Calibrating the scale of moderation
In my recent Employment Tribunal case the term part-time crossdresser applied to Phillip “Pips” Bunce was judged to be “dismissive and uncomplimentary” (though not a justification for me to lose my job).
It arose in this exchange about whether a conference panel involving Bunce and two other men should be considered as being an all-male panel or not.
On one hand this part of the judgment may be seen as a good thing; the tribunal found that a person is not required to chose the absolutely most moderate term possible at all times to express their thoughts, to have protection against discrimination.
But on the other, authoritarian gender ideology enforces thought-policing by incrementally stealing the words we need to express ourselves, marking them as extreme, dangerous or mean and forcing us to use others which obfuscate our meaning, and conscript us into expressing their view of the world. So it is worth considering what made the tribunal flinch here.
What is wrong with “part-time crossdresser”?
The tribunal said the term part-time crossdresser was “intended to be provocative.” But as you can see, my usage was explanatory. Following my explanation, Sharmala’s answer on whether Bunce should qualify for positive action intended for women switched from “tough question” to no.
The panel said the point “could have been made in more moderate terms.” But both “part-time” and “cross-dresser” are neutral descriptions of Bunce’s lifestyle, on the face of it neither complimentary or insulting.
The panel use the term “gender fluid”, which is presumably their preferred moderate alternative. But “gender fluid” is not a neutral description of Bunce’s behaviour, but rather a term which belongs to the genderist ideology. To use this term means that you accept that and that Bunce-in-a-dress is different from Bunce-in-a-suit in a way that goes beyond clothing,
It is not “more moderate” to be forced to use the believers’ term instead of the accurate description.
The tribunal found that expressing the belief that men are male and women are female in terms of generalised statements was not objectionable in any of the circumstances that arose in my case. But in this instance when the neutral descriptive words were applied to an individual they suggested that it would have been “more moderate” to express things less clearly and in the terms of the belief that I do not share.
One panel member, Ms Carpenter, went so far as to disagree with the others and say that “part-time cross dresser” was inappropriate and objectionable.
Why would this be?
One explanation could be that once we start describing (and therefore allowing ourselves to think of) individuals in terms that reflect material reality it is a slippery slope. If we recognise that Bunce-in-a-dress is not materially different from other men, what is to stop us from recognising that a man who has changed name, pronouns, title and style of dress on a full-time basis is also not materially different from one who hasn’t? They are all men, whether they dress as women all the time or only part-time.
This is a simple expression of my belief, and of biology. But it is more pointed and indelicate to say this about an individual than a group (and even more so to say it to their face).
At work it may often be best to say nothing at all.
But when making the argument for sex-based rules, and applying them in practice, we have to be able to use clear language about individuals in situations where sex matters.