Sunday, 22 March 2015

Grant Schnapps and Afzal Amin: Tory deception and double standards.

In the last few years politics has had to deal with more than its fair share of dodgy characters and the Tories more than most, indeed the Tory sleaze that was rife at the end of the last Tory government led by John Major is now evident at the fag end of the current one. From David Cameron’s appointment of criminal media man Andy Coulson a couple of years ago to Grant Schapps' and Afzal Amin's antics this year, the Tory party shows its true colours once again. This is the kind of thing that has led to “new” political parties popping up pretending to be “different”, “anti-establishment” and wanting a “new kind of politics”. In fact of course these parties are none of these, and trying to convince the electorate that their kind politics is any different from any other kind of politics represents a significant deception in itself.

But let’s just recap on the current Tory fiasco; Schapps lied about continuing to work for his company after being elected an MP. In my opinion this isn’t just “screwing up” as Schapps has tried to obfuscate, it was deliberate. You don’t do something like that accidentally. You don’t miss being elected to parliament and then “forget” to stop doing your other job. Worse though was Schapps’ subsequent cover-up. It looks like he threatened to sue a, relatively poor, Labour councillor for saying publically that Schapps was working after being elected as an MP. To me this looks like bullying and an abuse of power from Schapps’ wealth. As a constituent Dean Archer had every right to make known to other constituents and electors, what their MP was doing. 

So it seems to me that Grant Schapps wanted to deceive electorate in order to get elected. Meanwhile Afzal Amin, Tory candidate for Dudley seems to have been caught bang to rights trying to…deceive the electorate in order to get elected. He was summarily suspended from the Tory party pending a fuller investigation. Now I’m not saying that all Tories want to decieve the electorate, I’m sure there are some who are honest, but by trying to get the EDL to say they are going to stage a demo outside a mosque and then pretend to get it stopped seems me to represent trying to get elected under false pretences.

So why have these two Tories been treated so differently? Amin has instantly been told to “fess up and leave” the party, whereas Grant Schapps seems to be under no pressure and is going nowhere, despite the revelations about him. Why can Schapps, in a much more senior position than Amin, get away with what he has done and Amin be out on his ear pretty much as soon as the story breaks? What is going on in the Tory party for these double standards to function so blatantly...?

One further complication. Who was the person that suspended Amin from the Tory party…?

Party Chair; Grant Schapps…

Sunday, 15 March 2015

"Clarksonism" and Natacha's Middle Finger.

Since the Nuremburg trials of the late 1940s, all scientific endeavour has been required to abide by a strict code of ethics regarding the way it carries out research involving human subjects (or "participants" as they should now be called). The merciless  horrors of Mengele’s hideous Nazi “experiments” on human beings were never to be repeated. 

Unfortunately these ethical considerations have been regularly flouted in the last 65 years, and research involving trans people is one of the areas that has been disproportionately affected by these ethical violations. It has only been in the last decade that institutions have become a bit stricter with academics about research ethics.

Off the top of my head I can think of 6 major pieces of research about trans people (or as transphobic academics like to call us, “transgenderism”) by people like Raymond, Garfinkel, Jeffreys, Bailey and Money that are, in my opinion, unethical in important aspects. I suspect there are plenty more examples one could add to this list.

The disprortionate level of ethical problems with scholarship and research related to trans people is surpassed only by the way other research about trans people has been discrdited for other reasons. In short the scientific/academic community has treated trans people disproportionately badly over the years. I guess there have been a large number of people researching in this area who appear to suffer from a culturally-induced tendency not to regard trans people as human beings. It would also seem that some people publishing in this area are also transphobes who have used academia as a platform for political hate campaigns as anti-trans activists. I believe much of Janice Raymond’s output on trans people fails on ethical standards. Arguing that trans people should be “morally mandated out of existence” is in my opinion an incitement to the current bullying, abuse and harassment of trans people by TERFs on social media, offline and in mainstream media. In my opinion on this count alone she fails ethical consideratiuons by publishing what I believe to be an open incitement to transphobic hate-crime. I also believe, as do many people, that her intervention in political decision-making to deny trans people in the United States access to medical care has indirectly resulted in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of trans women. I also believe she should be held accountable, in a court of law, and if necessary at The Hague for her actions.

So this is the background to Alice Dreger’s book “Galileo’s Middle Finger” reviewed in First of all a disclaimer; I haven’t read the book, only the review in Salon and those of people on Amazon who were given pre-publication copies to read, along with an Amazon free sample, and to be bluntly honest after that I have no intention of wasting my time and money on it, so this post is based on these pieces of information. One of the reasons for this is that it strikes me as little more than a strop, a rant at trans people for getting in the way of the “truth”, about trans people, a point I will return to in a moment.

Also, after reading some of the reviews on Amazon, my worst fears were confirmed;

Yes, the title is misleading according to these reviewers. It appears to be more of a highly partial, subjective memoir than what it is marketed as. To be honest I thought, from reading the title; "Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science" that it would be a detailed historical investigation of the great scientists who struggled against oppressive regimes to reveal the great scientific discoveries of our world. Alas no, it seems to be little more than a tirade against a highly marginalised group of people who are trying to stop the sustained and harmful abuse by science which harms and oppresses us.

However, one further point I would like to make first is to put this publication in its historical context. The earlier research on trans people was carried out in a time, in the middle to late 20th century, when trans people had little or no voice, and were culturally and socially marginalised to a much greater extent than we are today. As such it was easy to regard us as other than human, as people suffering from a problem or a defect. Defective human beings who, therefore, do not have any rights. In the time before the internet it was extremely difficult for trans people to work together to counter these cultural misconceptions, which were, in some instances, deliberately fostered by researchers. That changed in the late 1990s and first few years of this century, when the internet became available and trans people worldwide became able to support each other and form active groups in order to fight for our rights and against transphobic bigotry, abuse, harassment and discrimination. Unfortunately it does not appear to have changed the research community’s practice very much, as Gavi Ansara's and Peter Hegarty’s award-winning study of cisgenderism has shown. 

So, cisgender people used to be able to engage in pathologising, unethical and harmful research into trans people, and face little opposition or critique. These days, when they do, they find their work critiqued by well-informed activists, discredited by other academics, including trans academics, and their ethical violations exposed. How they must long for the day when academic freedom to research trans people meant that they were not accountable for their actions to the population they were researching. 

It is in this context that we need to judge Dreger’s defence of her colleague J Michael Bailey. One of the main things Dreger seems unhappy about is that Bailey’s central theme, that of trying to pin the label of “autogynephilia” onto trans women, should not be as badly discredited as it is. Her central thesis seems to be that his theory of autogynephilia is somehow “the truth”.  As far as the content of this book is concerned, it would seem that Dreger actually offers little no evidence to support this, something this reviewer also picks up on; 

This is where most academics’ alarm bells, if they hadn’t been tinkling already, would be clanging away on full blast. Any academic, especially a social scientist, who claims to be searching for “the truth” is, in my view, either not very good, or has a very suspect understanding of epistemology. Indeed searching for “the truth” has connotations of vaguely religious extremism, as in the Halleluja right-wing “Christian” zealots. In the view of most people I know, “autogynephilia” only exists in the imagination of Bailey and the abusive output of TERFs. Dreger seems to think he was right in carrying out his “research” because he believed he was right. Quite why she comes to this opinion I don’t know, other than she seems to cite his own self-belief. When this is compounded by little or no evidence to support her central claim, one can only wonder about the value of this book.

In addition Dreger, engages in the practices with which trans people are fully familiar these days, of putting words into our mouths and setting up straw man arguments;

In fact the number of trans people I know who consider trans as a kind of intersex is tiny, indeed there are almost certainly a far greater proportion of trans people who are firmly in the social constructivist camp than cisgender people. Of course it helps her case to reduce all trans people’s arguments to just one, but it is also profoundly misleading.

The Salon article, written by Laura Miller, as far as I can see an otherwise OK feminist historian also includes the following assertion;

“The tragedy in this contretemps is that both sides want the best for trans women and both ended up expending huge amounts of time battling people who essentially share their own goals.” 

I have to take issue with this. I have met no trans people who think Bailey’s or Dreger’s actions have ever demonstrated that they want the best for trans women. In my opinion what is good for trans women should be decided by trans women and not cis psychologists whose work results in our further pathologisation and marginalisation.

One of the problems, which doubtless Dreger ignores, is a very important piece of research by Moser published in 2009, which revealed that 93% of cisgender women in his study fit the criteria for autogynephilia, a figure which effectively makes a mockery of Bailey’s and Dreger’s claims, as if they haven’t been subject to enough discrediting anyway. One has to start questioning the motives behind those, largely cisgender male, researchers associating "autogynephilia" with trans women when the majority of cisgender women also fit the criteria for autogynephilia. So if "autogynephilia" is present in the overwhelming majority of cis women, why are people like Bailey focusing so intently on trans women? Of course, people like Bailey and Dreger, when talking about "autogynephilia" tend to leave out a whole lot of research, including my own, about trans children. The idea that a 5- or 7-year-old is "autogynephilic" would be verging on the comic, if these people didn't take it so seriously.

One can only come to the conclusion that their "research" is motivated predominantly by a desire to objectify and Other trans people and present us as different from everyone else in ways we are not. Doubtless this would then become a useful justification for further unethical research into trans people. One might even come up with a name for this tendency, or syndrome, or condition. Obsessive Transfemininity Fetishization Disorder. I can see how OTFD can apply to a number of people, from the cisgenderist psychologists of Midwestern America to rightwing toilet obsessives to hardine, penis-fixated TERFs.

Additionally once one reads Talia Bettcher’s excellent piece of scholarship  “When Selves Have Sex: What the Phenomenology of Trans Sexuality can Teach about Sexual Orientation.” it becomes apparent that the way we regard sexuality is strongly influenced by a cis, white, male, western, Abrahamic epistemology, and that sexuality is considerably more complex than Bailey or Dreger could possibly imagine. 

So the way I read this article, and the way I would approach this book, if I could ever be bothered to read it, is that it represents a strop. A strop by an old-school paternalistic researcher who misses the old days when academics could get away with publishing any old crap about trans people, in the knowledge that it would go unchallenged into the annals of classic scholarship, and would help to keep trans people firmly in our place. The whole thing seems to me to be a full-on, toys-out-of-pram, face-down on the floor, red-faced, kicking, screaming and stamping tantrum, “I want my theory! I want to be famous for discovering something! I want people to take me seriously! I’m not useless! I’m going to scream and scream and scream until I get what I want…! It’s Not Faaaaaair! Waaaaaaah!”.

This is, of course, a state of affairs not unlike the current TERF strop in mainstream media about "right" to tell lies about trans people to university students. Indeed the recent high-profile mainstream media campaign by TERFs to have transphobes allowed to speak in universities, bears more than a passing resemblance to Dreger's tantrum. Until the late 1990s the mainstream media narrative about trans people was dominated by the TERF point of view, a point of view largely unchallenged because, in a similar way to that which I have described above, trans people had not emerged and coalesced as a set of online communities able to exert pressure and present our side of the story. Now that has changed the TERFs are crying all sorts of foul, largely "censorship!", when what they really mean is "Oh no, our hate is now being challenged and it doesn't stand up to trans people's criticism!"

Mainstream journalists and editors are, however still churning out column inches of anti-trans propaganda, and faux victimisation narratives from people with access to national and international news platforms claiming to be "censored".  

This represents a tendency, in recent times, for those in the mainstream establishment with the most power in any given situation to pretend to be mavericks, plucky outsiders, fighting against an oppressive...errr... whatever.  These faux mavericks, fake outsiders are in essence, central establishment figures, people who are not just on the side of the oppressors, they ARE the oppressors. They are the ones silencing those with less power, they are the ones claiming to speak up for common sense in a world of political correctness. I call this "Clarksonism"; millionaire TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson, friend of the prime minister and journalist for right-wing newspapers, is as central an establishment person as you are likely to get, yet he pretends not to be. Other Clarksonists include former banker Nigel Farage, Bea Campbell OBE and establishment insider Guido Fawkes. People who carefully, and with the help of the media establishment, construct a position in which they present conservative arguments as "radical and iconoclastic" coming from people who, despite being in positions of power and influence, present themselves as heroic revolutionaries fighting against an oppressive system (of people less powerful than themselves... only they don't mention that bit). Of course trans people are used to Clarksonism on more than one level, when people who present themselves as trans allies, actually turn out to be TERFs.

Fortunately the academic world has moved on a little bit from those bad old days and research about trans people is subject to a bit more scrutiny, and that is the way it should be. This is why Dreger's book seems so oddly out of place, so vacuous, pointless, Clarksonist and hopelessly biased. This is why “Galileio’s Middle Finger” gets Natacha’s Middle Finger.

Monday, 9 March 2015

TERFs; more fanatical, and less credible than ever…

TERFism - sorry… “gender-critical feminism” took another nose-dive yesterday in terms of its credibility. They doxxed a trans woman in their rage at the decision by Planet Fitness in MIdland Michigan to send an apparently transphobic woman packing when she complained about the presence of a trans woman hanging up her coat and bag in the ladies changing room. This is grist to the mill for TERFs, it is their big thing; ultimately their aim is to prevent trans women using women’s toilets. An oppressive measure designed to harm trans women and dramatically reduce our freedom.

The TERFs doxxed the trans woman, someone who had done nothing wrong and who was simply using the gym like other customers. Another gym user complained about her hanging her coat and bag in the ladies changing rooms, and this is what the TERFs have been getting steamed up about. Yet, as usual with TERF rhetoric it doesn’t bear even the slightest close examination; according to Planet Fitness it was the  “manner in which her concerns were expressed that club management felt was inappropriate, which resulted in the cancellation.”

Doubtless the TERFs will claim this cis woman had her membership revoked for complaining, but this is just a typical TERF fabrication of the kind we have got used to (honestly if they said the sky was blue, I would look out of the window to check). Obviously I am not privvy to the nature of the way she complained, whether it was hard transphobic bigotry or ugly rudeness to staff or both, we will probably never know. What we can be sure of however is thst she was not barred because she complained, since  Planet Fitness, like any successful business say they “welcome all feedback from members.” Doubtless this will be lost in the red-faced screams of the TERFs.

However the TERFs have gone even further; they doxxed the trans woman by taking a picture of her at a moment when she had to detransition. Some trans people have to do this on occasion, they detransition because their families do not accept them as trans people. It is a terrible thing to have to do but necessary if these trans people ever want to see their parents, sometimes their children or other family members. Sometimes it is their only option, such is the state of transphobia in our society.

That the TERFs have decided to make their fanatical political capital out of this state of affairs is indicative of their methods and ideology. Let us be clear, when trans people have to detransition in order to retain any connection with their families, that is a direct result of our society’s transphobic culture. It is sickening and very revealing that the TERF community uses this as a means of trying to delegitimise a trans woman. 

This brings me to the main point of writing this; the way TERFs consistently try to call themselves “gender critical” feminists (that’s when they are not dishonestly claiming to be speaking for “women” or “feminists”). There is no “critique” of gender in what they have done to this woman, no critique of gender in their shrill rage, only abuse, lies and harassment. Yet people like Bea Campbell claim, in national mainstream media, that the TERFs have a legitimate discourse which is suppressed (or, to use their alarmist vocabulary, “censored!”) by student unions’ women’s groups no-platforming policies. Yet here we have an example of what people like her would describe as “legitimate discourse” and it is empty of any material that can be sensibly debated or discussed.

What this incident illustrates is how dishonest are the TERF clams to have valid arguments which deserve to be democratically debated in universities. They have never had anything “critical” of gender to argue, they only have abuse, lies and harassment. Young trans people coming out for the first time at university deserve to be protected from these haters spreading such deliberate misinformation about them.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

How the Campbell Letter changed between signing and publication

  • RED is for parts that have been taken out of the original
  • PURPLE is for parts of the published edition that are different from the original
  • Courier is the original letter
  • Arial is the published letter

"Goldsmith's College in London last month cancelled a performance by the comedian Kate Smurthwaite because of concerns about students' safety. Ms Smurthwaite had previously expressed support for a Scandinavian-style law which would make it illegal to purchase sexual services-a measure which Goldsmith's Feminist Society opposes. Her show's theme, ironically, was freedom of speech (no reference to prostitution), and a majority of FemSoc members voted in favour of allowing it to go ahead. However, the minority who dissented decided to picket the event, and faced with threatened disruption the organizers decided to cancel.

The fate of Kate Smurthwaite’s comedy show, cancelled by Goldsmith’s College in London last month (“What could be more absurd than censorship on campus”, Nick Cohen, Comment)  is part of a worrying pattern of intimidation and silencing of individuals whose views are deemed “transphobic” or “whorephobic”. Most of the people so labelled are feminists or pro-feminist men, some have experience in the sex industry, some are transgender.

This is not an isolated incident. It is part of a worrying pattern of intimidation and silencing of individuals whose views are deemed 'transphobic' or 'whorephobic'. Most of the people so labelled are feminists or pro-feminist men; some of them are themselves transgender people or people with direct experience of working in the sex industry.

Last month, there were calls for the Cambridge Union to withdraw a speaking invitation to Germaine Greer; then the Green party came under pressure to repudiate the philosophy lecturer Rupert Read after he questioned the arguments put forward by some trans-activists. The feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel has been “no-platformed” by the National Union of Students for several years.

Kate Smurthwaite's is the third high-profile case in the last few weeks. Last month, there were calls for the Cambridge Union to withdraw a speaking invitation to Germaine Greer (the Union declined to do so);then the Green Party came under pressure to repudiate the philosophy lecturer Rupert Read after he questioned the arguments put forward by some trans-activists (he was forced to issue an apology.

The feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel has been 'no-platformed' by the National Union of Students for several years, and is now effectively barred from speaking to student audiences on any subject.

'No platforming' used to be a tactic used against self-proclaimed fascists and Holocaust deniers, but today it is being used more and more often to prevent the expression of feminist views.

“No platforming” used to be a tactic used against self-proclaimed fascists and Holocaust-deniers. But today it is being used to prevent the expression of feminist arguments critical of the sex industry and of some demands made by trans activists. The feminists who hold these views have never advocated or engaged in violence against any group of people. Yet it is argued that the mere presence of anyone said to hold those views is a threat to a protected minority group’s safety.

The views being targeted are critical of the sex industry, and of some demands made by trans activists, but-unlike the argument that the Holocaust never happened-they fall within the scope of legitimate political debate.The feminists who hold these views have never advocated or engaged in violence against any group of people.

Yet it is argued that their views are 'hate speech', and that the mere presence of anyone who is said to hold those views (even if, like Kate Smurthwaite, they are not actually planning to express them) is a threat to the safety of a protected minority group.  You do not have to agree with the views that are being silenced to find these tactics illiberal and undemocratic. What has happened to Julie Bindel, Rupert Read and now Kate Smurthwaite is a warning to anyone who shares their views, or who hasn't made up their mind and wants to explore the arguments further.

It says: 'you are not even allowed to hear the arguments. Either agree with us or keep quiet, because if you don't, you'll pay the price’.

Universities have a particular responsibility to resist this kind of bullying. Freedom of thought and inquiry are central to the mission of a university: allowing a vocal minority to decide in advance which thoughts or arguments should get a hearing is a betrayal of the values academic communities are supposed to uphold.

We call on universities and on other organizations which may be subject to the same pressure, to stand up to attempts at intimidation and affirm their support for the basic principles of democratic political exchange.

You do not have to agree with the views that are being silenced to find these tactics illiberal and undemocratic. Universities have a particular responsibility to resist this kind of bullying. We call on universities and other organisations to stand up to attempts at intimidation and affirm their support for the basic principles of democratic political exchange.

Is this what Bea Campbell means... "feminist arguments critical [...] of some demands made by trans activists."?

Here Bea Campbell retweets an abusive tweet by a TERF. This would appear to be what Campbell describes as "critical arguments". If these are "critical arguments" I would hate to see her "abusive diatribes". 

I have blogged before about how Campbell's campaign to introduce transphobic "arguments" into universities will only result in this sort of abuse being spouted on a regular basis. There are no rational arguments against trans people, against my existence, that have not been comprehensively discredited, what is left is nothing more than abuse and harassment. 

This illustrates this issue vividly. If this sort of abuse is being retweeted by Campbell; the originator of the Guardian letter, then what hope is there for the kind of "critical arguments" she tells us will be part of free, democratic "debate" in universities? She is the one asserting that universities should stand up for "democratic political exchange". in effect she is just arguing for the right to abuse and harass trans people. She has now demonstrated that she herself is incapable of engaging in any kind of reasoned debate without resorting to abuse.

I am sure those who signed her letter expected TERFs to come out some reasoned, logical, respectful engagement with considered arguments, not this kind of mud-slinging, retweeted by her and coming from another of the signatories to the letter. I hope this disabuses them of her real intentions. TERFs have never been able to engage in rational, critical argument about trans people, they have nothing left but abuse. Bea Campbell knows this, she has clearly engaged in transphobic abuse herself. She demonstrates by her own actions that what she is demanding is unachievable. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

A TERF comes clean about "gender-critical" feminism.

It's not often oppressors genuinely admit that they are oppressing people, they usually cloud their actions in euphemisms like "gender-critical" or "not transphobic". This time it is different however, we have a prominent TERF admitting a popular TERF website is deliberately trying to harm young trans people. Hard on the heels of Bea Campbell's campaign to bring transphobic hate speech into universities, an individual on social media called @jenderfatigue has admitted that the reason the transphobic website "Dirt" (a website that Sheila Jeffreys gratefully acknowledges in her book "Gender Hurts"*)exists is to intimidate trans male adolescents, and to try and prevent them from coming out or transitioning.

@jenderfatigue responds to questioning by @viviphilia with the following tweet;

This is a very significant admission by a TERF and illustrates the kind of activities we can expect in universities should Bea Campbell get her way.  The full Twitter conversation is here.

Let's just analyse it for a moment; "It deters others from transition." is a chilling admission that these TERFs are deliberately intimidating young trans boys as they come out, trying to force them to be a gender they are not. This is dangerous, it is in effect a kind of Conversion Therapy; a (mis)use of panoptic power by some very creepy individuals indeed, to harm some of the most vulnerable people in society at the most vulnerable time in their lives; coming out and starting transition. 

But it gets worse; "It gives women community." sounds innocuous enough on the surface but it demonstrates how the likes of Dirt are using hatred for another group to create community allegiance. I am sure readers will recognise how this has been used throughout history; a group of people have been identified as objects of hate, dehumanised with the express purpose of generating a kind of mindless following of people sharing the same hatred. It then becomes easy to manipulate and direct this group to cause harm through violence, further intimidation and fear. 

This is further evidence that TERFs do not argue, If they had any serious arguments they would not have to resort to this kind of harassment. TERFs do not "debate", they have nothing to debate about; their arguments have been discredited a hundred times over. There is not more point in arguing with a TERF than arguing with a member of the EDL. They claim to be "gender critical" yet they produce no criticism of gender, only hatred of trans people. Are these Bea Campbell's "unpopular views"? To be frank the trans haters have no credible "arguments", as Bea Campbell wants us to believe, all I have ever seen them do is engage in abuse, harassment, disinformation, straw man arguments and this kind of stalking, they have no other option. Not only do they they abuse, harass and stalk trans adults, they abuse, harass and stalk trans children. There is a special place in Hell for such people. Truly sickening individuals.

These look like the people Bea Campbell wants to unleash on our universities. 

*“I am grateful, too, to the new wave of radical feminism both online and offline. Radical feminist bloggers such as… Dirt from ‘Dirt from Dirt’, among others, have provided invaluable factual material, references and ideas on their blogs, without which it would have been harder to write this book. Indeed, over the period that this book has been incubating, radical feminist bloggers strengthened and clarified my analysis.” [1] – Sheila Jeffreys, Gender Hurts, Acknowledgements 
(Thanks to the awesome Cristan Williams for bringing this to my attention)

Monday, 16 February 2015

Open Letter to Mary Beard

Dear Mary,

I am truly sorry the aftermath of the Campbell letter caused you to cry. I know how you feel, I have had to cry myself to sleep on many occasions because of what people have said about me on social media, everything from out-and-out lies to deliberate misgendering, which is very, very unpleasant if you are trans. Like you, I am a busy academic, teaching at Goldsmiths College and completing a PhD at UCL, and I am taking time out from working on that PhD to write to you. I am doing this because I believe you are worth writing to and because I believe you will listen to the points I need to make. So I have waited until the Twitterstorm has subsided a bit because I would like to explain to you the issues with regards those "feminists" who want to bounce Student Unions into allowing transphobes to speak. The issues are much more complex than might otherwise be assumed from the outside.

Firstly, I understand the normal response to the no-platforming debate; that all issues should be debated at university in an atmosphere of understanding of the issues and freedom of speech. I am sure however, that you are understand that this might be somewhat Panglossian, unfortunately the world simply doesn't work like that. The issues I intend to outline to you come under four headings:

  1. The debate between transphobic “feminists” and trans people has historically been one in which the former has abused and assaulted the latter over a long period.
  2. The mere fact that those opposed to my existence are able to stage any kind of debate is not neutral. 
  3. Those opposed to my existence have a long history of preventing fair debate and silencing trans people, and many of those who co-signed the letter have been party to attempts to silencing trans people.
  4. Universities are the most common places where young trans people come out, and as such transphobic speakers there would have particularly negative effects on individual Trans people
In addition I was able to see a copy of the email which Bea Campbell was sending round with an early iteration of her letter attached inviting individuals to sign it. It did not elaborate at all on any of the issues, nor did it invite anyone to consider that there might be alternative points of view, or how one might investigate those alternative points of view. If you got the same email as the one I saw, I suspect it didn’t really give any information at all. So not only is her published letter quite one-sided, which one would expect, but the way she presented it to you and others to sign failed to suggest that there are alternative perspectives, and that potential signatories might like to become more acquainted with the Issues in this instance, especially since she must have been fully aware that this letter would provoke an angry reaction on social media; she knew this would happen and didn’t warn you. I find this disturbing, but in character.

This appears to be why so many trans people are upset at your signing. This letter is my attempt to put those points of view to you in a way Bea Campbell did not.

So to reason number one. The so-called "feminists" who wish to initiate a debate about my existence have probably glossed over the nature and history of this "debate". This is a debate that has raged since the early 1970s and which quickly became violent. Despite denying that their anti-trans position is essentialist, it clearly always has been and it has resulted in physical attacks on trans women and allies, in the case of Sandy Stone, threats of violence against other members the feminist collective, Olivia Records, of which she was a part. The debate, quite frankly, went downhill from there, with Janice Raymond publishing a book in which she suggested that people like myself should be "morally mandated out of existence”. A senior academic also helped the Reagan government to withhold gender reassignment healthcare from trans people. Many blame Raymond for the high level of violence experienced by trans people in the US, especially trans women, and more specifically black and Hispanic trans women, who were placed in vulnerable situations as a result of trying to find means to fund surgery by the only profession open to them.

Since then transphobic "feminists" have worked hard and consistently to harm trans people, they have consistently spread deliberate disinformation about trans people, including making it appear that there are large numbers of "regretters" after surgery, which there are not. They have described as “child-abuse” the treatment for trans children which involves the entirely reversible and medically safe administration of hormone blockers to delay the onset of puberty and give them the opportunity to take stock and decide for themselves at age 18, whether or not to have surgery. Ironically they are effectively arguing for trans children and adolescents to be forced to go through puberty in a body which they do not recognise; a dangerous, harmful and medically unethical position. In my opinion it is their desire to prevent this from happening that represents child abuse by proxy.

So those wishing to debate my existence rely almost entirely on disinformation and misrepresentation of trans people’s lives. Indeed I have come across no argument from their side that is not either based on entirely unsupported assumptions or unprovable/undisprovable assertions, or which are not deliberate falsehoods about people like me. Indeed one argument made by these people; that trans women assault cisgender women in toilets has been shown to be false. These transphobic "feminists" collaborated with a well-funded right-wing "religious" group called the Pacific Justice Institute. The PJI devoted its not inconsiderable resources to trying to find instances of this happening. They found not one, but still accused us of all sorts of things anyway. Debate under these circumstances is both impossible and pointless. 

The second reason is simply that holding a “debate” at which one side is effectively being forced to argue for their entire existence against a group of people who would erase us, force us into even more marginalised, dangerous and vulnerable lives, is not a neutral position. Simply engaging in any debate on those terms represents a considerable advantage to those who would like to see us dead. (Yes I know this sounds like an exaggeration, unfortunately it is not). No-one is ever going to engage in any kind of debate on those terms, it would be like a neverending trial in a kangaroo court. In effect, those who are arguing for my existence to be debated in universities are arguing for a debate at which their views are unopposed. I’m afraid there is no neutral position in this instance, there is no middle way, no half-way house. The mere fact that this issue is being debated would result in an extremely unequal playing field and a one-sided debate.

The third reason is that those transphobic “feminists” who wish to debate my existence are a group that has a long and sordid history of silencing and intimidating trans people. Indeed I invariably attract quite extreme personal abuse online whenever I write something to counter what these transphobic "feminists" have written. They provide no counter-argument, no engagement with the issues I raise, just abuse and occasionally threats. And I count myself lucky, others have been threatened with legal letters from solicitors trying to shut them up, some have had letters written to their employers, trying to get them sacked, in one instance a transphobic "feminist" even tried to intervene in someone’s medical treatment. Transphobic "feminists" have also doxxed trans people who try and engage in debate and have actually doxxed two minors, with the result that one 16-year-old trans girl had to leave school and go on suicide watch after being threatened with death on social media. One transphobic "feminist" academic even employed an expensive firm of solicitors to force blogs that had quoted her own words to stop publishing them. Many of those signing the letter have absolutely no interest whatsoever in free speech or open discussion of the issues. They have no arguments to make that have not been comprehensively dismantled over and over again.

In my opinion all these reasons detailed above are good enough reasons to withdraw your signature, however there is one final reason which is, in my opinion, much more important; holding these debates in universities will actually cause material harm to young trans people who attend those universities.

Universities and colleges are by far the most common locations for young trans people to come out for the first time. This is because schools are particularly hostile places for young trans people and trans children; I have a litany of horror stories, some of which I outline here:

  1. An 8-year-old trans girl who was bullied by her headmaster in a rural school in the West Country, he prevented her from attending school in her real gender and put her through Hell until we were able to threaten him with legal sanctions. This went on for a very long time.
  2. A 13-year-old trans girl who was assaulted quite violently and subjected to physical bullying and 24/7 cyberbullying at school in London. Ultimately she could no longer attend and was given an hour a day home tuition instead. However home is not a safe space for a child and she was subsequently raped by a burglar which caused her to self-harm, to abuse substances and attempt suicide on many occasions.
  3. A young trans man who was bullied so badly at school, and by his local community in a small town in the south of England that he was no longer able to go to school and had to finish his A levels on his own. He has since fled the country!
  4. A young trans woman aged 17 who was bullied so badly by her family, local community and teachers in a small town in the North of England that she found it better to run away to London where she had to resort to sex work to survive. Because of the precarious position of trans women sex workers she has been assaulted by ‘clients’ many times.

I have spent a great deal of time trying to help trans pupils in schools and discrimination against them is common, multilevel and usually ignored by staff. Indeed in some cases staff have been involved in bullying trans kids. So universities and FE colleges are the most important places for young trans people to come out and take their first baby steps in their real genders. They represent a kind of sanctuary or asylum from the endemic harassment that young trans people receive from schools, local people, and even their own parents. University is the first time most have the opportunity to come out and be themselves and start transitioning and many are in very vulnerable, exposed and liminal positions, and their existences are often conditional on the acceptance of those around them. Having transphobic speakers bombarding universities with transphobic content would make life very hard, if not impossible, for these exposed people. Spending lengthy hours constantly defending one’s right to exist is not the best way to come out. This is a point that I have made before and one which, so far, the transphobic "feminists" have not responded to with any counter-argument.

So having “debates” about our right to exist in universities would not be a neutral act; it will manifestly make life harder for young trans people at the time in their lives when they are at their most vulnerable. It would be a profoundly hostile and harmful act for us and it would legitimise what is, in my experience, nothing more than blind hatred and discrimination.

Of course one also has to take account of the issue of power imbalances. People who can get letters in national newspapers complaining about free speech do not seem, from where I am standing, to be suffering from a big problem with being heard. This is not the case for the majority of trans people. As FeministKillJoy blogged today;

"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"

I am aware that I have only talked about the trans element of Bea Campbell’s “trans/sexworker" conflation. I am one of the relatively privileged and fortunate trans women who has not had (to date anyway) to engage in sex work or survival sex, so I can’t claim to speak for sex workers, although I do know plenty of trans sex workers so I take the lead from them, and when they say the proposals by these “feminists” are currently pursuing to further criminalise the purchase of sex will make their lives more dangerous, I believe them. They are in the best position to know.

Hopefully I have started to give you pause for thought about the Campbell letter. I have a further blog post about this issue here, which deconstructs Campbell’s letter in greater detail. If you would like to discuss any of the issues I raise here further I would be happy to do so at any time.

Best wishes,