Speak Up For Women and Women Act Up held a rally at Parliament on Thursday 8 June, just a week before New Zealand’s Self Identification Law comes into force. The two groups invited 6 gay and lesbian speakers and I was one.
According to a poster from Wellington Group “Queer Endurance’ who protested the event it was a ‘another transphobic hate rally’.
It is common though for transactivists to label those who are sceptical about gender medicine and gender identities as transphobic and hateful when in fact what is in play are political differences of view which are an ordinary part of political discourse. I have a different view to the transactivists who make such inflammatory claims just as I have a different view to people who are capitalists, Catholics or homeopaths or who advocate for the death penalty or not reducing the use of fossil fuels. My views are not a matter of hatred – they are a matter of perspective, beliefs and values supported by evidence and personal experience. It is a perspective that transactivists argue must not be given air time. Just as I disagree with the prescription of people who are capitalist, hang-em flog-em types or Catholics so I do with gender doctrine. I do not believe people have gender identities or that such identities should have primacy over understandings of the person that are based not in identity but in biological reality. With that proviso set out here is what I said. Transactivists will argue that this is transphobia, or perhaps subtle transphobia, to which I say that any views cast in opposition to transactivism are cast as transphobic and attempts are made to punish such people.
My name is Jan Rivers and I am a heretic. I’m a heretic because I don’t believe that children are ever born in the wrong body. I am a heretic against the emerging state doctrine of gender theory. I disbelieve that sexual attraction is based in gender identity. Sexual attraction is based on sex.
I’m here to explain today that I believe that adults can do whatever they want with their lives and bodies. But I feel the kindest thing I can do is to remain sceptical that transitioning is ever the best solution or that anyone is actually transgender.’
Why do I say this?
How do we support young lesbians, gay men and importantly detransitioners if we believe that there is such a thing as ‘being born in the wrong body’. Latest research shows that 30% of people who take gender medicine medically detransition with 7 years. Many of them were young same sex attracted youth.
There are several reasons to go through that I will take one by one.
But firstly I don’t have to disbelieve the facts about gender medicine for children because – the research shows that the medicine is harmful – the evidence is plain and incontrovertible.
1. There is massive media misinformation by many of our journalists.
I name Rachel Thomas, Mark Daalder, Hayden Donnell, Jane Phare Russell Brown, Anna Fifield amongst others who are involved in promulgating misinformation about young people and gender medicine. They say that puberty blockers are safe and reversible. They say that the Ministry changing its advice is not based on emerging evidence of harm. They say that that there is nothing to see here. That to raise concerns is transphobic.
5 minutes research would show them that they are wrong, But they are dedicated to their misinformation. Why?
2. The second issue is freedom of belief
Our bill of rights act provides for freedom of belief. How can I as a lesbian support young women unless I acknowledge that I don’t believe there is an actual state of being transgender. I believe some people want to live in a way that it atypical for their sex – and that is fine of course. I believe that their rights to believe this should be protected. And I support their right to believe what they want even though I don’t believe it myself. But to develop an entire belief system of validation that affects everyone and binds them into it in law and policy is wrong. We need to defend the secular and pluralistic aspects of our democracy.
Because we should be very concerned about the emergence of new doctrines that cut across our society. There are strong arguments that gender ideology is evidence of the formation of a new kind of religion, a secular religion of personal identity. With its own heresies, incantations and rituals- coming out, post-operative photos and annual celebrations.
There is now a transgender celebratory event in New Zealand in every calendar month except January. There are multiple remembrance days and the whole month of June is Pride Month now given over mostly to transgender celebrations. Lesbians are next to invisible.
Even those days formerly dedicated to other purposes like International Women’s Day, the day of lesbian visibility and even Stonewall memorial day are now dedicated to transgender people.
But NZ is in thrall to transgender ideology. How many staff in government departments in buildings around Parliament have been told that if they are too distressed by us meeting here they do not need to come into work today? In every government department people are using preferred pronouns without any consideration about whether this conflicts with their ability to provide free and frank advice about gender medicine? About fair policy for women and children? About services delivery? How can a person think critically about gender medicine when they are bound ideologically to the view that self-identified gender is more important than sex.
3. What about the young people themselves?
My next reason is I guess a spiritual reason. I am convinced by the Buddhist arguments about embodiment. We are our bodies and we live our best lives when we fully accept their strengths and their limitations. How can it be healthy or fulfilling for a young person to be told that their best life is lived in the body of someone else? Someone they are not. Someone who is facsimile of who they think they would like to be.
I’d like to quote author Alice Dreger who said:
“It’s unclear why helping a female child become a boy is somehow a better clinical goal than helping a female child become a girl, unless you de facto value transgender identity over cisgender identity. … If you’re neutral on the identity outcome, and if what you’re aiming to do is to reduce harms, then the evidence we have suggests that the best way to do that is to try to have a child end up happy with the body he or she was born with because that will mean fewer invasive medical interventions. Any only if that doesn’t work should you actively aid in transition.”
As for non-binary people as journalist Joanna Williams said in an article in 2020 –
‘For the overwhelming majority, declaring yourself to be neither male nor female is to deny biological reality. It is to say that all those pesky things such as chromosomes and hormones and genitalia do not apply to you. Your feelings – more finely tuned than everyone else’s – override the inconvenience of a body.
4. Why should people feel obliged to believe things about someone else to help them overcome their own uncertainties?
In the podcast the Witch Trials of JK Rowling video transgender woman Natalie Winn talks about the way some trans people wield power online including why that power is sometimes wielded so fiercely. Winn said “A lot of extremely online trans people really don’t have a strong sense of conviction of their own identity which is why they need constant external validation to prop them up. They need to constantly be told that they are valid. That they are the gender that they say they are and if anyone even obliquely threatens or suggests their fragile self-concept they lash out and for some of those trans people cancelling celebrities on twitter is the one kind of power they feel they have”.
Winn says trans people have little power. And yet these people with little power are supported by a movement that is endorsed in every government department and by most of New Zealand’s big corporations. How can that be? And why should others be asked to shore up the identities of people who do not even really believe themselves that they are who they say they are?
5. Transgender people are not a coherent group
It’s not as if all of a sudden people are suddenly liberated to ‘be who they truly are and they come out as transgender’. There are diverse but discrete cohorts with vastly differing aetiology.
• A small number of adult women who are typically lesbian and ‘gender non-conforming’
• There are adult cross-dressers, transvestites, and people who are temporarly dressed as the other sex such as drag queens who are – according to the Human Rights Commission are all to be regarded as transgender
• There are opportunists – like the young men I have met who say they are non-binary because it improves their dating chances.
• There are very young children, mostly young boys with atypical preferences and styles that are assessed as feminine where most (87% in the best research) but not all, mature to be adult gay men if left alone.
• There are the post-pubescent adolescents, mostly young women, whose decision appears to be motivated by social contagion, and who are initially same sex attracted, or autistic, or who have been victims or witnesses of abuse. Some describe a need to find a way to be safe from male aggression and bullying and presenting as male provides this. This group is novel, appearing only after 2015.
• There are men in late adulthood, many of whom have partners and children
• There are men whose motivation appears to have been generated by them imagining themselves being humiliated including men who have used sissy porn – porn that invites them to be humiliated in roles as women – like the transgender writer Andrea Long Chu.
6. Because the quality of transgender research is appalling.
Transgender research often starts from the premise that there is an identitarian world view. Papers say, for example, that their research is based on the newly emerging field of ‘transgender epistemology’ – or in other words the world looked at through the lens of people with a transgender identity. So it is not science or research in the normal sense or even disinterested observation. It is often carried out by transgender people themselves who are invested in telling a story which has the aim of maximising policy goals and spending for their community. I’ll give you an example. New Zealand’s Counting Ourselves provides multiple reasons for why young people detransition. They say “retransition” though, as if undoing drugs and surgery is possible, and just another weigh station on a transgender journey. The 2022 data will begin to be reported on soon. It asked for reasons why transgender people might retransition (or change their mind about transitioning) . All the reasons bar one relate to external pressures, like lack of parental support or difficulty finding a job or what the report authors will call undoubtedly call transphobia. Living as trans is simply too difficult they will say without these changes we need. In contrast the actual evidence-based research on detransitioners by academics like Vandenbussche and Littman have a remarkable similarity in the reasons collected. This research is vastly different to Counting Ourselves. Collected from people who say they are detransitioners, not people identifying as trans, the most typical are reasons like “I came to realise that transition wasn’t helping my unhappiness”. “I grew to understand that being transgender arose from other causes” or “The medication was too harsh on my body”
Quite a different story.
8. Lived Experience
These days ‘lived experience’ is the reason bar none for believing in someone’s truth. I may be old but surely my lived experience should count for something too. As a child I was a girl who hated accepting the socially imposed constraints of being female. At puberty I hated the changes that happened to my body, as a young adult my same sex attraction felt shameful and embarrassing. All these things made me wish being male was an option. I have heard many young women’s explanations for being non-binary or transgender and I compare them to my own feelings as a young person None of those explanations hold water to me. None are more convincing, have greater depth or cover any different territory than when I was an unhappy child and teenager ½ a century ago.
8. Faulty logic
Transgender activists say if you feel like a woman you are one. This is a category error and false logic. I The word woman is already taken. It means something. It means sex and biology. It doesn’t mean preferences or personality or behaviour.
9. Lack of evidence and science
Transgender theory, is unproven pseudoscience, a harmful and sexist doctrine that undermines the right to privacy and single sex spaces for women and girls. We should not be celebrating telling kids they can be born in the wrong body, or that if they don’t conform with old fashioned sex stereotypes, they’re not really a girl or a boy.
10. The testimony from young detransitioner
But the main reason I am a heretic is that I believe what young NZ women detransitioners have said about their transition. Three young women I have met have said that they lacked role models of gender non-conforming adults. They lacked an identifiable community to belong to.
Another young NZ woman detranstioner said this on her video diary
I effectively went from being a little girl to a teenage boy pretty much overnight. It was the first 10 weeks of high schoold that I transitioned to male. It just blows my mind actually that I was allowed to do this. And I was endorsed to do this … by medical professionals. They were the ones who put this in my mind; told me this was possible; and supported me. They never gave me enough push back to say ‘are there other issues’? They knew I was going through therapy and I was very open about the fact that I had been the victim of domestic violence and abuse by men. And they knew that I had trauma about men being abusive towards women in my life and also me and my family. They knew that I had issues in my life. I was self-harming. I was depressed. I had so many issues and instead of trying to figure those out first they just slapped this label of trans on me and sent me off on my way to transtion. Looking back I do think that was abusive in a way – to send a child, a literal child, I was 13 years old I was barely a teenager. …. I had this idea put in my mind and I don’t blame myself. At the start of my detransition I blamed myself a lot. I felt stupid. I felt I did this to myself. But now I don’t. You know. I’ve heard a lot of stories of other detransitioned women like me – who felt that they were pressured by medical professionals to continue down this road. This is the fault of the system that we have at the moment with trans kids. I was experiencing gender dysphoria but it wasn’t because I was trans – it was because I felt safer in a male body. And I was vulnreable and I was hurting.
And that friends is the reason I am in this fight.