Christ, where to start…..
Trans ideology is based on the idea that human sexual dimorphism is not a thing, that the classification of male and female humans is in some way arbitrary, that the only meaningful concept with respect to whether someone is a man or a woman is their innate sense of ‘gender identity’, and that someone with a ‘gender-identity’ of ‘woman’ is therefore a woman in exactly the same way as someone ‘assigned female at birth’ is. This thought of the fundamental identity between trans and non-trans women is encapsulated in – and demand for universal acquiescence to – the slogan, ‘trans women are women.’ It is absolutely critical to understanding this debate to understand that the new form of trans-ideology – unlike the beliefs of many of the transsexual women that pre-date it – considers self-identification of gender identity to be the sole criterion of whether someone is a man or a woman. A man does not necessarily have to take cross sex hormones, or undergo sex reassignment surgery, to be considered a woman. He simply has to assert that he is one.
Leaving aside for a moment the staggering batshitness of the idea that the existence and recognition of human sexual dimorphism is somehow arbitrary. (And yeah, burble burble spectrum burble intersex burble burble clown fish burble burble bullshit). And the fact that the erasure of bodies, and specifically women’s bodies, is the most patriarchal-immortality-project-death-cult-on-crack idea I have seen in my entire life, there are such terrible political and practical implications of this that it fries my fucking brains.
Implications for women
1. If a woman is ‘whoever claims to be a woman’ the definition of woman is changed from ‘adult human female’ or (in feminist) ‘member of the reproductive sex class’ to a subjective state which has no objective, or socially agreed upon, definition. There are many practical and political implications of this, but even were there not, it seems to me evident that women have a legitimate right to have opinions about changing the definition of the class of people to which they belong.
Trans ideologues tend to claim here either that what they are proposing has no effect on women and pertains only to trans women. Which is false. Or they claim that the act of redefinition is merely descriptive. One of the most contentious redefinitions here is calling non-trans women ‘cis’ – which is purportedly ‘just the opposite of trans.’ However, according to trans ideology, the definition of ‘trans’ is ‘someone whose sex assigned at birth does not match their gender identity’ and ‘cis’, conversely, is ‘someone whose sex assigned at birth matches their gender identity.’ There is nothing ‘just descriptive’ about this. It demands both the acceptance that sex is ‘assigned’ rather than ‘observed and recorded,’ and the acceptance that a ‘gender identity’ is something we all have, despite the fact that it is a) a meaningless concept to many of us and b) one to which we have political objections (see point 7).
The concept of ‘cis’ also does political work to posit non-trans women as the ‘oppressors’ of trans women (‘cis-privilege’), and hence to nullify our claims that we are an oppressed class and have a legitimate right to exclude members of the oppressor class in certain instances (as, we will see, is recognized by the exemptions for single-sex space enshrined in the 2010 Equalities Act). The political stakes embedded in women accepting the designation ‘cis’ are pretty quickly manifested whenever a woman refuses it. (Self-determination and identification are a sacred right for trans women apparently, but no such right is granted to natal women – that, rather, is a hate-crime). A particularly notable example of this happened on Twitter recently, when the gay and lesbian icon and general national treasure Alison Moyet declared that she was not ‘cis’ and was relentlessly piled on and scolded for the temerity of thinking she had a right to self-define. I would bet my left-arm on the fact that were natal-women attempting to redefine the concept of ‘man’ and telling natal-men their interests in this were hate-speech, none of this would be happening, let alone directing public policy.
2. Changing the definition of woman to something that is subjective is an undermining of the class of women, and of women as a political category. Moreover, the requirement of trans activism is that ‘woman’ or words associated with ‘woman’ never be used in a manner which is ‘exclusive’ of trans women, or not ‘inclusive’ of trans men. The practical upshot of this is the demand to change much of the language traditionally used in the articulation of women’s issues so that it is – allegedly – ‘neutral.’ The Green Party has started calling us ‘non-men,’ pregnant women become ‘pregnant people,’ people who have periods become ‘menstruators,’ women become ‘uterus-havers.’ This is dehumanizing, othering, and an erasure of ‘woman’ which serves to conceal the structure and reasons for the historic oppression of the class of reproductive persons. Patriarchal oppression, sexism and misogyny, are not incidentally related to women’s biology, and are not simply unmotivated ‘bad attitudes’ towards women that can just be erased by changing our discourse, or by pretending that the material basis of women’s oppression does not exist. Erasing women as a political class is also an absolute gift for misogynist lefty dude-bros who have been waiting for the last however-many-years to have a reason to tell uppity feminist women to STFU whenever they make a claim about the oppression of women. Now they can just tell us we don’t exist (and are being super-oppressive by insisting we do) while burnishing their woke-halos. So, thanks for that.
3. Following from this is the fact that it is a central point of feminist analysis that women are oppressed on the basis of their membership of a sex-class, and because of male investment in appropriating and controlling women’s reproductive capacities as a resource. A resource, it should be underlined, which is absolutely necessary to the creation of human life. (The denial/erasure of the facts of human fecundity, and the mind-body dualism inherent in determining definitions of being solely on mental states is why I consider trans activism to be a patriarchal death-cult. The idea that minds/souls are separate and superior to our ‘flesh-house’ bodies is a denial of the conditions of life, and the oldest patriarchal fantasy in the world. It is, in fact, the foundational binary hierarchy of Western thought and culture. And unlike the distinction between male and female mammals, which is actually a thing, there is no clean distinction between minds and bodies, although all the people screaming ‘smash the binary’ don’t seem to have noticed that.)
If you cannot name sex, and you decide that naming sex is a hate-crime, you effectively make the feminist analysis of women’s oppression unsayable. Trans ideology has a tendency to claim that we don’t need an analysis of the sex-based oppression of women, and, as I argue here, their account of that is, let’s just say, unconvincing. At the same time, some of them have also been going around of late – it seems to be dawning that maybe after all there is a conflict between trans ideology and feminism – floating the idea that we made up the feminist analysis of patriarchy as a form of sex-based oppression that works through the social imposition of gender just for the purpose of oppressing them. (Fifty years before the fact? Yeah. Um). The utter narcissism of this – not to mention the time-travelling loopiness of it – is almost beyond comprehension. Hey, guess what people, maybe we invented feminist analysis for our own liberation, and maybe what you’re doing right now is trying to turn our analysis of our own oppression into hate speech, and maybe we have every right to tell you we’re not having it?
4. Following from this is the fact that a significant part of the analysis, documentation, and statistical evidencing of feminist analysis depends on the recording of sex. The most extreme forms of trans activism are demanding that there should be no statistical documentation of natal sex except for the purposes of medical records where it is relevant to a particular condition. This would, at a stroke, make it impossible to keep track of the sex-based oppression of women. We won’t be able to tell you about the pay-gap, or women’s political representation, or rape as a sex-based crime with any degree of authority. The crimes of natal males who identify as women will be recorded as women’s crimes. This has dramatic implications for the feminist analysis of male-pattern violence. There are important questions about whether male-born and socialized people stop committing crimes overwhelmingly characteristic of men simply because they say they are women. Trans activism is committed to the proposition that they do, because they have ‘female souls’ or some such and have always been women, and the demand for access to women’s space is predicated on this belief. No statistical evidence has been produced to support it. (You would think that if oversight was being exercised we would need more than ideological conviction before we started experimenting with women’s safety wouldn’t you?). If we stop recording natal sex in crime statistics, it will never be possible to settle this question. That is, if we are to give women confidence that trans women do not commit crimes characteristic of male-pattern violence then we need to record those crimes as the crimes of trans women. And sorry if that hurts your feelings. But male-pattern violence against women is a thing and I’m not about to start pretending it isn’t because its ideologically inconvenient. (We’re feminists, since when did we make it a point of political principle to not talk about violence against us because it hurts male-born people’s feelings?)
5. It is impossible to enshrine both gender identity and sex in law as protected characteristics because they are in conflict. I’m not big on either/or thinking – because it spatializes and excludes things that are often not spatialized and exclusive. But weirdly, when we are dealing with access to spaces, things are spatialized, and are exactly either/or. Either access to spaces is determined on the basis of sex (which for most of us in this fight, including the many transsexual women who are our allies, would include transitioned sex), or it’s determined on the basis of self-declared gender identity. In the last case, non-transitioned male-bodied people will have access to women’s space, and sex-based protected space for women will cease to exist. It’s really that simple.
This will – and is already starting to – affect toilets, girls and women’s changing rooms, rape crisis and drug-rehabilitation centres, prisons, sleeping compartments on trains, women’s sports etc. Many of which are places that contain partially undressed women, women asleep, and vulnerable women who have a high incidence of experiences of male violence. Trans advocates are fond of claiming that our fears about male violence are unfounded and hysterical, or that we think all trans women are perverts or predators. On this let’s note: a) As discussed above trans activists have not provided any statistical support for the assertion that self-identified trans women commit violence at a rate, or of a type, that differs from men. The fact that in just the last few weeks there has been a trans women convicted for trying to kill people with an axe, a trans women found sexually assaulting four women in a women’s prison, and a trans women suspended from work for flashing their penis, doesn’t, to say the very least, inspire a great deal of confidence. (And yes, Miss Madigan, we’re only interested in somebody assaulting women with their penis in a woman’s prisons because the perp was a trans women because were it not for your nutbag ideology there wouldn’t be people with penises in women’s prison you total dolt), b) If you find yourself in the constant position of telling feminist women that their analysis of male violence, and their desires to be protected from male violence, are unfounded and hysterical because y’know, women are violent too, you really should ask yourself i) why you’re using arguments from the MRA-playbook, and ii) whether there might be some reason we’re not so sure you’re such great feminist allies.
Trans activists latest line on this is that we are ‘conflating’ the proposed new Gender Recognition Act with the Equalities Act – because apparently laws exist in total isolation from each other and doing one thing with one law which affects the world will in no way impact another thing in the world, even though they’re in direct conflict. Anyway, this is all subterfuge and backtracking. Women’s Place UK has compiled a list of the recommendations made by trans activists groups regarding the removal of the single-sex space exemptions from the Equalities Act. The present crop of trans activists want access to women’s space as a matter of political priority because it serves the function of ‘validating’ their identities, and they seem to give not one shit about whether it opens women to danger, or reactivates the trauma many women carry from male violence. Let’s just be clear about this – women’s single sex space does not exist to validate anyone’s identity, it exists to protect women from male violence. Refusing to recognize this is a very clear instance of the divergence between women and trans women’s interests, and of the effort to prioritize trans women’s interests over women’s interests using ‘hate-speech’ as a bludgeon. Which brings us to…
6. This issue about trans activists interests in downplaying male violence is indicative of a more general problem about the coincidence, and conflicts, between trans women’s (or trans ideologues’) interests, and women’s interests. And this is of particular importance with respect to trans women’s participation in feminism and their capacity to represent women politically. There has been a ton of talk over the last five or so years about ‘trans inclusive’ and ‘trans exclusive’ feminism (lo, summon the EVIL TERF). To this I mostly want to say…feminism is not a fucking girl’s club. It’s a political movement, and it has political objectives, and established forms of political analysis. You are very very welcome – as many older generation trans women have done – to enter into feminism, and to ally yourself with our political projects. What you are not welcome to do is demand access to our political movement, and then demand that we change the core elements of our political project and analysis because you find it ‘alienating.’ (Rachel Dolezal joins the NAACP and then demands people stop talking about the history and effects of slavery because it ‘excludes’ trans-racial people. That’s actually the parallel. Just let that sink in).
We do a lot of work on reproductive justice, and female bodily autonomy, and reclaiming women’s bodies from the darkness and shame that patriarchy has cast them into for millennia, and you may be surprised to discover we don’t much fancy casting them back into that darkness because it unsettles your identity and you want to rub out the extreme political relevance of our bodies. It is not even vaguely reasonable to demand this – especially given that we have a long history of understanding why the erasure of embodiment is patriarchy’s ground-zero. (And like, it’s not an accident Mumsnet is gender critical central, people who have made and fed other people with their bodies are strangely resistant to the idea that bodies are an irrelevance). We also do a fuckton of work on male violence, which, as we saw above, trans activists have a specific interest in side-lining. The fact that Lily Madigan, in her purported capacity as a Labour Party Woman’s Officer, was interested only in shouting ‘transphobia’ at feminist’s concerned about women being sexually assaulted by male-bodied-people in prison, basically tells you the whole story about the non-coincidence of women’s and trans activists’ interests with respect to male violence. A trans women who is committed to the present formulation of trans ideology is not, therefore, capable of representing the political interests of natal women.
Implications for feminism and gender non-conforming people
7. In addition to the erasure of the material reality of sexual dimorphism, and the attempt to make analysis based on that reality unsayable, trans ideology is also committed to an essentialist theory of gender. Whether someone is a man or a woman is thought to inhere in their ‘gender identity,’ or someone’s ‘subjective sense of their own gender.’ In this regard trans ideology is a direct inversion of feminist thought. Feminism thinks sex is real and gender is a social construct which functions as a hierarchy in order to hold the structure of patriarchal oppression in place. Trans ideology think sex is a social construct and that gender identity is real. What the ‘realness’ of this identity consist of is undefined. There is the assertion that transgender people have the brains of one sex trapped in the body of another sex – and it should be clear why feminists would raise eyebrows about beliefs in blue and pink brains. There is also the issue that it is entirely unclear how anyone could have an ‘internal sense of their own gender’ which is not informed in any way by patriarchal gender roles, and which did not amount to the reification of patriarchal gender conventions.
Despite trans-ideologues protestations that there is a distinction between ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression,’ the un-pin-down-ability of ‘gender identity’ as a concept, and the inability to define it without reference to gender norms, means that in practice, trans identity frequently comes to be evidenced by gender non-conforming behaviour. As we will see in point 8, this is particularly the case in much of the testimony around the identification of transgender children. It is also evident in transing of dead gender non-conforming people – both gay and straight. (And people, you cannot both claim the criterion is an internal sense of gender evidenced by self-declaration and then simultaneously trans dead men who never self-identified as trans because they wore high-heels and eye-liner. To wit, back away from Prince).
There are several implications of this:
a) It serves to naturalize and reinforce patriarchal gender conformity. Trans ideology likes to claim it is challenging patriarchal gender norms. What it is actually doing is saying that everyone who does not conform to patriarchal gender norms is a different ‘type’ of person and putting them in a separate category. The boxes ‘(cisgender) man’ and ‘(cisgender) woman’ are thus left for the gender conforming – which is a further reason why we reject the notion of ‘cis.’ It does not shatter the gender conventions of the patriarchal definition of man to say that all men who manifest femininity are thereby not men. It is, in fact, a re-inscription of the definition of patriarchal masculinity as a repudiation of the feminine, and conservative as hell. That, under present conditions, some people find it intolerable to live in their socially prescribed role, and that they need to transition, is a fact which should be treated with compassion and social support. That is very different from reifying the basis of the underlying experience of sex dysphoria and turning it into a conservative political ideology.
b) Given that the gender conventions associated with patriarchal idea of woman are oppressive and frequently restrict our agency, voices, subjectivity, movement, and ability to occupy space or express our needs, the idea that non-trans women ‘identify’ with these conventions is troubling at best and offensive at worst.
c) The degree to which trans-identity implies medicalization is, hence, a medicalization of gender non-conformity. I’m not saying here that there are no ‘genuine’ trans people. But I am saying that by changing the criterion of being trans from sex dysphoria to gender identity – especially conjunct with the way many young people have been exposed to trans ideology through social media over recent years – that this does amount to medicalizing gender non-conformity, and that there are reasons to be worried about that. Which brings me to…
Implications for children, especially homosexual children, especially lesbian girls
8. Over the last 5 years there has been a dramatic increase in referrals to gender identity clinics. The impact of trans-ideology on clinical practice – and how this also affects social workers, teachers, mental health services, and other services that work with young people – has shifted from an approach based on ‘watchful waiting’ to one based on immediately affirming a child’s trans identity, and making moves towards transition, including the prescription of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to minors. Previous to this change, the clinical opinion – which is evidenced by several studies – was that most gender dysphoric children and teens would desist from cross sex identification by adulthood, and usually grow up to be gay and lesbian. The push to medicalize trans identifying children thus constitutes the medicalization of homosexual children, in a manner which, effectively, straightens them out. It is perhaps only a touch hyperbolic, therefore, that some members of the adult homosexual community are now calling this ‘gay eugenics.’ (And it is beyond ironic that the trans lobby is pushing for the refusal to immediately affirm trans-identity to be understood as ‘conversion therapy.’)
Beyond the utter conservatism of transing potentially homosexual children without due diligence, there are serious reasons to be concerned about this medicalization. Puberty blockers are potentially reversible, when used for only a small window of time in order to delay precocious puberty. Medical experts are, however, very clear, that when children are put on puberty blockers and then progress directly onto cross-sex hormones (as do almost all children who start puberty blockers) it destroys their fertility. It may well be the case that pre-teen children do not care about this outcome at the time they make the decision, but it seems evident children of 11 or 12 are not at a stage of life where they are able to make an informed decision that has such a far-reaching consequence. And this is before we even get to the thought of what is effectively the mass sterilization of homosexuals. In addition, we have no long-term longitudinal studies on the effects of these treatments. We are, in fact, experimenting on populations of children for ideological reasons (and arguably, also for financial ones). There are many known side-effects of long-term use of hormones, which, if possible, it would seem prudent to avoid other than in cases where it is completely necessary. There is also some early indications emerging now that for male children who begin transition at the start of puberty, their capacity for sexual pleasure is completely destroyed. I almost cannot bear to think about that. (But there is maybe something interesting going on there about how transformation into a ‘woman’ is so heavily tilted towards achieving the correct appearance, and hence, in later life, to giving pleasure to men, but doesn’t include the capacity to feel sexual pleasure oneself.)
9. The figures from the Tavistock suggest that of these increased referrals, a massively disproportionate number are FtM. The fact that until the recent increase in overall referrals there was no evidence of this imbalance is concerning. Were it the case that the recent de-stigmatization and increase in information about trans identity were simply making it possible for existent trans kids to come out of the closet and become their authentic selves, there would seem to be no reason why there would be such a sudden and stark increase in the number of female children seeking transition. Also, testimony from concerned parents, and also from some female desisters, is increasingly giving evidence of a new phenomenon know as Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria – in which a child who has previously shown no evidence of trans identity announces they are trans, often after spending a great deal of time on the internet, and often in association with other underlying issues such as depression, anxiety, social isolation, eating disorders, and especially, autism.
Feminists would also argue that it is imperative to also factor in that entering puberty in a patriarchy is, in itself, a traumatic experience for many girls – because it involves the experience of your body becoming a sexual object, and a target of violence which makes you vulnerable. This, along with the sexual abuse it often occasions, is a significant factor in many of the disorders that affect teenage girls, and it seems readily comprehensible to us why teenage girls would be attracted to the idea of being able to avoid this traumatizing process, and regain control of their bodies and the social treatment of their bodies, by presenting as male. We are not, however, convinced that medicalizing girls is an ideal solution to the trauma of patriarchal violence, especially under conditions in which providing them with alternative feminist analyses which could help them understand their distress, has been rendered a thought-crime.
The further factor which must be underlined here, is that, following from point 9, we have reason to believe that a substantial proportion of these girls are lesbians. The now dominant clinical and social practice of simply affirming trans identity, without allowing for exploration of underlying issues which might be contributing to that identification, constitutes, therefore, the mass sterilization of lesbians. And I cannot tell you how angry that makes me.
Implications for lesbians
10. Given the power imbalances between men and women it is the case that the gay rights movement has been historically weighted towards the representation of the interests of gay men. This tendency is now being enormously exacerbated by the fact that the gay rights movement has wedded itself to a political ideology that is invested in both refusing recognition to female people as a group, and in refusing to recognise that some people are exclusively same-sex attracted. The consequence of this is that many lesbians now feel that the LGBTQI+ movements are no longer their home, and will not defend their identity as women, their identity as lesbians and the political interests that follow from that. This was what was behind the recent protest at London Pride in which lesbian women disrupted the start of the march with banners proclaiming ‘Lesbian = Female Homosexual’ and ‘Transactivism erases Lesbians.’ Both of which are true statements.
One of the main issues here is that there has been a marked tendency over recent years for certain trans women – who were previously heterosexual males, and are hence, after changing their identification, still attracted to women – to redefine themselves as lesbians, even when they are still male bodied, and to suggest that lesbian women who will not accept them as sexual partners are guilty of discriminatory transphobia. This is, firstly, a ridiculous attempt to legislate people’s sexual choices through political ideology, and to make acts of sexual discrimination equivalent to acts of political discrimination. Secondly, it is, moreover, a refusal to recognise the existence of homosexuality as such which, in itself, amounts to a profound act of political erasure. And lastly, it absolutely reeks of the kind of rapey male sexual entitlement that patriarchy breeds into straight men. If you want to convince someone that you are a) a woman and b) a lesbian, I can assure you that attempting to shame, bully or otherwise coerce women into having sex with you is about the most ineffective method you could dream up in a million fucking years.