Janice Raymond responds to being disinvited from a conference on violence against women:
Letter to the Editor Published in Klassekampen, Oslo Norway September 14, 2013
I was invited to speak on August 28, 2013, as part of a panel sponsored by the Ombuds office on the subject of prostitution and the Norwegian law against the purchasing of sexual activities. The day I arrived in Oslo, the Ombuds office informed me that I had been excluded from the panel of speakers because of my views on transsexualism. In an August 27 letter to Dagbladat, four signers represented my writings as “transphobic.” The Ombuds director took as truth what was actually a misrepresentation of my views without ever asking me if this letter was a valid account of my work. Furthermore, I was invited to speak on prostitution, not transsexualism.
A more distorted and defamatory letter purporting to quote my work was printed in Klassekampen on August 31 authored by Synnøve Økland Jahnsen, a researcher at the University of Bergen. Using quotation marks, this second letter stated that I believed “transsexuals should be eradicated on moral grounds.” This quotation is false, intellectually irresponsible, and what appears to be a deliberate misquoting of my actual words written in the appendix of my book, The Transsexual Empire.
My book primarily is a critique of the medical model that treats transsexualism as a disease and tracks persons with gender dissatisfaction into hormonal and surgical treatments. I have written that surgically removing a healthy penis or breasts, being pumped full of hormones, and often embarking on secondary surgical journeys to alter voice or appearance is a walking tribute to the power of repressive norms of masculinity or femininity, which teach all of us that in a gender-defined society it is easier to change your body than to challenge these gender roles. The system of transsexualism instead reinforces conformity to these roles, roles that feminists have spent lifetimes fighting. For example, psychiatrists and other medical specialists require candidates for treatment and surgery to prove that they are members of the opposite sex by “passing” stereotypically as culturally-defined women or men. Increasingly in hospital-based gender identity clinics, children who act out non-normative gender roles are being “treated” with opposite-sex hormones when they reach puberty to give their bodies an opposite-sex appearance.
I have also written that transsexual surgery and treatment is unnecessary surgery and a harmful medical practice. Many physicians and researchers agree with me. For example, Johns Hopkins Hospital in the United States – one of the first medical centers to perform transsexual surgery — has closed down their gender identity clinic and transsexual surgery because they came to believe that transsexualism is “medical mutilation.” Ms. Jahnsen’s quote distorted my words criticizing the system of transsexualism into an attack on transpersons. The actual words that I wrote in my book are the following: “the issue of transsexualism has profound political and moral ramifications; transsexualism itself is a deeply moral question rather than a medical-technical answer. I contend that the problem of transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence.” What this means is that I want to eradicate the medical and social systems that support transsexualism and the reasons why in a gender-defined society, persons find it necessary to change their bodies. Nowhere do I say, as Ms. Jansen attributes to me, that “transsexuals should be eradicated on moral grounds.” Jansen’s quote has overtones of ethnic cleansing and makes it sound like I want to eradicate transpersons from the face of the earth.
Ms. Jansen also objects to my views on prostitution. Given the way in which she has misconstrued my words about transsexualism, she would possibly accuse me of wanting to eradicate women in prostitution because I want to eradicate prostitution!
Transsexuals and transpersons are entitled to the same human and civil rights as others. Recognizing these rights does not mean that everyone must accept that hormones and surgery transform men into women and women into men. This is comparable to saying that dermatologists can transform white people into blacks through a skin pigmentation change. Yet the transgender lobby aggressively attacks any critical voice as transphobic and tries to censor us from speaking. There is a big difference between criticism and transphobia. The transgender lobby knows that censoring criticism allows the accusation of transphobia to prevail and appears willing to distort the words of those they disagree with.
I can only believe that either Jahnsen is a very uninformed researcher who has never really read my work, or that she has deliberately misconstrued my words perhaps to discredit my work against the system of prostitution and the sex industry.
I cannot believe that University of Bergen is well-served by such academic incompetence and/or intellectual dishonesty when a basic premise of academic research is to insure that a researcher quotes her or his sources faithfully. I would hope that the university has an academic standards committee that would review Jahnsen’s research to insure that such distortions of any scholar’s words do not happen in the future.
Janice G. Raymond
Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies and Medical Ethics
University of Massachusetts, Amherst (USA)