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Living In TERF Harmony
Thoughts on the state of the movement after Genspect
There are two reasons why I feel confident right now that we are winning this fight. One is that I attended Genspect over the weekend to learn how we will do just that. The other reason is that purity spirals have intensified in a tightening leadership market for gender criticism.
Put another way, within the movement, there are people making history, and people who are jealous of those people making history. The people making history are the grassfire. The people who are jealous of the people making history are the ‘friendly fire.’ They say that their revolution is the realer one, a much cooler revolution than your revolution.
I remarked to someone at Genspect that I have so far refused to go around calling balls or strikes, adjudicating disputes, or engaging in dramas. My work here at The Distance feels too important for that sort of silliness. Nevertheless, the historical moment is upon us now, and so we must reckon with the infighting that accompanies every insurgent political victory, ever.
Nothing that follows should be read as referring to any specific real person. All the following five scenarios are entirely fictional and imaginary. Any resemblance between these hypothetical ‘scenes’ and actual personal disputes within gender critical spaces is inadvertent and entirely coincidental. I have not used any real names except for Graham Linehan, because names should be changed to protect the guilty; screw the innocent. To further avoid controversy, comments under this post are turned off.
In other words: if anyone out there says that any of this essay is really all about them, or that I have somehow targeted them for ridicule and/or abuse, they are telling on themselves. Treat them accordingly.
1 – The Signage Dispute
“Ben” has put up a paid public advertisement that reads “No Puberty Blockers For Kids.” It lasted only hours before the sign company took it down. This injustice became a viral sensation and then Ben made media appearances. When his social media account was restored by a billionaire, Ben’s triumphant return was hailed as a victory for free speech. Ben has writers and interesting people on his podcast.
However, Ben has developed a habit of backbiting. On his podcast and website and social media, Ben seeks out opportunities to tell prominent critics of gender identity that “Alice” is a fraud and a phony grifting off gender critics.
Alice carries a sign in the streets that reads: “I Heart Graham Linehan.” She wears it whilst walking past theatres in London and Bristol and all over the United Kingdom. Alice has been assaulted several times and even been injured by gender zealots.
Poisoning the well whenever it suits him, Ben has constructed the following argument: Alice is looking for trouble, she is a grifter who has no job, she was in a cult 25 years ago, and she has a giant ego. Her method of activism is ineffective. She hates men.
Having met Alice in this scenario, I have learned that she is a successful businesswoman who has made a small fortune, was indeed a Hare Krishna long ago, and has the ego required for business success. Observing Alice’s social media, I find that she is dismissive of men when they question her.
Her method of direct, in-person confrontation is effective, however, for in this scenario, I have witnessed its effects and accompanied Alice walking outside a children’s hospital containing a gender clinic. During this event I witnessed Alice, who is tall, get assaulted by what appeared to be a ‘trans man’ in the street. Alice handled herself deftly and engaged the assailant nonviolently. Afterwards, I watched Alice talk to a witness of the incident. The witness engaged the message on Alice’s sign, verbalizing on their own the free speech argument for Hat Trick productions to stage Father Ted the Musical. Thus I find Ben’s criticism unpersuasive on important points.
When I challenge Ben to do the journalism of finding out more for himself, either by walking with Alice to observe her for himself, or by researching her business financials, Ben responds that he is too busy. Also, that he would be “unsafe” around Alice, for she is violent and litigious. Ben refuses to consider any other response to Alice’s existence than relentless backbiting. Anything more is dangerous and unrewarding.
Reader: which of these people am I supposed to prefer? I would prefer not to prefer. I can be civil, play Switzerland, ask questions of Ben to prompt thinking, but I cannot make him stop. Furthermore, I cannot make his most supportive followers on social media stop. In this scenario, they have formed a small cult of Alice-hate that appears on my social media feed multiple times a day. (These same people complain that Alice appears on their social media feeds too many times a day, which they ascribe to Alice, the “grifter,” spending money to promote herself.) When asked why they do not simply block and ignore Alice and move on, they reply that it is important to make sure people know about how evil she is.
If the cult of Ben then becomes focused on me, ascribing motivations to my interactions and insisting that I am part of a conspiracy, what am I supposed to do about it? If this scenario occurs during the Genspect conference, where I have spent the weekend meeting countless parents of ROGD kids, and the cult of Ben begins to denounce me for “hobnobbing with the GC elite,” should I listen to this erstwhile ‘GC proletariat’ and leave the conference?
2 - I don’t need to walk around in karmic circles
“Karma” is a bitch. Her bitchy videos as “GC Bitch” are legendary. Yet in the last year, she has mostly just bitched about “Kennedy.”
Kennedy is a therapist working to end the cult of the trans child. She has been a tireless advocate for better therapy that explores beyond gender ‘identity.’ In her recent book, which in this scenario I have already reviewed, as well as several social media posts and podcasts, Kennedy has explained her views on this issue at length. She does not believe in the ‘trans child.’ She is opposed to therapists steering children into medicalized self-harm with ‘affirmation.’ She has a new model of therapy for children suffering gender distress. She recognizes the limits of parents’ ability to set expectations and protect their kids from harm, so Kennedy does have advice for parents whose children do transition as adults.
Karma bitches that Kennedy believes in “true trans.” Karma bitches that Kennedy is scamming gender critics, and that her organization is untrustworthy. Karma bitches that Kennedy uses pronouns for friends who are ‘transgender,’ whatever the heck that is. In fact, when Kennedy asked her social media following what they think about this very point, Karma posted a 15-minute video tirade denouncing Kennedy as a sycophant for autogynephiles and a believer in gender identity woo.
Karma is objectively wrong. She has clearly researched Kennedy’s actual opinions no further than the single social media post at the center of her rant. When I point this out to Karma in her comments, citing Kennedy’s book and podcasts and other posts, challenging Karma to explore Kennedy’s actual opinions, Karma accuses me of being a Graham Linehan sock puppet account. If Karma simply clicked my comment image, she would see my body of work. Rather than engage further, however, Karma blocks me from commenting. Two days later, she is at it again in another video.
Upon further inquiry, I learn that Karma has a history of forming brief, intense friendships with other radical feminists. These friendships end in abrupt arguments over issues unrelated to gender. For example, Karma has an attachment to identity politics, being proudly Pacific Islander and therefore BIPOC. She is particularly outraged by critique of her favorite Pacific Islander host on NPR. Karma, an elementary teacher, recently lost a social media account for racist tweets stating that Pacific Islander students are only safe with her, while they are unsafe with white teachers.
Reader: given the Audrey Hale manifesto pages that Steven Crowder published yesterday, what should we all do about Karma? What ought the karmic response to Karma be?
3 – The Case of the Missing DMs
A few months ago, “Jonah,” a gay man in Australia, was kicked out of an LGBTQAlphabetical bar for being a TERF. Jonah did not wear a shirt or express his views. Rather, according to Jonah, he was singled out for reasons unexplained to him. A bouncer simply told him “we don’t serve your kind around here.” When Jonathan asked what “your kind” meant, the bouncer replied, “TERFs.” The bouncer did not explain how ‘she’ knew. (The bouncer was a trans-identified man, naturally.)
Subsequent to this experience, his report of which became a viral sensation, Jonah met with a prominent gender critic, “Frida.” Named for Frida Kahlo by her parents, Frida is an experienced litigator, attorney, and prosecutor. Using her skills and instincts honed by a career dealing with criminals, she assessed that Jonah was telling the truth. She featured Jonah on a recent podcast episode. Afterwards, Jonah offered to open a gay bar in Australia and received several donations.
For the last three weeks, however, Jonah has been out of pocket. He is not answering direct messages on social media. Social media accounts close to Jonah say that he has offered to communicate by email to return any funds to dissatisfied investors. Life happens, business planning takes time, and Jonah might be overwhelmed by all the sudden attention. Becoming famous is not easy and he did not choose to become famous.
Nevertheless, Jonah is now being denounced as a “grifter” by @TERFdiana1197. A veritable clot of radical feminists and a few white knights have already gathered to amplify @TERFdiana1197. In this scenario, when I prod @TERFdiana1197 with a few tweets, @TERFdiana1197 spends the next 16 hours replying to me and bringing her friends along to heckle and denounce me. Their smoking gun, such as it is, was the unanswered direct messages. Customer service fail! Meanwhile, Jonah is an electrical engineer by trade. He has never run a bar.
“I think we make a demarcation now,” Frida tells me, “between ‘social media people’ and ‘real life people.” She wants everyone to stop using anonymity and find their courage so that the gender critical movement can coalesce into the mass politics phase of victory. “You either do something like attend conferences, or make events, or organizations, or you do nothing but bitch on social media,” Frida says.
Frida is confident in Jonah. She is unsparing of @TERFdiana1197 and company. “Those who do nothing must symmetrically accept their fate is to be treated as such. We’re not so short of allies that we answer to anonymous trolls anymore.” We have to move on now, Frida concludes. “That stuff worked three years ago, in battle. The battlefield’s moved on, mate. To war!”
Reader, should I investigate what is really going on here? Should I verify Jonah’s identity, commission a researcher in Australia to debunk or prove Jonah’s story, and determine whether he is working on the bar project in earnest, performing acts of journalism thereof? Or should I listen to Frida, the career barrister, in command of facts and law, and explain to you how we achieve breakthrough instead of wasting time on that job? How much should I care what @TERFdiana1197 and friends think of me?
4 - The English Patience
“British Betty” is a blonde and attractive woman of middle age. Her activism has taken her to three different continents so far. Wherever she goes, Betty invites trouble. The troons always troon out. Rabid, spittle-flecked men strip their clothes off and writhe before cameras, screeching and threatening her and speaking in transgender tongues as they fondle their silicone breasts. She has been assaulted, even had a can of juice dumped on her.
At one very strange event she held in this scenario, a parade of neo-Nazis marched up uninvited, and unopposed by the police, to denounce feminism as a formation. (In what must be a complete coincidence, the police chief’s son led the neo-Nazis.) Within moments, several politicians, media outlets, and activist organizations began denouncing Betty for, quote, “standing with Nazis,” end quote. Betty recently posted a video after encountering a store employee who refused to serve her because she “stands with Nazis.” This happens quite frequently since the incident.
Betty’s events are centered on free speech. She is careful not to hand the microphone to anyone irrational or prone to go over time, but she lets a variety of women speak their minds about ‘gender identity.’ In this scenario, I have observed Betty at work and found her charisma and crowd-response skills impressive. Her main problem is security, something that is improved by the presence of men, so male gender critics have been showing up at her events in solidarity.
Her work has drawn attention to the mass movement, imbued it with symbols and catchphrases, and now she wants to translate that energy into a political movement. Knowing something about politics, though being no expert on British politics, it seems to me that Betty has no realistic intentions of being Prime Minister, much less welcome in Westminster. If elected, I deduce in this scenario, she would in essence become a gender critical lobbyist and lightning rod. If not elected, she may still draw attention to Labour’s shortcomings with women and cost them seats in a close election, forcing them to reign in their troon patrols. In this scenario, her campaign seems to me to be a sound ‘theory of change,’ as they used to say in radical politics.
Betty has always been controversial with gender critics themselves, especially on her left. Radical feminists and the narcissism of small differences lead to disputes. Her decisions are not uniformly popular. She centered herself in her own documentary. (Which, to be clear, was about her United States tour.) No one could do what she does without a well-grounded and healthy, but powerful, ego.
The “grifter” charge has always dogged Betty. The “smoking gun” which supposedly proves this supposed fact about Betty is that she uses her husband’s printing business to obtain merchandise. Merch is a primary way that Betty finances her activism. She has been refused service by every printing chain in Britain because she, quote, “stands with Nazis,” end quote.
Two years ago, presumably in a bid to escape cancellation himself, her husband posted a rainbow image on his business’s Facebook page with a note expressing love and support for LGBTQwhatever. A small, but vocal minority of British TERFs now consider this proof positive that Betty never really opposed gender identity at all, and that the entirety of her activism and campaigning was always a charade. A con. A scam. Also, Graham Linehan goes to her events, and he is just the worst sort of person.
Meanwhile, “Larry,” a philosopher who started a gender critical publication, is still devastated by what happened after he denounced Betty as a “grifter” and intimated that she stands with Nazis. Larry says that Betty harbors extreme right wing white supremacist views. A radical leftist, Larry insists that ‘gender identity’ cannot be defeated in the field unless we hold a struggle session first to denounce all the wrongthinkers and define the correct thoughts that are to be allowed in gender criticism.
Larry attempted to actualize this agenda against Betty earlier this year and was surprised to receive a negative reception from the vast majority of British gender critics, including almost all prominent leaders. In particular, Larry feels abandoned and thrown under the bus by Graham Linehan. Larry does not want to attend any conferences or gatherings anymore. He feels alienated from gender criticism. He is no longer producing his publication. Instead, Larry drinks wine and posts manic stream-of-consciousness doodle-notes on social media.
In this scenario, I have read some of Larry’s publication and found valuable passages within. When I write the history of the gender critical moment, I will be sure to credit and cite Larry’s writers in the historiography. But reader, Betty will be the history-maker in the story. I don’t have to ask you how this scenario plays out because Larry has self-selected out of history.
5 – Agent of C.H.A.O.S.
Similarly, we must consider the real problem that comes along, that must be identified and known to people in the movement so they can avoid a genuine threat.
“@FeministChikFilA,” a real-life friend of Karma from Scenario 2, has a record of actual stalking in this scenario. She recently traveled to the hometown of a prominent gender critical voice, “Yvonne,” where she followed this victim to a local gym, recorded video of her workout, and streamed it to YouTube.
In the video, which is still on YouTube, @FeministChikFilA explains her thoughts as she follows Yvonne around. Recording Yvonne surreptitiously, @FeministChikFilA complains that the victim does not make herself “approachable” and has failed to be “friendly.”
A few weeks later, @FeministChikFilA invited another gender critical woman, “Tara,” to do a livestream with her. The ostensible purpose of this discussion was: “Why Feminist Infighting Is Bad.” Shortly after a strange discussion, however, @FeministChikFilA accused Tara of being a white supremacist. @FeministChikFilA has done this same exact thing to at least two more gender critical women.
It is not clear what race @FeministChikFilA thinks she is. In her social media, @FeministChikFilA complains of being mentioned in a Kiwi Farms thread and writes of her life as a “crushing fetishist.” Perhaps @FeministChikFilA gets pleasure from crushing beer cans on her forehead. Whatever it is, I do not wish to spend any part of my limited lifespan learning about it.
@FeministChikFilA spends her time on social media trashing gay men and accusing her victims of stalking her. The reader may be thinking what I would be thinking, by now, that this borders not just on criminal or mentally ill behavior, but also seems consistent with male psychodynamics. Something is very wrong with them.
Reader: consider the possibility that I am forced to take the drastic step of using someone’s name, that somebody is such an egregious threat to people in this movement, or even to the movement itself, that I must say something. Rest assured I will never do this lightly, or without deep research, or attention to ethics, or legal review.
Someone like @FeministChikFilA will never make history, nor will I record them as history. But if forced to take action, I will metaphorically make them history.
Because we are, again, on the precipice of the tidal turn that we set out to create. Momentum is with us now after years of toil and rejection by every agency that should have listened to us. We have no time for history’s losers anymore. Let them wail and gnash their teeth that they were not invited to the cool party. No one owed them an invitation. History ‘owes’ them nothing either, not even a mention. We all worked to get here and not all of us even want to be recognized for our sacrifices.
During Genspect, I met many parents of children caught in the trans cult. Perhaps they are the “GC elite” I am told was there by people who were not. I consider them unknown soldiers, heroes deserving of poetic remembrance. Detransitioners were also prominent at Genspect, but most detransitioners understandably do not want to serve as public faces for the issue, so they will never attend any conference or appear at any protest. Passing voter initiatives, for example, will require ‘boots on the ground’ whose only reward will be the satisfaction of winning. We have no shortage of unsung heroes.
Meanwhile, the window of opportunity to be one of the original movement figures, earning any sort of status or profit from being on the ‘right side of history’ in fact rather than rhetoric, is closing fast. With justifiable exceptions, almost everyone doing real work in the movement is using their own name already. Things are changing. and the real history makers are too busy changing things to suffer fools at all. Even genuine history-makers are capable of marginalizing themselves without any help from me. The ‘market’ for leadership is changing. Either lead, follow, or get out of history’s way.
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