You Need to Listen to the Chorus

I was asked, given a reference to a specific doctor who had recently repeated disinformation from another doctor (almost verbatim), and also asked about how I felt hearing from a specific trans woman and how she describes herself (specifically as: not a real woman).

This isn’t the first time I’ve run into someone with this specific view. And they are within their own rights to frame their own narrative, but not to then imply that it’s the only correct narrative and allow trans denialists to weaponize them. It’s called the “bigot’s gambit”, generally, and it doesn’t only apply to trans folk. To hope that in making oneself think and talk like the bigots around you that you’ll be spared their bigotry. They’re contrarian to most of their community, and they’re a regular feature along any axis of marginalization. It’s a kind of dysfunctional defensive strategy.

So, to that person, and generally, this is my reply. Please feel free to forward this reply to anyone else who needs to read it.

As a matter of fact? Yes.

Most trans folk know more than cis medical professionals & scientists about what it’s like to be trans, the facts of being trans, including medical aspects.

Some of us are medical professionals and scientists.

If you truly want to understand and learn about the medical, psychological, and scientific/biological knowns and unknowns about trans folk, you’ll ask them.

The majority of medical professionals and scientists who study trans issues even agree with us about these facts, but you can learn extra from those who are members of the community rather than outside observers.

And you should definitely ask trans scientists and doctors rather than pick out your “favorite” trans person putting their contrarian views up for show in a friendly chat with a your “favorite” trans-denialist-friendly doctor.

You should MOST especially do that rather than put that scene up for display in front of actual trans folk.

That would be like me, as a white woman, asserting I have blanket permission to use the N-word because I have a video of a favorite contrarian Black intellectual and a highly educated white nationalist sitting down for a conversation…

…a conversation in which they discuss how it’s completely okay for absolutely everyone to use the N-word, and in fact they feel that should be the prevailing and popular term.

In topics with social and cultural concerns, this is the height of cherry-picking your data.

Yet I see people do it all the time, along every single axis of marginalization our culture has.

Let me give you some unsolicited advice. I apologize in advance for its unsolicited nature.

However, because of what you just demonstrated…

You are in need of this advice.

If you practice this same advice in other domains? You are in need of the reminder.

As a human being, I’m stuck with a constant, everyday epistemological problem. I can’t know the inner experience of someone I’m not. We get by with language and other forms of communication, but there are times it’s still an issue.

It’s particularly an issue when I need to understand, for instance, something about racism. It’s a fraught issue, and I most certainly was taught many falsehoods about it growing up. Some of those falsehoods I undoubtedly don’t even realize are falsehoods.

Some I still think and feel, reflexively, but have learned better — and I work to steer myself away from acting them out or lending voice to them.
The fact that there’s constant new white supremacist propaganda and discussions going on places me in a sea of potential confirmation bias for those falsehoods I don’t realize I hold.

If Black, Indigenous, and other racially marginalized folk even talk about their own internalized racism, struggling to unlearn it — really I have no hope of being “clean” of racism. But it’s not hopeless…

I can at least endeavor to educate myself, learn to do better, and hopefully be the kind of ancestor a raceless future needs to have had. I can learn.

I can even teach other white people when asked to by those who are racially marginalized are exhausted of having to deal with white folk like me as a matter of day-to-day living and the more-than-occasional blowup.

But still… That thorny epistemological problem. It puts me at a disadvantage, here. I need to be able to sort out facts from fiction, no one else can do it for me, and I need to do it responsibly.

I need techniques to manage this. And one technique truly stands in front of all the others as prerequisite, because human experience is not homogenous, particularly among those who are marginalized in one way or another.

When I need to understand or learn something about racism, one voice won’t suffice:

I need to listen to the chorus.

I need to educate myself not by listening to one, or even just a dozen, but a variety of Black, Indigenous, Brown, Asian, and other racially marginalized groups. And both people who agree with one another and people who disagree.

This has helped me start to learn of, for instance, some of the ways in which progressives like myself can and do act out racism — casually, in everyday conversation — and systemically, with both passive and active choices.

We do so in some ways that are distinct from the ways conservative whites act out racism. You could call conservative racism more overt and progressive racism more covert, and that’s an overall theme, but that’s oversimplifying it but conveys a flavor of it.

I had no idea of this growing up, let alone have a way to independently conceive of it!

Which is utterly unsurprising. And… largely my point, here.

It’s a thing I would have easily missed out on learning had I stuck to just one or even just a handful of voices. Eventually it was pointed out somewhere I heard it, and I finally started seeing more talk about it and where I could learn more…

…and to notice it in the wild more often.

All to try to make it easier to see and notice any similar impulses and ideas in myself, the requisite to learn to do differently.

YOU need to listen to the chorus, here.

Trans denialism is a specific form misogyny takes.

It has its roots firmly in enforcing conventional gender roles. That’s why the colonial empires, with their keen fondness for patriarchy as a “natural order of things” as a way of reinforcing the ideas of hierarchy in general.

I suspect that made it easier to mentally justify engaging in conquest and subjugation, to make it appear more natural.

They went out of their way to eradicate contrary views that accepted anything but a binary model of sex…

…conveniently erasing intersex people through either death or mutilation…

…accepted only homogeneously heterosexual model of sexual and romantic attraction…

…and accepted only a binary model of gender that conflated it with sexual phenotype.

Which, on that last point, I genuinely get the confusion. Trans folk like me aren’t a majority by far, we’re a minority. It takes a minority like us to make the fact that basic sexual phenotype and gender aren’t completely joined completely obvious.

It’s actually been researched completely independently of our existence, using some solid anthropological, sociological, psychological, and philosophical investigations.

But once trans folk became by-and-large acknowledged as a fact?

It also became much more plainly observable that expressed sexual phenotypes, gender identity, and gender roles all can and do vary independently.

And that gender roles are described culturally, but gender identities are described internally. (That’s our specific contribution. And by now it’s robustly evident, because our experiences corroborate one another, even with all the diversity we have.)

Trans folks’ existence made it plainly obvious that expressed sexual phenotypes, gender identity, and gender roles all can independently vary.
Gender roles should have been more obvious to many, given the way in which gender roles themselves vary between human cultures and even between families so wildly.

We even often conflate gender roles with gender identity quite persistently in many circles that acknowledge trans folk, still, but that’s definitely starting to sink in and I suspect it will become quite a robust awareness down the road.

Trans folk are among those best poised to help bring the fight for queer rights into new territories. Hell, we’re even majority queer.

(An artifact of our existence stemming from the fact that gender identity and sexual identity vary independently and seem to have about the same rate overall human incidence. Think of it as separate rolls of the dice when humans are born.)

Trans folk are among those best poised to help dismantle patriarchy and give feminism new life.

Which trans denialism espoused by people otherwise very attached to the ideals of feminism ironic and self-defeating.

So please… stop peddling your antagonism of trans people. It’s just internalized misogyny, repackaged for mass consumption. No one needs that. Probably least of all you just now.

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