On being a liberal heretic, trans-activist thought policing, and the 1st Amendment

Originally posted at 4th Wave Now

I’ve been a knee-jerk leftist my entire adult life. Like many of my ilk, until recently, I had pretty much endorsed every tenet of progressive-liberal dogma as received wisdom, not bothering to give any of it much thought when it came to the voting booth, or whose side I was on in any debate about politics or social issues.

The wakeup call resulting from my kid’s temporary identification as a trans man, and, in particular, her vociferous demands for the two Ts—testosterone and top surgery—roused me from my comfortable slumber. And the awakening was an entirely rude one.

My critical thinking thus stirred, I don’t think I could shut it down again, despite now perpetually sleeping on an intellectual bed of nails. Not that I’d want to be re-anesthetized at this point, as much as I might envy the still-smug certainty of most of my friends.

I see myself now as a classical liberal, no longer a progressive. Among other things, classical liberals historically believed in and defended the freedom of speech. “Progressives”—and that includes many journalists—now seem to see their role as uber-scolds: refusing to cover alternative viewpoints, muzzling skeptical voices, sinking so low as to delete even respectful, dissenting comments submitted to the many news articles which promote the medical transition of children. This self-censorship is the case even in the United States, where we are lucky enough to have a 1st Amendment to the Constitution which enshrines our right to freely speak our minds.

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How to do activism wrong

Originally posted at Purple Sage

Kate Smurthwaite was raising money for refugees. When anti-free-speech idiots shut down a charity gig that is raising money for refugees, that is the opposite of activism. What Smurthwaite was doing was activism—she was raising actual money for people who need it. Shutting down good activism because you disagree with the activist on a few things is just cowardly and counter-productive.

These people who protest against nonsense phobias think they’re on the left, which just makes me want to tear all my hair out. The left should be overthrowing capitalism, not bullying feminists over daft disagreements.

When did disagreeing become a crime? Since when did disagreements require no-platforming? I am very opinionated myself, and I’m quite sure that I’m right about everything. But that doesn’t mean that I have to shut down people who disagree with me. Disagreement is how you learn and how you refine your opinions and your arguments. There are lots of people I disagree with and I like hearing their opinions anyway, because I learn from them.

You can’t stop offensive speech. I remember when Julie Bindel was no-platformed one time for being “offensive,” she remarked that she is offended at least 100 times a day, and there doesn’t seem to be anybody going around making sure she isn’t offended by anything.

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Bruce Henderson’s Letter to the Lambda Literary Foundation

Originally posted at Alice Domurat Dreger

I have followed the complex history of the conflict between J. Michael Bailey (and now, by extension, Alice Dreger) and certain subsets of the trans communities for many years.  I believe there are things for which Bailey can reasonably be criticized (primarily rhetorical rather than methodological), as does Dreger, and she is honest and straightforward about them in her book.  I also know of the threats made against both of these individuals by their opponents, some of which involved their children, and many of which seemed to verge on the criminal.  It would appear that this is the intellectual “side” your foundation is choosing to take.  I would have advocated taking no side, and either nominating the book on its merits, understanding that such a nomination might raise hackles and, more importantly, support the continuation of the free flow of dialogue and discourse over ideas that are upsetting, even offensive to some, or not nominating it in the first place, had that been the collective wisdom of the judges.  Dreger has a long history of supporting intellectual, sexual, and personal freedom, and has been an advocate for such underrepresented groups as intersex people and conjoined twins.  Whether you agree or disagree with her particular stances should be immaterial, once a panel has decided her book had sufficient merit to be forwarded as a finalist.

And this is where your foundation has failed–and failed miserably and, it would seem, by your own choice, publicly, in ways that I firmly believe will be difficult for you to recover from, at least if you have any interest in the support of scholars and other writers and readers who take intellectual freedom at all seriously.  I can conclude only two possible reasons for the rescinding of the nomination.

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An Open Letter to the Lambda Literary Foundation

Originally posted at Alice Domurat Dreger

When I wondered who might have advocated for the book to receive a Lammy, I am happy to say that so many people I respect came to mind: Jim Marks, Victoria Brownworth, Dan Savage, Anne Lawrence, and others. The more I thought about it, the more finalist status made sense to me. Why should the Foundation, thirteen years after it was harassed unjustly, do anything other than march on without cowardice?

So I joyfully answered the congratulatory email I received from Lambda and started making plans to attend the awards ceremony in New York. Not too surprisingly, Conway and James soon launched a campaign against my book’s finalist status, but I pretty much ignored this. I figured the Foundation knew this would happen and was prepared to weather the storm.

But no. You caved. And quickly—much more quickly than the Foundation did under Marks in 2003. In spite of all the LGBT people who have actively praised my book, who have thanked me for the work, you quickly caved to a small group of bullies who have proven time and time again that they will do anything they can to get attention and to force everyone to adhere to their singular account of transgenderism, even when it negates the reported childhoods of gay and lesbian people, even when it denies the reality of many transgender people and attempts to force them into closets because of their sexual orientations.

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Intersectionality and NUS LGBT+ Conference 2016: Defending No-Platform and Condemning Gay Men

Originally published at Huffington Post

The continued expansion of no-platform policies to include feminists such as Julie Bindel, and efforts by student unions to no-platform pioneers of feminism such as Germaine Greer over her views on transgender issues, even when she isn’t scheduled to discuss them, betrays an increasingly self-righteousness by the student far-left. Not only is disagreement on the “wrong” issues immoral, but it negates your right to talk about anything. The quest for ideological purity has recently devoured ex-Muslim Maryam Namazie – who identifies as a Marxist and a feminist – with Feminist and LGBT Societies at Goldsmiths passing motions of solidarity with the Islamic Society members trying to intimidate her during her talk there, and even Peter Tatchell himself, who was no-platformed by an NUS LGBT Officer for his opposition to expanding no-platform.

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Marginalised voices are the first victims of no-platforming

Originally published by Sian Norris at politics.co.uk

For each controversy about free speech – be it Germaine Greer or Peter Tatchell or Julie Bindel – there’s a predictable backlash from no-platform supporters. They claim that those of us with an interest in defending free speech don’t understand the power dynamic underpinning society – that we’re protecting the privileges of the establishment. After all, how can someone like Tatchell be censored when he’s telling us about it in the national press?

The argument is logically inconsistent. Free speech isn’t a zero-sum game. Publishing an interview with Tatchell in the Sunday Times doesn’t ‘cancel out’ the attempts to stop him speaking at Canterbury Christ Church. Silencing a speaker in one arena is not neutralised by providing them with a platform elsewhere.

But more importantly, it’s a lie that the no-platforming movement is only going after establishment voices. Their main targets are actually marginalised voices.

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Accuracy counts

Originally posted at Butterflies & Wheels

I was indignant on Peter Tatchell’s behalf (and on behalf of reasonable discourse, truth in accusation, and the like) on Sunday when I read that the NUS LGBT officer had called him racist and transphobic in emails to a bunch of people. But now…I’m disappointed in him, because he has failed to defend other people from dishonest accusations.

Do it to her, not me? Throw Greer to the wolves, not me?

He shouldn’t be “opposing” Germaine Greer herself. He probably didn’t mean that, but just said it sloppily – but what a thing to be sloppy about. What he should (if so moved) oppose is particular claims she makes, not her as a person. And then is it fair to say she “rejects and disparages transgender people and their human rights”? She does use disparaging language, so that part is fair, but what sense does it make to say she rejects trans people? And I flatly don’t believe she says they shouldn’t have human rights.

And then there’s the breezy way he throws feminists in general in there. Do it to them, not me, eh?

But be accurate about it. Don’t accept lies about Julie Bindel and don’t make exaggerated accusations against Germaine Greer and feminists “like” her.

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