The feminist case against the feminist case against trans inclusion
October 19, 2018 3:00 AM   Subscribe

"I’m not transphobic, but…”: A feminist case against the feminist case against trans inclusivity This Friday, the 19th October, the [British] Government's consultation on a proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) will close. The process has become a focal point for a heated and often toxic debate over what we as a society owe to trans people, and how the claims of the trans community - and of trans women in particular - relate to the characteristic commitments and concerns of feminism. [Content note - this article discusses transphobia extensively, as do the links below]


Anti trans feminists don't speak for me


This is what you need to know about the Gender Recognition Act consultation

GRA consultation: a guide for feminists and LGBTQ academics and allies

Context:

A Brief History of the Gender Recognition Act

Amnesty International:
The GRA allows (some) trans people to change their legal gender on birth certificates... The law dates back to 2004 and, while it was ground breaking at the time, is now dated and hasn’t kept pace with the lived experiences of trans people and the ways in which their human rights are best protected.

You can have your say on the consultation until 11pm GMT tonight here. Stonewall have created a handy guide to completing it here.
posted by the cat's pyjamas (129 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
 
what we as a society owe to trans people

Equality. We owe them exactly the same dignity, respect, opportunities, etc. that we owe every other member of society. What is so hard about that?

Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Trans people are people. If you're trying to make it more complicated than that, if you're doing rhetorical gymnastics to try and argue that it's different, I am deeply suspicious of your motives.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:10 AM on October 19, 2018 [109 favorites]


So the consultation website has been essentially nonfunctional for me (and many others) for weeks. Constant timeouts, 502s, and 503s. It also uses some fucking hideous language occasionally (eg contrasting "transwomen" with "females" when, ugh, where to even begin with that? Trans women (with a fucking space) are female. Cis is the term for not trans. Fuck's sake.) and makes a bunch of, to me, incredibly retrograde points about how all the exceptions unaffected (it literally uses the example of it still being possible to require midwives to be cis women specifically, which, wow, I know at least one cis man midwife in Scandinavia, and if you have to have that kind of requirement, why doesn't it extend to gynaecologists as well?). Going through this has been painful for a number of reasons. It took several hours, mostly due to the atrociously shitty servers.
posted by Dysk at 3:21 AM on October 19, 2018 [25 favorites]


Big ups to @CaseyExplosion for her work exposing the the American evangelical money funding the UK TERFs.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:48 AM on October 19, 2018 [40 favorites]


Thanks for the link, Pope Guilty— @CaseyExplosion is great, you're right. I found this handy Twitter thread with a bunch of examples.
posted by the list of suspects is just you at 4:03 AM on October 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


Discrimination is discrimination, equality is equality, simple. Religious zealots suck.
posted by nofundy at 4:07 AM on October 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


Excellent article, thanks for the post. I was really close to posting an "explain TERFism to me" AskMefi at one point, because based on what (relatively little) I'd learned about them, their arguments had always seemed nonsensical, and I thought I might be misunderstanding something; I could see no reasonable, intellectually defensible way in which any group of feminists would think these fucked-up things.

This article illuminated their arguments while comprehensively countering them, proving to me that no, I'm not missing anything, their stance simply IS nonsensical.
posted by jklaiho at 4:08 AM on October 19, 2018 [17 favorites]


Thanks for posting this, I was in jklaiho's position but had a wobble recently due to a really pernicious argument I heard by a cis rape survivor who basically said that is successful she can never again go into a public dressing room ......

I was aware of the dark money and am profoundly disappointed by some of the brilliant feminists who are TERFs.
posted by Wilder at 4:23 AM on October 19, 2018


a really pernicious argument I heard by a cis rape survivor who basically said that is successful she can never again go into a public dressing room ......

Trans women already have the right to use public dressing rooms, so if we scare her that much, she is already unable to enter a public dressing room. It is not a good faith argument.
posted by Dysk at 4:53 AM on October 19, 2018 [35 favorites]


Philip Pullman asked a vague-and-boy-I-sure-hope-it-was-in-good-faith question about "the trans argument" on twitter last night, and @MagsVisaggs posted a very straightforward, 12-post twitter thread in response.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:54 AM on October 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


Great article. I wish I could express their position so clearly in conversation (or my consultation responses).

Dysk, the example involving midwives is weird because according to this article by the BBC from this time last year, as of March 2017 there were 188 male registered midwives in the UK. Can hospitals refuse to employ them? There's no mention of that in the article, only of a small proportion of people giving birth declining their help. It's hard to imagine even an internally-consistent argument for allowing hospitals to refuse to employ trans midwives, but not cis male midwives.

I tried reading the legislation to learn more, but have been spoiled by a lifetime of hypertext.
posted by wjt at 5:03 AM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Following this has put me off a lot of people and media I used to respect or at least enjoy. I'm done with the Guardian, for instance - last week the UK edition ran two articles in one day about a trans woman who had sexually assaulted other women, presumably as part of their general anti-trans-women push which has been obvious for a while now. (They don't bother about trans men, because to TERFs trans men are just lesbians with false consciousness.)

And now I'm pretty done with Pullman unless he has something else to say on this subject. "Oooh, could someone tell me how to feel about trans people" - I mean, what the everloving fuck? Where is your goddamn moral compass, Mr. Serious Children's Books? It seems likely that he has some age-peer TERFy white upper middle class women friends and doesn't want to offend them. Well, Phil, you might consider your characters - Lyra, for instance, could have just sat back and been Mrs. Coulter's heir, protected from all the evil Mrs. Coulter did. Your little TERFy dinner buddies are the Magisterium in this, not the good guys.
posted by Frowner at 5:14 AM on October 19, 2018 [33 favorites]


I have to second how shitty the GRA consultation form is, filling it out took hours. It gave the initial impression that it was giving you a ton of background and definitions of terms but if you're going to get a 503 or a timeout just trying to clarify what they're asking, what's the use? That's quite apart from how much it bought into the media circus bullshit about dressing rooms and women's shelters in how the questions were framed. So many of the answers just wound up as "Of course not, this isn't even a matter of opinion, this literally isn't changing anything, why the fuck is this a question".

If you didn't have some familiarity with the 2004 gender recognition act, the time to really dig into what was being implied and check with articles like those linked in this post, or the ability to wade through a lengthy form in pretty complex English, you'd be in trouble. If your access to good or decent internet was limited by being homeless or poor or in any of the other situations that trans people are disproportionately likely to be in, your voice and experience is not going to be heard.

And yeah fuck the guardian.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 5:22 AM on October 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Philip Pullman asked a vague-and-boy-I-sure-hope-it-was-in-good-faith question about "the trans argument" on twitter last night, and @MagsVisaggs posted a very straightforward, 12-post twitter thread in response.

I guess the kindest possible reading of that (which is not necessarily the one anyone is required to adopt) is a bit like jklaiho's. "How could people who I expect to be on the right side think and say this kind of thing? I must be missing something" and the reality of course is - not really, you're not missing anything.
posted by atrazine at 5:30 AM on October 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Where is your goddamn moral compass, Mr. Serious Children's Books?

"okay you know how maybe someone was raised in a world where people were led to believe that Homo sapiens are the main sentient species, but then they realize that upbringing was just very small part of a cosmos that includes elephant unicycle things?"
Pullman: "Sure"
"okay so imagine that you were maybe raised in a world where ideas about sex and gender are slightly more complex than you were led to-"
Pullman: "HANG ON, MY HEAD IS FUCKING SPINNING"
posted by Greg Nog at 5:36 AM on October 19, 2018 [55 favorites]


The Stonewall consultation form worked much better for me than the government one.

I had a giant fucking row with an acquaintance this week who was going on about changing rooms which was fucking bizarre because the leisure centre we both use has and has always had one single changing room. Every single argument they've got is total bullshit. Supposed feminists vocally supporting David Davies MP and Phillip Davies MP says a lot.

Also, I did have a male midwife. They didn't ask which I was mildly surprised about, but I didn't care.
posted by threetwentytwo at 5:40 AM on October 19, 2018


Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Trans people are people. If you're trying to make it more complicated than that, if you're doing rhetorical gymnastics to try and argue that it's different, I am deeply suspicious of your motives.

Come, be deeply suspicious of my motives.

Surely I am not the only one who has noticed that on certain topics, the liberal consensus is to inveigh against the gender binary, in favor of a world that recognizes the full complexity of gender expression in alls multitudinous shades. "This form only has option for male and female!" has been called out as a problem again and again. But when we discuss trans issues suddenly there is no room for layers and shades and diverse expressions, there are just men and women and that's it. I don't think we can have it both ways, and this effort to adopt an easy binary when it suits us strikes me as disingenuous. And I don't mean you in particular, Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The--this is the party line everywhere.

If you are saying "for the purposes of using public facilities, there are only two categories, men and women, and when it comes time to pee, trans men are men and trans women are women" I think that's fine as a matter of respectful public policy, although by making everyone either one or the other, it means that most trans people have used the "wrong" restroom many, many times. Would it not be better to just say "everyone is entitled to use their preferred restroom without judgment" without framing it as a gender binary into which all trans people are placed?

On the other hand, if "Trans women are women; trans men are men" is intended as an ontological statement, then we're in really odd territory, as the various shades of sexual expression and identity are obliterated (erased) on a deep level of personal identity. Are there no genderqueer trans people? No non-binary trans people? Or does trans inherently imply you must identify with one of two options? I'm genuinely asking here. My transgender friend who uses male pronouns and presents as male and is known only as a male to almost everyone except a few very close confidants, but feels very strongly that he (again, his preferred pronoun) is actually a woman, and longs to transition but has chosen not to for reasons--does it really make sense to say "he's a woman, it's just that simple." His experience of it isn't simple. He's struggled to figure out how to think of himself. To say "Trans women are women" doesn't do justice, at all, to his hard work of processing all this.

I am fully in favor of respectful, affirming "we are with you all the way; use whatever restroom you like; feel free to be yourself" attitudes and policies. I am heartbroken over the prejudices my trans friends, and one good friend in particular, face. But does being an ally really mean I have to whole-heartedly adopt a simple gender binary only in this one specific area while shunning it all in all other discussions of sexual identity? Is it wrong to say "Sexuality is weird and complex, we'll support whatever choices you make, whether that's how to dress or where to pee or what medical procedures to have"?
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:43 AM on October 19, 2018 [67 favorites]


But when we discuss trans issues suddenly there is no room for layers and shades and diverse expressions, there are just men and women and that's it. I don't think we can have it both ways, and this effort to adopt an easy binary when it suits us strikes me as disingenuous.
I have 35 years of lived experience navigating the world as a man. I don't think acknowledging that is transphobic. And there will be spaces in which giving a place for my experience would mean taking up space that should be given to other protected classes of people. I don't think that is automatically transphobic either.
posted by Pong74LS at 5:52 AM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


I managed to get the government consultation form done at about 4AM in the morning, but in normal hours it took ages of time-out-and-resend before crapping out completely.

Yes it does look as if there's been a sustained and organised campaign against trans people as an attempt to influence the consultation. In the right-wing press it's been horrific.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:54 AM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Pater Aletheias, the existence of trans people who are neither male nor female does not mean that binary trans men are not men, and that binary trans women are not women.
posted by Dysk at 5:59 AM on October 19, 2018 [46 favorites]


Like yes there are complex cases involving non-binary or non-transitioning trans people, but there are also a hell of a lot of very simple cases where it really is a simple as "trans men are men, trans women are women". Your friend's identity does and should not not 'complicate' or invalidate mine any more than the reverse.
posted by Dysk at 6:02 AM on October 19, 2018 [20 favorites]


Interesting factoid: around 0.6% of the US population identifies as transsexual, and somewhere around 0.2% if the US population identifies as nonbinary. From the amount of coverage of this stuff in the media and attention in Internet forums, you'd think it was a much, much larger group of people.

Another observation I have is that "TERF" is a label that allows proponents of two extreme ideologies to fight one another --- Radical Feminists (I hope "radical" still means "extremist") and Trans Maximalists.

I'm kinda watching this fringe scuffle play out from the sidelines, which may be a bit dangerous as identity-driven mobbing culture is on the rise. Just yesterday at work, I heard somebody tearfully claim that other people "invalidate my humanity" by having different opinions, or even by not doing their job sufficiently well. So much for "sticks and stones."

I see this all as a natural consequence of radical social constructivism -- the extreme idea that almost everything we think or talk about has absolutely zero biological basis -- seeping from certain academic circles into society at large. It's then being self-reinforced, as actors (activists?) with these beliefs appear to be "winning," in the courts or in the media. "Winning" like this, through collectivist rather than individualist ideas, have historically tended toward violence.

From my vantage point, it looks like humans can't exist without struggle or striving. World War II united the country. 9/11 united the country. Without extrinsic aggressors, there's little to bind us, so we seem to seek intrinsic aggressors to struggle against.

Being a scientist who is well aware of the wildly inaccurate claims of radical social constructivists (tabula rasa having been tossed out in serious psychological circles by the 1950s), and also the ignorance of the population with respect to our government, my only hope can be that we improve our educational systems, with renewed focus on science, rationality, civics, and above all, respect for each and every individual person.
posted by phenylphenol at 6:14 AM on October 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


But when we discuss trans issues suddenly there is no room for layers and shades and diverse expressions, there are just men and women and that's it.

I would note that everywhere I've seen that is pushing for better recognition of trans people's rights in the GRA consultation has also been very clear about how important the consultation is for the recognition of the rights of non-binary people, trans or otherwise. Even the Stonewall hosting/version of the form makes it explicit in their recommendations.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 6:15 AM on October 19, 2018 [15 favorites]


TERFS: "People who claim to be trans woman are really men in dresses! Trans men are just confused lesbians, so they belong in the women's room!"

Trans people: "No, trans women are women! Trans men are men!"

People who are not helping, for unclear reasons: "Actually the TERFs kind of have a point because what about non-binary trans people? Aren't you erasing them?"

TERFs: "Thank you, kind sir! See, we and only we respect diverse experience of gender!"

[Later]

TERFs: "Actually, non-binary people don't exist either, they're just men trying to take over women's spaces and confused lesbians."
posted by Frowner at 6:20 AM on October 19, 2018 [77 favorites]


TERFs have also started pushing a theory that Soros money is behind trans rights, so if Jews ever needed a reason (beyond the simple morality of being a decent human) for supporting trans rights, it’s that sooner or later every hateful person will link antisemitism to their hate to give it extra oomph.
posted by maxsparber at 6:21 AM on October 19, 2018 [29 favorites]


Radical Feminists (I hope "radical" still means "extremist")

It does not in this context, no

9/11 united the country.

no
posted by Greg Nog at 6:25 AM on October 19, 2018 [43 favorites]


Pater Alethias, I totally agree that looking at gender as some kind of n-dimensional continuum rather than a binary is absolutely the way forward. That doesn't sound like the conversation that's being had here, though. If we're talking about binary trans men and women (which seems to be what we're talking about) the correct way to look at them is as men and women, with the fact that they are also trans being irrelevant in most contexts unless the person in question deems it otherwise.

My initial statement does generalize to a more complete view of gender, however. What I would say is simply, "When someone tells you what their gender is, believe them." Nobody is a greater authority on what a person's gender is than that person themselves. It's not society's place to judge the validity of anyone's gender identity. People don't go around telling me (a cis man) that I'm not actually a man, and they shouldn't be telling trans, nonbinary, agender etc. people that sort of thing either. So in the more specific case, when a trans woman tells you she's a woman, you should believe her and think of her as a woman.

It's not a case of wanting to have it both ways, just a matter of how broad your conversational context is. The right phrasing depends on what kind of conversation is being had, but for me in the end it all comes back to the 1st UU Principle: a belief in "the inherent worth and dignity of every person."
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:28 AM on October 19, 2018 [26 favorites]


A lot of people who are not trans seem to think that trans people don't actually think very much about gender - that we have stupid, reductionist, opposite-world-TERF understandings of things that we actually live. So naturally, when we choose to say "trans women are women" in response to "get the men out of the women's room" logic, they assume we must be thinking "WOMAN IDENTITY SIMPLE, PUT ON MASCARA NOW" rather than responding to a specifically political situation.

A lot of people who are not trans also don't seem to understand that this is a material struggle over physical safety and medical resources, not a good-faith discussion among friends over a very nuanced lived reality (a discussion like one that trans people might have among themselves or with close friends, actually, because you need a certain level of trust and background to have that conversation at all).

It's funny, everyone is all "oh, gender is not so simple, have you considered that, trans people" even though trans people tend to consider gender quite a lot, really.
posted by Frowner at 6:31 AM on October 19, 2018 [106 favorites]


There is an issue where people with gender identities who don't fit neatly into a man/woman gender binary do have to use infrastructure that is largely going to be binary, where it relates to gender at all. Non-binary people and transmasculine people who individually wouldn't be safe or comfortable in men's spaces are going to have to use women's changing rooms and bathrooms and so on. I don't see that being any kind of practical problem, but it is a complexity: it's really not practical to have literally women-only spaces in a world with complex gender identities.
posted by LizardBreath at 6:31 AM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


around 0.6% of the US population identifies as transsexual

Transsexual ≠ transgender.

From the amount of coverage of this stuff in the media and attention in Internet forums, you'd think it was a much, much larger group of people.

Maybe because the way that oppressed minorities have attempted to free themselves from that oppression throughout history has been to bring the attention of as many people in the majority as possible to their cause?

Another observation I have is that "TERF" is a label that allows proponents of two extreme ideologies to fight one another --- Radical Feminists (I hope "radical" still means "extremist") and Trans Maximalists.

Ah, there's the both-sides bullshit. And no, Radical Feminist does not mean "extremist."

I'm kinda watching this fringe scuffle play out from the sidelines, which may be a bit dangerous as identity-driven mobbing culture is on the rise. Just yesterday at work, I heard somebody tearfully claim that other people "invalidate my humanity" by having different opinions, or even by not doing their job sufficiently well. So much for "sticks and stones."

Well, yes, having the opinion that trans individuals do not deserve the same rights and privileges accorded to cis individuals is pretty fucking dehumanizing.

"Winning" like this, through collectivist rather than individualist ideas, have historically tended toward violence.

So now people striving to be recognized as human as every one else while being the targets of systemic discrimination and violence are the ones we should be afraid of becoming violent, merely for organizing defenses of their identities and their physical safety? WTF?

Being a scientist who is well aware of the wildly inaccurate claims of radical social constructivists

You seem to be more like a scientist who is making said wildly inaccurate claims and trying to frame the discussion around trans people as being two extremist sides rather than one side committing all of the violence and enlisting the same patriarchy that they claim to despise to oppress and attack (often physically) the other side.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:38 AM on October 19, 2018 [61 favorites]


9/11 united the country.

hi this thread is about a UK government consultation on UK law
posted by Dysk at 6:41 AM on October 19, 2018 [65 favorites]


I'd say it's not practical to designate a space as women-only and then start policing who is a woman as though their self-identification is inadequate.

To me feminism is a movement to end sexist oppression, and gender assignment is for many people a form of sexist oppression. To insist that someone cannot determine their own gender identity while purporting to be a feminist is, to me, contradictory.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:43 AM on October 19, 2018 [22 favorites]


It's great how, rather than talking about the potential reforms to the GRA, we're again discussing whether trans people really are the gender they say they are, and aren't the trans activists the real nazis, y/n.
posted by Dysk at 6:53 AM on October 19, 2018 [49 favorites]


Based solely on the single Pullman tweet that @MagsVisaggs replied to, when read literally without assuming any motives behind it, there is the chance that he's genuinely confused and acting in good faith. (The whole Pullman thing is a bit of a derail, but I decided to post this comment nonetheless because a similar principle will apply to a lot of people without existing education on the topic, besides—presumably—Pullman.)

Imagine you're a not-particularly-woke privileged old cis guy. You're careful to only dip a toe in this issue that you don't quite understand. Really, you should just shut up about it entirely, but as a privileged old cis guy, shutting up about things you don't understand is not quite your forte. What you see if you follow the the discussion are two distinct types of feminists fighting each other about how to do feminism on the topic of trans rights, not to mention all the, ahem, "interested parties" commenting from the sidelines. You're not particularly woke, and not up to speed on feminism nor trans rights, so when you see some reasonable-sounding-as-far-as-you-can-tell arguments from both sides, who do you believe? Remember, one important point of the OP's article was this:

"While there is no shortage of unvarnished transphobes who continue to depict trans people as perverts, freaks or monsters, some of the feminists who are now raising concerns about the proposed reform of the GRA offer an argument that is at least in principle distinct from this rhetoric."

Even the argument referred to here is wrong, but it's only recognizable as such to people with some basic-to-intermediate education in the wider issues, which Pullman likely does not have. TERFs are perfectly capable of presenting (wrong) arguments in a superficially reasonable, considered manner that seem to echo their lived experience, combined with convincing-sounding feminist theory, and in a way that doesn't dehumanize trans people in an obvious manner. IF his tweet was in good faith, it's that kind of argument that would explain his seemingly neutral not-taking-sides tweet. In this case ONLY, his confusion could be genuine.

Like atrazine said, this is just one reading, and a charitable one, and I'm not trying to convince anyone of adopting it. Based on it, I'm giving Pullman the benefit of the doubt for now, but I would not be surprised at all to see him eventually revealed as having (or being sympathetic to) TERFy views.
posted by jklaiho at 6:53 AM on October 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


Cultural conservatives conflate LGBTQ rights together at the Value Voters summit as "gender ideology."

There's a lot of wedge issue stuff going on here. The endgame is an open license to discriminate against trans people. If you deny access to restrooms and changing rooms, you deny trans people access to education, services, and employment.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:13 AM on October 19, 2018 [16 favorites]


phenylphenol, am I right (based on your username) that your science background is in organic chemistry? (You list your occupation as "Tech Startup Guy" so you sound more like a businessman than a scientist to me, but trying to be charitable here.) What about organic chemistry gives you the belief that you have expert knowledge of sociology, philosophy, or human rights?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:22 AM on October 19, 2018 [21 favorites]


So much for "sticks and stones."

And I'll dance a happy dance on the grave, being sure to stomp extra hard to pack down the dirt in case it tries to rise again.
posted by traveler_ at 7:28 AM on October 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


Yeah, as someone who actually has an applied psychology degree, Pinker is a pseudoscientist and "The Blank Slate" is more polemic than psychology.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:29 AM on October 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


The blog entry following the guide for feminist and LGBT academics feels very apropos to this thread.
posted by Dysk at 7:33 AM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Where is your goddamn moral compass, Mr. Serious Children's Books? It seems likely that he has some age-peer TERFy white upper middle class women friends and doesn't want to offend them.

I don't see the point in blaming imaginary women for possible flaws in an author you enjoy.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:33 AM on October 19, 2018 [17 favorites]


I have 35 years of lived experience navigating the world as a man. I don't think acknowledging that is transphobic. And there will be spaces in which giving a place for my experience would mean taking up space that should be given to other protected classes of people. I don't think that is automatically transphobic either.

It's not transphobic to make that determination for yourself, no. It would be transphobic to generalise it to all other trans women though, who do not necessarily share your experience. You don't need a law banning all trans women from accessing women's spaces for you to determine when you feel it would be inappropriate for you to take up space, and not do so.
posted by Dysk at 7:36 AM on October 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


I don't see the point in blaming imaginary women for possible flaws in an author you enjoy.

True enough. I admit that I was thinking of the upper middle class white TERFs who write for the UK Guardian, and also thinking "why would you be all 'ooh, I just don't know what to think'" unless you were trying to keep sweet with two sides.

But I've seen a lot of this kind of thing before, and it usually has been "I don't know how to handle my friendships with TERFs, they're being seriously criticized, better just pretend that I can't make up my mind" - it's not something that I totally made up. I see people temporizing on this issue all the time because they are reluctant to rock the boat with their conservative feminist friends.
posted by Frowner at 7:43 AM on October 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


But does being an ally really mean I have to whole-heartedly adopt a simple gender binary only in this one specific area while shunning it all in all other discussions of sexual identity?

I hear what you're saying, but it kind of seems like there's a simple answer to it. The thing about gender being a spectrum is that it can still be a spectrum with poles. People can situate themselves anywhere they like within that spectrum - and people who choose polar identifies should have that respected; or people who cross from one end to another while still situating themselves in the middle but leaning toward one side - that's legit too.

I think it's fine to challenge the binary, but I think we need to challenge the binary with an acknowledgement of what we're enforcing. We challenge how the binary restricts us, not when gender freedom winds up mirroring it somewhat.
posted by entropone at 7:52 AM on October 19, 2018 [6 favorites]


Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists have complained that "TERF" is a slur, so from now on we're going to call them Feminism-Appropriating Radical Transphobes, or FARTs.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:52 AM on October 19, 2018 [132 favorites]


oh god Faint of Butt, I need to make an endless supply of sock puppet accounts so that I can favorite that comment as much as it deserves.
posted by entropone at 8:02 AM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


After reading the comments from idiot-twittersphere greg nog's link above., and , given that, as dysk put it " It's great how, rather than talking about the potential reforms to the GRA, we're again discussing whether trans people really are the gender they say they are, and aren't the trans activists the real nazis, y/n."

Does mefi have a set of links to a good FAQ help non trans people rebut this kind of "goodfaith"/badfaith/terf/asshole derail by other cis people?
posted by lalochezia at 8:05 AM on October 19, 2018


There is a section of the MetaFilter Wiki dealing with transgender topics, but apparently it was last updated almost 5½ years ago. As a cis individual, I'm not qualified to say how useful those resources are, though.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:09 AM on October 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


Sure, gender is nuanced, but if you argue there's nuance in whether any group of people ought to be able to piss in the bathroom of their choice, then you're enabling bigotry. That's the problem with following the thread of "OK then, let's dive into gender theory!"— the next ten paragraphs of self-indulgent prattle usually don't have much to do with the human rights that are at stake.
posted by the list of suspects is just you at 8:12 AM on October 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


That Verso piece was good. I appreciated the authors' acknowledgement of their own uncertainties and their many angles of approach.

In my cis-maleness (I guess; I don't feel much male solidarity, but am not bothered by the designation and no one would think I'm something else) I find myself generally ambivalent on these questions.

When a cis-woman says they've been sexually assaulted by a man and therefore feels uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a trans-woman, I don't think it's my place to say "well, you're statistically and epistemically incorrect to feel threatened." I'm not sure of any facilities that personally feel part of my gender performance. I'd be perfectly OK with all my spaces being gender neutral. But it's not for me to say "well actually your genders are the same" or "gender's not a big deal."

It seems like I ought to take a stand in solidarity with…someone, but all I feel like I can do is say "Wow, sounds very complicated. I hope things work out."

One thing that I did find notable in the piece was the extent to which the built realm plays a role. We have an endowment of infrastructure (bathroom stalls, changing rooms, prisons) that is deliberately gendered. We could choose to have infrastructure that renders many of these conflicts moot, but it is slow to adapt and expensive to replace, introducing friction to social change.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:20 AM on October 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


From the amount of coverage of this stuff in the media and attention in Internet forums, you'd think it was a much, much larger group of people.

Minorities (as in, literally "people who are less than 50% of the population due to some identifying trait") always seem more plentiful, both to the majority and to themselves. If a room is more than 1/6 women, everyone feels like it's about an even split; if they're more than 1/3, then the whole room thinks it's mostly women. British people hugely overestimate the number of Muslims in the UK; Americans similarly overestimate African-American and Latinx people in the US.

And that doesn't even account for the fear campaign that TERFs have been waging to scare society about a looming wave of crime if there isn't pushback against trans people's continued existence.
posted by Etrigan at 8:22 AM on October 19, 2018 [26 favorites]


But does being an ally really mean I have to whole-heartedly adopt a simple gender binary only in this one specific area while shunning it all in all other discussions of sexual identity?

Being a cis ally means listening to trans people when they tell you how their lives will be affected by this—considering the actual effects of politics on their day to day existence—and by privileging their experiences over a desire to ask metaphysical "But what is "male" and "female," really, anyway?" questions.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:23 AM on October 19, 2018 [33 favorites]


All I will note as a cis person is that I have nonbinary friends, some of whom consider themselves trans and some who very much do not, and some who are sort of "shrug emoji?????" about that question. I know some people who consider themselves both nonbinary and women - one as a matter of personal identity and one as a social class they don't get to opt out of even though it chafes. I know a transwoman who is very firm on the fact that she is that - a transwoman, not a trans woman, and I would be doing her a disservice to insist on the space even though she's the only trans person I've known personally who feels that way. I know an agender person who just wants to goddamn pee in peace and not have to be part of any philosophical debates about the gender binary.

I support all of them in knowing the labels and definitions that fit them best, I try to use language to be as inclusive of all of them as I can, and to be open to hearing when I've fucked it up - and none of the nuances in their respective situations has anything to do with the fact they need free and fair and open and unquestioned access to participation in public life, including access to the damn restrooms. My job is to support them in their fight in whatever way they deem most helpful, not to insist on reframing the terms of their fight in whatever way suits my personal understandings best. I can have interesting philosophical thoughts and discussions on gender in my own time, not in the midst of their fight for basic freedoms.
posted by Stacey at 8:26 AM on October 19, 2018 [19 favorites]


I'm done with the Guardian, for instance

I've been side-eyeing the Grauniad since they gave notorious TERF Julie Bindel a platform.

When a cis-woman says they've been sexually assaulted by a man and therefore feels uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a trans-woman, I don't think it's my place to say "well, you're statistically and epistemically incorrect to feel threatened."

Nor I. But I would feel comfortable in saying, "Hard cases make for bad law", because it's true.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:31 AM on October 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


When a cis-woman says they've been sexually assaulted by a man and therefore feels uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a trans-woman, I don't think it's my place to say "well, you're statistically and epistemically incorrect to feel threatened."

Sure, but when a cis woman tries to weaponise that purported discomfort into affecting a review of legislation that does not affect trans women's already existing right to use the bathrooms of their choice by pretending said legislation would exclude her from public spaces because of that discomfort, you should question her motives.
posted by Dysk at 8:36 AM on October 19, 2018 [43 favorites]


When a cis-woman says they've been sexually assaulted by a man and therefore feels uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a trans-woman, I don't think it's my place to say "well, you're statistically and epistemically incorrect to feel threatened."

Also, there's a difference between expressing a discomfort, and suggesting that said discomfort should mean that everyone the individual feels uncomfortable about should be barred it excluded. If that isn't obvious, try replacing" trans" with another protected characteristic of your choice, and it should be. Plenty of women out there who are uncomfortable sharing space with homeless women, for example - big difference between having that discomfort and even acknowledging it publicly, and calling for all homeless women to be denied access to the ladies'.
posted by Dysk at 8:40 AM on October 19, 2018 [45 favorites]


I too had better luck with the Stonewall window. link here! open for the next *checks watch* six hours.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 8:49 AM on October 19, 2018


When a cis-woman says they've been sexually assaulted by a man and therefore feels uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a trans-woman, I don't think it's my place to say "well, you're statistically and epistemically incorrect to feel threatened."

I really, really have trouble with this.

Straight women use the same sexual-threat rationale to try to deny queer women access to women's spaces. White women use the same sexual-threat rationale to exclude both men and women of color from public space.

1. This never works in reverse. Queer and trans women never get to say, "I have had scary/bad interactions with cis straight women, so they should be excluded from the bathroom".

2. It never works toward the safety of trans women, and their safety is totally written off. They can't use men's bathrooms or locker rooms, often don't have access to single-stall spaces and in fact having to negotiate that puts them at risk because it is basically outing.

3. If you're wrong, you're wrong. There simply isn't any historical grounds for believing that trans women are more of a threat to cis women than cis women are to cis women. "I have a feeling and that feeling makes me anxious, so even if that feeling is based on false beliefs, everyone should do what I want" isn't acceptable.

4. Some women are always blanket protected by straight men at the expense of most women. Sometimes that's white women at the expense of women of color, sometimes it's middle class cis straight women at the expense of everyone else. No one listens to, eg, sex workers' concerns about safety. No one listens to poor women or disabled women. People rarely listen to women of color. But "I feel like maybe there might be a trans woman in the next stall and it makes me nervous" is totally listened to all the time. Why is that?

5. A friend of mine, who herself has survived abuse, was talking about triggers and how they're not simple - a trigger could be the smell of a food, or a color, or a sound. Triggers can be anything. It is suspicious that only the possible presence of a trans woman, maybe, is the one that everyone talks about. Again, why is that?

It's not actually feminist to say "you believe this incorrect thing that puts trans women at risk, but I'm not commenting". That's hand-washing, not feminism. A lot of left men like to hand-wash this way because it means they can avoid conflict with transphobic left feminists.
posted by Frowner at 8:56 AM on October 19, 2018 [102 favorites]


when a cis-woman says they've been sexually assaulted by a man and therefore feels uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a trans-woman, I don't think it's my place to say "well, you're statistically and epistemically incorrect to feel threatened."

You know, a lot of people have a lot of trauma, and sometimes the outcomes of that trauma ARE irrational. It doesn’t mean those symptoms are wrong to have, but recognizing that they are irrational and therefore not suitable bases for governing a society is something most trauma survivors have to do.

All kinds of sights, sounds, smells, songs, and other stimuli are triggers for other traumatized people, but there are no serious campaigns to eliminate any of them (even firecrackers, a non-vital form of entertainment which are a well-known trigger for vets— and yet other than “be considerate” postings around certain holidays I have never seen good faith attempts to make them illegal). This past month, a lot of women have said “hearing constant jokes and rules lawyering about rape is triggering to me” and have resoundingly heard back “oh well calm down snowflake lol”. But in cultures that are profoundly hostile to survivors of sexual assault, suddenly institutions care deeply about cis women survivors as long as they get to care about them in ways that will harm trans people of all genders (and also any cis women who aren't feminine enough)? Not a coincidence, and a pretty good sign about how disingenuous this stance is. When the outcomes of your plan to "support women" end up looking like normal violent patriarchy wearing a new hat, that's a clue.

Also, as for the “but I thought gender was a spectrum” take, you know that these policies harm people all up and down that spectrum, right? Cis women who aren’t “sufficiently” feminine are getting humiliated and assaulted in public restrooms by people who have decided to become the gendering police. Nonbinary people are getting attacked, in public, for trying to use a restroom. Cis women with short hair, cis women who don’t fit a certain body type, cis women dressed in the “wrong” way, cis women with very normal medical conditions— all getting “caught” by people who have decided they are the arbiters of gender in the local WC. Don’t weep more for cis women or anything, but the same people who claim to stand up for their rights are often the same people doing them material harm.

Also, if we're all onboard for believing and supporting survivors of sexual assault, let's remember that rates of assault for trans citizens are statistically quite high, and asking them to enter restrooms where they will be at a higher risk for further assault is literally the opposite of believing and supporting survivors. "I can only feel safe by making trans women radically unsafe" is a garbage position.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:57 AM on October 19, 2018 [74 favorites]


"Winning" like this, through collectivist rather than individualist ideas, have historically tended toward violence.

What is this nonsense? Do you think it was "individualist" ideas that built the trade unions? Do you think it was "individualist" ideas that got women the right to vote in the UK? Do you think it was "individualist" ideas that kicked the British out of India? Do you think it was "individualist" ideas that got the Equality Act passed and same-sex marriage legalized in England?

Or does all that not even register to you, because your historical consciousness is so ill-informed that anything that's already happened must have been natural and inevitable, and surely no reasonable person ever opposed any reforms?
posted by praemunire at 9:00 AM on October 19, 2018 [35 favorites]


Another observation I have is that "TERF" is a label that allows proponents of two extreme ideologies to fight one another --- Radical Feminists (I hope "radical" still means "extremist") and Trans Maximalists.

My observation is that the impression that there are two "extreme ideologies" is mistaken. The number of genuine "trans exclusionary radical feminists" is probably a lot smaller than it looks like and many of the individuals and brigades claiming that description are more likely to be, in fact, merely conservatives, religiously opposed, simple misogynists, shitlords, or in the grip of a moral panic*. On the other side, I've no idea what "trans maximalism" even is, but A) the number of genuine "truscum" is probably smaller than it looks like and B) "trans maximalism" would be a great band name!

*The sound and fury over "rapid onset gender disorder" has all the characteristics of a classic moral panic, right down to the "the trans are coming for your daughters!"

(Nearly everyone commenting here has probably seen Jon Rosenberg's "Doctor Whoa is a Woman" cartoon already, but I love it and I need a little levity.)
posted by octobersurprise at 9:01 AM on October 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


Yes, the changes to the GRA seems to me "a no-brainer" as the authors say. My comment was more a reaction to their broader discussion. The replacement of "trans" with "homeless" doesn't seem apt. The restroom debate (again, irrelevant to the GRA) does appear genuinely about gender in gendered spaces. I would feel confident making pronouncements about things like economic exclusion.

For me, most spaces are functional. A bathroom, for instance, is for voiding myself and I don't care who is sitting nearby. I think people should be able to do their business in peace. I still have trouble talking out on these topics, because I'm not trans or a woman.

I feel like I can say bathrooms occupy a gendered role they shouldn't in the absence of other spaces, that stalls should be floor-to-ceiling, and that I'm happy to stand guard at a "men's facility" so a trans person can use it as a private restroom. I don't feel like I can say how they should continue to function as gendered facilities.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 9:23 AM on October 19, 2018


I filled out the survey on the government site, every slow-to-load page of it (skipping the questions not intended for cis people, of course).

There's been some TERF talking points bandied about on my Facebook feed, so on my own page I wrote this with my link to the survey:
Before every advance in LGBTQ rights, there's always a wave of people extravagantly predicting doom. Remember when same-sex marriage was going to somehow destroy the concept of marriage itself? Or when military units were suddenly going to lose the ability to function if soldiers knew some of their comrades were gay? Or when unspeakable things would surely happen to your children if Section 28 were abolished?

One day soon we'll look back on the anti-trans "debate" in the same way.
posted by Pallas Athena at 9:27 AM on October 19, 2018 [9 favorites]


The article is fantastic and engages with every aspect of the spaces-for-cis-women-only argument in a non-argumentative way that clearly delineates the problems with that argument. It should be required reading.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:28 AM on October 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


Then again, there aren't that many trans people, so clearly they do need outside allies. All I'm saying is I'm trying to figure out where I can speak out and where I shouldn't. Being male (I guess), making everyone who wants to use a men's room comfortable doing so causes me no conflict. I'm working to understand my broader role.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 9:51 AM on October 19, 2018


> Cis women who aren’t “sufficiently” feminine are getting humiliated and assaulted in public restrooms by people who have decided to become the gendering police. Nonbinary people are getting attacked, in public, for trying to use a restroom.

It me. And it my friend Kelly, who identifies as NB (I am a masculine-presenting cis butch dyke - I hope I'm putting the adjectives in the right order). Kelly won't even use the restroom unless one of their cis (ideally pretty "girly" - looking) goes with them.

Also this thing about how it should somehow be up to trans* people to smash the gender binary: no it's fucking not. It's up to them to live their lives and be productive and happy. What the hell are you doing to smash the binary?
posted by rtha at 10:01 AM on October 19, 2018 [39 favorites]


People who want to ban people like me from their restrooms only care about that when they can tell. When you can't tell someone is trans, you're fine. Why is that?

Also, you know where in public space I'm comfortable being trans? Fucking nowhere, even on days where nobody seems to ping me. And have I introduced legislation to ban cis people? No, and you're welcome, now stop putting where I can take a leak to a fucking vote.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:18 AM on October 19, 2018 [40 favorites]


The replacement of "trans" with "homeless" doesn't seem apt. The restroom debate (again, irrelevant to the GRA) does appear genuinely about gender in gendered spaces.

Only if you've already decided that trans women aren't really women.
posted by Dysk at 10:23 AM on October 19, 2018 [29 favorites]


Just to note that the consultation deadline has been extended to Monday 22 Oct, and that you can also download the consultation and email response to gra.consultation@geo.gov.uk if the site is unresponsive
posted by crocomancer at 10:26 AM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


The replacement of "trans" with "homeless" doesn't seem apt.

It really is okay to just sort of leave an imprecise analogy where it is.
posted by Etrigan at 10:29 AM on October 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


I don't think it's my place to say "well, you're statistically and epistemically incorrect to feel threatened."

Maybe not but could we get a “you’re statistically and epistemically correct to feel threatened” for the trans folks in the room to whom this is a conversation about maybe sometimes being forcibly outed in public by the police

It can get kind of stuffy in here with the windows closed and all the gaslights goin’
posted by emmalemma at 10:43 AM on October 19, 2018 [28 favorites]


Would it not be better to just say "everyone is entitled to use their preferred restroom without judgment" without framing it as a gender binary into which all trans people are placed?

yeah, it would, so it's a good thing it has been said repeatedly for twenty or thirty years now. I'm sorry if none of us said it when you were listening.

you can't have missed all the cis women who habitually use the men's room whenever the other line is too long, as practically all of us do. you must know that cis women bring their cis male children into the women's room all the time, without apology, without regard to any discomfort felt by their peers. so you must know that any woman who advocates for mandatory pelvic exams by the Authorities before letting a person take a piss is not just a bigot, but a self-sabotaging idiot or a hypocrite as well.

public bathrooms are open to the public, that's the point of them. that's why it breaks all civilized norms to legislate who can go in them. this marvelous idea you have of going in whichever one is convenient is what practical women have always done, except where sexists try to stop us by violence or by law. we all know that every woman's body is unacceptable to someone, somewhere. but the bathroom is not a place where any woman should ever have to care, or a place where anyone should feel comfortable sharing their thoughts on the bodies of others.

the trick of curtailing women's most basic physical freedoms by putting the word "feminist" in the headline of the argument is one a bright child would be embarrassed to fall for. to see grown men volunteering to be taken in is just sad.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:44 AM on October 19, 2018 [48 favorites]


> emmalemma:
"Maybe not but could we get a “you’re statistically and epistemically correct to feel threatened” for the trans folks in the room"

Of course.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 10:46 AM on October 19, 2018


I also want to remind cis people that this is not actually a hypothetical thought experiment— excluding trans people from bathrooms actively harms them even more immediately and concretely than prejudice and stigma do in the long run. A national survey of trans people in the US found that 31% of them had skipped eating and drinking in the hopes they wouldn’t have to use a restroom, and 8% had ended up with UTIs or kidney infections from not using the restroom when they needed it.

In Virginia, a school recently had an active shooter drill, and they told a trans girl she had to sit in the hallway (you know, the place where a fictional shooter was murdering everyone) because the teachers couldn’t decide whether she should hide from a killer in the girls or the boys locker room. They thought telling a trans girl to shelter in a girls bathroom was SCARIER than encouraging the entire student body to pretend a mass murderer was roaming the building, and with their actions they taught every student in that building that the hypothetical safety of a child was worth less than their idiotic and immature bathroom debate.

When you play the "hmm, interesting, but what if!" game, you are helping to harm people. The people who want to exclude trans people from public restrooms want trans people to cease to exist, or at least to cease to be visible or present. This erasure is an abomination and a form of violence.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:54 AM on October 19, 2018 [85 favorites]


At OpenDemocracy, Claire Provost and Nandini Archer are reporting that "Christian right and some UK feminists ‘unlikely allies’ against trans rights"
"ADF International, the global branch of a US Christian ‘legal army’ that defends opponents of sexual and reproductive rights in courts around the world, said in its submission that “gender dysphoria” is “as rare as it is serious."
At the same publication, Kaylee Jakubowski has written "No, the existence of trans people doesn’t validate gender essentialism."

(OpenDemocracy receives funding from the Soros Open Democracy Foundation. There goes that Soros trying to trans our kids again!)
posted by octobersurprise at 11:33 AM on October 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Based solely on the single Pullman tweet that @MagsVisaggs replied to, when read literally without assuming any motives behind it, there is the chance that he's genuinely confused and acting in good faith.

Based on this followup tweet he sent three hours later, I don't think so:
It's like a lot of angry people in a dark room swinging heavy sticks around with all their might. So far I'm most impressed by the voices advocating kindness.
Because, of course, trans people responding to that kind of "just asking questions" is the same as people "swinging heavy sticks around with all their might".

If you are saying "for the purposes of using public facilities, there are only two categories, men and women, and when it comes time to pee, trans men are men and trans women are women" I think that's fine as a matter of respectful public policy, although by making everyone either one or the other, it means that most trans people have used the "wrong" restroom many, many times. Would it not be better to just say "everyone is entitled to use their preferred restroom without judgment" without framing it as a gender binary into which all trans people are placed?

Let's look at what Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The actually wrote:
Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Trans people are people. If you're trying to make it more complicated than that, if you're doing rhetorical gymnastics to try and argue that it's different, I am deeply suspicious of your motives.
Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Trans people are people. Acknowledging that trans women are, indeed, women and that trans men are, indeed, men, has absolutely zero effect on me being a nonbinary trans person. But my existence as a nonbinary trans person also has zero effect on a trans woman being a woman or a trans man being a man.

Cis people, please do not use nonbinary people as some sort of rhetorical stalking horse. If you're inclined to wade in with tut-tutting about "but reducing it to a binary is harmful" you should spend less time writing and talking and more time reading and listening to actual trans people (both binary and nonbinary).
posted by Lexica at 12:05 PM on October 19, 2018 [43 favorites]


yeah just rolling up in here to say that i am here, trans, nonbinary, pass as one of the major two genders for efficacy in this world, and a bunch of the stuff cis people are saying in this thread is hot trash

i am grateful to those of you who are holding it down in this thread.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 12:08 PM on October 19, 2018 [38 favorites]


Speaking up to say I exist, I'm trans and nonbinary, I also don't consent to being used in arguments made by cis folk about But The Gender Binary. Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The covered this exactly fine in their original comment, in my opinion.
posted by XtinaS at 12:17 PM on October 19, 2018 [28 favorites]


Oh hey! also trans and nonbinary, and I want to especially underscore what Frowner said:

"A lot of people who are not trans also don't seem to understand that this is a material struggle over physical safety and medical resources, not a good-faith discussion among friends over a very nuanced lived reality (a discussion like one that trans people might have among themselves or with close friends, actually, because you need a certain level of trust and background to have that conversation at all)."

Gender actually is complicated! And it's incredibly hard for trans people to talk about that even amongst ourselves because the complexity of gender is so deeply weaponized against us.
posted by ITheCosmos at 12:24 PM on October 19, 2018 [38 favorites]


Frowner said it so well. I am actually rolling up to an interfaith dialogue tonight during which I will probably just quote the above, because the pre-dialogue discussion was around how "I don't understand why you are getting mad about having a conversation about our feelings around someone refusing to make a cake for an LGBT couple". Good lord, the amount of seemingly OK people whose faculties go right out the window when presented with a bad-faith conceit presented as some kind of abstract "~~OpPORTuNITy for DiscUSSiOn­~~", man.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 12:29 PM on October 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


I've been struggling with my known identity a lot lately. I realize just now, because of the 'what about non-binary trans people, huh?' thing and the wonderful push back, it's because of the way cis people use nb/gq trans people as a weapon against trans men and trans women. I also do not consent to being used in this way.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 12:38 PM on October 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


This is one area where utopian ideals are frequently used as a gotcha against the pragmatics of living.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:44 PM on October 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


My transgender friend who uses male pronouns and presents as male and is known only as a male to almost everyone except a few very close confidants, but feels very strongly that he (again, his preferred pronoun) is actually a woman, and longs to transition but has chosen not to for reasons--does it really make sense to say "he's a woman, it's just that simple." His experience of it isn't simple. He's struggled to figure out how to think of himself. To say "Trans women are women" doesn't do justice, at all, to his hard work of processing all this.

Maybe this has been harped on enough, so I hope you'll take this in the spirit of goodwill with which it's offered, but maybe you should consider that the hard work your friend is doing is taking place in a world where the value of every woman is policed and the value of the very identity of every trans woman is always under threat—in this case, probably even by your friend himself. As queer people, most of us spend our lives fighting against the shame we've been told to feel to some degree or another. And for trans people all that hard work is made even harder by a reluctance or a refusal to simply say "Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Trans people are people."
posted by octobersurprise at 12:53 PM on October 19, 2018 [7 favorites]


And the cake thing is also a ridiculous (by design?) wedge issue with the endgame being a particular entitlement for bigots to nope out of civility because they're personally uncomfortable with LGBTQ people.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:54 PM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Gender actually is complicated! And it's incredibly hard for trans people to talk about that even amongst ourselves because the complexity of gender is so deeply weaponized against us.

Holy crap, yes. Cis people, if you want to open up space to talk in complex ways about gender, first you need to make sure that trans people have safe access to healthcare, bathrooms, jobs, etc. It's like a Maslow's hierarchy thing - saying "let's debate the finer points of gender" to someone who is turned away from necessary medical services because they're trans just isn't going to go anywhere.

If you ever wonder why trans people are not necessarily eager to talk to you about how we feel about growing up treated as the genders assigned to us at birth - if you ever think "gee trans people act like birth assigned gender doesn't impact how you grow up, why don't they ever think about that" - the answer is that we do think about stuff like that quite a lot, but we know that if we talk to you about it, it will be used to insist that we are dangerous phonies.

Here is a double bind for you: Cis people in the aggregate don't accept any narrative of transness except "I knew I was trans as soon as I knew that gender existed, also my gender is binary". Anything else means that you're a fraud and a tumblr snowflake. However, cis people also believe, at the same time, that children don't know their genders and that you're doing a huge amount of harm if you allow a kid to determine their gender. So unless you know from toddlerhood, you don't count; but if you do know as a toddler, you're a victim of brainwashing by perverse parents.

Those are the kinds of double binds that push me, at least, to be unwilling to have complicated conversations about gender with the average cis person. I would rather have those conversations, but I need a degree of respect and security first.
posted by Frowner at 12:58 PM on October 19, 2018 [61 favorites]


Wow. I opened the thread, decided I did not have enough time to comment appropriately, and then went to a load of meetings. Then reopened the thread. Wow.

The initial article is a clear and well-reasoned examination of a deeply entrenched but incoherent set of beliefs by a subset of feminists who have bent their feminism into some very strange shapes. The beliefs are incoherent in large part because of the amount of rhetorical contortions necessary to cover up the central belief of almost mystical biological determinism growing out of a swamp of hatred for trans people.

The modifications to the GRA seem direct and sensible as an effort to speed up and reduce the cost of a useful step for transition. The arguments against it are pretty thin (specially since they haven't happened in countries that have enacted the policy) once you get past the obvious "we hate trans people and want their lives to be difficult" plank in the TERF platform. I hope the British Government does something sensible this year and streamlines an unnecessarily complex process for the good of trans people and the detriment of no one.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:12 PM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm afab and genderfluid. I'm not really cis. I'm not really trans. (or maybe I am trans? I don't really know) I didn't have the words to describe myself until I was older, but I've always been this way. Depending on how I cut my hair and dress myself, I can pass as male. Even today with longer hair, I look pretty butch. People generally just assume I'm a Lesbian and like? I guess I am sorta? A few years ago I was much much more masc, and i had to go to New Jersey for family matters. I PANICKED. See, here in SF no one has ever given me shit for using the ladies, besides one or two people who would give me a dirty look perhaps. (I don't feel safe using the men's, cis men are dangerous you know...) But in NJ? I had a dyed buzz cut and I bought flowery head bands and I wore makeup and jewelry, and I hated it hated it hated it, but no one harassed me in NJ. Because in order to make sure no one called the fucking cops on me I had to play pretty barbie dress up. That is FUCKED. I still got some dirty looks but no one called the cops so victory?

SO please don't use me and other fluid/NB folks as a cover for denying trans people their rights. We are all targets of TERFs.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:14 PM on October 19, 2018 [25 favorites]


I'm a pretty butch looking afab cis woman. I don't get misgendered in women's bathrooms nearly so much now that I'm not working in the construction trades, but I still get side-eye occasionally and peole should just fuck the fuck off about it.

I'm not afraid of trans women in my women's bathrooms - the only thing I'm really afraid of is running out of toilet paper.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:18 PM on October 19, 2018 [9 favorites]


the only thing I'm really afraid of is running out of toilet paper.

THAT. IS. THE. WORST.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:46 PM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's like a lot of angry people in a dark room swinging heavy sticks around with all their might.

Yes, we've been beating the shit out of trans people for just trying to live for a really long time now--oh. Oh, wait, Mr. Author. That's not what you meant?

So far I'm most impressed by the voices advocating kindness.

Anyone pitting "kindness" against "basic human rights" is completely full of it.
posted by praemunire at 1:51 PM on October 19, 2018 [20 favorites]


Anti-trans rhetoric is way more gender essentialist than anything trans positive. It presumes both an innate set of behaviours (if you are AMAB you are much more likely to be a sexual predator), and that one's 'birth' gender is detectable to others around you. It's also pretty misogynistic when you boil it down (read Julia Serano - I don't feel able to do her ideas justice in a short comment).

As with others upthread, it has been a whole load of disappointment in people who are Just Asking Questions. One that made me give a very deep sigh was Science Based Medicine taking a crappy study that the author admits is crappy, but then says said crappy study provides "food for thought". No, it doesn't, and if a study that crappy had said it provided evidence for homeopathy you'd have minced it.
posted by Vortisaur at 1:55 PM on October 19, 2018 [19 favorites]


So, I felt a bit weird about posting this, because I firmly believe in trans inclusion and I know people's gender identity should be respected - in my head that's not up for debate. It's a no-brainer to me that trans rights should be expanded including to recognise non-binary people. As Anticipation... said in the very first comment there shouldn't need to be more to it than that. Surely people should recognise that if you're arguing for the exclusion of LGBT people then you are a bigot and that's it? And as others have said upthread the GRA really has nothing to do with access to single-sex spaces, as that's assured under the Equality Act 2010 and most single-sex spaces e.g. changing rooms, loos, domestic violence shelters operate on self-ID anyway.

But. Coverage of this in the UK has been across the board horrendous and there are so. fucking. many. women and men who are cloaking their bigotry in a sort of ~concern~ for women's rights and.... their representatives are sort of nice middle-class seeming mostly-white women and they're given massive amounts of coverage and if you didn't know anything about trans people or feminism they'd seem sort of...plausible? Like, women's rights, what could be bad about that? They have been getting an enormous amount of press time. So I started gathering up these articles which I thought made good rebuttals to the barrage of nonsense. I recognise that in doing this I didn't focus the post on the implications of possible reform for trans and non-binary people which was an error on my part.

On a personal note I'm a cis woman and a survivor of sexual abuse and it angers me more than I can say that terfs are using people like me to stoke up fear and hostility against trans people by saying we need protection from trans women somehow. I have nothing coherent to say about how wrong this is, I am just very angry at my trash fire country and its utterly useless journalists.

On the subject of the GRA -a similar consultation ended in Scotland earlier this year. It attracted... less? ire/bullshit than this one did and you can read some of the responses from organisations here. I found it encouraging to read the firm support of women's aid Scotland for self-ID, which terfs would have you believe is such a terrifying prospect. others have noted the similarity between the responses of so-called radical feminist groups and those of the Christian right. There is also a circular with a sort of overview of responses. 65% of respondents from Scotland said they supported self ID and 66% said they were in favour of recognition for non-binary people. What this will come to I'm not sure.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 2:55 PM on October 19, 2018 [22 favorites]


I'm a Scottish cis man, and no-one has ever thought to check up on that in my life. I've spent enough time with trans people to know youse all have it difficult enough without this tomfoolery, but the FARTs* have some rhetorical high ground because am I going to talk over Germaine fucking Greer on feminism? I want to say "hell no" (because cis dude talks over feminist is extremely over), but I guess the answer should be "reluctantly, yeah".

The way I conceptualise it personally is that a person is the ultimate authority on their gender in the same way that they're the ultimate authority on their name. If you say "Hi, I'm Doug", it's pragmatically wrong for me to decide you look more like a Steve, even if it's theoretically possible that you were actually, improbably, Lying Steve all along.

A lot of the discourse is basically focusing on Lying Steve rather than the overwhelmingly common case that the person interacting with you is doing so honestly. And I strongly suspect that the FARTs would rapidly get tired of proving that they are truly cis on a day-to-day basis.

* Thank you, Faint of Butt
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:43 PM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


MeFi had a big role in me figuring out my gender. There were so many fantastic posts about trans people and trans issues around 2012-2014 and reading them and seeing myself in the people I was reading about helped me to accept that I probably wasn't cis and that transition could be a real option for me. Two years ago today I came out to my friends and then a few months later I got onto HRT. Next week it'll be a year since I transitioned at work. It was absolutely the right thing for me. Regardless of the stresses and difficulties that unfortunately come as part of the deal, finally being able to be who I am has been incredible.

Plenty of stuff about transitioning and being trans in the UK can be really hard, but the last few months with the vicious opposition to GRA reforms raging in the media - print, TV and social - have been completely fucking exhausting. I knew before I started my transition that there's transphobic bigots out there and a lot of ignorance. Dealing with that is something I was prepared for; I feel fortunate that I've never really felt in serious danger, but I've had a few people shout slurs from their cars and going shopping always opens me to the micro-aggressions of casual and intentional misgendering from strangers. That stuff just happens, but it's pretty easy to dismiss as assholes being assholes and move on. (The intensely creepy guy pulling up next to me as I was walking home and trying to get me into his car was more disturbing, but not something I dwelt on.)

But wondering what seemingly reasonable people might have read in their newspaper that morning, knowing they may have been told outright lies about trans women with the aim of painting us as predatory, as misogynists, our mere existence and participation in public life a threat to women's rights, that's a much more pervasive anxiety. It takes a conscious effort to shut it out and stop it colouring every interaction with the cisgender world. The platforming of clearly transphobic groups operating with a thin veneer of feminist rhetoric is directly responsible for this.

These are groups that have parlayed what's, in reality, a fairly minor reform to how trans people update some of their documentation into a much more wide ranging debate on whether trans people should have the rights already guaranteed to us under the Equality Act 2010. And the both-sides-ism of the media, along with the obvious and increasingly blatant anti-trans bias of many sections of the UK media has amplified and legitimised the voices of people who hate us.

If you're wanting to casually discuss gendered spaces and trans issues, you may be doing so in completely good faith and entirely honest intentions, but in the current context, it's hard to read this as anything but another example of the endless interrogation of trans lives and the legitimacy of the civil rights that trans people have been guaranteed under UK law for years. These aren't abstract issues, they're about the basic requirements we need to survive, to feel safe, to not live in fear that protections that enable us to participate in society on a relatively equal basis might be stripped away. And the last few months have made it very clear that pushing for even minor improvements to the processes that enable our transitions will trigger vicious campaigns of abuse and misinformation.

There are doubtless many nuanced discussions to be had about gender and what it means to be trans, but the expectations that trans people should be open to engaging in them at this point in time, in the current context of the utter shitshow that the UK "debate" has become is not something that feels especially reasonable to me. I'm just tired of defending who I am and what I am and what basic rights I should have.
posted by xchmp at 3:50 PM on October 19, 2018 [32 favorites]


I’m coming up on 6 years being very vocally out as trans on metafilter and thank you everyone here who did the hard work for me in this thread. Dysk I’m especially sending you love and respect, you’ve been here for longer than I have in this space and also having to deal with the us-centric bias mefi suffers as well.

At any rate my gender is: “I appear in the world as a cis woman because I am an able to blend well as a trans woman but I am really an agender person but trying to have the career I do as a nongender non-binary person is impossible so I just roll with “woman” because that is easier than trying to be a “man”.

I will literally never be comfortable with any kind of gender and I force myself to wear gender just to survive and it’s something I think about every minute of my waking life and sometimes I dream about it as well.

There is nothing a cis person can imagine about my experience that I haven’t thought about analyzed 10 thousand times already.

Aside from that my name is annika sparkles and I wrote a book and it’s available on Amazon. If you want to know more, you can pay me for the knowledge.
posted by nikaspark at 4:02 PM on October 19, 2018 [34 favorites]


Radical Feminists (I hope "radical" still means "extremist")

Radical Feminism, as opposed to Liberal Feminism, rejects the notion that feminism is about bringing women up to the level of men ("Hire 👏 more 👏 women 👏 guards"), observes that patriarchy is built into society at a base level, and demands that all institutions of society be rebuilt without patriarchy.

I'm not the first person or even the millionth to observe that TERFs are not Radical Feminists nor even feminists at all; certainly nobody who has built their ideas about gender by wrapping a thin veneer of feminist rhetoric around a core comprised purely of patriarchal ideas about gender has any business claiming either.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:26 PM on October 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


Would it not be better to just say "everyone is entitled to use their preferred restroom without judgment"

Unfortunately, no, because many cis het men will decide they just "prefer" to use the women's restroom, especially if the woman they've been hitting on has gone into it to get away from them.

The only reason to have gender-split restrooms in public is because some men are creeps and assholes, and if you give them access to women in vulnerable circumstances (like, sitting down and partially undressed, or even leaning over a counter while holding makeup gear near eyes), they will decide it's a great opportunity to molest those women.

I have never heard of this problem existing with trans women. Nor with trans men, for that matter. Maybe we need "cishet dude" restrooms, and "everyone else" restrooms.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:38 PM on October 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


I have zero answers about the restrooms. I just got GRS because it’s what I needed for internal reasons and as an added bonus accessing restrooms and locker rooms is now a lot less dangerous.
posted by nikaspark at 4:44 PM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Maybe we need "cishet dude" restrooms, and "everyone else" restrooms.

Honestly, I think if restrooms and other spaces are going to be anything but gender neutral, and if there isn't going to be an expectation of more than two versions of any such space, something like this has to be the solution -- that is, the conceptualization is going to settle out to "Men's rooms" for cis men and trans men who feel comfortable in them; and "Rooms for everyone who doesn't feel safe or appropriate in a men's room" -- mostly women by the numbers, but including everyone else as well. I can't see how a world works where a room for women only, even self-identified women only, is a thing anymore.
posted by LizardBreath at 4:54 PM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, no, because many cis het men will decide they just "prefer" to use the women's restroom, especially if the woman they've been hitting on has gone into it to get away from them.

The only reason to have gender-split restrooms in public is because some men are creeps and assholes, and if you give them access to women in vulnerable circumstances



"give them access" what. there's no lock on the fucking door. they HAVE access. cis men have access to every bathroom except the ones in private houses. cis men who want to molest people walk right in the ladies' room door and do just that. why in the name of christ are people pretending that this has not always been true? this doesn't happen most days to most people because the men we meet in the day-to-day don't want to attack us quite that badly. do you imagine there are all these men in the world who have no problem at all violating the taboo (and law!) against sexual assault, but have been held back all this time, securely inhibited by the triangle skirt-glyph on an unlatched swinging door?

why does anyone think that a law against boys in the girls' room will make it any easier to call the cops when a man's attacking a woman in the bathroom than the law against attacking women in any room that actually exists and is actually justified?

does it not occur to people that publicly designated and legally enforced women's bathrooms have literal signs for predators telling them where to find an unprotected private space with only women in it? that is not a social convention that was built up around protecting women from male violence. comfort isn't safety. it never has been and it never will be.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:58 PM on October 19, 2018 [47 favorites]


On the subject of the GRA -a similar consultation ended in Scotland earlier this year. It attracted... less? ire/bullshit than this one did

It did, but there was definitely a noticeable shift in media coverage at the time. Maybe when the next big flashpoint comes along, we'll be looking back at this, wondering why it didn't attract as much outrage. God I hope not, though.

I'm not the first person or even the millionth to observe that TERFs are not Radical Feminists nor even feminists at all

Thing is, a lot of them are. The term is applied pretty broadly these days, but was originally coined by two (cis) radical feminists to differentiate between themselves and the TERFs (as "radfem" was verging on becoming a dirty word in a lot trans circles).
posted by Dysk at 5:21 PM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Germaine Greer, for example, is a "classic" TERF - absolutely a radfem, and absolutely a transphobe.
posted by Dysk at 5:24 PM on October 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


securely inhibited by the triangle skirt-glyph on an unlatched swinging door?

I hear it works like the cross against vampires!
posted by praemunire at 5:24 PM on October 19, 2018 [8 favorites]


do you imagine there are all these men in the world who have no problem at all violating the taboo (and law!) against sexual assault, but have been held back all this time, securely inhibited by the triangle skirt-glyph on an unlatched swinging door?

That seems overstated to me -- taboos are something. People who see someone unambiguously appearing to be a man in a women's bathroom are very likely to freak the fuck out at him immediately, even if he's not doing anything immediately offensive in there. That is, the sign on the door does nothing to prevent immediately violent sneak attacks, but it removes all trace of plausible deniability around inappropriate sexual behavior -- a man has very little room to claim to be in a women's room for a legitimate reason -- and a whole lot of sexual abuse depends on exploiting plausible deniability.

But that's neither here nor there with respect to the primary subject under discussion.
posted by LizardBreath at 5:25 PM on October 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


& the only person who's ever laid hands on me in a public bathroom was an older cis woman who thought 20 years ago that the splendid hair of a teenage stranger would be nice for her to touch. do I know for a fact this creep wasn't trans? do I even know for a fact she was a woman? I'm pretty sure - honestly, I'm almost completely sure - but no, I don't know it for a fact. the great thing about total strangers in a public bathroom is that their gender is none of my business and I don't question or comment on it, so if I'm wrong, it doesn't matter.

people are welcome to revise "men" and "women" into "cis men" and "everybody else," if they think that only the socially dominant identity group merits a private space. or any other gender scheme they like, with any number of options. do all that by all means. but picking the "correct" room is still a voluntary courtesy and doing ID checks of anyone who doesn't look right for their room, in the eyes of security or other users, is never going to be acceptable.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:30 PM on October 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Gonna add one last thing to this thread. In July the VP of HR where I work offered to relocate my job to London because of the political climate in Texas and the US towards trans people. I spent three months looking into that, seeing how that could work. I spoke with my director and CTO and came up with presentations for how to structure my team to support this. Then I saw how terrible everyone was being about the GRA, I was at Pride In London when the TERF’s blocked the start of the parade. I’ve been reading all the anti-trans garbage in the major papers, seeing the penis stickers on twitter, and the anti-trans stickers being placed in the women’s loos with RAZOR BLADES underneath them to cut people who try to remove them...with all that and Brexit looming I reversed course in late September and told everyone no thanks, that I don’t want to relocate my job to London, I love London but it’s actually better to be trans in Austin Texas right now.

Then I read how Morgan Page can’t get on HRT in the U.K. despite transitioning in Canada 20 years ago and I realize I dodged a bullet.
posted by nikaspark at 6:09 AM on October 20, 2018 [22 favorites]


I totally lose respect for anyone dragging George Soros into any discussion of an issue at this point. Leftists and rightists both do it. Certain Sanders supporters did it a LOT and the right wing does it. It is an anti - Semitic dog whistle Every. Time.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:23 AM on October 20, 2018 [15 favorites]


I recently came out as trans and non-binary, and have started HRT. I winced a bit when I saw this post had 100+ comments, but I'm frankly very glad to see most of you holding it down.

I had to go outside of the official system in this country in order to get my anticistamines, because the process here is slow, antiquated, and above all else, does not recognize non-binary people. Like if I wanted to get estriadol and anti-androgens here through official channels, I would have to visit this one old cis man—that's right, one dude—for anywhere from six to 18 months, enduring pointless questions about what kind of underwear I have on and what sexual positions I like all well lying continuously to him in saying that I'm a trans woman; I literally could not get HRT for being non-binary, nor is it a legally recognized gender anywhere in this country.

On the other hand, I can go out in any kind of clothes I want. I can present however I please and no one gives a shit. I posted a selfie in a queer group I'm in, of me in a skirt (because my legs are dynamite), and this one person remarked, "I'm just stunned this pic was taken outside; if I left the house like this, I'd be dead."

What is happening in the UK right now frightens me in part, because the whole world seems to be watching how they handle this topic. But it also gives me a lot of hope, as I've seen so many trans folks over there really fighting the good fight. The trans community worldwide has struggles both global and region specific. I feel that, being in a relatively safe country to be trans, I have an obligation to help my comrades who are in less safe locales in any way I can.

I think the UK is going to be the proving grounds when it comes to trans issues, for either many more radical changes for the good, or a tipping point back to the early 20th century. None of us can afford to sit on the sidelines and watch, hoping for the best.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:50 PM on October 20, 2018 [11 favorites]


I think the UK is going to be the proving grounds when it comes to trans issues

In a lot of respects, the UK is playing catch-up at best. Denmark introduced self-identifying for ID and legal gender changes (including birth certificates) a few years ago (and it wasn't the first). The US and Canada both have informed consent clinics, something that is still forbidden in law here in the UK - you still need to jump through all kinds of hoops to access treatment here. There is no legal recognition if non-binary genders in any way, and very very patchy service provision in terms of treatment, at best (compared to, for example, both New Zealand and Denmark offering passports with an X in the gender field, which isn't much but is something, where the UK has nothing). And this is before we get on to the state of the press here, or the extent of exceptions with regard to trans people in the Equality Act.

So it's kind of weird seeing the UK being held up as an example or trial balloon, when it's so far behind in so many ways.
posted by Dysk at 5:34 PM on October 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


So it's kind of weird seeing the UK being held up as an example or trial balloon, when it's so far behind in so many ways.

These things are not contradictory. The UK is definitely worse for trans women than much of the US, I agree. But if TERFs are successful here then they’ll try to expand their campaign to Europe and the US.
posted by the list of suspects is just you at 9:44 PM on October 20, 2018


You know "our" TERFs are largely funded from the US? And that they very much exist in both the US (where access to treatment may be better, but fuck me is the legislative framework atrocious) and the rest of Europe? It's not like TERFs are some British phenomenon...
posted by Dysk at 12:06 AM on October 21, 2018 [7 favorites]


And like, what happens here matters for its own sake. This isn't important because of what implications it has for elsewhere. This is important in its face, for how it will affect the lives of trans people in the UK. We aren't fucking canaries.
posted by Dysk at 12:16 AM on October 21, 2018 [8 favorites]


You know "our" TERFs are largely funded from the US?

Is this directed at me? My very first comment in this thread was acknowledging this fact. I never thought that the TERFs were a British phenomenon. In fact, I first learned about them in a US context.

I agree with most of what you've posted, fwiw. We definitely matter for our own sake.
posted by the list of suspects is just you at 3:56 AM on October 21, 2018


So it's kind of weird seeing the UK being held up as an example or trial balloon, when it's so far behind in so many ways.

The reason why I see the UK in this light is because there is a very visible conflict going on between bigots and trans folks that has global attention. All the TERF lies and the refutations against them are on daily public display, and the misinformation uses some very common arguments that are gaining prominence even in those more progressive countries you name. And I think that matters a lot, and will have an impact on other places in the world. I don't think it will necessarily turn back the clock in more progressive regions (and let's not forget: informed consent is not the norm for every state in the US) but I don't think we can afford to underestimate the significance of the conflict in the UK either and the rippling effect it is having.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:12 AM on October 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Some TERFs are definitely British. Part of what’s going on is that a bunch of people who have editorial control over various pieces of the media have absorbed the idea from feminism that they should be listening to women, so they’re doing exactly that. Only the women that have their ear are a bunch of TERFs with a plausible line in "trans-exclusive feminism".
posted by pharm at 5:28 AM on October 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


(addendum) I spent some time earlier in the year reading Mumsnet feminism threads on pretty much this basis - that women’s voices should be heard. It was a weird mirror world to the social justice trans-positive (mostly) spaces like Metafilter - Mumsnet TERFs see themselves as a beleaguered group, the few who remain that are willing to tell "the truth" to power, that kind of thing. From their POV they are fighting a rear-guard action against the takeover of feminism by a set of trans invaders & they’ve come up with a set of arguments that they use as leverage to convince people of the rightness of their worldview. It’s something of a closed belief system - internally it has a certain consistency (given some questionable premises) & it’s very effective at rejecting alternate viewpoints once you’re inside it; I presume this sort of thing is exactly what turned Graham LInehan into a TERF mouthpiece - if you start "listening to women" and the women you land on are a bunch of TERFs then once they've got you to buy in to their worldview it’s going to be hard for anyone else to undo that.

(If I hadn't also been simultaneously reading trans-positive sources like Elizabeth Sandifer on TERFy history in the U.S. maybe they would have convinced me too? I hope not, but worry that it’s possible - none of us are completely immune to this kind of thing.)
posted by pharm at 5:51 AM on October 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


You’d think that at this point in the discussion, one would be a little less eager to give all the benefits of all the doubts to TERFs and those who support them. They’re like fascists— they know how unpopular they’d be if they just stated their views so they generate plausible deniability in various forms. So no, I don’t know that some men are just trying to listen to some women, and end up listening to the wrong ones. The TERF world view is not that convincing unless you’re willing to disregard trans people’s humanity, and if you’re pleading ignorance from a position of power a year in, that’s not what accountability looks like.
posted by the list of suspects is just you at 6:05 AM on October 21, 2018 [7 favorites]


I’m telling you how they see themselves. That’s not "giving them the benefit of the doubt" - describing a thing does not mean agreeing with it.

You think that it’s not that convincing - I disagree: it’s a self-reinforcing belief system that /is/ convincing if you can be brought to the point where you buy into the premises. The point of TERF rhetoric is to get the mark to buy into those premises and become convinced that their worldview is the correct one and they’ve built up a set of feminist adjacent arguments to do exactly that. It’s somewhat cult like in that respect.

If you’re already convinced that trans women/men are women/men in every way that matters, then those arguments won’t work on you, but there are a ton of people out there who are only now finding themselves having to respond to trans issues one way or another & it’s those people that the TERF rhetoric is targetting.
posted by pharm at 7:05 AM on October 21, 2018


Mumsnet TERFs see themselves as a beleaguered group, the few who remain that are willing to tell "the truth" to power, that kind of thing. From their POV they are fighting a rear-guard action against the takeover of feminism by a set of trans invaders & they’ve come up with a set of arguments that they use as leverage to convince people of the rightness of their worldview.

Literally every abuser sees themselves as the victim.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:17 AM on October 21, 2018 [7 favorites]


Establishing a presumption that TERFs are acting in good faith in the absence of evidence rebutting that presumption, is giving them the benefit of the doubt. You could, alternatively, presume that TERFs are acting in bad faith unless they present clear and convincing evidence (or whatever other standard of proof) overcoming that presumption. Res ipsa loquitur - being a TERF is sufficient evidence in itself to establish a presumption that the person is a bad faith actor and to shift the burden of proof to them. This is quite literally what benefit of the doubt means - when in doubt, what is presumed and who bears the burden of proving the contrary?
posted by melissasaurus at 7:28 AM on October 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


Can you explain what bad faith means in this context? It’s pretty damn obvious that TERFs don’t believe that trans women fit within their definition of womanhood - that’s kind of the point. If I’m guilty of “giving them the benefit of the doubt” by suggesting that TERF arguments about trans women are built upon that premise, then yes: congratulations, you got me: I do indeed believe that TERF arguments are built upon that foundation and spring from it.

(I am kind of surprised that this would be a controversial statement though - if anyone wants to take this to memail then please do, otherwise I’ll drop this here.)
posted by pharm at 8:30 AM on October 21, 2018


For me the bad faith is their use of the kind of gender essentialism they robustly object to when applied to cis women (e.g. reducing people to their genitalia) and their endless prattling on about "science" when science has shown not only gender but also sex to be a spectrum, and has done for decades. It's dishonest and hypocritical, and yes, operates in bad faith.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:26 AM on October 21, 2018 [14 favorites]


Does belief preceded prejudice, though? To me that's where bad faith comes in - it pretends to be about belief while purposely eliding facts. It's more like a pyramid scheme than a belief system - people really do "believe" in Amway, but that doesn't mean that Amway itself is acting in good faith.

Also, almost everything that TERFs believe about trans women is what straight feminists said about lesbians, including the incredible belief that lesbians were "not women" for the purposes of feminism, in their case because they "did not rely on" men. These LERFs felt that lesbians "had power" that straight women did not because they supposedly lived independently of men. In retrospect this is obviously completely untrue in every aspect, but it had persuasive force at the time to people who willfully restricted their understanding of patriarchy to "things that hurt me personally". And in retrospect, it's obvious that this was motivated reasoning, that "I don't want to examine my discomfort about queer women and/or I think they're bad" was the a priori viewpoint, not "let's examine what 'woman' is under patriarchy".
posted by Frowner at 9:28 AM on October 21, 2018 [14 favorites]


Ray Blanchard, TERFs' favourite "scientist", tweeted that the rise in trans people coincided with the disappearance of goths and emos with a thoughtful "hmm..." on the end. This is the level of scientific judgement being used to underpin all of these arguments.
posted by Dysk at 9:47 AM on October 21, 2018 [14 favorites]


Link to said tweet.
posted by Dysk at 10:02 AM on October 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


Stopped reading that Twitter thread when he invoked Paglia. Holy moly.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:06 AM on October 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, should've mentioned that in a just world, Blanchard would have a content warning tattooed on his fucking forehead.
posted by Dysk at 10:08 AM on October 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


If I didn’t already think TERFs were, well, bigoted assholes, the nasty tweets that a trans friend has gotten about some stickers she created would have firmly established it anyway.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:54 PM on October 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


I take back everything I said earlier in this thread. That NYT article changes everything. This is a UK thread. I stand in defiant solidarity with my trans UK peers
posted by nikaspark at 3:33 PM on October 21, 2018


James Hamblin in The Atlantic: Against a Federal Registry of Genitals
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:34 PM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]




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