Notes and Comment Blog

The m word

May 16th, 2019 5:06 pm | By

Oops. Wokey McWokerson made a little mistake.

Yaaaaaaay inclusivity, no mention of women, just “uterus holding individual”! Utopia is nigh!

Oh but wait though, what’s that ugly thing in the line above? “Men”? That can’t be right. On the one hand men, on the other hand uterus holding individuals? Do these rules apply only to women?

Woking every day is not easy.

A President Like No Other

May 16th, 2019 4:48 pm | By

More “I can do anything I want to” from President Crook:

President Donald Trump has granted a full pardon to Conrad Black, the former press baron and one-time society fixture who was found guilty of fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007.

…Black is a personal friend and the author of pro-Trump opinion pieces as well as a flattering book, Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.

Oh he’s like no other all right.

Sanders described Black, who also once owned the Chicago Sun-TimesThe Jerusalem Post and The Telegraph in London, as “an entrepreneur and scholar” who “has made tremendous contributions to business, as well as to political and historical thought.”

She also cited support for Black from Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state; Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio host and a frequent golf partner of the president’s; and musician Elton John.

Well with endorsements like that

The weight of years and years of abuse

May 16th, 2019 12:30 pm | By

Victoria Derbyshire talked to Jess Phillips about it a few days ago.

He is empathizing with the other side

May 16th, 2019 12:10 pm | By

Victoria Derbyshire talked to Carl Benjamin this morning about his “jokes” about rape.

“There are two sides to every question,” he says, “and I am empathizing with the other side.”

So there are two sides to rape and he’s empathizing with the rapist?

Probably not; he probably means he’s “empathizing” with the side that finds rape jokes funny and “empowering.” He claims that he gets survivors of rape telling him they appreciate his jokes.

But. Even if you take that claim at face value, is that what he was doing when he made that “joke” about and at Jess Phillips? No, it was not. It was a very ordinary very familiar woman-hating dude joke aimed at a woman he wanted to bully.

He wants comedy to come back to the UK, because the BBC is doing everything it can to kill it off.

He says Derbyshire is inciting violence against him (milkshakes and kippers, apparently), but he hasn’t incited violence against anyone, because he was telling jokes.

And to sum up…

No expertise, qualifications or experience

May 16th, 2019 11:15 am | By

Playing the pretend-knowledge trick: I am an expert in this made-up Thing (field? discipline? ideology? campaign?) so I get to say anyone who disputes said made-up Thing has no right to do so because No Expertise.

Like trans-activist Ugla Stefanía Jónsdóttir for instance:

Experts on trans rights and people who have been working in the field for decades are being pitted against almost anyone with a negative opinion about trans people – regardless of who they are. This seems to be a trend among anti-trans campaigners; they’re given a platform despite their lack of knowledge or experience of the discussion they’re taking part in. As an example, in a controversial move, Scottish MP Joan McAlpine has just invited Canadian writer Meghan Murphy, founder of the blog Feminist Current, to speak at the Scottish Parliament about ‘how transgender ideology affects women’s rights’.

Murphy’s blog has long been known for its strong anti-trans stance and regularly publishes material that advocates against trans rights and discusses the alleged dangers of the ‘transgender lobby’. It is a go-to-site for strong anti-trans campaigners.

It would be safe to say that Murphy herself has no expertise, qualifications or experience with transgender rights.

But would it? No, it wouldn’t. Murphy has, for instance, abundant experience with the way the more belligerent trans activists work hard to silence Murphy and other feminists. And while we’re on the subject, what expertise, qualifications or experience does Ugla Stefania have with women’s rights? Other than battling them?

Her invitation to this discussion therefore seems quite out of touch, such as if a climate change denier was invited to discussion about how to stop the catastrophic damage we are doing to our planet. Or if a representative of the Flat Earth Society was invited to a discussion about an upcoming space expedition by NASA.

Oh no you don’t. There is a mountain of Actual Science dealing with climate change, and the same goes for cosmology and engineering. Transery isn’t a body of knowledge, or any kind of knowledge at all, it’s mere declaration of identity. Trans ideology insists with great ferocity that it is entirely a matter of self-identification, so it can’t possibly also be a matter of specialist knowledge. “A woman is anyone who identifies as a woman” – how many times have we been told that, usually with menaces? There’s  nothing to know, no expertise or qualifications or experience required. It’s all about the assertion, and the fact that it is all about the assertion is the very thing we’re attacked and shunned for questioning. So no: it’s not even slightly like climate change denial.

People who fundamentally do not believe trans people are the gender they know themselves to be, and who deliberately and repeatedly misgender and misrepresent people’s identities and personhood, can never be seen as reasonable representatives of this debate. Trans people are who they say they are, and any conversation that doesn’t acknowledge this is inherently flawed and biased.

See? She says it herself. “Trans people are who they say they are” so what expertise can there possibly be?

These groups and individuals are disguising themselves as protectors of the rights of ‘women and girls’, but it’s time we see them for what they truly are: misguided people with conservative and fundamentalist views about sex and gender. They do not want equality, but supremacy.

Interesting, that’s what anti-feminist men have been saying about feminism since before Mary Wollstonecraft learned to read.

Many Mennonites took offense

May 16th, 2019 10:38 am | By

I hadn’t heard of Miriam Toews until I read this New Yorker profile of her.

Toews, who is fifty-four, is one of the best-known and best-loved Canadian writers of her generation. She grew up in Steinbach, a town founded by Mennonites in the province of Manitoba, for which the colony in Bolivia was named. (“Toews,” which rhymes with “saves,” is as recognizably Mennonite as “Cohen” is Jewish.) Her fiction has often dealt with the religious hypocrisy and patriarchal dominion that she feels to be part of her heritage, and with a painful emotional legacy, harder to name but as present as a watermark. Her father and her sister both died too young, and she sees a certain Mennonite tendency toward sorrow and earthly guilt as bearing some responsibility for their deaths.

Her father and sister both committed suicide, we find out later.

One segment of my family tree is Mennonite, which I find deeply weird. My maternal grandfather moved from farm to town (in Iowa) and he must have left the Mennonite part decisively behind, because I don’t remember even hearing the word in childhood. Not so with Toews.

Over a lunch of butter-chicken rotis, the conversation turned to Toews’s novels. An Elvira-like figure appears in just about all of them, pragmatic, comical, full of good sense, though some of these incarnations are more fictional than others.

Elvira is her mother.

“I have no secrets left, and that’s O.K.,” Elvira said. “I stand behind Miriam one hundred per cent. She has a mind I don’t have, and I know that. And with what they call your coming-out story—”

“Coming-of-age story,” Toews said. “ ‘A Complicated Kindness.’ ”

The novel, published in 2004, is narrated by sixteen-year-old Nomi Nickel, who has begun to rebel against the repressive religious culture of her small Mennonite town. It won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and became a best-seller, the kind of book that gets assigned in school and included on lists of novels that “make you proud to be a Canadian,” and it turned Toews, a niche, indie sort of Canadian writer, into a famous one. It is a master class in schputting; not even Menno Simons, for whom the faith is named, gets away with his dignity intact, and many Mennonites took offense.

Do I want to read a novel narrated by a teenage girl who has begun to rebel against the repressive religious culture of her small Mennonite town? Oh hell yes.

Of course there was angry reaction.

“It was Marj who also really helped me a lot, who told me, ‘Listen, people are going to come after you, people will be angry,’ ” Toews said. “She told me to say this thing I’ve said for so long, and so often, which is that it’s not a critique of the Mennonite faith or of Mennonite people but of fundamentalism, of that culture of control. I wish that people who felt that they were being personally attacked could step back and say, ‘Maybe she is really talking about the hypocrisy of the intolerance, the oppressiveness, particularly for girls and women, the emphasis on shame and guilt and punishment.’ ” Her voice was catching. “We all have a right to fight in life.”

This happens with all religions. They all treat women as dangerous rebellious contaminants, and they all control and punish them harshly. We all have a right to resist.

It is not lost on Toews that her separatist ancestors’ fates have depended on those who wield worldly power, or that their pacifism has often been contingent on the conquest of other peoples. The founders of Steinbach came from Russia in the eighteen-seventies, at the invitation of the newly formed Canadian government, which offered them land that had been wrested from people of the First Nations. The newcomers belonged to a particularly punitive sect of Mennonites. Harmonizing while singing hymns was considered sinful, and so was dancing. Trains might encourage contact with the outside world, so Steinbach had no station. Someone who was thought to have done or said something unacceptable could be shunned by the church, and cast out of the community.

By the time Toews was born, in 1964, shunning was no longer official practice, but the atmosphere remained oppressive, nosy, censorious. “It’s a town that exists in the world based on the idea of it not existing in the world,” Nomi Nickel says.

Rather like spending your whole life committing suicide.

We don’t need a McConnell whisperer

May 16th, 2019 10:06 am | By

Biden is so full of shit.

“History will treat this administration’s time as an aberration,” Biden told an Iowa ballroom-full of supporters last week. “This is not the Republican Party,” he continued, noting his longstanding ties to “my Republican friends in the House and Senate.”

If this is not the Republican Party, why is it occupying all those Republican seats and passing all those Republican votes and protecting Donald Trump no matter what he does? If it’s not the Republican Party why don’t they all quit, or vote with the Democrats to hobble and then impeach Trump?

Indeed, as The New York Times has reported, “in the Obama White House, he was known as the ‘McConnell whisperer’ for his skills in striking agreements with the often recalcitrant Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell.”

And how well that worked! Don’t take my word for it: Ask Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland. Behold how many Republicans voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act once it was bringing affordable health care to tens of millions of their compatriots. And note the swarms of Republicans who opposed the Trump tax cut for directing a trillion or so dollars to the already super-rich.

For real.

Biden should not be running at all. It’s sheer entitlement and it needs to die.

Liberty for me but not for thee

May 16th, 2019 9:53 am | By

Oh really, that’s interesting.

Maybe by “libertarian” they mean liberty for men? Or, more specifically still, for white men? I don’t think I’ve ever seen any Koch brothers advocacy for reform of our slavery-like prison regime. Or just rich white men perhaps? Liberty for Koch brothers and men like Koch brothers?

From Popular Information:

Other companies supporting the Republicans behind Alabama’s abortion ban

Koch Industries, run by the supposedly libertarian Koch brothers, donated $2,500 to Ainsworth, $1,500 to Chambliss, $1,500 to Ledbetter, and $2,000 to Reed.

Liberty is an awesome thing, but only rich white men really know how to use it. Everyone else has to be kept on a very tight leash.

Men of Alabama

May 15th, 2019 5:46 pm | By

The barmaid hits a nerve.


Go ahead and break the law, kid

May 15th, 2019 5:21 pm | By

Lindsey Graham told Don Junior to break the law. Seems a bit flaky for a US senator.

[W]e ought to reserve some surprise for occasions like Monday, when the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, himself a lawyer, told a private citizen to defy a Republican senator and to break the law. And that’s what Graham did when he advised Donald Trump Jr. to ignore a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee, run by his Republican colleague Richard Burr. We should pause to be horrified. For the record, in the past Graham claimed that both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton could be impeached for defying subpoenas. But that was in the b.t. era: before trump.

Burr has questions, and observers in both parties say they’re not likely to be frivolous. It should be underscored: He heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, so his concerns likely have to do with issues of national security; Lindsey Graham doesn’t even sit on that committee. Burr is one of the so-called “Gang of Eight,” the eight congressional leaders empowered to learn about the most sensitive details of threats to the US and intelligence operations; Graham is not.

Maybe the worst thing to happen Monday, in terms of the rule of law, was Attorney General William Barr’s decision to open an investigation into the origins of the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election. Trump is also trying to get information and possible assistance from the new Ukrainian government in investigating allegations against Hunter Biden as well as his father, former vice president Joe Biden…

In other words it’s all terrible and getting worse, and no one seems to be able to stop it.

Say it. Say WOMEN.

May 15th, 2019 3:48 pm | By

Newsweek reports:

Alabama’s bill banning virtually all abortions in the state is a “violation of human rights,” Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Which is true as far as it goes, but it’s more specifically a violation of women’s rights. If Amnesty talked about police shootings of black people it wouldn’t call that “violation of human rights,” it would call it a violation of black people’s rights, because it’s that specific issue. Somehow though the rules are different when it comes to women.

“Alabama’s vote is the latest in a string of abortion bans specifically designed to strip away people’s reproductive rights. These bans will be deadly, endanger pregnant people’s lives and criminalize doctors and health care providers for simply doing their jobs and providing care,” Tarah Demant, the Director of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Program at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. [emphasis added]

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Director of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Program at Amnesty International USA didn’t try to erase women? She did manage to spit out the word at the end, but only at the end.

“These bans reinforce violence against women by victimizing survivors of rape and sexual violence twofold by denying their right to access abortion.”

In future say it from the beginning of the statement.

Don’t erase women

May 15th, 2019 3:23 pm | By

Amnesty’s brilliant decision to use Alabama’s murderous ban on abortion as an opportunity to ignore women by saying

Abortion bans like the one passed in Alabama are a violation of human rights. These bans will be deadly. They will endanger pregnant people’s lives.

is not going over well. Replies are uniformly furious.

  1. (Alan Henness []

Guest post: An attack on the idea of judgment

May 15th, 2019 2:48 pm | By

Guest post by Josh Slocum

The contemporary worship of the concept of being “inclusive” is in direct opposition to drawing boundaries. Personal boundaries, conceptual boundaries, physical boundaries.

It’s not merely a soft-hearted plea to be more helpful to others. It’s a disguised attack on the right of people to have any personal, emotional, or intellectual space. It’s an attack on the idea of judgment and discernment.

It’s an attack on the most basic foundations of being a healthy, confident person.

It’s also female socialization weaponized. Women are trained to deny themselves and their own needs. They’re encouraged to see virtue in the act of relaxing boundaries to give to others. This leads to many women believing that it’s immoral for others to draw boundaries.

In this way many women are not only participating in their own subjugation, they’re actively subjugating others. They chastise “non-inclusive” behavior in others as if it were an instance of violence or bigotry.

This is dangerous.

Terms that were insulting and offensive

May 15th, 2019 12:08 pm | By

I posted about Councillor Gregor Murray a couple of times last year, in reference to his habit of calling women “utter cunts” and “roasters” and similar. Now it’s gotten him suspended for two months.

Gregor Murray, who represents [Dundee’s] North East ward, was called before the Standards Commission for Scotland on Wednesday but did not appear in person.

The hearing panel found the councillor – who quit the SNP this week amid claims of “institutional transphobia” in the party – also broke ethical standards by using abusive and vile language to and directed at members of the public.

The councillor was alleged to have used “terms that were insulting and offensive during twitter exchanges with a member of the public, on gender related issues, in January and July last year and, as such, behaved in a disrespectful manner”.

In their judgement the panel said the councillor had abused the complainer by referring to her as a TERF (a pejorative term which stands for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’).

Announcing the decision, panel chairwoman Ashleigh Dunn said Gregor Murray had broken the Councillors’ Code of Conduct in all complaints made.

Isn’t that interesting – they agree with us TERFs that “TERF” is a pejorative, and a harsh one at that. (If it were mild they probably wouldn’t have suspended him, I’m thinking.)

In a statement in response to the ruling, Gregor Murray pledged to take legal advice “as to what my next steps are, for when my health permits”.

The councillor said: “I am severely disappointed in the decision made today by the Standards Commission, which I believe to be a miscarriage of justice.

“I entirely accept that it is not appropriate for me to swear – I have apologised for this on numerous occasions, and have already accepted sanctions for doing so. I am also extremely worried by the precedent they have set that TERF is an offensive term.”

Oh yes? What about the precedent set by the innumerable tweets promising violence against “TERFs,” images of guns and knives and wire-wrapped baseball bats aimed at “TERFs,” banners and posters and T shirts threatening mayhem against “TERFs”? I guess he doesn’t worry about that at all? Useful to be male, isn’t it.

Updating to add:

Say our NAME

May 15th, 2019 11:25 am | By

God damn Amnesty.

Another back stabbed

May 15th, 2019 10:51 am | By

Another heretic shunned, this time by the group The Atheist Community of Austin.

Statement from the ACA Board of Directors

Recently, the ACA Board of Directors was made aware that guest co-host Stephen Woodford (YouTuber “Rationality Rules”) had made ignorant and transphobic videos and statements on his social media platforms in the weeks leading up to his appearances on ACA shows. We would like to make it clear that we do not share or condone his opinions or attitudes, and that we fully and actively support equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ community.

We acknowledge that the ACA did a poor job showing our support by allowing Mr. Woodford to make appearances on our shows without either addressing his controversial views on the air, or asking him to refrain from appearances until he released a clarifying statement on his channel. We also failed to communicate our feelings and intentions in a timely manner to our volunteers and fans.

We sincerely apologize for the pain and anguish our failings have caused our viewers, volunteers, and our ACA family all over the world. We love the trans community and are deeply distressed to have caused anyone harm. We have let you down, and we intend to do our best to earn back your trust.

The ACA is working quickly and diligently to ensure that this kind of mistake does not happen again. We will be coordinating with hosts, co-hosts, and staff to communicate any potential issues with a guest well in advance of when they are set to appear on any ACA production. The ACA will not knowingly allow any ACA production or publication to be used in a manner that’s inconsistent with our mission and position statements.

We would also love to hear from you, our ACA family. If you have any ideas or feedback on how we can do better, please email us at


Board of Directors
The Atheist Community of Austin

Woodford had made a video on the subject of transgender athletes; he now says he “made some mistakes” in that video, which I suspect means he violated some asserted orthodoxy or other as opposed to making a genuine (factual) mistake – but more to the point, he also says that making mistakes is not being “transphobic.”

There are currently 1.7 thousand comments on the Facebook post I linked to. I’ll sample a few.

  • I’d like to post a poll to simply aid the ACA leadership in understanding where those they represent stand. Just a simple yes or no, “Should ACA withdraw its statement and apologize to RR for characterizing him as transphobic?” However, they don’t seem to be letting any new threads like that which could be deemed critical of the ACA through moderation.
  • Very disappointed to see the way discussion is being squashed not just here but now with mass deleting of comments on the Talk Heathen show. Way to stay open to dialogue and discussion and criticism ACA.
  • Once again…thank you to the ACA for standing up for the trans community and not bending to the will of the endless cis dude parade.
    Feel free to reply, but I won’t be reading or responding.
  • I am looking forward to Stephen’s follow up video. Hopefully he can put the record straight.
    For the record I am 100% supportive of trans athletes competing as the gender they identify if fairness can be achieved for them and the athletes against whom they are competing.

I have to say something about that one. I would guess that everyone is 100% supportive of trans athletes competing as the gender they identify [as] if fairness can be achieved for them and the athletes against whom they are competing, but when it’s people with male bodies competing against women fairness can’t be achieved, which is the whole point.

  • Oh please. ‘XX women’ AKA cis non-intersex women do not get to police who identifies as a woman just because we happened to be born into a body that matches society’s ideals. Read about the term ‘TERFs’.
  • Inviting someone onto several of your shows, using them to gain increased audience figures, denouncing them as soon as they leave your sight, putting out hyperbolic statements without clarifying or supporting them and then censuring and limiting any debate on the topic is certainly something, but ‘brave’ might not be the word I use….

Some “community” huh?

H/t Aratina Cage

For every hateful message, there was one of gratitude

May 15th, 2019 9:39 am | By

Have you been wondering how the Red Hen restaurant has been doing since that day it asked Sarah Sanders to leave? Have you been wondering if the Trumpers have shut it down? They did try, but they failed.

Yet, as I kept opening the letters, I saw a pattern. For every hateful message, there was one of gratitude. For every angry accusation that our actions were driven by the inability to accept Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, there was a note of thanks from someone lamenting Trump’s rollback of protections for marginalized people. What’s more, for every wish that our business die a painful death, there was a dollar bill or a generous check or an order for a gift certificate.

When we opened after a 10-day hiatus, our dining room was full. In the following weeks, people who had never been to the Shenandoah Valley traveled out of their way to eat with us. Hundreds of orders for our Red Hen spice blend poured in. And the love spread far beyond our door, as supporters sent thousands of dollars in donations in our honor to our local food pantry, our domestic violence shelter and first responders.

After nearly a year, I’m happy to say that business is still good. Better than good, actually. And besides the boost to our area charities, our town’s hospitality and sales revenue have gone up, too.

Live long and prosper, Red Hen.

War on women

May 15th, 2019 9:30 am | By

In Alabama women are officially not people, they are just incubators owned by men.

Alabama lawmakers voted Tuesday to ban virtually all abortions in the state — including for victims of rape and incest — sending the strictest law in the nation to the state’s Republican governor, who is expected to sign it.

The measure permits abortion only when necessary to save a mother’s life, an unyielding standard that runs afoul of federal court rulings. Those who backed the new law said they don’t expect it to take effect, instead intending its passage to be part of a broader strategy by antiabortion activists to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide.

And by the way to send a strong message to women that we are not people.

The Alabama bill, which passed 25-6, is even more restrictive than prior state-level abortion laws, and it includes a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions. Six of the Senate’s Democrats voted against the bill — one abstained — and they staged a filibuster into Tuesday night after debating the bill for more than four hours, with senators discussing the role government should play in legislating what a woman can do with her body and the definition of life.

Republican Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said in an interview before the vote that the debate was about the idea of “personhood” and whether a fetus has rights from the outset.

“Is it a life?” Ainsworth said. “I believe it is, and if it’s a life, you can’t have any exceptions.”

Is that so? I wonder what Ainsworth’s position on the death penalty is. I wonder what his view of war is. I wonder what approach he takes to police shootings.

Trump’s lapdog

May 14th, 2019 4:59 pm | By

Lindsey Graham is another very bad man.

Tens of thousands of social media users joined a call for Sen. Lindsey Graham’s resignation on Tuesday, after the South Carolina Republican publicly offered advice to Donald Trump Jr. about his recent congressional subpoena.

The president’s eldest son was subpoenaed in April to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about his contacts with Russia during the 2016 election, after twice backing out of planned testimony before the committee.

The subpoena prompted Graham—one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies—to tell Trump Jr. on Monday to refuse to answer the panel’s questions.

“You just show up and plead the Fifth and it’s over with,” Graham told reporters, according to The Washington Post.

Witness tampering anyone?

His project for today is trying to make it legal for Trump to imprison refugee children for five times longer than is legal now.

Out climbing the trees

May 14th, 2019 4:44 pm | By

Yesterday Fresh Air was an interview with Phoebe Waller-Bridge who created and wrote “Fleabag.” There was one especially interesting bit…

GROSS: So you went to a Catholic school for girls. How did the sex segregation work for you? And was this – like, how old were you when you were in Catholic school.

WALLER-BRIDGE: I went there when I was 11. My mum had felt it was very important from day dot that we had boys around (laughter), as well as our brother. And – ’cause my brother had his sisters around the whole time. And we had him. But it’s something about actually socializing. And so mum was really, really good about making sure that we had boys and girls around the house. So I had a lot of, like, guy friends growing up because of that. But then I also really love the camaraderie of being around girls. And I still do. You know, I think that – there’s something very special about that feeling. But looking back, it does feel odd. The exclusivity of it is – does feel odd.

GROSS: So right before you went to Catholic school when you were 6 until you were around 10 – and correct me if this is wrong because this is just something I read – that you dressed as a boy. You shaved your head and called yourself Alex. Now, looking back on those years, do you understand why you wanted to do that?

WALLER-BRIDGE: Yeah. And I still have the same impulse all the time. I mean, I feel like when I was – I remember growing up up until I was about – when I was about 11, 12 was when I started dropping Alex, and I was Phoebe again. But I just thought they just had more fun. I just wanted to be out climbing the trees and wearing comfortable clothes. And, you know, it didn’t feel like it was for me. And a lot of my friends were really into the dresses and the dolls and all that kind of stuff. It just wasn’t my bag. And the only – and it just seemed so – you kind of had to choose one or the other at that time. And I just definitely wanted to be climbing the trees and that kind of thing. So I had a friend called Maria (ph). And we both had really short and, yeah, shaved it at one point and wore boxer shorts and swimming trunks. And we were just boys. I remember going into Gap once when I was about 7 and the guy coming up to me when I was with my mum and said, so what does the young man want? And I was like, yeah – convinced.

GROSS: (Laughter). Do you think if that was happening today that your parents would wonder if you were trans?

WALLER-BRIDGE: I think my parents would’ve been exactly the same. You know, and they never had an issue with it. They never – they were just sort of like, sure. You’re Alex. Let’s take you to Gap, Alex (laughter). And I just remember it never being a problem. I mean, there’s, you know, the tomboy kind of thing. I mean, I wonder now if I had back then – if I had – because I was very, very fervent about it when I was younger, as well. It was like I just desperately wanted to a boy more than anything else. If it had been taken seriously maybe by my school or something and I’d spoken about those options – those options had been given to me – I probably would’ve jumped at it. But I don’t think my parents would’ve been any different. I think they’re just like, live and let live. And so I was very, very happy being a girl dressed as a boy as long as I was allowed to express myself that way and allowed to change my name and stuff. They were like, yeah, whatever makes you happy.


WALLER-BRIDGE: And then one day, I turn up, and I’m like, I’m Phoebe now. And they were like, welcome home (laughter).

And…is it fair to say that’s better? Is it fair to say it’s better to be relaxed about it that way and see what shakes out instead of going straight to the trans option at age 7 or 10 or 15? Is it fair to say it’s better, other things being equal, to reach adulthood without hormone treatments and/or surgery? To let your body do what it’s going to do?

GROSS: What made you change? When you went back to Phoebe, were you also changing the way you dressed? ‘Cause The nice thing about when you’re a girl or a woman – you can still wear a man’s clothes. And, you know, ’cause what are there? There are pants and jackets and shirts, you know, and T-shirts.


GROSS: They’re just kind of standard. When a man wears a dress, that’s making much more of a major statement than when a woman wears, like, jeans and a T-shirt, which both genders wear.

They do now, but fifty or sixty years ago a woman wearing jeans was still seen as a major statement, and twenty or thirty years before that even more so. It took a long time before that became unremarkable enough that girls could wear jeans to school and women could wear trousers at work.