Guest post: A boiling frog effect

Originally a comment by Artymorty on More carefully, this time.

I can tell you how I understood trans to be part of the Pride rainbow, and I suspect it’s the same for many others:

I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on. In my mind, I always had a vague discomfort with transsexualism’s connection to gender stereotypes, but told myself not to think too much about it because I didn’t know what their experience felt like and I couldn’t judge, analogous to how homophobes don’t know what being gay feels like and don’t understand that it’s not a choice. And besides, these people were gender-role outsiders like us but only more so, coping with homophobia in their own way: very butch lesbians and very effeminate gay — and disproportionately nonwhite — men. (E.g., ’80s drag ball “vogue dancing” culture from the movie Paris is Burning or the TV series POSE.) So I had a rough sense that it was about being not just gay but doubleplus gay and also often discriminated along another axis to boot (woman; ethnic minority). These were very vulnerable people pushed to the furthest edges of society who often couldn’t find work outside of prostitution. And people like that absolutely exist — some trans people do fit that description.

From there it was kind of a boiling frog effect as my understanding of trans slowly broadened to include heterosexuals and not-particularly-gender-nonconforming-seeming males (e.g., Caitlyn Jenner; the dad in Transparent) and it never occurred to me that they weren’t any less oppressed than the first group of trans people even though they weren’t gay or women or nonwhite or poor or homeless or prostituted. Slowly the sympathy I had for the first group transferred to the latter, and I started to see trans people as oppressed simply because they are trans — because of the clothes and pronouns they prefer, and not because of underlying things like being extremely gender-nonconforming while female or nonwhite — and I didn’t readjust my thinking about whether or why this group of people is automatically more vulnerable than me. Their demands got louder (eg “trans women are women, period”) and the frog slowly boiled. Now I was expected to train myself to picture trans people as visibly more-or-less indistinguishable from “cis” people — anyone around you might or might not be trans and how would you even know if you haven’t asked them or seen their genitals! — but at the same time they were still the most oppressed people in the world. (But if they’re indistinguishable from everyone else, how are they oppressed, a little voice said. The answer: because a group of radical feminists won’t accept them as their adopted sex even if they’re indistinguishable from their “cis” counterparts. These feminists are working to unmask innocent, covertly trans people and force them back into their natal sex roles. Or something. I didn’t really bother to check.)

It was gender-neutral bathrooms that started me questioning things. At my workplace it didn’t make sense that we had to get rid of the women’s washroom altogether to accommodate transwomen. Surely we all agreed that women need separate spaces from men — surely the “woke” activists believed in feminism — and surely there were better ways to let (innocent, undetectable or minimally detectable, or more like suspectedly-but-we-dare-not-ask) trans women know we’re not going to challenge them if they use the women’s washroom. Surely if trans women were women, they’d be just as uncomfortable with men in their washrooms as “cis” women would be. Surely they’d be just as opposed to gender-neutral washrooms as any other women would be. But they aren’t — because they are not women. This is where I climbed out of the boiling water and my comrades kept cooking. For them, gender-neutral washrooms were just the beginning of gender-jumbling everything. The less trans activism made sense the more the kids started dismantling everything else in order to accommodate it. Now the very idea of distinguishing women from men is suspect. Now I’ve got female colleagues responding to my issues about the gender-neutral bathrooms with, “Well, I don’t have a problem with men in the women’s washroom.” (Implying that any woman who does is somehow inferior or wrong and not doing her duty to make room for transpeople.)

The behaviour of the bloggers at a certain supposedly progressive website (wink-wink) floored me, and then I really started looking into things and was shocked at the naked misogyny and male-entitled behaviour in trans activism. And the mass trans hysteria surrounding children and adolescents terrifies me. And now I’m watching more and more people begin to peak-trans as the whole thing starts to spin apart.

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