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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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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.

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