Sunday, 21 January 2018

The transphobes’ endgame for trans kids becomes clear...

It has long been a trope of transphobes; the idea that trans kids are on some kind of “conveyor belt” to physiological transition, and are being rushed into something they will regret. Like everything the transphobes come out with it is a fabrication.

The problem with the Times in its latest, and not unpredictable, article about trans kids, is that it is suggesting that schools will, at the drop of a whisper, “label” a young child as trans. They then assert that this will mean making irreversible changes in their lives which will lead, inexorably to physical transition and result in all other sorts of "horror stories" (the media likes horror stories).

These irreversible changes that could potentially harm them include…(deep breath)

  • ·      Using a different pronoun!
  • ·      Calling them by a different name!
  • ·      Allowing them to wear different clothes to school!
  • ·      Allowing them to change their appearance!
  • ·      Respecting their gendered preferences!


OMG! How terrible! I mean, changing a child’s name, how irreversible is that? Clearly if a child changes her name from Jack to Jacqueline on class 4B’s register that is totally irreversible, it will go to their grave with them, they can never have another name, even if they live to be 100! Rather like Norma Jean.


The rather crude conflation between supposedly “irreversible” medical changes and entirely reversible ones such as using a different name or wearing a different uniform is not a coincidence. I had several different names at school including Joni (because I was so passionate about Joni Mitchell's wonderful music), was that irreversible? Did I become a Canadian folk singer? I was forced, against my will, to wear a tie to school, did that turn me into a bloke...?

And allowing a child who used to have to wear a skirt to school to wear trousers and cut his hair short is going to mean he is stuck that way forever, after all once you cut your hair it never regrows does it? And as for wearing trousers and going back to a skirt…?
Impossible!

(Image by Sophie Labelle, www.assignedmale.etsy.com)

Yet the worst thing about this Times article, is the same thing as in a recent Times interview with Susie Orbach; they asked someone to comment on an aspect of trans people that was both outside their professional expertise and outside their experience. Thus when the Times reported the Tavistock and Portman Gender Identity clinic for children and suggested that schools are “labelling” kids as trans at the drop of a hat, it turns out that the Times has misreported her.

In fact you don’t have to learn very much about trans kids to know that schools are, by and large, not easy institutions to deal with if you are a trans child or the parent of one, although some have improved recently, such as the Harris Academy Chain, the largest one in the UK, which invited me to train all their PGCE students about trans children (BTW I ensured that the teachers understood the most common way of understanding a child is trans "insistent, persistent and consistent" identification, something most other people doing training in this area also do). I know trans kids who have been physically attacked in schools and the SMT has done nothing about it, I know trans kids, even quite young ones, who have literally been bullied by teachers in school. I know one whose headteacher refused to allow her to use her new name, even though she had changed it by deed poll.

There are plenty of schools that are terrible places to be a trans child, as we witnessed with the death by suicide of Leo Etherington, age 15 last year. Reportedly his school continued to use his deadname and the wrong pronouns. Whilst many have responded to the need to make school a trans-inclusive place, the idea that schools are rushing to label kids as trans at a “whisper” is in the outer edges of a distant fantasy galaxy.

As I have said before, there is a “conveyor belt” for trans kids but it is moving in the opposite direction to the one the media wants to tell everyone. Trans kids and their parents have a constant fight on their hands to make life liveable, to be accepted in their identified genders and to fight off bullies, which sometimes even includes school staff. Of course the Times needs to construct this kind of narrative to support its underlying objective, but more about that in a moment.

The fact is that there are no irreversible medical treatments on the NHS, such as surgery, to trans kids at all. No surgery is available until after 18, and corss-sex hormone treatments are only available (in low doses) for those aged over 16. We have to remember that hormone blockers are a completely reversible treatment, which have been used to help non-trans children with precocious puberty since the 1970s. (This means that there are currently people who are nearly 50 who were prescribed hormone blockers for this, and studies have found no adverse effects).

No, the aim of those campaigning so hard in the media against trans children is not the medical treatment (although they would like to restrict or remove that too), that is not what they are principally aiming at, it is the social treatment. The currently prescribed treatment for all trans children is a simple, and very effective one, and one that can easily be administered by anyone in a child’s life, whether they are a parent, a neighbour, a teacher, a friend, a youth worker or another family member; acceptance.

That acceptance is not difficult; allowing them to express their gender in the way they want, using their preferred name and pronoun. 

Neither hard nor contentious really. 

...Unless you are a transphobe.

And certainly not irreversible. We also need to be clear that anything other that acceptance is, by definition, non-acceptance, and non-acceptance ultimately must therefore include elements of coercion.

It is this that the transphobes are most afraid of, it is this that they
want to put an end to. In effect they want to use coercion to force trans kids back into the box of their birth assigned genders. And there is a name for this kind of coercion; it is called Conversion Therapy; ie the type of “therapy” right-wing religionists in the 1980s tried to use to force gay men and lesbians not to be gay men and lesbians. It has only two notable effects; it makes its victims traumatised and suicidal.

Now of course if you talk to a TERF or a right-wing transphobe; they will deny that they want to torture trans children (let's be honest, they do but they are never going to admit it, they will use euphemisms such as "letting children delight in their birth assigned gender"), but this is the only logical outcome from what they are advocating. Actions speak louder than words.


Ergo the constant conflation of social acceptance with medical transition; a good example of the Production of Ignorance which CN Lester described so lucidly in their book Trans Like Me.

So let us be clear about the ultimate aim of this kind of journalism/campaigning; it is the eradication of trans children through psychological coercion; a kind of media-mandated, amateur, informal Conversion Therapy. Force kids not to be trans; after all forcing gay men to be straight worked so well didn’t it? 

Why are they so afraid of simply calling a child "he", "she" or "they" according to their wishes...? Well their real fear is that all children will learn acceptance of trans children, and will grow up to understand them and not fear them. Imagine a world where trans people were understood and accepted? Then where would we all be? More to the point, where would their ideology of hatred be? It is an ideology that depends on hatred generated by fear generated by ignorance. Consequently they need to maintain that ignorance, otherwise the entire chain collapses.

So it is time to stand up to those mealy-mouthed advocates euphemistically attempting to enforce this barbarity by proxy. Ultimately the outcome they want to impose will result in damaged or dead children. And this is something I know about personally.

I was a trans child. But back in the last century there was no understanding of trans kids, no acceptance at school, no pronouns, no-one who would call me Natacha. In effect unofficial, amateur Conversion Therapy. The result was a horrible childhood, underachievement in school and a depressed adolescence, way beyond the usual teenage angst, and being pulled back from the edge of a platform by a British Rail employee just in the nick of time. This is what the anti-trans fanatics are campaigning for, they will succeed only over my dead body.



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.