Translucent performed a U-turn after a wave of online criticism
Why are some people trans? Personally, I think it is a symptom of one of possibly several different psychological disorders. There should be nothing shameful about having a disorder — these things make us human, after all — but some transgender activists are keen to find a reason that avoids that inconvenient reality.
On Sunday, a campaigning organisation called Translucent announced, with great fanfare, that on Friday it would be publishing a ground-breaking article — written by a research scientist, no less — which demonstrated that “being trans is a biological condition”. National newspapers were invited to apply for early access.
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As a transgender journalist, I didn’t bother. Attempts to find a “trans gene” or some other objective proof are old news. In 2016 an academic review, ‘Brain Structure Research in Transsexualism‘, found that “untreated [transsexuals] who […] are sexually oriented to persons of their natal sex show a distinctive brain morphology”. In summary, sexual orientation — not gender identity — shows up in the data.
But that’s not what exercised the trans community on Sunday evening. Translucent’s tweet was deluged with replies. There was uproar. If trans was a biological condition, then might there be a cure? Others complained about a return to the days of medicalisation. But most worryingly of all, it seemed, was the idea that if there was a biological condition, there might be some kind of test for it. And if there was a test, then some might pass and others might fail. We certainly would no longer need to just take trans people at their word.
The women’s campaigning organisation Keep Prisons Single Sex summed it up neatly: “This sounds awfully like an argument against self ID and awfully like an argument in favour of stricter gatekeeping.”
Alas, we may never know what Translucent was planning to reveal. Yesterday morning the organisation announced that it would not now be publishing anything, and apologised for the disappointment or distress that it had caused.
The reason this matters is that governments and policymakers have been taking lessons from these types of organisations. Translucent is a seemingly credible outfit; under a previous identity, Steph’s Place, it won the LGBT Community Organisation Award at the 2022 National Diversity Awards.
But beneath the glitz, the same tropes appear. Accepting the award, Steph Richards asserted that:
That’s not true — I leave my home regularly, and I have a job — but there was worse to follow:
If Translucent has time to spare on Friday, it might perhaps consider publishing some evidence to support those very dubious claims.
However, it is also an insight into how these campaigners think. We hear a lot about self-identification, but it seems to me that this is about power. These groups do not want to abolish gatekeeping: they want to be the gatekeepers. The sooner everyone in government and policy-making stops listening to them, the better.