It is an interesting time. It is a time when grassroots political campaigns can have very serious consequences – sometimes, as in the case of Egypt, bloody consequences. But still, reacting to these campaigns as the serious things they are – even when done by individuals with little real power – is somehow seen as oppression.
While many examples can be shown in many areas, one I am now writing about is this one.
This is a “gender-critical” blog that does not, unlike some others, cross into hate speech. (And that makes it easy to comment on it. Some others ARE hate speech, and I am in Europe. If I link to them I am not sure of my legal position).
What this post does is first acknowledge the real issues trans people face in issues including employment and medical treatment. Then it turns on those transactivists who “spend their time… chastising women for having discussions that are insufficiently inclusive.” It nots that they do not go criticising men, who are more likely to be violent. Or at least don’t do so in “primarily men’s spaces”. (The former is demonstrably untrue, but I think the latter was really stated, and I don’t follow sucmh men’s spaces enough to comment).
There certainly are some who go overboard. What the author consistently fails to understand, however, is the valid reason behind the reaction (of which the particular form can still be inappropriate). Yes, women are not a major source of direct violence against trans people – but violence is not the only problem.
Radical feminist thought is not just exclusive or ideological or whatever. It is political. And politics is about government actions in the real world.
There is Sheila Jeffreys who, in a 1997 article http://hagocrat.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/sheila-jeffreys-transgender-activism-a-lesbian-feminist-perspective/ , called to make mainstream medical treatment of diagnosed transsexuals (durgery) illegal by “recognizing it as a human rights violation”. While she is unlikely to succeed in this endeavour, she is British and Britain has the NHS, a publically funded medical system. In the current austerity climate, and given that moral conservatives (who she already gave much admiration to in her article on the British Gender Recognition Act http://hagocrat.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/sheila-jeffreys-on-the-uk-gender-recognition-act-2004/ ) will probably lose on same sex marriage and want revenge, the prospect of radfem thought used to make the treatment unavailable on NHS is frighteningly real.
There is Janice Raymond, whose statements like “all transsexuals rape women’s bodies… I contend that the problem with transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence” are outright insulting and would incite violence, except for their low prominence. But she did succeed in denying federal and state aid to transsexuals, and, indirectly, in them being refused health coverage under US insurance. http://transgriot.blogspot.ie/2010/09/why-trans-community-hates-dr-janice-g.html
THIS is how “discussions” can lead to visible harm to people.
The discussion came to a peak when Heliotropism wrote a comment http://culturallyboundgender.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/the-only-thing-you-need-to-know-about-the-aims-of-feminist-trashing-transactivism/comment-page-1/#comment-251 . It included: “I think it might be interesting to envisage a future where people are changing their bodies but that their right to change their body ends at the observer’s right to name what s/he sees. After all can we really legally mandate that what we see is a man or a woman?”
I have answered, among other things, by quoting an example of how such a right operates in the real world. (Hello! Politics is ABOUT the real world!)
“…I heard the story about a transwoman getting disrespectfully treated July 18 at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, IN.
Her life partner took her there because she was coughing up a large volume of blood.
The patient showed emergency room intake staff her Indiana state ID which had her FEMALE name and FEMALE gender marker in clear print on it.
So what did the Ball Memorial ER staff do? Logged her into their system as a MALE.
The fun and games continue. They proceeded to ridicule the patient and loudly refer to her as “it” while the patient’s partner was disrespectfully asked by these infantile health care “professionals” if she was a ‘he/she’. To add even more insult to injury, the patient was quizzed about her length of time as a ‘transvestite’.
That incident was so jacked up a protest is going to take place there on August 17, and a petition is already circulating on the Net condemning it.”
At this point, the blog author asked me to not comment anymore as this was allegedly the part she (as far as I understood the author is a woman) has already covered in the first paragraph. She did not see the connection between the alleged “observer’s right” and this real world application of this right. By the way, if the “ER staff” was a woman, she was exercising the radfem-enshrined “right of women to police the boundaries of their community”. Yet, transactivists are supposed not to react to statements of such “rights” but only to the real world applications – as if one had nothing to do with the other!
I think this is the crux of the discussion. Political ideas have consequences. The “gender-critical” blogs have, as yet potential, but very real consequences in public policy that would be devastating for tens of thousands of people if their version of medical and protection policy were to win. Just as Janice Raymond’s theoretical works had real consequences for decades. And therefore, reaction and protest to such “discussion” are in itself justified – though threats of violence are never justifiable and should be prosecuted at least if done in Europe (there are nice recent precedents). This is a real danger, distinct from male violence but also REAL. Not just some gender philosophical discussion in women’s spaces invaded by rude trans.