Agony Aunt

Help! My husband is going to become transsexual! Agony aunts Philippa Perry and Clare Flourish are here to help.

Alice, not her real name, wrote to The Observer about her husband whom I’ll call Andrea, not a name Alice would use. Andrea is about to transition M-F. Their marriage has declined for some time: now they live in different areas of the house and share nothing personal. Alice writes “He has a fervent wish to transition into a woman,” calling it a desire rather than a state of being.

Alice: “I find this a little difficult”. Um. “Little” in this context means, she cannot bear to admit even to herself how repellent she finds this. She considers it a betrayal. Andrea is no sort of husband or partner, but Alice nevertheless clings to the appearance of being married. People are horribly self-deluding: her acquaintances probably know the truth that she is effectively separated.

Alice writes that men cannot become women through surgery. But seeing it only as surgery is reductive. We change our way of speaking, moving, being in the world, relating to others. If she could bring herself to sympathise, Alice might find she gained a friend, which would be better than someone who shares some chores.

Alice thinks “men in this situation” are ridiculed. Well, yes. Some people ridicule us, for example, by referring to us as men rather than that particular type of human, trans woman. It’s as if their definition of reality, under which we are ridiculous simply for being trans, trumps actual reality where we transition and make a go of life, finding the people who love and accept us, escaping the horror of pretending to be what we are not, and realising something beautiful and new. Alice calls transition “defying nature”. What medicine does not “defy nature”? Unless humans are part of nature, and all that we do- gay sex, war- is profoundly natural.

Alice fears for Andrea, she says. Will Andrea be happier? Alice thinks this is impossible. I think it likely. Andrea too is in a house share where she does not want to tell her housemate of her mother’s birthday party.

Alice writes “the lack of a willy won’t change my life very much,” and that’s sad. Philippa tells her to think of herself. Her fears are for herself, not her housemate. Why should Alice, in her fifties, not imagine her future could “include love, companionship, sex and fun” and shape it so it does? Well, being in my fifties I dare to hope that is possible, even for this trans woman.

Alice’s self-delusion is terrifying. She pretends to herself she cares about her husband, when her reality is fury and blaming. This manifests in a rigid denial of the reality that even in this feverish culture war trans people live good lives transitioned. She may join the “trans widows”, revelling in their obsessive hate. I hope she finds a better way.

Sonia Sodha and the Labour Women’s Declaration

Keir Starmer is clear on trans rights. He says, “Trans women are women”. Sonia Sodha is an anti-trans campaigner, who seeks to foment fear about trans people, particularly trans women, and trans rights. So, what did she say in the Guardian this time?

Sodha’s aim is to paint trans exclusion as sweet reason. She starts with scaremongering: anti-trans campaigners felt unsafe, she says, and had to hire security. Then she introduces a hate group: The Labour Women’s Declaration.

They are a hate group because they campaign against trans rights and spread fear and misinformation about trans people. Sodha repeats that misinformation here.

Sodha claims their “belief” is unobjectionable, even rational: that “biological sex cannot be replaced with self-declared gender identity”. Nobody wants biological sex to be replaced. Most women have XX chromosomes and female reproductive systems. We only want people to recognise that trans women exist: that a tiny vulnerable minority, who do not have female reproductive systems, believe we are women or desire to express ourselves as women. We are women: that is the clear definition of the word.

We are happier, and enabled to contribute to society, if we can be accepted and treated as women. The Equality Act recognises this and allows us to use women’s services unless there are exceptional circumstances. We are allowed in from the moment we decide we will transition, if we present in our true sex.

Sodha claims the LWD position is “essentially where current law stands”. This is false, taken with her statement that women have the right to “single-sex” spaces, which she interprets as excluding all trans women. She wants trans women consigned to “gender neutral services” which often do not exist. Why should I use a toilet designed for disabled people?

Sodha demands total exclusion of trans women from women’s services, and for us to be placed in gender-neutral services we do not want. She calls this extreme position, contrary to the Equality Act, a “dignified and respectful compromise”. She cares nothing for the dignity of trans people.

Sodha implies that schools tell children they are trans, when the desire to transition comes from the child. Children have to show incredible strength of character, and usually have loving supportive parents, before they can transition, leave alone receive medical treatment. Of children discharged from the Gender Identity Development Service in 2019/20, around 250 of them had been referred to an endocrinologist for puberty blockers, perhaps half that were approved for cross-sex hormones. That’s out of eleven million children in Britain. Yet she claims this medical treatment is a threat to children, and implies that far more get it than actually do. Trans people who received this treatment as children report they live happier, healthier lives.

Sodha lists the ways people associated with the LWD have been treated by the Labour Party. She says Keir Starmer has had meetings with them, but not done what they demanded. She does not say why, she just says he has “failed to address” LWD concerns. The Labour Party refused the LWD a conference stall. In candidate selection, people have been asked to justify their views. A councillor has been disciplined for abstaining on a motion. A woman I admire has had her membership application rejected. Sodha says Unions also object to LWD associates.

The Labour Party is a democratic, decentralised party. This indicates that Party members at all levels object to the LWD and their views. The party is governed by rules: this shows that people disciplined by the party have broken those rules. Sodha has not investigated, or given the party members who made those decisions a chance to respond, she has just asserted that all levels of the Labour party and Union movement from the leader down have mistreated people associated with LWD. Then she says the SNP support increasing trans rights. Does she deny Nicola Sturgeon is a feminist? Does she accept that the SNP is a worthwhile party for feminists to join? More than half the SNP’s MSPs, and more than a third of its MPs, are women. Would they support a policy which hurts women’s rights in any way? Some of them oppose SNP policy, but only a tiny minority.

Sodha says this means “gender critical women” are “not welcome” in the Labour party. That’s ridiculous. Nobody accepts the whole platform of a party. We support it because we prefer it to the alternatives. “Gender-critical” people are welcome to their beliefs, but are not permitted to take action against the party, or unlawfully harass or discriminate against trans people.

The Guardian should publish a correction to the misinformation Sodha shares. However the next week the Observer letters headline was, “toxic trans debate is making me afraid”: the writer was not a trans women victim of the Observer, but a hater, objecting to being called transphobic. I don’t want her to be afraid, but her fear does not mean she is right.

Dobbs v Womens Health, and trans

The US Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to an abortion, which was based on the right to privacy. This may affect the right to contraception or to gay marriage, or even gay sex. As Kagan, Breyer and Sotomayor said, “Today, the proclivities [inclinations] of individuals rule. The Court departs from its obligation to faithfully and impartially apply the law. We dissent.” It is a dark day for women’s rights, and so a dark day for human rights.

But that has nothing to do with trans, surely?

The anti-trans campaigners disagree. Libby Purves in The Times said that 19th century prostitutes had “a degree of generally understood protection” because “their physical difference”- the unthinking belief that having a womb made you a woman, having testicles made you a man- had “value and vulnerability”. Prostitutes, protected? She’s delusional.

The protection those women had “has almost vanished now” except in fundamentalist Islam, which veils women but, for Purves, believes “women” have female biology. Words like “menstruators” (including trans men and AFAB nonbinary people) “can erase the idea of womanhood”. Compassion pretended for trans people or for embryos, as if Libby could not distinguish the different groups who feel such compassion, ends women’s rights, she says.

She claims trans activists say there are 130 genders. Well, gender is imprecise, varying and unclassifiable. Facebook had 58 genders but only three pronouns. Women’s Health magazine has sixteen different terms for gender identity: not different named genders, but different ways of conceptualising gender. I don’t agree with all of it, but it’s not bad. Times writers just make stuff up.

Here’s the article. Now, in a desperate search for subscribers, the Times is available for £12 for the first year. Rupert knows how little his foul propaganda is worth.

Camilla Long, also in The Times, repeated a lie that is so stale it is a cliché of disinformation- even if you are left-wing, don’t vote for the relatively left-wing party because they’re not for your interests really. If you believe in the right to abortion but also “believe in biological sex”, she said, “there is no one to vote for”. As if the rights of a few trans women should make cis women angry enough not to vote to preserve their right to bodily autonomy. This is a standard vote suppression tactic. I commented. One woman, frothing at the mouth about “autogynephilia” and trans women jerking themselves in loos, said she had only once seen a trans woman in a loo and, beyond being there, she saw her do nothing objectionable. Another said she had never met a single trans woman.

The choice is between giving what Libby Purves calls a tiny minority an even break, and getting bodily autonomy for all fertile women. Long would have people surrender the right to a medical termination in order to spite trans people.

Sonia Sodha in the Guardian also wanted to connect Dobbs v Women’s Health to trans. She wrote the abortion article everyone could- poor people, the victims of violent men, indeed any woman might need an abortion, etc. Then she starts on trans: “women” is an offensive word, she says. This is probably an attack on inclusive language for trans men and nonbinary people, but Sodha is too incoherent for us to be sure.

Women are a sex class she says, who need “sex-based rights” in the words of the headline. It’s an anti-trans dogwhistle. Women need women’s rights, and every good-hearted man should support abortion rights, even if he thinks no woman he knows might ever need one, because it is the decent thing to do. But Sodha brings in sex v gender, creating the division she claims to oppose.

Sonia Sodha

Sonia Sodha of the Guardian understands online radicalisation and obsession. Why does she not see her own?

She had a rare sensible article in The Guardian on Sunday 6 February. She said that people talking nonsense double down when corrected. Myth-busting backfires because it reinforces myths. Tribal arguments where rhetorical flourish scores points does not produce understanding. Expressing reasonable-sounding doubts can persuade people of falsehood, where extremist ranting and raving fails. Mocking the extremists makes less extreme doubters feel mocked and sneered at. It is not true to imagine that there are people persuaded on both sides, and a persuadable group in the middle: people might appear to be on one side or the other depending on how a debate is framed. Social media platforms make money out of hardening our views by making us angry, so good rational argument will not always win.

On 7 November 2021 she argued that social media narcissists for social justice might make less right-on users feel guilty, rather than build alliances. So we move to extremism, only listening to those closest to us in view. The morally certain dehumanise those they disagree with.

All these are good points. I agree. So why does she not realise she is entrapped by the extremism she skewers here? Sodha is a militant anti-trans campaigner, insulated from rational argument by the same forces she explained.

On 2 January, she wrote an article supporting the chair of Laurence Fox’s “Reclaim Party”. The Macpherson report recommended investigation of “non-crime hate incidents” as a way of overcoming institutional racism, but Sodha objects because she opposes overcoming institutional transphobia. She claims single-sex spaces and sports, the “reasonable-sounding doubts” the anti-transers obsess over, could be “wholly replaced by gender identity”. She then repeats other extremists’ claims of martyrdom, already repeated endlessly.

On 6 June 2021 she used domestic violence statistics- one in three women experience domestic violence, a woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every four days, seven in ten women are sexually harassed in public spaces- to demand trans women were excluded from women’s services. Trans women are victims too, and excluding trans women will not protect from violent men. Just as, the effects of covid are far more damaging than any side-effects of vaccines. But Sodha is blind to her own extremism, and all the arguments she makes for listening, explaining carefully, and about the risks of echo-chambers are forgotten.

Sodha alleges Stonewall campaigns “to abolish legal provisions for single-sex spaces”. She puts her argument in the most extreme form imaginable. Of course Stonewall do not campaign to abolish single-sex spaces, only to tolerate and accept trans women, a tiny minority. Sodha claims accepting trans women means believing womanhood is “solely based on a feeling”. That trivialises trans people’s experience, and ignores that in a trans-inclusive society the overwhelming majority of women are cis.

The EHRC is a transphobic front organisation for the Conservative Party after politicised appointments to its board. It now downplays racism in the UK. But Sodha’s fingerprints are on this Observer editorial of 30 January. As Nicola Sturgeon says, gender recognition reform does not affect single-sex spaces, but the editorial echoes uncritically the EHRC claim that it does, and even claims the new leadership of the EHRC has made it fair and impartial.

Even the New Statesman has published an article on how the single-minded obsession of the anti-trans campaigners makes them ignore any other feminist issue. It quotes some of the abuse a trans-inclusive feminist suffers. Anti-trans campaigners memorise arcane details about trans women in women’s prisons, many of them inaccurate, but ignore the problems of women prisoners completely. Meanwhile Sodha is aware of the dangers of all internet extremism except her own.

6 March: Sodha disfigured a derivative but otherwise unobjectionable article about male violence against women by referring to “single-sex” prisons, hospital wards and domestic violence shelters (which do not exclude sons). She will take any chance for a sly sideswipe against trans women.

29 May: Sodha wrote an article on Allison Bailey’s vile tweet attacking Stonewall and its employee Morgan Page as coaching trans women (“heterosexual males who identify as lesbians”) to “coerce” lesbians into sex. Morgan Page was involved in the unfortunately named “cotton ceiling” seminar. Sodha used the article to claim trans women are male as if gender does not matter, and that there is gender ideology saying gender is more important than sex, rather than gender-critical ideology claiming transgender does not exist. She also claimed that gay children are having trans identities “foisted on” them, as if anyone who is homophobic is not also transphobic.

26 June: Sodha excelled herself: the overturn of Roe v Wade is trans people’s fault. “Women are a sex-based class,” she thundered, but “women” is called an offensive word. The headline called abortion a “sex-based right”.

2 October: Sodha wrote an attack on the Labour Party and its support for trans rights. Here is a refutation.

Jess de Wahls

Jess de Wahls’ patches are no longer stocked by the Royal Academy shop, because of complaints about her transphobia. In 2019 she wrote in a 5000 word transphobic essay that she had no problem with trans women expressing female, but objected to our assertions that we are women or entitled to women’s rights.

She is an artist, born in East Berlin in 1983. Once, she ran a vagina sewing workshop at Tate Modern. In 2019 after her transphobic essay she lost her job dressing hair at the Soho Theatre. An exhibition in Australia was cancelled. And now she has lost some work for the Royal Academy.

On twitter and even The Times, she is incited to sue the Royal Academy for Beliefs discrimination. Well, the RA was not providing her with a service, or employing her: only buying some stuff she made or designed. That is not subject to the Equality Act. The Times should employ fact checkers. On twitter, random people who have never willingly entered an art gallery are incited to complain to the RA. So then it becomes a poll: are there more transphobe bots to attack the RA than trans allies to support it?

That transphobic essay is no longer on line. Who knows what was in it. It could have been as vile as JK Rowling’s. Why now? An artist, not of Tracey Emin or even Charlotte Prodger levels of fame but whose art has won her a platform, loses an income stream, and Janice Turner of The Times writes a broadside. It’s the usual propaganda. Transphobe’s virtues include “immense thought”, she’s “funny, outspoken… freethinking and bold”. Trans allies are “merciless”, or envious.

I am trying to think my way into it. I spend little time in art gallery shops, hardly any in the gift section. How would I feel, seeing Jess de Wahls’ patches there, if I knew about her essay? Would it be yet another thing making the world a slightly less tolerant place, increasing my fear?

I hope not. Tate, RA, National Gallery are safe spaces for me, where most people are tourists or nice, middle-class types who like Art or feel they ought to, and are not going to be overtly hostile to a trans stranger. There is less chance of someone shouting out “It’s a fucking bloke” in the Bridgewater Hall than on Princess Street. (Why pick there? Because that experience lives with me twenty years later.)

If I recognised the patches and knew who Jess de Wahl was, at worst they would be a symbol of the pervasive anti-trans hate in the world. A stack of The Times in a newsagent is a far more visceral symbol of that, but The Times, or JK Rowling, cannot be cancelled. I am desensitised to such symbols of transphobia in my world. Were I not, I might not go out at all. Just possibly, that Jess de Wahl patch would be a symbol of transphobia which would be the last straw.

The confected anger at this cancellation is terrifying me. I look at the Guardian Opinion section today, and Kenan Malik is on about culture war again. Free Speech!! He is mostly on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay which is the only thing on her site, which before was a normal author website. I don’t think Chimamanda is transphobic, even though she attacked a nonbinary writer. So on balance I count it a loss to cancel the patches. The hate explosion has affected far more trans people than the patches would have. Malik again frames this as “trans activists” rather than ordinary trans people against “feminists” rather than transphobes. As Janice Turner says, it could be envious embroiderers who want their work in the RA gallery shop instead.

I also agree with Janice Turner (though she claims she got this from Adichie) that calling out transphobia on twitter is an outlet for base feelings such as “amorphous rage”. The closest Adichie gets to this thought is “the delusion that malice and opportunism is principled feminism”. Of course, transphobia is also an outlet for rage- punching down at a safe target, rather than responding to your real oppressors. I hate twitter wars so much I almost hate the rage and self-righteousness of trans people and allies as much as that of the transphobes.

Completely abandoning fact for propaganda, The Times reported that a transphobe had “called for” the EHRC to “launch an inquiry” into the RA. It did not bother to check whether Equality legislation applies to a shop stocking goods. The hate raced through Radio 4 and The Telegraph.

23 June. Coming back to this, I can’t see a clear ethical position I can commit to. One part of me says, Rupert Murdoch must not be able to prevent action for trans rights. That The Times will hate every action to support trans people, and create a controversy, which the BBC will take up, is not a reason for not supporting trans people. Then, is it supporting trans people to discontinue that product line? What should de Wahls’ essay be compared to- an essay supporting white supremacy fits. Like a white supremacist, she is saying that other people are less important than her and people her readers should care about, and a danger to vulnerable people.

Excluding her embroidered patches from the shop is equivalent to complete ostracism. Would you have nothing whatever to do with a white supremacist?

Should a white supremacist working in, say, the production of embroidered patches, have them discontinued, judged on the morals of the producer rather than the quality of the product? Should the producer lose income because of their vile opinions? The RA have shown Caravaggio’s work- but Caravaggio will never kill another man again, whatever the RA do.

People campaign, march and demonstrate for white supremacy. Should our disapproval of such campaigns only run to arguing when they state their views? Or, worse, only when they assault a minority ethnic person? What is worse, trying to bar one trans woman from one changing room, or trying to ban us all, for ever? Does the effectiveness of the attempt make a difference?

And yet- I was cooking yesterday, with the radio on, and suddenly there’s Jess de Wahls interviewed by a friendly interviewer. If there had not been objection to her patches, almost no-one would have heard of her. Her transphobic essay had been taken down.

11.30am: The Royal Academy has apologised to de Wahls, and is in talks on stocking her patches. Yesterday the Times reported on the “fear” she suffered after the discontinuance- my fear delights them, and there will be no reports on that. Google “Royal Academy” and the first thing you see is their site. The next is “Top Stories”, all about de Wahls as victim, martyr, persecuted by trans activists.

Here is the RA press release. It refers to free speech and free thinking. Yes, art has to be about free expression. What about antisemitic art and speech? What would it think of that? De Wahl’s long blog post is back online. It attempts to create fear, anger and derision at trans people.

Transphobic and trans-friendly news reporting

It can be good to read an obsessively transphobic publication, because they print good news about trans. The Times reported that the French Rugby Federation would allow trans women to play in women’s teams, based on T levels alone, a day before The Independent reported it, because they are obsessed with trans and on the lookout for anything that can be twisted to make trans look bad. Hooray!

A paper is entitled to provide context, but all the context here is slanted against trans women. So we read that World Rugby recommended trans women couldn’t, and that it would be unfair on cis women, who they called “women”. The RFU said trans women taller than 5’7” would be assessed individually so they were not a “risk”. Safety, fairness, risk, stated and repeated. No comments praising the FFR.

The Guardian reported that the UK government was going to host a global conference on LGBTQ+ rights. Its reporting was clear, newsworthy and trans friendly. The government had made pledges to the Equal Rights Coalition. Nick Herbert, formerly a gay Tory MP, now a lord and outspoken trans ally, will chair it.

Again good news. But the context, here, is relevant to LGBT rights, the subject of the conference, rather than transphobe assertions. ILGA says there is an increase in HoBiT and political repression, and a standstill on policy progress. The Tories’ policies on voter suppression, demanding photo ID, would disproportionately affect trans people. Stonewall criticised the government for failing to act on gender recognition.

Author Amelia Abraham’s comments are quoted, saying the consultation on conversion therapy was ridiculous- ban it, already. The failure to reform gender recognition was a slap in the face.

Here we have a clear, useful summary of why the British Government is a transphobic load of haters, and I am delighted. And even the Times report has to tell us the good news, in order to repeat its transphobic drivel yet again.

The Guardian also had a useful article on how much campaigning against “the woke left” is against trans rights. Zoe Williams says Labour should oppose social conservatism, and say why. The “Campaign for Common Sense” picked on eight items on the “Woke agenda”, and three were trans related: inclusive language for trans men, trans women existing, and medical treatment for trans children. To see the rest of the list, and the transphobic way they expressed it, see the article.

My trans friend thought a transphobic Guardian editorial two years ago, saying the trans excluders had a point and should be heard, was a declaration of their policy. I hope they are moving away from their earlier transphobia.

Kenan Malik

“We need a political language that can both encompass the varied experiences of particular groups and imbue a sense of solidarity to struggles for social change.”

Kenan Malik’s aims are close to mine. Solidarity, change, equality, calling the oligarchs to account. We have different ways to get there, though. He talks of respect and tolerance. Tolerance is “the willingness to accept ideas or practices that we might despise or disagree with but recognise are important to others”. We tolerate ideas, such as, the way other people worship differently to us, or “possess beliefs contrary to the social consensus”. Respect is “regard for other people as human beings, as an acknowledgment that every individual possesses an equal standing in the moral community”. We respect human beings, though not necessarily their beliefs or acts.

He wants to “tolerate” the beliefs of football fans booing players who take the knee. I want them recognised as racists, and to face consequences: they could be identified from CCTV, and perhaps banned from matches. Racist chants and banana-throwing was typical abuse in football, so there needs to be strong action against racism in football now.

You might think banning spectators from matches too great a sanction. Nigel Farage wants racism normalised: he tweeted that BLM are a “Marxist mob” and got 20,000 likes. This is much like Mr Trump referring to Mr Biden’s prospective government as “Radical socialist Democrats”, as if wearing a mask led to corruption, authoritarianism and poverty.

Malik’s “social consensus” is a myth. I want the booing punished. Farage wants taking the knee expunged. People want to move the Overton Window to Right or Left, and already it allows strongly divergent views.

Malik’s view also denies the relevance of power. Most BLM protesters are lacking in power, though when people come together they are stronger. He quotes Bhikhu Parekh- “Since human beings are culturally embedded, equal respect for persons… entails respect for their cultures and ways of life”- only to dismiss that. He wants the “equal treatment of people” but tolerates “ideas” which militate against it. He writes,

We should respect trans women and men as individuals, acknowledge the ways in which they identify themselves, recognise the hostility they face, and defend their right to equal treatment. We should equally recognise that many feminists identify what it is to be a woman differently, and that their arguments are important to hear, rather than being summarily dismissed as “transphobic”, and the debate closed down. Being tolerant of disagreement is not the same as being tolerant of hatred.

This is not a matter of ideas, but of people’s lives. This is no ivory tower symposium on the precise nature of women, but a fight to exclude and monster us. Trans women have been in women’s spaces for decades, as the law has officially allowed since at least 2010, based on our own self-declaration. Trans excluders want us kicked out. So when a transphobe tweets “men are not women” it changes from being an obvious and unobjectionable statement into transphobic hate. Malik wrote about the tweet on his previous article asserting that transphobia was simply “ideas” to be tolerated.

The twitterer was what Malik called “feminist Meghan Murphy”. That is an assertion too: she is not acting in a feminist way when she tweets transphobia. It is quite as relevant to call her “cinema-goer Megan” or even “soi-disant ‘feminist’ Megn”. I want Meg to disappear. I am not using argument here. I am fighting for my life.

Then, Malik wrote,

If it is “hate speech” to question a particular definition of what it is to be a woman, or “bigoted” to express concern about non-natal women being allowed into female-only spaces, the very notion of public debate is transformed. There would seem to be little one could say on most difficult issues that could not also be construed as hatred.

The purpose is hatred. They so want to erase us that they deny us the language to describe ourselves: WPUK calls for exclusion of trans women, over and over again, without mentioning us. You can still talk about the current climate catastrophe, Brexit, any number of important political issues, and I have virulent hatred against the destroyers and deniers. I want them silenced and ostracised, though they continue in pomp, power and adulation. When deniers like Nigel Lawson get a hearing, they make the end of the biosphere more likely.

But for Malik, it’s just argument. He wails, “We live in a world, though, in which many insist that there can only be one way of interpreting contentious issues, whether racial justice or trans rights.”

Rude names, mockery and dismissal lead inexorably to violence against trans people. I wish it were only a matter of speech and argument. The Guardian does not treat transphobia with the hatred it deserves.

Suzanne Moore and Harry Styles

“I have left the Guardian. I will very much miss SOME of the people there. For now that’s all I can say.” So tweeted Suzanne Moore, a transphobe. Is Catherine Bennett considering her position there? “Gutted” tweeted Jess Phillips, who is not a transphobe.

This is a transphobia row. The Guardian welcomes transphobia, but also has articles standing up for trans rights. Moore published the names of employees of the Guardian who complained about her transphobia. Obsessive transphobes started abusing them.

In replies to Jess Phillips’ tweet, there is a lot of abuse. Some of it is from the Left, attacking her as a right-winger. Some of it is from transphobes, such as this from Loulabelle:

I don’t believe you. Prove it! Be brave and fight for women and little girls. We need more voices otherwise we won’t have any. Our speech, words, experience, rights will be gone. Then remember the part you played.

That would be heartrending, if it were related to reality. She imagines trans rights means the end of women’s rights. But some calls Phillips out on transphobia:

For someone who continually claims they are pro LGBT rights, why are you yet again, tweeting in support of a transphobe?

Then there are little squabbles about the different tweets. I wondered if Phillips could use them as a poll- count up the tweets and the Likes, and decide which side was stronger. Unfortunately, the replies seem mostly from phobes. Phobes are energised by such tweets. They get to shout their hatred. Trans people will be discouraged. It’s personal for us, our lives are afflicted by transphobia. We will retreat first. We need allies to stand up for us. And nuance is impossible in a tweet reply.

I would rather Moore had ceased her transphobia. She wrote other stuff as well. She never said anything original about trans rights, just repeating the same old boring lies arguing that trans rights in any way conflict with women’s rights. She can always go back to the Daily Mail, she never seemed uncomfortable there, writing for the “Femail” pages. The Daily Mail will allow her to write transphobia in every column if she likes.

Moore’s second-last article in The Guardian could be read as transphobic, but I read as confused. She tells her miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy stories, as these things should be generally known, not kept private and shameful. She writes,

It is not transphobic for women to name our experiences as females and mothers. To insist our bodies matter and our losses are real. It is a matter of life and death.

Well, I would not object- unless you name them specifically to score a transphobic point. Yet she also says, “Women and trans men have periods. Why not just say that?” Indeed. “Women and trans men” is one way of doing inclusive language, an alternative to “pregnant people” or “people with cervixes”. She seems to be expecting to be called transphobic, and railing against anyone calling anyone transphobic, and only being transphobic in that she is expecting people calling out transphobia to be completely unreasonable. Or, she is writing about something she does not understand.

Meanwhile Harry Styles wore a dress on the cover of Vogue, and the mad Right got angry.

There is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. In the west, the steady feminization of our men at the same time that Marxism is being taught to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men.

These right wing commentators seem to have an idea of a masculinity, proper to men, which can be taught, and can be subverted. All men must fit that narrow masculinity. Women must be feminine. But such masculinity is under threat, such that a singer on a magazine cover can damage it.

I love masculinity. I read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail yesterday, and it is beautifully masculine. Following the example of St Paul, Martin Luther King writes simply, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here”. He will stand up and oppose it. And I want men to be able to say, with Styles, that “real friendship stems from being vulnerable with someone”- being your true self, without masks, including the imposed mask of permitted masculinity. Meditation has helped him be more present. It changed his life, subtly. He wants to evolve, and finds the fearlessness (a good masculine quality) of David Bowie (in presenting nonbinary gender). Such fearlessness is anathema to the Right- fearless of its incomprehension, hatred and ridiculous rules- but Vogue’s male photographer observes of Styles, “It’s a good thing to be nice”. “He’s really in touch with his feminine side because it’s something natural,” says a friend.

Trans women are women. Harry Styles is a man. Ben Shapiro shows his ignorance on Twitter again, gets owned, and Vogue gets more publicity. Suzanne Moore gets into a nasty war with colleagues, loses her job, and all the transphobes erupt, whining and hating. We don’t fit gender roles, and we cope as best we may.

Catherine Bennett

What do you do when you like a transphobe?

Catherine Bennett, who writes in The Guardian, is a transphobe. Consider this article, which claims entirely reasonable women with reasonable concerns about men pretending to be trans- not about trans women at all- have sincere political meetings, and activists demonstrate outside. She wants the concept of transphobia limited to hate-crime. Trans people and “veteran campaigners for gay rights” support LGB All Liars and WPUK. Trans people campaigning against transphobia are “disturbingly undemocratic”.

The article is deliberate distortion, with half-truths used to pretend the reasonableness of transphobes, and ordinary trans women demonised.

Here’s another, in which the word “transphobe” is called bullying, an “imputation of backward irrationality”, “the progressive way of telling women to shut up”, and “hate speech”, and transphobes are called brave people who think, wonder or have reasonable concerns. Her article comparing trans activists to incel murderers I discussed here.

I have no wish to defend her, but as a lawyer come up with some semblance of a counter argument. She is proudly feminist, aware of male privilege and hostile to any sense of women being silenced. Her instincts are with other feminists. She sees WPUK campaigners as feminists- indeed, many of them have made names for themselves as campaigners on feminist issues- and stands with them. However, she sees trans women as men, and spreads the myth of predatory men patiently waiting on a change in the law to pretend to be trans in order to attack women.

I found three articles in four years. There may be more, and she may allude disparagingly to trans rights or trans people elsewhere, which my search has not picked up. I have no wish to go through her twitter for the last ten years. She is a committed transphobe, but not an obsessive one, thinking about nothing else. (20 September- here’s another. The transphobia is pungently expressed, and repetitive- reasonable women with reasonable concerns against vicious transactivists; misogyny should be a hate crime. Yawn.)

Then I read this. I like it. It is a strong attack on the Tories, who, having caused tens of thousands of extra deaths by their mismanagement, as if they did not have any conception of what good government could look like, now show little concern about the covid deaths. It is selective and unfair: she writes of the health secretary’s elation over horse racing: “wonderful news for our wonderful sport” (30 May, 215 more deaths). That sounds worse than it is: I knew he was MP for Newmarket, actually his constituency is West Sussex which includes that town, famous for horseracing, but checking this found he trained as a jockey.

She is not a writer to give a balanced, even handed account of anything. Her word “disgusting” of government attitudes brought me up short. I want balance, and I love her style. I thought of adjectives for it: “Attack dog”, “stormtrooper”- don’t compare her to an animal or a Nazi, but those had the right shocking level of bite. “Tribune”, perhaps, the fearless defender of the people. I think she is right about the government. So she marshalls facts against the Tories and expresses them acidly. She arranges them in a melodic way- she takes us through different emotions, so notes of sympathy and sadness make our righteous anger stronger. I noted a sign of lack of self-belief: “For once… I may have some vaguely relevant experience”. I read this as disparaging her own style, a sign of female lack of privilege, and feel sympathy.

I could be sad because she, with her writing, has made me sad, with tales of heartless Tories interspersed with stories of death, bereavement and loss. Or because of her self-deprecating line. I want to deny it, saying “That doesn’t matter. You’re brilliant.” I am a fan of her writing though I cannot imagine writing like she does. But really I am sad that one of the battles she fights is against people like me.

3 October 2021: the latest is a diatribe against David Lammy, who objected to anti-trans campaigners, then to police responses to the death of Sarah Everard. The subeditor gave the title “You can’t opt in and out of taking violence against women seriously”. That shows where the disagreement is. No, you can’t; but you can disagree that trans women and trans inclusion are not a particular threat to women. Lammy always takes violence against women seriously; but he does not think that trans inclusion is a threat to women, and Bennett cannot see that position as having value.

I have been sharing pictures of Athena, or Minerva. It is striking how few of them make her look like an actual goddess, with power:

Transphobia in the Guardian

The Guardian publishes articles by trans people and trans allies, and its news coverage still includes unchallenged transphobia. Some comment articles are repellently transphobic. I keep this post updated, with some of the most egregious examples.

On news articles, transphobic falsehoods are reported without challenge, though they are clearly untrue. Consider this transphobic headline:

Echoes of 1970 as row breaks out at celebration of feminist conference.
Anger as Oxford historian Selina Todd is forced to pull out of speaking at Ruskin anniversary conference.

The headline makes transphobe Todd’s expulsion the main issue. She is “forced to pull out”, and this provokes “anger”, presumably of transphobes and their dupes. The first eight paragraphs are about this “row” rather than any other issue, though Samira Ahmed’s equal pay claim is mentioned later.

This paragraph puts forward transphobic falsehoods: Woman’s Place UK is pushing for government ministers to consult more widely about changes to the Gender Recognition Act, which would allow people to legally self-identify as a man or a woman without medical approval. It rejects accusations that it is transphobic and trans-exclusionist. Its founders say it aims to “ensure that women’s voices are heard and our sex-based rights upheld”. However, critics say it is trying to limit the rights of trans people. “Would allow”- the WPUK false position is stated as fact, but the refutation, that WPUK limits our rights, is presented as opinion. Trans women self-declare now, and the Equality Act allows us in women’s spaces.

Todd’s false statement is quoted without qualification: Selina Todd supports the right of women and girls to same-sex spaces (such as refuges). This is enshrined in law. Her opponents believe the law should be changed. They aren’t willing to engage in respectful debate with those who disagree, preferring to silence feminists. This continues the self-deluding myth that the transphobes are martyrs.

Suzanne Moore’s comment article on 2 March 2020 repeated so many transphobic myths I cannot be bothered wading through them all. They include the idea that trans men do not use men’s spaces, trans children may revert and regret and be infertile, and “You either protect women’s rights as sex-based or you don’t protect them at all”- the idea that trans rights make feminism impossible. She says she has had death threats and rape threats, and been told to “Die in a ditch, terf”. I believe her. If you are tempted to abuse anti-trans campaigners in this way, don’t. You only make them more incorrigible. Trans women exist. We always have done. Meeting our needs does not harm other women. Moore’s article starts with a picture of a demonstration about Roman Polanski, a man who had sex with a thirteen year old, as if that was comparable to trans people.

Moore wrote again on 10 March. Not all of it was objectionable. But she ends, “Don’t tell me that my story and the stories of other women don’t matter”. Much of the article is about reproductive matters. No-one is saying reproduction does not matter. The question is, should trans women be kicked out of women’s spaces? Those arguing that we should be make monsters of us, saying we are dangerous, saying women should be frightened of us. Moore quotes Judith Butler: Gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself. Absolutely. But given that humans are trapped by gender, one way of escaping the trap is transition. More of Suzanne Moore’s transphobia. Moore left the Guardian.

It’s hard to complain against The Guardian, though not as hard as other papers. The Guardian reported scaremongering about the NHS child gender identity clinic.  Nick Connolly’s complaint was refused, as the article in question included a bland statement from the Gender Identity Development service at the end, saying they have done nothing wrong. But the headline- Politicised trans groups put children at risk, says expert– spreads fear of the mythical monster, the Trans Rights Activist, now threatening children. Consider the language: “experts were living in fear”, “trans political agenda”, “pressure… from highly politicised pro-trans groups”, “inability to stand up to pressure from trans lobbies”, “inadequate assessments”, “the mind that is free to think or ask difficult questions is treated as a real threat”, “fear of being accused of being bigoted and transphobic”, “parents all expressed alarm”, “fast-tracking children on to hormone blockers”. It foments fear against trans people and our medical treatment, portrayed at putting children at risk.

The Guardian printed the most transphobic article I have seen outside hard-right hate screeds. After a self-proclaimed incel murdered people in Toronto, Catharine Bennett wrote an article linking those murders, another spree killer with a “manifesto”, and the slogan “Die cis scum”. “Die cis scum” is meant to be shocking to cis people, but no-one wants to put it into practice and no-one has. She nevertheless liberally quoted threatening misogynist messages such as [select text to view] “you deserve to be raped”, “I want to murder a femoid” then claims trans people are threatening women. Bennett wrote in February 2020 saying WPUK are merely meeting to “share concerns”, but the trans rights pledge asking for Labour Party rules to be enforced is “disturbingly undemocratic”.

Kenan Malik regularly has columns arguing transphobia does not exist.

Here is the Guardian’s “transgender” page. Much of the news is about the threat of trans. Families divided as Tavistock court review goes ahead: though the article is mostly quotes from GIDS professionals, who say children are made aware of consequences, the first sentence nevertheless makes us think of a threat: “Puberty blockers carry risks and their long term effects are unknown”.

This is a letter which should not have been published, feeding transphobes’ sense of martyrdom and making unsubstantiated claims. The heading is “WPUK is not a ‘trans exclusionist hate group'”. So a blatant falsehood appears as a headline.

The Guardian prints brave trans allies, such as Owen Jones, who refers to the threats to trans rights often. For example, “Anti-trans zealots, history will judge you.” He argues anti-trans campaigners echo anti-gay campaigners. Zoe Williams has an excellent article- feminism should be on the side of compassion, and sideline those who can’t get beyond toilets. Feminism has far more important battles to fight. She says Labour is being split, and should come together on the side of trans rights.

The Guardian should stop printing articles quoting as if true transphobic claims, and articles suggesting trans people and transition are dangerous. It foments fear against us.

25 April 2020: Nick Cohen had a bitter tirade about free speech and prejudice, picking on some idiot who is antisemitic. Like him, I loathe antisemitism: “The far left and alt-right cannot put forward a conspiracy theory without hitting on Jews,” he writes. But, being the victim of prejudice, he should see it. I can’t think of a subject more saturated with dishonesty than freedom of speech… if a feminist academic is deemed transphobic and cannot talk in universities, there are precious few other venues open to her. “Deemed transphobic,” as if prejudice against Jews is everywhere, but against trans people nowhere. She can go to The Times, The Spectator, The Economist or The Guardian, which will give her a platform to shout hate as loud as she likes.

6 December: The Observer editorial on the Keira Bell case is as transphobic as the Times might print. “Any questioning of the gender-affirming model… is dismissed as transphobic.” This is the Threat of the Powerful Trans myth. In reality, haters screech incessantly against transition and trans people, and a few trans people and allies, hardly listened to by anyone, point out that trans exists. Even if a few trans people might go too far and suggest something is transphobic when it is not, no-one listens to them.

14 February 2021: Vile transphobic article by Sonia Sodha. She first points up a white Tory MP criticising BAME people for opposing Priti Patel’s and Kemi Badenoch’s racist policies, then goes on to discuss Alison Bailey, a transphobe behind LGB All Liars and an attack on Stonewall. Sodha claims that lesbians who believe that being a woman is “related to” biological sex “are facing persecution for their beliefs”. No, some lesbians are facing opposition for their transphobic acts, working to exclude trans women from women’s spaces or abusing trans women.

6 June 2021: Sonia Sodha again attacks trans rights. She spreads a transphobic myth, that abusive men pretend to be trans in order to attack cis women. Alas, they find far easier ways of attacking women. In the same paragraph she mentions a trans rapist, to raise guilt by association. She calls being trans a feeling, and therefore minimises it. “Women must be free to express the view”- as if that view was not expressed daily everywhere- “that it is risky” to allow trans women in women’s spaces- she calls us “men who identify as women”, as if being trans is just a whim, but it is our reality. Calling it “risky” justifies defensive action against us.

Then she casts Stonewall as an oppressor frightening women into silence. All of the article claims brave women are at risk, being oppressed by trans people and trans allies. Yet we face street violence and hatred.

27 June: The editorial is classic transphobia. It is couched as a defence of free speech, with no discussion of how any society must limit free speech, opposing incitement to fear or anger at vulnerable groups. Then it states there is a threat to [cis] women’s livelihoods and safety. It incites fear and anger at trans people and trans allies.

2 October: Cohen, again. This time he argues that people who say trans women are women are “opposed to the material reality of biological sex difference,” and therefore to Darwin’s theory of natural selection. He says female athletes who opposed trans inclusion were crying, anxiously, because they felt unsafe to “speak out”, but clearly does not care about trans women’s tears or anxiety.

3 October: the use of the murder of Sarah Everard to advocate for trans women’s exclusion from women’s spaces, and attack trans allies, is a new low. Excluding trans women will do nothing for cis women’s safety. The Guardian is as transphobic as the most right-wing hate sheet.

8 October: What news is worthy of reporting? A picture was shared on social media of someone with a placard saying Kathleen Stock should be sacked, and someone put posters up near her work. The Guardian reported a fairly ordinary statement from her university that they would defend academic freedom. That someone put up a few posters is not news. Many academics face well-organised and funded campaigns by the right wing press and “think tanks”. The Guardian reports anything to make trans people look bad.

The Guardian’s worst transphobes: dissecting the transphobia of Sonia Sodha, Catherine Bennett, Kenan Malik, Nick Cohen.