The kindness of women and the sadness of men

Emily Todd VanDerWerff is a critic at large for Vox, and she’s reviewed an interesting video by PhilosophyTube that addresses the issue of men’s mental health.

I thought this bit of her review was particularly interesting.

Thorn suggests that one project worth undertaking, should you have a platform like his to do it, is to increase the number of emotional colors that men feel free to paint with, so they’re not forced to work with such a limited palette. By making a video like this one, he says, other men might be able to recognize themselves in his story and find sustenance and help with the process of navigating their own emotions.

(A personal sidebar: This is deeply true. Since coming out as a trans woman, I’ve found a staggering number of emotional support systems open to women compared to those for men, because women in our culture are expected to be emotional, whereas men are expected to be buttoned-down. If I’m having a hard day or quietly crying at a restaurant, I almost always receive a quick, “Are you okay?” from other women who might be around. This never happened to me when I lived my life as a man…

That’s been my experience too. The conversations I have with women are very different from the conversations I used to have, and still have, with men. It’s not just evident in conversations with close friends; it’s there with people I didn’t know an hour previously too. It’s hard to put into words, but I think the difference is what’s meant by the question “how are you?” from someone you know outside of a professional context.

Having played for both teams, I think there is a difference in the way men and women ask it and answer it. The women I know ask it with meaning and answer honestly. Whereas the men ask it and really hope they don’t get an honest answer – which is handy, because the man being asked has no intention of providing one. He’s fine. He’s always fine.

I think things are getting better – for example the stigma around talking about mental illness seems to be fading – but I think among men of my age and older there’s still that boys-don’t-cry, stiff-upper-lip thing going on. Which is perhaps partly why my friends and I have lost two men to suicide in the last three months: while women are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, men are more likely to kill themselves. In 2017 in the UK, 5,821 people killed themselves. 4,382 of them were men.

This is what we mean when we talk about tackling toxic masculinity. It’s not about tackling all masculinity, changing what it means to be a man or diminishing men in any way. It’s about increasing the number of emotional colours that men feel free to paint with.

Help is here

For the second time in just a few months, my friends and I are mourning another life lost to suicide.

Too many people are struggling with mental health and suicidal thoughts. If you’re one of them, please speak to somebody. The world is a better place with you in it, and can be a better place for you.

Put these numbers in your phone if you think you might need them.

0800 58 58 58 – The Campaign Against Living Miserably; online chat is available on the website.

116 123 – Samaritans. If you prefer you can email

0808 802 8008 – Music Minds Matter, for musicians and people in the music business. Also


Inciting hatred of trans women in the name of feminism is “despicable”

There’s a great interview with the equally great Ruth Hunt, departing CEO of Stonewall, in Buzzfeed News. Ruth hasn’t just had a hard job. She’s had to deal with constant online abuse, some of it criminal, and has been the target of bigoted pundits in the media too.

“Mainstream newspapers running consistently transphobic articles, day in, day out, ostensibly expressing concern about the fate of butch lesbians?!” Hunt sniffs with contempt before finally letting go.

“It’s like, ‘You have not written a SINGLE positive piece about butch lesbians in my ENTIRE ADULT LIFE. Your style pages have not reflected me; your problem pages, your look, your discussion about lesbian identity, has never included me. Don’t you DARE pretend that you are now advocating for me as an excuse to attack trans people. THAT makes me angry.”

The increasingly unhinged scaremongering over trans women has led to Hunt being repeatedly questioned in the toilets because she doesn’t look stereotypically female. On Twitter last night, a Scottish journalist noted that exactly the same thing happened to her wife:

I want to say to “gender critical” people: 

You are damaging trans people, and that’s bad enough. 


Back to the article. This, about the online noise over gender recognition reform, is really interesting.

when Hunt’s experience of Twitter was an endless shelling against trans rights, the charity sought external help — specifically, to investigate what exactly was happening on social media and what it meant. It looked as though those against trans inclusion and attempts to simplify gender recognition were a large proportion of the total.

The analysis found that the supposed majority was just a vocal minority.

A similar distortion played out in the media earlier this month. The Sunday Times published a letter from 30 academics urging universities to “sever their links” with Stonewall for “stifling academia” because it encourages universities to oppose transphobia. It appeared to represent, in its dozens of signatories from across British higher education, a predominant position within academia.

But just days later, a counterpetition of academics, supporting Stonewall and opposing transphobia, attracted 3,600 signatures. This was not reported in the Sunday Times.

I liked the bit in brackets here

The decision to embrace trans rights led to her and Stonewall being engulfed in hostility. Regular deluges on social media. Weekly, sometimes daily, criticism in the media. High-profile lesbians and gay men criticising her and her charity, withdrawing personal donations, signing petitions in protest — moves all eagerly published by right-wing newspapers. (It hasn’t worked overall, though: donations are up 11%.)


Not mad. Not bad. Just normal.

There isn’t a single day when I don’t see somebody claiming that trans people are mentally ill and/or degenerates. Here’s some geniuses from this morning.

A huge problem is that public awareness of trans people – and of what the medical consensus is about trans people – is incredibly out of date.

For a long time, normal human variety and behaviour has been pathologised – that is, labelled as a medical problem when it isn’t.

A good example of that is in the pathologisation of women. In the Victorian era, women who rebelled against domesticity could be labelled insane and thrown into asylums. Doctors considered women to suffer from an invented condition called “hysteria”, a condition that should be cured by finding a husband. In the 1950s, women were routinely sedated to deal with their unhappiness. In the 1960s and 1970s, feminism was considered by many to be a medical problem.

And that’s before we get to the queer folk. In the US, homosexuality was classified as a medical condition until 1973. It isn’t, of course, but the supposed science was based on gender beliefs about the supposedly essential qualities of men and women. To put it simply, if you weren’t a manly straight man or a girly straight girl there was clearly some sort of medical problem.

The treatment was harsh. Some people were given electro-shock therapy, a practice that continues in China to this day, or aversion therapy, or other supposed cures that caused great damage.

The Bible of psychiatric conditions for US doctors is the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual, or DSM for short. It’s a reference manual produced by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and its first two editions included homosexuality. The APA was very resistant to improved scientific knowledge because it contradicted its members’ beliefs that gay people had a “degenerative” condition.

American psychiatry mostly ignored this growing body of sex research and, in the case of Kinsey, expressed extreme hostility to findings that contradicted their own theories.

Some gay activists were complicit in this.

…some mid-20th century homophile (gay) activist groups accepted psychiatry’s illness model as an alternative to societal condemnation of homosexuality’s “immorality” and were willing to work with professionals who sought to “treat” and “cure” homosexuality.

It’s easy to condemn now, but “be nice to them, they’re mental” was a step forward from “throw rocks at them, they’re perverts”.

Eventually, though, science won: fact beat faith, and homosexuality was no longer a medical condition in the DSM III onwards – although it remained a “sexual orientation disturbance” until 1987. Nevertheless, “APA’s 1973 diagnostic revision was the beginning of the end of organized medicine’s official participation in the social stigmatization of homosexuality. Similar shifts gradually took place in the international mental health community as well.”

There was a wider context to this: the World Health Organisation’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, ICD for short. In 1948, the WHO published version six of the ICD, ICD-6, which classified homosexuality as a “sexual deviation”.

The ICD listed homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1992.

Most people understand that gay people are perfectly normal, but until very recently the official medical literature said otherwise. And that legitimised hatred.

As a result [of removing homosexuality from the DSM and ICD], cultural attitudes about homosexuality changed in the US and other countries as those who accepted scientific authority on such matters gradually came to accept the normalizing view. For if homosexuality was no longer considered an illness, and if one did not literally accept biblical prohibitions against it, and if gay people are able and prepared to function as productive citizens, then what is wrong with being gay? Additionally, if there is nothing wrong with being gay, what moral and legal principles should the larger society endorse in helping gay people openly live their lives?

The result, in many countries, eventually led, among other things, to (1) the repeal of sodomy laws that criminalized homosexuality; (2) the enactment of laws protecting the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in society and the workplace; (3) the ability of LGBT personnel to serve openly in the military; (4) marriage equality and civil unions in an ever growing number of countries; (5) the facilitation of gay parents’ adoption rights; (6) the easing of gay spouses’ rights of inheritance; and (7) an ever increasing number of religious denominations that would allow openly gay people to serve as clergy.

Most importantly, in medicine, psychiatry, and other mental health professions, removing the diagnosis from the DSM led to an important shift from asking questions about “what causes homosexuality?” and “how can we treat it?” to focusing instead on the health and mental health needs of LGBT patient populations.

Guess what? The DSM and ICD also pathologised trans people. The DSM detailed “gender identity disorder” until 2013, when DSM-5 reclassified it as “gender dysphoria” – not perfect, but better.

The widely circulated belief in a made-up condition called Autogynephilia (short version: trans women are either narcissists or confused gay men; as ever, trans men aren’t given much thought) has been thoroughly debunked; being trans is not considered a mental illness in the DSM any more: the problem isn’t being trans, but the distress that comes from trying not to be.

The same thing is happening with the ICD. As the WHO announced last year, “transsexualism” is being removed from ICD-11 – so the diagnosis I have, of “transsexualism male to female ICD10 F64”, will be consigned to the history books. The change was ratified this month by the Assembly of States of the WHO.

As with the DSM, some concerns remain (not least whether US insurers will continue to pay for trans people’s transition-related healthcare).

Here’s the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

While the removal of gender identity from the list of mental illnesses is a positive step, several concerns remain with the ICD11, and I call on WHO member states to continue improving the text to promote respect of human rights.

Such concerns include the term “gender incongruence” retained in the ICD11 which may lead to interpretations suggesting abnormality, as well as the continued listing of gender incongruence in childhood in the ICD.

I particularly regret that no progress was achieved in the ICD11 toward depathologisation of intersex people, and that terms such as “sex development disorders” continue to appear in the text. Language in the ICD Foundation suggesting sex “normalising” surgeries remains, which is of major concern.

As with the DSM, it’s not perfect, but it’s better. As the Commissioner says:

The pathologisation of trans people has served to justify serious violations of their human rights over the years, including attempts to “cure” them through conversion or reparative therapies; psychiatric evaluations, and sterilisation. In many countries, legal gender recognition is only possible upon medical diagnosis.

Science, knowledge and understanding isn’t a fixed point. We now know that feminist women are not hysterical or insane. We know that you can’t pray the gay away or make people straight by electrocuting them. And we know that being trans isn’t an illness.

Do you believe us yet?

This is where it leads. The “reasonable concerns”. The “just asking questions”. The denial of science. The platforming of extremists who seem like such nice people. The endless articles telling you trans people are dangerous.

The Trump administration says it’s okay to let trans people die.

Under the discrimination administration’s latest plans, healthcare can be denied to trans people.

Insurers can refuse to pay for treatment.

ERs can refuse to treat trans people.

Paramedics can refuse to save our lives.

Doctors can refuse to treat our children.

Pharmacists can refuse to dispense hormones (something that’s already happening; in one case the pharmacist held onto the prescription so the trans person couldn’t get it filled anywhere else).

It’s not just us, of course. The rest of the LGBT umbrella is being targeted too, as are women who’ve had abortions.

We’re just the headline. People who aren’t trans read it, think “nothing to do with me” and move to the next article.

This is how human rights are lost.

This is how people die.

I’m not exaggerating. I’ve blogged before about Tyra Hunter, left to drown in her own blood because emergency workers discovered she was trans.

Here’s Sam Dylan Finch, who writes for Healthline.

I remember when I lived in Michigan and a trans woman that I knew had to call 911, because a serious wound she had (from an unrelated medical condition) started hemorrhaging overnight.

One of the EMTs went upstairs to her room, and when that EMT realized she was transgender, was visibly disgusted and left the room. Her mom overheard the EMT mocking her as he spoke to the other EMT, referring to her as an “it.”

But the worst part of it was that, when it was decided that she needed to go to the hospital, they made her walk down the stairs herself without helping her. She was hemorrhaging blood from a leg wound. They stood impatiently and just watched her struggle.

…A trans man named Robert Eads died of ovarian cancer after TWENTY SEPARATE DOCTORS refused to treat him. Lambda Legal reported that one of the doctors said the cancer diagnosis should make Eads “deal with the fact that he is not a real man.”

I have known trans people who have been mocked while they were gravely ill in a hospital bed. I have known trans people who were outright turned away by doctors, or have had pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions that were desperately needed.

I need you to understand that when we say that these protections are a matter of life and death, we mean that LITERALLY. Transgender people have already died in utterly preventable and tragic ways because medical “professionals” turned their backs on us when we needed help.

The scale of this is truly frightening.

The administration wants homeless shelters to refuse entry to trans people. It plans a religious exemption law that enables adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT families. It has banned trans people from the military. It puts trans refugees in solitary confinement. It has given government agencies and private businesses the right to discriminate against LGBT people provided it’s on religious grounds. Prison policy has been rewritten to place trans prisoners among people of their assigned birth gender, so trans women go to men’s prisons with predictable consequences.

It is slowly but surely removing every single bit of legal protection for LGBT people.


This is not about politics. This is about fundamental human rights. I want you to imagine getting into a serious car accident, and as you are literally dying before someone’s eyes, they are MOCKING you when you thought they had come to help you.

I want you to imagine getting a cancer diagnosis, and going to doctor after doctor, TWENTY TIMES, to no avail. Imagine one callously remarking that maybe the cancer would teach you a lesson. Imagine the time is ticking, and no matter how much you plead, no one will help.

I want you to imagine the humiliation of hemorrhaging blood, and being made to crawl down a staircase, while two ambulance workers that you called for help refer to you as “it” and look at you with disgust. has detailed the assault on LGBT rights and trans rights in particular since Trump took power. It’s a very long list.

Not all of the proposed regulations will get onto the statute books. For example, the administration’s attempts to remove workplace protections for trans people will probably run afoul of other laws, case law, other regulations and various Executive Orders. But the sheer volume of it is shocking. Make no mistake: the administration has declared war on LGBT people and on women.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be trans in America right now, but I’m very scared that I’m going to feel something very similar here in a few years from now. The same rhetoric, the same “debates”, the same evangelicals and the same deep pockets are fuelling the same anti-trans sentiment here.

The man behind the latest outrage, Roger Severino, is a former staffer and a firm friend of the evangelical Heritage Foundation.

That’s the same Heritage Foundation that supports UK anti-trans activists, the same Heritage Foundation that the leading lights of the UK anti-trans movement fly to America to discuss strategy with.

As our politics lurches ever rightwards, I’m genuinely frightened.

Tthis isn’t about politics. This is about hate. This is about deliberate, cold cruelty, the deliberate othering of a whole group of human beings, a government effectively telling its populace that that group of people are not human.

Diana Tourjée of Vice magazine:

The Christian extremists running the US government will not stop until transgender Americans are dead and gone from public life

…This is not politics. This is social extermination.

For God’s sake, vote

These are the politicians who passed the horrific anti-abortion bill in Alabama. Notice any similarities?

It’s easy to look across the Atlantic in horror at Dark Ages throwbacks such as these yahoos, but don’t forget that right here in the UK abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland, as is equal marriage.

In Northern Ireland, the people most likely to be in favour of women’s reproductive freedom are much less likely to vote than their religious counterparts.

In the 2015 UK elections, 70% of Catholic women voted but just 55% of Protestant women did. That wasn’t a one-off, either. The pattern has been evident in elections from 1998 onwards.

There are multiple reasons for this, including disengagement from politics and a belief that politicians of all stripes aren’t trustworthy. In the US, the religious right actively engages in voter suppression. But the fact is that if you’re a woman or a member of a minority group, voting isn’t optional: it’s crucial. Because the people who want to restrict your rights vote religiously. Pun fully intended.

There’s a wider issue here, which is about representation more generally. Why aren’t politicians more representative of their diverse constituents?

Here’s Bernard Farga of Indiana University. Farga is the author of The Turnout Gap: Race, Ethnicity, and Political Inequality in a Diversifying America. Farga answers an interesting question: how can a country such as the USA, which is becoming significantly more diverse, elect politicians who cater only for one specific group – right-leaning white people?

I think there’s a countervailing force to this “demographics are destiny,” which is polarization. At the same time that demographic change has happened, we’ve seen racial polarization of partisanship where whites have become substantially more Republican. And despite the fact that the nation is becoming more diverse, and maybe 40 percent minority by 2020, whites are still the majority by far, and will be the plurality group for generations to come… if the parties split on race, then the party that’s catering to white voters will still be dominant.

One reason for that is that the groups the politicians choose not to represent have much lower voter turnout.

…the increase in the minority population is disproportionately among very low-turnout groups: Asian Americans and Latinos. Latinos are the largest minority group in the country; Asian Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in the country. So, these two groups, where turnout rates are as much as 30 percentage points lower than the turnout of rate of whites, that’s the demographic change we’re seeing.

So that means the voting population is lagging far behind the demographic shift that we’re seeing otherwise. And when you combine that with polarization, it means that demographics aren’t destiny… demographically, whites are still a majority of the potential electorate, and the clear majority of the voters.

To simplify something that’s obviously a lot more complex and multifactorial: in the short term, political parties can gain power by ignoring minority groups and pandering solely to the demographic that delivers the most votes. It’s why conservatives put so much effort into appealing to older, white, straight, people: the turnout among other groups means they can effectively be ignored. Improving turnout is therefore crucial if we want a fairer, more representative politics.

Farga isn’t optimistic about where the current divisive politics leads.

…beyond who wins and who loses, it’s about having elections that represent the will of the people, and I think when you don’t have that—no matter who wins or loses—in terms of which party, the outcomes are bad. I think that some of the divisiveness and divisions that you see right now—the polarization—is a product one of the parties… feeling that the strategy to win is basically to keep people from voting, that the only way they can win is by certain people not turning out, because that seems to be what was successful in 2016 and a few elections before that, like 2014 and maybe 2010.

That’s dangerous, because when we start talking about outcomes that are not seen as representative of all the people, and then one party disproportionately winning those outcomes, then the other party says, “Well, this is illegitimate.” And that’s where you see democratic breakdown.

The anti-vax movement is lethal

Newspaper and internet scaremongering is so commonplace now that we’re numb to it, but we shouldn’t be. Some of this misinformation kills. The mainstreaming of anti-vaccination lunacy by newspapers such as the Daily Mail and later, idiots on social media, has seen vaccination levels drop and infection levels soar.

In the UK, more than half a million children weren’t vaccinated between 2010 and 2017. Cases in England have quadrupled in the last year as vaccination levels have fallen. The WHO target is 95% vaccination of children, but in England it has fallen to 87.5%. We lose herd immunity at around 90%.

Measles kills. It recently killed 1,000 children in Madagascar in a horrific example of how quickly it can spread. The cause was lack of vaccination: nearly 40% of the population are unvaccinated. Before we introduced vaccination in the 1960s, Measles killed 2.6 million people a year.

In some parts of the world such as Madagascar the problem is down to lack of access to medicine. But in the affluent west, it’s because of first world problems such as complacency and believing bullshit on the internet and in newspapers.

This is not a debate; there are not two sides to this story. Measles is a lethal and entirely preventable disease, and if you don’t get your children vaccinated you’re risking other children’s lives.

Preying on people with cancer

The Cancer Act 1939 is one of the few pieces of legislation that outlaws pseudo-scientific medical bollocks. As Cancer Research explains:

At its heart, the current incarnation of the Cancer Act is designed to protect cancer patients and the public from being bombarded with adverts for cancer treatments, from any source, including medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies, alternative practitioners, or anyone else.

One of the reason the act exists is because charlatans prey on people with cancer. If you’re convinced that you’re going to die, or that the treatment that may save you could be almost as bad as the disease, you’re a soft mark for sharks peddling expensive miracle cures.

Maybe the Mirror’s lawyers should have a word with its editorial team. This article is appalling.

Terminally ill mum who hid cancer claims tumour shrunk 75% after ‘alternative care’

After a friend told her about an alternative cancer treatment centre called ‘Hope4Cancer’ in Cancun, Mexico, Kate re-mortgaged her home and dug into her life savings in order to afford the £35,000 three-week program.

And following her first treatment in late October, Kate was amazed after scans revealed that the tumour on her lung had shrunk by 75 per cent – going from the size of an apple to the size of a grape – while there is now zero traces of cancer in her lymph nodes and limited cancer in her liver.

There’s just one little problem with all of that. From the same article:

I was put on a target therapy drug called Alectinib

Over to you Clive Peedell, NHS consultant clinical oncologist with a particular interest in lung cancer:

Sorry, but as a lung cancer specialist, I can confirm that this story is nonsense. The lady was on alectinib, which is a highly effective targeted therapy used in ALK+ve lung cancer ie her dramatic response had nothing to do with the alternative therapies.

So what we have here is an advert for a bullshit facility in Mexico that takes enormous sums of money from people at their most vulnerable. Sadly the Mirror could argue that this is editorial, not advertising, and therefore exempt from prosecution under the Cancer Act. But while it may comply with the letter of the law, it certainly doesn’t comply with its spirit.

Then again, it might not comply with the letter of the law after all. Cancer Research again:

The Cancer Act still covers social media and any websites that are accessible within the UK, if they’re aimed at the general public rather than the specific groups of people mentioned above, and Trading Standards can still choose to prosecute people advertising through them.

The march of idiocy

I wrote about the horrors of unvaccinated children the other day. This is a great example of the problem.

The article is about Shanelle Cartwright, the wife of an Australian rugby player. Over 400-odd words it regurgitates nonsense she posted on social media, describing her refusal  to vaccinate her kids as a “controversial decision”.

It’s not a controversial decision. It’s a dangerous decision that could threaten the lives of other people’s children.

This happens constantly in media, in all kinds of subjects: someone refusing to accept settled science is portrayed as part of a debate where both sides have equal value. But they don’t. The Earth is not flat. We landed on the moon. The Holocaust happened. Climate change is real. Barack Obama wasn’t born in Kenya. Vaccination saves lives.

A recent study found that nearly 10% of Americans think vaccines are unsafe. That doesn’t mean that nearly 10% of Americans know more than science. It means that nearly 10% of Americans are idiots.

I briefly subscribed to a Reddit section about stupid people on Facebook. I had to unsubscribe again because the sheer, grinding, unrelenting idiocy of it was making me fear for humanity. It’s just wall to wall insanity: nurses claiming that the sun can’t damage your skin, people telling cancer patients to forget chemo and cut down on sugar instead, people sharing graphics showing that vaccinations include a range of lethal chemicals including dihydroxen monoxide.

Dihydrogen Monoxide is better known as H2O.

I wish I was making this up.

Never mind asking whether these people should be given a platform. I don’t think they should be given cutlery.

It’s really very simple: idiots shouldn’t be given a platform to spout idiocy unless you make it really, really clear that they have no idea what they’re talking about. We generally don’t give column inches or air time to people who believe that the world is flat, because it isn’t. But with vaccination, climate change and other hot-button topics, we repeatedly give idiots a megaphone. And every time we do, we legitimise their bullshit and the world gets a little more stupid.

Murderous delusions

Image from Reddit. Creator unknown.

On Friday, hundreds of US parents protested against the vaccination of children. I liked the Huffington Post headline: Parents Protest For Kids’ Right To Suffer From Preventable Illness. 

The protest was in Washington State, which is currently in the middle of a measles epidemic. The parents are trying to stop a bill that would remove personal or philosophical exemptions for child vaccination. It’s an attempt to stop a dangerous trend: the WHO describes the anti-vaccination movement as one of the top threats to global health in 2019.

The anti-vax movement is profoundly anti-scientific, and repeats the non-existent link between autism and vaccination popularised by the thoroughly discredited charlatan Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield, sadly, is still peddling his nonsense and thousands of parents believe it.

It’s important to stress here that vaccines are among the most studied medicines in human history. There is no link between vaccination and autism. None.

The parents who campaign against keeping children alive aren’t malicious. But they’ve fallen victim to the same thing that drives climate change denial or flat-Earthism: I can’t see it, therefore it can’t exist.

It also ties in with anti-government, anti-expert sentiment. How dare you tell me what I need to do to protect my children?

This isn’t a movement of stupid people, or uneducated people, although some anti-vax posters on social media might persuade you otherwise. The demographics skew heavily in favour of reasonably affluent, reasonably well-educated middle-class white women.

It’s cruelly ironic that vaccines have fallen victim to their own success: we no longer see the victims of the diseases they eliminate. My generation and the generations after me haven’t grown up around children whose limbs have been destroyed by polio. We haven’t seen people’s faces scarred and distorted by smallpox. We don’t know of brothers or sisters who died from whooping cough.

If we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

The parents’ murderous delusion could kill not just their own children, but other people’s children too. Some children don’t have the luxury of choosing whether to be vaccinated or not: they’re too young, or they don’t have access to health care, or they have medical conditions that would make vaccination unsafe, or they’re still in the womb. With a successful vaccination programme those children are protected: herd immunity means that it’s effectively impossible for dangerous diseases to exist in a community, so the likelihood of these children being exposed is near zero.

That only works if most children get vaccinated, though. When the numbers fall even a little bit, below 90 to 95%, herd immunity disappears and preventable, deadly diseases recur. That’s exactly what’s happening now. For example, in Clark County – part of the same state where the anti-vaxxers were protesting – just 78% of nursery school children have had the full slate of vaccination. 43 of those unvaccinated children have contracted measles. In the US alone, more than 9 million children are currently at risk of contracting measles as a result of under-vaccination.

This isn’t an argument to be won on facts, on debating whether or not vaccines are safe. The anti-vaxxers have seen the evidence and simply choose not to believe it. The only way to change these people’s minds appears to be to show them the horrific consequences of the diseases the vaccines prevent, and the danger they’re putting so many children in.