Sunday, 13 March 2011

...because the bad things never went away

Microaggressions. A word I mentioned on here the other night, which led me to looking up the brilliant microaggressions blog on tumblr, which in turn led me to this brilliant blog about the kind of microaggressions trans people encounter on a pretty much daily basis. It's a concept - like cisgender, and kyriarchy - with which I think people should be much more familiar.

Which makes it more galling that today has been another day of having to deal with aggression and othering from a very familiar source.

Julie Bindel, like the trans toilets topic, seems to be an issue that one has to deal with on a regular basis as a trans activist. However much we make clear, again and again, how much of a transphobic bigot she is, people keep inviting her to give out with her views on trans people as if she's some kind of expert - whether it's the Guardian, Standpoint magazine, Queer Question Time or, most recently, The Royal College of Psychiatrists, who have invited Bindel along as the only non-psychologist to attend a conference on, allegedly, 'the most recent academic, clinical and contemporary thinking on transgender issues'.

Quite why Bindel has been invited, given this brief, is something of a mystery. She isn't an academic. She isn't a clinician. And, far from being 'contemporary', her views on trans issues are rooted in an outmoded, second-wave feminism with which fewer and fewer women - cis or trans - identify today.

Bindel has in the past written a fawning obituary for Mary Daly, calling her 'the world's first feminist philosopher' (take that, Mary Wollstonecraft!) but glossing over her racism, and her genocidal views that we should leave only ten per cent of the men on earth alive. That is quite some evil. Reducing a population by ten per cent is called decimation. I don't even know what the word for reducing a population to ten per cent is, besides genocide. Even the Nazis only managed to kill about 67% of Europe's Jewish population. Daly dreamed about genocide on a scale beyond even Hitler. But, to Bindel, she's a stand-up gal.

When it came to cis men, Daly's genocidal dreams were on a hiding to nothing. When it came to trans women, however, Daly was much more successful, as her apt pupil, Janice Raymond, with her views about 'morally mandating [trans people] out of existence', was able to influence US policy to ensure that federal and state governments would not fund surgeries for indigent and imprisoned trans people. I referred in my last post to the suffering of Rebekah Brewis, who is not receiving adequate help with her transition from the Oregon authorities, in whose mental health system she is currently incarcerated. Janice Raymond is a big part of the reason why; and Mary Daly is a big part of why Janice Raymond thought the way she did.

And now we have Bindel trying to carry on Daly and Raymond's work by addressing the Royal College of Psychiatrists about trans issues - issues she has no experience of. Issues she has, in fact, been dismissive of. And yet of all the people outside psychology they could ask, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has asked her to be the one who lectures to them on trans issues. Would the RCP ask Fred Phelps to be the only non-psychiatrist to lecture them on gay issues? Would they listen calmly to a lecture on Islam by Geert Wilders? Or would they rightly refuse to give a platform of academic respectability to bigotry?

It is exactly that kind of respectability which allowing Bindel to speak at this conference confers on her views. And by bestowing such respectability on her, the Royal College of Psychiatrists are delivering a clear message that they do not care about trans people. They are legitimising the transphobic views that drive the kind of aggression described by Asher Bauer in his blog above. They are conferring legitimacy on discrimination against trans people in healthcare, in housing, in employment, and in the streets where, year after year, trans people lose their lives to the violence bigots like Bindel enable.

As clinicians, the RCP are subject to the medical principle of primum non nocere - 'first do no harm'. By giving their imprimatur to Bindel, they cause harm to one of the most vulnerable groups in society. It's fortunate for them, I suppose, that they can prescribe tranquilisers - because if I was doing what they're doing, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night.

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