LGBTQ+ Media

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before

30 years ago today, Section 28 (Section 2A in Scotland) was introduced to ban the “promotion” of gay and lesbian “lifestyles” in schools to protect children from the entirely invented dangers of gay and lesbian people. It wasn’t repealed until 2003 in England and Wales, although Scotland canned it in 2001.

I was 15 when Section 28 was passed. It was an era of vicious anti-gay bullying, encouraged by vicious anti-gay propaganda in mainstream newspapers. AIDS was “the gay plague” and a book with two gay dads, “Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin” was denounced as “vile”, “perverted” and a threat to children by multiple newspapers.

Piers Morgan monetised homophobia by writing about “The Poofs Of Pop”, and The Sun’s headline about the first gay kiss on the soap opera EastEnders was “EASTBENDERS”. The accompanying story described “a homosexual love scene between yuppie poofs… when millions of children were watching.”

The barrage of bigotry had a terrible effect. Social Attitudes Surveys of the time saw anti-gay sentiment, already high, rise during this period: the percentage of people who believed same-sex activity was “always or mostly wrong” was nearly 80% in both the US and the UK.

National newspapers frequently ran homophobic front page stories. The “Keep the clause” anti-repeal campaign was particularly vicious.

The period leading up to the repeal of Section 28/Clause 2A was particularly unpleasant in Scotland, with billboards and newspaper articles urging us to keep the clause to protect our children.

Won’t somebody think of the children?
We’re not homophobic. We just have genuine concerns.

History repeats.

Where Richard Littlejohn used to write about “the government’s determination to lower the age at which schoolboys can be sodomised”; he now rails against the supposed evils of trans people.

Many other columnists who once railed against gay people now battle “Transgenderism” and the “sinister transgender agenda”.

Innocuous kids’ books such as “Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?” have been slammed by the likes of the Mail on Sunday, Lord Tebbit and Sarah Vine (“We are threatening the sanity of – and yes I’m going to say it – normal children”).

Piers Morgan monetises transphobia on TV.

Social attitudes surveys show that after years of gradual improvements, anti-LGBT sentiment is on the rise.

History is supposed to be a warning, not a how-to guide.


The ever-excellent Another Angry Woman is thinking what I’m thinking. And Stonewall’s Ruth Hunt draws parallels in The Independent.

LGBTQ+ Media

“That’s not how it works”

James Kirkup of The Spectator has written many articles that unquestionably parrot the propaganda of anti-trans bigots, but he reached a new low this week with the story of sniggering arsehole David Lewis.

Lewis is – or rather, was; Labour suspended him for, well, being a sniggering arsehole – standing for election as a women’s officer in his local Labour Party. Hilariously, he says he identifies as a woman “on Wednesdays, between 6.50am when my alarm goes off and around midnight when I go to bed.”

Lewis’s motive (other than look-at-me self-publicity) was to raise awareness of, you’ve guessed it, the sinister trans agenda. Unfortunately by setting out to prove how easy it is to abuse the system, he ended up demonstrating that it isn’t easy to abuse the system. This is what the internet calls a self-own.

In The Guardian, James Morton wrote a thoughtful response to the stunt.

Self-declaration is not a frivolous process. Making a false statutory declaration is a serious crime of perjury. Evidence of malicious intent, whether it be to invade women’s safe spaces or to try to make a mockery of the very real struggles that trans people face to live their lives as who they are, could rightfully lead to severe penalties including up to two years in prison.

Anti-trans campaigners who treat this process as if they can just wake up one morning and say they are a woman or a man and change nothing else about their lives are mocking not only trans people but the concept of identity itself. Identity is not some random feeling we have just on Wednesdays or Fridays, but our deeply held sense of ourselves and how we fit into the world.

…Puerile stunts, deliberate misgendering and hateful comparisons to parasites and paedophiles is not constructive discussion.

The good news is that, like shouting “penis” during televised debates, these stunts tend to backfire terribly. The vocal activism of anti-trans activists within Labour (many of whom are currently being suspended from Twitter for repeated acts of hateful and harassing conduct) has led Labour to double down on its support for trans people. On the left, some of the most radical voices are standing alongside trans people and arguing that it’s the anti-trans crowd who are hateful and dangerous. On the right, Theresa May has reaffirmed her support for Gender Recognition Act reform: “being trans is not an illness and it shouldn’t be treated as such.”

And it isn’t a lifestyle choice, either. I didn’t choose to be trans, but you can choose whether you want to treat trans people with basic human dignity or be like Kirkup and Lewis. One day even they’ll see sense:


This is what self-ID is all about

I got a message from my lawyer today: my divorce paperwork has been curtly rejected by the relevant court because the introductory page uses the pronoun “she” to describe me; the court wants it to be “he”. This is despite the accompanying evidence of my name change in the form of my amended birth certificate, deed poll and so on.

So I have a choice: change two words and resubmit the paperwork, adding a bit more cost and a bit more time to a process that already takes too long and costs too much.

Or I can provide a Gender Recognition Certificate and leave the filing as-is.

Except I can’t. Despite living full time as me, having an official diagnosis of gender dysphoria and undergoing supervised medical treatment, I can’t apply for a GRC for at least another year – and when I do, I’ll have to pay £140 for the application and various other fees to get the necessary evidence from my GP and the gender clinic. As I’m sure you know from painful experience, doctors’ letters don’t come for free.

And the panel may decide to reject my application anyway. There’s no right of appeal, and no guarantee that your application will be granted even if you cross every T and dot every I. If the panel says no you need to go through the whole process all over again.

This is what the proposed move to self-declaration of gender (and the actual move to self-declaration that has already happened in many countries) is designed to address.

It’s important to reiterate this: self-ID is purely about paperwork. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether I can use the ladies’ (I already do), whether the gender marker for me on my passport or on the NHS computer says “F” (it already does), whether I’d be sent to a female prison if I turned into an axe murderer (I probably would, but these things are assessed on a case by case basis).

It’s about paperwork.

It’s about being able to get the Royal Bank of Scotland to change the gender marker on my bank accounts, something that to date has taken seven months and is still ongoing. It’s about having a little bit of paper that tells a court clerk that I don’t have the same name and pronouns I was given at birth. It’s about removing cost and complexity that doesn’t need to be there and making the world a little bit less shitty.

If you’d like to know more about the issue, Stonewall has a good explainer here.

Health LGBTQ+

Promises we can’t keep

I blogged a few days ago about the problem with mental health services: it’s all very well to urge people to get help, but the help needs to be there for them.

This excellent piece by Vic Parsons explains how the system is failing many LGBT people.

People are still being left in limbo, on waiting lists, for more than two years – largely because of the tiny pool of resources.

I live in Scotland, where the NHS is considerably less beleaguered than it is in the rest of the UK: there are fewer people in the whole of Scotland than there are in London, and as a result our services are under considerably less pressure. But even then things move glacially slowly.

I had an initial assessment for counselling services yesterday, some 19 months after I first self-referred to the Gender Identity Service (in Scotland you don’t need to go through a GP to access such services). The counsellor felt I’d benefit from six sessions or so, and put me into the system. I can expect my first appointment approximately nine months from now.

That’s February 2019, from a referral in October 2016.

I’m not in crisis. I’ve already had private counselling that I found very helpful; counselling I was fortunate enough to be able to afford. And I’m currently being treated via a private GP, again because I’m fortunate enough to be able to pay for it. But a system that effectively forces people to go private or go without treatment is a system that’s broken. It’s particularly bad for trans / NB people, but it’s bad for everybody.

As Vic Parsons writes:

I know that I can wait for that appointment. But what if I was a teenager, young and alone and afraid?


White van, tran

When I came out as trans, I joked that I did it because I wanted to get yelled at in the street by people in vans. But until last night on the way to the pub, it had never actually happened to me.


Tired and emotional

The writer Tess Stenson posted something to Twitter earlier that really resonated with me.

When I first joined Twitter, many moons ago, I pointedly decided not to turn my feed into a trans feed. I joined so I could promote my upcoming book, and franky, I didn’t want to bore people with those issues.

As Tess goes on to explain:

With the rise of the alt-right, and right wing politics dominating the political discourse, and an increased awareness of trans people (that part being a very good thing, mind), the more transphobic elements in our society have only got louder.

Factor in the bullshit being spouted about Gender Recognition Act reform and the dread hand of the religious right using trans people to try and divide the LGBT community and trans people are under attack constantly.

I’m aware that I post more trans stuff here and on Twitter than some people might like, or be comfortable with. But Christ, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the stuff I wade through each and every day.

I see more than most because I’m a news junkie. Every single day – and I really mean every single day – my news reading app delivers dozens of anti-trans pieces published in mainstream US and UK publications. The vast majority of them are either misinformed or misrepresenting easily verifiable facts, and some of them are downright hateful. And the news app also gives me lots of the more right-wing publications, which are even more hateful.

This stuff comes to me. I don’t go seeking it. Algorithms decide that because I’m interested in trans rights, I want to see a gruesome, uncensored photograph of a trans woman hacked to death with a kitchen knife. That because I’m interested in legal protections for trans people I want to read endless news stories about trans women murdered in North and South America. That because I’m interested in LGBT issues I want to read right-wing columnists calling me subhuman. I block, and I block, and I block, and the tide just keeps on coming.

And then there’s social media. Going on social media while trans is electing to pour an enormous bucket of shit over your own head. When I follow a Twitter link to, say, a Sky News piece about an upcoming documentary about a trans person I know not to look at the replies or the comments under the video. It’s just an ever-growing litany of bigotry and hatred.

So I switch off. Take a break. Try to make myself look nice, pick out something I think makes me look good. Head for the pub and after just twenty metres I’ve been mocked in the street by four shaven-headed, overly muscled lads because while most people are great, some people are pricks.

Sometimes they mock you in the street, sometimes they stage whisper “that’s a MAN” in the pub, sometimes they call you perverts in national newspapers and sometimes they dedicate their life to trying to deny you healthcare (this NHS consultation was deliberately targeted by anti-trans activists promoting quackery such as discredited and dangerous conversion therapy; the report [pdf] makes that clear).

Back to Tess’s Twitter:

The strain of it all is immense. Pretty much every trans man, trans woman, and non-binary person I know has felt it.

If you think it’s a slog to read about a tiny proportion of it, imagine what it’s like to live it.

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

After the ‘quake

I wrote about Channel 4’s Genderquake debate a few days ago, and it’s safe to say the programme has caused a lot of controversy.

The people who refused to take part were proved right: Channel 4 was trying to start a fight.

Here’s a piece by Pink News on how the audience were told to behave.

Audience members at a controversial televised debate about gender claim they were “encouraged to heckle” panellists, including transgender activists Caitlyn Jenner and Munroe Bergdorf, by the programme’s producers.

That’s an interesting contrast to the programme as it was pitched to potential panelists. CN Lester:

I was one of the dozens approached from March onwards by Channel 4. An email from the production company explained that it would be: ”nuanced intelligent discussion around gender, identity and society. We aim to shed light on such complex issues and ask important questions in a safe environment.”

Lester declined to take part, guessing – rightly – that the programme wouldn’t be remotely like that.

This is what the so-called trans “debate” looks like: people shouting “you’re a man!” and “penis! penis! penis!” at people who thought they were there for a “nuanced intelligent discussion around gender.”

These are the “mums”. The women with “legitimate concerns”. The ordinary people who just want to have a “respectful debate”.

It’s not just the fact that they heckled. It’s that they were specifically invited so that they would. Channel 4 appears to have deliberately invited bigots – some of whom are currently under investigation for hate speech, some of whom have been suspended from their political parties – and given then prominent positions in the audience. When they did what they were asked to do and heckled the panelists, they were allowed to remain in place for the rest of the programme.

Imagine for a moment the programme was about the experiences of an ethnic minority and Channel 4 sat members of Britain First and the EDL at the front, letting them shout racial epithets throughout the programme.

Jenny Boylan, a writer I very much admire, in the New York Times:

This is what happens when we act as if the humanity of vulnerable, marginalized people is up for debate.

The people doing the shouting are the same people you read about in the Sunday Times and other papers. They say they aren’t bigots, that they want the chance to have a reasonable debate.

And when you put them in a studio they shout “Penis! Penis! Penis!”

Boylan again:

At the end of the “Genderquake” program, Ms. Jenner said, by way of conclusion: “We have to create a more loving society. We have to celebrate the differences in people. Show love toward one another.”

The audience booed.

Not the whole audience. You can guess which section.

I’ve been asked by a few people why I post about trans things here. That’s why. Every day we are libelled in print, slandered on social media, accused of unspeakable depravity and evil by people who question our right to exist and who repeat long-discredited bullshit.

Here’s just one example, from the supposedly LGBT-friendly Guardian this week. Gaby Hinsliff linked the issue of trans women being able to change their birth certificates with the vile attacks by Canadian sex offender Christopher Hambrook in 2012.

It was discrimination law, not the recognition process, that came under scrutiny in Canada after serial sex attacker Christopher Hambrook attacked two women in domestic violence shelters in Toronto, which he’d entered dressed as a woman. (The state of Ontario had previously passed a bill prohibiting discrimination against trans people.)

The law Hinsliff mentions wasn’t passed until six months after Hambrook committed his crimes. The non-existent link between Hambrook and anti-discrimination legislation was invented by religious conservatives to try and prevent the so-called “Toby’s Law” from being passed. It’s a favourite of the “Penis! Penis! Penis!” shouters too.

Hambrook wasn’t trans, incidentally. He was a serial sex offender who’d been incarcerated for child abuse and who was freed despite being an obvious danger to women: other inmates complained about the violent fantasies he made them listen to. Yes, he dressed as a woman to access a women’s refuge; had it been a disabled person’s shelter he’d have rolled up in a wheelchair. The judge who finally sentenced him to indefinite imprisonment said that nothing – “no other measure” but permanent incarceration – could protect women from such a dangerous man.

The number of trans women who’ve sexually assaulted people in toilets or refuges, worldwide, is zero. That’s why people keep bringing Hambrook up: if they had actual examples of trans people being evil you can be sure they’d use them.

The Hambrook case is about many things: lax sentencing of dangerous men, sexual assault against women not being taken seriously enough by police, and so on. But it had nothing to do with trans people whatsoever.

But, you know, another day, another insinuation that if you see me in the bathroom I’m there to rape you.

We are getting tired of this shit.


The question I’m left with: how much longer can this script play out? Is this still enjoyable for anyone apart from the fanatics who want to spew hate at trans women?

…I don’t have a choice about living in a culture shaped by such a regressive, dehumanising script.


…transgender people don’t need any more think pieces about the legitimacy of our lives. What we need, and what we deserve, is justice, and compassion, and love. What we need is freedom from violence, and protection from homelessness, and the right not to lose our jobs, or our children, or our lives.

That’s the sinister transgender agenda right there.


A letter to Channel 4

Pretty much every well known trans/NB person I can think of has signed an open letter to Channel 4 over the Genderquake “debate”, which airs tonight. The inclusion of Caitlyn Jenner and Germaine Greer suggests it’s a stunt rather than a sensible discussion.

On a related note, pretty much every well known trans/NB person I can think of was approached by Channel 4 and asked to participate, and refused.

CN Lester is one of them. As they wrote on Twitter earlier:

“Everything I’ve seen from the team putting this together suggests that they’re going for a fight, not a discussion – hence the refusal to participate.”

Jack Monroe, also refused, also on Twitter:

I signed this because I believe that trans people should not be subjected to abuse and harm for entertainment. Pitting us against known transphobes for ‘debate’ is harmful, reduces us to reactionary stereotypes, and legitimises transphobia by broadcasting it. Time to #takeastand

And we wrote this letter because dozens of well-known trans people refused to take part in this ‘debate’, all of us explained very very clearly why, and Channel 4 decided to go ahead with it anyway despite widespread concern from almost everyone they approached.

If around 50 trans people are separately refusing to be part of your #Genderquake programme, surely you’d get the message and reconsider your framing?

I won’t be tuning in.

LGBTQ+ Media

Nothing to fear

BBC Scotland in Glasgow

For several years, I did a monthly technology surgery on BBC Radio Scotland. It was fun to do, but I was always scared that one day everyone would find out I was trans and the gig would be up.

This morning, I did a technology surgery on BBC Radio Scotland. I wore a nice dress.


Dangerous waters

I don’t swim any more. I used to, because I preferred it to going to the gym. And of course when you’re a parent it’s a cheap way to keep the kids amused. But since becoming me, the thought of going to a swimming pool scares the shit out of me.

Owl Stefania puts it very well in this article for Refinery 29:

…I can’t remember the last time I actually went swimming. I don’t think it will be anytime soon.

Likewise. I’m not scared of much any more, but I’m scared of that. Scared of public humiliation. Scared that someone will be scared of me. Scared that even in gender-neutral changing facilities where the only time I’m naked is in a locked, private cubicle, someone will loudly object to my being there and claim I’m somehow dangerous.

Dangerously clumsy, maybe. But dangerous? The only risk from my presence anywhere near a swimming pool is if I fall on you or belly flop nearby.

There are trans-friendly, private swimming sessions around the UK, I know. The next Glasgow one, I believe, is on the 3rd of June. I can’t make it, but I don’t want to go either. I know they’re well-intentioned, that the idea is to create a safe space where trans, intersex and non-binary people can swim and change without fear, but I’m not a great believer in segregating people. I’d feel second-class, like I was sneaking in to use a space I’m not supposed to be in.

Trans, intersex and non-binary people shouldn’t need safe spaces. There is nothing inherently dangerous about a changing area, or a swimming pool. And there’s nothing inherently dangerous about a trans person.

The reason I’m scared to go swimming is because of people pushing the predator myth: we can’t let group X near our children or women because they’re violent, sexual predators. It was said about various ethnic minorities. It was said about gay, bisexual and lesbian people. And now it’s being said about people like me.

These days no decent people mind sharing a changing room with people of different ethnicities, nationalities or sexualities, because they know that most people with different ethnicities, nationalities or sexualities are decent people too.

I’d like to think decent people think the same about trans people, but in the current climate I’m too scared to test the water.

Before I came out, I was scared of men. Now I’m scared of women too.