A few weekends ago, I did something I should have known was a bad idea. I engaged in the debate surrounding trans rights on Twitter. Given that it is one of the most toxic debates in living memory, I should have guessed that it was a stupid way to start my Saturday, but, never being one to shy away from an argument (you know well enough about amore mio by now), I decided to wade in.
Previously, I followed Graham Linehan (@Glinner) on Twitter because I wanted to have a couple of different perspectives on the whole debate. I wondered whether maybe he was on to something in his defence of women supposedly left behind by the relentless noise of the LGBTQ+ community. After all, this year’s pride featured banners with words such as ‘Fuck TERFS’, giving a hostile edge to an event that had always seemed to be about tolerance and love. I’m not saying he doesn’t. The whole notion of trans women competing in female sports is by no means fully supported in the public domain (see the whole mental issue of ‘Kelly Morgan’); and neither would it seem is the notion of whether or not biological sex is binary, to name but two examples.
But this piece is not about that. This piece is about waxing balls. Glinner posted an article amid a thunderous call to action to various celebrities and journalists seemingly known
for their tolerance, to read it and weep.
This is a regular practice of Glinner’s in which he appears to don the armour of a crusader, holding up evidence of the real truth, that we would all believe if we’d only just read it; that, perhaps, he and all those he defends are the victims of a huge conspiracy masquerading as a civil rights movement.
Engaged, I read the article. It explains that a trans woman called Jessica Yaniv, whom I know nothing about and in whose personality or character I am not interested, sued a beautician for refusing to wax her ‘untransitioned genital area’ (that’ll be a cock and balls, then). This beauty therapist was said to offer women-only services. Immediately, I was outraged on the beautician’s behalf. Here was a woman, one the article was keen to stress is a muslim, at home, who simply wanted to wax vulvas in peace, with her husband in the other room.
Then I thought about it for five seconds and I realised I had seen this before. This was an example of a business refusing to serve a customer on ideological grounds (whether Islamic or feministic, it was not confirmed). It reminded me of the case of a Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding, arguing that, as they didn’t support gay marriage, this would have been a course of action that contradicted their religious beliefs. It was on these grounds they refused to make a wedding cake in support of the occasion. The couple sued and won in the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, but then lost at the High Court. The court found that the Commission had not applied religious neutrality, and on that basis found in favour of the baker. Perceived hostility from the Commission to the baker prevented them from attempting to untie the gordian knot of the intersection of the civil rights of both parties.
So far, so sad. It seems obvious to someone who is neither gay nor religious (get ready for the straight white male privilege because it is coming) that the religious party was in the wrong here. In a multicultural society, which Colorado presumably is, being American; and indeed America being a nation in which religion is constitutionally a non-privileged practice in the eyes of the state, the onus would seem to be on the religious person in this case to reflect on quite how far baking a cake can really threaten their religious principles. That’s what living in a tolerant society requires. You don’t have to enjoy or participate in gay marriage, merely to tolerate it, even if and especially when you don’t actually like it. As long as the gay couple don’t shag one another in the baker’s kitchen, a tolerant and fairly disinterested interaction has taken place. Similarly, parents understand that their adult children have sex lives, it doesn’t mean their kids should shag in front of them or leave their spunky laundry within sight.
Considering this, and considering that acolytes of Glinner might be open to conversation since they often complain of being cast as transphobic if they make arguments against LGBTQ+ activists, it was with a certain carefree attitude I commented on the tweet. Here is where things went down hill for me.
An honest conversation about what seems to be the common logical underpinning of the parallel situations is what I wanted; what I got was a torrent of liquid horseshit sprayed straight from my phone into my eyes. My honest belief is that the two cases are parallel because they share numerous key elements: a business refusing service to a customer on ideological grounds (in the cake case, Christian belief; in the pubic case, either identity as a feminist, or identity as muslim, it is unspecified in the article shared by Glinner but the author leaves the door open to either possibility). The responses to what I said came in four main categories which I will briefly consider:
- To argue on behalf of Jessica Yaniv is to argue that women must touch cocks and balls against their will, and is to be in favour of the perpetration of sexual assaults against women.
- Waxing balls is vastly different to waxing vulvas and requires specific training, and, that I don’t know how to wax genitals.
- That men having their nuts waxed may find it sexually arousing and that there is a power dynamic in favour of the male client when the waxer is a woman.
- That I am a misogynist, a woman hater, a dickhead, FUCKING STUPID, in favour of sexual assault against women; dim, a misogynist, or both. And a misogynist.
This is quite simply not true. First of all there is a very important distinction to be made between private individuals on the street, and enterprises offering services to the public on the other. As I said, I don’t know anything about Jessica Yaniv, and frankly, it makes no difference who she is. If a man, a pre-op trans woman, or for that matter, a giant penis wanders up to you in the street whilst you’re going about your day and demands that you wax their balls, or hold or inspect their genitals, you can surely refuse. That holds even if they say “G’WAN, G’WAN, G’WAN”. And that is not what the case in British Columbia is about.
Whether, however, businesses should be legally required to offer services which were hitherto precluded for ideological, i.e, discriminatory reasons, one can surely argue, ‘of course!’. If you run a business selling services to the public you don’t get to decide who you sell them to after evaluating that person’s background or life-choices or physical constitution. That is just the way it is. Otherwise you have to also say that the cake makers in Colorado are free to deny service to gays because they are gay, that non-black barbers and hairdressers are free to refuse to cut black hair because its black, or, even that female doctors can refuse to treat wounds to male genitals in the emergency room. That is what the logic dictates.
Oftentimes, such questions go unasked in society, meaning those societies end up functioning a certain way, until they don’t, ie, until somebody gets sued. And, even if you do own a business in this sector, you can still refuse to wax balls based on your ideology, just expect to be sued as a result. When the question is asked of businesses in this case, it falls upon the proprietor to explain the reasons behind why they refuse. Once they are brought out into the light, they can be assessed and then upheld or discarded. If they are based on prejudice, they should be held to be discriminatory.
We see a lot being made of whether trans people can use the bathrooms of the gender they identify as. It is a hot battleground between the two sides of the debate within which a challenge has been brought to an age-old order. Not so, however, in the oasis of tolerance that is Poland, where unisex toilets are and already have been very common.
It seems fair to say that waxing male genitals is different to waxing female genitals. Probably. I mean, I don’t know, I’ve never done it; usually I use amore’s razor, give it a quick rinse under the tap, and pop it back where I found it. But there are two things to consider here. First of all, no attention was drawn to this in the article shared by Glinner, so, at least for his purposes, that didn’t seem to be what it was about. Nobody was getting angry about training; everyone was getting angry about forcing all women to touch balls against their will. But, secondly, if the issue is about training, then it is, in fact, a non-issue, as that can be easily remedied. Businesses would benefit from having their staff both male and female genital-capable. The same issue would be present as in NUMBER ONE if businesses then refused for ideological reasons to undergo training.
Personally, I find the notion of waxing balls, labia, and mounds of vulva belonging to strangers utterly repugnant, and that is probably why I don’t run a business dependent on the practice. If for whatever reason, despite being comfortable with the one, I was not comfortable with the other, and I was confronted with an issue like this, I would probably look for a new line of work. Similarly, if the racists in the hair scenario, after having undergone training to cut black hair, should it be required (I don’t know, I don’t have black hair and have never been a barber), still refuse to cut black hair (which, of course they could), then they are probably acting in a discriminatory fashion for legal purposes. Nor should they have expected to go on never cutting black hair free of consequence.
One of the most depressing and horrifying things I’ve ever considered. That a man could have the hair torn from his scrotum and enjoy it is beyond me, but hey, I don’t judge. That being said, should a sexual assault arise from this transaction, then it is a criminal matter, plain and simple, and should be considered in the same way as if a women in the street were sexually assaulted. It is therefore, another red herring. It is not being argued that women should be compelled to undergo sexual assaults as part of their job.
It’s a bit like the argument against letting gays join the military as made by Gareth from The Office: “That’s one reason why gays shouldn’t be allowed into the army. Because if we’re in battle, is he going to be looking at the enemy, or is he going to be looking at me and going “Ooh. He looks tasty in his uniform”. And I’m not homophobic, all right? Come round, look at my CDs. You’ll see Queen, George Michael, Pet Shop Boys. They’re all bummers.” Should a homosexual have bummed Gareth opportunistically and non-consensually whilst he was on TA duty, he would’ve been court-martialled and imprisoned for the crime of military bum-rape. But is the mere thought, as so eloquently expressed above, enough to preclude the possibility of homosexuals being in the military altogether? I think not. Any threat to a woman’s safety in this case is equal with any threat that could be posed at any time when a man and a woman are alone together.
This one is largely up to you. Most of the people engaging in what became a Glinner-lead pile-on upon me, had gone through the looking-glass. Empowered by the rousing of their ideological daddy, they felt able to suggest I was a misogynist, that I hated women, that I, in fact, did not have a girlfriend, that I COULDN’T SEE that I was enabling SEXUAL ASSAULT, and that I was a dickhead. This particular implication came from Glinner himself (hence the title of the piece), which I found utterly stunning.
Not least because I had mistaken him for being reasonable, when in fact he is an out-and-out hypocrite; from a man who acts personally aggrieved by Mhairi Black’s foolish implication that women who disagree with her on the issue of trans people self-IDing in public spaces are cunts, this is rich indeed. And apart from anything else, a man having had the career he has had, and written the things he’s written, being unable or unwilling to engage in a discussion about an article he has shared in front of 630,000 people, is utterly disgraceful.
Twitter is a poor forum for such a behemoth of a topic. I struggled with one or two people to get them to see the point I was making but had to give up after the wall of accusations became too thick. Once Glinner himself got involved many others began to take pot-shots without having read what came before or attempting to engage in a meaningful way. If it was my first pile-on, I felt as though I’d drowned and a swarm of piranhas was consuming my corpse. What this debate needs is a little bit of composure and calm, a little bit of logic and reflection. I have tried to make my points that way myself, but I may well be wrong about everything I have just said. I am perfectly happy to countenance that fact. But please, if so, tell me what the logical reasons are.