Sniffing and denunciation

There’s an aspect of the recent clusterfuck that I think needs more attention, and that is the way the rhetoric and some of the thinking around it – and around trans activism in general – often has a religious flavor, or an Oprah-therapeutic flavor, or both.

For instance it’s a very popular trope to claim that the enemy of the moment, or the remark or joke or blog post or magazine article or book of the moment, is “hurting trans people.” Just today I saw a claim that trans people have “been hurt by Ophelia’s actions,” and that’s not the first claim of its kind that I’ve seen. You know what that sounds like? The all-too-familiar claim that an atheist or feminist or humanist has “hurt the religious sentiments” of people in Bangladesh or India or Pakistan.

Why is that such a popular trope? It’s not so in other branches of social justice or identity politics or whatever you want to call it. I don’t recall anyone ever saying of the slime pit or A Voice for Men that they were “hurting feminists” – do you? Damaging, harming, silencing, yes, but hurting? It sounds babyish. It sounds like children whining in the back seat – “Mommm, he’s hurting me!!” It doesn’t sound like something an adult wants to say.

Why is it different with trans issues? I would really like to know.

There’s also the attitude to belief, and to credulity. I talked about this in early June, as the clusterfuck was getting under way, in If someone says it, then you know it. There is this insistence that you have to accept what you’re told by the Approved People, and that not doing so is itself transphobic. What kind of epistemology is that? It’s not a kind I ever signed up for, I can tell you that.

And there’s also the attitude to heresy, which is what you would expect from believers.

The story they’re telling is that I simply can’t tolerate disagreement. That’s bullshit. The clusterfuck was never a matter of disagreement – it was a matter of heresy-finding. Alex Gabriel’s ridiculous “Smoke, fire and recognising transphobia” post was not a matter of disagreeing with me, it was a matter of sniffing out my heresy and denouncing it.

That’s what I have no intention of tolerating. And, after all, the people sniffing it out don’t want to tolerate what I do either – because they think it’s not so much wrong as evil.

There are of course plenty of views I consider evil and would never want to be associated with. I would agree that my attitude to such views is comparable to the attitude of religious people to heresy. It’s not that there’s never reason to consider a particular view morally unacceptable. It’s the particulars I differ on; I don’t agree that I’ve said anything morally unacceptable.

I think the bar for what’s morally unacceptable on this subject has been set in a very odd place, or maybe a whole bunch of very odd places (it keeps shifting). I think the subject has been loaded up with pointless arbitrary thought-free shibboleths, and I don’t think that’s healthy – especially for trans people.

I’m not the only one who thinks this. I’m hearing from a lot of people who are afraid to say a word on the subject, because it’s so very easy to be branded a heretic and expelled from the community of good people.

It’s not good. It’s like trying to walk a tightrope over a pool full of sharks. That’s not how to have a working politics or a reasonable worldview or a moral compass. If we can’t think or talk clearly because of the sharks, we’re screwed.

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