An open letter to Elizabeth Hungerford

So Elizabeth Hungerford blocks me, and there was a reason for that. But I now see she is one of those who broke ranks with the visible leadership of the “gender critical” movement over the EEOC v Harris case. She wrote an article about the case, available at https://womansplaceuk.org/2019/10/19/sex-and-gender-the-law-in-the-usa/ ; I disagree with very much of the wording, but agree with about 3/4 of the conclusions. So because of that, I am writing an open letter and hope that someone of our mutual followers – and we now seem to have some because of recent events – might convey it. (For avoidance of doubt, I do not endorse the general views of Elizabeth Hungerford or Cathy Brennan, but have a positive view of certain specific statements and actions).

Dear Ms. Hungerford,

Things got heated in debate some years ago, and I stand by the essence of what I said, but the reason for this was something I was seeing back then. Namely, that what was seen back then as the trans-exclusionary radical feminist movement was sliding towards an alliance with the Trad Right. I wrote about it at the time, though I admit I erred thinking the Right accepting it was unlikely (should have studied history much better). https://ramendik.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/the-main-real-danger-of-terf-political-alliance-with-right/

And it seemed to me that your thinking was a part of this slide.

Events now show that I was quite right on the first point, and equally quite wrong on the second one. Though the biggest surprise was, in fact, not you, it was your friend Cathy Brennan. At that time she would gladly publish, on her resource, claims of the ADF about Colleen Francis (the claims seem to have been entirely made up, Colleen apparently did nothing wrong and never exposed herself). But she dramatically turned around in perception of that shower. I do hope she eventually follows up with a reappraisal of her own earlier actions in quite a few cases.

While my position on many issues is far from yours, I actually agree with your point that protection is best extended on the basis of gender nonconformity without defining a “transgender status” category in law. Many trans activists would agree with it (if they look beyond the name on it, at least), because otherwise we get a legal question of who is “trans enough” and that’s quite a pain point in those circles (I’m not exactly spilling secrets: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/yes-youre-trans-enough-to_b_9318754 ). The discussion of change of legal sex is separate; even if it is available based on self-ID, any “trans protection” extended only to those who change legal sex would be woefully inadequate.

And personally, I also believe that in general defining categories in law is not a great thing in general, when we can do without.

I confess that I earlier had grave doubts about same-sex marriage on the basis that it would create a separate category of “gay people” and a separate form of marriage for them (a setup that, as I now realize, would also have screwed over bisexuals and other people in same-sex couples not identifying as gay). But Justice Kennedy wrote a new coherent definition of marriage without breaking people into categories, I realized this definition fits a liberal society much more than any of the old definition did – and happily came to support it.

So – there is, with a big gap, still some stuff in common. And, I hope, also a common understanding that a very significant part of what is now “gender critical feminism” was for quite some time sliding into the arms of outright bigots. (We might disagree on the length of such time, though – I think the roots were right there in Janice Raymond’s original book, with her willingness to invoke “moral mandate” at the time of the ascending “Moral Majority”. You probably do not think so. But by 2013 it was all in plain sight).

This understanding is what brought me to the shift in tone that led to a breakdown in communication. I was wrong about personalities, and it is one of those cases when one is glad to have been wrong.

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