“Go home, make a cup of tea and dress normally”

Like many – and I suspect most – trans people I’ve experienced transphobic abuse, both online and in the real world. And like many trans people I didn’t report the real-world stuff to the police. I gave up on reporting online abuse to social networks years ago.

A new survey by anti-violence charity GALOP suggests I’m not alone.

Just one in seven trans people who experienced a transphobic attack – be it physical, verbal, sexual or online – reported it to the police.

Seventy per cent said this was because they felt that the police could not help them. A third said they expected the police to be transphobic, while another third said they experienced too many transphobic incidents to be able to report them all.

This simply shouldn’t happen in a civilised society:

One trans person who did report a transphobic incident to the police said: “One officer said I left myself open to being abused because I ‘chose to be different’.

“Misgendering throughout the interview then told that the physical assault, death threats and threats of further violence against me weren’t strong enough to do anything about and maybe I should ‘go home, make a cup of tea, and dress “normally”‘.”



It’s World Kindness Day

Any excuse to post this again:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, God Bess You Mr Rosewater


“This is a tough gig”

There’s an interesting story in The Guardian about a trans woman who’s had facial feminisation surgery. I’m glad it’s been positive for her, but I’m also glad that the piece also interviews Juno Roche about the reality for trans women like me.

Facial feminisation has allowed for the creation of “a kind of two-tier system where, on the whole, the most successful trans people are beautiful people that pass,” Roche continued. “People who are proud to be trans, and those people who can’t afford the surgery, fall into a separate category. That’s most people. And we have to create safety for everyone. It impacts on so many people, not just trans people.”

Roche understands the appeal of facial surgery for so many trans women. “If somebody wants to have an easy life, then boy, trans people deserve an easy life. This is a tough gig. But the truth is, if testosterone has shaped your face, it will have shaped your shoulders, your shoulder-to-hip ratio. It will have shaped your hands. Where does it stop?”

That’s exactly how I feel about it. If I had the money, and after dropping well over £10,000 on electrolysis and losing all my savings to COVID I certainly don’t, I don’t think I’d consider FFS. I consider electrolysis essential for me, because facial hair is the pumpkin in my particular Cinderella story: it limits where I can go and for how long I can go there. Hormones have made some worthwhile changes to my body. I haven’t ruled out other things. But I’m pretty sure that unless I win six figures on the lottery, FFS isn’t in my future.

I absolutely understand the desire for FFS. I’ve seen enough mockery of trans women’s appearances and experienced some of it myself to know that the people who claim to be “gender critical” are quite happy to judge trans women’s looks against the very same beauty standards they so deplore when applied to cisgender women. And the rest of the world judges us too.

A trans woman who is not conventionally beautiful (in a white, thin, cisgender, stereotypically feminine sense) will be reminded of this constantly through her life. FFS can make that much less likely to happen, and like cosmetic surgery generally it may make you more visually attractive to other people – something you’re going to think about if you’re single and fed up with people swiping left on you in dating apps.

But even if I could afford it, if I had the budget for the tracheal shave and the hair transplant and the brow reduction and the jaw reshaping,  I would still have these shoulders, this height, these proportions, this voice. And there would always, always be another thing to change.

Sophia, the woman in the story, looks pretty. But she’s still unsatisfied.

“On my face, I’m 75% there. I still have things I want to do on my body.” She nodded. “I’m planning other surgeries.”

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

A slackening grip on reality

There’s an interesting and disturbing long read by Alex Hern in The Guardian: The story of Facebook, QAnon and the world’s slackening grip on reality. It talks about how Facebook in particular encourages conspiracy theories.

The social network has always prided itself on connecting people, and when the ability to socialise in person, or even leave the house, was curtailed, Facebook was there to pick up the slack.

But those same services have also enabled the creation of what one professional factchecker calls a “perfect storm for misinformation”. And with real-life interaction suppressed to counter the spread of the virus, it’s easier than ever for people to fall deep down a rabbit hole of deception, where the endpoint may not simply be a decline in vaccination rates or the election of an unpleasant president, but the end of consensus reality as we know it. What happens when your basic understanding of the world is no longer the same as your neighbour’s?

The focus on this piece is QAnon, but there are strong parallels with another largely social media-driven movement, anti-trans activism – so much so that I’ve seen a number of people describe such obsessive activism as “QAnon for middle-class women”. Like QAnon its adherents claims there is a sinister conspiracy to target children; like QAnon they are often anti-semitic, alleging that the sinister conspiracy is funded by Jewish people generally and George Soros specifically; like QAnon they believe that there is a secret cabal of people who control the media and politics; like QAnon they include celebrities talking shit to large audiences.

“The industries that many celebrities work in – film, music, sport – were among the hardest hit by shutdowns. So even more than most of us, they suddenly found themselves with nothing to do but sit on Twitter,” Phillips says. “Not all of them did a Taylor Swift, spending the time recording an album. Some of them started sharing wild rumours to millions of followers instead.” This, then, is how we end up with Ian Brown, the former frontman of the Stone Roses, declaring that conspiracy theorist is “a term invented by the lame stream media to discredit those who can smell and see through the government/media lies and propaganda”.

And like QAnon, it’s bullshit that can only be perpetuated by denying reality and surrounding yourself with fellow conspiracists.

It’s not easy to overturn someone’s sense of reality, but even harder to restore it once it has been lost.

What frightens me most about this – and there are lots of things that frighten me about it – is that we know these conspiracies lead to real-world acts.


Handsome is not a personality

Writing in the Independent, Ceri Radford has an interesting review of some gender-swapped fairy tales.

the co-authors used an algorithm to flip all gendered language (‘he’ becomes ‘she’, ‘daughter’ becomes ‘son’) in the classic Fairy Books, a series published in the late 19th century that collected and popularised many traditional folk tales. While fairy stories have been rewritten countless times to make them more palatable to changing tastes, this is the first experiment to revisit the originals with a purist gender reversal, leaving the text otherwise untouched.

Radford saw the title and thought it was a gimmick, but found that on reading the book it was “a strangely disconcerting experience”.

It’s one thing to know that misogynistic stereotypes exist, another to peer into the machine that creates them. After countless run-ins with scheming wizards, I started to find myself feeling hostile and suspicious towards any old man strolling across the pages. With the genders reversed, it became stark and ridiculous how almost every reference to a young guy concerned his appearance and his clothes.

…The thing I found most unnerving was that even after just half an hour of reading manufactured tales with a cynical hat on, I started to get sucked into the belittlement of young men, beginning to expect them to be nothing but weak window-dressing. In reality, when there are centuries of cultural norms combined with structures that encase real-world gender roles, it’s no wonder that the pace of change towards equality makes the average glacier look like Usain Bolt being pursued by a bear.



President-elect Joe Biden specifically mentioned trans people in his acceptance speech the other evening. Trans people worldwide breathed a sigh of relief: while the US presidency is of course directly relevant to the American people, Trump’s embrace of anti-LGBT+ evangelists had, and has, worldwide effects.

If you’re not trans, you might wonder why a mere mention got so many of us so emotional. Here’s writer Parker Molloy, posting on Twitter.

There have been several times during this presidency that I woke up, looked at my phone, and felt my heart just sink through the floor because the president is a needlessly, intentionally cruel person.

This was one of the days, back in 2017. [link goes to story about Trump’s ban on trans people serving in the military]

It just came out of nowhere. And while I’ve never been in the military, never will be… it’s usually a bad sign when governments start singling out groups to ban from things like their militaries.

His rationale didn’t make sense. The cost was minimal, there hadn’t been problems since the ban was lifted during the Obama era, etc.

But the reason that hit me with such a sense of unease was that if you can convince people who go around talking about how much they love “the troops,” and convince them that some of those troops should be kicked out with a new policy based solely on who they are, you can CERTAINLY convince the public to accept government-sanctioned discrimination against those who aren’t in the military.

It was a very “oh shit, he’s going to really start leaning into a series of policies aimed at hurting trans people.” And he did. Pretty consistently from there on out.

And then it later came out that he just did it on a whim. There was no legitimate need, he just wanted to make the bigots in the House Freedom Caucus happy (their name is very ironic. “Freedom”) and didn’t want to go to a meeting.

During his presidency, Trump didn’t just institute a ban on trans people in the military. His administration and his evangelical friends attempted to exclude trans people from human rights protections, attempted to permit employment discrimination against trans people, and decided to make it legal for doctors and emergency responders to refuse any healthcare to trans people. And as Molloy says, that’s just us. The last four years have been an unending assault on marginalised people of every kind.

In that context, to hear the US President-to-be mention trans people without an insult and without an announcement of yet another threat to our human rights is cause for celebration. That’s how low the bar is for us right now.


I can’t say I’m sad to see the end of an era where I’m going to have to wonder if I’m going to wake up to the president tweeting out a deranged attack on people like me just for the fun of it.



In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s defeat, the commentariat are urging us to feel empathy for the would-be dictator, his acolytes and his supporters.

That’s certainly the right thing to do, the loving thing to do, the Christian… oh, fuck that and fuck those people. They put kids in cages and permanently separated them from their parents. They contributed to the deaths of nearly 275,000 people. They urged legislators to let evangelicals leave LGBT+ people to die in the name of religious freedom. They began a process that they hope will lead to the reversal of equal marriage and restrictions on women’s reproductive rights. They stood side by side with neo-Nazis. They put a rapist and a criminal enterprise in the White House.

Where was their empathy?

As author Elizabeth Sandifer put it:

Mussolini was summarily executed, dumped outside a train station, pissed on, and then hung upside down on display from a meat hook, and so I think everyone arguing that the left needs to reach out to the right needs to appreciate just how conciliatory we’re already being.

Hell in a handcart

Too little, too late

Media companies are finally doing what they should have been doing years ago. In the last few days Twitter has put most of Donald Trump’s incendiary tweets behind barriers that point out that the content of the tweets isn’t true. YouTube has kicked off former Trump strategist Steve Bannon after he called for public figures to be beheaded. And multiple broadcasters cut away from Donald Trump’s live-streamed rambling “remarks” last night on the grounds that he was lying through his teeth and potentially inciting violence.

It would have been good if they’d done this five years ago. But they didn’t. Given the choice of doing the right thing or platforming the far-right thing, they did the latter.

I hope the ad revenues were worth it.



“Some of us felt you leave”

A powerful Twitter thread by writer and academic Alice Tarbuck:

I have been schooling my tongue, but I would just like to say: for those of us living alone, COVID feels like a sudden ‘stop’ in a game of musical chairs. There are those who found a seat, already found spouses, had children, acquired pets. There are those of us who didn’t.

And of course, everybody’s situation is hard. But all the people whose shutters came down, who were able to retreat into their households and didn’t need to reach out for social/emotional support and so didn’t, well. Not everybody is in that position. Some of us felt you leave.

And I am delighted that people have lives they can retreat into and not be on their own! Just delighted! But I wonder if there might be consideration of what it means to break contact, to stop reaching out, when others don’t have that luxury, when others might need that contact.

Nobody chose to be lonely, and nobody is as safe in their un-loneliness as they think they are.

Kindness should never be extended as apotropaic* magic, of course, but perhaps ‘treating others as one would wish to be treated’ wards against your own future chair-stop.

Because goodness, one day you might wish it had been.

* Having the power to avert evil or bad luck. I had to look it up.

Hell in a handcart

If Trump goes

I’m writing this before the US election result is called; right now it looks like a narrow win for Joe Biden.

I hope so, although I fear the aftermath amid the warlike rhetoric coming from Trumpists right now. And I worry about the longer term too. Despite everything he’s done and everything we know about him, Trump nearly got elected again: a huge proportion of the US electorate saw kids in cages, election rigging, racism, anti-LGBT+ discrimination, blatant corruption, criminal activity and the avoidable deaths of more than 200,000 people and thought “yep, I’d like four more years of that.”

If Trump goes, that sentiment remains. Think of him as a trial balloon for the next, much more dangerous Republican president.