Respect my authority!

Another Angry Woman has an excellent post about the comedian Robert Webb, who’d previously been vocally transphobic. This week he was gently questioned about it in an interview by a presenter who is the parent of a trans child. Faced with someone who actually had some insight into the subject of trans kids, Webb’s response wasn’t great: like most people who claim to want a respectful, fact-based debate, Webb didn’t. His people attempted to get that part of the interview pulled.

It’s ironic that some of the people who rail against so-called identity politics are the first to declare war on entire groups of people when their identity as The Smartest Person Ever is questioned; in what seems to be a trend among the UK establishment, Webb became outspoken about the supposed dangers of trans people after being mildly criticised for a trans-hostile joke. Most of the columnists who write anti-trans pieces, the kind of pieces that lead to the introduction of genital examinations for schoolchildren (which is becoming law in the US this week), the removal of healthcare for thousands of teenagers and a massive increase in hate crimes, appear to be acting not out of a desire to protect anybody but from a desire for revenge against people who dared question their authority.


This is the crux of The British Strain Of Transphobe mindset. It’s a core part of their identity that they’re smarter than everyone else. The vast majority of them start life on the private/grammar school-Oxbridge pipeline, where in place of education they’re just told this. The possibility of being incorrect is something The British Strain Of Transphobe is incapable of processing, because they’ve spent their lives believing they’re cleverer than everyone else, and this belief is integral to their belief of who and what they are. The British Strain Of Transphobe lives within an echo chamber of similar people. This is why, for example, transphobia spread like wildfire among the sceptic community, where many organisers are posh white folk, and it hinges on the belief of being smarter than everyone else.

And so, how does the British Strain Of Transphobe react to someone raising the mere possibility that they might be incorrect about something? Badly, because they take it as a fundamental attack on their identity as a person who is smarter than everyone else.

Like AAW, I have no idea how to solve this either. But we could start by not giving these goons a bully pulpit to spread misinformation about things they know absolutely nothing about.

LGBTQ+ Media

How nice people are turned nasty

This, by Katie J.M. Baker in Lux magazine, is a good analysis of how an apparently benign website, Mumsnet, became a hotbed of anti-trans radicalism. Baker has previously reported on misogynist men online including incels and self-proclaimed Men’s Rights activists.

I think Baker is right in her judgement that women’s genuine anger and trauma – from abusive men, from a healthcare system that doesn’t care about them, from all the bullshit women endure in this deeply broken society – is weaponised by bad actors in exactly the same way the far right recruits angry young men.

The more I learned about Mumsnet, the more the forum reminded me of my past reporting on the ways men are radicalized by the toxic online “manosphere,” where pick-up artists (PUAs) and men’s rights activists (MRAs) recruit followers by exploiting real fears (such as economic anxiety) and blaming marginalized outgroups (women, people of color, Jews) for societal failures. As people get drawn into these communities, they become obsessed with a misguided sense of victimization and start to focus single-mindedly on their newfound worldview.

It seemed to me that was exactly what was happening on Mumsnet: some of these newly “gender critical” Mumsnetters were relatively privileged women who had never felt marginalized until they gave birth and came to feel isolated in their nuclear households and (rightfully!) outraged at the lack of support for mothers in the U.K. They turned to Mumsnet for solidarity, and somehow became fixated on trans women in the process. It was so textbook that Mumsnetters even had their own vernacular, just like MRAs who famously use being “red pilled” as slang for choosing to see the ugly truth.

…Mumsnet’s women’s rights forum didn’t just offer women a safe space to organize. By providing a platform that tolerated TERFism, it had also handed users a convenient scapegoat for all of their problems — not austerity, not misogyny, but the relatively tiny and extremely marginalized and oppressed trans population.

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

From “just asking questions” to this, in six months

In Texas, bill SB1646 would make it illegal for parents to support their trans children. Merely consenting to a doctor’s prescription of puberty blockers would be child abuse and cause to remove the child from their parents.

As writer Cassie Celeste put it on Twitter:

We’ve gone from “just asking questions” to this in six fucking months. Listen to us when we tell you what the consequences of platforming transphobic thought are going to be.

Here’s a good round-up of where this hatred is coming from and why it’s getting worse, with journalists proposing solutions to “the trans question” in chilling echoes of history.

“The queers are coming for your children” is the oldest anti-gay slur, but it’s alive and well not just in Texan courtrooms but in Scottish political discourse. Alex Salmond’s Alba Party caused online uproar over the weekend when it falsely claimed that LGBT+ organisations want to reduce the age of consent to 10 years old. The allegations are completely untrue but have been echoed by the usual hateful groups such as the LGB Alliance and For Women Scot.

It was good to see the widespread revulsion, but the very same people have been making equally vile allegations about trans people and trans-supportive charities for three years now and nobody seemed to have a problem with that. Quite the opposite: they have been repeatedly platformed and amplified by our press, politicians and media personalities.

This is how you can go from “just asking questions” to legalised hatred.


“It isn’t about women’s sports”

Slate explains the role of the Alliance Defending Freedom in US (and UK) anti-trans bills and legal cases.

Over the last 28 years, the ADF has defended laws prohibiting same-sex intimacy; opposed marriage, adoption, and surrogacy for same-sex couples; attacked LGBTQ non-discrimination laws, as well as bans on conversion therapy for minors; argued in favor of laws that require transgender people to undergo sterilization before legally changing their gender; challenged access to contraception; and supported the criminalization of abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Its work stretches beyond the United States; ADF has, for instance, championed Belize’s archaic anti-sodomy law, which allows for the persecution and imprisonment of gay people. The ADF’s overarching position on gay people is that they should either be converted to heterosexuality or fired from their jobs and imprisoned because of their sexual orientation.

The ADF’s first strategy was the “bathroom bill”, legislation designed to prevent trans people from using the correct toilets.

They were rooted in fear of the “bathroom predator,” a mythical figure who pretends to be female so he can gain access to women’s bathrooms and rape them.

But the bathroom predator does not exist. So ADF developed a second generation of anti-transgender legislation, this time identifying an ostensible problem and a victim. The problem: transgender girls and women participating in sports, particularly school athletics. The victim: every cisgender girl and woman forced to compete against trans athletes. The solution: new model legislation drafted and pushed by ADF banning transgender students from participating in women’s sports, from elementary school through college.

In reality, this putative problem does not exist.

The endgame has been obvious for several years now.

these anti-LGBTQ bills build on each other. Soon, another state will consider outlawing gender-affirming care not just for youth or young adults, but for everyone. Schools will introduce harsher and harsher policies designed to identify and discriminate against students who do not perfectly match a cramped conception of gender roles. The government will insinuate itself into parents’ relationship with their children, children’s relationships with their bodies, and LGBTQ adults’ attempts to live authentic and fulfilling lives. ADF’s ascendant ideology demands nothing less. Did anyone really think this was going to stop with bathrooms?

Bullshit Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

When the facts don’t fit, fix the facts

One of the problems with the Christian Right’s claims of trans kids being rushed into surgery is that trans kids aren’t being rushed into surgery. And that’s inconvenient when you’re trying to pass anti-trans legislation on the basis of protecting children from exactly that.

What’s a bigot to do?

Simple. Redefine the definition of kids to include adults.

I’m not kidding. In North Carolina, anti-trans Republican lawmakers have classed adults aged 18 to 21 as minors.

This enables them to do two things. One, claim that minors are being given cross-sex hormones and/or surgery, medical procedures that are indeed available to adults aged 18 to 21. And two, if the legislation is successful it means they can block healthcare for some adults as well as all teenagers.

The proposed legislation – which, thankfully, is unlikely to pass – makes it very clear what the real agenda is behind all of this. In addition to banning healthcare for trans people, it would also compel state employees to notify their parents in writing if their child displays “gender nonconformity” or expresses a desire to be treated in a way that is “incompatible” with the gender they were assigned at birth. These bills, of which there are far too many, are based on deeply regressive stereotypes of masculinity and femininity that want to keep women barefoot and pregnant and LGBT+ people in the closet.


The shock of the old

The current “debate” over whether trans people should be excluded from a ban on conversion therapy isn’t just bigoted. It’s also ignorant. The medical establishment has known for at least fifty years that you can’t convert a trans person into a cisgender one.

As the American Journal of Psychiatry put it in 1969:

Traditional psychotherapies have been unsuccessful in altering gender identity once it is established

Via Mallory Moore on Twitter, the image on the right shows a piece from the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry in 1977.

The key line is at the top:

psychotherapy has not been successful in reconciling the gender identity of the transsexual with anatomy.

The history of trans healthcare and conversion therapy has long been based on the idea that to be trans is an undesirable outcome, that it’s something trans people should be trying to escape, and that trans people should be forced not to be trans. The same attitude is apparent when people today talk about removing affirming healthcare from all trans teenagers in case one cisgender teenager makes a mistake; it’s at the heart of the wider attempt to prevent trans people from existing in society.

That belief didn’t just restrict the healthcare trans people could receive. It encouraged some really horrific abuse of trans people in the name of “curing” them. Many trans people were subjected to electro-shock aversion therapy in an attempt to stop them being feminine. Moore highlights one of many examples, from 1973, in which a teenage trans girl was effectively tortured with electro-shock therapy to try and stop her from being trans.

The report notes that:

“to date, only [gender confirmation surgery] has offered any hope to the transsexual since this condition has been entirely refractory to psychologic intervention. When attempted, psychotherapy directed at changing transsexual attitudes and behaviour has not worked.”

Moore also posted the results of a 1970 study in the UK in which transsexuals and transvestites were, as Moore puts it, “strapped to fucking electrodes to fry their transness out”. It didn’t work.

We’ve known for 50 years that conversion therapy and aversion therapy, even when it’s really extreme, doesn’t stop people from being trans any more than it stopped people from being gay. There is no debate here, no other side to the story. Conversion therapy is abuse no matter which minority it’s being used against.


Bullying students isn’t the Socratic method

A good piece in the WSJ about right-wing professors who claim that deliberately misgendering students is exposing them to challenging ideas.

Intentionally demeaning our students will not help untangle knotty concepts. For a professor to gender students as they see fit is about power, not ideas. True academic freedom does not mandate, much less permit, the disrespect of students.

…A professor who deliberately misgenders a student humiliates them, and we cannot pretend otherwise. Such disdain for a classmate’s self-esteem intimidates everyone, including cisgender students. This is hazing, not teaching.


Hello, you

One of the reasons I write so much here is because I wish someone had written for me when I didn’t know who I was. Today I learned the phrase “possibility model”: it’s somebody whose visibility tells you that there are other people like you, that being like you is perfectly normal.

This, by Dr Ruth Pearce, puts it very well:

For me, the real power of trans visibility lies in the potential we hold to build community, and to act as possibility models. To know we have value to one another. To know we have the potential to create and inspire: to write, to draw, to paint, to act, to speak, to love, to be loved, to simply be.

…I will never forget the overwhelming awkwardness of trying to speak yourself into existence when you simply don’t have the language available to you, when you don’t see anyone like you in the world to show that your future is possible. In spite of everything, the world has changed for the better for trans people over the last two decades. It’s no wonder that more of us are coming out than ever, at earlier ages too.

Let’s carry on changing the world together.


We need you

It’s Trans Day of Visibility tomorrow, a day to celebrate trans people and raise awareness of the discrimination we face.

This year’s TDOV takes place in a terrifying climate. In the US, states have banned trans healthcare for teens and made it legal for healthcare workers to refuse to treat LGBT+ people; there are moves to prevent LGBT+ people from adopting children. In the UK the Christian Right-funded war on trans women continues apace, 65% of trans people hide their identity at work, 1 in 3 employers say they wouldn’t hire a trans person (even though such discrimination is illegal) and the new Scots political party formed by sex pest Alex Salmond seems to be recruiting every transphobic politician in Scotland. It breaks my heart to see people I thought were better parroting every bit of Sunday Times anti-trans scaremongering and reciting the Christian Right’s anti-trans talking points – “women’s sex-based rights”, “protecting women and girls”, “predatory males” etc – verbatim.

There simply aren’t enough trans people to battle all of this. We need allies, and we need our allies to speak up. When your co-worker makes a joke about identifying as an attack helicopter or a relative tells the room that lesbians are being fast-tracked for gender reassignment surgery by an international Jewish conspiracy, call them on it just like you would if they were making rape jokes or being racist.

I don’t think cisgender people fully understand just how awful things are for trans people right now. Most of the UK media is against us, and the BBC frequently platforms anti-trans hate groups; in England at least there is an editorial policy that says trans people cannot be on air unless there is an anti-trans organisation on air too. Imagine a policy that said Black people could only be interviewed if Britain First got the last word. And there is a concerted, multi-faceted attack on all our legal rights by people who want trans people eradicated.

That’s not hyperbole. They don’t want schools to admit that trans people exist, or to protect trans kids from bullying, or to let trans kids play sports. They don’t want trans teens or even trans people under 25 to get healthcare. They don’t want trans adults to be able to import HRT even though the waiting list for a first appointment at one English gender clinic now appears to be 26 years. And they don’t want trans adults to be protected from violence or from discrimination in the workplace, in housing or in healthcare. They believe that “transgenderism” should be “morally mandated out of existence” and are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to try and make that happen.

Ari Drennen on Twitter:

Hey if you’re cis and looking for a good chance to speak up publicly on trans rights, the trans people in your families, offices, and communities would really fucking love to hear it because we’re hearing from the people who want us dead all the fucking time right now.

Lilah Sturges:

You can say “I support trans people” or “support trans kids” or “trans rights are human rights.” Doesn’t matter, just say SOMETHING.

Because right now we are facing a powerful, sustained attack, one that is going to end trans people’s lives, and we are feeling very much alone.

Elaine Scattermoon:

…do you speak up when a colleague starts talking about how “trans women are men who just want to perv on girls” or a family member laments “lesbians are being told they have to be trans men” or any Sunday Times trans panic headline?

You can’t leave fighting for trans rights to trans people. We have to do it ourselves all the time and it’s personal and it’s incredibly draining and a whole bunch of people won’t even give us the time of day, but they might if it’s you, their daughter/coworker/best mate, etc.

Nobody is listening to trans people. But they might listen to you.

Bullshit LGBTQ+


The rash of defections to Alex Salmond’s new ALBA party, which one wag on Reddit claimed stands for “all ladies beware Alex”, reads like a who’s who of transphobic SNP members.

Their defections give the lie to the claim that transphobes were ever concerned about protecting women and girls. They’re right-wing reactionaries, happy to rally round a man whose own QC said he was an “objectionable bully” and a “sex pest” and whose online supporters are often viciously misogynist.