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Abortions using pills aka medication abortions can be a workaround

If you’re not allowed to control your own reproduction, there’s a word for you. Livestock.

However, even though Alito and Thomas and their helper goons haven’t noticed, women are not livestock. We’ll be using everything we have to dodge their bullets and branding irons.

There are two big differences to my high school days when fellow 15 year-olds desperately tried to scrounge up money to go to New York, where they hoped they could find somebody who wouldn’t kill them, while trying to look totally normal and carefree so nobody found out.

One is that information is much more accessible. Two is that we have abortion pills now. So, in the interests of both, here’s some information about medication abortions.

Legal disclaimers: I am not a doctor or a pharmacist. None of this is medical advice. For informational purposes only.

Another important warning: The info applies to morning-after situations or ordinary missed-period pregnancies. If there’s very heavy bleeding or exceptional pain, it could be life-threatening. Medical help is needed immediately. It’s unnecessary to discuss abortion or abortion pills with doctors or nurses. The symptoms are the same as a miscarriage, and the treatment is the same. All that need be said is “I don’t know what’s happening,” which is true.

Clicking on the headings below links to more detail further down.

Resources. PlanCPills This site has excellent, detailed, practical information. There are also links to other abortion services. Under Support and Resources > Other Options there’s information pointing to surgical abortion providers. Medication (pill) abortions are effective only up to 11 weeks pregnancy, which is 7 weeks after a missed period. [Edited to add:] AidAccess, also an excellent resource.

Regular Medication Abortion. Uses mifepristone + misoprostol, sometimes shortened to mife-miso. Also known as RU486.

Morning After pills These prevent a pregnancy (i.e. prevent implantation). They don’t stop an established pregnancy. So they’re only effective within 5 days of having sex. These pills have been available over the counter (known as Plan B and other trade names), but anti-women states are working to stop that. Obviously, given the time frame, if they have to be ordered, it has to be done ahead of time. A table from 2012 is included below that gives dosages of birth control pills that can act as morning after pills.

Make your own misoprostol tablets. Edgelord stuff….

 

Resources

Getting pills in an anti-women state is not very difficult, but it does take a couple of weeks at least, some money (on the order of a couple of hundred dollars), and some fiddly filling out of forms. This page for specific states goes over the exact procedures. If possible, look it over and be clear on all the steps ahead of time.

Abortion pills only work up to 11 weeks pregnancy. That means 7 weeks past a missed period. Or five weeks after you’re likely to have a reliable pregnancy test. Plus the pills work best the earlier they’re taken. So there’s not a lot of time. The more that’s sorted out ahead of time, the less franticness.

More information available at: Planned Parenthood. Mayo Clinic.

Scams: It’s a sad fact of life that as soon as people are facing any kind of emergency, there are too many slimeweasels trying to make a buck off it. Do not assume links you see on social media are legitimate, even when they come from friends. Friends can forward bad information without meaning to. Search for reviews or more information on any site before using it. One example: Mayday Health which was getting a lot of mentions for a while. They may be legit, they may not be. They came out of nowhere about a month ago, after the leak of the draft Roe decision. That’s a red flag. Use PlanCPills instead.

 

Medical abortion drugs

Mifepristone + misoprostol combinations. 95% to 98% effective. Taken earlier works better than later.

Or misoprostol alone, which is about 85% effective. Still better than nothing. These are drugs with powerful effects, so dosages must be followed. Overdosing is a bad idea.

Medical abortion drugs ONLY WORK IN THE EARLY STAGES OF PREGNANCY. They won’t work if a period is more than about 7 weeks late.

(Obgyns count from the start of the last actual period. So 7 weeks after a missed period counts as the 11th week of pregnancy, assuming 28-day cycles. It’s likely to take another two weeks for a definite pregnancy test. At that point there’s maximum 5 weeks left to get a medication abortion. The reason obgyns count that way is because the first day of the last actual period is not ambiguous. It’s a specific day you can write down without guesswork.)

If it’s too late for medication, a surgical abortion is needed. PlanCPills has links under Support > Other Options.

Since abortion using pills induces heavy flow, it’s not used for women with blood clotting disorders that could make bleeding dangerous. IUDs need to be removed before a medication abortion. It is very important to be sure the pregnancy is NOT ectopic. The telehealth consultation in the process of getting the pills will go through all these issues. They’re important to continued health, so it’s important not to cut corners on this part of the process.

There is some talk floating around the web that mife-miso works best in women weighing less than about 165 lb / 75 kg. From what I see of actual medical data, that’s not true. There is always individual variation in anything to do with biology. Mife-miso will be somewhat less effective in a few individuals because of their specific hormonal situation.

Edited to add: an article about weight effect on morning after pills, see next heading, in today’s NY Times. (Paywalled unless you turn off all scripts.) Some studies have seen a slight weight effect for levonorgestrel, others have not. That is a progesterone-like drug, unlike mife-miso. Mife-miso have prostaglandin-related effects, which is a very different hormone, and not a sex hormone. Morning after pills have much lower doses of hormones and could be expected to be more sensitive to an individual’s hormonal situation.

 

Morning After pills

If it’s still possible to get a supply of these pills at your local pharmacy, you may want to do that ahead of time. Morning-after pills don’t cause an abortion. They prevent pregnancy by stopping a fertilized egg from implanting. So they have to be taken within 5 days (120 hours) of the sex you’re worried about and weeks before you know whether you’re pregnant.

If morning-after pills are no longer available, some birth control pills contain the same hormones in lower doses.

The following table is copied from The Emergency Contraception Website, post dated 2012 (some of it will be out of date). The link is to the archived website which is likely to stay up. The site was originally at Princeton. It has more information about usage and is worth reading.

Table 1.
Oral contraceptives that can be used for emergency contraception in the United Statesa

Brand Company First Doseb Second Doseb
(12 hours later)
Ulipristal Acetate per Dose (mg) Ethinyl Estradiol
per Dose (µg)
Levonorgestrel
per Dose (mg)c
Ulipristal acetate pills
ella
Watson 1 white pill Noneb 30
Progestin-only pills
Levonorgestrel Tablets  Perrigo 2 white pills Noneb 1.5
Next Choice
Watson 2 peach pills Noneb 1.5
Plan B One-Step
Teva 1 whilte pill None 1.5
Combined progestin and estrogen pills
Aviane Teva 5 orange pills 5 orange pills 100 0.50
Cryselle Teva 4 white pills 4 white pills 120 0.60
Enpresse Teva 4 orange pills 4 orange pills 120 0.50
Jolessa Teva 4 pink pills 4 pink pills 120 0.60
Lessina Teva 5 pink pills 5 pink pills 100 0.50
Levora Watson 4 white pills 4 white pills 120 0.60
Lo/Ovral Akrimax 4 white pills 4 white pills 120 0.60
LoSeasonique Teva 5 orange pills 5 orange pills 100 0.50
Low-Ogestrel Watson 4 white pills 4 white pills 120 0.60
Lutera Watson 5 white pills 5 white pills 100 0.50
Lybrel Wyeth 6 yellow pills 6 yellow pills 120 0.54
Nordette Teva 4 light-orange pills 4 light-orange pills 120 0.60
Ogestrel Watson 2 white pills 2 white pills 100 0.50
Portia Teva 4 pink pills 4 pink pills 120 0.60
Quasense Watson 4 white pills 4 white pills 120 0.60
Seasonale Teva 4 pink pills 4 pink pills 120 0.60
Seasonique Teva 4 light-blue-green pills 4 light-blue-green pills 120 0.60
Sronyx Watson 5 white pills 5 while pills 100 0.50
Trivora Watson 4 pink pills 4 pink pills 120 0.50
 
Notes:
a
ella, Plan B One-Step,
Next Choice
and Levonorgestrel Tablets
are the only dedicated product specifically marketed for emergency contraception. Aviane, Cryselle, Enpresse, Jolessa, Lessina, Levora, Lo/Ovral, LoSeasonique, Low-Ogestrel, Lutera, Lybrel, Nordette, Ogestrel, Portia, Quasense, Seasonale, Seasonique, Sronyx and Trivora have been declared safe and effective for use as ECPs by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Outside the United States, about 100 emergency contraceptive products are specifically packaged, labeled, and marketed. Levonorgestrel-only ECPs are available either over-the-counter or from a pharmacist without having to see a clinician in 60 countries. In the U.S.,
Plan B One-Step
and Next Choice
are available over-the counter to women and men aged 17 and older. You can buy these pills by prescription if you are younger.
ella
is available by prescription only.
b
The labels for Next Choice and
Levonorgestrel Tablets
say to take one pill within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, and another pill 12 hours later. However, recent research has found that both pills can be taken at the same time. Research has also shown that that all of the brands listed here are effective when used within 120 hours after unprotected sex.
c
The progestin in Cryselle, Lo/Ovral, Low-Ogestrel and Ogestrel is norgestrel, which contains two isomers, only one of which (levonorgestrel) is bioactive; the amount of norgestrel in each tablet is twice the amount of levonorgestrel.

Table.

 

Do-it-yourself

Misoprostol

This is, obviously, not the best route. As a last resort, it’s better than coathangers. It involves only one of the mife-miso pair, only misoprostol, so is less effective than the “real thing” (85% vs 95%+).

It’s possible because misoprostol is used as an ulcer medication for horses in veterinary medicine. Transforming that into human-usable doses requires careful attention to detail and ability to weigh powders precisely and handle them correctly. It’s to be expected that anti-woman states will try to make veterinary misoprostol inaccessible as well, but at least initially use your money for stocking up on the real thing rather than this, if you can. It’s also a complex enough process that anyone who expects to need to do this should make it ahead of time.

A video by Mixael Laufer of the Four Thieves Vinegar Collective has a slow and careful explanation of how to make the pills. The archive.org link should stay up. It’s a 16 minute video, and it takes several minutes to start getting down to business. Vice magazine had an article discussing the project.

In brief, one orders the powdered misoprostol for horses on the web, being careful to get one that does NOT have other active ingredients. One then carefully weighs it out (need an *accurate* scale for milligram quantities) to get the right dosage for humans, and, at least per Mixael, one uses one’s handy pollen press (no, I didn’t know what that was either) to make tablets using cornstarch for buffer and binder, confectioner’s sugar, and the actual misoprostol powder. (For diabetics, I’m not sure you absolutely need sugar. I think it merely provides a bit of stickiness to bind the ingredients into a tablet. Possibly a bit of milk would work for that too.)

In his example, the product has 2mg (milligrams) per scoop and 60 total scoops. If you know the total weight of the powder in the tub, you can work out how much weight (which he calls mass) of powder you need to get 800 micrograms (800 mcg, which is the same as 0.8 milligrams, 0.8 mg). That is the dose we’re aiming for per pill. Oddly enough, the total weight isn’t obvious in the video, but a web search says you’re getting 213.6 grams in that tub.

–2 mg active ingredient per scoop, and 60 scoops total per tub, means there is a total of 120 mg (2 x 60) of misoprostol per a full tub of 213.6 grams.
–The number of human doses (0.8mg) in 120 mg is 150 doses (120mg/0.8mg).
–So 213.6 gm / 150 = 1.424 gm of powder provides the right amount of active ingredient for a tablet to be used by a human.
–A full course for misoprostol-only is 3 doses of 800 micrograms spaced out by 12 hours, ie all 3 doses would be over 36 hours. Looking around the web, there are also other timings, such as 800 mcg spaced 3 hours apart. This will mean a bigger dose all at once in the body and would, I expect, lead to stronger cramping and bleeding.
You can plug in the amount of misoprostol per scoop, the total number of scoops, and the total weight of the tub based on your specific item.

Method of taking is to dissolve the tablet slowly, during about half an hour, in the cheek, under your tongue, or inside the vagina. The reason for this is that if it’s not swallowed and is not in the stomach and digestive system, the liver can’t try to process the misoprostol. Which it will do, and therefore reduce the effectiveness.

A web search for “equine misoprostol” returns quite a few results with 200 microgram pills. I’m not sure why one wouldn’t use four of these for each of the three doses. Possibly the way the tablets are made up is not suitable for people.

Menstrual extraction. This is definitely not for amateurs. Some of the equipment needs to be sterile and a good bit of manual skill is involved. In Ye Olden Times women used to learn the skills in self-help groups and pass them on to each other. It takes months of practice. But it is quite doable, given time and knowledge and skill, and is something women might want to consider learning if all other avenues are closed.

 

Last Word

My prayer is that this inhuman treatment of women turns out to be a short-lived aberration. I know the Democrats tend to do one-tenth of what they’d hoped, but that’s still a lot better than thugs who like to reclassify us as service animals. So we need to pack the House and the Senate with Democrats who pledge to get rid of the filibuster, expand the Supreme Court so that it follows the law again, and recognize women’s inalienable right to body autonomy in law. And make Manchin and Sinema irrelevant.

If we can do that, which depends on all of us, then by next February this whole post might be wonderfully useless.

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Is it all over?

We’re reaching the end of the line. The US Supreme Court looks forward to turning women (back) into livestock.

If you don’t control your own reproduction, you are livestock.

Too many Supremes and a shitload of Republicans want women in that position. They haven’t yet reached the Taliban zone where they want women penned up, but give them time.

Meanwhile, what is the left concerned about? In the perfect words of Helen Lewis,

The right has declared a war on women. The left has responded by declaring a war on saying “women.”

So half of humanity is shoved into body slave status, but the important thing is the feelings of a few thousand people who have the time to worry about their gender identity.

That is the end of the line. When nobody, anywhere, on any side of politics, has a clue which way is up.

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Women might be easier to see as chattel slaves

I’m tired. I can’t even work up interest in the back and forth going on now among the Supremes.

Sotomayor doing her best by reminding her colleagues they have a personal stake in not looking like pawns. Hollow laughter. Ki-i-i-i-d, I want to say, if any of them cared whether they look like fools, they would have stopped acting like clowns years ago.

And then all the yammering about viability. Of the fetus, of course. ZOMG if anyone else’s rights are at stake, anyone’s at all, ever, anywhere, so long as they might be male, anyone!, then of course the incubator has to do its job. Maybe if women had an actual price on their heads, somebody would notice that the property depreciates from the huge marathon of pregnancy and delivery?

So, forgive me while I shout.

Women are human beings who have the right to control their own bodies.

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Afghanistan

 
Another black border post.
 

The US again abandons tens of thousands of allies, workers, helpers to their fate.

(Update, border not so thick as it was, see first comment. The US and other countries seem to be trying to help Afghans leave.)

Update, 25 August Black border removed entirely. The US and other nations involved there are working hard to get people out. It is, I hear, one of the biggest civilian evacuations ever. Much as I was down on Biden before he was elected, biting this bullet of US mistakes in Afghanistan deserves respect.
 

Should the US have stayed in Afghanistan on the plea that insanity forced it to keep doing the same failing thing, over and over, year after year? No.

It should never have been there, if that’s all they were going to do.

Is there anything they could have done that would have actually made a difference?

Yes.

Elect Al Gore.

And even that would have helped only if he’d had the courage to do real nation building.

Since it’s a country that throws away half it’s population right from the start, before even inventing ways to exploit the remainder, the first step for nation building in Afghanistan was always clear.

Help women.

Change the laws so they could have their own money, land, and wealth, and enforce it. Make sure girls received educations all the way through high school. Put women’s health and medical care on a serious and effective footing. Provide millions of scholarships for women to study in the world’s great universities.

After twenty years of that, with women therefore becoming more important than testosterone-poisoned defectives in families, workplaces and government, there’d be a different country now.

Of course, no senator could have boasted about bringing dollars home to his district because Blackhawk helicopters got sold to Afghanis. Nobody could have stood on the deck of a naval ship after a couple of years, declaring victory.

The kind of victory I’m talking about takes much longer.

If nobody was going to do anything real victory required, the US should have stayed home.

Biden is right to correct that part of the error. A deathly shame, though, that he thought he could wait for the paperwork before rescuing the women and men who have been betrayed.

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Medicine has been too successful

People have lost their fear of disease. It only took about two generations without major deadly infections. That comes as a surprise to me. I thought people understood cause and effect. But, no. Apparently, if you’re not in immediate and personal danger of dying, it’s Somebody Else’s Problem. And a SEP field, as Douglas Adams astutely pointed out, is the only proven way to make anything invisible.

Years ago, 1990s?, I read an article about attitudes to vaccination. In places like Bangladesh, where they actually had to contend with actual disease, people were overwhelmingly in favor of it. More than 85% of the respondents were incredulous you could have any other attitude. (This was before extremists started spreading paranoia about Western contamination.) It was only in well-to-do parts of the wealthier countries that people had the luxury of fantasizing about what vaccines would do to their precious bodily fluids.

The loss of healthy fear towards something that can kill you has made too many people incapable of understanding where a lethal threat fits into the scheme of things. You see sentences like, “But the extent of the European lurch toward mandatory measures has also prompted unease and questioning over loss of freedom.”

The mind reels. Do they not understand that your freedom ends where your threat to my life begins?

(Rights, unlike people, are not all equal. Some depend on others. Some are a precondition for everything else. There is not one single freedom that can be enjoyed if you’re dead. Of course it’s more complicated than one right always being first. The link goes on about the intricacies.)

 

 

Public health measures to prevent the spread of disease take precedence over people’s convenience every single time.

Mask wearing, social distancing, and temporary lockdowns are all merely inconvenient. There is no, absolutely no, rights-based argument to make against them.

Contact tracing does raise privacy issues. But there again: you can’t enjoy privacy when you’re dead. Privacy is a secondary consideration. It must be respected to the extent possible while the primary public health priorities are achieved. For instance, we’re horrified the government could be using our cell phones for location data to track covid contacts, as they did in South Korea. That is nonsense. Location tracking to save your life is a Good Thing. It should be done from the start to the end of a pandemic. After that the data should be expunged.

What should not be done is using that data to sell us fast food, or to store it forever to target political ads at us, or to deny us jobs based on some AI bullshit model of who we are based on where we’ve been. And yet, we put up calmly with the latter while throwing fits about lifesaving temporary public health tracking. Commercial tracking, which should be illegal, has made us allergic to lifesaving tracking. It’s insane. And I suspect it’s all because we feel powerless against corporations but not the government.

Vaccination is the third major public health measure, and it does intersect with the basic right to control your own body. When two foundational rights conflict — the right not to be harmed and the right to control your own body — then the scale of the harm on each side is important.

Vaccines can cause nanoscale harm. Things like sore arms, a day of lethargy, or even super-rare blood clots which can be effectively dealt with if doctors know they should look for that. Compared to the megascale harm from disease — death, long term disability, sickness for millions — there is no contest at all . The greatest good of the greatest number is the right criterion to apply when the difference is so stark. Vaccine mandates are justified to bring the cost of non-vaccination home to anti-vaxxers. As are mandates that limit them from any place where they could potentially spread the disease they’ve refused to prevent.

There is zero place for any “unease and questioning over the loss of freedom.” [Ed. note: idiots.]

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Example 5,459,738

Consider the section of the Texas Constitution of 1836 below, currently doing the rounds as an example of the foundational racism in the Good Old Days.

Sec. 10. All persons (Africans, the descendants of Africans, and Indians excepted,) who were residing in Texas on the day of the declaration of independence, shall be considered citizens of the republic, and entitled to all the privileges of such. All citizens now living in Texas, who have not received their portion of land, in like manner as colonists, shall be entitled to their land in the following proportion and manner : Every head of a family shall be entitled to one league and labor of land;

[definition from somewhere on the web] A league of land equals 4,428 acres and a labor, 177 acres, combined they add up to 4,605 acres [19 km²]. This was the. amount of a headright (first-class) granted to “all persons except Africans and their descendants, and Indians, living in Texas.” (Convertunits.com, however, says one square league is 7628 acres.)

Either way, that’s a nontrivial homestead. And it’ll obviously set you back if it’s not handed to you and you have to scrape up the cash to buy all that by yourself. Racism, indeed.

Notice anyone missing from that list? So excluded they didn’t even need to be mentioned by name? Notice anyone missing from the current discussion about that list? Unlike “Africans and Indians”, those people are still unseen.

At the rate we’re going, it’s going to be centuries before we understand why disasters keep crashing in on us (You’d like an example? Trump.) from the blind side.

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Why Bernie’s BS Matters

Bernie Sanders was talked about a while ago, blathering his usual blather about how there is nothing but class struggle. Racism? Caused by poverty. (In which case, why aren’t poor blacks racist against whites?) Trumpism? Caused by poverty. (But, but, but, his fans give him boat parades. Have you priced boats lately?) Crime? Caused by poverty. (Has he never heard of Madoff? Or, for that matter, Trump?)

Now, admittedly, poverty is tough. People tend to react badly to it and bother their neighbors trying to get out of it. But that’s a whole different matter from poverty causing bigotry. Plus it does nothing to explain centuries and millenia of elites sneering at the stupidity and laziness of their underlings. If only poverty could cause that, elites should be the intelligent, highminded people they imagine themselves to be.

What does follow a pattern, though, is that people make sure they think poorly of anyone they hurt. After all, if the piefaced whatnot didn’t deserve it, they are the bad guys for inflicting harm.

The more harm, and the more baked-into-the-society and structural the harm, the greater the contempt for the underclass who are made to suffer.

In other words, Bernie has it backwards. It’s not poverty that causes racism. It’s the need to justify exploitation. Damaging others causes racism. And sexism.

That means the solution is not to make poor whites richer, to take an example at random. Or to make men more confident of their masculinity, to take another. It’s not to increase the status of the group causing harm.

It’s to remove it. It’s to maintain real equality.

Equals have enough social status to inflict a cost when someone tries to get something for nothing out of them. Without the ability to get away with hurting each other, there’s also no need to label others contemptible enough to deserve it. With real equality the need for contempt to justify bad treatment gradually fades.

Bernie’s BS would make the problem worse, and it sends people hoping for the solution down the wrong road. That’s why his BS is not simply silly.

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Public Service Message About Human Rights And Abortion

  • The right to control your own body is the most fundamental of all.
    • No other freedom or right will mean a thing if you can be physically tortured for exercising it.
    • It’s why you can kill in self-defense.
    • Others’ lives are irrelevant to that right. Nobody can tackle you and remove a kidney because somebody else needs it to live and you’re a tissue match.
    • (I know it’s a new concept in some circles, so, to be clear, pregnancy is not magic. It’s complete life support. It’s a dialysis-heart-lung-liver-and-everything-else-system. Forcing that level of contribution is ethically exactly the same as forcing organ donation. The only difference is forced organ donation could affect men.)
  • If a woman is a human being, she has the same right to control her own body as non-female human beings.
    • Therefore she has the right to make any and all decisions about her own pregnancy. Fetal viability is not an issue any more than someone else’s need for your kidney is an issue.*

Think for a moment about what it means if that last point seems kind of … out there. Maybe even shocking, depending on who you are.

It means you’ve somewhere absorbed the feeling that women are not really people. Not completely. Only up to the point where they need to be sacrificed for someone else. At that point, they’re nobody. Their needs, plans, or lives don’t matter compared to what somebody else has decided is more important.

That is not the way real people are treated. Even corpses are treated with more respect. You can’t take organs from a corpse without the deceased’s written permission, even if it will save lives.

The essence of being considered a real human being is that others aren’t allowed to use you like a thing. Slaves are never considered human in slave-owning societies. Farm animals have no choices. What slaves or animals want does not matter when somebody else decides on their actual purpose. Just as a woman’s own thoughts on the subject are irrelevant when people are sure her real purpose is to provide useful organs, not to be a human being.

And that’s really the point of anti-abortion movements everywhere. They’re to force women into second class status. They’re to use biology — all forms of subjugation use biological vulnerabilities to control victims — to control women.

The breadcrumbs of evidence are everywhere. Advances in medical technology have laid bare some of the more obvious ones. Until reliable birth control became available, and when abortion was difficult and uncommon, fear of pregnancy (with all the social garbage larded on to unwanted pregancies) was enough to keep most women in line. Prior to the mid-1960s, religious tracts, all the way back to Exodus, don’t see abortion as some kind of murder. Then, once medical technology gave women some control over pregnancy, then abortion suddenly became all about The Babies.

It’s also been pointed out ad nauseam that the people who say they’re pro-life also seem to be pro-military, pro-death penalty, against life-saving health care for the poors, against birth control even though it reduces the need for abortions, and so on, and so forth, and so on, forever. There’s only one very limited situation where they suddenly care about life: when that life can be used to take decisions away from women.

And then there was that priceless statement from the Congressman too stupid to realize what he’d just said. From Bloomberg:

Alabama’s new blanket ban on abortion “protects the sanctity of unborn life,” with one curious exception: The law deems only fertilized eggs inside a womb worthy of protection, not ones routinely destroyed in the process of fertility treatment.

“The egg in the lab doesn’t apply,” Clyde Chambliss, state senator and sponsor of the abortion bill, said during the Alabama legislative debate. “It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”

So, suddenly, when there’s no woman to control, The Babies don’t matter. Eeeenteresting, as they say in the movies.

And now, of course, we’re having a Handmaid forced onto the Supreme Court to make all this drivel the law of the land. Faced with our own Dred Scott decision, what can we do?

The best short term alternative is probably to use more medical technology to get around the issue. At this point medicines that produce abortion very early in a pregnancy have an excellent record of safety and effectiveness. One has to be careful to order them from places which don’t substitute counterfeits for the real medicine. Aid Access, Women on Web and Plan C Pills have more information. Added 2021-06-11: This useful site lists the dosages needed to use birth control pills as morning after pills, also called emergency contraception.

The best long term alternative is to understand that women are human.

 

*(Yes, once the fetus can survive without medical assistance, the goal is delivery, not abortion. No, no woman is going to almost complete the grueling marathon of pregnancy only to decide three days before term that it’s too much trouble. That is misogynist nonsense invented to feed the stereotype of women being too frilly to know their own minds. It takes someone who’s fully human to make those decisions for them! The point I’m making is that as a matter of principle nobody except the woman carrying the pregnancy has any right to say what to do with it.)

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Hate crimes against women are hate crimes

I mean … DUUUUUH. Right?

God, this crap is exhausting.

The UK is currently debating — debating! — whether to call violence against women hate crimes.

(I know, I know. At least the thought has occurred to them. In the US and much of the rest of the world, it seems to be inconceivable.)

Clinton, human rights speech at 1995 UN Conference on Women
Clinton delivering her speech on human rights at 1995 UN Conference on Women. I was floored when I first heard that women’s humanity needed to be officially noted. And then more floored to find out it was a new idea for vast swathes of people.

The objections are always the same and always kind of funny in a hacking, gallows humor way.

Hate crimes? Women don’t have a problem with hate crimes. They lead sheltered, pampered lives and only emerge to persecute people by being “Karens.” (Yes, using “people” as if women aren’t is intentional. Misogynists think that way. You can tell because they speak that way. And you can tell how widespread it is by the fact that I have to point it out if I want to be sure everyone knows I’m doing it on purpose.)

Second stage is acknowledging that stuff happens but, hey, it doesn’t mean what you think it means. Wolf whistles are compliments! Jealous stalkers are just showing how much they care! Rape is just guys getting carried away! Or something.

Third stage is saying it’s ridiculous. If we’re going to start jailing every wolf-whistling worker the police won’t have time for anything else.

Oh really? I thought that was a compliment. Apparently you know quite well which category it belongs in and that it’s covered nicely by “hate crime.” (No, it’s not the biggest hate crime in the world. But the daily, constant, cumulative erosion of women’s feeling of belonging in the world adds up to an enormous crime.)

Plus if actual enforcement means police are run off their feet dealing with hate crimes against women, how does that square with the dogma that women don’t have a problem?

That’s why they have to “debate” these crimes. Once you’ve seen them, you can’t unsee them. And then you lose your ability to comfortably think all the impossible things at once: that women are the pampered victims of rampant crime which doesn’t matter.

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The Wokeus Dei Are Pushing Us Into A Republican Trap

The Republican Noise Machine™ shows all the signs of testing a new rile-up-the-vote message. Unless the reality-based community wakes up it’s going to blindside us.

Here’s how it works. Step 1 is to support anti-transgender issues. It’s the typical trampling of civil rights. The Repub base loves it. The Dems speak out against it. Then say it’s the end of civilization as we know it and, look!, those horrible Dems are in favor of it.

In the case of migrants, it was Caravans! They’ll overrun the country! You’ll never get a burger again! You’ll have to live on tacos!

In the case of civil rights for trans people it’s They’ll get in your school! They’ll twist your kid’s mind! (Link is to Drag Queens Story Hour, so not necessarily trans, but it’s much the same to Repubs.) Big Hairy Men will be in your daughter’s bathroom!

There’s a new wrinkle, though. There’s an element of truth to the trans scaremongering. It’s going to work even better for them than the laughable notion that a few thousand workers can destroy a country of hundreds of millions.

Unfortunately, the reality-based community didn’t stop to check with reality before reflexively coming down against whatever the Repubs might be saying.

Another difference is this isn’t about some caravan a thousand miles away. This is about people’s children. Nobody has any tolerance for risks to their kids. In order to explain which risks are real and which are bogus, we have to have some clue about the difference ourselves. Otherwise we don’t stand the chance of a grain of sense in a Trump tweetstorm.

Feminists: Don’t change biology. Change society. Eliminate gender boxes.

Traditionalists: gender must match biology.

Transactivists: gender must match internal essence, biology is irrelevant.

Most people like to think of themselves as fairminded, and the trans rights movement hooks in to that by borrowing the language of gay rights. When it comes to civil rights, that’s as it should be. But gay rights never took anything away from women. On the contrary. Gay rights supported and furthered women’s rights. No movement for civil rights, whether for blacks or the disabled or any other group, takes actual rights away from anyone else. That’s the essence of it. Rights enable us to mind our own business and stop at the point where they damage someone else’s right to do the same thing. (I have a long discussion on the implications of that small sentence here.)

Some of the trans movement didn’t stop there. It’s important to note it is #NotAllTrans, but it is a very vocal subset. They feel that women, and children, should just learn to deal with it when trans activist issues affect them. And since women are the only group remaining whose rights can be described as a “pet rock” without causing more than a few verbal tut-tuts, the activist message that women should be quiet and make no demands has met with its usual success in a sexist society. That doesn’t make it fair or good. It doesn’t mean there will be no resentment or lost votes in the privacy of the voting booth. And if there’s one thing the Republicans are good at, it’s using resentment for their own purposes. That’s why it’s vital to be clear on what really is fair. To everybody. To articulate which demands are civil rights and must be respected, and which are not.

So the first step, as Socrates pointed out thousands of years ago, is to define terms. I’ve tried to make a potted summary in Table 1 of the simplified differences between the viewpoints.

The biggest difference in practical terms are the highlighted points. Feminists say, “Don’t change biology. Change society. Eliminate gender boxes.” The traditionalists want the status quo ante, preferably all the way back to 1820 or so, it seems. And the transactivists believe deeply in gender. They just think they’re in the wrong one.

Table 1.

“traditional”

feminist

transactivist*

biological sex comes with whole sets of masculine and feminine traits biological sex does not imply non-sexual traits. Masculinity and femininity are learned and called genders as opposed to sexes. biological sex does not exist. Gender is assigned at birth, but that may not match the internal essence of gender a person feels.

how to deal with people who are “outside the box”

force them into one of two boxes based on their biology variations are fine, there are no boxes maintain boxes, but people can switch among them depending on their sense of their internal essence (self-ID as a woman, man, or other genders such as asexual or maverique)

how other types of self ID are viewed

self ID not accepted because biology is a fact, a material reality. self ID not accepted because biology is a fact, a material reality. only gender self-ID accepted       self-ID as a race, for instance, is not valid because race is real like gender, whereas sex is a social construct that can be changed.

attitude to males in women’s spaces

not allowed males allowed in some cases: transitioned, appear womanly, are committed to participating in society as women. (E.g.: public toilets, yes; rape crisis centers, probably no.) always allowed, whether visibly transitioned or not, because the felt essence is what matters

the source of the problem

Problem? What problem? oppression and the loss of self-determination because of gender straitjackets lack of belief in self-identified genders

the solution

everybody must believe in and act according to biologically based gender everyone can live their own way but not past the point where it stops others from doing so everybody must believe in and act according to a felt gender.

*Not all trans people have this extreme view (eg Debbie Hayton, Miranda Yardley, Fionne Orlander, many others), but the most visible trans activists try, often successfully, to give the impression it’s universal.

Views on biological sex

Denying biological sex exists is half the source of all the downstream issues because it denies reality. (The other half is denying the reality that women are the targets of abuse because of their sex. I’ll get to that.) To say biological sex doesn’t exist requires denialism on the order of the Flat Earth Society. There are bacteria that reproduce entirely asexually, and that’s about it. They also don’t evolve much because they don’t have the variability to do it. Everything else we see survived because it uses the advantages conferred by sex. They’re not what you might think. Sex vastly increases the variability among organisms by giving a way to mix and match DNA from different ones. And since evolution requires variability to favor useful traits, sex speeds up adaptability a lot and results in the endless variety of life we see around us.

That doesn’t have anything to do with sex being necessarily binary. Some fungi, for instance, have dozens of mating strains. Mammals, the group of animals that includes humans, are not like that. They produce two kinds and only two kinds of gametes. The larger and therefore not too mobile gamete is defined as the egg, the smaller mobile one is the sperm. In mammals, sex is irretrievably binary.

Biological sex exists. If it didn’t, women would identify right out of being raped.

Trying to pretend away misogynist power structures doesn’t make it so. It just ignores all their harm. Their victims don’t have that luxury.

Pretence ends in attitudes that say having a penis does not make someone male, but wearing eyeshadow does make them female.

Denialism never happens without an agenda. The big effort of maintaining fictions has to be worth it, whether it’s trying not to understand evolution, the roundness of the earth, climate change, or vaccination. Or sex. The payoff for pretending sex doesn’t exist is being able to pretend the whole patriarchal power structure and all its attendant oppressions don’t exist. Better yet, since they don’t exist you can avoid doing anything about them.

Women can’t identify out of being paid less. They can’t identify out of violence by male partners. They can’t identify out of rape. Female embryos can’t identify out of being aborted. The scale of that violence can be hard to grasp partly because it’s so horrible, but also partly because the data aren’t even collected (Karen Ingala-Smith, Caroline Criado-Perez).

Fifty thousand (50,000) women are killed by male partners or male family members per year. (Global numbers for 2017. Approximately 87,000 killed per year total, overwhelmingly, as in over 90%, by men.) 500,000 in ten years. Six million within the lifetimes of many people alive now. The violence shows no signs of slowing down. So another six million will be exterminated within the lifetimes of present day teenagers. And that’s just the fatalities. That doesn’t count women crippled by violence or suffering permanent post traumatic stress disorder. Women have PTSD at higher rates than combat soldiers. (This is not because women are more prone to it.) They have higher rates of brain injury than soldiers and NFL football players combined.

One hundred and sixty three million (163,000,000) female fetuses were aborted in Asia (pdf). The numbers are from 2005. They would be higher now, and higher if the whole world was included. One hundred and sixty three million. Half the population of the USA. Gone because all women do is produce the next generation and take care of everybody. They’re worthless.

On that background, we hear that the rates of murder and violence for trans people are much worse. The trans suicide rate is said to be sky high unless transitioning treatment is immediately available. Let’s look at those numbers.

Any suicide is awful, as is any violent death. But, the high number for trans people comes from unfortunate sources. One study which is the source for widely repeated statistics is McNeil et al. 2012. Although it’s clearly stated to be a pilot study, it’s been cited as if it had bulletproof methods. It did not. The data was collected using internet surveys publicized in the trans community, the respondents were self-selected, and the issues discussed were self-reported. There was no control group. This would be similar to floating a survey on Amazon about a Widget and finding a high proportion of respondents were dissatisfied. Not too surprising since unhappy people are much more prone to take the trouble to let surveys know. As for self-reporting, that’s like asking people in a web survey how closely they stick to a new diet. Without actual independent measures, there’s no way to know how close to reality their answers are, even when they think they’re close. So the fact that 48% of 436 respondents reported a suicide attempt at some point or points in their lives tells us nothing about the prevalence of suicide attempts even among the 436 respondents, to say nothing of all trans people.

Methodologically less fraught studies do not show trans suicides as being any higher than the rest of their demographic group, as summarized by Paul Hewson. Dhejne et al. 2011 found that severe issues were actually more frequent after sex reassignment surgery.

Numbers for the murders of trans people also lack accuracy due to poor methods. Some very high numbers are global and skewed by the horrifically high rates in Brazil and SE Asia where transgender prostitution is much more common (together with other forms of prostitution). I haven’t seen any evidence that those murders were due to trans status rather than prostitute status. Prostitution is by far the most dangerous way to make money. Just as an indication: yearly numbers for prostitutes of fatalities due to violence: 229 per 100,000; the next most dangerous occupation, fishermen: 132 per 100,000 or in other statistics, loggers, 136 per 100,000. All numbers from USA. The outrage would be better directed at the enormous amount of male violence victimizing prostitutes. Trans prostitutes compared to all prostitutes are murdered at about the same appalling rate.

To get a sense of how the murder statistics compare within one Western country, the folowing are from Adrian Sullivan, USA 2016 rates, using Human Rights Commission and FBI data, showing murder per 100,000:

0.8 – females who are trans 1.6 – all trans people 2.1 – males who are trans
2.1 – females 5.0 – black females 5.4 – all US population
7.4 – males 18.3 – black people 32.7 – black males

204.0 – prostitutes (2004 data, comparable 2016 number is higher)

At least in the US, trans people appear to be safer than non-trans, if anything.

On the background of this massive, war-scale violence inflicted on women, the staggering absolute numbers of suffering involved, and the evidence that trans people are not any more targeted than other disadvantaged groups, on this background there are men on the web insisting that there is no real damage to women from making them more vulnerable to male-bodied people so that they, the male-bodied people, can feel accepted as women. This was an exchange recently on Twitter, since disappeared on both @Glinner and @bloggerheads, by Tim Ireland:

  • TI: Why are you so convinced that rights for Trans people means fewer rights for women?
  • Graham Linehan: because of the examples we’ve seen with the prison system in Denmark and Ireland, the clear effect it’s already had on women’s sports, the fact that feminists can’t talk without being harassed and threatened. The question is why are you *not* convinced?
  • TI: … The hill you’ve chosen to die on is both very small, and very far away.

Women dying in their millions are minor and “far away”to this guy. Or inconsequential. Which would be even worse. As if women were just aphids who can pile up on the ground after pesticide spray and why would anyone care?

More charitably, motivated reasoning may play a part in pretending women aren’t human. There’s a problem with insisting that transwomen are women, but then also insisting that they take precedence over women whenever there’s a conflict. In an attempt to make that work, first one has to deny that women are a class with their own rights and needs. Make them something as nebulous as a feeling, and there can be no conflict of rights. There’s nobody to have a conflict with. And second deny the mountain of evidence of violent abuse, so that transwomen’s own troubles stand out more starkly. See Jane Clare Jones for a thorough analysis of this whole line of thinking. If women don’t exist and they don’t hurt, then there’s no problem.

Male violence against women isn’t often articulated as part of a system functioning to keep women down, but there’s not a woman alive who really ignores it. We all feel and act like we live in a war zone, even if many of us try to convince ourselves otherwise for our own sanity. There’s a huge body of evidence that shows women are unsafe. Not bigotry, not imagination. Evidence. If Repubs try to scaremonger women about “big, hairy men” on top of that background, how successful do you think they’ll be?

Republicans are going to win that PR battle before they even start unless Dems can wrap their heads around the fact that women and girls have legitimate safety concerns which need to be accommodated.

I’ll answer a few objections before they’re trotted out as usual. One is that no true transwoman would commit such crimes, so nothing I’ve said justifies excluding them. However, the innocence of all transwomen is not supported by the evidence. (Transmen don’t seem to appear as an issue.) In the UK, 90% of assaults, harassment and voyeurism occur in unisex changing rooms, although they’re less than half the total of those facilities.

Once the UK decided to allow self-ID’ed male-bodied prisoners in women’s jails, reports of rapes and harassment started. (Yes, the link is to the Mail which is right wing. The events are not invented. They happened.) In the UK, suspicious numbers of male offenders announce their trans status so that they’re jailed among women. (Another conservative newspaper. They love these stories. It’s not often they have any reality on their side.) Saying the prisoners are not really trans doesn’t change anything for the traumatised women. Besides, if self-ID is gospel, how can you say they’re not really trans? Do only good people discover they are trans?

Of course, not all or even many transwomen are predators. Transwomen are not the problem. Predators are the problem no matter how they identify. Self-ID is a problem because it opens the door and lays down the welcome mat for predators. It allows any predatory man to self identify as female to gain access to women or children.

There are mountains of evidence — again, not bigotry, not imagination, evidence — that men use deceit to get at their victims. The Catholic Church and Scoutmaster sex abuse scandals are only some of the examples. Unlike the gay panics of the bad old days, which were not based on evidence, women’s fear of males is based on reality. (Men who don’t like being reminded of that should curb the other men creating the problem, not the information that it exists.)

Because some men are horrible, transwomen run a risk of violence using male spaces. That says they need their own spaces without violent males, not that women don’t. Insisting that transwomen have a right to be safe does not explain why women must become less safe. Also, men are causing the problem. So why is it up to women to compensate for it?

Male-to-female trans have shown themselves capable of crimes against women.

Predatory men also use any available trick to get within striking distance of women (and boys) to prey on.

Women have the same right to physical safety as anyone, without the added burden of mindreading whether random males are harmless or not.

 

One peculiar bogus objection is that men victimize women anyway, so why bother excluding males. No, excluding men doesn’t stop all attacks. Unfortunately. But it does reduce them. That’s all the law ever hopes for. You could as well say we shouldn’t have laws against drunk driving because some people will drink and drive regardless. Women have the same right as everyone else to physical safety, without having to read the minds of random males to guess their intentions. So women have the right to keep men out of their public toilets, changing rooms, dormitories, prisons, and refuges from male violence, just on the grounds of the right to personal safety.

Allowing male-bodied people to compete in women’s sports is another absurdity resulting from the attempt to deny biological reality.

Weight classes in boxing are separated by a few pounds. But women are supposed to compete against males of completely different build and be happy to lose championships, prize money, and scholarships.

Flyweight boxers are not ignored like that. Only women.

Men’s boxing has eight categories separated by a few kilos. But somehow women’s sports are supposed to be fair when athletes who went through male puberty and are in a completely different physical category compete against them. This is just nonsense. Why not have college baseball players identify into Little League? They could win everything and get into the Majors, right? As usual with nonsense, it’s astonishing how often it’s applied only against women. It’s only women who are supposed to compete on a steeply tilted playing field, lose scholarships and championships and sponsorships, and act like there’s no problem. And don’t kid yourself, it is about taking away the benefits. You don’t see male-bodied competitors breaking in to sports where those bodies are not an advantage, like women’s gymnastics.

As a final absurd example of pretending biological sex doesn’t exist, transactivists insist having a penis does not make anyone male, but at least one feels wearing eyeshadow makes him female. When the Repubs sneer at that kind of thing to discredit Dems, the reality-based community has to be ready to come down on the side of reality or lose all credibility with anyone who still has a grasp of it.

It’s a bitter pill, but we better get used to agreeing with the Repubs about the reality of biological sex. Then when we say that forcing people into one of two genders is a violation of civil rights, we’ll still have enough reality-based cred to sound right instead of stupid.

Attitude to Gender

In this case, it’s the transactivists who agree with the traditionalists. Both see gender as an immutable essence expressed as a set of character traits. The difference is that traditionalists see them as irrevocably bound to biology, whereas transactivists think biology doesn’t exist. Gender depends only on an internal sense of having it.

It’s worth pointing out that any belief in an immutable essence, tied to biology or not, is a belief. There’s no scientific evidence for any internal sense of femininity or masculinity any more than there is for souls or God or similar concepts. It’s an article of faith. It’s in the same category as religious beliefs. That doesn’t mean it’s unreal to the person holding it, but it does mean it’s objectively unverifiable. (Hence the title, using Graham Linehan’s great term for the Church of the WokeBros who want to burn all unbelievers at the stake.) Like other beliefs, it must be respected in a civilized free society, to the extent that it does not encroach on other people’s fundamental rights.

There is no objective, scientific evidence on which feelings of gender can be based.

Belief in a gender may be deeply felt, but that does not change the fact that it is an article of faith, a belief.

I need to go on a tangent here about rights since it helps clarify how to handle conflicts between them.

Rights are universally applicable. My free speech has no effect on your ability to speak freely, unless I’m shouting too loud right next to you. Then I’m not exercising a right. I’m being a harasser. Rights also have a hierarchy in that some are dependent on others. We understand this intuitively, which is why killing an attacker in self-defense is allowed. Physical safety, control over your own body, is the absolute first right which must be respected. Without that, all the other rights are meaningless. You’re not going to be exercising much freedom of speech if you can be whipped for it. Or lose your livelihood. Freedom of movement and assembly have to both be available before freedom to worship in the place of your choice has any meaning. Freedom of assembly depends on being able to define your own group, if that group has relatively less power. A union meeting that bosses could make themselves members of would not do the union much good.

Those points have direct relevance to some of the controversies around male-bodied people in women’s spaces where women are more vulnerable, such as dormitories, changing rooms, and toilets, as well as those where they’re trying to recover from problems due to men, such as counseling groups, rape crisis centers, or family violence refuges.

One is that they have the same right to safety as everyone else. Two is that women have the same right to assembly as anyone else. If women want to run a music festival or a discussion group or a rape crisis center limited to people born female, the right to assemble means that they can. Having a right means that it is illegal to harass anyone for exercising it. You don’t have to give them jobs or prizes, you can ignore them, you can argue against them with logic and evidence, but it is very wrong to try to make them so miserable they shut up, go away, and stop exercising their right. There’s no way to insist women must accept males without arguing that every other group has to accept everyone who wants to join: Cherokee can’t self-define, unions can’t, blacks can’t. Even transwomen can’t. Nobody can. Unless you want to say that women are not really people and don’t have rights like real people.

Transwomen may want validation that others see them as women, which is much like the many other social recognitions we provide each other whether or not we feel them ourselves. However, that does not confer some kind of right to insist that everyone has to participate in those ambitions. Especially when the price of a social courtesy can be the lifelong trauma of a sexual attack. Transactivists often don’t feel that provision of separate space is a solution for them. They have to be in women’s spaces. That shows the first priority is validation, not safety.

Other forms of self-ID

The feeling of being in the wrong body has other forms besides gender dysphoria.

Anorexia is a feeling of being in the “wrong” body (a fat one in that case).

The “transabled” identify with a disability to the point of maiming themselves to create it.

Race, age, poverty have all been assumed as identities.

Except in the case of gender, all the other body dysphorias are viewed as disorders.

The best known recent example involved a woman, Rachel Dolezal, who self-ID’ed as black even though she didn’t have traceable black ancestors. The predominant feeling was that she had no business appropriating a black identity. A 52 year old man decided he was a six year old girl and wanted to participate in playgroups with other six year olds. Hilarity did not ensue. A 69 year old Dutchman insisted you’re as young as you feel and wanted the government to shift his birth date by 20 years so he’d have better luck on Tinder. They didn’t. There are the “transabled” who identify so strongly with a disability some even maim themselves. Anorexia is yet another form of feeling trapped in the wrong body, as discussed by the always brilliant Victoria Smith, aka Glosswitch.

Interestingly, except for gender mismatch, the other dissatisfactions with one’s body are considered to show a need for therapy, not facilitation. So much so that dysphoria is used in the case of gender and dysmorphia for all the others. I could see a feminist argument that gender straitjackets are the unhealthiest social constructs, so attempts to escape them are a sign of sanity. Although when the escape requires a whole new set of straitjackets, it’s maybe not the best route out.

Shutting down discussion

Considering how obvious all these issues are, it’s strange that convoluted transactivist thinking is everywhere. In part that’s because women don’t count and their rights are constantly overlooked. In part, it’s because it turns out there really is some central coordination. But I think the largest factor is that no other viewpoint is allowed. Thinking critically is not allowed. The harassment has to be seen to be believed. People, almost always women, have been silenced for discussing or trying to discuss their own rights. Jane Clare Jones has written many outstanding pieces, such as this one about the treatment of Martina Navratilova for stating the obvious.

The justification is that any criticism of gender identities is like Nazi hate speech because it’s all anti-trans and it kills trans people. That is, it either inflames men to kill trans people or it drives trans to suicide. It’s never women killing trans people. It’s just women’s fault. Since they call it hate speech, nobody should ever hear any of it.

But if anyone did, all they would hear is women who are worried about losing their own right to safety or self-definition, and who are strongly in favor of civil rights and human rights for all trans people. That’s not really hate speech.

Maybe I should repeat that. That is not hate speech.

Research is also silenced. (E.g. James Caspian, Ken Zucker). A mild response to campaigns of harassment, including major consequences such as job loss, was organized by Kathleen Stock. Many were fearful to sign. In a very sketchy case, it turned out that a trans lecturer was encouraging their closed Facebook group to keep lists of academics to target for harassment. (Link is to an available copy. Original at The Times not freely available.)

“Transphobia!” is the instant charge hurled when anyone says women have rights worth respecting. Just recently, Hillary Clinton was tarred for noting that women’s experiences are not identical to those of transwomen. The same happened to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It would seem that’s an obvious statement of fact, right up there with “water is wet.” In my book, excommunication for statements of fact says the believer has a problem, not the target.

Just to be clear: there is nothing transphobic about saying trans people should have the same rights as everyone else. There is nothing transphobic about saying they don’t get special privileges, any more than anyone else.

Actual transphobia would be saying they’re not allowed out in public because they cause heebyjeebies, rather like the male Saudi attitude to women. Or claiming “trans panic” as a defense for murder and having that treated seriously in court.

It is not phobia to refuse participation in someone else’s beliefs about their inner essence. Catholics are not Protestantophobics. Atheists are not religiophobes. In a civilized and free society we respect each others’ beliefs by not going out of our way to interfere with them. It is the opposite of respecting beliefs to silence people, even women, on pain of harassment and death threats.

It is not phobia to live and let live. Women do not have to support anyone’s beliefs about themselves, any more than others have to support women. None of this is supportive of transwomen, and plenty of transwomen aren’t supportive of women. Nor do they have to be. We have no right to supportiveness. We only have a right to live our own lives as best we can without encroaching on anyone else’s right to do the same thing.

Women discussing their rights differs from hate speech or denialism in a very important respect. Women are not lying or being vicious. Women do have rights. They’re just like everyone else. When their rights are violated, they get to identify the problem and insist that it stop, just like everyone else. Even when it hurts someone’s feelings. Even when the counterargument is “Fuck TERFs.”

That is the weirdest thing about this whole mess: the invisibility of half the human race to people who think they’re the most inclusive, respectful, progressive group ever.

#FactsMatter

The reality-based community has to distinguish between trans people who’d just like to live their own life their own way — which everyone has a right to do — and weirdos trading on transness and wokeness to practice misogyny or pedophilia — which no one has a right to do. Because that is a real and valid and essential distinction.

Without it, the Repubs will be able to shout about the Yanivs and conflate them with all trans. They’ll say it’s what Dems do when they insist that anyone who self-IDs as trans must instantly have their feelings respected. And they’ll be right. Both sides are currently big on conflation, but one side sees them as all bad while the other thinks they must be all good.

In reality: no. Trans people who respect other people’s rights are fine, just like anyone else who lives a quiet life. Trans people who don’t are not fine. Just like anyone else who violates other people’s rights.

We have to be willing to draw that reality-based distinction or we’ll be playing right into the Repubs’ scaremongering hands.

And, yes, they will be, and are, scaremongering. There’s the Ben Carson comment about hairy men in bathrooms cited earlier. Trump has been doing his bit with Executive Orders to keep the issue simmering. In this case he’s denying their civil rights to serve in the military. A headline in June of this year yelled, “233 Out of 234 House Dems Just Agreed To Let Biological Men Take Over Women’s Athletics.” (conservativeflash.com/2019/06/18/)

Don Trump Jr. seems to be one of the designated Floaters of Trial Balloons on trans issues. In February 2019 he was very concerned about unfairness in women’s sports. There’s a laff-a-minute quality to Don Jr. coming over all concerned about fairness, but the commonest first reaction is going to be “well, yes, it is weird.” Because it is. That kind of inequality isn’t tolerated in any other sport demographic. He’s been continuing to talk about it, including more recently about Rachel McKinnon, mentioned earlier for their appalling celebration of the death of a young woman from brain cancer.

The pattern of generating support for violation of civil rights by stoking resentment over the disregard for women can be expected to ramp up. It serves all their purposes. They can paint themselves as the real Defenders of Women and Children™, they have a sex-related target for hatefests which always works to rile people up, and they can continue to chip away at everybody’s rights.

The UK is ahead of the US again, as it was with election cheating in favor of Brexit during the 2016 referendum. They’ll have another election Dec 12th (a few days from now as I write this), and the always astute Janice Turner points out:

Meanwhile the Conservatives, who were expected to “weaponise” the trans issue, have wisely stayed silent. Their policy of retaining existing law is far more in line with voter opinion than Swinson, whose Twitter feed contains thousands of livid women saying they’ll no longer vote Lib Dem. [note: The Times uses paywalls, so link may not work.]

If the center and left sacrifice women’s rights for woke points, it’s not even necessary for the Cons, or Repubs, to say much. They can just let their opponents have as much rope as they want to hang themselves.

By stressing how bizarre it is to pretend men are women, Republicans can sound like they’re making sense. Then when they crosslink other Democratic attitudes to abortion and homosexuality, they can tar everything with the same brush. It’s all “disrespect of the body.” The Democrats should really stop helping them create that confusion by falling for it themselves. The difference is that the Dems think it’s all good instead of all bad, but in reality both are wrong.

Imagine if the Repubs succeed in making people believe that only their brand of meddling in the details of other people’s sex lives will work to provide women with their rights to privacy and safety. Masses of women will vote for their own safety. Fairness to gay or trans people, or even to women themselves, is a distant second to bogeymen in bathrooms.

The conflation feeds takes like this piece in the Washington Post, “Conservatives find unlikely ally in fighting transgender rights: Radical feminists.” (Just for the record, “radical” feminists are what used to just be called “feminists.” People focused on women’s rights.) In the high and far off times, it took more than agreeing on basic reality to be considered allies. The two parties agree that biological sex exists. The conservatives use it to control women. Feminists want to end oppressions based on it. Those two are opposed to each other. Agreeing that water is wet means only that reality is understood. It’s the opposite of shared politics.

Unlike right wing BS regarding migrants getting free health care, there’s truth buried in the general bigotry about trans people. The women-don’t-matter attitudes really do exist and really are supported by mainstream Democrats.

That article skips lightly over the fact that protections for gender identity without protections for sex-based categories have bizarre downstream consequences. For instance, in addition to all the problems with ignoring biological sex already discussed, medical research on differences in treatments of heart attacks between men and women could be denied funding for being discriminatory against trans people. It’s probably obvious that would mean continued excess deaths among women. It would also legitimize the current version of conversion therapy which transitions same-sex attracted people to the opposite gender. If the law requires everyone to ignore sex, large parts of biological reality become off-limits.

Considering the levels of vitriol mentioned under Shutting Down Discussion, the lack of loud voices disputing transactivists isn’t too surprising, at least in the US mainstream. (The UK has more protestors.) So the Republicans can point to the Left’s uncritical acceptance of unsavory characters like Yaniv and McKinnon, conflate them with all trans people, and put themselves as all that stands between good people™ and perverts. (Update: Yaniv is finally beyond the pale after evidence of pedophilia and racism and loss of a court case.) I’ll be surprised if whipping up anti-trans resentment isn’t a major get-out-the-vote tactic this time around.

The only hope is clarity on when the Repubs are right. If they are, agree with them. The truth is what matters, not the fight. And then when you have to disagree with them about everything else it’s easier for people to see you’re still being honest.

  • Repubs are right about the existence of biological sex. What they’re wrong about is the need to stuff everyone into gender straitjackets. What they’re horribly wrong about is their need to control women’s biology and everyone’s sex lives.

  • Republicans are right about the need for women-only spaces. They’re wrong that women are delicate nitwits who need protecting. The problem is too many men are indelicate nitwits whose idea of fun is attacking others.

  • They’re right about the need for female-only women’s sports, not because women are special but because they aren’t. They deserve the same level playing field everyone else is given.
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Denial, Inequality, and Ignorance, Oh My

There’s a long piece I’ve been procrastinating on / working on for weeks (WokeBros™ Are Pushing Us Into A Republican Trap) , and now all this blows up. Maya Forstater’s judge with no judgement. JKRowling deciding enough is enough. By the time I push the “publish” button, this will be hours out of date and suitable for the Stone Ages.

Anyway, just some minor commentary which everyone else has already said too.

Mammalian sexes are not a spectrum. They are binary. There is the large gamete sex, female, and the small gamete sex, male. That’s it. There ain’t no more. Spergs and speggs don’t exist.

Earliest instance found: by Pinepalm on reddit.

Denying this biological reality is more la-la than being a Flat Earther. At least a Flat Earth *looks* plausible if you’re completely ignorant. Denying biological sex is denying how babies get made and that is something all of humanity is rather clear on. (Well, except for WokeBros™, male or female.) It’s much much much stupider than denying evolution or climate science since those require a minimal understanding of not-always-immediately-obvious evidence.

The usual refrain, including from some biologists, is “but, but clownfish!” Yes, there are clownfish. Yes, there’s sea lettuce (Ulva sp.) with identical sized gametes. Yes, some fungi have dozens of mating strains with very complex ways of producing the next generation. Invertebrate animals have all sorts of gametic flexibility. Even alligators and some birds have temperature-dependent sex ratios in their offspring.

Notice one thing about all of those? They are not mammals. Humans are mammals. We have none of that sexual diversity. In humans sex is binary. End of story.

Intersex individuals do not change that. They have chromosomal or developmental variants superimposed on the basic binary. Their secondary sexual characteristics can vary from the usual. Since everything except the production of egg or sperm is a secondary sexual characteristic, including organs like penis, vagina, or breasts, looks can be unrelated to genetics. That means without scientific tools, like karyotyping or DNA sequencing, the genetics is unknown.

The existence of variants does not turn sex into a spectrum any more than the existence of babies born without limbs means that there’s a spectrum of leg formation. Chimeric inheritance is a condition where two zygotes (fused egg and sperm) fuse together and develop as one individual. The cells derived from one of the two can be interspersed or more or less separate in different organ systems or even sides of the person. That can result in a very rare Difference of Sex Development (DSD) where there’s one ovary and one testicle in one body. (The two hormone systems interfere with each other during development, so there have been no documented cases of both systems being fertile.) In another situation, separation of one embryo into two may stop before completion and conjoined twins result. But the existence of developmental variants like chimerism or conjoined twins does not imply we’re all on a spectrum from one to multiple people.

Intersex individuals are uncommon. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is the commonest, at about 1.4% of live births. All the other forms combined come to 0.1%, one in a thousand, live births. CAH causes overproduction of hormones. Since a number of sex organs are developed from homologous embryonic tissues (clitoris – penis, outer labia – scrotum) overproduction during development can — does not always — alter external morphology to superficially resemble the opposite sex.

Chromosomal abnormalities, like XXY, or XYY, or XO, also change nothing about the sex binary. They either result in individuals indistinguishable from XX / XY without genetic testing, or in individuals who don’t reproduce but look and are treated as female or male. They have nothing to do with the desire to transition to some other social role.

To me, an interesting side note is XO, also known as 45X, aka Turner syndrome. Just one X chromosome results in a female-looking individual who is sterile. The second X has a role only in the formation of the female reproductive tract. One of the two Xs is eventually inactivated in each cell during development. The only function of the Y chromosome is to develop the variants on the female pattern that result in male reproduction. In other words, human society has been wrong about this for millenia. Male is not the default. Female is the default.

A chart of DSDs annotated to show their rarity and the point that about 75% of them are due to just one of the factors noted, congenital adrenal hyperplasia. (The original image is here, full size image here)

None of the above has anything to do with gender, which is the main concern of trans people. Gender is defined as the collection of character traits society decides belong to people based on their sex. Social constructs can be anything society decides — there’s no limit on alphabets, for instance. So if trans people want to invert or subvert or multiply genders, that’s up to them.

Which brings me to the other thing that made my jaw drop about this massive kerfuffle. When JKRowling made her extraordinarily obvious tweet:


the bad feelings engendered in some of the trans community were explained in a thread on Twitter.

@alicegoldfuss / ms claws is a protected account. This quote was in a comment by @jackstarbright / Amanda.

JKRowling’s points are “not actual support.”

Well, DUH. Of course they’re not. You’re not supporting me, you know. Nor do you have to. Neither do I have to support you. In a free society we all have equal rights and nobody gets to demand service from others. We just leave each other alone to live our lives as we want and as best we can.

It’s called equal rights. Not equal support. Who died and made you king of deciding who has to stand ready with support?

That attitude of expecting others to forget their own needs and support transwomen is so blitheringly smug and entitled, it’s mindboggling.

It also reminds me a lot of something I see out in the world all the time. Something like a class of people who seem to think women should always hover about fulfilling their needs…. It’s on the tip of my tongue…. But that can’t be right because the transwomen who have that attitude are quite sure they’re women.

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One of the endless raft of things that are Not On

You may have noticed that when it comes to trans rights, I’ve been hot and bothered about people casually stepping all over women as if they didn’t matter or even exist. I’ve also tried to be careful to say that transpeople should most definitely have all the same civil rights as all other people.

This falls into Category 2.

The Dumpsterfire’s administration has come up with some more codswallop:

An amicus brief filed by the Justice Department weighed in on two cases involving gay workers and what is meant by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination “because of sex.” The administration argued courts nationwide should stop reading the civil rights law to protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers from bias because it was not originally intended to do so. …

[I]t argued last week in a related brief against transgender rights, in which the Justice Department said companies should be able to fire people because they are transgender as well.

Next to concentration camps for children, losing jobs could be seen as a small potatoes human rights violation, but it is a human rights violation. It’s all cut from the same cloth of this horrific transnational crime syndicate of an Administration.

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One of these things is not like the others

This is a public service announcement? I don’t know. An announcement, anyway.

Start with the flatteningly obvious. Discrimination on the basis of sex, race, creed, national origin, age, weight, or sexual orientation is Not Okay. It’s not okay because it has no basis in fact. None of those characteristics is correlated in any way with anything that matters. (Yes, there is a boatload of excellent research supporting that point.) They are irrelevant. Discriminating on that basis does not work, in the sense of improving human life in any way.

Now continue with the equally obvious. Being transgender is also irrelevant to intelligence, kindness, or competence. Discriminating against transgender people in work, housing, education, or who can get married will also not improve anyone’s life in any way.

Let’s end with the one blindingly obvious difference. Sex does affect anything to do with biology, including medicine. Sex is a fact. Facts don’t care how you feel. Pretending otherwise changes exactly nothing. Hounding people for “transphobia” if they research the consequences of hormone therapy might get them fired, hounded, no platformed, or piled on [the Times article is behind a paywall], but it won’t change the resulting sterility, loss of orgasm, osteoporosis, stroke, and so on (pdf) through a list of side effects as long as your arm.

Sex also makes a difference in a world organized on a sexual caste system to exploit women’s labor and reproductive ability. Unlike biology, we can change society, and it would be great if we entered a new age of humankind where none of the gendered bullshit operated anymore.

We do not live in that world. Pretending otherwise does nothing but enable willful blindness to the injustice, and the people who suffer from that most immediately are women. Women can’t identify out of being raped or being underpaid. When those with a male developmental trajectory identify into women’s athletics and take the scholarships or money prizes, women can’t identify into a lifetime of enough testosterone to take the prizes back. Nor can female fetuses identify out of being aborted on the basis of their sex.

public restrooms at Exmoor National Park labelled one for men, the other for everyone
“There is a word for a situation where women talking about female bodies is considered impermissibly antisocial, where describing the consequences of sexism for women is systematically impeded, where resources for women are redistributed to male users while resources for men are left in male hands…. The word is misogyny.” Sarah Ditum, The Economist, 2018-07-05

In this world it’s a fact that almost all (around 98%) of sexual violence is done by males. (Are we all sufficently tired of Not All Men? I hope so. The link is to an article about violent crime, but the same pattern holds for mere harassment. Very few perps can make a majority suffer.) Putting women in the bind of having to mindread male intentions in places where they undress or can’t escape is not a hallmark of tolerance. It’s a hallmark of assuming women don’t count. We all have a right to be, as the law puts it, secure in our persons. We get to do that without mindreading. The fact that men also target transpeople doesn’t make it women’s responsibility to compensate for the violence.

And that is the difference with other liberation movements. They struggled for their own civil rights. None of them tried to deprive others of what they wanted for themselves. Calling people who point these things out “transphobic” does not indicate virtuous tolerance for transpeople. It indicates a denial of facts on the order of flat earthers or creationists. It indicates a complete disregard for the human rights of women.

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Immigration: there’s good news and bad news

First the good news. How a small Turkish city successfully absorbed half a million migrants:

Gaziantep has grown by 30% due to newcomers fleeing the crisis across the border in Syria, but remains a model of tolerance and pragmatism. …

In one 24-hour period alone, Gaziantep took in 200,000 people. To put that in perspective, Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul, with a population of 15 million, hosts 560,000 refugees in total. Gaziantep has just a 10th of the population but took in 500,000. …

Early on, the Turkish government pursued a policy of integrating the newcomers into urban areas, rather than let them fester in refugee camps. Only 4% still live in camps.

This put pressure, however, on the existing housing stock in Gaziantep, forcing up rents. Employers, meanwhile, took advantage of the sudden increase in the workforce to push down wages. There was also conflict over access to drinking water, and burgeoning resentment that the aid pouring in was going to Syrians, not to poor Turks. …

It was precisely to avoid this sort of conflict that the city adopted a new approach, based on integration.

The mayor, Fatma Sahin, established a migration management department. The idea was that Turks and migrants would receive equal treatment and benefits.

It persuaded the government to pipe in water from over 80 miles away to address the water crisis, and then set up a plan to build 50,000 new homes, as well as new hospitals and better public services. All were available to Turks and migrants alike.

“I said to them, we have to work together,” Yalçin says. “We are aiming for social cohesion, because Turkish and Syrian people are going to live together here[.”] …

What sets Gaziantep apart is that it didn’t wait. It was quick to accept the reality that the migrants were there to stay – and the sooner integrated, the better.

“Migration has always been with us,” says Yalcin. “It’s not a problem to be solved but a reality you have to manage. You should see the advantages. And you need to tell people the truth: these people are not stealing your jobs, they’re not stealing your houses.”

(It’s worth mentioning, since it may not be obvious to English-speaking readers, that Fatma is a woman’s name. Margaret Thatcher and many others are evidence to the contrary, but on the whole leaders who are women seem to do a damn good and visionary job more often than not.)

building a home using sand-filled plastic bottles for new refugees in SE Algeria
A project to help new Sahrawi refugees in SE Algeria by building them homes using sand-filled plastic bottles for walls. This is old refugees helping new ones, so not an example of integration among foreigners, but it’s the same idea.

So the good news is that solutions to the plight of refugees exist.

The bad news is that most places are doing the 180° opposite.

As I’ve pointed out in other blogposts, Trump is not the first to try sadism to stop refugees. The Australians did it years earlier. And they’ve dealt with the downstream consequences that we’re only imagining. The outlook is terminal.

The USA is imprisoning people it finds undesirable. Australia has already lived this nightmare

It’s long been observed that any network of camps, once established, becomes worse. As Andrea Pitzer shows in her history of concentration camps, One Long Night, over and over again since the invention of concentration camps in the late 19th century, in each iteration they develop their own terrible, internal logic. Laws are circumvented or changed, secrecy inhibits scrutiny, logistical problems complicate detention such that the brunt is always borne by prisoners, and a dynamic of brutalisation sweeps up prisoner, jailer and the whole society surrounding them.

Even if such camps are not deliberately constructed for the purposes of murder, they kill people. In Australia’s camps, dozens have died, a score or more at their own hands. …

Australia’s camps are now baked into its national politics. They look set to remain as long as there are elections to win, focus groups to placate, and no outside agency truly capable of enforcing any consequences for its architects. The longer that they are in place in the US, Italy and elsewhere, the more likely it is that in those countries, too, they will become permanent features of the political landscape. … [emphasis mine]

The difficulty of holding a nation’s most powerful people accountable is why it seems likely that the camps won’t be shut down on the basis of national politics. Angela Mitropoulos, a scholar on the topic, says only a globalized opposition can succeed.

And to me, that sounds even more depressing than the fact that we’re back to explaining that concentration camps are a bad idea. In a world with Xi Jinping, who puts millions of Uighurs in camps, with Putin, with The US’s own flabby version of an autocrat, with elections being rigged to make Europe fall apart, with the lack of respect and funding for the UN — with all of that the chances of a useful global response seem kind of microscopic.

But then there are the Greta Thunberg’s of the world. An idea catches fire and people decide they’re not going to take it anymore.

I just hope maybe once we can reach that point before the full disaster strikes, not afterward as we’re dragging ourselves out of the horror.

Crossposted to Widdershins

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It’s 2019. Women aren’t even three fifths of a person.

“I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” Joe Biden, 1974

Compare and contrast, as they used to say on essay exams, with this:

Jennifer Wright.
You can’t take organs from a corpse without the deceased’s written permission, even if it will save lives. When you outlaw abortion, you’re allowing women less bodily autonomy than the dead.

Betty Bowers.
In Alabama is it is now more illegal to be a woman who aborts a child of rape than to be the man who raped her.

Chambliss, responding to the IVF argument from Smitherman, cites a part of the bill that says it applies to a pregnant woman. “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.” (But, but, but, now it’s not about the sacred egg+sperm? All that sacredness is only when there’s a woman to control?)

And then, this good idea:

Daniel Silvermint
We should pass a Woman’s Heartbeat law: if a woman has a heartbeat, you can’t tell her what to do with her goddamn body, ever.

B.e.c.a.u.s.e. t.h.a.t. i.s. t.h.e. p.o.i.n.t.

If your heartbeat counts (or counted!), nobody can take parts of you, even to save someone else. No real human being can be forced to donate life support. If the fetus’s heartbeat counts for more than the woman’s providing life support, then she has to be a non-person.

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Are Women Human? Part Umpteen

The talk about fetal personhood bills, and especially Lauren Kelley’s point about the activists turning a health issue into a criminal one, got me thinking. So much so that I actually wrote her some feedback, which now, I guess, I’m going to turn into an open letter of feedback. (There’s a whole series in the NYTimes, a newspaper I’m terminally annoyed with, so I have most of this secondhand from public twitter feeds.)

Pregnancy is a health issue if women are people.

But they really can’t be people to those pushing fetal personhood. If women were actual humans in their minds, the pro-fetus crowd would know that personhood does not mean a guaranteed right to erase women.

After all, if an adult man is about to die for lack of a kidney transplant, we don’t send tissue-typing trucks to roam the streets until a match is found for him and the required spare kidney is extracted. Yet it’s a parallel case. A person (everyone agrees an adult man is a person) will die unless he can use another person’s kidney. If you wanted an exactly parallel case, the healthy person would be drafted to dialyse his blood for nine months. We don’t do that either.

That’s for the simple reason that the counterparty really is a person in that example. In the case of pregnancy, it’s necessarily a woman which somehow makes everything different.

But it isn’t. The only thing that’s different is that plenty of people are not used to thinking of women as actual human beings. They’re brood mares first, humans, maybe, second.

The real assumptions behind all this are important because they determine the ground on which you argue. Remember the old Roe v Wade days and the anti-choicers calling themselves “pro-life”? The size of the joke on us is becoming clearer by the day. At the time too few wanted to hear that accepting bogus terminology ceded the high ground before we’d even begun to fight. Now here we are, pleading for our lives, not our rights.

We need to be as clear as we can about the real terms of the argument. This isn’t really about anyone’s health. If it was, we’d have had those tissue-typing vans driving around ever since organ transplantation was feasible. This isn’t even about whether fetuses are persons. It’s about whether women are persons.

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