Friday, 12 June 2015

My deconstruction of Burkett's dishonesty

This is a deconstruction, section-by-section of Elinor Burkett's transphobic article in the New York Times about trans people called "What Makes A Woman". It is not intended to be completely comprehensive, since there is so much wrong with it it would take me a month of Sundays to take down every lie, unpack every falsehood and expose every dishonesty  

Her words are in normal text mine are in italics.


Do women and men have different brains?

Actually everyone has a different brain, we are all different. My brain is different from Burkett’s, Burkett’s brain is different from Judith Butler’s, Judith Butler’s is different from Sarah Palin…

Back when Lawrence H. Summers was president of Harvard and suggested that they did, the reaction was swift and merciless. Pundits branded him sexist. Faculty members deemed him a troglodyte. Alumni withheld donations.

This is because, as an academic he should have known better. Caitlyn Jenner is not an academic however. BTW Cambridge professor Simon Baron-Cohen is amongst the many academics saying the same thing as Summers, and experiencing no outcry, no withheld donations. My recent paper, Cultural Cisgenderism, Consequences of the Imperceptible published by the British Psychological Society, discredits Baron-Cohen's essentialism.

But when Bruce Jenner said much the same thing in an April interview with Diane Sawyer, he was lionized for his bravery, even for his progressivism. “My brain is much more female than it is male,” he told her, explaining how he knew that he was transgender.

Here Burkett is being deliberately abusive, deliberately misgendering Jenner is abusive and Burkett knows this, whether it is for “effect” or for malice it is both deliberate and abusive. Expecting Jenner to be an expert on neurology just because she is trans, is double-standards and as such transphobic.

This was the prelude to a new photo spread and interview in Vanity Fair that offered us a glimpse into Caitlyn Jenner’s idea of a woman: a cleavage-boosting corset, sultry poses, thick mascara and the prospect of regular “girls’ nights” of banter about hair and makeup.

This is not *just* Caitlyn Jenner’s idea of a woman, of course , it is an idea shared by millions of other women worldwide including in the United States. Funny how Burkett doesn’t mention that. One constituent part of bigotry is applying different standards to one group than to another.

Ms. Jenner was greeted with even more thunderous applause. ESPN announced it would give Ms. Jenner an award for courage. President Obama also praised her. Not to be outdone, Chelsea Manning hopped on Ms. Jenner’s gender train on Twitter, gushing, “I am so much more aware of my emotions; much more sensitive emotionally (and physically).”

…errrr, accusing Chelsea Manning of ‘hopping on Jenner’s gender train’ is more than ridiculous. If anything Chelsea Manning has blazed a trail for other trans people to follow. Of course using these words makes it look as though Chelsea is being opportunistic rather than simply expressing her emotions. This is a rhetorical device Burkett employs to promote the fiction that there exists some kind of ‘trans movement’ that is exploitative or manipulative. This is in total contradiction to reality and intended to dehumanise the thousands of trans people who come out every day despite receiving massive social approbrium.

A part of me winced.

Winced!? Winced at someone sitting in an army jail who has had to fight tooth an nail to obtain basic human rights that Burkett takes for granted, expressing her feelings? Pathetic.

I have fought for many of my 68 years against efforts to put women — our brains, our hearts, our bodies, even our moods — into tidy boxes, to reduce us to hoary stereotypes. Suddenly, I find that many of the people I think of as being on my side — people who proudly call themselves progressive and fervently support the human need for self-determination — are buying into the notion that minor differences in male and female brains lead to major forks in the road and that some sort of gendered destiny is encoded in us.

That’s the kind of nonsense that was used to repress women for centuries. But the desire to support people like Ms. Jenner and their journey toward their truest selves has strangely and unwittingly brought it back.

This is where Burkett’s argument gets really dishonest. The vast majority of the population believes that male and female brains are different. Gender essentialism is ingrained into our culture. Indeed Cordelia Fine, in her wonderful book Delusions of Gender, exposes this culture spectacularly. A wonderful piece of research published by Messner in 2000 called ‘Barbie Girls and Sea Monsters,’ exposes this cultural belief demonstrating how socially constructed gendered behaviour is interpreted by most people to be the result of essential differences.

So why  should Caitlyn Jenner, or indeed any other trans person for that matter, be any different from the rest? Is Burkett expecting every trans person to have a Masters in gender studies? Once again Burkett is applying double standards to trans people and to cis people. You can see a theme developing here can’t you...?

People who haven’t lived their whole lives as women, whether Ms. Jenner or Mr. Summers, shouldn’t get to define us. 

Caitlyn Jenner is defining no-one but herself, but hey let’s put words into her mouth, TERFs (Trans exclusionary “Radical” “Feminists”) have been putting words into trans people’s mouths for decades, why break with tradition now?

That’s something men have been doing for much too long. And as much as I recognize and endorse the right of men to throw off the mantle of maleness, they cannot stake their claim to dignity as transgender people by trampling on mine as a woman.

Which Caitlyn and the rest of us trans people are not doing, except possibly in Burkett’s imagination.

Their truth is not my truth. 

So far Burkett’s "truth" is not truth at all, just about everything is entirely fabricated.

Their female identities are not my female identity. They haven’t traveled through the world as women and been shaped by all that this entails. 

This is where Burkett is at her most dishonest. By selecting Caitlyn Jenner to represent trans people, coming out at an advanced age, she is doing a classic “look over there!” “Look at Jenner, look at someone who has (supposedly) benefitted from living life as a man!” - something I am sure Jenner would dispute - I would bet my bottom dollar that she would have preferred to have been assigned female at birth regardless of what that might have entailed. 

In doing this she is deflecting attention from the, far larger group of trans people, who are coming out at very young ages, as early as their social and cultural circumstances will permit.

So she doesn’t want us to look that way, at people like Jazz Jennings, who has identified as a girl and been treated as such since she was in preschool. I have met dozens of trans children aged 5, 6, 7, 8…and plenty in their teens. Trans girls from this group have not had male privilege and never will. Emphasising the fact that Jenner, born in another time, could not come out as trans earlier, rather than acknowledging the huge number of trans children and young people, is both dishonest and can only be regarded as a deliberate act of repression on her part. But hey these children's very existence undermines one of her main arguments.

They haven’t suffered through business meetings with men talking to their breasts

Neither have a lot of cis women, who don’t have jobs that involve going to business meetings.

or woken up after sex terrified they’d forgotten to take their birth control pills the day before. They haven’t had to cope with the onset of their periods in the middle of a crowded subway, 

This is reductive. women are more than walking vaginas, something that the partiarchy and male misogynists tend regard women as. Strange that someone describing herself as a ‘feminist’ is doing what these people do.

the humiliation of discovering that their male work partners’ checks were far larger than theirs, or the fear of being too weak to ward off rapists.

Which is something that happens to trans women also. Writing as though these are things that cis women experience and not trans women exposes her double standards once again. Who would have thought…?

For me and many women, feminist and otherwise, one of the difficult parts of witnessing and wanting to rally behind the movement for transgender rights is the language that a growing number of trans individuals insist on, the notions of femininity that they’re articulating, and their disregard

I don’t know where she gets this from. Dare I suggest that she is making this bit up also, I don’t see any examples here.

for the fact that being a woman means having accrued certain experiences, endured certain indignities and relished certain courtesies in a culture that reacted to you as one.

Once again she is being dishonest. Trans women like Caitlyn Jenner are the exceptions these days, the majority of trans women/girls come out at a much younger age and experience these things also, some from early childhood, as I described above. I’m sure you can see a pattern developing here. It also suggests that she regards women as having one single, identical experience. This is exemplified in the way she talks about women in meetings. In fact cis women’s experiences, just like trans women’s experiences, differ by class, race, age, location, (dis)ability, cultural background and all sorts of different variables, all of which intersect to produce a very wide variety of different experiences. Burkett is one of those white, middle-class, cis feminists who have been criticised for erasing the experiences of other women, and you can see why.

Brains are a good place to begin because one thing that science has learned about them is that they’re in fact shaped by experience, cultural and otherwise. The part of the brain that deals with navigation is enlarged in London taxi drivers, as is the region dealing with the movement of the fingers of the left hand in right-handed violinists.

“You can’t pick up a brain and say ‘that’s a girl’s brain’ or ‘that’s a boy’s brain,’ ” Gina Rippon, a neuroscientist at Britain’s Aston University, told The Telegraph last year. The differences between male and female brains are caused by the “drip, drip, drip” of the gendered environment, she said.

Again, this is dishonest, see the above, most trans people come out at a much earlier age now so this does not apply to most of us. what is interesting though is how Burkett starts this article rubbishing the idea that male and female brains are different then suddenly, when it suits her case, endorses it. Hypocrisy in action.

THE drip, drip, drip of Ms. Jenner’s experience included a hefty dose of male privilege few women could possibly imagine. 

And very few trans women also.

While young “Bruiser,” as Bruce Jenner was called as a child, was being cheered on toward a university athletic scholarship, few female athletes could dare hope for such largess since universities offered little funding for women’s sports. When Mr. Jenner looked for a job to support himself during his training for the 1976 Olympics, he didn’t have to turn to the meager “Help Wanted – Female” ads in the newspapers, and he could get by on the $9,000 he earned annually, unlike young women whose median pay was little more than half that of men. Tall and strong, he never had to figure out how to walk streets safely at night.

Again something most trans people do not experience. We have to worry about walking the streets at night as much as anyone.

Those are realities that shape women’s brains.

And most trans women’s brains also.

By defining womanhood the way he did to Ms. Sawyer, Mr. Jenner and the many advocates for transgender rights who take a similar tack ignore those realities. 

Unfortunately for Burkett few, if any such “trans advocates” actually exist. I know a lot of trans activists, but I know none who take this “tack”. Could it be that Burkett is, once again, trying to define us with reference to what she would like us to be for the purposes of her political argument, rather than referring to trans people as they actually are. 

The vast majority of trans people, especially trans advocates, do not define womanhood in this way at all, almost certainly a far smaller proportion than amongst the population of cis women. But by now it is probably becoming clear that Burkett considers facts like these to be inconveniences.

In the process, they undermine almost a century of hard-fought arguments that the very definition of female is a social construct that has subordinated us.

If there is one thing that trans people do not do, it is undermine almost a century of hard-fought arguments about the definition of women is a social construct which has subordinated us. Burkett knows this, she knows that there are plenty of trans women (and men and non-binary people) who are feminists, yet she chooses to misrepresent us in her usual dishonest way. But I guess you are probably expecting this by now…

And they undercut our efforts to change the circumstances we grew up with.

Errr, no. We do not undercut anything, and even if we did, arguing that trans women should not exist, or as she does, should stay in our little boxes as “women (2nd class)” is oppressive. If her ideology cannot include trans women, as most feminists do, then it is not for us to cease to exist for her benefit. Why should trans women cease to exist for the convenience of her ideology? I seem to remember a number of instances, particularly during the last century, where groups of people have been eradicated because they did not conform to someone’s view of the world.

The “I was born in the wrong body” rhetoric favored by other trans people 

This is an out-and out lie, distortion and deliberate misrepresentation. Firstly not all trans people, myself included, adhere to the ‘born in the wrong body’ narrative. Secondly, the vast majority of cis people believe in essentialism and a male-brain/female-brain ideology. This is the dominant ideology in our society so it should be unsurprising that a number of trans people, who do not have MAs in Gender Studies, view themselves in this way. It can also simply be a convenient way of quickly explaining their circumstances with reference to the dominant ideology of the society they have been brought up in. To claim that this ideology is something which affects only trans people really is profoundly dishonest. Essentialism is an ideology created and spread by cis people and cis people control our perceptions and the direction of our culture.

doesn’t work any better and is just as offensive, reducing us to our collective breasts and vaginas. 

You mean like you did a few paragraphs earlier…

Imagine the reaction if a young white man suddenly declared that he was trapped in the wrong body and, after using chemicals to change his skin pigmentation and crocheting his hair into twists, expected to be embraced by the black community.

Interesting how this is used, along with the “what if I thought I was black” meme. Again Burkett is dishonest and employs a rhetorical device that does not reflect reality. In real life people do not, in large numbers, consider themselves to be “born in the wrong racial body” yet trans people have existed thorughout history and in every civilisation that has ever appeared on this planet, and indeed before the concept of 'race' was ever invented. Compare that to the number of people who have tried to change race and… well I have
never heard of such a person. However I do know of Warias, Transpinays, Hijras, Muxe, Sworn Virgins, Kathoey, Two-Spirits, Fa’fa’fine and many more. Indeed archaelolgists discovered the body of a 3000 year-old trans woman buried in Prague a few years ago. Trans people have always been here, it is just now that we have been able to organise and confront our oppressors, like Burkett. We have certainly been around for many centuries longer than those transphobic bigots who call themselves “Radical Feminists”.

Many women I know,

That is not “many women” that is “many women I know”, my guess is that, like following like, she mixes with people who share the same transphobic outlook as she does. 

of all ages and races, speak privately about how insulting we find the language trans activists use to explain themselves. After Mr. Jenner talked about his brain, one friend called it an outrage and asked in exasperation, “Is he saying that he’s bad at math, weeps during bad movies and is hard-wired for empathy?” After the release of the Vanity Fair photos of Ms. Jenner, Susan Ager, a Michigan journalist, wrote on her Facebook page, “I fully support Caitlyn Jenner, but I wish she hadn’t chosen to come out as a sex babe.”

Wow! Policing a woman’s appearance. How very feminist! I know many trans people who probably think the same, but Caitlyn is entitled to do whatever she wishes with her body, just like huge numbers of cis women do.

For the most part, we bite our tongues and do not express the anger we openly 

The likes of Burkett have been outspoken in their opposition to the existence of trans people and sometimes violently too. In 1979 one such individual published a book in which she called for trans women to be “mandated out of existence”. 

Transphobic “feninists” have consistently spoken out against trans people since the early 1970s. Indeed they have attempted to silence us, stalk us, abuse us, out us to our employers to get us fired, threaten us, doxx us (including trans children) and physically assault us. You do not have to search very hard to find huge amounts of transphobic material online and in mainstream media (just look at New Statesman or rather “New Transphobe” as most trans people now call it). This is more than just a lie it is a barefaced lie. But I’m sure you are not exactly surprised by that now…

and rightly heaped on Mr. Summers, put off by the mudslinging match that has broken out on the radical fringes of both the women’s and the trans movements over events limited to “women-born women,”

Now who’s being essentialist?

access to bathrooms 

Ahhh, the bathroom debate. She quietly slips this one in without
unpacking it. Transphobic “feminists “want to exclude trans women from using the loos which match their outward presentation, rather like those deeply feminist people, the far right fundamentalist “Christians”.  The reason these “feminists” want to exclude trans women is not hard to determine; it would restrict the ability of trans women to live their lives, it would mean they could not go out for any length of time and if they needed to use the toilet, risk being attacked or raped in the gents. Lovely.

and who has suffered the greater persecution. The insult and outright fear that trans men and women live with is all too familiar to us, and a cruelly marginalized group’s battle for justice is something we instinctively want to rally behind.

Which is why you are trying to marginalise us, exclude us and put us in danger, for example by forcing us to use the wrong bathroom.

But as the movement 

It is not a ‘movement’, it is ‘people’. It is not centrally organised, it is not like the Tea Party or Greenpeace, it is a number of very different people from very different backgrounds  who, independently have come to realise they are trans. Let me reiterate;  trans people have been around for thousands of years. By describing us as a ‘movement’ Burkett is attempting to make it give it connotations of a passing fad or trend and represents a deliberate attempt, on her part, at erasure of trans people from the past, as well as recent attempts by TERFs to erase us and silence us permanently.  This is something transphobes have been trying to do for a very long time. Like the rest of her article this is dishonest.

becomes mainstream, it’s growing harder to avoid asking pointed questions about the frequent attacks by some trans leaders

There are no trans ‘leaders’ since we are not an organised movement. More dishonesty, but hey, in for a penny, in for a pound…

 on women’s right to define ourselves,

I know of no trans person who is attempting to define cis women, we are simply trying to define ourselves. She’s on a roll now…

our discourse and our bodies. After all, the trans movement

isn’t simply echoing African-Americans, Chicanos, gays or women by demanding an end to the violence and discrimination, and to be treated with a full measure of respect. It’s demanding that women reconceptualize ourselves.

No it isn’t.

In January 2014, the actress Martha Plimpton, an abortion-rights advocate, sent out a tweet about a benefit for Texas abortion funding called “A Night of a Thousand Vaginas.” Suddenly, she was swamped by criticism for using the word “vagina.” “Given the constant genital policing, you can’t expect trans folks to feel included by an event title focused on a policed, binary genital,” responded @DrJaneChi.

DrJaneChi is a cis woman. Now Burkett has reached the heights of dishonesty. She is using the actions of a cis person to criticise trans people. Nowhere does her article mention the crucial fact that DrJaneChi is not trans. But it gets worse when you consider that Burkett has just ranted on about cis women’s right to define themselves, well here is one such cis woman doing just that, and it appears she doesn’t like it. Perhaps what she means when she says “women’s right to self define” is “my right to say who is a woman and who isn’t and what women should be like.”?

When Ms. Plimpton explained that she would continue to say “vagina” — and why shouldn’t she, given that without a vagina, there is no pregnancy or abortion? — her feed overflowed anew with indignation, Michelle Goldberg reported in The Nation. “So you’re really committed to doubling down on using a term that you’ve been told many times is exclusionary & harmful?” asked one blogger. Ms. Plimpton became, to use the new trans insult, a terf, which stands for “trans exclusionary radical feminist.”

In January, Project: Theatre at Mount Holyoke College, a self-described liberal arts college for women, canceled a performance of Eve Ensler’s iconic feminist play “The Vagina Monologues” because it offered an “extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman,” explained Erin Murphy, the student group’s chairwoman.

Once again this decision was made by an entire group of people, a student theatre group, which is almost certainly overwhelmingly comprised of cisgender people. This is, once again, the actions of people who are not trans, that she is pinning on trans people. Again it appears that some cis women have decided that reductionist portrayals of women are past their sell-by date. Again this represents a group of, seemingly largely, if not entirely, non-trans women who are acting to define themselves, something Burkett says she supports in theory but apparently not in practice.

I would add a comment here about dishonesty but this piece is so full of lies that it should be pretty clear by now to anyone.

Let me get this right: 

To get it “right” you would have to explain that this is the action of cis women, which is something you have failed to do.

The word “vagina” is exclusionary and offers an extremely narrow perspective on womanhood, so the 3.5 billion of us who have vaginas, along with the trans people who want them, should describe ours with the politically correct terminology trans activists are pushing on us: “front hole” or “internal genitalia”?

Even the word “woman” has come under assault by some of the very people who claim the right to be considered women. The hashtags #StandWithTexasWomen, popularized after Wendy Davis, then a state senator, attempted to filibuster the Texas Legislature to prevent passage of a draconian anti-abortion law, and #WeTrustWomen, are also under attack since they, too, are exclusionary.

“Are also under attack”. By whom, trans people...? she doesn’t say, I wonder why.

“Abortion rights and reproductive justice is not a women’s issue,” wrote Emmett Stoffer, one of many self-described transgender persons to blog on the topic. It is “a uterus owner’s issue.” Mr. Stoffer was referring to the possibility that a woman who is taking hormones or undergoing surgery to become a man, or who does not identify as a woman, can still have a uterus, become pregnant and need an abortion.

Erasing trans men’s experience has been a feature of transphobic “feminist” output since the last century. Newsflash! Trans guys have babies, I know quite a few who have. Emmett Stoffer is simply stating the facts.

Accordingly, abortion rights groups are under pressure to modify their mission statements to omit the word woman, as Katha Pollitt recently reported in The Nation. Those who have given in, like the New York Abortion Access Fund, now offer their services to “people” and to “callers.” Fund Texas Women, which covers the travel and hotel expenses of abortion seekers with no nearby clinic, recently changed its name to Fund Texas Choice. “With a name like Fund Texas Women, we were publicly excluding trans people who needed to get an abortion but were not women,” the group explains on its website.

Reading between the lines of this it is clear that Burkett wants these services to be exclusive and not welcome trans men. This has nothing to do with redefining women, it is simply about acknowledging the existence of trans guys, and it is about an apparent hidden agenda to deny trans men access to reproductive rights and services. Very feminist.

Women’s colleges are contorting themselves into knots to accommodate female students who consider themselves men, but usually not men who are living as women. 

“men who are living as women”. This is pure transphobic bigotry. She means trans women, who are women. Vile.

Now these institutions, whose core mission is to cultivate female leaders, have student government and dormitory presidents who identify as males.

Wonderful. In effect Burkett is saying, “Throw these people out onto the street, trans men don’t deserve an education, don’t deserve the same rights cis people take for granted.” She really sounds like a stalwart of the more fanatical wing of the Tea Party.

As Ruth Padawer reported in The New York Times Magazine last fall, Wellesley students 

most, if not all, of whom are not trans.

are increasingly replacing the word “sisterhood” with “siblinghood,” and faculty members are confronted with complaints from trans students about their universal use of the pronoun she

So while Burkett, earlier on in this article tries to infer that transphobes are being silenced she is in effect saying that trans men in college should shut up and be called women. This is not merely hypocrisy but she is effctively saying that trans people should have no rights whatsoever even to determine how they are defined. Sounds to me like Burkett thinks she has a monopoply on defining people. How come she gets to do all the defining while the rest of us have to shut up?

 — although Wellesley rightly brags about its long history as the “world’s pre-eminent college for women.”

“Throw trans men out, they don’t deserve an education, discriminate, discriminate, discriminate!”

The landscape that’s being mapped and the language that comes with it are impossible to understand

No, it is relatively easy to understand, people like Burkett just want to muddy the water. If someone presents as male and wants to be refered to as ‘he’ use male pronouns, it’s not difficult. My friend’s 7-year-old gets it…

and just as hard to navigate. 


The most theory-bound of the trans activists say that there are no paradoxes here, and that anyone who believes there are is clinging to a binary view of gender that’s hopelessly antiquated. Yet Ms. Jenner and Ms. Manning, to mention just two, expect to be called women even as the abortion providers are being told that using that term is discriminatory.

Pure disingenuousness. Burkett has taken something out of one context to apply it in a totally different context. No-one is suggesting that the word ‘women’ should not be used, merely that it can exclude trans men in certain very specific contexts. This is what I mean when Burkett is deliberately trying to muddy the waters. This gives drivel a bad name.

 So are those who have transitioned from men the only “legitimate” women left?

No-one is saying this. However that is what Burkett would like someone in the trans community to say so she can use it in her increasingly dodgy arguments. Let’s face it, if any trans person had said anything like that Burkett would have quoted it here, the fact that she hasn’t means no-one has.

Women like me are not lost in false paradoxes; we were smashing binary views of male and female well before most Americans had ever heard the word “transgender” or used the word “binary” as an adjective. 

Not before trans and non-binary people had existed however.

Because we did, and continue to do so, thousands of women once confined to jobs as secretaries, beauticians or flight attendants now work as welders, mechanics and pilots. It’s why our daughters play with trains and trucks as well as dolls, and why most of us feel free to wear skirts and heels on Tuesday and bluejeans on Friday.

In fact, it’s hard to believe that this hard-won loosening of gender constraints for women isn’t at least a partial explanation for why three times as many gender reassignment surgeries are performed on men. 

This is both transphobic and wrong. By "Men" she is referring to trans women, I guess. By calling them "men" she is being deliberately antagonistic. There are two ways in which this is misleading; firstly full surgery for trans men is much more expensive and time-consuming than for trans women, this affects the statistics. Secondly, her stats are only true for the US, in other contexts the numbers of trans men are increasing quite considerably. In Denmark more surgeries are performed on trans men than on trans women.

Men are, comparatively speaking, more bound, even strangled, by gender stereotyping.

“and why most of us feel free to wear skirts and heels on Tuesday and bluejeans on Friday.” is exactly what Caitlyn Jenner is doing. Unless Burkett really believes that she wears a white corset around the house, while playing golf or surfing Facebook. Caitlyn Jenner has as much right to wear feminine clothes as any cis woman. Deconstructing this  section a bit further it appears that Burkett considers that all trans women are a bit like drag queens, wearing full make-up and heels all the time. Newsflash! We slob arond the house, the neighbourhood and the supermarket in leggings, jeans and T-shirts just like everyone else. Of course Burkett doesn’t want you to know that...

The struggle to move beyond such stereotypes is far from over, and trans activists could be women’s natural allies moving forward. 

Actually, in my experience most women already consider trans people, not just ‘trans activists’ to be their allies, it is only a small group of transphobic ‘feminists’ who do not. There are plenty of trans people who are feminists and who support feminist causes and projects, often by invitation.

So long as humans produce X and Y chromosomes that lead to the development of penises and vaginas, almost all of us will be “assigned” genders at birth.

She couldn’t resist it in the end could she? Despite spouting social constructivism, or at least using the language of social constructivism, she finally resorts to the biological essentialism which is the basis of  transphobic bigotry.

But what we do with those genders — the roles we assign ourselves, and each other, based on them — is almost entirely mutable.

If that’s the ultimate message of the mainstream of the trans community, we’ll happily, lovingly welcome them to the fight to create space for everyone to express him-, her- or, in gender neutral parlance, hir-self without being coerced by gendered expectations. But undermining women’s identities,

However much Burkett would like you to believe it, trans people are not undermining women’s identities, many of us are women. This is one of the deliberate pieces of disinformation put forward by the transphobic community. Quite exactly how I, or Caitlyn Jenner or Jazz Jennings or any of the thousands of trans people around the world coming out and being themselves is undermining women’s identities is something she is worse than vague about. This is a non-issue that Burkett would like to become an issue.

 and silencing, 

The old accusation that trans people are trying to silence women is again an old canard that needs to be treated with the contempt it deserves. Let’s remember she is writing this in the NEW YORK TIMES! 

Trans people are not silencing “women” (and let us be clear, by “women” she means “transphobes using feminism as a disguise”) if anything it is the other way round, as she has clearly advocated earlier in her piece when talking about trans men at Wellesley, in effect she considers it legitimate to try and silence the voices of young trans men while splashing her opinions all over one of the world’s most widely-read media platforms.


Again, see above, no-one is erasing anything except transphobes erasing trans people’s experiences.

 or renaming our experiences,

Again as is clear from the above if there is any renaming going on it is cis women who are doing it not trans people. However given the way Burkett misgenders Jenner and distorts the way she refers to trans people it would appear that, if anyone is doing any renaming it is transphobes like her renaming trans people’s experiences and trying to discredit language used by trans people to describe themselves.

aren’t necessary to that struggle.

Bruce Jenner told Ms. Sawyer that what he looked forward to most in his transition was the chance to wear nail polish, not for a furtive, fugitive instant, but until it chips off. I want that for Bruce, now Caitlyn, too. But I also want her to remember: Nail polish does not a woman make.

Of course Caitlyn speaks for all trans women, the real reason we go through intrusive surgeries and painful treatments is so we can change the colour of our fingernails. Obviously. Well I’m a trans woman and I very rarely wear nail varnish, indeed the last time I did so was when attending a football match when I coloured them red and white to support my team.

This is a metaphor for the whole article, she is using the personal preferences of one trans person explained in one off-the-cuff remark in one TV interview to try and portray all trans women as vacuous drag queens. And she says she doesn’t want trans people “defining women.” It’s OK when the boot is on the other foot though…

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Hypocrisy: My opinion of Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans

In my opinion the question is not whether Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans of Leicester University is a hypocrite but how much of a hypocrite she is. 

In her disingenuous article on the University of Leicester website she effectively criticises Caitlyn Jenner for having a normaitve appearance. The implication being that all trans people should have non-normative appearences in order to undermine the Patriarchy or whatever her brand of feminism wants. Apparently for her trans people are the shock troops of some Radical Feminist assault on whatever it is they want to take on. We are to be sent over the top into no-man’s land with no protection from the machine-guns of patriarchical oppression; trans people should present in some kind of non-normative way, and be clearly identifiable as such, and be mown down by the violent males of the patriarchy. 

Subversivism is a problem for trans people, not all trans people want to undermine the patriarchy in the way she wants, and most of those who do are quite capable of deciding for themselves how they will do it thank you. I suspect Caitlyn Jenner sitting in a sports car wearing a red minidress is doing more to undermine the patriarchy than a whole sewer full of TERF academics.

After all, according to Brunskell-Evans’ in her attempt to undermine the patriarchy the logical people to recruit cause are, or course, the 0.5% of the population that consists of trans women, rather than the 50%-odd of the population who are cis women (or indeed the other approx 50% who are cis men). I haven’t seen Brunskell-Evans single out any cis women on the cover of Vanity Fair for her critique, so why is she picking on Caitlyn Jenner? Smells like the odour of double-standards to me.

Of course her article dredges up the old discredited TERF transphobic canard of “autogynephilia”, which properly marks her out as a TERF, just in case there were any doubt and she deliberately misgenders Caitlyn at the start of her article too, the usual treatment trans people have come to expect from transphobic bigots, however much they pretend to be allies. 

However Dr Brunskell-Evans’ article also reflects the current TERF trend of presenting transphobes as the victims of the “trans police”. If only. Other minority groups get protected from the sort of language trans people are told they have to put up with on a daily basis in the media. No-one thinks twice about condemning someone if they start spouting homophobic language in the press, yet somehow trans people are fair game for abuse and harassment and are portrayed as totalitarian when we fight back. And this apparently “Radical” Feminist is prepared to cite and support a hard-right-wing libertarian, who doubtless supports the kind of neoliberalism she ostensibly criticises.

Yup, hypocrisy in layers, buckets, shedloads, multilayered hypocrisy, but the big one is the one not immediately apparent; this is Dr Brunskell-Evans on the University of Leicester website; hammy not exactly non-normative, as you can see, especially not uncisnormative. 

But I guess that is OK, she can tell others to be non-normative while remaining within the relative safety of her normative appearance. "You can be marked and Othered, you can be a target, you can make yourselves vulnerable, I will continue to pass safely."