An editorial note on comments on transgender issues

As long time readers know, I am reluctant to ban commenters but have done so on two previous occasions when it became clear that the people were not interested in a conversation with others but in merely repeating the same points over and over again, thus creating an unpleasant haranguing tone that spoiled the cordial nature of the discussions that I seek to encourage here.

The situation has arisen again with transgender issues where commenter Holms has created a similar problem. The issue of transgender rights is a very important one and there are many issues concerning it that I seek to highlight, partly as a learning experience for me and partly to create a broader awareness. But it has come to the point where I almost dread preparing a post that relates even tangentially to this topic because I know that Holms will once again create the exact situation in the comments that I seek to avoid.

Hence I have made an editorial decision that stops short of an outright ban. For details, please read my comment on the post An in-depth look at the trans experience.

I have not made this kind of partial ban before and am not sure how well it will work. I do read every comment that is posted and will continue to monitor the situation closely to see if any further action is warranted.


  1. John Morales says

    Some of us problematic commenters do heed your warnings, Mano.

    I applaud your moderation, both in policy and execution.

  2. says

    I have to say that I have read your blog less often for a while now, almost solely due to Holms’ behavior.

    So while I don’t think that such policy decisions (about bans or moderation) should be primarily about readership, know that by restricting one commenter you’ve gained in readership (and likely in commenting) by another.

    That issue aside, I have a major ethical problem with you, Mano: you promised to write about dark matter for me and then did not. HOW DARE YOU!


  3. Mano Singham says

    Crip Dyke,

    You’re right, I had completely forgotten my promise to you! I will make amends soon.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    CD @2: While you’re waiting for Mano to get his finger out, take a listen to Sabine Hossenfelder (one of my favourite physics communicators) for her take on where things stand on dark matter versus modified gravity.

  5. friedfish2718 says

    My, my. So much acrimony about transgenderism!!!
    Banning someone (Mr Holms) from a particular topic reflects defeatism of the party doing the banning.
    It seems to be too much ado about nothing.
    The foundations of psychiatry are much less solid than those of mathematics and physics.
    Yes, Physics have fads that come and go. Few if any had any consequence in culture, politics, economics.
    Yes, psychiatry has many fads that come and go. Sometimes coming back (electroshock therapy). Unfortunately many fads had bad consequences in culture, politics, economics.
    Is transgenderism a fad? Time will tell.
    One’s mind seems to be incompatible with the body genderwise. If your body is male, what makes one think the mind is female? It is likely that one is actually gender-less in a male body. Short of actually living in a female body, how could your mind know what is the essence of female-ness? You do not know. You can only guess. You look around and see male and female. You believe there are only 2 genders: male and female. You do not feel male and thus you MUST be female. However, You may be gender-less. You may have a hermaphroditic mind. You may be of a third gender (for which there is no example in the animal world). You look around and say to yourself: “If I look like a duck, walk like a duck, quack like a duck then I will become a duck!”
    Many sports are divided by weight (wrestling, boxing, etc..). Yes, sometimes a lightweight defeats a heavyweight.
    Many sports are divided by gender. Yes a female can defeat a male (happens a lot in ultramarathons).
    I propose sports to be divided in 5 gender categories: male, female, trans-male, trans-female, other.

  6. Deepak Shetty says

    Note : Not advocating a solution , trying to articulate thoughts
    If I look at what happened with Butterflies and Wheels , It looks like this approach has downsides. It seems to me that what started out as some differences gradually over time widened precisely because both sides abandoned the discussion , even if that discussion was going nowhere. As commenters who would push back dropped out , all that remained was an echo chamber of self reinforcing views with a mutual patting of backs. Anecdotally it feels to me that still having the same discussion still prevents the differences from widening.
    On the other hand its true that some discussions aren’t worth having or have consequences by virtue of having that discussion in the first place and its far more simpler for a non trans to say its ok to still have this discussion than it would be for a trans person to say that. So Im conflicted.
    I wonder if limiting comments per thread (max 3!) and asking for following one’s judgement on not repeating yourself is better?
    It appears to me that Trans right supporters are in the minority so we still need to convince some people to cross over.

  7. Aoife_b says

    You could have saved a lot of typing and just admitted you don’t know what you’re talking about

  8. says

    @7 Deepak Shetty

    You have made a fundamental error here: what you say can hold water if and only if everyone is discussing in good faith.

    Bigots do not do this. The sadistic, bullying behavior of a certain brand of transphobe demonstrates their actual objective, which is to eliminate trans women (this is the kind who calls trans women a threat and trans men deluded) from society out of a visceral deep-seated sense fo disgust, and unexamined internal misogyny.

    Having the same discussion over and over again with people who will not listen to experts or scientists BECAUSE they will not listen to any of the overwhelming evidence that contradicts their position is not fruitful, and Holms has been the living avatar of this behavior on here for ages.

  9. says

    I presume we’re all agreed fish-guy is just a crank. He’s got his own random hypothesis about trans folk on display here, still fragrant from the crevice from which he pulled it.

    At least it’s different. I don’t generally hear transphobes saying that NEITHER their fundamentalist thinkers nor the real experts nor trans people themselves know who and what they really are. It’s a level of arrogance that actually outstrips the bigot movement, which has a certain hateful popularity to it.

  10. says

    The new transphobe did not address anything in Mano’s post. They did not engage with the reasons for banning which would have involved treating Mano as an individual. Banning says nothing about correctness and if they don’t have the basic respect to actually engage with the reasons offered by the owner of the social space they don’t deserve to have a response to anything they posted.

  11. Rob Grigjanis says

    abbeycadabra @10:

    I presume we’re all agreed fish-guy is just a crank

    No, no. Staff Sgt Deep Fried Battered Pollock of the 18th Chairborne Infantry has obviously Thought Deeply for five minutes or less in the comfort of a quiet dimly-lit basement, and saw fit to share their hard-earned wisdom with us (I love the “It is likely that…” argument from the vacuum), backed by irrefutable logic. We should be grateful.

  12. says

    If the new transphobe cared so much they could go argue with the first transphobe somewhere else. But it’s easier to shame people for managing political aggression while offering nothing of substance to deal with said aggression. They totally ignored all of that stuff.

    That’s the charitable interpretation. Like-minded politically aggressive people who shame out of personal convenience. They could also be deliberately fixing things so the aggression continues. People can dislike aggression in their spaces.

  13. Deepak Shetty says


    if and only if everyone is discussing in good faith.

    So your contention is Ophelia, Holms, Sastra and couple of others who were frequent commenters were always bigoted (against trans people) and have always argued in bad faith ? That was not my experience. To me it looked like a slide down a slippery slope and accelerated further because there really isnt anything to stop the slide(ymmv).
    Good faith/bad faith is not something I get into -- I cant see into other peoples minds or their motivations -- I usually go by what they are stating.
    Also to avoid getting on a list of problematic commenters , last comment on this thread.

  14. Rob Grigjanis says

    Deepak Shetty @14: Not sure where you get the “So your contention is Ophelia,…have always argued in bad faith?”. Like you, I can’t read minds. But when someone repeatedly hammers away at a fringe concern (trans women in sports! Read the papers! Look at all the trans women Olympian medallists! Oh wait, there aren’t any), yeah, the term ‘bad faith’ pops up eventually. Because it looks, smells and walks a lot like a wedge strategy.

    When a doofus like friedfish offers their transparently uninformed bullshit like “Is transgenderism a fad? Time will tell.”, dismissing the lived experiences of real people in one obscene little sentence, yeah, ‘bad faith’ comes to mind, along with far more descriptive Middle English terms.

    If there’s nothing to stop someone’s slide, the problem is theirs and no-one else’s.

  15. says

    @14 Deepak Shetty

    So your contention is Ophelia, Holms, Sastra and couple of others who were frequent commenters were always bigoted (against trans people) and have always argued in bad faith

    Always? Hard to say. Perhaps there was a window between them becoming aware of these issues and taking their hardline stance that they were actually engaged in intellectual curiosity. If so, however, it was brief, and it put a lot more weight on what the bigots were saying – because for the vast vast majority of the time they have engaged with these issues, yes, they have been bigots engaged in conclusion-first motivated reasoning.

    “Slippery slope” is a logical fallacy, if that’s the way you want to put it. You are claiming that it was the fault of trans people that the ones you mentioned became transphobes, which is… a pretty shitty thing to say, since it’s skipping right over the need to have STARTED by them being antagonistic.

    And what’s your own excuse? You’ve been around here long enough to have heard the overwhelming preponderance of evidence and professional work.

    It appears to me that Trans right supporters are in the minority

    Citation needed. Though if you have been spending the majority of your time in areas where this seems obviously true, it does go some way to explaining your antagonistic support of the regular JAQ-offs.

  16. Silentbob says

    @ Deepak Shetty

    I was a commenter on B&W. I challenged the (at first implicit) transphobia. I debunked premises and assumptions. I got told I was “sniping” and put into moderation. I continued to challenge the ever increasing transphobia from moderation, I presented data, the results of polls, peer reviewed scientific literature, position statements by major relevant scientific and medical bodies like the American Psychological Society, Endocrine Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, WPATH. I quoted accounts of trans people of their own experiences, including trans men denouncing the patronising “deluded lesbians” narrative. Sometimes my comments would get published. The transphobia became more and more explicit. I got told I was a virtue-signalling shit and I should go off and read a scientific journal if that’s what I’m interested in. I got told I was a bully. After about two years, my comments stopped going into moderation, they just disappeared. I had been banned.

    Today B&W is a transphobic cesspit, honestly the most outrageously transphobic place I’ve ever seen.

    To paraphrase Jonathan Swift, you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place.

    Bigots start with their conclusion (“I don’t like trans people they are bad”) and work backwards to try to come up with rationalisations. “It’s AGP! It’s forcing lesbians into corrective rape! It’s grooming! It’s mutilating children! It’s cheating at sport! It’s predators gaining access to women’s spaces! It’s gay eugenics!” These aren’t reasons. They’re excuses.

    When ideology crashes into reality, rational people adjust their ideology; ideologues try to reinterpret reality. “Oh, every relevant medical and scientific body agrees trans people are natural, and happier and healthier when allowed to transition? Obviously ‘institutional capture’! It’s ‘gender ideology’ being forced on them by the trans agenda lobby!” They just invent batshit conspiracy theories with no rational basis and pat themselves on the back for being “skeptical” of trans people.

    Tl;dr I’ve argued to the death over years with transphobes, it made not the slightest difference. As my old Ma used to say, “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”.

  17. John Morales says


    I was a commenter on B&W.

    I too. Similar thing.
    Which makes me better appreciate Mano’s approach.

  18. Deanna says

    I’m so glad when transphobes use the words “TRA” or “trans rights activist” or “transgenderism” etc.

    I may not know for sure that they’re transphobic, but they use the same terms transphobic people use, and so I already can adjust my priors and decide whether or not to engage with them.

    Usually I don’t, especially on Twitter.

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