The life they choose

Oh go take a running jump. Women aren’t required to “balance” our rights with those of men.

Our CEO, Sam Smethers, reflects on the importance of empathy in order to balance the rights of both women and trans women in relation to the debate around sex and gender identity.

Trans women are men. Women get to focus on our own rights. Tell the men to have some empathy for us why don’t you.

For me, it’s about independent (evidence-based) thinking, clarity of voice and speaking truth to power. On the issue of sex, gender and identity I have refused to simply pick a side, although I am repeatedly told to, and instead maintain that this is complicated and there are competing rights that need to be recognised.

No there aren’t. It’s not a “right” to force other people to agree that you’re something you’re not, or to take protections or prizes that are meant for a group other than your own.

There are two defining fears. For women, the fear of male violence defines and shapes our world view. This frames the issue of trans rights because some women feel this threat is not being acknowledged as part of the discussion of gender self-identification. For trans people, it is the fear that they will not be recognised and accepted for who they are.

Those are two radically different kinds of fear.

Also, for trans people what they want is to be recognized and accepted for who they are not. That’s the stumbling block. The story is that they “feel like” the other sex and that makes them the other sex, but saying you “feel like” something doesn’t make you that thing unless that thing is itself a mental state. You can say you “feel like” a house or a swordfish or a galaxy, but that doesn’t make you those things. It’s not reasonable to try to force the rest of the world to act as if your personal fantasy about yourself is objective reality.

This informs their response when the fear of male violence is raised because, for trans women at least, they see themselves as women who are more likely than any other group to be targeted by violence…

In other words they simply disregard women. You expect us to compromise with that? Oh hell no.

If someone describes you as a man when you regard yourself to be a woman and have done for some time, it is bound to be hurtful, distressing and will undermine your ability to live the life you choose…

Oh would you please grow up? You don’t get to “regard yourself as a woman” when you’re not one – not in the sense of imposing your belief on everyone else. These are men we’re talking about. Infantilizing blather about “hurtful and distressing” is just that.

People don’t always get to “live the life they choose” anyway, haven’t you noticed? You can choose life as a Supreme Court justice or a top tier movie star, but your odds of being either one are slim. You can choose a love object but if the love object doesn’t reciprocate then you’re out of luck.

It goes to the very heart of who you are. I think this is why trans people often refer to others denying their right to exist. Because it is about their very identity.

Sorry but that’s meaningless. Female and male bodies just are what they are. Be creative about how that plays out in your own case by all means, but female and male bodies remain what they are. One’s “very identity” doesn’t mean anything. Imagination is a powerful thing but it doesn’t actually transform us into what we’re pretending to be.

Living as our authentic selves is what we all want isn’t it?

It depends on what “authentic self” means. If it means a woman or man with a particular temperament and so on, yes, of course, but if it means the opposite sex or a different species or a visitor from Neptune, then no. I don’t think an “authentic self” is something people should think about much once they’re out of their teens. An “authentic self” sounds like a very special self, and I think people ought to stop thinking of themselves as very special. It gets rid of a lot of obstacles.

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