Philosophy confronts Transgenderism By Mrs Vera West

     Bringing you all of the latest transgender news fit to print, comes this tragic story of discrimination as a trans-woman, with intact male parts, sought to get a certain service that women desire, but runs straight into the brick wall of prejudice. Again, caution to all Christian ladies who are easily offended, and I won’t blame you for popping out and getting a nice cup of tea, and maybe some tasty Monte Carlo biscuits to dip in the hot tea, and missing this one:

“If a penis is female, does it enjoy human rights? A Canadian trans woman, Jessica Yaniv, who retains intact her boy bits, believes she’s entitled to a Brazilian wax. Rejected by 16 beauticians in Vancouver, including migrant women working from home with children, Yaniv trotted off to a human rights tribunal. Some of the beauticians paid money to make her go away, some still face the prospect of being branded hateful transphobes and ordered to pay fines. Ignored by most mainstream media, this has Twitter transfixed as the #WaxHerBalls case. British comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted: “It’s a sad state of affairs when a lady can’t have her hairy balls waxed.” All of which gives the impression it’s nothing more than the latest grotesquery of social media. But Gervais has detected a fundamental question of principle that Victoria’s politicians — and Anglophone elites generally — seem mostly oblivious to. An Andrews government bill allows a self-declared trans man or woman to go back in time and alter the sex on their birth certificates, even if they’ve had no surgery, no treatment, no change at all, apart from a stated wish to make their debut with a new pronoun. The bill is back before parliament next month. “It’s seen as the next civil rights issue — oh, now we have gay marriage, on to the next thing,” says Holly Lawford-Smith, a young University of Melbourne philosopher and lesbian writing a book on radical feminism. But there are stirrings of civil war in what’s called the LGBTI community, and angry sniping over who qualifies for an entry pass to women’s sport, toilets, dorms, prisons and, yes, the waxing studio. For the Yaniv case is seen not as an aberration but a logical extension of pick-your-own-gender into the anti-discrimination apparatus. If blokes can become official sheilas in the blink of an eye, what happens to the rights, protections and political culture inspired by feminists and gay activism?”

     Well, the answer is now clear cut because the transgender victory has occurred and there is no going back, without a radical change to this society. The rights of feminists, of the second wave, gays and so on, will necessarily need to be modified to be inclusive of the other genders, because things move quickly in the progressive world of hyper anti-discrimination and mega-inclusiveness. That goes for stuffy old disciplines like philosophy too:

“Meanwhile, sex is turning philosophy into fight club. This month Australia’s thinkers had their annual talkfest at Wollongong University. Lawford-Smith was booked to argue the case for excluding “all male people, regardless of gender identity” from female-only or lesbian-only spaces. Activist academics tried to “deplatform” her and student agitators girded their loins for a demo under the banner “F..k off Holly Lawford-Smith”. Their Facebook post said she was “not welcome to spew her disgusting discriminatory and exclusionary hate speech at our university”. They ignored her nuanced arguments, dismissing her as a TERF or “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”. The Australasian Association of Philosophy, the conference organiser, issued a statement acknowledging “serious concerns” about Lawford-Smith’s presentation. There followed a sprinkling of diversity-speak platitudes. No stated concern about the abuse and threats directed at Lawford-Smith, no defence of her academic freedom. She felt “quite intimidated” going in to her talk, but the university had beefed up security and the protest was muted. Even so, this is not how philosophy is supposed to be. “It’s our bread-and-butter to really dig down into the details of things and have these really difficult conversations in a calm, dispassionate way,” Lawford-Smith says.

Like other “gender critical” feminists, she has been banished from Twitter. It’s supposedly “hateful conduct” to use pronouns in a way that tracks sex rather than gender identity. But this “progressive” platform allows #punchaterf as a trending hashtag, and trans activists can attack a TERF as a “c..t” or “bigoted piece of shit” with impunity. Anti-TERF tactics include campaigns to dislodge people from their jobs, smearing them as fascists, threatening harm to their families and, in one case, pissing on an academic’s office door. Nobody denies there are genuine cases of distress among trans people, and some gender-critical feminists may seem high-handed.
One Oxford don took to Twitter with the hashtag #transawaythegay, conjuring up a story that “Emmett wasn’t allowed to be a lesbian and had to wear skirts and makeup. But when he realised he was supposed to be a boy and started taking testosterone, his church accepted him. All better now!”

In March, activists successfully pressured 3:AM Magazine, a fearless online journal of radical philosophy, to pull an interview with Lawford-Smith because it touch¬ed on the TERF war. Her remarks seem temperate: “My stance is that a person can’t change sex (not even with sex reassignment surgery), that ‘gender identity’ has no bearing on sex, and that with very few exceptions gender identity should have no bearing on a person’s sex-based rights.” Things have got so unpleasant that 12 prominent philosophers from around the world, including Australia’s Peter Singer and Melbourne-based Cordelia Fine, felt moved this week to publish an open letter deploring the attempt to silence gender identity sceptics with “frequently cruel and abusive rhetoric”. The letter says: “Policymakers and citizens are currently confronting such metaphysical questions about sex and gender as What is a man? What is a lesbian? What makes someone female? Society at large is deliberating over the resolution of conflicting interests in contexts as varied as competitive sport, changing rooms, workplaces and prisons. These discussions are of great importance.”

This month Lawford-Smith interrupted the chorus of bland approval for Victoria’s law, which magically transforms the enduring truth of birth sex into the changeable wish of gender identity. In a Melbourne newspaper she wrote: “Despite the fact that this bill changes what it means to be a person of a particular sex in law, and despite the fact that sex is a protected attribute in both the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act and the Australian Sex Discrimination Act, the group that faces the most sex discrimination — namely female people — have not been consulted about the bill, and the implications of the bill on their legal protections, if any, have not been adequately acknowledged or explored.”

Might horrified fascination with Canada’s #WaxHerBalls case rouse our MPs to ask some hard questions? This week Vancouver-based writer Meghan Murphy (banned from Twitter) issued an “I told you so”. “(The Yaniv case) is precisely what feminists tried to warn politicians, the media, activists and the public would happen should we accept the notion that it is possible for men to ‘identify’ as female. How can we possibly protect women’s boundaries, spaces and rights if men can be women, regardless of their male biology? No woman should be bullied into touching a man’s penis against her will.” Surprising things keep happening. Early this year at a free-market think tank in Washington, DC, radical feminists and political conservatives made common cause in a public debate on the trans conundrum. “Together they argued that sex was fundamentally biological and not socially constructed, and that there is a difference between women and trans women that needs to be respected,” reports gay conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan. Some may feel schadenfreude recalling the feminist track record of denouncing mainstream research on sex differences as a patriarchal plot. And the anti-trans argument built on biology is a delicate one for gay and lesbian identity. The whole agonising affair is a reminder that abstruse ideas on campus can turn the world on its head. Without postmodernism and its reality-busting offshoots, who could ever have imagined a troublesome “female penis”?

     All I can say here, after time spend listening to James Reed rant and rave about the dangers of the university system, is that it is good to see philosophy delivered a body blow from these controversies. There is no easy end to all of this, but the complete collapse of the system would be a good start.

 

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Wednesday, 10 August 2022