You knew this was coming. Don’t even act surprised. Though this one is probably going to be a little bit more pointed than usual, I suppose? Its going to be hard to maintain objectivity and not lay into Blaire harder than I usually would because just recently she smeared me in front of her 110,000 followers. Claiming I’d spend days calling her the anti-christ, when I hadn’t, and telling me off for DM’ing her, after she told me off for not DM’ing her previously. Then of course, blocking me.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little bit upset by this, I’d really tried to be honest and genuine with her about my criticisms. I’ve never called her the anti-christ or even said I don’t like her as a person. To be absolutely frank? I’ve let her say some really shitty things to me and let…
It can’t be emphasized enough: Coming out as transgender or any variation thereof is downright terrifying. It is often met with criticism, resistance, and invalidation. When I came out to friends, it felt like the world was crashing down all around me.
And by far, the worst part was the resistance I faced when asking others to stop saying “she.” Beyond coming out, we also ask others to change a very ingrained habit — to use different pronouns when speaking about us. This is where I encountered the most turmoil.
Some folks simply don’t understand what they are saying when they refuse to use someone’s stated gender pronouns.
When someone states their pronouns (he, she, ze, they, etc), they are asking for your respect. And when you choose not to use these pronouns, and instead opt for your own, you are not only invalidating someone’s identity, but you are also…
We can all agree, I think, that people’s actual lives are more important than theoretical abstractions– including those related to “identity.” This is precisely why, as feminists, we demand acknowledgement for the lived realities and material conditions of women’s lives, including the social mechanics of sex-and-gender-assignment that ultimately give rise to women’s oppression. But beyond this, there are a truly alarming number of misrepresentations, inconsistencies, and logical errors in The Statement. I will address many of them below.
First things first, I want to point out that characterizing gender critical feminists as “transphobic feminists” remains unsupported where “transphobia” is not defined. Repeated use of this term to demonize a certain kind of political speech or political actor is clearly intended to be insulting rather than instructive; it serves as a…
Consistent with common usage of the term “cisgender,” the graphic below explains that “…if you identify with the gender you were assigened [sic] at birth, you are cis.”
Another Trans 101: Cisgender webpage describes cis this way: “For example, if a doctor said “it’s a boy!” when you were born, and you identify as a man, then you could be described as cisgender.”[i] Likewise, girl-born people who identify as women are also considered cisgender. WBW are cis.
Framing gender as a medically determined assignment may seem like a good start to explaining gendered oppression because it purports to make a distinction between physical sex and gender. Feminism similarly understands masculinity and femininity (e.g., gender) as strictly enforced social constructs neither of which are the “normal” or inevitable result of one’s reproductive sex organs. Feminism and trans theory agree that coercive gender assignments are a significant source of oppression.
I’m not a Christian (not an atheist, either), but you may be surprised to learn that I spend a lot of time reading Christian texts (Scripture, exegeses, theologies, debates) related to the topics on homosexuality and gender. Actually, “a lot of time” is an understatement. My boyfriend Trevor would say “a disturbing amount of time”. When we do our bedtime readings together and he peeks at my laptop screen, and it’s something about the Bible again, he would freak out a little and wonder why the heck I care about this so much.
Why do I care so much?
Mainly for three reasons.
First, the topics are deeply, profoundly personal to me. I happen to fall into at least two subcategories of the LGBTQI community, even though I appear to be in a “normal” heterosexual relationship. I have straight-passing privilege because I look female and my partner is male. Living in the safe bubble of Canada, I don’t have to worry about discrimination or harassment based on sexuality or gender, at least not currently. But that doesn’t erase the fact that growing up, a great amount of my struggle evolved around the issues of gender and sexuality, so much so that it pretty much shaped the person I am today. I perceive the world and relate to humanity through the lens of the struggle.
Many people claim that morality about sexuality and gender is a “private matter” and that people’s moral opinions shouldn’t hinge on others’ rights and vice versa. I think this view is a little naïve even though it may be well-meaning. It’s easy to say “we ought not judge one another”, and I understand the sentiment behind it: No one likes moral busybodies who play the role of God and point fingers. However, it’s simply impossible to avoid discussing morality in a functioning society. As John Corvino, a philosophy professor, puts it:
“Morality is about how we treat one another, and thus it is quintessentially a matter for public concern… It’s about the kind of society we want to be: what we will embrace, what we will tolerate, and what we will forbid. And while it’s true that a free society grants a good deal of personal latitude here, avoiding legal force except where transgressions infringe upon others’ liberty, it doesn’t follow that morality is irrelevant to the law. People’s moral views strongly influence how they vote, and thus, ultimately, what laws get passed.”
The connection between people’s moral views and legitimation leads to my second reason: “Religious freedom” is the last bastion to justify, if not glorify, discrimination. This is certainly not new. Religious belief has been used to justify a variety of discriminations in history (to list just a few). Every time, there were people who genuinely believed that their discrimination was solidly grounded on the Scripture or Tradition, and they were dead sure their interpretations were correct. History repeatedly proved that these people were on the wrong side, and their interpretations were little more than wolf-crying false alarms. You would think that by now people would have a high prior for the possibility of misinterpretation before they stand as the opponents of equal civil rights citing religious belief again. Unfortunately, no.
“Those people in the past weren’t real Christians,” they would say, “The Bible doesn’t actually teach those. They were just abusing the Bible to justify their own prejudices. But this time it’s different. Our interpretation is really right (finally). It’s written so literally and explicitly in the Bible. There’s no way I could possibly misinterpret it. Absolutely no way. The ‘liberal’ churches may tell you something different, but they are just doing theological compromises and cherry-picking the Bible in order to gain public approval and more members.”
I wouldn’t be so sure. But this is to be discussed in a following article, not this one.
“Why bother to talk to them?” Trevor asked. It’s quite unlikely that either side would be able to convince the other. Many queer people would be irritated, if not offended, to debate about their rights in the first place, as they believe that their human rights and basic civil rights shouldn’t be a matter of popular votes. To them, Christians live in the bubble of a fairy tale, and it’s a waste of time to argue against the “bigoted, obviously false” views of them. Ironically, they are not the only ones who feel this way. To many Christians, it’s obvious that one side is right (guess which side), and the fact that the society is even debating about such obvious moral truth is a sign of our fallen morality, evidence of sins plaguing a downward spiralling, “politically correct” world. “Believe it or not, gay marriage hurts me deeply,” I was once told by the brother of a Christian friend, “You may think other people’s marriage is none of my business, but it is; it affects me personally. I moan for the rampant sexual sins in the world. Every day I pray for God to save the corrupted humanity. “
I can hear some of my queer friends saying “^ this is the biggest load of BS I’ve ever heard. Frankly, I don’t give a shit what conservative Christians think.” Okay, you can ignore these people, but you do have to live with the consequences of their beliefs. I know a gay couple who got married as soon as same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada in 2005. It felt like a victory at that time, but soon after the marriage, one of them got laid off from the Catholic school he worked for as a teacher in the name of “freedom of religious belief”. The couple lost half of the household income source. The marriage went downhill since then. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is against the law, but when “religious freedom” comes into the picture, situations get hairy.
Sure, you can call conservative Christians bigots. They think your view is the actually bigoted one. The problem with words such as “bigotry” is that they are a conversation-stopper. They lead to nowhere except yelling accusations over each other’s head. If you are so frustrated (and I think you have good reasons to be upset) that all you want is a catharsis of your emotions, then go ahead, but in the end of the day, we need to channel our frustration in productive ways to move forward.
Although I just used the first-person pronoun “we”, I don’t want to make my writing another tiresome “us vs. them” argument. I see a similarity between pro-LGBT rights activists and some well-meaning fundamentalist Christians. That is, they are both defending a belief that they hold so dearly and so important to their core values, and they are both convinced that the opposite view is so damaging and harmful to the society, that they are willing to risk being accused as the bad guy and even alienate close relationships (e.g. friends, family) if need be.
And this leads to the third reason why I care: I know fundamentalist Christians whom I like as people. They are sane, kind-hearted, educated folks, who firmly believe that the loving relationship of a gay couple, if it involves sex, is as sinful as murder or rape (because there are no such things as “smaller” or “bigger” sins), and that the only moral thing for gays to do is life-long celibacy (some say marrying someone of the opposite sex and just sucking it up is also okay). They will quote Biblical verses to support their stance. They will clarify that they do not hate gay people, but simply “love the sinner and hate the sin”. They will claim that rejecting same-sex marriage is not a discrimination against gays or deprivation of their civil rights, but simply following an inconvenient truth and THE righteous path, and they do so out of deep love and compassion for gay people.
I actually believe that these well-meaning people do mean it when they say they urge gays to stay celibate for life or deny them marriage equality from a place of love and compassion, as twisted as that sounds. At least, I believe that they are genuinely *convinced* that they do so out of love. I do not dismiss them as crazy, for I know their belief system is so important to them on a personal level, that rejecting a fraction of it is like denying a part of who they are. I could express my disapproval by withholding friendship, but I choose not to. I can honestly say that I love these people, and I have nothing but respect and support for them when they contribute to humanitarian work. I know people are complex and flawed, me included of course. My awareness of our shared human frailty is the reason that I see them as a person just like me. None of us has identified all our blind spots. Believing in an infallible God doesn’t make their particular beliefs infallible. Similarly, believing in the moral demands of justice doesn’t make me perfectly just.
If there’s one thing I learned from talking to Christians and reading Christian texts over the years, it’s that Christians speak a particular repertoire of language when it comes to faith, which does not necessarily build on the axioms of logic (I do not mean this in a demeaning way). Every propositional system has an axiom or a set of axioms as its ultimate foundation. The axiom is a self-evident truth that does not require a proof, and cannot be proved or falsified. Most propositional systems (e.g. science) have the axioms of logic. So if you can show that something does not follow logic nicely, then it’s probably false or flawed. But Christianity (and religions in general) believes that there’s a higher and more powerful way of knowing the truth, hence the expression “leap of faith”.
A non-believer’s worldview looks something like this:
whereas a fundamentalist Christian’s worldview looks something like this:
A non-believer’s common sense is short-sighted worldly wisdom for a fundamentalist Christian. A fundamentalist Christian’s common sense is crazy talk for a non-believer. The two both consider the other one delusional, and conversations often end in vain.
Therefore, to converse with a (fundamentalist) Christian properly and meaningfully, I must speak their language. I try to take a neutral position and not to value one worldview over another, for argument’s sake. My primary target audience are Christians, and secondary target audience are liberals who feel frustrated about Christians. My goal is not to bash, but to find a common ground, build bridge, and make minds meet.
So this is the super long introduction of a series of articles that I have been wanting to write for years. I will write the next one when I really want to procrastinate on my thesis (:P). It will look into the debate from both sides, with some exegesis.
This is so far the best explanation on gender dysphoria that I’ve come across. I had to pause about 5-6 times to finish watching the video because I was crying my eyes out. It’s an emotional bomb for me because the cage analogy he used for explaining gender dysphoria was eerily accurate and it triggered my memories of strongly emotional moments.
Gender dysphoria is extremely difficult to explain to “cis people” (i.e. people who aren’t transgender. “Cis-” came from Latin meaning “on this side of”. “Cisgender” means your gender identity is the same as the gender you are assigned at birth). I think gender dysphoria is one of the things that if you’ve never experienced it yourself then you probably will never truly understand it. Cis people would speculate that trans people feel dysphoric because of oppressive social gender roles, because that’s all they could possibly relate to. Cis people feel frustrated at times by the restrictive and narrow gender roles, and infer that that must be the cause of transgender, that trans people transition in order to escape certain gender roles and embrace other (e.g. a transwoman is really just a man who loves wearing dresses and being feminine, so “he” transitions to enjoy that life style better). That’s FALSE. While restrictive gender roles can certainly trigger or exacerbate gender dysphoria, they are not the cause of gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a bodily and psychological pain that can become overwhelming at times. It’s not to be dismissed by saying “but gender is just a social construct” or “you can like guy stuff even when you are a woman”. I understand that people usually mean well when they say those, but it can get very irritating when clueless well-meaning people trivialize a real medical condition that often ends up requiring medical intervention to alleviate pain. One of the worst components of this pain is its invisibility and inexplicability. To my family and friends I’m a feminine, pretty “woman”. I don’t know how to explain my living truth that I’m actually a dude trapped in an unusual condition that I did not choose, because that sounds absurd and irrational and has no way to prove. I’m a scientist. I feel hesitant to explain a condition that has no conclusive biological evidence as of now (although I believe that collecting more data is just a matter of time, and I don’t plan to suspend my life just to wait for a scientific “justification”).
Being perceived as a pretty woman definitely has its perks and benefits, and it’s wonderful IF you are actually a woman. For years I took advantage of that (e.g. to attract partners) and tried to convince myself that it’s the most realistic way to live my life given my situation. I succeeded – for a while. I was periodically crushed by the sense that I’m a deceiver, an impostor, and trapped in a situation impossible to get out or even explain. The guilt and hopelessness were eating me from inside. The guy in the video said “my whole life was a lie”. I said exactly the same thing to my ex-boyfriend Lee, before I emotionally broke down.
Coming out to my close friends has helped. At first most of them were concerned about medical transitioning (hormones) and tried to persuade me to not do it. Frankly, I’m the person who has tried the hardest, most frequently, and for the longest time to persuade myself to avoid medical transitioning. I can confidently say that there’s no argument my friends used that I haven’t used on myself. To my surprise, over time the friends who originally opposed hormone therapy became the strongest supporters of hormone therapy for me, because they noticed, and pointed out to me, the differences in my emotions when I was in denial and said hormone therapy would be a bad idea, versus when I wanted to give it a try. It’s a learning experience for them as well. And I should be patient when they still misgender me by calling me a woman or girl… Old habits die hard, sigh.
Reader question: “Why do all old statues have such small penises?”
The reader who sent me this felt that it was a question that was maybe too silly for my blog, but – firstly – there are no questions too silly for this blog, and – secondly – the answer to this question is actually pretty interesting.