“It is an aged strategy, pitting one disadvantaged group against another”

Dr Rebecca Crowther writes in the Scottish Review about Scotland’s women’s movement and the vocal attempts by a tiny minority to turn back the clock.

Opposition to trans people is voiced almost daily in many newspapers and online. It is frequently featured on the radio and on television. It is an illusion that there are a majority of women against trans rights. An illusion ironically perpetuated by the very loud voices of the supposedly ‘silenced’.

…It is absurd for opponents of trans rights to say that the majority of our population would be on their side.

HAVR: Zodiak live at The Bungalow

My excellent and incredibly talented friend Becca Starr invited my band to play her new night at The Bungalow in Paisley last night, and she also made this video of our performance. It’s a currently unreleased song called Zodiak, and I’m trying very hard not to laugh as my microphone stand gets shorter and shorter as the song progresses.

Deception

The reaction to 57-year-old TV presenter Philip Schofield coming out as gay has been interesting. Interesting because it’s been a very different and much more positive reaction than the reaction to Jameela Jamil coming out as queer the day before, which says a lot about the racism, misogyny and intolerance queer women of colour have to endure.

And it’s interesting because despite the relative positivity there’s nevertheless been a really nasty outbreak of homophobia among some commentators and on social media.
Max Morgan puts it very well:

The main issue I want to address is the repeated portrayal of Schofield (and ergo other men who come out after years of marriage to a woman) as a liar and a deceiver, as someone who used his wife to cover his dirty little secret before ditching her when it was expedient for him to do so. I’m obviously not privy to the inner workings of the Schofields’ marriage, but I do know that in a great many cases this grubby insinuation couldn’t be further from the truth.
…For me, and so many others, the closet wasn’t a place where I said, “I’m gay, but I’m going to hide it in here,” it was a place in which I fought tooth and nail, at great psychological cost, to convince myself I wasn’t gay at all. I knew I liked boys when I was about 6 or 7. And I knew very shortly after that that a boy who likes other boys was the very worst thing you could possibly be. So I convinced myself I wasn’t that.

I’m older than Morgan and younger than Schofield, but we all grew up during a time when just to admit that LGBT+ people existed could cost people their jobs, when vicious homophobia was in the daily papers, when people like us were only ever portrayed as sick, perverted, predatory.

LGBT people who grew up in the 70s, 80s and 90s did so at a time where every aspect of the public discourse was awash with a particularly nasty and virulent brand of homophobia. The press, the media, even the government – fuck, especially the government – displayed an unflinching commitment to hammering home the message that being gay was wrong, shameful, disgusting.

We were perverts. We were predators. We were mentally ill. We were spreaders of disease. We were paedophiles, hell bent on corrupting children for our own nefarious ends. We were incapable of fidelity, or of love. We were a powerful lobby, to be feared and mistrusted. We were poofs, faggots and queers, dykes, rug-munchers and trannies. We were less than human and fair game for whatever violence came our way.

So many of us did exactly what the advocates of lethal conversion therapy want people like us to do: we tried with all our might not to be gay, or trans, or whichever part of the rainbow we are. We fought to try and make ourselves “normal”, to deny what our own brains and bodies were trying to tell us, to refuse to see any signs that we were who we were trying so hard not to be. Many of us managed to keep that fight going for decades.

I didn’t marry to deceive. I married because I was in love, and because I thought that love had cured me of my sadness. I genuinely believed that I could be Mr Right, and for a while I was.

Morgan:

I took those vows because I loved my wife, and that remains the case to this day. I would never knowingly have misled her, or undertaken any conscious act that would have hurt her in any way. Sure, there was a deception taking place, but it was a tangled and intricate web of self-deception, from which it would take me a further 13 years to extricate myself.

And the more people depend on you, the more awful the consequences of untangling that web.

I’m currently reading Stuck In The Middle With You, by Jennifer Finney Boylan – like me, a trans woman who came out after years of marriage and after becoming a parent. She writes:

I still believed, on some fundamental level, that love would cure me. That if only I were loved deeply by someone else, I would be content to stay a man… Of course, nobody really gets cured by love, but transsexuals are hardly the only people who believe romance will lead them outside of themselves. You can’t fault a person for hoping that love will make her into someone else, someone better. The world is full of false hopes, many of them dumber than the hope of being transformed by love.

But of course, understanding any of this requires compassion and empathy, something sorely lacking among the tedious contrarians and twitter trolls.

It’s no coincidence that many of the people condemning Schofield for his supposed “deception” are the same people calling Jameela Jamil a fake, a liar who‘s pretending to be queer in order to get “woke points”. As ever, the pejorative use of “woke” is the battle cry of the intolerant and privileged.

Many of them are also so-called “gender critical” activists who claim teenage trans kids aren’t old enough to know who they are (in many cases advocating dangerous and discredited conversion therapy, which converts many perfectly healthy LGBT kids into damaged or even dead ones) while telling trans women of my age that if we had really been suffering we’d have come out in our teens.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter to these people if we come out in our teens when we’re single, in our thirties when we’re in a relationship, or in married middle age. They don’t want us to come out at all. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

“Hot takes and salacious hate-reads”

There’s an interesting piece in The Guardian by Andrew Marantz about trolls, technology companies and how both have helped to fuel the resurgence of the far right. He argues that part of the rise is because journalism and traditional media was spectacularly unequipped to deal with it: the desire to remain neutral that’s appropriate for writing about tariffs and treaties can be exploited by “a racist movement full of creeps and liars”. You see a similar dynamic in bigotry, climate change denial, anti-vaccination and so on where extremist views are presented as one perfectly valid side of an equally balanced argument.

Neutrality has never been a universal good, even in the simplest of times. In unusual times – say, when the press has been drafted, without its consent or comprehension, into a dirty culture war – neutrality might not always be possible. Some questions aren’t really questions at all. Should Muslim Americans be treated as real Americans? Should women be welcome in the workplace? To treat these as legitimate topics of debate is to be not neutral, but complicit. Sometimes, even for a journalist, there is no such thing as not picking a side.

Hashtags aren’t healthcare

It’s #timetotalk day today, a day when people are encouraged to open up and talk about mental health. I’m not going to be negative about it – the organisations involved are good ones and I’ve written a lot here and in my songs about the importance of opening up about sadness, anxiety and other mental health problems. But without action, talk doesn’t change anything.

I lost two friends last year, both of whom were having mental health problems, and at least one of them had opened up about it. I know that because I was one of the people he opened up to, and we talked a lot about the problems he was having getting the right support and medication from his doctor. He took his own life shortly afterwards.

Never mind #timetotalk. How about #timetofundmentalhealthprovision? #timetostopstarvingmentalhealthservicesoffunds? #timetoinvestinchildmentalhealthservices? #timetodosomethingaboutgenderclinicwaitinglists? Not as catchy, I know. But much more accurate.

This, by Hannah Jane Parkinson, is from 2018 but it’s just as powerful and as relevant today (content warning: self-harm).

[it is] infuriating to come home from a secure hospital, suicidal, to a bunch of celebrity awareness-raising selfies and thousands of people saying that all you need to do is ask for help – when you’ve been asking for help and not getting it.

…The truth is: enough awareness has been raised. We – the public, the health professionals, the politicians – need to make our words and actions count for more.

There’s no point in asking for help if there’s no help available.

Adult kids say the funniest things

I’ve written before about dubious “the sinister trans cult stole my children” articles: all too often they turn out to demonstrate that some parents find it easier to blame sinister, shadowy forces than their own shortcomings when their grown-up children cut all contact. But I’ve rarely seen an example as downright awful as this one.

This is from The Christian Post last year, and it’s being widely circulated again by anti-trans types. I’m not linking to it because it’s just hateful and packed with some really, really unpleasant stuff.

The “kids” are in their twenties and thirties. The “anguished mom” is “tormented Lynn Meagher”.

Meagher lost contact with her son for nearly a decade after he came out as transgender. She reconnected with him in 2013, which was a struggle because she didn’t feel she could call him “she” or a woman, and use his preferred female name while remaining true to her beliefs — particularly that sex cannot be changed and no amount of cosmetic surgery can alter biology.

“I did the best I could to have a relationship with him where I just loved him for himself, and was hoping that we could just disagree on what we disagreed with and love each other anyway,” Meagher said.

Got that? I just want to love you for who you are, except for the “who you are” stuff. Incidentally, did you count the deliberate misgenderings in those two paragraphs? I make it eight.

The thing about grown-up children is that they can speak for themselves. Here’s Meagher’s daughter, posting in November in a discussion about the article.

She didn’t lose me to a cult. She lost me to her racism (she’s a Proud Boy). She lost me to her abuse (she threw me against the wall so I would stop crying). She lost me to her transphobia (she collected signatures for the anti-trans bathroom petition). She lost me to her greed (she stole survivors’ benefits the federal gov’t gave me to buy herself fur coats and a car). She lost me to her cruelty…

The Proud Boys are a US far-right group. If they’re not actually neo-Nazis, they’re incredibly good friends with many people who are.

Just in case you had any doubts about this woman’s eligibility for the Mother of The Year award, here’s a message from her son, responding to an article critical of his mother.

thank you thank you thank you for addressing her, her hateful rhetoric, and the article she wrote (which was originally uploaded with mine and my siblings full names, and was found when a friend of mine had searched my name for my top surgery fundraiser, basically outing me as trans to future employers. it makes my situation more manageable to know that people see through her BS, even without knowing about the emotional/religious abuse and physical violence she inflicted on all of her children and husband for years. thank you.

The article notes that our anguished mom has made lots of new friends, not just from far-right groups but also some of the leading lights of the UK anti-trans movement. They gave her “lots of hugs.” Which sounds like more love than she ever gave her children.

If the Starbucks Mermaids advert was real

Starbucks’ lovely and groundbreaking advert, which features a young trans man summoning up the courage to ask for his new name on his coffee cup, is important: as I’ve written before, representation matters. Seeing someone like you in mainstream media, in this case on a major TV channel, can help you feel that you’re not alone. I had a good cry when I saw it.

There’s been a somewhat mixed response online (discounting the obvious fury of the Prosecco Stormfront mob on Mumsnet) because of course, Starbucks is a big company that’s hardly known for its positive effects on the world around it. But if it’s going to be throwing its money around on advertising anyway, I’d much rather it threw its money at adverts like this one and at charities such as Mermaids, which this campaign is supporting.

My own reaction is amusement, because when I first used my new name in a Starbucks things didn’t happen quite like they did in the advert.

Barista: What’s the name?
Me: Carrie.
Them: Gary?
Me: No, Carrie.
Them. Sorry, Karen.
Me: No, sorry, it’s Carrie.
Them: Kerry?
ME: No. Carrie. With a C.
Them: Ciara?
Me: No. Carrie. C-A-R-R-I-E.
Them. Carrie?
Me: Yes, Carrie. Like Carrie Fisher. Yes.
Them: OK. (Writes “Harry” on cup)

What doesn’t hit print

I linked to a Roy Greenslade piece the other day about the way UK newspapers invented a so-called immigration crisis. In it he wrote:

If you want to understand the populist media’s underlying agenda then you have to look not only at what gets published, but what doesn’t.

Here’s a great example of that. Every single time an anti-trans pressure group or disgruntled axe-grinder makes unsubstantiated claims about the supposed dangers and alleged overprescription of puberty blockers, it gets printed in the Daily Mail, The Sunday Times and other print publications.

Last week, a massive, reputable study with a huge sample size reported that puberty blockers are safe, reversible and in many cases life-saving. They have proven positive effects on teens’ mental health.

Not a single UK newspaper has mentioned it.