Call-Centring to Dispose of Sealions

Hello ladies (and some others, but I think this is going to be mostly of interest to women).

If you are like me, you will be talking along to friends on Twitter, and someone you’ve never spoken to before will jump in to give you their very important insight. Most often, these seem to be cisgender, heterosexual white men, i.e. the group in society most used to assuming their view of the world is right and proper and that by imposing it on you, they are merely educating you.

This phenomenon is so common that it has a name: sealioning.

Arguing with these people tends not to work, they love arguing and eventually accuse you of being “illogical” or “emotional”, and declare themselves the winner. Asking them to go away doesn’t tend to work, because they just get cross.

Well I’ve discovered how to deal with them, and so far it has been foolproof. Introducing, call-centring.

Here’s the idea: you respond to their tweets, but you don’t respond to THEM.

I’ll show you an example. Let’s assume I’m talking to my friends about cats or something, and twitter user, @sealion_1990 jumps in:

@auntysarah: Oh wow, @my_friend just found this really nice picture of some kittens!
@sealion_1990: @auntysarah Actually … sealion sealion mansplain sealion

Now we invoke the call-centre. They play the customer. You play the bored and indifferent call centre hold system/computerised agent. Just like a customer service agent at a real call centre, IT IS VITAL TO STICK TO THE SCRIPT AND NOT ACTUALLY ADDRESS ANYTHING THEY SAY FROM NOW ON. First inform them that they are in the queue:

@auntysarah: .@sealion_1990 Thank you for your unsolicited opinion. It has been placed in a queue for consideration. Your queue position is … 9 billion.

Note the use of the .@ reply. This heightens the effect by humiliating them in front of your followers. They just don’t realise they’re being humiliated yet. What follows are actual responses to this technique, but I’ve changed the name. It helps to have a few pictures and vines on hand of you chilling, ignoring the phone, whatever. I keep a few stored ready to go.

@sealion_1990: @auntysarah it was solicited, otherwise you would not have posted it publicly for public response.

They often come out with something like this. DO NOT ENGAGE, hold your position:

@auntysarah: .@sealion_1990 All our operators are busy ignoring other unsolicited opinions. Your opinion is important to us.
IMG_5091

Ooh, you aren’t playing his game. Now he’s getting irritated. He must sneer.

@sealion_1990: @auntysarah I take it you have nothing intelligent to reply back to

The assertion that he is “intelligent” and you just don’t understand. Silly little girl, you need to debate him on his own terms. Not going to happen, time for another canned response:

@auntysarah: .@sealion_1990 Press 1 to hear a beep and 2 to hear a different beep. Your opinion is important to us.

Anyone sensible would realise you were mocking them. Anyone sensible would likely give up now, unless somehow their ego was wounded and demands redress!!!!!!

@sealion_1990: @auntysarah no intelligence. You do a good R2D2 impression though.

Let’s throw in a vine. I have one of me humming the allegro from Vivaldi’s Spring. You know, the one call centres always use:

@auntysarah: .@sealion_1990 Please continue to hold. Your queue position is now… nine billion … and … one

(You may need to click the volume control to hear the hold music).

We bumped his queue position up by one, too. If he still doesn’t go away, he will say something like:

@sealion_1990: @auntysarah You don’t pass on ideas with rudeness

You have a number of options, you can keep going with canned responses, you can ignore him, or you can block him. What I tend to do is keep a few more canned responses in reserve, such as:

@auntysarah: .@sealion_1990 Our engineers have detected a strange whining noise on the line. Please continue to hold.

And

@auntysarah: .@sealion_1990 Ignoring your opinion is sponsored by Tissues for Cissues and Spaghetti Feelz in Menztears Sauce. Please continue to hold.

What pretty much always happens is that they get more and more frustrated until they just go away. If not, when you get bored, finish off with:

@auntysarah: .@sealion_1990 Please continue to hold…

Then block them, and move on.

This technique is like kryptonite to sealions, seriously. It completely flummoxes them and it has the advantage that unlike trying to ask them to leave you alone, or actually engaging them, it’s fun.

Go get ’em!

Calling for an End to Trans Conversion Therapy

This is the speech I gave to the 2015 Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, introducing an amendment to the mental health motion to call for an end to transgender conversion therapy.

The amendment passed without opposition.

I’d like to read from a young girl’s Internet diary.

I really need help.

Hi, I’m Leelah, 16 and ever since I was around 4 or 5 I knew I was a girl. As soon as I found out what transgender meant, I came out to my mom. She reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl.

I wanted to see a gender therapist but they wouldn’t let me, they thought it would corrupt my mind. They would only let me see biased therapists, who instead of listening to my feelings would try to change me into a straight male. I would cry after every session because I felt like it was hopeless.

Please help me, I don’t know what I should do and I can’t take much more of this. I don’t know if my problem is serious enough that I can contact authorities for help and even if it is I don’t know how much that’ll damage or help my current situation. I’m stuck.

Two months after writing this cry for help on the Internet, transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn took her own life. This was in the US, but it could easily have happened here.

Studies show that when transgender people express a need to undergo gender transition, if they are not able to then 50% will try to kill themselves.

Conversion therapy does not work. This is not opinion, this is established fact. If you try to talk a transgender person out of changing gender, there is a better than evens chance they will try to kill themselves. This is not opinion, this is established fact.

If you subject a transgender person to conversion therapy, you might as well drive them to Beachy Head and tell them to jump. Conversion therapy kills transgender people.

When the NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and other bodies signed a memorandum of understanding against conversion therapy for lesbian, bisexual and gay people in January, they called it “unethical and potentially harmful”.

They also left transgender people out.

Well, conference, conversion therapy for transgender people does worse than potentially cause harm: it kills them.

All this amendment asks is that transgender people are given the same protection from dangerous quackery that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are given.

Coercing vulnerable transgender people into discredited conversion therapy is not a valid psychological practice. It is not helping people who are struggling with their gender identity to come to terms with themselves.

It is attempted murder.

Conference, I implore you to support this amendment and put a stop to this appalling practice. Thank you.

Whatever This Nonsense Letter is Complaining About, it is Not Censorship

My attention was drawn this morning to this open letter in the Guardian/Observer/Whatever signed by a long list of notable transphobes and whorephobes, and a few people who really should know better. “We cannot allow censorship and silencing of individuals”, it says.

It goes on to describe a number of examples of this “censorship and silencing”. They are:

  1. The cancellation of Kate Smuthwaite’s gig at Goldsmith’s College last month.

    There was, it is claimed, “intimidation” over this show, which caused it to be cancelled. However, the organiser of the very same show paints a rather different picture, one where they only sold 8 tickets, where the only suggestions of a picket or protests appear to have been manufactured by Ms Smurthwaite herself (possibly in a misguided attempt to generate some controversy and sell some tickets?)

    This is all because Kate has curated a reputation of being a sex work abolitionist, and tends to be quite abrasive towards sex workers who take the view that they’d like to continue their livelihood in safety, without someone trying to coercively “rescue” them, than you very much.

    The show was cancelled because nobody bought tickets, for whatever reason, but in the two weeks since, the student volunteers who run Goldsmith’s SU and their comedy society have been the targets of some abuse as a result.

    It sounds like someone is being silenced and intimidated here, but I don’t think it’s Kate Smurthwaite.

  2. Calls at the Cambridge Union to withdraw a speaking invitation to Germaine Greer.

    I actually know something about this one, because I was involved. The Union Society (an expensive bit of prime real estate in Cambridge City Centre with a debating society attached, known for being somewhere were aspiring political hacks cut their teeth, and not to be mistaken with Cambridge University Students’ Union) did indeed invite Germaine Greer to speak.

    Greer has a long history of transphobic bigotry, and managed to fire herself as a Cambridge lecturer over it. the Students’ Union LGBT+ society, who had a partnership with the Union Society for their weekly socials, felt this was a bit off and wrote to the Union Society outlining their concerns.

    The Union Society noted their concerns by way of reply, and said they would go ahead anyway. In response, the LGBT+ Society and the Women’s Society organised a separate event featuring noted trans feminist writer, Roz Kaveney, at which I also spoke. A couple of students also handed out some leaflets to those going to the Union Society’s Greer event.

    That’s not “silencing” and it’s certainly not “intimidation”. I saw the whole email chain between CUSU LGBT+ and the Union Society. It was all terribly polite and respectful, but the two sides did disagree. That’s ok, that’s allowed.

    The expression of disagreement is a fundamental part of freedom of expression. Shame on the letter signatories for trying to silence it.

  3. Rupert Reed, the Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Cambridge, recently got into something of a kerfuffle over comments he made in a blog and on twitter, initially about the use of the word, “cisgender”, but later compounded in a clumsy apology where he shot himself in the foot by suggesting there was a debate to be had about whether trans women should be allowed to use public toilets.

    All that I have done is join many feminists in saying that it is up to women, not anyone else – and certainly not me – to decide who gets let into women-only spaces, such as women’s toilets. All women have a right to be involved in making those decisions.

    Reed apologised again, properly this time. I understand some LGBT people in Cambridge who wanted to vote Green wrote to the local party saying they didn’t think they could while Reed was their candidate and … that’s it.

    The letter to the Guardian says, “The Green party came under pressure to repudiate the philosophy lecturer Rupert Read after he questioned the arguments put forward by some trans-activists”, but those “arguments put forward by trans activists” are basically just, “can we use the toilet, please?”

    Regardless, telling a politician that you thought something they said was out of order, and you’re not going to vote for them as a result, is not “silencing” and it’s not “intimidation”. What it actually is is democracy. Shame on the letter signatories for opposing it.

  4. Julie Bindel is no platformed by the NUS LGBT.

    No platforming sounds terribly serious. In reality, it basically means, “we won’t invite this person to our stuff, and we won’t appear on the same platform as them.”

    Given Bindel is known for her transphobia and has spoken publicly in support of trans conversion therapy (remember Leelah Alcorn?), it’s hardly surprising that the NUS LGBT don’t want anything to do with her. The thing is, people are allowed to take their ball and go home, and they are allowed to express opinions about public figures and even protest about them. These are fundamental parts of freedom of expression, and not in any way an attack on it.

Some people around the world are actually oppressed because of the things they want to say. They’re not comedians engaging in publicity stunts, washed up academics getting invited to plush debating societies, politicians getting caught saying something stupid or transphobes with more newspaper columns than I can reasonably count. By signing this letter, you do a disservice to those who are actually denied freedom of expression around the world. Shame on you.

Those who signed and have a history of transphobia and whorephobia know what they’re doing and are being deeply cynical here.

To those who signed it because they were told it was about “freedom of speech” and didn’t research the context, I merely ask to please try to be a bit less credulous in future.

Oh, and maybe try to be a bit less “first world problems” about healthy disagreement, ok?

Thanks.

On “Male TERFs”

Many will have noticed the phenomenon of the “male TERF”, that is a man, typically regarded as a left wing progressive, declaring himself a feminist ally, or perhaps even a male feminist, where the feminism he signs up to is the transphobic, whorephobic, anti porn kind.

In response to a furore over comments made by Rupert Read, a Green Party member who seeks to be MP for Cambridge, on Twitter and on his blog, a friend commented to me that the existence of male TERFs made the world “a truly strange place”. I have to say that I disagree. I think it’s entirely a natural place to be.

Mr Read, reassuringly for the trans people, sex workers and avid pornography consumers of Cambridge will likely be fighting UKIP for 4th place come May, but that’s not really the point…

Despite declaring themselves “radical”, the feminists who sign up to the transphobic, whorephobic, anti porn kind of feminism are basically reactionaries. There are few things more conservative than the view that trans people are dirty perverts who shouldn’t be indulged in our supposed delusion, that sex workers are wanton harlots who are certainly to be discouraged, and that masturbation is some kind of social ill that needs eradicating.

These are non-threatening ideologies which do not trouble the patriarchy one iota. Any man holding these views would likely be entirely safe and uncontroversial in espousing them in the surroundings of a conservative 19th century gentlemen’s club.

“Male TERFism” thus gives the “male feminist” the best of both worlds: they get to have the ideological seal of approval which comes from knowing you’re an “ally to women”, even if the women in question also happen to be the worst kind of reactionary bigot hypocrites, while signing up for an ideology which requires them to do nothing that would even draw the ire of the Daily Mail on a bad day.

The only surprising thing about male TERFs is that lots more reactionary men who still want a bit of left wing approval haven’t cottoned onto the wheeze.

Fraudulent; Negligent; Incompetent. My speech to the Trafalgar Square Vigil for Leelah Alcorn

Our community spends a lot of time in mourning, but today I am angry. A lot of us are angry. Some of that anger is being focussed at Leelah’s parents for putting her into profoundly damaging conversion therapy.

However, before sending Leelah to one of these nasty pieces of work, Leelah’s parents presumably talked to them, and the conversion therapist assured them that their therapy could “fix” their child and turn Leelah into the dutiful straight cisgender son they wanted. That the trans feelings could be “cured”.

We know these are lies. We have known for a long time that conversion therapy, whether it be aimed at changing gender identity or sexuality does not work.

We also now know that if a trans person has stated the need to transition, and things are done to block them, there is a better than evens chance that they will try to kill themselves.

These are not opinions, these are established facts. They’re facts that any medical practitioner working with trans people has a professional duty to know. They need to know their patients are vulnerable. They need to know conversion therapy doesn’t work. They need to know their patients are suicide risks if not handled carefully.

And yet someone presumably told Leelah’s parents none of this.

Why would someone do that? I can think of only three reasons.

  • The first is that they know that what they are saying is a lie, but they don’t care. They are selling lies. They are a fraud.

  • The second is that they haven’t bothered to find out what the best practice for counselling trans people is, because they don’t care. They are negligent.

  • The third, and perhaps kindest interpretation, is that they are in over their heads, that it simply never occurs to them that they should learn about how to counsel trans people before doing it. They are incompetent.

Conversion therapists are either fraudulent, negligent or incompetent. There doesn’t seem to be any other explanation.

Now in other areas of medicine, say if I need surgery for a broken leg, there are laws and regulations to ensure that if my surgeon is fraudulent, if they have faked credentials, they can go to prison. If they are negligent, if they turn up to work drunk, they can go to prison. If they are incompetent, they can be struck off.

Fraudulent, negligent, incompetent; in most areas of medicine you would not be allowed to practice, and yet it seems any charlatan can walk in off the street and set themselves up as a conversion therapist. They’re not subject to legal consequences if they are fraudulent or negligent. There is no overseeing body to sanction them if they are incompetent. They operate in a regulatory vacuum.

This isn’t good enough. These people are killing our young people through their fraudulence, their negligence, their incompetence. The lawmakers and regulators who should be stopping them are not.

Leelah’s dying wish was that we work to make these things better. A good start would be to stop frauds and charlatans from pushing trans people into suicide through fraudulent, negligent and incompetent therapy that is worse than useless, and if they do, to ensure that they face justice for it. I, for one, intend to make our lawmakers try.

TERF COGIATI

This is taken from a series of questions posted on Twitter by a notoriously nasty transphobe in December 2014. I called it TERF COGIATI after the COGIATI test. If you’re not familiar with COGIATI, it was a thing that was doing the rounds back when I transitioned, and is basically a piece of pseudoscience pretend psychology that is supposed to “assist” in determining if you are a trans woman. You can take it here if you like, but it’s minutes of your life you’ll never get back.

I think the comparison is apt, as the questions below seem to be motivated by this transphobic individual thinking they have a unique insight into what makes trans women tick. Like COGIATI, it’s a mix of some correlations (lots of trans women do have a STEM background, for example), some gender stereotyping (assuming you want to wear high heels), and some outright bizarre conjecture (is pregnancy like pizza delivery, what?)

Some of the questions are clearly digs at specific people; “subtweets”, if you will.

The test is, of course, entirely spurious. I got 5 “yes” answers of 51 questions when I took it and I’m a long term transitioned trans woman who had SRS years ago. You should be aware that this is probably designed to make you feel bad about yourself if you are a trans woman, and it contains some pretty nasty stuff. I reiterate, these questions are designed to hurt you.

I copied most of them verbatim from Twitter. Two had references to specific people, which I removed (the questions remain, they just don’t reference people any more). A couple more I corrected typos on. Apart from that, it’s a direct copy and paste.

Here’s what the nasty transphobe who came up with this “test” says about how it works:

“Transgender means anything anyone wants it to, but the key is that everyone understand how oppressed heterosexual white male perverts are. Maybe you are a transwoman and don’t know it. Could you be a transwoman? Take the following test. Assign yourself one point for every correct answer. “

I think trans women are supposed to answer “yes” to lots of them, but I answered yes to fewer than 10%. See how you do:

  1. Do you enjoy pornography?
  2. Do you work as an IT professional?
  3. Do you have a profile on FetLife?
  4. Is prostitution a rewarding career option?
  5. Do women really “have it all”?
  6. Are flaming homos and butch dykes kind of gross?
  7. Is “privilege” an opt-into opt-out option?
  8. Are feminists whiney bitches?
  9. Do you celebrate the cultural subordination rituals (“femininity”) that are forced onto females?
  10. Do you understand Feminism in a way women never could?
  11. Do lesbians offend you by excluding males?
  12. Does the thought of being mistaken for a gay man anger you?
  13. Are women monsters (or uppity bitches) for having women-only events?
  14. Do women have no right to speak on the topic of gender?
  15. Do you wish women would be silent in general, and exist only to serve you?
  16. Did you steal your sister or mother’s underwear and masturbate while wearing it?
  17. Were you always seen as that scary asocial misfit loser guy?
  18. Does it anger you when women hold you at a distance socially?
  19. Have you always known you were very angry for some reason and it was women’s fault somehow?
  20. Can you “do woman” better than most women, who take things for granted?
  21. Do you have a successful STEM career?
  22. Do you spend a lot of time online?
  23. Are you a computer gamer? On World of Warcraft? Second Life? League of Legends? Pokemon?
  24. Long time Dungeons and Dragons shaman of undecided loyalty? Or whatever the fuck?
  25. Does it make you angry when women and children fear you?
  26. Do you want to be pretty?
  27. Do you have a tumblr page that exhibits your hobby of having a staple gun applied to yourself because BDSM?
  28. Does it “make you” want to kill yourself when women don’t do what you want them to? Or think what you want them to think?
  29. Is a penis a big ‘ole sperm ejaculating clitoris?
  30. Is the experience of pregnancy akin to waiting for pizza delivery?
  31. Does “brain sex” make the women-brained enjoy wearing stilletos?
  32. Does “brain sex” make women smile more?
  33. Do you get an erection when a store clerk accidentally calls you “Madam”?
  34. Are you “gender critical” enough for libfem handmaid approval but decry actual Lesbian Feminists as “extremists”.
  35. Do you call yourself a male radical feminist and teach women’s studies?
  36. Did you used to post on PUA boards?
  37. Do you, or have you ever, partaken of an anime avatar?
  38. Have you been in the military?
  39. Have you attended a male-only educational facility?
  40. Have you been in prison?
  41. Do you own more than three firearms?
  42. Do you feel you are destined for “greatness” if you could only break “out of your shell”?
  43. Are you ready to run for an elected office?
  44. Have you considered the windfall of a gender identity related disability claim?
  45. Got what it takes to run your own, solo, self-established activist org?
  46. Dreaming of making that Lee Press-On Lesbian Porn Lifestyle a reality?
  47. Tired of no one noticing what a Special Person you are?
  48. Looking for a “do-over”?
  49. Do you have a phoenix or butterfly tattoo?
  50. Pleasure yourself by wearing “ladies panties” under your uniform at work?
  51. Are you an identical twin?

The Privilege Denier’s Diversity Monitoring Form

If you are one of those people who have scoffed at the idea of words and phrases like “cis”, “TAB” (Temporarily Able Bodied) and “Neurotypical” when really you just want to describe yourself as plain old normal, then I have created a diversity monitoring form just for you! Enjoy!

Sarah’s Diversity Monitoring Form for Normal people

Question 1: Eye colour
Blue
Green
Normal

Question 2: Age
0-9
10-19
Normal
50+

Question 3: Sex
Male
Normal

Question 4: Religion
Practising Christian
Normal

Question 5: Hair Colour
Blue Rinse
Normal

Question 6: Relationship Status
Married and Monogamous
Normal

Question 6: Ethnicity
White British
Normal

Question 7: Voting intention (optional)
UKIP
Conservative
Normal



Thanks for taking the time to fill this in!

My Speech to the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference, 2014, on Sex Work and the Nordic Model

The Liberal Democrat autumn conference debated a motion calling for further decriminalisation of sex work, and condemning the so-called Nordic Model, which criminalises the purchase of sexual services by making it a criminal offence to buy sex, but not to sell it. This has caused significant controversy amongst sex workers, with evidence that this “partial prohibition” model does nothing to help keep sex workers safe, and just further stigmatises the practice aqnd drives it underground.

Still, the Nordic Model is very popular amongst certain whorephobic radical feminists, who promote it as a way of “ending demand”, while pretending it doesn’t place women in harms way (it does).

A number of what I consider to be wrecking amendments were submitted, to remove the language condemning the Nordic Model included in the motion. I putt in a card tho speak against these wrecking amendments, and was lucky enough tone called to speak. Here is what I said:

Conference, we’ve heard a lot of people talking about sex workers today. I wonder how many of those seeking to weaken this motion actually talk to sex workers? I am proud to count sex workers amongst my friends. I am privileged to have some of my friends share their thoughts, their hopes, and their fears with me.

One thing, conference, they consistently fear is the Nordic Model.

The Nordic Model, supposedly criminalizing clients but not workers, is profoundly illiberal. It is profoundly damaging. Make no mistake, it is a model of prohibition. It criminalises an activity between consenting adults that is legal as long as no money changes hands. Since when are we about telling consenting adults what they can and can’t do with their own lives? Since when are we about telling consenting adults how thy manage their sex lives?

The Nordic Model is illiberal, and it also puts sex workers in danger. Supporters of the Nordic model claim sex work has decreased, but these claims are often based on sex workers coming forward voluntarily to speak to social workers and the police. My friends don’t trust the police. They don’t trust social workers. They say they’d trust them even less with the Nordic model. What they would do is be driven underground.

Don’t take my word for it. Research recently published in the BMJ concluded that, and I quote:

“These findings suggest that criminalisation and policing strategies that target clients reproduce the harms created by the criminalisation of sex work”, there is no difference between the Nordic Model and criminalisation. “In particular, vulnerability to violence and HIV/STIs.”

Conference. We need to stop talking at sex workers. We should stop telling them how to live their lives. We should stop passing laws that get them hurt and killed.

I want to finish with the words of one of my friends. She asked me to say the following about the Nordic Model.

“It doesn’t work. It was intended to make sex work so dangerous women wouldn’t do it. It is not about safety. It is ideological.”

Thank you.

In the event, the motion passed unamended, with overwhelming support. This marks a party of government taking a stand for sex worker safety, and for the rejection of the prohibitionist Nordic Model, and the injustice and violence against sex workers which accompany it.

The speech was also recorded on video, where you can observe me giving it on a bad hair day:

On Withholding NHS Treatment From The “Undeserving”

The headline from the Daily Star

The headline from the Daily Star

This morning I was invited onto the Nick Ferrari show on London’s LBC Radio to talk about the case of someone who transitioned from male to female and wants to transition back again.

The story is rather sensationalist, and I wonder how much of it is journalistic licence (in my experience dealing with the press, entire stories can be). For example, the story suggests part of their reasoning is that heels and makeup are too much like hard work. The obvious response is “don’t wear them then”, but the subtext is clear: this person is, it is suggested, the author of their own misfortune and we as a society should not spend public money helping them out.

This theme was also explored in the radio show by Nick Ferrari, who, I think it’s fair to say, takes a rather right wing approach to social issues. He asked me how many cancer surgeries could be paid for for the cost of the bilateral mastectomy this person wants.

Actually none; bilateral mastectomies are relatively cheap operations and cancer surgery tends to be much more expensive, but that’s not really the point. Sometimes people make life decisions that with hindsight they wouldn’t have made, and get themselves into difficulty as a result. Helping them out is part of the quid pro quo of civilisation.

Perhaps Nick was playing Devil’s advocate, perhaps not, but I suspect many of his listeners would take the view that this person brought their misfortune on themselves and that we should abandon them to that misfortune, and save the money to spend on cancer treatment instead.

I would simply ask anyone taking that view the following question:

Do you walk less than 3 miles a day, every day? Do you ever eat fast food? Do you ever drink sweetened drinks? Alcohol? Do you ever smoke? Do you sometimes go out in the sun without sunscreen?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then consider that these are all risk factors in causing cancer, and if you ever find yourself needing that cancer treatment you are happy to use as an excuse to be crappy to one person wanting their medical transition reversed, understand that you are a raging hypocrite.

Understand also that if you get the sort of society you want, someone might just decide that you are the author of your misfortune, and leave you to die in agony because you “brought it on yourself”.

Be very careful what you wish for.

My Thoughts on the Block Bot, as a User and a Member of the Blocking Team

I was recently contacted by an American journalist, keen to speak with someone involved “at the coal face”, as it were, of Twitter’s block bot, both as a user of the tool and as a member of the blocking team, which I now am.

For those unfamiliar with it, the Block Bot is a crowd sourced tool that will, if you allow it to, block a list of people on twitter. These are divided into three categories – level 1 for people who should probably be banned if Twitter’s abuse process worked correctly, level 2 for people who are generally abusive but it’s not their raison d’être, and level 3 for people who show abusive behaviour through ignorance or refusal to acknowledge their own privilege in ways that cause distress to marginalised groups.

It won’t block anyone you already follow, and the list is crowd sourced, peer-reviewed and constantly being examined to ensure people are placed correctly. If adding someone to the list would prove controversial amongst the bot’s users for some reason, they are generally not added.

Anyway, here’s what I said to the journalist (fixed a couple of grammatical errors).

As a somewhat visible trans woman, being for a few years the only openly trans elected politician in the UK (Im not currently serving), and a somewhat outspoken one on issues of trans equality, I have attracted a lot of attention, and some of it has been quite negative.

In February to May of this year, I was subject to an offline harassment campaign where numerous people made vexatious complaints to my party, and to my council, all of which were dismissed, but which had a very negative toll on my mental health, requiring me to take antidepressants and tranquillisers for some time. The harassers were openly discussing their campaign on Twitter, and the people involved continue to try and attract my attention, and engage in the technique known as gaslighting and getting under my skin in other ways. Some of them even turned up to picket London DykeMarch in June because I was one of the podium speakers. It gets a bit much when social media bullies start turning up to events one is at to harass!

Unusually, compared to the harassment most women experience on social media, where the perpetrators are men, the perpetrators of the transphobic harassment I’ve been experiencing have been mostly (but not exclusively) women.

I blocked most of them manually, but a common technique of harassers is to create new accounts and try again from there, so it was difficult to keep up, and the ones that got through were often very distressing. I can sometimes look at what these people are saying, as long as it’s on my own terms, and when I’m able to walk away, but to have them impose themselves, when I may be having a bad day or whatever, is not good.

I signed up for the blockbot, after being sceptical of it for some time, but found that the blockers, most of whom are women, are generally sympathetic to the harassment transgender women face from the transphobic fringes of the feminist movement. As a result the bot was a good match, and I increasingly discovered, some time after the fact, that people had been trying to harass me and the bot had already blocked them for me.

My mental health is much better now. Some of that is because I’m no longer in office and face less stress generally, but undoubtedly some of it is not having to deal with constant harassment, or exposed to constant microaggressions associated with being a member of a minority community (people persisting in those tend to get blocked too, but at a lower severity level – you choose which severity level you sign up to). I have since joined the team of people who maintain the block list and decide when to add new blocks, and they’re a great bunch of people.

I know the idea of a block bot is proving very controversial in some quarters, but I don’t hesitate to recommend it now. It has played a significant part in keeping Twitter as a usable platform for me, and I can only see that as a good thing.