Archives

Missing the Target

Action and adventure...

Action and adventure…

Any step against gender labelling is a positive one

The US-based retail giant, Target, does not have any UK stores, and if you wish to buy from them you have to do so online.

Nonetheless, one has to applaud a decision they took recently, to remove gender-based labelling and decor from some of their departments.  All the more so because they took that decision in response to customer feedback.

On their corporate website, A Bullseye View, Target stated:

“Historically, guests have told us that sometimes—for example, when shopping for someone they don’t know well—signs that sort by brand, age or gender help them get ideas and find things faster. But we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.

“We heard you, and we agree. Right now, our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance. For example, in the kids’ Bedding area, signs will no longer feature suggestions for boys or girls, just kids. In the Toys aisles, we’ll also remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves. You’ll see these changes start to happen over the next few months.”

I like how Target are making the distinction of the more subtle differences here, such as not using pink and blue backing paper on shelves.  Sometimes gender segregation in store is more subtle than some people notice.

When I posted the Target story on Facebook, I was met with comments from people claiming they had never seeing aisles segregated by gender.  Of course, those making those comments were speaking from their position of cis privilege.  They don’t see them because they don’t look, and because they are cis, it does not register in their brains.

I was in a toy store recently and I could not help but notice that the store was indeed segregated, not by signage, but by colour.  One side was pink, and had dolls, dolls houses, kids make-up sets, and all the other toys traditionally associated with girls.  The other side was blue, and had toy cars, guns, cowboy outfits, and all the other toys traditionally associated with boys.

Were it not enough that this store was clearly making a distinction between genders and toys which the owners had obviously decided suited either side of the gender binary, I noticed something that made my blood boil.  The pink – girls – side had all the artists materials; the blue – boys – side had all the scientific toys.

What message is that sending, exactly?  And with attitudes like that, is it any wonder that many more men go into the field of science than women, and men taking an interest in or pursuing a career in the arts is still seen as fette among the cishet majority?

The backlash against Target has been considerable.  Their website is full of comments from disgruntled Americans saying they will not shop at Target any more.  Good, don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out, Sweetie.  On the plus side those bigots are getting a few replies from those supporting Target saying they won’t be missed.

And of course there has been the usual media backlash, particularly from the right-wing US media who claim to report news, but seem to exist only to push their opinions upon others.  And of course, Fox are leading the field.  On Fox and Friends, host Brian Kilmeade claimed he would have problems choosing what toys to buy for the children in his life.  Really Brian? Do what I do, dear; ask the parents – or even the kids themselves.  Probably most disturbing were the comments from psychotherapist Tom Kersting;

“I understand there’s this whole gender neutral agenda going on,  and I actually have clients of mine that are — don’t really know what gender they are.  I don’t want to confuse kids that are young when we take them to a toy store, having them question what their gender is,  That’s the problem I have with that.”

Who is Tom Kersting?  I did a little digging and found out he is indeed a therapist and counsellor, for marriages and families.  He is also a hypnotherapist, which given that is a highly controversial and scientifically unproven field – which has been proven to suggest false memories – sets alarm bells off in my head immediately.  He is also the therapist on the US ‘reality’ show, A&E.  As the above paragraph suggests, he has no expertise in the field of gender dysphoria, and the fact he refers to a “whole gender neutral agenda”, and claims that he has clients who do not know which gender they are, only serves to highlight his ignorance in the entire question of gender.  In other words he’s a television showman and a hypnotherapist quack who does not know what he is talking about and is unqualified to make any comment on the gender issue.  And that dears, is why I have a problem with him.

You know what the real problem with the objectors is?  Ignorant homophobic and transphobic bigotry.  They are scared that if their little darling Johnny plays with dolls, or little sweetie Jenny plays with a train set, in their minds they imagine them becoming homosexual or transgender.  And of course, those of us who are better educated fully realise that decision has already been taken in the womb, and hell and high water will not change that.  And that fact just further underlines Tom Kersting’s ignorance upon this subject.  If he is unaware gender and sexuality are formed before birth, then one wonders just where he got his qualifications from, and how.  I played with Action Man as a child (GI Joe in the USA) and had a whole load of paraphenalia concering this militaristic toy.  It no sooner made me grow up cishet than it made me violent.  The ideas of toys conditioning gender, sexuality, or behaviours is completely bogus and has not one shred of solid scientific evidence to back it up.  Boys play with dolls and plushies, girls play with war toys and train sets (and we all still play with Lego), whatever their gender or sexuality – get used to it.

In the end, just what are Action Man / GI Joe, and action figures (which some never grow out of) if they are not dolls?

I see I have also been as guilty as most in concentrating upon children in this article, when of course Target are not only removing gender-based signs from many departments, not just toys, and are doing so based upon customer feedback.  The very words were, “some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.”  Equally true.  I am very girlie (You don’t say, Xandra?  Oh I do say, dear.) but the devil will be skating to work before I ever watch a chick flick or read a trashy romantic novel.  Things like that give me, as we say in Scotland, the dry boak.  I base my bedding around the decor in my room.  Am I to be told that I cannot buy bedding because it’s based on gender?

If my female partner was frowned upon or patronised for going into a hardware department, she’d probably show the staff that there is more than one use for a staple gun.

I simply loved what one woman had to say in the comments on the Target website; thank you Ms Angela Yates of Richmond, IN.

For all of those who are upset about this change, how would you feel if the cleaning supplies aisle said “Women’s” and the tool aisle said “Men’s” because we all know that only women can clean and do housework and men are the only ones handy with a hammer, right?!

I cannot say that I am a big fan of Target.  I don’t buy from them online and if they had stores here in the UK, I would not enter one.  Not because of the above change but rather because earlier this year they closed down their Canadian stores and rather shittily made over 17,000 of their Canadian employees unemployed as a consequence.  Shame on you for that, Target.

Their step in ending gender-specific aisles and departments is one to be applauded, however; firstly, because it was an action in response to customer feedback, and secondly, because it is the thin end of the wedge which could very well make other stores follow their lead.

And should any readers of this think that would be the end of civilisation as we know it, or like Fox’s Brian Kilmeade think it will cause them considerable confusion in making choices when buying gifts for children and other loved ones, just ask yourself this question;

Just how do you reckon blind people make such choices?


The press release on the Target website (and attached odious comments) can be read here:

https://corporate.target.com/article/2015/08/gender-based-signs-corporate

Advertisements

What of soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop?

$$$-MogShowing affection is not a cishet privilege

At the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, gay actor John Barrowman grabbed and kissed a kilted male dancer.  It was a moment which was hugely applauded in the stadium, across Scotland, the UK, and around the world.

Gay and lesbian kisses are now becoming so commonplace in soap operas, that the media hardly bothers reporting them nowadays.  There are similarly quite a few same-sex kissing scenes in many movies.

So, given that the public is apparently so accepting of LGBTQI actors and celebrities kissing in the media and entertainment, one would think that people would be equally accepting to exactly the same thing being done by ordinary people in public.

And one would be dead wrong.

On 11 October 2014, 22-year-old Annabelle Paige and her unnamed girlfriend were shopping in branch of Sainsbury’s supermarket in Brighton, England, when she lovingly gave her girlfriend what she describes as a “light kiss”.  She thought no more of it, until the couple were approached by a store security guard.  The guard told them that he had received a complaint and they were to refrain from kissing, or leave the store.

Ms Paige said that the security guard told them “either leave and take it outside or continue our shop without being affectionate as it was making other customers uncomfortable.”  The female security guard told Ms Paige that a customer had said it was ‘disgusting’.  The use of this word rankled with Ms Paige, who remonstrated with the security guard who claimed a customer had said that.

Ms Paige stated “She told us she was sorry to have said that, but a customer had complained, saying what we were doing was ‘disgusting’ and had claimed they were worried for the safety of their child so the security guard felt she had to come and say something to us.”  Worried for the safety of their child?  Really?

Annabelle Paige and her partner lodged an official complaint with Sainsbury’s, who apologised profusely, and will be making a donation to a charity of Ms Paige’s choice.  A Sainsbury’s spokesman stated “This should never have happened – it is clear that Miss Paige and her partner were not behaving inappropriately and we are very sorry that they were treated in this way.”

The day the incident happened upon, incidentally, was National Coming Out Day.

One would hope this was an isolated incident.  But no.  In July this year, lesbian couple Mog Wilde and her long-term partner, Freya, were visiting the Cardiff Food Festival in Wales for Freya’s 35th birthday, when Mog kissed her.  “We were dancing to the live music and I kissed Freya because she looked so beautiful and it was her birthday.” Mog said.  The couple, who were in a public thoroughfare, were then approached by a security guard from G4S, who told them to quit or they would be removed from the event.  The security guard claimed that there had been complaints and remonstrated that there were children around.

One onlooker stated that there had been complaints from some “middle-aged ladies” but the couple reported that they got cheers and support from those around them, including a gay couple who also kissed – but were not approached by security.

A spokesperson for Cardiff City Council stated, “Festival stewards received a number of complaints from members of the public about a couple who were engaged in a very strong display of public affection at the festival’, they said.  “Once the couple in question had been identified a steward approached them. They reminded them that sexual behaviour of this level was inappropriate for what is very much a family event.  At no time did any Council employee ask the couple to leave.”  they concluded,  “The same course of action would have been taken regardless of the sexual orientation of the individuals involved.”

This incident took place on the same day as the Bristol Pride event, 30 miles away.

Back to supermarkets, this time British supermarket giant Tesco.  Just this week a gay couple were subjected to a tirade of abuse from a member of staff in a branch of Tesco in Brixton, London.  Steve Luetchford was shopping, when his partner happened to give him a peck on the cheek.  They were approached by a female member of staff who started shouting at them and told them to get out of the shop.

Steve told Pink News “Basically the BF kissed me on the cheek and woman went ballistic at us saying “how dare you do that here, there are children here, you people are disgusting do that at home you have no right to do that in

“I was like actually we do have a right and I said she didn’t have a right to talk to us like that she started calling us miss and told us to get out and kept going on about children being in the shop.”

Not one member of staff intervened to stop the verbal assault, and every one of them refused to give their names, although Steve stated, “one girl was really rude and insinuated we deserved to be spoken to like that.”

He later posted on Facebook “We weren’t at all being grotesque or sucking face.”

Tesco has since apologised and has said that the store manager is investigating the incident.

Three isolated incidents, but probably three which are the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger problem.  Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that the lesbian kiss between Mog and Freya (pictured above) was somewhat passionate, but then, it’s no different from what one can see cishet couples doing in public any day of the week.

And notice the common thread which runs through the complaints; all three complainants holding up the children card, with one claiming that parents were worried for the ‘safety’ of their child.  Yeah, because the child was really at risk by seeing two people being loving towards each other.  I frankly doubt there was any child in that case, if indeed there were children near in any of the three cases.

And there are other things to consider in the reaction to all three cases.

Sainsbury’s are reported making a donation to a charity of Annabelle Paige’s choice.  Did they then offer Ms Paige money?  If so, to my mind that is merely adding insult to injury.  I’ve worked in many customer services roles and problems are not solved by throwing money at them.

The Cardiff City Council spokesperson who claimed “The same course of action would have been taken regardless of the sexual orientation of the individuals involved.” has actually told a barefaced lie.  There were two gay men who also kissed, and they were not approached and told to desist.

Given that not one member of staff intervened in the Brixton branch of Tesco, and all allegedly refused to give their names, one wonders just why then Tesco are leaving the investigation to the store manager?  Just how committed are they to diversity, or to even getting to the bottom of this incident?  One would have thought that particular incident requires someone completely independent of the branch to investigate the matter.

It also does not escape my notice that security guards were involved in two of the incidents.  Having been on the receiving end of these petty-minded little Hitlers on a power trip every time they don a uniform, I have a particular dislike for them.  The difference is I know my rights, I know the limits of their ‘powers’ (basically little to none), and I’m not afraid to face them.  Once they see they are dealing with someone in the know, they usually shit themselves and scuttle away like the cowardly bullies most of them are.

This is kissing we are talking about, for gawd’s sake.  Yes, a kiss can be very intimate, even sexual, but most people, whatever their sexuality know the limitations in public.  The supermarket cases were apparently not intimate or sexual, and while the kiss between the lesbian couple was, they were cheered on by those around them.  And any homophobes / transphobes reading this, everyone has the right to show affection to a loved one in public, regardless of their sexuality or gender.  If you don’t like it, look the other way.  Indeed, you should do so anyway, as it’s an intimate moment which is nothing to do with you.  How would you like it if people stared at you kissing your partner?

There is no way that any cishet couple would have been similarly approached for any of the above three public displays of affection.  Indeed, one wonders how willing some little G4S toady or a frosty-faced cow in a supermarket would be to face up some muscled, tattooed bruiser and tell him to stop kissing his female partner?  It simply would not happen, because it’s nothing to do with public displays of affection, it’s nothing to do with protecting children; it has everything to do with homophobic / transphobic bigots seeing the LGBTQI community as an easy target and thinking they can impose their ‘standards’ upon them.  Like all abusers, homophobes and transphobes are bullies, and in the nature of the bully, cowards at heart.

I am reminded of a gay friend who was once arrested for walking down a public street in Scottish city, hand-in-hand with his boyfriend.  That was way back in 1983; have we really progressed so little in the intervening 32 years?


(“What of soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop?”  Robert Browning; ‘A Toccata of Gallupi’s’)

Gender as a Psychological Construct

11154968_394318284083775_1727804353313483432_oDoes biology matter at all?

Some posts not just on WordPress but across the internet – from both LGBTQI and cishet people – have got me thinking recently about the entire question of gender, and in just exactly which concept it should be seen in.  It is nowadays accepted fact that any type of inherent sexuality each is born with (as opposed to learned behaviour) is perfectly normal, and most educated people find that acceptable.  I would argue that the same must apply to gender.

Let’s get this correct first; there is not one of us born or alive who is “all man” or “all woman”.  That is actually a biological impossibility.  Females have a certain amount of testosterone in their bodies, as men have a certain amount of oestrogen in theirs (and some more than others dears) – get used to it.

And of course, we all start as ‘female’ in the womb.  Yes, guys, even you.  How the hell do you reckon you got those nipples?  Any of you with moobs, that’s all your own doing – there are no female hormones in beer or kebabs.  But it is not only about nipples.  The ‘blueprint’ embryo has a genital bud, which if the male chromosome dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is introduced, will grow into a penis, and without DHT, it would develop into a clitoris.  However, Müllerian Inhibiting Substance (MIS) prevents a female reproductive tract from forming, thereby allowing the penis to develop further.  Then of course you guys have that ‘seam’ running down the middle of your scrotum.  That is the Raphe line, which is basically a scar.  To explain, every embryo, as well as the genital bud has a genital opening.  When female hormones take over, this develops into the labia / vagina, but with male hormones, this opening fuses together as the penis develops, eventually leaving a line running from the anus, across the scrotum to the base of the penis.  Doubt this, guys?  Try tickling your perineum (the area between the scrotum and anus) and find how pleasurable that feels.  Of course it does – you’re basically exciting your ‘labia’ (laughing here at images of cishet men reading this suddenly pulling their hands away from their crotches).

It is important to make these distinctions, for in science what we are talking about above is not gender – it is sex.  People often confuse the two when they are not one and the same thing.  Sex refers to biological differences between ‘males’ and ‘females’ with the chromosomes being XX for female and XY for male.  Sex however does not determine gender, no more than it determines sexuality.  Genital development takes place in 6 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.  At this time the brain is not fully formed, which does not take place until around 8 weeks into the pregnancy.  Some would argue that it is due to this ‘misalignment’ in development that some are born trans, and some are not.  I say phooey.  If it is a misalignment, then it is one we all go through during foetal development, and if that is the case, then it can be strongly suggested that gender is purely a state of mind.

What better evidence to support this than to look at intersex children?  I am of course speaking of babies born supporting both ‘male’ and ‘female’ genitals.  Either as an embryo or as a baby, the gender of such a child has already been determined in their brain.  This is why I applauded brave little Malta for being the first country in the world to ban parents determining the sex of intersex children.  To do so is to impinge the gender the parents want, not whichever gender the child is psychologically.  I would strongly argue that to do is a breach of human rights.  It needs to be that child, once they are old enough to make a distinction, to decide which of gender, if either, they belong to.  I say “if either” for the simple fact that some intersex people refuse to proscribe to either side of the gender binary but are happy to remain intersex, and as a genderqueer pansexual I can relate to that (I’ve never had sex with an intersex person, but I would imagine it would be one helluva lotta fun to do so).

Consider further that it is only in relatively recent history that trans and intersex people have been able to undergo transition.  Before then, even before our ancestors came down out of the trees, down throughout history there have been trans and intersex individuals who lived out their entire adult lives identifying as either one gender or the other (or even both with some).

Should this come as a surprise to any of us?  People are fickle creatures living lives which are far from black and white.  We are a mixture of animal and human, savage and gentle, male and female, in different degrees and at different times.  Even the most brutal individual can have great moments of compassion; even the gentlest of persons can be incredibly cruel if circumstances give rise to it.

We already know that we all have the mixture of male and female within us; the propensity for men to show their feminine side, and women their masculine side.  If this is the truth, and given the way our bodies and brains form, then one can only surmise that whatever their biology may say to anyone, it is an irrelevance, and psychologically we are all ‘transgender’ to some degree.

Thoughts peoples please.

The Transphobic Ignorance of the Wee Free Moderator

Andy Murray - definitely cute, but not trans

Andy Murray – definitely cute, but not trans

Scottish clergyman’s distinct lack of Christian charity

The Reverend David A Robertson was recently invested as the Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, a small church in Scotland which carries a very big voice.  With a membership of 13,000, it has long been renowned for their strict Presbyterian views, Sabbatarianism and ‘dour’ outlook on life.  To say it is a controversial denomination would be an understatement.

Not least controversial among its members is Reverend Robertson, who while trying to claim that he reaches out to all, has at times made statements against the LGBT community, atheists and secularists, which can hardly be described as full of Christian charity.  In his latest article in his blog, The Wee Flea, (a small, irritating, disease-spreading parasite – how very apt) however, I am sure many of my followers shall agree he goes way too far.

In his article, End of Term Report, Rev Robertson – sounding more like American evangelist Pat Robertson – states;

“And the thought also struck me – if Andy Murray begins to realise in a couple of years that he is not going to win any more mens tournaments, why can’t he just do a Bruce, say he feels like a woman, call himself Andrina and enter the women’s Wimbledon and get the prize money that way?”

Well, I can think of several reasons why he would not undergo gender reassignment, not least of which is the fact that Scotland’s wonderful Andy Murray (tennis playing star for those not in the know, dears) is not transgender.  If he were, I have no doubt that he would have done something about that many years ago.  I would also guess that his relationship with his long-term girlfriend Kim Sears and their recent marriage would never have happened.  Indeed, if Andy were transgender, I reckon Kim would be somewhat disillusioned (and given that he’s such a pretty boy, so would I).

The reasoning behind Davy Baby’s thinking is that he cannot and will not accept that being transgender is natural and normal.  Rev Robertson lives in a black and white world where if someone is born with a vulva, they female, and if someone is born with a penis, they are male.  He refuses to accept that gender and sexuality have more to do with psychology than they do any biological factors, and that both are decided in the womb.  As far as he is concerned, his God made us to be male and female, and that is the end of it.

And of course his argument immediately falls flat on its face when one considers babies who are born intersex, with both male and female genitalia.  If that is the work of his God, then there goes the conservative Christian black and white view of the world straight out of the window.  Hmmm.  Male and female created He them, perhap?

So the question is, faced with an intersex baby, would David Robertson have that child operated upon to define one gender (and thereby supposedly undoing his God’s work), or would he leave the child until they were old enough to decide themselves if they are male or female?

If he did the former, he would be defining that child’s gender for them; not the child, and not his God.  If he did the latter, then he must admit that gender is a psychological construct, not a biological one.  And if that is the case, then the same goes for not only intersex people, not only transgender people, but every person on the face of the planet.  Bottom line; there is no such thing as a female vulva or a male penis; bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

Regular readers of my articles will know that Malta recently became the first country in the world to make gender reassignment on intersex babies illegal.  If a tiny country which has been steeped deep in the Christian faith for two millennia can take a such a huge leap forward, it makes one wonder what is wrong with the rest of “Christendom”.

And the point of his blog?  I’m not sure but it appears to be about public lavatories;

“If we can’t have gender specific toilets why should we have gender specific sports tournaments.  That’s the madness of the modern world.”

Except of course, it is not most trans people who are asking for gender-neutral toilets.  Firstly, gender-neutral toilets are dangerous; they actually marginalise and identify trans people as trans, and thus make them far more likely to be targeted and attacked by bigots.  Secondly, gender-neutral toilets actually deny the gender of the trans person.  The inference is that transgender is neither male nor female, but somewhere in-between.  Strange as it may seem, the vast majority of human beings still want to use gender-specific toilets; men want to use the gents, and women want to use the ladies, and whether the individual in question is transgender should make absolutely no difference to that.

In fact, the only people who appear to be calling for gender-neutral toilets are those who think they are doing the right thing, but are not, those who are uncomfortable with transgender people using the same facilities as them, or those who do not and will not accept that transgender people are the men or women they identify as at all – the latter including people like Reverend David A Robertson.

Notice also the reference to Caitlyn Jenner in the above paragraph, and Rev Robertson’s insistence on calling her by her redundant birth name.  I am not surprised at this, as in a recent podcast for the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, Reverend Robertson and his co-host cruelly derided Caitlyn Jenner, continually referred to her as “he” and “him”, used his birth name, called him “the pit of our culture in society”, “gut-wrenchingly nauseating”, and “It is part of the attempt to dehumanise humanity, to take away from us not just sexuality, but to take away from us gender.”  The link to the podcast also carries an old photo of Bruce Jenner with a banner superimposed on it with “Call me Caitlyn” across it, and the words “Right, Bruce in the corner.

I would not normally give this squalid little man the publicity he so desperately craves but I feel that his latest ignorant and transphobic outbursts, which border on hate speech, cannot in this instance be ignored.  I know that friends of mine here, including Christians and those of other faiths, shall be utterly disgusted at his words and shall assert that he does not speak for them, nor the Christian faith in general.

As for Andy Murray, I have no doubt he would not lower himself to reply to Robertson’s comments.  But if he were pressed to do so, given that his head coach, Amélie Mauresmo is openly lesbian (and soon to be a mum), and Andy in 2013 stated that there would be “no problem” with an openly gay tennis player, methinks he would be first to condemn the Moderator’s poisonous words – and to voice his support for Caitlyn Jenner.


The Wee Flea, End of Term Report, can be read here:

https://theweeflea.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/end-of-term-report-some-reflections-for-summer/

Quantum of Solas No. 32 can be found here.  The part about Caitlyn Jenner starts at 5:35:

http://www.solas-cpc.org/wp/2015/06/quantum-of-solas-32/

The curious case of Johnnie Campbell

An account of a 19th century Scots married transgender man.

On 29th November 1871 one Doctor Allison was called to the home of Thomas Early in Pinkerton Lane, in the town of Renfrew, Scotland, where their lodger, Johnnie Campbell, had become seriously ill.  Dr Allison lost no time in diagnosing smallpox and intimated that Mr Campbell must at once be transferred to the infirmary.  Johnnie Campbell was steadfastly against this but Dr Allison was adamant that no person in his condition could be permitted to stay in shared dwellings, and that he needed immediate hospital treatment.  Upon this, Johnnie Campbell asked that he could dress first.  It was at this juncture that Dr Allison asked “Is it because of sex?”, to which John Campbell admitted yes, it was.  Dr Allison spoke with Mrs Early, asking if she had any clothes the patient could dress in for transfer to hospital, as it turned out that her lodger was in fact a woman.  The said clothes were borrowed in which the patient was dressed and admitted to Paisley Infirmary as Marie Campbell.

‘Marie’ Campbell was born in 1850.  The location is unknown but from the age of 13 had been dressing in male attire to keep “clear o’ thae blackguard men”, because of being “misused” in her youth, and using the name John, or more commonly the Scots form, Johnnie.  In 1869 Johnnie Campbell was living in East Calder, West Lothian, and married one Mary Ann McKennan, the two then settling in the nearby town of Kirknewton.  They were apparently happy for a few months until Campbell deserted the then-pregnant Mary and her two illegitimate children.  He travelled first to Howden-o’-the-Brig (now Howden), near Tranent, East Lothian, where he was employed as a surfaceman between Ormiston and Dalkeith, Midlothian, on the Newbattle Coal Company’s railway.  Thomas Early had worked alongside John on farms in West Lothian, and when the latter and his wife decided to move to Renfrew to work the shipyards, he invited John to go with him.  Here Johnnie Campbell gained employment in the shipyard of Henderson, Coulborn & Co, where he was put to work on the forge.  His three teammates and his foreman soon held him in high esteem, remarking upon his intelligence and ability to turn his hand to any task alloted him.

Mrs Early later stated that in the five years she had known Campbell, it was only ever as a man.  However, she claimed that her suspicions were aroused with how ‘handy’ he was around the house, particularly in sewing and mending the clothes of other lodgers.  Johnnie however apparently behaved like any other man, and even had a short affair with a highland girl called Kate Martin, whom he would take on trips to Edinburgh and who stayed at the Early’s home some nights, with Kate sharing her bed, and Thomas Early sleeping in the same bed as Johnnie Campbell.

It was when Johnnie, alias Marie, Campbell was admitted to Paisley Infirmary that it all came crashing down.  While ‘Marie’ was still in hospital, the resident Medical Officer, Doctor Lewis, received a letter from the Inspector of the Poor of Kirknewton, stating he had received information about the patient Marie Campbell, and that he believed her to be one Johnnie Campbell who had been wanted by the parish authorities of Kirknewton since 1869.  At the request of Dr Lewis, the Inspector visited Marie in hospital, with Mary Ann McKennan.  The latter then positively identified Marie Campbell as the “Johnnie Campbell” she had married in 1869 and who had subsequently deserted her.

Marie / Johnnie stated that Mary Ann McKennan had known full well of her biological gender when they married, but there was a “mutual understanding”.  Mary Ann denied this, claiming that she only discovered Johnnie’s gender a few days after the ceremony.  She stated that when Johnnie had deserted her, she had told the authorities that her husband was a woman, but having two illegitimate children, the Poor Board considered her a ‘woman of ill repute’ and thereby nobody believed her.  Mary Ann subsequently gave birth to her third child (obviously also illegitimate) and had experienced difficulties registering the birth.  KIrknewton Poor Board, being all heart as they were, refused to give aid to Mary Ann on the basis that her child was not that of the man she married.

Johnnie, now being forced to go under his birth name of Marie, Campbell was arrested by Paisley Police on 24 January 1872 and, having recovered from smallpox, was transferred to the Edinburgh County Constabulary, who charged him with contravening the Registration Act by making a false entry by using the name John Campbell in marrying Mary Ann McKennan.  The subsequent fine was paid by a subscription from Johnnie’s former workmates who stated that while disappointed at the deception, “a more kindly and obliging worker never was engaged in the yard”.

One newspaper stated that it was an “Unhappy termination of an extraordinary career”.


So, what make you of that dears?   Personally I am not believing for one moment that Mary Ann McKennan did not know of Johnnie Campbell’s birth gender when she married him.  I hate to judge dears, but this is a woman who already had two children out of wedlock and we are expected to believe that she never questioned her husband not getting his tackle out on their wedding night?  Please dears, that is stretching credulity to the limit.  Seems far more likely that Mary Ann, who obviously liked sex, was fully aware and liked her muffin buttered on both sides.

I’ve no doubt that some will say that Johnnie Campbell was a typical man for the fact that he walked out on his wife and family.  Wait a minute, however.  The fact that Mary Ann fell pregnant proves that she must have been sleeping with another man while married to Johnnie, and that may have been what prompted him to desert her.

I’m also not entirely convinced that Thomas and Mrs Early were not aware.  They had known Johnnie for five years, even lived with him, and he carried out traditionally feminine roles.  Meanwhile, in a shared lodging house (where apparently it was not uncommon for Johnnie to sleep in the same bed with another man), nobody saw him undressed, or noticed that he never shaved?  Who is kidding who here?

The case is as fascinating as it is tragic, however.   Not least because when one reads of historical newspaper reports of trans people, the one thing which is striking is the lack of prejudice.   Look at how one newspaper merely referred to the sad loss of Johnnie’s career.   Compared to the modern age, it appears that the people of the 19th century were actually quite tolerant of trans people.  Consider how Johnnie’s workmates even paid his fine – an act of charity towards a trans person one would be hard to find today.   The people of the 19th century may have considered them a curiosity, but otherwise there is a distinct lack of the hate and venom which trans people experience today.   Consider that Johnnie Campbell was fined for breaching the Registration Act, nothing more.  It was only when some people behaved in outrageous sexually immoral behaviour – such as in the case of the music hall entertainers Fanny Park and Stella Clinton, who actually prostituted themselves – that Victorian society came down hard on them.  But even then, while Fanny Park stayed in Edinburgh for a short while, she was largely accepted for who she was.  One is given to wonder then if this apparent acceptance was a Scots phenomenon?  Which would be rather unusual for what was and remains the most Presbyterian nation in the world.

It seems obvious to me that Johnnie Campbell was indeed a transgender man.  I’m not saying women can’t do it, but working in heavy industry such as railways and in dockyards is bloody hard – even my male alter ego couldn’t do it (but then, he’s, to use a guid auld Scots phrase, “a big Jessie” anyway) and any woman even considering it in the 19th century would have been thought to be insane, not that many would.  We can only assume then that Johnnie was indeed a man.  He knew it, but he also knew if the world knew the truth, he would never be accepted as one.

And cases like that of Johnnie Campbell deserve and need to be highlighted.  For by pointing to historical instances, the LGBTQI community can further assert that all forms of gender and sexuality are perfectly normal, as instances throughout history clearly illustrate.

Footnote:  In researching this article I only found one instance of Johnnie Campbell being miscalled, and it is a terrible one.  The Morning Chronicle for 29 January 1872 refers to him as an “Englishwoman”.   Puir Johnnie.  There’s nae need tae misca’ him like thon.

No Man Has Ever Given Me Flowers

$$-AAAARoseWoman(Inspired by and dedicated to Stefani)

No man has ever given me flowers,
no bunch of roses,
nor simple posies,
no violets nor carnations.

No man has talked to me for hours,
with witty chat,
of this and that,
without sexual connotations.

No man has seen me as a lady,
never asked me to dance,
or tried some romance;
they think my morals must be spurious.

They think I must be an easy lay;
a ladyboy,
or a sexual toy,
for some guy who is bi-curious.

I may well be a sexual being;
I’m not an object,
to get you erect,
and bring you satisfaction.

Realise I have gentler feelings.
I won’t give head or rear,
to some closet queer,
who’s just looking for some action.

If I want sex, I’ll ask for sex.
but if you want to do me,
you need to woo me;
show some gentleness and charm.

So all you men, show some respect;
treat me as a human,
see me as a woman,
and the lady I truly am.

© Alexandra Durward, 2015

Ireland votes for Same-Sex Marriage

Celebrations at Dublin Castle

Celebrations at Dublin Castle

Overwhelming majority approve equality

The Republic of Ireland has voted to allow same-sex marriage.  Ireland is the only country to date which has actually held a referendum on the issue.  This was wholly necessary as to allow equal marriage was a constitutional matter, and it must now be enshrined in the Irish republic’s written constitution.

The Irish people could not have made themselves clearer either.  There was a 60% voter turnout, over 62% of which voted Yes.  In voter terms, 1,201,607 people voted in favour of same-sex marriage, while 734,300 voted against.

Ireland had allowed same-sex civil partnerships in 2010.  However, the ‘protections’ under these could be changed by the government.  Now couples in same-sex marriages will have the same constitutional and legal rights and protections as heterosexual married couples.  Those rights and protections can now only be removed by another majority vote.

The vote marks a huge cultural change for Ireland, where the Roman Catholic Church once had not inconsiderable influence, with views towards sexuality and families tended to be extremely conservative.

Come on, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands; time to join the club, drag yourselves into the 21st century and quit being the embarrassment on the doorstep of these isles.