Feminists are fighting back in SF: Our protest against SB 132, the bill that allows male inmates to “self identify” into women’s prisons

I am one of the women who protested against SB 132 at the Golden Gate Bridge in early February.

My time got monopolized by two idiotic and antagonistic men.

I’m not going to make a list of every non-sequitur, strawman and ignorant take, but I’ll note a few things:

– These guys wanted to talk AT us. They had no interest in listening to our responses, even when they asked us questions.

– One of them has a TIF (trans-identified female, or “transman”) daughter, yet he thinks that there is no problem with men in women’s spaces, and that TIFs should be in men’s spaces. It is scary how little men acknowledge male violence against women. (Of course, if the notion of male violence is ridiculous pearl-clutching, why are they clutching their pearls about violence against TIMs, or transwomen? From what are TIMs escaping by using female prisons, bathrooms and other spaces?)

– To that point, the other dude said that he owns a homeless shelter in SF(!!!). And yet he compared us – women defending what tiny amount of protection and dignity female inmates have – to people 50 years ago “fighting against people dancing” and said that the world “would advance regardless”. I feel terrible for the homeless women who end up in his shelter. Homeless women are horribly vulnerable and have a dire need for their own spaces.

Of course, the world doesn’t just “advance”, all linear and effortless. I wish it did. The reason that women stood out in the cold that day, some of them risking their incomes, to re-demand the sex-based rights and protections that were fought for by feminists before us, is because progress and liberation, especially women’s, are usually met with a conservative backlash. Scott Wiener, California senator and author of SB 132, is that backlash.

These men at Golden Gate Bridge, ranting and sneering at women speaking up for the women being assaulted and raped in prison, shouting at an elderly woman that she has no compassion, telling me that I am the reason trans youth are killing themselves…. are no different than the men who intimidated, mocked and called manhaters the previous generations of protesting feminists. Because while those women made incredible strides, not enough awareness was raised and maintained in broader society about the extent of the sexism we face every day. Likewise, little has changed in the attitudes of men towards women. And so, as I’ve said before, we are back at square 1, having to argue for our rights all over again. It’s sad, it’s scary, it’s depressing.

– In discussing the hypothetical situation of a transwoman being housed in a female prison, the father of the TIF twice used the pronoun “he”. I had to remind him that he should be using the pronoun “she” if he believes that this person is a woman. One of them also commented that it “wasn’t fair” to punish all transwomen for the doings of a few, in the sense that if a few of them raped female inmates after being transferred, the others should not be “punished” by being excluded from female prisons. The assumption is that, by default, men have a right to women’s spaces. That only the proven rapist can, perhaps, justifiably be excluded. In other words, the assumption is that women do not have an inherent right to our own spaces. A space in which we don’t have to shower, sleep, or use the toilet in front of any man. If I am forced to shower in front of a man, nothing more needs to happen for it to be a violation.

My exchanges with these white knights highlighted what has been made obvious these past years: This was always about men’s rights–or rather, men’s privileges. They can say “transwomen are women” until they’re blue, but there is not a single category of woman for whom they agitate this much and in this way.

In the past three years, every time that I have read about a woman in prison being raped, assaulted or harassed by a male inmate, and every time that I have read about a convicted rapist or other violent male being housed in a woman’s prison, I have thought about Hope, the editor who dropped me from her book at the request of her publisher because of my gender critical writing. Hope didn’t care about female inmates and others harmed by gender ideology; she only cared about doing what was convenient for her.

When Hope questioned me about my views, she scoffed and laughed, acted incredulous and as though I were ridiculously uninformed. This was in 2020. I had been following the “gender wars” for about 4 years, but Hope was convinced that she knew more than I did, and she would not give me even the benefit of doubt. Hope is a California resident who did not believe that Self ID (which is the basis of SB 132, introduced a year earlier, and a number of local policies) is real. She was “sure” that there were “protocols” to determine who is trans. Feminists have spent years writing and talking about Self ID, yet most people still believe that “transwomen” are all men who have had surgery and take hormones. Our claims can be verified with minimal research, but instead we get dismissed as crackpots.

Hope and I were both active in the animal rights movement, and long before our conversation on gender identity, I had mused that she had the sort of overconfidence and entitlement that, in the US, is associated with white men. And now, attending my very first feminist protest, I ended up the captive audience of two such men.

To be a woman in the world is to suffer fools, to be a female activist is to suffer them doubly.

White guy #1, father of the TIF, kept snickering, walking away, and coming back when he thought he had a good “gotcha”. He said he was an “expert” in “sexual orientation”. I asked him what sexual orientation had to do with it, since trans identity is about gender identity, and trans people can be of any orientation. He didn’t answer. He asked us with a smirk ‘so you think that a transman in a men’s prison would be in “mortal danger?”’ Silly women, thinking men are dangerous! But somehow it’s not silly to pass a bill based on that very premise (Scott Wiener has repeatedly framed it as protecting transwomen from rape) if the bill is about protecting males from male violence. (Of course, the same hypothetical male inmate who would rape transwomen can now also identify his way into a female prison…)

The vast majority of the public does not want this. If women were not systematically ignored, silenced and dismissed, we would not be where we are today.

Women’s concerns about male violence have long been dismissed as hysteria, bigotry, or prudishness, and proponents of Self ID laws and policies followed the playbook from day 1. SB 132 grants inmates the right to be recognized as the “gender” that they identify as at that point in time (indeed, they can identify differently later), which entails being referred to with the pronouns of their choice and being searched by a prison guard of their “same gender” (the rights of female prison guards are of course completely overlooked, and they can now be forced to perform these procedures on male inmates). In regards to where they are to be housed, trans-identified inmates can choose men’s or women’s facilities based on where they feel “safest”.

After SB 132 was passed in the California Senate in May 2019, the co-sponsors “converted it to a two-year bill so that the co-sponsors and Senator Wiener could meaningfully integrate feedback collected from a survey of the ~1,200 trans, gender-nonconforming and intersex people currently in CDCR custody.”

Not only did Wiener not consult with incarcerated women, WOLF reported that during a virtual town hall, “in his four-and-half minute response on SB 132, Wiener did not once address the concerns of these women. Instead, the state senator resorted to smearing the women bravely speaking up on this issue.” He handwaved women’s concerns with vague and lazy misrepresentations: “Unfortunately there’s been a right-wing backlash against this law and we have right-wing publications that are publishing a lot of just inaccurate information, frankly fake news, about this law and trying to demonize and scapegoat trans people including, unfortunately, there’s a term called ‘TERF,’ trans-exclusive radical feminist people who believe that trans women are not actually women and advocate in that way.” “These are the same arguments we heard in North Carolina restroom law, that trans women are just trying to scam their way into a women’s restroom to victimize cisgender women.”

In other words, and I am going to use words to which we can all agree, when a person who was born with a penis says that they are in danger, they are to be believed, no questions asked, and they are to decide which facilities they will live in, no questions asked. But when a person who was born with a vagina says that they are in danger, they are to be dismissed as bigots, liars and connivers.

Amie Ichikawa, ED of Woman II Woman, said “The terror, abuse, and cruelty incarcerated women are experiencing because of Scott Wiener’s bill is not ‘fake news.’ I speak to these women every single day. They are devastated. They don’t understand how their elected officials, especially those who claim to care about justice reform and protecting women of color, could turn a blind eye to what is happening here.” Amie and others also point out, in this discussion about a trans-identified female inmate who was retaliated against for speaking out against sexual harrassment committed by a male inmate, that those behind SB 132 have zero concern for trans-identified females; their efforts are solely for the benefit of trans-identified males.

This is basic, age-old sexism. And it’s infuriating.

But– Amie sent photos of our protest to incarcerated women who were “shocked” and “very moved that anyone would do this for them”. They asked, “Who are these women? Why would they stand up for us?” And Amie replied, “They are women who give a shit and are doing something about it.”

So, the action was very much worth it, but we need to find ways to reach larger audiences with more effective messaging. We should try to ask questions of those who think they are on the other side: Let the Socratic method reveal to them how little they know and how illogical and sexist their thought process is. In our communications overall, it’s important to undo the notion that removing women’s spaces is in any way a progressive development. Women’s human rights are being violated. It is not more complicated than that. We, as women and as advocates, have been harmed by the narrative pushed by both transactivists and the traditional conservatives (I explained here how these are simply two flavors of conservative) that the only people opposing this are conservatives. They both benefit from this framing and from distorting or making invisible the work and arguments of feminists.

It is noteworthy that most of the people who expressed support for us that day were women, but they didn’t engage much, and the very first people to approach us were an enthusiastic family visiting from the UK – or “Terf Island” as they said. These actions build community and give people comfort and strength in knowing they are not alone. There need to be more.

It’s ironic that white guy #2 compared us to the stuffy adults in Footloose, because I am partly from a country that imprisons people for dancing–now, in 2023. It is precisely this fact, and the killing of women who refuse to cover their hair, and the killing of youth who protest the tyranny, that strengthens my resolve to face my minor discomforts and put myself out there. Defending the human rights of female prisoners in California is part of the struggle for women everywhere. Here like in Iran, women are oppressed on the basis of being born in a female body. The woke love to masquerade as allies to “women of color”, but by denying the reality of sex-based oppression, and by systematically opposing women’s efforts to have a social movement focused on the dismantlement of that oppression, they support societal and institutional sexism everywhere.

For women who aren’t incarcerated, who aren’t homeless, who aren’t lesbian, who aren’t hedging our careers on a female-only scholarship, it’s easy to ignore the whole thing (while secretly trusting that other women will – as always – do the thankless work of defending the rights you enjoy) so that you can keep your good standing. If solidarity is too much to ask for, at least know that at some point, it will cost you too.

It’s time for more courage, and a lot more protests.


Learn more about the impacts of SB 132 on women:




When the East forces conversion therapy onto homosexuals it’s backwards, when the West does the same it’s enlightened

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.  

I emailed my friend back that these things had already been taking place, that there were known cases of men raping women in female prisons. I attached the article, Women’s boundaries shouldn’t only matter when politically correct, written after the tragic murder of Sarah Everard, and copied this passage: 

‘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.

Persian Vegan Food

I didn’t intend to do food posts but I do wish that the search terms “Persian/Iranian + vegan” would bring up more results, so here it is.

A vegan Iranian friend invited me to celebrate Norooz at her house this year and this is the vegan dinner with which we celebrated new beginnings and the new year.

For Norooz, it is traditional to eat fish with herbed rice. We stuck to tradition – somewhat. Tradition is not an excuse for cruelty, so we upheld both tradition and compassion and enjoyed some mock fish. We also had ash reshteh, mast khiar, stuffed eggplant that’s not pictured, torshi, olives and other sides, salad and baklava for dessert. Let me say again for the search engines that this was an entirely vegan Persian dinner.

The main chef was my friend’s 73-year old vegan Persian mother, a woman who loves animals and has participated in several protests with Direct Action Everywhere. Protest is not only for the young, and veganism is not only for the West. There is a notion that elderly people, working-class people, non-Westerners, and people of color are stuck in their ways. They can’t understand animal liberation and they won’t give up their favorite dishes. It’s not true though, people from all demographics are choosing plant-based diets, for health, spirituality, sustainability, and for compassion.

A few years ago, I exchanged a few pleasantries with some students at work. One of them asked me where my name was from. I said Iran and without missing a beat, he asked if Iranian food had a lot of meat. It seemed like such a random question: he didn’t know that I was vegan and we were not in a place with food or any reference to food. He might have been speaking of food with his friends but from my vantage point his question came out of nowhere. Then again, not entirely out of nowhere.

At the time, San Francisco was experiencing the full force of the foodie obsession with meat done right and with the appreciation of tradition and culture as cardinal virtues come mealtime. I was working at a yoga studio that sold copies of the book Nourishing Traditions, which positioned Tradition with a capital T against the unbalanced and déraciné take on food of the modern West. It relied on a few meat-heavy traditions to convey a generic and universalist idea of Tradition and forgotten wisdom, and its populistic tone was effective in delegitimizing vegetarianism in the minds of many readers.

The man who asked about Iran was from Argentina, which is one of the few countries that rivals the US with its obsession with meat. This could explain his enthusiasm for meat and perhaps his implicit adoption of the notion that of course, all traditions are meat based. In the case of Iran, this isn’t true. While most Iranian dishes contain some meat or dairy, I contend that Iranian cuisine is one of the most easily veganizable. It does not seem to have been developed with meat as the central feature. If you take a steak dinner and remove the steak, you’re left with some potatoes and a sprig of parsley. On the other hand, if you take adas polo or ghormeh sabzi and omit the meat, you’re left with complex flavors and satisfying dishes in their own right.

Amongst the Diaspora and in Iran, meat is now consumed often and in relatively large quantities but this is a recent development, as in most of the Global South. The chunks of meat in khoreshs have gotten bigger and more numerous, kebab has become more than an occasional treat. I once asked my dad how often he ate meat as a child and he answered with the impatient tone reserved for stupid questions, “people didn’t have money in those days!” By the standards of a third-world country in the 1950s, my dad wasn’t poor. He had shoes and my grandfather had a decent white-collar job, but meat was not eaten daily. I might as well have asked if everyone had a car.

Remove meat and dairy from Persian food and you still have one of the most sophisticated and flavorful cuisines in the world. But perhaps you have money for meat and you want that umami richness – I get it. It’s a great opportunity to play with new ingredients. Make kookoo with chickpea flour and black salt, learn to make your own nut-based feta and seitan, and divert that meat budget to wonderful plant-based alternatives.

I am not a stickler for authenticity. We’ve seamlessly incorporated tomatoes (“foreign berries”) from Mexico and potatoes from Peru into our khoreshs – why not also adopt the delicious mock meats that our East Asian neighbors have developed for centuries? This Norooz, my friend’s mom tasted mock fish for the first time and said “Why would anybody kill a poor fish when they can eat this delicious food instead?” Why indeed.

It’s often thought that non-Westerners can’t and won’t change their ways, but perhaps more questionable is the idea that they shouldn’t. Westerners have profited off the destruction of cultures and economies around the world and now want to be the guardians of authenticity and maintaining others’ traditions. For the benefit of whom? Somehow it’s always imperative to “experience culture” when it comes to tasting grilled llama or roasted pig but there’s less enthusiasm about partaking in the authentic experience of eating beans three times a day. The westernization of diets also doesn’t seem to concern many when it takes the form of skyrocketing milk and meat consumption, which is the problem that most people are actually experiencing. So what is this trend really about?

The former colonialists want to display their now-enlightened relationship to non-Western peoples by the gratuitous consumption of their folklore. Meanwhile, peoples’ food systems, livelihoods and lifestyles are still being eroded because imperialism has simply taken new forms. If you want to resist this, there are better ways to do it than fashioning yourself into an Anthony Bourdain and shaming people away from animal liberation.

Let’s not selectively uphold traditions – or our idea of them – to resist social change. The beautiful culinary traditions of the world can and should still be appreciated as we build a world where animals are friends, not food. As all living traditions, cuisines continually evolve, and what better reason to do so than compassion?