In the UK, the largest LGB* rights organization is called Stonewall. You’ll note I didn’t say “LGBT.”** They don’t say it either. They’re a lot like the HRC in the States.
They’re about to have an awards banquet where they’re going to recognize various people who they feel are good for the LGB community. One of the people nominated is a journalist named Julie Bindel, who is a Radical Feminist*** lesbian who writes for the Guardian. Like most radfems, her writings on trans issues are often transphobic. She has written transphobic things in her column in a major newspaper. Trans activists are displeased that Stonewall wants to honor this writing.
Alas, I am not talking about subtle differences in opinion. She has used slurs and thinks that trans people shouldn’t have access to hormones or surgery, saying, “Sex change surgery is unnecessary mutilation.” While she’s apologized for past slurs, the other stuff she hasn’t. She recently issued a statement about the controversy, which does not back away from those positions. (Indeed, the quote above is from it.) Instead, she says, “I am the victim of an organised group of bullies who seek to discredit me and silence any radical feminist debate around the issue of GID**** and of the transsexual industry.”
The transsexual industry? Does she imagine that trans people are some kind of profit center for the NHS? That’s as mad as making claims about the “abortion industry” in the US! In fact, it’s almost exactly identical.
Earlier in her statement, she talks a lot about Claudia, somebody who had SRS and then regretted it. She writes,
In 1985, after a consultation with Reid that lasted only 45 minutes, Claudia was diagnosed as transsexual and referred for surgery. . .. In May 2007 after a case lasting three years, the General Medical Council’s disciplinary committee ruled that Reid had prescribed hormones to five of his patients too soon, and referred them for genital surgery without properly assessing their mental and physical suitability. . . .. [G]etting to know Claudia was the catalyst for me in deciding to research the hidden side of sex change surgery, namely the validity of the original diagnosis of GID, and the stories of those who regret taking the hormones and having the surgery.
In the States, anti-choice activists claim that there is an abortion industry, where woman-hating male doctors cajole their patients into having abortions which leave them mentally and physically scarred for life. They mention the cases of some unhappy women who wish they hadn’t done it. They bring up some doctors who have faced discipline for unethical acts. Based on this, they argue that abortion is harming women and ought to be made illegal.
Bindel is using the same argument. And this betrays a fundamental truth about her perspective. Anti-choicers want to remove agency from women, so they imagine that somebody else has already done so. They see themselves as guardians of a helpless and contemptible class of people. Similarly, Bindel imagines that trans people have no agency and should not be allowed control over their own bodies. Like anti-choicers, she imagines a sinister “industry,” eager to prey upon weak victims who fall into their clutches.
And yet, in both cases, most of the people who utilize these “industries” don’t see themselves as victims at all, but as agents empowered to take advantage of what was a hard-won right. I would like to imagine that the parallels in argument would give any feminist pause, but as right wingers have happily co-opted language from the left to paint themselves as victims, I can’t imagine anyone of any political stripe would be above borrowing language and arguments form their ideological enemies. If painting others as victims works for your cause, then you would use it. I’d hope that the agency-denying aspect of the argument would give leftists pause, but, alas, this gets into a larger critique of radical feminism.
If seeing trans people as full adults won’t work, maybe she’ll note that medical malpractice is a real issue, but when somebody has their spleen unnecessarily removed, we don’t condemn all spleen surgery as a result. But if logic doesn’t work for anti-choice activists, it won’t work on their ideological twin. After all, there’s a sinister industry afoot.
* Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual.
** T is for transgender or transsexual or other gender minorities.
*** Not the fun kind
**** Gender Identity Disorder is the diagnosis used to give hormones and whatnot to trans people want them.