The New Statesman and trans

Are trans people a threat to women and children? You decide: The New Statesman is even-handed on the matter. It printed a review of Shon Faye, The Transgender Issue, and Helen Joyce, Trans, and an interview with Helen Joyce, in which a man, Harry Lambert, parroted her accusations in a fawning manner. On its website but not the print edition it had an interview with Shon Faye.

The editor really should spot the signs in the Helen Joyce hagiography. There is a threat to women, Joyce and Lambert claim, and it’s a bigger fight for women than the suffragettes faced. Inclusive language for trans men and nonbinary people is “dehumanising” for cis women, who are “vulnerable”. Anyone standing up for cis women’s rights to spaces without trans women, in a completely reasonable way, is “demonised” and “vilified”, despite their heroic “suffragette” status. There is a threat: schools, hospitals and prisons adopt “self-ID” where there are no safeguards, and people simply say they are trans. This is “regressive” (a word to offend NS’s “progressive” readers) and schools are “at risk”. Trans children receiving treatment from doctors is “a massive medical scandal”. “A climate of fear” prevents cis women from standing up to the Trans Threat.

Trans people dangerous! Cis people- women and children!– at risk! The minority is demonised in the article, which Denies Attacks and Reverses Victim and Offender.

This is of course ridiculous. Self-ID in prisons? Then why are most trans women prisoners in men’s prisons? A moment’s thought would refute all this, but the emotive words threat, risk, fear, prevent that thought. And so ordinary decent NS readers are taught to fear a minority. NS is not Völkischer Beobachter, but the article is Stürmeresque.

Sophie McBain reviewed both Faye’s and Joyce’s books. Writing of Faye, she seems mostly sympathetic, but gives statistics of girls referred to the gender clinic: 40 in 2009/10, 1806 in 2017/18. “Not all of these will transition medically” she says, but in fact the proportion is tiny: 16% were referred for puberty blockers, and only 9% for cross sex hormones.

No-one is being “pushed into identifying as trans”, as the article suggests. The problem is the opposite: if a trans child manages to reach the clinic, despite all the obstacles and the years-long waiting list, they are still unlikely to get treatment. The “massive medical scandal” is trans children left untreated, not as Joyce and these articles would have you believe innocent cis children being transed just because they are gender nonconforming or gay.

Then, in the course of balance, McBain goes on to Joyce’s book, which “raises questions”. What about the detransitioners? Should self-ID get you into women’s domestic violence shelters? Should any trans women (she does not mention the hormone requirements) be in women’s sports?

McBain does not simply accept Joyce’s views. “The more conspiratorial aspects of the book are the least persuasive”, she says, of the allegation of a “well-funded, politically sophisticated group of trans activists”. Harriet Harman produced our current system of self-id, out of decency and solidarity not ideology. McBain says Joyce “raises important, complicated issues”, and suggests teens with gender dysphoria should have “emotional support and counselling” rather than puberty blockers. She is right that “true freedom comes from dismantling gender stereotypes” but not as a replacement for hormone therapy. Then she suggests that male sex offenders get into women’s prisons by self-ID.

McBain gets a lot right, but her attempt at being judicious and nuanced means she falls for some, though not all, of Joyce’s paranoid propaganda. She calls Joyce’s figures that women athletes are slower than men, the “strongest parts of Joyce’s book, grounded in rigorous research and focused on the facts”, ignoring that all women athletes have exceptional physiques from natural aptitude, and hormone rules mean that no male athlete pretends to be trans.

If I just avoid news and comment sites which publish transphobic lies and propaganda, that means avoiding of all the mainstream British sites. If I read sites which print progressive views I support, such as The Guardian or NS, I will come across disturbingly transphobic articles which make me anxious and depressed. I don’t know what to do about this. I recommend you read the Shon Faye interview. It makes some excellent points. Now I will re-watch Philosophy Tube.

7 October: the transphobe Lambert attacked the Green Party in the new issue of NS. He claimed new co-leader Carla Denyer calling the anti-trans hate group LGB All Liars a hate group would divide the party and drive away supporters. He asked her co-leader Adrian Ramsay if “spaces” should be reserved for “those born female”, clearly showing his trans-excluding ideology. Ramsay told him the law: services could exclude individual trans women on a case by case basis. Lambert then told a falsehood about the current law, claiming that services could restrict access “on the basis of sex”, by which he means cis women only. He then claims that the leadership contest revolved around trans rights because Siân Berry challenged Shahrar Ali, rather than because Ali made an attack on trans rights his whole pitch.

“Biological men” and centre-left politics

“Labour is proud to stand with the LGBT+ community,” it tweets. What does that mean in this political climate, and does anyone believe them?

The anti-trans campaigners have moved on. Trans women have been in women’s spaces and services forever, and that just wasn’t a problem. There are so few of us hardly anyone noticed, and they mostly didn’t care. But then in 2017 Theresa May proposed reforming the Gender Recognition Act, and the campaign against trans people got the billionaire rocket fuel it has now. At first, the haters pretended they had nothing against “genuine trans women”, only predatory men pretending to be trans women. One vile slogan against GRA reform was “Self-ID gives predators the green light”. This is obviously transphobic, teaching people to fear “genuine” trans women, and judge us. Is that really a trans woman, or is it a “predatory male”?

But now there is no chance of GRA reform, and the transphobes have moved on. There is still the ritual claim “I have always supported rights for trans people”, along with a demand for “biological men” to be excluded from all women’s “single sex” or “separate sex” services.

Keir Starmer’s response was to support the Equality Act. Trans women can be excluded if there is good reason to do so, and not otherwise. Trans rights are just about fine as they are now, and so are women’s rights. He might think that was safe, but being centrist- listen to both sides, do what is reasonable- is not safe. The Independent reported this in the most confrontational way possible. “Keir Starmer backs excluding trans women from some women only spaces”, as if he had come down on a side. If there was any reasonable discussion, this might be tenable. I have no wish to retraumatise a woman who has just been raped, and would stay out of some spaces if it was reasonable. But the demand is for total exclusion, which brooks no compromise.

Ideally just before Conference attention should be on Labour values and policies, on Keir Starmer and his Fabian Society pamphlet. Instead, Rosie Duffield, relentless anti-trans campaigner, is “trending”.

On The Today Programme culture warrior Justin Webb asked Ed Davey, leader of the LibDems, “Do you believe there should be places in our society where biological males can’t go?” He spent more than a third of the interview (starts at 1.51.40) putting the views of the extremist trans excluders, with a petulant sneer, as if they were only seeking what everyone would agree is right. Absolutely no trans women, not never not nohow, in any women’s service. If I wanted to try on a T-shirt before buying it I should trek to the men’s section. Not all clothes shops have a men’s section. I should be humiliated.

Poor Ed Davey tried to be consensual. “I think the trans rights issue is an issue that all parties are grappling with and we need to come to some consensus across political parties.” Webb demanded a straight answer. Attempt at nuance, with any complex issue, is portrayed as equivocation. No issue is black and white, but any admission of shades of grey is called dishonest.

So Labour needs a clear, defensible position. Trans women might be excluded from women’s spaces if we did something wrong. Karen White should not be in the general population of a women’s prison. But we should not be excluded simply because of who we are. I would treat traumatised women with compassion, but not be excluded by diktat.

This needs a soundbite. “Trans women are women. Trans women should never be excluded from a women’s service because of who they are.”

Then explain as necessary. Any person who behaves badly might be excluded from a service because of what they have done, but not because of who they are. The Equality Act has always protected trans people from the moment they decide to transition. Trans women are vulnerable. Portraying us as a threat incites violence against us.

So Rosie Duffield is trending, and the news is full of the right to “single sex services” meaning No Trans Women, and my friend who is cis, in favour of trans rights, and bi, says Labour’s tweet is “opportunistic and not-credible”. Trans people should support Labour, to get the Tories out. Labour should return the favour. If that made anti-trans campaigners leave, that would be a bonus. They already are only of use to the hard Right.

Discussing trans rights with people who don’t care

Some people do not know what LGBT stands for. Being online gives a false perspective. Being interested in trans rights, we could scroll for hours a day and still read only a tiny proportion of the insane hatred devoted to rolling back trans rights, and the resistance to it. Twitter, facebook, etc, are desperate to show us transphobia in the hope we will engage, but usually only those already invested look.

I wanted Greens to know Shahrar Ali was making his pitch to anti-trans campaigners, so shared my blog. Mad haters plunged in: one alleged that Ali was being targeted by Zionists for his support for the Palestinians. Unfortunately, I called them “mad haters”, which makes me seem angry and confrontational, not good on a Green forum. Another went to the drafter of the Labour Party Transphobes’ Declaration and passed on her scurrilous accusations against me.

By using the term “mad haters” I had a tactical loss. I defended it- they are “mad” in that they are divorced from reality, only caring about opposing trans rights and not any other party issue; and they are haters, demanding the exclusion of absolutely every trans woman from all women’s spaces. And I was still rebuked, and warned to use constructive language, by people who apparently thought claiming a Jewish conspiracy was absolutely fine. She’s not attacking Jews, she’s attacking “Zionists”. Yeah, right.

Then someone wrote, “I certainly wouldn’t be happy with a Green party that didn’t support trans rights, but it doesn’t seem to me Shahrar wouldn’t. He explicitly says he supports the Equality Act.”

I wasn’t sure about that. Was this an anti-trans campaigner who had the knack of appearing reasonable? Ali does not say he supports the Equality Act, only “all the protected characteristics”. Anti-trans campaigners say they “support trans rights”, meaning trans rights as they define them- a right not to be harassed in the street or be sacked for being trans, but not a right for trans women to use women’s loos. But if someone could not recognise a trans flag, they would not spot that nuance by themselves.

So I explained, and met another question: How is ‘sex based rights’ code for excluding trans women? I explained that too. To my slight surprise she accepted my argument, saying people should accept the “single-sex” services in the Equality Act should include trans women. Then, rather than putting an argument, she was thinking out loud as she typed, she said some women felt vulnerable and threatened by trans inclusion. Could we work together?

No, is the answer to that. They make it a zero sum game- no trans women in women’s spaces, ever. They could see what they gain by trans inclusion, and work for a range of spaces, but they would be affronted to be restricted to some out of the way loo which was for trans-excluders, with the women’s for all women. But this woman has Green sympathies- For the Common Good- and likes to think people can always work together.

And then she said, if Shahrar supports the EA, surely he supports trans women in women’s spaces? I had to explain the other code he uses, around “politically homeless” women and “sex-based rights”. She still thought there was some doubt, and a need to help both sides of the “debate” to understand each other. Only a direct question to “Shahrar” would clear it up, but he isn’t answering.

-Do you still think there is doubt?
-The vast majority would not read Shahrar’s site the way you do. And trans people need to listen to the excluders, and hear their concerns.

She is right on that. People would not read it that way, unless they are engaged with the debate. They do not read it closely, and don’t particularly think about the bits they don’t understand- of course no novelist should receive a death threat for writing a think piece, and they don’t bother asking which novelist he means.

From Sara Ahmed, I get the understanding that people do not like to believe their social group contains bad people such as sexual predators, or those who discriminate on gender, colour or sexuality. So, they find accusations of bad behaviour a threat. The accusations and the accusers threaten their comfortable illusion that everything is OK. Surely Professor Smith would not do such a horrible thing? Diversity policies are put in place as proof that the organisation acts properly on diversity, not as a template for action against discriminators.

So I asked her directly. Now I have explained the code, do you accept Ali is calling for trans exclusion? I explained the whole screed again. And I was rewarded. “I think the issue here is exactly as you say.” But then, she immediately qualified. She still wanted a straight answer from Ali to “clear things up” and could see that Ali’s site could be interpreted as innocuous.

Even LGBT+ people disagree on what letters to add to the end, or what they stand for. QIA- Allies? Asexual? Both? I have seen a strong argument that Allies are definitely not included. The mad haters have created a jargon all their own. “Sex is Real” they say, and only the trans excluders and trans people, only people who have scrolled for hours and hours, see the pure nastiness they put in that phrase. It is hard to persuade the unengaged, and has to be done with great care.

Still, it’s lovely to think of someone who gets sympathy when she whines on a mad hater group, “I can’t go out, because there are no single-sex toilets anywhere! I haven’t bought new clothes in five years because there’s only mixed sex changing rooms to try them on!” Then she tries that with unengaged people, and meets perplexity and derision. If instead she stokes paranoia- trans women are dangerous, penises in women’s loos, etc- she may put off the Left-wingers, as she is more clearly spreading hate.

The effect of transphobia

Transphobia is a true phobia, as irrational and pitiable as arachnophobia. Just as an arachnophobe’s attention is consumed by the harmless spider, just as they feel fear and sometimes abject terror, so the transphobe is obsessed by the possibility of seeing a trans woman even if none are there.

My friend was so gentle she did not want the spiders that terrified her hurt. With other phobias, the phobes see the irrationality, as does everyone else, whether they sympathise or despise. Transphobes refuse to recognise their irrationality, so must rationalise their fear. So they have to hate as well as fear: to invent some justification, however bizarre, why their fear is in some way proportionate to the tiny minority of mostly harmless trans people, and also to attempt to persuade others to fear us too.

I was going to write a post demonstrating this. So I went to collect transphobic utterances. The barrister Allison Bailey tweeted, “This is a national & international crisis”. Someone shared the tweet on facebook, apparently believing it. Someone told me on facebook all trans women are racist, because women of colour were more likely to have traditional views and be scared of trans women in women’s services. She stereotypes people based on skin colour, and calls me racist. She also said I oppressed women and girls, who would be unable to go out because of the “urinary leash”. There were no women’s loos they could use, because there might be a trans woman in there.

Another claimed women would speak out against trans inclusion but were afraid of violence or being sacked from their jobs. That could be rationalising, claiming her fear was of something real.

I had the core of a post. People I had met, semi-famous or eminent people, random people in comment sections or facebook, all saying irrational, phobic things, mixed with anger and hatred because they could not admit their fear was irrational. And then I sat without showering all morning, because considering such stuff hurts. It makes me imagine a miasma of hostility everywhere, when most people don’t care that I am trans, and many accept me.

I need to be loved, I said.
You are loved! said my Friend.

We laugh at the phobes, on our private groups. Nicola Sturgeon tweeted about how awful it was now, to be a woman in Afghanistan, and someone tweeted, “Afghan women and children are in a horrendous position, but here women and children are being called terfs”. It is ridiculous. When shared on facebook that drew eight Haha reactions. If it’s just as bad, someone said, “I’m sure there are plenty of Afghan women willing to change places with British TERFs”. I hope some people will look at that tweet and see it is ridiculous.

I’ve seen screenshots, but it appears the tweet has been deleted. The account shown, when I searched on DuckDuckGo, came up as Sugar Kane в Твиттер, but referred to Scottish issues from an anti-SNP perspective and had a lot of transphobia. I am sure you could find screenshots with a bit of searching.

Feel the fear and do it anyway. In this strange world of On-Line, passions are so high, and the most recondite interest can come to seem the most important thing in the world because you can spend hours a day scrolling through ever-new stuff. Any hashtag has mockers and doubters, who only serve to drive engagement. Facebook regularly shows me posts where people are energetically debating trans rights, and I got sucked in. So I got called a “racist”. And now I am still dwelling on that- to try and understand where it comes from, to see how important it is, to entertain and enlighten you, of course. I wish trans friends online would spend less time on transphobes.

James Esses

James Esses is no longer studying psychotherapy, and wants to sue his course provider, the Metanoia Institute. He has raised £50,000 in five days.

Esses has been fearmongering about trans children. His basic lie is that children are “transed”, that children who will not benefit from social transition or puberty blockers, or who will suffer long term damage because of such treatment, are being pushed into treatment by the uncritical adherents of what he calls “gender theory”. He claims such people “solely affirm gender dysphoric clients into their identified gender”, and want all therapists to do the same “on pain of criminal punishment”. That is a shocking allegation. Is there any evidence for it?

Compared to the monstrous “gender theory”, his claimed position is entirely reasonable. He says in his crowdfunder that he only wants “to treat clients professionally and according to their needs”. He petitioned the government to “safeguard evidence-based therapy” for gender dysphoric children, as if there were any threat to that. He claims that “Studies show that many dysphoric children will come to identify as their biological sex”. Well, it depends what you mean by dysphoric. Studies claiming high levels of “desistance” do not show that children who identify as trans and want to transition are likely to change their minds.

The government response made some worrying claims: they will “protect under-18s from irreversible decisions”. If they think that includes puberty blockers, we may have government interference in medical treatment doctors, parents and the child all believe is needed. That is the position American legislators have taken.

Turning to the Daily Mail, what did Esses do? He volunteered for Childline, but was sacked because he “use[d] the service to advance [his] personal campaigns” and gave ” the impression that Childline endorses [his] personal campaigns”.

Aged 29 he cannot have practised as a barrister for long before becoming a civil servant and then choosing psychotherapy as his third career, but may still know English law better than I do. He will know his student contract. The Mail claims he was dismissed from his course by email for bringing negative attention to Metanoia by starting the petition. This might breach his entitlement to a fair process.

His crowdfunder claims he was discriminated against because of his gender critical beliefs, but starting the petition was an action rather than a belief. He also founded the “thoughtful therapists” twitter feed, which may give the impression that he would, as a therapist, go beyond exploratory therapy to find the best way forward for a distressed child, and instead pressure them to avoid social transition. That would be conversion therapy: to rigorously refuse to countenance social transition or hormones as an appropriate course for a child, and pressure them into another course.

In the crowdfunder he says “I hold gender critical beliefs: that sex is biological and immutable”. Well, possibly. However, trans people exist and benefit from social transition, hormones and surgery. Nobody wants to “trans” someone whom it would not benefit. What would they possibly gain? Insofar as Esses denies these obvious truths, he is incapable of functioning as a psychotherapist.

The petition was based on a falsehood, that the government might “criminalise essential, explorative therapy”. There is no chance of that. Any therapist seeing a client who presents as trans will keep an open mind. Only a psychiatrist can refer a child to an endocrinologist for hormone treatment.

Consider the Royal College of Psychiatrists position statement on supporting transgender and gender-diverse people. It defines conversion therapy as “treatments for transgender people that aim to suppress or divert their gender identity – i.e. to make them cisgender – that is exclusively identified with the sex assigned to them at birth”. Clearly, exploratory therapy is not forbidden. “The College supports psychiatrists in fully exploring their patient’s gender identity (involving their families where appropriate) in a non-judgemental, supportive and ethical manner.”

Consider the New Zealand government’s draft Bill. It defines conversion practice as “performed with the intention of changing or suppressing the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” Exploration would not be forbidden. Ideological denial that transition can ever be right for a patient would.

What of the UK Council for Psychotherapy? It says “Conversion therapy is an umbrella term for a therapeutic approach, model or individual viewpoint that demonstrates an assumption that any sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently preferable to any other, and which attempts to bring about a change of sexual orientation or gender identity, or seeks to suppress an individual’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity on that basis.” Esses’ statements, on twitter and elsewhere, may be sufficient to show he holds such a viewpoint and therefore would be vulnerable to the discipline tribunal, as the UKCP’s ethics stand now. But there is clearly no threat to exploratory therapy.

Esses has attempted to spread fear that therapists are wrongfully transing children, and that law or ethics on conversion therapy might outlaw exploration of gender identity and dysphoria. This is clearly untrue. Childline says he was campaigning against transition rather than properly counselling callers.

I hope Esses loses his court action. However his raising £50,000 in five days shows the huge amount of money available for court action against trans rights, or institutions or law supporting trans people.

“Woman: adult human female.” Why is this definition seen as stirring up hatred?

Because that is its intent. It’s like “There ain’t no Black in the Union Jack”- a statement which might seem trite or inane, so obvious as not to need stating, has a particular association for those who weaponise it, and its intended victims. I am a woman, they falsely deny that.

A full page advert in The Times, with many more viewers when circulated on social media, asked that question. There are two stages to this, and the hatred is more overt in one than in the other. First, we need to know the facts.

Trans people have been transitioning for millennia, and since the 1960s in Britain this has been officially recognised. Psychiatrists were supervising trans people and getting our documents changed then, and when I saw my psychiatrist in 2001 he gave me a card saying that it was a normal part of my treatment for gender identity disorder for me to use women’s services. The Equality Act 2010 made this clear: trans women could use women’s “single-sex” spaces unless there was a particular reason to exclude someone. Socially, trans women are women, which means we can live our lives, mostly, freely and without hurting anyone.

The number of transitioned trans people has increased. In 2002, the government estimated there were 2000-5000, and in 2011 GIRES estimated that 12,500 adults had presented for treatment but another 90,000 might later. Now, around 50,000 have. This is an increase by an order of magnitude in twenty years, but is still only around 0.1% of the UK population.

In 2017 the UK Government proposed reforming gender recognition. One possibility was to remove the requirement for a psychiatrist’s opinion before we could get a Gender recognition certificate (GRC). That would be appropriate, because the International Classification of Diseases no longer classes gender dysphoria as an illness. At that moment, the hate campaign really got going. Now, it is obvious on facebook. Some people are vitriolic and obsessive anti-trans campaigners, but perhaps 30% of the population are mildly transphobic– mostly tolerant because they don’t care, but holding a few anti-trans opinions.

On social media, the people supporting the “adult human female” slogan are increasingly radicalised, and the hate is clear. Always, there is an attempt to present trans people as seeking new rights, or predatory men pretending to be trans in order to get into women’s spaces, to create fear and disgust and invoke the cognitive bias of loss aversion. There is the claim that cis women in women’s prisons lose if trans women are housed there, and endless reference to Karen White. White is a rapist, and should not have been in the women’s general population, but the campaigners argue we are all like that which is a standard tactic to dehumanise a minority group. There is constant reference to Laurel Hubbard, and the claim that her inclusion makes women’s sports unfair, though there are hardly any trans people in sports at any level.

However, there is another stage. They want to normalise the idea that trans women should not be in women’s spaces. This is Joanna Cherry’s line: she claims to support trans rights, while demanding that trans women be excluded from women’s spaces. That is behind the demand to distinguish gender from sex, and the insistence that trans women are men.

The last Labour government fostered an inclusive society, where prejudice was seen as a bad thing. It stopped being normal to express bigoted views about LGBT or BAME people. People are willing to let others live their own lives and make their own choices, and if those choices are different from the ones they would make people are less likely to condemn. For the hard right to change that takes huge effort. The right wing press has for decades presented immigration as a threat, and now is doing the same to trans people.

This requires repeated monstering, mockery and hatred. But someone who minimises trans people’s needs might not realise they were hateful. Consciously, instead of hate and fear they might feel slight distaste, pity, indifference to our pleas, contempt and a sense that we were deluded and ridiculous. It is this indifference which the advert is designed to arouse. The groups behind it refer slightingly to “men’s feelings”, denying the desperation we feel before we transition. Once this stage is reached, we become the out-group, the people it is normal to despise. Refugees, whom even the BBC calls “migrants”, are already in this position. After trans people, who will be next?

Another advantage the hard right gain from such propaganda is to demoralise and split the Left. The Green Party is conflicted, and has lost its co-leader Sian Berry. There are efforts in the Labour party to create similar conflict.

Escaping the culture wars

The Fabian Society shows how culture wars are created by the right wing to damage the left. Its pamphlet “Counter Culture” details how we could resist them and build solidarity: by working to end culture wars, not to win them. Culture wars are political fights picked not to change public policy, but to enflame emotion and deepen division as a campaigning tool. They do not show differences in interest or beliefs among people generally, but instead are fomented by elites.

Even right-wingers who might profit electorally should see that the damage to social cohesion is not worth it. The Left sees we have “more in common than what divides us”, and only solidarity offers real security. Our anger at injustice can give us energy for campaigning, but harms us when it breaks relationships.

I got the pamphlet to see what it said about the anti-trans movement. There may be 50,000 people transitioned or transitioning in Britain now, but trans is dragged up constantly by the right wing press, and Tory MPs recognise it is a wedge issue to divide the working class from other disadvantaged groups. “MPs have been piling pressure to engage in a war on woke. Issues ranging from alleged BBC bias and Extinction Rebellion to trans rights and Black Lives Matter could unite the base, wrote Katy Balls. So this is a campaign strategy, to “fatten the pig before market day” and get people identifying as Tories, rather than a coherent strategy on policy, and the war against trans people is a central plank.

“Culture war” is an American term, concerning issues of who we are as a nation. The international hard right exports this around the world. Though in Britain Christianity is less important, and on the Left as well as the Right, the media which ignored culture war in 2015 was writing about it daily in 2020. Even now, few people care. But Tory voters who have “leant their votes” in the North of England are economically left wing, dividing them from the core Tory vote, members and MPs. But on questions of identity and values, Tories are united, and Labour MPs, members and voters divided.

Populism is different: a view of Left or Right that the corrupt elite oppress the real people. So for the Left, plutocrats distort our politics to avoid paying their share or supporting the common good, and for the Right, enemies of the people, such as judges, tried to block Brexit. But most people are reasonably accepting of trans people, and those working for us or against us are educated and comparatively wealthy.

The writers propose three elements in culture war. 1. An attempt to argue that the Left undermines or disrespects Britain or its people. Jonathan Haidt says on the Left, morality is based on care for others and fairness, but on the Right includes respect for tradition, loyalty and sanctity. 2. This exploits majority fears, and the loss aversion cognitive bias, with zero-sum thinking that others’ gain is our loss, producing a thwarted sense of entitlement, that something is being taken from us. 3. Something minor, marginal, or made up is being amplified: you will rarely see a trans woman in a women’s loo, and Laurel Hubbard is one trans woman in a competition of 11,000 athletes in 339 events, the first since trans women could compete as women in 2004.

Culture war is a Right wing strategy to divide, distract and demoralise the Left. The British Social Attitudes survey shows an increasingly liberal outlook. The media is creating culture war, for example The Times’ obsessive reporting demonising trans people. 2% of the people produce 80% of the tweets. The BBC found someone from Philadelphia to argue that Adele committed cultural appropriation, in order to stage a “debate”.

The culture wars distract us from real issues that affect our lives. A cis woman might read a pejorative article about Laurel Hubbard, “do her research” and start campaigning against trans rights even though she has never had a bad experience with a trans woman, let alone have her off-line life affected by trans rights. They divide feminists on trans rights, so feminists oppose each other with arcane debates, rather than working together against patriarchy, and appear irrelevant to other women. We spend time in smaller echo-chambers, so do not seek common ground. And people on Left and Right use the word misgendering as a shorthand for allegedly woke policies, not in the interest of the working class, which the Left should avoid- as if we could not support trans rights as well as equitable economics. But working class cis people may have trans friends, and trans people also suffer materially. Class is a matter of identity.

The culture war demoralises us, exhausting us. The class interest of the majority of people, in getting companies and the wealthiest to pay fair taxes, is clear, but the Right would claim supporting Black rights is an attack on white people. Women, particularly Black women, in politics face dreadful abuse.

The culture war is fomented by grievance mongers driving a wedge between supporters of interventionist economic policy, tempting some away by a “war on woke”. And by those who make a living from outrage, such as Melanie Philips. Once they start, people affected join in- trans people on facebook occasionally speak up for our rights, because our lives are affected, and so public threads started by enthusiastic trans-excluders grow like tumours. Toxic social media polarises debate, then news media gets attention by quoting tweets, or inviting grievance peddlers to “debate” on news programmes.

Then there are trolls, who enjoy being transgressive, or enjoy seeing others emotionally wounded, or are marginalised people who crave status, or who work for malign foreign actors seeking to promote division. Social media amplifies them.

How can the Left build a better politics? We need to repay our debts to those who have sacrificed or suffered the most, from the financial crash, austerity and Covid. We need a vision of the future everyone can value. Robert Kennedy in the 1960s built a coalition of working class whites and blacks by saying what he believed, and giving a coherent, popular message, rather than relying on focus groups, by finding a consistent story that unites voters in all battlegrounds. We need to mention all groups by name, or they do not feel included. Their dignity and feelings matter, not just their income. A story of our past which everyone can take pride in showing the unity Gareth Southgate builds in his team?

Politicians should calm down angry division, and show how they can negotiate a solution where everyone wins, through co-operation. To love one’s country is not a matter of having a particular view on the legacy of empire, but to uphold the integrity of its institutions; not to demonise immigrants and benefit claimants, but those who seek to buy influence or avoid their responsibilities to society. We should shame culture war peddlers, and promote the understanding that a diversity of opinions and values is essential to democracy. We need to regulate social media out of making money from division and misinformation.

We should name and oppose the attempts to distract and divide us. We need to know a good argument before facing the questions. 77% of people believe the media makes the country look more divided than it is, and 44% believe politicians exaggerate culture war as a political tactic. Why are they trying to shift the debate from covid deaths to statues?

We need inclusive social movements, cross-class, multi-racial and intergenerational. We should not use a language of weakness and shame, labelling people vulnerable or hard to reach. We should use clear language- most people agree that it is easier to get ahead if you are white, but far fewer agree that there is white privilege in Britain.

The pamphlet is freely available here.

Laurel Hubbard

Laurel Hubbard, sporting pioneer, is under attack from the transphobic media.

The Times has several articles about her. On 18 July, Rebecca Myers wrote that she is in the eye of the storm, as if she did not realise that the eye is the still, calm centre. Myers quotes unnamed “critics” saying the rules make no sense, then the line “It polarises people”. There is a picture of demonstrators against Laurel with transphobic placards, though only about a dozen of them, and two competitors who oppose her inclusion. Joanna Harper says all these women are big and strong, and all have advantages. Then there is a long quote that men have physical advantages, implying but not confirming or denying that Laurel keeps those advantages. It’s a hit piece.

On 27 June, David Walsh protested his “deep empathy” with Laurel but wrote an article starting with a 1980s style transition story- I always knew I was a girl, etc, etc- with misgendering and prurient detail such as trying on “his” sister’s clothes. Then Walsh starts quoting opponents calling her male and opposing her inclusion, and says she retains a “strength advantage”. Despite all this, on 4 July the Times published a letter attacking Walsh’s article as not transphobic enough.

On 21 June, Matt Lawton reported that she was to be the first trans woman Olympic athlete. The picture on the piece is of her on a winner’s podium, and the first paragraph alleges her inclusion is unfair. The British Olympic Association called for research into trans women’s “physiological advantages”. Then there’s exactly the same quote from Tracey Lambrechs that Rebecca Myers used.

On 26 June, Martyn Ziegler reported uncritically on a paper by Cathy Devine, who had found 19 athletes to agree with her that trans women had a competitive advantage but claimed they were afraid to express their views publicly for fear of being labelled “transphobic”- scare quotes Ziegler’s. Devine is a noted transphobe who told a House of Commons committee that no trans women should compete in women’s sports.

Also on 26 June Graham Spiers questioned the “fair play” of including Laurel. He started by saying there were “sensitivities” in the “transgender debate” then claims, contrary to evidence, that Laurel retains all the advantages of the male body. “Were he a woman” he would stand no chance against her superior strength, he claims; but the world no.1 has a personal best 50kg heavier than Laurel’s.

On 22 June, Ross Tucker claimed that trans women retain men’s biological advantages even when we reduce T levels, and our inclusion is unfair. On 24 June, Janice Turner took a side-swipe at Laurel in her article on transphobe Jess de Wahls. She quoted Caitlyn Jenner claiming Laurel’s inclusion is not fair- trans people can be quoted, if they speak against trans rights- and quoted Jenner’s personal bests as if they would not be affected by T reduction.

On 18 June, Jason Allardyce reported that Highland Games could include trans athletes, even though no athlete has yet presented as trans. He mentioned Laurel Hubbard. As always, the most upvoted comments are relentlessly transphobic, crying Unfair.

Do other athletes get similar coverage? Abigail Irozuru, British long-jumper, who was a finalist at Doha, is only mentioned in the list of the British team. British, World champion heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson is in four articles about her injury, and has two other mentions. Dina Asher-Smith, a sprinter The Times calls one of the team’s “biggest medal hopes”, has one article in four weeks plus a few mentions, including one that she went to the same school as Emma Raducanu.

The Times reader-commenters are well trained. Even when (20 July) Melanie Phillips wrote an outrage piece about bribery and politics in Games venues, most of the most popular comments were about “men” in women’s sports.

The Daily Mail has about a hundred articles on Laurel, and just the headlines contain transphobia such as, her inclusion will knock women out of sport, is a “bad joke”, and “kick in the teeth for female athletes”. “Backlash” to “Openly” trans athlete! A man is a man!

The Guardian has several articles, including an opinion article by Tanya Aldred saying her inclusion is unfair. Well, all professional athletes have physical advantages as well as training, and no male athlete would reduce his T and pretend to be trans in order to compete with women.

At the fastest, most destructive part of the storm, Laurel Hubbard will be competing and I will cheer her on. The transphobe press is determined to harp on and on about her, crying Unfair and attacking all trans people vicariously through her. So if she wins a medal we will all triumph.

3 August: well, she didn’t win a medal, but she was there, at the Olympics, and said a blow has been struck for sport for all. I feel vicarious pride, and huge admiration. “Trans women are women,” said an IOC official. It should not need to be said. Richard Budgett, their medical and scientific director, praised her “courage and tenacity”. She said, “[The Games] have just been so wonderful”.

Unfortunately the hate continued. The most disgusting abuse of her was The Times using her picture at the top of a laudatory, trans-hating review of the deeply silly book by Helen Joyce.

On 2 August, Matt Dickinson wrote a ridiculous piece, claiming she had “ignited a debate”- no, that was the transphobes- and, incidentally, giving those snippets of good news and support above before quoting unnamed “sports scientists” against trans inclusion. Well, sports scientists are also in favour of trans inclusion, or we would not be included.

On 31 July, Martyn Ziegler wrote a whole article making the obvious point that the IOC and NZOC were taking steps to protect her from online abuse. Perhaps the point of the article was the online abuse it quoted, apparently approvingly: abusers were said to have “spoken out”. Among the nuttier comments below was “This is the fall of Rome”. Times comments are ludicrous, but depressing.

“Thoughtful Therapists”

Reading transphobes’ tweets can be rewarding- you learn bits of good news. “Momentum is in bed with the transactivists” wails some useless phobe with 18 likes, alongside (according to them) the NHS, the BPS, the UKCP and the Labour Party. Elsewhere the railing gets unhinged- journalists’ ethics and trade unions require “all material reality be abandoned”, wails some phobe with her hand out for donations. Actually, she means sometimes news sites print stories showing trans people in a reasonable light, rather than a transphobic one. No link, it’s a barely notorious transphobe called Julian Vigo if you really want to do a search.

Julian, your paranoia reassures me. It makes your hate ineffectual. Still, no doubt some US billionaire hard-right activist will bung a few bucks your way.

Another twitter account is called “thoughtful therapists”. They mean counsellors rather than physical therapists. I would say “thoughtful” is a bare minimum in a psychotherapist. It should not need to be said. So why do they claim to be “thoughtful”? Perhaps because they’ve been told they are simply reactive and not thoughtful at all. “We’re thoughtful!” they wail, failing to reassure themselves. They are up against the British Psychological Society and the UK Council for Psychotherapy. Looking down their 677 tweets since March, all they tweet is transphobia.

They want the right as “therapists” to insist that no-one can ever be trans and transition is always wrong. They want to search endlessly for some sickness, some reason that a patient falsely believes they are trans. When they try that, it does not go well.

Fraudulently, their profile picture includes the logos of NHS England, NHS Scotland, the BACP, and the Royal College of General Practitioners among others, as if they spoke for any of these organisations.

The trouble with individuals like this is that they give propaganda outlets someone to quote. One of these “thoughtful” therapists is named. I went to her site and found gushing praise for her quoted, from notour transphobes and the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph etc. But even The Times has not quoted “Thoughtful Therapists”.

And now The Telegraph, desperate for someone to speak out against trans people and give their ignorant readers a thrill of revulsion, has bitten, and quotes “A Spokesman for Thoughtful Therapists” ad longum. This spokesman is anonymous, perhaps because being associated with such a group should mean no-one consulted them except transphobe parents seeking conversion therapy for their children.

And The Telegraph, in its desperate attempts to horrify its readers and turn them against trans people, can’t help giving good news. Dr Igi Moon, chair of the group revising the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK, and the lead on the document for the BPS, is nonbinary. The Telegraph misgenders them, using “she” pronouns, and quotes them supporting trans rights. Then it refers to the anonymous “thoughtful” “therapist” by They pronouns, so as not even to give away their gender. They must be completely terrified of exposure of their hateful views. They want to avoid the reasonable disciplinary processes of the professional bodies- or perhaps the revelation that they are not a qualified therapist at all.

Propaganda rags like The Telegraph, and extreme right wing campaigning money, supports these transphobes yet they are few in number and mostly anonymous. The Telegraph reports that Momentum hosted Dr Moon. The truth is getting out, despite the efforts of the propagandists.

The word “TERF”

I will no longer use the word “TERF”.

It is a good word to express contempt, with that plosive T. Someone is only a terf, an enemy, a deluded person. They claim it is a slur, and use it to claim victimhood- see the horrible things they call us! “Punch a TERF!” they quote, endlessly.

It stands for “trans-excluding radical feminist”, and one objection I have to it is that anti-trans campaigners are not necessarily radical feminists. Some are conservative Evangelicals, and some have no particular feminist views other than hating opposing trans people. They are sucked up by social media radicalisation. Radical feminism is a world view, centring women’s oppression in the reproductive system, with particular attitudes to paying for sex, surrogacy, and violence against women and girls. One might engage with it. Often, you cannot engage with trans excluders, whose only relevant philosophy is no trans women in women’s spaces, not never not nohow, and no treatment for trans children (usually not trans men either) because they cannot believe trans children exist.

I changed “hating trans people” to “opposing trans people”. The most horrible attitude in them is dismissal: they talk of “single-sex” spaces excluding “men” as if trans people did not exist. They pretend to dispassion. There is a ghastly and complete lack of sympathy. Their one priority is protecting [cis] women.

I don’t like the term “gender critical feminist”. Some only take in feminism through social media posts, never reading more widely. And, believing that gender is an oppressive social construct need not mean that you are hostile to trans women in women’s spaces. Instead, it could mean that you welcome us, as we subvert gender norms.

Their idea of “gender ideology” deludes them. They claim trans people are divorced from reality, but the only thing you need to believe to accept trans women in women’s spaces is that trans people exist, and are mostly harmless.

Some anti-trans campaigners object to being called “gender critical” too, because they want to conceal the fact that their expressed desires affect no-one but trans people. So they claim to be campaigners for “sex-based rights” or “women’s rights”, pretending that their desired ends might give protection from “predatory men” rather than harm trans people.

They dislike the term “trans excluders”, arguing that common sense excludes “trans identified males” from “women’s spaces”, but trans women have been in women’s spaces mostly harmlessly for decades, so in effect they campaign to drive us out. So they are anti-trans campaigners, whatever they claim about respecting trans people or supporting trans rights.

The worst of them spread vile myths, and incite fear of us by constant reference to the worst of us. They may identify with Maria MacLachlan to claim vicarious victimhood, even martyrdom. It is a common tactic in anti-trans campaigning. Consumed by a sense of their own righteousness, many of them have lost all sense of proportion. And yet, each is an individual, with human vulnerability and with some capacity of empathy. Unfortunately, people’s empathy is usually shut down if they feel threatened, and mainstream media keeps them constantly triggered.

The media thrives on drama, and the simplest drama is confrontation. The media obsesses on anti-trans v trans. So the BBC had a profile of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and used the time as if the three most important things about her were “Half of a Yellow Sun”, “Americanah”, and her remark in 2017 that “trans women are trans women”.

Our empathy can be shut down too. This weakens us, making us angrier and less creative. Both sides are victims. They are wrongdoers- victims of violent men, they refuse to draw a distinction when considering harmless trans women. Then their sense of victimhood and standing up for their rights feeds off reasonable or angry demands that they cease their exclusionary campaign, or be silenced. But their initial victimhood is real, serious, and worthy of empathy.

I have removed the word “terf” from front page links, and from my tags, replacing it with anti-trans campaigner. I have left it in the titles of older posts.

Picture today: I see resonances, but I picked this because I have just watched the great film “All about Eve”.