Thursday, 18 January 2018

Handmaidens.

Donald Trump’s latest proposed law will permit any medic in the United States to refuse to treat someone they believe to be lesbian, gay, bi or trans. The consequences of this homophobic and transphobic law will be random deaths of LGBT people if they are unlucky enough to get a homophobic or transphobic ambulance driver or paramedic following a car crash or any other kind of accident. People will die as a result of this. Whether this provision will also apply to children is unclear.

Think I’m overreacting, scaremongering…? Google Tyra Hunter, a trans woman of colour who died on 7th August 1995 following a car accident after medics at DC General Hospital in Washington refused her treatment because she was trans. These people, who were supposed to save lives, literally just let her die. Those who think that progress is linear need to re-examine history. 

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable..." 
Martin Luther King

The most liberal and tolerant regime that has ever existed in history for lesbians and gay men was the Weimar Republic in Germany in the 1920s and early 30s. Yet many of those who enjoyed freedom and tolerance in the 1920s ended up dying horrific deaths in the concentration camps of the 1930s. So we cannot take freedom and tolerance for any minority group for granted, and, as Trump’s homophobia and transphobia has shown, no matter how comfortable we have become, threats to minorities have not gone away.


Which makes the action of transphobic groups like A Woman’s Place even more dangerous. Their ultimate aim; the erasure and eradication from UK society of trans people in general, and trans children in particular. This involves  a clear attempt to provoke a review of the Equality Act with the intention of removing trans people's human rights under the dishonest and entirely unevidenced claim that trans people are a threat to women. However those on
the extreme right, like Jacob Rees-Mogg, David TC Davies, Rupert Murdoch and the extreme neoliberal press like the Mail and the Times, have other ideas. Anyone who seriously thinks that a review of the Equality Act would stop at “only” removing rights from trans people needs to get real. These are people who would dearly love to remove protections from lesbian gay and bisexual people too, as well as being very vocal about removing protections for other groups including disabled people, and even for some women. Their neoliberal ideology does not sit well with making “reasonable” adjustments for disabled people, or holding jobs open for women taking time off to have children, for example. You do not have to look far to find them advocating the removal of this “red tape” on businesses. The sudden upswing in cis men using the transphobes’ hate-fund-raiser to reopen the entire debate about whether all-women shortlists should exist at all, demonstrates how their blind hate could end up having negative consequences for all women.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that the advocates of transphobia, complicit in the deluge of trans-hate coming from the neoliberal media, have become so blinded by their fanatical hate that they cannot see the dangers their actions to other minority groups. Having the same aim, and adopting the same methods, as Donald Trump, A Woman’s Place is not merely a threat to trans people but also a threat to many others also. 


And the winners from all this? The extreme right-wing neoliberal patriarchy, feeding off the distortions and divisions groups like AWP are creating. 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Shutting down debate, excluding trans people...



The cat is finally out of the bag. The tightly-linked, but deliberately opaque group of transphobes and trans-haters largely associated with a shady group calling itself “A Woman’s Place”, has revealed its true aim. And it is not the aim that it tells us it wants.

Transphobes Exploiting Feminism as an Alibi for Hate (or "TEFAHs" as I call them) have consistently, and dishonestly, told everyone that they just want a “debate” about whether trans people
have the right to exist. Their crowdfunder to take the Labour Party to court to purge trans women from all-women shortlists has exposed this as a lie, once and for all. These groups, of largely anonymous individuals, have demonstrated what trans people have known for a long time; namely that they do not want any kind of “debate” whatsoever 

The way trans people have been specifically excluded from the “debate” in the right-wing mainstream media since September, has demonstrated what real “no-platforming” looks like.  And while these groups of supposedly “left-wing” transphobes attempt to exclude trans people from discussing trans people within the Labour Party they work hand-in-glove with neoliberal right-wing media operations like Murdoch’s Times and Viscount Rothermere’s Daily Mail producing Trump-like hatred of trans people.




This TEFAH movement to exclude trans people from debate about trans people is now explicit; they have submitted motions to Constituency Labour Parties which are clear; they want cisgender women to be the sole arbiters of what rights trans people should have, and trans people should be excluded from this. Their motions argue for these decisions to be the sole preserve of women’s groups but not trans people, LGBT Labour or any other group of trans people. However it is not merely the content of these motions that is deliberately exclusionary, the way the TEFAH’s are going about this is also exclusionary; these motions are often submitted in such a way that trans people cannot respond until it has become a fait accompli. If there are no trans members of a particular CLP, or if they are not aware these motions are being proposed, trans people are effectively excluded from these debate about trans people.

So while their claim to want a debate has obviously been dishonest from the start, fundraising to take Labour to court has finally made this unambiguously explicit. Whatever they do, whatever they say, this group of transphobes and haters clearly does not want any kind of “debate”. Indeed their main strategy is to exclude trans people from any discussion of trans people, whether that be on a national level in the right-wing mainstream media or within the Labour Party itself. Whatever they claim, they do not want a “debate”, in fact they want the opposite, they want to close any debate down, and their actions have demonstrated this unambiguously. The Labour Party needs to treat those engaged in these attempts to shut down debate appropriately.



Sunday, 31 December 2017

4%: Burying the Desistance Myth

The fact that Flat Earthers still exist centuries after Gallileo suggests that myths can take a long time to die. That is one of the reasons that the Desistance Myth (the notion that the majority of trans children do not become trans adults) is still propagated. The main reason however, is because it is in the interests of people who hate trans people for it to be allowed to continue.

The problem for the transphobes is that, as the result of a court case in Australia, the desistance myth has been well and truly buried. The proportion of trans children being treated by the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne who desist is not 85% as the transphobes prefer to shout loudly, but just 4%.

Obviously this is a statistic that confounds the received “wisdom” of the anti-trans establishment in the UK, many of whom have been struggling to contrive more anti-trans news stories to feed their campaign against trans people’s human rights. For them this information has come as such a bullet from the blue that, despite searching every nook and cranny of the internet for stories about trans people, have actively and deliberately ignored this one. So despite this being a real piece of very significant news it has been censored, probably under pressure from the new transphobic hate groups that have popped up in the last few months, by those who captain our mainstream media.

For those of us who were trans children or who have worked with trans children the statistic comes as no surprise at all, of course.  As reported by the outstanding blog Growing UpTransgender, one of the world’s leading specialists in trans children’s health, Dr Michelle Telfer submitted an affidavit to an Australian court as part of a court case called “Re: Kelvin”

The witness statement says;

“Since its commencement in 2003, the Gender Service has received 710 patient referrals including 126 between 1 January 2017 and 7 August 2017. 56. 96 per cent of all patients who were assessed and received a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria by the 5th intervenor from 2003 to 2017 continued to identify as transgender or gender diverse into late adolescence.” (Page 8)

Not only is this much more in line with what parents of trans children have come to experience, it is based on a very large sample size indeed. The data is from 710 children making it a massive study, and one that beats the much criticised study by Steensma et al (2013) that reported a 63% desistance rate from a sample of 127. This has obviously got some of the old guard rattled, such that, along with the suppression of the Australian data it seems to have felt the need to row back on it’s more extreme claims. So gone are the oft-cited wild claims of an 80-85% desistance rate, beloved of the trans haters and instead out comes James Cantor with his, apparently more “reasonable”assessment of Steensma. It appears that he has come to accept the criticism put forward by many trans people, that study participants who left before the end of the study should not be counted as desisting, to claim a desistance rate of 54%:

“Regardless of whether one agrees with that, the irrelevance of claim is clearly seen simply by taking it to its own conclusion: When one excludes these 24, one simply finds a desistance rate of (56/103 =) 54% instead of 63%.  That is, although numerically lower, it nonetheless supports the very same conclusion as before. The majority of kids cease to feel transgender when they get older.”
(Cantor 30.12.17)

What is interesting of course is that The Australian data has not been referred to at all, despite representing a much larger, more longitudinal, and more recent sample than the study he cites. In my opinion this outbreak of apparent reasonableness may serve a number of purposes; either it is an attempt to make Telfer look extreme, something that would be impossible with the previous extreme statistics, or it constitutes an attempt to maintain the majority status of the desistance statistics, or its function is to refocus the narrative on Steensma in the hope that Telfer will be ignored, in the way that the UK media has been doing; a kind of “look over there!” strategy.

In my opinion, this article, its contents, its timing and the way it is phrased suggest that the Australian stats constitute a real threat to some people; especially people in the UK who have used these most Churchillian 80-85% figures so regularly, and whose credibility now hangs by a single thread.

The desistance myth has long been used as a club with which to beat trans children, as a threat to parents who treat their trans children with the love and care they need. In my opinion these people have engaged in child abuse by proxy and it is time they were shown up for who they are. What has to be remembered is that there is only one human and officially recognised way to respond to trans children, and that is to respect their choices and let them take the lead. Treat them as the gender with which they identify. Anything else is effectively amateur Conversion Therapy (a mixture of psychological torture and bullying) of the kind that killed Leelah Alcorn. Whatever the desistance stats turn out to be, anything other than treating trans kids this way is unethical, abusive and harmful.





Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Playing Jo Johnson's Game

Like his Brother Boris, Jo Johnson, the higher education minister, is in the habit of talking hogwash. The idea that not inviting a handful of transphobic bigots to spout their repetitive and disingenuous hate in universities around the country amounts to a threat to free speech is as nonsensical as brother Boris's pronouncements of Brexit (or just about anything else for that matter). None of the transphobes so far disinvited from speaking at events organised by university student societies is under threat of having their "ideas" suppressed or censored. The drivel produced by the likes of Germaine Greer, for example, is widely distributed in mainstream neoliberal media.

What the TERFs do like to do however, is to claim victimhood and then to weaponise it against trans people campaigning for human rights. They need to do this, because otherwise they have no arguments against trans people's rights, at least none that are not PRATTs (Points Refuted A Thousand Times).

Anyway, Johnson seems to be getting his knickers even more in a twist over what is clearly a stupid idea, and one that, like Brexit, falls apart if you even ask elementary questions. However, we should not despair at the possibility of hate-groups like A Woman's Place attempting to organise their hate-fests in a university, in an attempt to make their hate look respectable, to weaponise faux-victimhood or engage in Provoke and Publicise actions like the racist desegregationists of the American deep south whose methods they have recruited. The logic can be reversed.

The Times, amongst other neoliberal mainstream media (MSM) platforms, has operated a policy of no-platforming the voices of trans people or our allies arguing for trans people's human rights. The Times has selectively published dozens of articles  intended to undermine trans rights, many of which are both misleading and dishonest. However they have refused to publish any opposing points of view, like the New Statesman, and even worse than the Telegraph, the Mail and the Express, who have at least allowed small amounts of opposing viewpoints.

What is therefore not unreasonable is for this measure to be applied to the media as well as universities. The right for those who hold differing points of view to those of the editor to be published, and in a reasonable position and quantity, is now something that, as a consequence of Johnson's project can be argued without serious opposition. Pandora's box is opening. Obviously challenging this media bias by selection should not just apply to the deliberately misleading portrayal of trans people, but to other issues where the media has been selectively biased, such as Brexit, immigration and refugees, poverty, indeed the way Jeremy Corbyn (or indeed any other Labour leader) has been portrayed in MSM should precipitate an equivalent right to respond, and this should include minority parties like the Lib Dems and the Greens who are deliberately excluded from MSM.

If Johnson is going to insist that universities must give a platform to transphobic haters, homophobes and other such undesirables, then trans people and others should have the right to be published in the neoliberal MSM arguing our case for the human rights against which they campaign, and those who want to stop Brexit, oppose NHS cuts, tax cuts for the rich etc should also be given a platform in MSM. Occasionally standing in a lecture theatre with my back to a bunch of TERFs while playing video games on my mobile is a small price to pay for that.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

“SHUT UP! You’re Silencing Me!”

In the last three months there have been literally scores - possibly even hundreds - of articles by anti-trans people, published in pretty much every media platform, from the New Statesman to The Times. Indeed the Times now seems to be publishing one anti-trans piece per day on average. In contrast I have seen only a couple of articles written by trans people in response. There have even been a number of “debates” in broadcast media about trans people from which trans people were excluded echoing that infamous conference in Saudi Arabia about women, from which women were excluded.


Now even the Guardian has joined in with Catherine Bennett’s deeply disingenuous article accusing trans people of using the term “TERF (meaning "Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist”, a term that describes people who describe themselves as "radical feminists" who campaign to exclude trans people) to “silence women”, an argument which she then develops to suggest that ANY alternative term that might be applied to people opposed to me, and people like me, having full human rights would also be as bad. The argument is simply that oppressed people should not have the right to name their oppressors or that someone who wishes to produce journalistic propaganda material intended to harm me should be given a free pass, and be regarded as nothing more that "a concerned individual with genuinely acceptable views" or something like that. In essence she is arguing that trans people should simply shut up and be silent in the face of the current media onslaught about trans people. 


Bennett’s dishonesty is to equate a few tweets by trans people who have no access to media platforms, with the tidal wave of media output against trans people. A tweet from someone like me (3,170 followers) is equivalent to an article in the Guardian or any other media platform. After three months of intense media output, which has put the anti-trans (Am I allowed to use that term Catherine?) side of the argument, almost entirely to the exclusion of any other point of view, she is still claiming , in a national newspaper,  that she is being “silenced”. Catherine Bennett, unless you are trans, right now you really have no idea what it means to be silenced.

In the midst of a media onslaught against trans people, to claim that those who express views that oppose trans people are being silenced is simply not credible once you start to think about it and examine the numerical balance of media output. Bennett claims that one of Janice Turner's equally disingenuous and one-sided articles in the Times is "brilliant" yet I have written to the editor of the Times, as, I'm sure have many others, to request the opportunity to put a different point of view, and been ignored. Who is being silenced Catherine? 

Indeed Bennett’s article can ultimately only be regarded as an attempt to silence trans people, I don't know the number of people who will get to read Bennett’s article but it will be hundreds of times the number of people who will see this blog or any of my tweets. When the media consensus is so one-sided, when trans voices are being deliberately and systematically excluded from the debate about us, to claim hat the use of a particular term on twitter is silencing those who oppose trans people’s is not just profoundly dishonest, it is an act of calculated oppression.
 t.