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Culture War Roundup for the week of January 8, 2024

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Contra deBoer on transgender issues

I don't think you're merely asking us to be "kind"

I’ve long been a great fan of Freddie deBoer. He’s a consistently thought-provoking and engaging writer, courageous in his willingness to step on toes and slaughter sacred cows, worth reading even when I (often) disagree with him.

One of many areas on which I disagree with Freddie is in our respective stances on trans issues. Some years back, he posted that he was sick of people in the comments of his articles bringing up trans issues even though the article itself had nothing to do with the topic, and announced a blanket ban on this specific behaviour.1 He subsequently posted about the subject in more detail, explaining why (in contrast to his more iconoclastic opinions on progressive issues like racism, policing and mental health) he supports the standard “trans-inclusive” paradigm more or less uncritically. In March of last year, he posted an article titled “And Now I Will Again Ponderously Explain Why I Am Trans-Affirming”.

To be frank, I found the article staggeringly shoddy and poorly argued, especially for such a typically perceptive writer: it was a profound shame to see him fall victim to exactly the same errors in reasoning and appeals to emotion he so loudly decries when progressives use them in other political contexts. I intended to write a response to that article but never got around to it, and then the moment had passed. Last week he published not one but two new articles on the topic, so now I have a second chance to strike while the iron is hot. In some cases I will respond to Freddie’s arguments directly; in other cases I think it will be illuminating to contrast what Freddie wrote on this topic with what he has written on other controversial political issues in the past, to illustrate how flagrantly he is failing to live up to his own standards and committing precisely the same infractions he has complained about at length in other contexts.

“No one is saying” and what a strawman is

Freddie repeatedly asserts that various complaints that gender-critical people might have about trans activists are completely unfounded and invented from whole cloth, that no trans activists are saying what gender-critical people accuse them of having said, and that if any trans activists are saying these things then they’re only a small radical fringe and they don’t matter.

They’re trying to obliterate the distinction between male and female, between men and women, altogether!

Who? Where?… No one wants you stop calling your kids boys or girls and no one wants you to stop being a man or woman.

Terms like “birthing person” and “chestfeeding” are stupid and alienating to a lot of people!

Well… yeah… Again, though, plenty of trans people don’t use this language, and it’s mostly confined to the parts of our culture that have aggressive HR departments. I have been around LGBTQ people generally, and activists specifically, for most of my life. No one has ever scolded me for saying “ladies and gentlemen” or “breastfeeding” or “dad.” Not once have I ever been confronted about using language that suggests a gender binary. Not once!

In 2021, Freddie wrote an article titled "NO ONE SAYS" & What a Strawman Is", describing a rhetorical trick in which a person opposing him on some political issue will insist that “NO ONE SAYS” a thing Freddie disagrees with, Freddie will cite examples of people saying that exact thing - but rather than concede the point, the person will simply move the goalposts:

You know what the “no one is saying” crowd do when you show them incontrovertible evidence that someone is saying it? They say “oh that person doesn’t matter,” and roll right along. “No one is saying” morphs easily into “no one important is saying.”

Freddie might claim that no one is trying to obliterate the distinction between men and women; no less than a once-august publication like Scientific American argues that sex is a “spectrum” and that the idea of there being “only” two sexes is “simplistic”. Freddie might claim that no one in his experience has ever scolded him for saying “birthing person”, but that is the official language advocated for by the UK’s National Health Service. Freddie might insist that no one wants you to stop calling your kids boys or girls, but here’s a fawning article in the New York Times about parents doing exactly that, and another from the BBC.

Note also Freddie’s claim that linguistic prescriptions like “birthing person” and “chestfeeder” are largely confined to “the parts of our culture that have aggressive HR departments”. This might come as a surprise to Freddie, but some of us actually have to work in companies with aggressive HR departments - we aren’t all lucky enough to be self-employed freelancers pulling down six figures a year, beholden to no one but ourselves. It’s very strange for a self-identified Marxist who expresses such profound outrage about the capitalist exploitation of the proletariat to be so blasé about the obnoxious ideological hoops that ordinary working people are made to jump through as a condition of continued employment in a precarious economy.

For emphasis: Freddie, someone is in fact saying! And in many cases these “someones” are far more powerful and have far more influence on our culture than you or anyone in your circle of like-minded Brooklyn activists. When the fifth-largest employer in the entire world is demanding that its staff exclusively use “birthing person” in place of “mother”, what some Brooklyn activist believes is beside the point.

Female sporting events

I also find it hard to square Freddie’s claim that “no one” is trying to obliterate the distinction between male and female altogether with his apparent belief that trans women competing in female sporting events is entirely fair and legitimate. How can such a policy possibly be justified without ignoring the indisputable biological reality, consistent across time and space, that the average male person is stronger, faster and more resilient than 99% of female people? No less of a once-respectable institution than the American Civil Liberties Union describes the claim that “Trans athletes’ physiological characteristics provide an unfair advantage over cis athletes” as a “myth”. When a respected organisation like the ACLU, with an annual budget exceeding $300 million, asserts that male people are collectively no stronger than female people - the only way I can describe the claim that “no one” is trying to obliterate the distinction between male and female people is that it is a shameless insult to the reader’s intelligence.

Scepticism for me, but not for thee

A recurrent problem throughout the article is Freddie assuming that any criticism of trans-inclusive policies is a criticism of trans people themselves. No matter how many times a gender-critical person might assert “I’m not worried about trans people using this policy to hurt people - I’m worried about bad actors who are not themselves trans or suffering from gender dysphoria taking advantage of this policy to hurt people”, Freddie continually insists that criticising policies intended to be trans-inclusive is functionally the same as criticising trans people as a group. This is precisely the same kind of facile reasoning he’s so elegantly skewered in other political domains - the notion that opposition to this or that policy necessarily implies hatred of black people, or the mentally ill, or what have you. But he’s guilty of it himself, admitting elsewhere in the article that certain trans-inclusive policies pursued by the radical fringe of the trans activist lobby are short-sighted and counterproductive. So we find ourselves in the curious position in which Freddie can criticise this trans-inclusive policy without that bringing his support for trans rights into question - but if gender-critical people are sceptical or uneasy about that trans-inclusive policy, the only reasonable explanation is that they’re crypto-conservative fundamentalist Christians motivated solely by disgust and hatred of trans people.

For example, Freddie admits to scepticism about outré neogenders (“I suspect a lot of those people will probably adopt a more conventional gender identity as they age”), that a lot of the linguistic prescriptions trans activists make are preposterous and counterproductive (“I think making people believe that you want to get rid of the term “mother” is about as politically wise as punching a baby on camera”), that it’s wrong to act like medically transitioning will solve all of a trans person’s problems (“And I worry, for young trans people, that they’ll find transitioning to be just another of these human disappointments - things will be better, no doubt, but as we all tend to do they’ll have idealized the next stage of their lives and then may experience that sudden comedown when they realize that they’re still just humans with human problems”) and even that some medical practitioners are being overly aggressive about pushing minors to transition (“Can I see understand [sic] some concerns with overly-aggressive medical providers pushing care on trans-identifying minors too quickly? I guess so.”) These topics, apparently, reside within the Overton window: one is entitled to raise concerns about them without being accused of being motivated by malicious hatred of trans people as a group. Why are these concerns legitimate to express, and not: the unintended consequences of abolishing single-sex bathrooms and changing rooms; male rapists with intact genitalia being incarcerated in female prisons; convicted sex offenders coming out as trans and changing their names in order to evade child safeguarding policies - or any other of the litany of reasonable-sounding objections gender-critical people have raised over the last decade or so? No idea.

The bathroom question

A large chunk of both articles is dedicated to the question of whether it is appropriate to allow trans women to use women’s bathrooms:

They’re gonna rape the girls in the bathrooms!

Please, help me understand this, because it’s never made an ounce of sense to me. The claim is that, if you allow transwomen into women’s bathrooms, they’ll rape the women in there, right? Here’s my question: do you think that a sign on a door is gonna keep a rapist from raping? Like, there’s a sexual predator who wants to commit a rape, and he’s about to follow a woman into the bathroom to do so, but then he sees that it’s a women’s bathroom and says “ah shucks, I guess no rape for me today”? I simply do not understand this. If physical proximity is by itself sufficient incitement to sexual assault, then we have much, much bigger problems on our hands. How does legally allowing a transwoman into a girl’s bathroom create any greater threat than a cisgender man’s practical ability to simply walk into that bathroom and assault someone?

I personally am not a diehard advocate for sex-segregated bathrooms, and can see the merit in making all bathrooms gender-neutral. Of all the components of trans activism going, gender-neutral bathrooms is perhaps the one I find least objectionable. That being said, I find the argument for sex-segregated bathrooms easy to understand (even if I don’t necessarily share it), and admit to being surprised that Freddie doesn’t get it, so I will try to aid him in understanding it.

A blanket policy of sex-segregated bathrooms is intended to minimise the risk of female people being raped or sexually assaulted by male people in bathrooms. While a policy of sex-segregated bathrooms is enforced, a person who sees an obviously male person enter a women’s public bathroom could reasonably assume that that person was up to no good, and take appropriate steps to rectify the situation (such as notifying a security guard). Under a trans-inclusive bathroom policy, one is no longer supposed to assume that a male person entering a women’s bathroom is up to no good, because they might identify as a trans woman.

While Freddie is correct that, under a policy of sex-segregated bathrooms, there is nothing stopping a male rapist from simply walking into a women’s bathroom, a trans-inclusive bathroom policy makes it dramatically easier for such people to get away with committing an opportunistic rape, as bystanders will be less likely to intervene if they see a male person entering a women’s bathroom for fear of being accused of being transphobic. The reasoning is similar to regulations in which adults are not permitted to enter public playgrounds unless they are the parent or guardian of a child: obviously a child molester can simply ignore the regulation, but the regulation is designed to make bad actors more obvious to bystanders.

If a woman is in a public bathroom and an obviously male person walks in, there is no reliable way for her to tell if that person is a harmless trans woman just minding her own business, or a rapist exploiting well-meaning inclusive policies for malicious ends. The fact that the person has a penis is not dispositive in one direction or the other (as Freddie acknowledges not all trans people may wish to medically transition); nor that they are bearded and wearing jeans and a T-shirt (because “trans women don’t owe you femininity”, and a trans woman presenting as male does not in any way undermine her trans identity).

[image in original post]

For the reasons outlined above, there is no way to reliably distinguish between trans women and cis men on sight2. Hence, there is functionally no difference between “bathrooms intended for women and trans women” and “gender-neutral bathrooms”. Like Freddie, I am not aware of any hard evidence that making bathrooms gender-neutral in a particular area resulted in an increase in the rate of rape or sexual assault. I understand the gender-critical opposition to gender-neutral bathrooms without necessarily sharing or endorsing it. Even if the concerns about how this policy might be exploited by bad actors are in fact unfounded, I don’t think it’s fair to accuse everyone expressing those concerns of being transphobic. I think it’s especially unfair to accuse a gender-critical person of saying they think all trans women are rapists when, in my experience, gender-critical people go to great lengths to emphasise that they are concerned about bad actors who aren’t trans taking advantage of these policies for malicious ends, rather than trans women doing so.

Overstating the importance of the issue

In his second article from last week, Freddie complains that gender-critical people have vastly overstated the significance of the trans issue, elevating it to the status of “the most important social divide of our time, apparently beating out crime and education and the collapse of the family etc” when trans/NB people make up at most 2-3% of the American population. I agree that, in the scheme of things, trans issues receive a vastly disproportionate share of column inches relative to their import. Where I differ from Freddie is placing the blame for this state of affairs solely at the feet of gender-critical people.

As noted by Wesley Yang, there are 39 separate days3 in the American political calendar specifically dedicated to celebrating trans people (and an additional 77 days dedicated to celebrating trans people as a subset of LGBTQ+) - in contrast to Black History Month, which famously falls on the shortest month in the Gregorian calendar, despite black Americans making up 13-14% of the US population. President Joe Biden gave a statement on Transgender Day of Remembrance, while Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren made the frankly bizarre campaign promise that her pick for education secretary would have to be personally vetted by a transgender child. There has hardly been a single political issue in the last ten years that hasn’t been framed as “how might this affect trans people?” or “what does this mean for the struggle for trans rights?” in the popular media, no matter how tangential the connection - everything from Black Lives Matter to the war in the Ukraine to gun violence in schools to the cost-of-living crisis to Covid to AI to the Israel-Palestine conflict to Brexit and even climate change (“[exposure to secondhand smoke] can exacerbate the respiratory stress that LGBTQI+ populations may experience from air pollution and chest binding, which is a common practice among transgender men to achieve a flat chest”)

It’s a bit rich to demand that Americans spend more than one-tenth of the calendar year celebrating trans people, “centring their voices” and putting their trials and tribulations at the forefront of their consciousness - only to then turn around and say “umm why do you even care about this, it’s such a tiny issue lol” when some of them offer even the mildest pushback. You brought it up.

[image in original post]

Medical transition of minors

Social contagion via social media

On the controversy over underage trans people discovering a transgender identity and/or undergoing medical transition, Freddie writes:

Children are routinely getting permanently-disfiguring medical treatment!

To begin with, every indication is that the number of trans children receiving hormones remains low, and the number undergoing surgical interventions vanishingly rare. Can I see understand some concerns with overly-aggressive medical providers pushing care on trans-identifying minors too quickly? I guess so. But what I can promise you is that I want medical decisions about children to remain between the children, their parents, and their doctors. That’s who should have a say - the children, the parents, and the doctors. If in fact there are risks or problems identified with the current manner of practicing trans-affirming medicine for children, then we will have to rely on the medical community to change their standard of care as new data comes available. Will this result in perfect outcomes? Of course not. Does pediatric sports medicine or pediatric oncology result in perfect outcomes either? Of course not. What I am certain of is that I don’t want the government getting involved in these medical decisions. Ron Desantis does not get a say, sorry.

It’s fascinating contrasting the passage above with an article Freddie published in 2022 about the recent phenomenon of social media-addicted teenagers suddenly “discovering” that they suffer from dissociative identity disorder (“DID” for short, popularly known as “multiple personality disorder”), an exceptionally rare condition in which a person has multiple distinct personalities (called “alters”). Freddie unequivocally asserted that most or all of these teenagers are either mistaken (honestly confusing the symptoms of some relatively banal personality trait or mental illness for an exotic psychosis) or actively lying; that this is bad for the teenagers themselves; and that the adults who ought to know better but indulge these teenagers anyway should be ashamed of themselves. He even went so far as to argue that dissociative identity disorder may not even exist, citing as evidence (among other things) that certain people only “discovered” they had it after being charged with a crime. How this observation ties into the transgender debate is left as an exercise to the reader (but here are a few hints).

I really cannot fathom how Freddie can reconcile his position in the DID article with his position on trans teenagers: the cognitive dissonance is simply astounding. Freddie insists that gender-critical people need not be concerned about teenagers receiving hormones or surgical interventions, as the rates at which these are occurring are “low” and “vanishingly rare” respectively - but I would be very surprised if the number of teenagers claiming to suffer from DID (even if they aren’t receiving any medical treatment for same) is greater than the number coming out as trans, which does not in any way alter Freddie’s opinion that the former is a concerning trend. He talks about “a notoriously controversial and historically extremely rare disorder… suddenly bloom[ing] into epidemic proportions among teenagers with smartphones and a burning need to differentiate themselves” and does not accept for a moment the explanation that “expanding public consciousness about such illnesses reduces stigma and empowers more people to get diagnosed with conditions they already had” - but simply refuses to connect the dots with the other thing that awkward teenagers with smartphones and burning need to differentiate themselves started “discovering” about themselves en masse all over the Western world about ten years ago (which resulted in an over 5,000% increase in referrals among female minors to the UK’s centre for transgender children - in the space of less than ten years). And the standard explanation offered for why so many female teenagers are coming out as trans is word-for-word the same as the standard explanation for why so many teenagers are claiming to suffer from DID!

Imagine, if you will, two female teenagers:

  • Alice is a socially awkward thirteen-year-old with some autistic tendencies. Having trouble fitting in at school, she retreats into social media, becoming immersed in communities of like-minded individuals on Tumblr and TikTok. Six months later, she announces to her parents that she has dissociative identity disorder and multiple “alters” (having given no indication that she experienced like this at any point prior), and demands to be brought to a therapist, and perhaps later to a psychiatrist who will prescribe her powerful antipsychotic medication which comes with a host of side effects.

  • Barbara is a socially awkward thirteen-year-old with some autistic tendencies. Having trouble fitting in at school, she retreats into social media, becoming immersed in communities of like-minded individuals on Tumblr and TikTok. Six months later, she announces to her parents that she is a trans boy called Brandon (having given no indication that she was dissatisfied with her gender identity at any point prior), and demands to be brought to a physician who specialises in gender issues who will prescribe her hormones (which come with a host of side effects) and recommend that she undergo top and/or bottom surgery.

Freddie looks at Alice and says: this is concerning, and Alice will suffer as a result - I don’t care that I’m not Alice’s parent or healthcare provider, I still think it’s concerning and I’m entitled to say so. Freddie looks at Barbara/Brandon and says: nothing to see here - it’s a private matter for Brandon, Brandon’s parents and Brandon’s healthcare providers, “I don’t understand why this element of medical science has become everyone’s business to a degree that is simply not true in other fields”, and if you think this is concerning then you’re a bigot. No matter how much a gender-critical person might insist that they are motivated by concern for Barbara/Brandon’s welfare which is just as authentic as Freddie’s for Alice - no, they’re really just a closeted conservative Christian consumed with hatred and disgust for trans people. I truly do not understand why Freddie is entitled to his opinion on Alice (despite not knowing her personally), but no gender-critical person is entitled to their opinion on Barbara/Brandon.

Let’s take it a step further:

  • Alice is a socially awkward thirteen-year-old with some autistic tendencies. Having trouble fitting in at school, she retreats into social media, becoming immersed in communities of like-minded individuals on Tumblr and TikTok. Six months later, she announces to her parents that she has dissociative identity disorder and multiple “alters”, and also that her “primary” persona is that of a trans boy named Alan (having given no indication that she suffered from dissociative identity disorder or any discomfort with her gender identity prior to installing TikTok on her phone). Alice/Alan demands to be brought to a therapist, and perhaps later to a psychiatrist who will prescribe her powerful antipsychotic medication which comes with a host of side effects; and also to a physician who specialises in gender issues who will prescribe her hormones (which come with a host of side effects) and recommend that she undergo top and/or bottom surgery.

What reasonable person would look at the scenario described above and not immediately conclude “Alice has erroneously come to believe both that she is trans and suffers from DID because of her social media consumption”? But Freddie would have us believe that the two phenomena are entirely unrelated. The fact that Alice discovered that she was transgender and had DID at exactly the same time, that she did so immediately after spending far too much time in online communities in which both DID and being trans are glamorised - this is all just a big coincidence. Freddie absolutely reserves the right to say that Alice will suffer as a result of her erroneous belief that she has DID, but anyone (outside of Alice’s parents and healthcare providers) who does the same of her belief that she is a trans boy has outed themselves as a cruel, malicious bigot.

Some of the passages from Freddie’s DID article are almost painfully on-the-nose:

You might very well ask how it could possibly be the case that a notoriously controversial and historically extremely rare disorder would suddenly bloom into epidemic proportions among teenagers with smartphones and a burning need to differentiate themselves. How could that happen? The standard line on these things is that expanding public consciousness about such illnesses reduces stigma and empowers more people to get diagnosed with conditions they already had. [emphasis mine]

And the core point here is that the people who are being hurt by this are these kids themselves. Sucking up scarce mental health resources with fictitious conditions is irresponsible, yes, and pretending to be sick for clout is untoward. But setting that aside, self-diagnosis is dangerous. Playacting a serious mental illness is harmful to your actual mental health. Fixating on the most broken part of yourself is contrary to best medical practices and to living a fulfilled life. Defining yourself by dysfunction is a great way to stay dysfunctional. And everything about mental illness that seems cool and deep and intense when you’re 18 becomes sad and pathetic and self-destructive and ugly by the time you’re 40. Take it from me. These kids are hurting themselves. I don’t want to ridicule them. I’m not even angry at them. I’m angry at their adult enablers. That includes the vast edifice of woowoo self-help bullshit Instagram self-actualization yoga winemom feel-good consumerist tell-me-I’m-special psychiatric medicine, and a media that loves the prurient thrills of multiple personalities and never saw a vulnerability that it couldn’t exploit.

Most of these young people will probably just move on as they get older, realizing that keeping up this pretense is exhausting and pointless, and go on to live (I hope) normal healthy lives. But some of them are no doubt using these popular and trendy diagnoses as a way to avoid what’s really wrong with them, far more prosaic and thus unsexy personal problems, whether mental illnesses or not. And all of this, the enabling and the humoring and the patronizing, will really hurt them in the long run. Adults who play into it should be ashamed. [emphasis mine]

Incidentally, the scenario described above (in which Alice comes to believe that she is both trans and has DID) is not an armchair hypothetical. I took a quick scan of the #dissociativeidentitydisorder tag on TikTok and noticed that many of the individuals posting content under that tag describe themselves as transgender in addition to claiming to have multiple alters. Transgender patients who also claim to suffer from DID is apparently a sufficiently common scenario that it was discussed at the World Professional Association for Transgender Health in September 2022. What to do in the event that there is disagreement among the “alters” about whether or not to undergo medical transition? WPATH’s elegant solution: use a smartphone app to allow the alters to vote in turn and come to a collective decision.

Self-regulation of medical bodies

Stories like the above are precisely why so many gender-critical people don’t share Freddie’s optimism in the ability or willingness of the “medical community to change their standard of care as new data comes available”. By asserting that “I am certain… that I don’t want the government getting involved in these medical decisions. Ron Desantis does not get a say, sorry”, Freddie is committing himself to a position in which the medical bodies governing transition for minors will always be able to effectively self-regulate and will never require outside interference from governmental bodies.

That’s a remarkably high level of confidence to have in any medical body governing any kind of medical treatment. Of course we would all love to live in a world in which medical bodies can self-regulate and no outside interference is necessary, but - well, medical scandals happen, and sometimes the government getting involved is an act of last resort after self-regulation fails. I’m not saying that the bodies governing healthcare for trans minors are any worse at self-regulation and course-correction than the average medical body (whether in oncology or orthopaedics or whatever); but I’m definitely saying I don’t think I have any good reason to believe that these medical bodies are better than average, and certainly not so much better that Freddie’s unshakeable confidence in them can be rationally justified.

To use an example of how medical bodies’ self-regulation can and does fail, the Irish surgeon Michael Neary conducted unnecessary hysterectomies and other surgical procedures on over a hundred women over a thirty-year period. Several nurses blew the whistle at various points in his career, to no avail; an internal investigation conducted by three consultants found no evidence of wrongdoing and recommended that Neary continue working in the Lourdes Hospital. It was only after a judicial inquiry brought by the ministry for health and children (i.e. the government) that Neary was finally struck off the register, five years after the internal investigation found he’d done nothing wrong. If the government hadn’t gotten involved (as a measure of last resort, the ability of the medical bodies in question having demonstrably failed to self-regulate and course-correct), it’s entirely possible that Neary would have ruined dozens of additional women’s lives before retiring on a tidy pension. Or consider the more recent example of Lucy Letby, a serial killer working as a nurse who murdered at least 7 newborn babies: the NHS Foundation Trust attempted to handle the matter internally (even forcing doctors who’d raised the alarm about Letby to personally apologise to her) and were extremely resistant to involving the police. It was only after alerting the police (i.e. the government) - nearly two full years after members of staff had raised the alarm following Letby’s first confirmed victim - that Letby was finally removed from her position and later arrested, charged and convicted.

To clarify: I’m not saying that governmental intervention into transition for minors is currently necessary. However, the suggestion that we can confidently assert that no such intervention will ever be necessary is preposterous. I don’t think we have any good reason to believe that the medical bodies governing medical transition for minors are invulnerable to the kinds of social dynamics and institutional failures that have afflicted every other kind of medical body,4 and doctors as a profession (as the examples above illustrate) are notorious for closing ranks and circling the wagons at the first whiff of a potential scandal. To simply declare by fiat “the medical bodies governing transition for minors will always be able to self-regulate and course-correct, governmental oversight or intervention is not necessary and never will be” is shockingly naïve. He touched on a similar point in his article from March of last year:

For example, it’s entirely possible for clinics that specialize in adolescent transition to be mismanaged or otherwise imperfect. That’s simply the reality of medical care at scale. What I don’t understand is why this would be uniquely disqualifying; there are no doubt dialysis centers and radiology labs and pharmacies that have serious operational problems, but no one thinks that this discredits those kinds of medicine.

All true. The difference being that, in my experience, whistleblowers who call attention to substandard practices at dialysis centres, radiology labs and pharmacies are not generally accused of lying, being right-wing agitators or being bigoted against marginalised members of society - all accusations hurled at Jamie Reed, even well after her claims of misconduct were largely substantiated by no less than the New York Times.

This unqualified confidence in a class of medical practitioners is all the more baffling coming from Freddie, considering he himself found it entirely credible when one of his readers described how her therapist used their sessions as an opportunity to hector and guilt-trip her about her white female privilege in the style of racial grievance politics popularised by Robin diAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi. If therapists are vulnerable to allowing their faddish political opinions override their duty of care to their patients, why not endocrinologists, surgeons and so on?

But I suppose the mere suggestion that endocrinologists who work with trans teenagers are just as fallible and prone to ordinary human error as anyone else makes me a cruel, malicious bigot who hates trans people.

Parental input into their children’s transition is more controversial than Freddie seems to think

As an aside, do you know who besides gender-critical people is a cruel, malicious bigot? If we were to be even a little bit consistent about this, Freddie himself. I’m not the first person to note that perfectly reasonable and level-headed individuals with impeccable progressive bona fides (such as Jesse Singal) have been smeared as bigots by no less an insitution than GLAAD simply for arguing, as Freddie does, that the parents of trans children should have some input into what medical treatments their children do or don’t undergo. The official stance of many pro-trans organisations is that “trans kids know who they are” and that any attempts to gatekeep their access to “gender-affirming care” (including by their parents) is denying them lifesaving medical treatment, no different from denying insulin to a diabetic.

If you think I’m exaggerating, consider this bill in the state of California which would make a parent’s decision to “affirm” their child’s gender identity (or not) a factor in custody disputes (at the time of writing, it has passed both houses but not yet been signed into law). In the eyes of the state of California, all other things being equal, a parent who expresses misgivings about their child’s desire to medically transition is a strictly worse parent than a parent who uncritically and enthusiastically endorses that child’s desire. See also the publicly-funded British charity Mermaids, who were caught sending a chest binder to a journalist posing a 14-year-old teenager, even after being explicitly told that the girl’s mother had forbidden her from wearing one.

Obviously, Freddie, you would be very insulted if you were to be smeared as a bigot for expressing the “standard, not-particularly-interesting progressive” opinion that parents should have some say in what medical treatments their children undergo. Please recognise that this “not-particularly interesting” opinion of yours is in fact very controversial in the trans activist space. Please try to understand how gender-critical people feel when you smear them as bigots for expressing what seem to them “standard, not-particularly interesting progressive” opinions, such as “it’s bad when sex offenders falsely claim to be trans women so as to serve their sentences in women’s prisons”.

Detransition

In his article from March, Freddie had this to say about detransitioners:

Yes, detransitioners exist. (I was close with someone like that in grad school.) This is the human species; people do all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, including transitioning back to a gender identity that they once transitioned from. And I have no particular opinion on how many of those people there are. What I don’t understand is why the existence of detransitioners should undermine our respect for trans people. Why would the mere existence of people who transition back do anything to challenge our belief in the validity of the majority who transition and then maintain that gender identity permanently?

For the record, the existence of detransitioners does not undermine my respect for trans people. I have trans friends who I respect. If they decided that they wanted to revert to being cis, I would support them in that decision absolutely. The existence of people who transition and then come to regret their decision does not challenge my belief that adults are entitled to transition in the first place, any more than (to use a banal example) the existence of people who undergo tattoo removal challenges my belief that adults can get tattoos if they want to.

The detransition phenomenon is important to highlight in the interests of informed consent. If an adult is considering undergoing an elective medical procedure (or series of medical procedures), their healthcare practitioner should proactively make them informed about the statistical outcomes of that medical procedure, which includes the proportion of people who undergo that procedure and later come to regret it. This goes double for surgical procedures which have a high risk of complications. It goes double-double for highly invasive procedures which will irreversibly change large parts of a person’s body and permanently sterilise them. And it goes double-double-double when you’re proposing to do the above on minors.

If our collective attitude towards medical transition was sensible and depoliticised, the paragraph above would be a complete no-brainer. Instead we find ourselves in a culture in which medical transition is routinely presented as a silver bullet which will erase a trans person’s problems in one fell swoop; in which even the expected downsides of successful transition are downplayed and minimised by healthcare practitioners; and in which distressed parents are browbeaten with emotionally manipulative slogans like “Would you rather have a live daughter or a dead son?” In this environment, it’s perfectly reasonable to push back on the soft-pedalling of medical transition by pointing out that a significant proportion of those who transition later regret their decision, and that prospective transitioners ought to take that fact (among others) into account when making their decision.

If anything, the term “detransition” downplays the severity of the situation. A “detransitioner” has not simply pressed Ctrl-Z and reverted their body to factory settings - the changes they have made to their body are generally irreversible and will completely change the course of their life. Michael Neary’s victims were furious upon realising that they were denied the ability to have further children for no good reason at all - the idea that medical professionals would downplay the magnitude of the decision to transition is unconscionable.

The “Fox News Fallacy”

In his article about multiple personality disorder, Freddie described what he called the “Fox News Fallacy”. I will quote from it at length:

Here’s the problem: under current conditions, there’s no way I can talk about any of this in a way that liberals and leftists will listen to. They’ll see that I’m criticizing Zoomers on TikTok who are engaging under the broad umbrella of “identity” and they’ll declare me a reactionary. No matter how right I am. Ruy Texeira calls it the Fox News Fallacy: “if Fox News (substitute here the conservative bête noire of your choice if you prefer) criticizes the Democrats for X then there must be absolutely nothing to X and the job of Democrats is to assert that loudly and often.”

The specific way that lefties will dismiss this problem will be to say, hey, who cares, it’s just adolescents on TikTok. They won’t affirmatively say that it’s good that thousands of teenagers claim to have spontaneously developed an extremely rare and very punishing mental illness, because that’s stupid, so they’ll say it just doesn’t matter, and really it’s weird that you’re paying attention to this. I’ve already established why I care - I believe that this behavior, and the broader suite of 21st century progressive attitudes towards mental health, are doing immense damage to vulnerable young people. But also we’ve seen this movie before.

People pretend that this never happened, now, but in the early and mid-2010s, the stock lefty response to woke insanity at college was not to say that the kids were right and their politics were good. That was a rarely-encountered defense. No, the sneering and haughty response to complaints about, say, incredibly broad trigger warning policies that would effectively give students the option to skip any material they wanted to was, “hey, it’s just college! They’re crazy kids, who cares? Why are you paying so much attention?” Of course, first it was just elite liberal arts colleges, tiny little places, who cares about what happens there. And then it was just college. And then it was just college and Tumblr, and then college and Tumblr and Twitter, and then it was media and the arts, and then all the think tanks and nonprofits, and when it had reached a certain saturation point the defense changed: now it was good. Just like that, overnight, the “it doesn’t matter if that’s happening” sneering defense switched to the “yes that’s happening and it’s good that is’s [sic] happening” sneering defense. From an argument of irrelevancy to an argument of affirmation in no time at all, and absolutely no acknowledgment that what they were dismissing as meaningless the day before they were now defending on the merits.

And I’m fairly certain that’s what will happen with all of this “alters” shit and various other bits of identity madness. If you think we won’t have mainstream media liberals rabidly defending these self-diagnoses as “valid” and the “personal truth” of a generation of internet-addled kids, wait awhile. Wait. You’ll see. The cool types may not feel great about what’s happening, but they’re doggedly attached to never seeming to echo conservative complaints and are very invested in a self-conception of being above it all. So they won’t rock the boat and this ideology will bubble along in the background and eventually questioning it will result in instant excommunication. Meanwhile a lot of kids will get hurt.

I will inevitably be accused of a lack of sympathy for those with mental illnesses. But I have very deep sympathy for everyone who genuinely struggles with the human devastation of mental illness. What I have always demanded is that this sympathy be extended with an unsparing and viciously honest dedication to grasping their true, ugly, and profoundly unsexy reality. None of this stuff is honest, and none of it is healthy, and I think the cul de sac of rigidly-enforced identity politics is a ruinous development for psychiatric medicine. I am truly worried for online youth culture, and for that I’ll be called a reactionary.

And what does Freddie have to say about gender-critical people who are (among other things) concerned about trans teenagers for many of the same reasons that Freddie is concerned about teenagers claiming to have DID? Well, he

  • refuses to say it’s good that tens of thousands of teenagers are claiming to suffer from what was previously an extremely rare medical condition (gender dysphoria) and in many cases requesting drastic and irreversible medical and surgical interventions for same (because it would be stupid to say such a state of affairs is “good”)
  • says it doesn’t matter that it’s happening (“To begin with, every indication is that the number of trans children receiving hormones remains low, and the number undergoing surgical interventions vanishingly rare.”)
  • suggests that it’s weird that gender-critical people are paying attention to this at all (“I don’t understand why this element of medical science has become everyone’s business to a degree that is simply not true in other fields”) and
  • calls all gender-critical people reactionaries (“[Complaining about trans issues] would have made more sense under the old terms of straightforward appeals to public morality and Christian doctrine. The older school of conservative Christians would have simply denounced trans people as wicked, against God’s plan, where now those who agitate against trans rights have to jury-rig these bizarre justifications for restricting them. I would like to put it to those who insist that they don’t hate trans people but who spend endless hours agitating against them… maybe you do hate trans people? Or, at least, feel revulsion towards them, want never to have to encounter them in public?”).

One might think the breadth of criticisms directed towards trans activism and the range of people expressing them might give Freddie pause - surely not all of these people are just bigoted lapsed Christians motivated by animalistic revulsion of trans people? But no - no matter how many people express reservations about this or that component of transgender activism; no matter how measured, restrained and thoroughly researched their criticisms might be; no matter what point on the political spectrum they may reside on (including no less than the Communist Party of Great Britain, who in another world Freddie might consider fellow travellers); even if they are atheist materialists who object to gender ideology specifically because they consider its quasi-mystical dualistic character something of a cultural regression - everyone who is even a little bit more sceptical on the trans issue than Freddie must in fact be a closeted Christian who thinks that trans people are “wicked” and “against God’s plan”. There’s no other possible explanation that merits serious consideration, apparently.

__

1 For the record, I don’t blame him for finding this behaviour tiresome, I think the people melodramatically accusing him of hypocrisy for “censoring” them should chill out, and as it’s his Substack, the moderation decisions he enforces on it are entirely his prerogative. To anyone who says that my only beef with Freddie is that he won’t let me talk about this stuff in the comments of his articles about something unrelated, I would like here to reiterate: I have never complained about him forbidding people from bringing up trans issues in the comments of his articles, and completely respect his decision to ban people from doing so.

2 To better disambiguate between genuine trans women and cis bad actors was the root of my proposal to make incarcerating trans women in women’s prisons conditional on their being first assessed by a psychiatrist experienced in gender issues. Freddie doesn’t even touch on the prison issue at all, I suspect because he recognises a losing battle when he sees one.

3 Not including the unofficial “Trans Day of Vengeance”, which coincides with April Fool’s Day.

4 To bring it back to another of Freddie’s older posts: medical bodies are institutions, which means they are exactly as subject to the Iron Law of Institutions as any other institution.

I don't think you are going far enough with the bathroom argument. If cis-men are dangerous to women, so are trans-women because both are male. Malicious actors don't need to factor into it. If we disallow cis-men from entering women's bathrooms, so should we disallow trans-women. Otherwise, it's discriminatory against cis-men.

I think the attitude of 'everything is idpol except for this one particular issue which I've pulled out of the Dirty Bourgie Left and is sacred above all others' is the most annoying part. If he was a doctrinaire orthodox Marxist-Leninist who scorned it as false consciousness it would be still annoying but it would be logically consistent.

But instead he twists himself into a loop trying to justify it. Has anyone asked him, given the choice between transgender rights and utopic Communism, which would he choose? I think he'd twist in the wind in pure agony.

Great post, much appreciate your summary which I wholeheartedly agree with. The funny thing is I originally found the Motte when I was infuriated with Freddie for one of those earlier posts, whereby I googled if anyone had commented on the web, and actually found a place I could rant where I wasn't immediately kicked off. And here we are today, with the same games being played!

I hold no particular animus or deep feelings against Freddie, but he is a fraud in my view. It's obviously fine to have whatever blog policy you want, but to block people from talking about an issue and then proceed to talk about it 'alot' is insulting to his subscribers and just plain tyrannical.

The only saving grace he might have with it is cognitive dissonance - the post you dug up in DID speaks to this as well ( I didn't know about that one) - he all but lays out the case that trans is a culture bound syndrome and now because of his tribal and familial roots is realising he can't square what he knows to be true with the orthodoxy he's supposed to subscribe to. Reading his latest made me feel like I was watching someone wet themselves in public, so poor and fumbling was the argumentation in places.

I get annoyed with the fragmentation technique which actually hides what is going on. First posit the 'trans person' and then smear categories and argue on a rights basis. In between anything will do-sand in the face. It's just like heads of a hydra - I mean, can you count all the spurious stuff that is been brought up around this shit: endless queerying of biological sex, made up ideas of third genders or historic trans people, adolescent identity badges and flags, the extreme sensitivity to... third person pronouns, gender identity theory justification, rights issues and medical treatment model at the same time, social constructivism, gender performance, gender souls/essences, etc. If you collate what people have said to justify trans you will understand that is an 'empty' term. The arguments shift over time, and different individuals use conflicting and incoherent explanations to argue for it.

But it's pretty simple what is going on. A new group of people has been created in society and activists are having the rights of this group supercede those of others, by making a nonsense category, gender identity, supercede biological sex. Activists, progressive zealots, money makers, politician, handmaid women, and a lot of (mainly male) weirdos have been setting this up behind our backs but some people have realised what is going on and have something to say about it.

It's still finely poised but I predict the trans lobby will start to lose ground. This is because there is no coherence, no meaning to be found in trans. On the other hand, if you gain a perspective, you can actually understand, and even admire, the emergent systems at play. If enough people in society value reality we will have to act in concert to defend it. Otherwise, what lies ahead after abandoning reality?

Also, if you enjoyed the post, please consider subscribing to my Substack: https://firsttoilthenthegrave.substack.com/

to block people from talking about an issue and then proceed to talk about it 'alot' is insulting to his subscribers and just plain tyrannical.

Two posts in the topic in one week is a lot, but in fairness to him I think the last time he brought it up was like ten months ago. I take your point though, he's getting awfully trigger-happy with the "no comments" button.

Excellent write-up, I agree with much of it nearly exactly. Including liking but being perplexed by deBoer. It's like one of those What english sounds like to non-english speakers videos. The underlying tone and analytical thought is there but he somehow manages to sprinkle in some moral mutant level different values in so he ends up veering all over to places I wouldn't have gone.

I generally like Freddie, even where I disagree with him. He has enough time at the coalface of education to know that the platitudes about blank slates and that all that is keeping some kids down is just plain old racism, for instance, are rubbish: some kids are smarter/more academically able than others, and if you try forcing "all must go to college" on them then you hurt the less able ones without actually helping them.

This trans issue stuff is, in my uninformed opinion, in part because this is congruent with his beliefs and the cultural milieu he moves in, but also - and again, this is only my view - that when he had his unfortunate mental issue a while back and got into trouble, he got eaten by a lot of people for what he wrote/said during that time, with no sympathy. This is something he talks about to this day, so it plainly it bothers him. And I think the trans piece here is in part "when I was acting crazy, nobody had any sympathy for me", so he's extending compassion there, but also that he's terrified of saying the Wrong Thing again and being crucified again for it. Since the trans definition/claims/demands shift with the wind (remember when "it's about gender, not sex, because sex and gender are different things" was the line being sold? Yeah well now you're a bigot if you try and distinguish between biological sex and gender identify), it's entirely possible to say the wrong thing by mistake and unintentionally, and the Extremely Online who look for reasons to be offended will leap on any error and pillory you as "you want to send trans people to torture conversion camps and then kill them literally".

Yeah well now you're a bigot if you try and distinguish between biological sex and gender identify)

I might be misunderstanding you, but whatever happened to phrases like ‘penis havers’ and ‘menstruaters’? As dumb as they may be, they are references to biological sex.

Some of those got dropped because a trans woman can have a penis, and such persons were highly offended about being classed in as "penis havers" with men because they are not men and this is their perfectly legit lesbian feminine penis. Also, trans men may menstruate and become pregnant, and that doesn't mean they're women, bigot. Tampons for non-binary folx and trans men!

Truth being stranger than fiction, and all that jazz.

I think the point of those phrases was to take away the references to biological sex. That is, there is no longer "male" and "female," there are "penis havers" and "menstruators" whose only meaningfully distinguishing characteristics are that they have penises and that they menstruate, unlike the people not in those categories. A pre-op MTF transwoman has both the same gender and sex as a ciswoman; she's just also a "penis-haver."

Also, if you enjoyed the post, please consider subscribing to my Substack: https://firsttoilthenthegrave.substack.com/

It's like one of those videos What english sounds like to non-english speakers videos

What a perfect analogy.

To anyone who says that my only beef with Freddie is that he won’t let me talk about this stuff in the comments of his articles about something unrelated, I would like here to reiterate: I have never complained about him forbidding people from bringing up trans issues in the comments of his articles, and completely respect his decision to ban people from doing so.

I think that's actually too charitable.

Replace "trans stuff" with some obviously negative thing like "misquoting sources". If Freddie decided "I won't let you post any comments about how I've misquoted sources", does he have a perfect right to do so? Of course. Can he be criticized for it? Sure he can. Yes, it's his blog and he decides what goes there. But it can simultaneously be something he has a right to decide, and bad judgment.

The tone of this piece doesn't sound similar to what he generally writes, it's very defensive and ready to take offence, so I'm wondering if he hasn't already privately gotten into some trouble by stepping on toes in ignorance around trans issues, and this is the result: he's making very sure not to cross any lines and even by association be linked with anti-trans or transphobia. He knows what line he must take and he's not going to discuss anything so comments etc. are disabled. This is the Havel's Greengrocer putting up the sign about "I am a good citizen who does what is expected of him" attitude.

Yeah, the argument doesn't really even work for when he totally avoided the topic and could claim to find it overbearing. As the OP points out: it's actually relevant to his own discussion of social contagions and mental illness.

After he dipped his toe in the water and mischaracterized people's arguments and motives?

There are many petroleum geologists who have, after early retirement, dedicated their lives to proving a global catastrophic flood and with it young earth creationism.

Now of course they know that ‘different layers of rocks were formed by the global flood crushing altitudinal variation into strata such that it gives the appearance of many millions of years’ is, well, uh…

But I met the man who published a lengthy book which went over my head proving it. And he does know more geology than me(although in fairness I did take geology for nonscience majors before dropping out of community college) and was able to prevent people like me- very smart, familiar with terminology, but essentially a layman- from seeing obvious holes in his theory for how the Grand Canyon was 5,000 years old. That isn’t a weak man either; he literally used that as an example. And his ability to articulate reasons for why we should prefer his hypothesis for a catastrophic global flood reshaping the earth to accumulation over millions of years raised his status in his ingroup by quite a bit.

I think there’s plenty of that going on with trans advocacy. Enormous numbers of people know it’s ridiculous and then advocate it anyways because it cements their status as an ingroup member- or raises it. And it’s a waste of time to get all upset about it. Just like it’s a waste of time to write lengthy screeds about how micro evolution and macro evolution are the same thing. You won’t change any minds and you’ll just wind up bickering about definitions.

Does the young earth creationist publisher you know happen to be Andrew Snelling? I got a book of his once from a young earth creationist family member after I revealed I believe the earth is billions of years old, and while I of course disagree with the notion, I was quite impressed at the great length of the book, including several chapters spanning dozens of pages disproving every different form of carbon dating.

Nice analogy with trans advocacy.

No, Timothy Clary. He has a lengthy book now which I’m sure is very interesting; I saw a presentation of his which was very interesting and summarized several chapters but which occurred before publication date(it was already under contract to be released). I found it extremely thorough and well researched and I certainly couldn’t tell how it was wrong.

I don’t find most of them impressive. The thing that bugs me is the way carbon dating and other radioactive dating is handled. When those tools provide a young-Earth friendly result, it’s reported, when it doesn’t, they tend to argue that radioactive dating is useless and cannot be trusted.

There are low effort and high effort young earth creationists. Most of the high effort ones put forth good enough arguments that you’d have to get a masters degree in whatever field(biology, geology, astrophysics, whatever) to articulate reasons for preferring the mainstream scientific consensus view, and have qualifications that are real enough but atypical of a university professor(like the aforementioned petroleum geologists). Of course there’s also high effort schizoposters like Walt Brown, but there’s a core of young earth creationist institutions which can hold their own intellectually.

I also don't find most of them impressive. The vast majority of arguments against carbon dating have been totally poked full of holes years ago. But this particular book had a lot of work put into disproving each type. The author has a PhD in geology and has been working at this stuff for years, he no doubt believes it wholeheartedly and have been attempting to prove it his entire life.

That's not all to say he's right or anything. But I recently read that Scott article on his shuttering of the Culture War thread, where he states that you can take any view you oppose and there will be someone smarter than you putting arguments forward for it. That's who Andrew Snelling is to me.

This is the book I got from him, by the way. I just wish there was still some internet atheists madly disproving every creationist thing that gets put out. There isn't, because the evolutionists thoroughly won this one. I wonder if there will ever be another Great Awakening, or if Christianity will continue bleeding to death.

if Christianity will continue bleeding to death.

A bit parochial - Christianity is in decline in affluent countries but continues to expand in Africa and Asia, often accompanied by what most in those affluent countries would consider bizarre superstition far more fantastical than motivated reasoning against carbon dating.

The reasoning is similar to regulations in which adults are not permitted to enter public playgrounds unless they are the parent or guardian of a child: obviously a child molester can simply ignore the regulation, but the regulation is designed to make bad actors more obvious to bystanders.

More right than you know.

Missing children are overwhelmingly runaways, actual abductions are overwhelmingly the parents, non-parent cases are overwhelmingly someone else known to the child, actual stranger abductions are overwhelmingly of teens.

Young children being abducted from a playground doesn't happen literally never, but it's so close to never that spending time thinking about it, and letting it drive larger policy issues, is both insane and counter-productive.

We talk about it because it's emotionally valent and easy to imagine. Not because it's important, not because it happens.

Same thing here. You can clearly imagine this situation in your mind, but it doesn't really happen. Not enough that we can actually say that trans bathroom rights make it more likely, not enough that it's worth warping public policy over.

Also, you know, the whole claim is mistaken to begin with, because: if trans people must use the bathroom of their birth gender, then Buck Angel has to use the women's room.

If your worry is that seeing male-looking people go into the women's room will make life more dangerous for women, then you should be in favor of letting trans people use the right bathrooms. Because way more male-looking people will go into trans bathrooms if you force all trans men to use them, than if you don't.

If your worry is that seeing male-looking people go into the women's room will make life more dangerous for women

Let me stop you right there. It was never about male-looking people. It was always about males. It just so happens that being male-looking is a pretty good proxy for being male in the real world (despite what the trans lobby wants you to think).

The rationale is that many more males abuse women and girls than females do. Therefore, women and girls are safer in the presence of other females then they are in the presence of males. If you disagree with this fairly obvious statistic, what do you think women-only spaces are for?

Also, you know, the whole claim is mistaken to begin with, because: if trans people must use the bathroom of their birth gender, then Buck Angel has to use the women's room.

Why do people who want to scare women with pictures of trans-identified females always go for the photoshopped ones, and not for a more realistic one that shows that Buck Angel is actually pretty tiny and nonthreatening compared to her male counterparts?

Moving away from anecdotes, I think it's important to realize that for every masculine-looking trans-identified female, there are probably three trans-identified males that are absolutely deranged, like Karen White, Darren Merager, or Michael Pentillä. Would I rather have women share a bathroom with a female porn star, or with a male serial killer and unrepentant rapist of women and young girls, you ask? Wow, what a dilemma you put in front of me! I just don't know how to choose!

No seriously, obviously it's the female porn star. If it were up to me, I'd put a hundred Buck Angels in women's bathrooms before I'd let a single Michael Pentillä in. It seems the obvious choice, if you want to optimize for women's safety rather than maximizing the euphoria of rapist serial killers. Was that really supposed to be some sort of gotcha?

That picture shows Buck next to Laverne Cox who’s quite tall and wearing heels, he’s actually the average height for a cis man in many countries at around 5’9. I personally wouldn’t use Buck Angel as the go-to trans man because he’s turned into a proto-TERF himself strangely enough, and far more physically impressive trans men absolutely exist, see Mitch Harrison who can stand next to the Rock and is 6’3 and is quite muscular.

How are you supposed to enforce sex-segregated bathrooms anyhow? Should you pepper spray anyone who you think doesn’t belong, like what happened to this tall biological female thinking they were in the presence of a biological male?

The sources I’ve looked up show no link between gender inclusive bathroom policies and crime rates, but if you have any that contradict that, feel free to share.

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That picture shows Buck next to Laverne Cox

Yes, but he's still the smallest of the five people, smaller even than the only other female. The point is: most transmen aren't that masculine, even not the ones hand-picked by trans-advocates, not to mention obvious women like Elliot Page.

Anyway, I didn't want to get caught up in discussing individual cases. I'll grant you that some well-passing transmen exist, but I think they're the minority. My argument more broadly is:

  1. The average transman doesn't truly pass a man, and the average transwoman doesn't truly pass as a woman (arguably less so). So the argument that swapping transmen and transwomen is worse for women because now they suddenly share the bathroom with many more male-looking people isn't true: at best you're replacing male-looking men with male-looking women, which is sort of a wash.

  2. But the more important argument is that regardless of visual passing, transmen are much less likely to harrass or assault women than transwomen are. That's why it's better for ciswomen to share the bathroom with transmen than with transwomen.

I don't think enumerating exceptions to the rule invalidates this argument.

How are you supposed to enforce sex-segregated bathrooms anyhow?

I often wonder if people raising this question are disingenous. It's phrased as if the idea of sex-segregated spaces is a crazy far-out utopian idea, like universal basic income. In reality, all bathrooms in approximately the entire world worked like this throughout the entire 20th century, using the same mechanisms used to enforce most norms: through a mix of social contral and legal consequences.

Did you see the video of the Wi Spa where a male pervert enters the women-only section of the spa, so one of the women there goes to complain, and the employee at the desk can't do anything about it because in California it's illegal to kick male creeps out of women's spaces, and the only male patron who weighs in on the matter says "How can we know if the fully grown man with a penis isn't a woman?"

In the 90s, this scenario literally would not have happened. If a convicted sex offender entered a woman-only nude space with his dick out, all women present would scream at the top of their lungs for the pervert to get out. Employees would rush in to demand that the offender leave. Men would gather angrily at the door, ready to help escort the man out of the building, but careful enough not to trespass themselves. If necessary, the police would be called to take the man into custody.

Moreover, everyone knew that this is what happened to men who violated this social norm. That's why this type of crime was actually relatively rare.

Should you pepper spray anyone who you think doesn’t belong, like what happened to this tall biological female thinking they were in the presence of a biological male?

No, of course. But first, I don't see how putting transwomen in women's bathrooms solves this problem, since a woman that is willing to pepperspray a masculine looking woman will obviously do the same thing to your average non-passing transwoman.

Second, I think some of this paranoia is actually fueled by genderism. In the past, if you saw a masculine-looking person entering the women's bathroom, you'd assume it was just a masculine-looking woman, because who else would someone use the woman's bathroom? Today, you can no longer assume that because males entering women's spaces is stunning and brave, actually. This puts gender nonconforming women under suspicion in a way they wouldn't be in a society that strictly enforces sex-segregated spaces.

Third and finally, let me explain how this sort of situation should be handled. If you're a woman who sees a man enter the woman's room, you first say “Excuse me sir, this is the woman's bathroom?” In 90% of the cases, he will look shocked and say “Oh, my mistake! I must have entered the wrong door” and leave. If it's actually a woman, then she'll say “Excuse me, but I am a woman!” In the case of someone like Rain Dove you can tell from her voice that she is speaking the truth, so you say “Oh, my mistake!” and that's the end of it. Now imagine you don't believe her because the "woman" is actually Karen White wearing a bad wig who couldn't pass for female in his wildest dreams.

Then you escalate the situation by finding a person responsible for the space, e.g. a security card in a public mall, the bartender, the office manager, etc.. You tell them there is a man in the woman's bathroom. They join you and ask the perpetrator to identify themselves. If they refuse, they are again asked to leave, and if they refuse, the cops are called.

All of this depends on government-issued ID to accurately label a person's biological sex. In the current world, all western countries have removed this label. This should be reverted. My (actually serious!) proposal is to list biological sex and socially desired sex separately, so we can still be polite by addressing transwomen as Ms So-and-so while separating them from women where sex matters.

The sources I’ve looked up show no link between gender inclusive bathroom policies and crime rates, but if you have any that contradict that, feel free to share.

I don't think there are sources that can show this. Not in the current world where:

  • Transwomen are a tiny majority, so even if they are significantly more likely to misbehave in bathrooms, you would need a lot of data to show that. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (actually it is, but only to a small degree, hard to get to p<0.05 that way). And that's before accounting for confounders. If a creepy male starts using the women's room and women stop going there, does that show he's not causing any problems?

  • You can't use crime statistics because the police is not even allowed to accurately register the biological sex of trans offenders, so while we could collect this information in a systematic way, gender activists ensure this doesn't happen (you might wonder why gender activists oppose this if they believe the results would be favorable to their cause?)

  • Academia is heavily politicized and genderism is one of those topics you are not allowed to objectively research. As a result, we cannot use academic sources to prove or disprove anything.

In short, I don't think you've seen compelling evidence that disproves the claim that transwomen are more dangerous to women than women (and transmen) are. I think you've seen a paper that said something like "we compared the number of reported incidents in inclusive bathrooms at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, populated entirely by highly-paid academics who value their jobs, with the numbers from the non-inclusive bathrooms at a Texas truck stop, and we didn't control for the myriad confounding variables that make that comparison meaningless, but we are going to conclude anyway that The Science™ shows inclusive bathrooms benefit women".

If you think I'm wrong, please cite the actual source you are thinking of. I'm sure I can poke one or more holes in it along the above lines.

On a meta-note: I feel a ton of this discussion about transgenderism is getting repetitive. I'm seriously considering putting together a document with the most common arguments pro and con, so instead of spending way too much time poorly reconstructing the same counterarguments, I can just say “you are using argument 69a, please see rebuttals 23a through c.”

It would save me a lot of time but I'm not sure if it would actually change anyone's mind.

On a meta-note: I feel a ton of this discussion about transgenderism is getting repitive. I'm seriously considering putting together a document with the most commong arguments pro and con, so instead of spending way too much time poorly reconstructing the same counterarguments, I can just say “you are using argument 69a, please see rebuttals 23a through c.”

Apparently something similar used to exist for creationism:

People compiled endless lists of arguments and counterarguments for or against atheism. The Talk.Origins newsgroup created a Dewey-Decimal-system-esque index of almost a thousand creationist arguments, from CA211.1 (“Karl Popper said that Darwinism is not testable”), to CD011.1 (“Variable C-14/C-12 ratio invalidates carbon dating”), through CH508 (“Chinese treasure ships show Noah’s Ark was feasible”) – and painstakingly debunked all of them; in case that wasn’t enough they linked 133 other sites doing similar work.

On a meta-note: I feel a ton of this discussion about transgenderism is getting repitive. I'm seriously considering putting together a document with the most commong arguments pro and con, so instead of spending way too much time poorly reconstructing the same counterarguments, I can just say “you are using argument 69a, please see rebuttals 23a through c.”

This could be an interesting project. I find it's often hard to argue against the entire memeplex because the argumentation shifts constantly as it runs up against dead end and starts a new one until the interlocutors are exhausted.

On a meta-note: I feel a ton of this discussion about transgenderism is getting repitive. I'm seriously considering putting together a document with the most commong arguments pro and con, so instead of spending way too much time poorly reconstructing the same counterarguments, I can just say “you are using argument 69a, please see rebuttals 23a through c.”

It would save me a lot of time but I'm not sure if it would actually change anyone's mind.

You trying to kill 50% of site traffic? 😩

Anyway, I doubt that would work. During the heyday of the online Atheism wars, it was common practise for both sides to compile wikis/dossiers with carefully curated links and even ready-made rebuttals for the usual objections raised by the other team.

It achieved absolutely nothing of note.

The default outcome of online argumentation is just about nothing at all, it is a minor miracle that it happens sometimes on this forum, and we usually attract more articulate, open-minded and erudite users than is the norm.

While I personally enjoy debate and discussion, including on values, it's more of a hobby rather than something I think is a net-positive return on my time and energy. If you want to convince people en-masse, you're better off doing something like optimizing for virality on social media, with all the concomitant loss of quality that entails.

Why do people who want to scare women with pictures of trans-identified females always go for the photoshopped ones, and not for a more realistic one that shows that Buck Angel is actually pretty tiny and nonthreatening compared to her male counterparts?

It's a crucial tactic that trans rights activists use. Many of their arguments derive from a foundational assumption that the trans person passes as the gender that they want to be (I've heard the bathroom argument turned in favor of the trans people by arguing that there's just as much danger if not more to a transgender woman being in the men's restroom than a man in the women's restroom), but much of the evidence to substantiate this assumption are photos taken using very specific angles and very specific lighting, if not photoshopped entirely. Candid, unaltered photos almost always show the trans person looking weird and out of the ordinary, if not failing to pass entirely.

Because way more male-looking people will go into trans bathrooms if you force all trans men to use them, than if you don't.

The people really concerned about "but I need to be able to use the bathroom I identify with" are the ones who, to be blunt, don't pass. Who have something that says "not biological/cis female" about them - I don't see much fuss about trans men using bathrooms and again, to be blunt, that's because a short, plump trans guy is a lot less of a threat to cis males than the other way round.

"I look insufficiently female so that I am in fear of being challenged" is behind a lot of the fuss around trans women wanting laws about bathrooms. And yeah, the creepers are going to take advantage of that. Buck Angel, to take your example, looks sufficiently male that using the men's room isn't going to stand out particularly. Now imagine someone who looks like Buck Angel in a skirt going into the women's room. That's the problem.

I don't see much fuss about trans men using bathrooms and again, to be blunt, that's because a short, plump trans guy is a lot less of a threat to cis males than the other way round.

Or is it because the typical trans man is less interested in being a man than the typical trans woman wants to be a woman?

Of course trans men don’t want to be women- that’s the whole point- but I don’t hear about them hitting the gym To try to bodybuild or whatever. Trans women at least are wearing frilly dresses. Trans men seem to be aiming for something close to androgynous or at least desexualized.

I don't see much fuss about trans men using bathrooms

At least in my area of Europe, there is no fuss about anyone using men's bathrooms. Whenever there's a queue at the women's bathroom, but not the men's, cis women routinely use the men's bathroom, and I haven't heard anyone complain about it. This is not a new development, but has been going on for as long as I can think.

Men, contrary to women, don't have and don't expect reserved sex-segregated restrooms.

Men, contrary to women, don't have and don't expect reserved sex-segregated restrooms.

In the US we have them and do expect them, by and large. I certainly have never (edit: I remembered one occurrence, see below) observed women using the men's room, and it would be considered rude for one to do so.

You obviously have experienced a very different set of US restrooms than I have. I have regularly observed women using the men's room in the US and was mildly reprimanded as a child for complaining about feeling uncomfortable because of it.

That's interesting. The only time I have seen a woman use the men's room was in college, when this one girl would take a shower on our floor when she spent the night in her boyfriend's room. Multiple people complained to the RA about it, and he intervened to put a stop to it. Nobody (so far as I know) thought it was unreasonable to complain, even if they hadn't personally felt uncomfortable enough to do so. As an adult, I have never once seen a woman go into the men's room.

Taking a shower there is different.

Where I'm from (Canada) you routinely see the sort of thing JFKay talks about at crowded bars, concerts, and similar events, as long as the restroom in question allows for a reasonable amount of privacy.

I don't see much fuss about trans men using bathrooms

... Except for the law making it illegal in many states?

That seems like a fuss.

I seems like you're saying 'well Buck Angel can and should just casually break the law every day, it's no big deal'... Maybe if you're fighting for a law that you want lots of people to break every day, you should be fighting for a different law instead?

Listen, if people were passing bills that said 'You must have 1 year of HRT and FFS before using the women's room' in an effort specifically only to make sure trans women using the women's room mostly pass, that would still be contentious but it would at least be credible that that's what the laws are worried about and trying to fix.

That is not at all what the actual laws say, the actual laws say Buck Angel uses the women's room, and no one backing the laws in reality has any problem with that. The laws are anti-trans in concept, not just focused on a single set of outliers.

If the pro-trans lot didn't wave around Buck Angel every chance they got, I'd listen more attentively.

But since their 'sample case' isn't very convincing, I'm not bothered. I do think the illegal stuff was overdone, but on the other hand, if anyone now can predate - and yes, there are those who will take advantage - and there is no recourse because "well, it's the law and the ACLU took a court case and got a ruling", that does no favours to genuine trans people and only turns public opinion against them. That may be unfair, but it's how the world works.

I'll knock it back to you - which bathroom should the gay guy in drag use, as distinct from the trans woman dressed up like a clown, after drag queen story hour?

What everyone wants is a law that says you cannot use a gendered bathroom if you don't pass as that gender. It's just a hard thing to define so they usually end up making it over or underinclusive on some other criteria.

I straightforwardly disagree. Maybe 'everyone' here wants that, but that's not at all how the politicians behind these laws talk about them.

But either way, I say again: you shouldn't be passing laws that criminalize hue swaths of actions you want to be legal.

If your goal really is just about the small subset of trans women who don't pass, find some narrower way to enforce that. If it's too inconvenient to be worth the effort, then it's not worth the effort.

Don't criminalize things you have no problem with just for the sake of convenience.

No law is intended to make it illegal for TIFs to use the men's room, they're all designed to stop TIMs from using the women's room.

The laws are anti-trans in concept, not just focused on a single set of outliers.

They have to be written in a neutral language, due to the 14th Amendment and the 1964 CRA. You know this, and I know this, and so does everyone else. I'm not sure why you're acting dumb about this issue.

???

You are agreeing with me that all of the laws apply to trans men and force them to use the women's room, but saying that's ok and good because they have to be written that way (for some reason), so it's ok that they criminalize things you don't want to be criminal?

If so, that is not how I want laws to work, you should not be criminalizing things you actively want people to do on the assumption they'll just break the law and it'll be fine. That seems entirely insane to me.

And I don't know where your confidence that Republican lawmakers have no problem with trans men is coming from. That's not what their rhetoric says, at all.

You are agreeing with me that all of the laws apply to trans men and force them to use the women's room

I'm not agreeing with you at all. You are both correct and missing the point.

but saying that's ok and good

I'm saying it's ancillary to the real point. An externality, if you will, nothing more.

for some reason

For the same reason anyone has to put up with this delusional nonsense: 14A and CRA. Not just any reason.

so it's ok that they criminalize things you don't want to be criminal?

It's ok to create laws that have externalities, yes, and to still support those laws despite the externalities, especially if you find them irrelevant.

And I don't know where your confidence that Republican lawmakers have no problem with trans men is coming from.

These people are completely irrelevant when it comes to the controversies over sex segregation, in sport, in spaces, in restrooms. The problem is solely and exclusively with the men, not the women.

Same thing here. You can clearly imagine this situation in your mind, but it doesn't really happen.

How about Peeping Toms? Do they happen? Bathrooms seem like a great place to be a Peeping Tom.

I'm sure there's not very many pervs out there who get off on hearing women pee, but it's definitely not zero -- can you understand how women might not like wondering whether there's a perv jerking off in the next stall while they are trying to pee?

if trans people must use the bathroom of their birth gender, then Buck Angel has to use the women's room.

Do you think the sort of women who is concerned about males in the woman's room would prefer Buck Angel, or the "IT'S MA'AM' guy? Is Buck Angel prohibited from going into gender neutral bathrooms? Not sure how Buck Angel is relevant here, but under the trans-acceptance framework it seems like women are expected to put up with both Buck Angel and "IT'S MA'AM'.

Not sure how Buck Angel is relevant here, but under the trans-acceptance framework it seems like women are expected to put up with both Buck Angel and "IT'S MA'AM'.

First of all, your mask is slipping - your original claim was that you were worried about cis men pretending to be trans in order to access women's spaces, not about trans people themselves. But you have immediately moved your rhetoric to 'women putting up with trans people', revealing pretty much exactly what I was talking about in relation to the 'scrutiny' thing.

Second of all, I'm not sure if you're confused or what... under the trans-inclusive framework, Buck Angel and people who look like him go to the men's room. He only goes to the women's room if forced to do so by bathroom bills. That's the point.

  • -25

He only goes to the women's room if forced to do so by bathroom bills.

So there are police outside bathrooms stopping people and saying "Yes, I know you look like a man but you have to use the women's room"? Or checking birth certificates? Apparently there was some such allegation, but I have to say - this is so clearly "used to be a guy" that I can see why they were allegedly asked for ID. There's an unfortunate photo doing the rounds but, um, yeah. Real Woman versus Cis Woman imagery.

This is the kind of "so stunning, brave, courageous!" puffery that annoys me. (Is the person portraying the trans girl trans or cis, because I have my doubts). Mainly I'm live-and-let-live about this; so long as you don't look too much out of place or behave weirdly, go right ahead (and hell, if you're cis male or cis female and the relevant bathroom is too crowded and you really need to go, then use the other one in an emergency).

But if you're having a cute little 'all girls together' online discussion about "so what is the etiquette about unsolicited offering tampons to another woman in the woman's bathroom" or similar, that's when you've crossed over from "I just need to use the bathroom" into "this is getting into fetish territory".

So there are police outside bathrooms stopping people and saying "Yes, I know you look like a man but you have to use the women's room"?

Alright, lets clarify here.

I'm saying these laws would oblige male-looking people like Buck Angel to use the women's restroom, which would normalize male-looking people going into women's restrooms, teh precise thing people are claiming these laws are intended to fix.

It sounds like you're saying this won't be a problem because you expect male-looking trans men to break the law and go to the mens room anyway. Please stop me if I am misinterpreting or misrepresenting you.

Are you saying that you want and expect the laws as written to be broken routinely, would be upset if most people the laws applied to were not breaking them most of the time, but still want the laws passed?

Because like, yeah, it's true that marijuana laws are broken all the time, and police only bother to enforce them when they want to punish some citizen for a different reason. That doesn't make them good laws, that makes them terrible affronts to our civil liberties and freedom.

Laws should not work like that.

I'm saying these laws would oblige male-looking people like Buck Angel to use the women's restroom

I am reassured to know that trans people are so law-abiding and biddable, even if they really do look enough like a dude to be cast in a gay porn flick, they will obediently follow "I must use my natal sex bathroom". No, no, I realise there is no visual way to tell I am not a guy, but it's the law! Even if there are no police to enforce it, I will stick by the letter of it and not ignore it!

This line of argument is so stupid, are you surprised I'm not convinced by it? The people who would make a fuss are the likes of Sam Brinton, who get their kicks out of stealing women's luggage. Buck Angel may or may not be known to the wider public who don't view porn, and so they may or may not recognise "Hey, that's Buck Angel, trans man, trying to use the men's room! I am going to march up to him and demand he use his natal sex bathroom instead!" Also, whatever my views on Buck Angel, I'm pretty sure they're not interested in creeping on women, unlike the 'I'm trans, how dare you stop me!' cases. Oh but I forgot: if someone does that, well they were never really trans in the first place, they are No True Scotsman.

It sounds like you're saying this won't be a problem because you expect male-looking trans men to break the law and go to the mens room anyway.

Yeah, progressive activists are so well-known for sticking to the laws and never opening their mouths. I think bathroom laws are not helpful, but I think laws enforcing "yes, this guy can use the same bathroom as women and children" aren't any better than "yes, this guy has to use the ladies' room".

Please stop me if I am misinterpreting or misrepresenting you.

My view is that nobody will know you are trans or not unless you are so obviously not the gender you are presenting as, and that's not a problem that can be solved by passing laws about gender-neutral bathrooms or 'anyone who says they're trans can use that bathroom', because there is also the problem right now of the trans activism push around 'nobody owes you feminism' or there is no one way of being female or the rest of it, which means a guy can stick on a wig and a skirt, claim to be trans, go into the women's room, and nobody can do anything about it because that's transphobia.

I would be way more sympathetic to "that will never happen" (as were the debates I got into way back when, before all the push for legal laws) except the 'slippery slope fallacy never happen cases' did happen, and the trans activism set had nothing to say about that except, in the extremes, "well that person wasn't really trans anyway". How can you be 'really' trans when there is no way to be 'really' trans that is not decried as medical gatekeeping, transphobia, enforcing the gender binary, and the rest of the political sloganeering?

Ok, so you're among the group that wants to pass a law they actively want people to break.

I thought that was an insane position no one would ever take, especially given how may libertarian-oriented sentiments we normally get when things like speech or guns or etc. come up.

But I guess that's a really common position, we want to pass a law that we want most trans people to break most of the time.

Seems insane to me. I will never agree to that being a good idea, even if I agreed with the rest of the logic behind the motivation.

Ok, so you're among the group that wants to pass a law they actively want people to break.

Sweet Baby Ray, how much clearer can I get? I think bathroom laws are stupid, but I also think that trans people crying about bathroom laws is 90% political activity of the same sort that saw "we just only want the right to LUV, TWU WUV" get same-sex marriage passed in my country (and then prominent gays, like our current Taoiseach, are happy to appear in public with their partner but are conspicuously not getting married, doesn't he know he won't have visitation rights! if he's not married! he'll have to die alone and miserable! all the campaigning told me that and surely they didn't exaggerate just to get their way!).

The 10% of people who can't pass convincingly and so need legal bulwark about "yeah I know I look like a guy, but please let me into the women's bathroom" I'm sorry for, but there's nothing that can be done to help them until the creepers and predators are disavowed by the same campaigners who are out there convincing the world that "trans people are being literally lynched in bathrooms by the bigots right now".

If it's a stupid law, break it! Where the fuck did this worship of the literal letter of legislation come from, from people happy to go out screaming in the streets on protests about this, that and the other? I don't expect Buck Angel to go "well gee, I guess I'll have to use the ladies' room" in reality, no matter what the law says, any more than I expect them to stop being a sex worker, no matter what the law says. It'd be freakin' lovely if the trans lot were so slavishly ruled by "if the law says this, then I can't do it", because that would save the rest of us an ocean of trouble, but I don't see that happening in the world.

And if you really want my views? Trans women are not real women, trans men are not real men, biology is real, trans issues are mental health issues, but so long as you are not a screaming lunatic about it then hey, I can call you Susie and use she/her and not blink too hard if you show up in the ladies' loo. But I'm never going to believe that trans is the same as cis, and I'm not going to be brow-beaten or bullied into "if you don't think this, then it doesn't matter how you act, you are literally murdering trans people".

EDIT: Good God, I can't believe I'm having to invoke St. Thomas Aquinas here on "oooh, you want us to bweak the law!!!!" logic-chopping, but here goes: a bad law may be broken in good conscience. If the suffering trans martyr who will just die if he can't get his big hairy legs into the girlies' potty genuinely thinks the law is wrong and unjust, then he can break it:

I answer that, Laws framed by man are either just or unjust. If they be just, they have the power of binding in conscience, from the eternal law whence they are derived, according to Proverbs 8:15: "By Me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things." Now laws are said to be just, both from the end, when, to wit, they are ordained to the common good—and from their author, that is to say, when the law that is made does not exceed the power of the lawgiver—and from their form, when, to wit, burdens are laid on the subjects, according to an equality of proportion and with a view to the common good. For, since one man is a part of the community, each man in all that he is and has, belongs to the community; just as a part, in all that it is, belongs to the whole; wherefore nature inflicts a loss on the part, in order to save the whole: so that on this account, such laws as these, which impose proportionate burdens, are just and binding in conscience, and are legal laws.

On the other hand laws may be unjust in two ways: first, by being contrary to human good, through being opposed to the things mentioned above—either in respect of the end, as when an authority imposes on his subjects burdensome laws, conducive, not to the common good, but rather to his own cupidity or vainglory—or in respect of the author, as when a man makes a law that goes beyond the power committed to him—or in respect of the form, as when burdens are imposed unequally on the community, although with a view to the common good. The like are acts of violence rather than laws; because, as Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5), "a law that is not just, seems to be no law at all." Wherefore such laws do not bind in conscience, except perhaps in order to avoid scandal or disturbance, for which cause a man should even yield his right, according to Matthew 5:40-41: "If a man . . . take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him; and whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two."

Secondly, laws may be unjust through being opposed to the Divine good: such are the laws of tyrants inducing to idolatry, or to anything else contrary to the Divine law: and laws of this kind must nowise be observed, because, as stated in Acts 5:29, "we ought to obey God rather than man."

The last word on this damn topic, and I wish the bloody bathroom law makers would think about this:

Reply to Objection 3. No man is so wise as to be able to take account of every single case; wherefore he is not able sufficiently to express in words all those things that are suitable for the end he has in view. And even if a lawgiver were able to take all the cases into consideration, he ought not to mention them all, in order to avoid confusion: but should frame the law according to that which is of most common occurrence.

Whenever I see a photo of "Charlotte" I can't stop laughing, because the motivation for her "transition" is so transparent. What a sick indictment of woke culture that you can have people calling for your head over some meaningless "infraction", and all you have to do is play Transition Card (+10 to cancellation resistance) and, literally overnight, you're back in the Twitterati's good graces.

Wow, 2014 was a different time.

Still—less booing of the outgroup, please.

You're right, I was in a bit of a goofy mood at the time of writing, I could've worded that better.

It really is crazy comparing 2014 Discourse (TM) to current.

I can’t imagine Scott wading into that kind of beef today. Not because he’s unwilling, but it’s so…earnest. I’m struggling to put it to words.

Maybe everyone learned something from the last ten years. Now the battle lines are drawn, the witty rejoinders are prepared, and the epistemic helplessness is learned. There’s no alpha in an earnest chat about the philosophical grounding of tribal affiliation. Which isn’t to say there’s no value—just that it’s harder to stand out in a field of cynics. No one leaves home without his umbrella and his casual disdain for Twitter randos. Delivered, of course, on the same site.

I dunno. Surely I’m overthinking the issue.

More comments

First of all, your mask is slipping - your original claim...

Dunno who you think I am, but this is the first comment I've made in the thread and I don't do masks.

you were worried

I'm not worried about any of it -- I'm a man and don't care who goes in the men's room. I do know IRL women who are worried about who goes in the women's room though.

about cis men pretending to be trans in order to access women's spaces

My guess would be that a given Peeping Tom or piss perv is extremely likely to be a non-transgender heterosexual man? Who (in the case of the Peeping Toms) are known to go through schemes much more elaborate than "walk into a washroom and claim to be trans if challenged" in the course of their fetish.

you have immediately moved your rhetoric to 'women putting up with trans people'

You're the one bringing up Buck Angel -- it's a different failure mode, but still pretty valid. Not all women want to 'put up with' sharing a bathroom with trans males, is this under dispute?

Buck Angel and people who look like him go to the men's room

If the bathrooms are gender neutral, Buck Angel can go in whichever one he chooses, no?

You were also the one who brought up the idea that Buck being in the ladies room would be some sort of problem under the traditional bathroom management policies -- or that's how I took "If your worry is that seeing male-looking people go into the women's room will make life more dangerous for women" anyways. If not, what did you mean by that?

If not, what did you mean by that?

So it's totally fine if you have a different position than the one I was responding to, it just means that my comment naturally wouldn't be a coherent reply to your position since it was responding to a different one.

The position I was responding to, as I understand OP to hold it, was: If trans women are allowed in women's restrooms, that will normalize malelooking people being in women's restrooms. That will make is easier for cis men who are perverts to fake their way into women's restrooms for nefarious purposes.

My point in bringing up Buck Angel is, if that is your model of the danger at play here, then Buck Angel using the women's room is an equally large problem. That would also normalize male-looking people going into the women's restroom in exactly the same way.

So, if your position is that the problem is male-looking people in women's restroom, bathroom bills do not actually solve that problem. They probably make it worse.

Your hectoring tone is misplaced when I explicitly said that I can get onboard with the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms. I don't find the argument in favour of sex-segregated bathrooms hard to understand even if I don't necessarily endorse it.

Young children being abducted from a playground doesn't happen literally never, but it's so close to never that spending time thinking about it, and letting it drive larger policy issues, is both insane and counter-productive.

You know, gun advocates frequently point out the vanishingly unlikely chance of a school shooting, compared to all the other ways kids can die, but somehow this sort of statistical analysis does not move those of you who are suddenly about cold hard numbers over emotional valience when it is convenient. Yes, stranger abductions on the playground are rare compared to parental abductions, just as stranger rapes in a dark alley are rare compared to partner violence. But we still care about those things because they happen, and without vigilance against those things, they would happen more because predators are, in fact, out there.

Yeah, I don't really care about gun control, I agree that people use school shootings for rhetorical purposes more than on logical grounds.

I think we waste too much time and energy and social capital on low-frequency high-salience events like this, enough so that we make things actively worse in total. Sure there are some common-sense things we should do, mostly just staying alert, but the scare mongering and warping of everyday life to accommodate the media-driven panics around these issues are really bad for our society and the people in it.

Yeah, I don't really care about gun control

Hm.

Yup, that sure is a bunch of my posts from 5 years ago in which I don't personally advocate for gun control, alright.

I didn't think I needed to post examples from 5 years ago backing up my claims about my beliefs, but I guess it's nice that you went and found them anyway.

  • -13

Gun control comes up in the context of school shootings because dead children are a hugely powerful rhetorical device. However, the issue has much large impact on the culture, that makes it more reasonable to talk about.

For instance, many police departments and poor communities are effectively in a state of continuous cold war with each other, because the police use extreme methods because they are reasonably worried about getting shot by the populace of those communities, and those communities are reasonably nervous about getting shot or brutalized by jumpy cops.

Even if we can't get rid of all the guns in the nation, taking 90% of them out of those communities would probably do a lot to ease those tensions by making cops feel safer and letting them use less extreme tactics, which could make the communities feel safer interacting with them, and help starting to cut down on crime and violence in those communities.

Whereas most US police departments have a policy of escalating violence (eg point 12 guns at the suspect the second they look at you funny), most countries where guns are illegal have very effective policies of deescalating violence (in my non-professional understanding of the situation).

This is an impact of guns that reaches far beyond the actual people shot by them and even beyond the actual crimes committed with them. These are the types of things that create such divergent experiences about what 'gun culture' means and how it affects people's lives. It's part of why the issue is so urgent to so many people, even if it doesn't usually enter the media narrative.

Yeah, I do think things would be a lot better if there magically weren't any/as many guns in the country.

Magic isn't on the table.

So I don't care much about gun control. I don't think arguing about it is actually going to lead to the utopian outcome that would be good.

That quote doesn't "personally argue for gun control" either, if you read it closely. They're just describing how other people might see things, not taking any position of their own.

I believe him. I dont think he cares about the trans issue either.

This is your second big top-level post where you disagree intensely with Freddie de Boer. I still don't understand why you read him if you disagree with him so intensely as to write these long posts, full of links.

It strikes me that he's a worse version of Scott, less self-awareness and modesty, a harsher and more strident tone. I took a look through his substack and saw nothing that stood out that much, whether I agreed or disagreed with him. Some of it is rather disturbing, the anti-tech not-quite-terror-manifesto you pointed out earlier. Where is the good FdB that you'd wholeheartedly endorse, where are the posts where he raises some really new and interesting thought?

I'm in a similar boat as OP, and I've enjoyed his writing on education and his piece on "Wokeness", i think he's got a really good handle on cancel culture stuff, and his perspectives on media have been enjoyable even when I don't agree

As it happens I've unsubscribed from his Substack, but I'm still paid up until May. I promise not to post another top-level post about something he's written for awhile.

There was much in his anti-tech manifesto that I agreed with, it just made me concerned for his state of mind. The two recent trans posts seemed disappointingly shoddily argued to me. Part of the reason my response contains so many links to previous things he's written is my way of saying "you're doing the exact same thing you complained about here, here and here - you're better than this". If you like, I'll dig out some links to some of his bangers for you tomorrow.

As it happens I've unsubscribed from his Substack, but I'm still paid up until May. I promise not to post another top-level post about something he's written for awhile.

Too bad, I was looking forward to a post about his most recent one: lengthy throat-clearing about those creepy guys who go on about age of consent and evpsych and how you totally shouldn't fuck teenagers... followed by a rant about Gen Z freaking out about age gap relationships and why it's natural for men to wind up with younger women.

Made me wonder if someone called him a groomer.

his most recent one

The biggest lesson I can draw from it is that everyone should strive to be like Robert De Niro, still able to do the deed at 78.

Your comment intrigued me enough that I went to skim DeBoer's post to see what the fuss is about, figuring that people are mad because he's fucking a girl who just turned 18 or something. Imagine my surprise when I find out that his girlfriend is 45 years old. I have truly seen people get upset about everything imaginable now. There's absolutely nothing wrong, or remotely groomer-y, about a man of any age who is with a 45-year-old. She's thoroughly an adult who can make her own decisions.

Between him and Al Pacino, the cast of Heat are jump-starting American fertility rates. Japan and Korea should just offer working holiday visas to a bunch of dudes called Sal and Paulie and they'll be back on track in no time.

His girlfriend is named Alfalfa?!

Ex, I believe.

I was looking forward to a post about his most recent one

I'm reading it at the moment and so far I find nothing to disagree with in it. It's refreshing to get back to the rigorously analytical Freddie I know and love, rather than this defensive, evasive, why-do-you-care-it's-none-of-our-business posture he's been adopting for awhile.

I also do not disagree with his argument in itself. I just found it very ironic that he spent so much time making it clear that he totally isn't one of those evpsych bros who wants to fuck younger women, they're gross... before making what was basically a long, disclaimer-padded evpsych argument about how it's natural that men are going to fuck younger women. Of course he emphasizes repeatedly how unfair and sexist it is, but hey, nature, bro.

That's fair.

nothing to disagree with in it

Probably this one:

In addition to questioning the legitimacy of the legal relationship itself, the typical tactic is to assert that the older partner (almost always the man) has been exposed as a predator who probably wants to date underage women, who would date underage women if he could get away with it.

Sometimes those internet creepers I identified at the top say things like “if you could force them to be honest, every straight man would admit they think 15 and 16 and 17-year-old girls are the sexiest!” I don’t think that’s true, at all

Freddie tries to eat its cake and have it, too. Both "internet creepers" and "a horde of screaming zealots" agree on the motivation of older men preferentially dating legal teens, and he insists both are wrong. He even says himself that "the male preference for younger women comes in dominant majorities", that this preference is a spectrum with a convenient peak in mid-20s, but some way the right slope is perfectly normal and the left slope is creepy.

If someone preferentially dates 18-year-olds because he's attracted to their bodies, it is more likely that the peak of his attraction curve is somewhere to the left of 18. It's simple statistics. If someone dates 18-year-olds because they are much more easily impressed by him having a job, disposable income, a car and ability to buy alcohol with impunity than women of his age, he's a creepy loser.

He plays the same game in his achievement gaps post. Yes, IQ is heritable, yes, IQ is an important indicator of achievement, and thus different IQ inherited from their parents explains gaps in achievement between individuals. Ergo, achievement gaps between groups that exhibit many other different heritable traits can be explained by... other reasons, no, not inherent differences in their IQ, never!

DeBoer's ultimate conclusions about age gaps are generally fine and sensible, though.

I was really disappointed that he didn't draw the world's most obvious parallel: female slut shaming is union workers getting angry at scabs. Given how leftist and worker-oriented Freddie claims to be, the parallel just strikes me as too simple to miss.

Women shame young women who get talked into a bad deal because when young women get talked into a bad deal it undermines the negotiating power of other women. In the same way that if scabs are willing to work unlimited overtime, it makes it hard for an honest worker to ask for an honest wage.

I was really disappointed that he didn't draw the world's most obvious parallel: female slut shaming is union workers getting angry at scabs. Given how leftist and worker-oriented Freddie claims to be, the parallel just strikes me as too simple to miss.

I don't think this is as obvious to someone within Freddie's (presumed) social circles as you might think. The idea that the dating market could even be thought of as a market of any sort, much less one with parallels to the employment market, would be, at most, a joke. And the idea that slut shaming could have any cause other than or with more complexity than some sort of brainwashing performed by the patriarchy - "internalized misogyny" is an often used term - would be nearly unthinkable.

At least, that's my speculation based on my own experience with my social circle of East Coast college educated liberals, which is what I think mostly describes Freddie's social circle too. Freddie's rather unorthodox in those circles, but even then, I think it'd be expecting too much that he'd perceive this kind of parallel as anything close to "obvious." There's just too much social conditioning that automatically shut down such thoughts that overcoming them would be extraordinary, rather than expected.

It just feels so right to me, I don't see how others don't see it.

Fair point, it's a little bit weaselly, but nothing compared to the 50-foot-tall ferret of his arguments about trans stuff.

Made me wonder if someone called him a groomer.

I'd be surprised if that was the case, considering that his girlfriend is actually older than him, but who knows?

The two recent trans posts seemed disappointingly shoddily argued to me.

If you told me they were written under duress, I'd believe you.

I like Freddie, and I know he's solidly in a liberal to progressive milieu of who he grew up with, went to school, got jobs, is friends with, and so on.

But this one has a really defensive tone to me, rather than his usual way of making an argument.

The bathroom argument is so damn ridiculous on every side. My default opinion on this was "I don't care, there's no way I'm going to be looking into your knickers and so long as you just use the bathroom because you need to go to the loo, no skin off my nose".

But I am being made to care, because first it was that trans people would literally die you bigot if they couldn't use the right bathroom, and now if he's going to go all "Why do you care what bathroom someone uses?" on me, then I'm punting it back at him: why is it such a big deal for trans people to use the "gender I identify with" bathroom, then? If nobody is going to be protected from assault whether or not there are laws about "only biological men here, biological women there" then, uh, neither are trans people going to be protected from assault if there are laws about "any gender can use this bathroom". But we absolutely gotta get the second set of laws, because, well, we gotta.

What 'any gender can use this bathroom' does is make it easier for creepy people to take advantage. And yes, Freddie, there are creepy people out there. All the "you conservatives are only scaremongering, that thing you are whipping up outrage about will never happen!" scolding sounds a lot less convincing when there are cases like the "I'm a real woman and I can prove it by getting two women pregnant while I'm in the women's prison" guy. And there are cases like that, it's not an isolated incident, and they happen precisely because of the "gotta give the trans people legal protection and legal rights" rush, which is then abused by the creepy, the predatory, and the grifters.

why is it such a big deal for trans people to use the "gender I identify with" bathroom, then?

One concern is the ability of people to use bathrooms without announcing what genitals they were born with.

Which they don't freakin' have to, unless they make a big deal out of "I am a lady, I wish to use the ladies' bathroom!"

How am I going to know what genitals you were born with, if you reasonably pass? Someone who looks like this, I may or may not think "Hmm?" but I'm not going to demand a birth certificate or that she drop her knickers and show me her genuine real biological lady bits. They're putting in the effort and so long as all they're doing is using the bathroom for its intended purpose, I have no problem.

Car dealership guy is their own problem; they look and sound like a woman, not a man, but I'm leaving it up to the gentlemen if they're worried about a short, fat, feminine-bodied 'dude' using the facilities.

It's the people that don't pass and are the attention-mongers that kick up about "announcing the genitals I was born with", and I'm coming round to the view that they want to be validated: yes, I know I look like a guy in a dress, but that doesn't matter, the law is now on my side and you have to let me go where I want and pretend you believe I'm really the same as a cis woman.

Well, if they don’t want to have to do that, maybe they should consider passing.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of ex-men do not and will never pass is the center of the object-level disagreement (ex-women have a much easier time passing, are much rarer, and are not trying to use the political gender’s bathroom).

Basic self-awareness/pro-social behavioural norms dictate you use the bathroom of the gender you pass as, ex-men refuse to do this because reasons, hence the conflict.

And so fights over it come down to one faction insisting it has the right to pollute the commons with “It’s ma’am” against the one that doesn’t. All arguments made on either side stem from this root, because the conflict is not further reducible.

But I am being made to care, because first it was that trans people would literally die you bigot if they couldn't use the right bathroom, and now if he's going to go all "Why do you care what bathroom someone uses?" on me, then I'm punting it back at him: why is it such a big deal for trans people to use the "gender I identify with" bathroom, then? If nobody is going to be protected from assault whether or not there are laws about "only biological men here, biological women there" then, uh, neither are trans people going to be protected from assault if there are laws about "any gender can use this bathroom". But we absolutely gotta get the second set of laws, because, well, we gotta.

This gestures at a particular kind of leftist argumentation that I find especially annoying, the "this isn't a big deal" argument.

Frequently leftists will bemoan their enemies for spending time on culture war topics when there are "real issues" to be contended with, decrying the culture war as a "fabricated distraction" that "doesn't matter to anyone".

Okay. Lose then. Concede. Instantly and completely. If it truly doesn't matter, then it doesn't matter if you win or not, right? Then just concede, and the meaningless distraction argument is immediately over and done with and we can refocus on the "real issues".

It's the same way that we all need to use whatever pronouns are demanded of us because "it's not a big deal". If it's not a big deal then why do I need to change anything? If it's not any of my business what pronouns people use, then why are you asking me to care?

I originally saw this construction in the form of; "If the character's race doesn't matter, why not make the character black?" countered with "If the character's race doesn't matter, why make the character black?"

I had a similar thought a few years ago. Sometimes I'd be getting into an argument with woke people on Facebook, and a well-meaning friend would DM me saying something like "I understand where you're coming from, but is this really the hill you want to die on? Maybe just let them have this one."

My only read of that is: "I recognise that people on 'my team' are perfectly willing to socially destroy someone for something that I consider extremely trivial - but I still consider 'my team' the good guys."

I think you've misunderstood the "this isn't a big deal" argument.

The claim is that it isn't a big deal for you (the person opposed to whatever relevant agenda being pushed) to go along with it, but that the issue is important for the purported victim group.

For example - the pronoun case.

The progressive believes that if you don't respect trans people's pronouns, it will be traumatic to them, as you reject a fundamental part of their identity, and hence invalidate them as an individual - it's a form of violence (this manifests through, amongst other things, trans people actually killing themselves).

On the other hand if you just called her "she", despite not actually believing in the underlying philosophical framework of gender identity you um... oh wait, it doesn't cost you anything actually! (We all say things we don't believe in from time to time, that's called politeness)

It's basically the same idea as "it's impossible to be neutral in the face of oppression". One side is merely asking to be able to exist (see slogans like "trans genocide", "BLM", etc) whilst the other is not in any real danger: they're just edgy teens, ignorant bigots, and pearl-clutching church ladies.

That's the motte. The bailey is that it's one side of a strategic asymmetric rule similar to Dreher's law of merited impossibility ("that's not happening and it's good that it is"). Not a big deal if you comply, but a massive deal if you push back. @WhiningCoil had a great post about it in the why-is-it-always-vidya arena, talking about game mods which remove current-year stuff:

... all the gaslighting about how it's not a big deal, why are we so annoyed by it immediately becomes a huge fucking shut down the internet deal whenever someone takes it back out.

I haven't seen a pithy summary of this strategy. It doesn't really fit under кто кого. Maybe "it's not a big deal except that it is"?

The bailey is that it's one side of a strategic asymmetric rule similar to Dreher's law of merited impossibility

That technique is also used.

But here I'm talking about the completely logically coherent argument that the struggles faced by the in-group simply are more serious (for object-level reasons particular to a specific issue) than the outgroup:

If we do X:

  • Neutral for the outgroup
  • Completely awful for the ingroup.

If we do Y:

  • Neutral for the outgroup
  • Good for the ingroup.

Not a big deal if you comply, but a massive deal if you push back.

But in all cases, this isn't some kind of Bailey. The progressives openly admit to holding this view. If you're convinced that the outcomes of X/Y are as above (perhaps it's marginally worse for outgroup if we do Y), then it's completely reasonable, even if you belong to the outgroup, to do Y.

There is no doublethink, merited impossibility, etc going on here. It's a disagreement on the object-level.

Maybe "it's not a big deal except that it is"?

Isn't this just a rephrasing of Merited Impossibility?

Isn't this just a rephrasing of Merited Impossibility?

Hm, maybe it is. I initially thought Merited Impossibility was more about noticing.

Yeah, everyone misses the vital "it's costless for the oppressor, but infinitely beneficial/costly for the oppressed" framing used to get a foot in the door. It seamlessly transitions to "ok it's costly for the oppressor, but hurting them is actually good", but the initial push always relies on the "simple politeless reducing social friction" argument.

I'm not sure anyone's found a way to argue against it yet, and it's always too late once the rule is established.

"It's not costless to me, compelled speech is my one issue"

That's a valid rebuttal.

But I think most progressives genuinely struggle to believe people feel so strongly about free speech/compelled speech. I think this also contributes to them distrusting liberals who oppose the trans agenda - to them it sounds like you're just making up excuses to hurt people's feelings.

As I've drifted away from progressivism, I have come to believe that some people really do feel a deep level of discomfort and "ickiness" from being forced to say something they don't believe is true to avoid punishment - from observing non-woke people in real life and reading forums like this.

But personally I really don't think I can relate. I've read the stirring prose explaining how it's every man's natural right to be able to speak his own truth, etc. But I just don't feel it.

When I call a trans person their preferred pronoun, I'm not an emasculated liar, at least not any more than everyone else who is alive today and not part of some remote uncontacted tribe: whether you like it or not, you are totally controlled by society.

If the government says tomorrow that we have to eat bugs and live in a pod, there's actually nothing you or I could do about it (either we comply, or there's an escalating series of negative incentives that culminate in death) - the only reason we don't have to do that is because society doesn't want us to do that right now.

All of our freedoms are privileges that the establishment grants us - whilst morally you could argue X is a right, in practice, the government can take X away if they want to, and believe it won't lead to a revolt.

My question to you, and to anyone else that sees the compelled speech thing as a genuine issue - why do you feel this way? Why is this such a big issue for you? Can't you just tell people, who've made it abundantly clear they aren't interested in hearing your actual opinion, what they want to hear?