A response to "You could stop being a transphobe."
When legitimate concerns about the erasure of sex and promotion of gender identity in its place are deemed transphobic, the word means little more than accusing one of blasphemy.
This was originally a Twitter thread that gained a bit of traction. I wrote it as an indirect response to someone who was justifying the harassment of Kathleen Stock. (For the unfamiliar, she acknowledges the material reality of biological sex and wrote a book about why it matters for feminism.)
The person had written that the key factor for them was that Stock could “stop being a transphobe,” but they (and others) “can’t stop being trans.” The claim reminded me of a frustrating conversation I had with someone else in which I finally said that being called transphobic now meant about as much to me as being called a blasphemer.
"You could stop being a transphobe; I can't stop being trans."
First of all, people can and do stop identifying as transgender, so technically you could. (Gender is a social construct. No one is born identifying as another gender. People learn about the concept and identify with it later. I think it’s possible for sex dysphoria to be a result of biological mechanisms, but I doubt this is the case for most in the current surge of people identifying as trans.)
You don't have to stop identifying as trans, of course. It's your life, and you’re free to live it the way you feel most comfortable. I still think that, regardless of your identity, every person deserves material security and freedom from discrimination. A transphobe is someone who does not.
However, when the "transphobia" in question is about claims regarding biological sex, your argument that one could “stop being a transphobe” means that you want people like Kathleen Stock to choose to pretend that material reality doesn’t matter (presumably in order to make trans people more comfortable).
And sure, a person could do that… but it wouldn't change that sex is an immutable characteristic of human beings and that there are notable distinctions between the two sexes.
You can be a transgender person and still recognize that there are always going to be situations in which the differences between the two sexes are important. The reality of biological sex is not incompatible with identifying as transgender. (I count myself among members of the Gender Dysphoria Alliance, which was founded by trans people and explicitly supports the sex-based rights of women and LGB people.)
For example, segregation by sex is sometimes necessary for safety. When it is in place for safety, someone who is male does not belong in a space for females. Trans people certainly deserve safety as well, but the wholesale replacement of sex with “gender identity” is coming at the expense of others, specifically women.
Once again, I am embarrassed that I spent a decade arguing that validation from every other person in the world was the only acceptable solution and that anything less was bigotry. I probably said “you could just stop being a bigot” a number of times to justify my harassment of others.
I realize now that, in doing so, I was demanding that people abandon their principles and disregard their concerns while shutting down a conversation with emotional manipulation (i.e., by calling them a bad person for not agreeing with my own beliefs).
So here comes the “blasphemer” analogy — and I’m definitely far from the first person to make it.
I don't have to believe in your God for religion to be a protected characteristic. But you don't get to call for someone's resignation if they don't also believe in your God, no matter how much it “invalidates” your personal beliefs.
(People are oppressed and even killed for their religious beliefs, so I don't think this frequently-made comparison is unfair.)
Like the concept of God, gender identity is a metaphysical belief with no basis in material reality. You're free to believe in it — indeed, your feeling of gender (or your feeling of God) might be incredibly persuasive to you — but you are not free to demand that others believe the same.
Until there are double blind studies where scientists can predict gender identity from brain scans, there is no empirical evidence that it is anything more than subjective. All of the claims of “but science says it’s real” in the world do not change that. Studies that suggest people experience a gender identity do not prove the material existence of gender identity any more than studies that suggest people have an experience of a personal God prove the material existence of that God.
They only prove that people have a subjective experience that feels very real to them personally. I think those experiences can be extremely important to some people. That's why religion is a protected characteristic. But demanding that everyone else agree with you and validate your experience is where that freedom ends.
Ultimately, the statement “I can't stop being trans” is as true as “I can't stop believing in God.” Both are wrong; you could — but your experience might be so intense and meaningful to you that you simply don't want to. That is absolutely your right.
Similarly, it is my own right to assert that, in some situations, the material reality of being a female person is more relevant than a felt gender that has no empirical basis. Female-only spaces have their safety compromised if males can enter based only on their say-so (e.g., female prisoners being raped and impregnated).
Granting access to safe spaces without obvious proof that they belong there creates a loophole for predators. This is not to say that it is trans people themselves who are the predators; it is to say that predators, regardless of identity, will always take advantage of a loophole.
It is apparently transphobic to point this out. It seems like all we can do now is to sit back and watch as the examples of how this is going horribly wrong continue to crop up. I wonder how many women will be harmed before society starts to wake up.
It is similarly called transphobic to suggest that we don’t immediately affirm a metaphysical gender identity without question — no matter the person’s age, no matter their mental stability, no matter their history of trauma — nor use that subjective reality as evidence that hormones and surgery are needed. It’s transphobic to highlight the consequences of “gender medicine” (e.g., botched surgeries, increased risk of heart disease, decline of cognitive function, osteoporosis, lack of sexual function, infertility, the pain of regret, etc.). Again, I wonder how many gender dysphoric people will be harmed before society wakes up.
“You can stop being a transphobe.”
I will say again that I don't think I'm a transphobe. I identified as trans for ten years. I categorically do not hate trans people or wish them harm.
If my concerns are what makes me a transphobe, then, yes, I guess I could stop talking about them. But like your own beliefs, they are important and very personal to me.
My concerns about sex-based rights are based on statistics (being male is a significant predictor of violent crime) and biological reality (males are usually bigger and stronger and can easily overpower women). This doesn't magically go away by changing your identity.
My concerns about gender identity as a framework are based on my own experiences as a mentally ill young woman, my involvement with the punitive activist community, the medical "care" I received, and the other detransitioners whose stories I've heard since.
If pointing out any of those things makes me a transphobe, then an accusation of transphobia is nothing more than an accusation of blasphemy. It just doesn’t offend me.
To me, it just sounds like you’re saying: "You can stop being a sinner; I can't stop believing in God” … with the implication that continuing to “sin” means that someone like Kathleen Stock deserves whatever consequences you deem necessary to shut her up.
No debate. No compromises.
No trial, just public execution.
How the fuck did we get here?