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Gender and no end: Why the anti-trans debate just won't die down


In the name of biology, feminism or freedom of speech, widespread resentments are invoked in the discourse about trans* people. It is an alliance of interest groups to which the media contributes.

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"Biology only knows two sexes" - this sentence is not a basis for debate, it is a battle cry

Photo: Patricia Boyce/EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

It is no coincidence that in the post-factual age, discussions about social issues at some point invoke supposedly certain ultimate truths.

Wherever different interpretations of the present clash, the call for inescapable facts quickly becomes loud in order to justify a wide variety of political projects and to establish them in the name of »common sense«.

Mechanisms and actors of the social networks and the leading media that compete with them both inspire the longing for felt truths.

A supposed ultimate truth, which many voices would like to get involved in at the moment, goes like this: »Biology only knows two sexes«.

This sentence about the state of knowledge of a scientific discipline has been widely discussed in social media, the feature pages and academic circles in recent weeks and months - it has become a battle cry in places.

The trigger was a biologist's lecture on the subject: first canceled and then postponed, supposedly "cancelled" and then held at the Humboldt University with almost national attention.

Now the dispute continues unabated and has recently resulted in lawsuits for defamation, attacks and fundraisers.

Feuds rage on Twitter between anonymous people and real names about the persecution of non-gender-conforming people under National Socialism or the reproduction of fish.

Evidence is collected for each other's guilt for escalating the debate with »disinformation«.

The leading media are beneficiaries of these dynamics and invite experts* to present the "neutral facts" of biology or gender.

In this way, the media personalize the debate, fuel a culture war with real damage and contribute to the escalation.

This is the first thing to be said about the so-called Vollbrecht causa: from Springer to Die Zeit, leading media are cynical or ignorant enough to create scandalous debates about "biology" and so-called "scientific freedom" from complex mixtures and discussions - in activist, academic or Twitter contexts « to fire.

The case of Vollbrecht

As a reminder: In June, the »Welt« published an article about alleged »transgender ideology« and »indoctrination of children« by the public broadcaster.

The previously largely unknown biologist Vollbrecht was one of the authors of the article, along with other voices who have been speaking out with anti-trans positions for a long time.

The article was a collaboration between various interest groups: so-called radical feminists who have been agitating against transgenderity for years in the name of biological feminism;

Right-wing conservative actors who have also long been taking action against people and issues in gender and queer studies.

Right-wing conservatives and radical feminist voices met in the article in undisguised transphobia,

Because of this activist background, a group of students criticized the planned biology lecture at the Long Night of Science.

Protests and counter-protests were registered, and the organizing Humboldt University canceled the lecture in order to make up for it later as a media-effective solo event.

The activist against »transgender ideology« became the »representative of biology« – a framing that almost all media adopted without context and continue to this day.

The anti-trans activism had managed a media coup with the support of the »world«, other media and a clumsy university.

One end is not foreseen.

Even if it is often portrayed as such: the Vollbrecht cause has little to do with the person or expertise of a biology PhD student and activist.

Rather, this unspeakable debate is a symptom of a radical discourse in which antigenderism, transphobia, gender conservatism and the mainstream shake hands wonderfully.

The force of the attention shows how widespread resentment against trans* people is and how easy it is to mobilize a broad public – a little scientific simulation, an accusation of censorship.

This is the second important point: the debate about »only two genders« is preceded by a discussion that essentially negotiates the right to exist of trans* people and non-binary people - i.e. people who are not represented and discriminated against in the biologically absolute two-gender system .

This »discussion« is inhuman: there is no trans debate.

Nobody can deny trans people the right to exist - not in the name of biology, feminism or freedom of expression.

But that is exactly the state of the German discussion, as the past few weeks have made clear: part of our society wants to make life decisions

judge of people according to a rigid biological model, and he would like to be able to express this doctrine without criticism and supported by the media.

Trans* people have to explain and prove their existence again and again, in front of an audience that explains the opposite to them with biology, feminism or "scientific standards": they can't or shouldn't exist.

Push against the Self-Determination Act

This situation is discriminatory on the whole and thus expresses exactly the current legal situation: According to the 40-year-old »Transsexual Act (TSG)«, trans people have to prove their gender in front of experts and a court.

In this process, the state decides with medical and psychological experts on the reality of people's lives.

Until 2011, the recognition of the new gender depended on inhumane criteria: enforced inability to reproduce, surgical and hormonal measures, fulfillment of the “role pattern” of the target gender.

Even in its watered-down form, the TSG is not compatible with the Basic Law, as the Federal Constitutional Court has confirmed several times.

Against great resistance, activists have been fighting for a self-determination law for decades - a political commitment that Adrian de Silva

presented in detail in his study "Negotiating the Borders of the Gender Regime

" (2018).

Despite malicious incantations by an allegedly powerful »translobby« (FAZ), the Bundestag rejected the so-called self-ID law by a large majority in May 2021.

The traffic light coalition is currently working on a new bill.

The key points were presented to the public on June 30, 2022 - two days before the lecture was to take place at Humboldt University.

The simultaneity is significant: What is currently being practiced under the wrong keywords »biological facts«, »freedom of science« or »campaign against young doctoral student« is an anti-trans push against the Self-Determination Act, the basic rights of trans* people and their visibility.

The extent is reminiscent of the US “

trans panic

” and its right-wing extremists.

The real-world consequences range from public doxing – private information about trans* people and their families being made public – to violent actions against people and projects.

In June of this year, the far-right Identitarian Movement walled up a Viennese library that had organized a reading with drag queens.

In August, British streamer Clara Sorrenti was sent home under pretense by a special police unit (so-called swatting) who arrested her at gunpoint.

The connection between right-wing populists, Twitter trolls and feminist splinter groups

The anti-trans discourse about “just two genders” has had a surprising staying power, bringing diverse actors together and appealing to widespread resentment.

For decades, various, mostly right-wing conservative groups have been agitating against the so-called “gender ideology”, which allegedly wants to destroy everything: freedom of science and opinion, the family, children’s happiness and gender itself.

For a long time, the threat of a "gender dictatorship" was made noticeable on the so-called gender star (which can still be used voluntarily).

Currently there is the phantasm of "dangerous men in women's clothing" who, as in Hitchcock's "Psycho"

lurking everywhere: »False women« are said to populate toilets, women’s shelters and Green Party quota places – this is the argument of a broad alliance of actors, from Beatrix von Storch (AfD) to bestselling author JK Rowling (»Harry Potter«).

Also in the name of a feminism: associations like Women's Declaration International

(WDI) represent the so-called radical feminism, according to which trans* women are symptoms of patriarchy, would »colonize femininity« and are thus an expression of male tyranny over women.

Trans* men are merely escaping their oppressed gender position in the spirit of patriarchy, argues WDI, whose position is isolated as “extremist” in international feminism.

When right-wing populists, Twitter trolls and feminist splinter groups unite, it becomes clear that this unspeakable and ongoing campaign is nowhere about biological research or the persona of a young doctoral student and activist.

Rather, the strategic core of this affair lies in organizing new political alliances over anti-trans resentment.

All the major media, which in recent weeks have willingly and complicitly adopted the keywords »cancel culture«, »translobby« and the martyr figures of anti-gender populism, are helping these actors: they are giving them scope and authority for their agitation.

These alliances are unlikely to prevent the upcoming self-ID law.

However, they can have a negative impact on social acceptance, even leading to the phantasm that the new regulation would endanger women and children or that "left-wing activists" would take away the gender of normal citizens.

None of this is the case: the Self-ID Act is intended to free people from a discriminatory legal position that defines them as “sick”.

Instead of orchestrating manufactured scandals, the media should report more about this situation: the realities of life, health care and discrimination of different people.

In this way, knowledge about the complex gender realities of our society could also be imparted: applying a simple and rigid system of »only two genders« to the differences between people and relationships requires a great deal of effort.

It also means violence against all bodies and lifestyles that don't conform to idealized gender roles -- and that's far more than anti-trans activism suggests.

In order to ensure the functioning of the inadequate system of "gender binary" - which also forces rigid and problematic roles on cis people - those who appear to damage or threaten it are monitored and punished.

The unspeakable debate of the last few weeks is above all an expression of this surveillance and penal apparatus: the "only two-gender system" controls its borders.

Source: spiegel

All life articles on 2022-08-14

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