Lies and vilification

The outpouring of hatred against trans people in the UK is based on lies and distortions. The right-wing press has conducted a campaign of vilification against us, mocking and dehumanising us.

The facts are these. International human rights law says trans people are entitled to recognition in their true sex without any need for treatment to reduce our fertility. The Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons recommended that trans women should be treated as women, and for example not excluded from any women’s space. However, when the Minister announced the consultation in July 2017, she only proposed amending the law on gender recognition certificates, so that we would not be required to get a letter from a specialist psychiatrist saying we are trans, and prove two years’ expression in the acquired sex. The GRC has only symbolic value. Its only effect is to change your gender on your marriage certificate, if you get married afterwards.

Trans women can be excluded from women’s space, even after getting a GRC. That is covered by the Equality Act, which the Government has repeatedly confirmed will not be changed.

The gender critical campaign has focused entirely on women’s spaces, alleging a threat to women. Sometimes they are explicit that they mean a threat from trans women, sometimes they suggest that men might pretend to be trans women and they are not really against “genuine” trans women. For example, Sex self-ID would allow any man in Britain to get his birth certificate reissued in the opposite sex. Just like that. No delay. No change to his body. No medical supervision… spaces reserved by law for women and girls- changing rooms, domestic violence refuges and rape crisis centres- will find it impossible to remain male-free.

A lie. Or at best a stupid misunderstanding: campaigners do not always know what a GRC is or what it does.

For the purposes of expressing ourselves female, or even seeking a diagnosis, we have always had self-ID. The diagnostic criteria include our own belief that we are of the acquired gender. No-one ever goes to the doctor and has this conversation:

-Doctor, I think I’m a woman!
-No you’re not, you have testicles and a penis.
-Oh thank goodness, that’s such a relief.

Instead, the doctors are the gatekeepers for the hormones and surgery we want so much.

A search for trans self-ID meme finds some trans-friendly images, but also some pretty horrible stuff. The Times, a Rupert Murdoch paper once thought of as a newspaper of record, has hideous headlines:

Stonewall backing transgender bullies

Feminist’s poster removed after complaint from transgender activist

Obsession with gender identity goes too far

Transgender muffin exercise sends wrong message– alleging that cis children are being told they are trans.

That’s just the first four headlines from a search today, on Google. A search on The Times website finds

Lecturer’s job fear after raising trans concerns– 30 October

Activists thwart [academic] work on gender law reforms- 28 October

We’re on a slippery slope over hate speech- 27 October.

Labour members punished over transgender facebook debate- 24 October

Trans extremists are putting equality at risk- 22 October.

The Spectator, meanwhile, has It’s not transphobic to question transgenderism and Is transgender ideology making the UK’s mental health crisis worse? Five articles in the print magazine since April, and seven more since September on their website. How Caroline Lucas fell foul of the transgender thought-police– as if we were the powerful ones, oppressing everyone else. Bullies, thought-police, punishing, getting people sacked, suppressing free speech. And yet I’m the one who gets shouted at in the street.

When people call me a threat, they incite self-righteous, “defensive” violence against me. They put me in fear.

The Spectator

Is The Spectator magazine feminist? You might conclude not, from their article on the Irish abortion referendum, quoting people saying things like “Is abortion the killing of a human being?” This they call “plain speaking”. “We are ahead of history… to be one day- if we hold our nerve and damp down the crazy false progressivism that assaults us- vindicated by history and medical science. Because one day- for certain- the world will arrive at a consensual consciousness about unborn boys and girls: that they are as human as 6’3″ rugby players.”

Stirring stuff. Unfortunately, on the issue of trans rights alone, James Kirkup in the Spectator is pretending to be feminist, and managing to fool some feminists. The mask slips sometimes, as he talks of “the loony lefty SJW Labour Party” (which is mostly centrist) but his flattery and playing up their martyrdom complex is enough to get them sharing his articles: “women who are struggling to make their voices heard…[are] at risk of abuse or accusations of transphobic bigotry. Or even being assaulted.” “The fear that persuades some people that they can’t say what they think about something, or even ask questions about it.” My emphasis- he has to be repetitive, churning out so much drivel.

He’s not very bright, Kirkup. He was writing about David Lewis, who was suspended from the Labour Party so that he would be unable to stand for the post of Women’s Officer, which is open only to women. He quoted the words which show that Lewis is not trans, from his own mouth. “My womanness is expressed by my saying ‘I self identify as a woman’ now and again on Wednesdays. I make no changes in my behaviour or my appearance… I enjoy the full womanness of my beard.” That would make him non-binary, and so ineligible for the post of women’s officer. But even if Lewis never admitted to being a man, what he says there is unbelievable. It is internally contradictory, one of the grounds for disbelieving a person. “My priority is to inform the CLP… about what happens when you say that someone’s gender depends only on what they say and nothing else.” That’s ironic. He is clearly masculine, from “only what he says and nothing else”.

He wants to argue that the policy is unworkable. It is easily summarised: trans women are women. Lewis is not a trans woman, he is not even claiming to be a trans woman, a claim which would be clearly false from the things he is quoted as saying. The policy says, The Labour Party’s All Women Shortlists are open to all women, including self-identifying trans women. Similarly, women’s officers and minimum quotas for women in the Labour Party are open to all women, including self-identifying trans women.

You are a trans woman before you transition. A trans woman who is unwilling to express herself feminine, in women’s clothes and hairstyle, is not going to have the confidence to stand as a women’s officer or even a delegate, and unlikely to be elected if she does, so there is no problem. And people standing for those roles with the intention of bringing the Labour Party and its policies into disrepute, like David Lewis, will be easily marked by what they say.

Kirkup is a transphobe. Consider his descriptions of trans women: an “angry mob” of “violent misogynists” “silencing lesbians”, and that’s just his headlines. He seeks to foment fear of us. “Would the safety of women’s spaces be compromised if anyone could gain the legal right to enter them simply by saying the words ‘I am a woman’?” No-one is proposing that but Kirkup himself, going beyond wilful misunderstanding to lies, intended to arouse anger.

Kirkup’s aim is to foment discord within the Labour Party. That’s what the Spectator does: encourage the extreme right by printing Breitbart writers, put ludicrous arguments for hard right positions- abortion is the killing of a human being, forsooth- and try to set lefties against each other. Normally it fails in the last aim, because people on the Left can see through it. Melanie Phillips wrote in the magazine, rather than the blog- you have to register to see this quote- “Gender is not a social construct but a biological fact. Gender derives from a complex relationship between biological sex and behaviour. And nature and nurture are not easily separable.” That’s their position on gender- it is immutable. “From divorce and lone parenthood to gay marriage what was once regarded as a source of disadvantage or category error has been transformed into a human right.”

Gender critical feminists are on the Left. So are trans women, mostly, if we are at all involved in activism. The Left has to sort this out. The authoritarian Right is not our friend.

For some sanity on abortion, today of all days, here’s the Irish Times.

Reporting on trans

There you are on Sunday morning, a bit hung over, slumped in front of the telly, and The Sunday Politics starts reporting about trans people. The link is live until 16 April, the report starts at 28.30.

The host, Sarah Smith, starts by telling us that the Government had backed calls to simplify the gender recognition process, but the consultation has been delayed. Then there is a film, which starts promisingly with Heather Peto, who wants to be one of the first trans MPs. “I’ve always been a woman,” she says. The best candidates will always get through, so trans women on all women shortlists (AWS) is not an issue. The anti-trans lobby make it an issue.

The reporter says Labour has always welcomed trans women, self-identified, on AWS, but this is recently under attack. “Enter the self-described radical feminists.” I like the parallel, though I accept their self-identification, as a return to the theoretical roots of feminism has value and meaning.

Venice Allen, self-publicist, says she has tried to meet Jeremy Corbyn about this. She refers to “trans-identifying men” and calls Heather Peto “he”.

Reporter- Labour delayed announcing its position on AWS after being told that over two hundred female members would resign. There’s a clip from Theresa May speaking at the Pink News awards, promising to update the Gender Recognition Act by no longer requiring a medical diagnosis. Trans “is not an illness and should not be treated as such”. But that was in October, and we still don’t have the consultation. The Governement told the programme that “the consultation will be published in due course”- sometime, never.

James Kirkup of the Spectator is next, a hard right ideologue calling himself a “journalist”, hating diversity and the Labour Party. He says, I am a journalist, I know politicians who have questions about this, who have doubts about this, who don’t dare express those doubts, raise those messages, because they are worried that if they do they will be screamed at they will be accused of bigotry, transphobia, simply for asking questions. The vicious, powerful trans lobby is a Threat! How, James?

There are questions about access to safe spaces for women, domestic violence refuges, there are questions about the collection and collation of statistics on crime, on pay, there are questions that should be asked, debated, discussed and answered. No, there aren’t. Rape Crisis supports trans inclusion, and a few thousand people will not meaningfully affect statistics. On pay, we get paid less than other women.

Heather gets the last word: I have the self confidence that I am a woman and always have been and people should just accept me for that. Fair enough- but it’s two strongly anti-trans campaigners, and one trans woman to answer them.

Back to the studio. Sarah Smith says it seems the Labour Party’s got itself in a terrible tangle here.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, former adviser to Jeremy Corbyn, says it’s just seeking a form of words that trans women are eligible for AWS. He’s minimising the problem in the Labour party.

Isabel Oakeshott, Tory journalist, says there are probably less than five trans women applying to AWS. It must be difficult to be trans, she would not disparage that, but so much energy should not be going into the debate. Then the kick at Labour- “It would be simpler not to have AWS and select the candidates who are the best for the job”. Do we really need to explain why AWS are necessary? Women don’t come forward, all people favour less capable men.

Lucy Fisher of the Times, who has published articles fomenting the dispute, says Labour jumped the gun by accepting trans women on AWS and as women’s officers. The radical feminists are asking to be heard.

Oakeshott: It is more complex and sensitive than gay marriage. It is so easy to get the language wrong. There will be many people against self-ID in the Tory party.

Zarb-Cousin says 2-3000 women resigning- I hope he’s out by a factor of ten- would be a rounding error.

Oakeshott says the process of gender recognition can be streamlined, as was done in Ireland, Malta, Argentina and Columbia. So, surprisingly, the Tory is neutral to in favour of us, the Labour commentator is minimising the issue, and there were three people strongly against.

Has the hung-over viewer who does not know or care about trans learned anything? That there is a dispute about all-women shortlists, and that some people are angrily against trans people. They have heard a trans woman talk about always having been a woman, and three others alleging there are serious problems, including with angry trans activists and women’s safety. The BBC gives these people a voice, and we are painted as violent and dangerous. Our vulnerability is slightly greater after the report than before.

On Thursday, The Today Programme weighed in. It likes to have strongly opposed views, combatively expressed. The link is live until 19 April, and the report starts at 2.38.40. Emily Brothers, Labour’s first openly trans candidate, came over as reasonable, defending the status quo, which Lucy Masood of the Fire Brigades Union attacked. She had far more of the time, and mocked and denigrated trans women. Opening up shortlists to men simply because they feel like women whether or not they have had a sex change or not would be a huge step backmen will wake up one day and declare I am a woman… women are threatened and attacked…

As Emily said, that is ridiculous and transphobic, but the more people get the chance to say that, the more they will grab the chance to be nasty to us.

Cui bono?

At the tender age of twelve, I was a Thatcherite.

Is fracking for shale gas dangerous? The Spectator says not.

Fracking is not a pretty process: it involves drilling a large well and then pumping large quantities of water and sand down it in order to fracture the appropriate strata of rock. Once the rock is fractured, gas can seep into the well and be forced to the surface. But it isn’t anything like as hazardous as environmentalists — in a repeat of the fantasy and exaggeration which characterised the campaign against GM foods a decade ago — like to claim.

What about cost?

kilo­watt for kilowatt, energy generated from shale gas emits only half as much carbon as coal — the energy source which it is already beginning to replace in many American states. It is estimated that $4 spent on shale delivers the same energy as $25 spent on oil

So why do environmentalists oppose it? Because they are hysterical liars and puritans who want everyone to suffer:

The energy-scarce world of their dreams has been put off for a couple of centuries at least; instead we are staring at a future of potential energy abundance.

OK. Turn to Potomac Upstream, a blog I rather like. Here I find fracking described as the end of our World. So I asked her for sources, and she referred me to Salon. What do they say about the dangers?

In every fracking state but New York, where a moratorium against the process has been in effect since 2010, the gas industry has contaminated ground water, sickened people, poisoned livestock and killed wildlife.

And on cost of production, it refers to Wikipedia, which, citing the New York Times, states:

The degree to which production is economically viable remains uncertain as only high prices resulting from high demand can support the increased cost of production

What particularly irks me about this is the statements of fact. I have a degree, and the ability to understand complex concepts, even research them a little, but my specialism is restricted, and I cannot find for myself what is the cost or carbon footprint of fracking. These two sources tell me opposed things. Even if there are statistics which each can rely on, one at least is not telling the whole truth.

I love the Spectator’s slogan “Don’t think alike”. However, it seems to be strongly in favour of regimented thinking. At the tender age of 12, in a strongly Tory household, I was a Thatcherite, and reading the Spectator recently has caused my final break with the Conservative party. I could not bring myself to vote for my current MP.

I want to read to know about the World, not to reinforce my current prejudices, or get an emotional kick from anger at lying environmentalists or lying corporations. People need jobs. I get that. And NIMBY is not a good argument, so people may pretend to more general environmental concerns. But when I ask Who benefits? I think the corporations have a greater interest in distorting truth than the campaigners. I dislike not knowing, but need to admit when I actually do not know.

Helpful suggestions

How can we deal with the financial crisis at a time of low growth?

What is happening is the withdrawal of democracy. Mario Monti, new prime minister of Italy, is appointed, not elected: he is not a member of Parliament. Lucas Papademos is a former banker and academic, also unelected, whose rise to be father of the people began with Mr Papandreou’s suggestion of a referendum, which could not be allowed. Could it happen in this democracy? Lord Salisbury was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1903. That is recent enough. Yes it could.

The Spectator had some suggestions: cut taxes on the wealthiest, cut welfare benefits, cut the minimum wage, get rid of the right to contest unfair dismissal in an employment tribunal. The Government has only been talking of limiting it. Well, what do you expect of the Spectator? I am far more concerned by people I expected to be bleeding heart liberals. I quoted from the test for “Employment and Support Allowance”, which is the benefit one must apply for if unfit for work. I think that lots of people who are unfit for work will be refused that benefit, because the test is far too restrictive, and in support of this quoted

Because of a specific mental illness or disablement, frequently cannot, due to impaired mental function, reliably initiate or complete at least 2 personal actions (which means planning, organisation, problem solving, prioritising or switching tasks).

I thought that made anyone unfit for work by itself, but it only scores six points, and you need fifteen points to get the benefit. And my friend asked, who decides? His concern is that points will be awarded incorrectly. I said that to get points, you need medical evidence that you cannot control such behaviour, because of a medical condition. He was unmoved.

I met a survivalist at a shotgun club (shooting at targets, not birds) in Aberdeen in the 1980s, and thought him an idiot, but recently I have come across two men with such concerns. First the global economy, then society, will break down, they think.

I remain sceptical of all the 2012 as a Spiritual Watershed hype. It will happen if we human beings make it happen. And so I recommend the Golden Light Project starting on 19 December.

Men kissing

I love the art gallery in Oldham. I know the Turbine Hall, say, is a wonderful space, and they do good stuff in it, but I used to love when walking along Union St looking up at that third floor gallery, north and south walls all glass. The twenty-foot steel dandelion seeds in particular were visible from the street. There has been an art gallery over the library for decades. They get out their Turner and their Gainsborough occasionally or their collection of Chartist or Suffragette memorabilia and show impressive and beautiful touring exhibitions, and there was a large expansion in the 1990s.

When the BNP were doing their worst in Oldham, seeking to foment support by building suspicion and self-pity and resentment (they never got a single councillor) and people expressed to me their misery and anger- “They come here and They get everything and we get nothing”- the Gallery helped sustain my hope. The one single art work which did this more than any other was a picture of two men kissing, and as I looked at this celebration I felt my own queerness might have a place in the World.

Peregrine Worsthorne writes in the Spectator that gay men kissing in public inspire revulsion, and that gay sex scenes in books might provoke a straight backlash. So I asked some straight friends, who agreed that a hetero couple making out can provoke irritation or disapproval too- Get a Room! He thinks that the kissing couple would be assaulted, were it not for “politically correct culture imposed from above”, and I think they are protected from assault by basic English courtesy and decency, as the different-sex couple are. If you want to see a British way of treating a gay couple, watch The Great British Bakeoff.