Author Archives: Krissie Pearse

Who wants to stick it to the CPS? Hands up!

CPS – Coming to a bedroom near you

We’ve come up with a small campaign idea in the hopes of ensuring that the recent actions and attitudes of the Crown Prosecution Service are not forgotten.

Following the trial of Mr. Simon Walsh and his aquittal by a jury of his peers, it seems clear that something is deeply wrong with both the law, and the way it’s being prosecuted. Not only that, but the attitude displayed by the Crown Prosecution Service has seemed somewhat homophobic at best over the course of both the Porn Trial and the Obscenity Trial earlier this year. We want to send them a message.

One of our graphics people has come up with the image you see on this page, and we’re rather proud of their work to say the least. Even so, we weren’t really sure how to make the best use of it, and so we’re leaving it to you, readers and visitors to this site, to decide.

The text on the bottom seems suitably apt, but being easy to change perhaps you might come up with something better? Would this be the sort of t-shirt you might wear in protest at the actions of the CPS? Perhaps you could make it your mousemat or stick it as a magnet to your fridge door. There are all sorts of possibilities and we simply can’t decide what’s for the best.

It’s for this reason that we’re making the original source PSD for adobe photoshop available to download under a creative commons 3.0 license – download it, change it, derive from it, and work with it freely doing whatever you like with it.  What the CPS has done to our community twice now, and what it has done to an innocent man even more so, is unacceptable and must not be forgotten or allowed to pass.

If you just want the image as displayed here, however, then please feel free to download that and do what you like with it too. just right click and save it to your computer. We’re making it available in a few different sizes for you to choose from;

Editable PSD file (archived – use winrar or 7zip)

Full resolution – 3588×2982

1920×1080

1366×768

1280×1024

1280×800

1024×768

iPhone resolution

Or, if you’re so inclined, we’ve set up a cafepress store with a $1 (US) markup on all items, and so for every item sold, we will donate $1 to the Backlash campaign, which has been instrumental in fighting against sexual iliberty under the law. This pledge/campaign is not in any way associated with or in co-operation with Backlash – they simply strongly deserve the support and were involved with the recent #porntrial. Here’s the link - http://www.cafepress.com/nomorelost1 … it may be as little as $1, or nothing at all if we’re unlucky, but every dollar made WILL be donated… and we’re willing to prove it… we stake our continued existence on it.

Jury knuckles under to deliver CPS far reaching pain in the ass

The verdict is in. After days of arguments, summation, and deliberation, the Jury has found Simon Walsh to be  Not Guilty on all 6 counts in a victory for common sense.

However, this has been a pyrrhic victory for justice itself. In a case widely believed to have been prosecuted maliciously which hordes of people the world over feel should never have been brought to court, the Criminal Prosecution Service and it’s individual prosecution team in this case have behaved in a way that many feel has been reprehensible. Consequently, trust in the CPS, trust in the law, and trust in the UK’s lawmakers has been dealt a massive, damaging blow.

In addition to this, though Mr. Walsh has been acquitted of all charges, he too has suffered immense damage to his career, social life, reputation and public standing that can never be undone, as well as a needless deep and painful intrusion into his private sexual affairs that is guaranteed in itself to leave it’s mark, both psychological and social.

In a statement read on behalf of Mr. Walsh by solicitor Myles Jackman, Mr Walsh said;

Today I was unanimously acquitted by a jury at Kingston Crown Court of five charges of being in possession of extreme pornography despite the images depicting acts which are legal to perform, and an extremely damaging allegation of being in possession of child porn in respect of a single image sent to me unrequested via email over three years ago which the jury had no difficulty deciding was in fact a picture of an adult.

I would like to commend the jury for their common sense verdict, my legal team for their robust efforts and all the support I have received from the general public.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage our legislators and regulators not to prosecute individuals in possession of images depicting private and consensual adult sexual acts.

Nonetheless, these allegations have damaged my career and personal standing. As I said in my evidence I do not believe that when I stood for public office I gave up my right to a private sexual life. I reiterate that point now.

I hope to return to public life as soon as possible. I have no further comment to make at this time.

In failing to win a conviction in this trial, the possibility of a dangerous precedent has been averted. British internet users can now breathe a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that they need not fear certain prosecution simply for being sent an unsolicited and allegedly illegal file attachment via email at any time and from any source… though a precedent for doing so has now been set never the less.

Even so, gay people, queers, those that take their sexual health seriously, and people who practice BDSM or other forms of alternative sexuality in their private sexual lives regardless of their orientation will be that little bit more anxious following this trial. The prosecution in this case has slurred them all, worked to the effect of increasing social stigma, tarring them all with the same brush of “sexual deviant”, with an accompanying undercurrent of disdain and disgust.

Given the shocking and appalling attitudes and behaviour of the police and CPS on display in this case, it is unsurprising that many are calling for the head the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer QC; a former human rights defence lawyer;

 RT if you think Keir Starmer should resign. #porntrial#TwitterJokeTrial #sacktheDPP

As of the moment of writing, that one call for Mr. Starmer’s resignation alone has been retweeted a whopping 149 times in the space of just 56 minutes. This is perhaps unsurprising in consideration of the fact that twitter users have been quick to note the connection between both this prosecution and the ‘Obscenity Trial‘ earlier this year, as well as the recent prosecution dubbed the ‘Twitter Joke Trial‘. Meanwhile, no conviction was reached in the trial regarding the death of Ian Tomlinson, widely regarded to have occurred at the hands of the Metropolitan Police at a time where corruption in the Met is widely insinuated with significant amounts of supporting evidence.

That this ‘Porn Trial’ against a man who previously was employed in the prosecution of police officers accused of misconduct, and in this context, makes it unsurprising that  many believe this prosecution to have been malicious;

 Yet another humiliation for the CPS after another malicious prosecution. Maybe this time they’ll learn #porntrial

The summation of the CPS’s case most certainly didn’t help in this respect, given that they requested that the jury believe assertions for which there was no evidence – such as the assertion that as they didn’t find any incriminating evidence on Mr. Walsh’s computers, he must therefore have ditched a computer somewhere prior to the investigation. It’s a patently ridiculous thing to suggest in a court of law, and it’s a wonder that the prosecutor was not found in contempt of court for it.

With such bold and absurd assertions, there is now a very real worry that laws such as Section 63 of the CJIA regarding violent pornography, which were already widely regarded as bad laws n the first place, will continue to be prosecuted far in excess of the original intentions of the legislation; a practice for which this trial has in itself been evidence. As a result of the loss of confidence that this situation creates, and in horrified incredulity at the conduct of the CPS, there are calls for wholesale changes to the system;

It’s time to dismantle the CPS, it’s time to fire the DPP, and it’s long past time to repeal S63 of the CJ&IA2008. #porntrial

In the floods of comment on this trial, there has not been a single solitary comment of mitigation or support in favour of the CPS, and rightly so. They themselves can now expect a flood of freedom of information requests seeking to know how much this whole farce has cost the taxpayer that’s been forced to fund it.

The unifying thread to all reactions in this trial, never the less, is that absolutely nobody is in any way comfortable with seeing the CPS get away with this behaviour…. and I agree with them. It can NOT be allowed to continue, as it’s not only reprehensible and socially corrosive behaviour that destroys the lives of innocent people and stigmatises vast swathes of the general public while placing democracy at risk, but it makes an absolute mockery of law, order, and justice in the UK while allowing those responsible for it to sit on their laurels and rake in the cash.

Had the prosecution been a corporation (perhaps providing a debt collection service), and the defendant been a client, there would have been the Equality Act to answer to. However, the prosecution in this case is the state, and the defendant a member of the public. The CPS has been free to stigmatise, demonise, discriminate and ruin the life of this man with no solid grounds to even consider doing so… and all in the name of the public interest; a public upon whom they have inflicted and threatened to inflict significant harm through their actions.

It HAS to stop. It simply has to… and I invite you to comment on this, share it, or talk about it anywhere if you agree. Write to your MP’s. Make freedom of information requests… complain directly to the CPS… anything rather than nothing. This cannot be allowed to pass without consequence.

 

Prosecution prejudice sums up case in porn trial

The Scales of JusticeThe witnesses have been examined and cross examined, and the summative arguments have been made by both the prosecution and the defence, as addressed to the jury. The stage is now set for His Honor the Judge to sum up the arguments of both sides in this case tomorrow, and for the jury to be sent to deliberate in an attempt to reach a unanimous verdict.

It’s improper to try to predict what the verdict of a jury will be, and there’s always a little danger of getting it wrong. Likewise, it’s improper to cast firm and direct aspersions on the innocence or guilt of a defendant, no-matter how clear you feel it to be. Never the less, the prosecution – the Crown Prosecution Service – in this case has done itself few favours with the wider public in some of the comments it has made through the course of the trial and in summing up, and it would not be unfair to look at those comments and arguments: It’s always in the merits of the public interest to consider the conduct of the Crown Prosecution Service. Never the less, if you happen to be a member of the jury or otherwise involved in the case, please look away now.

The first issue is that this case was brought by the CPS before a court of law at all. Notwithstanding the quality, quantity, and facts of the evidence, the prosecution of this trial is widely viewed by onlookers as a travesty, a disgrace, and an embarrassment to both the CPS and to the British legal system – the supposed grandfather of them all. Having failed to win a conviction in January over pornography featuring fisting and BDSM, they decided to have another crack of the whip in a different case and under a different law, but never the less apparently approaching the issue from similar angles in many respects. Needless to say, the CPS does not generally belong as a voyeuristic and punishing Mistress in the private sex lives of the British people.

The second issue is that, once again, it is anal fisting (and not, interestingly enough, vaginal), along with urethral sounding that has been looked at as a means to prosecution by the CPS, and once again, the defendant is a gay man. All in all, there are 5 counts of images involving sounding and fisting which are alleged by the prosecution to constitute “extreme pornography”, and a 6th count involving the possession of an indecent image of a young man asserted by the CPS to be possibly that of a child, which was found by police as an attachment to an email received by the defendant’s email account in 2008.

The third issue is that the acts depicted in the images upon which the majority of the trial has focused are consensual and perfectly legal.

The fourth issue is that there is no evidence save for the word of the defendant as to which of any of these attachments he was even aware of, let alone to show that any of them had ever been viewed. There is only assertion and speculation on the part of the prosecution.

This forms what to many people would be considered a disturbing pattern regarding a prosecution that should be attempting to prove guilt under a presumption of innocence. Never the less, in summing up, the prosecution claimed to the jury that:

He was sole user of this account. Forgetfulness is no defence. Burden is on him to prove he did not open it.

… this, without a hint of any irony whatsoever, from a prosecutor who quoted Oscar Wilde at a crown court trial of a gay man regarding his alleged deviant and criminal sexual preferences:

Oscar Wilde said risk was like feasting with panthers.

… though, as one twitter user pointed out, Oscar Wilde also said that ”To be entirely free, and at the same time, entirely dominated by law, is the eternal paradox of human life that we realise at every moment”.

The CPS in this case apparently learned nothing from their faux pas (to consider it generously) yesterday when they asserted that users of sexual health clinics are necessarily those engaged in riskier sexual practices, painting both the responsible health conscious users of those services and gay people as sexual deviants in a single stroke. Indeed, they continued the assault today asserting that an alleged image of child porn found as an email attachment in the defendant’s inbox, for which there is no evidence of requesting or opening, is perfectly inkeeping with  the sexuality of a gay man that likes fisting:

 We say that this image is in accordance with his sexual interests.

Speaking of the consideration that perhaps people should be free to have whatever sex they wanted, the CPS claimed that there are limits to freedom, and that you can’t just shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, contextualised by one twitter user by the name of Gemma Hallum: “Not sure that shouting “fire!” in a crowded theatre is analagous to photographing hands up a crowded bumhole. #porntrial #cpswtf

They asserted, to the jury, that the content of the images would be considered degrading and dehumanising were the people in them women, in spite of the fact that the people in them weren’t women, and there were no women involved in any of the counts, or indeed, the accusation as a whole; nor is the consideration anything at all to do with the charge under section 63 of the CJA.

They conflated the charges with illegal drug use:

The law seems to protect individuals, perhaps for themselves. Like drugs. Some may say it’s illiberal, It is the law. #PornTrial

In the pursuit of a conviction, the CPS even went so far as to disparage the character and credibility of one of the expert witnesses, herself a woman, for declining to agree with the assertion that the images in question were pornographic in nature (the defendant describes them as souvenirs/mementos), pretty much all but accusing her of being a selfish and lying traitor to her gender in the process:

Walsh would not concede they were pornographic. He said they were souvenirs. Dr Clarissa Smith refused to accept they were pornographic. It’s a plain as a pikestaff that these images are pornographic. Dr Smith would not concede images were degrading if it pictured a woman. This is clearly wrong. Dr Smith’s evidence was disingenuous, self-serving and dishonest

Finally, but not least, the CPS even managed to get a point of law wrong in the summation of the argument, implying that a jury must convict someone of breaking a law even if they disagree with that law. This is incorrect, as it ignores the noble and honorable tradition of “Jury Nullification“.

The conduct and attitude of the CPS in this has been a joke. Quite apart from stigmatising the users of sexual health services (and particularly queer users) – a stigma that those same services have been working hard to fight – not only do they propose intrusion into the private sex lives of anybody they so desire to intrude upon, but managed to demonstrate victorian attitudes to sex and sexuality in the process.

They have offended vast swathes of the public, they have proposed precedent that can only be described as truly frightening in it’s consequences for democracy and civil liberties, they have disgraced themselves, and they have disgraced the entire profession within which they operate – a profession in which public trust is absolutely critical.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, one thing is certain – it would be in the merits of the public interests were the judge to see fit to condemn the practices and attitudes of the CPS on display in this trial. This was discriminatory (at best! At worst, they treat everybody like this!), homophobic, insulting, dishonourable and indecent. There is no place for these attitudes and this kind of behaviour either in our legal system, or within British society as a whole. It’s an utter disgrace.

State authorities obsessed with fisting seek to shaft us all

For the police and Crown Prosecution Service, this simple hand gesture is like a red flag to a bull this year

For the police and Crown Prosecution Service, this simple hand gesture is like a red flag to a bull this year

They went for it just 8 months ago, and they’re at it again now. The British police and the Crown Prosecution Service just can’t say no to anal fisting. Now, we wouldn’t normally offer a graphic description, but as this is apparently a significant issue worthy of a great deal of state time and resources, you might like to know (if you don’t already) that fisting is the practice of inserting a hand into the anus or vagina of another… or, in the words of one DS Callaghan when asked to describe an image used as evidence:  ”appears to be arm inserted into anus“. There is, however, a darker and more serious aspect to this case.

Back in early January 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service brought charges, felt by many to be spurious, against Michael Peacock under the Obscene Publications Act, on grounds that he distributed pornography featuring gay fisting, urolagnia and BDSM which would tend to “deprave and corrupt the reader, viewer or listener”. This first porn trial was dubbed the “Obscenity trial of the decade“, and he was subsequently cleared of this charge by a jury of his peers. Presumably, either he was innocent of the charge or the jury became depraved and corrupted as a result of being forced to view the evidence.

Apparently unsatisfied with this result, the police and Crown Prosecution Service have once more brought fisting into the public eye (and intense scrutiny). Apparently unconcerned that they may stretch things too far, the charge this time, against one Simon Walsh, is brought under section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, relating to “Extreme Pornography”. The charge under this law asserts that Mr. Walsh was in possession of images of a sexually explicit nature, involving activity that is “likely to result in serious injury to a person’s anus”. This, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that prior to this accusation, “Simon was a successful professional and politician in the City who, amongst other things, prosecuted police officers accused of disciplinary offences.”

This trial has brought up some intriguing issues and questions, the most obvious of course being with regard to why the police and CPS seem to have this bizarre obsession with queer sexual practices and fisting in particular. More interesting, however, is that the CPS asserted with apparent confidence, in the form of a question, that “people who attend sexual health clinics engage in more risky practices” in an apparent assertion that those who attend sexual health clinics do so for a reason other than because they take their sexual health seriously. Though in itself an irresponsible assertion to make, it’s perhaps given context by a question asked shortly after by the CPS;

CPS: This survey went to LGBT charities; does that not skew the kinds of people who would respond?

There’s a less than subtle insinuation buried in this line of questioning and reasoning. It’s not a positive insinuation, to say the least about it. If anybody held any kind of belief that the legal authorities of the UK held enlightened views on queer sexuality and common-if-kinky perfectly legal sexual practices, that belief can now be dispelled through this somewhat less than shining example of tolerance and sex positivity.

It does, nevertheless, get worse. This case is not all about the absurdly surreal courtroom comments where a Judge asks for both he and the jury to be informed as to the relationship between anal fisting and ketamine. This case is about you, me, and anybody else in the UK. The charge in this trial comes about through the existence of attachments in an online email account owned by Simon Walsh, which the police have ransacked for evidence having not found anything of note on any computer. In the process of ransacking the email account for evidence they could use for a conviction against Mr. Walsh, the police have destroyed any evidence of whether or not Mr. Walsh actually ever opened or viewed these attached images, at least one of which was sent to his inbox as long as 3 years ago, and it isn’t proven that he requested them either!

In hoping to win a conviction at this trial, the CPS is hoping, perhaps indirectly, to see a second precedent set quite apart from the criminalisation of the possession of photographs taken of specific and perfectly legal sexual acts between two or more consenting adults.  In order to win this conviction, the court would also have to assert that simply having an email account to which such an image is sent, requested or otherwise, constitutes the illegal possession of that image.

This has some rather serious repercussions. For example, what if somebody were to seek revenge upon you for some reason, or perhaps simply as a practical joke, and sent you such an image? Perhaps you may not even be aware it was in your inbox with the sheer volume of spam that exists on the internet in this day and age – after all, opening unknown email attachments is in itself immediately dangerous in the age of worms, viruses and trojan horses. What if somebody were to send such a thing and tip off the police about it’s existence? It’s easy enough to accurately spoof an email header if you know what you’re doing, and there’s no way to trace such an email.

Just as bad, however, is the fact that tomorrow it could be anything – who knows what legal changes will come our way over the course of time. What if it one day becomes illegal to ‘possess’ a copy of a trojan horse or computer virus? What if some other perfectly legal act becomes illegal to possess as a keepsake or record in photographic form?

This is not a precedent that’s healthy to be setting in anything other than a police state, and to set such a precedent in this “green and pleasant isle” would certainly be at least an unfortunate thing, and quite possibly a dangerous thing.

It’s arguably farcical that this latest “porn trial” ever came to court in consideration of the quality of this evidence, and even more farcical that the police and Crown Prosecution Service are once again going after the prosecution and criminalisation of the same thing through a different avenue having been unsuccessful the first time around. Never the less, it does constitute a serious threat to freedom and civil liberties. It’s a hidden threat, but it’s there nevertheless, and its a threat that we should all be aware of. If we’re not careful, they’ll move on from their dogged pursuit of fisting and, whether gay, bi, pansexual or straight,  they’ll be shafting us all in posterity.

You can keep up to date with proceedings at the hashtag #porntrial, or by following @lexingtondymock or @ObscenityLawyer who are livetweeting from the trial with the judges permission. @ObscenityLawyer is making history as the first legal solicitor to be granted permission to livetweet court proceedings. Please be advised that neither person is able to answer queries regarding the case, as to do so they would be found to be in contempt of court.

Beaumont Society in Confidence Breach: Equally Blessed and Cursed

The first time a Pregnant Man Story did the sensationalist rounds of the UK media was in 2008, with Thomas Beattie, pictured above.

Oh, the Beaumont Society; that oldest of UK trans ‘support’ organisations. In the minds of some a wonderful network of potential friends, support, and a font of knowledge, and in the minds of others a dangerous relic and bastion of old ideas, poor understanding, an overly inflated sense of importance and a certain air of self-aggrandisement. Simultaneously understated and overstated, many would be forgiven for wondering who they are, but the Beaumont society is never the less quite pervasive, and often in a rather unhelpful way.

The society has recently come into the spotlight following a rash of stories in the UK on the subject of what the press are referring to as the UK’s first male pregnancy. While it makes a definite change to see that the UK media are finally showing some manner of acknowledgement of a person’s gender identity, the story is never the less a sensation. Just like the whole Thomas Beattie affair, this story of a trans man using his body in a way he sees fit has provoked quite a stir; a stir which has also resulted in an equal and opposite reaction from those who don’t see the world through quite the same absolute-binary-tinted-glasses common to much of society.

The fact is, wider society is not ready for this yet, in that such an event stirs the passions of many people with no to little understanding of the issues concerned, who simply respond to a gut reaction resulting from an internalised assumption and belief that men don’t give birth… ever; never mind, of course, that a trans man may retain all the biological machinery required to do so. Clearly, such a man should refrain from giving birth to avoid causing offence to the sensibilities of others!.. or so it would appear to be believed.

This has, as mentioned, all happened before. There is surely no trans person who would be unaware of this fact. Likewise, there would be no trans person who would be unaware of what would happen if the tabloid media were to get just a sniff of it. Apparently though, this was not the case for the Beaumont society, who through either bravado, publicity seeking, stupidity or incompetence, have recently disrupted the life of a person who came to them for advice and support.

The first rule, for trans organisations, for dealing with journalists is simple; it’s “Don’t feed the media!”. The Beaumont Society, on the other hand, have a different approach, as discovered by the journalist Jane Fae in her attempt to get to the bottom of all this. In speaking to the Beaumont Society, she recieved this little nugget:

As their spokeswoman put it, if other organisations want to be in the press, its up to them to get back and respond. She told me: “if they want a response, we’ll give response: if the rest of the trans community doesn’t respond, then that’s their problem.”

They didn’t name any names – nobody could be quite that incompetent. What they did was to confirm that the story existed, which gave the press all they needed to go wild with the statement that there was a trans man in the UK with a pregnancy. The gutter press need at least some basis for a story, after all, even if it’s just an interview where they take the basic facts, distort them, and make up all the rest… and the most basic fact required in this story was that simple fact of the existence of a trans man with child in the UK. In the words of the Beaumont Society, again from Jane Fae’s blog:

“We were contacted last year through our information line number asking for details on this issue. As an information line, we were unable to help with this query and so referred the matter onto GIRES. Some period of time later we received a thankyou for being there and the info we provided.”

This simple fact is what allowed the story to run. Nothing more, and nothing less. All of the other information was out there to be easily gleaned from other sources. What was not out there, however, was the name of the man concerned, which leads on to the true gravity of what the Beaumont Society have actually done through their actions here.

Tabloid newspapers (perhaps most notably, The Sun), now have a bounty, through public request, on the name and location of the man concerned. That man, and his family, are having their privacy invaded and under threat of invasion, and must now live out their time in fear that everyone they encounter in their lives could be the person that’s about to sell them down the river for a quick buck, allowing the UK press to make their lives even more hellish.

Perhaps this, frankly, idiotic stance on the part of the Beaumont Society is a reflection of it’s attitudes and origins. It is these same attitudes and origins that create the somewhat dualistic perceptions of the 45 year old organisation which still clings to an old “TS/TG/IS” paradigm that’s long outdated. However, things weren’t always this way, as when the TS/TG/IS paradigm was in vogue, the BS was still clinging to an outmoded concept of Transsexualism and Transvestitism being essentially different expressions of the same thing.

Formed originally under a different name in 1966 and now named after a moneyed and privileged 18th century crossdressing spy, the aims of the society, which they themselves note to be strikingly similar to it’s current aims, were:

 1. To provide information and education to the general public, the medical and legal professions on transvestism and to encourage research aimed at fuller understanding.

2. To provide TV’s with an opportunity for a social life together.

It is perhaps also telling that the section of the society devoted to the partners of trans people is somewhat inappropriately named “Women of the Beaumont society”, which not only ignores the existence of transsexual men, but implies that transsexual women are not really women also. The implication, of course, is that the organisation primarily serves the interests of cross dressing men… an implication which would suggest that it is ill advised and ill equipped to speak on behalf of transsexual women; a fact so clearly demonstrated by this whole current media debacle.

It’s reputation within the trans community relates to exactly that. What’s perhaps more disturbing, on the other hand, is that it appears that many of the current generation of activists may not realise just how prominent this organisation is, believing that the organisation is only recently becoming a “first port of call” for media comment on issues concerning trans people in particular. The Beaumont Society is still prominently listed as a support organisation appropriate for transsexual people by doctor’s, psychiatrists, counsellors, Local Authorities, and information packs from a variety of organisations, including the NHS.

On many occasions, it is the one and only recommendation given by professionals in respect of support for a transsexual person in their care. This is not only inappropriate, borderline offensive and potentially dangerous, but also sends out an entirely outmoded message about who transsexual people are to the public at large, while demonstrating to vulnerable trans people that those to whom their care is entrusted know and understand precious little of who they are or the community of which they are a part.

It is high time that the Beaumont Society either entirely rethinks it’s nature, or desists from speaking on behalf of those it should not be speaking for. It is likewise time that professionals desist from approaching them over issues for which they are the least appropriate source of information. For many years, transsexual people as an overall community have largely ignored the negative influence of the Beaumont Society in the media, healthcare, and in social understanding.  While we at No More Lost would never claim that artificial hostile divisions should be maintained between cross dressers and transsexual people, this is premised upon each group resisting the urge to speak for or to denigrate the other. In this case, however, actual harm is demonstrably resulting.

Trans people need to redouble an effort to ensure that resources intended to support and speak for them are in fact resources suitable and appropriate to support and speak for them. This includes a challenge to the Beaumont Society to either change it’s ways or surrender the field in respect of transsexual people before it causes even greater damage to people’s lives… because that damage can not be allowed to continue. Far more appropriate venues and vectors of contact include Trans Media Watch, Gendered IntelligenceGIRES, Mermaids, the Gender Trust, Press for Change, etc.

While the Beaumont society argues that they are “authorised to speak on trans issues because they have ts members on their committee”, I too am by the same logic authorised to speak on behalf of black people, because some of my friends, forming a significant part of my social structure, are black.  The British National Party can speak for ethnic and religious minorities, because they have (or have had) a Jewish Councillor elected to Epping Forest district council. The logic simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

With the greatest of respect to the Beaumont Society, neither it’s logic nor it’s interventions with regards to trans matters are particularly helpful or useful.

CHX Gender Identity Clinic Admin Mysteries – Shining a light.

Reception/Admin Area at Charing Cross GIC

The reception and admin area of Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic, swamped with work, as usual.

That the administrative side of Charing Cross GIC is reputed to be obscenely slow is no secret. In fact, given the experiences of some patients, a GP (Family Doctor for the Americans reading this) might be excused for wondering if the clinicians at the GIC are required to type up their letters themselves.

In realising the importance of this issue, however, last month we sent a pair of Freedom of Information requests to the trust, and the results have just arrived. The information returned provides an insight as to the provision for admin services,  and the process of sending those all important letters to a patient’s GP, delays which can lead to immense patient distress as well as other medical delays.

Though the current turnaround on letters sent to patient’s GPs is stated to be around 6 weeks, it is not unheard of for this to actually take in excess of two months. This long-standing issue has varied in impact upon patient welfare and treatment, and has at times resulted in horrific delays of as much as a quarter of a year before patients have been able to get their medication regime changed by their GP, even having been told of the urgency of such a change at their GIC appointment.

The admin provision at CHX GIC comprises of an Office Manager, 2 Receptionists, a “New Patient Administrator”, a Medical Records Administrator, and 3 Administrators/typists, all of whom work on a full time basis. No information has been given as to the definition of “full time”, but in the UK this can be defined as a role of more than 16 hours per week, or the more commonly accepted 37.5 hours per week. This covers an average of 95 patients per week, each of whom has a letter concerning them written to their GP, which can be up to 3 pages long.

The administrative posts are expected to spend up to two thirds of their time typing, but this cannot be guaranteed as they regularly become caught up in other duties such as filing, approximately 80 telephone queries per day, reception duties, perhaps a little disturbingly “dealing with patients whose details have been deleted as a consequence of the
Gender Recognition Act”, arranging appointments, etc.

Even so, assuming that an administrator is able to type for the expected two thirds of their time, this leads to 75 hours per week dedicated to typing up 95 dictated letters of up to 3 pages long. However, this does not account for the fact that a single patient contact frequently generates as many as 4 letters dictated by a clinician regarding a wide range of subjects including funding issues and disputes, letters sent to other specialists involved in the care of the patient, letters written in support of passport applications and advice  to GPs on blood results and hormone management, which are written routinely.

Though all these letters are generally dictated by the clinician within 48 hours and passed over to the typing pool, no account, as yet, is taken of instances where delays may ensue due to waiting for blood results or other opinions, sickness and other absences.

It can be said, therefore, that where a typist has not been caught up in other numerous and ever-present duties in the administration of the GIC, he or she has on average 48 minutes to type a dictated letter of three pages long, assuming that each patient contact has generated only one letter. Having said that; in assuming a reasonably conservative estimate from the information given, that a third of patients generate four letters and the remaining two thirds generate only one, this time would reduce to a rate of 24 minutes per letter typed. A professional touch typist, typing at a rate of 60 words per minute without interruption, would type a standard page in around 5 minutes. “Hunt and peck” typists peak at approximately 27 words per minute, or a full page every 10 minutes. Most of the rest of us are slower still.

After the letters are typed up, they are each “returned to the clinician for checking, amendments and/or their signature”, before being sent out by post to the GP or other specialist.

The NHS trust responsible for the clinic states that the current turnaround between a patient attending an appointment and a letter being sent to a patient’s GP or other specialist is, on average, around 6 weeks. The trust aims for this turnaround to be 2 weeks, and as such, “an admin review has been commissioned with this having been identified as an objective” in an attempt to rectify this years-old problem. It is not the first time the trust has ‘attempted’ to rectify this problem for which 6 weeks will, to many people, look like a gross underestimate. It is stated that a letter resulting from the clinic’s endocrinologist typically turns around in approximately 2 weeks, or communication will be made straight away if the information is deemed to be urgent.

In mitigation for these delays, they state that “there is however a system in place to ensure that priority letters are dealt with appropriately”. This consists of the typist prioritising those letters dictated by a non-endocrinologist clinician, where the clinician has deemed the letter to be urgent. Some clinicians nevertheless hand write a letter to the patient’s GP on the day in respect of initiation or amendment of a patient’s hormone therapy regime.

Back in the real world for a moment, however, it becomes reasonably clear where the admin delays at CHX GIC stem from. In the real world, people are not robots; not even employees in admin roles. Things don’t happen one at a time, or in order. Often, things don’t even follow the plan. The role of an administrator is not to perform theoretical functions, but to perform these functions within a reality that is constantly changing, and to still some how get everything done such that things keep running. It is then, no wonder that there are such delays on the admin side of CHX GIC.

When the numbers are broken down, it almost looks as though someone has performed a time and motion study, added in a few minutes of extra time to account for a little variance, and declared that all is then well. Real life is not like that, and the admin staff, from the information given, would appear to be over-worked, and working under significant pressure.

Of course, this has all been about the outbound mail of the GIC. It nevertheless says a lot from which a possible scenario of an inbound contact might proceed. A letter requiring the attention of a clinician is sent in, say, November, but the backlog of work and the volume of ongoing work mean that it’s a little time before the letter is both passed into records and acknowledged.

From that point comes a significant wait until such time as the clinician(s) concerned have the time to read and act upon that letter; perhaps it may require discussion with another clinician or two, or worse, could require the input of a non-GIC specialist to whom another letter must be written and a reply received before acting on it once more. A letter is then dictated within 48 hours, which must enter the typing pool to be presented to the clinician some weeks or months later for approval. Only then is a reply sent, potentially some quarter or half a year or more later.

The cost of a CHX GIC appointment charged to a PCT in 2007 was £561 for first, second, and “other” appointments, and  £297 for follow-up sessions, as discovered by Sarah Brown (AKA, Aunty Sarah). The price of seeing Dr Perring for any such appointment in 2011 is £250… still a full £47 cheaper than the price charged for CHX’s follow-up appointments 5 years ago! Perhaps then, West London Mental Health Trust might consider the additional subsidy other PCT’s are effectively paying them for the services of this internationally-renowned “centre of excellence” (as CHX likes to be known) as a good source of funding for the employment of a full time professional touch typist befitting of such a title. It’d cost around £20,000 per annum to employ such a touch typist, which would surely be money well spent, and easily afforded from the artificially inflated charge for their services.

Not only would this additional 45 pages per day (assuming a typing speed of half the professional typing rate of 60 words per minute) make a significant dent in the backlog, but it’d help ensure that both services and admin run smoothly, and patients aren’t needlessly distressed and kept waiting for, frankly, abhorrent periods of time. That should help to meet the two week turnaround target easily.

On the other hand, perhaps the NHS might consider adopting email as a method of communication along with the rest of the 21st century. That way, clinicians could even type their own letters as many may already suspect of them given the time it takes for them to be sent. In fact, with some clinicians already realising the need to handwrite letters to patients’ GPs, such a change may even save money as well as improve efficiency!

The freedom of information requests and the responses received can be found both here, and here.

A case of… bigotry? Oh, Canada! – LGBT people the new Terrorists

anti-LGBT Canada

Canada's Conservative Government have enacted a series of moves against LGBT people since coming to power.

If you’re trans, you’re a threat to airline security. This dubious fact has recently been enshrined in a change to the Identity Screening Regulations used at airports around Canada.

Yes, Canada, the country previously regarded as ‘one of the good guys’ seems to have had a change of heart over this last year. Having confirmed on the 13th January 2012 that a Department of Justice Lawyer, working under the Canadian Conservative Party Government of Stephen Harper, nullified all same-sex marriages performed under Canadian license where the couple’s native country does not allow same sex marriage, they’ve gone yet another step further. Equally abominable, however, is the fact that in both cases they’ve done so by the quietest and least democratic means possible without telling anybody at the time.

In this latest attack on fairness, decency and human rights, Stephen Harper’s Government has amended the Identity Screening Regulations -implemented unilaterally by the Ministry of Transportation as part of the Canadian Federal Government’s ‘no fly list’- such that trans, genderqueer and potentially, intersex people are entirely banned from boarding aeroplanes in Canada. The ‘no fly list’, known officially by the innocent sounding title “Passenger Project“, is a Government initiative to identify individuals who may be an “immediate threat to aviation security”.

Though it has only come to light recently ,the situation is the result of a regulation that came into force in July 2011 which was introduced under the tenure of  Minister of Transportation, Denis Lebel, a Conservative MP appointed to the position by Stephen Harper. In his eyes, trans, genderqueer and some intersex people are by virtue of their existence unfit to fly in Canada owing to the offending regulation:

5.2 (1) An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if …
(c) the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents;

… in Canada, proof that surgery has taken place or will do so within a year is required by the federal government in order to change the gender marker on a person’s passport. It would appear that Sweden is not the only country with aspirations towards the sterilisation of a whole group of people.

This latest affront to civil liberties, basic human rights, and equality for all also follows the death of
An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression)’, which was intended to grant explicit protections against discrimination for trans people. While it was passed in Canadian House of Commons by 143 to 135, it died in the Senate along with a Bill to make it easier to send generic AIDS drugs to developing countries, as a direct result of the calling of a Federal election by… Stephen Harper. The ammendment to the Identity Screening Regulations concerning trans, genderqueer, and some intersex people occurred  immediately after the election.

It would not be at all irrational to conclude that Stephen Harper’s Government has an anti-LGBT agenda to follow, and is willing to subvert the spirit of Canada’s democratic decisions towards equality and human rights to follow it. However, even if this were not an overt act of bigotry on the part of Canada’s Conservative Government and it’s leader, one thing is certain: if  a country’s commitment to equality and Human Rights were measured in a similar way to a national credit rating, Canada has acquired a serious deficit while nobody was looking, and a substantial downgrade is warranted.

UK Government is homophobic, and it’s time to do something about it!

The Government promised much, and are giving the opposite.

The title is strong, but is no exaggeration. Whether it’s a matter of intentional homophobia on the part of specific persons, or institutionalized homophobia on the part of government structures and organizations, the UK Government is indeed homophobic. If you’ve read my previous article for No More Lost, you’ll note that I don’t use the term lightly: People are dying as a result of this Governments culpable failure to keep its word. This Lib Dem/Conservative coalition government promised so much, but has entirely failed to deliver. We had hoped that the conservatives had changed – they have not. We had hoped that the Liberal Democrats would bring progress and enthusiasm for change – they have not. They brought us promises, and then failed to even as much as seriously attempt to realize them.

With that said, it is clearly not a lack of action that makes a government homophobic, and nor is it the lack of material results from its promises. The mark of a homophobic government is that it threatens the rights and lives of LGB people, is complicit through inaction when it’s legislation is clearly and obviously bent in such a way as to hurt LGB people, or when it actually acts to that effect complicitly. This is the test of a homophobic government, and this is the evidence:

Promise 1: We will look at the possibility of enacting marriage equality.

Well, frankly, as promises go this one is all a bit empty really. It’s not a promise of action, and it’s not a promise of any kind of solid view. It says “We’ll think about it”… so where’s the thought? Where’s the indication of progress being made on this issue by the Government. The Government has done nothing of note on this issue. That, of course, is not the mark of homophobia. The mark of homophobia comes in that the Government is in the mean time trying to promote marriage as being the all important cornerstone of family and society. In so doing, it sets things up so that married people can access perks and benefits. Of course, if LGB people cannot get married, they cannot access them. The message, taken to its logical conclusion, is effectively “Heterosexual marriage should be encouraged and rewarded… but you LGBT people are clearly not as valuable to society and are thus undeserving of the potential for equal reward.”

Promise 2: “This Government will defend the most vulnerable”. “It will defend LGBT rights”.

There is one notable success for the Government here. Until this government, gay men were banned from donating blood, which has been a long standing bone of contention. Under this Government, that’s changed: Gay men are now allowed to donate blood… as long as they haven’t had sex in the last 10 years! Frankly, that’s really no better!

However, as a group, it is well documented that LGBT people are statistically far more likely to be “vulnerable” than the population as a whole – that much is kind of obvious really… and yet government cuts are hitting services important to many LGBT people, and they’re hitting those services hard!

Add to that the fact that an act introduced by the last Government aimed at simplifying a wide variety of laws relating to equality, including LGBT equality, has come under attack from this Government. The Equalities act is being presented to the public as possible red tape to be cut, and the Government are seeking comments on it on that basis. After overwhelming support for the act on the Government’s “Red Tape Challenge” website, the Government opted to re-present the question, leading many to believe that the Government will not be happy until it recieves the answers it wants as justification for weakening or removing these protections.

Promise 3: Those persecuted because of their sexual orientation will be afforded asylum in the UK.

in July 2010, shortly after the Government came into power, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the refusal to grant asylum to those who were persecuted because of their sexuality with the reasoning that “they can just go back and hide it to avoid persecution”, was a violation of human rights law. The Government welcomed this – publicly at least.

The Home Office told the UK Border Agency was that the new rules should be applied “with immediate effect” and that relevant cases should be “flagged and recorded”… but more than 7 months later, such cases are still not being counted and so there is no way of telling how the new rules are being applied…

… well, no accurate way, but there’s certainly a way to gauge it to some extent. We have had various highly publicised cases of people who have been refused asylum on grounds of persecution because of their sexuality:

There’s Brenda Namigadde, a Ugandan Lesbian who was initially refused entry following a ruling that she was not really a lesbian, on ground that since being in the UK  she had “taken no interest in forms of media by magazines, books or other information relating to her sexual orientation.” -ignoring of course, the less-than-subsistence benefits she was surviving on while making her claim- and citing no evidence of her living a lesbian “lifestyle”. This, of course, irrespective of the fact that the publicity surrounding her case alone would surely have put her at risk if refused asylum.

More recently, we have the case of Betty Tibakawa, a Ugandan whom despite being branded with a hot iron twice on her inner thighs for being lesbian, and outed in the Ugandan magazine ‘Red Pepper’, has been refused asylum on grounds that she, again, is not genuinely gay, and faces no persecution in Uganda.

We have the case of Edson “Eddy” Cosmas, a gay man from Tanzania who was denied asylum at the first hurdle. The letter rejecting his claim, “attempts to paint the existence of bars where gay men are known to be found and other gay meeting places and gay organisations as indicating that it is possible to be gay, albeit ‘discretely’. Also, a lack of prosecutions is mentioned, presumably to suggest a lack of formal state repression and that it is ‘safe’ to return a gay man.”

LGBT Asylum News reports: “According to In interview, minor discrepancies in Eddy’s statements are taken as totally undermining his credibility. Many relate to his sexual history.”

These are just a selection of the higher profile requests for asylum – these are just some of those that have made headlines. With headlines like these, how common do you suppose this kind of thing is, especially among those who have not yet spent any time in the UK, or who don’t have the support of a network of friends and family here: those who don’t really have a voice to speak out about it?

Ironically, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, not very long ago claimed success in his pledge that “those facing persecution would no longer be deported” … yet people applying  for asylum on grounds of persecution because of their sexual orientation or trans identity are being put through the “detained fast track process”, which is almost purpose made for those who’s claims are uncomplicated and have very no real basis for the granting of asylum – in spite of the fact that LGBT claims are often notoriously complex.

This is a Government that really reached out for the “pink vote”, no doubt in part because the Conservatives wished tho shed the public perception of them as ‘the Nasty Party’. To the credit of the Lib Dems, at least on a party level they are the first to commit to Marriage Equality – though it should be noted the Nick Clegg is a Lib Dem too!

What will it take for this government to change course, stick to its word, and support LGBT people as it promised rather than hurt LGBT people? Perhaps it needs embarrasing into action? We can but try…

The Home Office, which in particular is the Government department responsible for the UK Border Agency which decides upon asylum claims. The Home Office won an award from major UK LGB campaigning organization Stonewall, topping it’s list of gay friendly employers. Does the Home office sound Gay friendly to you? It may generally treat it’s employees well, but it’s certainly not doing a lot for those LGBT people it’s supposed to be helping, and shows no inclination to enforce its own orders to do so either. Shouldn’t a Gay friendly employer not only be friendly to those LGBT people in its employment, but also be an LGBT friendly organization that happens to employ people?

Perhaps Stonewall ought to consider rescinding the award, in light of the Home Office’s treatment of LGBT asylum seekers, many of whom may well have been sent to their deaths, in the full and complicit knowledge of the UK Home Office. Perhaps they should be encouraged to rescind it: It’s certainly a start. Sign the petition.

‘Rejecting the narrative’ and ‘fundamental respect’

Consider, for a moment, the following story:

“But how did you know?”: Oh that age old question asked just one more time, and never for the last.

They sighed. A sigh so softly expressed so many times. A sigh so soft and understated that only a person accustomed to such moments would understand it. Barely visible to the casual observer, those in the know would recognise their hearts sinking as they prepared to answer the inevitable and recurring question. At least they weren’t being asked about the configuration of their genitals or their sexual preferences though. They’d been spared that indignity on this occasion. It was at least a tolerable question, and once more they found their selves giving out the very personal details of their personal childhoods.

“I always got on better with boys,” he said, “and then when puberty hit it was a nightmare. I just knew I had to do something, but I didn’t know what”.

“Oh, it was a bit like that for me to,” she interjected, “except I got on better with the girls. I used to like playing with dolls but my parents would take them from me when they caught me. My mum caught me using her makeup once. I guess I was just born this way.”

Why? Why, oh why, oh why must we go through this standard narrative again, and again and again?  Yes, I’m as guilty as anyone of this, but surely this is the sort of thing we should be telling our nearest and dearest -should there be a cause or desire for them to know- and not random strangers or acquaintances? If you actually like answering these questions and the ‘standard narrative’ applies to you, then sure, why not… but for the rest of us: Why?

Really speaking, this pretty much applies to LGB people as much as it does to trans people. We collectively feel the need to justify our existence by offering narratives, terminology and ideas that can be readily digested by the rest of society. We explain our histories and our existences according to the frameworks provided for us, which are inevitably designed to fit in with the pre-ordained rules of a hetero-normative society. We often seem to instinctively try to avoid standing out, and instead try to shape ourselves to fit the mold at the expense of our own unique individualities.  Not even cissexual people their selves are immune to this effect, from the schoolyard bullies, to the neighborhood yobs and interest groups hitting out at and questioning anything that poses the smallest challenge to the normative status quo, marking it as somehow different and inferior by its mere existence. For LGBT people though, there’s a difference – we tend to accept it, consciously or not, as being part and parcel of being LGBT, and it runs right the way through society.

While anti-abortionists claim that a woman’s right to do as she likes with her body is superseded by the rights of the unborn child in a similarly vitriolic battle over what choice women should have over their bodies, the argument against LGBT people is predicated differently. It is based on the idea that we, in ourselves, are disgusting and morally wrong simply for our very existences… and I ask – why? Why must we be special cases having to explain our origins? Why should we be subject to attempts to cure us? Why should we be considered as worth anything less than anybody else because of who we are in spite of the fact that we do nothing wrong, and nothing to harm anybody else? Ironically, there is even a section of the feminist community that believes in a person’s choice over their own body, and yet would deny trans people that choice – one feminist famously wanted to “mandate trans people out of existence”.  The anti-choice argument at least contains some kernel of reason (whether you agree with it or not), whereas the argument against LGBT equality does not. Such a lack of reason was seen recently in the UK, where a popular soap opera showed two men cuddling in bed and provoked outrage from some quarters, while hetero-centric casual sex, violence, threats and even rape have been deemed unworthy of complaint by the same people.

This argument that we are some kind of scourge on society, and that we’re somehow exotic or explicit material that should be kept out of the eyes of children spurs us on to justify ourselves with a whole host of purported medical, evolutionary, sociological, genetic, or psychological reasons. In doing so, we are the ones that create our own oppression. Instead of standing up to such questions, and instead of requesting the civil courtesy of the respect afforded to everyone else, we give in. In giving in and answering their questions with narratives that fit their views, we perpetuate a cycle where they feel they have the right to ask. They feel they have a right to know. A right to pry. A right that wouldn’t exist anywhere else, and thus lends itself to a sense of the normal vs the abnormal, which of course transforms itself into issues of right or wrong, above and below, inferiority and superiority. We hand them power. We give them privilege over us, and all by trying to fit into their world, rather than staking our place and our claim on our already being a part of their world, and one that’s worthy of equality and respect. I’m not going to seriously use terms like kyriarchy or patriarchy to describe top down systems of oppression. Power is seen to work like that, but only because that is the way we have organised it. If every fighter put down their weapon, we’d see an end to war – it’s unlikely to happen, but it’s true. Similarly, can you imagine a situation where every LGBT person responded with “That’s a personal question”, or “My body, my choice. I’m not hurting anybody else, so what’s the problem?” Admittedly, for some trans people it’s a choice between surgery or death – but that’s still a real choice, if an obvious decision to make (clue – death isn’t the obvious and logical solution to such a problem.)

Then, of course, there’s the other problem with the standard narratives for trans people especially – they hurt other trans people. In some ways, the formation of the narrative has been clinician led… but it’s our internalisation of the narrative that’s perpetuated it. As more and more people repeat their stories, it becomes the accepted basis on which medical services are allowed. Nobody knows what causes transsexualism any more than what results in the existence of neutrois or other gender variant people that don’t fit the narrative… but it is the narrative that grants access to medical treatment. If you don’t fit it, you don’t get it. If you’re not transsexual, then you must surely have some sort of body dysmorphia that needs talking therapy or psychiatric drugs – it’s not right, and it’s not fair. Change isn’t going to happen overnight, but it’s likewise going to be even longer coming for as long as the ‘One True Narrative’ prevails. Is it right to leave other people out in the cold like this?

For bisexual people – if same sex attraction is not a choice, and “homosexuality is OK as long as you don’t act on it” is not a reasonable view, where exactly does that leave bisexual people? While “Being gay is not a choice” is great for defending gay and lesbian people, it leaves bisexual people open to the accusation that they really do have a choice, and should choose only to sleep with members of the opposite sex.

We need to stop clinging to the standard narrative – and many of us are unknowingly guilty of that, as we tend as a species to frame things in the language we are surrounded with. We need to stop giving away our power and subverting ourselves. We need to stop internalizing the narratives, and instead to proudly state the truth of our own individual existences. To live that truth. To love that truth, and to be that truth. We need to stop policing others for questioning the standard narrative and expressing opinions which stand against it. We need to stop crying “transphobia”, “homophobia”, “hetero-centricism” and “cissexism” at the slightest opportunity, stop tarring and we need to start living by example. Sure – there is transphobia, homophobia, hetero-centricism and cissexism in the world and it’s wrong, but overuse of the terms devalues them, and just makes us look irrationally angry and combative… all the while, of course, focussing our attention on why certain people think we are wrong rather than on why we are just as worthy and awesome as anybody else. It’s perhaps telling that I myself am wondering if I’m going to lose friends and contacts over this article – I don’t profess it to be gospel truth, but I do feel it raises a few interesting points and questions.

I’m going to tell you that truth now. It’s actually a very simple one, as most truths are – we are people of diverse backgrounds and experiences just as all human beings are, but in one thing you are just the same as anybody else…

… You are beautiful, and your existence is no less valid or rightful than anybody elses. You have a right to be yourself. You don’t need a cure. You don’t need a reason. You don’t need to explain yourself to all and sundry. You don’t need to justify your basic existence. Why you are the way you are doesn’t matter. What matters, is that you are who you are, and you exist – and you are beautiful for it. At the end of the day, we’re all just people, and we should be people. Live.

No moral authority? That makes two of you, Miss Phelps!

westboro Arlington protestWestboro Baptist Church protests are rarely covered these days, except for in exceptional comedic effect found in the myriad of ways in which they are counter-protested. This ‘church’, perhaps best known for picketing the funerals of fallen soldiers with the message “God Hates Fags”, essentially seeks publicity for their actions, and so it’s a good thing that publicity for their insensitive, hateful, and abhorrent antics appears to have largely dried up, starving them of the oxygen that spurs them on. Their outlandish behavior, which is offensive to many, is now largely accepted as simply being what they do, and has ceased to be newsworthy, except in specific circumstances such as at one of their recent ‘protests’.

At Arlington National Cemetery yesterday (Monday), hours before President Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in leading the nation’s Memorial Day observances, a Westboro Baptist Church demonstration was counter-protested – by a group including 10 members of the Ku Klux Klan, who were separate from the main counter protest. A spokesman for this branch of the clan, describing his self as an ‘Imperial Wizard’, explained that they were there to object to the Westboro Baptist Church’s anti-troop message.

“It’s the soldier that fought and died and gave them that right to free speech,” said Dennis LaBonte, of the Virginian group ‘Knights of the Southern Cross’.

Westboro Baptist Church’s response? Miss Phelps, daughter of the founder of the ‘church’ Fred Phelps, retorted with “That’s fine, they have no moral authority on anything.”

It’s true – given the history of the KKK, and given the fact that the organization has actually killed people, they have precious little moral authority to stand on. Even so, the message from Miss Phelps carried more than just this fact. It also holds the implication that by a matter of contrast, the Westboro Baptist Church does have moral authority. It doesn’t. The Westboro Baptist Church has tried to use this event to discredit those that oppose them. The subtle message of Miss Phelps’s comment can be easily described as “How  can you claim your cause is righteous when you have people like that on your side?”

Well, Miss Phelps, not to discount the possibility of a less than palatable group using an event or a cause to try to gain legitimacy and further its own agenda, which Westboro Baptists will surely be all too familiar with, there is the alternate and far more sensible way of looking at it…

When even the Ku Klux Klan feel the need to meet you with a counter protest, you’ve surely got to know that what you’re doing is really screwed up!