Salt water

I know it’s hard for people who aren’t trans to understand what gender dysphoria is like. I thought this analogy, by Dr Emmy Zje, is pretty good.

Imagine that you’re sitting with a bunch of people and you’re all drinking water. Their water is spring water, but yours is salt water – and you don’t know this, so you don’t understand how they can drink their water so easily when yours makes you want to choke. So you try to do what they do, and you drink, and you drink, and you keep drinking until you nearly die from dehydration.

As another Twitter user, Rachel de Spoons, points out, the analogy works particularly well because different people experience different levels of dysphoria. As she writes: “everyone has different concentrations of salt. Some can’t manage a sip and for others it’s just tainted enough that they last decades.”

The original tweet has gone viral, so Emmy has asked people who like it to consider donating to #transcrowdfund to help a trans person achieve their transition goals.

Bullshit Health Media

Bad journalism

I’ve been listening to the You’re Wrong About podcast, this time about the infamous Ford Pinto. It seems that almost everything I thought I knew about it was incorrect and largely based on a single Mother Jones article.

The podcast makes an interesting point about that, and about journalism more widely: a lot of bad journalism comes from writers who are operating in good faith, or at least partial good faith. They believe that they have uncovered something so huge that they must tell the world. That belief can cause a kind of myopia.

Journalism is as much about what you choose to leave out as what you choose to put in. Let’s say you’ve got a whistleblower from inside an organisation with a suitably salacious tale. If it’s a really good story, if it’s the kind of story that’ll have people gasping over their morning paper, how much consideration will you give to the things that contradict or cast doubt over what the whistleblower is telling you?

People like to be heroes, and journalists are no exception – so if you think you’re the hero who’s going to break the story, you’re not going to consider that perhaps you’re being misled, or seeing connections that aren’t there, or ignoring evidence that shows that you’re not the hero here but the villain.

The MMR scare is a good example of that. How many journalists telling their readers of the entirely invented dangers thought they were doing Pulitzer-worthy public service journalism? And how many lives have been destroyed by the anti-vaccination movement they helped spawn?



Sophie Labelle’s Assigned Male comic hits the nail on the head once again.

Comic strip showing someone claiming that they're being silenced


Never kiss a Tory

Do you remember when bigots were ashamed to be openly bigoted? When racists were too scared to say racist things? When it wasn’t okay to brag about grabbing women by the pussy? I do, and I’d like those days to return.

One of the reasons we’re in the mess we’re in is that far too many people are far too willing to make allowances for the ignorant, the intolerant and the downright dangerous.

I get particularly annoyed by the assertion, usually made by affluent middle-class conservative columnists, that we have an obligation to tolerate people with repellent beliefs. If we don’t invite our nazi uncle to dinner, we’re refusing to entertain alternative points of view.

I disagree. I think if you have nazis at your dinner party, you’re having a nazi dinner party.

Jessica Valenti clearly feels the same, and has articulated it with much less swearing than I have.

This week, as the president of the United States casually retweeted an account accusing Joe Biden of pedophilia and baselessly claimed that “it’ll start getting cooler” as smoke haze from California reached New York City, writers Bari Weiss and Johann Hari both waxed nostalgic for a time when friendships and romances blossomed across the aisle. “I don’t denounce my friends when I disagree with them,” Hari tweeted. “If you do, then you don’t actually have friends, you only have political alliances, and your life will be filled with anxiety and unhappiness.” (Never mind the anxiety that might come along with being “friends” with a person who doesn’t believe in your right to marry or control your own body.)

…These calls for bipartisan amicability in the face of unrelenting injustice are a reminder that the life-and-death issues so many Americans face are often just cocktail-hour talk for others. It’s easy to bemoan the lack of politeness in politics when you have no real skin in the game.

My friends don’t make me anxious or unhappy; bigoted people do, which is why I’m not friends with any.

Like Johann Hari, I don’t want to denounce my friends. I find the easiest way to avoid that is not to be friends with assholes.

Health LGBTQ+

Doctors say trans rights

The BMA’s annual conference has called on the government to protect the rights of trans and non-binary people both in healthcare and in wider society.

Dr Helena McKeown, Chair of the BMA representative body, said:

The BMA supports transgender and nonbinary individuals’ equal rights to live their lives with dignity which includes the right to equal access to healthcare. We oppose discrimination of all kinds and are committed to ensuring universal access to healthcare for all on the basis of clinical need.

While the BMA has numerous policies affirming our support of LGBT individuals, [The agreement to this new policy means] that, for the first time in our history, we now have a BMA-wide policy giving specific attention to the needs of transgender and nonbinary individuals. Receiving any medical treatment can be stressful for patients and so it is important for individuals to receive healthcare in settings they feel comfortable with. This applies to transgender as well as cis individuals.

The BMA hasn’t, however, clarified whether trans women have pelvises.


A little bit of good news

Sarah McBride

The world’s on fire, everything is awful and it’s not a great time to be LGBT+, so it’s important to celebrate the little pieces of good news among the relentless misery of 2020. The luminous Sarah McBride won the Democratic nomination for a Delaware seat last night, which means she’s on track to be America’s highest-ranking openly trans elected official.

McBride is only 30 but she has already had to deal with a great deal of shit in her life. She lost her husband to cancer, she’s had to deal with all the crap a trans woman with a public profile has to endure, and she was even targeted by UK anti-trans bigots who flew to the US courtesy of the Heritage Foundation and verbally abused her in her office. And despite this she remains incredibly strong, incredibly dignified and – amazingly – full of faith in humanity.

Her book, Tomorrow Will Be Different, is really good and very sad. You can find out more about her on her website.

As Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, commented:

Sarah’s primary win shatters another lavender ceiling in our movement to build LGBTQ political power, and her victory will inspire more transgender people to run for elected office. At a time when the Trump administration, cynical politicians and too many state legislatures are attempting to use trans people as political weapons, Sarah’s win is a powerful reminder that voters are increasingly rejecting the politics of bigotry in favor of candidates who stand for equality.

Representation matters. Not just politically, but visually. Somewhere there’s a trans kid seeing Sarah on TV and thinking, I want to be just like her.

LGBTQ+ Media


Vogue contributor and trans woman Paris Lees posted something online yesterday that sounded too crazy to be true:

More Americans claim to have seen a ghost than to have met a transgender person.

But it is true. Huffington Post points out that a 2009 Pew Research Center survey found that 18% of Americans claim to have seen a ghost; a 2015 GLAAD study found that only 16% of Americans say they know someone who’s trans. I’ve looked at a number of more recent surveys and across the entire population the numbers for the latter question are consistently between 11% and 20%.

It’s interesting to look at lots of these surveys because a clear pattern emerges: younger people are much more likely to know someone who’s openly trans or non-binary, while older, more conservative people are more likely to think they’ve seen a ghost.

Among Fox News viewers, the number of people who say they’ve personally seen a ghost is a whopping 60%. And of course, you’re much more likely to be personally visited by a spirit from the other side than see a positive portrayal of trans people on Fox News.


Hundreds of Emilys

This is heartbreaking, powerful and thought-provoking: Buying Myself Back, by Emily Ratajkowski.

It’s about photographs and paintings and who can control images of you. And it’ll probably further damage your faith in human nature.

Pictures meant only for a person who loved me and with whom I’d felt safe — photos taken out of trust and intimacy — were now being manically shared and discussed on online forums and rated “hot” or “not.” Rebecca Solnit wrote recently about the message that comes with revenge porn: “You thought you were a mind, but you’re a body, you thought you could have a public life, but your private life is here to sabotage you, you thought you had power so let us destroy you.” I’d been destroyed.

Health LGBTQ+

What gender doctors don’t tell you

I posted yesterday about my experience of being on decapeptyl, which stops my body making testosterone. I get an injection every 12 weeks, and without fail the final week is horrible: I feel stupid, sluggish and sad.

By coincidence, a trans person I know was talking online about decapeptyl and the massive mental dip they get in the week or so before a top-up. When I replied along the lines of “oh my god! Me too!”, another trans woman I know said she gets it too. It turns out that between us, everybody we know about who’s taking decapeptyl feels like absolute crap for the week or so before their levels are topped up, and considerably worse if they don’t get their top-up at the 12-week mark.

I’ve written before that there’s an incredible lack of research into trans-related healthcare, and this is a good example: it seems that there’s something going on here, but there’s no indication of what it might be. Online there’s some evidence of decapeptyl having negative effects for cisgender men (who take it for prostate cancer) and cisgender women (who take it for endometriosis) including severe mood swings and depression, but I can’t find anything relating to what I and other trans people are experiencing. Could decapeptyl have interactions with the other medications we take? I can’t find an answer to that.

I got my 12-week injection today, a week late. I’ll feel better very soon. But I don’t know why.

Health LGBTQ+

The system is cruel

Every twelve weeks, I feel like shit. It coincides with the injection cycle for one of my medications, which stops my body from making testosterone; in the week or so before each injection I feel sluggish and stupid and short-tempered and sad.

I don’t know if it’s connected or a coincidence, if it’s a genuine physical thing or psychosomatic, because from what I’ve read of the medication, once I’ve been on it for a year or so – and I’ve been on it for longer than that – my testosterone levels shouldn’t rise significantly towards the end of each 12-week cycle. But I keep a diary and the dates match; more so this month because I couldn’t get a 12-week appointment so I’ll be getting my top-up today, at the 13-week mark. I definitely feel even more sluggish, even more stupid, even more short-tempered and even more sad than normal.

Despite all that, I woke up in a brilliant mood yesterday – and then I got some more good news. I was offered a last-minute appointment with my gender clinic (GIC) doctor.

I was due to see her three months ago, but all trans healthcare basically stopped in Spring this year because of coronavirus. In the meantime I’ve had to do my own endocrinology to ensure a prescription change hasn’t messed up my hormone levels: my practice nurse did the blood test, send the bloods to the labs and I then compared the results with the desired levels. My prescription seems to be okay, but the gender clinic doesn’t know that yet.

It’s not just monitoring. There are some very important healthcare things I need to speak to my GIC doctor about, so when I got a call asking if I could do a telephone appointment at 10.15am I said yes.

It wasn’t ideal, because I was due to go on air at the BBC at 10.45. But it was a really important call, so I told the team that I might not be off the call in time to go on air; my friend and colleague Louise was happy to cover for me.

So I quickly collated all the things I wanted to discuss with the doc – blood test results, weight loss details, a few other bits and bobs – and I waited for her call.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

At 10.30, I called the clinic to see if there was a problem. We’ll call you right back.

They didn’t call me right back.

I finally got a call one minute before I was due to go on air, but it wasn’t my doctor. It turns out that there had been a mistake, the doctor hadn’t been available after all, I can talk to her in October. By this time it was too late to go on the radio, so of course I’m not going to get paid for my non-appearance.

The bungled appointment cost me money and wasted time, but it also really upset me. Most of my interactions with the gender clinic (GIC) have left me crying with frustration, and this was no exception: getting the appointment made me feel that after months of waiting, I could finally put some important wheels in motion. It’s much worse to be promised an appointment and not get it than not to have an appointment at all. As we all know, it’s the hope that kills you.

If the October appointment goes ahead it will be nearly a year since I’ve been able to discuss my healthcare; longer still since I’ve been able to do it with somebody competent*. That’s a long time to be in limbo.

This is normal. The COVID stuff is making it worse, but the system is cruel. Here’s Heather Paterson, CEO of SAYiTSheffield:

A person I know has just received [a] surgery referral letter, still with indeterminate waiting time, 6 years after their initial GRC referral. Which was some time after mental health referral. Which was after a wait from GP referral. Which was after years of building up to come out, tell anyone or approach services.

They have been actively fighting a system for over a decade that has thrown hurdles in their way at every step, and over the past few years been navigated while having to see anti-trans stories in the press EVERY DAY and groups actively organising to try and take their rights to live their life taken away.

I am so happy for them that they have managed to survive this process so far and can finally see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, and so filled with rage for those who couldn’t make it that far.

So if you think people are transitioning on a whim, that they are coming out and in surgery weeks/months later, think again.

I’m amazed so many people actually survive this lengthy, quite frankly barbaric system.

* My prescription change was to undo a serious mistake made by my previous gender clinic doctor, about whom I ended up filing a formal complaint and a request to be reassigned.