The MintGarden- a place to discuss trans people’s gender

Have you ever planted mint in a well-watered garden? Probably not more than once. The stuff takes over, doesn’t it? Pretty soon you have more mint than you could use in a candy factory, and you’re hacking it back, treating it like a weed. Most people don’t mind a bit of mint,1 but most of us like other flavors, too — dill, basil, thyme, and others — and we’d like those to have places to grow without getting choked out by mint. Also, we’d maybe like to spend our time encouraging other things to grow, and not uprooting the mint.

Sometimes, when a trans person posts something, commenters ask questions which don’t seem to come up when a cis person posts something. The questioners are often well-intentioned. They’re often seeking genuinely to understand. And, when a trans person posts from an explicitly trans perspective, naturally the topic is often gender-related. So, gender comes up in these conversations, and fair enough. What is “a woman”? What is “a man”? When someone is apparently, in every way, one gender, but says they’re a different gender, what does that even mean? Is that real? Are there caveats?

But those questioners have just planted mint in the garden. And there’s a place for mint. Just not where you’d like to grow the thyme and the basil. Not in every garden.

When this happens, when a questioner wants to interrogate an aspect of gender, the trans poster can easily start to feel that it is their gender which is being interrogated, and not just the abstract concept of gender. There are many reasons why. Among them:

1. Gender as an abstract notion requires an act of will, for a trans person. Gender is very specific, for us. It has consequences, and some of them hurt.2 This disparity in life experience between cis and trans is just about the definition of the difference between a cis person and a trans person. One excellent definition of “trans person” is “a person whose gender is not universally considered valid.”3

2. People4 often do question the gender of trans people, and challenge it, and deride it, and try to define it. So this is a repeating, reiterating, recapituling, recurring, life experience for trans people which happens frequently, a lot, over and over, again and again.5 If the questioner were the first, it would not be an issue. But the questioner is the 10,000th, even though this is the particular questioner’s first visit to this garden. That ground has been pounded flat. It’s hard for a green shoot to gain purchase, and the people who live there are pretty tired of the dust kicked up as visitors walk around and ask Important Questions.6

3. Some people, with every good intention, try to spin the question artfully, to ask the question about gender in general (not your specific gender, no!) in an effort not to attack a trans person, to depersonalize the interrogation. They want to spare the trans person the pain, and so they talk about hypotheticals. But there’s no bright line, and pretty soon the trans person is aware that they are at the focus of the questioner’s attention, and the question “What is this?” is really a stand-in for “What are you?” — which is a really dicey question to ask, especially when the questioner knows what the trans person has already said on the topic. So, well-intentioned gender-in-general conversations also become poisoned.

4. Some people, with no good intentions at all,7 ask questions about gender in general as a rhetorical device, so that they can attack a specific person’s gender while retaining a semblance of plausible deniability. This further poisons discussions about gender generally.

5. These definitional questions recur again and again on trans people’s posts about all kinds of topics, but they almost never appear on cis people’s posts, unless the cis person has actually raised the topic themself. This is not a coincidence; it is a reflection of that fact that the gender of cis people is unquestioned. Individual commenters aren’t wholly to blame for this–we’re all stewing in cissexism here–but when they can’t acknowledge the pattern, trans people tend to shut down and lose interest in talking further. This is a rational, self-protective response.


So, trans people get tired of these questions. They can be good questions. Tasty, even. But they have their place, and often it’s not in the comment thread below a different topic, or a more specific topic.

Sometimes you don’t want mint.

But what about the people who want mint? Shouldn’t there be a place to enjoy the mint?

This is that place. Welcome to the mint garden! Rimonim and I have decided to tend this garden, and since “gender” is an enormous topic, it’s a big garden. We can’t take credit for the underlying landscape; there are interesting sight lines and repeated themes and grand vistas and little meditative hollows.

All we’re going to try to do is keep the mint hacked down to where the view is clear.


Rimonim and I wrote what’s above a few months ago, intending to get back to it, and he was busy, and I was busy, and we hadn’t pushed it forward… and then Caitlyn Jenner transitioned and suddenly everyone is critiquing her and talking about what makes a woman and spinning off conversations.

One of those conversations is in the the recent open thread, where Christopher and dragon_snap and Phil are having what strikes me as a very careful and caring conversation on this very topic. I reproduce it here, with some formatting fixes. I’ll comment as I have time.


Christopher wrote:

I hope this isn’t somehow over the line, but I found that Vox FAQ to be, well, confusing.

I still don’t quite understand what gender identity is.

So, I actually have tried similar thought experiments to the one described at the beginning of the article; gender and sex are a minefield of complicated ideas, so I decided to imagine something fairly simple. I switched out the terms “man” and “woman” for height terms.

“Okay, I’m [six feet tall], but imagine my mind was telling me that I was [five feet tall], I might wish that I weren’t [six feet tall]…”

And I had to stop there because I was already engaging in anti-trans language. Look at what happens when I switch it back:

“Okay, I’m [a man], but imagine my mind was telling me I’m [a woman], I might wish that I weren’t [a man]…”

If I were to describe a trans woman as “a man who wishes to be a woman”, that would be considered extremely transphobic in most trans-friendly circles.

The more acceptable description seems to be that a trans man is “[A man] who was assigned [a female gender] at birth. A trans man has always been [a man] for their whole lives.”. It’s very common to hear that a trans man has always been a man, and a trans woman has always been a woman.

But if I try to turn it back around I get “I am [a five foot tall person] who was assigned [the height of six feet] at my last checkup. But I’ve always been [five feet tall]”

That’s harder for me to wrap my head around. I’m clearly using the term “five foot tall person” to refer to something other than a measurement on a ruler, but I’m not sure what that something is.

Especially when we get to this part of the article:

Keisling and Ziegler explained that not all trans people undergo medical treatments to change their physical traits, perhaps because they are comfortable with their bodies,

So a trans man may well be okay with having a (for lack of a better term) “female” body, which means that when he calls himself a man he’s not talking in terms of what his body is, or what it should be. In fact, it seems entirely possible that he may wear “women’s” clothes; I think we can all agree that a man can wear a dress and it doesn’t magically make him stop being a man.

But I get stuck on this; if that trans man isn’t using the word “man” in terms of facts related to his biological sex, and he’s not using the word “man” to describe an effort to conform to societal gender roles, what does the word “man” mean in this context?

I’m not saying “Rargh, he’s not really a man” because in order to do that I’d first have to have a definition of what it meant to “really” be a man. And I don’t. I’d really like to know what the definition is.


dragon_snap wrote:

@ Christopher

I’m not trans, but I do have a gender identity, and as a woman, a queer person, and a trans* ally (to the best of my ability), I’ve thought about all this quite a bit.

1) You might find Julia Serano’s description of her experiences with ‘gender sadness’ illuminating. This is taken from a page on her old blog, but I highly recommend her book “Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity” if you are interested in transgender issues, sexism/feminism, or intersectionality.

i doubt i could adequately describe what “gender sadness” feels like to someone who is not transgendered. i suppose that in some ways it is similar to other kinds of sadness. for instance, you know that feeling you get when someone you love more than anything breaks up with you? and it’s about a month or two after the big break-up and you are trying to get on with your life. but no matter how busy you keep yourself, thoughts about that person just keep popping into your head about 100 times a day, and everytime they do you feel a bit of sadness. well that’s kind of what gender sadness felt like for me during most of my life. while i was always struggling with it, i could still go out and have a few laughs or go about my business and be relatively productive and happy for the most part. but unlike most types of sadness or grief, which tend to get a little less intense with every day that passes, gender sadness just keeps getting more and more intense. and by the year 2000, i had reached the point where the sadness felt more like what one feels on the actual day of the big break-up, when you can’t concentrate at all and you are totally consumed with thoughts of the person you loved. that’s how i felt almost every day: consumed with gender sadness. literally every other thought i had was about gender, about my pain. i could not get around it. it sucked all of the life out of me. i stopped calling friends, stopped writing songs and listening to music, i would go into work and just stare at the computer screen without really doing anything. it hurt as much as any other pain (physical or emotional) that i had ever felt before. and i knew there was only one way to ease that pain: transitioning.

2) It might be helpful to consider that different aspects of a person’s identity are of varying importance to different people. For instance, to some people, their nationality might be an important part of their self-concept, self-image, and their sense of who they are (i.e. their identity). For some others, their nationality may be only a very small portion of of what they consider to be their core self. The same can be said of pretty much any other trait or attribute – religious background, sexuality, profession, ethnicity, (dis)ability, family role, etc. And of course, it likewise applies to gender idenity. For instance, though I have a fairly specific and narrow range of gender expressions within which I am comfortable, I don’t have a strong innate gender identity (though I identify ‘politically’ – for lack of a better term – as a woman, and with womanhood, due to the historical and current myriad issues with sexism, strict gender roles, etc). I sometime describe my gender identity as ‘shy’, because if I ‘put it in the spotlight’ by thinking about it too hard or too long, I end up feeling uncomfortable and upset. It’s pretty neutral or androgynous though I think, and somewhat fluid. (Sometimes I feel like ‘one of the boys’, and sometimes like ‘one of the girls’.) It’s also worth noting though that I feel very much at home in AFAB (assigned female at birth) body, and I identify strongly as cissexual.

3) There are many aspects of a person’s biological sex. Some of the main facets:

– hormones: estrogen and progesterone vs. testosterone
– hormone cycles: approximately monthly vs. daily
– chromosomes: there are two sex chromosomes, X and Y, and many configurations of one or more copies of the X chromosome and zero or more copies of the Y chromosome in humans. Chromosomal testing is very rare, so we don’t really have good data at all about how common the various arrangements are in general, or how they correlate – if at all – with being cisgender, transgender, and/or intersex.
– secondary sexual characteristics, eg: breasts vs. facial hair and deepened voice
– primary sexual characteristics: genitalia
– gametes: egg cells vs. sperm cells

Now if a trans woman, for instance, has the hormones, hormonal cycle, secondary sexual characteristics, and genitals commonly associated with being female, unknown chromosomes, and no male gametes in her body, there is a very strong case to be made for her to be considered ‘biologically female’, and it certainly would be very difficult to assert that she was ‘biologically male’. Moreover, many cisgender people lack one or more of the listed factors (eg, post-menopausal women, men who have received radiation therapy, women who have had a mastectomy, etc.), yet we would not consider them to be less ‘qualified’ to be considered ‘biologically’ female or male, as applicable, nor would we doubt their experience of their subjective gender.

Many trans people have spoken or written about their experiences with HRT (hormone replacement therapy) in similar terms to the following memorable passage (emphasis in the original):

I’ve been on estrogen for nearly eleven weeks, and I still count down the hours (seven) until I can take my next dose. […] It’s hard to describe, but everything just feels more natural now that my mind and body are no longer flooded with testosterone. It’s as though after 23 years, I have finally stopped trying to fill up a diesel car with unleaded gas. My brain was made to run on estrogen.

As well, I think it’s worth noting as well that many trans people experience body dysphoria and social dysphoria as distinct but related phenomena, which they they may experience at different levels of severity. Additionally, there are a great many physical changes that can be effected via HRT, electrolysis, and various non-genital surgeries. And of course there’s really no way to tell what genitalia someone has without looking at them naked from the waist down — which really never comes up an interactions with someone who isn’t an in-person intimate partner, and sometimes not even then!

Sorry my comment was so long; I hope there was some stuff in there that was helpful or interesting.


Phil wrote:

I want to write a comment here that discusses a question that Christopher raised and also some of my own mental stumbling blocks when it comes to trans issues and gender issues. I do not intend to be impolite, but it is possible my comment here may be triggering for people who are struggling with these issues in a more personal way.

But I get stuck on this; if that trans man isn’t using the word “man” in terms of facts related to his biological sex, and he’s not using the word “man” to describe an effort to conform to societal gender roles, what does the word “man” mean in this context?

This is a question that I’m honestly trying to find a meaningful answer for.

I understand, as a writer and a progressive and a person who generally doesn’t want to cause people harm, that it is polite to refer to a trans woman as a woman, to use the pronouns that she prefers, and to use the name that she requests. I have no problem with that, and I understand that this use of language might be more than just politeness but might contribute to a space where someone feels safer.

In other words, I don’t want to sound transphobic or to do things that are transphobic. But, on another level, I don’t want to be transphobic. I can say that Janet Mock (for example) is a woman, but it feels like I’m being dishonest unless I also believe that Janet Mock is a woman.

Now, I don’t hold the belief that Janet Mock is a man, or that she is not a woman, or that being trans is a third sex. But if I’m going to hold the belief that she is a woman, then I feel like I need to understand what a woman is such that Janet Mock fits the criteria.

This might sound like a transphobic thing to say, and if it does, I’m sorry, but for me, finding out the answer to that question is the key to not being transphobic.

At the moment, the best I can glean is that a woman is a person who identifies as a woman (and a man is a person who identifies as a man). That’s functional from a rhetorical perspective, but it does render some common narratives illogical. (How can you, as a child, feel like “a person who identifies as a woman” — there must be something more, beyond simple identification, such that a person can reasonably say, “I have always known I was a woman” or “I have always known I was a man.” Or, “I did not change from being a man to being a woman, I changed what I identified as,” etc.)

The Guardian essay says this about Rachel Dolezal:

Dolezal might feel an enormous affinity to blackness – so much that she decided to identify as black – but her decision to occupy that identity is one that was forged through her exposure to black culture, not a fundamental attribute of her existence.

I feel like the Guardian essay engages in the logical fallacy of question-begging: Rachel Dolezal is not black because she is only choosing to identify as black, but trans people are the gender they identify as because they actually are that gender.


Guidelines:

So. At least two trans people (Rimonim and I) will be participating in this thread. Other trans people are welcome, too. However, since this is a thread for people to ask questions which may be shredding, fellow trans people, please participate only if you’re feeling sufficiently callused. Please look after your own resources and do not use up spoons you need for something essential.

Cis people are welcome, too (indeed, essential to the effort, since your questions are explicitly centered). We would appreciate it if you would make an effort not to be cruel, but we do want this to be a thread where people can interrogate matters like those I mentioned at the top. So, please do the best you can, and if you say something awkward, or poorly-phrased, or weirdly-conceived, we trans people will do our best to engage with it anyway.

All people, please remember that each of us only actually has one perspective. No single person has all the answers, and no single person can embody all of whatever it means to be “trans” or “cis” or “male” or “female” or “bi-gender”, or what-have-you.

Lived experience counts for a lot. If someone says that something happened to them and you don’t understand it, ask for clarification. DO NOT declare it to be impossible. Example: in a recent online discussion, Dana Beyer, who is an out trans woman who was assigned male at birth, casually referenced a traumatic incident in her life: her first period. Commenters scoffed and declared that it was patently impossible for a trans woman to have a period, and therefore everything she had said was suspect. Had they bothered to try to understand, they could have asked her. Or they could have googled her name and a few keywords, and discovered the key to understanding her comment: that Beyer is Intersex, and when she hit puberty, the unseen and unguessed-at uterine tissue in her abdomen started doing what uterine tissue does, and sloughed tissue… through the only aperture structurally available to it, her penis.

So, please, ALL people: when someone reports a life experience which you don’t understand, strap on your best humility and try, before you render judgement. Thanks.

I really hope we can have a good discussion. Again, welcome.

Grace

  1. I love mint. []
  2. So we’re clear: not just hurt like “that hurt my feelings” (though heaven knows that’s corrosive enough as an hourly diet) but hurt like “those broken bones are going to cost a lot of money and keep me out of work.” []
  3. Hat tip to http://nodesignation.wordpress.com/definitions/ []
  4. and not always cis people []
  5. It is, so that you cannot mistake my meaning, something which trans people experience a very great deal. []
  6. Sometimes that ground is pounded and salted so hard that even well-watered mint won’t take hold; Jan Morris, upon being asked for an interview, is reported to have replied with one sentence: “When I hear the word ‘gender’ I reach for my pistol.” []
  7. at least, not toward the trans person []

373 Responses to The MintGarden- a place to discuss trans people’s gender

  1. 301
    Mandolin says:

    All of which is preface to this: when I write “woman who is trans”, I am using person-first language exactly to emphasize the fact that I am a woman first (and full stop) with the qualifier second, and only there out of necessity, because otherwise I would not have to write it.

    Ah. I don’t think my personal goal would be seeing the descriptor disappear except for necessity, for either gender or disability. (Ben noted above that the disability discourse didn’t have to do with the gender discourse. I disagree, at least for my personal formulation of identity and oppressions.) I would prefer the qualifiers “bipolar” and “non-binary” be moving toward a neutral like “lesbian” or “Jew” or “freckled.”

  2. 302
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Mandolin @301 – while I have issues with person-first language, I do think there’s a crucial difference between the descriptors “trans” and “non-binary”. “Trans” is treated as a gender, but it isn’t really one. Grace’s gender, I believe based on everything I’ve read here, is “female/woman”. “Trans” is her personal history. I have drawn an analogy between transgenderness and immigration in other aspects , and I think it’s really apt here. I am not ashamed of being an immigrant, and in many contexts I’m quite happy for it to come up, but generally, if you ask me for my current nationality, I feel more comfortable answering “British” than say “I’m a Briton who is an immigrant” or “Immigrant British”.

  3. I just want to say that, as usual, I am learning from these discussions. Thanks!

  4. 304
    Mandolin says:

    Eytan – oh, sure. I don’t bring up that I’m Jewish all the time either, or that I’m non-binary.

    I would be quite pleased for both immigrant and trans to be seen as neutral or positive histories.

    I like trans cultural stuff. But I guess you’re right. It’s at least to some extent a reaction to oppression. And those subcultures change, and often fade, when oppression is no longer a uniting force. And unlike immigrants, there isn’t a place of origin to keep feeding the identity. That’s just… life, I guess. Trade offs.

    I guess it made an impact on me when a trans woman in this space said that trans people are often sort of… allergic to the current gender system. So am I. I’m used to thinking of that as a way in which we share the world, but it’s not exactly, and I shouldn’t overmap the similarities by projecting what I need onto binary trans people.

    That’s a little lonelier, somehow. This thread keeps making me tear up.

    Anyway, thanks, your point is taken.

    I apologize for not already understanding.

  5. 305
    Mandolin says:

    I may flake out of the discussion now. It’s taking a lot out of me.

  6. 306
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Mandolin – it was not my intention be a cause of stress (nor was it my intention to speak for Grace, which re-reading my post I worry that I was doing to some extent), just to contribute my own current thinking in my ever-evolving understanding of gender and of trans issues. I apologise if my contributions made things harder for you.

  7. 307
    Medea says:

    J. Squid: I’ve told you that it affects me and given you some idea of how, in this and the thread I participated in last year. You refuse to believe me. Or you simply don’t care. And this has no parallel with marriage equality, which doesn’t reinforce any form of oppression. I find your fight to prevent women from being allowed to define ourselves and set our own boundaries controlling and cruel.

    Grace:

    So, yeah. Some people who are trans act like entitled assholes. But, with apologies to Theodore Sturgeon, some people from ALL groups act like entitled assholes.

    Yes, but there are patterns of assholish behavior. I hate the “mass shootings are all about white male rage!” think pieces, since according to Mother Jones only 64 out of 114 mass shooters have been white and “rage” doesn’t cover everything that needs to be covered. The fact that 110 of those shooters have been male, and most of the perpetrators of certain types of mass shooting have been white, remains significant.

    Politically progressive people will generally acknowledge that females have a right to exclude cis men from whatever they please, as long as it remains within the law. Such exclusion is necessary to retain women’s control over our struggle against patriarchy. When nothing necessarily differentiates a male who identifies as a man from a male who does not identify as a man apart from that statement of identity, why are we permitted to exclude one but not the other?

    Mandolin: Okay.

  8. 308
    J. Squid says:

    When nothing necessarily differentiates a male who identifies as a man from a male who does not identify as a man apart from that statement of identity, why are we permitted to exclude one but not the other?

    Because there are clear differentiations between a male who identifies as a man and one who does not. That you refuse to acknowledge that is problematic in more ways than one.

    The fact that Grace has transitioned at some point in her life does not effect you, nor do the transitions of tens of thousands of others. That you’ve run into some assholes among women who have transitioned is no basis for a form of government.

    Your refusal to acknowledge trans women as women – under any circumstance – certainly parallels the anti marriage equality position. That you can’t or won’t see that is also problematic in several ways.

    Your refusal to acknowledge that trans people are also an oppressed group reveals the depths of your refusal to acknowledge trans people as the gender they have transitioned to. Maybe we can pray the female out and get them back to their natural state?

    Your refusal to acknowledge MtF transition as a real and valid thing (while ignoring FtM transitioners) is, it appears, the root of your opposition. If men cannot really transition to be women, of course they’re infiltrating feminism. Probably to undermine women because they are, at heart, all misogynists. It’s bizarre conspiracy theory reasoning and simply not to be taken seriously.

    Since it’s impossible to convince conspiracy theorists of their error, I’m done here, too.

  9. 309
    Grace Annam says:

    Medea:

    When nothing necessarily differentiates a male who identifies as a man from a male who does not identify as a man apart from that statement of identity, why are we permitted to exclude one but not the other?

    What minimum criterion or criteria would you, personally, find acceptable to differentiate a woman who is trans from a man who is cis?

    Separately, is there anything which would enable you to welcome a woman who is trans into a woman-only space, and if so, what is that?

    Grace

  10. 310
    Lauren says:

    Politically progressive people will generally acknowledge that females have a right to exclude cis men from whatever they please, as long as it remains within the law. Such exclusion is necessary to retain women’s control over our struggle against patriarchy. When nothing necessarily differentiates a male who identifies as a man from a male who does not identify as a man apart from that statement of identity, why are we permitted to exclude one but not the other?

    If there really was no difference between cis men and trans women, people wouldn’t constantly be afraid of being “tricked” into seeing trans women as women. “trans-panick” would not be considered an acceptable excuse for violence. And regarding “women only spaces”, I am pretty sure that those spaces often exclude some women. For example, a group that aims to support female rape survivors would probably ask women who slut shame to leave. A group of women fighting for reproductive justice would not allow anti-choice women to participate. Because excluding people who are fighting against the goals of the group make sense. Exclude people for what they do, not what they are. So, if a hypothetical trans woman entered a feminist, women only space and told the butch women taking part in a discussion about sexism that they don’t count because they are not feminine enough, kick that woman out. Not because she is trans, but because of what she does. That works to preserve the safe space. I would also kick out a cis woman who told a butch women that she needed to wear lipstick to be consiered a woman. Actions, not identities.

    Also, this whole “they want to infiltrate to undermine feminism”-theory…Cis men are in an extraordinary position of power over women (leaving aside, for a moment, the complications of overlapping oppression based on race ect.) That power allows them to fight against progress of womens rights. Trans women, no matter what privileges they might have had in the past (and whether “male privilege” is a term that can really and always be applied to girls/ women who are misgendered as boys/ men by society until they transition seems highly debateable), do not have that power. You can not seriously look at the reports of workplace and housing discrimination, violence and outright murder, not to mention daily microaggressions and prejudices and tell me that trans women have the same privilege and power that cis men have. Because while they may not be respected as “real woman” by everybody, society certainly doesn’t regard and treat them as men. So if the goal was really to use power against women…why would they give up that power? What mystical new and better power do they supposedly gain by being accepted as women that is bigger than the power of cis men?

  11. 311
    J. Squid says:

    That’s a great comment, Lauren.

  12. 312
    Medea says:

    The fact that Grace has transitioned at some point in her life does not effect you, nor do the transitions of tens of thousands of others.

    Anything that promotes the idea of a womanly soul or feminine essence affects me, and the politics and practices of trans people affect me. Vancouver City Council’s decision to terminate an annual grant to the Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter because the shelter didn’t accept a trans woman for a volunteer position is not the consequence of private and personal decisions that don’t affect anyone else. As the organization itself said in a statement, it’s “an attempt to undermine our autonomy as a women’s group — to decide who we serve, who our membership is and who we organize with — also undermines the protections the law has granted us.”

    Your refusal to acknowledge that trans people are also an oppressed group reveals the depths of your refusal to acknowledge trans people as the gender they have transitioned to. Maybe we can pray the female out and get them back to their natural state?

    Being oppressed for being gender-nonconforming is not the same thing as being oppressed for being female, and no gender critical feminist is arguing that males need to be masculine.

    Lauren:

    Exclude people for what they do, not what they are.

    Do you think that POC organizations should be required to accept white people? Do you think that disability groups need to include and center abled people?

    You speak of loss of privilege, but it’s a partial loss. There are specific forms of discrimination lobbied at trans people that are not lobbied at cis people, but there are also specific forms of oppression that apply to females and not males.

    Grace:

    I’m finding it hard to separate your two questions from each other It depends on the circumstances and consequences of that differentiation. If an organization excludes cis men for reasons of safety, that has to apply to all males, because any man can say “Oh, but I don’t identify as a man.” If a women’s health clinic has chosen to focus on the female body because it’s been overlooked by mainstream male-dominated medicine, they should continue to focus on that instead of widening their scope to encompass the male body for the sake of being inclusive.

    If it’s a social group like the knitting circle, then the answer is roughly “not behaving in a way that’s oppressive”, but that’s subjective and up for individual groups to decide based on the social dynamic that they have and want. I can see many trans women fitting in quite nicely with many women’s groups, but there are some cis men who would fit in nicely with those same groups, and it should be the free choice of the people running the space. They are not morally obliged to exchange a single-sex space for a mixed-sex space.

  13. 313
    Grace Annam says:

    Medea:

    If an organization excludes cis men for reasons of safety, that has to apply to all males, because any man can say “Oh, but I don’t identify as a man.”

    This happens never or almost never, depending on whom you believe. Trans people are roughly 1% of the population. In the United States, that means that there are about 3 million trans people. Roughly half of those are women. Trans people face huge rates of poverty (~29%), homelessness (~30% lifetime, ~12% in the last year), and unemployment (~3 times the rate in the general population). Trans women bear the brunt of all of that, especially trans women of color.

    Trans people surely need access to shelter services. If ~12% of trans women have been homeless in the last year, then ~180,000 trans women have been in need of shelter services in the last year.

    How many times per year does a man insincerely claim a non-male gender identity in order to gain access to woman-only space, or non-male space? (Don’t point to the Vancouver case: that was over a year ago, and the claimant appears to be sincere in her assertion of her gender identity.)

    When you say, “…that has to apply to all males”, how are you defining “males”? Assignment at birth? Would you exclude Jazz Jennings or Nicole Maines from a women’s shelter? Testosterone exposure during puberty? Would you exclude Isis King from a women’s shelter? XY chromosomes? Are we going to karyotype every person who seeks admittance to a women’s shelter, and then exclude women with CAIS (of whom there are about 6000 in the United States)? What standard do you propose to differentiate men from women?

    Grace

  14. 314
    lurker23 says:

    J. Squid says:
    August 7, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Please ennumerate the effect that Sam’s self identification as a man or a woman or non-binary has on your life.

    i do not understand how this is really a question. do you mean it to be true or a joke? it is not hard to answer. i will pretend sam identifies as a woman and you identify sam as a man.

    first anything can think what they want in their head, it will not have things to do with your life and you do not need to know. if you identify sam as a man it will not affect sam at all, sam will not know, if sam identifies as a woman it will not affect you at all, you do not know either. you and sam both should not care.

    second is talking. as soon as sam and you talk then it will have things to do with you and sam. maybe you will care that sam thinks about sam as a woman. maybe sam will care that you think of sam as a man, sam will probably care. maybe you care, i don’t know why you would care, maybe you are religious and upset?

    next is social talking. maybe sam cares very much about you keeping secrets about sams life, or not using an earlier name or even pretending that there never was an earlier name or any time when sam was different. maybe sam thinks you have to never say whether or not you think of sam as a woman. maybe sam cares very much about what words you use to talk about sam, like him or her or ze or ei. maybe sam wants you to keep quiet, or say things that you think are not true. this is one-way, nothing is really helping you, you are just doing work and effort for sam! of course you can do the work or not if you care but you cannot pretend this is not work.

    last one is social other stuff. i think this is a big problem for alot of people!! like maybe you want to give money to help women and you do not want sam to get the money unless you agree that sam is a woman, so you want rules for who gets money and you and sam disagree. or maybe you want special rules for womens sports. or maybe you want rules for prison or homeless shelter or hiring or military or anything else.

    this is not mean. like, you probably do not care if someone lies and says they are white or abled or rich! but i bet you think it is bad if someone lies and pretends that they are poc or disabled or poor to get special places programs or money!

    and you might have no problem with women who want to identify as men and do men stuff like sports, programs, military. but you do not like men who try to get special places programs or money that are made for women.

    and of course if you are a woman yourself you may feel very strong about this, just like a disabled poor poc would be very upset if a rich abled white person took their special spot!

    i do not think it makes sense to ignore the fact that the people who are trying to keep sam out of a women shelter unless sam was born a woman are not trying to care about who is in a men shelter. nobody cares if sam gives up on a women scholarship or gives up on a womens dorm or wants to play a men sport, just like nobody cares if poc disabled poor people pretend to be rich white abled people.

    anyway you can go down the list about the things that sam thinks and you can see how they can affect you, it does not seem hard to me at all. maybe you would not care, but that is not the same as thinking that nobody should care or will care.

  15. 315
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Medea

    If an organization excludes cis men for reasons of safety, that has to apply to all males, because any man can say “Oh, but I don’t identify as a man.”

    Grace is making the case for how your proposed exclusion could be harmful, so I’ll attack this from a different angle.

    I’m curious if your open to changing your mind on this. Imagine a hypothetical world where there were good stats (I realize these stats are hard to obtain now) showing that actually, self-identified lesbians are slightly more violent than trans men. In such a world, would you be willing to ban lesbians from a women’s only space? It seems to me like you should if your true reason for banning transwomen is concern for your safety.

    Perhaps you’d reply with a utilitarian argument- “Jeff, the purpose of this space is to help women, so the utility of including lesbians outweighs any safety risks.” But this begs the question. You’re assuming your conclusion that transwomen don’t fall into the category “women” in this instance, while refusing to acknowledge that there is utility in including them and harm in excluding them. Since there aren’t good stats, you are proceeding to ban transwomen without a statistical justification. What’s your basis for believing that such an exclusion would actually make anyone safer? The other side of the calculus is much easier, your decision to excludes transwomen is obviously hurting people because they are telling you so.

    (as an aside, you may want to consider the implications of groups justifying the exclusion of others by appealing to safety. there are certainly cases where the risk is so real it would be irresponsible not to ban certain groups, but much more often such bans serve as a way of disguising bigotry. trump’s immigration policies wrt muslims and hispanic immigrants comes to mind immediately. muslims really are much more likely to be terrorists than others, but the risk is so small it’s unjust to exclude them as a group, setting aside ethical arguments about collective responsibility)

    Look, I’m sympathetic with some of your arguments. There are spaces where cis women can make a strong case that transwomen shouldn’t be included in women’s spaces, certain women’s sports being obvious examples. Another is the controversy in Canada with the spa service providers being asked to wax genitalia they’d rather not wax. I’m sure there are more. I just don’t think your appeal to safety is one of these cases.

  16. 316
    J. Squid says:

    lurker23,

    Now pretend that you don’t know Sam, have never met Sam and will never meet Sam. Now enumerate the effects on your life of Sam’s gender identification.

  17. 317
    Mandolin says:

    Eytanz – No, it’s just me, I’m a raw nerve on the subject.

    Might be around time to do what at least one friend has been urging me to do and find someone who specializes in talking to people dealing with gender stuff, and do a couple sessions of that.

  18. 318
    lurker23 says:

    J. Squid says:
    August 12, 2019 at 8:18 am

    lurker23,

    Now pretend that you don’t know Sam, have never met Sam and will never meet Sam. Now enumerate the effects on your life of Sam’s gender identification.

    okay! this is not hard either.

    the first three were about sam the person and those will all stop.

    The thinking goes away, i do not think about sam.
    the talking to goes away, i do not talk to sam.
    the talking about goes away almost all the time, unless sam is some sort of really famous person i would never talk about sam with someone else, i will pretend sam is not famous.

    but the fourth one is still there and has not changed. because the fourth one never had to do with sam it had to do with everyone!

    if i do not think sam is a woman and if i put alot of work into thinking that i want to help only women, then i am harmed if sam takes the help for sam.

    this is not about sam though. i also support a special program for poc or disabled people or poor people and i do not think it is okay for someone to pretend to be poor or disabled or poc. so yes i think rachel dolezal did a bad thing but i would say “i do not think it is okay for someone to pretend to be poor or disabled or poc” even if i did not ever meet rachel dolezal and it would still be true. it is not about her.

  19. 319
    J. Squid says:

    You’re only harmed if you refuse to accept Sam as a woman. Sam’s self identification as a woman doesn’t harm you otherwise. So, sure, if you’re a bigot , the fact you won’t be able to practice your bigotry directly on Sam is a possible effect. In my view, that’s a beneficial rather than a harmful effect. But you’re right that is an effect. Another effect is you may one day see a pic of Sam and be offended. Neither of those materially, substantially effect you. But if you take my question slightly less literally and in the context of how that sort of query is meant, generally, in our culture, I think I’m right.

  20. 320
    lurker23 says:

    but this thread is confusing to me. like you have people like medea saying ‘this hurts me if sam does that thing’ and everyone is saying ‘no you are wrong you do not know what hurts you, that is not a problem.’

    are you okay if people do that to sam too? like if sam says ‘it hurts me not to get to play on the womens soccer team’ or ‘it hurts me if you do not use my promoun’ are you okay saying ‘no it does not?’

    and if you talk about who won the olympic decathlon and use the name on the award from long ago are you okay when people say you should not be hurt by it because you have no proof that it will hurt the person you are talking about?

    if not then this is sort of like everyone pretending that their hurt matters and other hurt does not matter or is not real. i do not agree with that.

    i know that if i am against what sam wants, and if i do what i want, that will not make sam happy! but sam also knows that if sam does what sam wants, i will not be happy! that is true, and i do not see why alot of people are maybe saying that it is not true.

    it is not my job to make sam happy. it is not sams job to make me happy.

  21. 321
    J. Squid says:

    You and I are just unable to communicate, lurker. I’d forgotten that and apologize for my attempt. It’s on me that it’s a well established problem between us and that I forgot about it.

    I’m sorry and I’ll try not to let it happen again.

  22. 322
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Lurker, I agree that we have to listen to everyone when it comes to what’s hurting them- I just think it’s unreasonable to take all claims of suffering equally.

    We don’t have to imagine a hypothetical space were black people are excluded due to the fears of white people, because that has happened before. We don’t have to imagine a world were the feelings of a Evangelical parents are crushed when their child comes out as gay. What we have to do is add a layer of rationality to these discussions, because the cliche “all feelings are valid” is mostly just useless drivel that no one actually believes when you start probing the edges of what they’ll accept as valid.

    I think its childish to fear groups of people without something like a rational justification, excepting of course those individuals who are traumatized and need professional help coping with their trauma. There will be exceptions in those cases, but part of learning to cope is developing an understanding about why a fear is irational- a support group of arachnophobes shouldn’t go around telling each other that every spider is equipped with venom that WILL kill them. That’s a shitty support group. We shouldn’t see such a fear as valid, we should see at as a fear to be overcome.

  23. 323
    lurker23 says:

    J. Squid says:
    August 12, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    You and I are just unable to communicate, lurker. I’d forgotten that and apologize for my attempt. It’s on me that it’s a well established problem between us and that I forgot about it.

    haha, maybe not well established if you did not remember and i also did not remember! i have not posted in a while i think. but okay, i will try to remember and not reply to you, sorry and it was fun talking anyway.

    Jeffrey Gandee says:
    August 12, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    Lurker, I agree that we have to listen to everyone when it comes to what’s hurting them

    that is not really what i am saying at all, i am not sure i can say it right though.

    I just think it’s unreasonable to take all claims of suffering equally.

    okay, i think? of course i do not think they are all the same. but i am also okay with thinking that people have really funny things that cause them harm.

    like if you say it causes you alot of personal harm to hear “b**** jenner” and not “caitlin jenner” then i can accept that as true even if it does not cause me harm. but if someone says it causes them harm to share a space with caitlin i can accept that too. i do not think one is true and the other not-true.

    sometimes this looks like it is really a fight of who gets to do the saying of which is more equal and not. and if your rule only works if it is your friend making the saying of who wins, maybe that is not a good rule.

    I think its childish to fear groups of people without something like a rational justification

    okay, but if you want a rule where you cannot be scared of groups without alot of justification then you have to apply that to everyone.

    and if you want a rule where it makes alot of sense to be scared of smaller things then it has another problem. how are you going to make a rule where it is okay if people say it is scary and bad to use the wrong pronoun? but not also okay to be scared of black men and muslims and antifa and alot of other people?

  24. 324
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    okay, but if you want a rule where you cannot be scared of groups without alot of justification then you have to apply that to everyone.

    I try to do that. Believe me, I’m just as annoyed at those who are scared for their physical safety when Ben Shapiro comes on campus as I am at those who fear a transwoman in their bathroom

  25. 325
    Medea says:

    Grace:

    Defining male – the short definition would be “the sex that produces gametes that can fertilize a female.” Infertile males are still members of that sex class; even if they don’t produce viable sperm, they will have other male characteristics and are certainly not female. Intersex people are the only people who can be said to be “assigned male or female at birth” on a somewhat arbitrary basis, and the existence of intersex people doesn’t change the fact that we are a dimorphic species. There is nothing unjust about labelling a child’s sex based on genitals; the injustice lies in assigning different values and expectations and rights to those children.

    The reason this matters is because women’s oppression has its roots in biology, both as a justification (studying would harm our wombs and menstruation is monstrous) and as a basis for exploitation (providing children for our masters).

    Whether a particular intersex person should be allowed into a particular shelter is up to the shelter. What I find odd about your CAIS link is that the article underscores the difference between male and female by stating that the condition is “only clinically significant when it occurs in genetic males (i.e. individuals with a Y chromosome, or more specifically, an SRY gene)”.

    The fact that trans people need–among other things–homeless shelters does not mean that all single-sex shelters need to be turned into mixed shelters to accommodate them. One reason for that is that large percentages of homeless women have endured sexual and domestic violence and are triggered by males regardless of the self-identification of the male–one worker at a mixed-sex shelter described a client who wet herself at night as a result. The discrimination faced by trans women does not justify ending protections for female people. There are subcategories of cis men who also face increased rates of violence and it is not our responsibility to sacrifice ourselves for them, either. You bring up the ridiculousness of karyotyping people to determine entry, but it also seems ridiculous to say that Jazz Jennings gets to be an exception for being highly feminine.

    Following your link inspired me to watch a Jazz Jennings video, and she opens with, “Throughout all of my life people have tried to invalidate my identity and tell me that I’m not a woman, but I feel like I completely represent all of the qualities of femininity” and then talks about being a little diva who gravitated toward girly things. And then later she brings up her “completely girl mind and brain”. And then lists the some of the qualities of femininity: “I’m compassionate, loving, creative, intuitive, but understanding, and I think that’s what being a woman is, having all of those qualities and being that divine feminine goddess” etc. Do you seriously not see why a feminist would object to this? How, contrary to what to what J. Squid keeps insisting, Jennings’s identification as a woman harms me because its foundation is misogyny?

    I don’t know how many times a year a man makes a claim to womanhood to gain access to something because there’s been no study done on it. Here’s one old incident.

    Is Shauna Smith’s identity sincere? How can I say? But this sort of incident is one of the reasons cis women are so twitchy about changing stalls and bathrooms. And if you’re inclined to say, “That’s just one incident,” how many would it take before you took the possibility seriously?

    The above could serve as a partial response to Jeffrey’s comment, which I don’t want to ignore, but I’ve run out of time. I’m willing to be swayed on some things by solid statistics, but it would depend on the situation.

  26. 326
    Ampersand says:

    How, contrary to what to what J. Squid keeps insisting, Jennings’s identification as a woman harms me because its foundation is misogyny?

    What she said is not something that all women who are trans agree with; and it’s also a view of femininity that some (but not all) women who are cis agree with.

    What’s harmful is the ideology about what “femininity” is- and that ideology is harmful coming from either trans or cis people. But rather than opposing the ideology, you’re opposing trans women, including those trans women who oppose that ideology. That makes no sense.

  27. 327
    Grace Annam says:

    Medea:

    There is nothing unjust about labelling a child’s sex based on genitals; the injustice lies in assigning different values and expectations and rights to those children.

    We actually agree, here. When the human is not able to tell you who and what they are, you have to go on the best available evidence. If it were necessary to know a pre-verbal child’s sexual attraction, for instance (I have a hard time thinking of a time you would need to, but for the sake of argument), you could presumptively assume that people with penises will most probably be attracted to people with vaginas, and vice versa.

    …until the child is able to articulate who and what they are. Then, I’m prepared to spin on a dime. And if, as they grow and change and learn, they come to a new understanding of themselves and articulate it, I’ll spin again.

    The reason this matters is because women’s oppression has its roots in biology, both as a justification (studying would harm our wombs and menstruation is monstrous) and as a basis for exploitation (providing children for our masters).

    We agree here, too.

    I’ll add that the targeting of the oppression is not up to the oppressed class. It’s up to the people enacting the oppression. So, for instance, when I transitioned and men started to understand me as a woman, when they were angry with me they no longer called me “asshole” or “son of a bitch” — they started calling me “bitch”, “cunt”, etc, and they started asking if I were “on the rag”. Where before I heard, “fucking women” from misogynistic assholes, now I hear, “fucking women… no offense” (as if that makes it okay).

    What I find odd about your CAIS link is that the article underscores the difference between male and female by stating that the condition is “only clinically significant when it occurs in genetic males (i.e. individuals with a Y chromosome, or more specifically, an SRY gene)”.

    WHAT do you find odd about that? That the medical term of art assigns male and female on the basis of chromosomes or other sex development genes? Why do you find that odd?

    One reason for that is that large percentages of homeless women have endured sexual and domestic violence and are triggered by males regardless of the self-identification of the male…

    If they see them as male, yes. I know. I used to arrest domestic violence perpetrators, the majority of whom were male, and I got the survivors access to support services.

    Women survivors interacted me quite differently once I presented as myself; when I transitioned, literally the first call I went to was a domestic, and since I was the only woman among the officers who responded, the sergeant in charge detailed me to interact with the survivor, a woman, and go over her rights and the services available to her. The perpetrator threw some epithets my way as he was arrested, but the survivor perceived me to be a woman and interacted with me on that basis. Despite the fact that I did not pass very well as cis at that time, it worked out fine. And it continued to be routinely fine; women trusted me and confided in me in a way that they hadn’t, when I presented as male. Some people I interacted with did have a problem with my gender (all of them male), but not one of them was a survivor of domestic violence; no one complained, no one shied away from me, no one objected to someone at the local domestic violence support shelter. My administration actually anticipated this problem, and did some preparation to address it… but it never came up. The fact that it was a non-issue surprised even some cis people who were trans allies.

    And, in conversation with other trans women officers, I have discovered this to be beyond typical, but actually routine, even though a lot of trans women officers are visibly trans. I’m not saying that it is never a problem. But it is simply not the problem people make it out to be. I and other trans female officers know this from our own lived experience.

    Male perps abuse women who are trans, too. Those women then sometimes need services, too. Would you send them to the shelters which are housing the men? Most organizations don’t have the resources for a third shelter which houses only trans and gender nonconforming people; the last time I looked, there was one in the country, and it was in New York City. So, whether that would be ideal or not, in current circumstances, for women who need shelter tonight, further segregation is not an option.

    A few years ago, I asked the director of our local domestic violence shelters if they had seen trans women. They had. I asked how they housed them. She said that they housed them in the group shelters (this particular organization runs several safe houses, rentals, which they move from time to time so that the location stays as confidential as possible, so each house typically hold 4 to 8 women). They explained the situation to the other women in the shelters, and those women welcomed the new arrival. They had had zero problems.

    You bring up the ridiculousness of karyotyping people to determine entry, but it also seems ridiculous to say that Jazz Jennings gets to be an exception for being highly feminine.

    And yet, that’s exactly what would happen. Jazz would get services in a women’s shelter in a heartbeat. I brought up her case partly because she is stereotypically feminine, but also because she meets every other criterion people like to propose, except karyotype: she has lived her entire life since she could speak presenting as herself and being treated as a girl and now a woman (at least by anyone who didn’t know she was trans, and presumably by a majority of those who did); she was never exposed to elevated testosterone during puberty; and she has had genital surgery (which she has chosen to be public about, so I’m willing to mention it).

    We can’t have this conversation at all if we don’t recognize the truth that appearance and presentation matter, any more than we can talk about how women navigate this society without acknowledging the power disparity between women and men.

    Following your link inspired me to watch a Jazz Jennings video, and she opens with, “Throughout all of my life people have tried to invalidate my identity and tell me that I’m not a woman, but I feel like I completely represent all of the qualities of femininity” and then talks about being a little diva who gravitated toward girly things. And then later she brings up her “completely girl mind and brain”. And then lists the some of the qualities of femininity: “I’m compassionate, loving, creative, intuitive, but understanding, and I think that’s what being a woman is, having all of those qualities and being that divine feminine goddess” etc. Do you seriously not see why a feminist would object to this?

    Sure. I’m a feminist. I was raised by a Second-Wave feminist. I don’t think femininity defines womanhood, and I don’t think masculinity defines manhood. They’re statistically correlated, but many women are masculine and many men are feminine, and to tell them that they must conform to different standards in order to be considered authentic is to oppress them.

    I also understand that Jazz Jennings is operating in a social environment where she is constantly called upon, forced, to justify her existence. One of the ways that works with people who know almost nothing about trans people (that is to say, with the vast majority of the population) is to use this stupid, reductive, enraging tool of stereotypical heteronormativity. Yes, it’s good to work toward a society where we don’t have to do this infantilizing shit to be accepted as ourselves, but today, trans women have to buy bread, have to access medical care, have to get and keep jobs and housing. And we get told explicitly how to do it. For example, a friend of mine was told by her therapist that the therapist would not give her a letter authorizing hormone therapy unless she came to the therapy sessions in a skirt or a dress, because, the therapist said, “women wear dresses”. The therapist was a woman, and at the time she uttered those words, that therapist was wearing pants.

    This is the daily reality which trans people must navigate: our access to essentials like food, housing, employment, and medical care is predicated significantly upon performing, to a degree mainly determined by others.

    And I would think that any woman who has ever put on eyeliner and/or lipstick and/or pantyhose when she didn’t want to, in the hope of getting a job she needed, would be able to sympathize.

    And that same woman could (and, in my view, should) celebrate the Price Waterhouse decision which said that sex stereotyping in employment, and differential standards based on sex, was [mostly] illegal.

    As much as you deplore this necessity (and I’m right there with you), can you not acknowledge that it exists?

    The fact that I have been required, implicitly and explicitly, to perform more femininity than I wanted to, is something I have in common with almost all cis women, not something which distinguishes me from them.

    How, contrary to what to what J. Squid keeps insisting, Jennings’s identification as a woman harms me because its foundation is misogyny?

    Jennings’ identification as a woman is not founded in misogyny. It’s innate, and probably founded in neurology. Her enactment of her identification observes forms rooted in misogyny, certainly. She does what she has to in order to get what she needs. It’s not pretty. It’s just life in a toxic culture.

    Jennings’ enactment may harm you in a very diffuse way. But denying Jennings access to life’s essentials harms her in a very direct way. The two are not remotely equivalent. It’s also worth noting that Jennings is not seeking to control your behavior, or anyone else’s; she just wants to have a decent life. People who decry her, though, are seeking to limit her. It seems to me that any time one person seeks to control another, the person seeking control should have to justify very specifically why that control is warranted. And I say this as a retired police officer; in the conduct of my duties I exerted control over many, many people.

    And if you’re inclined to say, “That’s just one incident,” how many would it take before you took the possibility seriously?

    I take the possibility seriously now. The incidence may be low, but humans do bizarre things, and sooner or later, someone, somewhere, will do what you describe. I just think that denying services to ~180,000 annually is a terrible solution to the problem. I think that it’s possible to provide services to both women who are trans and also to women who are cis and hypervigilant around women who are trans.

    I’m willing to be swayed on some things by solid statistics, but it would depend on the situation.

    If even 1% of abused trans women who might need shelter services misbehaved in women’s spaces just once per year, we would have 1800 incidents per year. There is no way that would not get widely reported in the media. And yet, the conservative media, which dearly loves to trumpet such incidents, can find so few of them that they resort to making them up. There don’t appear to be even 18 per year. Even if there were, and only 10% of them got reported, there would still be ~2 per year, and we aren’t seeing even that. But if we were, that would be an annual rate of 0.001%.

    Can you think of any situation where we, as a society, restrict an entire demographic on the basis of behavior that rare?

    Grace

  28. 328
    Grace Annam says:

    Eytan:

    “Trans” is treated as a gender, but it isn’t really one. Grace’s gender, I believe based on everything I’ve read here, is “female/woman”. “Trans” is her personal history.

    (nor was it my intention to speak for Grace, which re-reading my post I worry that I was doing to some extent)

    Eytan, in a forum such as this you can’t speak over someone, and in this case you had it exactly right. So, no worries.

    Grace

  29. 329
    J. Squid says:

    Grace,

    Thanks for comment #327. You’ve made the points I’ve been trying to make. Only with more kindness and patience and knowledge – not to mention personal experience – than I ever could.

    On another note, it’s been really helpful to me going back and reading the original post and all the comments that follow all the way to today. The tenor of the conversation has changed from how it started but, I think, fundamentally, the subject has stayed on track.

  30. 330
    Medea says:

    Ampersand:

    This is indeed a view of femininity that some cis women agree with. Patriarchy could not rule across the world if cis women did not support it. The Sierra Leonean-American activist Fuambai Ahmadu has insisted that female genital cutting is an empowering and important part of her social identity that connects her with her ancestors. I find that reprehensible, but at least if we ever found ourselves in an argument we would be speaking as two members of the group against whom female genital is practised and would have that common ground.

    Grace:

    What I found odd is that I’ve often seen trans advocates stress that the existence of intersex people somehow nullifies the sex binary, whereas the linked article shows how this particular condition only clinically affects one half of that binary.

    I’m guessing that the women you worked with decided that you were different enough from cis men that they would trust you and deal with you in a different manner, which could be but is not necessarily the manner in which they would deal with a cis women. They might also choose to withhold that trust, and I think they have that right.

    She said that they housed them in the group shelters (this particular organization runs several safe houses, rentals, which they move from time to time so that the location stays as confidential as possible, so each house typically hold 4 to 8 women). They explained the situation to the other women in the shelters, and those women welcomed the new arrival. They had had zero problems.

    Perhaps their welcome was entirely without reservations. I can imagine that it might be. I also know of times where a situation was presented with “You’re okay with sharing a bed with Sharon on our trip, right?” and the reply was “oh, of course!” because no one wanted to hurt Sharon’s feelings or leave herself open to accusations of bigotry. There’s a lot of “oh, of course!” in social justice circles in particular, and then later a privately uttered complaint, sometimes prefaced by, “I’m not a TERF, but have you noticed how…?” I’ve been in situations where I’m sure I would be described as totally fine with something I wasn’t totally fine with because I didn’t want to be mean.

    Yes, it’s true that appearance and presentation matter, and that Jazz Jennings would be accepted instantly at any shelter because she looks like she could easily be a cis woman. There will always be people who can pass for something in a way that allows them to cross a boundary. That doesn’t mean that there should be no boundaries.

    I do acknowledge the that trans women are pressured to conform to particular standards of behavior to be accepted as women. I also know that I’ve never seen any discussion of “why I identify as a woman” that went beyond “because I do” that didn’t include some sort of gender essentialism, some sort of identification with those Victorian values, which is not surprising, since once you remove biological sex from your definition, what else is there?

    Jennings’ identification as a woman is not founded in misogyny. It’s innate, and probably founded in neurology. Her enactment of her identification observes forms rooted in misogyny, certainly. She does what she has to in order to get what she needs. It’s not pretty. It’s just life in a toxic culture.

    Her personality is innate. Being the kind of person who is more comfortable with the social role assigned to women than the one assigned to men is innate. Her decision to describe to use the word “woman” to describe herself is not innate. What I object to, and where we’ll never agree, is assigning the the word “woman” to a neurological state. We, the females formerly known as “women”, were told that this reassignment would take place with or without our consent. We were going to be defined according to patriarchal conceptions of womanhood and it was our job to accept that.

    And what do we owe males who feel happier and more comfortable living and presenting as women? You bring up “denying access to life’s essentials”–no trans person should be denied housing or healthcare or a job, unless there’s a reason that job is sex-specific, because they are trans. But you’re still positing that if trans women have a need, for shelter for instance, it’s the job of cis women to accommodate them. I say that we do not, because we are still members of the subordinate sex class and we don’t owe members of the dominant sex class, whether they’re cis or trans, anything beyond respect for their human rights. Respect for human rights might involve support for all-gender and trans-only shelters and other institutions; it does not entail eliminating single-sex spaces and institutions. The Vancouver shelter was the only place in British Columbia that maintained services and shelter for females only–every other shelter that accepted women accepted trans women–and it still had people gunning for it. As someone who worked there said, you don’t need separatist spaces to do everything but you do need separatist organizing, and you have to draw a boundary somewhere.

  31. Medea,

    It’s striking to me how close the underlying assumptions about sex and gender in your position seem to be to those in RonF’s position, as he sort of laid it out here. Granted, the two of you are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but you seem to agree on the broad parameters within which your differences exist.

    So I’d like to engage you in the same thought experiment I proposed to Ron:

    Historically, there have been cases—and I am guessing there still are—in which, because of, say, a botched penile circumcision or some other medical condition, doctors performed gender reassignment surgery on a child with a penis, and that child’s parents then raised it as a girl—meaning, in other words, that all this happened when the child was young enough that she would never know she “should have been” a boy.

    Leaving aside the fact that these cases are deeply problematic for a whole host of reasons, both cultural and medical. Assume for the moment that the reassignment was completely successful and the child grew into an adult who experienced herself as, lived her life unselfconsciously as, was happy with herself as, a woman, albeit an infertile one. Suppose you met that woman and somehow learned her history. Would you insist she was really a man? Would you say such a thing to her face? Would you insist that she be defined as a man under the law? Why or why not?

  32. 332
    lurker23 says:

    rjn, you should start answering your own questions when you ask them, it is more honest that way, there are two positions. you should not do the thing where you assume you are right if you can find problems in the other position, there are usually a problem in both positions, that is why it is good to answer your own questions.

    i will answer but first i think that this is a really weird example though okay. you should answer too though!

    Suppose you met that woman and somehow learned her history. Would you insist she was really a man?

    this is a birth male who had surgery, yes? i would not insist but in my head i would define her as a birth male who had surgery, so trans woman. i do not know if you use “man woman” and “male female” differently? you need to answer that first before i can say more.

    Would you say such a thing to her face?

    i would never try to be rude or to deliberately get in a fight.

    i do not know you but you do not seem like you are an asshole so if i asked you to your face how i look i think you would not say ‘you look ugly and fat’ right? even if i am ugly and fat and even if you think that and even if you acted like it in real life when i was not there then you would lie a little! that is polite. and i am also not an asshole so if someone asks me how i think of them then i would also lie a little and not make them mad. it is polite.

    but if i asked you enough times then you might not want to lie anymore and you might tell me that you actually thought i was ugly or fat. and also if they asked enough times i might not want to lie anymore and i might tell them that i thought they were a trans woman.

    Would you insist that she be defined as a man under the law?

    i would not think of that person at all because the law would probably be general and not specific. i do not think it makes alot of sense to try to make a law that will work perfectly for alot of the really weird cases like this one so when i think of a law i usually try to think of a more general person. also, any law you make will have some people that are not happy with the law, there is no good without bad in law, it is not possible to make everyone happy. so when you see someone say ‘the law is broken because this weird thing does not work in the law’ that is not broken it is just how law is. also there is not “the law” there are alot of laws and they have different things to do with different stuff. i do not know them all.

    but for all of the laws i can think of it seems like the law should treat that person like a woman, and i think all of the laws i know do treat that person like a woman, but there may be things i do not think of. i do not know where there is a line exactly but i think of this on the woman side of the line.

  33. Lurker:

    rjn, you should start answering your own questions when you ask them, it is more honest that way, there are two positions. you should not do the thing where you assume you are right if you can find problems in the other position, there are usually a problem in both positions, that is why it is good to answer your own questions.

    I would think that anyone who has been reading my comments on this issue for any length of time would already know my answer, but since you have asked: I would say the person is a woman, full stop—in the same way that I would say Grace is a woman, full stop—who should therefore be treated as a woman under the law.

  34. 334
    Ben Lehman says:

    It’s worth noting that many people who are non-consensually transitioned early in life (like Richard describes, above) end up transitioning back later in life, sometimes without knowing what was done to them as infants. Almost as if there is something about gender that is internal to the person.

    It’s also worth noting that transphobic reactionary backlash about (say) women’s bathrooms primarily falls on cis women who are simply non-feminine, simply because there are far more non-feminine cis-women than there are trans women of any kind. When transmisogynists get fussy about policing bathrooms, the primary targets of their harassment are cis women who don’t present feminine enough. So supporting (say) bathroom policing is generally “keeping non-feminine women out of women’s spaces.”

    This makes sense from the perspective of the fundamentalist and evangelical anti-feminist groups who form a large swathe of the transmisogynist reactionary movement — butch women are just as much a threat to patriarchal values as trans women. But I do wonder why their putatively feminist allies are so quick to endorse it as well.

  35. 335
    Mandolin says:

    It’s worth noting that many people who are non-consensually transitioned early in life (like Richard describes, above) end up transitioning back later in life, sometimes without knowing what was done to them as infants. Almost as if there is something about gender that is internal to the person.

    There’s the Money case which is very famous. I don’t know if there are other cases you and RJN are pointing to?

  36. 336
    nobody.really says:

    It’s worth noting that many people who are non-consensually transitioned early in life (like Richard describes, above) end up transitioning back later in life, sometimes without knowing what was done to them as infants. Almost as if there is something about gender that is internal to the person.

    There’s the Money case which is very famous. I don’t know if there are other cases you and RJN are pointing to?

    Consider the guevedoces. These kids appear to have female genitals at birth, and so are raised as girls–but acquire male genitals at puberty and tend to develop with typical male features thereafter (although they are often sterile, sometimes don’t develop facial hair, and don’t develop male pattern baldness). News accounts suggest that these kids are drawn to play with boys more than girls even from a young age, and most eventually transition to men, all that female nurturing and socialization notwithstanding.

  37. 337
    nobody.really says:

    To what extent is gendered behavior a function of nature, and to what extent nurture? For example, research demonstrates that from an early age, boys have a greater preference for playing with wheeled toys, while girls are more strongly attracted to dolls.

    Perhaps this is simply be a function of pervasive socialization. But that argument gets harder to maintain when we’re describing the disparate behavior of boy and girl rhesus and vervet monkeys.

  38. 338
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    But that argument gets harder to maintain when we’re describing the disparate behavior of boy and girl rhesus and vervet monkeys.

    It’s worse than that. You’d have to theorize that humans evolved to have fewer behavior differences between the sexes than other apes, but that societies were selected to favor precisely the behavior differences that we evolved out of. It’s a joke really. The idea that I could be built so differently from my wife,but the organ that controls this body, my mind, doesn’t have adaptions that reflect that difference is just downright preposterous. Anyone doubting the “man and women are wired a bit different on average” hypothesis is the one making the extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence, and frankly, the evidence I’m seeing points the other way.

  39. 339
    Mandolin says:

    *wince* The monkey studies are really bad. :(

    I am trying to say this without… damn it, I don’t know. But the solution to “trans people exist please don’t be jerks” can’t be “and little girl monkeys play with contextually meaningless toys.”

    You’re just making other people outsiders here. Plenty of girls never played with the fucking baby dolls, including plenty of trans girls. And they are still girls. Because dolls are a SYMBOL not a GENDER FEATURE.

    I understand you are being as positive and sincere as possible, and that I may be the one who is full of shirt — but I think you would know not to include this kind of study in a thread about the nature of cis womanhood with the implication that it indicated anything significant about the subjective experience of womanhood. I think you’d see the way in which it reinforces and narrows concepts of what womanhood can be — that it is attempting to define, on a biologically predetermined level, people with different interests as either non-female or abnormal.

    Jesus goddamn christ, I don’t have a cheetah penis sheath or gnaw off male partners’ heads when I’m not given sufficient space either.

    Noting: I am not seeing this argument advanced by the people I know to be trans women here who have been very clear that girls-like-pink-because-berries is not a good descriptor of trans or cis experience.

    Further noting: The question of “what harm can the side of the angels in this conversation have on gender non-conforming cis and trans women” can be answered here — the harm is in the well-meaning but factually dodgy reinforcement of gender stereotypes in service of an attempt to create understanding and support for trans people. I refuse to be baited into the “let’s you and them fight” pit on this question that so many TERFs are happy to wallow in. The people who are wrong on gatekeeping out trans women who won’t wear heels are the gatekeepers, not the trans women. And shitty evolutionary psychology is on the shitty evolutionary psychologists, not people of any gender who like dolls. Or who don’t.

    Apparently I’m not staying off this thread so maybe I need to be off the blog for a while.

  40. 340
    nobody.really says:

    *wince* The monkey studies are really bad. :(

    Are they? I hadn’t heard. But I’d be interested in learning more.

    I was responding to Richard Jeffrey Newman’s hypothetical about a biologically male child being socialized as female, and noting that in the great nature/nurture debate, there are strong indications that nature plays a major role. From this I conclude that trans people–who generally have been socialized as someone of the opposite gender–similarly identify with their (new) gender as an expression of their nature. This is not simply a manifestation of socialization (“today’s permission culture, blah, blah….”).

    (Since lurker asks that people respond to Newman’s hypothetical, let me add:

    1. I strive to practice E-Prime–which gives me special vegan powers to sidestep questions about whether a person IS male or IS female.

    2. That said, Newman’s hypothetical concludes with the assumption that the person in question identifies as female. For most purposes, I defer to people’s self-identification–and thus, for most purposes, the rest of the hypothetical doesn’t matter.

    That said that said, because I eschew categorical thinking, the fact that I defer to people’s self-identity governs only the manner in which I address them. It does not, for example, impede me from disclosing a person’s history of transitioning to the emergency medical technician who was loading her unconscious body into an ambulance. It does not govern what I think about assignments for bathrooms, locker rooms, prisons, competitive sporting events, or qualifying as one of the last two humans to escape our imploding planet. Each issue has its own dynamics, warranting its own considerations.)

  41. 341
    Medea says:

    RJN:

    If you’re referring to Ron’s comment #154, yes, I mostly agree with him, though I don’t share his distrust of authoritarianism–at least, not as he means it. Responding to your thought experiment, I would say that she was male, and that her body, while altered, was not a female body. Given her unique life circumstances I would accommodate her in the “woman” category socially, because it seems like the least fraught solution, especially knowing that her decision to claim “woman” as an identity was entirely innocent; i.e. she believed herself to be female. I maintain that females and not males have the right to accept or not accept someone as a woman. I also maintain that you can make exceptions for tiny numbers of people that you can’t make for larger numbers of people. If every baby boy born in 2019 had for some reason been subjected to genital surgery, the situation would require a different solution, with a different word to describe them.

    Ben:

    It’s also worth noting that transphobic reactionary backlash about (say) women’s bathrooms primarily falls on cis women who are simply non-feminine, simply because there are far more non-feminine cis-women than there are trans women of any kind. When transmisogynists get fussy about policing bathrooms, the primary targets of their harassment are cis women who don’t present feminine enough.

    This wouldn’t have been so much of an issue were it not for the push to eliminate single-sex bathrooms.

  42. I am on my phone and so am not going to try to respond at length, but, if I’m reading people’s responses to my thought experiment correctly, it seems to me they’re taking it out of the context in which I offered it and it feels to me, though I could be wrong, that this is taking the conversation in a whole other direction.

  43. 343
    Andrea Ferguson says:

    Nobody.really here is an in depth criticism of the vervet study.

    http://mixingmemory.blogspot.com/2006/04/monkeys-playing-with-boys-and-girls.html

    You can also find more criticism in Cordelia Fine’s Delusion of Gender and Rebecca M. Jordan-Young’s Brain Storm

  44. 344
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    but I think you would know not to include this kind of study in a thread about the nature of cis womanhood with the implication that it indicated anything significant about the subjective experience of womanhood.

    How can you be so sure of this? We don’t get to experience what it’s like to be another person, and can’t possibly understand how our biology, including biology related to our sexual characteristics, is upstream of our experience.

    Maybe you don’t care much about baby monkeys and toys, but it’s less hard to believe that a group of male chimps, embarking on a mission to seek out, kill, and eat a vulnerable chimp from a rival tribe, experience the world differently from the female chimps who don’t exhibit this behavior.

  45. 345
    J. Squid says:

    … but it’s less hard to believe that a group of male chimps, embarking on a mission to seek out, kill, and eat a vulnerable chimp from a rival tribe, experience the world differently from the female chimps who don’t exhibit this behavior.

    Why do we think that this is purely biologically caused behavior? Do we know the history and development of chimpanzee culture? If there is a biological cause, how do we know it’s not just hormonal? Have we used testosterone blockers on chimpanzees we’ve witnessed exhibiting this behavior so we could compare the before and after effects of reducing testosterone?

    You state it as if the behavior is a simple act of biology with no history, no society/culture, no personal ethics or morals involved. You’ve assumed that chimpanzees have none of these things and that’s an important assumption that you expect us to accept without question.

    But, yeah, bringing apes and monkeys into a discussion about womanhood, cis and trans, complete with the assumptions you must have to find these examples important, is pretty weird and, at the least, demonstrates a lack of empathy.

    But maybe that’s just me. I have been known to jump straight to outrage on occasion.

    (Note for clarity: This comment is criticism of your recent comments.)

  46. 346
    Ampersand says:

    I’ve moved a couple of comments, both discussing the monkeys playing with toys studies, to the current open thread.

  47. 347
    Grace Annam says:

    Over at this open thread, RonF wrote:

    Re. #2:

    When we try to set firm limits on who’s allowed to identify as a woman, or what women are allowed to look like, cisgender women invariably suffer too.

    That might come as news to the increasing number of female athletes who are losing competitions to men claiming female identity and competing as women.

    Cite whom you mean, Ron, so that we can have a discussion about specifics. Thank you.

    Grace

  48. 348
    Ampersand says:

    the increasing number of female athletes who are losing competitions to men claiming female identity and competing as women.

    Ron, first and foremost, it’s the policy of this blog that trans women are not referred to as “men claiming female identity” or anything similar. So if this is a reference to trans women, then the language you’re using for it is not permitted on this blog. (If Grace wants to permit that on this thread, of course I’d defer to her. But that would only be on this thread, not on “Alas” in general).

    Also:

    1. The term “increasing number” is so unspecific that it’s meaningless: if the number used to be zero, and then it happens one time anywhere, you could claim that there’s an “increasing number.”

    2. If you meant that there’s a significant problem of cis men claiming to be female, winning women’s competitions, then going back to living life as men, I call bullshit.

    3. If you mean there’s a status quo in which trans women are dominating women’s sports, again, I call bullshit. Trans athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2003. In all that time, has a single trans women won an Olympic medal? Not that I know of.

    The two most famous examples I’ve seen are:

    a) A photo of some female runners with short hair, very developed musculature, basically zero body fat, and long limbs. People are claiming, based solely on the photo, that the runners are men. But actually, a lot of elite female runners look like that. This is a good example of how transphobes end up policing the ways that all women, cis or trans, are permitted to act and look.

    b) A biker who lost a couple of bike races to a trans woman complained that the trans woman had an unfair advantage. But in the 13 races the two have been in together, the cis woman beat the trans woman 11 times. This isn’t a case of a trans woman having an unfair advantage; it’s a case of a sore loser attacking the winner.

  49. 349
    J. Squid says:

    The two most famous examples I’ve seen are:…

    I think the most famous current case is not a trans woman at all. It’s Caster Semenya who, depending on your source may be intersex or, perhaps, a woman with particularly high levels of typically male hormones.

    I have a hard time believing RonF was referring to anybody else. If it is Caster Semenya who RonF had in mind, in addition to his blithe dismissal of trans people, he’s also erasing/invalidating the existence of women like her – women who do not meet the restrictions of the conservative definition of woman.

    I am, as may be guessed, disgusted by this behavior being demonstrated by somebody who is intimately familiar with this blog and its posters and commenters.

  50. 350
    Gracchus says:

    “I am, as may be guessed, disgusted by this behavior being demonstrated by somebody who is intimately familiar with this blog and its posters and commenters.”

    This is why I don’t participate in this discussion.

    With due respect to Amp, I think giving cis people a space to speculate about trans issues is only going to end badly, even with the best will in the world for everybody involved. There are spaces to discuss trans issues, and they are trans spaces. And that’s all the discussion that’s needed. There are plenty of other issues for cis people to discuss. If a cis person feels like they have a burning need to give their opinion on cis issues, I think it’s more productive for them to interrogate where this compulsion comes from than to give it free reign – even within a dedicated space with clear rules, it won’t go well.

  51. 351
    J. Squid says:

    I think giving cis people a space to speculate about trans issues…

    If you think what RonF did was “speculating about trans issues”, I’ve got a totally not anti-semitic Nazi to sell you. I think what RonF did was to announce loudly, clearly, unmistakably that he has no respect or care or consideration for the members of this blog community and they can go fuck themselves.

    But, hey! opinions may differ.

  52. 352
    Eytan Zweig says:

    @350 – But this isn’t “a space to discuss trans issues” in the same way a trans space is. It’s a space to for cis people and trans people to jointly discuss cis people’s perceptions and reactions to trans people, and trans people’s responses. As long as trans people share a world with cis people, that’s going to be something worth having. Because any relationship, on any level, involves at least two parties, and the relationship between trans people (as a group) and cis people (as a group) involves both cis people and trans people. Which isn’t to say that you should participate if you don’t want to, of course.

    And it is definitely not any sort of justification to speak the way RonF did. But any open discussion space, on any topic, is going to involve people acting in bad faith.

  53. 353
    nobody.really says:

    In case anyone cares, we began discussing trans-gendered athletes beginning back around Comment #99.

  54. 354
    Gracchus says:

    “But any open discussion space, on any topic, is going to involve people acting in bad faith.”

    Well, that’s precisely my point. Bring in cis people, and you inevitably bring in people of bad faith. I am actually kind of impressed it took this long, because it was inevitable.

  55. 355
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Well, yes, but there’s a difference between “a person of bad faith came in” and “the discussion ended badly”, because that depends a lot on how the person of bad faith is received. Speaking as a cis person myself, I come to this particular discussion to listen to trans people, and I don’t think a cis person who posts in bad faith should be treated as anything but a bad example.

    (It’s worth noting that trans people are not immune to bad faith, even on trans issues. There’s a chat room devoted to a game I play where I have witnessed a person who, on various occasions, identified as a trans woman, and who liked to make misogynistic jokes and rant against SJWs, claimed they liked being trans as that gave them social capital among liberals, and denied the existance of transphobia as a real concern. I’m assuming that if that person wandered in to a trans space, they’d be treated much like a cis person of bad faith would be treated here).

  56. 356
    lurker23 says:

    do people think number is not increasing? i think there is obviously increase in number of open trans people because there is alot more more social okayness for trans people, even if you think it is not enough there is alot more than there was 10 years or 20 years ago. and if there are more open trans people then of course more open trans people will do sports.

    i do not think that what alot of people talk about is good when it is about some of the famous trans people and sports, caster can be very bad, but i also think it is silly to talk as if this is not a something that is more general.

    and it is definitely silly to talk as if the only thing matters is olympics, almost nobody does olympics! and also alot of the olympic people i think are also very known at a small age alot of the time, picking and training is hard, so i think there can be a long time between when something starts to happen in sports and when it shows up in the olympic sport.

    i do not know details of alot of people but i read rachel mckinnon twitter, she is the trans woman biker, and i read science of sport twitter, he is a scientist, and fond of beetles twitter, she is also a scientist, and i think they are all very interesting even though they do not agree.

    i have seen alot more than caster. , i think i remember reading about a weightlifter and a cricket player and a high school runners and a college runner and a rugby player and a boxer. and that is only what i remember

    but also there are probably alot of other people who we do not see, they are also important, that is true for everything.

  57. 357
    J. Squid says:

    … caster can be very bad…

    I have, literally, no idea what this phrase means. But that’s not important. What is important is that Caster Semenya is not a trans woman. RonF (Maybe. We can’t know until he responds. And, possibly, you? I can’t tell) calling her a trans woman proves the validity of the linked argument (in that link farm). He (and you? I think so, but I don’t trust my interpretation of your writing) are doing exactly what the link says will happen by legalizing discrimination against trans women. That is to say, legalized discrimination against trans women necessarily limits the definition of woman and will make discrimination against cis women who do not meet the narrow definition legal and inevitable, as well.

    Maybe RonF (and you? Who can say?) can explain exactly why Caster Semenya and many other cis women are men. It’s a position that is irrational, inconsistent and, yes, bigoted against any woman outside of a very arbitrary and restrictive definition.

    I’ve already gone over my self imposed limit of responses to you (zero), but I thought that your comment required a response showing how the inclusion of Caster Semenya makes the absurdity and prejudice inherent in that position obvious.

    “I can’t tell you what a woman is, but I know it when I see it,” is not a sufficient standard in the real world. Nor is, “I can’t tell you what a trans woman is, but I know it when I see it.”

    My apologies if I’ve completely misinterpreted what you are trying to say. That possibility is why I do try to limit my interactions with you.

  58. 358
    Gracchus says:

    “Speaking as a cis person myself, I come to this particular discussion to listen to trans people”

    I am all for listening to trans people, but that is the thing, unless I am misreading the purpose of this forum, it is intended to be one where the listening goes two way, where cis people listen to trans people, but also trans people listen to cis people. It is that second part which has the potential to cause problems, and indeed, has caused problems.

    It is true that trans people may act in bad faith but this is something that the trans community is more than capable of dealing with internally. Cis people do not need to be part of conversations to solve that problem.

    TO me, as a cis person, I just dont feel like I can bring anything to a discussion of trans identity. And I have to say I would really side eye a cis person who felt that they could bring something because, even with all the goodiwll in the world, where is this information coming from? At best, a cis persons opinions will be the information they got from a trans person, so why not let that trans person speak for themselves rather than through a cis interlocutor? So I guess I am just confused as to why we need a forum to discuss trans identities where cis people chip in. At best it adds nothing, at worst, it adds something malevolent as we have recently seen.

  59. 359
    Eytan Zweig says:

    So, to paraphrase Lurker23’s post:

    “How can you say there aren’t more trans athletes? I have no data, but I vaguely remember a bunch of nameless athletes who I can’t give sources to! Oh, and I do know the name of one cis female athlete who is sort of masculine! But I don’t remember any trans athletes from the past, so I definitely don’t think they existed.”

    That makes perfect sense; I mean, there are definitely more members of the US senate than there were 50 years ago. After all, I definitely remember hearing about a few current senators, and I can’t remember hearing about a single senator from 50 years ago. Oh, and Donald Trump is an American politican and he’s in the news all the time, so that’s definitely evidence that there are more senators now.

  60. 360
    lurker23 says:

    i do not think that what alot of people talk about is good when it is about some of the famous trans people and sports, caster can be very bad

    means the way people talk about caster can be very bad. caster is not trans of course, i was trying to talk about the things people say that are not good, that is true, there are alot of those things but it does not mean that the talk about trans people and sport should not happen anyway.

    My apologies if I’ve completely misinterpreted what you are trying to say. That possibility is why I do try to limit my interactions with you.

    its okay, but maybe if you are not sure you can ask? i think you can see that i will answer.

    “I can’t tell you what a woman is, but I know it when I see it,” is not a sufficient standard in the real world. Nor is, “I can’t tell you what a trans woman is, but I know it when I see it.”

    i do not know if you mean to post this for me? i did not say anything like that so it is a funny thing to use a quote for.

    even if you think i said something different, i do not think that is is good to make up things like i said them, and then argue against them. you should talk about what i did say.

  61. 361
    J. Squid says:

    i did not say anything like that so it is a funny thing to use a quote for.

    It’s in quotes to make it clear that it’s a phrase meant to describe a position and not something I actually say or believe. I use the blockquote to quote comments from others – as I did in the comment you are responding to and as I have done in this comment to highlight a quote from #360.

  62. 362
    lurker23 says:

    eytan, do you think i am making it up? it took only a minute to find an link that has alot of them but this is not the place i saw it first. i named one of them, the biker, who has a twitter than i read. i also said two other twitters that have alot of links, mayve you should look.

    here is something fast, even though i do not really like links like this, i do not think this place is nice, but it is fast to copy it here and it has some of the names you want.

    https://standpointmag.co.uk/issues/september-october-2019/trans-trailblazers-leave-women-bruised/

  63. 363
    Eytan Zweig says:

    I don’t think you are making anything up, lurker23, and my apologies if that came across.

    But – without the snark this time – my point is that to make a point about historical change you need to give actual evidence about the state of the past too. And just claiming that there must have been fewer because there was less societal acceptance of trans people isn’t evidence, it’s speculation. I can also speculate that there were trans atheletes in the past but less societal understanding of trans people meant that they weren’t recognised as such. My speculation isn’t any better than yours, but it’s no worse either, and neither tells us much about what actually happened 20 years ago or prior.

    Similarly, the article you quote isn’t actual evidence that there are more trans athletes now, just that there is more institutional regulation of their trans status, and that there is a debate about that.

  64. 364
    Celeste says:

    In case anyone cares, we began discussing trans-gendered athletes beginning back around Comment #99.

    Comment 99 was also RonF’s one and only comment on this post, back in August 2015.

    It’s a familiar pattern. Then as now, he posted some easily debunked nonsense and then disappeared completely when people started debunking it. He was asked questions, and did not reply. There was a discussion, which he did not participate in.

    This does not feel like a good faith discussion to me.

  65. 365
    lurker23 says:

    i do not know what you think is evidence? if you live in the world it is clear there are more open trans people and more gender doctors and more everything? the number of teenagers who are trans and see gender doctors is much more than it was. there are articles about it everywhere.

    sometimes you talk like you know what is real in the world and read alot about trans? other times you sound like maybe you are pretending not to know anything? like if you really think there are the same number of trans athletes now as 20 years ago you should say so and then we can both talk about evidence, but i think you know that is not true.

    or maybe you mean the people are the same, like they were trans all the time and the number is the same and what is different is just that they are open and talking to a doctor? that is maybe true!

    but for sports it has always been about the doctor and so in sports the changes are big.

    as young as high school, maybe younger, they used to be looking at doctor certificates and they would not let male certificate people on womens teams. and olympic needed surgery, too, (i think but i am not sure). even now places like texas make you have a birth certificate and so things like a trans boy and they are making the boy wreslte on the womens team because no birth certificate change (that is a very rare because usually the problems come from going the other way with trans girls or trans women, but texas is not always making good choices i think.)

    but texas was what it was always like everywhere! 20 years ago, everyone needed certificate and so there were not alot of trans women playing a sport.

    (this is usually a fight about trans women and not trans men, because trans women play in a special league. womens sport is there because otherwise women would not usually win much if at all. of course there are lots of things where women are better then men, in life!! but because sports are usually about big and strong and fast, women are not usually better than men at very many things in sports. and so you have lower volleyball nets and smaller basketballs and lighter shotputs and javelins, and smaller people, and slower runners, and shorter golf courses and lighter weight lifters. maybe you can find your own evidence on this but if you look at things you will see that mostly the top women in the world are close to teenager boys. and this is not only true for top olympic sports, it goes all the way down after puberty is done. so the us women soccer team will scrimmage a top team of teenage boys and it would be a fair game, also the womens soccer team ranked 1000 in the world would also scrimmage the team of teenage boys ranked 1000 in the world and it would be a fair game.)

    this is about rules. the big change is that the olympic committee changed a rule, and also other places are changing rules too. and that is a big change of course. if you need a new doctor certificate or need to go to court it is harder. if it is only about what you say then there are alot of trans people who will play sports because it is easier. i think only a small number get surgery and court for a new ceritifacte, i do not know but probably not more than 5%. so in old days maybe 95% of trans women were not playing sports as women. now all of them can play in any sport where you self declare. that is why there are more trans people in sports.

    there is more institutional regulation of their trans status, and that there is a debate about that.

    i think you have this backward, there is NOT more regulation, there is less regulation! all of the regulation was in the birth papers for man or woman and so the sports did not have to do alot of regulation because the paper and doctor and court regulation was there instead. but paper doctor court regulation was really alot of hard regulation!! now that rule changed and they do not need doctor and court to say a new sex. so the sports have to do regulation on their own. but the sport regulation is easier, it is not as hard at all as the doctor court paper regulation. so it is not as much regulation in the end.

  66. 366
    Grace Annam says:

    Gracchus:

    I am all for listening to trans people, but that is the thing, unless I am misreading the purpose of this forum, it is intended to be one where the listening goes two way, where cis people listen to trans people, but also trans people listen to cis people. It is that second part which has the potential to cause problems, and indeed, has caused problems.

    I don’t think it’s possible to have a productive conversation, with mutual understanding, without mutual listening. But sometimes cis people want to bring something up about trans people — usually something which at least tangentially implicates the validity of a trans person’s assertion of gender — and trans people are on their last nerve , and so the cis people’s curiosity becomes a barrier to trans people’s participation.

    The MintGarden is an attempt to enable cis people to have that conversation, but only with the trans people who have the footing and the bandwidth to deal. Otherwise, at a ratio of about 50:1, even well-intentioned cis people operating in good faith could overwhelm trans people.

    I think it’s a valuable conversation, but only if it does not cost trans people their safety. So, trans people can choose to participate here, or not. I often do, because I moderate the space, but I am also explicit sometimes that I have run out of bandwidth and then I choose not to reply, because I need my energy for tasks of daily living.

    TO me, as a cis person, I just dont feel like I can bring anything to a discussion of trans identity. And I have to say I would really side eye a cis person who felt that they could bring something because, even with all the goodiwll in the world, where is this information coming from? At best, a cis persons opinions will be the information they got from a trans person, so why not let that trans person speak for themselves rather than through a cis interlocutor? So I guess I am just confused as to why we need a forum to discuss trans identities where cis people chip in. At best it adds nothing, at worst, it adds something malevolent as we have recently seen.

    Well, cis people can bring questions. That can be useful. They can also bring observations, and that can also lead to learning, which I have seen happen here at Alas.

    But, also there are other reasons why sometimes it works well for allies to speak. Sometimes, when trans/GNC people speak for themselves, people can’t hear them, often because of their own embedded transphobia and homophobia. In those situations, sometimes they can hear people who aren’t trans. So, sometimes it’s the best you’re going to get.

    Also, volume. If there is no trans person willing to donate time and energy to the conversation, then an ally can take up some of the slack, and even if they’re not perfect, or don’t have the perspective that a trans person does, if they’ve done enough work on the topic what they contribute can still be very valuable to helping another cis person toward understanding.

    You’re quite right in pointing out that this is an imperfect process. But I still think it’s better than no process, or, rather, no process but the ad hoc process which happens in YouTube comments and similar locations.

    Grace

  67. 367
    Mandolin says:

    Gender also alters over time and understanding; trans and genderqueer people can discover themselves through conversations and exploration, even ones they approach with the assumption they’re cis.

  68. 368
    Gracchus says:

    Grace: I really struggle to think what question a cis person could ask that would really bring any value to a trans person’s understanding of trans issues. What kind of perspective would a cis person have that would inform that position? What kind of experience would the cis person convey through that question that the trans person isn’t intimately and personally familiar with? A cis person can know more than other cis people but they can’t know more than a trans person.

    Re: awareness raising, sure, I agree with all that and that is useful ally work. But unless I have misunderstood the purpose of this forum, the goal we are reaching for her is not simply to acknowledge that trans people exist and are people. If that is the message, that is simple enough that cis people can effectively convey it. But a discussion that actually analyses, informs, and takes place at a generally “deeper” level, especially one which is theoretically going to result in trans people themselves coming away with a better understanding of trans-ness? I don’t think what you have said applies.

    So, just to summarise, I am not against cis people speaking on trans issues generally.

    I am more specifically against cis people contributing to a discussion that is supposed to analyse and unpack trans identity. If that isn’t the intended purpose of this thread, then I am sorry for misunderstanding.

    Mandolin, you have an interesting point about people who identify as cis who may not actually be cis. However it seems that the cost of admitting the large numbers of cis people (of varying levels of good faith and understanding) is very high compared to the benefit of helping trans people acknowledge they are trans.

    As a general adage, “Cis mouths are open, should be closed” is something I, as a cis person, believe in pretty strongly. (And straight, and white, and male, but that’s somewhat perpendicular to what we are discussing here so I only mention it in passing)

  69. 369
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Gracchus –

    I think most of your questions are better answered by Grace, or another trans contributer to this thread. But I thought I’ll say the following:

    I am an educator. Sometimes, some of my students come to me to discuss issues in their personal life that they don’t feel like they have anyone else to talk about to. Some of my students are trans.

    I appreciate this thread because it teaches me how to be a better ally. Not just by acknowledging that trans people exist and are people. I brought that with me. And not because it makes me into some sort of “authority” on trans issues, because I’m not and I never will be. If a student came to me with questions about their trans identity (and no one ever did and I doubt they ever will), then I would direct them to trans spaces. But if a 19 year old kid comes to me because they are having troubles with their studies and they open their heart about other things in their lives, it makes a big difference when I can come to the conversation from the point of view of “this is not my lived experience but it is familar to me” rather than “I have no way to relate to what you are saying”.

    So I am thankful for this thread.

    Mandolin, you have an interesting point about people who identify as cis who may not actually be cis. However it seems that the cost of admitting the large numbers of cis people (of varying levels of good faith and understanding) is very high compared to the benefit of helping trans people acknowledge they are trans.

    Isn’t that the point, though? This space exists so that you and I and other binary, cis people don’t have to be admitted into trans spaces. This is a middle ground. It exists exactly so that cis people don’t have to invade trans spaces.

    And I do have to say that it’s not up to me or you to judge whether the cost is worth it. That’s somewhere where you should apply your own adage – if trans people are telling you it’s worthwhile for them to be here, believe them. You say you have a hard time imagining what they gain from participating in this conversation, so maybe stop trying to imagine and listen instead.

  70. 370
    Gracchus says:

    ” if trans people are telling you it’s worthwhile for them to be here, believe them”

    I have absolutely zero doubt that it is worthwhile for trans people to be here.

    It’s the worthiness of cis people being here, or rather, speaking here.

    I 100% appreciate what you are saying about being a better ally, but for me, that can be accomplished by listening and listening alone. I think getting in the habit of talking to trans people about trans identity makes one a worse ally.

  71. 371
    Eytan Zweig says:

    You’re still not listening. Grace, a trans person, told you she created this space because it is of value to her to have a controlled space to talk to, and with, cis people. You are saying you think this space should not be used for the explicit reason she created it because you, a cis person, don’t see the value in it, and you know better.

    . I think getting in the habit of talking to trans people about trans identity makes one a worse ally.

    You probably didn’t mean it this way, but this sounds like you are advocating “Don’t ask, don’t tell” about trans identities. And in any case, you’ve just moved the goalposts from “some cis people will come here in bad faith” – now you’re saying that cis people who come here in good faith and try to have respectful conversations with trans people according to the rules that the trans people set out are also doing wrong. Which really makes it sounds like your issue isn’t with cis people encroaching on trans spaces, but with trans people encroaching on cis spaces.

  72. 372
    Gracchus says:

    “…Which really makes it sounds like your issue isn’t with cis people encroaching on trans spaces, but with trans people encroaching on cis spaces.”

    …Eh? There is a lot to respond to there but this kind of leapt out. What did I say that made you think that? I haven´t said anything about cis spaces. Just for the record I don´t believe we should have “cis spaces” at all!

    I can see taking what I said about talking to trans people in isolation it might seem like I am advocating disengagement. I am not. I meant “talking” as opposed to “listening”, not as opposed to “engaging with/interacting”. I think as a cis person, one’s role in dialogues about trans identity that involve trans people is to receive information, not to broadcast it. Perhaps “talk to” was the wrong phrase to use.

  73. 373
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Well, I certainly agree that cis people should be listening to trans people about trans identities, rather than cis people telling trans people about their identities. But I don’t see why that would preclude cis people asking trans people about their trans identities (on condition that the trans people indicated a willingness to be asked). And I don’t see why these questions may not be useful for trans people as well. In my academic life, I often find that I learn a lot about my areas of expertise by thinking about the questions that students/people from other fields as me. That doesn’t make them experts, or me less of an expert. It just means that answering questions is often in itself a useful exercise that makes me think about my own knowledge/work in a different way than I have. And questions from people who are less informed are often more useful than questions by people who are more informed as those are the ones that make you realise what your assumptions are.

    …Eh? There is a lot to respond to there but this kind of leapt out. What did I say that made you think that? I haven´t said anything about cis spaces. Just for the record I don´t believe we should have “cis spaces” at all!

    Well, you keep saying that trans discourse should be restricted to trans spaces, even when trans people tell you that they find discussion with cis people (under terms set up by the trans people) useful. Which, given that we live in a cis-normative society, means that trans people are only allowed to talk about their identities in specially designated areas (includes ones where, apparently, cis people should be allowed to come in and “listen”).

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