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There Is No Détente With The Zombie Hoard

One of the things I accepted on face value when I started regularly using Twitter was that people were called transphobic or TERF for antipathy towards trans people. It was common knowledge that JK Rowling was a trans exclusionary radical feminist. I wasn't sure what that meant but I was assured that it was bad. I also heard repeatedly that I should avoid the work of notorious transphobes like journalist Jesse Singal. I was never given a reason why Singal was transphobic, memes lose their power once explained, he just had a weird obsession with the genitalia of trans people.

After realizing that few things are what they seem on their face on Twitter I did a bit of digging. I came to understand that a TERF was often a woman who believes that trans women are still males and that women need sex segregated spaces. A transphobe is usually someone who supports trans people without accepting all the claims of trans activists. Rowling wrote a long 3400 word open letter in June 2020. In it she explained with great nuance her specific positions and concerns around sex and gender. Her primary concerns are the explosion of girls identifying as trans and the loss of protective spaces for women and girls. If your position is that males identifying as women are women from birth, then you probably believe they belong in those protective spaces. To disallow them would be exclusion and bigoted. If, like Rowling, you believe in biology and sex differences, they do not. It's transphobic to suggest that predatory men might identify as women to victimize women and children. When it does happen, it's a trans woman who was a woman from birth and thus not a predatory man, just a predator.

There has been a near constant waning and waxing storm around people publishing on Substack for over a month now. It's not interesting enough to detail, but it mostly consisted of people calling Singal and journalist Glen Greenwald transphobic and anti-gay. The accusations seemed to originate from a person who had been a woman in a heterosexual marriage, who now identifies as a trans gay man. Because it's amusing, I want to note that Greenwald was a gay man long before this newly gay man began identifying as one calling Greenwald anti-gay. That's a great bit. It speaks to how unhinged and irrational these accusations are. 

The most common complaint about Singal was that he harassed trans teens with concern trolling and stalked trans women. If you ask for specifics you're directed to search Google, the accusations are well documented. Somewhere. When the accusation is detailed it's with something that doesn't back it up. In 2018 Singal published an article in The Atlantic, "When Children Say They're Trans". It's a nuanced attempt to look at concerns with physical transitioning. The growing number and the number de-transitioning raises questions about transitioning being the solution for everyone experiencing gender dysphoria. For a number of trans activist the idea of helping children to desist, bringing their self concept in line with their bodies, is seen as anti-trans conversion therapy. 

To be frank, the accusations are meaningless. They come from people angry with Singal for portraying transition as anything but straightforward with a guaranteed happy ending. So, with his experience, one would expect Singal to be very circumspect with making allegations of transphobia from others. I was disappointed to learn this was not the case when he suggested that Graham Linehan was mocking trans women.

If a journalist were interested in knowing a person's specific goal he'd ask or do a bit of research. Instead Singal makes a lazy leap from the photo to intentional cruelty towards trans women. The photo comes from a series of posts in which Linehan writes about former lesbian, now queer dating app, Her. He signed up to make a point about the loss of women's spaces and growing difficulty of safeguarding children. There is danger in opening up single sex spaces to males on the basis of self identification. He was doing it by showing the absurdity of males who look like him signing up unironically, we assume, as lesbians.

 Singal and podcast partner Katie Herzog produced an episode and a segment in which they address the issue with Linehan. After Herzog admitted to never reading the blog from which the photo was taken and in which Linehan explains his intent. It's a troubling admission from a journalist. Less troubling than the probable truth. They've both read the blog and understand his position. It's a position they seem to share with him.

When he talks about it Linehan relates it to a strategy employed by a character in the Walking Dead. It reminds of an old saying, "I don't have to be faster than the bear, I just have to be faster than you." The character shot another in the leg to attract the zombie hoard. I get it as a strategy. Singal has recently published a book. It seems to be both well written and well considered. There are probably a number of outlets who avoid him because he's been memed as a transphobe over a well written, well considered article. It's just that I'm not sure that it was an effective strategy against the zombies. It may have worked short term, but I'm fairly certain the zombies eventually get him anyway.


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