I’m hacked off with it too

I’ve written before about the toothless press regulator IPSO, which was set up by the press specifically for the purpose of not regulating the press. To take just one recent example, IPSO found that when The Times makes up quotes, doing so doesn’t breach the rules on accuracy.

The ruling was on a story about transgender people, who have been subjected to an astonishing hate campaign for some time now. Newspapers have become adept at sticking to the letter of the rules rather than the spirit: all the rules on discrimination and demonisation apply to individuals, not to groups. So if a paper were to publish a column claiming that trans person X is a predator, that’s against the rules (as well as defamatory). If the column claims that all trans people are predators, that’s fine.

In other words, it’s not okay to incite hatred against one person. But it’s fine if you want to do it against an entire minority group.

The Hacked Off campaign is attempting to highlight this in its latest report, “The denigration, abuse and misrepresentation of the movement for transgender equality in the press”. It focuses on two dozen high profile and often very abusive articles that appeared in the mainstream press in recent months. As Hacked Off put it on Twitter: “Some newspapers have resorted to distortions, inaccuracies and explicit transphobic abuse.” Over this period, UK hate crimes against trans people have increased by 81%.

The problem is specific to newspapers. We don’t have endless abuse of trans people on TV because Ofcom regulates broadcast media. There’s no such regulation for print.

Despite the 2013 Cameron Government legislating for an independent system of media regulation, the current Government have not brought it into
force. This has left one independent regulator operational – but membership is entirely optional. As a result, none of the major websites or newspapers have signed up.

Instead, most publishers are members of IPSO, which is a newspaper association and complaints-handler under the control of newspaper executives. I

In other words, the people being asked to decide whether content breaks the rules are the people who publish the content that breaks the rules.

I used to be against press regulation, because many journalists are fine people who do important work. But some of the biggest publishers in the country have turned their platforms into bully pulpits, repeatedly, mendaciously publishing malicious content designed to hurt the most vulnerable people in our society: not just trans people but minorities of all kinds. We’ve seen exactly the same maliciousness directed at muslim people, for example, and the same rubber-stamping by IPSO.

IPSO is not fit for purpose and sectors of the UK press are out of control. What they do is not journalism, and it does not deserve protection.

There’s a petition demanding change here. Please sign it. Every name helps.

When Rod Liddle is trending

The heart always skips a beat when a famous person’s name appears in Twitter’s “trending” chart. It usually means they’ve died or been implicated in sex offences. So when Rod Liddle turned up the other night, my immediate reaction was to wonder whether he’d punched another pregnant woman in the stomach. Thankfully no: he was trying to defend apparently racist columns on TV. I’m surprised he didn’t claim his column had been hacked, like he did when his account was caught posting racist bilge on a football fan forum.

Liddle is a terrible human being who writes terrible things on behalf of terrible people. And now he’s excreted another terrible book.

Is it any good? Of course it isn’t. But at least it means Fintan O’Toole can review it.

Never,” Rod Liddle writes in his jeremiad on the “betrayal” of Brexit, “have so many blameless people in this country been held in such contempt, or been subject to such vilification by an elite.” Really? Who wrote in 2014 of Britain as “a nation of broken families clamouring about their entitlements siring ill-educated and undisciplined kids unfamiliar with the concept of right and wrong”? Who described with relish “the hulking fat tattooed chavmonkey standing in the queue at Burger King”? Who characterised the British masses as inhabiting “a dumbed-down culture”, being in thrall to “the background fugue of idiocy, the moronic inferno, of celebrity fuckstories”, and spending their time “watching TV, masturbating to pornography on the internet, getting drunk”? That would be Liddle in his last book, whose title, Selfish Whining Monkeys, may just possibly have had a slight whiff of contempt and vilification.

And that’s just the opening paragraph.

Probably not coming to a newspaper near you

One of the things anti-trans writers like to go on about is the spectre of “detransition” and surgical regret: according to them, trans-related surgeries are acts of mutilation that many people will go on to regret.

As ever, the facts tell a very different story. I’ve mentioned previously that the NHS in England reported a detransition rate somewhat different from the 80% claimed by the anti-trans mob: it was 0.47%.

Here’s more data, this time covering surgical regret rates from a much bigger sample: 6,793 people over 43 years.

Despite the large increase in treated transgender people, the people who underwent surgery but regretted their decision was 0.5%.

By comparison, the regret rate for knee replacement surgery is 20%.

As Christine Burns MBE, author of Trans Britain, points out:

If any other branch of medicine had such good results the doctors involved would be given medals. It says volumes about the state of mind of anti-trans commentators that they keep on trying to pretend that an outstandingly successful medical treatment is vastly regretted.

Schools protests to go nationwide

Back in March, I wrote about the people protesting outside a Birmingham school over inclusive education and noted that while the protests were reported as Muslim, many of them were Christians. Also in March, I wrote that “US money is incoming and these protests will become more widespread.”

Yesterday, INews reported that the protests are going nationwide thanks to the sudden appearance of “grass roots” activist groups.

We’ve seen this pattern over the last couple of years with anti-trans groups, many of which have proven links with the US religious right. But trans people were only the testing ground for the evangelicals and their money.

Now the focus is moving onto the wider LGBT+ community and women’s reproductive freedom. That was always the plan.

A network of fringe activist groups such as Stop RSE, Parent Power, The Values Foundation and the School Gate Campaign have been set up over the past year, and campaigners are reportedly preparing to step up protests in September, encouraging parents to challenge the “radical sexualisation of kids” at schools.

The School Gate Campaign, set up by an evangelical Christian mother, claims on its website that teaching children about gay people “hijacks and potentially perverts the course of natural child development.”

Claiming that teaching about other people is “radical sexualisation” is of course a key claim of the religious right. Compare and contrast the bit from the article with the Family Research Council, the US’s horrific anti-LGBT+ evangelical group, who said this earlier this year:

“Parents across the country pulled their children out of public schools on Monday for the “Sex Ed Sit Out”—a grassroots awakening of frustrated parents who are sick of the sexualization of children in their taxpayer-funded schools.”

Same tactics. Same messaging. Same objective.

What’s being taught in our schools?

Inviting organisations to talk about issues in schools can be a positive thing: for example, the Time For Inclusive Education campaign helps battle the bullying of LGBT+ kids. But what if the organisation has a track record of falsification and shock tactics?

In an article about the tactics of anti-abortion groups, The Overtake notes that the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child regularly gives presentations to Scots schoolchildren. 

Statistics for England are “unavailable”, but in Scotland SPUC delivers talks in around 50 schools per year, often to meet a curriculum need.

The SPUC declined to let the writer see any of the materials they use to meet this curriculum need.

That’s deeply worrying. Here’s The Guardian, 11 years ago:

Spuc, for example, tells teenagers there are links between abortion and breast cancer, although organisations such as Cancer Research UK and Breakthrough Breast Cancer have consistently presented research to prove there is no link. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) categorically states that abortion is not associated with an increase in breast-cancer risk.

Here’s The Overtake, this week.

a catalogue of educational leaflets are available from its website, many of which make for interesting reading. Its Abortion Pack includes a quotation from Dr Thomas Stuttaford which claims an “unusually high proportion” of women who had undergone an abortion later developed breast cancer. “Such women are up to four times more likely to develop breast cancer,” he says.

Its pamphlet on Abortion and Women’s Health, dated April 2017 and authored by devout Catholic Dr Greg Pike, persists with the view that the relationship between abortion and elevated risk of breast cancer is “a controversial question”

The facts, the science, hasn’t changed in the last decade.

That’s just one example. The organisation also makes false claims about mental health and about how contraception works.

Back to The Guardian:

Many anti-abortion organisations refer to “post-abortion syndrome”, whose symptoms can include panic attacks, relationship problems, self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse, and depression. In fact, it is not a recognised medical condition. In August, the American Psychological Association concluded: “There is no credible evidence that single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental-health problems for adult women.”

…Spuc opts for both types of pictures. Having watched its presentation, labelled “standard abortion talk 2008”, I am not surprised to hear that in one class of 16- and 17-year-olds shown the presentation in July, half the students left distressed and some were physically sick.

I can’t help wondering what the Venn diagram of “people who don’t want kids to learn that LGBT+ folks exist” and “people who are fine with forced birthers peddling verifiably false claims” would look like.

Letting religious groups peddle demonstrably false information and make children vomit isn’t balance. It’s bullshit.

The Guardian:

Nobody I spoke to suggested that anti-abortion views should be shielded from young people. But, says Furedi, any discussion in school must be honest and provide accurate, impartial and up-to-date information. “Better still,” she says, “let’s move it out of the RE room and be much more upfront about the fact that one in three women will have an abortion at some time in their lives and that basically, if you’re fertile and sexually active, you are at risk of an unwanted pregnancy.”

Children should learn about abortion. I’ve had several conversations with my 11-year-old daughter about it, conversations in which both sides of the argument have been explored. But it’s a health issue, not a religious issue, and should be taught as such.


Who’s paying for hate?

One of the things that characterises the anti-trans movement in the UK is its use of crowdfunding, essentially an online begging bowl. But unlike many women’s organisations, the anti-trans groups don’t seem to put much effort into promoting their crowdfunders; also unlike many women’s groups, they attract suspiciously large donations.

For example, the Transgender Trend group (effectively one individual, a sculptor who’s found a new career spreading anti-trans scaremongering) recently banked two anonymous donations totalling £35,000 within minutes of each other. Crowdfunding doesn’t usually work like that. Donations are usually £10 here, £20 there: even three figures is rare.

In recent months, UK anti-trans groups and individuals have raised over £280,000 via crowdfunding. That money’s been raised to pay legal costs for cases that never went to trial, to raise money for “living expenses” and to sit in individuals’ bank accounts while they borrow from it to help their cash flow. A lot of it is apparently sitting around, unspent.

When over a quarter of a million pounds has mysteriously appeared (and sometimes, mysteriously disappeared), it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that something rotten is going on here: tax evasion, dark money, possibly money laundering and in some cases what looks awfully like grifting.

We know the US religious right has spent millions on funding supposed grassroots groups throughout Europe via dark money, and we know that the UK anti-trans movement has strong links with the US religious right.

At least £279,729 has flowed into the coffers of UK anti-trans groups recently. That’s likely to be the tip of the iceberg: one group paid for a Metro wrap-around, market value £45K, before it started seriously fundraising; others accept donations via PayPal, which aren’t public (the UK Brexit party used this method to disguise its donors)).

There’s an astonishing amount of money being moved around here.

Imagine what a difference that kind of money could make to organisations such as, say, Rape Crisis Scotland instead of paying for bigots’ bedding.

Where’s the money coming from?

No, acceptance of LGBT+ people isn’t going backwards

The Guardian, and pretty much every other newspaper, reports today that acceptance of LGBT+ people is in decline. As The Guardian put it in a social media headline:

Acceptance of gay sex in decline in UK for first time since AIDS crisis

That’s not what the social attitudes survey, which the headline refers to, says at all. It reports that in the last three years, the percentage of the 3,000 people polled who say there’s “nothing wrong at all” with same-sex relationships has been 66%, 68% and 64%.

As Matt Singh, pollster, election analyst and person who is Very Good With Numbers put it on Twitter:

Silly, sensationalist, clickbait. The measured proportion saying same-sex relations “not wrong at all” fell two points from the last BSA, well within the MoE (not acknowledged until para 7) and might simply be because 2016-17 saw a relatively big increase

…As recently as 2012, this was a minority view. It is now the view of two-thirds of GB adults. Please don’t make LGB communities feel their acceptance is under threat because you find statistical caveats inconvenient.

In 1987, 64% of people said same-sex relationships were wrong. In 2017, that figure was down to 19%. Here’s the graph.

It’s not very clear, I know: the pink line is the percentage saying pre-marital sex isn’t wrong; the green one, same-sex relationships. The little downwards bit at the end is the difference in polls in just one year in a poll of 3,000 people.

You’ll see there was a much bigger dip in approval of pre-marital sex in 1996 and another a few years later; nevertheless, the trend continued upwards. Acceptance of same-sex relationships may well be slowing down, but it’s unlikely that it’s peaked and you can’t infer decline from a difference that’s well within your poll’s margin of error. And yet even The Guardian is going for the most click-baity interpretation of the numbers, something that’ll delight the bigots.

Acceptance isn’t going backwards. But journalism appears to be.

The scaremongering needs to stop

It’s not a great day for news about trans people. In Antwerp, a teenage trans woman was gang raped by three men on her very first day presenting female. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, no doubt upset some of her transphobic members by tweeting about it:

Important to remember that – far from being responsible for the actions of abusive men – trans women, just like all women, can be and often are the victims of male violence. https://twitter.com/britlgbtawards/status/1146742980272893956

Stories like this don’t stop the scaremongering about trans women, which often makes malicious allegations about trans-inclusive individuals and organisations. When they’re not shouting at women on Twitter, the anti-trans group calling themselves Women Make Glasgow are demanding Stonewall be banned from schools for “lobbying school children in an environment where no-one is allowed to do this.”

Stonewall’s Colin MacFarlane:

Yet again facts don’t seem to matter. We don’t ‘lobby’ school children we train teachers & educational professionals on how to create inclusive learning environments for ALL young folk.

Why is that work with teachers so vital?
Nearly half of LGBT young people and 71% of trans young people are bullied simply for being who they are.
Nearly one in twenty young LGBT people have received death threats
41 % of young people hear nothing about LGBT people in schools

Teachers tell us that they want to get it right for their LGBT pupils and that’s why they come to us for help.

You can read our full School Report here. 🚨some of the stats here may be triggering. 🚨


Here’s a typically measured, intelligent response – the first one in the thread.

@Cmacf76 It’s ok if you want to get into kids’ pants? Eh? What sicko world have we created for today’s children?

Incidentally, other responses show another problem beyond basic bigotry: misinformation recycled as fact. One commenter asks about kids being expelled for saying there are only two genders; the story they’re alluding to has nothing to do with Stonewall and the school concerned, in Scotland, excluded the teenager for breaking its no-exceptions rule prohibiting pupils from filming teachers in classrooms.

It’s not just LGBT+ charities. Any organisation that says it isn’t opposed to trans inclusion becomes targeted. Recent examples have included charities such as Scottish Rape Crisis and Scottish Women’s Aid.

Here’s Brian Dempsey, a lecturer at the University of Dundee’s law school, writing in response to a piece in Scottish Legal News.

The feminist women’s groups who have most experience of fighting for and delivering women-only safe spaces, including Scottish Rape Crisis, Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender, Zero Tolerance all have experience of operating services on a self-declaration basis and they strongly support reform.

Your report points out that the majority of funding for these and other effective, well-established feminist organisations comes from the Scottish government. The implication that dedicated feminists are actively undermining women’s safety for the sake of government money is both unfounded and distasteful.

The claims come from the same place as the leaflets being put through Glasgow doors claiming 82% opposition to proposed gender recognition reform. As The Ferret points out, that claim is false.

The latest survey of attitudes in fact shows majority support across the UK, as PinkNews reports:

Despite public protests, 59 percent of the UK population – including 47 percent of Conservative voters – back teaching LGBT-inclusive relationships education in schools.

56 percent of people are also in favour of trans people being able to self-identify their gender, which comes as the government is expected to respond to its consultation on potential reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in the coming weeks.

Human rights shouldn’t be subject to popular opinion: in living memory there was a 3/4 majority against civil rights for people of colour, a 3/4 majority against civil rights for gay people and so on.But it demonstrates that despite the best efforts of the bigots and their friends in the media, most of the public is on the right side of history.

Trans is beautiful

Let’s post this picture again.

Everybody in this photo is trans, and it’s important that you see that. Because conventionally attractive trans women are the last thing the anti-trans bigots want you to see.

One of the things the “reasonable debate” crowd really like to do is to scour the internet to find photos of the ugliest trans people and crossdressers they can find. If they’re dressed badly or inappropriately, all the better. They then share those photographs, mocking them, sometimes using the #transisbeautiful hashtag, sometimes adding images of people who aren’t trans at all such as exhibitionists in fishnets. Look at the freaks!

Leaving aside the point that mocking women’s appearance for not matching up to societal standards of beauty is one of the least feminist things you can do that doesn’t involve teaming up with racists, anti-semites, forced birthers, the Murdoch press and the religious right, there’s a reason they do it.

The reason is simple. Caricatures make it easier to hate.

Whenever anti-trans bigots try to spread fear of trans women (and it’s always women; trans men like Michael Hughes spoil their narrative), there’s a particular mental image they want you to have: a “hulking”, sweaty, “burly” “man in a dress”. I’m using the quotes deliberately, because those are the words and terms you see again and again: words such as hulking and burly are used to imply danger, while “man in a dress” is a much more loaded term than “trans woman”.

And of course, there are trans women who look like shit. I’m often one of them. That’s what comes from a lifetime spent in ignorance about trans people, trying not to be trans in a world that tells you there’s something wrong with you, and finally coming out with zero knowledge of how to do clothes and makeup properly long after testosterone has ruined your chances of ever being young and beautiful.

But the focus on the people who don’t look like unremarkable or even beautiful cisgender women is deliberate and malicious in the same way that racists’ caricatures of black people or anti-semites’ caricatures of Jewish men were/are deliberate and malicious: they want you to imagine the caricature every time you hear about trans women, or black people, or Jewish men, because it’s so much harder to hate people who are perfectly ordinary. If the differences aren’t dramatic enough, the bigots will simply invent some more.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

The photo is from a website that collates pictures of the world’s supposedly worst-dressed people (I’ve obscured their face). I don’t know the context; for all I know the person pictured is a goddamn saint who just happens to have pretty crap clothing choices. But if I wanted you to think negatively about trans people, to imagine “burly”, “hulking” people you might be scared or suspicious of, it’s a pretty good example of the kind of thing I’d share.

I could quite easily do the same thing with anti-trans bigots, finding photographs of the ugly ones or just photos that make them look like they’ve escaped from some kind of institution. I won’t, though, because I don’t have that kind of poison in my heart.

Let’s try another picture. This one’s ideal – it’s a scary tran in a toilet!

Not so scary, is she? This is Sarah McBride, a trans woman and US politician who was abused at work by anti-trans bigots visiting from England; the bigots are leading lights in the UK anti-trans moment and regularly featured in print and broadcast media. One of them spent much of this week sharing ugly and/or unflattering pictures of trans women for her social media followers to mock.

Let’s try another.

This is Brae Carnes, a trans woman from Canada, using the toilet the bigots would like her to use.

Which of the photos is closest to the mental image you have when someone says “trans women in the ladies’ toilet”? I bet it’s not either of the photos of trans women in toilets I’ve used here. It’s likely to be much closer to the person in the terrible outfit.

And of course, that’s exactly what the bigots want. It’s why they share the photos.

I’m not suggesting here that McBride and Carnes are “the good ones” because they fit people’s expectations of what “normal” women look like. We’re just as valid if, like me, we’re horse frighteners. I’m simply pointing out that it’s very easy to make a particular group look alien and perhaps even dangerous by focusing on the worst, most extreme examples (in the eyes of the people you want to convince) because we still largely associate physical beauty with goodness and purity.

It’s a trick. Don’t fall for it.

You’re being lied to about hate crimes

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the most common reactions to the news of increasing hate crimes was denial: the crimes are just touchy snowflakes going to the cops about the slightest thing on the internet.

To put it mildly, that’s a complete misunderstanding of what hate crime is, and what minority groups experience.

Something cannot be a hate crime if it isn’t a crime. The “hate” bit is a qualifier: a hate crime is a crime committed because of hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity or sexual orientation.

In law, a one-off case of shouting abuse at someone because of these characteristics is a “hate incident”. It only becomes a crime if it becomes a criminal offence under legislation such as the Malicious Communications Act or the Public Order Act.

So what actually gets reported and recorded as hate crime? If only there were some kind of handy document such as the Hate Crimes England And Wales Statistical Bulletin 2017/18, published in October by the UK government. In the document it breaks down the kinds of crimes recorded. 56% were public order offences (threats of violence or intentional harassment, alarm or distress, usually involving more than one offender),  and 33% crimes of violence.

As NotCursedE on Twitter, from whom I found this information, points out, the report helpfully details the type of crimes committed against each protected characteristic:

You’ll see that “deliberately offensive tweets on the internet” doesn’t appear. That’s because of the total number of hate crimes reported by trans people, online abuse and harassment only accounted for 6%.

The most depressing stats aren’t the crimes, though. They’re the results. The percentage of reported crimes resulting in a charge – not necessarily a successful prosecution – are incredibly low: for violent hate crimes against trans people, the charge rate is 4%; for public order offences, 4%; for criminal damage and arson, 4%. The figures are very similar for other LGBT+ people.

As with the supposed free speech martyrs of the far right, the people trying to persuade you that hate crimes just mean nasty tweets are lying to you. Even those who embark in massive, ongoing abuse of LGBT+ people on the internet remain at large, entirely free to incite hatred online, free from the real-world consequences of the hate they post.