Now we’re Cotton Mather

Oh good grief. I thought I was going to leave the subject for today but then I saw this piece at Inside Higher Ed, fatuously titled Taking Trans Lives Seriously. Because what, there are all these people making a big joke of trans lives? Are we supposed to take trans lives more seriously than any other kinds of lives? (Of course; stupid question.)

It is not permissible to debate in some academic parlor game the lives of people who are oppressed and murdered, writes Mark Lance.

“Some academic parlor game” says a professor of philosophy at Georgetown. Anyway people aren’t “debating the lives” of trans people in the way he wants us to think: debating whether they deserve to live or not. That’s a cheap, manipulative move which ought to be beneath a philosopher.

In 1702, the New England Puritan Cotton Mather produced a theological/philosophical reflection on the nature of the American continent and its inhabitants. He asserted that the heathen savages that Europeans had met here were probably put here by the devil, likely lacked souls, were more akin to beasts than humans and absolutely must be at least converted, and if not, removed (i.e. killed).

Oh, good opening – he’s going to say that’s what gender critical philosophers are doing, i.e. saying trans people should be killed. Nothing hyperbolic or unfair about that.

[A]t the dawn of the 18th century, as a mass influx of Europeans are launching one of the largest campaigns of ethnic cleansing and genocide in human history, these remarks are violence. They are an endorsement of genocide and played a very real role in facilitating it.

Recently, a small but highly visible group of scholars has taken to arguing against the growing acceptance of the gender self-identifications of trans people — insisting that trans women are really men, trans men really women, trans lesbians really heterosexual men and so forth — and often explicitly presenting these arguments as support for legal efforts to restrict trans folks’ access to public spaces.

Sure enough, that’s what he’s saying. Gender critical feminists are like Cotton Mather, and are endorsing and playing a role in facilitating genocide against trans people. Don’t be shy, professor. He’s not a trendy young woke philosopher, either, but a grown adult. Also, that bullshit about “support for legal efforts to restrict trans folks’* access to public spaces” – that sounds as if gc feminists want a blanket rule expelling trans people in general from public spaces in general. That’s incredibly dishonest. The issue is whether women are required to “include” trans women in all spaces reserved for women, and women do have a right to have opinions on that without being accused of facilitating genocide or advocating apartheid.

*”folks” yet again – it’s always “folks” – it’s a tell.

I do not suggest that the current situation around TE“RF” philosophers is as grim as the genocide of Native Americans.

He says, having just done exactly that.

Obviously, there are differences of quantity, and some of content, between what happened to Native Americans in the 1700s and what’s occurring in academe today.

What?? There are some differences of content? But it’s still pretty close to what happened to Native Americans in the 18th century? That’s just deranged (and defamatory).

But when trans folks are systematically reviled, mocked and disempowered; when they are disproportionately harassed by police, arrested and brutalized — both on the street and in custody — and when there are active campaigns or existing laws in many countries to deny them basic human rights, one cannot merely have a polite discussion about the nature of gender and sex. To produce arguments, in this context — that trans women are not women, or trans lesbians are not lesbians — is not just a view we can easily reject as confused and offensive. It is complicity with systemic violence and active encouragement of oppression.

So we have to just shut up, and wax J Yaniv’s balls, and nod approvingly when Morgane Oger gets funding taken away from Vancouver Rape Relief, and applaud when boys win girls’ races. Yes sir yes sir, anything you say sir, it’s not your rights being taken away but you’re the boss so yes sir, yes sir.

And to write pompous open letters about efforts to combat such complicity without mentioning any of the relevant context, to write as if this is simply an abstract question of academic freedom, to pretend that the cisgendered deniers of trans rights are the real victims because others criticize them is not nearly far enough from our hypothetical reaction to Cotton Mather.

But we’re not “deniers of trans rights.” We don’t want to take any rights away from trans people. We also don’t want trans people to take away our rights, and the reality is that a few trans women have made some major dents in our rights.

It is difficult for me to see how highly educated, highly intelligent people can fail to see these obvious points. Perhaps they do, or perhaps something more complicated or more sinister is going on. I don’t know, or really care, what is behind it. But everyone who cares about the current victims of social and institutional bigotry needs to denounce it.

It is not permissible to debate the lives of people who are oppressed and murdered. Those who treat this like an intellectual game should not be engaged with. They should be told to [unprintable here] — just as I hope we would respond to Cotton Mather. Every time.

I find that breathtaking.

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