Some people disagree that there is any such thing as transgender ideology; I’ve even seen the claim that to suggest there is such a thing is transphobic. This may be based on a misconception of what the word ‘ideology’ means. As David McLellan (Ideology, 1995) wrote, “Ideology is the most elusive concept in the whole of the social sciences”. It’s a word with many rival definitions. I use it on this website to refer to certain highly contestable ideas that are fiercely promoted by some trans activists because they are held to represent the interests of transgender people. This is not to suggest that all transgender people agree with all or any of them – far from it. Some of these ideas are strongly challenged or simply ignored by some trans people but it is important to engage with them because they are potentially harmful.
I have devoted other pages in this category to arguments relevant to trans ideology; to the hatred and silencing of critical voices that appears to be a very big part of transgender activism and to the erasure that is an inevitable consequence of it.
Ideology is often defined as a “system of ideas”; I’ll leave it to others to judge whether there is anything systematic about the ideas I see trans activists promoting and whether ‘ideology’ is in fact the best word to describe them but, for want of anything better, it will have to do.
What does ‘transgender’ mean?
Wikipedia and Peak Trans
It occurs to me that, before saying anything about trans ideology, I should be clear about what I understand by the term ‘transgender’. Hopefully, I won’t need to mention Wikipedia too many times on this site. According to Wikipedia “a trans woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth”. This is unsupported and, in my opinion, unsupportable. I and others have edited it in an attempt at accuracy only to have our edits swiftly reversed. One message I received from an editor was “we don’t want people to think we’re not women”. This was a peak trans confirming moment for me and, in light of this evidence that Wikipedia editors will pander to ideology at the expense of accuracy, I no longer support the site financially and will not use it as source for anything on this site. (Edited 01.01.17 to add: I see there is at least one editor fighting for accuracy on this topic. His user page, on which he documents bias in transgender-related articles, makes for interesting reading.)
So here is the definition of trans people I use on this site – it is a definition learned from trans people themselves: A “transwoman” (also written “trans woman”) is a male-born person who “identifies as” a woman; a “transman” (or “trans man”) is a female-born person who “identifies as” a man. According to this article in the Guardian, “Why a person feels male when they are biologically female, or the other way around, for now remains uncertain,” and I have no intention of going there in the foreseeable future. What I will say is that those men who identify as women and those women who identify as men are wrong. To identify as something, it must at least be feasible that you could actually be that something. One can identify as, say, a socialist or a conservative, as gay or straight or bisexual, as atheist or religious believer, as an environmentalist, as a vegetarian or an unrepentant carnivore. You can identify as any of these things because you can conceivably be any of them. But you can no more actually be a woman if you are a man and vice versa than you can be Napoleon or Her Majesty the Queen. If you identify as Napoleon, you will be considered delusional and quite right too. I’ve heard two trans friends of mine both say that they are not women – that they identify with women not as women and, while this may be problematic, it is at least possible.
What is more important, from my perspective, is to point out what people who haven’t take much interest in gender issues don’t seem to know. This is that most trans people do not have genital surgery, which leads to the absurd notion that some women have penises and some men have vaginas, get pregnant and give birth. This is trans ideology. I once believed that all trans-identifying people were either pre-op or post-op. I didn’t know that some don’t even want to have surgery and others do but can’t get it.
Another thing that most people don’t seem to know and, in my experience, find very hard to believe, is that (reportedly) most men who transition are not gay. They are heterosexual men and when they transition they identify as lesbians. And some have been known to accuse real lesbians – i.e. those born female – of being discriminatory or transphobic because they won’t indulge “women” with penises.
Your dating “preferences” are discriminatory Riley J. Dennis
Time for a cartoon from the stupendous Feminist Heretic.
Trans women are women and trans men are men
This is the core tenet of trans ideology and is the fundamental reason why transgenderism is problematic for women. I believe that if MtTs were content to define themselves as transwomen rather than insisting they are “are ‘real’ women – as much as any cis woman is” (see below) and accept that, as transwomen, there will inevitably be limitations placed on their “womanhood” and the degree to which they can be accepted as women, then there would be much less impetus to fight back.
An article that appears on the website laughingly known as Everyday Feminism provides a wonderful illustration of the logical fallacy known as ‘begging the question’ – a form of circular reasoning where the conclusion is assumed in the premise.
There is a simple truth that a lot of folks, even allies (even queer and genderqueer ones!), tend to forget or misunderstand when thinking about how trans women are affected by privilege/oppression: We are “real” women – as much as any cis woman is.
And if we are women, that means we can not receive male privilege – because male privilege is by definition something that only men and masculine-identified people can experience.
To say trans women receive male privilege implies that we are partially male, or less female than cis women, or falsely female. All of the above are incorrect and offensive, because trans women are women.
No ifs, no ands, no buts!
This is so bad, it’s almost funny. Why waste so many words when you can just say: “trans women aren’t men because they’re women”? No need for explanations, reasoning or evidence – just suck it up.
To assert that transwomen are real women is nothing more than an opinion phrased as a slogan and one that, logically, makes no more sense than saying “pantomime horses are real horses”. Yet so many people think it’s enough to simply state it without any attempt to offer any reasoning – apart from circular reasoning as in the example above – and, if our reaction is to contradict it, we are deemed to be transphobic and should just shut the hell up.
In their dreams.
One advantage of this slogan is that it gives trans allies an easy way to practise what is known nowadays as ‘virtue signalling’, as well as an excuse to close down debate and shout down those who might embarrass them with rational counter-arguments.
Take, for example, an article by Josh Jackman that appeared in Pink News on 13 March 2017.
Entitled What is a real woman? I clicked on it in the expectation that I would see at least some attempt at a definition to counter Jenni Murray’s contention, published a week earlier, that someone who has lived their life as a male cannot lay claim to womanhood. But Jackman bottles out entirely, declaring that
No-one switches gender.
Being misgendered and living in the wrong body is not a privilege.
Trans women are women. Trans women are women.
For anyone who’s still confused, here are some things which are not women:
Readers are then shown a series of pictures of random objects including a tin of paint, a park bench, a baseball hat…you get the idea. Jackman can’t provide sound reasons so tries to be facetious, in the hope we won’t notice, thereby treating his readers like numpties, which no doubt many of them are. This style of journalism may be why Pink News is often referred to as “Penis News” in feminist circles.
Finally, we are shown pictures of Monica Bellucci, Lupita Nyong’o, Caitlyn Jenner and Andreja Pejić and told they are all real women together with
Right beneath the article, we see the risible claim that Jackman is a “proud feminist”.
The fuck he is.
Elsewhere I’ve addressed why I think the argument that there ‘is a wider spectrum than the two sexes’ is irrelevant to the notion that ‘trans women are women’: it is women’s biological function that has historically and globally led to women’s oppression as a class by men, which in turn shapes how we are raised and socialised, regardless of sexual orientation, socio-economic class or anything else. This doesn’t imply that all women experience discrimination and oppression the same way, nor does it deny other intersecting experiences of oppression such as racism, class oppression and homophobia. It simply states that what matters in determining whether we are male or female – men or women – for the purposes of gender equality and women’s liberation is not how we feel, not what we look like, not our ethnicity or sexual orientation nor what brain scans may or may not show but our role in reproduction. Women are adult human females; men are adult human males. It follows that women do not have penises and men cannot get pregnant.
“Misgendering is an act of violence”
“Gender” is a social construct externally imposed on us according to our biological sex. We can claim a different “gender identity” to the one associated with our sex but we cannot actually demand that other people respect that gender identity. But why wouldn’t we respect other people’s “gender identity”?
Personally, I’m fine with people expressing themselves however they so choose and certainly with men expressing themselves as ‘feminine’, which is a gender and the opposite of ‘masculine’. Also, I believe in courtesy and respect as default positions and I will use preferred pronoun as a courtesy as long as they’ve done nothing to lose my respect. But men who mock, bully, verbally and physically abuse those women who challenge them, men who promote and celebrate violence against women and men who try to silence women don’t deserve courtesy and respect so I won’t afford them any and that includes allowing them and their supporters to police my language.
So how is ‘misgendering’ violent?
Having been the victim of unprovoked physical violence by a group of male-born transgender people less than half my age, the idea that denying a man the status of womanhood and calling him the “wrong” pronoun amounts to violence is not one I find naturally easy to understand or empathise with, so I determined to read or listen to some trans people’s explanations with an open mind.
On Freethought blogs, where I often find good writing on scientific subjects, I read an article called What trans people mean when we say “misgendering is violence”
However, I came away none the wiser. The article makes a fallacious slippery slope argument that suggests without explanation that misgendering strips trans people of their humanity and what starts with misgendering ends with “describing or wishing upon or enacting acts of monstrous violence upon us.” This is preposterous and the appalling quote from a lesbian separatist called Bev Jo von Dohre doesn’t make it any less so. (I researched that quote, by the way. It was allegedly posted in 2010, which is probably about the same number of times it has been quoted as evidence of “TERF hatred”).
Unlike, say, slavery or genocide, refusing to use the pronoun associated with someone’s gender identity rather than their biological sex when they expressly want you to, isn’t denying someone’s humanity. It is denying their gender identity and this may be done for one of several reasons. It may be an act of bullying by transphobes; it may also be an act of resistance against trans ideology and how it potentially hurts women and girls, which is why I do it. By the way, deliberate “misgendering” of gender critical individuals by trans cultists themselves isn’t the way to make a point hit home – I have been called ‘he’ and ‘Mister’ more than once because they mistakenly think I give a shit. I don’t.
Riley J. Dennis argues that misgendering is an act of psychological violence. In doing so he contributes to the notion that trans people are mentally fragile – an idea that was seized upon with enthusiasm by supporters of President Trump’s proposed ban of trans people in the US military.
This feels like more emotional blackmail to me (see Silencing Critical Voices for other examples). I certainly feel disrespected and uncomfortable about the whole idea that male-born trans people are the same as women and I know I’m hated because I’m prepared to stick my neck out and say that they aren’t. But this is telling me my feelings don’t matter compared to the feelings of trans people.
Denis goes on to say that misgendering contributes to the “extraordinarily high rates of suicide” of trans people – although the stats he quotes refers to self-reported attempted suicide rather than actual suicide. I have yet to see reliable statistics for the rate of actual suicide committed by trans people. Nor have I seen confirmed reports rather than intuitive speculation of what actually drives them to take their own lives.
This is wholly implausible. Misgendering may anger trans people and hurt their feelings but suggesting that it has anything to do with violence against trans people is silly and Dennis makes no effort to provide evidence for any correlation. I’m not saying he’s being intentionally deceptive. Intuitively, it probably seems correct to him but it doesn’t stand to reason.
“Not up for debate”
I don’t know when some people started to think this is an OK thing to say but, in any event, it’s wrong. All issues and ideas are up for debate and discussion and I believe the reason that trans ideologues are so reluctant to debate is that their arguments are easily demolished.
This is also why a debate on, for example, proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, which could have a profoundly negative effect on other people’s lives, is mendaciously framed as an “attack” on trans people and the campaign to close it down defended with spurious slogans such as “trans lives are not up for debate”, “the validity of our existence is not up for debate”, “trans people’s human rights are not up for debate”, “when the terfs attack we fight back,” etc, etc.
Finally, it is why, when they have the chance to take part in discussions on national TV – ideal opportunities to persuade the viewing public of the rightness of their cause – they resort to pitiable, fabricated excuses to avoid doing so. But it won’t wash any more. Now that the hornets’ nest has been well and truly stirred up, debates will take place with or without the participation of those who’d rather we didn’t have them.
I say more on ‘Not up for debate’ here.
Confronting the mantra Caroza, Real Feminists site
I lived for a short time to all intents & purposes (outwardly) as a very feminine heterosexual man – a Twitter thread by Kristina Jayne Harrison
If ‘white feminism’ is a thing, gender identity ideology epitomizes it Raquel Rosario Sanchez
Inborn transgenderism is impossible Social Justice Wizard
Fear and Loathing Grips the Gender Debate James Kirkup
On pronouns Miranda Yardley
Revealed: The Transgender Email The Times
Saying no to penis is not hate speech The New Backlash
The appropriation of black and hispanic trans deaths by white trans women and political opportunists Thoughts of a white collar girl next door (a trans person’s blog) 16.3.15
The Battle Over What It Means to Be Female Chris Hedges
The continuing incoherence of transgender ideology The College Fix
The Violent Misogyny of the gender debate James Kirkup
Transactivism is making a mockery of the fight against female genital mutilation Renee Gender Critical Greens
Transgender Ideology Does Not Support Women Miranda Yardley
Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme Paul Hughes
Transgenderism is Antifeminism Elemental Witch 22.8.14
Transwomen And Narcissistic Rage Gender Apostates
Transwomen are men Lily Maynard
Trans-women are not women Michal Dinal
What is a Man anyway? Glosswitch
What is Transgender? Not the news in brief blog
What is a Woman? The Feminista Hood
Why I won’t accept the politics of gender identity Jennifer Duncan
Why women should stand up to the trans ideology Julian Vigo
Video: Misgendering is violence? Nah, mate. Magdalen Berns
My dog is a plumber
He must be a boy
Although I must tell you
That his favorite toy
Is a little play stove
With pans and with pots,
Which he really must like
Cause he plays with it lots.
So perhaps he’s a girl,
Which kind of makes sense
Since he can’t throw a ball
And he can’t climb a fence.
But neither can dad
And I know he’s a man
And mom is a woman
And she drives a van.
Maybe the problem
Is in trying to tell
What someone is
By what he does well.