It was hard-fought for by Northern Irish pro-choice activists

I was surprised to learn a couple years ago that the United Kingdom’s supposedly National Health Service could be overridden by a local ordinance. Northern Irish residents, despite being British citizens, were being denied NHS coverage for abortions that the NHS provided to any other British citizen, simply because Northern Ireland as a region is still living in the bronze age when it comes to reproductive freedom laws.

I am pleased to see this will no longer be the case.  The Guardian reports on all the complexities:

The government has announced a major concession to give Northern Irish women access to terminations on the NHS in Great Britain, in an attempt to head off a damaging Tory rebellion at a vote on the Queen’s speech.

(Par for the course, Conservatives need to have a political knife at their throats to advance on human rights law.)

Dozens of Conservative MPs were understood to have expressed to Tory whips their support for an amendment by the Labour MP Stella Creasy to allow Northern Irish women access to NHS-funded abortions in Great Britain. It was due to be voted on this afternoon.

And Philip Hammond told the Commons that the government would fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland.

Women from Northern Ireland are currently charged about £900 for a termination if they travel to have the procedure in mainland Britain, a policy upheld by a supreme court case earlier this month. Northern Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and it is almost impossible for a women to have an abortion legally there.

In a letter to MPs outlining the new funding, the education secretary and equalities minister, Justine Greening, hinted she had personal sympathy with the issue. She wrote: “As minister for women and equalities, I share the concerns of many colleagues about the experience of women from Northern Ireland obtaining an abortion through the NHS in England.”

She added: “At present women from Northern Ireland are asked for payment and from now on it is our proposal that this will no longer happen. This is clearly a sensitive issue and one which has direct implications for equality in treatment of women from Northern Ireland.”

Greening said that the Equalities Office would fund the payments for the terminations with additional funding for health services. “This will mean no English health service user is disadvantaged as a result of this change,” she wrote. “Funding for the services will be made available through the government Equalities Office, allowing the Department of Health to commission services in England for those from Northern Ireland.

Regardless of the circumstances, I am happy for Northern Irish residents. However, the coverage will not include travel costs, as I understand the Northern Irish government will still refuse to supply the service. This means the prior problem of poor women being unable to access appropriate care remains.

The Guardian also reported on its live coverage of the government’s concession a fracture in the Tories–seven of them defecting to stand with Labour & co. on the issue of reproductive freedom. This is a serious development considering the last election delivered no majority parties. The Tories have been trying to set for a “confidence & supply” arrangement with the Democratic Unionists, a far-right fundamentalist party, but even those negotiations seem to be deteriorating.

If we’re lucky, this is a sign that Labour might be able to punch above its weight again in the future.

-Shiv

Notes on selective white outrage

Madelaine Hanson has some notes on the UK’s far-right and their “Muslims arr commin for arr wimmin!” trope.

Anyway, when there were (and there was) thousands of other rape, abuse, sexual violence and stalking cases committed by white guys against ‘our women’, Lo! Tommy Robinson was nowhere to be seen. Nor was any other outraged white right wingers. Because, if you hadn’t noticed, the crime isn’t abusing women, it’s being a muslim and abusing a white woman. In fact I’d go further than that, it’s being a foreigner/non-white and abusing a white woman. It stinks of racism and reminds me of the lynching of black men who touched white women in the South.

They (the far white-right patriots) use ‘muslim’ as an ideological cover for their xenophobia. Controversially, I’d argue that some of their criticism of Islam, Islamists and indeed South Asian/Arab cultural misogyny isn’t completely wrong, but their motives for it come from completely the wrong place. It doesn’t come from a desire for an end to honour killings, acid attacks and female slavery, it comes from very angry, very racist hatred of the ‘other’. They don’t argue for stricter punishment for acid attackers, they argue for the deportation of Pakistanis. They don’t argue for Salafi women to be given police protection from abusive family/spouses after leaving abusive marriages, they argue for hanging to be brought back in relation to Islamic murders. They don’t argue for longer sentences for child groomers, just for less immigration from Central Asia. It’s transparent.

Read more about it here.

-Shiv

A comprehensive review of objections to trans womanhood

I was actually starting to build up a list of arguments that are frequently used as a bludgeon to question the authenticity of trans women (and it’s always trans women) when Julia Serano published her comprehensive review of all that bullshit.

The “trans women refuse to acknowledge any distinction” fallacy

People who make the trans-women-aren’t-women case will often insist that there is a distinction between cis women and trans women, yet trans women refuse to acknowledge this distinction. I find such claims endlessly frustrating. I have never once in my life heard a trans woman claim that our experiences are 100 percent identical to those of cis women. Indeed, the very fact that we in the trans community describe people as being “transgender” and “cisgender” points to an acknowledgement of potential differences!

The problem isn’t that we (i.e., trans women) refuse to acknowledge any differences, but rather that the trans-women-aren’t-women crowd refuses to acknowledge our many similarities.

This has come up a few (just a few) times in my work.

Read the other forms of “real woman” gobbledegook here.

-Shiv

Finding a therapist as a kinky queer weirdo

H. D. Roslin has a piece up about finding a mental health counselor who isn’t going to pathologize your various deviations from the pastey-ass Christian cishetero norm:

Folks who fall outside of social norms by choice, birth, or biology often find themselves wondering if the therapist they can afford will try and “fix” their sexuality, change their family structure, or harshly judge or misinterpret their identities or relationship structures. And these fears aren’t unfounded; marginalized people are accustomed to their identities being medicalized and pathologized, and to being told that who they are, at their core, is broken, sick, or wrong. Add to that the fact that conversion/reparative “therapies” are still legal in 46 states, and it’s understandable why finding a therapist can feel so daunting and scary.

So what’s a marginalized person in need of help to do? As someone who’s logged more than 400 volunteer hours for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and who’s learned how to manage therapy myself, I’m often asked this question. Here are some of the most common queries I hear from humans dipping their toes into the pool of professional guidance, help, and support.

Do I need therapy?

Spoilers: Yep.

That said, I’m not sure this is always the right question to ask. I prefer to ask questions like: Are you flourishing? Do you feel entitled to flourishing? Are there people in your life who rely on you being your healthiest self? Have you ever had the opportunity to evaluate the ways you weathered childhood and adolescence? Have you ever experienced an emotional crisis? How did that go? Could it have gone better? Could it happen again? What kind of support do you have?

How do I find the right therapist?

I will be 100% honest: I cheat. My first stop is always the Psychology Today Therapist Finder, followed shortly thereafter by any local Queer Exchange on Facebook (most major metro areas have one; just do a Facebook search for “Queer Exchange” and whatever metropolitan area is closest to you).

Read more about it here.

I can also corroborate that it helps to be upfront about the various things that are potential landmines. For example, in my inquiries, I said immediately: “I need a kink-aware, queer & trans-friendly professional.” That filtered out the counselors who would fumble upon those disclosures and spared me the waste of disclosing to an unprepared person. But I also live in an area with pretty rigorous rights-laws and such upfront disclosures are no risk to me, so take that with a grain of salt.

-Shiv

 

Advances in heterosexual rights

It is my very serious duty to announce a very important holiday that we should all be celebrating:

Today, on one of the last days of Pride Month, the eye-scratchingly awful hashtag #HeterosexualPrideDay has been trending top worldwide.

“Eye-scratchingly”? I’ll have you know this is a serious endeavour! Last year, I even mapped out the progress for worldwide heterosexual equality. This time I’d like to celebrate by making that progress explicit, comparing the two years side by side.

So, without further ado:

Countries in…

Dark Red: Execute people for engaging in heterosexuality.

Red: Criminalize heterosexual acts.

Orange: Subject heterosexuals to forced conversion counselling.

Blue: Prevent heterosexuals from marrying.

Green: Prevent heterosexuals from adopting.

White: Full heterosexual equality under the law.

[Read more…]

Who needs enemies with “allies” like these?

Imagine a world where the virulently misogynist words of Phyllis Schlafly were held up by feminists as representative of the opinions of all women. Imagine a world where the discrimination-denialist positions of Christina Hoff Sommers were held up as the pinnacle of women’s advocacy by feminists. Imagine a world where hundreds of feminists surfaced from the crevices of the internet to hail me as some kind of valiant free speech defender after campaigning for women to be banned from public life because one time, this woman threw hot coffee at me and no, I don’t have an independent link for you to verify that but I promise I’m trustworthy *pinky swear* smiley-face emoji :)

I don’t live in this world because it is, sadly, limited to cis feminists. A feminist publication called Athena Talks, whose mission is “to help young women mature, [to help] budding professionals become leaders and [to help] leaders become advocates for equality,” decided that all of the above absurdities were suddenly worthy of their editorial attention, strictly because it was re-purposed for animus against trans women.

To be clear, I don’t consider it a bad thing that my feminist works are usually held up to a higher standard. If I were to deploy the venom-spitting baffelgab passing for “reasonable dialogue” in the start of this post, I would be rightly shredded as a derivative thinker and deemed an asshole with an axe to grind. Instead I want to draw attention to cis feminism’s problem with shoddy double standards: If the topic is trans women, y’all start giving the “deer in headlights” look as if you’ve never encountered a logical fallacy before. (#NotAllCisFeminists, of course, but enough of you).

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the latest candy-glossed hate piece to make waves in feminist discourse: “I am not a ‘cis’ Woman, I am a Woman and that Matters.

Content Notice for trans-antagonism, in case it wasn’t already obvious from the title.

The author opens thusly:

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Complaints over tame protest prove that it’s not about the method

…It’s about the message.

In October of 2016, teachers across Seattle organized a campaign to wear a shirt displaying “Black Lives Matter” at work. Despite the fact that the actual substance of this protest was, as far as protests go, utterly mundane, it still prompted complaints.

Tony discusses:

How do you “work quietly” to resolve systemic racism? How is anyone going to be aware that this is a problem if you’re quiet about it? How would you even devise plans on closing the gap if you don’t discuss said plans? I also have to laugh at the idea that you can “leave the politics out” when you’re talking about the opportunity gap. The gap exists in the first place bc of politics. The gap is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. It is the result of policies put into place by prejudiced white people that sought to advantage themselves in all the ways, and ensure that African-Americans had access to nothing (bc to them, we were property). Century after century, Blacks had no opportunities. No wealth or land. No education. None of that magically changed when segregation ended or when the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. Nothing leveled the playing field between whites and blacks such that equal opportunity was had by all (attempts have been made to compensate for the centuries of no opportunity, cf. Affirmative Action). Sooooo…given that the opportunity gap exists bc of politics (specifically, white supremacy), how can politics be removed from any discussion on closing the gap?

Wearing a t-shirt is now, apparently, disqualified as “quiet work.”

Read more about it from Tony, though be warned the white fragility is in full force. You may need to position a pillow between your head and your desk.

-Shiv

Where is the “sky is falling” crew when you need them?

Postmedia, the corporate near-monopoly on Canadian news outlets, is heavily invested in convincing the public that the same austerity which got us into the mess we’re in is the solution to our problems, because the filthy rich owners of Postmedia don’t want to pay taxes. An entire genre of “the sky is falling” hit pieces have graced print media for the past couple years as Canada’s left-wing governments engage in Keynesian economics to keep things running during the recession. Debt and deficit hysteria has given corporate oligarchs a convenient fig leaf, with cries of “but the credit rating!” concealing the grumbling about their dues to society.

By every reasonable metric, the Albertan NDP have been the most competent leadership the province has seen in years.

By contrast, corporate oligarchs are getting exactly what they want in Saskatchewan–and yet, it has not arrested Saskatchewan debt either, causing their credit rating to continue tanking.

Yesterday was the longest day of the year, and Standard & Poor’s chose the summer equinox to downgrade Saskatchewan’s credit rating from AA+ to AA.

It was the second time in the past 12 months Saskatchewan’s credit rating has been dropped by the famous New York credit rating agency, whose pronouncements are taken ever so seriously by conservative opposition parties here in Alberta.

But you could have waited all day and long after sunset – which took place at 10:07 p.m. here in the capital of Alberta, if you were wondering – to see a press release from either the Wildrose Party or the Progressive Conservative Party condemning Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and his conservative Saskatchewan Party government for this obvious failing.

Funny, that!

Because it’s certainly never taken this long for an angry press release to appear from the offices of either of Alberta’s two main conservative political parties when the same thing happened to Alberta’s New Democratic Party Government for the same reasons.

It turns out that increasing debt caused by keeping the lights on in resource dependent provinces in the face of low oil, natural gas and other resource prices has had pretty much the same effect in Saskatchewan governed by conservatives as it has had in Alberta governed by social democrats.

That said, a good economic case can be made that Alberta will be in far better shape as both provinces recover from the downturn because the NDP has not laid waste to health care, education and other public services, as the Saskatchewan Party is doing.

Regardless, when Standard & Poor’s downgraded Alberta’s credit rating for the second time, from AA+ to AA last month, the Wildrose press releasecalled it a “disastrous credit downgrade.”

“This is totally unacceptable,” wailed Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who is already a candidate to lead the still-unbirthed United Conservative Party.

“Credit rating agencies don’t care what politicians say, they care what they do, and the NDP are doing nothing but dithering while Alberta’s deficit spirals out of control,” shrieked Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt, another UCP leadership candidate.

The real motive of the you-see-pee (United Conservative Party) has nothing to do with the provincial government’s credit rating, and everything to do with the same smash-and-grab that allowed capitalists to loot the public sector during a downturn, leaving the little guy to eat the recession while the capitalists sip martinis in the Cayman Islands.

I hope Alberta’s blue collar recognizes that.

-Shiv