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.
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.
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’.
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.
There’s a really nice piece in National Geographic about historians documenting the lives of trans people, and in addition to being really interesting it’s a much-needed corrective to the oft-spoken belief that trans people were invented in 2015.
Thereâ€™s ample evidence of gender variance throughout human history. Among the earliest are accounts of galaand galli, priests assigned male at birth who crossed gender boundaries in their worship of a variety of goddesses in ancient Sumer, Akkadia, Greece, and Rome. Other cultures acknowledged a third gender, including two-spirit people within Indigenous communities and Hijra, nonbinary people who inhabit ritual roles in South Asia.
I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but our current gender binaries (and persecution of LGBT+ people) are primarily a western Christian invention. In addition to the cultures mentioned above there are multiple genders in the Torah and many Islamic cultures are accepting of trans people (more so than they are of gay and lesbian people, in some cases; there’s a belief that being trans is something you’re born with but that homosexuality is a sin). But the spread of the British Empire and the colonisation of the US by European settlers meant that that belief was imposed on many other cultures, often with extreme violence. The modern social conservatives and religious extremists trying to eliminate LGBT+ people from society are as ignorant of history as they are of biology.
Longreads has an excellent article by Mailee Osten-Tan about the people who travel to Thailand for gender confirmation surgery. It’s great journalism, based on extensive research and interviewing (there’s a behind-the-story piece detailing it all here) and the story Osten-Tan tells is interesting, insightful and empathetic.
Thailand is famous in trans circles, and the more broken the NHS’s trans healthcare becomes the more people will save or borrow the money to go there. The NHS was already woefully underfunded before COVID; now the waiting lists, already horrific, are many months and years longer.
â€œThe effect of the pandemic has been to exacerbate a problem which already existed,â€ said James Bellringer, an NHS and private GCS surgeon in the U.K. for over two decades, in an email. But even apart from the pandemic, he wrote, the U.K. lacks trained staff to meet the demand for surgeries. â€œItâ€™s not just surgeons but the gender specialists working in the clinics. Gender has been chronically underfunded everywhere (not just the U.K.) for years, and the elastic has finally snapped.â€
One of the saddest parts of the article for me was this bit.
For those who want but cannot afford surgery, the longer they are made to wait, the greater their chance of developing serious mental health ramifications. These often relate to the chronic high levels of stress experienced by trans people over the course of their lives â€” also known as minority stress â€” brought on by factors such as poor social support, discrimination, rejection, abuse, and/or violence.The majority of trans women I interviewed… wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of being doxxed, harassed, or targeted by hate speech.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record here, these are the “transgender issues” we should be talking about. But trans people rarely get to speak: the only people speaking in the trans “debate” are the intolerant, the ill-informed and the ill-intentioned.
June is Pride Month in the US, and because so many brands are global now that means it’s Pride Month here too. Social media managers have changed their brand avatars to include rainbows, and at the end of the month they’ll take the rainbows away again. And in the meantime, they may not do a single damn thing to support LGBT+ people, let alone help them. All too often a rainbow flag on a corporate Twitter account is an empty gesture.
Not all firms wrap themselves in the rainbow as an empty marketing ploy. Apple lobbies against anti-LGBT+ legislation, for example. But many firms, including the likes of Comcast, AT&T and Amazon, have given considerable sums of cash to anti-LGBT+ politicians. And many broadcasters, publishers and streaming services have been happy to profit from anti-LGBT+ abuse masquerading as legitimate comment or edgy comedy.
“Corporations in hypocrites shocker”, I know. But while it’s always fun to mock such firms’ hypocrisy on social media, I think it’s more important to try and do something positive around Pride. There are countless LGBT+ owned businesses who would really appreciate your custom; countless LGBT+ authors whose books would be a brilliant addition to your reading list; amazing LGBT+ artists of all kinds who are doing great things. Whenever you see a rainbow, think of it as a reminder that your money and your attention can make a real difference to LGBT+ people and organisations.
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 â€“ which is explicitly trans inclusive and fielded a number of LGBT+ candidates â€“ 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.
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 â€“ people coming out to their families and friends are more likely to receive a positive response than ever before â€“ 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.