Disciplining Martina: Heretics and the Church of Trans Normativity

Two main things turned up in my timeline this morning. One was the fall-out of Rachel McKinnon’s egregious and unconcealed bullying of Martina Navratilova, and the other was a Call For Papers from Brighton University that Kathleen tweeted here.


I was already planning on doing this post on Martina when the CFP popped up – because Rachel’s behaviour last night was a pretty copper-bottomed rendition of what trans activist coercion looks like, and I thought it was worth taking a look at it blow by blow. The academic CFP might, at first glance, seem a little tangential to the issue of trans inclusion in sports, but it refracted with Rachel’s behaviour in an interesting way, so, happy or unhappy accident, this is what you get guys…

gayness 2

The CFP sketches out the familiar claim that ‘queerness’ is ‘inclusive’ and ‘fluid’ while ‘gayness’ or ‘homosexuality’ is ‘exclusive’ and ‘oppressive,’ a dichotomy that rests on the never-fully-interrogated assumption that ‘inclusion’ is an unequivocal ‘good,’ while ‘exclusion’ is an unequivocal ‘evil.’ The parallel here to the issue of trans inclusion in sports is evident – this is precisely the moral logic that makes McKinnon come over all God’s avenging angel to one of the greatest sportswomen – and lesbian icons – of all time. And it’s exactly the logic, to draw the examples closer, which also underpins Rachel’s consistent indictment of lesbians for asserting their same-sex ‘exclusiveness.’ But what strikes me as particularly interesting about the refraction of these two moments with each other, is that the CFP belies a critical contradiction. While the discourse of ‘exclusive’ homosexuality is ‘normative’ (in queer-theory speak this is synonymous with ‘disciplinary’ and ‘oppressive’ – i.e. ‘bad’), queer perspectives, they admit, have now assumed a ‘hegemonic status.’


Quite how the people writing this thought they could parse ‘bad normativity’ from ‘good hegemony’ is anyone’s guess – if ‘normative’ or ‘hegemonic’ discourses are ‘disciplinary’ or ‘bad’ by virtue of being hegemonic, then there is no reason why ‘queer’ discourses should get a free pass. (There is a paradox in the centre of queer thought here – at the point at which queer theory becomes a form of academic normativity, it is no longer, by its own definitions, queer). Indeed, what I want to suggest here, is that Rachel’s behaviour to Martina is exactly a demonstration of the way in which the moral logic of queer ‘inclusivity’ has now become a hegemonic, punitive, and profoundly disciplinary discourse. As we have all been noting over the last months, trans and radical queer activism is animated by a deeply authoritarian and coercive political impulse which leads it to behave like the bastard child of Stalinism and the Medieval Catholic Church. It has produced a generation of aesthetically and discursively identikit activists who are utterly in thrall to their own moral righteousness, the categorical ‘evil’ of anyone who questions their sacred axioms, and their divine inquisitorial right to school and punish heretics. That is, the very fact that a mediocre philosopher and mediocre cyclist considers themselves in a position to discipline someone as widely and rightfully respected as Martina Navratilova for heresy, tells us everything we need to know about which discourse is dominant here, the hegemonic normativity of ‘queer’ inclusivity, and the fact that there is pretty much nothing ‘anti-disciplinary,’ ‘diverse,’ ‘fluid,’ ‘open,’ or strictly speaking, ‘queer,’ about trans activism. ‘In Queer Times’ we find ourselves. Indeed.

Anyway, let’s look at what happened. This is the tweet that kicked it off (which Martina has since deleted, because Rachel):

martina original

Now, I’m not going to get into a thing here about whether Martina is right to claim that this standard (having or not having a penis) should be the standard by which trans women should or should not be included in women’s sports. What those standards should be is a whole conversation, it’s not my wheelhouse, and I’m just going to say, we need to have it. What interests me, rather, is that it’s not a conversation trans activism is willing to even countenance, because trans activism is committed to the proposition that ‘trans-women-are-women-in-all-and-every-respect-and-any-attempt-to-make-any-distinctions-based-on-sex-is-an-act-of-egregious-hatred-that-must-be-pounced-on-and-disciplined-immediately.’ Ergo:


This is of course the classic form of the opening salvo, viz. ‘HERETIC’

Followed quickly by: ‘RECANT.’


Then there are a couple of quote tweets to drive the point home:

quote tweet 1

quote tweet 2

The second one, ‘we’re not misrepresenting you’ is pretty entertaining. Seeing as it was in response to the tried and trusted imputation that anyone who thinks the difference between male and female people might matter is a literal Nazi.


One imagines from this that Martina’s mentions were a shitshow at around this point, and she decides to engage directly with Rachel:

enough already

To which Rachel replies, ‘you messed up by doing a HERESY’:

penis 1penis2

There are multiple branching threads in this exchange, so I’ll try to put them together as best I can. In response to the ‘Third Reading of the Charge of Heresy’ we get this, a recanting:

take it back

world champ

Martina also replies to the original tweet telling her to recant with this:

keep cooking.png

Bonus ‘maybe you don’t realize who you’re speaking to’ self-awareness fail. (ETA: Because I did not make anywhere like a big enough deal of this. Can you imagine, IMAGINE, for a fraction of a second, being a two-bit philosopher and shit cyclist who is almost entirely famous for calling women TERFS and nefariously winning medals, bowling up to a woman who has won eighteen – eighteen – Grand Slam titles, and saying, ‘DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM???’ Like, seriously, my brain cannot even start computing the quantity of narcissistic obliviousness that requires.)


And, as if that wasn’t enough, let’s follow up the grandiose peacocking with a patronising side of that old favourite, ‘educate yourself’ (aka, ‘Read the Good Book until you understand the WORD, heathen’)


The final reply from Martina to the original tweet telling her to delete was this:

good deeds

This one is a doozy, and it points to something that drive me nuts about trans activism. That is, the sheer unadulterated narcissism of its moral system. There is only their moral code, and their moral code is ALL ABOUT THEM, and gives not one flying fuck about the needs of anyone else, or about anything in a person’s character or history if it’s not ALL ABOUT THEM. Martina Navratilova is an outstanding human being – along multiple axes (not something many of us would say about Rachel McKinnon) – but she has committed a sin against the Great Church of Trans Ideology and so she gets treated with blanket contempt. The punitive moralism dripping off Rachel’s reply here makes me want to scream. Yeah, right, very fucking queer.

Following the pronouncement on Martina’s sins – and despite the fact that she has already recanted – we then get instruction on the proper way to prostrate and atone (along with the conventional ‘we’re just trying to help you do better’…could you get more dead-eyed disciplinarian, bending over you with a belt, telling you it’s for your own good??? I mean come on now Martina, Rachel’s only trying to stop you getting sent to hell, you really should be grateful):

do better.png

We also get this, in which Martina tries to point out that hectoring people who are relatively sympathetic to you might not be the best way to go, and Rachel can’t hear a damn thing over the interminable drum beat of ‘ME ME ME ME ME ME ME.’ At this point, we might want to chip in with the fact that this argument is all about the possible harm – both in fairness-terms, and because of the elevated chance of injury – to women competing with trans women in sports. But as we know, only harms to trans women matter, and concerns about harms to women are a hate-crime.

good fight

Martina then goes back to the earlier tweet in which Rachel gave her some ‘educate yourself’ material, and it prompts more admonishment on correct atonement procedures (plus a nice side-swipe at an evident ally explaining why this might not be  productive):

not to behave

Then we get this, which carries over from the tweet yesterday telling Martina she has done something ‘very wrong’ to this morning:


Rachel responds by informing Martina that her sin has only been exacerbated because she is being supported by a whole raft of other evil sinners:

other sinners

The last responses from Martina come in a thread that had developed about her coach, the trans tennis player Renee Richards. McKinnon is absolutely dismissive – because Richards doesn’t toe the trans ideological line – before heading straight back for more moralistic ‘I hope you see the error of your ways my child.’:


Martina, quite rightly, counters by pointing out that Rachel’s ‘engagement’ bears all the hallmarks of bullying – or, to be more specific, all the hallmarks of trying a heretic. Rachel, of course, is having none of this. Evidently, only one person here is being victimized:

last night.png

And clearly the best way to demonstrate that is with a few more quote tweets about what a terrible creature Navratilova is, and how very dare she:

morning quote 1

morning quote 2

I don’t have much more to say here. It tells, I think, a pretty clear tale. I’m not doing this because I hope to make a mark on McKinnon’s narcissistic carapace. That’s an exercise in futility, as this final RT from this morning makes abundantly clear:


I guess my only hope is to appeal to my once colleagues – the people inside the academy who are still churning out this bollocks about queer fluidity and anti-normativity and inclusiveness. For the love of the goddess, open your fucking eyes. This is an unequivocally, irremediably identitarian discourse. Everything we learned about the dangers of totalization, and the inability to deal with difference, and the importance of openness. Every thing you allegedly believe about ‘bad’ normativity, and discursive discipline. Every thought that arose from the post-war ashes about how not to purify ourselves with flames. This discourse is everything you claim to oppose. It is everything that it claims that it isn’t.




  1. You can get some interesting ideas about what might drive this stuff if you check out articles about how to spot a malignant narcissist or sociopath. Checklists include: grandiose delusions, patronizing tone, refusal to admit even 1% wrong no matter how much reasonable evidence is presented, inability to emotionally empathize with others’ position, turning people against each other, warping arguments so that other people can barely figure out what’s going on, and wild distortion of reality to the point when other people start to feel like they are the ones going crazy. Makes you wonder…

    1. Nailed it. Rachel’s behavior is textbook narcissism. Been studying it for years since I have 2 family members who are narcissists. They are not ever happy with an apology (not that you should; they usually demand them over nothing). They will destroy you for disagreeing with them. It’s unfortunate that Martina doesn’t know this. Always makes me wince watching a normal, healthy person react to an attack by a narcissist – it comes out of nowhere and it’s brutal.

      1. I think Jones makes some great points in this essay, and it seems clear that McKinnon did not handle the interaction with Navratilova well at all. But there’s no reason to not call McKinnon by her preferred pronouns.

      1. It was almost, _almost_ funny, because it was so pathetic and narcissistic, but on the other hand, it just showed the complete lack of possibility of making a dent in that person’s consciousness.

  2. Dr. Jones:
    Thanks so much for shining a spotlight on this. I saw McKinnon’s bullying on Twitter last night, and as a gay man and huge tennis fan, I was so angry at how Martina was being treated that I almost wanted to scream out loud. But I don’t have a Twitter account–nor do I want to get one–so I didn’t have a place where I could express my frustration and anger.
    I’m an open-minded person, so if anyone could actually give me a good definition of “woman”–a non-circular definition that does not include the term it’s defining–I would totally get on board with the idea that trans women are (really) women. As a gay man, I always “knew” that I was supposed to support my trans brothers and sisters as part of the LGBT community, but I could never come up with a satisfactory answer to Gloria Steinem’s rhetorical question, “If the shoe doesn’t fit, why should you change your foot?” And I could never explain to myself how changing your body to match your gender expression was not an anti-feminist reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Ironically, there’s nothing “queer” about transgenderism. Rather, transgenderism is too often about not being queer or gender non-conforming and instead perpetuating gender stereotypes.

    1. JProf: Thank you for observing the logical failure in the statement — and the fact that NO ONE has ever defined their terms or given evidence related to the claim. Instead, they get angry that anyone questions the claim enough to require evidence. It’s crazy-making. And the narcissistic conviction that they’re “educating” others far more talented and committed to equality than they are simply further illustrates the point. (I was a professor of speech; I keep wondering where we all failed that they think what they’re doing is argument.)

  3. Wow. McKinnon took Navratilova’s words:

    “a woman who has done more for trans people than you can ever dream of”

    out of context and implied that Navratilova was talking about HERSELF. In fact the “woman who has done more for trans people than you can ever dream of” she meant was Renee Richards.

    McKinnon is dishonest through and through–I agree with Jen Miller that he’s personality-disordered–but this sort of sophistry is ubiquitous in trans propaganda.

    1. Worse actually! I don’t think “she” – a self-professed philosopher – even realised that Martina was referring to Renee Richards. McKinnon is not even a mediocre intellect.

  4. Great summary of events. I was involved in the original conversation that got her to question the standards of self-id. Rachel’s bullying entitlement makes our case for us

  5. Such stunning and brave narcissistic mansplaining towards a pro athlete from a delusional man who doesn’t understand why sports are sex-segregated due to the physical differences in sexual dimorphism.

    We as a society seriously need to drop the pretense of politeness and giving a shit about appearing as “allies” to these nutjobs. You don’t treat dysmorphia by pretending for the rest of your life that you’re something you’re not, and by going along with it we’re being enablers. There literally is no limit to the number of concessions these men will demand of women.

  6. Every time I see this sort of exchange I cannot help it but in my mind’s eye I see the trans-women involved wearing top hats and luxuriant mustachios in the role of “Victorian Dad” from Viz Comic!

    This sort of conduct is so desperately remote from demonstrating any possible identity as a woman.

    Being a woman, by contrast, is so perfectly exemplified by Navratilova’s attempts to empathise, to understand, to engage with sincerity, to seek constructive resolution. All completely futile when dealing with overbearing, bullying, defensive, self-serving “cock of the heap” preening and crowing masculinity – except to onlookers clearly seeing what is going on.

    The machismo antics and passive-aggressive manipulation of the likes of McKinnon do nothing to advance the interests of most trans-women, who genuinely identify as women, who understand that being a woman is more than slapping on mascara and wearing a frock.

    A tiny, swaggering minority of self-interested trans-women are getting away with demanding that everyone swaps common sense and scientific reality for a semi-religious belief-system. It is Kafkaesque, surreal, divisive, toxic and serves no one’s interests but their own.

    But we have been here before. These guys are just old fashioned “Victorian Dads”, shape-shifting to get their own way and stamp their self-serving authoritarian mark on our era, if we let them. This time will pass as more and more people see them for the bullies, charlatans, snake oil salesmen and self-obsessed, narcissistic con-artists that they are.

    When the backlash comes, I would bet my bottom dollar that the people at the forefront of defending and protecting genuine trans-women will be feminists, not these pathetic egotistical jerks. They will change their colours soon enough when it suits their personal agendas.

  7. I’ve been wondering for a while now why inclusivity has become something like religious dogma. Someone should start interrogating it. Maybe I just have a warped imagination, but it makes me think of pre-school, where the teachers have been brainwashing all the little tykes to get along with everybody, as if that’s an absolute good thing. We all know you can’t get along with everybody, that it’s totally proper to have ethical standards determining who you will include in your social group, and that it’s perfectly normal to have personality preferences that determine who you exclude from your friendship groups. If you don’t have a right to exclude people from your life, your activities, your space, you don’t have the right to have values, standards or preferences. We can be respectful of / polite to people we choose to exclude (and I think we should as much as possible), but we can’t be forbidden from excluding people.

  8. Reblogged this on fangsalotblog and commented:
    Some bloke invading women’s sports who I had never heard of until he bowled up to Martina Navratilova and said “Don’t you know who I am!?” Laugh My Fucking Arse Off! No, I don’t know who you are, but now I do know you as a weak, inadequate, self-entitled little man with a total white male privilege mindset. Cheeky little cheater.

  9. Reblogged this on Dead Wild Roses and commented:
    “Rachel’s behaviour to Martina is exactly a demonstration of the way in which the moral logic of queer ‘inclusivity’ has now become a hegemonic, punitive, and profoundly disciplinary discourse. As we have all been noting over the last months, trans and radical queer activism is animated by a deeply authoritarian and coercive political impulse which leads it to behave like the bastard child of Stalinism and the Medieval Catholic Church.”

  10. I think it’s rich for this Bicycle Thief to use the term FART “Feminist Appropriating” when he is pretending to be a woman so that he can cover his mantle with trophies. I have so little respect for him that I wouldn’t help him if he needed the Heimlich maneuver. I would tell him that it only works for men because it would break sensitive lady parts. (Let’s see how much of a woman he is, then, eh?)

    1. “he is pretending to be a woman” McKinnon is legally a woman, not pretending for the sake of trophies. She is a pompous jerk, to be sure, but her transness is quite genuine.

      1. @Nova kant

        “McKinnon is legally a woman”

        He can legally be a striped piece of fruitcake; self identification doesn’t alter material reality.

        “but her transness is quite genuine.”

        Because he embraces delusion, should not be reasonable grounds to force everyone else to deny basic reality.

      2. His “trans-ness” may be genuine; he’s still not a woman. Nobody who sincerely believes they are the opposite can actually *become* that sex.

        The renegotiation of womanhood as a social category, and not a material reality, is so malevolent.

        Bring him to hospital and let the nurses believe that, as his records show, he is a “woman.” The consequence would be medical malpractice, as we all know identity does not pierce the bone. It sits on the surface. It means nothing.

  11. The idea that a penis is an external vagina is asinine. Stupidity like that is why ordinary people don’t much buy into the whole trans thing. Also, why should any decent human being be “allies” with assholes like McKinnon?

  12. Some elements of the transgender ‘movement’ are purchasing its way into the rightful compassion and concerns of millions for enhancing diversity and tolerance, except that in doing so some transgender campaigners are pushing aside, even walking over, those very ideals of diversity and tolerance, imposing silence by slandering, and even silencing, questioning of their insistence that ‘transwomen are women’ by stigmatising even the politest public expressions of scepticism about this idea. There’s no question that this is a shrewdly and even brilliantly organised campaign – one whose success is better explained by its financing.

  13. Thanks for a great piece very clearly and soundly pointing out the hectoring and going after of Martina. Poor Rachel…desperately clinging to his acronyms to belittle women. Nobody’s sipping what your pouring other than those within your little bubble. Soz Rache, try all you like, you will not silence women.

  14. McKinnon came on my radar a few years ago as I am a cyclist of McKinnon’s age, and I would not accept racing against McKinnon in the women’s category. When McKinnon was competing against men, McKinnon was middle of the pack. Against females, now winning…

    Adopt the gender you want, I really don’t care what people do in their private lives, but sports are SEX segregated for good reasons. Gender is unrelated to sports segregation.

    And, predictably, has you have well noted, transwomen such as McKinnon think they have a right to everything. You don’t have a right to compete against natal females if you are a natal male, regardless of how you want to define gender. That quote about having the entitlement of mediocre white men is perfect.

    And, McKinnon’s narcissism is absolutely disgusting, as is their transplaining/mansplaining nonsense.

    1. “When McKinnon was competing against men, McKinnon was middle of the pack.” McKinnon never competed against men in cycling.

      1. Not according to TCFKR. RM’s/Ivy/whatever noted on twitter that they competed against men and was middle of the pack (at best). Are you calling them a liar? (Which if you are, I agree.)

  15. I’d kept out of the debate until just a few days ago – I felt uncomfortable about the word cis, I thought it was weird that ‘being a woman’was being reduced to nail varnish and hair dye.

    I am normally open-minded but then thought that maybe my instinctive reactions were because I was getting old-fashioned like my mum had been about gay rights. Then after the JKR incident, I started researching, found your website and I realised I was right!

    The more I look into this, the more I see how ridiculous it is! Most of my ‘progressive’ friends are totally brainwashed, so I’m trying to find the unindoctrinated and tell them all about the madness.

    Thank you so much for such a brilliant articulation of all the things I have been thinking about this debate. You have made me realise I am neither alone nor bigoted, and that the hopelessly entitled narcissism is core to their behaviour – and does nothing to prove they are women!

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