A bad result for bigotry

Something wonderful happened in the Scottish elections this week. A whole bunch of politicians who’d bet on transphobia being a vote-winner were either kicked out of office or failed to get elected in the first place.

The most obvious example of that is self-confessed sex pest Alex Salmond’s sleepy cuddles party, Alba, which failed to gain a single seat or even a convincing share of the vote, and the Scottish Family Party doing predictably badly. But there were other losers too, such as the deeply unpleasant Joan McAlpine (SNP), Catriona MacDonald (SNP) and Andy Wightman (independent). Two other vocally anti-trans politicians, Johann Lamont and Jenny Marra (both Labour) also stepped down. In a single week the Scottish parliament has lost many of its anti-trans politicians.

I’m not going to pretend that transphobia was the only reason why some of these candidates were defeated; for example McAlpine was defeated by a Tory, a party hardly famed for its pro-trans stance, and there are still fundamentalists such as John Mason in the SNP. But it’s abundantly clear that the obsessive transphobes making a lot of noise on Twitter and claiming to represent the views of Scots women are deluded: anti-trans groups urged Scots to vote with their feet and they did, by getting as far away from the bigots as they possibly could.

It’d be nice if our media started to reflect that fact.


The hate slate

The unprecedented legislative attacks on trans people, particularly teens, in the US are horrific. Writing in Jewish Currents, Jules Gill-Peterson explains why there are so many anti-trans bills being introduced by Republican lawmakers and what ideology is behind them.

the right-wing proponents of this legislative avalanche have greater ambitions than mere electoral dominance. As HB 1476 shows, this legislative tactic is an attempt to use trans people as a pretext for a broader reformation of civil life and citizenship to advance an authoritarian, Christian state policy on sex and gender. From this vantage point, it shares its strongest affinities with antisemitic, Islamophobic, and New Jim Crow-era anti-Black politics

…It is no coincidence, then, that Islamophobic, anti-Black, anti-immigrant, antisemitic, evangelical Christian, and white nationalist groups all find themselves on the same side of this issue


Visible women

It’s Lesbian Visibility Week. That’s important, because research suggests that gay men are more than twice as likely to be out in the workplace than gay women; gay trans women tend to stay closeted in the workplace too.

Visibility matters. I grew up in a period of viciously anti-LGBT+ media and Section 28, and it wasn’t until very many years later that I discovered that there were other people just like me. That lack of knowledge kept me miserable and in denial for far too long.

Visibility tells you that you’re not alone, that you’re not broken, that you should not be ashamed of or battle who you are. Visibility tells you that you deserve and should demand respect, love and joy.



The actor Alan Cumming wrote this for the Royal Society of Edinburgh and shared it on his Instagram.

I think he’s right. The vast majority of people who fear LGBT+ folks aren’t hateful. The problem is that they are lied to by a small but vocal group of people who are hateful and whose goal is to make others hateful too.

There was a good example of this at the Women and Equalities Committee hearing on gender recognition reform yesterday. After hearing from trans-inclusive groups previously, yesterday was the anti-trans groups’ turn. A representative of one of the most prominent anti-trans groups made several lurid claims about trans women and gender recognition; when asked what evidence she had to back those claims up, she had to admit on multiple occasions that she didn’t have any. And yet these are the people whose claims go unchallenged in print and broadcast media, spreading fear about us.

I was listening to the You’re Wrong About podcast, whose latest episode is about the “political correctness” moral panic of the late 80s and early 90s. In it, co-host Sarah Marshall made the point that the moral panic thrived in part because a credulous media treated people who should be subjects as sources: you could say any old shite about political correctness gone mad and the press would lap it up.

That’s directly relevant to the anti-trans panic today. A man who tells a journalist that the world is flat is a subject, not a source: he is making a claim, not stating a fact. All too often, though, the print and broadcast media present him as an expert in a subject he knows nothing about, spreading misinformation and sometimes bare-faced lies to readers and viewers without being challenged.


Respect my authority!

Another Angry Woman has an excellent post about the comedian Robert Webb, who’d previously been vocally transphobic. This week he was gently questioned about it in an interview by a presenter who is the parent of a trans child. Faced with someone who actually had some insight into the subject of trans kids, Webb’s response wasn’t great: like most people who claim to want a respectful, fact-based debate, Webb didn’t. His people attempted to get that part of the interview pulled.

It’s ironic that some of the people who rail against so-called identity politics are the first to declare war on entire groups of people when their identity as The Smartest Person Ever is questioned; in what seems to be a trend among the UK establishment, Webb became outspoken about the supposed dangers of trans people after being mildly criticised for a trans-hostile joke. Most of the columnists who write anti-trans pieces, the kind of pieces that lead to the introduction of genital examinations for schoolchildren (which is becoming law in the US this week), the removal of healthcare for thousands of teenagers and a massive increase in hate crimes, appear to be acting not out of a desire to protect anybody but from a desire for revenge against people who dared question their authority.


This is the crux of The British Strain Of Transphobe mindset. It’s a core part of their identity that they’re smarter than everyone else. The vast majority of them start life on the private/grammar school-Oxbridge pipeline, where in place of education they’re just told this. The possibility of being incorrect is something The British Strain Of Transphobe is incapable of processing, because they’ve spent their lives believing they’re cleverer than everyone else, and this belief is integral to their belief of who and what they are. The British Strain Of Transphobe lives within an echo chamber of similar people. This is why, for example, transphobia spread like wildfire among the sceptic community, where many organisers are posh white folk, and it hinges on the belief of being smarter than everyone else.

And so, how does the British Strain Of Transphobe react to someone raising the mere possibility that they might be incorrect about something? Badly, because they take it as a fundamental attack on their identity as a person who is smarter than everyone else.

Like AAW, I have no idea how to solve this either. But we could start by not giving these goons a bully pulpit to spread misinformation about things they know absolutely nothing about.

LGBTQ+ Media

How nice people are turned nasty

This, by Katie J.M. Baker in Lux magazine, is a good analysis of how an apparently benign website, Mumsnet, became a hotbed of anti-trans radicalism. Baker has previously reported on misogynist men online including incels and self-proclaimed Men’s Rights activists.

I think Baker is right in her judgement that women’s genuine anger and trauma – from abusive men, from a healthcare system that doesn’t care about them, from all the bullshit women endure in this deeply broken society – is weaponised by bad actors in exactly the same way the far right recruits angry young men.

The more I learned about Mumsnet, the more the forum reminded me of my past reporting on the ways men are radicalized by the toxic online “manosphere,” where pick-up artists (PUAs) and men’s rights activists (MRAs) recruit followers by exploiting real fears (such as economic anxiety) and blaming marginalized outgroups (women, people of color, Jews) for societal failures. As people get drawn into these communities, they become obsessed with a misguided sense of victimization and start to focus single-mindedly on their newfound worldview.

It seemed to me that was exactly what was happening on Mumsnet: some of these newly “gender critical” Mumsnetters were relatively privileged women who had never felt marginalized until they gave birth and came to feel isolated in their nuclear households and (rightfully!) outraged at the lack of support for mothers in the U.K. They turned to Mumsnet for solidarity, and somehow became fixated on trans women in the process. It was so textbook that Mumsnetters even had their own vernacular, just like MRAs who famously use being “red pilled” as slang for choosing to see the ugly truth.

…Mumsnet’s women’s rights forum didn’t just offer women a safe space to organize. By providing a platform that tolerated TERFism, it had also handed users a convenient scapegoat for all of their problems — not austerity, not misogyny, but the relatively tiny and extremely marginalized and oppressed trans population.

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

From “just asking questions” to this, in six months

In Texas, bill SB1646 would make it illegal for parents to support their trans children. Merely consenting to a doctor’s prescription of puberty blockers would be child abuse and cause to remove the child from their parents.

As writer Cassie Celeste put it on Twitter:

We’ve gone from “just asking questions” to this in six fucking months. Listen to us when we tell you what the consequences of platforming transphobic thought are going to be.

Here’s a good round-up of where this hatred is coming from and why it’s getting worse, with journalists proposing solutions to “the trans question” in chilling echoes of history.

“The queers are coming for your children” is the oldest anti-gay slur, but it’s alive and well not just in Texan courtrooms but in Scottish political discourse. Alex Salmond’s Alba Party caused online uproar over the weekend when it falsely claimed that LGBT+ organisations want to reduce the age of consent to 10 years old. The allegations are completely untrue but have been echoed by the usual hateful groups such as the LGB Alliance and For Women Scot.

It was good to see the widespread revulsion, but the very same people have been making equally vile allegations about trans people and trans-supportive charities for three years now and nobody seemed to have a problem with that. Quite the opposite: they have been repeatedly platformed and amplified by our press, politicians and media personalities.

This is how you can go from “just asking questions” to legalised hatred.


“It isn’t about women’s sports”

Slate explains the role of the Alliance Defending Freedom in US (and UK) anti-trans bills and legal cases.

Over the last 28 years, the ADF has defended laws prohibiting same-sex intimacy; opposed marriage, adoption, and surrogacy for same-sex couples; attacked LGBTQ non-discrimination laws, as well as bans on conversion therapy for minors; argued in favor of laws that require transgender people to undergo sterilization before legally changing their gender; challenged access to contraception; and supported the criminalization of abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Its work stretches beyond the United States; ADF has, for instance, championed Belize’s archaic anti-sodomy law, which allows for the persecution and imprisonment of gay people. The ADF’s overarching position on gay people is that they should either be converted to heterosexuality or fired from their jobs and imprisoned because of their sexual orientation.

The ADF’s first strategy was the “bathroom bill”, legislation designed to prevent trans people from using the correct toilets.

They were rooted in fear of the “bathroom predator,” a mythical figure who pretends to be female so he can gain access to women’s bathrooms and rape them.

But the bathroom predator does not exist. So ADF developed a second generation of anti-transgender legislation, this time identifying an ostensible problem and a victim. The problem: transgender girls and women participating in sports, particularly school athletics. The victim: every cisgender girl and woman forced to compete against trans athletes. The solution: new model legislation drafted and pushed by ADF banning transgender students from participating in women’s sports, from elementary school through college.

In reality, this putative problem does not exist.

The endgame has been obvious for several years now.

these anti-LGBTQ bills build on each other. Soon, another state will consider outlawing gender-affirming care not just for youth or young adults, but for everyone. Schools will introduce harsher and harsher policies designed to identify and discriminate against students who do not perfectly match a cramped conception of gender roles. The government will insinuate itself into parents’ relationship with their children, children’s relationships with their bodies, and LGBTQ adults’ attempts to live authentic and fulfilling lives. ADF’s ascendant ideology demands nothing less. Did anyone really think this was going to stop with bathrooms?

Bullshit Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

When the facts don’t fit, fix the facts

One of the problems with the Christian Right’s claims of trans kids being rushed into surgery is that trans kids aren’t being rushed into surgery. And that’s inconvenient when you’re trying to pass anti-trans legislation on the basis of protecting children from exactly that.

What’s a bigot to do?

Simple. Redefine the definition of kids to include adults.

I’m not kidding. In North Carolina, anti-trans Republican lawmakers have classed adults aged 18 to 21 as minors.

This enables them to do two things. One, claim that minors are being given cross-sex hormones and/or surgery, medical procedures that are indeed available to adults aged 18 to 21. And two, if the legislation is successful it means they can block healthcare for some adults as well as all teenagers.

The proposed legislation – which, thankfully, is unlikely to pass – makes it very clear what the real agenda is behind all of this. In addition to banning healthcare for trans people, it would also compel state employees to notify their parents in writing if their child displays “gender nonconformity” or expresses a desire to be treated in a way that is “incompatible” with the gender they were assigned at birth. These bills, of which there are far too many, are based on deeply regressive stereotypes of masculinity and femininity that want to keep women barefoot and pregnant and LGBT+ people in the closet.


The shock of the old

The current “debate” over whether trans people should be excluded from a ban on conversion therapy isn’t just bigoted. It’s also ignorant. The medical establishment has known for at least fifty years that you can’t convert a trans person into a cisgender one.

As the American Journal of Psychiatry put it in 1969:

Traditional psychotherapies have been unsuccessful in altering gender identity once it is established

Via Mallory Moore on Twitter, the image on the right shows a piece from the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry in 1977.

The key line is at the top:

psychotherapy has not been successful in reconciling the gender identity of the transsexual with anatomy.

The history of trans healthcare and conversion therapy has long been based on the idea that to be trans is an undesirable outcome, that it’s something trans people should be trying to escape, and that trans people should be forced not to be trans. The same attitude is apparent when people today talk about removing affirming healthcare from all trans teenagers in case one cisgender teenager makes a mistake; it’s at the heart of the wider attempt to prevent trans people from existing in society.

That belief didn’t just restrict the healthcare trans people could receive. It encouraged some really horrific abuse of trans people in the name of “curing” them. Many trans people were subjected to electro-shock aversion therapy in an attempt to stop them being feminine. Moore highlights one of many examples, from 1973, in which a teenage trans girl was effectively tortured with electro-shock therapy to try and stop her from being trans.

The report notes that:

“to date, only [gender confirmation surgery] has offered any hope to the transsexual since this condition has been entirely refractory to psychologic intervention. When attempted, psychotherapy directed at changing transsexual attitudes and behaviour has not worked.”

Moore also posted the results of a 1970 study in the UK in which transsexuals and transvestites were, as Moore puts it, “strapped to fucking electrodes to fry their transness out”. It didn’t work.

We’ve known for 50 years that conversion therapy and aversion therapy, even when it’s really extreme, doesn’t stop people from being trans any more than it stopped people from being gay. There is no debate here, no other side to the story. Conversion therapy is abuse no matter which minority it’s being used against.