In a week where the far-right LGB Alliance group has been prominent for it’s FashFest event in London (which apparently has caused infighting over how fashy is required towards trans people), the subject of trans rights has obviously been front and center on my mind, but a moment of consideration has led me to a revelation about anti-trans rhetoric that I don’t think many trans people have realised, even the quislings.
Whenever I’m confronted with the mental contortionism of right-wing propaganda, I try to understand the thinking behind it. Not just in the conception of an idea, but in what allows people to willingly believe it. Not just the justifications and rationalisations of “why is this true”, but why that person (or group of people) wants it to be true.
Very often, that last part gets ignored. As a society, we tend not to concern ourselves too much with why someone wants something, but whether or not it is justified to want it, or have it. Generally speaking this is a reasonable approach, believe it or not. You well never convince an entire planet of 7 billion people to all have the same view (and to be honest, it would be boring if they did), so we don’t wonder about the reasons for something as long as the thing itself can be rationalised as “sure, why not?” vs “oh hell no!”.
The Reasons for Abortion Abolitionism
To appreciate where I’m going with this, it’s important to understand reasoning surrounding another similar topic, that has been around for a lot longer: abortion.
Abortion is hot topic. Depending on your moral and/or ethical leanings, it’s also a controversial topic. For the avoidance of doubt, I believe that a pregnant person has a right to terminate a pregnancy very soon after becoming aware of it (where it’s a pure choice), or at any time in the case of reasons of health. For those wondering where the teenage rape victim falls on that, squarely in the first clause. If you are pregnant without intention, then you should have the right to choose what happens next, and zealots be damned if they try to convince you otherwise.
Having got that out of the way, my attempts to understand the underpinnings of the objections to abortion always lead to the same root answer: subjugation.
It should be pointed out that the overwhelming majority of pregnant people are cis women, and it is in this area that the problems occur. Pregnancies of trans men are a much tinier minority, and of non-binary people even less, as such little data is available on the subject of this article as pertains to trans men and non-binary people. For this reason, the remainder of this section will concentrate on cis women, since they are the ones that are subjugated.
Many of the opponents to abortion are religious; they claim that it is somehow God’s divine will to make someone pregnant, and thus they are defying God by not proceeding. Others in the religious camp take a more intellectual approach and argue that life begins at conception, and therefore it counts as murder to abort a life.
Both of these cases obscure their true origins. It has been argued before that if it were men that got pregnant while still retaining a patriarchal society, then abortion would be a service available in corner shops, and I believe this to be true. The leaders in the “no abortion” voices are men; predominantly cisgender, heterosexual older white men (think Mitch McConnell, and similar cronies in the US).
The problem with the euphemistically named “Pro Life” position, is that it betrays itself through it’s own reasoning: Pro Life implies support for all living things, and yet the “Pro-Lifers” will take no interest in the life of the mother: witness recent laws proposed or passed in the US that make it illegal to have an abortion, even if the mother’s life is at risk. This is a distinctly Anti-Life stance.
The Anti-Life position extends to beyond the birth: once this “sacred life” is born, the tasks of childcare, providing, and the life of the mother are seemingly tossed aside. Even issues besetting that child as a direct consequence of being born, are dismissed as not even worth of the pro-lifer’s time. Even when pressed on funding for orphanages to take unwanted children, as a kind of debatable halfway compromise, are met with derision.
We must conclude then, that pro-life is anything but. It becomes clear that the anti-abortion stance is not about protecting life in any sense; neither the mother’s not the conceived’s life. In the absence of pure insanity, the only conclusion that can be reached is one of control: the topic of abortion is a lynchpin for maintaining a system of controlling women — to ensure that women are kept as lesser citizens than men, by asserting that their rights are not in fact their rights, but are negotiable with the nearest fragile masculinity complex.
The Right Wing Recycles its Approach
In the recent online discussions of the LGB Alliance’s pro-fascism conference, where topics such as “Is trans healthcare child abuse or conversion therapy?”, and featuring what can only be described as the cringiest disco known to anyone, I saw a tweet from an account I follow on twitter. The tweet itself was unrelated, and I shall not do her the disservice of linking her here.
What is of importance is her display name, which includes the line “(Don‘t call me a woman)”. She is non-binary, hence the display name.
This set me thinking: “This is the great thing about self-id. You define whether you’re a man, woman, non-binary, etc. Nobody can…. tell... you….” I stopped in mid-train-of-thought, as it finally hit me what it is that Gender Criticals ACTUALLY object to: Self-Id itself.
We’ve seen before that Gender Criticals have no interest in facts. In Answering The Staniland Question, I covered exactly what the problem with “do you have a right to undress in front of people?” actually is, and included evidence that shows trans inclusive policies aren’t an issue.
In the next article, There is No Such Thing as Sex-based Rights, I expanded further on how the idea that women as a sex have no special rights or legal entitlements to a space with no Y chromosomes in it, with a very limited and strict set of restrictions (David Allsopp did a further article on this which I highly recommend reading).
Despite how many times Gender Criticals have been told they are talking from their backsides (even by a judge), they continue to push lines that defy facts and evidence.
The problem I’ve always had with Gender Criticals is a lack of unifying driver reason behind their attacks. Individually, each cause can be considered in isolation and the (alleged) drivers understood: We are led to believe that “single sex spaces” is a desire for women’s safety, that trans women out of women’s sport is out of a desire for fairness, that healthcare for trans kids is a matter of safeguarding. Even the core argument (that has barely any relevancy anyway) “You can’t change your sex” (already shown to be incorrect) doesn’t seem to have a driver beyond “we think this is absurd”.
It’s this last one that always baffled me. I could take each individual reasoning and appreciate the driver behind it, while knowing that it was hogwash. But the “sex is binary and immutable!” — why would you even care? In and of itself it makes no difference to anything, beyond a poorly conceived idea of “I don’t want to lie about someone’s sex.”
The Unifying Hatred of Trans
When you realise that the objection is to self-id itself, the reasons all unify nicely. And I must credit the Gender Criticals here. For all there normal idiocy and failure to construct coherent arguments, they’ve done incredibly well to hide this intention. I suspect in reality, a lot of them don’t even realise this reason. There are many “passive transphobes” — those who don’t care about trans people either way, but see the Gender Critical issues as a reason to have problems with trans people. They are the willing pawns of this system, not fully realising why they are there.
The driving people behind “Gender Critical” ideology are more obvious: the most unabashedly transphobic people such as Graham Linehan, Posie Parker, Marion Millar, etc, don’t hide their disdain for trans people, all while claiming to not be transphobic. They’ll “back up” their claims with “see! This trans agrees with me! We’re buddies!”. I’ll come to that more in a moment.
The objection at the top level is that trans people should not have self-id. Not because of any problem that it may actually cause, but simply because that would be giving trans people equality. By having the right to say what I am, I place myself on the same level as people with ambitions to be President or Prime Minister.
For the transphobes, the key is to keep trans people subjugated. This is evident in how many of them want to “keep the GRA as it is”. This is because currently, obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate in the UK requires proving your transness to a panel of cisgender people. It requires asking “normal” people “Please Sir! Can I have some rights?”.
The anti-GRA mob loves this process because it puts the lives of trans people in the hands of the cis. A privileged few who get to decide whether some trans people are worthy of living in society. This is why so many of them don’t even understand what the GRA is about. We hear claims of “it’ll let men into women’s spaces!”. We know that this is untrue. Access is controlled by the Equality Act, and even a transphobic QC (Karon has since given evidence of dubious quality regarding the effects of trans rights) confirmed that a trans woman with a GRC wouldn’t gain any extra protection from EA-based exclusion:
The “It’ll let the men in!” claim is a fearmonger. It’s designed to give you a reason to object to GRA reform, which purely about self-id, not what the consequence of that would be. It concerns whether a trans woman or trans man can get a corrected birth certificate and nothing more. The point is to make you hate the idea of GRA reform, and hope you don’t do your own research.
Things like “it’ll put convicted rapist men in women’s prisons!” are a nonsense, because prisoner placement is carried out by risk assessors in the case of trans prisoners, it is not an automatic transfer.
Similarly, sporting institutions have rules regarding transition time and performance analysis so that the “unfair advantage” is eliminated. We saw this in effect at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Laurel Hubbard did not “dominate” as we’d been warned for years.
The trans childcare issue is particularly pernicious, because of the constant misreporting of what trans children have access to. You cannot get hormone supplements under the age of 16, and you cannot get surgery under the age of 18. The only thing available to under 16s are puberty blockers, and they are not prescribed until the onset of puberty.
And yet we have Allison Bailey at the LGB Alliance FashFest saying “how can it be right to not explore why a 4 year old claims to be trans? They should not receive affirmation.” I can’t imagine what Allison thinks “affirmation” actually translates to. For a movement that is supposed to be critical of gender, and in particular, gender stereotypes particularly around gender expression, you’d think the idea of a 4 year old cross-dressing would be right up their street.
Instead the idea is presented as preposterous. It’s also presented in isolation. Nowhere in any of the contentions around trans youth healthcare from Gender Criticals will you find acknowledgement of the actual processes that trans youth go through. You’ll hear variations of “oh yes, say you’re trans and they’ll give you a pack of hormones and book you in for surgery next week”.
In reality, trans kids of all ages go through rigorous psychological examination to look for underlying causes. Usually in isolation from parents to avoid any parental influence (thus destroying the “you want your kid to be trans!” idea).
These sessions are not one-offs, either. A trans child will see a counsellor several times to assess the progress of the dysphoria. Ironically, this is the exact kind of counselling that Gender Criticals claim to be calling for, and yet get acrimonious when bans are called for on conversion therapy. It would seem the kind of therapy they are actually calling for, is in fact conversion therapy.
But when you consider the subjugation driver, it becomes clear what the real issue here is: they object to a child being able to call themselves trans. In the eyes of parents, they genuinely see this as a loss. You’ll see them talk about “turning them from a horrible path”, as if being transgender is something freakish and to be avoided at all costs. It is couched in the bigoted ideas of being trans is a choice, and the parents want to turn their child away from it.
I can the argument that this might come from a position of parental love, but it’s basis is on the idea that being trans would make them a lesser person. That is what they are truly trying to shield them from — a perceived voluntary decision to downgrade their existence.
The Quislings Prove the Point
Quislings, in an ironic twist, actually prove that Gender Criticals are all about objecting to self-id itself. Let’s take the case of Debbie Hayton, who positions herself as a Gender Critical “transwoman” (her words). Publicly, she touts their claims: that trans women should keep out of women’s spaces. But privately, she bucks these ideas, and is more like the majority of trans women:
This image was tweeted by a Gender Critical, who accused Debbie of claiming one thing in public, and admitting to the other privately, and how this had caused someone to no longer trust her.
Taking a step back from this, we have to wonder what the issue would be. We can take a broad view of trans women, and (by ignoring evidence) understand a more general feeling of unease regarding the admission of self-identified trans women. But Debbie is famous in GC circles, and has “proven herself” in a way as being safe.
Why would the Gender Criticals not welcome her? If safety is the issue, then it should be no issue here. Many Gender Criticals have publicly stated variations of “it’s not trans women we have a problem with, it’s telling the difference between cis men and trans women”.
Well here we have a definite, famous trans woman (by her assertions, I’ve discussed this previously), who has a track record of being safe. The claims of “well, how do we tell?” evaporate, so there should be no reason to shunt Debbie into the “unsafe possible rapist” pen, and yet they do.
If you’ve been reading this article properly so far, you’ll know why this is. Trans people, even the submissive pets like Debbie, are to be subjugated by these transphobes in sheep’s clothing. Even “the good ones” are to have their lives controlled, at the behest of the increasingly-inaccurately-named Gender Criticals.
Gender Critical is about control. It’s about harnessing narratives that, in the mind of a public that is barely indifferent, will stoke some level of trans hostility. They don’t care if what they’re saying is true or not: the required effect is public sentiment against trans people being treated equally and with dignity. The point is to object to self-id and trans liberation itself.
I started this article by talking about abortion abolitionism. The tactics used by the misogynistic politicians and campaigners (predominantly men) to subjugate and control women, are the exact same tactics used by Gender Criticals: to try and force you to believe you should be angry at this.
This is why Gender Criticals can never be feminists. If your approach is to recycle the tactics of misogynists because you feel one particular group shouldn’t be equal, then you are a parody of that which you claim to hate: the proponent of inequality.
A few Gender Criticals have pushed a somewhat absurd line saying “You can’t identify out of oppression!”. From a surface value, this might seem to speak to the point I’m making: that women are opposed on the basis of their sex. But this ignores two valuable points: 1) Being transgender is not a choice. We ARE trans, we don’t identify into it. 2)The claim relies on the idea that in a system of oppression, identifying out of it would be considered an option. Again, the ignorance of this second point is simply supporting inequality, by pushing the idea that there are certain groups that are inequal by default, and you have to live with it. This is probably one of the most unfeminist positions imaginable.
Women are not oppressed due to some magical woowoo in the Y chromosome that somehow gives cis men divine power. Women are oppressed because of centuries of indoctrination that they should be oppressed. Gender Criticals and trans people could join together in this fight against the patriarchy and misogyny, if only they would stop fixating on doing the patriarchy’s job for them.