This is part of the text from an email I received a mere eleven days after Squid and I were officially ‘terfed’. The writer was a friend of ours who we’d known for years. This part refers to a Twitter spat that happened between me and a mutual, ahem, friend… although that person and I hadn’t been friends for a year prior to this, when I came to the conclusion that she was a silly little girl who needed to grow up.
“You’re welcome to your opinion, however it felt an awful lot like you were taking offence at a term like ‘cis’ out of nowhere an [sic] unnecessarily. As if somehow being a woman was a limited resource or trans women existing diminished you being a woman simply by association. I don’t get why you would be against trans people or taking offence to general terms used such as ‘cis’ when it’s not really any kind of issue for you, it’s not a matter of oppression or lessening being a woman. Let’s face it, trans men and trans women are the ones who have this whole thing worse off if you look at things like suicide rates, life expectancy and general treatment of them. If you’re going to be a feminist, standing up for trans women feels like it should really be baked into the subject.”
I was incensed, by this point. Of course, I spent time answering, though I was rather more polite than I’ve been below, but I’m not dumb enough to think he even opened my email before he deleted it and so I am exercising my right of reply here, publicly. Oh, sorry, did I not mention that this load of regurgitated old tripe was written by a man? Don’t tell me you didn’t guess…
So first of all, I’m going to respond quickly to each point as it comes and then afterwards I’ll go into more detail about why I found it so annoying and actually rather insulting:
“You’re welcome to your opinion [Gee, thanks], however it felt an awful lot like you were taking offence at a term like ‘cis’ out of nowhere an unnecessarily. [Neither out of nowhere nor unnecessarily. I am a woman. Woman is enough.]As if somehow being a woman was a limited resource [It is limited – to be a woman, you first need to be female] or trans women existing diminished you being a woman simply by association. [Nope – they’re not women because they’re not female. Are you seeing a pattern, yet?] I don’t get why you would be against trans people [Whoever said I was?] or taking offence to general terms used such as ‘cis’ when it’s not really any kind of issue for you[It isn’t? Really? Please, do explain my own reasoning to me. Oh, you’re not even going to try. OK, then. As you were…], it’s not a matter of oppression or lessening being a woman. [It is a matter of oppression, actually. Calling women cis just because we’re not trans is deeply insulting, because it’s yet another label forced upon us by men and a way to control how we think, speak and act. And to that, I say: Get fucked.] Let’s face it, trans men and trans women are the ones who have this whole thing worse off [Two women a week are killed by partners or ex-partners – that’s without mentioning all the women who are killed by other men or the 85,000 of us a year who are raped in the UK alone] if you look at things like suicide rates [Based on one bullshit survey], life expectancy [A lot of transwomen are prostitutes – female prostitutes get murdered at a higher rate than other women, too] and general treatment of them [Oh, PLEASE, can you hear yourself?!]. If you’re going to be a feminist [I am, no thanks to ‘friends’ like you], standing up for trans women feels like it should really be baked into the subject. [To you, perhaps – but I’m not in the habit of including men in things that are meant for women.]”
Right – now point by point, I’ll go into more detail about why exactly this pissed me off as much as it did:
1 – You’re welcome to your opinion [Gee, thanks]
A man tells a woman she’s “welcome to her opinion” and expects not to get pushback for it. Fucking hell. It’s not as if women have been fighting to have our opinions heard and respected FOREVER, or anything…
2 – however it felt an awful lot like you were taking offence at a term like ‘cis’ out of nowhere an unnecessarily.[Neither out of nowhere nor unnecessarily. I am a woman. Woman is enough.]
Unlike a lot of people these days, I do not easily take offence. But this statement – that I am wrong to be offended by the term ‘cis’ – is in itself deeply offensive. I don’t need a qualifier to explain what ‘type’ of woman I am. I am female and I am an adult human. That really is enough, and if it isn’t enough for you, then, well, we’re unlikely to be friends. Saying that I am a ‘cis woman’ is to suggest that a transwoman is simply another kind of woman, which is untrue. A transwoman is a kind of man. A woman is not simply whatever men say a woman is. A woman is an adult human female.
3 – As if somehow being a woman was a limited resource [It is limited – to be a woman, you first need to be female]
I couldn’t believe he’d written this and probably kept a straight face while he was writing it. The category of woman – what I am (and what he emphatically is not) – was up for grabs by men. No, mate. It fucking well ain’t.
4 – or trans women existing diminished you being a woman simply by association. [Nope – they’re not women because they’re not female. Are you seeing a pattern, yet?]
I don’t think I need to explain this further.
5 – I don’t get why you would be against trans people [Whoever said I was?]
You’re assuming I don’t like trans people. Far from it. What I don’t like are misogynistic arseholes, of which there are a hell of a lot. Forgive me for being blunt, here, but had I realised you were one of them, we would never have become friends in the first place.
6 – or taking offence to general terms used such as ‘cis’ when it’s not really any kind of issue for you [It isn’t? Really? Please, do explain my own reasoning to me. Oh, you’re not even going to try. OK, then. As you were…]
To assume this isn’t any kind of issue for me says exactly what about you, I wonder? You’re assuming I won’t give a shit that men are pretending to be women, insisting they are as much or even more ‘woman’ than I am and then shoving their size elevens into my personal space, disrespecting the boundaries I’ve set. Why would I not have a problem with that? Do you always assume it’s OK for men to cross boundaries women have set? What about young girls? Are they wrong to not want a man to come any closer, or are they bigots, too? ‘Cis’ says that a transwoman is as much female as me. He’s not. He’s male. And males pose a danger to females. End of discussion.
7 – it’s not a matter of oppression or lessening being a woman. [It is a matter of oppression, actually. Calling women cis just because we’re not trans is deeply insulting, because it’s yet another label forced upon us by men and a way to control how we think, speak and act. And to that, I say: Get fucked.]
So it’s not a matter of oppression when men tell women what we can and can’t call ourselves; what we can and can’t talk about; how we can and can’t refer to our own bodies; what we can and can’t say or think about how society has always treated women and girls as less valuable and less important than boys and men? Really? You think I should be just fine with being told I’m no more woman than a man? You’re fucking delusional, mate.
8 – Let’s face it, trans men and trans women are the ones who have this whole thing worse off [Two women a week are killed by partners or ex-partners – that’s without mentioning all the women who are killed by other men or the 85,000 of us a year who are raped in the UK alone]
The statistics are out there. I wish I was exaggerating. I’m not.
9 – if you look at things like suicide rates [Based on one bullshit survey]
This is something that keeps getting wheeled out in an attempt to guilt-trip women into feeling sorry for those men who are constantly sending us rape and death threats if we don’t capitulate, and it’s based on a single survey carried out by the misogynistic men’s rights organisation Stonewall. This is a statistic that is based on the self-declaration of 27 people. TWENTY-SEVEN. I call bullshit.
10 – life expectancy [A lot of transwomen are prostitutes – female prostitutes get murdered at a higher rate than other women, too]
“Sex work is work!” – just like any other job, eh? Uh-huh. Gotcha. It’s as dangerous for transwomen as it is for women. It’s a dangerous thing to do, selling your body for cash. Men have a nasty habit of murdering those they hate. Or haven’t you realised that yet?
11 – and general treatment of them [Oh, PLEASE, can you hear yourself?!].
Your treatment of me right now is questionable atbest. I say that male people can’t be turned into female people (fact) and you have to stick your oar in and tell me I’m wrong for saying that in case it hurts some poor men’s feelies? That says more about you than I think you realise, me ole pal.
12 – If you’re going to be a feminist [I am, no thanks to ‘friends’ like you]
I hardly need anyone’s permission to stand up and fight for women’s rights which means, by the way, my rights. You have a girlfriend. Sounds to me like I care more about her rights than you do.
13 – standing up for trans women feels like it should really be baked into the subject. [To you, perhaps – but I’m not in the habit of including men in things that are meant for women.]”
Feminism is about women, girls, and our liberation from oppression by men. You are a man. I am a woman. I am more invested in this fight than you are because it’s not your basic rights they’re gunning for.
This was a first for me. I’d never been to any kind of political meeting before. But this is a cause that not only can I get fully behind, it’s a cause I can’t not get fully behind. After all the work done by our sisters in the past, including the Suffragettes, women’s legal rights are at risk of being taken from us. If I didn’t get behind that, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. And if our rights are stripped – which is looking increasingly likely – I would never be able to forgive myself if I hadn’t spoken up and said, ‘Not without a fucking fight.’
For several weeks, friends had been asking whether I was going to the WPUK (A Woman’s Place UK) Women’s Liberation Conference in February, but I had come off Twitter back in September (much to the relief of my kung fu instructor, who could see what it was doing to my state of mind), and I didn’t know how to get tickets.
By the time we did get details, the first batch had already sold out. Shit. Not a massive surprise. More went on sale the following week, but again, by the time I got there, they’d all gone. I had more or less resigned myself to the fact we weren’t going and started making provisional plans to meet friends in the pub after the event. Then that Friday, a friend gave me another link. The final batch would be going on sale in the morning. But – damn it! I was going training tomorrow, as I do practically every Saturday. And there is very little that will stop me from going training. (I am proudly obstinate. A family trait. And besides which, if I didn’t go because I was trying to get tickets for something that had nothing to do with martial arts, my instructor would be having words… It’s OK. It’s what he’s there for, and it keeps me honest.)
So I tasked my significant other, known throughout the Twitterverse and beyond as Altered Squid, or just Squid, to get tickets if he possibly could. While I was training, I heard my phone bleep, and between classes, I checked. There was a message that said he could only get one, so he’d got it for me (because Squid is a star). But I’d not been able to look while I was training so I saw all the messages at once, and in the meantime, lo and behold! Yes! He’d managed to get two! WE WERE GOING!!!
I must confess to feeling a little apprehensive, despite my excitement. When WPUK held a meeting in Brighton back in September, the protest outside was so vicious that women were having panic attacks once inside, or were unable to get in at all, having insults screamed in their ears (do these idiots not know that this can cause an eardrum to burst, or do they just not care because we’re ‘terfs’?), while the local coppers stood around with their arms crossed and did nothing as some of them banged and kicked on the windows throughout the event.
The nearby residents eventually got so pissed off with the incessant racket that they began slinging buckets of water over the trans rights protesters (who later blamed the ‘terfs’ for it). There was a lot at stake, and I was wondering if, for the first time since I had begun training more than a decade ago, I’d actually have to use my kung fu in self defence (which I have a legal right to do). Linda Bellos once said that if she were ever attacked, she would defend herself, and she was subsequently taken to court for threatening behaviour. As if she doesn’t have a legal right to defend herself if attacked.
However, those who know me well know that I am not one to let others tell me what to do, and I’m damned if I’ll let a group of people who apparently can’t tell men from women stop me from going to a women’s rights event.
But we found out there may now be a snag. Because Squid had secured both tickets, and you could only buy one ticket at a time, they were both in his name. And WPUK had sent out an email saying that we’d need ID that matched the name on the ticket (for security reasons – see above). But it was sorted when another email arrived with Squid saying that if one of the tickets was for someone else to please tell them, otherwise they would refund the money. He duly gave them my name and my email address.
Phew! I got my own ticket through, with my name on it, the same day.
I said a moment ago that there is very little that will stop me from going training, and this is true, but this conference was being held on a Saturday – and it would be going on all day. So I told my instructor what was happening and went training on Thursday instead. I can’t not train, but I also couldn’t pass up this chance to be present at what has since already turned out to be something of a historic event.
However, some of you may have noticed that Squid is a man, and I am a woman. (Although I know it’s hard, as you can’t always tell, these days.) As a consequence, our experiences were, naturally, slightly different.
Despite the early start (I don’t do mornings), by the time we reached the station and saw some of our friends there, I was ready to go. I waved maniacally at them as we reached the ticket machines and then we went over to greet everyone.
None of us really knew where the venue was, but as we approached, it became obvious, as we could hear the chants of the protesters three streets away. In fact, their presence made things very easy for us to figure out where we were supposed to go. Ah, we thought. It must be in here. Thanks, protesters! You were a big help, there.
And they weren’t scary. My heart started to race a little, because I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t hammering. After Jo had hugged me and welcomed me – as she appeared to have been doing to many of the women who arrived – we went inside and my heart stopped fluttering.
I immediately felt invigorated. Surrounded by so many women, some of whom were our friends, others we’d seen in WPUK videos on YouTube, and hundreds of others:
In all, there were around 900 people, of which no more than maybe a dozen were men. (Squid reckoned about twenty. I swear I didn’t see that many.) We met other friends there, and we knew many of those who would later be giving talks or running workshops, none of which we attended. I really was spoilt for choiceand I had one of those moments when my head goes a bit funny and I find it impossible to make a decision. It may be my age (don’t say a fucking word) or it may simply have been that there were so many people there that I couldn’t think straight. Either way, we didn’t go to any of them. And in any case, we were mainly there to hear the talks, mix with women, make connections and just be there.
That was it. You always hear these tales of historic events, important movements, and I wanted, for once, simply to be able to say that I’d been there. I wanted not just to have witnessed the fight for women’s rights, envious of other women who were at these meetings but unable to do much, as I saw it, myself. I wanted to have been an active part of that fight. To be able to get to my old age (hopefully) and say, ‘Yep. I was there.’
One of the first people I spotted was Linda Bellos. I did ask for a photo, as well as a hug, but she wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being put on a pedestal, which I completely respect. I never did get the photo, but when she said she would be happy to hug me as a sister, I did what I am very good at and she returned the hug with genuine sisterly warmth.
I was looking around while Squid was in the loo (and for an event with so many women present, it was notable that there were NO QUEUES for the ladies’ – women who weren’t there may find this hard to believe, but it’s true) and there on one of the chairs was one of the most amazing women anyone could ever hope to meet – Hibo Wardere, who wrote the book Cut and who travels the country and indeed the world teaching people about the horrors of FGM. We’d been in touch for a while and had swapped numbers before I left Twitter, so I went over, told her who I was and gave her the biggest, warmest hug. She is a true legend. When Squid came round the corner and spotted who I was with, a huge grin appeared on his face. We hung out with Hibo for some time. She really is the loveliest woman.
We spotted Julie Bindel (who I later half-hugged across a table full of sandwiches), Maya Forstater, Allison Bailey, Selina Todd, Nicola Williams… SO MANY POWERFUL WOMEN! The femaleness of the place was unbelievable, and I said to Squid that for perhaps the first time in my adult life, in a room full of strangers, something odd had happened. My guard, which is usually up all the time when I’m out, was down. I felt safe. And I never feel safe when I’m out, except under certain circumstances (such as when I’m training – I don’t just go to learn kung fu…). Hundreds upon hundreds of people, most of whom I didn’t know and had never met, and I felt as safe as I ever had. It was weird, and it was wondrous.
(To clarify: I don’t mean that I feel constantly in danger and under threat when I’m out. I mean that I don’t know what it’s like to leave the house, close the door behind me and feel a hundred per cent safe. Women, if not men, will know the difference.)
Although the morning speeches were introduced by a man, Brad Blitz, of the UCL Institute of Education,he wasn’t part of the conference itself. A few women were miffed that it felt as if the first speaker at a women’s event was a man, but he wasn’t involved in the event, he was simply introducing it. He welcomed us into his institution, made clear that free speech was as important to him as it was to us, and left us to get on with it. The speeches were – I’m going to use a word I’ve never used before, I think, ever – rousing. Both the morning and afternoon speeches gave me hope that all was not lost in the fight for women’s rights.
Around the edges of the hall where the sandwiches had been laid on, along with tea, coffee, fruit juice, biscuits, bananas, etc., there were several stalls run by various campaign groups. I spotted some little tins wrapped with bits of white cotton on which had been printed THOU SHALT NOT SUFFER A WITCH TO LIVE, but sadly these were not for sale, or I definitely would have bought one. What I did buy were little pin badges of the female symbol (I’d seen women wearing them and had been eyeing them all morning) – for me and for my mum, whose birthday it had been a couple of days before – and some notebooks, as well as picking up various leaflets and postcards and things. I wish I could have bought more stuff (I was particularly drawn to cotton patches and badges with uterus designs), but with restricted finances, I had to make strategic choices.
I felt a sisterly vibe, overwhelmingly and gloriously female, and realised it is this feeling that certain men resent. They may want this, they may try to get it, but they can’t have it, because they are not female. They can experience a version of it if they get access to spaces where there are many more women than men, but they can never fully belong to it, because they are not women. Something fundamental is missing. And they hate us for it.
As I have got older, certain things are falling into place for me. I have realised that far from being afraid of old age, I shall welcome it – because it’s better to reach old age than not reach it. I shall let my hair go grey and leave it long and go about showing it off, because I am proud of it. Women with silver hair are gorgeous and I will never be ashamed of that or try to hide it. If my face shows more lines as I grow older, they will be lines caused by much laughter in my life – I laugh a lot and I laugh loud, like any self-respecting witch should.
There were many women at the conference who were my age or older, others who were younger. I felt an affinity with all of them, because we are all female and we have a range of shared experiences. Not being able to talk about this openly without fear of social death (because we no longer put witches and heretics to actual death) is a symptom of a sickness in our society. It is probably down to women to cure – partly because many of us are witches and partly because it’s always down to women to fix things like this.And will we get any thanks, when this all dies down (as it surely must)? We shall see. But I doubt it.
While others were at their various panels and workshops, I had an idea to go to Gower Street, where you can procure remaindered books at decent prices, so with the help of Squid’s phone, we found our way there and had a nosey around. And yes, of course we came out with some books. Don’t tell me you thought even for a moment that we came out empty-handed? We’re skint, sure, but cheap books are cheap books and the temptation is hard to resist.
We made sure to return to UCL in plenty of time for the closing plenary, found a couple of seats and settled in.
During the last few minutes, as things started to wrap up, a clipboard was passed round, which contained sheets of paper that we could fill in with our details. On the back were some of the questions in the Scottish GRA consultation, and the good people at WPUK had answered the relevant ones for us in advance. You don’t have to live in Scotland to fill it in. You can find details here. As the writers of this document have said they especially want to hear from trans people and trans allies, with no mention of wanting to hear from women, I encourage you to do your bit.
The last words of Kiri Tunks’ speech have stayed with me, and will likely stay with me forever: “This is a movement. We are the movement. Let’s move.”
As we were leaving, I spotted Kiri and gave her a hug, told her that it had been a fabulous day and thanked her for organising it.
To paraphrase a David Bowie lyric: I hugged a lot of women, that day.
Actually, the feelings evoked in that song really sum up how I felt at the conference. So here it is:
We came away awash with love for women and with renewed determination that women’s rights will not be taken from us without a fight. We will fight with words rather than weapons, but words are powerful, and should be used with care. It’s easy – too easy – to yell and swear at idiots on social media. But all that gets us is stress, and (if we really piss off the wokebros and TRAs) a place on several block lists. (I think I had made it onto 40-odd such lists before I deleted my Twitter account. It’s something of which I’m very proud.)
What we need to do is connect, in person as well as online. Make plans. Talk to people, whether people we know or people we don’t. Myself, I’ve been talking to people who know me well enough to realise that there may just be something to what I’m telling them. That it isn’t just a load of pissed-off, hormonal women with nothing to do but moan about men, but something much deeper and much more dangerous, and even sinister.Because make no mistake – women’s rights are in peril. And the Labour Party have since proved that they are no friends to women, either. At least, not to women like us.
For we are the troublesome women. The women who aren’t afraid to say, ‘Now hang on a minute!’ The women who won’t comply. The women who dare to set boundaries (and woe betide any man who crosses them).
We are the women who, when faced with a group of people trying to take away our legal rights, will stand up and say, in the words of our friend Jane Clare Jones:
I’ve never been a dissident before. It’s quite exciting.
But it’s also frightening. I am frightened. Because it seems the moment women started speaking up about what happens to us daily at the hands of men, the backlash started. Feminism isn’t feminism, we’re told, if we don’t include transwomen. What a load of old tripe!
Transwomen are male, and adult human males have been known across the world and across the millennia, in every language that has ever been spoken, as men.
Women need to be afraid of men.
But we must not be afraid to say no. We must not be so afraid that we capitulate to the demands of a few at our own expense. And remember, sisters, that we are more than half the population of the planet.
On Saturday 1st February I attended the WPUK meeting at UCL in London. The day began early; at 6am myself and my girlfriend (Queen Bitch aka QB) got up, had coffee, and made our way to Brighton Station. There we met friends, and caught the train up together, chatting along the way.
At Euston we made our way to the venue by guesswork and Google maps, until we came close enough to hear the cries of the protesters outside the venue. The adrenaline began to flow, but spirits remained high. I was curious to see the angry mob for myself, and wondered how they would react to seeing me, a man with brown skin, attending a meeting of women who are routinely branded as nazis, manhaters, and white supremacists. Would I be labelled, in the lunatic words of Kerry-Anne Mendoza, a ‘turncoat of colour’? I didn’t know what to expect, but I felt no fear. I was with friends, and whatever happened, we would keep each other safe.
When we arrived at the venue, I was disappointed. There were perhaps thirty protesters, chanting. ‘Be nice, trans rights!’ I think they were saying. I agreed with them.
A few other attendees were hanging about outside, smoking and chatting. There was no sense of fear or threat. I scanned the faces of the protesters; to me they looked mostly like young women; perhaps a few identified as non-binary, but it was hard to tell. Upon closer inspection, I saw that behind them were a few people who looked male — perhaps men or non-binary folks, or even transwomen.
At first I wondered why the male-looking people were hiding behind the female ones, but then it occurred to me that some of those women likely had cis-privilege, or cis-passing privilege, and had therefore been strategically placed to protect the more marginalised male individuals in the group from potential attack from imaginary nazis.
The bravery of these young women was impressive, for not ten feet away, small groups of women continued to greet one another with hugs, smiles and laughter. I looked again at the protesters; I discerned no fear in their faces, and little sign of determination. I felt no hostility toward them, only love. I was happy they were standing up for their beliefs, even though I think those beliefs are silly.
Smiling, I tried to make eye contact. I am not certain, but I think a few smiled back. They seem nice, I thought; perhaps later I’ll talk to them. But for now, it was time to go in.
Near the entrance was the welcoming committee, which included a small woman with kind face and a big smile. Her name was Jo, and I took her to be a lesbian. After exchanging introductions, she gave QB a big hug and shook my hand. We showed our tickets and entered the venue. Milling about in the foyer, QB spotted Linda Bellos and ran up to fangirl at her. ‘Linda Bellos!’ she cried. ‘You’re a star! Can I hug you?’
‘Oh, no, no,’ said Linda. ‘That makes me very uncomfortable. I’m not a star. I really don’t like that stuff, it feeds into the ego and you have to be very careful about that sort of thing. But I can hug you as a sister.’
Hugs were duly exchanged. Linda spotted me nearby, clocked me as a man, and approached. ‘What I would really like,’ she said, ‘is for men to get together, as men, and talk about masculinity. I think that’s very important.’
‘I agree completely,’ I replied. It was the truth. She nodded, apparently satisfied. For me, the theme of the day was now set.
We made our way downstairs where we found an abundance of tea, coffee and pastries, and a large crowd of friendly women.
‘That vibe,’ said QB. ‘Female!’
‘Yep,’ I said. ‘It’s great.’
‘This is what they’re jealous of,’ she said. ‘This vibe.’
‘Transwomen? Maybe, yeah.’
‘The crazy thing is, they could have it,’ I said. ‘Sort of. Partake of it, I mean. But… not by force.’
’They don’t get it,’ she said. ‘Cos they’re men.’
‘Yeah,’ I shrugged. ‘It’s very sad. I wish those protestors could come in and feel this; the women, at least. Imagine! Maybe they’ve never experienced it.’
‘Aaargh! It’s all so silly!’
I’m lucky, I thought. I’ve spent a lot of time in female spaces, where there are far more women than men, and have always felt comfortable. There’s something about the energy, whatever that means — the vibe. What causes this vibe, I don’t know; the sound of women’s voices, perhaps, or some subconscious smell that has to do with pheromones; the smell of mothers and sisters and nans, of friends, and of every woman I’ve loved, or even just met.
I don’t know what the cause is. But mixed spaces feel very different to me; as the proportion of men increases, the energy quickly becomes male-dominated. The female vibe is swamped by the male, and I no longer feel comfortable; instead, I get a sense of threat. It’s hard to explain why this is; perhaps pheromones, again? But if I as a man can feel that, how could women not feel it too, and more intensely?
But how could men understand this — especially those who’ve never felt that female vibe, or who are not comfortable with it? Perhaps they sense something amiss, and seek to change that vibe to suit themselves? Perhaps it never occurs to them to make themselves small, to refrain from broadcasting their own male energy, to relax and let the femaleness wash over them? Will men understand these things, if I talk about them? Will they look at me strangely, and make foolish remarks about rationality? Could I explain my feelings to them? Perhaps not. But women will understand.
We had the chance to sign up for various panels and workshops, but we felt overwhelmed by the choices available, and in the end decided not to. After all, we had come mainly to hear the speeches and to hang out and talk with women. I am quiet, shy, introverted, depressive, and feel awkward in social situations. I rarely approach people; I don’t want to bother them, particularly women, who surely have more interesting people to talk to than me. QB is more smiley and outgoing, so she takes the lead in such things. I couldn’t stop her if I tried.
So we milled about, spotting familiar faces and saying hello, until it was time to enter the auditorium, where we met up with our friend Diane and settled in to listen to the opening speeches. These were inspiring, and have been written about by others.
My favourite speaker was Pragna Patel, founder of Southall Black Sisters, who spoke of the women’s movement of the seventies and eighties — my childhood, in the days of apartheid South Africa. I am a child of apartheid; both my parents grew up in that country — a white English woman and a Natal Indian man. They came to the UK to study, where they met at a foreign students’ society and fell in love. As a mixed-race couple, their relationship would have been illegal in South Africa at that time, so they made a life together in England. My father became a barrister, specialising in cases of racial and sexual discrimination. These issues, as well as goings on in South Africa, were part of the scenery of my childhood, and much of what Pragna said struck a chord in me. I felt a deep sense of resurgence, of belonging. I was with my sisters, but I was not one of them. I was a brother.
I surveyed the audience, trying to spot other men. There were only a few — out of some nine-hundred people, perhaps fifty were men, but I doubt it. I’d say it was more like twenty. I was a little disappointed. Do men not care? How can they not care? But this was a women’s conference. If there were too many men there, we’d fuck up the vibe. And perhaps more men had bought tickets, and chosen to pass them on to women. I hope so.
But I was there. And I had been tasked by Linda Bellos herself to discuss masculinity with men. It’s an important task, but I have no idea how to proceed. What the fuck do I know about masculinity? How can I possibly talk about such a thing — with men, of all people? I am not good with men.
Shortly after I was ‘terfed’ I became so enraged about the idea of ‘gender identity’ that I wrote a satirical thread on Twitter in which I ‘realised’ that I was a woman after all.
Apparently this was pretty convincing; I received messages of support, and QB received a text from her mum, who was a bit concerned. I was taking the piss, but (almost) everything I said about myself was true. I have as much claim to womanhood as any other man — zero. But if I spin things a certain way, many people could be persuaded otherwise — and they would lie to my face and call it kindness. They would lie to themselves. I find it hard to believe, but it’s true.
I cannot be a woman, and I do not ‘identify’ as trans. But given my history, perhaps I too am a ‘refugee from masculinity’? Perhaps I too have found masculinity restrictive, and tried to escape from it? But I have not succeeded. I’m not convinced escape is even possible, for anyone. At least not yet.
After the speeches, we went outside for a bit. I wanted to vape, and also to see how the protesters were doing. I wondered if by now their numbers had swelled, and their rage ignited. If not, I hoped they would be friendly enough that I could strike up a conversation. I wondered if they could be offered tea, and maybe biscuits? Was this a golden opportunity to strike up a productive dialogue between the two ’sides’?
No, it was not. The protesters had left already. Now just a few women were standing outside, some smoking. I vaped for a bit, then went back in to get tea.
There were feminist icons everywhere! We spotted Julie Bindel, our friend Jane Clare Jones, Rosa Freedman, and numerous familiar faces whose names we could not remember. There were women of all ages and colours, all shapes and sizes and hairstyles. They wore all different kinds of shoes. Around the edges of the room were a variety of stalls run by women’s groups, selling merch and handing out flyers about different feminist issues. There were women from FiLiA, Nordic Model Now!, Object!, and many more. We wandered around, picking up brochures, making purchases, and enjoying friendly banter. Conscious of my maleness, I tried not to get in the way, and nobody complained. I think I was smiling, because people smiled at me. I felt no hostility, no hatred. There was no sense of threat there, only love.
“I feel safe here,” said QB.
“Sure,” I replied. “Why wouldn’t you?”
“Completely safe. In a room full of strangers.” She shook her head. “That’s not normal for me.”
“Huh,” I said. “Because it’s women?”
“I think so, yeah.”
“I’ve never really felt safe before, with this many people. Not in the same way.”
“There’s no threat of male violence,” I said. “Men, here and there. But no threat.”
“It’s the threat, isn’t it? It doesn’t take actual violence, just that sense of threat.”
“Yeah, like it could kick off any moment.”
“Even if actually it doesn’t. I know what you mean.”
“Women need this.”
“I know,” I said. “Maybe men need it too. But… if there were more of us here… it wouldn’t be like this.”
“Sometimes I feel bad for men. They’re — we’re missing out.”
“Well, tough shit.”
“I know.” I sighed. “I just wish… I dunno. I wish they could understand. How can I make them understand?”
“You can’t. They don’t want to.”
“Hm. Bunch of weirdos, if you ask me.”
We spotted Hibo Wardere, and QB ran over to fangirl and chat with this warm, humorous, and very chilled out legend. While we were hanging out with Hibo, we bumped into our friend Jen, who told us of her recent adventure travelling to Bristol to retrieve a misplaced box of flyers for the Institute of Feminist Thought. Jen went for a smoke, and returned shortly with another woman, with whom myself and QB fell out badly some time ago. It was briefly awkward; I sensed no real hostility, but we didn’t speak. I hope that didn’t ruin her day; it certainly didn’t ruin ours. Our differences may be irreconcilable, but they are of no real consequence. She may no longer be a friend. But she remains a sister.
Soon it was lunchtime, and sandwiches appeared. We ate a few, and then I did a strange thing — I walked around searching for signs of bigotry. Anything would do — white supremacy, homophobia, hatred of men, venomous lies about trans people, women plotting mass murder — anything! Surely, in such a large gathering, there must be some detectable sign of the hatred commonly ascribed to WPUK and similar groups? Here I was, walking among them with a quizzical expression on my face, and no-one so much as looked at me funny. All I saw was ordinary women eating sandwiches, drinking juice, and talking. There was nothing remotely scary about any of it. I was surrounded, and vastly outnumbered by women commonly smeared as far-right religious fundamentalist man-hating nazi scum who deserve The Wall, and I felt completely safe. It was hard to believe these people could possibly pose a threat to anyone. Men often underestimate women, it’s true — but the fearmongering was clearly bullshit.
So what, exactly, were the kiddiwinks protesting against? It’s obvious, isn’t it? They were protesting against this: Women gathering to discuss issues of importance to women, in a room infused with female energy. Women who are not concerned with the needs of men, who simply do not care what men think about them. It sounds glorious to me, but apparently it’s terrifying.
‘Transphobia!’ cry the queer activists and their porn-positive wokebro allies. ‘They want to kill us all!’
No, they don’t. They don’t want to kill anyone. They want to gather together to fight for women’s rights, that’s all. So why would queer activists be against that?
‘Transwomen are women! Sex work is work! Our identities are valid!’
What the fuck is going on? What is the actual problem? Why can’t we talk to each other, and try to work things out? Why the smears, the bomb-threats, the no-platforming, the endless bullshit about nazis and clownfish and the feminine penis? Have these people gone completely insane?
No. They’re not insane. They’re not stupid. They’ve been inducted into what amounts to something like a psychotherapeutic cult. The lack of general knowledge about how cults really work has made us vulnerable to social infection, which has taken hold at every level of society. Those who are not yet infected are too terrified to speak out against the disease.
In order to spread, this disease — this cult-like social infection — takes advantage of vulnerabilities in our society. One such vulnerability is generated by the way masculinity operates on certain kinds of men; men not so different from myself — a minority, perhaps.
Imagine a young man, introverted, socially awkward, and low in confidence. He is seen as ‘unmanly’, or even ‘effeminate’. He finds it hard to fit in with other men. They ridicule him and call him a ‘cuck’. They may physically attack him in the hope he will ‘man up’ and stop being such a ‘pussy’.
But the cuck does not ‘man up’; he bursts into tears and runs away. The other men call him ‘gay’, but they are wrong — for this man is heterosexual. And he has a potential advantage over other men: due to his gentle nature, women do not perceive him as a threat. They take pity on this man and invite him into their social circle. Here, he is seen for what he is — a sweet and gentle soul. His association with women may even protect him somewhat from male bullying. He may grow in confidence, and feel able, for the first time, to express his personality.
This man comes to appreciate the energy of female spaces. He feels safe there, while male spaces continue to cause him anxiety. He discusses this with his female friends, who can relate to it very well. They come to trust him; they may confide in the man, who learns much about women. In a sense, the man has become an ‘honorary woman’ among his female friends. They may even tell him this.
Sooner or later, this man will develop sexual or romantic feelings towards one or more of his friends. Eventually he may act on those feelings. If he is rejected, he will be flooded with difficult emotions — embarrassment, shame, and even anger. He may react by making a complete dick of himself.
Now, his female friends will begin to treat him differently. The differences are subtle, but the man is sensitive, perhaps paranoid — and cannot help noticing. And now he feels betrayed. For years, he has been friends with these women! He has watched, helpless, as they are hurt by relationships with men he regards as dickheads and sexists. For years, he has provided a friendly shoulder to cry on. And now, after all he’s done, they dare to reject him? How could they?
Oh, of course they have the right to reject him sexually. But to reject him as a friend, too? To treat him as they would one of those awful sexist men? Those bitches! How they lie! They say they want men to be kind, but they always go for the arseholes! It’s a cliche, but it’s true! Oh, the injustice!
Something like this has happened to me. It’s normal. But those emotions can be hard to deal with, especially without the support of friends. It took me a while to get over it, but some men never do — instead they develop a deep hatred of women. They might keep that hatred hidden, or instead become incels, and wear it as a badge of pride.
After lunch we bumped into Dr Em and had a quick chat. Then people went to attend their workshops, and QB and I went for a walk to a local bookshop to browse. We returned in time for tea, biscuits and the closing plenary. After that were the regional meetings, and then drinks! We got chatting to various women (sorry but I didn’t get your names). I expressed some of my thoughts about men, and how we too are harmed by the idea that we can identify as women. We talked about the female vibe. I think I complained at one point about men who just parrot the thoughts of women. That seems pointless to me — since men can’t be feminists, we might as well think for ourselves. Our experience is different from that of women, so why not draw on it? Can we discuss our own experiences, and come to better understand masculinity? I guess we can try.
The story of the ‘cuck’ can go another way. I haven’t experienced this myself, but I can imagine it: suppose this man becomes sexually fixated on the female vibe itself. Now he is aroused by his mere presence within female circles, and relieves himself privately. That female energy comes to play a major role in his sexual fantasies. He feels guilty, for he knows this is a betrayal of trust — but that sense of transgression turns him on even more.
Soon, the status of ‘honorary woman’ is not enough for him; for sexual reasons, he wants more; he wants to drown in that female vibe. He wants to be accepted as a woman not only by his female friends, but by everyone else as well.
This man has developed interpersonal autogynephilia — or something like it. And when he learns all about trans identities, he convinces himself he has ‘gender dysphoria’, and declares himself a woman.
If his female friends reject this, or give any hint that they don’t see him as a real woman — not just an honorary one — he will become enraged. After all he’s done for them, why won’t they participate in his sexual fantasies? It’s not as though he’s asking them to actually do anything! He’s not asking them for sex, just acceptance! They said he was a woman, but they were lying all along! In truth, they see him as a man — a pervert, even! He thought they were his friends, but it turns out they’re evil terfs who want him dead! Oh, the injustice!
If his friends reject his newfound womanhood, this man will leave them, and look for a new group of women who can ‘validate his identity’. When he finds some who are prepared to play along, he will make ever-increasing demands. Soon, these ’trans-positive’ women will be working for him full-time to spread the gospel that transwomen are women. They will point to their friend — a once kind and gentle man — as an example of a harmless transwoman, unfairly oppressed by bigots. They will lie to his face, and call it kindness.
He knows they are lying, and hates them for it. These women have no self-respect, he thinks; they’re just dickpandering! But this also turns him on. At last, his transition is complete: a once decent man has transformed into an arsehole. And if he ever realises what he’s become, he can blame it on those nasty women. He has betrayed his female friends completely — and they have betrayed him.
When it really matters, a real friend will call you out on your bullshit. Real friendship is rare, particularly between people of different sexes. What is rare is also valuable. For men to ignore the possibility of finding real friendship with women is foolish in the extreme.
If an increasing number of men take this path through life and end up identifying as ‘women’ (perhaps due to our ‘new understanding’ of gender) it will increase the proportion of male people entering female spaces. This will cause the female energy to be swamped by the male — and the space itself will feel different.
It may be that many young women have simply never experienced that female vibe. They don’t know it, they don’t miss it, and they do not understand its importance to women — and of not allowing its disruption by males.
Perhaps in the past, transwomen could enter women’s spaces with only minor effects on the energy — due to their tiny numbers. But as the numbers increase, so do the disruptive effects — the tipping point is reached quickly, and the energy becomes masculine. Something important has been lost, and the women do not feel safe. When they object, they are expected to explain the problem logically. But what if it goes deeper than logic; what if it’s something animal — like pheromones? What if it’s just how nature works, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it? What if female-dominated spaces are key to a healthy society? Is it bigotry to defend them, or just wisdom? And do men also need single-sex spaces, where they can discuss masculinity — free from judgement, and free from the distractions of women? Is this something men want? Maybe not. The idea of it scares me. I am not good with men. I suspect a lot of us feel the same way. We don’t want to talk about masculinity — and certainly not with men! Men are weird. I fear they would not understand.
Some fears seem too hard to face. Perhaps facing them is necessary.
By eight o’clock, after a few drinks and plenty of conversation, we were exhausted. It had been a long day, full of emotions, and despite the wonderful vibes we were in need of escape from the crowd, and a return to introversion. There were many more people I could (and perhaps should) have spoken to, but I was burned out on social contact, and getting twitchy. I’m no good when I’m twitchy.Filled with love for women, and determined to keep fighting for their rights, we said our goodbyes and left to catch the train.
Since that meeting, several Labour leadership candidates have repeatedly endorsed the idea that WPUK is a hate group, dedicated to harming the rights of trans people. Nothing could be further from the truth. WPUK campaigns for the rights of women and girls. Where there is tension between those rights and the rights of trans people, WPUK seeks dialogue with a view to resolving the difficulties. By opposing women’s rights, the Party undermines the very principles it claims to uphold, and ensures its own destruction. They are making a terrible, stupid mistake. I will never forgive them.
All of us. Sometimes, we don’t know when that tipping point is getting close, but once we feel it approaching, there’s nothing to prevent it, and when it arrives, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma: we can carry on allowing ourselves to get hurt, or we can walk away.
During the course of the gender debate, I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve lost a few people I thought were friends. Some of the friends I made I’ve since lost or walked away from. One friendship I even walked away from twice (never ignore your instincts). Some of those friends have been men, some trans people. Most of the friends I’ve made – and kept –are women.
There’s a good reason most are women.
One of the trans people I made friends with so desperately wants to be a woman, but – and this is my personal opinion – he does not sound, talk, feel, look, think or in any way behave like a woman. This person appeared sweet, at first. Friendly. Approachable. A good laugh. Smart. Talented. Most of all, it seemed he was on women’s side. (And I’m going to say he, because it’s a point of principle – male people get male pronouns, because it avoids confusion and also I refuse to gaslight myself.)
My boyfriend had been speaking to this person, who I’ll just call K, before me, and he encouraged us to become friends. K seemed decent. Vulnerable, as most of us are, and willing to talk about it. Sometimes, a little too willing, and the same stories would be repeated week after week (that should have been a red flag, right there – bear with me). But mostly, we were able to have a good laugh, and we thought the friendship was special – that it had staying power.
But whatever else we had – the laughs, the disagreements – there were two sticking points that K and I couldn’t get past. Ever. Oftentimes, my boyfriend wanted to bang our heads together (no matter that we were on opposite sides of the Atlantic), and so we argued things out, K and I. We argued a lot. K, having previously conceded that transwomen were not women (but neither were they men – they were transwomen), insisted that if a transwoman had taken puberty blockers to prevent them from going through male puberty (which I consider to be child abuse, but I’ll get to that), then that person would have no significant physical advantages over women in sport and should therefore be allowed to compete against them. I said no. I said no because whatever a person does to their body, whether or not a boy goes through male puberty (and therefore lacks the physical advantages inherent in male sportsmen), one thing remained that I would never budge on: that sports person is still not, and never will be, a woman. Women’s sports are for women, not for men who have altered their bodies. For me, it really is as simple as that, and it should not be controversial to say so.
The other sticking point was “trans kids” and I’ve put that in quote marks because I don’t believe there is any such thing as a trans child. In my opinion, giving children drugs because they don’t conform to society’s accepted gender norms (“likes trucks, must be a boy; likes dolls, must be a girl”) is tantamount to child abuse. This is even worse when they are then mutilated – and I will use that word. Their healthy body parts (breasts, penis, balls) sliced off so they and society can pretend they’re the opposite sex. This is worse still when it’s encouraged by those who should know better –it then becomes state-sanctioned child abuse.
This was the sort of language I used in conversations with K – mutilation, medicalised for life, child abuse. Because I’m not in the habit of sugaring the pill. Jazz Jennings – poor kid – is a particular case in point. K asked me not to “misgender her again.” (I had insisted Jazz was a mutilated, badly abused boy – I still believe this to be the case. Try getting me to move on that and I guarantee you’ll get the same response as K did.)
So anyway, this is not meant to be about my opinions as regards the trans debate, but I wanted to use the above to illustrate a few things. One, I am stubborn. It’s a trait I’ve inherited from my mum and my nan and I am proud of it. I do imagine I can be intensely irritating at times because of it, but it is who I am. Two, when it comes to children and their welfare, I am immovable. I don’t have children myself, because I’ve never had the patience to be a good mother, but touch a hair on a kid’s head in front of me and I swear you will not know what’s hit you. Three, no matter how nice I appear to be, I am only nice up to a point. I have discovered in the last few years that if I stop saying or doing things just to “be nice” or if I don’t say or do what people expect of me, those people will call me an awful person and cut me off, or I’ll simply never hear from them again. (This mostly doesn’t bother me, but in some cases, it hurts, because I’ve thought these people friends who knew better than to think I would budge on something I felt strongly about. Hey-ho. The loss is theirs.)
These are facets of my character that I don’t hide. I tell people about them, and this should serve as warning enough that if they try to persuade me of something I’ve already made up my mind about, they will come up against those facets of my character that are not necessarily very nice (because they’re not meant to be). And I also do not hide the fact – because I am not ashamed – that for nearly a decade, I was in a coercive relationship. I tell people I will not let anyone – and I do mean anyone – make me feel that way ever again. The reason the repetition of the same stories should have been a red flag was because that was something I experienced in that coercive relationship. I’ve since found out that it’s a common tactic used by abusive people – a form of guilt-tripping. (“This person did this, but you would never do that to me, would you?”)
I told K these things about me.
I never thought he would test me to the absolute limit.
Against my own better judgement, I continued with the friendship, despite these two main sticking points and despite all the arguments, stress and lost sleep. I didn’t want it to end. K seemed sweet, beneath it all, but there was something niggling at me that I simply couldn’t shift. And one night, I recognised, with a jolt, what it was. I was talking to my boyfriend about K, and said, “But it doesn’t matter what I think, because I’m a woman. My opinion is worthless to K.”
It doesn’t matter what I think.
I’m a woman.
My opinion is worthless.
It seems innocuous, nothing to get het up about, but it was exactly the same way I had felt so often with my abusive ex and it was at that point I put the guard back up to full height, and yet still I continued. We were friends. Surely he didn’t mean to be so cruel?
One night (and it was always us in the UK up into the early hours, never K in the States), we were Skyping again – we did that a few times. And we were talking about various things. We got onto the topic of implanting uteruses into transwomen.
Now, I’m going to be brutally honest here, and say the very idea makes me feel sick. I have disturbing images in my head of women being pinned down and having their wombs forcibly ripped from them, and if I can see something in my mind’s eye, I trust that instinct. I never – ever – ignore it. I told K this, thinking it was obvious why I found the idea utterly terrifying. I’m not even going to explain why here, because it really is that obvious.
K didn’t get it. Or at least, he appeared not to.
My boyfriend isn’t generally a soother, he’ll usually let me cry things out (I’m a big girl, I can cope), but this time, he took me in his arms and made sure I felt safe, because if K’s opinion on uterus implants into transwomen – men – was a common one, what did that say about how society views women and girls in general? I couldn’t get through to K. It was like being faced with the brick wall I’d felt I was bashing my head against on the day I finally walked out on my abusive ex. I was shaking and I was crying, and in the end, I gave up, curled into a foetal position on the bed and told my boyfriend that he could deal with it now because I was done.
K did not say to my boyfriend, “Hey, mate, you’d better take care of her, she’s a mess, this can wait.” He continued to argue his point. My feelings didn’t matter. What I thought didn’t matter. My opinion was worthless.
(K had even said to me on several occasions that my opinion was in the minority, i.e. that most people thought that a person with a penis could actually be a woman. No matter how many times I said most people are not arguing because they don’t know it’s even an issue – because of course everyone knows what a woman is – he continued to try to gaslight me.)
I think my boyfriend continued to talk to K for another two hours, at which point, he too gave up, annoyed that not only did he have an extremely distressed girlfriend – a mess of snot and tears – next to him on the bed, he was indulging the person who’d got her into that state in the first place. Enough. We went to bed.
And you’d think that would have been it, wouldn’t you? If this was someone else’s story, I’d be thinking, surely this is it? Surely she didn’t let him treat her that way any more after that? Surely the friendship was over now?
What finally finished it was K telling me that either I could accept him as a woman or we’d have to temporarily put the friendship on hold – for his benefit, you understand, not mine. And I refused to see him as a woman. In fact, no – scratch that. It wasn’t that I refused to “see him as a woman.” I just didn’t. I never had. Because he’s male, and he will always be male. Adult male (however sweet) = man. So anyway, I said fine. I’m done. This is not going anywhere.
Because emotional manipulation is something I know about. It’s something a great many women – too many women – know an awful lot about. And K was a master at it. Anything I said that went against what he was fighting for was plain wrong. What I said seemed “transphobic”. The attacks on me – one of them very public – became more frequent. He said things like:
“[E]verything you say lately seems designed to make me feel like less of a person.”
“I love you so much, and yet for me it’s survival and for you it’s opinion.”
“It’s perspective for you. It’s stubbornness. For me it’s life or death.”
And yes, he actually said these things to me. My perspective – that a male person cannot be a woman and most of the time can’t even understand how women think and feel – was no more than “an opinion.” For K, however, it was “life or death.”
One thing you’ll see frequently when you read about abusive people is that they will regularly issue suicide threats. And I do not respond well to emotional blackmail, as K discovered that night. The friendship was over.
Shortly after this, K visited the UK, and the original plan was that we would take the chance to meet him. Now, of course, I decided this was not going to happen, at least not for me. My boyfriend was still dithering and wondering whether to meet him without me. I promised I wouldn’t stop him, though I thought it was a bad idea, and in the end, none of us did meet. Believe me – this was for the best.
In the meantime, people who have since become good friends have reached out – either to my boyfriend or to me – and we’ve given our thoughts about K while not saying outright that they should stay the fuck away from him for their own sake (though this is actually now how I feel). They explained the situation and asked for anything I could tell them that might help. So I did. I apologised for my opinions sounding rather negative, but as far as I was concerned, what I had told them was the truth.
Forewarned is fore-armed.
The inevitable happened. Those friendships with K broke down. New ones were forged as a direct result. And now we want to prevent other women, women who may be compassionate and want to protect K (particularly when it seems as though he’s being attacked on social media), from getting caught up in the same web as we ourselves managed – with help from each other – to escape.
It wasn’t easy. Breaking friendships is hard. Even when you know that walking away is the best thing not only for you but for them. K has his demons. We have ours. I have plenty, and they still haunt me. And the only person who can really fight my demons is me, but I can only do that if I’m not trying to fight someone else’s at the same time. I’m happy to help – always – but not at the expense of my own wellbeing. I have to put myself first.
Dealing with K felt as though my energy was being drawn from me by a vampire. It had to stop. I had to take time for me, and repair myself. The pieces were scattered, but I think I’ve now managed to find them all and put them back in the right place.
Women need to stick together. Tightly. Men can be welcome into our groups, but it’s a by-invitation-only contract and it can be revoked at any time if we stop trusting those men. And that does, I’m afraid, include transwomen. Some trans people are great, and none of what I’ve said here is in any way an attack on trans people in general, although I confess I am flummoxed by the whole thing. But women – those of us who are born female and know what that means – must reach out to each other. Because when push comes to shove, we know we cannot rely on men. Individually, they may be great. I love men. But we have to face the fact that, collectively, they won’t help us. Men help other men, even when they don’t realise they’re doing it. Men make excuses for other men’s behaviour.
Helping women is down to women. This is what I’m attempting to do here.
This is not an attack on K. This is a warning to other women whose kindness he may try to exploit.
I want you to not feel what I felt. I want you to feel safe.
It’s good to subvert people’s expectations. What you see is not always what you get, and that’s the way it should be.
When we were just breaking away from the war-ravaged Forties, emerging into the Fifties, the decade that was filled with colour after years of drabness, people still weren’t quite ready for what the Sixties would bring. It was too early. Here are a couple of songs from the Fifties, and remember that, although it’s hard for us born later to really understand, these were considered shocking at the time:
[Little Richard, Lucille]
[Elvis Presley, Hound Dog]
In the Sixties, everything changed. We had Op Art – strange optical illusions that made your eyes see things that weren’t there, or made you perceive movement in perfect stillness, or colour where no colours were present. But musicians, although beginning to branch out – think of the hippie movement, the Flower Children – were still quite clean cut. Even though at this time, we had acts such as the Stones, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, when we think of “Sixties music”, the sort of thing that springs to mind is likely to be something like this:
[The Mamas and the Papas, California Dreamin’]
But then we also have this:
[Janis Joplin, Try (just a little bit harder)]
There’s a reason people who lived through the Sixties wax lyrical about the music of that time. There was just so much of it!
In the Seventies, everything changed again. We now had glam rock. Musicians, mostly men, wearing flamboyant clothes, glitter and make-up and relying on the necessary (and, at the time, inevitable) shock value to add impact to their image. People who grew up in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties certainly weren’t prepared for what happened, and it made the shock value all the more profitable – and desirable – to those who were making the music.
[T-Rex, Get It On]
[Roxy Music, Ladytron]
(It’s true: the Seventies were nuts.)
And by the late Seventies, we had punk, and the following link may not be what you’re expecting:
[Adam and the Ants, Car Trouble]
In the Eighties, we had post-punk and the New Romantics (a movement that began with the Blitz kids). More men wearing make-up. Electronics added something otherworldly – creepy? – to the sound. Adam and the Ants, moving on from punk to embrace a wider audience, added a tribal element to the mix with their Burundi-inspired double-drum soundscape. Boy George confused a generation of young men and inspired the same generation of young women by making himself beautiful – and vulnerable.
[Culture Club, Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?]
[Adam and the Ants, Kings of the Wild Frontier]
Many of these Eighties bands were heavily influenced by the previous two decades, especially the Seventies, and added something of their own to it. For the rest of the Eighties, musicians had a lot to live up to:
[Adam and the Ants, Ants Invasion]
[Then Jerico, The Big Area]
[Sisters of Mercy, This Corrosion]
The Nineties were different again; as a reaction to what some saw as a fairly “safe” music mainstream – Britpop in the UK, for instance – we now had bands such as Placebo and Suede emerging, taking risks, wearing dresses and make-up and singing about nancy boys and gay sex.
[Placebo, Nancy Boy]
[Suede, Animal Nitrate]
And we also had beautiful Finnish men singing about death:
[HIM, Death is in Love With Us]
But the one constant who had been with us since the Sixties, and who most definitely had been leading the way, style wise, since the early Seventies, was David Bowie.
[David Bowie, Time]
Now, recently, certain trans folk have been quick to tell feminists that they’re wrong for thinking the concept of gender identity is harmful. Just look at David Bowie, they say. He was trans positive, he had a trans lover (Romy Haag, we know, eye roll), he hung out with Jayne (formerly Wayne) County (again, we know)… and yes, many of those feminists the trans folk are trying to “educate” are themselves Bowie fans. He accumulated millions of fans over the years, many of them obsessive, from all across the globe.
So, with this in mind, we’re going to look at the concept of gender ideology through a Bowie-shaped lens. What was the message he was trying to convey? That varies, of course, depending on your point of view and where you stand politically.
[David Bowie, Fame]
Identity – this seems to be what much of the transgender movement is about. I am who I say I am and you’re in no position to refute that because I know who I am better than you do. OK. Let’s start there.
Who we are is not a given. It shifts. Mutates. Like a kaleidoscope of colours merging and separating, separating and merging, finally stopping in a particular place – and no matter where it stops, it’s never the same as any other combination of colours and shapes that’s ever existed before. Each one of us is unique. On this, the woke blokes, the transgender people and the feminists are in complete agreement. But too often, people fail to recognise sufficiently that there are also things certain groups have in common, and which bind us together. One of those commonalities is rooted in the body we were born with. Our sex.
As we grow up, we explore who we are. This exploration is in part a series of interactions with the people around us, and much of the time, the nature of these interactions is coloured by our sex and by how we are perceived by others. And then when puberty hits, we’re flooded with hormones, our bodies start changing and our sexuality develops. (Remember, I’m not talking about gender identity here. That’s a modern concept that feminists prefer to call “personality.”) But, crucially,our minds develop, as well. As we seek to separate ourselves from our families, and become autonomous human beings, we start to question who we truly are. And those questions lead us to some strange places. Some frightening places. Why do I feel this way? Am I the only one? Are there others like me? Everyone else seems to be having an easy time, so why is life so hard for me?
[David Bowie, Changes]
These are the questions that every young person going through puberty asks. And yet certain peopleuse that same shared sense of isolation and disconnect to manipulate young people into believing the rest of us don’t share their sense of isolation at puberty. It invites them into an ideology that promotes the misguided idea they can literally be whatever they would prefer to be. That if you like boy things, that means you’re a boy; if you like girl things, that means you’re a girl. Feminists believe this is the kind of sexist claptrap that they have been fighting against for centuries.
Although we may not suffer from exactly the same kind of isolation as that felt by these young people – times change – the notion that any of us goes through life without these feelings of isolation and struggle with our own internal sense of who we are is patently nonsense.
David Bowie was practically the walking embodiment of this feeling. Whether or not he felt that way himself is irrelevant – he told a lot of fibs, and the fibs were part of his image. But one thing we do know is that he never stopped asking questions. He never stopped exploring. To try to find out who he was and who we all are, he peered into the darkest recesses, those none of us really wants to look into. He did it for us. He went there, he came back and he showed us what he’d seen. He never claimed to understand it, but he was always eager to share what he’d found.
His final album, Blackstar, was perhaps his way of giving us the sum of everything he’d learnt about himself over the course of his long career by asking all those questions. Who am I? What is my purpose in life? What am I here to do?
Did I change the world?
[David Bowie, Loving the Alien]
As regards that last, for many of us, the answer is yes. He did. He changed our world. Because he told us we could look at things in a different way but without ever telling us how it was done. For many fans, Bowie’s message seemed to be that we could – and indeed should – flip what was expected of us and turn it upside down, forcing people to look at us –and themselves – in a different way. That way wasn’t prescribed for us. It just said, “Look. What do you see? How does it make you feel?”
When someone says, “I am X,” and we perceive something different, our minds do a double-take. What you see isn’t necessarily what’s there. A skilled actor can make you believe they’re someone else, suspend disbelief. A skilled mime artist can make you see a gate as they pretend to walk through it, a car as they pretend to drive it, an invisible key as it unlocks an invisible door. We know those things aren’t really there. Like those Magic Eye pictures that were all the rage in the Nineties, what we see depends partly on how we look. We can change our depth perception and see something different. We can look at a pane of glass, or we can look through it and see what’s beyond. (That’s how those Magic Eye pictures worked, for those who could never figure it out. You had to look through them, not at them.)
David Bowie showed us that if we looked at something in a different way to how we’d been taught to look at it, perhaps we’d see something different. Perhaps we’d see what was really there, hiding just beneath the surface. Perhaps we’d see something no one else had ever seen. But we had to reallylook.
[David Bowie, Ashes to Ashes]
This, I suspect, is one reason transgender people use the example of Bowie to “explain” to us why they’re not what we perceive them to be – rather, they are precisely, and only, what they perceive themselves to be. Nothing more, nor less. Some of us will be afraid to look more closely, for fear of what we might see. So, should we look they way they say we should? Or should we subvert? Look differently? Think for ourselves? Seek what’s really underneath?
We’ll always see something, but can we be certain that what we see is real? Because as well as looking to find something no one else has seen, we can also fool ourselves into seeing something that really isn’t there at all. Think of that invisible key in that invisible lock, opening that invisible door.
Those glam rockers in the Seventies – starting with David Bowie and Marc Bolan – dressed in a way that made people look. Made people think. Some were afraid of what they saw, and looked away. Perhaps it shocked them to the core, or made them angry. Others looked, and liked what they found. Either way, the kids loved it. And parents – with the odd (very odd) exception – were terrified. Were these the ch-ch-ch-changes Bowie had told us about? What the devil was going on?
But what none of those glamsters asked us to believe was that they were anything other than what they were. The message was – and remains, for many – that you could be as weird as you liked, that masculinity and femininity were irrelevant and sometimes even undesirable. Some said masculinity was a joke, something to be made fun of. For a while, in the Seventies, the most manly thing a man could do was wear make-up. (Bolan alone must have sent sales of glitter soaring.)
[T-Rex, Children of the Revolution]
Bowie often looked out at his audiences and saw hundreds of clones of himself. And he loved that fans were taking what he was doing and running with it. He thought that was fabulous. They were themselves, but more sparkly, more glittery versions of themselves. Louder, and much harder to ignore.
In 1980–81, Adam Ant wore a white war stripe across his nose, partly as a big “fuck you” to the corrupt music industry and partly as homage to the warriors he was trying to emulate for his stage persona. For me, this was the first time I had seen a good-looking man with make-up that made me sit up and really look. I was six years old. I knew even at that young age it was subversive. It was dangerous. And I also knew I found it attractive. I still do.
[Adam and the Ants, Ant Rap, 1981]
Radical feminism has no problem with men wearing make-up and outlandish clothes. For a certain type of women, it’s the most attractive thing! Feminism wants to do away with restrictive norms of behaviour laid out for both men and women, which for an inordinately long time had been considered indispensable. There is no need to create new categories, which are just as restrictive as the old ones – many would say more so. Part of Bowie’s message was that we don’t need to be hemmed in by these categories. We can escape the boxes, break out of them and subvert expectations., while remaining fundamentally what we are – a man or a woman.
One thing Bowie never advocated was sticking rigidly to sex stereotypes. Androgyny was the name of the game for most of the Seventies, and for most of the Eighties, as well. (“Wow, she’s nice! Oh, it’s– That’s a dude.”)
[Aerosmith, Dude Looks Like A Lady]
And that was true subversion of expectations. It forced people to question themselves, and sometimes also their sexuality. And questioning yourself, though perhaps an uncomfortable experience, is a good thing. And (going out on a limb here, bear with me) one of the reasons it’s good is precisely because it’s uncomfortable.
[David Bowie, Rebel Rebel]
Here’s a quote from Bowie: “Always go a little further into the water than you feel capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”
[Alice Cooper, The Ballad of Dwight Fry]
Being uncomfortable can, therefore, be a positive thing, as long as our personal safety is not at risk. Being uncomfortable can arouse our curiosity. Bowie taught us to figure out who, and perhaps also what, we are. But he also taught us that other people’s perceptions of us are unpredictable. And this is agood thing. The confusion arising from these varied perceptions is part of what makes us human. That confusion can keep us guessing for years. Bowie certainly used those notorious fibs of his to that effect. He was an artist. His whole life was part of that art.
Fuck, he even made art out of his own death:
[David Bowie, Lazarus]
So now, let’s come back to Romy Haag and Jayne County. Both of these individuals were transsexuals, and it was precisely that, I suspect, that would have drawn David Bowie to them. They were different. They were interesting. Neither was what they initially appeared to be.
People – all sorts of people – fascinated Bowie. He was often called a chameleon, but actually, that description annoyed him; a chameleon changes in order to blend in. But Bowie wasn’t a chameleon. He was a magpie. He stole ideas. (In 1979, Adam Ant even wrote a song about his idea-stealing propensities, called Zerox.)
[Adam Ant, Zerox]
David Bowie would hear a riff, or see an image, and ask himself how he could use it. He once said, “The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from.” He wasn’t coy about it, he was very open; and when he did this, he turned it around – subverted it – so that it became uniquely Bowie. Subversion became his trademark, and is one reason so many people loved him, and why his influence will continue to spread. As long as people want to subvert, they will be drawn to David Bowie.
Bowie didn’t try to be like Romy Haag or Jayne County, but he stole from them both. Watch this, and note the costume changes:
[David Bowie, Boys Keep Swinging]
Some of us are different, whether we like it or not. Some of us stand out for our personalities. Others stand out because of the way we dress, or the way we do our make-up; for our brains; for our magnetism. And humans have always decorated ourselves for one reason or another. It’s what we do.
[David Bowie, The Heart’s Filthy Lesson]
The filthy lesson of the heart, Bowie once said, was that you’re going to die. And because we’re all going to die one day, why not celebrate our lives together? Why not celebrate the complexity and wonder of being fully human while we can? Nature has already given us so much to celebrate! Human beings come in various shapes, sizes and colours. We’re already so diverse and wonderful; we have endless material for art and self-expression. We can dress however we want – we don’t need to pretend to be something else when what we are is already so fascinating.
In the end, it was Bowie’s fascination with people, especially with those who don’t quite fit, that made him the incredible artist he was – why so many of us feel such a deep connection, not just with his art, but with Bowie as a person – whoever he may have been. We can embrace our differences, celebrate them; and through our differences, we can find unity.
Please – and this is a sincere request – don’t use my love of Bowie to tell me why I’m wrong about identity politics. Let’s love Bowie together, in our own way, and do our best to understand what it was he was trying to tell us.
And remember that, in the end, we can’t change who or what we are – but we can express ourselves however we damn well please. And no one can stop us from doing that.
It’s been just over six months since I found out I’m an evil terf. Until then I didn’t know what a terf was, or why anyone would want to punch one.
Even now I find it impossible to accept that I am little better than a nazi, or that my beliefs promote the genocide of trans folks. I can’t accept it, and neither can I shift my thinking so as to escape my self-imposed terfdom.
I guess I’m just a bad person, full of hatred; a foolish pawn of right-wing Christians and an unwitting supporter of the moronic psychopath Donald Trump.
Twitter hasn’t changed much. Every day, a fresh argument errupts over the definition of the word ‘woman’. An endless supply of beardy woke bros step forward one by one to inform us that ‘sex is a spectrum’, and that to believe otherwise is unscientific and bigoted.
Every day, they spout the same old nonsense, and every day it is refuted.
I don’t usually get involved in those arguments; I don’t have the patience for it. I don’t know how anyone can stand it.
Still, I’ve always been interested in the question of why people believe what they believe. It’s normally not hard to figure that out, and most of the time, there’s a kind of sense to it.
But in the case of transgenderism, I’ve been stumped. I really couldn’t see how an intelligent person could possibly come to believe, for example, that a lesbian can have a penis. Just thinking about it makes my brain hurt.
What kind of mental contortions could possibly lead people to believe such things?
Misogyny’s a big part of the story, yes. There’s no escaping that fact.
And Queer Theory’s another piece of the puzzle.
But Queer Theory could never convince scientifically-minded types that ‘sex is a spectrum’. Those types need to construct at least the semblance of a logically-coherent world view. I don’t think Queer theory can do that, even with added misogyny. I think there’s more to it.
So I’m going to talk about Transhumanism and its philosophical underpinnings.
This will not be a ‘conspiracy theory’. But it will be a bit technical, with lots of references. Please fasten your seatbelts.
There is a common idea in our culture that the human brain is a kind of computer; that what we call a ‘mind’ is just a program running on that computer; and that the human body is just a kind of meat robot controlled by that computer.
Some people say this is just a metaphor. But many people believe it to be true.
Nobody knows whether or not it is true, or if it’s even a good metaphor.
People may pretend the matter is settled one way or the other, but it’s not.
We don’t know how the brain works, nor how it (or anything else) could produce consciousness. We have little – if any – understanding of the mind, let alone consciousness or thought. We don’t even know if those concepts make scientific sense.
But let’s sweep that all aside! Could the brain really be a kind of computer? Could the mind be a computational process?
Well, what’s a computer? And what is computation?
Here’s a fun explanation of what a computer is, by the late genius Richard Feynman:
Essentially, Feynman tells us that a computer is a glorified filing system, operated by an extremely stupid, but extremely fast-working file clerk. And that’s all it fucking is.
Nevertheless, a system like that is capable of performing any computation whatsoever – and this fact is mathematically provable.
But what is a computation? It is an operation that can be carried out step by step to produce a correct result, even without understanding why the procedure works, why the result is correct, or even what the operation is for.
It’s any operation that can be carried out by an extremely stupid file clerk, if only they can follow strict instructions without deviation. Such an operation is called an ‘algorithm’ – or (when performed by a computer) a ‘program’.
No insight is required to carry out the steps of an algorithm; in fact, insight would only get in the way. A computation is best performed mindlessly.
The following example will allow you to calculate the square root of any (real) number:
1. Pick a number – call it N.
2. Guess the square root of N – call the guess G.
3. Multiply G by G. Call the result R.
4. If R < N, your guess G was too low. Go to 2.
5. If R > N, G was too high. Go to 2.
6. If R = N, G is the square root and you can stop guessing.
This algorithm will work with one proviso – you must keep a record of your lowest over-guess and your highest under-guess of G, and always re-guess between those limits. Otherwise a sufficiently stupid person with no insight is likely to get stuck in an infinite loop.
Fortunately it’s easy enough to include the extra steps to prevent this. The improved algorithm can be implemented on a computer (or by the idiot filing system) and will calculate square roots.
A UTM is a mathematical idealisation, not an actual machine. A modern electronic computer is a practical version of the idea. In principle, there’s nothing a modern computer can do that a UTM cannot. Turing proved that anything that can be computed, can be computed by a UTM.
You could implement a UTM using Feynman’s super-duper filing system, or you can do it in silicon. In fact, you could do it any way you like – you could use a system of water-pipes, or a cleverly designed maze complete with mice and cheese.
You could even use a bizarre contraption based on string, farts, and cabbage. The hardware is irrelevant – the only thing that matters is that it implements the UTM correctly.
In the real world, we don’t usually build computers out of mice, farts, or water pipes. In principle we could, but in practice it’s very inconvenient. It is much easier to build computers out of silicon, metal and plastic.
So if it is true that the brain is a computer, and the mind is a computational process, then in theory it must be possible to set up a UTM to carry out that process. You could do it using a filing system, an electronic computer, or with a machine made of lentils and hot air.
Some of you may worry that I’ve mischaracterised this argument, to make it seem more preposterous than it really is. I haven’t. Also – I don’t think it’s preposterous that in principle one could implement a computer by means of lentils and hot air. I think it’s true.
But *is* mind a computational process? Nobody knows. But there are good reasons at least for taking the idea seriously.
So far, nobody’s proved it’s not. It’s one of the few scientific ideas we have. And though it may seem preposterous, we’re used to that in science. Many scientific theories seem intuitively preposterous but are nevertheless true.
First, he writes about something called the Imitation Game. In this game a Questioner (Q) is placed in a separate room from a man and a woman, labelled at random X and Y. He can’t see or hear them. Q is allowed to ask X and Y written questions; they must give written answers.
By asking these questions, Q is supposed to figure out whether it is X or Y that is the woman. Both X and Y are supposed to convince Q that they are the woman; therefore the man will have to lie.
So Q might ask (stupidly), ‘X – how long is your hair?’. Q continues until they think they know whether it is X or Y who is the true woman. If Q is right, Q wins.
Next Turing considers a different version of the game, in which X and Y are a human and a computer, and Q’s goal is to tell which one is the computer. Turing wonders if Q will guess wrongly as often as when the game involves the man and the woman.
Turing himself wrote, ‘The original question, “Can machines think?” I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion. Nevertheless I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.’
A program that can trick the Questioner, some argue, should be considered intelligent. Some argue that such a program must be considered to have a mind, to be capable of thought, and perhaps even to be conscious.
(But would they argue that any man who can trick the Questioner into believing he is a woman, is in fact a woman? Perhaps some would.)
There are others who doubt that a computer of any kind could be conscious. Remember – the implementation is irrelevant; all that matters is the algorithm. So a computer could, theoretically, be constructed from string, farts, and cabbage – and it would make no difference.
There is a bad smell about all this; it smells like the mind-body problem. Supposedly this is a big mystery – how can the mind, which is non-physical, affect the body, which is physical? How could that work? Philosophers still worry about this stuff.
But looky here! If the mind were a computer program, then… well, we’ve cracked it! Champagne all round. This helps explain why this idea – the Computational Theory of Mind – is so attractive. It does away with the mystery of consciousness.
It does away with all ideas about spirits, souls and magical essence. Computation is a physical process, after all – there’s nothing mysterious about it!
So, if the brain were a computer, and the mind a computer program, we’d have a scientific theory of consciousness – or at least, the beginnings of one. Not bad.
You might also see how this ‘solution’ to the mind-body problem could relate to transgenderism and the thorny debate about whether it’s possible to be ‘born in the wrong body’:
– ‘Clearly, if the mind and the body are separate entities, and if the mind is a program that runs on the hardware of the brain, then, since we have a mathematical proof that any hardware can execute any program, the body must be irrelevant to the question of identity!’
– ‘Computer games prove this too. Just look at the huge range of avatars in World of Warcraft – there’s everything from little bitty hyper-feminine elf-girls to giant hulking uber-masculine ogre-guys. But you can never assume the player’s sex from the appearance of the avatar!’
– ‘One can easily imagine a more masculine elf – or a more feminine ogre – with the exact same genitalia! In theory one could control the avatar’s masculine / feminine balance with a slider; the avatar could morph smoothly from one extreme to the other – in real time, even!’
– ‘Why not? And there’s no need to change the genitals. The difference between the elf and the ogre is so much more than that. This is why sex cannot possilbly be binary. Binary means there are just two possibilities – it’s like a simple on-off switch, a single bit of data.’
– ‘How could you possibly encode the gender diversity of WoW using just a single bit? The very idea is ridiculous! Anyone who knows anything about computers will tell you the same.’
– ‘A woman is simply a type of mind, no more, that typically runs on particular hardware (the female body and brain) but could, theoretically, run on different hardware (a male body and brain). And, if it did, surely it would be no less a woman for that? It’s logical, no?’
No. It’s bollocks – but I can see how someone might think this way.
But have we really solved the mind-body problem with this Computational Theory of Mind?
There are some with doubts. The philosopher John Searle is one such person. For those who would like to believe that the mind is just a computational process, Searle’s ‘Chinese Room’ thought experiment has been a major pain in the arse for over thirty years.
Here he is speaking at Google, annoying people. Google’s chief futurist Ray Kurzweil (more from him later) is in the audience, and his hairpiece is on fine form:
John Searle: “Consciousness in Artificial Intelligence” | Talks at Google
His argument is simple: Searle imagines himself locked in a room. Outside the room are Chinese-speaking people. They write Chinese characters on bits of paper and pass them into the room through a slit.
Searle does not understand Chinese, but he has an instruction manual written in English. The manual does not tell him what the characters mean, but by following the instructions, he is able to assemble a different series of Chinese characters and pass them out through the slit.
The people outside the room interpret these characters as ‘answers’ to their ‘questions’. The manual is so well-written, and Searle is so good at following instructions, that the responses produced are indistinguishable from those of a native Chinese speaker.
Yet Searle still understands not a word of Chinese! Since in this situation Searle does not understand Chinese, there’s no way a computer executing such a program could understand Chinese either, because the computer has nothing that Searle doesn’t have.
This argument can be generalised to cover any possible computer program; so according to Searle there’s no way a computer could ever understand anything!
Here, Searle is imagining himself in the role of Feynman’s idiot filing clerk; and it’s intuitively obvious he’s right – Searle in the room could not understand Chinese; neither could an idiot filing clerk performing the same task, and neither could a computer.
Thus, it seems, the mind cannot be a computer program. (NB: Searle is very clear that he believes the mind must surely arise from some physical process – he just doesn’t think that process could be computation.)
The debate is still raging. Nothing is proved. But clearly there are good reasons for doubting that the mind really is a computer program.
Nevertheless, the idea is very attractive to those immersed in the world of technology and science. Such people often have little background or interest in the arts, and regard philosophy as a waste of time. But they’re as susceptible to human folly as anyone else.
Here’s just some of the ridiculousness that stems from the idea that minds can be created by computer programs:
Kurzweil is a major proponent of the idea of the coming Technological Singularity, in which the invention of a computer exceeding human intelligence will trigger a feedback loop of rapid technological innovation & civilisational change beyond imagination: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity
The origin of this idea is often credited to the science fiction writer and Computer Scientist Vernor Vinge. I’ve read several of his books and enjoyed them, but was dismayed by one of them (on my shelf as ‘Across Realtime’).
One minor character is a female environmentalist concerned about the destruction of planet Earth; but her concern is motivated by a deep hatred of humanity. (I read this as Vinge’s own view of those who give a fuck about any species but our own – but who knows?)
Not only does Kurzweil believe in the Singularity, he longs for it. He’s getting old now, and he’s desperately searching for a way to cheat death. Presumably, he’d tell us not to worry about the extinction of the chimp, the rhino or the tiger.
Extinction’s no problem after all; when the Singularity comes, all the creatures that ever lived can simply be resurrected inside a computer, where they will live happily every after – like Kurzweil himself, with a full head of hair.
This is the essence of transhumanism – the idea that biology is irrelevant to our existence as individuals; that we are defined entirely by our conscious minds, which are just computational processes constrained by outdated hardware.
Transhumanism rejects those biological constraints. It rejects Mother Nature as inadequate, and seeks to improve on her sloppy design.
‘[A]ccording to [Kurzweil]’ writes Searle, ‘within a very few decades, sensible people will get out of neurons and have themselves “downloaded” onto some decent hardware.’
Searle concludes, ‘The title of the book is The Age of Spiritual Machines. By “spiritual,” Kurzweil means conscious, and he says so explicitly. The implications are that if you read his book you will come to understand the machines and that we have overwhelming evidence that they now are or will shortly be conscious. Both of these implications are false. You will not understand computing machinery from reading Kurzweil’s book.’ (And you won’t understand consciousness either.)
Damn those pesky philosophers! They ruin everything!
Let’s just ignore them and hope they’ll go away…
– In a (slight) return to sanity, here’s a story about a man who claims to have spent seventeen years as a soldier on Mars. It relies on similar ideas about the possibilities of technology, but apart from that it’s unrelated to transgenderism: https://www.gaia.com/article/randy-cramer-mars-defense-force
This man’s story is not unique. And is it any less plausible than transhumanism?
– Here’s another example of this kind of thinking – an interview with Rob Rhinehart, who invented Soylent (a specially-formulated nutritional slime) to free us all from the dreadful ickiness of normal human food…
What we have in transhumanism is a blind faith in the power of technology, combined with a rejection of biology as icky, outdated and oppressive. We see the same thing in transgenderism. But that basic attitude – of Nature as a nuisance – is prevalent throughout our culture.
It is Mother Nature who gives birth to all things; archetypically, she is Chaos, who must be tamed by man so as to give birth to the Order of human civilisation.
(This is why Jordan Peterson goes on about Feminine Chaos – he’s talking about archetypes, and – sexist or not – he’s got a point. These archetypes are not facts, but they are important cultural themes with significant power over the human subconscious.)
I’ve always thought it strange that the subconscious (or the unconscious) rarely figures in discussions about the Computational Theory of Mind; it’s as if these people don’t think it exists.
There’s nowt so queer as folk.
Jung once said:
‘We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the great danger. And we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man… far too little. His psyche should be studied – because we are the origin of all coming evil.’
– C.G. Jung, Interview with John Freeman, Face to Face,1959:
(‘Fuck you, Jung! What’s wrong with wanting to live forever? Psychiatry is nothing but witchcraft and lies! What could you possibly know about the human condition? You’re dead!’)
Also from that article:
’Facebook and Apple both offer “female-friendly perks” that include covering the costs of egg freezing in a bid to delay workers having children, and Apple also covers the legal costs of adoption.’
What are we to make of this? Is it all just bollocks?
There are clear links here to Silicon Valley, plus the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, all of which are important for the transhumanist project to liberate humanity from the limitations of Mother Nature.
There are links to the porn industry too, though here it’s more complicated:
‘While straight men make up the vast majority of consumers of the mainstream ‘shemale’ porn market, the popularity of performers resides in their status as “chicks with dicks.”’ https://www.dailydot.com/irl/trans-surgery-porn-fund/
Sometimes when people bring all this up, they are accused of peddling a ‘conspiracy theory’. But as I mentioned before, no conspiracy theory is necessary.
It all sounds remarkably like a transhumanist version of Queer Theory! Apparently this essay made quite a splash, and was all the rage in academic circles of the time. It’s hard to imagine Judith Butler (one major culprit of Queer Theory) was not aware of Haraway’s work.
Sandy Stone (a central figure in the Olivia Records controversy, who features in Janice Raymond’s 1979 book ‘The Transsexual Empire’) was a student of Donna Haraway’s at the time Haraway was writing the Cyborg Manifesto:
Stone went on to write ‘The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto’ in 1987.
The more I look into this, the more I see deep connections between Transhumanism, Transgenderism, and Queer Theory.
To me they look like different ways of articulating the same basic idea – that humans as a species can create a utopia only by rejecting all cultural norms, and ultimately, our humanity itself. It’s completely insane. But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
It does not need to be a conspiracy. What we have here is True Believers. They read too much science fiction. They have too much money, and an unshakeable faith in their intellectual superiority – which is nothing but a mirage. These people are fucking fools.
His talk about computers was filmed there, and so was this lecture series ‘The Quantum Mechanical View of Reality’. Here, Feynman is interrupted constantly by stoned clever dudes, and becomes irritable. It’s painful to watch, but fascinating:
Transhumanism is the cultural equivalent of a brain-fart. It sounds insane, and it is. It comes down to a bunch of techies in a hot-tub, dropping acid and struggling to make sense of ideas far too big to fit in their brains.
Transhumanists think of humans as gods; infant gods, oppressed by a tyrannical Mother Nature. But one happy day they will kill her, and then we shall be free!
Free from gender! Free from sex! Free from the ickiness of womanhood, and the evil of men! Yea, free even from the unnatural restrictions of our pathetic physical bodies! Hallelujah, children! No need to fear death!
When your body wears out, just download into a new one – a better one, made from odourless plastic! It even has interchangeable sex-organs – so easy to clean in the dishwasher! Who needs a vagina, girls, when you can have the VaginatorXX+ instead?
But is any of this possible?
Perhaps – but what does it matter?
There’s money to be made – and lots of it.
The point is these people *believe* it’s possible, and they’re trying to make it happen. To them the ends justify the means – for who wouldn’t want to live in their glorious Utopia? Only uncool people, like terfs and fascists, and people who go to church.
‘The villagers had said justice had been done, and she’d lost patience and told them to go home, then, and pray to whatever gods they believed in that it was never done to them. The smug mask of virtue triumphant could be almost as horrible as the face of wickedness revealed.’
Of course this stuff is anti-woman. But it’s worse than that.
This is not just an attack on feminism; it’s an attack on humanity itself.