Why I bang on about the trans thing

8 Jun

Since I’m more at home calling out the lies on China, Russia and Syria – else laying bare those mechanisms which ensure we have no independent media, hence no true democracy – you might ask why I’m bothering with this “trannie” brouhaha.

I wouldn’t blame you. A year ago I’d have asked the same. Like many others I was slow to see what is happening. Precisely because of the issue’s prima facie absurdity, I failed to appreciate the dangers.

This post is by way of setting out what I believe those dangers to be. It originated in a reply to a comment on my previous post: Transphobia? It’s time the woke woke up! Before wrapping up that post I quoted a Scottish blogger, Gordon Dangerfield:

Of course the Gender Recognition Act will be duly enforced by the Hate Crime Act. Thus arises an intriguing ‘binary’ relationship between extreme individualistic subjectivism and extreme state authoritarianism. Assertion of non-negotiable pseudo-sacrosanct narcissistic power is common to both. Objective law as irreducible sphere of reality is subverted by arbitrary personalism. Might determines right. Autocracy of self-ID is mirrored by autocracy on high.

This elicited a comment by Dave Hansell:

this [the Dangerfield quote] is key simply because the identity politics which has infected the “progressive left” is grounded in and derived from pure unadulterated “no such thing as society” Thatcherism. An approach based entirely on subjective and selfish individualism which puts subjectively constructed rights above the common good.

What follows is my reply to Dave. It expresses in their fullest form to date my still evolving views.

*

Yes. And Blair was an early sign of that approach’s embrace by a “New” Labour hostile to all talk of class: of the divide between those whose income derives from their ever tightening monopoly ownership of the means of producing wealth, and those obliged to sell their labour power (white collar or blue) on markets our media speak of in meteorological metaphors, as things beyond human agency.

Labour – from its inception ambivalent about class, but once distinguishable from other social democratic parties within the West through its organic ties with trade unions – seeks to fill its ideological vacuity through identity politics pursued as if the social exclusion of black people, women, gays, the disabled – and, yes, transgenders – were simply the products of backward thinking.

As such they are to be corrected by moral education, and “hate crime” laws certain to come in handy when, as we who study the economic realities of an imperialised world say is inevitable, class rule even in the West adopts more authoritarian forms. Such legislation will be tested in arenas of least resistance. As I said months ago, in a footnote to a post on pandemic:

a word to the good hearted ingenues who cheered Twitter’s banning of Donald Trump. Has it never occurred to you that tyranny may come by stealth, starting with the low hanging fruit? First they came for the unlovable …

In contrast to such idealism, those who take the oppressions of identity to flow – in ways direct and obvious, or complex and dialectical – from the requirements of class rule draw the wrath of the Keir Starmers of this world, whose name is legion. Take the notion, widely held in the liberal intelligentsia (though some have the decency to be embarrassed about it), that racism is rooted in the uneducated mindsets of the deplorables. Not, mark you, in a historic need to legitimate colonial larceny, slave trade, “settling” of North America and the Antipodes, and so much else.

And the plunder continues in new forms as well as old. As Caitlin Johnstone recently put it:

In just 200 years we’ve progressed from expecting our leaders to murder brown-skinned people while saying racist things, to expecting our leaders to murder brown-skinned people while condemning racism.

I use this a lot. It gets more right than wrong, but fails to differentiate America from its ruling class. Tens of millions of US citizens live in third world conditions: below the poverty line, and ill served by criminal justice and medicare systems.

But back to the trans issue. I say, as I’m sure you do, that ‘men identifying as women’ have an inalienable right which – pace Pastor Martin Niemöller – we deny at our peril. That right is to protection from unreasonable discrimination,1  but it implies no corollary right2 to access cis-women’s changing rooms, refuges or prisons; nor to compete in cis-women’s sporting events …

… I see it as a sign of postmodern lunacy3 that we even need the term, ‘cis-women’ …

… nor to protection from having their feelings hurt by we who claim on the back of some pretty hard science that sex is binary and biological.4 But whatever the intrinsic merits or otherwise of the belief, by no means held by all transgenders, that sex is a spectrum – and being a woman a matter of ‘identifying’ as one – the blitzkreig gains of ‘sex as a matter of identity’ should sound alarm bells for these reasons:

  • The speed of those gains. It took decades for black, feminist, gay and (social model) disability lobbies to be heard. Yet this one – on the face of it more provocative, even at the level of common sense, than those earlier movements – has won significant concessions in eyebrow-raisingly short order.
  • The sinister alliance, called out in my previous post and such comments as yours, of ‘woke’ politics with rising authoritarianism.

* * *

  1. Protection from unreasonable discrimination … In earlier versions of this post I spoke of ‘protection from violent attack’ but this is too narrow. As for my ‘unreasonable’ qualifier, some discriminations, like denying me entry to women-only spaces, strike me as entirely reasonable.
  2. No corollary right … If trans women feel – or indeed are – unsafe in men-only spaces, prisons in particular, the solution is not to place them in women-only spaces. See, in my exchanges with Johny Conspiranoid in the comments below, my reference to Thai high school students.
  3. I was an early fan of thinkers, notably Michel Foucault, we now call postmodernist. By the late eighties I’d concluded that the insights were eclipsed by the idiocies. I recall reading, circa 1990, a writer castigating Left academia for embracing its superficially progressive ideas. If we abandon axioms of an external reality – in principle if not always in practice accessible to our senses – all we are left with is ‘narrative’. And as this writer – name long forgotten – warned with uncanny prescience, the Right does ‘narrative’ better than the Left.
  4. My pretty hard science link speaks of a ‘difference … between the statements that there are only two sexes (true) and that everyone can be neatly categorised as either male or female (false). The existence of only two sexes does not mean sex is never ambiguous. But intersex individuals are extremely rare, and are neither a third sex nor proof of sex as a ‘spectrum’ or ‘social construct.’ Not everyone needs to be discretely assignable to one or the other sex in order for biological sex to be functionally binary. To assume otherwise—to confuse secondary sexual traits with biological sex itself—is a category error.’ And as feminist blogger Contrarian Quinn argues – Everybody Knows What a Woman is, Including Trans Activists – ‘even if you accept that intersex people disprove binary sex (they don’t) and sex is socially constructed (it’s not) at best that would lead you to conclude there’s actually no such thing as a “woman”. This is not the conclusion trans activists want you to reach. They do think there’s such a thing as a “woman” and are saying it’s what trans women are.’

13 Replies to “Why I bang on about the trans thing

  1. I agree completely with the post (including the bit on ‘post-modernists’. The recent antics of the SNP are a good example of where thing are coming from and going to, and it’s not an enlightening prospect.

    But apart from the political aspect, the whole thing is a minefield. I remember hearing a very tragic story on the radio a few years ago where someone with deeply felt gender issues had had an operation to change their physical characteristics. On being asked what he felt about it afterwards. He (or by then maybe she) said ‘It was the biggest mistake of my life”, and that it had made them deeply unhappy.

    I believe that some Native American societies had ways of assimilating such people into their culture, but I don’t know what the exact terms were. Maybe something interesting for scientific research.

    • Apropos your final paragraph, the theocrats in Tehran defend homophobic laws – backed by the death penalty – on ground (among others) of enlightened attitudes to transgenderism, with state financial support for sex change operations. Elsewhere in Asia, I was aware ten years ago of trans high school students in Thailand – its ladyboy culture leaving Thais more receptive on such matters – for transgender changing rooms. I’d be in favour of that in the West. Who should pay? The rich of course!

      I do want to make clear here that two distinct things are being, through ignorance or design, conflated. Not all trans activists believe sex a spectrum. I’ve said multiple times on this site that an insistence on sex as biological and binary – whatever the merits of that insistence – is not evidence of transphobia. Nor is the suffering of trans persons contested by me. Far from it. If I have not given that suffering its due, this is not through cold indifference. Simply that I choose to direct my all too finite energies elsewhere.

      On a more prosaic note I still have to approve your wisdoms when you have proved a valued and responsible commenter. I blame your name, and the ghost of King Billy in the WordPress machine …

    • “‘It was the biggest mistake of my life”,
      Its obviously unlikely that surgery can provide realistic female ganitals by re-arranging male genitals, not to mention all the other details. As Germaine Greer said “a woman isn’t just a man without a dick”. The persuasion to have this surgery looks very strong and I wonder who is making money out of it. Does someone get a finders fee for introducing new customers?

      • You open an intriguing possibility with that last sentence. For all its instability and internal contradiction, industrial capitalism has shown in its short lifetime (300 years tops) – and consumer capitalism in its even shorter one (post WW2) – a remarkable, Borg-like ability to adapt to new markets.

        Even to the point of making profits from its own opposition.

        (Not that the sex-as-non-binary end of transgenderism is anti-capitalist. But I’m not blind to the irony that my posts often house links to anti-capitalist books on Amazon!)

  2. Yes. And Blair was an early sign of that approach’s embrace by a “New” Labour hostile to all talk of class: of the divide between those whose income derives from their ever tightening monopoly ownership of the means of producing wealth, and those obliged to sell their labour power (white collar or blue) on markets our media speak of in meteorological metaphors, as things beyond human agency.

    But what can you sell when more and more of the human labour is increasingly being substituted by AI automation?

    Capitalism, always on the lookout for the main chance and new markets already seems to have a plausible answer. You can sell your identity now that you’ve lost your labour power as a result of technological substitution increasingly abolishing the need for humans to work:

    https://thefederalist.com/2018/07/05/transgenderism-just-big-business-dressed-pretend-civil-rights-clothes/

    “TomBoyX is a woman’s undergarment company. It uses the term “tomboy” in its company name to denote a girl who enjoys so-called stereotypical boy activities like running and climbing trees to sell boxer shorts and comfortable underwear to women. Their message is of empowerment, not being hemmed in by feminine attire, but able to run and feel free “like a boy,” by donning clothes like his, but made for a woman’s body. In a recent ad they chose an attractive young woman with double mastectomy scars donning their boxers under a caption that reads: “This canvas was given to you but you made it your own. You crafted your own story. Share it with the world. #moretome.”

    This message is a clear glorification of chosen body disfigurement posing as self-actualization and liberation, sickness as wellness, self-hatred made into empowerment, and cutting and maiming female flesh for public consumption via uber-marketing. George Orwell must be turning over in his grave with the language of doublespeak as prime-time advertisement.”

    Is anyone else reminded of the well known marketing event by Berney a century ago? The one where he hired a group of female debutants with escorts to join some New York parade lighting up cigarettes as ‘torches of freedom’ to open up the female market for big tobacco.

    Compared to what’s happening here that now seems so quaint in comparison.

    If Warhol were starting out today he’d be making observations not about fifteen minutes of fame but of a planet of a trillion identities. All competing against each other and ultra emphasising their individualised and atomised artificially created and manufactured differences for market attention rather than uniting in common cause against Class based exploitation.

    Instead huge swathes of the self labelled “progressive/left” are falling over themselves to dig their own graves, and those of everyone else, to Wheesh for Thatcherism.

  3. … that racism is rooted in the uneducated minds of the deplorables. Not, mark you, in a historic need to legitimate colonial larceny, slave trade, “settling” of North America and the Antipodes, and so much else.

    As a conspiracy theorist I wonder how much the historic need to legitimate colonial larceny, slave trade, “settling” of North America and the Antipodes, and so much else gave rise to the conscious invention and promotion of racism, conducted in secret. I’m thinking of such publications of my youth as Boys Own Paper and their racist assumptions.

    • On the whole I don’t think we need overarching conspiracy to explain such things. Enid Blyton .. Baden Powell’s scout movement .. Fu Manchu .. Boys Own Paper and later comics like Victor and Eagle … all put out racist depictions because when we live in a racist society it’s impossible not to be racist. I’m sure that most of those who reinforced such empire-serving stereotypes were simply celebrating God as a white man from the Home Counties, a belief they sincerely (if incoherently) held.

      That said, I have to leave room for the distinct possibility you are onto something. After the war, I’m told, the proprietors and editors of Britain’s biggest women’s mags asked government to say what image of womanhood it wanted them to sell to a readership no longer needed by heavy industry or transport infrastructure. The boys were home, and they wanted their jobs back!

      (More generally such examples – and the trillions which change hands over advertising – give the lie to the notion of a West free of propaganda. Are we really to suppose that the dark arts of attitude formation, honed through daily use on Madison Avenue and its equivalents across the West, are somehow hermetically sealed from those who would use them to mould our ideas on matters more overtly political? Opinions we fondly take to be freely arrived at are nothing of the kind!)

      Baden Powell is an interesting case, given his roles as promoter of muscular Christianity and Empire on the one hand, spy on the other. Today the roles of Guardian men like Russophobe propagandist and liar Luke Harding, and Deputy Editor Paul Johnson (on the D Notice Committee with MI5) make it foolish to rule out conspiracy.

      My view is that for day to day class rule this mix – (a) ideology absorbed and exuded as common sense; (b) business realism, via media reliance on ad revenues; (c) career focus by journalists who need to please editors, who in turn need to please owners – keeps most of us thinking the way it suits our rulers to have us think. Nowadays crude racism has passed its sell-by date. (Witness the plethora of TV ads depicting families, not so long ago exclusively white and heterosexual, as black and not infrequently gay!) But when the stakes rise – a freak result in a Labour leader election, say, or a middle east obstacle to profits to be Taken Out by Regime Change – then, yes, conspiracies become highly likely.

      Such threats are to be neutralised by all available means. In an irony of our times, the racism, sexism and homophobia once useful to class rule may be stood on their heads for use – with ne’er a blush – as sticks to administer a good old fashioned thrashing in a context where verbal attack readies a sleeping population for more serious measures – up to and including party coup (Corbyn), jail (Assange) lethal sanctions (Iran, Russia, Venezuela and beyond) and the supreme crime of waging aggressive war (actual in the middle east, potential in the context of a nuclear Eurasia rising). Did you know Corbyn is (gasp!) antisemitic? Putin a homophobe? Assad a trannie basher? Assange a rapist with BO? These enemies of liberal values must be Taken Out. Now. Whoever says otherwise is siding with illiberalism and worse! Jeez, how easily manipulated are the ‘woke’ …

  4. Why I bang on about the trans thing!

    I am tired of being told my concerns are irrelevant by men who don’t understand them. Men, do not understand the ordinary lived realities of being a woman, or the everyday ways women are oppressed and diminished. We are told not to complain or to moan. Men, who consider themselves trade unionists, do not recognise my feminism as my union, fighting for my rights. And they react to us in the time-honoured way of oppressors, by telling us to ‘be quiet’. Wheesht…

    Consider the new understanding of institutionalised racism and terms newly spoken, such as ‘micro aggressions’. These are gushingly accepted as very real issues with regard to race, and individuals and organisations are scrambling over themselves to root out the wrong doers and thinkers, with dire consequences for them. This is at exactly the same time they are signing up to programmes and initiatives that very deliberately perpetuate the same effect on women – all to achieve a gold star on some bloody list of super-duper woke organisations!

    I am, by law, entitled to my beliefs. But why is the statement “I do/n’t believe in a God” less problematic than me saying “I believe sex is binary”? And why is it, in the most parts, men, that have a problem with me expressing that belief?

    I know that when I was at school girls and boys were forced to do separate subjects. As a result, I was unable to be the architect I wanted to be, but was well qualified to be a secretary. So I am the first one to shout from the rooftops that such stereotypes have been reduced and women and girls have made inroads into what was traditionally seen as male environments. But how do we define women and men? It’s always been a biological issue, but we are now told that biology doesn’t exist. So what is left? Do we define using stereotypes such as what colours we like, or what jobs we have? Is my sex really just a bloody ‘feeling’? Seriously? *eye rolls to the point of eyes falling out*

    In terms of the way these views are policed I am well placed to say that the Labour Party is an extremely hostile environment right now. At a meeting of the Sheffield LCF last night it was announced that they have received 20 new applications to be city councillors, 14 men and 6 women. Even worse, the 6 women had all been on the Municipal panel or been councillors previously. There was much hand wringing about the need for gender parity and a decision to write to every member to implore them to stand was agreed. No one asked why! It was purely a comms issue surely? I was desperate to point out that all we needed to do was ask 4 men to identify as women and all would be well..….*unable to eye roll as eyes are still out* There was no understanding of why we have AWS, or seek parity in representation, and the fact that, because of our different experiences, I believe men cannot represent women fully. TWAW and that is it. No discussion. No thought about the consequences.

    I stuck my head above the parapet again (it’s got more holes than my sieve) and pointed out that a) it appears that meetings are pointless for both men and women at the moment because democracy is non-existent in the party workings so motivating anyone to engage is difficult, and b) the environment for women in particular is utterly toxic. I said we weren’t allowed to speak about our rights or needs, and that female membership was declining more rapidly than male. A couple of other women joined in and one explicitly stated that the Party’s inability to defend women’s single-sex spaces was a huge issue. You could have heard a pin drop…………….Then, a naturally, very lovely and placatory woman picked up the can and said, paraphrasing roughly (!!) “Oh dear, this is terrible and I agree with absolutely every single thing that every single person has ever said about absolutely anything, (pause)…and we need more creches…..” I am surprised my scream didn’t register on the Richter Scale.

    So in summary,

      Women share common experiences, often based on exploitation and oppression. I believe we area ‘class’ on that basis. I cannot understand the experience of being upper-class and no man can fully understand the experience of being in my class. Men who identify as women have lived – often for many years – as men and, in my experiences, continue to show male privilege.

      Women who identify as men will have grown up in my class and will, generally, share more common experiences with women than men.

      Moral education is indeed required, but not in the format assumed, and it is interesting that when asked for reasoned debate even that request is screamed down as transphobic! Not sure if you heard yesterday morning’s car crash interview with Ben Cohen about Stonewall? Stonewall have a transperson on their board but not only did they not attend, Stonewall didn’t send anyone at all. Cohen, as editor of Pink News, spoke (very badly) about his perception of Stonewall. Listening to him lie outright about the aims of Stonewall as written in their testimony to the APPG about the abolition of single sex spaces, he reinforces the argument for education.

      We need a detailed examination of sex-based discrimination in order to understand the oppression of women. This isn’t new and I don’t understand why decades of academic, analytical research is being ditched. This isn’t about just providing bloody creches!

      The speed at which this madness has taken hold, in my view, is based on the fact that it is driven by the ruling class – in this case, men. And behind the ruling class, as ever, is money. Power and money buy influence whether it is used well or not. In this case many women, and some men, believe not!

    • Hi Terry: good to hear from you. I never properly got back to you, as I’d intended, the last time you commented but don’t take this as a put down. I do keep busy.

      Your comment here packs in so much I agree with, but with the added insights of your being a woman and, like Dave, a Labour Party member. Let me pick out one snippet:

      I said we weren’t allowed to speak about our rights or needs, and that female membership was declining more rapidly than male. A couple of other women joined in and one explicitly stated that the Party’s inability to defend women’s single-sex spaces was a huge issue. You could have heard a pin drop…………….Then, a naturally, very lovely and placatory woman picked up the can and said, paraphrasing roughly (!!) “Oh dear, this is terrible and I agree with absolutely every single thing that every single person has ever said about absolutely anything, (pause)…and we need more creches…..” I am surprised my scream didn’t register on the Richter Scale.

      It’s as if I was there in the meeting with you!

  5. “Consider the new understanding of institutionalised racism and terms newly spoken, such as ‘micro aggressions’. These are gushingly accepted as very real issues with regard to race, and individuals and organisations are scrambling over themselves to root out the wrong doers and thinkers, with dire consequences for them. This is at exactly the same time they are signing up to programmes and initiatives that very deliberately perpetuate the same effect on women – all to achieve a gold star on some bloody list of super-duper woke organisations!

    On the previous thread I wrote:

    “Because under this hierarchy of oppression approach they are down the pecking order in the pyramid/queue. Not simply in everyday practice but officially. Those such as Marion Miller et al can be abused and threatened in the most brutal way by the purity spiral “progressive left” “woke mob” both on and off line and no one from the social media platform to the police to the prosecution services institutions to the politicians and media commentariat will raise an eyebrow. to what in another context is actively pursued as the most heinous of hate crimes.

    Terry’s observation above represents the everyday negative manifestation of this approach and it’s generic process which I attempted to describe in that post. The ‘extreme individualistic subjectivism’ element of the binary described in the quote from Gordon Dangerfield’s blog, which I think originated from Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh?.

    A taste of the other element of that binary – the State authoritarianism – and what this approach and process means in practice can be seen here from today’s written judgement in the Craig Murray case:

    https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/06/official-lady-dorrian-rules-courts-should-apply-different-standards-to-bloggers-and-mainstream-media/

    This is what the extreme individualistic subjectivitism of identity politics looks like in practice on behalf of the authoritarian State. The application of the salami sliced hierarchy of oppression snake oil being sold as “progressive” by identity politics. Driving a coach and horses through the principle of “equality (in terms of objective treatment and approach) before the law” in favour of subjective – ie selective – judgement based on identity and where that subjectively manufactured identity is located in the hierarchy of oppression pecking order.

    In Murray’s case distinguishing between a blog journalism/journalists and Corporate State journalism/journalists.

    The very process and approach which sees the actions of Marion Miller/Ester Giles et al or Jeremy Corbyn et al prosecuted with extreme prejudice whilst giving a free pass to the mob – from whichever end of the woke on the political spectrum – to issue abuse and threats of violence, including death threats, at will against them any anyone who stands alongside them.

    Be prepared for an increasing number of cases being prosecuted in which selective punishment is brazingly applied by the authoritarian Corporate State at the behest and with the support of the identity politics mob whilst enabling free reign to the same behaviours and far worse based entirely on the identity involved and where it is located in that hierarchy of oppression.

  6. Well I’ve read all the posts and comments and I can’t find any discussion of why Marion Miller has been singled out for this treatment (as oposed to the stated reasons).

    • Want to start such a discussion Jonny? I confess I’m far from familiar with full details of her treatment but one thing – her not being told which of her social media comments crossed a vaguely drawn line – struck me as a sinister echo of the case against Craig Murray. Found guilty by Lady Dorrian of contempt of court – by releasing info on his blog site allegedly enabling jigsaw identification of prosecution witnesses in the trial of Alex Salmond – the offending information has not to my knowledge ever been specified.

      Kind of Kafkaesque.

  7. I’ve not seen this blog before but I’m sad and disappointed to see more support for far-right ideas of the purity of (white, wealthy) womanhood. TERFs are a segment of the feminist movement that is deeply conservative, attached to unscientific notions of gender and sex, and ideologically committed to making the lives of Trans men and women more difficult. Is there any evidence that trans women are a danger to women in women-only spaces such as public toilets? I’d like to see the studies showing this to be even tentatively true. As for sports: levels of testosterone vary wildly in men and women and, again, I know of no evidence showing that trans girls can’t compete fairly against cis girls.

    “This obsession with biological essentialism ultimately excludes trans women from feminist spaces, and elevates the cis (and usually white) experience of womanhood as the gold standard. In a recent seminar on TERF-ism, scholar Marquis Bey explained that “TERFs seem to have the power to renaturalize and reinstall or to further solidify the stranglehold of the gender binary, which is in and of itself a mode of violence and violation.” Bey is touching on the contradiction at the heart of TERF ideology; feminism is supposed to break down socially constructed gender roles, including the idea that women are biologically different from men, but TERFs just reinforce the binary. Biological essentialism also forms an ideological bridge between TERFs and the far right, who also bolster their arguments with “biology.” Both movements are also deeply reactionary; as Bey says, TERFs long for “the purported ‘golden years’ of feminist activism, which contrast with this supposed ‘too far’-ness of contemporary radical trans insurrectionary thinking [and] activism.””

    https://www.prindlepost.org/2020/12/is-radical-feminism-inherently-transphobic/

    Evidence about the links between the far right and anti-trans feminists:
    https://medium.com/@miralazine/terfs-are-working-with-the-right-to-influence-the-united-nations-765acb384be4

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