“It is never too late to live your life”

Jenny Boylan, novelist, columnist and author of the excellent memoir She’s Not There, posted a really worthwhile thread on Twitter today. I’ll give you a flavour:

People often ask late-transitioners, Why now? After all this time? What kind of woman do you think you can be, after missing your girlhood and your adolescence? But those aren’t the questions.

The question is, How did you manage to go so long? What enabled you to keep carrying your burden in secret, walking around with a shard of glass in your foot, for all those years?

The Times: transphobia is bad (except when we do it)

The Times has carried out an investigation into Twitter.

References to child sex abuse, taunting of rape victims, disturbing messages from stalkers, homophobia and transphobia all stayed on the site after Twitter reviewed the content and decided that none of it breached its terms.

Examples of the hate speech include attempts to link LGBT people with paedophilia and the deliberate abuse of trans women.

This, from a newspaper whose UK edition repeatedly runs articles claiming that trans people are ‘sacrificing our children”, that trans women are predatory men, that the LGBT “lobby” is abusing children.

Maybe the Irish edition didn’t get the memo: abusing minorities sells newspapers.

What does it profit Scotland if it gains the whole world but loses its soul?

There’s an interesting piece in Bella Caledonia by Mike Small about how “overtourism” is doing to Edinburgh what it’s done to so many other places in the world.

It’s not just Edinburgh. The “North Coast 500” road route, an invention to draw in tourists, destroyed the road surface and caused chaos on rural roads thanks to sports car drivers. The isle of Skye is reaching saturation point in the summertime.

But Edinburgh is facing a perfect storm. Airbnb rentals focusing on the Festival are doing serious damage to the housing market (the numbers are up from 2,000 a decade ago to 10,000 now), damage that has seen its use severely restricted in other parts of the world. The use of public spaces for more and more boarded-off events is ruining the public sphere. Boneheaded planning decisions have turned the city into a perpetual building site. The basic infrastructure of the city is struggling to cope.

Some of the same trends are happening in my own beloved Glasgow, but we don’t have Harry Potter tourism, the Festival or much of an Old Town to worry about. Edinburgh’s a very different place from Glasgow and its problems are on a much greater scale.

Mike Small:

Unless there is widespread and urgent opposition the trajectory of the city is clear: a city designed for and shaped around the rich and designed to exclude and exploit residents. The people who profit from the city are a tight network and the lack of transparency about ownership and decision-making is a well practised art form.

I’ve nothing against tourism, or the Festival, or gigs in public parks. But a city isn’t just a tourist destination or a playground for the very rich. It’s a place where tens of thousands of people live, love and work. It’s their city too.

Twitter’s cowardice is all about one man

No, not its boss, Jack Dorsey. This guy.

Twitter doesn’t want to move against hatemongers such as Alex Jones because if they do, it begs the question: why not Trump?

The short answer is: $2 billion.

That’s how much the Trump account is believed to be worth to Twitter, which is why it hasn’t blocked him despite him frequently posting abusive and threatening tweets and occasionally making nuclear threats to world leaders. That’s all fine, because Trump is “newsworthy”.

Dorsey mouths platitudes about freedom of speech, but his only concern is Twitter’s freedom to make money.

Cultural vandalism

Fortress Britain doesn’t want foreign musicians.

The musician Peter Gabriel has expressed “alarm” over UK foreign policy after a number of international artists were unable to perform at Womad world music festival after visa issues.

Or authors.

A dozen authors who were planning to attend this year’s Edinburgh international book festival have had their visas refused, according to the director, Nick Barley, who warned that the “humiliating” application process would deter artists from visiting the UK.

Visa problems have been an issue for festivals for some years now (and have been an issue for UK musicians travelling to the US, whose visas are hilariously expensive and make some small tours uneconomic), but the Conservatives’ “hostile environment” is making things much worse. And it doesn’t just affect the artists who lose income and still incur huge costs when their visas are rejected at the last minute: it affects the future viability of the festivals that book them too.

Elsewhere, Private Eye reports that the custom of touring musicians, especially classical ones, performing in Dublin before travelling effortlessly into the UK has been stymied by Home Office pedants who fear terrorists hidden in tubas. And UK musicians are worried about the very real impact the end of EU free movement will have on their ability to tour, which is a crucial component of any modern musician’s career.

What a bleak, insular, joyless country we’re becoming.

You can’t pray the gay away

Chitra Ramaswamy has a powerful piece in The Guardian about the horrors of LGBT conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy – sometimes referred to as “cure” therapy, reparative therapy, ex-gay therapy or sexual-orientation change efforts – refers to any treatment aiming to change a person’s sexual orientation or suppress their gender identity. It is a nebulous term, encompassing what can be a range of highly damaging practices from an app offering a 60-day “gay cure”, available on iTunes and Google Play as recently as 2013, to spiritual interventions, talking therapies, drugs and, more rarely, extreme physical measures such as electric shock treatment, aversion techniques and “corrective rape”. All share in common the false, unethical assumption that being LGBT is a condition that requires curing. A psychological disorder, in other words.

Such therapies are widely discredited because they’re ineffective, cruel and dangerous. That doesn’t stop anti-LGBT bigots advocating for them, sadly. And they’re currently still legal in the UK and many US states.

This section is terrifying.

In 2015, the charity Stonewall found that one in 10 health and social care staff had witnessed colleagues express the belief that sexual orientation can be “cured”. A 2009 survey of more than 1,300 mental health professionals found that more than 200 had offered conversion therapy.

…[in the US] an estimated 20,000 LGBT teenagers in the US will be subjected to it by a licensed healthcare professional before the age of 18.

It’s not a referral, it’s just signposting. It’s not a voucher, it’s a slip.

The Department of Work and Pensions is solving the problem of people being referred to food banks by, er, banning use of the word “referral” and ensuring Jobcentre staff don’t offer anybody food bank vouchers. Instead, they’re to be “signposted” and given “signposting slips” that can be, er, traded for food at food banks. The numbers are not recorded.

This means that if you file a FOI request asking how many people are being referred to food banks, the DWP can accurately say “none”.

What a wonderful world.

Next-level trolling

There’s trolling, and then there’s this. An eight-year-old trans girl, Avery Jackson, has raised enough money to open a “transgender house” – directly across the road from infamous hatemongers the Westboro Baptist Church.

It’s next to the rainbow-painted Equality House that’s been annoying them since 2013.

If you’re not familiar with the WBC, they’re the ones who picket the funerals of soldiers, murdered gay kids etc. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls them “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.”

I think Jesus would be on Avery’s side.

It’s a start

Facebook has taken down much of Alex “Infowars” Jones’ content, as have Apple and Spotify.

(Update, 7/8/18: Apple was the first to move. The others were clearly waiting for somebody else to lead.)


The company [Facebook] said it removed the pages “for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.”


Apple does not tolerate hate speech

This stuff is all in the terms and conditions. For example, for Apple’s podcasts there is an outright ban on:

  • Content that could be construed as racist, misogynist, or homophobic
  • Content depicting graphic sex, violence, gore, illegal drugs, or hate themes

Although its enforcement has been patchy, this is Facebook’s policy:

We do not allow hate speech on Facebook… We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics – race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity and serious disability or disease.

I have some sympathy for these firms, because enforcement is a big job. Facebook again:

Over the last two months, on average, we deleted around 66,000 posts reported as hate speech per week — that’s around 288,000 posts a month globally.

That’s a lot of hate. But the point is, it’s against the rules whether it’s uploaded to Apple, posted on Facebook, streaming on Spotify or tweeted on Twitter. Apple alone is now a $1 trillion company; Facebook $522 billion; Twitter $32 billion; and Twitter $24 billion. If they’re short of moderators, they can afford to hire more.