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In late 2015, my teenage daughter Jessie declared she was transgender and the experience tugged us into a rabbit hole of Orwellian double-speak and general insanity. I read so much during that time and it was such a vast learning curve that I felt compelled to bring all the threads together in an article. I was especially struck by the exponential surge in the number of teenage girls who were ‘identifying’ as boys, usually young lesbians and usually after lengthy sessions on social media.
After Jessie desisted, I wanted to share what I’d read as well as what I’d learned and eventually I finished writing an article which contained over 100 links. Jessie added a short postscript of her own and I was delighted when 4thwavenow published it in December 2016 under the title ‘A Mum’s Voyage Through Transtopia – a tale of love and desistance’.
Before you ask me any questions; before you critcise or praise my stance on transitioning kids, or the appropriation of womanhood by men, please read that. It’s where it all began.
After Jessie re-realised she was a girl and things settled down at home, I expected to put my time in Transtopia behind me and move on. Instead I became more fascinated- and angry- with the culture of misogyny and homophobia which underlies transgender theory.
For without stereotypes there can be no ‘brave transgender children’. Without the dolls and the pink tutus, a love of glitter, a gentle nature and a will to dance, what could possibly make girls of the little boys of ‘My Transgender Summer Camp’? What other than her love of Batman, karate and jumping around could make that short-haired, fierce little girl into a boy trapped in a female body? A feeling? How does a boy feel? How does a girl feel?
Without sexism, there can be no transgenderism. Without the idea that there is a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ way to be a boy or a girl there would be no need to beguile and medicate these kids in an attempt to make them ‘fit in’. Our current culture of blind affirmation is not doing anyone any favours. It is nothing short of abusive to tell a child that they are ‘wrong’, that they have been ‘born in the wrong body’ or that medication and surgery can make them into the opposite sex. Affirming a trans-identified child- and many of these kids are LGB, autistic, have suffered trauma, abuse or loss, or have co-existing mental health issues- is to set them down a path to becoming a life-long medical patient.
This first step down this pathway begins with agreeing with a confused girl that she is a boy. 21st century kids who undergo social transition young frequently progress to puberty blockers. Children given puberty blockers almost always go one to take cross sex hormones. This combination leaves a child sterile and without sexual function.
What would have happened if I had affirmed my child when she told me she was a boy?
I would have called her by her new name and ‘he/him’ pronouns.
This would have told her that I believed she was not a girl, that I thought she had been ‘born wrong’ and needed fixing in order to be her ‘authentic’ self. It would also have affirmed her delusion, every day.
I would have paid for her to see a private therapist.
Most private therapists will tell you trans-identified children become suicidal if not transitioned. The reality is, there is no data to support the idea that they are more at risk than any other child being seen under child mental health services.
I would have accessed my child cross-sex hormones.
Don’t believe those who tell you about lengthy waiting lists. If you are broke and follow the NHS route, yes. If you’ve got a couple of hundred quid spare, you can get hormones for your child quickly and easily. Gender GP is just one of the services that has prescribed testosterone for girls as young as twelve. Before we jump to blame the parents, consider: is it any wonder parents resort to this when they’ve been told their child may kill themselves otherwise?
Girls on testosterone often develop acne and male pattern baldness. They grow beards. The beards, baldness and deepened voice are irreversible. They are also at higher risk of heart attack and other diseased and illnesses. Most doctors recommend a hysterectomy within 5 years of being on testosterone.
Top surgery would be next.
Why wouldn’t it be? By this point everyone would have been using my child’s new name and pronouns. Everyone would be agreeing with her that she was a boy. She would probably be using a binder, with all the health risks that entails. It would seem like natural progression to have an elective double mastectomy. In the USA, girls as young as 13 have undergone this procedure.
She might have chosen to go on to have phalloplasty, where the skin of the arm is stripped to form a tube of flesh that’s attached between the legs. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong with this procedure.
And there we would have it.
My dysphoric child would have been left dependent on drugs and the affirmation of others to maintain this illusion for the rest of her life. And you know what? She could still never be a man.
I had to check my diary to remind myself when the last protest outside the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) had taken place. It was then I had last seen the ‘No Men in Women’s Prisons’ banner that I’d originally made for the Downview protest back in 2019.
My diary revealed that it took place in February earlier this year. It seemed more recent, I reflected, as I pulled things off shelves and out of cupboards, trying to remember where the hell I’d put the banner. I found quite a few things I didn’t know I’d lost- including a giant inflatable snowman and half a box of Hot Tamales– but by 2am I still hadn’t found it.
“I’ll sleep on it,” I thought, absent-mindedly devouring the slightly sticky Tamales, and lo and behold the magic worked and I found it within ten minutes the next morning. In one of the first places I’d looked for it. Obviously.
The banner was really creased, having crouched squashed under a pile of canvas for several months. A creased banner doesn’t photograph well, and I knew that not only would we be taking photos ourselves but press photographer Colin from CDF Images was coming down from Glasgow.
I sighed. I knew what had to be done. Luckily I was able to take a deep breath, establish myself firmly in girl mode and break out the iron. As you can see here in Colin’s photo, the banner ended up looking great.
Thank goodness for girl mode.
The protest was arranged by Keep Prisons Single Sex, for Saturday 12th November 2022 and we were meeting outside the MOJ at 12.30pm for speeches, chanting and songs. Four speakers were lined up:
Kate Coleman, founder and Director of Keep Prisons Single Sex
Joan Smith, writer and human rights activist, former chair of the Writers in Prison committee
Meeting at the Ministry
The crowd at the February protest
In February this year, at the original protest outside the MOJ, around 180 people turned up. About a third of that number gathered outside the Ministry of Justice at 12.30 on 12th November.
Sadly DJ Lippy and Aja were unable to come along, likewise a few other familiar faces had gone down with Covid or other seasonal ills. Others had transport issues and fewer people came from out of town. At the last protests, a few groups of women had come on train or by coach from Scotland and Manchester. This time most of those attending were London based, with the exception of the amazing Jen Critical, who had travelled down from the windswept North.
Some of us arrived early, bringing banners and placards and flasks of coffee, the stewards sporting yellow HiViz jackets with KPSS printed on the back.
Winter still hasn’t really arrived in London, it felt like an early autumn day, crisp and sternly sunny. As I queued for a quick coffee in the Costa outside St James Park Station I reflected on some of the more infamous men to be placed in the female estate.
We’re just going to have a look at two of them here: David Thompson (convicted 2018) and John Steven Dixon (convicted 2022) – aka Karen White and Sally Ann Dixon.
David Thompson aka Karen White
The original case that pushed the issue into the public eye was that of ‘Karen White’.
In 2018 rapist and paedophile David Thompson aka Karen White, (a man with a penis) was convicted of sexually assaulting two inmates while on remand at HMP New Hall, a women’s prison. For the few who remain unaware of this case, you can read more about it here.
The incident was not isolated: reports suggest that almost half the trans-identified men in prison have convictions for sex offences. In 2020 it was revelaed that at least seven attacks had taken place within the female estate.
Those were the ones that were reported.
In January 2022, a woman who had been sexually assaulted by White on several occassions, spoke to the Daily Mail about her experience and the incident was once again brought to public attention.
White told Cheryle Kempton he was hiding his hormone medication in order to recover his sex drive. He assaulted her on several occassions. In difference incidents, he asked her to perform a sex act, groped her breast, rubbed himself up against her, and grabbed her hand and put it on his crotch. Cheryle also told the Mail that White had tried to ‘force himself’ on another inmate but luckily another prisoner had walked in and managed to pull White off.
“All her (sic) conversations were about sex. I felt vulnerable and uncomfortable in her (sic) presence.” reported Kempton. “And we all felt like that, even the toughest of us.”
When the case was made public, government ministers rushed to assure women that changes would be made and this would not be allowed to happen in future.
So have things changed since a paedophile and serial rapist was enabled to sexually assault women while incarcerated in a women’s prison? I asked Kate Coleman of KPSS.
“After Karen White, they made it harder for non-GRC holders to get into the female estate and the policy put in place meant that initial allocation for non-GRC holders would be to the male estate.” explained Kate.
“However this year’s allocation of Sally Ann Dixon to the female estate shows that the policy can still permit a man convicted of prolific and serious child sexual offences to be held in a women’s prison, even without a GRC.”
John Stephen ‘Sally Ann’ Dixon
One might think, after the Karen White case, that ministers would be careful to ensure women in their care were kept safe but posh boys like Sunak and Lewis can be slow learners too, and it appears they have learned nothing from past mistakes.
Twice-married (to women) John Stephen Dixon was born in 1963 and began identifying as a woman in 2004. In September 2022 he was convicted of 30 sexual offences against seven children, committed between 1989-96, and he was sent to prison for twenty years. Throughout the trial, the prosecutor “referred to Dixon by the male pronoun when alluding to the sex offences — without any objection from the defence.”
“However, when Dixon was found guilty, she (sic) was sentenced as a woman and sent to a female prison.”reported the Daily Mail.
This was despite 58 year old Dixon neither being a woman nor having a Gender Recognition Certificate. Within weeks it was reported that he had been moved to a different wing after starting a sexual relationship with a vulnerable young woman who has learning difficulties. It seems that no lessons have been learned from the Karen White case. Visual and vocal protests against the placement of men- whether violent sexual predators or not- in women’s prisons are needed more than ever.
Reporting on the case was confusing to say the least. The Portsmouth News went with the rather surreal and clunky “Leigh Park woman jailed for child abuse carried out when she was a man,’ as if it had all been a rather awkward midsunderstanding for poor old Sally Ann.
Sussex World‘s headline simply stated a lie: ‘Woman jailed for sexual offences against children in Bexhill and Crawley’.
The damage done
We must not underestimate the damage done to women by journalism like this. Not just to women in prison, but to women everywhere. There is a recent trend in claims that women are frequently guilty of child sex offences and sexual assaults against men. Such offences are rare but the myth is perpetuated by reporting like this.
When it is reported that a woman has raped somebody, sexually assaulted somebody, exposed herself, or been found with child and animal porn on her computer – it will almost always turn out to be a man. It is so incredibly rare that women do these things that such reporting makes a huge change to the public perception of women’s offences.
Anyone glancing over the headlines will be furnished with a lie. A woman did not take those photos; did not abuse those children. It is also an insult to the victims, who no doubt are very aware of the sex of the person who abused them.
The clownshow better known as Sussex Police had a stern reprimand for those on Twitter who objected to Dixon being referred to as a woman on their website and in press reports. Leaping bravely to the paedophile’s defence, they tweeted more than once:
“Hi, Sussex Policedonottolerate any hateful comments towards their gender identity regardless of crimes committed. This is irrelevant to the crime that has been committed and investigated. Sussex Police”
The tweets were later deleted.
So while one might think that the arrival of the fragrant Sally Ann on the scene would have spurred people into action, we had far fewer people attend this protest than the one earlier in the year. Which leads me to wonder: has the public become jaded by all this already? Perhaps people beleive things have changed for the better since the protest in February this year? Or are we now just accepting that the placement of men in women’s prisons is ‘unfortunate but necessary’?
Have we made any steps in the right direction politically? So many questions! I asked Kate for her opinion.
“There have been 2 ministerial statements,” she told me. “The first was issued by Dominic Raab in August, after the Tory leadership contest had started. The statement said that some groups of male offenders would need ministerial sign off before an allocation to the female estate would be approved. Rishi Sunak immediately endorsed the policy stating that his government would commit to it.
Then Brandon Lewis said that male sexual offenders would not be housed in the female estate and more use would be made of separate specialist units. Now Raab is back and we assume there will be a variation of the ministerial sign off but we will need to see how it pans out. MoJ policy is still under review: I expect we willl see the release of the new version at the beginning of next year.”
Kate is cautiously optimistic that there may be a shift for the better in policy.
In October, Lewis told Conservative party delegates:
“It cannot be right that transgender prisoners, when convicted of serious sexual offences or those who have not had reassignment surgery, are housed in a general women’s estate. This will end – we have a duty of care to all those behind bars. One case of a sex attack or an inappropriate relationship formed with a female prisoner by a transgender inmate is one too many and we’ve had too many in recent years.’
Of course, it is possible to take from this that a man who has had his penis removed and who has committed a minor sexual offence will still be housed in the female estate. This is stuill unacceptable: no male prisoner should be housedf in the female estate because it is the female estate. My position- which I know is not shared by everyone – is that the GRA should be repealed and no man should be considered a woman for legal or social purposes under any circumstances. I am on the fence corncerning men working in women’s prisons. A close relative of mine taught in a women’s prison. After he died one of the women wrote in the remembrance book, “you were the first man to restore my faith in men”. Another wrote, “thank you for being such a gentle role model for the women at [name of prison]”. I believe there is a place for men teaching in women’s prisons but I know many who would disagree with me. What I would expect us all to be able to agree on is that there is no place for convicted rapists in women’s prisons.
But I digress again. Where were we? I was grabbing a quick coffee before the protest began, golden leaves shot through with autumn sunshine falling on the cold stone pavement, yada yada. It really was a beautiful autumn afternoon.
Most people had arrived by 12.30pm, placards and banners were unpacked and unfurled and the chanting started. I snapped some photos on my phone.
Some women positioned themselves outside St James Park tube station, handed out leaflets and started discussions with passers by. There were no counter-protestors, which is hardly surprising:.“Male paedophiles & rapists should be put in prison with women” is hardly a chant designed to capture the zeitgeist.
It was just after 12.30 so we began with some chanting to attract the attention of passers by and get us ready for the speeches.
“No males in female jails!”
“Keep prisons single sex!”
“No men in women’s prisons!”
“Women are not human shields!”
The first speaker was Kate Coleman of Keep Prisons Single Sex.
“Thank you for coming along to support women in prison – a group that genuinely is amongst the most vulnerable, marginalised and at risk groups in society,” began Kate.
She thanked those who had attended protests past and present and spoke about the recent case of a trans-identified man in a women’s prison who got a young woman drunk on illicit homebrew before having sex with her. He is still being housed in a women’s prison.
“If risk assessment permits this, the risk assessment is not fit for purpose.”
“The Ministry of Justice claims that men – and I will call them men, because men is who they are – are only ever housed in a woman’s prison if a thorough process of risk assessment shows that it is safe to do so. At the same time, men with intact male genitalia who have been convicted of the most serious, violent, sexual offences against women and children have passed this process and been risk assessed as ‘safe’. This is a nonsense and, frankly, an obscenity.”
Kate acknowledged that she hopes things will change for the better.
“… as dire as the situation continues to be, there is movement. Ministers now agree that the current policies are not keeping women in prison safe. They agree that something must change… There is a clear desire at the highest levels for movement in the right direction. We must keep on pushing.What we do works. We know our voice is being heard. So let’s keep it up!”
“Some say the campaign to stop men being imprisoned in women’s prisons is a distraction from the real issues of prison reform, problems like self-harm, suicide and violence, problems like mothers being separated from their children; problems like appalling living conditions; problems like the failure of prisons to reform prisoners. Given these big challenges, the argument is that to focus on a very few number of men who are imprisoned in women’s prisons is a bit of a distraction, almost irrelevant.
Well, I think it’s true is clear from those who are here today, that there are many who think it’s highly relevant.”
Garside stressed the importance of being able to define what a woman is in order to be address the issues that affect women in prison. Currently, he said, men’s prisons are single-sex institutions and women’s prisons are mixed sex. This ‘places the claims and demands of male prisoners beyond the needs of women’s prisoners’.
Women’s prisons should be single sex, not just to give women privacy and dignity but also “… to help prevent unplanned pregnancies for example, regardless of the concensual nature of the sexual activity: to protect women from sexual violence by men, or at least to reduce the risk of sexual violence by men- because let’s remember, there are also male prison officers in women’s prisons- to give women privacy and dignity in what is a very traumatic and difficult set of institutions. To ensure that women who’ve been traumatised by male violence are not re-traumatised by being asked to share their spaces with men.”
The prison system was created by men to contain “males who are violent, unruly and disruptive. They were never designed to hold women.”
He concluded with a call for the abolition of women’s prisons altogether, which I wasn’t expecting.
“There is no need actually to imprison any woman in this country. So alongside the demand of keeping prison single sex ,we also need to be clear that we shouldn’t have women in women’s prisons either. We should close them all down.”
Rebekah, speaking as a woman who has experienced the prison system as an inmate, began by pointing out some differences surrounding the reasons why men and women find themeselves in prison.
Women represent just 4-5% of the entire prison population in the UK and women are imprisoned overwhelmingly for non violent offences.
“Over half of all prosecutions are for motoring offences. TV licence evasion and shoplifting are the 2nd and 3rd most common crimes women serve custodial sentences for. Women in prison are there because they’ve committed crimes as a result of poverty, destitution and desperation. We steal to feed and clothe our children. We push TV licensing down huge lists of priorities and we are penalised incredibly harshly for it.
Women are not drawn to crime – we represent just under 15% of all arrests…the demographic of female prisoners paints a woeful picture of marginalised, vulnerable women that have been pushed past their limits. I know this because I was one of those women, and called others friends while I was housed with them.”
95% of violent crime is committed by men and 40% of their convictions for violence are for crimes against women. Rebekah spoke of the women she encountered in prison who had been convicted of murder.
” I can’t speak for every murderer in the prison system of course but every last one of those women – who again, I counted as my friends – were there because they’d killed their male abusers, after months and years of rape, torment and violence. Every. Last. One.”
Almost half of men’s violent crimes against women are sex offences.
“18% of men in prison in the UK are there for serious sex offences… of this 18% of rapists and paedophiles, guess what? Half of them say they’re women, and they’re routinely moved to the women’s estate, penis and all.”
Assaults against women by men placed in the female estate can and have happened, so why do men continue to be placed in women’s prisons by policy makers who are more scared of being branded ‘transphobic’ than perotecting the women in their care?
“WHY should a woman serving a short sentence for failure to pay parking tickets have to accept intimidation and terror as part of her already disproportionate punishment? WHY should an 18 year old girl on remand for shoplifting expect the potential for rape and assault by a man in a wig during her stint?” WHY do these questions even need to be asked?”
Asserting again that ‘men and women are different’ Rebekah conclude that women ‘are having our reputations dragged through the mire by the men who would wear our skin. These are not our crimes, and our prisons are no place for these revolting, duplicitous men. We will not stop shouting about this until every last one of these deviants is identified and returned back to the male estate where they belong.”
Joan Smith has been writing about violence against women since 1989 and finds it hard to believe that even now our criminal justice system is failing women ‘across the board’, refering to the fact that just 1.5% of rapes end in a conviction.
“We imprison women who are themselves victims of that system,” she observed, noting that “most women in prison are victims of repeated domestic and sexual violence. Over half of them have head injuries, they have traumatic brain injuries and we lock them up. And then we allow men into those prisons: the very people that they’re afraid of- the people who have abused them.”
Joan criticised the ‘be kind’ message which is directed almost entirely at women and girls, asking rhetorically, “What about women? What about being kind to women? What about being kind to women who have been raped? What about being kind to women who’ve suffered years and years of sexual and domestic abuse, and then they’re locked up and they’re told that they have to share with these violent men?”
What if, she speculates, Sarah Everard’s murderer, ex-police officer Wayne Cousins, suddenly identified as a woman and didn’t feel ‘safe’ in the male estate? Would he be put in a women’s jail?
Joan concluded, “I do think that this is part of a wider misogyny and that we have to fight both for the rights of women in prison and for the rights of women who are themselves victims of crime and they are often the same people.”
Testimonies from female prisoners
Finally, Maggie, a prison volunteer, read us out some testimonies from prisoners, women who had been affected by the placing of men in women’s prisons.
After the speeches, Jen led everyone in singing ‘Something Inside So Strong’ and “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar’ before treating us to a pre-release rendition of her new song, ‘Don’t Call Me Cis’. Many of the protestors joined in with the first songs, singing and swaying to the music.
After the songs, we wound things up. Some went to sit in nearby St James Park, others retired to a nearby pub, some headed home to walk dogs, go to work or collect children. As we pacxked up, I spoke to some of the women and asked their reasons for coming here today.
“… I couldn’t believe that society was that cruel that they would put rapists and sex offenders in with women. I’ve listened to women speak about being in prison and heard them talk about the vile things shouted at them by AGPS in their wing. I don’t think women should encounter this. If you’ve committed a crime, punishment is what happens, but you should have dignity, you should be safe and you shouldn’t feel threat in your environment. I feel really stringly about this.”
“The situation in women’s prisons is what really got me involved in all this in the first place. I don’t see how anyone with an ounce of compassion can think it’s okay for a woman prisoner- who is likely to have already been sexually abused- to be locked up with a rapist.”
“I think I’m actually quoting Kate (Coleman) if I say these are invisible women, you know we can physically see the harm that is being caused by the trans movement towards women in general, but women in jail you can’t, so I think it’s even more important to support them more than anything.”
“I’m here because women in prison are some of the most vulnerable in our society and what is happening is an outrageous injustice which everyone should be protesting.”
“When I was six I learned that men can do what they want to you and if you say no it doesn’t matter. And now I’m thirty one I refuse to stand by and let other people get raped and be told ‘deal with it’. Men shouldn’t be in women’s prisons.”
“I’ve been handing out leaflets and pretty much 99% of people I’ve handed a leaflet to have also agreed that it’s unbelievable that men are put in female prisons, whether they identify- I don’t know – as a brush? – or a woman. Many of these men are in prison because of sexual assault, rape or paedophilia… these women should not be used as human shields to indulge men’s fetishes.”
“Some of these women have had awful lives and men have done terrible things to them. And now men come into their prisons, dressing up like being a woman is some sort of game they can play, for fun and kicks. This is like some kind of sick joke, you could almost make a Black Mirror episode out of it.”
“We are supposedly a humane society so surely we have a duty to protect women in prison. What is our government thinking, I mean really what is it thinking, to be putting rapists and paedophiles in prison with women? We know they know what is happening, we know they know women are being assaulted and intimidated by these men, it’s been in all the papers so why aren’t they stopping it? Why haven’t they stopped it already?”
Ridiculous men in dresses, calling themselves women – how we love to praise them!
Handmaidens applauding left, right and centre, potential Prime Ministers who can’t even spit out a description of ‘woman’, politicians who ‘see people’s souls’. So perhaps it should come as no surpise that everyone’s favourite girly girl aka Eddie Izzard is wanting to move into a career in politics, running for parliament as MP for Sheffield Central. The October press was all over this, unctuously declaring its support and- always, always- referring to this parody of womanhood as ‘she’. Kellie-Jay Keen (aka Posie Parker) has said she will stand against him. Now, if that happens, I’ll be getting the popcorn out.
Keir Starmer (leader of the opposition) whose thoughts on being a woman stretch to ‘for 99% of women it’s a matter of biology’ recently refused to say whether Izzard would qualify for an all-women shortlist. Labour MP Rosie Duffield- who actually is both stunning and brave- had already announced, “I’m absolutely not the only Labour woman MP who will leave the party if Eddie Izzard gets on to an all-women shortlist.”
Eddie has revealed that he will not be applying. Not because for a man to do so would be completely fucking unreasonable and absurd but ‘because,’ he tells the Grauniad, with a stunning lack of self awareness, ‘I’m gender fluid’.
If Eddie is successful, he should feel right at home with the gaggle of fawning parliamentarians who profess to be unable to define what a woman is. It’s enough to make you sick all over your sexy summer wardrobe.
Back In August, Izzard was photographed out and about wearing a pretty little Zara dress, spun in lightweight pink and white cotton and sporting a button front and very short hemline. The press informed us that Izzard was ‘rocking’ the £32.99 dress, which I have to say left a lot of us feeling somewhat incredulous. I am a similar age to Monseigneur Izzard, although with a (slightly) less expansive waistline and I can only think that Zara must have changed their sizing policy since the last time I was in there: I’ve never found a Zara dress I could comfortably pour myself into. Which might explain why Monsigneur Izzard went for the clingy look.
As fashionista Twist says to Marsha in Spaced, “I can really see what you were trying to do there.”
No, I’m not being very gracious. Eddie has no more of a gut than many men his age. Why shouldn’t he wear a dress? Yada yada.
Let’s not forget that until a recently as 2015, Izzard was very clear that wearing a dress didn’t make you a woman. My issue is with the fact that now he does. And with the fact that he can go out looking a right state in a dress that doesn’t fit and everyone gushes about how great he looks.
This does not happen to women.
“You can’t wear that!”
We have so very many double standards for men and women & they seems to prevail even when those men are claiming to be women. Men’s weight is rarely commented on in the media. If a female celebrity Izzard’s size had squeezed herself into that dress I’m pretty sure the press would have been screaming ‘woman looks fat! Is she pregnant? Fashion faux pas for feisty fifty-something!’ Etc etc…
While Izzard was ‘ready for summer’ and ‘giving off summer vibes’, when Queen Letizia of Spain wore the same dress she came in for criticism. It was obviously impossible to infer that she was ‘too fat’, instead ‘fans’ (aka the press) speculated as to whether she was ‘too old’ to wear it. Letizia is almost a decade younger than Izzard.
Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where we weren’t judged as ‘too old’ or ‘too fat’ to dress as we liked? Where we could just wear something because we liked it, without judgement? But that isn’t how it works. Men become distinguished, women get old. Men take up space, women are fat. Queen Letizia is seen as getting above herself – whatever is she thinking? Eddie is stunning & brave. Can you guess which is the man? Shhhh. Don’t be a bigot.
Izzard has more important things than sexism on his mind. Himself.
“I’m still gender-fluid.” Izzard told Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year, “I’m still performing male roles in dramas, in boring mode. But stand-up, activism and endurance running are all girl mode.’ “
It’s all very convenient. The term ‘womanface’ is a somewhat controversial one with its close and controversial alliance to ‘blackface’- a major difference being that unlike skincolour, the trappings of femininity can theoretically be discarded by women should they so choose. Izzard however, with his fake breasts and his talk of ‘boy mode’ and ‘girl mode’, clearly sees ‘womanhood’ as a costume, declaring himself to be a woman only when he’s sporting froufrou clothing, heels and a ton of slap. How anyone can view this as anything other than wildly insulting to actual women bemuses me.
But how would we know he was a woman otherwise?
So while Eddie is out and about with his fake tits, his badly-applied foundation and his pregnancy belly let’s have a quick look at what is going on across the pond, where another overweight man is making waves by- you guessed it- covering himself in gawdy clothing and loads of make up and declaring himself a woman.
No, I’m not referring to infamous Canadian Jonathan ‘Jessica’ Yanif, who sued a beautician for refusing to wax his balls and a beauty pageant for refusing him entry. Oh, and pissed off the local firebrigade by repeatedly calling them to hoist him out of the bath. Yanif eventually caused red flags to be raised after speculating about showing 12 year olds how to use a tampon & posting ‘bathroom selfies’ with schoolgirls in the background. The Yanif story was peak trans for many women. The tale is an incredible one, but you’ve almost certainly heard it before. This isn’t about him.
This is a very different story. It happened just last week in a small town in New Hampshire, with a population of around 35,000.
Meet Brian Nguyen.
Brian has just been crowned Miss Greater Derry 2023.
Brian (she/her/hers) is a 19 year old Freshman at Nashua Community College. Going forward he plans to create ‘sustainable, ethical, and inclusive products such as clothing, cosmetics, and accessories’ and ‘to continue to grow my career in the modeling and social media industry’.
Brian (now pronounced Bree-Ann) has an Instagram account featuring a speech where he talks about fat shaming, leading ‘authentic lives’ and various other bits of bland meaningless feel-good twaddle. An example?
‘I can be proud of myself,’ he declares, ‘because I decided to thrive’.
Brian is a self-described social media influencer with over 50k followers on TikTok where he flicks his hair about, does some little dances and describes himself as a ‘plus model and advocate for marginalised women’.
The irony of the situation is, of course, that a fat woman would not win a beauty pageant, even if she were stereotypically beautiful, because regular pageants are about conforming to certain stereotypes and being overweight is not one of them. A quick Google shows that while there are pageants for ‘curvy girls’ and women with disabilities or medical conditions, hugely overweight women do not win regular pageants or beauty contests.
A fat girl can’t win, but a fat guy? Well hey, why not?
The American pageant scene is very different from the lesser found ‘beauty contests’ of the UK. Some girls undergo training for years to take part and start competing very young. Being a Pageant Queen is highly valued in many places- it looks great on your college application and can even tip the balance on admissions.
When the winner of a pageant is announced, so I am told, it’s traditional for the other contenders to clap and shriek with joy; to act as if they couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome.
As you can see, the young women below comply perfectly and express their delight effusively.
Top: Brian (now pronounced Bree-Ann) wins the Miss Greater Derry pageant. Bottom: stills from Brian’s TikTok.
Brian has a ‘social impact initiative’ #QueensAreEverywhere which aims to “helps the next generation develop self-confidence, realize their potential, and become the leaders of their destiny”. I couldn’t find out anything about it online although, although I did watch a livestream with that hashtag where he talks to another pageant queen and they whoop excitedly over her little dog. Brian now hopes to expand his hashtag into in-person events and appearances.
What of Brian’s social media presence? In one video on tikTok, (lower left above) he struts around in a swimsuit, his objective being to show how he no longer cares if people call him fat or a man. In another video (lower right above) he shares photos of himself before and after make up application, hair brushing and clothing changes.
It’s all very superficial and ‘me, me, me’. One might be forgiven for thinking that Brian’s performance was, well, pretty much that of your average drag queen if it wasn’t for a couple of important points.
The main one – and this he has in common with Eddie- is that for some reason people take him seriously. I’m not talking about his advocacy: the politics of the ‘fat is fun & fab’ movement is a whole other can of worms. I mean that people take him seriously as a woman. They use his preferred pronouns. They are willing, for all intents and purposes, to pretend they think he IS a woman and claim that anyone who doesn’t is a ‘transphobe’.
Hence he describes himself as a ‘trans asian woman of colour’ and nobody bats an eyelid. He claims that he is ‘an advocate for marginalised women’ and that’s just fine and dandy. The adults- because lets face it he is practically a chjild himself- not only let him enter but they let him win a women’s beauty contest! And oh, how perfectly the young women gush & gasp and pretend they are delighted when he is announced the winner! Every one gaslit by gender ideology. It is not reasonable, it is not kind and it most certainly is not fair.
This is where ‘be kind’ has got us. Let’s try ‘be truthful’. The picture below shows a group of tiny, beaming women and girls in skimpy outfits surrounding a chubby bloke in a full length flowing gown, his blokey hands grasping all the prizes.
It takes the absurdity of self-ID to a whole new level. The picture is pure #peaktrans.
We are all expected to pretend we see a woman. But none of us do.
“We know he’s not a woman because if a woman looked like he does she wouldn’t have entered a beauty pageant in the first place.“ observed @CAMOCAT6 on Twitter.
“There are some incredibly beautiful fat women out there who would never enter a beauty competition because they KNOW they haven’t a snowball in hells chance of winning….. But this chancer……” added @Highlandelder
“They (the women) look exactly like kindergarten teachers applauding a child reading a new word in a book. Or sticking tissue paper and googly eyes to a toilet roll.” noted @millicent_pea
“Vacuous tradition that reduces females to their looks now reduces them to cheering on penis-peoples participation yaay” pointed out @emmajohanes3
“And if he was female he wouldn’t even have been chosen to enter. Being overweight and male has never been a barrier to men before so why would anything change now?” observed @thisfemaletruth
“Sadly no women looking like that would have qualified” tweeted @lesleymcdonald“Not only are females being disrespected they have to be seen to be complicit, celebrating their relegation to second, third & unplaced, by an obvious male. As an example of oppression of women it’s up there, and pretty sad.”
But this is about more than the absurdity of a fat bloke winning a beauty pageant and everyone clapping. Because money and prestige are involved.
As @NinoushkaLondon pointed out, “this is not just a ‘beauty pageant’ they award scholarships to the winners. So Brian has just taken a scholarship away from a young woman.”
What’s in it for him?
The Miss Greater Derry Scholarship Program, Inc. has been providing scholarship opportunities to young women in the Greater Derry area since 1987.
A preliminary event to Miss New Hampshire and onwards to Miss America, the pageant’s rather dated website has not been updated since 2017. It does tell us that in 2003 it was the third highest awarding pageant in the United States and that in 2003 it awarded $28,450 in scholarships.
At least seven previous Miss Greater Derry winners have gone on to become Miss New Hampshire. We know that In 2021, the Miss New Hampshire Scholarship Foundation granted $100,000 in scholarships to the 26 contestants who competed after winning their local titles. The winner of the title received $20,000.
These scholarships could make a huge difference to the educational opportunities of some of these young women, especially those from poorer backgrounds.
“Totally sad system that in order to get an education one has to prance in front of people and smile if one is poor“ observed @Tea94852859
Poor or not, and whether you think young women’s pageants are a chance for them to let their inner beauty and skills shine through, or cattle grounds of misogyny and exploitation, surely we should all be able to agree that Brian had no place in this one?
If men are to be allowed to compete, the scholarship program should be throw open to both sexes.
How did he win?
Information given out to contestants for the 2017 pageant read “you will compete in a 10 minute interview, talent presentation (1:30 minutes max), presence and poise in eveningwear, and physical fitness in swimsuit (Miss Division), Fitness (Teen Division). addition, you will be asked one onstage question.”
To win, Brian presumably excelled in each of these categories: articulate in interview, sparklingly talented, composing himself with poise & grace in eveningwear and looking both hot and healthy in swimwear.
There can be no other explanation.
Why does it matter?
Because Brian won, a young woman lost out. She didn’t get to win. She doesn’t get her photo in the paper, she doesn’t get to wear the sash and the tiara. Most importantly, she doesn’t get the financial help for her education which she she worked so hard for, which she rightly deserved and earned. We don’t even know who the real Miss Greater Derry might have been. Want to talk about erasure? There it is, right there.
Miss Greater Derry‘s facebook page is kept up to date. Its profile picture is currently of Brian dwarfing the younger girl who won the junior event. What must have been going through that poor child’s head I can only imagine. She will, of course, have been thoroughly briefed on how to react & advised to keep smiling throughout. After all, it isn’t really about her, is it?
Fatness & Feminism
As Susie Orbach stated back in the 70s, Fat is a Feminist Issue.
While it is true that larger women are getting more representation in the media, they are always young and conventionally pretty. Acceptance of larger women is almost entirely of the ‘hey fatty, you can look sexy too!” kind. Likewise the acceptance of older women in advertising is based almost entirely on the grounds that older women must be slim and conventionally attractive. And larger and older women must be ‘healthy’ of course, mentally and physically, or at least pretending to be.
Men of course, can be pretty much however they want, although they do seem to worry a lot about going bald.
Women definitely can’t be old and fat and plain because the media would have no idea how to depict that as sexy. The idea that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ does not sit well with the media. What value have women if they’re not being at least 2/3 sexy?
Discussing our culture’s perception of overweight women and how they are portrayed may well make us uncomfortable, but it is important that we do it. The darker side of the ‘body positivity’ movement means that often when we try, accusations of ‘fat shaming’ abound. Even overweight women who wish to start a discussion around the issue are accused of having ‘internalised fatphobia’ or being abelist. While a bit of extra body fat protects our organs and keeps us warm, many people now believe that it’s perfectly healthy to be obese.
Weight has become one of those issues where there is a currently prescribed narrative that we are all expected to follow. Currently, we aren’t supposed to criticise the idea of fatness. Avoiding the phrases ‘being fat’ or ‘I’m fat’ makes sense, of course- fat is something that we have, not something that we are. But fat is the problem here and when we circumnavigate the issue by using non-specifc words and euphemisms like ‘larger’ or ‘heavy’ we ignore that. Women are told that they should be both slim and healthy but at the same time believe there is nothing wrong with being obese. Of course some overweight people are healthy and some slim people aren’t. But obesity is not healthy and we shouldn’t pretend it is. The normalisation of obesity is also linked to fat fetishism and ‘feeder’ culture, where men further objectify and disempower women by encouraging them to eat to the point of incapacity.
When we don’t talk about the problems associated with being overweight, we shut down important discussion surrounding issues such as the mental heath problems causing many women to overeat in the first place, as well as the health problems involved with carrying large amounts of body fat. Our hearts and lungs come under more pressure when we have more body fat. The much higher doses of radiation necessary to x-ray overweight people can increase their risk of cancer. We die younger.
But our bodies grow old, they become damaged, they wear out. We hold ourselves to impossible standards, we are not perfect. We need to be kinder to ourselves. It is not good for us to be fat, not because patriarchy doesn’t like it, but because it is not good for us: not for our physical and mental health, nor for our life expectancy.
And TV and advertising never ease up on us with their endless maze of contradictions. When a healthy diet fad becomes popular (think veganism) it is pounced on by the processed food market and regurgitated into more unhealthy gloop to guilt trip us with. Food magazines offer us cake and chips and the same publishers sell us diet magazines.
Our preconceptions about weight are everywhere. Most women are more likely to ask a friend if she has lost a few pounds rather than if she’s gained a few pounds, because the assumption is that most women would rather weigh less. While the ‘ideal woman’ on TV and in advertising wears a size 8 the average UK woman wears a size 16. Yup, the average UK woman is ‘plus size’.
Musician Lizzo discusses media attitudes to fat women (her words) here and here. She has yoyo dieted herself and is concerned with the difficulties and problems facing larger women. She worries about the inadequate medical care they receive, observing ‘plus-size Black women are still not getting the treatment they deserve in hospitals and from doctors’.
Reasons other than over-eating and unhealthy food choices can cause weight gain, certain medical conditions or medication for example. Dieting is known to cause weight gain, and a repeated cycle of weight loss and gain can change our metabolism. We get stressed. We develop eating disorders, sometimes small, sometimes vast, around food. Stress hormones act on fat cells to increase abdominal fat. We get fed up. We can’t sleep. We eat more. We can’t win.
Women should be concerned about maintaining a healthy body weight: not so we better conform to patriarchy’s idea of what looks fuckable, but so we are healthy.
Women in the media are expected to be young and skinny and pretty, but once in a while they are permitted to break one of the rules. They can be old and skinny and pretty or young and fat and pretty. This validates the myth that we live in as culture that supports diversity.
But the big triumvirate is : young, skinny, pretty. You must always score at least two out of three.