The Unholy Alliance of Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists and the Right Wing

From Jezebel:

Esther Wang

In April, the House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on the latest iteration of the Equality Act, federal legislation that would enshrine sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal civil rights law. Support for the Equality Act, first introduced in its current form in 2015 by Representative David Cicilline, has grown to encompass high profile Democrats like Hillary Clinton, who said in 2016 that passing the Equality Act would be her “highest priority” if elected, as well as corporate behemoths like Apple, Google, and Nike. With the fight to legalize gay marriage won, groups like the Human Rights Campaign have thrown weight behind the passage of the Act.

Included on the Judiciary Committee’s speakers list was Julia Beck, a 26-year-old lesbian, self-described radical feminist, and a member of the group Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF. But Beck was not there to testify in support of the Equality Act. Invited by Republican members of the committee, she was there to decry the protections that it would provide trans women. “If the act passes in its current form as HR5, then every right that women have fought for will cease to exist,” Beck asserted.

Beck is the latest trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or TERF, to become the darling of right-wing media and conservative politicians who, in recent years, have cloaked their transphobia by embracing the talking points of radical feminists like Beck. These seemingly odd bedfellows united publicly during the Equality Act hearing, where Republicans like Doug Collins and Louie Gohmert voiced their opposition to the Act in the name of women’s rights. The Equality Act, Gohmert said, represented “a war on women that should not be allowed.” Collins, an opponent of gay marriage and abortion rights, spoke approvingly of WoLF, before charging that the bill’s protections of trans people “would demolish the hard-won rights of women, putting them once again at the mercy of any biological man who identifies at any moment as a woman.”

TERF ideology at its core is simple and bigoted: trans women are not women, and their demand for inclusion, and even their very existence, is a danger to women. Beck and others like her are not a new phenomenon—while the term TERF dates to 2008, their ideological underpinnings go at least as far back as the 1960s, to the advent of the women’s liberation movement and in particular to a strain of political lesbianism that staunchly advocated for separatism.

Recently, Beck has become one of the most prominent and recognizable figures in the movement. At the end of 2018, she was kicked off of the Baltimore mayor’s LGBTQ Commission over her belief that trans women are not women, making her, in her words, the “most hated lesbian in Baltimore.” Shortly after, she appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to discuss her ouster from the commission and to reiterate her claim that trans women threaten the safety of what she terms “biological females.”

“When we get down to it, women and girls all share a biological reality,” she told a sympathetic Carlson. “We are all female. But if any man, if any male person can call himself a woman or legally identify as female, then predatory men will do so in order to gain access to women’s single-sex spaces, and this puts every woman and girl at risk.”

The April hearing for the Equality Act was the second time in as many months Beck has testified before Congress—in March, Collins invited her to speak at a hearing on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), where she had again repeated her belief that including trans women under its protections would, in fact, harm women. “VAWA was created for women and girls. Not for those who feel like or identify as female,” Beck stated.

Beck’s ideology has found a natural home in WoLF. Founded in 2014, the organization, in its own words, fights for “the total liberation of women” and “to end male violence, regain reproductive sovereignty, and ultimately dismantle the gender-caste system.” But for all of the talk of women’s rights, and despite the current assault on abortion rights led by Republicans (to name just one example) that would seem a more natural target of their ire, the bulk of WoLF’s activism has been obsessively limited to only one issue: fighting the expansion of trans rights, in the name of preventing the spread of what the group derides as the postmodern concept of “gender identity.” In their opposition, they have aligned with conservative, largely Christian rightwing activists and elected officials, who have their separate, reactionary reasons for wanting to maintain the notion that there is a strict dividing line between man and woman and who have, similarly, reframed the debate about trans rights as one about “safety for women and girls.”

In January, the Heritage Foundation’s notoriously homophobic and transphobic Ryan T. Anderson relied on members of WoLF to help him discredit the Equality Act, inviting Beck and WoLF board members Kara Dansky and Jennifer Chavez to participate in a panel titled “The Inequality of the Equality Act: Concerns from the Left.” (WoLF, it should be noted, has almost no connections to what most would describe as leftist movements, yet it is repeatedly described as a “representative of the left.”) “Everything is about the T now, entirely eclipsing the L, G, and B. The T is diametrically opposed to the first three letters of the acronym, and especially to the L,” Beck said. She added: “The completely illogical statement that trans women are women is recited like a Big Brother mantra in every leftist space,” but for Beck, “female sex is the only qualifier of womanhood.” (By Beck’s own essentialist logic, then, trans men are women.)

Dansky, the former legal counsel for the Americans Civil Liberties Union, raised a question. “Who would be against equality?” she asked. But the Equality Act, she warned darkly, “would utterly obliterate female-only spaces throughout society.”

Before the Judiciary Committee, Beck, her face a stony mask, a small group of her supporters dressed in red behind her, echoed Danksy, rattling off a list of alarmist scenarios that she believed would be ushered in by the passage of the Equality Act:

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Cuba’s Government Bans Pride, Arrests Participants

Around this time 50 years ago I went full time, it was a week or two before Stonewall and I had been on hormones for about three months I was a left wing Berkeley hippie and all the elite left wing leaders were heading off to Cuba to cut sugar cane.

At the same time Cubans were fleeing their totalitarian nation in tiny boats and Castro was throwing LGBT people into prison camps where they were being abused in the name of curing them of the disease if being LGBT.

For me this was one of those WTF? contradictions.  Why am I part of a group that supports regimes that abuse my people and deny them the rights I am fighting for in this country.

From Gay City News:

Mariela Castro, long a supporter of annual event, charges activists’ gathering US-inspired “show”

BY Matt Tracy
May 13, 2019

Mariela Castro, former President Raúl Castro’s daughter, has long been an LGBTQ rights advocate, but in the wake of the government’s cancellation of Pride festivities scheduled for May 11, she charged that the effort by activists to move forward with the event anyway was simply a “show” orchestrated by Cuban exiles in Miami and the US government.

Cuba’s government banned a Pride celebration from taking place in Havana on May 11 and police arrested those who defied the order, marking the latest troubling sign of a regressive shift on LGBTQ issues in a nation that until recently had shown encouraging signs of acceptance of queer rights.

Hundreds of people marched while carrying Rainbow Flags and chanting, “Long live a diverse Cuba,” according to Reuters, before plainclothes police officers carried away some participants and directed others to leave because the event was not allowed. Activists moved ahead with the unpermitted event after the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) had canceled the 12th annual Pride event just days before.

The Cuban government aggressively sought to enforce the order by reaching out to would-be attendees on social media and in person to warn them not to hold such an event.

The legal landscape for LGBTQ people in Cuba appears to be positive in some areas. Transgender people have had free access to sex reassignment surgery for more than a decade and it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

But a movement late last year to embed same-sex marriage rights in the new constitution was squashed by pressure from religious groups, particularly evangelical churches, and now the cancellation of Pride marks yet another shift to the right.

The event’s cancellation came as a surprise not only because it had gone on successfully for more than a decade but also because it was originally planned by but later nixed by CENESEX, a group led by Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raúl Castro, who remains first secretary of the Communist Party. She has developed a reputation for being an LGBTQ rights activist, and as recently as five months ago she pushed back against religious conservatives who pushed to reject marriage equality, saying, “We haven’t given in or will give in to the fundamentalist blackmail and backward thinking of people who politically oppose the project.”

But as LGBTQ activists continued planning for a Pride celebration after CENESEX’s cancellation, Castro took to social media to declare that the grassroots event was merely a “show” organized by Cuban exiles in Miami and “backed by officials of the US Embassy and covered by the foreign press.” An article that she attached to that Facebook post suggested that the Pride event was connected to US geopolitical interests in Venezuela.

Even as she criticized the May 11 gathering, Castro voiced support for LGBTQ rights through her Facebook and Twitter pages, urging people in a tweet the day before “to make these days against homophobia and transphobia a space for unity.”

The outlook for further progress on LGBTQ rights in Cuba is unclear given developments on both the nation’s new constitution and this month’s flap over Pride, but President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who took power last year, has publicly declared his support of “marriage between people without any restrictio­ns.”

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Paul Ehrlich: ‘Collapse of civilization is a near certainty within decades’

From The Guardian UK:

Fifty years after the publication of his controversial book The Population Bomb, biologist Paul Ehrlich warns overpopulation and overconsumption are driving us over the edge

Damian Carrington
Thu 22 Mar 2018

A shattering collapse of civilisation is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to humanity’s continuing destruction of the natural world that sustains all life on Earth, according to biologist Prof Paul Ehrlich.

In May, it will be 50 years since the eminent biologist published his most famous and controversial book, The Population Bomb. But Ehrlich remains as outspoken as ever.

The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change.

Ehrlich also says an unprecedented redistribution of wealth is needed to end the over-consumption of resources, but “the rich who now run the global system – that hold the annual ‘world destroyer’ meetings in Davos – are unlikely to let it happen”.

The Population Bomb, written with his wife Anne Ehrlich in 1968, predicted “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” in the 1970s – a fate that was avoided by the green revolution in intensive agriculture.

Many details and timings of events were wrong, Paul Ehrlich acknowledges today, but he says the book was correct overall.

“Population growth, along with over-consumption per capita, is driving civilisation over the edge: billions of people are now hungry or micronutrient malnourished, and climate disruption is killing people.”

Ehrlich has been at Stanford University since 1959 and is also president of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, which works “to reduce the threat of a shattering collapse of civilisation”.

“It is a near certainty in the next few decades, and the risk is increasing continually as long as perpetual growth of the human enterprise remains the goal of economic and political systems,” he says. “As I’ve said many times, ‘perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell’.”

It is the combination of high population and high consumption by the rich that is destroying the natural world, he says. Research published by Ehrlich and colleagues in 2017 concluded that this is driving a sixth mass extinction of biodiversity, upon which civilisation depends for clean air, water and food.

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Inside the school for transgender children – BBC News

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Guy Clark


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Doris Day, Movie Star Who Charmed America, Dies at 97

I grew up watching her movies.

From The New York Times:

By Aljean Harmetz
May 13, 2019

Doris Day, the freckle-faced movie actress whose irrepressible personality and golden voice made her America’s top box-office star in the early 1960s, died on Monday at her home in Carmel Valley, Calif. She was 97.

The Doris Day Animal Foundation announced her death.

Ms. Day began her career as a big-band vocalist, and she was successful almost from the start: One of her first records, “Sentimental Journey,” released in 1945, sold more than a million copies, and she went on to have numerous other hits. The bandleader Les Brown, with whom she sang for several years, once said, “As a singer Doris belongs in the company of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.”

But it was the movies that made her a star.

Between “Romance on the High Seas” in 1948 and “With Six You Get Eggroll” in 1968, she starred in nearly 40 movies. On the screen she turned from the perky girl next door in the 1950s to the woman next door in a series of 1960s sex comedies that brought her four first-place rankings in the yearly popularity poll of theater owners, an accomplishment equaled by no other actress except Shirley Temple.

In the 1950s she starred, and most often sang, in comedies (“Teacher’s Pet,” “The Tunnel of Love”), musicals (“Calamity Jane,” “April in Paris,” “The Pajama Game”) and melodramas (“Young Man With a Horn,” the Alfred Hitchcock thriller “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Love Me or Leave Me”).

James Cagney, her co-star in “Love Me or Leave Me,” said Ms. Day had “the ability to project the simple, direct statement of a simple, direct idea without cluttering it.” He compared her performance to Laurette Taylor’s in “The Glass Menagerie” on Broadway in 1945, widely hailed as one of the greatest performances ever given by an American actor.

She went on to appear in “Pillow Talk” (1959), “Lover Come Back” (1961) and “That Touch of Mink” (1962), fast-paced comedies in which she fended off the advances of Rock Hudson (in the first two films) and Cary Grant (in the third). Those movies, often derided today as examples of the repressed sexuality of the ’50s, were considered daring at the time.

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Gender Dysphoria Isn’t A “Social Contagion,” According To A New Study

From Buzzfeed:

A Brown researcher slams the 2018 study — from a different researcher at Brown — which found teenagers were identifying as trans due to “rapid-onset gender dysphoria.”

Shannon Keating
April 22, 2019

A controversial study claiming that some teens abruptly decide to change genders due to peer pressure was deeply flawed, according to a scathing new scientific critique.

The original 2018 study used a new term — “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” or ROGD — to describe certain young adults, typically those assigned female at birth, who develop gender dysphoria due to “social and peer contagion.” The paper has been widely cited, particularly in conservative media, to cast doubt on many gender-nonconforming people’s experiences by framing trans identification as a trend, phase, or disease.

But scientific critics and trans advocates have long criticized the methods chosen by the paper’s author, Lisa Littman of Brown University. Within a week of its publication in August 2018, PLOS One, the journal in which the study appeared, announced that it would seek “further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses,” citing reader concerns. This, in turn, prompted Brown to remove a press release touting its findings. Just last month, PLOS One published a correction and an apology, while also noting that the study’s results were largely unchanged.

Arjee Restar, a trans researcher in the same department as Littman at Brown, told BuzzFeed News that even in the corrected version of the study, “the methods remain unchanged, flawed, and below scientific standards.”

Frustrated by how the work was handled by the journal and her own institution, Restar, a trans graduate student at Brown’s School of Public Health, wrote the new critique, the most thorough and damning description of the research to date.

Restar’s study, published today in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, points to several methodological problems, such as relying on survey responses from parents who had visited sites promoting anti-trans views, and biasing their responses with the wording of the study’s consent forms. Littman’s approach, Restar contends, pathologizes trans people. “It’s important to use methods and terminologies that don’t further stigmatize an already disenfranchised community,” she said.

Littman declined to discuss the new critique with BuzzFeed News. But in an interview with the website Quillette last month, she stood by her research, saying, “Overall, I am very pleased with the final product and [with the fact] that my work has withstood this extensive peer-review process.”

Since its publication last year, Littman’s study has reverberated widely throughout many distinct communities, from parenting websites to lawmakers to health care professionals.

Last October, for example, more than 1,000 parents of gender-nonconforming children wrote a letter to the American Academy of Pediatrics begging them to reconsider their trans-affirming health care policy recommendations. The letter cites Littman’s work as “a recent groundbreaking study” about trans-identified youth that “finds significant parallels with the phenomenon of eating disorders, and includes social contagion as a key factor.”

The American College of Pediatricians, classified as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, cites Littman’s study to advocate against trans-affirming health care; its representatives recently met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill fight the passage of the Equality Act. And Transgender Trend, one of the sites Littman used to gather responses for her study, has published a lengthy school resource pack that warns a child’s gender dysphoria can be a result of “simple social contagion.”

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We Are Taking Religious Freedom Too Far

Religious freedom laws are just another identity groups ramming its version of political correctness down other people’s throats.

From The New York Times:

We have a right to practice our beliefs, but we don’t have the right to discriminate against others, or endanger their lives.

By Margaret Renkl
May 6, 2019

NASHVILLE — In 1976 I left a small Catholic grammar school, where we prayed aloud four times a day, to attend a large public high school where we didn’t pray aloud at all. The United States Supreme Court had banned school-sponsored prayer in 1962, but nobody was keeping me from praying. I prayed for help on my biology test. I prayed for the red-haired boy in Alabama History to smile at me, and I gave a little prayer of thanksgiving when he did. I offered up silent prayers of astonishment and silent prayers of gratitude and silent prayers for peace — peace for my own agitated heart and peace for the whole agitated world. I prayed all day long, and no one in my public school had any idea I was praying at all.

It has been decades since I prayed my way through high school, but all across the red states, conservative Christians are still challenging that 1962 decision, constantly pushing the limits of what “student-led” prayer in public school, which the ruling permits, really means. Earlier this year, a 17-year-old student in Louisiana sued her school district for beginning the day with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Technically a student leads the prayer. In reality the student reads from a printout that school officials set beside the microphone.

Conservative Christians are forever trying to inject their personal religious beliefs into the public sphere. Here in Tennessee, the owner of a small-town bakery just outside Nashville recently reneged on an agreement to bake a wedding cake because the wedding in question involved two brides and no grooms. “I really enjoyed our time together and I truly wish you the best,” the shop owner texted one of the brides after the cake-tasting, “but after realizing that your union will be of the same sex, I cannot with my spiritual conviction and beliefs, do your cake!” Nevertheless, she added, “I do love you in the Lord!”

It would be almost funny if it weren’t so unfair. It’s illegal for a store owner to discriminate against customers because they happen to belong to a group against which the shopkeeper harbors a personal prejudice. It’s illegal for a racist to open a restaurant that serves only white people. Prejudice cloaked in the robes of religious faith should follow the same precedent.

Only it doesn’t. In this country, citing religious or spiritual convictions is often a surefire way to get out of doing something you’re required by law to do. If your religion claims that homosexuality is sinful, this logic goes, then why should you be required to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple? If practicing birth control runs counter to your church’s teaching, then why should the health insurance you offer your employees be required to cover a vasectomy? And why, if your religion teaches you to forego vaccines that prevent viral illnesses, should you be required to vaccinate your children?

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Mayor Pete Buttigieg Speaks at 2019 HRC Las Vegas Dinner

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Family

Mother Maybelle Carter, matriarch of the Carter Family was born 110 years ago today on May 10, 1909.

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Bob Dylan

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Rabbi Sacks on the connection between, antisemitism, anti-Zionism, Judaism and Israel

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