Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Why arguing with TERFs is pointless.

It appears that some online TERFs (Trans Exclusionary "Radical Feminists")have been inferring that I am an “essentialist”. This is a common accusation thrown at many trans people and one that is not merely false but an example of the ‘white-is-black-and-black-is-white” strategy of TERF propaganda. In fact it is the TERFs who are the essentialists, the TERFs who indulge in essentialism. Indeed TERFism is essentialism, a profound essentialism at the core of their ideology, not a peripheral add-on. No wonder they are trying to accuse trans people of essentialism, it is a classic “look over there” tactic.

Of course anyone who has read anything I have written, especially my most recent paper published by the British Psychological Society will realise that not only am I not an essentialist but that I am actively anti-essentialist, having produced a theoretical paper dismantling some neurologists’ and psychologists obsession with a mythical “comorbidity” between trans people and people on the autistic spectrum, by elaborating the concept of Cultural Cisgenderism. Indeed in that piece I am effectively attacking the work of Simon Baron-Cohen, the arch essentialist whose book “The Essential Difference” is, in my view, profoundly anti-feminist.

It is common for TERFs to try and pin the label “essentialist” onto trans people who perceive themselves to have been born this way, or to have an essential self as women, men or non-binary people. This, however is the purest form of dishonesty. Actually the overwhelming majority of people in society subscribe to essentialist beliefs, it is one of society’s prime ideologies. This includes the overwhelming majority of cisgender people. So it is no wonder that some trans people subscribe to this ideology also; not all trans people have done a masters in Gender Studies. The setting of different standards for trans people compared with cis people can however be characterised as pure, straightforward, unadulterated transphobia. In fact, the percentage of trans people who subscribe to the ideology of essentialism is almost certainly very much lower than the percentage of cisgender people who are essentialists.

Of course there is one group who are essentialists who pretend to be social constructivists; speaking the language on the latter while adhering to the beliefs of the former; and that is TERFs. I can think of no other group that does this; an interesting phenomenon for the advanced TERFologist to study.

As I have said before the TERF strategy of arguing black is white is part of their usual flailing around since arguments which have been discredited since the 1970s. As the Transadvocate has thoroughly demonstrated during TERF week, TERFism is a violent essentialist ideology that recruits a variety of dishonest tactics to attack, threaten, abuse, harass, misrepresent and harm trans people. They have resorted to these since the 1970s because their arguments have been comprehensively discredited.

While we are here one thing I have always noticed, since being on social media is that the most sure-fire way of knowing that you are winning an argument is when the other side starts putting words into your mouth. I have had this with Tories, with Kippers, with Separatists, with neocons, with racists, with homophobes and of course with TERFs; it is always the signifier that they have lost and need to start telling me what I haven’t said but would have liked me to have said. 


This is just one of the many reasons why arguing, or trying to reason, with TERFs is pointless. This is why, incidentally, Paris Lees' and other trans people's refusal to debate with TERFs is both brave and sensible. We know from experience that trans people who refuse to engage in "debate" with TERFs are harassed, threatened and abused by TERFs. This does not mean TERF disingenuousness and misinformation about trans people in mainstream media, such as this, should not be countered. We should however ignore the irrelevant blogs by TERFs, which make not difference to public opinion. 

TERFs need to learn that these sort of tactics, which they have engaged in for 45 years, have profoundly weakened their, already unconvincing, case, TERFs also need to learn, as do some in the media, that my identity is not up for debate. Period.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

From Manufacturing Consent to Manipulating Conflict


The media has been slow to adapt to the new technological environment and numerous journalists have lamented the way the public has used social media to respond to their excesses and their failings. Twitter has exploded on occasion as journalists, previously considering themselves untouchable, inhabitants of ivory towers protected by the patronage of a right-wing billionaire proprietor, were free to produce as much hate and disinformation as they liked. They did this in the knowledge that people living in the real world would never have the opportunity to respond, much less to call them out on lies, hate-speech, omissions and all the other tricks they use to distort and misinform.

That changed, almost imperceptibly at first, with the arrival of Twitter and other forms of social media. The Great Unwashed suddenly had a voice. Probably the first media outlets to capitalise on this were ones like the Guardian, which responded by developing its online, interactive Comment is Free section, still one of the best forums for discussion of news issues. Other papers have followed by allowing reader comments below the line but these have never functioned in quite the same way.

Gradually however the media began to realise that posting controversial articles in these areas provoked more comments and as such guaranteed more hits. The more hits an online paper gets the better its advertising revenue so they had an interest in promoting this kind of material.

For broadcast media however, already struggling as advertising revenues drain away to the internet, the problem was that replicating this in their media was difficult. Some started parallel online sites but these simply did not get the volume of hits that online newspapers received. Something clearly had to be done.

The answer was to fabricate conflict situations live on air. Two implacable opponents were deliberately set up against each other. This is something politicians used to get into but their spin doctors and media management teams have generally warned them off these days, and for good reason. That left the general public. Fortunately there are plenty of members of the public, working for special interest groups or part of minority groups who will argue, often rancorously, with each other, live on air. Now, unfortunately for the broadcasters, people in these groups are becoming increasingly wise to this and wary of taking part in these “discussions”. 

The solution? Set people up. Warring parties were enticed into studios for ‘discussions’ or ‘debates’ without knowing who their opponents would be. People were recruited to go on air feeling unprepared but knowing that if they did not they would be ceding the floor to their opponents; better at least to show there is some opposition rather than allow their lies to go unchallenged.

This is the background to the recent behaviour of the media in the case of trans people. Editors have realised that, every time a trans person speaks there is a group of fanatics called TERFs ready to oppose them, and if the trans people get reluctant to speak, get a TERF on in the first instance and force their hand. The notion of “balance” is thus recruited as an excuse to subject trans people to abuse and harassment live on air as a kind of “entertainment”. The purpose of current affairs programmes, to inform and educate, is twisted into drama or soap opera. sacrificed on the altar of ratings, these media outlets no longer function as informative but as sites of live, personalised drama.

Trans people have become one of the media’s target groups as “balance” can be used as an excuse to set up a well-prepared bigot, fresh from chewing the curtains, against some unsuspecting trans person, hoping to educate a world largely ignorant about trans people.

The media is clearly taking this opportunity to make hay while the sun shines. It is no longer acceptable to put a racist up every time a black person is interviewed, or a religious fundamentalist every time a gay man or lesbian is on. Editors know that the timespan is limited in which they can get away with including a transphobe every time a trans person gets the opportunity to get a hearing.

Paris Lees’ refusal to take part in such a set-up (I assume at financial cost to herself also) hopefully marks the end of this window of opportunity for transphobic abuse. The incident, in which she refused to be set up by Newsnight, probably marks a Wendepunkt in media-trans relations. The media will find it much harder to set up trans people from now on. 

Perhaps they should go back to informing and educating and leave the drama and soaps to those who can do them honestly.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Debating my right to exist

Newsnight and Woman's Hour, two BBC stalwart programmes have, in the last seven days, let down trans people badly. Their idea of 'balance' appears to be to let someone who is transphobic, to the extent that they oppose trans people's right to exist, debate with someone who is transgender. This seems to be such a simplistic concept of "balance" that it is almost one for Toytown.

Perhaps, if we put it in context; would they invite a homophobe onto Newnight to debate with a gay man, or a lesbophobe onto Women's Hour to debate with a lesbian? If Michael Cashman or Seb Dance were interviewed would they invite the Westboro Baptist Church along for "balance"? Would they suggest that every time a black or Asian person gets into the news, any feature about them should include a member of the BNP?

The format used by Women's Hour is now familiar fare for the BBC; fanatical transphobe Sheila Jeffreys was effectively allowed to ambush a trans woman, to set the agenda, get all her points across with no intervention from the presenter. A similar thing happened when Julie Burchill ambushed Paris Lees, whose calm and reasoned defence, in this instance, resulted in Burchill throwing her toys out of the pram and hanging up the phone. This isn't "balanced" reporting it is the modern equivalent of throwing Christians to the lions in ancient Rome.

Most of what we know we have never learned from personal experience. We only know what we know from books, the internet or the media. In a recent survey only 13% of the UK population said they were acquainted, in any way, with a trans person. as such it is important that trans people are fairly represented in the media; the media is the only way most people will ever get to learn about trans people. That is why the games Newsnight and Woman's Hour are playing are dangerous and that is why it is important that they are taken to task about them.

The desire, on the part of editors to set up a dramatic clashing argument with fur flying may make for a gripping few minutes of entertainment but it fails to educate anyone about the issues. It is as if these programmes now consider themselves to be entertainment like dramas or soap operas, rather than current affairs programmes. Well I'm not prepared to allow my life to be treated as entertainment by programmes that are supposed to educate and inform. Trans people are people, not your entertainment, not your performing seals. We are not here to be some relief from "serious" news articles about Iraq.

Trans people have to live with abuse from trans haters like Jeffreys all the time. Dealing with the abuse, harassment and emotional violence transphobes cause to us is difficult at the best of times, having to do it live on radio or TV can only be described as torture. Putting people through that sort of mental stress is both unfair and unacceptable. The BBC needs to start taking its responsibilities to trans people seriously firstly by properly training all its staff in trans diversity issues and then not giving the equivalents of the Westboro Baptists Church or the BNP the right to argue with us about our right to exist.

Friday, 8 August 2014

A detailed response to Sheila Jeffreys on Woman’s Hour


This represents my own evidence-backed opinion of the material Jeffreys provided on BBC Woman's Hour on 7th Aug 2014. 


Firstly two notes on language: 

1). Jeffries uses the word “transgenderism” when the descriptor "trans people" should be used. This is designed to dehumanise and harm trans people. We are trans people. She uses "transgenderism" because it makes it appear that being trans is a choice, that it is a cult, that it is not legitimate. This is the most harmful element of her work, it is also the most disingenuous. 

Once you dehumanise trans people, it becomes easier to get others to harm them. History is littered with examples of this.


2). Jeffries consistently misgenders trans people throughout,  I have not corrected this when it happens. This is not because I wish to disrespect those subject to this misgendering but because I wish to demonstrate the, in my view, abusive nature of her discourse.



1.  “the phenomenon of transgenderism which is a social construction of the 2nd half of the 20th century and which has become particularly common in the last couple of decades…”

Jeffreys starts with one of her most blatant and easily disprovable untruths; there is plenty of historical evidence that trans people have existed throughout human history and in every civilisation. Cultural historian Marjorie Garber’s well-researched book, published in 1997 called “Vested Interests” is a well-researched example of this. More recent archaeological evidence of this is the grave of a trans person discovered in Prague who was buried more than 2000 years ago.


2.  “[it] is harmful to many groups of persons"

Here Jeffreys provides no evidence for her assertion. The idea that me expressing my true gender is harming anyone else quite literally laughable, especially given the evidence I have described in section 1 above. Trans people have been around for thousands of years and I cannot find any examples of us harming anyone simply by being trans. The only harm is usually to us from transphobic bigots who have abused, harassed or attacked trans people or worked to put trans people in harm’s way.


3.  “It is based on stereotypes of how the different sexes should behave. It’s very harmful to the feminist project of getting rid of those stereotypes. And indeed it can’t exist without them.”

This is one of the most pernicious and misleading arguments. There are plenty of trans people who do not fit into stereotypes of the two genders. I know trans women who do masculine things and trans women who do feminine things, likewise trans men. I know trans women who fly aircraft, who climb mountains, who never wear skirts or makeup. I also know trans men who do ballet, who are househusbands who are artists and who work on building sites. In fact it would almost certainly be true to say that trans people breach gender stereotypes far more than cisgender people.

In this instance Jeffreys also erases non-binary
people who probably adhere less to gender stereotypes than anyone. Trans people most certainly can exist without gender stereotypes, I doubt however, whether her brand of "feminism" can exist without perpetuating myths about them.


4. “It harms, as I say in the book, the persons who transgender themselves, because the drugs are harmful to their bodies, surgeries are harmful, and they have to usually be on hormones for the rest of their lives…

Trans people can speak for themselves about whether being trans harms us thank you. In my experience and knowledge of trans people the only harm comes when we are prevented from being ourselves or from transphobic attitudes like the ones Jeffreys appears to be trying to perpetuate. As a non-medical person, she is not qualified to make judgement on whether any specific treatments are harmful. Given the desperation with which many trans people seek surgical and hormone treatment, her assertion that medical intervention is harmful is completely at variance with reality. 


5. “This is a grand experiment - we don’t know, we know what HRT does, as you mentioned in the last segment, but what doses of these hormones your whole life means, we don’t know.”

Again she takes on the role of amateur medic. She is simply not qualified to comment on issues like this. I know some trans people who have been on hormones for longer than I have been alive and they are still very well. There is simply no evidence to back up her claims on this. Indeed April Ashley is living proof that she is wrong. 


6. “Transgenderism is harmful to wives, because some therapists say they are suffering from PTSD when their husbands transgender and suddenly say “you’ve got to call me Allison or call me by a female name”, and they start wearing their wives clothes and telling their wives they’re really lesbians, and this causes and enormous amount of distress.”

This is an example of her misuse of the word “transgenderism” if you substitute “trans people” the above quote makes much less sense. The implication however that married trans women should remain in their birth gender in order to preserve their marriages and not hurt the feelings of their wives is particularly dangerous. In fact I know trans women who have transitioned and remained happily in their marriages.  Social exclusion and transphobia mean that being transgender is very stressful at the best of times, trying to suppress your gender identity is only ever going to increase that stress very significantly. If she thinks that remaining in a relationship with someone who is gradually becoming more and more stressed is going to be of benefit to the wife of a trans woman, then Jeffreys is giving the ridiculous a bad name. That is a recipe for extreme harm and psychological damage for both parties.

Of course here Jeffreys conveniently ignores trans men who transition while married and non-binary trans people also. This is typical of her transphobic “feminist” ideology, the erasure of inconvenient people.


7. “It’s very much a problem for children because we now have the problem of the transgendering of children by the medical profession at the behest of all the transgenders who say it’s important to transgender the children young.”

This is one of the most disingenuous and potentially very harmful myths she is spreading, as have a number of other TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists). There is no evidence whatsoever that trans children are being coerced at all either by the medical profession, their parents or by other trans people. The typical situation is where the child comes out and has to be extremely persistent over a long period before any parent or medical professional takes them seriously. They need to struggle against immense social and cultural pressures to be taken seriously as this report, this report, this report and many others demonstrate. Trans kids are not manipulated or forced into anything by anyone, not their parents, not their doctors, not mental health professionals and most certainly not other trans people. On the contrary trans children, just like trans adults, have to fight tooth and nail to obtain the medical care and social acceptance they need. 

Once again Jeffreys is being profoundly hypocritical because by poisoning the cultural environment against trans children with her lies she is contributing to the harm caused to them by encouraging parents and others to coerce their children into genders in which they do not belong. In my view this can only be described as child abuse by proxy. There is every possibility that, if these lies are not countered, some trans children will be harmed unnecessarily.

This is also hypocritical because, despite wringing her hands over married trans women, if she helped trans people to come out at much younger ages then fewer would come to realise they are trans after they have got married and the problem would not arise in most cases. 

If Jeffreys really were concerned about trans children she would have roundly condemned the action of TERFs who recently doxed and outed a 16 year-old trans schoolgirl who had been threatened with violence and death by right-wing "Christian" fanatics. As a result of TERF bullying of this girl she had to leave school, go into hiding and was put on suicide watch.

Ultimately the only people trying to coerce trans children to do anything they do not want to do are people like Jeffreys.


8. “So in Britain, as early as 9-years-old, children can be put on puberty delaying drugs…”

The operative part of this sentence is “can be”. If any actually have been put on hormone blockers she would have said “have” instead of “can be”.  I have never heard of anyone that young being put on blockers and if there were I’m sure Jeffreys would have told us. So a simple deconstruction of that sentence actually translates it to; “No-one as young as 9 years old has been put on blockers.” Indeed if any child aged 10 or 11 had been put on hormone blockers I’m sure she would have mentioned it.


9. “…up until the age of 16 which can be very harmful to bone mass…”

Again “can be” but isn’t. Studies have shown that it isn’t. Again a “Professor” of "gender studies" is not a medical specialist, and it shows.


10. “…which sterilise them if they then go on to sex hormones at the age of 16 because their organs do not develop and then they can be put on cross sex hormones and so on.”

Her judicial use of the word “if”, see 8. above. The link I provided in point 8 above demonstrates that this is not inevitable.  Indeed transgender adolescent girls who decide they might want to have children, if they are on blockers, have often taken the decision to halt hormone blockers for a few months in order to be able to produce gametes which can then be frozen and stored for later use. (This demonstrates that trans children are in fact in charge of their own destinies since they usually do this of their own volition to control their own fertility. They are increasingly in charge of their own destinies, and hormone blocker treatment provides this.) Once again Jeffreys deliberately ignores trans boys, many of whom do not have hysterectomies and who go on to have children later in life. In Jeffreys' universe these inconvenient people just don't exist.

In truth providing young trans people with hormone blockers represents a humane and reversible treatment. It allows them time to consider carefully want they want rather than experiencing the pain and trauma of feeling their bodies develop in a way they hate. This is one reason why so many, who do not have access to blockers, self-harm. The fact is that Jeffries and other TERFs like her, want to force children to go through puberty in a way that is traumatic and psychologically damaging to them. This is, in my view not merely damaging and inhumane but profoundly harmful now that the technology is available to relieve their stress and give them the space and time to make up their own minds. Trans children should be empowered to make their own decisions about their own lives. Here Jeffreys is effectively prepared to sacrifice children and young people’s health and wellbeing for her own discredited ideology by denying them this choice and disempowering them so cruelly. By spreading this kind of misinformation about trans children and young people she is genuinely potentially harming some of them. That is unforgivable.


11.  “And all this can happen to them just because they disobey the rules of gender.”

On the contrary, in most cases these children do not disobey the rules of gender, they follow the social and cultural conventions of their real genders. Why should trans children be any different in this respect, from cisgender children of the same gender?


12.  [regarding her book] “it’s a political critique.”

That would glorify it too much. It is a rant at best. It also includes medical information from someone who is not medically qualified and ad hominem attacks on a trans person who has described this as the equivalent of ‘slut-shaming’.  Calling it a political critique is like calling beans on toast haute cuisine. However even if we take her word for it that is is a 'political critique', with reference to Section 10 above, she is playing dirty politics with trans children's lives. In my opinion this is truly sickening.


13. “Transgenderism as an ideology is harmful to the future of women and feminism because it promotes these sex stereotypes.”

"Transgenderism" is not an ideology, we are trans people, as I have said above. Once again she has provided no evidence to support this claim. As I have also said above trans people promote sex stereotypes to much less of an extent than cisgender people. There’s nothing like repeating a lie to make it become the truth though is there? Dr Goebbels would have been proud. (No apologies for Godwin’s Law, it is entirely appropriate in this instance). She fails to mention that nearly a thousand feminists, and feminist organisations from 41 countries disagree with her assertion that trans people are a threat to feminism. 


14. “Actually I have friends who have now detransitioned, so the book is not harmful to them, and they’re actually very grateful that it exists.”

A tiny number of people have detransitioned. These are often people who have transitioned as a result of other psychological problems or personality disorders. The one I met certainly had. I have been told that the number of these people in the UK has not increased at all in the last 15 years or so, so they are extremely rare, representing less than 1% of this who do transition.  As such healthcare for trans people represents a far higher success rate than almost any other medical intervention. Of course TERFs like to focus people’s attention on these people, but to do so is particularly disingenuous since they represent such a tiny proportion of people who have sought medical transition and a decreasing one at that. 

In addition some people have detransitioned, not because they wanted to detransition but because of intense social, cultural, religious, political or economic pressure to do so. 


15. ”For instance, in Australia the law was changed last year to get transgender into sex discrimination legislation, and the definition of transgenderism includes mannerisms. Now that’s extraordinary, whether mannerisms can tell you whether a person is masculine or feminine. Two of the wives who are interviewed in my book do say that their husbands, at the time they decided they were girls, not only decided that they were barbie-doll type teenage girls, but started hair flicking. So my suggestion is that hair flicking is one of those mannerisms.”

Here her use of language is very subtle. Yes the definition “includes” mannerisms. That does not mean that mannerisms comprise the entirety of the definition of a trans person. On their own they are not enough. The fact that two interviewees in her book, subjectively described their husbands and having certain mannerisms is weak, second-hand data from an invalid sample size. This section reads in a particularly misogynistic way, as if feminine mannerisms are of little value. The obvious question to ask here is; does Jeffreys hate women?

I have also been informed that the reason why Australian law includes this provision is to stop employers discriminating against people whose mannerisms may be at variance with their birth assigned gender.


16. “There are many many forms of behavior that are actually very stereotyped. I, for example, don’t have a gender, I don’t choose to have one, I don’t like femininity or masculinity.” 

Yet another interesting piece of hypocrisy from someone who imposes her own definition of gender on trans women, describing them as ‘men’. Here she is claiming that she doesn’t have a gender. I’m quite happy to accept that she identifies as non-binary (especially since most of the non-binary people I know also identify as trans) however for her to then turn around and refuse others the right to self define represents probably the most intense hypocrisy I have ever encountered from a TERF, and believe me there is a lot of competition out there.


17. “But what happens is that a transgender activist who disagrees with my book, a man who is transgendered called Dallas Denny…”

In the very next sentence she deliberately misgenders someone, immediately after claiming her right to self definition.


18. “…says that I look just like a man, and I’m four shots of testosterone away from being one.”

So this trans woman's observations are less valid than the second-hand data from the interviews in her book referred to in 15 above…? Jeffreys here seems to be incoherent.


19. “He certainly has sex stereotypes in his mind and I don’t meet his stereotypes cause I’m a feminist who will not do femininity and he’s excited by femininity.”

So she’s the only person who is affected by sex stereotypes? No cisgender person is affected by them? This is the disingenuous message she is trying to convey; trans people are affected by sexual stereotypes but not anyone else. Drivel.


20. “I make that point because of changes in the law that recognise these men as women and allow them into female spaces. (These men) don’t change sex and they have grown up as male - they have the character traits and behaviours as male - one of which, unfortunately, is sexual violence against women.”

Here again despite her claim to be non-binary in section 16 above she still refers to trans women as men, I’m sure you are getting used to this by now. In this quotation she tries to suggest that being male is to inevitably be sexually violent. This is a typical TERF trope, the idea that all men engage in sexual violence. Some men are rapists, as are some women, but here we are talking about trans women, who are not men.  Her simplistic world also ignores the reality of women's violence against women in intimate relationships in particular.


21. “We are now discovering that there are many arrests, for instance, in America, of men wearing dresses, or female clothing, who go into toilets and engage in photographing and recording women urinating and other forms of very sexually abusive behavior, for their sexual satisfaction.”

There have been a number of allegations of this but no records of any trans women doing this. 


22. “We have also had, this year, a case of Jessica Hambrook in Toronto, who is a man, who went into women’s shelters saying he was a woman, and he was accused of raping two women and he admitted that…and more and more cases are emerging of women having to face indecent exposure or erections in changing rooms and men coming up to them saying things like “Do you come here often?”"

Update: The Hanbrook case is surrounded in all sorts of controversy, it appears that Hanbrook did not identify at all as transgender nor has he been diagnosed as transgender as the Toronto Star says. So Jeffreys is using the behaviour of a cisgender male who appears to have multiple personality disorders, as a weapon with which to hit trans people. If this is the best she can do, her claims have little credibility.



23. “Yeah we don’t assume all men are sexual fetishists but we still exclude men from women’s spaces. And transgenders are men, so why should we say that this particular group of men are going to be okay, and not involved and violent?”

She has just inferred that all men are sexual fetishists, so she is contradicting herself now, coherence is clearly not her strong suit. Using the word “transgenders” is, once again dehumanising and abusive, when she could use ‘trans people” (see also sections 20 and 16 above with regard to repeated hypocrisy). Only some trans people are men; trans men, the rest are either trans women or non-binary trans people (hypocrisy again). Once again her assertion that trans women are inherently violent is contradicted by section 22 above.


To conclude, Jeffreys' arguments, largely evidence-free (or based on flawed or incorrect evidence), simply do not stand up to cursory examination. As a "professor" in gender studies she is supposed to be one of the TERFs' best informed and most powerful advocates of their ideology. If this is the best she can do then clearly the TERFs have irredeemably lost the argument. This probably explains why the TERFs have resorted so readily to abuse, harassment, deceit, dishonesty and outright lies in their hate campaign against trans people. They have no alternative. They have no rational arguments that hold water.



Acknowledgements

Thank you, and respect, to Melissa Tang for transcribing this, dealing with material that attacks one’s right to exist, much less having to listen to it more than once is stressful in the extreme.  Much respect also to the wonderful Zowie Davey for having the courage to deal with this live on Woman’s Hour, that must also have been stressful in the extreme. This is the sort of ordeal no trans person should have to go through. Thank you Zowie for ensuring that her poisonous mendacity did not go unchallenged.






Wednesday, 6 August 2014

"National Transphobia Awards...?"

All is not well at the National “Diversity” Awards.

Everyone knows that Sarah Brown and I haven't always seen eye-to-eye. She is a Lib Dem activist and I’m an active member of the Labour Party. I don’t like a lot of things the coalition government has done, even though I know Sarah doesn’t personally support all of these. So we disagree on a lot. Yet in spite of this I am shocked and dismayed that she seems to have been treated so badly by National Diversity Awards.

There are allegations now going round about a stitch-up over the National Diversity Award, for LGBT Role Model, if this is the case it would appalling by anyone’s standards. Sarah has achieved a great deal for trans people since being elected city councillor in Cambridge; she was the only elected openly trans politician in the UK for the time she was there. 

During that time a group of supposed radical "feminists” illegitimately harassed her in order to try and drive her out of office. As far as I can see, none of these people, using the cowardly tactics they did, was a constituent of her Cambridge Petersfield ward, the people to whom Sarah was ultimately answerable. That she was able to hold it together for her full term of office in the face of such brutal Murdoch-style attacks, is a testament to her integrity, courage and tenacity. That she should come under such sustained attack from transphobes is appalling enough, yet there is now a suspicion that the same cowardly and underhand tactics have been used by transphobes to deny Sarah an award she so richly deserves, with one of those allegedly implicated by some trans people in this harassment now nominated for an award in the "gender role model" category. This is someone who attended the trans exclusionary Radfem2013 "conference" where most of the speakers were known transphobes.  If this is true then including someone like this is akin to shortlisting Nick Griffin for a diversity award ceremony that includes ethnic minorities. If being anti-trans is part of being a "gender role model" then the NDA has become a joke. 

Sarah has done a great deal for trans visibility and worked to counter some of the most transphobic elements of the “equal marriage” provisions, or as trans people call it “unequal marriage”. She has also worked tirelessly to expose the failings of trans healthcare and the appalling treatment of trans people by some health professionals. As a result Sarah received more nominations than last years’ winner yet has not even been shortlisted, indeed no other trans women have been shortlisted. This is obviously making many people very suspicious. The organisers of the National Diversity Awards clearly have questions to answer and their credibility hangs on the answers, or lack of them, that they provide. They need to be open about the procedures they use to select and shortlist nominees. The National Diversity Awards will significantly lose credibility if it fails to do so this. For them any lack of openness will be viewed with skepticism. 

So here is a list of questions NDA needs to supply clear and detailed answers to;

  • Did Sarah Brown receive more nominations than any nominee who was shortlisted?
  • What procedures are used to decide who is shortlisted and who receives the award?
  • Have there been any people voting against particular nominees, and if so how were negative nominations dealt with? Did NDA receive any correspondence regarding any nomination that could potentially be regarded as defamatory?
  • What procedures does NDA have for ensuring that some people do not vote many times for the same nominees?
  • What is the NDA's policy on nominations of people who have been accused of holding anti-diversity attitudes in other areas?


One suspects that the first response NDA will come up with is “but in 2012 we awarded…” I don’t care who has received an award in past years, I want to know what is going on now. 

Until the NDA gives clear, properly evidenced, detailed and honest answers to these questions the suspicion will be that there has been a stitch-up and that this stitch-up is of a transphobic nature. Let us be honest here, there may well be perfectly good answers to all of these questions, and the 'transphobic' individual may not ultimately be anti-trans. I hope so and would very much welcome the clarity that the NDA could provide. Yes Sarah has done a lot but maybe others have contributed more. Fine, if that is the case, if the judges have come to that reasoned conclusion no problem, but until this is cleared up doubts will remain. When it comes to something like diversity awards, credibility is everything

The NDA needs to understand that operating in an area such as diversity there is no alternative to being squeaky clean, honest and open.

NDA the ball is in your court...

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Why I will no longer be funding the BBC

There, I've done it; I've cancelled my direct debit for my TV licence. I am no longer going to pay for the BBC. That's £145.50 a year better off I will be; quite a lot of DVDs (even more if I sell them on afterwards on Ebay). The TV is gone, it is mostly boring anyway.

The reason for making this decision is that I have decided that I can no longer allow my hard-earned money to support an organisation which is so clearly acting against my interests and the interests of my partner. The BBC's enthusiastic cheerleading for the far-right wing racist party Ukip with no balance and no sense of social responsibility is unacceptable. The BBC has clearly lost all balance and appears more like Fox News every time I see their webpage. This is the broadcast version of the Daily Mail or the Murdoch Media (except the Mail and the Sun have actually been less biased in their coverage than the BBC). 

I am an openly trans woman and my partner is Japanese and we are both under threat from these fascists. It is a matter of record that Nigel Farage is a racist; Alan Sked, the founder of Ukip has said Farage said this;

 "'There's no need to worry about the nigger vote. The nig-nogs will never vote for us.'"

Farage's denials might sound reasonable if he had not gone on to make racist comments about Romanians a few days ago on the radio. Once, he may be able to get away with it, but not twice, only Ukip voters are that gullible, racist or wilfully deaf to racism enough to let it go twice. This matters because every time a racist party like his gains political traction we get shit, rotten eggs, rubbish and worse thrown at our front windows. I have no doubt that legal protection for trans people and LGB people will disappear if Farage gets any real power in this country. Ukip is a party acting very much against my interests and those of my partner, and as its principal cheerleader the BBC is acting to harm my interests. I will always do my best to avoid funding any organisation that works against my interests whether it be a company that funds the Conservative Party or one that helps racists spread their racism and make it appear acceptable.

The principle of a public-service broadcaster is good; we need to have some balance to stop the right-wing media, owned or funded by the rich, from distorting the facts and ignoring legitimate agendas of the left, however this is no longer happening in the case of the BBC. It is pandering to the right-wing and its right wing bias is manifest like never before.


The BBC is no longer fit for purpose.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Why Russell Brand has got it so badly wrong,

On the 5th March 1933 the Nazis were elected in Germany on 43% of the vote. They did not achieve the overall majority they were expected to win but were able to form a coalition with the conservative German National People's Party and took power. Hitler became Chancellor and shortly afterwards enacted legislation to outlaw all other political parties, shut down all opposing newspapers and silence free speech. The rest is history with 55,000,000 men women and children (including my grandfather) dead as a result.

28.4% of the population did not vote, had they voted for the SPD or KPD the history of the 20th century might have been very different. So what if more than 28.4% had abstained? Would that have changed things? What if everyone opposed to the Nazis abstained, would that have changed anything?

The answer is not complicated; the first thing Hitler did when he came to power was to abolish democracy, silence any opposition and imprison or murder his opponents. Hitler only needed the elctions to achieve office, to get into power, once there he did not care about democracy or the opinions of anyone opposed to him, his only intention was to become dictator of Germany. For him power was an end in itself, not something to be used for the greater good, not something to help improve people's lives, power was everything, democracy was simply a means of achieving power, to be abolished as soon as power had been won.

This tends to be the case with right-wing political parties; power is the ultimate goal, and concomitantly preventing left-wing parties from obtaining power. The further right you go on the political spectrum the more politics is about power rather than policy, and the less scrupulous parties are about how they get power.

So where does this leave Russell Brand's idea that abstaining is the route to real change? Will abstentions make any difference? You have to say that history is not on his side. The right always craves power above anything else, the need for legitimacy diminishes the further right you go on the political spectrum. So we see the rise of BBCUkip, triumphant in its supposed Earthquake in British politics. We must remember that political Earthquakes are not necessarily good things, as history has shown us.

The thing to remember is that Russell Brand's "abstention" party was actually the runaway winner of the Euro elections, He achieved a landslide of more than 60% of the vote, compared with Ukip getting less than 10%. Russell Brand is therefore the winner of the Euro elections by a long way. But will it make any difference, will he be able to marshall his supporters behind his agenda?

Well the answer has got to be a resounding no. He has not claimed victory, he has no power to do anything with that 60%+ of the population who voted for his abstention party, and in any case they probably all abstained for different reasons, from apathy to disillusionment. He has no manifesto, no mandate, and most importantly no power to do anything. Because that is what politics is about most profoundly, it is about power. Of course left and right treat power in different ways; the left to work for more social justice and to empower citizens and the right to entrench its own power and disempower citizens (despite what it would like us to believe).

Ultimately Brand's naive and half-baked idea crumbles in the face of well-organised right-wing opposition that is just going to take power and ignore abstentions. Ultimately abstaining benefits Ukip and the Tories, there is no fence to sit on in politics. People would like to think they can escape from politics, they don't have to sit down and make the hard choices it takes to have a political point of view that does not crumble in the face of argument. There is no abstention, abstention is a vote for the right or the far right. Any people who think otherwise are deluding themselves. The NHS will not be protected by abstaining only by voting for a party that will defend it.

The result of the Euros show that Brand's 'don't vote' call has won the day. Now he has to deliver on the social and political change he has said will follow the majority of us not voting. Come on Russell, tell us what is going to happen now? How will politics change, how will society change? How will anything change as a result of more than half the population no voting? We are waiting to hear from you.