The Other Opponents of Transgender Rights in Canada:

April 2, 2017 in General

Who are the other opponents of transgender rights within Canada’s Bill C-16 debate?

Briefly, let us deal with TERFs (trans exclusive radical feminists). TERFs are one form of feminism and do not speak for all feminist strands. Socialist, Maori and anarchist feminists do not have philosophical problems with the proposition that transwomen represent a particular strand of female experience because their feminist political and philosophical frameworks do not believe in solitary forms of oppression such as male domination. Nor do all radical feminists oppose transgender rights. TERF feminists often belong to a particularly pessimistic branch of feminist activism which views pornography, sex work and transgender rights as a ‘sexualised’ offensive against ‘women born women.’ Because lesbians are viewed as the advance vanguard of radical feminist political organising, they form one contingent of this particular feminist activist strand. They tend to be restricted to abrasive interpersonal interactions with transfeminists and their allies, except when they either philosophically converge or actively collaborate with conservative Christian opponents of transgender rights. In that context, the aforementioned other feminist strands fiercely and actively oppose them. In New Zealand, TERFs are not a significant strand of opposition to transgender rights.

Once, the same could not be said for the other philosophical strand opposed to transgender rights outside conservative Christian circles, objectivist libertarians. Other factions of libertarianism are quite open to inclusive broad spectrum political activism outside their opposition to the comprehensive welfare state and strong trade unionism- and support abortion rights, sex workers rights, drug policy liberalisation, euthanasia law reform and trans-inclusive antidiscrimination laws. As with TERFs above, the problem is with a particular faction of libertarians- objectivism. Objectivism is a political philosophy invented by Russian Jewish emigre Ayn Rand, who lauded large capitalist corporations and entrepreneurs, and whose ideas about aesthetics and political philosophy were somewhat archaic. Despite being an avowed atheist, she believed in the ahistorical ‘natural law’ theories of Aristotle, Plato, Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. This meant that her disciples tended to oppose gay rights, as well as African-American civil rights and subsidisation of abortion access as these were viewed as ‘statist’ impositions on an ‘unfettered’ free market- never mind what good fiscal sense they might also make. Any feminist, LGBT or ethnicity based argument against this de facto conservatism is dismissed as ‘political correctness’, which has essentially become a populist cliche devoid of substantive content.

Apparently, in the case of Canada’s C-16 debate, one diehard opponents of transgender rights could well be an unconfessed objectivist libertarian- Dr Jordan Petersen of the University of Toronto, who argues on the surface that C-16′s prohibition of anti-transgender rhetoric and hate propaganda constitutes an ‘excessive intrusion’ on ‘free speech.’ Which is all very well, but that isn’t all that he says. Nor is he correct, given that no-one is obstructing transphobes from continuing to cast aspersions or formulate conspiracy theories against transgender rights within the Canadian context. In Petersen’s case, one particularly suspicious element of his opposition to C-16 centres on his use of the anodyne right-wing cliche ‘political correctness’ to dismiss trans-inclusive antidiscrimination laws, alternative use of personal pronoun descriptions, and other attributes of C-16. One further clue was Petersen’s open disparaging of the virtue of compassion, empathy and social solidarity in a debate last year at the Unitversity of Toronto between two trans-inclusive feminist academics and himself- which seems to suggest that Professor Petersen is committed to a philosophical framework that condemns altruism and social solidarity…such as Ayn Rand’s objectivist libertarianism? Now, I am not saying that Petersen is an objectivist libertarian, although he does seem to firmly be situated on the political right in this context. Indeed, in one address to the Alberta Conservative Party on the question of C-16, he gave further clues about his philosophical provenance- condemning feminist employment equity reforms in the same context.

Fortunately, Canada seems too laid back and inclusive to accept this fringe philosophy of perjorative rhetoric and ideological assertion- like New Zealand.

Recommended:

Brenda Cossman: “Bill C-16: No, it’s Not About Criminalising Pronoun Use” Mark Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies: http://sds.utoronto.ca/blog/bill-c-16-no-its-not-about-criminalizing-pronoun-misuse/

Tamara Khandaker: No, the Trans Rights Bill does not criminalise free speech” Vice: 25.10.2016: https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/no-the-trans-rights-bill-doesnt-criminalize-free-speech

“Prof attacks political correctness in gender neutral pronouns, Bill C-16″ CTV News: 25.10.2016: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/prof-attacks-political-correctness-in-genderless-pronouns-bill-c-16-1.3102574

Christie Blatchford: “If gender identity debate at University of Toronto was about free speech, then the debate is well and truly lost’ National Post: 22.11.2016: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/christie-blatchford-if-gender-identity-debate-at-u-of-t-was-about-free-speech-then-the-battle-is-truly-lost

“U of T Prof Jordan Petersen and the gender pronoun controversy” Metro Toronto: 16.01.2017: http://www.metronews.ca/news/toronto/2017/01/15/uoft-prof-jordan-peterson-teaching-again.html

Alexander Offord: “The Intellectual Fraudulence of Jordan Petersen” Blog: 01.11.2016: http://alexanderofford.com/the-intellectual-fraudulence-of-jordan-peterson-apropos-of-daniel-karasik/

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