The heady days of 2013, when we were dreaming of a better Scotland and getting pished with this week’s nominee, seem a long way away. I’ve always respected Joan McAlpine, sure she wrote a book with (or more likely for) perennial ATF Bogeyman, Tommy Sheridan, but McAlpine seemed like a rare example of a politician who wasn’t a terrible human being. We respected her so much, we even let her have an ATF badge and waited until she left the gathering before skinning up. It turns out, we could have been stoned the whole time. Wait, it was 2013, we were stoned the whole time. Anyways…
Joan McAlpine has now become a poster child for the army of Transphobes, Evangelicals, Roasters and Fascists (dying on this acronym hill) intent on turning the clock back on trans rights. Despite being elected on a promise of “reviewing and 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”, McAlpine has now thrown herself (i.e. trans people) firmly off the deep end with a seemingly never ending series of bigoted fuckups. It will come as a surprise to no-one who pays attention to how bigotry works, that McAlpine’s ire has also spread to LGBT organisations, Women’s Groups and individual trans people.
The first sign things were taking a zoomerish turn was when what should have been an innocuous Holyrood committee on the census was turned into a pulpit for obscure anti trans group, ForWomen.Scot, who as I’ve pointed out before provide no services to women, were founded solely to resist trans rights and crucially, once said a cat was sectarian for being orange.
Quite why Joan invited them to a Holyrood committee as “experts” on data, when their appalling website is filled with spurious claims (including claims refuted by the data they link to) is known only to McAlpine but needless to say, the session degenerated into people claiming non-binary people don’t exist, which will be news to all those of us who’ve met them.
Not content with allowing her pals to spew pish, Joan then launched into using a random member of the public as some kind of mocking device. McAlpine used the example of Philip/Pippa Bunce, who she’d read about, apparently, to ask how this person would fill out the census, a question the Scottish Trans Alliance member she was quizzing pointed out wasn’t their job to answer. It was a pretty easy answer, had Joan actually paid attention to any of the articles she’s allegedly read, given they all make clear Bunce is non-binary.
So the answer is they now wouldn’t be able to accurately complete the census as non-binary people had asked to be able to, since Joan’s worked to ensure the non-binary option doesn’t exist. Also, they don’t live in Scotland so they’re unlikely to have had much impact on the integrity of Scottish census data that Joan’s apparently so keen to safeguard, but why let that get in the way of ripping into a random queer person? Not content with using her role as Committee Convener to harangue a trans person, she then tagged them in a Twitter thread. The targeting of someone who isn’t even a resident of Scotland, solely because Joan doesn’t want them to be able to accurately complete a census in a country they don’t live in anyway, is atrocious bullying which shouldn’t be tolerated in a playground, never mind a Parliament.
Of course, it didn’t stop there. One of the hallmarks of those trying to turn back the tide of trans rights is to try to undermine organisations who provide services to women, and McAlpine has been no different, launching into an attack on those who work to support women and survivors without discriminating. Groups who actually know what the fuck they’re doing (as opposed to being offended by what they deem incorrectly coloured pussys) like Engender, Rape Crisis Scotland and Women’s Aid have been providing support, advocacy and services to all women for years. They were contrasted with “ordinary women” (read: the group of bigots I found online) and accused of “not listening” to women’s concerns and being *gasp* Government funded. That the Government provides limited funding to help e.g. women who’ve survived sexual violence is all too frequently used as an attack line in an attempt to undermine the credibility of groups who offer services on a non-discriminatory basis. It’s absolutely bogging politics to start ripping into these groups, for the crime of not being bigots and supporting women who need their support.
Joan McAlpine didn’t rest at slagging off women’s groups, not when there are those pesky gays to be ripped into too. Stonewall were also in the McAlpine firing line, as an LGBT advocacy group who… have belatedly started supporting the T. You may remember trans people from stuff like… Stonewall. Of course, Joan was keen to show off her Gay Credentials, declaring herself an “ally” based on support for Equal Marriage, which seems to be the new “some of my best friends are…” defence, used by not homophobes.
[Our legal team were keen that we emphasise that those who use this defence are not homophobes and people who say they are may have committed defamation and may even be liable to pay e.g. £100 for the damage caused to not homophobes reputations, should they be judged to have been even e.g. £100 worth of damaged and not just whiny babies crying in the Bath.]
You don’t get to leverage supporting one part of a community years ago as an excuse to undermine a more marginalised part of that community now. As a gay person, I’m not going to accept a straight cis politician using past support for limited legal rights for gay and lesbian people to justify their current anti trans nonsense. If you mess with the T, you’re messing with Big Gay Me and anyone else in the LGBT community who won’t abandon our trans siblings when their rights are on the line. Judge a society – and a person – by how they treat the most marginalised, not how they treat those with more power. Cynical attempts to try to divide trans people from the rest of the LGBT community must be resisted. We’ve watched as the anti-trans panic in the media has been used as a pretext to oppose LGBT inclusive education down south, we won’t stand idly by and let the same happen here. Rest assured, if this campaign aimed at rolling back trans rights succeeds, others in the LGBT community will suffer as a result. Trans people cannot be the wedge used to break apart LGBT solidarity, we’re not going back in time to pander to “allies” like Joan McAlpine.
The next target on the hitlist for McAlpine was Trans Pride Scotland, a relatively new event for trans people to come together, fight for their rights and celebrate their communities. With the event taking place on 30th March, McAlpine decided 29th March was the day she’d declare women she’d associated with Trans Pride were guilty of “unsolicited misogyny” for referring to her as “trash”, following her garbage behaviour re the census. Let’s break down that allegation shall we? “Unsolicited” suggests Joan hadn’t done anything to merit a response from the people her behaviour directly impacts. Yet she’s an elected representative who uses her platform to try to deny some women the rights she already has, undermines groups who provide them services and target groups and individuals who advocate for and support them. The fact she didn’t post a “how do you like my bigotry?” questionnaire to the people whose lives she’s affected doesn’t mean they don’t get to comment. Assuming you have no responsibility for your actions, when you’re in power, does not make a response to your use of that power “unsolicited”. If you don’t want to be held accountable for your role in undermining the rights of others, try not doing that, rather than taking up space in The Scotsman moaning about how you’re the real victim, while trans people continue to be denied basic healthcare and equal rights.
The history of the word “trash” as a gendered term is rather thin on the ground, we’d suggest as a term that it’s gender neutral, non-binary, if you will. So in calling what one woman says to another woman “misogyny”, it suggests maybe Joan is just saying they’re not women. That would fit her misgendering of other women, including on radio where she took to the airwaves to helpfully declare women to be men. Being called “trash” is being called trash, although perhaps “bin juice” would be fairer description of the views McAlpine expressed. Trash can be recycled and turned into something useful, bigotry needs wiped away from our politics in the hope the lingering smell it creates eventually passes.
McAlpine’s response to be called on her nonsense fits a pattern where opponents of trans rights grind down trans people, then try to label the slightest bit of anger as “misogyny”, “male aggression” and “machismo.” But history tells us something else: when you target marginalised groups, they don’t politely sit back and take it forever. That’s not how resistance to a violently unequal society works. As the old adage/historically accurate fact goes: Stonewall was a riot. No debating occurred, at least not with the polis (but of course, loads of useless “allies”/half arsed gay rights groups said it was terrible and damaged the cause and made us look bad yada yada). Joan’s yet to condemn the Suffragettes who
argued in the marketplace of ideas repeatedly bombed and blew up stuff enroute to winning their rights for their “toxic masculinity” because that isn’t what happened – and it’s not what’s happening when trans people stand up for themselves now. It’s not our business, as cis people who aren’t facing the challenges and outright hatred trans people are, to dictate how this struggle is conducted, trans people certainly aren’t obliged to show courtesy to those who oppress them. As the author of a book which covered the Poll Tax Reasonable Debates Riots, it shouldn’t be difficult for McAlpine to grasp what can happen when you fuck people over. If there ever was, as the title of said book suggests, “A Time To Rage”, trans people’s rage has never been more timely.
It’s just been so relentless since McAlpine outed herself, with the MSP amplifying seemingly any anti-trans message or article she can lay her hands on. The usual array of topics, like how they’re a threat to kids and do loads of crime, which have littered her timeline, are troublingly familiar to those of us who’ve been analysing the messaging spread by bigots for years. Last week, McAlpine shared yet another anti-trans piece, which cited hate group Transgender Trend. Transgender Trend are linked to the US evangelical right, with groups like the anti-abortion Hands Across The Aisle promoting their fundraising. They became notorious for their attempts to target (read: bully) schoolkids, by distributing anti-trans propaganda to teachers and making stickers which they encouraged people to put up in schools before being caught and lying about it. Like so many of the newly established anti-trans groups (e.g. ForWomen.Scot), who’s actually paying for this material is unclear, but given the proven links between transphobes down South and the evangelical and alt right movements – and given how desperate the evangelical US right are to pour money at anything that harms trans people, it’s pretty safe to assume bigot dollars are floating across the pond. Transgender Trend’s propaganda has mysteriously made its way back to The States so it seems to be a symbiotic relationship between those peddling hate here and those who’ve been doing it in the US for decades.
Transgender Trend also promote “conversion therapy”, or to give it it’s accurate name, the torturing of trans people. Of course, none of this stopped Joan McAlpine from breathlessly sharing their nonsense about The Bad Transes Being A Threat To Kids on Twitter. When Joan was challenged on this by a journalist, specifically on whether she endorsed the torture of children for being trans, she tried to dodge the question of what and who she was promoting, by pulling out the Bigot Top Trumps: LEGITIMATE CONCERNS.
It’s not just funding that’s pouring in from the right and being lapped up by the anti trans army in the UK, it’s patter too. “I’m not against you as such, I just have ~legitimate concerns~ about you being here” is copied and pasted from the migrant bashing playbook and it’s now been seamlessly adopted by McAlpine to use against another minority the press are intent on whipping up hatred against. Yet again, Joan declared people’s response to her sharing anti-trans pish was… you guessed it… “unsolicited.” I can’t help wondering which trans person’s been out soliciting for Joan’s opinion on their existence and rights but we won’t be holding our breath for the day she ever asks trans people what they actually think about what she’s doing to them, by amplifying negative messages so constantly. When McAlpine asked in the thread what part of her behaviour was transphobic, she was helpfully provided with a list of things she’s said and done. She then blocked the person who answered the question she directly asked, as I’ve watched her do to other LGBT people (Hi!) when they’ve challenged her or responded directly to points she’s made. Turns out, soliciting a response isn’t good enough after all, if McAlpine happens not like your big gay answer. For someone so keen on having a debate and a discussion, she sure seems to like making people dissapear into cyberspace for being on the other side of it. Thankfully, I’m about as keen on debating the merits of transphobia as I am on debating the merits of the clap and generally provide my big gay answers to any ~legitimate concerns~ people may have directly to the centre of the sun, should they wish to visit there and collect them.
It’s no accident groups like Breitbart and Hands Across the Aisle love transphobes and promote their work, the targeting of vulnerable women and LGBT people is the bread and butter of far right gutter politics. The desire to fearmonger, in order to isolate and “other” people is what they do. But in 21st Century Scotland, we have to expect much better from our political representatives.
When you’re replicating the same ~legitimate concerns~ tropes relied on by the far right when they bash migrants, when you’re standing on the same side as those who don’t want women to have other forms of control over their bodies, when you’re going after groups who support survivors and gay rights, when you’re amplifying negative press stories about an already vilified group, when you’re getting support from Graham Linehan (who’s barely had the polis away from his door for his constant harassment of trans people and who was dogpiling on the trans journalist questioning McAlpine this week), when the group you invited to Parliament are joking around with holocaust deniers, it’s time to take a long hard look at who you’re really being “an ally” to.
If the SNP wants to be a safe and supportive place for trans and gender non conforming people, they have to squarely take on those trying to prevent trans people having the same rights as anyone else. Members who simply want to have their correct gender legally recognised, to be safe and welcome in their own spaces and to be able to challenge those who misrepresent and undermine their rights without being labelled as the aggressors, have to come before someone’s “right” to be an absolute fucking horror to and about them.
Far be it for me to suggest that people who don’t agree with the SNP manifesto and don’t agree with the basic principle of self determination are a poor fit for a party which has the SNP’s manifesto and has self determination as a basic principle. 3 parties didn’t support reforming the Gender Recognition Act in the last Scottish Election: UKIP, the Scottish Christian Party and National Front Scotland. That’s where transphobic politics should be left rotting, on the hateful margins where it belongs. The actual governing party has a responsibility to the people who believed the words it wrote when it asked LGBTI people to vote for it.
There will doubtless be lots more hot air from the PR types in the SNP, about how we should respect those cutting about with Joan’s McAlipers: grading, inspecting and measuring people on the scale of “Has Legitimate Concerns” to “Misogynist Criminal Menace” to decide who’s allowed to play in their treehouse and have human rights. But what’s really needed is tangible action to implement the policies the SNP were elected to implement, like, for example, self ID. When that happens, all the horror stories and nonsense will be revealed to have been just that, the world will continue to turn and everyone who pretended otherwise will look like an absolute riddy. Yeh OK, like more of an absolute riddy than they do right now.
We didn’t marry frogs after equal marriage and we’ll not be identifying as frogs after self ID. The hurt caused to trans people and everyone who’s unashamedly opposed to bigotry, by those who should have been able to see this hateful panic for what it is, won’t be forgotten, but the ability of bigots to continue to lie will be greatly reduced and most importantly, less trans people will be harmed by a failed and broken system. In the meantime, we’ll not be wasting our breath pondering whether the latest wave of anti-queer, anti-minority scaremongering is somehow more worthy of “debate” than the many previous waves.
Joan McAlpine’s version of “outsiders are coming to steal our icepoles, destroy our long held traditions and do crimes” doesn’t differ much from the many versions of the same bad patter that went before, aside from the “think of the brainwashed children” chat borrowed directly from yesteryear homophobia. If Joan wants to retire to Youtube, with teenage incels who peddle guff about marginalised groups taking over and demand everyone debates them, there’s not much we can do. While she’s an actual representative in real parliament, we have to continue to speak out for those on the receiving end. It’s certainly been a challenge to replace John Mason as the SNP MSP who’s most repellent to many LGBT people but Joan’s seems to be doing her best to earn that badge. We’d kindly ask she never wears our ATF badge again, and gives us it the fuck back. We would, of course, be happy to replace it with her new badge: the badge of Weekly Wanker.
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