Get Killt

My excellent pal and fellow radio blabber Louise Blain has launched a new podcast, Killt. As a glamorous radio celeb I was of course allowed to hear it before anybody else and trust me, it’s a wee treat.

Killt is a podcast about podcasts: specifically, true crime podcasts. If you’re a fan of the genre you’ll know how frustrating finding the good stuff can be. That’s where Louise comes in: she’s your guide to the good stuff, a digital detective helping you find the true killers in a genre often choked by filler.

It’s on Spotify here: https://spoti.fi/3aGwcBo
And Apple has it here: https://apple.co/2VYMwJE

Transphobia is as British as bad teeth

Juliet Jacques in the New York Times:

Transphobia Is Everywhere in Britain: it’s a respectable bigotry, on the left as well as the right.

…There are two main types of British transphobia. One, employed most frequently but not exclusively by right-wing men, rejects outright the idea that gender might not be determined only by biological traits identifiable at birth. This viewpoint can often be found in publications aligned with the Conservative Party, such as The Spectator, The Times and The Telegraph, all of which are looking for a new “culture war” to pursue now that the long, exhausting battle over Brexit has finally been resolved in favor of Leavers

The other type, from a so-called radical feminist tradition, argues that trans women’s requests for gender recognition are incompatible with cis women’s rights to single-sex spaces.

It’s telling that Jacques, a former Guardian writer, had to approach a US publication to get the article published.

Meanwhile closer to home, Helen Martin in the Edinburgh News claims that gender recognition reform will lead to…

women’s shops compelled to supply men’s lingerie and size 12 stilettos

This is from the same school as the equal marriage claim that letting gay people marry would lead to people marrying dogs and cousins.

Transphobia is as British as bad teeth and unfunny sitcoms. As poet Jay Hulme noted on Twitter, we’ve had transphobia as part of our culture for hundreds of years. The word “bad” originally meant a feminine man.

I’d say that everyone in Britain over the age of 20 (at least) has done or said something transphobic, and so calling out transphobia means calling out a whole nation – and British people don’t do well with guilt.

…You’ll find transphobic tropes lurking in art and literature from the 1500’s, the 1400’s, earlier. They’re basically the same ones making up the transphobia in 2000’s comedy.

…The world has been transphobic for a long time, Britain just held on to it. Made it funny. Made it ours. Put it in the fabric of the nation. Made everyone complicit. Made everyone guilty. And now we’re fighting for trans rights we seem unreasonable – and everyone feels attacked.

IWD2020

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to thank the truly incredible women and non-binary people I’m so lucky to know and without whom I’m nothing: writers and rappers, podcasters and promoters, activists and artists, booksellers and bassists, crafters and comedians, singers and scientists… my family and my found family.

Love and power to you all x

The Guardian: don’t you dare criticise us

There’s been a lot of online upset over yet another anti-trans column in The Guardian, part of its overwhelmingly negative and one-sided coverage of trans-related issues – coverage that has led three trans staff to resign and notable trans writers to refuse to write for the paper.

This week over 200 notable feminists wrote to the paper in protest and to affirm their support of trans people. The Guardian treated their letter with contempt.

As Gal-Dem explains:

The Guardian published the letter, but perhaps the most disheartening part of this process was their decision to title it: “Differing perspectives on trans rights”, and summarise over 200 signatories to 14 plus “over 100 others”. On the same page, the paper also included a number of letters in support of the original piece; something they did not do for a letter in support of sex-based organising with 13 signatories last week.

It wasn’t for reasons of space; the online version didn’t list the signatories either. Here’s a summary from PinkNews.

British politicians including Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green Party; Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrat equalities spokesperson; and Labour MPs Zarah Sultana and Nadia Whitome have all signed the letter.

…It is signed by leading women and non-binary people from a cross-section of British public life, including musician Beth Ditto; author Reni Eddo-Lodge; UK Black Pride founder Lady Phyll; editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, Claire Hodgson; Jo Grady, the general secretary of the UCU; and Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK.

A further 2,000 people (and climbing; right now the list of signatories just cracked 2,500) then wrote to the paper to protest its anti-trans coverage.

We the undersigned write to protest the on-going and extensive series of articles you have published claiming that women are being ‘silenced’ and that men are being invited into women-only spaces.

In the past year, you have run many articles seeking to position trans women as a threat to cis women, and arguing that cis women object to – and should object to – trans women in women-only space.

The letter is unlikely to get a more favourable response than the last one: shortly before it was submitted, Guardian editor Katharine Viner wrote to her staff to inform them that the paper is committed to represent “a wide range of views on many topics”– unless those views are critical of Guardian columnists. Staff were warned:

“It is never acceptable to attack colleagues whose views you do not agree with, whether in meetings, on email, publicly or on social media.”

In response, over 300 Guardian employees – a fifth of its workforce across not just editorial but production, commercial and digital too – have written to express their disgust at the paper’s stance. The list of signatories hasn’t been published, but it apparently includes some of the paper’s star writers.

We are proud to work at a newspaper which supports human rights and gives voice to people underrepresented in the media. But the pattern of publishing transphobic content has interfered with our work and cemented our reputation as a publication hostile to trans rights and trans employees.

That’s an incredible number of people for any media organisation, but particularly for a paper that’s supposed to be speaking truth to power and defending minorities.

All together now: Nazi punks f*** off

Glasgow’s Classic Grand venue will host a festival including neo-Nazi bands later this year. The organiser, who’s either a Nazi or incredibly stupid, told the National that there was no difference between fascists and anti-fascists and that he’s “disgusted by what they represent”. Apparently he’s not so disgusted that he wasn’t willing to book them or take a cut of the profits.

There are lots of bad opinions and stances in music, many of them performative: back in the 1970s, punks wore swastikas not because they were Nazis but because they knew it would provoke people. But these Nazis are actual Nazis advocating genocide and violence against women in a scene devoted to National Socialism.

A venue that’s willing to host them doesn’t deserve your custom – not just on the night, but on any night.

Update: the venue has pulled the show and said it will not provide a platform for hatred.

Bigots “not bigots”, say bigots

Are the Ku Klux Klan racist? According to the Klan, they are not. They just have reasonable concerns about white people’s rights. As they put it in their flyers:

“Why can’t pro-white rights organizations exist without being labeled racist?”

As the Anti-Defamation League explains, the flyers are part of a strategy to “normalise white supremacy”: members no longer wear their robes and hoods and they dissociate themselves from violence. They claim that the fact that their followers are viciously racist is just a coincidence and nothing to do with them. “Members want to be able to express their white pride without being branded white supremacists – members prefer the term white separatists.” They argue that the rights of “other races” negatively affect theirs.

What the KKK is trying to do is to rebrand itself, and part of that is to attempt to redefine what racism means. In their definition, racism basically comes down to lynchings and burning crosses: if you’re not actively doing them, you can’t be a racist organisation.

That, of course, is  bullshit. And it’s why we don’t let white racists define what racism is or isn’t, because their definition excludes pretty much all forms of racism. Hate groups don’t get to define what is and isn’t hatred.

Let’s go back to that statement from the KKK flyer and change two words.

“Why can’t pro-women’s rights organizations exist without being labeled transphobic?”

All the anti-trans hate groups claim that they aren’t transphobic. And that’s true, if your definition of transphobia excludes almost every form of transphobia, including your own past actions.

In many cases, the high-profile anti-trans groups were co-founded by viciously transphobic people. Some now claim that their previously abusive anti-trans social media was run by the previous administration, with whom they now have no connection. Others pretend that their founding meetings featuring people calling trans women “parasites” and “bastards” who deserved violence and mocking trans women’s appearances never happened. And others’ bigoted founders – people who publicly called trans women “sick fucks” and claimed Jewish conspiracies – have conveniently died. They no longer wear their robes and hoods and they dissociate themselves from violence. The fact that many of their followers are abusive on social media is just a coincidence and nothing to do with them.

The one thing that really annoys hate groups is when people rightly call them hate groups. And as the UnCommon Sense blog explains in detail, many of these groups clearly function as hate groups.

A hate group is:

“…an organisation that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

As Buzzfeed’s Patrick Strudwick put it, these groups are telling us:

We’re not transphobic, we just think you’re a danger to children, women, society, lesbians, gay men, feminism, yourselves, and should be excluded from everywhere we decide you shouldn’t be, and should be denied treatment, demonised, pathologised, ridiculed and debated endlessly.

What’s hateful about that, apart from all of it?

“A wholly unacceptable misrepresentation”

The Morning Star has published a remarkable apology for its publication not just of a vicious anti-trans cartoon, but of previous anti-trans scaremongering too.

The Morning Star recognises that it has a responsibility to oppose discrimination against the trans community and to tackle transphobic hate crime, as well as to promote positive action and reform of the Gender Recognition Act to ensure trans people are able to participate equally in our workplaces, our communities, and our movement.

…We do not accept that reform of the Gender Recognition Act should or would lead to an attack on women-only spaces and will ensure that we campaign against any attacks on the Equality Act.

We understand that trans women are often welcomed into all-women spaces in our communities, and to portray trans women as a violent threat to women is a wholly unacceptable misrepresentation.

“I demand rights for me, but not for thee”

Every day, transphobes engage in social media pile-ons against individuals and organisations for being trans-inclusive, engaging in abuse that’s rarely if ever reported in the mainstream media. Two days ago it was the Royal Institution, the charity dedicated to promoting science, which received so much abuse for including an image of a trans woman in a Twitter post that it deleted the message.

Today’s one is against Glasgow Women’s Library, which declined to host a meeting of an anti-trans hate group as the library is proudly inclusive of all women. The predictable result was a flood of abusive messages that’s still ongoing. This isn’t the first time the library has been under sustained social media attack for simply being trans-inclusive; previous ones ran on for months.

Glasgow Women’s Library is an important resource and it’s always struggling for money for upkeep and repairs – it’s currently dealing with a leaky roof. It could have raised a bit of cash by hosting the event but chose to value its principles over its finances. You can help support it by donating here.

Many of the people involved in these pile-ons claim to be feminists, although there’s usually a significant cohort of misogynists whose interest in feminism only began when they realised they could use it as an excuse to scream at trans women and any cisgender woman who supports trans women. But there are plenty of women who identify as feminists delighting in the fact that the Library is struggling financially: it’s guilty of the ultimate crime of being trans inclusive. They would rather see an important feminist resource destroyed than have it support trans women; cisgender women who disagree with them are abused.

There’s a word for that kind of feminism, and that word is “white”. White feminism is a subset of feminism that’s exclusive rather than inclusive: it centres the interests of a narrow group of primarily middle- and upper-class white women and ignores or even attacks everybody else: women of colour, poor women, trans women…. you get the idea.

A good example of white feminism in action took place in Ireland in early 2018, at the height of the campaign to repeal the anti-abortion eighth amendment: while cisgender and transgender women took to the streets together to improve women’s rights, a group of English feminists who had previously had no interest in Irish feminism suddenly decided that it was time to talk – not about repealing the 8th, but about the invented evils of trans women. Irish feminists handed them their arses on a plate in an open letter:

The organisers of ‘We Need to Talk’ are making a stop here in Ireland, under the guise of talking about abortion. However, their motives remain clear to us, and we write this letter to show that their exclusionary, discriminatory attitudes to trans people – in particular trans women – are not welcome here in Ireland. We will not sit in silence while the organisers of this meeting peddle ideas and opinions that are actively harmful to the well-being and safety of our comrades.

…What is it that you know of Irish feminism that you feel entitled and authorised to come here and lecture us on?

…We do not need you here. We have not had your support in our fight for #repealthe8th, our fight against the historical and ongoing impact of the Magdalene Laundries, our fight for taking back control of our hospitals from religious orders, our fight for justice for women and babies tortured and entombed in Mother and Baby homes.

Do you know, for example, that in the north of Ireland, legally part of the UK, women still cannot access safe and legal abortion? Have you campaigned on this in any way? If you have, why don’t we know about it? Did you strike in solidarity with us on March 8th last year? Did you even know we were striking and for what? Do you have any kind of concept of what a feminism in a country shaped by struggle against Empire looks like? Did you take even a second to consider that, in assuming you have the right to come here in any kind of position of feminist authority, you’re behaving with the arrogance of just that imperialism? We have had enough of colonialism in Ireland without needing more of it from you.

Cultural critic Mikki Kendall has just written a book on white feminism called Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women White Feminists Forgot. As she explains, all too often the focus is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few.

Here’s part of a larger extract:

Whether it is the centring of white women even when women of colour are most likely to be at risk, or the complete erasure of issues most likely to impact those who are not white, white feminism tends to forget that a movement that claims to be for all women has to engage with the obstacles women who are not white face.
Trans women are often derided or erased, while prominent feminist voices parrot the words of conservative bigots, framing womanhood as biological and determined at birth instead of as a fluid and often arbitrary social construct…

The sad reality is that while white women are an oppressed group, they still wield more power than any other group of women — including the power to oppress both men and women of colour. There’s nothing feminist about having so many resources at your fingertips and choosing to be ignorant. Nothing empowering or enlightening in deciding that intent trumps impact. Especially when the consequences aren’t going to be experienced by you, but will instead be experienced by someone from a marginalised community.

There will be blood

We’re having a bit of a moment here in Scotland over that favourite target of the US Christian right, drag queen story time. The current Scots story is a gift to conservatives: a drag performer booked to read to kids delivered a perfectly age-appropriate reading because, hey! Performers can have different personas for different age groups! However, one look at their social media should have suggested that perhaps it would be wise to book someone whose Instagram wasn’t quite so adult. There was no way there wouldn’t be a reaction.

But this reaction has been extraordinary, both in terms of the volume and the viciousness of the response: a lot of it has been variations on the theme of “queers are paedos, stay away from my kids or I swear I’ll do time”. It has been astonishingly, frighteningly ugly, and pretty much everybody who’s been actively demonising trans people over the last few years has been pouring petrol on the flames.

Christine Burns MBE was one of the architects of the gender recognition act and is the author of Trans Britain, a book detailing the long history of trans people, trans rights and anti-trans abuse in the UK. A few days before this particular story broke, she posted:

After two and a half years of pretty sustained vilification of Britain’s trans people across most of the press and corners of political discourse I worry that we are heading for a watershed event. That is the way things go and I’m worried sick about which of my friends will die.

I hope she’s wrong, but I fear she isn’t.