Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Murdoch papers in “bullshit” shocker

I don’t want to go on too much about the UK government’s pathetic response to its gender recognition consultation, but I thought it was worth drawing attention to The Times and Sunday Times’ assertions that the consultation was “skewed” by an “avalanche” of responses by “trans rights groups” who twisted the consultation to say 70% of people were in favour of self-ID.

Here’s a blog by the GRA consultation analysis team.

We spent a long time with the data and employed a number of advanced analytical techniques to investigate the influence of potential campaigns on the consultation responses. However, we have seen little evidence that supports the view that the results were “skewed” by an “avalanche” of responses from trans rights groups. Furthermore, we are not sure where the reported figure of 70% in favour of self-identification has come from. This question was not directly asked in the consultation and this figure does not arise from our analysis.

What they did find, however, was that one anti-trans group was responsible for nearly one-fifth of all responses – and unlike the majority of responses from other sources, particularly trans rights groups, these were identical posts created by a one-click online form “which had a pre-populated set of answers”.

We would like to acknowledge the amount of care, attention and often depth of feeling that went into the submissions that we read, from people and organisations taking a range of positions. There were some long submissions – some over 5000 words –  in response to one individual question, and it was apparent that a large percentage of those who completed the consultation spent a long time writing their answers. We were struck by many of the accounts that people provided detailing their personal experiences or those of loved ones. It is sometimes easy to lose sight, in the arguments that surround GRA reform, that at the centre of this are real people living real and often difficult lives. Due to the need to be brief in order to write a succinct report and the confidentiality required for ethical reasons, the specific stories that were contained within many individual submissions cannot be published. However, reading them, as we have been able to as a team, paints a nuanced and complex picture of the lived experience of people working through these issues in their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+

Ding dong, GRA reform in England is dead

The Westminster government has finally published its response to the public consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The short version: it’s going to be slightly cheaper to get a GRC and some of the forms will go online. There are no significant changes otherwise.

This is for England and Wales; officially at least GRA reform is still possible in Scotland, so there will be no let-up in the hate campaigns against trans people. I suspect things will get even worse as they attempt to pressure the Scottish Government to follow the English example.

It’s interesting to note that despite the supposed “swamping” of the consultation by trans “activists”, just 7,000 of the 102,800 responses – responses that were overwhelmingly in favour of reform by a much bigger margin than, say, the Brexit vote – were from trans people. Nearly 19,000 responses were one-click template-based submissions from a single anti-trans group. As ever, the discussion was primarily about us, without us.

As you’d expect from a Government minister, there are some dodgy claims in Liz Truss’s statement.

We have also come to understand that gender recognition reform, though supported in the consultation undertaken by the last government, is not the top priority for transgender people.

Just because the government treats trans people even more hellishly in other parts of the system doesn’t mean legal gender recognition doesn’t need reformed.

Thirty-eight per cent told us the process was too bureaucratic. So we will place the whole procedure online.

Being able to upload deeply personal reports instead of posting them doesn’t make the process any less bureaucratic and it certainly doesn’t make it any less humiliating. The gatekeeping, the requirement to have medical reports and the paperwork you must provide to a faraway panel haven’t changed. Even the BMA says doctors shouldn’t be involved in this process.

Trans people tell us that waiting lists at NHS gender clinics are too long. I agree, and I am deeply concerned at the distress it can cause. That is why we are opening at least three new gender clinics this year, which should see waiting lists cut by around 1,600 patients by 2022.

This is nothing to do with the GRA consultation and Truss is claiming credit for decisions made by NHS England several years ago.

It’s a sad state of affairs when “we’ll make the process slightly cheaper” counts as a victory. But ultimately nothing has changed but the price tag. There’s no change to the Equality Act or its guidance, and the role of a GRC has not been changed (it’s still irrelevant to what spaces we can access or where we can urinate). It’s not going to be any easier to get a GRC than it has been for the last sixteen years, so all of the antis’ “reasonable concerns” have been addressed. They can finally pack up and go home. Right?

Maybe I’m cynical. Maybe now that the UK government has decided not to change anything, the groups created solely to fight against GRA reform will close their campaigns, disband their organisations and take the hundreds of thousands of pounds they’ve crowdfunded from dodgy donors and give that cash to organisations that help vulnerable women.

Maybe.

Or maybe, just maybe, GRA reform was only ever a fig leaf for their real motives.

Categories
Bullshit Health Media

Bad journalism

I’ve been listening to the You’re Wrong About podcast, this time about the infamous Ford Pinto. It seems that almost everything I thought I knew about it was incorrect and largely based on a single Mother Jones article.

The podcast makes an interesting point about that, and about journalism more widely: a lot of bad journalism comes from writers who are operating in good faith, or at least partial good faith. They believe that they have uncovered something so huge that they must tell the world. That belief can cause a kind of myopia.

Journalism is as much about what you choose to leave out as what you choose to put in. Let’s say you’ve got a whistleblower from inside an organisation with a suitably salacious tale. If it’s a really good story, if it’s the kind of story that’ll have people gasping over their morning paper, how much consideration will you give to the things that contradict or cast doubt over what the whistleblower is telling you?

People like to be heroes, and journalists are no exception – so if you think you’re the hero who’s going to break the story, you’re not going to consider that perhaps you’re being misled, or seeing connections that aren’t there, or ignoring evidence that shows that you’re not the hero here but the villain.

The MMR scare is a good example of that. How many journalists telling their readers of the entirely invented dangers thought they were doing Pulitzer-worthy public service journalism? And how many lives have been destroyed by the anti-vaccination movement they helped spawn?

Categories
Bullshit

Never kiss a Tory

Do you remember when bigots were ashamed to be openly bigoted? When racists were too scared to say racist things? When it wasn’t okay to brag about grabbing women by the pussy? I do, and I’d like those days to return.

One of the reasons we’re in the mess we’re in is that far too many people are far too willing to make allowances for the ignorant, the intolerant and the downright dangerous.

I get particularly annoyed by the assertion, usually made by affluent middle-class conservative columnists, that we have an obligation to tolerate people with repellent beliefs. If we don’t invite our nazi uncle to dinner, we’re refusing to entertain alternative points of view.

I disagree. I think if you have nazis at your dinner party, you’re having a nazi dinner party.

Jessica Valenti clearly feels the same, and has articulated it with much less swearing than I have.

This week, as the president of the United States casually retweeted an account accusing Joe Biden of pedophilia and baselessly claimed that “it’ll start getting cooler” as smoke haze from California reached New York City, writers Bari Weiss and Johann Hari both waxed nostalgic for a time when friendships and romances blossomed across the aisle. “I don’t denounce my friends when I disagree with them,” Hari tweeted. “If you do, then you don’t actually have friends, you only have political alliances, and your life will be filled with anxiety and unhappiness.” (Never mind the anxiety that might come along with being “friends” with a person who doesn’t believe in your right to marry or control your own body.)

…These calls for bipartisan amicability in the face of unrelenting injustice are a reminder that the life-and-death issues so many Americans face are often just cocktail-hour talk for others. It’s easy to bemoan the lack of politeness in politics when you have no real skin in the game.

My friends don’t make me anxious or unhappy; bigoted people do, which is why I’m not friends with any.

Like Johann Hari, I don’t want to denounce my friends. I find the easiest way to avoid that is not to be friends with assholes.

Categories
Bullshit Hell in a handcart

Irony

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.

 

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Bullshit Hell in a handcart Media

Queer Eye for the lobster guy

This, by Adam Ramsay in Opendemocracy, is magnificent. It’s about toxic masculinity, male depression and the siren call of bad actors, and it’s endlessly quotable:

The event was a sort of rally for far Right forces hoping to storm the European elections. But the combination of speakers seemed a bit incongruous: Catholic bishops and alt-Right YouTube stars; Italian far Right politicians and American evangelical pastors. While most started their speeches by announcing the enormous number of children they had fathered – as though success comes with the capacity to ejaculate – they were otherwise an odd mix.

It also heaps deserved derision on Jordan Peterson.

[we] watched in horror as the alt-Right Canadian psychology professor conquered YouTube. Like an addictive substance, he lured depressed young men back to the toxic behaviours and power hierarchies which crushed their souls. And he won fame.

…He encourages fans to accept their place in a world where we almost all suffer from collective and unconscious racism, sexism and snobbery, rather than seeking to change it.

Grifters’ amplification of toxic masculinity is a key factor in the rise of the far right.

The attraction of these movements shouldn’t be surprising. If you are the sort of person who is accustomed to being given power by social hierarchies – white, male, straight – then those who tell you to wield that power with pride, that doing so will make you feel alive, will always be a source of temptation.

One reason that openDemocracy’s Tracking the Backlash project focuses on the war on women’s and LGBTQI rights is that toxic masculinity is a key ingredient in the cocktail that has intoxicated so many young men in recent years, and drawn them into far Right movements.

Just as we can’t fully understand the rise of Trump without understanding Gamergate, incels, and the 4Chan community, we can’t understand the elite institutions driving us to authoritarian capitalism without understanding the sociology, psychology and social movements of toxic masculinity.

Ramsay’s references to the Queer Eye programme will no doubt annoy some readers and make others conclude that this is an unserious article, but it’s a useful device to talk about masculinity (because masculinity itself is absolutely not a bad thing; the problem is with regressive, reactionary, repressive ideas of what men should and shouldn’t be).

I thought this was insightful:

Wages have been stagnant in the US for decades, and millions who believed that by now they would have entered the middle class have discovered that they are very definitely working class.

For Jordan Peterson, the solution to this situation – and the reason he is beloved of the powerful – is to accept it. The sixth of his famous ‘12 Rules for Life’ – the title of his bestselling 2018 book – is “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.” In other words, ‘know your place’.

And his implicit message goes a lot further than that. The prominence that he – and so many of his fellow travellers – give to their refusal to accept trans people only makes sense when you understand that for them, there is no greater sin than refusing to accept your place in the social hierarchy. After all, if you endlessly work hard to accept your rank in a world which makes you miserable, you resent no one more than those who refuse to follow. To be trans is to transgress against their world order, and they can’t stand it.

Peterson’s message isn’t just “Don’t change the world.” It’s “Don’t change who the world tells you that you are.” And it does profound damage.