The Real Transphobes Are The Ones We Made Along The Way
I. TERFs are shitbags
I didn’t really know what a TERF was or why anyone cared for a while. If some minority of women didn’t think that some women were “real” women, how was that different from any other form of dumb gatekeeping? As usual, enlightenment came in the form of a blog post —
If you ever visit a racist internet forum or user group or whatever, you’ll notice that they do the same thing. They talk about every single gruesome crime committed by a black person or an immigrant or a Muslim, anywhere in the world. They seek these out […] [in] TERF blogs, a large share of the content is – yep – circulating gruesome, horrifying, and detailed accounts of random crimes or acts of bullying committed by specific trans people. […] Doing this warps your intuitions. It is possible to target any group of more than a few thousand people with this tactic, it tells you nothing, and it’s bad.
TERFs don’t just do the usual shitty gatekeeping thing — they actively practice blood-libel. That’s basically all I need to know about them. They’ve outed themselves as horrible people who deserve contempt. Maybe in a time before social media, that would have been the end of it.
II. Universal Guilt
Societies tend to be in favor of guilty people being punished and innocent people being left alone. This is all well and good normally, but some groups want to really dominate everyone. Millenia ago religion came up with one of the simpler mechanisms of control — universal guilt. It starts with Original Sin, sure, but that’s too abstract for the common folk. The real money is in making normal behavior “deviant.” The more powerful the drive to do the “evil” thing is for everyone, the more power the church has. Once you make sexual attraction itself a sin, you’ve really got ’em by the balls.
Governments picked up on this. It’s very inconvenient having citizens you can’t threaten with imprisonment at any time, which is why it’s impossible not to break some law simply by living a normal life. The more impossible it is to not break a law while trying to live, the more power the government has. Then the government selectively enforces the law based on how much you’ve annoyed them.
This is also the reason there are words you can’t say. Much of the purpose of having such shiboleths is for the creation of victims. It gives the punishing organization control over people’s lives. And the more such words are things people feel driven to say, the more power the organization has.
III. Outrage Junkies
I’m not going to re-examine the guts of the social media mob, it’s been so extensively documented that there’s nothing for me to add. Self-righteous rage is addictive, and many people need someone new to hate and destroy every week to keep their endorphins going. The bigger the target, the stronger the rush. And a juicy fall-from-grace narrative that allows people to get in on a plunge from truly outlanding heights… well, that is a prize you don’t get every day.
Enter JK Rowling. Rowling has a long history of championing progressive causes, from women to minorities to the queer community. She’s among the most famous people in the English-speaking world, and a billionaire, and has used that fame and wealth to advance the causes of progressives. It would be quite a scandal if she was a Secret Nazi.
Rowling has never displayed hatred of trans persons. (Yes, she fears cismen as a class, but I think such fears are largely legitimate) She hasn’t participated in bloodlibel showcasings of trans criminals, nor of dehumanizing speech. The worst one can say she’s done is prioritized outreach to ciswomen, and expressed fears that safe spaces for women could be phased out for gender-neutral spaces instead.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with someone prioritizing helping other people like themselves who have had the same struggles in life. No one can help everyone, and many people are motivated to help minority groups which they themselves belong to. This is fine, and common. Very few people complain that scholarships for black people don’t accept applicants who aren’t black. Or that support groups for immigrants don’t support people who aren’t immigrants.
I think it’s unfortunate that bathrooms are the defacto safe-spaces we have for women in public areas, but if there is a social goal of providing such safe spaces for women (both cis and trans), then they must prohibit men from entering (both cis and trans). I am aware that it’s debatable if such safe spaces are needed at all.
What Rowling is “guilty” of is using words that are tabooed. Of (most recently) pointing out (correctly) that our society used to have a word for “people who menstruate” and now such a word no longer exists. And being flippant and salty about it.
IV. Creating Frankenstein’s Monster
Because certain people are so eager for their outrage porn, when Rowling has uttered tabooed words before, they were quick to denounce her as a transphobe and a TERF, and spread the word as quickly as possible.
It’s obvious that Rowling’s first missteps were, as is normally the case, the missteps of someone who thinks that merely being a good person and being allied with progressives will offer some protection. “These people know I’m not evil” is a common mistake of someone questioning official dogma they think might be wrong.
It’s been a while since then, with a few outrage cycles. The noteworthy part of this latest situation is that in her response post, Rowling cites TERFs and repeats some TERF talking points, despite not being a transphobe herself.
As has been pointed out before, when good people censor the truth, then the only place people who want to know/say the truth can go is forums held by bad people. If one was never allowed to say “Black criminality rates are higher than the US national average” one couldn’t follow that up with “due to government-aided impoverization and the legacy of racist policies.” If the only place one could go to even utter the question “Why are black criminality rates higher?” was the forums of racists, the only answers one would find is “because black people are inherently bad.”
If the only place one can say anything in the vein of “I’m uncomfortable with governments treating a cisman who says the words “I’m a woman” as a woman for policy purposes” without being turned into a pariah is in TERF forums, then one will go there to say it. As surely as horny teens will fool around regardless of how evil sex may be in the eyes of God. And once in the forums of the TERFs, one is going to be assaulted by their vile sewage.
This is the stupid, stupid cycle of wokeism. The thought-lines must be kept pure, so deviation is met with exile, and exiles are subsequently exposed to drowning oceans of hate-mongering and bloodlibel. The justice mob ruins lives AND makes society worse by their own metric. But hey, at least they feel really good while doing it.
Frankly, I’m relieved that Rowling appears to have remained mostly trans-friendly, with a possible blindspot regarding safe-spaces. I think she has a strong heart, and she’ll ultimately resist the hatred spewed by the TERFs. But man, what a horrible thing to do to someone. Way to go, Wokes.
V. Why Bother?
I pondered for some time about whether to write this at all. I lost one of the most important relationships of my life by publicly & repeatedly opposing woke dogma a few years back. Usually the price of speaking up isn’t nearly that high, but there is a social cost every time, and a lot of stress.
In large part it goes back to pedophile priests.
When I was an atheist activist, I was outraged by pedophile priests and the cover they got from their parishioners. Not just The Church. I couldn’t believe how much ordinary people would just not say anything about it. It wasn’t their business. Their priest was fine. Why involve themselves in this mess that wasn’t their fault?
I think maybe it was unfair of me to expect church-going people to denounce pedophile priests. They aren’t to be held accountable for someone else’s actions. But I never could get over the silence. It still angers me.
I don’t want to be the person who is always silent. Who sees denunciations I think are unfair, but leaves it alone because it’s not my business. That’s how everyone ends up thinking everyone is a woke-ist, when most people are not.
To call Rowling a transphobe is to devalue the word to the point where it’s not useful in fighting actual hate. Those calling her such are outrage-porn addicts that don’t care what damage they do as long as they can get their next hit. Don’t be like them. And if you see something like this happen, if you can afford to take the hit, dropping even just a “I disagree” helps. :)
Where’s the like button?
One part of what you pointed out it part IV is that you’re self censoring anywhere where you are not sure what other people think. It’s like in this SSC halloween story.. https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/10/30/sort-by-controversial/
There are topics where even people you think you know pretty well have a completely different opinion from yours and you don’t know about it because it never comes up and it is a topic you care about. So with people that you don’t know much you don’t even bring controversial stuff like that up. Because you don’t want to be excluded from that community.
This J. K. Rowling story seems to be like that. A bunch of people saying that the blog post is full of hatred and a bunch of other people saying that they don’t see the hatred. And until you ask you don’t know what “camp” another person is in.
Oh, I just read the title of your post. Completely missed it the first time. Brilliant title.
I avoid the abuse and anger both sides can give in this sort of thing. I’m a regular on a forum and we’ve been following the antics of one Graham Linehan on twitter. He’s one half of the writing team that made the Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted, but these days seems to spend every waking hour tweeting about Transpeople and their supporters who are trying ‘to erase women’. He certainly falls into group 1 and is a TERF (though I don’t like the term, it’s a descriptive acronym, but it’s quickly become an abusive word. Transphobic is a better term).
J K Rowling isn’t deranged like that, but I do feel her comments cross the line into transphobia. There’s a particular comment she makes along the lines of how feminism is so inclusive that it welcomes transmen into it. Completely missing the point that in doing so they are denying transmens’ identity as male. I do think her central point though is that transwomen aren’t women, and that does cross over into transphobia for me. It seems to be the main issue transphobes have (they don’t care about transmen). Equating transwomen to male violence is just about as offensive as you can get for the trans community in general.
Online arguments often derail into the extremes. It’s always been this way, unfortunately, and the shouting does drown out the more reasonable criticisms of Rowling’s position. But I do disagree with your position on Rowling. While she isn’t singling out individual trans people for abuse like Linehan, I think she is denying them their right of self-identity. I think she has, in a quite erudite and polite way, pushed forward transphobic ideas.
Uhm… can you explain how a movement welcoming people into it is a bad thing? A lot of white people support black lives matter, for example and I think the black lives matter movement welcomes them into it but does that mean they are denying that white people exist by doing so?
I also don’t think she equates male vioelence to transwomen, can you quote that? I understood it in a way that she said any men can just follow a woman he is stalking into a public bathroom and when someone questions it he can say that he is a transwoman, so the safe space that a bathroom provides vanishes or is at least weakened.
I used to be one of the progressive crowd TWAW and so on.
Until I realised a few things.
A friends teenage daughter was raped and on their request for a policewoman to talk to her they got a trans woman. What they asked and meant for was a female person, not a person of the same sex as the aggressor , no matter their gender. They were refused. Imagine the new trauma.
Now I ask myself, my mum is in the care home and has also asked and has female carers, she needs help with intimate care. If a trans woman is assigned tomorrow my mum will be distraught and she might not understand why and what this is happening, she might forget to tell me etc.
Then When I expressed this to my friends, I found out other things, apparently I’ve been living in a bubble. There is a trend of trans women, some with previous mediocre accomplishments or no accomplishments at men’s sports, who win and set records at women’s. While this is not happening for trans men, even if they are on extra testosterone and trans women on less T.
There has been only one trans man who won once a running race.
So I thought of my daughter, she’s small now, but if she were to pursue sports and if it happens that a trans girl, gone through puberty as a male, competes with her, than all her efforts would have been for nothing, see the situation in Connecticut where 2 trans girls won all competitions between them in one year where the previous year 10 girls won the same races. I mean if sports were to become unisex tomorrow, how fair would that be for women? This is what happens when trans women enter competitions.
So affirming trans women are women costs women.
There is a 4000% increase in people transng in the last few years so the chance of my daughter walking in a male undressing at the changing room at the pool as a teenager or a male walking in the same changing room where there are no cubicles for shower or changing gets quite high.
Even if I’m personally ok with trans women sharing a space like that with me, I would have been mortified and upset to have to do that as a teenager and I don’t want this for my daughter or my mum or for my friends daughter. I can’t imagine what they are going through. There are situations and spaces where you want privacy etc from the male sex.
Ah I forgot there are no 2 sexes anymore, this is just for people in India and China who know exactly who to abort (instead of just “assigning” them male at birth as you’d think would be the case), rapists still know who to rape and not bothered about a woman’s chromosomes or identity… etc
And penises are female now, I discovered, and people with dysphoria like to talk about the body parts that are not a match with their identity… not. It doesn’t seem to me many trans people have dysphoria these days as I read a lot of choke on my lady dick and such on JKR posts.
So yeah quite a rabbit hole to fall through which has made me ask myself why did I say that trans women are women before, what did I actually meant, what do people mean? What is a woman? Apparently it has become a formless blob, a costume, a pink feeling, whatever you want to pick. While the real situation on the ground so to speak is quite different and this is some of what JKR was talking about too.
I think this post is one demonstration that you think about issues rather than just choosing one side or another and repeating whatever they say. So, good job.
A note of caution: You failed to do that in your opening, where you wrote that “TERFs are shitbags” based only on repeating what others have said about them. You got your info from an anti-TERF blog claiming to tell you the truth about TERF blogs and forums. I haven’t read much TERF stuff, but in what I have read, the writers wrote only about threats and harassment directed against /them personally/ by trans women. That’s not blood libel; it’s self-defense.
The basic disagreement between TERFs and trans seems to be about how words work, and what the word “woman” should mean. Sadly, neither side is willing to admit this; both sides simply insist that their definition of “woman” is obviously right. But this isn’t a fight that even matters. It doesn’t matter what “woman” means; what matters is what we, as a society, want to do WRT civil rights, bathrooms, etc. Say your 80-year-old grandma is afraid to go into a bathroom with someone who looks and acts masculine. Neither of the two people involved should have their view casually dismissed by reference your the dictionary of choice.
er, “by reference to your dictionary of choice”.