I am doubly fortunate today. The sun is shining without killing us with heat, and I’ve discovered a civil conversation online about an issue that’s been perplexing me since pre-coronovirus days. I cannot pass along the sunshine, but I can absolutely share a link to a civil conversation.
First, let me provide a bit of background. Last winter, I was astounded to learn that the Seattle Public Library was reconsidering an agreement to allow WoLF, or Women’s Liberation Front, to hold an event in one of its meeting rooms available to the public. WoLF is a gender critical feminist organization. Objections to their use of the library came from trans rights activists. The basis for the objection was the claim that WoLF denied the humanity of trans women (my wording) by asserting that trans women are not female.
Ultimately, WoLF held their event at the library, the trans rights activists held an event nearby and then moved to the library for a noisy demonstration. It all received some press coverage, not a lot, but it prompted me to read more about the ruckus going on in the US and elsewhere between these groups that reside on the all or nothing extremes of trans issues.
From my reading, I learned that a lot has been happening in the trans rights arena that I was minimally aware of. Yes, I knew that schools were being challenged by trans students to permit them to use the bathroom appropriate to their gender identity. But I had assumed that these disputes were tiny in number. I was surprised to learn that many teens and more than a few younger children were claiming to be trans, parents were divided on what was best for their kids, the medical community was not in agreement on how best to support trans identifying young people, and schools were revising curricula to present trans viewpoints to students.
I could go on, but suffice it to say that I had not fully appreciated the depth and breadth of the discussion around trans issues. Once I paid more attention to it, I found much uncivil discourse. I learned that journalists were at risk of being targeted if they didn’t adhere to activist dogma, governments at the local and state level were being pressured to adhere to trans activist demands, women were fighting back to reclaim sex-segregated spaces and sports, and it was all black and white. Except it didn’t seem black and white to me.
I started reading about how other countries are addressing trans issues, whereupon I came to believe that our First Amendment protecting our right to speak unpopular opinions is the most precious piece of our constitution. So many nations don’t have a First Amendment. In those places, police can come to your door to investigate you for tweeting words that offend trans rights activists. Yes, UK, I’m referring to you. I was stunned.
Then, today, I discovered a conversation on Letter that gave me hope for a restoration of civility in the war between trans rights activists and gender critical feminists and the many people who lean one direction or the other, or both depending on the topic, without claiming those titles. I had heard of Letter, but had never really spent time reading through an entire exchange.
Letter will never take off like other social media because it depends on two people explaining themselves and challenging each other in somewhat wordy exchanges that are thoughtful and potentially constructive. Imagine! And on the Internet! I encourage you to explore Letter if you crave civility. Perhaps start with the exchange between Areo’s Helen Pluckrose and Kathleen Stock, a Professor of Philosophy. Both reside in the UK and have previously commented on trans and feminist issues that have arisen there. Perhaps you’ll like to the format and try an exchange yourself.