Is it Transphobia Thursday today? Hot on the heels of Suzanne Moore’s surprising outburst comes this utter turd from the Telegraph by one Ed West: “The transgender taboo is a threat to academic freedom“.
Ed’s argument is that there’s some sort of big conspiracy to silence the Real Scientists who claim that trans isn’t a thing. He seems to have a problem with the fact that we need to be respectful to trans people these days, because SCIENCE.
Unfortunately, Ed’s grasp of science is pisspoor. His first Very Scientific assertion is this:
And yet the strange thing is that, taking aside the fact that “blockers” may affect cognitive ability and bone density, there’s actually no accepted medical proof or consensus that sex change operations actually help someone’s mental health; we may one day find that it does, but we simply don’t know enough at the moment.
First of all, hormone blockers and surgery are two very different things indeed, something which I’m not sure Ed quite grasps as he made that mistake in the paragraph above, too. Secondly, if you click that link, it will take you to a footnote on Wikipedia. Apparently Ed didn’t even want to pretend that he’d actually read the article in this footnote, which is at least a show of intellectual honesty. Despite this, apparently Ed didn’t even bother reading what the footnote was attached to–far from being “no accepted medical proof or consensus”, the linked study concludes that the evidence is of poor quality.
And there’s a reason for that: both ethically and pragmatically, one cannot carry out a randomised controlled trial on many of the medical aspects of transition. RCTs are what is considered “good” quality evidence, but they simply can’t always be done. So, the evidence isn’t always of the level scientists would ideally like, however what’s there suggests that what is done is helpful, which is why it’s available on the NHS.
Next up, Ed cites a book. I haven’t read this book, but from Ed’s summary it sounds like it’s based on a very dated theory which is not accepted by science due to the fact it isn’t particularly scientific:
A few years back Prof Michael Bailey wrote a book about the subject, The Man Who Would Be Queen, detailing a theory which suggested that there were two kinds of transsexualism – “homosexual transsexuals”, who are attracted to men, and “non-homosexual transsexuals”, who are aroused by the image of themselves as a woman.
Indeed, a blue link a bit later reveals that indeed this is based on Blanchard’s transsexualism, which Ed reckons was rejected because of “the implication that transsexuals were men, rather than women in men’s bodies.” In fact, had Ed bothered reading the Wikipedia page he linked to, he would have seen the bulky scientific criticism.
Then there’s the fact that Bailey’s book is probably also crap. Often, scientists publish books when they can’t get things published in journals. Books aren’t subject to the stringent peer review that journal articles are, so if you’ve something scientifically poor, but might appeal to some people as it confirms their prejudices, then publishing a book is the way to go. Far from being a gold standard of evidence, a popular science book is one of the worst things there is.
Having undertaken slightly more research than Ed, I read the Wikipedia page on the book. There’s a lot of scientific criticisms alongside huge concerns about Bailey’s research ethics. This doesn’t stop Ed from insisting the book has merit because fellow popular science author Steven fucking Pinker liked it.
After that, the article kind of unravels. Ed has a brief foray into some gender essentialist nonsense, which is pure, unevidenced “I think” with a little attempt to get a dig in at feminism, and then suggests that maybe the current way of treating gender dysphoria is crap because in France, autism treatment is crap.
Now, there are criticisms to be made of the way that trans people are treated by the medical establishment, but not the way that Ed has. Take a look at the discussions surrounding #transdocfail for how poorly trans people are still treated, and accept that this is likely to be a confounding variable when assessing the efficacy of treatement.
Ed’s bigotry isn’t rational, as much as he’d like to think it is. His true motivation seems to be this:
This is the only explanation acceptable to the media and, indeed, the state, which spends a fair deal of money (which we don’t have) combating transphobia.
He chats shit. He gets called out on it. He doesn’t like it. So he makes up science to try to justify himself. Well, here’s the thing. There’s nothing rational about transphobia.
@helen_bop has pointed out to me that this article is old. Not, like, from the 1930s old, but a year old. It’s still a shitty, shitty article.