We aren’t going anywhere

It’s international Transgender Day of Visibility today. It’s a day meant to raise awareness of the discrimination trans people face, and to celebrate their contributions to society.

Some people react to days like this with scorn, especially now: don’t we have more important things to worry about? And that’s exactly why days like this exist.

In India, a poster campaign is telling people that Coronavirus is spread by trans people. In America, Republican legislators in multiple states have used the pandemic to rush through legislation that discriminates against trans people while making no efforts to protect people from the genuine threat of Covid-19. And here in the UK, the newspapers continue to lie and scaremonger about us and bigots continue to abuse trans people online – in some cases, bullying trans women self-isolating with coronavirus by wishing them and their loved ones dead – and anti-trans groups continue to fundraise and campaign for the right to discriminate against us rather than use their five-figure war chests to help the vulnerable women they claim to represent.

The title of this post is a sour joke: we’re having a day of visibility when most of us are stuck at home. But even if it’s just online, visibility matters: one of the bigots’ best weapons is the fact that there are relatively few of us, so it’s easy for them to portray us as some sinister “other” instead of the reality: we’re sons and daughters, mums and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues. The more visible we are, the more people will see through the bigots’ bullshit.

Please take part in the Scottish consultation, which closes at midnight today

I know, I know. I’m sick of it too and there are plenty of other things to worry about. But the Scottish consultation on gender recognition reform closes tonight and you can be certain that the worst people have made their voices heard.

I know of lots of people who’ve been meaning to do this but haven’t yet; after midnight those good intentions won’t be able to help a very marginalised community.

Please, take five minutes to complete the consultation. Everything you need to know is on the Equal Recognition website.

With excellent timing, an important study in The Lancet Public Health describes the importance of accurate documentation for trans and gender non-conforming people: it reduces psychological distress and saves lives.

the authors’ findings support the need to increase the availability of and streamline the processes to obtain gender congruent IDs. Gaining gender-congruent IDs should be easy, affordable, and quickly completed

Some people genuinely want us dead

One of the most incredible things I’ve seen in recent days is transphobes gleefully predicting that coronavirus will kill lots of trans women. They’re responding to Chinese stats that indicate a higher fatality rate among infected men than women; this, apparently, means those of us assigned male at birth will get our just desserts for whatever perceived injustice they believe we’re perpetrating. And the people doing this aren’t the lunatic fringe of Twitter. They’re the newspaper columnists and college professors who get to set the tone of supposed “legitimate debate”.

If you’re chuckling about the potential deaths of people, you’ve long abandoned “reasonable concerns”.

Many of these people and their followers have contributed to the Scottish Government consultation on gender recognition reform, which closes on Tuesday. If you haven’t already done so, please add your experiences; if you contributed to the initial consultation, please contribute to this one too. The first consultation was on whether gender recognition needed reform; this one is about how it should be done.

This article by Laura Waddell gives the lie to the claim that women’s groups aren’t in favour of the reforms.

Here’s what various organisations have to say about gender recognition reform in Scotland and what they hope you’ll say in the consultation.

“Using minority rights to attack women’s services says it all”

Another thoughtful column: Laura Waddell on feminism, transphobia and GRA reform.

…often the cry of “listen to women” comes up. So let’s do that now. Here’s what women’s organisations across Scotland have actually said.

During the original consultation, Close the Gap, Engender, Equate Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Women 50:50 and Zero Tolerance released a joint statement supporting self-ID. At odds with the inflammatory phrase ‘war on women’, they clearly state: “We do not regard trans equality and women’s equality to contradict or be in competition with each other.”

…They also stated: “The complexity, restrictions and expense of the current gender recognition process particularly discriminates against trans people who are disabled, migrant, minority ethnic, unemployed, homeless, fleeing domestic abuse, young or non-binary. Enabling trans people to smoothly change their birth certificates at the same time as they change their other identity documents is a much needed positive step forward for society.”

It’s a great shame that voices like Waddell’s – and of the women she writes about here – are not given the same prominence as pale, male and stale middle-aged newspaper columnists.

“We have fought tooth and nail for the rights we have, only to be met with resistance, sabotage and abuse”

A thoughtful piece on feminism and trans women by Scots author Elaine Gunn:

I get it – honestly, I understand how protective women feel of their safe spaces. In a world that feels unsafe a lot of the time, where our rights are hard-won and grudged at every step, it’s reasonable to feel nervous and insecure around changes to our habitual experiences of gender. What we must not do, however, is allow that nervousness and insecurity to be redirected by media manipulation towards a group that faces even more hatred and violence for claiming their rights than we do. It’s tempting to cling to the concept of women being right at the bottom of the privilege pile, but it only takes a moment of empathy to understand that while women have good reason to fear men, trans people have good reason to fear both men and women right now.

On a related note, journalist Vonny LeClerc has recorded an equally thoughtful piece on her journey into “gender-critical” feminism and the realisations that led her to leave it behind.

“Strength in numbers, solidarity and, ultimately, love”

Writing in The Guardian, Zoe Williams takes a very different stance from the majority of Guardian pieces on trans rights. As she points out, it isn’t the anti-trans feminists who are being silenced here.

All kinds of voices have been excluded. The experience of trans men, for instance, has been more or less erased, because the core issues have been whittled down to such a sharp, conflicted point – do cis women need protected status? – that the very existence of trans men has become too inconvenient to accommodate. The mainstream feminist view, which is trans-inclusive, has been sidelined to maintain the fiction that this is a generational battle between old and young feminists.

…Women-only space was a realm protected from our Harvey Weinsteins, where we could talk about our Harvey Weinsteins; it was not a hallowed place where we communicated through our ovaries. It was where we came together in unity against people who hated us. I can’t imagine the mindset that would exclude a trans sister from that.

I’m not going to say anything mean here: I’ve always liked Williams’ writing, and while it’s a drop in a very poisonous ocean of anti-trans pieces the paper has run in recent years it’s still a welcome drop.

Transphobia is as British as bad teeth

Juliet Jacques in the New York Times:

Transphobia Is Everywhere in Britain: it’s a respectable bigotry, on the left as well as the right.

…There are two main types of British transphobia. One, employed most frequently but not exclusively by right-wing men, rejects outright the idea that gender might not be determined only by biological traits identifiable at birth. This viewpoint can often be found in publications aligned with the Conservative Party, such as The Spectator, The Times and The Telegraph, all of which are looking for a new “culture war” to pursue now that the long, exhausting battle over Brexit has finally been resolved in favor of Leavers

The other type, from a so-called radical feminist tradition, argues that trans women’s requests for gender recognition are incompatible with cis women’s rights to single-sex spaces.

It’s telling that Jacques, a former Guardian writer, had to approach a US publication to get the article published.

Meanwhile closer to home, Helen Martin in the Edinburgh News claims that gender recognition reform will lead to…

women’s shops compelled to supply men’s lingerie and size 12 stilettos

This is from the same school as the equal marriage claim that letting gay people marry would lead to people marrying dogs and cousins.

Transphobia is as British as bad teeth and unfunny sitcoms. As poet Jay Hulme noted on Twitter, we’ve had transphobia as part of our culture for hundreds of years. The word “bad” originally meant a feminine man.

I’d say that everyone in Britain over the age of 20 (at least) has done or said something transphobic, and so calling out transphobia means calling out a whole nation – and British people don’t do well with guilt.

…You’ll find transphobic tropes lurking in art and literature from the 1500’s, the 1400’s, earlier. They’re basically the same ones making up the transphobia in 2000’s comedy.

…The world has been transphobic for a long time, Britain just held on to it. Made it funny. Made it ours. Put it in the fabric of the nation. Made everyone complicit. Made everyone guilty. And now we’re fighting for trans rights we seem unreasonable – and everyone feels attacked.

The Guardian: don’t you dare criticise us

There’s been a lot of online upset over yet another anti-trans column in The Guardian, part of its overwhelmingly negative and one-sided coverage of trans-related issues – coverage that has led three trans staff to resign and notable trans writers to refuse to write for the paper.

This week over 200 notable feminists wrote to the paper in protest and to affirm their support of trans people. The Guardian treated their letter with contempt.

As Gal-Dem explains:

The Guardian published the letter, but perhaps the most disheartening part of this process was their decision to title it: “Differing perspectives on trans rights”, and summarise over 200 signatories to 14 plus “over 100 others”. On the same page, the paper also included a number of letters in support of the original piece; something they did not do for a letter in support of sex-based organising with 13 signatories last week.

It wasn’t for reasons of space; the online version didn’t list the signatories either. Here’s a summary from PinkNews.

British politicians including Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green Party; Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrat equalities spokesperson; and Labour MPs Zarah Sultana and Nadia Whitome have all signed the letter.

…It is signed by leading women and non-binary people from a cross-section of British public life, including musician Beth Ditto; author Reni Eddo-Lodge; UK Black Pride founder Lady Phyll; editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, Claire Hodgson; Jo Grady, the general secretary of the UCU; and Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK.

A further 2,000 people (and climbing; right now the list of signatories just cracked 2,500) then wrote to the paper to protest its anti-trans coverage.

We the undersigned write to protest the on-going and extensive series of articles you have published claiming that women are being ‘silenced’ and that men are being invited into women-only spaces.

In the past year, you have run many articles seeking to position trans women as a threat to cis women, and arguing that cis women object to – and should object to – trans women in women-only space.

The letter is unlikely to get a more favourable response than the last one: shortly before it was submitted, Guardian editor Katharine Viner wrote to her staff to inform them that the paper is committed to represent “a wide range of views on many topics”– unless those views are critical of Guardian columnists. Staff were warned:

“It is never acceptable to attack colleagues whose views you do not agree with, whether in meetings, on email, publicly or on social media.”

In response, over 300 Guardian employees – a fifth of its workforce across not just editorial but production, commercial and digital too – have written to express their disgust at the paper’s stance. The list of signatories hasn’t been published, but it apparently includes some of the paper’s star writers.

We are proud to work at a newspaper which supports human rights and gives voice to people underrepresented in the media. But the pattern of publishing transphobic content has interfered with our work and cemented our reputation as a publication hostile to trans rights and trans employees.

That’s an incredible number of people for any media organisation, but particularly for a paper that’s supposed to be speaking truth to power and defending minorities.

Bigots “not bigots”, say bigots

Are the Ku Klux Klan racist? According to the Klan, they are not. They just have reasonable concerns about white people’s rights. As they put it in their flyers:

“Why can’t pro-white rights organizations exist without being labeled racist?”

As the Anti-Defamation League explains, the flyers are part of a strategy to “normalise white supremacy”: members no longer wear their robes and hoods and they dissociate themselves from violence. They claim that the fact that their followers are viciously racist is just a coincidence and nothing to do with them. “Members want to be able to express their white pride without being branded white supremacists – members prefer the term white separatists.” They argue that the rights of “other races” negatively affect theirs.

What the KKK is trying to do is to rebrand itself, and part of that is to attempt to redefine what racism means. In their definition, racism basically comes down to lynchings and burning crosses: if you’re not actively doing them, you can’t be a racist organisation.

That, of course, is  bullshit. And it’s why we don’t let white racists define what racism is or isn’t, because their definition excludes pretty much all forms of racism. Hate groups don’t get to define what is and isn’t hatred.

Let’s go back to that statement from the KKK flyer and change two words.

“Why can’t pro-women’s rights organizations exist without being labeled transphobic?”

All the anti-trans hate groups claim that they aren’t transphobic. And that’s true, if your definition of transphobia excludes almost every form of transphobia, including your own past actions.

In many cases, the high-profile anti-trans groups were co-founded by viciously transphobic people. Some now claim that their previously abusive anti-trans social media was run by the previous administration, with whom they now have no connection. Others pretend that their founding meetings featuring people calling trans women “parasites” and “bastards” who deserved violence and mocking trans women’s appearances never happened. And others’ bigoted founders – people who publicly called trans women “sick fucks” and claimed Jewish conspiracies – have conveniently died. They no longer wear their robes and hoods and they dissociate themselves from violence. The fact that many of their followers are abusive on social media is just a coincidence and nothing to do with them.

The one thing that really annoys hate groups is when people rightly call them hate groups. And as the UnCommon Sense blog explains in detail, many of these groups clearly function as hate groups.

A hate group is:

“…an organisation that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

As Buzzfeed’s Patrick Strudwick put it, these groups are telling us:

We’re not transphobic, we just think you’re a danger to children, women, society, lesbians, gay men, feminism, yourselves, and should be excluded from everywhere we decide you shouldn’t be, and should be denied treatment, demonised, pathologised, ridiculed and debated endlessly.

What’s hateful about that, apart from all of it?

“A wholly unacceptable misrepresentation”

The Morning Star has published a remarkable apology for its publication not just of a vicious anti-trans cartoon, but of previous anti-trans scaremongering too.

The Morning Star recognises that it has a responsibility to oppose discrimination against the trans community and to tackle transphobic hate crime, as well as to promote positive action and reform of the Gender Recognition Act to ensure trans people are able to participate equally in our workplaces, our communities, and our movement.

…We do not accept that reform of the Gender Recognition Act should or would lead to an attack on women-only spaces and will ensure that we campaign against any attacks on the Equality Act.

We understand that trans women are often welcomed into all-women spaces in our communities, and to portray trans women as a violent threat to women is a wholly unacceptable misrepresentation.