He can’t be she
“I will not call a male “she”; thirty-two years of suffering in this androcentric society, and of surviving, have earned me the title “woman”; one walk down the street by a male transvestite, five minutes of his being hassled (which he may enjoy), and then he dares, he dares to think he understands our pain? No, in our mothers’ names and in our own, we must not call him sister.”— Robin Morgan, 1973
In the UK, the original Gender Recognition Act (GRA) set aside a legal class for people who were diagnosed as transsexual and wanted to generally be seen as the opposite sex. MPs foresaw many potential problems with this, but the answer in every case was that there were so few of these people that problems would be rare if they happened at all. Getting a gender recognition certificate also did not prevent necessary exemptions for single-sex spaces, so the idea was that it wouldn’t be a problem anywhere that mattered. That was fine for so long, that when the Women and Equalities Committee looked to revise the law in 2015, they didn’t bother consulting with any feminists or women’s groups.
In the US, the story was similar, but with a patchwork of laws regarding which states let you change your documents. The assumption continued that there were so few people doing this that no one needed to think about it too much. Even those of us who knew people who transitioned usually did not find that it made much of a ripple.
The current gender identity movement has upended every premise on which these original, and rather extraordinary, privileges were granted. It’s upended every social condition under which these privileges were not worried about, when anyone thought about them at all. It has even upended support for LGB rights, where no one meant to sign up for a world where it was going to be suggested that people were “disgusting” for having a sexual orientation based on sex.
Two phrases sum up the dilemma: “trans women are women,” and, “misgendering is violence.”
In fact, a “trans woman,” or trans-identified male, is a man. Women are not, and cannot be, trans women.
Yet the doublethink required to accept trans-identified males as truly female has gone so far that UN AIDS recently described it as discriminatory for a man not to have romantic feelings for one of these men as if he were a woman.
Many people seem to think that the term “trans woman” refers to a transsexual male, in the old sense of someone who has or seeks full cosmetic genital surgery. But the film Silence of the Lambs is no longer a valid cultural guide, and relatively few transitioning men have genital surgery. Gender identity advocates have, instead, gone so far as to declare it a human rights violation to require medically diagnosed transsexualism, let alone the surgeries usually sought for the condition, as a precondition for changing one’s identity documents and legal rights.
The latest in gender identity policies make no references to any medical conditions, nor any objective physical criteria, not even to gender dysphoria, and have no treatment requirements. The standard is self-identification, which means there is no standard at all besides a person’s word.
Argue about this long enough with gender identity activists, and you will eventually find yourself in the position of going back and forth with someone who’ll insist that ovaries have nothing to do with womanhood … but a 50-person study of white matter diffusion in the brain, uncontrolled for sexual orientation, means that men can definitely be women, and vice versa.
If any man can be a woman if he says so, and if he has a legal right to be recognized as a woman from the moment he declares it, every problem originally foreseen by numerous feminists, and even the not-necessarily-feminist MPs debating the UK’s GRA back in 2004, is inevitable because of the nature of women’s rights, our physical vulnerability, and of pervasive male harassment and violence against us. Because if he is a woman, how does he not have the right to compete with women?
The old, Latin legal maxim that still sits at the heart of our judicial reasoning, states, ubi ius, ibi remedium: where there is a right, there is a remedy.
“When advocating for equal access to restrooms, arguments often hinge on an “assumption of shame.” These arguments presume, for example, that transgender people will prefer to stay clothed—as if there is inherent shame in having a body that is somehow different from the cisgender norm (which is likely not “achieved” by many cisgender individuals). The law should question and reject this assumption of shame. Transgender people have the right to live without fear or shame. Full equality requires a level of comfort with a range of bodies that might not fit the cisgender ideal. Transgender people have a right to exist and be fully recognized under the law in every respect.”—M. Dru Levasseur, J.D., Transgender Rights Project National Director for Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc., 2015
What is the right to be “female” on your driver’s license, on your passport, on your amended birth certificate, if these are just meaningless words on a piece of paper? The holders of this right will seek a remedy. If they also have the right to demand that everyone call them women, and she, and her, then along with that they will demand an end to any argument that contradicts the premise, no matter how slight.
That is, everywhere that women are permitted to be in a state of undress, men who claim to be women will seek to be allowed to be in a state of undress, along with the other people allowed that right. Where they are incarcerated, they’ll demand the women’s estate. Where they seek shelter, they’ll seek a place in women’s shelters. Where they must share showers, they’ll demand the women’s showers. Where sports are played, they’ll demand the girls’ and women’s teams, along with the girls’ and women’s locker rooms to change in before and after. Where they seek awards, scholarships, and considerations for entrepreneurs, they’ll seek from whatever is set aside for women. Where they commit crimes, they’ll demand that the newspapers, the courts, and even the plaintiffs against them, call them “she,” as they would any other woman.
It’s as incredible to some that there are gender activists who scour Twitter for people “misgendering” trans-identified rapists and murderers to report for suspension, as it is to observe that Twitter duly complies. But if they are women, then it all follows and is perfectly justified.
Women don’t stop being referred to as women if we commit crimes, or because we have undressed in a women’s change room. That would be nonsensical. These men are asking to be treated like women in all respects, and so if you follow that logic, none of their demands should raise an eyebrow.
As soon as the legal status change was uncoupled from any medical diagnosis, which gender identity activists themselves have demanded in courts around the world, this was always going to wind up as an all-or-nothing proposition.
So it does not matter if your carefully considered position is that classic transsexuals, or individuals with gender dysphoria, deserve a special carveout in the law to recognize that they may be unfairly targeted for homophobic violence or discrimination. Gender identity activists’ self-identification policies and legal advocacy erase transsexualism as a legal category as surely as they erase being female as a legal category.
If you think the law should protect transsexuals as a medically definable class, while retaining separate provisions for women, according to the gender identity movement, you support compulsory sterilization and eugenics.
If you disagree with that judgement and still want transsexuals protected as a separate, medically definable class in the law, it should be taken up with the people who decided that they shouldn’t be, not those of us trying to protect women’s safety and privacy. Though don’t be surprised if the reward for that is probably a man pissing on your office door because he thinks that “woman” is his territory.
Men seem to see the stereotypically feminine clothes, the name changes, or the makeup, that men usually adopt when they wish to ‘live as women,’ and come to the conclusion that these men are as different from them as they assume women are. Women see the imperious demands, the lack of consideration for others, the threats, the networked intimidation tactics, the fetishization of our lives, the way authority figures immediately listen to their concerns, and we see typical male pattern abuse. We see the resentment over women having any authority to speak about pregnancy or female reproductive health issues. We see jealousy of even our mistreatment, and this behavior could not be more male.
There are, indeed, few things more classically male than a new father resenting breastfeeding because then he’s not the center of attention anymore. Women hardly ever act like this, not even if we haven’t worn makeup for years.
There are few things more male than showing up to a fight over whether or not women and girls can keep the single-sex public accommodations our predecessors worked so hard to get, with 32 major corporations and 20 state attorneys general on your side, and claiming to be a downtrodden underdog who’s being oppressed by recalcitrant women. It doesn’t matter how many women they get to be figureheads and cheerleaders for gender identity, this is a movement led by men, to the detriment of women’s right to privacy from men, which women around the world require to thrive.
And really, what on earth could be more male than hearing a brave, lesbian sports icon say that, no, she doesn’t want men to destroy women’s access to sports, and feeling so insecure and threatened by this that it could occur to someone to compare her to a Nazi? Bonus points to Dawn Ennis for having had the cheek to do that while making the racist suggestion that black women’s bone density might disqualify them from womanhood. It’s unacceptable and dehumanizing to suggest that black women are more like men than women; black women are women, and men aren’t. Gender activists should really consider dropping this too-frequent line of argument.
Women don’t generally hear other people, let alone women, telling us no for perfectly ordinary reasons, and then dramatically claim that the refusal is motivated by genocidal intent. Only men commonly do that.
Then we get to the idea that misgendering is violence. It has never been previously considered an act of violence to be mistaken in guessing someone’s sex. It has never previously been considered a right to hide one’s sex, either, which is one of the first pieces of information we usually find out about someone. While it’s certainly considered rude to tell a male that he’s acting ‘like a girl,’ in a pejorative sense, it’s never been classed as a hate crime, let alone an act of violence all by itself.
To the contrary, it was formerly considered abusive, though not criminal, per se, to issue suicide threats. Now the gender identity movement has turned issuing oblique suicide threats on behalf of troubled children into their main strategy for enforcing compliance.
Given that a basic organizing principle of societies is to monopolize the use of force in the hands of the government, and criminalize the illegitimate use of force by the citizenry, non-state violence must be regulated as a potential injury of the rights of the state and a threat to public order. It’s not just about the harms to specific victims, though that is also important.
As violence is a disputed and evolving category, we class things as violent that the people of past eras did not. It’s considered progress that we now class marital rape and corporal punishment for children as violence, and formally unacceptable in all cases, even if the law is often flouted.
To begin a dialogue about creating a public redefinition of violence to include an act of speech poses certain rights issues all on its own. In the US, where we have robust free speech protections, constitutional law experts seem to regard it as a point of pride that we retain protections even for the speech of self-declared Nazis. Speech-as-violence, as a type of illegitimate use of force punishable by law, is a category restricted mainly to direct threats, explicit incitements to violence, or false speech likely to provoke an immediate panic and public disorder.
Citizens of the United States may, famously, not falsely shout ‘fire’ in a crowded area, and we may not issue direct threats to others, but we can say or write pretty much anything else we please.
Except on social media, as many people have recently noted. Nazis and KKK members can publicly rail against black or Jewish people, various men can use every slur against women imaginable, Native Americans can be slurred in team names protected by government-issued copyrights, and this is permitted on social media and in all 50 states … but if you call Caitlyn Jenner a man you may find yourself in big trouble.
Further, an increasing number of US states and local governments are moving to make it a phenomenally fine-worthy civil rights offense to “misgender” a person who has declared their sex to be something that it is not.
Something is very wrong here.
Yet if you agree that the state has a compelling interest in preventing violence, which it does, and you insist on stating that a phrase like, “men are male,” is violence, the inevitable conclusion is that the state has a compelling interest in forbidding women from calling a man “he,” if he decides that it offends him.
The result follows from the premises. If you think that the result is ludicrous, you have to re-examine the premises.
The problem is that people are being asked to publicly affirm, and make themselves believe, things that they know to be false. Further, because everyone knows that it’s false to say that humans can change sex, ever more elaborate orders have to be issued to try and seamlessly cover the boundary between this fiction and our observed reality.
Ever stricter tactics of coercion must be employed to prevent people speaking the truth when the untruths are so very obvious.
Indeed, the disconnect between reality and the evolving body of law and practice around gender identity has gone so far that a Canadian court has now declared it unacceptable “family violence” for parents of a girl identifying as a boy to call her “she,” or use her birth name. In states like New Jersey, the schools can hide and lie about transgender identification from parents, and may report parents to child protective services if they don’t comply with their children’s chosen identity. This is a remarkably invasive criminalization of non-compliance with a social fiction. It’s totalitarian. It should frighten you if you have any sense at all.
If, in spite of knowing that the secular, doctrinal assertion of human sex change to be false, you think that it’s reasonable for a trans-identified male to have his pronouns respected in the law, you had better get used to reading phrases like “her erect penis” in news stories about trans-identified male sex offenders assaulting women in women’s prisons. Get used to reading about male athletes taking titles away from women and then claiming to be harassed when people call them cheaters, which they are.
Why are they cheaters? Because they are men. That is the whole and only reason.
Gender identity activists know that anyone arguing under the premise that you can’t call these men what they are makes themselves sound ridiculous. And even when you’re trying to bend over backwards to avoid doing that, any disagreement with these men will still be called transphobic, because they know as well as you do that your real objection is that they’re male. You have misgendered them in your mind, as it were.
The entire goal of forbidding anyone calling these men male is so that the arguments against them running roughshod over women’s rights will be too convoluted to understand, and so that people trying to make sense of the matter will be scared off by shouts about bigotry before they can really think it through. It’s not about medical terms and scientific studies that many people need to take time to understand. It’s about their being men, which everyone gets just fine.
Let’s return again to the fact that only men can be “trans women.” Saying otherwise may be a matter of politeness, of kindness, even a matter of fear. Yet it is in every case untrue to describe an ordinarily male person as female. No drug, operation, or act of blind faith, can transform a male hominid into a female hominid, or vice versa.
For the state to allow a falsehood to replace accurate information in records of vital statistics, to require citizens of every description to repeat that falsehood, and to have an unfalsifiable claim enshrined as a right in the law, verges on an establishment of religion. But if he has an absolute right to be recognized as “she,” this is the only way.
His right must have a remedy, if right it is.
What then, of women’s rights? What about our right not to be incarcerated with male prisoners, or forced to share emergency shelter with strange men against our wishes? What about our right to have indecent exposure by men, or male voyeurism against us, treated as a potential criminal offense? What about our right not to have to touch men against our will, particularly their sex organs, if our job requires intimate contact with others? What about the right of women and girls to have necessary intimate care performed only by other women, if we wish? What about the right of girls and women to deal with menstruation or miscarriages in public accommodations that are only open to other girls and women? What of our rights to the paltry corners of the sporting world, dedicated scholarships, or business grants, that are set aside in a world where men continue to collect the highest honors and the most money?
In all the concern for the feelings of men over the formerly neutral and uncontroversial labels for their sex, can the claims of women to basic rights of privacy, safety, and redress of historical exclusion even get a hearing?
While we should all be polite to our friends and coworkers, that’s not a matter for the law. As soon as the polite falsehood of “sex change” becomes a matter of law, the end result will always be all the things that the supposedly reasonable people object to around the edges. The consequence of giving men an unrestricted right to be called “she” is always going to be a man going to a female beautician and demanding that she wax his genitals, just as she would do for a woman. The consequence is always going to be some professionally dishonest, uncouth heterosexual man demanding that the lesbians have sex with him, and that the LGB community recognize his “oppression.”
The eventual, and inevitable, consequence of having a government certify a man as “she” is always going to be a man with his penis out in the women’s showers, and with no one able to say why it’s wrong. That shouldn’t be a right, and it was a terrible idea for governments to have entertained the possibility that it could be.
So if you don’t want things to keep getting worse and worse, without end, please do speak up now and stop caring if people call you transphobic for saying that adult human males are men, and they don’t belong in women’s spaces. What we should all care about are the women and girls losing opportunities, being traumatized, or being actually injured because this whole debate has been obscured behind fabulist “nuance.”