Heterodox Humanity in Trans-Activism
Hold my Drink Podcast Blog, Episode 32
When I originally started the Hold my Drink podcast the main thrust was to explore political division, extreme ideology, and racial tension in America. Hence the intro that states – join us as we discuss what it takes to imagine a new American identity, together.
As part of this exploration, I centered my search on those who dismiss ideological dogma in favor of viewpoint diversity and critical thinking in the U.S. Now I think I may want to change this little tagline. It’s less about finding a common American identity, and really about a search for our common humanity. As we discussed in an earlier podcast, it is an effort in star-manning.
Moreover, it’s not really about an identity per se. Identities too often have tribal allegiances that are hyper-focused on differences. It is perhaps more proper to say that we are looking for commonality in shared values. An identity of sorts, that encompasses the good, bad and the ugly, but with the objective of always improving upon the ideals of freedom, liberty and equality as foundational principles.
In this search for commonalities around these shared values, it has become a much larger mission, imagining a universal humanity that transcends boundaries on a map. And so, as part of this search for universal humanity, we’ve traveled across the pond to discuss viewpoint diversity with Debbie Hayton, a trans activist in the UK.
After Debbie’s transition, she tried to keep her mouth shut, she tells us. She just wanted to live her life. So much defines her outside of a trans identity. She’s a scientist, a teacher, a trade unionist, a writer and a parent. However, about 5 or so years ago, as the trans community started to become more vocal in the public square, she felt compelled to push back on some of the emerging discourse, namely, to weigh in on the scientific reality of biological sex.
This hasn’t been a popular stance within many trans circles. To be clear, she has no problem with someone who identifies with a different sex or gender, it is the myth of biology that her scientific mind refuses to accept.
In some of her controversial articles, she likens the new movement to a neo-religious crusade, demanding “that adherents chant an absurdist liturgy – in this case, ‘Transwomen and women. Transmen are men.’” Her response was to make a shirt that said “Transwomen are men. Get over it”, which resulted in considerable outrage.
She remembers back to a time when she transitioned, when the success of transition was measured by the pronouns people automatically used based on how you presented to the world. The problem she sees is that now is the growing cognitive dissonance when people are not always changing the way they publicly present but are still demanding that the world change to accommodate their preferred identity.
At the end of the day, she refuses the offense when people mix up her pronouns. She didn’t transition to make a statement to the rest of the world, she transitioned for herself and her own mental health. However, given the current tension in the trans movement, she finds that most people walk on eggshells in conversations with her for fear of backlash.
Many of my friends of different shades, sexual preferences and gender identities, tell me that this pussyfooting around them is starting to get old, even demeaning. Debbie is no exception.
If we remain afraid of conversation for the fear of disagreement, we move further away from embracing a universal and heterodox humanity that generates a compassion for those who present differently – ideologically, physically and otherwise.
Conversations are hard and life is messy. Constructive disagreement and dialogue are healthy and helpful in a heterodox community for generating compassion and understanding. Can we take a page out of Debbie’s book to jump into the fray without it fraying our universal humanity? Can we just get over it?
In the Hold my Drink – navigating the news and politics with a chaser of civility – and Counterweight podcast, Episode 32, we speak with Debbie Hayton, a controversial trans activist who embraces viewpoint diversity within the community. We speak about her transition, definitions of sexuality, gender and the importance of individual experiences. She shares with us her views on biology that have sparked offense within the trans community and the difficulties of navigating monolithic views of a trans identity in a complex world. All discussed with a chaser of civility, of course, and a diet Mountain Dew, a pinot noir and a beer.
Hold My Drink welcomes all people with all kinds of beverages to join us as we discuss what it takes to imagine a new American identity, together.
What Debbie is reading
Gender Dysphoria: A Therapeutic Model for Working with Children, Adolescents and Young Adults by Marcus and Sue Evans
Gender is not a spectrumAeon, Dr Rebecca Reilly-Cooper
Irreversible Damage Abigail Shrier
What Jen is reading
Caitlin Jenner is right about trans athletes and women’s sports, Spectator, Debbie Hayton
How Richard Dawkins fell victim to the transgender thought police, Spectator, Debbie Hayton
I May Have Gender Dysphoria. But I Still Prefer to Base My Life on Biology Not Fantasy, Quillette, Debbie Hayton
Gender identity needs to be based on objective evidence rather than feelings, The Economist, Debbie Hayton
Ignoring Jessica Yaniv allows her to distort the struggle for trans equity, The Globe and Mail, Robyn Urback
Debbie Hayton is a high school teacher and trade union officer. She teaches science to 11-18-year-olds at a school in central England. As a transgender person, she has written extensively about what it means to be trans and how trans people can be included in society without compromising the rights of other vulnerable groups. Her work can be read in publications from across the political spectrum, where rational scientific debate is allowed and encouraged. You can read more about her and her transition on her page: https://debbiehayton.com/ Follow her on Twitter @DebbieHayton