Note: In this post I am specifically addressing Ronald Gold's article, even though I understand that is only half the problem. I am working on a second post detailing the problems in Bilerico's current approach to dealing with situations like these, along with suggestions for how to improve the system in which they are handled.
In a matter of hours Ronald Gold's Thursday post describing trans people as "deluded" and "mutilated" was quickly met with over 200 comments decrying it as bigoted, hurtful, mean spirited, counterproductive, and above all ignorant. Bil posted a follow up about his intentions in allowing the piece to make it onto the front page. In it, and in Ronald's only subsequent comment, his "good intentions" and desire to have an "open dialog" were cited frequently,
Many of us, myself included, had not felt it necessary to outline the bigotry he exuded, as it was apparent enough in his own words. But for the sake of open dialogue here is a point by point explanation of how this piece is ignorant, hurtful, and bigoted, followed by a detailing of just exactly how this being posted has caused actually harm.
What is transgender? Well, there are two sorts who seem to be covered by the name, the drag kings and queens so good at portraying cartoon imitations of straight people, and transsexuals
Ronald makes a definitive statement denying the existence of trans experience outside of two particular kinds of trans people. Right off the bat he displays his obvious ignorance and lack of exposure to trans communities with this blatantly false statement. There are many more experiences beyond these two.
Despite the equipment they were born with that belies their assertions, they say they are really men or really women.
Very few people ever see our genitals and usually make a determination of gender based on other factors. Ronald's framing here indicates that he knows how to define trans people's genders better then trans people do. Not only is that extremely arrogant, but it is hurtful and demeaning. Additionally, note the use of the word "they." It is clear here are throughout the piece that he does not consider trans people a part of the audience he was writing to. This further marginalizes trans voices as he seems to prefer to have a conversation about us rather then with us.
Since it's not about genitals then it must be about personality.
A classic logical fallacy of false choice. There are dozens of options of what could make up gender, most likely each having an influence. By limiting it only to "personality" Ronald sets up a straw person argument as the foundation of trans existence. In reality, most if not all trans people will agree that there is no inherent male or female personality and that point has nothing to do with his conclusion that trans identity is really a delusion.
I hope I'll be forgiven for rejecting as just plain silly the idea that some cosmic accident just turned these people into changelings.
Again, another straw person. This silly idea is not what trans people are saying about our experience. Additionally, note the otherizing language of "these people" which further demonstrates Ronald's intention to talk about trans people and not with us. This casts serious doubt on his intention to "engage in dialog."
Explain to them that, whatever the other kids say, real little girls do like to play with trucks and wear grimy jeans, and real little boys like to prance around in dresses and play with dolls.
There was recently a wonderful post on gender neutral parenting. Many people, including myself, discussed our experiences being allowed to play with dolls and trucks and how that does not prevent someone from identifying as trans (or gay for that matter). Unaware of all the lives that contradict his statement, Ronald negligently denies our existence.
As for adults struggling with what to do about their feelings, I'd tell them too to stay away from the psychiatrists - those prime reinforcers of sex-role stereotypes -
Presumably this happens by endorsing or allowing transition. From this perspective, transition is only an attempt to conform to sex-role stereotypes. While this is fitting for certain stereotypical images of trans people, in reality trans people are no more likely to conform to sex-role stereotypes then non-trans people, and probably less likely too.
If a man wants to wear a dress or have long hair; if a woman wants short hair and a three-piece suit...
Again, this dismisses the experience of gender non-conforming trans people by assuming that all trans women want long hair and dresses and all trans men want short hair and suits. I'm a trans woman who wants short hair and a suit. Most everyone can see that there is a big difference between a woman with short hair and a man with short hair. And when you want to be recognized as one, the opportunity to be seen as the other is very little comfort. When trans people do conform to sex-role stereotypes, quite often it is the reverse of what Ronald suggests. Some trans women may choose to have long hair as a means to being recognized as women, yet I don't know any who transitioned as a means to be able to have long hair. And the same thing for trans men and short hair.
Overall Ronald is speaking from the perspective of the expert. He never doubts or questions his perspective even when it is clearly out of line with reality. He momentarily ponders certain aspects of trans lives, but rather then seek input from people who are trans, he comes to a conclusion with an assured conviction that it is the only logical conclusion to reach even though anyone who has gone through a trans 101 could see numerous flaws with it.
His arguments are clearly flawed, based in a lack of simple knowledge, relies on numerous logical fallacies including multiple false choices and multiple straw person arguments, but moreso then just being ignorant and wrong, they are hurtful. There are several ways in which his post, and the decision to give it legitimacy on the Bilerico front page causes actual harm.
So, parents of such little boys and girls, do not take them to the psychiatrist and treat them like they're suffering from some sort of illness.
We can agree that illness is not a useful model here at all. But it's pretty strongly implied that Ronald's version of avoiding the illness model includes parents not allowing their children to transition. Ronald should talk with some of the organizations that actually work with trans children. Encouraging trans girls to be boys-with-sdolls and trans boys to be girls-with-trucks, with the specific intention of preventing them from being trans is only going to be hurtful.
In reality, therapists often bar the way toward transition rather than encourage it. When I sought out access to hormones and a letter to change my driver's license there was only one therapist available to work with trans patients in town and he was horrible. He was an extremist in his advocacy of sex-role stereotypes and would often deny letters to those who did not fit them perfectly. If Ronald wishes to diminish the impact of therapists like that he should be advocating against giving them so much power over trans people. As it stands, his statement can be used to discourage therapists from working with trans people or allowing us access to hormones or surgery. With fewer options available, more people will be forced, like I was, to see disreputable therapists who encourage sex-role stereotypes.
Similarly, the continued suggestion that doctors encourage or push people to transition is blatantly false. In reality the majority of doctors are unwilling to offer trans related health care at all, many refuse to even offer any medical care to trans people, period. Those who do offer trans related health care frequently put up multiple road blocks in order to prove our legitimacy and inoculate themselves against criticisms such as Ronald's. As a result trans people often are forced to seek out black market hormones without medical supervision. The impact Ronald has on this issue is to further encourage doctors not to work with trans patients and stigmatize those who do. The landscape of trans health care is bleak enough as it is, and Ronald's article aims to make it worse.
The Risk of Being Repeated by the Right Wing
While I doubt any doctor or therapist reading Bilerico would act on Ronald's suggestion and refuse health care to trans people, it's worth noting that his post could be cited elsewhere as a justification for anti-trans actions. This is the kind of thing the right wing searches for, an article from an LGBTQ source they could use to tell parents not to let their children transition, convince trans people to get into reparative therapy, tell doctors not to participate in mutilation, and advocate insurance companies not to cover trans health care.
This might be a concept that Ronald is simply unwilling to understand, but it's essential to point out that intentional misgendering of trans people is an emotionally violent act on par or worse then the use of slurs. I rarely see people reduced to tears by the use of slurs, yet intentional misgendering and to a lesser degree unintentional misgendering can and does cause significant emotional distress. You don't have to understand it to respect it. There is no benefit to be had from Ronald's intentional misgendering except to hurt and to insist that he knows trans people at their core better then we know ourselves.
"Mutilation" and "Deluded"
While most people are used to derogatory slurs being nouns and not adjectives, these two words are used in every way that slurs are. It's what people say when they want to hurt trans people. It's yelled on talk shows. It's used to silence or discredit criticism. It's thrown in our faces by attackers. And when I hear these words in real life I find myself immediately determining how safe I am, where the exits are, how far I'd have to run to safety, etc. Hearing them in print or on the internet removes the physical danger, but the fight or flight response - common as a reaction to most derogatory slurs - remains. Ronald is well aware that these words and his intentional misgendering will hurt people, yet he makes the conscious choice to hurt people nonetheless. Even after having 200+ people detail the pain he has caused by using these terms, his response was,
I don't apologize for using words like mutilation and deluded. That's what I think it is!
This makes it clear that his "good intentions" are nothing more than a cover story.
Additional Note: With Ronald Gold's article being taken down, I am glad that it is less likely to be picked up by right wing sources to be used against us. However, I would be dissapointed if those who do not know what all the fuss is about weren't able to see it to gain that understanding. Luckily, it is still viewable on many different sites that posted it so that they could criticize it. You can see the full post in it's entirety on Pam's House Blend.