September 21, 2022

What "queer" means and why it is such a useful word

 


"Queer" is a great word that can be used to describe those who not belong to the heterosexual/non-transgender majority.

Sometimes, but just sometimes, the queer debate becomes so neurotic that it does more harm than good. The discussion about the term queer can serve as one example of this. We have become so afraid of offending anyone that we dismiss terms that can serve us well, because they were once used as slurs.

"Queer" originally meant strange or odd. In the US it became a slur used against everyone cisgender/heteronormative people saw as gay. 

Since the early 1990s, however, an increasing number of gender diverse and non-heterosexual people have been using it as an umbrella term for all kinds of variance in the realms of sexuality and gender. 

Is queer a slur?


How can you use a slur to describe a group of people that is constantly bullied, harassed and invalidated? The answer: Because we can. 

Transgender and nonbinary news curation in social media


We provide links to the latest transgender and queer news and resources through our social media channels on twitter, tumblr, Flipboard and Telegram.

Anyone who wants to keep track of the transgender and queer debate – whether this applies to culture, politics, health or models of understanding – is facing a serious challenge as to how to find relevant news and quality content.

Search engines like Google are becoming increasingly irrelevant in this respect, as few of us go beyond the first two pages of search results and because so much of the content delivered is produced by anti-trans and anti-queer activists.

This is why we need curators who can identify and share relevant content with those who want to know more about trans, nonbinary and queer issues.

Here's the problem: There is, to our knowledge, very few who provide such services. Reddit provides some input of this kind, but it is limited to the interests of those active there. Sites like Pink News, The Advocate, LGBTQ Nation, and Washington Blade provide a lot of useful information, but they are – for obvious reasons – focusing on their own content.

This is why we are providing transgender, nonbinary and queer news curation in several channels, the latest of which is our Transgender World Telegram channels.

Here are our our transgender and queer news sites and accounts:

Trans Express on twitter.
This is our most expansive and up to date news source. We post some five to ten links of relevant content every day.

Trans Express on tumblr.
On average we publish one new post presenting relevant transgender and queer content every day.

Transgender News on Flipboard
Here we present much of the same content as on twitter, but in a practical newspaper format.

Transgender World on Telegram
Telegram is our newest offering. We realized that there were no serious transgender news sources on this popular platform and decided to provide our own. This channel will present selected links from the sources mentioned above.

Photo: Alessandro Biascioli

July 6, 2022

Is it OK for a cis woman to refuse treatment from a transgender gynecologist?

Photo of transgender gynecologist Petra De Sutter from Open Dialogue.

Petra De Sutter is a gynecologist and politician, currently serving as the federal Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium. Would it be OK for a cis woman to ask for another female gynecologist, if Petra was the one assigned to her? 

Sometimes I get questions via tumblr over at my Trans-Express news blog. Some are genuine and well meant, while others are traps set by transphobes who aim at luring me into saying something they can use against trans people in general.

The following question might have been such a trap:
Do you believe that if a woman or girl requests a female gynaecologist, and the gyno is a pre-transition trans woman, the patient is transphobic for being uncomfortable or asking for a cis woman doctor? Genuine question.
There is, in fact, a good chance this questions was written by a British TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). 

However, as I started thinking about the question I realized that this was an opportunity to say something more about the kind of bigotry we find in racism, homophobia and transphobia. So I wrote an answer.

Here it is:


Social conditioning

There are many levels of bigotry – being this racism, homophobia, transphobia or any other kind of aversion felt towards minority groups. The phobia can be conscious, deliberate and hateful, or it can be implicit and an indirect effect of cultural prejudices.

One of the ways society keep marginalized groups excluded is by conditioning its citizens to fear or loathe them. This is not only a mental process; it is an emotional form of conditioning.

Kids will, from a very young age, see that their parents and peers express distaste when meeting – or talking about – members of these groups.

The same adults will often use the same kind of expressions as when they talk about something diseased, rotten or corrupt. Kids pick up on these feelings. They develop the same emotional responses.

July 4, 2022

The DSM-5 updates its gender/transgender vocabulary in a positive way, but "autogynephilia" remains


The American psychiatric manual, the DSM-5 (now called DSM-5-TR) has revised the chapter on gender dysphoria. The main changes reflects a more on target and respectful language for describing gender variance. 

  • The term “desired gender” is now “experienced gender.“
  • The term “cross-sex medical procedure” is now “gender-affirming medical procedure.”
  • The term “natal male”/“natal female” is now “individual assigned male/female at birth.”

It seems to me that the doctors writing this chapter are both willing and able to have a constructive dialog with trans people.

I am not saying that the gender dysphoria  text is perfect. Why on earth they continue to use the term “disorders of sex development” for intersex people, given the history of “gender identity disorder”, is beyond me. They did at least include the term “differences of sex development” as an alternative.

You can read the revised introduction to the DSM-5-TR gender dysphoria chapter here. 

Autogynephilia remains

What they have failed to do is to remove the “autogynephilia” diagnosis from the paraphilia chapter. 

The inclusion of this pseudo-scientific term is extremely unfortunate, and reflects the influence of Ray Blanchard on the DSM-5 process. The term is actively used by anti-trans activists to invalidate trans women. Indeed, Blanchard himself is actively helping TERFs and right wing extremist spread their transphobic gospel.

June 25, 2022

Attack against queer pub leads to Pride being cancelled in Oslo, Norway


Tonight, shortly after 1 AM, a man attacked London Pub, a popular place for queer people in Oslo, with an automatic weapon. The police arrived quickly on the scene, and apprehended the man in collaboration with civilians at the scene.

Yesterday I posted an article on a new Norwegian survey shows increased public support for LGBTQ+ people, trans people included. Today we woke up to the news of what most likely is a terrorist attack against LGBTQA+ people. 

So, was I wrong about my rather positive view of Norwegian attitudes towards queer people? 

No, it this truly was a terrorist attack, which seems very likely, it is rather a sign of how some transphobes and homophobes try to pour petrol on the bigotry that does exist, gaining more support in the process. Ironically, this attack is more likely to increase the support for queer and trans people in Norway.

Here is what we know

This is what we know in the morning of June 25, given newspaper coverage and the Oslo Police press conference:

Tonight a 42 year old Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin attacked two pubs in the center of Oslo, Per på hjørnet and London Pub. London Pub is a queer watering hole. Per på hjørnet lies side by side with London Pub. The shooting took place outside these pubs.

The man fired into the crowd, killing two persons in the process.  Ten persons are seriously wounded, 11 less severely so.

The police appeared within minutes. In collaboration with private citizens at the scene, they stopped  further carnage, and – again in collaboration with civilians – they apprehended the suspect.

The police contacted Oslo Pride and recommended that today's Pride Parade should be cancelled, due to security reasons. The organizers of Pride Parade agreed. All Pride arrangements have been cancelled today.

June 24, 2022

New Norwegian survey shows increased public support for LGBTQ+ people, trans people included

Over 70% of Norwegian women think it is OK to share a locker room with a transgender person.  Over 60% support gay, lesbian and bisexual people, while some 50 percent express support for transgender people. The support for queer people is increasing. That is not bad, the current anti-LGBT activism considered.

[UPDATE: Click here for an update on the recent terrorist attack against Oslo Pride and what that may mean for Norwegian support of queer people].

LGBTQA+ issues have become weaponized in what some refer to as "the culture war." In many ways we see a repeat of the way queer people were used as a threat in the mid-war period, when especially Fascists and Nazis presented gay and gender nonconforming people as a threat to the social order and the common man. 

"Gender critical" TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) and right wing extremists have now come to the point where they want to force trans people back into their closets. In countries like the USA, Russia, Poland and Hungary, the extreme right are going after all queer people, and not only those trans. 

An important question is therefore whether this kind of hate activism reflects broader trends among the population as a whole or whether this is more about extremists making a lot of noise, with little effect on the attitudes found among people in general.

A recent British study shows that Brits in general are very LGBTQA-friendly, and that a majority feel an admiration for trans people. 

Given the intense anti-trans activism of transphobic British TERFs, right wing fundamentalists and the media in that country, the British numbers may indicate that the trend towards increased acceptance of queer people has a fairly strong fundament, in the sense that the many  countries continue to move towards greater  LGBT+ acceptance.

The Norwegian survey of public attitudes towards LGBT+

The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) published an updated version of its survey of people's attitudes towards what they refer to as "LGBTIQ" people earlier this week. This provides an interesting case of shifts in attitudes in one country.

June 9, 2022

"The TERFminator" – Lesbian feminist LGBTQA-activist puts "gender critical" transphobes in their place

  

The lesbian feminist and LGBTQA-activist Brita Møystad Engseth argues strongly against the transphobia of "gender critical" feminists.

As the transphobic hysteria grows more intense it becomes harder and harder for "gender critical radical feminists" or TERFs to hide the fact that they are using the exact same arguments as the extreme right.

The British TERF Helen Joyce now argues that anti-trans activists must harness the power of the state to reduce the number of transitioning trans people. This is basically a call for the erasure of trans identities.

The TERFminator

Birta Møystad Engseth (56), a Norwegian lesbian feminist and queer activist does understand the threat the TERFs have become to the queer community and the rest of society.

In an interview published in  the Norwegian LGBTQA magazine Blikk she is presented as "the TERFminator", because of her relentless campaigning against the destructive activisms of the TERFs.

"I cannot waste the rest of my life being silent," she says.

May 6, 2022

Transgender kids do not regret transitioning

Remarkably few transgender kids regret transitioning socially, new research shows. 94 percent stick with their identity.

The youth desistance myth

Anti-transgender activists who attack health care for trans kids love to question the stability of the gender identities of children. The main message is that (1) the kids have no idea what they are talking about, (2) they are influenced by "the transgender cult" and misguided parents and (3) most of the children become cis (non-transgender) in the end.

This is all very strange, given the kind of harassment trans and queer youth face when coming out. If this was all a propaganda-fueled whim, why do their transgender identities persist over so many years? 

What about the research documenting that most of them become cis in the end? We hear numbers from 65 to 95 percent, right?  

Well, it turns out that those researchers did not study gender dysphoric transgender kids who identified as another gender (compared to the one assigned to them at birth). Instead they looked at kids who expressed any kind of gender variance (as in expressing untypical gendered behavior), which is obviously not the same.

More about that here and here.

As for trans kids following fashions or the transgender ideologies of parents: We have heard this before, right: "Gay parents raise gay kids!" Right wing extremists and leftist TERFs talk about "grooming." It doesn't work that way. Most gay and trans kids have cis/straight parents.  In fact, most parents of trans kids go through periods of denial and resistance.

New research shows that 94 percent stick with their trans identity

So the persistence and intensity of the gender identities of transgender kids are clearly based in something more stable and fundamental than transgender propaganda. But do we have the science to back that up?

April 20, 2022

What modern art can tell us about gender identity and biological sex

Woman painting abstract painting.
But is it real?

The history of the use of linear perspective in art has a lot to teach us about the way be approach the "reality"  of biological sex and gender.

I had an interesting discussion with a friend about the reality of reality  the other day  and we came over the following example:

Two-dimensional perspective images


At some point in time someone came up with the idea of two-dimensional linear perspective drawing (first in Antiquity and then again in the Renaissance). From the 15th century onwards this gradually became the norm for how "the real world" should be depicted. 

Photography became so popular because the photos produced lived up to the ideal of two-dimensional perspective.

By two-dimensional perspective I mean using various tricks to give the illusion of depth in an image on a flat surface, as paper or canvas. One such trick is to present parallel lines as converging in order to give the illusion of depth and distance.

Leon Battista Alberti, Della Pictura drawing showing a horizon line and vanishing point, 1435. Via Classical Art.


Two-dimensional perspective art (and later photos)  became the default standard for "real". "I like paintings that look like reality," people would say and point to pictures like this one:

April 8, 2022

What does the word "gender" really mean?

The main problem with the term gender is that it is not referring to one phenomenon only, but many. It is this ambiguity of language that makes discussions so confusing. But it also this complexity that makes the topic so interesting. 

The reason for this ambiguity is that the language most people use today has been developed within a culture that requires you think of male and female as "natural" and mutually exclusive. Moreover, these concepts of male and female are supposed to determine everything you are or can do.

However, reality does not care. Nature does not care. And everyone violates these rules on a daily basis. Everyone!

Here are the most important phenomena referred to as "gender":

Biological sex


Biological sex refers to what is called "gametes", as in sperm and egg. Gametes are real, so biological sex is real. 

Still, the two sexes are not mutually exclusive. Nature throws a lot of dice that comes up intersex, with different chromosomes (as in XY women and XX men) and a wide variety of ambiguous genitalia and sex characteristics.

Many species reproduced by way of gametes, as in human sperm an eggs. Other species have other ways of continuing the species.


By the way: Not even post-modernist gender philosophers deny the existence of gametes.  They are simply pointing out that our understanding of what the existence of biological sex means for our daily lives is colored by culture, and that the scientists themselves are also influenced by culture when they develop and present their theories. 

They are right about this, and scientists may also change their views based on new concepts and new ideals developed elsewhere. Homosexuality and gender dysphoria are, for instance, no longer seen as mental illnesses.  
Note also the way transphobes try to present  the statement "gender is the same as biological sex" as science. That statement represents, at best, 19th century science. I know of no serious scientists today – whether they come from the natural sciences or from the social ones – that argue that the complexity of cultural gender can be reduced to gametes, genitalia or chromosomes. 


Cultural gender


Throughout the ages various cultures have created an insane number of social rules as to how men and women should dress and behave. A Roman man would not be caught dead in trousers. Most cis/het American men today will not be seen in a toga ("Eeeeek! A dress!!!)

February 4, 2022

Why words like queer and trans make perfect sense


Yes, umbrella terms like queer and transgender make perfect sense, but maybe not for the reasons many think.

You have probably heard the questions: “Being gay is about sexuality and being trans is about gender identity, so why do the two belong to the same queer community?"

Or: “Trans men and women suffer from gender dysphoria, while drag queens and ‘crossdressers"‘ are just ‘performing’,” so why should being trans be a matter of gender expression instead of identity only?”

Setting the false premise of  “all crossdressers are just performing” aside, these questions are based on a fundamental misunderstanding, namely that membership in the queer and trans communities need to be based on some kind of easy definable common “essence”. 

In the case of “queer” some would argue that that would be sexual orientation, I suppose, and in the case of "transgender," gender identity or gender dysphoria.

I am not denying that there may be biological components to the development of queer and trans identities. In fact, I think it is hard to explain the existence of queer and trans people without such components, given the severe social conditioning found in societies where the cis/het (cisgender and heterosexual) ideal is the norm. Why would anyone chose to be queer or trans, given the kind of harassment we see?

 Yet, I do not think we – or science – have come to a point where such factors can be used to define social groups. Moreover, such litmus tests, if possible, would without doubt be used to invalidate some trans people, which is not a good thing.

In spite of this lack of reliable "DNA tests" for transness and queerness the existing LGBTQ+ and transgender communities represent meaningful alliances. Broad terms like queer and trans make sense at the moment we move from some kind of "objective" idea of what people essentially are over to the social scene. 

January 7, 2022

What an old edition of Encyclopedia Britannica can tell us about the erasure of trans and queer people


Image taken from 1952 advert for Encyclopædia Britannica (as it was spelled at the time). As you can see the expected customer was white, cis and straight.


In the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1942, queer and trans people are invisible.

I am old enough to remember that owning the complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica was a status symbol – a clear sign that you and your family aspired to a better position in life. 

Truth to be told, it was also an amazing product. Imagine more than 20 large size volumes packed with scholarly articles about everything. As a student I used Britannica extensively to get an introduction to new topics. I loved it.

It is still around, but now as an online service. Given the extensive reach of Wikipedia, however, Britannica does no longer have the position it used to have.

Britannica was originally a 17th century  Scottish invention, but more recent editions are made in London and New York. It has always reflected the interests of an Anglo-Saxon culture. This means that you may use the historical editions as a time machine. You may study the world views of editors and the article authors of the past, and as such get an idea about what they considered culturally acceptable.

When  a  friend of me inherited the complete 1942 version of Britannica, I decided to do an experiment.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!