Face off

One of the many joys of being a late transitioning trans woman is that you have a choice: you can be a bearded lady, you can get used to shaving two or three times a day, or you can have facial electrolysis to remove your stubble. If you’re younger or darker-haired there’s another option, laser hair removal, but it doesn’t work on grey, blonde or ginger hair so that rules me out.

As much as I’m in favour of breaking gender norms the Conchita Wurst beard-blue-eyeshadow-and-blusher combination doesn’t work for me, and I hate bloody shaving. So electrolysis it is.

Electrolysis is a process where a highly skilled technician uses a tiny probe to remove all the money from your bank account.

I’m not kidding. I’ve been approved for 15 hours of NHS-funded treatment. Unfortunately the typical born-male face has around 30,000 follicles, each of which has to be treated individually, and the process takes between 100 and 200 hours over a year or two. For some trans women who have thicker or darker hair than me that number can be as high as 400 hours.

Once you’ve used up your NHS funding you then have to pay for the rest yourself. The clinic recommended by the NHS in Glasgow charges £72 per hour, although there’s a 10% discount if you block-book ten sessions. That brings the price down to £64.80 per hour.

Let’s assume I’ll need 150 hours. Less my 15 hours of NHS funding that’s just 135 more hours: 130 at £64.80 per hour and the remaining 5 at £72 per hour.

That’s 130 x 64.80, which works out as £8,424, plus 5 x 72, which is a further £360.

As a conservative estimate, then, this is going to cost me £8,784.

I’m sure it’ll be worth it in the long run, because stubble is the ticking clock in my Cinderella story: if I’m going to be out for more than a few hours I need to decide what I’m going to do about shaving. I currently shave twice a day, sometimes three times if it’s going to be a late night. But in the medium term it’s awful.

It’s awful for several reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that it’s bloody sore.

Lying on a table for two hours as individual follicles are electrocuted and heated before the hair is yanked out with tweezers isn’t a great deal of fun. It’s particularly awful on bits where there isn’t much fat, such as close to the jawline, and when it’s done anywhere that bit of my face doesn’t calm down for about two days afterwards. For the first 24 hours I look like I’ve been stung by angry wasps.

The literature tells you that most patients find electrolysis mildly uncomfortable rather than sore, but those patients are women and their hair is easier and less painful to remove. Whenever you see electrolysis illustrated it’s always a shot of a serene-looking young woman with porcelain skin, not a middle-aged trans woman shouting JESUS FUCKING CHRIST I FELT THAT IN MY TEETH.

The main reason it’s awful, though, is that in order to remove stubble there needs to be some stubble to remove. And while I’m glad I don’t have the kind of Desperate Dan chin that gives a five o’clock shadow fifteen minutes after shaving, it means I can’t shave for the days running up to each electrolysis appointment – or immediately after the appointment, when the skin is angry.

What that means is that to keep a weekly schedule, I have to spend most of my week presenting male: if I’m getting stubble yanked out of my face on Thursday, I can’t shave after Monday morning and can’t shave again until Saturday. If I do a really good job on Monday morning I can get away with being me into Monday evening, but Tuesday through Friday means presenting male. That’s four days a week of people double-taking at my name, four days a week of trying not to see my own reflection, four days a week that feel like the biggest backwards step imaginable.

I’m sure it’ll get easier once the most obvious bits of stubble are gone and I no longer need to shave them. But for now the prospect of doing this for another year and a half isn’t exactly filling my soul with joy.


Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

Nothing’s shocking

A US school district has cancelled classes after parents made multiple violent threats against a 12-year-old trans girl.

The only thing I find shocking about this is that it’s made headlines. There are plenty of examples of parents bullying young trans people online.

This case began with a mum stirring up hatred. If you think that’s unusual or that it  only happens in small town America, you’d be very much mistaken.


“It is never too late to live your life”

Jenny Boylan, novelist, columnist and author of the excellent memoir She’s Not There, posted a really worthwhile thread on Twitter today. I’ll give you a flavour:

People often ask late-transitioners, Why now? After all this time? What kind of woman do you think you can be, after missing your girlhood and your adolescence? But those aren’t the questions.

The question is, How did you manage to go so long? What enabled you to keep carrying your burden in secret, walking around with a shard of glass in your foot, for all those years?

LGBTQ+ Media

The Times: transphobia is bad (except when we do it)

The Times has carried out an investigation into Twitter.

References to child sex abuse, taunting of rape victims, disturbing messages from stalkers, homophobia and transphobia all stayed on the site after Twitter reviewed the content and decided that none of it breached its terms.

Examples of the hate speech include attempts to link LGBT people with paedophilia and the deliberate abuse of trans women.

This, from a newspaper whose UK edition repeatedly runs articles claiming that trans people are ‘sacrificing our children”, that trans women are predatory men, that the LGBT “lobby” is abusing children.

Maybe the Irish edition didn’t get the memo: abusing minorities sells newspapers.


You can’t pray the gay away

Chitra Ramaswamy has a powerful piece in The Guardian about the horrors of LGBT conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy – sometimes referred to as “cure” therapy, reparative therapy, ex-gay therapy or sexual-orientation change efforts – refers to any treatment aiming to change a person’s sexual orientation or suppress their gender identity. It is a nebulous term, encompassing what can be a range of highly damaging practices from an app offering a 60-day “gay cure”, available on iTunes and Google Play as recently as 2013, to spiritual interventions, talking therapies, drugs and, more rarely, extreme physical measures such as electric shock treatment, aversion techniques and “corrective rape”. All share in common the false, unethical assumption that being LGBT is a condition that requires curing. A psychological disorder, in other words.

Such therapies are widely discredited because they’re ineffective, cruel and dangerous. That doesn’t stop anti-LGBT bigots advocating for them, sadly. And they’re currently still legal in the UK and many US states.

This section is terrifying.

In 2015, the charity Stonewall found that one in 10 health and social care staff had witnessed colleagues express the belief that sexual orientation can be “cured”. A 2009 survey of more than 1,300 mental health professionals found that more than 200 had offered conversion therapy.

…[in the US] an estimated 20,000 LGBT teenagers in the US will be subjected to it by a licensed healthcare professional before the age of 18.


Next-level trolling

There’s trolling, and then there’s this. An eight-year-old trans girl, Avery Jackson, has raised enough money to open a “transgender house” – directly across the road from infamous hatemongers the Westboro Baptist Church.

It’s next to the rainbow-painted Equality House that’s been annoying them since 2013.

If you’re not familiar with the WBC, they’re the ones who picket the funerals of soldiers, murdered gay kids etc. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls them “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.”

I think Jesus would be on Avery’s side.

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

It’s a start

Facebook has taken down much of Alex “Infowars” Jones’ content, as have Apple and Spotify.

(Update, 7/8/18: Apple was the first to move. The others were clearly waiting for somebody else to lead.)


The company [Facebook] said it removed the pages “for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.”


Apple does not tolerate hate speech

This stuff is all in the terms and conditions. For example, for Apple’s podcasts there is an outright ban on:

  • Content that could be construed as racist, misogynist, or homophobic
  • Content depicting graphic sex, violence, gore, illegal drugs, or hate themes

Although its enforcement has been patchy, this is Facebook’s policy:

We do not allow hate speech on Facebook… We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics – race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity and serious disability or disease.

I have some sympathy for these firms, because enforcement is a big job. Facebook again:

Over the last two months, on average, we deleted around 66,000 posts reported as hate speech per week — that’s around 288,000 posts a month globally.

That’s a lot of hate. But the point is, it’s against the rules whether it’s uploaded to Apple, posted on Facebook, streaming on Spotify or tweeted on Twitter. Apple alone is now a $1 trillion company; Facebook $522 billion; Twitter $32 billion; and Twitter $24 billion. If they’re short of moderators, they can afford to hire more.

LGBTQ+ Media

A five point plan to hate and hurt people

A poster on Twitter reminded me of this 2016 story about the evangelical Family Research Council. It’s about the FRC’s five-point plan describing how to demonise trans people and make it impossible for them to live their lives.

This isn’t a conspiracy theory. It’s on the FRC website, with the usual widely debunked nonsense.

The points were:

  1. Policy-makers should strenuously resist efforts to legally recognize changes of sex or gender identity.
  2. The government shouldn’t force private entities to accept and recognise trans people’s gender identity, or protect them from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, education and business transactions.
  3. The government shouldn’t pay for trans people’s transition-related healthcare.
  4. Health insurance shouldn’t pay for trans people’s transition-related healthcare.
  5. Trans people shouldn’t be permitted to serve in the military.

As the Twitter user pointed out, it’s kinda difficult to tell the difference between that plan, current US policy and the “talking points” of anti-trans campaigners both in the US and in the UK.

As the article, by Brynn Tannehill, put it:

Stop for a moment here, and imagine a world where you can’t get an accurate government ID. A world where you can’t vote, can’t drive without risking arrest, and can’t get a job. You cannot prove that you are who you are, because no one will believe your ID is real. You will never be treated as your correct gender by any government agency. What ID you have will constantly out you as transgender, inviting discrimination. Perfectly legal discrimination, if part two of their plan succeeds.

Now imagine being constantly outed as transgender in this world where the law explicitly states that you are a target. Imagine having that scarlet A on every ID you possess making it clear that the bearer of this card is sub-human and has no rights: fire them, kick them out of their home, refuse to serve them, take their children away, verbally abuse them for your amusement at work—it’s all good.

This is all because in the eyes of the anti-trans crowd, trans people were born a certain way and must not be allowed to change it. If we try, we’re subhuman.

Imagine if they said the same things about infertile couples taking IVF.

Sophie-Grace Chappell writes for the American Philosophical Association and compares the treatment of trans people to that of adoptive parents.

Nobody sensible thinks that it’s all right, when you find out that someone is an adoptive parent, to get in her face and shout “Biology! Science! You’re running away from the facts! You’re delusional! You’re not a real parent!”

…Nobody sensible thinks that it’s an infraction of Jordan Peterson’s human rights to impose on him a social, ethical, and sometimes even legal requirement that he call adoptive parents “parents.”

…Nobody sensible thinks that adoptive parents are, typically and as such, a threat to other parents. Or that they only went in for adoptive parenting as a way to get their hands on vulnerable children or vulnerable parents.

Of course, organisations such as the FRC are against same-sex adoption and lesbian couples having IVF too, but the difference is that their views are not presented as mainstream and echoed every single week in major newspapers and all over social media by people who claim to be feminists.

The FRC is a US organisation but its hands reach across the Atlantic in the form of the Hands Across The Aisle Coalition, whose founder is regularly and approvingly quoted by UK anti-trans activists on social media. The coalition lists the UK groups Fair Play For Women and Transgender Trend among its members.

TT is the group responsible for the anti-trans materials sent to UK schools, and it and Fair Play For Women are the source of much of the anti-trans rent-a-quote stuff you see in the Mail on Sunday and other newspapers. TT’s crowdfunding campaigns are promoted by right-wing sites such as Breitbart.

It’s very odd to see supposed feminists becoming best pals with virulent anti-abortionists and conservatives who hate women.

Brynn Tannehill has written about that too, in the aftermath of the anti-trans disruption of London Pride:

These right-wing organizations don’t try to hide their relationship with so-called feminists. Indeed, they proudly display it in order to create the illusion that both the left and the right oppose inclusion of trans people in society. In reality, only one side’s interests are being represented here ― the radical religious right.

…They are all anti-choice. They all want to ban access to birth control. They universally want to overturn Lawrence v. Texas and allow states to make homosexuality illegal again. They want to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, and Roe v. Wade. They want to ban same-sex adoption. They all are hostile to fair-pay-for-women laws. They oppose women working outside the home. They are all hostile to the Women’s March and Me Too. They are fake medical organizations and anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice hate groups. They have cheered the assassinations of abortion providers. They are publications that have published horrible things about women, such as “Does Feminism Make Women Ugly?”

This isn’t a choice between transgender people and women. This is a choice between trans people and right-wing organizations pretending to represent women.

Some of the anti-trans activists on social media hate trans people because they’re bigots: many of them have espoused straight-up racism and antisemitism too. But many of the people calling trans-inclusive women “handmaidens” are apparently unaware that they’re doing the work of the US religious right.

Evangelicals’ bigotry didn’t go away when the battle for equal marriage was won. They just changed tactics and went looking for new friends. Sadly, they seem to be finding an awful lot of them.


Pride in my country

The festival may have been a shambles, but to see your country’s First Minister leading the Pride parade is really something. This image was tweeted from the FM’s official account.

Update: I realise I didn’t explain why it was really something. I grew up in the era of Section 28/Clause 2A, when the UK government made it illegal for teachers to talk about LGBT people in schools. It came into force in 1988, when I was 15, and remained in place until 2000 in Scotland and 2003 in England and Wales. To have the First Minister of Scotland at the head of a Pride march is a sign of how far most of us have come.


Street hassle

On Thursday, I was verbally abused in the street for being trans.

I wonder, what kind of person do you imagine doing that, and where? Are you thinking lower working class, poorly educated, teenage, rolling down Sauchiehall Street after a night of promotional jaegerbombs? Or maybe a shaven-headed neanderthal, drunk, in a pub I should have the sense to avoid?

Nope. Middle-aged man, a packed Buchanan Street, 5.30pm on a sunny weekday evening.  I was standing to the side waiting to meet a friend for dinner.

The man took a moment from his busy schedule to look me up and down and then snarl “my fucking god” at me before continuing on his way home from work.

What did you do today, darling?

We like to think hate is the preserve of people who are worse than us. They’re not as sophisticated as us, or as well educated, or as clever. But that isn’t true. Hate can wear a suit, have multiple degrees and subscribe to current affairs magazines. I feel more welcome at a rock festival full of taps-aff neds than I would at a dinner party for readers of The Spectator.

I don’t worry about shaven-headed drunks. You can see them coming.