Trans*Mission August Roundup

In this week’s roundup, Trans*Mission plumbs the depths of how silly transphobia can get in the silliest season, from arguing that cis women cannot compete in chess because of their feminine brains to censorious pearl-clutching about a mural depicting a trans man.

 

Send in the clowns! We arrived at (and somehow endured) August, when the professional opinion-havers in the gutter press lose their typical fair of parliamentary drama and copy and paste government press releases and so must exercise one of their least developed faculties: their imaginations. The result? A hilarious, sometimes troubling avalanche of nonsense, moral panic, prejudiced invective and whipped-up, confected outrage. And since that is the “substance” of the trans moral panic, a heaping mound of transphobia, mostly from insecure cisgender men enjoying the excuse of a “legitimate” target for their misogyny. 

Every Pawn is a Queen

One of the leading outlets for transphobia is the spurious claim that cisgender women’s sports desperately need protection from the intrusion of trans (and then, quite quickly, intersex) women’s presence. This claim is trotted out despite the few instances of trans women competing at high levels of professional sport, and fewer of them winning; despite the inconclusive evidence around advantages; despite professional sport never being about some abstract principle of fairness, and so on and so on. 

But if the shallowness of these “concerns” was not readily apparent from any assessment of their basis, especially an unwillingness to create a set of guidelines that can be applied in ways that do not blatantly ban all trans women from fair competition, it becomes more so in the phrenology-adjacent claim that women need protecting from trans women’s ‘competitive edge’ in sports that involve purely intellectual capacities. This is the case in the recent decision by Fide, the International Chess Federation, to ban trans women from competing in women’s leagues without justification. 

The move is triply absurd. In the first place, because no reason was given, could be given, besides flagrant prejudice. In the second instance, since the rules would likely lead to a range of legal complications, from equalities legislation requiring some pretext to exclude trans people to data privacy breaches involved in outing trans women and men (trans men were to have awards earned in women’s league games stripped, even if won pre-transition). And finally, absurd because within a short duration, both the German and then the English leagues dismissed the ruling as baseless and harmful, calling Fide’s transphobic bluff. 

The ridiculousness of this ruling did not prevent the usual media and anti-trans hubbub. Trans*Mission will not link to pieces written by bigots, but it was a bemusing spectacle to witness transphobes who allege to be feminists arguing with one another about whether women’s brains are inferior to men’s in a strategic board game, as yet a further example of how misogyny underscores every form of anti-trans politics. This is true whether it calls itself conservative, radical feminist or gender critical. 

Meanwhile, the censoriousness of this movement was on full display over concern trolling about a mural depicting a trans man who had undergone top surgery. Senior politicians got involved in lecturing Costa, the offending company that had displayed the artwork, as the transphobes briefly forgot their supposedly foundational love of free speech to pretend that the mere recognition that trans people exist and that gender-confirming surgery helps us to flourish constituted an assault on all of womankind. 

The pretence here is that such surgery is a form of mutilation; we at Trans*Mission eagerly await for the same people to become suddenly as passionate in their opposition to cis people receiving gender-confirming surgeries, such as cis men removing medically benign gynamascia and cis women enlarging their breasts or feminising their facial features. Medical autonomy for thee, but not for me. 

Irrespective, as every pawn is a queen in potentia, trans existence is irrepressible and once we reach the end of the game board, our power is extraordinary. Whether we consider trans men gaining public visibility or trans women exercising their intellects to compete in an old and beautiful game of wits, trans life persists and triumphs against the assorted ghouls and their nineteenth-century pseudoscience.  

A Fog of Hokum

New studies have added weight to the case for trans medical autonomy. These pieces of US research have simultaneously debunked the notion of trans regret for gender-affirming surgeries and that young trans men are transitioning for reasons besides sincerely held gender identities (the so-called Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria myth that alleges social contagion of trans identities has been rubbished yet again). But the point of transphobia is not to make credible arguments but to bury trans life, if not by censorship, beneath a deluge of tiresomely repeated hokum. 

Transphobes are not only opportunistically against free speech but are stridently opposed to it; their free speech postures are only a pretence. This can be seen in their repeated use of lawfare, a tactic to suppress dissent using litigation (or the threat of it) often deployed by self-obsessed celebrities or repressive states such as those in Israel, Hungary, China, etc. Two recent examples of the anti-trans cult engaging in such activity can be seen in the Family Education Trust choosing to issue a spurious copyright takedown against Trans Safety Network’s fair use reporting on them and a failed 72-page judicial complaint against the admission of a single trans woman into a sorority in Wyoming. Repeatedly, whether attacking harmless murals or free association, transphobia opposes the liberty it pretends to guard.

Considering these bad-faith actors make such bold claims to have the weight facts on their side, they repeatedly insist on deploying only the most slippery and underhand tactics. But this comes as little surprise to trans people, as we face not only this parade of fascist cry-bullies but, in the same instance, the social reality of discrimination that all of this noise is intended to obscure. So whether it is vexatious litigation or repeated chatter about the threat our brains pose to women’s chess playing, we can talk about anything but the grim realities of trans and queer life in contemporary Britain and elsewhere.

Those realities include a crackdown on our right to use toilet facilities in public, the unashamed return of conversion therapy in the treatment of trans youth by the NHS, the sometimes over three decades-long waiting lists obstructing trans adults from accessing lifesaving treatments in our ‘free at the point of use’ healthcare system and an increasingly vociferous transphobic consensus in party politics extending from the Tory Party and Labour through most of their smaller rivals. 

While August might be the time for the monsters to don their clown suits, it is essential to recognise that these are merely disguises. The monstrous truth of the predicament facing trans people is not undermined by the exaggerated surrealism of the case made against us but only hidden by this morbid pantomime. And with an exhausting certainty, September will see much of the colourful nonsense packed into wardrobes so that the (self-)serious transphobes in parliament and the media can undertake their task: the suppression and ultimate elimination of trans life by any means, from medical care denial to banishment from civil society, from suppression of our speech to the manipulations and abuses of conversion therapy, from encouraging hate crime to harassing us wherever we appear.

Links

NEWS ROUNDUP

UK

“Costa Coffee defends mural of post-op trans man after boycott threat”, The Independent, Laura Sharman, (1st, Link)

“The history books will see Theresa May as a bigger trans ally than Keir Starmer”, Metro, Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir, (2nd, Link)

“New Young People’s Gender Clinic hires controversial Gender Exploratory Therapist”, Trans Safety Network, Mallory Moore, (3rd, Link)

“India Willoughby says Keir Starmer’s Labour party has thrown trans people ‘under the bus’”, PinkNews, Sophie Perry, (5th, Link)

“Parents just want their trans children to grow up ‘awesome’ amid ‘worsening transphobia’”, Metro, Josh Milton, (5th, Link)

“Are trans people being used for ‘outrage marketing’? Why brands must put inclusion before publicity”, PinkNews, Sophie Perry, (5th, Link)

“Minister advises Costa Coffee to ‘avoid politics’ after trans mural backlash”, PinkNews, Sophie Perry, (7th, Link)

“Trans people allegedly waiting up to 35 years for first appointment on NHS”, PinkNews, Amelia Hansford, (7th, Link)

“”I quite like that violent resistance”: Gender critical activist Harry Miller’s speech at conservative Christian conference”, Trans Safety Network, Sarah Clarke, (9th, Link)

“As a trans person, I want to have a conversation with Amanda Abbington”, Metro, Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir, (10th, Link)

“Badminton England bans trans women from female competitions”, PinkNews, Amelia Hansford, (11th, Link)

“Police chanted down after telling activist to stop carrying ‘offensive’ sign at Trans Pride Manchester”, PinkNews, Amelia Hansford, (13th, Link)

“UK crackdown on gender-neutral bathrooms could put trans people in danger – just look at the US”, PinkNews, Maggie Baska, (14th, Link)

“Woman begs UK to ‘do something’ about rising anti-LGBTQ+ hate after trans relative flees to Canada”, PinkNews, Amelia Hansford, (22nd, Link)

“Family Education Trust issues copyright takedown against TSN reporting”, Trans Safety Network, Sarah Clarke, (23rd, Link)

Chess!

“Statement of the German Chess Federation on the ‘@FIDE_chess Policy on Transgender Chess Players Registration’”, (18th, Link)

“Response to FIDE’s new trans regulations”, English Chess Federation (21st, Link)

“Trans chess master found ‘home’ in the game and ‘a place for interacting despite our differences’”, media, author, (31st, Link)

International 

“Transgender and nonbinary patients have no regrets about top surgery, small study finds”, CNN, Jen Christensen, (9th, Link)

“Evidence Undermines ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’ Claims”, Scientific American, Timmy Broderick, (24th, Link)

“Judge dismisses lawsuit against UW sorority, transgender sister”, WyoFile, Maggie Mullen and Joshua Wolfson, (25th, Link)

ESSAYS

“Stop Excluding Trans Girls in the Name of ‘Protecting Women’s Sports’”, Self, Joanna Hoffman, (24th, Link)

“Trans students benefit from gender-inclusive classrooms, research shows – and so do the other students and science itself”, The Conversation, Sarah Eddy, (31st, Link)

Want to participate in the fightback? Join Anti*Capitalist Resistance and become a member of our Trans*Mission group! 

Also, if you know a story you want to appear in next week’s roundup, please email it to us.


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