“Call me old-fashioned...”
April 6, 2016 3:15 PM   Subscribe

'Biology not always destiny', says Ian McEwan after transgender row. [The Guardian] After a backlash over his remarks about transgenderism last week, award-winning author Ian McEwan has written an open letter saying “biology is not always destiny” and that one’s right to change gender “should be respected and celebrated.”

- Following Media Backlash, Ian McEwan Clarifies Stance in Open Letter Saying That Transgender Community Should Be Respected and Celebrated. [The Guardian]
“I’m surprised that a couple of sentences of mine during a short Q&A session at the end of my lecture [The Guardian] should have caused a stir. My subject was the literary representation of the self in the work of Montaigne, Shakespeare, Pepys, Boswell and others. In response to a question, I proposed that the possession of a penis or, more fundamentally, the inheritance of the XY chromosome, is inalienably connected to maleness. As a statement, this seems to me biologically unexceptional. However, biology is not always destiny. That the transgender community should want or need to abandon their birth gender or radically redefine it is their right, which should be respected and celebrated. It adds to the richness and diversity of life. It’s an extension of freedom and the possibilities of selfhood. Everyone should deplore the discrimination that transgender communities have suffered around the world. That the community should sometimes find itself in conflict with feminists (over changing rooms, trans beauty pageants, access to women’s colleges) – well, that’s a conversation on which I can shed no useful light.”
- Dear Ian McEwan, Your Ideas About Penises Are Outdated by Paris Lees [The Telegraph]
“As a fan of his books and a trans woman myself, I’m very grateful. After all, he seems to have spent a whole five minutes thinking about people like me before sharing all his ill-informed ideas about us with the rest of the world.
“The self, like a consumer desirable, may be plucked from the shelves of a personal identity supermarket, a ready-to-wear little black number,” he said. “For example, some men in full possession of a penis are now identifying as women and demanding entry to women-only colleges, and the right to change in women’s dressing rooms.”
Is he for real? Does McEwan realise that he has almost certainly shared a lavatory with a trans man before? That his female friends and relatives have been sharing loos with trans women like me for years? Anyone who has seen the Danish Girl will know that people have been having “sex changes” since the 1930s. Where does McEwan think they’ve been going to pee?”
- Recent Research by the Fawcett Society Reveals That Almost Half of Britons Now Believe That Gender Is Fluid. [Fawcett Society]
Our recent report Sex and Equality 2016: State of the Nation reveals that almost half (44%) of the UK population now believe that gender is not binary but can be expressed as a range of identities. In a poll of 8,000 people, carried out by Survation for Fawcett’s 150th anniversary year, we asked people their thoughts on whether gender identity is confined to two genders – male and female (gender binary) or whether gender is more fluid, encompassing a range of identities. Women and those aged 18-34 are most likely to think that gender is fluid with almost half (48%) of women agreeing that gender is a range of identities as opposed to 40% of men and 50% of 18-34 year olds believe that, whilst only 39% of those over 55 do.
posted by Fizz (8 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: You know, I'm not sure we get real value out of "someone said a stupid/terrible thing about trans people" threads, and I know they do some harm. Let's skip this one. -- restless_nomad



 
In response to a question, I proposed that the possession of a penis or, more fundamentally, the inheritance of the XY chromosome, is inalienably connected to maleness. As a statement, this seems to me biologically unexceptional.

Any time I hear this line of thinking, I want to ask: have you ever had your chromosomes tested? Do you know for sure that you have XY chromosomes? Because I sure as hell have never had mine checked, and I'd be surprised to learn even half of the folks employing this argument had done anything of the sort.
posted by zebra at 3:35 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I... guess I'm glad he sort-of apologized and said something less hateful and dismissive, but there was more than a whiff of "I'm sorry you were offended" in his apology.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:36 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


"I may not know what the hell I'm talking about, but I will defend to the death my right to say it" - Voltaire
posted by theodolite at 3:37 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ugh, what a jerk.

I feel the "apology" really misrepresents what he said. When I read this:

My subject was the literary representation of the self in the work of Montaigne, Shakespeare, Pepys, Boswell and others. In response to a question, I proposed that the possession of a penis or, more fundamentally, the inheritance of the XY chromosome, is inalienably connected to maleness.

I thought, well, that's a slip I've made in the past. I know it's not true and that it erases trans people in a thoughtless way, but in the language of our society, it's easy to equate "penis" with "male." We should all do better, but I understand how one could slip and say such a thing.

But this:

The self, like a consumer desirable, may be plucked from the shelves of a personal identity supermarket, a ready-to-wear little black number. For example, some men in full possession of a penis are now identifying as women and demanding entry to women-only colleges, and the right to change in women’s dressing rooms.

This isn't forgetting about the existence of trans people because you live in a society that likes to erase them, this is aggressively being a jerk.

That the community should sometimes find itself in conflict with feminists (over changing rooms, trans beauty pageants, access to women’s colleges) – well, that’s a conversation on which I can shed no useful light.

Clearly.
posted by sunset in snow country at 3:49 PM on April 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


So, some trans guys once told me to look out for negative comments about trans people: they are almost always framed in terms of trans women and either ignore or avoid the existence of trans men. I don't have anything to add, but it's an interesting kind of sexism that women transitioning is likened to buying a little black dress. I've heard descriptions of women getting abortions likened to shopping too.
posted by Emma May Smith at 3:50 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


TRANSPHOBIC YUTZ SEEKS TO CLARIFY: "Was only dumb and ignorant, but everyone focused on how much my ignorance hurt. I'm sorry for the hurt, but will continue to remain ignorant rather than acknowledging that biological sex is a constellation of markers, and doesn't map to gender."

OTHER TRANSPHOBES COMMENT WITH PREDICTABLE IDIOCY: "I'm just saying, 'I have a very stupid opinion, one that leads indirectly to vicious harms,' and all of the sudden everyone is up in arms!" noted relic of previous liberal battles declaims. Novelist adds, "Novelists can be stupid too, you know. I happen to have several stupid opinions, of which I will now share one."
posted by klangklangston at 3:50 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't have anything to add, but it's an interesting kind of sexism that women transitioning is likened to buying a little black dress. I've heard descriptions of women getting abortions likened to shopping too.

YES. It's very "Look at these silly, shallow, spoiled, consumerist people!" So insulting.
posted by sunset in snow country at 3:51 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hey Ian your books are garbage and you have an ugly head and all your life choices and feelings are wrong and stupid. Sorry if you take offence to that.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:54 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


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