[The original of this article was published in Delfi. It was translated for public procurement purposes. All rights belong to Delfi.]
Half-truth is worse than an open lie. Unfortunately, it is namely the half-truths that are used to juxtapose the Council of Europe Convention on preventing violence against women, family violence prevention and combat, with the widely-discussed Gender Loops programme and other methodologies that are used to raise awareness on gender-related social nature based on public expectations rather than that based on biological nature.
A number of such manipulations have been uncovered by Giedrė Purvaneckienė in her commentary. In response to that, among other things Gintautas Vaitoška availed himself to emotions: the convention against violence should not be ratified because transgender people in the showers leave you feeling uncomfortable.
For Mr Vaitoška and his fellow-thinkers, the most horrific thing is that the legislation uses the term “social gender” and bans the discrimination on the grounds of “gender identity”. The term “social gender” is used in academic discourse, also at the European Union institutions (Council of Europe is a separate body from the EU). EU document translations require the maximum accuracy and consistency but at the same time they need to be understandable in each member state. Lithuanian versions conform to an academic style – the goal is to ensure the maximum perception among bureaucrats, highest accuracy and language formality. When translating original EU documents from English, for example, metaphors and puns are left out – after all, documents are not written to entertain people, they are intended for legal and bureaucratic application.
English language allows for a remarkably greater flexibility, it is much easier to form adjectives from nouns, etc. The Council of Europe and the United Nations (Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 – UN documents) have a limited number of working languages but corresponding translations also require harmonisation with the terminology used in the EU and national legislation. Therefore, specialists translating into Lithuanian are faced with a tough task of translating international conventions, which are usually discussed in English, and other documents in a way that it would be clear on how they are supposed to be applied in the Lithuanian legislation and administration.
It is primarily in this domain that they are applied. The documents need to be understandable to an ordinary reader but their primary audience is the law and bureaucracy representatives. Strangely enough, some authors (for example, Dainius Vinciūnas in the portal Bernardinai) shudder upon reading that in Spain a decision was made to refer to the mother and the father as “parent 1” and “parent 2” respectively, as if these terms were not meant for bureaucratic but for everyday use. Usually, they do not find fault with the fact that in everyday language we do not say “the situation of my economic entity is complicated” or “another party to the agreement has reduced interest rates”. We do not refer to each other as physical entities. The legal and bureaucratic language must be as accurate as possible and include all the subjects that fall under the scope of regulation.
Mr Vaitoška refers to the USA, which uses legal precedents and the principle of “anything not banned is allowed”. It is no surprise there are various individuals who are testing the institutional limits as long as their intended activity is not formally banned. EU institutions take into consideration any precedents but try pre-empting any misunderstandings and ensuring that legal regulation is as much as possible in conformity with the on-going integration of European societies, which enjoy the free movement of goods, people and knowledge.
Differently than in the legal domain, the requirements of accuracy do not apply to commentaries in the media. Let us take an example: “The political reality is that women’s rights movement is closely related to the radical feminism, also called the post-feminism, insisting that the convention on preventing violence against women included the concept of “social gender” and “gender identity”,” Mr Vaitoška claims. Post-feminism refers to the rejection of the means of expression used by the second wave of the feminist movement: post-feminism largely implies that it is not only women’s education but the equality per se that is the objective of feminism. Also, it suggests that the essential goals of feminism have already been attained (women are free to acquire education, get employed), thus there is no need to pressure the society with further demands – women can and must appreciate the achieved goals even if it means retaining some non-feminist features (for example, there is no need to burn bras as a symbol of oppression; a woman may go to a business meeting in high-heels that are the worst enemy of her feet but give her an aesthetic pleasure).
Radical feminism is an aggregate of ideas, claiming that equality will not be reached by a slight increase in the possibilities for women and other gender-defined groups to get to the historically-established institutions. An institutional change is needed: education, career models, etc. “Social gender” is an academic term that has been chosen in an attempt to get closer to the original English term. Social gender is an entirety of various features and behavioural models that is linked to a certain gender and arises from the social perception about the behaviour that is proper of the corresponding gender. An individual may be subject to violence because he/she complies or does not comply with those models.
Judging from social expectations, young women are supposed to dress sexy but when they do, rapists use it to justify brutal physical violence (torture) against an individual and officers sometimes tend to treat such cases with a certain degree of nonchalance as compared to other cases. Violent spouses beat their wives not because they are women (for example, they have breasts) but rather because they associate their wives with possession. However, bullying and even physical violence occurs not only against women who are diligently following public norms but also those who reject them. Women who are considered manly or have a different gender identity are often subject to bullying, harassment or even direct physical violence because their behaviour allegedly “frustrates” the violators. If we associated the convention against violence with biological gender attributes, the punishment would be restricted to a very small number of criminal activities (for example, young female genital mutilation that is prohibited in many countries). More often than not violence is associated with social gender attributes, including those strongly underscored by transgender individuals. Should a transgender individual act “womanlike” (with respect to the social gender) and suffer violence as a wife or a sexy dressed woman, responsible institutions must react.
“The radical feminism – gender ideology – fiercely opposes therapeutic efforts of helping children overcome the discomfort with one’s own gender and accept oneself as he/she is, whoever they are – even if they are not stereotype boys or girls,” Mr Vaitoška claims. The reality is that the relation between modern feminism and transgender is not homologous. Modern feminism fights for various features (tenderness, power) and behavioural models to be disassociated from gender and available to one’s free choice, thus eliminating the binary element of gender (“car repairs, child care – everything must be manly or womanly”).
“Accepting oneself as you are, whoever you are – even if not a stereotype boy or girl” is the position of radical feminism that is promoted by Gender Loops and other known Scandinavian educational methodologies, which teach that if toys were exchanged for one day, the child’s identity and gender identity would not collapse. If a boy likes princess attributes – let him play with them, it will not make him a girl. The transgender is considered by many feminists their striving to jump to the other side without changing the binary system. Yet, it is recognised that we live in a society where the binary element prevails and transgender individuals, just like anyone else, must have the freedom to be who they want to be and not be subjected to bullying, harassment or other violence because of their choice.
When reading the thoughts of Mr Vaitoška, it seems that in our society, permeated by gender-related expectations, it is no big deal for a man to decide to be a woman. As if transgender women’s obtained state was not preceded by long suffering, dissuasion by their family members and various contemplations. As if transgender individuals were not subject to bullying at school. As if it is nothing but joy to introduce yourself to be of another gender. And the bureaucrats – so friendly and understanding, they allow you to change gender and then change it back accordingly with the mood you have on a particular day.
There are a number of stories on internet on transgender children and teenagers. Most of them speak about the tremendous patience of the individual and the family members, a heavy emotional weight that falls upon you once you realise it is not going to change and this is the way the child is and the only way possible is to support your child. If it is so difficult for Mr Vaitoška to demonstrate at least a little bit of goodwill and acknowledgement to the people who suffered so much and he is horrified by the thought that the state might take the obligation to defend them from violence, we can move on to another argument as the author featured a number of examples where surgeries were rushed without taking a deeper analysis of the motives behind the decision to undergo the surgery. However, what is the difference between a transgender individual who carries on with the “improvement” process from, for example, the live Barbie who paid a visit to Lithuania and even received air time?
The live Barbie is a woman who embraced the gender-related social requirements literally. However, if there appeared a criminal gang that would go smashing silicone breasts – the state and its institutions would have to defend the live Barbie even if she stirs negative feelings among some and regardless of the fact that personally, I do not think I would like to meet her in the shower. The debate in which the goal of non-discrimination is turned into a “bedroom affair” and the protection against violence is considered a “shower issue”, is nothing but yet another form of bullying that unconventional identity individuals are subjected to.