Thanks Guys, But No Thanks

I spend a fair amount of time watching the TERF nonsense than goes on on social media without actually getting involved. It pays to know what your opponents are up to. There is a pattern to how this stuff goes.

The TERFs, of course, make a point of being inflamatory and offensive whenever possible. They want to provoke a reaction, hopefully an angry one that they can later claim is violent.

When trans people and cis women oppose them they generally react with harrassment, mobbing anyone who dares to speak out. Cis women, they will often accuse of being trans. They make disparaging remarks about these women’s appearance as if this somehow proves that they are “really men”.

But sooner or later some cis man will gallantly leap to the defence of his friends. It is great to see, and I’m very grateful, but it is not always helpful. Because as soon as this happens the tone of the TERFs changes. They suddenly switch to a narrative of, “Help, help! We are being oppressed! How dare men tell us who is allowed to call themselves a woman?”

You see, the long term objective of all of this is to cast the disagreement, not as something between trans people and a small but vociferous minority of cis women, but rather one primarily between women and men. On their side they want people to think that they have all women, and some men (you know, good, feminist men like Donald Trump and Mike Pence); and on the other side they want you to think there are mainly just Bad Men.

The point is that this argument looks much better if they can point to actual cis men who are opposing them. That allows them to talk endlessly about how their opponents are “men”, without them having to make themselves look ridiculous by having to give the likes of me as examples of such “men”. They have actual men that they can point to instead.

So I’m afraid that this is a fight where the brunt of the work has to be borne by cis women. There are many other things cis men can go and do, like refusing to be on manels and calling out their misogynist mates. And of course we are very happy to have support behind the scenes. But as far as the public fight goes, cis guys, please stay out of it where possible.

The Endless Demand for “Debate”

Well known trans activists such as Paris Lees and Shon Faye are well used by now to being invited to “debate” trans rights in the media. Mostly they turn these invitations down because they know that they will be “ambush interviews” in which you get asked to talk about one thing and find out when you get to the studio that you have been put up against some Trans-Exclusionary Self-Identified Feminist (TESIF 1) and are expected to talk about some completely different issue. The TESIF will get the majority of the air time and the presenter will support the TESIF’s side.

I don’t get such invitations. I am occasionally asked to be on local TV, but they are much nicer people than the national lot. However, of late I have started to get requests to “debate” trans rights from non-media people. I am starting to see a lot of ordinary people — often nice, middle-class, left-wing women — asking me when trans women 2 are going to answer the legitimate concerns of ordinary women about this new trans agenda that they have heard so much about.

Now talking to cisgender people about trans issues is my job. I do it a lot (though I normally get paid for it these days). However, it is very clear that when I do training for an organisation I am mostly preaching to the converted. That is, the course is optional, and the only people who attend are people who already have sympathy for trans folk. The people I am getting asked to talk to now are not those people. They are folk who are becoming increasingly worried and frightened about what those evil trans women are up to.

In politics there is a concept known as the Overton Window. The idea is that for an given issue there is a spectrum of views on that issue. Any position within a Window on that spectrum is seen as fair and reasonable by the public. Any position outside the Window, on either end of the spectrum, is seen as extremist and unreasonable. The way to win at politics is to move the Window so that your own views are squarely within the Window, and those of your opponents mostly outside of it.

The way that you move the Window is through the media. As the TESIFs have almost complete control of the media in the UK, they have managed to shift the window so far that trans women are now faced with being accused of extremism if we defend rights that we have exercised in the UK, without any negative effect, for the past eight years. The results of this are deeply worrying.

We are asked to defend things that we have never said.

We are asked to debate political positions that we don’t hold.

We are asked to apologise for things that we haven’t done.

And if we refuse to do so then we are accused of being angry extremists.

In any case, it is very difficult for us to do so. We have no access to the mainstream media except where cisgender allies facilitate it for us. Most of the discussion has to take place on social media, where everything we say will be attacked by people who have nothing better to do with their lives than hate trans women.

It is all very frustrating and depressing. I regard myself as having pretty good mental health these days, but even I’m starting to worry about what’s going to happen over the next year or two. It is pretty clear that the TESIFs want to remove gender reassignment from the list of protected characteristics in the Equality Act, and repeal the Gender Recognition Act. I suspect that the only thing preventing action being taken in Parliament is the ongoing Brexit paralysis.

I will continue to try to talk to people about this when asked, but it is very difficult to know what to say. Presenting the facts won’t wash, because the public has become so conditioned to the lies that they won’t believe anyone who says otherwise. And why should they? The stories they have been told have often come from respectable middle-class journalists from broadsheet newspapers and Radio 4. The only “compromise” positions I can see myself taking involve trans women giving up a lot of the rights that they currently have.

Still, last year a British trans woman was given political asylum in New Zealand because the nice Kiwi people deemed the UK too dangerous for her. I think I might try Canada first as it is closer to Kevin.

1. The TERFs keep complaining that “TERF” is a slur, even though it was coined years ago by irritated Radical Feminists wanting to distance themselves from the trans-hating crazies. So I am trying a new term. They certainly don’t deserve “Radical” as their biological essentialism makes them deeply conservative on the subject of gender roles. And while they might self-identify as feminists I think that anyone whose feminism isn’t intersectional, and who does no political work save for hating trans women, doesn’t deserve to be called a feminist.

2. I talk mainly about trans women in this post, because almost all of the hate is directed at trans women. Can you say “misogyny?” Apologies to trans men and non-binary folks. I am happy to fight your corner too where necessary.

Yesterday on Ujima – Hate Crime, Jazz & LGBT in Africa

There were a whole pile of significant anniversaries to consider with last weeks’ show. I’m annoyed that I missed out on wishing 90th happy birthday to Maya Angelou. I did get in that it was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. But we began the show looking back on the 25th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Alex Raikes of SARI, Bristol’s hate crime service, joined me in the studio to look at the state of hate-based crime in the UK, and specifically in Bristol, today.

To lighten the mood a little I was joined after the news by Dave Merrick of local jazz & blues group, Small Days. Dave and his colleague, Natalie Davis, have been wowing audiences around Bristol for some time now, and they have a new show coming up at the Zion Community Arts Centre in Bedminster. The show, called “Ladies First”, is dedicated to jazz divas and will feature covers of songs from the likes of Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Nina Simone.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

My third guest of the day didn’t turn up. Thankfully she’s OK. I found an apologetic email when I got home. Sometimes life gets in the way of being on the radio. Ben the Engineer and I managed to find enough content on the fly to fill in.

In the final segment I played an interview I made at the LGBT History conference in Liverpool last month. It is with Prossy Kakooza, who works with African LGBT asylum seekers in Manchester, and Frankie Edozien, who has recently written a book on LGBT life in Africa. Annoyingly the Listen Again recording cut off with about 9 minutes of the hour to go, but I have the full recording and I’m going to put it out on one of my podcast feeds.

You can listen to (most of) the second half of the show here.

The music for yesterday’s show was as follows:

  • Winston Groovy – The Stephen Lawrence Song
  • The Specials – Nelson Mandela
  • Small Days – God Bless the Child & Ain’t Misbehavin’
  • Small Days –
  • Clipping – The Deep
  • Labi Siffre – So Strong
  • Janelle Monae – Make Me Feel
  • Big Mama Thornton – Hound Dog
  • Jackie Shane – Any Other Way
  • Jama – No Borders

And if you would like to hear more from Small Days there have lots of free songs on SoundCloud.

Punished Twice: Trans in Prison

Next week is very busy for me, but aside from a radio show all of the things I am speaking at are for clients. The following week, however, I will be at Bristol University as part of an event called Punished Twice: Being Trans in the Prison System. The event is put on by the Howard League for Penal Reform, and I’ll be accompanied by several other guest speakers, all of whom probably know more about the prison system than I do. I’ll be there to talk more generally about trans politics and medical treatment. I’m also going to make sure that we talk about trans guys being prosecuted for “fraud”, because that tends to be forgotten in all of the media fuss about trans women. The event is free to attend.

Stuff & Nonsense

Every so often I think I should do a blog post rebutting some of the latest nonsense that the TERFs* have come up with. Then things get even more weird. I’m not going anywhere near the nonsense in the Labour Party because it is not my fight, but he’s a few examples of the bizarre things that have been going on.

As you may recall, the current TERF-fueled media assault on trans people is mostly about the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act and is a complete fabrication because a) the legislative changes would not give trans women the rights people are complaining about, and b) we have actually enjoyed those rights under the Equality Act for 8 years. I explained it all here.

Ireland has had a system of self-declaration of legal gender, similar to what has been proposed for the UK, since 2015, and recently there was an article in The Guardian about how Irish trans people had worked together with feminist groups in Ireland to make this happen, and that nothing awful had resulted from it.

Predictably the TERFs started harassing Irish feminists on social media. They also decided to have a public meeting in Dublin to school Irish women on how to be proper feminists. It was billed as being in support of Ireland’s fight for legal abortion, but as it was also part of a UK tour focusing solely on spreading alarm about trans rights the Irish were under no illusions as to what was intended. They issued a scathing open letter.

Since then I have seen TERF accounts on Twitter claiming that the Irish must be anti-abortion for opposing the proposed meeting, and that being pro-abortion is anti-feminist because the only purpose of abortion is to allow men to be less responsible about having sex.

Oh, and Germaine Greer has come out against the #MeToo movement.

Meanwhile it has been a common plank of TERF ideology, despite masses of evidence to the contrary, that trans women are all obsessed with gender stereotypes and act to reinforce the gender binary. Today I learned that, because they insist that being trans is only about gender presentation, they are taking to calling themselves trans because they don’t present in an extremely feminine manner, even though they were assigned female at birth and fully and proudly identify as women.

This is, I presume, another of their silly little psychological games in which they try to mess with trans women’s heads in an attempt to drive us all to suicide. I guess they are hoping that we’ll see anti-trans posts being made by people who claim to be trans in their profiles and be distressed by this. Thankfully you can normally tell because they will write “transwoman” rather than “trans woman” (using transwoman as a noun to indicate that a transwoman is an entirely separate class of being from a woman) and they’ll probably have “XX” in their profile as well).

About the only interesting thing about this is that their tactics are remarkably similar to those used by the miserable remnants of the Sad Puppy movement to harass writers that they don’t like on Twitter. Right down to the fact that their preferred targets are almost always young women.

One day we, as a society, will learn to recognize all of this nonsense and ignore it. Sadly that day is not yet upon us.

* TERF = Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, a term invented by Radical Feminists decades ago to distance themselves from the anti-trans fanatics. TERFs are notable for being neither Radical nor very good at feminism.

LGBTHM Bristol Publicity Rollout

We have some publicity up for the LGBT History Day that I am organising at M Shed in Bristol on February 10th. My apologies for the relentless stream of publicity about this that I will have going between now and then.

As you will see, we have a great line-up of speakers. I’m really excited about all of them. There will be in-depth posts about each one coming up on the OutStories Bristol website over the next couple of weeks.

Those of you with an interest in human rights issues will be particularly interested in Jonathan Cooper’s talk. He’s one of Britain’s leading human rights lawyers and today he had a piece in The Guardian about the danger posed to LGBT rights by Brexit.

Referendum by the Back Door

An interesting new development in civil rights has been the idea that such things should be put up to popular vote. Ireland did rather well out if it, supporting same-sex marriage so firmly that their frightened government passed a very progressive gender recognition act as well. Australia, on the other hand, was subjected to weeks of bitter argument in the media which involved a great deal of hate-mongering on the part of the anti-LGB lobby. What’s more, the vote wasn’t actually a referendum, it was just a postal survey of people’s opinion. In Australia voting is mandatory, but this was optional. Getting the vote out, or inhibiting it, suddenly became important.

As yet the UK has not had a referendum on LGBT rights. The country has had a rather bad experience with a referendum in the recent past and no one wants to go through that again. Nevertheless, the government is putting LGBT rights up for vote. They have launched a public consultation on the subject of the new sex and relationships curriculum to be introduced to English schools.

Consultations are not exactly new, but mostly they have been a matter for pressure groups, academic experts and so on. This one will be different. Right wing groups are already urging their supporters to flood the consultation with demands to ban all mention of LGBT issues from the curriculum. (See here, for example).

While the consultation is by no means binding, if it does come out strongly against LGBT inclusion, the government will be able to claim that it is the “will of the people” that we return to the days of Section 28. But, as I noted, this is not a referendum. It isn’t even something that the government will publicize heavily. We know that the other side will be well organized, well funded, and will have the likes of the Daily Malice on their side. We have to fight back.

I have had a brief look at the consultation. It is long and involved, and the government is asking for evidence. The anti lobby will doubtless provide prepared text for their supporters to cut and paste. Hopefully that will count against them. It would be good if we could look better informed. If you want to read up on the subject, Stonewall has plenty of information.

It is also important that this new curriculum teaches young people to respect each other, and that sex should be a matter of consent. There is a big opportunity here to deconstruct harmful gender stereotypes. I’m assuming that the Women’s Equality Party will come out with some recommendations in the near future. I will point you at them when it happens.

By the way, one of the talks I have planned for the LGBT History Month event in Bristol on February 10th will be from the leading civil rights lawyer, Jonathan Cooper OBE. I have asked him to address this issue of putting civil rights up for popular vote. It should be a very interesting talk.

VATMOSS – Victory?

It has been a long time since I had to write about the nightmare of the EU’s VT changes on cross-border digital sales, but thanks to very hard work by a number of people, including Juliet McKenna, we now have a satisfactory resolution. As Juliet reports here, as of January 2019 there will be an exemption for companies that do less than €10,000 worth of digital trading per year.

Huge thanks are due to Juliet and all of those who helped here (and are listed in her blog post).

So what does this mean? Well, in theory as of January 2019 the Wizard’s Tower bookstore can re-open for direct sales. We have plans. We hope you will like them.

On the other hand, by that time the UK could be out of the EU with a no deal Brexit and Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg as Prime Minister, in which case I will have far more to worry about than VAT.

Gender Recognition – Not as Scary as You Think

A great deal of newsprint and air time has been spent recently on scaring British women over the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. Sadly much of the information that has been given out is wrong, but many people have understandable concerns as a result. I want to address the issues here.

The first thing to note is that legal gender recognition doesn’t protect people from discrimination. It is the Equality Act that does that. A women’s refuge providing services to victims of sexual assault or domestic violence can legally bar various sorts of women from using their services if it is reasonable to do so. It might, for example, exclude a woman who has a highly contagious disease, and possibly even one who is a smoker. I am legally female, but I and other trans women can be legally barred from a women’s refuge now thanks to a special provision in the Equality Act.

Making it easier to change your legal gender will not change the law on whether or not trans women can use refuges.

The whole idea of “making it easier” is complicated as well. The media is suggesting that men will be able to become legally female simply by saying “I am a woman”. That is not how self-declaration works in any of the many countries that use it, and it is not how the Scottish government has proposed the system would work there.

What we will probably get is a system based on a Statutory Declaration. You will have to find a lawyer, pay a small fee, and sign a form that says you intend to adopt a new legal gender for all purposes. I’m sure there will be sanctions available if people use the system in a frivolous manner.

Back now to toilets, changing rooms in clothing stores, and so on. The suggestion has been made that changing the GRA will make it impossible to keep men out of these spaces. But, as I noted above, the GRA is not about discrimination, it is only about legal gender. The only women’s spaces that would be affected are places like prisons which specifically use legal gender to determine who goes where.

For all other spaces it is the Equality Act we should look at. This bars discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment. That is, it specifically protects people who have the characteristic of gender reassignment from discrimination (except in the special case of refuges as noted above). How does one gain this characteristic? Simply by starting on the process of medical gender transition.

To become protected by the Equality Act, all you have to do is visit your GP and ask for a referral to a gender clinic. That is much easier than making a Statutory Declaration. And of course it is a form of self-declaration.

The Equality Act was passed in 2010, so all of these things that we are being told will result from changes to the Gender Recognition Act are in fact already enshrined in law, and have been for over seven years. (Except for access to refuges, which you can bar trans women from and will still be able to bar us from if the GRA changes.)

In all of that time, I cannot recall a single case of a cis man abusing the system to gain access to women-only spaces. I’m sure such an incident would have been all over the newspapers if it had occurred.

Ireland adopted a system of self-declaration similar to what is being proposed by the UK in 2015. They have had no problems with the system. Other countries have been using similar systems for longer.

We should, of course, ask ourselves why a particularly right-wing Tory government is making these changes. Theresa May and Amber Rudd are not exactly big fans of civil rights, after all.

The answer is that the current Gender Recognition Act is manifestly not working. It has made it so complicated, expensive and humiliating to obtain legal gender recognition that most British trans people have not bothered to do so. You can change your passport, driving licence, bank account and so on without changing your legal gender. To the likes of May and Rudd – current and former Home Secretaries – it must be anathema to have thousands of people living a gender different from that in which they are legally recognised. They want to fix that, and they will probably add some means of encouraging trans people to get their legal genders changed so that all of their documents line up. Watch out for the stick that will accompany the carrot.

Much has been made of the issue of people with penises in woman-only-spaces. However, this cannot be avoided without completely undermining the medical process of gender reassignment. Under the current rules, anyone wishing to have genital surgery must have lived full time in their acquired gender for at least 1.5 years. If a trans woman doesn’t do things like using women’s toilets, and changing rooms in women’s clothing stores, the doctors will probably assume that she’s not serious about her transition and deny her surgery.

I can assure you that for many trans women the very idea of someone seeing that we have a penis is horrifying. We certainly don’t want to be waving the damn thing about in public, as it has been suggested we would do if the GRA is reformed. Many of us are glad to be rid of them, and those who don’t opt for surgery have very good reasons for doing so.

Of course there is a small possibility that some man will abuse the system and pretend to be trans. No law is totally bulletproof, and the widespread publicity being given to the possibility of such abuse can only encourage people to try. Someone will doubtless do it just to discredit trans women. But you can’t make laws on the assumption that they must be perfect. The world doesn’t work that way.

Here’s a related example. It is ridiculously hard to get a rape conviction here in the UK. I would like the laws tightened to make it easier. But every time a feminist group suggests this someone in the media will start going on about, “oh, but what if the woman is lying about being raped?”

You can’t have a rape law that is 100% proof against false accusations, and yet we have one because it is needed to protect the vast majority of women who report honestly. With trans women it isn’t even us who are accused of dishonesty, it is that someone else might pretend to be one of us. Is that any reason to deny us fair treatment?

The fact is that men do assault women all of the time. They don’t need to pretend to be trans women to do that. It is just too easy for them the way the world is now. Making it easier for trans people to get legal gender recognition won’t change that. It will help many trans people, and make the bureaucracy involved in gender switching easier and less confusing. That’s nothing to be scared about.

[Note: the above does not address the issue of legal recognition for non-binary people. That’s an entirely different matter, but no threat to women because non-binary people don’t want to be recognised as women.]

Bristol TDOR & Trans Pride

Bristol is having its Trans Day of Remembrance event tonight. That’s because it allows us to combine it with Trans Pride South West which is happening throughout the weekend.

I will be hosting the ceremony of remembrance again. It will be in the Ansom Rooms at the University of Bristol Students’ Union from 18:00 tonight. The main public part of Trans Pride South West is at The Station in Silver Street from 12:00 to 16:00 tomorrow. I will be on the OutStories Bristol stall. Further details here.

At least 325 trans people were murdered in hate crimes in the past 12 months, up from 295 last year. Almost all of them were women of color. More than half of the murders were in Brazil. Further details are available here.

[Thanks to Spencer for the header image.]


Is the number of trans people elected to political office in the USA yesterday. Helen Boyd has the full list. That’s a nice little black eye for the whiny child in the White House.

As usual the media has been talking all sorts of nonsense about people being the “first”, as if trans people were only invented yesterday. Monica Roberts has a nice post on the history of trans people in US election.

Of course none of those people were elected to a position in national government. However, seven also happens to be the number of trans people worldwide who have achieved that honor. Again Monica Roberts has done the research.

The UK is somewhat behind the curve on this. Indeed, we are in serious danger of going backwards. The Scottish Government released some (excellent) proposals on reform of the Gender Recognition Act today. Westminster is expected to follow suit. Because there will be a public consultation, there will also be a very well-funded campaign aimed at getting the government to scrap the Act altogether. The flood of (deeply dishonest) news articles about trans people we have been seeing over the last few weeks is just the softening up operation. I’m afraid I will have to be asking for your help in the near future.

Perfectly Dysfunctional

The inability of the British government to handle the Brexit process is providing plenty of ammunition for satirical cartoonists around Europe, but Brexit is by no means the only sign of dysfunction with the Tory party.

On Wednesday night Theresa May became the first seated Prime Minister to make an appearance at the Pink News Awards, run by the leading LGBT+ newspaper. In her speech Mrs. May committed her government to LGBT+ inclusive sex and relationships education in schools. “We’re determined to eradicate homophobic and transphobic bullying,” she said. She also pledged to reform the Gender Recognition Act, despite an intense media campaign against any further extension of trans rights.

On Thursday her Universities Minister, Jo Johnson, pledged to fine universities unless they provided a platform to any speaker who wished to encourage homophobia and transphobia. These new rules would not allow universities any control over the value or intellectual content of talks. All anyone would have to do is invite someone to give a talk, and then say they’d complain they were being “censored” unless the talk was allowed to go ahead.

So what exactly is the government’s position? Does it want to eradicate homophobia and transphobia, or does it want to make promoting those attitudes a special sort of protected speech that everyone is required to listen to? I certainly have no idea. I rather suspect that no one in the Cabinet does either.

Writing to Empower

This week is Diversity Week at Bath Spa University. There are lots of good events happening, and today I went along to a creative writing workshop on “Writing to Empower”. The tutor was Tanvir Bush who, in addition to being an author and lecturer, is also something of a disability rights activist. Prior to that she worked with people living with HIV/AIDS in Zambia, the country where she grew up.

We covered a lot of ground in the course, and one of the things we were given to look at was Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. King has been arrested for non-violent protest in Alabama, and he’s writing to a bunch of white pastors who have chosen to side with Governor Wallace rather than the black community. The letter is unfailingly polite and magnificently snarky at the same time. That guy could sure write. But what really struck me about it is how similar the discussion was to what we have today. People try to protest injustice, they get labeled as violent extremists by the government, and the nice, middle-class liberals throw up their hands in horror at the terrible tactics being used.

Here’s a brief extract from the letter.

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I feel your pain, Dr. King. These days I have come to the conclusion that the biggest stumbling block in the path towards trans rights is not the TERFs, or the religious fundamentalists, but celebrity white feminists. There are, of course, many women who are hugely supportive of the trans cause. However, those who have a platform, those who are likely to be listened to by government and large swathes of the population, are in this country unwilling to risk themselves to defend us. Part of this is due to relentless campaigning by the TERFs, and part of it is due to the constant attacks on trans rights in the media. All of it is due to a fear of being tarred by association.

There’s no question about the cause. A huge amount of what the trans community needs was set out, and backed with piles of evidence, in the government’s Transgender Equality Report. We know what needs to be done. But without political will nothing will be done. There are no votes in pleasing the trans community alone, there are too few of us. If the government comes to see feminism as hostile to trans people, because the only cis feminists they ever hear from are TERFs, then trans people don’t stand a chance.

I still believe that equality is better for everyone. But once you accept that equality is like pie, that giving equality to trans women means taking it away from cis women, you are accepting that only certain people are deserving of equality. That’s a very dangerous road for anyone, let alone feminists, to walk down.

Well Done B&NES

Yesterday I represented The Diversity Trust at a small celebration at Bath Guildhall to celebrate the fact that Bath & North East Somerset Council is once again #1 on the Stonewall Education Index. Huge thanks to Chair of the Council, Cherry Beath, for organising this, and special thanks to Kate Murphy for piloting the whole effort.

Given the level of hysteria being whipped up against trans people, and trans kids in particular, at the moment by the mainstream media, it is really encouraging to see a local council put so much effort into safeguarding trans kids (as well as LGB kids). Here are a couple of examples as to why this is important.

Firstly here’s a study showing that pressure to conform to gender stereotypes is causing mental health problems in young people the world over. That, of course, doesn’t just apply to trans kids, but the fanatical insistence on biological determinism by anti-trans campaigners doesn’t help.

And secondly here’s an academic paper showing that treating trans kids with love and respect, rather than forcing them into cruel “conversion therapy”, significantly improves their mental health. You wouldn’t think that needed saying, but the number of news articles and social media posts we have had recently accusing loving parents of trans kids of “child abuse” for failing to try to “cure” them is just horrific.

So well done, B&NES, and thank you! You are making a significant difference to the lives of local trans kids.

Picacio Sales for Disaster Relief

Hugo-winning artist, John Picacio, is making some of his work available in a sale to benefit disaster relief for those affected by the earthquake in Oaxaca, Mexico on September 7th, and victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. There are five original works of art available for sale. A portion of the sale price of each one will go to the disaster relief effort of the purchaser’s choice. For details of the items available, see John’s blog.

Last Week on Ujima – Crime, Cricket, Umbrellas & Protest

With profuse apologies for the day, here are the Listen Again links for last week’s show.

We started off with my friend Lucienne Boyce talking about her latest historical novel, Butcher’s Block. This is a new Dan Foster mystery novel, Dan being a Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist. We got onto the subject of bodysnatchers, and thence onto the horrors of 18th century medicine. Inevitably, when Lucienne and I get together, we start talking about suffragettes as well. Not in the 18th century, of course, but next year is the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some British women the vote.

Next up was my report on the Kia Super League Finals Day, including interviews with Raf Nicholson of The Cricketer, and Stafanie Taylor, hero of the hour and captain of the West Indies women’s team.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

The second hour began with a pre-recorded, trans-Atlantic interview with Nancy 3 Hoffman, owner and curator of the world’s only umbrella cover museum. Nancy is packing the museum into suitcases and bringing on it’s holidays to Bristol for a couple of weeks.

Finally I welcomed Amirah and Cat from the Bristol People’s Assembly into the studio. They told me all about the big anti-austerity demonstration that was to take place in Bristol at the weekend. I see from the news reports that it drew some pretty big crowds. It is also the first time I can recall the mayor of a city calling a demonstration against his own policies. Marvin says he has no choice but to make cuts because of reductions in the money he gets from central government, and he wanted people in Westminster to know how angry the people of Bristol are about it all.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The playlist for the show was:

  • Thin Lizzy – Fight or Fall
  • Sade – Is it a Crime
  • Eurythmics – Sisters are Doing It for Themselves
  • Queen – We Are the Champions
  • DJ Bravo – Champion
  • Billy Holiday – Stormy Weather
  • Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men
  • UB40 – One in Ten
  • Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up

Me v Trump

This afternoon Bristol 24/7 asked me if I would write something about the current fuss over trans people serving in the military. So I did.

Somehow I doubt that I’ll have any impact on US politics, but it is useful to point out that trans people are being used here. We make up only a very small percentage of the population. We cost the countries in which we live very little, and we try very hard to be law abiding because we know we’ll be punished far worse than non-trans people would be if we get caught breaking the law. And yet we keep having these media panics about how powerful, dangerous and expensive we are. The reason for this is that we are one of the current most popular media bogey groups. Some day it will be better, but doubtless only because some other luckless minority group finds itself in the spotlight. We need to become better human beings and stop falling for this nonsense.

Bristol Together For Grenfell

By August 4th I am going to be in Finland, but the good people of Bristol have chosen that day to show their support for, and raise money for, the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. It should be a great night. Ujima is busy promoting the event and our Station Manager, DJ Style, is one of the acts giving their time for free to help the appeal. Tickets are available here.

If you can’t make it to the event, you can still support the main Grenfell appeal.

Trans Kids in School – The Good and the Bad

On Tuesday (just in time of the course that Berkeley and I were giving at Plymouth University) Stonewall published the latest in the 5-yearly surveys of British schools. For the first time trans issues were included in the report, and the results were pretty shocking.

On the good side, homophobic bullying has decreased significantly, at least in part to the greater number of teachers who are comfortable being out. Transphobic bullying, however, is still commonplace. This comment from a student from Yorkshire really hit home for me:

No one I’ve spoken to at school has ever knowingly met a trans person before or been taught anything about trans people and what we might need.

This is why I did that Stonewall role model course.

The headline statistic that appeared in many newspapers is that 45% of trans school children have tried to take their own lives. That’s horrifying, but journalists rarely try to understand that statistic.

When trans kids do take their own lives, newspapers and other media often run articles by professional concern trolls who go on about how this is all the fault of the horrible “trans agenda”, and if only the parents had been more supported in their attempts to “cure” the child this would not have happened.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Studies in the USA show not only similar suicide rates to the UK, but also that those rates drop like a stone if the parents are supportive of the young person. A 2012 survey of trans youth quoted here has a 57% suicide attempt rate for kids without supportive parents, but only 4% if the parents are supportive.

Fortunately many parents, and many schools, do understand and do their best to support trans kids. Yesterday Stonewall announced the results of their annual Education Equality Index. The winning local authority was Bath & North-East Somerset. They have always done well in the past (and indeed narrowly lost out to Brighton last year), but I’m pretty sure that their triumph this time is a result of their leading the way on trans issues.

Obviously I’m not involved in the day-to-day running of schools and youth services, but I have done a fair amount with the folks who do that work over the last year. I’m very proud of them, and grateful that they listened to me banging on about trans rights.

Bristol Council, in contrast, doesn’t bother to submit an entry for the Stonewall Index, and has recently dismantled its Equalities team.

Pride on the Radio

Today on BBC Radio Bristol John Darvall has been discussing whether or not we still need Pride. Many of my friends were on, including Daryn Carter of Bristol Pride. I was on too. I may have had a bit of a rant about the DUP getting into government.

John and I had a discussion about Theresa May’s voting record without having the info to hand. I have since looked it up. She is actually in favor of gays and lesbians getting married, but she’s against allowing them to adopt. She also avoided voting on allowing LGBT issues to be discussed in schools, and on both the Gender Recognition Act and Equality Act. Details here.

One thing that I didn’t get a chance to address was the idiot who phoned in to say that if being trans wasn’t an illness then why is it treated on the NHS. Well firstly many trans people don’t want or need any medical treatment. And for those that do, that treatment is to help them transition, not to stop them being trans. The treatment is very successful with the vast majority of trans people being happier as a result. Saying that trans is an illness because trans people get NHS treatment is rather like saying that if having lungs wasn’t an illness why does the NHS treat pneumonia.

The broadcast will be available through the BBC’s Listen Again service once the show has finished. I’m on just before the end of the first hour.