Why I Hate the Word ‘Transphobic’

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I have no idea whether or not a man can be born inside a woman’s body, or vice versa, or if people who regard themselves as such are in fact suffering from a debilitating psychiatric disorder called “body integrity identity disorder,” or whatever the doctors are calling it this week. And neither does anyone else: there is a complex, interdisciplinary intellectual debate raging. No knows the answer yet: scientists, journalists or policymakers.

Except, of course, self-assured social justice worriers, who, drawing wisdom from Twitter and their own political agendas, have appointed themselves arbitrator, and, amazingly, are on their way to persuading society at large that anyone who disagrees with them is guilty of a “hate crime” – most notably, and amusingly, a large and prominent group of “trans-exclusionary radical feminists,” or TERFs to their opponents. That’s right, they’re now throwing isms and phobias at each other.

We live in an age when kids’ TV channel CBBC is screening programmes glamorising transsexualism and self-mutilation. Children as young as three are being proudly declared as transgender, and put on hormone suppressants to stave off their natural sexual development.

Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender sufferers are lumped together as “LGBT” such that the word “transphobia” has now emerged – invented to slander anyone who questions this fashionable new liberal orthodoxy as irrational and bigoted. The word has somehow slipped, unquestioned, into the popular lexicon.

The truth is it may not be irrational at all to have reservations about this transgender hype. It may be the moral position. In 2004, a large review, by real scientists, of more than 100 international medical studies of post-op transsexuals by the University of Birmingham’s aggressive research intelligence facility (Arif) found no evidence that surgery had improved the lives of people who were confused about their gender.

Chris Hyde, director of Arif, who advises the NHS, said: “There is a huge uncertainty over whether changing someone’s sex is a good or a bad thing. While no doubt great care is taken to ensure that appropriate patients undergo gender reassignment, there’s still a large number of people who have the surgery but remain traumatised – often to the point of committing suicide.”

That’s right: rather than saving and liberating lives, many studies show suicide rates rising after this brutal, largely irreversible surgery.

It astounds me how many people fail to understand the difference between a social convention and a scientific consensus. Just because you believe it to be so, or want it to be so, does not make it any more so. The scientific method doesn’t give a damn what society thinks is progressive, nice or liberal – science cares about peer review and objectivity – and, ultimately, truth.

It’s not just eminent academics and – I do apologize for this – white heterosexual men like myself who have our reservations. The history of feminist opposition to the trans “movement” is long and remains strong today.

In 1977, radical feminist Gloria Steinem, whilst clarifying her support for the right of individuals identify however they want to (as do I), argued that transsexuals who “surgically mutilate their own bodies” in order to conform to “gender roles,” actually perpetuate such roles (feminists really don’t like gender roles).

“Feminists are right to feel uncomfortable,” she continued, “about the need for and uses of transsexualism… If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?” Today, Steinem claims to have changed her mind, just in time to miss the lynch mobs. Canny. But others are standing fast.

In 2009, household name and radical feminist icon Germaine Greer was “glitter bombed” for her apparently transphobic feminism by a group calling themselves the Queer Avengers. She had previously written that being trans was a “delusion” and that trans women “seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so,” and, “we pretend that all the people passing for female really are. Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusion that he is female.”

She wasn’t just pissed about mutilation being allowed and encouraged, she was pissed that her protests against it are being censored.

Censorship is something journalist and activist Julie Bindel knows a lot about. In 2010, on behalf of every student in this country, the NUS enshrined the words “Julie Bindel is vile” in their constitution. Subtle. She has been denied a platform at student unions all over the nation ever since, including my own, because of just one article she penned for the Guardian in 1994, arguing, among other things, against the gross misuse of human rights legislation to grant a man, who regarded himself as a woman, the right to council female rape victims.

Gender studies has grown into an entire discipline in some universities. Postmodernists (they’re still around, alas) think that by studying sociology, they can tell us all about biology. Gender is a social construct, they say, just like race. The thinking goes like this: black people are only black because white people perceive them as black. It’s wacky stuff.

Gender essentialists think nature provided us with two sexes, and gender is intrinsically tied to them. There is also the triangulation theory, which posits that sex, gender and sexual orientation interact in complex and endless ways. They’ve made it all pretty complex and you’d expect so-called progressives to be encouraging an open, honest discussion.

Prominent, eminent and respectable figures reside on both sides of this debate and you’d be foolish to write either side off before hearing their arguments. It’s an issue of great importance; people’s wellbeing, happiness and very lives depend on it. But it is no longer possible to hear one side because of censorship and fear of being labelled a bigot.

I’m still a student, and have never, not once, been able discuss this topic openly in a lecture, seminar or the Union. What a sorry state of affairs. So I guess today is the day as I come out as transphobic, or at least as transphobic-curious.


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