A couple of years ago now (2011) I had a particularly nasty run in with a quite horrible person named Kynn Bartlett that would kind of set the stage for my various clashes with the ‘Social Justice Crowd’ for some time to come. In the course of that argument I allowed their obnoxiousness to bait and goad me and made the mistake of referring to them as ‘it’ (though in my defense, in trying to track down who exactly they were there were a ton of conflicting names, genders and other bits of conflicting data scattered around the net).
Since then I’ve been on a bit of a journey with regards to the trans community. Even prior to Kynn/Caoimhe (or whatever else they go by now) my brushes with the community hadn’t left a good impression. Though they weren’t as awful as Kynn would turn out to be. Still, perhaps that coloured my perception a bit in a way I hadn’t allowed it to with other marginalised groups and it shouldn’t have.
I still find a great deal of Social Justice activism pointless, stupid and self defeating (even if I agree with the goals) but in this instance I acknowledge that I ‘done wrong’.
Even someone accused of the things Kynn has been accused of is owed an apology, however late, for insults offered that go beyond the pale- even in the heat of the moment. So I offer it.
That said, my intellectual position on the topic hasn’t changed much. I consider gender in biological, chromosomal terms and gender identity to be separate to that. Others divide this as sex and gender but my preference is for a biological, scientific model and as such see the terms as interchangeable (gender identity just sounds better than sex identity to me and may cause confusion with sexuality). So, from my perspective, you are born male or female (with some rare intersex conditions also possible) but you can choose to present with a male/female/other identity. That doesn’t change what you are and so long as you’re respected as a human being and your choice is respected – so far as is possible given biology – I don’t see that as a problem. Ideology must always conform to reality. I do think there are limits on exactly how far you can expect people to be willing to bend though.
- I think prospective partners should know that you began life different to how you are now. Honesty in all things.
- I do think trans women should be excluded from women’s sporting events. A lifetime of androgens and muscle development creates an unfair advantage and was the reason sports segregation occurred in the first place (biological basis).
- I do think trans people should be allowed to use the toilet etc facilities of their expressed gender, rather than their biological gender. At the same time, I understand how this might upset people.
- I don’t think trans people should be offered up as freak-fodder for television and newspapers. At the same time I understand why people are fascinated with people who are different and why they might be curious and/or shocked. Though, frankly, anything anyone does will shock or offend somebody.
- I don’t think gender identity is (entirely) a social construct, rather that this is an overlay over our innate, biological gender.
What I’ve found especially interesting on this journey is the interaction between the trans community and ‘TERFS’ (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists). Each group – radical feminism and transexual – seems to innately upset and grind on the nerves of the other.
The trans community simultaneously provides empirical evidence that different hormone mixes can change behaviour, physiology and emotions. They change their bodies to conform to a female ‘norm’ and – by and large – present ‘feminine’ behaviours, clothing, adornment and traits that others would reject as impositions of patriarchy or meaningless social constructs. At the same time the TERF types are trying to argue for some ineffable ‘femaleness’ (which has some basis in biology and in lived experience growing up as a girl) and excluding people who might otherwise be allies and friends on that basis.
It’s interesting to me because this clash exists at the fundamental fracture point of all gender theory and everything that stems from it. Nature versus nurture, biological versus memetic, mind versus body. Not that it stops TERFs being huge arseholes.
Anyway, there you go, like everything else my opinions are always in flux and subject to new evidence. I was just reminded today that I should (and prefer to) admit when I’m wrong and I’ve been keying up to do this for a while.
Sorry again Kynn. You’re a horrible arsehole, but you’re also a lady.