Monday, 3 April 2017

War in Europe.

The national delusionality fuelled by the media, brexit and Leave seems to be getting worse in the face of the sharp dose of reality supplied by the EU27 after the invoking of Article 50. Now the Tories/leavers are already talking about war with Spain over Gibraltar. They REALLY haven't thought this through...

Not only is Spain not Argentina but Gibraltar is not the Falklands (and for that matter Theresa May is no Margaret Thatcher). Gibraltar has a land border with Spain, is economically dependent on Spain and could be isolated much more easily. A Royal Navy task force would be up against a large land army and any war would result in the deaths of large numbers of people on both sides but especially in Gibraltar.

What they have also not considered are the other consequences. In the event of any hostilities the EU (which by then we would not be part of) would take Spain's side and Britain would be subject to economic sanctions. This would not only result in that 44%+ of our trade with the EU simply drying up overnight, but most of our trade with the rest of the world too, since most of it goes through Europoort in Holland. In other words our trade with the US, the Middle East, China, Japan, Korea and Africa would instantly cease also. Economic sanctions could also result in a ban on flights to the UK and a ban on aircraft flying from/to the UK over EU territory, meaning the only flights that could reach us easily would be from North and Central America.


The economic consequences would be massive and instant. Unemployment would skyrocket as British businesses went bankrupt overnight. The exchequer would run out of money very quickly meaning that the NHS would cease to function and teachers, doctors, nurses, the police and other public sector workers would not be paid.In addition pensions and social security would go unpaid, and those are just the straightforward consequences I can think of off the top of my head. Petrol would become scarce and food very scarce. We would see rationing, poverty, unemployment, power cuts, bankruptcies and consequent riots in the streets within weeks if not days. And I haven't even mentioned NATO, the British people living in Spain, loss of influence around the world, becoming a pariah nation and being ejected from the World Trade Organisation yet...

The Fascist media (let's face it they are no longer the "Tory media" they are fascists, daily pushing a fascist agenda) and the right-wing fanatics in the Tory Party like Michael Howard are trying to bounce the country into a war with Spain over the colony. Howard was probably the only party leader in history to be quite a dire as Jeremy Corbyn, and while people accuse Corbyn, with some justification, of still living in the 1970s, Howard and his ilk clearly live in the 1870s. Now we see how the lack of a serious political opposition to the Tories is starting to get really, really dangerous for the country as a whole.
Telegraph 9 May 2016

Remain pointed out the problems with Gibraltar during the referendum campaign and of course the Leave campaign said we were just "scaremongering". 

So far every piece of "scaremongering" has proven not to be scaremongering, but reality, only this time it is much worse even than the so-called "scaremongers" could have imagined. And Leavers had the gall to suggest that the EU has had nothing to do with preserving peace in Europe. 

Plenty more of this to come over brexit. 

Friday, 31 March 2017

(In)visibility and The Transphobes' Big Lie


The prevalence of Sarah Ditum's drearily predictable output in New Statesman has probably contributed to it being renamed "New Transphobe" by trans people. So her recent post in social media attempting to use Rachel Dolezal to delegitimise trans people was not exactly unexpected since she appears to have some deep need to weaponise any possible nugget of information against trans people.


However this time her post has proved very useful in reminding me, not only why the Rachel Dolezal case is not comparable to trans people but why one of the TERFs' main lines of attack against trans people is actually a huge lie. The main difference between trans people and Dolezal is that, while trans people have existed for millennia, people like Dolezal have not. CN Lester's outstanding LGBT History Month lecture at Oxford reveals some of this hidden history, and there is plenty more where that came from.


Marjorie Garber's cultural history demonstrates how trans people have existed throughout history, back to the earliest human civilisation, and in every culture. The discovery by archaeologists of a trans woman buried 5000 years ago in what is now Prague shows how trans people have existed for a long time even in Europe. Harold Garfinkel's study of a transsexual woman in the United States in the 1950s also provides plenty of evidence about our existence throughout history.


But we don't even have to look at second-hand evidence; the autobiography of the Chevaliere D'Eon; The Maiden of Tonerre is the true story of a trans woman who transitioned in London in 1777. Pilot Officer Roberta Cowell's memoirs tell of her transition in the years after she saw action as a Spitfire pilot during D-Day. 


What these examples do, is undermine the basic TERF argument that trans people exist as a kind of "movement", as the result of "transgender ideology" and that being trans is a kind of "fad" or "trend". Indeed two of what I regard as the most dishonest and abusive transphobic websites both use the word "trend" in their title. "Gendertrender" seeming to me nothing more than a collection of weaponised abuse, while "Transgender Trend", in my opinion, aims to harm trans children by misleading their parents.


The aim of these sites, by employing titles such as this, is deliberately to mislead. The idea behind the use of these words is to convey the idea that the emergence of trans people, largely as a result of trans activists hard campaigning inn the last 50 years, is just an ephemeral "fad". The danger is clear; by encouraging people, especially parents, believe that their trans children are just being transgender as the result of a "trend" might engage in actions that are harmful to those children. Yet if something as basic as the names of two of the TERFs' most prominent sites is employing the myth of trendiness, this is actually very revealing of their most basic misleading falsehoods.


One of the reasons trans people have been invisible for such a long time has been the ideological oppression brought about by the central ideology of materiality which was ushered in by the Renaissance, and by fascist attempts to maintain this oppression, for example, these well-known images of Nazis burning books were actually taken as the work of Magnus Hirschfeld, one of the pioneers of research into trans people, was destroyed.


Yet trans people are clearly not a
trend, nor do we exist because of any "ideology" or "movement". We have been around for millennia. Obviously it suits those whose fanatical opposition to trans people can only be sustained by multiple misrepresentations of trans people. Misrepresentations that are becoming harder to maintain. Ultimately it is the particular type of transphobia widely known as TERFism that will turn out to be ephemeral. Existing, as it has done for only around half a century this hate-campaign is the "ideological" "movement". The transphobes have used the historic invisibility of trans people against us, the sudden visibility of trans people brought about by trans activists hard work and campaigning gives the impression that we represent a trend, something the transphobes are desperate to maintain. This is one of the reasons why Transgender day of Visibility is so important, because it exposes this big, fundamental lie. But unlike these anti-trans fanatics, trans people have always been here.

Friday, 24 March 2017

"Silencing"

So Nigel Farage has said that
people are afraid to speak out about terrorism because they might be accused of "racism".  He has already demonstrated that his ideas on this subject are at variance with the facts; the Westminster attacker was, like Farage, a 51-year-old man from Kent. In other words he was not an immigrant although Farage was, predictably, one of the first to argue that immigration was the reason for the attack. 

Pretty vile stuff I'm sure you will agree, using the death of a policeman and three other people as an excuse to ramp up his racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric. Yet his main goal is clear; for racist hate-speech to become legitimised. What has hitherto been regarded as unacceptable hate-mongering is what he wants to be regarded as legitimate. He wants to normalise racism.

Cut to so-called "radical" feminists who engage in hate-speech against trans people, which usually involves spreading outright lies or confected faux narratives about us. Beatrix Campbell has used the same kind of rhetoric as Farage in her infamous letter to the Guardian, so have other anti-trans campaigners like Julie Bindel and Germain Greer. Arguing that they must have the right to express transphobic views quickly became a media consensus last year, something that continued even after Milo Yiannopoulos had bullied a trans student in a university in Wisconsin.

The rule seems to be that, if it is hate-speech about trans people, then that is a "free speech" issue. If it is hate-speech about any other group then that is a "hate speech" issue. 

There are two issues here; firstly that the racist hate-speech of Farage should not become normalised in the way that hate-speech against trans people is. His goal is clearly to normalise racism, and probably subsequently many other forms of discrimination and
violence against other minorities. The extreme right clearly consider this an issue which can be used to legitimise their own race hate, and have expressed solidarity with people like Germaine Greer's transphobia.

The second issue is the normalisation of transphobia in the media and the media's current policy of allowing only cisgender people's voices in this "debate" legitimising the coalition of anti-trans voices, now actually formalised, from the alt-right Nazis and "Christian" fundamentalists to so-called "radical" feminists. This alliance is reflected in "radical feminist" Julie Bindel's association with hate-rag the Daily Mail. How she can call herself a "radical" or a "feminist" while writing in an extreme right-wing alt-paper that scapegoats minority groups, especially immigrants is beyond me. Perhaps her brand of feminism is only actually radical in name? Perhaps it isn't even feminism any more?

Whether it is Jenni Murray, Julie Bindel, Elinor Burkett or Milo Yiannopoulos, transphobia in the media has become normalised and the same arguments used to legitimise it that Farage is currently using to try and legitimise racism: "People shouldn't have to fear discussing this subject." "Free speech." "Isn't Murray/Bindel/Yiannopoulos/etc brave to speak out?!" "We only want to debate your existence."

Aside from the obvious issues of media access and silencing of trans voices in mainstream media, the main reason people describe Jenni Murray as "brave" for speaking out is that they know she will be challenged on social media for her views. Didums. This is not a "free speech" issue, it is a "freeze Peach" issue. It is about the right of those privileged enough to have access to mass media being able to spread their views and not called out on their lies, disinformation, inaccuracies and misconceptions.

One of the many consequences of this spate of mainstream media transphobia has been the shooting of a 12-year-old trans girl in a school in Manchester. The news that she has agreed to take part in a restorative justice programme and face her attacker is an act of real courage. This girl has more courage in one of her toenail clippings than Jenni Murray has in her entire being.

The fact that these transphobes are using the same tactics as a fascist to justify their harmful views, should give some people pause for thought.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The art of the Implicit Lie

Sometimes you wonder whether things people say, especially when
they are repeated often (presumably so as to become the truth) are actually believed by those who propagate them. The most significant lie however, is the indirect lie, the lie that piggybacks on another statement, a statement which may well be true within its own terms of reference but which also tells a lie by implication.

The recent spate of articles by transphobes in the one-sided "debate" about whether trans women are "real" women or not manifests a number of prime examples of this; statements that are internally correct but which contain external implications that are misleading. Implicit lies, unlike explicit ones, are both harder to identify and harder to counter and are usually employed when the case one is trying to make is weak. They have been employed in abundance in material published by transphobic "feminists" in mainstream media in recent weeks, and as such these texts present us with a significant number of examples with which to work.

One of the most common manifestations of the implicit lie in recent years has been the TERF focus on Caitlyn Jenner. Jenner is an individual who is so obviously in a privileged position that of course TERFs are going to want to foreground her in any discussion. The implicit lie here is when she is used to (mis)represent all trans women, and because Jenner has at least apparent privilege then QED all trans women therefore have benefitted from male privilege. There were a flurry of TERF articles about Jenner which employed this technique. Murray employs the same technique, only this time avoiding Jenner (probably since transphobes have overused her name so much that they risk their implicit lies explicit) by selecting from the small and decreasing number of late transitioning trans women she implies that all trans women have enjoyed male privilege. Here the implicit lie is, as with Jenner, produced by selection. She could have selected any number of very young trans girls, she could have talked to girls like Sarah-Jane, aged 7, from the Midlands who was introduced to me by her mother when they were visiting the Tavistock and Portman institute in London after Sarah-Jane was  diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Even as a trans person I had difficulty believing that this girl was transgender, there was absolutely nothing masculine about her, she was so clearly a girl, and obviously had been for as long as she could remember, and indeed for as long as her mum could remember. Her male privilege consisted of being forced to wear boys school uniform, to being forced to wear her hair in one ponytail instead of two bunches as she preferred, being called by her old name, and "he" by her teachers even though the school had been shown her deed poll in which her name had been legally changed to Sarah-Jane. This, despite all the children in her class knowing her as Sarah-Jane from out-of-school activities and general play in the street. She was also forced to use the boys toilets and changing rooms, something which traumatised her unbelievably. It took a lot of pressure, both legal and social, to stop the school's bullying of her (and bullying was the only way to describe it).

Sarah-Jane is not alone, there are large numbers of trans children and young people coming to understand themselves as trans. I have met trans girls aged between 5 and 8, and older trans girls who have been out since they were very young. My own research  suggests that while the mean average age for coming to understand oneself as trans is just under 8 years old, and the modal average is just 5 years old. So it is no surprise than that the number of trans girls coming out and living in their true genders is increasing significantly, while the numbers of older transitioners, largely transitioning late because of the social and cultural erasure of trans people prevalent during the 20th century, is in decline.

The lie here is about "male privilege" and, whilst Murray's descriptions may have been internally correct, they also contained implicit lies about trans women, constructed by her selection of material. Sarah-Jane has never had any kind of male privilege, nor has she ever had the kind of socioeconomic privilege Murray possesses. There are plenty of young trans women and trans girls in her position too. Of course there are huge amounts of problems about Murray's use of the concept of privilege as a stick to beat older trans women with too, it is likely that male privilege is non-existent or at least not a benefit, unless also accompanied by cis privilege.

Murray also takes an older transitioner to task because of her concern, as a vicar, about her appearance when meeting her parishioners for the first time. This apparently makes her unfeminist and therefore not a "real" women. Newsflash, just about every woman I know, and most men too, are concerned about their appearance on the first day in a new job, and after transitioning, I would expect the situation to be little different from that. If you work in a job, as I do (and as Murray doesn't) which is public/client facing then appearance is always going to be important, especially for women. That isn't because of trans women it is because of the rest of society. After I transitioned my employer was concerned about my appearance, as was I, when meeting students for the first time. Murray's criticism of another trans women for saying she didn't like unshaved legs is also an implicit lie because it deliberately ignores the large number of cis women who have similar opinions. Again the implicit lie piggybacks on something internally true.

Hadley Freeman presents us with more implicit lies in her article follwomg Murray's as she attempts to subtly make Murray appear to be a victim of sexism;

It is no coincidence then that the implicit lie has become the choice of weapon against trans women by those intent on harming us. If their implicit lies are expressed explicitly they become so easily detectable:


  • "If one trans woman doesn't like hairy legs all trans women are sexist and unfeminist and have male privilege."
  • "No cis woman has ever expressed distate for hairy legs on women."
  • "If one, older trans woman is concerned about her appearance when meeting her flock for the first time since transitioning all trans women are sexist and unfeminist and have male privilege."
  • "All trans women/girls have male privilege because they have all lived for 50 years as men."
  • "Gary Lineker is just as likely to express controversial opinions on Match of the Day as Jenni Murray is on Women's Hour."


In the articles I have cited here there are many more examples of implicit lies. Perhaps this is what trans activists and our allies need to become adept at; making the implicit lie explicit. I have the feeling TERF writers would struggle to produce anything without these dishonest devices. 

Maybe it is something we all need to become adept at exposing. In the age of post truth politics the TERFs are already past-masters at the art of the implicit lie. Doubtless assorted Brexiters, Tories, and the TERF's Trump supporting friends in the US will be deploying these more often also. The educationalist Neil Postman once said "You can't indentify bullshit in the same way you can identify phonemes." So maybe this is a skill we need to teach all our children, but especially our trans children, too.





Sunday, 5 March 2017

Jenni Murray: Definitely not a Woman. Just a Bully.


The transphobia industry's Banality of Evil

Caroline, the woman who writes this blog, is adamant that women should always wear skirts, as does this woman. Claire is another woman who is insistent that women should wear skirts, not all the time but always at work. Karen Danczuk additionally thinks that women should accept whatever dress codes are in force at work, including being required to wear high heels.

This must mean that all women are of the same opinion, all women want women to be forced to wear skirts and heels, at least to work and in some instances all the time. Even Jenny Murray, who has just decided that all trans women are not women, because three misguided souls hold opinions about women’s appearances which are not entirely dissimilar to those above.

So if I am not a “real” woman then neither is Jenni Murray. She claims the identity of cisgender woman and, since she is therefore part of the same group as Karen Danczuk et al, she must therefore, by her own logic, not be a real woman either. Interesting since she has appointed herself chief border guard of womanhood.

However it is not merely the noun that is used to describe Murray that, by her own logic is wrong, the adjective is also misplaced too. “Brave” is the descriptor currently being bandied about to describe her attack on trans women, as the “courageous” writer of such drivel. Apparently she is “brave” because she is likely to be tweeted at by large numbers of trans people. Doubtless the risk of being called out and ridiculed by blogs such as this with a readership of a few thousand, is offset by the significant fee she derives from Rupert Murdoch and her pay from the BBC for hosting Cis-woman’s Hour, from the safety of her studio with a listenership in the millions.

Well I don’t think she is brave in the least, not in comparison with the thousands of trans women, most of whom live by considerably less means than her, who step outside their front doors every day to an increasingly hostile world, a world made more hostile by the widely broadcast media pronouncements of people like Jenni Murray. These are the truly courageous ones, the ones who, often living in difficult conditions, doing low-paid work, no work or sex work to keep the wolf from the door, are brave enough to be themselves in the face of discrimination, hatred, exclusion, violence and worse.

For Murray’s rant in a major national newspaper to be described as “brave” one has to stretch credulity beyond breaking point. As part of the industrial-scale assault on trans people it will increase the likelihood of trans women and trans girls being attacked. Just before half term we heard of the 12-year-old trans girl shot with a BB gun at school in Manchester. As a child who has the courage to face her attacker as part of a restorative justice programme, she has shown more courage in her little toenail than Murray will ever have in her entire being. And I know that worse has happened to other trans kids in recent months. Indeed there are trans children living in hiding as we speak because of bullying stemming from the negative media coverage pouring out from the Mail, the Times, the BBC and other “respectable” media platforms. This industrial-scale production of trans-hate is becoming so regular, so mindlessly churned out and so formulaic, by people like Murray, despite its obvious consequences, that Hannah Arendt’s description of the Banality of Evil is increasingly appropriate. “Bravery” is the wrong description for her. “Bullying coward” fits much more appropriately.





Thursday, 9 February 2017

Media transphobia: Harm and shouting 'fire!' in a crowded theatre.

This post represents my opinion of Bindel, J Conroy, Katz, the Mail and the BBC: 


How many lives is one story worth?

The news that a young trans girl in a school in Manchester has been shot by a transphobe following months of bullying that was not addressed by her school may come as a shock to some but certainly does not come as a shock to many trans people. I know, personally, there is worse transphobia going on in other schools as we speak, but I am not at liberty to speak about it.

The Daily Mail and the BBC have attacked trans children and this is the end result; schools not taking transphobia seriously and pupils (and doubtless their parents) unquestioningly believing what they see on TV and in the papers. The recent BBC ‘documentary’, “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” about trans children, was so badly biased and unbalanced and contained so many obvious misconceptions that one can hardly be surprised that this poor girl has come close to serious injury as a result of violent transphobia. I am sure her psychological injuries will be much worse. This is obviously considered by some of those working in the media to be a price worth paying for a 'good story'. The Daily Mail’s persistent campaign against trans children is likewise culpable, as, in my opinion, is its sell-out, unradical, unfeminist contributor Julie Bindel. In my opinion she has 'blood on her hands', as does the BBC’s producer John Conroy, Newsnight editor Ian Katz and the Mail editor Paul Dacre.

One interesting point to note here; the outstanding, carefully researched and constructed complaint put together by Trans Media Watch, against the BBC’s appalling documentary also refers to Newsnight and Ian Katz’s use of Wikipedia to source information for his programme. Wikipedia also mentions that Ian Katz is married to the CEO of Mumsnet. Last year Mumsnet were threatened with legal action by trans children’s charity Mermaids after they refused to take down a post regarded as defamatory. 

What is even more interesting is how Katz, on the childishly simplistic “trans people are against free-speech bandwagon” (take-down of it here) complained that trans people are “too quick to shout down voices [we] don't like”. It would appear that Katz has blocked at least one person who tried to debate with him about this on Twitter. I guess no-platforming is only bad when trans people do it...


Shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre.

Everyone acknowledges that freedom of speech does not extend to shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre. The problem is that, in my opinion, the actions of the BBC and the Daily Mail amount to the same thing. But while the result of the shout in the theatre can be directly and immediately linked to the outcome; spectators trampled to death, in the case of bullied trans children the link is there but far less immediate or visible. Children like the poor victim of this bullying and this shooting are under attack because the media has constructed an unfounded narrative that trans children are not “genuine” and are being “coerced” into being trans by zealous adults. This is the shout in the theatre but the trampling of the lives and prospects of trans children goes unseen by Paul Dacre, Julie Bindel, John Conroy, Ian Katz and others; they can simply hit “block” on their Twitter feed. Blocking on Twitter doesn’t mean it goes away, it just means you don’t want to know about it. That does not mean it is not happening or that it is not connected to any of their actions, it just means they can pretend it is nothing to do with them. These people should read some of Hannah Arendt, in my opinion their actions represent the Banality of Evil, in action, in the UK, today.


Child abuse by proxy

In their apparent campaign against trans kids, both Conroy’s “documentary” and Bindel’s rants in the Mail, the impression is created that trans kids are given “fistfuls of drugs and hormones”. In fact the only thing all trans kids are prescribed to treat their gender dysphoria is affirmation, affirmation that they are the genders they say they are. Just like the affirmation cis kids get in their genders.

Cisgender children have their genders affirmed all day, every day from day one. All that trans kids want is the same thing. This is not a big ask, it is merely basic equity, justice, humanity (yes trans kids are human!).  In my opinion the media campaign against this effectively represents child abuse by proxy, it is saying to those who have a need to hate and bully, “Here’s your next target.” Anti-Trans Fanatics (often known as TERFs) have long employed violence by proxy as a tactic against trans people. Schools and equality campaigners have made it increasingly unacceptable for children to bully children for other reasons, so ATFs/TERFs and the media have taken it upon themselves to legitimize the bullying of a new group, in this instance trans children. Let’s be clear, this is the actual outcome of their actions and is not an outcome that anyone can, in any way, claim is unforeseen. It is merely that some wish it to be unseen.


Actual Harm not “Offence”.

Since the hypocritical “free speech” campaign by Bea Campbell to  allow transphobes to speak in universities, trans people have consistently argued that this hate-speech will cause harm to trans people. These people, from Peter Tatchell to Breitbart, have long misrepresented the reasons that trans people have opposed this kind of hate-speech. They have dishonestly said we should not be so sensitive and worry about "offence". This is a deliberate misrepresentation; our opposition to this hate-speech is because it causes harm not 'offence'. In the case of the harm to the girl in Manchester, the harm was physical and there are plenty of other cases of physical harm this hate-speech has caused to trans children. More common is the psychological harm caused to trans children by the atmosphere of hate put about by the media, as well as the loss of access to educational opportunities, something vividly narrated by Nicole Maines in her brave and wonderful TED talk about the harm caused to her in school.

But let us be crystal clear about this; transphobic hate-speech about trans kids in the media has a cost, and that cost is harm. Some may decide that this is a price worth paying for their salary cheques at the end of the month, some may choose to ignore it and pretend the consequences are not there, some will hope it continues, and goes on to harm more trans children. But let us just not pretend that this is any different from shouting fire in a crowded theatre.


Monday, 23 January 2017

How come the only thing up for "debate" is trans people?

Well it looks like School's Out has decided to ignore the complaints of trans people and continue providing legitimacy to a transphobe by including them in their listings for LGBT History Month. This is both disappointing and revealing. The main reason given by School's Out for this inclusion is that there needs to be "debate". The CEO of School's Out said; 


“She has a right to speak just as we have a right to challenge what she says. That is the nature of debate and it allows us to make change happen in society.”

Yet the leaders of School's Out refuse to engage in any kind of debate about their actions. They want to include someone in their History Month listings whose deliberate misrepresentations about trans people in the national press are not at all based on fact and which, in my opinion and the opinions of many others, are likely to harm trans children.  They justify the event by promoting the fiction that we can "debate" and "challenge" what is being said. 

The problem is that challenging something that goes out in the Daily Mail, or on the BBC or any number of other media platforms is completely impossible. Mainstream media have millions of readers/viewers/listeners, trans people have blogs and the occasional article in the Guardian ir the Independent if we are lucky. Challenging the falsehoods, fabrications and deliberate disinformation put out by anti-trans campaigners is virtually impossible, and in case School's Out hasn't noticed it is pretty much open season on trans children in the mainstream media right now. School's Out should be standing shoulder-to-shoulder defending trans kids, instead they are supporting transphobes. 


So, I say to Sanders and Fenwick, CEO's of School's Out, I want to debate this, I want to debate the issue of your behaviour regarding supporting and legitimising a transphobe, I want to debate your suitability, as an organisation to be claiming to be helping trans children. If my existence is to be up for debate as you have stated it should, then your behaviour should definitely be. 

Yet somehow you refuse to engage in any debate around this issue. so it is fine for a transphobe to debate my existence but not OK for me to debate your actions...? By refusing to debate with anyone in the trans community about this you have demonstrated not merely blatant obvious hypocrisy but a profound lack of awareness of how difficult things are for trans people, especially trans children right now. As an organisation claiming to be helping trans kids we have a right to expect more from you and you have a duty to be held accountable and to be judged by your own standards of open "debate". If you can't engage in a debate about your own actions then you have no right to be encouraging "debate" about other people's lives. This is especially important when that debate only ever seems to take the format of us trying to put right mendacious "alternative facts" as the White House would put it.

Update, a friend reminded me of this tweet by Julie Bindel;




More than a little relevent, and linking to this misleading article;


Whether or not School's Out wish to "debate" this with trans people is anyone's guess...

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Emily's story: For Newsnight and the BBC...

Below is a true story, only Emily's name has been changed.


A few years ago my life as a trans activist brought me into contact with the mother of a young trans woman aged 15; Emily. Like me, and many other trans people, Emily had known she was trans since she was very young and attempted to be out as a girl at school when she was 13. Bullied out of her education almost immediately and struggling with living in a body that was not hers she was desperate to have surgery but was told this was not available to her until she was 18.

It was a rollercoaster of a time for her family, she would disappear for days on end and be found off her head by the police; a dread phone call at night which always made them fear the worst. After a while her mother and I realised that, at her 18th birthday, rather than being able to access the surgery she so desperately needed straight away it only meant that she would only be able to book an appointment after her 18th birthday. With a 7 month waiting-list (at the time) for the main London gender clinic she was looking at being 20 or 21 before obtaining surgery. You didn't have to talk to her much to realise that she wasn't going to last that long.

We started to put pressure on the gender clinic and the NHS to allow her to make an appointment 7 months before her 18th; as Christine Burns remarked at the time, it wasn't as though her 18th birthday was going to come as a surprise. After a lot of hassle the clinic agreed to allow this to happen, and Emily got her first appointment about two months after she was 18, and surgery, eventually, six months short of her 20th birthday. In the days and weeks after her surgery she was a changed person; the wild, unstable teenager, out of her head at parties on drink, drugs and whatever else she could get her hands on had gone. The bottle of bubbly I brought to celebrate with her stayed unopened, she didn't need to drink any more. She had had to wait until 18 months into adulthood but had finally got her surgery.

In the last few months before her surgery Emily had been clinging on to life with the fingernails of one hand, you could feel it, her parents were beside themselves, it had really become a white-knuckle race against time. A cancellation threatened to take the surgery date past her 20th birthday, something we all felt would be impossible for her to deal with. But after it came there was relief all round, literally overnight Emily became Emily, a well-rounded, calm, happy young woman, when just a few hours earlier she had been stressed, confused and desperate. The transformation was such a delight to see that I cried with joy for her, it really felt that she was safely with us on this planet at last.


Today a rise in demand coupled with NHS cuts has meant that waiting lists are a great deal longer, and the arrangement whereby 17-year-olds could make appointments before their 18th birthday evaporated in the face of these pressures. So Newsnight and the BBC and assorted transphobes in the right-wing press and elsewhere trying to peddle the lie that primary school children get surgery, are not merely distributing misinformation but their misinformation is so far removed from the truth that even calling it a lie is to do a disservice to liars.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

An Open Letter to the CEOs of Schools Out about LGBT History Month

Dear Mr Fenwick and Ms Sanders,

As a trans woman and someone who has in the past, supported Schools Out to try and make things better for LGBT pupils and teachers in our schools I am writing to you as a matter of utmost seriousness. I also speak as a trans academic who has published research into trans children and young trans people. My concern is regarding journalist Julie Bindel’s talk in Manchester which is being promoted by you as part of LGBT history month.

In this letter I intend to make the following points; firstly that the justification you have made for your support of Julie Bindel’s participation in an LGBT history month events is untenable, and secondly that this brings into serious question the credibility of Schools Out as an organisation.


In Achbishop Desmond Tutu’s famous quote he describes neutrality as harming the oppressor, at least in your case we are not talking about neutrality, representing a kind of passive support for the oppressor, you are engaging in active support. In your justification for including this item in your listings you cite primarily an article published by Bindel in 2004;

She made the comments that questioned the existence of trans women in 2004 and has said she would have phrase things differently now.”

Foregrounding this rather than other publications of Bindel is very highly problematic and also very revealing. She “apologised” for that article under pressure from trans people, however this article, while expressed in objectionable terms, is far from the worst example of her output. It is telling that you have chosen to foreground this in your explanation rather than her, very recent, article in the Daily Mail about trans children which you only mention only at the end of your statement. It is this that concerns me greatly since it appears to reveal some very serious issues regarding Schools Out as an organisation claiming to work for trans children and young people in education.

Bindel’s article in the Daily Mail (Britain’s highest circulation newspaper) a few weeks ago is harmful (and here I am choosing my words very deliberately, and very carefully) to transgender children. In her article Bindel suggests, while providing no supporting evidence, the following;

“If I were a teenager today, well-meaning liberal teachers and social workers would probably tell me that I was trapped in the wrong body. They might refer me to a psychiatrist who would prescribe fistfuls of hormones and other drugs. And terrifyingly, I might easily be recommended for gender re-assignment surgery… just because I didn’t like the pink straitjacket imposed on girls.”

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this is the case for any kind of transgender or gender nonconforming children. Indeed there is a great deal of evidence to the contrary. All evidence suggests, that trans children and young trans people find it very difficult to convince anyone that they are trans: If you are a trans child, you are probably more likely to be regarded as gay or lesbian than trans. In addition you are more likely to feel significant pressure not to come out, or be recognised as your real gender because of a number of different social and cultural pressures, pressures made worse by Bindel’s article. Indeed even for those who do come out, leading anything like a normal life can be a real struggle, with opposition commonly manifesting itself amongst parents of other children at school, school staff and even peers, in many areas of school life from PE to toilet access.

Bindel’s narrative appears to have been constructed to serve a purpose; to delegitimise trans people in general and trans children in particular. It is designed to make it harder for those trans children trying to come out, trying to communicate to parents, siblings, teachers and friends and convince them of who they are. When trans children are unable to do this, or face resistance from their families, communities and schools, in effect they are being forced to undergo a kind of amateur community Conversion Therapy. This is why I use the term “harm” very particularly.

The consequences of this article reaching such a wide audience are difficult to quantify of course. Yet it doesn't take much imagination to see how it is very likely to make many parents, parents of other children and school staff adopt a more dismissive and hostile attitude to any trans child brave enough to try and come out, with the consequent psychological damage to those individuals.

In other words Bindel’s article in the Daily Mail will have an effect on trans children which is opposite from the apparent stated aims of Schools Out. And, in case you're not aware of it, this is not the only attack on trans children in mainstream media; the BBC are broadcasting a program about a mental health professional, widely regarded as engaging in Conversion Therapy on trans children, in a documentary in which the parents of a trans child in Canada are alleging journalistic malpractice. There is a very real danger that a popular media consensus harmful to trans children is developing. Julie Bindel’s article is part of that consensus. Your endorsement of Bindel’s event is an endorsement of those harmful effects.

Your organisation is adding legitimacy to Bindel by including her event in your LGBT history month listings. In effect you are saying that it is okay for someone who produces material like hers to take part in LGBT (not LGB) history month. One of the justifications you use for this is the old canard of “debate”.

“She has a right to speak just as we have a right to challenge what she says. That is the nature of debate and it allows us to make change happen in society.”

With the circulation of the Daily Mail at 2.2 million, and a readership probably in excess of 3 million, perhaps you would like to explain how I am able to challenge her fabrications to this audience. To the best of my knowledge the Daily Mail has not permitted anyone to publish any response to this article, and indeed has published further articles, which will cause harm trans children. Even getting a right to reply article in New Statesman over trans issues has proved impossible in my experience, never mind the Mail.  The current popular media consensus about trans children has largely taken Bindel’s side of the argument with few, if any, opportunities for trans people to “challenge” or “debate” her dangerous narratives in any effective sense or even have our voices heard at all. The “nature of debate” as you describe it, on this issue, contrary to your assertion, is pretty one-sided if it could indeed be described as a "debate" at all...

However what is of more immediate concern is your organisation’s failure to forward the interests of those you claim to represent, namely trans children, over this issue, because this is an issue that is directly relevant to your purview. Indeed it makes me doubt very seriously that you are indeed an LGBT organization if you are prepared to support someone whose actions are harming those you claim to be helping. If you are an LGBT organisation then act like an LGBT organisation. Transphobia and cisgenderism are real and seriously harm children in schools. Transphobia and cisgenderism are not the same as homophobia and discrimination against trans children in schools is not the same as discrimination against LGB children, although it has similarities. Your failure to understand the issues with Bindel and how they affect children you claim to represent or wish to help suggests a profound and fundamental failure on the part of Schools Out.


So in my opinion this demonstrates that Schools Out has very serious problems relating to the way it goes about its business in relation to trans children and young people in schools. As a result I will stop recommending your organization to schools and teachers, which I have hitherto done regularly. I cannot see how it is possible for you to maintain the position you have with regard to Bindel and still effectively help trans children in schools. I do not want to be associated with Schools Out in its current form and I will recommend other organisations instead as a result of your stance on this issue. I no longer have any confidence in your ability to help trans children in schools. In my opinion you have become part of the problem.

Regards,

Natacha Kennedy.
Goldsmiths College and 
University College London