Trans Skeptics Aren’t Being Censored. Reasonable Trans People Are.

When ‘free speech’ media adds to the censorship of the voiceless.

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Today, I want to address a problem I have become really concerned about: the uncritical treatment of gender critical views, and the effective silencing of moderate pro-trans views, in the genre of new media that prides itself on free speech, skepticism and giving a fair hearing to de-platformed or censored people. I will use the example of Matt Taibbi’s article ‘Meet the Censored: Kara Dansky’ from a few months ago to illustrate what I mean. However, I must stress that this phenomenon is quite widespread, and Taibbi is certainly not the only person doing this.

Part 1: Accepting a Politically Motivated Framing of Trans Issues

Taibbi’s article is basically an interview with Kara Dansky, author of the book The Abolition of Sex, and a feminist with gender critical views. Taibbi opens by highlighting the fact that some have falsely labelled gender critical feminism as ‘right-wing’, quoting a 2020 mainstream media article as evidence. On this point, I totally agree with Taibbi: gender critical feminism is basically an exercise in applying the critical theory worldview to the issue of gender, which means it is far-left by definition. Not everything that is anti-trans is right-wing (or vice versa)! Frankly, I am fed up with the mainstream media’s mischaracterization of things, and I really don’t know if it is due to incompetence or dishonesty.

So far, so good. But very soon, the article turns into an uncritical portrayal of ideologically driven anti-trans views. Standard gender critical talking points go unchallenged, as if they were mere fact and not controversial opinion. Most worryingly, Dansky’s attempt to paint trans rights reforms as motivated by a desire to ‘obscure the reality of sex’, ‘persuade ordinary Americans that biological sex doesn’t exist’, and even the ‘abolition’ of biological sex goes completely unchallenged by Taibbi. As somebody dedicated to empiricism and objectivity, I certainly don’t believe in obscuring or abolishing any objectively observable truth, because it simply can’t be done, except via collective pretense (in the Emperor’s New Clothes way) enforced by authoritarian means. Most trans people I know actually share my views.

Previously, I have called for developing systems of legal recognition of trans people that also leaves adequate room to recognize biological sex wherever relevant, so that single-sex spaces can be maintained, for example. I have also repeatedly called for the development of trans rights solutions that will accommodate the concerns of other parties. However, gender critical feminists have never tried to respond in good faith to proposals like mine. Instead, they have chosen to highlight the most outrageous activists’ proposals, in an attempt to discredit trans people and trans rights. This is why the noisy minority of activists demanding what gender critical feminists would call ‘the abolition of sex’ is heard loudly, while everyday trans people who just want adequate protection to live our lives are drowned out. Make no mistake, it is the choice of anti-trans people, including gender critical feminists and culture war ‘conservatives’ alike, who have chosen to elevate the extremists and ignore people like us!

Towards the end of the article, there is some discussion on the possible implications of certain trans rights reforms, including the Equality Act that is currently before the US Congress. There was discussion about a particular case from California, which I won’t comment on because I am unfamiliar with. However, even if certain proposals for trans rights could have unwanted consequences, there is surely a way to fix these problems. The law could always be written in a way as to prevent its abuse by bad faith actors. As I have repeatedly said, there are ways to recognize both gender identity and biological sex differences, so that there is appropriate recognition of people’s reality in all cases. I have even invited concerned parties to join the discussion about how trans rights could be done while also taking care of others’ concerns. However, gender critical feminists and other anti-trans activists have not been keen to take up these proposals. Again, it seems that their goal is to highlight the most extreme proposals, while ignoring those of us who are willing to compromise. This way, they can paint trans rights as inherently dangerous and in conflict with women’s rights, and hence discredit all trans rights proposals. This is very dishonest, and it needs to be called out.

Part 2: An Unscientific Take on Gender and Trans People

The article clearly tries to paint a picture of biological sex being real, but trans identity being unreal. “Sex is grounded in material biology.” “Gender, on the other hand,… is more about sex stereotypes. Women stereotypically like pink. Men stereotypically like blue.” This completely denies the experiences of trans people with gender dysphoria, and the meaning of gender identity in the trans context. There is also an attempt to paint trans people’s gender identity as not being rooted in biology like gay people’s sexual orientation, which is insulting to people like myself, who started experiencing gender dysphoria at age 2–3 (i.e. much earlier than when most gay people knew they were gay).

The fact is, both biological sex and trans people are objectively real, and any objectively sound position needs to respect this. The article’s attempts to paint the former as real and the latter as not is clearly ideologically driven, and flies in the face of reality. In failing to point this out, I believe Taibbi is complicit in promoting an unscientific view.

As I previously said, what is objectively real cannot be denied by language or philosophy, except via pretense enforced by authoritarianism. Given the denial of trans people’s gender identity is part of the gender critical agenda, this means it must resort to bad faith authoritarian methods at some point. I guess this is why they won’t accept any kind of legal recognition for trans people at all, and have resorted to painting us all as extremists in order to prevent such reforms from winning public support (see Part 1 above). Indeed, gender critical feminists have already been caught saying they want to keep the number of people who transition down, without ruling out using authoritarian means to do so. Those of us who believe in free speech and freedom of conscience need to beware!

Part 3: Who is Actually Being Censored Here?

Finally, I want to return to the title of the article, ‘Meet the Censored’. Taibbi presents Dansky as being ‘censored’, despite major publications like The Federalist and big shows like Tucker Carlson having her on. Gender critical feminists and their views might be excluded from the liberal wing of mainstream media, but they are prominently featured in basically every conservative media outlet, from the biggest to the smallest, the most mainstream to the most obscure. I’m not sure that counts as being ‘censored’. However, reasonable trans people like myself are effectively being censored, and people like Taibbi aren’t doing anything about this at all!

The liberal wing of mainstream media has effectively only featured trans activists with relatively extreme views, often rooted in queer theory and postmodern feminist theory. This is because postmodernist activists have regularly used social media to smear the reputation of any trans person potentially not in line with their views, making liberal media reluctant to have them on. (You only need to look at the recent controversy surrounding trans actress Hunter Schafer reacting to an Instagram post, or the 2019 cancellation of trans YouTuber Contrapoints, to get what I mean.)

On the other hand, as I previously illustrated, much of the ‘skeptical’ or ‘free speech’ media are now effectively married to gender critical feminism, which has decided to highlight the most extreme trans activists as a tactic to discredit all of us. This means reasonable trans people who are willing to compromise are being drowned out by the extremists, effectively silenced by a double dose of media bias. The result is that trans people are constantly portrayed as extremists who want to impose postmodern ideologies on the rest of society. This is extremely unfair, and extremely harmful to us. Those who are complicit in this portrayal (left-wing and right-wing alike) shall be judged by history, and I’m sure this judgement will be unkind.

However, for now, we will need to find our own way to survive. Like many others, we are shut out of the liberal wing of mainstream media by ideological elements. However, given the turn towards gender critical feminism in the ‘skeptical’ media, we can’t harbor any hope that it will recognize reasonable trans people as an unfairly censored voice in need of their help either. Instead, we will need to build our own alternative media. We will need to make our own case, against the biased reporting of both the mainstream media and the ‘skeptical’ media. It won’t be easy, but for the sake of our own survival, we must try our best. Luckily, there are now a growing number of people who have become fed up with both mainstream and so-called ‘skeptical’ media, who are more likely to be receptive to what we have to say. We can also add in the growing number of people who are frustrated with the polarization and the culture wars, and want to find reasonable solutions and move on from this chapter of toxicity. We need to find a way to get our message of compromise and civility out to these people.

Originally published at The TaraElla Project https://taraella.substack.com where I reply to interesting and controversial points of view in the trans discourse.

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TaraElla

TaraElla

Author & musician. Moral Libertarian. Disrupting the woke vs anti-woke echo chambers and making the West truly liberal again. https://www.taraella.com