Anti-trans campaigning radicalises and spreads like anti-vaxx, or conspiracist lies. It is not a proper position for any feminist or Quaker to adopt.
The first myth is that men will use the ability to “identify” as trans as a way to access women’s spaces, and women will be unable to resist. The seducers seeking to make converts at this stage pretend that they are not hostile to “real transsexuals”, just to abusive men. Even this myth makes me unsafe: it suggests to women that there are people who appear exactly like me– read as AMAB, presenting female- who are just pretending, for voyeuristic purposes, or even to sexually assault them. It’s a lie because self-declaration has always been the basis of trans diagnosis and trans rights.
As people go down the rabbit hole, beginning to believe the myths, the group of “real transsexuals” gets more and more circumscribed. Stories about the motivations of trans women spread, of gay men transitioning to trap straight men, or of autogynephilia. There is fear-mongering about penises, though most trans women have had lower surgery, or want it, and do not want their penises seen by anyone.
Eventually there is a campaign for “sex-based rights”, for a rigid distinction between sex and gender, so that even “real transsexuals” must be excluded. And yet the first myth, of being frightened of predatory men not real transsexuals, still spreads.
Campaigning for “sex-based rights”, making a rigid distinction between sex and gender, takes no notice of how society is. Society assigns gender at birth, and everyone is subjected to different treatment and expectations based on what sex others perceive them to be. In all societies there are gender-variant people who do not fit the gender stereotypes, and some of them have always transitioned.
That anti-trans campaigning hurts actual people. Harmless transitioners are treated with fear and suspicion. And feminist campaigning energy, rather than addressing real problems like unequal pay or street harassment, is diverted to deal with a symbol.
The effort is to see us and treat us as a class rather than as individuals, and anti-trans campaigners, along with the Times and other right wing propaganda, relentlessly focus on a few criminal or objectionable trans people, saying the worst individuals are typical of the class, and blackening those individuals as much as possible. Law allows trans women to be excluded from women’s spaces but the exclusion must be proportionate to the need, so normally individuals, rather than all trans women, will be excluded. The campaigners demand that all are.
Gender variant people, those who transition, those who find another way to express their gender variance, and those who are closeted, oppressed by gender yet finding no way to stand against it, should support and affirm each other. Promoting one way of responding to gender variance over others helps none of us. The anti-trans campaigners give too great emphasis to those who regret surgery, and revert. Reverters exist, but are apparently a small percentage of transitioners. Anti-trans campaigners reinforce a binary view, but detransitioners find a new way to be gender variant. Here is a call for solidarity between groups, against the “logic of fracture” which appears when the pain of victimhood leads to callousness or blindness to – or worse, pleasure in – the pain of others who are coded as adversaries; their humanity – their victimhood, too – is obscured by fear and suspicion. Fracture makes us mutually suspicious and reduces empathy, and the writer recommends solidarity- in a very different context, that of incipient communal violence, but in a way which applies to all groups tempted to mutual antagonism.
Solidarity requires overcoming differences to find common cause. That’s what makes it powerful as a concept… Solidarity is almost never easy. It is often less immediately gratifying. It can feel like being left vulnerable in what already feels like a moment of great vulnerability. But it is required to resist the process of fracture.
Anti-trans campaigning is not proper to a Quaker because it ignores the truth of how society is and how trans people are, and demonises us. It divides people, gender variant people and equality campaigners, and sets us against each other. Quakers should not engage with it or give it any credibility. It is not proper to a feminist because it pretends a threat where there is none. It creates a symbol of women’s rights, where women campaign for a symbol rather than for any improvement in women’s position, just as Leave voters and anti-immigrant campaigners are campaigning for a symbol of their value rather than something which will improve their lives.
The genuine revulsion such campaigners feel for trans surgery prevents them seeing that hostility to trans people in wider society drives us to prove ourselves genuine by surgery.
Anti-trans campaigning is based on a lie. And yet, like anti-vaxx, and white supremacist myths, it pretends in its view of sex not gender to be rational, science-based, and concerned for people’s well-being. Trans exists, and they deny reality, calling our rational response to a gendered society a mental illness.
Cutting out anti-trans campaigners from discernment would allow loving consideration of the needs of people, of trans people, detransitioners, gender variant people, and the interest of outwardly gender-conforming people in the matter. It would respect individual choices of people in how to live their lives, and help others understand and support them, and thus be enabled to find new ways of living the good life.
I am aware that several are British people using their own names, and the anger against trans people seems an excellent place for Russian trolls to operate, saying things people will agree with, radicalising them, making them less likely to listen to opposing views.
Anti-trans campaigners whine that they are silenced, when they are well-funded and supported by such as The Times, and given prominent platforms including at Westminster and Holyrood. Silencing their falsehoods, hatred, and misconceptions would do us all good.