Infertile Women Aren’t Your Political Pawn

What I’m about to say is for the male people out there. Because what I’m about to say is glaringly obvious to women.

Women are people who share a very important, defining set of experiences. Among these is whether or not an entirely new human being might emerge from our bodies, with or without our consent.

Before I go on, I’d like you to imagine, for a moment, the gravity of that. This experience does not merely wreck your body for nine months, and cramp your lifestyle for another 18 to 28 after that–though that’s HUGE. It also results in a human being walking the planet that was not there before. If a woman were to squat, give birth, and then walk away from the product of this event (as men do more often than not), she would be tried for MURDER. There is no parallel experience for men. This is something they cannot fully understand.

So women, understandably, spend a significant part of the years between 12 and 60 managing this possibility. Our sexual choices, unlike men’s, must revolve around the fact. Who will I have sex with (will he run screaming if I get pregnant?), when (am I fertile?), and with what contraception (is it effective enough?) are but a few of the considerations.

Then there’s the matter of rape, which is not only awful in and of itself, but also means that even young girls, celibate women and lesbians have to keep pregnancy on their radar.

When we’re not trying not to get pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, we are doing other things that relate directly to our biology: debating with doctors and politicians about our desire to manage our reproduction; sopping up rivers of blood month after month, while ensuring that absolutely nobody ever sees or even knows about the blood; taking a different bus and getting home before dark in the hopes of not getting raped.

“But some women are infertile!!!1!” my ex said to me, once, during one of our routine debates about whether “trans women” have anything significant in common with women. It’s not something he had some insight about–it’s just part of the playbook of things “trans women” tell each other to say when their “womanhood” is questioned.

And here comes the two statements that are obvious to women, but not to men, including those men who enjoy squishing their bodies into unusually colorful or restrictive clothing:

Infertile women aren’t born with a sign of their infertility stamped on their forehead. Most infertile women don’t know they’re infertile until they try to have a child.

AND

Infertility doesn’t mean you run around blissfully exempt from concerns around pregnancy. For many if not most infertile women, infertility means being prone to having miscarriages.

So an infertile women has to spend the years between, say, 15 and twenty-something evaluating and taking birth control, making sexual decisions based on the possibility of pregnancy, deciding whether or not to have kids, panicking when she misses a period, and altering her daily routes and routines in the service of not getting raped. Just like other women.

Then, an infertile woman might, after finding the right partner, try to get pregnant. She might look forward to it and plan her career and life choices around it. She might make a decision about breastfeeding.  Just like other women.

Then, she might take pregnancy tests while she’s trying, and see a string of negative results, and then see a positive one, and then feel overjoyed, and start telling people and making even more plans. Just like other women.

Then, after taking prenatal vitamins, like other women, and going to an obstetrician, like other women, and watching her belly grow for a month, or two, or even nine, like other women, she might collapse in a pool of blood and be rushed to the hospital and find out that there will be no baby after all.

Oh, and also,–miscarriages can be life-threatening.

Does that sound like a break from womanhood, to you? No. That’s a very, very female problem to have.

Then, it might happen to her another time or several other times before she learns that she’s infertile.

Or, she might see that positive pregnancy test, and be devastated, because it’s the wrong time–just like other women. She might consider abortion. She might go through with an abortion.

Just like trans women!

Oh wait–no.

Detect a theme here? Infertile women care about, and have experiences with, reproductive issues. Abortion. Birth control. Pregnancy. Pre-natal medicine. Women’s reproductive rights. Rape.

They may even have more traumatic experiences around reproduction than do other women.

So back the fuck off with your increasingly ignorant and self-serving statements about women.

Postmodern Sex

Articles keep popping up advising people (especially lesbians) on how to “have sex” with trans women. Among the creative acts recommended are “muffing” (fingering the inguinal canals, which are the indentations in the pelvis bone from which the testicles descended at puberty) and “eating ass.”

These ideas are usually proffered when people (especially lesbians) assert that they are not attracted to male bodies or penises. Well! goes the argument. That’s ok. Because sex with trans women doesn’t have to involve penises. It can involve, say, pelvis indentations and asses.

The problem with these recommendations is twofold. Problem one: people aren’t interested in becoming physically intimate with people they aren’t attracted to, notwithstanding the availability of previously-unimagined orifices.

Problem two: these acts aren’t all that enjoyable, especially to the performer. Arguably, they aren’t even sex.

Perhaps it’s intrinsically pleasurable to have your inguinal canal fingered. I wouldn’t know–I don’t have inguinal canals. However, I’m going to openly doubt it. I think it’s more likely that it’s validating–it allows trans women to imagine that they’re having some sort of sex, especially in a receptive (read “feminine”) way, especially with someone (i.e. a lesbian) who typically enjoys fingering and licking the bodies of actual females.

I’ve got this apparently old-fashioned view of sex, where it’s something you do with someone you’re attracted to, someone whose body you want to explore and ravish because you’re driven mad by it. For me, sex is not body parts chosen from an ala carte menu. It’s not an opportunity to signal your political alliances. It’s not when a reluctant person is pressured to rub up against another person whose body is, because of medical intervention, no longer sexually responsive.

We can keep stretching the definition of sex to its breaking point. For example, it’s pleasurable when someone rubs the inside of your elbow, too. But it isn’t sex. If it were sex, some of those who’ve experienced this pleasure would have to say they’ve had sex with their massage therapists, their doctors and their parents.

Sometimes strap-ons are defended as the “real” sex organs of trans men. Is it sex, then, if you retrieve a trans man’s dildo from her dresser drawer and stroke it when she isn’t home? With her consent, of course. I mean, if you’re attracted to men, why shouldn’t you be attracted to a trans man’s male organ?

These tortured definitions of sex become inevitable under queer theory. That’s why Judith Butler had to coin the term “post-genital sexuality.”

After all, if you’re going to defend transgender hormone use and surgery, you’re going to have to address the pesky concern that such interventions nearly always render their recipients uninterested in sex and/or unable to orgasm (don’t ask them–they lie about this. Ask their partners). And for some reason, as a transgender activist, you can’t tell the truth about this, perhaps choosing to defend transgender treatment as nonetheless worth the sacrifice. Instead, you have to pretend that hormone-using and post-op trans people have amazing and vibrant sex lives.

I get it. Any buyer’s remorse for those who have sacrificed their sexual pleasure to “gender” must be literally intolerable. As in, not to be tolerated. To be suppressed via rationalization.

Plus, “We’ll eliminate your orgasms!” is just bad PR.

Unfortunately, this defense mechanism hurts other people. Gender-questioning children and others who are being fed a lie about their future sexual and romantic prospects. Young lesbians who feel pressured to lick a man’s ass before admitting that they exclusively love, and desire, women.

Patriarchy’s always tried to get women to lick men’s asses. It’s just getting a lot more literal.

WoLF’s Opinion on Aimee Stephens v Harris Funeral Homes Is Wrong

Because it keeps coming up in both my real-life and online conversations, I’d like to state, and explain, my position on Aimee Stephens versus Harris Funeral Homes.

For those who don’t know, this case was brought before the Supreme Court in a bundle with two other cases, often referred to as “Bostock.” In the case in question, a male-born person informed the funeral home he worked for that he identified as a woman, and thus wished to wear the “women’s uniform” to work. The funeral home wanted Stephens to adhere to the dress code for men, and fired him. Women’s Liberation Front filed an amicus brief siding with the employer. The judge ruled in favor of Stephens. The judge’s decision was the correct decision for women’s rights.

People keep sending me various breakdowns and explanations of WoLF’s arguments, like this interview with once-WoLF member and lawyer Kara Dansky. They assume I disagree with WoLF’s stance because I don’t understand it. This is not the case. I disagree with WoLF’s stance because it is wrong.

For the record, I’ve met Kara, I like Kara, and Kara is often right. But let’s take a look at her brief explanation of WoLF’s position as articulated in the above interview. I’ll use her comments as a segue into my position on the matter.

My position will roughly fall into three main points:

  • This case is none of our business
  • WoLF’s position relies on thought crime
  • The judge’s decision was based on sex, not on “gender identity,” and thus is a win for sex-based rights

This case is none of our business

If radical feminists are going to score any wins for women’s sex-based rights, they’re going to need to do two things. One, they’re going to need to overcome the growing societal misconception that “radical feminist” equals “anti-trans.” It does not. Radical feminism is focused on preserving the sex-based rights of women and girls. If someone else’s interests are compromised in the service of preserving those rights, trans or not, that’s a side-effect of our cause, not a goal in and of itself.

Two, they’re going to need to focus on what’s important and what, speaking strategically, can succeed. Because of the above misconception, alongside the usual disregard for women’s voices in culture and politics, radical feminists can secure a very limited amount of time and attention from legislators and the public. Thus, we must not squander that.

For example, WoLF once weighed in on a case in which a high school girl lost a scholarship because a male-born person who identified as a girl placed before her in an athletic competition. This is a great use of radical feminist resources. It is both an issue for which the public is likely to be sympathetic, and an issue in which a girl was directly impacted. The public is more likely to care whether a talented girl lost a scholarship in an unfair competition–after all, half of us were once girls, and many people have daughters–than if a grown-ass man wears a dress to work.

What Aimee Stephens wanted to do, however misguided, did not directly impact any women or girls. We should not be interested in stopping this guy. We should not even notice this guy. And we certainly should not be sending the message to society that the vitriolic lies of trans activists are correct, and that we are, in fact, obsessed with opposing whatever transgender people happen to get up to.

WoLF’s position relies on thought crime

Let’s get to the information that’s widely regarded as what makes WoLF’s position defensible, and what I’m often told I’m probably misunderstanding.

At around 8:59, Kara says:

“What this case could have been about [was that the] employer’s policy of having sex-specific dress codes at work is unconstitutional or illegal in some other way. That could have been a very interesting argument to make. But that wasn’t the argument. “

Radical feminists generally agree that women should be allowed to wear pants to work. Radical feminists generally agree that Price v Waterhouse was decided fairly.

Because of these radical feminist positions, and because Kara thinks an argument about the constitutionality of the dress code “would have been a very interesting argument,” we can infer, or at least hope, that WoLF thinks the funeral home’s sex-based dress code is objectionable in the first place.

From a radical feminist perspective, it is an objectionable policy.

After reviewing a policy that’s objectionable, then, WoLF then goes on to weigh in on how the employer should apply its objectionable policy.

What’s next, radical feminists weighing in on how pharmacists can apply the objectionable policy of refusing to dispense birth control?

So there’s the first problem. WoLF aligned itself with an objectionable policy and the employer who created it.

Next, Kara says:

“But that wasn’t the argument. The argument was in fact that Stephens was factually and legally a woman.”

This brings us to my second problem. Either men should be allowed to wear dresses to work, or they shouldn’t. Holding that it’s ok for men to wear dresses to work while thinking certain thoughts (to quote Kara: “I am a man but I prefer the uniform designated for women”), but that it’s not ok for men to wear dresses while thinking other thoughts (“I am factually a woman”), is legally untenable–as well as silly. Likewise, arguing that employers can/should modify their dress code policies for men who think one thing, but not for men who think another, is also untenable.

And to refer back to my first point, it’s also an absurd thing to expect legislators or the general public to wrap their head around, much less agree with–for most people, the clothing choices of gender-nonconformists do not gain or lose credibility based upon the wearer’s thoughts.

The judge’s decision was based on sex, not on “gender identity,” and thus is a win for sex-based rights

Luckily, the Court was thinking more clearly than the members of WoLF were. It ruled in favor of the employer, and if you read the deliberation, you’ll see that its members repeatedly noted that it was not necessary to focus on “gender identity” as a new category, because discrimination against a transgender person collapses into a form of discrimination based on sex, already protected by precedent and by Title VII. The Supreme Court tends to do this. It makes decisions in the most conservative way possible, relying on precedent, and not introducing complexity where it is not needed.

As Neil Gorsuch put it:

“If the employer retains an otherwise identical employee who was identified as female at birth, the employer intentionally penalizes a person identified as male at birth for traits or actions that it tolerates in an employee identified as female at birth.”

Note the judge spoke of sex at birth, ensuring that his reference to biological sex cannot be confused with some conception of Stephens’ current “gender” situation. As an aside, he even used “identified” instead of “assigned!”

Or as Wikipedia puts it:

“the Court ruled… that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is necessarily also discrimination ‘because of sex’ as prohibited by Title VII. According to Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion, that is so because employers discriminating against gay or transgender employees accept a certain conduct (e.g., attraction to women) in employees of one sex but not in employees of the other sex.”

At around 27:13, the interviewer asks Kara to comment on the “clash of rights” between women and transgender people. To this, Kara says:

“I don’t think it helps to think in terms of [one group against another]… it’s just women and girls getting to do the things we want to do… for thousands of years globally men have been deciding what we get to do in the law.”

That’s a fantastic explanation of what radical feminists ought to be fighting for. But WoLF’s involvement in this case calls that into question.

“Oh really?” I hear a transgender activist saying. “Then why care what Aimee Stephens wears to work? Sounds like it’s one group against another, after all, even when there are no women and girls being denied the right to do anything.”

And that transgender activist would be right.

If WoLF really wanted to weigh in, and really wanted to preserve the sex-based rights of women and girls, as opposed to inhibiting the harmless shenanigans of men, it should have sided with Stephens, arguing, as the Court more or less ultimately did, that he was being reprimanded as a male behaving in a way incongruous with the behavior expected of males.

Now to address one more objection I often hear: this decision will not be well understood and will be used to justify other, more insidious decisions.

Yes, that is true. That’s true because society is currently hell-bent on eradicating the rights of women and girls, and they’ll be happy to use this and everything else they can find in the service of doing so.

But that doesn’t mean the Court’s decision was wrong.

On Self Respect

The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others—who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation—which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something that people with courage can do without.

– Joan Didion in On Self Respect, published in Vogue in 1961

Queer

With my latest two introductions to “queer” people I’ve come to a conclusion–one that in retrospect, I should have seen all along.

The definition of “queer” is “intimidated by gay people.”

Pronouns and the Purpose of Language

The purpose of language is communication, whatever our other aspirations for it may be. Toward this end, it must be easy to use, flexible and clear.

Once in a while, someone tries to change language for idealistic purposes. A convenient example is feminists’ perennial attempts to change the word “women” to something like “womyn” to separate it, philosophically, from the word “man.” The word spellings are only related, feminists argue, because men are considered the default sex and women are defined in relation to men. We should stop spelling the words to reflect these old biases.

Admirable goal. But efforts like these have always failed. That’s because this isn’t how language works. Language is a tool, not a PR kit. Thus, it changes organically, never by decree. Trying to change it into a vehicle for propaganda, however well-intentioned, takes it further away from what it’s designed to do.  It’s for communicating, not signaling

That’s why dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. And that’s why people on all sides of the political spectrum are misguided when they petition to change dictionary definitions, as when a trans-rights group recently petitioned to expand the definition of “woman,” and then a radical feminist group, in turn, petitioned to further restrict that definition. Neither side should win. The dictionary should reflect common use. It’s a reference.

That brings us to “preferred pronouns.” Though journalists are doing a fine job of using them to signal, no one’s faring as well when trying to use them to communicate.

Let’s start with this fact: “preferred pronouns” are for people who don’t pass. People who do (though I maintain that’s rare) don’t need to tell you their pronouns. In practice, this means that to ask someone to use your pronouns is specifically to ask her to say the opposite of what she means. Then, those listening, if they’re to understand, must interpret what she says in a way that’s unintuitive. Both speaker and listener must work harder, and all this for less, rather than more clarity. That’s our first problem for communication, out of the gate.

But the problem is not just theoretical. Here are some examples of how I’ve watched this particular language prescription fail.

The first is from personal experience. At some point after a stint of light cross-dressing, my ex began to say he was “literally” a woman and that he wanted to be called “she.”

At the same time, he didn’t dress excessively “feminine.” This is something he was proud of. “Women don’t go everywhere dressed to the nines,” he said (this all changed later, but that’s another story). So he wore a lot of things like jeans with a subtle floral pattern, scarves, and high-top tennis shoes. In practice, this meant he looked a man with some flair, not a woman.

One time we met another couple (a man and a woman) at a bar. The three of them arrived before me, and my spouse started a tab. At this particular bar, one opened a tab without providing a credit card. The bartenders just remembered your face. The three of them got their drinks and took a seat in a booth not far from the bar.

When I arrived, the spouse informed me of the tab. So I went to the bar and ordered a drink. Mind you, this was a bar, so it was loud–people talking, TVs playing. At the same time, my party was in a booth nearby, within earshot of the bar–especially if I talked loud, which I had to do to be heard.

“Are you on someone’s tab?” the bartender asked.

“Yes,” I said, and pointed toward my party.

“Whose tab?” the bartender asked.

And here’s where, in order to please my spouse, I needed to point at him and say: “hers.” Remember, he was within earshot.

But if I had done that, the bartender would have assumed that I was talking about the only woman at the table. That’s what “hers” means, for communication purposes–the tab belonging to the woman. Signaling is another story. But signaling doesn’t get the job done, especially when the conversation is loud and fast-paced and casual.

So I had to say something else, and “that person’s” sounds a bit objectifying (as well as unexpected, and thus unclear). How about “I am on the tab belonging to the person in the t-shirt with the mermaid on it?” Too long. The bartender is in a hurry. He wants to know the answer to his question. He does not want to participate in a signaling song-and-dance that helps me hide reality from my insecure partner.

“Her” can be used in an article about a “trans woman,” where there’s plenty of space and time to tweak for clarity. “Her” can’t be used in this way to communicate in practice.

My second example is from personal experience, too. I’ll soon be speaking on a panel at a conference with three other graduates, and we’re coordinating our plans on an email thread, with our professor. Only one male person is involved. Let’s call him Richard. The other students, and the professor, are female.

One young woman on the thread has printed “preferred pronouns” in her email signature. She’s listed “she/her,” “he/him,” and “they/them.” Because she wants all the queer cred. By the way, she’s a thin, pretty young woman with long blonde hair, a helium voice, and delicate skin, who primarily wears dresses. She also has a very feminine name. Let’s call her Alyssa.

If I started to refer to Alyssa as “he” on the thread, do you suppose anyone would know what I was talking about?

If what I said could in any way be applied to Richard, they’d assume I was talking about Richard. If it couldn’t, they’d assume they’d missed something or that I was simply making zero sense. Under no circumstance would people assume I was talking about Alyssa.

In fact, it would be so clearly absurd for me to do so, that they might think I was making fun of Alyssa’s pronoun request.

My third example is from a non-fiction audiobook I recently listened to. The author had interviewed a person named “Julie” who preferred the pronouns “they” and “them.”

Note that before the author can proceed, he must forewarn and explain the use of these pronouns. Simply using them, as though the goal were communication, is not an option. Here’s how the author opened. I’m paraphrasing:

“Julie is an expert in this field. They–Julie prefers the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’–have been studying this topic for many years.”

Great for signaling. We can tell the author is probably a liberal and an LGBT ally. But less great for communicating. As you’ll see, we can no longer follow what’s going on with Julie  once we abandon language as communication tool. Check out some of the statements that follow:

“Julie comes from a big Catholic family who lives in a small town, and they always wanted to move to the city.”

The family wants to move to the city, right? “They” is plural, and that’s what a sentence like this has always meant. No, actually Julie wants to move to the city, to get away from her family. The big Catholic family loves the country!

But the author didn’t write that sentence, he wrote this one:

“Julie comes from a big Catholic family who lives in a small town, and Julie always wanted to move to the city.”

Why? Because “they” doesn’t convey the intended meaning. Pronouns haven’t been swapped, here. They’ve been rendered useless.

Then he writes this:

“Julie joined a sorority and Julie started taking Spanish lessons.”

You can see why. Because the sorority, despite containing a plurality of members, is not who took those lessons. And the author can’t signal his allyship to Julie and communicate effectively at the same time.

Twice, now, Julie’s pronoun demands have inhibited the author’s ability to be clear. Rather than figure out how to make “they” work, he’s had to abandon pronouns altogether–an entire part of speech. And he’s writing, so he has time to figure something out. What happens when he’s talking, he’s in a hurry, and the person he’s referring to is named Sharmishtha?

Might as well wrap a hammer in six yards of plush fake fur, on the grounds that we want safer hammers, then ask a construction crew to build a house with it.

Women’s Clothing Is Always Drag–Even On Women

Have you ever been to a drag show where there were “drag kings”? Have you noticed it’s hard for women to do drag? After all, if they took the stage in jeans and t-shirts, or cargo pants and fleece hoodies, or shorts and flip flops, they wouldn’t look like they were in drag. They’d just look like they’d gotten dressed.

That’s because most “men’s” clothing doesn’t signal anything. It’s meant to be useful. Warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s warm. Full of pockets for putting things in.

So drag kings have to rely on those few articles of clothing that do signify masculinity: bow ties, neckties, the carefully tucked handkerchief in the breast pocket, the tuxedo with a cummerbund.

And they have to do less drag. Because there isn’t much to work with.

Men who dress as women, however, can wear almost anything off the women’s rack. Because women’s clothing is marked not by its usefulness, but by the opposite–its decorativeness. Ribbons, ruffles, polka-dots, movement-restricting skirts, wide-necked tops that fall off the shoulders, shoes that hobble the feet–these don’t help women do things. These “look cute” and/or inhibit the doing of things. Even women’s button-up cotton shirts, one of the least ornamental items available to us, are made with “darts,” those little stitches under the arms that tighten the garment around the breasts. Because God forbid a woman exit her house without emphasizing her breasts.

Women’s clothing is costume. It does not serve other purposes. There is never any reason for a woman, or anyone else, to don women’s clothing, outside the purpose of making a “feminine” display of herself. A possible exception is a bra, which arguably serves the purpose of providing comfort to a large-breasted woman who jogs. 

It’s not like a spacesuit, which would be drag if a businessman wore it to work, but useful for someone who needs to walk on the moon. Or a hardhat, which is silly on a member of The Village People, but life-saving for someone working at a construction site. Women’s clothing is just decorative, all around. Nothing more.

This has always been obvious to me. When I’ve put on sparkly eye shadow or a dress suit, it’s hasn’t been because I have a “gender identity.” It’s been because I thought it would get me somewhere, socially. A date, a job, the ability to pass through a crowd unnoticed, because I’m dressed as expected. I wouldn’t put on a costume–whether it’s eye shadow or a bear suit–outside of navigating a relevant social situation.

I certainly wouldn’t put one on if it made my life harder instead of easier, as it does for a masculine “trans woman.” Thus, “trans women” don’t put on what makes them comfortable or helps them navigate the world or even what contours properly with their body type. They put on a costume.

Costuming is not an inherent interest of females. It can be one for fetishists, though.

My ex used to worry a lot about being confused with a drag queen. He had a whole complicated set of delusions around the difference between his cross-dressing and the cross-dressing of other men, including a belief that his cross-dressing was more “legit” (yes, that’s homophobia you’re detecting) and a belief that bystanders could detect his inner feelings and thereby determine that he was trans and/or an “actual” woman.

For other men, women’s clothing was drag, you see. For him, it was… natural. Or something.

But unfortunately for that narrative, women’s clothing is drag for everyone.

Since it isn’t any more “legit” for women to wear women’s clothing than it is for men–it’s just a display–it certainly isn’t any more “legit” for some men than other men.

Transgenderism’s Test of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

The United States is losing its mind. Dishonesty permeates every facet of life here, from academia’s illicit courtship with postmodernism to corporate buzzspeak to a journalism dominated by clickbait–to say nothing of political discourse. What has been going on since long before “I didn’t inhale” has culminated in “there is no pandemic” and since we accepted it then, we have little excuse to stop accepting it now. “Trans women are literally women” is but a symptom of this disease.

While the entire Western world is fucked in its own ways, I’ve come to understand–through travels abroad, conversations with international friends and now my experiences with presses and agents overseas–that much of the world is not as fucked as we are. Even in nations where the local conservative parties are more liberal than our liberal parties, people do not feel compelled to pretend that “trans women are women.” 

Many have noted the similarities between the language of modern transgender activism and the truth-obfuscating “Ministry of Truth” in George Orwell’s 1984. Conversion therapy has come to mean not turning gay kids into straight ones. Taking on a practiced and purchased persona has come to mean becoming your “true, authentic self.” A surgery to remove body parts is described as a way to make someone feel “whole.” “Trans women are women” is the new two plus two equals five. And whole news stories, WordPress blogs, Reddit forums, and even inconvenient scientific studies have gone straight down the “memory hole,” lest someone get exposed to the wrong thoughts. 

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, a linguistic theory that has gone in and out of favor over time, argues that language influences or even dictates thought. Like other feminists, I’ve observed the erasure of the word “woman” and watched that translate to an inability to speak about an entire class of people, leading directly to an inability to pursue activism on behalf of that class. This isn’t hypothetical; it’s playing out in the real world. Male activists are infiltrating and shutting down rape support groups, crisis centers, feminist consciousness-raising spaces, reproductive rights campaigns and even resources for pregnant women in the name of reducing their feelings of “exclusion.”

What I hadn’t thought as much about was how language might foster delusion in mentally-ill trans people themselves.

A recent conversation with a native Japanese speaker showed me that the English language presents the “perfect storm” for the transgender lobby’s insistence upon “preferred pronouns.”  In her language, she said, it isn’t possible to demand that others use particular pronouns because pronouns don’t exist.

The romance languages, like French and Spanish, also muddle the pronoun issue, but for the opposite reason. They have pronouns for everything. People have genders, objects have genders, concepts have genders, and even adjectives reflect the gender of other parts of speech. The word for “it” sometimes means “he” or “they” but not “she”–how would you affirm a non-binary femme in such a language? Choosing a pronoun isn’t straightforward; it’s subject to myriad and complex rules. The person being referred to is but one factor and not always the most important one.

In English, however, pronouns exist and they refer primarily to people. It’s easy to insist that others call you “she,” because “she” is a word and it isn’t being used so indiscriminately that it loses its “affirming” potency. When someone calls you she, they must think you’re a woman!

Though there’s a widespread belief that late-transitioning, primarily-straight men are “faking it,” my ex does believe that he is a woman. Yes, it’s hard to imagine the cognitive dissonance. And yes, the carefully-curated selfies, the cries of “exclusion” and the frequent identity-related meltdowns reveal a deep insecurity around identity. But delusions are a thing, however little sense they sometimes make. He also experienced delusions of grandeur and delusions of persecution (more in my book–coming soon!).

And here’s the thing–as he received more and more “affirmation” from others–from friends using “preferred pronouns” to social media accolades–his delusions grew worse, not better. 

Suppose the idea that one is the opposite sex is a straightforward break with reality, not qualitatively different from other types of delusions. Perhaps, then, it doesn’t promote the health of a transgender person to “affirm” his gender, any more than it promotes the health of a schizophrenic to “affirm” the microchip a foreign government implanted in his brain.

Statistically, the numbers of transgender people are climbing exponentially in the U.S. and the U.K., both English-speaking countries. Anecdotally, though we don’t have sufficient studies, that isn’t happening in Japan or much of Western Europe. Are English-speaking people with gender dysphoria sicker than their counterparts who speak other languages? Could we be watching the power of language to influence thought, particularly in the vulnerable?

Trashing the LGB: What’s the Motivation?

You know that redneck uncle who finds a reason at every family gathering to say, “look, I’m not prejudiced… BUT… [insert story about i.e. black guy who “really is” a drug dealer].”

You’re well within your rights when you say, look, I don’t care if that guy’s a drug dealer or not; I don’t trust your motivations. What’s behind your need to ferret out misbehavior among minorities? What’s behind your need to collect random stories of minority misbehavior and repeat them? I’ll tell you what’s behind it: you’re a racist.

You can apply the same judgment to the trans people with the insatiable appetite for trashing the LGB. On the list of “undesirables” thus far: Ru Paul, Ellen, Boy George, Rose McGowan, Martina Navratilova, bisexuals who don’t call themselves “pansexual,” lesbians who don’t date transitioned males, lesbians who do date transitioned females, and others too numerous to mention.

It’s called homophobia.

The difference is, your uncle doesn’t usually claim to belong to the minority he’s trashing.