Imagine there is a person who is so homophobic that they devote their time and energy to organizing against gay people having the right to their own spaces and events. Every time there is an LGBT event, they go and protest outside the venue and harass the attendees as they come and go. Imagine that after years of this, this person suddenly murders a gay male couple. Would many in the public not immediately jump to conclusions, without waiting for the court proceedings, and decry the murders as a hate crime? Would the media not immediately talk about the possibility that the murder was motivated by the perpetrator’s well-documented hatred of gay people? Would they not use the opportunity to highlight the stories of other gay people subjected to hate and harassment, and to start a conversation on the problem of homophobia in our society?
Or imagine a similar scenario with Jewish people. Some raging anti-semite harasses congregants going and coming from the local synagogue, until one day, he finally kills a family that attended that same synagogue. Would this not prompt some media coverage? Some broader conversation on anti-semitism? Maybe a few weeks of interviews with other Jewish people who had been the recipients of hate? Replace with Black people or Muslim people – any minority group that includes men. In each case, it seems reasonable to imagine some coverage from liberal media, some mention of the possibility of the murders being a hate crime, some heightened awareness of the vulnerability of the targeted community. But in the case of lesbians in the Bay Area, no such thing.
Dana Rivers is a well-known trans-identified male who for years participated in a campaign to shut down Michfest, a female-only music festival that was largely attended by lesbians, and who harassed the women who attended the event. A few months after Michfest was shut down, he murdered a lesbian couple and their son in Oakland. The two women had been regular attendees of Michfest. We can’t say for sure why he committed these murders, and it’s not impossible that the fact that his victims were lesbians and attendees of Michfest was a coincidence. But like…. come on. Think of the coverage if the victims had belonged to an oppressed group that is deemed to matter.
There has been extremely little noise on this case, and nothing from “LGBT” outlets. To add insult to injury, most of the coverage at the time, like this headline of The East Bay Times, stated that a “woman” was charged with the killings. This was not a woman’s crime.
To erase and forget the murders of Patricia Wright, Charlotte Reed and Benny Diambu-Wright, and to brush under the carpet what motivated their killer, are further crimes against this family.
Read about the murders and about Dana Rivers’/David Warfield’s prior participation in “Camp Trans”, an organized protest against the freedom of association of lesbians, here:
I am heterosexual, and back in the days when gay rights were the cool progressive struggle, I was in favor of them but it was never a primary cause or passion of mine. Given this, it might appear strange that a few years ago I suddenly (1) became very interested and outspoken not only about transactivism, but specifically also about the impact it was having on lesbians.
What I do have a long-standing interest in is the ways that change happens and the ways that it doesn’t. Power masquerading as opposition, or the status quo masquerading as change, is something that has been happening a lot–it even got Obama elected. The cooptation of social movements is a mechanism by which the status quo protects itself. How amazing and distressing, for anyone like me who wants to imagine that we can effectuate change, to see that the same people who were so passionate about championing gay rights a decade ago, who were so proud of their progressive credentials, have done a 180 on the gays because they were chasing those same progressive credentials.
Well, since I published my last post a few days ago where I mentioned the ease with which revolutionary movements get coopted, some interesting things have happened:
Matthew Parris, an apparently well-known and respected founder of Stonewall, published an article in The Times criticizing the direction that the organization had taken.
The Mess We’re In had a field day with all of this, and they also had Maya Forstater on their show, so to learn more watch their episode EXTRA MESS #5: Stonefall.
In the US, 60 minutes aired a segment on detransitioners. I haven’t watched it, and there is criticism from some of the people interviewed (here, here and here) that the segment was to be more focused on their experiences, including on how detransitioners are treated by the trans movement, but nonetheless just showing something of these stories on a major news channel is a departure from the status quo.
Some good news from Spain while we’re at it: An attempt to introduce self ID in Spain’s Congress was defeated thanks to pushback by feminists.
In the UK again, the International Trade Secretary defended the free speech of a law student who is facing disciplinary action for saying that a woman is someone with a vagina.
In the discussion about Stonewall, several (including the article in the Daily Mail) have explained that after gay marriage was legalized, Stonewall found itself without a purpose and instead of saying “Mission Accomplished” and the staff going off somewhere else, they needed a new focus to keep their jobs and organization going. This touches upon something that I’ve been thinking about and brought up during STC’s most recent webinar (which was on the mechanisms of social change), and that needs to be highlighted more. My dad used to say about the UN “these people are just creating work for themselves!” and the primacy of funding and careers over stated goals became glaring in my experiences in the animal rights movement. This is what happens when social movements get supplanted and absorbed by the non-profit industrial complex.
In any case, these new developments are fantastic news. Despite the incredible amount of funding backing the trans movement (2), and despite liberals turning their backs on those they so proudly supported just a decade ago, a relatively small number of people (mostly women, and mostly lesbians, i.e. those with the least funding and social capital) are succeeding in pushing back and getting through to the public.
Ultimately, our opinions and focus are inordinately shaped by the wealthy (3) and I don’t think the war is won. In fact, just yesterday was more news of Twitter purging its platform of pro-gay voices (A Stonewall veteran is silenced by Twitter). But as much as Silicon Valley tech bros try to colonize the rest of the world, there is resistance and it is powerful. This is a genuine victory for the underdog, and the result of the work and real sacrifice of so many people, and I think we can savor the moment.
(1) It actually wasn’t all that sudden, as my sense that there was both a lack of logic and a good dose of sexism in the discourse of the trans/queer movement had been building up for years, but it wasn’t my focus and it wasn’t my milieu so for a long time I didn’t investigate further.
“To sum up, more than a hundred women are murdered each year in the United Kingdom at the hands of males, but no day has been set aside to commemorate their deaths. Transgender murders are exceedingly rare—eight in the past decade (Trans Crime UK 2017; Evening Standard 2018)—and yet they have an institutionalized day of remembrance. Even if we consider the homicide rate rather than the number of homicides, Nicola Williams demonstrates that transgender people are no more likely to become victims than are women (Fairplay for Women 2017).
The prominence of transgender victims, compared to the virtual invisibility of female victims, is partly explained by the amount of resources devoted to compiling evidence and promoting commemoration. Thus funding from large American charities like OSF—along with the Arcus and Tawani Foundations—shapes the political climate in Britain and around the world.”
A friend recently emailed me an article titled Transgender woman convicted of sexually assaulting 10-year-old girl, and wrote “This will eventually happen in a public bathroom or women-only space. My guess is a lawsuit against the city or company is inevitable, in the US.” Like quite a few women I know in the animal rights movement, this friend knows of my views on gender ideology and falls somewhere on the spectrum from “finds my gender critical remarks reasonable” to “is very alarmed by the advancement of gender ideology”, but doesn’t share her views publicly. The animal rights movement has wholeheartedly embraced woke culture which has been harmful to the movement in a number of ways, including by reinforcing the sexism in its midst. Female animal advocates have to make a choice between speaking up for animals or for women. When I started speaking openly about gender identity a few years ago, I became a safe person for others to share a “WTF” moment with, and I’ve seen that the WTF alarms are ringing for more and more people.
Nonetheless, I can’t say I’m optimistic that things are really changing, that the small wave of WTF thought bubbles is strong enough to counter the well funded, expertly marketed tsunami of a pushback against feminism that we are experiencing. It is deeply deflating to witness the incapacity or unwillingness to engage in basic logical reasoning. The seemingly unmovable and unquestioned sexism–including in the supposedly progressive West, including among those expected to care about the oppressed. The effectiveness with which everything revolutionary gets co-opted, including the feminist movement. The incredible level of conformity from vegans of all people, the very same minuscule minority who supposedly have the courage to stick their necks out for animals. The trifecta of stupidity, misogyny and cowardice leaves little room for hope.
‘Many of those taking to Twitter to tell us to #BelieveWomen and #YesAllWomen very quickly forget these principles the moment it counts. If you don’t believe me, try telling your progressive circle of friends that male sex offenders should not be housed in women’s prisons. You could add that women have allegedly been raped as a result of this policy, as any fool could have predicted. Rather than justified feminist outrage, you will likely be met with embarrassed silence at best, or some hemming and hawing about how it’s a “difficult issue;” or, at worst, ostracism and accusations of bigotry. Middle class women are allowed to be afraid to go jogging after dark, but there is no sympathy for incarcerated women — some of the most vulnerable members of society, large numbers of whom have prior trauma at the hands of males — who are now locked up with convicted rapists. Any concern raised is just hateful scaremongering masking a conservative agenda.’
Liberals have erected what seems like an impenetrable mental fort around the trans issue and it is supported by other elements beyond the stupidity, misogyny and cowardice. What is it that makes people refuse to consider that they might not be “on the right side of history”? Hubris, definitely. Racism too; it goes with the hubris.
The unwillingness of many liberals to question the framing of “their side” or to take a peek at others’ arguments is facilitated by the fact that these others are systematically denied a platform, and those who do succeed in getting some visibility are relentlessly smeared as hateful transphobes. How many people actually read JK Rowling’s letter or Abigail Shrier’s book before accepting as fact that they are raving bigots? The go-to news outlets and influencers tell them it’s so, and they can’t all be wrong can they? Opposition to gender ideology is painted as coming exclusively from the religious right, which fits nicely into the black-and-white, us-v-them, “we’re enlightened and they’re all backwards racists” worldview common in the US. People who opposed civil rights for homosexuals were bad guys and trans is the next civil rights frontier, right? We’re going to make sure to be the good guys this time, dammit.
In reality, much (perhaps most) of the resistance to gender ideology comes from lesbians and gays (many of whom built the LGBT movement), long-time feminist activists (gender as something socially-constructed and separate from sex was conceptualized by feminists) and others who have been involved in a number of progressive causes.
For a liberal who has waited this long to question the gender ID movement, it is threatening to start questioning it now. Or to question one’s own opinions – what do I really mean when I say that trans women are women? – because the whole house of cards would come down. So they hold on by looking around them and finding reassurance that their crowd still thinks like them. It’s just herd mentality. Not only will liberals simply not entertain the possibility that they might in fact be the reactionary, bigoted party, they also don’t relish considering that the causes they’ve championed were chosen not through reason but social conformity. The longer this goes on, the more you resist telling yourself, Man, I guess I’m a sheep. This vicious circle is basically a social conformist’s sunk cost fallacy.
As ignorant as liberals might be about an issue, they still know for sure that theirs is the side of equality and greater acceptance (and most are ignorant about the beliefs and demands of the gender ideology movement, and think they are on the side of the gender non-conforming when in fact it’s the opposite). At an individual level, the conviction that one is tolerant and righteous and on the right side of history is rooted in hubris–that unshakeable notion that I’m a GOOD PERSON (TM). At a collective level, it translates to the belief that WE’RE civilized. When you explain the extent of the backlash and loss of rights suffered by women, it doesn’t land because for it to do so there would need to be an understanding that, here too, we live in a patriarchy. Libfems make vague and reprobative references to some of the ills of patriarchy, but there is still a pro-Western bias wherein it is believed that, here in the West, we are fundamentally a progressive society and that most men truly favor equality. To see the homophobia and misogyny of the gender ID movement would require seeing the homophobia and misogyny of our society at large; it would require a fundamental shift in worldview.
A lot has been said and written about Iran’s “tolerant” attitude towards transgender people. Below is a 2014 BBC documentary that makes the case that in Iran, homosexuals often choose to medically transition due to fear, pressure and lack of information and other options. Shadi Amin, a coordinator with the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6Rang), says, “A lot of people think that Iran is the paradise of transexuals, but I say it’s the hell of homosexuals”. Her quote is at 29:59, but please watch the whole video. While homosexuality is not illegal in the West, other experiences that they identify as driving some homosexuals to transition are similar to what is happening in the West. The lack of acceptance and visibility of lesbians is often echoed in the personal accounts of Western female detransitioners. The pseudoscientific nonsense underpinning these projects is the same everywhere. What does it mean for a doctor to tell an effeminate gay man that he is “98% female” and that they can change the 2% to make him fully a woman, but they can’t change the 98% to make him a man? [see Marie’s story at 30:35] Do 98% of the cells in his body have XX chromosomes? No, what it means is that to be a “real man” one can not be attracted to men and prefer the activities or mannerisms that a patriarchal society prescribes to women. Therefore, one’s male body is the “2%” of the equation, but one’s soul and personality are really those of a woman. This is in line with the official view of the Iranian state that gay people have a mismatch between body and soul: gay men have a woman’s soul in a man’s body, lesbians have a man’s soul in a women’s body. It’s also in line with the view of gender ideologues in the West. How is the Iranian therapist different from Dr. Diane Ehrensacht, a San Francisco clinical and developmental psychologist and leader in the field of pediatric transgenderism, who considers that a female toddler tearing out her barrettes is a sign that she’s really a boy? In the UK, therapists at a child gender clinic famously said “it feels like conversion therapy for gay children” and reported that “there was a dark joke among staff that there would be no gay people left”.
Again, this narrative about Iran is not obscure. It could have invited some self-examination on the part of Westerners. But chauvinism goes hand in hand with racism, and conceptualizing the other as backwards preemptively dismantles any comparisons. They’re stuck in archaic oppressive traditions–but when we do the same thing, it’s totes progressive.
Gender ideology is being exported and pushed onto the rest of the world by the West, especially by the Anglosphere. Linda Louis is an Indian feminist with a background in international human rights law. In this presentation, she speaks of the neocolonialism of the gender identity movement. She notes that various UN agencies all agree that women need access to separate toilets, “but somehow, this is forgotten when it comes to developed countries as if the girls in developed countries are not eligible for the very same basic facilities that the United Nations recommends for developing countries”. She says that it’s like a “reversal of human dignity” because what is afforded to girls in the Global South is being refused to girls of the Global North. “Reversal”, because the usual pattern is that we afford dignity to those in the Global North and not South. But the way I read this is that men of the Global South are seen as predatory, while men of the Global North are not. Not much of a reversal. Though the corollary is that when women in the Global North (those wretched “white feminists”) speak of fear of male violence, they’re just pearl-clutching prudes and bigots.
If you’re curious about my claim that there have been attacks on women in prisons, these cases are compiled on the website Women are Human. I’m sure that the fact of this compilation will be construed by genderists as proof of fear-mongering and victimization of trans-identified males by feminists, but the point is that the violence that we know men commit at higher rates than women doesn’t magically disappear when a man declares himself a woman.
The data we have on male violence against women is on the basis of SEX, not gender identity. And we have no reason to believe that men’s gender identities are correlated with their propensity towards violence. If transactivists want to make that case, they should provide the data. If we have reason to create spaces from which we exclude men (or males/male-bodied people/the scrotal half/prostate-havers/bepenised ones/AMAB/XY people or whatever your choice of words may be) there is no reason to make exceptions for men who have special gender identities. But that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? Liberals don’t believe or don’t care that we have reason for such spaces. We’re back at square 1, having to argue for our gains all over again.
“When you challenge an oppressor, the first thing you have to be able to say is ‘You are not who you say you are’. And what identitarianism does is that it deprives us of the ability to say that” – Stuart Parker
This is a great interview with Stuart Parker – a guy I hadn’t heard of before this – on the state of the left. I am generally not a big fan of Meghan Murphy’s youtube content (though I think she is an excellent writer when it comes to feminism) but this interview hits it out of the park. There is a lot that’s spot on and well articulated regarding transactivism as a new McCarthyism, the stupidification of the left and how gender identity fits into that, identitarianism and more.
A couple of comments: Regarding this stupidification, he points out that the billionaire class pushes gender identity ideology because it’s in their interest that we be incapable of having coherent conversations with each other. While I appreciate that he names that this is what’s happening, I think it is only part of the picture. They don’t mention in the same context that this is also a direct attack on women’s rights, which also serves the billionaire class (not to mention men as a whole) because the exploitation and disempowerment of women is foundational to capitalism and especially to several industries that are currently flourishing.
While this is mitigated by the comments on billionaires in a different segment, they do also depict the gender ideology movement as being genuinely about the safety of trans people, which is misleading. For example, they rhetorically ask who it serves to repeat the mantra “transwomen are women” and assert that it serves no one, not even trans people. But this isn’t true. It serves men as a class for women to be erased politically, legally and conceptually, and for women’s spaces and resources to be up for grabs again by men. Many transactivists and supporters and funders of the movement are not trans themselves, however I think that in recognizing this point they are also portraying all trans people as being separate from the larger movement, outwardly gender non-conforming and at risk of violence. It seems that the speaker is referring to the trans people of 30 years ago and not taking into account how the definition has changed, especially with gender self-ID. There are men who identify as women, present entirely as male and are therefore not remotely at risk of male violence or in need of third spaces. There are people who identify as trans and also participate in misogynistic harassment and advocacy, who are motivated by misogyny and not merely the discomfort of gender roles or a sexed body. These are not mutually exclusive.
On the question of third spaces, they point to the example of transwomen pushing for separate bathrooms in Thailand as an obvious solution, but that doesn’t square with the current reality of the movement here. Instead, it generously presumes that the problem the movement seeks to address is male violence against trans-identified males, which isn’t true. If it were, why admit entirely male-presenting men to women’s spaces? Third spaces aren’t the solution most advocated for because both on a micro level and certainly on a macro level it’s not only about safety.
Regarding McCarthyism: this is not unique to the gender movement but is instead a fact of woke culture in general. In the few years that Seed the Commons (STC, the organization I co-founded) was active in local animal rights circles, we experienced a lot of unethical behavior from within the movement. I’ve written about the backlash I received for my disbelief in gender, but it actually started before that. One of the issues that people took with us was that we weren’t seen as sufficiently opposed to Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), an animal rights organization/network that is highly contentious and maligned within the movement. My organization never partnered with DxE and none of the founders or board members of Seed the Commons were ever members of DxE. In fact, I have had my own reservations about, and frustrations with, DxE. But what we did was enough to tarnish us as friends of the bad guys and therefore bad guys ourselves.
This is what we did: In 2016, Seed the Commons signed a letter of support for DxE when they were facing an eviction, we shared a video of theirs on Facebook, and we invited one of the founders of DxE to speak at our conference. For context, we have shared content from numerous groups, many of which are not vegan. I also invited a wide range of speakers to my conference, again, many of which weren’t vegan. Somehow this was never an issue for animal rights folks, but any sign of anything other than hostility towards DxE was subject to veritable policing.
On the letter and video: When the Berkeley Animal Rights Center (the de facto DxE headquarters) was facing what seemed like an unfair and politically-motivated eviction, STC was one of many organizations to sign a letter of support addressed to the mayor of Berkeley. Both myself and the other founder of Seed the Commons had been very involved in anti-eviction activism in the Bay Area in previous years, and one of our board members was a professional housing advocate and anti-eviction organizer; it would have been strange and hypocritical for us to not extend this barest level of support to a local organization facing an unfair eviction. As soon as the letter was made public (like, instantaneously) one of our volunteers emailed me to ask for an explanation. She had been contacted by a friend of hers who sounded the alarm on, I guess, our questionable associations, or her questionable association to us.
Just like free speech is for everyone and not just those you agree with, illegal and unfair evictions are no less wrong if the people getting evicted aren’t to your liking. Opposing evictions is a cause that surpasses the story of any individual evictees, and all the more so in the Bay Area. Amazingly, this was not how our volunteer saw things, despite being a person who was building her career and identity on being at the forefront of progressive causes and preaching to vegans about social justice. Instead, she did some mental gymnastics to minimize the wrongness of the eviction and to criticize DxE for fighting back. Her friend then informed her of the video we had shared weeks prior, and that sealed the deal. The volunteer said she could no longer work with Seed the Commons, but that she did want to continue working with me and the other STC founder as individuals. What this really was about was avoiding a public association with a tarnished organization, not because of her personal conviction, but just for the optics. (1)
As to inviting Wayne Hsiung to speak at our conference, this was used against us for years to follow. Lauren Ornelas, a person who has marketed herself as a reference and arbiter on all things social justice to the animal rights crowd, tried to get me uninvited from Berkeley Earth Day in 2018, using my invitation of Wayne (two years prior!) as a pretext. Berkeley Earth Day was organized by the same person who later dropped me from her book for my gender critical views, but in this instance, she agreed that this was an unreasonable level of guilt by association (and she shared with me that she herself had been bullied into not letting Wayne speak at another one of her conferences, and was very frustrated with what she saw as irrational groupthink on this issue). Lauren got angry with the organizer for not uninviting me and canceled her own talk at Berkeley Earth Day instead. I also later found out that this was not the only time that Lauren had berated organizers for giving my organization a platform, accusing us of being “in cahoots” with DxE. None of this was made public, indeed she asked the organizer of Berkeley Earth Day to keep the whole thing secret. By using guilt by association, a person with clout in the movement was throwing their weight around to exclude others. This was nothing other than behind-the-scenes bullying, which leads me to my next point.
There is also a connection between identitarianism and McCarthyism, where the first enables the second. In my experience in the animal rights movement, the policing of others often came from people of color or other minorities who put forth this facet of their identity as a way to establish themselves as an authority on social justice. White people are typically not willing to challenge their ideas or behaviors, for fear of being perceived as too fragile, unwoke, etc. In cases where people of color with whom I’ve spoken have plainly used the words “bully” and “bullying” to describe certain individuals and their behaviors, white people were much more diplomatic and circumspect. Identitarianism can foster an environment in which bullying is unchecked, because the opportunity to use your identity to be an unchallengeable authority appeals to a certain type of personality. In his recent article Identitarianism created Jessica Krug, Jesse Singal wrote “If you’re a certain type of attention-seeking person — particularly the type who wants to be able to browbeat or bully others — it must be irresistible to seize this type of power. It’s something that no one can take away from you — who wouldn’t want to be the subject of that sort of deference?”. (2)
We ended up in a different place than where we started, and it got more personal than planned! But going back to the interview: my few comments and bones to pick don’t change that I find it interesting and very insightful. A+, would listen again.
(1) This is the person whose book I helped make happen, as I mentioned in my post on getting dropped from an animal rights anthology. At some point I will tell that story because as I’ve said before, it is the perfect illustration of the problems with so-called “intersectional veganism”.
(2) Ironically and sadly, despite an apparent reversal of power and increased representation at a superficial level, ultimately power and wealth mostly remain in the same hands. Those who are from groups that have traditionally been unheard and unrepresented, typically remain so. This is also something that I touched upon in my recent post, How being a feminist got me dropped as an author of an animal rights anthology.
El San Franciscan works for a union that has been organizing strikes and picket lines for their members. He was asked to attend a picket line tomorrow for a health worker’s strike. It’s come out that one of his co-workers contracted Covid, possibly at a recent picket line they were made to attend where the PPE provided was not adequate and social distancing was not enforced. And now, many other co-workers are being quarantined after being exposed to the virus. A few hours ago, I suggested to El San Franciscan that he not go to the picket line tomorrow, and he didn’t think it was an option.
But really, it should be an option. They are not being provided with safe work conditions. In addition to the lack of social distancing and PPE, the strikers tomorrow are nurses and many of them recently tested positive for Covid. So now, the union that represents El San Franciscan and his co-workers, which is a different union from the one for which they work, is urging them to strike by not attending the strike tomorrow. So… it’s a meta strike.
In no way do I want to make light of this. It is tragic that these people, some of whom have underlying health conditions and are at the risk of infecting larger families, are working in unsafe conditions. One of the reasons I am writing this is to simply share a slice of what’s happening in the Bay Area at this time of global pandemic.
But a vestige of my studies (two decades ago!), and of being momentarily obsessed with the concept of meta-communication, is a certain amusement with finding the meta. And to the many incongruous things that 2020 has brought us, we can now add meta-strikes.