Saying NO to the Trans Rights Activists. Saying YES to women, gay men, lesbians and … trans people!

I’ve been wanting to wave my flag on the trans rights issues for a while, but have kept putting it off because it is difficult, and in parts for me painful, but what with the stuff that’s been going on at Sussex Uni this last week I know that I can’t put it off any longer. I know not many people read my blog, but some of my friends do, who may or may not be familiar with the issues, and some of whom may have assumed that with me being gay I am a ‘trans ally’. Well … yes and no … Debbie Hayton, for instance: she’s a trans woman, and I would be proud to stand by her as an ally any day of the week, and there are others. BUT …

… I also stand with Kathleen Stock, Jo Phoenix, Marion Millar, Maya Forstater, Alison Bailey, JK Rowling, Jess De Wahls, Keira Bell, Sonia Appleby, Rosie Duffield, Kemi Badenoch, Graham Linehan, James Esses and all the many others who are called transphobic because they have challenged Gender Identity Ideology (as has Debbie Hayton and other trans people). I personally don’t consider myself transphobic but I know that I AM to the Trans Rights Activists who are fighting to implement Gender Identity Ideology globally. And with great success. In the UK, via Stonewall, it has made its presence felt in all the political parties, the NHS, the Police, you name it: the erasure of the word ‘woman’ is a hot topic at the moment (but not the word ‘man’?); ‘vulnerable’ trans women sex offenders such as Karen White get to serve time in womens prisons and go on to rape inmates therein; gay men and lesbians are shamed for being ‘same-sex attracted’ rather than ‘same-gender attracted’ (but not heterosexuals?); women are called bigots because they do not want to open up their single-sex spaces, refuges, and rape crisis centres to trans women.

Trans Rights Activists, and their ‘allies’ would like us all to believe that

“trans women are women” and “trans men are men”.

I don’t believe it’s that simple, but I do believe …

“[Trans people] deserve to be safe, to be visible throughout society without shame or stigma,  and to have exactly the life opportunities non-trans people do.”

Those are Kathleen Stock’s words from her book ‘Material Girls‘, which doesn’t sound like someone who is transphobic to me. But she has been on the end of the most horrendous bullying campaign by Trans Rights Activists who are trying to get her removed from her job. She is now under police protection and has to conduct her lectures via Zoom. I’m nowhere near as erudite and eloquent as Kathleen Stock, so I’ll leave the serious challenges to Gender Identity Ideology to her, and others of her ilk – Helen Joyce of the Economist has also written an amazing and thorough book ‘Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality‘ – where those challenges are clearly laid out.

I will say though that generally I think Gender Identity Ideology is a load of regressive bollocks, playing into gender stereotypes that I thought we were leaving behind. I also think it is very dangerous and harmful, hence the need for people to stand up and speak out, and for me to let my friends know exactly where I stand. I personally don’t believe I have a ‘gender identity’, in the same way that I don’t have a ‘political identity’. I accept that the concept might be a useful tool for some people to describe their ‘masculine’ and/or ‘feminine’ personality traits, but to me it is NOT useful, it is not a ‘thing’ and just seems like a strait jacket, and on a par with the concept of an immortal ‘soul’. I am who I am and I like what I like, pink or blue, no problem.

It hasn’t always been this way – when I was young I was called a cissy and teased mercilessly for being ‘girlie’ and I can remember knowing that I would have been happier as a girl. I can still feel the shame I felt as a child – for being not good enough as a boy. It chills me to my bones that Gender Identity Ideology’s response to that boy would be to identify him as trans and, without any exploration, ‘affirm’ that identity and set him on a course of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgery. This is insisted upon, as the only correct and compassionate option, even when it is known that most of these children will grow out of it. I did. Most of these children turn out gay or lesbian. I did. Pushing them into a trans identity and setting them on the transitioning pathway is to make them dependent on medical interventions for life.

If you are in any doubt of the horrors of transitioning kids – read this interview with Marci Bowers, a top American trans surgeon

For the children who have transitioned these last few years, there are now numerous reports of regret. The ‘de-transitioner’ stories are heartbreaking – there is no way back, very little help available, and furthermore there is censure and rejection from the very community that encouraged them to do it in the first place. My heart beats faster writing this – I could very well have ended up on this operating table, and then as a de-transitioner. Young women are left with facial hair and deepened voices and having had unnecessary mastectomies. Young men are left with micro-penises and stunted bone growth.  It is deeply saddening for me to think that the homophobic environment of the 60s and 70s that I grew up in, and that has so marked my life, is actually preferable to what has happened in this last decade.

Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1) by Armistead Maupin

But “trans people are the most vulnerable people in our society”, or so we are told. Keir Starmer said it himself very recently. I’m not convinced. When most people think of a trans person they see someone who has struggled with gender dysphoria, gone through the process of gender reassignment surgery and are living their quiet lives as members of the opposite sex – like our beloved Mrs Madrigal. Someone we used to call a transsexual. The trans umbrella is much larger now and whilst transsexuals are a significant minority within that, trans now extends to anyone who identifies as a person of the opposite sex to their own biological sex. Gender dysphoria may or may not play a part in that, as may or may not sexual fetish. Some of this group may be ‘vulnerable’ but many are most definitely not, and it is easy to see why women do not want to open up the doors of their changing rooms, toilets, single-sex spaces to anybody who simply identifies as a ‘woman’. That word used to mean ‘adult human female’, but now seems to be more closely equated with trans identified male fantasies of the word – I am a woman when I wear women’s clothes, have my hair styled, wear make-up, tilt my head coyly and flutter my eyebrows.

It is no wonder that women are angry and leading the protest movement against Gender Identity Ideology. They are also the targets of the most vitriolic abuse, because they are not complying. Some women – those in prisons – are forced to comply, and are punished if they ‘misgender’ the ‘woman’ with male genitals who is housed with them. One of the responses to the Stephen Wood/David Thompson/Karen White debacle was that he/she was ‘not really trans’ at all, but whether they were or not is actually irrelevant. If anyone can get into a womens prison by simply saying ‘I am a woman’, then that is a loophole that IS going to be exploited, and has been. If ‘Self-ID’ comes in and any man can declare themselves a woman without any medical validation whatsoever, then at some point some predatory male, trans or not, WILL take advantage of that to gain access to womens changing rooms and single-sex spaces and thus to women. That is obvious. Sex crimes and violence are the real tangible risk, but beyond that is simply the everyday fear that many women will have of sharing their private spaces with unknown males, who may or may not have ulterior motives. How will they know if they are safe? I know we cannot police every aspect of life, but this is a backwards step. (The bathroom/changing room discussion seems to be only about trans women wanting to access womens spaces.) Aside from the validation of identity, one thing I have read is that trans identified males feel unsafe using men’s facilities. I can understand that. I do sometimes.  But surely that should just help us better understand the women’s position? This is an ideal opportunity to challenge and educate homophobic and transphobic men. Men come in all shapes and sizes and it would be great to able to wear what we like without fear of abuse and violence if we enter a changing room. It’s time to tackle it. I know that might seem like a bridge too far in the current debate and unachieveable at the moment, but if that’s the case then a second-best option would be trans people arguing for their own facilities. Leave the women alone. And enough with the ‘vulnerable’ argument – you’ve only got to look at the violence and murder statistics to see that it is women who are most at risk in this society, not trans identified males.

A few weeks back now Triskelion Yarn got effectively cancelled. Caerthan had retweeted some gender critical content and invoked the wrath of trans rights activists who had then contacted a show that he was due to attend. The show was supportive right down the line, but Caerthan didn’t feel he could face any potential problems nor did he wish to cause problems for the show. So he didn’t go. Fine – we can still sell online.

He also, wisely, withdrew from social media. I kept an eye on the Triskelion pages to see if the abuse would abate, which it did. Hopefully that’s the end of it – we will see next time we go to a show.

But as a result, I also started to use Twitter. I found it very shocking. So many of the debates seemed to be about language – dictionary definitions, and what words have evolved to mean, what words have been apropriated, invented, and re-invented. How on earth can anything be discussed if we don’t agree on the language? Predictably I have mostly followed gender critical people, but I have also followed a few trans rights activists. I found myself ‘liking’ many of their posts on other topics – the environment, refugee stuff, Chris Packham’s harrassment etc., and thinking … “well … this person has values broadly similar to my own”. Except for the trans rights, where there is this gaping chasm. I’m too much of a coward to engage on Twitter (aside from the verbal blood and gore, I don’t really understand all the Twitter buttons and terms), but it was plain to me that ‘sex’ ‘gender’ and ‘biology’ in particular are not clear in peoples understanding, and I wondered how much deliberate obfuscation of language there has been, and by whom. Are we being deliberately kept at loggerheads?

I don’t know. That, for me, is a very frightening thought. Along with the fake accounts and deliberate lies. Why would someone do that?

But back to the everyday battles that have pushed me to write this. I am frightened for womens right and for women. I am frightened for gay rights. I am frightened for everyday trans people who do not want this much attention. I am particularly frightened for Kathleen Stock. And I am frightened about where this could all end, unless people start finding the courage to stand up and say: “Trans rights – fine, but NOT at the expense of any other group.”

Oh yes … and THEN there’s women’s sports … and the dating apps … and … I’ll shut up.

Thank you for reading if you’ve got this far!

Recommended Reading

Material Girls – Kathleen Stock
Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality – Helen Joyce
Sex Matters – arguing for sex, not gender to be the basis in law
Transgender identities: a series of invited essays – The Economist
Welcome to Transtopia – Lily Maynard
Gender HQ – A RESOURCE & COMMUNITY For People Concerned about Same-sex Attracted Young People Harmed by Medical Transition for Gender Dysphoria
Transgender Trend – Support for parents of trans kids
MerchedCymru (Welsh Women) –  resource for welsh women challenging Gender Identity Ideology

Election Time again, but actually – time for Sortition!

Election time again. My heart sinks as the horrors of our adversarial political system spread out onto the streets and get even nastier than usual. I have been in a quandary about this one, and will probably feel compelled to tactically vote – the media bias has been extraordinary and the stakes seem higher than normal. But tactical voting for something that I don’t believe in, in order to thwart the frontrunner disgusts me – THIS HAS TO STOP!!

I believe very strongly that the time has come to stop giving power to the people who are seeking it, and instead build an entirely new expression of democracy with a sustained responsibility and engagement from the ground up, as opposed to marking a cross every few years and then moaning about it until the next time. The world has changed and our voices can be heard without self-serving representatives.

Is this possible? Yes. The way forward is sortition, in one form or another.

I have believed this for some time, but have always thought it could never happen – how would we get from where we are now to something so radically different? Well … I have some ideas about that … read on …

The Problem, very roughly …

So … companies, organisations, businesses and teams all over the world know that the best work is done when we are working together. Small fortunes are spent on team-building exercises, training in positive reinforcement and constructive criticism etc. But not in parliament. There, our elected representatives sit squarely opposite each other, tearing each others ideas, and each other, to shreds with very little listening, care and respect. Why? Well it’s easy to think of them all as devolved Banksy chimps, but I don’t believe that – at least some are there with genuinely good intentions I think. Unfortunately running the country is not the only agenda. Much energy is spent on one-upmanship, jostling for power, and an eye is always on the next election. Creativity and honesty is compromised further by party lines and ‘the whip’. How can we expect good decisions to be made in this nightmare working environment? Outside of the House the political parties seek and receive the support of businesses and organisations who of course have interests of their own …

Just as important is what the rest of us are doing, or NOT doing. Every few years we go and cast our vote. We can then pretty much forget about it until the next time. Some of us might get passionate about a party, or a politican; many of us will habitually stick with a party, sometimes down through generations of our family; most will simply leave the job of running the country to others and be disengaged.

There are lots of sortition models, but as an example I have outlined how one solution could work, very roughly …

MPs are randomly selected from the adult population, similarly to jury duty, except it would not be compulsory. There would be a fixed amount of time that a person could serve, say three years, with a third of the MPs changing annually. An annual rotation would allow an incoming MP to be mentored, and also mean parliament never has to shut down.
On a day to day basis parliament could be run from Regional Centres across the UK, meaning significantly larger numbers of MPs could be catered for – with a pool of, say, 1000 MPs across the UK parliament which could work to healthy hours 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year.
Within each Regional Centre issues could be discussed and explored in small groups designed to allow everyone to have a voice, not just the loudest and most forceful. Because business, power and funding interests will have been removed the focus can be on evidence-based solutions, calling on an active civil service and scientific think tanks for resources and information. Results from each small group are shared and evaluated, possibly generating more questions, discussion or a vote. Regional Centres can be linked by video so that ultimately everyone can come together to share findings and for voting.

Larger decisions could be fielded out for the entire voting public to have a say. Yes – referendums. I know most of us are still traumatised by the 2016 fiasco, so let me briefly outline how I believe a referendum should be run …
If you are asking people to make a decision, you must make sure they have as much relevant information as possible, clearly and without obfuscation of any kind. And whilst everybody would be entitled to vote, only people who have actually understood the issues at hand would be encouraged to vote. No spin. No ‘for’ and ‘against’ parties. Perhaps the odd TV debate but basically, referendums based on non-partisan information packs, produced by a balanced team, and sanctioned by the goverment.

Getting there

So if I had my way, there would be a load of career politicians all looking for work – indeed the very concept would no longer exist. In it’s place there would be a whole nation of people expected to keep up with what’s going on and make intelligent contributions, and a further proportion of those people would be making policy decisions every day. This is of course a huge leap from where we are now, and very different to what we are accustomed to, so how could this be achieved?

1. Replace the House of Lords with a House of Citizens. There is NO good reason why posh people and religious leaders are more qualified to check and challenge the work of the government than anybody else, except maybe they have the arrogance and self-confidence that comes with entitlement. You can read more about a Citizens House here …

2. Outlaw Political Parties. No more shortcutting by picking the Labour or Tory MP, or which ever party offered the least objectionable prime minister. We’d actually have to read the leaflets to find out WHO our potential representative is and what they believe. The elected parliament would then be responsible for appointing governments roles, with or without a ‘prime minister’.
3. Encourage more female politicians.
4. Rip out the oppositional rows of green benches and create a less confrontational horseshoe seating arrangement.
5. Start to encourage more frequent referendums, breaking the public in to being actively engaged with learning about tackling issues and creating a cost-effective ballot system.

5. Raise the profile of debating and decision making in schools so that children are aware from the get-go that they will be actively involved in the running of the country, and that they might have the opportunity to be an M.P. one day.

Whilst points 1, 2, 3 and 4 might seem like the bigger obstacles, I really see 4 and 5 as the most important bits – they are the steps that could really change our politics, our country, our world and ourselves.

If you are interested in knowing more about sortition you can read about that here:

We have an Ordnance Survey Benchmark

We were taking down the wooden fence to gain access to the pine end (gable end) of the barn, and suddenly there it was – some curious chiselled markings on one of the stones, pretty much completely hidden by the fence.

Ordnance Survey benchmark at Pistyll Gwyn, Talog

I had a few wistful minutes contemplating Freemasons and the Wicker Man, before Google put us straight – it is an Ordnance Survey benchmark used for measuring height above sea level. Specifically – it is a cut benchmark and it is Benchmark  SN 3361 2509, 149.04m above sea level.

How do I know that? I was amazed and impressed to see that ALL the UK benchmarks can be seen on the Ordnance Survey online map.

More information about what they are and how they used to work can be found on the Ordnance Survey Blog. I find this stuff fascinating, but still can’t for the life of me work out how they did it …

The Trees of Wisbech Park

Wisbech Park - looking towards the bandstand and Lynn Road
Looking towards the bandstand and Lynn Road

I was in back in Wisbech, my home town, and took an early morning walk in Wisbech Park. I’d been expecting storms and heavy rain, so the start of a beautiful sunny June day was unexpected and very much appreciated.

Wisbech Park - beech trees near the Park Road end
Beech trees near the Park Road end

Wisbech Park itself was a place where I spent many hours as a child and it was good to see it thriving – many of the old features and facilities I remembered fondly had gone, with new ones in their places. But it was the trees that caught my eye. As a child they were very much taken for granted (with the exception of the conker-bearing horse-chestnut), and were simply stations to run between, hide behind, climb on and shelter under. 

Wisbech Park - absolutely massive beech tree
Absolutely massive beech tree – I wish I’d pulled a person in to the picture to give a better idea of size.

Seeing them again as an adult I was overwhelmed by their beauty, size, and variety. Beeches, horse-chestnuts, maples and sycamores, planes, sequoia, limes … and probably loads more but those are the ones that I remember now. The most striking for me were the oriental plane trees – very large trees with a beautiful grey flaky bark and the most amazing tentacle-like branches reaching high and wide in all directions.

I can’t remember seeing trees as striking as these except maybe in Westonbirt Arboretum – nowhere near as many of course, but surprising for a small town like Wisbech.

If you are over in the east of England and loves trees this is one place that is really worth a visit.

In memory of Will Reeve.

Great British Bake Off has much to answer for – Rick’s first steamed pudding!

After sitting through Great British Bake Off’s pudding week it seemed there was only one course of action – get ourselves some steamed pudding!

The bakers had the task of creating a steamed pudding like what we all had at school, and it was mouth-watering. Of course, we never had anything as exotic as mango or tonka beans at school, but for me the main memory was not school at all but my mums basic but delicious treacle pudding with custard made with good old Bird’s custard powder.

So off we went to Morrisons to get ourselves a steamed pudding – one of those things in a tin. Who needs mangos and tonka beans?

As it turns out mangos and tonka beans would have really helped. I realise that treacle pudding from a tin (technically syrup sponge pudding I think) and custard from a tin could never match the dizzy heights of either Bake Off’s cooking geniuses or my mums no-nonsense full-flavoured family fare, but the disappointment was crushing. The pudding was stodgy, lacking in flavour and relying on the sugar hit of the golden syrup to have any sort of effect at all. The tinned custard did little to help – somehow over sweet but bland at the same time. We dutifully ate it, but with hearts as heavy as the pudding itself.

Caerthan at this point would have given it up as a bad job, but I decided the time had come to pull my finger out and have a go at making a steamed pudding myself. It had to happen, even though I had never consciously considered doing it before that point. Why else had I acquired mum’s pudding basins, waiting patiently in the cupboard to see the light of day once more?

One week later … I pulled up a few recipes and set about it with determination, not realising how totally EASY the whole thing is! I should have done this years ago!! My tooth is not as sweet these days so I didn’t reach for the golden syrup, instead opting for my home-made blackcurrant jam, for which I use a lot less sugar – so technically not jam at all really, but sharp and VERY blackcurranty.  The only tricky bit was tying the string for which I would have liked a couple more hands …

As for the custard – there it was was lurking on a back shelf – a tin of Birds. I tried to not think about the expiry date. Now, I have made perfectly serviceable custard in the past – bung in the custard powder, bung in the sugar, mix it with a little milk etc etc. Just like my mum would have done, making sure that was plenty of custard powder and plenty of sugar. But again, in deference to my slightly less sweet tooth I thought I would follow the instructions on the tin. Not a good move. It came out thin and wasn’t even yellow. Caerthan was rather generous: “It’s fine. We’ll call it Creme Anglaise”, but all I could hear was Prue Leith’s cutting comment: “That’s not custard – that’s a big mistake”. And my mum would have agreed.

But the pudding … Delicious! The sponge was light and open and the topping sweet sharp and fruity. It hit the spot and although it wouldn’t have earned me Star Baker, or even a Hollywood Handshake I reckon my mum would have been impressed.

Great British Bake Off – thanks for the inspiration!