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.