Sunday, 19 November 2017

“SHUT UP! You’re Silencing Me!”

In the last three months there have been literally scores - possibly even hundreds - of articles by anti-trans people, published in pretty much every media platform, from the New Statesman to The Times. Indeed the Times now seems to be publishing one anti-trans piece per day on average. In contrast I have seen only a couple of articles written by trans people in response. There have even been a number of “debates” in broadcast media about trans people from which trans people were excluded echoing that infamous conference in Saudi Arabia about women, from which women were excluded.

Now even the Guardian has joined in with Catherine Bennett’s deeply disingenuous article accusing trans people of using the term “TERF (meaning "Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist”, a term that describes people who describe themselves as "radical feminists" who campaign to exclude trans people) to “silence women”, an argument which she then develops to suggest that ANY alternative term that might be applied to people opposed to me, and people like me, having full human rights would also be as bad. The argument is simply that oppressed people should not have the right to name their oppressors or that someone who wishes to produce journalistic propaganda material intended to harm me should be given a free pass, and be regarded as nothing more that "a concerned individual with genuinely acceptable views" or something like that. In essence she is arguing that trans people should simply shut up and be silent in the face of the current media onslaught about trans people. 

Bennett’s dishonesty is to equate a few tweets by trans people who have no access to media platforms, with the tidal wave of media output against trans people. A tweet from someone like me (3,170 followers) is equivalent to an article in the Guardian or any other media platform. After three months of intense media output, which has put the anti-trans (Am I allowed to use that term Catherine?) side of the argument, almost entirely to the exclusion of any other point of view, she is still claiming , in a national newspaper,  that she is being “silenced”. Catherine Bennett, unless you are trans, right now you really have no idea what it means to be silenced.

In the midst of a media onslaught against trans people, to claim that those who express views that oppose trans people are being silenced is simply not credible once you start to think about it and examine the numerical balance of media output. Bennett claims that one of Janice Turner's equally disingenuous and one-sided articles in the Times is "brilliant" yet I have written to the editor of the Times, as, I'm sure have many others, to request the opportunity to put a different point of view, and been ignored. Who is being silenced Catherine? 

Indeed Bennett’s article can ultimately only be regarded as an attempt to silence trans people, I don't know the number of people who will get to read Bennett’s article but it will be hundreds of times the number of people who will see this blog or any of my tweets. When the media consensus is so one-sided, when trans voices are being deliberately and systematically excluded from the debate about us, to claim hat the use of a particular term on twitter is silencing those who oppose trans people’s is not just profoundly dishonest, it is an act of calculated oppression.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Reports of a rad fem violently attacking non-trans woman in vendetta against trans people.

There have been wildly conflicting tweets about an incident that occurred at an Anarchist Bookfair event yesterday, but I have just been contacted by someone who was present there, when some anti-trans "feminists" started distributing transphobic material yesterday, including flyering in the toilets. This is then, what happened, according to my informant, who has told me a much more coherent version of events than anyone else so far. The two anti-trans "feminists" who had been doing this;

"were eventually found and a confrontation ensued - it's really important to state that the majority of the confrontation happened not between the TERFs and trans people, nor between TERFs and even the Bookfair Collective, but other people there."

A member of the Anarchist Collective organising the event was described as; 

"simply trying to move them out of the building, and particular out of the way of the disabled access lifts." 

... when one of the anti-trans "feminists" was reported as calling the hosts "fascists", it was clear that this individual;

"was escalating the conflict with any and everyone there, it was about to turn it physical." 

and so this member of the Anarchist Collective (who is cis, incidentally, not that it really matters); 

"tried again to move her out of the building because a fight in the school could lose the Bookfair the venue in the future, at which point the TERF in question with the rolled up remaining leaflets and newsletter from the Feminist Library (effectively acting as a rolled up newspaper) proceeded to hit her in the face."

Obviously at this point, having apparently harassed stall holders and physically hit one of the organisers;

"there was enough cause for them to be thrown out and kept out." 

The organiser;

"needed to decompress outside for a bit herself" 

... with my witness who then reported the following 

"and when we came back to the building, ANOTHER confrontation had started, which involved someone from the feminist library."

My informant then reported that they didn't see most of the second confrontation, although someone else has reported that a man with a shaved head punched a woman who had objected to the presence of TERFs at the event, but they do report that; 

"the number of trans people involved was minimal, it was almost entirely random people who simply wanted the TERFs out. Much as I suppose I'm grateful for the fact they stood up to transphobes, they did so in the way of disabled people simply trying to get out. We were there, hoping to see the situation de-escalated, or at least moved outside, but to limited avail." 

One of the TERFs had reportedly claimed to have been a victim of "violence against women" although my informant said;

"what she meant is still anyone's guess. Nobody touched her when I was there. It was simply a large standoff as far as I saw between TERFs and others.  It was almost entirely cis people."

They said that these anti-trans "feminists" seem to have the ability to; 

"accuse anyone who opposes them of being trans women. And anyone who opposes them of being a "trans activist""

"The "trans activists" were exceptionally few and far between - it was largely a bunch of cis folk who didn't want bigots at their Bookfair."

In my opinion this all seems to suggest that there were anti-trans feminists using what was otherwise a peaceful event, that the organisers had worked hard to make peaceful, to stir up transphobic hatred, and that those present to enjoy this event did not want such people there. It also seems to me that this group are trying to concoct a story that attempts, falsely, to blame trans people for this incident when all the violence came from non-trans people, including these anti-trans "feminists" themselves.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Vanishingly small: "regret" statistics interrogated.

In a world dominated by post-truth politics even apparent hard figures can be misleading, and, for a general public that is relatively ignorant about statistics, it is easy to mislead while not technically lying. A headline like "Football violence doubles in three months!" may sound alarming but if that is an increase of 0.0001% to 0.0002% of supporters then it is very different from an increase from 5% to 10%. The headline would be true in both cases yet we would be looking at an epidemic in the second scenario but the statistical effect of possibly only one incident in the first.

Likewise with statistics about trans "regret".

The number of trans “regretters” is vanishingly small and difficult to ascertain as a percentage, so any kind of statistics about them are automatically going to be problematic. Statistics do not work with very small numbers, that is why opinion polls take a four-figure sample, and then they still usually get it wrong. So forensically examining any figures is what any responsible journalist should do before publication. The problem is that, in the current heavily biased anti-trans media onslaught, they are not doing this and consequently anything that is biased against trans people is automatically treated as true.

So the material produced in the media about a surgeon doing more trans reversals needs to be examined carefully. When we look at the figures provided in the press we can see the following;
Over 5 years he has had 13 trans people contact him about so-called reversal surgery (two are mentioned as being “in surgery” but it is not clear as to whether they are additional to the existing 13 or included in that number). That is approximately three a year. The first six are described as coming from “all over the “Western World” The “western World” presumably including most of Europe, north America and Australasia. For the other 7 it is not clear where they come from. One of the claims made in the article was that the "average" age of his clients had come down to 21. I find this to be a very spurious use of statistics. When you are talking about 13 people over 5 years, then just getting two 21-year-olds would be enough to change the "average". Of course we are not told the timescale for this "average" but if he gets two this year, or even just one, that could produce an "average" for this year of 21. we have also not been told whether it is a mean, mode or median average too, which could skew the stats. This is what I mean that using stats when the numbers you are talking about are tiny is totally meaningless and open to abuse, without technically lying.

Over the last year in the US, there have been 3,250 gender reassignment surgeries, in the UK there were 172 operations in 2014, with 280 on the list for surgery in 2017. Numbers are difficult to ascertain for other countries but we are probably looking at a higher figure than the 3,250 in the US for 2016 in Europe so we are probably looking at a figure of around 7,000 a year for the “Western World”. If we go beyond that to the Middle East, South Asia, the Asia-Pacific countries, Africa and Latin America, where the populations are larger, but whose access to surgery is restricted by poverty, the number of surgeries is probably running at well over 20,000 a year globally, it is probably difficult to tell exactly, but these are almost certainly conservative figures. Now there have been lots of stories about transgender surgery increasing exponentially, at least in the “Western World” so let us assume that the number was around 10,000 five years ago and has increased by around 2,000 a year in the intervening period. That means at least 80,000 people globally have had gender affirmation surgery in the last five years.

If we also remember that at least some of the patients in this surgeon’s figures must have had surgery more than 5 years ago then his clinic is probably dealing with a subset of patients from a group that exceeds 100,000 people. If this is the case then we are looking at 1 regretter for every 7692 people having gender affirmation surgery. In other words for every 7691 successful gender affirmation surgeries there is one unsuccessful one. This would give us a regret rate of less than 0.013%.

Now obviously I have to heed my own warning about statistics, so let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the global number of surgeries is half what I have estimated for the period in question; 50,000, that would mean that there is one regretter for every 3845 successful surgeries, still a vanishingly small regret rate. Even if we halve it again the regret rate comes out at 1922 successful surgeries for every regretter, a figure significantly less than 0.1%. Even if we then double the number of regretters there are still 960 successful operations for every regretter. Double it again and the ratio of successful operations to unsuccessful ones is still 480:1 a vanishingly small percentage. Let us remember that this figure is achieved by quadrupling the figures for this doctor and reducing the estimate for GRS by 75%, even doing this gives us a tiny percentage, well under 1%.

Of course one of the statistics we do not know is how many of those 100,000 successful operations would have resulted in death by suicide if they had been denied access to surgery. This is a statistic we can never obtain ethically of course. What is clear from those who are responsible for the gatekeeping processes for surgery is the way they consistently refer to the risk of suicide for their patients. The death of 15-year-old Leo Hetherington earlier this year, he after was told he could not have GRS, and from the people I know, especially young people, suggests that this figure would be very high indeed.

So media articles that talk about a rise in the numbers of “regretters” are effectively being dishonest and transphobic because they are not contextualising these figures. There is obviously going to be a rise in regretters because there is an increase in the number of surgeries. What matters is the proportion of regretters to successful surgeries and here it would appear that, if anything the percentage of them compared to the total number of surgeries performed, is getting significantly smaller. Without contextualising these figures they become meaningless at best and profoundly dishonest at worst. What journalists also need to do to contextualise these figures is to look at regret rates for other types of surgery. The lowest regret rate I could find was for LASIK eye surgery, which is described as having a “very low” dissatisfaction rate of 4%. Many other forms of surgery have dissatisfaction rates that are well into double figures. One of the types of surgery that many trans-haters try to liken to gender affirmation surgery, in order to delegitimise us, is cosmetic surgery. However the difference between the two is a whopping 65% regret rate for cosmetic surgery compared to a tiny fraction of 1% for transgender surgery.

The truth is that surgery for trans people is one of - if not the most - successful surgeries that is carried out on this planet with a regret rate that makes pretty much anything else look irresponsible and which saves countless lives. Some of those lives saved at the time will probably also include people who subsequently become regretters. As psychologist Diane Ehrensaft put it when talking about the risk of regret;

"Is it a risk? Let us call it a possibility. If that is a possibility we think that the most important thing is the same exact idea, find out who you are and make sure you get help facilitating being that person then. We have one risk we know about; the risk to youth when you hold them back and hold back those interventions; depression, anxiety, suicide attempts - even successes. And, if we can give them a better life I weigh that against that there may be a possibility of a change later, but they won’t be alive to change. That’s how I weigh up the scales."

Monday, 2 October 2017

The trans children's conveyor belt and the banal production of ignorance...

I was a trans child. I knew I was a girl just before I started primary school and my gender identity is still female now, despite society's best attempts. My school, however, was on a rough council estate and was not the sort of place someone assigned male would ever have dared to admit to being trans, even if there had been a word for it available to me at that time, which, in the middle of the last century, there was not. 

So unlike most of these people who have plenty to say about trans kids but actually know nothing about them, I can speak from the point of view of actual personal experience. I ached to be acknowledged as a girl when I was a child, but, because the word "transgender" did not exist then, I just thought I was a freak, the
only one in the world, a sad person who didn't deserve to be happy. I grew used to putting on a brave face while hating myself. In effect I was put through a kind of Conversion Therapy by default, which tried to force me to be a boy. It became more confusing after puberty because, although my feminine nature and interests resulted in extensive homophobic bullying, I only fancied girls. If I could have lived as a girl then, I would not have spent my twenties and most of my thirties nervous and lacking totally in self-esteem. If the normal, accepted treatment for trans children today; simple, unconditional acceptance in my true gender, had been available to me in those days I would have grabbed it with both hands and never let go. Instead I grew up in a body that hurt me so much I literally wanted
to throw it in front of an Intercity 125.

In spite all this, and in spite of some serious self-harm, I somehow, but only just, made it to adulthood and on the way I found out a new word; "transsexual" which I looked up in a local library, only to find a vile, disgustingly transphobic hate-text called "The Transsexual Empire". Before the internet it was the only thing I could find out about myself, and it told me I was horrible and should be "mandated out of existence" which I almost did to myself. 

So hearing that the number of trans children contacting Childline has doubled in a year to 2,796 does not surprise me. The stories of fear, isolation, terror, self-hatred and abuse that this figure conceals are incalculable and things I know about from personal experience, except that Childline did not exist back in the 1970s. It was a time of shit cars, boring TV, crap wallpaper and wall-to-wall homophobia, a bit like the wall-to-wall transphobia we are being subjected to in the current media onslaught against trans people.

One of the main targets of this onslaught has been, of course, trans children. The obvious target for the transphobic bullies; a group that cannot answer back and whose parents dare not answer back either for fear of outing their kids to face more transphobic bullying or being accused of child abuse. Those "brave" media voices are raised time and again in the Murdoch propaganda rags, the Mail, the Express, New Statesman and on TV. Bravely these individuals have a go at a group whose members are, in many cases, barely clinging to life and most of whom are self-harming or cowering terrified of being exposed and bullied out of their schools.

These "brave" journalists not only know nothing about trans children (but still have the arrogance to think that they can pontificate about them at length) yet they bring up, time and again, the old trope about a "conveyor belt" to surgical transition. They raise the fear that cisgender kids will somehow, on a whim, end up, many years later, unwillingly on a surgeon's table because, once they have started, it is argued, they will "inevitably" have to proceed to this end.

The ugly mind of Julie Bindel provided an early example of this baseless fabricated fearmongering;

"If I were a teenager today, well-meaning liberal teachers and social workers would probably tell me that I was trapped in the wrong body. They might refer me to a psychiatrist who would prescribe fistfuls of hormones and other drugs. And terrifyingly, I might easily be recommended for gender re-assignment surgery… just because I didn’t like the pink straitjacket imposed on girls."

Well let me confirm that there is a conveyor belt for trans kids, but it is moving in the opposite direction from the one these people tell us it does. It is constantly moving away from the direction of transition, constantly moving towards the social ideal of cisness. Trans kids grow up continually fighting for their right to exist (and let's be clear being forced to exist as a person you cannot be, is no existence, which is why so many trans kids attempt - yes ATTEMPT - suicide, and almost all self-harm). There is a unceasing social pressure to conform to your birth assigned gender, this is a conveyor belt that is impossible to get off, and trans children constantly have to fight against it. The paid hate-mongers of the fourth estate are just trying to make it harder for these children to do so. 

Let's just revisit that point again. 

Cis journalists, comfortably well-off, who have almost certainly never knowingly encountered a trans child in their lives, write reams of material that harms (yes HARMS) trans children, drives most to self-harm and some to suicide, and most of them get paid for it! This is the modern-day version of the Banality of Evil so vividly identified by Hannah Arendt. A huge propaganda machine dedicated to producing damaged children, from these "brave" journalists' MacBook Pros, sitting in their comfortable living-rooms, heated offices or local, trendy, wifi-equipped cafes alongside a Fairtrade Americano, Cappuccino or skinny latte. These people will never experience the sheer terror that their bullying causes, by proxy, every day in schools up and down the country. You too can participate in industrial-scale oppression from the comfort of your own home! 

So let us be clear; every time a privileged TERF or entitled semi-celebrity attempts to spout ignorance about trans kids, they are engaging in child abuse by proxy, they are making it harder for trans kids to be accepted, for their parents to accept them, for schools to counter the bullying that arises as a result of these "brave" writers' precious exercise of "free speech". Trans children have become the subjects of the industrial-scale production of ignorance, a banal production-line of misinformation and hate that has real consequences for real children, but none for its comfortably distanced operators. 

Enjoy your free speech.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Transphobia in the Independent: The "Solution" to the "Problem" of Trans People.

Transphobes are fond of regarding the "problem" of trans people as a consequence of what they describe as "rigid gender roles". This is a complete misunderstanding (which is perhaps deliberate). Consequently their "solution" to the "problem" of trans people is nothing but a form of coercive oppression.

A transphobe called Jo Bartosch
has been allowed, by the Independent, to write a transphobic and dangerous article in one of Britain's daily newspapers, this is unacceptable for a number of reasons. However I want to start this piece by saying very clearly that I am not criticising this piece because it is "offensive". That does not mean that it is not offensive, it is, but that my reasons for criticising the editor for allowing it to be printed are not to do with "offence".

So, before the "grow a thick skin" brigade start putting words in my mouth, let me be very clear about my reasons for calling out this piece.

They are to do with harm. Actual. Physical. Harm.

To children.

First of all, how can I tell the writer is a transphobe? Well there are plenty of tell-tale signs that a simple analysis of her writing reveals.

Firstly she uses the standard-issue TERF myth, "transgender ideology". This is a fiction; an item of deliberate misrepresentation used by transphobes and anti trans fanatics. It has been constructed by transphobes in order to make people think that there is some kind of coherent belief-system, like 'communism' or 'neoliberalism', behind the existence of trans people. There isn't, trans people are trans people. Trans people have existed in all cultures for as long as anything that can be regarded as civilisation has existed on this planet. That is all there is to it. There is no ideology, just people. Transphobes use the term "transgender ideology" as just another means of dehumanising us, in the same way that oppressors have done throughout history.

Secondly she pushes the lie, by implication, that trans children irreversibly transition (ie. taking hormones) at very young ages. They do not. Some trans children take hormone blockers until they are old enough to decide for themselves, and no surgery is allowed before 18. Why the Independent did not do a simple fact-check on this I don't know. By printing this they are complicit in spreading deliberate misrepresentation of trans children in a way that could potentially cause harm or even death.

One of the biggest lies that the Independent allowed this transphobe to spread is this;

"There is no one approved way to respond to a child who declares themselves to be transgender."

Yes there is. 

Listening to the child, allowing the child to express the gender they want, and to identify in the way they want. All medical professionals who specialise in trans children agree on this. 

The suggestion that there is not is factually incorrect. A few transphobes who pretend to be feminists disagree, but they are not experts on trans children. That does not stop Bartosch from spouting the following transphobic ideology (which has only been around for a few decades) as though it represents a serious alternative to treating trans children with humanity and care;

"For decades feminists have fought to liberate people from the gendered expectations of being born female or male, and have spread the message that we should seek to change society, not bodies. The opinion that no child’s body is wrong should not be controversial and it deserves to be heard."

What is interesting here is how transphobes try and make out that there is such a thing as "transgender ideology" while then spouting an actual ideology (namely the one Bartosch describes above), which in this instance she attempts to suggest amounts to some kind of "treatment". The implications of this dishonesty are important to unpack.

If we go down the road that Bartosch's ideology suggests, in effect it will mean preventing trans children from accessing the treatment they need, treatment that keeps them alive. Let's be clear what that treatment is; support, believing the child, listening to the child, treating the child in the way they want, and not forcing any ideology, TERFish or otherwise, on them. In some instances hormone blockers are administered, which delay puberty, the effects of which are fully reversible; when you stop taking them, your puberty starts. These have been administered for a long time, uncontroversially and safely, to non-transgender children whose puberty has started too early. 

If Bartosch's ideology is followed then the TERF "solution" to the "problem" of trans children will be imposed coercively. They will not be believed, not treated humanely, not be supported or listened to, but subject to a kind of Conversion Therapy that forces them back into the boxes society has told them they should be in. They might be told that those boxes can be expanded a little but nevertheless the only alternative to currently accepted treatment is coercive. This is effectively what Bartosch is advocating, even though she does not say so explicitly.

This is dangerous. This is something that will cause harm because it delegitimises trans children and makes us think they are not genuine.

Ask any educational expert, child psychologist, what all children need is basic love, care and understanding, to deny that to a particular group, because they are trans has terrifying consequences. Only a few weeks ago Leo Etherington, a 15-year-old trans boy, died from suicide after this humane treatment, love, care and support, was withheld by his school and his doctor. Leo is not the only trans child in the UK to die from suicide this year either. And a short while ago I visited a trans youth group in the North-West; every single one of the youngsters in that group had self-harmed.

This is the result of Bartosch's ideology. 

The sickening consequences of the "treatment" which she implies are all around us; they are indeed the default. Trans children are treated in this way unless they come out, and request otherwise and insist they are trans, something that is fraught with danger in many cases. 

In effect what Bartosch is doing is suggesting that, because one child who is gay has mistaken gender identity for sexuality, all trans children should be regarded, not as trans but gay, lesbian or non-binary. What Bartosch clearly does not understand is that already most trans children are usually regarded as gay or lesbian anyway, and that it can take them a long time to get past this to understand that they are trans. There is nothing inherently better in being gay than trans and the fact that she attempts to infer that this outcome is better represents profound transphobia (a life of hormones is better than being dead with no hormones). In effect she is arguing the age-old trope that trans people are really gay. 

In essence what psychologist Diane Ehrensaft (who really is an expert about them) said about the possibility of trans kids not turning out to be trans is true; 

"If that is a possibility we think that the most important thing is the same exact idea, find out who you are and make sure you get help facilitating being that person then. We have one risk we know about; the risk to youth when you hold them back and hold back those interventions; depression, anxiety, suicide attempts - even successes. And, if we can give them a better life I weigh that against that there may be a possibility of a change later, but they won’t be alive to change. That’s how I weigh up the scales."

Diane explains very well why the TERF "solution" is dangerous, particularly for trans children. The "solution" that transphobes propose to the "problem" of trans kids all comes from their (deliberate) misunderstanding of trans people;-

What TERFs like Bartosch fail to understand, possibly wilfully, is that identifying as trans is about IDENTITY and BODY Morphology not about "gender roles" or anything else. (Nevertheless the transphobes would like to make it out to be this way, because it suits their ideology.) That is why Gender Identity is called "gender identity" because it is about our gender identities, most trans people want to change their presentation and/or body morphology and names, not because of gender roles because of their "gender identities". I can see why they are confused. 

It does not make and will never make, the slightest bit of difference if gender roles become completely identical, or whether men are allowed to wear dresses or whatever, that is not the point. The TERFs can create some mythical utopian genderfree paradise in the future but it will not make any difference. That is because it is nothing to do with gender roles and never will be, it is about gender identity.