The best of both worlds

I was having a bad day on Saturday so I went to the pub to cheer myself up. It wasn’t entirely successful.

First, a young woman who’d been standing next to me at the bar heard me speak, turned, and stared at me with open disgust.

A few minutes later a drunk thirtysomething man put his arm around me and demanded I talk to him.

That’s one of the great things about being trans. Why have your evenings ruined by people of just one gender when you can be made miserable by two?

As Cartman from South Park put it:

I’m hacked off with it too

I’ve written before about the toothless press regulator IPSO, which was set up by the press specifically for the purpose of not regulating the press. To take just one recent example, IPSO found that when The Times makes up quotes, doing so doesn’t breach the rules on accuracy.

The ruling was on a story about transgender people, who have been subjected to an astonishing hate campaign for some time now. Newspapers have become adept at sticking to the letter of the rules rather than the spirit: all the rules on discrimination and demonisation apply to individuals, not to groups. So if a paper were to publish a column claiming that trans person X is a predator, that’s against the rules (as well as defamatory). If the column claims that all trans people are predators, that’s fine.

In other words, it’s not okay to incite hatred against one person. But it’s fine if you want to do it against an entire minority group.

The Hacked Off campaign is attempting to highlight this in its latest report, “The denigration, abuse and misrepresentation of the movement for transgender equality in the press”. It focuses on two dozen high profile and often very abusive articles that appeared in the mainstream press in recent months. As Hacked Off put it on Twitter: “Some newspapers have resorted to distortions, inaccuracies and explicit transphobic abuse.” Over this period, UK hate crimes against trans people have increased by 81%.

The problem is specific to newspapers. We don’t have endless abuse of trans people on TV because Ofcom regulates broadcast media. There’s no such regulation for print.

Despite the 2013 Cameron Government legislating for an independent system of media regulation, the current Government have not brought it into
force. This has left one independent regulator operational – but membership is entirely optional. As a result, none of the major websites or newspapers have signed up.

Instead, most publishers are members of IPSO, which is a newspaper association and complaints-handler under the control of newspaper executives. I

In other words, the people being asked to decide whether content breaks the rules are the people who publish the content that breaks the rules.

I used to be against press regulation, because many journalists are fine people who do important work. But some of the biggest publishers in the country have turned their platforms into bully pulpits, repeatedly, mendaciously publishing malicious content designed to hurt the most vulnerable people in our society: not just trans people but minorities of all kinds. We’ve seen exactly the same maliciousness directed at muslim people, for example, and the same rubber-stamping by IPSO.

IPSO is not fit for purpose and sectors of the UK press are out of control. What they do is not journalism, and it does not deserve protection.

There’s a petition demanding change here. Please sign it. Every name helps.

“No tweet is too mundane to escape this phenomenon”

Jess Brammar writes about another curse of the internet: reply guys.

…alongside the straightforward abuse that is by now publicly acknowledged – and to the majority of the population, wholly unacceptable – there is something more complex, less offensive, but incredibly exhausting nonetheless. Sometimes it’s so subtle you barely notice it but it’s always there, always wearing, and just reserved for us women.

It is, broadly, the general sense that men have the right to weigh in on any statement made by a woman, because their opinion is as welcome, relevant and wanted as the original point, something Mashable has termed “the curse of the reply guy”. A non-stop unsolicited stream of pedantry and condescension.

Not going for gold

This is a bottle of Rimmel’s Oh My Gold nail polish, which I’m currently sporting. My five-year-old son likes it too, because nail polish is fun and fun is important. So when he asked for some on his own nails last night I was happy to oblige.

This morning, he asked me to take it off again because he’s going to a sports camp where “the big boys will notice and say ‘what are you wearing nail polish for? That’s for girls!’ and pick on me.” So we got the nail polish remover and scrubbed every last bit off again.

Five years old and he already knows the rules, and that he’ll be punished for breaking them.

It makes me sad, as it did when my daughter was told aged four that history and dinosaurs are not for girls, and as it did a year later when she was told that girls couldn’t play with dragons because unicorns, not dragons, are for girls. We’re policing the gender of imaginary creatures now, it seems.

These attitudes are learnt, of course. They’re passed down from other children, and from parents. So at an age when children should be expressing themselves more, experiencing more, exploring more, learning more, we’re already trying to put limits on all of those things.

In a world of infinite colours, we’re telling them to choose just one.

When Rod Liddle is trending

The heart always skips a beat when a famous person’s name appears in Twitter’s “trending” chart. It usually means they’ve died or been implicated in sex offences. So when Rod Liddle turned up the other night, my immediate reaction was to wonder whether he’d punched another pregnant woman in the stomach. Thankfully no: he was trying to defend apparently racist columns on TV. I’m surprised he didn’t claim his column had been hacked, like he did when his account was caught posting racist bilge on a football fan forum.

Liddle is a terrible human being who writes terrible things on behalf of terrible people. And now he’s excreted another terrible book.

Is it any good? Of course it isn’t. But at least it means Fintan O’Toole can review it.

Never,” Rod Liddle writes in his jeremiad on the “betrayal” of Brexit, “have so many blameless people in this country been held in such contempt, or been subject to such vilification by an elite.” Really? Who wrote in 2014 of Britain as “a nation of broken families clamouring about their entitlements siring ill-educated and undisciplined kids unfamiliar with the concept of right and wrong”? Who described with relish “the hulking fat tattooed chavmonkey standing in the queue at Burger King”? Who characterised the British masses as inhabiting “a dumbed-down culture”, being in thrall to “the background fugue of idiocy, the moronic inferno, of celebrity fuckstories”, and spending their time “watching TV, masturbating to pornography on the internet, getting drunk”? That would be Liddle in his last book, whose title, Selfish Whining Monkeys, may just possibly have had a slight whiff of contempt and vilification.

And that’s just the opening paragraph.

Probably not coming to a newspaper near you

One of the things anti-trans writers like to go on about is the spectre of “detransition” and surgical regret: according to them, trans-related surgeries are acts of mutilation that many people will go on to regret.

As ever, the facts tell a very different story. I’ve mentioned previously that the NHS in England reported a detransition rate somewhat different from the 80% claimed by the anti-trans mob: it was 0.47%.

Here’s more data, this time covering surgical regret rates from a much bigger sample: 6,793 people over 43 years.

Despite the large increase in treated transgender people, the people who underwent surgery but regretted their decision was 0.5%.

By comparison, the regret rate for knee replacement surgery is 20%.

As Christine Burns MBE, author of Trans Britain, points out:

If any other branch of medicine had such good results the doctors involved would be given medals. It says volumes about the state of mind of anti-trans commentators that they keep on trying to pretend that an outstandingly successful medical treatment is vastly regretted.

Well behaved girls rarely make rock history

This is my daughter on stage with The Red Bricks, one of the bands formed at this year’s Girls Rock Glasgow summer school. She’s the one with arms aloft. Sorry about the picture quality, it’s from a video.

The concert is the culmination of the nine-day event during which girls aged 7 to 16 form bands, make merchandise and become even more kick-ass: in addition to the music content there are sessions on consent, on LGBT+ issues, on mindfulness and on body positivity.

It’s really inspiring and heartwarming to see so many girls and young women doing the kind of thing girls and young women are so often discouraged from doing: being seen and heard, expressing themselves and making a huge noise. While not every attendee will go on to be a musician I think every one of them will be positively affected by the experience.

Girls Rock doesn’t just run in Glasgow; it’s in cities throughout the UK and US. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here’s a link to the Glasgow one so you can bookmark it for next year.

Schools protests to go nationwide

Back in March, I wrote about the people protesting outside a Birmingham school over inclusive education and noted that while the protests were reported as Muslim, many of them were Christians. Also in March, I wrote that “US money is incoming and these protests will become more widespread.”

Yesterday, INews reported that the protests are going nationwide thanks to the sudden appearance of “grass roots” activist groups.

We’ve seen this pattern over the last couple of years with anti-trans groups, many of which have proven links with the US religious right. But trans people were only the testing ground for the evangelicals and their money.

Now the focus is moving onto the wider LGBT+ community and women’s reproductive freedom. That was always the plan.

A network of fringe activist groups such as Stop RSE, Parent Power, The Values Foundation and the School Gate Campaign have been set up over the past year, and campaigners are reportedly preparing to step up protests in September, encouraging parents to challenge the “radical sexualisation of kids” at schools.

The School Gate Campaign, set up by an evangelical Christian mother, claims on its website that teaching children about gay people “hijacks and potentially perverts the course of natural child development.”

Claiming that teaching about other people is “radical sexualisation” is of course a key claim of the religious right. Compare and contrast the bit from the article with the Family Research Council, the US’s horrific anti-LGBT+ evangelical group, who said this earlier this year:

“Parents across the country pulled their children out of public schools on Monday for the “Sex Ed Sit Out”—a grassroots awakening of frustrated parents who are sick of the sexualization of children in their taxpayer-funded schools.”

Same tactics. Same messaging. Same objective.