Remember Who They Are

I fully accept that this will be too little, too late for some, and too much, too soon for others.

I will begin this with a doubled, modernized set of secular Serenity invocations: Noodly Lord grant me the serenity to accept that there are people I cannot change, the courage to change the people I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Noodly Lord grant me also the serenity to accept that bad-faith actors exist, the humility to recognize my good-faith critics, and the help I need to discern the difference.

Both of these, but especially the latter, directly reflect my Accountability Pledge, which I wrote a while back. I keep thinking about it as matter after matter arises within skepto-atheist circles.

I haven’t kept up with every specific thing that has gone on with regard to the recent particular matter of my colleague Ophelia Benson. I don’t want to misspeak or misstep; furthermore, others on every side of this have direct evidence of what was said and done by the many involved, whereas I do not.

To make my own stance on the matter at hand clear, since I have been asked what my stances are in light of conversations around the matter:

  • Trans women are women. Period.
  • It is antithetical to basic logic to take my last stance to mean that I think that cis women aren’t women, or that cis women’s status as women is at all in question. Where A = trans women, B = women, and C = cis women, “All C are not B” does not necessarily or obligatorily follow “All A are B”.
  • The fact that cis women are women is not disputed by anyone, not trans women nor non-binary trans folk nor men nor trans men. Even on the very fringes of radical non-cis thought, spaces where I often find myself, I’ve yet to see anyone questioning the legitimacy of cis women’s status as women. On the other hand, some people, including some women, think that trans women’s status as women is up for debate.
  • The mere existence of women who think that trans women’s status as women is up for debate is damaging and harmful to trans women. That the illegitimate debate about trans women’s status of women often goes beyond “debate” makes it all the worse and deadly. There is no valid defense for self-described “radical feminists” who are more accurately described as TERFs.
  • Violating anyone’s privacy is wrong, no matter what wrong they have done. Violating a trans woman’s privacy is even worse because they live under the real and brutal dangers associated with transmisogyny in addition to those associated with overall misogyny.

Please refer to Ophelia’s own blog for her stances. None of the above should be taken as me doing anything but unequivocally stating my own personal stances in light of them being questioned.

What strikes me about the situation is a sad fact that becomes more and more evident to me as the years pass. The well-poisoning wrought by the actual trolls and hate-mongerers often renders their targets understandably defensive and cautious, to the point where they might be unable to discern who is who and what is what. It’s how anti-ableism can be perceived as a 4chan false flag operation, even when it comes from someone who belonged to and wrote for your own blog network and others who are known fans and defenders of you. It’s how someone goes from being a blog network colleague to someone whose behavior you compare to that of a member of a dedicated hate forum — a forum that targets them just as much as you.

Such effects of said well-poisoning is hardly limited to the targets themselves. Those who witness what has happened to said targets might start assuming that any and all criticism of or disagreement with the targets must be illegitimate and in bad faith. That is how at least one fan of Ophelia Benson suggested that those taking her to task must be fans of Richard Dawkins striking back at her for perceived offenses done to him.

That I am saying all this hardly means I think I am precluded from the effects of well-poisoning. I have not been targeted to the extent that my aforementioned colleagues have, not nearly as much. If I ever am, I don’t necessarily know if I will react much differently. All I can do is hope that my first reaction will be to do what I have pledged to do: Treat people based on who they are rather than how I feel about what they said in this particular instance.

Side Note: In looking it up for this piece, I have discovered that the original Serenity Prayer’s author, Reinhold Niebuhr, was quite the interesting figure and far less of a platitudinous pillar of piety than I had expected.

Update 7/28: Added an explicit disclaimer.

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Remember Who They Are

81 thoughts on “Remember Who They Are

  1. 1

    I’m really sorry how this is developping. I am especially disappointed by the level of arguments and what is suddenly considered to be acceptable and actually an argument.
    Like comparing Jason to a Slymer, like accusing Oolon of being a white knight or saying he’s out for scalps, as if that weren’t as horrible as saying that Dawkins is getting lynched.

    1. xyz
      1.1

      Yep. It’s just awful. Idk why she’s chosen this path, but a lot of people tried to help out at the beginning with trans friendly information & such. I even got sucked into trying to educate.

      None of it stuck… I was pretty surprised to see how comfy she was popping off even though she’s clearly not done her research.

      And now I got placed in moderation at her blog for pointedly asking why she feels like someone admitting they were stressed and had trouble sleeping, was a good target for a post showing how attacked and embattled Ophelia is.

      C’est la vie.

  2. 2

    In the past, I thought about writing a piece on remembering the humanity of your opponent. Then Republicans came out with their unintentionally funny “I am a Republican” trying to humanize their views. And who can forget how there was a straight campaign trying to rationalize homophobia?

    I think it still applies to people with vestiges of humanity that are misguided or wrongheaded.

  3. 3

    I thought this was particularly good:

    “I have not been targeted to the extent that my aforementioned colleagues have, not nearly as much. If I ever am, I don’t necessarily know if I will react much differently.”

    I don’t know that my response would be different either. All I can do is do my best to build the habits that make me more likely to withstand greater and greater strain on my integrity and honesty without losing them. If I do lose my grip on my own standards for myself, there are some circumstances under which that would be a totally natural and understandable reaction. However. Not all natural or understandable reactions are ethically sufficient; it just means they’re reflexive and common. The only defense against those kinds of reactions is to have built different habits long beforehand, since in the moment we’re gonna do what we’ve trained ourselves to do.

    It doesn’t look like Benson’s habits and reflexes have served her well here. They surely serve her well under other circumstances (or they would never have become so ossified) but if she wants to provide the kind of support that the trans community will actually feel supported by, she may be long overdue to practice a new set of approaches. I hope that her learning process for that will be less destructive to vulnerable people than her “gender crit” learning process has been.

  4. 7

    I…

    Has anyone done the ‘key event timeline’ thing for those of us who have walked into the movie late and are confused as fuck? I’ve pulled out a few key elements, but I can’t even form a coherent personal opinion based on the posts that have been made so far, because they are so damned meta and reference-filled.

      1. Oh, I wouldn’t get too upset by that. She spends far too much time policing the rest of the community on a very wide range of her pet issues and does not hesitate to dump vitriol on the head of anyone who offends her.

        But the minute anyone says anything that might in any way, shape or form be taken as criticism of one of her positions she goes into this mode mixing self pity for being the target of criticism with nasty personal attacks like she is doing here.

        I find this particular community rather exhausting to interact with. There seems to be a real deficit in the assumption of good faith department. and rather too many people trying to prove themselves ‘leftier than thou’.

        Women are disadvantaged because of their gender. But in our current society, the degree of disadvantage Trans folk are subjected to is of a totally different degree. It is one of the few bigotries left that is tolerated outside the Fox News watching demographic. So all the bigots who can’t think of another group to hate on pick them.

  5. 10

    Ophelia is kind of digging her own hole now. She seems convinced that everyone is out to get here. I personally stopped reading her blog at all a week or two ago when she sarcastically mocked me, then called me a bully for using the plural pronoun “we” then placed me in moderation queue and deleted the post where I pointed out that one of those things is way more like bullying than the other.

    I really do feel bad that she is committed to removing from her comments everyone who tries to talk to her about trans issues like a person who could learn better. But I think at this point it has become a personal inability to admit to being wrong about… anything?

  6. 11

    The fact that cis women are women is not disputed by anyone, not trans women nor non-binary trans folk nor men nor trans men. Even on the very fringes of radical non-cis thought, spaces where I often find myself, I’ve yet to see anyone questioning the legitimacy of cis women’s status as women. On the other hand, some people, including some women, think that trans women’s status as women is up for debate.

    This is simply incorrect. There is a massive amount of scholarship questioning the validity of gendering organizational schemata at all, for cis, trans, genderqueer, and any other sort of people. Butler’s Gender Trouble is a widely-known example, and it is decried as transphobic by the same crowd that’s going after Ophelia for pointing out that gender is a social construct and that our individual understandings of it are socially mediated. This despite the fact that the book spends most of its time deconstructing gender as a normative category for cisgendered people. I dispute the categorical assertion that cis women “are” women (or cis men “are” men) as any sort of essential aspect of existence. So does Kate Bornstein: go read Gender Outlaw, which contains an essay questioning how anyone could ever legitimately claim to feel “like a man” or “like a woman” divorced from a social context that determines what those categories mean in the first place. Or read David Valentine’s Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category, which explores how unstable gender categorizations are in practice, with many of his interview subjects describing themselves using what would normatively be considered mutually-exclusively categorizations, to the point that any claim of essential meaning for any gendered identity categories becomes absurd.

    And this is an incredibly important point because every single time I get dragged into this debate with gender-essentialist trans activists, what’s actually at issue has exactly zero to do with trans rights or marginalization and everything to do with a few people insisting that a discredited model of gender as a social system be adopted by everybody. You don’t get to hijack an entire discipline of study becasue you internalized a descriptive categorization as an essential aspect of your own identity (and this applies to cisgendered people as well as transgendered people – you simply can’t extrapolate to everyone or the total functioning of a social system from your own experience). Being trans doesn’t somehow make someone never wrong about how social systems (including gender) operate or not an asshole; the social-identity essentialists are just as wrong as the biological essentialists who insist that trans people are delusional, and their imperious demands are just as unacceptable.

    1. 11.1

      If we accept that gender is very much real to people, then my premises hold. Even if you don’t believe personally in gender as a category, the vast and epic majority of people very much do and it is 100% real to them, affecting their lives in tangible and very real ways.

      Heck, I am non-binary-gender myself, as I’ve blogged about multiple times before this. I personally do not understand why gender is so important to other people, why it’s a primary form of identification personally and/or by society for them, and so on. When I think solely about my own comfort, I wish gender weren’t a thing, but I’m not so self-absorbed as to suggest we do away with something that matters to the vast and epic majority of people so dearly. Gender can exist for them as long as we leave options open for people who don’t exist along binary gender lines to live our lives outside of it (and we have a long way to go with that, certainly, as I know firsthand and with much frustration).

      And really, very little exists outside of its cultural context, almost everything is a social construct, and most social constructs have unstable definitions. So what? Why exorcise anxieties and theory about any system on the backs of people most oppressed by that system?

    2. xyz
      11.2

      Yeah, nah re: Butler. Judith Butler does not agree with that reading of her work.

      http://www.transadvocate.com/gender-performance-the-transadvocate-interviews-judith-butler_n_13652.htm

      One problem with that view of social construction is that it suggests that what trans people feel about what their gender is, and should be, is itself “constructed” and, therefore, not real.  And then the feminist police comes along to expose the construction and dispute a trans person’s sense of their lived reality.  I oppose this use of social construction absolutely, and consider it to be a false, misleading, and oppressive use of the theory.

      Sometimes there are ways to minimize the importance of gender in life, or to confuse gender categories so that they no longer have descriptive power. But other times gender can be very important to us, and some people really love the gender that they have claimed for themselves. If gender is eradicated, so too is an important domain of pleasure for many people. And others have a strong sense of self bound up with their genders, so to get rid of gender would be to shatter their self-hood. I think we have to accept a wide variety of positions on gender. Some want to be gender-free, but others want to be free really to be a gender that is crucial to who they are.

      So to her gender isn’t a NORMATIVE category, no. But it’s a valid and important one.

    3. 11.3

      Butler’s Gender Trouble is a widely-known example, and it is decried as transphobic by the same crowd that’s going after Ophelia for pointing out that gender is a social construct and that our individual understandings of it are socially mediated.

      BAsically what xyz said.
      It’S a deep missunderstanding of the term “social construct.” People take it to mean “not real” or “fake” and that’s simply untrue. “Social construct” means that nothing within the world of language is actually an adequate reflection of an outside reality. That’s the great discovery of structuralism and later post-structuralism.
      Butler’s great contribution is showing that sex is a social construct as well, only that it is one that has been naturalized to the point where nobody questions it anymore.
      Everything concerning humans only ever exists within the social realm, is only ever expressed through language. Language both enables us to shape reality and it limits us. It is scientism to insist that there’s a human reality beyond and without language that can be meassured and evaluated.
      Gender is one of those things. We have no idea how a world would look like that wasn’t saturated with ideas of sex and gender. Right now, from the moment somebody has two lines on a pregnancy test and is planning to have a child, they think about two names, one for a boy, one for a girl. Or they may want a neutral name which still means they’Re thinking about gender. How on earth should such a category NOT hold a deep reality within our lives?
      I’d also recommend to read CD’s post about trans activism and feminism somewhere on Pharyngula where she explains that no, not all feminism is trans activism and not all trans activism is feminism. Sure there are trans people who insist that there’s a clear gender binary with male and female being opposites with clearly defined roles. As here are cis people. They exist the same way there are cis gay people who think that gay folks are not suitable parents. But to act as if they were the matter here, and dominating the discourse, that I find to be terribly wrong, especially with kick-ass trans-feminist (yes, that’s where trans activism and feminism meet) on the network doing a lot of 101 level work for cis people.

  7. 12

    @10

    “There is a shit load of stuff going on here – and a lot of it has been caused by a very crafty narrative built by trans antagonistic feminists who consistently treat trans feminists like some sort of exotic pet and hold onto this dualistic idea that sex and gender are infinitely separable. Because the existence of trans people upsets this STRONGLY held belief by some radical feminists that gender itself is a fantasy and source of oppression – to them – respecting “gender identity” is respecting women’s oppression. READ shit that CCP or Sarah Ditum have written on the subject – that is what’s going on here. They will say they support trans women with one side of their mouth and then go on rants about how being called “cis” is offensive – not because they embrace a trans identity or question the trans/cis dichotomy but because they assert that *identifying with the gender “woman” is identifying with rape, subordination, forced gestation, etc* – they proclaim their *SEX* as “woman” but not their gender and forward a simplistic class analysis that emphasizes oppression based on reproductive class and define “woman” as sharing that class struggle.”

    So the “exotic pet” thing was a bit much but otherwise there it is.

    https://sinmantyx.wordpress.com/2015/07/25/some-stuff-about-the-ophelia-benson-dust-up/

  8. 13

    Heina, I think you’ve put a finger on the crux of the problem with this line: “When I think solely about my own comfort, I wish gender weren’t a thing, but I’m not so self-absorbed as to suggest we do away with something that matters to the vast and epic majority of people so dearly.”

    The insistence that we immediately force trans people to act as if we live in a gender-neutral world is a bit like telling people of color that it’s best if we just all act color-blind. Race-neutrality is the goal, yes, but not the state we’re in, and it may never be, and insisting that we pretend that race doesn’t matter at all allows the existing issues to continue. (It helps the analogy when I remember that race is also largely a social construct. That doesn’t make it less real, when you’re in a society using that construct.)

    I don’t think Ophelia is a TERF, and I think accusations to that effect are just hampering the conversation. But I do wish she’d stop using their language so much.

  9. 14

    @Heina Dadabhoy
    Even if you don’t believe personally in gender as a category, the vast and epic majority of people very much do and it is 100% real to them, affecting their lives in tangible and very real ways.
    And we don’t accept God – but there is a vast majority who do , and it is 100% real to them and affects their lives in real , tangible ways – so what ? They can answer the question as they believe and we can answer the question as we believe. Why try to get us to answer in yes/no ?

    The question that is being asked as a yes/no question is the wrong one IMO- it’s not Are cis/trans women women – but how should we treat trans women ? Well as women of course. Whoever is arguing that “Are trans women , women?” is not a yes/no question is against discriminating against trans people (or anyone!) in any way or treating them differently in any way (atleast at FTB ). And we are happy to take someones word that they really feel they are a man/woman. So where lies the problem?

    I’m not yet sure I understand the joke that MA Melby mentions(i think i get why that would be offensive , but I didnt read the details yet) or the FB liking thing so Im limiting myself to the yes/no question.

    1. 14.1

      Okay, let’s roll with your analogy, as stripped of appropriate context as it is. God is gender as a whole, and one’s particular flavor of religious belief is one’s person gender. In this scenario, “Are trans women women?” translates to “Are Muslims believers in a god?” As an atheist, my answer is yes. My being an atheist and not believing in any gods has nothing to do with anyone’s status as a believer in God.

      In other words, even if I don’t believe in God, Muslims are still believers in God, I simply believe that “God” is not real. So, even if you don’t believe in gender, trans women are still women, you simply believe the category of “women” is devoid of meaning.

      1. Heina said:

        In other words, even if I don’t believe in God, Muslims are still believers in God, I simply believe that “God” is not real. So, even if you don’t believe in gender, trans women are still women, you simply believe the category of “women” is devoid of meaning.

        I’m a bit late to the party, but dang, this was cool, I enjoyed reading it.

  10. 15

    @Heina
    Are Muslims believers in a god?” As an atheist, my answer is yes. My being an atheist and not believing in any gods has nothing to do with anyone’s status as a believer in God.
    But you do object to an Ignostic answer that a discussion is meaningless unless there is a known/agreed definition of God ? That if I define God as the Christian Trinity , the answer is No. Like I said you are free to answer the question as you want – What you have to prove is there is something problematic in my answer given my explanation as to why I cannot answer this in Yes/No. (and I cant answer the question is a cis woman a woman? and I cant answer Am i a man in a straight yes/no ).

    1. 15.1

      The ignostic position is just sloppy thinking. It is not just theological propositions that fail when attacked in that manner. Every proposition does if you work at it hard enough and you end up with solipsism.

      Like every other term, the term ‘God’ is inherently subjective but we arrive at a pretty good simulation of an objective definition through intersubjective discourse. And moreover, since what we are interested in is religions rather than just the concept of a God, we can further bound the problem to Gods with more than one follower. Thus requiring that the concept of the God has been communicated from one person to another at least once.

      At this point we can attack the proposition on a case by case basis. Either there is empirical evidence for the ‘God’ or there isn’t. If there is no empirical evidence for existence then there is no necessity for existence either.

      Of course this ends up with a group of ‘Gods’ that we can’t eliminate because they are supported by empirical evidence. But if people want to worship the second law of thermodynamics as their God, well, whatever floats their boat, I suppose.

    2. 15.2

      Yet rarely does this come up when discussing cis people. Funny, that. You don’t see anyone running around “correcting” every cis woman who calls herself a woman, but a trans woman says something and suddenly everyone’s gender ignostic.

  11. 16

    I comment on two things. The bits about the Slymepit and Jason Thibeault, and the points surrounding TERFs and Ophelia Benson. I am a Slymepit regular, which means that I have a long-standing account in the forum in which I post regularly. Should this be a reason for exclusion, then so it shall be. However, this is just one definition of the term “Slymepitter”. Slymepitter is evidently an elastic term, and potentially polysemous by now.

    There are many instances and events that were attributed to “us” in the Slymepit which had in fact nothing to do with the forum, or the people registered there. Here on FreethoughtBlogs it is primarily an othering label, enriched with many falsehoods and attributions. It’s a branding iron that is kept red hot, so that it can be applied to Others, as you now have seen with Jason Thibeault. In fact, it was originally coined as a term for the Other, then reappropriated by the othered commentariat at Abbie Smith’s blog (ERV). Curiously, the people who allegedly hate women rallied around a woman, whereas the opposing comment section (Pharyngula) was structured around a certain bearded man, who was also the first “famous atheist” to blackball a known woman from the movement. Such pesky details are of course eroded away and replaced with convenient stories with the often hilarious result that FTB people are not only comically misinformed, but also – despite known tight information control – are absolutely cocksure about everything. It could dawn on a rational person that killing off all canaries, and making a “safe space” unperturbed by canaries is not the best way to keep everyone informed. There might be a sinister element, because we know that well-known FreethoughtBlogs writers do read on the Slymepit, but at the same time publically discourage from reading there. This would mean that they are decepetive – but we know that they know. They know that we know, so that leaves the FTB regular warriors as clueless minions.

    Ophelia Benson, like most FreethoughtBlog writers believe it’s stalkerish and hateful to criticize FreethoughtBlog writers. Ostensibly, the principle is that you shall not observe or monitor a person who you don’t like or when you look for something indefensible. Mysteriously, the same principle does not count when PZ Myers wants to gumby quote someone, like in every other blog post, or Stephanie Zvan’s love for Storify, where she doesn’t shy away to document other people’s twitter conversations. Or Benson’s own screenshots of other people’s private, friends-only Facebook messages. I know no blogger here who doesn’t quote and document statements that are then lambasted or ridiculed. And when I write a lousy forum post a day, and other Slymepitters do the same, it’s “obsessive” but when Ms Benson – one indivual – writes 15 articles on Jaclyn Glenn, in one week, that’s perfectly fine (or about a thousand on Tim Hunt, Christina Hoff Sommers, and yet even more on Richard Dawkins et cetera). That you should be comparing commenter with commenter somehow never occurs to you. When Richard Dawkins tweets something deemed “problematic” and FreethoughtBlogs lights up hundreds of times in several comment sections in outrage, you seem to count “4 times” counting only the bloggers but ignoring all the comments that add their views underneath. And hate? Well, we have seen how this worked out. FreethoughtBlogs isn’t exactly known for polite, reasoned commentary and I can only understand this as an attempt at satire, since you hate “tone trolling” – yet you want to tone troll the entire movement, as the worst of all examples. And let’s not forget: apparently, nobody has a problem when atheists keep an eye on Ken Ham or Ray Comfort, either. There is also nothing “targeted” or any of that rubbish. What does it even mean? Unlike FreethoughtBlogs, the Slymepit is small and obscure forum with a thread even more confusing than the Thunderdome was. A comment has a halftime of a few hours. Now that Ophelia Benson has turned her weapons at fellow bloggers, you see the routine hyperbole now. Maybe she feels that way, but that doesn’t make it true. And you have no business to repeat unfounded and poorly thought out falsehoods that make an increasing number of people cringe.

    As often astonishing this is, Ophelia Benson’s description of Jason Thibeault as a Slymepitter is entirely consistent and apt, given your habits and traditions. People who criticize FreethoughtBlogs writers are, by definition, Slymepitters: hateful, stalkerish, misogynists. In turn, Jason Thibeault could label Ophelia Benson as a Slymepitter, too, since she revealed Facebook communication of Improbable Joe and likewise criticized FreethoughtBlogs writers (including you). You are too involved in this whole matter, but for outsiders, like me, this is comical. Ophelia Benson is super angry that Jason Thibeault, probably a Facebook friend, has seen her public Facebook activity (maybe such as friending Julie Bindel), yet only shortly after she herself reveals Facebook communication – this time even private, friends-only, posts. A lot of popcorn comes out “It’s Okay When They Do It” which is an adequate tagline for FreethoughtBlogs. And now see a variant: “It’s Okay When Ophelia Does it”. This should be a valuable lesson for Jason Thibeault, because this is how it feels like.

    Preferably, you all could clear up your various double-standards that only make FreethoughtBlogs writers look ridiculous to an increasing number of people. The facts are, what is Ken Ham et al to you is PZ Myers et al to us. It’s good that Right Wing Watchers have an eye on, and ridicule right winger beliefs, and it’s good that the Slymepit does the same to Social Justice Warriors (and you happen to be a SJW hub).

    Now the other matter: Ophelia Benson’s answer, or hesitation to answer the question whether “trans women are women” was wrong and uncompassionate, but not for the reasons you (or any other of your team) cites. This (!) incident was only partially her fault, since Social Justice Warriors generally eschew Griceian cooperative principles in communication. Normally, when asked such a question, given the context, the answer must be “yes!”. In a normal situation, the context would be understood and the right and compassionate answer would be produced: trans women are of course women. However, Ms Benson is somewhat peculiar and obstinate and the question wasn’t posed in a cooperative manner. For her own idiosyncratic reasons, Ms Benson decided to take the complicated and thus uncompassionate direction. That one is concerned with words and meanings and under the hood concepts are never as trival as yes and no. FreethoughtBlogs gender scholar HJ Hornbeck, perhaps a satirist, too, is correct that “men” and “women” (the quotationmarks indicate that I here refer to the concepts) are fuzzy, yet he is characteristically misguided as you are. Virtually all concepts are fuzzy, except perhaps mathematical ones.

    The linguistic, or logical reasons you and others of your team brought up rest on entirely false ideas. You have them because you believe in postmodernist intersectional feminism or general social justice warrior tenets, with all the crude, anti-intellectual baggage from critical theory to authoritarian beliefs that words are in command of concepts (and underlying reality) and as such, demanding certain language would somehow change human nature. You also have vastly inconsistent views, held together by intense peer pressure and a social justice warrior typical thought-policing – the trait why Ms Benson was singled out. More socially aware Social Justice Warriors bloggers know well that it’s better to not discuss ideology. And this is the reason why FreethoughtBlogs is no resource for anything but the trite, the banal and rehashed. The reason is: nobody can afford the mistep and it’s better to not look too deeply into any matter for it might upset some faction of social justice warriors. The rationalisation is called “safe space”, but we already know that the one time it was truly needed, it failed (of course swept under the carpet as well).

    Inconsistencies: On one hand, you want to be against heteronormativity, yet binary categories such as women and men are heteronorm and trans people affirm them. On the other hand you want gender and potentially sex as cultural constructions and malleable – a view dangerously close to Evangelicals and their gay re-education attempts – yet by taking out deterministic components you reduce the lives of trans people to mere willy-nilly choices. Tough!

    Your ideas about language are false, too: terms aren’t all logically assigned and this has nothing to do with drawing Venn diagrams (i.e. your second “antithetical to basic logic” point). The simple answer is that a community of speakers negotiate and agree, by practical usage, what string of letters or sounds should mean. Meaning is itself teethered to something the speakers can point at (at least in their minds), and agree on. The reasoning is faulty that putting a “trans” before “women” was staking out a subset within the “women” concept as many have argued. This is bollocks. I understand and empathize that you want to have a shortcut, but this is not how it works. Here are a couple of counter-examples to illustrate this: Are butterflies really flies? What about cuttlefish and crayfish, are they types of fish? How about step mothers, are they actually mothers? (be careful what you dismiss easily). This is just the tip of the Mauna Kea.

    It’s already decided that trans women are women by common usage: they take on a name associated with the opposite gender and often thereby announce their transition. [Moderator’s Note: Deadnaming redacted] And that settles it, as far as identities are concerned. Also for some deeper reasons, because “[c]ategorization gives one the feeling of understanding a situation one is in by providing a clear perspective on it, allowing hidden items and qualities to be detected […] Categorization thus helps one to draw conclusions and to guess about how a situation is likely to evolve” (Hofstadter/Sander, 2013). They also note that “a new idea depends intrinsically on previous ones, but at the same time it casts the old ones in a fresh new light, and often in a deeper light” (mixed metaphor, but the point is clear), thus “the relatively new notions of surrogate mother, adoptive mother, and single mother all come out of the concept of mother, as does that of a homosexual couple that adopt a child, and each of these new notions modifies the concept of mother, showing how a mother need not to give birth to a child, need not to raise a child, need to be part of a couple, and may even not be female.”

  12. 17

    Heina:

    So, even if you don’t believe in gender, trans women are still women, you simply believe the category of “women” is devoid of meaning.

    Um.
    If the category of “women” is devoid of meaning, then so is the category of trans women, and therefore the question “Are trans women women?” is also devoid of meaning.

    1. 17.1

      To you, it is devoid of meaning. If you’re speaking as far as the vast and epic majority of society is concerned, there’s meaning. It’s meaningful to say “woman” based solely on the fact that you’ve used that word.

  13. Ben
    18

    So I have no idea what was going on with Ophelia. There’s nothing in your post that I can even conceive of as a distant ancestor of an attack on her. I actually think that what you wrote was thoughtful, nuanced, but still definitive in saying what you believe and why you believe it.

    I’m sorry for all this drama, and I’m sorry you feel like you got slapped down for voicing your opinion.

    1. 18.1

      I could not make out what the ‘attack’ she claims Heina made is. And I think we could really do without the drama.

      One of the cardinal rules of the net is to make allowances for the fact that different people come from different cultures.

      Disagreeing with someone is not attacking them. Ophelia doesn’t seem to be able to get that fact. The vibe I am getting from this exchange is Ophelia trying to bully Heina into a retraction on her position. Her post is a curious mixture of self-pity presenting herself as the victim and vitriol.

  14. 19

    Thou shalt pray unto the the Second Law of Thermodynamics each day, converting a share of thine energy into hot air. In this way, thou shalt sacrifice thine energy to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

  15. 20

    In one respect I’m liking this analogy between religion and gender, because religious myths are mostly false, but nonetheless have strong, real effects on human society. And I agree that gender myths are mostly false, and yet nonetheless have strong real effects on human society. However in another respect I don’t like it, because it seems to me people are far more capable of changing or abandoning religious myths than ideas about gender. I think religious beliefs are strongly affected by personal choices – and also by external efforts to convert or deconvert people. You can change someone’s religious beliefs by arguing with them over a period of years, but you can’t do that with gender. It’s extremely dangerous to trans people to even try.

    I don’t have a better analogy in mind, so I’m not telling people to stop using the analogy, but I think people should be aware of that problem.

  16. 21

    The point of the initial analogy was that merely because some people hold X as important (gender,religion, patriotism) doesn’t mean that people who don’t hold X as important , should acquiesce to holding it as important as Heina implied in her comment.
    Two if the disagreement over a question Are all Y X? due to not having a shared definition of X does not imply at all how Y are treated as many people here are assuming. If gender is not important to me , then Im hardly likely to treat trans women or cis women differently (or for that matter men v/s women) , right ?
    Three the refusal was over having to answer the question with a Yes/No. It wasnt a refusal to answer the question in general. For e.g. I can answer the question of Are trans women women as No more and no less than Cis women / White women/ black women. It isnt a Yes answer – but its effectively the same as yours while preserving my views on gender.

    @Heina
    fair enough that the analogy doesnt hold – that wasnt what the initial analogy was for anyway – merely that some people cannot answer in Yes/No depending on how they feel.

  17. 23

    What’s slippery about this current phase of the conversation is that appeals to “the vast and epic majority” don’t accomplish what we want.

    The vast majority would define “woman” in terms of genitals, or chromosomes, or assignment at birth. The TERFs are quite belligerent about this, which is the problem in the first place. But to the majority of people everywhere, “woman” means “assigned female at birth.” By your own argument, we shouldn’t be telling them to redefine that term; we should be accepting of it. But of course the whole point is that we refuse to be accepting of that definition, and we don’t give a fuck if the majority of folks disagree. We want to educate them and change their minds.

    Similar observations could be made about blackness in America: until the late 20th century, and possibly still, a majority of Americans subscribe to the one-drop rule. By that rule, lots of white people would actually be “black.” A vast majority of Americans believe, contradictorily, that to be “black” you need to both “look” black, and also exhibit certain patterns of behavior and speech. By that rule, many black people and especially biracial people are excluded as insufficiently black. Many of them are caught on the horns of the dilemma that black society excludes them for not being “black enough,” and white society excludes them on the one-drop rule.

    The same could be said of marriage until pretty recently. The vast majority defined it as “the union of one man and one woman.” Is gay marriage OK now only because a majority accept it? Or was it also OK then, when a majority defined marriage differently? The latter, of course.

    The more I think about how “the vast majority” defines this or that, the less it makes any sense to let them dictate in this way.

    Trans women are women, despite how a majority of people might want to define the term.

    1. 23.1

      What’s slippery about this current phase of the conversation is that appeals to “the vast and epic majority” don’t accomplish what we want.
      […]
      Trans women are women, despite how a majority of people might want to define the term.

      I grok your repudiation of an appeal to popularity, but you haven’t clarified whether your assertion is an empirical, an analytic, or a Platonic truth. Or some other form, perhaps.

      BTW, care to clarify what your purported majority (and wrong) definition of “trans” is?

  18. 24

    @Heina
    Yet rarely does this come up when discussing cis people. Funny, that. You don’t see anyone running around “correcting” every cis woman who calls herself a woman, but a trans woman says something and suddenly everyone’s gender ignostic
    Persistently repeating a falsehood loses any remaining goodwill.
    Ask me the same question about cis women and I will answer the same way. In fact thats what I asked my spouse 2 days ago as to when she says shes a woman what does she mean by that statement. It might be a different matter that no cis women have asked me that question (well no trans women have asked me that either).
    Also to repeat , Ignostic was to represent that some questions posed as Yes/no like Does God exist is not Yes/No to all people. It wasn’t meant to indicate that I or Ophelia are Ignostics with gender.

  19. 25

    @deepak shetty 22

    If I asked a bunch of people on the street, “Would you be excited to see Hillary Clinton elected as the first woman POTUS?” I would expect a mix of “yes/no/sorta/hell-no/hell-yeah/etc”, but I’d be absolutely shocked if a single responder refused to answer on the grounds that I’d used the word “woman” to describe Hillary Clinton. However, if I instead asked, “Would you be excited to see Caitlyn Jenner elected as the first woman POTUS?”, I suspect that even stripping out overtly trans-phobic slurs, I’d be greeted with a lot of “well, that all depends on how you define woman”, “gender is a complex and ambiguous topic”.

    Do you think my expectations are misplaced? Because that’s what I think Heina was getting at: when mention is made of a cis person’s gender, MOST of the time, MOST people do not even pause to think about the ontological meaning of gender as either an essential aspect of biology or an social construct.

    Here’s an exchange I’ve never overheard:
    Child: “Mommy, mommy! That boy just pushed me!”
    Parent: “Now, now, what have we said about categorizing others using the social construct of gender?”
    Child: “Oh yeah, sorry! I mean, that kid over there just pushed me.”

      1. Right! That’s a great way to put it… and touches on one of the most frustrating aspects (to me, at least) of raising a transgender child:

        It is So. Fucking. Simple.

        Stop making it hard. Though you wouldn’t know it from the focus of my comments (hey, it’s been topical), my son being transgender actually has zero impact on his day-to-day life. Pretty much never comes up. And why would it? He’s a 6-year-old boy, and unless it’s a medical issue related to his reproductive organs; what else is there to being a 6-year-old boy?

        [Switching names – parental instinct here – but getting tired of arranging sentences to avoid using my son’s name]
        As for the infamous “yes/no question”? Hell, my wife and I get it all the damn time. Mostly from other kids who knew Mark pre-transition as Marcy; sometimes from kids who just heard something from who-knows-where. And it’s just so simple to answer honestly and directly. Here’s some actual Q&A’s from our lives (brace yourself for how much fast-thinking it takes for us to answer):

        Q: “Is Mark a boy or girl… I mean for real?”;
        A: “He’s really a boy”.

        Q: “Mark’s really a girl, even though he has a boy name, right?”
        A: “Nope, he’s really a boy, definitely not a girl.”

        Such brilliance… such depth! Can you believe, not a single PhD between us? Oh – here’s a doozie:
        Q: “How come his name used to be Marcy – did he change into a boy?”
        A: “No, he didn’t change. When he was born, we thought was a girl and gave him a girl name. He was a baby, so we couldn’t ask him! But as soon as he could start talking, he let us know we got it wrong and that he is actually a boy. How silly would it be if we made him keep a girl name once we knew he was a boy?”

        Never actually asked (yet – you must wonder, could Stephen Hawkings, with a phone-a-friend lifeline to reincarnated Albert Einstein, have fielded this one with such genius?):
        Q: “But he doesn’t have a… you know… [glance downward]”
        A: “Private parts are called private because they are nobody else’s business. All you need to know is that Mark is really a boy, no different than any other boy.”

        And here’s the thing. These inquisitive kids don’t walk away baffled; they don’t give empty stares. They understand it – I’ve seen them get that look of “lightbulb going on”, say “Oh, okay”, and go on their way. So yeah, that’s what I mean by simple: it’s so simple 5 year-olds get it. For crying out loud, my niece, then STILL TWO, once beat me to the punch to correct her 60-something-year-old grandmother’s mis-gendering slip: “He is NOT a she! He is a HE!”

        Anyway, the most bothersome aspect of these questions isn’t that they’re being asked… it’s the sense I get that we, Mark’s parents, are being asked by kids who’d already asked another grown up and gotten a shaky response. I suspect I’m not too far off the mark when I suspect their parents, when asked, if not wanting to give a transparently transphobic answer, experience a sudden burst of ontological wrangling over “gender”: “Well, you see, gender is actually really complicated, and hard to explain. I don’t think I should say yes or no, because calling someone a boy or girl is kind of forcing them into a mold, which isn’t very nice… People are just who they are. So don’t worry whether Mark’s really a boy or a girl, just have fun playing together, mmkay?”.

        My final word on that: if you have a problem with gender constructs and feel they need to be wiped out where ever they crop up, that’s fine. While I’d suspect you’ve got a rather messed up model of the reality of gender as experienced by most people; I’d have no problem at all…. so long as you’re consistent, and not merely limiting your battles against gender constructs to just those times when you’re referencing someone who’s transgender!. And when I say consistent, I mean consistent. I mean you refer to *nobody* by gender… you don’t use “mother/father” to identify which of your parents you’re referencing, you use “they-as-singular-pronoun” universally (never “he” and “she”, no matter whom you are refering to). So, yeah, show me you’re battling gender construction FAIRLY, and you’d be A-OK in my book for not answering “Is Mark a boy?” with a simple, direct “Yes”.

        (And for the record, despite her reluctance to answer the general form of that question, phrased and delivered as it was; I’m fully confident Ophelia wouldn’t hesitate to give that exact response to anyone who asked her about my son)

    1. 25.2

      Because that’s what I think Heina was getting at: when mention is made of a cis person’s gender, MOST of the time, MOST people do not even pause to think about the ontological meaning of gender as either an essential aspect of biology or an social construct.

      A corollary of that is that some of the time, some people do pause to think about the ontological meaning of gender as either an essential aspect of biology or an social construct.

      1. You know, and if this was somewhat similar, then, given how much more we talk about cis people than trans people by the simple matter of cis people being the vast majority of the population, it should be easy to find instances of this.
        If that sudden “well, what does gender mean anyway” was not specific to discussions about trans people, it should be very easy for people to point to instances where this happened in the context of cis people’s gender.

        1. Maybe I don’t understand your challenge, but pretty much the entire history of the Women’s Rights movement has involved asking, “What does gender mean anyway?” If anything, transpeople have just recently moved into the discussion (after long being unjustly excluded).

          Does it mean women can’t participate in sports or vote or join the military or work as doctors and lawyers or study STEM fields or control their own health decisions…etc.

          Prevailing social constructs of the gender “woman” excluded all of those things at one time (and obviously equality and autonomy are constantly limited and under attack).

          I also think it comes up specifically in trans discussions because that’s where the “cis” label gets placed on people. I can understand why women – even women who are supportive of trans rights on every practical level – don’t go for “denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex.” Feminists have been battling against the meaning and components of that assignment for centuries, and telling them that they now “self-identify” with that gender assignment assumes some sort of conscious decision as opposed to a involuntary imposition.

          I don’t disagree that there’s something meaningful in these designations, and I will honor anyone’s self-identification, but if you tell me that I “identify with the gender I was assigned at birth,” surely I have the right to ask what I’m identifying with.

          1. AMM

            Maybe I don’t understand your challenge, but pretty much the entire history of the Women’s Rights movement has involved asking, “What does gender mean anyway?” If anything, transpeople have just recently moved into the discussion (after long being unjustly excluded).

            Um, they are actually two different questions:

            Women’s Rights advocates were challenge how women were expected to be — what they could and could not do, how they should be treated, etc. There was no actual disagreement as to whether any of the people in question were or were not women. When they were referred to as “not women” or as “men”, it was intended simply as an insult. If I call someone a “horse’s ass,” no one interprets this to mean that I seriously think that person is a portion of equine anatomy.

            By contrast, most of the controversy here is over whether trans women are to be categorized as “women” or “men.” When a transphobe calls Caitlyn Jenner “a man in a dress,” he seriously means that she should be categorized as a man.

  20. 26

    @13 Because you asked – this is the joke that sparked the question. The context was a small alternative pride event refusing to book drag acts at its venues, because the trans people involved in running the event thought that cis drag acts might be off-putting to some of the trans folks that would be attending.

    Ophelia thought that their discomfort with cis drag acts was worthy of scorn: http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2015/07/glasgow-pride-says-no-drag/

    In the comments she said that a friend of her’s said this:

    “This is like objecting to black face on the grounds that it makes Rachel Dolezal uncomfortable.”

    That’s what made the person ask the question.

  21. PHB
    28

    The queen of mean is dishing it up again. Another rather nasty attack on her blog attacking Heina for daring to disagree with her. I was going to let it lie but I think she has a problem here.

    She can’t distinguish someone disagreeing with her position from making a persona attack on her. And she seems to think that because she has some sort of seniority here =, everyone else should genuflect towards her positions.

    Yep, claiming people are attacking people when they are not ends up with people making actual attacks. And these are more likely to hurt as they are likely to be true.

    Ophelia once demanded an apology from me for having the temerity to disagree with her. I am not going to be giving it. But she should really be apologizing to Heina here. These attacks Ophelia is making are nasty and personal and should stop. I really get the feeling she is trying to bully Heina rather than engage with her argument.

    If people blog, they should expect to have their ideas and actions criticized. Especially when 80% of their blog is criticizing others.

    1. 28.1

      I will allow this comment to stand, because it doesn’t violate my commenting policy, but I will ask that we not. I don’t think calling her names and saying things this way will help no matter what she might be up to, and I don’t endorse it.

      And I’m a they/them/their, for future reference (:

      1. PHB

        Thinking on the matter further, I think that part of the issue is absolutism. Ophelia doesn’t seem to see a lot of shades of grey. So if she has taken a position on something and someone else criticizes that position, she takes it as a personal criticism and goes into this scorched earth and self pity mode.

        Epistemology is a lot more complex than it appears. What ‘ought’ to fit into nice neat taxonomic categories often does not. Even the biologists who would like to think of ‘species’ as being sharply defined categories end up in a mess. Gender was a much more complicated issue than it appeared even before gender reassignment surgery because there was always a non-negligible population of intersex people.

        A lot of people are upset by what they don’t understand.

        1. Epistemology is a lot more complex than it appears. What ‘ought’ to fit into nice neat taxonomic categories often does not.

          You mean to refer to ontology.

          A lot of people are upset by what they don’t understand.

          Some people think they understand more than they do.

          1. No, if I had meant ontology, I would have said ontology. Saying ontology is a lot more complex than it appears would be like saying nuclear physics is a lot more complex than it appears.

            Yes, I was in the MIT AI lab for a while but I always considered the conflation of epistemology and ontology to be an error and no, reading more Heidegger does not make anything better.

            What I was referring to is the habit a lot of people have of insisting that the world conform to sharply defined taxonomic categories. Experience shows that the real world is a lot more complex. Which is why I found Tim’s proposal for the Semantic Web to be rather unconvincing.

            What can be and what we can know are obviously two different categories. But since we can’t by definition make sense talking about what we can’t know, it seems safer to stick to the second which is what epistemology is about.

  22. 29

    @kevinkirkpatrick
    Stop trying to pretend that you’d know how I’d answer questions and then how shocked you would be. If you want to know my answer to a question – ask me!.
    So here (Assuming that the opponent is Ted Cruz, Rand Paul or someone because thats what it would take to get me excited about Hillary Clinton) – Yes I’d be excited to see Hillary Clinton/Caitlyn Jenner as the first woman POTUS. I’d be excited to see any woman president (trans or otherwise) – well except Sarah Palin.

    The question that I would refuse to answer in Yes/No would be “Would Caitlyn Jenner make a womanly President? (or for that matter would Hillary make a womanly president?)” or would a gay man make a manly President?
    Do you really want to answer in Yes(Kevin believes in sexist stereotypes!) or No (Kevin doesnt believe Trans women are women! You’d never hear him say that about Hillary!)

    Here are more
    Is Caitlyn Jenner a woman ? Hell yeah (Asking about a specific individual doesnt trigger in my brain thoughts about category)
    Are trans women women ? Now this triggers what makes a woman a woman ? I dont want to answer a yes/no -I already told you I can answer this as No more and no less than cis women – happy ?

    Do you think my expectations are misplaced? Because that’s what I think Heina was getting at: when mention is made of a cis person’s gender, MOST of the time, MOST people do not even pause to think
    Yes your expectations are misplaced because you aren’t considering who you are talking to and what their views are. You are relying on the “most” people and then generalizing it to me.
    Most people think Has Penis = Male – I don’t
    Most people dont want their children to be gay/trans – I’m fine with whatever my kids want to be
    Most people are religious – I’m not
    Most people think polyamourous women are sluts – I don’t
    So don’t use most people think X as a way to accuse me of stuff. I’m not most people (and for that matter most non believers tend not to be)

    Also Take for example – Supposedly Ophelia’s criticism of media coverage of Caitlyn Jenner is “tone deaf”. If you follow Ophelia regularly , you’ll see that she does write about how society/media keeps emphasizing a woman’s look as the important thing – It doesnt matter if the woman is an actor , an athlete whatever – Whats important is that shes hot!. If you read Ophelia this way you wont find her article about the media coverage of Caityln Jenner to be any different from what she writes regularly. If you only want to read the article in isolation , you probably could find things that are tone deaf.

    Here’s an exchange I’ve never overheard:
    Your example doesnt trigger any deep thoughts so yes you would’nt hear it. Heres one that would
    “Dad whenever I push that boy he cries like a girl” – it doesn’t matter to me whether the boy is cis or trans. But that statement would cause a deeper discussion about male/female stereotypes.

  23. 30

    @M. A. Melby
    Im curious – what do you actually think about the trans organizers deciding to exclude drag events because it might be “off putting” – because the analogy was in response to a comment that Trans organizers might be offended , in the same way that black people might be offended by blackface.

    I agree the analogy is troubling because people will see Rachel dolezai as a fake black woman (even though she believes she is black) and extend that to the trans part of the analogy , and I also think Ophelia should have thought some more about it (and not posted it as something funny) – But I believe she did not think she was saying something about trans people in general – She was commenting about a specific set of people who were behaving hypocritically (imo) and I thought the analogy when I initially read it was on the taking offense part rather than on the fake part.

  24. 31

    @kevinkirkpatrick
    so long as you’re consistent, and not merely limiting your battles against gender constructs to just those times when you’re referencing someone who’s transgender!. And when I say consistent, I mean consistent. I mean you refer to *nobody* by gender

    Now you are just being silly – I want to get rid of religion – does that imply that I cant call anyone Christian? Also it’s not necessary for me to get rid of Gender constructs – what we don’t like are Stereotypes (women like pink! or makeup! or shopping! men are macho! etc) – Im sure its the same for you. And there is a philosophical question of What is a man –
    Assuming you identify as such – Can you give a clear definition of why ? Such that you can apply it in General ? I can’t.

    I’m perfectly happy to call Trans-Women as She/Her and I’m perfectly happy to take their word for it(even though I cant actually identify with)- that they feel as a woman does. And I will absolutely stand with them , against any discrimination they face. All we are asking for is the ability to explore questions that interest us in ways that do not need us to say Yes/No to comply with someone elses ideas.

  25. 32

    Deepak Shetty

    Is Caitlyn Jenner a woman ? Hell yeah (Asking about a specific individual doesnt trigger in my brain thoughts about category)
    Are trans women women ? Now this triggers what makes a woman a woman ? I dont want to answer a yes/no -I already told you I can answer this as No more and no less than cis women – happy ?

    This doesn’T make sense. You have no problem identifying an indivivual with characteristics X as belonging to group Z, but when you’re asked “do all individuals with characteristic X belong to group Z?” you are suddenly unsure how Z is defined? If you cannot define Z, how could you make a positive statement in the first place? It’S like saying “yes, my dog Snoopy is a mammal” but being unable to say “dogs are mammals” because you suddenly have dificulties defining “mammal”

    I agree the analogy is troubling because people will see Rachel dolezai as a fake black woman

    Hey, you’ve arrived at the problematic part. “Transracial” does not mean “feeling like a different race” and yes, this woman appropriated an identity she has no claim to. In that analogy trans women are to woman as Rachel Dolezal is to black women.

    She was commenting about a specific set of people who were behaving hypocritically (imo) and I thought the analogy when I initially read it was on the taking offense part rather than on the fake part.

    1. It’S rather irrelevant how you understood it. Trans people understood it as transphobic.
    2. Even if we take that at face value, members of the privileged group telling members of the marginalised group that they should stop being offended by things the privileged group thinks is OK is deeply fucked up. It’s like men constantly telling women to stop being offended by certain portrayals.

  26. 33

    @Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-
    but when you’re asked “do all individuals with characteristic X belong to group Z?” you are suddenly unsure how Z is defined?
    And I already told you that its not that I wouldnt answer it – I wouldnt answer it as yes/no. The Yes doesnt accurately capture what I want to say on this topic. There are other examples I can give you.
    Do I love my spouse- Hell yeah. What does one mean when one says Love ? Lots of thought. Why didnt that lots of thought trigger when I answered the first question ?

    members of the privileged group telling members of the marginalised group that they should stop being offended by things the privileged group thinks is OK is deeply fucked up
    You left out the part where marginalised group1 was offended by another marginalised group2 and uses the same terms to justify their being offended – Be clear – what was being opposed was the hypocrisy – thoughthe means used were problematic. I believe that mitigates some of the transphobia accusations being thrown about – though it doesnt excuse the fact that the problematic analogy was made.

  27. 34

    deepak shetty

    You left out the part where marginalised group1 was offended by another marginalised group2 and uses the same terms to justify their being offended – Be clear – what was being opposed was the hypocrisy – thoughthe means used were problematic.

    Are you really saying that people who make money from performing in drag are somehow an equally marginalised group as trans people? Are you really saying that not paying somebody to perform is like not receiving adequate healthcare, being discriminated against in every single aspect of life and having a high risk of being murdered?
    Really?
    All that nuance and complexity that’s supposedly at the basis of this discussion, where is it? If you cannot see the fundamental difference between being a drag performer and a trans woman, there isn’t much to discuss.

    And I already told you that its not that I wouldnt answer it – I wouldnt answer it as yes/no. The Yes doesnt accurately capture what I want to say on this topic.

    This doesn’t answer it. Why can you affirm that an individual fulfills the necessary criteria to belong to group X but not that a group of individuals does. Either you have a working definition for “member of group X” or you don’t. Why would you be able to anser the question about Caitlin Jenner, or Laverne Cox, or Fallon Fox but not about trans women?

    1. 34.1

      Also, this still doesn’t make sense in the terms of the analogy
      1. Blackface is, I hope we can all agree, an appropriation of blackness for the sake of ridiculing and further marginalizing black people. It is inherently harmful and hurtful to black people.

      2. If drag is to being a woman as blackface is to being black (something I vehemently disagree with), then drag performers are NOT a marginalised group at all, but an active conscious agent in the continued marginalisation of women. You can’t have your cake and eat it. Are they a marginalised group or are they oppressors?

      3. Saying that trans women complaining about drag performance is like Rachel D complaining about blackface is saying that trans women are not women because RD is not a black person.

      Now, even if you simply fucked all of that up and unthinkingly repeated a horrible joke, complaining about how mean people are for pointing out how horribly transphobic that joke was is not what you do when you care that you just accidentially hurt people.

  28. 35

    @Gillel
    Are you really saying that people who make money from performing in drag are somehow an equally marginalised group as trans people?
    Are you saying that people who like dressing in drag are not marginalised in society? The rest of the equality comparisons are being made by you , not by me. The trans organizers stated that having a drag act would result in an unsafe space. How would you react to a cis group stating that having trans folk results in an unsafe space?

    Ive already told you I find the analogy problematic because the interpretation that you are taking is a reasonable one – even if not intended by Ophelia. Im stating that I believe Ophelia thought she was poking at the hypocrisy , but ended up making a terrible statement – and can be validly criticised for that analogy. However I dont think that makes her TERF or transphobic – and as things stand there is no reasonable discussion to be had that could convince her to rethink that analogy.

    1. 35.1

      Are you saying that people who like dressing in drag are not marginalised in society?

      At this point I find the conflation of “people who like to wear drag” and “paid drag performers” rather dishonest. For all that people shout “nuance”, this is one part where this discourse is severely lacking nuance.
      Paid drag performers are not necessarily discriminated against. Quite often they are cis men who put up pretty misogynist and trans misogynist acts under the guise of “us girls”. Again, not all. There are wonderful, witty, subversive drag acts, which is why they are not like blackface. BUt they can be, which is why women, cis and trans, often find them unwelcoming. Being paid to put on a dress and make up does not give you an insight into what it means to be a (trans) woman. And if people would like to have a nuanced discussion of drag, drag acts and being trans they should look at the tons of critical work trans people have done on this before they accuse them of hypocrisy.
      Drag as a form of personal gender expression was never banned or under attack.

      However I dont think that makes her TERF or transphobic

      No, I don’t think she’s a TERF either, because TERF has a specific meaning. I already said this elswhere: TERF is to transphobic as KKK is to racist. TErf does not mean “transphobic” or “very transphobic”, but is a specific mindset also with a specific politicala genda and tactic.
      But I find the constant proclamations that she is not transphobic being made by cis people (are you cis? If not this doesn ot apply to you) to be very problematic and I find it very disappointing that they are being made by people who usually understand that white people declaring that other white people are not racist over the heads of black folks or men declaring that other men are not sexist over the heads of women to be bullshit and problematic. To me, that’S in itself evidence of transphobia: You don’t think that the common rules of engagement apply to debates about trans people, denying them the authority and competence to speak on their own behalf. Many trans women have come out and said that Ophelia Benson’s behaviour is transphobic and that she blows lots and lots of transhobic dogwhistles. So I believe them.
      Transphobia is not some rare form of hate. It’s the default. Just like white supremacy is. It takes lots of work and learning to reduce one’s transphobia. If somebody tells you that what you said/did was transphobic, they didn’t tell you that you’re actually worse than Hitler. They told you that you fucked up and that you have to do better if you want to be considered an ally and trans friendly.

      – and as things stand there is no reasonable discussion to be had that could convince her to rethink that analogy.

      That is solely and squarely her problem. Oppressed people are under no obligation to be nice to people who are contributing to their further marginalisation. Did you criticise the people who made fun of Tim Hunt or who criticised him that they were not talking to him nicely so he would be convinced to change his position? Are you telling the #BlackLivesMatter folks that their activism just makes racists more entrenched or alienates moderate white people? If you didn’t do that, ask yourself why this suddenly matters when the issue is trans women.
      It is also pretty condescending towards Ophelia Benson, thinking her incapable of reconsidering her position just because people weren’t nice to her. I might not like her, but at least I hold her capable of and responsible for changing her position based on arguments and not on tone.

  29. 36

    t this point I find the conflation of “people who like to wear drag” and “paid drag performers” rather dishonest.
    Thats because you aren’t paying attention to what the complaint was about – It wasnt drag performers ask for too much money or it wasnt the quality of these particular drag performers suck – it was drag performers create an unsafe space.

    are you cis?
    Depends – Ive already told you that the question Am I a man is not something I can answer directly. But lets assume I was – By your logic , the only cases I can defend are when the offense is toward brown Indian non believer men? Unless you like to dress up in drag , should I make the same comment about you ? Or if you are not a woman (trans or otherwise) – perhaps that why you don’t get Ophelia ? or perhaps you like a defenses of the type Im a woman and I didnt find the Republican politicians rape comment sexist – hence it isnt?

    That is solely and squarely her problem.
    People are not perfect – If someone makes a terrible analogy (and thats the only problem) – Its not time to deepen the rifts and push people off the exclusive island that you inhabit. If you want to prove that Ophelia is really terrible towards trans folk – show exactly where a Trans person was discriminated against – Why would Ophelia say that politically she supports all Trans causes ? You know the ones that matter and make a real life difference ? Or show where she treated a trans person badly ? (The only example is where she used the wrong pronoun – what three years ago ? – she acknowledged that as a mistake and has stated she will use the pronoun the person prefers)

    Heres the thing – If you want the world to be a better place (for Atheists, women, gay , trans , black , everyone) you need to get people to think / agree with you . What you dont want is us v/s them – where the refusal to answer a yes/no tosses you into the them part.

  30. 37

    at this point I find the conflation of “people who like to wear drag” and “paid drag performers” rather dishonest.

    Thats because you aren’t paying attention to what the complaint was about – It wasnt drag performers ask for too much money or it wasnt the quality of these particular drag performers suck – it was drag performers create an unsafe space.

    This little nugget right here…

    Gilliel didn’t miss that.

    Paid performers create an “unsafe space.” (Pretty sure that’s your wording, not that of anyone actually involved in the conflict, yes?)

    Ordinary people who like dressing up in drag in their spare time, not for pay, do not.

    Ordinary people who like dressing up in drag: not excluded from the event.

    Paid performers: also not excluded, just not getting paid to be onstage. Except at the regular Pride events.

    Trans women: have “Free Pride” as an alternative venue in case the regular Pride events cause them to feel uncomfortable etc.

    Nobody loses, or at least, that’s how it would have been if the Ophelia et al. hadn’t gotten involved.

    ——

    What you dont want is us v/s them – where the refusal to answer a yes/no tosses you into the them part.

    Silliness.

    Are women people? Yes or no?

    Sometimes yes or no questions are perfectly appropriate. Sometimes they are not. This is true. The claim that yes/no questions are ALWAYS inappropriate/alienating/counterproductive is patently false and Ophelia’s insistence on arguing this painfully bad position is embarrassing to me as someone who once looked up to her and considered her a friend, or at least a friendly acquaintance.

  31. 38

    Also, let’s examine this.

    Heres the thing – If you want the world to be a better place (for Atheists, women, gay , trans , black , everyone) you need to get people to think / agree with you .

    This tired old concern trolling tactic deserves to be pointed out and picked apart whenever it is used.

    Note the veiled insult. Deepak Shetty apparently thinks that activists need to be told that they ought to try to persuade people to their point of view.

    It’s a bit like lecturing a TV news anchor that they ought to consider putting on makeup and clothes that flatter their appearance for the cameras.

    Then there’s the implied premise that “people”, that is, religious straight white cis men in Shetty’s own framing, are the ones who need to agree.

    Then there’s the implied premise that what’s happening right now, that is, vigorous internal fighting about what constitutes and ally or whatever, is somehow inimical to that goal.

    It’s a strategy for preserving the status quo, full stop. That’s really all that’s going on here.

    1. PHB
      38.1

      I don’t see reminding people that the objective is persuasion as a problem. What I see as a problem is the suggestion that the way to persuade is to be a doormat.

      There are people who are really good at controlling a discussion by announcing in advance that if anyone dare even suggest a contrary position they will throw a hissy fit and end the conversation. It is a form of agenda denial.

      It is useful to remember that there are some people who can’t be persuaded and it isn’t the responsibility of the rest of us to censor what we say lest we inadvertently give offense.

  32. 39

    Identify as whatever gender you like, or none. No skin off my nose.

    I’m still unclear on what “women” means in “Trans women are women.”

    I’m still unclear on what “men” means in “Trans men are men.”

    If there is some quintessential core of manhood that both trans men and cis men share, it more or less escapes me. So far as I can tell, manhood is a set of (mostly ridiculous) cultural expectations layered on by society over several millennia. Plus a few external characteristics which even toddlers can detect.

    I’m not qualified to comment on womanhood, naturally. Not part of my lived experience.

    1. AMM
      39.1

      I’m still unclear on what “women” means in “Trans women are women.”

      Ultimately, it’s about treating trans women the way you would any other women.

      You don’t insist on saying “sir” to a woman or use male pronouns to refer to her. Same with trans women.
      You don’t demand to know a woman’s “real name” when she gives you a name that’s usually female. Same with trans women.
      You don’t engage in long arguments or debates with (or about) a woman as to whether she’s “really” a woman. Same with trans women.
      You don’t critique whether a woman looks or acts feminine enough to be a woman (unless you’re a schmuck.) Same with trans women.
      You don’t ask a woman to prove she’s “really” a woman before you let her use the ladies’ room (for its intended purpose.) Same with trans women.
      Etc.

  33. 40

    Again, the issue is not “interrogating the category on “woman”.
    To me, the issue is that this need to suddenly interrogate the category only arises in the context of trans women. Why is “women” apparently an unproblematic term when talking about how a promised museum about the Women of the East End turns into a Museum about Jack the Ripper and How He Gleefully Murdered Women?
    That’S not an indicator of vicious, outright transphobia. It’s an indicator of normal prejudices against trans people, of problematic biases you need to examine critically, the same as with all the many discussions about race and sexism.
    Also, it’s frustrating to see at which level this discourse is happening. seriously, Butler’S Gender TRouble came out 25 years ago. You don’t have to agree with Butler on the questions of performativity and sex as a naturalised concept, but please show that you have at least critically engaged with it. Foucault’s work on Discourse is even older. To me, the level of the discussion is not even 101. I truely appreciate Will’s and Veronica’s attempts to infuse the debate with a bit of theoretical background.

  34. 41

    @Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk
    To me, the issue is that this need to suddenly interrogate the category only arises in the context of trans women.
    You keep repeating this claim again and again and again -It is false- Do you not read Ophelia regularly ? I gave you my answer – Trans women are no more and no less women than cis women – What is your problem with that answer ? (Note it wasn’t yes/no)

  35. 42

    And it remains bullshit deepak shetty. The interrogation of women is NEVER taken to the degree that suddenly the question of “is [cis person] a woman?” ever is confronted as a trap or a question where there are appeals to agnosticism, ignosticism, “I don’t know”, “who knows”, “impossible to tell”. Feminists interrogate the category of women, question gender, the idea of the “feminine”. What they don’t do? Go around shrugging their shoulders when asked if woman A, B, C, or D are or are not a woman. Or, in the case of Ophelia and the TERFs she chuckled around with, actively the mocking the idea of “merely identifying” as a woman. It is fucking blatantly obvious that the same levels of “interrogation” of the womanhood is not going for Cis-women vs. trans-women. You seem to deliberately misunderstand that.

    (You do realize that the actual TERFs that Ophelia chatted with on that facebook group, and the articles she forwarded from TERFs, also pretended to just be interrogating gender, right? They did so explicitly to show why transwomen were to be left out of the category of “women”, because “biology” and child-rearing. They pretend they are “questioning” gender and being nuanced and scientific and what-not, but it is all sophistry aimed towards transphobic ends. This is NOT the same thing I suspect Ophelia is doing, but the point is that “interrogating gender” is such an obvious fucking fig leaf of an excuse.)

  36. 43

    @Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-
    So you haven’t read Ophelia on Stereotypes? (Note if male/female isn’t biology and isn’t stereotypes then it is I am what I am and thats pretty much useless as a classification)
    I notice you haven’t commented on the answer I gave – Can you please tell me what do you find objectionable in my answer ?(Trans women are no more and no less women than cis women) – The reason i ask is I have the same problem of answering in yes/no.

    @anteprepro
    You do realize that the actual TERFs that Ophelia chatted with on that facebook group, and the articles she forwarded from TERFs, also pretended to just be interrogating gender, right?
    Do you also have the actual TERFs stating , as Ophelia did,
    Do you mean, will I take trans people’s word for it? Will I use their right names and pronouns? Of course I will. Do I want to make them jump through hoops to prove something to me? Of course not.
    It’s like you cannot differentiate between a scientist questioning some aspect of evolution v/s a creationist/IDiot.

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