Saturday, 14 September 2019

The Pig in the Middle

I'm struggling to remain calm and rational in the face of on-going provocation from and about the so-called, self-proclaimed 'centre'.  

The world is firmly in the grip of gargantuan global corporations with no moral compass but somehow the answer still lies in trying to keep your political legs either side of the rapidly widening and deepening gap between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, and the protected and the expendable.

I read the following somewhere in the lead up to the election before last here in NZ and copied them but forgot to note the sources. No matter - they sum up a common viewpoint here in Godzone.

"To become attractive to middle NZ, Labour will need to cut its links with the unions. Unions have had their place in history, but are now just far left wing political organisations that have more in common with Mana or the Greens. Cunliffe is beholden to the Unions, so will have to go before this can happen." 
And - 
"The labour movement is dead. Labour needs more than another leader selling old policies. Its (sic) needs a completely new brand and a completely new focus. There's more the world and our lives than the now redundant struggle between workers and employers."

The sheer vacuity and narrow political focus of those assertions about the struggle between capital and labour aside, I get seriously irritated with all this blether about 'middle NZ'. What the hell is it?  Where does it start and stop?  Is it as much a state of mind as a state of pocket? Is one's location in it ascribed or chosen?  

How do we establish the boundaries of this influential construct?  Income level, paid weekly or monthly, educational achievement, shared ideology, square meterage of dwelling/s, number of bathrooms or cars, owning a holiday home, weekly shopping bill, amount of high fructose corn syrup in the diet, the sort of school the kids go to, owning a ride-on lawnmower, level of debt, job security, belief in a deity?

The truth is that middle NZ is a PR concept and pretty meaningless but it's considered to be very important because it's where the floating voters hang out.  To get into government we are told, the main parties have to pitch their policies to appeal to these swinging voters, i.e. to be attractive to 'middle New Zealand' politicians have to be seen to be of, and for the centre - i.e. eschew the politics of the extremes of both left and right. 

There might be a huge swathe of the electorate who do not vote, or who cannot vote for various reasons, but parties must still focus on that flip flopping section of society which does not have a fixed loyalty to a particular party and can be bought with appeals to celebrity and tax cuts or other lifestyle enhancing bribes.

The problem is that - logically - a political centre only exists when there are two opposing sides. When the main parties are actually just the same thing wearing a different coloured tie and waving a different flag -  where's the political centre? 

The right has become very adept at disguising itself as moderate even though its core economic and social policies are overtly rightwing. The appearance of moderation overlays the essence of adherence to monetarist economics.  The left has shifted to the right to counter the right's apparent centrism which effectively shifts anything that might be called a middle, rightwards and it all becomes a bit of a muddle. 

Social democratic politics are labelled hard left by commentators who either wouldn't know hard left from a hole in the ground, or do know and are lying.  

A case in point is the fact that Bernie Sanders is labelled a socialist - but only in the grimly right-wing mess that is US politics could the good senator be seen as being in any way radical. 

The same applies to Jeremy Corbyn who is a socialist and a democrat who is, and always has been committed to the parliamentary route to socialism. He can only be labelled as a hard left radical in the right-wing mess that is British politics.

So - here's to middle New Zealand and all who set their political course to keep it safely ensconsed inside its various little bubbles - may you all soon founder.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Selfie Schtick

Warning: this is another long read – all of 8 minutes of your life.

I’ve been seeing a lot of tweets in which people describe the body as a shell - inhabited by a gender identity that may be different from the sex of the shell the person is born in. 

Some people even refer to their body as a meat sack or a flesh suitwhich is driven or piloted by this disembodied identity - the gender element of which is deemed to be as, if not more, legally and socially important than the sexed body. 

To me, this is a form of extreme alienation and essentially no different from the belief in an eternal (superior) soul that will survive the death of the (inferior) body - the harming of which may be seen or even required as proof of belief in, and submission to, an ideology.

Phallocratic, and especially monotheist religion privileges some humans above other humans, and all humans above all other animals to justify exploiting them and, by so doing, it gets in the way of understanding ourselves as animals.  

In zoological terms we are bi-pedal, big brained, omnivorous hominids that create complex (and often highly destructive to other species) living arrangements. We are sexually dimorphic but moderately so. We have relatively weak instinctual drives. We learn most of what it means to be human, including much of what it means to be a female or a male human.

In subsistence conditions - ie for the overwhelming bulk of our existence as a discrete species - female reproductive capacity has been critically important to group and species survival. (1)  We produce mainly single offspring that are born helpless and are slow to mature, biological fact that was a critically important foundation of our ineluctably social nature. High sociability combined with high adaptability was our best survival strategy. 

In societies that atomise us and alienate us from our essentially animal and highly social natures, the sense of an inner, eternal spirit or soul, always was an illusion - created initially by, and as a salve to powerful egos that could not countenance the finality of death. But it was, and still is, also a compensatory promise to the oppressed and exploited of something better after a lifetime of misery – a promise always accompanied by the threat of something far worse if they don't behave as required in the here and now.

The notion that this sense of self or identity is separate from, and superior to the body has been called into question by the very science that some people use to try to prove that the metaphor - a woman born in a man’s body (or vice versa) - is literally true. 

The fact is we are our body. The human mind is an extraordinary phenomenon but, unless you believe in some sort of supernatural force that infuses each new human with a disembodied essence at conception or some point in the development into a discrete person, the human mind has to be seen as a product of the interaction between the wonderfully complex and, as yet not fully understood, bio-chemical processes of the body and the wider cultural and natural worlds it inhabits. 
We learn what it means to be human and what it means to be female and male humans - and we do not learn this in either a biological or a social vacuum. 

The distinction between biological sex and social gender emerged with Simone De Beauvoir in the 1940s, was elaborated in the hugely influential work of psychologist and sexologist John Money that began in the 50s, and was picked up by other sex theorists like Alex Comfort in the “swinging 60s”. The idea of socially constructed, imposed and internalised gender roles as key elements in the oppression of women, formed a central strand of feminist theory and praxis in the 1960s-80s. 

Trans theorists and activists have built on bits and pieces from all of this and from queer theory to construct the argument that persons are born with either a fully developed sense of gender identity that is partially or fully congruent or incongruent with their biological sex, or with an innate predisposition to develop a partially or fully congruent or incongruent identity at some point in their life; and that this is a naturally occurring phenomenon of human existence. 

In support of the claim for the universality of this phenomenon, all manner of existing and reconstructed cultural traditions are harnessed to the identity plough that will turn over the soil of patriarchy and allow new forms of individual expression to flourish and shade out capitalism and by so doing, rid the world of all that is oppressive. A Tui 'yeah right' moment if there ever was one.

Money based his original ideas on the existence of an irreducible, binary sex difference and a range of sex-derivative differences- gender – largely from observations of what are now called Intersex conditions or disorders of sex differentiation (DSD).

Some people build on this with the assertions that: 
there is a spectrum of biological sex (intersex conditions); 
gender identity is innate and fluid, to the point of being completely individualised; and, 
when someone has a sense of gender identity that is incongruent with their sexed body, it is the body that should change, or society should accept the unchanged body as being of the sex that matches the person's stated gender identity.

This separation of body and mind is also at the root of trans-humanism in which the body is seen as almost infinitely modifiable - even disposable - such that science could: 
enable the mind to be uploaded to the cloud (immortality)
allow the body to be enhanced by robotic parts (super powers); 
design perfect humans at conception (playing god)
relieve women of their 'reproductive burden' (perpetuating misogyny by obscuring the millennia of oppressive and exploitative ways in which men have turned a foundational human reality into a burden).

I don’t see how it’s possible to look at the intricate thing that is a person’s sense of self and tease out the strands that make up a discrete, coherent gender identityFor me, identity is a complex weave of multiple strands in which the sense of oneself as a sexed being is central but is so intertwined with a multitude of other major elements, it’s almost impossible to separate it out.

Think about all the myriad complex, interacting, changing processes that go into creating and maintaining a sense of self: our genetic blueprint -a critically important element of which, in terms of species survival, is dimorphic sex differentiation; hormonal, nutritional influences in utero; the era, the society and the family into which we’re born; who (or indeed what) we come to be sexually attracted to; our social class, ethnicity, age, physical characteristics, physical and mental state of health, particular talents and how socially valued these are, etc.

All of these things are genetically and socially conditioned and combine to create a sense of self or identity that grows and changes. Some things are more important at some points - even of the day - than others. Consider how easy it is for such a complex sense of self to become fractured, dislocated, harmed - for the fabric of the sense of self to start to unravel. 

Some people's identity fabric is tightly woven, forms coherent patterns and all the strands remain tightly bound together; others may always be, or become, looser, more haphazard and more easily unravelled.  All humans - psychopaths aside - are driven to congregate; even a virtual congregation is better than no congregation at all. It may be that the stronger the wider social bonds are, the more stable the sense of self is.  

There may always be tensions between the person and the social setting in which that person comes into biological-social-psychological being. In some cultures, some eras or some sets of circumstances, the individual is subordinated to the collective.  In our modern capitalist society, the individual appears to be elevated to poll position. 

But, like many things in the capitalist order, appearances can be deceptive and the rights of the individual for many people are an illusion - a clever trompe l’oeil of choices and possibilities painted on the wall that’s been erected around the sites of real power and privilege.

The idea of self, of a discrete, individual and individualising identity, is amplified in the modern world. Capitalist, and specifically neo-liberal individualist doctrine, is summed up in the Thatcher quote - there is no such thing as society, there is only the individual and the family. (2)

Within capitalism - the creation of the individual was key - at the base this was because the sale of one’s labour in an ostensibly free market required the person to own that labour, ie to be free of older feudal ties of place, and of duties and obligations to social superiors, and to religion. 

Initially those new freedoms were at worst, an illusion, at best, heavily conditional but that need for the free movement and sale of labour also created the conditions in which, those whose only means of making a living was to sell their labour, were able to combine to demand greater social and economic freedoms.

The processes involved in creating and promulgating the idea of the absolute primacy of the individual have many benefits for those who rule, not the least of which is breaking down combinations that might threaten the economic and social status quo.

What became known as interest group and latterly identity politics was a response to the oppressive and exploitative processes of capitalism as they specifically or especially  affect women, people of colour and lesbians and gay men, and which were seen as not being addressed by traditional working class collectives.

But, by becoming divorced from those working class collectives - which were under attack by emerging global corporate capitalism  - with its drive to commodify literally everything - and, by continuing the focus on essentially accommodative demands within an increasingly inequitable and unstable socio-economic system, identity politics became a player in the destruction of those bigger collectives, and of class based theories of history and political economy.

The promoters of identity politics divorced from class have helped lay the track to the latest station on the line to post-modern individualisation -  gender identity - which, in essence, is just part of the same old ideological drive to divide and divert in order to retain or tighten control. 


(1) If the incidence of DNA damage and endocrine disruption increases, as it very likely will given the scale of chemical pollution, that may become the case again.
(2)  Family was tacked on as a sop to the socially conservative and religious but for corporate capitalism there is only the individual – a tiny minority of whom see themselves as being chosen to rule over all others.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Tilting At Windmills

I trudged through Frank Macskasy’s 2300 word, line by line rebuttal of a 600 word polemic that was written by feminist and Green Party founding member, Jill Abigail, published on Te Awa, and removed by the Editorial Board after pressure from transactivists who claimed it was transphobic.

Macskasy has a very formal style, which can come across as smugly self-congratulatory and patronising. This is apparent in the comments under his posts where people who question any aspect of his work are often dismissed in condescending terms - which would be tolerable were it not for how often he completely misses the point being made by his critics.

I’ve commented on a couple of Macskasy's posts on The Daily Blog where he is a guest writer - both were on the hot topic of the day – gender self-identification (GSI).  

The simmering trans debate was brought to a rolling boil in NZ when there was a spectacularly inept attempt to sneak GSI in through the back door. Unlike
 the muted public reaction to the exposure in October last year of Associate Health Minister, Julie Anne Genter's surreptitious decision to lift the cap on genital surgeries for trans people, the dodgy GSI tactics backfired when a group of feminists made a lot of noise about both the process and the implications of GSI for women's sex-based rights.

Macskasy has become very outspoken about transgender issues over the past year or so, and good on him for that, but at times his evangelical zeal seems to cloud both his political judgment and his critical faculties. 

The overkill on the Abigail article is a case in point and, as I was wading through the piece (having just read another long Daily Blog piece that was a thinly disguised counter-polemic from AgenderNZ), I was reminded of an exchange I had with him back in March.

At the time I got bored and gave up on it but, in light of his heavy handed treatment of the Abigail article, I thought it was worth digging it up and shining a forensic light on it.

A post in late February by Martyn Bradbury on The Daily Blog, about Tracey Martin’s decision to defer GSI, was a well meaning but (sorry Martyn) rather limp call for more kindness and respect on both sides of the debate.

In the comments, a person mentioned their concern about the medicalisation of trans kids. A regular reader named Mjolnir (the Hammer of Thor no less) who often plays Sancho Panza to Macskasy's Don Quixote - and in a bombastic and abusive manner that was at odds with Martyn’s plea for kindness and respect - retorted:

Macskasy also replied:

Someone posted a reply to Mjolnir:  

Macskasy weighed in:

Presumably he then went off and actually looked at the site because, a few minutes later, he added:

I thought this was a step too far in the misinformation department and replied – quoting from the site:

Mjolnir replied to FM: 

The stupidity annoyed me.

Macskasy responded:
which will be news to the BMA, given the British Medical Journal is “published by BMJ, a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Medical Association” – and BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine is owned by BMJ, and BMJ EBM Spotlight is a free on-line resource owned by the BMJ and, as a result, owned by the BMA. 

In other words, it’s pretty clear that the site is part of the complex of on-line, free and subscription journals that form the BMJ. 

Clearly unwilling to, or incapable of doing any research, the ever loyal Mjolnir kept hammering away:  

The arrogance of it.

Even if the article was not part of the BMJ, the academic and medical backgrounds of the writers obviously raise it far above the level of being merely "opinion based". But by this point I was convinced that Don Q and Sancho P were either drunk, dense or dishonest, so I bowed out. I should have persevered.

I had another encounter with the Macskasy logic in relation to another TDB article, in which he attempted a demo job on an OIA request someone had lodged for information about transgender prisoners in NZ jails. It must be said he had rather more ammunition for that.

As evidence of existing protections for women prisoners, he quoted Corrections policy: 
“a transgender prisoner whose detention relates to a serious sexual offence against a person of their nominated gender, or who was released from a prison sentence for such an offence within the last seven years will not be able to apply to the Chief Executive (for placement in accordance with their nominated gender.”
This indicates Corrections believes there is a potential risk - to women prisoners - of allowing such persons to be housed in the female estate. There is also a procedural issue in what happens when a prisoner in the above category has a birth certificate that categorises them as female. 

I posted:
“What is not stated here is, if Corrections has a copy of a birth certificate that states the prisoner is female, procedure requires they MUST be placed in the female estate. 
There appears to be no procedural clarity around what happens if such a prisoner has a history of violent or sexual offending against women.”
Macskasy’s reply was a classic deflection: 
a) fire off a question that's actually an accusation -“why do you assume only trans-women are capable of violence?”; 
b) answer your own question with another inflammatory accusation, ie it must be to "demonise one tiny minority";
c) repeat stuff that's nothing directly to do with the point being made.

GSI is aimed at making it procedurally very easy to change the sex recorded on a person's original birth certificate. It is already easy to change other official documentation. There are many questions that arise from GSI - one of which is where the intention of the policy Macskasy cited as evidence of the existing protections for women prisoners, could be frustrated when a person with a history of sexual offending against women has an amended birth certificate that obliges Corrections to place them in the women's estate. 

There is another wider issue in the reasons why a distinction is drawn between the harm that may be done by sexual offending, and the harm that may be done by non-sexual physical violence. The current policy relates only to sexual offending, not to crimes of violence, not even to extreme crimes of violence directed exclusively against females. 

A process that makes it far easier to change the BC needs legal and procedural clarity around how that may play out in relation to women's sex-based rights - and nowhere more so than with female prisoners. As these procedures stand, and I suspect this is one of the many reasons for the deferral, any person who has a birth certificate that says they are female, has a right to be housed in the female estate even if, for example, they were still male-bodied and had been found guilty of an act of extreme physical or sexual violence against a woman. Even if such a person did not have an amended birth certificate, if their transgender status had been accepted prior to, and throughout their trial, they could argue unfair discrimination if they were not housed in the female estate. 

To argue that GSI will not ever create problems in women’s prisons; that trans women don’t or won’t ever assault women; or that predatory or vexatious men will not abuse GSI to try to get moved into women’s prisons - is either political naivety or political opportunism or political expedience
To argue, as Macskasy does, that “prisons by their nature are violent places" and that natal women are capable of violence - ergo the removal of all gate keeping over who may be housed in women's prisons will not put women prisoners at increased risk- is playing an ideological game with highly vulnerable lives. 
Of course genuine trans women should not be housed in the male estate any more than trans men should be housed in the male estate because that would be to put them at extreme risk - but this blinkered attitude that no trans woman would be violent or sexually abusive or, more importantly - that predatory or vexatious men will not try to abuse GSI to get access to women and/or to mess with the authorities, is to close your eyes to the obvious and, by so doing, to risk exposing already highly vulnerable women to harm.

It’s one of many legal and policy gaps that need to be addressed and it's why the tactic of trying to slide GSI in by the back door was spectacularly dumb politics - even dumber than trying to argue that Jill Abigail's polemic constituted a denial of trans people's rights to exist.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Conflicts of Interest

Philosopher and radical feminist, Holly Lawford-Smith, in a piece about the current debate between those who organise around gender critical feminism and are pro-women's rights, and those who organise around queer theory and are pro-trans rights, said:

When radical feminists, like me, talk about what we see as a conflict of interest between women’s rights and trans rights, we tend to have a particular type of transwoman in mind; and when trans activists reject the idea that there’s any such conflict of interest (and indeed, that we’re Nazis for even suggesting that there could be) they tend to have a very different type of transwoman in mind. This difference in ‘imagined person’ has come up time and time again in the conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues on this topic.

I think this sits at the heart of this increasingly fraught political and academic issue - or more properly, clump of issues - and it flows from, and is strengthened by our tendency both to cleave to the things we know and are comfortable with and which confirm our world view, and to reject those which are new, or disturbing or which challenge our worldview.  

Some react furiously, and attack; some get anxious and withdraw. Some amend their views; some strengthen them. Some form alliances with other like minded people and, within those alliances, they find support and further validation and confirmation of what they believe, and they may feel emboldened in attacking the other side, verbally or even physically. The deeper the challenge cuts into core beliefs, sense of self, ideas about natural justice, the more likely people are to react in extreme ways.

And we all feel it - that adrenaline surge when we encounter a rejection of our ideas about the world and ourselves and our place in it - and it's worse when we perceive it as a hostile rejection. 

It's stating the blindingly obvious that the anxiety or anger and the desire to run or to fight that are fuelled by an adrenaline surge, are not conducive to calm and rational debate. This topic - the intersection between women's and trans rights - needs the latter because it has the capacity to hurt people on an immediate, personal level and more than that, it's serving as a divide and rule tactic that has the capacity to inflict far wider and deeper damage.

Transgender women on their own won't undermine women’s rights, nor will even all those highly transgressive men, of whom an alarming number have barged their way in under the ever-widening trans umbrella. What will catapult all of us backwards, is the continued rise of ultra-conservatism and the rightwing authoritarianism that will be emboldened by it.

This is unlikely to be a surge to power of a small group of armed religious fanatics à la The Handmaid's Tale as they could not possibly seize power without powerful backers and without ordinary people's acceptance of, and compliance with, rightwing authoritarian ideology.  

A critical element of that acceptance and compliance is to nurture the belief that the greatest enemies of freedom, democracy and human rights are angry young people (mostly male) who have been drawn to various leftwing causes.  The most obvious of these is Antifa - which is a descriptor of a number of loosely linked political collectives that owe a great deal to anarchism and anarcho-commnunism - and which is being demonised by the American rightwing in a calculated push to have it declared a domestic terrorist organisation.

No-one with any political nous buys into the carefully edited video footage filmed by the likes of Andy Ngo who follows groups of young men he knows are most likely to get drawn into acts of violence and property damage, edits the footage and releases it as proof that the real threats to democracy in the USA are not the ultra-rightwing, white supremacist groups and their powerful backers, but these disparate gangs of self-declared antifascists.  

But, because these antifa groups also declare an uncritical support for transgenderism and, as part of that they often oppose 'TERFs' in extremely hostile terms, some gender critical women see them as an equal or even greater threat to women's rights than the rightwing's shock troops - and those in whose interests these shock troops may be deployed.

There are people who are socially conservative, some highly so, and they exist on both sides of the political spectrum; they cleave to the known, to the certain, and never more so than when the social fabric - all that makes them feel safe and secure - seems to be ripping. 

There are some who delight in pushing boundaries, sometimes for no reason other than the boundaries are there, and they get some sort of thrill or pleasure out of transgressing social, political, physical norms. 

Most of us sit somewhere in between the highly conservative and the highly transgressive - it really is a spectrum -  but the more threatened conservatively inclined people feel, the more likely they are to see the transgressive as a major problem and the more likely they are to clump together, shelving other differences in their shared fear and/or dislike of the transgressive other.

On the gender critical side there are a lot of very angry women who are infuriated by  what they perceive as a form of colonisation by men of what it means to be a woman and, by obfuscating what it means to be a woman, make it impossible to challenge the material and psycho-social bases of female oppression and hyper-exploitation.

Lesbians feel betrayed by other parts of the LGBT+ agglomeration (with good reason), and are infuriated by the colonising of their sub-culture by transgender women, many of whom still possess fully functional male genitalia, who are sexually oriented to women and who claim to be lesbian.

The more obtrusive of these transgender lesbians insist that cis lesbians who reject them as potential sexual partners are expressing transphobic attitudes or vagina essentialism, and need to open themselves -  figuratively and literally - to the idea of a female penis, aka lady penis or girl dick, often referenced in furious invitations to those labelled as TERFs, to choke on it.

That so many vocalisers on the Left - or what passes for it these days - uncritically accept those demands and, sometimes viciously condemn lesbians' refusal to entertain them - makes these the most interesting of political times.

I've taken issues with some radfem theory and practice over several decades but I reject liberal feminism entirely and I often want to slap its smug face - especially in its latest manifestation, with its heedless acceptance of gender and sexual stereotyping; of sex work as being no different from any other work; of the commercialisation of sex and the normalisation of extreme porn centred on the debasement of people who are often highly vulnerable - economically, psychologically, socially; and its uncritical assertion that everyone has a right to their kink - a soft focus term for a spectrum of behaviours that runs out into the darkest of perversions - never getting to grips with who gets to draw the line.

There seems little doubt that the looming global ecological disaster will result in some form of authoritarian rule; we can't identify our way out of the appalling mess we, in the privileged parts of the world, have had a hand in creating but for which none are more culpable than those who rule us and who control the way we organise production and exchange. 

They're the same class of people who've also had and still have a very big say in the way we organise reproduction.

We can't seriously expect the mass of humanity to all just decide to be better people, any more than we can expect the vast and essentially malign power that is global corporate capitalism, to roll over and turn into a obedient puppy dog. 

The trans issue and the various other projects of the self in which the privileged people of the developed world willingly immerse themselves, are all insignificant in comparison to the problems posed by the mass chemical pollution present in every aspect of our lives (i.e. we drink it, we eat it, we breathe it, we absorb it through our skin), of species extinction, and not just the cute furry or feathered animals but the mass of invisible life that supports all other life, and anthropogenic climate change - the triple whammy of a looming global disaster.  

It is in this context that we have to consider the role of superficial identity politics (SIP) - not the underlying issues it claims to address - but the way in which the promoters and supporters of IP choose to address them.

SIP takes critically important - foundational - issues, isolates them, strips them of commonalities with other struggles, narrows down the focus of their history or eradicates it completely, and encourages presentism. 

It divides, it diverts, it creates antagonisms where, logically, none should exist. It subverts the core principle of the socialist international which did not seek to deny sexual, national or ethnic differences but, by emphasising that which unites, strove to weaken that which can be used to divide - because for the common people, only in unity is there strength.

There is only one reason the queering of the affluent world is being permitted and even encouraged by those who hold the reins of economic and political power, and that is because it in no way queers the pitch for the ruling class and its help-mate, the coordinator class, members of which are queer politics' most enthusiastic enablers and cheerleaders. 

The preposterous suggestion that a few lesbians with handwritten banners are as much of a threat to trans people as are a group of white supremacist men waving swastikas is either accepted or even lauded by people who seem to have lost any connection with wider political realities. 

The claim - in the context of the monstrous human rights abuses rampant across the world -  that  "trans rights are the pre-eminent human rights issue of our era"  is accepted either as true, or its extreme hyperbole and narrowness of focus are not challenged. 

The lazy conflation of sex and gender - which undermines the key element of feminist discourse - goes unchallenged by people who, politically, academically and intellectually - should know better. 

People on the left - or what passes for it these days -  perform astonishing feats of political and intellectual gymnastics to avoid addressing even the very obvious issues such as the fact that men on average have a large performance advantage over women in most sports.

They get sucked into creating their own hyperbolic assertions such as - because they do not have gender self ID, trans people in NZ (a country that has granted residence to a trans woman on the grounds she is safer here than in the UK) are experiencing a form of apartheid

People who see themselves as progressive respond to the Jessica/Jonathon Yaniv human rights farce by attacking the immigrant women who refused to wax his scrotum. (And no, I will not extend to this manipulative narcissist the courtesy of a female pronoun.)

People who claim to be philosophically materialist or empiricist ardently defend the idealism and metaphysical nature of the proposition that the genetic foundations and material reality of the human body can be altered by an individual assertion of a subjective gender identity.

Atheists effectively accept the proposition that there is an essential, innate, gendered self that exists somehow independently of the sexed body - seemingly oblivious to the echoes of the religious ideology of a material, mortal body and and an immaterial, immortal soul.

There are some equally closed minds and paid up members of the hyperbolic tendency on the GC side but there does seem to be a lot more coming from the trans camp, along with the hurling of misogynistic, masculinist, genital-focussed threats and insults

Most people who are engaged with the issue politically or academically tend to get a very one-sided idea of how the wider world sees it. 

I'm a socialist and feminist, with almost fifty years of being a trade unionist and campaigner for a wide range of progressive causes and I find aspects of the current drive to normalise public expressions of extremely transgressive behaviour unnerving - the more so because it most commonly involves men exercising power upon highly vulnerable bodies.  

If I feel uneasy; if some of what I see causes me to feel anger and concern for those vulnerable bodies, think how the socially and politically conservative will react when the rightwing media decides to really whip up a moral panic.

At the moment, for all the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth by some who are on the left spectrum, the right wing media are not really attacking trans people or LGBT+ people; the rise in hate crimes against LGBT+ recently reported in the UK is relative and in relation to trans reports, includes accusations of things like misgendering on social media -the over-whelming majority of reported hate crimes in the UK remain race or religion based.The awful death toll of working class black trans women in the USA cannot be divorced from that country's obscene gun laws and its deeply entrenched racism and the growing economic divide which adversely affects black people most and drives black trans women into the highly dangerous world of street prostitution.

But the potential is there; the world is fracturing along several old fault lines and when the right wing media take off the gloves, i.e. when it suits the suits, it may unleash the father of all ultra conservative backlashes - to which the left is completely unprepared to respond.