It was reported in the news that Richard Dawkins – author and humanist – recently posted this on his Twitter account:
In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss.Richard Dawkins
After receiving criticism, he added:
“I do not intend to disparage trans people. I see that my academic ‘Discuss’ question has been misconstrued as such and I deplore this. It was also not my intent to ally in any way with Republican bigots in US now exploiting this issue.”Richard Dawkins
The kindest thing I can say is that people make mistakes. A less forgiving view is that as someone who’s very visible in the media and is no stranger to having his views on atheism attacked, I would expect more thought and care from him.
Can we start with the point on discussion? The validity on being trans is not up for debate. Certainly no more than “are you sure you’re just not confused and might be straight?” Or, to be a little more tongue in cheek – and I can make this joke because I’m an atheist 🙂 – “You’re only an unbeliever because you’ve not heard the right sermons yet.” This is, of course, tosh.
Gee, I don’t believe in a god and I’m trans. Well, I guess we know where I’m going when I die. That’s right, nowhere 😉
I an part of the transgender spectrum and while I consider myself trans, or genderfluid, I do not consider myself a woman. I might present as one while out and that can put me at risk due to our society’s views on what it thinks it’s okay to do to women. However, for trans friends who have transitioned, they are very much their new gender.
To say otherwise is at best uninformed, leaning towards rude and possibly cruel at the other end of behaviour. If I was out and you yelled “that’s a man!”, two things would happen. One, I’d think you were rude and a dick. Secondly, those who overheard you would probably think the same. 😛
Joking aside, can you tell the difference at between a part timer like myself who does not consider themselves a woman, and sometime who has transitioned and who is a woman? To state “that’s a man” is incredibly rude and I would add that some women – as in ‘assigned female at birth’ – have had that said about them during the bathroom Bill debacle. To make this personal, imagine if someone said that to a female friend, a sister, your mum, etc. How might they feel?
To be neither a person of colour or trans, and then to ask for a discussion on those communities is insensitive. Right now, people of colour and trans folk are under attack. I make no joke when I say that in some parts of the world, you can die from being black, trans, or both. With TERFs and certain elements of the right wing pushing an anti-trans agenda, I think we can say, things are not going well. In dear Old Blighty, our current PM, believes that there’s not really a problem around race and it’s just a class issue. Again, someone in power who isn’t listening or looking, and is very much coming across as tone deaf and out of touch. Hell, I’m white with no friends from such communities and yet when I listen to the experiences of colleagues, to deny them seems… monumentally ignorant.
So, what should we be discussing? If you’d like an academic exercise, I’ll happily offer the following up as topics:
- The continued success of anti-trans bills to block treatment and deny trans people access to sports. Include how this goes against expert and scientific based advice on what works well. Discuss the effect on the child’s and their family’s mental health.
- In 2021, what it is about a fraction of the population wanting equal treatment in terms of employment, access to medical care, and the use of public services, that has united a group of disparate groups to hone their discrimination against a minority group? Discuss.
- The rise of populism, fear politics, and othering in the media and society. How has this lead to a rise in hate crimes, attacks of women, and fascist ideology in the mainstream. Discuss.
PS: please leave any essays in the usual pigeon hole for marking. The excuse of ‘The Daily Heil ate my homework’ will not be accepted 😉