Gay Rights and Trans Rights – A Compare and Contrast

So, Momentum made a video huh?

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To be honest, it’s kind of a classic of its genre. Once more with feeling everyone: Trans rights are just like gay rights. Anyone who thinks otherwise is some nasty backwards morally bankrupt fuddy-duddy asshole who is going to look back on their objections to the current trans rights agenda with an enormous eggy face-full of shame. Remember peoples, we’re just telling you this for your own good. YOU DON’T WANT TO GO GETTING CAUGHT ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY DO YOU NOW????

This parallel between gay and trans rights has been leveraged for all its worth by the trans rights movement. It’s one Owen Jones has trotted out endlessly to justify his point-blank refusal to listen to anything anyone – particularly female anyones – have to say on the matter. It’s embedded in the way trans rights is now the centre of activity for many LGBTQI+ organizations, and has come, most notably, to dominate Stonewall’s campaign agenda. And it’s present, perhaps most potently, in the way objections to trans rights are immediately dismissed as bigotry and ‘transphobia’ – a thought-terminating lifting of the notion of discrimination-as-phobia taken straight from gay-rights discourse.

This strategy has been incredibly effective. One of the reasons the trans rights movement has been able to make such an historically unprecedented ascent from obscurity to wall-to-wall dominance is because if you glance at it running from twenty paces, it does look exactly like the gay rights movement. And, right now the whole world is bascially going to shit and a lot of people are too up-to-their-eyes in grind, precarity, sugar and anxiety to do anything but look at it running from twenty paces. People just want to be told what the good right-thinking progressive position is and then get on with the business of trying to get on with their business. Fair enough. But there’s a massive problem with all this. And that’s because the parallel between gay rights and trans rights is as superficial and insubstantial as that glossy sound-bite-stuffed Momentum video.

What I want to do here is think through why the concept of ‘discrimination-as-phobia’ worked for the gay rights movement, and why, despite superficial similarities, it doesn’t accurately capture what is at stake in the trans rights debate, and actually serves as a tool of political propaganda and obfuscation to push that agenda through. That is, I’m going to argue that accusations of ‘homophobia’ were a politically powerful and basically on-the-money part of gay rights discourse, while the use of ‘transphobia’ is an inaccurate parallel which grossly distorts public perceptions of the issues involved in the trans rights debate, and is doing so in the service of actually preventing that debate taking place.

So, to get down to it. The discourse of ‘homophobia’ fundamentally relies on the idea that gay-people are discriminated against on the basis of moral disgust. And inside that are two more interwoven ideas. One, that moral disgust is not a legitimate basis for telling people what not to do. (Correct) Especially not when your disgust-feels are causing serious harm to other people. (Also correct) And even more especially given that moral disgust is a nasty, vicious emotion that tends to shade very easily into violence (and I mean that in the old-fashioned sense of ‘literal violence’). Two, that because discrimination against homosexuality was entirely mediated by moral disgust, there was, in fact, no legitimate basis for that discrimination, and all objections were, effectively, moral disgust in drag. That is, the success of gay rights was substantially down to disseminating the idea that that were no good reasons for anyone to object to their agenda, and that everyone objecting was just a nasty evil bigot whose ideas shouldn’t be given any weight as part of democratic political debate.

This structure has basically been transferred wholesale to the concept of ‘transphobia.’ And it’s doing important work for the trans rights movement in several ways. First, the idea of the visceral virulence of moral disgust has been taken and amplified to the hundredth power. Our response to things that disgust us is to try and eradicate them, and I think this resonance of the ‘phobia’ designation is doing a lot to undergird trans activist’s claims that any objection to their demands amounts to a ‘denial of their existence,’ or an effort to ‘exclude’ them bordering on intent to exterminate. (It’s also a key element of the endlessly recycled claim that a bunch of mostly left-wing feminist women are in cahoots with people who’d blend seamlessly into the Westboro Baptist Church or some such nonsense. (It’s wall-to-wall self-hating lesbians over here, honest)).

Second, and we’ll deal with this in detail because it’s crucial. The use of the concept of ‘homophobia’ to dismiss objections to gay rights carried a ton of weight because the basis for a legitimate moral or political objection would be that something causes a harm, and in the case of gay rights there is a complete dearth of convincing arguments as to why homosexuality is a harm. It doesn’t harm homosexuals (whereas repressing it evidently does), and it doesn’t harm anyone else.[1] But this is precisely where the ‘homophobia-transphobia’ parallel falls completely apart. Because in the case of the trans rights agenda there is actually a load of potential harms we might reasonably be worried about. Indeed, there is a kind of dull thudding irony to the fact that the very week Momentum decide to remind us that we’re all scaremongering bigots on the wrong side of history it also became public knowledge that Karen White – a trans woman on remand for rape – had been sent to a women’s jail where they sexually assaulted four inmates. (Who could have predicted it?)

The key thing to understand about trans rights activism is that, unlike gay rights activism, it is not just a movement seeking to ensure that trans people are not discriminated against. It is, rather, a movement committed to a fundamental reconceptualization of the very idea of what makes someone a man or a woman. In theory, this equally affects both men and women, but in practice, almost all the social pressure is coming from trans women towards the idea of ‘woman’ and the rights of women. And that’s because, when it comes down to it, this whole thing is being driven by male people who want something female people have, and that something, is, in fact, our very existence. Moreover, it turns out – who knew? – that male people have the inclination and social power to exert extreme coercive pressure on female people, and to court the sympathy and support of other males when they do so. (It’s almost as if sex is a thing and that it has something to do with power after all mmmm?).

The central thought of the present form of trans rights activism is that whether someone is a man or a woman has nothing to do with human sexual dimorphism  – the patent existence of which they try, endlessly, to undermine  – and is determined instead by someone’s ‘gender identity,’  some kind of internal gender essence of subjective sense of one’s own gender that many of us simply don’t recognise as a description of our own being as men or women. This ideological manoeuvre is embedded inside the phrase ‘trans women are women,’ which looks, on the face of it, like a reasonable plea for trans women to be given the respect most people want to give them, but is actually used in political argument to deny all distinction between the existence and interests of male born people living as women and the existence and interests of female people. It is under the rubric of ‘trans women are women’ that Karen White ended up in a female jail, because there’s no possible difference between Karen White and any other woman right? That is, there are, in fact, many concerning implications of this definitional change. To not slow this down for those of you familiar with this, I’ve put a full discussion of the potential harms in an appendix to this essay. (I’d like to say it’s short but I’d be lying). But to enumerate briefly(ish):

  1. Changing the definition of woman without the consent of women. Specifically changing the definition from one based in biology to one based on gender identity. It should be uncontroversial that all groups of people have a right to define themselves, and this is particularly true when that definition describes an oppressed class of persons. It seems further true that it might be a really big problem when that definition is being changed by people born into the oppressor class, and in the interests of people born into the oppressor class. This definitional change then leads to:
  2. The erasure of women, both as a biological class, and as a political category. This is profoundly dehumanizing, and results, specifically, in injunctions against women naming their bodies, and the political implications of their bodies. This then leads to:
  3. Making the description of the sex-based nature of women’s oppression unsayable, that is, making the feminist analysis of the mechanism of women’s oppression a thought and hate-crime. Injunctions against the naming of sex also lead to:
  4. Legislative changes which would interfere with the recording of natal sex. This will have an impact on the collection of data used to track and describe the sex-based oppression of women, including women’s representation in public life, the pay-gap, and very significantly, crime statistics and the analysis of male violence.
  5. The denial that there is any meaningful difference between male people who identify as women and female people then leads to the demand that all services for female people be open to male born people who identify as women. The current form of trans rights activism considers identification rather than transition to be the criteria that determines whether someone is a trans woman, and the current consultation on the Gender Recognition Act is about whether self-declared identification rather than transition should be the basis for someone’s birth sex being reassigned. In practice this will make all women and girl’s single-sex spaces and services open to any male person who claims they are a woman. That this is wide-open for abuse by predatory men and paedophiles should be evident to anyone who has not pickled their brain in an enormous vat of trans ideology.
  6. The fact that it is, therefore, in the interests of the trans rights movement to consistently deny the reality of male violence against women and girls is, by itself, evidence of the fact that trans women who are committed to the present form of trans ideology are not capable of representing the political interests of women, and are not capable of acting politically with women in feminist solidarity. The election of trans women in political positions normally occupied by women is, therefore, a harm to the political interests of women.
  7. In addition to the problems that arise from the denial of the reality of human sexual dimorphism, trans ideology is also committed to a regressive theory of essentialist gender identity. This actually serves to reinforce patriarchal gender conformity by making all gender non-conforming people a different ‘class.’ Rather than viewing gender non-conformity as evidence of the fact that gender conformity is a patriarchal straightjacket, trans ideology thus propagates the idea that feminine men, and masculine women, are something other than their natal sex.
  8. The association between gender non-conformity and trans identity is of particular concern with regard to the medicalization of gender non-conforming and gay children. There are serious potential consequences of that medicalization, including sterility, effects on sexual function, and other side-effects of life-long use of cross-sex hormones. None of these effects have been subjected to thorough research. There was nothing in the gay rights movement which was remotely equivalent to the potential harms of this medicalization, and, moreover, these harms are potentially being directed largely at homosexuals.
  9. The potential unnecessary medicalization of children is of particular concern with respect to female children, because the massive increase in referrals to gender identity specialists since the beginning of this phase of trans rights advocacy has seen a hugely disproportionate referral of girls. This is worrying because there are reasons to believe a substantial proportion of these girls are lesbians, many are on the autistic spectrum, and there may also be issues thrown up by the trauma girls experience going through puberty in a patriarchy, especially sexual abuse and objectification.
  10. Because of the erasure of women in general and the views of feminist women in particular, the trans rights movement is creating particular issues for the recognition and respect of lesbian women within the historic gay rights movements. As we’ll discuss later this is massively compounded by the fact that trans rights is committed to the erasure of sex, and hence cannot recognise same-sex attraction. This is of particular issue for lesbians because they are coming under increasing pressure to accept male bodied people who identify as women as sexual partners, in opposition to their sexual orientation. Charmingly, the trans rights movement has taken to calling exclusively same-sex attracted women, “vagina fetishists.” Nice work guys.

So, to recap: Calling people ‘homophobic’ was used by the gay rights movement to dismiss all objections to their political agenda as illegitimate moral disgust. Calling people ‘transphobic’ is playing on the same trope – and is doing a hell of a lot of work to shut down all concerns about trans rights by painting them as sketchy hate-speech beyond the pale of legitimate democratic discourse. This is massive distortion of what is actually going on here, because, as I’ve indicated above, there is a far from insignificant number of very legitimate questions about potential harms of restructuring our core ideas about sex and gender. This maneuver is, however, an absolutely central plank of trans rights’ political strategy, because as those of you who have been out there trying to argue this know well enough, trans activists actually have no substantive answers to our questions and concerns. At all.

A few weeks ago, for example, I spent 3 hours ‘arguing’ with people from that great bastion of intersectional right-thinking Everyday Feminism about what we do about the fact that under fundamentalist self-ID procedures it will become de facto impossible to stop any man entering women’s space. I was called a transphobe and a racist and a bigot (of course), there was attempted emotional blackmail (‘you come onto my TL talking about rape when I’m a survivor you evil heartless witch’ (‘well in that case don’t use your considerably larger platform to RT the testimony of other survivors so you can mock and dismiss them’)), and I was told that I was insinuating the trans woman I was talking to had a dick (I wasn’t – wouldn’t – and they couldn’t show I had). It was a litany of name-calling, deflection, and emotional manipulation. There was not one attempt to sincerely address the problem at hand with something approximating thought (unless you count ‘my rapist had brown eyes so should we try and ban brown-eyed people?’ a thought), and not one acknowledgement that women might have a reasonable interest in this or could be motivated by anything other than pure baseless spite. And this, apparently, is how we’re making public policy that will affect at least half the population now.

The way that the accusation of ‘transphobia’ is being used to control and close down the debate around trans rights is also inherent in what we might call the ‘overreach’ of the definition of transphobia being put to work here. As I’ve said, ‘homophobia’ identifies, correctly I think, the fact that the discrimination against homosexuals, and especially gay men, was coming from moral disgust, and specifically, moral disgust about people’s sexual practices.[2] If ‘transphobia’ is an analogue of ‘homophobia’ – and to ground the claim that it’s an illegitimate basis for political argument is needs to be – then it should, also, refer to a form of moral disgust, and moreover, as in the case of violence against gay people, there should be an obvious causal link between that moral disgust, the discrimination you’re trying to combat, and the arguments people are using against you.

None of this stacks up with how ‘transphobia’ is being used politically. If there is moral disgust aimed at trans people – which there’s no reason to dispute – then it would, one imagine, inhere in responses to people who are visibly transgressing patriarchal conventions by exhibiting gender expression in conflict with their natal sex. The people we’d expect to display such disgust would then be the kind of people who, say, find femininity in men distressing, i.e. patriarchally invested people, and particularly, patriarchally invested men. And indeed, the vast majority of literal violence suffered by trans people is, unsurprisingly, directed at trans women by non-trans men.[3] However, what doesn’t seem at all evident is that the kind of concerns I listed above fall easily under the banner of ‘moral disgust.’ Nonetheless, accusations of ‘transphobia’ flow, overwhelmingly, from trans activists towards the speech of feminist women making just these kind of claims. Women who, importantly, are pretty much the last people on earth who’d be morally disgusted by someone transgressing patriarchal gender conventions,[4] and whose speech show no empirically verifiable relationship with the kind of patriarchal violence directed at trans women.[5] That is, accusations of transphobia are being directed against the group of people – women who have theoretical and political objections to the trans rights agenda – who are actually least likely to experience moral disgust over trans people’s gender expression, and this is being done for purely political reasons.

The politics of this becomes apparent when we look at the definition of ‘transphobia’ being circulated by trans advocacy organizations like Stonewall. As the inestimable Mr Jonathan Best has pointed out recently, ‘transphobia’ is, in fact, conceptualised by the trans rights movement as the “fear or dislike of someone based on the fact they are trans, including the denial/refusal to accept their gender identity.” (Emphasis added) That is, ‘transphobia’ is being politically leveraged to denote, not a form of illegitimate moral disgust, but any refusal to understand someone as the gender they identify as, and, given that trans ideology believes that gender identity determines sex, this definition seeks to mandate the view that trans women are female, and inscribe as hate speech the view that trans women are male people who identify as women. That is, this definition of ‘transphobia’ is seeking to enforce compliance with a deeply ideological prescription.

As I’ve already suggested, there’s nothing minor about this prescription. Trans rights politics is asking us to believe that human sexual dimorphism is not a thing, that men are women simply because they say they are, and is demanding a thoroughgoing social and political transformation on that basis. One which, to underline, because it really matters, amounts to the legal abolition of sex. That is, trans ideology is mandating nothing short of a fundamental rewriting of how we understand the world,[6] one which runs entirely counter to the everyday perceptions of everyone who hasn’t been indoctrinated by trans ideology (and even those that have will sometimes inadvertently let it slip that, lo, they do in fact perceive sexual dimorphism.) Let me just state something really fucking obvious that apparently needs to be stated: You cannot mandate how people perceive the world. That is totalitarian as all living fuck. You cannot demand people perceive the world in line with your ideology and that perceiving something that ALL humans perceive is actually the same as being a genocidal racist. (And it may surprise you ‘sex was invented by Western patriarchy and/or colonialism’ philosophical-sophisticates-cum-idiots that that sounds racist af to everyone who hasn’t marinated their brains in tumblrized queer-theory for 8 years. And let’s not even get onto the ahistoricism and anachronism involved).

What we have here then is a politically driven ideology that:

  1. Refuses to engage in any meaningful debate about any of the implications of the changes it is forcing through and attempts to shut down every question or objection by screaming ‘phobia’ and ‘hate-speech’ and ‘genocide’ and
  2. Is attempting to legislate people’s basic perceptions of the world, and recast the very fact of that perception as a form of illegitimate moral disgust overlaid with resonances of intent to harm or even eradicate.

It should be pretty evident that any political program based on attempting to reframe such a fundamental aspect of human perception is only going to succeed by using totalitarian methods. By relentlessly drilling its axioms into public consciousness and by making people who reject them pay a very high social price. The phrase ‘Orwellian’ is madly overused, but it documents the methods of trans activism almost to the letter. We have the profligate rewriting of history – including the transing of the gender-non-conforming dead (um, I thought it was self-ID?), the transing of the drag-queens who started the Stonewall riot (even though they didn’t, because that was a black lesbian called Stormé DeLarverie), and the absurd suggestion that literature or history about people cross-dressing for social, political, or economic reasons harms trans people because past cross-dressers were actually just expressing their ‘authentic selves’ (you fucking bigot Shakespeare). It’s only slight hyperbole to say that right now a lot of us feel like we’re stuck in Room 101 except O’Brien looks like Riley Dennis and the ‘2+2=5’ is ‘Sex does not exist’ and the rats are a bunch of trans activists threatening us with baby blue and pink baseball bats (and in case you want to wilfully misinterpret me, I’m not saying trans people are vermin, I’m using the exact reference of the thing that scares Winston shitless and is used to coerce him). We could go on pointing out the parallels all day, but really people, when you start doing shit like this, you really should be asking yourself whether you’re getting a touch Ministry of Truth-y.

trans women are women

To make the point plain. Some aspects of gay-rights politics did involve the use of non-peaceful protest. As also did parts of the women’s rights and Black civil rights movement. What none of them involved was the demand that people change their fundamental perceptual systems – as opposed to value judgements about things they perceived – and the attempt to enforce that perception using our culture’s most lucid analysis of ‘this-is-what-totalitarianism-looks-like.’ (Clue: it was never supposed to be a ‘how to’ guide). The great sickening irony of all of this of course – as many gay-men are now waking up to – is that the abolition of sex implies the abolition of sexual orientation. Trans ideology’s conviction that the truth of our ‘authentic selves,’ and of whether we are man or woman, is based only and exclusively on ‘gender identity’ necessitates the effort to deny that we fuck people’s bodies (at least in good part) on the basis of the sex of those bodies, and that sexual attraction is sexual, in both senses of the word. That is, the gay rights movement has wedded itself to an ideology that cannot actually recognise that homosexuality is a thing. Given the social and physical power imbalances, this doesn’t necessarily involve a clear and present danger to gay-men (although it is an ideological one, and for those of you who have seen it, and are pitching in, I hope you know we see and value you). For lesbians, this is a first order existential threat. Not only are they being erased along with the class of women in general, but their right to be exclusively attracted to female-bodied people is being consistently challenged by some of the most rapey, entitled misogynist bullying I have seen in my entire life. To amend a famous slogan: Lesbians don’t do dick. Get over it.

How the LGBTQ+ institutions – and public policy more widely – came to be colonized by a totalitarian political ideology that is hostile to the interests of women and is, in its fundaments, hostile to the very existence of homosexuals,[7] is a million dollar question.[8] I strongly suspect that ‘millions of dollars’ is not just a turn of phrase here – and I hope, over time, we will come to better understand the deluge of cash and the corporate plutocratic interests that must inevitably be behind such a breath-taking take-over of gay and lesbian politics. Right now, women, feminists, lesbians, gay and straight men, intersex people, concerned parents, and many non-ideologue trans women are fighting tooth and nail to stop the roll back of rights we thought had already been secured. Time’s arrow is not pointing forwards. Right side of history my arse.

Appendix —–>


The frankly out-of-control feetnotes:
[1] I guess maybe it harms people who don’t get to project their disgust-feels onto other people (yup, not sorry, go take your punitive super-ego and recalcitrant misogyny to therapy) and it maybe harms the patriarchal family (or maybe not, but even so, booooo-bloody-hooooo).
[2] Here, we should firstly note that it’s not at all clear to me that the discrimination directed at gay-men is of the same type as that directed at lesbians. The moral disgust aimed at gay-men derives, at base, from the patriarchal injunction against the penetrability of men. I wrote my PhD thesis on the metaphysics of penetration, so, I’ll try and stop myself from going off here on a tangential footnote that will take over this whole damn essay, but the basic point is this: patriarchal male subjectivity is grounded on the idea of invulnerability and impenetrability, and being fucked is hence to be dehumanized by being made-woman and/or made-object. (Hence all those irritating ‘Don’t bend over’ quips straight men make around gay men). That is, the visceral – and violent – form of homophobia directed against male homosexuals is, basically, a variant of patriarchal sexual misogyny most viciously exhibited by straight men. By contrast, the aversion to lesbianism (when it’s not being eroticised for the straight male gaze) is, I think, probably a lot more to do with men’s outrage about women not being sexually available to them and perhaps, not really being very interested in them at all.
[3] For a fuller discussion of the issues around the deaths of trans women please see here. Briefly, the vast majority of murders of trans women are committed by men against trans women, and principally against black trans women, many of whom are sex workers. Given the high rates of violence against women, people of colour, and prostitutes, this somewhat confounds the claim that this violence can be specifically attributed to ‘transphobia’ as opposed to the other reasons for violence against these groups.
[4] Speaking for myself I can say here that my sexual orientation is basically ‘pretty-straight-boy-sexual’ – aka, ‘Princesexual’ – that is, I find femininity in men the very opposite of disgusting. (And, while we’re here, can you please not trans them all? There’s precious few enough to go round as it is.) It is my firm belief that visceral aversion to gender non-conformity in men is not a common reaction, and indeed, would be an incoherent one, for most gender critical women. That said, it is the case that a small minority of feminist women have been known to mock trans women’s appearance. I won’t defend it, and I find it distasteful and downright cruel. But from where I’m standing, it comes from a horror some women feel about what they perceive as men adopting ‘woman’ as a costume. (Some feminist women also hate drag-queens for the same reason, which the screaming camp fag-hag in me also finds incomprehensible*).
The obvious parallel here is with critiques of minstrelsy, and it is one that certain radical feminists have explicitly made, particularly by claiming that trans women are performing ‘woman-face.’ I have two things to say here. One, that the accuracy of this parallel would depend on denying that sex-dysphoria is a thing, that there are trans women who desperately need and benefit from transition, and that they are deserving of all empathy and support in doing that. I’m not going to do that. Two – I feel that white women making this parallel is the kind of ‘appropriating Black people’s experience’ we should be wary of. This is an infinitely complex issue, and as I said in a footnote to my piece on Butler, I think it’s very damaging for us to rule out of court all drawing of parallels between race and gender as metaphysical-political systems. However, my instinctive sense here is that this is something that should be left for Black feminists and womanists to speak to.
Whatever our thoughts about the parallel between minstrelsy – or transracialism – and trans identity, what remains clear, however, is that feminist women’s dislike of the appropriation of women-as-costume bears no empirically verifiable relationship to patriarchal male violence against trans women. Moreover, while I might not experience or endorse that perception myself, I do also think it’s worth asking whether women’s experience of aversion about their identity being appropriated can be neatly collapsed into an idea of ‘completely illegitimate moral disgust.’
*A short digression on drag-queens. It’s probably overstating the case to say I find some women’s aversion to drag queens incomprehensible, but I don’t share the aesthetic response, and I don’t really buy the argument. My take on drag is  much more – oh the horror – Butlerian. It doesn’t look or feel like appropriation to me, it looks like performative destabilising. Taking things – like gender conventions – and theatrically exaggerating them is a way of delineating their artifice. Which is also why the current appropriation/ erasure of drag-queens by the trans lobby is a problem, and a very revealing one. Trans ideology actually cannot tolerate the performance of gender as artifice, because it has such an essentialized notion of gender. Soon – and this is already starting to happen – they will start saying that people who are not trans cannot be gender non-conforming, because it threatens their identity. And I think they’re going to get a great big fuck right off to that.
[5] Trans advocates tend to respond here that the speech of feminist women is responsible for creating a climate which is hostile to trans people and is, hence, implicated in their mental and physical vulnerability. To this first it should be pointed out the incredible impact of the trans rights movement on public policy is nothing if evidence of the lack of power of feminist speech to set political agendas or determine popular consciousness, and the claim that such speech is the cause of actual discrimination by patriarchally invested people against trans people is basically laughable. That said, I do fully accept that the constant propaganda used by the trans rights movement to inculcate the idea that feminist women hate young trans and gender non-conforming people and wish to do them harm can’t be good for their mental health. Given that our young people have statistically the worst mental health of any generation in living memory, I consider the instrumentalization of this crisis by the trans rights movement in order to create a generation of political foot-soldiers to target feminist women to be an act of exploitative human rights abuse.
[6] This move in some sense actually turns on a slippage between the two meanings of ‘to discriminate.’ Trans ideology is wedded to the notion that the negative treatment or value attributed to trans people (i.e. discrimination in the political sense) resides in the very act of making a distinction between male and female people (i.e. discrimination in the perceptual sense). The idea that we can recognize difference perceptually and not attribute hierarchical value is entirely incomprehensible to them. Which is also effectively the same as the non-recognition of the sex (biological difference and its perception)/gender (value culturally attributed on the basis of sex) distinction. Hence, every time we say we believe in biological sex, they hear (or claim to hear) us say that we want to uphold the gender binary. Then they tell us because we want to uphold the gender binary we aren’t feminists. And we all smash our heads repeatedly into the desk.
[7] Whether to use the word ‘homophobic’ here is a complicated question. What trans activists are presently directing at homosexuals – and almost entirely at lesbians tbh (male socialization and entitlement? Nah, that’s TERF-talk) – isn’t really ‘moral disgust,’ it’s a type of narcissistic rage indistinguishable from the rage of Incels. Sorry people, but other people not wanting to fuck you is not a human rights violation. I thought we’d been through this. (And to the Laurie Pennys – I want to say that I a) respect the shit out of the rest of your politics and writing and b) know that you have deep personal investments here, but we are not making this up). With respect to the transing of a population of kids who are likely mostly homosexual, the issue is more complex. That clearly plays on patriarchal gender stereotypes, and also then, homophobia directed at gender non-conforming children. It seems likely that parents most inclined to buy the narrative would be those that were sexist and/or homophobic, and it seems also likely that parents most horrified by the idea of their children being medicalized and sterilized for gender non-conformity and/or homosexuality are those that are not sexist and/or homophobic. (That would be those evil terrible parents that trans ideologues claim are abusing their children because good parenting apparently now means affirming whatever your child says no matter how potentially damaging you think it might be (and the fact that that makes a lot of medicalized money is just incidental I’m sure.))
[8] There’s something worth pointing to here which may – if we factor out the actual millions of dollars probably at work here – tell us something about why the gay rights movement was so susceptible to being colonized by a movement that is, in fundamental respects, inimical to its original intent. That is, there is one substantive similarity between gay rights and trans rights, and that is that both of them deal with a form of discrimination which arises as an adjunct to patriarchal oppression. As I’ve explained elsewhere, oppression, as opposed to discrimination, arises from conditions of material exploitation of one class by another. Discrimination, by contrast, may arise from lack of attention to the needs of particular groups (as in the case of access to buildings for people with mobility issues for e.g.), or it may be a set of attitudes which arise in association with a system of structural oppression, as in the case of discrimination against gender non-conforming people, or people who challenge dominant heteronormative conceptions of sexuality. What this meant in practice for the gay-rights movement was that it was free to focus on the set of negative attitudes which impacted the freedom of homosexual people, without necessarily embedding that in a deep analysis of the material oppression from which that arose. When the trans rights movement came along leveraging an idea of discrimination-as-phobia, that is, the need to remove a set of negative attitudes, this obviously resonated with many people who had done gay rights advocacy. Gay-rights has been more-or-less just about getting rid of people’s bigotry and TA-DAH!!! SPARKLES. (And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE sparkles).  However, what wasn’t picked up then was that the trans rights movement was doing a hell of a lot more than just trying to get rid of bigotry, and that the redefinitions they were mandating actually ran headlong into the concepts women need to describe, monitor and resist their own oppression. Because gay rights advocacy hadn’t been that firmly embedded in an deep analysis of patriarchy, when trans rights came along suggesting it was super-rad to erase the materiality of people’s (by which I mean, women’s) bodies, a lot of alarm bells that should have started wildly screeching, didn’t.
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39 comments

    1. I’m approving this comment because it’s a pretty classic example of the level of response we get to our arguments, viz. ‘You’re right-wing/a Nazi/a TERF/a white supremacist/a bigot/a conservative Christian etc etc etc.’ That is, the trans rights position is very unwilling to actually engage with the substance of any of the concerns raised, preferring instead to dismiss them using ad hominem attacks that seek to undermine the legitimacy of our concerns and which rely heavily on a set of dubious analogies. In this piece I’ve focused on the parallel between homophobia and transphobia and the way it falsely analogises feminist, and often lesbian, women’s critique with people who took a conservative position on gay rights, but the same is true of the parallels made between us and people who would defend white supremacism.

      To wit: Thanks for making my point so effectively for me.

      1. Well said! Great piece. Such a predictable comment you could set your watch by it. I hear the Nazis also think the sky is blue…

      2. Oh spare me your cavilling. I’d openly debate you anytime without your nervous reliance on an ‘approve key’. My point stands: you, the DUP, and UKIP share exactly the same line here. I’d be ashamed if I were you.

      1. 99% is overstated. Probably 80%. But are you really sure you want to rely on that opinion, seeing as it is also quite against same-sex marriage and the like?

      2. Look up the laws on this matter as the currently are in Ireland and Canada. You’ll enjoy the intellectual exercise that comes with thinking in specifics.

      3. From the ongoing discussion here, and also from the larger political picture, it appears that for the RadFems, all of women’s rights are those that revolve around segregation from males.

        Conservatives want male-female segregation for their own reasons. These reasons, actually, also do include protection of women. Most traditional conservatives (unlike the alt-right or incel crowd) do not hate women, they see women as weak vessels in need of protection.

        It appears that for some RadFems, while they not share the weaker vessel rhetoric, women are also *primarily* in need of protection by segregation. Otherwise, I can’t explain the fact that they kept silent about abortion in Northern Ireland for all this time – until recently someone suggested enabling abortion without writing the word “women” in the law, then Kathleen Stock promptly reacted. Somehow, delineating abortion as specifically a woman’s right is more important as having it at all.

        It is a very particular view of women’s rights. In more mainstream views, equality and integration is the goal, and there can be affirmative measures (like those all-women shortlists) as temporary ways to achieve that goal. If you view the AWS that way, addition of one trans woman, among sixty in total, would not be a huge issue, and if it were an issue at all, the obvious fix is expanding the list to sixty-one.

        But for RadFems, apparently, segregation is a *principle* to defend. “Sex-based rights”, a concept that women have certain rights specifically as women that others should not have, is a principle too, in direct contradiction to the liberal position that rights pertain to the human as such.

        The AWS then becomes a point of principle too, something that logically seems to lead to a separate Parliament for women.

        Of course, my analysis might be wrong. But I see no other ways to explain:

        – The lack of attention to abortion (and marriage) in Northern Ireland, promptly changed when someone used a gender-neutral formula

        – The protests about TopShop and M&S desegregating changing rooms that already have cubicles. This is especially important for TopShop, which is a chain selling traditionally feminine clothing only, and thus (in shops not shared with TopMan) having only one set of cubicles. Not only trans women, but also GNC men, whom the RadFems claim to support, are excluded from TopShop unless the cubicles are all-sex.

        – And, yes, the willingness to collaborate with conservatives.

      4. Would you not find it problematic to unite with individuals who have an avowedly anti-woman agenda, for the purpose of a single issue? The same argument they use about medical transitioning in children is the same argument to preclude girls from having access to abortion. If you want photo opportunities with climate-change deniers and homophobes, for the expediency of doing away with the trans agenda — in this time of rising fascism … you’ll be up to your eyeballs in hemlock.

      5. I would find it problematic, of course. (We’re on the same side, perhaps not the same exact point but the same side, of this one).

        However, I have to be honest. I stood with literal Stalinists – I mean, I can point you to the organizer’s Facebook page and he’ll admit to being a Stalinist. This was over “hands off Syria”. The reason was that I see the current realistic danger of a Stalinist resurgence as minimal while I see the current realistic danger of a major war, specifically because of military adventurism of NATO countries, as substantial. So in my worldview a tactical alliance with Stalinists makes sense.

        By analogy, in a worldview where loss of clear society-wide segregation between biological male and female is seen as a danger much more significant than all of Trump, Brexit, abortion bans, and an end to some LGB rights, alliances between feminist-identified people and far-right conservatives would make sense.

        It is only “some LGB rights” because most conservatives do support a degree of LGB rights now. John McCain very notably flipped on the issue around 2013. In general, “social conservative” does mean no *further* change and rolling back *some* things that are seen as overreaching at the moment. This is how radical feminists can find themselves socially conservative – they can support most *past* change, while believing that *current* direction of change must be resisted. This happens now and happened before in the Sex Wars. Or one could be really academic and use a more appropriate, but forgotten label for all of this – “Social Purity”, from the Prohibition-time movement that many First Wavers supported.

        (Side note: if we go by Social Purity logic we should expect emergence of an outright pro-life strand of radical feminism. For now, all we see is dismissal of abortion issues – notably an open statement by Venice Allan about it being “convenient to men” or something – but not a principled pro-life position).

        Of course, to both of us, a worldview where “erasure of sex” is more important than all of the dangers from the Right is totally bizarre. And yes, it does, at its logical end, produce Posie Parker, who basically joined the Right and campaigned for Tommy Robinson. But… such views can happen. “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. In a world where Stalin allied with Hitler for two years and Churchill praised Mussolini, such strange views are par for the course 😦 And with people who do not fall into the wave of outright hate – such as this blog’s owner – I think these views should be opposed with rigorous analysis more than shouts.

        Some people even snap out of it. You would know, wouldn’t you?

    2. I never said anything about Nazis. I named the parties with which you share ideological underpinnings. And you have no answer for it. None.

  1. “the trans rights movement was doing a hell of a lot more than just trying to get rid of bigotry, and that the redefinitions they were mandating actually ran headlong into the concepts women need to describe, monitor and resist their own oppression.”

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. The whole thing is brilliant, out of control feetnotes and everything.

    It’s about time we started shouting about the difference between defining our own identities and imposing definitions on others.

    1. Trans people want to define THEIR OWN identities. You never lose your identity just because someone else gets the same term – as became clear with same-sex marriage that did not lead to traditional married couples losing their identity.

  2. You are grossly misrepresenting the gay rights debate. From Ireland, where this debate was very active just three years ago in the marriage referendum, it is quite evident.

    It was not just about people being left alone, well in the 60s maybe it was. But decriminalization was granted by the very early 21st century. And nor was it only about non-discrimination after that. It was, instead, a battle for reconceptualization of the family. a concept that existed for millennia. The family was always seen as a biological unit of a man and a woman, or sometimes a man and several women, united for bearing and rearing children. It defined things such as “marriage”, “parenthood”.

    The gay rights movement succeeded, in the West, in redefining these things away from biology and onto personal identity. And this did have a material effect on the legal position of other people, notably children and their biological parents. An extreme example of the conflict of rights was the Miller v Jenkins case, where the biological mother, from her point of view, was forced to flee the country to avoid surrendering her child to an unrelated woman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller_v._Jenkins

    Moreover, the claim of homophobia was used against people objecting to this reconceptualization. A high-profile example was Brendan Eich, the briefly-CEO of Mozilla, who was pushed out after it surfaced that he made a private donation to California Prop 8 a few years before.

    In my view, the “gay” reconceptualization of family and the “trans” reconceptualization of social significance of sex (formulating it like this to avoid a debate on the meaning of “gender”) are closely related. One can oppose both or support both, and from a Western liberal viewpoint I think it makes more sense to support both.

    Both of them are saying that we no longer want to have social institutions and classifications based strictly on biology, instead we want to give primacy to personal identity. even though it will align with biology in the majority of cases. The Obergefell decision framed this as a fundamental “right to choice in intimate identity”. Indeed, the primary social significance of sex is reproduction; if we withdraw the link of sex to social structures existing for this primary purposes, how does keeping other links of sex to social structures make fundamental sense?

    In both changes – or perhaps it’s merely one change, the end of the primacy of sexual dimorphism in society? – some existing established rights are affected and discussions around this happen. In both cases claims of phobia are directed at all those opposed. One could argue that in both cases such claims are overused. But the parallel is clear anyway.

    Another claim that you make and that is outright wrong is that the change in the “definition of women” is being made “by people born into the oppressor class” [male people]. In fact, natal women are at the forefront of the changes in many places. Like Ruth Hunt in the UK. In Ireland, the *main* drivers behind self-ID, adopted in 2015, were Senator Katherine Zappone (a lesbian) and Senator Ivana Bacik (self-identified radical feminist and also one of the main drivers for the Nordic Model, proposed around the same time, adopted in 2017). The person promulgating the law was Minister Frances Fitzgerald, another natal woman.

    Radical feminists do not actually speak for all women.

    Lastly, you mention an “endlessly recycled claim that a bunch of mostly left-wing feminist women are in cahoots with people who’d blend seamlessly into the Westboro Baptist Church or some such nonsense”. The claim is clearly true. Anti-trans feminist-identified activists have promoted the works of Paul McHugh. Ryan Anderson, Paul Dirks, and recently joined in criticising a Australian university for deplatforming Quentin van Meter (leader of the “American College of Pediatricians”, which the SPLC lists as a hate group and which was originally formed as anti-gay). The quote the Federalist and some get published there. Julie Bindel writes for the actual Daily Mail!

    (This is long, and a version missing a piece was posted first by mistake – my apologies)

    1. 1. I mention, in the footnotes, the issue of the effect on the family. In reference to your claim that a redefinition of sexual dimorphism and a redefinition of the family are analogous, because they both imply a change from biology to identity, I’m going to say, the family is a social institution and the sexual dimorphism of humans is not. (You can’t elide that by running ‘social institutions and classifications’ together as if they are of the same kind. They’re not). As I say, I accept that some people are going to think that changing the definition and social practice of the family away from a heteronormative/patriarchal one is going to be a harm. I’m a feminist, so I don’t think it’s a harm, and may well be a good thing – because patriarchal families are sometimes damaging for women, and the constituent of a family as far as I’m concerned is care, not biology. So, in short, I don’t accept your claim that both are seeking to make the same kind of transformation. One is a change to a social institution which can reasonably be open to transformation, and one is a change to a basic natural fact about human being which is not open to change, and attempting to change it involves coercing people’s perception and erasing the recognition of the basis of women’s oppression (which will still be the basis of our oppression whether it is named or not).

      2. The change in the definition is in the interests of male people who identify as women, and a good deal of the coercive pressure is coming from male people who identify as women. There are some women who are on board with that agenda, as there are always women who are on board with and will defend male interests. So what? It is irrelevant to whose interests are driving this, and in whose interests it works.

      3. The claim that left-wing women are right wing women is not “clearly true,” and the aim of this claim is to discredit the legitimacy of our critiques in the minds of left-wing people. It is true that right wing people are also concerned about the abolition of sex, but the reason for them being concerned about it are very different from our reasons. You may as well say both the KKK and the NAACP are politically aligned because both of them have investments in recognising the social and political reality of race. The reason why some of us presently publish in the right-wing press is because the left wing press will not touch this issue with a ten-foot pole due to the current toxicity of the debate, as I’m sure you actually well know. Yeah, Julie Bindel is right wing. Very good.

      1. Also, to add, it’s not merely, or even, that the trans rights movement is reconceptualizing the “social significance of sex.” They are denying in fact a) that it exists, and b) that it is politically important. Given that sex is basically about human reproduction, the transformation of the ‘social significance of sex’ can only be changed by a thorough-going restructuring of how we manage the business of reproduction, and how the nature of women’s necessary labour is played out socially. It would also require a complete dismantling of the symbolic structure of patriarchy and the existing set of power relations between male and female persons. Trans rights is not proposing any kind of fundamental restructuring of these things. It merely is mandating that we pretend they don’t exist. That is it is mandating that we pretend the axis of women’s oppression does not exist while it still does. As I keep saying, if they want to get rid of patriarchy first, then we’ll happily talk about sex not mattering. Until then, we’re keeping the words to describe our oppression.

      2. 1. So you see that in both cases there is social change beyond people being left alone and some people see harm there, the difference is your own analysis of whether said harm exists.

        As for “fact vs social institution”. Skin colour is a fact, an accident of biology. But “race” is a social institution. In a similar way, biological sex at birth (in its bimodal, not really binary, variety) is a fact, an accident of biology. But social classification based on sex is a social institution.

        Biology does not require us to have an entire set of different linguistic forms to address or refer to persons of different birth biological sex, any more that it required “Mister” to be applicable to white people only. The latter thing has changed, moving to a universal basis, we want to change the former thing, moving it to a personal choice basis (universal would be fine too, but language won’t change so quickly, though formalization of the singular “they” is an important aim – and already achieved in Sweden with “hen”. Side note: yes. the Sweden of Swedish Model fame; Bindel’s claim of a link between two issues is false).

        None of the social trappings of “sex” are required by biology. Biology tells us how reproduction works; we were not yet able to change that technologically (something that I am openly in favour of, although I have no way of knowing whether trans women giving birth or gestation outside the human body will be achieved first). But it tells us exactly nothing else, and certainly nothing about how we use language or how, and whether, we segregate any spaces. This is entirely social. And as anything social, it is open to change; though whether you believe this particular change is good or bad (as with the family) is another matter entirely.

        (You might notice I am purposefully avoiding “gender”. This is because I hold to the WHO definition of “gender” and you likely hold to the radical feminist definition. They are very different, as the radfem definition limits “gender” only to the oppressive parts).

        2. Many people born female, including both natal women and trans men, believe otherwise regarding their own interests.. Your claim that you speak for the interests of women over the opinions of many women is an ideological claim, one that many people reject. (I also think it is the Leninist doctrine of Vanguardism, and really need to write up an explanation, with quotes, of what Vanguardism is).

        Of course it’s normal that people with some ideologies will find some proposed social changes harmful. And far be it from me to say “all ideology is bad”; I know full well that liberalism, to which I generally hold, is also an ideology.

        However, if, for a moment, we do NOT consider segregation *the* key female interest, we can clearly show where interests of natal women and trans people work together in actual policy. Notably:

        – The notion of maximum bodily autonomy (there is a reason many trans people campaigned for abortion in Ireland)

        – The notion of freedom of “gender expression” (notably, a model pro-trans law, that of New York, prohibits *any* sex or gender specific dress or grooming requirements – that’s the heel problem solves once and forever).

        3. The term “in cahoots” does not mean “are the same as”, it means “are allied with”. The claim, which is clearly backed by facts, is not that “left-wing women are right-wing”, but that these women have entered into an alliance with right-wingers. I sometimes like to call this current conflict “War of the Second Alliance” because the first alliance, for this purpose, was the Sex Wars of the 80s, what with some feminists participating in the Meese Commission, the moral outrage at BDSM practices among lesbians, etc. But really, the tendency among some feminists to seek socially conservative restrictions can be traced even earlier, with many First Wavers supporting Prohibition.

        Perhaps some of the confusion stems from the limited notion of left and right wings. It is perfectly possible to be socialist *and* socially conservative. I grew up in the USSR and it’s exactly how the place worked. And yes, I do say that at this point, people who call themselves gender-critical are socially conservative (which soed NOT make them blaring capitalists!)

  3. ramendik, the OP has already covered this. As she says, for sex to become politically irrelevant patriarchy would first have to be eradicated.

    Trans activists have not, and do not plan to eradicate patriarchy. Instead they wish to mandate that sex differences do not exist and should have no political significance.

    Since patriarchy in modern industrial societies largely operates tacitly rather than via overt legal discrimination, it is women who fight patriarchy who will be most disadvantaged by this since the very act of naming systematic, hidden discrimination will be forbidden- and female only spaces will be abolished. Including the right to organise on that basis.

    Patriarchal discrimination, since it requires no overt naming of biological sex will continue – the rapes will continue, the assaults will continue, the impugning of women’s credibility in the legal system will continue, the wage discrimination will continue, the unequal distribution of domestic work will continue, the greater rates of mental illness and body hatred among women will continue – the only thing that will be hindered are feminist efforts to combat these things because they will become un nameable as the result of patriarchal oppression of women by men.

    Trans activists like to deny established facts, such as the fact that men who have transitioned still commit crimes in a similar pattern to men who have not and are therefore (at least) just as dangerous to women as other men.

    https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/comments?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0016885

    Or the fact that 41% of transgender inmates in the UK are sex offenders, a higher rate than the general male population.

    https://fairplayforwomen.com/transgender-prisoners/

    All the measures you call ‘segregation’ exist both to protect women from male sexual predation and to rectify long standing political, social and economic oppression. In reality this is what will be dismantled if TRAs get their way. Patriarchy will not only go on unhindered but will be strengthened by this.

    How can this possibly be in the interests of women?

    If data collection is altered to reflect gender identity rather than sex, what will we see? Strange moral handwringing over the massive increase in female sex offenders? Rather like an article I saw once about a woman who was raped by her trans ex partner that was calling it an example of the rare female on female rape that never gets talked about (unfortunately I can’t find it right now).

    How can anyone say women will benefit from this denial of reality? The fact that men oppress women, attack women, whether they identify as women or not, will become un-sayable. Already all the old misogynist tropes which attack women’s credibility (she’s hysterical, she’s misguided, she’s lying because she has an agenda) are being trotted out by so-called feminists when lesbians and other women report the misogyny they have faced from men who identify as women.

    To say the transgender movement and feminist movement are aligned because they both support gender non conformity is false.

    Gender non conformity is where you can have whatever personality you want, whatever hobbies, career and life you want, regardless of what you are biologically. Transgenderism is the opposite of that. It says, if your hobbies, personality etc., don’t correspond to the stereotype for your sex, then you must legally change it, perhaps even physically change it, and force everyone to go along with you. These are actually opposite things.

    Maximum bodily autonomy – feminists have never been in favour of a bodily autonomy that is based on modifying your body to relieve self hatred and mental anguish. Transgender body modifications, which involve removing healthy body parts, sterilisation, dangerous hormone blockers and untested lifelong hormone treatments, are completely different from the right to abortion which is a reproductive right and concerns the freedom to choose when to have children. It has more in common with women who get plastic surgery because they have extreme hatred for the way their bodies look – which feminists in general (except the most liberal) do not support.

    The reality is that it is perfectly possible for people to act against their own interest. You say you disagree on what women’s interests are but I have yet to hear a convincing argument from you as to why changing the legal definition of woman from a biological one to a self-declared one will benefit women.

    1. Our ideologies differ and this won’t be resolved here. You hold to a class analysis of patriarchy, which to my eye is a mirror reflection of the old “battle of the sexes” notion with a significant influence from Lenin (and I don’t like Lenin, having grown up in late USSR). I hold to a liberal analysis of oppression as a string of choices backed/steered by social systems, which to your eye is probably equally suspect.

      So of course our views of “dismantling the patriarchy” are going to be different. I would seek an evolutionary undermining of social structures upholding and promoting inequality. Do I even have to explain why, in this analysis, reduction of social visibility of sex leads to lessening the social conditioning towards oppressive behaviour? To put it in very simple terms, if boys are taught to view the sex distinction as insignificant (an accident of biology like the colour of one’s eyes), they will lack the strong structure in their mind to make discriminative choices; conversely; girls taught the same will not be conditioned to submit to oppressive actions. And yeah, this won’t happen on day one of introducing a “SOGI” hour into their school. We’re not talking revolution here, but gradual change; the aim is not to “abolish gender” but to make gender obsolete.

      (I am carefully avoiding talking for the entire political side here. There’s quite a palette of views really. For example, my proposition that sex-segregated state-funded primary and secondary schools – K-12 in American parlance – should be discouraged, if not prohibited, is not shared by some trans people I know).

      But *of course* you will not accept my approach to “dismantling the patriarchy” – and conversely I probably won’t accept yours. And *of course* we will see different things as politically significant. This is how ideological difference works.

      But we’re not having a revolution, anyway. And so no need for a civil war over ideology. Instead, we have realistic sets of policies proposed by different sides. We have a choice between socially conservative policies and liberal ones.

      “Legal definition of woman” does not live in a vacuum. With fixed sex classes, come greater differences enforced upon those classes. Every single time. If a system highlights a difference it will enforce and mandate it more and more, and with that, too, come restrictions on LGB, as “who loves whom” becomes a part of sex difference.

      And, in fact, many feminist-identified anti-trans activists somehow see this as a lesser evil? Otherwise why are they promoting Ryan Anderson and Quentin van Meter?

      On the other hand, with a diluted “legal definition of woman”, prohibitions on enforcement of differences also come. You get bans on sex-specific dress codes and behaviour standards in regulated places. You get robust anti-discrimination protections – it is quite possible to have them with self-ID, because they work on perception anyway (and in the UK, they work for racem and race there is self-ID). You get prohibitions of misogynistic language at work, though, yes, you also have to follow preferred pronouns at work.

      And no, organizing over whatever you want to organize over is NOT prohibited. Anti-discrimination law simply does not apply to political organizing. Yes, in this view, birth sex is a mere accident of biology. But nobody is prohibiting you from having a private noncommercial meeting exclusive to someone with an accident of biology, be it natal female or natural redheads.

      “Impugning of women’s credibility in the legal system will continue” is also evidently false as their sex will simply be receding from the picture. The tendency not to trust *rape complainants* is a different issue, but it applies to all victims of rape and sexual assault (the border between these crimes is a matter of wholly separate debate).

      As for gender non-conformance. I understand your philosophical contention that transgenderism is opposite to gender non-conformance. I could dispute it, but this would involve analysing the definition of “gender” – and our definitions of “gender” are irreconcilably different (WHO for me, radical feminist fr you), my argument will fall flat on that. Anyway we are, again, looking at real policies, not philosophy. And all pro-trans policies in the modern West also support gender non-conformance.

      Here is, I think, a *model* pro-trans policy. You can review it to see how it gives women strong protections against any enforcement of stereotypes or of restrictive dress and behaviour codes. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/legal-guidances-gender-identity-expression.page

      When we turn from philosophy to actual policy battles, the alignment of most interests between trans people and women becomes clear. And also, some (not all) feminist-identified anti-trans activists become suspect. Namely, those actively promoting the conservative pundits pushing for regresive policies, and also those who devote all energy to trans issues and ignore issues facing women much more immediately. (Often the same people).

      Northern Ireland, under UK jurisdiction, prohibits abortion. Some UK feminists are active about it – and they happen to be pro-trans, notably Stella Creasy MP, who was criticized by anti-trans feminist-identified activists. These activists completely ignored the Northern Ireland issue – until recently someone suggested gender-neutral formulas in a suggested law enabling abortion. THEN Kathleen Stock promptly reacted, over mere formulations, after ignoring the substantial issue for years.

      1. So yes, we won’t agree, because you’re a liberal, and the version of feminism that trans rights is compatible with is a very limited liberal form of feminism that has no deep analysis of the structure of patriarchy. I’m going to dispute your characterisation of our position as conservative of course. Our position is the one of radical liberation. The aim of dismantling the structure of domination in its core mechanism is not and could never be characterised as conservatism. But it is at least useful with respect to our position for you to have delineated and admitted that the acceptance of trans ideology is consistent only with a liberal view of feminism, and that it’s rejection flows from a feminist analysis of the roots of patriarchy, and not from a specific fear or hatred to trans people. That was in general terms the point I was making here. It is illegitimate in a democracy to discredit one system of thought’s rejection of another system of thought which stems from ideological disagreement by painting it as hatred or phobia.

        Just one final theoretical point – because I think it’s important. The form of feminism I am specialised in would argue precisely that this collapsing of perceptual discrimination into hierarchical discrimination is actually a core part of patriarchal thinking. Patriarchy cannot recognize difference without converting it into hierarchy…because it view otherness as threatening. Everything must be the same. What happens when you insist that everything is the same is that everything becomes purportedly neutral but actually embeds assumptions which come from the default subject – that is, the white, male, heterosexual etc. If you do not recognise that women are not men, and that Black people are not white, then you fail to *do justice* to their lived experience, and their knowledge. You end up with a culture that revolves around the assumptions of the powerful. It is, in fact, an incredible irony that a rights movement that talks so incessantly about diversity and inclusion and erasure and validity and wotnot, is actually utterly in hock to a foundational patriarchal thought about the necessity of erasing difference in order to create justice, and, in particular, is invested in the foundational erasure of the entire system of domination – that is, the granting reality to man’s other as a being in her own right not defined in men’s terms.

        There is not possibility of human not perceiving sexual difference. It exists, and we perceive it. As long as women are the reproducers of the species, there is also no possibility of that sexual difference not playing out politically – and the question is merely whether we get better at managing it so that it is more just. By all means, let’s try to educate our children to understand that the sex-role stereotypes we attach to people’s bodies are a load of bunk. We can hope to teach children that the ‘distinction’ is insignificant in terms of the values we place on the persons on both side of the distinction. But we will never be able to teach them to not perceive the difference between two morphologically different groups of the same species, and thinking we can, or demanding we pretend that we can, will get us no where, and is based on a flawed, and masculinist, grasp of the relation between difference and justice.

  4. “It is illegitimate in a democracy to discredit one system of thought’s rejection of another system of thought which stems from ideological disagreement by painting it as hatred or phobia.” – legitimate or not it was just done, bigtime. And generally accepted. I mean the application of “homophobia” to the thought system that places a high value on children being raised by both biological parents, and claiming, moreover, that this is the reason both marriage and legal parenthood even exist.

    There is a valid strong liberal argument for sex-neutral marriage and parenthood. That is the argument that convinced me – it is that of Obergefell v Hodges, basing all marriage on a “right to choice of intimate identity”, and then basing parenthood on care as opposed to biology.

    But the application of “phobia” to opposing viewpoints was, in fact, established as a strategy back then. Its current use by trans activists is merely an extension. You can disagree with this strategy, perhaps we can disagree with it together, even. But it is nevertheless also a direct parallel, nay, a direct continuation of the gay liberation strategy.

    Moreover, these days it is a very widespread strategy. Some radical feminists also brand rejection of their class analysis as “misogyny”, coming from a hatred of women, as opposed to a principled liberal analysis that is suspicious of class analysis as such. I know it’s “some” and you certainly did not do it. I’m just saying this strategy in general is hugely widespread, and its use by trans activists, even if wrong, is nothing special in today’s atmosphere.

    I don’t like it and I am not using it. Having said that: *some* radical feminists do slide into outright hate speech and a phobia motive can not be discounted in these cases. And I’m not talking about anonymous online mud-slinging, sadly common on any side of any recent political debate. When a high-profile author. Sheila Jeffreys, comes to UK Parliament Buildings and calls trans women “parasitical” for the act of “claiming to be members of the oppressed class” (that is, simply for being trans women), we are no longer talking about mere ideological difference.

    I do not think anything of equal magnitude can be found on the pro-trans side. Which is not to excuse the rank mud-slinging, but “the trans community”, whatever that is, can not police every anonymous poster.

    Nor, of course, can “the radfem community” whatever *that* is, even when the posters are not anonymous. So I’m not saying “your movement” as a whole is responsible for whatever, say, Bev Jo or Posie Parker might claim online. When it’s formal offline meetings, we have a problem.

    You are right that perception of sex difference, in itself, will not go away. The question is what significance is assigned to it. We do clearly perceive differences in height or in hair colour very clearly. yet. apart from choosing sexual mates, generally don’t see these differences as significant. This is the aim for perception of sex – and of skin colour. It’s not going to be done in a day.

    There’s an excellent sci fi story I read a few years ago but I can’t seem to find it right now. A few space explorers land on a planet which has a humanoid sapient population and was previously discovered by a lone explorer. They see the locals venerating that lone explorer and then out, with some fancy equipment, that the locals are instructed to welcome Earth people – or to kill them if they utter some code words, but they could not discover the code words.

    At the formal welcome ceremony, they first go into neutral-greeting mode, then think “whatever” and make a critical speech about lone explorers being somewhat useless. They are welcomed and not touched.

    They later find out the code words that would spell their doom were “damned n***r”. The lone explorer was black. They certainly had photos of him all along, and a couple of big portraits were in full view during the formal ceremony. They just did not even realize his skin colour had anything to do with anything!

    That is the liberal answer to racism, and the one to sexism is similar. And yes, we will not agree, seeing as you even want formal recognition of black people as “not white” – something that, here in Europe, absolutely won’t fly.

    (Side note: a “race binary” also has the fun effect of excluding quite a few people; recently I’ve seen a radfem-anti-trans text that only flies at all if you see the Japanese as white, because it marked “humanizing robots” as a white male thing – while in actual reality the Japanese are more advanced in it both in the media and in robotics. But I’m afraid to link it because I think it’s hate speech and I don’t want to end up another Dankula for no reason. Google “babe in botland” if you want it).

    Having said all this. Again: we are not having a revolution. And so we are looking at policy much more than philosophy.

    Policy wise I characterize your position as socially conservative – note “socially”, I am not trying to smear you with austerity. You might want some radical change in the ideal future. But right now, you end up actively working to support the policy status quo, which includes clear legal segregation of the sexes. Many radfems specifically promote Ryan Anderson etc – this is a very visible fact.

    1. Okay, you’re repeating yourself and I’m kind of bored now. This is basically what you wrote in the first email and I’ve dealt with it.

      There are parallels between the use of homophobia and transphobia. And I’ve explained it’s a really fucking weak parallel. And the parallel with misogyny is also different for many many reasons I can’t be bothered to go into here because you’re boring me and you won’t listen anyway. Things that look the same are not always the same when you analyse them in detail. Try it sometime.

      Socially conservative doesn’t mean ‘anyone who opposes every change’ – it refers to a specific set of values, none of which I hold. The belief that sexual dimorphism exists was never until 5 years ago a political value. Some attempts at extreme social change are bad – neoliberalism being an obvious example. If you want to call me a social conservative in the same sense of anti-Thatcherite knock yourself out. I’ll very happily be on the wrong side of history on that one.

      And please stop going on about the fact that a very few members of our side have made some common cause with the right. We could just as well spend all our time crowing about the fact that the trans agenda is funded by someone who also funded Trump. But we don’t. Because we deal with the ideas and not with ad homs and smears.

      1. I’m afraid it’s not “a very few”. Or perhaps it is, but it’s the most visible few. One possibility is that these few *became* the most visible because of the media promotion given to them by the trad right.

        And also, I think dealing with actual policy is more important than dealing with ideas. We’ll never agree on ideas and it’s pretty useless to even try. Say I were to prove, with quotes, that much of radical feminism reflects “orthodox” Marxism-Leninism – it will perhaps improve your opinion of Lenin but probably won’t change anything else.

        But policy, not ideas, is where the actual change, or lack of change, is happening. And I have linked the New York policy that clearly shows how pro-trans in reality equals pro-GNC – whatever the divergences in philosophy.

        So the question is – to collaborate on the common causes, from abortion (which “our” side sees as a part of bodily autonomy, with choices “whether to be pregnant” and “whether to have breasts” on the same plane if we only talk about the body of the one adult person), on to removal of sex-specific dress and behavior codes?

        Or instead to fight over the *principle* of segregation of society by biological sex? I’m afraid that the current policy position of your side goes beyond the necessities into the principle my go-to example is the attacks on TopShop and M&S, where the desegregated changing rooms already have cubicles. Another go-to issue on this matter is pronouns; these are not biologically determined and are normally not a part of any political organizing (definitely not in the workplace and business, where this can be realistically regulated).

        if you choose to fight over the principle of segregation, you realistically, in the existing political setup, find yourself on the same side as the traditional conservatives. After that, sliding into an alliance is logical, which is why it happens with fairly visible representatives of “your side”.

        I won’t deny that on “our” side, in turn, a libertarian streak is present – in fact, in my own views too, I’d be a left-libertarian if they actually existed. And it creates a tendency to alliances for some people with the libertarian-minded on the Right. My position on that is: whatever about the 90s, the principled libertarians on the Right were crushed in 2002-3 in the run-up to the Iraq War, which they rightly opposed. They never recovered, and those picking up libertarian talking points on the Right now are usually not to be trusted. Which is how Caitlyn Jenner was caught out, and knows it now. No idea about Jennifer Pritzker.

      2. If we do talk about ideas anyway, there is another issue lurking in the background, that of technological optimism vs. anti-civilization. If we expand on the abortion issue: technological solutions could ultimately render it nearly moot, if we get a way to gestate a fetus outside the body.

        The traditional conservatives are *supposed* to be pro-tech. But at some point I realized what they were doing. If all that money that went into pro-life agitation went into research instead, we might *already* have that solution. We might *already* be moving living fetuses from women unwilling to gestate them into devices paid for by willing donors. We would *simply not have the problem*, well most of it. Speak of barking up the wrong tree – more like the wrong forest!

        Many radfems in turn are openly anti-civ, with Deep Green Resistance being the peak of that. I think this makes zero sense entirely. I think that, in the event of a collapse of civilization, classical patriarchy would be restored in its “full glory” because of the importance this situation would bring to mere physical force. This thought is not universal. I’ve seen some trans anti-civ people. This does not compute at all. There was that complaint in a blog post that DGR transphobia prevents trans people from campaigning with DGR – what did they *want* to campaign for? Do they want to drink the urine of pregnant mares for their estrogen? Sure, in the event of a DGR victory, mares would be plentiful…

        Honestly, I think this is the bigger conflict *if we’re talking about ideas*. The gender identity battles will settle within a decade or two, like the orientation ones mostly did. But this one is ongoing for centuries.

        But policies, not ideas, should be the determining factor for day-to-day activism in my view.

      1. So who of the trans or pro-trans *offline public speakers* (not anonymous or semi-anonymous online posters) has made any public statement that would be close, in level of sheer offensiveness, to the statement of Sheila Jeffreys that trans women are parasitical for claiming to be women?

  5. Fixing missing attribution. The science fiction story I mentioned is “Test Piece” by Eric Frank Russell, but I still have not been able to find the actual text online.

  6. ramendik

    If you believe that the reason why men oppress women is simply because sex is a socially recognised distinction then I think you are very naive. If that’s the case, where on earth did it come from? How did it come about? Just randomly?

    Oppression exists because it benefits the oppressor class. Without benefits, it would not exist, it would not persist, and men would not resist dismantling it. It is not some random irrationality that just occurred out of nowhere.

    Don’t you think it’s a rather risky leap of faith to effectively abolish all legal protections for women in the hope that this will somehow just lead to equality between men and women because we are no longer paying attention to whether men are men or women are women?

    By that logic, we should abolish all liberation movements, since they only draw attention to the distinctions between the oppressor and oppressed classes. We should abolish all forms of data collection that identifies the relative advantage or disadvantage of different classes, and definitely abolish research into those topics. Perhaps we should also abolish any mention of the biological differences between men and women, since it only highlights our differences?

    That’s even presuming that trans activism actually does result in the lessening of the social significance of sex in the way that you describe. In fact, it does not – instead it chooses to replace the social significance of sex with that of gender identity – masculine and feminine norms.

    Gender, masculinity and femininity, is the ideological structure behind what you call the ‘social significance of sex’. So rather than doing away with the social significance, the biology is shunted aside, but the structures which gave it a social significance are not only left intact but elevated in importance.

    “On the other hand, with a diluted “legal definition of woman”, prohibitions on enforcement of differences also come. You get bans on sex-specific dress codes and behaviour standards in regulated places. You get robust anti-discrimination protections – it is quite possible to have them with self-ID, because they work on perception anyway (and in the UK, they work for racem and race there is self-ID). You get prohibitions of misogynistic language at work, though, yes, you also have to follow preferred pronouns at work.”

    Yes, some differences, the arbitrary, oppressive ones, should be eliminated. As feminists have always argued. Self-ID is irrelevant to those things, although it’s quite likely, given the rapid advancement of trans rights relative to pretty much any other social movement, if they want something it will probably get done faster (because no one cared enough when it was just women…)

    The point is that there are some differences, and some policies that are based on those differences, which exist to benefit women given our different biology, our different reproductive role, our historical and current situation as an oppressed group, our vulnerability to rape and men’s massively greater propensity to all forms of violence. These are actually important and need to be recognised.

    “The tendency not to trust *rape complainants* is a different issue, but it applies to all victims of rape and sexual assault (the border between these crimes is a matter of wholly separate debate).”

    This is not true at all.
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/life/98511119/what-if-kevin-spaceys-sexual-assault-accuser-had-been-a-woman

    Women’s credibility in general is seen as lesser than men’s, not only in cases of rape but in expertise, the trope of the overemotional, stereotypical woman etc.

    “And no, organizing over whatever you want to organize over is NOT prohibited.”

    Women only political events are already massively under attack, and these laws aren’t even in place yet. I very much doubt if trans ideology becomes law that they will be allowed to continue. Except maybe in secret.

    “When we turn from philosophy to actual policy battles, the alignment of most interests between trans people and women becomes clear.”

    This is also completely false! At the policy level it is clear how they are opposed.

    Having male bodied, penis holding sex offenders in women’s prisons exposes women to a risk of sexual assault and violence which they would not be exposed to otherwise. This is already happening.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-44877856

    Unisex changing rooms put women at greater risk of sexual assault. Almost all of the assaults which have happened in changing rooms, happened in unisex changing rooms:

    “Of 134 complaints over 2017-2018, 120 reported incidents took place in gender-neutral changing rooms and just 14 were in single-sex changing areas.”

    https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/sexual-assault-unisex-changing-rooms-sunday-times-women-risk-a8519086.html

    At the practical, policy level what else do we see? Biologically male people taking spaces on all women shortlists – put in place to increase female political representation (See Lily Madigan, Labour Party). We see crimes committed by males being reported as female crime – obscuring the issues and distorting the statistics.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/truth-female-sex-offenders/
    https://www.dailydot.com/crime/dana-mccallum-charged-rape-twitter/
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-09/axe-attack-trial-begins-in-sydney/9957636

    We see women being kicked out of shelters because they are uncomfortable sharing sleeping accommodation with a biological male person.
    https://globalnews.ca/news/3300518/concerns-over-transgender-client-at-okanagan-shelter/

    Don’t even get me started on women’s sports. This is what happens in current ‘co-ed’ leagues.
    https://deadspin.com/why-co-ed-sports-leagues-are-never-really-co-ed-1827699592?utm_medium=socialflow&utm_source=jezebel_facebook&utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_facebook

    Not to mention the fact that lesbians are being harassed and told they are transphobic bigots for being lesbians – that is, female homosexuals – because there is no such thing as sexual orientation without biological sex.

    At the end of the day, the drawbacks to self-ID and transgender ideology are borne out by the evidence. Yes, real world evidence of actual policy – not theory or philosophy. If you can produce evidence for your claim that abolishing all legal recognition of biological sex will reduce sexism and misogyny I’d be happy to read it. Of course, if data collection on the basis of biological sex becomes outlawed too, that will be impossible.

    “I would seek an evolutionary undermining of social structures upholding and promoting inequality.”

    I actually agree with this but I don’t think your methods will work. I think abolishing the hard won protections that women have spent years fighting for in the hope that misogyny and misogynistic attacks on women will just magically fizzle out as a result is dangerously naive and a huge leap of faith.

    As for the WHO definition,

    “Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed. While most people are born either male or female, they are taught appropriate norms and behaviours – including how they should interact with others of the same or opposite sex within households, communities and work places.”

    All of this is in line with a radfem definition. The failure is that the WHO only identifies conforming/non conforming as a axis of oppression rather than seeing gender as set up to benefit men at the expense of women.

    But, it is not necessary for that part to agree for my analysis to be valid. In each case, the socially constructed characteristics of women and men are reified and made socially significant. In a conservative culture, an individual is told, you must change yourself because you are a man/woman, and this is what a man/woman does. In transgender ideology, you are told, if your personality does not fit what a man/woman is supposed to be, then you must not really be a man/woman.

    It is only feminism that actually makes those gendered characteristics irrelevant.

    1. “If you believe that the reason why men oppress women is simply because sex is a socially recognised distinction then I think you are very naive. If that’s the case, where on earth did it come from? How did it come about? Just randomly?”

      I actually have a theory of this, but a proper description would be a wild tangent in this discussion. All radfem theories I have seen seem to believe in some male conspiracy to subjugate women tens of thousands of years ago, which I find totally incredible, because there was just no way for men back then to coordinate their action on a global scale. The speed of communication was limited to the speed of the walk, or at best of the horse rider, and humanity was already far too widespread.

      *Very briefly* – this is not really an adequate description – I think that patriarchy developed because of its objective evolutionary benefits to the survival of warrior tribes living by conquest, and for a long time those tribes dominated humanity objectively. Then some of the tribes settled and became defender-lords and that’s where states came from. An interesting case in point is Sharia – I don’t mean the current bogeyman debates but what happened in the seventh century and appears well documented. Mohammed was a very able conqueror ruler and he has set up a strictly patriarchal system of laws – which remained an effective machine for empire-building and conquest for a millennium.

      The cultural entrenchment of patriarchy happened in warrior times, and then ongoing wars reinforced them effectively. For a society constantly at war by traditional means, it “makes sense” to keep men ready for battle and women popping out more men. If a warrior society were to become more equal, it would get more female soldiers and more male carers. But the prevalence, in those wars, physical force means female soldiers would be somewhat less effective; moreover, once killed they will not reproduce, the next generation wil have leff soldiers, the society will be defeated in the next war. The power of war (by traditional means), not a conspiracy, started patriarchy and kept it going.

      However, starting with the Industrial Revolution, the scene was gradually set for an overturning of it. The primacy of physical force was receding in favour of the primacy of intellect, which is not sex-linked despite some cultural claims to the contrary. Keeping half of society out of the “intellectual advancement pool” objectively holds technology back, compared to societies that harness intellect whatever body it comes in. Another big exclusion was “race”. Once things improved measurably (not fully but measurably) on these two, the issue of including – and harnessing to the advancement of technology, if we’re just talking objective benefits – smaller minorities came to the forefront, and that’s the context for trans liberation among many others.

      There are policy consequences to my theory. One is antiwar; a major war, by my theory, in most cases leads to re-entrenchment of patriarchy (World War I being an exception that “proves the rule”; World War II did have the effect and many patriarchalists look back to the 50s for a reason). We probably agree on that.

      Another, where we might not agree, is the contention that any receding from technological civilization will also objectively lead to re-entrenchment of patriarchy, as violent groups seek to use the situation to their advantage bu “good old” conquest. I think Deep Green Resistance is as wrong as wrong can be, basically.

      And this already turned into a huge tangent… Sorry Jane.

      “Don’t you think it’s a rather risky leap of faith to effectively abolish all legal protections for women in the hope that this will somehow just lead to equality between men and women because we are no longer paying attention to whether men are men or women are women?”

      I do not agree with the connection between self-ID and “abolishing legal protections for women”. In my view, consistent with liberalism, proper legal protections are usually those set up to benefit the individual, as opposed to a class. These protections for women remain and indeed are strengthened, notably by prohibiting a wider range of disparate treatment by sex.

      “By that logic, we should abolish all liberation movements, since they only draw attention to the distinctions between the oppressor and oppressed classes. We should abolish all forms of data collection that identifies the relative advantage or disadvantage of different classes, and definitely abolish research into those topics. Perhaps we should also abolish any mention of the biological differences between men and women, since it only highlights our differences?”

      This hits the distinctions, perhaps specific to lo liberalism, between “speech and actions” and between “state and non-state actions”. Liberation movements are not the state. Data collection may be the state, but is basically speech.

      As for mentioning biological differences, when by the state, this should really be limited to cases when it is objectively justified – by biology. not statistics. So reproduction, some areas of health care, some areas where physical force plays a key role. Non-state speech, on the other hand, is something the liberal is wary of limiting.

      I generally do not think it is the business of the state to establish any objective classes of people, except where this can’t be helped (issues of minor age and other forms of legal incapacity, as well as means testing for distribution of many sorts of welfare; side note: an advantage of Universal Basic Income is that the state is mostly no longer involved in means testing, but for now this is pie in the sky).

      “That’s even presuming that trans activism actually does result in the lessening of the social significance of sex in the way that you describe. In fact, it does not – instead it chooses to replace the social significance of sex with that of gender identity – masculine and feminine norms.”

      Well this is outright not true. Most trans activists do oppose imposition of masculine and feminine norms on anyone. And more importantly. all Western pro-trans policies oppose it. I’ve linked the New York one here already.

      Old-style transmedicalism did evaluate people by conformance to norms. And this is one reason many trans activists are opposed to transmedicalism entirely and make up words like “truscum”. I do not agree with such words and think transmedicalism has a place, but in a modern form divorced from conformance evaluation and concentrated on evaluating body dysphoria.

      “Women’s credibility in general is seen as lesser than men’s, not only in cases of rape but in expertise, the trope of the overemotional, stereotypical woman etc.”

      Well, if we work to lessen the social significance of sex, this will also recede and in fact, perhaps apart from rape/sexual assault cases, is receding, with female experts and lawyers widely present in the court system. An important legal victory on this front in the USA was Price Waterhouse v Coopers, concerned specifically with the legal sphere.

      “Women only political events are already massively under attack, and these laws aren’t even in place yet.”

      They are not under attack for being women only. They are under attack for being anti-trans. Those events that are not women-only but are anti-trans are under similar attack.

      On the other hand, nobody bothers protesting at convents (and if some protest at sex-segregated mosques, these protesters certainly no friends to trans activists).

      I think that the reasonable future for gender-critical women, who are a distinct minority with a distinct philosophy, is asserting their place among other minorities, so I am – perhaps strangely – very much a supporter of the rights of the Pussy Church of Modern Witchcraft. Even without such a formal structure, you can already join in the segregated secular spaces created specifically for the benefit of Muslim women. Their religion is a proportional reason clearly justifying the use of exclusionary legal exceptions, which are not slated for removal. And while you don’t yet have your own religion-like view recognized, you can join with theirs.

      (Some trans activists might bother to protest these places, but they probably will not get wider traction in the movement, there is too much sensitivity about Islamophobia).

      “Having male bodied, penis holding sex offenders in women’s prisons exposes women to a risk of sexual assault and violence which they would not be exposed to otherwise. ”

      Segregation by sex does not prevent the vast majority of sexual assaults in prison, including assault on women. What is needed is better segregation *by risk profile*. That was the failure that happened with Karen White, who should have been segregated as a violent sex offender.

      “Unisex changing rooms put women at greater risk of sexual assault. Almost all of the assaults which have happened in changing rooms, happened in unisex changing rooms”

      That data originates with the Sunday Times and their original FOI request results are for all I know not published. It is deeply suspect. Unisex changing rooms – which always have cubicles for privacy – are an increasingly popular option, convenient for families as well as for gender variant people. They eliminate shared visible nudity and respect privacy for everyone, without basing it just on biology.

      “At the end of the day, the drawbacks to self-ID and transgender ideology are borne out by the evidence. Yes, real world evidence of actual policy – not theory or philosophy. ”

      There are countries that have self-ID for a few years now. Ireland and Denmark, notably, are Western European countries similar to the UK in other respects. Where is the evidence of things becoming worse in these countries?

      “If you can produce evidence for your claim that abolishing all legal recognition of biological sex will reduce sexism and misogyny I’d be happy to read it.”

      This is not an effect that can be reliably tested over three (Ireland,2015 self-ID) or four (Denmark, 2014 self-ID) years. While statistics on gender equality in these countries appear to be mostly improving over these years, the trend continues from the years before and ca not really be attributed to self-ID at this stage. There does not seem to be a sudden disimprovement after 2014/15, though.

      “As for the WHO definition,

      “Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed. While most people are born either male or female, they are taught appropriate norms and behaviours – including how they should interact with others of the same or opposite sex within households, communities and work places.””

      Well you see, under this definition, *all* socially mandated difference between sexes is “gender”. This includes the use of pronouns (the original meaning of “gender”), the use of any segregated spaces, and, in fact, the use of words such as man or woman.

      So under this definition, it just makes no sense to say “we won’t enforce gender norms” and also “we will use biological pronouns and enforce segregated spaces”.

      The radfem definition, however, excludes all these things from “gender”. It uses “gender” only for those social norms that oppress women, but sees those social norms that protect women as “

      1. Bugged out and posted mid-write!

        The radfem definition of gender, however, excludes all these things from “gender”. It uses “gender” only for those social norms that oppress women, but sees those social norms that protect women, or simply delineate women as a different class, as “sex-based” and distinct from “gender”.

        These are just different definitions of the same term under different philosophies. As long as the difference is acknowledged, it is a normal thing. However, you must then realize that trans activists do not use the radfem definition of “gender”. And when they say that some people have a “gender” different from biological sex, they are not referring specifically to oppressive norms, but to the entire social aspect of sex difference.

  7. “I do not think anything of equal magnitude can be found on the pro-trans side.”

    You clearly have not been paying any attention to the many threats of violence, actual violent assaults, activities to prevent women from meeting and speaking, and hate speech against women coming from trans activists. I have never seen anything approaching this level of vitriol coming from radical feminists. I have never seen, despite the wild claims of TRAs, anyone who wants to exterminate trans people. I have seen many, many tweets and comments from TRAs saying ‘terfs’ should be exterminated. I have seen lesbians told to ‘choke on my girldick’ because they are sexually attracted only to biological women. There is nothing that radical feminists say that even comes close to this kind of vicious abusive behaviour.

    I have also seen TRAs completely fabricate claims about radical feminists – saying that they placed razor blades behind their campaign stickers like fascists have apparently done. This was a complete lie only intended to smear feminists. I have never seen feminists do anything like this.

    The main difference between the redefinition of the family vs the erasure of biological sex, is that when the family is redefined, it really doesn’t affect people very much who want to stay in hetero family relations.

    The same is not true of biological sex. When that is redefined, it changes facilities for everyone, and women only spaces, affirmative actions policies, etc., will cease to exist.

    Liberalism is supposed to be based in enlightenment thinking – the rationality of the individual, the primacy of objectivity – what justification can their be for effectively distorting and erasing reality like this, as you recommend?

    I find it odd that you characterise us as both Leninist and socially conservative. They would seem to be opposed…

    1. “I find it odd that you characterise us as both Leninist and socially conservative. They would seem to be opposed…”

      I really need to make this a blog post. The short version: I grew up in the USSR. Leninism and social conservatism were not opposed at all there, they were working in total harmony, as the Party sought to prevent distribution of pornography and “decadent” art and to limit or punish “immoral” sexual activity – all because of the bourgeois nature, contrary to the moral basics of socialism.

      This was not just some whim of a senile Brezhnev. It really made sense. In Communism, collective interests, those of class and (in a proletarian state) also society, are above individual interests, this is the main idea. But various “immoral decadence” exists solely for individual pleasure. By engaging in it, people ignore the considerations of class welfare.

      To be fair, this was really established under Stalin. Under Lenin, it wasn’t there.

      When I read of the 80s Sex Wars, with the radical feminists attacking BDSM practice in lesbian circles as well as pornography and (to a much more limited extent than now) transgenderism, this was just an obvious parallel, And these were the very same 80s, so this was most likely direct influence, whether or not intentional on Moscow’s part. There are deeper lines of likely influence, most clearly Vanguardism. Those deeper lines are the reason I use “Leninism”; besides, using “Stalinism” would sound like I’m conjuring up the internecine Stalinist/Trotskyist conflict, and I’m not a Trot!

      But, really, I do need to write it up.

      The kind of class-based social conservatism that the Soviet Union espoused is philosophically different from traditionalist social conservatism common in the West. But the policy effects were very similar. The funniest part, historically, is that when the US had its conservative periods, two socially conservative regimes were basically accusing *each other* of intentionally promoting “moral decadence”.

      Western Communists abandoned Soviet social conservatism a while ago, in the 60s I think, so this is all unfamiliar to the Western eye. For me, it just clicks.

      “You clearly have not been paying any attention to the many threats of violence, actual violent assaults, activities to prevent women from meeting and speaking, and hate speech against women coming from trans activists. ”

      By far most of that comes under online mud-slinging. There was some offline stuff which I will cover next, but none of it (the offline stuff) came with the kind of malice towards an entire social group that the Jeffreys statement contained.

      There was one confirmed case of actual violence and that was in response to pushing a camera into a person’s face. I see it primarily as a failure of the organizers of the protest. Normally, when you bring people out to protest you bring those who are proud to show their face (honestly, at all protests I’ve been to, Dublin Trans Pride as well as antiwar stuff and older-time Russian stuff since literally 1992 included, cameras were a major and intended part of the picture; sometimes I wielded one; in fact, encountering a lady with a real 1950s “vertical” Yashica was a highlight of Trans Pride for me). If you bring out some people who need their faces protected, you work at protection (or just give them balaclavas though this looks terrible).

      This somehow did not happen, and then, when someone was too intent on photographing a face of someone who did not want it, a scuffle ensued. It’s not a good thing and those who did it should have thought better. But it was not even really political violence (and certainly not gender), it was badly-organized-protest violence.

      Apart from that one incident, protests at speeches were all within the expected degree on the political scene. Most protests were peaceful and involved boycott threats to venues – this is just “what you do”, look at BDS vs pro-Israeli groups, all the same stuff going on there. The Bristol protest was more “involved” wih people tyring to block stairs; but it was specifically at the same group who promoted the “parasitical” claims; by this promotion that group got itself to EDL level, and the protest was at the typical Antifa level, so, again. nothing different from the bigger political picture.

      And yes, I *am* saying that with the statement “trans women are parasitical by claiming to be women”, and by titling its meeting “Transgenderism and the war on women”, the group “We Need To Talk” is now no different from the EDL. Compare – “Immigration and the war on citizens”. Now, are there real issues with immigration? Yes, there are, and I say so as an immigrant. But, is it possible to have a real discussion about those with the EDL? Is it even reasonable to moderate protests against the EDL because some issues they refer to are very real? No and no.

      (Side note: and so when Posie Parker went all #FreeTommyRobinson nobody was surprised. I know people did distance from her over that. Wish they distanced from Jeffreys over “parasitical” in the same way, then the conversation would be quite different).

      I can go acknowledging immigration issues otherwise, but when facing something like the EDL, it’s “NOBODY IS ILLEGAL”, it’s “open borders”, and it’s “get out, scum”. And it has become hard to acknowledge that there are reasonable opponents to immigration, too. Some people even won’t acknowledge this at all. They hear “cultural compatibility? closed communities? welfare fraud? asylum fraud?” and they answer – “shut up, racist”.

      Exactly the same thing happens to opponents of self-ID, replace “racist” with “transphobe”. The reason is pretty much the same, too, and moreover the people saying this are pretty much the same. (By the way, some say that “Trans Women Are Women” is a slogan, even a “thought-terminating slogan”. Well, so is “Nobody Is Illegal”. So is “Love Is Love”. It’s social justice politics, it deals in slogans like that).

      Trans activism is not perfect, but it does not exist in a vacuum. It organically grew out of gay liberation, with strong cross-pollination from other “West-left” (as distinct from Soviet) activitisms – pro-immigration, some forms of feminism, housing action and so on. (Right now, Dublin Trans Pride twitter is full of housing protest).

      And what really happens there is a mix of trends from those other movements. Nearly nothing is original, really. Now, as I come from a liberal and not radical-Western-leftist perspective, I don’t like some of those trends. But they are still the same across the board whether I like them or not.

      “I have also seen TRAs completely fabricate claims about radical feminists – saying that they placed razor blades behind their campaign stickers like fascists have apparently done. This was a complete lie only intended to smear feminists. I have never seen feminists do anything like this.”

      Anti-trans feminist-identified activists did not have to do it themselves. They, instead, repeatedly spread the fabrications already made by far right groups like ADF. For example, the one about Colleen Francis exposing herself to minors – which simply did not happen and the ADF made it up.

      “The main difference between the redefinition of the family vs the erasure of biological sex, is that when the family is redefined, it really doesn’t affect people very much who want to stay in hetero family relations.”

      Yes, but it does affect children, and that was the main point of the conservative activists. They believe children have a biology-based right to a father and a mother when at all possible, and when impossible, to people most closely able to replace a father and a mother, which would mean an opposite-sex adoptive or foster couple. I really see no difference between the two claims of rights based on biology – children’s alleged right to natural parents and women’s alleged right to strict social classification.

      And the liberal justification for both changes is, in fact, exactly the same, as formulated by Justice Kennedy – a fundamental right to autonomy in intimate identity. (He framed it “choice”, which was right for a court decision, but I think “autonomy” works better in advocacy).

  8. “It is, in fact, an incredible irony that a rights movement that talks so incessantly about diversity and inclusion and erasure and validity and wotnot, is actually utterly in hock to a foundational patriarchal thought about the necessity of erasing difference in order to create justice, and, in particular, is invested in the foundational erasure of the entire system of domination – that is, the granting reality to man’s other as a being in her own right not defined in men’s terms.”

    This was fantastically well put, thank you.

  9. Hello Dr Jones,

    Instead of shucking podcasts for misreadinfs amongst your friend in the JPB fan club, why not debate someone who also holds a doctorate, and happens to think your interpetation of Irigaray fails to account for critical notions of embodiment and phenomenology.

    Are you game, or too busy shooting fish in the brine of Wine-Mum parochialism?

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