Sunday, 29 October 2017

Reports of a rad fem violently attacking non-trans woman in vendetta against trans people.

There have been wildly conflicting tweets about an incident that occurred at an Anarchist Bookfair event yesterday, but I have just been contacted by someone who was present there, when some anti-trans "feminists" started distributing transphobic material yesterday, including flyering in the toilets. This is then, what happened, according to my informant, who has told me a much more coherent version of events than anyone else so far. The two anti-trans "feminists" who had been doing this;

"were eventually found and a confrontation ensued - it's really important to state that the majority of the confrontation happened not between the TERFs and trans people, nor between TERFs and even the Bookfair Collective, but other people there."

A member of the Anarchist Collective organising the event was described as; 

"simply trying to move them out of the building, and particular out of the way of the disabled access lifts." 

... when one of the anti-trans "feminists" was reported as calling the hosts "fascists", it was clear that this individual;

"was escalating the conflict with any and everyone there, it was about to turn it physical." 

and so this member of the Anarchist Collective (who is cis, incidentally, not that it really matters); 

"tried again to move her out of the building because a fight in the school could lose the Bookfair the venue in the future, at which point the TERF in question with the rolled up remaining leaflets and newsletter from the Feminist Library (effectively acting as a rolled up newspaper) proceeded to hit her in the face."

Obviously at this point, having apparently harassed stall holders and physically hit one of the organisers;

"there was enough cause for them to be thrown out and kept out." 

The organiser;

"needed to decompress outside for a bit herself" 

... with my witness who then reported the following 

"and when we came back to the building, ANOTHER confrontation had started, which involved someone from the feminist library."

My informant then reported that they didn't see most of the second confrontation, although someone else has reported that a man with a shaved head punched a woman who had objected to the presence of TERFs at the event, but they do report that; 

"the number of trans people involved was minimal, it was almost entirely random people who simply wanted the TERFs out. Much as I suppose I'm grateful for the fact they stood up to transphobes, they did so in the way of disabled people simply trying to get out. We were there, hoping to see the situation de-escalated, or at least moved outside, but to limited avail." 

One of the TERFs had reportedly claimed to have been a victim of "violence against women" although my informant said;

"what she meant is still anyone's guess. Nobody touched her when I was there. It was simply a large standoff as far as I saw between TERFs and others.  It was almost entirely cis people."

They said that these anti-trans "feminists" seem to have the ability to; 

"accuse anyone who opposes them of being trans women. And anyone who opposes them of being a "trans activist""

"The "trans activists" were exceptionally few and far between - it was largely a bunch of cis folk who didn't want bigots at their Bookfair."

In my opinion this all seems to suggest that there were anti-trans feminists using what was otherwise a peaceful event, that the organisers had worked hard to make peaceful, to stir up transphobic hatred, and that those present to enjoy this event did not want such people there. It also seems to me that this group are trying to concoct a story that attempts, falsely, to blame trans people for this incident when all the violence came from non-trans people, including these anti-trans "feminists" themselves.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Vanishingly small: "regret" statistics interrogated.

In a world dominated by post-truth politics even apparent hard figures can be misleading, and, for a general public that is relatively ignorant about statistics, it is easy to mislead while not technically lying. A headline like "Football violence doubles in three months!" may sound alarming but if that is an increase of 0.0001% to 0.0002% of supporters then it is very different from an increase from 5% to 10%. The headline would be true in both cases yet we would be looking at an epidemic in the second scenario but the statistical effect of possibly only one incident in the first.

Likewise with statistics about trans "regret".

The number of trans “regretters” is vanishingly small and difficult to ascertain as a percentage, so any kind of statistics about them are automatically going to be problematic. Statistics do not work with very small numbers, that is why opinion polls take a four-figure sample, and then they still usually get it wrong. So forensically examining any figures is what any responsible journalist should do before publication. The problem is that, in the current heavily biased anti-trans media onslaught, they are not doing this and consequently anything that is biased against trans people is automatically treated as true.

So the material produced in the media about a surgeon doing more trans reversals needs to be examined carefully. When we look at the figures provided in the press we can see the following;
Over 5 years he has had 13 trans people contact him about so-called reversal surgery (two are mentioned as being “in surgery” but it is not clear as to whether they are additional to the existing 13 or included in that number). That is approximately three a year. The first six are described as coming from “all over the “Western World” The “western World” presumably including most of Europe, north America and Australasia. For the other 7 it is not clear where they come from. One of the claims made in the article was that the "average" age of his clients had come down to 21. I find this to be a very spurious use of statistics. When you are talking about 13 people over 5 years, then just getting two 21-year-olds would be enough to change the "average". Of course we are not told the timescale for this "average" but if he gets two this year, or even just one, that could produce an "average" for this year of 21. we have also not been told whether it is a mean, mode or median average too, which could skew the stats. This is what I mean that using stats when the numbers you are talking about are tiny is totally meaningless and open to abuse, without technically lying.

Over the last year in the US, there have been 3,250 gender reassignment surgeries, in the UK there were 172 operations in 2014, with 280 on the list for surgery in 2017. Numbers are difficult to ascertain for other countries but we are probably looking at a higher figure than the 3,250 in the US for 2016 in Europe so we are probably looking at a figure of around 7,000 a year for the “Western World”. If we go beyond that to the Middle East, South Asia, the Asia-Pacific countries, Africa and Latin America, where the populations are larger, but whose access to surgery is restricted by poverty, the number of surgeries is probably running at well over 20,000 a year globally, it is probably difficult to tell exactly, but these are almost certainly conservative figures. Now there have been lots of stories about transgender surgery increasing exponentially, at least in the “Western World” so let us assume that the number was around 10,000 five years ago and has increased by around 2,000 a year in the intervening period. That means at least 80,000 people globally have had gender affirmation surgery in the last five years.

If we also remember that at least some of the patients in this surgeon’s figures must have had surgery more than 5 years ago then his clinic is probably dealing with a subset of patients from a group that exceeds 100,000 people. If this is the case then we are looking at 1 regretter for every 7692 people having gender affirmation surgery. In other words for every 7691 successful gender affirmation surgeries there is one unsuccessful one. This would give us a regret rate of less than 0.013%.

Now obviously I have to heed my own warning about statistics, so let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the global number of surgeries is half what I have estimated for the period in question; 50,000, that would mean that there is one regretter for every 3845 successful surgeries, still a vanishingly small regret rate. Even if we halve it again the regret rate comes out at 1922 successful surgeries for every regretter, a figure significantly less than 0.1%. Even if we then double the number of regretters there are still 960 successful operations for every regretter. Double it again and the ratio of successful operations to unsuccessful ones is still 480:1 a vanishingly small percentage. Let us remember that this figure is achieved by quadrupling the figures for this doctor and reducing the estimate for GRS by 75%, even doing this gives us a tiny percentage, well under 1%.

Of course one of the statistics we do not know is how many of those 100,000 successful operations would have resulted in death by suicide if they had been denied access to surgery. This is a statistic we can never obtain ethically of course. What is clear from those who are responsible for the gatekeeping processes for surgery is the way they consistently refer to the risk of suicide for their patients. The death of 15-year-old Leo Hetherington earlier this year, he after was told he could not have GRS, and from the people I know, especially young people, suggests that this figure would be very high indeed.

So media articles that talk about a rise in the numbers of “regretters” are effectively being dishonest and transphobic because they are not contextualising these figures. There is obviously going to be a rise in regretters because there is an increase in the number of surgeries. What matters is the proportion of regretters to successful surgeries and here it would appear that, if anything the percentage of them compared to the total number of surgeries performed, is getting significantly smaller. Without contextualising these figures they become meaningless at best and profoundly dishonest at worst. What journalists also need to do to contextualise these figures is to look at regret rates for other types of surgery. The lowest regret rate I could find was for LASIK eye surgery, which is described as having a “very low” dissatisfaction rate of 4%. Many other forms of surgery have dissatisfaction rates that are well into double figures. One of the types of surgery that many trans-haters try to liken to gender affirmation surgery, in order to delegitimise us, is cosmetic surgery. However the difference between the two is a whopping 65% regret rate for cosmetic surgery compared to a tiny fraction of 1% for transgender surgery.

The truth is that surgery for trans people is one of - if not the most - successful surgeries that is carried out on this planet with a regret rate that makes pretty much anything else look irresponsible and which saves countless lives. Some of those lives saved at the time will probably also include people who subsequently become regretters. As psychologist Diane Ehrensaft put it when talking about the risk of regret;

"Is it a risk? Let us call it a possibility. If that is a possibility we think that the most important thing is the same exact idea, find out who you are and make sure you get help facilitating being that person then. We have one risk we know about; the risk to youth when you hold them back and hold back those interventions; depression, anxiety, suicide attempts - even successes. And, if we can give them a better life I weigh that against that there may be a possibility of a change later, but they won’t be alive to change. That’s how I weigh up the scales."

Monday, 2 October 2017

The trans children's conveyor belt and the banal production of ignorance...

I was a trans child. I knew I was a girl just before I started primary school and my gender identity is still female now, despite society's best attempts. My school, however, was on a rough council estate and was not the sort of place someone assigned male would ever have dared to admit to being trans, even if there had been a word for it available to me at that time, which, in the middle of the last century, there was not. 

So unlike most of these people who have plenty to say about trans kids but actually know nothing about them, I can speak from the point of view of actual personal experience. I ached to be acknowledged as a girl when I was a child, but, because the word "transgender" did not exist then, I just thought I was a freak, the
only one in the world, a sad person who didn't deserve to be happy. I grew used to putting on a brave face while hating myself. In effect I was put through a kind of Conversion Therapy by default, which tried to force me to be a boy. It became more confusing after puberty because, although my feminine nature and interests resulted in extensive homophobic bullying, I only fancied girls. If I could have lived as a girl then, I would not have spent my twenties and most of my thirties nervous and lacking totally in self-esteem. If the normal, accepted treatment for trans children today; simple, unconditional acceptance in my true gender, had been available to me in those days I would have grabbed it with both hands and never let go. Instead I grew up in a body that hurt me so much I literally wanted
to throw it in front of an Intercity 125.

In spite all this, and in spite of some serious self-harm, I somehow, but only just, made it to adulthood and on the way I found out a new word; "transsexual" which I looked up in a local library, only to find a vile, disgustingly transphobic hate-text called "The Transsexual Empire". Before the internet it was the only thing I could find out about myself, and it told me I was horrible and should be "mandated out of existence" which I almost did to myself. 

So hearing that the number of trans children contacting Childline has doubled in a year to 2,796 does not surprise me. The stories of fear, isolation, terror, self-hatred and abuse that this figure conceals are incalculable and things I know about from personal experience, except that Childline did not exist back in the 1970s. It was a time of shit cars, boring TV, crap wallpaper and wall-to-wall homophobia, a bit like the wall-to-wall transphobia we are being subjected to in the current media onslaught against trans people.

One of the main targets of this onslaught has been, of course, trans children. The obvious target for the transphobic bullies; a group that cannot answer back and whose parents dare not answer back either for fear of outing their kids to face more transphobic bullying or being accused of child abuse. Those "brave" media voices are raised time and again in the Murdoch propaganda rags, the Mail, the Express, New Statesman and on TV. Bravely these individuals have a go at a group whose members are, in many cases, barely clinging to life and most of whom are self-harming or cowering terrified of being exposed and bullied out of their schools.

These "brave" journalists not only know nothing about trans children (but still have the arrogance to think that they can pontificate about them at length) yet they bring up, time and again, the old trope about a "conveyor belt" to surgical transition. They raise the fear that cisgender kids will somehow, on a whim, end up, many years later, unwillingly on a surgeon's table because, once they have started, it is argued, they will "inevitably" have to proceed to this end.

The ugly mind of Julie Bindel provided an early example of this baseless fabricated fearmongering;

"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."

Well let me confirm that there is a conveyor belt for trans kids, but it is moving in the opposite direction from the one these people tell us it does. It is constantly moving away from the direction of transition, constantly moving towards the social ideal of cisness. Trans kids grow up continually fighting for their right to exist (and let's be clear being forced to exist as a person you cannot be, is no existence, which is why so many trans kids attempt - yes ATTEMPT - suicide, and almost all self-harm). There is a unceasing social pressure to conform to your birth assigned gender, this is a conveyor belt that is impossible to get off, and trans children constantly have to fight against it. The paid hate-mongers of the fourth estate are just trying to make it harder for these children to do so. 

Let's just revisit that point again. 

Cis journalists, comfortably well-off, who have almost certainly never knowingly encountered a trans child in their lives, write reams of material that harms (yes HARMS) trans children, drives most to self-harm and some to suicide, and most of them get paid for it! This is the modern-day version of the Banality of Evil so vividly identified by Hannah Arendt. A huge propaganda machine dedicated to producing damaged children, from these "brave" journalists' MacBook Pros, sitting in their comfortable living-rooms, heated offices or local, trendy, wifi-equipped cafes alongside a Fairtrade Americano, Cappuccino or skinny latte. These people will never experience the sheer terror that their bullying causes, by proxy, every day in schools up and down the country. You too can participate in industrial-scale oppression from the comfort of your own home! 

So let us be clear; every time a privileged TERF or entitled semi-celebrity attempts to spout ignorance about trans kids, they are engaging in child abuse by proxy, they are making it harder for trans kids to be accepted, for their parents to accept them, for schools to counter the bullying that arises as a result of these "brave" writers' precious exercise of "free speech". Trans children have become the subjects of the industrial-scale production of ignorance, a banal production-line of misinformation and hate that has real consequences for real children, but none for its comfortably distanced operators. 

Enjoy your free speech.