Dele Fadele RIP

There’s a lovely and very sad obituary of the late NME writer Dele Fadele in The Guardian. Fadele was an extraordinary writer and the obituary demonstrates how much of an impact he had on people. He certainly had an impact on me: in the 80s and 90s the music press was a lifeline for me, and writers such as Fadele were mesmerising.

The article notes that the decline of the music press, never particularly well paid or suited to longevity, left Fadele with increasing financial problems – he “wasn’t a good salesperson, which is what you have to be to survive as a freelance”; the post-NME success of many ex-writers, few of whom could hold a candle to the likes of Fadele, proves that point.

It’s a hard industry to work in, harder still if you have mental health problems, and it’s a terrible shame to read of Fadele’s worsening health. He was a tremendous writer and by all accounts, a really lovely man who “had the best hugs”. The world’s a sadder place without him.


The softer side of rapacious capitalism

I’ve written once or twice about choosing not to spend money with firms who platform bigots or who donate to bigots’ charities. So here’s a refreshing alternative to that: in the UK, over 130 major companies have come together in a show of support for trans people.

Their message is simple and should be uncontroversial: “We value trans people as our employees, customers and colleagues.” But that’s enough for anti-trans Twitter to boycott them, once again demonstrating that when they say they don’t hate trans people or wish them ill, they’re lying through their bigoted little teeth.

It’s good to see such a wide range of household names: Microsoft, the British Army, universities and councils, multinationals of various kinds and a few broadcasters too. Some big names are conspicuous by their absence – so there’s NBC but not the BBC, Sky but not Channel 4, the Financial Times but not The Times or its stablemates. Funny that.

I have mixed feelings about these kind of things. Of course it’s always good to see such large organisations state publicly that they value trans people; it’s yet more evidence that the bigots are on the wrong side of history and I think it’s an important message for their employees and potential new hires.

But at the same time, some of the companies here may have great inclusion and diversity policies while still being the sort of organisations that should be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

These feelings aren’t mutually exclusive, although I’m sure Mr Gotcha will be along in a minute:

Image: a man says "we should improve society somewhat". Another man bursts out of a well to say "Yet you participate in society. Curious! I am very intelligent"
Bullshit Hell in a handcart


JK Rowling, you’ll recall, doesn’t have a problem with trans people. How could she! The very suggestion!

Just because her second Strike book portrayed trans characters as unstable and aggressive and threatened them with prison rape – it “won’t be fun for you… not pre-op” – doesn’t mean she has a problem with trans people.

And just because her latest book’s villain is a crossdressing woman-slayer doesn’t mean she’s a lazy hack regurgitating tired tropes about murderous men in dresses in a world where 129 trans people have been killed since January, some of them tortured, some of them dismembered, some of them left in burning cars.

No! She’s just very, very worried at the prospect that a cisgender man might pretend to be somebody he isn’t and then attack a woman. Protecting women is her thing.

It turns out that the people we should have been protecting women from weren’t cis men pretending to be trans, though. They’re cisgender men pretending to be Harry Potter characters.

The Mirror:

A naked fantasist who tried to suffocate his partner while impersonating Lord Voldemort and speaking in tongues has been jailed.

Edward Rudd, 37, has been jailed for 11-and-a-half years over the attempt to kill his then-girlfriend while he impersonated the Harry Potter villain.

Maybe we should ban the books, just in case. Y’know. To protect women.

Let’s go back to serial killers, though. The trope of misogynist crossdressing murderers, as seen in Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs and to a lesser extent The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is lazy because it’s been done to death and comes from a single, upsetting and extreme case: Ed Gein, the infamous grave robber and murderer who committed his crimes in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

There was no way Gein was going to have any kind of happy ending. His mother punished him frequently and severely, prevented him from making friends and told him repeatedly that all women bar her were wicked, immoral, dirty and satanic.

When she died, Gein lost the only person he’d ever cared about and tried to preserve her memory. He boarded up her rooms to keep them pristine and lived in her old house in a small room where he devoured lurid tales of cannibalism and Nazi atrocities.

He didn’t start with murder (although maybe he did; his brother died in suspicious circumstances). Gein was primarily a grave-robber, a body snatcher, exhuming and mutilating bodies on over 40 graveyard visits to obtain body parts from corpses; on some of those occasions he dug up recently buried middle-aged women who resembled his mother and tanned their skins to make various obscene items. His goal was to become his mother, “to literally crawl into her skin.”

There’s a whole bunch of stuff going on there, clearly, but it’s pretty obvious that Gein wasn’t trans or pretending to be. He was a seriously damaged individual who believed that if he could somehow become his mother he could bring her back to life.

As far as I can tell, there has only been one trans serial killer: Donna Perry, who shot three sex workers in Spokane in the US in the 1990s. There have been very many cisgender women serial killers, however: not just Myra Hindley and Rose West, but Beverley Allitt, Karla Homolka, Kristen Gilbert, Amelia Dyer, Juana Barraza, Judy Buenonano and many, many more. They might not have committed crimes as gruesome as those of Ed Gein, but each one of them killed many more people; the stats indicate that we should be much more scared of nurses than of trans people, or of people pretending to be trans. Wikipedia currently has 63 pages dedicated to women serial killers in America alone. Which is 63 pages more than I’ll read of Rowling’s execrable output.


Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

The dark money behind “concerned parents”

I’ve written before about the links between the Religious Right and supposedly grass-roots pressure groups with “reasonable concerns” about inclusive education, trans kids and so on. Writing in Byline Times, Sian Norris details some of those links.

Groups such as Parent Power, Authentic RSE, 40 Days, and the School Gate Campaign provide a Trojan horse for beliefs around ‘family rights’ and so-called ‘gender ideology’ – a term used by the far and religious right to discredit the fight for reproductive and sexual rights. Their attacks on RSE help to mainstream a narrative attacking women’s and LGBTIQ rights.

You don’t need to dig too deep to find the connections between these groups and the usual anti-abortion, anti-LGBT+ organisations. Sometimes they share the same offices, or the same lawyers, or the same key people.

…by using a Trojan horse of parental freedom and moral panic, the UK’s religious right has created a network of astroturf groups that provide cover for a far-right ‘family rights’ agenda.

None of this is particularly hidden. You can find the links between, say, a supposedly pro-gay but definitely anti-trans lobby group and the US Heritage Foundation on a founder’s Facebook page. Until very recently the Hands Across The Aisle website, a US evangelical project, proudly listed the UK anti-trans groups and writers it had brought together with US evangelical groups. Anti-abortion, anti-inclusive education and anti-trans groups share resources and legal counsel. The use of crowdfunding, where donors’ identities can be kept a secret, has put half a million pounds into supposedly grass-roots UK anti-trans groups in the last two years, and many of those crowdfunders were promoted overseas by US religious groups. Supposedly grass-roots groups with no apparent source of income suddenly find themselves able to pay for multiple full-page newspaper adverts. And so on.

This is happening in plain sight, and yet whenever well-funded, well-connected lobby groups representing the Christian Right or its interests go on TV or radio they are described as “concerned parents” or “family campaigners”, the children the use to front their legal test cases just ordinary kids rather than pawns in a culture war. If the people in media giving these groups an uncritical platform aren’t aware of who they really are, they’re incompetent. And if they are aware, they’re complicit.

LGBTQ+ Media

You’re wrong about Stonewall

I never thought I’d find myself listening to a documentary about syphilis in 1930s America, but that was before I discovered You’re Wrong About. It’s a podcast that challenges the prevailing narrative about significant people and significant events, and the documentary in question is about something I hadn’t heard of before: the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, something that started with good intentions but which degenerated into something really awful. The first episode (it’s a two-parter) is utterly compelling and like all the episodes I’ve heard so far, based on exhaustive research and interviews with key experts.

I came to the podcast because of its episode about the demonisation of the musician Courtney Love, who I’m fascinated by. Love is the widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and a successful rock star in her own right (the Live Through This Album is as good as anything Nirvana ever did). She was treated horrifically when he was alive and worse after his death. Even if you’re not interested in music or knowledgeable about Courtney and Kurt, her story is a pretty savage indictment of misogyny in the music business, in music fandom and in the entertainment media.

What I liked about the podcast’s take on it was its refusal to take a simplistic view. While it successfully debunked the demonisation of Love, it didn’t attempt to paint her as an angel either. She is a complicated, flawed, human being who’s made a lot of mistakes and who’s experienced some truly terrible events. The podcast argues that it’s possible to understand and empathise with someone without necessarily liking them or wanting to be their best friend.

The episode was great, so I listened to more. I think my favourite so far is You’re Wrong About… The Stonewall Uprising, which tells a familiar story – the Stonewall riot, often seen as the Big Bang of the LGBT+ rights movement – in a very thorough way. Some of the people we think were there were not there, some of the things we think happened didn’t, and the story doesn’t fit into the neat little boxes people would like it to.

One of the things that the episode is particularly good on is the erasure of the people who were actually involved: disproportionately drag queens, trans women of colour, sex workers and street punks. But the statues memorialising it, and much of the media portraying the legend of it, focus on white cisgender people.

If you’re looking for a metaphor for how the gay rights movement excluded (and in some cases continues to exclude) huge swathes of the LGBT+ community, that one’s hard to beat.

If you’re looking for something interesting to get your ears around, there’s more about You’re Wrong About here.

LGBTQ+ Media

Your doctor, your teacher, your ambulance driver

The UK edition of The Guardian hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory with its coverage of trans-related issues – this week marks a year since it last commissioned any UK-based trans writer on the topic despite running many, many pieces by anti-trans writers in the same period. So this, a feature about trans key workers in COVID, is a pleasant surprise.

With the coronavirus pandemic as a backdrop to the event [Trans Pride London], we spoke to five trans key workers about their experiences over the past six months.

It’s an interesting read about five interesting people.


Writer and researcher Robin Craig suggests on Twitter that articles whose basic message is “trans people have jobs, are maybe not freaks” are deeply patronising. It’s a fair point. I don’t think that was the writer’s intention and I think that humanising trans people instead of demonising them is of course an improvement for a paper that’s been very guilty of the latter. But in context it does feel awfully close to “hey, maybe we shouldn’t be nasty to all the trans people! One or two of them might be useful!”. Your worth as a human being is not dependent on having a job that’s useful to others.

Bullshit LGBTQ+

A short rant containing several swear words

Like most bloggers, I write in character: the character is a version of me, but it’s not the me that’s sometimes too sad to get out of bed or so angry I could twat somebody in the face with a shovel. So forgive me if I break character for a moment.

I am so, so tired of every new day bringing a fresh edition of The Sinister Silencing Wokerati Thought Police Trans Mafia Demand X It’s Political Correctness Gone Maaaaaaaad culture war bullshit.

I wish that the people who so loudly claim to have been silenced actually were, because the noise they make is deafening. Every single day trans and non-binary people are vocally blamed for some pointless non-story that’s got fuck-all to do with us and that none of us give the slightest fraction of a shit about.

I don’t care if you write “woman” or “womxn”, what the dictionary definition of female is, or any of the other pointless, manufactured nonsense that we get blamed for in this idiotic outrage economy. I’ve never met any other trans or non-binary people who give a shit about these things either, because the reality for many of us is that we have so much real-world shit to deal with that there simply isn’t any room in our brains for inconsequential bullshit.

But inconsequential bullshit is the only thing people want us to talk about.

Trans journalists are never invited on air to talk about healthcare, homelessness, hate crimes or any of the other horrors that disproportionately affect our community. They’re only allowed on to play fixed roles in a pantomime, the story set by whatever has been trending on Twitter, the questions framed in much the same way as “when did you stop beating your wife?”

And that’s if they’re given airtime at all. Most of the time you’ll hear cisgender people talking to other cisgender people about what they claim trans and non-binary people think and want (or as they put it, what activists are demanding). They talk about us without us.

If people actually asked what we cared about, we’d happily tell them. We’d tell them about being made to wait years to get basic healthcare, or for some of us being refused it altogether. We’d tell them about being unable to go for a piss without fearing for our safety. We’d tell them about what it feels like when most of the press repeatedly tells most of the country that we’re dangerous, deluded deviants. We’d tell them that sometimes the weight of this means that some of us are so scared or so sad we can’t leave our homes.

Maybe, and it’s a very big maybe, maybe one day that will all be solved and we’ll finally have the luxury of caring about what particular spelling of a word is used by an organisation we don’t deal with in materials we’ll never read. But I doubt it.

In the meantime, the agenda of The Sinister Silencing Wokerati Thought Police Trans Mafia is the same as it’s always been: for the love of God, leave us alone.

Bullshit LGBTQ+

I would go out tonight, but I haven’t got a pelvis

One of the key tenets of anti-trans activism is that you cannot deny biological reality. Many of the people who say this have a very shaky grasp of human biology.

I don’t even mean their knowledge of endocrinology, cytogenics or other sciencey stuff that demonstrates humans are much more varied than you might have learnt when you were 11. I mean their knowledge of basic things, such as where tits come from or what hormones are in your body.

For example, I’ve seen very many examples of anti-trans people flatly denying that trans women can grow breasts, which is news to the useless lumps of fat currently sitting on my chest. I’ve also seen many examples of women claiming that cisgender women don’t have testosterone (they do), or that hormonally or surgically transitioned trans women’s testosterone levels are many times higher than those of cisgender women.

For pre-menopausal cisgender women, normal testosterone levels are between 0.3 and 2.4 nanomoles per litre, aka nmol/l (if you’re interested, cisgender men’s T levels vary from around 8 nmol/l to 35 nmol/l).

Trans girls who are prescribed the most common GnRH agonists, medication that suppresses testosterone, will have levels of less than 1.0 nanomoles. Trans women like me who have regular GnRH injections, or trans women who have had some form of gender confirmation surgery will normally have testosterone levels of 1.7 nmol/l or lower. 

But this one is particularly special. It’s from a discussion about the possibility that one day trans women might be able to bear children, and it includes this bombshell.

That’s right. Trans women don’t have pelvises. No wonder anti-trans activists find us so easy to spot: because our femurs have nothing to anchor to, we don’t walk like other humans. We undulate our way through the streets, wincing in discomfort. We’d take a break by sitting down but of course, you can’t really do that when you don’t have a pelvis.

It’s fun to mock, but as ever there’s a serious point here. There’s significant overlap between people who believe trans people don’t have pelvises or that cisgender women don’t have testosterone and people who think Bill Gates is using 5G CIA Wi-Fi to spread coronavirus and microchip their children. Whether they’re anti-vax, anti-mask or anti-trans (and many are all three), they’re science deniers.


The rights we are denied

A popular anti-trans “gotcha” is to ask, “what rights don’t trans people have?” The question is never asked in good faith, so trans people generally ignore it: it’s the same assholes with the same bullshit all over again shouting “debate me, cowards!” But by not answering it, it enables the bad faith poster to claim that we didn’t respond because we can’t answer.

So let’s answer it. Bear in mind this is a blog post, not a piece of research, so there will be tons of things I’ve missed out.

The rights we have vary from country to country, and many of them are detailed in this annual study. Here’s a more accessible summary of some of the key issues by Katie Montgomerie.

For example in some countries trans people cannot have legal gender recognition without forced sterilisation, a breach of their human rights. Technically that isn’t the case in the UK, but the Gender Recognition Panel’s focus on surgical and hormonal transition – both of which lead to sterilisation – means that in effect, it’s much the same here. Our legal gender recognition also requires a mental health diagnosis even though being trans is not a mental health problem.

In the UK, it’s still legal to force trans and non-binary teens into dangerous and damaging conversion therapy to try and “cure” them.

There are other rights. We do not have the same right to healthcare as you do: NHS waiting lists shouldn’t exceed 18 weeks, but for trans people they are at least two years and in some cases more than four years long. Seven percent of trans people have been refused health care altogether because they are LGBT.

We do not have the same right to safe workspaces as you do. One in eight British trans people has been assaulted at work by a co-worker or customer. Half of trans people hide or disguise their gender identity at work because they fear discrimination.

We do not have the same rights to live free from discrimination and violence. Two in five trans people and three in ten non-binary people have experienced hate crimes because of their gender identity. For younger people the numbers are even higher. Half of us are scared to use public toilets for fear of abuse or assault. 44% of us avoid certain streets because we don’t feel safe.

We do not have the same rights to marry as other people do. Without legal gender recognition we cannot marry in our correct gender.

And crucially, there are rights we supposedly have on paper but do not have in reality. It’s illegal to discriminate against people because of their gender identity but one in three employers say they wouldn’t consider hiring a trans person. 25% of trans people have been discriminated against in housing. 29% of social services users have experienced discrimination. 34% of young trans people have experienced discrimination in social places such as restaurants or bars. One in seven trans students has considered dropping out of university because of their experiences of harassment and discrimination.

Finally, there are the rights we have and that others want to take from us. Here in the UK those rights include the rights set out in the Equality Act. In the US, those rights include the right to basic and even emergency healthcare.

“What rights don’t trans people have” is the bigot equivalent of “what have the Romans ever done for us”. But it’s a lot less amusing.

Bullshit Hell in a handcart Media

Dangerous bullshit

Two unrelated but connected pieces today: first, Paul Mason in the New Statesman about QAnon.

In the past seven days we’ve seen such a “lying world of consistency” inspire mass actions by far-right movements, from the far-right invasion of Portland, to the storming of the Reichstag by anti-lockdown protesters, to the Trafalgar Square demonstration, also against masks and lockdowns.

At each of these protests, fascist symbols were displayed alongside folksy, sub-political slogans; in London and Berlin known neo-Nazis stood alongside libertarian hippies. The glue holding it all together is the conspiracy theory known as QAnon.

…If it literally came to pass that the US military staged a coup, threw Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton into Guantanamo and exposed thousands of famous people as Satanic paedophiles, what would the US look like? There would have to be camps, prisons, trials, secret detention centres – and, of course, the people in them would not be Hollywood stars, but black, Muslim and Hispanic and Jewish Americans, together with the supposed “cultural Marxists” who are alleged to be conspiring to “replace” white Christian America.

The same “white replacement” narrative is at the heart of the present-day anti-abortion movement. Here’s  Sian Norris in Byline Times on the myth of “live abortion” and its use by the far right.

To understand these attacks on abortion rights, one needs to look to the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory – a racist trope that believes a mix of low white birth rates and rising immigration are ‘replacing’ the white race in the United States (and in Europe).

The way to raise the white birth rate, its adherents argue, is to pursue “procreation not immigration”. And the only way you can achieve that is by restricting or flat-out denying women autonomy over their own bodies – restricting access to abortion and, in some cases, incentivising birth.

…Anti-abortion policies are not about faith or religious morality anymore – if they ever were. Abortion is increasingly an issue of white supremacy, with right-wing leaders in the United States and Europe promising to halt a perceived ‘demographic decline’ by getting more (white) women to have (white) babies, rather than let (non-white) families in.