Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Safe Space.

The suggestion, earlier this week, by one of Labour’s LGBT+ advisors Anthony Watson, should, in my view, not be completely dismissed out of hand. Yes there are obvious issues with it, ghettoising trans people’s lives will never be the solution, and ghettoising would also have the opposite effect of making all other areas become regarded as places where it is OK to attack trans people (and how to trans people get to so-called safe zones without going through an unsafe zone, and what if we can only afford to live in an ‘unsafe zone’). So the solution, as Watson envisages it, is probably a non-starter. However it needs to be regarded as a starting point from which we can move forward the discussion about transphobia in the UK.

However there are other related issues that need to be discussed
and, from one point of view Watson’s intervention should be seized on as an opportunity to discuss the current wave of hatred and violence directed at trans people, including trans children.

So, if I were going to advocate any safe zone for trans people that safe zone would be virtual, and include the mainstream media, which is responsible for whipping up the hatred currently directed at trans people. Without that, the Times, the Mail, the Express, Mumsnet, the Atlantic, the Sun and other extreme right-wing hate groups will continue to push their lies, misinformation and fabricated fears. The rise in hate-crimes against trans people is directly correlated with the rise in hate spread in these extremist media platforms. These media outlets have magnified the extreme hate put out there by the so-called “women’s concerns” groups, which range from outright, openly fascist hatemongering, to the more subtle ones claiming to be “socialists” who spread hate and fear under an increasingly thin veneer of “feminism”. 

The effects of this media hate-propaganda and these faux-concern groups is clear to see, in the penultimate week of the school spring term three young trans people were attacked, one had his face slashed with a knife, one faced horrific abuse in a shopping centre and another had her head stamped on in an attack in school, an attack that could have been deadly if it hadn’t been stopped. Although they are rarely reported in the media, I am told that suicides of young trans people and trans children are currently running at a rate of around four a year.

The spread of hate from these groups to the extreme right, aided and abetted by the national catastrophe – also media created – that is Brexit, are the main causes of the violence against trans people, and as such no ghettoisation is ever going to protect trans people from its effects. What trans people need is protection from media bullying. The school that excluded the child who stamped on a trans girl’s head was doubtless doing its best to create a safe space for her, yet school management, however hard they try, cannot easily exclude media hate and lies from infecting the minds of the children, often passed down to them from their parents.

So how do we protect trans people from this media-induced violence without threatening the right of free speech? There are a number of possibilities:

1) If we are going to create ‘safe zones’ then shops in those safe zones might not be allowed to sell copies of the worst-offending papers. The faux-concern groups might be banned from meeting there or distributing their hate propaganda there, as might extreme right-wing anti-trans groups. This is however, not a real solution, ghettoisation has never worked in the past so there is no real likelihood that it will ever work in the future.



An alternative to this, along the lines of CLASP, organised in Camden and Islington by Forum+ (Formerly Camden LGBT Forum) where businesses can be encouraged and staff trained, to publicise, and offer, safe spaces to LGBT people under attack might be a way of rolling-out safe spaces without ghettoization.

2) A statutory, and timely, right of reply for groups affected my misleading or dishonest hate-mongering, should be implemented, including dishonest and misleading coverage constructed by selective reporting. The problem with the media is that coverage of most media outlets, like the Times for example, systematically excludes dissenting voices to the extent that there is no opportunity for trans human rights campaigners to correct false information or misleading impressions given. This would address the main cause of media hate.

3) For businesses to stop advertising in these hate-rags, and for campaigns by trans people, through existing groups like Hope Not Hate, to target advertisers who help fund these hatemongering news outlets.

4) For the Equality Act to be extended to cover the activities of IPSO (well actually IPSO needs to be shut down and re-formed it is not fit for purpose) through Leveson 2, which would force them to take action to protect minority groups.

5) For media awards groups to stop giving awards to journalists who publish transphobic material, (and to rescind the ones they have awarded) and for other journalists, following the example of Patrick Strudwick, to call them out on their transphobia. Also journalists who attempt to adopt a “neutral” perspective and advocate “free speech/debate” as Kenan Malik and David Aaronovitch have done, to reconsider their positions and advocate for an end to the current effective censorship of trans people from most of the media, if they want to be taken seriously as journalists/commentators.


The key here is access to the media, something that is being systematically denied by corporate media. While ghetoisation might be a short-term stop-gap which would potentially draw attention to the media-induced violence against trans people, ultimately it is a non-starter. The core of the problem is the media, and any measures like ghettoization, that might distract from the main locus of the problem will, ultimately, just make it worse by giving the media something else to attack.

The safe zone for trans people should be the entire world. The only way to achieve that is to stop transphobic hate in the media.





Tuesday, 22 January 2019

The Issue is Transphobia

Hbomberguy's fundraiser for Mermaids did an awful lot more than raise $336,000+ for Mermaids, the inspirational charity that supports trans children, and in many cases saves their lives. It also provided, for an all too short a time, a free space for trans people and their allies to discuss the issues facing trans people in general and trans kids in particular. This is important and also very revealing. For the first time in ages online there was a space that allowed trans people and our allies to discuss issues and express ourselves freely. 

This was because the space was not managed, curated, edited, chaired, infiltrated, threatened or controlled by transphobes for once. It wasn't a "discussion" set up by the faux "women's concerns" hate groups. It wasn't a "debate" confected for broadcast media where an ignorant carpet-chewing bigot is set up against a knowledgeable and reasonable trans person or ally. It wasn't an "investigation" by a "journalist" member of the secret anti-trans media cabal, regurgitating their weird groupthink. It didn't include cheap glinning throwaway one-liner misrepresentations of trans people, it didn't have the constant dead-hand threat of having any phrase misused in mainstream media to mean something different from
what was intended. It didn't include voices of the faux "silenced" loudly claiming to be "SILENCED!". It didn't include cis transphobes retrospectively lying about being mistaken for trans guys when they were kids (back in the 1980s? Yeah right!). It didn't include protected Freeze Peach of the kind being provided by York University.


In short it was a conversation, a social media space which was, for a short period, beyond the control of the transphobes. And this is significant, not merely because it demonstrated that, despite the intense media anti-trans campaign (a propaganda wave that deliberately and systematically excluded trans people, yet which described itself as a "debate"), trans people have much more support out there in Real-World Land than the media transphobes think.

It also struck me (although I couldn't spend much time there over the weekend because I had a couple of other projects on the go) that the ultimate root for the discussions was not trans "issues" - we are people not "issues" - but transphobia, cisgenderism, cis-mythologization, trans erasure or whatever other anti-trans processes you might want to define. We are in the midst of a media-orchestrated wave of anti-trans hate centrally-organised by a shady clique of transphobic bigots behind the scenes who are then published by the likes of Murdoch and Rothermere. Bigots whose actions are carefully crafted to connect with social media to produce online bullying and abuse and which all too often play the player rather than the ball. 

That is the issue.


We urgently need to turn the "debate" away from "trans issues" and faux "concerns" and on to the issue of transphobia. Transphobia is the reason Mermaids exists and its life-saving work is needed to prevent children from dying. Obviously the anti-trans lobby wants to stop this lifesaving work, they would rather trans kids just quietly died by suicide like they used to, which is why their media campaign is so focussed on this wonderful charity. Anyone who says that, despite the general ineffectively of the biased media hate-campaign, trans people, especially children, are not being harmed by this propaganda, is being dishonest.


Transphobia is the issue; the rise in transphobia is a media problem and therefore we cannot expect the media to honestly engage in a "debate" about such issues, so trans people need to make space for this ourselves, in the same way hbomberguy did.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Brexit: Another dishonest Guardian campaign

A few months ago the Guardian ran a one-a-day drip-feed campaign to convince people that transphobic academics were being "silenced". This campaign which culminated in a widely criticised and factually incorrect transphobic editorial, an editorial that was so bad that the Guardian US, in an unprecedented move, actually ran a counter-editorial criticising it. The guardian drip-feed campaign was actually so dishonest that, despite telling us that transphobic academics are being "silenced" every day for five days, it did not actually produce a single example of a transphobic academic being unable to produce transphobic material. Yet at the same time Nic Shall, a trans PhD student is still being prevented from speaking and calling out transphobia. Needless to say this was not mentioned in the drip-feed. 

Being able to scream "I am being silenced!" in the national press is, ultimately, proof that you are not being silenced at all.

Now the Guardian appears to be starting a drip-feed campaign against a people's vote second referendum on the final deal for Brexit, and, yes you guessed it, it is just as dishonest as their transphobic "free speech" campaign.



It claims that a third of Labour voters would be "less likely" to back Labour if it adopted a 'Stop Brexit' policy. The fact that this "third" actually turns out to be 9% when you read the text, certainly does not surprise me;


"11% of current Labour voters said it would make them less likely to vote for the party."

This follows material produced by the normally reliable Owen Jones arguing that "Norway+" would be a great deal for the country. So losing influence in Europe and in effect becoming a colony of the EU is preferable to full membership. Now it turns out that the study to which the article refers also includes the following figures if Labour decides to back a people's vote;

9% of Tories more likely to vote Labour
39% of Lib Dems more likely to vote Labour
40% of Greens more likely to vote Labour

I'll take that lot rather than a share of the 9% TBH.

Of course supporting a people's vote on the final deal is not "stopping Brexit", it is giving the population an opportunity to vote on the final deal, something not available in 2016. However we also need to consider the meaning of "less likely" in this context. If this group is "less likely" to vote Labour that does not mean that they will not vote Labour, and one of the considerations would therefore be who would they vote for...?


If another receptacle for their votes is available then this likelihood increases, if there isn't it decreases. Given that the only possible destinations for their votes if they are that concerned to support the wanton destruction of Britain that they want to vote for a Leave-supporting party are the Tories and Ukip, there is not much choice. Ukip is a busted flush and will probably only be able to field a handful of candidates in a general election. Which leaves only the Tories. In fact very few voters ever switch from Labour to the Tories, and, in the 2017 election very few did so even in seats where there was a Leave-supporting Tory and a Remain-supporting Labour candidate. Indeed Remain-supporting Labour candidates won in large number of Leave-voting seats.

Contrast this with the possibilities for Remain voters. Remain voters have a number of alternatives; The SNP in Scotland  (who are likely to take 10 seats off the Tories at the next election) and Plaid Cymru in Wales as well as the Greens and Lib Dems countrywide. Indeed it seems that the Lib Dems are already quietly picking up a small but potentially significant number of Labour Remain votes as their polling has increased from bumbling along at 7-8% since the 2015 referendum, to between 10 and 12% now. So while Leave voters only really have the option of not voting (given that supporting the Tories will be anathema to most of them), while Remainers have a number of different possibilities, and are starting to take advantage of these possibilities.

It is also worth remembering that the current polls that show a 12% majority for Remain but that this is misleading. It is asking the question that was asked two and a half years ago, and not the question that would be asked in a People's Vote. 

A People's Vote on the final "deal" whatever that is, whether a catastrophic "no deal", the May Deal, Norway Plus or whatever, is just that. A vote on the specifics of whatever deal du jour happens to be on the table when they finally get round to accepting the only truly democratic way out of this mess. 

The contrast between a specific deal (and, for the sake of argument the May Deal is the only one currently on the table, the only one having been accepted by the EU) and the general notion of  "leaving the EU" is crucial. When all those leavers voted leave in 2016 they all had different ideas of what Brexit would be like.

Some voted for 'sovereignty'
Some voted for '£350m a week extra for the NHS'
Some voted to be wealthier
Some voted to have their cake and eat it.
Some voted to be like Norway or Switzerland
Some voted for a hard brexit (believing that there would not be any resulting economic collapse)

The difference with a Final Say referendum is that it is about voting on a very specific proposal, on the reality of brexit rather than the unicorns sold last time. So the variety of reasons people voted leave will be replaced with a cold, hard reality that is devoid of unicorns, with less money for the NHS not more, with no cake either to eat if have and in which everyone becomes significantly poorer.




In this scenario Remain vs Whatever Deal, Remain wins by a margin of around 35-40% rather than the 12% in the current opinion polls. This looks like a much better way to start the process of bringing the country back together and healing the divisions than persisting with an increasingly unpopular Brexit, the majority for which consists entirely of dead people, and which will make everyone poorer. 

How the Guardian got itself into this mess of publishing such blatantly dishonest propaganda of the Daily Mail kind is anyone's guess. Sort it out Viner.



Friday, 11 January 2019

A Real Socialist Alternative to Brexit



It is probably no coincidence that Owen Jones, on the same day that Jeremy Corbyn told us he was going to renegotiate a “new brexit deal”, published an article in the Guardian suggesting that the way forward was a Norway+ deal. Norway Plus is a kind of “Brexit In Name Only” deal that would see us remain in the Single Market and Customs Union and keep freedom of movement. Given that Jeremy Corbyn also said he wanted to bring Remainers and Leavers together, one can see the attraction of Norway+ as an apparent compromise.

As a Remainer, on a personal level I could probably live with Norway+, despite it effectively having the same principal flaw as May’s Blind Brexit “deal”, that of vassalage. Being on the naughty step of Europe is in many ways fitting for the UK right now.

However I am opposed in principle to any renegotiated deal, whether renegotiated by Mr Corbyn or anyone else, that would see us leave the EU, and I am opposed to it as a socialist, and member of Another Europe Is Possible. Norway+ would be a victory for Putin and fascists all over Europe. Here's why...

Being outside the EU, even if we were as closely linked as in Norway+, would have a big disadvantage; we would no longer have any real voice in Europe, we would not be able to campaign to change the EU for the better and make common cause with other socialist groups across the continent, like Podemos in Spain and Sryza in Greece, as well as emerging left-wing groups in Portugal, Austria, Malta and other places. It would mean we would not be able to help and support new left groups likely to emerge in places like France and Italy. 



One of the problems with the EU is its current neoliberal stance; this is something that needs to change and which can be changed, indeed it is ripe for changing. Being outside the EU means we will have absolutely no influence whatever over things like this. Inside, we can change the EU, the Gilets Jaunes protests suggest that there is a growing appetite for change across the EU, away from a neoliberal position to one like that associated with the policies of Jeremy Corbyn. 

The problem is, as we have already seen, the extreme right is always waiting to capitalise on grievances like those of the Gilets Jaunes, and as we have already seen, extreme right versions of this group have been popping up in many different places; in the UK the Yellow Vests are fascists. This is more than a metaphor for the way the far right works, appropriating the outward signs of anything vaguely rebellious. This is the way the far right operates at its core. The problems with neoliberalism and the way it disenfranchises and impoverishes, which are now becoming more apparent as the neoliberal forced consensus breaks down, are seized on by right-wing groups as vehicles for their own agenda. These fascists use the disaffectedness caused by neoliberal economic policies as a fertile recruiting ground for their hate. Fomenting hate and division is what these groups always do and this is what they are doing with those disenfranchised and left struggling under the oppression of neoliberalism. 

The only answer, the only way to prevent this from happening, is for the left to respond with coherent and workable anti-neoliberal policies. We need to give these people an option that is made up of hope and empowerment not fascism, division and hate. The left is the only group that can seriously provide an alternative to the grey, crushing neoliberalism that has scarred our world since the 1980s, and to those left behind and impoverished by its inequality-magnifying effects. 

Yet it is the far right that is on the march across Europe, not the left. These are groups which promote only anger, hate and division – all of which (more than coincidentally) help the neolibs by making it less likely that their system will be seriously challenged. Whether the UK is in or out of the EU, we will be affected by this growth in right-wing hate politics. Out of the EU however, we will be able to do nothing to resist it, we will have no influence to mould policies that can change the system and smash the cold, dead hand of neoliberalism which feeds this right-wing activity. 

This is why I oppose any deal that will see us leave the EU, even one negotiated by Jeremy Corbyn and endorsed by Owen Jones. Ultimately if we want to end this neoliberal nightmare we are going to need to work together with our neighbours in the EU, as only a large multinational group like the EU can effectively resist the global neoliberal forced consensus. Attempting to do so on our own will not merely fail, that failure will affect everyone else. The left needs to campaign for a second referendum (with a Remain option Barry Gardiner!) and then to reform the EU away from its current unpopular economic policies of miserable hopelessness. 

There is great danger in abandoning Europe to the far right and its emerging Trumpettes in Eastern Europe, but are great prizes to be won by the left as there is now an appetite for a proper change across the continent. Harnessing that desire for change and directing it to make that change happen is not only possible, it is likely if we work together, and constitutes the only way we can prevent the far right from misdirecting the sense of anger and hopelessness felt by people from the Baltic States to the Canaries. Leaving Europe and retreating into a myopic and ultimately futile, and possibly counterproductive, attempt to take down neoliberalism in isolation is what the neolibs and the far right want.

Seizing the moment and making Europe work for its people is the prize and that prize is one which, as socialists, we need to fight for, before it is too late.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Dangerous, Oppressive Times

The “results” of the recent Times “survey” about trans people’s rights are predictable coming from the UK’s most well-funded anti-trans organisation. And they are as likely to be representative of reality as Alice in Wonderland, especially since other polls have flatly contradicted them.

The Times has employed a number of strategies against trans people in recent years, including excluding genuine trans people from taking part at all in their transphobic “debate”, despite spreading the obvious lie that we are “silencing” others, and, through their punch-down-and-bully department, launching personal attacks on activists including a very young trans woman and parents of trans children.

Their latest strategy is more pernicious and has serious implications, not merely for trans people but for other minority groups also. The question on whether trans people should be “allowed” to change sex legally in a less degrading way, is of course, no-one else’s business but ours. But the Times wants to make it everyone else’s business, and by asking such a question it is subtly adding a new dimension to their so-called “debate”. The idea that the majority should have a veto over minority rights is dangerous, pernicious and profoundly oppressive. The idea, for example, that there should be a referendum on same-sex marriage, reinforces the idea that rights can be given and taken away in the whim of the majority. 

As we have seen recently in Taiwan, the majority has vetoed, after a disgusting campaign by the extreme “Christian” right, equal marriage. Biased media busybodies who have no right to determine who gay men, lesbians or bisexual people can marry claimed the right to unnecessarily interfere in others’ lives. 

The idea that trans rights should be decided by a majority of a largely badly informed populace, is pretty much as oppressive as it gets.

This is doubly so when anti-trans groups like the Times are spreading disinformation about us on an industrial scale, while preventing us from responding with anything even remotely resembling parity. Their propaganda campaign has been exclusionary, dishonest, misleading and spiteful in the extreme. But the notion that trans people’s rights to statutory self-identification of gender should be determined with reference to some kind of popular whim of a populace who are deliberately misinformed is a dangerous step. 

It is not merely a dangerous step for trans people however, it is a dangerous step for all minority groups. The idea that rights can be given, and therefore taken away, by a popularity contest, threatens everyone, including others in the LGBTQIA-family, black and ethnic minority people, asylum-seekers, religious minorities, the disabled and neurodiverse. When hate-groups like the Times campaign for any rights to be determined by popular whim, that is what oppression looks like. Especially for rights like equal marriage, and statutory declaration of gender, which have been shown to affect no-one other than the groups concerned. 

Minority rights should be decided on merit, not by a biased media popularity contest.


That the Times has taken this step, no doubt at great expense, demonstrates not just that they are putting a great deal of money into their transphobic hate-campaign, but that they have one eye on normalising this kind of oppressive, deliberately misinformed populism in order to extend it to other groups. Trans people have always said that we were the wedge issue to be used to undermine other people’s rights. The Times action confirms this.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Mermaids Press Release

Mermaids often receives emails from journalists asking questions about the work we do. Today we received a request for information from a Times journalist regarding a recent Mermaids diversity training session that was recorded without the knowledge of the trainer.

In the interests of transparency and fairness, and to ensure informed public discussion, we have published the full press query and our answers below.

***************************

Dear Susie,
I hope you are well. I'm a journalist at The Times. We've become aware of a recording made during the recent Mermaids session at Newman University in Birmingham.
During the session, [our trainer], the lady leading the discussion makes a number of claims.

She claims: "Your gender identity is formed between 18months and three and a half. We know who we are. That’s in our brain.

She claims that 45% of young trans people commit suicide.

She also suggests that teachers and educators do not have to inform parents, if they are making referrals for trans students over 16.

At one point, she appears to discourage educational professionals from cooperating with the parents of trans pupils.
"Sometimes school may be the only place they can be themselves.
"Sometimes because they can’t be out at home and if the parents find out it can be a safe issue. so you have to be very careful when talking about your cases."

The person who made the recording was told to "take a step down academically" when he scrutinised some of the claims. He felt the seminar was like "a cross between a time share pitch and an evangelist meeting" and felt very alarmed that educational and safeguarding professionals were being told not to think too hard about the claims being made.

How do you respond to these claims?
Grateful for your response,

Thanks very much
Lucy Bannerman

***********************

Mermaids Responses....

The Times: Our trainer states: ‘Your gender identity is formed between 18months and three and a half. We know who we are. That’s in our brain.’

Mermaids: This statement is corroborated by the following studies, and the Olson study (2018) also cites numerous additional studies over the past 20 years confirming gender identity in children:

Young children between 18 months and 3 years learn how to use the words 'man' and 'woman' to identify themselves and others (Berk, 2013: 531). In this early stage of childhood, children already relate toys, clothes, colors, and behaviors to gendered identity and express their preference ( Eichstedt et al., 2002). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/223581699_Of_bears_and_men_Infants'_knowledge_of_conventional_and_metaphorical_gender_stereotypes

By the age of 3 children show preferences for those that share their gender/sex https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cdev.12758


The Times: Our trainer claims that ‘45% of young trans people commit suicide.’

Mermaids: This is incorrect. Mermaids, in partnership with Stonewall, references the 2017 School Report in relation to suicide and self-harm statistics:

Unfortunately, the high rates of attempted suicide and suicidal thoughts amongst trans young people are real. The stats quoted from the Pace report are backed up by other more recent research into the experiences of trans young people.

Stonewall’s School Report found that more than two in five trans young people (45 per cent) have at some point attempted to take their own life. For lesbian, gay and bi pupils who are not trans, one in five (22 per cent) have tried to take their own life. In comparison, the NHS estimates that in the general population thirteen per cent of girls aged 16-24 and five per cent of boys aged 16-24 have made such attempts.
Moreover, the report found that LGBT pupils who were bullied at school were significantly more likely to have attempted to take their own life than those who haven’t (37 per cent compared to 17 per cent).

The same report also revealed that nine in ten trans young people (92 per cent) have thought about taking their own life, far higher than the estimate from Young Minds for young people in general, where one in four young people have had these thoughts. And it is also higher than the already high rate for lesbian, gay and bi pupils who are not trans: seven in ten (70 per cent) of whom have thought about taking their own life. It also revealed alarmingly high rates of self-harm amongst trans young people (84%) and lesbian, gay and bi pupils who are not trans (61%).
Our 2017 research is largest data set for trans young people in Britain, but similar rates can be found in other studies for example:
Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People found 59% of young trans people disclosing that they had self-harmed. When asked whether they experience suicidal thoughts and actions, 63% of transgender young people said that they had.

The research consistently demonstrates this is a real problem that thousands of trans young people are facing every day, impacting on their lives and the lives of their family and friends. Sources:

1. School Report
In 2016 Stonewall commissioned the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge to conduct a survey with young people who are lesbian, gay, bi or trans (LGBT), or who think they might be, on their experiences in secondary schools and colleges across Britain. Between November 2016 and February 2017, 3,713 LGBT young people aged 11-19 completed an online questionnaire, and this report presents the findings of this survey, that group included 594 trans young people aged 11-19. With over 3,700 respondents and nearly 600 trans respondents, it is the most comprehensive survey into the current experiences of LGBT pupils in Britain today

2. Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People
Lough Dennell, B.L., Anderson, G., and McDonnell, D. (2018). Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People. LGBT Youth Scotland. Based on responses from 684 LGBT young people in Scotland.


The Times: Our trainer also suggests that ‘teachers and educators do not have to inform parents, if they are making referrals for trans students over 16’.

Mermaids: This statement is in line with Gillick competency. If a child is Gillick competent and is clear they do not want their parents to know of the referral, it would be good practice to document this request and make reasonable adjustments to this effect, to safeguard the child. Any information to be shared with their parents or carers should always be discussed with the child, and their consent should be sought.


The Times: At one point, our trainer appears to ‘discourage educational professionals from cooperating with the parents of trans pupils’.

Mermaids: This statement is taken out of context; many parents are supportive of their transgender children but some are not. Disclosure of a young person’s gender identity to a professional in itself does not constitute a safeguarding risk. However, if the young person does not have supportive parents, then disclosure of their gender identity would constitute a potential safeguarding risk. The Albert Kennedy Trust https://www.akt.org.uk/ has documented the following regarding LGBT young people becoming homeless:

The study found that the main reasons were parental rejection, abuse within the family or being exposed to aggression and violence.


The Times: The person who made the recording was told to "take a step down academically" when he scrutinised some of the claims. He felt the seminar was like "a cross between a time share pitch and an evangelist meeting" and felt very alarmed that educational and safeguarding professionals were being told not to think too hard about the claims being made.

Mermaids: The attendee seemed to feel he was entitled to dominate the meeting and his queries were paramount. Our trainer attempted to ensure the session ran to time in the interests of all who attended.

We are incredibly proud of our diversity training sessions and the professional and approachable way our staff deliver them. However, our greatest endorsement is the many parents, children and teachers who tell us how our sessions have helped them better understand the difficulties trans children face, and how to support them to make their lives easier. Our charity aim is to improve the lives of transgender children, and one of the key ways we do this is through giving information to those people who come into contact with young gender-questioning, trans and non-binary people.

If you are a teaching professional, this guidance provided by the National Education Union is also helpful: https://neu.org.uk/advice-and-resources/equalities/supporting-trans-and-gender-questioning-students

Sunday, 25 November 2018

The Faux Silenced...

Opinion: An open letter to Kenan Malik about his article in the Observer today.


Dear Mr Malik,

I was dismayed, saddened and angered by your article in the Observer today, yet another in a long line of articles telling everyone that it is trans people who are “shutting down debate”. 

The “silencing” argument is now a common one and has been made in the Guardian/Observer at least five times in the last five weeks with no opportunity for trans people to counter it. It is an easy argument to make since it is part of the current oppressive media consensus and it is therefore an easy piece to write as it is unlikely to be challenged or contradicted in any mainstream media any time soon. 

In this letter I am going to set aside the objection that it is extremely stressful to sit in a studio, usually with a hostile presenter, and argue for your own right to exist with a transphobe (it's really very bad for one’s mental health). I am also going to ignore the fact that most trans people just want to get on with their lives rather than subject ourselves to “debates” with people we will never talk out of their bigotry (and yes they are bigots, even though they dress this bigotry up in “respectable” language). I’m going to also set aside your assertion that arguing with a bigot will be productive (it will not, ever). I’m also going to set aside the notion that these anti-trans groups have any legitimate arguments (they do not), and I’m going to avoid mentioning the vicious treatment of trans people and our allies (which is very common) when we do enter into any debate about trans people. 

I’m just focus on your idea of “debate”.

When it comes to “debate” about anything in this country the main forum for that debate is the national media. It is obvious that you want to focus this issue on small-scale “debates” held by anti-trans groups in meeting rooms around the country, but these reach a tiny audience and exclude many people. Recently one such event in the north-west barred two trans people I know for example. If you are going to talk about “debate” then the debate, such as it does (not) exist, in the national media is where your arguments need to be focused. The national media is where any meaningful “debate” is held, and consequently it is the national media where the focus of the “silencing” debate needs to be. The national media reaches millions, rather than dozens.

The “I’M BEING SILENCED!” article is a trope that goes back a few years, and which, as Sara Ahmed explains, is actually a self-contradictory one; 

"Whenever people keep being given a platform to say they have no platform, or whenever people speak endlessly about being silenced, you not only have a performative contradiction; you are witnessing a mechanism of power."

The mere fact that those who are claiming to be “silenced” are able to get their complaints reproduced repeatedly, at length and without contradiction in articles in national mainstream media tells you that they are not being silenced in any way. So let’s have a look at the scoresheet in terms of silencing…

I have a friend who is monitoring media output and who has counted well over 100 anti-trans “news” articles just since the first of August. The T*mes alone has published around 65 of these. Yet there have only been a handful of articles in national daily media during this time arguing in favour of trans rights, countering those of the anti-trans activists, all of whose arguments get a regular and uncritical airing. Last Sunday alone there were 10, yes ten anti-trans articles published, with no trans person permitted to respond. Today there were at least five. People whose opinions about trans people are no different from those of Donald Trump are able to get their arguments heard pretty much everywhere without challenge.

What is problematic is that “SILENCING!” and “debate” articles like yours focus entirely on the meetings of transphobic hate groups (groups you describe as “feminist” even though I know loads of feminists who disagree that they are feminist in any way) that have “debates” around the country. Trans people protest these meetings as an act of free speech because they have no access to the media in the way these transphobic groups have, and consequently the only way to make their voices heard is through protest. These protests are the muffled and misrepresented voices of those who are truly silenced, not those of the faux silenced whose opinions appear daily in national media often telling us how SILENCED! they are. 

One of the main problems is the way the media conducts its business. Being allowed to write an article in response to something published in the media is such a rarity that I can only think of a couple of instances of it happening. This is especially a problem when one wants to counter disinformation. The problem for trans people is that most of the anti-trans articles published in the national dailies are full of misleading material and would easily be countered with reference to verifiable facts were we allowed to do so. For example the “conflicting rights” argument that you bring up simply doesn’t stand up to any kind of intellectual challenge. There have been no reported problems in countries like Ireland or Malta where statutory declaration of gender has already been in operation, indeed there has even been empirical research published that undermines this claim, which you fail to mention (and let's face it if you did mention it then your entire argument would vanish in a puff of evidence). 

For the media the “trans debate” is not a debate at all, it is an asset; it enables journalists to produce material that Roz Kaveney has characterised as “The Monetization of Distrust”. Profitable clickbait in other words. If the trans rights argument is ended, which it could easily be, by trans people pulling apart the, actually very flimsy arguments of the anti-trans campaigners, journalists would lose this asset, no more articles of this kind could be churned out on an industrial scale. Journalists would have to resort to going out and finding some actual news. Consequently there is every incentive for the media not to permit trans people to engage in this debate in any meaningful way. This explains why there is so little pro-trans material in the media; if there were, the “debate” would have ended a long time ago, as every argument put forward by the anti-trans activists got taken down with logical argument and evidence. Trans people are literally being harmed by this propaganda in order for the media to make money. Imagine making your money by harming others, including children…

On the rare occasions that trans people do get the opportunity to present their arguments it is in a very different way to that of the anti-trans activists. Anti-trans activists, which include many journalists, regularly publish anti-trans articles in the media where they do not have to respond to any counter-arguments. When trans people are invited to air their arguments in the media, as I have been, it is normally in a “debate” situation in which we are opposed by an anti-trans activist. In other words the anti-trans activists get their ideas circulated in the media without challenge, while we can only get access to the media in a gladiatorial spectacle rather than a debate. Indeed Jane Fae has recently described how those “debates” tend to go; trans people typically get three soundbites, at least two of which are normally responses to an opposing statement. Compare that to the lengthy (and largely dishonest) arguments developed on the anti-trans side regularly and persistently, with no opportunity for us to challenge them anywhere. How can trans people possibly take part in a debate, how can we possibly develop arguments that go beyond brief soundbites when the media excludes us? 

However since you wanted to talk about "debate", let us see an example of when there was a debate; Mr Malik you may not have realised that there was a debate about trans people in parliament this week, hosted by extreme right-wing Tory homophobe and anti-abortionist David TC Davies MP. I can understand why you may have not realised that it was a debate, because the way it got reported in the media you literally would not have known it was one. If you had read Christopher Hope’s “report” in the Telegraph about it, you would have had no idea that it was a debate because only Davies’s views were reported. In fact if you read the Hansard report of this debate it shows that Davies’s arguments were comprehensively pulled to pieces by a number of women MPs. So even if trans people or our allies do engage in a “debate” about trans rights that debate gets comprehensively misreported by the media. What is the point of engaging in any kind of debate if it is going to be unfairly reported like this? The media doesn’t want a “debate” it wants one-sided propaganda.

So I think it is time journalists like yourself started to be a bit more honest about this subject. Yes there is silencing, but it is you, the media, who is doing the silencing, and the people overwhelmingly being silenced are trans people and our allies. To be frank, articles like yours today are a part of that process of silencing, and part of the industrial-scale propaganda against us. 

So my challenge to you Mr Malik is this; first, get this letter published in the Guardian, I am happy to reformat it to fit the “Long Read” article rather than a letter. This might demonstrate that you really do want to engage in a genuine debate. Secondly campaign to have trans people’s voices heard in the media on the same terms as those of those who wish to erase us. Thirdly, call out news platforms like the T*mes, which persistently exclude and misrepresent us, and fourthly support trans people and our allies to respond to the regular false and unfounded claims made by our enemies. 

If you do this you might be able to avoid the charge of being a dishonest, disingenuous, hypocritical, biased propagandist. And if you want a genuine debate about structural and cultural media transphobia, which is the real issue, I am happy to discuss this with you any time.

Kind regards,

Natacha Kennedy