Not an innocent Spectator

Another day, another bad article in The Spectator.

The answer is no. The EDL founder was arrested for deliberately breaking the law on Contempt of Court.

Whether Liddle or his editor Fraser Nelson actually believes his nonsense or is just trolling for money is irrelevant: by continually trying to paint racist clowns as free speech martyrs The Spectator is becoming the house rag for right-wing bigots of all stripes. It’s become a despicable publication by and for despicable people.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before

30 years ago today, Section 28 (Section 2A in Scotland) was introduced to ban the “promotion” of gay and lesbian “lifestyles” in schools to protect children from the entirely invented dangers of gay and lesbian people. It wasn’t repealed until 2003 in England and Wales, although Scotland canned it in 2001.

I was 15 when Section 28 was passed. It was an era of vicious anti-gay bullying, encouraged by vicious anti-gay propaganda in mainstream newspapers. AIDS was “the gay plague” and a book with two gay dads, “Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin” was denounced as “vile”, “perverted” and a threat to children by multiple newspapers.

Piers Morgan monetised homophobia by writing about “The Poofs Of Pop”, and The Sun’s headline about the first gay kiss on the soap opera EastEnders was “EASTBENDERS”. The accompanying story described “a homosexual love scene between yuppie poofs… when millions of children were watching.”

The barrage of bigotry had a terrible effect. Social Attitudes Surveys of the time saw anti-gay sentiment, already high, rise during this period: the percentage of people who believed same-sex activity was “always or mostly wrong” was nearly 80% in both the US and the UK.

National newspapers frequently ran homophobic front page stories. The “Keep the clause” anti-repeal campaign was particularly vicious.

The period leading up to the repeal of Section 28/Clause 2A was particularly unpleasant in Scotland, with billboards and newspaper articles urging us to keep the clause to protect our children.

Won’t somebody think of the children?
We’re not homophobic. We just have genuine concerns.

History repeats.

Where Richard Littlejohn used to write about “the government’s determination to lower the age at which schoolboys can be sodomised”; he now rails against the supposed evils of trans people.

Many other columnists who once railed against gay people now battle “Transgenderism” and the “sinister transgender agenda”.

Innocuous kids’ books such as “Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?” have been slammed by the likes of the Mail on Sunday, Lord Tebbit and Sarah Vine (“We are threatening the sanity of – and yes I’m going to say it – normal children”).

Piers Morgan monetises transphobia on TV.

Social attitudes surveys show that after years of gradual improvements, anti-LGBT sentiment is on the rise.

History is supposed to be a warning, not a how-to guide.


The ever-excellent Another Angry Woman is thinking what I’m thinking. And Stonewall’s Ruth Hunt draws parallels in The Independent.

“That’s not how it works”

James Kirkup of The Spectator has written many articles that unquestionably parrot the propaganda of anti-trans bigots, but he reached a new low this week with the story of sniggering arsehole David Lewis.

Lewis is – or rather, was; Labour suspended him for, well, being a sniggering arsehole – standing for election as a women’s officer in his local Labour Party. Hilariously, he says he identifies as a woman “on Wednesdays, between 6.50am when my alarm goes off and around midnight when I go to bed.”

Lewis’s motive (other than look-at-me self-publicity) was to raise awareness of, you’ve guessed it, the sinister trans agenda. Unfortunately by setting out to prove how easy it is to abuse the system, he ended up demonstrating that it isn’t easy to abuse the system. This is what the internet calls a self-own.

In The Guardian, James Morton wrote a thoughtful response to the stunt.

Self-declaration is not a frivolous process. Making a false statutory declaration is a serious crime of perjury. Evidence of malicious intent, whether it be to invade women’s safe spaces or to try to make a mockery of the very real struggles that trans people face to live their lives as who they are, could rightfully lead to severe penalties including up to two years in prison.

Anti-trans campaigners who treat this process as if they can just wake up one morning and say they are a woman or a man and change nothing else about their lives are mocking not only trans people but the concept of identity itself. Identity is not some random feeling we have just on Wednesdays or Fridays, but our deeply held sense of ourselves and how we fit into the world.

…Puerile stunts, deliberate misgendering and hateful comparisons to parasites and paedophiles is not constructive discussion.

The good news is that, like shouting “penis” during televised debates, these stunts tend to backfire terribly. The vocal activism of anti-trans activists within Labour (many of whom are currently being suspended from Twitter for repeated acts of hateful and harassing conduct) has led Labour to double down on its support for trans people. On the left, some of the most radical voices are standing alongside trans people and arguing that it’s the anti-trans crowd who are hateful and dangerous. On the right, Theresa May has reaffirmed her support for Gender Recognition Act reform: “being trans is not an illness and it shouldn’t be treated as such.”

And it isn’t a lifestyle choice, either. I didn’t choose to be trans, but you can choose whether you want to treat trans people with basic human dignity or be like Kirkup and Lewis. One day even they’ll see sense:

We can’t afford to be complacent as Ireland’s big decision arrives

My friends at Fashion Fix Daily asked me to write a piece on something I’ve touched on a few times in this blog: the US money that’s attempting to influence laws in other countries, most notably the campaign to repeal the anti-abortion Eighth Amendment in Ireland. Ireland votes this Friday.

What used to be an American problem has become a global one: the culture wars that have long divided the US are being exported in yet another example of the internet turning out to be a terrible idea.

We shouldn’t be surprised. After all, fashion is global now: what a celeb posts on Instagram in America soon appears in the fast fashion chains across the Atlantic. Style, music, entertainment and even politics have become global, so why wouldn’t intolerance go global too?

There are very strong links between Irish women’s groups and LGBT groups, who rightly recognise the many things they have in common and the power they have when they unite. One of the things they have in common is their battle against religious conservatives who would deny them bodily autonomy and basic human dignity.

My own take on the referendum is that whatever way Ireland votes, women will continue to need, seek and have abortions. The only difference between a Yes and a No vote is the safety of those women and the trauma they’re forced to experience.

This isn’t about pro-choice versus pro-life. This is about caring about women versus cruelty to women.

I truly hope the referendum returns a yes verdict, but the issue of far-away organisations attempting to influence democratic processes in often underhand ways is not going to go away when the polls shut on Friday.

Whether we’re waving Pride flags or supporting the women who want to repeal the eighth amendment, we need to remember that the enemies of equality can shout just as loud – and that many of them have deep pockets.

They can afford to spend huge sums in their attempts to roll the clock backwards, and that means we can’t afford to be complacent.

“There is no conceivable way the use or misuse of pronouns can be construed as advocating genocide”

A few weeks back I posted a link to a superb literary kicking of right-wing charlatan Jordan Peterson. Here’s another, this time via the writer Daniel Karasik. Karasik wrote a column defending Peterson’s views on trans people’s pronouns, which is what made Peterson infamous in the first place, and Alexander Offord has written a glorious demolition of it and of Peterson.

If you read just one very long takedown of two Canadians today, make it this one.

How you have managed to convince yourself that transpeople represent the “ruling class” and that the “bloody-toothed Leviathan of government” is somehow working to their benefit at the expense of Jordan Peterson’s right to be a colossal douchebag is well beyond my powers of intellection.

This is what self-ID is all about

I got a message from my lawyer today: my divorce paperwork has been curtly rejected by the relevant court because the introductory page uses the pronoun “she” to describe me; the court wants it to be “he”. This is despite the accompanying evidence of my name change in the form of my amended birth certificate, deed poll and so on.

So I have a choice: change two words and resubmit the paperwork, adding a bit more cost and a bit more time to a process that already takes too long and costs too much.

Or I can provide a Gender Recognition Certificate and leave the filing as-is.

Except I can’t. Despite living full time as me, having an official diagnosis of gender dysphoria and undergoing supervised medical treatment, I can’t apply for a GRC for at least another year – and when I do, I’ll have to pay £140 for the application and various other fees to get the necessary evidence from my GP and the gender clinic. As I’m sure you know from painful experience, doctors’ letters don’t come for free.

And the panel may decide to reject my application anyway. There’s no right of appeal, and no guarantee that your application will be granted even if you cross every T and dot every I. If the panel says no you need to go through the whole process all over again.

This is what the proposed move to self-declaration of gender (and the actual move to self-declaration that has already happened in many countries) is designed to address.

It’s important to reiterate this: self-ID is purely about paperwork. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether I can use the ladies’ (I already do), whether the gender marker for me on my passport or on the NHS computer says “F” (it already does), whether I’d be sent to a female prison if I turned into an axe murderer (I probably would, but these things are assessed on a case by case basis).

It’s about paperwork.

It’s about being able to get the Royal Bank of Scotland to change the gender marker on my bank accounts, something that to date has taken seven months and is still ongoing. It’s about having a little bit of paper that tells a court clerk that I don’t have the same name and pronouns I was given at birth. It’s about removing cost and complexity that doesn’t need to be there and making the world a little bit less shitty.

If you’d like to know more about the issue, Stonewall has a good explainer here.

Promises we can’t keep

I blogged a few days ago about the problem with mental health services: it’s all very well to urge people to get help, but the help needs to be there for them.

This excellent piece by Vic Parsons explains how the system is failing many LGBT people.

People are still being left in limbo, on waiting lists, for more than two years – largely because of the tiny pool of resources.

I live in Scotland, where the NHS is considerably less beleaguered than it is in the rest of the UK: there are fewer people in the whole of Scotland than there are in London, and as a result our services are under considerably less pressure. But even then things move glacially slowly.

I had an initial assessment for counselling services yesterday, some 19 months after I first self-referred to the Gender Identity Service (in Scotland you don’t need to go through a GP to access such services). The counsellor felt I’d benefit from six sessions or so, and put me into the system. I can expect my first appointment approximately nine months from now.

That’s February 2019, from a referral in October 2016.

I’m not in crisis. I’ve already had private counselling that I found very helpful; counselling I was fortunate enough to be able to afford. And I’m currently being treated via a private GP, again because I’m fortunate enough to be able to pay for it. But a system that effectively forces people to go private or go without treatment is a system that’s broken. It’s particularly bad for trans / NB people, but it’s bad for everybody.

As Vic Parsons writes:

I know that I can wait for that appointment. But what if I was a teenager, young and alone and afraid?

White van, tran

When I came out as trans, I joked that I did it because I wanted to get yelled at in the street by people in vans. But until last night on the way to the pub, it had never actually happened to me.

Words as weapons

The Onion has had to publish its article again:

This week’s school shooting is in Texas where – surprise! – the shooter is a straight white man who hates women.

The Texas school shooter killed a girl who turned down his advances and rejected him in front of class before massacring seven more classmates and two teachers, it’s been revealed…

Shana Fisher, who turned 16 just days before she died in the attack, had been fending off advances from Pagourtzis for months.

It’s the same old story. Boy meets girl. Boy won’t take no for an answer. Boy murders girl, classmates and teachers with assault weapons.

We’ll have the usual post-event analysis where various people try to blame everything other than violent men with easy access to military weaponry (although one post on Twitter really nailed it: in response to “What will it take to change the laws to prevent more killings like this?” he replied, “One shooting by a black student”).

But this is really simple. Some men believe they are entitled to women’s bodies, and they become furious if they don’t get their way. In a culture where easy access to weaponry is seen by many as a basic human right, that results in mass shootings.

The media is complicit in this. Not just in its gun fetishism, but in supposedly intelligent titles lauding the likes of Jordan Peterson – who this weekend was arguing in favour of “enforced monogamy” as the cure for male violence against women –  and debating whether men have a right to sex.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis certainly thought he had a right to sex, and when the woman he wanted to have sex with said no – not just once, but repeatedly, over several months – he slaughtered nine people.

All ideas are not equal. Some are dangerous. And media has a responsibility to consider that. And yet all too often we get pieces that read like “Hooray for the blackshirts”, the Daily Mail’s 1930s ode to the rise of fascism.

Still, it wouldn’t happen now, would it?

This is from yesterday’s Sunday Times on Twitter. The print piece was headed “Heil Hipsters”.

The article itself may have been reasoned and rational, although as it was by noted fantasist Andrew Gilligan I doubt it. But as one Twitter user posted in response:

What the fuck are you playing at?

The Times’ original tweet has now been deleted, but it shouldn’t have been posted in the first place. As British Future director Sunder Katwala responded:

While @thesundaytimes can report on the very fringe middle-class professional banker seeking to relegitimise racism for a better spoken far right, its perhaps best not to tweet it out like its some celebrity fashion shoot.

As he points out, the “breathless national reporting about [the] rise of hipster racists” lacks context. These are extremists, a tiny minority, but their views are dangerous. And their mission is to normalise racism. Presenting them as normal people is exactly what they want.


One of the ongoing assignments in my comedy writing class is to come up with topical jokes. Be glad I’m not there to deliver them in person.

The UK media has got itself in a tizzy over people using the term “gammon” to describe angry white men. One Spectator columnist got so angry about it he had a heart attack. He was taken to hospital in a hambulance.

According to experts, the upcoming royal wedding will cost £32 million. Other experts point out that burning Piers Morgan in a wheelie bin would cost one millionth of that, and make the UK 32 million times happier.

Chinese pilot Liu Chuanjian was hailed a hero after his co-pilot was nearly sucked through the broken cockpit window of his Airbus A319. It’s currently unclear how the co-pilot was sucked out with such force, but Chinese authorities would like to interview your mum.