“LGBT” now rolls off the tongue. Trans rights and gay rights are seen as intimately linked, both stemming from the same societal hang-ups and therefore mutually interested in teaming up with each other. Outlets which focused on news relating to gay rights, such as pink news, now also focus on trans-related issues and have a trans section on their website. Societal acceptance and progression with regards to gay rights are now seen to be things which must be brought to trans individuals, and that to stand in the way of this, is to be of the same ilk as those raving homophobes from history – specifically, the wrong side of history.
The notion is being pushed by a few prominent individuals. Our nearly-Prime-Minister Ed Miliband has said that the recent media coverage of trans politics is like the moral panic we saw in the 80’s over gay rights. Prominent trans rights activist and journalist Paris Lees agrees and now Owen Jones has brought the idea to his guardian column.
He says: “gay people were sexual predators; a “gay lobby” was brainwashing children; being gay was a mental illness, or just a phase; and gay rights was political correctness gone mad. Replace “gay” with “trans”, and that’s the state of the British press in 2017.”
This is a nice, useful, compacted list of elements which I’ll accept on the face of it, look pretty similar across the fights for gay rights and trans rights. I’ll take them in turn.
Gay people were sexual predators: The big big biiiig significant difference between calling gay people predators and calling trans-identifying males predators is that one is true a lot of the time and one is not. It is not being trans which greatly increases the likelihood you’re a predator, but that you are male-bodied. I am not aware of any evidence that gay people commit violent and sexual crime at significantly higher rates than straight people, and would find the claim offensive and homophobic. But the stats behind males committing violent and sexual crimes are stark. Males are responsible for 81% of violent crime, 89% of violent crime against children aged 10-15, 98% of rapes of women and also 93% of the rapes of men to top it off. Crucially, it’s not about identifying as a man, it’s about having a male body (you know, a dick). Regardless of how they identify, male-bodied people demonstrate the same – elevated – rates of violence. We are not claiming that all trans people are predators, we’re claiming that males have a high propensity to be and that they can’t identify out of their oppressive position in the gender heirarchy. Women being protective of themselves in the face of men is something we should not have to apologise for, and it’s well worth remembering that if you believe women’s self-guarding is doing harm to anyone then you are prioritising an ideology which revolves around male feelings, over women’s safety, and are misogynistic to see women’s safety as so easily dispensed.
As for harmless and well-meaning trans men and women, their safety is indeed a concern and a new issue to navigate. But it cannot come at the expense of women’s safety and it also isn’t clear why it’s on women to fight the battle of having public places to pee, again, and for someone else.
A “gay lobby” was brainwashing children: Out of fear and ignorance, any attempt to comfort, protect and make visible gay people was disregarded as ‘brainwashing’. The possibility of being gay and loved should have been open to children, and then they should have been allowed to become whoever they are.
So how are we presently going about leaving the option of being trans open to children? And then allowing them to become whoever they are to become? This is a tricky one. This is where concerns for three types of people start to merge; trans people, gay people and gender non-conforming people. Here is a super important collection of research which really sets apart the trans movement from the gay rights movement: the majority of young people who identify as transgender will one day stop, and the majority also turn out to be gay. In other words, there are a lot of gay people and people who were just gender non-conforming getting caught up in the trans movement. Surely, as gender non-conforming people and gay people break the mold in a way that makes ignorant people uncomfortable, they deserve protection and space to grow into their natural selves, rather than facing a life dependent on injections, pills and surgery?
The DSM criteria for gender identity disorder has tried to address this mix-up between being trans and being gender non-conforming and reclassified GID as ‘gender dysphoria’ in DSM-5, but still lists “a powerful assurance of having the characteristic feelings and responses of the other gender”, and “a profound need for society to treat them as another gender” as criteria for being diagnosed with the disorder. Only in a society already steeped in gendered stereotypes and expectations could these sentences make sense. Boys liking pink glitter and girls liking to climb trees should never put them in danger of being taken to doctors and facing the path of irreversible physiological transitioning of their pre-pubescent bodies. And yet, in many cases it is stereotypical behaviours associated with the other sex that parents give as examples of ‘knowing’ their child was trans. Gay people had not been demanding any kind of serious surgical intervention – before they’ve even reached an age we assign consent to choose what’s for tea – to give themselves features they’ve deemed themselves as meant to be having, because they perceive that demographic to have them. Perhaps surgery on vocal chords for a stereotypical gay voice? Perhaps growth modifications to be femme or butch? Perhaps their son had been a coward in school, so they knew he was gay? The absurd offensiveness is suddenly clear when it’s not about women.
It’s hard to be gender non-conforming and to come out as gay. These people are vulnerable, and the figures show that they are being disproportionately drawn to trans identities. We’re in a world now where these people are being told that being trans, along with all the surgical risks and medical dependency that brings, will solve all their issues relating to their self-conception, their trauma, their young need for validation, and their pesky insistence on wearing the wrong types of clothes and fancying the wrong people. Teachers, doctors and parents feel bullied into pushing an ideology they don’t feel, in their scientific knowledge and knowledge of their children, to be the answer. Witch-hunts happen every day because someone said “male-to-female“. Young people have healthy body parts removed. Teens are advised how to manipulate their parents. Yes, we are concerned about some exploitation going on.
Being gay was a mental illness, or just a phase: Once again, the difference between saying that being gay is a phase and that being trans is a phase, is that in the first instance it’s false and in the second instance it’s true for the majority of young people.
For the trans identifying individuals with sex dysphoria: Thinking that something is a mental illness isn’t offensive and derogatory in itself. The people who called being gay a mental illness, are the people who thought being mentally ill was wrong. Why else were they saying it? No-one was saying “it’s a mental illness, ergo it’s okay!”. But today, we have a more progressive view of mental health. Just because something’s gone wrong and is causing you a lot of suffering, it’s not the end of the world and you are not fundamentally and morally wrong. There are treatments and ways to cope and lessons to learn.
A nice commonly used and intuitive definition of mental illness, in the chaos that is philosophy of the subject, is one by Wakefield: Something is a mental illness if both a) there has been a dysfunction of a mechanism, and b) it causes harm and suffering to the individual – not exclusively from pure societal prejudice, but also rooted in the disorder. Being gay should not have been classed as a mental illness because there is no dysfunction, and the suffering that gay people endured was exclusively due to prejudice and ignorance of powerful people around them.
Sex dysphoric people, arguably have a dysfunction. How else you can swallow the philosophical conundrum of how you can be born in a ‘wrong’ body and require man-made pills, injections, hormones and surgery for the rest of your life in order to be your ‘authentic’ self, is lost on me. Remember, trans groups want no gatekeeping at all on access to hormones. Gay people did not require a jab every month to continue being their natural gay selves. Gay people would have not suffered one iota if they hadn’t been in a homophobic world, but crucially, the male who does not feel his penis should be there or the woman who feels her breasts are sickeningly disgusting would still suffer, whatever utopian world they were living in. Society plays its part in teaching women to hate their bodies, but there is dysfunction involved in having a breakdown over periods and wanting to actually remove these healthy body parts. The complexity of the harm inflicted between sex dysphoria at a young age and the oppressive forces of gender only highlight that treating young people to be comfortable with themselves and learn how to acknowledge, fight and cope with the violent suffering inflicted on them by the institution of gender is the more efficient and parsimonious way to go.
For the trans identifying individuals without sex dysphoria: Some trans-identifying people feel that their bodies are fine, have no sex dysphoria and want to walk around with beards and deep voices and still be a ‘she’. The effects of this is that we are losing either a) perfectly good pronouns we all understand which exist to describe the world accurately, or b) a gender non-conforming individual who would gloriously challenge gender stereotypes.
People suffering with sex dysphoria deserve support, a treatment plan and a societal analysis to explain their pain. A diagnosis would help these things. They’re mentally ill and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Gay rights was political correctness gone mad: Gay people, as far as I understand, wanted some pretty bog standard rights and freedoms. I think they wanted to be able to love who they wanted, live with who they wanted, to express themselves without violence or ridicule and not have their life opportunities negatively affected by their sexual orientation. What do trans people want?
Trans people want biological sex to be a completely bogus concept. They want ‘he’ and ‘she’ to mean anything at all. They want made up words like ‘xe/xir’ to be their own special pronouns. They want lesbians to be able to have penises. For sexual orientations to have nothing to do with male and female bodies. They want medical interventions such as synthetic hormones which have not been widely available long enough for long-term consequences of their use to be studied, to be freely and widely available to everyone – including young children. They want the word ‘gender’, which in every intellectual sphere for decades meant “an oppressive hierarchical structure forced onto people into society, with effects dependent on their biological sex”, to mean “picking a point on a spectrum of feelings”.
What are the consequences? Well, vile practices like ‘FGM’ become ‘transphobic’, because the concept of ‘female’ is meaningless, there is no one thing that all the people with clitorises who endure or are at risk of FGM have in common. Without these concepts, we cannot situate the practice as part of patriarchy, a practice that men use to control women and their reproductive rights. Lesbians are expected to be completely comfortable with suddenly finding a penis on an sexual partner. (This applies equally to gay men finding a vagina, but for some reason I notice the trans movement is far less concerned with protecting trans-identifying females and asking sacrifices of men). We have to ask everyone’s pronouns, all the time. Men who have grown up seeing female bodies – unlike theirs – be treated like sex toys and objectified suddenly decide they’ve experienced exactly the same misogyny and sexism as the women who actually have those bodies. Socialisation means nothing. We can’t look at the sea of male faces which make up politics, or CEOs, or charity committees and be dismayed that they’re clearly not prioritising women’s voices in their space, because some of them they might ‘identify’ as women, or non-binary, or tri-gender. You can’t ever know your own sexual orientation because you can’t tell, just by looking, what gender the person you’re eyeing up across the dancefloor is. You might like his broad shoulders but it turns out, if he identifies as anything other than a man (and there’s a lot of alternatives), you’re not straight anymore. Young people who are statistically proven to be likely to have lived happy lives as gay people if they’d been supported to do so, undergo surgery and take hormones – and in extreme cases, can no longer have children.
Gay people are still dealing with bakers who don’t want to bake them cakes.
Look at the demographics being disfigured and silenced out of the trans movement. Gay people and gender non-conforming people who disrupt norms and are still fiercely proud and at peace with themselves. Women who refuse to placate men and are stubborn in their suspicion of them – something harmless men should be completely unbothered by. People who believe in gender as an oppressive heirarchy forced onto us, and who are competent and confident enough to name the male culprits, point out the targeting of females and be angry enough to do something about it.
As a final note, I am not gay and I am not particularly gender non-conforming (I reject make-up and skirts though, woo! Just doing my bit). I’d recommend reading some of the responses to Owen by gay people and trans people, because peoples orientations don’t necessarily line up neatly with where we’re told their views are supposed to lie. A proper recognition of the constant and overwhelming erosive force of gender, sexism, misogyny and homophobia might bring down some of the trans dogma and be of great protective help to trans identifying individuals.