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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Julie Bindel

There's been a new round in the ongoing Julie Bindel vs trans people row. She was scheduled to speak against pornography at freshers week at Manchester, but pulled out because of rape and death threats, which were scary enough that she reported them to the police. I want to be very clear that rape and death threats are wrong. I hope the police catch whoever did it. Obviously, I don't know if the person who did it is trans or a misguided 'ally' or is somebody who is really insecure about feminist discourse on pron. There have been a lot of easily findable abusive tweets from trans people to her, but none I saw were threatening.

There is a lot of confusion in the media and from Ms Bindel herself about why trans people are so very displeased with her. She imagines that it was an extremely rude and insulting article she wrote several years ago, which I won't bother to quote. Some media has reported that it's a philosophical disagreement about the origins or cultural significance of trans identities. Both of these things are wrong.

Trans people protest Bindel because every time she has the opportunity to speak about us, she advocates against us receiving appropriate healthcare. She wants to uphold our freedom of how we identify and that's nice and all, but a lack of appropriate healthcare would be a tremendous crisis. the NHS started covering transition for the same reason that San Francisco Department of Health does: it's much cheaper to do it than not do it. If there is no legal, prescription access to hormones, this will not stop people from taking them. It will however, prevent them from being appropriately monitored. Unmonitored hormones usage is not particularly safe and cause problems from blood clots to cancer as people get their levels wrong. In the NHS's case, they found they were treating trans women who had, in desperation, attempted or succeeded in castrating themselves - dealing with the shock, the blood loss, infection and everything else that goes wrong when people try to perform surgery on themselves. In San Francisco, they found that lack of access to hormones lead to the impossibility of passing, which meant that some poor trans women were extremely vulnerable and whose only economic opportunities were in survival street sex work. Their HIV rates were around 70%.

Lack of access to healthcare kills. When she uses her very public platform to prevent us getting treatment, she is advocating that some us die.

In the past, she's written about trans regret. This is when somebody transitions and then changes their mind. To a cis person, this must seem like the worst thing ever. In reality, the regret rate is around 1%. This is lower than for most medical interventions, including for cancer. For the 99% of people who are happy, they go on to lead productive lives, pay taxes, etc. Trans people tend to be much more economically produce post-transition, to the point where the medical intervention pays for itself in increased tax revenue.

There is a law in the UK called the Gender Recognition Act which prevents discrimination against (many) trans people and provides a mechanism by which people can update their documentation. When this was a bill, she and the Guardian actively campaigned against it, by finding every regretter they could and misrepresenting studies to claim the regret rate is much higher than it actually is.

These days, there are a few trans voices that get columns when issues about us come up, but for a long time the only people writing about us were cis people. Bindel became a public 'expert' on us because she already had a column - because she was cis. She's still more famous than our rising star columnists and she still gets platforms over and over again where she proclaims that her ideology requires us to die. That the diagnosis of gender dysphoria should be eliminated and we be left to our self-identification without any medical support.

I wish that people would stop sending her abusive tweets. I wish people would stop offering her platforms to speak. I think that advocating for the removal of healthcare from a vulnerable population should disqualify one form speaking on any human rights issue.

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