On Liz Truss, The GRA Reforms + Confirmation Bias

Featured image description: White text on a pink background that says: “On Liz Truss, the GRA Reforms & Confirmation Bias”. On the right is the a logo for the blog, ”Trans Autistic Feminist” (a gold neurodiversity helix on a black trans symbol) with the blog name in purple.

CW transphobia, terfs, fascism mention, pathologisation and domestic abuse mention, ableism

Hi all, 

So, as you will almost certainly be aware, the UK government finally released the long-awaited outcome to the GRA reforms for England Wales and Northern Ireland first planned years ago. In a nutshell, it will get a bit cheaper, it will move online, there will be no rollbacks like was feared in the past, but ultimately the main point of the reforms (depathologising it and making the process more humane) will not be happening. You can read the paper here. 

I have a lot of thoughts now the dust has settled a bit, and seeing as I have not done a post on this blog addressing the GRA exclusively due to my stressful situation, now is the time to do so. Specifically, the broader context going on out of public view that has emerged this week.

Let’s talk about context

Shortly after the government finally published the consultation results, there was a blog post put up by Crispin Blunt, a Tory MP. He heads the multi-party LGBT group in the Houses of Parliament explaining some of the events that happened in Parliament regarding the reforms.

Here is the most relevant extract: 

I regret that the considerable work done in privately agreeing a way forward by the wider LGBT+ lobby both in Parliament and outside, to deliver respect and reassurance around the position of trans people in the UK meeting square on the anxieties of some cisgender women around single-sex spaces for example, and the quality of relationship and sex education in schools, was not adopted by the Government, and does not appear to have been properly understood. It is certainly seems to me that the Minister for Women and Equality’s own appointed LGBT+ advisers and those that serve in the Government Equalities Office have also had their advice disregarded.

I am now releasing the private paper that was agreed by the Officers of the APPG on 8th July 2020. The paper was shared with all the political parties’ own LGBT+ Groups and was discussed fully with the relevant civil society groups. Whilst different organisations had their own order of policy priorities for trans people, it was agreed that the APPG position paper, in light of the government’s apparent position, would represent a satisfactory outcome to the consultation. The paper was offered privately to the government in the wake of the anxieties set off by the Secretary of State when she appeared before the Women and Equalities Select Committee on 22nd April 2020.

Crispin Blunt, Tory MP for Ramsgate and Head of the All Party Parliamentary Group for LGBTQ+ Rights

Firstly, there was lobbying going on after all. A lot of LGBT organisations were claiming behind the scenes stuff is happening with the UK government. However, with the lack of physical evidence available publicly for trans folk to read, it was hard to believe, and it felt nobody was on the side of trans people. After all, that is why people protested. So I’m glad there was confirmation of this existence and some detail.

This was written as a reaction to both the consultation and the statement Liz Truss had written to Parliament (you can read that here). This statement not only showed that in the eyes of the Government it was a low priority matter, but it was also quite telling about Truss’s mindset. For example:

“We have also come to understand that gender recognition reform, though supported in the consultation undertaken by the last government, is not the top priority for transgender people. Perhaps their most important concern is the state of trans healthcare. Trans people tell us that waiting lists at NHS gender clinics are too long. I agree, and I am deeply concerned at the distress it can cause.” 

Liz Truss

In other words – you can have healthcare or self-ID, you can’t have both (even though this binary X or Y is a false choice. It also misrepresents the actual new gender clinic announcement, which was decided long before today. One of these, the Indigo Gender Service, got formally announced this week as well, which I will blog about another time when a bit more is known about it.

“Britain leads the world as a country where everybody is able to lead their life freely and treated with respect and that, for many years, transgender people have been widely accepted in British society; able to use facilities of their chosen gender; and able to participate fully in modern life. 

At the heart of this is the principle of individual liberty. Our philosophy is that a person’s character, your ideas, and your work ethic trumps the colour of your skin or your biological sex. We firmly believe that neither biology nor gender is destiny.”

Liz Truss again

This is gaslighting (with terf dogwhistles included) and shows Truss hasn’t engaged with the issue properly, nor wants to see legitimate structural barriers that harm transgender people. At best, they are just empty platitudes designed to cater to the uninformed and privileged majority that wouldn’t grasp the underlying harm first hand. People want to feel comfortable and reassured that the government are doing the right thing. Hence, statements like this will work on many of its readers and politicians add them for this purpose. It’s a psychological trick. However, there is more to the story. 

This is only the tip of the iceberg. 

I’ve long believed the Gender Recognition Act misrepresentation and bad faith debating of a political issue the average voter doesn’t know much about was Brexit style discourse on a smaller scale. These actions only reinforce this. With the above evidence combined with the results from the consultation, it clearly shows the government’s minimal efforts are rooted primarily in trying to please both the transgender community and terfs. This is fundamentally impossible, because one side supports human rights and science, the other side is bigotry and fascism. Now the average understanding of transgender issues by the public has been reduced as a result. This had led to genuine fears as a result of misinformation and a view that transgender issues are complicated when they aren’t.

Additionally, evidence shows Liz has lied about which groups she has been meeting regarding the GRA. Namely that she did not meet the LGBT Consortium and Trans Media Watch like she claimed and instead only listened to anti-trans hate groups. The Consortium person was just a staff member that was vaguely associated with them. She did meet the Heritage Foundation, a significant driver of the anti-trans movement, in August 2019, as part of her role as Trade Secretary, so it’s likely she talked to them about transgender rights. Her behaviours show she is hiding something so so she has little credibility at this point.

Here is an extract from Baroness Liz Barker, a Lib Dem House of Lords peer, from her speech accusing Liz Truss of this, who said that: 

“[Liz Truss] should come clean, admit that she’s not met with anyone who would be affected by the reforms she has rejected, and address any bias in who she has met. “…This is not an appropriate way for a government minister to behave.” 

Baroness Liz Barker, Liberal Democrats Houses of Lords Member

What Barker is referring to there is when Liz Truss had an Urgent Question session regarding her behaviour around announcing the GRA reforms. This was also put forward by Crispin Blunt which was a good thing to do. Releasing a statement the way she did wasn’t good enough. As for the Urgent Question session, you can read that here or watch that here.

However, Liz shared nothing new or reassuring. All her responses to very valid questions by MPs across the whole political spectrum were repeating contents of the Parliamentary statement I already picked apart earlier. It was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever watched and considering how evil the Tories are usually, that says a lot. 

Why this is a classic example of confirmation bias 

It is becomingly increasingly clear that Liz Truss isn’t fit to be an MP, let alone the women and equalities minister in charge of reforming an act of law affecting a marginalised group. She has been only seeking out supporting evidence that matches her own anti-trans perspective and refusing to entertain the lived experience of trans people.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees with me!” these people say, purposely omitting the fact that they’ve actively chosen to only speak with people that do and excluding anybody who doesn’t. Only after the transphobe finishes their “consulting” and the people purposely silenced speak out, it becomes clear that said bias was so intense it made the consulting a lost cause all along. To them, the idea of consulting was a lie.

Transphobes will do anything to validate their inaccurate and scientifically invalid perspectives even if it means excluding pro-LGBT people from the conversation. They don’t care about the consequences on trans people even though legal recognition would help protect us from discrimination, homelessness and abuse, among other things. You cannot get transphobes to suddenly come round unless they were already coming round on their own accord and needed an excuse to show this with others.

Therefore, it’s not “Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees with me!”, instead “Everyone I’ve spoken to and have not challenged my views and made me uncomfortable agrees with me.”  

This is also something I can corroborate from my own experience as this behaviour was something my transphobic relatives did despite my best attempts to get them to come round. Hence, as a trans person with lived experience, when I think of Liz Truss after considering all the above, that is what I see.

Liz Truss is a danger to not just the trans community, but any marginalised group in general. That includes cis women as well. She is not fit to be women and equalities minister nor trade secretary (as organising trade deals that are harmful to the UK will affect cis women and marginalised people more, such as higher tariffs on food). She is not even fit to be an MP, and Liz needs to be removed from Parliament immediately. 

With all the above considered, it’s no wonder she purposely chose to do what she did. She chose to discard the results of the consultation, claim it was hijacked by trans people and push anti-trans rhetoric.

The claim trans people hijacked the consultation is untrue. This was debunked by Nottingham Trent University, of which the Equalities Office had contracted to analyse the results ages ago. Also, the 70% statistic said in the news as the number of respondents supporting self-ID was fake. Nottingham Trent University said this number did not exist in the consultation results. The actual number was much higher, and I suspect Truss made it up herself as she likely leaked the initial plans to the press back in June 2020.

Hence, the consultation paper was little more than an inconvenience to this confirmation bias and must be omitted on purpose. It doesn’t fit the narrative Liz wants to craft, hence is why she has treated these reforms the way she has. Speaking of the results, they included highlights such as: 

“Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64.1%) said that there should not be a requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in the future, with just over a third (35.9%) saying that this requirement should be retained.” 

“Around 4 in 5 (80.3%) respondents were in favour of removing the requirement for a medical report, which details all treatment received.” 

“A majority of respondents (78.6%) were in favour of removing the requirement for individuals to provide evidence of having lived in their acquired gender for a period of time.” 

“The majority of respondents (83.5%) were in favour of retaining the statutory declaration requirement of the gender recognition system. Of those who were in favour of retaining the declaration, around half (52.8%) did not agree with the current declaration wording that the applicant intends to “live permanently in the acquired gender until death”.” 

Extracts from the summary section of the GRA 2004 reform consultation paper

On a wider note, this situation also sums up politics in the UK today. You can have all the statistical evidence on your side and the backing of many credible experts. Still, if the person in charge of making the final decision is a bigot consumed by validating their bigotry, it doesn’t matter. Ad hominem attacks, gaslighting and misrepresentation of arguments are given equal standing and purposely chosen. This isn’t just limited to gender recognition.

Where do we go from here? 

Trans people like myself are tired of the relentless, institutional transphobia that has stemmed from the UK media and far-right groups as a result of the government not nipping it in the bud. This failure did influence the consultation and media coverage over it, turning what should have been a simple administrative change into a culture war battleground that does little more than terrorising marginalised people. Fear leads to us wary of engaging services for fear they will reject us due to pressure or brainwashing put on them by terfs. This is likely what happened to me when I first tried to flee domestic abuse last year.

I’m glad Nottingham Trent highlighted the intersection between autistic people and trans people in the consultation, specifically concerning gatekeeping and having their gender identity invalidated because they’re autistic. This was so important to mention as it shows more needs to be done on an intersectional basis, likewise an accessibility one. Also, the move to online and the cost reduction are the right moves as well on their own merits (but not by themselves).

Terfs genuinely think that self-ID has been defeated by the UK government when this is far from the case and shows how little they know about transgender people. Trans people can update every other document much more quickly and efficiently than the GRA. Likewise, trans people can access spaces much more often than transphobes will ever accept. Hence, transgender rights will eventually be victorious regardless of what bigots say, including self-ID for birth certificates (that isn’t even a valid form of ID).

To achieve that, there will be many things that the trans community and UK government bodies need to act on, specifically: 

  • getting Liz Truss sacked as equalities minister 
  • reforming trans healthcare so it’s fit for purpose 
  • combatting transphobia in broader society, including in the media 
  • ensuring the public have accurate information on transgender issues, specifically for trans kids and the law 
  • reforming the GRA 2004 properly as shown in the consultation
  • ensure non-binary people have legal recognition 
  • protecting trans kids
  • get gender critical feminism decreed to be hate speech 
  • improving the Equality Act 2010 to not only be more inclusive of nonbinary people but also strictly clarify (or ideally remove) the legitimate aim exception not to allow providers to discriminate against trans people 

I’m sure there’s many more, but you get the point. 

Considering the circumstances, I can personally deal with this outcome despite the huge disappointment. Not because I don’t believe the Act shouldn’t be reformed (far from it), but because the result could easily have been far worse. I am glad that rights weren’t rolled back and, in some ways, progressed forward, but this mess was still avoidable and fixable before Boris Johnson became prime minister.  

The GRA needs to be left alone until after the government has sacked Liz Truss at the very least. Nobody should trust the most fascist and intentionally malicious Tory party with reforming it correctly even if they intended to. Hence, if reforms do happen under this administration, there would need to be cross-party involvement.

That’s all for today, 

Milla xx 

PS I recently set up a crowd funder to help kickstart my medical transition privately. Please consider donating to it if you have something to spare. You can view it here. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading! 

Why You Shouldn’t Buy the New Harry Potter Game

Featured image description: The default featured image for Trans Autistic Feminist blogposts, with a pink background on the left and blog logo on the right. The white text on the left says the blog title “Why You Shouldn’t Buy the New Harry Potter Game.” The smaller text says “(aka Hogwarts: Legacy)”.

CW: J . K Rowling, transphobia, terfs, fascism, nazis, conversion therapy mention, murder (real and fictional)

Hi all, 

Recently, during the 16th September PlayStation 5 digital livestream event, a long-rumoured game set in the Harry Potter universe was finally announced. Hogwarts: Legacy is an open-world RPG game set in the world of Hogwarts where the player is a blank slate protagonist who carves out their legacy. It sounds pretty promising on paper if you aren’t aware of the broader context of the author. In practice, this announcement only serves to boost a bigoted author who has gradually revealed her bigotry over time. The gender-critical movement (aka one of many arms of the far right). has radicalised J K Rowling.

I don’t have the energy or ability to dig into much of Rowling’s history myself and explain it all to you. I try not to address such crap especially given my situation (hence why there is almost no reference of the said author on my site, and I may be somewhat sloppy in this post because of the stress). But I will include a summary. 

A summary of gender critical feminism’s harmful aims

This situation is incredibly distressing for trans people like myself for many reasons. Gender critical hate speech has the ultimate goal of rolling back rights for all women and LGBT people, but they start with trans people.

  • wrongly imply our existence is a danger to cis women and children,
  • wrongly claim that we are predators and cross-dressing fetishists
  • advocate putting us into single-gender spaces matching our assigned sex at both (and will be dangerous for trans people)
  • barring us from sports, domestic violence refuges and inclusive healthcare
  • advocate “watchful waiting” for medical transition (especially in trans kids), which is conversion therapy
  • they support gatekeeping and pathologizing to the point of suffering and making support inaccessible
  • want us removed from public life and to go stealth, if not end our lives

The wider context though stems beyond trans people. The ultimate aim is to restrict the way women can present and enforce a binary, outdated form of presentation for women and nonbinary people. It is feminism in name only. In reality, it is far-right conservative hate speech that functions like a cult. It is very much in the same way that the far-right have indoctrinated MAGA supporters and Brexiteer gammon into supporting hate.

Many cisgender people do not realise this. Terfs use dog whistles and concern trolling, they harass and doxx people who call them out and threaten them with legal action. They frame the rights for trans people to exist as a “debate” even though they don’t want a discussion; they want to spread hate. Their “debate” in the UK – alongside a complicit and bigoted media – has derailed the Gender Recognition Act reforms and turned a simple administrative change into a fake culture war.

Heck, even J K Rowling’s new book coming out in the near future used many of the transphobic tropes outlined above as part of the murderer’s character. Namely, this fictional murderer is a cis man who dresses as a woman to target and kill cis women. This was published under her pen name Robert Galbraith. Fortunately, the backlash for that has been swift and severe. Rowling and other terfs have threatened libel suits to force trans people into silence and not call out this harm. This is the suffering these bigots want.

This reveal ruined the stream

Frankly, the reveal ruined the whole stream for me and no doubt many others too. It speaks volumes that Sony and Warner Bros. believed platforming a J K Rowling IP during a significant event was a good idea. This shits on the diverse gaming community, including trans people, is. This distresses their trans viewers as well as allies. I had expected this reveal at some point as it had been rumoured for months. However, I had not expected it during such a significant stream. Additionally, the queer adventure game Goodbye Volcano High was revealed at a PS5 digital event just a few months earlier., which is what makes it hurt a lot more. Do Sony actually care about LGBTQ+ rights or not?

It’s very insensitive considering the harm Rowling is doing and shows either they are clueless about this reality – or they don’t care and want to increase sales. They know many gamers do not have principles and will often buy things they got outraged at during reveals when they come out. As it is, many people online have been like “Oh I don’t like what Rowling has done, but I still want to buy this Harry Potter game.” However, the consequences of this go far beyond video games. 

Transphobia has fatal consequences

This is a classic example of why you cannot separate the art from the artist. You cannot separate transgender people from human diversity. They are innately linked, and there’s nothing anybody can do to change this reality. But until the world accepts this, trans people have to deal with a constant risk of being murdered no matter where they are in the world – especially black trans women. Trans people, in particular, are more likely to be in poverty, unemployed and have comorbid mental illnesses due to transphobia. We often cannot defend ourselves from this due to lack of money or poor mental health. Despite what bigots say, love will eventually win.

But the more harmful figures like Rowling are platformed, this progress is reversible, especially when people become manipulated into supporting fascism. The Nazi government in Germany did this back in the 1930s, by burning books and libraries from the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (aka Institute of Sex Research). This library containing decades of LGBT positive research and is one reason why trans healthcare is decades behind where it should be. Yes, literal book burning. And to think many right wingers like to claim the left are “book-burning Nazis.”

Don’t buy the game

I understand how a lot of people – especially those my age and younger – have a lot of nostalgia for the Harry Potter series and are inclined to support the game. And this is a perfectly valid inclination. However, Rowling will likely make royalties off it (even though she is not involved) she doesn’t need or deserve.

Therefore myself, much like the politically active trans community as a whole, urge you not to support this game. Do not buy it. Do not give Rowling or this publisher a penny. I say publisher because in practice the developers won’t make bank off it thanks to capitalism and lack of unionisation, which is an issue across gaming. Buying a copy of Hogwarts: Legacy supports a billionaire who is using her platform and influence to spread hate speech to rollback trans rights. Even if it’s “just a game.” Money talks, especially those who already have wealth.

If you really want to play it, wait until after launch day to pick it up pre-owned. That way, only the seller of the second hand game gets the money. And don’t go round bragging about it on social media or in collection videos, instead keep it quiet that you have it and are playing it. Because trans people and allies will notice and start to doubt that you genuinely have their back and this will be very distressing.

One of my favourite pastimes are video game collection videos and I fear being unable to watch PS4 / PS5 / Xbox One / Xbox Series X videos now knowing it’s possible that game could come up and the person buying it sees no issue supporting a transphobe. For transgender people, our rights to exist is literally a matter of life and death thanks to transphobic cis people. Don’t remind us of that through supporting this video game, a medium popular with trans people.

How you can help: 

I know being an ally can be difficult for cis people to do as they don’t know what to do so that I will help. 

  • Firstly, buy the game second hand if you can’t bear skipping it as mentioned earlier. Otherwise, skip it. Same goes for all other Harry Potter products. 
  • Educate yourselves on trans people and our lived experiences. There are many of us out there. I’ve included some links at the end of this post to help. 
  • Give us money to access healthcare, housing and mental health support. Give us well-paid jobs. Discrimination is still rampant against trans folk. Many of us have to crowdfund to access private healthcare because public healthcare routes are unfit for purpose.
  • Support our content if we are self-employed as many of us have to go self employed in order to work.
  • Boost our voices. Sharing content written by trans people like this one is a great place to start. 
  • Get political. Call out the bigots around you. Assume good faith, but if they turn hostile, don’t be afraid to call them out. Fill in consultations and write to elected ministers about transgender issues. Go to protests if you can access them. 

Anyway, that’s me out. This whole thing is very distressing for me, so for the time being, self-care is needed. With all this said, I am so glad this game is not coming to the Nintendo Switch (my preferred and most accessible gaming platform this gen).

Milla x 

Further Reading: 

Here is an article by Katelyn Burns, explaining how gender critical feminism has risen in prominence

Here is a short essay by Katy Montgomerie, that unpicks Rowling’s arguments and why they are transphobic (a much longer, more thorough breakdown is available elsewhere on her Medium blog)

In the UK, the anti-trans situation has gotten so bad many trans people here are planning to leave the country

One example of J K Rowling threatening a smaller organisation with legal action for calling out her bigotry 

The Wikipedia page for the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, the private sexology research facility where the Nazis burnt the books in 1933 (trigger warning for images of Nazis and book burning)

Even the developers themselves anticipated this mess as they were feeling uneasy before it was revealed

Unrelated to the above external reading links, I recently set up a crowd funder to help kickstart my medical transition privately. Please consider donating to it if you have something to spare. You can view it here. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading! 

Why the End of Bigoted “Checks and Balances” is Inevitable

Featured image description: White text on a pink background saying the blogpost title of “Why the End of Bigoted “Checks and Balances” is Inevitable”. To the right is the blog name in purple text as well as the logo (a golden neurodiversity symbol on top of a black trans symbol).

CW for transphobia, brief examples of bigotry impacting many other minority groups (no detail)

Hi all,

I’m writing today’s post to talk about something important after recent news. Namely, around the concept of “checks and balances” which is one of the anti-trans dog whistles that was used by Liz Truss in her first Women’s Equality & Human Rights Committee meeting in April 2020. It was then reinforced in a leaked report in the June 14th, 2020 issue of the Sunday Times. The original quote from the meeting is as follows:

“…making sure that transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution, while maintaining the proper checks and balances in the system.”

The usage of “checks and balances” here underpins a lot of fundamental issues that are not just limited to transgender rights. Hence I’m going to explain why this impacts everybody and what to do about it.

It implies the myth that we aren’t all human or worthy of respect, despite the precise opposite being the case.

We are all human and broadly have similar desires and needs. We all desire a good quality of life in whatever forms that each of us wants. We all need access to the resources that will help us get to a good position that satisfies us. We all have human rights and dignity that we are entitled to – and deserve.

A lot of privileged people don’t realise this on a deep level about minority groups, mainly because they’ve been unknowingly conditioned to think that way. Whether it’s the erasure of British colonial history (leading to many denying the UK is racist) to transgender people labelled as predatory and dangerous by the media, the undertones of “us vs them,” “normal vs abnormal” and “familiar vs strange” exist. When if all of this is put aside, we are all human and possess much deeper commonalities then we think.

It implies that restrictions will be put in place, even if broader society denies this.

This is the result of the implications set above. The “checks and balances” reinforce people’s misguided perceptions of abnormality in minority groups. It is an approach intended to restrict freedom and encourage conformity, “checking” that people are adhering to their wishes while trying to “balance” the reaction to stop the masses realising it’s discrimination.
Of course, this does have consequences:

  • For trans people, it means having to convince cisgender people to agree with them that they are their gender  (which is very dehumanising and is why the GRA and NHS trans pathways aren’t fit for purpose).

  • For disabled people, it means constant hostility from the state who run on the assumption that social security fraud is rampant and people must not cost the state anything, regardless of the outcome on disabled people.

  • For homeless people, it means having to continually to prove that they are “really homeless” and nobody else can help them due to artificially constrained supply of both housing and support for addressing issues.

These kind of issues apply to every minority in some form even if they aren’t directly targeted by certain “checks and balances” agendas (ie. Systematic racism, migrants from abroad). At the time of writing though, trans people are the target with the dogwhistle “checks and balances” to signify this.

The idea that “checks and balances” can be put in place to regulate minority groups for any length of time highlights one of the fundamental flaws with conservative ideology. Change is inevitable.

In the past, a lot of things Westerners take for granted today were not standard in the past and our ancestors had to fight for them. Examples include women being able to vote, decriminalising homosexuality and abolishing slavery. These weren’t given to us, we had to fight for them.

Conservatives are the gatekeepers of these rights and only because they have more influential power in the world, but are vulnerable when collective action is taken. Previous generations fought for change, and we got it – and this did include violence and riots.

Of course, the fight isn’t over. Voter suppression still happens, trans rights are under attack, and systematic racism is far and wide (hence the current Black Lives Matter movement). This is before mentioning how many rights Westerners have are non-existent in former European colonies to this day. This is due to said conservative colonialists forcing their “checks and balances” across the world.

We will win, but we have to work for it.

The status quo cannot be upheld forever. It is simply not possible. The “checks and balances” that are standard now to suppress minorities will destroy itself naturally as more people begin to understand that we are human. This includes many of those that initially enforced said “checks and balances” in the first place.

But that does mean we have to get political such as – sending letters to political figures, running campaigns, spread accurate information on and offline as well as taking to the streets and get allies on board. It will be worth the struggle.

Milla xx

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and have the financial means to do so, please consider sending a donation to me on my Ko-fi to help me stabilise my life and start my medical transition. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!