The transgender Moral Panic: He not busy being born is busy dying

Image result for bob dylan he not busy being born

I’ve been thinking. I used to be a sociologist. I liked the way sociology asked questions, all the time, about anything and everything. Especially, I liked the way it exposed how entrenched power differentials explain the suppression of some groups.

I often say it changed me for the better and for good.

I think I may have betrayed my younger self recently.

In the debate on the trans community supposedly trying to possess the SNP, so busy with my thing – media bias – and the rest of my life, I’ve angrily batted away other issues that seem unimportant distractions but…

Listening to Bob Dylan tonight, ‘It’s alright Ma (I’m only bleeding)‘ a favourite, I heard a line that, not for the first time, slaps me out of geriatric lethargy and conservatism –

The hollow horn plays wasted words, proves to warn that he not busy being born is busy dying.

I’d been reading about the ‘trans threat’ to the SNP and that line somehow stopped me in my tracks. I’ve largely ignored the debate or sided with radical feminists against trans arguments. I haven’t read anything. That’s bad.

What if I’m wrong? What if this is just another moral panic where the deviancy of an oppressed minority is amplified and distorted to enable them to be demonised and kept down? I was a sociologist FFS, shouldn’t I be anticipating just that?

Anyhow, late though it was, I searched and quickly found this:

Sex wars and (trans) gender panics: Identity and body
politics in contemporary UK feminism

Sally Hines
Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield, UK

This article considers how sex and gender – as conceptual categories and as a lived experience – are subject to contestation and renegotiation in the contemporary UK. Exploring gendered shifts through the lenses of identity and embodiment, the article captures key moments where certainties have been undone within feminist and transgender thought and activism. Yet such
fissures resound with calls for a return to traditional understandings of the sexed body. The article pays particular attention to debates within feminism around transgender issues, and sketches out a climate of transgender moral panic whereby conservative thinkers and some feminist activists are joining forces with the aim of resurrecting gender binaries.

I’m off to read it. Let’s see what happens,

23 thoughts on “The transgender Moral Panic: He not busy being born is busy dying

  1. Hallelujah.

    It is about Transgender having equal rights to others. Not about Transgender taking women’s or undermining women’s rights but finding a way to co exist along side others. Not threatening but compatible. Advances in medical science making it possible.

    The structure and laws of society following these medical advances. The rule of Law will continue to protect both parties. Mutually beneficial, not threatening. The Law will still exist to protect both parties overall but is sympathetic and compatible to all (each) sections of society. The need to try and find some form of equality around the gender issue. Worldwide. Nurture or nature. The usual hassle.

    The earlier feminists did not have to face this unknown dilemma. With their writing. The medical science advances has not happened at that time. That is why there need for a new appraisal. It is concerning of so little of the population. It is not a major problem to find ways around it. Making it beneficial to both parties to have their tights and freedoms retained and supported, Not in conflict but in mutual respect.

    There are religious and other detractors but they will have to make exception with compassion and sympathy. These organisations claim to be caring, sharing and inclusive. They will have to find a way not of shame, blame and guilt. It is not healthy but restrictive. Intransigence is not the answer.Trying to put people in boxes which they do not belong. Putting a square into a round hole. Just causes misery and destruction of the human soul. People can be distressed and die. That is not an outcome to which society should subscribe. Have a little sympathy and compassion. Even of a relatively unknown subject.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. i wish we could be all love. But with more trans cases coming out, the more hate we will receive. im glad that we have people trying to help make things safe and fair.


  2. There are certainly issues to be addressed and resolved when this is resurrected for debate in Holyrood, but the current agitation over this and hate crimes has more to do with muddying the political waters over imminent May elections IMHO.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are absolutely dead right, and it goes further than transgender. Yousaf’s “Hate Crime” Bill has been monstered, yet the fact is that in Tory England – TORY ENGLAND – hate speech has been a crime since the passage of the 2003 Criminal Justice Act (see s146).
      Specifically on transgender the UK got done at the ECHR and what is being done just now is to attempt to bring Scottish law into line with out commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights. We could of course sit it out, wait for the UK to leave the Convention and put in place the seriously watered down alternative that I believe Gove has been working on (which should make us suspicious right away).


  3. My other half and I were chatting this over on one of our daily walks and came to the conclusion that much of the angst is down to us being in the same age bracket as the Brexit Gammons who populated Question Time audiences a couple of years ago. Nature and nurture, and in this case nurture awakens the influences of our parents and even grandparents and their values. Our kids aren’t phased by it – and we’ve decided likewise. There are clearly issues and concerns, held genuinely and deeply – and they’ll be worked through in due course and a compromise found. A few years from now, it’ll be revisited and modified further. The “moral panics” of the 60s were forgotten in the 70s – and so it goes, for the vast majority of us and of the “major” issues of concern.
    The focus has to come back to Scotland and winning our independence. The other issues? The people of Scotland will determine our future path. I’m still full of confidence that it’ll be a better and a fairer future than Westminster will ever enable.


  4. I am a “live and let live” person, but who is a bit out of time with this debate.
    How many trans people are there in Scotland?
    What do we need to make things “better”? Uni-sex toilets? Three toilets?
    There would obviously be restrictions. Men who transition could not operate in women’s sports because of natural physical advantages. But am I wrong?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The GRA 2004, which is still current, has this to say on sport

      “”“”(1)A body responsible for regulating the participation of persons as competitors in an event or events involving a gender-affected sport may, if subsection (2) is satisfied, prohibit or restrict the participation as competitors in the event or events of persons whose gender has become the acquired gender under this Act.
      (2)This subsection is satisfied if the prohibition or restriction is necessary to secure—
      (a)fair competition, or
      (b)the safety of competitors,
      at the event or events.
      (3)“Sport” means a sport, game or other activity of a competitive nature.
      (4)A sport is a gender-affected sport if the physical strength, stamina or physique of average persons of one gender would put them at a disadvantage to average persons of the other gender as competitors in events involving the sport.
      (5)This section does not affect—
      (a)section 44 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (c. 65) (exception from Parts 2 to 4 of that Act for acts related to sport), or
      (b)Article 45 of the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 ( S.I. 1976/1042 (N.I. 15)) (corresponding provision for Northern Ireland).””

      I can’t see any reason why that would change in any reform of the current Act. It might even be tightened up.


    2. gavinochiltree

      There are around 300 or so people in Scotland who have gone through the process set out in the GRA 2004 and thus have an acquired gender under the Act. UK-wide there are around 5000 who have gone through the process set out in the Act.

      There is an estimated, note estimated, 250,000 to 500,000 living as a trans person in the UK but they do not have the legal protections that those who have gone through the GRA process have.


    3. Me too, he said without irony!
      I think the fact is that in every community there will almost inevitably be “rascals” who are only out for themselves. I dont doubt the trans community have some individuals who will exploit whatever they have to exploit to advance their own interests. A nodding acquaintance with Wings – when not dealing with Alex/ Nicola – exposes quite a few of these.
      Re sports, generally women and men participate separately because generally men are bigger and stronger – not sexist just a statistical fact. On the other hand, when a man transitions to be a woman they take these physical advantages with them, and there have already been a few disputes about this. Here is one, fairly humble, example
      What worries me more are medical interventions, which can have long term consequences. For instance there is this one about the Tavistock Institute at the end of last year I think the headline sums the conflict up well – did the decision curb trans rights or was it a victory for common sense. The case was brought by one of their patients who as a teenage girl decided she was male and was given puberty blockers, but has since decided she was too young. As a result the decided “children under the age of 16 considering gender reassignment are unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs, in effect curtailing medical intervention for under-16s with gender dysphoria.”
      This case needs to be remembered when self certification is discussed, because that is step on the way to medical intervention – indeed the role of doctors is one of the issues for the trans community.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Though I take a gender critical view, I certainly don’t consider myself trans-exclusionary, as I’m trained to empower the marginalised to gain due process in law and the potential to access justice. So I’m not looking at this issue from a purely sociological perspective, as sociology is still largely a white man’s game. And white men can’t jump, allegedly.

    I try to take a multi-disciplinary view that incorporates different philosophical fields, body studies, post-colonial studies, hermeneutics, the cognitive sciences, bioethics, communication and organisational studies, psychiatry, the law and stuff. With an overarching concern for health equality.

    So although I’m happy to work towards improving the social position and status of trans-individuals, I still think there is some way to go before natal women can truly claim to have achieved social parity with men. Which means I’m afraid I simply can’t support a perspective that subourdinates the biological to the psychological. Or to put that another way, I can’t support privileging the performative over the real, as that is not how you go about empowering individual’s with effective, substantive, AGENCY in the real world.

    Critical realism and health promotion: effective practice needs an effective theory

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Though I don’t want to be a space-hog on this, or any other, thread, I do have valuable insight that I think would be of benefit to the debate. I take critical realism seriously, as it enables the grounding of social action in generative, causal, mechanisms, rather than ideologically/politically laden interpretations of the world around us. I also appreciate the value of possessing a legally defensible identity. Which is not something that is possible to claim to posses, if you live in Scotland.

    Agency From a Radical Embodied Standpoint: An Ecological-Enactive Proposal


    1. CameronB you write: “I also appreciate the value of possessing a legally defensible identity. Which is not something that is possible to claim to posses, if you live in Scotland.”

      Puzzled by this statement, especially your claim of the impossibility of having a legally defensible identity. I’m no lawyer but would I not have recourse to for example the legislation referred to in the guidance below and any further legislative developments that builds from it?

      Click to access t455-eng.pdf

      ‘Gender Recognition Act 2004

      ‘Under the laws of the United Kingdom, individuals are considered by the State to be of the gender – either male or female – that is registered on their birth certificates. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 enables transsexual people to apply to the Gender Recognition Panel to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

      If you are granted a full GRC you will, from the date of issue, be considered in the eyes of the law to be of your acquired gender. You will be entitled to all the rights appropriate to a person of your acquired gender. This will include the right to retire and receive state pension at the age appropriate to your acquired gender.”

      What is not ‘legally defensible’ here and why?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dear Editor,

        Tech advice please. When pasting a link to a source document in a btl comment how can I ensure that only the URL and not page after page of said document appears with my text?

        Sometimes only the former happens but on other occasions multiple pages appear even though I’m not aware of pasting any differently.


      2. I think you’ve either misunderstood me, or I’ve explained myself badly. The legal identity of natal women is already well defined in law, so it is defensible. Conflating gender/sex with gender-ideology, then enabling self-ID, renders the legal identity of natal women indefensible.

        The original GRA does not do this, as it refers to the recognition of adopted gender only. It does not suggest the transgendered have actually changed sex. Which is not medically possible.


  7. As far as I understand things, the mind is not separate from the body. Both affect each other to shape our health. So it really isn’t that bright to force Scots law to privilege an outlook that separates the two, and subordinates biological reality to the psychology of the clinically disordered (see dysphoria).

    White Men Can’t Jump: Critical Epistemologies, Embodiment,
    and the Praxis of Legal Scholarship


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