With bellicose methods often employed to silence trans sceptics, the latter should welcome uncensored speech–or else be accused of censorship themselves.
The most recent identitarian debacle over words began when a bit of harmless graffitti reading “Fuck TERFS” was seen scrawled outside a venue where a meeting was to be held on the transgender issue. The spray-painted epithet was refreshingly harmless and made a nice change from the bellicose methods so far used against trans-sceptical feminists, concerned parents, gay rights activists and others calling for a civil debate on the issue. Finally, trans-sceptics were not being censored, physically barred from entering the venue or beaten to the ground by black-gloved risibly self-proclaimed “anti-fascists”. These ‘activists’ have deployed all of the aforementioned methods to shut down the debate about what ‘transgender’ actually means. This is why words–even if they include expletives written with spray paint–should be welcomed rather than lamented by the trans sceptical left.
Indeed, keeping the argument on the plane of words and speech is going to be essential if trans-sceptics are to have any hope of debunking the transgender movement’s rhetoric, since analysis and close examination of the trans ideology’s core claims is exactly what violence and censorship prevent. Any call for censorship of unpleasant rhetoric (like the graffitti) only plays into the hands of the transgender movement’s activists, who want to police speech on this sensitive public health issue. Linda Bellos, a transcritical feminist and gay rights activist, is currently facing a private prosecution brought by a transgender campaigner under the Public Order Act. She stands accused of using ‘threatening speech’ that could cause alarm, after responding to transactivists who have tried to silence her speech. In 2017, Bellos was disinvited to speak at Cambridge University after the Beard Society at Peterhouse College decided that it could not host her due to her public questioning of some of the basic tenets of trans politics.
Trans sceptics have been calling for a civil debate on the core tenets of the transgender movement ever since its overnight ascent into the limelight back in April 2015 when former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner ‘came out’ as a transwoman on national television in the United States. In a broadcast that broke all previous viewing records, with 20.7 million viewers, the episode of 20/20 was fronted by Diane Sawyer and was the “highest-ever rated newsmagazine telecast among adults 18–49 and adults 25–54”. Jenner’s sensational announcement also coincided with legislative initiatives to give full social recognition to transgender individuals, a new category of person that came fully packaged with legal rights and demands for public recognition. This was hardly a beleagured minority that had no support from the establishment press, lobby groups, charities, and clinical and medical ‘experts’ and professional bodies. In the year leading up to March 2018, the UK’s only NHS-funded clinic to treat gender dysphoria in children saw a 25% increase from the previous year and a 50-fold increase from 12 years ago. The Tavistock Centre’s Gender Identity Develpment Service (GIDS) has recently seen a striking change in both the volume and type of patient referrals. However, the demand for care still far outstrips the evidence-based medicine to support it.
“In the year leading up to March 2018, the UK’s only NHS-funded clinic to treat gender dysphoria in children saw a 25% increase from the previous year and a 50-fold increase from 12 years ago.”
Trans critics argue that the transmovement is redefining gender (a social construct) as an instrinsic biological or psychological state within peoples’ bodies or “selves”, thus giving credence to the gender essentialism that progressive feminists and queers spent the seventies and eighties debunking.
Transgenders’ clinicians medicalise gender dysphoria as a psycho-sexual condition suitable for treatment. But if the dysphoria (unhappiness) is really an effect or symptom of society’s misunderstanding of natural sexual biochemistry, then the disease is not intrinsic in the ‘patient’; it is the outcome of a relationship between the patient and his surrounding culture. He is unhappy in his gender because society places social constraints on how males and females can/should behave, and with whom they can/should be erotically paired, but not because he himself is “sick” for not conforming to these customs. The gender dysphoric child finds himself inhabiting the “wrong body”. But “wrong” according to whom, or what? The transgendered subject wants to do things that are socially associated with the body of the opposite sex: the sex he is not.
“The gender dysphoric child finds himself inhabiting the “wrong body”. But “wrong” according to whom, or what?”
The transgender movement’s solution is not to amend society’s archaic normative gender customs, it is to encurage the ‘patient’ to change himself to conform to binary gender norms. Far from fostering “non-binary gender”, the transgender concept completely depends upon ‘male’ and ‘female’ gender norms. The trans movement arguably mis-represents internalised shame over non-conformity with traditional normative gender stereotypes as a pathology intrinsic in the psyche of the socially deviant subject. Critics argue that it is the nature of the relationship, not the nature of the patient, that makes him feel unhappy (dysphoric).
Transgender activists have so far managed to avoid a publc debate over their claims. The best argument they have been able to muster is only slightly less neanderthal than the graffitti slur and essentially amounts to playing the victim while simultaneously smearing their critics with epithets. They have sidestepped the difficult questions by turning on their interlocutors and resorting to ad hominem attacks that amount to character assassination. They class as bigotry anything other than full ‘recognition’ (i.e. agreement) with their assertions about themselves, thus forcing everyone into the role of a card-carrying trans disciple while removing the right to disagree with their claims about themselves and their prospective adolescent recruits. Given the rapidly increased use of their diagnostic and clinical terms, as well as the close links between their beliefs and those of sexists and homophobes, it is difficult to see why their claims should enjoy such sweeping immunity from public analysis.
The transgender activist’s resort to expletives is a sign of weakness and fragility. If Linda Bellos responded in kind, it is a little disappointing, but fair play. The transgender activists’ vitriol only betrays the poverty of their position, and makes their desperation crystal clear to anyone watching from the sidelines. It should be noted, not silenced.
Terri (PhD) is an author, blogger, and has taught philosophy and film studies in Secondary and Adult Education for over ten years