Not in your name

I’m going to resist the temptation to make too many obvious jokes about The Pope’s latest damnation of trans people; you can come up with your own variations of “…says a man in a dress who thinks his boss lives in the sky”, I’m sure.

I’d rather talk about yet another survey that shows growing support of LGBT rights and trans rights specifically. The survey, by a non-partisan research organisation, found that 47% of US republicans, 61% of independents and 3/4 of Democrats were more supportive of transgender rights than they were five years ago. That works out as six out of ten.

More detail:

Nearly 70% of Catholics reported becoming more supportive of transgender rights over the last five years, versus 60% of nonwhite Protestants and 52% of white evangelical Protestants, the findings published Tuesday say.

The study isn’t a surprise. Again and again we’ve seen large scale surveys demonstrate rising support for LGBT rights generally and trans rights specifically, even among groups such as white evangelical Protestants.

That’s at odds with public reporting of such issues, which overwhelmingly centres the views of anti-trans individuals and organisations. Of course such people exist, but they’re not representative of the wider public. And the more the wider public actually gets to know trans people, the less representative the extremists’ views become.

Just like racism and homophobia, transphobia thrives on fear and ignorance. The more of us come out, the harder it becomes for the bigots to make you fear us. That’s why support is rising in tandem with increasing visibility. It’s easy to hate bogeymen. It’s harder to hate the people you life with, work with, socialise with.

TIME quotes Robert P. Jones, the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute:

“Increase in support for transgender rights tracks fairly closely with the large increase in support for gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans,” he tells TIME. Jones also says the number of Americans who report having a close friend or family member who is transgender has doubled since 2015, and that “having a close relationship with someone transgender is strongly correlated with holding more supportive views of transgender rights.”

Unfortunately the downside of this is that the more supportive the world becomes, the more vicious the zealots’ response. The media climate today is much more vicious towards trans people than it was five years ago, even though the world is much more accepting.

This is where you can make a difference. You can choose not to pay for publications that pick on trans people, or to entertain chat from people whose knowledge of trans people comes solely from those publications. You can donate to charities such as LGBT Youth Scotland, who try to help trans and gender non-conforming kids in an increasingly hateful media climate.

Most of all, you can refuse to be silent when you encounter misinformation, prejudice and ignorance. We can’t change the climate without you.

Toilet Terror

I lived up to a negative trans stereotype the other day: I hid in a toilet because I shouldn’t have been there.

It was the gents, of course.

I should probably explain.

Although I’ve transitioned legally and socially, there are times when I don’t present female: the days I’m getting electrolysis, which require me to have facial hair (you can’t stab and jab hair that isn’t there); and the days I’m with the kids, because it’s currently easier to do that in boy mode. So I’m leading a double life on those days, and inevitably that means I get confused from time to time.

I got confused on Saturday, when I was at a women-only event in a place catering for multiple different events. After a lengthy search for any toilet, I went into the gents without thinking. It was only when I sat down in the cubicle that I remembered about the make-up, and the wig, and the obviously female clothing.

Oops.

So I hid. I hid because I was intensely embarrassed, and because I could hear other people using the facilities and could really do without any kind of confusion or confrontation. And when I finally exited the cubicle, I walked straight into an old guy whose face did the most perfect “what the fuck?” expression I’ve ever seen.

Later that day, I did it again.

This time I was in the ladies, presenting male. We were in a fast food place and my young son needed to use the toilet; his sister escorted him but he then decided he wanted to chat with me as he went about his business. So I had to share a cramped cubicle with him in the ladies toilet for what felt like four hours.

What both events have in common for me is fear. In both cases I was scared someone would yell at me for using the wrong toilet. And that’s a fear I have in my everyday life as me too. When I’m somewhere I don’t know I try not to drink too much liquid so I don’t have to go at all, and I avoid going until it’s actually painful. I’ve been known to get a taxi home in severe discomfort rather than use the ladies. This isn’t unusual. Many trans people, and trans kids in secondary school in particular, end up with infections because they avoid using toilets.

Even when I’m going places I do know it’s something I think about, something I take into consideration when I’m deciding what to wear. For example, I’m going to the pub quiz tonight in my local, and quiz nights are usually busier, the customers mainly people who don’t know me. So I’m already planning what I’m going to wear, asking myself whether it’s feminine enough so I can use the ladies without being yelled at. The fact I’ve never actually been yelled at doesn’t matter; it’s a fear, not a prediction.

I figured I’d miss some things about being male when I transitioned, but I never imagined I’d miss being able to go for a carefree wee.

Weaponising media

Detroit Pride this weekend.

Another day, another bunch of saddening headlines: armed neo-Nazis with a police escort intimidating Pride attendees in the US, lesbian women attacked in the street in England, the usual raft of anti-LGBT hatred in the press.

Two UK stories stood out for me, because they demonstrate two elements of the same thing: how anti-trans individuals and groups play the media and social media.

First up, Edinburgh University. An anti-trans event led to the mass resignation of the university’s staff pride network and lurid headlines about an attack on one of the speakers.

The reporting of this has been interesting. The staff pride network quit partly because of the event, but mainly because the university attempted to stop them from publicly criticising it. Fans of irony may want to use the words “silencing” or “erasure” here. They were also appalled by the university’s withdrawal from the Stonewall workplace equality index in “a reversal of the progress that the network has made over the last three years. We feel viscerally upset that the good work over the last three years is being undone.”

For most of the media, however, that wasn’t the story. The story, the bit that appeared in headline after headline, was that one of the speakers, Julie Bindel, was physically attacked by a trans woman.

Except she wasn’t.

Bindel, a well connected journalist and activist, has long agitated against trans people, and tends to attract protest when she speaks: some university LGBT+ groups have attempted to have her events cancelled on the grounds that they encourage hatred of LGBT+ students. Immediately after the Edinburgh event, she tweeted:

I was physically attacked as I left the event for the airport.

Except she wasn’t. She was shouted at.

I’m sure that was frightening, but a professional writer should know the difference between “physically attacked” and “shouted at”. Such as, “shouted at by protester” won’t get you in the papers; “physically attacked” will.

When PinkNews approached her for comment on the apparent difference between what she said on social media and what actually happened, Bindel  said: “I despise your woman-hating, anti-lesbian rag, and would rather give Donald Trump a massage than speak to you.”

It’s as if there’s some kind of agenda here.

Did someone say agenda?

Last week, the NSPCC threw Munroe Bergdorf under the bus. Bergdorf, a trans woman, is hate figure for anti-trans bigots; given the blurred lines between them, the alt-right and racists of various stripes the fact Bergdorf is a woman of colour no doubt played a factor too.

The news that Bergdorf was going to be one of the public faces of the NSPCC’s Childline led to a storm of protest and a cowardly decision by the NSPCC to “cut ties” with her.

The furore was spearheaded by Times columnist Janice “trans people are sacrificing our children” Turner. It claimed that Bergdorf was a “porn model” (a deliberately inflammatory reframing of the fact she once posed for Playboy) who shouldn’t be around children (one of the oldest tropes in the bigots’ playbook) and mobilised Twitter users to say they would cancel their direct debits to the charity.

Was any of it real?

Twitter user Helen, aka MimmyMum (parents of trans kids use pseudonyms on Twitter because of the abuse they’re subjected to) analysed the protesting accounts and found an interesting pattern. They don’t seem to follow the accounts of child protection groups or charities such as the NSPCC. But they do follow the most rabidly anti-trans pressure groups.

It’s as if there’s some kind of agenda here.

Update:

Many people have pointed out the apparent double standards of the NSPCC and of the activists here.

Previous Childline/NSPCC ambassadors have included the topless model Melinda Messenger and lingerie model Abby Clancy, neither of whom have attracted the attention of Janice Turner and the “protect children” crowd. By a strange coincidence, Messenger and Clancy are not black or trans. And the NSPCC’s current ambassadors include the cisgender, white, footballer Wayne Rooney, who has been arrested for drunk driving and whose controversial sex life includes many allegations about infidelity and the use of prostitutes. Nobody seems to have a problem with that either.

That the NSPCC could do this while proudly flying the pride rainbow has upset many, including UK Black Pride.  “To the spineless leadership of the NSPCC,” they posted earlier, “remove the rainbow from your branding. You’ve quite the journey ahead to prove you’re worthy of flying our flag.”

Straight talk about “straight pride”

One of the “straight pride” organisers out for a walk.

Most of the coverage I’ve seen of the so-called “straight pride” march apparently happening in Boston has demonstrated how broken much of the media has become. It’s been treated in “and finally…” style, a gently amusing little story in much the same style as a cat on a skateboard or a dog that can say sausages.

Whereas the reality is that it’s a stunt by a bunch of violent neo-Nazi thugs who want to create a white Christian ethnostate, who are preparing for a race war and who believe non-compliant women should be raped.

Tee-hee! Here’s Carol with the weather!

The organisation behind the proposed march is a rebrand of Resist Marxism, a violent, far-right group with very strong links to neo-Nazi extremists. Leader Mark Shahady organised a violent rally in late October to which he invited the notorious Proud Boys, who attacked protesters.

In December, Shadady hosted an anti-immigration “debate” where a known neo-Nazi organisation called Patriot Front provided “security”. As Antifash Gordon, an anti-Nazi activist, writes on Twitter:

Patriot Front is an openly neo-Nazi organization that endorses the use of “ethnostate rape gangs” to police the behavior of white women after they win the race war they think is coming. https://unicornriot.ninja/2018/americans-fascists-inside-patriot-front/

Their leader is a member of Resist Marxism.

These lovely gentlemen attended the Boston Women’s March this year, where they attacked attendees. There’s footage of Sahady attempting to assault a trans woman.

There is much, much more of this. Gordon has a long thread providing evidence.

Here’s how the Guardian chose to cover it: with a sideways look at the hilarity of a straight pride march.

Do say: “If Straight Pride had been invented sooner, they might not have had to close all those branches of Burton.”

Don’t say: “Where are all you guys going? The Boat Show’s that way!”

Apparently there’s a lighter side to ethnofascism, violence and rape.

In fairness The Guardian has since reported on the background of the organisers, but like most such coverage it’s too little too late. A stunt by some utterly despicable, vicious, bigoted people has become a global news event, a funny little item at the end of a broadcast, yet another opportunity for the far right to spread their hate.

This is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a snigger.

A bit of the white stuff

The various candidates for the Conservative party leadership haven’t just been falling over themselves to be sexist and homophobic. Some of them have been keen to talk about their pasts as drug hoovers too. Michael Gove has spoken about his use of cocaine while Andrea Leadsom has admitted to smoking cannabis. That makes her the sixth candidate to admit taking drugs. The others are Rory Stewart, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab.

It’s all very amusing, and most people don’t clutch their pearls at the idea of any adult taking recreational drugs. Or at least, we don’t until we look at the anti-drug policies these hypocrites have long supported or promoted. For example in 1999, Michael Gove allegedly hosted cocaine parties while writing in the Times about how he opposed liberalisation of drug laws.

Physicians have long urged UK governments and the Conservatives in particular to change their approach to drugs. In 2016, the Royal Society for Public Health concluded that the “war on drugs” didn’t deter drug misuse but did prevent people from getting help and inhibited harm reduction efforts. As Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, told the BMJ: “The criminal justice system is not the place to address the often complex needs of people addicted to drugs.”

Professor David Nutt, former senior drug advisor to the government, puts it simply.

…the attitude of politicians to drugs has always been very dishonest. They seem to feel that it’s OK for them to break the law but not for others to do the same.

It’s not just OK for “them”, but for people like them too. Cocaine use is widespread in media and political circles, and has been for a very long time. If you’re, say, a Times columnist, a tabloid editor or a Conservative politician, there are very few consequences to recreational drug use. Whereas if you’re black, possessing cannabis will get you deported.

The war on drugs is recognised globally as a failure: it does nothing to stem supply or demand, but it does ruin thousands of lives and puts thousands of people in prison.  Very few of those people are white Etonians.

Politicians lie about drugs. They pretend to be ingenues offered mysterious white substances at dinner parties, unable to tell the difference between icing sugar and cocaine. They pretend that they only made their “mistake” once. And they pretend that they regret doing it, when their only regret is that the papers got wind of it.

What they never seem to regret is the damage done by the unnecessary criminalisation of people who do exactly what they do, but who don’t have the right skin colour or didn’t go to the right school.

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

Lesbian couple attacked on London bus after refusing to kiss for men

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

Esther McVey: Parents should have power to stop 15-year-olds learning gays exist  

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

Restaurant refuses lesbian couple due to “unhealthy relationship”

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

Body of a black transgender woman pulled from Dallas lake

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

DA: gay couples shouldn’t get domestic violence protection

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

Alabama mayor suggests “killing out” gay people

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

Bullied trans teen leaves heartbreaking note after dying by suicide

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

Village disowns Dutee Chand, India’s first openly gay athlete

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

Police arrest suspect carrying knife near Jerusalem Pride parade

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

LGBT tour operator faces death threats over Ethiopia trip

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

Discrimination at work faced by half of all LGBT employees

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

Two in three older LGBT people face discrimination in healthcare

Why can’t we have a straight Pride month?

These headlines are all from the last few days. I could treble the number by including anti-LGBT columns from supposedly respectable publications.

Instead I’ll quote Shawn Olson, former Minneapolis State Senate candidate:

Gay Pride was not born of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a straight Pride movement, be thankful you don’t need one.

 

 

“Yes, we’ll be safe. But at what cost?”

This is a powerful piece by Stella Duffy in response to today’s horrific photos of two lesbian women beaten up on a London bus.

THIS is what it’s like. Every fucking day that I am not behind the closed front door of my home. THIS is what it’s like to walk down the street with my wife and know that neither she nor I feel at ease holding each others’ hands let alone making any stronger gesture of love. THIS is what it’s like being queer and has been all of my adult life, most of my teenage life from the time I knew I was ‘different’ and was aware why I felt that way. Not knowing if we’re safe, not knowing what it might feel like to feel safe with my loved one.

A little stage for the ladies

In February, the TRNSMT festival attracted a lot of criticism (including from me) for its line-up: after pledging to improve gender balance, 2019’s bill was less equal than 2018’s.

Promoter DF concerts has now announced that there will be an extra stage at this year’s festival, the Queen Tut’s Stage (for readers outside Scotland, DF runs the legendary venue King Tut’s Wah-Wah Hut).

It’ll also make room for members of Scottish Women Inventing Music, a new organisation that campaigns for gender equality across the music business, to raise awareness of what they do (vested interest alert: I’m a member of SWiM. They’re great. You should join).

The announcement has been met with widespread derision on social media. DF’s move misses the point. It’s tokenistic. It doesn’t change the fact that there are hardly any women on the big stage. Look at Primavera Sound: it’s got 50/50 balance already.

I completely agree that the TRNSMT line-up could have been better this year. But I think it’s important to differentiate between what DF Concerts should have done in the first place and what it can actually do after the contracts have been signed and the logistics put in place.

It would have been nice to suddenly see artists such as Robyn or St Vincent or (add your favourite here) displace some of the the current main stage acts, and I’d have bought a ticket in a heartbeat, but if they weren’t available when the lineups were being finalised they’re probably not going to be any more available now.

Is the Queen Tut’s stage tokenistic? Maybe. But is it better to have it than not to have it? I think so. 18 acts who weren’t previously booked for the festival have now got a gig, and that’s got to be a good thing.

Let’s assume good faith here. Let’s interpret this year’s Queen Tut’s stage as a mea culpa, not a hollow PR stunt. Let’s interpret it as the beginning of something positive. Let’s interpret it as a huge promoter saying: “We got it wrong this year. We’re going to do better.”

To which we should answer: “Okay. Great. How?”

The reason is there is no reason

I politely declined to go on a radio programme last night. The topic was YouTube’s selective enforcement of its anti-harassment and hate speech rules, with a look at the wider issue of online abuse, but the other contributor would be an antagonist who’d argue that the real victims of online abuse are the people who do the abusing.

I’m not going to help legitimise that.

We often assume that someone on the other side of a debate is just like us: if it turns out that our facts are wrong, we change our views. It’s a nice idea that’s been ruthlessly exploited by people who aren’t interested in facts. Demolish argument #1 and they’ll calmly switch to argument #2, even if it completely contradicts the previous argument. The goal is not to be right. The goal is to win, to tire you out or goad you until you snap.

As I’ve written before, what these people do is not a debate; it’s a performance. And you can see a great example of it in Donald Trump’s justifications for his ban on trans people serving in the military.

You may recall that when Trump originally promised to ban trans people, the reason was because the presence of trans people “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion”. It was a “military decision”.

A few months later, that was dropped after the military said “no, it wasn’t”. Suddenly it wasn’t a military decision. It was a financial one. The government didn’t want to pay the cost of trans people’s surgeries.

That one was debunked too. Now, he’s saying it’s because trans people “take massive amounts of drugs”.

Whether they’re true or not (they’re not, of course) doesn’t matter. He might as well tell us that the ban is because a mysterious hooded figure came to him in a dream, or that somebody told him that trans people are fatal to mice. The reason for the trans ban is that Trump wants a trans ban.

We’re confusing the beginning and the end. Trump didn’t decide to implement a trans ban because of X, Y and Z. He decided to implement a trans ban because he decided to implement a trans ban. X, Y and Z are merely flags of convenience; if they don’t fly, he’ll try A, B and C.

It’s cruel, of course, as are the other anti-trans (and anti-women) activities of the administration. They’re not based on evidence, but on a desire to hurt specific groups of people.

The cruelty isn’t an accident. The cruelty is the point.

The same process was visible with Betsy DeVos, the US education secretary. DeVos says that her office “is committed to ensuring all students have access to their education free from discrimination,” and the way to do this is to discriminate against trans students. When asked if she was aware of the negative effects discrimination has on trans students, she said “I do know that. I But I will say again that [my office] is committed to ensuring all students have access to their education free from discrimination.”

Of course it doesn’t make sense. It’s not supposed to. DeVos doesn’t care about evidence because the decision is not based on evidence. She wants to discriminate against trans students because she wants to discriminate against trans students.

The cruelty isn’t an accident. The cruelty is the point.

The same thing happens with the various anti-trans groups that have sprung up from nowhere to agitate against the rights and dignity of trans people, claiming to respect “genuine” trans people while fomenting hatred against them. Their ground is constantly shifting: as each specious argument is shown to be false, a new one takes its place.

Like Trump, the reason they hate trans people isn’t because X, or Y, or Z, so their views won’t change if you discredit X, or Y, or Z. They hate trans people because they hate trans people.

The cruelty isn’t an accident. The cruelty is the point.

In my head there’s nothing but music

Update: I never got to see Prince live, so I’m jealous that the excellent Professor Batty met him. Kinda.

I used to wonder why Prince gave away so many songs, many of which were enormous hits: The Bangles’ Manic Monday, Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U, Chaka Khan’s I Feel For You, Martika’s Love Thy Will Be Done and many, many more.

I think I get it now. He needed to make some room in his own head.

I’m not comparing myself to Prince here – a tendency to wear fishnets and a love of electric guitars is about as far as any comparison goes – but since I’ve got properly back into music I’ve found it almost impossible to cope with the number of songs I’m writing.

Earlier this year, my band set out to record a four-song EP. We ended up recording 13 songs, and then we broke up with our drummer and re-recorded them again. And in the meantime me and bassist Kenny kept writing. And writing. And writing.

Right now I reckon I’ve got 18 songs ready to mix and master, and another 18 in various stages of completeness. And the latter ones are pressuring me about the former. “Forget about those guys!” they say. “You’re with me now!”

I deal with this by ignoring both lots of songs and writing another one instead. I wrote one yesterday. It’s brilliant. Make that 19 other songs in various stages of completeness. It might be 20 by lunchtime. And those are just the songs I’ve written in the last six months or so. I’ve been doing this for years.

Not all of my songs are releasable, I know. Like any musician some of my songs are better than others. But I’m also well aware that some of the songs I’ve written just don’t fit with my band. For example, I’ve got a really great (and really badly recorded) song called I Didn’t Kiss You This Christmas that doesn’t fit the band I’m in. There are many, many more across all kinds of genres.

I doubt I’m alone in this. Music is one of those things where the more you do it, the more you do it: the act of creating something spurs you on to create something else. We’re only human, and we can only do so much.

If you’re Prince, you can pass some of your songs on to others. And if you aren’t, you’ll have to decide which ones to abandon forever.