Right now, a lot of politics about issues relating to transgender and gender nonconforming people are intense and not very forgiving. There’s very little trust, and understandably so, as a lot of people have been hurt in many ways by the current situation.
I don’t think there’s any chance of creating this trust on a big level any time soon. However, this leads to a problem that lots of highly important information will be inaccessible to all the parties who need it. This information might involve the different ways gender issues evolve and present, and how different people cope or treat them. It might involve all sorts of other things of relevance to people. The important problem right now is that this is dispersed across different groups who often don’t trust each other, and who are only interested in sharing it with people they feel are certain to take care of their concerns properly.
The goal here should be to create a win/win situation, where all parties feel that they are treated fairly and benefit from participating. Nothing else can work. For this reason, I propose creating a group of people with diverse, relevant perspectives, and allowing vetos from all the perspectives involved. The group would have to come to a consensus about what information to collect, and how to collect it, before it could even start asking questions. Before making any official opinions about how to interpret the collected information, the group would have to reach consensus on what the interpretation should be. This way, anything done by the group is guaranteed to be a win for all sides, as any problematic suggestions can be vetoed by people who’re concerned.
For all of this to make sense, it might be helpful to look at an example project that could be worked on. One that I am personally very interested in is documenting the experiences of detransitioners and how they compare to trans people.
If done right, this could help everybody. Detransitioners generally want their experiences to be heard. Trans people would want a fair comparison and contrast of their experiences and those of detransitioners, rather than FUD. If things work out perfectly (and they might not), studying this could also help questioning people decide whether transition is for them.
The problem here is that there are conflicts of interest in mistrust. Detransitioners don’t want their experiences misrepresented, and might reasonably fear that the only goal would be to dismiss their experiences as irrelevant (or worse). Many detransitioners may have strong reservations about transgender issues, and believe in political ideas that trans people find dangerous. This leads to issues about whether trans people feel misrepresented, or feel that the wrong things are getting examined.
All of these issues are solved by having people on each side collaborate. The varied perspectives will allow people who have concerns to make sure that these concerns are taken properly into account, and to ensure that things are only done if everyone benefits. This will allow us to reap the benefits of cooperation despite low amounts of trust.
This is not the only project that could be done. Other possibilities would be to better document what is happening around gender nonconforming people, to process the science and controversy of transness into more-digestible summaries with whatever consensus we can find, and likely a number of other things that I haven’t even thought of.
Achieving total consensus about everything will only be practical if the groups are sufficiently small, which would lead to problems due to lack of perspectives. An alternate approach would be to create a number of subgroups, each of which is responsible for taking care of one set of concerns. For example, trans people may have one broad subgroup, whose responsibilities would be to ensure that the total group avoids hurting trans people. I expect that it will also be useful to work with radical feminists who have, ehm, strong concerns about trans issues, so they would also have a subgroup, whose job it would be to take care of their concerns. If other groups turn out to be relevant, these groups would also be able to get a subgroup of their own.
We could set up a number of structures, such as a blog, a chatroom or forum for discussion, and maybe also a wiki or something. Depends on what becomes relevant, but at the very least we need some summary of what the groups does, who the group is, and why the group should be trustworthy.
The group might gather and publish raw data. If we can achieve consensus, we might publish some articles on how to interpret our data, various scientific findings, or other things that may be of interest.
The goal would be to try to improve the group quality over time. Initially, it’s likely going to consist of random people on the internet who find the project appealing, but hopefully we can work to establish some respect for the group and start collaborating with people who are more trusted in various ways.
In reality, I’m doing this for rather selfish reasons. I want to examine various things, but I have views that make people not trust me very much. For example, my views on trans policy are aggressively pro-transition to the point where certain groups of detransitioners whose experiences are highly relevant knowledge do not feel comfortable with my beliefs, while my views on the causes of transness (something similar to Blanchard’s typology) lead to many trans people not trusting me. Of course, I would claim that my policies are based on what’s likely to give good results, and that my beliefs are based on the best evidence available, but I don’t think I can convince enough people who disagree.
So, rather than try to force the information out of people, why not collaborate? Hopefully this can be a more productive approach than what I’ve tried until now.