Saturday, 27 April 2019

Neurological Immaturity

Sentence in years
Life + 5 + 3 + 2.5
Life + 6 + 4
12 + 7 + 4
9 + 6
8.5 + 6

These were the ages at time of offence, and the sentences, of a group of working class Māori kids who killed a man in the course of a robbery. 

The defence that the kids did not fully understand the seriousness of their actions, given the prevalence of violent videos and films that show people being hit on the head without consequences, was rejected. They were tried and sentenced as adults, even the 12 year old.

In the USA, there are people serving life without possibility of parole for capital crimes committed before they were neurologically mature, and there is a movement to have them released. Some have been released and some, usually because of the input of the victim’s family, remain incarcerated. 

If we accept current scientific evidence that the decision making centre of the brain is the last to mature and may not be fully mature until early 20s, and that kids aged 12 -16 are definitely neurologically immature - then the trial and sentencing as adults of these young people in NZ was in line with the sort of harshly retributive sentencing often seen the USA. 

To argue these kids genuinely may not have understood the gravity of their actions is not to diminish the awfulness of the outcome. They planned a robbery and caused the tragic death of a man who was simply doing his job - but were they capable of understanding the consequences – for him and for them - of those actions?

If the argument is valid that they could not because the prefrontal cortex is not yet fully developed, then the sentencing of these kids was all about retribution, not justice or rehabilitation. 

Neurologically immature brains do not have fully developed impulse control and they have a reduced ability to assess risk. When this is combined with the known greater sensitivity to peer pressure and a tendency to rush into uncertain situations to test out possible rewards – adolescents, and especially young adolescents, should not be tried or sentenced as adults.

There were of course other factors at play here, the most important being the social class and ethnicity of those kids.  

When a 17 year-old middle class, white kid drove his powerful car at speeds in excess of 180kph in a 50kph zone in Christchurch and killed a young Chinese student who was crossing the street, his lawyers argued that the defendant was too young to control his reckless impulse to drive at what the judge described as ‘insane speeds’. 

So unconfident were the police of getting a conviction for murder, they prosecuted for manslaughter for which a guilty plea was entered and the driver got a 5 year sentence, of which he served 2 years.

Further evidence of the disparity in treatment of young offenders can be found when searching the names of these young people on the SST website. The latter’s name does not appear even though he compounded the severity of his offence by fleeing the scene, conspiring to pervert the course of justice and expressing racist attitudes towards his 19 year-old victim.

These two scenarios – and there are many, many other examples of gross disparities in the CJS in NZ – came back to mind because of the current debate around other life-altering decisions that kids may rush or be pushed into before they are neurologically mature, and at a point in life when they are peculiarly sensitive to peer pressure.

If we hope to ensure appropriate forms of justice for young offenders – something all right-minded people must surely want to do  - shouldn’t we also be alert to the life-altering consequences of all decisions that are made before people are neurologically mature?

Monday, 5 November 2018

Identity Theft

"I couldn’t escape Rachel Dolezal because I can’t escape white supremacy. And it is white supremacy that told an unhappy and outcast white woman that black identity was hers for the taking. It is white supremacy that told her that any black people who questioned her were obviously uneducated and unmotivated to rise to her level of wokeness. It is white supremacy that then elevated this display of privilege into the dominating conversation on black female identity in America. It is white supremacy that decided that it was worth a book deal, national news coverage, and yes - even this interview.

“And with that, the anger I had toward her began to melt away. Dolezal is simply a white woman who cannot help but centre herself in all that she does – including her fight for racial justice. And if racial justice does not center her, she will redefine race itself in order to make that happen. It is a bit extreme but it is in no way new for white people to take what they want from other cultures in the name of love and respect, while distorting and discarding the remainder of that culture for their comfort.” 

This quote is from an article by Ijeoma Oluo about Rachel Dolezal, the woman in the US who ‘identified’ as African-American, until being outed as white. Dolezal has renamed herself since - with an African name.

I was reminded of this by the story in the news currently about Anthony Lennon, a white man with white parents who has lived and worked as a black man and black actor and director.

Some feminists have used the Dolezal scenario as a counterpoint to the issue of people, who are born genetically male but who identify as women and lay claim to be literally as much a woman as a person who is genetically female, categorised as such at birth and has always lived as a female.

People ask, if being a woman or a man or female or male can be simply a matter of self-identification, why can't a white person self identify as a person of colour? If the latter is wrong, how can the former be right?

What matters in the Dolezal case is that she used her relative privilege as a white woman to insert herself into the black community, thus displaying a distinctly white arrogance and lack of sensitivity to issues of race in, what remains, an extremely racist country, and she materially benefitted from her claim of being black – and took opportunities away from black women.

It is argued that ethnicity is a matter of self identification in some areas but in relation to such things as positive discrimination measures aimed at redressing historical disadvantage, there is an obvious need for a person to be able to demonstrate the validity of their claim by more than just a simple assertion of identity. 

Here, in Aotearoa-New Zealand, to qualify for Māori scholarships for example, a person must be able to demonstrate their whakapapa – it is not enough to just declare oneself as tangata whenua on the basis of self identity.

But in relation to gender identity, one of the main aims of transgenderism as a political movement, is that nothing more must be required other than a personal declaration, i.e. there should be the removal of all medical inputs and most bureaucratic inputs to the process of changing one's legal sex. Going further, there is a growing demand to remove sex markers from birth certificates, not as a push back against intrusive state surveillance, but because it is claimed that having sex categorised on a birth certificate makes life difficult for trans and intersex people. 

The demand that gender identity - an individual sense of oneself as a sexual being must be embedded as a fully protected status in equality and human rights legislation, means a genetically male person, even one who has lived as a man for sixty or so years and fathered children, who self identifies as a woman must be accepted as a woman and have exactly the same legal and social status as a woman who was born and has always lived as female. This applies even to people who, like Philip/Pippa Bunce, choose to be men on some days and women on others.

A trans woman, even someone with a completely unaltered male body, as a result of a simple declaration of a sense of identity - is literally a woman, with the same legal status and social authority as the other categories of women - cis women and intersex women. 

The same is true for female to male transgender people but they simply do not intrude upon cis men's rights in the same way, nor do they attract the same amount of public or media attention - except when they give birth or try to uncover their female genitalia in a gay sauna.

This means that, where there is any sort of single sex provision, or positive action measures for girls and women - eg the UK Labour Party's women-only shortlists and women's development programmes - anyone born male, who has self identified as a woman, cannot be excluded from them without a legal challenge for unfair discrimination. 

A lot of radical feminists and a rising groundswell of others are concerned about the implications for safeguarding women - not from transsexuals who have always co-existed happily with women in the past - but from some on the fringes of the vastly widened trans umbrella, men who will opportunistically seek shelter under it in order to pursue - not a valid expression of gender identity - but a highly transgressive sexual agenda. 

David Challenor was not drawn to the UK Green Party for valid political reasons. It was a combination of a narcissistic power trip and a means of advancing a political agenda that was about granting people like him, sexual license. In his case it was a sexual fetish that involved dressing as a little girl while holding an actual little girl in bondage, torturing her and sexually abusing her. 

The current furore over Guiding in the UK is whipping up a lot of anger - and as often happens, a lot of it is directed at the wrong people. The issue of girls needing same sex spaces is a valid one, especially in the hyper-sexualised, body-obsessed world in which  they are growing up.  It needs to be acknowledged that there are girls who, for personal and religious/cultural reasons, do not want to share intimate spaces with male bodied persons - but the main threat to girls is not from the tiny number of boys who identify as girls, the big threat in my view is from predatory and manipulative adult men who may abuse the far greater ease of self ID as a means to get access to young people.

Given the sort of tactics now widely used by the trans lobby to silence dissent and its power and reach (which is completely at odds with its actual numbers and its claims to the most extreme social marginalisation), it will take a brave person to challenge anyone thought to have predatory motives. 

The other scenario of course is that it will fuel right wing and fundamentalist extremists of the sort who have formed vigilante 'paedo-hunter' groups - with the potential for a lot of innocent people to get hurt. 

Finally, my apologies to Ijeoma Oluo, but the paraphrase begged to be done:

 “I can't escape transgenderism because I can't escape male supremacy. And it is male supremacy that tells an unhappy or narcissistic man that woman’s identity is his for the taking. It is male supremacy that tells him that any women who question him are obviously uneducated, and unmotivated to rise to his level of wokeness. It is male supremacy that then elevates this display of privilege into the dominating conversation on female identity globally. It is male supremacy that decides that it is worth international news coverage.
"(Insert name) is simply a man who cannot help but centre himself in all that he does—including his fight for what he sees as sexual justice. And if sexual justice doesn't centre him, he will redefine sex itself in order to make that happen. It is a bit extreme, but it is in no way new for men to take what they want from womanhood in the name of love and respect, while distorting or discarding the remainder of womanhood for their comfort."

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

The Real Issue Du Jour

This started as a thread on Twitter but it grew too long and so a blog post it is.

Formal rights are never just handed over because the powerful see the natural justice in doing so; they have to be fought for and the powerful will always seek to roll them back – ideologically if they can, but coercively if they must. 

The intensified attacks on organised labour that began with the rise of neoliberalism went hand in glove with extensions of legal and civil rights to women and previously marginalised groups. 

The last forty years has seen a massive growth of opportunity and choice for what has been termed the 'coordinator class' - the buffer zone of relative privilege between the tiny but increasingly powerful global elite, and the vast and increasingly desperate and surplus to requirements, global poor.  This is the core reality of global corporate  capitalism.

The issues addressed by identity politics are of critical importance, no-one with any sense can deny that, but it is the way these have been and are being addressed that should be of concern to the progressive forces in the world. The battle between transactivists - some trans people and a range of allies - and women, spearheaded by radical feminists, is a case in point.

I don’t agree with all of radical feminism because it can be blind to issues of class and race, and it often comes too close to blaming everything on men or on a vague notion of a Patriarchy that draws its power from an equally vague coalition of male interests.

I’ve no time at all for either of liberal feminism’s two wings: corporate feminism with its focus on gaining formal equality and economic parity with male peers within existing socio-economic structures; and choice feminism, which concentrates on widening the palette of individual choice and agency. 

Liberal feminism is the feminism of the coordinator class; it often reinforces what radical and socialist feminists see as sexist stereotypes and doesn’t challenge either the corporatocracy or the phallocracy in any meaningful way. As the acceptable face of feminism it’s not subject to the vilification and demonisation its radical and socialist sisters have always encountered.

Socialist feminism, after the heady days of Women’s Liberation, either retreated into the academy - where it has been all but suffocated under the weight of post modernism and queer theory - or its adherents have chosen to fight inside progressive organisations, having recognised that the threat posed to the entire planet by rampant globalised corporate capitalism can only be countered by a strong and united front.

What has brought a lot of radical feminist and socialist feminist women together recently, and into conflict with liberal feminism and the so-called 'woke Left', is in reaction to modern transgender politics.  

This is not because the former women are anti-trans rights but because transgenderism is seen by them as another manifestation of a growing attack on women’s rights, and for many, as symptomatic of a far wider problem - the undiminished and malign power of global corporate capitalism.

At the heart of the transgender politics of the moment, which is powerfully influenced by queer theory, is a conflation of biological sex and gender with a resulting theoretical and political confusion about each. 

Gender identity is seen as an individual and individualised perception of one's self as a sexual entity, which may be at variance with the biological sex category that the person was 'assigned' at birth. (1)

If a person’s sense of their gender varies from the sex they were assigned at birth, there must full legal recognition of that, and access to the means by which physical features can be altered to be as congruent as desired with the individual's gender identity. This may range from drug therapies and full surgical alteration of genitalia and a range of cosmetic surgeries and procedures, through to simply making a declaration of identifying as a woman or a man (or as non-binary).

The theoretically lazy and politically expedient conflation of biological sex and gender allows some people to declare that it is not just gender that is socially constructed and thereby changeable, biological sex itself is a social construct and as such can be deconstructed. 

Furthermore, they often argue, sex is not dimorphic -  but is on a spectrum.  The existence of a number of different intersex conditions (disorders of sex differentiation) is often co-opted by trans activists to seek to prove this, ie to challenge the biological fact that humans are sexually dimorphic. (2)

Some trans activists argue that one's gender identity is established in utero - i.e. that after sex differentiation is complete early in pregnancy, there are genetic/hormonal influences on the foetus which ‘feminise' or  'masculinise’ the brain and thus, a reproductively normal male can be born with a feminine brain and vice versa - popularly known as being ‘born in the wrong body’.

It may be there are pre-natal, post sex differentiation influences on neurological development -  we don’t know enough yet to be absolutely certain one way or the other - but the denial or the reduction of the importance and scope of ante-natal influences on the human neurological system is highly problematic, especially given we now know that important parts of the brain may not be fully mature until the early to mid twenties.

Feminists have resisted the idea of a female brain that gives rise to innate feminine attributes and behaviours and with good reason, given the role that this as an ideological notion has played in six millennia or so of varying forms and degrees of female oppression, and over four centuries of economic hyper-exploitation.

It is odd that in 2018 some women fight to be free from the gender straitjacket of how women ought to dress, talk, walk, work, play, relate to others socially and sexually - and other women, trans women included, fight to retain it, and sometimes in its most extreme and hyper-sexualised forms. 

The fact is that one’s sense of self is more complex and wider than gender identity, although the facts of our biological sex and the associated normative gender roles obviously play a huge part in developing a sense of self. It’s also a fact that no-one develops a sense of self or a gender identity in isolation. It is never an individual process as we are, above all else, social animals.

For me, gender, as the set of ideas, beliefs and social norms that flow and eddy around the fact of biological sex, is obviously a social construct but more importantly, it is an ideological construct which, in stratified societies, serves power.

Biological sex is a material reality. We are all born with a biological sex - most commonly XX female, or XY male, and rarely, variants of either of those because, such is the complexity of embryonic sex differentiation, sometimes anomalies occur. 

The rationale for, and the power of gender as an ideological construct flows from the material reality of human sexual reproduction, which is dimorphic – ie requires the coming together of two distinct gametes each produced within the gonads of a female person and a male person, and gestated in the body of the female person.

You cannot separate gender and biological sex, or understand gender in isolation from biological sex, or from the class relations that gave rise to, and which perpetuate the ideology of gender as an oppressive tool.

Gender is the ideologically oppressive means by which women have been subordinated to men within stratified, male dominated societies, and the means by which women have been hyper-exploited economically within capitalist society.

Gender ideology involves the ascription of a physical, intellectual and moral inferiority to the female, and a superiority in those areas, to the male.

Religious notions of female chastity as a duty to god are gender ideology in action. Once the guarantee of paternity became an issue for men, the only way to ensure it was through the sexual sequestration of women. Physical sequestration is difficult for obvious reasons. Ideological sequestration was achieved via the demands of female obedience and chastity in which the threat of male punishment for transgressions in the here and now was backed up with the threat of divine eternal damnation.

The oppression of women, to enable the control of both their reproductive and productive capacities, took on a special character under capitalism, which prefers the ideological to the openly coercive, especially when there is a market opportunity attached to it.  Just as the covert coercion and apparent freedoms of the wage contract were preferred to the open coercion and lack of freedoms of slavery for example, the ideological coercion of women was preferred to physical coercion, and it worked via religiously enforced notions of the essential inferiority of females. (3)

Women as the weaker sex, intellectually and morally, were deemed to be in need of both protection and correction; men as the stronger sex were deemed to be capable of providing it.

Given the considerable overlap between the sexes, by every physical and psychological parameter, this rigid gender division forced and still forces both women and men into behavioural straitjackets that can harm and deform.

Women have had to fight - and sometimes fight men who should have been their allies - for every advance. Every sex-based right women have is compensation for centuries of averaged greater levels of exploitation and harm from the sex-specific forms of oppression used to facilitate that exploitation.

Refuges for women who’ve been raped or abused; compensatory measures to offset the historical exclusion of women from public life, or to aid them in overcoming barriers to public life created by their still greater domestic responsibilities - all women-only services remain important for women and especially for women who are economically or socially marginalised and vulnerable.

It’s astonishing to many women that, after millennia of male imposed modesty standards, and the creation of a climate of fear among women occasioned by the threat and the fact of male violence towards women that, suddenly, women who say they’re not comfortable with male-bodied persons sharing their facilities, that they don’t want a male-bodied person performing a personal service, are deemed - by self-proclaimed progressive people - to be vile bigots and equivalent to Nazis.

And that is not an exaggeration. Granted there are a few among the gender-critical movement who are anti-trans rights and there are overtly rightwing people who opportunistically coat tail women’s concerns, but the majority of gender critical women are not anti trans rights. Yet, among transactivists, there are a lot of people whose demands and responses to even the mildest of questions are so disproportionate and so extreme it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they’re either in the grip of a narcissistic rage, or they’re trolls or agents provocateurs actively fomenting division.

The mantra, ‘transwomen are women’ repeated like a catechism – obscures for some and highlights for others the fact that it is exclusively the category of ‘woman’ that is being interrogated and changed.

It is no accident that in the world of transgender politics it is male to female trans voices that are loudest. Trans men mostly get noticed by having babies - an astonishing feat and one that requires much more critical attention. (4) 

Transmen are men’ is always an after-thought and it doesn’t have the same historical, social and political meaning because this is still a profoundly phallocratic world and, however much its advocates hope otherwise, a small minority of people transgressing gender norms in varying ways and to varying degrees, will not shake its foundations one iota. In fact, if that transgression serves to divide and divert people and obscure common interests, it may strengthen it.

When genuine gender critical women say they’re worried about gender self ID because men may abuse it, they’re not saying that genuine trans women are a threat, they’re acknowledging the historical reality of the lengths to which predatory and abusive men are known to go in order to harm women and children. 

You would have to be deranged to argue that women are unreasonable for being worried about male violence. You would also have to be politically naïve or deliberately perverse to not acknowledge the existence of, and increase in, expressions of extreme misogyny across the globe.

At the moment the Left is busy alienating a lot of people –  feminists, lesbians, transsexuals, and gay men among them. Some may fall into the waiting arms of the Right; some will remain in the Left and fight, and some will become politically homeless because so many on the Left are demonstrating stunning levels of arrogance and disdain – or, refuse to engage with the issue because it is ‘too toxic’ and considered to be a diversion away from, or peripheral to, more important issues.

The vitriol and retributive malice that is aimed at gender critical women from some self-styled progressives is alarming. You could be forgiven for thinking that, just as support for Palestinian rights can mask an underlying anti-semitism, support for trans rights can mask an underlying misogyny, and one that a lot of women seem to have internalised.

If a rightwing person supports gender critical feminists, transactivists label all gender critical women as rightwing, even though any leftwinger worthy of their political salt should know that, if there’s a certainty in any of this, it’s the operation of the rightwing tactic of divide and rule.

Identity politics divorced from class politics tends to be both fragmenting and divisive – acting as an outgrowth of, and supporting and intensifying the Left sectarianism that’s been a significant contributor to the appalling state the world currently is in.

Neoliberal governments that have served corporate global capitalism for forty years have advanced and extended formal rights to women and to previously marginalised groups and there has been a growth in greater levels of social acceptance but this has come at the same time as the ability, of many economically marginalised people to exercise formal rights and access choices, has been reduced or removed.

There has also been a massive growth in the coercive power of the state - some obvious, like paramilitary style police forces, some less so, like massively increased surveillance and financial controls, and the hyper-exploitation of women has intensified both within and outside of the affluent countries of the first world.

Capitalism excels at using ideology to get people to build their own prisons, willingly don straitjackets, police each other, hate and fear each other - but it’s ready and prepared to be openly coercive when it needs to be.

Globalisation means the capitalist class - which has morphed into a global corporatocracy - has appropriated and deformed the old Left’s vision of the socialist international, which did not deny national, cultural or ethnic differences but, by emphasising commonalities, sought to turn them away from being divisive and competitive.

Neoliberalism has embraced identity politics, not because it values diversity, but because, in the absence of a unifying force  - a political catalyst - identity politics inevitably fragments and divides people into smaller and smaller competing groups.

Against the might of global corporate capitalism and the state machines which support it - the only way that resistance can be effective is in a unified, mass movement.

In the context of such things as - the lurch to the far Right, the scale of the ecological horrors that will be unleashed unless effective action against climate change, habitat loss and pollution is taken now, the on-going nightmare of the millions of easily preventable deaths, especially of children – the time and energy being devoted to gender self ID  seems bizarre until you put it in the context of the divide and divert strategies the Right is so good at deploying. 

The pendulum on gender self ID is centring a bit and a lot more sensible voices are being heard and they need to be, because the father of all conservative backlashes is building and when it has the power of the state behind it - it may sweep away far more than the rights of the tiny minority of people currently sheltering under the trans umbrella.  

(1) The use of the term 'assigned' is calculated to imply an element of arbitrariness to the process.
The categorisation by sex is most commonly based on an examination of external genitalia, which, very rarely, is not indicative of the individual’s chromosomal arrangement, and does not predict how the person will respond to established gender norms.  

(2) Many intersex people and advocates object to the often unthinking co-option of their realities by trans activists, to promote the idea that sex is fluid and can be changed.  The widening of the list of DSDs means it now covers about 1% of the population but this list ranges from the extremely rare, to the rare, and from conditions which can be life threatening unless treated and render the person infertile, to ones which have no adverse health implications and do not affect reproductive capacity.
The case of an XY person - ie someone who has a Y chromosome but who has female external genitalia and ovaries and uterus - who had an unassisted pregnancy - is often cited as evidence of the fluidity of the XX:XY dichotomy but this is the only known case of someone with female reproductive organs but a predominantly male karyotype, getting pregnant unassisted, and the child was born XY female with complete gonadal dysgenesis, i.e. infertile.  Given the fact that, in zoological and biological terms, sex and sexual dimorphism exists for the purposes of species reproduction, such an arrangement is both an extremely rare anomaly and is not proof that there are a number of sexes, or that biological sex is a spectrum. There is a child with female reproductive organs whose XY karyotype was identified during amniocentesis, who has histologically normal ovaries. If this person can produce eggs and naturally gestate a reproductively normal child, the debate will shift but even if that were the case – and even if the prevalence of such a condition goes beyond two known cases out of a global population of 7.5+ billion  – it still does not mean humans as a species are not sexual dimorphic.  It simply means that genetics and the endocrine system are vastly complex – and may be becoming more so because corporate capitalism has saturated the world with substances that damage DNA and others that are potent endocrine disruptors. 

(3) There is no clear linear progression in this, and the ideological is always backed up by the fact and threat off the coercive. 

(4) I don’t know how a gender dysphoria powerful enough to drive a person to attempt suicide and to warrant virilizing hormone treatment and a double mastectomy, can be controlled while the person goes through that most profoundly female experience of gestating and giving birth to a baby.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

On the Vexed Issue of Sex and Gender

Sex roles - now referred to as gender - are a powerful and ancient social construct with a tap root deep in the material reality of reproductive sex which, at its core, is biological and dimorphic.  

The conceptualisation of, and discourse around sex are social processes. We wrap up the material reality of sex in layers of social meanings, processes and rituals - the most powerful and opaque of which are beliefs about how females and males should look, behave and be treated.

The degree of human sexual dimorphism is moderate; there are wide physical, psychological and behavioural overlaps between the sexes. As a species we are ineluctably social, flexible and adaptable - as much in when, and with whom, or with what we will have sex, as we are in what we can, and will eat. 

But it is the case that it takes a functional ovary to produce an egg, a functional testicle to produce sperm, and a functional uterus to gestate a foetus to the point of viability, i.e. where it can survive outside the body of its mother. 

The female of the species is the one who possesses the means by which new humans are both gestated and - for all of evolutionary and most of social history and for the majority of people alive today - are fed as infants. She is more crucial to species and group reproduction than the male for reasons that are obvious.

A sexual division of labour was conditioned by the material realities that underpin human reproduction, i.e. long gestation, bipedalism, big head, utterly dependent offspring, slow sexual maturation etc, and this current debate centres around the extent to which and manner in which that foundational reality resulted in ideas about an immutable basis to both sex and sex roles, and how gender was forged into an ideological weapon used to subjugate people - most especially women.

The biological process of sexual differentiation in utero is complex, completed early in pregnancy and sometimes throws up anomalies. This is neither remarkable nor surprising and is not proof of a range of sexes or a 'spectrum of reproductive sex’. 

Capitalist production has saturated the world with DNA damaging and endocrine disrupting substances. If these do make humans less fertile, as seems to be the case, or causes an increase in the incidence of reproductive anomalies, it may be that the current sanguine attitude towards ‘gender fluidity’ will change. 

And if reproductive anomalies are increasing and male fertility is decreasing due to the presence in the environment of massive amounts of DNA damaging substances and endocrine disruptors, there are people who would have a massive vested interest in obscuring that fact.

Our social world is dominated by a system of production which commodifies everything - even intangibles like debt - and it commodifies sex and all the social stuff that is wrapped around sex.

It enables and promotes individualism, social fragmentation and a rampant consumerism which  serves to blind the main beneficiaries of the system to the vast and growing gulf between their beliefs, priorities and concerns, and those of the rest of humanity.

The beliefs, concerns and priorities of the main beneficiaries of the capitalist mode of production that has dominated the world over the past 400 years, and more specifically the last 40 yrs of rampant growth under neo-liberalism, are not those of all humans. Fact. Get over it.

This is still a world in which every day of every year, around 200 women – mostly poor women of colour - die in childbirth, many of them because they are anaemic and malnourished. 

Yet human rights organisations refer to 'pregnant people’ in order to be ‘inclusive’ of the tiny number of affluent, well nourished and mainly white trans men who choose to give birth - in safe, hygienic conditions.

No-one comments on why it is that trans men only get media attention when they give birth, or why it is that anyone who wants a say in this mass interrogation of the categories of woman and female risks being subjected to a torrent of abuse from transactivists and from their liberal and leftwing allies.

The modern era is a mere blink of the eye in the evolution of the species and it has thrown up and given power to people (mostly male) hell bent on replacing human labour with technology - including technology to replace the humans who gestate new humans.

In the view of some people, our world is over populated and some of these people see this ‘surplus’ as  dehumanised ‘useless eaters’ whose deaths are just ‘collateral damage'.

In the 40 years of the spectacular growth of global corporate capitalism, 200+ million children under the age of 5 have died, 40 million of them in their 1st week of life, and 3 million women have bled to death in childbirth or died of post partum infection. Almost all of these were easily prevented deaths.

Control of the reproductive capacity of females is no longer needed to ensure generational replacement or population growth – now it is about controlling the number and the type of people who are born, and to whom.

Those who are behind the capitalist drive to technologise do so, not to free humans from soul and body destroying labour, or to free women from their role in reproduction – they do it to exert control. Technologise a thing or a process and those who control the technology, control it.

Something transactivists slide around or ignore is the fact that, as a population, trans people are among the most surveilled and medically controlled on the planet. 

Gender self ID may remove one aspect of bureaucratic and medical gatekeeping but it will be at the price of a greatly enhanced public profile. People already have become way more aware of, and interested in the previously fairly sequestered private lives of those within the trans community. 

There is the other quid pro quo - if you want to argue for a higher priority on the triaging system that’s at work in ALL publicly funded health care - you must expect to have your priority and eligibility publicly debated.

Gender self ID as a human right that is denied to trans people, is strengthened if the idea is extended into the need for ALL people to have the human right to declare their bespoke gender identity – hence the widening of the project to include removing the entire process of categorizing people as female or male at birth.

Gender self ID by statutory declaration is not essential to ensure the legal equality of trans people in NZ or the UK as this is already guaranteed by statute. Nor will it, in and of itself, guarantee greater levels of social acceptance, in fact it may have the opposite effect, which is what some transsexuals fear.

Questioning the effects of gender self ID on women is not a denial of trans rights, and the incessant repetition of the hyperbolic assertion that any questioning of any aspect of the trans project literally kills trans people, is wearing thin.

In fact, some of the trans rhetoric is so torrid, so abusive, so absurd and so potentially damaging to the cause it claims to support, that those who indulge in it have either lost the plot, or they’re plotting a loss.

There is no free lunch in any of this and what sensible people know is that some transactivists' GO line is already way past a lot of other people’s WHOA line - and a conservative backlash could sweep away a lot more than trans rights.