I realize you don’t need to hear it from a stranger, but you are SUCH a great writer. Whenever I get your newsletter in my inbox or see your byline, I’m psyched because reading you is a real pleasure. Since you got hounded out of academia (their loss; the world’s gain) and are now truly liberated, your language always sings; your voice is so clear and fluid and strong and human (and funny!). Anyway, you’re a gift and so is your writing. Thank you.

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Great comment. Agree with every word.

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I'm not gay (or LBTQI+ etc), but unlike most academics, I do spend a lot of my time talking to people (some of them are my friends and family!) who are not academics themselves, and (shock) don't even live in the south of England. Some 'lived experience' to feed back, on behalf of the provincial yokels.

The broad culture war is broadly won (broadly, because the last hold-outs of homophobic bigotry are going to die of old age in the next 20 years). It's now widely considered OK to be gay, by most ordinary people. This is a fantastic achievement, and one that gay (pride) activists deserve enormous credit for.

But gains can be lost, or at least shouldn't be taken for granted. As per your point above - a whole *month*? A month in which one very particular presentation of what it means to be gay (as per your point above, rainbows) is what is rammed home as the definition? A whole month in which corporate woke bullshit is used to flog everything from packs of Skittles to BMWs, and which absolutely nobody is fooled by? A whole month in which - as on the radio in the taxi I was riding in yesterday - being gay and lesbian and queer and trans (and all the rest) are lumped in together and presented as being *the same thing*? Even though any adult with half a brain cell wants to know why a *gender identity* is now supposed to be the same thing as a *sexual orientation*?

This is, to put the point bluntly, poor political strategy. Ordinary people are on the one hand now quite happy to let other people shag whoever they want in the privacy of their own bedrooms. (This is fantastic, unqualified progress.) But ordinary people still have their own complex, often stressful, not always enjoyable or easy, lives to get on with leading, and what most of them may increasingly start to wonder is why they are being asked to gee up the status of (a particular, partial, selective version of) a select group which many of them may soon start to think are doing *better* than they are.

This is the kind of material that backlashes are made of. And even if you think the yokels are at fault, and need to purge the last vestiges of their bigotry...well unless you've got a magic wand by which you'll be doing the cleansing, it might be smart to stop and think about the political realities of how that might play out in future.

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One reality being: they're going to vote Tory, as it's the Tories who will position themselves as on the side of the ordinary people not part of this Pride metropolitan elite. So if you don't want that, think about maybe not creating the conditions in which the right can weaponise things against you.

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Sorry I cant make head nor tail of that, perhaps it's because I am one of 'them'? or am I an ordinary person? perhaps I'm a yokel perhaps I am just not an academic?

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Wow what arseholes. So glad you are free

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Jun 7, 2022·edited Jun 7, 2022

I just don't get these people. And I try, because they have an influence on our culture that only seems to grow, despite being (I think) a much smaller minority than they would like to believe.

On one hand they keep telling us that we need to respect lived experience, that whatever feeling one holds is sacred and undisputable, even if it contradicts the feeling of the previous day or the feeling of everyone else in the world. On the other hand express a feeling they do not like and they will do everything in their power to destroy your life.

How do they maintain those contradictions in their heads? Like believing that skin color and sexuality are what separate people while biological sex plays no influence? (try to act as a doctor on these ideas and see the results). Or saying that no human rights progress has been made in the West in 200 years when the West is the source of ALL human right ideas that guided progress in the world those last 200 years.

Every time I read about them and try to understand them, I get a headache. How the hell do they live like that?

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Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I'm not lesbian but as a woman I can relate to so many things you say.

And on a lighter note: not wearing makeup is a blessed relief because you can roll into bed at night without having to worry about taking the stuff off 😄

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Jun 8, 2022·edited Jun 8, 2022

I am sorry you had such a painful experience--but perhaps it catalyzed so much of your subsequent maturation.

I am not a philosopher. I believe modern iterations of it mostly to be pseudo-intellectual mutual masturbation. Really: What is a woman? Only someone who is NOT a woman has to contort their thinking to come up with something other than "an adult human female." Of course, a man who desperately needs others to see him as a woman (in order to achieve full narcissistic and sexual gratification) is going to cosplay Plato in order to try to convince a world that, deep down, he knows better.

I hardly think of myself as a feminist. I have always lived my life the way I wanted to without wondering what men think of it. But I find myself growing enraged at these men--shouting, sometimes physically violent bullies who act like "typical males" as they push out and scream at the females around them. Testosterone will out.

I have been in groups of only lesbians (except for me), and you are right--the energy is different. I have been in groups of women of mixed sexuality--runners, mostly--and the energy is different from when men are present. Just as I am sure the energy of an all-male group is different. And most of us cherish having that experience. There is a feeling (to me) of utter relaxation, combined with the unspoken poetry of shared experience, of common ways of being.

That some asswipe of a man would try to philosophize his way into proving you--and me, and every other women (whether a lesbian or not)--are wrong about our experience is risible. He may be "famous" in the teeny-tiny circle of fatuous philosophers, but to the rest of us, he is just an idiot.

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Jun 7, 2022·edited Jun 7, 2022

By the time I got to the bit about Talia Mae Bettcher (I had never heard of him, so googled, and noticed that he's a deadringer for the blond headbanger in 'Wayne's World'), I had a knot in my stomach for you up against the "online feminist philosophy vultures". By the end, I was cheering. And relieved. Even though I know some of your recent story and that you have stuck two fingers up to your mediocre tormentors who, by the way, have "non-standard pronouns in their twitter handles and self-consciously interesting hairdos" because there's very little else of interest going on there - they're just very basic to quote Kate Moss - it's like watching 'Alien' or 'Aliens' again and again. You know that Ripley will make it out of there away from this vicious, monstrous creature but, it's still stressful re-watching it. Here's to speaking your mind though now, truly speaking your mind, and in the process, I believe, really finding your voice. You don't need to go back in time to say what you really wanted to say back then to these hideous shams, you're doing it now, and reaching a far wider and, no doubt, genuinely interesting audience.

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Can relate to this not as academic myself - not a chance! - but as someone raised in an isolated, intensely academic-dominated family, destined to marry into similar (I resisted). My memories are dated of course but denigration of 'personal experience' over published 'Analysis' typical . . . I'd say something like, God the boys at school are all wankers! and my father would say, Do you have proper Evidence for that assertion? It is true that Identity Politics has since raised (some people's) personal vision into a kind of untouchable truth but maybe that historic smug dismissal of others' lives is partly responsible.

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Bravo! Rather brilliant essay replete with no shortage of signature zingers:

"complicated technical theories to justify whatever ethical mantras": Glass Bead Game, though, as Amia Srinivasan put it, feminism itself is pretty much of a political project with some often tenuous commitments to the "Truth" and rational epistemology:


"my Dyke’s Progress had begun" 🙂: Pilgram's Progress, Part Deux; Stranger in a Strange Land. Conventional wisdom - and convention itself - ain't all it's cracked up to be. As the late great comedian Lenny Bruce is reputed to have said, "I never met a dyke I didn't like" - even if I happen to have a philosophical bone or two to pick with some of them ... 😉

"fun bonfire since the last bonfire": auto-da-fés and The Tranish Inquistion. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

"This allegation is old as dirt. And it’s been discussed by a slew of trans writers": As Mandy Rice Davies once put it , lo these many moons ago, "Well he would [say that], wouldn't he?"

As for Talia Mae and your response to her, while I've only skimmed both so far, I'm not sure that her "Trans Women and the Meaning of ‘Woman’" is much in the way of an encouraging sign of any intellectual honesty on her part, particularly given this "striking of her colours":

"Thus, expressions such as 'trans woman' do not simply refer to controversial instances of 'woman', and being a trans woman is not a strange type of woman, but a woman, period."


No doubt there are some plans afoot - apart from those of transwomen and their "useful/less idiots" - to redefine "woman" as an "ameliorative project", though for rather tenuous "reasons" and justifications. However, it seems far more justified to define "woman" as a "natural kind", i.e. "adult human female (produces ova)".

Quite an illuminating introduction to the rather profound difference between those natural kinds and those providing the (shaky and self-serving) foundations for the "political projects" of Bettcher & her ilk:

"Scientific disciplines frequently divide the particulars they study into kinds and theorize about those kinds. To say that a kind is natural is to say that it corresponds to a grouping that reflects the structure of the natural world rather than the interests and actions of human beings."


However, one of those aforementioned "political bones" is that you seem to endorse or subscribe to the "patchwork [structure-absent-function] definition of the [so-called] social sciences" - rather decidedly "unnatural" - as opposed to the more fundamental and functional natural kind that is foundational to pretty much all of biology:

"On a deeper level, the ‘patchwork’ definition of sex used in the social sciences [and by Genspect, & Hilton] is purely descriptive and lacks a functional rationale. This contrasts sharply with how the sexes are defined in biology. From a biological standpoint, what distinguishes the males and females of a species is the size of their gametes: males produce small gametes (e.g., sperm), females produce large gametes (e.g., eggs; Kodric-Brown & Brown, 1987)"


Don't think that society can reasonably have two sets of definitions for the categories "woman" and "female" in play; one of them has to be, you'll excuse the term, trump. "ex falso [sequitur] quodlibet":


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This is great. Thank you. I agree with everything Christina Rees says.

However, thinking about this, I realise that I am unclear on how exactly you perceive transgender people and how you think they should be treated. And also, that I disagree with your opinions about "trans lesbians".

I read the piece you published on Medium on July 25th 2019 entitled "Can You Change Your Gender?" (the original article has been deleted, so I used the Wayback Machine). And I think I agree with everything you say in it. But it doesn't make clear what you think about transgender people - I mean, to what extent their desire to be treated as the opposite sex should be taken seriously.

Do you believe that there are some people for whom it would be advisable for them to work towards trying to pass as the opposite sex? For example, can you envisage any situation in which you would say to a man "You should have a sex change and live as a women - in the long run, you'll be happier and the people around you will be happier"? Or do you believe that attempting to "change sex" is never advisable for anyone?

And if you do believe that there are some people like this, people who should "change sex", what proportion of people who currently regard themselves as being transgender (not including "non-binary" people) do you believe fit into this category? As a rough guess?

Moving on to "trans lesbians" . . .

Your article "Can biological males be lesbians?" concludes "For these reasons, all genuine progressives should firmly defend the definition of a lesbian as a female homosexual."

When you say "a female homosexual" I assume that "female" refers to biological sex, which cannot be changed. So your answer to the question "Can biological males be lesbians?" is "No, biological males should never be referred to as lesbians".

And when you say "For these reasons . . ." the reasons you give in that article have to do with "trans lesbians" having typically male bodies (appearing to be male, rather than female, and having a penis), and typically male personalities (lustful and domineering).

I agree with most of the points you make in that article, but I don't agree with your conclusion, because both in that article and in this one you seem to be implicitly assuming that a "trans lesbians" will fail to fit the "social role" of a lesbian, in terms of their genitalia, appearance and personality.

I am aware that there are biological males calling themselves lesbians whose claim to be a lesbian simply invites ridicule (or astonishment). And I can easily imagine the reaction of real lesbians who encounter these "trans lesbians".

But surely there must be some "trans lesbians" who do fit the "social role" of a lesbian? I can be convinced through rational argument that for utilitarian reasons society should insist on defining the word "lesbian" in such a way that biological males should never be referred to as lesbians. But if I were actually to meet someone who I knew to be a biological male but who looked like a woman, gave off "lesbian vibes" and was married to a lesbian, then I think *in practice* I would find it difficult to think of this person as anything other than a lesbian. Maybe such people are sufficiently rare that they are "the exception that proves the rule?" (i.e. if we come across someone like this, we can make an exception for them - it doesn't invalidate the general rule). What do you think?

Another couple of things I would like to disagree with you about is these sentences in the article "Can biological males be lesbians?":

You wrote: "Perhaps lesbians can be sexually attracted to ‘passing’ transsexuals without automatically counting as bisexual; perhaps not. It’s complicated to say. But either way, note that this is a very different question to whether males can count as lesbians, and is often introduced rhetorically as a distraction from that question."

I don't think it is complicated to say whether a lesbian who is sexually attracted to a transwoman who passes as a woman is a lesbian or a bisexual - she is a lesbian. If a lesbian is sexually attracted to someone or something that she perceives as a woman, then even if it isn't really a woman, and said lesbian knows intellectually that it isn't really a woman, that doesn't make her not a lesbian. Sexual attraction is based on appearance, personality and "vibes", not on factual knowledge about the object of one's attraction.

I also think that if a lesbian is sexually attracted to a "trans lesbian" that will *in practice* count as a point in favour of that "trans lesbian" being treated as a lesbian. On some intellectual level this may be "a very different question" but in the real world it will be relevant.

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