The UK media is in a fit this week as transphobe after transphobe releases “opinion” pieces about trans people trying to erase women by forcing them to stop calling their chests breasts. This derives from a blatant misinterpretation of a new guideline issued by the NHS directing hospital staff to be prepared to use gender inclusive language for patients assigned female at birth who do not identify as women (eg, trans men and non-binary transmascs) and are uncomfortable with terminology that centers womanhood, such as breastfeeding.
Here is the “offending” document:
Note the second paragraph, which explicitly states that gender neutral language should not be used exclusively because it erases people who do identify as women.
Basically they’ve constructed a completely false narrative and are now shoving it down the public’s throats in hopes of inspiring further hatred towards trans people. Don’t believe the hate.
I don't need to point out how detached from reality this is, but I would like to reflect on a particular choice of word - 'sacrifice'. (thread)
What image does the word conjure? One of the first things I think of human sacrifice, villainous Aztec tropes or Indianna Jones villains.
Alternatively we might think of noble sacrifices - an extremely topical discourse given the strains of COVID restrictions and key worker risk. Of course, we know that sacrifice means to give something up, something hard. Maybe unwillingly but faced with no choice.
It's a starkly emotive choice of word for these reasons. In a cultural climate where a public is battered by personal and collective sacrifices, this deployment sends a message that yet more sacrifice is demanded - by trans people.
It relies upon the idea that trans people are demanding to take something away from - especially - women. This is so profoundly untrue it's infuriating and exhausting to have to keep repeating it. Of course, that's also the idea.
That's also why it's not the first time the word has been chosen in a (now quite infamous) headline.
Noone reads these and thinks of literal child sacrifice or forced mastectomy, but the urgent, inflammatory language is designed to indicate a grave threat, and to construct the trans population as both ludicrously unreasonable, and violent.
And of course, it doesn't matter that one can debunk the claims that 'you're not allowed to call them breasts anymore', just like it didn't matter that the EU wasn't banning bendy bananas or respiration or whatever else. Over and over again the bogus claims come.
And surely, supposes your reader who has no stake or connection to any of this, there must be a grain of truth in it? Or how could they print it? Keep printing the stuff and one sees an iterative shift in what people think.
I'm reminded of @SaraNAhmed's metaphor 'an affinity of hammers' - "a constant chipping away at trans existence". (published in the Trans/Feminisms issues of Transgender Studies Quarterly).
The point is - by constructing trans people as taking sacrifices - children, bodies - in a context where people are especially sacrifice-fatigued is of course going to cause any number of people to reactively go 'no! Enough is enough!'.
Some may laugh at the ludicrous depths of the phrasing, the pearl-clutching, but if everyone just laughed at it we wouldn't have a problem, and it wouldn't keep getting printed. We do, and it does.
It's no mistake that the demand of sacrifice from an abstract monster who won't take no for an answer plays on a notion of denying consent, too. So much of this moral panic about trans inclusion attempts to frame it as motivated by sexual deviance.
But she's "all for transgender people getting equal treatment". This acts both for deniability, and to bring in those who're otherwise socially Liberal but 'concerned'.
'I'm all for equal rights for you but don't be unreasonable' is the subtext, while *absolutely fictionalising* the form of trans-inclusive changes, and the impact of those changes. Hm.
So to end, nothing fancy - word choice matters a lot, and can be pretty telling when unpacked and considered in relation to wider social contexts. Misinformation and fear are formidable weapons.