Weekly Recap: April 11, 2021
Transgender prisoners, Teen Talk, Trans Wars...
These Weekly Recaps are put out every Saturday or Sunday and cover the previous week’s news relating predominantly to sex denialism and gender identity. If you find these free recaps useful, please consider joining my free email list or becoming a subscriber if you would like to show support.
Spike in male inmates who identify as women
In February of last year I wrote, with Dr. Emma Hilton, in The Wall Street Journal that:
Denying the reality of biological sex and supplanting it with subjective “gender identity” is not merely an eccentric academic theory. It raises serious human-rights concerns for vulnerable groups including women, homosexuals and children.
Women have fought hard for sex-based legal protections. Female-only spaces are necessary due to the pervasive threat of male violence and sexual assault.
One of, if not the most, worrying consequence of denying the reality of male and female as real biological categories, or relying simply on self-ID for determining someone’s sex, is that it opens up women’s spaces to opportunistic predators. Please note that I am not claiming that trans women are predators. Far from it. But it is simply true that males pose a threat to females in a way that other females do not, and any system based on self-ID provides a ready-made path for opportunistic male predators. And it’s hard to imagine a women’s space more vulnerable to male exploitation of self-ID than prisons.
On Monday the LA Times reported that, in California, new legislation (SB 132) giving “transgender, intersex and nonbinary inmates the right, regardless of anatomy, to choose whether to be housed in a male or female prison” has resulted in “261 requests for transfers since SB 132 took effect Jan. 1.” That is, 261 male inmates have suddenly claimed female identities in order to be transferred to female-only prisons.
The story goes on to report that “Some prisoners are also concerned that inmates are making false claims about their gender identity in order to transfer to women’s prisons and say staffers have told them that this has slowed the process.” While this is almost certainly the case, it is a completely irresolvable conundrum, since there is absolutely no test that can be performed to determine if someone is making a false claim about their identity. That’s the problem.
Another foreseeable outcome of male prisoners claiming female identities to avoid being housed in male prisons is that new statistics will likely indicate that trans women are being incarcerated at rates far higher than one would predict by chance. Because of this unequal outcome and the popularity of viewing inequities as de facto evidence of systemic injustice, it’s not unlikely that we will start hearing claims that our prison system is systemically transphobic, because of the sudden spike in prisoners being booked as transgender to avoid being placed in male prisons.
I know it sounds nuts, but if you’ve been paying any attention over the last few years you would be a fool to bet against it.
Teen Talk is a website funded by Canada’s Sexuality Education Resource Center (SERC), which is itself funded by the Canadian government. Teen Talk describes itself as a “youth health education program” that “provides youth accurate, non-judgemental information.” From their website:
Teen Talk is a Youth Health Education Program. We provide services for youth from a harm reduction, prevention education perspective. We focus on sexuality, reproductive health, body image, substance use awareness, mental health, issues of diversity and anti-violence issues. We adhere to the belief that by providing youth with accurate, non-judgemental information they can make healthier decisions and choices for themselves!
On the site’s homepage lists topics they promise will “provide the facts and accurate information to help you make healthier decisions.” One of the topics was gender identity, and since this is a term that I’ve never heard coherently articulated, despite frequent requests, I was eager to finally hear the “facts and accurate information.”
What I saw was some of the most nonsensical and typo-riddled paragraphs I have ever seen. Here we learn that gender is defined as “how a person feels and who they know them self to be when it comes to their gender.” This is a narrowly circular definition using the term gender as part of its own definition and thus conveys no actual information. They also incorrectly state that the terms “male” and “female” are gender identities instead of biological sexes. They then make the wild claim that doctors are assigning gender identities—“how a person feels and who they know them self to be”—to infants at birth instead of simply observing and recording an infant’s sex based on genitalia. This is truly insane stuff.
We also learn that there are many different gender identities such as “male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these.” These 10 stand-alone genders plus all possible combinations comes out to 2^10 = 1024 gender identities. And this is a conservative estimate, since we learn in the second paragraph that “there are many more gender identities then [sic] we’ve listed.”
Exploring the pull-down menus available for various gender identities, we learn in the entry for transgender that “Someone may be born with a vagina but know themselves to be male.” For Two-Spirit we learn that “It can mean a person who walks between genders; one who carries the gifts of both males and females, or one who is gender unique (not specific to any gender) and/or as a way to identify as 2STLGBQ+.” And we learn that being genderqueer means a person can be “between” or even “beyond genders.”
Far from “facts and accurate information” that children should be receiving, the Canadian government has instead decided to publish the scientifically inaccurate religious teachings of an ideologically captured political cult.
Arkansas state legislature overrides governor's veto on transgender health care bill
As I reported in last week’s Weekly Recap, Arkansas had passed a bill that banned medical and surgical intervention for minors with gender dysphoria, due to the irreversible and experimental nature of many of these interventions. Following the passing of this bill, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson notably vetoed the bill. However, this veto was then immediately overridden by the state legislature. Other states, such as North Carolina, have passed similar bills.
Many view this as a win, given how ideological the medicine surrounding gender dysphoria has become and sudden rise of rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD), especially in adolescent girls. But it is important to hear some other viewpoints here so that we don’t run the risk of becoming ideologically siloed.
Jesse Singal is a very fact-based and compassionate writer, and has received a massive amount of hate and abuse for speaking out about that state of gender medicine. In May of last year he wrote about legislation aimed at making puberty blockers and other interventions illegal in apiece titled “Why The Hard Age Caps On Youth Gender Transition Being Proposed By Conservatives Are A Very Bad Idea.” It’s a very thoughtful piece, and I think you should read it.
From the essay:
While there is an important kernel of truth to some of the concerns over youth transition that is worth discussing — one I’ll get to in the second half of this article — overall, these laws are an extremely bad idea for many rather obvious reasons, and could do serious harm to TGNC youth. They reflect a disturbing attempt on the part of politicians to insert themselves between doctors and their patients. Frankly, they shouldn’t even be on the table — there are far better and less reckless ways to grapple with the genuine complexity underpinning this issue.
Veronica Ivy on trans inclusion in sports
Veronica Ivy (previously known as Rachel McKinnon) is a (biologically male) transgender athlete known for being outspoken against all attempts to prevent male athletes who identify as women to compete in female-only sports leagues and events. Ivy was recently interviewed on CNN about the recent surge laws banning males from competing in female sports, regardless of their gender identity.
Right from the start, the way the issue is framed is completely biased. Smerconish asks “Should transgender girls and women be allowed to play school sports on the girls’ and womens’ teams?” This framing already places these athletes as a subset of “girls and women” and then asks if it’s okay to prevent them from playing against girls and women. But this completely sidesteps the issue, since it ignores the fact that the girls’ and womens’ category is meant to be for people who are biologically female. There is no reason that sports should be segregated by identity, as this has no influence on athletic ability.
Ivy begins by stating that inclusion and fairness are not in conflict, but that inclusion is fairness. She quotes the International Olympic Committee’s charter as stating that “participation in sport is a human right.” Yes, this is true, but nobody is telling trans athletes they cannot play sports. All that’s being demanded is that they play in the category appropriate for their sex. Ivy then claims that inclusion of male athletes in female sports is not unfair because since 2003 there have been no trans athlete who has ever even qualified for the Olympics. She states that “we are seeing zero evidence of advantage for trans girls and trans women.”
This argument completely misses the point about what constitutes an advantage in sports. Just because a trans athlete has never qualified or won an Olympic event does not mean they do not have an advantage. This would be analogous to stating that doping is not unfair so long as nobody who dopes has ever qualified or won an Olympic event. The comparison to be made to conclude an advantage is present is. not in comparison to other athletes, but rather comparing the athlete to how they would have otherwise performed without some intervention, whether it is actively doping or the result of male puberty androgenization. It is unlikely I would win any Olympic events if I started taking performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), but that doesn’t entitle me to compete while taking PEDs.
Ivy then comments on the case of the trans girls in Connecticut by stating that “it’s not because they’re trans that they were winning, they were just faster.” This is either dishonesty or ignorance. I agree that these athletes didn’t win because they were trans per se, they won because they were biologically male. This is so obvious I can’t believe people don’t see the intellectual sleight-of-hand here.
Lastly, Ivy claims that:
Testosterone has zero impact on your athletic performance, and we know that. But we didn’t know that until 2013 because everyone just assumed that testosterone if why men are bigger, faster, stronger. But when we finally studied it, there’s no relationship between natural testosterone and performance.
This is simply not true as well as incredibly deceptive. Sports scientist and podcaster Ross Tucker had a good short thread on why this is the case, so I will point you in that direction.
I received feedback from a reader who asked me to try and incorporate some good news in my Weekly Recaps, because they found the first recap to be overly depressing. I think this is a great idea, so I will now try to include a “Good News” section following the regular News section above.
While there is plenty of reason for alarm and worry, it is also true that we are now beginning to see a counter movement mobilize to combat these harmful ideologies. That’s good news, as the activists no longer have total control over the narrative, and unlike the activists pushing sex denialism and gender ideology, the counter movement is extraordinarily politically diverse. I think there is plenty of reason for optimism.
Helen Joyce’s new book
Helen Joyce has been an extremely articulate critic of gender ideology, and her book—TRANS: When Ideology Meets Reality—that she’s spent the last year writing is now available to pre-order. This is one of my most highly anticipated books of 2021. Please consider ordering a copy!
Knowing more has never meant more.
Gender identity ideology is about more than twitter storms and using the right pronouns. In just ten years, laws, company policies, school and university curricula, sport, medical protocols, and the media have been reshaped to privilege self-declared gender identity over biological sex.
People are being sacked and silenced for attempting to understand the consequences of redefining ‘man’ and ‘woman’. While compassion for transgender lives is well-intentioned, it is stifling much-needed inquiry into the significance of our bodies, particularly with regard to women’s rights, fairness in sport, same sex attraction and children’s development.
If we recommit to our liberal values of freedom of belief, freedom of speech and robust debate, we stand a chance of addressing what is at stake.
Kathleen Stock’s new book
Kathleen Stock is a gender critical philosophy professor who has continually been attacked and de-platformed for her views relating to gender ideology. That is likely because she is one of the most reasonable and tenacious critics of the ideology. Her new book, Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism, will be a must-read.
Material Girls is a timely and trenchant critique of the influential theory that we all have an inner feeling known as a gender identity, and that this feeling is more socially significant than our biological sex.
Professor Kathleen Stock surveys the philosophical ideas that led to this point, and closely interrogates each one, from De Beauvoir's statement that, 'One is not born, but rather becomes a woman' (an assertion she contends has been misinterpreted and repurposed), to Judith Butler's claim that language creates biological reality, rather than describing it. She looks at biological sex in a range of important contexts, including women-only spaces and resources, healthcare, epidemiology, political organization and data collection.
Material Girls makes a clear, humane and feminist case for our retaining the ability to discuss reality, and concludes with a positive vision for the future, in which trans rights activists and feminists can collaborate to achieve some of their political aims.
Richard Dawkins stumbles into the fray
Richard Dawkins is one of my personal heroes. Compared to his activity in the 2000s and early 2010s, he has been relatively quiet and drama avoidant. After suffering a stroke in 2016 he has pulled back quite a bit, but I am happy to see that he seems to be more and more active, and now appears to have realized the some of the modern insanity that is gender ideology specifically, and Critical Theory more generally.
I hope Dawkins continues to ponder these questions. He has a lot of influence and would be good addition to the current list of academics speaking out on these issues.
U.S. court rules against mandated use of transgender pronouns
This is a victory for those of us concerned about compelled speech laws. Attempts to make misgendering illegal will likely see an uptick in coming years given the Biden administration’s focus on trans issues. As many of you will know, I do advocate for using people’s preferred pronouns—within reason—out of politeness and care for individuals who suffer gender dysphoria, but a line will have truly been crossed when we are compelled by law to utter certain words.
Click here or on the image below to read the article.
When Sons Become Daughters Part II: Parents of Transitioning Boys Speak Out on Their Own Suffering
This is the second installment on a four-part series published in Quillette by Angus Fox that “explores how parents react when a son announces he wants to be a girl.” This is the first piece that dives into the interviews, and it was absolutely gripping. Please give this important piece a read.
From the essay:
A hyper-relativist interpretation of anything pertaining to gender is now simply ubiquitous in clinics and therapeutic practices. And while there may be plenty of therapists and doctors who disagree with it, few have the courage to speak out openly.
Andrew Sullivan “A Truce Proposal In The Trans Wars”
Andrew Sullivan has stoked controversy among many gender critical feminists when he wrote an article on his The Weekly Disk Substack page titled “A Truce In The Trans Wars.” It is a thoughtful essay, and well worth the time to read.
From the essay:
If we were going to construct a test-case for how dysfunctional our politics have become, it would be hard to beat the transgender issue. It profoundly affects a relatively minuscule number of people in the grand scheme of things, and yet galvanizes countless more for culture war purposes. It has become a litmus test for social justice campaigners, who regard anyone proposing even the slightest qualifications on the question as indistinguishable from a Klan member. It has seized the attention of some of the most extreme elements among radical feminists, who in turn regard any smidgen of a compromise on the rights of women as a grotesque enforcement of patriarchy.
Kara Dansky responds to Andrew Sullivan
Kara Dansky, Member of the Steering Committee of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign US Chapter, has been a phenomenal voice speaking out against gender ideology and the erasure of women as a category both in law and biology. Her thoughts are always powerful and to-the-point.
Dansky recently responded to Sullivan’s essay with her own piece titles “On Compromising Humanity.” It is also worth a read.
From the essay:
On April 9, author Andrew Sullivan published this piece, called “A Truce Proposal in the Trans Wars.” In it, he proposed a number of “compromises” on what he misleadingly frames as “the transgender issue.” His “truce” proposal fails from the get-go: this is not a “trans war;” it’s a war for women, for humanity, and for basic reality.
How Gender Atheism Saved My Body
This is a great article by Sierra Weir on the topic of “gender atheism.” I highly recommend giving it a read.
From the essay:
Attested as early as 2013, “gender atheism” is philosophical skepticism toward or rejection of the concept of gender identity. Gender atheists judge gender to be an undemonstrated assertion that can’t be proven by observable reality. We consider such concepts to share the status of religious beliefs, dependent on the existence of a spiritually created consciousness separate from and superior to the body.
Summing up gender ideology
The last article I will share is a piece by Jordan Levi on gender ideology. It is a well written and researched piece that appears to be only Part I in a multi-part series. It is a great place to start for those just entering the debate and need an understanding of gender ideology.
From the essay:
I don’t remember when I first came across the concept of gender identity, but it was definitely before Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner) came out as transgender because I’m sure that would’ve confused me way more if it was my first acquaintance with the phenomenon. The concept of someone having gender dysphoria didn’t shock me. What did shock me was hearing that, after they’d been named one of Glamour magazine’s 25 Women of the Year, they non-jokingly said, “The hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear.” If, for some reason, I didn’t think much about the issue before then, hearing that sentence immediately jolted me awake because my first thought was “If that’s the hardest part about ‘being a woman’ to you, then what could you possibly think a woman is?”
Glenfiddich Fire & Cane
Nose: Sweet rum, honey-roasted nuts, crème brûlée, sea salt, apricots.
Taste: Butterscotch, burnt apple pie, cinnamon, beeswax.
Mouthfeel: Medium viscosity.
Finish: Rum and light fruit. Medium long.
I picked this Scotch up a couple years ago when I lived in Pennsylvania. I am not normally a huge fan of Glenfiddich, as they are generally simple and low proof. This, however, was a very pleasant surprise. It is a peated whisky matured in ex-bourbon barrels, and finished in Latin rum casks. The combination of smoke and sweet make this a truly complex and delicious experience. Some people have claimed this whisky is too sweet, but I tend to prefer whiskeys on the sweet side, so its sweetness does not bother me one bit.
If you’re looking for a complex Scotch that won’t break the bank, I recommend giving this a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
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