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Michelle Begs to Differ: Trans Female Competative Advantage

DisagreeWhile most of the commentary has been very agreeable so far, we do have one amongst us who tends to take the dissenting opinion. This is good because fairly few discussions really need to any new thought when everyone just sits around agreeing with each other all day. I mean what fun is that? Based on the content provided by this person, who remains nameless and allegedly no one I know, my guess is that they fall in line with the RadFem philosophy. As this person, to date, is the only one of that bent who has chosen to comment and presumably read my posts, I thought it would be fair to address a few of their recent points found here. By the way, my guess is that this person is female, but without knowing for sure, I’m keeping it gender neutral.

In my post about Fallon Fox, they made a statement about transgender being a “self-diagnosed disorder” that I thought would be a good place to start. The tone suggested that this is synonymous with “contrived bullshit”. First, this is not exactly true. Transsexuals (I’m leaving cross-dressers out of this for the moment) generally experience a variety of symptoms leading them to seek professional care usually in the psychiatric, psychological, or medical arenas, if not all three. Under the World Professional Standards of Transgender Health (WPATH), the symptoms are evaluated, alternative causes are explored, systematically ruled out if appropriate, and a diagnosis or professional opinion is given. Treatment is recommended, including pharmacological care (hormones), and most patients respond positively.

For the sake of comparison, there are many conditions for which fluid or culture testing, various scans, genetic tests, or exploratory surgery cannot detect and rely on diagnosis by a professional asking the right questions. An excellent example is fibromyalgia. The point is that lack of a current litmus test in no way renders a condition non-existent. Sufficient evidence exists that the WPATH treatment of transsexuals is so successful in alleviating the negative symptoms that many insurance companies are starting to cover this. For-profit entities are hardly known for funneling any money away from shareholder returns without a solid basis of evidence.

Furthermore, I would add that the treatment is sufficiently difficult, if not heinous at times, and hard to obtain that the willingness of individuals to undergo the full regimen must still be less than the debilitating nature of the symptoms. Even the most motivated psychotic or fetishist (both alternative conditions that must be ruled out to proceed) would be hard pressed to complete all stages. All in all, the statement of ‘self-diagnosed’ as ‘bullshit’ simply doesn’t fly in this case.

I also found the statement “trying to beat the hell out of someone who was born female” to be over reactionary. I don’t really understand the motivation of fighting professionals, but it is very clear that anyone who gets in one of these rings does so with an expectation of either beating someone or being beaten. I understood the statement as a condemnation of men employing physical violence against women. The natural reaction, when framing it this way, is “how horribly wrong!”. I think we all agree that violence against women is a real and persistent problem worldwide. This, however, isn’t it. This is not a domestic or other criminally violent situation, but a contest between two athletes, so the only question is whether one has an unfair competitive advantage over the other.

Speaking of which, the statement “Fox has an advantage over most women who were born female” doesn’t have much basis to back it up. Her height (5’6”) and weight (135) are well within the female norm. Her skeletal form contains no inherent advantage and is subject to the same bone density issues experienced by other women her age. The issue of unfair competitive advantage has been thoroughly studied by the medical community and the vast majority of evidence is indicative of there not being one.

Reading through the details, my overall impression is that this person philosophically disagrees with the concept of a non-segregable gender binary. One should be once and forever categorized as only male or only female at birth and that transitional forms of either are fabrications. Here is the thing though; this model, perpetuated in so many societies to essentially make things simple and easy from a religious or bureaucratic point of view, has consistently failed to establish conformity. The model is flawed, and no matter what reasoning, logical or emotional that is used to shore it up, a portion of the population does not reflect the gender marker on their original birth certificate. We exist. We understand many organizations and individuals disagree that this ought to be, but it changes nothing.  We will not cease to be, go away, change our minds, or ever stop in our relentless pursuit of equality.

Thanks For the Provocation, But I’m Good

Transphobia

There is nothing so sweet as having your own words used as ‘evidence’ to support a half-baked claim that attempts to invalidate your existence. Nice, right? The other morning I received email notification that one of the newer RadFem blogs took some of my wording, as well as those of Becky and another blogger, to construct yet another tired and fallacy ridden argument against us. You have to love that sort of thing. Yes, I was a little irritated. I mean I wrote this as a result, right?

I’m not going to spend much time on her post as it’s simply not worth it. I’ll get to why in a moment. She appears of the opinion that by taking a miniscule sampling of blogger opinions and highlighting the disparity in explaining a very complex and somewhat subjectively understood condition, she can invalidate the premise that transition is necessary. Um, yeah… I don’t know what the worst flaw in this even is to be honest. A ridiculous statistically insignificant sample size? Presenting as evidence words from blogs taken out of context? I mean seriously, bloggers as hard scientific evidence? Finally, the strange presumption that there is some world governing body of official trans opinion that dictates the expression of our personal experiences. Yes, she engages in the typical misgendering, which is really nothing more than childish name calling. You are probably wondering if I zinged her with a witty set of rejoinders rife with pith and vinegar. Nah.

Simply put, I don’t have anything to gain by making an effort to even acknowledge the opinion. It simply doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things. Whether I engage these anti-trans folks or not is inconsequential. I attempted once to start a polite discussion and quickly understood this group is not interested in any form of mutual understanding, much less work toward a common good that would actually benefit and empower women. When someone is determined to be all pissed off and contentious, there is simply no reasoning with them. On those grounds enough it’s wise to disengage and ignore.

The good news is that we can afford to do this. The current trend shows that the RadFems don’t have anything nearly resembling a majority opinion on trans issues, much less appreciable political clout to ram their ideology through anyway. Our main obstacle remains religious conservatives and the opposition we face from them. This is weakening as we continue to make strides in educating the population at large. Religious conservatives are also highly unlikely to spend much time listening to any group that brands itself as “radical”, so the notion of an alliance there is almost comical, even though both are driven by dogma and ideology over plainclothes reality. Ignore them and eventually they will fade to background static until inevitable generational changes relegates them to historical curiosities.

Instead of focusing our energies on unreasonable people determined to hate us, we are much better served promoting our general personhood. We do this every day by simply living our lives, interacting with co-workers, fellow students, and our communities at large. Some of us feel the need to do more and word at advocacy, outreach, and education. I am never surprised by the fact that by being open and honest about my condition, I find that individual perceptions of trans people in general improves. Imagine, just being a person having greater impact than standing on a soapbox denouncing others on trumped up flim-flam! Well, it takes some longer than others to realize that being big nasty pants to a minority slice of the population is now out of vogue.

To sum it all up, I wish them well in their fervent and hate fueled mission to ultimately discredit themselves entirely. You won’t hear another peep out of me on the matter. I would like to invite my sister and brother bloggers and activists to do the same. Don’t bother answering them, ignore them all together at public events (just like you do the crazy Pride Protestors with the shitty painted signs), and push forward as respectable members of the community. In doing so we invalidate all sophomoric claims that we don’t exist by simply living our lives.

We will win our equality in the end simply because we are more motivated. We live this every single day. It’s not a thing or a shtick, but a condition that affects every single moment of our lives. It’s not our words or arguments that validate us, but our actions and passion with which we live, work, play, and love. The energy we put into the world to not only simply be, but gain equality and live normal and productive lives from the time we come out to ourselves and society simply cannot be equaled by those who, for whatever reason, insist on standing in our way. They will tire and have other things to occupy their attention where we never will, because this is core to our fundamental selves. Don’t fret over the opposition; we got this.

Yes Please, May We Have Another? My Take On The Guardian Kerfluffle

hate

A brouhaha recent broke out across the pond in jolly old England when an article in The Guardian went and got nasty. This was surprising because in all my interactions with the Brittish, I’ve never encountered outright nastiness. A good friend who emigrated from there a few years back was kind enough to post a nifty guide that explained what it actually meant when Brits toss out a seemingly innocuous phrase. It did tell me how often she had recently told me to fuck off and die, and I was delighted with the skill she employed to frequently insult me while leaving me beaming with gracious affect.

What is now being commonly referred to as the great Moore/Burchill Kerfuffle escaped me completely until my sister Becky took the time to patiently explain the whole thing. She’s over in Scotland now, so there is a good chance she was peppering the explanation with barbs calling me an ignorant twat, but it’s true, I missed the ball this story. To boil it all down for you, because chances are you already know, Julie Burchill, a RadFem type lesbian, put up a piece employing the typical RadFem Anti-Trans taskforce language. Mature stuff like demeaning name calling, attempting to reduce the trans condition to ridiculous analogies, and the usual heap of logical fallacies. Personally, I’m so glad she did this.

Suzanne Moore chose to follow this up with a bit about free speech using the same logic as an uncommonly literate KKK Grand Whizzer is likely to spew out. Again, I’m loving it. This may seem strange, but think about it for a moment. Instead of the usual tactic of riling each other up with trans hate speech over at their RadFem hub, they chose to take the national stage with it. They actually managed to delude themselves that the rancorous bile they were spewing has some kind of common appeal to the masses. I imagine Burchill typing away with a big old shit eating grin and imagining the Guardian readership nodding their heads in agreement thinking, “Grrrr! I hate those fucking trannies!” A beautifully timed miscalculation.

As expected, it got a nice big response. A big negative response, and not just from the tiny smattering of trans folks spread over the globe either. Women, men, feminists (the real kind who focus their energy on advancing and empowering women instead of giving a niche minority a hard time), straight and gay alike. It was immediately blamed of course on the juggernaut raw power of the Pink Press. Um, yeah… I explained recently how the US presidential election was about national character instead of the economy. When one of the most conservative democracies votes to maybe stop treating subsets of the citizenry like shit, it’s a good barometer that world attitudes are changing and that employing contrived caricatures is no longer the cool way to try to bully anyone.

So, to Burchill, Moore, and the rest of the anti-trans element in RadFem, please, keep it coming! I’m very happy to toss you all the rope you need, or provide a nice shiny shovel to dig and dig until the tops of your heads are no longer even bumps in the scenery. I look forward to many colorful and imaginative insults, huge gaps in logic, and of course the hallmark of great writing, tons and tons of exclamation points with a few words in all caps to drive the point home. You just have to love it when problems take care of themselves.

Radfem and the Anti-Transgender Agenda

I recently became aware of the RadFem group and their outspoken leader Cathy Brennan, who writes a blog over on Tumblr called Bugbrennan. If you have any idea what I’m talking about already, you know this isn’t going to be a “let’s buy these guys some milk and cookies” kind of post. At the same time, as tempted as I am to go all hissy fit on them, I’m going to try to look at this in a calm rational manner, with maybe just a tiny bit of humor thrown in. It’s all about getting a dialog started here people, and yes, I hope they find this and engage. Don’t worry, I’ll beat a path to my door.

I have not had time to read the entire RadFem site, but one of the predominant themes is a palpable anti-transgender agenda. They appear to be working this pretty hard; a tireless dedication to blocking or reversing any gains in rights that we make. I found this pretty surprising to be honest. I mean, there really aren’t that many of us out there, and to have an organization dedicated in part to working against us seems fairly ridiculous. When there is so much work left to be done to advance the equality of women all over the world, spending this much time and energy to give a micro-population a really shitty time of it seems either mean in spirit, or there is something else going on entirely. I can’t quite pin down whether it’s a Westboro Baptist Church kind of thing, or a Larry Craig/ Mark Foley denial and lash out, but either way, it’s not making a lot of sense.

I’m also not clear on the name choice. The ‘rad’ is for ‘radical’, as you may have well guessed. Generally speaking the population at large, especially those empowered to make any sort of policy decisions, typically eschew groups who actively promote that they are in fact radical. It has flair and is appropriately militant sounding, but downright horrible in the pursuit of any type of credibility whatsoever. It is comforting to know their stated goals are almost instantly thwarted by the name alone.

If I understand correctly, the end game for RadFem is to achieve unquestionable female equality in all areas, as well as promote the guarantee of female safety in society under all circumstances. I’m pretty sure that is something most women can get behind, including the trans population. For some reason, there seems to be a widespread belief among them that denying the existence of the trans population is a sure fire way to promote this. Yeah, I said the same thing. It’s sort of like being sent to prison and picking the weakest most pathetic inmate to beat up to establish dominance. I understand where they want to go, but they seem to be taking a very unnecessarily contentious way of getting there. There are a lot of sub themes to choose from, but I’m going to pick the two most prevalent to address.

Ms Bug et al take the line of David Hume style extreme rationalism. Born with penis = male, no exceptions. Binary logic is wonderful for running machines, but rarely applicable to the human experience. Exceptions are plentiful such as the intersex and other variations. I have not found evidence that there is clear consensus as to whether post operative transsexuals are still considered male by all or not. Either way, this simplistic world view either reflects the lack of ability to process complexity, or a convenient black and white rational to attack individuals who don’t fit a highly improbable binary model.

I’ve also heard the argument from this camp that there is no medical evidence indicative of transsexuals having a brain structure more resembling that of the identified gender. This is very easy to look up by going here (you have to click the link). If you spend some time here, you will see many articles both for and against this hypothesis. The Wikipedia entry is also fairly accurate, though not comprehensive. It may well be that RadFem is taking the line that a lack of a clear ‘smoking gun’ proven causal link is firm evidence to the contrary, thus ignoring the basic principle of scientific investigation that requires a significant amount of data to achieve conclusive results. Not that many studies have been done to date in comparison to much better understood conditions. I would also like a clear, validated and independently replicable test that yielded yes/ no answers, but currently the study of transexualism is about where that of homosexuals was 50 years ago. The RadFem position is comparable to that of creationists who point to as yet undiscovered data points in the fossil record to argue evolution as an unlikely theory in simplistic protection of a highly biased world view.

While the nitty-gritty of neural mapping remains fuzzy at present, there is conclusive evidence that a population exists wherein members recognize a core gender identity opposite to that their birth genitalia and hormonal function. Much like a Mac OS loaded on a PC, function will degrade rapidly (I know, I know, it’s an imperfect analogy). Hardware modification to resemble the hardware configuration of a Mac, however, will improve function dramatically. The transsexual population is in the same predicament. Unlike brain mapping studies that are still in infancy, there is a mountain of causal evidence that physical and social transition to a person’s core gender identity significantly improves overall functionality in spite of the enormous social, emotional, physical, and financial costs involved. To date it remains the only successful form of treatment. My point is that whatever the true root cause is, transsexuals are recognized as existing by every credible medical and scientific organization that possess the expertise to render a meaningful opinion. The end result of transition is a person who has a physical appearance that matches their gender identity. Philosophical disbelief in our verified existence does not provide a moral, legal, or social platform to ethically argue against equal rights.

I think this brings us right to the bathroom issue. Yes, I’ve talked about this before, hence the handy link. I understand the RadFem position to be that the societal protection of women requires the establishment and enforcement of segregated space that is designated female only. Concerning this statement, in and of itself, we are in agreement. Regardless of individual RadFem member positions on “is it really a he or she?”, they take the further position that allowing access to female facilities invites male sex offenders to adopt a disguise and commit rapes in the ladies room, primarily because this has happened, though very sporadically and never by a trans person. Let’s talk about that for a second.

The discussion brings forth an image of several shady characters huddled around an old radio in an abandoned warehouse down by the docks, eagerly listening to see when GENDA finally passes. “All right boys, they passed it! Let’s strap on some heels and go hit the crappers!” The unlikely part of this scenario is the notion that scheming rapists are currently stymied only by the finer points of an equality law only applicable to a tiny segment of the population. If a rapist is inclined to do this, he is going to anyway regardless of what the law says. Furthermore, it can be argued that given rape is brutal hate crime to establish dominance in the form of forced sex, and that the vast majority of men find adopting female garb humiliating and emasculating, it is further unlikely that the incidence rate of this heinous sort of thing is going to increase. From that it comes down to the fact that some females are uncomfortable sharing facilities with transgender women either due to fear based on misunderstanding or inherent prejudice.

Here are the facts of the matter succinctly. Cisgender women are not at risk from transgender women. There has not been a single recorded instance of a transgender woman acting inappropriately in a female only facility. Like everyone else, we just want to pee, check our make up, and leave without hassle. Transgender women, however, are at significant risk of physical and sexual abuse in a male only facility. Barring transgender women from female only facilities is directly comparable to barring African-American women on the basis of fear based on prejudice and misunderstanding. Forcing trans women into a situation of real documented risk in order to cater to prejudicial fears based on a lack of understanding is unconscionable. Furthermore, due to the risks involved to our well being, trans women have and will continue to use female only facilities. We are humans with physical needs, identify entirely with the gender the segregated facility is for, and must look after our personal safety. Attempting to block passage of equality laws is not going to change this.

I do understand this is a difficult issue overall. I do acknowledge that risk of abuse exists and I am personally concerned about it myself, as are we all. I also understand that there is no clear means of telling the difference between a post-op transsexual, pre-op transsexual, cross-dresser, or drag queen without utilizing personally invasive means. I would, however, vastly prefer to work together to discover and implement mutually acceptable solutions designed to safeguard the well being of all women. This makes much more sense to me than expending considerable time and energy fighting a battle that ultimately benefits none, and puts some at risk.

You all may notice that in spite of getting a little contentious at times and drawing from unsavory or exaggerated examples and comparisons to drive the point home, I kept this much less provocative then I was originally inclined. I would like to urge my trans friends and trans allies to resist escalating the battle. I would like to see if a dialog can be established and foster communication to see if common ground or a common cause can be  found.

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