I recently did a 2-part article for the Bilerico Project on Trans History and how it is relevant to some of the debates taking place on the internet over language . Starting off the article I noted:
Additionally, I’ve noticed that there are a number of distinct arguments going on. They seem to be blending together in a way that makes meaningful discussions about this topic somewhat difficult. For example, one person might raise an issue of taxonomy — what do we call ourselves? — only to have it attacked on the basis of identity. From what I’ve seen, there are no less than five debates going on concerning this word and the idea of community. (Note: when I use the term “non-cisgender,” I refer to people who, in the broadest possible sense, identify as gender variant in some way, shape or form.)
1. Taxonomy debate: Should we group together people of a non-cisgender history, experience and/or expression? Would a word other than “transgender” be more useful? If so, would we still have people who are not happy with a new taxonomy?
2. Identity debate: Is it useful that transsexuals – or any constituent group member – should experience pressure to cease identifying as such, and instead only identify as being the generalized taxonomy (e.g., transgender, gender-variant)?
3. Historical Context debate: Is it historically accurate to claim that there was nothing analogous to the “transgender community” in the 1970s and 80s? Is it historically accurate to claim that, prior to the 1990s, transsexuals of the 1970s and 80s did not self-identify as transgender? Can we say that transsexuals identify as “transgender” nowadays because they were forcibly assimilated by non-transsexuals? Was working together as a community of diverse constituents seen as being useful in the 1970s and 80s?
4. Cultural Context debate: In the 1970s and 80s, what did the medical community mean when they used the word “transgender”? Did the non-medical community understand the term “transgender” in the same way? Might the use of this term by non-trans people have contributed to the way our American culture currently uses this term?
5. Usefulness debate: Is working together as a community of diverse constituents useful today?
This article will only briefly touch on two of the above five arguments currently taking place within the community: the Cultural Context and the Historical Context arguments. The first is addressed in this Part I, and the second will be addressed in a later post. My goal isn’t to push any specific belief system. Rather, my goal is to simply add to the available historical record and to invite you to think about its implications.
That last little piece is important because a lot of the arguing surrounding the Historical Context and Cultural Context debates arise from certain assertions some separatists tend to make:
- “I strongly resent the fact that so many women of transsexual history are treated as something other than women as a direct result of this “trans” and “transgender” labeling.”
- “Forcing men and women of transsexual history into LGBT and TG against their will resulting in a third gender treatment is a form of misgendering and bigotry.”
- “We are deliberately being co-opted, plain and simple. Both you and Cristan have been talking down to me as well. I know what’s going on. I’m not dumb.”
And here’s a sampling of the way some separatists dealt with being asked to cite objective evidence supporting their position:
- “@Christan…I don’t see how you seem to require that we prove anything. This is how we see it from our perspective and that should be good enough, since so many state the same position… If you haven’t listened to us in the past why would we think you would listen to us now? I don’t understand how you could or why you would make this some kind of “requirement”, just to be heard. I can scream loud.”
- “What she was doing was very similar to the way abusers usually try to convince their victims that they have no escape, no alternative, that no one will believe them, that the abuser knows and has power with all the people in authority, that everyone else will be on the side of the abuser and will just ridicule the victim, etc., etc..”
- “The whole basis of this original article is a deceptive argument designed to use history to prove that transsexuals are now part of the transgender umbrella. Despite the fact that many of us oppose this you demand us to show you facts that aren’t even relevant. If I tell a significant other I do not want to go out to eat tonight but would prefer to eat at home I’m not required to provide multi-sourced evidence to prove why I don’t want to go to a restaurant. Likewise, we don’t owe you anything either.”
- “You tell people they may only say how they see things if they meet your conditions. You are asserting that you control their freedom of expression and identity.”
Now, lets review a point I made in a previous post:
I’ve taken some heat because I dared to say that in order for me – or people like me – to give the separatist position some serious consideration, we will need to be able to review the objective evidence that supports their claims. Here’s my last response in the tread:
“Despite the fact that many of us oppose this you demand us to show you facts that aren’t even relevant.“
Well, no; actually what I said was there’s either unsubstantiated assertions/premises or ones that are substantiated. I’ve only pointed out that – for whatever your reasons – you’ve consistently chosen to not substantiate your assertions/premises.
What I have said – repeatedly – is that in order for me to view your assertions/premises as being credible, you’ll need to simply substantiate them with objective evidence.
Again, let me once again refer you to this comic strip to illustrate my point about evidence and assertions of fact: http://www.cristanwilliams.com/b/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/logic.png
“If I tell a significant other I do not want to go out to eat tonight but would prefer to eat at home I’m not required to provide multi-sourced evidence to prove why I don’t want to go to a restaurant.“
Can’t you see the differences between a personal preference and the fact statements you’ve consistently made? The following is a truth statement and not a statement of personal preference: “We are asking you to stop co-opting us.”
Either the transsexual community is being co-opted or it isn’t. Your preference and/or subjective opinion has nothing to do with the objective fact. Without providing objective evidence to support your assertion, you’ve not provided your audience with what we need to take your assertion seriously. I mean, without evidence, I can assert that there is no co-opting going on, that you’re mistaken and have only upset yourself needlessly. Without evidence, you should not regard my statement as being the gospel truth; without evidence, I should not regard your statement as being the gospel truth either. This is why objective evidence is important.
Let me give you another example: Either “transgender” was created by Virginia Prince from her 1978 term “transgenderist” or it wasn’t. My preference and opinion has no bearing on what the objective truth is. Either the word “transgender” was used before Prince came up with the term “transgenderist” or it wasn’t. If it was used prior to Prince’s term, then Prince didn’t coin the term “transgender”. The question is about an objective truth, not my personal opinions.
“We do not accept being co-opted into the transgender umbrella. We are asking you to stop co-opting us.“
Can you now see that the above statement is an assertion of fact and not an assertion of personal preference? Either you are being co-opted or you aren’t and the only way to know that is to present the objective evidence because people’s opinions can be mistaken. It’s possible that I am mistaken and that you’re right. However, without the objective evidence, one cannot truly draw a reasoned, evidence-based conclusion. A conclusion drawn without supporting evidence is just an opinion. Do you understand? I have nothing against you or your position; I’m only asking to see the evidence that backs up your assertions of fact so that I have an opportunity to draw a reasoned conclusion.
“That is why this is a sophism. You are using false arguments to allegedly prove your agenda. Guess what? It isn’t working.“
Either I’ve written the above paragraph as a crafty effort to make you think that you must now identify as being transgender or I’ve not. If I have, then you’re right; it’s a sophism. However, if you’re mistaken, then your incorrect perspective is getting in the way of meaningful dialogue. Which is it? There’s only one objective truth. I’m either trying to assimilate you into the borg (Swedish Chef: “borg-borg-borg”) or I’m trying to actually engage you. Either I’m really deceitful and don’t care about your position or I would like the opportunity to be able to draw an educated conclusion about your position.
So why the Swedish Chef? It seems that my fact-checking articles have inspired some separatists to officially declare me a Borg:
The above attempt at what seems to be intimidation is just silly and it should be given an appropriate level of seriousness from readers. Therefore, when you read the word “Borg” in reference to the trans community, it should now and forevermore be read in the Swedish Chef’s voice.
2013 NOTE: The TS Separatist who wrote the above has issued an apology and is no longer a TS Separatist.
Who the hell publishes a hit list for trolling you might ask? Well, I’m guessing the same sort of people who write things like this:
A while back, two of us got together and formed an internet group. We formed with just one premise, i.e., to speak individually, but as one voice, in challenging the transgender at every opportunity. We don’t sit around writing endless narrative. We don’t sit around quoting the latest research. We are coordinated. We act. We respond. And, we do so consistently, persistently, and reasonably. Our group is growing and we’ve succeeded in shutting down threads spouting TG non-sense. When someone’s name is brought up for membership in our group their position on the gender debate is discussed in depth. Each of us come from different spheres of internet experience, all of which are related to the gender debate. Once we decide amongst ourselves if there is someone out there of whom might share our position we approach them…present a little information, ask if they think they might be interested in joining. Some have accepted. Some have declined. Most have not been asked to join. All of us share one thing in common: a sense of loyalty and unity in our quest to speak with one voice to the transgender. If one of us goes at someone, we all go at them. If someone attacks one of us, they may as well attack each and every one of us. We know who our allies are…and aren’t… for sure.
All of this sound and fury is as intellectually uninteresting as it is unnecessary. All I’m asking is to be able to have a chance to look at the objective evidence separatists apparently have so that I have an opportunity to make an informed conclusion concerning their various assertions. Over the past month, I’ve become increasingly skeptical of their claims because when I’ve investigated them for myself, I’ve found that the evidence does not…
- Support the idea that Virginia Prince, a heterosexual crossdresser, coined the term “transgender”.
- Support the idea that there is/was no community of constituent trans groupings except for that which is forced.
- Support the idea that Leslie Feinberg, a communist, created the idea of a transgender community.
- Support the idea there is a “colonization” of transsexuals by non-transsexuals.
- Support the idea that a new descriptive term (other than transgender) to define our community/population/group/movement is different from our current taxonomy.
There is a truth to be known about the above; they’re either fact-based assertions or they are not. None of the above claims made via the above links are assertions of opinion; they touted as being absolute truth. If they are true, it is vitally important that all trans folk know about the facts. If they are not true and one is intellectually honest, these beliefs should be immediately abandoned. Truth claims are easily proven by objective evidence.
- Either Virginia Prince should be credited for coining the term “transgender” in 1978 or the word was in use years before 1978 by people who were not Virginia Prince.
- Either there has been an inclusive trans community for the last 40+ years or their hasn’t.
- Either the term “Transgender Community” was used in it’s modern form years before Leslie Feinberg’s pamphlets and books were published or it wasn’t.
- The transsexual community was colonized by non-transsexuals or it wasn’t.
- Either a new term/acronym is different from the word “transgender” or it isn’t.
Falsifiability is like a bedrock for reasoned thinking. Since many separatists seem – for whatever reason – to refuse to put any objective evidence on the table so that the rest of us can draw educated conclusions based upon the assertion’s falsifiability, I – as my blog’s name suggests – did my own investigating.
- Virginia Prince coined the term “transgenderist” in 1978. The term “transgender” was in use (and referred to the transsexual experience) years before – and directly after – Prince coined her term. Here’s the evidence.
- There has been an inclusive trans community for the past 40 years. Here’s the evidence.
- The term, “transgender community” existed in it’s modern usage years before Feinberg published on the topic. Here’s the evidence.
- The colonization of transsexuals by non-transsexuals does not seem to have happened. Here’s the evidence.
The only assertion I’ve not yet spent a great deal of time investigating is the following:
- Either a new term/acronym is different from the word “transgender” or it isn’t.
I’ve not done so because the truth seems self-evident and therefore uninteresting to me:
Definition of Term ABC: Refers to all the diverse constituent groupings who share a common history and/or social, economic and political interest who share some common characteristics.
Definition of Term XYZ: Refers to all the diverse constituent groupings who share a common history and/or social, economic and political interest who share some common characteristics.
Definition of acronym A.B.C.X.Y.Z.: Refers to all the diverse constituent groupings who share a common history and/or social, economic and political interest who share some common characteristics.
(Note: the definitions I’ve used above are based upon the English language definition of “community”.)
Yes, we’ve decided to call ‘up’, ‘down’… but how has that – in any meaningful way – changed the characteristics of ‘up’? To me, this question seems like an utter waste of time.
So, this may very well be my last post on this subject on TS separatism for some time. Unless the separatists want to engage in an intellectually honest fashion by making evidence-based assertions, their rhetoric is meaningless to me. They are the immature burblings of a hubris mind. Who is so self-important that they believe that they can make extraordinary assertions about the nature of reality and expect all to accept it upon faith alone? What sort of movement is this adverse making reasoned arguments? Why the trolling, the hit list, historical revisionism and the ad hom attacks? Attacking me because I’m not willing to take your word on faith alone is a bit dogmatic (IMHO) and smacks more of a belief system than of any objective reality. Just because I won’t blindly believe whatever you tell me to believe doesn’t mean that I hate you; it only means that I’m skeptical (I mean, the title of this blog “ehipassiko” hopefully offers people a clue that I a bit of a skeptic). I tend to think that if the separatists were truly interested in furthering their cause, they should probably spend more time making reasoned arguments and less time trolling.
Also, if it’s taken more than a year to collect just half of the 500 signatures you’re looking for to “let my people go” from the Transgender Borg (Swedish Chef: borg-borg-borg) then, maybe you need to better communicate your position. If you care about getting people to care about your position, put the multi-sourced, mutually supportive objective evidence out there to make a reasoned argument. I’m not asking you to do anything more than what I’ve already done myself. If you’re unwilling to put forth the same effort that I’ve put forth in just satisfying my own curiosity, then I’m thinking that you’re not really invested in moving any actual movement forward; I’m thinking that you’re just interested in internet drama.