Transphobes occasionally dip a toe in here

They tend to be very tentative, and wrap themselves in the cloaking device of civility because they get banned hard otherwise, but we get an occasional TERF hijacking threads here. If you must, here’s the latest example. My defense is a great collection of eloquent readers who thoroughly shred TERFy arguments, and there are some beautiful examples in that thread. Look for the rebuttals by CripDyke and abbeycadabra and other worthy commenters, like Frederic Bourgault-Christie.

Abbey has also written her own post on the subject. Why are you reading the blog of an old cis man for trans issues anyway?


  1. microraptor says

    I just caught up on that thread myself and couldn’t help but be reminded of a recent BBC story about lesbians who claim that they’re being called transphobic because they refuse to have sex with trans women.

    The article just credulously accepted their claims and did not actually bother trying to consult with anyone else, such as actual trans women. And one of the people they featured heavily in the article has a reputation as a serial sexual predator.

    The article:

    Accusations against one of the women in the article:

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    In my thankfully limited experience with TERFs, I observed that they seem to gladly live up to the “man-hating feminist” stereotypes perpetuated by right-winters. Their antipathy for trans women sees to be an extension of their misandry.

  3. Allison says

    I remember a while back where one of these transphobic lesbians jumped into a thread on this blog to complain that trans women were calling her a transphobe because she wouldn’t have sex with trans women because she didn’t “like dick.”

    It took me a while, but I realized the flaw: if she simply didn’t have sex with any trans women, she might or might not be transphobic, but who would know or care? Why would she see a need to tell us, anyway? Unless she was being hit on regularly by trans women who insisted that she have sex with them (unlikely), there would be no reason for her to bring it up.

    We called her a transphobe because she insisted on making sure we knew of her preference, even though no one had asked her (or, frankly, wanted to know.) It’s like when a guy publicly announces to a woman, “I wouldn’t f**k you if you paid me.” It’s not so much the preference that’s the bigotry, it’s the insistence on making sure everyone knows about it.

    I couldn’t help thinking afterwards, she might not like “the dick,” but she sure liked being one!

  4. oldmanxman says

    PZ at 2

    As a fellow cis male of similar age I came for the science but wound up reading your co-bloggers. I don’t think you’ll be upset if I note I haven’t learnt that much about trans issues from you but I have from the words of your fellow FTB-ers and their links.

    Your science writing got me here but your links to bloggers who are prepared to be visible and to share their lived experiences have massively improved my understanding of what I used to think was simple and pretty much binary.

    I’m still making social errors but I’m definitely a better person than when I was ‘youngmanxman’


  5. jenorafeuer says

    Why are you reading the blog of an old cis man for trans issues anyway?

    Well, that’s not necessarily why I read here. But, at the very least, the ‘old cis man’ in question is a biologist who can and has stated (with citations) the fact that sex and gender are inherently a lot more complicated than most people think, thus knocking out one of the supports for transphobes who (like racists and sexists) often try to claim that science is on their side.

  6. Paul K says

    I’ve been reading here for a long time, since before the ‘great rifts’, etc. I have learned so much here from the generous and brilliant commentators. I’m a 61-year-old straight, cis white guy who thought he was pretty aware and empathetic to others. But I knew so little. I am a ‘broader’ person because of this space. The recent thread that PZ links to is beautiful for its clarity and, again, generosity, from folks who must be so tired of having to make these arguments again and again. Or maybe they’re not tired of it. I know I would be, but I live in my world of not needing to even be aware of what so many others live with moment to moment. Thanks to you all!

  7. PaulBC says

    Why are you reading the blog of an old cis man for trans issues anyway?

    To be honest, it’s mostly for the biology and evolution posts. Though the rest of it adds to the variety.

  8. says

    Unless she was being hit on regularly by trans women who insisted that she have sex with them (unlikely), there would be no reason for her to bring it up.

    Exactly: we generally don’t judge people’s overall character by their choice of who to date — unless they loudly say something like “I only date X!” or “I’d never go to bed with Y!” So if a lesbian just never happens to find herself wanting to go to bed with a transwoman, fine. No one expects such “choices” to have a rational pattern, or be consistent with other behavior or past “choices.” (A white guy is not called a racist just because he’s never seen dating a black woman — just as a racist is not considered less racist just because he has a black girlfriend.) It’s the overt public announcement of a general preference or principle that marks one as at least a little bigoted.

  9. says

    #12, 13: Yeah, I can’t explain why

    a) I’m attracted to women but not men,


    b) why I’m attracted to certain women but not others (mainly but not exclusively to white ones; it’s really an individual thing), even if some of them are considered very attractive by other men,

    because if there’s some deep instinctive set of reasons or something, or it’s deep-seated social conditioning, or some combination of the two, I’m not qualified to speculate, not being trained in any form of biology save a few years of basic courses in high school and college, let alone in psychology and neurology. It just is what it is, and the notion of publicly, widely declaring my inclinations just seems… odd. It has no bearing on anything other than my own life and those of any particular women who might be attracted to me (in the sense that we all find ourselves in situations sometimes where attraction isn’t mutual.) It’s really kind of arrogant to attempt to project one’s own orientation onto others, to try to be prescriptive rather than staying quiet and keeping any tentative descriptive observations of one’s state of being to oneself.

    (I’m aware of the irony even of commenting on the subject here.)

  10. birgerjohansson says

    Science fiction provides good training for concepts once considered “strange”.
    I recall The Culture in the novels by Iain Banks. Biotech advanced enough to change gender – from the ground up, even in terms of reproduction – and then possibly even change back.
    While that level of tech is not available, I see nothing inherently odd with it.

  11. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Yay! I got a shout-out!

    I have a tendency to get very…debate-y, very Rational Raisin-y, but my goal has always been to be as close to Dr. King’s vision as I can, and so one thing I’m working on in my own engagement now is to be as patient as possible and turn potentially disingenuous interactions into ones that can at least raise some interesting ideas (so that even if I can’t educate someone out of a flawed position or perspective in one arena maybe something else slips through elsewhere). But Crip blew me out of the water in terms of displaying empathy and intelligence while also being resolutely ethical.

    @5: Yes, there is some of that, but notice how the man-hating goes out the window when it comes to making alliances with sexist women and transphobic men. And while TERFs tend to ignore trans men and non-binary people a lot more, you can scratch that and get the hate there too. It’s mostly just an indication of how bigotry will worm around our best mental defenses unless we interrogate it on its own terms.

    @6/7/8: This is actually something that bothers me about the left. To me, the idea that the only people you’d read on trans issues should be trans folks is just an abrogation of King’s beloved community. Obviously, it is critical that we primarily examine and learn about experiences of people from those people, and that those people get to be stakeholders, and so on. But we’re all neighbors. Trans issues are my issues, despite me being cis. Racial issues are my issues, despite me being white. An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Any mechanism that tears me apart from my fellow humanity harms me indelibly.

    So in fact it’s critical that allies of marginalized people speak, and make sure their voices are heard, and are available to be cited and augmented by people of marginalized communities. It’s just even more critical that the first voices that are heard are from those communities… but even that is a matter not of presence but of selection. (In other words, I’ve never been terribly convinced by the idea that, say, journalists will eventually listen to the voices of marginalized people if there are no words from people from dominant groups to choose first).

    It’s especially critical because, as @9 notices, dividing up commentary alongside identity lines prevents people from encountering new ideas when they’re not already immersed. The transmisogyny and transphobia problem in atheist spaces can’t only be dealt with by trans activists who are also atheists. Prominent voices in the community need to indicate that it’s also a problem to them, no matter their gender identity or orientation. That lets someone who primarily thinks as an atheist come to PZ’s blog and be informed about a trans issue in the movement, and then be directed to those voices who can speak far more readily than PZ can.

    @12: I still do think that subtler biases come up, but those should be discussed and dealt with differently from the overt ones.

    @14: That is wholly fair. When it comes to issues like the pink ceiling in dating and romance, all anyone can ask is that we can all do our best to curb our biases.

  12. Silentbob says

    @ 6 Allison

    It’s the same person! She also has concerns about the entirely fictional problem of minors having gender reassignment surgery.

    So so far we have 1) trans women are making have sex with them, 2) children are being transed, 3) I’m a rape survivor and I can’t share spaces with “males”, on the transphobic talking points bingo card. I’m sure “trans women are cheating at sports”, and “rapists are being sent to women’s prisons”, will be coming in future instalments.