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.

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.

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 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 last month 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.

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: 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.

Maya Forstater

I have a philosophical belief that Maya Forstater is a transphobe. Her employment ceased because of her transphobia, and the Employment Tribunal has found against her enraged, entitled challenge to her dismissal. Like all “gender-critical” transphobes she thinks of herself as a martyr, but she was sacked, rightly, for being willing to humiliate and disregard others unfortunate enough to encounter her.

Forstater believes that no-one can change sex, and that trans women are men. The judge questioned what she thought of disorders of sexual development, and found she accepts they exist, but believes everyone, even those with such disorders, has one sex or the other (para 41). The judge questioned whether such a belief could be described as “scientific”, as she does, but decided that the belief was sufficiently coherent to qualify as a belief, even if it is wrong (para 83).

Forstater claimed (para 78) that her belief that trans women are men was important because it was necessary to support her sense of self. That is the transphobia. Rather than seeing a trans woman in women’s space and accepting that’s probably OK, lawful, and completely unthreatening to anyone, she starts to feel her sense of self threatened. She wants to object, and possibly she wants the trans woman excluded.

This is illustrated by her dispute with Gregor Murray, a non-binary person, who complained about her to the Scout Association. She had referred to them with the pronoun “he” in a tweet (paras 35 and 89). It is not clear from the judgment what happened before the complaint, but responding to the complaint she said, I reserve the right to use the pronouns “he” and “him” to refer to male people. While I may choose to use alternative pronouns as a courtesy, no one has the right to compel others to make statements they do not believe.

The judge decided, para 90, I conclude from this, and the totality of the evidence, that the Claimant is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.

This is the basis of his decision. Forstater is entitled to hold her belief, to state it, and even to act on the basis of it in many situations: not all harassment is unlawful. But she was claiming in tribunal that this was a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act, and that she had a right not to lose her job because of her belief. The judge has decided that her belief fits all the criteria for protected beliefs (para 50) except the last: it must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others. She might even have a claim of indirect discrimination- she asserted women are more likely to hold such beliefs, and that claim was not part of this preliminary hearing. There are other issues between the parties and the case may continue. The only decision is that her belief that trans women are men is not protected under the Equality Act.

She “believes” that she can call me a man and I have no right to object. If she had a right to act on that belief in all circumstances, my right to not be harassed would be worthless. The judge says (para 87) It is obvious how important being accorded their preferred pronouns and being able to describe their gender is to many trans people. Calling a trans woman a man is likely to be profoundly distressing. It may be unlawful harassment. Even paying due regard to the qualified right to freedom of expression, people cannot expect to be protected if their core belief involves violating others dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

I say if a trans woman is distressed by being called “he” she should grow a pair, or perhaps, “grow them back”. Some people will take any opportunity to distress you once they see they can do so that easily. Then again, perhaps I could distress Maya: I would look her in the eye and say, calmly, “I am a woman”; and her brain would explode as her “sense of self” disintegrated.

She stated there was an opposite belief which people held which she thought was wrong (para 5); Some people believe that everyone has an inner “gender”, which may be the same as or different to their sex at birth, and that gender effectively trumps sex, so that “trans men are men” and “trans women are women”. Typically such proponents believe that that “trans women are women” from the moment they identify as women (if not before). That’s not what I believe. I believe culture enforces gender roles and stereotypes from birth, and that because culture limits the way people who don’t fit those stereotypes can act, some people transition. It’s not necessary to believe anything to treat a trans woman with respect, and using the wrong pronouns deliberately can be harassment.

To me it is entirely reasonable not to renew someone’s contract because you reasonably fear she might harass, disrespect, or even distress a client. The Daily Mail exaggerated to the point of lying: Britons have no right to ask whether a transgender person is male or female, said their headline. Their first sentence was gibberish: A landmark ruling (No, an employment tribunal, not even an employment appeal tribunal) has found that there is no right to question whether a transgender person is a man or a woman. There is a right, it is just limited under certain circumstances, as your right to swing your fist ends in my personal space. You can assert I am a man, but there are situations when that is objectionable.

The Mail journalist, not understanding, even manages to say something Ms Forstater might find offensive: If the employment judge had sided with Miss Forstater, firms would have been barred from sacking staff if they expressed the belief that there are only two genders, even if some people found that offensive. The anti-trans campaigners have to educate even their allies on the difference between sex and gender.

The Telegraph got the law mostly right, but devoted paragraphs to expressing Ms Forstater’s anger and distress. So did the Guardian. That will give some readers the required dopamine hit of anger against trans people.

The Guardian quoted Index on Censorship, which supported Ms Forstater’s claim: From what I have read of [Forstater’s] writing, I cannot see that Maya has done anything wrong other than express an opinion that many feminists share – that there should be a public and open debate about the distinction between sex and gender. That is arguable. It points up how narrow the judgment is. It has not even decided that the termination was reasonable and lawful, only that her argument that it was unlawful because her belief was protected has failed. In the emotional atmosphere, few supporters of Forstater will see this nice distinction.

JK Rowling tweeted, Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?

That is the misunderstanding the phobes will push. Getting the truth out to barely interested parties will be difficult. Some, er, trans-critical-curious people may be radicalised by this lie. The row about Rowling being transphobic, now reported in the Guardian, only increases the exposure of Forstater. Whether Forstater had won or lost this case, the reporting would have been a disaster.

Here is the judgment.

The Centre for Global Development, the Respondent in Forstater’s claim, has made statements about the case.

15 November: the hearing begins.

18 December: CGD and CGDE pride themselves as workplaces that support and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in both policy and practice. We have always disputed the claimant’s allegations, and are grateful Judge Tayler has ruled in our favor regarding this particular matter. We look forward to continuing to make our case in the Tribunal as the Claimant’s employment status is considered next month.

Employment status affects what rights Forstater has and what action she might win in an employment tribunal. It’s the difference between a “contract of service” and a “contract for services”- it’s quite technical. CGD and CGDE maintain that Ms. Forstater does not have the necessary employment status to pursue these claims as she was an unpaid visiting fellow and occasional paid consultant.

3 January 2020. Another decision on protected beliefs: Casamitjana v The League against cruel sports. A short summary judgment found ethical veganism, which is not solely about eating but also about using animal products or products tested on animals. The LACS did not contest the point, and a short summary judgment was issued confirming ethical veganism is a protected belief. I could not find it today on BAILII or the Gov.UK ET decisions site.

Comment thread debate

Remainers are responsible for no-deal Brexit.

That argument surprised me. Could anyone believe that? It is put thus: Mrs May made a reasonable compromise deal on Leaving, but the Remainers in the House of Commons blocked it. They could have had a deal, but they sabotaged it, and no deal is the result.

Well. I disagree. I replied that Mogg’s European Research Group had sabotaged May’s hard-right, hard Leave deal, because their demands got continually more extreme. I wrote “Mogg’s little coterie” and that was his way in:

The key word in that quote is “little”. If you only read the Graun perspective on this you’d easily believe that the ERG consists of over 150 MPs. Must you be reminded that Labour who are much larger than the ERG rejected the deal just to score points and get rid of May.

It’s 55 subscribers to the ERG right now, plus one who resigned in April. More than enough to overcome May’s fragile majority.

There are always others to blame. I don’t know whether that commenter believes it, wants to put an alternative view for the joy of debate, or is a mere troll, but blaming and hating others seems the greatest harm of comment threads, even in the Guardian.

I wrote,

Nothing should be produced that is not recyclable, biodegradable or intended to be useful for a hundred years. As for experiences, what matters is relationships, which can be built in a walk in a local park, not needing a trip to another country. Wonder at the art of Egypt on the telly, not by going there. With Michael Leunig savour the “Joy of missing out”.

I was putting a position for the sake of argument. It is arguably an extreme one, hard to reach from where we are without great disruption, and without major corrections to inequality. But the criticism was poor:

-Out of curiosity: Do you have no idea what amount of pollution a steam- or internal combustion engine built 100 years ago cause? Or do you just not care? I replied that metal is recyclable. Someone said recyclable is too low a bar, we should reduce, or reuse, first.

Possibly there should be no motor vehicles other than public transport. It is not a fully reasoned argument, only a comment, which usually involves no original thought whatsoever.

I am pleased to get “Guardian Picks”, though. They get me attention, and often up votes.

Do people believe such Brexit arguments? I was not out demonstrating about the Parliamentary shutdown, though I thought of going- I needed to rest and do more self-accepting. Do we need anger and action, or more thought? Will Leavers and Remainers ever get over our Great Difference and enjoy each others’ gifts again?

Possibly I need righteous anger against Spaffer Johnson’s manoeuvrings, but only if I could do something about them, which is more than moping or commenting. I shared my friend’s story of the effects of pervasive racism and privilege, to increase awareness:

Three friends, young men, two Black and one white. They are out together having a great time when they see a white woman fall over in front of them. They want to help but the Black men hold back and the white man goes up to help, because the Black men fear the white woman will feel they are threatening and object, even be frightened and call out.

I know the Black men are wise to fear that and hold back, and a Black friend who told me of the incident knows it too; but how sad, that they should want to help a woman in need and feel unable to?

So I have shared it again. We need to be aware of these things.

And I liked the Brene Brown quote: “When someone spews something really hurtful don’t pick it up and hold it and rub it into your heart and snuggle with it and carry it around for a long time. Don’t even put energy into kicking it to the kerb. You’ve got to see it and step over it or go around it and keep on going.”

Wise advice. That’s not always my automatic reaction, but her naming the alternatives might help me see their stupidity. It helps to remember why I might “snuggle with” it- because it refreshes and tops up my introjects, which seem like reality and morality to me. See what is hurtful and damaging.

We ended the Queer Spirit festival with hundreds of us in a chain holding hands, singing

Dear friends, Queer friends
Let me tell you how I feel
You have given me such pleasure
I love you so.

Singing in the sunshine with smiles and human contact. Remember that. Hold on to it. Or dozens in a circle drumming and dozens more in the circle dancing, some of us naked. That joy. That connection. That sanity.

Hadley Freeman

Currently, anyone who wants to change gender needs to have lived in their chosen gender for two years and been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. If the changes go through, anyone will be able to declare they are a man or woman, regardless of whether they have made any actual changes to their lifestyle or body. This is known as “self-identification” … a lot of women have argued that predatory men could now come into female-only spaces unchallenged.

“A lot of women have argued.” That is like “People are saying”, the phrase Trump uses with his most outrageous lies. Possibly no-one will swallow it, and he will roll back from it. A journalist, even a columnist, ought to know the truth of the matter, which in this case is that self-ID will make no difference at all.

“A lot of women” claim that all trans women are “predatory men”. That does not make it true. Hadley Freeman’s article does not make it clear what she thinks, though men pretending to be trans women and dressing as women to get into women’s spaces are unlikely, as there are so many other easier options for predatory men. And men with beards pretending to “self-identify” enter women’s spaces only in diseased imaginations. Hadley Freeman praised the “feminists” who went to a men’s swimming session claiming to self-identify as men, but their stunt shows that self-id in law will make no difference. What matters is what people do.

So it seems that the “predatory men” Freeman fears are actually trans women, who are often terrified of being confronted. Before I went full time I had to investigate whether I could make a go of transition. That involved going out dressed female and using women’s facilities, before I made definitive changes to my lifestyle or body. I never asked permission of women as a class- I just did it, as other trans women always have. I had the support of women friends, then and now.

A feminist might argue that not asking women, just encroaching and presuming, was typical male behaviour. I don’t see an option. I was never challenged. I now feel that women learning to challenge encroachment is a good thing. Kasia Urbaniak, a former dominatrix interviewed in the Guardian, said women go speechless and self-conscious of how they are coming across, then acquiesce, shut down, minimise themselves and their concerns. Rather they should change the power dynamic by turning the attention back outwards, on the encroaching man. What are you doing here? What right do you think you have to come here? This involves breaking hardened social conventions where the “deck is stacked against her”- Patriarchy, in other words. Urbaniak observes men relaxing and deferring when they find she is the one with authority.

Justine Greening, then the Minister for Women and Equalities, announced a consultation on self-ID on 23 July, to be published “in the autumn”. Theresa May plugged it at the Pink News awards on 18 October. Since then a lot of women have argued that self-ID is the end of feminism and the ultimate triumph of Patriarchy. They seek to enflame hatred and fear against me, and people like me. When people pretend I am a threat, they licence themselves to attack me. I fear the Tory delay actively seeks to inflame tensions.

The refusal to make it clear whether the “predatory men” are men pretending to be trans women, or actual trans women, makes the anger and fear seem slightly more reasonable. It opens the door for hatred which can then be directed at us.

Freeman writes that “women and trans women” will have to work out a solution. Sometimes we will share space, sometimes not. This will be difficult, especially for my lot, if trans women in women’s space are the first lesson women have in confronting ~male~ encroachment. I went to see my friend Marysia, who pointed out a male among the females. She said it was malnourished and underdeveloped, and proposed a cull. It was a deer, she was working on the Balmoral estate, and still the story runs in my mind…

Loneliness, shyness, attention

In the world I have created for myself, I rarely have to suffer unwelcome attention. Like the child in sister’s underwear, certain s/he does not wish to be seen by others, in much of my life I do not want to be seen. I need to be able to bear being seen, to go out into the world, and want to understand why I crave attention and seek it out, yet hide away.

I seek attention. I stand before forty people at the HAI weekend and tell a story. I get a few laughs and applause at the end. I know some people are afraid of public speaking, but don’t get why. There can be a difficult audience, but generally people are wanting you to succeed, paying you all their attention, the room is focussed on you. I love it. And blogging, I like attention. On Friday 193 people from 27 countries on six continents looked at my blog, and that pleases me. One from Uganda has made twelve page-views on Saturday, showing sustained interest. It’s probably the same person as the four page views from there the day before. Likes, even follows, are cheap and attention seeking- I’ve looked at you, look at me.

Attention in real life is reciprocal. We need attention. We are a social species. Oddballs may set out to walk across Australia or the Arctic alone, but at University one summer I had three days in a row without a meaningful conversation and at the end I was climbing the walls. Now I have three days like that quite often. Next week I will see a friend for lunch whose company I enjoy, and I will make many spoken and body-language signals of my regard for her. She will do the same for me. It will be delightful. We will make each other think, and provoke feeling, and in a sophisticated, adult way, play together.

Getting over 250 upvotes on a comment in the Guardian- it has to be made early so that it is visible to anyone scrolling the article, and it has to be trenchantly stating a popular view- feels good. Not as good as attention in person but it is my best substitute. Or I shared on a facebook trans group, and people piled on me. I argued back, and would not give the last word, but it was exhausting. I do not like negative attention, but there I was arguing a point I thought was useful and truthful, against a negative and defeatist denial. The negative attention was wearing, but I was right to persist. Facebook is not just a parasite on the human need for attention, but our need to feel worthwhile too.

Work is the way people get to feel valuable, such that some cannot bear to retire. Meaning and purpose in lives needs to be affirmed by other people. At any time in the last five years I might have taken up voluntary work, and been clear that I was doing something worthwhile, generally affirmed by others, but I have not. I am gregarious. I like company. Voluntary work would give me company, and I have considered it but never applied to start.

Here’s Hayley Webster, or Scott, on shyness in the Guardian. She tried to be her perfect self, and hide her real self away. Yes, I get that. And watching herself on video she saw herself, apologetic, well-meaning, softly spoken… shrinking into myself to not inhabit space. I didn’t want to be too loud, too much or too anything. Yeah. Me too. My perfect self had to win all the tribunals, and if not then I was no good. And when I could not win, I could not face trying. Feeling I was not doing something worthwhile, and getting some unpleasant attention, in actual hostility, finally stopped me. I wrote this just before I stopped, and that condensating man in Cumbernauld has been a symbol of why I stopped for me ever since.

It has not made sense to me, so I wrote this. That’s the other reason why I blog. Why can I stand on a stage and yet not bear to go to work? Because of an audience rooting for me, and a man expressing contempt. But I have to! I have to!

People seek negative attention, says Leo Benedictus in the Guardian. It does not work for me. I would say those people are doing something they are particularly committed to, because they think it necessary for themselves, or vindication/revenge, or even the right thing, bolstered by much positive attention from their cell.

No platform II

Should transphobes be refused a platform to speak at universities? Yes, even the feminist transphobe Julie Bindel, who has done good feminist work on violence against women; even if she is contracted to speak about other issues, she could not resist a sly kick against trans women.

In The New Statesman, Sarah Ditum claimed No Platform is used to silence debate. She quoted Bindel: All I have ever said was question the essentialist meaning of transgenderism, because, by positing gender as fixed it flies in the face of feminism. I will show this to be a lie. They see themselves as victims: The no platforming has taken the form of direct intimidation – “I had death threats […] I was shouted at, physically attacked on stage,” Bindel tells me. They feel what they say and do is justified.

Ditum asked trans activist Roz Kaveney for examples of Bindel’s hate speech, then quotes Kaveney’s tweets: “I love the assumption that I have time and energy to list offensive remarks by Julie Bindel & then explain why each one of them is hatespeech”; “Remember my past remarks that one aspect of WLF [white liberal feminist] transphobia is the demand for endless unpaid access to trans people’s time? That.” Ditum’s sense of entitlement is so great that she still does not get it. Bindel could have told her what has been found objectionable, and why, if she had any empathy; I found Bindel’s transphobia with ten minutes on Google and Wikipedia, so Ditum could too.

Ditum demanding that a trans woman quote it arrogates to herself the right to judge whether Bindel’s remarks are truly transphobic. I doubt Ditum would accept they are, because Ditum is also transphobic. I will quote a few, to show why they are objectionable; and give the trigger warning when I start.

Bindel is unrepentant. After she was asked to comment on Caitlyn Jenner, she posted on facebook, “Thank you for asking. However, I do not fancy another 11 years of McCarthyite bullying, threats, no platforming, vilification, misrepresentation, false accusations, and my work on sexual violence towards women and girls being under threat.

“Sorry.

“Feel free to use this explanation in print as to why I have chosen to turn down your request.”

I don’t want her work on sexual violence being under threat, either. Her transphobia is far less important than that work; but no-platforming means that student bodies and publications are not associated with transphobia, or trans folk exposed to it where we should be safe from it.

Don’t bother reading Ditum’s article. It does not address the arguments or consider the nature of hate speech, merely vilifies and plays the victim. Here is a useful article- in the Guardian!– about Bindel’s transphobia. And now, the trigger warning: transphobic hate speech in the next section. Continue reading

Suzanne Moore

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ce/BigReichenbach.JPGAnother storm in a thimble, miles away, which need not affect me at all, and I am in tears of rage with it.

I feel like a child talking to a teacher. She started it! My long explanation of precisely how bores her and breaks down, so before I am finished I am the one getting the strap, and it is not fair. The teacher is The Guardian itself. It is supposed to be progressive, and should not insult trans people.

Onywye. Suzanne Moore wrote in the Guardian with the throwaway line We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual. Irritating but not lifethreatening. Some trans folk objected, and there was a twitterspat.

Julie Burchill then wrote in the Observer a deeply insulting article- calling us “bed-wetters in bad wigs” was not the half of it. Well, I wear a wig, and with such a short urethra, post-operatively, I had some problems before I got my pelvic floor so strong. Lots of women have. The Observer has apologised and withdrawn the article from its website.

Then Suzanne Moore wrote a follow-up. To that teacher, who does not care about the subtleties, it might seem an apology. Suzanne has had friends who were transsexual, apparently.

But to me (subtly and out of the teacher’s attention) it pushes my buttons. It starts with the title. I don’t care if you were born a woman or became one. When does she think I became a woman? At my sex-change operation, perhaps? I have always been a woman. I have always been me. I have had one gender. Pre-transition self-identified trans women are women.

Then she says Some trans people appeared to reinforce http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/AeschinesDemosthenes.jpgevery gender stereotype going. People comment that I seem more feminine than most women- I am exquisitely attuned to surprise or disapproval in that. It is an old feminist trope for hatred of trans women, though Moore extends it to men as well. I do not wear lace-trimmed skirts to oppress women, but because I like them. If you don’t like being criticised for your clothes or appearance- I assume Moore doesn’t- then don’t criticise mine. Simple, basic empathy.

No-one can speak for anyone else, she says. Moore does speak for me when she attacks the Government. She thinks I should focus on that, and get behind her, so she may insult me with impunity. No. I happen to find the insults the most important thing in the article. Her telling me what I should think makes it worse. She could always attack the Government without attacking trans people.

I am just angry. It brings up my stuff. Someone links it on facebook, I read it (yes I know I should ignore it, but well, I read it) and I get wound up.

Oh and- Julie Burchill objected to being called a “cis woman” to distinguish her from a “trans woman”. It is an ancient Latin prefix, commonly used, and it is the only way to refer to a non-trans woman which does not insult me. “Real woman” “Born woman” “Natural woman” and the rest all include me.

Thanks to these bloggers for support and information.

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18 January: I am coming round to defending Suzanne Moore.

She does not think we trans women are really women, that is the thing. She thinks we are castrated men. She thinks if we call ourselves feminist we are faking; she may dislike our “femininity”; she is not going to come round. Even in her latest piece she says something about not liking the word “cis”.

I like what she writes about the Government. She said initially that we should get behind her attacking the Tories, and actually, she is so good at that that I am willing to overlook the odd throwaway line about Brazilian transsexuals.

Yes. It is “trans women/ trans men/ trans folk” rather than “transsexuals”. Yes, omit the “trans” unless it is relevant and necessary, and yes “cis” is the only way of describing non-trans women that does not insult us- for yes, I am born female too. And I know how much people get hurt by these remarks. And, still, hooray for Suzanne Moore, giving Cameron another kicking.

Press Complaints Commission ruling exonerating the Burchill article.

November 2020: Moore “left” the Guardian.