Bigots Unite! Deploying the Klan Fallacy in 3… 2… 1…

By Cristan Williams


It’s happened. TERFs and the people who DEFENDED Prop 8 have untied as one voice to proclaim that pre/non-op transwomen – as a group – are 1.) icky because 2.) they’re actually men, and therefore 3.) a danger to cisgender women.

“Now, it’s a Right Wing Organization that is standing up for Women and Girls…” – Cathy “Sorry About Your Dick & I’m Not A Bigot” Brennan

Yes, because that’s what right wing organizations do, Brennan. They… stand up for women and girls.

The issue I’m writing about today is that these groups regularly deploy what I’m going to call the ‘Klan Fallacy’ against transwomen. The most recent incarnation of this particular fallacy is the (now thoroughly DEBUNKED) Colleen Francis meme.

The central rhetorical weapon the Klan has historically used (and continues to use to this day) is the ‘someone in your group is an asshole; therefore, everyone in your group is a potential asshole’ fallacy. If someone in the black community turns out to be a sick fuck, then the Klan will encourage you to stereotype black people – collectively as a group – as being potential sick fucks. It’s their one-trick pony and if they can con you into viewing black people – collectively as a group – as a possible risk, the process of dehumanization has begun… and for the Klan, that process serves but one goal: segregation.

The ‘Klan Fallacy’ used to support racial segregation

Likewise, when anti-trans groups deploy the Klan Fallacy, they’re doing so to support their goal of achieving institutionalized segregation of cis and trans folk.

Every time I hear someone burble about how transwomen should be excluded from a “women’s space” (ie, a “ciswomen’s space”) they seem to always use the Klan Fallacy. If a sick fuck turns out to be trans, they claim that in the interest of safety for ciswomen, all transwomen should be segregated from ciswomen. They’ll assert that their call for segregation isn’t about bigotry; instead they’ll insist that it’s a simple issue of safety. They just need to segregate the transwomen from the ciswomen because transwomen pose an inherent risk – they’ll even try to point to a case or two in our nation’s history to ‘prove’ that the risk transwomen pose to ciswomen is so great that segregation is the only rational response:

I support rational anti-discrimination protections for people of transgender and transsexual experience… The definition of gender identity that the LGBT organizations keep putting forth is overbroad, and allows males who are not transgender or transsexual access into female only space. – Cathy “I’m not a bigot!” Brennan

Diving into the rhetorical game of the TERF and Fundamentalist:

In case you’re still not grasping why the ‘Klan Fallacy’ is problematic, let me illustrate:

These are womyn born womyn and they’re dangerous. These womyn born womyn are guilty of rape. They’ve even stalked their victims and raped them at knife point. This is undeniable proof that womyn born womyn are a danger and for the sake of creating safe places, we need laws on the books that will keep people safe from womyn born womyn. I don’t hate womyn born womyn; that’s not the issue. I support rational equality; and besides, this isn’t even an equality issue here… I’m not a bigot. Let me say that again… I AM NOT A BIGOT! From the evidence presented here, one can only rationally conclude that womyn born womyn can obviously become dangerous predators. These above examples are just a small sample of the long, long list of womyn born womyn perverts.

HAI! I’m a womyn born womyn who’s into child porn! I also like to molest 8 year old children!

The list goes on and on. Lives were ruined by these womyn born womyn perverts. This isn’t about me. This is about YOU and the safety of YOUR family. What would YOU do if one of your kids found themselves alone with a womyn born womyn?

Worse, did you know womyn born womyn are organizing to expand their power in influence in society? They even hold annual gatherings to plot their next move. They’re already in the classrooms. They’ve already used their position as womyn born womyn teachers to prey upon YOUR children. Again, this is a real issue that the media isn’t covering… and do you know why? It’s not politically correct to go on record as taking a stand against womyn born womyn. Do you really want womyn born womyn hanging out in the bathroom? What about your child’s school shower? Do you really want to take that chance? I know I don’t!!!

See how this rhetorical game is played?

From Cathy Brennan’s womyn-born-womyn blog


Can you now see how they take what is truly horrific – very real brutal and tragic events – and dishonestly pimp out the suffering of victims for their particular disgusting brand of bigotry? Any dishonest person could make this exact same type of argument against group. Anyone could talk about right wingers who have raped women and children and claim in the interests of safety – not out of bigotry – right wingers as a group need to be looks on as potential rapists.

It’s a trick bigots use to con people into supporting their bigotry. Their bigotry can’t stand on its own two feet; their bigotry will always grotesquely pimp out the suffering of innocent victims in the hope that the shock of the crime will shut down your critical thinking so that you will compliantly view an entire group of people as being capable of the very same crimes. It’s a disgusting and shameful rhetorical game that bigots use because it works. It’s a repugnant and manipulative game: inspire you to feel horror and trick you into shifting the horror you correctly feel about a disgusting behavior onto a entire group… And then as if that wasn’t not bad enough, they will then encourage YOU to go out and pull this same trick on others!

The Klan Fallacy is fallacious because this blood-soaked bigot’s weapon can be used against ANY and ALL groups. Remember when the ‘Klan Fallacy’ was used against gay people? Remember how the right claimed that DADT was about unit cohesion because a soldier wouldn’t be able to keep his mind on his job if there were homosexuals in the restrooms and showers… waiting????

People and groups who use this argument should be shunned by any and all rational human beings. When you hear the ‘Klan Fallacy’ used, you should automatically know that you’re listening to a bigot. If you’d like to make their head explode, simply ask them the following question:

“In what way does gender equality nullify laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance?”

They won’t have a reasoned response. They’ll simply try to again appeal to emotion. While they’ll tap dance all over the place, the one thing they won’t be able to do is explain to you how gender equality nullifies laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance.

Oh, they’ll appeal to tradition, the authority of someone’s religious interpretation or claim that it’s a slippery slope and that certain doom awaits us all unless we help them engineer a society of gender police who are ready to jail trans citizens for using the bathroom.

The more honest bigots will tell you all about how some white people just don’t like being in the same space as black people, that some Christians just don’t like being in the same space as Muslims or how some ciswomen just don’t like being in the same space as transwomen. They’ll tell you that their discomfort is really, really important. In fact, they’ll look you in the eye and tell you that their discomfort is more important than your access to the 14th amendment. But that’s not how things as supposed to work here in America, is it?

Yes; a heterosexual soldier might feel uncomfortable in the same locker room as a homosexual soldier, but that’s tough shit. The soldier who views homosexuals as a whole with a wary eye has the problem, not the homosexual soldier. If a gay person behaves inappropriately after lifting DADT, then the law will deal with their bad behavior instead of reinstating DADT… no matter how much various anti-queer hate groups tie themselves into knots.

Yes; a white person might feel uncomfortable in the locker room with a black person, but that’s tough shit… right? We don’t segregate black people from white people because some white people have bigoted ideas about black people which cause them to feel uncomfortable. No; the white bigot has the issue and they need to just fucking deal with it. If a black person behaves inappropriately after the victories of the civil rights movement, then the law will deal with their bad behavior instead of repealing the civil rights act… no matter how much the Klan ties themselves into knots.

If a ciswoman feels uncomfortable knowing that a transwoman might use the same restroom, then likewise, it’s tough shit. A ciswoman’s right to believe the ‘Klan Fallacy’ does not trump the rights of transwomen as a whole. No, the nation shouldn’t set up a system of segregation because some ciswomen choose to hold bigoted views. If a transperson behaves inappropriately after proliferation of gender equality laws, then the law will deal with their bad behavior instead of repealing all the gender equality laws… no matter how much the TERFs and fundamentalists might tie themselves into knots.

Reality Check:

Now that I’ve dealt with the rhetorical tools of bigots, let’s review some reality:

I have spent so many hours avoiding public multi-stall bathrooms that I have damaged my bladder and put pressure on my kidneys. The problem was a daily one. I’d think about where I was going what bathrooms I’d have access to, how much I drank during the day, whether I’d be with people who could help stand guard…

– Response to a 2002 survey conducted by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission which found that nearly 50% of transgender respondents reported harassment or assault in a public bathroom

We live under the constant threat of horrifying violence. We have to worry about what bathroom to use when our bladders are aching. We are forced to consider whether we’ll be dragged out of a bathroom and arrested or face a fist fight while our bladders are still aching. It’s an everyday reality for us. Human beings must use toilets… If I go into the women’s bathroom, am I prepared for the shouting and shaming? Will someone call security or the cops? If I use the men’s room, am I willing to fight my way out? Am I really ready for the violence that could ensue?

– Leslie Feinberg, Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue, p 68 – 69

Police officers often harass or abuse transgender and gender nonconforming people regardless of which sex-segregated bathroom they use. This harassment intensifies when coupled with the stereotyping of trans people as sexual predators. As such, the use of the ‘wrong’ bathroom . . . often results in arrests for crimes such as public lewdness, public obscenity, or public indecency. Refusing to comply with or simply questioning a police officer’s direction as to which bathroom the individual must use can often lead to charges such as resisting arrest or disorderly conduct.

– Pooja Gehi, Struggles from the Margins: Anti-Immigrant Legislation and the Impact on Low-Income Transgender People of Color, 30 WOMEN’S RTS. L. REP. 315, 326 (2009)

And it doesn’t stop with bathrooms. This level of violence is something trans folk must consider when buying cloths too. Here’s what State Rep. Richard Floyd (R) said he’d do to a trans person if they dared to buy clothes like anyone else might:

I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.

Again, to hit home just how longstanding this meme is, consider the following quote from a 1970 anti-trans equality legal decision:

There are numerous subjects who would want to change their sex identity in order to perpetrate crimes of homicide, tape, robbery, assault, etc.”

– Columbus v. Zanders, 266 N.E.2d 602, 604–06 (Ohio Mun. Ct. 1970)

To be graphically explicit about the reality transwomen face…

And isn’t it just awesome how transwomen are arrested for emptying their bladder:

When we talk about the things Rosanne Barr said, we need to address the underlying Klan Fallacy. We need to be clear when right-wingers deploy the trans bathroom meme; we need to loudly talk about the bigot’s game that’s being played. For the Klan, if they can get you to buy into their fallacy, the process of dehumanization will begin. You’ll easily conflate rape (a behavior) with the African-American community (an identity) and the African-American community will naturally become a group that you treat with suspicion. Moreover, you’ll find yourself supporting the idea of segregation. Likewise, if TERFs and fundies can get you to perform this same mental gymnastic, you won’t see the need to ask TERFs and fundies to explain exactly how gender equality laws nullify existing laws prohibiting rape, assault, stalking and/or public indecency/disturbance. When you look at race through anti-equality glasses, the risk the African-American community poses will seem self-evident and when you look at gender through those same glasses, the supposed risk the trans community poses will seem just as self-evident.

If a cisgender woman goes into the locker room and exposes herself, then there’s laws to deal with her behavior. Claiming that those laws somehow magically evaporate if the person is trans instead of cis is a bigoted lie and those who propagate that lie should be called out at every turn.

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Cristan Williams is a trans historian and pioneer in addressing the practical needs of underserved communities. She started the first trans homeless shelter in Texas and co-founded the first federally funded housing-first homeless program, pioneered affordable health care for trans people in the Houston area, won the right for trans people to change their gender on Texas ID prior to surgery, started numerous trans social service programs and founded the Transgender Center as well as the Transgender Archives. She has published short stories, academic chapters and papers, and numerous articles for both print and digital magazines. She received numerous awards for her advocacy and has presented at universities throughout the nation, served on several governmental committees and CBO boards, is the Editor of the TransAdvocate, and is a founding board member of the Transgender Foundation of America and the Bee Busy Wellness Center.