Why I Won’t Accept The Politics Of Gender Identity

Originally published by The Morning Star

THE concept of gender identity is being enshrined into law in several countries now, giving new legal protections to transgender people on the basis of their identities.

In the United States, the Obama administration recently signed a declaration that all public schools in the country must recognise the gender identity of their students.

Canada has recently announced new legal protections for transgender people. In Britain, there is interest growing in allowing people to legally define their own gender.

As a person on the political left and as a member of the LGBT community, I am expected to applaud these changes to legislation, but instead I am critical.

This is because the concept of gender identity is poorly defined, and the politics of transgenderism is harmful to women and girls and rooted in individualism rather than collective action.

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I fought for civil rights. It is offensive to compare it with the transgender fight.

Originally published at The Charlotte Observer

Let us be clear: HB2 cannot be compared to the injustice of Jim Crow. In fact, it is insulting to liken African Americans’ continuing struggle for equality in America to the liberals’ attempt to alter society’s accepted norms.

Recently, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch compared HB2 to Jim Crow. Jim Crow laws were put into place to keep an entire race positioned as second-class citizens. HB2 simply says that men and women should use the restroom of their biological sex in government buildings and schools. This comparison is highly offensive and utterly disrespectful to those families and individuals who have shed blood and lost lives to advance the cause of civil rights. I take this as a personal slap in the face because I was an active participant in the civil rights movement.

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Thoughts of a person, with breasts

Originally posted at Glosswatch

Jaqueline Rose recently wrote 15,000 breathless, muddled words on transness for the LRB. “Transsexual people are brilliant at telling their stories,” she declared. They are interesting, you see, unlike cis women, those dullards, unquestioning conscripts to the gender regime who see themselves as “normal” because they lack the trans person’s unique ability to inhabit a liminal space:

The ‘cis’ – i.e. non-trans – woman or man is a decoy, the outcome of multiple repressions whose unlived stories surface nightly in our dreams. From the Latin root meaning ‘on this side of’ as opposed to ‘across from’, ‘cis’ is generally conflated with normativity, implying ‘comfortable in your skin’, as if that were the beginning and end of the matter.

Who, exactly, we may therefore ask – trans or non-trans – is fooling whom? Who do you think you are? – the question anyone hostile to transsexual people should surely be asking themselves. So-called normality can be the cover for a multitude of ‘sins’.

Cis woman, as far as Rose is concerned, restricts herself to a surface-only existence. She is Woolf’s looking glass, now providing an outline to be filled with someone else’s deep, meaningful knowledge of what it is to truly live as neither one thing nor another. The patriarchal insistence that women do not have souls gets an update; cis woman does not know her own soul, but that is her fault. She condemns herself to inauthenticity through her own lack of curiosity, content to remain tits and ass, “the cover for a multitude of ‘sins’.”

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Did my views on trans women change?

Originally posted at The Idge of Reason

Appropriating the language of feminism for misogyny is a problem. That is not about denying trans women anything. Trans women need the discussion of structural inequality that they face part of. Feminism is not about controlling the worlds women so they have to concentrate on managing your identity instead of the lives they face because of structural inequality imposed on them for being women. Women did not choose the things attributed to our gender, even if you value them. They are not an innate part of womanhood. If your identity is so fragile you need women to manage it for you, that is about you, not them. There is no female brain that meant women wanted to be subservient for years. There is the responsibilities that still fall disproportionately to women, there is economic inequality rooted in this, there is the reason feminism existed in the first place. Which has not gone away.

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Woman by Proxy

Originally published by Julian Vigo on Medium

What the non-binary/gender fluid/transgender (et al) movement has completely missed is that women have been articulating their discomfort with gendered constructs through various precise and eloquent feminist discourses for decades. I have steadfastly maintained that all humans — especially females — are non-binary through the performatives of the everyday and the political and social constraints imposed upon their lives and bodies. Sexism functions on the assumption that females should match the singular, social definition of “woman” and it is against this monolith of gender against which women have historically fought as women have had to negotiate the interstices of gender, straddling the contradictions, negotiating the discomforts. That struggle took the form of women defying their bodies and families, deracinating the mechanisms and political codes of gender, and transforming their bodies into a socially and politically tendentious vehicle for political and even personal liberation. Women have always known that gender was never real simply because they had to become so well-versed in manoeuvring around it for survival.

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No party for non-men

Originally posted at Glosswatch

The problem for the feminist – and for women in general – is not with femininity per se. It is not that taken individually, so-called “masculine” characteristics are in any way better or more useful than “feminine” ones. It is that femininity functions within a system that places women and men under very different social pressures, the primary aim of which is “to ensure that women should be in the power and service of men”.

This is basic feminism. It makes no judgment on what individual men and women are “really” like, rather it points out that the idea of inherent differences between men and women has been used to facilitate male people’s oppression of female people. As Richards puts it, “much of what is believed about women stems from what is wanted of women” (submission, chastity, unpaid reproductive, emotional and domestic work).

Fast-forward 36 years and it seems we’ve forgotten the basics.  It’s not that we no longer use gender to extract resources and labour from one class of people for the benefit of another. Men still own the vast majority of the world’s material resources. Women still struggle for safety, visibility, education, reproductive autonomy, freedom from abuse. But for some reason we’ve stopped bothering to analyse gender as a social hierarchy. Perhaps it got too hard, or maybe it just got boring. Either way, these days it’s every woman – or non-man – for her/theirself.

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Non-men: Or women as “Other”

Originally posted at MurderOfGoths

I expect it from anti-feminists and misogynists to think a word that sets men up as the default is a good word, but a group that supposedly cares for women’s rights?

I get what they are trying to do, in that they think this is inclusive and intersectional, but it misses the mark in a spectacularly offensive manner.

Historically women have been regarded as Other, or as de Beauvoir puts it, The Second Sex. We have been defined by our relationship to men.

It still continues to this day too.

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Default: male

Originally posted at language: a feminist guide

The idea behind substituting ‘non-men’ for ‘women’ was to be more inclusive of trans and non-binary people. It will be news to nobody that this is a contentious issue in contemporary feminist politics. But whatever position you take on the issue itself, ‘non-men’ remains problematic from a linguistic point of view. It cannot easily be made to function as an inclusive, feminist or non-sexist term, because it repeats the most basic and ubiquitous of all sexist linguistic gestures: treating men as the default human beings while relegating women to what the radical feminist linguist Julia Penelope dubbed ‘negative semantic space’. ‘Non-men’ defines a subordinated group in relation to the dominant group, ‘men’: consequently it ends up, in today’s jargon, ‘centring’ the dominant group, even if that isn’t the intention.

The idea of maleness as the default setting is manifested linguistically in all kinds of ways. My last post discussed a different linguistic expression of the same principle—the gratuitous gendering of women like Zaha Hadid, who was often referred to using the gender-specific label ‘female/woman architect’, whereas men are simply ‘architects’. In many languages the male-as-default principle is built into the grammatical system, requiring masculine forms of articles, adjectives and pronouns to be used both in generic references to a category and in specific references to any group containing even a single male individual.

But it isn’t just in language that this principle holds sway. It influences the way we process all kinds of representations of the world—visual as well as verbal.

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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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Does Eddie Izzard like bananas? The Wibbly Pig guide to gender

Originally posted at Glosswatch

My children have a book called Wibbly Pig Likes Bananas. In it, a little pig called Wibbly reveals his likes and dislikes and invites children to think about theirs, too. Do you, like Wibbly, like bananas, or do you prefer apples? Would you, like Wibbly, play with the ball, or would you rather cuddle the bear?

The message, as you might have guessed, is that we’re all different and that’s perfectly fine. I like this message. It’s a message with which I can get on board. However, I’ve started to wonder about the identity politics of it. If Wibbly likes bananas and hats and balls, is he even a pig at all?

For instance, you could argue that since Wibbly’s preferences are so deeply anthropomorphic in nature, he isn’t really porcine after all. He’s maybe a human, or something in-between – let’s call it non-binary species. By the same token, I could say that not everything I like is stereotypically human. Some days I’d rather roll around in a mud-filled sty rather than drive to work. So maybe I’m non-binary species too. All well and good, right? This is, after all, what our inner selves are telling us. Except – except! – Wibbly still has a pig body and I have a human one.

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