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Posts Tagged ‘transgender’

Only a brief one, though, which expands slightly on all the excellent, thorough coverage there’s already been.

Lucy Meadows was a primary school teacher who died this week. It’s thought she took her own life. She’d lived most of her life as Nathan Upton, and had only recently made a public transition to a gender with which she identified.

David Allen Green has posted a good summary of the circumstances, in which he discusses the negative attention the mainstream press had often applied to Lucy Meadows, and to people who fall outside of standard accepted gender norms more generally.

That particular round-up notably doesn’t mention a column by Richard Littlejohn, which was published in the Mail last December, but quietly vanished from their online archive in the last few days. Almost as if what they thought they could get away with saying about her while she was alive, suddenly seems grossly insensitive now that she’s dead.

David’s chosen not to focus on Littlejohn in particular, because this diminishes the extent to which numerous other newspaper columnists and editors are guilty of exactly the same cruelty and inhumanity on a regular basis. Also, the Samaritans have been reminding people of their media guidelines for the reporting of suicide, in the wake of some commentators being overly hasty and certain in apportioning a direct causative link, or even absolute blame. Richard Littlejohn may be a terrible human being, but nobody has the authority to reliably declare that he drove anyone to suicide.

Taking one’s own life is rarely, I suspect, a simple decision resulting from an easily comprehensible mindset. Understanding what’s going on in other people’s heads is a challenge at the best of times, let alone when the actions they’re taking are quite so far removed from my own. (I hope that ending your life is a distant and unrelatable premise for all of you reading this, as well. Even if not, I imagine you’re well aware that your demons are your own, and not automatically shared and understood by anyone else who experiences any similar turmoil.) It’s good advice, to avoid being too sweeping in our declarations of what it was that pushed someone we never knew personally over the edge.

But this sensible advice leaves one aspect of the whole unpleasant business not fully addressed.

And that aspect is that Richard Littlejohn is a terrible human being.

I can’t do anything to help Lucy Meadows now. But I can repeat this fact.

I say this without holding Littlejohn the slightest bit culpable for the death of Lucy Meadows. Whether or not his column directly affected her life, or indirectly contributed to a culture of prejudice and othering in which she eventually couldn’t bear to live another day, is not for me to say.

But even if we stipulate that Richard Littlejohn is not responsible for her death – even if Lucy Meadows had managed to live a full and happy life – what he wrote about her would still be loathsome and despicable.

The fact that she took her own life is, of course, the primary tragedy, the one point of real significance. But it’s not the only relevant factor to my assessment of a thousand-word article in a widely read national newspaper, devoted exclusively to demeaning and vilifying a troubled individual who’d done nothing to deserve it.

He asks us to think about “the devastating effect all this is having on those who really matter”, explicitly declaring that Lucy Meadows herself didn’t matter a damn to him. He bewails the primary school children’s being “forced to deal with the news”, as if to give kids a chance to learn about people different from themselves were to inflict on them some form of bereavement or abuse. He calls it “selfish” for her to go back to the same school she used to teach at, rather than moving away just so that her freakish aberration didn’t bother anyone.

This from someone who claims to have “every sympathy” for those who undergo gender realignment surgery. Littlejohn seems to think he’s a compassionate and understanding person, who’s simply standing up against those values being taken too far. When you’re standing up against compassion and understanding because you’ve found someone who doesn’t deserve it, that’s called bullying.

Littlejohn quotes the way teachers discussed things with Mr Upton’s class, and explained that Miss Meadows would be teaching them in the future:

Teachers told them that Mr Upton felt he had been “born with a girl’s brain in a boy’s body” and would henceforth be living as a woman.

If I ever have children, and I find myself discussing transgender people with them, I imagine that might be pretty close to what I say. I think I’d certainly talk about the differences between how you feel inside, and how you look on the outside, the relative importance of each, and the way they can both affect each other – I might use their mother’s tattoos as a familiar example, to talk about your body acting as an adaptable, malleable reflection of your internal self.

I don’t think they’d have too much trouble getting the hang of it. If we’ve raised them well up to that point, and encouraged a basic level of tolerance and acceptance and humanism, then I don’t see why they’d be “worried and confused”, let alone “devastated”. It’s only Littlejohn who still finds it too much to get his head around.

(Exactly the same argument, of course, has been made about openly gay teachers, among members of other professions. I wouldn’t expect a conversation about homosexuality with my kids to last more than five minutes, should the need arise. It’s a lot simpler than many right-wing bigots seem to think.)

The point is: Littlejohn’s article is full of the kind of wilful ignorance that makes the world a worse place, even without laying the death of an innocent teacher at his feet.

The end of the story for Lucy Meadows is awful and saddening. But this article was vile and horrendous on the day it was published, even when she was still trying to forge a new life for herself. You don’t need to wait to find out how the story ends to see that.

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– The worst thing about drink-driving isn’t the possibility of accidentally killing people, it’s that it makes you a cry-baby.

– A police trial of using lie detector tests is being hailed as a success, even though there’s no evidence they can reliably offer any help, and despite the numerous dangers of giving police another way to implicate people they’re already predisposed to consider guilty regardless of the evidence.

– Ha! Think you’re a real woman, do you, with your lipstick and your eyeliner? Well think again, tranny! Ugh. Look, Libra, I know you’ve only got a thirty-second ad to make your point, but aren’t we at least a little above this kind of cheap shot these days? Here, read this, you might learn something.

– Okay, I know swapping out that lyric in John Lennon’s Imagine for “And all religion’s true” makes no goddamn sense, and I know Cee Lo Green’s been an idiot for changing it and lamely attempting to justify it. But it was one stupid idea that really makes no significant difference to the world. Do we not have anything better to do than going after him for breaking copyright law? Seriously, let’s just go back to not giving a shit who he is or what he thinks about anything.

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Last year (or to be more precise, three days ago), I wrote a thing making fun of the Archbishop of Chicago’s concerns that the gay rights movement might be starting to resemble the KKK.

Elly commented:

i think some gay rights organisations/individuals are fascistic to be honest. Many of them tend to serve the interests of middle class white man. They are often prejudiced against less ‘powerful’ minorities and individuals, e.g. bisexual people and trans people.

The incidents around East London Pride and those anti gay stickers involved a lot of racism and Islamaphobia.

AND there are even one or two gay groups calling for a gay nation, a gay only state.

The “gay state” thing is a new one to me, at least outside the realm of obvious satire. It’s certainly not representative of the gay rights movement as a whole, but a book of that name does exist, and from a cursory inspection (which, frankly, is all I have the energy for) it doesn’t seem to be wholly metaphorical. The kind of segregation implied, if you take the title literally, is a terrible idea.

It’s not an opaque or unsympathetic thought process by which some gay people might tire of constantly being belittled and bullied, and eventually become frustrated to the point of abandoning any hope that non-revolutionary acceptance and integration can ever be achieved. There are problems with the gay rights movement that can’t so easily be shunted to the fringe, though.

When I typed “transphobia” into Google just now, the first suffix suggested by autocomplete was “in the gay community”. Do the search yourself, and it’s not hard to find many examples of people battling for rights and acceptance, while seemingly denying the same to other groups of people who you’d think were in a similar boat.

I can’t speak to the nature of the slogans people might have stuck to things during a Pride march, or of the experiences of any gay folk from a minority race, or bisexuals, or trans people, or anyone else who might not have found the gay community to be the refuge they were hoping for. It’s always worth being careful about whether any particular group or subgroup is being systematically edged out, othered, ignored, or discriminated against, even if the movement in question is primarily focused around fostering broader acceptance and tolerance. Perhaps especially then.

However, I didn’t quote the Archbishop in full in my last post, and I think letting him finish his sentence might help with the point I was making (emphasis mine):

You know, you don’t want the Gay Liberation Movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.

And another quote from the Illinois Family Institute:

Cardinal George’s analogy is fair and apt. Many homosexual activists harbor unconcealed hatred for not only the Catholic Church but also for all Protestant denominations that hold orthodox views of homosexuality.

The idea, not just that the Catholic Church as a whole are in danger of being oppressed by a sexual activist group campaigning for greater tolerance and liberty, but that the gay activists are the main problem with this scenario, is what I was aiming to ridicule, and I stand by that.

But, while I’m certainly not condemning or demeaning any movement or organisation based on these concerns at the moment, QRG has a point. The very notion of gay activism becoming oppressive, unwelcoming, or even “fascistic” is not a comically unrealistic one, and is worth watching out for and guarding against.

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– People are making tragically insignificant sacrifices in protest until abortion ends. Maybe it’s because I’m still pretty tired, but I can’t muster up more of a reaction right now than to just find it really funny.

– One for the long-time skeptosphere followers: Dennis Markuze, aka Dave Mabus, he of the cornfields fame, has recently been receiving some manner of treatment for mental health issues. It looks like he’s now posting online again, in what so far looks like a similar pattern to that which he’s followed for years. I imagine it’s best if we continue not to engage.

– Hayley Stevens has a very good point about the fantastically unhelpful and unkind way in which some people vent their frustration with public scientific illiteracy.

What. The fuck.

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