Georgina Orwell writes…

georgina orwell


Newspeak was the official language of the United Kingdom and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Malcent, or Male Centring. In the year 2024 there was not yet anyone who used Newspeak as his sole means of communication without the risk of denunciation. The articles in Pink News were written in it, but this was a tour de force which could only be carried out by a shameless man. It was expected Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or standard English, as we should call it) by about the year 2030. Meanwhile it gained ground rapidly, all public and private institutions tending to use Newspeak words and grammatical constructions more and more in their everyday speech. The version in use in 2024 was a provisional one, and contained many superfluous words and archaic formations which were due to be suppressed.

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Malcent, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought – that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Malcent – should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. It’s vocabulary was so constructed as to give inexact and imprecise definitions to all words, so that they could mean whatever the Malcent speaker intended. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by extending the meaning of existing undesirable words. To give a single example, the word woman still existed in Newspeak, but only insofar as it could be applied to anyone, irrespective of physical traits, mannerisms, mode of dress or any secondary characteristics which would otherwise have prevented one from being described as a woman. It could not be used in its old sense of female since that term no longer existed, even as a concept.

Newspeak was founded on the English language, though many Newspeak sentences, even when not containing newly-created words, would be barely intelligible to an English-speaker from as recently as 1984. Newspeak words were divided into three distinct categories, known as the A vocabulary, the B vocabulary (also known as compound words), and the C vocabulary. It will be simpler to discuss each class separately.

The A vocabulary. The A vocabulary consisted of the words needed for the business of everyday life — for such things as eating, drinking, working, putting on one’s lingerie, going up and down stairs, riding in vehicles, gardening, cooking, and the like. It was composed almost entirely of words that already exist, words like hit, run, dog, tree, sugar, house, field — but in comparison with the standard English vocabulary their meanings were greatly expanded. For example, the verb to bully meant not only to maliciously harm someone, but also to disagree with them. Other words, such as threaten, had also been expanded, to extend to disagreement, as had murder, harm, hate, and so forth.

All of these words could be strengthened with the prefix literal, or, for still great emphasis, actual literal. While this may seem verbose to those accustomed to Oldspeak, it allowed for simultaneously excusing the actions of an advocate of Malcent, while increasing the enormity of the actions of those opposed. A Malcent hitting someone could be cast  as just a slap or only one punch, while any denunciation of them that resulted would be actual literal violence.

In addition, any word could be negatived by adding the affix anti- and, along with the expanded definitions of words, allowed for negative traits to be couched in positive-sounding euphemisms. A Malcent, for example, who opposed all disagreement with their position – which was, itself, a defining feature of Malcentism – could legitimately describe themselves as anti-violence.

The expanded definition of woman made it impossible to describe someone as being anti-women, as the class women included – theoretically, at least – everyone. To accuse someone of being anti-women was no less than to accuse them of sociopathy, and would always be viewed as actual literal violence, and attract retribution in line with such.

The B vocabulary. The B vocabulary consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them. Without a full understanding of the principles of Malcent it was difficult to use these words correctly. In some cases they could be translated into Oldspeak, or even into words taken from the A vocabulary, but this usually demanded a long paraphrase and always involved the loss of certain overtones. The B words were a sort of verbal shorthand, often packing whole ranges of ideas into a few syllables, and at the same time more accurate and forcible than ordinary language.

In most cases, words in the B vocabulary were made by affixing trans- or cis- or girl- to existing words, although by 2024 there was already an ideological push to carefully and precisely define when the affixes should be written separately, as their own words, and when they should and should not be hyphenated. Thus, in the time period we are concerned with, it was already common to write trans woman as two words, with the prefix now functioning as an adjective, and ciswoman, as a single word, was becoming more frequent. One could, therefore, have women – a group without boundaries – trans women, who were a special subclass of women, and ciswomen, who were external to the class women. Although these distinctions can seem arbitrary, each was carefully designed to match the principles of Malcent, so it was natural that transwomen should evolve to trans-women, then trans women and, by the time of the final edition of Newspeak, simply women, while females should be relegated to being ciswomen or transmen.

harrop ciswomen

Some of the B words had highly subtilized meanings, barely intelligible to anyone who had not mastered the language as a whole. Consider, for example, such a typical sentence from a Pink News leading article as Transphobes, we won’t debate our existence. The shortest rendering that one could make of this in Oldspeak would be: “We will not allow those who hatefully pretend to believe that there are material differences between men and women, and that men’s access to women’s spaces should not be automatic and backed by the full force of the law, to force us to live in a state where our ideological beliefs are not automatically accepted, without deviation.” But this is not an adequate translation. To begin with, in order to grasp the full meaning of the Newspeak sentence quoted above, one would have to have a clear idea of the principles of Malcent. As only a person thoroughly grounded in Malcent could appreciate the full force of the word transphobe, which implied not only an irrational fear, but was inextricably mixed up with the concepts of wilful hatred, racism, lack of education and an antediluvian world-view. Or of the word debate, which indicated not a rational discussion of ideas, but a violent desire to impose your will on others. But the special function of certain Newspeak words, of which transphobe was one, was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them. These words, necessarily few in number, had had their meanings extended until they contained within themselves whole batteries of words which, as they were sufficiently covered by a single comprehensive term, could now be scrapped and forgotten.

The C vocabulary. The C vocabulary was supplementary to the others and consisted entirely of scientific and technical terms. These were medical terms in use today, but very few had currency either in everyday speech or in political speech. While they were useful in a clinical setting, the words in the C vocabulary – vagina, cervix, menstruation – carried with them an air of excluding men, directly counter to the principles of Malcent, and if required in everyday use were replaced by euphemisms drawn from the A vocabulary, such as front-hole.

From the foregoing account it will be seen that in Newspeak the expression of unorthodox opinions, above a very low level, was well-nigh impossible. It was of course possible to utter heresies of a very crude kind, a species of blasphemy. It would have been possible, for example, to say Trans women are men. But this statement, which to an orthodox ear merely conveyed a self-evident absurdity, could not have been sustained by a reasoned argument, because the speaker would already have been banned from any platform and dismissed from their job.

When Oldspeak had been once and for all superseded, the last link with the past would have been severed. History had already been rewritten, but fragments of the literature of the past survived here and there, imperfectly cancelled, and so long as one retained one’s knowledge of Oldspeak it was possible to read them. In the future such fragments, even if they chanced to survive, would be unintelligible and untranslatable. It was impossible to translate any passage of Oldspeak into Newspeak unless it either referred to some technical process or some very simple everyday action, or was already orthodox in tendency. Take for example a well-known passage from  The Book of Genesis:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

It would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak while keeping the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up into the single word transphobia. A full translation could only be an ideological one, whereby Genesis 1:27 would become a treatise on gendered souls.

A good deal of the literature of the past was, indeed, already being declared problematic by 2024 and work was underway to ban most of it. It was only the volume of this endeavour that led to the date for the final adoption of Newspeak being placed as late as 2030.

With apologies to George Orwell, who was too dead to ask if this was OK


I’ve been involved in the trans rights debate for a little over 4 years now. I often write about it here, normally in quite a light-hearted way (I hope). There is, however, a serious point, so I thought it best just to get it out of my system.

If you’ve been following the debate, such as it is, you’ll know the pattern. Somebody makes a statement, which supports one side or the other. The other side pile on. There are insults (some of them high-brow and flowery, some more base). Blogs are exchanged, the heavy artillery of entrenched warfare. Thousands of words are written; making arguments, refuting arguments, debunking the rebuttals. TERFs say this…trans rights activists believe this…the evidence says X…the evidence says Y.

Both sides draw new followers into the argument, but converts are rare, because this isn’t a battle over who has the best information or presentation, it’s a battle of belief.

gender belief

Like all such battles the terms of reference constantly shift. In the same way that an argument about whether there is a god can become about dinosaur bones, the big bang, or the exact translation of ancient Hebrew texts, so the trans-rights debate can take in degree-level biology, comparisons with other civil rights movements and the nature of feminism.

Sometimes it helps to cut aside all of the extraneous arguments, and get to the core of the belief. Take a moment, settle yourself down, and read the next paragraph.

I believe that any man can, at any time, say they are a woman. At that point they will become a woman (or will always have been a woman) and, irrespective of any other factors, will shed any privilege they have enjoyed by having the world see them as, and treat them as, male up until that point in their life, and will, by becoming a trans woman, become a member of an oppressed group. Their past or current behaviour will not be a factor.

Do you believe that? You don’t have to write your answer, or even say it aloud. You just have to give yourself a moment to be honest. Read it again. Does everything in there sound right to you, and aligned with equality and feminism?

That paragraph is the whole ball game. Everything else is a side-show.

If you don’t absolutely believe that paragraph, in its entirety, then you will always be living with the fear of being named a transphobe.

We saw that this week, when a trans-supporting natal woman called out a trans woman for sending her unsolicited dick-pics and was immediately accused of (and ended up apologising for) “transmisogyny”. We see it when an author is pilloried for saying that sex exists. We see it when another institution caves in to volume rather than reason, and denounces a woman.

There are only two choices, you either absolutely stand for that statement of belief or you don’t, and if you don’t then only one side of this argument will welcome you.

Your choice isn’t my business, only yours.

Think carefully.

How to chase those sweet TRA clicks

Trans rights are big business at the moment…and by ‘business’ I mean likely to drive up the hit counter on your blog, which would be meaningless if you weren’t trying to style yourself as some sort of social influencer, in the hope that you might get some free stuff out of it.

For example, a recent blog of mine got 17k hits and already I’ve had an offer (from my wife, as she was leaving for work) to scrub the landing carpet with soapy water, because she thinks the dog has been sick on it. I can’t promise you the same celebrity life-style, but I’ll try to help.

The hot thing right now is, of course, to work in J K Rowling, because people know who she is and, as of a couple of weeks ago, probably have strong opinions about her. Because of this you’ll want to get her name right there in the title. Be careful, though, you don’t want anything that will reflect badly on you. During a libel case, for example. You want her up there in the title, but not associated it with it. J K Rowling, trans-rights and a load of spiteful old bitches, for example, is just fine.

No, your honour, I wasn’t calling her that, I was just…

It’s also fine to call her comments transphobic. You can defend that no problem, on the grounds that everything is transphobic. You could live your life alone in a remote mountaintop hermitage in Nepal, spending every waking moment in meditation and you’d still be transphobic, probably for not being inclusive enough.

Don’t forget to put the spiteful old bitches in the title as well because, funnily enough, they’re just as important as getting in Rowling. The Potteress is the hook to get people reading your blog, but you also want it shared widely, to up your influencer status and bring those offers flooding in.

Oh, excuse me while I crack open a refreshing can of Own Brand™ lager. Ahhh, delicious…and now on special offer at [insert$:local_store].

As I was saying, if you’re putting the boot into a few women then you can be fairly sure that a lot of a certain kind of people will want to share your piece. Doubly so if you happen to be a woman yourself, because it can’t be misogyny if a woman said it first. Men’s rights activists used to hide behind Spider-man masks and fake profile pics but have discovered that hiding behind a woman is far more effective.

Once you’ve got your Rowling mention in and thrown a few women under the bus you’re pretty much guaranteed your shares, and you can just coast the rest, by covering off the basic topics:

  • Explain what a TERF is
  • Point out trans folk just want their rights
  • Pick a couple of the key arguments from the big chart of trans-rights activists arguments

the complete TRA arguments

The key thing here is avoid detail, while padding up your word count, so that you needed a whole blog and not just 3 tweets, and the longer it is the less chance there is that somebody will go through and dismiss it point-by-point. Every 500 words you add halves the chance that anybody will make it to the end. It will still get shared, so long as the bits people bother to read are saying the right things, but you’re making yourself rebuttal-proof.

For example, you’ll want to define what TERF means but you don’t want to go into what they’re excluding trans people from, because when you start mentioning women’s sports and such it all starts sounding pretty reasonable. Nor will you want to say that ‘radical’ in this context means that they don’t believe that people can be women just by saying that they are and claiming that their penis is now a girl-dick. Many of your less educated readers won’t know enough to believe that’s radical.

Instead why not rattle on about the origins of the TERF movement. Link it to the scepticism movement, link it to racial subjugation, link it to the Great Western Schism if you want, the important thing is only to sound like you know what you’re talking about and not to be talking about what the TERFs actually say, think or want.

Write, “The tradition of terfism dates back to…” and then paste in a GCSE history essay, if you want. As long as you put a few hyperlinks in people will assume it’s factual and well-researched.

And just keep going. The longer your article is the less chance anyone will take the time to debunk it (and if they do their reply will be too long for anyone to bother reading). However, you’ll want to skate over the topics like you’re John Torvill and Christine Dean. Say ‘trans-women are women’, but don’t explain what that means. Say ‘Trans rights are human rights’, but don’t touch on what rights they don’t have (and don’t go near what rights they want!). Throw in cool terms, like ‘lived experience’, which means that if we found another one of those Japanese soldiers still fighting World War II we’d all have to get back to air-raids, so as not to invalidate them.

Ultimately, as long as you’ve got the right title, the right stance and are hurling insults at the right people your piece is going to be shared and praised, even if paras 5-71 are ipsum lorem.

word cloud
Your next blog, pictured tomorrow

That’s it, really. Given the quality of the stuff that’s lauded by the TRA side of this debate it’s hard to imagine you need to do any more, so go write your piece, and I look forward to reading it.

Which reminds me, I really must clean up that dog vomit.


Tales for an accelerated culture war

Let’s imagine you get pulled over, on a motorway somewhere, doing 80mph. As the officer is writing out your Notice of Intended Prosecution, and you’re wondering if maybe your ‘joke’ pronunciation of “constable” was a mistake, you may feel a bit hard done by.

pulled over

Traffic is light, you’re not half-asleep, or drunk, stoned, or steering with your knees while trying to make a sandwich. Your car is in good condition and capable of well over 80-poxy-mph, visibility is perfect, you don’t have an armful of unrestrained toddlers on the back seat, you’ve been driving for 30 years and never had an accident.

You may ask yourself, “Is this fair?”

You may decide it’s not.

That’s your personal interaction with the law around speeding, but the law operates at a societal level. It’s really not possible to write a speed limit law that says the limit doesn’t apply to anybody who’s taking a bit of care and is a pretty good driver (self-identified) and hasn’t had a few and isn’t taking the piss.

Easier, if you really object to our chimera from the opening paragraphs getting a ticket, then you could take the absolutist view that speed limit should be abolished.

But that’s nonsense, surely? We need speed limits, don’t we?

Well, this may shock you, but speed limits are simply a social construct. Many societies had no concept of a speed limit until white British imperialists forced them on them. Now we’ve just been conditioned to accept the status quo.

When you think about it properly, speed limits are really racist.

Nor would removing speed limits infringe on anybody else’s rights. If you think 70mph is sufficient speed for motorways (borrrrrrrring!) then you are free to drive at 70mph. Sure, there’ll be Audis coming past you at speeds that would make Lewis Hamilton shit his pants, but your personal safety won’t be affected, because you’ll still be able to do 70 just fine.

Before you clutch your pearls, and yell, “Think of the children!”, obviously nobody is going to go speeding past schools, but even if they do then it’s a simple scientific fact that cars going faster make more noise, so the children will hear them coming and can make their own informed decisions on whether or not to get off the road.

school speed sign
A cisnormative school sign, pictured yesterday

Plus, of course, people have been exceeding the speed limit for decades and it hasn’t caused any major problems, just a few isolated and unrepresentative incidents. Even now, when you’re doing 68mph down the M45 (Yawn! Tell us again how great the 80s were, boomer) and somebody overtakes doing a respectable 120mph you don’t immediately scramble for your mobile, to get the po-po on the case, do you?

No, of course not. You’re a reasonable person, who recognises the other driver just wants to go fast, and you respect that they know their own schedule and driving abilities better than you, and let them get on with it. That little act of tolerance is all that’s being asked.

It’s not like this is opening a free-for-all. Nobody’s asking for the laws against dangerous and careless driving to be repealed. In fact it might even help the police out. They can ignore the people who are carefully driving at 140mph, and spend their time focusing on the ones who are driving badly at 140mph.

It’s to be hoped that those opposed to abolishing speed limits, let’s call them something neutral, like Time Eroding Road Fascists, will be very careful in how they frame their arguments, because “High speeds are dangerous” can sound a lot like “You’re dangerous”. This would, of course, be an outrageous slur, which would justify similar abuse in reply.

The clinching argument is that speed is a lot more complex that people think. If you have only the basic education imparted by a driving theory test then you probably, laughably, just think your speed is the number the dial is pointing to on the the speedo.

Bless you, and your simple understanding.

The reality is much more nuanced. That dial is being driven by a cable from your gearbox and is measuring rotations (although scientists have now worked out how to do it with digitals, which is even more complex). And don’t even get me started on GPS speed measuring, which is so complicated that if I started to explain it (I still remember the explanation from Tomorrow’s World pretty well) then your brain would melt and you’d hopefully completely lose sight of it just being distance divided by time.

Or is it? Sir Isaac Newton said that you couldn’t tell if an object was moving without an external frame of reference, and Albert Einstein also said something about space and time that you probably don’t understand.

Are you really going to pit your “Speed is just where the needle points” ignorance against Newton and Einstein? Really? No, I didn’t think so.

In conclusion, then, I have shown that abolishing speed limits is the just thing to do, does not infringe upon the rights of anybody else, doesn’t impact the safety of careful drivers, is not a risk to children, is already the established standard, and that speed limits can’t even be defined, let alone enforced.

Hopefully that is sufficient to make my case and now, before anybody works out what I’m talking about, I need to get out of here…fast.

upside down car
Twitter, pictured etc.

Northerner Illuminates

The author Philip Pullman doesn’t understand the argument currently centred around author J K Rowling. We know this, because he tells us, using words (considered, since ancient times, to be the mark of an author)

pullman tweet
Words, pictured yesterday

From the 538 replies (at time of writing) we can assume that any expectations he had that people wouldn’t shout at him again have now been so dashed that they could form 50% of Morse-code War and Peace.

I empathise with him completely. Up until about 4 years ago my knowledge of this culture war was:

  1. US Republicans kept trying to pass laws saying you couldn’t use bathrooms intended for the opposite sex. This was bad, because Republicans.
  2. The shop that used to exist in Newcastle, Transformations, used to have a sign in its window saying that it was Newcastle’s No. 1 TV specialist, but never had any televisions on display in the window. Just heavy velvet curtains, that were always tightly drawn.

Then I stumbled upon a word I didn’t know. Looking up what it meant took me down a rabbit-hole of other words I didn’t know, all the while assuming I was following some elaborate joke. The word was “cissexism” and it turns out to be so not a joke that people are prepared to fling about death-threats over it, which really isn’t funny.

Not wanting Mr Pullman to have to find out things the hard way (i.e. by clicking on links in Google) I hereby offer a brief primer. A sort of, “Previously, on Gender Wars”, if you will.

Let’s start at the beginning. Humans have two sexes, male and female. Obviously there is a huge amount of biological complexity here, which makes it easy to obfuscate the issue, but fundamentally, if you want a baby you need one person from each sex. You can talk about gametes, chromosomes and DNA until the cows come home, but if you start with two people from the same sex you will still never get a baby (although you may get insightful analysis of a recent football match).

You don’t, however, need to add a hypothetical third sex. Male + female is all that’s required, unless you count wine and smooth talking as sexes.

In 99%+ of cases the differences between the male and female sex can be elucidated by anybody over the age of about 6, with relatively little training [Observations of primary sexual characteristics in a sample of games of Doctors & Nurses, My mate Billy et al, The Journal of Playground Activity Vol. LXIX]. However, a very small number of people are born with disorders of sexual development, which makes unambiguous assignment to one sex or the other more difficult. People born with these disorders are still, however, members of one of the two sexes. They do not belong to both sexes, they do not form a new sex, they are not “intersex”, which is a derogatory term now reserved almost entirely for people who care so much about intersex people’s right to be heard that they won’t listen to their request to stop calling them “intersex”.

That’s the end of the easy bit, and if you think that everything we’ve covered so far is straightforward and uncontroversial then several thousand Twitter users, with pre-pubescent Anime girls as profile pictures and bios full of hashtags have a lovely surprise for you.

Now we get to gender. Gender was invented as a term to stop idiots answering “Yes please” to the sex question on forms. Since then it has evolved into a term to describe the differing roles society imposes on the sexes; boys play with toy cars, girls with dolls, men wrestle bears, women do the ironing, etc.

Gender is a social construct, a term which is often used as a synonym for “bad”, but pretty much everything beyond eating, shitting and breathing is a social construct. Not eating babies is a social construct, not shitting your pants is a social construct, pants themselves are a social construct, etc. It’s just a term for something that we could change, either through a specific effort or through the shifting tides of what’s fashionable.

Gender roles have changed hugely in the last century, from trivial things, like women being allowed to vote, right through to that time I ironed my own shirt. We’ve slowly moved away from there being men-things (power, education, etc.) and women-things (needle-work, childcare, etc) while retaining the social construct that men=male and women=female.

The people who would once have been the never-seen customers of Tranformations have come out from behind the velvet curtain and said that they not only want to dress as women, but been seen and treated by society as such. There has been a great deal of insistence that this social treatment extends to changing rooms, bathrooms, women-only short-lists, being lesbian, etc. Women who opposed this, on the grounds of men’s treatment of women having been pretty fucking shabby for the previous 10,000 years, have found themselves vilified for not being inclusive and caring.

This is a like a great white shark swimming up and asking for a bite of your ice-cream, and your concerns that you might lose a chunk of your arm in the process being reframed as you being too selfish to share your ’99.

Roughly, though, we end up with five genders; boring, old-fashioned men and women, transwomen, transmen and non-binary (who see themselves as neither men or women). There are many possible variations on those basic 5, and people will variously tell you there are 27 genders, or 100 genders, or an infinite number of genders, but at a certain point the genders start encroaching on the territory of sexuality or what we used to call personality, in the days when we thought that was what made a person interesting and not that it takes them 3 hours to explain their gender.

Now we’re at the stage where we’re encountering three major, intertwined, problems.

The first is that, having expanded the number of genders to 5+, those who strongly support gender ideology are trying to collapse it back down to three; men, women and non-binary. Their slogan, “Trans women are women”, couldn’t be more explicit in this.

twaw tweet
And it was in use before 2016, whatever Christine Burns MBE says

This has led to the situation where if you refer to “men” everyone knows you mean men, if you refer to “transwomen” then every knows you mean transwomen and if you refer to “women” then thousands of people decide you’re an exclusionary bigot and try to get you sacked. Doubly so if you try to use terms like “biological woman” or “natal woman”. The approved term is “cis woman”, which suffers only slightly from no-one liking it, hardly anybody understanding what it means, and some transwomen adopting it for themselves anyway.

Secondly, the gender ideology is, fittingly, rather fluid. It’s new and quite a lot of it is being made up as people go along. It’s not an exaggeration to say that half the movement don’t agree with the other half.

What they all agree on, though, is that they will unite against anybody deemed to be a ‘TERF’ (a ‘Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist’, normally pronounced to rhyme with ‘ditch’). This makes any sort of compromise very difficult, because as soon as there’s any sign of agreement between the less angry elements it’s likely to be derided by one of the many ideological extremists, who will rephrase the discussion through the prism of their own imagination and denounce one or both parties. It’s like a Catholic and a Protestant trying to organise their wedding, but they have to agree every detail with Ian Paisley.

Finally (and where I’ll end, I promise), outside of technical grammatical use and feminist discourse, gender and sex have been used interchangeably in language and in law. Ten years ago the concept of a male woman or a female man would have been nonsensical.

gender usage graph

Even the Gender Recognition Act is unclear on whether it’s talking about sex or gender.

gra language

Even the term ‘transwoman’ is unclear. Polls consistently show support for transwomen being allowed to use female facilities (because Republicans) but then stop doing so sharply when it’s explained that the transwoman umbrella extends over men who’ve had no surgery, taken no drugs, haven’t even (in some cases) shaved their beards off.

Meanwhile, the definition of woman is slowly being boiled down to “A woman is a woman who says they are a woman” and when J K Rowling tweets “Sex is real” thousands of people read “I want gender non-conforming children to suffer and die”, apparently not even thinking that’s maybe a bit out of character.

This is a confusing battle, fought with confusing and confused words, trying to achieve confused objectives, with confusion deliberately being used as a weapon.

I do hope that helps enlighten Mr Pullman, and I wish him the best next time he dips a toe into this fight.

Draft includer

On the 4th of June this year the Scottish government published its guidance on its own Gender Representation On Public Boards (Scotland) Act.

The aim of the act is laudable enough. It seeks to ensure that public bodies in Scotland have at least half of their non-executive director posts (rounded down) filled by women. One would hope that goal, at least, was not too controversial.

Instead the controversy has been around the paragraph at the end of the act’s key definitions, and the guidance to go along with it.

Firstly, what the act itself says:

gropb act

This is, as the paragraph says, a slight re-wording of section 7(1) of the Equality Act, which says:

eq act

It has, as you’d expect, been tailored to refer only to people who are having gender reassignment to become women. A key word here is “includes”. This indicates that the act doesn’t apply only to be people with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, but also to the larger group understood by the term “woman”.

We’ll come back to this, and the use of the Equality Act, shortly. Meanwhile, on to the guidance, specifically the section of it titled, “Definition of ‘woman’ for the purposes of the Act”

The section opens with para 2.12, which reiterates what the act itself says. The following paragraph, 2.13, then lays out three criteria that a transwoman without a gender recognition certificate must meet in order to qualify as a woman for the purpose of the act. A footnote tells us that, “A trans woman with a UK Gender Recognition Certificate or with gender recognition from another EU Member State is legally a woman.”

It’s worth flow-charting the process that’s being described here.

gra flowchart 1

The 3rd box down is something of a supposition, because neither the guidance nor the act itself say that a transman with a gender recognition certificate would not come under the wider, undefined, term “woman”. Instead we’d have to look at section 9(1) of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, not referenced in this act, which says that “Where a full gender recognition certificate is issued to a person, the person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender”, and presume that their assumed gender supersedes natal gender.

We’re also guessing, in the 4th box, as to what the wider term “woman” means, as it’s not defined here. All we’re told is that it includes transwomen. As we’ll see shortly, this act is tying itself in knots to avoid a much plainer, but more contestable definition.

We’re still on paragraph 2.13, which defines the 3 criteria a transwoman must meet in order to be a woman, for the purpose of this act. The wording of this para makes it absolutely clear that it applies only to transwomen without a GRC:

gropb act 2

The three criteria are then laid out:

  1. Have the characteristic of gender reassignment, as defined in the Equality Act
  2. Be proposing to undergo, is undergoing or undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning their sex to female
  3. Be living as a woman

Other problems aside, this is at least fairly easy to add to our flowchart:

gropb flowchart 2

The “living as a woman” criteria will be familiar to anybody who paid any attention to the Scottish government’s planned reforms of the Gender Recognition Act, which have now been sidelined, following considerable outcry about them.

Living as a woman specifically does not entail any changes to appearance, dress or behaviour, instead it requires:

  1. “Always using female pronouns” (which I assume means that they always ask for other people to use female pronouns in relation to them, rather than the literal reading, which is that they must never refer to anyone at all as “he” or “him”)
  2. Using a female name on official documents (there is, sadly, no official list of female names)
  3. Using female titles (presumably Miss and Mrs, no consideration seems to be given for those using ‘gender neutral’ variants)
  4. Using the gender marker for female on official documents, such as a driving licence
  5. Describing themselves, and being described by others, as a woman

Criteria 3 does rather make the other 2 criteria redundant, as they both relate to the equality act, which says only that the protected characteristic of gender reassignment covers those proposing to undergo, undergoing or having undergone “changing physiological or other attributes of sex”

The 5 requirements to be considered living as a woman constitute the “other” part of attributes of sex. It’s hard to see how you could be living as a woman in the manner described and not be considered to have the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

Also, the second criteria – in a paragraph which, as we saw, applies exclusively to transwomen without a GRC – explicitly excludes transmen.

gropb act 3

Putting this exclusion here makes our flowchart a bit more complex:

gra flowchart 2

However, if we look at it objectively, taking in the evident desire to include transwomen (not female) but exclude transmen (female), then we can see the actual decision making is much simpler, and doesn’t require any references to the Gender Recognition Act or the Equality Act, just a simple recourse to the only criteria in the guidance that carries any meaning:

gra flowchart 3

This is clearly the intent of the guidance. Everything else is just padding to disguise the starkness of the vision where pronouns, the sex indicator on your passport, the name the bank uses when they write to you, things which are supposed to reflect reality, have instead become the arbiters of it.

I’m not a women, but if I were I think I’d probably feel that the need to be represented on the boards of public bodies went a little deeper than whether Scottish Power added an ‘S’ to the end of ‘Mr’ on my account details.

Just to finish off, section 2.14 of the guidance makes it clear that this definition only applies to this act, and does not create a wider legal definition of the term. Three things to note about this:

  1. This only appears in guidance, which is…well, guidance. This guidance could be updated at any time.
  2. Once this definition is in law once it becomes easier to sneak in to other laws. Future laws just need a line in their definitions section saying “woman” is defined as per section 2 of the Gender Representation On Public Boards (Scotland) Act, and far fewer people are likely to appreciate the significance.
  3. Even if the definition does apply only to this act there is a big difference between it not creating a wider legal definition and it not being used in support of such a definition. It produces a basis to say, “Well, we did it in the Gender Representation Act, and that hasn’t caused any problems.”

Finally, section 2.15 absolves anyone of any responsibility for misuse of this new, woolly, definition. Boards aren’t required to ask anyone to prove they meet the definition, and for the individual in question, even the laughable constraints of the solemn declaration, and the penalty for making a false declaration, fail to appear.

Even after 3 days of reading the guidance I still don’t know if it was written by someone incompetent, and incapable of structuring guidance clearly, or if the intention was to deliberately obfuscate just how little the concept of womanhood means to them, but neither option is great and, it seems, either through incompetence or maliciousness, the Scottish government isn’t prepared to listen to any dissenting voices.

How not to make it obvious you hate women


When you’re writing a blog post all about your own personal entitlement it’s all too easy to let subtle clues slip through that you really hate women. Today we’ll be looking at how you can avoid those traps and completely cover up your towering misogyny.

  1. Make it clear you don’t hate all women.

Let’s face it, women who are mostly silent and completely compliant are actually pretty much OK. What you need is a term that makes those whose own wishes are subservient to your desires sound like the majority and to other those uppity bitches who won’t do what you want.

Research suggests that ‘uppity bitches’ is quite a polarising term, and tests poorly with the non-male demographic, so you’ll want to avoid that. Fortunately, the rich brown tapestry of social media has thrown up many new synonyms that you can use.

There’s the – always hilarious – ‘Karen’, who’s drunk on Prosecco and wants to see the manager, because she’s too stupid to recognise how much more privilege than you she has.

Then there’s the fashionably gender-neutral ‘Boomer’, for those who hold the antiquated opinion that the universe doesn’t revolve around your ego.

At the moment the othering heights is ‘TERF’, very catty but slightly hindered by the fact that you have to explain it, and that explanation involves feminism, which is boring and nobody is interested in.

You can get around this by making up a better acronym, something that nobody wants to be part of…

TERFs – Terrapin Eating Revolting Females

2. Explain why it’s OK to hate some women

It your argument is predominately/entirely based at women, to the extent that you don’t even want to acknowledge that men could be opposed to you, then it can sound a little bit like you’re a men’s rights activist.

To avoid this you’ll want build the case against the TERFs rationally, providing evidence at every step, and supporting your argument with examples and citations. Like this, for example…

Genetically, TERFs are indistinguishable from Hitler

That should do it, there’s no way any rational person wouldn’t be convinced by that.

3. If the words are nice, the actions don’t have to be

Naturally you’re going to want to write about taking control of women-led organisations, forcing women out of public places and off public platforms, having them de-funded, having them sacked, making them live in fear, and maybe even getting a few punches dealt their way, because if they aren’t prepared to let you dictate reality to them then they’re simply asking for all of that. However, some of it can come across as a bit harsh (no, really, people will take offence at anything these days)

Take “inclusive”. Inclusivity sounds like a worthy goal, and is so much more pleasing to the ear than “let me be in charge of everything!”. Everyone carries a scar from fascists in their lives not being inclusive; that kid who didn’t invite you to his birthday party in primary school, that girl who refused to date nerds with spots, that lesbian couple you knew who massively over-reacted to your simple request to watch.

Yes, inclusivity is good for everyone, especially when it allows you to drive women out of organisations that support women.

Feminism is also a good angle. Yes, it’s boring, but like “culture” it’s dull but worthy. Nobody can really object to something if you’re doing it in the cause of feminism.

Men’s rights activists tried to dismantle feminism, because they hated the idea of women having the power to organise and achieve their own goals. You’re the complete opposite, because you aim to make feminism stronger, by putting the best person you know – you – in charge of it.

Plus, when you walk towards a woman, meaningfully tapping your baseball bat in your hand, it’s good to know that the angels are behind you when you say, “This is for your own good.”

Failing that, you can also appeal to decency. Everyone is in favour of decency, and rarely remembers that no two people have the same standard for it. Frame the choice between decency and fascism and people normally pick the card you want, and don’t see the sleight-of-hand of you defining both terms to suit your own needs.

4. Everything you do, you do it for you

Ultimately, trying to get your own way looks selfish and even mean-spirited. This is why you need to make your goals sound like common goals for everyone.

Don’t say you want to hound all “TERFs” out of public life, say that we can only have a tolerant society if we silence them. Don’t say you’d like to beat them up, or worse, instead say that your actions are just to make life safe for everyone.  Rather than openly stating your goal of pushing women out of women’s organisations, say you’re interested in making them truly democratic.

While many people will, quite unreasonably, oppose you achieving your personal goals, it’s a lot harder for people to object to tolerance, safety and democracy. There’s a reason why despotic countries always have ‘Democratic’ in their name, you know.

5. Sound the dog-whistle, act surprised when dogs turn up

If all of this sounds like you’re being too even-handed, and giving those uppity bitches too little abuse, then don’t worry. Plenty of women-haters out there know the code, and they’ll be sure to support you with much more direct insults and threats…and you totally disown them if they cause you any hassle.

“Me? No, I was calling for a fair society for everyone. I was the idiots replying, who I totally don’t absolutely agree with, who were handing out the threats of violence.”

Whatever happens to those uppity bitches, you can sleep soundly.

Or, maybe – and this is a bit “out there” – read back what you’ve written, while remembering that these are rational adults who legitimately disagree with you, and put your fucking dick back in your pants.

The PTA meeting

A play in one act


WATSON [CONCLUDING TALK]: …community support officer will be in school regularly, throughout the term, to deliver his anti-drugs message and to remind the students of confidential services they can talk about issues regarding drugs. [HE PAUSES]. Any questions?


DAZ: Yeah, I got a question about your “zero-tolerance” policy and immediately involving the police if anyone is found selling drugs on school premises.


DAZ: Well…it’s not very inclusive, is it?

WATSON: Inclusive? It’s aimed at supporting all students, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, gend…

DAZ: Yeah, I get that. I mean it’s not very inclusive of people like me, who make their living selling a bit of weed, is it?

WATSON; Sorry? What?

DAZ: Jesus, mate, I thought you was educated. I’m not sure how much simpler I can make this for you. Your policy excludes people like me, so it’s not very inclusive.

WATSON: I’m sorry, Mr…?

DAZ: Daz

WATSON: Well, I’m sorry, Daz, but that’s what it’s meant to do. We don’t want people in or near the school selling drugs.

DAZ: Yeah, yeah, I get what you’re saying but, right, being exclusionary is bad and being inclusive is good. Right?

ALICE: We don’t want scum like you selling drugs to our kids!


DAZ: Jesus, get your opinions from The Daily Mail much, Karen? You name me one drug dealer who sells drugs to kids. Just one.


DAZ: There’s no profit in selling to kids. If your kid gets enough pocket money to sustain a coke habit then maybe you should have a long, hard look at your parenting, rather than making me the monster of the piece.

TRACEY: We don’t want drug-dealers in our school! Mixing with our children!

DAZ: Hello, we’ve heard from Mrs Daily Mail, and here’s her companion piece from Little Miss Telegraph. I’m not interested in selling to your kids!

TRACEY: Then why do you want to be here?

DAZ: Well, it’s dangerous out on the streets. Other dealers want you off their turf, there’s always someone ready to beat you up for money or drugs, and then there’s vigilante dads, who’ve seen Death Wish a few too many times. I need to be protected from all that.

TRACEY: It’s not the school’s job to protect you! We’ve got the kids to look after!

DAZ: Oh, so you don’t think I deserve to be safe, is that it? Well, thanks for showing your hand, bigot.

WATSON: Look, Mr…Daz. The school’s policy is not going to change to admit you, and if you are seen on or near the premises then the matter will be reported to the police.


DAZ: Right. And are you going to strip-search all of the kids every morning, to make sure that none of them have a sixteenth or a couple of tabs of acid that they might be selling to their mates?

WATSON: No, of course not! Don’t be ridiculous!

DAZ: And if one of them American drug-dealers, with their big bag of crack and an AK-47 came marching into the school then do you think you’d stop them by waving your policy in their face?

WATSON: I hardly think that’s likely to hap…

DAZ: So what you’re telling me is that you’ve got no way of stopping dealers coming in here and that, really, the purpose of this policy is just to stop me. We seem to have gone from not being very inclusive to actively being discriminatory.

ALICE: It’s not discriminatory to prevent people acting illegally in the school!


DAZ: You must be very proud, having Rod Liddle there on your PTA. [He turns to Alice] Look, laws are just a social construct. They don’t mean anything. Try to remember that.

ALICE: But you are a drug-dealer!

DAZ: Honestly, I get your concern that somebody’s going to come here and get all your kids hooked on heroin, but that’s not me. I’m a nice guy, just looking to live my life quietly.

WATSON: But if we let you in then what’s to stop those heroin sellers coming in as well?

DAZ: Yeah, smack dealers are really going to take the time to come to a PTA meeting, are they? I mean, generally speaking, those guys don’t have their shit that together.

WATSON: We can’t have a school policy that says drug dealers can come into the school if they’re nice guys!

DAZ: Of course you can, mate. In a way, it’s good for you.


DAZ: Yeah. If any of those not-nice people show up then I’m here to protect you. I’ve always got a couple of knives on me, so everybody’s safer.

TRACEY: This is outrageous! We can’t be having armed criminals in the school!




WATSON: I though you said you were a nice guy.


DAZ: I am, I am, it’s just really hard to keep on being nice when some people are literally denying me the right to exist.

TRACEY: I wasn’t! I was just…


WATSON: Look, this is all getting very heated. Why don’t we simply vote on whether the policy should be zero-tolerance, or whether it should admit “nice guys”?

DAZ: Oh, right. Using voting to suppress me, a minority, are you? That’s apartheid, that is.

WATSON: I don’t see how else we can…

DAZ: You just let me in and, in a couple of years, we’ll see how it’s gone.

ALICE: We can’t just expose our children to drug-dealers for a couple of years and see how it goes!


DAZ: And why not? Do you really think that the kids here can’t buy drugs anyway? That none of them ever sell some grass or a few spliffs? It’s been going on for years without you kicking up a fuss. What’s the difference between letting them in and letting me in?

ALICE: We’re not letting them in. The policy is zero-tolerance.

DAZ: Oh, right, gotcha. You’re actively working to reduce the rights of people like me?


DAZ: Mr Watson…Richard…are you really going to let school policy be dictated by the sorts of fascists who want to take away people’s rights and stop them existing? Is that how a school that prides itself on its inclusivity should be run?

WATSON: Daz, may I ask. What exactly is your connection to this school? You’re not a pupil here, or a parent.

DAZ: Oh, right. My missus is standing to be chair of the board of governors. Now, about my recommendation that we let me in and review in five to ten years…


END OF PLAY (Unless the audience asks for an encore)


Act in the court

This piece was inspired by human-rights barrister, Adam Wagner’s tweet about the Maya Forstater case, expressing his belief that the gender-recognition act did not create a “legal fiction” but, apparently, caused the holder of a gender recognition certificate to change sex.


For some reason this put me in mind of the section in Catch-22 where it becomes easier for people to believe that Doc Daneeka is dead, even though he is clearly alive and interacting with them, than believe that the bureaucracy may be wrong and a mistake has been made.

I started writing a response to Adam in the style of Joseph Heller, but it kind of drifted into being something else, partly about the absurdity of Wagner’s statement and part my own questions about the GRA.

The characters are not based on Wagner or Forstater, nor is the dialogue based on her case.

“It’s nothing, it’s just gender recognition reform,” snarled the lawyer, “Don’t think it means anything, because it doesn’t, it just means we’re changing the legal process allowing people indicate they’ve changed sex, that’s all.”

“If it means that they’ve changed sex then why is it called gender recognition,” she asked.

The lawyer turned to her, “Sex and gender are the same thing,” he informed her, haughtily. “How can you have a sex without a gender? Or a gender without a sex? All gender recognition reform does is reform the recognition that sex and gender are the same thing!”

“How can they be the same thing,” she argued. “Proponents of this theory tell me that there are an infinite number of genders, but the act recognises only two, which match exactly the two sexes. If gender is the same as sex then the act allows people to change sex and fails to recognise all but two of the endless genders. That doesn’t sound like nothing to me!”

“Of course it doesn’t…to you,” – he paused, to preen to the gallery, who hung on his every word – “Because your sex and your gender are already the same. What about those poor souls whose gender isn’t the same as their sex? Don’t they deserve to have their sex changed to match their gender?”

“Couldn’t the gender recognition act change their gender to match their sex?”

He snorted, as if she’d suggested building a bridge to the moon. “Change their gender? How would we do that? A person’s gender is an innate quality. It’s a fundamental part of their identity. It’s not something that a legal document could ever change. You might as well suggest that we could bring in a law mandating people be happy.”

“If the law can’t change a person’s gender then how can it change their sex?”

He rolled his eyes in faked exasperation. “What is sex,” he asked, and then cut her off as he saw her mouth start to open, “Why, I could ask a hundred people to define ‘sex’ and get two hundred different answers.” He adopted mocking tone, “It’s about genitals. It’s about chromosomes. Ooo, let’s all be defined by biology.”

Spotting her opening, she interrupted. “If sex doesn’t have a definition then how can the gender recognition act change it? What is it changing?”

He grabbed his copy of the act from his desk and rounded on her, holding the document aloft in his right hand, as an exorcising priest might hold a bible.

“The law,” he paused and then repeated himself, “The law says that a person with a gender recognition certificate becomes the given sex for all purposes. All purposes,” he placed heavy emphasis on the words.

She didn’t reply. This seemed like a non sequitur.

“What purpose,” he asked, “Could be more fundamental than identifying their sex? At its very heart a gender recognition certificate allows us to recognise sex. As I said, they are the same thing. You cannot define gender without sex, nor sex without gender.”

“But that’s absurd. What about me? I don’t have a gender recognition certificate, how would I prove my sex?”

The lawyer turned back to the gallery and spoke to her half over his shoulder, so that the observers could see his smile. “Well,” he said, “You seem like a nice person, and probably not a danger to others. If you say you’re female then I’m sure we’ll be prepared to take your word for it.”

He whipped back around, to face her and, in harsher tone, added, “A courtesy you yourself have refused to extend to others!”

Someone in the gallery started applauding but stopped when nobody else seemed keen to turn the show-trial into a play. The lawyer flashed the smug, self-satisfied smile of the deliverer of a coup de graceless.

“This is ridiculous,” she said, her temper rising, “I’m not refusing anybody anything. People’s lives are their own. They can live as they want, dress as they want, find love with who they want. I have never called for anybody to lose a single freedom, I just do not believe that it is possible to change sex.”

“And that’s your philosophy, is it?”

“My philosophy is that objective facts are true, yes.”

The lawyer shook his head, sadly. “So here, in this courtroom, here, in this temple to law, you ask us to believe that the law is guilty of creating some sort of grubby conspiracy, a falsification of the facts, a deception, a…,” he paused, to rearrange his features into those of weary sympathy, “A lie. A fiction. Is that your claim?”

“I believe that the gender recognition act creates a legal fiction, yes.”

“You ‘believe’…that is what we’re testing here, is it not? Whether your beliefs are serious and worthy of protection, but what you seem to believe is that the law is the party on trial here, that the law is a liar and you are the sole arbiter of truth. How can you ask the law to find against itself and in favour of you?”

That’s when she knew it was over. The trial continued and, of course, the lawyer had a lot more to say, but it was over anyway. She was, she realised, amongst people who would not simply argue that black was white, but would fight for to their last breath for the law that said it was so. They would stare at the darkness and proclaim that it was dazzling. They would consider themselves heroes for championing women’s rights, and no less heroic when they advocated making everyone a woman. They were lost in the clouds, flying only on statutory instruments.

She would lose the case.

She would continue to be right.


Rook’s gambit

Obviously we’re all upset by Labour’s crushing defeat last Thursday. We were all blindsided and never considered the possibility that a party that had lost council elections, European elections and one other general election could lose this general election. There was simply no warning, if you don’t count them other elections, and all of the polling that said he was least popular opposition leader ever.

Now the Labour party must struggle to find a way to continue Corbynism without Corbyn (assuming he ever gets around to leaving). Who else can continue his strategy of making sympathetic noises about the poor, the hungry and the homeless, while actually championing middle-class give-aways, like cheaper train tickets for commuters and free broadband for the nation?

Perhaps best to view this election as a sacrifice. A strategic chess-move, to make your opponent believe they have you on the ropes, lull them into over-confidence and pressing their advantage too hard.

Oh, shit, which way do the little horsies move?

The only answer is that, like good little pawns, the poor must die.

What Corbynism needs now is total Tory ruthlessness. Benefits slashed further, a big dose of Brexit recession, mass unemployment, a repossession bonanza, perhaps a new 50% tax rate for charities. Maybe those things will be enough to give the country the shake it needs to realise that the socialism of the Oxbridge upper-middle classes is the only viable alternative.

Not at the next election, obviously, that’s too soon to rebuild from the scorched Earth of Thursday’s defeat, but definitely the election after that. Or the one after that, latest. Anything sooner than that would be too soon to deviate from the master-plan to something that the public actually want to vote for. You have to give these things time.

And time is firmly on the side of Corbynism. If it actually mattered that life was getting worse for people ranked lowest in the social order then Jeremy Corbyn would have gone when his MPs said they had no confidence in them. If it was genuinely important to have a return to a government that helped people then he would have gone after losing to May’s disastrous 2017 campaign. If the real goal was to stop life being miserable for people then he’d have exited the stage after Labour crashed at the Euro elections, or when the polls resolutely failed to turn in his favour.

But he didn’t, because a true grand-master knows that those pawns must be lost in order to finally win the game. Why cry over the loss of a foot-soldier when delicious check-mate is just 20 moves away?

Let them die, then. Let the first fall on this cold and wet night, in a soaking sleeping-bag on a metropolitan street somewhere. Let them die joyful in the knowledge that they are but the foundation layer in a mountain, atop which a red-flag will one day proudly wave.

Those who form that dreadful mountain may rest peacefully knowing that their suffering was a consequence of Conservatism, but a necessity of Corbynism. That they died to preserve political purity against the harsh beating of electoral compromise.

Perhaps they’ll get their names engraved on a statue to Jeremy fucking Corbyn, the man who saw it all as a game on a black and white board.