Dispatch from a community under siege

It’s not like it’s been a week when I’ve been scouring the news. I’ve been going out, meeting friends, going to a gig, just everyday stuff. But the war on the trans community is there all the time, you can’t escape it. Every day there’s more attacks, more developments – and they still have the power to shock, to disturb. They lodge themselves in my brain. I want to bring you just one small dispatch, a snapshot of what I can see from my vantage point somewhere behind the front line: how horrific it all is, and how it’s affecting trans people.

This week Donald Trump launched his bid for re-election, and a central plank of his campaign is a pledge to make life unliveable for every trans person in the USA:

“I will sign a new Executive Order instructing every Federal Agency to cease all programmes that promote the concept of sex and gender transition at any age. I will then ask Congress to permanently stop federal taxpayer dollars from being used to promote or to pay for these procedures and pass a law prohibiting child sexual mutilation in all 50 states. I will declare that any hospital or healthcare provider that participates in the chemical or physical mutilation of minor youth will no longer meet federal health or safety standards for Medicaid and Medicare and will be terminated from the programme immediately. “

This is like a dystopian nightmare. It’s so far beyond what anyone could have imagined, even in the latter days of the Trump presidency. I hardly need say here that there’s no support from medical institutions for any of this. What I assume is driving Trump is the need to compete with his Republican challenger, Ron DeSantis, for the anti-woke vote. If the unthinkable were to happen, and Trump was to win again, every trans person in the USA would lose access to hormone treatments and every other form of gender affirming care other than what they can find privately – and private providers would have to be very brave to defy the Trump administration. Doctors and healthcare providers would have to make unpalatable choices. Charities would be shut down. Countless teachers would be hounded out of schools.

Where on earth is all this heading ? Matt Walsh thinks that he knows the answer –

https://www.mediamatters.org/matt-walsh/daily-wire-host-doctors-who-provide-gender-affirming-care-should-be-executed

“Trump also goes on to say that he would direct the Department of Justice to investigate hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, to find out if they’ve been involved in a cover-up of the horrific long term side effects of gender transition drugs and surgeries. And the answer of course is that yes, they have been covering those things up, as any genuine and thorough investigation will clearly show, which is why the next step under a Trump administration should be to arrest the culprits, the hundreds and hundreds of them if not thousands of them, and throw them in federal prison. Now this can’t be a matter of simple fines and financial penalties, I mean that should be part of it, but the only real recourse here, the only semblance of justice, would be prison sentences. Very long ones. And if it were up to me, we’d go further than that. As far as I’m concerned, mutilating and castrating children should be legally considered a capital crime and it should earn the prescribed penalty for such crimes.”

Thousands is a gross underestimate. One recent estimate is that there 1.6 million trans people in the USA, so there’ll be a similarly large number who’ve had direct involvement with trans healthcare, simply doing their job. Matt Walsh would happily throw every one of them in prison, and threaten them with capital punishment (meaning the death penalty).

Matt Walsh is a far right American political commentator. He doesn’t have any sway in this country, right ? Wrong. In an exchange with Walsh last year, JK Rowling tweeted “your film did a good job exposing the incoherence of gender identity theory and some of the harms it’s done.” Like most high profile gender critical women in this country, she’s anxious to distance herself from him politically; however if she has any criticisms of his fascistic solutions to the “trans problem”, she’s keeping these close to her chest.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Rishi Sunak marked his 100 days in office with an interview with Piers Morgan, who inevitably had a few questions to ask about trans issues.

“We must and should have enormous compassion and tolerance and understanding for those who are questioning their gender identity and wanting to change, and we would always be supportive of that, of course we will; but we have to recognise the challenges that poses, particularly for women’s safety… for me when it comes to – whether it’s sex, whether it’s women’s spaces, whether it’s prisons, biological sex really matters.”

In the immortal words of Jon Snow: “as my father used to say, everything before the word ‘but’ is horseshit.” Why use the phrase ‘biological sex’ at all? It’s been introduced to foster the belief that there’s something unnatural, something other about trans women. Sunak is consciously, deliberately, echoing the language of Piers Morgan and of gender critical groups; and he’s doing this because he wants them to believe that he’s on their side in their campaign to remove some existing rights for trans people. So pardon me if I don’t feel comforted by any of this.

On Thursday night, BBC Question Time was in Strathclyde University and the guests included trans broadcaster India Willoughby and the “free-speech”¬†journalist Ella Whelan of Spiked. I don’t normally watch the programme which is notorious for the ways in which it stacks audiences, but it’s so rare for a trans person to get platformed in media discussions on trans issues that I turned on out of curiosity.

The producers agenda was apparent from the choice of guests. India, while well intentioned, has made a couple of ill judged tweets lately that have provoked twitterstorms; while Ella could be depended on to drag the debate into the gutter.

Now the Trump video, with all the horrendous consequences that it could have for millions of Americans, has received minimal attention in the transphobic British press, which has instead been focused for the last week on the sorry case of Isla Bryson. So of course the audience question chosen was about Scottish prisons and safeguarding women – yet again portraying trans people as aggressors rather than as victims. To her credit, India pointed out how dishonest the whole coverage has been. Bryson was segregated, and thus posed no risk to women; there are only around 4 trans women in the women’s estate across all Scottish prisons; and so forth.

Ella then reframed the discussion, accusing political parties of “not knowing what a woman is” to applause from the handpicked audience. This well-worn dogwhistle is intended to delegitimise trans people and call into question their legal entitlements. In the emotionally heightened atmosphere that followed, transphobic audience members were allowed free rein to express their cynicism about all things trans. Fiona Bruce could have nipped all this in the bud, but she was never going to do that.

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