I feel like a traitor writing this piece. The last thing that’s needed is yet another cis person wading in to explain to other cis people the feelings of people who never ever get platformed and listened to. But it’s hard to stay silent when you see the damage of a ramped up hate movement being done to your friends, and so many other cis people determined to swing another axe at the base of trans rights. Over 50% of women in the UK accept that trans women are women; but the very vocal minority who do not are becoming ever more radicalised in their efforts to tar all trans folk as deviant. Anti trans folk like Rosie Duffield or Rowling will speak from double spread newspapers and in front of sympathetic journalists about how they’re being silenced, missing the irony, and platform seekers like Maya Forstater will throw away any decency to cling onto misinformed bigotry in the face of evidence to the contrary, shifting what was insisted as “biological reality” to philosophy just to propagate the hatred. What will it take for anti-trans people to accept that demonising an entire minority because of their perceived slights is causing damage to everyone- not just those they hate and fear?
Gender critical beliefs are a strange set of tenets which confuse anyone who doesn’t ardently subscribe to them- and still manages to flummox those who do.
“Women are being erased!” are you a woman? Are you being erased? Or is the definition of woman being widened for inclusivity? Does inclusion dilute or just offer more perspective? I’m sure you can guess my answer.
“People are being brainwashed into being trans” Fear not! There’s a 7 year waiting list, endless demeaning meetings and discussions, I’m sure anyone “brainwashed” will wake up from that.
“Trans women are men seeking to access women’s spaces for devious reasons” perhaps as a society we should address the problematic behaviour of so many men if this outlook on male behaviour is so widely shared – but trans women aren’t men, so blaming them for cis men’s actions is foolish and wrong.
“The world is going woke!” Enjoy your Forstater victory if you will – you’re perfectly entitled to think bigoted thoughts but, much like if I threw racial epithets around at work, if you are transphobic you will be fired. Think what you want, no one is the thought police, it’s just expected that if you’re transphobic you’ll either educate yourself out of bigotry or stay in that mind-set and keep it to yourself.
I’m loathe to mention the cis women at the Olympics who have been stopped from competing, or been asked to present her genitals to prove she is a woman because her performance was so good; but sometimes the only way to capture those who are indifferent to the plight of trans folk is to mention these women: because when it can be applied to you as a person, suddenly it becomes more of a threat.
Caster Semenya has been told she must “lower her testosterone levels” so she can compete in women’s events. But as a cis woman, who is the arbiter of what is a “womanly” testosterone level? And do those who decided this think that once you are over a certain level of testosterone you are not a woman?
There are so many arms to the nuance of the debate: the erasure of non binary or intersex folk in the debate, the harm done to cis women (Like Caster Semenya, disqualified for her body’s hormone production or Tabitha Chawinga, who was forced to strip naked in public to prove she is a woman) that it seems gender critical people overlook, and trans people will bring up these examples to show the harm being done- only to be met with accusations of agenda pushing. There’s also the case of anti trans folk who will blithely confirm that “only women can have periods, only women can get pregnant, only women can give birth”- excluding as always any trans woman OR cis woman who doesn’t fit that paradigm which frankly borders on elitist- I know several women who can’t conceive and menopause ensures any woman who lives to experience it does not have periods. We’re to the point of gender criticality where you will read anti trans people speaking about hip structure and bone length or number of ribs as if that in any way affects how people live on the daily- I think if you lie awake at night counting your womanly ribs you’re entitled to do so, but whether that’s a disturbing view to take on your body is not for me to answer for fear of upsetting people.
Anecdotally, I suffered from gynaecomastia for months as a teen boy and essentially grew TINY breasts which subsequently went away. This, according to gender critical thinkers, is something only women can do naturally: so what am I?
Usually you’ll be met with “people like this are outliers” which is correct but also discounts the valid experience of people who do not fit the stereotypical growth patterns experienced by many. Incidentally around 1.7% of the world is intersex, which is close to the number of people that would have died in the initial wave of COVID had there been no vaccine. That number, this number of outliers? 132600000. Seems like not an insignificant number of people.
Rather than meeting people outside of the gender norms with scorn and repulsion, perhaps there should be some give on the gender critical side, a consensus that their understanding of their own experiences, bolstered by endless rhetoric from their own circle, does not explain why people transition, or continue to transition even in the face of relentless abuse, even when facing 7 year waiting lists, under accusations of perversion or mental illness, with the threat of hate crimes from insults to rape and murder looming heavy over their heads.
Personally I’ve tried to have productive discussions with gender critical folk before, to try and understand the depths of their mistrust and hatred of trans people, especially trans women, and I’ll be honest: it frightens me. Not every time, but often enough, folk who ascribe to gender critical beliefs are frighteningly radicalised into believing that all trans women- in fact, not just trans women but anyone they see as a man- are dangerous opportunistic predators.
I’ve tried to argue for trans women repeatedly in this discussion and am always met with unproductive replies about me being a “prostate haver”, a “beard”, a “misogynist”. In my eyes it’s reductive to ignore the point that gender critical feminism at its heart sees anyone that gender critical people see as a man, as a threat.
Cis Men are the Problem
Is the view that men are a threat incorrect? Probably not, unfortunately. Seeing the statistics following the murder of Sarah Everard where 97% of surveyed women had said they have experienced sexually inappropriate behaviour, it’s absolutely understandable that women would be cautious, nervous and mistrusting of men. But conflating trans women, a different demographic to cis men is a mistake: as does bringing up articles about trans prisoners sexually assaulting women. Sexual assault is a horrific crime that anyone can experience and too many people do- one person experiencing sexual assault is too many. But tarring all trans women with the brush of a sexual offender is disingenuous – should we tar all lesbians with the brush of sexual predator because some lesbians commit sexual assault? Or do the same with gay men?
Should we ban gay and lesbian people from their gender’s bathrooms because they might be uncontrollably aroused by their fellow users?
The idea of this is ludicrous and rooted, as is the anti trans rhetoric, in the idea that any deviation from gender or sexuality deemed “the norm” is automatically a disorder, perversion etc.
Anti trans rhetoric comes from a place so close to homophobia that it clearly shares a postcode and seeing the arguments recycled for the 21st century is disconcerting: living in a time of the trans panic, I sense I understand how LGBT allies felt during the gay panic of the 70s and 80s. Having to defend trans people from the automatic association with pervert is demoralising at best, and seeing a group of people determined to ascribe gender presentation with perversion is a frustrating experience at best, when you see the damage done to people simply trying to live out their lives in peace.
Watching gender critical people be further pushed to think that the truth of trans is tied to sexual arousal is confusing. Being trans isn’t linked to sexuality- it’s why there are gay, lesbian, bi, asexual trans people. And every trans person has had to explain, repeatedly, at length, that transitioning is not linked to sexual arousal or fetish- it’s a deep seated need to be on the outside as you are within and that is something I don’t believe anyone who is not trans could understand, or experience- but can most assuredly empathise with.
The reason it’s so frustrating to see the trans panic be framed as “philosophical” or “a debate” is that there is no debate here: one side want to maintain their rights, improve their healthcare and societal standing so it’s adequate and doesn’t come with years of waiting and demeaning processes, create a supportive atmosphere for youths who feel the same. The other side will throw accusations of paedophilia or grooming, they will shout over rights that trans people have had for longer than I’ve been alive, warning of dire consequences that just never seem to happen, and wrongly ascribe blame to trans women when it should be aimed at cis men.
Even the desperation of trans people to distance themselves from problematic trans women – because every demographic has problematic people within it- does nothing to assuage the fears of the gender critical crowd. Folks like Yaniv or White (if you know them, you’ll understand) are widely disparaged amongst trans activists and yet the gender critical folk will still continue to apply the miscreancy of these outliers to all trans folk as a rule- it is an established practice of gender criticality to ignore the facts for the sensation.
No decent trans person would support a man who donned a wig and a dress to access a private space for nefarious reasons – I’ve seen as much said by at least 3 of the most prominent trans activists. And when it comes to spaces like prisons, forget gender presentation –why are sexual predators being housed with people in general- having someone invade your body is a base betrayal, and those guilty of it should be housed away from anyone and everyone else.
Gender criticality boils down to the idea that men are dangers, and perceiving men that way is a huge, systemic societal problem that needs to be addressed (because it is not an idea without merit) and, it is my firm belief, would salve the fear anti trans people hold because it is ultimately cis men, sexuality irrespective (as a gay man who has experienced multiple instances of gay men not understanding the simple concept of consent) who are the instigators of the issues women (and other men!) face.
Additionally, one of the faces of gender critical beliefs is Graham Linehan who now publishes a blog to espouse gender critical beliefs after being kicked off twitter for his relentlessly hateful conduct- he has made a new career out of being the face of a hate movement, and I’ve no doubt that history won’t look kindly on him. But one has to wonder what on earth is in Linehan’s mind when it comes to supporting a movement that looks so unfavourably on men- and in fact, why a movement based around the idea that men are dangerous seem so willing to accept him as one of it’s ringleaders. In my personal view, Linehan appears to be a pet of the gender critical crowd, useful because he is a man telling the gender critical supporters that they are correct, that men are something to be feared, insidious, and that trans women are the highest example of this. One wonders how Linehan is so intimately familiar with how these imaginary devious trans women who are, despite years of having the rights he contests, think… or in fact what he himself thinks, if he’s so convinced that supporting the ideology that all men are opportunistic predators thinks.
It’s an unfortunate reality that many men must be taught how to comport themselves when it comes to consent and decency, and this stance is often met with flat denial- usually from the men most in desperate need of hearing it. But again- trans women are not men, and shouldn’t be held to the same values as a cis man- whether you think they are women or not is irrespective of this point- trans women have a vastly different perspective and lifestyle than cis men do- or they would not be trans women.
Looking at the LGB alliance I can only feel scorn for a group of people whose ostensible mission is “Stop being bigoted to us- but keep being bigoted to THESE people”. Their mission is so debased as to only need to be looked upon with disgust. Splintering the community that has supported each other from it’s necessary inception is a fools errand, and to condone certain forms of bigotry as long as it doesn’t affect you is horrifying.
Supporting trans people is to support a tiny faction in society who desperately needs to be protected from the increasing radicalisation of people who deny science which backs trans lives, who insist without evidence that trans people are dangers or in any way “wrong”. I can’t help but feel after such a long time in this debate, if you haven’t come to the conclusion that supporting trans people is right and fair, perhaps you’re lacking in some of the empathy you’re desperate for people to apply to you in your “struggle to be heard”.
If wearing makeup, womens clothing, hormones, your literal brain telling you, and shared experience don’t make a woman- what does. Because it certainly isn’t the continuation of bigotry.