A Response to Intent

The letter which follows is a response to a letter I received from the anonymous group Women for Academic Freedom– and it was more than a bit of a mystery. I found it in the attached files folder of my Eudora e-mail reader, but don’t remember seeing a message associated with it and was unable to dig one up in a search. That happens sometimes with Eudora. I frequently find files from a Masschusetts politician named Yancey, yet I’ve never been able to find an e-mail by his campaign. The files just magically appear. Perhaps some arcane filter deletes the message (although I’ve found nothing in the trash) or routes it to one of the several folders I’ve set up in Eudora. It’s one of those mysteries of the Internets.

The letter is directed  to the anonymous group Women for Academic Freedom, in response to an article written  by Cristan Williams for the TransAdvocate website, yet until I sent Tristan a copy, she hadn’t seen it. My best guess was the article was meant to go to Cristan and I was sent a copy for consideration for publication in Chrysalis.Ordinarily I would check with he author, but the message doesn’t identify the author in either the file name or the text. Fortunately, looking at Properties in Word gave me the author’s last name, and fortunately it’s not a common name. I searched the name on Facebook and found someone with a single connection. I sent a message to Suzanne Saranski, asking if I had found the right person. I did.  

Big dummy that I am, if I’d read the material at the bottom of the letter I would have seen the author’s name and there would have been no need to play Columbo.

©2013 by Suzanne Saransky

A reply to the Women For Academic Freedom in response to:

The TERF Empire Declares War Against Trans People

TransAdvocate, July 25, 2013

 By Suzanne Saransky


To:  J.K.-NY, B.N.S.-NY, L.L.-NJ, C.M.-NH, M.S. –IN, N.S.-OH, A.E.-OH whoever you may actually be.

Having read your letter to Dallas Denny and Jamison Green, I have to wonder how you see yourselves as being any different than the people (trans-activists) you state you are rallying against. In what amounts to a tirade against the aforementioned two and against transgender people in general, you have obliterated the facts of what their letter, the one that so upsets you, was attempting to bring about. And I quote from that letter:

… We see disturbing potential for Dr. Jeffreys’ work to be little more than an update of Raymond’s screed, and we fear it will have disastrous consequences for transsexual and other transgendered people—as individuals.

We are morally certain Dr. Jeffreys will use Gender Hurts as a political weapon to attack transsexualism and transsexuals, and I urge Routledge and its parent companies Taylor & Francis, Inc., and Informa to ensure the following, at minimum:

1. That the work is rigorously based on empirical data (with no calls for action that are not evidence-based).

2. That the editor(s) establish and maintain correspondence with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the organization for medical and mental health professionals, to ensure #1, above—and moreover establish relationships with at least six medical and mental health professionals in the field so they can provide written feedback on the manuscript.

3. That the use of pronouns be controlled. I suggest the authors be required to write in accordance with the Associated Press Stylebook and relative to the lived experience of any transsexuals or other transgendered individuals discussed. They should not be allowed to see-saw between masculine and feminine pronouns, which a clever writer can do while adhering to the Stylebook’s standard.

4. That the authors not be permitted to libel any individuals they discuss—and indeed, that they should NOT be allowed to discuss individuals who are not by public figures by virtue of their writing or politics.

5. That the editor(s) require the work to have scientific validity and disallow any non-evidence based politicizing.

6. That the manuscript be rigorously policed to remove hate speech, slurs, and defamation.

We doubt those six points will be enough. We would like to further suggest that Routledge withdraw the work and seek a more rational, informed, and balanced author on the same subject. Please know we are not alone in our grave concerns about this book and about Dr. Jeffreys in general.

A response to this letter would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you for your consideration.


Ms. Dallas Denny, M.A., L.P.E. (Ret.)

I fail to see anything in their letter that is trying to prevent publication of a book on this subject, only that the book, which is intended to be used in academia as text for teaching young and impressionable minds, be rigorously vetted to insure that it does not become another Clifford Irving invention which presents fiction as fact. The statement that the groups letter is in no way intended to open a dialogue is evidence enough of its stance, agenda and purpose. Clearly this is a group of women who feel that they must deny the rights of others in order to feel secure in their own position. Where would they be if they were to let common sense and logic dissuade them from their self appointed need to rally others against the thing(s) that they find so horrendous?

Freedom of speech is a given and constitutionally protected right and nothing in Green and Denny’s letter seeks to deny you that. What they seek is instead to guarantee that what is taught as fact is indeed factual. Theory and rhetoric are fine and appropriate in the university setting, however, presenting theory as fact and using a book that makes those theories appear to be truth is not what the intention of university dialogue was meant to be.

To present any manifesto that preaches hate as the basis for a movement, and is a blatant attempt to draw others into the frame of mind that the book may propose, is abuse of the erudite and inquisitive nature of teaching young minds. Socrates set the standard by setting questions to his students and encouraging open discourse that willfully allows for rethinking the issues and finding new and different points of view that can change the teacher’s, and even the world’s perspective.

Here we have a case of the exact opposite. Academia using its place in the formation of thought to bend the minds of our potential future leaders to the will of those who spuriously promote a position that could not stand the test of true debate. University level debate is rigorous and demanding of those who choose to entertain the thought that they have the right to make a case for or against something.

These debates are designed to foster a deeper knowledge of the topic at hand and cannot be won on theory or hearsay, ideals or unsubstantiated factoid that attempt to sway the judges. To win the debate, the debaters must have evidence to support their theory or point of view. Green and Denny have done no more than ask that Women For Academic Freedom do no less in their support of their own beliefs. WFAF are being asked to back up with hard evidence what their stance is, and why their insistence on using a book that has yet to be proven to contain anything scientifically provable should be allowed the status of course mandatory text.

Obviously, I have not had the opportunity to read the book so I can say nothing to its actual content. However, I can say that the issues that Denny and Green are concerned with are not only legitimate, they are deserving of direct point-for-point rebuttal rather than being placed under an attack of clearly xenophobic proportion and refusal to have a dialogue about it. The letter that was sent by them was an admirable attempt at assuring that both sides of the issue be portrayed in a manner which allows the reader to come to their own decisions about which things they will choose to believe and embrace in the light of fact, evidence and hard research.

In their letter, Denny and Green go on to further state the following:

(In our opinion) Dr. Jeffreys’ writings about transsexualism have to date been highly political, based in opinion paraded as fact, and she has repeatedly said and written false and slanderous things about transsexualism in general and individual transsexual people in particular. She champions “solutions” which would make the well-established process of sex reassignment illegal. Her writing has, in the opinion of many people, clearly and repeatedly crossed the line into hate speech. She is, quite simply, on a vendetta.

(In 2012, Jeffrey’s) was barred from Conway Hall, the venue for the (London) RadFem 2012 conference, on the grounds of fostering hatred and active discrimination.

In 1979 Beacon Press published feminist Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male.  Based upon her 1977 dissertation at Boston College, the work was a polemic thinly disguised as a work of science. In it, Raymond asserted that male-to-female transsexuals symbolically rape all women by the mere fact of their existence. She (as does Jeffreys) deliberately misused pronouns, using them as weapons. Like Jeffreys, she argued for an end to sex reassignment—and she embarked on a tour of government agencies and insurance companies to accomplish just that end.  Thankfully, her project was never fully successful, but it did create immense suffering and damage, effectively restricting thousands of people from access to even basic healthcare.

Surprisingly, the radical feminist movement has in essence agreed that Dr. Jeffreys does cross the line into hate speech and has distanced themselves from her. They have even gone as far as promoting the May, 2013 RadFem conference as having nothing to do with transphobia. The following is an excerpt from Forbes, written by Peter J. Reilly on June 6, 2013 in an interview with Cathy Brennan about the RadFem conference:

Radfem 2013 On Gender

Here is what the introduction to the conference has to say about gender:

Radical feminists believe gender roles are harmful to women. We seek freedom from “femininity” and “masculinity”. Gender only exists for the benefit of men, as a class, at the expense of women, as a class.

What do they say radical feminism is:

Radical feminism goes to the heart of female oppression by naming male domination and violence as being responsible for women’s subordination.

Clearly, what Dr. Jeffreys maintain as a position that is universal is anything but, even amongst her own peers. In a world where the goal of the majority is to accept the differences that make us who we are, the kind of closed minded rhetoric that Dr. Jeffreys spouts is indeed hateful. It is not the same as decrying all gender roles. It is persecuting specific gender roles.

To believe that anyone who has not either experienced a particular thing first hand, or in lieu of that experience, spent countless hours talking with those who have, should be given honest consideration as an expert on the subject is akin to asking the drunkest person in a bar to be responsible for the safe transport of the other patrons there. There will inevitably be a catastrophic wreck causing significant injury to those who were unable to control the actions of someone who had no business being in charge in the first place.

Dr. Jeffreys vigorously promotes herself as a crusader in the cause she believes in and the rest of the WFAF group have all fallen in line.  To speak out against something you don’t agree with is not only acceptable but respectable. To arm yourself with rhetoric disguised as fact, opinion disguised as truth and purported evidence that has no basis in experience or scientific study and then portray that as your basis for disagreement is small minded and prejudiced.

I find the fact that Dr. Jeffreys believes that those who oppose her do so without cause and choose to persecute her for her beliefs, a further example of her lack of self-awareness.  I submit the following – written by Dr. Jefferys and published in the London Guardian on May, 29 2012 — in response to being barred from the RadFem conference:

…Though (Transgender activist Roz) Kaveney’s comments about me are comparatively mild in tone, the campaign by transgender activists in general is anything but. This particular campaign persuaded Conway Hall, the conference venue, to ban me from speaking on the grounds that I “foster hatred” and “actively discriminate”. On being asked to account for this, Conway Hall appeared to compare me to “David Irving the holocaust denier”. The proffered evidence consists of quotes from me arguing that transgender surgery should be considered a human rights violation – hardly evidence of hate speech.

What is clear is that transgender activists do not want any criticism of the practice to be made. They do not just target me, but the few other feminists who have ever been critical. Germaine Greer was glitterbombed, a practice that can be seen as assault and can endanger eyesight.

Keeping in mind that RadFem is for “women born women who live as women” and that this group is clearly not going to be swayed by transgender supporters, it is amazing to see Dr. Jeffreys blame the trans-rights activists for her exclusion from the conference. I agree with the article written by Stavvers on the same date as the above in which the following is found:

…Jeffreys claims persecution from the trans community in the form of utter horrors such as glitter bombing and captioned photographs. Perhaps the most stark example of the hideous persecution faced by poor Jeffreys and her transphobic ilk is that Jeffreys claims the RadFem2012 conference venue to have banned her from speaking, citing evidence of her hate speech that she believes to be entirely reasonable. Throughout, notably, Jeffreys can only blame a shadowy cabal of trans people: the idea that cis allies may have in any way been involved simply fails to occur to her.

And therein lays the entire problem with using a book written by Dr. Jeffreys as fundamental basis for any university course. She is so biased in her opinions on the matter of being transgender that she has no ability to see any other point of view. She has become a zealot who would rather do damage to the world around her than to admit that the theory she is espousing may be flawed. Promoting one’s point of view is classic university course work. Allowing for argument and debate is essential to keep that ideal in focus, meaningful and pertinent. Remove the ability to argue the position and what is left is no better than hate speech. Refuse to see the other side and you no longer maintain the standard of what being an academic is all about.

I respectfully ask that you, Dr. Jeffreys, and the women of the WFAF look hard at yourselves and ask what it is that you are trying to accomplish, why you are doing it, and if you are doing in the best way possible. Are you honoring you positions at the pinnacle of academia or are you perverting perspective to suit your own needs and desires?

Only you can be honest with yourselves, but in the interim, it is incumbent upon people like Denny and Green to take a stand that calls for you to look hard at what you are doing…to hold you accountable for answering the questions of why you are doing it and if you are doing it in a way that is in the best interest of the young minds you will be teaching.

No one seeks to stop you from having an opinion, only to be sure that what you purport to be fact, is indeed fact. I ask you to remember why it is that you do what you do, teaching. At some point, perhaps long ago, you were in love with learning. You were enamored of the idea that you might find a new perspective; possibilities and different point of view that you had no idea might exist.

To this eye, it appears that somewhere along the road to now, you forgot what it was like to inquire and question, to dig deep into the issue, to be hit with the adrenaline charge that comes from discovery. Somewhere along the line you all abandoned those things that made learning and adventure in favor of a new ideal…taking a position and being right about it. No matter what, no matter the cost and no matter if it was the right thing to do, it became about you rather than the process.

You have all lost your way and now you can’t seem to find a way back. You lost your way, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t alter your course. Much like being lost in a forest, all it takes is stopping to see where you are and deciding what it will take to find your way home.


Suzanne Sabransky, PA-C, transgender, male-to-female, lesbian