By Brendan O’Neill, Editor of Spiked:

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Trans activists really need to lighten up

Transsexuals’ histrionic response to every slight only confirms how flimsy their identity is.

Why are transsexual activists so sensitive to criticism? This is a serious question, not an insult. There must be some reason why the trans community, as it calls itself, is worse at taking criticism or tolerating insulting commentary than, say, the Christian community or the butch lesbian community, both of which also get flak on the internet and elsewhere but don’t tend to respond to it in the way trans types do.

Over the past fortnight we’ve had loads of histrionics from trans activists. Feminist Julie Bindel was hounded off a panel discussion at a British university because she once criticised trans people. Roseanne Barr, maker of the best sitcom of the Eighties, currently stands accused of ‘transphobia’ basically because she tweeted favourably about someone who criticised the trans identity. This follows the trans community’s successful removal of Julie Burchill’s trans-slamming article from the website of the Observer earlier this year. When I wrote a piece arguing that Bradley Manning is not a woman, despite his claims to the contrary, I was bombarded with suggestions that I should kill myself. This from trans activists who (ludicrously) held Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn responsible for the suicide of a trans schoolteacher and said the media must be careful never to criticise this community lest its members feel tempted to kill themselves.

Of course, ours is an age of super-sensitivity, when feeling offended, and more importantly loudly and proudly declaring your feelings of offence, has become the lifeblood of public discourse. But there are different degrees of offence-taking. Some groups seem more capable of riding out criticism than others. Yes, Christian outfits play the victim card and bleat to officialdom about feeling offended by an ad or an article, but mostly they just ignore web-based Christian-bashing, which is voluminous. Islamists are more sensitive, hollering for beheadings whenever someone mocks Muhammad or says the Koran is cobblers.

And the trans lobby is even more sensitive than that, reacting with censorious anger not only to insults but also to people’s allegedly incorrect use of language, to being called ‘a transsexual’, for example, rather than ‘a member of the trans community’. They even picket the offices of newspapers that have the temerity to piss them off. Why the extraordinary touchiness?

I think it reflects the fundamental flimsiness of the trans identity, the fragility of this so-called community. Transsexuals’ hopping-mad reaction to any perceived slight doesn’t confirm that they are a well-organised, increasingly cocky gang holding the world to ransom, as some have claimed. Rather it reveals the opposite – that this is a ‘community’ so sadly uncertain of its own claims, so instinctively aware of the largely phoney nature of its arguments, that it must protect itself from any form of public ridicule or questioning lest its facade be knocked down.

The rule of modern-day identity politics and offence-taking seems to be this: the less rooted and real one’s identity is, the more obsessed one becomes with erecting a forcefield around it in order to keep at bay awkward query-raisers.

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