Wednesday, January 3, 2018

To lead or not to lead - that is the question

As you may have seen, there's been a new outbreak of the intra-Yes culture wars today, triggered by a post on Wings about another question from the Panelbase poll, showing that by a margin of 58% to 18% the Scottish public are opposed to the proposal that individuals should have the right to change their own legally-recognised gender without reference to anyone else.  I'm not going to get involved in any discussion on the substance of this issue - life's too short (elements of the radical left have spent a fair bit of the last twelve months complaining about me writing a light-hearted Christmas poem, for pity's sake), and as it happens my views on this particular subject aren't especially well-developed anyway.  However, what I do want to offer a view on is the dispute over whether the question the Wings poll asked was "leading" or not.  Here it is in full -

A new government review of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 has proposed that people should in future be allowed to legally decide which sex they are simply by self-definition, without the current medical or psychological assessments which can take two years or more.  This would mean abolishing all current single-sex public spaces, such as women-only changing rooms and men-only toilets, and it would become a hate crime to disagree with someone about which sex they were.  Broadly speaking, what is your view of this proposal?

My simple verdict is: yes, of course that's a leading question, but that doesn't make it an illegitimate question.  This is an unfamiliar topic for most people, which means you're not going to get a considered response from them unless the question goes into a reasonable amount of detail about what the proposal actually is.  And as soon as there's detail, there's a bias, because the person framing the question is effectively making an editorial judgement about what to put in and what to leave out.  There's no such thing as absolute neutrality in such a long question.  This particular question was clearly framed by someone who thinks that the perceived negative consequences of the proposal are more worthy of mention than any positive effects.  Personally, I'd say the final bit about 'hate crimes' seems a bit gratuitous - it reads as a 'chucking in the kitchen sink' addition.  Nevertheless, it's valuable to learn how people react when confronted with the perceived negatives, and it would be equally interesting to see how people react when confronted with the positives - presumably other polls can enlighten us on the latter point.  I think, however, that it would be naive to assume that the result would be dramatically different even if the most favourable and reassuring slant was put on the question.  We know from the debate over equal marriage that social attitudes can sometimes change very, very rapidly, and that may well prove to be the case once again.  But as of right now, at this very moment in January 2018, legally-binding self-definition of gender doesn't seem to be something that the majority of the public are ready to fully embrace.

41 comments:

  1. I have a family member who has transitioned and know the pain and torment he went through. But I think the process required him to fully think through what he wanted and how he saw himself. I have not asked him his view on this issue yet, and like you, James, although being closer to the issue than many people, I am also not 100% convinced on this proposed relaxation of the current situation.

    I will try to watch the debate and see what is being brought forward, but am also "concerned" that no Holyrood party seems to want to, at least voice the "Devil's advocate" position.

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  2. I am disturbed that on any other issue I can think of you would criticise such a leading question, yet on being transgender you praise it. Most topics are to some degree 'an unfamiliar topic for most people' unless they're a political anorak, yet only on this one is it acceptable in a survey to push them to answer the way the pollster happens to think? Seriously?

    I don't think my opinion on this issue matters. It has nothing to do with that this is a terrible poll question.

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    1. Sorry, what? How have I "praised" the question? Actually, I'll save you the bother - no, I haven't "praised" the question.

      And no, it's self-evidently not the case that you have to be an anorak to answer most poll questions. A great many questions are about well-rehearsed topics (few people need the concept of "paying more tax" explained to them, for example).

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    2. Oh, so they don't need explained to the how much more 'more tax' is or who will pay the 'more'? I would consider calling the question 'legitimate' is praising it. Whatever you want to call that, I believe you are wrong.

      If it matters, I have some doubts about the wisdom of the law in question, but with the extremity of this article, Campbell just handed any enemies of the Yes movement and his critiques a butt load of ammunition and good ammunition at that.

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    3. Your first objection is pointless. "Should anyone earning over £50,000 per year pay £80 more every month in tax?" is a simple, short, neutral question that practically anyone can understand.

      No, calling a question "legitimate" is not praising it. And, actually, I suspect you know that as well as I do - this is just silly.

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    4. Yes, that is neutral question. What is silly is calling a question that is nowhere near 'neutral' (which you even admitted Stu Campbell's question was not) legitimate, but there is no point in this debate. There we are in agreement. His attack on transgender people is going to come back to bite the Yes movement in the arse.

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    5. I didn't say "there is no point in this debate", and nor do I think that. I just said that I don't personally want to contribute to it. There are a number of controversial subjects on which I have well-developed opinions which I feel strongly about. This isn't one of those subjects, so I'd be subjecting myself to flak for no good reason. Stuart is in a different position because he does have strong views that he wants to put across.

      I explained precisely why a non-neutral question is legitimate in this case, ie. because the proposal is unfamiliar to people, needs to be explained, and is impossible to explain in a 100% neutral way. So the best that cdn be done is to have multiple polls using different wording. You clearly think I'm wrong about that, so if you think a neutral question *is* possible, why not be constructive and suggest one?

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    6. Be careful of your language as Stu did NOT attack anyone and proferred no opinion.To be honest, your attitude is very revealing and not very conciliatory at all, which is what is needed to move discussion forward.

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  3. People are entitled to conduct their own polls and set questions however they choose. It's madness go get upset about it.

    I think when it comes to what people know about the subject though, it's hard to remember the last law passed in Scotland that had NO major opposition from one party or another. On gay marriage, for example, we heard plenty from religious groups. There's been very little public discourse on this though, and if these poll findings are anywhere close to reflecting people's opinions then that's a problem.

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    1. That is an interesting observation, I hadn't thought of it like that. I suppose that many may people feel like I did - I support gay rights, equal marriage & adoption, I have a live and let live attitude to these things.

      So if someone was born into the wrong body, I am happy to know that they can access help by self-referring to a transgender clinic here in Scotland and then access medical help all the way to gender reassignment surgery on the NHS. I wouldn't deliberately "deadname" or "misgender" someone. I was in favour of self-certification.

      Then I read about the trans woman who was beaten up for speaking out against the proposal (it was unbelievably hateful) and the vitriol the left heaped upon her afterwards (the consensus was basically that she deserved it and the male aggression & violence meted out to her was fair).

      At the same time a huge debate on this issue was kicked off in Germany by a feminist I have admired for decades. I wanted to understand why she was so vehemently opposed and why feminists who previously protected and supported trans women had turned against this particular movement.

      I educated myself on the pros and cons. And changed my mind. But if I now do speak out in favour of protecting women's rights, I will be labeled a bigot, a transphobe, a fascist. And who needs that in their lives? So maybe that's why most groups that would otherwise argue don't speak out. (And the religious groups can't now argue that the 2004 Act is fine as is, because that'd imply acceptance.)

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    2. Then I read about the trans woman who was beaten up for speaking out against the proposal (it was unbelievably hateful) and the vitriol the left heaped upon her afterwards (the consensus was basically that she deserved it and the male aggression & violence meted out to her was fair).

      You got a link to this? I haven't heard about this story, and would be interested to see some details.

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    3. Anonymous, you can probably find info on that case online, I saw something about it but can't remember where. Yes people are being beaten up, demonised and threatened for their views and opinions on this and why should anyone tolerate that. IMO, the law should stay as it is, and those who do not like that law and the rules, can enter into dialogue in an intelligent way and work towards tweaking it. If a guy can go into a womens tiolets and claim to be a woman then a man when he is not in that womens tiolet, it is getting stupid, really stupid.

      I was assaulted in the street recently, by a male, who you could say looked female, at least from a short distance, but therefore was gender neutral. He is dangerous, and though this is rare, apparently, it could become more common if people can say they are not in fact a man, on a whim!!
      As people have pointed out, we have huge issues to deal with, and while this is important, it is a huge distraction. Very convenient for some who will be delighted that people are not looking into their dodgy political policies, ie Tory and Labour parties.

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    4. The person who was assaulted wasn't a trans woman. She was an actual woman called Maria MacLachlan. The context was that a meeting was being organised to try to discuss the proposed changes in the law (in England). One of the speakers at the meeting was to be a trans-identifying male called Miranda Yardley. The problem was that the trans activists were calling the arranged venues and threatening them and the venues were pulling out.

      IN the end the organisers refused to tell anyone where the meeting was going to be. They arranged a meeting point at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park so that people could then be taken to the meeting. The trans activists turned up at the rendezvous and became very aggressive and Maria was assaulted.

      All the women wanted to do was have a meeting to discuss the changes to the law. This is the reaction they got. This is the sort of people whose desires are being facilitated under the deception that they're fragile vulnerable people who have to be given everything they want.

      The politicians are falling for it hook line and sinker. Express any reservations and you'll be called a TERF, a hater, a bigot and a transphobe. You'll be told to have some empathy with these poor vulnerable flowers who beat up women.

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  4. The overwhelming majority of Scots or indeed any nationality get on with their daily lives and are not members of groups who have personal interests. The majority are allowed to vote occasionally and the results no doubt upsets those with an agenda which no doubt upsets them as has been the case since September 2014.

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    1. You're still in the huff because you weren't included in the email.

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    2. Jocksists are like rapists they don't understand that no means no. No means no jocksists!

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    3. You're still in the huff because you weren't included in the email.

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  5. They don't get rid of gender bathrooms! Folks use the appropriate one. Pretty simple.

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    1. I'm not sure that's true. There are already sporadic instances in the UK of the male and female signage on toilets being completely abandoned. I make no comment on whether that's a good or a bad thing, but it's undoubtedly happening.

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    2. Indeed. A few months ago I attended an event at Glasgow University where one of the toilets was described as gender neutral - I can't remember the exact term used - accompanied by the warning that it contained urinals. I used a different one.

      The best thing about the Wings article is that it prompted me to reply to the SG's consultation - at great length, so I hope they appreciate it.

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    3. Don't the bathrooms in Europe have mens rooms with like 20 urinals in a row? Most new or renovated in,the USA at least outside the deep red states, have mens rooms, ladies rooms, usually an extra ladies , and then a handicapped/ whatever room. Or two. I do vaguely remember Europe having less toilets and having to pay coins? Been a while. You all should know that the neo Nazi right has used the bathroom issue to stir up hate here." men will claim they are woman and walk into your daughters restroom with their penises out!".

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    4. This will allow any man who has self-identified as a women to enter female-designated spaces. Do you really think it's appropriate for someone with a penis and testicles to use the women's facilities? Because that's what's being promoted here.

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  6. Inferences are being drawn here which seem based on conjecture rather than evidence. I'm very sceptical that simply disagreeing with someone about which gender they are will be classed as a hate crime (perhaps denying people access to certain services on the basis of such a disagreement might be, but that's a much more limited scenario).

    The question seems designed to frame the potential consequences of the law in the broadest and most sensational terms unsupported by solid evidence or legal opinion: that's much more than simply an 'editorial choice' problem.

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    1. Well, Stuart himself made the point that Panelbase had to approve the question. That's not to say it's the sort of question they would have chosen themselves, but presumably they must have been satisfied that it could at least be defended on the basis of accuracy.

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    2. well, i haven't seen where he has made this point but
      a) are Panelbase really an authority on the potential consequences of the law? and b) how often do pollsters put up a major fight over a longstanding, paying client's preferred wording of a question?

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  7. NB WoS seems to have read its own poll incorrectly: it states that the data for its 'sexuality' question show: 'that non-heterosexual scots (including transgender) narrowly opposed the proposals too, by 51-49% overall'.

    But the question posed to gather the appropriate demographic data was 'How would you describe your sexual orientation?' with the available options being 'Heterosexual', 'Gay/Lesbian', 'Bisexual', 'Other', and 'Prefer not to Say'.

    Not only is transgender identity not mentioned, but transgender identity is not even a sexual orientation. Are WoS reading the transgender individuals as 'Other'? Some transgender individuals consider themselves heterosexual and would answer the question accordingly.

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    1. Yes, that's a fair point, right enough. The most obvious 'other' orientation is asexual.

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  8. As someone involved in the discussion following publication of said poll on Wings, can I say that comments made that Stu is done the yes movement a disservice is utterly ridiculous and deeply ignorant.
    The issues raised were vitally important for all of us to understand without being shouted down, which is exactly what usually happens when this is put forward!

    Many wise voices made comment and even now hours later, the discussions continue without rancour. I read so many on both sides with great compassion and thoughtfulness and even with some poignancy.

    I've made my point, hopefully, that this subject had been basically personna non grata for any woman to speak of. Well, thank god that someone had the cajones to get the discussions away from the nasty and vile that it was becoming and into real questions and answers!

    Stu gets a lot of flak from all sides, occasionally merited, but he's never shied away from questioning anomolies which some seem to think is bad. Not questioning is how the dark stays dark and I'd much rather see more of the light...

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  9. He did a good job as you nat sis lost in the referendum and are still behind, wonder why!

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    1. Seek professional help. Immediately.

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  10. If it has the words "hate crime" in it, I'm against it.

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  11. OK, lets get a few facts out of the way:

    1) I am trans. I am Quaker. I just want to live my life in peace.

    2) There is a disturbingly large number of people who have been *denied* transition because of idiot doctors who don't know what they're talking about. These people need protection and support.

    3) Trans-related care waitlists are stupidly long. 12+ months for a first appointment to even ask a doctor "I think I might be transgender - what do I do?" is the norm. Then there's another 3-6 months before the second appointment, and another 3-6 months before the third, which is the earliest that they might actually start treatment. That's a 2 YEAR wait, for those counting. 2 years of suicide-grade depression. This is unacceptable. For reference, the "I'm depressed, I need a psych" waitlist is only about 6 months long, and that's the actual waitlist, not the waitlist for an assessment appointment. The wait for an assessment appointment is only 1-2 months.

    4) I am still in that awkward androgynous stage of transition, and let me tell you - if I go out and someone genders me wrong, it hurts. It hurts so much that I very rarely manage to do anything but run home and cry afterwards.

    Does the government need to do something to improve trans-related care? YES!!!!

    Have I heard all this crap about "what about if a rapist claims to be trans to go into the womens' bathrooms" before? Yeap.

    Am I going to point out that anyone who's trans is highly unlikely to have the confidence to go into a womans' space until they think that they pass? Yeap.

    Do I think some people take the "attack helicopter" bullshit way too far? Yeap.

    Do I think that Stu is being a fucking idiot about this on the level of "security theatre is good because it gives us a (false) sense of security"? Yeap. But I don't hold it against him because it's obvious he's never knowingly interacted with a trans person, just some false-flag attacks from idiots on the internet.

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    1. You are not everyone and that is partly why this issue needs deeper consideration. If this is not sorted then trans are just as vulnerable from self identifying males who are intent on violence.

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    2. Self-identifying males who are intent on violence are going to do whatever the fuck they like anyways. Laws about trans* rights aren't going to stop *or* encourage them. All they'll do is give them an additional option for which bullshit excuse they'll throw out at the trial. Best defence against them remains strong laws about self-defence, a good martial arts course, and a kick between the legs.

      ---

      Like I say to the anti-legal sex folks - "Assault is still assault, harassment is still harassment, violence is still violence, rape is still rape" (and they get "kidnapping is still kidnapping", as well, but that's not applicable here)

      Why do we need laws making some things that are already illegal "super-duper-extra-illegal" in some situations? It's not going to change the crime rates.

      I honestly am looking for a good answer to that, btw. It's not a rhetorical question. (ok, it is, because I don't think there's a good reason, but I'm open to convincing)

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    3. Oh, and on the bathrooms issue:

      I see no reason for single-stall toilets with a seat to be gender-signed.

      If it's got urinals, then by all means sign it as male.

      If it's not got urinals, and it's all fully enclosed stalls, then I don't see a reason other than "girls are victims, men are predators" to not stick a unisex sign on it. Then again, I have martial arts training and a male upbringing, so I am *not* the person to make a call on that one.

      I prefer separate, non-stall toilets anyway.

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    4. Well said..&...All the best for the future

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  12. Greetings from Raleigh, North Carolina. If nothing else, this poll is a conversation-starter. Here in NC we had the "infamous bathroom bill." The state's largest city, Charlotte (majority Democrat) decided, in its infinite wisdom to accede to hectoring by militant transgender people to allow people to decide that they could use whatever bathroom or locker room in which they were more comfortable. The State General Assembly (very conservative Republican, with a super-majority) convened a special session and passed a bill invalidating the Charlotte ordinance. They also took the opportunity to stick the boot into the disabled, but that's another story.

    Then the out-of-state backlash started and businesses and organizations got all hot under the collar. So things got rolled back on both sides - not quite to where they were beforehand, but close enough. One thing that never happened was an informed debate. Both extremes shouted over each other but nobody talked to the rest of us - the ones who decide elections.

    Don't be North Carolina. Stand up (or sit down, according to preference) and have a civilized, informed debate.

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  13. The law of nature gives a man a willie and women get a vagina... The NHS is available for health problems... Perhaps in the future the NHS will provide free frocks for men!...
    New Year Joke: Man in restaurant recognises a woman opposite that was a school mate but seems to recall she was a man. They got into conversation and the woman says she had a sex change. The guy asks was it difficult? She says no it was relatively easy just a boob job and a nip and tuck down there. Was it really that easy the man asks. Well she said they did have a problem narrowing my brain.

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    1. Crawl back under your rock before daylight burns you.

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  14. Having read through the consultation document, and then used a search function on it, I am not delighted about the phrasing of the Wings survey question. It clearly is not a neutral question.

    "This would mean abolishing all current single-sex public spaces, such as women-only changing rooms and men-only toilets, and it would become a hate crime to disagree with someone about which sex they were."

    None of this appears in the document, and therefore adds an element of value judgement which I find rather depressing, given that in general I value Wings' obsession with checking out and reporting original sources accurately!

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    1. Yeah, he's obviously had a run in with some loony, and is now fervently opposed to making trans* people's lives safer.

      He's on the wrong side of history with this one.

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