[CONTENT WARNING: Transphobia, incitement, threats of genocide.]
I recently circled back to that blog post I wrote about a “gender critical” manifesto. Before I started tacking on edits, this was the conclusion:
TERFs actively pair up with far-Right organizations, and their bathroom fearmongering is echoed by the far-Right echo chamber. Has anyone injured someone else based on TERF writing? Not that I’m aware of. In an age of stochastic terrorism, though, academics who promote poor arguments and falsehoods about a minority must bear some moral responsibility for any harm that comes to that minority. We can quibble over how much, but denying all responsibility is no longer an option.
My thinking was that Kathleen Stock, Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, Rationality Rules, and other “high-minded” transphobes act as a gateway to extremism, the same way Sam Harris can lead people into the alt-Right; by repeating many of the same arguments as the extremists but with a pseudo-intellectual gloss, they make them more palatable to the masses and encourage radicalization.
A related example comes from Ophelia Benson. She has spent a lot of time and effort in defense of Kellie-Jay Keen. I’ve covered all that before, but I missed some of the worst bits. For instance, Benson managed to coin the most tasteless example of “the one joke” I’ve seen: “She Identifies as Pulverized.” I somehow overlooked this passage, as well:
The wording is, as always, misleading. The label “anti-trans” implies (as it’s intended to, of course) that the Let Women Speak event was in opposition to trans people when it’s the ideology we reject.
I double-checked the date, and sure enough Benson wrote that on March 19th, two weeks after Michael Knowles defended his desire to “eradicate transgenderism” by declaring he was talking about the ideology instead of the people. Knowles did not come up with that on his own, “love the sinner, hate the sin” has been invoked in Christian circles as a cover for bigotry for decades, and he’s a devout Catholic. Which means Benson is parroting religious apologetics, but with a pseudo-intellectual gloss that makes it hard to notice.
What I did not think of, back in the day, was that the extremists would radicalize the gateway.
Yes, that last link is to Shaun’s recent video on Kellie-Jay Keen. Other bloggers here have beaten me to it, and the contents overlap greatly with things I said months ago, so I’ll forgive you for not clicking through. I’ve nonetheless typed out eight hundred ninety-three words to direct you to two key points: Keen engages in even more genocidal talk than I realized, and her views are increasingly mainstream in the gender critical movement. I already pointed out JK Rowling defending Keen, but Shaun adds Helen Joyce and Kathleen Stock. The former I can see, but I’d held up Stock as one of those pseudo-intellectuals who’d be smart enough to stay far away from anyone calling for the death of a minority. And yet Stock’s casual elevation of Keen came in June, months after Keen had become famous across the globe for her bigotry.
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
“Genocide” has a far broader definition than most people realize. Ripping children from their parent’s arms and forcibly relocating them to new homes in the USA, as Canada routinely did to First Nations children, is a form of genocide. Yes, the UN definition excludes sexual minorities, but look at how many bullet points we can check off. Keen is cheering forced sterilization of transgender people, which will prevent births; bathroom and anti-“drag” bills deliberately exclude transgender people from the public sphere, and in the process increase stigmatization and hate crimes which ticks off “physical destruction;” all those bills US states are passing to restrict transgender people’s access to health care will cause extensive mental and bodily harm; and denying children any ability to transition counts as a forcible transfer.
For the past five months on Mastodon, I’ve seen no shortage of transgender people claiming the above actions counted as genocide. I shared a few of those takes around, but I have to confess I didn’t fully agree. Yes, the situation is terrible, yes people are going to suffer and die because of it, but “genocide” felt like a bit of an exaggeration. I’d put up with the term if it encouraged people to stand up and protest, but on an intellectual level I hadn’t accepted it.
I have now. And, alas, it wasn’t one of several transgender people who pushed me over the tipping point, it was a cis dude!
Ugh, I’ve been a terrible ally. Hopefully I can start to make up for that by helping sound the alarm.