LGBTQ+ Technology

An overdue apology

The history of computing has its shameful parts. For example, you’ve probably read about how Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, was persecuted, lost his job and was ultimately driven to suicide for being gay. But you might not know about Lynn Conway, a hugely significant figure in modern computing who’s life was destroyed by IBM purely because she was trans.

IBM has now apologised some 52 years later.

Jeremy Alicandri, writing for Forbes:

when IBM’s Corporate Medical Director learned of her plans in 1968, he alerted CEO Thomas J. Watson, Jr., who fired Conway to avoid the public embarrassment of employing a transwoman.

The termination turned Conway’s life upside down. The loss of income and looming inability to support her family shattered their plans for a quiet divorce with visitation rights. To worsen matters, California’s Social Services threatened her with a restraining order if she ever attempted to see her children.

Imagine having your life destroyed because the CEO was embarrassed to have you working for him. Sadly those attitudes, while rarer, still exist today.

It’s a sad irony that Conway’s work helped lead to the development of the very devices that bigots use to abuse other trans people today. Whatever you’re reading this on, Conway was part of the path that led to its creation.

“. . . Among [Conway’s] many foundational contributions to computer architecture are the scalable digital design rules she invented for srilicon chip design and the ARPANET e-commerce infrastructure she developed for rapid chip prototyping – thereby launching a paradigmatic revolution in microchip design and manufacturing . . .,” explains John L. Anderson, President of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

The article is well worth a read. Conway’s story is both horrific and inspiring.


Saying yes to hate

The first rule of being in a hate group is that you must never, ever admit that you hate the people you hate. A lot of effort goes into choosing the right euphemisms, coining phrases such as “reasonable concerns”, “family values” and so on.

So the anti-trans groups affiliated with Fair Cop must be pretty pissed off right now. In response to posts marking Trans Day of Remembrance, they proudly proclaimed their desire to #sayyestohate.

This is known on the internet as “saying the quiet bit out loud”. They did it repeatedly to organisations that chose to mark Trans Awareness Week:

David Paisley tracks the followers of various groups and how they intersect. The intersections between supporters of Fair Cop and the LGB Alliance, Woman’s Place, Transgender Trend, Fair Play for Women, the Safe Schools Alliance and For Women Scot are significant. As Paisley puts it:

They all share a huge proportion of the same followers. They are all anti trans hate groups.

They’re also all regularly platformed by mainstream media to lobby against protections for trans and non-binary people.

When people tell you who they are, believe them.

PS. There’s also this.



It’s Trans Day of Remembrance today, a day when trans people and allies mourn the trans and non-binary people lost to acts of violence. So far this year 350 trans people, mostly trans women of colour, have been murdered worldwide, often in really horrific circumstances; those are only the reported murders, and the true number is likely to be considerably higher. And it doesn’t include the terrible number of people lost to suicide, which disproportionately affects LGBT+ people and trans people in particular.

There are still places in the world where it is illegal to be transgender, and places where “I realised she was trans and I was so horrified I killed her” is an acceptable defence for murder. In supposedly enlightened societies transphobia is the acceptable face of bigotry. The dehumanising and demonising of trans people by politicians and pundits has terrible consequences.


Bullshit LGBTQ+ Music

The f*ggot debate

It’s that time of year again: straight people demanding the right to sing and play the uncensored version of Fairytale of New York, which contains a homophobic slur.

Huw Lemmey did an excellent piece about it last year:

Well, this is it, from now on. Like the War on Christmas, the faggot debate is set to become a perennial staple of the culture war. Every year column inches will be devoted to it, thinkpieces like this one will be written, people will become more polarised on the issue, and more and more straight people will gleefully sing about faggots, not because they hate queer people but because they’ll be damned if they’ll be told what to do by the ‘woke’ left. Meanwhile more and more queer people will be reminded of those people who do hate them, and everyone will trust each other a little less and the world will get a little bit shittier for everyone. We need, as a culture, to break out of this loop. The problem is, we won’t, until it’s too late.

As for me, I don’t care if you, as a straight person, do or don’t sing the lyric about the faggot, but I would like to live in a society where you’re not desperate to. 



I’ve written before about misgendering and other microaggressions, things that individually don’t amount to anything but that collectively work rather like water torture. Here’s a good example of that.

On Sunday, I was out for a meal that for various reasons I was anxious about. After weeks of being alone and quite frankly, letting myself go, I decided it was time to make a bit of an effort. I put on some cute clothes and nice jewellery, did some proper makeup prep, used the good perfume and put on my favourite lipstick. And in every single interaction I had with the waiter, he called me sir.

Did I shout “did you assume my gender?” in a big booming voice and storm out? No, because that shit only happens in right-wingers’ social media posts. I did what I almost always do: nothing. I didn’t think he was doing it deliberately and I didn’t want to embarrass him.

So instead I let him embarrass me, repeatedly.

Do you remember the feeling of embarrassment you used to get as a school kid, the skin-crawling, nauseous feeling, the cold in the pit of your stomach? It’s that. It’s not just embarrassment about what happened; it’s also the extra embarrassment that comes from having people who know you see it. Their looks of awkwardness or pity amplify it.

I couldn’t finish my food, and afterwards I went home and cried.

I’m supposed to be going to one more restaurant this week, a birthday lunch with one of my dearest friends. It’s only my second restaurant visit in many months, and it’s probably the last social contact I’m going to have until we come out of the imminent Tier 4 COVID restrictions.

Last night the restaurant called me to switch my booking to its sister restaurant due to unforeseen circumstances. The caller had my name and pronouns in front of them, asked for me by name and heard me say “that’s me!” in response, and when they heard my voice they immediately started calling me sir.

So that’s two different establishments in the space of a couple of days deciding that my appearance and my voice don’t entitle me to the correct pronouns. And my brain, which is on a rather shoogly peg right now, is convinced that as trouble comes in threes I’ll be misgendered throughout my birthday lunch.

So now I don’t want to go.

It sounds irrational, I know. It is irrational. But so far this week the misgendering hospitality hit rate is 100%, and it’s against the backdrop of the usual anti-trans stuff online – which washed-up indie rocker is going to drink the anti-trans kool-aid and dominate my Twitter feed THIS week? – and some trans-related unpleasantness from closer to home, so why shouldn’t I expect it to continue?

So what’s supposed to be a happy occasion, something to look forward to, is something to dread. If it’s a repeat of Sunday I’ll be upset and embarrassed; if it isn’t, the prospect will still have cast a cloud over the whole thing because I’m so worried about it.

These misgenderings aren’t transphobia. I’m well aware of what that looks and sounds like, and God knows there’s enough of it around right now that I’m not going to forget its sound and its shape. This is different. Transphobia is thunder, all noise and fury. These little insults are raindrops.

Who’s afraid of water?

I am.

Raindrops don’t fall in isolation. Other drops fall, and they merge, and they can become a trickle, a rivulet, a stream, a river. And rivers are powerful, dangerous things.

I fear that one day, a river will wash me away.


Happy days are (nearly) here again

It’s hard to be optimistic in these dark days (I don’t just mean metaphorically: I live in Scotland, where the sun doesn’t so much rise at this time of year as send a few expletives into the sky before going back to bed). And it’s harder still with more serious COVID restrictions about to come into force: from Friday, Glasgow will effectively be in lockdown apart from supermarkets and schools. So here’s a reason to be cautiously cheerful: the end of the pandemic is now in sight.

The piece, by Sarah Zhang for The Atlantic, is a fascinating explanation of what the new vaccines are, why they’re revolutionary and most of all, why they’re probably going to work. And if they don’t, why we probably won’t be vaccine-less for long.

The vaccine by itself cannot slow the dangerous trajectory of COVID-19 hospitalizations this fall or save the many people who may die by Christmas. But it can give us hope that the pandemic will end. Every infection we prevent now—through masking and social distancing—is an infection that can, eventually, be prevented forever through vaccines.

Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Awareness of hypocrisy

It’s trans awareness week, and that means we get to see more pridewashing: as with other awareness weeks it’s an opportunity for corporations that don’t give a shit about group X to pretend they give a shit about group X.

Here’s Twitter.







That the responses to this tweet included very many transphobic ones illustrates the point: this is a network that doesn’t do anything about protracted and/or co-ordinated abuse of trans people and accounts set up specifically to attack trans women but which immediately bans trans people who tell their tormenters to fuck off; a network that often takes years to act against repeated violations of its anti-abuse policy by accounts with large audiences; a network that for many trans people is unusable without blocking hundreds or even thousands of accounts; a network where reporting even the most blatant examples of hate speech is largely pointless.

You can’t wrap yourself in the trans pride flag when you have policies to protect minority and marginalised groups that you simply don’t enforce.

As one person pointed out in the comments to Twitter’s post:

You’re not even taking action against the transphobes in the replies here.

Hell in a handcart Media

Sainsbury’s heats up lots of gammon for Christmas

It’s hard not to despair sometimes.

One of Sainsbury’s many Christmas adverts features a Black family; when the supermarket’s social media team posted the video to Twitter, it was immediately besieged by racists. As this is social media it’s unclear whether the racists were proper English racists or Russian bots and trolls. But the language used – banging on about Black Lives Matter, “wokeness”, “virtue signalling” and other right-wing tropes – wouldn’t be out of place in a Daily Mail or Spectator column.

The only good thing to come of this is that the racists are vowing (again) to boycott Sainsbury’s, which happens to be where I shop; ironically enough I’m planning to go there to get some gammon later on. But while the obvious jokes may be obvious, what’s also obvious is that far too many bigots are no longer ashamed of being bigoted. We’re moving backwards and too much of the press is pushing us in that direction.

Books Bullshit LGBTQ+

Irredeemable bullshit

Dianna Anderson reviews Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. The book is at the centre of yet another trumped-up free speech row because US retailer Target chose not to stock it and Amazon chose not to take adverts for it. Some trans people are unhappy that it’s number one in the Amazon transgender studies chart, because while it’s many things it certainly isn’t a study. It’s part of a moral panic.


Irreversible Damage is the Michelle Remembers of 2020. It is clearly designed to speak to parents of teenagers who have come out as trans, particularly to parents of children assigned female at birth. These teenagers, Shrier argues, are coping with their ongoing pain of being assigned female, of going through puberty, by deciding it would be easier to escape womanhood altogether and become a man. In true moral panic fashion, Shrier blames iPhones for isolation that causes teens to doubt themselves, Youtube stars for making transition seem like The Answer to everything, the Medical Establishment for making it far too easy for kids to access gender affirming treatments, and school districts for teaching “gender ideology” to kindergartners. This book has it ALL.

The one thing it does not have, however, is the voices of the young teens in question.

This is a “study” of teenagers that doesn’t study any teenagers, a book about trans people that doesn’t believe trans people are real.

Like the completely invented pseudoscience of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” it’s based on interviews with parents; the book has very little understanding of or insight about the actual teenagers it talks about because Shrier didn’t talk to most of them. According to this review it also grossly misrepresents the treatment available to teenagers, telling readers that twelve-year-olds are being given surgeries. They aren’t. And at core it pushes a very stereotypical view of women: “Far from giving us explorations of what womanhood can be, Shrier narrows it back down to the biological function of breastfeeding and having babies, excluding women who choose not to engage in such activities from the banner of true womanhood.”

As Anderson points out, the book fails to support its central premise: that teenagers are being rushed by various sinister forces into making decisions they will regret.

Shrier’s panic is simply an invented, elaborate narrative, unsupported by the actual facts, that trans identity is somehow contagious – just as gay people were discriminated against in the 1970s because apparently we were going to teach it to your children.


“It’s just scary to say forever”

A thoughtful essay by Jude Ellison Sady Doyle on staying in a relationship through transition.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s true — whether staying married is a sign of cowardice. Was I supposed to bust up my refuge just so I’d have battle scars? Do I need to have a second adolescence, sleep around, raise hell, to know who I am? Am I as real as I think, standing here in this bathroom, talking about male pattern baldness and being called “bud” and trading De Niro impressions because he just watched Heat, or does even he think of me as an eccentric straight girl? Does he love me, or is he humoring me?

When do I get to stop asking these questions? Which coming-out, which medication, which surgery, which friendship, which sex act, which relationship, which instance of survived bigotry, will ever make me feel like enough?