Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Lies: What the homophobic Nazi posters in Australia reveal about the trans "debate"

The Nazi homophobic posters appearing around Melbourne, as part
of the Australian referendum campaign on equal marriage are very revealing in a number of ways. One the most revealing is as an illustration of how the trans rights “debate” has proceeded in recent years.

The Nazi posters have made some claims about gay include some
outrageous claims that can only be described as outright lies, such as “92% of children raised by gay parents are abused”. These claims have been deliberately built on a “scientific” study that has been torn apart andthoroughly discredited. They are lies.

Nevertheless Australian Prime Minister Maclolm Turnbull has said that these posters are “part of democratic debate”. Yet in the same way that people have argued about false information spread by transphobes against us, Turnbull made it about something other than what it was;

“People will often say in any democratic debate, they’ll often say things that are hurtful and unfair and sometimes cruel, that is part of a debate.”

Note here that his argument is framing these posters and “hurtful” “unfair” and “cruel”. He is not acknowledging the main criticism of them; namely that they contain lies. This mirrors exactly the experience of trans people in the so-called trans “debate”. Commentators from Julian Barnes in the Telegraph to Nick Cohen in the Guardian have reworded as “offence” trans people’s opposition to transphobes publishing lies and assertions that cause actual harm to trans people, including trans children. Transphobes from Germaine Greer to Milo Yiannopoulos have been defended in this way. The Australian example demonstrates that these supporters of "free speech" are actually attempting to put words into our mouths; the objection to transphobic material being published is not primarily that it is offensive but that it contains lies, and lies that can be verified as lies.

However the trans “debate” continued recently with a dishonest article in the Morning Star by a teacher, who, worryingly, is also in a senior position in the NUT. Amongst the oft-repeated claims she makes are that granting the same rights to trans people as to everyone else (ie. the right to self-identify) would “have huge implications for all of us”. This unsubstantiated assertion is followed up with a similar one; “Neither is it helpful to say that these proposed changes only affect the trans community because it fundamentally isn’t true.” She also says, “The relaxing of any legal definition of what it is to be a man or a woman could render sex discrimination law meaningless”, and perhaps the worst lie of all;

“To deny any group or individual in that group the right to be part of a discussion about their identity is insulting and will result in a failure of the great liberation we are all seeking.”

Given that extending trans rights will not affect anyone other than trans people, this assertion can only be regarded as deliberately misleading. The current trend amongst transphobic bigots is to frame the debate on trans rights as changing women’s identities, as if trans women being able to identify as women fundamentally undermines the identities of cis women, a ridiculous claim that is easily exposed by asking the simple question of it, “How?”

Like the claim that trans kids are automatically on some kind
TERFkip
of "conveyor belt" to surgical transition, the NUT Vice president's assertion is a pure fabrication, yet it is one that gets plenty of airing to the extent that I’m sure that the TERFs would be using the slogan “We want our gender back!” if UKIP had not got there first. 


So if there is no threat to women's identities from trans people's human rights, why do transphobes want to muscle in on the campaign for trans people's rights. The answer can only be to prevent trans people from having equal rights, not to protect women, but because these people hate us. They want to do this, not because trans people having equal human rights to cisgender people threatens any cisgender people, because that argument is so obviously false but to keep trans women, in particular, in their place as "Women; 2nd class".

One of the problems for trans people is that the way the media is currently constituted makes it difficult, if not impossible, for a group of people who are the object of this dishonesty to have a response printed which directly exposes the falsehoods and deception these kind of articles spread. Because most people have little knowledge of trans issues, that makes it easy for transphobes to take advantage of editors' reluctance to publish any right-to-reply. This has been used to distribute transphobic material unopposed.

The example of Nazi homophobic lies in Australia is obvious to most people; indeed large numbers of people will see through these kind of lies. This is not the case for trans issues. What the Australian example reveals to those not affected by this morass of transphobic hate is the nature of this trans “debate”. It is a “debate” which, like those mendacious Australian posters, is made up with one side’s material being comprised of almost entirely lies or unsubstantiated claims, and the other side attempting to expose this dishonesty with basic facts. Yet when we complain about these lies we are told we are merely “offended” rather than deliberately misrepresented. 

So next time we hear of someone complaining about lack of “debate”, or that “women’s” voices – ie transphobes - (inferring that trans women are not women) should be “heard” in this debate, what follows is almost certain to be even more lies, misinformation and unsubstantiated claims. That, unfortunately, is the nature of this debate. One side would not be able to take part at all if dishonesty, unsubstantiated claims and outright lies were excluded.


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Hate Speech and the Left

Recently a lot of internet text has gone into arguing against those who still support the right to “free speech” of the Nazis/"alt-right" in the US. Those who do are misguided and completely misunderstand, and sometimes deliberately misrepresent, what “free speech” means. This is nothing new; the Anti-Nazi League in the 1980s argued the same thing when marching against fascists in places like Lewisham and East London. The argument then was that hate-speech and free speech are different because hate speech is inherently dehumanising and threatens the freedom of speech of those it targets.

This is all absolutely right and we should not have to argue this again in the face of Nazi violence in the US. We have to be clear that there is a difference between hate speech and free speech, and clarity is important here. The Nazis marching in Charlottesville were not exercising any “right” to free speech, they were attacking, intimidating and attempting to silence black people, Muslims, LGBT people, Jews, and indeed anyone who disagrees with their hate-fuelled ideology.

What bothers me is how some of those important voices pointing out the difference between “free speech” and hate speech seem to be attempting to situate the blame for the idea at the door of so-called “centrists” while absolving the left of responsibility. Yes, of course there are people who are politically in the centre ground, including those in the Labour Party and the Lib Dems, whose ideas regarding free speech are dangerously confused. There are also plenty in these groups who are not not confused and who support those arguing against hate speech, these poeple even exist in the Tory Party. 

Likewise there are plenty on the left who are clear about the myth of free speech and how it is used to legitimate hate speech. However there are many who are not, or who are prepared to use the argument about free speech as a proxy for hate speech in other areas. The letter in support of Kiri Tunks’ hate speech against trans people is ample evidence of this.

For those of you not up to speed on this Tunks wrote an article in the Morning Star attaking trans people and saying that we should not have the same rights as everyone else because we are threatening "real" women's identities. She dug up the usual tired old arguments about trans women undermining the category “women”, stealing women’s identities etc... Indeed this might be characterised

as the “We Want Our Gender Back!” argument. Not surprisingly Tunks came in for a fair amount of criticism for this, and rightly so, no-one should have the right to attack and attempt to harm or silence another group without a response. My response was that someone holding the discriminatory views she does should not be allowed to work with children.

A number of people on the political left cosigned the article, including Ruth Serwotka of the NUT, Moz Greenshields, Mary Davis and Alex Gordon of the RMT. The letter these people signed, in essence invoked the free speech argument as a cover for hate speech, in particular the following sentence was indicative;

“As Kiri pointed out in her article, 'to deny any group or individual in that group the right to be part of a discussion about their identity is insulting and will result in a failure of the great liberation we are all seeking.'”

Tunks is not trans so how she should be part of a discussion about “her” identity is not clear. Her identity as a cis woman is neither under threat nor is it part of any discussion. The idea that trans women are a threat to cis women is pure, straightforward transphobic hate speech, as it tacitly heavily implies that trans women are "men". The argument Tunks and other TERFs are using to muscle their way in to the debate on trans rights is in fact remarkably similar to that used by some “feminists” in the 1970s and 80s to argue against lesbians' rights. The reason they want to be included in this debate is because they want to undermine trans people’s rights and harm trans people.


Let us be clear about this; full human rights for trans people is not merely opposed by those on the fanatical right of the Tory Party, Ukip and the Trump-emboldened American right, it is also opposed by many on the left, including the far left. The arguments they use in support of the kind of hate speech advanced by TERFs with the aim of harming and oppressing trans people are the same as those advanced by those arguing that Nazis in Charlottesville, or anywhere else for that matter, have a “right” to free speech.

Weaponizing the argument about who misrecognizes or misrepresents hate speech as free speech as part of petty politics weakens its power, constitutes appropriation in its worst sense and absolves those on the left who misuse the hate speech/free speech argument. Hate speech matters, hate speech is harmful, and just as Michael Rosen noted, fascism doesn't always come at us wearing jackboots and black shirts, to begin with it tries to look and sound "reasonable". Hate speech, in all its forms, should be opposed wherever it exists, and those who argue that hate speech is the same as free speech should be challenged whoever they are.


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

No Contest: David Sharples vs Tara Hudson.

Musclebound David Sharples, pictured right, smiling,  attacked someone, as did Tara Hudson, like Tara Hudson he caused actual bodily harm, like Tara Hudson he was convicted of assault, like Tara Hudson he had previous, like Tara Hudson he had an alcohol problem. Unlike Tara Hudson he also had a drug abuse problem. Unlike Tara Hudson he also attempted to strangle his victim, apparently his hands were round her neck after she came round after his punch had knocked her out. Unlike Tara Hudson he also used hateful transphobic language, calling her a "freak".

Unlike Tara Hudson he did not go to a men's prison.

So it looks as though you are more likely to go to prison if you are trans, for a much lesser crime, than if you are a cisgender, heterosexual man. I'm sure no-one is very surprised about that, especially BAME people. Or maybe it is because David Sharples' victim is trans, maybe she doesn't count as a "real" victim, because she is a trans woman, and therefore, as Jenni Murray, Germaine Greer and a host of other trans-hating TERFs tell us, not a "real" woman? Maybe trans people are not "really" human? Or maybe we are less human? Maybe calling a trans person a "freak" is not a hate-crime?

Maybe because the victim of Sharples' crime is trans and the fact that Tara Hudson is a trans woman, and her victim was a white male, made the difference...? 

The fact remains that Sharples' attack on Tamzin Yates was much more vicious than Hudson's attack on the barman who don't serve her. Sharples' attack was also aggravated by transphobic hatred, as far as I know Hudson's attack was not aggravated by androphobia. Sharples didn't just punch once, (Tara was jailed for one single headbutt) he punched his victim multiple times, constantly screamed abuse at her, and in addition to putting his hands round her neck he grabbed her by the hair and literally threw her out of the flat by it. Remember Sharples is a 6 feet tall bodybuilder, while Tara Hudson had been taking feminizing hormones for six years.

One of the reaons why the judge gave Sharples a suspended sentence was that he had, in the intervening time, "turned his life around", something that Tara Hudson had presumably not done. But let's pause here for a moment. How much easier is it for a cisgender heterosexual man to turn his life around than a trans woman? There is no equivalence here. Everything is easier for him, he moved away, started a new relationship, got a new job. That is far easier for him to do than for a trans woman. 

Once again the cishet male is in a more advantageous position compared with the trans woman; structural, cultural privilege makes it easier for him to provide the judge with evidence that he has changed, the social exclusion of trans women, on multiple different levels makes that sort of thing so much harder for us. 

The moral: Trans people are more likely to be assaulted, and less likely to have their attackers punished with a custodial sentence. Conversely trans people are more likely to be jailed for lesser crimes, and much less able to be able to demonstrate "turning their lives around" in between times. 

No wonder transphobic hate crime, and other crime against trans people is so massively underreported.

It is lose-lose for trans women, win-win for cis men.


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Opinion: “A Danger to Children.”


I still bear the emotional scars, I have woken up screaming more than once; there but for the grace of God go I. As a former primary school teacher (and NUT rep) helping out at Trans Media Watch I volunteered to help Lucy Meadows, the transgender primary school teacher who was outed and monstered by the Daily Mail in December 2012. The vile headline then reading “He’s not in the Wrong Body, He’s in the Wrong Job.” A typical Daily Mail hatchet-job. Lucy died from suicide three months later. The Coroner at her inquest was scathing about the role of the press in her death.

Because of this media monstering Lucy was unable to go and visit her young child for several weeks around Christmas, as she feared that she would lead the wolf-pack of paparazzi to where her partner lived. She needed to leave her house in Accrington, Lancashire, by the rear entrance every day well before dawn in order to get to school before the paparazzi swarmed round the school gates. She then had to leave late to avoid the same vultures that hung around afterwards trying (and failing fortunately) to extract nasty quotes from parents. I helped her get these vile representatives of the press off her back with the help of others at Trans Media Watch and wrote most of her submission to the Press Complaints Commission, because, understandably she was too stressed and exhausted to do it herself. We will never know whether the complaint was successful because the PCC did not inform her of its decision because by the time it had due to do so so she was dead. The Daily Mail did however, take down the article from its website a week before she died.

So why is this important now? Well the Vice President of the largest teachers union, the NUT has just published a transphobic article in the Morning Star. An article which employs all the usual misleading arguments and dishonest assertions based on zero facts that we have come to expect from transphobes. I won’t bore you with the details but her arguments are the usual fare; trans people are harming/redefining/threatening/whatever… women by being given the same rights as everyone else, QED trans people should stop existing or just live as second class citizens; “Women (2nd class)”. Her arguments will doubtless be pulled apart by someone else, doing so is not difficult, although it is essential.

However the important issue is that she is Vice President of the NUT. The NUT is a union that represents teachers, and today that includes trans teachers also. Trans teachers are in an especially vulnerable position, as Lucy Meadows’ tragic death has shown, and the NUT, like any other union, needs to be able to support its members against transphobia. Not only that but there are many transgender children now in schools in the UK, and like the numbers of trans teachers, this is growing all the time. It is essential that every teacher feels able to challenge discrimination and transphobia against trans children even when it comes from senior management, other school staff, governors, children or other children’s parents, and I have seen it come from all these sources, including from headteachers. Teachers, whether trans or cis, need to know that their union is 100% behind them when supporting their colleagues, themselves or trans children. As of today they cannot have this level of confidence in the NUT.

The transphobic hate, blandly and deceptively expressed by Kiri Tunks is becoming embedded in the discourse of the extreme far right, Tunks joins the likely new leader of UKIP, Donald Trump, Katie Hopkins, Milo Yiannopoupos and some of the fanatical far-right of the Tory party in expressing vile and bigoted anti-trans opinions. Such a person has no place in a trade union some of whose members are trans and all of whose members are likely, at some point in their careers, to come into contact with a trans child.


Earlier this year a 12-year-old trans girl was shot in a school in Manchester, three years ago an American teenager killed herself because she was not getting the adequate local support as a trans woman, a couple of years before that I was helping the parents of a young trans child the headteacher of whose school was bullying her (yes bullying, I am choosing my vocabulary very deliberately here). I have a friend whose trans child is currently being bullied, abused and discriminated against in a primary school in the south of England. A primary school headteacher recently spoke at a transphobes conference in London and I have it on good authority that there are many, many more instances of transphobia going on in schools that I do not have all the details about. How on Earth are teachers going to support trans people, whether children, staff or parents, who are abused, discriminated against or bullied by schools if the Vice President of their union is expressing these vile attitudes? By allowing this the NUT is making another Lucy Meadows of Leelah Alcorn much more likely. This is not an issue of “free speech” or “offence” as transphobic hatred is often dressed up, it is potentially one of life and death.

A few years ago I met an inspirational teacher; Kevin Jennings. He set up the first Gay-Straight Alliance in an American high school; a student society that has been replicated thousands of times across the US. He had been a teacher and had then worked for a campaign group trying to prevent bullying of LGBT children in America’s schools, at the time he was Barack Obama’s advisor on LGBT bullying in schools. One thing he told me, which stayed with me, that was crucial to his campaigning was that if any teacher was not fully accepting of any child, and fully committed to doing the best for all children, regardless of who they are, then they should not be in the teaching profession, “They are a danger to children.” He said. Period. This is why Kiri Tunks should be removed from the NUT. If she is allowed to stay the NUT also becomes a danger to children.


Update; the TERFs have had the petition to have her disciplined about this taken down. So much for their precious 'free speech'.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Advice for parents of trans kids from Iran

I found this on an Iranian website made by trans people for trans people there. It is advising parents of  trans children what to do. It was translated from the Persian by Google Translate so I have tidied it up a bit, as in my experience automated translation programmes struggle with things like pronouns at the best of times, but hopefully it has not lost its meaning. I just wanted to share it, because I found it so touching and passionate about how parents need to protect their children, especially if they are trans. There are many things we can learn from these people in Iran, in particular how the most important thing parents can do for their trans child is to give them unconditional love.


"If you are a parent of a transsexual child, you should know that it is harder to explain to your relatives and acquaintances than accepting and accompanying your child.  Grandparents, aunts, aunts, uncles, uncles, neighbours ... All are high on the list that you may have to explain to about your child and tell them why your child has changed so much.  The difficulty of doing this is when it comes to explaining to older people than yourself and the elderly, those who can no longer challenge their past gender stereotypes.

You are supposed to be a defender for your child, but the difficulty is that you are going to protect them against your friends and relatives, and this will put you in a quandary.  The important thing is how to balance yourself to protect your child and friends and relatives.

So stay tuned....


Literature class! 

Not all people are familiar with the subject of transsexuals and many do not know about it, so you should not expect them to use the correct words and phrases right from the start. It may sound like words and phrases in the beginning are offensive or have a negative effect, but you should not be quick to go at them with a stick.  Try to explain to them yourself why these words are wrong, or where the negative value is, but do not try to tire them with complicated terms and words. Simplify and summarize with them and do not enter into complicated and confusing details


Persistence. 

If you are going to attend a family picnic, a big party, a wedding or any other community that has a large number of relatives, be sure all the people who need to know about your child, so that they do not knowingly insult your child.  It's better to explain one by one to the people before the start of the party so that your child feels safe and has a good party.  Explain to individuals your child’s name and pronoun.  Teach them to not be surprised at the dress and appearance of your child and respect their identity.


Iron fence

Always in every family there may be someone who does not want to accept your child's identity. Despite all the patience, there are still some who do not want to accept this. Not accepting a topic from one of the relatives is not a big problem; it matters that the person is taking actions against your child and trying to disrespect them or insult them.

It's best to cut off relationship with that person. 

Try to limit traveling with this person. As long as you can interrupt their whole relationship with you, this will give your child and other relatives a message that your child is the most important thing and for their sake, you can interrupt the relationship with your relative but support your child. You can replace your disadvantaged friend or family, but do not forget that your child will no longer be replaced and your child will not be able to find another alternative to his or her parents. If your relationship with that friend or relative is very important to you, try to change their mind or ask for a knowledgeable and reliable parent or a parent for help.


No entry 

You are about to talk about the same child they used to be, just accept and explain your new identity. So you do not need to explain to your child's relatives and describe all of their situations and behaviours. Suffice it to say that your child's behaviour and situation are a private matter between you and your child, and the whole city is not supposed to be notified.  Explain sex and gender differences, tell them gender identity, and talk about gender disorder. Explain the religious issues and explain the legal path.

How your child walked, how would you laugh, how to do surgery, and ... that not everyone trans child has to have surgery. Keep your child's privacy.


Happy joy

Y
our child needs family support more than surgery, hormones, friends, and so on.  Do not forget, their success depends on your support.

You can change your place of residence, you can find new friends, but your child cannot find new parents.  If your child feels calm and happy, then you should be proud of yourself because it's because of your support.

You cannot change their identity by rejecting, punishing or reprimanding your child. You can not go to the war of spirit and identity, that would just take them away from you and into a community that does not welcome a single person and which would easily send them to the wolves to kill them.

This is not a transitory step, and you should not worry about your parent's support for this situation.  You gave birth to them, so you are responsible for them.

Do not try to change them with pills, shock therapy, wrong counselling to forget their identity. By doing this, you will only harm their mental health and body, and slowly move them away from you, and they have to go to the stranger to fill the vacancy of the family, who do not get mice at the mercy of God.

So know that the first and most important and best protector of your child is you.” OK