Categories
Bullshit Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

Brain worms

Here’s a perfectly sane and normal response to Nicola Sturgeon’s post about the terrible events in Afghanistan.

There are many more like it, as the anti-trans crowd hail the Taliban because they are apparently Gender Critical.

These people have lost their minds.

Categories
LGBTQ+

“We need politicians who are not afraid to lead by example”

A blistering article by Dunja Mijatovic, the CoE commissioner for Human Rights.

In addition to mobilising certain categories of voters, the exploitation of societal homo/transphobia has proven a convenient way to divert public attention away from government failure to address pressing social issues and rising inequalities and broader attacks under way on human rights and democracy.

…Politicians targeting LGBTI people often propagate narratives promoted by the so-called “anti-gender movements”. For some years now, there have been reports about the expansion – in Europe and the rest of the world – of these increasingly organised, transnational and well-funded movements, made-up of religious extremists and ultra-conservative organisations. The anti-gender movements call into question the concept of gender and whether it is a protected category in the human rights framework, promoting an ultra-conservative view of the family, sexuality and women’s role in society. Anti-gender movement actors seek to blur the lines for their audience by adopting the vocabulary of human rights, but what they are doing in reality is working to deprive other groups – mainly women and LGBTI people – of their rights.

Categories
Books LGBTQ+

The Appendix is out

I’ve been looking forward to reading The Appendix, by Liam Konemann: it’s one of 404 Ink’s “Inklings”, pocket-friendly books by interesting voices. Konemann’s book is beautifully written, fascinating, joyful and sad. It left me reeling.

Here’s the blurb:

In 2019, Liam Konemann began collating what he called ‘The Appendix’, a simple record of ongoing transphobia in the UK that he came across in day-to-day life: from the flippant comments of peers to calculated articles and reviews in newspapers. When the list began to take its toll on his mental health, he changed tack by asking different questions: how is beauty in transmasculinity found? And how is it maintained in a transphobic world?

I read the book in a single sitting. It’s the kind of book you want to tell everybody about and quote endlessly. Konemann’s life and mine are very different, but there’s so much in this book that resonated with me, so many lines that hit me right in the gut. Highly recommended.

Categories
Bullshit Technology

Overshared

Following on from my last post about “disruptive” tech firms, this excellent Jen Sorensen cartoon was published on The Nib (click <– for full strip).

Categories
Bullshit Technology

Uber is running out of road

I’m deeply cynical about so-called disruptive businesses: the AirBnbs, the Deliveroos, the Ubers. I don’t think there’s anything particularly admirable about using VC money to undercut and destroy the competition or trying to evade the regulations designed to protect the people who use the service or the people who do the work. But I was still surprised by this piece on Uber, which makes it clear that the firm is even worse, and in even worse shape, than I thought it was.

Uber was never going to be profitable. Never. It lured drivers and riders into cars by subsidizing rides with billions and billions of dollars from the Saudi royal family, keeping up the con-artist’s ever-shifting patter about how all of this would some day stand on its own.

According to Cory Doctorow, Uber is “a dazzle op that keeps new money flowing in, convincing people that a pile of shit this big must have a pony beneath it.” But there is no pony.

Doctorow has written about Uber before.

From the start, Uber’s “blitzscaling” strategy involved breaking local taxi laws (incurring potentially unlimited civil liability) while losing (lots of) money on every ride. They flushed billions and billions and billions of dollars down the drain.

But they had billions to burn.

Categories
Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

A war on children

This, by Melissa Gira Grant, is horrific: Behind the GOP Strategy to Outlaw Trans Youth. It’s about the families affected by the Christian Right’s war on trans people, particularly trans teens.

As ever, US Republicans are more extreme than our home-grown bigots but there are still strong parallels between what’s happening in the US and what some people want to happen here.

Republicans across the United States have seized on trans people as a social and political scapegoat, reprising a strategy used to great effect in Texas late in the Obama administration. This strategy bears some surface resemblance to Republican attacks on marriage equality the decade before, when the GOP succeeded in getting voters to back dozens of ballot initiatives limiting marriage to one man and one woman, while also securing votes for Republicans (though it’s unclear whether it was as decisive a factor as many contemporary commentators claimed). But the fight for marriage equality started in the lesbian and gay rights movement. There is at present no analogous fight for trans rights backed with anything resembling the same level of legal, philanthropic, or political muscle. Indeed, in the conflict over marriage equality, trans rights were pushed to the political margins, a dynamic that set the stage for the current war on trans people.

That’s an important point. This isn’t a backlash against trans people’s demands; this is an attack on trans people just for existing. For example here in the UK, the “reasonable concerns” mob have been scaremongering about legal rights that trans people already have, and have had for many years.

As HB 1399 was before the state House health committee, the state Senate took up SB 1646, a bill that would allow parents of trans kids to be charged with child abuse. Supporters of bills like these typically advanced a very pointed narrative: that a powerful, shadowy “trans lobby,” in concert with the media and Big Pharma, was colluding to sexually exploit—even “mutilate”—children by forcibly “transing” them.

UK newspapers and some BBC programmes advance exactly the same arguments using exactly the same language. And like the UK, some of the most anti-trans voices pushed forward by the religious right are those of “ordinary mothers” who just have “reasonable concerns”.

Moms have been at the forefront of ADF’s legal battles to exclude trans girls from girls’ sports—another effort that fueled this wave of anti-trans bills. These moms are part of a long history of white women who saw it as their moral duty to the American nation to speak out as mothers—white moms fought against school integration and for warning labels on music.

The article quotes Remington Johnson, a trans woman:

It was “wickedness,” Remington said. Wickedness was what she called the bad-faith maneuvering of Dutton, of all of them. Only wickedness could describe the idea that these bills were necessary in order to protect children, when the truth was that children were harmed even by the attempt to pass them. But for those who had an evangelical mindset, she said, that was the point: “Protecting” children meant making it impossible for them to be trans and survive.

Categories
Media

Who pays the piper

Earlier today Dr Amy Kavanagh, a historian and disabled rights expert, was rejected by BBC London News after she asked for an appearance fee. The same thing happened to her two weeks ago with Sky News.

I’ve experienced this too. There’s an assumption in a lot of news outlets that people will be happy to work for free – and it is work; the programme calls you because they want the benefit of your expertise – because you’re there to promote your employer, your book, your particular cause or your personal brand. And if you are, that’s fine: if you calculate that the publicity you’ll get is worth the lack of fee, more power to you. But that doesn’t mean that everybody else should work for free too.

I used to fall for this. I’d happily speak to a researcher for 25 minutes to cover the different perspectives on the subject and identify the key talking points, and I’d set my alarm so I could be ready to talk at 5.45am (or 6.15am, or 6.32… radio items are often moved at the last minute). But not only was I doing this work for free; it was then affecting the work I do get paid for, because I was dog tired for the rest of the day. It’s even worse if you’re talking about something deeply personal, because that comes with a whole bunch of additional stresses and strains.

I know some people who’ve got work from doing these things, but for me the only offers that came from working for free were more requests to work for free. And sadly my landlord doesn’t accept exposure in lieu of cash.

As the famous Oatmeal comic puts it:

Dr Kavanagh:

Yes, media is a powerful & important tool for campaigning. If you want your story shared & that is the most important thing, that’s ok.

What I’m really bored of is being approached as a contributor, known for my quality of media work / interviews & expected to do it for free!

I don’t think anybody should work for free when everybody else is getting paid. That’s partly common sense, but it’s also because payment means obligation. When I go on the radio as a paid contributor I am working for the programme and its listeners. If someone else was footing the bill, they would be doing so in the expectation that I will be working for them in some way: promoting the brand, perhaps, or pushing a particular agenda. The job of an expert, surely, is to counter that.

Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Olympian ignorance

Today in the Olympics, a weightlifter didn’t win a medal. This wouldn’t be remarkable if the weightlifter weren’t Laurel Hubbard, a transgender woman. But Hubbard it was, and her loss is confusing me. I thought trans women had to be kept out of sports because of their male-born advantage? That’s what social and right-wing media has been telling me about Hubbard for weeks now: her chances of winning because of her gametes or chromosomes or supposed lack of womanly essence were so incredibly high that her rivals shouldn’t even bother turning up.

And then she lost, all three times.

The anti-trans have an answer for that. Hubbard threw the event. Not only that, she threw it because she had a wider purpose in mind: to make people believe that trans women don’t necessarily have an unfair advantage in sport. It’s not that Hubbard was beaten by a stronger woman, because that couldn’t possibly happen: women are weak and need to be protected from the evil transes!

It’s incredible to see the speed at which the anti-trans mob have gone from “no woman can compete with a transgender woman!” to “the transgender woman threw the event!” But it’s easy to do that when your argument starts from your desired outcome – in this case, that trans women should be banned from everything. The same thing happened when the flaws in the “trans people are bathroom predators” argument were exposed; the anti-trans mob quickly changed to “predators will pretend to be trans people to get into bathrooms.” When reality disproves your argument, simply pick a different argument that leads to the same conclusion as your last one.

This is exactly the same thing cult leaders do, and that QAnon does. Every single prediction QAnon has made to date has been either meaningless or wrong, but because people are so invested in the conspiracy theory they interpret the evidence that it’s bullshit as evidence that it is real. We misinterpreted what QAnon said, or the Deep State got word of the event and made it too risky to continue with, or Q is testing us. The real answer, that Q is fucking with you, is not something the faithful can bring themselves to consider.

There are lots of names for this. I like the term sunk cost fallacy, which applies to illogical behaviour: it’s why gamblers keep on paying to play when they’ve lost almost everything. The rational behaviour is to realise that you’ve made a mistake and gambled more than you can afford and to stop. But the sunk cost fallacy says that you’ve put so much money in that it would be foolish to stop: the big win is coming any time now, and if you walk away you’ll lose the lot to the next person who comes along and plays.

With conspiracies it’s much the same. The more invested in the conspiracy you become, the more of you you have sunk into it and the more difficult it becomes to extricate yourself, or for others to help you extricate yourself. It’s much easier to flip to a different conspiracy theory than to accept that you’ve been hoodwinked, lied to, used. We humans do not like cognitive dissonance, which we experience when reality differs from our beliefs and expectations.

And with the Olympics, the reality is that in the 17 years since trans women were eligible to compete, not a single trans woman has won a medal. In fact, before these Olympics, not a single trans woman or trans man even qualified. Rather inconveniently for the anti-trans crowd, while one trans athlete did bag a medal this week the athlete was a non-binary person who’d been assigned female at birth, not a trans woman.

And yet our papers and airwaves have been filled with the supposed dangers of Laurel Hubbard all week in a way they haven’t been regarding any of the other issues concerning women’s sports, such as predatory coaches, income inequality or the apparently racist, misogynist demands for Black women athletes to take birth control to suppress their naturally occurring hormone levels or be excluded from events. It’s almost as if these pundits and social media posters don’t really care about women in sport at all.

As Hannah Jewell of the Washington Post (and author of 100 Nasty Women) put it:

and the gold medal for cruelty to trans people goes, as always, to britain 🏅

if you listen closely you can hear the tippy-tapping of a thousand british columnists rewriting their hateful columns to account for the fact that laurel hubbard did not do well at the weightlifting, while preserving their awful world view 🏅🏅🏅

Categories
Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

Anti-trans terrorism

The US edition of The Guardian continues to embarrass its UK sibling with its coverage of anti-trans violence; most recently, its coverage of a stochastic terrorism event in the US.

If you’re not familiar with the term, stochastic terrorism is when you incite violence indirectly: you’re not saying that someone should go out and attack the Jews/Roma/Blacks/Queers/Trans; you’re just saying that these sick fucks are coming for your kids and family and country and maybe they need to be taught a lesson. When blood is inevitably spilled, your hands remain snowy white.

One of the best known examples of stochastic terrorism is the witch trials in Europe and America, where women were accused of witchcraft – often by other women. More recently we have “white women’s tears”, a term used to describe when a white woman weaponises their whiteness and womanhood against somebody who is Black.

Here’s Julia Carrie Wong on the “Central Park Karen” story in The Guardian (inevitably the US Guardian, not the UK one):

Amy Cooper’s Karen status was cemented when she called the police on Christian Cooper, a 57-year-old Black birdwatcher, after he had asked her to leash her dog in New York City’s Central Park. Not content with falsely alleging, twice, that “an African American man” was “threatening me and my dog”, Cooper put on a play for the 911 operator, changing the register of her voice to one of distress and panic as she cried: “I am being threatenedby a man in the Ramble. Please send the cops immediately.”

It was through that performance that Amy Cooper took on the mantle of an American archetype: the white woman who weaponizes her vulnerability to exact violence upon a Black man. In history, she is Carolyn Bryant, the adult white woman whose complaint about a 14-year-old Emmett Till led to his torture and murder at the hands of racist white adults. In literature, she is Scarlett O’Hara sending her husband out to join a KKK lynching party or Mayella Ewell testifying under oath that a Black man who had helped her had raped her. In 2020, she is simply Karen.

That’s stochastic terrorism: unleashing forces that you know may or will harm somebody on your behalf. And often, those forces are the far right.

Which brings us to LA this summer. Here’s Sam Levin and Lois Beckett for The Guardian US.

On 24 June, a woman claimed on Instagram that a Korean spa in Los Angeles had allowed a “man” to expose himself to women and girls in the women’s section.

There is no evidence that the alleged event ever happened, and lots of evidence to suggest that the woman is an anti-LGBT+ evangelical Christian with an agenda to push.

The unsubstantiated allegations about Wi Spa in LA’s Koreatown neighborhood quickly spread from social media to rightwing forums to far-right news sites to Fox News, and were distorted by anti-transgender groups across multiple countries.

The massive media attention resulted in two weekends of chaotic rallies in LA this month, in which anti-trans and trans-rights protesters fought in the streets, and women carrying “protect female spaces” signs paraded alongside members of the far-right Proud Boys. Trans counter-protesters and their supporters described being Maced, stabbed and chased by rightwing demonstrators, as well as injured by police.

The episode, experts said, offered a case study in how viral misinformation can result in violence, and provided clear evidence of the links between anti-trans and far-right movements, including QAnon conspiracy theorists, who believe that a cabal of elite pedophiles is manipulating the American government.

This is not a purely American conspiracy.

The video was also shared by feminists who advocate against trans-inclusive policies – sometimes referred to as gender critical feminists, or trans-exclusionary radical feminists (Terfs). Moro documented a flurry of posts on Ovarit (a site for users banned from Reddit due to transphobia) and Mumsnet (a platform for UK mothers, which has attracted anti-trans feminists).

Some of the people sharing the video were British journalists, including Guardian contributors.

Wi Spa represented a nightmare scenario of what can happen when far-right groups, rightwing conspiracy theorists and gender-critical feminists are all aligned against trans rights, Serano said: “The idea that anytime people can point out a trans woman was in a women’s space, and suddenly the Proud Boys and QAnon people all come out against it, is very scary.”

It’s also deliberate. Anti-trans groups in the UK have toured rough housing estates to tell men about the supposed trans threat to their daughters; their supporters write books saying the same with bigger words. Allegations of grooming and child abuse are commonplace online, not just against trans women but against the parents of trans and non-binary people. Supposedly serious journalists write of children being “sacrificed”; on social media and in forums, people talk openly about how trans people and allies should be assaulted or even executed. And some anti-trans activists have deliberately courted the far right: chances are if they’ve been banned from Twitter, they’ve appeared on a white supremacist podcast or YouTube channel.

The problem with that is that they are supping with The Devil without having brought a long spoon. Or to mix my metaphors, they have let the fascist genie out of the bottle and he doesn’t want to go back in again.

An anti-trans protest planned for speaker’s corner this weekend in London – a protest partly organised by a prominent anti-trans activist who has openly embraced the far right and urged armed men to threaten trans women – has been cancelled because Tommy Robinson and his racist pals were planning to join them. It seems highly likely that the cancellation wasn’t because the activists didn’t want neo-Nazi support; it’s that they didn’t want to be seen getting neo-Nazi support.

Whether you’re palling around with Nazis or just demonising minorities online or in newspaper columns, you are taking part in stochastic terrorism. Neo-nazis stabbing people are just one example of where that leads. When a young mother is beaten with an iron bar by 13 youths shouting anti-trans slurs; when a teen gets their nose broken for refusing to answer whether they’re a boy or a girl; when a man sets a trans woman’s house on fire after sharing transphobes’ talking points online; that’s stochastic terrorism: violent events deliberately incited by people who know exactly what they’re doing.

They may not get blood on their hands, but they have a stain on their souls.

Categories
Health LGBTQ+

Trans Broken Arm Syndrome

While I’m on the subject of healthcare, this piece by David Oliver for USA Today is very good.

Ever broken a bone? You know your first thought: “Ouch!”

But what if said health care worker was too busy asking about your gender identity instead of focusing on mending your broken bone? Sure, it’s important to record and review medical history, but why would questions about hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery be relevant in that case?

The entire UK healthcare system for trans people is based on this.

If you’re a cisgender woman who thinks she needs hormone therapy, the steps are:

  • Go to your GP
  • Get a prescription
  • Get monitored by your GP

If you’re trans:

  • Go to your GP (if you’re in Scotland you can skip this step)
  • Get referred to the gender clinic
  • Wait two to five years depending on where you live
  • Undergo multiple assessments to prove you’re not insane
  • Get your prescription approved
  • Wait four months for it to get typed up
  • Get monitored by the gender clinic for two years

Same medicine, same monitoring. But the turnaround for a cisgender woman is a couple of days; for a trans woman, many years.