Why Gender Criticals are so adamant They Can Always Tell™

Rebecca Gellman
4 min readJun 18, 2021

Caution: This article contains references to religious fundamentalism, sexual assault and rape. Those who may be sensitive to these issues should not read on.

The phrase “We Can Always Tell” has become a bit of a mantra among Gender Criticals, to the point they have started avoiding the exact wording for fear of derision. The fact is their record on “telling” is so laughable that the idea they can always tell is, to borrow from a recent anti-Transphobia ruling, an obvious absurdity.

And yet, among the trans discourse (read: we provide evidence to back up their claims, they go “nuh uh. my believes are a protectamaded karatarisdick!” — spoiler alert: they aren’t) the Gender Criticals are determined to assert that all humans are somehow born with the psychic ability to spot someone’s karyotype from a distance. Despite the Y chromosome’s size being measured in picometres.

I have recently figured out why this is, and you won’t be surprised to learn is has a direct parallel with religious extremism. In particular, Christian fundamentalism.

One thing that tends to go quietly swept under the carpet, particularly in the west where Christianity is dominant, is the issue of rape and sexual assault. We should not deceive ourselves into believing this is a predominantly man thing. There are plenty of Christian fundamentalist women who also espouse borderline pro-rape positions, particularly when advocating against abortion.

A common trope for abortion among religious zealots is that it is a “gift from God”. That is to say, if you get pregnant from rape, then “God has blessed you with a child, and you should respect God’s wishes”. Genuinely, I cannot convey in this medium how much these attitudes make me sick.

There is a reason behind this, and it is the crux of Christianity. Put aside the old testament stuff, and consider what Christianity is based on: the figure of Jesus Christ, who is introduced to us through the device of the “immaculate conception”.

I want you to pause for a moment and think what that means in real terms.

God raped Mary.

Now, full disclosure: I am not religious. I’m an anti-theist, which means not only do I not believe in God, but I find that religion is bad for humanity. So I don’t put any stock in the idea that a God-like being actually committed the supposed act. More than likely, if any of these people (God not included) did exist, it’s probably the case that Mary got pregnant from Joseph and they concocted the “immaculate conception” idea to avoid getting stoned to death. But I digress.

The point here is that a religion that is founded on a supreme, to-be-worshipped being, forcibly, by intent, causing a woman to become pregnant doesn’t really give itself room to allow for abortion, or strong rape laws.

The moment you say “well, yes OK that’s one case were abortion should be allowed”, or even have a strong condemnation of rape, you expose yourself to the fact that implicitly, you are also condemning the God of your own religion.

OK OK, so what’s this got to do with Gender Criticals?

Gender Critical is like a religion. In fact, Maya Forstater recently had a minor (and largely insignificant) victory in her attempts to have transphobia classified as a religion.

In this case, We Can Always Tell™ is the foundation of that religion. It is the linchpin that underlines the idea that men and women are inherently discernible and that and trans person who transitions does not do so in way that provides full assimilation (not that passing was ever a requirement, but since when do Gender Criticals do reason?).

The core premise behind Gender Critical is that “you cannot change sex”. For the Gender Criticals, this requires establishing that sex is something tangible — that it can be seen, and seen clearly. If sex is merely a collection of characteristics, a set of traits with no masculinity or femininity requirements then that implies that sex is not visible, it is merely a classification based on something.

Now, us trans people refer to that something as Gender Identity. The innate knowledge of what our sex is, even if that knowledge would, in the context of genetic sex, or even currently manifested sex traits, seem to be incorrect.

Here then is why We Can Always Tell™ must be repeated: if Gender Criticals were ever to admit that they can’t always tell, then they’d be admitting that sex is based on something intangible. That sexual discrimination is based on perception of sex, rather than any genetic indicator. That humans decide sex based on what we perceive, not what is defined by DNA.

They’d be admitting that Gender Identity is real. This would lead to admitting that Gender Dysphoria is not a mental illness, and ultimately that trans women are women, that trans men are men, and that non-binary identities are real.

The mantra is the underpinning of their belief, without the entire Gender Critical religion collapses.


Many Gender Criticals hate being compared to right-wing extremists. Some even claim to be left-wing. But when you stop to think about what it would mean if they gave up some of their core beliefs, you realise their behaviours are identical to that of religious fundamentalists.

While a great many Gender Criticals may well be lefties in the main, when it comes to their transphobia they are very much indulging in right-wing religious fanaticism.

Gender Criticals: You share traits with the Westboro Baptist Church. Think about that.



Rebecca Gellman

A nerd, software engineer and trans woman, fed up with the lies pushed by the so-called Gender Critical movement. Also on Mastodon: @GellmanRebecca@home.social