist is a radfem and there are libertarian feminists and choice feminists? I would say that that is ludicrous.

    When I talked to Izzy, she pointed out that trans Twitter is a hotbed of complex conversation. Would someone pointing to that indicate that trans people don’t know their own reality? No! Nor the debates among people of color, or internal to SNCC (I just did a project on the letters of the civil rights movement).

    The degree to which women face institutional sexism is a complex empirical fact to settle. The causes even more so. The solutions even more so. It is not surprising that people of good faith disagree. And some trans folks, as subsets of the group ‘human’, are not behaving in good faith!

    I have said repeatedly I don’t give a shit about being perceived as right. I would rather learn and share. You clearly have a perspective that would be hugely valuable. If at the end of hearing from that I find out that, actually, 99% of trans folks are radical feminists, I would be ecstatic to learn I was fucking wrong! On multiple levels!

    You’re not talking to me, Abbey. You’re talking to someone else. I have asked you to treat me like the human being I am. I will ask one more time. If you want to talk to me, talk to me. Not to the stereotype you have basically admitted you are talking to. You wouldn’t tolerate it being done to you, I shouldn’t have to tolerate it being done to me.

  92. says

    i think you have admirably demonstrated that you are, indeed, definitely someone who, when advised that the act of having a certain argument is in and of itself hurting someone, won’t let that deter him from continuing to make his points.

  93. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Well, thanks for hearing me out anyways, good luck with getting some spoons, and have a nice day/night/time period! Sorry for not ceding the field earlier – thread seems to be largely dead anyways, so barring a return from Kathleen, I think I can leave things to everyone else’s capable hands.

  94. says


    You dropped this quickly to get on to making it all about you and your need for a restraining order barring anyone with male genitalia from spaces that you happen to be in, but let me say something about it, since it’s actually on the topic that you derailed:

    “if Native American religion and culture feel more real to me than my own”

    I have no idea what “feel more real it me” is a euphemism for; all religions and cultures are real, regardless of what one’s own religion (or variety of lack of it) and culture is. At best this is an expression of a preference, which is all fine and dandy but is not a justification for appropriating Native American identity.

    “if being around Native Americans makes me feel like I’ve come home”

    That’s nice (except for instrumentalizing Native Americans as a fix for your problems). You’re free to hang out with Native Americans if they’ll have you, but that’s no justification for appropriating Native American identity. Try being around them while being honest about your own background.

    “if my own culture and heritage feel totally alien to me”

    That’s unfortunate. Perhaps become more familiar with them so they don’t seem alien. Or “come home” and hang out with Native Americans (trying not to merely use them as a salve for your alienation). But in any case it’s no justification for appropriating Native American identity.

    “if deep in my gut I feel Native American”

    Nope, sorry, no way. You don’t. This is not a fact about you, nor is it a fact about Carrie Bourassa or any other pretender, Much as they might wish or want to be Native American, they know they aren’t. And that’s the difference. Men (all of them) are men. Women (all of them) are women. Native Americans are Native Americans. Carrie Bourassa isn’t.

  95. says

    Wow. I feel bad about having set this off, but JFC, Frederic Bourgault-Christie. The remarks concerned you in no way. Allison wrote “Most of us [trans women] just want to be dealt with the way people in our society deal with cis women.” My initial impulse was to write something snarky and teasing like “Dare to dream!” but I felt it would come across as dismissive. I recognized the profundity of her larger point, but still wanted to point to the fact that “‘the way people in our society deal with cis women’ is…not good,” so I went with “Uh…,” assuming Allison and others would know what I was getting at without seriously distracting from the topic at hand.

    I didn’t think Allison was suggesting any hostility towards feminism or that my response implied that she was doing so. For some reason, though, you felt the need to chime in with “What’s your objection?” and then to follow that up with a post containing:

    Also, as a factual statement, lots of trans women don’t think that we need to improve cis [?] women’s treatment much. They’re wrong, but I know a few trans women who are either anti-feminist or very middle-of-the-road when it comes to the topic. So part of it is also that the original claim was about what a majority wants.

    Which was (and remains) unsubstantiated and implausible, but is completely irrelevant in any case, because Allison had expressed nothing of the sort and nor had I suggested she had. And that inflammatory claim could only make trans women, who are already stressed out and exhausted from [waves hands at everything] feel like they have to defend themselves.

    But to call me a “dudebro”, when you have no goddamn idea who I am? Neither rhetorically very useful nor true.

    You’re acting like a total dudebro! You intervened in a conversation among women. Having been asked to stop and told the effect your lengthy, goalpost-moving, arrogant comments were having, you just kept pushing ahead. Your purpose in part seemed to be to inform women about the Hard Truths you possess, like that some women are hostile to feminism, like this is something we don’t already know. Jumping into discussions to educate women about “the reality of feminist activism at this point” to show them how to feminist better and then whining about your treatment when people call it out is like textbook dudebroing.

    hostility to feminism is decently common

    Or indecently common, as the case may be.

  96. Allison says

    I notice that one line in one of my comments has gotten a lot of, uh, attention, starting with @82:
    Allison @ #21:

    Most of us just want to be dealt with the way people in our society deal with cis women

    (Note: “us” in this quote refers to “trans women.”)

    Nothing like having what was intended as a simple statement being picked apart and deconstructed like mad.

    I actually labored over that sentence, because I am well aware of how cis women are treated in this society. On the other hand, if I’d said “the way people in our society should deal with cis women, it could have been interpreted to mean that we wanted to be treated better than cis women, i.e., special privileges. I was trying to make the point that it’s about being able to more or less live as women, recognizing that there’s a huge variation in how cis women live, too. Speaking for myself, I don’t care whether some feminist(-ic?) philosopher would say that I “am a woman” or not. I want to be allowed to have the personal qualities, such as gentleness, vulnerability, nurturance, that in a man are considered “sissy” or “queer” and deserving of contempt. I want to be able to relate to women the way cis women by and large relate to other cis women. It has been a gift to me that the women I know have treated me as no different from any other woman, despite knowing that I’m trans and, in many cases, having watched me transition.

    I suppose I could have said all that, but I suspect people would have found things to object to with that, too. At some point, you have to just go with something that isn’t 100% precise and leave off all the qualifiers and legalistic definitions and long-winded explanations and examples and just trust that people will understand where you’re coming from.

    [Tangent alert!]

    There’s also the fact that for many trans women, some of the not-so-nice aspects of being treated like a cis woman are, though demeaning and insulting, also validating. Cf. Julia Serano on being cat-called.

  97. Allison says

    SC (Salty Current) @115:

    My initial impulse was to write something snarky and teasing like “Dare to dream!”

    And I would have responded with something like, “amen, sister!”

    Or maybe just QFT.

  98. says

    Allison @ #117:

    And I would have responded with something like, “amen, sister!”

    Or maybe just QFT.

    :)! I regret that I set off the dissection of your sentence (feeling quite glad I didn’t respond to cartomancer @ #1 right about now!), but in one way I’m glad. Like I said, I understood your larger point, but you said some things in #116 I hadn’t known or thought about from that perspective, so thanks (and apologies).

  99. KG says

    Coming late to the thread, I can only echo the praise of Crip Dyke’s #47, and whoever it was noted the tendency of transphobes to parasitise threads on other (and often, as in this case, important issues).

    Patricia Phillips@46,
    A long time ago, there was a glibertarian commenter here using the nym “African Genesis”. He adhered to a fringe idea that the first people in the Americas had sailed there from Australia! And had then been exterminated by those coming from north-east Asia. Since there is not a particle of real evidence for this notion (it’s based on supposed cranial similarities), I concluded that his motivation was to justify the dispossession and genocide practised by the European colonists by: “Well, they did it first”.

  100. =8)-DX says

    Nice to see everyone getting along and despite repeated digging noises from certain quarters, I gained a few more insights along the way. One is I hope to improve my ability to step back and listen again. Thx

  101. says

    Craig, #16,

    “I often wonder if some of the white Americans who claim Native American ancestry aren’t trying at some level to hide African-American ancestry or persistent fears of it.”

    You might think so, but strangely, no. It’s more of a reaction to the red power movements of the 60’s and 70’s. Basically a bunch of white-as-white-can-be people trying to use a (false and fallacious) blood quantum argument to counter the very true statement that they’re the descendants of colonizers. “May grammaw was a CHEROKEE PRINCESS, and so I have as much right to be here as anyone!” basically. Mix that in with the new-agey gobbledegook going on at the time and young white people trying to claim Indian-ness as their own as part of that, and you’ve got a real pernicious situation where a bunch of people whose families have been pure Saxon for two thousand years are claiming to be members of some indigenous nation or other simply because that’s the story they’ve been told.

    My family had this going on, basically my dad and his sisters were raised thinking they were descended from “the choctaw who stayed.” Well wouldn’t you know it, when my sister gets a genetic test done, it’s 100% North European, mostly English with a trend towards the Norman scale (unsurprising; the other part of the family is supposed to be “Irish and Scottish” which of course means scots-Irish, the Anglo-Norman landlord class in Ireland. Yech)

  102. says

    Oh dear. You all seem to have frightened kathleenzielinski away, like a swarm of spiders descending on her tuffet.

    I’ll just leave a little note here: if she comes back and starts up again about how she’s terrified of transgender people, she’ll be banned. Any other topic, OK…but the first squeak about how she’s oppressed, and bye-bye.