Another resignation

This seems unfortunate:

From his statement:

In light of recent events, I have taken the difficult decision to resign from the position of President-Elect of Humanist Students.

These events involved a retweet of mine saying ‘RT if women don’t have penises’, and certain other criticisms of the transgender movement, as well as suggestions to improve the movement’s actions. Sadly, these views were taken to be ‘transphobic’ by individuals who cannot tolerate any criticism, either of their movement or their ideas, and are unable to engage in a civilized conversation on issues they disagree on. These are individuals who think they hold the absolute right to determine which ideas can be discussed and what language can be used in a public forum.

Saying “women don’t have penises” seems like a very peculiar reason to be pressured to resign from a position. Compare:

  • cats don’t have feathers
  • fish don’t have fur
  • giraffes don’t have scales
  • eels don’t have fingers

I don’t suppose any of those claims would get people pushed out of a humanist leadership position. But saying “women don’t have penises” is different how?

If you’re not an orthodox “trans ally” then it’s different in no way, it’s just a banal statement of fact: women don’t have penises, men don’t have vaginas, SexEd 101 now let’s move on to the stuff we don’t know. But if you are an orthodox “trans ally” then it’s akin to racism. Logically it ought also to be akin to sexism, but it isn’t, because what sexism is has also been redefined, along with who has penises and who doesn’t.

But maybe it’s not that simple? Maybe saying it on Twitter (by retweeting it) is not a banal statement of fact but a form of unkindness or harassment toward trans women? That’s how some people see it, certainly, but then how are we to understand the frequent calls for violence against “TERFs”?

Back to the statement:

I may be wrong and women might indeed have penises, although I don’t believe that to be the case, but the backlash that took place after my comments, particularly within the organization, convinced me that, unfortunately and surprisingly, there are certain issues within the humanist movement which are undebatable — no effort was made, beyond name-calling, derogatory comments, and ad hominem statements, to convince me of the truth of the other side’s position.

I am a humanist, I remain a proud member of Humanist Students, and I will continue to support Humanists UK in their outstanding efforts to promote rational thinking and logic in society, challenge religious privilege, fight for human rights, and achieve freedom from religion, and establish a secular state. However, as an individual, I am not willing to give up my right to form my own opinion on controversial issues just because this might conflict with an organization’s position or offend some of its members, nor ask whether my position coincides with the organization’s before expressing myself. I believe that it is the individual who shapes an organization, not the other way round.

I do respect all transgender people, support their struggle to gain the rights they deserve and be of equal status to all other human beings — it is a real shame that people question the status of transgender individuals as human beings, and that the suicide rate for transgender individuals is alarmingly high. However, I have the right to disagree with certain actions of the transgender movement and express certain criticisms of the societal implications of sex and gender, and criticize how an individual can legitimately ‘be whatever they say they are’ i.e. how an individual chooses to identify herself.

One can be supportive and critical of an idea at the same time, and that, I believe, is the beauty of striving to be a skeptic and rational individual. The fact that you have the absolute right to identify yourself as you wish does not make you immune from criticism. Christopher and others have been too quick to judge my position on transgender issues — my position is an attack on ‘gender’ as a concept, and an attempt to point out some flaws in the logic behind the transgender movement followed by suggestions on how the movement can improve itself to be able to better reach its aims. If you are unaware of the other side of the debate (i.e. those criticizing your decision), this is not because it does not exist, but because you have silenced it.

Meanwhile women go right on not having penises.

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