Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Trust and Trans People

The following represents my opinion of the Gender Identity Clinic run by Dr Zucker in Toronto based on the findings of the Zinck and Pignatiello report.

The Report

The report by Suzanne Zinck and Antonio Pignatiello published on the 26th November is damning of the Gender Identity clinic run by Dr Kenneth Zucker. There is no other way of describing it. There are plenty of elements which are worse than that; they are shocking, no child should ever be subjected to this sort of treatment;

It is indicative of the attitude towards trans children that this kind of thing has happened. This does not occur when staff are respectful towards trans children and should be regarded as very serious indeed. As a professional who has worked with children, if anything like this had happened with any member of staff for whom I was responsible, their career would have ended very abruptly.

But cutting straight to the chase, probably the most damning part of the report is this;

This is what trans people have been saying all along; for example a number of demonstrators including Sarah Brown and myself handed out these leaflets (created by Sarah) at a conference in London where Zucker was speaking. That was nearly 10 years ago. This means that the medical establishment internationally and in Canada has been ignoring trans people on this issue for a very long time; indeed trans people have been telling anyone who will listen most of the findings of this report, for decades. It must be remembered that Leelah Alcorn was a victim of Reparative Therapy a year ago

Pathologisation of young trans people and trans children. In plain English that means telling the children that they are the problem, rather than the attitude of people around them. Not only is it a lie but it is consistent with the Reparative Therapy approach which trans people have consistently accused the clinic of engaging in. 

In my view this represents bullying. Bullying of children who are not in a position to resist or respond, the damage caused by this treatment is incalculable and the numbers of children who have been harmed by this clinic must be counted in the hundreds at least, since trans people have been protesting about it.

So why has it taken such a long time for the international medical community to take notice and listen to trans people? That is a question only they can answer, but it is one which will be asked, repeatedly, by trans people from now on.


From Janice Raymond to J Michael Bailey and now to Toronto, it appears that ethics are deemed not to apply when trans people are involved. Clearly the defendants at Nuremburg were researching human beings whereas those researching trans people do not consider themselves to be doing so;

Trans people have disproportionately been victims of ethical breaches in research and in clinical and practical terms, given the small number of trans people who have been researched, it is disturbing how many ethical problems there have been. It is clearly no coincidence that the prevailing view of trans people among researchers who breach ethical standards is that we are "the problem" rather than them.

It is this fundamental dehumanisation of trans people that is at the root of the issue, the problem is society's non-acceptance of trans people; as Sass Rogando Sasot put it;

"I am not trapped by my body, I am trapped by your beliefs."

In this instance the Toronto Gender Identity Clinic for children was, rather than trying to alleviate the underlying problems suffered by trans people, making them worse.


There will be plenty of implications resulting from this publication; the most immediate will be "trust trans people". We are who we say we are; we are the experts on being trans, treating us as anything less than human beings is unacceptable, harmful, abusive and makes those who do so part of the problem.

Why, after decades of protest by trans people has this action to shut Zucker down, only happened now? Why were the protections normally applied to organisations dealing with cisgender children not applied to Toronto? It isn't Rocket Science to listen to trans people and to treat them as the clients rather than their parents - something which is also, in my view, highly unethical.

It also puts a huge question mark around the multiple publications by staff at the Toronto clinic which argue that most trans children do not grow up to become trans adults. This research must now be regarded as highly problematic and unreliable. This is research which has been cited by many anti-trans activists including TERFs, right-wing "Christian" fundamentalists, libertarian trans haters and the assorted rag-bag of dodgy journalists and fanatical academics who spread misinformation and disinformation about trans people under the guise of "free speech". One more element of their weaponised arsenal of deliberately misleading rhetoric is put beyond use. At some point someone will probably carry out a larger-scale study which will be regarded as more reliable, and doubtless it will demonstrate a much lower rate of trans children not growing up trans.

Make no mistake, this report marks another part of the Transgender Tipping Point; being anti-trans is no longer respectable, there is no theoretical, scientific, psychological, sociological, medical, or ideological basis for the hatred of trans people. This is a big domino as almost the last of the big transphobic institutions whose employees give respectability to hate groups has fallen. People who are in effect advocating crimes against trans adults and trans children are no longer respectable. 

Time to listen to trans people not trans haters.


Friday, 4 December 2015

Fanaticism: The Hand holding the knife

Germaine Greer, hater of trans people, has upped her weaponised rhetoric by declaring, theatrically, that she wouldn’t recognise trans women as women even if a knife were held at her throat. Whilst I would very much doubt her at her word when she says this, it is clear that her fanaticism has developed along the same lines as those of many other fanatics. 

Of course lots of people can play that game; I could say that you could hold a knife to my throat and I will never recognise Greer as a feminist, a bona fide academic or indeed as anything other than a bigoted oppressor of trans people who is milking as much publicity as mainstream media will give her (and they are giving her a lot). But it would be a lie. It would be a lie because people like her are not worth dying for, she is not worth even a slight scar in the place where no Adams Apple exists. 

What is worth taking action over however, is the way mainstream media has given her, and those who wish to make a big deal out of her “free speech” plenty of publicity. The way mainstream media has publicised her hatred and increasingly fanatical bigotry is not consequence-free. Two trans women have recently died in male prisons because of the exact same bigotry that she promotes. It’s strange isn’t it, how hate speech against trans people is a “Free Speech” issue, when hate speech against anyone else is a Hate Speech issue.

Her fanatical transphobia is clearly not rational. It seems to me that the kind of “I will die to impose my oppressive beliefs on everyone else” attitude is one more associated with the Isis terrorists than a rational academic mind. Greer has gradually become more and more fanatical in her attitude as the year has gone on, to the point now where she has crossed the Rubicon between obsession and fanaticism, and with every transphobic pronouncement she devalues her previous writing a little more, things I used to take seriously now increasingly read like either the product of monkeys and typewriers or of a grating insincerity borne out of a desire for fame at any cost.

Watching a formerly respected individual gradually self-destruct from a burning fanatical hatred is, of course no fun, especially if it discredits feminism, but it is worse than that. Greer’s pronouncements have an effect. They make it increasingly acceptable to be transphobic, and transphobia costs lives. Would Vicky Thompson and Joanne Latham still be alive if it were not for Greer’s hate? It is of course impossible to know for sure. What is certain however, is that the discrimination which drove them (and many others) to their deaths by their own hands was not helped by Greer.

To be honest Greer really has lost the plot in this interview. She has simply got a whole lot of factual information, especially about marriage and transitioning, completely wrong. For a supposed “academic” this is a joke. Let’s be honest this interview was a car-crash on a par with Gerard Ratner’s famous interview, which knocked £500 million off the value of his business overnight.  This interview was the academic version of “doing a Ratner”. Revealing her fanaticism, relying on inaccurate (and easily checkable) information, which she attempts to sensationalise, Greer has undermined herself and revealed herself as a joke. In a sense the media has given her enough rope and she has hanged herself.

Yet irony of ironies the hand holding the knife is not that of a trans person. The hands holding the knife are those of Greer and her apologists, and the throats, some of which have already been cut, are those of trans people. If cis people cannot see her now for what she really is, they are wilfully, and criminally, blind.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Silenced! .... Permanently.

My opinion of Germaine Greer, and her apologists, just got lower, and here's why...

In my opinion Germaine Greer has blood on her hands, yes blood on her hands. Here's why... While the chattering classes and politely transphobic supporters of a simplistic Toytown approach to "free speech" were applauding Greer's mindless hatred against trans women, one of our number was lying dead on a slab. Vicky Thompson died by suicide on Friday 13th November after being committed to a male prison, only shortly after 150,000 people signed a petition for another trans woman, Tara Hudson, to be moved from a male prison to a female one. 

We can now see that those people who signed, who campaigned, who pressured the Home Office on Tara's behalf should probably be credited with saving Tara's life.

Yet immediately, and quietly, the Home Office was placing another trans woman in a male prison. Vicky Thompson has lived as a woman since her mid-teens and whatever her crime she did not deserve to die, yet the policy of the Home Office seems not to have changed after the uproar over Tara Hudson. It is time for someone to take responsibility, the appropriate minister should resign and there should be a proper public inquiry into her death.

Greer has mindlessly and arrogantly proclaimed that trans women are "men" as often as she could, and has been granted as much access to mainstream media as they could possibly give her. This is the result; 4-5 weeks of anti-trans bigotry everywhere from New Statesman to the Spectator, on our TV screens and spewing from our radios. The chattering classes, the editors and journalists supporting her right to harm trans people have done their work and Vicky Thompson's short life has been ended. 

Oh I'm sure these commentators and editors will absolve themselves by arguing that there is no "evidence" to link what they have done to Vicky's death. But to argue that a stream of bigotry telling everyone and anyone that trans women are "not women" has not had its effect is just mealy-mouthed platitudes. Whoever made the decision about where to place Vicky must have been affected by this torrent of hatred, misinformation and unsupported truisms (lacking in any "evidence") coming from Greer. People never act in a vacuum and the prevailing cultural climate always influences decisions.

So of course I believe Greer is responsible for Vicky's death and will be responsible for many others too if allowed to continue unchallenged. So far very few mainstream media outlets have broken the media consensus about her right to harm us. The people responsible for writing and editing this torrent of simplistic drivel also have blood on their hands.

One of the things people like me have constantly said is that, despite journalists telling me I am opposed to transphobia in the media because I am "offended", that is not the reason. Transphobia kills; trans people have been campaigning against the kind of hatred spouted by Greer for a reason. Vicky Thompson is one of those reasons. She was only 21 for fucks sake! What chance did she have? How many more trans people have to die, how many have to self-harm, how many have to go through community and family rejection, exclusion and bullying, how many have to suffer consequent mental health difficulties, how many have to end up on the streets before people understand that this sort of anti-trans propaganda has a consequence?

STOP PRESS: Please sign and share this petition to have prisons minister sacked...

Friday, 13 November 2015

The significance of Paris Lees on BBC Question Time.

The Objects become subjects...

I have to admit I rarely watch TV at all, it is boring, repetitive and regularly discriminatory. I also do not want to pay a TV licence because the BBC regularly gives too much publicity to a bunch of racists and bigots called UKip. However I am glad I watched Question Time at a friend’s flat last night. It featured Paris Lees. It is always important to see trans people in the media. As the recent Germaine Greer incident has shown, trans people are regularly denied access to mainstream media over important issues that concern us. 

So why is it so important that Paris was on TV last night? There were no questions about any trans issues, the questions were about a mix of issues, but nothing trans related. Anyone could have been on.

Yet this is exactly the point, and something that will make Greer and all the other TERFs really sick; the fact that she was on was entirely unrelated to her being a trans woman. She is a citizen of the UK and deserves to be included in the national debate on all issues like all other trans people. This is the normalisation of trans people. We are not objects of discussion by others, like TERFs and their friends the conservative psychiatrists who have debated and Othered us for decades, a tradition that Greer and the like desperately want to continue. We are subjects.

Increasingly the exclusion of trans people by TERFs is not happening. Obviously the acceptance and inclusion of trans people is not happening at a uniform rate but it is happening and the appearance of Paris on QT is a further step forward for trans inclusion. It shows people in their millions around the country that we are people just like them and that we have opinions about issues other than being trans. The objects of TERF dehumanising objectification have stopped beng objects and started being subjects. 

The significance of Paris Lees on Question Time? The fact that it was not significant made it significant.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Just who is being silenced...?

I have written a lot about the Germaine Greer transpbobia issue recently, this is for a reason. There have been few trans people allowed to write about it in mainstream media. With the exception of a piece in one of the Huffington Post blogs and two articles by trans people who are against no-platforming her, I have seen no trans people talking about this issue in mainstream media, blogs abound but when it comes to the mainstream media platforms trans people who support no-platforming have quite literally been “no-platformed”. Except of course we haven’t, we have been censored, silenced, excluded. Bottom-up, grassroots no-platforming by a students union is not the same as the top-down censorship meted out to trans people on this issue when it comes to very much larger platforms. Greer has been no-platformed and will not be heard by a few hundred people. The lack of trans representation in mainstream media has silenced our voices to millions.

As Sara Ahmed argued, this is the manifestation of power. This is cisgender people’s power being exercised over trans people, cis people silence trans people who object and select only the views of those who agree . Maybe we have become too widely accepted, maybe too many ordinary young people have started to support us, maybe this scares some people…? Maybe the only acceptable trans people are the ones who know their place?

The lack of trans voices on an issue that clearly affects trans people is quite astounding given the huge number of cis people taking the opportunity to speak their minds on this issue. Even the Guardian, a paper which distinguishes itself by normally including more trans voices has not consulted them on this issue. Again and again and again and again cis people voice their opinions about the Greer issue. Where are the trans voices in this? Where are dissenting voices arguing against this media consensus? Media consensuses are bad at the best of times, but when the issue is “free speech”, and the advocates of Greer being allowed to spout transphobia, tell us that trans people should engage in a dialogue on these issues; it becomes oppressive, hypocritical and ultimately undermines their own arguments.

The worst of these so far has been Helen Lewis’s editorial in the New Transphobe, er…sorry, I mean, New Statesman. She tells us she thinks trans women are women, which is good, because if she hadn’t, I would have have assumed otherwise from reading the article.

The way she presented the issues was pretty much from the TERF manual, their issues, from rape crisis centres to trans women in sport, they were presented from the TERF perspective. This is not to mean (disclaimer) that I consider her a TERF but, as a trans woman who has close friends who have been denied help by rape crisis centres, it is clear who she has been primarily influenced by.  Her dismissal of solidarity action by young feminists was verging on the paternalistic and read very much like the TERF arguments that trans people are just a “trend”. A litany of kettle logic arguments from the editor of a media platform that has so alienated trans people that most those trans people who have written for it now regret doing so.

The lack of a trans perspective on an issue that is primarily about trans people’s rights is scary, it exposes a lack of willingness to engage on this issue and badly undermines their claims that the best course of action for trans people would be to engage with and expose Greer’s transphobia. If the way mainstream media has engaged with trans people on this issue is anything to go by this is unlikely to happen. 

Yet it seems now that those who have advocated the “free speech” approach have really made fools of themselves.  Cardiff University has rebooked the event, adding insult to injury, scheduling it just two days before Transgender Day of Remembrance, it is, apparently already “fully booked” so if you are trans and want to challenge Greer on her bigotry, as the “free speech” advocates advise. Tough.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Transphobia: How would "free speech" actually work?

Opposing no-platforming, "free speech" campaigners advocate that trans people challenge the views of transphobes by engaging in debate with them at universities. How would that actually work out in practice..."

The debate about whether transphobic bigots should be allowed to use universities to spread their hatred, disinformation and lies about trans people seems to have missed out some very important issues. 

Firstly the way this issue has been dealt with in mainstream media. Only the Huffington Post published an article by an informed trans writer about this subject, the rest of the media has been unremittingly pro-transphobia, pro-Greer. From the Spectator to the Guardian trans voices have been conspicuous by their absence. Greer on the other hand, has been invited to spout as much hate as she can, and has had it all reported. 

If mainstream media wants to argue against no-platforming of TERFs, fine, but they need to put their own house in order first. In effect they have been silencing trans voices on this issue, not a good position from which to argue against what they disingenuously call “censorship”. It is hypocritical to call for an end to “no-platforming” transphobic bigots without including trans voices in the debate.

Secondly those who argue for the “right” of transphobes to use universities to spread their hatred seem to have some odd, Panglossian vision of how this might happen. So for the sake of argument let's assume Zoe Williams, Bea Campbell and Brendan O'Neill get their way, what would "free speech" at a university look like?

  • A transphobe spouting hatred for 60 minutes followed by a few short questions…? Given that many of the “arguments” deployed by transphobes are deliberate oversimplifications, exposing these requires time to develop an argument, how you can develop an argument when being hurried up and told to phrase it as a question beats me.
  • A transphobe sharing a platform with a trans person who can argue back…? I don’t know many trans people who would be willing to do that. I certainly wouldn’t want to legitimise transphobic bigotry by engaging in any kind of debate on those terms. A debate in which my own right to exist is up for discussion is not a debate on fair terms
  • A panel debate which includes a transphobic bigot a trans person and a couple of neutrals…? See Desmond Tutu. Anyone who claims to be “neutral” in this situation is clearly not neutral. A trap. I would walk away. 
  • A transphobe speaking but with no questions at the end or questions submitted earlier to a “neutral” MC…? A cop-out, no chance of really pressing the transphobe and exposing their inconsistencies, and once again a sliencing of trans voices in a way which makes it appear that we are so dangerous that the speaker needs to be protected from them. See Desmond Tutu again.

Once we start thinking these things through it is clear that, under current circumstances there is no prospect of instigating a free and fair debate with a transphobe in a way that is likely to do what the “free speech” advocates claim to want. In reality any such event will still silence trans voices and not achieve the result they claim, that of challenging and exposing the views of the transphobe. When the practicalities of the “free speech” agenda are examined, the results they argue for, cannot be achieved.

Given how the media is suppressing trans views on this matter anyway it would appear that any event at which a transphobe speaks at a university is bound to result simply in more oppression for trans people, especially trans students, the system is still rigged against us, the only weapon we have to defend ourselves is no-platforming. 

Finally, “free speech” advocates across mainstream media have all suggested that trans people defeat transphobic bigots assertions by force of argument. Perhaps then, they would explain how I am supposed to argue against Greer’s deeply abusive and bigoted statement “Trans women are men.”?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Transphobes: Censorship and No-platforming are different...

Watching the latest saga in the “Free Speech” debate as TERFs and assorted TERF apologists tried to justify transphobe, and transphobia-denier Germaine Greer speaking at Cardiff University the thought that entered my mind is “Here we go again!” Once again TERFs tried to get a bio-essentialist hater of trans people, especially trans women, the “right” to speak at a university and spread her hatred around to a few more people.

The “Here we go again!” point is important however, because the TERFs long ago lost the argument on this issue; they have done their best to argue that Greer’s (and other TERFs’) rights to “free speech” are being violated. They claim that people at universities should be free to discuss everything and anything, as ususal. They clutch pearls over the spectre of the Trans Cabal 'dictating' to universities to silence “women” or “feminists”, when they actually mean “TERFs” - who do not represent anything more than a tiny minority of women or feminists. Ironically Greer even took to mainstream media to air these views and proclaim how much she is being silenced.

There is almost a kind of ritualistic element to it; repeat, repeat, repeat. Stick to your line, repeat the words ‘censored’, ‘free speech’, ‘banned’, ‘silenced!’  Get petition together to be signed by the great and the good, or at least by a few C-list fading Greats and Goods plus a few people who don’t know what they are signing…

This is the last resort of a group that cannot make a coherent case for their position, repeat the lie until it becomes the truth. Meanwhile as the arguments against their essentialist drivel stack up and go unchallenged, they repeat the buzzwords, avoid debate. 

This has always been the problem for the TERFs; they need to present themselves as the victims of silencing whilst at the same time silencing the voices of trans people. Back in the dark days of the last century, before trans people could organise and fight for our rights the TERFs were attacking trans people. They took every possible opportunity to have a go at trans people. Indeed, before the mid noughties the dominant media narrative about trans people was the TERF narrative. Every effort was invested in ensuring that trans people were unable to come out, transition and be open about who they were. This wasn’t just silencing in the conventional sense of preventing someone from expfressing an opinion, it was silencing in the sense that it attempted to prevent people from being who they were, it was the silencing of the grave, of the quiet suicide, of the knife in the back the brick to the head; better a dead tranny than a live one. Trans people were too often unable to oppose TERF lies not merely because they did not have the online platforms they have now but because they were dead.

Perhaps no-one has noticed but the majority of TERF action now seems to be focussed on getting transphobes to speak at universities. The reason for this, as I have pointed out before, is that university is the environment where most young trans people come out. It provides a relatively safe space for young trans people to come out and transition. No wonder TERFs are targetting this space, they clearly desperately want to make it less safe, to make sure that trans people coming out for the first time have to face fellow students “questioning” them personally, they want to make universities spaces where transphobia is not considered unacceptable. At the most vulnerable moment in their lives trans people should be protected from the abuse and harassment which people like Greer are only too keen to dish out.

The way to preserve these spaces as relatively safe is to continue to no-platform transphobic speakers. Why? Because it does four things: 

  • Firstly it flags up to everyone that this speaker is a transphobic bigot, that the content of his or her output includes hatred for and abuse of trans people. It makes an issue where there would otherwise have been no issue. Crucially it means the issue in question is transphobia not trans people. The issue here has been Germaine Greer, not trans people, as has so often been the case in the past.

  • Secondly it forces them to defend their stance on trans people, ie. to defend bigotry, hatred and discrimination. It puts them on the defensive, again it means the issue is them not trans people. This is important because it frames the starting point of the debate as being their transphobia. They are the problem.

  • Thirdly it exposes the gaps in attitudes towards inclusion, equality and diversity at the institution concerned, as it has done in Cardiff. It forces the university’s management to defend it’s stance, something which, in this case has exposed it as talking the talk but not walking the walk on trans inclusion and equality. 

  • Finally it enables other students, student unions and academic staff, as well as others outside the university to demonstrate their support for trans students and their contempt for transphobes. This is probably more important than most people think. No-platforming represents a vehicle by which fellow students can show their solidarity (yes I know solidarity is an outmoded word but that is in itself a problem) to trans students. Rather than trans students watching some classmates going to listen to a transphobe, and possibly coming away saturated in disinformation having soaked up TERF mendacity, they see fellow students signing petitions and attending meetings and demos to protest against these bigots. The effect of this cannot be underestimated.

The key here is that those who want to justify transphobia have to go on the defensive; the problem then becomes Germaine Greer and Germaine Greer’s bigotry, not young trans students. Greer and her apologists’ simplistic and hypocritical attitudes to “free speech” are put under the microscope.

Ultimately No-platforming is different from censorship or silencing, although many people, particularly TERFs and their friends in the right-wing media want us to think differently. No-platforming is about local people, showing solidarity with those in their midst who are subject to the kinds of lies, abuse and misrepresentation that bigots dish out, deciding they are going to support their peers. It is the very opposite of censorship, it is ensuring that those who are subject to intimidation and abuse in an attempt to silence them, are not put in a position where they are feel uncomfortable either expressing their views or being somewhere on campus. Censorship is top-down, the exercise of power to prevent a point of view being heard at all. No-platforming is bottom-up, it is a collective action of those whose voices are rarely heard. We recently saw a well-known writer come out as trans. They do not have to fear being placed in such a situation, their freedom of expression is not at issue. Ordinary young trans students at university don't always want to loudly proclaim their transness, many simply want to blend in and get on with their lives without harassment. This is what no-platforming is about. Ultimately it is the opposite of censorship, the opposite of silencing. 

An analysis of Germaine Greer's claim about Caitlyn Jenner

So Caitlyn Jenner has “become” a transsexual woman in order to share the limelight of the Kardashans. According to the one who knows all about trans people: Germaine Greer. 

Big news, obviously Greer knows all about Jenner, about
trans people, about the Kardashans and about people’s motivations for doing things. Her conclusion is obviously based on in-depth sociological and psychological research triangulated by the latest data collection techniques and after a careful examination of everything Jenner has said in the last few months. 

Or not. 

Greer’s forensic “explanation” for Jenner’s gender identity cited no research, referred to no quotes from Jenner, or any other members of her family, from her manager, or from anyone else who knows her. In fact Greer’s conclusion is based on… absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Indeed it was probably something she thought up all by herself, on her own, with no-one else to help her...

In this sense however Greer’s “observation”, “explanation” “outburst” or whatever you want to call it, is important, although not in the way she intended it. It is important not merely because it represents a typical example of the TERF narrative but because it also reveals the way Greer thinks and because it exposes some TERF strategies.

TERF narratives, especially from so-called TERF “academics” are invariably characterised by a dearth of evidence to support their assertions, or indeed if they do present any evidence, it is generally as a result of a deliberate misinterpretation, misrepresentation or misuse of contested, and usually discredited data. The output of TERF writers, speakers and assorted other bigots is rarely, if ever, based on anything remotely resembling credible empirical evidence, or indeed any evidence of any kind whatsoever. 

Of course most of the assertions they make are demonstrably false, like Raymond’s absurd, and at long last retracted, claim that trans women rape women’s bodies, which was not only incorrect, deliberately recruiting emotive language to describe trans women, but an inappropriate use of the word “rape” (something she has not apologised for). Yet some more subtly so. Somehow they have come to claim that the mantle of TERF “Radical Feminism” speaks for all Radical Feminists or indeed "all women", when actually it only speaks for a tiny minority of fanatics.

What Greer’s outburst does expose in addition to this is how the TERFs are desperate to talk about Jenner almost to the exclusion of any other trans person. Indeed from reading TERF output you could almost be forgiven for thinking the population of trans people was represented by Caitlyn Jenner as a typical example. In fact Jenner is very much a rarity, vastly outnumbered by thousands of young trans people coming out at younger and younger ages. The problem for the TERFs however is that these young trans people, especially young trans women and girls, don’t fit their narrative so neatly. It is easier to make the claim that Jenner has benefitted from male privilege than it is to make the same claim of, say, Jazz Jennings or the numerous other trans girls and boys who have come out at similar ages, or in their teens, something which is today, vastly more common than a wealthy female celebrity coming out as trans. 

However probably the most revealing thing about Greer’s outburst was how it betrayed her own motivations and insecurities. A has-been celebrity “academic” who once wrote a good book, she has been desperately attempting to stay in the limelight for a very long time, numerous stunts and appearances on “reality” TV shows attest to this. She is desperate to avoid being ignored, insecure about fading away into obscurity, afraid of becoming insignificant.

No humiliation is too much for her to attract a few fleeting seconds of quasi-limelight; she is a woman who will do anything to get on TV or in the papers, everything including making a fool of herself over her bigoted opinions. She has had to lower herself to becoming the “feminist” Katie Hopkins in order to keep her precarious ego satisfied, employing whatever embarrassing and demeaning stunt she can come up with to fend off obscurity.

So when Greer starts telling everyone that trans women are “not women” its veracity, and her motives for saying it need to be taken with all of the above bourne in mind...

Friday, 16 October 2015

Restricted minds and self-delusion.

One of the accusations targeted at trans people for the last century or so was that of mental illness. I mean who could possibly identify as anything other than the gender they were assigned at birth? We have a system of assigning gender at birth which works for most of us, why should trans people be any different? It is their minds that are wrong not their bodies.

This is not just one of those pieces of Weaponised Empty Rhetoric (WER) employed by TERFs and other assorted bigots, it is the view of many others. A typically "commonsense" view of the world where everything is simple and simplicity is best. Its roots are in the Foucauldian type of "scientific" investigation into trans people in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Trans people were the objects of study by psychologists in those days and it is likely that this contributed long-term, to trans people being able to identify and come together as a group.

TERFs have long used the accusation of mental illness as a means to oppress trans people, claiming that "talking therapies" are the solution, as if it is better to play around with someone's mind than alter their body a little, a kind of reverse Cartesian Dualism in which the body takes precedence over the mind, something that reveals the profoundly essentialist basis of their transphobia.

However to see transphobes bombarding a discussion thread with these accusations after a TV news article about older trans people goes well beyond the WER of the TERF, even though you can bet your bottom dollar that some of these comments were from TERFs pseudonymously joining in to stir hatred for trans people. Yet this transphobic hatred is the meat and drink of parody. These people are a pastiche of themselves, a kind of Spitting Image caricature of their own lives. Anonymous behind their Macs, Sonys and Toshibas, they accuse those who differ from the norm as being mentally ill, of suffering from a kind of madness, however in doing so they enact the very things which do cause mental illness in trans people and many other minorities. They, in their ignorance are demonstrating what really causes mental ill health; the acts of bigotry and ignorance which result in social isolation and exclusion of minority groups.

The fact is that trans people have always existed in every civilisation worthy of the name throughout history and continue to exist, in different forms in many cultures around the world indicates the wrongness, ignorance and narrow-mindedness of their "opinions".

Yet it goes beyond this; their ignorance of difference and their intolerance of diversity betrays a mental incapacity to deal with the kinds of people who do not feature in their restricted, Barratt-home, Cornflake-packet, Mail-on Sunday lives. These are people whose existences are sheltered and normalised, their understanding of the world curtailed and impeded by wall-to-wall exposure to the effects of media blandification, their minds diminished by the everyday monotony that neoliberal indoctrination requires, the possibilities in their own lives circumscribed by the narrowness of their own, artificially-imposed microscopic horizons, rendering their own contributions to the world insignificant as they plod through life in harness to the system, yet without realising they are the ones in cages.

These people are the desperate slaves of a system that requires its population to be regimented inside and out, yet which does so in a way that its captives think they are free. Not only are they under the delusion that their opinions are their own but that their viewpoints are not controlled by those who oppress them, who own them.

Now, some might suggest that these people are mentally ill themselves as they are living in a state of delusion that they are free when they are not, that their knowledge and opinions are their own when they are created for them, that they "did it my way" when they have been manipulated not merely to do it someone else's way but to believe they made their own choices. To me that represents a form of mental illness which is all the worse because it is not recognised as such and because it is so widespread.

It is obvious that these people need to resort to cowardly insults and online bullying, when faced with the courage of trans people openly speaking on TV, suggesting their mental health is probably suffering from far greater damage than might have been assumed by their mental incarceration, regimented thinking and inability to understand their own circumstances. It is obvious that, given all this, they are more seriously affected by this restraining, regulating and reductive culture imposed on their minds. They are quite literally expressing hatred, motivated by envy, at those who are different, who have escaped from the cages they inhabit, cages which they build for themselves (directed by others) every day and which they delude themselves represent freedom.

The very act of bullying trans people, of accusing trans people of being mentally ill reveals their own mental and social problems, it exposes their own self-hatred, their own need to bully, their own need to try and harm others in order to feel good themselves. These are people I truly feel sorry for, they are the truly pathetic, the people neoliberalism has betrayed, deceived, imperceptibly manipulated and incarcerated. They peer out from inside their invisible (to them) cages and attempt to sneer at those who are free. They are undeniably in pain, an invisible pain, a pain of constriction, of ignorance and of self-delusion.

Their actions have shown that if anyone is mentally ill, it is they.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

No-platforming; "democratic debate" or Weaponised Empty Rhetoric

A lot of people seem to be expressing sympathy with Julie Bindel because she was “banned” from speaking at a university students union in Manchester. In fact she was not “banned” she was no-platformed, which is different; the media likes to use words like “ban” and “censorship” because they are more dramatic and because the media, by-and-large, doesn’t like policies like no-platforming which empower those who are comparably voiceless.

Some people seem to be thinking quite wrong-headedly about this. I have seen one or two falling for the Weaponised Empty Rhetoric (WER) generated by this situation. As I have said above, the first misconception some people seem to have is that this represents “censorship”. No-platforming is a decision by a grassroots democratic organisation that it does not want to allow its facilities used by those who spread discriminatory views about minority groups to use their facilities to spread these views. It actually represents an expression of solidarity. This is another reason the media doesn’t like it, the media, largely owned by those who dominate society by divide-and-rule, always tries to discourage solidarity, which is a means by which the powerless empower themselves and each other.

Censorship is different. Censorship is when, for example BBC News failed to report details of accusations about David Cameron’s dealings with a dead pig. Censorship is when a media organisation, a group of media organisations or a government prevents certain opinions or information from being expressed. Censorship is about the exercise of top-down power, not collective will. This is clearly not the case for Julie Bindel; she regularly writes a column in a national newspaper and in plenty of other places. She is quite obviously not being silenced or censored. What is happening is that a democratic organisation is expressing the will of its members that they believe the kind of opinions or disinformation expressed by her are harmful to a group of its members, and they are not going to throw that group of members under a bus by allowing her to speak.

The fact that Julie Bindel managed to get mainstream media coverage for being “banned” (when it was just “no-platformed”) as Sara Ahmed argued, shows the functioning of power. She is not being silenced, she is getting plenty of publicity from this. Ultimately, as a journalist in a mainstream newspaper, she has considerably wider influence than this student union.

Another misconception about trans people is that, these days trans people have had to go through a lot and are tough enough to deal with the crap provided by these types of speakers. This is a classic example of looking at something from one's own point of view and then applying that to everyone else. This is a mistake. The reality is that this does not account for different people from different backgrounds in different situations. A common falacy which needs to be dispelled, and  ironically one that many have accused Julie of.

My argument, which I have made before, and which no-one has been able to counter, or even tried to argue against, is about why universities and FE colleges are still places which need to be protected for trans people. It obviously needs reiterating and goes as follows;

Schools are still largely unaccepting, unwelcoming and dangerous places for trans children and young people. Some are getting better but they are still largely places where trans children and young people feel excluded, bullied and abused. The situation is quite patchy across the country and kids in different situations, locations and schools are likely to have widely varying experiences of being or coming out as trans.

In fact there are three factors which affect the possibility of coming out as trans if you are under 18;

Local community

The problem for trans kids is that you pretty much need all three (two out of three isn't going to work) of these to be accepting before you can come out and not feel constantly frightened, not be constantly under threat of violence and not be exclusion bullied or worse. Even if only one of these three elements is unaccepting or intolerant, you are pretty much going to find that being yourself is impossible. Quietly keeping your head down and waiting to leave is what many do, until they get to uni or do a course in an FE college.

This means that further and higher education institutions are probably the places where most young trans people come out first. This is where those tiny, cautions, fearful steps out are taken by many, this is probably the main place of coming out for the largest number of young trans people so this environment is one which needs to be protected from; 

  • TERFs, 
  • right-wing libertarians, 
  • well-meaning but mistaken middle-class white men who believe in ‘free speech’  
  • religious trans haters.
University is always held up by the trans haters as an environment where 'free speech' should allow 'free and open discussion' about 'any issue'. The problem is that the trans haters don't engage in 'free speech', they engage in spreading misinformation, disinformation, lies and abuse about trans people. We need to keep the disease of mendaciousness, abuse and deliberate attempts to interfere in the lives of young trans people out of these places. We need to remember that universities have a responsibility to those working for them and studying in them. They also have a responsibility to promote genuine intellectual openness and debate. The output of TERFdom simply doesn't measure up to this standard. TERFs cannot engage in any kind of discussion or debate without manufacturing 'facts', engaging in personal abuse, distorting information and making unfounded assumptions.

TERF output is, as I have characterised it, nothing more than Weaponised Empty Rhetoric. WER does not constitute a logical argument, indeed it is de facto the absence of reasoned argument since it is incoherent, works by selectivity, omission and thrives on spreading disinformation to those who are uninitiated in trans issues. A good example of this is how TERFs embrace two opposing ideologies at the same time, both essentialism and social constructivism, depending on which is convenient. Currently their argument is that, since gender is socially constructed then therefore being trans must be a "choice". 

Toytown arguments like the above are illustrative of the level of debate TERFs wish to bring to universities. They incoherently bandy about conflicting WER simply to try and discredit trans people, hopping from one argument to another successively as each one is discredited. One characteristic of engaging with TERF argumentation is that they cannot sustain an argument in the face of even minimally clued-up opposition. It is like arguing with UKip; unpleasant, unenlightening and pointless.

The idea that including TERF discourse in university is worth doing in the name of 'open, democratic debate' is, literally, not credible. Given the level of argumentation presented in ├╝ber-TERF Sheila Jeffreys' latest flop "Gender Hurts" there is nothing to be gained from including TERF discourse in universities. Add to this the risks inherent in potentially threatening the safety and prospects of young trans people coming out and/or exploring new gender identities in the first tolerant environment they have encountered, then no-platforming should remain in place. It is to the credit of student unions that there are enough students who want to show solidarity with their trans fellow students to keep this provision in place in the face of those with huge amounts of power and influence exerting a great deal of pressure.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Silencing! Censorship! Until we do it...

There is no one single level of hypocrisy. There are the tiny hypocrisies that happen throughout life; maybe someone is a vegetarian who opposes the way animals are treated but succumbs to the occasional temptation and devours a burger. You may be opposed to the destruction of the planet by global warming but need to go and see relatives in Australia with only two weeks holiday available.

Then there are the big hypocrisies, hypocrisies of moral and ethical stances. For example a politician who preaches sexual morality and then engages in a bizarre ritual involving a dead farm animal.  The biggest hypocrisies, however, are when one group weaponizes a rhetorical instrument for bashing opponents, and then goes and indulges in the same thing themselves that they criticise. 

I guess most readers of this blog will have guessed the people I am talking about by now; yes, there are normal hypocrites, there are massive hypocrites and there are TERFs

The cries of fabricated outrage from the TERFs and their apologists in mainstream media ring out. This happens every time anyone supporting trans people’s right to live their lives unabused, unharrassed and unmolested decides they don’t want to listen to the increasingly fanatical drivellings of this abusive, malicious and mendacious group.

When a students’ union rightly says it does not want its facilities used as a platform for hate, incitement to hate, abuse and fabricated evidence, the defenders of the right to free speech immediately take to national media to broadcast to millions how they are being silenced and censored. In a thoroughly unprincipled attempt to appear to be taking the moral high ground they tell the world, effortlessly using mainstream media, how they are prevented by teh tranz from saying what they want. Somehow their noxious cocktail of abuse, harassment and untruths represents a "valid point of view" leading to a "reasoned debate" about another group of people's right to live their lives.

So when I heard that that the TERFs have decided they want to silence a trans person and prevent her from speaking at a feminist event, my first reaction was... Well, I would like to say that I didn’t believe it; people who weaponise accusations of censorship and silencing, when it is really just no-platforming, would never attempt to censor or silence a trans person surely?

The problem is that it was all too believeable and it is true. The amazing Jane Fae has been banned, by some TERFs, from speaking at a Feminism In London event because she has written about pornography. The TERFs have finally manifested their ridiculousness in a way which cannot be regarded as anything other than profound, grating hypocrisy.

And, like I said, this isn’t the “petits hypocraties” of everyday life; this is a big, moral and unprincipled hypocrisy which tells us a great deal about the TERFs as a group. 

"Free speech" is obviously only an accusation to be thrown around when it benefits them, not a principle about which they can claim the high moral ground. Indeed this is the moral equivalent of the Mindanao Trench. TERF discourse flings inaccurate, nebulous and woolly accusations of censorship and silencing at trans people like a muck spreader in the fields, whilst engaging in the very things they have, falsely, accused trans people of. You couldn't make this stuff up.

This tells us a great deal about the nature of TERF discourse; it is not a "discourse" at all in the accepted sense, indeed it probably doesn't even qualify to be called a "narrative", since at least most narratives attempt a semblance of coherence. The utterances of the TERFs can only really be described as Empty Weaponized Rhetoric. Pronouncements of no value, merely representing linguistic oppression, abuse and inhumanity. Sad that Feminism in London has allowed itself to be influenced by these fanatics, a conference which has now allowed itself to become devalued and diminished.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

My challenge to Corbyn supporters: Get out of the Bubble...

A blog post about godforsaken windswept Barratt estates in Great Yarmouth, Nuneaton, Carlisle, Telford or Basildon...

So, as expected Jeremy Corbyn has been elected leader of the Labour Party. He becomes yet another leader to proclaim "A New Kind Of Politics". (From what I can remember everyone from Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage to David Cameron and the Green Party have also proclaimed ANKOP, so I see no reason why he shouldn't, it is the way new leaders try to underline their newness) As a Labour Party member I will continue to be active and try and get a Labour government elected despite the fact that I opposed Corbyn. First however, let's get one thing out of the way, the delusion, inside the Corbyn Bubble (It's a delusion not a lie because no-one outside the Bubble believes it) that the "Tories are afraid of Corbyn". Do not deceive yourselves, they are not. Somewhere between delighted and ecstatic is probably a more accurate description of their response. Just because we don't have a video of George Osborne punching the air on hearing the result, doesn't mean they fear him. I'm sure Osborne downed an extra-special vintage of Bollinger last night.

I did not oppose Corbyn because I disagree with his politics; in fact I would place myself further to the left than him, for example I believe we can create a system of assessing privatised industries that takes into account excess profits as well as the quality of service they have provided, (lack of) investment and their behaviour as an employer to workers when determining levels of compensation to renationalise. This would enable privatised industries to be renationalised much more cheaply and in some cases with no cost to the taxpayer at all.

However I am not a Corbyn supporter for reasons of principle. I believe it is a moral responsibility for Labour to get rid of the Tories even if that means compromising on some of our beliefs. That is because, as we have seen, a large number of people suffer when there is a Tory government. Deaths of sick and disabled people have soared since Iain Duncan Smith's reign of terror and child poverty, greatly reduced under the last Labour government, has increased massively since 2010. Not only that but Sure Start, which successfully supported children in poor and disadvantaged families to start their education with a degree of preparedness and success has been decimated. As a young primary school teacher in the early 1990s, not only did I have classes of around 34-36 children but I regularly had to write letters to local council housing offices to try and get children rehoused because of the appalling and unhealthy conditions they were living in. After 1998 the largest class I ever taught was 29, and I stopped having to write those letters by about 2005. I could go on. The Tories have, in the last 5 years, harmed the sort of people the Labour Party was set up to protect. People have died because Labour lost the 2010 election and will die because we lost the 2015 election and will certainly die if we lose the 2020 election.

I believe this is a moral imperative, and as such is why I opposed Corbyn. The evidence of my own eyes and ears campaigning on the doorstep at the last election and talking to many others who have done the same up and down the country tells me he is not going to win. Other conversations with people outside the Corbyn Bubble since then have confirmed that; outside the 250,000 or so people who voted for him - less than 0.5% of the electorate - he is not regarded as a potential Prime Minister and does not attract the enthusiasm, and most of all the trust, of enough voters.

In my opinion the political positioning of many Corbyn supporters, that their own beliefs are paramount and their principles must not, at all costs be compromised, is not merely selfish but also immoral. I have encountered many, many people in discussions on social media who are calling for Labour to be a "principled opposition", putting principle above power not actually caring about whether we form a government or not. In my opinion this is immoral because it ignores all those who are suffering and who will suffer, from Tory governments. It puts your own principles above the rights of others in much greater need, people who, by-and-large, do not have Twitter accounts, who have three or four insecure, dead-end jobs, who live a hand-to-mouth existence and have no time to engage in the political process. For them we need to abandon the idea of being a "principled opposition" and become a government.

The problem with democracy is that to change anything Labour needs to be in power, anything else is irrelevant,  to do this we need to obtain the votes of something like 40% of the voting public before it can form a government, not only that but it is important where we get those votes. With boundary changes the Tories will effectively be defending a majority of 30-35 in 2020. This means we need to win 30-35 seats from them just to stop them having an overall majority again, more if you include the fact that the Ulster Unionists and Ukip would be very likely to support a minority Tory government (and maybe the Quisling Lib Dems again too). That means taking something like 45 seats, from the Tories. Let's say that again; FROM THE TORIES. Not one seat taken from the SNP, the Greens, what remains of the LDs, will make any difference whatsoever. Now look at where those seats are; Gt Yarmouth, Carlisle, Southampton, Medway, the West Midlands, Hastings, Essex, North Norfolk.  In other words they are outside the main urban areas. Campaigning in London is unlikely to produce more than one or two seats at the most. In fact if Labour takes every Green and LD vote in the next election we will only take 23 seats from the Tories, (probably fewer than that under boundary changes) and the Tories will be left with an overall majority again.

My reason for saying this is that I would like to suggest that, all those Corbyn supporters who paid their £3 and elected him now need to put their money where their mouths are and get involved. Go

doorstep canvassing,
phone canvassing,
delivering leaflets,
folding leaflets,
staffing Saturday morning stalls in high streets and shopping centres,
raising money,
trying to sign up and register new voters,
getting stuck in and doing something to support the leader you selected.

Start engaging with the people you need to get to vote for him, start persuading them to vote for him, now and for the next five years more than anything. People like me will continue to go out and canvass and do what we have always done to try and get a Labour government elected and will support him as Labour leader. Now you need to do the same. Get your hands dirty, get out of the Bubble.

Start listening to what these voters say and arguing your points. Talk to the people not on Twitter, who don't read the Guardian, who pick up the Express, the Mail, or the Sun, or who get most of they news from the increasingly biased right-wing BBC. To do anything else is to attract the accusation of armchair activism. Jeremy Corbyn needs your support.

One thing to remember is that the largest number of the people we need to win over are by and large those who voted Tory last time, how are you going to sell Corbyn to them? My opposition to Corbyn is that I do not believe he can appeal to them, and as such his election as Labour leader is morally wrong, since winning elections is a moral necessity for Labour. Now you have your leader you have a moral obligation to prove me wrong, and I hope I will be proven wrong, but you have a moral obligation to do as much as you can to make it happen. If that means getting out and campaigning on doorsteps on rainy weekends in godforsaken windswept Barratt estates in Great Yarmouth, Nuneaton, Carlisle, Telford or Basildon, that is what you need to do. That is where the next election will be won or lost, not on social media.