Category Archives: queer issues

Dear NSPCC, please don’t debate child abuse

Content note: this post discusses child abuse and transphobia, mentions suicide

Update October 13th: They have cancelled the debate

I’ve sent a copy of this letter to NSPCC Press Office Please feel free to send similar emails.

Dear NSPCC Press Office,

I was very concerned to see a tweet from you on 11th October, advertising a “debate” between Sarah Ditum and Kellie Maloney on transgender children.

I was under the impression that NSPCC stood against all forms of child abuse. Why, then, are you holding a debate which will essentially equate to, “is it all right to abuse some children?”

One of your speakers, Sarah Ditum, is an apologist for abuse of transgender children. In late 2014, the world was horrified as a trans teenage girl was abused into suicide by her parents. Ditum expressed empathy with the parents, rather than the young girl who was abused to death. I am highly concerned that you think it appropriate to host a debate where one of the speakers empathises with child abusers, and I strongly suspect you would not decide to debate any other forms of child abuse while platforming somebody who empathises with abuse.

There are also concerns about your other speaker, Kellie Maloney, who is a domestic abuser. I know the NSPCC as an organisation are concerned about children being exposed to domestic abuse, you’ve got a whole web page on it. I can only assume you went with Maloney because no other trans person was willing to share a platform with somebody whose sympathies lie with parents who abuse a trans child to death.

I’m asking you, NSPCC, to please, please rethink this debate. Do you really want the NSPCC brand to become synonymous with debating whether certain forms of child abuse are all right?

Please cancel this debate.


I received a reply. It feels very form-lettery and does not address my specific concerns?

Dear Zoe

Thank you for taking the time to contact us with your comments.

Children and young people are increasingly raising concerns about transgenderism and gender dysphoria. Issues that are of concern to children are of concern to us.

The NSPCC hosts a series of regular debates on matters that affect children and around current and sometimes controversial child protection issues.

The NSPCC’s role is to chair the debate. It is simply providing a platform for the issue to be discussed and awareness of it raised. It is not taking a view either way.

We chose speakers who are pertinent to the debate. Both are known to the media, have spoken publicly about their views on transgender, and have differing opinions which will enable a good discussion. They do not represent the views of the NSPCC.



Sadly, no answer as to whether they usually like to have a speaker in favour of child abuse, or not, but having googled their previous events, they don’t usually invite someone who reckons everyone’s being a bit mean to people who abused their child to death. There’s also no answer as to whether or not they think it’s acceptable to debate whether a bit of child abuse is all right. I’m a little surprised the NSPCC claims to have no view on whether or not child abuse is acceptable.

Absolutely unacceptable, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be donating to the NSPCC now they’ve become the sort of charity that thinks that abuse of vulnerable children is a topic for a fun little debate.

Further update, as of 6pm: Kellie Maloney has now pulled out, meaning the NSPCC’s “debate” is now literally just the bigot.

Further update, October 13th: They have cancelled the debate, and sorted out their language.


Obligatory #BiVisibilityDay post

Hi, I’m still bi, even though the workings of fate seem determined to make me a lesbian.

I didn’t really have time to write a whole post today, but here are some of my past Bi Visibility Day posts:

Today’s word of the day is “sapphophobia”

Bisexual adventures with stavvers

In which I am visible and bi


Incidentally, here is a fact you probably didn’t know about bisexuals. As you must, surely, know by now (and if you don’t, you’re welcome), the “bi” in bisexual doesn’t mean “attracted to the two binary genders”. What “bi” actually refers to is that we exist in a quantum state, simultaneously existing and not existing until observed and either accepted, or  told that we’re just doing it for attention or whatever. Happy Bi Visibility Day, and may you be a Schoedinger’s cat that is alive and well.

Is Theresa May A Feminist Icon? Listen to KILLJOY FM for why she really, really isn’t

My friend, feminist extraordinaire Ray Filar, has started a really good radio show, and they were kind enough to invite me on the inaugural episode, where we discussed the question, is Theresa May a feminist icon? Me, Ray, and migrant rights activist Antonia Bright of Movement For Justice all agree that she isn’t, and frankly an hour wasn’t long enough to cover all the reasons why (although we made some headway). Take a bit of time to listen to our conversation, covering May’s violences against migrant women, complicity in austerity, why “blue feminism” is a shivering pile of turds, and what feminism needs to be doing instead of cheering on a monster.

Content note: the discussion covers detention, FGM, violence against women and domestic violence.

Listen to KILLJOY FM every Wednesday on Resonance FM, online or on 104.4 in London.


Enjoyed that? Consider becoming a Patron, or leave a tip.

Kiddle: a search engine which endangers children

Content note: this post discusses child abuse, homophobia and transphobia

A new search engine for kids has been launched, and my goodness, it’s terrifying. 

Kiddle is supposed to help kids navigate the internet safely, using a combination of human editors and Google’s Safe Search. However, it’s also been criticised for blocking searches relating to LGBT issues.

Last night, when I had a bit of a fiddle with it, it seemed to have a bit of a double standard regarding what it just wouldn’t provide results for, and what it decided was Bad:

Before you ask, it wasn’t down to what’s known as The Scunthorpe Problem, a product of automatic filtering which causes innocent words to be blocked.

However, more has changed since last night. While last night, a search using Kiddle for “transgender” returned some results, today it’s been deemed A Bad Word, with the judgmental robot wagging his metallic finger.

Blocking searches pertaining to LGBT issues is dangerous. It keeps young people from accessing resources to help them better understand themselves. Telling them words they’ve heard that they feel might apply to them are bad is more dangerous still: it feeds guilt and shame.

Kiddle’s solution to some (but not all) LGBT-related searches is woefully inadequate and, again, could turn out to be dangerous. Instead of just not returning any results, it now tells children to ask their parents.

Eagle-eyed readers may spot an issue here: a young person is using the internet to seek answers, they’re probably not in a position to ask their parents the questions they have. Asking could, in fact, put children at risk of violence–physical violence, emotional violence, conversion therapy.

It’s not just LGBT-related searches that are blocked, though. Dr Jill McDevitt tried some common queries that children and young people may have, and found that information about puberty, is-my-body-normal type questions, searches related to menstruation, and searches about abuse were also blocked, sometimes with the Bad Words robot appearing.

The Bad Words robot appears on a search where anything judgmental definitely shouldn’t appear.

When dealing with child abuse, a sensitive approach is necessary. Children are likely to feel shame and guilt, and being told off for using bad words is hardly going to alleviate this.

It gets worse. Say an abused child was looking for contact details of someone who could help. Too bad.

Apparently other helplines and services are similarly blocked, the stern robot repeating over and over that these are bad words that should not be used.

This site is an abusive, controlling parent’s dream, barring their child from access to any possible sources of help. If, by accident, something useful does slip through the net, parents can request blocking a search. I assume that this is what happened within the last 24 hours to the search term “transgender”, which returned results last night, but is A Bad Word today.

So who actually owns Kiddle? In truth, we don’t know. All we know is that it isn’t Google–which is hardly helpful information considering more than 7 billion people on this planet aren’t Google. It’s all very fishy. There’s no transparency on who owns the site, or who’s involved in editing it. Do they know that they are enabling child abuse? Would they be mortified if they did know, or is it their goal all along? For all we know, Kiddle could be run by a paedophile ring hoping to keep kids blissfully ignorant that what’s happening to them is not OK.

In theory, a child-friendly search engine using safe searches and human moderation is a good one, but it cannot and must not block things which parents find unsavoury. Instead, if a child searches for information about sexuality, they should be able to access it. If they want to know about what’s all right and what isn’t, they should damn well be able to access it. Keeping children ignorant only opens them up to abuse. Question why parents (or perhaps just the owners of Kiddle) don’t want children to access information about being queer, or resources for child abuse.

The view of parents as an all-powerful authority over their children, able to control what they see and do not see is a dangerous one in and of itself, but sadly all too prevalent. The only source of hope we can perhaps draw with this Kiddle incident is maybe they won’t be supervising their children online so much, so young people can go about being more digitally-savvy than their parents and find the information they need online themselves.

In which I struggle to care about hetero civil partnerships

This week, a straight couple are challenging a terrible case of discrimination in the high court: they want a civil partnership, like same sex couples can have, but they’re not allowed one.

Now, at first it might seem like it’s a little bit weird that civil partnerships are only available to same sex couples, but actually under a power system which centres and favours heterosexuality, it makes perfect sense. Civil partnerships were brought in as the “lesser” option for same sex couples: marriage without polluting the Very Important Institution Of Marriage with all the gayness. Civil partnerships are pretty much exactly the same as a marriage, legally, except without the word “marriage”.

There’s a comparison here. Basically it’s the same, with a couple of pretty trivial differences: you can’t terminate a civil partnership if one partner had a STI at the time of the formation (though you can with marriage); you can’t terminate civil partnerships due to adultery (which doesn’t exist within civil partnerships); civil partnership certificates have both parents’ names on them (when, to be honest, neither certificate should have anyone’s parents’ names on them); and the register of civil partnerships is electronic. It comes down to words, at the end of the day.

Don’t get me wrong. I can see how this might be appealing to people who consider themselves too modern for marriage, but would like all the perks: the tax breaks, the sneaking around inheritance tax, and so forth. These things are, of course, a product of social engineering on the part of the state, encouraging people into little nuclear family arrangements, into a contract which makes it harder to get out of the arrangement. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty powerful piece of social engineering, and I can see why, if your life can in any way be bent into this little contract, you’d want to do it.

The thing is, it’s hardly an oppression that straight people can’t use the word that same sex couples use for the arrangement they were originally fobbed off with. Is it bad that cohabiting man-and-woman couples don’t have access to various tax things without getting married? Well, not particularly to me–I’m fully expecting not to be in a position wherein I’ll ever have anything for anyone else to inherit, and one of the biggest tax breaks of all is not cohabiting with anyone. But assuming these things do matter to you–why campaign for marriage-under-a-different-name when you could campaign for your cohabitation to be recognised? If you’ve lived together for years and got kids together, why shouldn’t this be recognised without having to get your very specific legal seal of approval? Why not ask for that? 

Not marrying should have the same benefits as marrying, for those who want it. And when I use the word “marry” there, I am including civil partnerships, because they are essentially the same. Support those who choose to stay the fuck out of it, and let them benefit too.

What would be healthier for everyone would be if the institution of marriage (including civil partnership) became irrelevant from a legal standpoint: sure, keep it as something with religious significance, keep it as something with cultural significance, but is it really necessary? Every time the marriage question comes up, I find myself saying no: open up those benefits to anyone in any domestic arrangement, and stop socially engineering relationships. If you don’t want the crap that comes with the word “marriage”, then the path is clear, even if it is a harder one: fight marriage.

Misgendering is editorial policy at the Independent: Lola Phoenix shares their story

Content warning: this post discusses dysphoria, trans healthcare and misgendering

Lola Phoenix is an agender person who needs surgery to correct dysphoria. Because they are agender–they do not identify as any gender– and they have a feminine name, they have been denied treatment from the NHS​. So, like many other trans and non binary people who need surgery, Lola has turned to crowdfunding. Visit Lola’s crowdfunding page, and read why they need help in their own words.

To gain prominence for the crowdfunder, Lola decided to engage with the mainstream media, opting to work with who they thought was a sympathetic journalist. “Initially, I saw a story about GIC wait times in the Independent written by Paul Gallagher and I tweeted him and asked if he was interested in writing about my GIC experience. In my first email, I made it clear that I wanted my pronoun to be respected and I wanted to basically publicise my surgery fundraiser. I went through the whole rigamarole, ​spoke to him on the phone, filled out the questions he sent me, and answered his follow up questions. I even got photographed by one of their photographers and everything! I asked to see the article before it went live and in the one he provided for me, I corrected my pronouns.”

So far, so good. Surely the Independent covered Lola’s story in a way which was acceptable to everyone? Well, no. “The article that went up is not the same and when I asked him to change it, he gave me the spiel about the editorial decision.” Changes to the article included deletion of paragraphs on the issues non binary people face, such as immigration issues, and honorifics. Furthermore, Lola’s pronouns were not changed.

The journalist said “The was decision taken to use ‘she’ etc in the opening few paragraphs to describe you as a child as it was felt this provided clarity for readers coming to the story fresh and make your gender at birth clear. Then when we mention the fact you considered yourself agenda [sic] c. post 16 we stopped using those pronouns.”

Whoever made the editorial decision made a pretty nonsensical one. Having read the article (freezepage here, content warning for misgendering), it is more confusing, using “she” pronouns for Lola in the first six paragraphs–it certainly seems to have confused readers in the comments, who are using the incorrect pronouns. At no point does the article mention Lola’s correct pronouns, and it seems to go out of its way at avoiding using any pronouns whatsoever. Also, it’s a fib that the “she” pronouns–which shouldn’t have been there in the first place–were dropped after it was made clear that Lola is agender. Just one sentence later we get this crap: ‘She no longer wanted to be referred to as “she”.’ Just try to process that sentence for a minute.

Lola was understandably unhappy with this response and took action. “I wrote him back explaining why it wasn’t okay. No response.”

Lola asked explained why the Independent’s current editorial policy is wrong, telling Paul Gallagher, “By misgendering me, you send a clear message to your audience that it’s okay if they misgender me. In your own article, you state that I don’t like being referred to as “she” despite doing so yourself, so it sends a message to the audience that it’s okay for people to continue misgendering me.If that’s an editorial decision your paper wants to make, don’t expect a lot of trans people, especially non-binary people, to feel safe telling their stories to you.”

The email was sent on 30th December; it’s been a week and still no word. Lola hasn’t yet taken any further action, although they were clear in their emails to Gallagher that they would talk publicly about their experience if the matter was not resolved. While they’ve open to contacting editors, they’ve found it difficult to find out who to talk to and had “rubbish luck” in the past.

It’s shameful that the Independent are not even trying to engage any more. If it is indeed editorial policy that people are misgendered to make it easier for a cis audience to understand their stories, this needs to change sharpish. It is completely disrespectful to ignore a person’s pronouns. Lola’s gender assigned at birth is irrelevant to their current situation: one where a binarist, cissexist world is depriving them of the treatment they need. They suspect this bad reporting is down to ignorance.  “I think that they are trying to tell the story clearly and they’re trying to address a primarily cis audience that will be obsessed with what my “birth sex” is. In order to get media coverage for my surgery fundraiser, and talking about being trans in general, that’s kind of par for the course. Cis people are obsessed with it. But if you have to talk about someone’s “birth sex” you can do so and still use the right pronoun for them.”

Far from helping Lola, the Independent are exacerbating the problem. And after all that, the Indy haven’t even linked to Lola’s fundraiser (here it is again!). Lola says they wouldn’t have gone through this process if Gallagher had been open from the start that the article could not link to the fundraiser.

Lola has also tried appealing to the NHS for a breast reduction outside of a GIC, but the requirements for every borough they have ever lived in have excluded Lola due to the fact that their chest isn’t seen as large enough (Over a G cup) or requires a “normal” BMI. The irony being that Lola not only has a thyroid condition which makes it impossible for them to lose weight but also Lola partially wants a reduced chest because having one would make it easier for them to exercise. Lola also has flat feet and a knee condition that makes some form of exercise difficult, which the CCG does not take into account — they purely want the patient’s BMI to make a decision. CCGs in the boroughs Lola has lived in do not consider psychological distress as a factor for getting a breast reduction, despite a recommendation letter from both Lola’s therapist and endocrinologist explaining their thyroid condition.​

Lola has a few things they feel would right this wrong. For themself, a correction to their pronouns, or at the very least an explanation as to why they were repeatedly misgendered in the article. For the community, better journalistic standards are a must, and they suggest some simple changes to writing style: “People’s preferred pronouns should be used at all times. If you need to clarify someone’s “birth sex”, then you can do so by saying “born female” or what have you. But in general, the preferred pronouns need to be use for any person.” And finally, Lola would very much like it if you could help with their fundraising.

Lola is well on their way to raising the funds they need for their surgery, no thanks to the Independent. However, they still need another £3000 to be able to afford the operation and associated fees. Unless gender identity clinics revise their attitude to agender and nonbinary people literally right now, and instantly manage to deal with their lengthy waiting lists, going private is Lola’s only option–and that of many others in the same boat. In a just world, nobody would have to crowdfund essential medical attention, but we have not built that world yet. So please, please consider donating what you can to help Lola access the care that they need.

Trans Day of Remembrance: even one death is too many

Content warning: this post discusses transmisogyny, suicide, murder and prison

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and this year we are remembering 271 trans people who were murdered. Read the list of their names.

Of the victims, the overwhelming majority were trans women of colour. They were killed in brutal, vicious ways: stabbings, stonings, beheadings. We live in a violent world, and trans women of colour are more at risk of visceral violences than many others.

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn them, and each year we hope that the list will be shorter in the future.

The list only counts those who were directly murdered by the hand of another. This means that many other deaths are not counted: trans people are at a high risk of suicide, as well as HIV, addiction, and many other factors which cause one to die young, far far too young. It is perhaps not even possible to count these deaths.

One sticks out though. The day before TDoR, a news story broke. Vicky Thompson, a trans woman, was sent to a men’s prison. She had said she would kill herself if this happened. A week ago today, she was found dead in a men’s prison. Vicky Thompson’s death comes mere weeks after advocacy and action helped get Tara Hudson moved to a women’s prison. Vicky Thompson was just 21 years old.

The justice system have Vicky Thompson’s blood on her hands. Ministers Michael Gove and Andrew Selous have Vicky Thompson’s blood on their hands. The judges who sent Vicky Thompson to a men’s prison have her blood on their hands. Those who argue that a woman belongs in a men’s prison have Vicky Thompson’s blood on their hands.

Vicky Thompson’s death was as good as a murder. Vicky Thompson did not need to die. Vicky Thompson could have been easily saved, but there are too many who would rather see her dead than lift a finger to ensure that nobody ever dies like her again.

There is a culture of violence against trans women, and it is propped up and enacted by our government. Transphobia and transmisogyny demonstrably kill, and these bigoted, murderous views must die. It is not just words, just an opinion. Transphobic views kill, and they help the murderers get away with it.

Each Transgender Day of Remembrance, I boil with anger and sorrow. Even one death is too many, and trans women are killed in droves. The violence must end.