SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED

candy-darlingFirst it was Germaine Greer, now it’s Jenni Murray. Their crime? Daring to voice an opinion that contradicts the doctrine of the new order consensus, specifically the clause that declares we must never question the authenticity of men who have undergone gender reassignment surgery and must automatically place them in the same category as women who were born with full female anatomy. And this despite the fact many Trans-Women invite such distinctions. No doubt the po-faced funereal spectre of Professional Northern Trans-Woman Paris Lees will be prompted into one of her regular ‘Channel 4 News’ or ‘Newsnight’ comedy turns in response, hurling the ‘old bigot’ slingshot at the latest target.

The veteran ‘Woman’s Hour’ presenter who has provided the serial offence-takers with a new hate figure is 66 years-old; Germaine Greer is 78. Unlike their hysterical detractors, both women were born into a world that had clearly defined boundaries based on class, race, sexuality and gender; and Greer in particular played a hugely significant part in changing the perceptions of those boundaries where gender was concerned, far greater than her twenty-something critics could ever imagine. She and Murray have been witness to arguably the most revolutionary breaking down of those boundaries that the western world has ever experienced; and it has happened in the space of barely half-a-century.

More than one generation has had to overturn all its inherited beliefs and opinions on society’s so-called ‘minorities’; and this takes the kind of time that those born into a world where the contemporary consensus holds sway have no comprehension of. To use just one personal example, I recall my mother expressing her embarrassment when my deaf granddad (her father) used the word ‘nigger’ loudly in a supermarket, yet she herself still uses the word ‘paki’, which makes me wince every time she says it. That she could find ‘nigger’ unacceptable whilst simultaneously not thinking the same of ‘paki’ highlights how her own inherited beliefs and opinions have changed, albeit not quite reaching the acceptable standard demanded by the speech police.

Expecting the grandparent generation to mirror the approach to what can and can’t be said in either public or private discourse as practiced by their grandchildren is not that different from expecting them to have unnaturally coloured hair, piercings and tattoos. The under-40s blame game from the losing side in the EU Referendum, reserving Remoaner vitriol for pensioners who had the audacity to hold a different point of view, largely based on life experience and a wider knowledge of the lengthy European project rather than ‘racism’, was a telling demonstration of that generation’s narcissistic refusal to accept there are contrary opinions to their own; and this extends into other facets of life in which their inability to respond to these contrary opinions with nothing more than lazy labelling is revealing a worrying absence of emotional maturity.

If a trans-woman wants to be recognised and accepted as a ‘real’ woman, why is there the need for the ‘trans’ prefix? One is either a trans-woman or a woman; one cannot be both, surely? It’s almost as though some want the benefits each can bring – acceptance as belonging to the sisterhood yet also requiring ‘special treatment’ that a natural-born woman is exempt from. Here’s your cake, and you can eat it too! I’ve met a couple of women in my life who were born male, and I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t been told. To me, both resembled middle-aged Avon Ladies and they seemed happy in their skins, which is great; they weren’t declaring to all and sundry that they were spokeswomen for the LGBTRSVPABCXYZ community and demanding to be treated as a Third Sex.

The majority of men who have endured male-to-female surgery do so because they genuinely believe themselves to be women trapped in men’s bodies; therefore, once they re-emerge from hospital, their bodies are finally in-synch with what their heads have always held to be true and they are, to all extents and purposes, now bona-fide women. Yes, they have no menstrual cycle and cannot get pregnant, but other than that, there’s little to distinguish them from women whose bodies were compatible from day one.

I don’t believe the constant carping from militant Trans-Women or those professing to speak on their behalf really has anything to do with gender identity, more another example of the contemporary craving to sign-up to an officially designated minority, to uphold the trend for comfortable pigeonholing and membership of a ‘victimised’ collective that can gather together and share placards.

The original 70s Gay Liberation movement in the US often saw conflicts between those who preferred the traditional masculine male role model and those who revelled in their feminine side; the latter was seen as ‘letting the team down’ by camping it up and aping the flamboyant vanity and cartoon frivolity of girlie girls, thus reinforcing the archaic effeminate stereotype. But there was still room for both in the battle for acceptance. Today, any prominent gay media man, whether Stephen Fry or Peter Tatchell, faces the threat of the no-platform treatment if they dare to say anything that shatters the facade of everyone being in it together. Ridiculously, they can be labelled ‘homophobic’ just as Germaine Greer can be labelled ‘misogynistic’.

Virtually all of the men or women who have been targeted by the speech police in the last couple of years have been over-45 at least, and most were on the frontline of the actual battles that obliterated the old boundaries, something their wet-behind-the-ears opponents have benefitted from. More was achieved by ‘The Female Eunuch’ than mixed-gender lavatories, so it’s time the kiddies cut their predecessors some slack and stopped trying to impose their own rigid framework on generations that were far more fluid and broad-minded when it came to sexuality and whether or not their own predecessors agreed with them.

© The Editor

NO COUNTRY FOR SQUARE PEGS

wilf-lunnWhen people speak of the Great British Eccentric being a dying breed, most of the examples given of the species do tend to be over a certain age – 50, at least. Granted, there are a few defiant exceptions (certainly in terms of dress, someone like Paloma Faith, perhaps), though the famous names that spring to mind are usually past their half-century. I think the claims of the species bordering on extinction aren’t too far-fetched in that it’s hard to foresee another generation spawning any. It isn’t just the large-scale homogenisation of genuine individual thought and/or appearance within society that could be held responsible, nor the fact that every suspected ‘Paedo’ exposed by the press is painted as ‘a bit weird’ because he doesn’t adhere to an imposed dress-code (thus marking out sartorial originality as totally toxic); but when any potential eccentricities surface in children today parents, teachers and doctors alike are a tad too quick to diagnose a ‘syndrome’.

You may or may not have heard of Oppositional Defiance Disorder, but that is the tag that has now been attached to children who misbehave – yes, fancy that! Children misbehaving and refusing to do as they’re told! What an uncharacteristic behavioural trait! Children doing what children have always done can no longer be just that; there has to be a medical condition to cover all eventualities that can be tamed with both medication and counselling.

The feminisation of our leading institutions, along with the box-ticking bureaucracy that negates common sense, seems determined to prevent little boys in particular from being little boys. There is also the plethora of self-help ‘how to be a perfect parent’ publications, an entire literary industry that has had a pernicious influence on the attitude towards children and remains in perpetual denial of the fact that some of them are strange little bastards.

Ever since the recognition of dyslexia as something to be distinguished from basic stupidity, there has been a conscious rush to judgement on classic childhood symptoms that veer from the desired ordinariness that is a by-product of perfection. All the numerous minor strands of autism are examples of this, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is another that has now become utterly accepted as a bona-fide syndrome, a condition that is hastily diagnosed and in many cases treated with a course of medication. In recent years, the transgender issue has also reared its head, especially amongst right-on parents who seize upon any indication of effeminacy in their little boy as a sign his ‘true’ sexuality must be determined by them before he’s even hit puberty.

The dangerous fad for labelling every aspect of a child’s natural behaviour a syndrome is a panicky response when so many are afraid of standing out from the crowd and expressing any notion of individuality that contradicts the consensus. The ghastly competitiveness of parents that rests on one-upmanship faces a severe threat if their little angel is exhibiting any signs of being ‘different’, so a convenient pigeonhole that is accepted as a syndrome by the teaching and medical profession is an easy solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist.

Like most of us, I grew up around many children who displayed personal eccentricities that would now probably have a ready-made diagnosis on hand. One girl I was at primary school with used to bite her toenails. I wonder what that would be categorised as today? Keratin Carnivore Disorder? And I suspect we all knew one or two who would eat their own bogies. Mucus Consumption Disorder? Keeping children on a tight leash and denying them the freedom to express themselves through the kind of behaviour adults aren’t able to get away with is a modern trend that only has a few caveats, such as when it comes to ‘artistic’ expression – which basically amounts to those bloody awful pictures proud parents stick on their fridges as a sign of what creative geniuses they’ve spawned.

But genuine creativity often goes hand-in-hand with unconventional outlooks and attitudes that are commonplace amongst children and rare amongst adults; the adults that retain them are ones that resisted having them drilled out by the educational system. It must be harder than ever to uphold such resistance and be a little Winston Smith today, however.

Not only does one have to risk being diagnosed with a syndrome and being forcibly drugged to wash the nasty thoughts away, but there is also the league table-obsessed educational system itself, which like all institutions – whether the NHS, DWP, police force or legal profession – has become a training camp for the appliance of politically-correct robotic responses in which impromptu personal judgment not listed in the script has no place. The fear of litigation or ostracism enables such Orwellian Ministry systems to flourish unimpeded by common sense and ideas that risk being labelled that most dreaded of contemporary ailments, eccentric.

That each new crop of recruits to these institutions now instinctively follow the rulebook to the letter of the law (and probably had early resistance suppressed by a syndrome diagnosis and accompanying medication) means the likelihood of the Circumlocution Offices the institutions have gradually evolved into ever reverting to what they were before virtually zilch. Anyone at the frontline of having to deal with said institutions will know what an uphill struggle it is to make representatives of them understand that everything they’ve had programmed into them is counterproductive to an actual result. Add the inherent conservatism of social media as a further tool for falling into line and it would seem any future eccentrics that are lucky enough to slip through the net will be few and far between. And our society will be all the poorer for their absence.

© The Editor

GOODBYE SAM, HELLO SAMANTHA

DragI’ve spoken before of pushy parents projecting their failed ambitions upon the vanity projects they call children, of vicariously living thwarted dreams through offspring, regardless of how unfair a burden it is for that offspring to carry. I’m not speaking of it again, though certain aspects of a new odious development remind me of it. This is parents picking up on a particular personality trait in their mini-me’s and coming up with a psychological diagnosis that ticks the PC boxes and enables them to advertise their right-on credentials by using their children as a sandwich board. I’m talking about parents who come to the decision that any characteristics of the opposite sex displayed by the kids evidently means the kids are gender-dysphorian, non-binary, tiny tot trannies.

I used to go to school with children, so I can recall what they were like. There were always boys who were routinely called ‘cissies’, the ones who appeared to have no male friends in the playground and always hung out with the girls, doing as the girls did; moreover, there were always girls who rejected girlishness and preferred the rough ‘n’ tumble of male company. The Nancy Boy and the Tom Boy are enshrined as archetypes in British pop culture, from Dennis the Menace’s effeminate nemesis, Walter the Softy to ‘George’, Enid Blyton’s butch little ball-breaker in ‘The Famous Five’. Both were defiant aberrations, going against the stereotypical grain; both may have grown up to be gay. But being in closer contact with their respective feminine and masculine sides than the majority of their contemporaries didn’t necessarily mean either wanted to eventually assume the full gender reassignment process. They were unselfconsciously taking a stance against what society defined as masculine or feminine.

I’m not ashamed or embarrassed that I’ve always been ‘in touch with my feminine side’, nor should I be. I’ve always believed a man who aggressively fights it is half-a-man, in denial of what is a biological truth. When that femininity is manifested as visual flourishes of a kind that an overtly masculine male culture reacts to with hostility, it’s not the easiest brand of honesty to embrace; but to volunteer for a two-dimensional testosterone straitjacket is not in my nature, and I’d be less of a man if it was. Any past problems I may have had with being a man were, I can now see, a direct consequence of being presented with such a limited portrait of the sex. The hair is short, the clothes are colourless, the drink is beer, the passion is sport, the libido is triggered by the Page 3 Girl; and any deviation from the rulebook is precisely that – deviation. But as I instinctively reject imposed rulebooks in other aspects of life, why should gender be any different?

Ironically, the haste with which some misguided parents are now prepared to redefine their sons as daughters (and vice-versa) at the slightest hint of a preference for aping the opposite sex plays straight into the hands of the narrow male/female stereotypes they smugly imagine they’re challenging. Little Sam prefers to play with the girls and their dolls, therefore that must mean he’s a girl trapped in a boy’s body; we must start calling him Samantha and send him to school in a skirt next term while letting his hair grow long; that, after all, is the extent of what a girl is, isn’t it? If we swap one set of gender clichés for another, then everyone will then know he’s a girl. No shades of grey there, just black-and-white boys and girls where there is no room for the Nancy Boy or the Tom Boy, those genuine rebels.

Girls and boys pass through numerous phases as they grow-up; that’s what growing-up is about. I changed the comics I read on a virtually monthly basis; one week I was in love with Joanna Lumley in ‘The New Avengers’; the next, I was in love with Jaclyn Smith from ‘Charlie’s Angels’. My female cousin’s bedroom wall had a different pin-up staring down at me every time I visited. ‘I thought you liked David Cassidy?’ ‘No, I like David Essex.’ The first song I apparently proclaimed to be my No.1 ‘Desert Island Disc’ was ‘Yellow River’ by Christie; 46 years later, I can honestly say I’ve never cared for it since it was a chart-topper in the summer of 1970. Anyone with anything about them experiences life as a permanent state of metamorphosis, changing opinions on subjects every ten years or so; a great deal of what I thought at 18 I now consider bollocks – and it’s only right I should. The concept of development being frozen at any age is a particularly horrific one for me, let alone life choices being set in stone by parents when still a child and some distance from even puberty, let alone adulthood.

Gender identity is an especially delicate area of a child’s life for parents to play with, far more serious than them mapping out their child’s career or drilling a religious belief, a forced dedication to a musical instrument or a specific sport into them. More than anything, it is something the child needs to formulate when it has experienced a little bit of what life has to offer beyond the nursery or the playground, when it actually ceases to be a child and can be classified as an adult. There’s nothing wrong with a boy finding more affinity with girls or a girl finding more affinity with boys; by surmising this implies a desire to actually become that which the child has an affinity with is to expose a parent’s own limited awareness of the rich variety of what being a boy or a girl actually has the potential to encompass.

© The Editor

IT’S A MIXED-UP, MUDDLED-UP, SHOOK-UP WORLD

Johnny‘Bangkok Chick-Boys’ was the documentary Alan Partridge alleged he wanted to switch off his hotel cable TV in favour of ‘Driving Miss Daisy’, though mysteriously found himself unable to work out a way of doing so. Grilling his Geordie sidekick about his experience of Ladyboys during his military outings to the Far East, Partridge’s fascination with these exotic self-made hybrids isn’t uncommon, as the queues of western male tourists eager to sample their talents will testify. Elsewhere in Asia, Indian culture has the Hijras, castrated men dressed as women who are supposedly blessed with gypsy-like mystical powers to bestow bad luck upon those who seek to banish them from society; despite this, most simply end up living a grubby existence as low-level prostitutes (I won’t describe them as ‘sex-workers’, as that implies a degree of career choice to their miserable little lot).

As a collective group, the Ladyboys and the Hijras largely refrain from seeking recognition as Real Women. True, their appearance may dupe the odd unsuspecting foreign punter, but they are clearly posing as the opposite sex by exaggerating stereotypical feminine traits. The same could be said of the old Warhol transvestite superstars such as Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn, who knowingly resided in a harmless fantasy world that reinvented them as the most glamorous divas Tinsel Town never had. The latter two’s roles in Paul Morrissey’s trashy early 70s underground movies contained both humour and an undeniable degree of risqué excitement that inspired both Bowie and Divine; as far as the heavyweight drag queen was concerned, his cinematic collaborations with John Waters took the humour to a glorious plateau of bad taste that has never been bettered.

Quentin Crisp, a remarkably brave man who took his life in his hands every time he stepped out into 1930s London with his painted face and nails and dyed red hair, was once criticised by the New York gay ‘community’ in an early example of libertine censorship for daring to air reservations over the OTT excesses by which being out and proud had to be advertised in the manner of a New Orleans Carnival. Crisp did so with his customary caustic wit, though this didn’t square with the witless, fanatical demands to be ‘accepted’ by a straight society that Crisp had never sought to win the acceptance of.

Ah, yes – wit, the vital element missing from the rulebook of the transgender police who pretend the glorified middle-aged Ladyboy, Bruce ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner, is a woman. With their endless additions to the Uxbridge English Dictionary and on-the-spot fines for those who dare to use terms that are no longer allowed in polite society, these humourless enforcers would actually find their Orwellian credo very much at home in Iran. There, any man prepared to publicly proclaim his homosexuality is encouraged to undergo a sex change, which the state will pay for. Subsidised gender reassignment has become commonplace in Iran, and those who emerge from the operating table are thereafter officially recognised as Real Women. Who’d have thought it? The transgender capital of the world is the land of the Ayatollah.

At one time, donning the apparel and mannerisms of the opposite sex was a deliberate act of subversion, a conscious affront aimed at the straight society that associated any hint of gender bending with deviancy – or in other words, homosexuality. The thought that a heterosexual man could adorn himself with cosmetics was such a challenge to the stringent specifications of what maketh a man that it contained genuine rebellious connotations, even in a country like Britain, with a rich history of theatrical female impersonation stretching through the music hall and all the way back to the time when pre-pubescent boys had to play Shakespeare’s female parts on account of actresses being banned from the stage. Whether Mick Jagger in a dress or Marc Bolan sprinkling stardust on his cheeks, there was always a playful, mischievous aspect to the practice that reflected the traditional British sense of the absurd; in the wider canvas of America, which has a far more prevalent macho lineage, such behaviour was restricted to isolated pockets of resistance like LA and New York. The chic freaks rejected the straights and their society and didn’t want to be embraced by it.

How times have changed. A man paints his lips or eyes today and he’s immediately claimed by fanatical lobbyists demanding he be recognised as a woman in order that he can be neatly categorised, labelled and accepted. How would the transgender police have reacted upon entering the cornucopia of sexually ambiguous individuals dancing the night away at Steve Strange’s Blitz club in the early 80s? Standing out from the crowd was crucial to any adoption of female accoutrements back then; nowadays the crowd mentality, whereby everyone has to be part of some ‘community’, has become so entrenched that the natural assumption is that a man in makeup is not expressing his individuality but seeking to be co-opted by an officially-sanctioned group. Stripped of its fearless sartorial radicalism, what was once the ultimate outsider’s challenge to the masculine straitjacket has been stolen by those who have no comprehension of the thrill embodied in blurring gender lines as a means of spurning safety in numbers; they ask why would anybody not want to belong, whereas I ask why would anybody want to?

© The Editor