2007 - 2020

Queer Liberation means Trans Equality

Queer liberation in Britain has a chain of successes: partial decriminalisation, age of consent, adoption rights, employment equality, the Equality Act, abolishing Section 28 and winning same-sex marriage.

With exceptions on the left, its early radicalism has been defanged. Capitalism treats LGBT+ people as a mature advertising market. Plugs for supermarkets, banks, bars or violence-monopoly state institutions at Pride marches increase annually. Corporations rain cash and sponsorships, prostrating their inclusivity.

Pride’s origins are a protest against unjust policing. Despite corporate drives to capitalise on the ‘pink pound’, it remains a protest by queers to end LGBT+ social exclusion, isolation, bullying, and violence. Today, LGBT+ friends and comrades remember personal and collective struggle, come together and demand real change. Pride remains intensely political and international.

Gender Recognition

In Britain, queer equality progress is under attack. The target? Trans people and gender recognition. The GRA (Gender Recognition Act 2004) provides a legal route for trans people to change the sex marker on their birth certificate.

Official documents are a trivial issue for non-trans people. Non-trans readers, ask yourself – when were you asked to show a birth certificate? For trans people, many will be outright invasions of privacy. Student loans and background checks. PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) applications are difficult – requiring two forms of ID and a birth certificate, which rarely match. This is a regular, recurring issue for trans and non-binary people – who identify as neither male nor female on the gender spectrum.

Trans workers can be outed by their official documents. Some pension schemes require your birth certificate. Job applications, taking a plane or something as simple as picking up post office parcels can lead to harassment, suspicion and violence.

GRA reform in the past decade has become a culture war, a ghastly blaring soup of invective.

Reform

Let’s clarify why reform is needed. The GRA is demonstrably broken. It still requires seeing a psychiatrist, despite the WHO reclassifying gender dysphoria from a mental disorder to a sexual health issue. This reclassification means trans people can seek medical care without being considered “mentally disordered.” Additionally, it is expensive, intrusive, opaque and requires a dossier of evidence sent to a tribunal. It takes two years at the minimum in Britain. No other process for updating personal records or documents, no matter how significant a change, requires such a lengthy precursor.

In addition, arrangements for non-binary people do not exist. Therefore, the existing GRA processes expect trans people to contort themselves to align with gender stereotypes, which may be harmful.

As an alternative to GRA processes, Ireland, Norway, Argentina, Belgium, Portugal and Malta all use some form of self-ID. Self-ID reframes gender recognition as an administrative process, with a statutory self-declaration that the applicant intends to live permanently in a new gender; and validation by their primary doctor that the person has transitioned or is transitioning. In the UK, false statutory declarations can have the same punishment as perjury. Regardless, reports from these nations show very low misuse rates.

Tories stoking bigotry

On 14th June, The Sunday Times ran a front page exclusive: “New protections will be offered to safeguard female-only spaces, including refuges and public lavatories, to stop them being used by those with male anatomy.”

This is trash Tory politics – divide and conquer tactics designed to melt solidarity away and pawn off transphobes with gestures, and leave gendered support services where they are, in a massive funding crisis.

Trans women forced to use men’s toilets both outs and directly exposes them to male violence. In a 2015 US Transgender Survey, 59% of respondents avoided public toilets because they feared confrontation. A shocking 8% reported a kidney or urinary tract infection.

Trans people are more likely to be assaulted, abused and murdered. Making survivor services more difficult to access for people who do not “pass” feminine ideals is plain bigoted cruelty. This is especially true for trans women of colour, who may not conform to white western ideals of femininity.

Transphobic campaign groups place a lot of focus on gendered spaces – like toilets and survivor services, aided by pliant corporate media. A transitioning comrade explains: “It started to feel like there was a new piece of overt transphobia being given the spotlight every day, culminating with the Sunday Times front page. I ended up shit scared.”

Yet GRA reform – changing one field on one official document – has little to do with these spaces. None of us showed our birth certificate to go for a pee or seek refuge.

Education and resistance

Education and empathy can be a silver bullet, opening visibility, awareness and understanding. Young trans people, parents and teachers face challenges; accessing appropriate support, physical and mental healthcare, and constant misgendering.

It reminds me of school before Section 28’s repeal. Introduced by the Tories as part of the Local Government Act 1988, Section 28 banned the “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities and in Britain’s schools. Margaret Thatcher famously said in 1987, that “Children […] are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay”. LGBT+ people were mercilessly ridiculed and hated in mass media and politics.

Seeking advice or counsel about same-sex relationships with a trusted teacher? For the birds. Living a healthy queer sex life? No chance. Learning what’s safe, looking after yourself and your body isn’t optional? Don’t be daft.

The organised left in Britain played a role in the struggle against Thatcher’s homophobic coup; by organising in the queer liberation movement. Colin Fox, at the time a Militant organiser, recalls: “In 1988 when I moved to London – the epicentre of the gay rights movement throughout – Militant were present on all the Pride marches and rallies”

“[A key factor] that led Militant to adapt its attitude was the recruitment of thousands and thousands of young working class kids in the early 1980’s. There were millions of unemployed youngsters eager to experiment, to get involved in politics and to discuss complicated revolutionary ideas.”

“The liberation movement was led by the Left and linked, by the Left, to all other forms of oppression; colonialism, racism, economic exploitation and poverty.”

In today’s Scotland, the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign does heroic work, saving LGBT+ pupils from years of confusion, isolation and pain. But their activists get reams of abuse.

TIE co-founder, Jordan Daly said: “We have been receiving attacks for months because we are an LGBT charity working with schools. The posts and messages we receive are not only – we believe – defamatory, but they are rooted in homophobic rhetoric.”

“For decades, the LGBT community has been subject to homophobic propaganda which paints us as a threat to children by claiming that we are paedophiles, child abusers, and groomers. We routinely receive hurtful and dangerous correspondence like this – simply for trying to make our world a kinder place.”

The parallels are plain. Anti-trans rhetoric and campaigns of today strongly resemble the hateful treatment of yesteryear’s queers, which endures, even to this day.

Feminism

Transphobes warp and weaponise second-wave feminism, which prizes sex characteristics.

It’s true that trans women, before they experience dysphoria and begin their transition, are subject to patriarchal sociological conditioning. It is through the express rejection of living as cis men, that defines the difference.
Trans women see and present themselves as women and are most comfortable navigating the social world with this gender. Through transition, they become targets of both misogyny and transphobia – and choose it regardless. A society which aims to dismantle patriarchy, will combat both misogyny and transphobia together. They are linked struggles.

Professor Carol Hay rejects a reductionist approach, “Any attempt to catalog the commonalities among women… has the inescapable result that there is some correct way to be a woman. This will inevitably encourage and legitimise certain experiences of gender and discourage and delegitimise others, subtly reinforcing and entrenching precisely those forces of socialisation of which feminists claim to be critical. And what’s worse, it will inevitably leave some people out.”

If 30+ years of intersectionality has taught anything, it’s that women come in variety.

Women are right to fear violent, predatory men; feminist sisterhood is an important, powerful and liberating source of education, counsel and defence. It is noble and necessary work – especially when in the UK, one in four women will experience domestic abuse, and two women a week are murdered by a partner or ex-partner.

Discussing trans equality and women’s safety together, even in an open manner among friends, implicitly links the topics. While there are areas that require care and attention to treat one another with dignity and safety, there is no statistically significant evidence that advancing trans rights rolls back cis women’s or that they’re in material conflict. But this doesn’t stop bad actors preying on fears of male violence.

Feminist author Laurie Penny observes that women “who have been ground down by male violence are now being told by people with an agenda that men in dresses are coming to take the last safe spaces.”

Self-ID as policy

Almost all of the issues that we hear transphobes have with self-ID are hypothetical. With nations gradually adopting the policy, surely there would be proof of systemic failure over the last decade? Where are the studies and evidence? Answer: we already know that self-ID isn’t an abuser’s path of least resistance – in a legal system that already frees most rapists and sex offenders.

Self-ID works; it is already best practice for support services in Scotland. Women’s organisations testify, like Engender, Equate Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid and Zero Tolerance. Or Rape Crisis Scotland who support everyone. All of these services are trans-inclusive, offered to all women on a self-ID basis.

Struggles against other oppressions – like racism, homophobia, sexism and disablism – clearly do not diminish other struggles. Instead, we recognise these aggressive taints as a threat to united workers, and living without hatred, threat and violence. Fear does not justify or excuse bigotry.

Sitting down, shutting up and listening to women and trans people speak about their experiences reveals that all women have common cause. That of abusive, violent men, and austerity killing support services funding to escape gendered abuse – these are direct class conflicts. Greater provision of trans healthcare, and mental health support saves many lives, and liberates many more to be their best selves.

Transphobia continues because cis people don’t speak up. When transphobes freely perpetuate, fabricate and warp scare stories of trans people as threats, deviants, salivating predators and worse – it doesn’t just paint all trans people as threats, but makes them targets for scapegoating, misery and pain.

 

The Radical Independence Queers is a group of cross and no-party LGBT+ activists who seek to ensure the achievement and defence of LGBT+ rights goes hand-in-hand with the struggle for independence and socialism. Contact us at radicalindyqueers@gmail.com

Comments (48)

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  1. Alex Mulholland says:

    Excellent article, Scott. Much needed at this time.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    I do not know enough about this complex of issues. I do not know why you accept the statements of fears by trans people but not the statements of fears by others who you label ‘bad actors’ and characterize as fear-mongers. If you have good reason, you have not given it. For all the care to establish non-binaryness, there is a binary distinction between oppressors and victims that I cannot accept.

    However, I do have some grounding in political theory and political science, and I am fairly certain that the article (for all its initial nuance) relies on a false equivalence between the historical movements of feminism to establish the rights of a collective to be recognized as people with full political rights, which was closely associated with the socialist movements who established International Women’s Day, and the right (or one might say privilege) of an individual to dictate how a collective sees them. These views are separated by some distance across the ideological gamut.

    The article very sensibly contains reminders that while these social struggles play out, it is often difficult to see what post-struggle balance might be achieved. My view is that a core of our ethics emerges from our biology, and with increasing technological ability to change our biologies (and in genetic editing change the biologies of our offspring) will come increasing challenges to update our ethics (for example organ transplant ethics was not required until the procedure was possible). It may be that new forms of biological reconstruction may become commonplace that throws gender reassignment into a new light, and makes it less controversial as a result. Or it may be that new crises will relegate the issue while human societies move into emergency modes.

    However, whatever develops, my view is that it is unhelpful to frame this as equivalent to the feminist struggle to win international recognition for women as a person with equal rights to men. Nobody that I have heard is denying that trans or non-binary people are not people with the current range of human rights including political rights. And it is not necessarily the case that rights struggles will not come into conflict on some areas, which should be abundantly evident in our pandemic, but also applies to non-emergency life.

  3. Lorna Campell says:

    If the GRA reform goes through, then the Equality Act 2010, plus other ancillary acts that protect women’s and girls’ sex-based rights require to be tightened up and reformed, too. Being trans is very different from being gay because gay people remain in the sex in which they were born. No one would ever claim that gay people did not deserve equal treatment, and I doubt very much that many would object to trans people having equality. Equality does not require trans people – specifically trans women – to occupy women’s and girls’ sex-based spaces, sports, etc. Why should it? The best solution all round would be to create a third space -a trans space, one for trans women and one for trans men?

  4. Lorna Campbell says:

    Hi, Ed. Without wishing to resort to a stairheid rammy, can you explain to me why my comment was deleted? It is one way of solving the impasse in favour of both women and girls and trans people, so that neither loses out. You see, this is what I was trying to point up: that it is specifically women’s and girls’ spaces and sex-based rights that trans women want access to, not just the legal clarifications and shortening of the period of living as the preferred gender. That is where the GRA reform and the Equality Acts 2010 (and other, ancillary acts preserving women’s and girls’ privacy, especially in schools) come into conflict. Isn’t that a legitimate area of debate?

    1. I’m not aware of any comment being deleted,. I will check the moderation channels. Sometimes comments are auto-moderated if they contain profanity. I don’t imagine this was the case but I’ll check. I have four children and its the weekend, sometimes I am not able to moderate comments 24/7.

      1. Lorna Campbell says:

        Point taken, Ed. It did originally appear as awaiting moderation, then disappeared, so I assumed it had been deleted. I apologize profusely for my error. I am simply not au fait with these blogs and the moderation process. Good luck with the kids. I’m looking after three grandchildren, so I can appreciate you can’t be online 24/7. Sorry again.

  5. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

    Women who have balls want to use the same bogs that women who don’t have balls use. Women who don’t have balls want to exclude them.

    I can sympathise with both sides in this conflict, which places me in a welcome dilemma. As Socrates said: a life without dilemmas wouldn’t be worth living.

    If I’d rejected the sex that was assigned to me at birth and gender-identified instead as a ‘woman’, I’d be deeply distressed if I was then excluded from that class on the grounds that, despite my self-identification, I might well still be a predatory ‘man’. To have my gender-identity doubted in this way would strike at the heart of who I fundamentally am.

    On the other hand, if I considered myself to be a ‘natural’ woman (that is, if I accepted as transcendently ‘fixed’ the sex I was assigned at birth), then I’d be understandably chary of ‘natural’ men who, self-identifying as ‘women’, want to invade my safe spaces. Too bloody right I’d be!

    The more I think about it, however, the more I come down on the side of the women with balls. Here’s why:

    The class struggle isn’t against this or that oppression; it’s against the dichotomous thinking – white/black, young/old, able/disabled, male/female, straight/gay, cisgender/transgender, etc., etc. – by which we ascribe a moral order or ‘class system’ or ‘privileging’ to society per se. More directly, it’s a struggle against the relations of production of which our class systems are an expression.

    The binary distinction between cisgender and transgender bodies (ie. bodies who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth and bodies who don’t) is itself an instance of such dichotomous thinking. Cisgender identification (whatever the sexual preferences of the body who so identifies) has become a new normal and transgender identification (again, regardless of the sexual preferences of the body who so identifies) has become the new corresponding deviance, and this new normativity provides the axiology for a contemporary ascription of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ to different classes of bodies and the privileging such distinctions entail.

    Liberation does indeed mean trans equality; that is, the deconstruction of the established moral order by which transgender bodies are othered and discriminated against on the basis of their alterity. In practical terms, it means overcoming the inequalities we perpetrate against transgender bodies in relation to cisgender bodies, inequalities of which, as Scott points out, there are many. Such an overcoming would be transformative and liberating for us all, queer or otherwise.

    So, in my view, women with balls shouldn’t, as such, be locked out of the Ladies’ bogs; predatory men, of course, should.

    1. Arboreal Agenda says:

      One point: people are not assigned a sex at birth (though this language is now routinely used to try to undermine the importance of sex). Sex is immutable as determined by our biology; the exception being the rare cases of intersexuality whereby doctors are not able to easily determine the biology (though this has nothing to with ‘gender’). Gender is a construct of society based on what said society thinks males or females should be like in terms of so-called masculine or feminine traits, though in fact there is a very broad spectrum of what constitutes that from very feminine man to vice versa. Though it is often spoken about, I do not believe there is any such thing as some fixed essence of ‘gender’ that determines who we are. However, recent ideology is certainly going the way of inverting the feminist thinking that gender roles need to be challenged as a notion as they are an artificial imposition, instead replacing sex with gender as the fundamental building block. I think this a fallacy and has many, many problems not least because basically, ‘gender’, on its own, does not exist.

      1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

        Yes, it is. For example, I was assigned my sex when ‘M’ was marked on my birth certificate. It’s an assigned status because (following the general sociological convention) it was neither earned nor chosen by myself but was assigned by someone else. The fact that it was assigned on the basis of an inspection of my genitalia is neither here nor there.

        Now, I’ve gone along with this assignment because I’ve always been happy in my own skin; I haven’t experienced the gender dysphoria that transgender bodies experience. ‘Gender dysphoria’ is defined in both the psychological and sociological literature as the distress that a body feels due to a mismatch between its own gender identity and the sex that was assigned to it at birth.

        To deny that sex is assigned at birth and assert instead that it is an immutable ‘given’ is to deny transgender experience of dysphoria; it also renders absurd the sex reassignment therapies and surgeries by which some transgender bodies seek to rectify the mismatch.

        It is, in other words, to be part of the problem.

        1. Lorna Campbell says:

          “…To deny that sex is assigned at birth and assert instead that it is an immutable ‘given’ is to deny transgender experience of dysphoria; it also renders absurd the sex reassignment therapies and surgeries by which some transgender bodies seek to rectify the mismatch…”

          It is assigned at birth, Anndrais, but it is also immutable. The two are not mutually exclusive. Doctors test a baby’s blood and take otherer samples at birth, and they assign sex appropriately, not just on genital identification. Biological sex normally equates to genital identity, and there are only two sexes. Nothing other than a male and a female can create life to perpetuate the species. Some day, it may not matter and children will be created in laboratories, but, then, it is also extremely likely that sexual interaction will also have died out, as being of no intrinsic value to the species, and the power that men exert over women precisely because of that sexual nature will have been disabled. In that situation, there would be no intrinsic value to being either male or female because human society itself will have re-ordered itself along very different lines from those we experience now. It could even be that women, freed fro childbirth and child rearing will soar and become all they are capable of being without male oppression to hold them back.

          To deny the biological science as it is now, is to be a ‘flat Earther’. Most women accept that physically re-assigned born-males are not a threat and, therefore, have no objections to their being given access to women’s sex-based spaces, which are actually there, under the Equality Act, 2010, precisely because of the threats and other invasive actions to born-women for no other discernible reason than that they are women. All of women’s historic oppression stems from the fact that they are weaker than men and are the child-bearing sex. That is the point. Women fought long and hard to claim these rights. Trans people who do not actually transition should do no less instead of trying to piggy-back on women’s rights. Whenever this is brought up, the vociferous trans lobby goes ballistic, leaving the impression that it is women’s spaces and women’s rights that they want, which, in turn leads to the conviction that misogyny is at work here, rather than any real attempt to debate differences and try to reach some kind of compromise.

          If you are a six foot two well-muscled male with body dysphoria, but you either cannot, or do not wish to, physically transition, then you will always be a threat to women if you invade their sex-based spaces. That is just how it is. Most women do not live every moment of their lives in fear of all men, but they are always aware of the situations where they should be afraid of some men, perhaps, many men. Fact-based stories of women, in war-torn areas, cowering in real and entirely justified terror as soldiers rampage around them, raping and killing, is testimony to the fear that women, as a sex, endure, and to a lesser extent, all women everywhere have to endure. One of the most incredible things about the recent sex scandals involving high-profile and powerful men is just how far apart in their attitudes to these events men and women are – in that what is trivial to many men is not trivial to many women, and this, I think, is because men are not constantly harassed and undermined because of their sex.

          The other thing that many women find very odd is that men, but women, too, with ‘body dysphoria’ can choose to live in their own body which must be the outward manifestation of their mental torture, and this is what makes self-ID without any kind of medical assessment so threatening. So long as a man has a functioning penis, he is a potential (although not necessarily, of course, a real) threat to women. If men, or trans women, don’t understand that, it is not women’s fault, but entirely their own and shows a complete lack of empathy, which, you must admit, is singularly odd in trans women, in particular, probably because their lived experience, like that of men, is as men, and, therefore, alien to women whose lived experience is very different.

          The reasons for having sex-based spaces, sports, etc, for women is because women menstruate and need privacy to change and wash, etc.; they need a safe environment away, with their children, from men who have abused them, and who might also have abused their children; and, while they might have sympathy and empathy for a physically transitioned trans woman, they really should not have to be forced to accept male-bodied persons in their safe environment. Women are physically weaker than men, in general, and it is quite absurd to have trans women in women’s sports. If you wouldn’t match a fly weight against a heavy weight in men’s boxing, why would you allow it in women’s boxing, or why would you allow a beefy trans woman to tackle and bring down women half their strength? It is ludicrous, but it is happening. If this is allowed to continue, there will be no women in women’s sports, only big, hairy men with penises who are deemed, not least by themselves, to be women.

          What we have is a collision between two sets of persons who require their own spaces. Trans women will look in a mirror and see a woman, presumably, while many women will look at them and see a man. The solution is to have trans spaces.

          1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            I’m not denying the biological science; it’s the ideology of the time and, as you say, to deny it is to be a Flat Earther.

            And you’re right: those who assign our sex at birth employ a range of heuristics to do so.

            But the binary distinction between ‘male’ and ‘female’ precedes the science; the science provides only the heuristics by which we process individual bodies into those classes; it doesn’t provide those class divisions themselves.

            But, no: there’s nothing ‘natural’ about sex; sex is a construct that helps us to categorise and label others. Like other us-and-them class distinctions, the ‘sex’ binary has major social significance as an instrument of discipline and control; people who don’t present in line with the sex they were conventionally assigned at birth, or who can’t be clearly read as ‘male’ or ‘female’, are punished with social disapproval, discrimination, and violence.

            The doctrine of the ‘naturalness’ or the intrinsic/immutable/given nature of sex is socially important too. If the binary is ‘natural’, there’s nothing we can do about it, and departures from the typical become ‘disorders’ rather than morally neutral variations.

            Similar ideas also underpin arguments that differences (and therefore the inequalities these differences entail) between men and women, black people and white people, gay and straight, etc. are biologically determined and, being just the way things are, can’t be overcome.

            The binary sex oversimplification does particular harm when it’s weaponised to vilify or discriminate against individuals or groups who aren’t deemed to fit that class system and when backwards logic is used to try to gloss over that moral discrimination and vilification by representing it as simply a consequence of the ‘natural’ order of things.

            The crucial point is that the idea of a strict and immutable binary is socially constructed. The binary concept of ‘sex’ isn’t inevitable; it’s a response to how we choose to see our bodies and how, as a society, we want to divide them up into classes and relations of power.

            So the whole argument about sex isn’t an argument about science; it’s an argument about classification and how we as a society choose to label people and give them their place them within the existing power matrix.

        2. Arboreal Agenda says:

          Talking about ‘assignment’ is playing with words. It is no different to naming anything. You are born sexually male or female and that never changes. It denies nothing at all, it is just factual. A trans person may well not feel right with their sex but they are still that sex regardless and it cannot be ‘re-assigned’ – the notion of a ‘sex change’ is a biological fallacy. None of this denies the experience of trans people or that their are various ways of dealing with the mismatch they feel but denying biology or elevating gender as some kind of fixed entity like the biology of sex is not one of them. Dysphoria is a medical condition but I don’t think that is necessarily what this is about really as I am sure most trans people would not say there was anything ‘wrong’ with them, they are what they are – trans (I could be wrong in that but it is the impression I have got).

          I agree with Lorna about a kind of third space or way, a trans world if you like. In certain native American tribes trans people were clearly recognised as those who had special insight due to their transitory place between male and female, they were recognised for what they were / are and were highly respected as such. There are some remarkable photographs of such people dressed in a mixture of male and female traditional clothes. The problems arise when a trans woman demands to be treated wholly as a woman with no meaningful distinction between them and a woman born as such, and even more so when that becomes enshrined in law based on as little as someone simply asserting it.

          1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Yes, I too think that the nub of the matter lies in the contradiction between trans women’s requests for recognition and cis women’s rights to exclusive spaces. It will be interesting to see how this contradiction works itself out in the political sphere.

          2. Lorna Campbell says:

            Arboreal: agreed. I, too, have read of the trans people of the Native American tribes, and it is fascinating stuff, how they were not just tolerated, but revered. People with mental health issues were not ill-treated either. You are right, too, that the collision between women’s sex-based rights and trans rights is inevitable if a third space is not found for trans people, but this is something that they need to work out for themselves. To try and point that out to some elements on the fringes leads to accusations of being a transphobe and a hateful person.

            Anndrais: if women’s sex-based rights are invaded and occupied by trans women, it will be catastrophic for women and girls in the future, and it is why women will fight this with their last breath. Basically, it is analogous to Scotland’s plight. Will it be equally interesting to you to find out how Scotland would fare if England-as-the-UK decides that it needs all that we have and makes moves to invade and occupy us?

          3. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Lorna, it would be more interesting to see what Scots would do were the English to deny them the right to self-determination and exclude them from the shared space of nationhood on the grounds that it was ‘unnatural’, which is just as ridiculous an analogy.

          4. SleepingDog says:

            @Anndrais mac Chaluim, yes, yes, it’s “interesting”: we’re all just ants under your heroically transcendent moral gaze; until your privileges are threatened and then it’s all “Will nobody think of the Patriarchy?!?”

          5. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Except my moral gaze is heroically immanent.

      2. SleepingDog says:

        On the serious issue of violence, murder, bullying and abuse, I think we need to take care and responsibility for any claims. The article moves from a survey from the USA to claim in the next paragraph that “Trans people are more likely to be assaulted, abused and murdered.” Is that in the UK or Scotland or USA or Worldwide? Channel 4 fact-check from November 2018 says that official figures were not available in the UK because the specific data required was not being gathered, and:
        “The limited data we’re working with suggests that in the UK at least, a trans person is less likely to be murdered than the average person. But it’s worth bearing in mind that the recorded number of trans murder victims is so small that it would only take one or two more murder cases every year for the UK “trans murder rate” to double or triple. And until new reporting methods come in, we are making this calculation based on unofficial figures. We should therefore be very wary of drawing firm conclusions.”
        https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-how-many-trans-people-murdered-uk
        When making such claims, it is expected that a (ideally hyperlinked) reference should be supplied if available.

        On bullying, harassment and abuse, similar rigour should be applied. Much has been historically hidden, or not segregable from statistics. I heard one (self-identified gay) person say that one major reason they welcomed the acceptance of same-sex partnerships in society was that the hidden domestic abuse in these relationships will now be brought to light. I have no reason to believe that LGBT people bully less than anyone else, and some objective reasons to believe they might bully more, partly because of the availability bias in single-sex institutions. Perhaps the defining feature of British military conditioning has been homosexual bullying. People might view the requirement to accept Self-ID as a form of legal bullying. And I have heard the views of more than one female Child-and-Family social worker that women do significantly more bullying than men (perhaps girls are raised with more emotional intelligence than boys here, and have greater capacity); men in Scotland are by far more likely than women to commit violent acts, as the article rightly says, but according to the Scottish Government’s Non-sexual violence in Scotland: 2019 report, the trend has been dropping across the last decade, however sexual crimes appear to be rising.

        What is the biggest cause of death for trans people on account of their being trans people? I knew someone whose father had apparently died during transitive surgery. It is possibly underreported as there is likely to be no private interest in publicising such cases. If trans people are more likely to die during transitive surgery than at the hands of transphobes, wouldn’t that change the narrative somewhat?

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          According to figures obtained from police forces across the UK following an FOI request by the BBC, reported transphobic hate crime increased by 81% between 2016-17 and 2018-19, and this despite the National Police Chiefs Council’s belief that such crimes have been significantly under-reported. Stonewall correlates this increase to the ‘enhanced hostile environment’ transgender people have had to occupy since their right to determine their own sexual identities was challenged; it also likens their situation to that of the gay rights movement in the 1980s and 1990s.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Anndrais mac Chaluim, we should indeed be concerned with rises in hate crime, seek to understand the causes, look for solutions.

            One perspective is that a lot of bullying derives from our competition-focused, hierarchical school systems in the UK, where pupils are pitted against each other in ranking systems, and difference may be something to exploit for comparative advantage. I read an article on a Netherlands school which has a different approach:
            Rutger Bregman: ‘What if we give children the freedom to play and learn on their own?’
            “At Agora, children of all ages, academic levels and socioeconomic backgrounds are mixed together. Difference is perceived as normal, and what I quickly noticed was the lack of bullying. Bullying is often regarded as part and parcel of being a kid. Not so, say sociologists, who have compiled extensive research on the places where it is endemic, such as British boarding schools (the kind that inspired William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies). And little wonder: these schools resemble prisons. You can’t leave, you have to earn a place in a rigid hierarchy, and there’s a strict division between pupils and staff.”
            https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/aug/15/rutger-bregman-what-if-we-give-children-the-freedom-to-play-and-learn-on-their-own

            With our examination systems under considerable pandemic-related scrutiny, this a time when re-evaluations are likely to open up more demand for alternatives.

            It might even be possible by adopting a Ben Goldacre-style “Test, Learn, Adapt: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials” approach to see whether such Agora-like schools produce more, less or the same number of children expressing a desire to change gender.

          2. Lorna Campbell says:

            Anndrais: crimes of violence and sexual crimes against women have also risen. Are you saying that they, too, are being victimised for other reasons than for being female, or do you think there is another explanation that is not sex-based? When the Women’s Liberation Movement began seriously in the 1960s, and right up to the present day, crimes agains females rose, and sociological studies have shown that projecting their own identity, and challenging men, was a large part of the reason. Which sex targets trans people and women? Males or females? It’s males, isn’t it? Yet, the trans lobby, led by Stonewall, are far more vicious and vindictive towards women who speak out in support of their rights. Don’t you find that strange? Almost everyone who has been given the order of the boot from a job or a position, or who has been harassed and silenced by the bawling, shouting trans lobby has been female. I am not the only one to have noticed that ‘phenomenon’ either, and it is suggestive of something far different than just trans rights going on than is ever admitted. It stinks of real, vicious, nasty misogyny – which is distinctly odd, given that trans persons who were born male demand the right to be women. Don’t you think?

          3. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            My perspective is that bullying (making oneself look big by making others look small) derives from the will to power, which is operative in all our institutions, including our schools. The way to deal with it is to constitute our institutions in such ways that limit the exercise of power that people within them can exercise over one another. I’d start with the institutions of government, which have far too much power.

            Crimes of violence and sexual crimes against women have indeed also risen. I’d suggest that this is because women are relatively powerless, and they’re relatively powerless because they constitute the ‘negative’ term in a conventional binary class system.

            All binary systems comprise of a ‘master’ and a ‘slave’ term: ‘male’/ ‘female’, ‘white’/‘black’, ‘straight’/‘gay’, ‘capital’/‘labour’, ‘cis’/‘trans’, etc., etc. It’s through such class systems that the will to power operates.

            Yes, the perpetrators of hate crime tend to be those on the ‘master’ side of the dichotomy; that’s because they have the power to perpetrate that crime and, having that power, have more to lose from those who challenge the class system that gives them that power.

            No, I don’t find it strange that trans-women fight tooth and nail to assert themselves against the cis-women who deny them; those on the ‘slave’ side of class systems – women, blacks, gays, workers, etc. – have always had to fight tooth and nail against those on the ‘master’ side.

            And from what I’ve seen, trans-women are just vicious and vindictive towards men who would also deny them and the right-wing commentators who seek to use their struggle against cis-women as a stick with which to beat feminists.

          4. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Well, reading Nietzsche has played a part in the ongoing evolution of my prejudices, but like everything else in my firmament Nietzsche’s there to be overcome. Interestingly (or not), I thought that, in my last post, I was being more Hegel than Nietzsche.

  6. Robert says:

    Why won’t Bella Caledonia publish articles from credible feminists (many of them left-wing and pro-indy) on the gender critical side of this debate, yet you’re happy to publish articles like this from a one-sided trans rights perspective?
    Are you scared of being called “transphobic” for even admitting the possibility that there could be another side to the story?

    1. Not at all, very happy to do so. Its a complex subject and we have just such content coming soon.

  7. Lorna Campbell says:

    “…But, no: there’s nothing ‘natural’ about sex; sex is a construct that helps us to categorise and label others. Like other us-and-them class distinctions, the ‘sex’ binary has major social significance as an instrument of discipline and control; people who don’t present in line with the sex they were conventionally assigned at birth, or who can’t be clearly read as ‘male’ or ‘female’, are punished with social disapproval, discrimination, and violence…”

    Sex is not a construct, Anndrais. Its power allocation and interpretation most definitely are. It is what we call ‘patriarchy’. The roles that men and women are forced to fulfil are decided by ‘gender’ and, are, therefore, constructs within the biological sexes that we are born with. Some characteristics are ‘natural’ (child-bearing in women) and, therefore, exert an influence outwith ‘patriarchy’ because child-bearing places constrains and restraints upon females who have children. It is a life-long commitment in many ways, and, because women bear the children, and can bear a finite number, their stake in those children’s making it to adulthood is greater than that of men’s stake, albeit men’s stake can be just as powerfully committed, just in a different way. Much bartering goes on between the sexes to ensure that children reach maturity, and much of this bartering defines women, out of necessity, far more than it defines men. It means the the ‘perfect’ societal norm, in simplistic terms, is two parents and the children, with the female parent nurturing, and the male parent bringing home the wherewithal to nurture. Everything else is a compromise from that norm, and human beings being what they are, they are flexible and can create complex compromises. Most of the compromises are at odds with patriarchy which reflects the norm because it rewards men with power over both women and children. That is, stripped of niceties, what it is: naked power over the lives of others.

    Of course any deviation from the patriarchal norm will be met with disapproval, and often, violence, because it disturbs the power relationship. However, there are exceptions to this: male homosexuality was very much encouraged in much of Ancient Greek society, particularly the Spartan one. It was not, therefore, an affront to the patriarchal norm because it was sanctioned by the patriarchy as being in the ‘best interests’ of that society. Women, however, were seldom allowed such licence; always, they have been kept in thrall to patriarchy so that even weak men could have someone to dominate and, of course, the children belonged to the men. Women were very much the vessels, and men had to know that the children ‘their’ women carried were legitimate to the man involved. Therefore, the subjugation of women became almost ‘natural’.

    Trans women pose a threat to women precisely because they were born men, and, if they decide that they have no requirement to physically transform, but remain as men, albeit stating that they are women, that makes the threat very real, and it was to alleviate the threat from men, to create spaces in which they could relax with their own sex, to have rights that men could not impinge upon, that women’s sex-based rights became established – after a long, wearying struggle – and we are not there yet, not by a long chalk. Now, people who were born men want access to those sex-based spaces and sex-based rights without all the bother of having to fight for them, and, in the process, alienating and side-lining born-women. It simply won’t wash. Women’s hard-won rights are predicated on the sex-based differences between men and women: disparity in strength; the need to have private spaces because women menstruate and require facilities to wash and change freely; and, not least, because women want to avoid the gaze of men who often show contempt for their lived experiences, as if they are not quite fully human, but a poor and warped reflection of the purity that is man. Much the same applies to colour and creed and every other ‘ism’: it is a kind of second-class version of the perfection that is male or white or Protestant, etc.

    Trans women have neither the right nor the need to gatecrash women’s spaces, sports, rights. Trans people need to start organizing to create their own, because women are going to fight this to the wire, just as we would fight if it were men who were trying to gain access – and, indeed, it is not at all clear that, in many instances, that is precisely what it is. The vociferous and vicious trans lobby need to answer the question: just why do you feel the need to access what women have fought for, for millennia? So much of it smacks suspiciously of misogyny, on the fringes. That is not to say that there are many genuine trans people who do need help, who do deserve our empathy, but there is a fringe of hangers-on who seem to get their kicks out of kicking women, and that smacks of distorted and toxic masculinity, as much a casualty of patriarchy as female subjugation. That some self-injurious women join in is no surprise. Some women write to, and marry, the most violent and woman-hating criminals in our prisons. There are all kinds of self-injurious people around.

    As I said in my post, there might well come a time when sex is taken out of the human equation, and it matters not a jot what you are, but that time is not now. For now, as I also said, women will fight tooth and nail to preserve the few rights we have in the West, and which many women around the world still don’t have. Trans people should be fighting for trans rights to trans spaces, and women would support that effort because we do, as marginalized groups, have much in common. In the West, we still have the freedom to do so. For how much longer, is anyone’s guess. If we lurch much further to the right, both women and trans people might find themselves on the ‘wrong side’ of that freedom. I fervently hope not, but the Scottish government legislation that is intended to help trans people and the hate crime legislation that would effectively silence women’s opposition whilst enabling trans incursions into women’s sex-based spaces and rights, even going so far as to redefine what a woman is, is itself intolerably authoritarian and right-wing while passing itself off as being ‘woke’ and ‘cool’ and ‘right on’.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      Well, we’re never going to agree over the ontological status of the class division between ‘male’ and ‘female’, whether it natural or cultural. When I’m looking to unsettle my thinking with a really toothsome paradox, I often wonder whether the class division between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ is itself natural or cultural.

      As I’ve just said to Arboreal, I too think that the nub of the matter lies in the contradiction between trans women’s requests for recognition and cis women’s rights to exclusive spaces, which ‘women will fight tooth and nail to preserve’.

      It will be interesting to see how this contradiction works itself out in the political sphere. There’s nothing like a bit of class conflict; it’s what makes the world go around, after all.

  8. Lorna Campbell says:

    “…Lorna, it would be more interesting to see what Scots would do were the English to deny them the right to self-determination and exclude them from the shared space of nationhood on the grounds that it was ‘unnatural’, which is just as ridiculous an analogy…”

    I never mentioned anything being ‘unnatural’. Trans people have always existed, and, in that sense, they are perfectly ‘natural’. What is not natural is the desire of many on the fringes of the trans community who want access to women’s sex-based spaces and rights when it is supremely unnecessary. That is the point: it is wholly and completely unnecessary, which is why it smacks of something other than a wish to be included. Trans people already have the rights that we all have, apart from the sex-based rights of women – which are there for a very good reason.

    You made the point yourself: is it a play for power over women by men, yet again, but men who claim to be women without any basis other than self-ID? That does not exclude genuine trans women who should be ‘natural’ allies of women, and, indeed, some are. Some, however, led by Stonewall itself, appear to display the very traits of toxic masculinity that women fear and reject while, simultaneously, expecting women to get out of their way or be kicked out of the way. You are wondering how it will play out? I think that, for the first time ever, in human history, women will become a force to be reckoned with in ways that are not traditional, and in ways that no one would expect, of female ways of fighting their corner.

    “…All binary systems comprise of a ‘master’ and a ‘slave’ term: ‘male’/ ‘female’, ‘white’/‘black’, ‘straight’/‘gay’, ‘capital’/‘labour’, ‘cis’/‘trans’, etc., etc. It’s through such class systems that the will to power operates…”

    Are all binary systems binary, or is that just a perception? For example, master and slave: many slaves took overseer positions and upheld white ownership and oppression of their own people; masters included women, who themselves had little power, but had power over slaves, and children, who had even less power, but who also had power over slaves. In the white/black analogy, Jamaican and African gangs in London fight each other and call each other racist names; and black people and Asians are often at loggerheads, too; within the white community, there were various grades of white during the slave era, and slaves (work slaves and female sex slaves) still exist even in white communities. In the straight/gay communities, we have gradations of each, and neither, or both? In capital/labour, we have gradations of capitalism, from the horrendous to the benign, and the same goes for labour, from the back-breaking to the sedentary? Nuances are always present in what appear to be strict binary forms.

    The point of the article is GRA and the reform of GRA. That reform will open up women’s sex-based spaces and rights to men claiming to be women on nothing more than their own say-so. In other words, they are redefining what a woman is, without much debate and without any real attempt to reach a consensus with women. Already, Stonewall is breaching the Equality Act 2010 by trying to bully organisations and institutions into opening up women’s spaces and rights to trans women without any actual change to the law: they are pre-empting a law which may never reach the statute book. If this is allowed, women will have been downgraded to fourth estate status: after men; after trans women; and after trans men. It is not tolerable. It is, frankly, an act of such cruelty and inhuman proportions as to be very close to being an act of brutal war against women who are 52% of the world’s population, in favour of, by numerical comparison, a handful of entitled and vociferous, shouty, bullying men, whose stereotypical behaviour is redolent of male privilege rather than any real desire for equality or thought for the equality of others. It is a fact that many genuine trans people are wholly opposed, too, to this reform to the legislation.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      Well, I’m quite content to see what emerges from the class conflict between cis and trans women; I expect the outcome to be transformative.

      Of course, all binary systems are binary; they wouldn’t be ‘binary’ otherwise.

      But you’ve perhaps missed my allusion. The master-slave dialectic is the common name for a famous passage in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, which is widely considered a key element in Hegel’s thinking, and which has heavily influenced many subsequent philosophers, including Marx, from whom I originally got it. This dialectic’s got nothing to do with the institution of slavery and everything to do with the binary oppositions that are present in all class conflicts and which drive our history.

      So, to both sides I say: Claws out! Teeth bared! Go to it!

      1. “Towards a Dialectical Theory of the Trans Debate”

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          Or Grundlage für eine Phänomenologie des Geschlechts.

      2. Lorna Campbell says:

        Do you really, Anndrais? You think an all-out battle between women and trans women will be transformative? For whom? For you? For society? For women? For trans women? For men? For children? For the human race? Do you really believe that this will be a class battle between two classes a la Marxian theory? You ask what the Scots would do if the English did not allow them the shared space of nationhood? But, isn’t that precisely what they have done? Or are you asking a la Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Loyalist/Nationalist? You must predicate your theory on the proposition that trans women are women. Are they or are they men who claim/see themselves as/ believe/think they are women? What is a woman, Anndrais? Surely, before you can claim to be something, you must have some notion as to what it is that you are claiming to be, otherwise your binary class Marxist theory falls flat on its bahookie? Does turning your penis inside your body or your vagina outside your body make you a woman or a man, or are you still a man and a woman? Does being black make you a slave inside? Does being white make you a master inside? Does being working class make you hanker after upper class things inside? Does being Scottish make you want to be English, or English, Scots? If you are white, can you be black inside? If you are black, can you be white inside?

        The problem with trans women does not really come into play with trans men because the latter are very unlikely to challenge cis-men, as you presume to call them, in any way that actually matters to men: trans men are unlikely to occupy mens sports, for example, or challenge for sex-based jobs, as these are almost exclusively male jobs, in any case. There might be a small overlap in jobs that are equally open to males and females, but jobs that require greater strength than even the hormones can provide, will not be open to trans men in the same way that almost all female, sex-based jobs will be open to trans women. Even Stonewall doesn’t appear to give a toss whether trans men occupy men’s spaces – precisely, one must assume, because they do not threaten the essence of masculine entitlement which goes on century after century under patriarchy.

        No, it is trans women’s (or those who claim to be trans women, even when they must look in a mirror and see a bearded gent staring back at them, and quite how that works, is anyone’s guess, as no women walk around fully-bearded and with penises – a mystery?) desire to occupy women’s sex-based spaces and rights that are under question. Why should they want them? Do explain, using your Nietchean, Marxian, Hegelian theory, in German, if you want, although it will take me some time to translate, so maybe stick to English, or Scots. Have a little Gaelic, but it is even rustier than my German.

        You spout Nietsche and Marx and Hegel and Germanic tropes as if they explain everything, but your ‘disinterested sociological/political/economic, etc. pose is just that – a pose. You offer no explanation for why trans women – or, at least, the vociferous and bullying lobby that claims to support them – need to occupy women’s sex-based spaces, which is the point of this article. Explain that – preferably in either Scots or English, as my German is pretty rusty because they already have all the rights that the rest of us have. It is just that they don’t have access to women’s sex-based spaces and rights that seems to exercise them so.

        It can’t be a simple matter of class struggle because there is no imperative for trans women to occupy women’s sex-based spaces and rights – none at all. In all your examples, you offer instances where there is a primary element to why the struggle takes place: the working class against the monied class (the need for the means to sustenance above subsistence level); the black/white class struggle (the need to break into jealously hoarded white privilege); and so on. There is always an underlying reason, an underlying tension between those who have and those who don’t, in the widest sense of the phrase.

        Women have very little power, very little space, very little that is theirs and a very subdued sense of entitlement. It is changing, but at a glacial pace, and only in the pampered West. Why, then, do trans women, who are born-men with body dysphoria, so desperately want to occupy women’s sex-based spaces and rights even when they must see that women are not full-bearded and penis-wielding? Does body dysphoria wipe out all reason? Isn’t it that they want to redefine what a woman is to suit their dysphoria, even though it can make no sense even to themselves if they are rational human beings, that, when they look at women and look at themselves, they must see two very different appearances.

        How do you reconcile a male body with a female persona if it is that male body that makes you feel that you are in the wrong body? Why, you set out to make women not real women like you, the trans woman, who becomes the ‘real’ woman, you take away all that women have in order to re-inforce your delusion and you persuade society through bullying and othering, to accept that women are not women and that their sex-based spaces should be opened up to you, the trans women, the ‘real’ women, actually getting Western society, which, in its ennui and neurosis, is terrified of upsetting any minority, to see the world through your body-dysphoric eyes. In other words, it is the Emperor’s New Clothes? What will happen when that wee boy turns up and tells the truth, Anndrais? I’m not sure if you are trans yourself, but you sure don’t like women, which none of your philosophical posturing can hide. Oh, and by the way, Western societies are turning more and more to the right, so it could be that we will waken up one day and women will have lost those sex-based rights, are corralled indoors, as in the past, because that is what happens in right-wing regimes – Kinder, Kirche und Kuchen, in the German, isn’t it, you’ll know better? – and trans women will stick out like sore thumbs – which is kind of ironic because the ‘wokerati’ and the bullying trans lobby are redolent of totalitarianism. Doesn’t bode well for either, does it?

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Lorna Campbell, indeed, a cuckoo chick in a reed warbler nest doesn’t become a reed warbler.

          1. Lorna Campbell says:

            SleepingDog: no, indeed. The real question is: why would it want to be? I think that question is at the very heart of what we call GRA reform, albeit it appears to be about quicker ways to change your birth certificate, etc. without too much hassle. I can understand the desire for making things speedier, but I cannot understand why you would have to displace women in order to do that? It makes no sense unless the trans lobby is claiming that it is essential that they be given access to women’s sex-based spaces and rights, instead of creating their own, because it will be in the very act of displacing and ejecting women (reminiscent almost, of the ejection from Eden because Eve tempted Adam, and, without her treachery, pure and perfect Adam would have languished there for ever and a day) that their reality becomes everyone’s reality. I cannot help but come back to the woman as somehow not quite human, not quite man, as a lesser soul.

            Women, of course, will just have to go back to the drawing board, goes the theory. I also don’t understand the viciousness of much of the trans lobby towards women because I suspect that, even if women were all to agree with them and move over and allow them into all female spaces without a murmur, that still wouldn’t be enough. I really do believe that they want women out of those spaces and rights completely to allow them to be what they are patently not – that is, women without all the hassle of actually looking like or even behaving like, women, or, in other words, men. If they displace born women, then they will not have to see or hear them and never have to acknowledge that they are women. Real women will be trans women.

            As you say, a cuckoo cannot be a reed warbler, not least because it is so heavy that it would be impossible, but because it is not the same species. Its species, and its sex within that species, are immutable. The only reason I can think for trans women so desperately wanting women’s rights and spaces – all of them, and I do empathize with the hurdles that trans people face and have no problem as such, with trans people on an acceptance level – is that they need to have their dysphoria colluded in by all of us. I have listened to a number of trans women who accept that they are trans women and would never claim to be women, who are comfortable with the idea that they do have body dysphoria and are not trying to flip everything on its head and force society to see them as they see themselves. If some trans women understand that they are not women, but trans women, why does the trans lobby push the ‘trans women are women’ agenda? Those who collude in this delusion of ‘trans women are women’ are too ‘woke’ or just too stupid or scared to say: no, actually, the Emperor is NOT wearing any clothes. If someone suddenly demanded that we all believe the Sun revolves around the Earth, against all known scientific fact, would we all rush to corroborate that because he/she was a minority and don’t want to hurt the feelings of minorities?

            There is no problem that I can see with trans people having thrown spaces and rights, being who they are without interference. A trans woman who is physically transitioned can be no threat to women either, but what is not acceptable under any circumstances is that trans women who neither wish to, nor intend to, transition, should take over, women’s sex-based spaces and rights as male-bodied men.

          2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            But to paraphrase Hilary Putnam: while we may not make cuckoo chicks and reed warblers in the same way that a carpenter makes tables and chairs, it is we who make them ‘cuckoo chicks’ and ‘reed warblers’.

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @Anndrais mac Chaluim, I am pretty sure it was Mother Cuckoo and Father Cuckoo who made the cuckoo chick. And Mother Reed Warbler and Father Reed Warbler who made the reed warbler chicks. Yes, I am aware that evolution means that species are mutable and a shorthand description but the Tree of Life is a structure of cause and effect. Your mental set seems to have occurred some time before the scientific unravelling of DNA, and frankly I cannot be bothered with the seconds it would take to web-search your references.

          4. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Gobsmacked!

            All I can say is that what has just flown over your head was neither a cuckoo nor a reed warbler. 🙂

          5. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            I haven’t been able to find the source of the Putnam remark online. He made it in one of the public Gifford Lectures he delivered at St Andrews back in 1990. But don’t despair! I’ve tracked down my copy of those lectures in my dead-tree library. You’ll find the original remark I paraphrased, plus its supporting argument, in Chapter 6 of his book Renewing Philosophy (Cambridge, 1992).

            Go on! Broaden your horizons! Sapere aude!

        2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          It will transform the power relations that shape our consciousness and the world our consciousness presents. (How a world would be present independent of our consciousness – that is, as a ‘real’ world – neither I nor anyone else can, for obvious reasons, say.)

          My argument is predicated on the fact that trans women identify themselves as ‘women’ rather than on the alternative fact that they’re identified by others as ‘men’ (and as ‘predatory men’ at that). These respective identifications are made on the basis of radically different and, I’d suggest, incommensurable axiologies, which would make the ‘true’ identification undecidable. However, insofar as it’s self-identification, the first is liberating while the second is oppressive and may, therefore, at a deeper axiological level, be preferred on that liberal basis.

          I define ‘woman’ as the negative term in the male/female dichotomy, which has like all master/slave dichotomies been asserted from a will to power. I define ‘woman’ thus from my concern with why we’re moved to define things in the first place, which is to domesticate those things or bring them under our control. Like everything else, definition as such is a power/domination thing.

          Are you sure that trans men aren’t seeking to share traditional ‘male’ spaces with cis men, and WANTING TO SHARE THEM BECAUSE, AS FAR AS THEY ARE CONCERNED, THEY’RE MEN? Of course, I can’t know, because they might just not be visible or they might, as you say, not be there at all, but I can at least suspect the possibility that there might be lots of latter-day ‘Mark Reads’ around.

          Trans women are challenging cis women because it’s in contrast to the latter than the former have defined themselves as ‘trans’ women: as women who have rejected the sex assigned to them at birth and reassigned themselves accordingly, and sometimes even physically so by means of surgery. This is the role into which they’ve been cast by their ‘No!’-saying, by their ‘coming out’.

          I’d imagine this rejection can be for many reasons, the experience of dysphoria being but one of them. I don’t know, because unlike trans men and women I’ve never myself felt any need to transition; nor have I read any phenomenological work that’s emerged from the trans community through which I could be brought into some sort of empathy. The trans experience is utterly strange to me, and ‘whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent’.

          Anyway, you appear at times to swither between an outright denial of the validity of trans-womanhood as a form of life and a more defensible call for safeguarding against predatory men masquerading as trans women. That’s fine; what I find objectionable is your insistence that ALL trans women are counterfeit, that they’re all predatory men masquerading as women. Safeguarding vulnerable groups is important, but it needs to be accomplished charitably; otherwise, it becomes a pretext for, in this case, transphobia.

          1. Jenny Lindsay says:

            Women are materially definable and legislatively important. If you doubt the first bit, ask yer mum (though I do think we’re all very aware what a woman is and it doesn’t take a degree in queer theory either…) The latter, that is, legal protections, were an extremely long fight and thats ongoing. We’re also living through extremes of misogynistic violence and the normalisation of violent pornified sexuality in culture, and are also being forced to adhere to ideological precepts that claim materiality doesn’t matter and ‘identity’ trumps all, and told we must adhere to this reality-denying, excruciatingly confused ideology about gendered essences, under the manipulating language of BE KIND, TERF. You’re going to have to do a lot better than this if you’re going to convince us otherwise, or that we have nothing to be furious about, when women who dare to question any of this are getting hounded to all hell. Calling us mean transphobe bitches who obviously hate all the lgbt and want to ‘police’ ‘gender’ is getting a bit tired, lads. There should be no reason to lie to assert trans rights. Oh. And it’s always best to actually know the law before saying trans rights are under threat. They’re not. The proposals are an absolute mess. Opposing shit law that makes adherence to ideological precepts a demand is just fucking sensible. wanting clarity doesn’t make one a meanie bitch who deserves, amongst other things, punched, stalked and fired. (all of which happen to women who wish to retain women’s rights these days)…. Its very, very sensible. But sure. Evil transphobe witchy bitches and their genital policing of toilets. Yawn. Yawn. Yawn.

          2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Yes, sure; we’re all conscious of what a woman is. The radical question is where that consciousness comes from; its genealogy, as it were. Everything (including ‘nature’) is ideology.

            I share your suspicion of identity politics. It takes the myriad diversity and ‘unspeakableness’ of lived experience and reduces it to a set of generic and dichotomous identities (‘male’/’female’, ‘white’/’black’, ‘Scots’/’English’, ‘nationalist’/’unionist’, ‘able’/’disabled’, ‘true’/’false’, ‘good’/’evil’, ‘valid’/’invalid’, ‘cis’/’trans’, ‘authentic’/’inauthentic’, etc., etc.), in order to make that diversity more manageable.

            Thankfully, these reductions contain the seed of their own deconstruction in the ‘tooth-and-nail’ class conflicts they generate.

            So, hang in there and keep on fighting! You’re making history.

          3. Lorna Campbell says:

            Anndrais: I am sure that trans people do see themselves as women or men because they feel they are in the wrong body and they associate most closely with the gender their body dysphoria chooses for them. I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is that many appear to not to want to be trans women or trans men (some trans women, for some reason, are far more strident an vociferous, and, yes, aggressive. but that is probably because they are born men) but women and men.

            That is where the problems arise. It is not enough to be trans women, they must be women. There also appears to be a breakdown in rational thought and eyesight, as if the brain has disengaged itself from the synapses and sensory fields that control these areas of perception. If a trans man with a beard looks in a mirror, why would he see a woman when women do not walk around with beards as a general rule? When she sees her own body, which has a penis attached, why would she see a woman when women have vaginas? This is precisely where self-ID breaks down and where the totally irrational takes over. Why would a person pander to that kind of disconnect with reality and expect the whole world to see what she sees, and why would stupid people who are not trans go along with it?

            Are you claiming, al la Hilary Putnam that a reed warbler doesn’t know it’s a reed warbler and a cuckoo doesn’t know it’s a cuckoo? If the cuckoo sees a reed warbler, is it convinced it’s a reed warbler or does it just do as nature intended and make the reed warbler parents work themselves to death feeding it before it flies off. It is one of nature’s parasites. As a matter of fact, scientists of the bird world have proved quite recently that, when a cuckoo chick hatches in their nest, the parent reed warbler or other small bird species become agitated and flies around looking for its own young. However, it accepts the cuckoo and starts to feed it, and the scientists believe that it knows perfectly well that the cuckoo is a cuckoo and not a reed warbler, but some instinct makes it raise the cuckoo as its own. In hat way do we make a reed warbler a reed warbler and a cuckoo a cuckoo? They exist independently of us, and one must presume that they would thrive even if there no humans.

            The vast majority of people who have been bothered, silenced, lost they jobs over the trans issue have been women who tried to speak up for their rights. Fact. Trans men are no threat to men, albeit they almost certainly see themselves as men. I would imagine that they would never actually confront men, enter men’s business prizes as trans men, as a trans woman did a women’s business prize, enter men’s sports where they could be physically hurt, as trans women are doing in women’s contact sports, stand naked in a men’s shower room, as a trans male-bodied woman has done in a female shower room, and so on.

            I have yet to hear a trans man use vicious, nasty language to men or demand that they let them have access to their sex-based spaces. Some men and some trans women are a threat to women. Certainly not all of either, but one woman or girl harmed is simply one too many, particularly when women have been warning of the threat and being ignored. It is precisely because we have little control, that women do feel threatened. Our sex-based spaces and rights are the only control we have had, and, now, these are threatened by male-bodies trans women. I suspect that many trans women feel very much in control, especially when they or their vicious fringe attack dogs hound women out of their jobs or silence them when they try to speak. You have a rather odd sense of what ‘control’ is, if I may say so. I find your philosophical and scientific comments unenlightening and, frankly, insulting to women. But, I’d guess they are meant to be.

          4. Lorna Campbell says:

            Anndrais: oh, to be clear, I do not find all trans women anything. Trans women who have transitioned are not a threat physically to women. However, the GRA reform is not about transitioned trans women, is it? It is specifically about male-bodied trans women who may never transition, yet who also want access to women’s sex-based spaces. so, less of the othering, please. Transphobia means fear of trans people, not hatred of them. Some, women are right to fear, as the recent cases of sexual assaults will tell you. Hatred, for what is a perfectly rational stance, is counter-intuitive and, frankly, dishonest and oppressive, a bit like saying that doing anything to protect Scotland is anti English, which is a nonsense.

            As for all trans women being men, they are – biologically. Some are willing to admit that, some are not. I have listened to trans women who understand very well that they are trans women and not women. From the horse’s mouth. They also understand that women’s rights are not to be trampled, and they, too, feel worried about the way this whole issue is going. No one is stopping trans women from campaigning for trans spaces. The rights, they have already. If you don’t get that, all your Hegels, Nietsches, Marxes and German, and other language tropes are not going to do you a lot of good. The reed warblers are not going to raise these cuckoos; they are going to have to start building their own nests. Perhaps you could help them by quoting chunks of Marx and Hegel to lighten the load and make the hours fly past. It took women a long, long time to get to where we are now, but, with your help, trans spaces will happen overnight. I’m sure they’ll be very grateful.

          5. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            As I said, I don’t know why trans women choose to identify as women and trans men choose to identify as men. Their experience is not my experience, nor do I have direct access to the interiority of either trans men or trans women, nor do I have any empathy with either trans men or trans women. All I know is that this is their self-determination, and I welcome that with cheers and bunting.

            I would claim that a reed warbler doesn’t know it’s ‘a reed warbler’ and a cuckoo doesn’t know its ‘a cuckoo’, and one of the arguments by which I would justify this claim would be the same one Putnam examined in his aforementioned lecture; namely, that these are our designations, and that there’s no evidence that reed warblers and cuckoos know themselves by the designations we use – if, indeed, they can be meaningfully said to ‘know’ themselves at all. In the trade, this kind of justification is known as ‘the argument from irrealism’.

            A wee bit of exposition might be helpful here, though I doubt it will be welcomed.

            When we use universal terms like ‘reed warbler’ or ‘cuckoo’ or ‘woman’ or ‘trans woman’ or ‘man’, a question arises as to their reference or what these terms name.

            Ever since Plato’s day, some folk (realists) have argued that they refer to ‘real’ (i.e. logically independent) non-physical entities that exist in some metaphysical realm, others (idealists) have argued that they refer to ‘ideal’ (i.e. mind-dependent) entities that exist only in our heads, and others still (nominalists) have argued that they don’t refer to anything at all but are just words we use in the context of a language to achieve some purpose we project. This dispute is as old as philosophy itself and still shows no sign of ever being settled.

            Irrealism can be read as a kind of nominalism; irrealists argue that a key purpose we project is to make coherent ‘habitable’ worlds out of the raw (*electrochemical*) material of our immediate sensory experience, and we do this by using language to make ‘world-versions’ that achieve that purpose.

            It’s a key feature of irrealism is that the world is plural rather than singular: the version of the world you make to make sense of your experience, for example, won’t be identical to the world I make to make sense of mine, for the reason that we represent different loci of experience; and there’s no ‘real’ world that stands ‘outside’ or ‘beyond’ or ‘behind’ this plurality of world-versions against which their accuracy can be measured. Or, at least: if there is such a world, since it’s supposed to lie ‘outside’ etc. the locus of anyone’s experience, that world can never be known.

            Hence, while it’s true that we didn’t make the stars/reed warblers/women as a carpenter makes a table, we did make them ‘stars’/’reed warblers’/’women’.

            Quoting chunks of Marx and Hegel helps nobody. That’s why I don’t do it. What I do instead is what I’ve been doing here: developing arguments in justification of the claims I’ve been making and referencing the sources of those arguments so that anyone who wants to engage with them can a) expand their horizons/deepen their understanding of the thinking involved by checking those arguments out for themselves and b) determine whether or not they do in fact justify my claims by, again for themselves, critically evaluating those same arguments. An unexamined life… and all that.

            But if you’re not interested, you’re not interested. You’ve no doubt other fish to sizzle, which is fair enough.

            As for the rest: I get it; many cis women feel threatened by the proposed reform of the GRA that’s still on the table in Scotland pending the return to normal legislative business, which (as you know) has been suspended indefinitely due to Nicola being otherwise engaged in saving us from The Pandemic.

            I’m confident the Scottish government will weigh that risk when it finally gets around to evaluating the pros and cons that emerged as outcomes from its consultation on its proposed reforms. I’d hope that building safeguards into the reform, safeguards which will protect women from predatory men masquerading as women, should certainly form part of its deliberations. I assume that robust representation has been made to that effect by the women concerned.

            Meanwhile, any hate-based criminality, perpetrated by any side in the conflict between the respective rights of the classes involved, should be reported to and investigated by Nicola’s police.

            Of course, it might be a further aspect to you victimisation that you don’t have faith in the performability of our government’s institutions in resolving class conflicts satisfactorily – that is, in your favour – in which case you always have recourse to tooth and nail. As I said before: this is history in the making; go for it!

  9. Lorna Campbell says:

    Anndrais: I do not see myself as a victim. I might be interested in “expanding my horizons”, but I do not see this particular issue as any form of expansion, but, rather, a contraction of rights. As I said, if the reed warbler and the cuckoo exist outwith human perception and, therefore, do not rely on human perception to exist, they are real in the sense that reality is real. It may, indeed, be a product of our inner imaginations. We simply do not know – yet – but I think we might well do so some day, and, perhaps, who knows, we are in for many surprises and shocks in relation to our own inner worlds and other possible dimensions that we may sense but not know right now. Philosophical discourse is always enlightening, as is politico-philosophical discourse. Reed warblers and cuckoos do recognise themselves as reed warblers and cuckoos, as scientists are starting to prove. What is knowledge in one era can change in another or be expanded upon or discarded. Being self-obsessed humans, we tend to underestimate the sensate abilities of other species at the best of times, and I have a sense of positivity in relation to human-other species’ long-term compatibility – if we don’t wipe them all out and ourselves, too, meantime.

    I have no idea how the trans issue will resolve itself, and my point about fighting tooth and nail was not about fighting all trans people tooth and nail as if they have no right to exist. Their existence does not rely on me, and I am sure that would not deign to ask for my acceptance, and nor would I decline it, as I hope they would not decline mine. My point was that the bullying, strident and aggressive part of the trans lobby will be fought by women who will not be pushed aside. I have no doubt that trans people do see themselves as different in gender to the sex they were born into, but whether that translates to ‘trans women are women’ must be open to question. The vociferous fringe of the trans movement, led by Stonewall, does not appear to want to share with women, and it is that, I think that most women who oppose self-ID, sense, rather than know. They sense that this is something more than simply about sharing women’s spaces and rights, but about occupying women’s spaces and rights in place of women. In other words, some, the most vociferous supporters of trans, want women displaced and woman-ness redefined, not to just include trans women, but to give trans women (and it is really just some trans women now, but would include all trans women eventually) top dog position – a very masculine trait, I’m sure you’ll allow. This is what women sense is happening, and why their fear is justified, and why they will fight back. It is not trans women per se that are the problem, but the suspiciously masculine approach to self-ID which would be just another chance to place male-bodied persons, who see themselves, admittedly, as women, and want us to see them as women, in control of the sole bastion of feminine control, outwith men’s reach – at present. Considering what has happened in other parts of the world, with women’s rights being taken away at a stroke, it is, perhaps, not so fanciful.

    As for the remarks about the Scottish government, I hope they will take cognizance of ordinary women’s objections, and weigh them in the balance. You appear to be very condescending in a very masculine sort of way, did you realize that? I wasn’t challenging your right to source Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, et al, or even to use German tropes. I was challenging your use of the binary class struggle, when what we have are women, on the one hand, and another kind of woman on the other, who is still male, so no new class, just the same old tired one. An unexamined life? Oh dear.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      Yes, I do realise that. I’m a ‘man’; that’s the role in which I’ve been cast. I can no more throw off my attitude of patronising superiority than a cuckoo can change its nesting habits; so I might as well embrace it. Amor fati.

      As for the rest: enough said.

      1. Lorna Campbell says:

        Anndrais: I was not trying to be rude. It has been a very lively debate and I have enjoyed it enormously. As for the cuckoo, I agree, we cannot change its nesting habits, but we can probably be fairly sure that Mother Nature will ensure that the reed warbler does not disappear because its eggs/chicks are destroyed in one nesting season by the invasive bird which knows it’s a cuckoo but wants the nest and the food the reed warbler provides without having to do anything to earn them, rather like some trans women (and, possibly, trans men) who appear to be disinclined to campaign for their own spaces and rights, but prefer to take over women’s tenuous ones. I’ll predict that women will us the brains they were born with, crowdfund and bring cases to the courts. Already, one woman has been seriously injured in a women’s rugby match by a trans woman’s tackle. Once organizations and corporations and institutions and government and local government find themselves on the end of a law suit for not protecting women’s rights, established in law, or for allowing women to be injured, they will make sure that women are not overrun by male-bodied trans women. Mother Nature is wonderful, isn’t she?

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