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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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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Old Women: Shut the Fuck Up.

Originally posted at In Permanent Opposition

Ageism is a curious form inferiority enforcement, because it is the one condition that most of us will one day share. The young women who have grasped the feminist mantle and have re-imagined it into something that Old Women like Fay Weldon and Germaine Greer do not recognise, seem to be lacking in a basic form of humility. Even apart from the bile inducing idea that political and philosophical ideas should come in nifty trends and fashions, there seems to be a wilful ignorance about the fact that the very same fate awaits them. That one day they too, will be considered irrelevant. In fact, with the garrulous and thrifty pace of social media discourse these days, it might happen quicker than they think.

Now, clearly, younger feminists feel a sense of baggage about the second wave; they feel that these earlier feminists had a narrow agenda that didn’t account for the various different experiences of womanhood available. Now without doing a Feminist History 101 here, one wonders to what extent this is actually a fair representation of the many voices speaking and books penned during that 1960s and 70s period. One wonders if some contemporary feminism has actually took its history lessons from oversimplified media parodies.

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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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Challenging trans truth

Originally posted at Transcendence: Youth Trans Critical Professionals

 In our work in UK universities and schools and in our own lives we see ‘transgender’ as an identity receiving widespread support and increasingly incorporated into mainstream liberal culture.  Television programmes, films, magazines, and newspaper articles promote the idea that girls and boys can be ‘born in the wrong body’. A life-time of injecting hormones is decreed to be a necessary part of transitioning, and children and young people are being assigned for surgical intervention. It is popularly thought that these medical interventions help match the sexed body with the individual’s true ‘born’ gender.  In addition, changes in the law, in combination with medical truths, are instrumental in defining transgender as an equality and human rights issue. On the whole society is steered toward being receptive to the moral claims of transgenderism; although there are dissenting views these are relatively seldom heard.

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The Spiral of Silence in Trans Activism

Originally posted at New Narratives 2014: Reframing the conversation

I have participated in online discourse in trans spaces for probably 10 years now, and I’ve witnessed a growing and worrying pattern of suppressing any dissent or probing questioning.  This no doubt feeds the spiral of silence.  Topics devolve quickly into heated flame wars.  Eventually, people learn to just not mention these topics.  Sometimes people are out-right banned from online communities for discussing them.

Speech that is silenced in trans communities

  • Acknowledging male privilege, male socialization, and it’s effect on behavior. Verboten. Evidence of self-hate.  It is interesting to note that on the recent 350+ signatories of the Zinnia petition,  approximately 120 out of 390, or 31%, listed a STEM occupation. And yet we are to ignore the forces of sex-based oppression that keep females disproportionately absent from STEM fields, and privileges males.
  • Siding with females on safe space issues?
    Treason of the highest order. Evidence of self hate.
  • The realities of passing, and challenging self-identification as proof of gender? Elitism, dismissed as appealing to society as one of the ‘good ones’.
  • Calling for rational engagement and an end to online violent and bullying behavior?
    “Stop tone policing me! I’m just venting!”
  • Identifying and expressing concern over the fetishization of female objectification and submission prevalent in trans behavior?
    This is actually frequently discussed as a source of shame. Rarely, however, is fetishization and autogynephilic behavior discussed as arising out of misogyny and male socialization. Instead, it is ‘normalized’ as a symptom of being trans (“you do that too? what a relief!”), and is not unpacked and unlearned.

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