The Green Party need to drop Rupert Read by, like, yesterday: An open letter to the Green Party

Content note: This post discusses transmisogyny

Dear Green Party,

Look, I’m an anarchist, and voting isn’t something I do any more. But sometimes, I look at the Green Party and think “they look like they might stand a chance and they’d probably be the least terrible. Maybe I’ll vote for them.” It was growing inside me, the knowledge that you, at least, might make things tolerable rather than terrible. All that’s gone now, because you’ve made yourselves look no different to the others.

I’m talking, of course, about your Cambridge candidate, Rupert Read. It turns out he’s a really, really nasty piece of work. The clues came when he tweeted the sort of dogwhistle comment which alerts the wise to transmisogyny: he went for the old “don’t call me cis” type bollocks. Digging deeper it turns out that yes, he’s a transmisogynist, and wrote a dreadful, pompous diatribe defending Julie Burchill and transmisogyny within feminism. It’s strange, because while he self-identifies as a “male feminist” (a phrase which makes my skin crawl and sets off numerous red flags at the best of times), he opposed representation quotas for women in the party, claiming, in a popular misogynistic refrain that women already lead the party. Oh, and he’s also enormously UKIPpy about immigration. Oh, and the whole thing started because he used a disablist slur.

So, he’s generally, up and down, pretty godawful and doesn’t embody Green Party ideals–as I understood the Party’s ideals, anyway. He did the old politicians’ apology and made the whole thing significantly worse. As I understand, an apology ought to include some distance from the unpleasant beliefs for which one is apologising, but Rupert Read’s… well, it really, really didn’t. Indeed, he restated a bunch of transmisogynistic ideology, adding that he wasn’t sure if trans women should be allowed to use women’s toilets. More broadly, he showed a devastating lack of understanding of how the world works these days, like a fucking dinosaur. He framed himself as a victim because of one or two four-letter words on Twitter. He moaned that it’s so hard to represent oneself on Twitter (which hardly fills one with confidence about his ability to represent his views in Parliament!). He made it clear–achingly clear–that he prefers debates to happen in the academy. The man is quite patently out of touch with the year 2015. I’d be a little embarrassed for him if he wasn’t such a thoroughly dreadful human.

I wondered why the Greens would select a candidate who is so at odds with the Party’s beliefs, and reeks of the kind of public school privilege of any other politician when a big part of your image is you’re different from the rest. He was the only candidate who put himself forward for the Cambridge seat, it’s true, but I know how political parties work, and I know if you didn’t want him, you would have dragged someone else up to stand against him. It’s pretty clear why you didn’t do that. He’s quite a big donor to the Green Party. He’s in the top 10 biggest donors to the party of all time. Last summer, he was the fourth biggest donor.

It might all be a coincidence, Green Party, but you can’t deny this looks very bad indeed. You’re running a candidate who not only holds absolutely terrible beliefs, but also gave you a lot of money. It looks a lot like he bought his selection. It looks a lot like the Green Party is no different from all of the others.


I like you, Green Party. Despite most of my instincts, I don’t want you to be destroyed by this. Rupert Read claims that most of the criticism is coming from people who want to see the Green Party burn, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of us who are angry are exactly the kind of people who would vote for you.

This is why I’m giving you some friendly advice: drop Rupert Read. Drop him like a burning turd. It’s Rupert Read himself who will harm you. He has to go. You need to take a strong stand against bigotry, and distance yourselves from him. I want you to do all right, and you can’t with a pompous transmisogynistic, sexist, racist conservative shitweasel like Rupert Read dragging you down.

So please drop him. Pretty please.

Love Zoe xoxo

Further reading:

On “Male TERFs” (Sarah Brown)
My view of Green Party candidate Rupert Read’s “apology”. (UnCommon Sense)
Green MP candidate for Cambridge makes transphobic statements (Get Real Cambridge)
An open letter to Rupert Read (Loz Webb, Action for Trans Health)

Update 24/1/15: A second apology has now been issued. This one is significantly better, though only addresses the transmisogyny. Furthermore, Read and the Cambridge Green Party have refused to take donations from violent transmisogynistic hate group Gender Identity Watch and have condemned them [1] [2].

However, in light of the donations and the other awful stuff still left unaddressed, I still do not believe that it is appropriate for Rupert Read to stand.

Let’s talk about how the front page of The Sun is fucking terrible

Content note: this post discusses sexual violence

Rumours of Page 3’s demise have been premature. This is very good news for The Sun, because it means that everyone is furious about a photo of boobs on the third page, rather than what’s on the front cover. Indeed, most of the outrage over the front cover seems to be about poorly-constructed breast pun rather than the truly terrible thing. Allow me to draw your attention to the headline story–that’s the bit underneath the boob pun and to the right of the other boob pun.


It might not look it, but that is a report about a woman who was kept as a slave and trafficked to rich and famous friends of her abuser between the ages of 15 and 18. New legal documents have been filed, with more detail, and this is how The Sun have chosen to report it: as a fun little royal romp.

What does this front page teach those who will see it about sexual violence, about abuse, about women? First and foremost, that it’s cheeky and fun. The way it’s presented, it seems as though these traumatic events occurred with a Benny Hill sax parping away merrily in the background. It seems almost glamorous, as well as sexy: orgies and a real live prince!

The word “rape” is unsurprisingly absence from what happened here, as is “coercion” or “trafficking”. A survivor’s search for justice has been turned into lurid, titillating revelations, and given exactly the same editorial treatment as the testimonials of the “kiss and tell girls”. It is calculated to arouse rather than to anger, to excite rather than outrage.

Alongside the frankly horrible article is a picture of the survivor. It’s hardly just The Sun that have violated her privacy, indeed, I commend them ever so slightly for not using her name right there on the front page like many of the headlines about this story have. Nonetheless, each instance that this happens contributes further to a culture wherein we are perfectly happy to parade women who speak out about sexual violence around, to suck away their anonymity.

I’ve spent more time than I ever cared to receiving vile tweets from fans of rapist footballer Ched Evans. They believe it’s perfectly fine to provide private details of rape survivors. They all, also, seem to be labouring under the false impression that sexual violence is sexy and glamorous. With the front page of a national newspaper sending out messages like this, of course they believe these things. It’s all part of the background radiation of rape culture. Headlines like this are not a meaningless bit of fun, they’re teaching people that rape isn’t so bad, and they’re showing the world how survivors should be treated.

It is not enough to remove nipples from the tabloids. The misogyny problem, the rot, goes far beyond that, to far worse places. Over the last week, The Sun has shown clearly its attitude towards consent, and it’s an attitude which matches the logic of many rapists. Sadly, I think they know they can get away with this, that Page 3 will draw the fire of the people who should really be destroying them for a front page like this.

Every single page of The Sun is nasty. The pitiful excuse for a newspaper reflects and magnifies every ugly bigoted thought. The whole rag needs to die; it becomes clear again and again that this is the only solution. Dismantling that foul rag piece by piece would be but a start, but a tiny step along the way, because all news sources contribute to the problem in the same way. So let us see The Sun in flames, and as we dance upon the ashes, let us turn to the other hacks and let it be clear to them that they’re next.

And they’ve replaced Page 3 with something far worse.

VICTORY FOR FEMINISM. The Sun appears to have dropped the topless model on Page 3. The No More Page 3 campaign is dizzy with joy, retweeting every ounce of praise for them winning this campaign.

The problem the NMP3 campaign had all along was with the presence of nipples, which is one of the very many reasons I had misgivings about it. By their own campaign goals, if it’s true and the Sun has indeed dropped the topless model on Page 3, then they’ve won. No more bare boobs over breakfast.

Personally, I’m a little more sceptical. I have a tendency to flick though the Sun if there’s a copy nearby, for the same morbid reasons as I sometimes subject myself to Question Time or click on New Statesman links. What I’ve noticed in my perusal of things that make me annoyed is that when they don’t have a posed picture of a model on the third page, they tend to have a candid photo of a celebrity. I’d been hoping–being a perpetual optimist who is repeatedly bitterly disappointed–that the Sun would switch to posed photos of models who have covered their breasts, if they’re getting rid of the topless shots. Indeed, last night, it looked like that was the way the wind was blowing, and I felt genuinely relieved that it wasn’t going to be more candid shots.

Of course, that wasn’t to last. Today’s page 3 of the Sun is… candid shots. Of some women who were in a soap opera. Enjoying a beach holiday. Being photographed without their consent.

This is the major problem with candid shots. They’re infinitely worse than posed photos. What does a photograph snapped without a woman’s knowledge or blessing say about our attitude towards consent? Paparazzi shots are invasive and, crucially, completely non-consensual. Fame, according to the paparazzi model, gives men the right to stalk women, to watch them through telescopic lenses while they think they are alone, to watch and wait for a moment deemed suitably titillating or humiliating. If a woman is famous, she loses every right to privacy, and must live her life in a state of perpetual camera-readiness, because she knows that one bad shot where she’s bending and her stomach looks ever so slightly off a completely flat plane will be splashed across the media with gleeful laughter, trying to shame the witch with her rounded witch abdomen. I can only imagine how hellish it must be to be stalked with your harassment encouraged by the national media organisations. In contrast, the topless model, during a shoot, knows exactly what is happening, when the shots are coming. She can portray herself as she wants, and then go home to her privacy.

Another key difference between candid shots and posed photos is who gets paid. Models, of course, get paid for their work. They might not get paid much, but they’re paid for the labour of maintaining their bodies, of being able to work with a camera. With the candids, the subject is not reimbursed for her troubles. Photographers grow rich, they are incentivised to continue their misogynist stalking. Meanwhile, their victims must go through all sorts of affective labour to avoid the cameras, or to at least try to look “attractive” every time they go outside in case there’s a paparazzo hiding in the bushes.

The notion of women getting paid for what we do is, unfortunately, quite alien under patriarchy. It’s a big part of the reason why the paparazzi model flourishes. Women are expected to look good all the time, with no thought given to the sheer amount of effort this labour takes. It’s broadly similar to how demands such as wages for housework remain a niche interest rather than a major feminist campaign. Our work is not considered work. Also related, here, is the general sneering at women who do glamour modelling (as well, of course, as other forms of sex work). It’s not seen as a “real” job, despite the phenomenal amount of devalued labour that goes into it. The No More Page 3 campaign have been just as guilt of this as the misogynists they claim to be fighting. I note that Page 3 is continuing online, behind a paywall, and I hope the models continue to be fairly reimbursed for their work: I’d hate to see a feminist campaign that threw women into poverty!

What was on Page 3 has been replaced by a far nastier flavour of misogyny, born out of a sense of entitlement and a complete disregard for women’s consent. Paparazzi intrusion has ruined lives, even killed women. That anybody could think that replacing a photo which was taken with a woman’s knowledge (and she was paid for) with candid photos is baffling.

I’d honestly rather see a pair of nipples as I eat my beans on toast than this horrifying form of misogyny any day.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Greetings, dear readers. Is it time for another round-up? Why yes, it’s time for another round-up.

There is no such thing as prison reform: an interview with CeCe McDonald– CeCe McDonald explains what prison abolition means.

[untitled] (Red Blood, Black Ink)- A very beautiful piece about names.

Why Britain Doesn’t Need a ‘UKIP of the Left’ (James Butler)- Just about the best analysis of all the bollocks surrounding UKIP I’ve read.

What David Cameron just proposed would endanger every Briton and destroy the IT industry (Cory Doctorow)- If you haven’t heard about David Cameron’s terrible new plans, read about why they’re awful.

“Charlie Hebdo”, not racist? If you say so… (Olivier Cyran)- A former staffer talks about working conditions.

Third exit from the left. (sometimes it’s just a cigar)- Jem reflects on leaving sex work and the popular construction of exiting.

The Bexleyheath teacher, the judge’s comments, and our construction of victims and villains (LucyBottomface)- Very good analysis of the underlying sentiments behind some outrageous rape apologism.

Mass surveillance not effective for finding terrorists (Ray Corrigan)- Basic explanation of statistics, making the case well.

And finally, a somewhat serious one this week. Broken Rainbow, who support LGBT domestic violence survivors, may lose their helpline due to government cuts. Please donate to this vital resource if you can.


Channel 4’s diversity policy won’t work

Channel 4 have produced new diversity guidelines, and get your martini glasses ready because they’ll likely make the rich cis straight white abled men media class start sobbing. Women, PoC, LGBT and disabled people must now be given leading roles in new shows, and characters must also reflect this diversity.

It sounds good on paper, but it won’t fucking change much. The big problem here is that Channel 4 haven’t hit the issue where it matters: the showrunners. The thing about rich cis straight white abled men is they’re not very good at writing diverse characters. They write tokens rather than rounded characters. They write fucking rubbish, because they can’t step outside of their own very limited life experience. Without a change to who is running shows, we’re not likely to see much interesting new content, just a rehash of the same old tired tropes that happen when characters are viewed through the eyes of the rich cis straight white abled man. Channel 4 could have attacked this problem at the very root, and drastically cut the quantity of shows commissioned that are run by this demographic so it reflects population level.

Saying that, even if they did that, I expect what we’d see was a sudden rise in shows run by rich cis gay white abled men.

There’s also a lot of bullshit which falls into compliance with Channel 4’s self-imposed guidelines which won’t help anything. Take, for example, Dr Christian’s pharmacopoeia of nastiness: he’s a gay man (TICK!) and he’s making shows which feature disabled people (TICK!). The fact that these shows generally take the tone of “HEY LOOK AT THIS FREAK WANNA FIND OUT HOW SHE FUCKS?” doesn’t factor into these diversity guidelines. Representation is representation is representation. It doesn’t matter how people are represented, just that they are there.

On the character side of things, I anticipate a little bit of change, maybe. I expect to see less queer-coding villains and more overtly queer, deviant villains. I foresee an enormous rise in racist tropes, with magical negroes leading the white heroes on their quests while at least getting to be in the opening credits for once. And oh! So much naughty, after hours shows with physical comedy about rimming because everybody knows gays can’t go on before the watershed. But worst of all, I predict a rise of the freak show formula. It’s done Channel 4 well so far, and it’ll only serve it better.

Channel 4 has taken a step, but it’s a pretty useless step. I only hope the amount of discomfort it causes the rich cis straight white abled men media class outweighs the negatives.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Greetings, everyone. I read things, and find them interesting. Here are some things I read this week that I found interesting. I’ve split it this week, because there’s been a fair amount of comment on the situation in Paris at the moment. Note that just because I’m linking content that criticised racism doesn’t mean I think they deserved to die. I cannot believe that needs saying. Scroll down if you’re sick to the back teeth of it for other links.

Charlie Hebdo and reaction

In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism (Jacob Canfield)

Unpopular Opinion: Satire Should Punch Up. Charlie Hebdo Did Not. (Kitty Stryker)

I hate that every time something awful happens… (Alex Shams)

Why I am not Charlie (A Paper Bird)

Unmournable Bodies (Teju Cole)


The authenticity gap: Are trans people really ‘real’? (CN Lester)- Questions cis people should ask themselves.

The resilience of neoliberal urbanism (Tom Slater)- What does the buzzword “resilience” mean? This piece deconstructs the term.

Woman Brilliantly Shuts Down Man Who Accuses Her Of Lying On OkCupid– This is superb.

5 things you should read before saying the IMF is blameless in the 2014 Ebola outbreak (Adia Benton & Kim Yi Dionne)- Well worth looking through this summary.

Gamephobias– Signal boosting this fantastic initiative for crowdsourcing a list of triggers in video games.

recent leftist male Google searches– Your new favourite Tumblr.

Five Destructive Myths Perpetuated by Roleplaying Games (Oren Ashkenazi)- Examining potentially harmful tropes in RPGs and what they teach us. Also recommends games that get round the problems.

Behold, the Pillars of Creation (Bad Astronomy)- Examination of a very important “before-and-after” shot, with some stunning pictures.

FRIENDS: Where Are They Now (The Belle Jar)- A very funny, astute piece of writing with very gratifying Ross-hate.

And finally, just look at this ad for Windows 95. Just look at it.

A guide for men who want to avoid getting their lives ruined

Content note: This post discusses rape

At the time of writing, we see another MP add his voice to Nigel “drunken overfamiliarity” Evans (whose own defence argued he was “just” a creep who preyed on much younger men) in making life easier for rapists. Mark Pritchard, who was accused of rape and predictably cleared by policemen, suggests a “review” of anonymity, not making it clear whether he wants anonymity for defendants (stops victims coming forward in cases of repeat offenders) or to end anonymity for victims (I don’t think I need to explain to you how awful an idea this is). The rationale for this defence of rapists? Poor little diddums feels like his life has been ruined. Meanwhile, a chorus of men are continuing to bleat that unless Ched Evans gets to continue an illustrious football career his poor darling life has been ruined forever.

Apparently, being accused of rape ruins men’s lives. So, I present to men a two-word guide in how not to rape.

Don’t rape.

It’s really, really simple. If you don’t want to be accused of rape, don’t rape people.

Unfortunately, even this advice seems too complex for men, whose precious little manbrains cannot seem to comprehend this very basic advice, so allow me to break it down for you.

1. If she’s drunk, don’t have sex with her. Alcohol affects consent. If she’s been drinking a lot, she won’t be able to consent, so having sex with her is rape. Even if she seems like she wants to, hold off. If she’s really into you, she’ll still want to have sex with you when she’s sober. If you don’t think you can get laid unless she’s drunk, the problem lies squarely with you. Yes, you. Sort out your fucking self-esteem and only have sex with sober women.

2. Accept she can change her mind. Sometimes you might have got down to it and you’re really horny and then she changes her mind. Stop. She doesn’t consent to anything else happening. If you continue, that’s rape. And if you can’t control yourself once you’ve got a boner, at best you’re a pretty terrible shag. At worst, you’re a rapist.

3. Consent to one thing isn’t consent to others. So, you’re doing some fun sex things and you’re both enjoying yourselves. That’s great. But wait! You want to do something else, but she isn’t all that keen. Don’t do it, then. If you do, that could be rape. She’s consented to something, but not this other thing. Respect that. Go back to doing the mutually fun sex things.

4. Talking makes you a better lover. “What would you like to do?” is a hot question. It’s also a fucking mandatory question. Ask and listen, lots. This will make you a better lay, and also stop you from raping someone.

5. If in doubt, don’t. If you have the slightest doubt in your mind that she is consenting willingly and completely, don’t have sex. Sex is not a basic human right, not an entitlement. You can do without it. Fucking do without it. The consequences of not doing are far smaller than the consequences of going ahead. I hear it could ruin a man’s life…

Things I read over Christmas that I found interesting

Hi everyone. Happy 2015. It’s still shit, isn’t it? Anyway, here’s some links to things I read this week that I found interesting. I’ve also collated writing about the death of Leelah Alcorn here.

Azealia Banks vs Iggy Azalea: ‘Privileged white people shouldn’t steal hip-hop’ (Reni Eddo-Lodge)- Excellent summary of the feud from the ever-brilliant Reni.

“This Shit Has Got to Change”: The Autostraddle Interview with Black Lesbian Feminist Legend Barbara Smith (Autostraddle)- A fair amount of standing ovations in here.

One Group Has a Higher Domestic Violence Rate Than Everyone Else — And It’s Not the NFL (Marcie Bianco)- Spoiler: it’s the police.

5 Reasons Life With Epilepsy is Weirder Than You Think (Cracked)- One of those very good Cracked articles.

“I Never Stand Too Close”: A Trans Man’s Feminism (Damian Ray)- Other men might want to follow this man’s lead.

This Robotic Spider Dress Will Attack Anyone Who Comes At You Wrong (The Mary Sue)- Want.

I Got It Wrong On Purpose: A Trans Woman On “Passing” (Jetta Rae Doublecakes)- Analysis of the concept of passing with a lot of attitude.

Definition (Robot Hugs)- RH takes down the white men’s fascination with dictionary definitions.

And finally, puns are funny so here are some excellent pun shop names. If you don’t at least smile at one of them, you have no sense of humour.

BBC Have Your Say 31/12/14 discussion of Leelah Alcorn’s death: a transcript

This transcript was made by Abigail (@bradypodoid). It is posted here because Elaine (@scattermoon), one of the participants, asked me to host it. You can listen to the full broadcast here

Content note: This transcript discusses transmisogyny and suicide

Presenter: Hello, I’m Deidre Finnerty. Welcome back. One of the stories you’ve been commenting on the most today is the death of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender teenager who took her own life. Leelah was born a boy but identified as a girl, and before she died she left a post on her tumblr blog, which read “When I was 16 I realised that my parents would never come around and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any kind of transitioning treatment. This absolutely broke my heart.” Now Leelah’s death and her post have started a conversation about the challenges people face when growing up transgender. So today on this programme we’ve brought together a group of people who’ve had this experience. If you’ve got a question for them get in touch on

[ jingle ]

Well, we’re joined by guests in Michigan and in London, but first let’s bring in Raquel Willis in Georgia and Elaine in Reading in the UK. Welcome to the programme, both of you, and Raquel, let’s start with you. What was your response when you heard about this story?

Raquel: Hi. I definitely initially was kind of numb. Usually, I hear these stories – which happen a lot – there’s almost a new one every week – and usually I hear these stories, and it’s just kind of like, here’s another one of our girls – here’s another one of my sisters, here’s another person that could have been me. But as I sit there, and I start think about all of these deaths, you know, there’s a line there, Elaine knows, there are other trans women who have been murdered or have committed suicide, I just break down, I couldn’t help but be distraught. And the first thing I thought was that we need to get our voices out there. People have got to hear just how devastating it can be to be a transgender person in this world.

Presenter: Well, Raquel, I’m very keen for you to tell us about your own experience. What was it like for you when you were growing up?

Raquel: For me, it was very different. My family has always supported me, but of course my identity as far as a transgender little girl, I didn’t have the words for all of that – at that point I thought it was just a sexuality thing – people just called me gay, so I was just a little gay boy. But then as I got older I realised that people weren’t making fun of me because they thought I liked boys, at that point. They were making fun of me because of how I expressed myself, how my gender was. And my mom, she was very supportive of me, we had this, I guess, behind the closet conversation, just about these different things. She knew I liked make-up, she knew I liked these things that were deemed stereotypically feminine, and that society was already pressuring me to be a way that I really don’t think I was born to be. So, I was lucky on that front but I definitely received a lot of bullying from my peers – students always bullied me, particularly little boys.

Presenter: Now, Elaine, I want to put the same question to you that I put to Raquel. How did you feel when you heard about Leelah’s death?

Elaine: Hi. Yeah, my initial reaction was anger, to be honest. Not shock – it wasn’t shocking. This kind of news comes up all the time, literally every week, more and more people – many of whom, you know, don’t get to tell their stories – many of whom aren’t really mourned by people in the way that Leelah has been mourned this time. And I was just angry. I was angry that this was still going on, that we’re still losing so many on a daily basis, to this hatred – to these feelings of despair. People thinking they have no way out and not being listened to by their nearest and dearest – or supposedly nearest and dearest – who should be there to look out for them, but actually just won’t let them be who they are, when they need to be who they are.

Presenter: And is that a common feeling. You talk there about the hatred and your nearest and dearest not understanding you. Is that something you experienced yourself?

Elaine: Yeah. My parents weren’t abusive in any way, but when I, as a 14-year-old, pre-puberty – which is quite an important thing – well it felt like an important thing at the time – went to my parents and said “Hi, mum and dad, I’m trans”; they said “no, we don’t think that’s quite right. We think you’re wrong. You’re not like those people on the TV or on the front page of the tabloid newspapers. That’s not you, you must be mistaken, it must be a phase.” Um, “And God doesn’t make mistakes,” as well, something I was told, which I saw Leelah mentioned as well.

Presenter: And how do you cope with something like that?

Elaine: It’s a nightmare, really, because you just feel so incredibly trapped, you feel so incredibly isolated. It’s like being at the bottom of a well. You can see the light way above you, but you just have no way of getting there. And there’s nothing really to help you. Especially when you’re a teenager, as I was then, you don’t have the same legal rights you might as an adult. You have parental consent to do anything. So, if your parents aren’t on your side, then you are really stuck, because you need to do these things but you’re not being allowed to. And especially since puberty tends to kick in in the teens, you’ve got the feeling of your body changing against you, and you know it’s preventable, but you can’t stop it. It just feels like your entire life, your future life is going to be wrecked because of this.

Presenter: And Raquel, is this something that you identify with?

Raquel: Oh, definitely. I definitely resonate with the sentiment that you do feel so powerless. And that powerlessness kind of infiltrates your adulthood a lot of the time for trans individuals. You just felt like the world is against you, you know. You start out with your having maybe peers against you, or maybe your family against you and then it just kind of continues into healthcare, into education, and the workplace. I mean, there’s discrimination on all fronts for transgender individuals. And to battle with that kind of external relationship with the world, but also to battle with how internally with how you’re figuring and how you figure out you who are, and knowing that you will probably never get exactly to where you want to be, just given the fact that the resources aren’t always there. So there’s definitely this kind of disconnect from who you are as a person, to how society operates.

Presenter: It sounds like a very lonely place to be. Does it ever get any easier?

Raquel: I definitely think it can get easier. I think it doesn’t get easier for a lot of people, because after you’ve been drug through the trenches a lot of times it’s really hard to ride back up, so I don’t fault people who have committed suicide, people who have kind of isolated themselves, because the world can be very harsh. And it is lonely, on the dating scene it can be very difficult regardless of who you are attracted to. In terms of having family and community, I mean, even in the LGBTQ community there is a lot of ostracisation of transgender individuals, and when you think about cisgender people in the broader society, I mean, there’s so many blocks, that it’s really difficult to get through, to get to peace within yourself.

Presenter: And Elaine, did it ever get any easier for you? The support groups? Places where you could go for support and things you missed within your own friends and family circle?

Elaine: Not really. Not to begin with. I was quite isolated. I was growing up in Nottingham, which isn’t, you know, the end of the earth, but I didn’t know anyone else around. I didn’t have anyone else. All I really had was my online connections, a community on – well didn’t have tumblr – but back then it was livejournal where we all met up and discussed our thoughts, and it was really important because it gave us an avenue to actually speak about what was on our mind and what we were struggling with, with other people who had been in the same situation, and were in the same situation. And it felt a lot less isolating in that regard, because even if we didn’t have anyone to speak to in person, we still could log on to livejournal every night and speak with other people who were in the same place. But in person, no. And it’s still been largely the case, there isn’t as much support in society as there really should be. Especially once you get past your teens and early years, then a lot of support dries up, and lot of us have to form a kind of informal community where we all support each other, in lieu of that support. But really there should be more out there.

Presenter: Now I want to bring in Autumn Mahoney in Michigan and Katy Valentine in Leicester. Welcome to the programme, both of you. Now, I’m very keen to sit back and allow you all to share your own experiences, but let’s start with you, Autumn. What was your own experience of growing up transgender?

Autumn: Well, my experience was more of – I don’t think I really fell into the traditional narrative you hear, where you know what the situation is right from a very early age. I always understood that I felt different, and didn’t seem to fit in the same way people did, but I never had really much of a way to put a name or understand what those feelings meant until I got much older. It seems that nowadays with the Internet and so many resources out there, there are people that you can look at to see that, yes, this is a possibility, that yes, you can be transgender, that yes, you can make it through this, but when I was growing up, there was just absolutely no information out there. Pre-Internet days, and not knowing anyone in person, so, I really didn’t have any way, any context to put these feelings into. And so it wasn’t until much later in my life that I was able to kind of figure that out – and go through a transition, and become much happier as a result of that, but I wish the resources that had been available were there when I was growing up, it would have made things a whole lot easier.

Presenter: Katy is that something that you recognise?

Katy: Yes. I’m very similar, I am. I mean, I’m 25 years old, and I knew from a young age that I was different, but I didn’t know that becoming transgendered was a possibility, changing to the other gender. And it wasn’t until Big Brother’s Nadia, that I realised that there was a way I could become who I was. And growing up, it was really hard for me, considering even that I’m young, there still wasn’t much support out there for us.

Presenter: Here’s a post we’ve got from Facebook. It’s from Tara. And she says “being transgender I tried to hang myself at university and survived. At the time I felt it was my only escape and I couldn’t cope. We need to show transgender people they are valued no matter what challenges they face.” And she also says that “We should respond to Leelah’s death not with hate or vengeance against the parents or against the church.” So I wanted to put that to you, Katy, and also to you, Autumn. Do you agree with Tara? What’s the right response to a situation like this?

Katy: I would say yes. We shouldn’t treat it with hate at all. And there should be more support out there for transgender people. I mean, it was such a sad moment when we heard about Leelah and the suicide. It was so awful. But it should not be treated in a hateful veangeful way. It should be a way to celebrate Leelah’s life. Even though she did obviously take her own life. Which was horrendous. We should not be going aroudn blaming people, we should be able to help people.

Autumn: I see that it’s a very sad thing that we are able to see that there are people who would treat their children in the way that her parents did. And so much of that seems to be warped by these by these really conservative Christian beliefs. I don’t think think there needs to be an attack response to that, but it’s necessary to perhaps show alternatives to that type of behaviour and beliefs. You know, there are ways of being religious or being supportive that… I guess… It seems that that should not be something that gets in the way of love between parents and their children. It boggles my mind to even consider that.

Raquel: I would like to say, I think that there’s definitely a lot of hurt going on with the parents, and this happened even before Leelah committed suicide. People like to think that owning your transition and owning your identity is selfish, but the selfish thing is to go against people and devalue people because of that identity. And there’s a lot of hurt in a lot of parents when they have transgender children or queer children in general. And that’s something that we need to tackle, because we need to learn that this is not something that’s embarrassing. This is not something that devalues you as a parent. This is something that is going to help you prove just how great of a parent that you can be. If you can get over your child not being exactly the way you thought they might have been, then you win all the kudos from me.

Elaine: Absolutely. And as someone put it on twitter, it’s a bit harsh, but it’s also true, would you rather have a child who is queer or trans, or a child who is dead? And I think one problem with a lot of parents is that they get their idea of what being trans is from society as a whole, and a lot of ideas of being trans in society as a whole are so negative. They’re always the joke brought in on the sitcom, the side gag or the comments about, and I hate using this word “tranny” – every time you hear that word, it’s in such a negative context. And it also tends to be really highly sexualised, as well, you’ve got the whole category of “she-male” porn, for example. So, when a kid goes to their parents, and says, you know “mum, dad, or whoever, I’m trans”, and the parents will immediately think of this, and think “no, no, no, you know, you’re 12. you’re not this sort of sexualised parody figure on the front cover of the Sun or whatever, you know, I don’t want you to have that.” And they think, they think maybe if they talk their child out of it they can avoid that happening to their child. But that’s not the way to solve things, we need to fix society, we don’t need to change who people are, we need to change how they’re treated, because there’s nothing wrong with who they are.

Presenter: You’re listening to World Have Your Say on the BBC. Today on the programme we are discussing the case of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager who took her own life. And we’ve brought together a group of people to talk about their experiences of growing up transgender. Tara tweeted us to say “as a Catholic and a transgender woman, I believe God gave me the gift of being a woman as much as any woman”. We’ve also got another question coming in to us on twitter, @aimsetc, and she asks “What structural change is necessary? What services need to be provided” for transgender people.

Katy: We mainly need more support out there, especially for teenage people who believe they are transgendered women – or transgendered men – and that there should be more support, especially for teenage people, because they are the one who take their lives. They’re not the only ones, but they are the very few [sic].

Elaine: We need to look at housing, for young trans girls, young trans boys, non-binary kids, but also trans men, trans women, non-binary adults, as well. We need to have that support there, because there’s an awful lot of trans homeless people, for example. I mean, with the teens, if you tell your parents you are trans and they throw you out, where are you going to go? Who’s going to look after you? A lot of people end up on the streets. There are occasionally places who will house these trans kids, but only up until 18, and then where are they going to go?

Presenter: I want to introduce you to Tori in Leicester. Hello Tori, welcome to World Have Your Say.

Tori: Hello.

Presenter: Hello, Tori, I wanted to ask you how you felt when you heard about this case?

Tori: [silence]

Presenter: I think we may just have just lost the line to Tori in Leicester. But Juliet Jacques in on the line from London.

Juliet: Hi.

Presenter: Welcome to World Have Your Say, Juliet. And I want to put the same question to you that I put to all of our guests. What was your response when you heard about this case?

Juliet: Just this kind of heartsinking and heartbreaking feeling. It’s a familiar story for anyone has spent their life versed in sort of trans issues. Personal experience. Often there are feelings that I and a lot of people I know in the trans community could relate to. It’s familiar story in lots of ways. It’s very sad. I mean, like Elaine said, it wasn’t really shocking as such, and like Raquel said, I just kind of just felt a bit numb. You’re repeatedly hit with these sort of stories and after a while it just goes num, and that’s just the saddest feeling of all. And I’m sure for Leelah, I’m sure how she felt having her identity denied by her parents, compounded by the wider culture she lived in, being aware of other trans people in similar kind of positions, it just becomes kind of overwhelming really. Yeah, I mean it’s very sad news. I’m interested to see how widely shared social media. Lots of people who weren’t trans talking about it, and empathising. Which I hadn’t seen until the last couple of years, really. So I found that quite an interesting response. So, just like the rest of your guests really, just kind of quite sad and numb.

Presenter: And what about your own experience, Juliet?

Juliet: Well I grew up in a very small town – a village, really – in the early 90s – I’m 33 now – so I realised I was trans in 1992, and it was very difficult. Like some of your other guests, I didn’t have a language to describe what was going on. I just kept wearing women’s clothes, and having my gender regulated at school and at home. If I did anything that was considered kind of feminine I got laughed at by people around me, family members, or particularly by other classmates, by teachers even. And what really me save me was the advent of the internet, which came to be in the mid to late 90s. Again, even now you’d use twitter or tumblr, and I’d just used geocities sites really, which made it clear that there were other people leading liveable trans lives, who weren’t like the people who I’d seen in films or on telly, which cut through some of stereotypes that Elaine was talking about. And there were people I could feasibly actually meet, information about support services, or places to go. And that gave me a sense of community and a sense of being slightly less alone. My family – you know, I came out as transsexual when I was 27 – my were the last people I told, I was lucky enough at that point to live in Brighton and have a fairly supportive group of friends, to know some support networks. I was working for the NHS, who have infrastructures in place, quality and diversity managers, human resources people who I could sit down to and say how can we handle this. And it was only once I’d done all those things, and was privileged enough to have them all go as well as I could have hoped, that I was able to turn round to my parents and go, you know, this is who I am, and I got the same sort of response initially. “We don’t understand and that’s not what you’re like”. And it took quite a long time to get them to the point where my parents used the right pronouns and my name I’d chosen, and everything. But because I had everything else in place, I was able to take that sort of time. For somebody like Leelah, who sounds like she didn’t any kind of outlet at all, parental rejection was so overwhelming. You know, not everyone’s that lucky.

Autumn: I think that what you said about your family were the last ones you told, that’s kind of the same situation that I was in, I had come out to everybody at my church, friends and things, and working up the courage to talk to my parents about it, even though I was 35 years old, all grown up, and had no indications that they were going to have any trouble with it, it was still the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. And to look at Leelah’s situation, where she knows she’s not supported, and is entirely dependent on them as parents, and just realise how horrible and difficult that had to have been. You can understand what would drive somebody to suicide. It’s so hard to look and see that happens to so many people. I think that this is kind of why I was really excited to see this twitter trend growing here. Seeing so many visible examples of positive trans lives. There is, as hard as it can be when you’re growing up, there’s so much potential out there. And I hope that this reaches even just one person growing up, that gives them some hope for possibility going forward.

Elaine: Yeah. If you’re listening to this and you’re trans, and you know, you may be in the same boat as Leelah, you know. I was there. I was there in my teens. I have puberty went through my body when I really didn’t wish to have it. It was horrible. It was an absolute nightmare. I made it through. Puberty doesn’t have to be the end all. You can transition at 18. You can transition at 50. You can transition at 36. You can transition at 80. You just need to transition if you know you need to transition. And it’s all valid. And you can still be beautiful. You know, there isn’t the time limit you think there is. And if you a parent and you’re listening to this, then please just let your kids know that even if you don’t think they’re trans, that would be OK for them, and that’s valid. And everyone else, ask yourselves what are you going to do to change this?

Presenter: I’m very very sorry to cut in there Elaine.

Elaine: I’m done, thanks.

Presenter: But this music coming up means we’re right up against of the programme. And thanks very much to all our guests for this fascinating discussion. World Have Your Say will be back with you tomorrow, at 18 GMT with Chloe Tilley

Remembering Leelah Alcorn: a round-up of links

Content warning: This post mentions and links to content discussing transmisogyny and suicide

You will have likely heard of the tragic death of Leelah Alcorn and perhaps seen her suicide note and the reaction of the mother whose behaviour directly caused Leelah’s death. As a cis person, I have little to add personally, but my own sadness that this happens not just to Leelah but to countless other people in her situation. All I can offer is a round-up of the words of others who understand the situation better than me, because they have lived it. I also want to signpost that tomorrow, 3rd January, there will be a vigil for Leelah at Trafalgar Square at 1pm if you wish to come and pay respects.

Listening to the Living and the Dead: Ruminations on #justiceforLeelahAlcorn (b. binaohan)

To save trans lives; listen to Leelah (Natacha Kennedy)

Cis People Know Best, They Tell Us (Cheryl Morgan)

Don’t Tell Trans People To Empathize With Bigoted Parents (Jackson Warlock)

Sarah Ditum wants you to stop being so mean to the parents who murdered their child. (Jenny Trout)

Leelah Alcorn suicide note: Why I believe the media were right to share it (Sarah Brown)

Most trans suicides are murder (Allie Cat)

Remembering Leelah (Jane Fae)

Fraudulent; Negligent; Incompetent. My speech to the Trafalgar Square Vigil for Leelah Alcorn (Sarah Brown)

Whose life? (Jane Fae)

Cover-Ups and Concern Trolls: Actually, It’s About Ethics in Suicide Journalism (Arthur Chu)