Trans on facebook

Should I debate trans issues on facebook?

There are arguments for coming off it completely. I have given it data which show a detailed account of my personality and desires, and is used to manipulate me. There are trans support groups, but they often share things to be miserable about, which are followed by a dozen comments railing in misery. Yawn. Transphobe says something transphobic.

There’s a group discussing BBC radio. It can be fun. Recently, though, it’s infested with anti-trans campaigners. Should I disengage?

There was a programme where a self-described TERF talked to trans people. A post on that exploded to 775 comments, where few posts get more than a hundred. Word of Mouth, devoted to LGBT language, began with Michael Rosen’s moving confession and repentance of homophobia. These programmes are worth listening to, and I heard about them on that group. The thread’s at 240 comments and going strong.

There I am, trying to find agreement. I can find it in unexpected places. An anti-trans campaigner writes, “I’m a gender abolitionist; I think we’d all be better off if we were more free to behave in less stereotypical ways”.

I agree. “So the question is, how to get there when much of the anti-trans sentiment is conservative support of gender stereotypes and hatred of trans people for subverting them. The answer is to support everyone who is opposing assigned gender stereotypes, by whatever means they do it.”

I think she is too far gone for that to make a particular impression, but it might do some good.

I might hone my arguments. I now can state clearly and simply why the Equality Act assumes trans women will be in women’s spaces, despite passionate denial: “[The Act} doesn’t say that someone with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment must be treated as if they were the opposite sex and require them to be given access to facilities designated for the opposite sex. There is a lot of misinformation in circulation unfortunately.”

Easily answered. “Schedule 3. Paras 26-27 allow men to be excluded from women’s spaces. Para 28 allows trans women to be excluded. There would be no need for different provisions if it was as you say.” Well, that’s technical, and most people’s, even many trans people’s, eyes would glaze over long before that point- but I know what to say when that comes up.

Then there are the swivel-eyed obsessives. “Transwoman used to mean transsexual – a man with the distressing psychological condition of gender dysphoria. That has now exploded to include even part-time cross dressers and men who get their kicks dressing as women or being treated as women. Only those undergoing gender reassignment are covered by equality laws and even then there are exceptions where women need single-sex spaces. Stop with the power grab – women are aware of your tactics and we are standing up to them.”

Oh dear. Reading that is merely depressing, and I hope that anyone not wholly invested in the debate would be put off by it. I can answer it. Should I bother? Given that there are 36 replies to my original comment, no-one not obsessed would read the whole thread, and I could just leave it.

If I enjoy commenting, I should. I got in a top comment, 15 likes or loves, which may persuade some people. The poster objected to the phrase “gender assigned at birth” in Word of Mouth, so I commented, “Gender is assigned at birth. If you’re in a pink babygro, people goo-goo at you differently than if you’re in a blue one. Big strong boy! What a pretty girl! If your gender can’t be told from your clothes, people will want to know your name so they can assign you. The stereotypes are enforced from birth. I am amazed that “gender critical” people deny this. Surely they’ve noticed!”

Commenting like that, I might encourage a trans ally, discourage a hater, make someone think, but should not overestimate the effect I will have. Out of hundreds of comments, all having their incremental effect, mine will make little difference. If I drop out, there are plenty of others to argue in the same way. If anti-trans campaigners take over, their effort is not proportionate to any gain of persuading the unpersuaded.

Then one pulls one of the nastiest tricks in the transphobe armoury. You know they are filled with hate for every trans person when they do this. “Self-ID provides an obvious incentive for male sex offenders to identify as female. Some examples here:” and she gives a link.

So I said we’re not all sex offenders, and we have self declaration already. That’s enough, in her eyes, to make me an apologist for sex offenders at best. “We know that some men pose a risk to women… your cavalier dismissal of it… is very telling”. In the ellipses was even nastier stuff. Accusations of my selfishness and misogyny follow. There is nothing I could say to such people.

facebook is addictive. The system is designed to keep you coming back by getting you riled up. The notifications bell is a ping of dopamine. The hurt and frustration I feel from others’ anger is not worth it. I enjoy writing a well-crafted comment, but I would be better writing something less ephemeral.

TERFs off duty

Who are the anti-trans campaigners? What are they like, when not posting exclusion and dehumanisation? On facebook, I could just trade the usual lines with them, but instead I clicked on their profiles. I am not doxxing- kudos to anyone who finds the source of the pseudonyms I give them. The Green Party of England and Wales shared a simple meme, “Trans rights are human rights” on a trans flag background, and the hate commenced.

Abigail is an actor, who lives in Brisbane. She shares tourist photos of her in Europe. She obsessively shares articles attacking trans rights: her two latest public shares are an attack on Joe Biden’s allyship, and a claim that autistic trans people are not really trans, both in the Times. She claimed that that meme alone would stop her voting Green.

Catharina lives in Portland, Oregon, US. She coined the term “album-ination” to mean a record which was unfairly trashed. She refers to trans women as “men who wear women’s clothes”, but “respects that plants are living beings”. She accused the GPEW of trying to silence women, and warned it would make those women more keen to shout their transphobic hate, though that’s not how she put it. Brisbane? Portland? The GPEW? They clearly trawl facebook for anything supporting trans rights, so they can join a pile-on.

Annestine is 63. She went to Beverley Girls High School, and studied at the University of Sheffield. She created an image to “celebrate Pride” by imposing a rainbow on a picture of poppies. She donated to animal-free research, and an animal rescue centre. She fearmongers about “male bodied people in changing rooms”.

Someone commented on the length of the thread. “It’s driven by a business model that incites rancour”- well, yes, because that drives engagement. He got 41 replies, including Eleanor’s comment about the “cotton ceiling”. Eleanor’s other obsession is Remaining: her profile pic says she’s “Still European”. She shared a photo of graffiti, saying “I dream of you in COLORS that dont exist” and a vile transphobe “joke” tweet. She crocheted a gorgeous, complex blanket.

Olympe called the GPEW post “woke nonsense”, and said people are leaving the Party because of this. She is a freelance classical singer and singing teacher, a member of Jewish Voices for Labour and anti-Zionist. She also supports Extinction Rebellion.

Ann lives in Tewkesbury. She shared a cartoon showing Covid as a tidal wave about to engulf Westminster, but dwarfed by Brexit, which was in turn dwarfed by climate change. I agree. She has photos of countryside, and sheep. Her other visible posts are hateful, mocking transphobe images, including one of a trans woman’s penis.

Madeleine likes Jeremy Corbyn and does not like NHS privatisation. However everything else visible on her profile is transphobe. She obsessively repeats the mantra “adult human female” as if it meant that trans women do not exist.

Dorothea shared the quote “Let this radicalise you rather than lead you to despair”. I love that quote, though I would hope pushback about trans rights would make her see sense. She is a young woman who supports Labour. She self-justifies by claiming trans exclusion is “asserting boundaries”.

Jane is a lesbian from Buenos Aires. She shares cute puppy photos marked “buenas”. She also shared a tweet from “Assigned angry at birth” claiming “lesbian is female same sex attraction”, as if the most important thing for lesbians was ending trans rights.

Sarah claims trans people “hate women”. She is from Seattle. She is “Anti-Q, wanted for thought crimes”. Her profile picture is the photo of Bernie Sanders in mittens.

When they’re not obsessively campaigning about trans, they “love to hear the little brook a’gurgling, and listen to the merry village chime”. I share fbfnds with some of the haters. If I could meet and talk to them, we would find things in common, maybe even like each other. They get into anti-trans campaigning from a desire to protect vulnerable groups, or to stand up for themselves, which I could admire if it were not perverted in this way. Coming from all over the world, they plot together to go on any public post saying positive things about trans rights, and flood it with hate.

Some pages are using that to get clicks. They post a simple pro-trans meme, the haters pour in, and their page gets more attention.

TERFs on display

When trans-excluders write for a general audience, what do they write? In their bubbles, there is no downside for being more and more extreme, but when they interact with people who do not share their peculiar obsession, they might put them off. Do they care?

Tracey, a transphobe, objected to the use of the word “cis” on a facebook group which still has trans members. Someone asked what the problem was, and someone else said “you must respect the right of others to use” the word. So far, so reasonable. Tracey wrote,

cis is a word that’s been foisted upon women to distinguish adult human females from transwomen. It has the impact and effect of making women a sub category of our own sex class. It is made-up nonsense that is supposed to mean people like me – women – have a ‘gender identity’ which matches the ‘gender’ we were ‘assigned at birth’. Well, like each and every one of us, my sex was observed and recorded at birth, not ‘assigned on a whim, and as I don’t have a gender identity I don’t see how I can be happy that something I don’t have matches something I wasn’t assigned in the first place. I’m a woman, not a subset of female. These words matter because they change perceptions of who we are.

That is, very quickly she went full extremist. Her gender was assigned at birth when she was given a pink Babygro and adults started talking to her differently. Hannah says “cis” is ordinary language, and got abused as “science denying Trump like folk”.

Alison says, “If I hear somebody talking about the different experiences of black women and white women, I don’t have a crisis because I’ve become a ‘subset’!” Unfortunately she is piled on, with many responses.

Cassie says, “I am an adult human female. And gender is not assigned at birth either.” Sigh. I would far rather be referred to as a “woman” than “adult human female”, but she gets 32 Likes. Indigo gets 42 Likes for saying “women’s fundamental rights are being undermined yet again”.

Rita, who is Bi, says “Why are so many straight CIS people so up themselves?” Kim, a phobe, scores a point by asking “You accept, therefore, that trans activists don’t have the right to tell other people to define themselves as “cis”?” That needs answered. Some people, formerly, objected to being called “straight”. They might prefer “normal”. It is the same way of marginalising trans as was used against gay people.

Geoff, in his late fifties, says “Just mentioning the word ‘gay’ was a nightmare when I was a kid”. He gets piled on- language is used against women, “trans is a belief, like religion, tagging themselves onto the end of LGB”. One tries to appear reasonable- “I have non binary and gender fluid friends”- not realising the echoes that raises.

For Kim, we are “heterosexual men claiming to be lesbians”. She refers to a trans rapist who was imprisoned for fifteen years. For Fiona, alleging that a trans woman is a woman is the same as asserting that the Earth is flat- objectively false. That was part of a pile-on: one sane comment, with five people making ten comments shouting it down. I observed that “science recognises the existence of trans women, in all cultures over millennia”, and had a smaller pile-on, with phobes liking each others’ comments.

The males who want to identify as women Are so domineering in their insistence..That all people have to agree with them..This behaviour is very Male -Testosterone driven…
This is why many women do not want them in women safe spaces..

There’s the hate. We don’t matter. “I wish Trans women all the best” does not make a difference. But, do people who don’t care particularly see the hate in that comment?

Saira said, “So-called ‘T*RFs’ don’t really help themselves by being as rigid as the more extreme end of Transactivist… we need to find a way to live with both options being valid”. She says TERF is a “slur”, she’s trying to find common ground, but that does not prevent a pile-on.

What do they write? They write the same tedious drivel, the same swivel-eyed obsessions, that they write when they are alone. I just wish there was more sign they put others off.

Marks and Spencers

M&S say ‘as an inclusive retailer and in line with most other retailers, we allow customers the choice of fitting room in respect of how they identify themselves’. This is only right. Unfortunately there is an obsessive campaign to make them kick trans women out of women’s changing rooms. My nonbinary friend who is AFAB says she/they just goes to whichever changing room is nearest- the women’s when she’s in the women’s department buying women’s clothes and the men’s otherwise.

I like M&S, and particularly like their own brand “Per Una” label which I find delightfully feminine. I have had no problem in their changing rooms, nor in Primark, River Island or Monsoon. Hate group WPUK decided to pick on M&S particularly in its campaign to exclude trans women from clothes shops changing rooms, even though M&S has largish cubicles each with a mirror, usually room for a friend to help decide, and walls and doors too high to peek over. There’s a mirror at the end of the corridor too, so I can walk up and down and see how that looks. And the shop has a lot of people even when not crowded. It’s absolutely the last place an AMAB person in women’s clothes would go, who wanted to perve over women.

The Daily Mail used the hate group’s campaign for one of its more clearly propagandist pieces. Its headline on 23 May was “Marks and Spencer’s Transgender Policy which allows men who identify as women to use female changing rooms ‘puts women and girls at risk,’ from voyeurs, campaigners say”. The story was not newsworthy at all- tiny group of trans excluders use ridiculous exaggeration in complaints to M&S- but the Mail made something of it.

Google Marks and Spencers transgender and the first page is press stories- that Mail story, but also “M&S apologises to transgender shopper after a member of staff refused to let them try on clothes”. They can’t win, it seems. Whatever they do is bad publicity as far as someone’s concerned. Which is why I think trans people should give them a break, quietly encourage them, and not amplify the anger.

And then, late on 7 December, Emma Nicholson tweeted an image of a letter she apparently had sent to the M&S chair, in which she wrote, “I was delighted to learn on Friday that your policy on customer changing facilities has changed and that cubicles for trying on clothes before purchase will now be single sex once more.” Challenged to produce evidence of this, she could not.

I don’t think Emma is particularly transphobic. Probably, she has the distaste an elderly conservative lady might have for anything she thinks is a bit weird. But, as a hard right former advocate for the anti-gay law Section 28, she believes she can split the left by trolling about trans rights.

The challenge came from Maya Forstater, an obsessive hater who lost her job because she is so self-righteous about her transphobia. Even such a completely irrational person challenged Nicholson. Unfortunately this did not stop a few “Help Help the Sky is falling!” posts from excitable trans women. One demanded “No more shopping at M&S. Not sure any of us would anyway- there is a reason they are dying out”, showing the Nicholson image as if it had some relation to reality. I did not even believe that Archie Norman is chair of M&S on Nicholson’s say-so, without checking for myself. (He is.)

My posts tend to get archived, and I will leave this here, to last as a monument to my credulity and willingness to think the best of M&S if it changes its policy. I will add any evidence that M&S is hostile to trans people. Meanwhile, nonbinary people and trans women who have not yet decided to transition, so may not be protected by the Equality Act, should use shop changing rooms nearest to their selection- the women’s, if they are buying women’s clothes, because the men’s will be the other side of the store or even a different floor. As soon as Covid precautions permit, of course.

Someone has to play the adult. I was saddened to read this quote: “[Reddit] use the label hate speech to silence speech they don’t want, [transphobic speech]. Radical feminism does not come from a place of hate, nor anything even remotely near it. Radical feminism comes from a place of love for women and girls.” Of course, it does. Any person demonising an out-group believes they are just acting in love for their in-group. That’s why they are so self-righteous about it.

Added 9 December: The Daily Mail, again paying Nicholson far more attention than she deserved, got this statement from M&S:

“in line with most other retailers we will generally allow people to use the fitting room which they prefer, with our colleagues exercising discretion and common sense.”

The Critic

The Critic is a recently launched magazine, with its first issue dated November 2019, which is obsessed with trans people. It loathes us, lies about us, incites hate against us- but why does it care so much?

Dominic Green starts his history of trans with TS Eliot and Tiresias, the prophet of Apollo whom Hera transformed into a woman. The readers of rubbish like this like to think they are cultured. I had not heard of Michael Dillon, who he says was the first trans man with a phalloplasty operation, in several stages over three years, 1946-9. Green gives his old name. Green then argues that 97% of trans women have penises. He quotes an estimate of 200-500,000 trans people, then says the 4910 GRCs by 2018 is less than 3% of 200,000, so almost none of us use hormones or surgery. But then, of that 500,000 people maybe 50,000 will have transitioned, and 60% seek genital surgery.

Do we seek “the psychological rewards of specialness and victimhood”, as Green alleges? Well, I don’t. Being a victim is ghastly. Perhaps Green has never been a victim.

Julie Bindel claims “transgender ideologists are winning the battle for media hearts and minds”. Perhaps she never reads The Spectator, or The Times. She starts by whining about being called a transphobe in 2008- perhaps seeking “the psychological rewards of specialness and victimhood”- and goes on to claim The Guardian “push[es] the trans agenda”. It really doesn’t. When Bindel says the BBC has “activists with microphones”, she alleges these are its trans journalists, rather than its transphobes.

Josephine Bartosch attacks the Women’s Equality Party in advance of its consultation on trans rights results. “Is the WEP really for women?” asks the headline. Obviously it is: as Bartosch admits, it campaigns for “equal representation in parliament, the pharmaceutical industry to not treat men’s bodies as the default, and for an end to the pay gap between the sexes”. In advance of the result of its consultation, the WEP is supportive of trans women, and for Bartosch that means it is not working for women. Reading these transphobic whines can be oddly reassuring- Bartosch also lashes out at the Fawcett Society and the Red Tent for failing to back her view.

The editors claim there is no clear moment when someone transitions, or when this is recognised in law. This is untrue- the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act are clear about when they protect people. That article started with an attack on the American Civil Liberties Union for tweeting “men who get their period are men” (again, note the power of our allies, and the obsessive squeaking of the phobes). This is no more than saying “trans men are men”, but probably gets The Critic’s ire because it suggests that we can be trans without taking hormones and having surgery.

In a year, The Critic has 25 articles tagged “transgender”. It asked, “Can self-respecting feminists remain in the Labour Party?” I would expect The Critic to attack the Labour Party, being a hard right publication, but this is completely lacking in proportion. Which is the party with the best chance of being elected, at the same time as being feminist? Labour, of course, which introduced the All-woman shortlist among other feminist projects. As a trans woman, I would say trans rights are not the most important feminist issue. This article attacks Labour’s “grotesque fetishisation of a fashionable minority group”.

To me, the Critic is the one fetishising us, giving an attack on us far more coverage than 50,000 or even 500,000 people deserve. Even Brexit has only 99 tagged articles. It gives a long article to extremist Brexiters opposing the Northern Ireland Protocol- that’s the part of the withdrawal which respects the Good Friday Agreement treaty with Ireland, which is essential for a US trade deal or to obey international law. It writes of a “clean break Brexit”- ie, no deal, damaging our economy and international relations. It is yet another extreme right publication attacking trans people. “The point is not trolling,” the editors write, disingenuously.

When it launched, The Critic claimed it “exists to push back against a self-regarding and dangerous consensus that finds critical voices troubling, triggering, insensitive and disrespectful”. That is, its sole purpose is to foment culture war, rather than say anything interesting about politics in general. Culture war is all the Right has to offer its dupes, as it entrenches plutocracy in the US and UK. The main tone I see in its attacks on trans people is one of whining resentment, seeking “the psychological rewards of specialness and victimhood”. I am so glad I had not heard of it before now. I cast a cursory glance at boring, transphobic rubbish, so you don’t have to.

Single issue campaigners

Some Labour Party members hate trans people, and in particular trans women, so much that they do not think any other political issue is important. Such single issue campaigners are a blight on the resources and prospects of the Party, causing division and driving members away. We would be better off without them. For example,

I am preparing to leave the Labour Party. I have never voted for anyone other than the Labour Party throughout my life but now feel unsure of what I can do in the next election. If the Labour Party does not support women’s sex based rights then it does not support me or any other woman.

“Sex-based rights” is code for expelling trans women from women’s spaces. According to these people, I should not even be allowed in a shop changing room to try clothes on before buying them, even if the cubicles have walls and lockable doors stretching from floor to ceiling, however long I have transitioned, even if I pass. To win this right to be there without the possibility that a trans woman might enter too, which the Labour Party opposes but many in the Conservative party would support, she will relentlessly abuse and diminish the Labour Party.

It is a lie to speak of Labour’s “silence on women’s rights”. Labour supports women’s rights, having introduced the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act, and the Equality Act. However, in these people’s view it seems only the “right” to be in a space where trans women are guaranteed never to enter matters.

The level of abuse is appalling.

  • “Please put some grown-ups in charge so that I can vote Labour again.”
  • “I have always voted Labour but am disgusted at the direction they are going in”
  • Anyone opposing transphobia is abused as “simpletons, misogynists and the deeply ignorant.”
  • “The Labour Party are a misogynistic disgrace.”
  • “Shame on the Labour party and shame on Keir Starmer.”

For these people, expelling trans women from women’s spaces is treated as the only political issue, more important than the pandemic or the corrupt contracting out of public services by the Tory government; and the only feminist issue, more important than VAWG or street harassment. Nothing Labour does in campaigning for women and women’s rights matters to them.

One asks, “Is Labour losing support because of the silence on women’s rights?” Nothing Labour does for women matters to her.

We can’t know that these quotes come from Labour supporters rather than trolls or even bots, because there is no verification done. And, they are writing on a social media space where the greater hostility to trans people, particularly trans women, is glorified, and any dissenting voice quickly silenced. In that space, they get more little dopamine hits from Likes, the more hostile they are.

The comments are completely out of proportion. If they do not think Kier Starmer, Anneliese Dodds and Marsha de Cordova are adults, who would be better? They are aggrieved, and see themselves as victims, even while imagining they are more knowledgable and intelligent. They encourage each other, and get more extreme.

How many people think like that? Hundreds; but their voices are magnified by such as The Times, with its anti-Labour and anti-trans agenda.

Some of these people claim to activism in the past, canvassing or getting out the vote. However, now, they are simply a burden on the party, abusing its leader, policy and membership. All their claims of loyalty and long-term adherence are only made to try to strengthen their voice against Labour policy. They do no good for our party. They set back the cause of women’s rights and LGB rights by stoking division. If they cannot develop a sense of proportion, they should leave.

The haters admit, lesbians support trans

Where could I find evidence of the support of lesbians and feminists for trans people? Oddly enough, the whining of haters. “There are very few public stories of lesbians on the ‘cotton ceiling’” said a transphobe, Angela C Wild, who worked with a named transphobe organisation to try to get more, but failed. While QAnon and other conspiracist groups can get 200,000 in a facebook group, Wild’s energetic attempts to find transphobic lesbians found respondents from three continents, but only resulted in eighty responses to her questionnaire.

“The sample does not claim to be a representative sample of the lesbian community,” Wild writes. Rather, her eighty respondents show an extreme view. “Would you consider a transwoman (sic) as a potential sexual partner,” she asked, and though lesbians will, all but one of her respondents said no. Wild uses the word “transwoman” though she does not consider it appropriate, preferring to think of us as males. This is valueless as research, but some of the stories are interesting.

The haters were members of lesbian or LGBT groups online or IRL. Though 58 of them were part of groups excluding trans women, they still felt “silenced” or unable to speak freely. Allies of trans women had excluded forty of the haters from LGBT groups. One hater had been sacked- perhaps it was Maya Forstater. The pressure came from “other women” (that is, not trans women) within their groups.

Online, it is easy to find your own kind. Facebook will suggest groups for you. So, some of the respondents had left their LGBT groups and joined hater groups, where they could be sure their views were not challenged. They prefer hater groups even though they say “how much more difficult it has become for them to meet lesbians”- the hate they share was their main focus. One said in a city of a million people all the lesbian groups included trans women, at least potentially.

On dating sites, in getting messages from trans women, one is quoted as saying “she has never felt coerced or intimidated”. While others claim to be pressured, they admit that the pressure comes from cis lesbians. Despite her repulsion against trans women, one had had a relationship with one, but they judge us on our looks, claiming we were not “making an effort to pass”.

This document cannot be dignified by the term “research”. For example, Wild misrepresents Dhejne’s research, though Dhejne has refuted Wild’s interpretation, and in her “references” cites tweets, youtube, and a Medium article. Though facebook radicalises people, by suggesting extremist groups to anyone who might do a search, Wild has found few people, and they tell of the pressure from cis women including cis lesbians to accept trans women.

Wild’s account makes a number of serious allegations, of threats and even assaults, but these come from a prejudiced source, from anonymised obsessives who would rather leave a lesbian group than accept the possibility that a trans woman might join. Most lesbians understand that if hatred against trans women spreads, lesbians will be next in the firing line. Now, with this Tory government, we need LGBT solidarity.

For example, there is this statement on the Pride in London website, when such haters disrupted the Pride parade in 2018:

The lesbian board members at Pride in London made their anger towards the unsanctioned group clear and our organisation as a whole condemns their actions. The protest group showed a level of bigotry, ignorance and hate that is unacceptable.

We reject what this group stands for. They do not share our values, which are about inclusion and respect and support for the most marginalised parts of our community.

We are proud of our trans volunteers, proud of the trans groups that are in our parade, proud of our trans speakers at events and proud of the trans people who take part in our campaigns and proud of those who cheered even louder for them yesterday.

While The Times and other powerful right wing forces seek to spread hatred of trans people, and internet contacts ensured her questionnaire reached Canada, Germany and New Zealand, Wild’s “research” shows this has little purchase among lesbians.

Talking to an anti-trans campaigner

We zoomed for an hour. She ranted for the first twenty minutes.

I saw how paltry were her Gotchas. The absolute facts, which show she and her like are in the right, are victims, include Tara Wolf’s assault. She named Tara’s victim. Then there was a point of their Badness, or their Goodness, which I don’t care about but somehow we both had at our fingertips. So called “Gender-critical” demonstrators were racist at Black Lives Matter demonstrators! BLM has repudiated that, she claims. I really don’t care, but it shows our level of detail and the lengths we go to.

She has a logical basis to her arguments which misses out a great deal of reality but appeals to such people. What is a woman is based on genes, gonads and genitals. Even intersex women are women because of primary or secondary sexual characteristics at birth. Trans women are men, so should no more be in women’s spaces than a seahorse in a stable (my analogy: I cannot resist these plays with words).

She knows that vulnerable women need a space where they will be completely certain that no trans woman could ever come. I questioned her on that. She admitted there are so few trans women, but still asserted the possibility a trans woman might enter would take away the safety.

Then she claims a right to organise as a protected characteristic- to meet and campaign- which I cannot find in the Equality Act. Her protected characteristic is sex, so women with these views should be able to meet and campaign together without objection. She also seems to misunderstand the provisions about excluding trans women from women’s spaces, which assume that trans women are women.

She is wrong about all this, but her certainty is undentable. That we are a tiny, vulnerable minority, and that we can evade transition only by continuing suffering, does not matter to her at all. She is the victim. Lesbians are victims. I say, what about Diva, the lesbian magazine, and Stonewall, whose chief executive was Ruth Hunt, a lesbian, from 2014, now succeeded by Nancy Kelley, also a lesbian. They don’t speak for her, and she resents this.

She dismisses my Gotchas. Right wing? WoLF took a strategic decision, as they could not get funding anywhere else, that one time. Then she mentions a self-hating trans, as if she does not remember that trans writes repetitive, derivative rubbish for The Spectator. I talk of the Times, and she says it is less anti-trans after the editor changed.

On the Labour Party, she does not think she damages it by launching her “Declaration” at the start of the election campaign. Rather, she thinks she is saving it. She tries to persuade socialist campaigners to remain in the party. Three hundred left in one day! On that, I was the dismissive one- three hundred out of half a million.

Then she views her tiny, hating minority as brave lone campaigners. She was at the LGB All Liars launch! There were [self-hating] trans women there! There are lots of lesbian organisations! They are tiny, and it’s always the same dreary obsessives, but she does not see that.

I sat in silence unable to think of anything useful to say. She thinks her lot are the oppressed ones, unable to see how the hard Right are using them. For example, when I wrote to my MP the minister wrote back using the term “single-sex services”, trans excluder jargon claiming there is a rigid distinction between gender and sex and that it matters, rather than “women’s services”. Can there be a meeting of minds? Almost certainly not. That hour on zoom from 8.30, followed by my messing about until midnight, probably contributed to my misery the following day.

I am reading “Always Coming Home” by Ursula LeGuin, in which a woman from an egalitarian society, where wealth is counted in what they give away, goes to a militaristic, theocratic, hierarchical society where wealth is what they take from others and retain. Women are not allowed outside, and are veiled in the presence of men. She writes of the “general of the women”,

If we could have worked and talked together and come to know each other I think it would have been better, for she was not a spiteful person. But that was prevented by our misunderstanding, fixed and made incurable by her jealousy of her power, and my shame.

The least privileged cling to their few privileges, against each other. So much of that book is relevant:

But since the Dayao did not talk decisions over in public council, as people usually do, there was no way for disagreements to come together into agreement. So ideas became opinions, and these made factions, which diverged and became fixed opponents.

I don’t know that talking is possible. I know that our marginalisation is the same. I know that she cannot gain rights by taking away mine. My concept of how we might come together, fighting for the rights of both, involves her welcoming trans women in. Hers involves me campaigning behind that self-hater. I am trapped in the zero-sum game. Could we work for the good of the Labour party?

Heron Greenesmith: Disrupting anti-trans feminist advocacy

Heron Greenesmith, Esq, senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, has produced a webinar on arguing with anti-trans feminists, which is now on Vimeo, and other writings worth a look. The whole is worth watching, but if you don’t have ninety minutes, here are the main points, sometimes with my own gloss:

The Left works with an abundance mindset, that there is enough for everyone if it is fairly shared, and from a belief in interconnectedness, that unless everyone is included everyone’s inclusion is threatened. The Right works from a scarcity mindset, promoting competition for scarce resources, and a smaller circle of empathy or moral concern, supporting the rights of an in-group against the rest. The Right is happy to amplify any oppressed voice which speaks out against other oppressed groups, and so pays for anti-trans campaigners, who have adopted that scarcity and in-group mindset.

The anti-trans piling of detail follows the tactic of the Gish Gallop, named after the creationist Duane Gish, who often spouted lots of ridiculous arguments in one paragraph, so that the opponent either wastes time refuting them or lets them pass. RationalWiki really wants to counter such things.

Trans excluders use scare tactics around bathrooms and talks of “erasing women and girls”. These tactics are effective, particularly in radicalising groups where beliefs are not subject to challenge. In response we can respond with empathy, particularly when the excluder may mean well, humour, logic, data, or just ignore them when they are finally closed minded. We need to persuade the people in the middle, not every single trans excluder.

Some of their talking points can be disrupted:

“Biology isn’t bigotry,” they say, but in fact biology based bigotry is the basis of white nationalism. Human gender and sexuality are complex.

Point out that they are talking of comfort, rather than safety. Trans people suffer violence. Someone might be uncomfortable seeing a trans person, but is not really in danger. Women’s spaces were never actually safe for many women- women of colour, disabled, low income, nonbinary. Safety is aspirational. There may be actual ways to increase safety in a space.

Trans excluders claim trans people recruit children, just as homophobes claim gay men recruit children. This pretends we have more power than we have. The Patriarchy is the enemy, not trans people. The Patriarchy pressures people to conform to gender roles. Trans people, including children, feel safer to be visible than we did before.

Trans excluders use apparently innocuous slogans, such as “Woman: adult human female”. This is the same tactic as “Blue Lives Matter” or Ronald Reagan’s “Make America Great Again”. I see that and I feel personally slighted, and under threat. It is violence, designed to make trans people afraid to walk in the street or be ourselves on line. It is violent to deny words are hateful when the trans excluder intends hate.

They say we need to prioritise real women. “Real” is harmful. It reinforces hierarchies, a tool of the Right, rather than inclusion. Lots of women are on the fringes- intersex, nonbinary, gender non-conforming. Many women do not menstruate. When we prioritise the most marginalised, everyone benefits. (See John Rawls’s “Relative Least Advantaged Person”).

Excluders say cis women deserve their own “sex-based” spaces. Spaces can exclude some women. It is scary to feel vulnerable, but it is the Patriarchy, not trans people, who make spaces scary. Trans women face violence.

Excluders say trans women should not compete in women’s sports. But the Olympics has included trans women since 2004, and the US National College Athletics Association since 2011. Our participation is governed by strict rules on testosterone levels, and we do not dominate. Go on, name that cyclist. Rachel McKinnon. Heron spoke to a man who said there were trans women in tennis, but could not name one, not even Renee Richards. And even if trans women did dominate, would that not be worth it, to make trans women safe in society? The US Women’s National Basketball Association welcomes trans women, but includes none yet.

Excluders say “Why can’t we be butches any more?” It’s the Patriarchy that says women can’t be butch. JK Rowling said “I too might have tried to transition. The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge.” It is the Patriarchy, and rape culture, that makes female adolescence so difficult, not trans people. Reifying the gender binary makes that problem worse. Butch gender is misunderstood by the Right and the Patriarchy: it’s the same problem trans people endure.

Rowling said her gender was not affirmed. It should have been.

Anti-trans campaigners harp on about penises, falsely claiming fewer trans women seek medical treatment than actually do. Penises, and men, are not the problem. It’s the Patriarchy, the Right, the scarcity mindset and the limited circle of empathy. Trans excluders are not true feminists.

Transition in name only, and survivors’ fear

Meredith Talusan writes, I have short hair. I don’t wear heels. Because there is no one way to be a trans woman, either.

She’s in her early forties. She transitioned in 2001, four years after graduating, and in her twenties wore makeup and feminine clothes to make her beautiful for herself, and attractive to others. But the effort and the attention became oppressive. Oestrogen had softened her features, and she slowly reduced her makeup, sometimes wearing none at all, and wore more comfortable clothes. Then at the college reunion queer reception, someone said to her,

“I remember you. You look the same.”

And this made her self-conscious. She went to look in the mirror. Do I look like a man? No, she decided, she is quite sure of that.

Well. She might have looked quite feminine when she was presenting male. And cis women as well as trans women might start dressing more comfortably, as they moved from twenties to forties. Dressing attractively can mean vulnerability: it takes a special kind of woman for that to be only a manifestation of power. (Yes, I mean you. I doubt you read this and you are still in my thoughts.) There can be advantages in becoming less visible.

Yet one of the myths the trans-excluders spread, to foment fear, is the “trans woman” who just looks like a man. They aren’t trans, not really, they just want to invade women’s spaces. Self-id will mean a horde of balding men with beards and beer guts, in jeans and scuzzy t-shirts, claiming to be women. Look at that hulking man-beast! Surely all women should be frightened and angry and all decent men should stand up for women’s rights against these…

breathe…

This is the kind of thing they say, and some of that is a direct quote. Should I be held to a particular standard of feminine presentation? Because sometimes people see me as a man.

I became aware of the physical fear of traumatised women in a drama. A male psychologist interviewed a woman who claimed to have been raped and pointed out to her that she did not flinch when he touched her, and so he did not believe her. That is problematic, the false allegation trope- I can’t remember how her motivation was explained- but what I took from it was the unbearable presence of the man, for the violated woman.

The presence of me? That is a central allegation by those who want me out of, say, shop changing rooms.

As for me, well it’s complicated. I want to hide away, and I do, not going out for days, and that is not the behaviour I would expect from one whose experience of other humans had been entirely positive. And I don’t flinch from touch. I might be numb, I don’t know, there are some indications.

I know that trans-excluder fears are generally exaggerated. Somehow, trans women have become the focus of the campaigners’ fears of male violence. Well, male violence is a real threat, and a real experience, and it seems they find it easier to focus on trans exclusion, just because the problem of heterosexual men, of rape culture, as a whole is just too daunting. And look what work women’s refuges must put in, for so little support.

My tentative answer is to hear the fears of everyone. If all people cannot be accommodated, then we cannot have a solution. I am a trans woman, like thousands of others, quite harmless, not the monster some fear. I know men would be ashamed to claim to be women, especially trans women, and well the fear is there. And then value everyone’s needs, including mine. Excluding all the trans women does not work for me.

Should we wear skirts and makeup more? The trouble with that is that we are treated unequally, with suspicion not applied to others. Because the trans-excluders imagine a group of unworthy persons, and suggest we might be in that group, we have to prove that we are not. This does not work. Our evidence will never be enough to the trans-excluders.

Or, there are two fears, to be treated differently. One is the fear of the traumatised woman. She sees me and responds in fear, and I hope any trans woman and other people would respond sympathetically. But the other is the fear of the trans-excluder: she claims someone may see me and respond in fear, so I should be restricted in case that happens. That is one of their main arguments, to stop me living my life in peace.