The extreme left is hell-bent on forcing the rest of us to accept the principle that gender is not determined by biology but by whatever a person says. In that crusade, they have many allies, including social media companies. Case in point: About two weeks ago, I received a suspension from Twitter for identifying a transsexual as a transsexual.
In its email to me, Twitter was vague about what I had supposedly done wrong, stating only that I had violated Twitter’s “rules against hateful conduct.” Reading over Twitter’s rules, it seemed someone had reported me for violating the prohibition against “targeting individuals with … content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category. This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.”
Here is the email from Twitter, along with the offending tweets:
The suspension seemed absurd given the definitions of “misgender” and “deadname.” Misgendering entails referring to a person, usually a transgender person, with a pronoun or other word that does not reflect the sex that person wants to appear as. Deadnaming means referring to a transgender person by his or her birth name instead of his or her chosen name.
My tweets did neither of those things. Rather, I merely pointed out that transsexual Magdalene Visaggio was formerly both a “he” and named “Brian.” Visaggio is a comic book writer whose comic book “Vagrant Queen” is being made into a television show by the Syfy channel.
Why Syfy is producing it is a bit of a mystery, as “Vagrant Queen” is not a good comic. Indeed, it’s dreadful, as I explained here recently. Promoting that video led to the suspension. I appealed the decision, telling Twitter, “That Visaggio was once a man is an established fact.” I won my appeal, and my account was restored. But the whole episode just shows how absurd Twitter’s rules are.
Twitter’s Rules Promote Telling Lies
Suppose I had referred to Visaggio as “he” or “him” with no qualifier. Should that really be a violation of Twitter’s rules? On the one hand, Visaggio has had cosmetic surgery to look more like a woman, but on the other, every cell in Visaggio’s body still has the male XY chromosome pair. Thus, it is at least debatable whether Visaggio should be called a man or woman, although Twitter assumes the issue has been settled.
Twitter’s rules also prohibit misgendering or deadnaming transgender people who have not had transgender surgery. Consider Jonathan Yaniv, a Canadian transgender activist. Yaniv now insists on being called Jessica, even though he still has male genitalia. However, referring to Yaniv as “Jonathan” or as “he” or a “man” on Twitter will result in a Twitter suspension. Clearly, we are through the looking glass.
By enforcing the principle that a person decides his or her sex, Twitter executives probably intend to create a “safe space” for transgender folks by chasing away people who would say things they don’t like. Once established, however, a principle takes on a life of its own, extending well beyond its original intent and engulfing innocent bystanders. If people are told they can decide their own sex, it isn’t long before some demand to be treated like that sex.
Yaniv, for example, expects aestheticians to provide him a Brazilian wax, which is hair removal around one’s naked genitals. After numerous beauty salons declined, Yaniv filed complaints with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. The tribunal, of course, is taking Yaniv’s complaints seriously, stating, “Waxing can be critical gender-affirming care for transgender women.”
But it did note the issue is a little sticky: “At the same time, it is a very intimate service that is sometimes performed by women who are themselves vulnerable.” If the tribunal rules in Yaniv’s favor, beauty salons in British Columbia will have to force aestheticians to either touch men’s members or close shop.
Whether Yaniv is really trying to strike a blow against the patriarchy or wants to satisfy other “desires” is debatable. He has been accused of the sexual harassment of minors and trying to share child pornography, and he was recently arrested for possessing a taser, which is illegal in Canada.
We Must Be Able To Have Important Debates
A far more important subject for debate is whether sex can be determined by individual choice. We should discuss whether we want to go where that principle leads, such as men being allowed to use women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, boys being able to compete in girls’ sports (which can result in serious injury), and whether the law should force women to touch men such as Yaniv.
Yet such debate is difficult if not impossible on Twitter, in part because Twitter relies heavily on users to report speech code violations. This enables extremists to weaponize Twitter’s speech codes. In a debate over the idea that sex is determined by an individual’s choice, proponents of that principle will inevitably use Twitter’s prohibitions on misgendering and deadnaming against opponents. And you can’t discuss something on Twitter if your account is suspended.
Social media sites such as Twitter should only have speech codes that prohibit the most extreme behavior, such as threats and doxxing. Anything more than that empowers people who are hostile to free speech and truncates important public debates.