talking about Teh Trans

the RCPsych Lesbian and Gay Special Interest Group have a natter

The idea behind a balanced discussion is that you attempt to weigh up contrasting views of a subject that are of roughly equal weight. The trouble with discussions about transgender matters is that, all too often, the discussion is disrupted by some shouty person coming in off the street insisting that you use their scales, and then dumping a great pile of rusty old iron on one side of them and a bucket of frogs on the other. Crazy thing, that bucket of frogs, let me tell you.

Thus the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ proposed conference “Transgender: time to change.” Concern was expressed by trans people over the basic premise of the conference, and the choice of speakers. Then Charing Cross GIC pulled out of the conference, saying

…it now appears that the conference comes at trans issues from a very specific agenda, namely, to explore the validity or otherwise of gender diagnoses as medical and psychiatric phenomena. So long as this is the case, we feel we can’t support it.

And in very short order, the RCPsych announced that the conference was cancelled, citing poor ticket sales as the reason.

It seems odd that the RCPsych, and more particularly their Gay and Lesbian Special Interest Group whose conference this was to be, should have intended to give a platform to people who question the reality of transsexuality and who believe in reparative therapy for transgender people, while at the same time condemning the use of reparative therapy in the ‘treatment’ of lesbian and gay people:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists believes strongly in evidence-based treatment. There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.

Thus Az Hakeem, one of the invited speakers, who first came to my attention as a signatory of this letter to the Guardian in 2002, deprecating the  European Court’s judgement on the Goodwin case:

Many psychiatrists, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists find that their trans-sexual patients are individuals who, for complex reasons, need to escape from an intolerable psychological reality into a more comfortable fantasy. By attempting to live as a member of the opposite sex they try to avoid internal conflict which may otherwise prove to be too distressing.

It is a measure of their urgency and desperation that they frequently seek surgery to make their fantasy real. By carrying out a “sex change” operation on their bodies, they hope to eliminate the conflict in their mind. Unfortunately, what many patients find is that they are left with a mutilated body but the internal conflicts remain.

Through years of psycho-analytic psychotherapy, some patients begin to understand the origins of their painful feelings and can find ways of dealing with them other than by trying to alter their bodies. The recent legal victory risks reinforcing a false belief it is possible to actually change a person’s gender

I was surprised to find, on further reading, that Az Hakeem is actually a psychiatrist, working at the Portman Clinic. Though I’ve never heard from anyone presenting as transsexual  and under his care. Reading Dr Hakeem’s opinions in his essay “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, I suspect that the condition of any such person may be complicated by incidences of masochism and Stockholm Syndrome.

And then there is Julie Bindel, whose qualification for appearing at the conference is her ability to say something very simple, very loudly. That thing being her core premise that “In a world where equality between men and women was reality, transsexualism would not exist.” Fair play, I can see how this argument might be attractive to students and people who enjoy the heady intoxication of a simple Big Idea. The Big Idea  in question being that gender is a social construct. But surely the conference could have found a more intelligent speaker on the subject? Cordelia Fine, for instance, a psychologist whose Delusions of Gender covers this ground rather more honestly. I can only agree with Cordelia when she says

“There are sex differences in the brain. There are also large sex differences in who does what and who achieves what. It would make sense if these facts were connected in some way, and perhaps they are. But when we follow the trail of contemporary science we discover a surprising number of gaps, assumptions, inconsistencies, poor methodologies and leaps of faith.”

Maybe Cordelia was busy. Perhaps the RCPsych Gay and Lesbian SIG just fancied a mass chanting of “Four legs good two legs bad,” conducted by Our Julie.

Oh well. After a few weeks in which some trans people have attempted to talk with the conference organisers- Natacha Kennedy and Jane Fae, mainly, as far as I can tell- and been stonewalled for their troubles, it’s all off anyway.

So now we can expect accusations of bullying and no-platforming. Oh, look, there’s some already, in the comments section of Natacha’s CIF column in the Guardian. It seems somehow ironic; people are so used to talking about Teh Trans without bothering to talk to Teh Trans; and then get uppity when they find that Teh Trans do have a voice of their own, akshly. I still fondly recall Bea Campbell’s stern admonishment in the Guardian, that us uppity trannies should give her mate Julie Bindel a respectful hearing. Which kind of missed that Julie’s already had loads of chances to air her opinions (and to be corrected where she was in error) (as described here, here and here ) …and revealed that, rather than describing a narrative arc, her take on transsexuality appears to have come to a full stop. Delenda est. Delenda est.

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dashing round in circles

…is what the hares are doing. Me, I’m getting on with all sorts of stuff and feeling guilty that I’ve not been blogging about Things Of Great Weight And Import. Because there’s all sorts of suckiness going on in the world that needs to be addressed. Even though I sometimes call to mind this exchange….


Meantime, I’ve been adding to the seafaring diaries (up in the menu bar there, see?)- and have now got as far as the Bit Of Nastiness that brought my seafaring career to an end. Just saying. Because John (waves. Hello John!) mentioned that he’d only just noticed that section.

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the versatile Peter Kay changes race: a song, a dance, a merry quip

It’s been an interesting week in television land. Brian True-May, who is the producer for a show called The Midsomer Murders,  got into trouble for describing the fictional location of the show as the “last bastion of Englishness …we just don’t have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn’t be the English village with them. It just wouldn’t work. Suddenly we might be in Slough.”

No such narrow-mindedness over on Loose Women, though, where they welcomed their first transsexual woman as a guest. The transsexual woman in question being Peter Kay, a self-identified comedian, in his alter ego of Geraldine McQueen. Obviously, after Channel 4’s historic signing-up to the MoU last week, the transsexual community is thrilled at this evidence of assimilation into the mainstream.

Basking in the glow of goodwill generated, we’ve come up with an elegant remedy for the apparent parochialism of Midsomer. It will introduce its first ethnic minority character. And that character will be Peter Kay, as a negro minstrel.

It will be a grand arrival; Peter will come chugging along the Midsomer Union Canal in his showboat, and entertain the masses with his banjo magic and jolly songs. And then presumably die horribly, to be found washed up in a stagnant backwater. Or possibly become a detective in Midsomer, which may well amount to the same thing.


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I’m working on a guide for Dundry, a hill to the south of Bristol. I did this pic yesterday, and as it feels quite summery I’m putting it here. At last, spring! -Every morning is like Christmas used to be; that feeling of happiness that something that seemed impossibly distant is finally happening.

The local foxes have been getting rather flirty in the garden;playing boisterous games of Are You There Moriarty, then taking a quick break with the vixen lying legs akimbo under the weeping willow, while the dog fox dashes around pissing on things.

Quite chavvy, foxes. I felt rather voyeuristic, I must say.

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Plymouth – has no obvious rhyme, does it?

So, Friday saw us down in Plymouth, doing a reading at the Central Library to coincide with Plymouth’s Out:Fest.

It was a good evening; quite a small crowd, so it felt more like a gathering than an audience, and the discussion afterwards was lively. And, well, that was it. Thank you, Chris Goddard and Sue Lancaster!

Sue points out the escape routes. You know what readings can be like....


We got to explore some of the city, too, and we were down on the Hoe just after dawn. I’d only seen the more urban bits of Plymouth before.

Richard says:

At which point Dru runs out of steam. This is why we have to do the readings together. Dru gets to live the life. I get to be Boswell, and Boswell says never mind the size of the crowd, feel the quality. Had some particularly interesting questions, including two new ones and an old one that I’ve changed my mind about so answered completely differently. We’ve never set out to preach to the converted, and it’s always fun (for me) when I feel some of the audience approaching the trans adventure from my (cautious) perspective rather than charging with trumpets like Dru.

The day after, we had to have an adventure (our trips can become so predictable – we learn something new every day). Hence the lighthouse in the pic at the top. The Hoe at Plymouth is well worth the candle, and there are regency houses hidden on the polite side that made me think of Brighton. The Hoe was once two-thirds of the way to becoming Hove, and then the Royal Navy arrived.

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Plymouth, Ho!


We’re off to Plymouth next, for a reading and talk about Becoming Drusilla. It’s tomorrow, Friday 18th March at Plymouth Central Library, at 7:30 pm. The last one, three weeks ago in Bristol, went really well. And we’re really looking forward to getting a bit further west than usual.

feet, do your stuff!

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Trans Media Watch at Channel 4

Richard and I were up at Channel 4 in London on Monday, for the launch of Trans Media Watch‘s Memorandum Of Understanding. The event was hosted by Stuart Cosgrove, C4’s Head of Programmes (Nations and Regions) and a signatory to the MOU.

You can read the MOU if you go to TMW’s website; but in brief, the aims are:

  • Eliminate transphobia in the media
  • End the provision of misinformation about transgender issues in the media
  • Increase positive, well-informed representations of transgender people in the media
  • Ensure that transgender people working in or with the media are treated with the same respect as non-transgender people in equivalent positions

At least as important, to me, is the dialogue between media organisations and trans people that is taking place. This is a big step forward from, say, the Moving Wallpaper episode on ITV two years ago, which managed to be both stupid and thoroughly offensive in its portrayal of a transsexual character. There were mutterings in the blogosphere. There were letters to OFCOM. OFCOM woke up briefly and said that it couldn’t see a problem, and went back to sleep.

This has been fairly typical of the way things have worked in the past. So Monday’s event was a big step forward, hopefully.

There were addresses by Stuart Cosgrove, Lynne Featherstone (Equalities Minister), Jennie Kermode and Paris Lees of TMW, David Allen Green (human rights lawyer), Hilary Third (Scottish Govt Equality Unit), Valentino (FTM London), and Hamida Ali (BBC Diversity Manager). And recorded messages from Caroline Lucas (leader, Green Party) and Julie Hesmondhalgh (‘er off Coronation Street).

There was even someone from OFCOM….

And then everyone drank and talked. As you do. So much so that we didn’t give as much attention as they deserved, to the wonderful En Travesti Ensemble.

I was talking to a chap from the BBC who was talking about having trans people on telly doing things. You know, things. Like everyone else does. Rather than just transitioning or being medicalised or being the butt of jokes, like the portrayals in Little Britain which have regrettably not yet been entirely shovelled into the dustbin of history.

Valentino and me grabbing a photo-opportunity with Victoria Atkin off Hollyoaks. Shameless, we are!

Well, here’s hoping.

Thanks, Channel 4! And Trans Media Watch!

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