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Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

“The politest possible version of blood libel”

An absolutely blistering piece by Ben Miller on the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs:

I have been expecting a mass shooting at a gay bar for at least a year. This is not because I’m clairvoyant, but because I am a gay person with eyes and ears. The mass-murder at Club Q in Colorado Springs on November 19 was the result of what is now all-too-familiar rhetoric—a campaign that is both a cynical attempt to gain political power and a conscious effort to inspire stochastic violence that murders gay and trans people on the theory that there should be fewer of us.

The only reason this hasn’t happened in the UK yet is because we don’t have the same access to guns. The rhetoric may be (slightly) milder, albeit not online, but there is the same intent: to  create a climate of fear and rage against trans people that encourages someone to act violently. It’s hardly a new tactic: the line “will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest?” is attributed to Henry the second, and he was kicking about in the twelfth century.

Miller:

What liberals are desperate to call “legitimate debates” are united with the cruder, crasser incitement of less-sophisticated reactionaries by the same underlying argument: that some nebulous group of queer and trans “activists” are pushing an “agenda” that might permanently mutilate children, who must be protected from the threat. Matt Walsh and Chris Rufo say it’s drag queens committing sexual abuse in gay bars. Abigail Shrier says it’s the “transgender craze seducing our daughters” into “Irreversible Damage.” The liberal outlets describe it as misguided doctors and activists going too far, contributing to a social contagion of trans kids. All of them are making versions of the same argument designed to convince different audiences of the same age-old blood libel about queer people: that we are preternatural abusers from whom your children need protecting.

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Bullshit Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

Things that are different are not the same

A typically incisive piece by Parker Molloy on the censorious clowns who claim that legitimate criticism of what they say and write is the same as the attempted murder of Salman Rushdie.

That is the problem people have with the “cancel culture” discourse. It’s selective, it flattens important distinctions between horrific acts (beheadings and physical attacks!) and free speech (dissent, boycotts, protests). The “cancel culture” brigade sure loves to claim that speech it doesn’t like (dissent, boycotts, protests) is a threat to speech, while sitting mostly silently on actual threats to free expression, like the Republican plan to use obscenity laws to make certain books on LGBTQ topics illegal to sell, the Republican-led purging of books from school and local libraries, and the Republican-led re-writing of textbook standards to remove “divisive” issues. Funny how none of that is “cancel culture,” and yet they think someone speaking out against J.K. Rowling’s factually incorrect rants about trans people (i.e. using their freedom of speech) represents a threat to the very concept of “free speech.” The reason is simple: one of these advances their own agenda, the other doesn’t.

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Bullshit Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

An evergreen post

I posted something on Twitter last night that I could post pretty much any time, any day, in response to someone doing something utterly vile: trans people have been trying to warn you about this person, this organisation or this publication for years.

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Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

Leopards

With crushing predictability, the faux-feminists in the UK press have decided that the real villain in the decades-long plot to overturn Roe vs Wade en route to establishing a Christian theocracy is… trans women.

The argument, if you can call it that, is simple: trans men wanted to be included in discussions of reproductive healthcare; that somehow erased women; because there is no such thing as a woman any more the US Supreme Court banned abortion. So it’s all trans women’s fault.

Better to concoct a ludicrous conspiracy theory than admit the truth: much of our media has spent years ignoring the Christian Right’s attacks on LGBT+ people and reproductive rights, preferring instead to publish a constant torrent of Christian Right anti-trans talking points and to platform Christian Right-funded anti-trans groups.

As the internet cliche goes: I can’t believe leopards are eating my face, says woman who voted for the Leopards Eating Your Face Party.

The simple fact is that the global anti-trans movement is part of the global anti-gender movement, whose target isn’t just trans people. It wants an end to same-sex marriage, to LGBT+ rights, to contraception, to abortion, to human rights for anybody who isn’t a socially conservative cisgender straight Christian.

You couldn’t ask for a better example of how this is all connected than the anti-abortion goons intimidating and filming people outside the Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow. They’re there to target women seeking abortions, but – happily for the goons – the Sandyford’s other services mean they get to intimidate people going for sexual health services, for rape counselling and for transgender health care. Over the weekend they moved to the City Centre to harangue people going to Pride, because of course they did. The war on women’s reproductive freedom and the war on LGBT+ people are the same war.

And this morning there was another example. On BBC Scotland, the discussion about whether we should have buffer zones around abortion clinics – zones that would separate the Sandyford clowns from vulnerable people – invited the ADF to contribute.

The ADF isn’t just the organisation responsible for funding many anti-abortion groups around the world or the organisation involved heavily in anti-abortion legislation in the US, including the Mississippi case that led to the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs Wade; it’s also the organisation that provides “experts” in anti-trans legal cases in the UK, and which promotes intolerance and hatred towards LGBT+ people globally. And part of its job is to launder that hatred, by providing nice-seeming, media trained people who will absolutely come on air to discuss their ‘reasonable concerns’.

Opendemocracy:

Another US group that’s long tried to influence classic “culture war” cases in the UK is the anti-abortion “dark money”-funded legal army Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). openDemocracy revealed in 2019 that its international wing had spent nearly half a million pounds on lobbying in the UK over just two years. The group does not disclose who its donors are, and has even gone to the US Supreme Court to defend donor secrecy.

ADF’s lawyers have previously said they are working to ensure ‘that bad European precedents don’t spread further in Europe, then across the sea to America’. It worked on the high-profile ‘gay cake’ cases in both the UK and US, defending Christian bakers using free speech arguments.

ADF has also publicly opposed protest-free “buffer zones” around abortion clinics and supported calls for “freedom of conscience” provisions to enable medical staff to object to providing legal abortion services. And it claims the UK government adopted its recommendations on free speech and academic freedom at universities.

Rather than platforming them, journalists should be investigating them.

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Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

A load of ballots

I went to vote in the Scottish local government elections last week. On my ballot paper there were three candidates who wanted you to vote so they could harm people like me: one party who vowed that if elected, they’d ban people like me from council facilities such as swimming pools; one party who want to ban me from society altogether; and one party who want to ban me from everything and ensure that teachers can’t mention LGBT+ people in any context.

These are not just fringe parties. One of them was the Scottish tories, whose leader clearly believed that anti-traveller racism wasn’t toxic enough and who vocally embraced transphobia in the latter stages of the campaign.

Local elections are about bins, and who looks after your mum when she can’t look after herself any more, and about parks and roads and all the other things we use every day. But they’re also used by some of the world’s worst people to try and gain power over things like education and service provision so that they can harm others, a model that’s been used to terrifying effect in the US since the 1970s.

So it was heartening to see that all three parties got their arses handed to them at the ballot box.

In my constituency, like many others, the Scottish Green Party – which is explicitly trans inclusive and fielded a number of LGBT+ candidates – got more votes than the tories and their fellow roasters combined. The SNP, which is officially trans inclusive even if some MSPs didn’t get the memo, got even more.

With delicious irony, multiple parties told Scotland to think about trans women when we voted. So we did, and elected Glasgow’s first ever trans woman councillor. Another three openly trans people were elected in the rest of the UK.

There was a delicious moment when an anti-trans activist turned up on Twitter to inform the departing councillor Mhairi Hunter that her trans-supportive views had made women rise up and that Hunter was now reaping the whirlwind. “My replacement,” Hunter replied pleasantly, “is a trans woman.”

Leaving aside the fun fact that there are now more trans councillors in Scotland (one) than councillors from the anti-trans Alba party (zero), the results make it very clear that while transphobia may be very popular on Twitter and in the pages of our newspapers, it’s not an issue for the vast majority of people. It would be nice if the amount of media coverage the bigots get would reflect that.

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Hell in a handcart

“I’m done feeling humiliated.”

This is a powerful and heartfelt piece by Jessica Valenti on the imminent reversal of Roe vs Wade.

I refuse to explain, over and over again, that women are people. I’m done degrading myself by sharing the most intimate details of my life with strangers in the hope that perhaps one will muster a spark of empathy. Why should we beg for scraps of humanity from those who will never give it to us?

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Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

Turning back the clock

LGBT Youth Scotland has published its latest survey of LGBT+ young people, Life In Scotland For LGBT+ Young People in 2022. And while some things have got better – people coming out to their families and friends are more likely to receive a positive response than ever before – some of the most important things have got significantly worse. This graph tells a terrible story:

The image is a graph showing how LGBT+ people felt about living in Scotland, and as you can see there was steady progress from 2007 to 2017: the percentage of people who believed Scotland is a good place for LGBT+ people to live rose from 57% in 2007 to 81% in 2017. But that progress has gone sharply into reverse, and five years on we’re almost at the levels of fifteen years ago.

Just 37% of Scots are happy or very happy with their lives, down from 57% in 2017 and 66% in 2012; for trans peopple the figure is even lower, 28% compared to 46% in 2017 and 59% in 2012.

There are two likely explanations for that. The first is that since 2012, and particularly since the “transgender tipping point” of 2014/5, the long-predicted crisis in trans healthcare (more people coming out; insufficient staffing and funding for trans healthcare services, many of which were already substandard and overwhelmed) has kicked in: waiting lists for my gender clinic in Glasgow have trebled since I referred in 2016.

The other explanation, which would explain why 2017 in particular was when LGBT+ people started to feel much less safe in Scotland, is simpler. That’s when the Scottish and national press and many high-profile social media users joined the Christian Right in its war on “gender ideology” with trans people as the first, but not the only, target. Fifteen years of progress have been undone in five years of scaremongering by people who want to make Scotland hate again.

 

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Health Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

Not Safe To Be Me

Did you hear about Safe To Be Me? If you’re not on LGBT+ social media, probably not. It was the Conservative government’s sole manifesto commitment to the LGBT+ community, the establishment of an international conference to promote LGBT+ rights.

The problem with that is that right now, one of the worst offenders against LGBT+ rights in Europe is the Conservative government. The UK is no longer topping lists of the best countries for LGBT+ people to live; it’s more likely to be listed alongside Hungary, Russia and Poland as a place where LGBT+ people are the victims of demonisation in the name of right-wing populism.

The final straw for the UK’s LGBT+ community was the government’s plan to abandon its commitment to banning dangerous and discredited conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy is a misnomer. There’s nothing therapeutic about it: it’s a form of torture, physical or mental, designed to try and change someone’s innate sexuality or gender identity. We’ve known since the late 1960s that it doesn’t work and does lasting damage to its victims, and most civilised countries either have or are going to ban it. Such a ban doesn’t affect actual therapy, or informal forms of therapy such as exploring your feelings with a counsellor or religious figure. It just bans torture.

A ban on CT was an easy PR win for the Tories, so long cast as the “nasty party” with regards to the LGBT+ community. But with one eye on the upcoming local elections, the Tories have clearly decided to follow the US Republican example and use culture war tactics to distract from their many failures: that whole “let the bodies pile high” thing, the corruption, the fact that Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has gone from recommending energy deals to advising pensioners on how not to die from the cold this year.

So the UK Government decided to kill the ban as a signal to the right-wing anti-LGBT+ mob. This was from the very top; the equalities minister wasn’t informed. After the inevitable and very vocal backlash, a backlash the government didn’t expect, it announced a partial U-turn:  it would ban conversion therapy, but only for gay and lesbian people. It would still be okay to torture trans people.

The government clearly hoped that the LGBT+ community would accept the partial win and continue with its support for Safe To Be Me later this year. The government was wrong. The entire UK LGBT+ sector – more than 120 LGBT+ organisations – and all the major sponsors of the conference pulled their support in protest.

It’s not just the LGBT+ organisations who want conversion therapy banned. The British Psychological society wants it banned. The Royal College of Psychiatrists too. The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. The British Medical Association. The mental health charity Mind. And many more. All these organisations want to see conversion therapy banned not just for gay and lesbian people, but for trans people too.

Because torture is torture no matter who you do it to.

Their message was simple and should be uncontroversial: trans people have human rights too. Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention (ECHR) declares that nobody shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment. There’s no caveat saying “unless they’re trans”. Conversion therapy is clearly in breach of Article 3, which is why the government was going to ban it.

Instead, it messed up and mobilised the entire LGBT+ community. I can’t stress this enough: every single LGBT+ charity and advocacy group stands with trans people here. The only exception is the LGB Alliance, which of course is not a genuine LGBT+ organisation. That made Safe To Be Me untenable and potentially disastrous for the UK government; yesterday, they cancelled it.

For years the right wing press, and shamefully some of the left-wing press too, has peddled the myth that the LGBT+ community is divided over trans rights. There are outliers, as there are in any group of people: there were gay men opposed to equal marriage, for example. But the supposed widespread division is not there. To say otherwise is to perpetuate right-wing culture war bullshit.

But again, we’re getting false both-sidesism here. One one side we have decades of evidence, the testimony of victims, and the entire medical and psychological establishment. On the other, a handful of screeching bigots. These things are not equal, and shouldn’t be given equal airtime or column inches.

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Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

April fools

I’m not a big fan of April Fool’s day. As a journalist it’s a day when my inbox is filled with unfunny nonsense, and as a reader of newspapers and websites it’s a day when the papers try to get away with ridiculous bullshit such as claiming Graham Linehan deserves sympathy for his obsessive anti-trans bullying or that a bunch of bigots who are obsessed with other people’s genitals are our generation’s Suffragettes rather than our Anita Bryant and Phyllis Schafly.

But not everything printed on the first of April is bad faith bollocks. Some of it, such as this excellent piece by Jude Doyle, is very much worth your time. The title, “How the far right is turning feminists into fascists”, undersells the madness Doyle describes. I’m pretty clued up about all of this stuff but it’s still truly remarkable to see it laid out with such clarity.

Trying to follow these connections lands you in a human-centipede chain wherein Russian oligarchs dump dark money into U.S. evangelical think tanks and the evangelicals send that money back over the Atlantic to fund TERFs. A law banning teachers from mentioning homosexuality in the classroom appears first in Hungary then in Florida. Youth transition is banned in the U.K. (then restored) and then banned in Idaho. Vladimir Putin defends his invasion of Ukraine, comparing the cancellation of J.K. Rowling to that of Russia. The same regressive ideas swirl back and forth between continents like ocean currents, and with or without conscious coordination, we all end up living in the same mess.  Even the most extreme and implausible right-wing ideas have reach and institutional backing they might not otherwise have had, and a global slide into fascism goes from unthinkable to likely.

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Health Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

Everything is awful

Trans Actual has published the results of its 2021 Trans Lives survey, in which around 700 UK trans adults shared their experiences. The results aren’t surprising but they are saddening.

  • 27% of trans people have been homelessness at some point in their lives. That rises to 36% for both trans BPOC and trans disabled people;

  • A staggering 98% of trans people responding do not think that NHS transition related care is completely adequate

There are significant issues with primary care, too:

    • 45% of trans respondents said that their GP did not have a good understanding of their needs as a trans person, with 55% of non-binary people reporting similar issues.

    • 87% of those answering, overall said that this had impacted them to some extent. This rises, again, to 95% and 92% for BPOC and disabled individuals;

    • Issues with healthcare providers may also have serious consequences, in a time when illnesses such as COVID-19 illustrate graphically how individual decisions, when faced with a highly transmissible virus, can affect the rest of the population, as 57% of trans people reported that they avoided going to the GP when unwell – again, because of lack of understanding and more general discrimination;

    • Even more concerning, 14% of respondents (one in 7) reported that their GP had  refused to provide care or treatment on account of their trans status at least once.

As Jane Fae, journalist and TransActual director, rightly says:

The real scandal here is how comprehensively the media have conspired to ignore this situation, preferring, instead, to produce tens of thousands of words on the largely imagined consequences of reform to the Gender Recognition Act.