Response to Kai Weston Coordinator of upcoming RCP “Transgender: Time to Change” Protest
April 9, 2011
I received a comment on my “Transgender: Time To Change” post about the upcoming Lesbian and Gay psychiatry conference from Kai Weston, NUS Trans Representative and organizer of a planned protest against the conference.
It was such a long and thoughtful comment that I thought I would respond to it in a new post. Kai un-ironically used the nick “Jacktivist” for her comment, a term used by feminists to refer to those who use silencing techniques in attempt to quell feminist critique.
The following is her comment and my response.
Submitted on 2011/04/07 at 4:33 pm
wow, I wish I could say that I was shocked by this post, but sadly I’m not. The venom with which this is written seems almost pathological (maybe I should plan a psudeo-scientific conference?) The issue which the trans community is trying to address through this protest isn’t about feminism, or Julie Bindel, but about a particular strand within the psychitric community which is pedalling these theories, and refusing to share an equal platform with academics which hold opposing views. Ok, yes, Julie Bindel does have something to do with it. She seems oddly misplaced amongst the other speakers on the bill, who whilst holding views with which I disagree, at least have an academic background on which to stand. How is an opinon columist whose only grounding in the subject appears to be writing articles based in charicature and stereotyping qualified to speak on this platform? This isn’t some just abstracted topic, but one which has a very real impact on the way people live their day to day lives.
What I find most disturbing is the fact that what seems to be advocated by this conference is an approach which is analogous to the “talking therapies” which used to be (and sometimes still are) used to try and “cure” gay people. No, it is not homophobic to be trans, and no, it isn’t anti-feminist. Mainstream feminism is in itself divided over the topic of trans lives, and many of the people planning on protesting this conference are doing so due to their feminist principles. Please, before you go speaking about the lives of others, do your research throughly. Don’t just look into medical discourses, but look at the cross-cultural and trans-historical evidence for the existance of people who lived lives in gender roles which were chained to their emobodiment. Finally, these speakers are about as scientific as the early sexologists and psychatrists were; try reading “psychopathia transexualis” and look at the homophobic and transphobic nauture of the argument it lays out. You’re making the very same asusmptions here; “these people are actually gay, and their gender identity is a delusion” the only difference between you, and these earlier writers is that you don’t advocate the use of “gay cures”, but you’re still trying to fulfil the early psychatrist’s aims of “curing” trans people of their gender identities. Unfortunately for you, there is much evidenc for the psychological harm that this does, rather than there being evidence to the contrary. One such case study (Rosario: 1992), invovled a gay transman who was being held in a psychatirc ward, but not being allowed to express his gender idenity who also had a series of comorbid mental health conditions. In the case study, they found that allowing him to express his gender identity, rather than worsening his mental health, alleivated many of his symptoms. What was the reason why he wasn’t allowed to express his gender idenity? He said he was attracted to men, and this was in spite of the DSM regulations being updated in 1986 to acknowlegde that gender identity and sexuality were in fact seperate, thus breaking the damaging tradition of assuming that all trans people were simply gay. Please, please do not lead us back down that path, by placing the two under the same category and then pathologising trans people, you take us back towards and understanding of gender and sexuality which pathologised gay people. It is the speakers at this conference which are regressive and obstructing progress, not the protesters. Before you ask, no I do not think gender reassignment is the answer for all trans people, but nor do I think that it is an invalid response to gender identity issues. Rather, I think that the treatment indviduals receive should be taylored to their needs, many people live as trans without hormones or surgery and are happy to do so, but this does not neccersarily translate to the correct course of treatment for all.
I see my positon on this as antihomophobic, antitransphobic, and pro-feminist. Ideally, we should be questioning the way in which society treats gender rather than pathologising indviduals whose genders do not fit into societal models. In this sense, my vision for the world would be one in which people are free of societal constraints on gender expression, regardless of if they make use of hormones and surgery or not.
Here are some of the ways in which your protest is women-hating, homophobic, and transphobic.
Women have a right to critique the apparatus of their subjugation. Not only a right, but a duty. Blacks have a right to critique the social constructs of race. Homosexuals have a right to critique sexuality and heteronormacy. Only the most venomous, pathological racist homophobic hater-of-women would deny the truth of this. That would be YOU.
Your assertion that a respected feminist who widely publishes and presents on the nature of gender is not “qualified” to critique the apparatus of female subjugation at a psychiatry conference dealing with gender is offensive at best. Your misogynist assertion WILL BE PROTESTED.
And don’t try to pretend that your views represent all gendered people or even all of those who want access to medical/surgical sexed body modifications. You only represent a particular strain of genderism, one that is trying to dominate and silence diversity and the voices of women. History will look back very poorly on your strain of gender supremacy. Your future grandchildren will look back on your actions much the way we look back now on those who protested desegregation. Future transgenders will look back and shake their heads at the twisted way their foremothers took a colossal side-step into socially conservative gender fundamentalism.
You try to equate psychiatric practice which supports gender transgression with homosexual aversion therapy designed to support hetero-supremacism. Transgression and Conformity are opposites so your analogy makes no sense. A better equation would be a medical treatment that “cured” homosexuality vs. talk-therapy that supported homosexual transgression despite hetero-supremacist cultural norms. YOU want the psychiatric establishment to treat people who transgress sexuality and sex stereotypes with drugging and surgery, so they can be “cured” of their transgression and slotted nicely back into heterocentric sexist roles. Further, you want to chemically alter children who rebel against hateful oppressive (and increasingly antiquated) cultural norms before they are old enough to apply informed consent.
There was a time when a six year-old boy found wearing mom’s clothes would be told “That is wrong. You must not do that”. Feminists want the kid to do and wear whatever he wants. What YOU want to tell him is “You have a birth defect. There is a thing called an essential male and female essence (unsupported by science) and you must be a defect of nature born in the wrong body. Doctors can fix you with drugs and surgery, removing your natural healthy organs and body’s natural endocrine balance and feedback and replacing it with a lifetime of synthetic hormones which will tie you to doctors and lab tests and pharmacies for the rest of your life. And we’re going to start that process right now because you need to make this decision soon, and you can never change your mind about it later.” That’s what you want. You ARE the aversion therapy advocate.
Ninety-eight percent of children who insist they are transgender, the kids whose feelings and behaviors are so pronounced that they are actually referred for professional treatment as children, 98% of those kids change their mind in adulthood. The majority turn out to be homosexual. Those gay kids are the ones YOU want to rob of a normal healthy physical puberty and maturity. YOU are the homosexual aversion therapy advocate.
Which makes your false equivalency all the more offensive homophobic and hateful. Not only that, you PROTEST the RIGHT of HOMOSEXUALS to EVEN DISCUSS IT.
YOU will be protested.
You are actually going to PICKET a woman for criticizing the construct of sex-based female-hating cultural myths.
You are also going to PROTEST any funding or support for GID clients who don’t agree with you. And those who desire talk-therapy support. And those who decide against chemical and surgical “correction” and want help coping with their physical dysphoria. And help for those who are medically unfit for the drugs and surgery you demand should be the ONLY treatment OPTION for trans clients.
You throw your trans brothers and sisters under the bus, and gender non-conforming children, along with women and homosexuals. That’s what you’re protesting for.
“I see my positon on this as antihomophobic, antitransphobic, and pro-feminist. Ideally, we should be questioning the way in which society treats gender rather than pathologising indviduals whose genders do not fit into societal models. In this sense, my vision for the world would be one in which people are free of societal constraints on gender expression, regardless of if they make use of hormones and surgery or not.”
Then what the hell are you protesting?
Oh that’s right. Women, Gays, Lesbians and gender-nonconforming people.