Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Another Week in the Cabal
The iron grip of the trans lobby over the public discourse may be tight, but since last Saturday a few desperate voices of resistance to our tyranny have manage to smuggle out some messages.

First there was the letter to the Observer, signed by 131 of our most influential public figures, academics and journalists, protesting against our Stalinesque power to quash criticism.

Then came an article in The New Statesman from "Terry MacDonald", the terrified TERF who dare not speak their name for fear of a visit from the trans Thought Police, although that didn't deter them from repeating several verifiable untruths, and inventing a few more. (My favourite was their straightfaced assertion that "Feminists across the political spectrum support the right of trans people not to be discriminated against at work, harassed or subjected to physical and sexual assault." Uncle Joe would have been proud of that one.)

At the other end of the political spectrum Brendan O'Neill in The Spectator also stood up bravely to brand trans activists as berserk, illiberal censors.

And, coming out of left field, the Pope found time to declare the campaign for trans rights as dangerous to the world as nuclear weapons.

So, yes, altogether we dropped the ball multiple times this week. But surely this was all drowned out by the voices of trans people themselves, who as we know exercise such a monopoly on the outlets of free expression? As I scanned the national media, however, confident that the Press would be true to the journalistic standards about which they are so vocal and try to find out whether there might just possibly be another side to the story, I found... er, no trans voices at all. Nor did I see any attempt to represent their point of view by non-trans journalists, with the exception of one supportive and very welcome column from Owen Jones in The Guardian. And that's it.

True, there were some excellent analyses in various blogs, and if you're still interested I particularly recommend this longish but fascinating essay for its discussion both of the details of this case and its history, and of the underlying principles. (I don't agree with every word, but 90% is excellent - a high strike rate.) But such blogs get a few dozen or a few hundred readers at most.

There were also no doubt some Tweets; but Tweets, as we know, are bullying.

It's not good for anyone that the previously-existing-but-entirely-inaccurate set of stereotypes certain people are suing for this are the ones that also create the Jewish lobby. All we need is a fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion and vast (but not real) wealth and a desire to take over the world for entirely mysterious ends and it will be a complete borrowing. Even a partial borrowing is loathsome. Sympathies.

Thank you. Yes, there are definitely analogies in terms of the tactics in play.

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Cathy Brennan's reputation precedes her, though I'm happy to say that as far as I know (since she is said to have more sock-puppets than Harry Corbett) I've had no direct dealings with her.

What reads particularly weirdly to me from gay critics is identifying transsexuality as a psychological problem. (This comes up both in that blog post, in a quote from Bindel, and in letters in response to Jones.) Haven't we had enough of declarations that homosexuality is just a psychological problem?

Jones says he's not interested in the scientific research but only in human rights. I consider that a wobbly platform to fix your fundamental stand on. I'm very interested in the scientific research, because it gives the grounding to what I consider the fundamental fact that transphobes don't get: that human sex or gender is not a purely binary function.

Anybody who says that XX = female and XY = male and that's the end of it is, like someone in my own field who claims that Mozart wrote exactly 41 symphonies, so completely ignorant of the subject on which they pontificate that there's no point in listening to them on it.

I think what Jones was probably getting at is that while the scientific research (such as it is) does indeed support the idea that there is a biological basis for being trans - which ought, I suppose, to legitimize our existence in the eyes of those to whom such evidence is decisive - it is superfluous to the more fundamental duty to treat one's fellow human beings humanely. But I also think you're right that many transphobes get far too easy a ride when, for example, they declare a priori that sex=chromosomes (Gia Milinovich I'm looking at you).

The "duty to treat one's fellow human beings humanely" is a generic and non-specific statement. What, exactly, is humane in particular circumstances?

The specific humane stand that Jones seems to be taking is to take other people's self-image at face value. I think that's an unwise position to hold as a general principle. What if the person's self-image is clearly delusional?

The thing to do, then, is to educate people that transsexuality is not a delusion, and that's where the scientific evidence comes in. A smattering of molecular biology in college is what taught me that chromosomes are not blueprints mechanically constructed upon.

Many people have gotten to that point of understanding with homosexuality, and I think the world would be better off with a similar understanding of transsexuality than if they still privately think you're delusional but have agreed to humor you, which is the road Jones seems to prefer. (Not that I think he'd be happy if it ended there, but it's where he'd seem to be taking us first.)

I basically agree with you regarding the goal, though I think as a matter of tactics it may be a clearer message and one less easy to derail, to say - "These people you wish to deny medical treatment, to deny the use of public toilets, to mock and abuse as freaks - do you realise they're actually human beings, like yourself?" Yes, there will be plenty of people who believe that trans people should be treated decently out of common humanity rather than because transsexuality has a scientific basis, but in an atmosphere as febrile as the one we currently have I can see the argument for securing the former position first. Indeed, it may be a prerequisite for the latter.

I think getting as far as "the poor devils aren't doing anyone any harm, leave them alone" is a real step up for a lot of people, and often does lead to a more informed tolerance in the end. (I saw my parents go through that stage with homosexuality, and my mother to some extent with trans issues -- she was fascinated by Jan Morris's memoirs.) But I don't think that's the stage we should be aiming for in public discourse.

Anybody who says that XX = female and XY = male and that's the end of it

INTERSEX HULK SMASH IGNORANT PUNY HUMANS

Interesting--and sickening, and infuriating-- how many hate-spewers have adopted the language of social justice.

Yes, it's proving a fertile ground for them, and one which (post-Leveson) plays well into the Press's own insecurities. A marriage made in heaven, really.

I wonder if many of the instant experts had read this. http://www.nature.com/news/sex-redefined-1.16943

If they did, I'm sure they found a way to dismiss it.

I want to say something clever and witty, but it's been a long day, so I'm sorry people suck. Things are probably getting better, but as with other struggles for justice, they get better with a lot of growing pains and wretchedness along the way. <3

It's appreciated - and I'm sure you're right.

thanks

... for your mention of the Paper Bird post. I would be really happy to carry on a discussion of the points you disagree with, in comments or when things die down, as you prefer. The post actually has got a bit over 12,000 hits so far, which I say not to pat myself on the back but to indicate that the issue has roused a lot of interest and people are looking to muster arguments.

I thought your Twitter Mobs/Letter Mobs piece (http://steepholm.livejournal.com/415745.html) was simply a fantastic summation of the major issues (I mean the who's-silencing-whom issues) and I'd like to see it get more airing. I've tweeted and posted it on FB but am happy to send it around more, especially if you can think of particular targets.

Re: thanks

I'm delighted to see you here! I thought it was an excellent post, well deserving of its 12,000 hits, and really on rereading it now I think it wasn't so much a matter of active disagreement as of some areas where I'm still working things through in my own mind (particularly around the definition of censorship) and a few where I don't know enough to have an informed opinion (mostly around world politics) and so couldn't offer unconditional endorsement. Even there, it's helping clarify my thinking on these matters.

Thanks for the kind words about "Letter Mobs", too. I'll certainly have a think about who else I'd like to read it - beyond the signatories of the Observer letter, of course!

(My favourite was their straightfaced assertion that "Feminists across the political spectrum support the right of trans people not to be discriminated against at work, harassed or subjected to physical and sexual assault." Uncle Joe would have been proud of that one.)

I do believe that transmisogyny disqualifies people from claiming to be feminists. It's a basic failure of definition.

And, coming out of left field, the Pope found time to declare the campaign for trans rights as dangerous to the world as nuclear weapons.

Dammit, Pope Francis! You are so surprisingly liberal in so many other arenas! Don't make me withdraw the tentative respect I gained for you after you criticized the Church for Christmas! Eh, too late.

I do believe that transmisogyny disqualifies people from claiming to be feminists. It's a basic failure of definition.

I agree, of course; TERF is an acronym that needs scare quotes around the final letter. But I think we can take it that "Terry MacDonald" (whose article after all purported to be a defence of TERF beliefs) would include them.

Yes, I too was disappointed in Pope Francis, whom I'd seen nothing but good things about until recently. His weird crack after Charlie Hebdo about hitting someone who insulted his mother was the first hint that we might not see eye to eye on all matters, but this latest jibe occasioned a precipitate fall in my estimation.

I have never seen much in him beyond being better than Ratzi, which, well.

I'm hearing way too much 'things are getting better'

No. They're not. Progress seems to be going into reverse and I've been around long enough to know what it was like before.

Until the mammoth screw up which was the so called 'equality' act is corrected, this stuff is going to continue and some of these hatemongers are privileged people with privileged access to the media and friends in very high places.

Sigh :o(

I fear you're probably right.

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