A difference between legal and ontological anything

Jane Clare Jones’s analysis of Judge Tayler’s ruling is mammoth (in a good way!) so I’ll take small bites.

Judge Tayler’s operating ontology surfaces in his refusal to recognise that for women to adequately express their political critique of trans activist demands it is necessary to point to sex and sometimes, even, to the sex of specific individuals – a refusal which effectively corresponds to an easy dismissal of the political stakes for women, and a blunt lack of respect for our specific political interests. The half-explicit denial of sex is also central to Tayler’s refusal of Maya’s claim that the GRA creates a legal fiction, a refusal that makes sense only on the basis of denying that there is any difference between legal and ontological sex.

This is the exact distinction I made in that comment thread on Freethought blogs, that caused all the wheels to come flying off. I said “political” as opposed to “legal” but the distinction is the same: legal or social or political on the one hand and ontological on the other. Will I agree to pretend that trans women are women versus will I agree that trans women literally are women in every sense. The distinction is crucial and if we’re not even allowed to make it then we’re in bedlam. Tayler takes us into bedlam.

By suggesting that there is only the man-made structure of ‘legal sex,’ Tayler is effectively asserting the priority of the ideal/cultural over material/biological reality. Here, legal sex (like it’s conceptual twin ‘gender identity’) trumps/erases biological sex, and the judgement itself turns out to be a perfect performance of the core of the ideology we were seeking to show we had a lawful right to resist.

And one of the ironies is…if there weren’t so much ferocious insistence on that, the social fiction would probably be a lot easier.

While women’s political interests or specific feelings are entirely ignored, Tayler judges trans people’s distress of such significance that it’s taken to easily trump both material reality (which he’s more or less handwaved anyway) and women’s concerns (which he never even bothered to consider) to such a degree, that, like the movement whose logic it so closely resembles, the judgement then lapses into ontological totalitarianism.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

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