January 3rd, 2015

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Leelah Alcorn

Seventeen-year-old Leelah Alcorn's Tumblr account, including her suicide note, has been deleted, either by Tumblr itself or by her parents. [ETA: it's now been confirmed that it was her parents.] However, it still exists on web.archive.org, and here's a screen shot of her final message:

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I post this in part because Leelah wanted her death to be of some use in raising awareness of the problems faced by trans children, and deleting her Tumblr seems an act designed to disrespect her wishes in death as they were brutally denied in life. It's also in response to Sarah Ditum's New Statesman piece urging us to stop talking about Leelah's treatment at the hands of her parents and the reparative therapists they sent her to. "Concern trolling" is indeed the mot juste on this occasion: for two (amongst several) excellent analyses of Ditum's article, see Cheryl Morgan here and Natacha Kennedy here.

This isn't the way it has to be. A few weeks ago I was honoured to be contacted for advice by a young friend (whom I've known all their life), who was about to come out as trans to their (Christian) parents and wanted advice on how to do it - or rather, since I'm hardly an object lesson in that regard, on what kinds of questions and concerns they might expect. I answered as best I could, though can't take credit for the fact that they were received with love and understanding: that's the kind of people they are. But Leelah's story and variants on it are still far too common, and erasing her life and death helps no one but future abusers.
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Socrates lies prostrated, Protagoras triumphs

I'm not sure whether this is a new phenomenon, or whether I've just started to notice it more, but I've been struck during radio news reports over the last few days by the BBC's habit of reporting uncontentious facts as if they were questionable opinions. I should have jotted down examples as I heard them, but they tend to appear as manifestations of the BBC's commitment to "balance". Thus, we'll get something like: "The Government claims that unemployment has fallen, but the TUC says that wages haven't kept up with inflation."

Well, both those statements are demonstrably true - leaving aside whether they're relevant, cherry-picked, etc. I would prefer both "claims" and "says" in the sentence above to be replaced with "points out". That way we can make at least a grammatical distinction between statements of fact, rhetorical flourishes, deliberate ambiguities, and on-the-fly redefinitions of important words such as "deficit", and the like - helping to keep the waters of political discourse running just a little more clearly. It might also help skewering of outright lies, such as that of Grant Shapps yesterday:

There’s only one definition of the deficit and that’s the amount of overspend in the economy by comparison to the size of the overall economy.


Humpty Dumpty would blush. Suffice it to say that if you offered that definition in an Economics exam you'd get a big fat X.

Not that I expect anything to change. Ever since the battle to save the distinction between "deny" and "refute" was lost, we pedantic grumps have been fighting a rearguard action.