No cops at Pride: remembering Alan Turing and Kitty Genovese

Content note: this post discusses murder, suicide, homophobia and police

38 people witnessed Kitty Genovese being murdered and did nothing, so the story goes. It’s a complete fiction, but that’s how the story goes.

64 years ago today, a genius took his life. Alan Turing was subjected to two years of state-sanctioned torture before he was driven to his death.

On the face of it, there seems to be little connection between Alan Turing and Kitty Genovese, but it’s there, buried in their histories. It’s a thread which still vibrates in queer generational memory, and even though we may not have ever been told the untold stories of Kitty Genovese and Alan Turing, we feel it, because we’ve felt this before so many other times.

It’s entirely possible that if the police weren’t so terrible to LGBT people, Alan Turing and Kitty Genovese would not have died in the ways that they did.

Let’s do Kitty first, because I’m a women-first kind of girl.

Kitty Genovese was a lesbian. At the time of her murder and the trial of her killer, the authorities made the decision to keep that fact out of the media, refer to her girlfriend, Mary Ann Zlelonko, as her “friend”. Just gals being pals. Of course, that’s not what the police thought of Mary Ann, they didn’t think of her as a platonic friend. She was their first suspect. She went to identify Kitty’s body, and they arrested her and subjected her to crass questions about their sex life.

The inspector on the case said,¬†‚ÄúOne of the most common motives for murder is jealousy. It‚Äôs also our experience that homosexual romances produce more jealousy by far than ‚Äėstraight‚Äô romances. More jealousy means more chance for violence. Women, in fact, can be more possessive towards their lovers than men.‚ÄĚ

But let’s rewind to the night of Kitty’s murder. We have already established that 38 people didn’t witness the crime and 38 people didn’t do nothing. In fact, there were only two people who likely knew what was happening to Kitty. One of them, yep, fits that story of the people who didn’t give a flying fart about the murder. Joseph Fink sat at his doorman position and watched for a while, before going to bed.

The other witness is a more interesting case. Karl Ross was a friend of Kitty’s, a gay man and a drunk. He dithered a lot about calling the police, and spent much of the night chatting to a friend about whether he should. He did, in the end, but it was far too late. Could he have called off calling the police because he was gay? We don’t know, but what we do know is that relations between police and the LGBT community weren’t exactly healthy.

One witness to the night says that his father called the police early in the attack, but that the police did not come. And Kitty herself had been a victim of police harassment. That picture of her face at the top of this blog, the picture you have seen countless times? That was a mugshot, from a time she had been arrested.

Incidentally, Kitty may never have been murdered had the police done their goddamn jobs in the first place: Kitty’s murderer had previously killed a black woman, and the police never solved that case, probably never even bothered to investigate it.

The myth of Kitty is powerful, and the media, in the pockets of the authority, did a damn fine job of muddying the waters, when in truth what we have as a story demonstrating reified distrust of police.

So what about Alan Turing? We all know the story. Bletchley Park, then got charged for being gay, chemically castrated and eventually took his life. Yada yada. Did you ever ask how he was arrested?

In January 1952, Alan was the victim of a burglary. He did what you’re told you should do and contacted the police. His lover said he may have known who burgled the house, so Alan volunteered that information to the police investigating the crime. Again, exactly like we’re all told we should do.

The police arrested Alan and his lover and they were charged with gross indecency. I can’t find any record of them nicking the burglar.

You know the rest of the story.

These two people were both victims of the police in their ways, and both stories answer the questions as to why LGBT people don’t want to call the police, and why the relationship is strained at best.

When you ask why many of us queers don’t want the police anywhere near Pride, it goes beyond Stonewall. There’s these stories, horrific tragedies, and similar tales of police indifference and interference appear regularly to this day. Take Stephen Port, who was able to murder four gay men due to a lazy police investigation. This was within the last five years.

The police have never been our friends. As much as they are institutionally racist, they are institutionally homophobic and transphobic. It is galling to see demands that they march alongside us, when they have, at best, let so many of us die.

Remember Alan Turing. Remember Kitty Genovese. Remember the stories the authorities didn’t want you to hear. And remember why we prefer to help each other than call for help.

And remember: no police at Pride.

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Germaine Greer has always sided with rapists: the receipts

Content note: links to graphic descriptions of rape and CSA

Copypasta of a twitter thread, archived here, just in case.

I’m not sure why anyone’s surprised at Germaine Greer’s latest comments on rape, when it’s entirely in keeping with what she’s been saying for years on rape, and she’s consistently come out to bat against survivors and for rapists.

Today, she’s come out and said that rape is non-violent. Rape. Is non-violent. Oh, and that it’s often accidental????¬†https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/30/rape-rarely-violent-doesnt-merit-jail-term-claims-germaine-greer/

Women, said Germaine earlier this month, are to blame for sexual violence on TV, and often fantasise about being raped https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/germaine-greer-sexual-violence-tv-women-enjoy-luther-the-fall-paranoid-metoo-a8330561.html

That time Germaine Greer stood there listening to a friend being raped, and then told her friend to get over it https://www.msn.com/en-ie/news/world/germaine-greer-heard-friend-being-raped-and-did-nothing/ar-BBKz350

Yeah, Germaine Greer’s really into defending paedophiles and pederasts too, specifically grown women who abuse teenage boys¬†https://ianpace.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/germaine-greers-apologia-for-child-abuse/

With her consistent track record of dismissing rape as bad sex, it’s no surprise she wrote this fawning profile of Julian Assange. This was after the rape allegations came to light, of course.¬†https://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2066367_2066369_2066107,00.html

That time Germaine Greer said the #MeToo movement was whingeing, and that being sexually exploited by producers was “tantamount to consent”¬†https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/23/germaine-greer-criticises-whingeing-metoo-movement

I’ve doubtless missed many, many incidences here, and I’m just going with the ones I remember. All of these comments which kick survivors and side with rapists and child abusers, all of them are a matter of public record, but many feminists still pay her speaking fee.

It is also, of course, no surprise that a TERF also has a rapist’s understanding of consent.

Some further analysis of Greer’s latest comments from Flavia here¬†https://twitter.com/redlightvoices/status/1002091584991752193

One of the things that often gets buried is that when feminists and activists object to Greer speaking, we’re objecting because she consistently sides with rapists, AS WELL as the fact she’s a transmisogynistic bigot, because we don’t really like rape apologism.

Greer’s supporters, on the other hand, will always dismiss and excuse everything she says about rape, because their concerns for “women’s safety” are false, and they’d rather just hate trans women.

Anyway, it goes without saying that if you’re a feminist who actually prioritises women’s safety, you do not book Greer. This has been the case for fucking YEARS, and it’s why so many of us have such side-eye for those who continually book her and defend her.

And I’m sorry, but you don’t get to plead ignorance on Greer being no-platformed, because most correspondence asking for her to be deplatformed will mention the fact she’s a rape apologist as well as a transmisogynistic bigot. The issue is always highlighted.

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On Section 28’s birthday, let’s say never again

Content note: This post discusses homophobia, transphobia, and mental ill health

Section 28 turns 30 today. A little over a week ago, I turned 33, which makes me part of a generation of queers that grew up under legislation that meant that teachers in our lives–in a place we spent more than a third of our childhoods!–could not even mention the existence of homosexuality.

The law was passed by bigots, responding to pressure from more bigots. They freaked out over books for children explaining that gay people exist and that’s all right. They didn’t like that the LGBT community was campaigning for rights. And so, they banned schools from talking about it. It was a free speech issue, yes, but more than this: it was a calculated attack on the queer community, aiming to stop children from learning about the possibilities that could apply to them.

And the most heartbreaking thing is that Section 28 worked. It fulfilled its aims. It did stop young people who grew up under it from entertaining the notion that they themselves may be somewhere under the rainbow and that that was valid and all right.

I was one of them.

Throughout my school years, it never even occurred to me that I might not be a nice heterosexual girl who would go on to have nice reproductive sex with a man (which was the alpha and omega of the sex and relationships education I received). I felt weird about it, pricking anxiety and a stomach-churning “no that’s not for me”, but I didn’t really know what else I could be. I was a freak, a weirdo, somehow built wrong, and I didn’t have words to articulate what I might be, or a sense that being different was all right. I had crushes on girls that I never knew were crushes on girls, just complicated, tearful, passionate, explosive friendships.

I was robbed of a time for figuring things out at the time in a young person’s development where they are figuring things out.

It took a huge mess to get me where I am today. A lot of mental ill health, a hefty dollop of risky and questionable sex. It took years to work out that yep, I’m mostly lesbian. And in a weird sort of way I was lucky: at least I wasn’t at a level of risk of contracting HIV from a lack of even a token quantity of education about safer sex!

And I’m bitter because it didn’t have to be that way. I could have avoided a lot of that angst had I just learned vocabulary and a little bit of base validation at school.

I sometimes wonder if us millennial queers are so utterly fucked up because we grew up under Section 28, and we were left to fend for ourselves in figuring shit out.

The terrifying thing is that I see it happening again, and it terrifies me that we may see a new Section 28 rolled out to break a generation of transgender children. I see the moral panic with its “think of the children” tone. The shrieking about books for children in schools. The drive from anti-trans bigots to send out anti-transgender propaganda to teachers. The obsessive focus on transgender children’s transitions.

And it’s a very short hop from there to legislation banning “the promotion of transgender in schools”.

We are in a position to stop this, and it’s one of the reasons I fight so hard against it. While there’s breath in my lungs, I cannot allow another generation of children to suffer like so many of my generation did.

Section 28 likely killed some of my generation, and reviving its rotting corpse because you’re grossed out by the notion that maybe doctors sometimes get it wrong when assigning genders to newborn infants, that will likely kill more children. I can’t sit by and watch that.

It’s why we can’t let it happen. It’s why we need to challenge it. It’s why we need to look at what’s happening around trans children in a movement largely led by cisgender heterosexuals and utterly reject what they are saying. And make no mistake: any legislation targeting part of the LGBT community hits us all. Section 28 was bad for trans young people, lesbian young people, bi young people, and all of our rainbow, despite being driven by hatred of gay men. An injury to the trans community is an injury to all of the queer community.

Something like this happened to generations past. And it cannot happen to generations to come.

Further reading: Stop me if you’ve heard this before (Carrie Marshall)- a short history of Section 28 and analysis of the pattern repeating.

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Following the money with the cancer-obesity link

Content note: this post discusses cancer, dieting and fatmisia

The latest research shows that lifestyle factors cause 37% of cancers, with the second-highest cause being “overweight or obesity”. Maybe that’s true, but I’m going to urge a few caveats in interpreting this, as a great question mark is raised by who is funding the research.

Cancer Research UK have received ten million pounds from diet company Slimming World. 

It’s a jawdropping amount of money, and if your eyebrow is raised, rightly so. Funding matters. Now, I’ve no idea of CRUK’s annual turnover, but ¬£10million is generally considered the threshold for a gigantic charity in and of itself, so receiving this amount of money from one income source alone over five years is pretty shocking.

Funding matters. You might have heard of something called a Type A personality: those driven, ambitious individuals who are so go-getting they might give themselves a heart attack. What you might not know is the science behind that is bunk, and a lot of the research was funded by the tobacco industry--who had their own reasons to look for a cause of heart disease that could enter the public consciousness, one that wasn’t the product they’re flogging.

Funding research drives the research agenda. This is why many journals now insist you publish your funders. And it seems like Slimming World have done something rather clever here: removed themselves a step. Technically, Cancer Research UK have funded the research, and are acknowledged as funders in the published paper. It’s just that Slimming World is then, in turn, funding Cancer Research UK. It’s impossible to prove this link, which is a smart move. But that question mark must remain above our interpretation of the research.

I’ve had a read of the published paper, and its methodology is, for the most part, a good, solid systematic review. However, there are concerns about how obesity/overweight is measured and treated.

First of all, weight is looked at entirely through the lens of BMI. This is a huge problem, because BMI can’t measure body fat, and can’t measure where the body fat is, which is important to know. A high BMI can be caused by being tall or short or muscular. It’s still quite popular in research because it’s very easy to measure, but it’s not particularly meaningful as a measure of body fat, and utterly meaningless when it comes to individual health.

The other question mark is far bigger. The research is looking at lifestyle factors: as well as BMI, it looked at smoking, exposure to UV (i.e. tanning and sunbeds), dietary factors such as eating red meat or not enough fibre, alcohol, and so forth. These are changeable lifestyle factors. And then, obesity is lumped in there with it, like including a bunch of grapes in an analysis of apples.

The thing about obesity is, contrary to popular belief, it’s mostly not a lifestyle factor. It’s not just an issue of you eat too much, and if you eat less, you’ll not be fat any more. It’s a lot of things: it can be related to health issues, poverty, medication side effects, genetics, and so on and on.

But who benefits from treating obesity as a lifestyle factor you can easily change, much like smoking? Perhaps, say, somebody selling diets?

As an aside, I also am concerned about other risk factors being treated as “lifestyle factors”, such as occupational exposure and air pollution, both of which can’t really be helped–although that’s more of a problem with the reporting in the media than the research itself.

Which, finally, brings us on to the reporting and press releasing of this story. The media has, obviously, seized upon the obesity link because it is one of their pet stories: those fatties who do it to themselves, why won’t they change? Cancer Research UK’s press release helpfully supplies a toolkit for journalists to trumpet this, including featuring a case study of a woman who was obese, had uterine cancer, learning about how weight and uterine cancer were linked, and then an inspirational weight loss story–which even mentions that she joined a local slimming group! I think I sprained an eyebrow from raising it so much, there.

And meanwhile, Slimming World is falling over itself to encourage people to pay for its diet products and slimming groups.

For a sceptical mindset, it’s really important that we think about funding and its links to research–from what is researched, how it’s reported, all the way through to how it’s reported in the media. It’s healthy to question findings, and with a funding relationship like this, it’s the smart thing to do.

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