The media just can’t stop being utterly atrocious to trans people.
Only last week, after a blatant lie fabricated by the Daily Star that murderer Ian Huntley was now a trans woman called Nicola, the paper were forced to confess that they’d been talking shite. This tiny “clarification” was too little too late for the trans people who’ve had these lies used in an attempt to deny them basic rights.
The Scottish media are now at the forefront of undermining trans rights, as changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) are, allegedly, eventually, maybe, making their way onto Holyrood’s agenda. The SNP stood on a clear manifesto commitment of “reforming gender recognition laws, in line with international best practice, so that all transgender and non-binary people are able to access their human right to legal gender recognition.” Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems committed to broadly similar aims and even the Tories committed to vague, if unspecified, reforms to the GRA.
Yet despite this – and despite a consultation which supported the measures – progress has been slow. This has allowed a string of new anti trans groups to emerge to spread confusion, lies and downright hatred against trans and non binary people. Rather than address or investigate these groups, the media has instead relied on them to provide a steady stream of copy and talking points about The Trans Menace.
In a month where the press have retracted the Huntley story, demanded Rape Crisis disclose the medical histories of staff and published never ending articles hyping anti trans groups, you could be forgiven for thinking maybe trans people deserved their Sunday in peace. Step forward, our new resident “expert” on all things trans, MacGlinner himself: Iain Macwhirter.
Iain’s a long established Scottish hack who’s perhaps best know as The Da of The Yes Das, one of the few mainstream journos supportive of independence in the run up to the 2014 referendum. More recently though, his failed attempts to understand the basics of the emergency facing Scotland’s trans community has resulted in a string of absolute shitfests. It’s a formula which doubtless works, hits = revenue in the new media order so what does it matter if that revenue comes at the expense of a marginalised group and you haven’t bothered to understand the question?
Before we get into the latest ca-Da-strophe, it’s worth looking back at attempt No 1, a piece entitled, “Transgender rights? Great. But don’t tell women what makes a woman: they were born that way.” The clue that this would not be great is in the name.
He punts the nonsense idea there’s a battle between women and trans people, wrapped in the “born this way” trope borrowed from LGBT people. That’s the first bit Iain gets wrong, over and over again, despite women and LGBT people telling him this, over and over again. By the 2nd sentence, he’s mentioned “heterosexual lifestyles.” That wasn’t the question though but it’s the answer he seems to have. If Iain, a straight man, cannot grasp the concept of being straight, maybe it’s best he doesn’t attempt to write on this particular subject. If you’re a trans man and you solely fancy women, you’re straight. That’s what a man who solely fancies women is. Glad we’ve got highly that contentious and very confusing issue out the way. But also, more from him on that later, and then later still.
We then burst directly into the most LITERAL transphobia and sexism: “there is an essential difference between a genetically-endowed woman and a man”, it’s not explained what this is, perhaps it’s that he doesn’t have to do the washing and gets to drink from his special dinosaur cup.
We’re then told, “No matter how many cosmetic changes a man may undergo, they do not actually become a woman.” Except, of course, when they do. Both in law and in fact, otherwise, you’re not actually respecting trans rights at all – you’re clearly not suggesting they’re “great” if you’ve just written them off the most fundamental point about changing your gender, the fact your gender changes.
We also have the use of the loaded phrase “activists” to refer to trans people, like being assigned the wrong gender at birth is similar to tying yourself to a tree or smashing a Starbucks up with anarchist pals and not something that just happened to you. “When they [“activists”] say that “transwomen are women” they mean it literally”, he declares. Yes, Iain, they LITERALLY do – because they literally are, that’s literally what the law literally says. Literally. He does, of course, have trans friends, we’re assured so it’s probably all literally fine.
Iain advises us the TERF wars which he’s just waded into are “rather silly” while his opponents, like Green MSP Patrick Harvie are accused of “dogma” for being on the other side of a war so silly he’s now an entrenched warrior. No article about trans rights being not-so-great-after-all would be complete without the usual pish about going for a pish, a talking point nicked directly from the evangelical right’s playbook.
Iain concludes that trans people aren’t the gender they say they are coz, erm, “science”, and repeats the most provably incorrect claim you could make while shouting it in a column in a national newspaper: that those who say what he’s just said are being silenced.
After failing miserably in his first attempt, Iain decided to have another shot, for some reason, where he called for “a more open debate” into the issue he’d been relentlessly debating with himself. This is the same language the right use to bash immigrants, pretending they can’t speak about the issue they never shut up about. Complaints this time round included that he didn’t actually know about the consultation into the GRA, presumably because, unlike other Scottish Government consultations, it wasn’t trailed at the start of every X-Factor episode or emblazoned on the side of a bus. He again confuses being gay and being trans, declares being non binary is an “entirely new gender” (AKA new to him) and again employs his favourite word, literally. He uses LITERALLY the exact same example as last time about how it’s all a threat to free speech and claims to speak for “feminists” who oppose the bill while, again, not citing any of the established feminist orgs, who all support it.
Not content with 2 swings from Ye Olde Rope, he was back dangling his piss poor understanding, like an unwelcome scrotum in our morning cornflakes, this Sunday. You’ll be shocked to know that he again confuses being gay with being trans (*gasp*), referring to cis women as “heteronormative” which will be news to all the cis women who’re bi or, to be blunt, massive lesbians. We’re told that the word cis is offensive with no clear explanation why, a famed trope of transphobes who refuse to recognise they’re cis in much the same way “heterosexuals” refused to recognise they weren’t just normal and racists cry at the mere utterance of the phrase “white people.” For a Man Of Science who objects to newfangled language, you’d think a latin, scientific term, like cis, would make him feel warm and fuzzy but apparently not.
I’ve probably re-emphasised the link between transphobia and other forms of bigotry almost as much as Iain has written on his now fave subject, but it’s nice to know he managed some dogwhistling by sneaking in a reference to The Muslim Menace (which like The Trans Menace, is cited as a threat to women), in case anyone was in any doubt that bigoted turds of a feather can oft be found floating together. Speaking of which, he again aims for the pan and instead takes a dump on the floor re going to the lavvy, “I’m not sure who exactly has been preventing transgender women using public conveniences. So far as I know, you don’t have to show a birth certificate.” Partly correct, thus undermining the constant toilet chat – but mostly miles out because people who don’t gender conform are made to feel unwelcome in loos all the time, we reported one case in Glasgow a while ago, there are countless more thanks to the trans panic being stoked by the press i.e. by you Iain.
Most fundamentally, as with in all his Da-sasters, he just doesn’t know what the fuck is going on, suggesting that after a change in the law, people will be able to change gender when that’s already the case and using weans as a rod to beat their trans parents with, as if kids are the ones with the issue here, rather than people like him who’ve phoned it in, for a third time, in a national newspaper. “This is all going to be confusing to say the least” he cries. Well aye, if you didn’t do even basic research into the thing you’re writing about, again, I guess it’s confusing.
The narrative of his transbashing trilogy is that he’s speaking for The Silent Majority of Women, a trope used by bigots since time began. It falls apart when you consider that not only are anti trans groups not silent, they’re not even close to a majority of Scotland’s long established women’s groups. Rape Crisis Scotland, Women’s Aid, Engender – they don’t just support self ID, they already do it. No menshies for them though.
These groups, the women on the frontline who’re allegedly “under threat” according to not themselves, are never cited by Macwhirter nor are trans groups. In the epic “battle” he’s invented between women and trans people, neither of the 2 “sides” actually gets a say. The only person speaking for the “silenced” is Mr Macwhirter – yet the only reason women and trans groups have been silenced is that Iain hasn’t featured their views in his repetitive ramblings.
So what exactly is Macwhirter’s history of standing with Scotland’s women when they asked for protection? Oh aye, he opposed all that feminism gone mad. Yer New Definitely Feminist Hero last got a menshie on ATF for his opposition to the years of work done by women’s organisations, to pass the landmark Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, which he condemned as “mince” in another Herald Da-sterpiece. There’s an open letter here which sums up the many and varied issues with his hot take and with the way the media elevates certain male voices as authoritative.
And no surprise, he’s repeatedly misrepresented those raising concerns around Alex Salmond’s use of other people’s money to fund his legal costs and refused to accept that one of the most powerful men in Scottish politics has any power simply because he’s no longer in elected office or a member of the SNP.
Macwhirter is, sadly, far from alone in being a man guilty of uncritically parroting a tiny group of anti trans activists, while not doing even the most shallow bit of digging or asking any of the women’s organisations you’d imagine any journalist writing about gender would have on speed dial.
“Trans guidance for Scots schools breaches 11 children’s rights, campaigners warn” screams the headline, as Stephen Naysmith (another yin who loves bashing trans people relentlessly to bring in the clicks) writes that the Scottish Government could be breaching 15 articles of the UN convention. So who are these “campaigners”? “Women and Girls in Scotland (WGS)” apparently. You may remember them from….absolutely nothing. The quote in the piece comes from Leya Terra, a notorious opponent of trans rights. WGS disgracefully suggests trans kids should be treated like nits, outed not just to other kids but also to the parents of any kid they come into contact with. They’re also not to be allowed to use loos, participate in sports, or generally do anything that would see them mixing with non trans kids due to the perceived threat they pose. I remember being that wee boy who the other boys told the teacher they didn’t want to change with – and having this view mainstreamed in the press is nothing less than a hateful attack on vulnerable queer kids. But there’s been no interrogation of the source and no trans voice in the article, it’s sensationalist drivel that reads like Nicola Sturgeon’s gonnae end up in the Hague for ScotGov adopting a position of support for trans kids to access services on an equal basis with their peers. What really happened was WGS filled out a risk assessment form but “bigot fills out a form” wouldn’t generate quite as many hits for Naysmith so this alleged adult choses to monster trans kids to generate more traffic, ignoring the possibility that could also lead to more hatred and violence against weans in the playground. The Scottish Government have since reviewed the filled out form and concluded it can fuck right off.
The group most beloved by the press, ForWomen.Scot, have also appeared from nowhere, have zero record of providing services for women and also seem to exist solely to push back on trans rights. They’ve been given gushing coverage regardless and SNP MSP Joan McAlpine even invited them to Parliament to give evidence on the census, where they, it seems successfully, argued against non-binary being recognised. They repeatedly went on about “integrity of data”, despite the one actual stat on their website being provably false.
The group claim in their literature that “evidence shows 95% of men who declare themselves to be women have had no medical treatment”, they cite a Dutch study which suggests 5% of people who “are likely to be gender incongruent to some degree” have undergone surgery, with another 15% likely to in future. Key words: likely to be, to some degree, people. So nothing to do with men who claim to be women, people who are likely, to any degree, to have a gender identity which doesn’t exactly match their assigned sex, if we’re being integral about data, at all.
Further Peak Data Integrity can be found in their claim that “lesbians and gays are being called transphobic for not wanting to have sex with people of the opposite sex”, which they evidence via the data of 2 tweets. A peer review by reputable scientific journal A Thousand Flowers found a) 1 of said tweeters isn’t from the UK and we got really bored creeping through the other tweeters timeline trying to figure out where they lived but we doubt it’s Scotland b) trans men/women aren’t the opposite sex to gay men/women so we can be gay/bi/lesbians with them if we like, thanks and c) the tweets don’t even say that.
The group are quoted in the Guardian (where, to be fair, Libby Brooks gives space to the women’s groups opposing their bigotry) as saying “we’re not here to quibble about toilets” despite another of the 5 bullet points on their website’s leaftlet being….a quibble about toilets. So we’ve already demolished or found them to have misled on about 3/5ths of their claims at first glance, such data, much integrity.
And of course, we can’t mention ForWomen.Scot without listing what will always be their crowning achievement for those of all genders and none: that time they implied a cat was stoking sectarianism in Northern Ireland by being orange. Feel free to re-read that sentence as often as you need to. These are the people invited to Parliament as experts. Bilbo, an orange cat, subsequently refuted the libellous allegations and ATF take his assurances he is both opposed to sectarianism and a good boy very, very seriously.
The rather more serious point I’m getting at – and the segue back to 3 Strikes And You’re Still Shite Macwhirter, is that in reporting uncritically on these dodgy new groups and amplifying only the views of a tiny, vocal minority of loudly “silenced” transphobes, space simply isn’t being given either to trans groups or to the women’s groups on the front line. Under the comments to Iain’s latest outburst, there were further attacks against groups like Rape Crisis Scotland, Engender and Womens Aid – and their staff – who were accused of actually being secret bigots who were just too scared to say so, SILENCED, in case they lost their funding or jobs. We’ve already refuted this lie, by calling every Women’s Aid group in Scotland, every group we spoke to said they were trans inclusive already – but the transphobes won’t believe these women, it suits them to call women who work with survivors cowards and liars instead. Who’s silencing who exactly?
Just when you thought the press couldn’t stoop any lower, Rape Crisis Scotland reported that they were contacted by The Times (who’ve been leading the anti trans bigotry on a UK wide basis) and encouraged to disclose whether any of their staff were trans. Here’s what they said:
These targeted and relentless attacks against women’s groups by the anti trans lobby are deeply sinister and we need to continue to resist them. The people who peddle lies and bigotry won’t rest until Rape Crisis Scotland has been replaced by a random website run by people hating on orange cats and Women’s Aid is just a badly filled in form about the “dangers” of trans kids. They want to undermine the credibility of women’s groups so they can claim that space and funding for themselves.
Women and men, cis and trans people, gay people, bi people and lest we forget the “heteronormative” lesbians Iain’s been bashing out his one handed columns about, all need to speak up for those being attacked and undermined by the latest wave of moral panic which has infected the Scottish media. Otherwise, we risk both trans groups and women’s groups being undermined by bigotry and hatred.
I’ll finish by quoting the great man himself, who, in discussing equal marriage, once said, “like all attempts to fudge difficult moral issues, same sex marriage has become ever more volatile during the months of prevarication and delay”
The same thing’s happening now, and that volatility is being felt by the trans people who urgently need this legislation. So ScotGov: stop the fudging, stop the prevarication and delay, do what you promised you’d do when you were elected and CHANGE THE LAW to give trans people and non binary people the rights and respect they deserve. Then, when all the tall tales in the tabloids and The Herald turn to dust – and just like the “horses marrying flies” stuff we heard about equal marriage, they will – maybe we can all get some peace from MacWanker’s never ending “thinkpieces”, which so far have featured precisely no actual fucking thinking.
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