A Twitter thread by @janeclarejones
Further thoughts on ‘educate yourself.’
Not only do trans rights advocates not actually seem to understand *our* position and represent our arguments correctly, it is also becoming increasingly clear that they don’t understand the history of their own movement.
They are completely inside their little ideological bubble, and seem to genuinely believe that the articles of their faith are simply an ahistorical truth, articulated variously by the High Priestess Judy, or by the Tumblr Oracle, or wherever it was that they absorbed the liturgy
From the minute I first ran into people chanting these identical memes, I wanted to know where it had come from and how it had been disseminated. The answer to that question is complex, and many parts of it are unclear… it involves a complicated back and forth
between activist and academic discourse, and the dissemination of that discourse on social media, in particular on Tumblr, in the early years of the last decade.
What is clear is that it’s not a straight academic discourse, and it doesn’t have a straight academic genealogy.
It’s notable to me for example, that I was able to watch someone like Alison Phipps absorb the discourse off Twitter, also in the early years of the last decade, and then start recycling it as academic thought. That the last horrifying piece she published for example, was really
little more than a loose elaboration of the ‘White Tears TM’ meme that was used by ‘intersectional’ feminists around that time to try and silence any feminist woman who objected to sex erasure.
It’s also clear that students who are receiving this discourse in universities are
not being given a full and clear genealogy of it, or being invited to engage with critiques of it, as would be usual academic practice.
In this context, it is probably completely unsurprising that academic advocates of trans
ideology, when presented with some part of the genealogy of that ideology, as I laid out in my appendix to the census report, don’t know anything about it, and declare that it is I who ‘know nothing.’
I found that genealogy by tracing backwards from the lobbying around the GRA
and the parliamentary Working Group in the early noughties. That is, I started with the actual activism, and its political impacts, rather than with academic theory, which as I’ve said, is only *part* of the story. That tracing backwards first led me to Stephen Whittle’s
articulations of sex denial and from there to the digital archive of the Press for Change website (if you go to the PfC website today, almost nothing is there, in the 90s it consisted of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages… why was it removed?)
It was on the PfC website that I noticed the 1996 ‘International Bill of Gender Rights’ which clearly contains the conceptual bones and political objectives of the movement we see today. Following that lead led me to the place where that Bill was formulated, the ICTLEP.
The ICTLEP archive is extremely rich and informative, and I haven’t even yet begun to process a tenth of what is on there. But it was there I found Rothblatt giving early renditions of the ‘Apartheid of Sex’ thesis, and deploying the ‘sex denialist/sex is a spectrum/sex is
actually in the brain’ arguments we are now so familiar with.
It’s also where I found evidence of the likely co-creation/transmission of the gender identity/sex denial structure of trans ideology between ICTLEP and PfC.
I was pretty flabbergasted by this. Up till that point I too thought ‘The Apartheid of Sex’ was a kind of bonkers footnote in this whole story. And in some sense it is, insofar as, most advocates of trans ideology have probably never heard of it, let alone read it. I’m pretty
certain it doesn’t appear on many, if any, of the plethora of trans studies reading lists going around – although Fausto-Sterling’s work, which is one of its sources, certainly does.
I mean, that might be understandable, it’s not an academic text, its entirely lacking in
anything resembling academic rigour (not that that means much nowadays), and it makes a lot of straight up bonkers claims.
But there is hard material evidence that the the key architect of the trans rights project in the UK, Stephen Whittle, was exposed to these ideas in the
early nineties, and of the appearance of these ideas in his own published work.
As I say, trans ideology is not a straight academic discourse, and doesn’t have a straight academic genealogy… it didn’t arise directly from Queer Theory, or from Butler, although that gets laced
into it pretty quickly as it moves back into the academy, and may be central to why parts of the academy were so receptive to it.
Which is all to say, tl;dr, academic TRAs don’t know their own history, and REALLY should stop telling us to ‘educate ourselves.’