Starry, starry right

A couple of weeks ago we sailed past the 2nd anniversary of the publication of the truly, deeply, terrible Edie Miller article, on why the British media is so transphobic. It would have been a fine thing indeed to leave that anniversary unmarked. After all, there’s no reason why Miller’s woeful writings should be remembered when far superior works are forgotten.

This, for example…

Miller’s work, however, reappeared this week, because some people found a tweet praising it, made in June, by Glenn Greenwald, and gave it a few quote-tweets. If you’re not sure who Glenn Greenwald is then this diagram may help.

A Glenn Diagram (also, he’d be horrified that I’ve used ‘Align center’ on it)

Whatever the reason, I’ve written about Miller’s article before and I’ve no intention of revisiting it, or even re-reading it, but the central straw of her argument – that those who are now, in her eyes, transphobes also supported the same “brand” of science that debunks horoscopes and homeopathy – perhaps deserves revisiting.

It’s not like there aren’t certain parallels between astrology and gender politics. Take the oft repeated claim that everyone has a gender identity, it maps neatly on to the claim that everyone has a star sign. This is, of course, true. If you divide the calendar into 12 and assign signs based on a date of birth then it becomes impossible not to have a star sign. In fact, you might have many. There have been different versions of astrology throughout history, and if someone’s made up a whole new one in their bedroom this afternoon then you still have a sign in it, whether you want to or not.

In the same way, if you start with gender identities that are identical to biological sexes, and then add extra ones, it becomes impossible not to have a gender identity, even if all you have is one of the boring ones, that maps exactly on to a sex.

In both cases what you’ve added is something with no material component, but which may have psychological value to some, and is clearly very important to some.

What’s strange is that, even for sceptics, there’s a certain mental pressure to treat the completely made-up thing as more important than the physically real thing.

“Not me,” I can hear you saying, from your throne of debunking-brand-science, “I’m all rational and shit.” Well, good for you, but let me ask you this…can somebody change star sign?

A quick Google search didn’t turn up anybody who was a Leo, trapped in the body of an Aries. Nobody, it seems, is desperate to live their life as a fire sign, despite being born into a water sign.

Why not? It’s not as if astrology is a precise science. Indeed, because the direction of the Earth’s axis of rotation turns in a 26,000 year long cycle, called precession, the constellations are constantly slipping against the calendar seasons. If some ancient wise-man said, a thousand years ago, that being born on March 1st made you Pisces then it doesn’t hold for the rest of time, unless you’re intent on ignoring the only part of your doctrine that has any basis in material reality.

(You could also wonder why people who would shrink in horror at the though of using a 20 year old TV, or a smartphone from a decade ago, have such reverence for pseudoscience, based on its vintage)

On the other side of the coin, the Gender Recognition Act, in its own words, changes sex to match the applicants gender and, according to legal blogger Adam Wagner, does so without creating a legal fiction.

If the acquired gender is the male gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a man and, if it is the female gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a woman

Gender Recognition Act (2004), Section 9

If the law can change reality then why doesn’t the act change a person’s gender (the made-up component) to match their sex (the real, measurable component)? See, even if you’re a cynic, that question sounds a bit mad.

It’s almost as if the human psyche has some inbuilt tendency to treat the fantastic as more meaningful than the mundane, the invented as more important than the observable, the imaginary as unquestionable.

We even have a word for it, religion.

Of course, “religion” conjures up images of strangely dressed men, telling us what we’re allowed to think, which doesn’t really apply to astrology these days, but it’s worth remembering that there are some religious sects that have been so totally erased from history that we only know what they believed by the writings of those faithful to orthodoxy, refuting those beliefs. The deleted writings remain only as relief cast of the arguments against them.

It’s possible, then, we’ll only be remembered if Edie Miller’s text, and those like it, are remembered, and even then we’ll only be as the inverse of her barely-coherent position. I’ve got to say, I hope that’s not what the stars hold for me.


Hello, I’m here today to speak on behalf of the association of blindfolded knife-throwers (ABKT)

People born with the innate desire to chuck around lethal weapons, while being unable to see where they’re chucking them, have been around for all of recorded history. In many societies they were both revered and celebrated, although imperialist Western society has a shameful track record of regarding them as little more than freaks and circus entertainers.

We have a unique opportunity now to correct these historic injustices and allow blindfolded knife-throwers to live their lives with dignity, and as their true selves.

Not a kink! Not a fetish! Not that many survivors!

Blindfold knife-thrower rights are human rights!
(A great phrase that seems very meaningful, so long as you don’t take the time to actually think about what, if anything, that meaning might be)

Some people, on hearing that slogan, ask “What rights do blindfolded knife-throwers want?” After I’ve reported them to their employers, for being bigoted, I tell them this:

The right to be our authentic selves. Blindfolded knife-throwers don’t want to be shut away behind closed doors. We want the right enshrined into law that wherever we are, be it in the office, the shopping centre or the park, we can blind-folded and throwing sharpened steel around.

A small number of fascist right-wing Nazi women get all hysterical and period-y about this, claiming that this, somehow, reduces their rights.

Rights aren’t a pie, Karen! Just because you give somebody more rights doesn’t mean you have less!

Knife-throwers have been in these spaces for decades, without issue, yet we’re now supposed to believe that giving them the absolute legal right to throw their knives will, somehow, lead to a greater risk. Try to find the logic in that, if you can!

The right to remove barriers to being recognised as a knife-thrower. The present processes for becoming a blindfolded knife-thrower are expensive and overly bureaucratic, with the requirement to buy specially weighted knives, training for perhaps thousands of hours, and not be in A&E so often that you get invited to staff Christmas parties.

None of this is necessary. Medical research[1] now favours an approach that anybody who says they’re a knife-thrower is one, even if all they have are their suspiciously large collection of hunting and boning knives and a few heavy-duty bin-bags full of enthusiasm.

The truth is that if someone knows themselves that they are a knife-thrower then they are. They are not obligated to meet any standards of skill or accuracy placed on them by the non-throwing community. Even asking them to do so is prioritising the already privileged voices of non-throwers.

After all, if anybody really understands what it means to be a knife-thrower then it’s a member of the community that we’ve just said literally anyone can join, no questions asked.

The right to representation. Blindfolded knife-throwers are currently so underrepresented that not a single member of parliament is an “out” thrower.

To correct this we are proposing that self-identified knife-throwers be allowed to also stand on all-women shortlists and all-BAME shortlists, have at least one representative in cabinet, and that all votes for them, in any election of any sort, count double.

This is, simply and plainly, fair.

Accurate representation in the media. We also want a code amongst show-runners, producers, directors, etc that all films and TV shows will include a knife-thrower, and that the knife-thrower will always be played by someone who identifies as one. Always.

To help gain popular support we’d like Mrs Brown’s Boys to the first show to include a blind-folded knife-thrower.

We’d also like the publishing world to completely ostracise J K Rowling for her disgusting portrayal of knife-throwers as evil, through the character Bellatrixie LeStrade, who uses knife-throwing to murder the house-elf Dibby, in the Harry Potter series of books and films.

This character is consistently presented as evil and it’s made very clear that she is evil because she’s a knife-thrower. Or so I’ve been told, the book’s transparent throwerphobia is too distressing to allow me to read it.

This can only be fixed by Mrs Rowling publicly apologising, admitting that nobody has ever been killed by a knife, giving every penny she has to pro-knife-thrower charities, agreeing never to work again, and offering to be stabbed up a bit, until she’s dead.

Remember, not a single house elf ever killed by a throwing knife!

Proper access to health-care for knife-throwers. And their allies. Especially their allies. Those prepared to publicly say that anybody who believes they’re a knife thrower is one doesn’t deserve to have to wait in A&E for ages.

The total eradication of all anti-thrower bigotry. This should be a given, yet a group of stupid women keeping arguing with us. This is so strange when you consider that every knife-thrower needs a women, preferably of some sort of revolving turntable, so we are interested in genuine equality for them and are honestly amazed that so many of them are too stupid to understand this.

Aside from the everyday courtesy of recognising that self-identified knife-throwers are who they say they are, and always refer to use by our stage names, all we want is that the following activities be declared criminal:

  • Suggesting that throwing deadly weapons, while being unable to see, is anyway dangerous or likely to cause injury
  • Resisting blindfold knife-throwers in gaining any rights, including but not limited to, the ones listed about, that they might decide they need in the future
  • Asking perky, impertinent questions, such as, “What rights are you actually asking for?” “Do you acknowledge you’re removing other people’s right to walk through the park without risking a fucking dagger hitting them in the face?” or “Is any of this remotely sensible?”
  • Claiming that any of those are valid, reasonable questions, rather than pure hate-speech
  • Oh, and “Are you just making it all up as you go along?” That should be illegal as well
  • Employing anybody convicted of anti-thrower rhetoric, are who is suspected of it, or who follows anybody who is suspected of it, or who has ever liked a tweet by…well, you get the gist
  • Trying to prevent pro-knife-thrower groups from visiting school, to teach kids not to be afraid of people who simply enjoy throwing knives around, handing out knives to the kiddies, etc.
  • Disputing that knife-throwers are the most oppressed minority group, in all of history, forever
  • Writing thinly-veiled satire of knife-thrower ideology, or reading same
  • Suggesting we’re all a bunch of pricks

In conclusion. I hope this has helped you understand that blindfolded knife-thrower rights are human rights and next time you’re asked what that means repeat the slogan again, you’re not here to speak on behalf of blindfolded knife throwers, stay in your lane!

Anyway, I hope I’ve got my point across.

500,000 shades of grey

“Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Saying that someone will argue that black is white is normally convenient conversational shorthand for indicating that they’re the kind of dickhead who will argue about anything and in the face of all evidence that they’re wrong, but supposing we took it literally for a minute.

If you were offered some ridiculous sum, say £500,000 to convince people that black was white (and, I guess, vice-versa) then how would you go about it?

Literally the same

Obviously you can’t just wave that show-card in people’s faces and yell that they’re identical, because unless they actually fear you’re about to get violent it’s unlikely that many people would agree with you. A more “scientific” approach is needed.

You could point out that colours are, literally, a spectrum. If it’s a spectrum then every colour sort of flows into every other one, doesn’t it? How can you have a spectrum and say any colour is completely disconnected from all the other colours? It being a spectrum practically proves that black and white are the same thing.

Probably make a good logo as well

No? Well how about the colour-blind, they surely wouldn’t mind being roped in to help out. Colour blindness proves that the whole thing is subjective. Sure, you and I might agree that something is black, but a colour-blind guy might see it as white (NB. Don’t bother taking any time to research colour-blindness. It’s the principle that’s important, not the specifics)

If you’re arguing all of this on Twitter then you’re going to get some push-back, because social media is full of the kind of people who will argue that black is wh…hang on, nearly got myself caught in a loop there. Social media is full of the kind of people who will argue anything, so you need a way of shutting them up.

A good way of doing that would be to make your supporters feel clever for being on your side, and give them a way to belittle those on the other side.

I know, we could tell them that they don’t understand the science!

Let’s be fair, the science is really, really complicated. Colours are all to do with photons being reflected off things, which means you have all kinds of quantum effects, and any scientist will happily tell you that there’s loads we don’t understand about quantum physics. I mean, it could all be string. Can your opponents, with their GCSE understanding of science explain why it’s all string? Of course they can’t.

That’s before we even get into the biology of how the eye captures those photons and how the brain interprets them as colours. That’s proper PhD neuroscience stuff there.

A neuro-man, pictured yesterday

With a bit of science behind us we could even argue that those opposing us are anti-science. Oooo, that’s going to sting.

Of course, that does rather depend on no one noticing that what we’re doing is the exact opposite of science. Starting out with a ridiculous proposition you wish to defend, and cherry-picking only the pieces of evidence that might support it isn’t science. Deliberately using complexity to obfuscate isn’t science. Ignoring big bits of evidence (Exhibit A – the first image in this blog, showing black and white to be different colours) isn’t science. Seeking refuge in it all being too complicate to explain isn’t science. It’s not even mysticism. It’s barely above what you’d get from a bunch of stoned English lit. freshers.

Let’s just call it Woo and, like all woo, if you follow it long enough it will take you through science, into science fiction and then out into the wide open pastures of just plain fiction, and you end up arguing that our consciousness is a soul, because of quantum.

Yeah, we really have to hope that people don’t notice that, because while being anti-science is bad, being anti-woo is a noble position, especially in these times when there is so much woo. Perhaps that anti-science barb will sting so badly that nobody will question whether what I’m doing is really science.

Of course, all of this is hypothetical, because nobody’s really offering ½ a million quid to people just to distort science. That would be crazy.

Crossed fingers – the indication that somebody’s lying to you


Plus on change

Neil Gaiman’s 1998 collection of short stories, Smoke & Mirrors, contains a tale called Changes.

Neil Gaiman, pictured yesterday, in 1998

The central story concerns a scientist, Rajit, who develops a drug which cures cancer, by causing the body to, effectively, reboot. A side effect of the drug is that it also causes the user to switch sexes. This change being reversible with another dose.

The 11 pages of the story map out the changes caused by this new drug, and perhaps more importantly, by its side-effect.

In Thailand and Mongolia it was reported that boys were being forcibly rebooted into girls to increase their worth as prostitutes.

In China newborn girls were rebooted to boys: families would save all they had for a single dose. The old people died of cancer as before. The subsequent birthrate crisis was not perceived as a problem until it was too late, the proposed drastic solutions proved difficult to implement and led, in their own way, to the final revolution.

Amnesty International reported that in several of the Pan-Arabic countries men who could not easily demonstrate that they had been born male and were not, in fact, women escaping the veil were being imprisoned and, in many cases, raped and killed.

Neil Gaiman, Changes

Change itself become a dirty word – the story mentions someone being prosecuted for wearing a t-shirt reading, “I’m a changed man!”. School children giggle at, “A change is as good as a rest”. Loose coins become know as coinage or specie. The common verb meaning to alter becomes shift.

The story doesn’t tell us exactly when all of this takes place, but it’s before the present, as the bio-pic of Rajit’s life (starring Jeff Goldblum) comes out in 2018. Despite its central focus being two things that we can’t do – cure cancer with a single pill and change a person’s sex – it’s a strangely dated story.

It talks of nightclubs running unchanged nights -evenings where the patrons are expected to attend as their birth sex- and employing door-staff (with a 97% accuracy rate in determining natal sex) to enforce the policy. There are people who have to reboot twice over a weekend, to ensure that their current sex matches those of their employment records.

If the story were rewritten now it would have to be in the context of a society where the nightclub and the workplace would be on the wrong side of social views and equality legislation, and the wonder-drug that allows sex changes was just the final piece in the jigsaw.

Not everyone is aware that we’re not there yet

With that, and the concept of loose change vanishing, it seems to be a tale from a different time.

Of course, the measure of a good science fiction story is not that it’s prescient in every detail, but in how it makes you think about the present. It makes me think about those child prostitutes, and the unwanted daughters, and the women trying to escape the veil, for whom nothing has changed in 22 years, and makes me wonder if the drug were real whether anyone really would want change.

Why J K Rowling must die

In the past 36 hours, thanks to the Twitter hashtag RIPJKRowling, a few hundred thousand people have expressed their opinion about whether or not J K Rowling is, or should, die.

J K Rowling isn’t actually dead, of course, but the people who popularised the hashtag are already firmly of the belief that material reality is subordinate to their fantasies, so pointing out her continued vitality may well count as a hate-crime.

J K Rowling, still alive, in violation of the human rights of thousands of people with anime cartoons as profile pictures

If you have a pre-2015 brain, which simply has J K Rowling filed as the author of a very successful series of novels about a boy wizard, then you may wonder why thousands of people, the majority of whom have presumably never met her, now wish her dead.

Those paying a little more attention to current affairs will know, or guess, that it’s down to her position on trans rights, although the detail is so widely and wildly misreported, misrepresented or misunderstood that it may be a little hard to understand exactly what she’s done wrong, other than fall into the catch-all sin of being “transphobic”.

Understanding how this happens requires understanding the business model of the trans rights activists, which on the surface looks like this (because the same people who constantly talk about things being non-binary or spectra also have a remarkably binary view of the world).

The first problem comes if you try to find out exactly what trans rights you’re supporting, because that whole field is locked in what we’ll call A Great Loyalty Oath Crusade spiral.

In Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Captain Black starts the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade by having bomber crews sign loyalty oaths before getting essential equipment and briefings. He bullies other officers into following suit, claiming that if they were really loyal they wouldn’t mind getting their men to sign loyalty oaths, and loyal men wouldn’t mind signing them.

When other officers take his advice he ups his own campaign, to continually demonstrate he is the most loyal. Combat crews end up signing oath after oath, reciting the pledge of allegiance, singing The Star-Spangled Banner, and anything else that Captain Black can think of to make them prove they are loyal.

Without realising how it had come about, the combat men in the squadron discovered themselves dominated by the administrators appointed to serve them. They were bullied, insulted, harassed and shoved about all day long by one after the other. When they voiced objection, Captain Black replied that people who were loyal would not mind signing all of the loyalty oaths they had to. To anyone who questioned the effectiveness of the loyalty oaths, he replied that people who really did owe allegiance to their country would be proud to pledge it as often as he forced them to.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

The trans rights movement, which one must believe was originally about making life a little better for a tiny number of people, has become a global talking point. It attracts the support of national press and presidential candidates, billion dollar businesses and A-list celebrities, each competing against the others to prove they are most loyal.

If you demand expression of religious faith from politicians you are just begging to be lied to. They won’t all lie you, but a lot of them will, and it will be the easiest lie they ever had to tell.

Arnold Vinick, The West Wing

The cycle repeats over and over, making what would have been fringe views only a couple of years ago mainstays of the rights that are being demanded.

The phrase “They don’t believe that transwomen are real women” is now uttered with the same horror and disbelief that was previously reserved for discussing those who didn’t believe the Earth was round or who thought that dinosaur bones were a trick of Satan’s, to fool people into believing in evolution.

As recently as 4 or 5 years ago it was quite acceptable to say that, while transwomen may be women, they were not female. Such a view is now heretical, although many of those who support trans rights haven’t kept up, and don’t realise that it is now biologically impossible to tell a transwoman from a woman.

This constant revision of what is being demanded means that our diagram from above is not a static model.

You’ll note there’s no route back from being a transphobe. Once you’ve been labelled you can never apologise enough, never be compliant enough, never escape the screenshots of past transgressions or the blocklists. This is a feature, not a bug. If you don’t sign the fifth loyalty oath, or sing all 4 verses of The Star-Spangled Banner, and then are reaffirmed as loyal, it gives permission to all others to waver.

There is one final addition to make to the diagram before you close.

That’s there because the biggest lie behind this whole thing is that it’s a women’s issue.

With very few exceptions, men who choose to speak out against trans rights activists are simply ignored by the activists themselves. Author James Felton demanded to know why the media had sought a man’s opinion on this issue, rather than a transwoman’s (pointing out that’s just asking a different man is enough to get you escorted out of Twitter). A tweet of mine was seen by quarter of a million people and my negative feedback, in full, was, “Oh do shut up you fool, you aren’t half as clever as you think you are.”

But, as the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade carries us ever further from what’s rational and reasonable and we find ourselves in a society increasingly willing to sign every oath, recite every pledge and sing every verse, we must all take a stand.

In Catch-22 the crusade comes to an immediate stop when the fierce and untouchable Major _______ de Coverley refuses to take part and, with two sentence fragments, brings the whole edifice of nonsense crashing down.

And fear of just that is, of course, why those invested think J K Rowling must die.

Flying a pilot

blue end of the spectrum



Right, let’s get started! You’ll all remember Seb here…




What? Oh, yes, sorry…You’ll all remember Sab from his…



Sorry again. You’ll all remember Sab from xis inclusivity training course that he…



…that xe ran last zeek. Week.



Now, as you’ll have heard, a body was found shortly after 4am this morning and, from the wounds and the general MO we’re working with initial assumption that this is the work of the Dockland Knifer.



What information do we have on the latest victim, sir?


Not a lot. As with the other victims, all forms of ID had been removed from the body and we’re waiting for DNA and dental matches and keeping a close eye on all new misper reports. The victim is a female aged approximately…


Isn’t it a little early in the investigation to assume the victim’s gender identity, inspector?


Thank you, Seb. Sab. Important to bear these things in mind. The victim is biologically female and aged…




The victim has female primary and secondary sexual characteristics?



From the victim’s appearance and manner of dress we’re assuming…


Getting worse, if anything.


We have reason to believe the victim was in possession of a cervix at her…




…was in possession of a cervix at their time of death.







Yes, they’re aged 20-25 years old.



As with the Knifer’s other victims, the body wasn’t moved post-mortem and pathology have put the time of death at no later than 3am. Given her place and time…




…given their place and time of death, and consistent with the Knifer’s MO, we’re assuming that this victim was also a prostitute, and we’ve circulated her photo to vice, to see if anybody recognises her.


Their photo, to see if anybody recognises them. Remember, inspector, good policework means not making any assumptions. Also, the term ‘prostitute’ has significant negative connotations, inspector. Didn’t you read the memo I sent around?


Sorry, sorry, old habits. We’re assuming she…xe…they are a sex-worker.


Sorry, Terry, I’m a bit lost here. Did they or did they not have a dick, and is it still against the law to be a Tom?


Why wasn’t that officer on my course, inspector?


I was off sick.


Well, while you were lying at home with a poorly tummy all you missed was everything you need to know about how modern, inclusive policing works.


I was recovering after being shot by a suspect!


Does that make it OK for you to endanger other people’s lives by throwing around transphobic questions, and acting like you’re some sort of expert on the laws of the night-time economy?


OK, Seb. Sab. Leave it! Susan, we’ll get you booked on the next course.



Consistent with the other attacks, this victim had more than a dozen frenzied stabs to her – to their – torso, from a single-edged blade, at least 18cm long. Almost certainly some sort of kitchen knife, so no leads there. She – they – also had bruising to their wrists, consistent with their arms being pinned down. No cuts to the arms, so we’re assuming that they were pinned down before they were stabbed.


Before the arms were stabbed?


No, “they” the victim, not “they” the arms.


Although, of course, all of this may have been consensual.


Sorry, are you suggesting that she might have consented to being stabbed to death?


If you’d bothered to turn up last week, Karen, you’d know that good police officers don’t kink-shame.


My name’s Susan, not Karen.


Let’s see if we can get you booked on the ‘Understanding cultural references’ course as well, shall we? If you’ve got time between being off poorly. Would you like that? It would be nice to understand what people are talking to you about, wouldn’t it?


Sit down, Susan! Anyway, as we’re linking this to the Dockland Knifer case, we can start with the profile that we have for them. The man we’re looking for is probably mid- to late-20s…


Why are you assuming that you’re looking for a man? Remember, “Assume makes an ass of U and me”. Do you remember that from my course?


For this kind of pattern of violent crime against wom…against cervix-possessors, the statistics suggest that…


The old statistics, which were based on “biological sex”, which we now know to be bigoted, factually incorrect, and scientifically illiterate. When we do the analysis correctly, by self-assigned gender identity, you see that females are far more violent.


I can certainly see why



Let’s all look at the facts of this case. We have a victim who may well have identified as trans or non-binary, was a sex-worker and was kink-positive. That’s a very specific victim type, and means that our killer is almost certainly a far-right radical feminist. We should get a car round to J K Rowling’s house.


I’m not sure frenzied 3am dock stabbing are her style, really.


Ha. Ha. Obviously I’m not suggesting that she did it personally, although I’m sure she’d like to, but there’s no doubt in my mind that our murderer was inspired by her hate-filled messages. Find out who’s been reading her tweets and we’ll find our killer.


That shouldn’t take long, she’s only got about 12 million followers.


Actually, it’s a lot less now. Most people disagree with her and have unfollowed her.


Twitter says 14.3 million. I’m sure we can eliminate most of them from our enquiries before the end of the decade.


I think you have to consider the large number of people who are following just to report hate speech and…



You’re going to want to hear this, sir, we’ve had a breakthrough. We’ve got a preliminary ID on this morning’s victim, from her mum, who came in to report her missing.




Not like the others, sir, she’s not on the ga…[HE LOOKS AT SAB] I Mean she’s not a sex-worker, sir, even though that’s Real Work and Nothing To Be Ashamed Of, sir. She’s an estate agent, but she has been getting threats from her ex-boyfriend. Who just happens to match the profile we’ve got for…




Spot on, sir.


Right, I want everything we’ve got on him, and I want uniform round to his home, his work, his known haunts. I want him picked up and I want him picked up now! [TO SAB] You want to come on a ride-along?


For a cis, heterosexual woman? Fuck her, I’ve got memos to write.

A league of their own

I know nothing about Rugby, other than their labyrinthine one-way system ensures that first time visitors to the town get at least three passes by its famous school, before they’re allowed to pick a direction that involves leaving Rugby behind.

It was at that very school, the story goes, that rugby, the game, was invented when, during a game of football, one of the players picked up the ball and ran with it (literally and metaphorically).

No Wikipedia articles on rugby were disturbed in the writing of this blog

Could you have a better metaphor for the underlying causes of the current rugby battle – about whether trans women should be allowed to play women’s rugby – than that of an immature, privileged young man deciding that he could unilaterally change the rules of the game on the fly?

History, at least as far as I know it and can be bothered to research it (i.e. not at all), is silent on whether picking up the ball was the only change in that match. Were all the rules of rugby, which I understand to be quite different to football, made up in that game, on the fly, to suit the ball-handler?

“I say, Jenkins, can I throw the ball to Smythe Minor?”

“No! You have to throw it to me! ME!”

“But Smythe’s a lot near the goal.”

“I WANT THE BA…I mean, in this game you can only throw the ball backwards

Scenes from the first rugby match
The world’s first rugby player, pictured yesterday

“Haha, you’ve booted it over the bar, Jenkins, you idiot.”

“That’s what we have to do in this game, get it over the bar.”

“Riiiiiight. And that’s not because you’re a useless striker?”

“I no longer identify as a striker. You have to call me a hooker.”

“We already do, Jenkins.”

Scenes from the first rugby match

Obviously the other players thought the whole thing had potential, or there wouldn’t be a whole other class of sporting knowledge for me to be rubbish at in the pub quiz. I can certainly image the people on the same team as the guy was making up these new rules were generally well-disposed to it, that being the kind of thing that tends to lend your team an advantage. The other team, though, how did they feel?


“Oh, leave him alone. This new carrying-the-ball thing looks a lot more exciting than boring old football.”

“He’s just grabbed Fossington’s legs! Look at that! He’s gone and properly sent him arse-over-tit!”

“Well, can you blame him, with people like you shouting abuse and accusations at him?”

Scenes from the first rugby match

Whatever that first game played out like, and heaven knows I’m not going to look to find out, what does seem to have been decided fairly quickly is that it wasn’t football. People who wanted to take part in football weren’t suddenly told that they not had to change the rules, to accommodate this new holding-the-ball lot.

“Tell you what, Jenkins, that new game you invented was quite good fun. We should do football in Tuesday games and this new Rugby-football in Thursday games.”

“No! Just no! From now on we only play my rules! Every time! Everybody!”

“Steady on, old boy, a few of us chaps still enjoy a bit of kicking football.”

“Bigots! Why are you trying to erase my existence! I have a human right to sports!”

Scenes from (shortly after) the first rugby match

Maybe there’s some sort of lesson there. A lesson about not trying to replace something that already exists with something where you’re the one making up the rules.

Or maybe it’s just a load of balls. Who knows?

Faith and science

I have very few strong memories of my school days, and fewer still that I treasure, but there is one. It was an RE lesson, given by Mr McCoy (who, in the unkind way of schoolchildren, was known as Crater-face, because of his prominent acne scars). The topic was fundamental human rights, and one of them was freedom of belief.

My mum comes from an Irish Catholic family, two of her aunts had become nuns, and my brother and I had been baptised into the faith and had attended church every Sunday and, distressingly, every Christmas morning (back in the days before priests were trendy, and allow children to bring their new toys along to mass with them) since then.

I had even taken confirmation classes, from which my main learning experience was that nuns hate questions about dinosaurs and whether or not they had souls. Thus the large portion of my classes were spent standing in the corridor, thinking about what I’d done. Which was, invariably, asking questions to which Catholic dogma had no answers.

Up until that day nobody had ever said that I had the fundamental right not to believe the priests and the nuns and my mum and her aunts, who were also nuns, and the Bible. I was free to not believe it.

I didn’t go to church the following Sunday. I haven’t been to a Catholic mass since. I preferred science, which was cool with dinosaurs, soulless or otherwise. As XKCD says, science “…doesn’t ask for your faith, it just asks for your eyes.”

I think back on old Crater-face when I hear people saying that trans-rights do not cause a conflict of rights, because he taught me I have a fundamental right of belief – and I choose to have none – whereas those shouting loudest about trans rights demand that I accept their belief that a woman is defined by something otherworldly and spiritual.

It’s a religion, and it’s not even a good one. Plenty of other religions have the decency to offer you some kind of paradise if you adhere to their teachings. This one just offers you hell if you don’t.

Make no mistake that it is a religion. When trans-rights activist claim that the science is on their side makes me cringe, because science isn’t being able to pack together 800 book-learning words into an article. It’s about developing a hypothesis that fits the data. If you’re telling a story about SRY genes or brain-scans or DSDs, while ignoring primary and secondary sex characteristics, then you’re not doing that. You’re doing the very opposite of that, the antithesis of science; you’ve decided what the result is and are dragging in every piece of data you can find that might support it.

Freedom of belief works both ways, of course. Everyone has the right to believe that men can become women, in just the same way that they have the right to believe a piece of wafer becomes the body of Christ, but when they try to extend that right into demanding that others share their faith, that failure to do so is a reason to throw accusations of bigotry, to demand removal from jobs, to define hate crime, then a line has been crossed.

The freedom to believe what you want must entail the freedom to reject the beliefs of others. Mr McCoy taught me that, and anybody whose only counter-argument is to threaten you with a spell standing in the corridor isn’t worth a damn.

“As foretold in the Book of Rexelations!”

The No debating Society

What do we want?


When do we want it?


For literally longer than I can be bothered to look-up schools, universities and probably other places as well have had Debating Societies. Within these societies the biggest brains of their generations could go massive-head to massive-head over the pressing issues of the day, each demonstrating their mastery of the facts, their verbal dexterity, their insight into statistics, and their ability to build the edifice of an argument, from their opening statement right up until the pubs open. Magnificent.

The issue with debating societies is, of course, that they’re seriously uncool. No one can speak positively of them without a whiff of owns a selection of bow-ties, or the tangy high-notes of would really like to smoke a pipe, but the one time they tried it made them sick. This is why it’s been so good to see a trendy new alternative arise in our universities – the No Debate society.

A lot of people have questions about how no debating works, which shows that they’ve failed to grasp even the basic meaning of the name, so there’s probably not a  lot of hope for them. There do, however, have to be basic rules, presented here for any of you keen to get into the fashionable world of no debate.

empty debate hall
The Oxford No Debate Society, pictured yesterday

Rule 1 – No debate!

OK, rule 1 seems a little redundant, but it’s important to understand that ‘No debate’ means NO debate. It’s all too easy to get drawn into answering innocuous-sounding questions, like “What rights do you actually want?” or “What is a woman?” and then, suddenly, you’re pressed up against the issue that nobody knows the answers, because rule 1 says the No Debate society can’t get into a discussion of such with other members of the No Debate society, which would make a mockery of the whole thing.

Instead, the message has to be simply We want what we want, and that’s the end of it. No debate. Hopefully it will turn out that everyone was refusing to debate about the same thing.

Rule 2 – No empathy!

In debate, understanding your opponent’s point of view is essential. You must understand the cornerstone of their belief, in order to attack it. If you can understand their arguments then you’re half way to seeing how to destroy them.

Yeah, fuck that for a lark.

It is not for the advocate of No Debate to have even the slightest empathy towards those debased bastards who want a debate. They are wrong. End. Of. Story.

Avoiding empathy is also the only way of never asking yourself, “What if the other side did this to me?” It’s vitally important that you never for a moment consider what would happen if women’s groups said, “No, they’re men. No debate!” or, “OK, the line is that if you’re willing to have your todger whipped off then, yes, you can be a woman. No debate!”

Nobody wants to lie awake at night wondering which they fear more, being misgendered or a guy in scrubs coming at them with the surgical garden shears, so no empathy is a must!

Rule 3 – No truck with democracy!

Historically, most of the people who’ve demanded massive societal change without any debate have had the decency to show up with guns. Modern No Debate societies have nothing more than stumpy pee-shooters, but wave them they will.

Rightly so, they argue, for what could be more demeaning that placing some sort of reliance on other people validating your belief that you’re absolutely right about everything? No Debating societies have found their home in universities, which means that they’re peopled by students, who are the intellectual cream of society. Why, then, should they give time to whether lesser mortals think they’re right or wrong?

No Debate offers the purity of fighting tooth and nail for an ill-defined collection of goals, without sullying that fight with the requirement that a majority validate it. They can make themselves useful validating other stuff instead. There’s a list.

Rule 4 – No foresight!

Debating a proposal, a new law, or a change of any kind forces you to think, What will happen as a result of this? It may be that you want to support the proposition, by painting a picture of the positive changes that will radiate throughout the world as a result, or oppose it, by making it the thin end of the wedge and the beginning of the end. My good man, if we extend suffrage to women then, before you know it, it will be legal for dogs to ride velocipedes!

No Debate cuts through all of that nonsense, and lets you live in an eternal Now, where what you want is everything you want and always will be, and not getting everything you want is simply unthinkable (and absolutely unspeakable).

Best of all, the no foresight rule means that you never have to think what happens once one issue is deemed too important to debate, once the precedence is set that people can be afforded new rights without even entertaining the possibility of opposition. What will be the next issue that’s above debate, transmoot, if you will? Who will decide? How will you stop them?

Rule 5 – No end!

While debates are normally time-limited, no debates can continue forever. Indeed, in 10100 years, when all the stars have burned out, black holes evaporated and every last drop of energy spent, the no debate will be the only thing happening.

Hopefully, before then, there’ll be consensus on what rights they actually want, and what it is that they’re refusing to debate but, for the moment, we won’t talk about that.


Definitions are hard.

For example, this is a car.

ford focus

And this is not a car.


They have a lot of similarities; they’re both mechanical devices, they’re both intended to be used as personal transport, they’re both designed to be operated on public roads, by suitably licensed people, they both operate by means of an engine of some kind, etc.

So what makes one a car and one not?

The obvious place to start is with the number of wheels, but if we definitively say, “A car has 4 wheels,” then we hit problems.

This car only has 3-wheels.


And this has only has 3 wheels and can be driven with a motorcycle licence, but is still a car.

reliant robin

While this also has 3 wheels, but is not a car.



Ah, perhaps its something to do with bodywork, or a roof, then!

But this car has no roof, and very little bodywork.


While this has a roof, but still isn’t a car.

BMW C1 125

And look at all the bodywork here. Not a car, though.


Something more technical, then? Something to do with the controls, perhaps?

That gets us into problems as well.

old car

And that’s before we consider that cars can be adapted, for drivers with disabilities for example, to use hand controls, but that doesn’t stop them being cars. If you start with a car then you can chop and change all the bits you like and you’ll end up with something that is still a car…or a wreck.

Nor do this and this…

Prove that there’s a spectrum from this…


…to this.

ford focus

How could there be? A spectrum is a continuum, not a shit-brown blur of different factors mulched together.

It can’t be a spectrum, because there’s no way of saying which of these is most like a car.

And where would this fit on your spectrum?


Is that more car-y than a “normal” car?

As I said, definitions are hard, and if you try to isolate just one thing that distinguishes A from B then often you run into problems.

All you really need to remember is that this…


…doesn’t mean that this…


…can ignore this.


And that, at least, is easy.