Ontological totalitarianism by numbers

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  1. Human beings have a right to freedom of conscience and belief.
  2. Human beings have a right to their own perceptions.
  3. Humans beings have a right to speak in a manner which expresses their own conscience, belief and perceptions – providing that speech is not an incitement to violence against another person (see 14).
  4. The only pronouns one can prescribe to oneself, ethically, are ‘I’ and ‘me.’
  5. Third person pronouns are granted to you by another person.
  6. Pronouns function as a ‘recognition procedure’ in order to instruct someone else how they are to recognise someone, often in the absence of, or in contradiction to, observable cues.
  7. Asking someone to use certain pronouns is a request that they perceive or recognise you in a certain way.
  8. Prescribing pronouns is a diktat that another person perceives or recognises you in a certain way.
  9. Prescribing pronouns and enforcing that prescription is an act of coercion which violates people’s freedom of conscience. This is ontological totalitarianism.
  10. Resisting coercion is not bullying.
  11. Ontological totalitarianism may well be bullying.
  12. Recognition must be freely given if it is to meaningfully function as validation.
  13. Coerced recognition is both a violation of people’s freedom of conscience and is functionally worthless as validation.
  14. Resisting coerced recognition is not an act of violence – literal or otherwise – nor an incitement to violence.
  15. Trans people who are visibly gender non-conforming are subject to violence as a result of the policing of patriarchal gender norms.
  16. Feminists do not police patriarchal gender norms.
  17. Violence directed at people who violate patriarchal gender norms is an artefact of patriarchy, not an artefact of feminism.
  18. Many feminists believe that sex and gender are analytically distinct, and do not believe that the performance or identification of a person’s gender changes their sex.
  19. This is a matter of our perception of reality and a matter of political conviction. It is not a pretext.
  20. Blaming feminists for patriarchal violence against gender non-conforming and trans identified people is empirically baseless political strategy which serves as an instrument of coercion.
  21. People refusing to validate your identity may be painful.
  22. Something being painful is not conceptually identical to it being a moral harm, structural violence, or an act of oppression.
  23. Not getting our needs met is sometimes painful.
  24. Sometimes our needs don’t get met because other people also have needs, beliefs, and interests.
  25. Thinking you must always have you needs met and refusing to understand why other people may not meet your needs, is narcissistic entitlement.
  26. Narcissistic entitlement is the refusal to recognise the needs and interests of other people.
  27. Narcissistic entitlement is the opposite of mutual recognition.
  28. Mutual recognition is the condition of possibility of justice.
  29. Ontological totalitarianism is a political manifestation of narcissistic entitlement.
  30. Ontological totalitarianism is antithetical to the conditions of possibility of justice.


  1. I am incredibly touched by the depth of your willingness to expose yourself to what may come your way as you write about these topics. They are so often taboo, and there is so much reaction to ideas such as the ones you posted. And the quality of your mind is so astonishing to me, how you walk so fully through the very delicate and sensitive lines that surround these conversations (which usually just don’t happen).

    Have you ever had a conversation with someone who disagrees with you to get to a place of mutual understanding? That is what I bank on for any future possibility of humans collaboratin: starting with mutual understanding and then looking at solutions from a base on knowing all the needs on the table and looking for what would best attend to them sufficiently for all to be on board with the solution. It’s what humans do so well when life presents them with challenges that they collectively need to address. We have lost this art. I am, in part, working around the globe to support us in reclaiming it. (See this: http://efficientcollaboration.org/minnesota-case-study for an example of collaborative lawmaking in a less charged area, child custody.)

    I am super grateful for the opportunity to follow your way of being and thinking. I hope one day to have the opportunity to meet you in person. (I come to the UK from time to time to teach precisely about collaboration and systemic ways of thinking about life and how to approach thorny issues.)


  2. So if a KKK member wants to use “it” as a pronoun to identify me because he or she doesn’t see me as a human being, then that KKK Member is within his or her has a rights?

    1. It’s a good question. I think in this case it would be a pretty grave form of moral injury, because it’s a refusal to grant recognition of someone’s humanity when they are clearly a human. So it would be a) factually incorrect and b) morally heinous. I’m not sure, however, that we have a right – how would it be enforced – to prevent people having factually incorrect and morally heinous views, providing they don’t do anything to enact those views. Calling someone ‘it’ may well be enacting those views – this is tricky, because we don’t actually have laws about ‘hate-speech’ in this country, providing you are not inciting violence/hatred. Certainly a strong argument could be made that that is inciting hatred, and in the case of the KKK, that would certainly be given weight by the fact that such speech is associated with a whole raft of actions designed to enact those views and to target Black people with violence. And those acts are an actual harm to the people they are directed at, and can therefore be legitimately proscribed.

      I don’t think the analogy holds in this case though. It is by no means factually obvious that male people are female people because they assert or believe themselves to be. It is absolutely the case that a person has an absolute right to hold that belief, that they have a right to enact that belief in the way they present themselves, that they should be absolutely protected from discrimination in doing so, and that they should be accepted *as a trans person.* It is not evident, however, that other people are obliged to share the belief that a trans person is the sex that they identify with – because sex is not mutable, and hence, many of us believe that *it is not true.* Secondly, it’s not clear that refusing to believe a male person is female, is the same type of moral offence as not believing someone to be human. When I don’t share someone’s belief that they are female, I am not denying their humanity – I’m just denying something which I don’t believe to be factually true about their identity.

      Lastly, the refusal to believe that someone who identifies as the opposite sex is, in fact, the opposite sex, would, for a strong case that it is an act designed to incite hatred to stick, have to be placed inside a pattern of actions designed to target those people with violence etc. Much as people like to claim that this is what is going on here – the whole evidence for that rests entirely on characteristing the refusal itself as an act of hatred. It’s entirely circular. The gender critical feminist movement is not in any way committed to propagating violence against trans people. We have repeatedly said that we want their rights to express their identity and be free from discrimination and violence to be protected in law. There is no empirical relationship between the violence directed at trans people and feminist thought. There is, within the trans rights movement, a great deal of energy being pushed into telling trans people that feminists hate them and want them harmed, and that our refusal to believe that male people are female people is an act of ‘phobia.’ It’s not. Phobia is a form or moral disgust or hatred. Not believing female people to be male is not hatred – it’s just our belief about reality. None of this noise about our hatred is coming from us. It’s coming from the trans rights movement, and it’s functioning in order to produce political pressure. It is, in fact, deleterious to the mental health and wellbeing of trans people and I happen to think its morally repugnant. Because a political movement genuinely committed to its constituents well-being would do a great deal better than to keep telling people that people who have an ideological disagreement with them are actually intent on harming them, when we’re not, and we keep saying we’re not.

    2. Of course. I have been reading some egregious anti-semitic material on FB recently, and while the pronouns in this case were somewhat irrelevant (“they” and “us”) they also take on meaning which excludes and attacks. I’d also argue that it’s useful to KNOW which people do not see us as human, so making a rule that YOUR self identification, rather than THEIR identification of you, must be the norm is shortsighted. But of course, it can be quite offensive. ( Most people, to be honest, don’t care much about pronouns; what should be mentioned is that it’s also a class thing, for people without many material concerns, or who have material concerns and displace them onto language.) I’m a rhetorician, and I can find a dozen ways any piece of discourse excludes, or embraces. But language doesn’t change by policing — study the prescriptive linguists someday, and how after 100 years they didn’t get very far. The nearest to it is if moms and dads correct the child all the time: “Jack and I, not me and Jack.” Language changes by making the need for new words arise in a speech community. It didn’t take anything like 100 years to turn the meaningless term “google” into a common verb.

    3. You are assuming all people who feel that way are KKK. You should read the article again, you may be bullying to get what you want.

      Your sin was listing all people who do not utter your desired pronoun as KKK members. Not only was the comment a pure example of a logical fallacy, You use the false statement as an attack which serves to discredit the individual, even when you use unreasonable presentment to sunder logic, Please see the correct etymology of the terms when responding, you don’t get to make up definitions to support your agenda. Such action is dishonest and is again illogical.

      Finally, the method of attack you presented was straight out of the Marxist Handbook. Knowing that, you might consider why anyone would instigate you into using obvious attempts to manipulate your opinion, I am assuming you heard the KKK straw man scenario from another. Maybe you should be aware of those claiming to support you position claiming outrageous presentment and using a particular type of political ideology which otherwise does not support you in general. They are using an appeal to emotion, also a logical fallacy.

      Changing your body or the mere mental predispositions does not change your self. Your mental, emotional and spiritual being does not change. You are imprinted with your early life on a subconscious level. Everyone bears this burden. We all bear our own cross. Bear it as lightly as possible, walk in grace. No one really hates you. We accept you as you are, should you not do the same? Perhaps that is the cause of your pain.

      The Dali Lama states that love is simply hoping that each soul makes it to liberation in this life. I hope that for all God’s creation, you as well. You see, you are loved. I can’t think of anyone wishing otherwise.

      1. Hi,

        I am writing as someone super sympathetic to the arguments that Jane Clare is making. It’s both deep companionship and intellectual candy for me to read the original. Likewise, I am aligned with much of what you say in your comment, except that I didn’t hear the initial commenter in the same way that you did.

        One of my core practices is something I call the “assumption of innocence” which I believe to be fundamental to nonviolence. It means, to me, that whenever I have multiple narratives through which I can interpret another person’s actions, I will choose to use the most loving, charitable one, deliberately resting on the assumption of continuity and oneness between us rather than separation. As little suspicion as possible. I am not claiming to be right. I really aim to never claim rightness. I only notice that as I do this, I have more capacity and resilience to engage, to lovingly confront, to reach people I never thought I could, and to feel the power and integrity that come from loving no matter what. Also, I find that the more I do this, the more I see that multiple narratives as filters for interpretation are way more available and necessary than I used to think.

        All this to say that I understood the comment as challenging Jane Clare to apply the argument to a different situation in which the KKK are involved, a scenario entirely outside the disputed territory that gender pronouns are. I believe the commenter was hoping that if Jane Clare did this, she might not like the result of her own argument and would then be challenged to rethink it. I enjoyed the ingenuity of that move which, of course, I can’t know if it’s true that this was the intent, nor can you know that what you are saying about the commenter is true. We live in a world in which knowing is incredibly difficult. And thus I choose my interpretation.

        I am curious to hear if this in any way is meaningful for you to think about?


  3. Excellent, as always.

    This point made in a comment could use amplification: “None of this noise about our hatred is coming from us. It’s coming from the trans rights movement, and it’s functioning in order to produce political pressure.”

    That’s the nub of what’s going on. It’s not about trans rights, it’s about shouting at women and telling them to fix everything and screaming if they don’t.

    That’s why it doesn’t matter how often feminists point out they’re not anti-trans, or that there is no evidence of any violence on their part.

    If trans activists cared about violence, they’d be shouting at the men who perpetrate 99% (98%?) of it. They don’t. They shout at women.

    And the other big red flag is that none of this noise is about transmen. Nobody is telling men they have to be “inclusive” to the point of erasing themselves. Because it’s not about trans rights.

    It’s about misogyny without losing coolness cred. That’s also why it’s taken over the discourse in mere years. When don’t people jump on a chance to exercise cost-free misgyny?

    1. Um. Because you’re a bunch a totalitarian assholes with a taste for reporting and trying to get people kicked off twitter for committing thought-crimes.

      1. I’ve blocked you here too now. Have to say, that user name, nice line in dogmatism you have going on there….do you sleep with the ‘Good Book of Trans’ and the ‘Big Book of Heresies’ under your pillow? When you all stop acting like the collective manifestation of the Witchfinder General, then we’ll talk.

  4. I agree, I was not put on this earth to validate the existence of anyone and everyone. Close family and other loved ones might reasonably expect that of me but other people, no. They might get it but they might not and demanding I validate your personally claimed existence it is likely you will not get it. I object to being emotionally blackmailed, it gets my back up and I dig my heels in.

    I will however be unfailingly polite about it and get more and more polite the more impolite you get. You are not obligated to notice my moral pedestal.

  5. I resonate with the term “ontological totalitarianism”. You’ve so clearly expressed the fundamental principle that defines the trans activism ideology here that I will refer others to it from now on. They will be grateful to not have to endure my clumsy attempts to express myself.

  6. I agree but only in part. A personal example, if I may:

    A few years back I was hanging out with a group of people that included a transgender woman. I did not know at first she was transgender.

    However, a few times I found myself referring to her as ‘him’ quite unintentionally. I corrected myself, and attributed the mistake to a combination of fatigue and English not being my first language. (Except that my first language is even more gendered than English so in retrospect the “fatigue-induced first language interference” explanation did not make much sense – especially since I did not make this mistake before – unlike, say, forgetting ‘the’ and ‘a’..)

    When someone mentioned that she was in fact transgender, my mistake made more sense – obviously at some level my brain spotted that this person had some male characteristics and that was filtering through to the conscious level. So I made an extra effort to use appropriate pronouns. (This was long before the current argle-bargle about pronouns and trans issues in general.)

    In other words, I made a conscious decision to override the part of my perception that was seeing a man.

    I submit that to do otherwise would be a douchenozzle thing to do.

    I do not believe it is the case that we are fully, 100% entitled to expression of our perceptions.

    1. Entitled is an interesting word here. Your claim here is that basically it is sometimes impolite to express your perceptions. I agree. It is. However, the fact it is impolite doesn’t mean other people are not ‘entitled’ to be impolite. Politeness may be an important value, I think in general people should try to be polite, but politeness is also an extremely culturally specific and sometimes repressive value, and it’s certainly not the only value we should feed into ethical calculations, which should also include the value of truth, honestly, harm, and the impact on other people. I’d suggest that in a friendship group where you are say, all at a restaurant together, then maybe politeness should be one of the principle values. If, however, you were a rape survivor, and this person was performing intimate care on you, and you had the same response and perhaps felt profoundly uncomfortable, then thinking being polite was the overriding value, and you were therefore not ‘entitled’ to act on your perceptions and discomfort, is, I submit, bullshit. And prioritising-the-feelings-of-males-over-harm-to-women bullshit at that.

  7. This is an excellent idea to demonstrate stepwise how an originally wholesome idea of basic human rights can be regressively corrupted to the extent it ends up misrepresented as precisely it’s own opposite. We’ve had more or less effective laws against libel and defamation and incitement to harm for centuries, so free speech has always had limits in that respect which is completely uncontroversial. But the nebulous definitions of hate sjws want carved into the stone of law amount far too often to mandated speech which, as you demonstrate, is the very totalitarian antithesis of the individual human right of free expression of thought. The difference between prohibition against the misuse of freedom of expression for evil purposes, and the attempt to mandate forms of expression deemed by somebody to be in the interest of the good, could not be more essential. Yet this trans “rights” corruption of ideas has found a formula which has some ability to dazzle large numbers of people into temporary blindness, toward being unable to see that essentiality, by the use of some special mixture of crude outright and blatant distortion and extremely subtle manipulation. I say ‘temporary’ optimistically because I believe this madness will pass and people will regain their sight, and – perhaps rather sheepishly – will have to admit they’ve been taken for a ride.
    In the meantime voices in the digital wilderness, such as yours, with mastery of the linguistic and verbal tools which makes deflection of the nonsense seem to be child’s play will be invaluable, to all of us who frequently need to pause and take a refresher from the fountain of sanity.
    The crucial question to ask is: which rights are they, which trans people supposedly lack in a modern European society, such that a civil rights like movement is necessitated? The rights women fought for – to be able to vote and stand for election, to entitlement to property independently of their spouse, to artificially prevent pregnancy, not to be discriminated against in education or labour markets and much more, the rights of people of other ethnic backgrounds than the norm for the specific country likewise not to suffer discrimination, the rights of homosexual people not to be criminalised for their relationships – none of these rights are denied trans people to my knowledge. Which rights do we others have which they lack? As you so lucidly point out a narcissistic demand to be validated as the being you are not, but want and wish to be – even though you yearn body and soul for it – can never be a human right, because it demands something from other people that is unreasonable to demand; the demand that they suspend permanently their own beliefs, perspectives and values in order to accommodate and compensate for your beliefs, perspectives and values. This expectation can only ever be a privilege, others may choose, or not, to grant – never a right.
    The lesson by extension from this we need to take home is that probably not all ‘civil rights’ campaigns are what they purport to be just because they say so. A civil rights campaign which – when the shiny surface is scratched a little – looks underneath more like a regressive and parasitical commercially backed campaign of expropriation of the rights of other social groups probably does so because in all likelihood it is a regressive and parasitical commercially backed campaign of expropriation of the rights of other social groups.

  8. This entire issue has been one massively-orchestrated, political “Pinkwashing” campaign the direct result of America’s dysfunctional Culture War having been sold across the planet.

    The level of corporate and government lock-step/scripted promotion of such an insult (as well as assault) on fundamental human reality and sensibility this quackery has gotten traction from is no accident. It started (in the States) becoming a cause celebré during Obama’s second term due to the financial influence of James “Jennifer” Pritzker from the Ilinois political machine (heavily invested in CVS Pharmacy as well as Target dept. stores) and, that ridiculous 2015 TIME magazine cover story about “Lavern Cox”.

    However, fast-forward to the Trump era: once MeToo was actually being too effective at calling out the misconduct of high profile men ALL across the elite U.S. power broker spectrum (yet: the media could not come up with a coherent narrative somehow tying-into the whole “Trump-raped-porn actresses”-trope), the (U.S.) media turned off reporting on MeToo like a light switch and BOOM!…trans-this/trans-that, suddenly, everywhere out of the woodwork 24/7. No accident and, in fact: you’d have to say the 180-degree flip was like intended retaliation(!).

    The “Pinkwashing” element to it is, ironically, coordinated to destroy all grass-roots Leftwing (by that: old-school REAL LIBERALISM) activism. It wants people to believe that “liberal” means fretting over (predominantly) White male sexual nihilism (while, bizarrely, the “progressive newspeak” wants NO ONE allowed to question sex-based, race-based, or child exploitative ACTUAL injustices…as the Ameri-centric way of doing business, of course, THRIVES ON THOSE SAID INJUSTICES).

    The demonization of Corbyn (as well as the traditional Rad Left political alliance of gay men and feminists in the U.K.; using “trans” as a red-herring wedge issue to divide Labour) was/is completely due to American unipolar ego relating to MidEast U.S. interests wanting Britain to constantly be Washington’s foreign policy lapdog (especially, at the time, events concerning Syria and Iran) and there being NO MULTIPOLAR OPPOSITION in the World to what the U.S. wants.

    That element cannot be ignored as to why this issue has such an all-encompassing financial push behind it with military-esque precision. EVERY country acting as a U.S. vassal state: exact. same. script of misogynist, Armageddon-hungry, bullsh*t (Canada/U.K./Germany/Israel/Australia) any way they can sell it. Yes, Virginia: “Transgenderism” really is Psy-Ops.

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