Friday, 27 February 2015

Reflections on gender identity

Following the lead of my friend latentexistence bravely coming out about their non-binary gender identity, I have decided to openly reflect in this medium about thoughts and experiences I have very much reserved to myself until now. More than ever, particularly thanks to the internet and social media, there is a heightened awareness of non-binary gender identities and sexual orientations including and beyond lesbian, gay and bisexual. The term cisgender, in reference to people with a gender identity matching their assigned gender at birth according to social norm and biology (the oppose of transgender), is quickly becoming part of the common vernacular. And orientations such as asexuality, and gender identities beyond the conventional "male and "female", are also significantly more in the public consciousness.

At the beginning of this year broke the tragic story of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenage girl who was driven to suicide by the abuse and "conversion therapy" (psychological torture) inflicted on her by remorseless Christian fundamentalist parents. I naturally found Leelah's death devastating, but it made me deeply reflect my own gender identity. Growing up with high-functioning autism and suffering through years of clinical depression and anxiety caused by posttraumatic stress disorder, I began to consider the extent to which the social elements of gender identity and sexuality influenced, phenomenologically, my mental health and sense of self generally. I only fully realised that I was bisexual at the age of twenty and my autism, atypically, was not formally diagnosed until the same age. Unsurprisingly, the stressful uncertainty of the former and neglect of care and support in the latter, and the insecurity and social difficulties caused by both which targeted me for the years of abuse and victimisation that caused the PTSD, will have had a profound impact on me developmentally and psychologically. latentexistence describes, in a way I can totally relate to, how autism contributes to an introverted personality type that reacts severely to social pressurisation. The thought tormented me: what affect could the all-imposing gender binary have had on me?

On Tumblr I saw photo timelines of trans women (beautiful, extraordinary women) who had transitioned through hormone replacement therapy. When confronted with transgender people's issues and personal insights, as well as the happiness of their transitioning, I began to experience increasingly overwhelming feelings of anger and bitterness. I regret that expressing this in conversation led to me upsetting one of my close friends. But this was not because of prejudice towards trans people, of which I hold none. This caused me to seriously and existentially consider, in one of the most difficult mental health episodes of my life, the extent to which my cisgendereness has always had on my mental health; and I realised that what I was experiencing was gender dysphoria.

But, after this soul searching, I understand that I am not a trans woman and have no intention of transitioning. I am perfectly comfortable having the pronoun 'he', which I opt for, but nor do I feel very strongly about adhering to it or my "male" identity. I instead prefer to be me, and embrace the multidimensional emotional and interpersonal sensations I have with other people, not just the broad gender labels that accompany them. The popular phrase for this orientation is genderqueer, I prefer to simply call myself non-binary. It may seem paradoxical to some, but I am happy to state that I am non-binary whilst adhering to a masculine, but simultaneously feminine, gender identity that presents as regularly cisgender. I am transfeminine: while cisgender and nominally male I identify with both masculinity and femininity but don't possess the desire to alter myself bodily or in personal presentation or pronouns to reflect this. I am even satisfied with being conveniently "male", but wouldn't object to being described differently, as this is how I feel internally.

I am certain that probably innumerable people occupy this grey area of gender and sexuality, and believe that the individuation its facilitates would be beneficial to society and the mental health of all, particularly transgender people who, as presenting as such, are the most vulnerable to discrimination, violence and prejudice.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

East Riding of Yorkshire Council shields former Rotherham officials

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council has "investigated" - emphasis on the quote on quote - the integrity of its Child Protection procedures and standards, publicly incited to do so in the aftermath of the Rotherham abuse case; it reports no concerns, other than an increase in child sexual exploitation cases which it attributes to an increased awareness among professionals and the public, which is indeed a positive. But the ERYC, as noted by Councillor Paul Hogan, has failed to investigate cases of historical child sex abuse; an approach highly out of touch with Britain's advent in seeking to investigate abuses from the past, pioneered by the bravery of survivors and their advocates, and to address the institutional failures and injustices which facilitated them.

The full extent of the abuse in Rotherham became apparent following the publication of the Jay report in 2014, which described the widespread, organised rape, sexual slavery, trafficking and torture of hundreds of children and young people (1,400 as a reserved estimation) in the town by paedophile gangs. The Casey report published this January detailed a culture of institutional bullying and willful ignorance in Rotherham Council that reached the highest levels of the corrupt authority, that was deliberately orchestrated to cover-up its failures in protecting the victims and preventing further abuses, an approach which functionally aided and abetted the perpetrators. Whistleblowers were harassed and intimidated. Computers with research detailing the abuse and council failures had their hard drives wiped. Offices with documents documenting the same were stolen, presumably to be destroyed. South Yorkshire Police and the National Crime Agency are making inquiries into the conduct of Rotherham Council staff. One of those named in the Jay report was Pam Allen, who since 2009 has been the head of children and young people's support in the East Riding of Yorkshire Council; two other staff members working under Allen also worked at Rotherham.

Despite all of these comprehensively documented malpractices, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council has refused to make any inquiries staff members that worked at Rotherham Council, including Pam Allen. Councillor Kerri Harold, the chairperson of the East Riding's CSE investigation, argued that would be "wrong" to make any inquiries into the former Rotherham staff; Councillor Stephen Lane accused the media focus on them as being a "distraction". It would therefore appear that to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, the ruination of innumerable lives in Rotherham by mass child abuse, and the involvement of their staff members in the authority that covered it up, is a trivial irrelevancy; the only liability being journalistic and public criticism and concerns about institutional accountability and the welfare of children. It reflects that they would prefer it to be buried in the past.

How can the people of the East Riding of Yorkshire possibly trust their council to protect children and young people from harm if it takes such an apathetic and self-serving approach to considering the legitimacy and competence of its senior child protection staff? This should be a cause for massive concern.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Is atheism to blame?

Because the perpetrator of the Chapel Hill shootings was an atheist, atheism is being blamed as the ideological motivator of the murders. It seems illogical to blame a philosophy which is only defined by a lack of belief in gods. There are neo-Nazi Social Darwinists and pacifistic Buddhists who are atheists. There are Ayn Randian Objectivists and radical communists who are atheists. And yes, there are atheists who kill their fellow human beings in cold blood simply because of a hatred of their religious belief or skin colour. Conversely, there are atheists across the world, such as in Saudi Arabia, who are killed, tortured and persecuted because of their apostasy; as are the personally religious advocates of political secularism. There atheists who are great scientists and humanitarians, and there are atheists who advocate all bigotries and quackeries imaginable (other than, perhaps, religious creationism). Bill Maher, for example, advocates anti-vaccination quackery, while Christopher Hitchens was a shill for neoconservatism.

Mentioning Nazism, it is evident that Hitler was anti-religious but ruthlessly exploited Christian belief for political gain (and incidentally viewed Islam as a more practical vessel for Nazism). Holocaust architect Himmler, in contrast, pursued the extermination of Jewry as part of a holy war within an esoteric belief system which promoted the God-given divinity of Germanic Aryans. Similarly, the agnostic Dutch far-right demogauge Geert Wilders aligns himself with Christian fundamentalists and fascistic Zionists, in a xenophobia-charged culture war against Muslims, in the name of secular humanism. Wilders and his ilk manipulate atrocities such as 9/11 to smear the majority Muslim population, the very kind of propaganda exercise the reactionary anti-atheists have engaged in with these shootings.

The anti-atheists in this case will thus retort that this is a matter of the influence of New Atheism; a belief system within itself they say, nominally headed by high priests like Dawkins and Hitchens (presumably since 2006), homogeneously habituated by white, heterosexual western males who promote crypto-racial and cultural supremacy in the name of so-called enlightenment. No doubt such prejudices should be challenged regardless of ideological mediums they project themselves through, whether this be by those self-justified by theological belief or otherwise. (And as stated in the aforementioned paragraph, both are keen to collaborate to further their bigoted ends).

The central falsehoods of such arguments is that they depend upon the presumption of an actually organized and ideological unity between atheists, which even within the narrow western parameters they refer to there is none. The closest demonstrable thing to philosophical belief system among secularists is humanism: which stands for the human rights of all people, including the right to life, freethought and religious freedom. These are values which all reasonably minded people, in opposition to all repression and willful ignorance whether religious or atheistic, can stand for.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

An open letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre

Dear SWC: 

For the past forty years, your organisation has worked for moral causes of the most profound and unparalleled importance. You fought against the evils of racism and antisemitism, you have supported the survivors of the Holocaust to publicly tell their stories, in doing so pioneering the cause of Never Again. And most famously, you have hunted down and achieved the conviction of Nazi war criminals involved in the perpetration of the Holocaust, and continue to search for and press for the prosecution of those still remaining. For these reasons, especially as I would want to personally assist in the search for surviving Nazis evading justice, I considered joining your organisation. Then I found this on your website:

As your organisation projects itself as working on behalf of the victims of antisemitism, your description of "Israel bashing" as being opposed to Jewish human rights implies that the opponents of Israeli government policy are uniformly antisemitic. In essence you are using one of the worst atrocities in human history, the Holocaust, as a weaponised smokescreen to lobby on behalf of Israeli political and military policy, explicitly those of the Netanyahu government. I could think of few things more morally sickening than this. Both the United Nations and Amnesty International have described the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014 as containing war crimes, particularly the deliberate targeting and collective punishment of the civilian population, including their homes, schools and hospitals. Are the Palestinian victims incinerated, not by death camp crematoriums, but by Israeli bombs in the open air prison when they are held captive, an afterthought to you? Are they life unworthy of life? You have learnt nothing from the very Jewish survivors whose suffering you repulsively appropriate for your pro-Israeli lobbying. More accurately, you choose not to learn. Yours is a banal evil. Among the opponents of Israeli racism and war crimes are Jews, such as these describing Israeli war crimes in Gaza as genocide: "As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine."

In summary, your organisation, presenting itself as opposed to genocide, racism and war crimes, manipulates these very evils to excuse and repress criticism of an Israeli state perpetrating them today. And you have the audacity to do so in the name of Jews and Holocaust survivors who stand against them, their very motivation being that the racism and and war crimes of Israel are morally and ideologically comparable to the crimes of Nazism. Let it be known that, like those complicit in the Jewish Holocaust, you turn a blind eye and are actually allied to the aim to excuse and bury the Palestinian one.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Solidarity with France

The left-right political paradigm is originally based upon the parliamentary division in post-revolutionary France. On the right sat those who advocated the maintenance of a hierarchical society controlled by aristocracy. On the left sat those who advocated the post-revolutionary values of religious and political equality and freedom. In the centuries since these ideals have been disputed and appropriated, including in their theoretical manifestations from liberalism, to Marxism, to modern conservatism that paradoxically applies them to justifying the defence of an established social order. 

Charlie Hebdo adheres to these revolutionary values: it believes in religious freedom, but opposes the suppressive influence of any religious sect, which includes the right for any philosophy to be subjected to criticism and ridicule whether academic or satirical. Charlie Hebdo has consistently opposed discrimination and bigotry against ethnic minorities in France. Getting straight to one point of contention: some of its caricatures have been criticised as racist. Even though this implied racism or xenophobia would inconsistent with the morality Charlie has advocated for the entirety of its history, it is still a justifiable criticism to question the taste and motivation of those particular cartoons. This is the point, we have the right to do so constructively if we are to live in a democratic society.

Conversely, it would be completely illogical to consider that the murderers were motivated by this controversy. Nor were they likely solely motivated by an illustrated portrayal of Muhammad; offensive to Muslims, yes, but the overwhelming majority of whom who adhere to stringent standards of morality, peacefulness and tolerance viewing such an assault on humanity as the most abominable act imaginable. The cartoons were an excuse at most for ruthlessly assaulting Charlie's opposition to fundamentalist Islamism, and the mischevous attitude accompanying it that challenged the self-righteous and oppressive piousness that all fundamentalists and totalitarians rely upon to assert themselves.  

The likes of ISIL and al-Qaeda, which the murderers pledged allegiance to, are virulently racist with an established history of ethnoreligious persecution and cleansing. The West appears to have forgotten ISIL's attempted extermination of the Yazidi and Kurdish populations within their captured territories. Antisemitism is also an integral part of their ideologies; historically this is the basis of why fundamentalist forms of Islam were compatible with Nazism. Even though Hitler viewed Arabs are racially inferior, and despite the supposed secularism of Bath'ist leaders aligned to the Axis, Hitler admired muftis who shared the cause of Jewish persecution and eventual elimination. This common holy war recruited Muslims from Yugoslavia into the S.S. 

Concurrently, the Vichy puppet regime in France replaced the motto "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" to "Travail, famille, patrie" in an effort to erase the humanistic post-revolutionary values from the national consciousness. The religious motivation in this case was a fundamentalist form of Roman Catholicism, but the repression of human rights facilitated and justified by it was the same as that adhered to by Nazi-aligned Islamic extremism. More commonly in the modern day, Islamic extremism and the far-right are mutually symbiotic cancers, with the former relying upon the encouragement of racism, hatred and discrimination to recruit and brainwash the disillusioned that the latter fundamentally relies upon for its bigoted and stereotyping propaganda narrative.

Those of us who believe in human rights and democracy, therefore, should fundamentally view such extremists as anti-humanist nihilists no matter the ideology or "faith" they project.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Humberside Police corruption and the Goole mafia

Former chief superintendent Colin Andrews, of Humberside Police, is currently on trial for a variety of criminal offences including rape, stalking, assault and intimidation of witnesses and his victims. He is also implicated in abusing his position of authority within the police to facilitate this harassment and the concealment of his crimes. Ch Supt Andrews has yet to be convicted for these offences, but the ongoing trial has nevertheless revealed what is self-evidently high-ranking corruption and/or misconduct within the force.

Update: Colin Andrews has been convicted of harassment, stalking, common assault and witness intimidation.

Is it stated that Ch Supt Andrews was part of a group of senior officers and managers in Humberside Police that the victim referred to as the "Goole mafia", Goole being one of the East Yorkshire towns that Humberside Police's C-Division operates, and where Andrews lived and worked.

Incidentally, it turns out that other senior officers "were concerned about the dirt Mr Andrews would raise if he was prosecuted", with chief superintendent and divisional commander of C-Division, Judith Heaton, being "worried about the reputation of Humberside Police and worried specifically about salacious details that Colin Andrews knew and whether they would be used as mud-slinging to defend himself." In plain English, senior officers in Humberside Police sought to obstruct an investigation into Andrews in order to cover-up their own misconduct and/or to preserve the force's public image, placing these corrupt vested interests and damage controls above the danger to society and corrupting influence imposed by Andrews.

Predecessor to Heaton as C-Division's divisional commander, was Patrick Geenty, who worked alongside Colin Andrews and is now the chief constable at Wiltshire Police. The same Geenty is currently under IPCC investigation for gross misconduct in regards to how he and other Wiltshire Police officers handed reports of historical child sexual abuse.

Concerningly, while C-Division commander, Geenty worked with the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and its chief executive Nigel Pearson and other senior public officials in the region to decide policies regarding children and young people, including the council's approach to child protection policy. From the council's 2006 to 2008 Children and Young People's Single Plan:

As previously stated, the same ERYC appointed Pam Allen to its safeguarding children board after she aided the cover-up of the sexual slavery of children in Rotherham and retains this post despite her being under investigation by South Yorkshire Police for her role in the cover-up, so this exemplifies the council's ethical and political credibility in regards to protecting children from abuse. Ch Supt Heaton, who was apparently willing to cover-up Andrews's misconduct in the same of protecting the force's reputation and the interests of other crooked senior police officers, sits on the same safeguarding children board. With cases such as Rotherham, Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith in mind, this holds extremely worrying implications in regards to the well-being of children and other vulnerable people in East Yorkshire whom the local authority holds responsibility to provide care for, given that the ethos and attitude of these officials displays a willingness to cover-up nefarious behaviour in the name of protecting vested interests instead of transparently investigating or counteracting it.

The same safeguarding children both holds responsibility for investigating institutional abuse within East Yorkshire, such as that committed against 170 complainants by a paedophile ring at the St William's children's home the council ran in conjunction with the Roman Catholic Church's De La Selle Brotherhood. Operation Yewtree and Humberside Police have investigated reported offending by Jimmy Savile at the former De La Pole psychiatric hospital in Willerby on the outskirts of Hull; the ERYC and local NHS authorities decided that the serial sex offender Savile had committed no offences at De La Pole after a self-investigation, detailed in its June 2014 report, based upon the statements of only one potential victim.

Humberside Police were investigated by the IPCC in 2012 for its treatment of a woman who came forward regarding a sexual assault by a police community support officer who had previously been reported for the same offence by another woman; the officer's file was never referred to the Crown Prosecution Service and the force closed its criminal investigation under the excuse of the PCSO leaving Humberside Police. The same year, detective Mike Johnson was convicted for sexually assaulting a female colleague. The IPCC has made inquiries regarding a number of officers in Humberside Police abusing their authority to target women and vulnerable people for sexual abuse.

In 2005, leader of Hull City Council and Humberside Police chairman Colin Inglis was tried, but acquitted, for sexually abusing two boys in Hull and in North Wales whilst he was a social worker in the 1980s. The same Inglis defied the Home Secretary in refusing to take action against then-chief constable David Westwood in the aftermath of the Soham murders. Ian Huntley, who was reported and investigated for multiple sex offences in the Humberside Police area, murdered two ten-year-old girls in 2002 whilst working as a school caretaker in Cambridgeshire. Humberside Police failed to disclose or inform authorities in Cambridgeshire about Huntley's prior offending, and were found to have destroyed records about his criminal history following the murders.

Whilst Inglis was under criminal investigation for his own reported sexual abuse offences, he organised a dinner attended by senior Humberside Police officers and social workers from Hull City Council,  who were comfortable with dining with the Inglis who could have turned out to be a convicted paedophile, to commemorate the police career of Ch Supt Paul Cheeseman. Council funds paid the bill (but the authority still attempted to obstruct the Freedom of Information request by Sky News to discover the details of the soiree).

Here's Inglis in 2004 with Stephen Parnaby, leader of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council: 

The same Ch Supt Cheeseman has been named in the Andrews trial as one of the senior officers Ch Supt Andrews was fraternising with on the evening the alleged rape he is being tried for took place in December 2003, with Cheeseman playing a "practical joke" that led to the circumstances of the reported rape. Before working as a strategic development manager until his retirement from Humberside Police in 2009, Cheeseman worked as a detective constable and sergeant in Goole.

In summary, the following must be considered: 1) What role did Geenty play in covering up the misconduct of his colleague Andrews and to what extent would he have been effected by the "dirt" that other senior officers also intended to cover-up? 2) Which other senior officers were involved in the seemingly corrupt and potentially criminal "Goole mafia" within Humberside Police, and how senior were they? 3) How did the conduct and attitude of Andrews, Geenty and other senior officers potentially including the "Goole mafia" influence police and local authority approaches to sex crimes including those against children, such as those under the care of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council that Geenty played a pivotal role in deciding the child protection policy of? 4) How many other victims of police or other abuses may have had their criminal complaints ignored by Humberside Police or been intimidated when attempting to come forward, including regarding criminal offences committed by police officers, due to the obstruction of justice resulting from these factors?