Saturday, 24 August 2019

Open Letter to Jo Maugham

Dear Mr Maugham,

I was dismayed to read a number of tweets from you, in which you infer that you take a “balanced” or “neutral” position on trans rights. This letter is to explain to you why I do not believe that your position is either. Not only is the “debate” between trans people and transphobes one on which it is impossible not to take sides – there is no fence to sit on, there is a deep ravine between the two sides – but, by the language you have used you have clearly taken one side.

I am not sure whether you realise that you have firmly taken one side, the side of the transphobes, but you have and the reason you have done so is that you tweet about a “conflict” between trans rights and “women’s” rights. It is this “women’s” that is problematic. The opaquely-funded “women’s concerns” groups that have sprung up over the last three years (I will return to funding later, and it has links with the people you have been fighting against; Leavers), first and foremost do not represent “women”. Women are overwhelmingly in favour of trans rights, especially the right of trans people to self-identify, these groups, in contrast, represent “transphobes”, although of course they aren't going to say that and are going to say they represent "women". They are transphobic groups formed with the sole purpose of denying trans people human and civil rights. They do not even represent “feminists” or “lesbians” as some claim, and they have increasingly developed links with extreme right-wing groups in the US who appear to be behind much of their – considerable – funding. So the fact that you have characterised this as a conflict between “women” and trans people means that you have taken sides with the transphobic groups pretending to be campaigning for women’s rights.

The second issue is the idea that there is a conflict at all. Trans people, and our allies in feminist and LGBT groups around the country are firmly opposed to the notion that there is any “conflict” at all. There is none. The main issue is the one these transphobic groups were set up to fight, that of statutory declaration of gender for trans people. There are a number of jurisdictions around the world, including Ireland, Malta, California and a number of other US states, Portugal, Argentina, Uruguay, Denmark, Norway, Mexico City, where statutory declaration of gender is already enacted. In most cases they have been for many years. If these transphobic groups’ claims are to be believed then there would have been hundreds of examples, in these locations, where cis women (the word is “cis” not “natal”) have been disadvantaged or worse, as a result. In fact there have been none. Not even one.

How do I know this? Because there are massive right-wing news organisations around the world, from the Times to the Australian, Fox News, the Daily Mail, some newspapers in Sweden, the Berlusconi media in Italy that are directing considerable resources at harming trans people through selective and misleading propaganda (There is no other word for it). If there had been any of the incidents, anywhere in the world, that these transphobic hate groups are spreading fear about, then they would have been all over the front pages, and everyone would have heard about them. The fact that there have been none is therefore significant.

So the idea that there is a “conflict” between trans rights and women’s rights is simply not true. However the fact that you have tweeted that there are means once again that you have taken sides. Trans people, our allies and most women do not agree that there is a conflict at all. The transphobic groups, including some powerful journalists, say there is. There is either a conflict or there is not, there isn’t a fence to sit on and you have planted both feet firmly on the side of the transphobic groups.

The language that you use has also demonstrated that you have taken sides. “Natal” is a term that the transphobes use. It is intended to infer that cis women (the correct term) are somehow more “natural” than trans women. My suspicion is that you have decided to use this term after some of the transphobes have persuaded you that “cis” is some kind of dirty word, or a “slur”. Your choice of language reveals which side you have taken. “Natal” is used by transphobes “cis” is used by everyone else. There is no fence.

When you use the term “absolutists” to refer to both sides, as if somehow there is a middle ground where trans people can have some rights but not as many as we should have, you are also revealing a bias toward the transphobic sides. A good metaphor here is Brexit. The Leavers are clearly increasingly extreme or absolutist. But to portray Remainers as somehow extreme or absolutist, as some have attempted, would obviously be wrong. We are people who do not want to lose our rights or damage our country for the sake of a global right-wing project to destabilise Europe. Just because there are two sides does not mean that each side’s arguments are of equal value. Remaining in the EU is neither extreme, absolutist nor unreasonable, wanting to leave, especially via a no deal brexit, is very extreme. Wanting the same human rights as cis people is likewise not extreme either.

Screenshot from "Hands Across The Aisle" website in the US,
list of suggested British groups/individuals to support
The parallels with Brexit go beyond this however, and it is worth noting that there are serious issues relating to the funding of these transphobic groups and, as far as I can see all of them have the same kind of opaque funding arrangements of the kind identified by Carole Cadwalldr. Indeed there is a right-wing "Christian" group in the US that is openly directing funding towards UK anti-trans groups. What happened on a large scale in the referendum, is happening on a smaller scale with these transphobic groups. Some have received considerable funds from mysterious and undeclared sources, in the same way that the Brexit Party has.

Now, you may retort that these people who have come and talked to me about curtailing trans rights seem very reasonable. They may do, but that does not make their position reasonable, particularly in the light of what they are proposing. The Brexiteers appeared reasonable to a majority of the electorate in 2016, that did not make them reasonable it just meant they appeared reasonable to some. In effect they want trans people to have fewer rights than cis people. That is both extreme and absolutist. It is neither extreme nor absolutist for me to expect that I should be accorded basic human rights that you and everyone else take for granted.

Finally I am dismayed that people have attempted to get you fired. I am particularly dismayed because transphobes have attempted to get me fired as well, on more than one occasion. In fact I know a number of trans people who have either been threatened with the sack or who have actually lost their jobs because of action like that which you describe. In one instance they tried to have an elected councillor removed by the same dishonest means. 

My definition of having courage to speak out is where one is speaking out against a massive media consensus, which most trans people are trying to do. Most trans people I know are literally frightened to step outside their front doors every morning, especially those of us who are children. That is courage. You have a media platform with huge numbers of Twitter followers, most trans people do not. Indeed we are pretty much excluded from the mainstream media debates about trans rights. The transphobes get plenty of airtime and column inches, trans people do not, and the column inches we do get are generally reserved for "human interest" stories. We simply do not get the opportunity to argue against the dishonest claims of these “concerns” hate groups, if we did the "debate" would have ended long ago. We are literally being prevented from taking part in the media debate about trans rights. You have more opportunity to influence this debate than I do, by a very wide margin.

Now I don’t suppose that you have hitherto regarded yourself as being firmly on the side of the transphobic hate groups, however the fact is that, from the tweets I have seen, you are, firmly, fairly and squarely and in all respects positioned in the transphobes’ camp. I have explained why this is the case and why there is no middle ground. I know you would like there to be but there is not. Either you want me to have full human and civil rights the same as everyone else or you do not. 

You may not have realised that you are firmly on one side, you may consider yourself the kind of person who always sees good in both sides and cannot believe these apparently reasonable people are transphobes, however the fact remains that, in every position you have taken in these tweets you have taken one side, the side of the oppressor. 

Up to now you may have been unaware of this. You no longer have that excuse.

If you would like to discuss this further I am happy to meet with you and talk in a friendly and constructive manner to explain things from the point of view of trans people. You have obviously had contact with those who want to convince you of the case against trans rights, perhaps listening to trans people's point of view might be in order.

Kind regards,

Natacha Kennedy

Friday, 2 August 2019

Thoughts on the Radnor byelection.

The LDs winning in Radnor is a good result and one that will scare some Tory MPs. It demonstrated that a proper Remain Alliance between Greens, LDs and Nationalists can work. There will doubtless be instant  payback in the form of the LDs standing down in places like Camarthen East and Dinefwr, one of the Tory targets currently held by Plaid Cymru. The Labour vote was squeezed as Labour voters lent their votes to the LDs, demonstrating that Remain Alliance has the potential to be bigger than the sum of its parts. 

A look at LD target seats for the next election shows that such an alliance can work but the LDs have only four target seats with majorities less than 1,000. Two Tory, one Labour and one SNP. If we look at target seats with majorities less than 10,000 they have 17 of these, most of them Tory. However there are also a number of other Tory Remain voting seats that are now vulnerable to the LDs, such as Dominic Raab’s seat of Esher and Walton, on the face of it a solid Tory seat, one of the wealthiest in the country but one where there are a lot of Tory Remain voters scared by his gung-ho Brexit attitude to no deal. If we include seats like this, we can expect the LDs to gain at least 20, possibly as many as 30-40 from the Tories at the next election. 

We know that the SNP are almost certain to take 10-12 from the Tories at the next election whatever happens, which leaves the Labour target seats: Labour is second in 42 Tory-held seats with majorities of less that 3,000, add Uxbridge and Ruislip South (Boz Johnson’s constituency which is heavily targeted and has a majority of less than 5,000 after boundary and demographic changes) and there are 43 potential targets 13 of which have majorities under 1,000. The Tories are targeting 15 Labour and two LD seats with majorities under 1,000. So this is where the battlegrounds are going to be, less than 100 seats, there will be very few seats changing hands outside this group, and where they do they are likely to be as a result of the Remain Alliance. 

We are already seeing Labour votes squeezed in places like Radnor because of this, they are likely to be squeezed further in other places where this works, in the same way that LD votes tend to get squeezed in Labour-Tory marginals.

One thing to note here is that, while the LDs will achieve a high rate of success taking Tory Remain seats like those of Dominic Raab by being solidly anti-Brexit, all but four of Labour’s target seats voted Leave, as did all but one of the Labour-held Tory marginals. Now we can expect some changes in all of these, in that the Leave vote nationally has gone down by around 7% and the Remain vote up 7%, it is also important to note that the group that has most changed its mind, apart from farmers, is low-income Labour voters in insecure employment and housing, which means that, in many of these seats there is now a Remain majority, couple that with the fact that Leavers tend to be less ardent about Brexit than Remainers are about stopping it and there are probably fewer things to worry about on that score than some might fear. 

However it is clear that Labour needs to treat its target seats very differently than the LDs treat theirs, and the result of the Peterborough byelection demonstrates how Labour’s approach can work; Labour ruthlessly targeted issues that more obviously matter to the electorate rather than focussing on Brexit, issues such as the NHS, Universal Credit, housing, jobs, education. A Remain Alliance is unlikely to produce many, if any gains in these seats.

This is pretty much how the next election is going to be played out. In 100-odd seats out of 650. That’s how the system works, not my choice but the one we’re stuck with. If the LD and Labour game-plans pay off, then the Tories will lose approximately 70 seats with a handful of gains at the most. 

It will probably mean some kind of parliamentary alliance between Labour, the LDs and the SNP in order for a government to be formed, but that alliance will have, as its common denominator, a second referendum, something all parties are signed up to in full, whatever the circumstances. In this scenario there will be a second referendum, whatever else happens.

But this will only happen if Labour wins its target seats and the LDs win theirs, targeting two different groups of voters; there is nothing in common between the wealthy voters targeted by the LDs in Richmond Park and Esher and Walton on the one hand, and those on low-incomes and insecure housing and employment in Stoke-on Trent and Northampton targeted by Labour on the other. 

Want to stop Brexit, you need to target both. There is no choice here, that is the situation. Do it any other way and Boris will be able to claim his mandate to hit the country with No Deal. Voters in other groups and other areas are, unfortunately, to all intents and purposes, irrelevant.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Contrived Projection: Who is erasing who (and to what end)?

Opinion; Turner's article reveals the anti-trans endgame, and it is chilling.

Janice Turner’s dire piece of anti-trans propaganda in the T*mes yesterday is important. Not important because it is good, or enlightening or even unpredictable, because it is none of those things. It is important because of what it tells us about the direction of anti-trans activism in the UK right now.

On the surface the main issue with Turner’s straightsplainer is that it employs Megan Rapinoe’s success as a world-cup winning footballer as a stick with which to beat trans people. She uses it to push the old anti-trans canard that trans people, simply by existing, are somehow “erasing lesbians”. Now, this is important and I will come back to this in a minute but firstly I would like to deal with the way Turner misrepresents Megan Rapinoe.

Megan Rapinoe has, multiple times, expressed explicit support for trans rights, including the rights of trans children and trans people in sport. Yet Turner ignored this and straightsplained her lesbian identity for use in regurgitating the old “erasure” argument. In doing so she is, in effect, erasing Megan Rapinoe’s support for trans rights; she is erasing the actions of a lesbian who explicitly supports trans people, and who is, in this way, representative of literally thousands of other cis lesbians. In claiming lesbian erasure she is erasing lesbians.

This is worthy of analysis for a number of reasons, firstly because it constitutes a prime example of what I call “Contrived Projection”. This is the established strategy in which anti-trans activists claim trans people and trans allies are doing to them what they are actually doing to us. So in using Megan Rapinoe to claim “lesbian erasure”, Turner is actually erasing the support for trans rights by Megan Rapinoe, and thousands of other lesbians like her. Her claim of lesbian erasure is being made through the erasure of trans-supporting lesbians like Megan.

This is illustrative of the way the anti-trans campaign has waged its vicious but disguised war on trans rights; for example they have repeatedly claimed that their voices are being “silenced”. Yet the media, especially the right-wing media, publishes, on an almost daily basis, a stream of anti-trans material that reflects the transphobic arguments coming out of the “women’s concerns” transphobic groups. At the same time the media systematically excludes the voices of trans people trying to counter these arguments. In other words, by any objective measure the anti-trans groups and their friends in the (mostly right-wing) media have the unrestricted ability to get their message out there, while trans people are prevented from responding. Yet at the same time the accusation that trans people are “silencing” these groups is widely, and unironically, peddled in that very same media. 

There are numerous examples of how Contrived Projection is used by the anti-trans community; presenting trans women as a ‘threat’, presenting trans children as a ‘threat’, claiming that they have “legitimate” concerns, etc while all the time actual attacks on trans people are increasing exponentially. So Turner’s article in the T*mes yesterday is valuable as it provides an illustration of this strategy. 

What is also significant from this article is how desperate it reads. In my reading of it it felt as though Turner was struggling to find something, anything to hang anti-trans sentiment on. This is also representative of much of the output of the anti-trans community. The common themes of which appear to be desperation and fanaticism, and consequently attempts to hang anti-trans activism onto pretty much anything, even when the opposite is true. Maybe this is a function of this overwhelmingly one-sided media coverage; they feel they can get away with anything, or maybe it reflects the fact that there are actually no genuinely good anti-trans arguments out there.

So to return to Turner’s central claim that trans people, by our very existence, are erasing lesbians (despite an increase of about 25% in numbers of women identifying as lesbian 2012 - 2017) this needs further examination. 

Ultimately this claim implies that the only way that lesbians’ existence cannot be erased is by trans people; trans men, trans women and non-binary people, including trans children, ceasing to exist. The inference is that one group needs to stop existing in order to allow another group to be. In other words this claim is based on an exterminationist ideology, and one we have all heard before.

So the anti-trans activists literally want us to cease to exist in order – somehow – for lesbians not to be erased, even though more and more lesbians are coming out (and also supporting trans rights). Quite how we are supposed to be erasing lesbians by our existence, or how by ceasing to exist this fictitious erasure will cease, is never made clear. What is also unclear is how lesbians are simultaneously being erased and increasing in number. And increasing in number at the same time that trans people are also increasing in number. Indeed the actual data - data ignored by Turner - indicates that numbers of trans people and numbers of lesbians are increasing at the same time suggesting that trans liberation and lesbian liberation are actually complimentary. 

What is also evident is that the media "concern" for lesbian rights extends only as far as it can be used to attack trans people. Neither Turner nor the T*mes have mentioned the systematic murder and violence towards lesbians in Chechnya.

However the Implications of the “lesbian erasure” argument are serious, and constitute a disguised exterminationist argument. It enables anti-trans activists to articulate their endgame – that of the eradication or extermination of all trans people – without having to explicitly state that this is what they ultimately want. This is something that needs to be articulated whenever the “lesbian erasure” argument is wheeled out. However it is done it is a disguised exterminationist argument, articulated using Contrived Projection towards their ultimately desired solution to the “problem” of trans people. The fact that this exterminationist ideology is being argued, in however well-disguised a manner, in national media, is an indicator of the direction of travel of the anti-trans community. 

We have been here before…

Monday, 29 April 2019

Lies = "truth": Crossing a Dangerous Rubicon

Opinion: The IPSO ruling that the Times' lies are "not inaccurate" is important for everyone.

The declaration, by IPSO, that a quote that was completely fabricated (as in made up from nothing) by the Times in relation to trans children, did not constitute inaccuracy, because it is a-bit-like-something-some-trans-activist-might-have-said, has a significance well beyond its relevance to the obsessive and hatemongering attacks on trans people by the Times. 

The fact that IPSO has judged that a completely fabricated quotation in the Times did not breach Clause 1 of its Editor's Code (which is about accuracy) has shown that, as a society we have crossed a dangerous Rubicon. Lies are now officially the truth. In effect IPSO has given the go-ahead for any newspaper to make up pretty much anything with complete impunity. 

Obviously this pretty much makes IPSO itself redundant. Ruling that a fabricated quotation is not an inaccuracy means that there really is no point whatsoever in complaining to them about anything to do with accuracy. IPSO is now just a fig leaf for an increasingly dishonest, right-wing and manipulative media. IPSO needs to be disbanded and an alternative form of regulation put in place, beyond the influence of the powerful media barons. The British media has clearly demonstrated that it cannot self-regulate and should not be allowed to again. The Press Complaints Commission failed effectively to regulate the media and IPSO, in a relatively short space of time, has demonstrated that it cannot either.

Just like the PCC, it seems that IPSO has become corrupt and shown that it exists only to serve the interests of the dishonest. One of the most basic elements of reporting the news as opposed to making it up, is getting quotations right. By fabricating this quote, which IPSO admitted the Times has done, the Times has breached the most fundamental basic rules of journalism, the fact that it has got away with it is what is of concern. Of course the Times may have got away with it in terms of not being censured by IPSO but it will rightly suffer from reduced credibility.  

Any society which cannot distinguish between lies and the truth, where fake news becomes the norm, and there are few, if any sources that can be relied on to tell obtain the truth, is a society where democracy can no longer function. In her interview for TED journalist Christiane Amanpour argued that the way to combat fake news was to trust only the proper media outlets. That is now no longer the case, at least in the UK.

At a time when newspaper circulation is falling and when trust in the media is at an all-time low, for IPSO to make such a judgement is highly significant for everyone not just for trans people. Indeed it is chilling in its potential. Editors working on behalf of powerful rightwing billionaires can lie quite happily now in the knowledge that IPSO will give them a free hand. 

Freedom of the press is crucial for a functioning democracy, that freedom is threatened by concentration of power in the hands of the billionaires who control it and direct its content for their own purposes. It is also threatened by lack of trust. The only way for that trust to be maintained is through a truly independent media regulator that rigorously upholds standards and is fully independent of the industry. 

Anything less is the road to totalitarianism.


Finally; and on a different note, it is significant that the case against trans rights cannot be made without resorting to dishonesty and fabrication. But beyond that - as the Times has demonstrated - it also cannot be made without systematically excluding trans people from arguing against its transphobic ideology and without severe selection bias in terms of what it decides to include and exclude. 

So one of the main take-aways is this: If the case against trans rights is so weak that it has to exclude counter arguments, carefully select its "facts" and when it can't do that, fabricate those "facts" it must be very weak indeed. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Safe Space.

The suggestion, earlier this week, by one of Labour’s LGBT+ advisors Anthony Watson, should, in my view, not be completely dismissed out of hand. Yes there are obvious issues with it, ghettoising trans people’s lives will never be the solution, and ghettoising would also have the opposite effect of making all other areas become regarded as places where it is OK to attack trans people (and how to trans people get to so-called safe zones without going through an unsafe zone, and what if we can only afford to live in an ‘unsafe zone’). So the solution, as Watson envisages it, is probably a non-starter. However it needs to be regarded as a starting point from which we can move forward the discussion about transphobia in the UK.

However there are other related issues that need to be discussed
and, from one point of view Watson’s intervention should be seized on as an opportunity to discuss the current wave of hatred and violence directed at trans people, including trans children.

So, if I were going to advocate any safe zone for trans people that safe zone would be virtual, and include the mainstream media, which is responsible for whipping up the hatred currently directed at trans people. Without that, the Times, the Mail, the Express, Mumsnet, the Atlantic, the Sun and other extreme right-wing hate groups will continue to push their lies, misinformation and fabricated fears. The rise in hate-crimes against trans people is directly correlated with the rise in hate spread in these extremist media platforms. These media outlets have magnified the extreme hate put out there by the so-called “women’s concerns” groups, which range from outright, openly fascist hatemongering, to the more subtle ones claiming to be “socialists” who spread hate and fear under an increasingly thin veneer of “feminism”. 

The effects of this media hate-propaganda and these faux-concern groups is clear to see, in the penultimate week of the school spring term three young trans people were attacked, one had his face slashed with a knife, one faced horrific abuse in a shopping centre and another had her head stamped on in an attack in school, an attack that could have been deadly if it hadn’t been stopped. Although they are rarely reported in the media, I am told that suicides of young trans people and trans children are currently running at a rate of around four a year.

The spread of hate from these groups to the extreme right, aided and abetted by the national catastrophe – also media created – that is Brexit, are the main causes of the violence against trans people, and as such no ghettoisation is ever going to protect trans people from its effects. What trans people need is protection from media bullying. The school that excluded the child who stamped on a trans girl’s head was doubtless doing its best to create a safe space for her, yet school management, however hard they try, cannot easily exclude media hate and lies from infecting the minds of the children, often passed down to them from their parents.

So how do we protect trans people from this media-induced violence without threatening the right of free speech? There are a number of possibilities:

1) If we are going to create ‘safe zones’ then shops in those safe zones might not be allowed to sell copies of the worst-offending papers. The faux-concern groups might be banned from meeting there or distributing their hate propaganda there, as might extreme right-wing anti-trans groups. This is however, not a real solution, ghettoisation has never worked in the past so there is no real likelihood that it will ever work in the future.

An alternative to this, along the lines of CLASP, organised in Camden and Islington by Forum+ (Formerly Camden LGBT Forum) where businesses can be encouraged and staff trained, to publicise, and offer, safe spaces to LGBT people under attack might be a way of rolling-out safe spaces without ghettoization.

2) A statutory, and timely, right of reply for groups affected my misleading or dishonest hate-mongering, should be implemented, including dishonest and misleading coverage constructed by selective reporting. The problem with the media is that coverage of most media outlets, like the Times for example, systematically excludes dissenting voices to the extent that there is no opportunity for trans human rights campaigners to correct false information or misleading impressions given. This would address the main cause of media hate.

3) For businesses to stop advertising in these hate-rags, and for campaigns by trans people, through existing groups like Hope Not Hate, to target advertisers who help fund these hatemongering news outlets.

4) For the Equality Act to be extended to cover the activities of IPSO (well actually IPSO needs to be shut down and re-formed it is not fit for purpose) through Leveson 2, which would force them to take action to protect minority groups.

5) For media awards groups to stop giving awards to journalists who publish transphobic material, (and to rescind the ones they have awarded) and for other journalists, following the example of Patrick Strudwick, to call them out on their transphobia. Also journalists who attempt to adopt a “neutral” perspective and advocate “free speech/debate” as Kenan Malik and David Aaronovitch have done, to reconsider their positions and advocate for an end to the current effective censorship of trans people from most of the media, if they want to be taken seriously as journalists/commentators.

The key here is access to the media, something that is being systematically denied by corporate media. While ghetoisation might be a short-term stop-gap which would potentially draw attention to the media-induced violence against trans people, ultimately it is a non-starter. The core of the problem is the media, and any measures like ghettoization, that might distract from the main locus of the problem will, ultimately, just make it worse by giving the media something else to attack.

The safe zone for trans people should be the entire world. The only way to achieve that is to stop transphobic hate in the media.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

The Issue is Transphobia

Hbomberguy's fundraiser for Mermaids did an awful lot more than raise $336,000+ for Mermaids, the inspirational charity that supports trans children, and in many cases saves their lives. It also provided, for an all too short a time, a free space for trans people and their allies to discuss the issues facing trans people in general and trans kids in particular. This is important and also very revealing. For the first time in ages online there was a space that allowed trans people and our allies to discuss issues and express ourselves freely. 

This was because the space was not managed, curated, edited, chaired, infiltrated, threatened or controlled by transphobes for once. It wasn't a "discussion" set up by the faux "women's concerns" hate groups. It wasn't a "debate" confected for broadcast media where an ignorant carpet-chewing bigot is set up against a knowledgeable and reasonable trans person or ally. It wasn't an "investigation" by a "journalist" member of the secret anti-trans media cabal, regurgitating their weird groupthink. It didn't include cheap glinning throwaway one-liner misrepresentations of trans people, it didn't have the constant dead-hand threat of having any phrase misused in mainstream media to mean something different from
what was intended. It didn't include voices of the faux "silenced" loudly claiming to be "SILENCED!". It didn't include cis transphobes retrospectively lying about being mistaken for trans guys when they were kids (back in the 1980s? Yeah right!). It didn't include protected Freeze Peach of the kind being provided by York University.

In short it was a conversation, a social media space which was, for a short period, beyond the control of the transphobes. And this is significant, not merely because it demonstrated that, despite the intense media anti-trans campaign (a propaganda wave that deliberately and systematically excluded trans people, yet which described itself as a "debate"), trans people have much more support out there in Real-World Land than the media transphobes think.

It also struck me (although I couldn't spend much time there over the weekend because I had a couple of other projects on the go) that the ultimate root for the discussions was not trans "issues" - we are people not "issues" - but transphobia, cisgenderism, cis-mythologization, trans erasure or whatever other anti-trans processes you might want to define. We are in the midst of a media-orchestrated wave of anti-trans hate centrally-organised by a shady clique of transphobic bigots behind the scenes who are then published by the likes of Murdoch and Rothermere. Bigots whose actions are carefully crafted to connect with social media to produce online bullying and abuse and which all too often play the player rather than the ball. 

That is the issue.

We urgently need to turn the "debate" away from "trans issues" and faux "concerns" and on to the issue of transphobia. Transphobia is the reason Mermaids exists and its life-saving work is needed to prevent children from dying. Obviously the anti-trans lobby wants to stop this lifesaving work, they would rather trans kids just quietly died by suicide like they used to, which is why their media campaign is so focussed on this wonderful charity. Anyone who says that, despite the general ineffectively of the biased media hate-campaign, trans people, especially children, are not being harmed by this propaganda, is being dishonest.

Transphobia is the issue; the rise in transphobia is a media problem and therefore we cannot expect the media to honestly engage in a "debate" about such issues, so trans people need to make space for this ourselves, in the same way hbomberguy did.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Brexit: Another dishonest Guardian campaign

A few months ago the Guardian ran a one-a-day drip-feed campaign to convince people that transphobic academics were being "silenced". This campaign which culminated in a widely criticised and factually incorrect transphobic editorial, an editorial that was so bad that the Guardian US, in an unprecedented move, actually ran a counter-editorial criticising it. The guardian drip-feed campaign was actually so dishonest that, despite telling us that transphobic academics are being "silenced" every day for five days, it did not actually produce a single example of a transphobic academic being unable to produce transphobic material. Yet at the same time Nic Shall, a trans PhD student is still being prevented from speaking and calling out transphobia. Needless to say this was not mentioned in the drip-feed. 

Being able to scream "I am being silenced!" in the national press is, ultimately, proof that you are not being silenced at all.

Now the Guardian appears to be starting a drip-feed campaign against a people's vote second referendum on the final deal for Brexit, and, yes you guessed it, it is just as dishonest as their transphobic "free speech" campaign.

It claims that a third of Labour voters would be "less likely" to back Labour if it adopted a 'Stop Brexit' policy. The fact that this "third" actually turns out to be 9% when you read the text, certainly does not surprise me;

"11% of current Labour voters said it would make them less likely to vote for the party."

This follows material produced by the normally reliable Owen Jones arguing that "Norway+" would be a great deal for the country. So losing influence in Europe and in effect becoming a colony of the EU is preferable to full membership. Now it turns out that the study to which the article refers also includes the following figures if Labour decides to back a people's vote;

9% of Tories more likely to vote Labour
39% of Lib Dems more likely to vote Labour
40% of Greens more likely to vote Labour

I'll take that lot rather than a share of the 9% TBH.

Of course supporting a people's vote on the final deal is not "stopping Brexit", it is giving the population an opportunity to vote on the final deal, something not available in 2016. However we also need to consider the meaning of "less likely" in this context. If this group is "less likely" to vote Labour that does not mean that they will not vote Labour, and one of the considerations would therefore be who would they vote for...?

If another receptacle for their votes is available then this likelihood increases, if there isn't it decreases. Given that the only possible destinations for their votes if they are that concerned to support the wanton destruction of Britain that they want to vote for a Leave-supporting party are the Tories and Ukip, there is not much choice. Ukip is a busted flush and will probably only be able to field a handful of candidates in a general election. Which leaves only the Tories. In fact very few voters ever switch from Labour to the Tories, and, in the 2017 election very few did so even in seats where there was a Leave-supporting Tory and a Remain-supporting Labour candidate. Indeed Remain-supporting Labour candidates won in large number of Leave-voting seats.

Contrast this with the possibilities for Remain voters. Remain voters have a number of alternatives; The SNP in Scotland  (who are likely to take 10 seats off the Tories at the next election) and Plaid Cymru in Wales as well as the Greens and Lib Dems countrywide. Indeed it seems that the Lib Dems are already quietly picking up a small but potentially significant number of Labour Remain votes as their polling has increased from bumbling along at 7-8% since the 2015 referendum, to between 10 and 12% now. So while Leave voters only really have the option of not voting (given that supporting the Tories will be anathema to most of them), while Remainers have a number of different possibilities, and are starting to take advantage of these possibilities.

It is also worth remembering that the current polls that show a 12% majority for Remain but that this is misleading. It is asking the question that was asked two and a half years ago, and not the question that would be asked in a People's Vote. 

A People's Vote on the final "deal" whatever that is, whether a catastrophic "no deal", the May Deal, Norway Plus or whatever, is just that. A vote on the specifics of whatever deal du jour happens to be on the table when they finally get round to accepting the only truly democratic way out of this mess. 

The contrast between a specific deal (and, for the sake of argument the May Deal is the only one currently on the table, the only one having been accepted by the EU) and the general notion of  "leaving the EU" is crucial. When all those leavers voted leave in 2016 they all had different ideas of what Brexit would be like.

Some voted for 'sovereignty'
Some voted for '£350m a week extra for the NHS'
Some voted to be wealthier
Some voted to have their cake and eat it.
Some voted to be like Norway or Switzerland
Some voted for a hard brexit (believing that there would not be any resulting economic collapse)

The difference with a Final Say referendum is that it is about voting on a very specific proposal, on the reality of brexit rather than the unicorns sold last time. So the variety of reasons people voted leave will be replaced with a cold, hard reality that is devoid of unicorns, with less money for the NHS not more, with no cake either to eat if have and in which everyone becomes significantly poorer.

In this scenario Remain vs Whatever Deal, Remain wins by a margin of around 35-40% rather than the 12% in the current opinion polls. This looks like a much better way to start the process of bringing the country back together and healing the divisions than persisting with an increasingly unpopular Brexit, the majority for which consists entirely of dead people, and which will make everyone poorer. 

How the Guardian got itself into this mess of publishing such blatantly dishonest propaganda of the Daily Mail kind is anyone's guess. Sort it out Viner.

Friday, 11 January 2019

A Real Socialist Alternative to Brexit

It is probably no coincidence that Owen Jones, on the same day that Jeremy Corbyn told us he was going to renegotiate a “new brexit deal”, published an article in the Guardian suggesting that the way forward was a Norway+ deal. Norway Plus is a kind of “Brexit In Name Only” deal that would see us remain in the Single Market and Customs Union and keep freedom of movement. Given that Jeremy Corbyn also said he wanted to bring Remainers and Leavers together, one can see the attraction of Norway+ as an apparent compromise.

As a Remainer, on a personal level I could probably live with Norway+, despite it effectively having the same principal flaw as May’s Blind Brexit “deal”, that of vassalage. Being on the naughty step of Europe is in many ways fitting for the UK right now.

However I am opposed in principle to any renegotiated deal, whether renegotiated by Mr Corbyn or anyone else, that would see us leave the EU, and I am opposed to it as a socialist, and member of Another Europe Is Possible. Norway+ would be a victory for Putin and fascists all over Europe. Here's why...

Being outside the EU, even if we were as closely linked as in Norway+, would have a big disadvantage; we would no longer have any real voice in Europe, we would not be able to campaign to change the EU for the better and make common cause with other socialist groups across the continent, like Podemos in Spain and Sryza in Greece, as well as emerging left-wing groups in Portugal, Austria, Malta and other places. It would mean we would not be able to help and support new left groups likely to emerge in places like France and Italy. 

One of the problems with the EU is its current neoliberal stance; this is something that needs to change and which can be changed, indeed it is ripe for changing. Being outside the EU means we will have absolutely no influence whatever over things like this. Inside, we can change the EU, the Gilets Jaunes protests suggest that there is a growing appetite for change across the EU, away from a neoliberal position to one like that associated with the policies of Jeremy Corbyn. 

The problem is, as we have already seen, the extreme right is always waiting to capitalise on grievances like those of the Gilets Jaunes, and as we have already seen, extreme right versions of this group have been popping up in many different places; in the UK the Yellow Vests are fascists. This is more than a metaphor for the way the far right works, appropriating the outward signs of anything vaguely rebellious. This is the way the far right operates at its core. The problems with neoliberalism and the way it disenfranchises and impoverishes, which are now becoming more apparent as the neoliberal forced consensus breaks down, are seized on by right-wing groups as vehicles for their own agenda. These fascists use the disaffectedness caused by neoliberal economic policies as a fertile recruiting ground for their hate. Fomenting hate and division is what these groups always do and this is what they are doing with those disenfranchised and left struggling under the oppression of neoliberalism. 

The only answer, the only way to prevent this from happening, is for the left to respond with coherent and workable anti-neoliberal policies. We need to give these people an option that is made up of hope and empowerment not fascism, division and hate. The left is the only group that can seriously provide an alternative to the grey, crushing neoliberalism that has scarred our world since the 1980s, and to those left behind and impoverished by its inequality-magnifying effects. 

Yet it is the far right that is on the march across Europe, not the left. These are groups which promote only anger, hate and division – all of which (more than coincidentally) help the neolibs by making it less likely that their system will be seriously challenged. Whether the UK is in or out of the EU, we will be affected by this growth in right-wing hate politics. Out of the EU however, we will be able to do nothing to resist it, we will have no influence to mould policies that can change the system and smash the cold, dead hand of neoliberalism which feeds this right-wing activity. 

This is why I oppose any deal that will see us leave the EU, even one negotiated by Jeremy Corbyn and endorsed by Owen Jones. Ultimately if we want to end this neoliberal nightmare we are going to need to work together with our neighbours in the EU, as only a large multinational group like the EU can effectively resist the global neoliberal forced consensus. Attempting to do so on our own will not merely fail, that failure will affect everyone else. The left needs to campaign for a second referendum (with a Remain option Barry Gardiner!) and then to reform the EU away from its current unpopular economic policies of miserable hopelessness. 

There is great danger in abandoning Europe to the far right and its emerging Trumpettes in Eastern Europe, but are great prizes to be won by the left as there is now an appetite for a proper change across the continent. Harnessing that desire for change and directing it to make that change happen is not only possible, it is likely if we work together, and constitutes the only way we can prevent the far right from misdirecting the sense of anger and hopelessness felt by people from the Baltic States to the Canaries. Leaving Europe and retreating into a myopic and ultimately futile, and possibly counterproductive, attempt to take down neoliberalism in isolation is what the neolibs and the far right want.

Seizing the moment and making Europe work for its people is the prize and that prize is one which, as socialists, we need to fight for, before it is too late.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Dangerous, Oppressive Times

The “results” of the recent Times “survey” about trans people’s rights are predictable coming from the UK’s most well-funded anti-trans organisation. And they are as likely to be representative of reality as Alice in Wonderland, especially since other polls have flatly contradicted them.

The Times has employed a number of strategies against trans people in recent years, including excluding genuine trans people from taking part at all in their transphobic “debate”, despite spreading the obvious lie that we are “silencing” others, and, through their punch-down-and-bully department, launching personal attacks on activists including a very young trans woman and parents of trans children.

Their latest strategy is more pernicious and has serious implications, not merely for trans people but for other minority groups also. The question on whether trans people should be “allowed” to change sex legally in a less degrading way, is of course, no-one else’s business but ours. But the Times wants to make it everyone else’s business, and by asking such a question it is subtly adding a new dimension to their so-called “debate”. The idea that the majority should have a veto over minority rights is dangerous, pernicious and profoundly oppressive. The idea, for example, that there should be a referendum on same-sex marriage, reinforces the idea that rights can be given and taken away in the whim of the majority. 

As we have seen recently in Taiwan, the majority has vetoed, after a disgusting campaign by the extreme “Christian” right, equal marriage. Biased media busybodies who have no right to determine who gay men, lesbians or bisexual people can marry claimed the right to unnecessarily interfere in others’ lives. 

The idea that trans rights should be decided by a majority of a largely badly informed populace, is pretty much as oppressive as it gets.

This is doubly so when anti-trans groups like the Times are spreading disinformation about us on an industrial scale, while preventing us from responding with anything even remotely resembling parity. Their propaganda campaign has been exclusionary, dishonest, misleading and spiteful in the extreme. But the notion that trans people’s rights to statutory self-identification of gender should be determined with reference to some kind of popular whim of a populace who are deliberately misinformed is a dangerous step. 

It is not merely a dangerous step for trans people however, it is a dangerous step for all minority groups. The idea that rights can be given, and therefore taken away, by a popularity contest, threatens everyone, including others in the LGBTQIA-family, black and ethnic minority people, asylum-seekers, religious minorities, the disabled and neurodiverse. When hate-groups like the Times campaign for any rights to be determined by popular whim, that is what oppression looks like. Especially for rights like equal marriage, and statutory declaration of gender, which have been shown to affect no-one other than the groups concerned. 

Minority rights should be decided on merit, not by a biased media popularity contest.

That the Times has taken this step, no doubt at great expense, demonstrates not just that they are putting a great deal of money into their transphobic hate-campaign, but that they have one eye on normalising this kind of oppressive, deliberately misinformed populism in order to extend it to other groups. Trans people have always said that we were the wedge issue to be used to undermine other people’s rights. The Times action confirms this.