Don’t Mess With Kira
A master class in responding to ‘alternative facts’ and willful ignorance
Paul, a fellow whose byline reads “just a guy trying to promote truth and learn other worldviews,” weighed in with some ‘alternative facts’ on a piece I wrote titled, Obsessed With ‘The Gay Agenda?’ The main point addressed in the piece was, if you’re someone who thinks there’s such a thing as “the gay agenda,” or you use phrases like, “I don’t have a problem with gay people; I have a problem with them shoving it in my face,” then you might have a problem after all. In fact, you might be obsessed.
Up front, I’d stated in this piece that the only “gay agenda” I’ve ever known is the one invoked by those who are notoriously anti-LGBTQ, and tend to be politically conservative. And that I considered “the gay agenda” to refer to that thing the anti-gay folks seem to be totally preoccupied with… or, as I call it: gay folks’ privacy.
Anti-gay conservatives don’t think in terms of, say, a couple who’s in love, and in a consensual, long-term relationship that happens to be gay; they only think about the mechanics of gay sex.
They won’t admit it, but whenever lesbian, gay, or bisexual people become conversation fodder, are referenced or shown on TV, or spotted in real life, the anti-gay conservatives become absolutely consumed by thoughts of gay sex — how they’re doing it, why they’re doing it, with whom they’re doing it, and what person (presumably) takes on “which role,” and other unnecessary obsessive thoughts. Anti-gay conservatives don’t think in terms of, say, a couple who’s in love, and in a consensual, long-term relationship that happens to be gay; they only think about the mechanics of gay sex.
Don’t even get me started on where their thoughts drift regarding queer people — or worse — transgender people.
It’s all downhill from there. Anti-LGBTQ’ers thoughts become a toxic mental stew of rumination about which parts go where, and the (*apparently frequent) scenario where cishet people get ‘tricked’ into sexual encounters with trans people. Or, better yet, the (*apparently frequent) scenario where the uber-conservative couple’s daughter, a young girl, goes into a public restroom and comes out a mature woman, somehow, having seen a grown man’s full pubic region — from flaccid penis, to dangling testicles, to barbaric jungle of pubes — nevermind the fact that this alleged “man in a dress” was alone, minding ‘his’ own business in the next stall over.
*Note: These are only frequent scenarios in the minds of anti-LGBTQ, ultra-conservative cishet people who thrive on fearmongering and irrational phobias of crimes that haven’t actually happened.
It doesn’t even occur to these anti-trans folks that **pre-op trans women are doing everything within their God-given power to simply hide or blend in, so they can just pee in peace and get the hell out of there, unharmed.
Really, this whole erroneous narrative is a self-serving cishet mindscrew, a mindscrew that’s never satiated.
**Note: Not all trans people elect to have gender confirmation surgeries — of which there are many different options, not just one — for any number of valid reasons, like, affordability, insurance coverage, availability, practicality, or having no desire to go under “the knife,” to name a few. There is no singular ‘correct’ way to be trans.
The next section of the piece was where I addressed a few points with which Paul seemed to take issue. In his comments, he cited one part of a paragraph (without context). Here’s the full paragraph:
Likewise, these same people also tend to be heavily invested in policing everyone else’s genitals — I mean, that’s really what they’re asking when they want to know whether someone is a boy or a girl, right? “What genitals do you have?” Which, also, is no one else’s business (unless maybe the person in question is a prospective lover?) yet, these people are very invested in knowing what’s under there, just as they’re interested in gay peoples’ sex lives.
Paul pulled this part:
“What genitals do you have?” Which, also, is no one else’s business (unless maybe the person in question is a prospective lover?)”
His retort follows:
No one is “obsessed” with other’s genitals. They want to preserve the spaces that biological women have fought for, like women’s shelters, sports, women’s societies. The people “obsessed” are not the ones trying to change society’s rules; these things have been segregated by sex for a reason. So if someone who has or had a penis comes into a women’s shelter, where women have been battered by biological males, and says, “I deserve to have access to your women’s space,” it’s not the people who resist who are obsessed. Today we have people who try to invade spaces that have been reserved for biological women for a reason, which always have been, and then when they get push back they’re like, “why are you trying to ‘erase’ me or deny my truth?” Equality does not mean that society has to conform to your own views.
Oh Lord… where to start? For one, there’s the phrase “biological women.” Let’s just start there. From reading more of his comments, I quickly learned Paul doesn’t understand basic science, let alone, biology. Our physical bodies — from our external anatomy to our chromosomal makeup — have a much broader spectrum than what we once thought. Sex is not as simple as a male-female binary, and intersex conditions are wide and varied. Some intersex people will go to their grave never knowing they were intersex; it’s not as rare as Paul seems to believe.
Scientific researchers have actually done a phenomenal job of writing about the non-binary nature of biological sex (meaning, typically, neither male nor female, or some combination of both). Within just the last few years, tons of scientific research on this very topic has come out. There are even studies that used brain scans of transgender people to show how biological factors play a role in feelings of gender incongruence. Another study of brain scans found that for certain brain regions, trans people appeared similar to cis people of the same gender identity.
Molecular Biologist Liza Brusman of the Scripps Research Institute has stated: “just like gender isn’t binary, our biology isn’t binary either: it, too, exists on a spectrum.” The Journal of the Endocrine Society published a study that shows an overlap between the natural testosterone levels of men and women. The NIH has long detailed the various genetic conditions that illustrate the spectrum of biological sex, like Androgen insensitivity syndrome, as one example.
We aren’t just born XX or XY. There’s also XXY; XYY; and several other combinations, such as single chromosomes, like 45X , or 45Y — (sex monosomies), and three or more chromosomes, like 47XXX — (sex polysomies). All of these can result in a wide variety of internal and external sex characteristics.
The science is clear. Biological sex is not binary. Fact.
As recently as this June, Scientific American (a publication that’s been in print since 1845) published an article titled “Stop Using Phony Science to Justify Transphobia: Actual research shows sex is anything but binary.” This piece does a great job debunking the anti-LGBTQ conservative right theory that sex is strictly binary.
It also notes the humor and ridiculousness of the anti-trans conservatives oft-repeated, unfortunate (but perfect) example of irony, in the statement they love to use against liberals: “facts don’t care about your feelings.” The article also highlights how junk science is responsible for the current pile of troubling, real world consequences that tend to happen when you have a political administration that feeds on a steady diet of alternative facts and climate change denial.
The science is clear. Biological sex is not binary. Fact.
And every right-leaning conservative, anti-LGBTQ article I could find refuting this fact had obscure (or no) links to credible research, or even current research. The latest I could find was an anti-trans op-ed piece written in 2019 which cited and linked to a 2005 article, from an off-beat, politically-motivated fringe science journal.
But why bother explaining any of this to the Pauls of the world? Experience and time have shown me that these people aren’t looking to open their minds or change their fixed ethos; they just want to think they’ve “won.” And I hadn’t even gotten beyond his first problematic phrase yet.
There was so much to unpack here that, ultimately, I decided to not tackle this one, to just let it sit there. After all, it was late and I wanted to go to bed.
But the responsible side of me always, at this point, seems to lay on the guilt. Because even though the Pauls of the world dismiss criticism and seem immune to introspection, there’s more duplicity to contend with; there’s also the depressing paradox of them attempting to speak with authority on an issue they know nothing about.
It’s this part that causes trouble.
Especially when a young trans person, or someone who’s questioning their gender identity, or a closeted trans person is on the other side of the scren, reading. Comments like Paul’s can push a vulnerable person over the edge.
I was deliberating all of this when serendipity happened.
Enter the (S)hero of the day: Kira Wertz. I didn’t know Kira before this moment. The calm, rational, no-nonsense, lived experience, fact-based retort she left on Paul’s comment was not only my saving grace that night, but also, my very thorough introduction to her. If you don’t know Kira, you really should. I got to chatting with her over email after the whole Paul debacle and learned she’s just as awesome one-on-one as she is tackling the masses of imposing internet strangers.
Kira Wertz is a badass, down-to-earth woman who’s a top writer in LGBTQ for Medium, and self-described transgender truck driver, public speaker, activist, LGBTQ advocate, and primary author at The Transition Transmission. She’s also married, the momma to a cat and dog, and I might not have ever gotten to meet her if it weren’t for Paul’s nescient musings.
Kira didn’t waste any time getting down to business on her retort. She provided facts and linked them to original, credible sources, provided photos to drive home certain points, and attacked Paul’s ill-informed rebuke point for point.
This is a master class in how to respond to ‘alternative facts’ and willful ignorance.
With her first picture of Buck Angel, she even made reference to a “bathroom bill irony” I don’t see referenced very often, if at all. It’s one I wrote about in 2016 when N.C. made HB2 into law. My tweet to ex. Gov. McCrory was something along the lines of, “Congratulations, N.C. With HB2, you’ve managed to vote in to law exactly what you intended to vote out of law. I give a sarcastic slow clap in your general direction.”
Kira’s retort was merely intended as a comment, but it was the length of something deserving a bigger audience. It’s well-worth a read by anyone who wants to be a friend or ally to the LGBTQ community.
She gave me permission to include it here, and I hope you’ll read it, because in my humble opinion, this is a master class in how to respond to ‘alternative facts’ and willful ignorance:
Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb here because your profile indicates that you want to “promote truth and learn other worldviews.”
So let’s do this; where shall we start?
Safe Spaces… As of recently, say the last 10 years or so, society has become obsessed with keeping Trans people from Restrooms that match their gender identity. Why is that? Was there a rash of sexual assaults perpetrated by trans individuals? Nope. But there are a lot of reports of Trans people being assaulted in restrooms. Do you even care about the safety of the individual, or are you specifically just trying to play hero to Cisgender women?
You are trying to categorize human beings based upon genital configuration and utilizing that configuration to imply intent. You essentially are stating that anyone with a penis IS a rapist. The very idea is preposterous, and you know it, yet you are using a body part to determine where a person should potty. But here’s the catch. When you try to tell people to pee based upon their genitalia, this is who will end up with in the women’s room.
This is Buck Angel, a Transgender man who has not had bottom surgery. And I’m assuming you are oblivious to this fact, but most Transgender men will achieve this level of passability within 1–2 years of beginning Hormone Replacement, and many opt-out of having a Phalloplasty. Do you feel that women in Restrooms are going to feel more safe with a man like Buck in there? Or would they feel safer with someone who has masculine qualities, but who is clearly in transition. Like this…
This pre-op Transwoman (me) had no problems utilizing public facilities. No one was sexually assaulted, no one questions it. Why? Because who in their right might would go through the trouble? Statistically speaking, most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim actually knows. And they are most likely going to be committed in a private setting. At what point do you think that a Transwoman (who cannot really hide that fact) would dress up for the sole purpose of committing a crime which would have greater success by simply being a Cisgender man who could blend into the fabric of society after committing said crime?
People like me stick out, and there’s NO way we would get dolled up to do the things you are implying we set out to do. Actually, I can guarantee you that the safety of anyone in a public facility actually increases when I am in that space with them.
Allow me to illustrate how little people care about sharing space with me. I don’t do the wig routine anymore, and I have my entire head tattooed. Recently I had to take a trip halfway across the country for my father’s funeral. This is exactly how I presented on both legs of that trip.
On my trip I utilized restrooms at 4 different airports. Those spaces were often packed with the very women and children you are concerning yourself with, and yes, I wore that shirt. They did not object to me, and if I’m quite frank, I expected to catch grief for being so blatantly Trans. What actually happened was completely different than that expectation. You can read about it here.
The issue of safe spaces is a made up narrative. It completely ignores the fact that Trans people have existed for millenia. I bring this up a lot when I have to educate people about gender variation within existing cultures. You can learn more about this fact by visiting the World Gender Customs Map. I’m sure it was only a coincidence that it wasn’t until Barack Obama began to recognize the value of Transgender individuals that there emerged this sudden interest in “safe spaces.”
I think it better to drive home my point a little more. You see, driving is what I do, and on any given day I will stop to use public female facilities several times as I make deliveries all over SE Oklahoma. Because it’s hot, and my job also entails more heavy lifting that most men don’t want to do, this is how I present.
I get it, you take one look at a person and you establish their intentions. You see this Transwoman walk into the women’s room, and you want to step in to protect them. But who protects me from you? I’ve done no wrong, yet by being born with a penis, you deem me a sex offender and immediately react without any supporting evidence. Again, there aren’t statistics to prove that Transgender individuals are prone to committing assault in gendered facilities.
Furthermore, any attempts to stop me from using the facilities that match my gender identity will likely result in charges against you. I’m sure it will disappoint you to learn that every identification I have shows female. So what happens when someone plays hero with a Trans person who has every legal right to be in that space? I guess keep trying to size up if certain people belong in that “safe space” and see what happens if you intervene. But there have been situations where this has backfired because some would-be heroes have actually attacked Cisgender women. BTW, the hoops required to change every form of ID are exhausting, and in some states may even require a “permanent and irreversible procedure.” No one would do it just to violate someone’s space.
Now there’s that whole expectation of privacy thing that you’ll want to throw out. Well, I’m not sure you know this or not, but women’s restrooms don’t have urinals. There is literally NO way for someone to view another in a state of undress without peeping between stall doors. One can just as easily do that regardless of what restroom anyone is in, so there isn’t any loss of privacy that doesn’t already exist in any other restroom filled with Cisgender people.
You create the peeping-tom narrative to support your own perverse assumptions.
Again I need to say, that the only people thinking like this are Cisgender men. This leads me to believe that those men would actually be prone to committing sexual assault if they had access to those safe spaces. Perhaps then, possibly encountering someone like me in the women’s room gives you pause when you consider such acts. If so, I am grateful that my presence is a deterrent. The predator presumption is less about what I am doing, and more about what you would do in that space.
What you also might be unaware of is that individuals who have begun the hormone replacement process will NOT have significant functionality in their sexual anatomy. Within the course of 3–6 months on Estrogen my own interest tanked; and since I am Transgender and had a very tenuous and dysphoric relationship with that anatomy, I was elated to have this functionality hampered. Don’t let the Trans porn fool you, those girls are popping viagra like skittles; it just doesn’t work like you’d think. That’s probably TMI, but hey, we’re doing this.
How about that argument about battered women’s shelters. Certainly one can make the argument that the presence of a penis can be triggering. But this goes back to the idea of what constitutes basic behaviour. Do people often expose their genitals in such places? Moreover, given the likely population of such facilities is it rational to assume anyone would be dumb enough to request asylum among a disproportionate number of people they would be inclined to assault? The boogeyman is literally one of your own imagination.
Most homeless shelters will still separate individuals based upon anatomy. However, placing a Transwoman on the Men’s side of a homeless shelter could end up with the Transwoman being a victim in the same fashion you imply would happen if they were on the other side. But you don’t care if the victim is Trans, you only concern yourself with Cisgender victims. There’s this notion that by very virtue of being Transgender one deserves to be more victimized than all others.
This same situation plays out in matters of incarceration. A Transwoman is more likely to be raped when she’s placed on the men’s side of jail. And the actions of our current administration have already made it so. They have pushed to allow homeless shelters to allow active discrimination against Transgender individuals, and they have made it law that in Federal prisons Transgender inmates must be placed on the gendered side that matches their assigned sex.
Understand here that there is a systemic issue of causality here. It begins with the lack of acceptance from family, friends, and society.
What am I talking about?
If a person comes out as Trans (or just LGBTQ), they are more likely to be kicked out of their home. They are more likely to be rejected by friends. They are more likely to lose employment; invariably losing healthcare which then hinders transition. They are more likely to be evicted. They are more likely to end up homeless. They are NOW more likely to be turned away at homeless shelters. They may now participate in survival sex, which could lead to incarceration. They may commit common theft of food or clothing which leads to incarceration. They will seek escape in the form of addictions which can lead to incarceration or even death. And lastly, they might just kill themselves.
Now you can call your crusade whatever you want, but when faced with that potential reality as a life sentence, NO one would choose to be Transgender simply so they can invade “safe spaces.” Believe me, I somehow dodged these issues like a slo-mo matrix bullet, but I can guarantee you that if one factor was different, I would have dealt with some or all of what I just described. Can you guess what that factor is? It’s the fact that I am white. The average life expectancy for a Transgender woman of color is 35! And yet, they still feel they must transition. Just more proof of what needs to happen, and less supporting evidence for transitioning for the purpose of invading “safe spaces.”
NOTE: The following section has been revised to compensate for further understanding of how testosterone levels are measured.
As for Athletics… The International Olympic committee has permitted Transgender individuals to participate since the early 00’s. Since then absolutely NONE have qualified! When they first allowed Trans athletes it was under the rule that surgical transition must take place in order to compete with one’s gender identity. However in 2015 the rules were amended to a simple hormonal requirement, and the need for surgery was removed. The hormone rule was not applied to Transgender men, and that makes sense; a cisgender man can have a very wide range when it comes to testosterone values. (Male: 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) or 10.41 to 34.70 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L)) So narrowing it down for Transgender men would be nearly impossible.
However, the hormonal restriction on Transgender women is so significant that their values MUST be maintained at 10 nmol/L or less for an entire year leading up to competition. That level is below that of what is considered within “normal” range for a male.
Moreover, when one is expected to maintain a level BELOW 10 nmol/L over the course of a whole year, then it can be impossible to statigically balance hormone intake to keep it high enough to maintain the greatest possible competitive advantage while not exceeding the IOC’s hormone guideline.
For the sake of being transparent, the top end of “normal” testosterone for a cisgender female is: 15 to 70 ng/dL or 0.52 to 2.43 nmol/L. This does mean it’s technically possible for a Transwoman to compete against Cisgender women while having up to 4 times the amount of testosterone. I often liken having low testosterone to being analogous to putting a V6 into a Ford F350. You’re carrying the extra burden of your frame, but you don’t have the maximum horsepower to move it.
While I cannot speak specifically on why the IOC used this specific level, I would speculate that it’s because removing the surgical requirement meant that they acknowledge that suppressing testosterone (in individuals who still have Testis) down to Cis-female levels would become close to impossible, and thus still requiring surgery. Removing the surgery requirement was completely ethical because not everyone who is Transgender will seek surgery, and to force an individual to undergo surgery to compete in sport would have been a violation of their human rights.
There have been victories for Trans athletes who have NOT been bound by Olympic Standards. If you want to weigh in on that, I suggest that you speak to the various regulating bodies and ask why they have not adopted the IOC standards to maintain competitive fairness. But the bigger question is, WOULD IT MATTER? Even if we are hormonally crippled (or even surgically crippled), there’s always going to be that person who is going to profess we had an advantage. An opinion is not fact, and I can assure you that hormones make a big difference. For example, here’s a pre-transition picture of me from 2013 or 2014.
Compare that to the previous photo you’ve seen of me, and you’ll note that I have lost a lot of definition. I’ve also had weight gain; hormones do that. But it’s important to know that I do the exact same heavy lifting now that I did then. The notable difference as the subject is stamina. The person in this photo used to bench press 35 lb dumbbells in 3 sets of 12. The woman I am now can barely perform 6 reps with the same weight. So I assure you, that despite my size and stature, hormones absolutely take trans people down to a fair level of competition.
But I get it, you see someone with my build sign up for a women’s powerlifting competition and you’ll cry foul before I lift anything. BTW, I do not compete in athletics.
So how do we avoid this? When people lose their minds about Trans People in restrooms, they’re actually saying they don’t want Transgender women in Women’s rooms. You literally can’t stand the thought of someone who looks like me (masculine) in that space. The solution to this and the athletics problem is simple. Stop attacking parents who are supporting their Transgender children!
It’s become a common trope to accuse supportive parents of child abuse when they support their Transitioning child. But in order to use restrooms such that it won’t freak you out, or to compete in athletics such that it won’t freak you out, a person MUST begin their transition at the onset of their natal puberty. If I had been given testosterone blockers and estrogen at that age, I would look nothing like this caricature that makes your stomach churn. I would have grown more petite, my voice would be soft, I wouldn’t have male-pattern baldness, or be 6'1" and built like a linebacker. That would mean that I would literally grow into a body that, with the exception of a penis, would be identical in form and structure to a cisgender girl. This would make athletic performance parallel to that of cisgender women, and lacking obvious tells I would be able to use a restroom without hassle.
So let’s just call this what it is. You don’t want anyone who doesn’t “Pass” to even exist in society. The problem is, most people (including me) WANT to Pass for this very reason. Unfortunately once a body grows a certain way it’s really hard to unscrew that pooch. Surgery can help with some of the esthetic changes and make passing easier, but it’s cost prohibitive. And again, when you are the person who sticks out like me, not passing can jeopardize employment and healthcare, which limits one’s ability to medically transition. It becomes cyclical. In order to pass, one needs access to care, in order have access to care, one must avoid losing their job simply because they are Transgender. Now, you should be able to see how we get stuck in a matter of needing to fix society’s understanding of who we fundamentally are.
You say we are trying to “change society’s rules,” but what we really want is to live our lives with as little hassle as possible. Isn’t that what anyone wants? You don’t have to accept my truth, but I do expect to be treated like a human being. If I am going to be treated with so much indiginity for what amounts to a birth defect, than what stops you from deriding people for using prosthetics, wearing corrective eyewear, or fixing cleft palates? Autopsies on Transgender individuals have noted relative brain structures which correlate to those of their cisgender counter-parts. This tells me, that this IS biology, and just because you don’t want to empathize or understand that doesn’t make my condition any less real.
Again, NO one Transitions to enter “safe spaces,” we transition because we must. If the preservation of life is important to you, perhaps take a moment to consider that this community has a high suicide rate (41%) because individuals such as yourself are constantly calling us defective, calling us perverts (or in this instance — implying it), denying us work, healthcare, housing. You do everything in your power to keep that suicide rate high, to try and drill home that we’ll fail at transition; yet you take no ownership or responsibility for being the catalyst for that failing. Maybe meet some of us instead of trying to speak opinion as though it is truth. After all, you did say you wanted to “learn other worldviews.”
The Trans community is actually a beautiful one. And even while coming out, I had trouble viewing them beyond society’s stigma. But once you meet these people, you will finally see them; we’re just people.