Opinion: Sex is Real

Opinion

Sex is real. Insofar as there are contexts where the distinction between (biological) sex and (social) gender are important, there are indeed characteristics that can be regarded as attributes of ‘sex’ rather than ‘gender’.

The thing is, I’m not “one of the good transes” for believing this. Pretty much everyone believes this. We may disagree on whether biological sex is the be-all and end-all of everything. We may disagree on whether the distinction is applicable in every context. We may disagree on whether it’s an appropriate category around which to organise a society. We may disagree that having one sexed characteristic implies having all sexed characteristics. But we agree that there are biologically sexed characteristics that it is important for our doctors to know — on the understanding that medical confidentiality is a thing, yes, put your hand down, even for trans people.

Sex has to be real, right? If sex weren’t real, there would be no difference between being trans and being cis. Of course sex is real, and of course trans people believe sex is real.

But…

  • Lying about how the single sex exemptions in the Equality Act work is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Spreading scaremongering misinformation about whether Gender Recognition Act Reform will affect the Equality Act (it won’t) is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Pretending that the Equality Act doesn’t protect gender identity when the wording of the definition of “gender reassignment” quite clearly includes identity is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Indicating an intent to abuse trans co-workers and clients is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Calling trans women perverted fetishists is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Using the transition of a spouse as an excuse for abusive behaviour in that relationship is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Saying that trans people don’t belong at Pride, an event that has welcomed trans people since its inception, is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • The transphobic press’ love-affair with excusing transphobes on the grounds that they are mothers is not “just saying sex is real”. That is literally gender.
  • Lying that trans people are more likely to be sexual predators is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Demonising the trans community as a “paedophile cult grooming kids” just for supporting trans kids’ right to exist is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Saying that transphobes are the people who should be allowed to control the development of trans kids, and not, more accurately, the very people trans kids need to be protected from is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • The ableist lie that autistic people do not have the decisional capacity to be trans is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Saying that trans people should be sterilised is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Pretending that homophobic regimes are somehow part of “the trans agenda” when really they’re not that great for trans people either and are in fact a lot closer to how transphobes believe trans people should be treated is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Pretending that regimes that were transphobic last year suddenly introducing more comprehensive anti-LGBTQ+ laws this year is a shocking surprise and not just a completely predictable extension is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories about “institutional capture” and “the well-funded trans cabal” is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • The actual blood libel of headlines like “Children Sacrificed to Appease Trans Lobby” is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Going on outraged harassment campaigns against anyone who dares to acknowledge that trans people even exist is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Somehow believing that corporate support of trans people is sincere and therefore suspect when you know full-well that corporate support of the rest of the LGBTQ+ community is cynical and dishonest is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Calling the transition of assigned-male-at-birth people who are attracted to men “conversion therapy” is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Calling trans women who are attracted to men “genuine transsexuals” while dismissing trans women who are attracted to women as ‘autogynephiles’ is not only not “just saying sex is real” but also directly contradictory to the previous point.
  • Pretending that trans women are forcing lesbians to have sex with them is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Obsessively collating incidences of trans criminality as if, Nazi-like, you believe all trans people should be held responsible for that is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Meanwhile dismissing any and all crimes against trans people as somehow “not counting” is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Claiming that it is a ‘slur’ to use terms trans people need to describe their own experiences on their own behalf instead of allowing transphobes to talk over them is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Taking any excuse to deny trans people’s autonomy is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Calling for actual violence against trans people is not “just saying sex is real”.
  • Calling for “the elimination of transgenderism” or “morally mandating it out of existence” is definitely not “just saying sex is real”.

That’s the thing about “sex is real”. Nobody really disagrees with it, so if you say you’re being challenged “just for saying sex is real”, either that’s the only thing you said and you have added literally nothing to the conversation, or you did, in fact, say some other things that you’d rather not be accountable for.

The term for this is a Motte and Bailey argument, which is a form of bait-and-switch, where an arguer takes two arguments — an easy-to-defend one (the ‘motte’) and a difficult-to-defend one (the ‘bailey’) — and pretends they are the same. There are a couple of reasons for doing this. One is to smuggle in an uninspected argument under cover of another argument, and another is to make your opponent look foolish for appearing to disagree with an obviously correct position.

Aside from the list above, the main uninspected argument smuggled in under cover of “sex is real” is “trans people are not real”. One of these does not follow from the other, but the transphobe, by pretending they are equivalent, hopes to get a free pass on the latter by arguing the former.

Of course, the “sex is real” dogwhistle is intended to make trans people look not just foolish, but downright unreasonable. This is an obvious hypocrisy when the tactic used to achieve this is itself unreasonable, and certainly has no place in the “reasonable debate” the fascist hate group pretends to want.