Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Why the TERFs protest too much over the tragic suicide of Leelah Alcorn

These days TERFs are largely to be ignored. An increasingly fanatical group of haters desperately trying to convince anyone stupid enough to listen to them that they represent either

a) all feminists or

b) all women

when in fact they represent only a minute fraction of either. A small number of bigots who shout a lot and have a lot of sock puppet social media accounts.

However the huge amount of noise and vitriol poured out over the suicide of Leelah Alcorn was somewhat unexpected, after all these people may be fanatics but I refuse to believe that some of them are not so dumb as to to think being seen to dance on the grave of a teenage suicide victim is a PR disaster. Some TERFs have been suggesting that her suicide note should not have been published, despite it being deliberately published on her Tumblr by Leelah with her explicit wish that the world take notice. Only TERFs would try and silence a trans girl in death. Some TERFs have deliberately misgendered her, as have her parents, despite her explicit wish to be remembered as a girl. Other TERFs tried to jump to the defence of her parents, suggesting that no parents are perfect and that trans people have been "gleefully" criticising them. For anyone to have such a wilful lack of understanding of how the trans community is feeling right now is, quite literally breathtaking. I think some of these people may be on the verge of needing professional help.

This sickening vitriol and hatred has surprised even hardened TERF-watchers, but there is a reason for it.

The cause of Leelah's suicide is clearly the 'Christian' treatment meted out to her by so-called 'Christian' healers. This is another word for talking therapies or "conversion therapy". Conversion therapy was an experiment carried out by a group of either quack practitioners or very right-wing psychologists in some parts of North America. It was used in the latter part of the 20th century as a supposed 'cure' for being gay. It is neither based on any valid psychological theory nor has it had any degree of "success" in turning people straight. All that has happened is that it produced lots depressed and suicidal gay and lesbian people.

This "treatment" is however still used to try and "cure" trans children, in some instances by psychologists but mostly now by quack 'Christian' therapists working on behalf of parents who want their children to be heterosexual and cisgender. Despite its 0% success rate and 100% harm rate, there are still people out there who will try and use the Bible to force trans people to be cisgender. Transphobia is alive and kicking in some communities.

The problem is that therapies similar to those which caused the death of Leelah Alcorn have been advocated in much of TERF literature since the 1970s, it is their only answer to the "problem" of the existence of trans people. This kind of TERF equivalent of 'Christian' conversion therapy is their only answer to trans people. TERFs want trans women to be men, they want us to stay in our boxes, it is apparently part of their ideology of "de-gendering" (yes I know that doesn't make sense). If Conversion therapy is shown to fail, especially to fail with trans people, then they have no mode of action left in the face of growing numbers of openly trans people, other than the abuse, harassment and doxxing that is so common by those who describe themselves as "gender critical".

The problem is that I know that some TERFs have recently engaged in their own kind of conversion therapy with at least one trans woman. I suspect many more than that. What happened to Leelah is what TERFs want to happen to all trans children, indeed all trans people. "Stay in your boxes, shut up and die quietly if necessary." The reason they protest too much is because they are attempting to do to trans people what Leelah's "therapists" did to her. "Be cis or die!" is their answer to the existence of trans people. The fact that TERFs are prepared to risk the lives and/or mental health of trans people in order to preserve their ideology of hate, to rid themselves of an inconvenient group of people is scary, but let's face it, they have no other option. In order to justify their hate they have to have an "answer" to the "problem" of trans people's existence. These kind of therapies represent their only possible answer, Leelah's death shows that their answer doesn't work.

They are protesting too much not merely because Leelah's death highlights the failure of these methods and their obvious dangers but also because at least some of them have guilty consciences themselves, having tried this on trans people.

Rest in peace Leelah. :-(

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Explicit Lessons on Adaptive Expertise (from Lin, X et al ND)

Hatano introduced the concept of adaptive expertise in relation to abacus masters. He
proposed that abacus masters should be termed routine experts because they have developed a very high, but rather narrow, procedural proficiency with a particular set of cultural tools. He contrasted routine experts with adaptive experts, and he and Inagaki asked the educationally relevant question of how “novices become adaptive experts – performing procedural skills efficiently, but also understanding the meaning and nature of their object.” (Hatano & Inagaki, 1986, pp. 262-623).

Hatano and Inagaki (1986) described several qualities of adaptive expertise that distinguish it from routine expertise. These include the ability to verbalize the principles underlying one’s skills, the ability to judge conventional and non-conventional versions of skills as appropriate, and the ability to modify or invent skills according to local constraints. Wineburg (1998) and others (e.g., Bransford & Schwartz, 1999) have added to this list by pointing out that adaptive experts are also more prepared to learn from new situations and avoid the over-application of previously efficient schema (Hatano & Oura, 2003).

Hatano and Inagaki suggested that in stable environments, culture typically provides
sufficient resources for learning and executing routine expertise. People have many pockets of routineexpertisewheretheyarehighlyefficientwithoutadeepunderstandingofwhy. To further develop adaptive expertise, people need to experience a sufficient degree of variability to support the possibility of adaptation. This variation can occur naturally, or people can actively experiment with their environments to produce the necessary variability. Hatano and Inagaki (1986) proposed three factors, highly relevant to education, that influence whether people will engage in active experimentation.

One factor is whether a situation has “built-in” randomness or whether technology (broadly construed) has reduced the variability to the point where there is little possibility for exploration. Instruction often attempts to reduce all ambient variability to help students focus on the procedural skill. This may have the unintended consequence of preventing students from judging variations in that procedure in response to new situations.

The second factor involves the degree to which people can approach a task playfully or whether there are large consequences attached that limit risk taking. When the risk attached to the performance of a procedure is minimal, people are more inclined to experiment. “In contrast, when a procedural skill is performed primarily to obtain rewards, people are reluctant to risk varying the skills, since they believe safety lies in relying on the ‘conventional’ version” (p. 269).

The third factor involves the degree to which the classroom culture emphasizes understanding or prompt performance. Hatano & Inagaki (1986) state, “A culture, where understanding the system is the goal, encourages individuals in it to engage in active experimentation. That is, they are invited to try new versions of the procedural skill, even at the cost of efficiency” (p. 270). They proposed that an understanding-oriented classroom culture naturally fosters explanation and elaboration, compared to a performance-oriented classroom culture where the goal is to just get it done the right way.

In sum, Hatano and colleagues characterized adaptive expertise as procedural

fluency that is complemented by an explicit conceptual understanding that permits adaptation to variability. The acquisition of adaptive expertise is fostered by educational environments that support active exploration through three tiers. The first tier highlights the variability inherent to the task environment. The second tier highlights the variability permitted in the individual’s procedural application. The final tier highlights the variability of explanation permitted by the culture, such that people can share and discuss their different understandings. The implications for the classroom culture are direct, and we consider brief examples from our own work on each of these tiers. We focus on how to help students notice important sources of variability. Life always contains variability, but people can overlook important differences by applying well-worn schemas.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Nigel Farage makes a tit of himself.

I've never liked Ukip, they seem to be even more deluded wankers (and that is the politest term I can come up with) than the Tories. Just when you thought he might be convincing the more gullible that he is a true "maverick" and genuinely anti-establishment, Nigel Farage displays the sort of establishment attitudes that would not have been out of place in Queen Victoria's day. Ultimately he isn't anti-establishment, he is the establishment; the establishment being white, male, cishet, privately-educated, City boors. 

Breast-feeding in public seems to be a problem for his 19th century middle-class white sensibilities, poor man, fancy being shocked by the sight of a child being breast-fed by a busy mum in a posh caff! The problem is that the right to breast-feed in public is about something more fundamental than what Farage thinks is 'sensitivity'. It is about women's rights, and is much more profound than his shallow, brainless, moralising dictates.

I wrote, a few years ago, about how women's toilets were deliberately not provided by the early Victorians, as a means of controlling and repressing women by forcing them only to be able to go out for short periods of time. The right to breast-feed in public is a similar issue. Women with young children also have lives and some have jobs and businesses to run, charities to work for and activism to contribute. Having to wait til they get home to breast-feed, significantly reduces their mobility, and ability to take part in civic life, in the same way that the Victorians reduced women's mobility in the 1840s and 1850s by only having public loos for men. 

By getting all steamed up about this Farage is seeking to reimpose the establishment point of view that women should be housewives and not get on in their careers. As has been said elsewhere women are usually described as "pushy" or "career-oriented" but never men. Farage wants to return to the past, when women were controlled by multiple social forces and forced into passive carer roles and dependent on men. Perhaps this explains why so few women are Ukip voters. 

Farage should leave his Victorian values at home and realise that people are less and less convinced of his faux "anti-establishment" posturing. He is more establishment than the establishment, he is the establishment of the 19-century. Perhaps he should stop political masturbating in public so ostentatiously and fuck off.

Monday, 1 December 2014

World AIDS Day, violence and Trans Women: Genocide

For World AIDS Day the publication of a report by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS drawing on what statistics are available about HIV and transgender women makes shocking reading. Yet sadly it is also not shocking at all for most trans activists.

Globally trans women are 49 (yes that is FORTY-NINE!) times more likely to be HIV positive than all other adults. This is probably a misleading figure since the majority of these cases are likely to be concentrated in particular areas, such as Latin America where it will be higher. This is an emergency so great that in most countries in Latin America trans activism is AIDS activism; trans activists there do not have the luxury of campaigning for greater legal recognition and better treatment by the law, their primary goal is often to reach out to trans women to try and and ensure they are protected against HIV.

The problem is that trans activists in these countries are also the prime targets for murder, in areas where the murder rate of trans women is already very high. For example in Mexico Agnes Torres, in Honduras, Cynthia Nicole Moreno, in Venezuela, Michelle Paz, and Zoraida Reyes in California. Indeed all founder members of the Collectivo Unidad Color Rosa in Honduras have been murdered as have most of its existing members, in a clear targeting of trans activism by right-wing vigilantes. 

Yet these trans/AIDS activists are the key to fighting AIDS in this part of the world; without being able to learn from trans women involved in the fight against AIDS locally no HIV prevention work can succeed. It is time we asked the large AIDS charities such as the Gates Foundation what they are doing for trans women and how they intend to make sure trans activists in these areas are protected and empowered to help prevent the spread of AIDS.

Reading the Publication by Redlactrans; "The Night is Another Country: Impunity and Violence Against Transgender Human Rights Defenders in Latin America." it becomes clear how the rise of AIDS in trans women has become an acute problem; the social exclusion which often leads to sex work being the only option for employment for many, the lack of medical care and HIV education for trans women, the lack of protection for trans human rights advocates and the lack of protection from violence is leaving trans women in extremely vulnerable situations. All these combine to create the perfect storm placing trans women in ever greater danger from both violence and disease. 

Looking at the figures for murders of trans people this year approximately 60% of those who were murdered were aged 30 or under and only 9 were aged over 50. In fact the majority of those aged over 50 were killed in first world countries making it very difficult to argue that the deaths of trans women in Latin America do not represent a form of genocide. Indeed as Fernanda Milan told us about Guatemala; there are no trans women there over 35, they have all been killed before they have the chance to get to that age. It is likely that, without coordinated and determined action the main killer of trans women in Latin America will soon be AIDs-related deaths and the likelihood of trans women living to be middle-aged will become even smaller. 

Maybe the world will finally sit up and take notice when it becomes clear that the high level of HIV infection among trans women in Latin America is hampering efforts to stop the spread of AIDS in the cisgender population. Or maybe that will only provide more motivation for vigilantes to increase their genocidal killings. Being trans in too many parts of the world is now associated with violence, disease and death, as well as social exclusion and economic deprivation. 

So, as a matter of urgency the large AIDS charities need to: 

1) protect trans activists in Latin America; these are the people who will be vital to any campaign to reduce and eradicate AIDS there. They are the voices of trans women in Latin America,

2) target trans women specifically as part of an education programme aimed at preventing the spread of AIDS, using the knowledge of trans activists on the ground,

3) campaign for human rights for trans women such as the right to change ID documentation to enable trans women to better avoid discrimination in education and employment,

4) campaign for free access to gender reassignment for trans women in Latin America, a measure which is likely to reduce the spread of HIV on many levels.

Trans women are dying in large numbers as a result of murder and AIDS, this is happening because the world is choosing to look the other way both locally and internationally. Locally the police and authorities are allowing murders to go unsolved and failing to introduce legislation that will protect trans women. Internationally the large AIDS charities are failing to address the needs of trans women at a time when, in the rest of the population the spread of HIV is starting to turn around. These are not just isolated, one-off occurrences  this is a multilevel systemic and systematic failure. There can only be one word for it; genocide.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Nigel Farage is an insult to our war dead

Nationalism is, as we know, the last resort of scoundrels, and scoundrels don’t come any more dishonest than Nigel Farage; to an even greater extent than Ukip’s sister party the Tories, he wraps himself in the flag as a device to try and win votes.
So when he demands a place at the Cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday we all know that he does not want to remember those who have died fighting for freedom but those who he can persuade to sign away their freedom by voting for his party.
There are two reasons he should not be permitted to attend the ceremony; firstly because of his deal with Robert Iwaszkiewicz; the Polish Nazi holocaust denier he has joined forces with in the European Parliament. That Farage should subsequently have the gall to demand a place at the cenotaph is an insult to the memory of the millions of Jews who were murdered in the Nazi holocaust. I am sure I am not alone in finding his attendance at the cenotaph worse than tasteless. This is one ceremony that, if he had any residual sense of decency, he would stay away from.
The fact that he hasn’t tells us he has no decency whatsoever.
The second reason is personal. My grandfather, Tom Kennedy. My Grandfather was killed fighting the Nazis in 1941, the darkest days of World War Two. He fought and gave his life so that Britain could remain free, free from the hate, violence and totalitarianism of Adolf Hitler.  Men and women like him gave their lives to fight the Nazi threat and now Farage is bringing it back in through the back door. Only this time he is using a more powerful force than the Luftwaffe; the combined power of a neoliberal-biased media, which has sickeningly and unrelentingly pushed his agenda in Goebbels-like fashion; repeating the lie until it “becomes the truth”.
Men and women like my grandfather are turning in their graves as Ukip develops Nazi racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamphobic, disabled-hating and totalitarian policies through a dishonest and manipulative media. For me Farage’s attempt to attend the Cenotaph service is a personal affront, he is beneath contempt for using the memory of my grandfather, who fought, died and stood for everything Farage opposes.  Farage is a man with no shame; there is nothing he wouldn’t do to gain political power, including appropriating the memories of heroes who died fighting Hitler to install himself as the new dictator.
He is the enemy of everything I hold dear, a truly vile man, for this action it is personal, and I will fight him to the last drop of blood,  and I fear I may well have to, as did Gunner Tom Kennedy.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

More Transphobia at NS

Today's transphobic rant by Glosswitch in New Statesman is just a provocation by a desperate TERF trying to enrage trans people to react and give the TERFs the oxygen of publicity they crave. TERFs are irrelevant and need to be treated as such. 

Email complaints to or contact the new Press Complaints Body; IPSO to complain. I believe this piece has breached the editors' code of practice in the following ways;

Clause 1

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

This rather pathetic attempt to link trans people's opposition to TERF bigotry, harassment, bullying and abuse with rugby club sexism and misogyny on campus is disingenuous in the extreme and reads like the profound desperation it is. More so even than her childish response to CN Lesters excellent blog post on "Cis". TERFs are being marginalised. They will attempt to link trans people with anything to give their hate-saturated ideology the slightest credence. This piece should be treated in the same way as a transphobic piece in the Mail or the Sun. Giving such a pathetic piece of bigotry masquerading as "journalism" the oxygen of publicity is what the TERFs want.

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Scottish Referendum: Reaching The Limits of Toryism

To David Cameron watchers, his response to the No result in the Scottish referendum has been entirely predictable, but also a little scary.

Firstly the predictable part; he has waited until after a vote to announce his new policy. This is entirely consistent with the way he went about privatising the NHS. Cameron should thus be accorded all the respect such a politician who operates in such a way deserves. Secondly his policy looks like it was cobbled together on the back-of-an envelope, last night by a couple of spads and Lynton Crosby. This contrast with Labour’s policy of regional devolution, which has been developed by Ed Miliband over a period of years, and which will work well with Devo Max in Scotland.

One also has to expect a great deal of back-pedalling by the Tories over Devo Max; true to form they will try and go back on their promises, just like they did on the “greenest government ever”, on open government and the Big Society.

The scary part is how this is obviously going to be the start of an ugly election campaign in which the Tories recruit a nasty kind of English nationalism for their campaign. They will lurch even further to the right in order to compete with Ukip; expect things to get racist-lite soon…

However the most important conclusion one can draw from all this is that there is a limit to Toryism. The Tories’ manoeuvring and weasel words, little-Englander nationalism and obfuscation about devolution serve only mask the fact that they are slowly coming to realise that the geographical distribution of the anti-Tory vote means that, not merely Scotland but also Wales, Cornwall, the North West, North East, Yorkshire, the Midlands and London could all seek independence if the Tories keep forcing their unpopular and damaging policies on everyone. If they continue as a right-wing party to compete with Ukip they quite literally risk fragmenting the UK, and not just Scotland and Wales. Yes the Tories can muster enough support in the South East and a few shire counties to win 35% of the vote every now and then and impose their nastiness on everyone else, what the referendum has demonstrated is that there are wider consequences of doing so which they cannot control. The limits of Toryism have been reached.

Maybe once that has happened those former UK constituent parts could get back together again, form a new country, leaving a rump South of England and East Anglia to stew in its own Daily Mail petty little-Englander intolerance. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Alliances and Oppositions. Trans activism and Stonewall

Still a bit woozy from general anaesthetic after an operation the previous afternoon, and largely keeping myself going through large quantities of coffee, I attended the historic first formal meeting between trans people and Stonewall with the objective of ending the exclusion of trans people from the work of Stonewall. This is why I have had to wait until now to blog my observations from the meeting

Political activism, especially when you are a small minority group must inevitably be about alliances and oppositions. Maximising alliances and minimising oppositions. The prize in this instance, is an alliance that gives us the ability to leverage far greater alliances.

Of necessity, one of the main targets of trans activism in recent years has been the media. huge efforts have been made to counter the negative media narratives and stereotypes presented regularly in the press and on TV. This has has some success; some sections of the media are listening. However there is still a level of misrepresentation of trans people in the media and, as Benefits Street has demonstrated, some sections of the media are not above deliberate misrepresentation, in order to maintain particular dishonest narratives.

People in general only ever know a fraction of what they believe to be true about the world through perusal experience. The rest is mediated. How many people will tell you Staines is a dump but have never actually been there? How many people will say they hate Heather Mills when they have not actually met her? We live in a world in which most of what we “know” does not come from direct experience. Trans people are a tiny minority, and only 13% of the UK population say they have ever knowingly met a trans person. This means that, for the majority, the only way they are going to learn about us is indirectly. This affects the way trans people have to construct our alliances.

The prize from joining with Stonewall is not merely another huge alliance, but the possibility of using that alliance to leverage further alliances. “Some people are trans, get over it” on the side of buses, at football matches and in magazines, trans people included in the work Stonewall does in schools, workplaces and higher education would represent, for the first time, trans people being able to make unmediated alliances with the population as a whole. So far we are restricted to mediated contact, through influencing directors, producers, journalists and editors. Being able to go over the heads of the media gatekeepers is not only powerful in itself in expanding the alliances with and minimising oppositions to trans people’s existences, but it also represents a powerful check on their influence. They will know that a population that has “got over it.” is not going to swallow pathologising, sexualising, transphobic media content. 

So this is one of the prizes. But I wanted to explain personally a little about why I was at that meeting.

I spent a great deal of my life being unable to be the woman I am. I knew I was a girl from a very young age but also understood, through the function of cultural cisgenderism, that I could not be honest about that. Being a primary school teacher also forced me into a closet during working hours in order to preserve my income and pay the mortgage. It has only been since leaving teaching that I have been able to come out and live authentically. 

However I also know a large number of trans women who are stuck in similar situations to the one I was. They are unable to come out because the stakes are too high, or because the stakes are not merely theirs alone but shared with others. Some work in manual jobs and are employed by the day or by the hour in the sort of hand-to-mouth existence that neoliberalism forces onto people. Others have dependents to support, including elderly or disabled relatives and children to feed, clothe and bring up. Some are, like I was, in a job where being trans is to invite the sack through deliberately negative “performance management” or simple non-renewal of contracts. Some live in areas where coming out as trans is to invite bricks through the window, shit or burning newspapers through the letterbox and violence after dark both upon themselves and their families. Some live in small communities where total social exclusion remains a real possibility. I know some trans women who actually wear binders to work in order to present as male for fear (usually justified) that they might lose their jobs.

These are the people I was there for, because I spent too many years of my own life as one of those people myself. Alleviating the suffering and psychological trauma faced by these people. Reducing the harm caused by having the constant Sword of Damocles of being outed hanging over them is something Stonewall has the possibility to achieve.

We now have openly gay and lesbian people in plenty of jobs. MPs, CEOs, in sport, the media, which we didn't have 30 years ago when Margaret Thatcher's Tory government brought in the last piece of homophobic legislation. There are plenty of openly gay and lesbian primary school teachers, including at the last school where I taught and where it was made obvious to me that being openly trans would not be an option. There are dozens of openly gay and lesbian MPs the world over. There is however only one elected trans MP in a national parliament anywhere in the world. The tipping point may have arrived, but the breakthrough has yet to be made in many areas. 

So when Ayla Holdom wrote, in the Guardian about how there has never been a better time to be trans she was not wrong. But we have to remember that progress is always going to be patchy, for different people in different jobs, communities, schools, geographical locations and classes the possibilities will be different. This is why we need Stonewall.

In terms of the actual discussion I would like to make these observations; firstly everyone was acutely aware that there were many trans people who were not at that meeting but who would have liked to have been. This is being addressed by Stonewall and many further meetings are planned with different groups, group sizes and formats. Secondly, I felt that the issue of sustainability probably needed more discussion. We need to know that Stonewall will still be able to fight effectively for trans people in 10 or 15 years time. Hopefully this will come out over the next few months.

However I am very optimistic that this is going to work. Stonewall wants it to work, many in the trans community want it to work, and many people need it to work.

It was also hugely symbolic that there was another meeting taking place in London at the same time. A group of mendacious, abusive and transphobic cis women were reinforcing their oppositions and misrepresenting their alliances. While trans people were making history, the TERFs may not have realised it, but they were in the process of becoming history.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Lipstick Space Invaders

Fed up with Tories, Neolibs, TERFs, Tottenham fans and BBCUkip

Play Space Invaders instead; Shoot 'em down...


Use the mouse and the spacebar, highest score so far 30...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Vigo's interview with Raymond.

Our feminism would make sense
- if it wasn't for those pesky trans people
Janice Raymond is widely believed by many trans people to have caused the deaths of hundreds, possibly thousands of trans people in the United States. An obvious choice then to interview about trans people.

Trust me, don't waste your time reading it; 45 minutes of my life I will never get back. Do however keep an eye on the Transadvocate for a detailed critique of this drivel and some factual historical accounts of actual TERF (or as Vigo calls it "gender critical") violence against trans people.

Evidence-free misrepresentations, putting words into other people's mouths, glossing over the violence meted out to trans people by TERFs. The usual fare we are used to in TERF writing

Incidentally, I wonder why two "academics" have to resort to a lengthy article in a self-styled "underground" internet blog rather than publishing peer-reviewed articles.
Have you been morally mandated out
of existence yet...?

Instead of reading this drivel, This video is a hundred times more productive.

As are these two videos.

And in contrast here is an actual trans person talking sense.

I for one have much more important things to worry about than this rehashed rubbish. Here are two of them;

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.


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.