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.


Saturday, 5 September 2015

Dishonest (TERF?) article in Wall Street Journal deconstructed.

My opinion of Debra W. Soh's article in WSJ

There are now so many misleading and deliberately dishonest articles online about trans people in general and trans children in particular that it is difficult to do take-downs of them all, not to say mind-numbingly boring, since they usually employ the same tired rhetoric. This one is typical, by someone who can only be presumed to be a transphobe with an axe to grind. The original is in italics, my comments are in standard text. The original article is in the Wall Street Journal.


"From “Why Transgender Kids Should Wait to Transition,” by Debra W. Soh, a sex researcher and neuroscientist at York University in Toronto, in Pacific Standard magazine online, Sept. 1::
Popular opinion suggests that early intervention is the necessary approach in order to remedy a child’s gender dysphoria
No it doesn't. There is no such thing as "popular opinion" as far as trans children is concerned, there are the opinions of people who know about trans kids, people who used to be trans kids and are now overwhelmingly trans adults, and parents of trans kids.
This consists of early social transitioning 
No it doesn't. It consists of allowing the child to express the gender identity they wish to express and at all times taking their lead. The way this has been written is deliberately misleading in my opinion, in that it implies an element of coercion that is simply not there. Any coercion of trans children is always intense social pressure to conform to their birth assigned gender not to transition.
followed by hormone blockers,
Not necessarily no, however blockers are given when the child is ready in some cases.
 to prevent the otherwise irreversible changes of puberty, 
What Debra W Soh fails to mention here is that the effects of these hormone blockers are entirely reversible at any time. The omission of this information is particularly crucial at this point, unless the reader knows this they will, once again, interpret what is written here very differently from the way it should be. But that sounds like Soh's intention.
contra-sex hormones, 
Again Soh fails to mention is the age at which hormones are prescribed, this article is misleading without that information,
and, if desired, eventual 
That is once they are 18 and legally entitled to decide for themselves what they do with their body.
sex re-assignment surgery. 
Usually referred to by professionals as "genital reconstruction surgery" This section is written to make it sound like a conveyor belt with an inevitable ending which, once children are on it, are unable to get off. This is a rhetorical device which suggests something different from what the actual situation is, without actually having to say it in so many words, which in this case would be lying. In fact it is hard for trans children, at all stages of their development to continue to get treatment that is appropriate for them, and they are always offered the opportunity to discontinue treatment if they so wish.
Denying a child these interventions is viewed as antiquated and cruel.
Which is because it is antiquated and cruel. I should know I was denied them when I was a child and it almost cost me my life, and I know plenty of young trans people and trans children who have had to fight to get the healthcare they need, against such views as hers. This sentence is particularly disingenuous, dishonest and misleading. While the writer opposes this kind of intervention she does not inform the reader what the alternative is. That is because the only alternative is coercion (sometimes referred to as "talking therapies") with the aim of forcing conformity to the gender assigned at birth, refusal of treatment at puberty and forced adherence to externally imposed and inappropriate gender norms. This kind of treatment has a name, its name is "reparative therapy". Reparative therapy is what killed Leelah Alcorn and many other trans kids. Although she does not say it, in effect Soh is tacitly advocating endangering the lives of trans children, only she doesn't have the guts to say so, for obvious reasons.
But research has shown
Highly contested and disputed research
that most gender dysphoric children outgrow their dysphoria, 
or appear to do so, but as I say, the research upon which this assertion is based is contested and, in some cases considered by many to be biased.
and do so by adolescence: 
which is when hormone blockers are prescribed. So in other words no physiological intervention is given until adolescence, which is when, Soh claims, most "grow out of it". As such I fail to see what her problem is here. 
Most 
Once again this is contested.
will 

Given that the research she basis this on is contested, using the modality of "will" is inappropriate to say the least.

grow up to be happy, gay adults, and some, like myself, to be happy, straight adults. 
And many will grow up to be suicidal and depressed trans people because they have not been given the right treatment as children.
There is a small proportion of trans kids 
Again these figures are highly contested. Not only does Soh repeat, Goebbels-style, these contested assertions, but she fails to mention that these assertions are contested. This is profoundly dishonest.
whose dysphoria will persist 
"Persist" is a particularly nasty choice of vocabulary. clearly selected to pathologise and give the worst possible connotative implications. Vicious stuff.
and who would benefit from medical intervention, but the tricky part remains predicting whom these ideal candidates will be. . . .
No. You have said yourself that these children normally stop being trans by adolescence, well adolescence is when treatment begins. 
Waiting until a child has reached cognitive maturity 
And who decides when that will be? Hmmmm, let's have a guess...
before making these sorts of decisions would make the most sense. 
No, this is quite possibly the worst possible solution. The reason hormone blockers are prescribed is to give children the time and breathing space to come to a decision when they are "cognitively mature". Withholding blockers can only be regarded as forcing physiological changes on them which will be distressing at best.
But this is an unpopular stance, and scientists and clinicians who support it are vilified, 
No they are criticised and their views deconstructed and their motives for making these claims questioned. If that seems like "vilification" then that is probably because your ideas and your motives have the potential to harm children. 
not because science—which should be our guiding beacon—disproves it, but because it has been deemed insensitive and at odds with the current ideology. 
No, this is entirely wrong and a straw man argument. This is what you would like the reason for opposition to your ideas and motives to be, because it suits your argument to present it as such but it is not. It is not "insensitive" it is potentially harmful. It is not "at odds with current ideology" it is at odds with current, scientifically and medically guided practice, not to mention the latest research. To be honest Soh's use of the term "ideology" here is very revealing, because it is an element of the empty weaponised rhetoric used by a group of transphobes called TERFs. Using this particular rhetorical attack strongly suggests that Soh is a TERF.
I often wonder, as I review the myriad of editorials 

Editorials written by and large by transphobes.

and magazine articles published every day 

ie. material that is not research-based or academic

on transgender kids, if I had been born 20 years later, would adults in my life be suggesting transitioning as a solution for me? 
No, that would never happen and demonstrates one of two things; either that you are so out of touch with issues regarding trans children that you have no right to be writing this, or that you have a hidden agenda and are using more empty weaponised rhetoric for oppressive purposes. The one thing trans kids have in common is how hard they have to struggle to get anyone, parents, doctors, teachers, etc to take them seriously. Suggesting that somehow someone else would impose some kind of gender transition on you is either fanciful, profoundly misinformed or deliberately dishonest.
Even more alarmingly, with all of the information floating around the Internet and on mainstream TV, would I myself believe that I had an issue that would not eventually subside on its own?"
Oh dear, this final salvo is a typical TERF line of attack; "deny trans kids access to the internet" is a form of reparative therapy in its own right as well as a denial of the basic human rights of trans kids to understand their own situations. Once again this suggests you are a TERF.

This article strongly suggests one of three things; that either Soh is ignorant of just about everything that is being written about trans kids by people who are not TERFs that she is quite clearly not qualified to write such a piece using (or abusing) her professional status to give it more validity than it deserves, or that she is a transphobe, probably a TERF, or both.  The problem is that people like Soh are writing this kind of material and aiming it at people who are largely ignorant of trans issues. If you have any background knowledge this piece is quite obviously rubbish, for those who do not it sounds credible. This is the danger of publishing this kind of output.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Perceptions matter and perceptions kill.

I am writing this through tears of sadness, tears of rage and tears of hatred. Today I saw one of the worst images you can ever expect to see. I'm not going to repost it here because this is an image that no-one should ever have to see, but this link (TW) takes you to the Guardian article where you can see it. It is an image of a drowned Syrian refugee child washed up on a beach in the Mediterranean, no doubt close to places where many of us go on holiday.

Sadness: He looked just like my lovely nephew and was probably about the same age. He looked just like so many of the children I have taught during my career as a primary school teacher, he looked like the street urchins who play on the pavement and in the parks near where I live. Heartbreaking, and doubtless there are many dozens, if not hundreds more like him.

Rage: This is a needless tragedy, he didn't have to die but for the incompetent politics of Western involvement in the Middle-East and the pervasive mean-spirited racism of Ukip and the like. No parent is going to put their child on a flimsy boat to cross the sea unless it is safer there than on the land they are on. No-one is going to take such risks without very, very, very good reasons. It is time we lived up to our responsibilities as a nation and took more refugees from Syria, it is time we put a stop to this murderous trade in human lives which sees people smugglers getting rich of the desperation and deaths of people just like us.


Vile
Hatred: For the PR actor without a soul who calls himself "Prime Minister" who has just said that taking more refugees will not solve the refugee crisis. This is like saying that food will not prevent a famine; of course it won't but it will enable those currently starving to survive until the danger is passed. If Britain had offered refuge to the family of that child on the beach his short, tragic life would not have ended the way it did. Cameron has just revealed his true self; he is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the wealthy, uncaring, selfish neoliberal elite. "Protect the bankers, who gives a toss about children?" For him these "swarms" represent nothing more than a disease, insects not human beings.

Hatred also: For the BBC who have persisted in describing these people as "migrants" when they are
refugees. Again their mealy-mouthed, petty legalistic arguments trying to justify the use of Ukip-speak fail to grasp the vastly different connotations of the two words. To argue, as they have done, that the term "migrants" is a kind of Umbrella-term and includes refugees, is the worst kind of dissimulation. As it carries on doing so, people die. People die because the majority of the population still thinks they are coming to take their jobs and "welfare" rather than fleeing for their lives. Perceptions matter, and perceptions kill.

I am truly ashamed of my country today, the way we have allowed ourselves to become afflicted by the ideology of Ukip, thanks to the BBC. It has turned us into a nasty, xenophobic, mean-spirited, selfish, narrow-minded, bigoted, insular, prejudiced, contemptible people, probably regarded by the rest of the world with disgust. A disgust I share.