Tweets and reality

Is Eddie Izzard a lesbian? It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

Some words have precise meanings. A zoologist plying his trade would not call her a “cat”, meaning the family Felidae or the genus Panthera or Felis. But you might see her moving on stage with feline grace. She is not a planet, because that has a clear meaning- Pluto was, then it wasn’t- but she is a star. She may be a hepcat- I knew slang, I thought it was 1960s, two words, hep for fashionable, cat for cool person. Words are slippery. Even scientific words have fuzzy edges where they may or may not apply.

Eddie says he’s a lesbian in a man’s body, and is that a good thing? A lesbian is a woman attracted to women. Homophobes find that weird, shameful or disgusting, and mourn the time when more people shared their opinion. If Eddie calls herself a lesbian it’s aspirational, something he wants to be. It becomes something to be proud of.

It’s only a bad thing if it forms some sort of threat to lesbians. The Times argues that it is, that lesbians are erased. Grace Petrie tweeted that if the transphobes were concerned about lesbian erasure, they might start a regular lesbian life column. No, because they only support lesbians in order to attack trans folk. The Daily Mail even supported a trans woman, once- to attack Muslims.

Insisting on too rigid a distinction between lesbian and bi might be biphobic. Trans women are women, so trans women attracted to women and not men are lesbians. If you think that’s a threat to lesbians, please explain why.

Right now, there are things to be angry about. The extreme incompetence of the British government has led to a sudden lockdown, when we can only go out to work if it is impossible to work from home, no more than two people can meet outside in a public place, and all the shops but pharmacies and supermarkets are shut. Schools are shut, but even on Monday 4th the Department for Education had a high-level meeting insisting they would be open, and children would be regularly tested for covid. So schools, without additional funding, have had to plan a testing regime, only to find now they will have to implement distance learning, with no notice. The hospitals are full, but infections have continued to rise, which means people will die who would have survived had they received proper medical care. Bizarrely, churches can open for worship, though many run food banks.

So, the usual suspects stir up anger against trans people instead. Jackie Doyle-Price, Tory MP, tweeted anger at Eddie calling herself a lesbian. Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP who should know better, liked the tweet. Tories, being English Nationalists, need to stir up hatred against enemies. Duffield has no such excuse.

Duffield also liked a tweet about a transphobic picture book, “My body is me”.

Bodies are different. Children are too.
Some prefer pink things. Some prefer blue.

That might be seen as reinforcing gender stereotypes in the most basic way. The book, which is unavailable on Amazon, shows children with “girl” hairstyles and “boy” hairstyles.

My body can act like a low flying plane
A mermaid, a dragon, one part of a train.

The plane- a boy walking, with planks strapped to his arms. Why low-flying? I stuck my arms out, no planks needed, and yelled NEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAOOOOWW. I was definitely high flying. It doesn’t set much store by child imagination. The mermaid is clearly a girl. Rigid gender stereotypes, again.

You are born in your body. You don’t have a spare.
So love it, hug it, treat it with care.

“My body is me” might be materialist, denying the existence of an immortal soul, so distressing Christians, but “You are born in your body” is denying the truth of trans children. Most children simply won’t understand, they won’t know what the alternative might be, but the five year old AMAB child who knows she is a girl will learn in the most direct way that she is not acceptable as she is, and has to keep quiet about it. Most children are cis, so will be unaffected. Some are trans, and will be traumatised.

Pink News reported, and quoted Duffield’s response- “click bait non story sourced solely from the weird world of Twitter” which she inhabits.

Duffield is doing the Nationalists’ work for them, spreading hate. It is deeply hypocritical of her to say that the pandemic and Brexit chaos are more important issues.

Should we respond to the phobes? Arguably not, it just gives them oxygen. Trans people spending too much time looking at this may become depressed. Haters will be encouraged to hate more. On the other hand, Duffield is doing Tory work, supporting Tories, and spreading hate in the Tory interest, so the Labour Party should take action against her.

Can tweeting be a crime?

As a trans woman, you may be a public figure without realising it.

Kate Scottow was found guilty of a criminal offence for defaming Stephanie Hayden on Twitter, but won her appeal. The prosecutor and Scottow agreed that Hayden was a “public figure”, simply because she tweets her opinions. The judge said “such a person has ‘inevitably and knowingly laid themselves open to close scrutiny of their every word and deed’, and others can expect them to be more robust and tolerant accordingly” of comment or abuse. The comments of a public figure about court action are matters of public interest, and people may weigh in to a public conversation about it.

So I am probably a public figure because of this blog. You may be, if you have a twitter account, or have ever posted a tiktok video.

There are various possible offences if you tweet nastily.

Sending indecent, threatening or false tweets with the intention of causing distress or anxiety to the recipient is an offence.

Harassment is an offence, but just causing alarm or distress is not enough: it must be “oppressive and unacceptable”. This does not depend on the victim’s feelings, but the judge’s supposed objectivity.

Persistently tweeting for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another is an offence. The judge said, surely Parliament did not mean mere annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety. This is so bizarre that I have to quote the exact words used.

The Communications Act 2003 s 127(2)(c) says “A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he—… (c) persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.”

But the judge said, “It is clear, in my judgment, that these provisions were not intended by Parliament to criminalise forms of expression, the content of which is no worse than annoying or inconvenient in nature, or such as to cause anxiety for which there is no need.” He says they have to be persistent, and for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety, para 29, and later in para 32 he says they must have no other purpose.

All these are subject to the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas. States can restrict that right if it is necessary to do so for particular purposes including protecting the rights of others.

So it is always a balance.

The Magistrate’s court found Scottow guilty of persistently tweeting for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety, but they faced an additional hurdle, a six months’ time limit. There were tweets less than six months before, and tweets more than six months before which could only be considered if they were a single course of action.

The police and the district judge thought the tweets were bad enough to be criminal. The appellant judge disagreed.

The judgment quotes the offensive tweets. There is misgendering: “he is a very sick individual I’ve evidence of that”. I don’t like Scottow calling Ms Hayden “sick”, but that was more than six months before, so not relevant. Also more than six months before, “I have many leads on the claimant”, which is threatening. Hayden got an injunction against Scottow, and Scottow used a new Twitter account to abuse the injunction.

The judge says the older tweets are defamatory or insulting.

It may be possible for abusive tweets to be criminal. Violent threats may be. Prosecutors may not think them serious enough to take action.

If you tweet, and someone tweets nastily at you, block them. After the appeal judgment, the courts may just not get involved. This is the judgment.

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.

Social Media Activism

Almost all activism is done in real life.

Social media can organise. On social media, a group recruited trans people to record a video to campaign for trans rights. When that video gets shown to cis people it may achieve some good.

Social media can persuade: my JK Rowling post got over a thousand views on its first day, and most of them were cis people, who were listening, pro-trans rights, and wanting to learn more. Some cis people shared it, extending its audience. WordPress gave me a platform, and facebook gave me an audience.

Social media can encourage. We get together in closed groups, all on the same side though with slightly different perspectives, and we argue, and hone our views. There are support groups for people transitioning, and activist groups for people who in many cases have been transitioned longer. We hang out.

The dopamine hit you get when your posts are liked and commented on is a problem. It gets people spending too much time on social media.

Some people post negative stuff, about transphobes doing their thing. This is not activism. If reading transphobic rubbish makes you depressed, that does nobody any good. It can be worthwhile reading transphobic rubbish to refute it- there were lots of answers to JK Rowling, or Maya Forstater– but generally, only the highest profile transphobia needs directly refuted. It is better to tell the truth about trans, without bothering to give attention to transphobes. It is only worth reading the falsehoods if you are going to do something about them that will do some good: persuading others not to read them, getting the truth out, showing how the falsehoods work. The Spectator and The Times produce so much transphobe drivel that much of it is repetitive and worth no attention whatever.

Abuse on Twitter is counterproductive. Telling Margaret Atwood she is a “gender traitor”, a term from “The Handmaid’s Tale”, for tweeting something mildly pro-trans, is not going to persuade her. Phobes needle trans women on twitter trying to get us to say “Fuck off”, then screenshot it and hawk it round, saying “Look! This is what trans activists are like!”

Clicktivism works sometimes. Petitions on the UK parliament site can get a response from the government, and sometimes a debate in Westminster Hall. As they get shared over social media, the short statement why the petition should be granted gets read. People signing it make a commitment to it, and that might psychologically make them more committed to its cause. One petition got 4,150,262 signatures, and for a time watching its numbers increase by hundreds every minute was hypnotic. I sat and watched it, feeling amazement and rueful pleasure, knowing it was not enough. I don’t sign or share change.org petitions, though. The people targetted could just ignore them. They provide data on the people signing them. I don’t do, or share, internet personality quizzes either.

Writing to your MP is more useful than social media sharing.

I am better to read books than news sites. From the UK, one account of the Trump response to Portland demonstrations is enough. The NYT and the Atlantic might produce articles on them daily. Even on issues that affect me directly, one article is enough. Possibly Mr Trump will win in November. Possibly Mr Biden will. I can’t influence the result. Reading about the relevant law, or the judges, or the voter suppression efforts, intrigues me with lots of tiny details without making me more informed on the only important question, who will win. I get the illusion of being informed and engaged without making the situation better. All it does is direct my strong emotions at something far away about which I can do nothing, disengaging me from my actual life. Learning about incipient autocracy in Poland and the threat of it in the US and UK has more value.

I enjoy protest marches, the sense of solidarity, the noise, the placards, and Extinction Rebellion, disrupting traffic round Trafalgar Square and Whitehall may have done good. But bad things are happening in the world, and paying them all my attention is unpleasant without doing any good.

Amy Dyess

“We were constantly triggered. Now I realize we were used as pawns in a culture war. It was never about defending and strengthening lesbians. The goal was to divide our community.” Social media does not keep anyone informed. Keeping us triggered is the point. Keeping us angry, defensive, fearful. Amy Dyess has revealed the hate and fear of the anti-trans campaigners, who she calls “gender critical”. She quotes their propaganda in her article, and it is vile, saying trans rights is persecuting lesbians. Amplifying it made her feel needed, that she was helping lesbians, giving her good feelings when her life was so difficult.

She was brought up evangelical, and people said it was immoral for her to marry. Some trans or allies’ tweets “saying lesbians were hateful for not liking penises” seemed lesbophobic to her, even though she is sometimes attracted to trans women. Perhaps they were. She was insecure and in pain, so open to “GC” propaganda. Her recruiter love-bombed her, and co-ordinated action against “Diva, PinkNews, Autostraddle, Juno Dawson, Grace Petrie, Ruth Hunt, Ellen Page, Chase Strangio, Rhea Butcher, and so many more”.

Amy Dyess was living in a car, working full time and trying to get a better job. She was groomed to go on TV to put the gender critical case. She was offered a house. Rosa Freedman, who distanced herself from the Republican and Evangelical right, offered to fly her to Britain, and have her speak at different events. Julie Bindel paid some of her expenses. There’s a lot of money in the GC movement. Much of it comes from Republicans (Julie Bindel spoke out against that).

“Gender-critical” Memoree Joelle, former editor of AfterEllen, supported Donald Trump.

When Amy Dyess considered suing Twitter for discriminating against women’s free speech, the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) proposed she got funding and support from religious right organisations.

Hands Across The Aisle, a religious right organisation seeking out wedge issues to detach leftists from the Democratic Party, worked with Posie Parker and produced anti-trans content as well as the founder’s homophobic content. Julia Beck, Meghan Murphy of Feminist Current, and Julia Long also worked with HATA.

Amy Dyess is against “political lesbianism”, “the harmful idea that women can ‘choose’ to be lesbians and strategically deny men sex”, “an anti-lesbian ideology”. She did not feel safe at WPUK events because Judith Green attacked her for criticising political lesbianism. “Lesbian rights depend on ‘born this way’,” she says. I disagree. It’s nobody’s business who you go to bed with but yours. “Born that way” might make some homophobes relent, a little, on their homophobia, but if they think lesbianism is not a perfectly reasonable choice, needing no justification, they are still homophobic.

I am not sure of the rigid boundary between straight, gay and bi. A woman I knew married a man and had a daughter, and I think she thought she was straight. Then she had an overwhelming affair with a woman, and told me she was lesbian. Then she went back to her husband. “Political lesbianism” could be a cover for a bi woman, and there is biphobia among LGBT folk (internalised in the B). Or a woman who had always been attracted to men could find herself attracted to a woman, and call herself a “political lesbian” because she found it reassuring. “Gold star lesbian” is the mocking phrase for someone who tells others she’s only ever been with women, and makes a point of it.

“I didn’t think that I was anti-trans, but looking back over the screenshots it’s clear that I was.” She still had trans friends in real life.

She wanted kindness, and I feel she misunderstands #fuckkind. The point is that being kind and considerate of men’s feelings is part of women’s socialisation. #fuckkind can be liberating. Who should you listen to, or pay attention to? Kind should be a choice not an obligation. If we could all stand up for our rights, and hear each other without being triggered, we might work together. LGBT+ should be allies despite all the tensions, because the prejudice from straightworld is so much greater. But we are traumatised, and triggerable.

1 December: Amy Dyess has written again about the cult of “gender-critical“. She says escapees need reconnection, protection and recovery. They need to reconnect with the loved ones they pushed away, and with former friends. Protection: some angry and desperate GCs will slander you. “If you’re sincere, most trans people will give you a break.” And, Recovery: unpacking what happened, which may require therapy. “There’s life after GC,” she says.

Is “No Platforming” bullying?

Scottish Poetry Library in transphobia row shock! No-one knows whether the Scottish Poetry Library supports transphobes or not, but they have said suspicious things.

They have a code of conduct which says supportive things about trans people: we will not tolerate abuse on the grounds of a person’s… gender identity. However, they also claim they can police all the conduct of people involved with them: Misconduct is when the behaviour of someone undertaking work for, with or on behalf of the SPL does not meet expected standards of behaviour, and their actions or conduct leads to … harm of other people… our code of conduct applies to online activity.

That is, the SPL claims the right to no-platform people when they tweet negatively about others. As an organisation booking speakers and letting rooms, they can’t refuse to book you because you are trans or a woman, but they can if they think you have behaved offensively. Any organisation chooses who may speak from their platform. Others may write criticising those choices, and whether they are listened to depends on how prominent a platform they have.

Then they put out a statement, criticising “disharmony” on social media. Good luck with that. We will no longer ignore bullying and calls for no-platforming of writers. Well. Hachette has cancelled its plans to publish Woody Allen’s memoir, because of protests by staff: they withdrew their platform. There is no-platforming for all sorts of reasons, but only calls for no-platforming when there is disagreement. No openly racist speaker is going to get a platform at the SPL, but what about transphobes? Transphobes get prominent platforms all the time, and trans people and our allies call for it to be withdrawn- on our twitter accounts and in blogs if we have no better platform, in emails and protests.

There are only calls to no-platform someone when the speaker is privileged and protected, and the protesters are weak. Otherwise, the platform is denied without fuss, by the powerful. Transphobe speakers are privileged- prominent in labour unions and universities, with powerful backing from Rupert Murdoch and the Heritage Foundation among others. Someone tweeting that a transphobe should not speak is not a bully, because if they had power they would not need to tweet. If a crowd of people come together on Twitter objecting to a transphobe speaking, they are met with strong tweeted resistance from transphobes powerful and powerless. Who bullies whom?

Trans people and allies sent an open letter to the SPL, worried that their powerless calls for no-platforming would be used as an excuse to no-platform them. They write in solidarity with writers combatting racism, misogyny, ableism and other structural oppressions, so that oppressive action can be freely spoken about. They ask for clarification on SPL’s support for trans people, who receive exceptional online abuse and media scrutiny. They are against bullying and for freedom of expression, but want to call for no-platforming of bullies and transphobes, and want trans people involved in reporting transphobia. They fear the SPL statement means trans people, objecting to transphobes getting to speak. The Times report and many tweets connected the SPL statement to opposition to transphobia, and the SPL tweeted that Times article. Asif Khan of the SPL seems to think trans rights conflict with women’s rights, though they do not. We believe that it is a vital right of people to name oppressive action when we experience it, and to seek accountability from people and institutions who have acted oppressively and made space for oppressive action- by internal procedures and public statements. From the Forstater case, “freedom of speech” is not a legal protection for transphobic statements.

Prominent and less prominent transphobes made a counter-statement, extensively quoted by the Guardian, claiming to promote “intellectual debate and thought” “outside a very narrow ideology” when they were being transphobic. Of course they deny being transphobic, spread transphobic myths, and claim to support “Women’s rights”. No transphobe will ever admit their transphobia.

Scottish PEN’s slogan is “Defending the freedom of writers and readers”. They are aware that hate speech, including transphobia, inhibits and restricts the free speech of trans people and others. PEN says the SPL has a responsibility to the community to consider equality issues, and its workings should be public and open to criticism. Free expression is complex and any policy that ignores such complexity can stifle the free expression of a range of stakeholders, most notably members of marginalised communities. Such as trans people.

Race Reflections beautifully expresses this discussing “Freedom of Speech” as the right to say anything without consequences. The demand for such freedom is “Insidious reversing”, where the oppressed trans people are positioned as the oppressor. It takes away our right to resist the violence practised against us.

JK Rowling

Is JK Rowling transphobic? Not necessarily. She does not tweet a lot. She has retweeted a bit about Brexit this year, of tweets and articles opposing it.

I’ve seen a meme claiming she tweeted, Ron Weasley was indeed transgender. Ron was born female but magically transitioned to female [sic] at the age of four. Gender transition is much easier in the magical world than it is in the muggle world- yet so similar. Yet a search doesn’t find those words. It is a forgery. When asked in 2014 if there were LGBT wizards at Hogwarts, she replied, But of course. If Harry Potter taught us anything it’s that no-one should live in a closet.

She followed a number of anti-trans campaigners, and liked some of their tweets, but that does not mean she is an anti-trans campaigner herself. Then yesterday she 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?
#IStandwithMaya

So. It’s proven, say some. She’s transphobic. And the media world wide has an interest: it’s in NBC and CBS. The Times has a picture of three women with a banner “WOMEN SPEAK UP!”. That’s terrifying. The attempt is to make campaigning against trans a mainstream feminist issue.

Pink News quoted LGBT folk condemning her. Some are vitriolic: “Who knew she would identify with Voldemort”.

And I’m not. My greatest fear is that people identified as transphobes or anti-trans campaigners or TERFs will take up that point of view. So this is my defence of JK Rowling.

She says what Maya Forstater did was state that sex is real. The anti-trans campaigners would have you believe that sex is real and gender does not exist. No-one has a “gender identity”, it’s just a word trans people use to try to justify ourselves.

Of course sex is real. Almost everyone has a reproductive system, and which you have, and which you were born with, matters. And trans people talk of our gender identity. But also, there are gender stereotypes in the world which affect everyone, and one way gender-variant people deal with that is to transition.

She did not merely state sex is real, though. She had a public dispute with a non-binary person and insisted that they were a man. That’s the moment where it stops being merely having an opinion, and starts to encroach on others’ rights.

I don’t know why the employer failed to renew the contract. Forstater says the reason is her position on trans. I could not find a statement from the employer on the reason, but they say she was “an unpaid visiting fellow and occasional paid consultant”, so not entitled to challenge the failure to renew. She’s the author of some articles still on their website.

Knowing of JK Rowling’s initial poverty, I see why she has sympathy with people losing their jobs, and I am glad of it. The technical details of Forstater’s employment rights are not in the papers, and possibly few people would think them relevant. Forstater had that source of income, and now she doesn’t.

That’s the defence. Sympathy with someone sacked. I am wary of calling someone a hater or transphobe. Forstater is a proven extreme hater and transphobe- hating trans people is part of her “sense of self”. Rowling- I don’t know. I would rather refer to transphobic acts or speech than transphobic people, unless clearly proven. As for the tweet-

Forstater says gender identity, and gender transition, is a myth. That’s more than saying sex is real, but her backers deny it.

“Force women out of their jobs”? That’s another TERF myth. The idea that trans women are men is widespread, not simply among TERFs.

So, rather than a “transphobe”, leave alone a TERF, I would call JK Rowling ignorant of trans issues but sympathetic with a woman who has lost her job. But, the tweet has worldwide attention, and is at best ignorant, so the tweet is transphobic.

So tweets accusing her of being a TERF are harmful. Attacked like this, anyone might be wounded, and keep asserting what they thought was reasonable, and get attacked more. It could drive her to the TERFs.

Trans women are women. Transition is an appropriate way of dealing with gender variance. Trans women are not a threat in women’s spaces, and should only be excluded if there are specific reasons relating to the particular trans woman. But not everyone contradicting any of that is immutably hostile to trans women. It could just be ignorant. It could be considering others’ rights as well as our own- I sympathise with people losing their jobs, often.

Slate says she’s no longer an LGBTQ ally. It’s a good article to explain what is the nature of Forstater’s case, and saying Rowling is not an LGBT ally- standing together- may get her to rethink. The Spectator, though, exults: this is a turning of the tide, and people will now speak openly of the need [Irony alert] to protect real women from transsexuals.

The more publicity such disputes get, the more our enemies prosper.

8 June: Rowling is more clearly transphobic here.

Gender free

I love the idea of being “gender free”. People could be themselves, rather than being “masculine” or “feminine”. A gender-free society would liberate everyone, as no-one really fits the stereotypes. However, our society is riven with gender stereotypes, and pressure to conform to them; so, now, gender free could mean consciously resisting such stereotypes, consciously bringing out aspects of the personality which do not conform, and lessening unconscious attempts to conform. Such free people would embolden and empower others to free themselves.

The term apparently came out of gender-critical people objecting to being called “cis”- so there are three categories, transgender who change gender, cisgender who are happy with their gender, gender-free who reject gender. Someone with a EU ring of stars as their profile picture- how much we might agree on, if we met- tweets “I reject gender as a restrictive and damaging social construct. My sex is female and that is enough for me.”

That does not mean that it should be in opposition to trans rights. “Gender-free” people would admit there is a problem with gender as constructed now. Not all people do. Many people are very happy with gender stereotypes. So we could be allies. There is only a problem if one group objects to the other’s way of subverting gender.

But then I looked at twitter, and found something to contradict that. “Gender free” is a new concept, and there is no Authority handing down definitions for it; so different people may define it differently. “Gender free folk are not saying they are exempt from gender norms. They are saying they don’t have a sense of inner gender identity.” That is merely opposed to trans rights, and not (by itself) seeking any change to oppressive gender norms. All I could say to that was, OK, but I have. I am female. And I am feminine.

Here’s another tweet making this a battle when it need not be, from a person with a male name and another ring of EU stars. “Gender is fine as long as it is not a weapon to erase women. Too often it is.” Um. I am unclear how 30,000 trans women could erase 30,000,000 cis (or genderfree) women, and I fear the erasure is going the other way.

I did not create the term, but would hope it might come to mean something which would subvert gender norms without subverting trans rights, or monstering trans people. However that is unlikely, so I hope it will die the death as not a particularly useful term. There is a twitter account “Gender free” which confusingly uses Monica Helms’s transgender pride flag, which I would insert here except it has not been Recommended for General Interchange by Unicode, and is not recognised by wordpress. The twitter account is simply abusive: “Came out as gender free. We are valid” it proclaims, as an attempt to subvert the claim of trans identity. They want to steal our words, and deny us the words we use. If they say “TERF” is a slur, I doubt they would accept COPCOC

completely ordinary people with completely ordinary concerns

as a word to describe themselves. Like Neo-liberalism, theirs is an ideology which seeks to hide by denying the word. “Genderfree” is “@peacetruth”.

I don’t mind calling anyone valid. I am irritated that she would not return the favour.

Extremists

There’s an A Woman’s Place meeting in Hastings on Thursday. Someone tweeted a bomb threat.

Then on Sunday the man said oh, it was not him: No Threat Was Made ~ Waz Made Aware OF A Threat & Want No One To Get Hurt ~ I Merely Nom On KFC. Then: Dis Iz Not A Threat Am Aware Of A Threat A Tranny Made. I can’t find his original tweet.

This is a man with nine followers on Twitter. On Saturday, someone on Mumsnet blamed me (and my allies): Yet when someone reads hears this shit, that Clare and their allies come out with, believes it and plans to bomb us, it isnt Clares fault. Note the sarcasm, the poor grammar, and the weird way the mindless, repulsive and wicked tweet has become a “plan to bomb”. I wondered if “Keem Arkwright” was a Russian troll. They want to radicalise internet debates- for shits and giggles, or to undermine Western democracy and the liberal international order, or something- and “Hyppolyta” fell for it. Arkwright’s use of the word “tranny” is clearly a fiendish plot to distance himself from trans women. Or, “I can think of another group of people more likely to have done it” said a trans woman. Nudge nudge, the transphobes are threatening themselves with bombs in order to radicalise people against us, in that person’s deranged imagination.

Honestly. No-one bomb-threats themselves. That trans woman’s comment is the stupidest thing I have read on this, and I have been on the Mumsnet thread about it.

Anyway. A few tweets from a vile idiot, and dozens of people are pearl-clutching. He should note that threatening a group with a bomb is a crime under the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006. That tweet could be an imprisonable offence.

I can think of few more intractable conflicts than that of trans folk and gender critical feminists, but perhaps the Palestinian-Israeli one counts. The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign hired a room in a Quaker meeting house for Thomas Suárez to discuss his new book, State of Terror: How terrorism created modern Israel. Depending on who you ask, this is either “a meticulously researched work” and “the first comprehensive aand structured analysis of the violence and terror employed by the Zionist movement” or lies and distortions. The Board of Deputies of British Jews requested the meeting house to cancel the booking on the grounds that the speaker had repeatedly made “offensive” (not the same as inaccurate) statements. A blogger, Jonathan Hoffman, phoned and emailed the meeting house repeatedly about it. The meeting decided to cancel the booking. In The Friend, the warden asked, “What exactly is the truth, and who can we trust to tell it?”

The truth is a balanced account of the conflict, giving due credit and blame to both sides. Nothing else will do. Anyone could state facts which were true but unduly blackened one side and praised the other: that would not be “The truth”. Truths can give a misleading impression.

What does a bomb threat mean, exactly, especially where it is almost certain there is no bomb? It means there is a wicked fool who finds amusement in scaring or revolting people. It says nothing about anyone else. Possibly he is an extreme outlier, and no-one else is approaching this level of vileness, even though possibly the level of vitriol in the debate is such that bomb threats are not much more of a step. “Hyppolyta” blames trans people because trans people have written some vile things; but blaming trans people may offend some who would be open to the gender critical case.

More extremism: an ornithologist took a specimen for research, and had to leave his job because of the vitriol heaped on him. Kirk Johnson in the NYT makes the case that killing one bird was proportionate, enabling a great deal of good to be done. An article in the journal Science says sample collection can contribute to extinctions. These are complex matters, not reducible to a tweet. There’s a subtle article in The Guardian about equality and diversity, after Lionel Shriver picked on trans people, among others, who might benefit from diversity programmes as “incoherent, tedious, meandering”.

Some people deliberately provoke anger to rile or cow the opposition, or to encourage or radicalise their own side. That only produces an equal and opposite reaction from their opponents. Trans people and gender critical feminists need to reduce the anger, and should be extremely careful over allegations against the other side.

Here’s a real bomb incident. It got no further than the Northamptonshire press. I wonder what the police meant when they said, the item of concern was finally determined not to present any danger to public safety. After a controlled explosion, I would have thought any “device” would pose no further threat, and a journalist’s witness said there was a “huge” explosion.

Punch a TERF? Don’t.

Sophie Cook was part of the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme. Labour Women’s Network says “Everyone at LWN and UK Labour is proud of you!” Trolls on twitter disagreed. They have a hashtag “Labour losing women”, as some transphobes think Labour refusing to discriminate against trans women is more important than any other political issue, and so are leaving the party. It may be as much as a few hundred out of 552,000. The abuse, some from Tories and some from gender-critical feminists, is blanked out. Select Text to see it, if you must.

“Nonsense”. “UK Labour should be thoroughly ashamed”. “Sick. It’s actually sick”. “Disgrace”. “He stole that place from a woman”. “That hulking manbeast took a place from a woman and you’re all pleased? Jo Cox’s spirit must be in despair. Everything she worked for being made a mockery of. Shame on you all”. “Trans women are dudes wearing dresses”. “And poor Jo had a penis in her name”. “LWN, you are a sexist misogynistic disgrace”. “Denying material reality and biological facts are signs of mental illness”. “Labour plans to exclude women from their party. I am surprised they aren’t advocating taking our vote away”. “A burly bloke in a shitty wig”. “Mediocre man”. “I don’t give a sh!t about his feelings. What about the feelings of real women?” “Jo Cocks award?” “That’s a geezer in a wig”. “Cock in a frock”. “It’s a fucking bloke. A bloke has just graduated from a ‘women in leadership’ programme. Makes perfect sense”. “Yeh if he looks down than the delusion that he is a woman will be gone, he will see his cock!” “Your misogyny is showing, zip up your pants”. “Hahaha beardy bro alert”.

This normalises hatred for trans people. Someone who tweets like that would be more likely to shout abuse on the street. But the answer is not to retaliate. Somewhere on Twitter, Dad @AeroKaty boasted of punching a TERF: “I hope her face is embarrassingly fucked up for work tomorrow because the only thing fucked up on me is my fist.” Screaming into the Void tweeted, “there’s nothing like physically fighting a TERF together to remind you how much your friends are truly your chosen family”. Someone has written a Tumblr blog claiming to be the victim. In a bar, a trans man had told her she was not welcome “and my smart ass said ‘Why because I know you’re a female?'” I could not find the Screaming tweet, but took this from a “gender-critical” blog. Only confirmed followers have access to AeroKaty’s tweets.

So some troll has gone round twitter collecting punch a TERF tweets, in order to radicalise opposition to trans rights and work to exclude trans folk from Prides. The trouble is, the punch a TERF tweets exist. ( Boss ) @praesidency wrote, “I’ll say it again- happy pride. Punch a TERF.”

Please, please don’t. Don’t hit people, however abusive they are. Trans men, it is not Real Bloke to punch someone except in self-defence- defending against physical attack, verbal attack does not count. Trans women, it is mannish to use physical violence unless necessary for physical survival.

“If biological sex isn’t real, how can one be same-sex attracted?” the troll asks. Poor thing. Humanity is too complex for some people to understand. They want to fit it into discrete logical categories, or their brains will implode. But she can’t erase trans people just because she can’t produce separate definitions for us and for lesbians. I exist. I am a woman. She is a lesbian, and I don’t care if she does not find me attractive.

Trans women- if you come on to a lesbian, and she does not reciprocate, stop immediately. It’s not just that it is rude and offensive to carry on when you are not wanted: she may go and tweet about it.

Twitter is not a place for nuanced argument. It can make announcements, or it can radicalise entrenched positions. No gender critical feminist is going to persuade the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme to exclude trans women by tweeting at them. She is only going to make both sides angrier. So someone might leave Labour, as if they did not care what the Tories were doing to the NHS and the education system, and someone else might want to “punch a TERF”.