“On the Ning Nang Nong,
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There’s a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.”
We are currently experiencing extremely high levels of jibber jabber joo in the Twittersphere. There are stock responses to criticisms of gender ideology, mostly the same, neatly packaged so they can be tossed righteously into the mouths of those who dare to speak against it. This post will attempt to unpack a few of them.
There are more than two sexes.
All bodies are different, but there are specific differences between men and women’s bodies that cannot be ignored. The issue is biology. Men and women have different bodies. Even at the structural level we are different. The fact that the human species has a biological binary does not deny the existence of intersex people, in the same way that the existence of blind people is not denied when we describe humanity as a ‘sighted species’.
Humans reproduce via a binary system: sperm and ova. Sex is not a spectrum. Intersex people are often evoked as somehow being ‘proof’ that male-bodied people can be women if they say so, or that some little girls who like football need to ‘become’ boys to be their authentic selves. The details vary but there is no scientific basis to the argument.
Human beings are bipedal. Sometimes a baby is born without legs, or a person loses their legs in an accident. This does not change the fact that humans are a bipedal species.
“That is like the famous statistical point that the average number of legs on a human is less than two,” observes one Twitter user.
Of course we are ‘so much more’ than our sex. Of course our realities are subjective and everything is in flux. If you want to have that conversation great, pass the bong. Acknowledging the scientific reality of sex does not erase or insult intersex people any more than it erases or insults blind people and to be honest I have never heard the argument that it does from someone who was actually intersex themselves.
If you want to read more about intersex issues, I suggest you check out the work of intersex advocate Claire Graham.
We are assigned a gender at birth.
Well no, we’re not. Our sex is observed and recorded at birth. Our culture may assign gender roles to that sex, in fact cultures invariably do. The constant mixing up of the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ causes much of this problem. We are complex living beings in a species with binary sex, living in cultures that have gendered expectations of those sexes . You can’t change your sex to better fit the box your culture expects you to fit into. Put some of that energy into fighting sex stereotypes instead and maybe you can change those.
We all have a gender identity.
My insistence that I don’t have a gender identity has resulted in some people suggesting I’m non-binary but I just haven’t realised it yet.
Plenty of people don’t feel that they have a gender identity. It’s quite possible to feel angered by, or relate to, the stereotypes culture places on the sexes. Your ‘gender identity’, if you have one, is part of your personality.
I am a woman, not because I identify as one, or because I identify with sexist stereotypes, or because I’m happy to probably be paid less for the same job, but because my sexed body tells me that I’m a woman.
I didn’t choose to be a woman, I don’t ‘feel like’ a woman, I just am one. Because biology.
I feel like a woman so I am a woman.
How does a woman feel? How does a man feel? The obvious answer is that there is no one generic psychological shared experience of men or of women. We all feel differently and however close we are to somebody we cannot really know what it feels like to be them. When a man says ‘I feel like a woman’ he is expressing the notion that he somehow shares a common experience with all women. A closer analogy would be to say that he feels an affinity with the stereotypes of womanhood expressed within his culture. As we can’t get inside each others brains, this invariably comes down to such superficial trappings as long hair, lipstick and scanty clothing. To say ‘a woman is anyone who feels like a woman’ is a circular definition. Rather like defining a sad person as ‘anyone who feels sad’, it tells us nothing.
Transwomen are women.
Or as we are now expected to write it, as two words: trans women. You know the argument… I’m cringing as I write this… trans women are women just like black women, or disabled women, or lesbian women are women… trans is an adjective that just describes a sort of woman. But it doesn’t describe a woman. A chair is not a trans table. A puppy is not a trans kitten. A man is not a trans woman, whatever his brain may tell him. The appropriation of the experience of female minority groups in an attempt to prove that men can be women is awful: ableist, racist, sexist, lesbophobic. If we say men can become women then the word woman means nothing. I write more about this here.
‘Cis’ is just the opposite of trans.
Giving something a Latin name does make it sound very clever and important, especially to those of us whose Latin doesn’t stretch much beyond ‘illegitimi non carborundum’ (yes, I know, it’s not real Latin).
‘Cis’ and ‘trans’ are generally used in chemistry and geography; there is no historical linguistic or medical precedent for using the words to describe bodies or identities and their meanings need to change slightly in order to do so.
‘Cis means ‘on the near side‘ or ‘on the same side’. Trans means ‘across’ or ‘on the far side’. So if you were a Roman in 300 BC you would refer to what we now call France as Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul, because the Alps lay in the middle of the two areas.
Transylvaina literally translated means ‘on the far side of the forest’. Nobody’s quite sure why there’s no Cissylvania.
Using cis and trans to attempt to explain that men can be born in women’s bodies really doesn’t work . ‘Cis’, used in this context, is both insulting and regressive. It reduces women (and men) to a subordinate category of our own sex. Also, nobody has the right to tell you how you feel about your own body or its relationship to gender stereotypes and expectations. Nobody has the right to call you ‘cis’ let alone demand that you use the word to describe yourself.
Of course, words change, realities are subjective and who am I to interpret your own personal truth. Perhaps the universe is all in our imaginations anyway in which case, are you still bogarting that bong?
Some lesbians enjoy using strap-ons so why shouldn’t they like lady-penises?
Handing over to some lesbian friends to answer this one.
“It says that if she’s a lesbian and a man says he’s a lesbian and wants to sleep with her she has to sleep with him or she is bigoted. Corrective rape precisely,” said Kate. “It’s saying if you are happy being penetrated with something you should be happy to be penetrated by anything.”
Jen added: “if some male-bodied people (males) are in their eyes actually women then they think lesbians will be attracted to them… as if there is nothing whatsoever to do with being attracted to a woman because she has had the same socialisation as you, because you feel safe and unthreatened with her, and/or that you want to reject men because they are oppressive and you don’t feel safe with them and their raping penises.”
“What do you think?” I asked Jessie.
Non-binary is valid.
The fact that actual doctors, teachers and scientists are using this phrase with a straight face shows exactly how far the jibberjabberjoo has spread.
For clarity, non-binary does not mean intersex. A person who is non-binary feels themselves to be neither male nor female. Or possibly both. A gender fluid person sometimes feels male, sometimes female. There are also those who call themselves agender or bigender.
They are the people in-the-middle, rising above the rest of us mere shallow and superficial men and women.
‘Enbies’ throw the rest of us under the bus because for X to identify as nonbinary, Y and Z have to stay firmly in their gendered compliance boxes. X rejects the stereotypes associated with her sex but presumes that others can put up with them. For enbies to reject gender the rest of us have to be seen to comply with it. Why should some young women stay in the ‘girl’ box just so others can feel special?
Very, very few of us are 100% masculine or feminine in our presentation. Very, very few of us relate to all the gendered expectations of our sex. Why should women be expected to look pretty? Why shouldn’t men cry? There is a combination of masculine and feminine traits within us all – this is part of the rich tapestry of human experience and expression. It’s what makes us human beings. We’re all valid.
You’re a TERF/transphobe
TERF, ostensibly short for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’ is a slur often slung at women who are neither ‘trans-exclusionary’ nor radical feminists.
Radical feminists believe in going back to the roots of feminism (that’s the ‘radical’ bit). They believe that feminism is for and about women as a sex class and that women are oppressed because of their biology, not because they identify into their oppression.
Women who reject womanhood by purporting to be non-binary or ‘trans men’ are still women, and therefore they are still the concern of radical feminism. Radical feminism isn’t trans-exclusionary, it’s just man-exclusionary.
The words ‘TERF’ and ‘transphobe’ are fairly interchangeable, although TERF is more often aimed at women.
A phobia is an irrational fear of something. There may be some people out there who are scared of- or even hate- all trans-identified people, but that isn’t generally the way the word is used. If you don’t believe that some people are born the ‘wrong’ sex and that it’s possible to change that- you’re a transphobe. If you don’t believe that a man can become a woman just by saying so – you’re a transphobe. If you don’t believe that some children need drugs to help make them look more like society expects the opposite sex to look – you’re a transphobe. I write about this in more detail here.
You’re erasing trans people/denying their existence.
The tweet on the left was posted in response to this comment “…we all have our own opinions and how productive is it to alienate others without even understanding each other first?”
“You’re denying my existence” is cousin to ‘you’re a transphobe/ TERF’ because it comes down to the same thing: a refusal to say that men can become women (or women men, but strangely the movement seems far less bothered by that), or that kids can be born in the wrong body. Let’s look at it from a different angle. Let’s suppose that I think I’m incredibly clever, extremely athletic and stunningly beautiful. Let’s suppose that you disagree with my assessment of myself. Are you erasing me?
As one Twitter user commented “I’m not denying anyone’s existence. I’m saying it’s not my responsibility to pretend men are women and women are men just so people don’t get offended.”
Trans rights are human rights.
Trans rights are human rights. Absolutely.
All humans, both male and female, deserve equal rights with other humans.
Forcing others to comply with your ideological beliefs is not a human right, however, and these two things should not be confused.
Just as I don’t believe the world is balanced on the back of some elephants riding on a giant turtle (as some Hindus do) or that the communion wafer literally becomes the body of Christ during holy communion (as some Catholics do), nor do I believe that we have gendered souls that can accidentally be popped into the wrong bodies. That doesn’t mean that I wish to deny anyone their human rights.
I have never heard a Hindu or a Christian demand that I agree with them over this, or suggest that it is hateful of me to disagree. I’ve certainly never heard anyone claim that it’s erasing them.
Some people think little kids can be born ‘in the wrong body’ and that men can become women. If you don’t, nobody has the right to force you to comply with that belief.
Not even on the Ning Nang Nong.