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.

Brace yourself for the backlash

The UK government publishes its new LGBT strategy today. Part of the strategy includes publishing the findings of a survey that show – surprise! – life is often really shit for LGBT people.

The plans include improved hate crime protection, a ban on dangerous quackery such as conversion therapy (aka “pray the gay away” cures for being gay or trans), reform of the Gender Recognition Act to make things less bureaucratic and other positive things.

Much of the strategy only applies to England, as a lot of LGBT-related issues are covered by devolved legislation. But the anti-LGBT backlash we’ll see online and in the media will affect the entire UK and beyond.

I don’t envy equalities minister Penny Mordaunt, who’s trying to improve things and reform the Gender Recognition Act in a climate where just 13% of Conservative voters think the GRA should be reformed (coincidentally, the vast majority of anti-trans misinformation and outright falsehoods about GRA reform is printed in newspapers and periodicals read primarily by Conservative voters; The Guardian and New Statesman do their best to compete, but their circulations are tiny by comparison):

The current process doesn’t work for people. It’s overly bureaucratic and it’s highly medicalized with people making decisions about you who have never met you.

There’s also huge inconsistencies throughout the process – you have one identification document in one sex and another in another.

It doesn’t work, it needs to be radically improved, and that’s why we’re going to consult on that. Really the outcome we’re looking for is that people are supported through that process… it is a challenging enough thing to go through without the state and its bureaucracy adding to people’s stresses.

We will get the best results from this consultation if it is done in that environment with people being sensible, people looking at the facts and not making things up, and ensuring people are respected.

There hasn’t been much in the way of facts or respect so far.

I hope I’m wrong, but I think the next couple of months are going to see some really shameful reporting of LGBT issues and more demonisation of trans people in supposedly respectable publications, as well as online. Some of it will have the dread hand of religious evangelism behind it; some will be from people building personal media brands by stepping on vulnerable people; all of it will be damaging.

Knowing that the perpetrators are on the wrong side of history doesn’t make the present any easier to live through.

If you would like to better understand the truth about being LGBT in the UK, the Government has published its full survey online. It’s available here in PDF format.

TIE a rainbow ribbon ’round school bigotry

I liked this photo: it shows members of the Scots parliament wearing rainbow-coloured ties to mark their support for the TIE campaign.

The TIE Campaign only three years old but is doing great things in Scottish schools. It aims to reduce bullying and ignorance by encouraging LGBT-inclusive education in schools, and it works.

The Sunday Herald:

MORE than three quarters of Scots pupils who’ve attended LGBT inclusive assemblies in schools stopped using homophobic language as a direct result, new research has revealed.

Nearly all pupils, 96 per cent, said the events in schools had made them more aware of the impact of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and attitudes on others, while 92 per cent said they’d since reflected on their own use of language.

Furthermore, of those pupils who said they previously held negative views towards the LGBT community, 86 per cent said their attitudes had changed positively after attending the assemblies.

If that was all the TIE Campaign had achieved in three years it’d be impressive enough: reducing bullying is an incredible thing. But there are more benefits to inclusive education. It’s encouraged kids to seek better information about safe sex and relationships, and by questioning gender norms it’s helping non-LGBT kids too. As guidance teacher Chloe Divers from Motherwell told the Herald:

One of my colleagues, a computing teacher, has found she has more female students signing up when traditionally it was more male. She thinks because we’ve tackled this as a whole that we’ve challenged stereotypes and broken down gender norms. So we’re finding it’s breaking through into choices now as well.

Also in the Herald, Angela Haggerty writes:

…schools are still only emerging from the shadow of Section 28. The law, repealed in 2000, prevented teachers from discussing LGBT issues with children in schools.

We can’t reverse the mistakes of the past, but we can ensure we don’t repeat them today.

No, the government hasn’t said it’s okay to discriminate

Imagine I started a petition claiming that the government was going to ban bees and demanding that it didn’t.

“We’re not going to ban bees,” the government would respond. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

How would you report that? Would you:

(a) Conclude that ‘arseholes create petition about imaginary problem’ wasn’t newsworthy in the first place?

(b) Write a brief story noting that some arseholes created a petition and that the government told them to get stuffed?

Or (c) Run the story with the headline “Bee friends force government into humiliating climbdown”?

If you chose (c), you’re probably writing about trans issues for national newspapers.

(I have a more mature version of this going live on Metro today, where I’m not allowed to call people “arseholes” or say “fuck”).

Over the weekend, multiple newspapers ran a story that the government said trans people can be banned from toilets, changing rooms and other single-sex spaces.

That isn’t true. Doing so is illegal.

Here’s what actually happened.

  • Anti-trans activists created a petition demanding the government consults them before changing existing equality legislation;
  • The government politely told them to fuck off on the grounds that they aren’t considering changing existing equality legislation.

To see that presented as a victory for anti-trans campaigners is quite something.

Here’s how the law works. Under the Equality Act, which has been in force for eight years now, you cannot discriminate against trans people. In very specific circumstances, such as women’s refuges, you can exclude trans people provided that doing so is legitimate and proportionate.

Over to you, Stonewall:

The exemptions in the law (which the Government referred to) only apply where services can demonstrate that excluding a trans person is absolutely necessary, for example, if inclusion would put that trans person at risk. However, these exemptions are rarely used and in almost all situations trans people are treated equally as is required by our equality laws.

…This kind of reporting also doesn’t reflect reality; trans people can and have been using toilets that match their gender for years without issue. This is another media-generated ‘debate’, and it’s actually having a negative effect on many people who aren’t trans too; people whose appearance doesn’t fit the stereotypes of male or female are increasingly being challenged for simply going into a public loo.

This lazy and/or wilful misreporting is dangerous. It completely misrepresents the law, and it’s contributing to a culture that’s already seen cisgender (ie, not trans) women chased out of bathrooms for not looking feminine enough. Trans people are victims, and newspapers repeatedly take the side of the bullies.

If you’re regurgitating press releases from pressure groups and failing to check even the simplest facts, you shouldn’t be in journalism.

 

Echoes

For many decades, homosexuality was believed to be a mental illness. Gay and lesbian people were given electro-shock therapy, aversion therapy and various chemical or psychiatric “cures”, many of them horrific.

We’re all groovy and tolerant these days, of course, but homosexuality wasn’t removed from the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) until 1973. And it took a long time for wider society to catch up with the medical and psychiatric consensus. Some bigots still argue that homosexuality is a mental illness, but thankfully most right-thinking people smile sweetly at those people and show them the door.

For many decades, transgenderism was believed to be a mental illness. Trans people were given electro-shock therapy, aversion therapy and various chemical or psychiatric “cures”, many of them horrific.

We’re all groovy and tolerant these days, of course, but transgenderism wasn’t removed from the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) until 2018. And it will take a long time for wider society to catch up with the medical and psychiatric consensus. Some bigots will still argue that transgenderism is a mental illness, but I hope most right-thinking people will smile sweetly at those people and show them the door.

Pride only goes so far

It’s Pride Month, when firms go out of their way to show how cool and groovy they are about LGBT* people. But beyond the posters and window displays, the picture is a lot less positive.

According to a survey of 1,000 employers, nearly half of employers would “probably” discriminate against trans job applicants.

That’s illegal. But just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Discrimination is rarely overt, and as a result it’s hard to challenge, let alone prove. You didn’t get the job because your interview skills weren’t great, not because you were visibly trans. Your temporary contract was terminated because that particular job was finished, not because your line manager thinks you’re a deviant. You were passed over for promotion because the other candidate had skills you don’t, not because the firm doesn’t want to send a trans person as its representative. And so on.

Some 47% of retail businesses surveyed said they were “unlikely to hire a trans person”; 45% of IT businesses said the same, with leisure and hospitality coming in at 35%. Even in the most inclusive industry, financial services, just 34% of employers said they were “agreeable” to hiring trans workers.

“Agreeable.” One-third of employers are “agreeable” to not breaking the law.

That’s bad enough, but what if many of them are lying? It’s a known problem with attitudinal surveys: while some people tell the truth, many tell the surveyor what they think that person wants to hear, or what they think will make them sound best.

That means the number of firms who’d actually hire trans people is probably even less.

Trans people get the shitty end of the stick in employment. Stonewall reports that around half of trans people hide their gender identity at work for fear of discrimination; of those who don’t, one-third have been verbally abused by customers or clients and 12% physically attacked.

Hiring is just the start. Firms that aren’t “agreeable” to abiding by anti-discrimination legislation are unlikely to be “agreeable” to providing a safe environment for trans staff. They’re unlikely to be “agreeable” to having policies against discriminatory behaviour by other employees. They’re unlikely to be “agreeable” to giving trans people fair consideration for promotion, or in the event of necessary job losses.

If nearly half of employers admit that they’d discriminate, you can be sure that the real problem is much, much worse.

Transing Nemo

PinkNews has discovered the latest incarnation of the sinister transgender agenda: we’re turning alligators into gal-igators.

That’s the claim from the anti-trans We Need To Talk group, whose meetings are conducted in great secrecy for fear the wider world would discover how deranged they are. As PN reports:

Elizabeth spoke to the audience about “synthetic hormones” taken by transgender people.

“Another thing that really breaks my kind of heart is oestrogen-ic pollution, which is that because of trans and because of HRT [hormone replacement therapy],” she said.

“We’re peeing a lot of oestrogen, synthetic oestogren [sic] into the water and that’s forcibly ‘trans-ing’ the fish, and that means that crocodiles and alligators are in danger.

“It means fresh water fish are in danger. It means we’re destroying the world partially because of the trans ideology.

The Venn diagram between anti-trans views and dingbat conspiracy theories has a huge overlap. It’s been claimed by people who are allowed to drive cars and operate heavy machinery that trans people are part of an international Jewish conspiracy, that we’re paid stooges of a Big Pharma conspiracy to get girls hooked on testosterone, that we’re soldiers of the Illuminati and so on.

Debunking conspiracy theories is rather like kicking a baby: it’s not a challenge and it isn’t any fun. But here goes. Is trans women’s urine transing Nemo?

First up, the hormones are bio-identical – they’re chemically identical to natural oestrogen. And secondly, if oestrogen is your concern then trans women should be very far down your list.

The last time we had a trans-fish scare, women on The Pill got the blame. If oestrogen is indeed feminising fish, we need to start with the many millions of farm animals on hormones: the annual oestrogen discharge by livestock in the US alone is twice that of humans. Once we’ve solved that, we could look at the 5-plus million women in the UK on hormonal contraception and HRT. Then by all means investigate the urine of a trans population measured in the thousands.

Like so much anti-trans rhetoric, blaming trans women for oestrogen in the water supply is just taking the piss.

Update:

I’m indebted to my friend Lorraine, who found this hilariously appropriate BBC Blue Planet blog:

As the authors of a 2009 scientific paper in the journal Sexual Development noted, “In the popular cartoon movie Finding Nemo, a male anemonefish loses his mate and must struggle alone to raise his offspring Nemo. In real life, Nemo’s father likely would have switched sex following his mate’s death, and then paired with a male.”

The First Time I Saw Me

This, a collaboration between Netflix and GLAAD, is wonderful and joyous.

It’s various trans people – Laura Jane Grace, Jazz Jennings, Jamie Clayton, Tiq Milan and many others – talking about the first time they saw people like them represented on screen.

If you’re straight, white and cisgender (it means “not trans”; I loved the suggestion I saw online that said cis could stand for “comfortable in skin”), you’re on screen all the time: you’re the default, the “normal”. And if you aren’t from that group, you’re often invisible.

Representation matters.

If you don’t see people like you represented in the wider culture, it reinforces the belief that you’re not normal, that there’s something wrong with you. That was certainly the case for me. It’s one of the reasons I blog about being trans: the thought that somewhere there’s a young version of me trying to work out who the hell they are.

Things are getting better. We have trans actors, models, comedians, musicians, journalists (hello!). But they’re still labelled as trans, not just as actors, models, comedians, musicians or journalists. There are no trans judges, MPs or MSPs, no trans newspaper columnists or news anchors – or at least, none that have come out. 

And all too often, trans characters are played in films and TV programmes by cisgender people. As actor Jamie Clayton says in her video, “it perpetuates a stereotype that, at the end of the day, I take this off… [these men] play a character and then they’re given an award but with a beard. And people think, ‘oh, that’s what trans is.'”

To paraphrase Derren Brown, being trans is just a piece of information about someone – and most of the time it’s not even one of the most interesting pieces of information about them. One day, videos like these won’t be necessary.