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Why telling people to “go vegan” won’t work

“Go vegan!” comes the battle cry. The imperative contains the hidden half: “You should go vegan.”

I’m going to be daring and suggest that this is the wrong direction of approach. Our friends, family and peers should not go vegan because we tell them to. Nor should they even go vegan because they feel an immense social pressure to do so, or because they feel guilty. They should go vegan because they want to.

The word “want” has a bad rep. “Want” sounds weak and childish. “I want to eat bacon. I eat bacon because I want to,” is indeed weak and childish. However, it’s a mistake not to acknowledge the important role that desire plays in social change. Without desire, we don’t stick to important changes we make to our lives.

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Enforcing birth gender toilets

Did you ever wonder what would happen if you tried to enforce the gendered bathroom rule? The one that says you can only go into the bathroom of your birth gender, as indicated by your birth certificate.


Let’s look at it step by step.

First, you need muscle. In order to enforce anything, you need muscle. You put a security guard on the door of the women’s toilet, and a camera inside.

Then, you need ID that gets you past the bouncer. The only thing that will work is your birth certificate. That would mean that in order to get into the toilet, you have to carry your birth certificate everywhere you go.

If that isn’t Orwellian enough, you’ve got the problem of fakes. That would mean bouncers would have to flush out interlopers by checking the authenticity of these birth certificates with their keen eye. They would need to be pretty qualified to do this.

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Safety in bathrooms: The gender risk

This is part of a series on The Great Bathroom Debate; i.e., whether trans people should be able to use the gendered bathrooms of their choice. This is the second blog exploring the question of safety.

In it, I look at gender perceptions, and how these ideas shape our view of where trans people should be “allowed” to pee. 

Male is male, and male is violent

One of the bigger influencers in this debate is trans-scepticism, whereby people of a certain lean simply do not think transwomen differ enough from men to be safety counted as women. To them, transwomen are to be regarded as men, and regarded as dangerous for being men.

This is odd, because it suggests that we think men are inherently dangerous. Suddenly, we’re no longer talking about an insignificant <1% of the population, but a much more serious ~50%. If it were true that 50% of people were dangerous, protecting against them would at least make good financial sense.

However, most of us agree that men are generally not vicious by default. That being the case, it is inconsistent to argue that transwomen are dangerous because they are male. Instead, you’re looking at an obvious and distinct prejudice against the process of identifying as female, while being physically male. In the vernacular, transphobia.

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Calculating risk: the trans bathroom debate

One of the big arguments against letting trans people use the bathrooms of their choice concerns safety. Examining things from a trans perspective is often pitched as a betrayal of women, leaving them open to danger.

Here I look at the rational side of examining safety in bathrooms. It’s not a position that requires endless anecdotal evidence – only a little bit of reason. In this blog, I explore generalist faulty thinking. In the next, I look at specifics.

Profiling

A major way in which we determine risk is by generalisation. This is also one of the most faulty ways. Here is the common pitch against trans people in the name of safety: Because some of the people who use the women-only bathrooms might be predatory, the whole lot should be banned.

This kind of profiling is an old idea. Because men are more likely to be child abusers, male primary school teachers are regarded with suspicion, even though we need more teachers. Because the current wave of terrorism tends to be Islamist, we profile people from Muslim countries. This is commonly understood to be prejudice.

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Bathrooms? Transmen? What nonsense.

Transmen are used to being ignored. No, that’s OK. In many ways it’s good. It means that we can sneak in and point out all the flaws in anti-trans thinking, which is usually stacked against transwomen, and ignores us completely.

Take the Great Bathroom Debate. The thinking goes thus: If you let transgender people go into whatever bathroom they like, you’re going to get a bunch of people who look like men appearing in the women’s bathroom.

Here’s the problem. If you don’t let transgender people go into whatever bathroom they like, you’re going to get a bunch of people who look like men appearing in the women’s bathroom.

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The Great Bathroom Debate

Which public bathrooms should transgender people be using? I’m a transman, and it was put to me by a friend that the whole argument is trivial, and that trans people should suck it up and go wherever our junk dictates.

I’ll explain why he is wrong. Firstly and most obviously, most transmen don’t get genital surgery, but we do look entirely male in every other way. For more information on how the bathroom debate totally ignores the reality of transmen, go here.

The next thing that needs to be understood is how it feels to be a trans person in public places. In my early days of transition, everything was important. A day when I did not “pass” for male felt like month’s worth of progress had been lost. There’s no way to describe this, other than gut-wrenching.

I can’t comment on whether that’s an overraction. I can only describe the reaction, and say that trans people of all kinds – tough, soft, worldly, or naive – have the same preoccupation with passing. There is often nothing on earth more important to a trans person.

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“You totally can’t tell!” Trans passing and appearance culture

I’ve been safely transitioned for a while, now. What I mean is, I’ve been on testosterone and looked like a man for long enough not to worry if I look the part. I am unlikely to be pointed at in the street, or harangued in bathrooms for my birth certificate. 

Frankly, if I tell people I’m trans, and they say something like: “You totally can’t tell,” I’m inclined to laugh, because I’m at the point where I think: “Of course you can’t tell. That’s the whole idea.” Some transition it would be if you didn’t look the opposite sex to the one you were born as, by the end of it all.

Insofar as there is an end to transition. It’s really an ongoing thing, with your brain continuing to change as you age, further and further away from what you used to be. This matters because our idea about transgenderism still appears to be framed by the idea that “a sex change” is a single operation, as opposed to years of rehabilitation into a new life, within a different section of society. It’s about finding yourself again, in this brand new context, and accepting that your world is changing.

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