Jess de Wahls’ long blog post is back on line, including her account of what she thinks trans allies believe. What can I say to someone who claims I believe that “biology is transphobic”? Who could possibly believe that?
Trans-excluders often make claims about what “trans ideology” is. To accept trans people, all you need to do is accept we exist. Some people are trans- they want to transition, then they do. Almost all women are cis. They have genes, gonads and genitalia indicating that they are women. They might strongly reject the concept of “gender identity”, claiming that saying they are women is acknowledging physical reality not a psychological state, and that’s absolutely fine. Trans people have a gender identity.
So, no, I don’t argue that “woman is a feeling not biological reality”. “Woman” is more than one thing, including both cis women and trans women. Cis women are women because of biological reality, and the absence of any desire to transition. Trans women are women because of biological reality- unless you believe in a “soul”- and the fact of having transitioned, or the desire to.
Trans people only want to fit in as their transitioned selves. Mostly, this is harmless. There is no such thing as transgender ideology. I am happier if I express myself female. I am miserable if I express myself male. If I am accepted as I truly am, I flourish, like anyone else.
Biology is not transphobic. I want the species to continue. But attempts to use biology to deny reality- to say, for example, that there is no such thing as a trans woman- or put a moral view that trans women should not be accepted in society as women, is transphobic.
Much of de Wahls’ account of “trans ideology” merely draws out the meaning of words, to make them look ridiculous. Straw men are easy to blow away. She makes a tin man, a high tower of ridiculousness that she wants to fall over by itself. It follows from “trans men are men” that “men can get pregnant”, but it is the same use of language. Language should reflect the reality that trans men transition, and everyone benefits if they are accepted and allowed to flourish. Trans men are men.
Yes, “trans men who fancy men are gay”, but that is a belief about language, not about biology. People have the right to classify ourselves. Rather than submitting to a doctor calling you “homosexual” or a lawyer calling you “grossly indecent” people say they are gay.
Transphobia is the belief that it is worthwhile excluding trans people from gendered spaces in general- no trans woman should be in a woman’s loo because of Karen White, say. It is based on unjustified fear, and the denial of the reality of trans lives.
I don’t believe same sex attraction is trans exclusionary, either. People hook up, or form steady partnerships, and I usually think, oh, good for them. Claiming that a cis lesbian with a trans woman partner is not a lesbian is transphobic, though. Repeatedly tweeting that you could never be attracted to a trans woman because you are a lesbian is spreading hatred or mockery of trans women.
In the same way that gay men in fear married women and tried to appear straight, some trans people do not transition. I can no longer deny my truth, so I have to express myself female. But the attempt to make a man of myself, the fear, and the sense that I was profoundly unsafe expressing my true self have left deep scars. So, yes, misgendering and deadnaming are violent. Someone who misgenders me uses the violence of society against me, and threatens my precarious sense of safety.
This particular tin man includes “TERFs are fascists and deserve to be hurt”. That is a horrible idea. You can’t define trans ideology by the most extreme things some trans people happen to believe, but only by what is necessary to believe in order to accept transitioned people in society as our true selves.
Much of the tin man is designed to create fear. “Men never go to great lengths to access vulnerable women”, she says, sarcastically. Of course they do, working hard to locate women who escape them, fighting their way through barriers, angry and self-righteous; but they would not pretend to be women because there are easier ways of accessing women. Violent men pretending to be trans, or violent trans women, can be dealt with as individuals without excluding all trans women. There are violent cis women too.
She got into angry arguments on social media with trans people and trans allies, but she probably got some of this from other trans excluders. Her problem is not “trans ideology” or trans people, but social media, setting her against others and making views ever more extreme. The answer is trying to persuade and understand, rather than merely to win. I have not studied her whole screed in detail, but these extracts show she attempted to instill fear, anger and derision at trans people. It is not a simple matter of “Free Speech Good”.