Posts Tagged ‘Swimming’

Sketches of Bradley Walsh and Joe Lycett

November 15, 2022

Mark Pattie, one of the great commenters on this blog, suggested that I draw Bradley Walsh and Joe Lycett. Well, your wish is my command. The sketch of Walsh below is of one of the memorable moments on The Chase when Walsh cracked up laughing. In this instance, it was over the name of the German swimmer Fanny Chmelar. This is probably one of those moments that will haunt him for the rest of his career as his pops up on various ‘bloopers’ shows. Lycett is just a straight portrait, which is unusual for a comedian. I hope you like them.

Email from the Labour Party on Pride and their Pro-Gay and Trans Policies

July 3, 2022

This is going to be a controversial post, but I think it’s very important that these issues relating to transgenderism should be discussed, especially as the Labour party wishes to reform the equality act so that it benefits transpeople. It’s an admirable attitude, as no-one should be despised and discriminated against because of their sexuality, sexuality identity or gender presentation. But these proposals have grave negative consequences in that they will potentially make it compulsory to trans children having problems with their gender identity whether it is genuinely appropriate for them or not. And it will greatly harm women’s sex-based rights by opening up their private spaces in prisons, rape crisis centres and shelters for homeless and abused women to men, as well as harm women’s sports by opening them up to men who retain their biological advantages but identify as women.

Here’s the email from the Labour party.

‘Dear David,

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first UK Pride event, when hundreds of members of the LGBT+ community marched through London to demand equal rights. Despite facing appalling hostility and prejudice at the time, they persevered.

That perseverance paved the way for Pride marches across the country, which are now an important part of the campaign for equal rights for LGBT+ people.

Labour is the party of equality and we have a proud legacy of standing up for LGBT+ rights. Watch our video to see more: 

Watch and Share

We have come a long way but there’s more work to do.  

LGBT+ people have been let down by a Conservative Government that abandoned its LGBT Action Plan, disbanded its LGBT Advisory Panel, and u-turned on promises to bring in a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy.

The next Labour government will stand up for LGBT+ rights by:

  • Protecting and upholding the Equality Act.
  • Requiring employers to create and maintain workplaces free from LGBT+ harassment.
  • Strengthening and equalising the law so that LGBT+ hate crimes attract tougher sentences.
  • Banning all forms of conversion therapy, including trans conversion therapy.
  • Reforming the outdated Gender Recognition Act while upholding the Equality Act.

Thank you,

Alex Beverley (Chair of LGBT+ Labour) and Anneliese Dodds (Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities)’

These proposals, although very well intentioned, are by implication so potentially harmful to women, gender-confused children, vulnerable adults and also to ordinary trans people who simply want to get on with their lives and the Labour party itself, that I wrote the following reply:

‘Dear Alex and  Anneliese,

Thank you for your email about Labour’s proposals to strengthen LGBTQ+ rights in concert with reforms to the equality act. I am not  part of the gay community, but appreciate the hardships and persecution gay people have experienced and their long struggle to gain equality. I am also very grateful for their support shown to the miners’ during the great strike in the 1980s, a coming together which was celebrated in the British film Pride. I am also pleased that the Labour party has also valued their contribution and supported them in their struggle. 

Unfortunately, I believe that the Labour party, along with the gay organisations outside the party, will be making a terrible mistake by opposing trans conversion therapy. I am very much aware, through online videos posted by gay YouTubers like Clive Simpson, how horrendous gay conversion therapy was for gay men. It sounds like nothing less than medicalised torture administered by sadists of the same stripe as the infamous Dr Mengele. I understand from Mr Simpson’s video, however, that such brutal, pseudo-medical treatments are now illegal. I have also little sympathy for the psychological treatments also used in the present day to ‘treat’ homosexuality. These also don’t work, and, from a report in Private Eye about one centre which does this in Wales, they appear to make gay people’s mental health much worse by destroying their self-esteem. I have absolutely no problems about this form of conversion therapy also being banned.

But I am concerned about what a ban on trans conversion therapy might entail. As I understand it, if left on their own 65-85% of teenagers experiencing doubts about their gender identity will eventually pass through it and enter adulthood comfortable and secure in their birth gender. The majority of these young people will, according to studies, be gay. 

This raises a number of issues. Firstly, many gay men and women are very much afraid that medical gender transition is being used as a form of gay conversion. This appears to have more than a little truth behind it, as many of these children seem to come from families which have trouble accepting that their son and daughter may be gay. It seems easier for these families to have a trans son or daughter, than a gay one. There is also concern about the affirmation-only model of gender care, in which the psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors see it as their duty to reaffirm the patient’s belief that they are of a different sex than their biological gender. This is, in my view, completely inappropriate. There is now a large and growing community of detransitioners, former transwomen and men, who believe they were mistaken and even misled into transitioning when it was not suitable for them. I understand there is an online community of 20,000 such people, and a book about their experiences, Trans Lives Regret, by Walter Heyer. I also understand that whistleblowers from within a number of gender clinics have also come forward, stating that they were forced to trans people they knew were mentally ill and who were therefore incapable of making an informed decision about their condition. They are also worried about the disproportionate number of autistic individuals, who are also being transed for the same reason. The source of these people’s problems may be these underlying mental illnesses and neurological conditions, rather than dissatisfaction with their biological sex. An attempt to ban trans conversion therapy could result in an absolute focus on the affirmation model, to the great detriment of those sufferers who do not really need medical transition. There are detransitioners already considering legal action against their doctors and surgeons. If the ban on trans conversion therapy goes ahead, I foresee many medical professionals who are dissatisfied with the affirmation model leaving the profession and those who remain facing a sharp rise in malpractice suits.

I am also afraid that an emphasis on trans rights will come at the expense of women’s sex-based rights, and that biological women will be vulnerable to abuse by men claiming to be women. In America, female prisoners have been sexually assaulted and raped by male prisoners who have been houses with them after they have claimed to identify as women. These men are often sex criminals, the very last people who should be housed with women. Similar concerns have and are being raised about trans-identified boys in schools. There have been a number of cases where female students have been raped by a trans-identified boy, who was allowed to enter their spaces. See the recent controversy in Loudoun County in America. I also believe that transwomen should not be allowed to compete with natural, biological women because of the advantages they retain from when they were men. Sharon Davies, the great Olympic women’s swimmer, has stated that because of men’s biological advantages, transmen still compete with women despite their transition. If this is acceptable for women and transmen, then it should be acceptable to transwomen and men. I am also concerned about the presence of trans-identified men in rape crisis centres and other shelters for women. From what I understand, the mental health of women who have suffered such assaults is shattered to such an extent that it can be made much worse by the presence of men around them, even when those men identify as women. While it would be very good indeed if this were not the case, I believe that for reasons of these extremely vulnerable women’s mental health it is inappropriate to employ trans-identifying women in such facilities. And for the same reasons of mental health, privacy and dignity I do not believe that trans-identifying male nurses should automatically have the intimate care of women in hospital.

I am also gravely concerned with the spread of gender dysphoria among young people and particularly girls. It has been suggested that this is another form of social contagion, like anorexia and multiple personality disorder. It is a mass psychological disorder, rather than arising through a genuine feeling of alienation from one’s gendered body. If this is the case, then this needs to be fought and combated. Thanks to the long austerity caused by the banking crisis, Covid and massively increasing poverty due to Tory rule and policies, there has been a massive increase in mental illness, anxiety and depression. It therefore seems to me to be extremely plausible that this is also a factor in the explosion of trans-identifying children and young people.

I would also like say that in my opinion, Queer Theory should also be banned because of its promotion of such gender anxiety and the psychological harm it does to gay pupils. Queer Theory is a postmodernist revision of Marxism. Its leading thinkers stated that they weren’t interested in healing gay people’s mental anguish and making them valued members of contemporary society. Instead they wished to exacerbate their problems further in order to create unstable sexual identities in people who could be indoctrinated and exploited. I am also very, very concerned in that some of the founders of Queer Theory, like Foucault, were paedophiles and attempted to defend the sexual abuse of children philosophically. I am sure you are also aware in this regard of a recent paper in the feminist magazine Reduxx revealing that WPATH, the World Psychological Association for Transgender Health, has recently gone into partnership with the Eunuch Archive, an organisation for castration fetishists. The Archive’s website also contains an an archive of fiction written by its members. These frequently involve fantasies of abuse and castration of children. It should be absolutely unethical for WPATH to go into partnership with such an organisation, and it should be regarded with deep suspicion rather respected as a leading organisation in transgender medical care.

It is because of these concerns that many women are forming organisations to challenge the trans ideology. One such organisation, with its motto ‘If you don’t respect my sex you don’t get my ‘x” was recently profiled in the Daily Mail. This organisations encourages women to deny their vote to organisations voting against politicians promoting the trans ideology at women’s expense. I am also worried that the Labour party became a laughing stock in the right-wing media by the inability of so many of its politicians a few weeks ago to give a proper to the question ‘What is a woman?’ I am dreadfully afraid that by pursuing extremist pro-trans policies,, the Labour party will lose its female vote and membership. And I am afraid that many gays will also become estranged from the party for many of the same reasons.

Another of my concerns is the threatening and violent behaviour of many trans rights activists. Gender critical feminists have been abused and sent death threats online. Across Europe feminist protests against trans policies have required police protection. One such demonstration in Spain was halted when the police advised the women there to go home as there were so many angry counter-protesters that they were not able to protect them. You can find online any number of videos of such trans rights activists threatening and even physically assaulting women. In my home city, Bristol, the anti-trans campaigner Kelly-Jay Kean and her supporters received similar aggressive treatment from trans activists, supported by Bristol Anarchist Federation and Antifa. And I am outraged that respected feminist academic Kathleen Stock was forced out of her university place because of very aggressive demonstrations by the university’s students. Whether you agree with Kean, Stock and the other ‘TERFs’ as they are called, is immaterial. In a free society, every idea with a few exceptions, should be open to debate, examination and refutation. I am afraid that if Labour sides with such people, then the party that should be viewed as the true party of freedom and open debate will instead become one of authoritarianism and control.

It is for the same reason that I am also opposed to the abuse of hate speech legislation to persecute gender critical women. This has most prominently happened in Scotland, where one gender critical feminist has been prosecuted simply for leaving stickers with the suffragette bow and the slogan ‘Scottish women won’t wheesht’, meaning that the ladies of Scotland will not be silent. 

I would therefore greatly appreciate it if the Labour party would rethink its position on these important issues.

Please do not think I hate trans people. I am strongly opposed to prejudice and the abuse, discrimination and persecution of anyone because of their sexual orientation and gender presentation. I am aware that trans people are vulnerable to abuse and assault, as was detailed in the ’90s small press magazine Aeon: The Magazine of Transkind. But I believe this enlightened concern for this sexual minority’s wellbeing should be in accord with biological reality, medical science and ethics and a proper respect for women and their rights, on whom these issues considerably impinge.

I want Labour to win and for LGBTQ+ to receive proper respect and protection, including and especially those struggling with their gender identifies. It is for this reason that I cannot support Labour’s current policies on trans issues, which I feel will not only bring harm, but a terrible backlash against gay and trans people. I would therefore respectfully ask the pair of you to reconsider your positions.

Yours in solidarity,

David -‘

I didn’t get very far with my response, as I got an automated reply telling me they couldn’t respond to my message, and suggesting other email addresses and departments of the Labour party that would be more suitable for my inquiry. The Labour party are having a policy review at the moment, and I consider these issues so important that I am considering my concerns and objections to their proposed reforms in the area of trans policy to that.

The great commenters on this blog have raised the issues of very entrenched figures on the right with secure political and media positions othering trans people, and the concern that by raising these issues I may be following them and demonising trans people.

I very definitely don’t want to see trans people demonised and made vulnerable to abuse and discrimination. But there are very deep and serious issues here that need to be properly discussed and I believe that the ideology and policies being pushed today in the belief that they will benefit trans people will unintentionally do immense harm.

Ketanji Brown and the Anti-Racist Children’s Book Demonising ‘Whiteness’

March 26, 2022

Ketanji Brown is Biden’s new nomination for the US supreme court. She’s a Black woman of progressive views, and the Republicans have been giving her a right grilling over the past week. There are several objections to her taking up her position. One is that she has a history of giving very lenient sentences, frequently below the recommended length, to perverts possessing child porn. The second is that she is unable to define what a woman is when asked. One of the female Republican politicos asked her that very question, and she replied that, not being a biologist, she couldn’t answer that question. The common sense answer, and the one that nearly everyone would have given a decade ago, is the straight dictionary definition: adult human female. But such straightforward definitions based in biology have become intensely controversial since the rise of the militant trans movement. This instead seeks to define womanhood and masculinity through gender – social sex. A woman, in their view, is simply someone who identifies as one. This has major implications for women’s privacy, safety and sport. Lia Thomas’ victory over his biologically female competitors last week enraged many women because Lia is a biological male with all the advantages. He was able to compete as a woman because he identifies as one. The incarceration of biological men in women’s prisons, simply because they identify as female, is also a major issue. Many of these men are rapists and sex criminals, and there have been a series of assaults and rapes on the biological women they have been incarcerated with. But Brown isn’t the only politico, who can’t give a coherent answer to what a woman is. Jo Swinson, then leader of the Lib Dems, couldn’t when asked last year. Keef Stalin couldn’t when asked if women have cervixes, and declared that it was a question that shouldn’t be asked. Anneliese Dodds and Stella Creasy, also Labour, couldn’t answer it when they were interviewed about International Women’s Day. And Labour’s James Murray also couldn’t answer it when interviewed by Julia Hartley-Brewer on Talk Radio, but simply rejected the biological definition.

But what is also worrying is her attitudes to race. She seems to be a supporter of Critical Race Theory, which seems to me with its rants against ‘Whiteness’ to be simply postmodern anti-White racism. She was asked about a children’s book about raising an anti-racist baby. Aimed at children, this declared that ‘Whiteness is a pact with the Devil’ and shows a White person making just such a deal with Lucifer. I realise that this is intended as a metaphor and that it’s talking about ‘Whiteness’ rather than Whites, but it’s only a very short semantic step from one to the other, a step which critics like James Lindsey see as coming. And metaphorical it may be, but it is similar with how many Blacks really do believe that Whites are demonic.

There’s footage on the web of a Black woman, Angela Shackleford, telling a class of Whites that they ‘were not born into humanity’, will always be the same and are ‘devils to me’. In the realm of religion you have the Nation of Islam, which holds that White people are albinistic mutants created by the evil Mekkan scientist Shaitan to destroy the purity of the Black race. I was told years ago that Rastafarianism also states that White people are devils. And then there’s the Ansaaru Allah Black Muslim sect, whose leader calls Whites ‘Amalekites’ after the Semitic people who warred against Israel as they were passing through the desert on the way to the Promised Land. Their leader’s writings in his text Message to the Blackman in America, is full of anti-White rants, including the remarkable claim that the antichrist has already been born and is a blue-eyed Amalekite. This language is dangerous, because it has been used to stir up real hatred and prejudice against religious and ethnic minorities. For example, in the Middle Ages it was believed that Jews were literally the children of Satan, and this helped foment the pogroms, violence and expulsions directed against them.

And the threat of anti-White racist violence shouldn’t be played down. In 2005 the Guardian reported that racially motivated murders of Whites were almost at the same level as Blacks. Around about the same time it was also reported that Whites constituted the majority of victims of racial abuse and assault. There was also the controversy over the publication of White Girl Bleed a Lot. This argued that there was more mass, communal violence against Whites by Blacks than the other way round. It was denounced as racist, not least because the author seems to have had connections to the far right and had written for World Net Daily. Other criticisms were that his reporting of various events were factually inaccurate.

I really don’t believe that such books and Critical Race Theory in any way help tackle racism. Rather they are intended to teach that all Whites are racist, and that all Blacks can expect from them is racism. Books like that have been around for a very long time. When Mum was a school teacher, she received along with her teaching magazines a list of what the NUT seemed to believe were suitable anti-racist books. There were 20 on the least, and with only a single exception they were all about Black children being racially bullied by Whites. The exception, and the only one I would want to use with a class, was about a young Sikh lad using his swordsmanship skills to survive after the collapse of civilisation. I feel that the proper way to tackle racism in literature and entertainment is to show people of all races cooperating and getting along, in situations that seem natural and unforced. Critical Race Theory does the opposite. It promotes hatred and division, and for that reason many Blacks also despise it. There’s a video online of angry Black father telling a school meeting that he doesn’t want his son taught it. The father hasn’t suffered racism, and he doesn’t want his son taught that it is something he will have to expect either. He wants his son to believe that in America there are no bars to him achieving on the merits of his talents alone. It’s the classic American dream, and although this has certainly not been the experience of everyone, and particularly not people of colour, it’s still admirable.

And definitely better than Critical Race Theory, which is simply anti-White racism with a postmodern twist. Like all racism, it should be discarded and its supporters severely questioned over their suitability to teach and legislate.

Even if, and especially if, they are being nominated as a supreme court judge.

Warwick Davis’ Big Little Theatre Company

February 7, 2015

"The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" New York City Premiere - Arrivals

Warwick Davis and Wife, Sam.

Thursday night the Beeb screened one of the few programmes that show the Corporation can still make documentaries worth showing. Modern Times followed Warwick Davis as he attempted to set up his Reduced Height Theatre Company. Davis and his wife, Sam, and their children are afflicted with dwarfism. Davis himself has had a long career in film and television, playing the mythological type of dwarf, and other creatures of legend, fantasy and Science Fiction. He’s appeared in the fantasy film, Willow, the Leprechaun series of horror flicks and, of course, Harry Potter. Star Wars aficionados will also remember him as the Ewok, Widget, who joins Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca and Lando to overthrow the Empire in Return of the Jedi.

FWRO

Davis in his best-known role.

More recently he has appeared on TV with Ricky Gervaise, as a telekinetic dwarf in Psychoville, and as the Emperor of the Galaxy helping Matt Smith’s Doctor battle the Cybermen.

Davis isn’t content merely to continue playing in this restricted repertoire. He pointed out that many small people like him actually want to play the same roles played by people of normal height. And so he set up the Reduced Height Theatre Company to allow them to do just that. The intention was for the small actors to perform on a set that was scaled for people of their stature. This would create the illusion for the audience that they were actually watching normal-sized actors, so that within five minutes they would have forgotten they were watching dwarves.

See How They Run

The show followed Davis as he and his normal-sized director and producers auditioned the aspiring actors, and supervised the construction of the set. The play they chose to perform was the farce, See How They Run, written in 1942, whose cast includes seven vicars and an escaped German POW. It’s a classic British farce, of the type viewers used to be informed was playing at a theatre somewhere at the end of TV programmes in the 1970s. As the credits rolled, a voice would announce that the actors in the programme were now appearing in show X at the Odeon, Bognor, or somewhere. The cast Davis settled on were extremely talented, and from what was shown it was astonishing that they had never performed professionally before. A few, including one young lady, were drama or performing arts students. The girl was shown in her class performing the type of dance routine that way back in the 1970s was hailed as ‘movement’.

Health Problems

The show also interviewed the cast members themselves. One of the girls, and a bald guy of somewhat hippy-ish attire, spoke of their pain at being dwarves, how they hated being their height, until they finally came to terms with it, and realised those were the bodies they had. The bald bloke was a swimmer, and made the point that in the pool he was as good as anybody. Which I think was proved most definitely by the speed at which some of the disabled swimmers, including Britain’s female dwarf athlete, moved through the pool during the Paralympics.

Along with the lack of height, the disorder can bring other, far more serious problems. The condition may include problems with the spine, the hips and the legs. One of the girls recalled being told that she would eventually end up in a wheelchair by a certain age. This made her determined to live her life as she had it now. The bald fellow also described his problems with the condition.

These problems had, sadly, struck at Davis’ wife, Sam. She had suffered period where she lost sensation in her legs. The bones in her spine had fused to press on her spinal cord. If this was left untreated, she would eventually lose the use of her legs. The problem had become increasingly acute, until she needed to be taken into hospital for an operation, which would correct this and give her back some kind of normal function. If it failed, she would be confined to a wheelchair.

Panto and Financing

Davis had put his own money into setting the project up, and stated that if it failed, his house was on the line. There was added pressure from his having to perform in Panto at the same time as his wife was to have the operation. And in amongst all this, he was also unhappy with the set. The director had purchased a normal-sized set, which was nevertheless sufficiently small for it to be suitable for people of the performers’ size. Nonetheless, it was still too large, and Davis reluctantly decided on taking it to a set construction company. After examining it, they decided that it would have to be rebuilt smaller.

Success

Despite all these problems, the show was a success. Davis took it to 90 different theatres up and down Britain, including Plymouth. The theatre there had a particularly large stage, and it was feared that if they scaled down the set it would leave plenty of unused space on the stage, which would destroy the illusion of normality. The actors were shown laughing at their lines and performances as they rehearsed, with the director pushing them to get the best performance from them in the few weeks before they trod the boards for real. Sam’s operation, although it did not result in her being able to get on her feet as quickly as expected, nevertheless appeared to be a success. Her surgeon assured her that it sounded like she was well on the way to recovery.

I think the Reduced Height Theatre Company is a splendid idea. There have been other, similar specialist theatre companies for others with different types of disability. Nabil Shaban, who played the villainous Sil in the Colin Baker Dr Who stories ‘Vengeance on Varos’ and ‘Mindwarp’, suffered from brittle bone syndrome. He was a member of a disabled theatre troupe, which staged Ben Jonson’s Volpone. One of the greatest dwarf actors was David Rappoport, who starred as the leader of the time travelling dwarf gang in Terry Gilliam’s 1980s fantasy, Time Bandits. Rappoport went on to do other film and TV work. He appeared as an uptight British businessman, who gradually began to unwind through discovering rock ‘n’ roll in America in a TV series on Channel 4 in the 1990s. He brought style and swagger to his roles, but sadly committed suicide just before he was due to appear as the villain in the Star Trek TNG episode ‘The Most Toys’. Watching this, I was left wondering whether he’d still be with us, if something like the Reduced Height Theatre company had existed when he was performing.

In all of this, it inevitably raises the issue of ‘separatism’ versus ‘integration’, and it could be said that the Company acts as a kind of ghetto for people with dwarfism. They may perform the same roles as people of normal height, but they are still separate. I think it’s still great that the theatre is providing people with their disability to perform normal roles, roles which they would otherwise not get. My guess is that it will in time challenge stereotypes, and show producers that actors of this height can be realistically cast in roles other than ‘stage dwarf’.

Support Your Local Disabled Talent, Support the NHS

As so many of the actors with this condition have related health problems, the NHS also has a role in supporting this talent. At one point Davis said that he was amazed when people ask him what it’s like to be in hospital, as they’ve never been. He and his family were in there three times a week. The Tories and UKIP would love to privatise the NHS and replace it with an insurance-based service. One fifth – 20 per cent – of Americans can no longer afford medical care, and Republicans like the Koch brothers would like to end medicare/ Medicaid, the state safety net for those unable to pay. The Tories over here despise the disabled anyway, as do the Kippers. If they get in, the support currently given, if meagrely and extremely grudgingly, to the poor, sick and disabled will vanish. And that will inevitably damage Britain’s ability to nurture talented disabled artists and performers.

If we want Britain to continue produce world class performers, and initiatives that challenge and stretch audiences’ limits and expectations, this cannot go unchallenged. The artists, actors and athletes of the future deserve the support of the welfare state and NHS, along with us normal types.

As for the Reduced Theatre Company, I wish them every success and look forward to their future performances. I hope this time they come somewhere near me, and perform in Bristol or Cheltenham.