Nobody should be forced to come out

Popular YouTube beauty blogger Nikkie de Jager, aka NikkieTutorials, has come out to her many millions of followers as transgender.

It wasn’t her choice: as Stylist magazine points out, she came out because unnamed persons were threatening to “out” her to the press.

That isn’t just a gross invasion of privacy, although of course it is: somebody’s decision about when (or if) to come out and who to come out to is entirely their business, and being outed or forced to come out can mean having to deal with a lot of really big stuff before the person is ready or able to deal with it. Coming out is hard even if you are ready and do have support; it’s harder still if you aren’t and don’t.

Outing somebody is also very dangerous.

As Stylist notes:

Online harassment and abuse of transgender people has been on the increase in recent years, and it has been especially prevalent on YouTube.

While the initial reaction to de Jager’s announcement has been positive, she’ll now receive transphobic abuse on every YouTube clip she posts – and she may experience worse. High profile trans women are often on the receiving end of terrible online abuse, some of it orchestrated by even higher profile Twitter users who send the mob after anyone they disapprove of. The abuse some LGBT+ people experience online has led them to take their own lives; the fear of it has led others to do the same.

As Harron Walker writes on Vice, outing trans women is nothing new: it happened to Bond actress Caroline Cossey, effectively ending her modelling career.

Speaking to the Huffington Post, Cossey recalled:

the tabloids were able to destroy my professional career and even my personal life, fueled by the ignorant thinking about transgender people in mainstream society and the laws of those times.

It was a similar story for Tracey Africa and April Ashley, who were also outed by the tabloids. Vice:

De Jager might have been the one to release her coming out video, but only after her would-be blackmailers forced her hand. Four decades after a hairdresser’s assistant outed Tracey Africa on the set of an Essence shoot and News of the World published Caroline Cossey’s backstory without her consent, transness remains a liability to a woman’s career, one that can be weaponized against her even if she chooses not to make it known.

This, incidentally, is one of the reasons we have the Gender Recognition Act in the UK: under Section 22 of the Act it’s an offence for someone in an official capacity to disclose that the possessor of a Gender Recognition Certificate has a trans history, for example by selling the story to a tabloid newspaper (although here’s a fun fact: the number of prosecutions brought under Section 22 in the 16 years since the law was introduced is zero).

Of course, the threat of outing by the tabloids has long been used not just against trans women, but against LGBT+ people more generally. Just this month Lib Dem MP Layla Moran was forced to come out as pansexual because the newspapers were about to out her.

over the last couple of months journalists have been sniffing around this story. They’ve asked friends, made indirect approaches, and more recently, very direct approaches to people I know, asking for information about my personal life.

One of the newspapers that was about to out her, the Mail on Sunday, then accused her of “weaponising” her sexuality to “look woke” and quoted the usual rabble of Mumsnet trolls saying awful things. Hell hath no fury like a tabloid deprived of its salacious scoop.

And salacious is all that it is. What kind of people Layla Moran loves, what genitals Nikkie de Jager was born with, are none of our damn business. Moran isn’t hypocritically pushing an anti-LGBT+ agenda in her politics; de Jager’s history is not relevant to her celebrity. And yet the tabloids and their demonic helpers will happily expose and potentially damage their private lives for a fast buck because web clicks matter more than ethics.

Many of us will look back at the 80s outing of Caroline Cossey and consider it a despicable invasion of privacy, but in 2020 the tabloids are still doing it. Not only that, but they’re approaching LGBT+ people with Hobson’s choice: try to stay closeted and we’ll out you; spoil our scoop and we’ll do our best to destroy you.

As Moran wrote:

It’s possible that to some journalists and readers this is a jolly jape where they get one over me, but to me, this is my life.

Satan

The New York Times has published a detailed investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s empire, arguing that “Murdoch and his children have topped governments on two continents and destabilised the most important democracy on Earth.”

It’s a long read but here are some key claims:

Fox News has long exerted a gravitational pull on the Republican Party in the United States, where it most recently amplified the nativist revolt that has fueled the rise of the far right and the election of President Trump.

Mr. Murdoch’s newspaper The Sun spent years demonizing the European Union to its readers in Britain, where it helped lead the Brexit campaign that persuaded a slim majority of voters in a 2016 referendum to endorse pulling out of the bloc. Political havoc has reigned in Britain ever since.

And in Australia, where his hold over the media is most extensive, Mr. Murdoch’s outlets pushed for the repeal of the country’s carbon tax and helped topple a series of prime ministers whose agenda he disliked, including Malcolm Turnbull last year.

While Australia burns, Murdoch’s media outlets continue to spread climate denial; across the world his columnists and talking heads have fuelled far-right, anti-islamic, anti-semitic and anti-LGBT+ hatred; and his networks have enthusiastically spread white nationalism.

Murdoch isn’t in the news business. He’s in the propaganda business.

NYT:

A March study by Navigation Research, a Democratic firm, found that 12 percent of Fox News viewers believe that climate change is mostly caused by humans, compared with 62 percent of all other Americans. At the same time, 78 percent of Fox viewers believe that Trump has accomplished more than any president in American history, compared with 17 percent of other Americans.

Here comes the flood

The Scottish Government will announce its proposals for and open its second consultation on gender recognition reform this week.

This is the second consultation because the first one did not get the result that bigots wanted: of the 15,532 individuals and 165 organisations who responded to the months-long, widely publicised consultation, 60% respondents were in favour of reform. Rather than “silencing women”, the consultation received submissions favouring reform from women’s organisations including Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Women 50:50, Zero Tolerance, Close The Gap, Engender and Equate Scotland.

When women’s groups said they were in favour of gender recognition reform, the “stop silencing women” groups told the government to ignore them and re-run the consultation. To its great shame, the government did.

The first Scottish consultation ended shortly before the English anti-trans panic really kicked in, so the evangelical groups, right-wing nutcases and anti-LGBT+ bigots that have poisoned the issue down south didn’t really get to make as much noise up here as they did in the rest of the UK (although all the leading anti-trans organisations and anti-LGBT groups did make submissions to the initial consultation, despite many of them claiming the consultation was somehow kept secret from them).

They’ve made up for lost time ever since, and the second consultation will see them given a much bigger microphone to try and incite fear and hatred of trans people, especially trans women. They will be supported by their friends down south and across the Atlantic and by the majority of the local and national press.

The proposed reforms have been implemented successfully in many other countries and have never been abused; lurid tales of predatory men using gender recognition certificates remain firmly in the imaginations of newspaper columnists, religious fundamentalists and idiots on Twitter. The predator myth was created by the US religious right after losing its war on equal marriage; at least one group has admitted fabricating the “predators in bathrooms” issue to try and make people scared of trans women.

GRA reform has no impact on who gets to use toilets, who gets to access women’s refuges, who goes where in prison.

It will not redefine the meaning of “woman”, force children to see penises or any of the other nonsense claims made by the same people who a generation ago would have been the ones claiming that lesbians shouldn’t be allowed to be PE teachers and that gay primary school teachers would molest their pupils.

Nevertheless these claims and many more will be churned out by the Scottish and national press and on social media for many months to come. Many of the people making those claims will be ill-informed but many more will be malicious.

Look for newspaper columnists with a track record of Islamophobia, social media posters who can barely hide their homophobia, “family values” campaigners who’ve previously lobbied against women’s reproductive health and for the right of parents to beat their children. Look for the Mumsnet crowd who’ve tried to defund children’s charities, for the antisemites claiming conspiracy, for the “protect women” groups who don’t care about any of the issues currently harming women, for the public figures who once said exactly the same about gay and lesbian people that they’re saying about trans people today.

Listen for the dog whistles behind the “reasonable concerns” and false claims to care about “real” trans people.

The flood of abuse that’s coming won’t stop reform from happening; it’s in line with international best practice and reflects the medical, scientific and legal consensus. GRA reform is a niche issue that only affects a tiny number of people, and the current concerns will one day be seen for the bullshit they are.

But in the meantime it means yet more daily abuse of people like me.

What the endless, cowardly delays in Scotland and England have done is enabled the far right, the religious right and their useful idiots to demonise part of the LGBT+ community in an attempt to weaken the wider family. Trans people are just the start.

We are a wedge strategy for anti-LGBT+ and anti-feminist activism, the softest targets in a war on gay men and lesbian women, on bisexual people and on women’s reproductive rights. We’ve seen the LGB Alliance’s social media run by Trump supporters and question the validity of bisexual people, seen Women Make Glasgow claim gay men shouldn’t get life-saving medicine, seen the leading lights of the UK anti-trans movement break bread with right-wing Christian fundamentalists and declare their support for Tommy Robinson, watched our MPs laud activists who claimed that trans people are a global conspiracy funded by the Jews. We’ve even seen people elected who believe that there’s a secret Muslim strategy to turn everybody transgender.

We have endured more than two years of this, and yet the immediate future looks even worse. I’m scared not just for us, but for everybody else who’ll be targeted after us.

There is no “them”. There’s only us

Like you I have many thoughts about the UK election results. But my main thought is this.

Don’t fall into the trap of belittling and berating the people who didn’t vote the way you did. Don’t let yourself believe that “they” are racist, hateful or stupid. Don’t assume that because the politicians they voted for are bastards, they are too.

If you do, you’ll feel the same rage and sadness when you lose the next election as you do today.

There is no “them”. That’s what the worst politicians want you to believe. There’s just us.

How to break the news (and a country)

If you haven’t already seen it, this photograph is a PR nightmare for the Conservatives. It shows a 4-year-old boy with suspected pneumonia forced to sleep on a Leeds hospital floor because of a bed shortage. It’s an image that’ll resonate with any parent, but it’s particularly heart-breaking for anyone who’s taken their child to A&E in a similar situation: it was just a few months ago that my own son was being investigated for and later treated for pneumonia, so I’m particularly aware of how awful and frightening the wait can be.

It’s the kind of image that can change the path of elections, so the Conservatives have reacted very strongly. What’s interesting about that is the way they’re doing it. They appear to have activated a very powerful misinformation machine to spread outright lies.

Let’s make something clear first. There’s no doubt that the image is genuine. The Chief Medical Officer at the hospital has already apologised. The Chief Executive has made a personal apology to the child’s mother.

That’s not what people are seeing on social media. On Twitter and on Facebook they’re seeing the same message from multiple unconnected accounts, many of which have lain dormant for some time:

A good friend of mine is a senior nursing sister at Leeds Hospital – the boy shown on the floor by the media was in fact put there by his mother who then took photos on her mobile phone and uploaded it to media outlets before he climbed back on his trolley.

Here’s how it looks on Twitter.

The same cut-and-pasted text has since been retweeted manually by minor public figures such as former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen. But the initial rush of publication has come from what appears to be a centrally co-ordinated network of social media accounts.

The same message is being posted to carefully selected Facebook groups, as Marc Owen Jones explains (with screenshots as proof). Facebook groups are a very effective way of targeting voters of particular demographics, not least because nobody outside the group usually sees what you’re posting there.

In one example, Jason Crosby pastes the tweet on the FB group for “Seaham Have Your Say”. Seaham have your say is a page with 24k followers serving the North Eastern coastal town of Seaham. His post gets 91 comments and 26 shares.

And it’s making its way to the right-wing press. Here’s Allison Pearson of the Telegraph.

Pearson also claims that the mother of the child is upset that “Corbyn politicised it”, which is at odds with the claim that the mother staged the photos for political reasons. [Update, later that day: Pearson has now deleted the tweets without explanation or apology, presumably after a word with a libel lawyer.]

To reiterate: the hospital has already apologised. From the BBC:

Dr Yvette Oade, chief medical officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Our hospitals are extremely busy at the moment and we are very sorry that Jack’s family had a long wait in our Emergency Department.”

She added: “We are extremely sorry that there were only chairs available in the treatment room, and no bed. This falls below our usual high standards, and for this we would like to sincerely apologise to Jack and his family.”

What we’re seeing here is deeply disturbing. In response to a story it doesn’t like, the Conservative Party – or more likely, a separate organisation with plausible deniability of its connections to the Conservative Party – is trying to bury it not with spin, but with outright lies and defamation. Those lies are coming from a range of sock puppet accounts on multiple social networks and their message is then amplified by tame journalists.

This is no different from the fake-news chants of Donald Trump: the goal is to delegitimise the media, to push the narrative that everything you read critical of The Party is a lie. And it’s a key tactic of fascist politics, which is why it’s so frightening.

Fascism does not begin with jackboots. It begins with creating a “them” and an “us” and then delegitimising the institutions that limit state power such as the judiciary and the press. They ridicule the judges, claiming they represent special interests and are “enemies of the people”, as The Daily Mail put it. They accuse the press of bias and of lying, accusing them of speaking on behalf of the “them” against the “us”. If the press is not compliant, it is threatened into silence (this week alone the Conservatives have threatened the licence of Channel 4 and the funding of the BBC) or dismissed as fraudulent.

Our current Prime Minister is connected to former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, a proud supporter of far-right extremists who wants to “destroy the state”: “I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment,” he says. Delegitimising the press is a key part of that strategy.

The US Holocaust Museum famously lists 14 early warning signs of fascism. They are:

  • Powerful and continuing nationalism
  • Disdain for human rights
  • Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
  • Supremacy of the military
  • Rampant sexism
  • Controlled mass media
  • Obsession with national security
  • Religion and government intertwined
  • Corporate power protected
  • Labour power suppressed
  • Disdain for intellectuals and the arts
  • Obsession with crime and punishment
  • Rampant cronyism and corruption
  • Fraudulent elections

How many can you tick?

We don’t have all 14 yet, but many of the items in the list should give us pause. More than any other party, The Conservatives seem to be taking us down a road that we’ve seen many other countries travel. We know all too well where that road can lead.

Living in a burning world

When I was a kid, I used to devour apocalyptic fiction: give me a shattered society trying to survive in a nuclear winter and I’d be all over it.

One of the most frightening ones I read was Nevile Shute’s On The Beach, which truly terrified me.  It’s set in Australia in the aftermath of a nuclear war, with the characters awaiting the inevitable arrival of the radioactive fallout. It gave me nightmares.

It’s not as frightening as this article.

The article is also about Australia, and about people stoic in the face of a man-made disaster. This one isn’t nuclear war, though. It’s fire.

Our weather apps now carry dotted lines across the shining sun: smoke haze. We learn the meaning of “temperature inversion”, in which warm air traps cool – and smoke – beneath it; our weather reports now carry air quality ratings. For the past month they’ve ranged from “poor” to well beyond “hazardous”. In news updates about the fires, it’s now commonplace to hear two horrific phrases: “seek shelter” and “too late to leave”.

…The fire danger warnings have a new category. Colours at the low-danger end are green, moving through yellow and orange. The new one is a deep, malevolent red with black stripes, and it’s called “catastrophic”.

On the first catastrophic warning day there’s a palpable fear, because even expert firefighters have never seen anything like this. The winds are completely unpredictable. Nobody knows what will happen.

The writer, Charlotte Wood, is well aware that her article centres the relatively affluent city-dwellers, not the poorer people who’ve been affected by these fires in much more devastating ways.

…as the days and weeks pass, here in Sydney the mood changes from disbelief to hypervigilant fear to a kind of WTF petulance. It’s still happening? We’re used to turning our attention briefly, intensely, to “those poor people” affected by climate change, then returning to normal life. Now those poor people include us.

Internet fights break out over whether it’s obscene to complain about the smoke. Of course it is; we’re lucky, we of the middle-class inner city. I can afford to buy a new Ventolin once a week, for example. I have time to do each load of laundry thrice before it smells clean. My work doesn’t force me to remain outside, breathing in this shit all day long. And of course, no fires have visited inner Sydney. None of ours are among the 600-plus homes burnt to the ground. None of us are among the dead.

But even as this is happening, right-wing politicians pretend it’s business as usual.

The prime minister’s family lives here in Sydney; surely by now the man must be saying something? I checked his social media pages. Prime minister Morrison’s Instagram account carried grinning images of him – baseball cap in place – atop a ladder, draping his family home in twinkly Christmas lights. No matter what’s going on each year, says the PM of a burning nation, getting in the Christmas spirit has always been such an important part of our family life.

But it’s not business as usual. The 2010s were the decade when our planet burned. From Wired:

This year, for example, wildfires in the Arboreal forest ringing the Arctic were unprecedented in both intensity and latitude, according to The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). The organisation says that the Earth’s boreal forests are now “burning at a rate unseen in at least 10,000 years.”

And fires pump more CO2 into the atmosphere, creating a terrible feedback loop.

In Brazil, wildfires – which have been at the most intense since 2010 – released the equivalent of 228 megatonnes of carbon dioxide. In an atmosphere already chock full of pollution, this is, of course, bad news.

There is much more bad news where that came from. And our response is to decorate our Christmas trees and pretend everything is okay.

We’re going into an election here where the PM can’t be arsed taking part in a climate debate; no wonder. Under the Conservatives we’re going to miss our extremely tame 2020 climate targets. We’re failing to meet our modest commitments to tackling carbon emissions, pollution, waste and overfishing. We’re also going to miss our 2050 emissions target.

We worry about Bags for Life and paper straws, tinkering with things that don’t matter while the world burns and the rich and powerful tell us not to believe the science and to keep on consuming and polluting and trashing the only home we’ve got.

From On The Beach:

You could have done something with newspapers. We didn’t do it. No nation did, because we were all too silly. We liked our newspapers with pictures of beach girls and headlines about cases of indecent assault, and no Government was wise enough to stop us having them that way. But something might have been done with newspapers, if we’d been wise enough.

The apocalyptic novels of my youth were supposed to be fiction of the most pessimistic kind. They’re starting to feel horribly real.

Library closures are a horror story

The Guardian:

Almost 800 libraries have closed since the Conservative government implemented austerity in 2010, new figures reveal.

That’s nearly a fifth of the UK’s libraries gone in a decade.

One of the awful things about this, and there are many awful things about this, is that savage cuts to library services reduce the number of library visits. That reduction is then used to justify further cuts on the grounds that fewer people are using libraries.

Libraries aren’t just places to get books, although of course that’s important: my mum taking me to the local library kick-started my imagination and ignited a love of stories and language that’s been with me my whole life. I wouldn’t have the job I have if it weren’t for those visits, and I wouldn’t be the person I am without those books.

I’m with Manic Street Preachers – “Libraries gave us power” – and Walter Cronkite here: “Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”

Libraries are crucial for social services – librarians spend more time helping people fill out essential forms for benefits than they do stamping books; with many crucial services only available online, libraries are a godsend for those who can’t afford or who are not confident in using computers – and for people who need somewhere to go that doesn’t require them to spend money. In the absence of help for some of society’s most vulnerable people, they can be a valuable safety net.

And they make people’s lives better.

Here’s a study from the UK Arts Council from a couple of years ago.

library use is positively associated with subjective wellbeing after controlling for a wide range of other factors. Library usage is associated with higher life satisfaction, higher happiness and a higher sense of purpose in life

…We also find that library engagement has a positive association with general health. After controlling for other confounding factors, being a regular library user is associated with a 1.4 per cent increase in the likelihood of reporting good general health. We valued this improvement in health in terms of cost savings to the NHS. Based on reductions in GP visits caused by this improvement in health, we predict the medical cost savings associated with library engagement at £1.32 per person per year. It is possible to aggregate NHS cost savings across the library-using English population to estimate an average cost saving of £27.5 million per year.

…We note that this is likely to represent just a subset of the secondary health benefits of libraries, which may impact upon other medical services and costs aside from GP visits.

This vandalism is a terrible thing with terrible consequences, and it’s completely unnecessary: it’s the results of cuts forced upon us by cultural vandals who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Not my movement

In the 2014 referendum campaign for Scottish independence, I was a proud Yes supporter. I wore the badge with pride, attended rallies, and felt part of something important: we had the opportunity to make a better, more tolerant, more inclusive country.

In 2019 I wouldn’t attend an independence rally because I’d be scared for my safety.

In recent years trans people have become the bogeymen among significant parts of the independence movement, especially online; this week’s news that a member of the SNP complaints committee has resigned over antisemitism has been blamed on a trans conspiracy, even though vocal and vicious transphobia has thus far resulted in zero consequences for any of the people engaging in it.  Outright transphobia has become mainstream, with even senior politicians embracing and signal boosting antisemitic trolls simply because they really, really hate trans women.

The New Statesman, hardly the most pro-trans publication, has noticed too.

In a turbulent social media microclimate that includes prominent MPs, MSPs and activists from across Scotland’s political parties, allegations and instances of transphobia and homophobia are being met by those of misogyny and abuse. Offline, the controversy has focused on provocative public meetings to discuss “concerns” about the reforms, opposed by demonstrations from LGBTQ+ activists. The issue has provoked conflict within the SNP that has spilled out into the wider nationalist movement, and also taps into socially conservative elements of wider Scottish society. The dispute has been enough to prompt a modest climbdown by the SNP leadership, which has delayed the proposed changes.

…The various elements of Scottish nationalism that the SNP has tried to push to the fringes – such as socialists and a populist hostility to “minority” issues like trans rights – are coalescing around a new style of nationalist activism that feels, from the demonstrations I’ve attended, more like a kind of ecumenical religious revivalism than serious movement politics.

I’m saddened by this, and scared.

Update: 24 hours later, here’s the editor of the Scottish edition of The Times with an exclusive. According to the so-called paper of record:

LGBT activists in the SNP are allegedly digging up dirt on members who oppose self-identification for trans people in a campaign to “purge” them from the party.

Allegedly, of course, means that the claim can’t be substantiated. But facts don’t matter. The Times gets another bullet to fire in its war on trans people.

This, incidentally, demonstrates the problem with press regulation in the UK. You can’t complain about any of this because the regulatory code only covers claims made about named individuals. Provided the Murdoch press doesn’t lie about specific people, it can print complete fabrications about – and incite hatred of – entire groups of people with impunity. And it does, every week.

Trigger happy

One of the things I’m really interested in is where words come from and how they’re used. For example, I’ll happily bore you senseless about how “shambles” has changed meaning several times. In the 15th century what originally meant a stool or money changer’s table became used to label the table butchers used to display the meat they had for sale. Shambles then became synonymous with slaughterhouse, before arriving at its current meaning – a state of great disorder and confusion – in the early 20th century.

Sometimes that evolution just happens, but sometimes meanings are changed deliberately. Take “politically correct” for example. It began as a left-wing in-joke, sarcastic and satirical, with left-leaning people taking the mickey out of their own tendency to go a little too far sometimes. It didn’t develop its current pejorative meaning – “political correctness” as a supposedly malign force to be resisted by right-thinking people – until 1987, when the book The Closing of the American Mind told its readers that the real bigotry was telling bigots to stop being bigoted. Since then it’s been used almost exclusively by right-wing politicians and pundits to rail against feminism, LGBT+ rights, anti-racism and anything else that stops them being awful to people.

If you’re a UK newspaper reader, you’ll recall a very similar process occurring with “Health and Safety”. The Health and Safety Executive aims to stop factory workers having their arms ripped off by faulty machinery, agricultural workers from suffocating in grain silos and miners from contracting fatal lung diseases. According to the right-wing press in stories that often turn out to be exaggerated or completely fabricated, what they call “elf’n’safety” has, like political correctness, “gone mad”.

It’s no coincidence that the pundits who rail against “elf’n’safety” also rail against “political correctness”. They are, after all, two cheeks of the same arse: how dare the proles demand safe workspaces and protection from discrimination? Whether it’s railing against red tape or LGBT+ rights, the pundits are firmly on the side of, and punching down on behalf of, the people who have all the power.

Something similar has happened more recently with “triggered”. “Trigger warnings” began in discussions of male violence towards women, particularly sexual violence. Because victims often experienced the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, potential triggers would be flagged up in advance of discussions or presentations so that vulnerable women wouldn’t find themselves mentally reliving their ordeals. There’s some debate over whether the tactic actually works, but clearly it comes from good intentions: it doesn’t want to add to the trauma of sexual abuse survivors.

It’s worth bearing that in mind when you see boorish men – right-wing, anti-feminist pundits, politicians and comedians, some of whom have very dubious attitudes towards women – using “triggered” to assert their superiority over whichever minority they want to abuse.

It’s particularly galling when you see the son of the pussy-grabber-in-Chief using a term originally designed to help the victims of people like his dad as the title for his book. Donald Trump Jr is currently touring the usual right-wing outlets to promote Triggered: how the left thrives on hate and wants to silence us. 

This week he was heckled off stage – silenced, you might say – at one of his readings.

Here’s Arwa Mahdawi writing in the Guardian.

One of the big themes of Triggered is, to quote Trump Jr: “A victimhood complex has taken root in the American left”. But let’s recap the situation shall we? Trump Jr (who describes himself as “hyper-rational” and “stoic”) has just published a book complaining that he is being silenced by the left. He is touring the US talking about how he is being silenced. He has been invited on primetime TV to talk about being silenced. And he is complaining about being silenced to his 4 million followers on Twitter. Maybe I am missing something, but that doesn’t exactly sound like being silenced to me.

What’s interesting about this particular event is that the people who actually did silence Trump Minor weren’t from the left. They were from the far right.

Mahdawi:

…the Trump administration has emboldened so many bigots that Maga-hat-wearing supporters are now coming after Jr for not being extreme enough. There has been a 30% increase in the number of US hate groups over the past four years, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center – a trend the civil rights organisation blames on Trump’s radicalising influence. Dangerous fringe groups have crept out of the shadows and are shouting at the top of their lungs.

The column articulates something I’ve been thinking for a while: there’s a common thread that unites the people who call their books or TV shows “triggered”, who delight in “triggering” audiences on social media, in print or in their shows, and those opposed to workers’ rights, LGBT+ rights, women’s rights and vegan sausage rolls. They genuinely believe that they are an oppressed minority.

A delusional victimhood complex is at the very heart of rightwing ideology. Immigrants are invading and stealing all the jobs. Jews are taking over the world. #MeToo is intent on destroying innocent men’s lives. Gays are destroying family values. The right never see themselves as racists or bigots; they see themselves as victims who are fighting back against the imminent extinction of western civilisation. Forget being stoic or silenced; they are constantly triggered and they never shut up.

Money for nothing

Interesting developments at the LGB Alliance, the newly launched anti-trans group. It’s managed to raise over £25,000 in largely anonymous donations in just 11 days of existence, largely due to support from right-wing media here and in the US.

The right-wing press and the US religious right like the Alliance because while it advances the same argument as the most hateful religious conservatives – trans people’s rights are at odds with LGB people’s rights, even though the majority of trans people are themselves LGB; trans people aren’t really people and don’t deserve human rights; trans people are icky – its figureheads are a black woman and a gay man. That means unlike straight white guys, they can’t be criticised because there have been no wicked, misinformed or bigoted black or gay people in the history of the world ever.

The right-wing support has no doubt helped the fundraising, as it’s helped other anti-trans fundraisers in the past. But it’s interesting to look at this particular one, because this is very specifically claiming to be an alliance of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the UK.

So why are so many of the supporters straight people from North America?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s lovely to see so many straight people such keen allies of LGB people and putting their money where their mouths are.

But it’s also rather strange.

There are lots of fundraisers online for LGBT things. And almost all of them are struggling to meet their targets, whether that’s a few hundred quid for a poster campaign or a few grand to do up an LGBT+ community centre.

What all those fundraisers have in common is the distinct lack of straight Americans and Canadians offering solidarity and throwing their money at them.

But when a couple of people in the UK start a group designed to destabilise Stonewall, the trans-inclusive LGBT+ charity named after the Stonewall riots that were in part started by trans people, it’s a different story.

Why would straight people from the US and Canada be so passionate about destabilising the UK’s main LGBT+ charity?

If only there were some kind of explanation.

Anyway. £25K and counting. That’s a lot of money. Where’s it going? It isn’t a charity yet so it doesn’t need to tell you.

Here’s where it isn’t going. It isn’t going to help homeless LGB people, who – including trans kids – account for 24% of the UK’s under-25 homeless population. It isn’t going to lobby for proper funding of live-saving PReP medication for gay and bi men (and some trans women). It isn’t going anywhere near any cash-strapped LGBT organisations at all. It’s going on marketing, and on salaries, and on a launch event that will no doubt scaremonger about trans people.

It’s possible that the £25, 257 and counting is being donated by people who are also donating to other organisations – real ones that are registered charities. But it’s unlikely. Anti-trans crowdfunders consistently attract a very different funding pattern from other charity crowdfunders, and this appears to be no exception.

For two years now the crowdfunders of anti-trans organisations have all followed the same pattern: supposedly grassroots organisations raising five-figure sums within days of going online, with promotional support from the US Christian and conservative right on social media and sometimes in major publications too.

The LGB Alliance has now raised its funding target from the initial £25,000 to £50,000. How much of that money will go to provide practical assistance for LGB people rather than demonising trans women? The answer, I suspect, is none.

We know how this will play out. We know this because we saw endless “protect women!” crowdfunders raising five-figure sums incredibly quickly over the last few years. That money didn’t go to fight for Northern Irish women’s reproductive freedom or marriage rights. It didn’t go to fight FGM, or fund rape crisis charities, or help women’s refuges, or go to any vulnerable women or girls.

At least a quarter of a million pounds was raised by a handful of anti-trans groups, and much of it was spent on newspaper adverts that lied about the law, on packs urging schools to break the Equality Act and bully children, and on providing a good living for people whose previous careers had ended in failure. In one case it even bought a bigot some bedding.

Some crowdfunders didn’t even pretend to be about protecting women. One prominent anti-trans activist crowdfunded £2,000 for her own living expenses because being a bigot is so time-consuming; another, claiming to have lost their job for speaking out about trans people, raised a barely believable £64,000 for nothing in particular.

Others raised money for specific purposes and then changed their remit, so for example one activist raised a five-figure sum to pay for legal representation in a case that didn’t then go to court. In one particularly egregious example, activists set up a crowdfunder as a thank you to a notorious anti-trans bigot; when the bigot declined to accept the money, much of it was spent on a new mattress for an anti-trans activist.

Not all of the people running crowdfunders are grifters. But as a rule of thumb, when the first thing someone does to “protect group X” is to ask for your money, it means they’re only interested in helping one very specific group of people.

Themselves.