How to share perspectives

The American Humanist Association is apparently captive. Rachel Deitch, their Director of Policy and Social Justice, ardently defends the “right” of men who identify as women to compete against women in sport. Women have to take a back seat to men who identify as women.

A few weeks ago this story was shared on the Facebook page of the American Humanist Association (AHA) to celebrate a preliminary injunction by a federal judge against Idaho’s backwards Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. The comments thread quickly devolved into a malicious and transphobic free-for-all. Faced with an onslaught of posts that violated our social media guidelines, our social media coordinator brought the social justice department in to assist. It took nearly three hours for all of us to properly moderate the conversation, and we’re still actively monitoring the post because the vitriol hasn’t stopped.

She doesn’t include a link to the Facebook post though. That’s disobliging, since according to her it was weeks ago. There are a lot of posts on their account so it’s too much trouble to scroll and scroll and scroll trying to find the right one. Normal etiquette would be to link to the post, since it’s what she’s talking about. It’s only fair to give readers links to the subject under discussion. Also it kind of looks like bad faith not to. Why not link to it? Is she hiding something?

As a team, we did a post mortem: What could we have done differently to stem the harm early? Should we have taken the post down? What can we do better next time? But this exercise doesn’t change the fact that our social media platforms, which are intended to be a positive space where humanists from all over the country can share perspectives and build community, fostered harm with that post.

If their social media platforms are intended to be a positive space where humanists from all over the country can share perspectives, then why couldn’t people share their perspectives on that post? Why did the AHA have to “moderate” the conversation? Why is “men are women if they say they are” the only perspective allowed? Especially when the subject is women’s sport?

So, while elsewhere we’re working on repairing that harm, I’d like to use this space to lay out our perspective. To be clear, as a cisgender heterosexual woman, I am not writing on behalf of transgender athletes. And I encourage people who haven’t already taken in perspectives from transgender athletes to do so now. I also will not attempt to debunk every harmful, transphobic, and transmisogynist myth shared on our page about transgender athletes. Others have already done that more thoroughly than I could.

What about perspectives from female athletes though? Why do we have to take in perspectives from trans athletes but not from female ones? Why are women being told, yet again, to step back and Be Kind and do what we’re told?

But we also have to ask: What are we protecting students from? With the scientific evidence available, sporting bodies have determined that transgender athletes do not have an unfair advantage over cisgender athletes.

The issue isn’t generic “transgender athletes,” it’s male athletes who claim they identify as female. Lumping it all into “transgender athletes” is one of the many evasive dishonest ploys that people use to try to make this shit smell like roses. It’s not true that all sporting bodies have determined that transgender athletes do not have an unfair advantage over cisgender athletes, and the reality is that of course some of them do: specifically, males do.

School athletics teach young people about teamwork, goal setting, self-esteem, and, yes, they also teach about healthy competition. Shouldn’t all students get the opportunity to participate in that learning, and shouldn’t they be able to do that authentically?

Yes, which means female students should not be forced to compete against male students simply because the latter say they are girls. There’s nothing particularly “authentic” about claiming to be whatever you say you are. Saying isn’t magic.

Let’s not mince words. Laws that try to prevent trans athletes from participating in sports or prevent trans students from using the bathroom most suitable for them aren’t about protecting women and girls. They’re about shaming and controlling transgender bodies.

If that’s what we get when we don’t mince words then let’s mince words, because that right there is some stupid crap. I can promise you I have zero interest in shaming and controlling transgender bodies. My interest is in retaining and expanding the rights of women and girls as opposed to handing those rights over to men and boys who claim to identify as female.

As humanists, what kind of society do we want? I would hope it’s one guided by scientific evidence but founded on the dignity and worth of every human being. Personally, I was ashamed of how our community represented itself on Facebook that day. While I’m sure a fair number of commenters were trolls, we also must consider that vitriolic and harmful comments also came from humanists. That’s something we will continue to reckon with.

And by “reckon with” we mean ignore or demonize the actual arguments the putative “trolls” were making. Very humanist, much dignity and worth.

For this humanist, and for the American Humanist Association as an organization, bone density and femur-to-hip angles—major points of contention from our Facebook comments—do not make a person, do not make an athlete, and do not make a woman.

So let those female bones be broken on the rugby field and in the boxing ring! It’s the humanist thing to do!

H/t Sackbut

Updating to add: the first Facebook post is here. Thanks Your Name’s not Bruce?

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