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Allegations of transphobia Mod Advisory post #42

  • 20-04-2021 10:49am
    #1
    Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 24,240 Mod ✭✭✭✭ robindch


    In June of last year, JK Rowling drew a considerable amount of ferocious, personal criticism for a series of tweets and an article on her website which were widely interpreted to indicate that she believes that transgender identities are, in some sense, fake. And, yesterday, the American Humanists Association withdrew the "Humanist of the Year" award it gave Richard Dawkins in 1996, because the AHA believes that Dawkins is similarly dishonest and that he "[...] implies that the identities of transgender individuals are fraudulent [...]".

    I've avoided this area entirely for years as it seems to involve one group of individuals imputing beliefs, frequently extreme and frequently by implication only, within another group of individuals, and often doing so in an uncivil fashion, where nobody seems to be making much obvious effort to establish common ground, to move forward with common beliefs or even the reach out to the other side to establish ground rules.

    Can somebody who's more familiar with the area explain what the beliefs of the two sides are and why, even allowing for the fact that it concerns claims for and perceptions of identity, the discussion is so venomous?

    Mod Advisory of ground rules for this thread post #42


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Comments

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,329 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    Not a subject I've any expertise on but, much like religion, I take the line that people can identify however they see fit and it is not for me to question this until it negatively impacts me directly. It does surprise and concern me that so many people get so wound up and hateful about such a tiny minority in our society who have never harmed anyone. The need to make definitive statements about who or what other people are, or how they should behave when they're not impinging on anyone else, is, to my mind, deeply unpleasant.


  • Registered Users Posts: 12,653 ✭✭✭✭ lazygal


    I don't think I have or can have 'common ground' with people who want to deprive an already small and vulnerable minority of their basic rights.


    People like Graham Linehan seem to have been radicalised online into believing that toilet use is somehow a battleground worth losing a marriage and career over.



    The Gender Recognition Act passed without much controversy several years ago. It has had zero impact on me. I'm sure it has made life a wee bit easier for those who need its provisions.


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,419 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Corrected link:

    https://americanhumanist.org/news/american-humanist-association-board-statement-withdrawing-honor-from-richard-dawkins/

    Would have been helpful if they'd bothered to include any evidence to back up their allegations.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 24,240 Mod ✭✭✭✭ robindch


    smacl wrote: »
    The need to make definitive statements about who or what other people are, or how they should behave when they're not impinging on anyone else, is, to my mind, deeply unpleasant.
    Couldn't agree more, but where have Dawkins and Rowling made definitive statements about who other people are, or what their identity might be, and how they should behave? Or, what have they said that's any more normative than what's been said by the other side?

    The AHA, for example, in the link above didn't say what Dawkins' comment was, and more to the point, didn't say how it "implied" something worth stripping him of their award to him. Maybe it was worth stripping him, maybe it wasn't, but they've presented nothing to allow somebody to judge whether they're right or wrong to do so.

    The question I have is very specific - what precise comments have been made by Dawkins or Rowling which make unambiguous statements of fact concerning other people - and how are these offensive? A quick skim through Rowling's text doesn't show anything particularly offensive to me, but it undeniably caused a furore.

    I'm not including Graham Linehan in this as he seems to be a major-league plonker from the little I know of him. And I hasten to add that I'm not looking to stir the sh*t here, I genuinely don't know why the debate is so heated, though it's obvious enough that one side seems to believe sincerely that the other side is making definitive, offensive statements concerning others.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 19,032 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Bannasidhe


    There is one group of people who do not believe transgender people -in particular transgender women, transgender men get a free pass for some reason - can truly be anything other than the gender they were assigned at birth (biological sex). JKR is one such person.

    To them a transgender woman is a man.

    And quite often a sexual potential predator who is only 'pretending' in order to gain access to vulnerable cis (a term meaning gender identity aligns with biological sex) females, and/or a person who seeks to encroach on ill defined 'sex-based rights', and/or a male person who seeks to render lesbians (especially butch ones) invisible by claiming they are 'really trans'.
    The stance of this group is that gender is defined by genitalia and must align to biological sex assigned at birth.

    The other group - which in the interests of full disclosure I unashamedly am a member of - says sometimes nature makes a mistake, one such mistake is gender dysphoria. Transgender people are people who's biological sex does not align to the gender they identify as i.e. they are literally in the wrong body.
    Therefore, when they take steps to identify as the gender they believe they are they are acting to correct this mistake.
    For this group a transgender woman falls under the broad term woman and a transgender man equally is a man.
    Stance here is: Genitalia does not define gender identity. Gender identity is separate to biologically assigned sex, although they do usually align in a very small minority of people they do not.


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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 24,240 Mod ✭✭✭✭ robindch


    lazygal wrote: »
    I don't think I have or can have 'common ground' with people who want to deprive an already small and vulnerable minority of their basic rights.
    I agree with you. What have Dawkins or Rowling said which indicates that want to deprive trans people of their rights? Rowling seems to believe she's doing the opposite - "Trans people need and deserve protection" etc.


  • Registered Users Posts: 17,239 ✭✭✭✭ ELM327


    A transgender male to female person is biologically male. XX vs XY etc.
    However if that person chooses to identify as the opposite gender, which is a social construct that has been decoupled from biological sex, then that is no business of mine, it doesnt affect me, and more power to them.

    I guess I'm a little shielded here as I work at a MNC where you can identify as a purple monkey dishwasher and no one cares. Everyone is equal and not discriminated against.

    For me, the only reason that it would even become my business what gender someone identifies as, is either a) so I can address them with their preferred pronoun, and b) if they are somehow interacting with my life. Friends, colleague, partner etc.


    FWIW I don't see why Rowling has been vilified. Harry Potter was set in the late 90's and written in the noughties where trans rights were not as to the forefront as they are now.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,519 ✭✭✭ Quantum Erasure


    >There is one group of people who do not believe transgender people ... can truly be anything other than the gender they were assigned at birth (biological sex). JKR is one such person.

    I don't think that's exactly true. I think it's that gender can differ from biological sex, but biological sex is an immutable characteristic (including intersex etc.)


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 19,032 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Bannasidhe


    robindch wrote: »
    I agree with you. What have Dawkins or Rowling said which indicates that want to deprive trans people of their rights? Rowling seems to believe she's doing the opposite - "Trans people need and deserve protection" etc.


    A common comment made by those who dispute that transgender women are women. There's always a great big silent BUT...

    Rawlings buts many buts - but (:P) her core argument is that gender = biological sex therefore a transgender woman can never really be female as they lack the 'female experience'.

    Rawling speaks of her being shaped by being female and that transwomen have never experienced this.
    Two points on that: Yes, they have experienced being female. Albeit a female in a biologically male body. Perhaps what JK meant to say was pre-transition transwomen haven't experienced how other people interact with those they perceive as females and the affect this experience has on shaping a person. Which would be a valid(ish) point.
    Of course it also ignores that the female experience differed from country to country and culture to culture. It is not a set experience shared across the globe.

    Point 2 is where I feel Rawlings falls down as she is extrapolating her lived experience as being valid for all those born biologically female. I can guarantee that my lived experience as a cis female tomboy who grew up to be an out butch dyke was in no way shape or form similar to JK's. Other people did not react to me as they did to the feminine, heterosexual JK but my experience of being 'female' is just as valid as her's and probably a lot closer to that experienced by a transgender person.

    Rawlings argument is the "ALL females experience this xxxx" and this is what makes them women - no they don't, there is no universal "ALL females " experience.
    If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth,” she tweeted. “The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women—i.e., to male violence—‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences—is a nonsense.”

    She continued, “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so
    https://www.glamour.com/story/a-complete-breakdown-of-the-jk-rowling-transgender-comments-controversy


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 19,032 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Bannasidhe


    >There is one group of people who do not believe transgender people ... can truly be anything other than the gender they were assigned at birth (biological sex). JKR is one such person.

    I don't think that's exactly true. I think it's that gender can differ from biological sex, but biological sex is an immutable characteristic (including intersex etc.)

    Which is why the term is transgender not transbiology.

    The human body is basically a meat machine carrying around a consciousness. Much of what occurs in this meat machine is controlled by hormones - which quite often f up.

    No-one that I have heard is saying biology is being 'changed' - what it is being is corrected. The mistake is acknowledged and attempts are made to rectify it so that it aligns to what the consciousness believes is the correct situation gender wise.

    Sex does not equal gender although they do usually align.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 68,333 ✭✭✭✭ seamus


    Bannasidhe has kind of summed it up perfectly there.

    There are a lot of parallels in the oppression of homosexuality;

    - A refusal to believe that it's a "thing", an insistence that it's a perversion that must be squashed or "fixed".
    - A strong focus on the "issue" in biological males, to the point where biological females are often not even considered in the debate
    - An obsession with sex and sexuality, especially in the context of a "normal" being forced or fooled into to engaging in it. Again, mostly focussed on men being forced into unwanted sex, very little if any concern for women.
    - Frequent expression of the right of an individual to assault or murder the other party for the above crime of "forced" sex.
    - A belief that children are being targeted and brainwashed with the intention of "turning" them.
    - Frequent appeals to morality; "slippery slope", "fabric of society", etc.


  • Registered Users Posts: 12,653 ✭✭✭✭ lazygal


    Its a moral panic for this year, basically. In the past we had the Satanic panic, the harm of salty language in rock music, hysteria over sex ed in schools-all dressed up as 'concern' about children when the reality is children who are trans will always exist and the real danger is being forced to hear their feelings aren't valid and not being supported in their needs and decisions.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,329 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    robindch wrote: »
    I agree with you. What have Dawkins or Rowling said which indicates that want to deprive trans people of their rights? Rowling seems to believe she's doing the opposite - "Trans people need and deserve protection" etc.

    Trans people from my reading have fought for and legally achieved the right to be considered their chosen gender. Those who state they don't believe this to be the case, openly state it, and advocate for trans people to be treated differently as a result are infringing that hard fought for right. Well intentioned discrimination is still discrimination.


  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 41,699 Mod ✭✭✭✭ magicbastarder


    According to the guardian, the dawkins tweet in question was one where he compared trans people to Rachel dolzeal (sp?)


  • Registered Users Posts: 68,333 ✭✭✭✭ seamus


    Yeah, Rowling and Dawkins bumped into it from different aspects.

    Dawkins in effect said, "I will call people whatever they want to be called, but I reserve the right to only recognise biology".

    Rowlings' various statements made it clear that she wishes no particular ill-will towards trans people, but wants them included in some form of third category; they should not be considered "full" women (or men) and afforded the same rights as them.


  • Registered Users Posts: 23,325 ✭✭✭✭ Peregrinus


    seamus wrote: »
    Yeah, Rowling and Dawkins bumped into it from different aspects.

    Dawkins in effect said, "I will call people whatever they want to be called, but I reserve the right to only recognise biology".
    And I think this is at the root of the American Humanists’ concern.

    Humanism is often thought of in negative terms - humanists reject theism/deism; they reject the idea of “creation”; they reject religion; etc. But if you ask what the positive content of humanism is, what humanists affirm as opposed to what they reject, the answer will be [some variation on] that humanists affirm the transcendent value of the human person. Humans matter, in and of themselves, and the growth, flourishing and realisation of the human person is inherently good.

    Right. “Person” is a philosophical, metaphysical concept. Dawkins tends to privilege a scientific view of reality. He has, for example, tweeted:

    “Is trans woman a woman? Purely semantic. If you define by chromosomes, no. If by self-identification, yes. I call her "she" out of courtesy.”

    And more recently - I think this is what triggered the current kerfuffle - he has tweeted referring to transgender women as “men [who] choose to identify as women” (and vice versa for transgender men).

    Not just transgender people and their allies, but humanists generally, would be disturbed at the claim that gender, a central aspect of human personality, is ever a “purely semantic” question. And they’d be even more disturbed at the implication that chromosomes are real, chromosomes matter, chromosomes determine the issue objectively, while “self-identification” is something that is only acknowledged “out of courtesy”, and that someone who “chooses” to self-identify as a woman is in reality a man making that choice. Dawkins is privileging a reductive materialist scientific view of what it is to be human over the much more holistic humanist view of what it is to be a person.

    Which is the kind of thing that might make the American Humanist Association think twice about whether they want to continue holding Dawkins out as an exemplar of humanism.


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,419 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Think Dawkins' biggest mistake was getting into discussions on matters like this on Twitter in the first place - not the first time its brevity, tendency towards misinterpretation and complete lack of nuance have got him into trouble.

    You can take a strictly biological / chromosomal definition of sex and be accurate in what you say while others interpret this as a discussion of gender which cannot be defined in purely XX or XY terms. It's clearly unwise to enter into a discussion in a manner which is so likely to be interpreted in a way which will upset a lot of people.

    It's also pretty shocking how far Linehan has willingly crawled down the rabbit hole - I knew he was blocked on Twitter etc. but not that it's basically wrecked his career and marriage. You'd think he'd have had the cop-on to STFU long before reaching that point. I don't feel the need to broadcast my every thought and opinion on boards, especially if I knew it was going to bring down a lot of opprobrium on me (even though we are all pseudonymous here) and to do that under my real name would be out of the question.

    Cowardice? Not really, not deliberately upsetting people without very very good reason is a widely accepted societal value but one which a lot of social media users feel no compunction to exercise (or indeed take pleasure in doing the opposite.) Presumably the possibility of a smack in the face if they annoy the wrong person makes them moderate their behaviour in real life.


  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 41,699 Mod ✭✭✭✭ magicbastarder


    it's not twitter's lack of nuance which has gotten dawkins into trouble repeatedly. it's dawkins' lack of nuance which has gotten dawkins into trouble repeatedly.


  • Registered Users Posts: 12,653 ✭✭✭✭ lazygal


    Linehan was home after surgery AFAIK, with nothing else to do but go online. It's a sad way to end up, and shows the danger of real time radicalisation.



    I am seeing a creeping transphobia in some forums and online groups, people 'just asking questions' and it very, very turns extreme with people posting that men will be forced to date 'women with penises' and toilets will become a free for all. There's a study to be done on this for sure.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,800 ✭✭✭ fvp4


    It’s pretty hard to know where to post here, you would think that an atheist forum would be more or less pro biology. Apparently not. And I imagine that the moderation here is severe.

    So much for scientific beliefs.


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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,329 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    fvp4 wrote: »
    It’s pretty hard to know where to post here, you would think that an atheist forum would be more or less pro biology. Apparently not. And I imagine that the moderation here is severe.

    So much for scientific beliefs.

    Mod: You seem to have quite the imagination. An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in a god or gods, it says nothing about being 'pro biology', whatever that is supposed to mean, or any links to the sciences. Please restrict any comments about moderation to the feedback thread. Thanks for your attention.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 19,032 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Bannasidhe


    fvp4 wrote: »
    It’s pretty hard to know where to post here, you would think that an atheist forum would be more or less pro biology. Apparently not. And I imagine that the moderation here is severe.

    So much for scientific beliefs.

    The word 'atheist' is doing an awful lot of heavy lifting in that post.
    Atheist means does not believe in the existence of a god/gods.
    That is the sum total of it's meaning.


    You will have to explain for yourself what the rest of your comment means although I have my suspicions.

    As for moderation
    *mod hat on* - we expect people to abide by the charter, be civil, and maintain a high level of discourse in this forum.
    Naturally we also apply site wide rules.


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,419 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    it's not twitter's lack of nuance which has gotten dawkins into trouble repeatedly. it's dawkins' lack of nuance which has gotten dawkins into trouble repeatedly.

    Fair enough. But if he wants to go off expressing opinions on controversial issues, Twitter is probably the worst place he could choose to do it.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,519 ✭✭✭ Quantum Erasure


    smacl wrote: »
    Mod: You seem to have quite the imagination. An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in a god or gods, it says nothing about being 'pro biology', whatever that is supposed to mean, or any links to the sciences. Please restrict any comments about moderation to the feedback thread. Thanks for your attention.

    This isn't a comment on moderation but I would have thought that there would be a strong link between atheism and believing in verifiable scientific fact, I cant imagine there are many atheists who believe in astrology or tarot cards, etc.


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,811 ✭✭✭✭ Pherekydes


    This isn't a comment on moderation but I would have thought that there would be a strong link between atheism and believing in verifiable scientific fact, I cant imagine there are many atheists who believe in astrology or tarot cards, etc.

    I would say there is a strong link between atheism and humanism. As alluded to above by several posters, we are not simple biological machines. We have feelings, loves, hates, likes, dislikes and identities that are complex.

    Gender is about identity, self identity. It's not the same as biological sex. Your gender is not on your birth certificate.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,329 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    This isn't a comment on moderation but I would have thought that there would be a strong link between atheism and believing in verifiable scientific fact, I cant imagine there are many atheists who believe in astrology or tarot cards, etc.

    You possibly have a rather narrow view of atheism so. E.g. one of the world's largest atheist populations is in China and they're more into superstition than many. Very simply, atheist means no more than not believing in a god or gods. Nothing else.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,329 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    Pherekydes wrote: »
    I would say there is a strong link between atheism and humanism. As alluded to above by several posters, we are not simple biological machines. We have feelings, loves, hates, likes, dislikes and identities that are complex.

    Gender is about identity, self identity. It's not the same as biological sex. Your gender is not on your birth certificate.

    I'd say there's a link between humanism and atheism but the reverse does not hold.


  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 41,699 Mod ✭✭✭✭ magicbastarder


    i'm usually very wary about appeals to science when talking about a field where science itself is still learning. we're talking about the human brain, and there are still very fundamental things we don't understand about it which are a hell of a lot more obvious historically than the topic at hand.

    i'm also fond of assuming that because there are many more ways of being wrong than being right, society will get this wrong several times over before we get this right.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 24,240 Mod ✭✭✭✭ robindch


    Quotes:
    Peregrinus wrote: »
    “Is trans woman a woman? Purely semantic. If you define by chromosomes, no. If by self-identification, yes. I call her "she" out of courtesy.”
    That's here:

    https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/658622852405534721
    Peregrinus wrote: »
    he has tweeted referring to transgender women as “men [who] choose to identify as women” (and vice versa for transgender men).
    That's here, together with a follow-up, around two days later:

    https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/1381665011127451652


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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 24,240 Mod ✭✭✭✭ robindch


    Peregrinus wrote: »
    Dawkins is privileging a reductive materialist scientific view of what it is to be human over the much more holistic humanist view of what it is to be a person.
    Ok, that makes sense. In the following, rather than trying to include both "men" and "women", as doing so complicates the text to the point of incomprehensibility, the summary of Dawkins' position refers to "women" and the summary of the AHA position refers to "men" - I presume the converse applies equally for both AHA and Dawkins, and that Rowling's position is similar to Dawkins, or the same as his. Contentious terms are in quote-marks.

    Dawkins: implies that the term "woman" can refer to more than one kind of individual - either a) somebody who carries an XX chromosome, or b) somebody who "self-identifies" as a woman. Also implies that whether one chooses (a) or (b) amounts to a "semantic" choice - with many believing that using "semantic" implies that he believes this choice is trivial. He also implies, but does not state, that one can freely choose (a) or (b) as you wish. Dawkins does not preclude other definitions for the term "woman". He does not say what he means by "self-identification", but I'd imagine he believes that this varies by person and amounts to a point on a spectrum from something as simple as "a wish to be referred to as a woman" or "a wish to be treated as a woman" to a fuller "in every possible sense, is a woman", which would include the simpler implications.

    AHA: not much hard data to go on, but so far as I understand, the AHA believes that the term "man" refers in all circumstances, and exclusively, to somebody who "self-identifies" as a "man". Using the scale above, that means that the AHA believes, but doesn't state (that I can find anyway), that somebody who "self-identifies" as a man "in every possible sense, is a man", including all views on the spectrum above - "a wish to be referred to as a man", "a wish to be treated as a man" etc. The AHA also implies, but does not state, that anybody who does not agree with their implied definition for "man" is, de facto, impugning the honesty of, and denying the identity of anybody who "self-identifies" as a "man".

    Anyway, are these descriptions of the respective positions accurate, as far as they go?


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