by felicia rembrandt
The Canadian government, in association with various media conglomerates, has come out with yet another gender infomercial in its propaganda war against sexual/biological normativity.
How is it to Realize you are Transgender. Transforming Gender, released at the start of “Pride” season and one of a collection called “Real Pride,” is available in both a ten-minute and a sixty-minute version. Funded by Canada Media Fund, the government of Ontario and Radio Canada, and produced by MadHive Media in association with The CBC’s Gender Project Inc. 2015, the film is written and directed by Marc de Guerre, produced by Rachel Low and Janine Heath of Madhive Media.
Labelled a documentary, the film is actually an extended infomercial, making its way seamlessly through the standard trans marketing points offered to the unsuspecting:
· trans has always existed among human populations
· gender is a spectrum and therefore so is sex
· the childhood of trans people “trapped in the wrong body” is bathos incarnate
· some “trans” people don’t need to do more than socially transition, while others need the full range of surgery and drugs
· a “trans identity” can emerge at any time in one’s life
· but children know their “gender” at an early age
· if only society would stop living within a sex-binary, trans people would live happy and productive lives
This entire narrative is presented as fact, with sympathy for those excluded from normal social life (sex/bio normativity) for no reason other than transphobia. The facts missing are:
· puberty blockers, wrong sex hormones and surgeries can have devastating health consequences
· males regardless of how they identify belong to the class of people which oppresses and physically harms females
· self-id laws deprive women of their rights to safety and dignity
· nature demands that humans recognize the sex binary (sex/bio normativity) for the sake of continuance of the species
Most of the selling points are made by three “respectable” professionals – Herschel Russell, a Toronto psychotherapist, Carys Massarella, a physician with Quest Community Health in St. Catherines, and Aaron Devor, Transgender Chair at the University of Victoria – who are spotlighted in the ten-minute video. The longer version fills in the gaps between these “voices of authority” with the voices of several joyous young people and children, none of whom seem burdened with the typical symptoms associated with a belief that they are in the wrong body, such as anxiety, depression, self-harm or autism.
The first speaker, the sparsely-bearded Herschel Russell, may startle viewers with her feminine-pitched voice, but the overall effect is of professional, maternal comfort and self-confident assurance.
“Trans people are everywhere and we always were. And it’s perfectly natural to be trans,” she says -- without providing any definition for “trans.” And what’s more “transgender identity can emerge at any point in the lifecycle.” She doesn’t say whether it can also disappear at any point.
She immediately, seamlessly conflates sex and gender: “We are very devoted to a simple set of ideas – there are two genders and only two genders and they are so different from each other we call them opposites, we talk about the opposite sex” she says.
She is playing a shell game with language here, and it is useful to refer to Kathleen Stock’s four definitions of gender as laid out in her 2021 book, Material Girls:
GENDER1 :A polite-sounding word for the division between men and women, understood as a traditional alternative word for biological sex/the division between biological males and females…
GENDER2: A word for social stereotypes, expectations and norms of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’, originally directed towards biological males and females respectively…
GENDER3: A word for the division between men and women, understood, by definition, as a division between two sets of people: those who have the social role of masculinity projected on to them, and those who have the social role of femininity projected on to them…
GENDER4: A shortened version of the term ‘gender identity’…the ‘private experience of gender role’ 1.
Since Russell is using “gender” and “sex” interchangeably, she must be using the definition of GENDER1. But when she continues, “This has very little to do with human reality,” she must be using GENDER2 or possibly GENDER4, since GENDER1 has everything to do with human reality.
Dr. Carys Massarella of Quest Community Health Centre in St. Catherines, Ontario introduces the next point. “The problem is we create this idea of rigid gender stereotypes and our whole purpose in life is to essentially live those stereotypes. For the vast majority of people it works,” Massarella claims.
He is echoed by Russell, who says: “The way we do gender in this culture is messed up. A man has to be constantly proving he’s ‘manly’ enough and a woman has to be constantly proving that she’s feminine enough …”
But surely this is too simplistic and removes from human beings the responsibility to examine and if necessary reject societal expectations. Are we simply obedient slaves to what our society demands? If so, what is “society”? The subject of tension between individual and society is a pervasive and recurrent one in the western literary canon, strongly suggesting that this tension is part of being human.
Carl Jung used the term “individuation” extensively to refer to the process by which individuals learn to differentiate themselves from people around them. In 1921 he wrote:
“The concept of individuation plays a large role in our psychology. In general, it is the process by which individual beings are formed and differentiated; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual… as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology. Individuation, therefore, is a process of differentiation… having for its goal the development of the individual personality” (Jungian Centre for the Spiritual Sciences).
He believed this differentiation of the self from society was a necessary part of the human journey to wholeness.
For Massarella to say most people function well within the stereotypes set out for them by society is disingenuous and trivializes, or even dismisses, most people’s struggles against the demands and expectations placed on them.
And when he continues “…but as trans people we disrupt that whole system just by our existence,” he’s employing a logical fallacy. We disrupt the system of societal expectation by fighting against it, by refusing to comply, by individuating, not by jumping into the societally-approved box for the other sex.
Aaron Devor contributes the third point -- “nature dies if it doesn’t have diversity.” She continues:
“The biggest challenge that transgender people have is that most people want to look at somebody…and say male or female. They feel they need to know that before they know how to do anything with that person…most people …if they can’t tell whether they’re male or female are dumbstruck, they don’t know what to do, they’re stuck.”
And this leads to her argument against human sex/bio normativity, in favour of gender diversity.
The first question one might ask is how do non-procreating members of a population keep nature alive? Second if being something called “trans” is natural, why does it require man-made artificial production? And third, are there any necessary reasons for treating men and women, boys and girls, differently?
Deborah Tannen, an American professor of sociolinguistics, made a point in her 1990 book You Just Don’t Understand, that the first question people ask when they see a newborn is the baby’s sex. They then pitch their voices differently and use different language when speaking to a male infant or a female infant. This is the start of social conditioning, and according to Tannen it leads to women and men living in different “word worlds.” Women talk to establish intimacy; men talk to establish dominance.
Would it be preferable not to know the sex of newborns, and to speak to both the same way? We can’t know how men and women would be the same or different if their sex was never a factor. But we do know that as long as men and women are conditioned differently, and as long as men and women need to have intercourse for the sake of reproduction, we all need to know what sex someone is.
Given that women are regularly the “prey” of males, it is especially important for women to be able to recognize whether someone is male or female. Devor is saying that women don’t need to know if the person approaching them in a dark alley is male or female. Any woman who has ever been in that situation will disagree.
The film repeatedly asserts that the problem for trans people is that the rest of us are obsessed with knowing people’s sex, and with treating people accordingly. This is being reframed as the problem – not that some people wish they were the opposite sex, but that the rest of us are not giving up our evolutionary knowledge of what sex people are.
The last “authority” appearing in the film is Stephanie Castle, born in 1925, who had a dream when he was four or five, in which he saw a pretty blond girl who said she was him. After two marriages, he went through full gender reassignment surgery at 66, but after a serious illness at 75, he began wearing male clothing again. This is all we are told. Not that he realized he was and always would be a man, simply that “she” changed “her” clothing choices.
Is he supposed to represent some kind of token opposition? Or reassurance that, having changed sex, one can go back to being perceived as the sex one is? That it’s just a matter of clothes? If that’s the case, why refer to Castle as “she”?
Further research on who is funding and promoting this propaganda reveals that “Real Pride,” which is producing two new videos per week, is part of the Little Dot Studios Network in the UK, which was purchased in 2021 by All3Media, a British worldwide independent television, film and digital production and distribution company. The All3Media group comprises 40 production and distribution companies from across the United Kingdom and all other parts of Europe, New Zealand and the United States. All3Media is jointly owned by Discovery Inc. and Liberty Global.
Discovery, Inc. is an American mass media company, originally creators of the Discovery Channel, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, first established in 1985. In 2021 Discovery was purchased by the AT&T subsidiary, WarnerMedia, becoming WarnerBrosDiscovery in April 2022.
And Liberty Global is a British-Dutch-American multinational telecommunications company with headquarters in London, Amsterdam and Denver and total assets of $59 Billion . LibertyGlobal is owned by American “cable cowboy” and Trump supporter John C. Malone.
These are the companies the federal government and its media arm, the CBC, are partnered with to sell this dangerous ideology.
1. Stock, Kathleen (2021). Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism. London: Fleet Hachette.
The longer version of the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Y-xtRPAKQ
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