Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Distortion and disinformation in a media bubble

A new poll in The Scotsman report that the majority of SNP voters and almost half of all Scots women support the sacking of Joanna Cherry. The ones who don’t are primarily older, more conservative voters, particularly Tory voters.

It also reports, once again, that even after three years of misleading and scaremongering coverage across the entire Scottish media the opposition to trans people’s rights is very much limited to a small but well-connected minority: 44% of women are supportive of gender recognition reform, 27% don’t have an opinion and just 16% are against.

But that 16% gets 99% of the media coverage.

This isn’t always bias, although some of the big hitters in the Scots commentariat are clearly transphobic and reactionary. It’s often laziness and overwork or a desire to create controversy because it’s more exiting to read, watch or listen to.

There’s a good example of that today. New guidance has been issued in one English hospital about inclusive language for pregnant people including trans men. The guidance is explicit: inclusive language is *not* to replace existing terms like “mother” or “breastfeeding”, but staff are asked to consider the use of different language when the expectant person is a trans man or a non-binary person.

Here’s the relevant section:

“A gender-additive approach means using gender-neutral language alongside the language of womanhood, in order to ensure that everyone is represented and included… if we only use gender neutral language, we risk marginalising or erasing the experience of some of the women and people who use our services… we believe in human rights-based care and we can add inclusive language to our current language without subtracting anyone”.

The Times read that and published this:

These days, right, if you say someone’s a woman, you get arrested and thrown in jail.

That isn’t a misunderstanding. That’s malevolence. It is a deliberate distortion by the right-wing press, just like Baa Baa Green Sheep was. It’s already resulted in angry old men calling the hospital to verbally abuse the staff.

Trans healthcare is in crisis right now, and bigotry is affecting trans people’s access to essential services. The media doesn’t find that titillating, so even when it’s covering something serious it tries to turn it into culture war nonsense. For example yesterday, Moya Lothian-Mclean was interviewed on Sky News about a new study into appalling treatment of trans people by domestic violence organisations. The interviewer tried to derail it by asking about inclusive language, because that’s where the outrage button is, but Lothian-Mclean elegantly sidestepped the attempted derail. As writer Paris Lees put it on Twitter:

It’s a dog-whistle. I turned down 4 interview requests. I’m not discussing ‘pc culture gone mad’ when trans people are waiting three years to be seen by a specialist.

I have turned down multiple invitations to talk about GRA reform on air because the intention was to to set up a fight with a Spiked writer or someone who believes I’m being paid by The Jews to destroy civilisation.

I’m not scared of debate – I promise you my knowledge of current UK and Scottish equality law is much deeper than that of any “maybe the real bigots are the people calling bigots bigots” professional contrarian – but by taking part you’re accepting the dishonest framing. It’s the “When did you stop beating your wife?” question where the wife-beating is not questioned. For us, the framing is usually “why are you sick bastards so determined to endanger women?”.

For example, I’ve been asked to come on air to explain GRA reform “and then we’ll have the feminist point of view” from a group of anti-LGBT+, anti-abortion Christian fundamentalists who are about as far from feminism as you can possibly get.

If you go through the evidence submitted by anti-trans groups to the UK government’s committee on GRA reform, there is a stunning lack of basic knowledge about trans people: not just in regards to the law (many of the submissions clearly think the gender recognition act decides whether you get medical treatment; it doesn’t) but in regards to basic biology. And that’s reflected in the media too: this week Metro ran a lifestyle story with the headline “Transgender woman thanks nothing but hormone therapy for her breasts”. Where else do they think boobs come from? The boob fairy?

We have a situation here in the UK where almost everybody talking about trans healthcare, trans people’s lives and trans people’s rights is ignorant about what transition involves, what hormone therapy does, what the law says and pretty much everything else about us. And their dangerous misinformation isn’t just a threat to us. It’s a threat to every other marginalised group.

Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Tonight we’re going to panic like it’s 1999

Via The Implausible Girl on Twitter, this is from the Sunday World in Ireland in 1999.

You’ll note the horror at “same sex marriages” in the article. Well, it was a long time ago. 22 years, in fact.

Anti-trans activism is using the classic moral panic technique of pretending that something is both new and a threat to children. Trans healthcare is neither.

Hell in a handcart Media

The Tories’ shameful attacks on journalists

Kimi Chaddah writes in Gal-Dem about the Tory government’s use of social media to attack journalists for simply doing their job.

These Tory attempts to delegitimise journalists parallel the accusatory tone of internet call out culture, which thrives on sowing doubt. Ministers publicly draw attention to individual journalists, rather than a faceless publication, deliberately drawing negative attention their way and attempting to enact a digital “pile on” that calls into question the accuracy of their reporting – and attacks their personal character. While it may not be as overt as telling somebody they should be “fired” or proposing the concept of “alternative facts”, the spectre of Donald Trump haunts British politics. Although the government is not publicly unleashing humiliating verbal tirades where individual reporters are told they’re “terrible”, “fake” and “nasty”, the goal – to discredit all journalists who don’t toe the government line – is the same.

Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

“Cancelled” has become shorthand for whose lives matter

This, by Jessica Valenti, is angry and true: The People ‘Cancel Culture’ forgot.

That’s why a man who is accused of sexual harassment or abuse is ‘canceled’, while the women who accuse him are said to be taking part in a ‘witch hunt’. It doesn’t matter if those women left their school, jobs, or town because of their abuser’s behavior. In the eyes of cancel culture, they’re the real wrongdoer. They became the perpetrator as soon as they tried to hold someone more powerful than them—in this case, men—accountable.

Despite how ridiculous and clearly illogical this kind of thinking is, it’s also effective. Because who gets called ‘canceled’ has become shorthand for whose lives and happiness matters.

I read Valenti’s piece as various Scots media types posted about how awful it is that Joanna Cherry is getting online abuse. And it is awful. But I don’t recall seeing them making the same posts when the people doing the attacking were Cherry supporters going after young mothers, queer kids, trans women, disabled people and rape crisis volunteers, although they were quick to rally around JK Rowling. And that suggests that only some voices matter: the ones of the affluent, the privileged, the well-connected. The powerful.

If you react with horror at someone telling JK Rowling or Joanna Cherry to fuck off but are just fine with the demonisation and dehumanisation of marginalised groups and attacks on those who stand up for them, you’re not the good person you like to think you are. You’re saying that the only lives that matter are the ones you’d invite to dinner.


When the powerful lose out on privileges, it’s cancel culture—but when anyone is deprived of their rights, it’s just politics.

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

TERFed out

I have lots of thoughts about the ‘sacking’ of SNP MP Joanna Cherry, but for now I’ll just post some tweets by Tristan Gray of the Green Party.

What happened: The SNP leadership silence as transphobia swallowed their party crossed a line, triggering dozens of resignations by young activists and office-holders. Sturgeon issued a statement making it clear action was coming. Cherry was sacked.

Direct cause and effect.

…This isn’t Cherry vs Sturgeon.

It’s ideological, and to an extent generational.

Cherry was the leading edge of a group of SNP politicians willing to ride the wave of a reactionary hate campaign, one overwhelmingly opposed by the younger generation who also back independence.

Cherry was willing to whip up that hate campaign for her own benefit (and that of her ideological support of it) at the expense of trans people, younger activists and SNP support with the younger generation.

Sturgeon knows the SNP and indy need those young voters.

The younger generation is overwhelmingly trans-inclusive and pro-independence. Sturgeon picked that side when sacking Cherry, someone who has built her support among an older and more reactionary demographic who view the ideals of this new generation with hostility.

To not even mention these young activists who were the trigger for the sacking of Cherry does them a disservice, but also does one to the readers of this media who are being sold fabrications instead of reality.

It might be a more comfortable fabrication, but it still is one.

It’s no coincidence that on the same day, the SNP dropped its awful plans to exclude various forms of anti-trans abuse from Scotland’s hate crimes legislation.

Online, the response demonstrates the two camps very well. On Scottish Reddit, which attracts a younger demographic, I’ve read hundreds of comments basically saying “about time too, she was doing severe damage to the party and to the youth vote”. And on Indy Twitter, which skews older and more conservative, there’s the same fury you find underneath Daily Mail stories about the wokerati nanny state immigrant one-legged lesbian thought police. And that’s being reflected in the media response too. Scotland’s commentariat is largely old and conservative, and much of the newspaper coverage is being twisted by that.


All I need is a time machine

This comic, by Joey Alison Sayers, is lovely.

Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

How Fox fuels moral panics

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is one of the most malign forces in the world today, and it specialises in fuelling division. Media Matters has identified a good example of that in the way Fox News has covered President Biden’s anti-discrimination order.

Despite the order’s myriad protections, over the following week, Fox News aired 19 segments — totaling 51 minutes — that miscategorized the order as a move that would destroy women’s sports; only one of those segments even alluded to its nondiscrimination protections.

The order mentions sports only one time, saying, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”

The focus on trans athletes is a key part of the publicly stated Christian Right strategy to separate the T from LGBT.

This is classic moral panic stuff, and it’s baseless: trans people are not suddenly being allowed to access sports. They’ve been doing it for decades. There were anguished op-eds about trans people dominating women’s sports when Renée Richards competed in 1976; 45 years later, the only trans tennis player I’m aware of is, er, Renée Richards. The Olympics has allowed trans people to compete since 2004. There have been no trans Olympians. In the 2016 Olympics in Rio, no transgender athletes qualified.

But Fox is not trying to inform its viewers. It’s trying to inflame them.

Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

The science of discrimination

In the nineteenth century, scientists were very interested in the differences between men and women. Not because they wanted to know more, but because they wanted to justify oppressing women. So they came up with ever more inventive ways to define who was superior and who was inferior.

As historian Susan Sleeth Mosedale writes in Science Corrupted: Victorian Biologists Consider “The Woman Question”, scientists wanted to attack feminism. As reported by Jstor Daily:

These attacks were often riddled with contradictory evidence and conflicting analysis, Mosedale argues. The scientists “operated in blissful ignorance of their prejudices,” allowing their own “socially conditioned feelings” to guide their application of scientific theories. Biologists grasped for vaguely scientific reasons why women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, get an education, or aspire to anything more than having babies.

So the scientists created an “index of inferiority” to decide who got rights and who didn’t.

One biologist argued, for example, that women “exhale less carbonic acid,” proving them to be mentally and physically “more sluggish” than males. This supported the antifeminist argument that “the sum total of food converted into thought by women can never equal the sum total of food converted into thought by men. It follows, therefore, that men will always think more than women.” Another apparent “mark of female inferiority,” writes Mosedale, was “the relatively low proportion of carbonate of lime in feminine bones: 4.52 parts, compared with 9.98 parts for the male.”

This is, of course, confirmation bias: the scientists set out to prove that women were inferior to men and less deserving of human rights, and they desperately searched for anything they could point to in order to protect their own privileged status. They did similar things with race, and with disability: the horrific history of eugenics was based on pseudoscience.

You don’t need me to point out the parallels with today’s attempts by anti-trans activists, people who use confirmation bias to justify abuse of and discrimination against trans women: their focus on biology and science is only on the biology and science they can weaponise in order to exclude others, not the overwhelming evidence that they are wrong. It’s just saddening to see the same thing happening again and again throughout history.

In 1890, the philosopher David G Ritchie noted that “scientific” discrimination was:

always the favourite sort of argument with the jealous champions of privilege: first to prevent a race or class or sex from acquiring a capacity, and then to justify the refusal of rights on the grounds of this absence—to shut up a bird in a narrow cage and then pretend to argue with it that it is incapable of flying.

LGBTQ+ Media

“Doing nothing is not a neutral option”

Rowan Moore is the architecture critic for The Observer and is also the father of a trans man. I very much doubt that the editor would have published this measured, thoughtful and important piece about having a trans child if Moore weren’t connected to the newspaper, but I’m glad they did.

The court’s logic led it to assert that the impacts of cross-sex hormones, which can sometimes affect fertility and sexual function, should be fully considered by a child at the time they started on blockers – they would have to contemplate the effects not only of the medication on offer, but also of that which would be on offer in the future. The court decided it would be impossible for them adequately to do this, even if their families and doctors were in full agreement, and that the decision should be passed to a judge.

At the same time, the court paid minimal attention to the consequences for trans people of puberty unhindered by blockers. It thought it more important to protect transgender children from blockers, which are reversible, than from the effects of unwanted puberty, which in many ways are not. Doing nothing is not a neutral option and can be harmful, a point that the court did little to acknowledge.

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

New targets, same bullshit

Regular readers will know that I often state the bleeding obvious: people who are bigoted against one group are usually bigoted against other groups too.

Over the weekend, the anti-trans faction of the independence movement turned its attention to disabled people. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: by allowing disabled people to say they’re disabled (in the context of creating more representative shortlists for potential office), such “self-ID” will be abused by predatory able-bodied people to gain access to disabled people’s rights and erase real disabled people.

So now disabled people are being demonised and abused online by supposed progressives.

When you open the door for one kind of bigotry, you open the door for its friends.