The Death of Amnesty International

Now I am not easily shocked these days, but something I read yesterday really did shock me. The CEO of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman has signed an open letter published in Gay Community News, calling for political representation to be stripped from all those who disagree with transgenderism or gender ideology. The letter is a passionate telling of one version of LGBT(+Q/I..) history, one in which all of T supported by LGB and the feminists stood together, in common cause for recognition and equality, stirring stuff ! However, the incendiary sentence is this one:

“We call on media, and politicians to no longer provide legitimate representation for those that share bigoted beliefs, that are aligned with far right ideologies and seek nothing but harm and division.”

That is, “no platform” at a societal level and deny civil rights, political representation and access to media platforms to whoever disagrees with the substance of our beliefs about ourselves. How ironic can it be that Amnesty International has now joined hands with those wanting to discriminate against others on the basis of belief when their Catholic founders envisaged exactly the opposite, defending the rights to conscience of a minority view in the face of the kind of moral and political tyranny we see advocated here.

The trouble with the call, is, of course, that it is a rhetorical sleight of hand. None of us want to be called “bigots”, none of us want to be “aligned with far right ideologies” and none of us want to cause “harm and division” and we are therefore left with no option but to support the letter and this motion that we might be “inclusive”. However, we have a classic non sequitur here — just because someone dares challenge the premise stated later in the letter:

The basis of the argument is that all people, regardless of gender should have access to legal recognition, and should be treated as the best authority on their body.

It does not follow that they are “bigots”, “far right” and “seek nothing but harm and division”. It certainly does not follow that I am always the best authority about some aspect of myself; in fact, in retrospect, most of us 50-somethings realise we were certainly not the best authority about ourselves, regardless of what legends in our own minds we were.

For example, just because I feel unwell, google the symptoms, read some online papers that does not put me into a better position to be the “best authority over my body” than the doctor who spent 6-years at medical school studying the human body. Similarly for those who study the human mind might actually understand me and why I behave as I do much better than myself — that is why we spend so much on therapists and love reality-TV which uses paid-psychologists to manipulate the participants to behave in a certain way.

All opinions are not created equal and you should not feel obliged to be bound by the deeply held beliefs of other people — do not get on a plane designed by someone who does not know whether they are a man thinking they are an elephant or an elephant thinking they are a man — they need a stronger view of reality and trust in the laws of physics to build a safe plane. Similarly, transgenderism is a walk on the wild-side extreme, subjectivist position that asserts that reality is what I make it because this is what I think is real for me. Sometimes, we are best served by someone traumatising us by challenging my view of myself; self-deception is the worst condition the afflicted human psyche can suffer.

Many a gender-dysphoric episode during one’s teenage years was simply dealt with by “check your equipment and get over it” rather than “affirmation” — affirmation is akin to child abuse when we condone reconstructive surgery on the prepubescent; “human experimentation” as one paediatrician called it. Even more remarkably, Amnesty International UK has condemned a recent High Court ruling that bans those under the age of 18 from being able to take puberty blockers and cross sex hormones because they ruled a child cannot give “informed consent”. Now, we might be tempted to argue that in some cultures people are considered adults at 11 years old and adults are mature enough to make decisions about their own bodies. That might be arguable if we entered adult society, worked and owned property as adults in society at 11 in our culture, but we do not. That was the case in UK-society perhaps 120 years ago but not now.

Childhood in the West generally was extended into adolescence, adolescence into pre-teen and teenagers, then young adults. We are not encouraged to become mentally mature and self-sufficient until well into our twenties, if at all. Psychologists in the UK are arguing that the actual sociological conditions of “childhood” within the UK persist until about 25-years of age, and recommend moving adulthood from 18 to at least 21 to help reduce “stress problems” in that age group. Now that is a sad commentary on our society but it emphasises that the judgment does seem to be sound in its reasoning; there are certain legal watersheds at 21 in the UK and so the judgment is a reasonable and sensible one if you consider the radical effects of puberty blockers. JK Rowling indicated that 90% of the mail she received after her statements regarding the need to define a “woman” clearly, were supportive from young women who had made changes to their bodies and deeply regretted it. That is not to say gender is partially culturally relative, partially socially constructed, a complex and elaborate subject but that does not mean we deny biological categories or the sociological and psychological categories of “women”.

The problem is, reality has a nasty habit of imposing on our views of ourselves, in fact — flat contradicting them. Gravity does not care what I think about it, jump from a building and your arse will smash into the ground regardless of my passion, tears rolling down my face, demanding my right to use my body as I wish and singing with all my might “I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky..” as many an LSD tripper has discovered to their loss. This reality, as the letter says, might be “the argument from biology”, what got JK Rowlings accused of “bigotry and transphobia” when all she is in fact arguing for is to allow for the biological definition of a category of “women”, i.e. a man with a womb = wo-man — a point she has frequently made since. But then add to those the arguments from sociology and psychology which talk about why we get “made” the way we are despite what we are “born” as.

Our sexual neuroses are many and well understood, it might be personally traumatic and a challenge to my deeply held beliefs about myself that I am actually “made this way”, by others and then choices I make myself, rather than “born this way” — this is the essence of human freedom. I am not just “made this way” but I am free “to choose my way”. If we really want to swallow the “I was born this way” argument, before we know it, educationally we are back to selective schools for your status at birth will define your potential in life, and a murderer can perfectly legitimately argue “nature made me this way, evolved beyond conventional morality to rid the human race of the weak, sickly and sentimental moral sickness of compassion for others”, as more than one serial killer has, on record, stated.

However, let us really get to the core of the letter. Contrary to it, some of those opposing the radical “T” factions are not “fascists” but social-justice campaigners, lifelong radical feminists such as Germaine Greer and gay activists such as Peter Tatchell. I wrote a lot more about their specific objections here and in the article I reference at the end of this one, so I will not repeat it. However, they are reasonable, powerful and well thought out from those within the community the writers of the letter were supposed to represent. The issue which, as the letter describes is “driving a wedge” between feminists and the radical “T” movement, is that of the definition of a woman — the man with a womb — that there might be places such as Women’s Refuges, Women’s Prisons, Women- only restrooms, Women’s {fill in the blank} which are closed to men for the safety of the women there.

We do exactly the same for people of colour, we recognise “people of colour” rather than just insist on a single universal category of human, to recognise “race” sociologically at least does not mean I am a “racist” even though we have more in common that separates us and there is only genetically one “race”. Rather the category is recognised that we may provide free and safe environments where the presence of honkies like me could compromise it for sensitive discussions particular to people of colour. This is not just a hypothetical, there are now multiple incidents within the UK prison system of men transitioning to women, demanding their T rights, transferring to female prison and assaulting the women — we have just discovered one of the answers to the question “How Dum Can You Get?” in penal policy.

Similarly, whilst a trans-woman might have been beaten-up and assaulted by the trans-man they are in a civil partnership with, the care they need is a separate category in its practical and psychological essentials to the care of a biological woman assaulted by a biological man. To recognise the binary categories “man”, “women”, “male” and “female” are not instruments of bigoted oppression, they are genetic generalisations based on a scientific definition, we can argue about sociological and psychological sub-categories within the categories but it is non-sensical to deny the categories exist and still serve the cause of liberation and appreciation of diversity. You cannot have diversity of categories or within categories if you do not accept the categories are valid ones to start with and those categories have some basis other than what I think about myself. They also serve to delimit the sensible boundaries of a scientific rather than emotionally driven discussion — if I deny them, I am being unreasonable.

As a final reflection on Amnesty though, it is absolutely basic in a democratic society that people can dissent and be respected as a dissenting minority, even when people find those views personally offensive. This used to be the modus operandi at the heart of Amnesty, defending the rights of the minorities and dissenters against the tyranny of the majority. To now take the side of people who are behaving operationally exclusively whilst claiming to be inclusive — to the degree they now disenfranchise them politically, culturally and socially (we call that fascism) — is a total betrayal of the founding principles of the organisation.

As a personal postscript, it used to be the case in the “gay” scene of the 1980s and 1990s when I was young, that people really did appeal to tolerance and try to create a non-judgmental environment where we could nevertheless disagree. Now people shout at each other on Twitter, no-platform as a first option in Universities and now, it seems, want to demand disenfranchisement of fellow citizens who they disagree with. This is not progress into a fairer, more equal society but a regression into fascism. You can read my full reflection on my time around the scene here.

Originally published at https://planetmacneil.org/blog on December 8, 2020.

I write engineering software for a technical website and am studying part-time for a PhD in Philosophy, https://planetmacneil.org/blog/.

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