The Green Party in the US state of Georgia has adopted a gender-critical position, and as a result it may be expelled from the national party. The Georgia Greens deserve full support against such a threat, and let us hope they serve as a rallying point for other progressives across the USA and elsewhere. The stand they have taken is a real step forward for the gender critical left.
The immediate issues
The Georgia Greens have outlined key events: at a state convention in February delegates “without objection” adopted an amendment to the platform of the state party, endorsing the gender critical Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights. The national party’s Lavender Caucus demanded that this endorsement be rescinded with an apology, failing which “‘the Georgia Green Party must be disaccredited and disavowed by the Green Party of the United States’”. Exchanges with national party figures followed. The Georgia Greens say:
As the conversation unfolded in national party channels the hateful rhetoric and name-calling targeting the women in the Party who were speaking up to defend the position taken by the Georgia Green Party was punctuated with threats of actual violence and doxxing. Multiple women were banned from national party social media forums for comments grounded in biological reality and their defense the rights of children to be protected from conversion therapy.
The Georgia Greens have called for “a partywide conversation on the underlying issues” and [added 27 May 20, FL:] have issued a state Dialog not expulsion.
The Lavender Green Caucus says that while the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights is “couched in statements about protecting children and women’s rights” it is “a document intended to deny trans people their bodily autonomy and freedom of expression, against the advice of the vast majority of medical professionals and LGBT advocacy organizations.”
For example, The Declaration makes familiar villainizing arguments about puberty suppressing hormones, which allow children the option, with the consent of themselves, their parents and their doctor, to stall puberty until they are legally old enough to consent to gender confirmation. The writers of the Declaration would prefer instead to force children to undergo permanent physical changes that exacerbate their dysphoria, inflicting trauma that could last the rest of their lives…
It may seem to some with less direct experience that our language is overly hyperbolic. Some may see Georgia Green Party’s statement as innocuous or even well-intentioned. We can only assure you, as Lavender Greens, that the language used by the Georgia Green Party is both familiar and insidious. It is the same bigotry in the name of protecting children that queers have faced every step of our way toward acceptance and equality.
If the Georgia Greens are going “against the advice of the vast majority of LGBT advocacy organizations” we should note the top down, billionaire-funded nature of these bodies. Insofar as they are truly going against the advice of medical professionals we should note that medicine is not value-free and that the their opinions reflect the very broad support for gender ideology from elite institutions, the media and across the political spectrum.
There are more general points at play here and I would like to discuss two of them. One is the importance of the Georgia Greens’ action in the context of the whole, global trans debate.
The dismal terrain
To see the significance of what the Georgia Greens have done you need only cast your eye over the wretched confusion that currently prevails around gender ideology. The great bulk of the left has thrown its weight behind an attack on working women, for reasons previously discussed on this blog (here in general terms, here in terms of the far left). So small are the ranks of the gender critical left that many progressives uneasy with the new gender sexism often think they have nowhere to turn.
Another disaster is that the debate has been dominated on both sides by the political right and by elite forces. On one hand, gender ideology has been championed by the neoliberal grandees of the US Democratic National Committee, by Britain’s Conservative party, and by CEOs of major corporations and billionaire philanthropists; during the rise of gender ideology some US Republicans also helped out. Most of the liberal and far left have fallen in behind these forces. On the other side is a mix of social conservatives, right wing liberals, and the alt-right, all making slimy overtures to gender critical feminists.
Since the early 2000s corporate media outlets, liberal and conservative, have overwhelmingly endorsed gender identity theory, and have mainstreamed the trans trend (previously discussed here and here). Without this backing it would have remained a curiosity on the social margins. Today the right wing gutter tabloids still propagandise for “gender identity”, eg routinely affirming transwomen as women. They are not following their readers, nor are they adapting to new times: gender ideology still lacks popular appeal. They are driving the trans trend.
However, some of these conservative outlets, while continuing to support gender identity, object to the trend’s increasingly invasive claims and demands, and dislike its links to the left. This has created more space for right wing criticism, which on practical issues converges with the concerns of gender critical progressives, some of whom now contribute material to right wing media platforms, which gets them denounced in the no-platforming, vilifying left media.
As I have argued elsewhere, the right are neither saviours nor allies. No-one on the spectrum from bigotry to neoliberalism is a friend to women. At one end of the spectrum they glorify the family, which handcuffs women to unpaid slavery in the home; few of them genuinely support LGB people and fewer back abortion on demand. At the other end, right wing liberals attack workers, meaning they attack working women, whose sexual oppression make them a particularly vulnerable part of the working class. Right wing liberals champion the neoliberal policy era under which gender ideology took root and flourished.
To clean up this mess we need left wing bodies with significant public profiles to offer a gender critical option to ordinary progressive people. Socialist and radical feminists are doing so, but on the wider left they have few friends. Britain’s Counterfire has given some cautious support; also in Britain, there is the Communist Party-aligned Weekly Worker, eg here; the Morning Star newspaper included gender critical material until an internal coup in February this year. Beyond that there are only very small grouplets, as far as I know, most notably around the Redline blog. All this underlines the value of the stand taken by Georgia’s Greens.
Built on sand
The other general point I want to make concerns the concept underpinning gender ideology, the trans trend, and the whole case made by the Lavender Greens: gender identity theory.
This theory is central to the notion that transwomen are women, with all its practical, social implications. “Gender identity” provides the rationale for applying the concept of conversion therapy to trans people as well as same-sex-attracted people, but it also says that lesbians and gays may in fact be heteros born into the wrong body. It “explains” and labels many forms of psychological distress, especially in young people. Gender identity provides a reason for the chemical and surgical “gender affirmation” of teens, for primary school ed programs, and for organizational work with kids behind the backs of parents. Gender identity means that questioners in health and mental health, academia and political life are all bigots who should be silenced and sacked.
Incredibly, this high-stakes concept gets almost no scrutiny. Its many supporters, from Tories to Trotskyists and across the corporate media, have closed ranks around it. The main rationale is a circular argument: any questioning of gender identity is a deep violation of trans people’s gender identity, leading to suffering and suicide (as if suffering and suicide do not result from the oppression of black people, women, and other groups, without this being used as a manipulative, silencing device.)
Gender identity is said to be “known” or “felt” by individuals, when communing with their inner selves. For most adherents this is enough. In response to cries of magical thinking, some leftists have tried to ground it in the material world, with no success.
Gender ideologists deny that women are defined by female biology or socialization, since this excludes transwomen. They don’t define women in terms of stereotypes either, or so they say. If so this would leave “woman” emptied of all meaning (unless perhaps as a postmodern “floating signifier“). In practice the empty space is indeed filled with sex stereotypes. This left-endorsed sexism is precisely why the media has mainstreamed gender identity theory.
People have the right to live their personal lives by the cultural conventions of the other sex. We should support trans people against real bigots who oppose this right, as leading gender critics have done. But we can do so without swallowing a sexist redefinition of women, just as we defend Jews without endorsing Zionism or concentration camps for Palestinians.
Support the Georgia Greens
Georgia’s Greens are helping to defend women from the new cool sexism of gender ideology. They are pushing through the extraordinary confusion that currently exists around the transgender trend – a trend founded on a fantasy that is, for the main, carefully protected from scrutiny. In doing this the Georgia Greens will be subject to a great deal of grief and pressure to capitulate. They deserve all the support we can give them.