Thursday, December 10, 2015

Michelle Goldberg's relentless anti-trans bias

People are asking me to respond to the latest Michelle Goldberg article, wherein she paints transgender activism as this horrible activist movement that oppresses both feminists and its own transgender constituents.

I don't have the time or energy to fully respond to this particular piece at the moment. But I do want to remind/alert people that Goldberg has a strong & persistent anti-trans bias that has been articulated by me here, and has been chronicled by the Columbia Journalism ReviewBitch Magazine, Autostraddle, Bilerico, and New Statesman.

Trans people (like every minority or majority group) don't agree with each other on every issue. There are more than one or two or five or twenty or more (many more!) trans perspectives on our collective experiences and activism. We, like all communities, often disagree with one another. To reduce this down to a strict dichotomy, and to pit certain trans people against other trans people (and to play up those differences to entice unaware cisgender audiences and dismiss transgender activism) is the worst kind of dumbed-down salacious journalism.

I am fine with people having opinions. If you have a strong opinion, state it! And own it! That way people will be able to know where you stand. Passionately make your case and show all sides of the story - convince us why your stance is the most reasoned position. If you do this, I will respect you. I may not agree with you, but I will respect you. So long as you do not resort to lies and/or ad hominem attacks.

While I respect (albeit disagree with) TERFs who hold theories/positions different from my own, I abhor charlatan's who pretend to dispassionately/objectively chronicle such debates, while clearly (to those aware of said issues) promoting one side or the other.

At this point in time, there are two people who seem most driven to repeatedly denounce transgender activism under the guise of supposedly objective journalism. One is Alice Dreger. The other is Michelle Goldberg. Both pretend to be objective, while purposefully promoting heavily slanted agendas. Both create false dichotomies & straw men, when in reality trans perspectives are vast & diverse.

1 comment:

  1. I've found Goldberg's piece to be far too triggering to respond to in full. I will address one statement. Here she says:

    "There are ultra-orthodox Jews who burn the Israeli flag, black people who oppose affirmative action, women—lots of women, actually—who are hostile to feminism. Yardley and Highwater are part of such a dissenting faction of trans people, one that’s often described as “gender-critical.”"

    Michelle is clearly capable of understanding the difference between dissent and hatred, but she is too irresponsible to examine her own biases towards women who are trans (of whom I am one.)

    My lived experience is that I am a woman assigned male at birth: my biology is a clear path to the existence of women who are trans, who in turn are clearly women. I experience much of the same distress and trauma as others who are denied their existence for similar reasons of "dissent", for reasons of skin colour, gender (the basic rights of women), religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, body shape, and others. But will I *ever* be a woman in the narrow, biological definition of woman provided by some people? No, but neither will many cis women I know, some of whom express their discomfort with what is and isn't considered a woman every day. They struggle with differences in their religions, fields of study such as Women's Studies, and with the expectations of women in society.

    My friends who do express this discomfort still express safety under the umbrella of what our society considers to be a woman, even if they do not conform to the accepted standards of what is a woman in their community. That is what I am asking of Michelle: to be affirmed as someone who expresses a feminine identity and biology (there is more than one way to biologically be a woman, and I and many others are proof of that) though I was mistakenly assigned male at birth. I am also asking for gender-neutral greetings, language and markers not only for me but for genderqueer, gender-fluid, non-binary, Two-Spirit, and agender people. I do sense from Michelle that she feels the rights of minorities should not exist if the majority feels they should not have those rights.

    Michelle is in my opinion an irresponsible journalist and columnist and the proof is there in her words. None of us are in control of who will dissent from what. The overwhelming sentiment I get that runs through this article is that Michelle believes trans women should not exist, and that trans women are just a sub-category of male.

    She is exploiting people who's existence she would otherwise be denying if they disagreed with her, and she is using them to make her argument for her. This is unacceptable from her as someone who's pieces are professionally published. In the examples she mentioned she accepts people's right to dissent, as we all should. But transgender and gender-variant individuals have decisively won the right to gender identity and gender expression in my home province of Alberta, and her acceptance of a person's right to exist as their gender identity, and be affirmed by the world as such, seems contingent on whether or not they agree with her personal feelings.

    In my opinion, her lack of empathy towards trans women and her inability to own her feelings of opposition to the existence of women who are trans qualifies her as having her opinion taken no more seriously than the cis crank next to me at the coffee shop who opposes my identity as a woman while taking for granted her own existence as who she feels is a woman. No one's telling her to be quiet, but her opinion should move no further than a letter to the editor.

    Her piece is to me a stab at the heart of trans acceptance, worded as a piece of investigative journalism that should be written by someone less biased towards the trans community.