If a child cannot consent to taking puberty blockers their loving parent can consent in their stead. That is the outcome of the decision of the High Court, earlier this morning, in the case of AB v Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (full decision below), the first case funded by Good Law Project’s Trans Defence Fund.
The effect of the decision in the Bell case earlier this year, when read together with the practice hitherto of the Tavistock not to accept parental consent, was that even when a specialist doctor wanted to prescribe puberty blockers, a child wanted to receive puberty blockers, and their parents believed puberty blockers were in the best interests of the child, an application would still need to be made to the High Court.
Good Law Project’s lawyers were unable to identify any precedent in English law for this situation. What role is there for a judge – what expertise would they bring or function would they fulfil – in circumstances where the child, parents and doctor all agreed on the right course of therapeutic treatment?
A new study has found that 65% of trans people have had to hide their identity at work. That’s an increase from 52% five years ago. Despite it being illegal, one in three UK employers say they wouldn’t hire somebody who is trans.
This is why things like the Gender Recognition Act are necessary. By enabling us to change our birth certificate, we can avoid being discriminated against at the very first stage of looking for work; with some employers requesting birth certificates as proof of eligibility to work (even though birth certificates are not ID documents), having the wrong gender marker can mean no interview, let alone a job.
But of course, discrimination doesn’t end with the application form. Many trans people experience aggression and discrimination from clients, customers or colleagues.
For most of us, things aren’t so overt. But many trans people find that freelance clients don’t commission them any more, or that they’re treated differently in the workplace.
Writing in Stylist, Eve Livingston tells some people’s stories.
And even when trans people secure employment, their experience continues to be shaped by their trans identity: a quarter of all respondents reported being socially excluded by colleagues, while three-quarters said their workplace does not offer information on trans issues or gender neutralfacilities. And 27% reported being deadnamed – addressed by the name they were assigned at birth despite having changed it to better match their identity.
One of the horrible things about anti-trans activism is that it reverses victim and offender. We’re not a danger to cisgender people, but many cisgender people are a danger to us.
It’s crazy. I started crying yesterday when I looked in the mirror. I mean full-on sobbing. It’s hard to express. I finally look… I look like me. By which I mean that I look like a boy who’s 100% just transitioning to unfairly be good at sports in the wrong gender.
This week, tedious contrarian Julie Burchill’s new publisher was revealed to be white supremacist blogger “Miss Britannia”. Despite expressing her contempt for gay men, the blogger was a loud supporter of the LGB Alliance. Isn’t it funny how people who hate gay and lesbian people seem so drawn to an organisation that is supposedly pro-gay and lesbian people?
Trans people, particularly trans people of colour, have been trying to raise the alarm about the links between anti-trans activism and far right groups for several years now. As far as I’m aware, not a single UK newspaper has covered it at all.
The trans safety network has a good overview of the key players, most of whom are very well known.
trans equality has not gone from progress to standing still. Under this parliament, and the watch of our current so-called equality ministers, the UK has lurched from progress to a measurable loss of rights for trans people, both young and old.
If our allies in government and media do not become more vigilant and proactive as a matter of emergency, trans people – friends, colleagues, classmates, siblings, children and parents – will be legislated out of public existence without the majority even noticing.
As in America, the Christian Right is currently targeting trans people at every level. The goal is really simple: it’s to make it impossible for trans people to live normally in society.
They start with the schools, demanding trans lives be excluded from relationship and sex education and that trans kids be forced to use facilities according to their birth sex, not their lived gender. They demand trans kids be excluded from anti-bullying and anti-discrimination protections.
For trans teenagers, they have already removed access to crucial healthcare. They want to go further and remove it for under-25s.
For trans adults, they want to criminalise private sourcing of HRT while on current trends, the waiting list for a first NHS appointment may now be 26 years for someone joining the waiting list today.
Also for trans adults they want to remove anti-discrimination protections in work, in employment and in public. They just spent £100,000 to try and stop the census counting how many trans people there are. They have demanded gender-neutral language in legislation be changed specifically to exclude trans men.
The strategy itself appears to look like this: target laws and policies that accidentally or potentially protect trans people, no matter how seemingly inconsequential. In other words, death by a thousand cuts. The goal is to adjust our political and legal systems such that they operate as if a) trans people do not exist, b) trans people are not to be taken seriously, c) trans people are a threat, or d) all of the above.
This dogged work is not headline grabbing stuff, but then groups like Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and Transgender Trend have had their fill of that. After months or even years of uncritical news coverage, they might have realised fawning journalists can only get them so far. If a campaign’s goal is, in effect, the eradication of a protected class of people, the work itself cannot be all OBEs and Newsnight specials. The architects of anti-gay and anti-abortion campaigns in the US, who UK groups may or may not communicate with online*, could tell them that.
The strategy is very simple: it’s to go after trans and non-binary people in every conceivable way, no matter how obscure. Who cares about the wording of a law that won’t affect most people, or the guidance in the census? But the mistake is to view these things in isolation, to see them as single events rather than an extremely well-funded and well-resourced war on a vulnerable minority that’s being waged not by feminists, but by the Christian Right and right-wing politicians.
Riley Black, writing for Slate: Stop Trying to Out-Science Transphobes.
But regardless of their aims, transphobes of all stripes appeal to the authority of science—science that is pretty easy to refute.
This is a trap. Allies fall for this time and again. The same conservatives who try to deny my rights based on “science” have also denied that cigarettes cause lung cancer, that humans are driving global climate change, and that evolution is real. They are not dealing in facts.
…What we’re living through is a trans panic akin to the satanic panic of the ’80s and ’90s, when parents and police were convinced there were devil-worshipping cults infiltrating every facet of society. It is not logical. Going over, yet again, how hormone levels, chromosomes, skeletal features, and more vary in many complex ways is not going to make a lick of difference to people who see me and others like me as an abomination, a threat to the nuclear family, or somehow capable of ruining their day because I need to use the women’s room.
As Upton Sinclair put it, “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Hundreds of thousands of pounds are pouring into UK anti-trans activism, whether that’s through dark money, freelance fees, book sales or media appearances. Lying about trans people is pretty good for political gain, and it generates a lot of online ad clicks and newspaper sales too. Who’s going to let facts threaten all of that?
This, by Esther Wang for Jezebel, is a superb piece of journalism. It’s about the war on trans girls currently being waged by the US religious right both in the US and over here and it does something rare: it tells you about the trans girls at the centre of the moral panic over trans women in sports.
…shortly after Andraya placed third in the state’s girls’ outdoor 100-meter competition, the rightwing outrage machine zeroed in on the then-15-year-old as its next target. The New York Post and newspapers in the U.K., where a rabid transphobia pushed by groups like Fair Play for Women was flourishing, began writing about her. Adult men ranted about her in YouTube videos with titles like “How to Stop Andraya Yearwood from Beating Girls for Three More Years.” The next year, after Terry Miller—another Black trans girl in Connecticut whom Andraya would befriend—began running and at times winning races in their state, the attacks on Andraya, and now Terry as well, only intensified.
The article is very good on the clear links between the extremely powerful and rich Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT+ hate group, and the people trying to ban trans girls from sports.
It’s also very good at pointing out that the young women supposedly losing to sinister trans people are also losing to tons of cisgender girls too.
In 2018, after Terry and Andraya won gold and silver, respectively, in the state’s girls 100-meter event, Bianca Stanescu, the disgruntled mother of the girl who finished in sixth place in that race, circulated a petition during meets that called for the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference to change its policy on trans athlete participation. Though Stanescu’s daughter, Selina Soule, had lost to three other girls in addition to Andraya and Terry, Stanescu and Selina focused solely on the two trans girls. The mother-daughter duo became regular guests on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets, which was soon flooded with content that warned girls like Andraya and Terry would “destroy” girls’ and women’s sports.
The idea that trans women would destroy women’s sports has been a right-wing trope since the 1970s and it simply hasn’t happened. Trans people have been able to compete in the Olympics for two decades; not a single trans athlete qualified for the last Olympic Games and there has never been a trans Olympic medal winner. You don’t hear about the majority of trans athletes who are not winning anything.
Spreading the (false) idea that trans girls are a threat to other girls’ sports and doing so by forging alliances with supposedly feminist groups is one of the tactics described in the 2017 meeting of religious right groups who decided to target trans people after losing their battle against equal marriage.
Few people seemed to care that while she and Terry were good runners—at times very good, medal-winning runners on the state-wide level—their best times in races like the 100-meters weren’t close to cracking the top results nationwide for girls their age. Other girls, a lot of cisgender girls, were faster, were better. Even in Connecticut, Andraya and Terry weren’t the only competitors who bested Selina in races. No one was talking about the supposed “competitive advantage” of those girls, or talking about how they had “stolen” something from Selina.
…[former athletics head] Niehoff noted that a few other trans athletes, including trans girls, were competing in Connecticut at the same time, but with far less scrutiny. “Nobody’s paying attention to the transgender student-athlete that’s not winning the medals,” she said. At competitions, she encountered parents of athletes who jeered at Andraya and Terry from the stands. “Is that the direction we want to go or do we want to be supportive and encouraging so that a young person goes through high school and comes out with some personal strength and a healthy self-esteem and a positive outlook?” Niehoff said. It was, she said, “horrible to see the lack of class, the lack of empathy, the lack of maturity by the adults.”
That lack of empathy was the result of a deliberate strategy.
Andraya’s success came at the worst possible time for girls like her—a moment when trans girls and women competing in sports were quickly becoming the focus of the religious right’s efforts to legislate trans people out of public life, a coordinated assault that relied on a calculated partnership with so-called trans-exclusionary radical feminists and co-opting feminist rhetoric. After Christian conservatives lost their fight over marriage equality in 2015, they quickly pivoted to attacking trans rights, turning to collectively push for so-called bathroom bills in earnest the following year. When those failed, said Chase Strangio, the ACLU’s Deputy Director for Transgender Justice, “Our opponents started to shift very strategically to the areas of sports and healthcare for trans youth.”
One of the things that’s really saddening about this is that much of the transatlantic hate traffic is coming from the UK. Arguments and bullshit first spouted by UK anti-trans groups have made it across the Atlantic where they are being amplified by the Religious Right and conservative pundits, and dark money from the Religious Right makes the return journey to the UK.
The need to “save” girls sports—merely the latest variation of the “save our (white) children” rhetoric that has long animated rightwing social movements—fed neatly into an existing, paternalistic moral panic about trans young people, stirred up by writers like the Wall Street Journal’s Abigail Shrier, whose book Irreversible Damage warns absurdly of the “transgender craze” that is “seducing our daughters.”
The ADF is a key part of all of this, and deeply connected to the anti-trans legal cases in the UK. Their goal is not to protect anybody. It’s to drive trans people out of existence. They are attacking trans people on multiple fronts: in anti-discrimination provision, in healthcare, in access to public facilities, in schools and in sports.
In many states, as Republican legislators push to ban trans girls from sports, they are also simultaneously introducing bills that criminalize gender-affirming care for trans youth. Collectively, these bills represent “the most relentless legislative attacks on trans lives that I have ever seen,” according to the ACLU’s Strangio. Lately, Strangio has taken to calling them “dystopian,” a characterization that is particularly apt for the bills proposing the creation of sex verification boards that would scrutinize a young athlete’s genitals, chromosomal make-up, and hormone levels.
…Cut through the “fairness” rhetoric that dresses these bills up in the hopes of making them palatable, and what lies underneath is, as Strangio put it, “a fundamental dislike and anxiety about the presence of trans people in the world.” “We’re seeing a revitalization of a sort of eugenics discourse around the abolition of the trans person and the idea that transness is itself a threat,” Strangio said. “The masks are off, so to speak.”
As scandal after scandal emerges about the pervasive abuse of young athletes, it’s time we reevaluate our priorities. Trans athletes aren’t the problem.
It’s not just sports. Here in the UK, the “protect women” crowd who talk repeatedly about the supposed dangers of the dozen or so trans women in women’s prisons have nothing to say about the widespread abuse of women prisoners by cisgender inmates and officers. The crowdfunding campaigns that raise five or six-figure sums never go to services that desperately need funding, such as rape crisis centres and refuges. And that’s because they don’t care about protecting women. They care about harming trans people.
Penny Red’s article from a year or so ago is worth re-reading:
I’ve spoken to cis women involved in that side of the debate who have lost everything that mattered to them over years of austerity, cuts to services and welfare, who have been ground down by male violence and are now being told by people with an agenda that men in dresses are coming to take the last safe spaces they had. They are hearing, again and again, that trans people are coming to corrupt their children and convert their daughters to deviance — but if they sign up to an ideology that portrays trans women as “poison” (as transphobic feminist Shelia Jeffreys recently declared in the House of Commons), they can fight back.
This is how a lot of concerned, well-meaning women who only want a fairer, safer world came to be convinced that trans people are out to pervert children, prey on them in public toilets and refuges, and force lesbians to have sex with them against their will.
…Transphobic feminists are right to believe that there is a crisis in women’s liberation. But it’s not because of any sort of insidious neoliberal trans agenda. The people who are actually undermining women’s rights around the world are not being at all subtle about it. They’re not sending in trans women to invade domestic violence shelters. They’re just closing the shelters and taking away legal aid protections for women fleeing abusive relationships. In Britain, over half the domestic violence shelters have closed in the past decade. Around the world, misogyny and violence are becoming more acceptable, women in the public eye are being attacked and killed, and reproductive rights and sex- and gender- based protections are being torn up by right-wing governments led by tyrannical strongmen… While transphobic feminists focus their energy and attention on trans activists, the common enemy gets on with dismantling the basic rights of women and queer people of every gender.
Another day, another manufactured outrage that’s somehow all trans people’s fault.
Hasbro, owner of the Mr Potato Head toy, is bringing out a new version that will have both male-appearing and female-appearing pieces in the same box so that you can make an entire family. Because the resulting potato heads can be male, female or either or neither, this product isn’t going to be called Mr Potato Head or Mrs Potato Head. It’s just going to be called Potato Head.
Mr Potato Head will still be sold as Mr Potato Head, and Mrs Potato Head will still be Mrs Potato Head. But that’s not what people are being told.
Sky: Mr Potato Head is no more as classic toy goes gender neutral
The Guardian: “Mr Potato Head loses ‘mister” as Hasbro opts for gender-neutral brand name
BBC: Mr Potato Head to lose “Mr” title in gender neutral rebrand
The Scotsman: Potato Head: Toy company remove the Mister from toy’s name in move to update their classic brands.
This, you’re being told, is the latest example of the Snowflake Woke Gender Police threatening civilisation as we know it. According to Piers Morgan, this shows that “woke imbeciles are destroying the world.”
It shows nothing of the sort, of course: it’s a great example of how toys don’t necessarily have to be labelled THIS IS FOR BOYS ONLY and THIS IS FOR GIRLS ONLY. And it’s also a great example of how right-wing contrarians will knowingly spread bullshit to inflame their audiences. Morgan knows he’s talking shite, but he doesn’t care.
The problem with this nonsense is that it gets used as supposed evidence against, you’ve guessed it, the sinister trans lobby. The comments are full of it, so for example on the Metro version of the story: “Yet again the trendy, wokey, snowflake minority are dictating to the majority… soon they’ll be scrapping titles like Mr, Mrs, Miss or even Ms… you can’t even say you prefer one gender over the other… what next? Trans barbie that hides the last turkey in the shop window under its skirt”
I think that last one is supposed to mean Barbie with a penis. Because if there’s one thing trans people want, it’s children’s toys with large, visible genitals.
I mean, honestly. This is nothing to do with us. I spent two hours in a Zoom meeting with over 50 trans people last night, and the topic of discussion wasn’t about the gender of toys or policing people’s language or any of the other things we’re supposedly about: it was about the completely broken trans healthcare system and the horrific delays facing trans people who require life-saving treatment. In a just world the trans healthcare crisis would be a national scandal, but in this one the media would rather just invent shit about us and spread it as widely as they can.
Like Baa Baa Green Sheep and “political correctness gone mad” in previous decades, these stories don’t care about reality: they exist to get people furious about the newspapers’ and broadcasters’ chosen enemies.
I saw an example of that today. Remember the story from the Times a few days ago that lied about inclusive language for pregnant people? (short version: guidance for NHS staff asked them not to be insensitive to trans men; The Times reported it as an NHS ban on the use of the word “mother”) It’s made its way across oceans with the US and Australian right-wing press reporting it as fact. Meanwhile in England, there really was a successful attempt to exclude people with language: the UK government changed the wording of a law specifically to exclude trans men by swapping the gender-neutral word “people” for “women”.
As ever, the people the right wing are telling you to fear are the ones they are silencing, demonising and marginalising. They can take their potatoes and shove them where the sun doesn’t shine.
In the early 20th Century, there was a moral panic: the number of people saying they were left-handed rose from 2% of the population to 11%. Left-handed people were routinely demonised, with entire books being published about the newly discovered sickness of left-handedness. The word sinister, which means malicious or devious, is derived from the Latin word for left.
The number of left-handed people in the world has stayed at around 11% ever since. It’s not that there were suddenly more left-handed people. It’s that over a relatively short period of time we stopped forcing left-handed people to pretend they were right-handed and punishing them if they didn’t comply.
It turns out that when you make the world less dangerous for a particular group of people, those people are more likely to reveal who they are instead of staying hidden for fear of consequences.
There’s a new study doing the rounds that shows that the number of gay, lesbian and transgender people is significantly higher among Generation Z than it is among the preceding generation, the millennials – and the proportion among millennials is higher than it was in Generation Y, which in turn was higher than my generation, Generation X, which in turn was… you get the idea. If you graph the numbers of people comfortably admitting to be gay, bi, pan, lesbian or trans, it’s a steady upwards slope.
It also gives the lie to the idea that trans people are somehow erasing lesbians or forcing lesbians to say they’re trans men instead; the number of people who say they’re lesbian is up from 0.8% in the previous generation to 1.4% now.
Here’s the US version. The UK polling data is very similar and shows the same pattern.
The fact that there are more LGBT+ people coming out doesn’t mean that there are suddenly more LGBT+ people. It means that fewer LGBT+ people are forced to stay in the closet.
I think many cisgender, straight people are unaware of just how recent the improvements in LGBT+ rights are. The same “gross indecency” law used to persecute gay man, wartime hero and computer pioneer Alan Turing in the 1950s didn’t leave the statute books in Scotland until 2013. Until last year, New York had a “walking while trans” law that saw trans women arrested simply because they were trans in public. Being trans was still classified as a mental illness (as were homosexuality and female hysteria in previous decades) as recently as 2019. Equal marriage didn’t reach Northern Ireland until last year.
We were always here. But for many of us, it wasn’t safe to say so. And in many parts of the world, it still isn’t.