So, since it’s been over a week now and it seems this is not going to be given any space on the front page, I’ve opened an account here to leave my feedback. I have also emailed Graham, and been ignored.
I would like to try to explain why in my opinion this narrative that Tim (or others like him) are transphobic is unhelpful to the cause of trans people.
“Trans women are women” is a snappy (if tautological) slogan, but it is not very nuanced, and in my opinion it doesn’t really help to further discussion on the essential problems most trans people are facing in society.
Arguing over who gets to use the term “woman” is a waste of everyone’s time. Language changes constantly, it’s impossible to control. A word that’s in vogue one year can change to mean something totally different the next year. Right now, “trans woman” refers to male at birth with currently feminine gender, “cis woman” refers to female at birth with currently feminine gender, “woman” without a qualifier refers to both. Some people pointedly refuse to use contemporary terminology. Oh well. Some people still call drum’n’bass “jungle”. It really doesn’t matter.
Semantics aside, there are some other topics that are also not under serious debate.
Is it polite to refer to people using their preferred pronouns? Yes.
Is it polite to refer to people using their preferred name? Yes.
Should impoliteness be illegal? No.
Are trans people human? Yes.
Can humans legally use whichever toilet they feel most comfortable in? Yes.
Should trans people have access to affordable hormone therapy? Yes.
Should trans people have access to affordable corrective/reassignment surgery? Yes.
Should trans people be able to adjust the “M” or “F” box on current forms of ID like passport? Yes.
Should firing a trans person on the basis of them being trans be illegal? Yes.
None of these issues are under debate, because all of these things are already the case under current law in most western countries, including the UK. There are some improvements that can be made to speed the process up or make it easier. Pretty much everyone on the left agrees we should make those improvements, as do many on the right. None of this stuff is especially controversial.
However there are other things that are still under debate, primarily in niche trans and feminist circles. Sometimes those discussions also overflow to the wider community, which is fair since some of the proposed solutions would impact them. I think it’s important to engage in good faith when that happens. Some examples…
At what age should trans children be able to start hormone treatment?
Should trans people be able to adjust the “M” or “F” box on historic records like birth certificate?
Should we allow an additional “X” option alongside “M” and “F” on legal forms of ID?
Should society stop segregating spaces by gender or sex?
What spaces should be desegregated?
Is it problematic to segregate only by sex (and not gender) or vice versa?
What exactly makes certain segregated spaces (e.g. prisons) so unsafe to begin with?
How do we fix that?
Is gender fundamentally oppressive?
Is gender a performance?
Should non-binary gender roles from indigenous and non-western cultures have an equivalent in the west?
How many genders are there?
Can we just abolish gender already?
What does this all mean for sexuality?
Can straight people be queer?
Am I still a lesbian?
What even is feminism now?
Are we ever going to dismantle the patriarchy?
Shouldn’t we focus on smashing capitalism instead of bourgeois identity politics?
Et fucking cetera.
Unfortunately there is a small but loud group of folks on the left who think their answers to all these questions are the final word. They take those who would disagree and disingenuously lump them in with ultra-conservatives who want to turn society back 20+ years, then inaccurately refer to this make-believe enemy as “radical feminists”, which confuses the topic further. Then they cancel Tim Stone.
This is the context of the “battle” that just played out on one of my favorite fucking websites. Yes, a (presumably - though I do not know for sure) old, straight, white, cis man stumbled into a conversation where his life would’ve been much easier if he hadn’t. He wasn’t aware of all the inane internet arguments and hot button taboo terms that get folks in a huff. That’s on him. Perhaps his firing is deserved based on UK employment law. I will defer to sonson on that.
However, as an actual trans person myself, I don’t appreciate random folks (presumably also mostly old, straight, white, cis men) perpetuating this myth that all trans people would have been offended by what Tim said, or that anyone who took his curiosity at face value is some kind of crypto fascist.
I’m not going to repeat my utter disappointment and dismay about how this has been handled. People who want to see some processing of those emotions can check the reader comments under the final Flare Path column. I am devastated. I feel like the soul of one my favorite websites has been sold to a bunch of social media shit-stirrers. It’s ruined my enjoyment of staff writers I normally really enjoy, notably both Alices and Katharine (when she’s not writing about hardware). Not because their writing changed, but because I am scared they quietly support this sort of petty excommunication. I am so sad.