The yuk factor

Professor Paul Johnson, head of the department of sociology at the University of York, posted this on Twitter today. It’s from the judgement in a 2014 case before the European Court of Human Rights.

Society’s problematic “yuk factor” concerning transgender individuals is not a normative idea that should be supported by the law.

Sharing Johnson’s post, journalist and trans man Freddy McConnell added:

This isn’t a factor in overt anti-trans campaigning or general resistance to trans equality, it is the factor.


In my opinion, most so-called “gender critical” views are underpinned by disgust of transgender people (the “yuk factor”). Because disgust can be socially discrediting – it easily reveals bigotry – GC proponents often try to disguise it by appealing to more “high minded” ideals.

He’s right, of course. Racists and homophobes do this too. It’s (mostly) social death to admit that you are disgusted by the very existence of Black people or of gay people, so you look for a fig leaf to disguise it: “scientific racism” for racists and “family values” or “protecting children” for homophobes.

If you watch the videos of the founding meetings of anti-trans pressure groups or look at their supporters on social media you’ll soon see them take the mask of respectability off. Disgust of trans women isn’t just tolerated. It’s celebrated and often actively encouraged.

There have been many millions of words written by anti-trans activists about trans people, and most of them can be summarised in just one: yuk.