Trans Activism vs Feminism (and the Wider World): Heather Brunskell-Evans in Conversation with Julian Vigo
THE COTO CONVERSATION
At Culture on the Offensive, one of the goals is to showcase new conversations that have trouble being heard in the wider political discourse. Identitarian movements speaking on behalf of minorities and vulnerable groups are developing a reputation for attempting to stigmatise and prohibit many of these conversations. These prohibitions are done on behalf of the minorities and vulnerable groups they claim to protect. This is why so many members of the wider public are concerned that these identitarian movements practice bigotry and stereotyping. They assume (without justification) that everyone in the group they wish to protect has the same opinion regarding what things any individual should be able to say in a civilised society. Identitarian activists speak for the marginalised, when demanding that severe social sanctions be heaped upon the person who dares transgress official identitarian orthodoxies. More frustratingly, these movements seem happy to attack, vilify, and discredit even members of marginalised groups who happen to transgress the orthodoxies they tolerate no dissent from.
Many worry that the most overtly authoritarian of the new identitarian movements is trans activism, whose demands on society are (as of late) becoming so extreme that the transgressors of trans activist orthodoxy now include feminists (and even many transgender people). Contemporary trans activists, after all, routinely describe verbal disagreements with their demands as ‘violence’. Hence, people from across the political spectrum are beginning to suspect that this is simply a veiled justification for violence (and other forms of abuse) trans activists can then direct at their opponents. The trans activist has an effective psychological strategy for continually playing the victim, conceptualising whatever they do (now matter how vicious or repressive) as a form of self-defence.
Reacting to what is clearly a frightening development, the wider public is becoming more and more fed up with the idea that this is just a left vs right issue; that only conservatives, traditionalists, cisgendered bigots, and street bullies would ever have a problem with modern trans ideology.
So on behalf of the public, here is a conversation between two of the more brave left-wing critics of modern trans ideology: social theorist and philosopher Heather-Brunskell-Evans, and independent scholar, filmmaker and writer Julian Vigo. As our readers can probably guess, we do not agree with every claim that is made within this conversation. However, we feel that this is an important conversation that should be seen, rather than suppressed.
It is, after all, a dialogue. It is not a set of demands, and it is certainly not violence.
Heather Brunskell-Evans has taught at various UK universities including Goldsmiths and the London School of Economics, and has been a Research Fellow at the University of Leicester and Kings College London. She is currently works on national and international political agendas driving the rights of women and girls. She is a contributor to various publications, including Conatus News, The Conversation, Huffington Post and Feminist Current. She is co-editor of Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body (2018). Brunskell-Evans is currently the spokeswoman for the woman’s rights charity FiLiA. She is also the former spokeswoman for the Women’s Equality Party’s (WEP) policy on Violence Against Women and Girls. As a result of her views expressed on the Radio 4 show “Moral Maze” on 15 November 2017, Brunskell-Evans became the subject of a three-month investigation. Ultimately the WEP Executive Committee upheld the complaints made against Brunskell-Evans in February of this year and the position to which she was elected was taken away.
Julian Vigo has been a professor at New York University, the Université de Montreal, Universidad de las Américas, Université de Tunis, Goldsmiths among others, where she has taught anthropology, comparative literature, performance studies, cultural studies, critical theory, and philosophy of science. Author of Performative Bodies, Hybrid Tongues (2010), Vigo’s latest book, Earthquake in Haiti: The Pornography of Poverty and the Politics of Development (2015), exposes the corruption of the “development model” of NGOs and the United Nations while also undertaking a critique of the abuses of power which enable child trafficking and ecological destruction. She is a contributor to various publications among which are CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Huffington Post, Feminist Current, and Forbes.
JV: Could you explain, briefly, how you frame some of the recent events that you have experienced with the WEP (e.g. false claims made against you, the hyperbole and misrepresentation as to what you have allegedly stated) to the kind of activist activity you faced in Bristol in April?
HBE: Of course they were completely different contexts, but in one sense they were identical events in terms of the political dynamics at play. My views as expressed on the Moral Maze, namely that we should exercise caution in transitioning children because transgender identity is not inborn, were regarded by the WEP (The Women’s Equality Party) as something I could not and should not say. I was investigated by the WEP because complaints were made by transwomen within the Party that the content of my broadcast views amounted to: “discrimination against transgender people”; lack of “suitability to represent the party”; “fundamental disagreement with the core values of the party”. These complaints were upheld by the WEP, including two more of their own which they added after the broadcast, namely that my “actions brought the Party into disrepute” and that I had “breached Party policy or procedure”. With regard to Sisters Uncut, the masked men who brought their bodily strength to bear upon me by physically preventing me from entering a building to present a paper at an event organised by We Need to Talk, screamed at me that I am a Nazi for denying their truth as transwomen, and repeated the mantra “transwomen are women.” Both the WEP and the Bristol transactivist group Sisters Uncut understood their de-legitimatisation of my views as politically progressive, interpreting my views as hateful and discriminatory of a marginalised group i.e. transwomen.
JV: I have noticed that this notion of “protected speech” today refers quite often to that of the students who are largely institutionally protected by virtue of their being—quite paradoxically—clients of the university system and agents through which some of the more intolerant ideologies take hold. For instance, I think of the Berkeley protests last year when nobody was sure who was a Berkeley student and who was Antifa, or both.
It seems that women who are gender critical are facing a type of surveillance that was once the domain of the state (ie. Stasi, 1950s Red Scare undertaken by U.S. government agencies) and today almost uniquely is resting within the hands of a relatively young and wealthy demographic.
Similarly, you were caught within this aggression while in Bristol, not because of something you had said, but because of something you might say: that you were judged as already guilty by virtue of being a female who recognises the difference between gender and sex.
How do you situate the policing that went on within the WEP towards your person as opposed to a younger generation that went on to control public discourse through force?
HBE: I have come to realise the WEP is somewhat typical of many other official organisations, and indeed all other political parties in the UK, in that it was committed to the following ideas: Firstly, to be politically progressive one MUST uncritically accept transwomen’s narratives of what is true or isn’t true about the condition of womanhood.
Secondly, transwomen’s voices MUST be prioritized over and above women’s voices, and in my own personal example, the voice of a mature woman with many years of experience as a woman, because of their alleged double-oppression as transwomen and as women. Thirdly, transwomen’s experience is tied in some explicable way to their authenticity as women which I, and indeed other gender critical academics, are too bigoted, transphobic and misogynistic to comprehend. In the name of equality there was an attempt to shut down my speech as dangerous, even murderous as one transwoman WEP complainant publicly asserted. Lastly, my voice … more correctly my thought … allegedly excludes the acceptance of diversity and difference and denies transwomen’s dignity and human rights. Sisters Uncut is the unofficial arm of such official surveillance, and organisations like it arrive at any and every event where women (and transgender/ transsexual women) gather to express their gender critical views. For example, the organisations A Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) and We Need to Talk are regularly targeted for disruption by such groups, including on one occasion by a bomb threat, whilst presenting themselves as the victims of violence.
JV: Do you think part of this is the uncritical acceptance of the new? There is an Indian social scientist, Ashis Nandy, who writes of the need for a new understanding of progress: that modern technology has “become the dominant tradition by marginalising the other traditions of technology in the West and in the rest of the world.” In his work over the years, Nandy has argued that we must create an ideology to embrace these “traditional technosystems” within each specific cultural environment. I mention Nandy because his work interrogates how we embrace ever so quickly the new as a remedy to something, usually “the old.” And it seems that many people read history as a teleology and as linear–the end is where we are heading and hence anything new, contributing to that end, in their mind, must be necessarily better. I struggle with this default as it prevents any critical assessment of the new perpetually–a fact that coincides with market capitalism. Is what we are seeing with the ideology of the wrong body, perhaps related to this quick embrace of the new and the marketing of identity?
HBE: I agree that in the modern period we have a teleological view of history, namely that secularism, technology, science and the idea of human autonomy based on a model of economic contract will inevitably lead us on a progressive journey whose eventual pinnacle will be a peaceful and rational human civilisation embracing difference and diversity. I do not minimise the fact of progressive history, but we should not ignore that the modern period has also been characterised by bloody warfare, not only by far-flung cultures, but by those Western countries which understand themselves as civilized. It behoves those of us who identify as having values that place us on the right side of history to reflect that all of us are caught up in complex ideas and forces which can have unintended consequences. Even the most seemingly progressive idea about human freedom and autonomy e.g. that as an individual I can contract into society based on my unquestionable right to self-identity, can take on a fundamentalism that leads to illiberalism if others are compelled by law to collectively agree and comply.
There is now a confusion in the public mind between “sex” (the biological reality of being female or male) and “gender” (the social idea of femininity and masculinity).
The new “truth” that biology is socially constructed but that gender is somatic enables transwomen to claim not only that they are transwomen but that they ARE women. This new “truth” is fully embraced by many sections of the Left, and now indeed by the Right.
This dogmatic assertion carries with it an attendant ideology that those who disagree, or even those who just want to explore the idea publicly, belong to a tyrannical and oppressive privileged group that should be expunged for their “hate’. Today, as I reply to your questions, a “row” has erupted on the twitter-sphere where transactivist proponents and parents are apoplectic about GIDS (Gender Identity Development Services) a department of the NHS Tavistock and Portman Hospital Trust.
The GIDS deploys the term “gender dysphoria” to describe children and young people unhappy with their sexed body and suggests some children and young people presenting as transgender belong to “disturbed or challenging patient populations”. Transactivists are currently analysing the GIDS clinical approach as “pathologizing, outdated, offensive, slow, damaging, defensive”, as “trans denying”, as expressed by “experts who hate transfolk”, as expressing “a transphobic culture that belongs to the 1990s, not the 21st century”.
In conclusion, the fundamentalism of the idea that gender is a “born” property in effect means its proponents will brook no dissent, will turn their rage against any organisation or individual who dares to put forward alternative suggestions, and who will automatically interpret dissent as hatred.
JV: In line with this rationale is the mechanism of social control, of silencing by those on the left which locks into the validation of an internal truth, an “identity.” I have to wonder to what degree colleagues of ours throughout academia have created this machinery of, on the one hand, gender theory that even many of my graduate students would come to me quite frustrated saying that they don’t understand most of Judith Butler’s writing on this subject, and on the other, the constant churning out of hip new modules/courses that appeal to upper management by attracting those students who can later churn out and parrot more of this incoherent rhetoric.
One only reads through many of the writings on this subject to notice that even theorists themselves do not understand the terms they use. Also at heart here—and nobody wants to discuss this on the pro-gender identity side—there is no scientific proof that gender is somatic and that gender has as much to do with an inner sense of self any more than it corresponds to personality. How do we as scholars engage this? And how can we as citizens promote civil debate on this issue?
HBE: Many years of teaching queer theory on cultural studies and sociology degree programmes has taught me that most graduate students have very little understanding of Judith Butler although they know making “gender trouble” is “cool’. They are even more perplexed by Michel Foucault, the philosopher whose ideas inform those of Butler, and whose work is philosophically complex. Nevertheless, queer theory has taken certain ideas from Foucault (who never used the term himself and who wouldn’t necessarily agree with queer ideas!) and became very popular in the academy from the 1980s onwards, promoted by academic scholars in the wave of a disenchantment with the concepts of power promoted by Marxism.
Young graduate students who get very hot under the collar about any other view than complete trans affirmation have no idea of the range of scholarly ideas available in the academy to analyse power relationships. As an aside, I think Foucault would turn in his grave at the misunderstanding of his thesis about the relationship of the sexed body to gender, power and knowledge!
I find it astonishing that a simplistic and hybrid form of queer theory is currently promoted as non-contentious in many UK primary and secondary schools, youth groups, youth camps and training courses for teachers and youth group leaders by the organization Gendered Intelligence. Jay Stewart, a transman and the organization’s CEO, is avowedly and proudly a proponent that queering gender for adults is revolutionary for children too, a theoretical and political position whose provenance the parents can hardly have any comprehension. Influential children’s organisations in the UK such as Gendered Intelligence, but also Mermaids and GIRES which equally have no medical or psychological grounding for their views, have nevertheless been successful in lobbying for transgenderism to be understood by the GIDS as an inherent identity rather than a psycho/ social phenomenon. I think many parents are clueless that the new trans affirmative idea is controversial within medicine itself and even contested by some clinicians as a concept without empirical basis. “The transgender child” comes into being through a kind of “looping effect’: first conceived of as an idea by queer theory, parents then take their child’s gender confusion as “proof” he or she was “born in the wrong body’, and then embrace the idea of “the transgender child” as a safeguarding issue.
You ask: How do we, as scholars, engage with this? How can we have a civil debate about this?
JV: It is indeed hard to have civil debate on this issue and, it would seem that those who shout “transphobe” or “TERF” the loudest are precisely those with no arguments. Inasmuch as they view themselves part of the “progressive left,” I have great difficulty in seeing them as anything but conservative. I mean where in history have we seen that one sex has the innate and natural desire to do certain things? Or where a specific sex must comport itself in a certain manner socially and through gesture, vestiture, and speech? Where have seen that one must step up to reinforce social positions of power?
Quite paradoxically, it seems that Butler, in creating an ostensible theory to free the body from the constraints of the social, has created a Frankensteinian discourse where the body is chained tightly to the social and where the subjects, who are all running around saying “gender non-conforming” or “non-binary,” are actually the very agents of social and political oppression as they survey the space of the social.
We are, ipso facto, TERFs because we say that gender is a shadow of an oppressive social discourse. We are “transphobes” because we evidence that everyone is non-binary as nobody is one thing. Yet, the ivory towers perpetuate this social surveillance that Foucault himself would be horrified by. His entire life’s work was about critiquing the state “normalisation” and surveillance of the subject, yet here we have an entire society lining up to be rubber stamped by the state whilst enforcing Orwellian dictums where everyone must call me “this” or “that.” This is extremely dystopian and I cannot help but wonder if virtuality is partly responsible for this social trend—that the disconnected, social non-reality of the web where people can somehow insist that not only is this their opinion, but dare you disagree with them, they remind you that this disagreement is cause for them to kill themselves and then that loosely woven discourse renders the disagreeing subject a murderer. There is a heavy-handed culture around this issue online with keyboard warriors hungry to win through emotional blackmail as they construct feelings as facts. It would seem that we are in a post-fact world.
HBE: Personally, I try to keep away from social media as much as possible. I think I must be one of those rare peculiar people without a Facebook account!
But to get back to the deadly serious issue, the world has indeed become somewhat Orwellian. Corralling people’s thoughts into the parameters of the new “transgender normal” compound is increasingly hegemonic in our social interactions, both virtual and material. The attempt to shut down debate is quite astonishing, but what is really chilling is that clinicians fear for their jobs if they also express a contradictory view, as the example of Kenneth Zucker demonstrates.
You ask me whether we are in a post-fact world. I think we are. However, the philosophical questioning of facts is crucial in exposing popularly accepted “truths’, even those ratified by esteemed institutions and official knowledges. A good example was the philosophical and sociological deconstruction of the 19th and 20th century psychological/ psychoanalytical knowledges that categorised “the homosexual” as a pathological figure in need of hetero-normative correction. Examining “the transgender child” is also illustrative of the importance of deconstruction as a method since, if we unpick the figure’s component parts, we can see how power and knowledge are in full force in this construction too. The naturalisation of transgender is the naturalisation of gender which is a wholly political phenomenon.
The effect of the new “truth” is not, as is vociferously claimed by the organisations described earlier, children’s collective liberation from binary gender. On the contrary, it is the mobilisation of binary gender in a new format, reifying traditional “masculinity” and “femininity” for the 21st century. The real, material consequences for children, as well as for women, are extremely troubling. That men are hardly touched by this “new” model of gender indicates it does not challenge male power. I notice there are no placards whenever I speak trying to convince me “transmen ARE men’, nor are there female-bodied activists insisting I acknowledge them as true men, pushing their bodies against mine to physically intimidate me and illegally prevent me from entering buildings. The insistence, whether by the WEP or Sisters Uncut, that transwomen ARE women reveals the patriarchal nature of the politics to which these organisations seek our compliance.
The transgender belief system is an article of faith. There is no neuro-scientific evidence that gender is inherent but if one does not go along with the “pink brain’, “blue brain” thesis, one is regarded as an apostate. The function of the philosophical deconstruction of alleged facts is not to replace fact with faith or unfounded systems of belief. On the contrary, it is to free thought so that we can better discern facts.
JV: I agree. Yet, this truth of gender is uniquely being located in the individual and gender identity is forever being cast as “progressive” despite it’s being quite conservative. For instance, it is interesting to me how gender has become part of the reification of the masculine and feminine, which formerly was an effect of heteronormativity. Also, what strikes me about this movement is its need to externalise this parade of proof of “transgender has always existed” in the push to inculcate children into its “flock” to the vast numbers of males going through mid-life crises who have swapped the Corvette for the stereotypical clothing of women and the need to control how society perceives them.
I have reflected quite a bit as to how this came to be. For instance, I recall how gender has become part of the reification of the masculine and feminine, which formerly was an effect of heteronormativity. Yet today, as if hundreds of years of feminism had never existed, gender is recast as something that is supposedly groundbreaking as gender has become recast even within marginalised communities, such as the gay community, where gender is about how one “is” both in the world and in the bedroom.
We saw a rise of discussions in the 1990s where being butch or femme or being a bear or a twink spoke to an aestheticised reduction of the self, but also created a hollowed-out self as a performative gay man or woman. It was almost as if because of the lack of any true political power, gender was a superficial palette through which to inscribe power, albeit a highly individualised power. Yet, we know that there is no inherent gender. And slowly but surely, gender has come to replace the closeted sexual subject with the closeted gendered subject where today our culture functions through this assumption—that people must always be coming out of something. Gender is the perfect sideshow for the self on display as the gay closet is recycled over and over. You see this with so-called trans kids whose parents are so “proud” of their child as they parade them to support groups and TV stations for an appearance on a segment about the topic. Still, I read the situation as a bit less forthright than we are made to believe: watching the many BBC and ITV segments on this subject, these parents are also seeking public approval and very much want someone to be proud of them. I have to wonder if this is a social phenomenon that is residual to our societies where everyone is overworked, plugged into social media, and almost entirely cut off from “real life” experiences with their children. The increase of the diagnosis of “transgender” children, which has risen phenomenally in recent years, makes me question if we are showing love through medicine instead of through actions and shared experiences—if we are not creating community and instead creating the self as atomised, hyper individualised, and fundamentally alienated.
HBE: In a sense, the newly emerging phenomenon of parents diagnosing their own children as trans, of seeking medical treatment for their children’s “condition’, and then getting frustrated with the GIDS for not being up-to-date with fast evolving trans ideology, is now part of an established “good parenting” model.
If gender identity is a biological phenomenon, or a “soul” phenomenon, then perhaps from a parental point of view to have the sexed body of one’s child rectified as soon as possible to match their true, inner self is at least understandable, even though hormone treatment is physically damaging, and cross-sex hormones for adolescents cause sterility. Parents are induced by the hegemony of transgender ideas to virtue signal that they are the good, non-transphobic parents who facilitate their children to be who they really “are’, in particular since social service providers now sometimes describe the children of unconvinced parents as in need of safeguarding and removing from the parental home.
The political coup of trans activists is to have successfully campaigned for the last 20 years for the concept of inherent gender identity to become established “truth’. Any critique or disbelief is increasingly understood not only as heresy but as so dangerous to those identifying as trans that it can annihilate – hate speech, not free speech. A moderate assertion, for example that it might be kinder, gentler and more supportive of gender fluidity not to encourage the child to be at odds with its own body, but to allow a boy or girl to experiment with gender as he or she pleases, is now understood as blasphemy to be routed out of the person, and the person routed out of any organisation to which she belongs as its elected Spokeswoman!
We have to ask the question why, in the 21st century, affirmation of gender identity has become the very crucible of our humanity, and why disagreement has become the bloody turf on which battles for “true” identity are fought. Very few people dare to examine this topic with any seriousness, even those academics who are not strangers to in-depth philosophical or sociological analysis. We are indeed living in an increasingly atomised society, and in the UK individual doctors in private practice are now capitalising on the mounting trend to critique the care of gender dysphoric children provided by the NHS and are more than happy to charge parents for hormone treatment for their children that the GIDS does not automatically administer for the asking of them.
JV: I see this as part of the historical development from the custom-made acceptance of “born this way” in the 1990s. This was an ideology promoted by the LGB community that made homosexuality as something that the individual subject could not help, thus likening homosexuality to being born with, say diabetes or a missing limb, was the way in which homosexuality was forced into the public domain as something “they just can’t fix.” By pivoting sexuality as a victimless illness/genetic predisposition, the public was slowly pushed into accepting the gay man and woman down the block or in their own family as someone to nurture, cherish, and even signal virtue. In the New York Gay Pride parades from the mid 1990s onward, the presence of this community was as important as seeing the “dykes on bikes” or the baton flinging gay men’s rank and file of street acrobatics. The ideology that prevailed is that society has no choice but to accept us because “we just can’t help it.” As harmful as this political narrative has been to the homosexual left—and it is has— many saw this as the gateway to quick social acceptance. From this came same-sex weddings and before long the gay community was flung into heteronormativity of proportions that shocked many of us on the left who found the manner of—not the fact of—this kind of social acceptance troubling. From the parents of gay children wearing PFLAG shirts to the uptick in gay weddings, being gay quickly became all about market forces. The very pride and encouragement that was lent to those pronouncing their gay nephew or next-door-neighbour was the template for today’s parents of “transgender children.” Yet, you see very little serious debate–as you point out here–within academia and if you are a practitioner, you can very well be faced with the certain end or interrogation of your career as Kenneth Zucker has experienced. Zucker’s work on childhood desistance is incredibly solid and yet a well-funded trans lobby is attempting to wipe out the notion of desistance by tagging on the word “myth” to this phenomenon. What Zucker’s work shows us is that by starting kids on puberty blockers, each child goes on to transition later in life. And without these blockers being given, a vast majority of these children do not go on to transition and most live out their lives as gay men and women.
As you point out there is no serious sociological approach to this. For instance, if gender is really inherent and genetic, why are very specific cultural modalities used as the template for trans.
The so-called trans of India (hijra) are very specific about wanting to wear sari, not even kurti. Effeminate gay men in Morocco who cross-dress also have a precise idea of vestiture that is extremely cultural. Were gender truly inherent, we would be seeing something far more transcendent emerge and not so culturally specific.
And we would not be seeing this phenomenon in so many countries where gay men who are marginalised because of their sexuality suddenly announce they are women. There needs to be so much research on this subject, but I am seeing nothing thus far. I am concerned that we are sliding backwards, embracing some troubling gender stereotypes as normative and today, inculcating children’s bodies and minds such that it is made into a generational battle. For instance, when the transgender lobby accuses older women of being conservative and just not “getting it,” what is not being acknowledged within academia is how this lobby is funded and how it has preyed upon university and high school-aged students who are quick to embrace the new without much thought whatsoever. And now with the push to transition children, it is obvious that this will remain largely generational. There is also a sinister edge to this desire to transition children by a group of people who are anything but progressive on matters of gender. When we observe what Susie Green (of the UK lobby group, Mermaids) says about her own son, she claims she was fine with him wanting to play with “girls things” but what she reveals in the end is that this entire movement is buttressed upon the sexism of parents who problematically believe that there are “girls” or boys” things in the first place, as Green also believes. The entire movement is based upon the myth of social normativity.
HBE: The template promoted by Mermaids and its CEO Susie Green that transgender children are “born” transgender is ironically linked, not causally of course but indirectly, to the acceptance of transgenderism by extremely conservative and homophobic states such as Iran which prefers to think of its citizen as transgender rather than lesbian or gay. It may also be linked to the numbers of same-sex attracted young girls in this and other Western countries who are statistically outnumbering boys in their wish for medical intervention, and who identify themselves as transgender rather than lesbian.
In order to reflect upon ethics and whether any particular subjective identity is freeing or constraining, it is necessary to first understand how that identity was configured or “put together’. One foundational claim that holds up the edifice of transgender “truth” is that sex is “assigned” at birth. The concept “assigned” suggests that when babies are born an evaluative judgement is made, one that can mis-recognize the sex of the child. However, the phrase “assigned” is only relevant to intersex people, who are a tiny percentage of the population, since with very little exception babies occupy a sex-category, male or female, based on objective observed reality. Since male and female are discernible biological categories what does it mean for someone unambiguously female to claim she is in fact male? The current narrative of “the transgender child” is made up of numerous, rhetorical strands: Firstly, although previously unrecognised, children born into “the wrong body” have always existed. Secondly, parents are “brave” when they accept their son is “really” a girl (and vice versa). Thirdly, investing the child’s self-proclaimed identity as the literal truth supports the child psychologically. Fourthly, trans affirmative ideas reject hide-bound, sexist and hetero-normative constraints. Lastly, medical intervention through puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones is a sign of a tolerant liberal and humane society.
On what scientific, medical, psychological or philosophical basis is this narrative founded? The combined relations of knowledge-power-ethics of transactivist groups have constructed the composite picture of “the transgender child” that we recognise today, yet this figure is no more than 20 years old, and no more objective and no less political than “the homosexual’. The current transgender movement is not, as is popularly believed, an extension of the past efforts of the lesbian and gay rights movement in the 1970s to deconstruct sexist and heterosexist myths and stereotypes. In reifying gender, transgenderism gives credence to the very gender myths that lesbian and gay activists originally spurned. This reactionary move is then played out on the bodies of our children and young people, sometimes with devastating, life-long physical consequences. The unattainable attempt to physically transform children and young people’s bodies so their sex matches their gender identity reinforces the very stereotypes which children’s trans affirmative organisations claim they challenge.
The trans activist movement reserves the right to create its own truths and moral values sui generis, and responds with ad hominem slurs lodged at anyone who in good faith raises different possibilities of understanding. Some trans affirmative academic writing has descended to the level of the street brawl, inciting antagonism towards gender critical colleagues by accusing them of bigotry, exercising “cis” privilege, inciting hate speech, and/or tarring them with the epithet TERF. Perhaps in the future people will scrutinise whose inter-connected and financial interests were served by the numerous trans-led organisations which lobbied intensively for children to be accorded medico-legal rights to transgender. They may be astonished at the alacrity, even violence, with which, in a democratic society founded on free speech, discussion was foreclosed whenever public, collective debate was proposed, and that some political parties were responsible for shutting down debate rather than upholding it. They may even look back at the practice of transgendering children and young people as an egregious abrogation by society of responsibility to protect them from harm. They may ask: “How can the medical transitioning of children have happened in broad daylight’? “How was it that the people urging caution were socially vilified as violent but those promoting it were lauded as heroes and freedom fighters”?
**published January 7, 2019 in