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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

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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?)

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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????

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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??).

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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.

‘Unreasonable Ideas’ – A Reply to Alison Phipps

Yesterday Kathleen suggested that, rather than making endless dark subtweets about what an evil toxic force we are, Alison Phipps actually tried talking to us like human beings and engage in debate about the ideas at the heart of this conflict.

debate

Of course, that offer was refused. On the grounds that “’Reasonable debate’ cannot counter unreasonable ideas.’ Which is both convenient, and, if taken at face value, a pretty staggering statement from someone who is supposedly in the business of dealing with ideas. If taken at face value, ‘unreasonable’ here would mean something like ‘lacking in reasoned argument,’ or ‘not capable of being justified with compelling reasons.’ Maybe this is what Phipps means, but if so, she would have to, y’know, actually demonstrate that the many reasons we have given for our position are not, in fact, reasonable. Which would, indeed, be the entire point of asking her to intellectually engage with us, rather than just doing an endless ‘tut and move away’ manoeuvre. We have, over the course of the last years, written a decent pile of blog posts and essays and academic papers and twitter threads, explaining the basis of our objections to the ideology of the present form of the Trans Rights Movement, and the effect we think it will have on women and girls. We have received nothing by way of substantive critique which deals directly with those objections, even though we wrote a handy little guide basically asking for it, all of which leaves the distinct impression that advocates of the Trans Rights position don’t actually have a substantive response to our objections. If our position was actually ‘unreasonable’ in the first and most conventional sense, then engaging in reasoned debate with us would be exactly the way of demonstrating that. Of course, we’re going to conclude from Phipps’ swerve that she knows full well that she can’t answer our reasoned objections, and no surprises there – this absolute refusal to deal with the substance of the issue has been the core political tactic of the TRM from the start, and it’s because, simply, they can’t deal with reasoned objections. What they can, and have done, inveterately, instead, is weave a web of analogical relations to explain why we’re evil, why everything we say is evil, and why they don’t have to engage with us or anything we ever say because we’re SO. DAMN. EVIL.

Mona

This is actually what Phipps is saying when she calls us ‘unreasonable.’ It can’t be a (potentially) demonstrable claim about our position ‘lacking reasoned argument’ because if it were, the claim that ‘reasonable debate cannot defeat unreasonable ideas’ would make no sense. What it is, rather, I’d suggest, is a moral claim – a claim that we and our ideas are so morally delinquent that we can, and should, be excluded from the community of legitimate speaking subjects. (For a particularly piquant example of this move, here’s the bit where a bunch of our colleagues compared three lesbians to holocaust deniers and people advocating for the corrective rape of lesbians). For a group of people so profoundly concerned with questions of recognition, validation, and the harms of dehumanisation and exclusion, it is marked how absolute and implacable the TR position is when it comes to refusing anyone who questions their ideology or political agenda the merest hint of basic recognition. We are never to be taken as good actors who have genuinely motivated concerns or objections grounded in our own political analysis of the world. We will not be interpreted or understood in anything resembling our own terms, but are, instead, a venomous horde of boogeywomen summoned by the projections of our opponents. Feminism has a term for fashioning groups of people out of your own projections and flattening them into an undifferentiated dark morass that lacks individuated or interior life. We call it othering.

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Bad Judgement – Part 1

So, before JK charged in to raise our spirits, I sat down, Thursday morning, and in an effort to not stick my head in the toilet, decided to go through Maya’s judgement and break down the central conceptual moves and mistakes with a fine-tooth comb. It’s an absolute mess and dissecting the full form of the mess got a little bit (ahem) out of control. Still, #IStandWithMaya, and this is a core part of my beat, so, here we go….

Introduction

The judgement functions by applying what’s known as the ‘Grainger criteria’ (see Grainger plc v Nicholson, 2010) to establish whether a philosophical belief constitutes something worthy of protection. The criteria stipulates that the belief must be a) genuinely held, b) a belief and not an opinion, based on present available information c) pertain to a weighty or substantial aspect of human life and behaviour d) have a level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance and e) be worthy of respect in a democratic society as well as being not incompatible with human dignity or conflict with others’ rights. It’s important to note that what’s purportedly not under consideration here is whether the belief is true, scientific, or based on what many people consider to be a basic material fact about the world. When the case was being heard, many people asked why our political position was being defended under the rubric of ‘philosophical belief,’ to which the long and short answer is, ‘because the law has no provision for protecting people for stating material facts.’ Which is all of no small consequence, given that, at least from our perspective, the crux of this case is whether it’s permissible to state material facts if those facts cause some people emotional distress, or, in twitter rubric, it’s boils down to ‘facts vs. feelings’. Given this, whether the facts at the core of gender critical belief are, in fact, facts, is absolutely central to whether you think it’s reasonable, or reprehensible, to both hold and express them. It may be that because (allegedly) that’s not what’s under consideration here, the law is a badly made instrument for dealing with this question. Particularly when, I’d argue, the judgement only makes sense if you take the view that biological sex isn’t real, which – even though it’s purportedly outside the purview of the judgement – the judge, in fact, does.

Here we find that, just like trans activist discourse itself, the judgement is maddeningly circular. If it is the case that biological sex exists then this judgement simply falls apart in several places. Judge Tayler’s operating ontology surfaces in his refusal to recognise that for women to adequately express their political critique of trans activist demands it is necessary to point to sex and sometimes, even, to the sex of specific individuals – a refusal which effectively corresponds to an easy dismissal of the political stakes for women, and a blunt lack of respect for our specific political interests. The half-explicit denial of sex is also central to Tayler’s refusal of Maya’s claim that the GRA creates a legal fiction, a refusal that makes sense only on the basis of denying that there is any difference between legal and ontological sex. By suggesting that there is only the man-made structure of ‘legal sex,’ Tayler is effectively asserting the priority of the ideal/cultural over material/biological reality. Here, legal sex (like it’s conceptual twin ‘gender identity’) trumps/erases biological sex, and the judgement itself turns out to be a perfect performance of the core of the ideology we were seeking to show we had a lawful right to resist.

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The TRA Trope Almanac

title

 

awful arguments

The argument proceeding from clownfish.

The argument proceeding from strawberries.

The argument proceeding from seahorses.

“Intersex people are as common as redheads, so sex does not exist.”

“Sex is a spectrum, so males are female.”

“Bio-essentialism!” (Is that like thinking horses and carrots exist?)

“It’s SO COMPLICATED.”

“Thinking women exist is like thinking women are livestock,” aka “Stop reducing women to their genitals!”

 “Everything is a social construct.”

 “Because women are Black, disabled, poor, gay, etc,. women do not exist.”

 “Everyone who says they are trans is trans. Except destransitioners. And evil witches. (Ask Owen Jones. He decides. With his sorting hat.).”

 “Men would never bother identifying as woman to abuse women and children.”

“Sex is assigned at birth based on arbitrary genital configurations.”

“Women can’t beat men at sports because they just aren’t trying hard enough.”

“Michael Phelps has got big feet so sport is never fair.”

“Cis women are not oppressed as such.”

‘Cis womanhood is threatened by trans women.”

“I earned my womanhood. So I’m more of a woman than you.”

 “I feel like a woman and I have biology therefore I have female biology.”

“Some women don’t have uteruses, so males can be women.”

“Mythical biological females.”

“But my gold lame pocketbook!”

“Sometimes a male brain grows a woman’s body by mistake.”

 “Women are not oppressed on the basis of their sex. They’re oppressed because they wear lipstick.”

“Sex is an outdated concept.”

“Woman is a palimpsest.”

“Woman is Frankenstein’s Monster.”

“Woman is a loose shifting constellation of biological, political and cultural phenomena that varies according to context, time and space.”

“Woman is a void to be filled by other people’s desire.”

“One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.”

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Who’s Removing Whose Rights Anyway?

My god, what a shitshow.

As we all know, yesterday Labour released their new manifesto, in which they made the following pledge:

pledge

Twitter erupted, I may or may not have done a backflip, lots of people were rightly more sceptical, and then there was a great deal of anger and name-calling from those who – given how polarised this whole thing now is – we may as well just call ‘the other side.’

Since then, a great deal of smoke and obfuscation has been cast over the pledge. Firstly by Ellie Mae O’Hagan – whose loyalties in this battle are well known (oh hai Owen) – and then subsequently by Dawn Butler, who at this point I think we may as well just regard as a fully paid-up TRA.

Ellie 1

There is a lot to say about this. The first is that both the statement Ellie tweeted, and Dawn’s statement, would seem to directly contradict the pledge made in yesterday’s manifesto, and notably – how odd! – they use exactly the same language to do so. The key phrase here of course is ‘no spaces will be permitted to discriminate against trans people.’

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On ‘Transcendent Truths’ and Oh-Such-Intellectual Sophistication

So, last night this thread turned up, which Lorelei pointed to, because she was, quite rightly, objecting to what she saw as the erasure of the material basis of her disability. It kind of blew my mind and infuriated me in equal measure, and I was wondering if I should get out my virtual pens and scribble all over it. I decided to, partly because what blew my mind and infuriated me might be usefully illustrative, and also, in good part because one of the awesome Scottish women told me that Harry is becoming something of an intellectual star up their way, and so, there might be some service to them in thinking through why this is such a philosophical clusterfuck.

Harry 1

Let’s start by summarising Harry’s main argument. There are two main prongs. The first relies on Harry’s creation of the character of the ‘straw tran,’ who is, basically, the character we claim could abuse self-ID procedures and declare themselves trans for nefarious purposes. As suggested by the nomenclature, Harry’s assertion is that this person could not and does not exist (Wax. My. Balls), and moreover that it shows ‘complete ignorance’ to think this person could exist, because this person does not conform to what Harry understands to be ”actual trans lives.” There is a lot of half-reasonable stuff here (I’ll get on to why only half-reasonable in a mo), about ‘performative gender’ as a “whole set of ways of being in the world over time,” and social identities as “historical being in the world,” and how such identities are not just assumed and lived on the basis of singular speech acts. All of which indubitably conveys Harry’s experience of their own transness and maybe of many of their community, and all of which has absolutely no bearing on the fact that self-ID procedures would involve only a single declarative act and that checking people are involved in a process of meaningful lived transition is precisely why we have the current gatekeeping system embedded in the GRA. So basically Harry, you’ve just produced a really decent account of why the current system is a good idea, and the only thing you’ve got to ground your claim that it’s not is the baseless assertion that there are only good actors in this situation. Which is to say, the baseless assertion that creepy as fuck predatory males do not exist and will not manifestly abuse loopholes around the safeguarding of women and girls. To which I repeat: Wax. My. Balls.

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Why Feminists Are Not Nazis

So, in the light of the events in Toronto of the last few weeks, and especially the decision by Toronto City Council to review how the the library could possibly have let the evil. terven. speak, I got back into thinking about the work that analogies between gender critical feminism and Nazism are doing in this conflict.

We have to reflect on how incredible it is that a city council can vote almost unanimously to review library policies with the intent of ensuring that women speaking about their sexed-based rights  ‘doesn’t happen again,’ and that nobody even stops to interrogate the basis of why these women should be censured. And this unthinking willingness has a great deal to do with how effectively trans rights discourse has convinced many that it’s completely normal to aggressively besiege women talking about their rights in libraries on the basis that such talk is hateful, and represents a ‘literally violent’ harm to trans women. I have talked elsewhere about some of the – totally implausible – ways this claim of harm has been filled out by trans ideology. But I was today reminded that a lot of the intuitive appeal is also resting on the analogy with Nazism and other forms of far-right or nationalist thinking.

So, anyway, while the actions in Toronto raise a pretty terrifying spectre of actual democratic abnegation, I thought I’d post the text and visuals from the talk I gave in Reading earlier this year, on the subject of why accusing feminists of being Nazis is a load of propagandist, totalitarian bullshit….

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Alice Roberts

 

There is a man in your mentions medusa1

Congratulating you

And calling all the women

Who disagreed with you

(For reasons you will not hear)

A pitchfork mob, while he

Conjures up

A pit of

Snakes.

 

You should know this tale.

The mouth

Ringed about with teeth

(He imagines)

Gapes

In its defiance.medusa

We women who

Will

Not

Yield

To his demand that we

Are pliable and pretty

But still possess

The power of life,

Against his sovereign will,

 

He cannot stand it.

 

There, at the start,

Amidst the waves

Of chaostiamat__sea_goddess_by_mephmmb

The great mother Tiamat

Threatened to engulf him.

The first of the longest line,

Perseus, the hero,

Sent to slay the woman

Turned all to snakes

As punishment for

Her

Own

Violation,

Will unsheathe his sword

And slice her head clean off.

 

What could he do?

He must birth himself anew hellmouth

On solid ground,

Far from the living, beating waves

The teeming nest

And the chaos

Of a chasm

He can never conquer

Really,

 

He cannot stand it.

 

We have been here contra

Always

And will remain

Long after his

Dreaming towers

Come

Crashing to the ground

And he learns

For the first time

Some humility,

 

Perhaps.

 

And those women with their

Sunshine smiles

Full of eagerness

To side

With the men that call us witches?

 

We understand you Alice,

For once, in another life,

We too

Were

Traitors to our sex.

 

Harrop

The Radical Notion That Women Are People

reducing the first

So, after a summer recess of trying to forget that the world is manifoldly going to hell in a handcart, this week’s exciting ‘Back to Twitter’ experience has involved a good deal of feminists being berated for ‘reducing women to their genitals/biology/anatomy/whatever.’ This woke-approved soundbite has been around for an AGE, and my usual reaction to it is a long slow disbelieving blink. (It’s always slightly staggering when some wokebro comes along to pronounce on your ‘unstellar feminism’ based on his complete inability to grasp the relation between ‘biology’ and ‘destiny’). Anyway, I’m not about to write a thousand-odd words to clarify this for the benefit of the TRAs (it’s pretty clear the TRAs are not interested in anything being clarified) or even for their male accomplices (who evidently have no intention of relinquishing their shiny new ‘get out of misogyny free’ cards). I do, however, care about the many young women who are buying this bullshit, and I especially care about the degree to which they are buying this bullshit because of uninterrogated, internalised assumptions about the horror of being female. (Women? Being raised to devalue their femaleness? In a patriarchy? Nah mate).

The first thing to note about the way this apparently seductive soundbite works is that it relies on equivocations in the meanings of ‘defined by’ and ‘reduced to.’ And, moreover, these equivocations hinge, fundamentally, on an inability to think both the ‘female’ AND the ‘human’ bit contained in the proposition ‘women = adult human female.’

reducing a

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