November 17th, 2018


The Politics and Pathology of Transphobia - A Fantasy Conference

One of the main problems with trans politics is that trans people seldom or never get to frame the public discourse, which is typically presented either as an explanation of trans people (benign version) or a debate around whether trans people are deluded and/or dangerous (malign version). The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that there's room for a debate, not about trans people, but about transphobes - one that puts them under the same kind of spotlight. It's not my academic field, so I'm not the ideal person to organise it, but I'd love to see a Call for Papers something like this....

The Politics and Pathology of Transphobia

It is a common refrain of transphobes that the issues need a free and open debate, but the phenomenon of transphobia itself has received little or no academic attention. This conference attempts to amend that situation. As the conference organisers we are open to suggestions for panel sessions, but possible topics include:

Transphobic History – a Twice-told Tale
Transphobia has risen to prominence on our television screens and in books over the last generation, especially with the rise of social media – but is it really a modern phenomenon? Arguably the discourse and ideology of transphobia, and the psychopathology underlying it, have a far longer history. In this session we explore the history and heritage of transphobia, including the striking parallels between the hostile framing of homosexuality some thirty years ago (notably as a threat to children), and that of trans identities today.

Transphobia and Feminism
One of the characteristics of transphobes who also self-identify as feminists is the compulsion to speak for feminism in general, and indeed for all women and girls; yet most women (including most feminists) repudiate transphobic beliefs and assumptions. This panel looks at the complex and conflicted relationship between feminism and transphobic discourse, especially in an age of social media and “echo chamber” platforms such as Mumsnet, which allow transphobes to live in a world of constant affirmation and unchallenged reinforcement of their views.

Transphobia and the Evangelical Movement
Many transphobes present themselves as politically left-leaning, while other base their transphobia in conservative religious dogma. The common purpose of these two apparently disparate groups has sometimes evolved into active collaboration, as in organisations such as “Hands Across the Aisle.” How do these different brands of transphobe reconcile themselves to being bedfellows? Is it a marriage of convenience, or does this alliance indicate a more fundamental convergence of political and moral outlook?

Transphobic Regret
No one knows how many transphobes eventually come to regret their involvement in transphobic ideology. Much more research is needed – although major academic institutions seem unwilling to fund it. This session will look at desistance from transphobic ideology, and the social and psychological repercussions for those who dare to leave a belief and value system that has contributed so much to their sense of identity and purpose.

Science, Junk Science, and Statistics
Transphobes frequently invoke science to support their worldview, but their use of science typically resorts to inaccurate or simplistic categories, and tendentious, selective use of statistics. This session is devoted to the discussion of transphobia’s unhealthy relationship with science in general, as well as their support for clinical practices such as conversion therapy.

Transphobia as Fetish
Transphobes have created many theories to “explain” the existence of trans people, such as autogynephilia, “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” among still more fanciful aetiologies. In this session we consider the extent to which such theories are born of projection and/or paraphilic interest in the lives and genitalia of trans people – a range of pathologies we propose to gather under the general title of “Blanchardism.”

Transphobia and the Rhetoric of Victimhood
Transphobic articles and viewpoints are extremely frequent in the press, on television and radio, and other public fora. Yet one of the commonest refrains of transphobic discourse is the complaint that transphobic views are being silenced, penalised or censored, and that this is both a threat to free speech and evidence of a powerful trans cabal. In this session we explore the intersection of paranoia and projection involved in positioning transphobic discourse as victimised and silenced.

The Media and the Exploitation of Transphobia
The media have often been willing partners in the transmission and amplification of transphobic viewpoints, whether for reasons of genuine transphobia or because of the “pulling power” of transphobic tropes and rhetoric. In this session we analyse the particular forms of transphobia employed by the media in facilitating moral panic about trans people.