On hate and talking.....by Sarah Phillimore:
I am reading Sally Kohn’s book ‘The Opposite of Hate’ at the moment. Her consideration of the Rwandan massacres is particularly chilling:
‘Crucial to the story is that with its propaganda and training of militias, the government established that killing Tutsis was the responsibility of Hutus. The government established a new social norm that the Hutus felt duty-bound to confirm with. Just like racial discrimination and violence was the norm in North America in the 1750s and 1850s and 1950s. Brutality was made normal in Rwanda, and that explains why normal people like Leonard Rucogoza could kill people they didn’t hate. Leonard, and human beings generally, have an inclination to conform to social norms – which is deeply troubling when the norms themselves are hateful.’
‘Hate’ is on my mind a lot at the moment – for many obvious reasons. Not only am I recorded ‘hate criminal’ by my own police force for wanting to discuss in public issues around sex and gender identity, every time I venture onto social media I face a barrage of hateful comments from every side. The Law Commission is consulting on whether or not we should have a ‘Hate Crimes Commissioner’. Hate crimes against trans people are claimed to be spiralling out of control and yet the daily onslaught of misogynistic hatred I see and hear directed at women, is not deemed worthy of its own monitored strand. We seem to be creating a very troubling set of norms with which people are only too willing to conform.
Something has to change.
This constant, numbing focus on hate and how to stop it – by coercion, by the criminal justice system – I think risks only increasing the amount of hate in the world. Those who feel that their legitimate concerns are not merely overlooked but are used against them as evidence they are unworthy, are unlikely to abandon their views but will turn inward, brooding, until it can’t be contained any longer.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. Rumi
This has always been one of my favourite lines of any poem. Rumi died in 1273. We still do not appear to be able to learn the lessons of thousands of years of history. That we need to talk to one another.
I was pleased to be able to speak to Steph tonight. That she felt safe to talk directly to a ‘notorious transphobe’ and ‘certified hatemonger’. We agreed that there was much we had in common – both of us very worried about what is happening to children around issues of transition. Both of us agreed there was a great deal of fear and worry for trans people around lack of access to health care and treatment. I do not know if anything positive will be able to come out of our collaboration, but in a way, it does not matter. Because the positive thing is that we are able to talk. It may seem like such a little thing, but I think it is everything.
I would welcome some respite from this constant merry go round of hate. And I hope we can continue talking.
Reply from Steph:
It is strange that we remember little phrases that people say.
“Every football team consists of seven road sweepers and four violinists,” said Lawrie Mc Menemy rated by Guinness Book of Records as being in the top twenty of post-war English football managers. I always felt he was very kind. For the truth was three of the violinists in his team were road sweepers, there was only one violinist – Alan Ball, possibly the greatest English midfielder of all time.
My logic therefore in talking to Sarah Phillimore was why speak to a road sweeper when she is a violinist – member of Fair Cop, coordinator of GRARG, in dispute with Wiltshire Police over alleged “hate tweets” and even in trouble for calling her dog “Jewish.”
Of late, the “hate” tweets has caused quite a storm with significant criticism from both sides of the gender war. What people did not understand was Sarah was not saying hate a person or a group. She was arguing a legal point that certain groups of people could register a complaint to the Police for “hate” if they were in the least offended and the Police are legally obliged to record the report. She is agitated that the police database stated she is a “criminal” – yet has not been warned or even charged for any offence.
If I were Sarah, I would be miffed too.
Like Sarah I see (and feel) the bricks thrown on Twitter, they come from all sides – more recently being told in a backhanded way “to drown in a bath,” called a “man” and accused of being a likely predator because that is the trans woman plan.
My very successful pinned tweet says it all really and reads:- “I do not intend to “steal” a woman’s body, her place, her mind. I LOVE women. But I only have one life and must live it best I am able. I am trans.”
Sarah started the conversation positively – after all, she is a family barrister, and family barristers are (from what I recall) obliged to try and avoid court and negotiate a truce between divorcing couples. “I want to find ground on what we can agree on,” said Sarah – strange that, because that was my opening line in my meeting notes – she just got there first!
We talked briefly about the Keira Bell case. We both have concerns about that, natural for me because I spent 35 years of my life involved in kids health and safety. In some eastern societies trans folk are seen as wise people being able to see two sides to a debate – and the Bell case is complicated and, in some ways, moves a problem rather than solve it – this is for an article another day.
Our common ground was trans health.
Sarah listened to my story and those of others. We both agreed the NHS trans services were shambolic and radically needed a fix as soon as possible. And so, a basic plan was hatched.
A skeleton for sure. But a plan that we could hopefully both put our name to and that others from both sides of the gender war could support too. For waits of up to five years for a trans person to see a gender specialist for the first appraisal is, to be frank, inhumane, dangerous both for the patient and possibly to others as well.
A dripping tap, of wait - with the potential of self-harm, self-medication and possibly worse.
The plan is simple that every reasonable sized doctors’ surgery should have a dedicated GP with an interest in LGBT+ people and regarding trans folk that the doctor would get basic training in issuing and monitoring hormones subject to the patient having a good state of health. With quick access to help centres if required, a GP can act fast, because for sure these queues to Gender Identity Clinics (GIC's) have to go and go quickly. And we can't wait for more specialised clinics to be built, more doctors to be trained - we need a Nightingale tomorrow.
I maintain GIC's are barely fit for purpose.
A tick box culture. They ask questions and the trans patient knowing the question in advance (thanks to websites and social media) gives the correct answer. What is the point?
In fact, GP’s can work with folk self-administering hormones under the bridging scheme. They can prescribe hormones too and do blood checks (mine, even at the age of 68, is just liver and kidney checks together with monitoring hormone levels - hardly rocket science). But how many GP’s actually help trans folk is minimal - in fact, 14% according to one survey, and this figure must change and change as soon as possible.
And if we can get a groundswell of people (perhaps some big names "pretty please") - we can change this ridiculous GIC system - they can deal with complex cases for sure, but basic ones should, must be dealt with by GP's. And the trans community agrees to this. A quick tweet on this idea and I had 48 likes in a few hours, and that's a lot for someone who has been on Twitter for just four months.
So on this basis, I will be talking to people, any people, including Sarah - hopefully, many times. Trans healthcare must be improved and improved urgently. And I hope Sarah's supporters will reach out to the trans community - that we will all put those bricks away and just for once in a uniformed voice say "trans healthcare is shit" and we are with you.
Now let's talk some more......