Saturday, December 21, 2019

On climate change: feeling fatalistic

The overwhelming majority of humankind lives in ignorance of its insignificance, as far as Nature is concerned. Like any god, it's oblivious of our interests. It owes us nothing. Every now and then Nature culls an abundance of living creatures, including humans. Until now, this has happened due to geological and other changes beyond our control. This time, we have precipitated our own destruction due to ignorance. Pride goes before a fall. Nature, the planet (until the Sun dies), the universe, will persist. We appeared very recently, in evolutionary terms, and will disappear even faster, it seems. We can only attempt to postpone the inevitable.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

You either believe or you don't

I wrote the following as a series of Tweets but knowing how many believers are ready to complain about any suggestion that they're wrong about gender, I'm taking the precaution of saving them here.

Transgender ideology is like religion; you either believe in it, or you don't. I don't. I'd like to live in a secular society where religious people are free to believe whatever they like, but not to impose those beliefs onto others, especially children, or to expect special privileges, especially any that conflict with the rights of others. I don't believe that a virgin gave birth or that a man can. In fact, I know that neither is true because they're impossible, so don't waste your time telling me I'm wrong.

I get along with religious folk perfectly fine if they're happy to let me be, they don't proselytise, they don't try to indoctrinate children (who are increasingly sceptical anyway), and don't expect me to adopt a reverential approach to their leaders. I judge people by how they behave and expect the same.

So when our politicians, who may or may not have a religious faith, behave as though this relatively new ideology should be accepted without question and not only afforded special rights, over and above those we already have, but rule us out of order if we disagree, you'll have to forgive me for thinking you're daft, and we've already got more than enough daft politicians. We need smarter ones, who'll question the evidence for claims of any description. We're already in enough trouble because of a general lack of scrutiny, of critical thinking.

I've never been very good at doing what I'm told or believing what I'm told. People like me have always annoyed authoritarians of all sorts because we expect to be given good reasons for complying. Where are the good reasons to believe about gender? I've yet to hear any.

As a funeral celebrant, I've included words of advice in my ceremonies; to do the least harm, not postpone anything that's really important, like helping someone you love to find fulfilment, and of course there's Horace's "Carpe Diem".

I might also have said, don't be a dick.

And how did it begin?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Gender Recognition Act consultation

Lex malla, lex nulla
A bad law is no law

It's impossible to provide answers to a government consultation based on fallacies, the main one being the existence of "gender", a bit like being consulted on the value of Father Christmas. I tried, and managed to provide answers to the questions they don't ask.

My concluding remarks:
This consultation is biased in favour of the beliefs of a small minority of psychologically unhealthy people who've adopted a catch-all explanation for their conditions, for a variety of reasons. The original act is deeply flawed. The proposed changes would make things worse. Transgenderism isn't like homosexuality; it's not an innate characteristic. It's a collection of ideas about what it means to be masculine or feminine between two stereotypes that are largely determined by the fashion and beauty industries. Just as the inhabitants of Fiji suddenly developed anorexia when TV became available on the island and they were able to watch soaps that featured characters with the disorder, transgenderism has spread through the popularity of socials media and the encouragement of those with a pecuniary interest in it. Who has a gender? No one.

Remember the false memory syndrome scandal? And how many people have conveniently forgotten it? It'll be much more tricky to forget about gender nonsense when you've further enshrined it in law, won't it?
A woman wrote on Twitter that her husband had responded to the consultation with a lot of words she wasn't sure they'd understand, like "paraphilia", but she thinks he refrained from writing "Bollocks!". I did too, though I was sorely tempted.

Anyway, you have a go.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Yet more foolishness - gender neutral toilets

Local authorities, schools, colleges and businesses, including retails businesses, are falling over themselves in their haste to show how trans-friendly they are by providing gender neutral facilities, including toilets. This isn't a legal requirement in the UK but a well-meant though ill-thought-out response to the demands of trans lobbyists.

In yesterday's Times, an irate mother wrote about how her daughter's school switched to gender-neutral toilets, with no alternative. After weeks of banging heads against brick walls, her daughter started a petition, and won a reversal of school policy. Good for her, but how many others are doing this?

I've written to The Times as follows:
Re: your article about a school that introduced so-called gender-neutral toilets, the mother was right to complain. Perhaps you could point out that UNESCO has urged governments to ensure that single-sex toilets are available. They're concerned at the number of girls who miss school during their period, due to embarrassment and for practical reasons. What's true for co-educational schools in developing countries is also true for schools here in the UK, and if you care to investigate you'll find that in the US and Canada, where gender-neutral facilities are all the rage, incidents of voyeurism have increased dramatically.

UNESCO's GLOBAL EDUCATION MONITORING REPORT GENDER REVIEW 2018 includes a reference to girls' disadvantages in education, including the fact that many will miss school during their periods. See pages 33-34.

Last year Dr Javid Abdelmoneim made a BBC TV programme in a primary school, where he made a lot of progress in changing expectations about boys and girls' aptitudes and abilities, but the one thing that the girls rejected, after trying it for a short time, was sharing their toilets. The boys were "smelly", they said, and they wanted to go back to single-sex toilets - so they did.

Elsewhere on the internet I've read stories about gender-neutral toilets that demonstrated what a bad idea they are..
  • Girls have been restricting their water intake to avoid having to use the toilet in school, risking severe health problems, not just because the toilets were gender-neutral but because they were dirty and smelly.
  • Women found that the toilets in a London pub had become gender-neutral. It was especially bad on Friday and Saturday nights, when many of the men were drunk. Some had moved the used sanitary towel bins so that the women had to walk past a row of jeering men to get to them. The pub was soon boycotted by all but a few women.
  • Men have been found guilty of filming women using the toilet, either by installing hidden cameras or holding their phones over or under toilet doors.

I'm alright. I'm disabled, so I can locked the door and keep everyone out, but if I had a daughter I'd be worried too.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Email to the papers about false suicide statistics for transgender people

In response to an appeal from the Gender Critical Action Centre about the use of false suicide statistics in relation to transgenderism issues, I've emailed The Guardian and the Observer, with copies to other news outlets, using a suggested script. However, I added some of my personal thoughts about the lack of journalistic scrutiny of the issue. This was the first part...

Dear Editors of the Guardian and the Observer,

You have an ethical obligation to cover suicide in a way that does​n't cause harm. More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration and prominence of coverage. Yet The Guardian and The Observer have repeatedly transgressed these ethical journalistic standards when reporting on “transgender” suicide over the past few years.

Further, with sensational titles such as...
Nearly half of young transgender people have attempted suicide
Almost half of trans pupils in UK have attempted suicide, and
Too many of us young trans people are crying out for help. Will you listen?

... The Guardian and the Observer violate another tenet of the journalistic guidelines for suicide, which state that risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, use dramatic/graphic headlines or images, or sensationalises or glamorises a death by means of repeated/extensive coverage. If violating journalistic standards were not bad enough, the Guardian and the Observer. along with other media, are guilty of an even greater ethical transgression by reporting skewed statistics to sensationalise transgender suicide coverage. The 41% Trans suicide attempt rate is a tale of flawed data and lazy journalism. And yet these statistics are used to terrorise and blame “non-affirming” parents and teachers for “transgender”suicide.

These violations of journalistic integrity matter a ​lot. Though suicide is not a communicable disease, there is a strong body of evidence that it is still contagious. The evidence suggests that suicide outbreaks and clusters are real phenomena; one death can set off others. Parents are reporting cases of children declaring rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) along with a transgender status in clusters with their peers. It is also increasingly common for gender dysphoric adolescents and mental health professionals to claim that transition is necessary to prevent suicide. This is creating devastating results for families who often feel they have no choice but to set their children on a course of life long medical treatment.

I am very concerned about the misuse of data and the potentially catastrophic results from journalists not adhering to the journalistic standards of integrity when covering suicide and would like you to address this.

The rest of this email wasn't copied from the action centre, but are my thoughts, or some of them.

​I'm also very concerned about the amount of uncritical reporting of transgenderism, ​with little or no attempt being made to scrutinise the phenomenon or its origins, or the unquestioning acceptance of the claims of trans people by governments at all levels, or corporate bodies. Transgenderism is a mental disorder, not an innate characteristic like homosexuality, though the reasons for claiming to be transgender vary; there are more than one. It would be good to read or hear some good investigative journalism about a subject that most newspapers seem to avoid for fear, perhaps, of upsetting the small minority of transgender activists who can make a big fuss about any suggestion that they need help, but not necessarily the sort they want. For a substantial number of transgender people, Gender Dysphoria Disorder is a type of personality disorder similar to Body Dysphoria Disorder and Anorexia. The word "gender" is being consistently misused as synonymous with sex, but means something completely different. There is no credible scientific evidence for the claim that some people are "born in the wrong body" or have something wrong with their brain, and it is scientifically impossible to change your sex. How you express yourself, your femininity or masculinity, depends on your independence, or lack of the same (since one set of stereotypes is rejected in favour of another), your creativity, upbringing, culture, interests, etc. In other words, your personality. Young children whose behaviour is non-conformist (quiet gentle boys or boisterous active girls) are being too easily labelled transgender, when they're simply being themselves. There are no transgender children and no reasons to inflict any "treatment" on them, such as puberty blockers and hormones. They're fine as they are.

I'm 74, but if transgenderism had been a thing when I was young my parents might have been advised to have me sent to a gender clinic, if there'd been such things, as my appearance was androgynous and my interests and activities were unladylike. By the '60s, as an art student, it was more or less compulsory to be unconventional.

With the current consultation about a proposed amendment to the Gender Recognition Act in mind, there isn't a better time to scrutinise the claims being made about transgenderism and the potential consequences of making self-ID legal in the UK.  ​

Sincerely, Margaret Nelson
(Supporter 495018)

Before I was fully aware of the transgender issue, I wrote about the suicide of Leela Alcorn, a transgender teenager in the US, who committed suicide by walking into traffic. At that time I was more concerned about the unfortunate person who killed her when she walked in front of his tractor. Leela was a male to female trans person. Men tend to choose more violent ways to kill themselves that women do. I've conducted funerals for men who've hung themselves, leaving their loved ones to discover them; an image that will stay with them forever.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dressed to kill

As far as most clothing retail outlets are concerned, people like me are a dead loss. I spend most of my time in T-shirts, jumpers and jeans or, when I'm not well, PJs and a dressing gown. I wear my favourite clothes until they fall apart, after being repaired. I spend most of my money on necessities like food and heating, so don't contribute much to our consumer economy. My habits may not do much for that, but they do mean that my contribution to the global waste mountain and sea pollution is minimal. It wasn't planned that way but it's good that it did.

A report in The Telegraph last year claimed that British people spend an average of £1042 annually on clothes. Women spend more than men, and a lot of that is on cheap clothing that may be worn a few times, if at all, then thrown away. For the same amount of money, assuming you can afford to spend that much, you can buy good quality British made clothing that will last for years. So, maybe the fashion industry and cheap clothing retailers wouldn't like it, but you'd earn lots of ethical Brownie points.

It used to be considered enough to donate stuff to your local charity shop, as well as buy from there, but all the stuff that doesn't get sold was bundled off to second-hand clothing markets in Africa and Asia, and they don't want it any more. They're overwhelmed already, and it puts their local producers out of business. They certainly don't want your old clothes in places where there's been a disaster of some sort, like a hurricane. So where does it go instead? Landfill, where a high proportion won't rot down because it's made from synthetic materials, the manufacture of which used huge amounts of water and petroleum by-products, among other nasties. We're supposed to be reducing landfill.

To earn maximum Brownie points your ethical wardrobe should be made from natural fibres - wool, cotton, linen, and other vegetable products - so that when they eventually wear out they will decompose naturally, even go on the compost heap, and not pollute the oceans with the microfibres that escape in the laundry. They'll end up in the sea creatures' systems as well as yours, when you eat any of them. A couple of entrepreneurs have invented a laundry bag that will trap fibre particles, but that will be a drop in the ocean (pardon the pun) in terms of stemming the flow.

So here's the finger-wagging bit. It's not enough to write to your MP and Top Shop, or wherever you buy your outfits. What's in your wardrobe?

WRAP - Valuing our clothes: the cost of UK fashion.
How your clothes are polluting our oceans and food supply.
Useful natural fibre clothing information from a blogger.
The limits of ethicality in international markets: imported second-hand clothing in India.
CBS News: Is the fashion industry ready to change its wasteful ways?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Don't grow old. It's no fun.

Found myself sitting next to an older woman who'd brought her husband to see the consultant in a hospital outpatients clinic today. They both struggled to get out of their chairs (hospitals need higher seats for strugglers like us) and shuffled, rather than walked. Growing old is no fun, she observed. She and I had a nice chat while he was with a nurse. It began when I admired her cane, which had a pretty silver top, like some I've seen on 'Bargain Hunt'. It was her father's, she said, and she thought he'd have been pleased that she still used it. We agreed that the families on the TV programme 'Eat Well For Less' were ridiculous. She confided that her husband, in his nineties, had dementia, so wasn't really sure why he was there. It must be difficult, I said. Yes, she said. Did she have any help? No, she said, she managed on her own. She had suggested getting someone in to help him dress, but he wouldn't have it, so she struggled on. I have a broad back, she said. Women do, I said. (Sorry men!) She agreed, but said that he didn't appreciate it. I didn't ask if she had any family, but she said she had some good neighbours. Just one among very many strugglers. I'd like to have given her a hug, but it wasn't appropriate. Besides, we might both have fallen over.