Month: February 2020

For Trans Liberation

Ahead of the discussion on The Moral Maze tonight I did a little digging around into the people who will be representing the TRA position. Up against Graham and Kiri will be Jane Fae and Torr Robinson, a person with they/them pronouns who is the Trans Officer for London Young Labour and one of the founders of the recent pledge defaming Woman’s Place and calling for us to be expelled from the Labour Party.


Torr recently wrote this piece for Tribune Mag which fills out the background thinking behind the pledge rather nicely, so I thought I’d have a little look at it. (At this point I’m also going to add, I’m looking at this because it’s BATSHIT, and because the pledge has caused a SHIT-TON of conflict, and because Torr is going to be on the radio this evening as a result of all this brouhaha. At the same time I also want to say, this person is really fucking young, and it’s a not insignificant part of this absolute mess that the people who are responsible for making our laws and should really know better are being buffeted around by extreme political forces summoned by people who should blatantly not have this kind of influence, especially when they write hyperbolic fact-free nonsense like this.)

Anyway, time is short, so I did some scribbling, which I thought I’d pull together into a few general points:

1. The piece is called For Trans Liberation, and this idea is summoned throughout. There is, however, no specification about what Torr is calling for liberation from, or what the specific demands for liberation are. If Torr is concerned with better access to heathcare, or education, or housing, then I’m sure that’s something we can get behind (with the obvious caveat about the ethics of medicalising teenagers). However, of course, the overwhelming majority of the piece is about the fight against transphobia, and it would seem therefore that the overall thrust is about ‘liberation from transphobia.’ (In this it mimics one of our most common observations about the TRM. Why have you not devoted your considerable resources and organisational power to pushing for the material resources that you need, rather than going all in on trying to politically abolish sex and bullying the many women who object? Answer: Because ‘Trans Liberation’ isn’t actually ‘Trans Liberation.’ It’s ‘Trans Validation.’ And what ‘Trans Validation’ demands is that we all collude with you that sex does not exist.)


2. As is usual in this debate, transphobia is NEVER given a coherent definition here. In the standfirst we hear talk of amorphous ‘transphobic forces’ – which is not at all dehumanising, given that what Torr means is us, a group of feminist women and their allies. Throughout the piece Torr uses pathologizing language to characterise this transphobia. It is ‘incubated’ (p.2) and it ‘infects,’ (p.6) it is “poisoning the well of British culture (p.2)” [Hey left wing people, what does this kind of language remind you of???]…although they never tell us what it is, despite claiming that the path ‘Towards a Trans Future’ (not at all bombastic), requires “free night schools and accessible literature about what transphobia is (p.6).” (YES TORR. BUT WHAT IS IT???). At this point what I’m going to say of course is that all Torr means by ‘transphobia’ is ‘the belief that humans are sexed and that sex is politically important.’ But of course, Torr’s not actually going to come out and say that, because it sounds bonkers, because it is.


3. Which brings us to the fact that what is entirely refused here is that Torr’s talking about a conflict between the political demands of the Trans Rights Movement and women, who have had the temerity to organise against the threat to our rights stemming from the fact that the ideology of the TRM is sex denialist, and is seeking to legally and political erase sex. It is extremely notable that the word ‘woman’ or ‘women’ occurs only three times in the entire six pages. Twice when Torr is forced to use it in order to defame Woman’s Place as a hate-group, and once when they use it in order to outline why the fight for trans liberation demands combatting “lies like the notion that women’s rights and trans rights are in opposition (p.6).” (Maybe if you want us to believe that you’re not in the business of erasing us, it might be an idea to actually mention us as if we were humans and try to honestly outline our position eh Torr?) By contrast, Torr’s chosen vocabulary to name ‘uppity feminist women, their allies and their heretical beliefs about the existence of sex’ is much more frequent. ‘Transphobes’ get 11 mentions, and the amorphous polluting force of ‘transphobia’ comes in at a whopping 18 mentions. So yeah, not erasing or dehumanising women at all there then.


4. On the matter of ‘representing the views of the evil amorphous transphobic hordes’ we get the usual lies and hyperbole. There is an “endemic tide of hatred (p.1)”, we are heading a “counter-campaign of bigotry (p.1),” we believe that “trans people are not deserving of rights,” and that they are “unnatural and abnormal (p.1).” Of course, no evidence or citations are ever provided for these claims. And there is, as suggested above, an absolute refusal to deal even remotely honestly with the substance of our position – that sex exists, that female people are oppressed on the basis of sex, that male people are a statistical threat to female people, and that the demand that society be entirely reorganised on the pretence that sex does not exist represents a significant harm to female people, children, homosexuals and the entire fabric of fucking reality. The closest Torr gets to something approaching honesty is when they note that the left-wing opposition to trans ideology has got something to do with the fact that, um, socialists are supposed to be materialists. But this substantive objection is weakly handwaved away by asserting that our materialism is ‘reductive’ because we allegedly think humans are just “chemical processes (p.2)” (um yeah no, but I’m not sure you want to be lecturing us about obsessions with prescription human chemicals), or because our materialism fails to “account for the material social order. (p.2)” (TORR, IT’S CALLED PATRIARCHY. YOU MIGHT HAVE HEARD OF IT????) Anyway, this glancing moment of almost-truth is rapidly forgotten, and by the next paragraph we’re all a bunch of ‘centrist liberals’ engaged in the “intellectualised and respectable brand (p.2)” of transphobia ‘incubated’ by The NS and The Guardian (what has little OJ been up to?)


5. ‘The Roadmap to Trans Liberation’ that Torr advances to counter the transphobic hordes involves the prescription that ‘trans power’ should create “structures and organisations (p.4)” to advance their interests. This is the point where the extent of leave-taking from reality just starts to get silly. Torr, dear, your political movement is being advanced by the most staggeringly well-organised and funded set of institutions and mechanisms any purported civil rights movement has ever seen. Stonewall. Gendered Intelligence. GIRES. Press For Change. Scottish Trans Alliance. TELI. Engender. Mermaids. Most of whom are funded by the government and the lottery. I could go on and on. And that’s before we even get to all the Big Business that supported the GRA reform campaign. Or the fact that almost the entirety of civil society (The NHS. All the universities. The Army, Navy and MI5 and 6) have all signed up for those lovely Stonewall Diversity gongs and put in place policies determined in line with your vision of a world without sex. If you haven’t organised yet, what the actual living fuck will it look like when you do organise????


6. Which brings us to the final salvo of ‘BURN THE WITCHES.’ In order to “change the course of the future of this country (p.5)” and “avoid the coming catastrophe for trans people (p.6)” (which is what, exactly?) the Labour Party must “organise to remove transphobes [women] and transphobia [people who believe in sex-based rights] throughout the party (p.6).” The LP has failed trans people because “transphobes [women] have been able to organise freely throughout the party (p4).” (Women, being allowed to organise, freely, in a democratic political party, to express their political interests, FOR SHAME). Moreover, the Party included the pledge to “preserve ‘single-sex spaces’ (p.4)” in the 2019 Manifesto. (Yes Torr, they’re in the Equality Act, you don’t want to mess with women’s rights as given in the Equality Act do you?)…even though, Torr tells us, according to the Law Decreed by Stonewall (who are not a Trans Rights organisation you understand because none of those exist), women’s single sex spaces are “meaningless legally (p.4)” because they’re entirely accessible to people with GRCs anyway… (What were you saying about us having to accept that there’s no material conflict between your interests and ours again??).


At this point, as we’ve seen playing out over the last week, the whole thing collapses into pure totalitarianism. There’s all the fluffy Maoist talk about developing “education for the rank-and-file” in order to produce “awareness and affinity towards our movement (p.6)” (and what, pray tell, will happen to those of us who don’t ‘respond to education’???) I have to say, this scares the absolute crap out of me. Not because I think they’re really going to cart us all off to a re-education camp (although I’d like to see them try to explain the Genderbread Person while we pepper them with questions about why they’re forcing this sexist bullshit down our throats and whether they’ve considered the analogues between the transcendence of gendered souls and The Resurrection). But because I want to know what has happened to the brains of our young people that they think this kind of wanton authoritarianism is even remotely acceptable in a democracy. And I want to know why, after the most disastrous election in nearly two generations, they think this was a good moment to get the Labour Party to engage in gratuitous acts of self-immolation in full public view. Listen Torr, we are not going to let you bully us into complying with our own political annihilation. If you have the actual brass neck to start waxing on about the ‘arc of justice’ you need to understand this. Justice was never achieved by refusing recognition to any group of persons and their interests. It was never achieved by dehumanizing them as a faceless pathogenic force. And it was never ever achieved by fantasising about exiling and erasing them, by imagining you can purify yourself of an evil you have yourself constructed. LOOK US IN THE FACE TORR. WE ARE WOMEN. WE ARE PEOPLE. AND YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO TALK TO US.