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.

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.


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.

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.

Books LGBTQ+

Carrie Kills A Man

I’ve been wanting to tell you about this for months, and now I can. My book, Carrie Kills A Man, will be published by 404 Ink next year.

Here’s the link to my publisher’s blog about it.

For us, Carrie’s submission was a joy to land in our inbox. Having published some of her writing in our literary magazine a few years ago, we were already fans of her work, and from the first pages, Carrie Kills A Man was fizzing with life and laughter, dealing with the serious and sometimes not-so-serious sides of trans life, parenthood, and lessons learned along the way. We loved it, we learned a lot, we laughed a lot. We’re so thrilled that Carrie has entrusted us with her memoir.

I love 404 Ink, and have done since their first ever title, Nasty Women. They’ve published some of my very favourite books and introduced me to some of my favourite writers. So I’m really excited that they’re going to publish me.

Carrie Kills A Man is a memoir about lots of things. It’s about growing up different. It’s about trying to be someone you’re not. It’s about what you learn when you give up privilege, power and pockets. And above all else, it’s about joy. I didn’t want to write a misery memoir, or a plea for tolerance. I wanted to write something true and funny and joyful.

Books are a team effort, and I am part of an amazing team that includes Heather and Laura, my publishers, and Kirstyn, my brilliant editor. Independent publishers are the best, not just because they’re great to work with but because you can sleep with a clear conscience.

Carrie Kills A Man will be published in late 2022 and you can pre-order it right here, right now.

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.

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

It’s time to abolish gender clinics

The image above is a graph showing the Tavistock London Adult Gender Identity Clinic’s performance since 2017. In the last four years its finding has increased from just under £4m to just under £6m while the number of people being referred to the service has fallen. And yet the number of people being seen by the clinic is getting smaller and smaller, sending the waiting list into orbit.

At current rates, if you join the waiting list today you will have to wait 31 years for your first appointment. That’s not a typo. If you join the waiting list aged 18, you will be 49 before you get your initial appointment.

Other gender clinics aren’t quite as bad, but they’re still bad. NHS referrals should take no more than 18 weeks; for trans people, 3-4 years is considered quick. Once again the reality is very different from what the newspapers are telling you.

As I’ve written before, there is no reason why trans healthcare should be separate from cisgender people’s healthcare or why trans people should wait 31 years for something they could discuss with their GP tomorrow.

There is no difference between the Estradot patches cisgender women are given by my GP and the Estradot patches I have. But while my GP prescribes them for the former group, my prescription is overseen by the gender clinic.

In the four years I’ve been under the supervision of that clinic I’ve never met an endocrinologist, a doctor specialising in hormones; my prescriptions have always been written by psychologists. Which perhaps explains why one of them made a massive mistake in one of mine, a mistake that would have had awful consequences if I hadn’t spotted it.

This is just gatekeeping. There’s nothing wrong with me psychologically; being trans isn’t a mental illness. And yet medicine and referrals that my GP is perfectly qualified to deliver for cis people are somehow transformed into mysterious unknowable magic because I’m trans. Other countries don’t do things this way because it’s completely nonsensical: it’s based on a system where you’re considered a fraud until you convince enough people otherwise.

This is the reality of trans healthcare in the UK. While health secretary Savid Javid plays the transphobia card for cheap political points, trans healthcare under the NHS is scandalously unfit for purpose and causing needless misery for far too many people.


Books Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

Two brilliant books

Here are two books you should buy.

The Transgender Issue, by Shon Faye

This is a book I’d very much like to have written, because it’s a clear-eyed, well researched and well argued response to the evidence-free scaremongering and barely laundered antisemitism of cisgender authors who claim to know more about trans people than trans people do. It details the links between UK anti-trans feminism and the US Christian Right, the appalling history of trans rights in the UK, the reasons why the UK’s particularly white anti-trans feminism is viewed with horror by other countries’ more evolved and inclusive feminism groups, and much more. If you’d like to know the truth about trans people in the UK, you should buy this book. And if you happen to know a newspaper editor or radio producer, you should buy it for them.

Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers, by Sady Doyle

This is sad and shocking, fierce and funny and utterly exhilarating. Doyle uses everything from Ancient Greek philosophy to ironic slasher movies to analyse the stories our culture tells about women, and the narratives women are expected to conform to. It’s the kind of book that makes you gasp with horror on one page and giggle on the next, and I had to restrain myself from sending endless quotes from it to my friends. Here’s a bit from the intro:

Women have always been monsters.

Female monstrosity is threaded throughout every myth you’ve heard, and some you haven’t: carnivorous mermaids, Furies tearing men apart with razor-sharp claws, leanan sídhe enchanting mortal men and draining the souls from their bodies. They are lethally beautiful or unbearably ugly, sickly sweet and treacherous or filled with animal rage, but they always speak to the qualities men find most threatening in women: beauty, intelligence, anger, ambition.


Call us Cassandra

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was cursed to utter true prophecies that would never be believed. I suspect she may have been trans.

Since the Bell vs Tavistock case was first announced, trans people have been trying in vain to get people to understand the real goal that “gender critical” feminists are supporting: the end of the Gillick competence that ensures, among other things, that teenage girls can access contraception without their parents’ consent.

For more than a year people have been telling us that we’re wrong, and that the case was absolutely nothing to do with Gillick competence.

Today, Kiera Bell’s lawyer – better known for his many anti-abortion cases – took his mask off in true Scooby-Doo villain style.


Reversible treatment

The Bell vs Tavistock judgement, which effectively stopped trans teenagers from getting appropriate healthcare under medical supervision, has been overturned.

As Gendered Intelligence points out, the original decision – which today’s verdict says should never have been made – has since been used by anti-vaccination activists and various other cranks.

In these days of rife mis- and disinformation, the Divisional Court’s now-overturned decision is being held up as gospel by many people opposed to the vaccination of under-16s. Even if the original decision had a larger scope than the care pathways of children with gender dysphoria — which, we must reiterate, it did not — the High Court has annulled this decision. At Gendered Intelligence, we are not interested in debating the merits of vaccination – the evidence speaks for itself – but would highlight only the weaponization of court decisions made around trans youth to potentially harm the wider population. Trans people and our rights are the canary in the coalmine, and any attempt to rescind or damage our rights will inevitably be used to damage the rights of others. This is but one reason why we ask that people stand with trans, gender diverse and indeed all LGBTQ people – especially youth — because “a loss to trans youth is a loss to all”.