What do the anti-trans campaigners seek to achieve by the phrase “male-bodied biological men”? What do ordinary people hear?
When I read Rosie Duffield’s twitter rant against trans people, I thought it was a fig leaf. Complaints would flood in to the Labour Party, and she would say, “Who, me? Transphobic? I have always supported gay rights and human rights, and the rights of all trans people to live freely as they choose. I am only against violent men pretending to be trans.”
Then the Labour Party would say “We don’t believe she has demonstrated hostility or prejudice based on gender reassignment or identity”, quoting their rule book 2.I.8. She has never rebelled against Labour this parliament. She probably has some name recognition in her constituency, but outside it only among people with an obsession with politics. Complaints against MPs are a political issue, and the NEC will not discipline Duffield. After an investigation by the EHRC they take antisemitism seriously, but not transphobia. But when she refers to “lists of murdered women”, no man was pretending to be trans after being murdered, and Naomi Hersi, who still spent some time presenting male, was never included. Andrea Waddell, murdered in 2009, was initially included in the Femicide Census, and only removed in 2020. She is referring to trans women, not pretenders. Here’s the Labour Party complaints policy. Please do complain– you don’t need to be a member of the party- but don’t hold your breath. I have complained.
The phrase “biological men” started out as a way for anti-trans campaigners to make a distinction for themselves. They were not against “genuine transsexuals”, who have had a diagnosis and a genital operation. They were against “self-id”, which would result in people who weren’t genuine transsexuals in women’s spaces. They are far beyond that now. They initially realised there were some people who couldn’t help it (irony alert) and were to be pitied not condemned, but now they are against all trans women.
It could be a compliment. They call us “biological men”, as an admission that legally and socially, from a freedom of the individual and human rights perspective, in ordinary language and in the views of most people who don’t really care, we are women. However more likely it is a despairing assertion that they are rational and scientific. This is to deny the evidence that trans women exist, and always have. Trans women are women. They call us “biological men” to reassure themselves, but we do not disappear, or change our nature.
The anti-trans campaigner goes into a loo and sees a trans woman. And instead of thinking no more of it, like any normal person, she has an extreme emotional reaction, like an arachnophobe seeing a spider. Then she goes on the internet, like a QAnon cultist or anti-vaxxer, and finds others who share her fear and rage, and together they express their perplexity. “But- it’s a Man. A biological man.” Obviously they could not say “Real man”. It’s a verbal tic.
As for “male-bodied”, initially it might have meant not having had a genital operation, but now means a Y chromosome. Even Klinefelter syndrome people, with two X chromosomes, are included.
It’s gaslighting. To write “trans women are men and shouldn’t be in women’s services” is horrible, but just simple hate. Instead she writes “I’ve always fully supported the rights of all trans people,” and until you are used to the tactic there is a weird, destabilising feeling.
Duffield now seeks notoriety among trans people and anti-trans campaigners. So she writes this self-righteous screed, and trans people and our allies take notice, and are disgusted with her. One more stupid hater. What about ordinary people who don’t take an interest in politics, leave alone trans rights?
Most people don’t know what “woke” means, and pay no more attention to the arcane rantings of transphobes than they do to 9/11 conspiracists. Burning aviation fuel might not melt steel, but instead of being intrigued, and reading on, they think about their real lives and real concerns. Then the word “biological” might be confusing. Of course men should not be in women’s spaces, they would say. But trans women? Don’t know, don’t care.