Gender Dysphoria and Trans-Activism

This is my third piece in a month on these topics, and I’m still adding footnotes here, though my written interest goes back four years to Alice Dreger and her “Galileo’s Middle Finger”. It’s highly recommended as an introduction to the politically-motivated disfigurement of a very complex technical and cultural topic with serious consequences for the individuals affected. (Hence the Galilean analogy. Hence my more general interest in the corruption of discourse on even the most basic of scientific topics in public consciousness.)

[Not visible in my public writings are also private attempts to get some public education going involving UK expertise from The Tavistock, as recommended by Dreger, but so far unsuccessfully. (See their C4 documentary.) And in the footnotes, the saga continues … three so far and counting. There is no “right to be whoever you want to be”.]

In the original Dreger work, the disfigurement was one of politically interested attacks on the careers and livelihoods of erstwhile colleagues and collaborators over and above any technical issues with the content of the subject. Recently it’s become a one-dimensional binary transactivist vs transphobic / feminazi / terf trolling war of insults. Who gets to call who a bigot the loudest, and worse, career and personal threats.

I don’t take sides in such “extremism” – a pox on both their houses – I simply attempt enlightened dialogue towards solutions we can all accept.

The temperature rose last week when the UK Times published a story on “4000%” increases in gender dysphoria referrals to the Tavistock, the majority “girls” (misgendered say some). And also last week, Martina Navratilova aired her thoughtful documentary on the “fairness” of intersex and trans-women in competitive sports, where her conclusion was fairness is a complicated concept despite her original “anti” intuitions and public statements.

In the two previous posts my point is pretty straightforward – it’s not helpful to reduce the complex technical – scientific and cultural – topic to a question of whose individual rights trump whose.

Things took a turn on two counts this morning when I saw from a couple of days ago:

Firstly, above, Alice Dreger posted on the topic for the first time in a while, about a crowdfunding campaign by the “villain” of her original Galilean story. A scary project about sharing public identity of “transphobes”. Madness she called it. An orchestrated pile-on campaign of abuse I call it.

Secondly, in a number of exchanges, various threads originally commenting on the “4000%” story, I made an observation about the “extremism” of one transphobic (sic) campaign being in reaction to transactivist (sic) campaigns. @HPS_Vanessa took exception to my implied accusation of her being an extremist, and followed-it up with the suggestion that branding any “rights” campaign extremist was a nonsense.

The latter accusation I will continue to defend – here – but on implicitly accusing her, it’s a fair call. I apologise. She’s a professional with an interest here, that’s why she’s on my timeline, and she’s no more extreme than the binary campaign is itself extreme – the polarisation of a complex topic – in the terms I’ve already described.

My ears pricked-up when she also made a reference to Transactivism being a multi-billion dollar funded campaign (?!?). But having offended her, I’ve not got any elaboration on what she meant by that.

So, Transactivism vs Transphobia ? It’s what the social media discourse has (largely) become, but it’s not what gender-dysphoria, intersex and gender-reassignment are about.

Reducing any campaign
to a pro<>phobic rights caricature
is the extremist nonsense.

[The same being true incidentally with (say) Islamaphobia vs LGBT education “rights”, the same with freedoms of expression “rights” on (say) taboo topics in the context of potentially offensive humour, and so on.]

In that vein, as well as the “trans” topics we could unpick “phobia” accusations in general. Tends to be used to signify active “hatred” working against verbally and physically. I’ve never witnessed a “transphobe”. But we need to go back to it’s meaning as “fear” where only a small – but maybe significant – part can be rational. Also, however, see the evolutionary cultural assimilation footnote in the previous post.

[HOLD – more dialogue offerred.]


[Post Note #1:

I’ve said in pretty much all of these posts, including this one, that the problem is reducing a complex topic to an individual rights and freedoms issue. In fact it was my suggesting the idea of “rights extremism” that got branded as nonsense and me as a bigot for my efforts.

This key message is entirely counter-intuitive to “liberal” campaigners and abusing it is destructive to civil democracy. Hat tip to @nathanmladin for tweeting his summary of this John Gray piece in UnHerd.

“Cracking piece from John Gray
on how rights have swallowed up politics
and why this is bad news for democracy”

I had in fact already noticed the piece, but have to admit to some prejudice against UnHerd contributors and, although I am a fan of Gray, I hadn’t read it until now. He also leans on the same angle as this year’s BBC Reith lectures by High Court judge Jonathan Sumption, that resorting to law to uphold such rights is compounding our problems. These are such counter-intuitive messages to any kind of liberal democrat, that they really need shouting (and patiently explaining) from the rooftops.]

[Post Note #2 – this tweet counter to a thread with transactivist bent:

Good sense to notice the balance of unintended consequences. Always a question of timing and appropriateness – (exactly, as I said with the Muslim / LGBTQ+ Education case in Birmingham.) Seen many statements like the one above –  education about a topic inculcating misleading values for the content of the topic. Again the rights half of the story is always easy, the practical constraints and the complex reasoning behind them less so.

“What’s the harm … If it’s explained simply?” is the fallacy. It’s complex. If treated too simply we get the active <> phobic polarisation.]

[And, Post Note #3

To which I already replied:

I’m a big fan of Khan, but THERE IS NO “right to be whoever you want to be”. There is freedom of thought, but physical expression has physical and cultural constraints driving civil and legal arrangements in society. Need I go on?]

[Post Note #4 – Not properly read yet, but … in the Guardian “How can we end the current impasse over transgender athletes?” by Sean Ingle. Any side that thinks their argument trumps any others has missed several points.]

[Post Note #5 12 Aug 2019 – and also see this careful but impassioned take “Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Something Went Terribly Wrong” by Jesse de Wahls.]

[Post Note #6 13 Aug 2019 – another good one here:

Oh yes. It’s my point about extreme polarisation. If every discourse is a critical debate looking for definitive answers we get what we deserve – polarised extremism. What we really need is conversational dialogue where we listen and respect the other in the process.]

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