Friday, 7 April 2023

Transgender wars

Transgender wars

I'm a member of an email group for psychiatrists in Australia and New Zealand called Auspsyc. In 2020, there began a vigorous debate triggered by legislation in Victoria which affects psychiatrists who work there.

Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021, which passed into law, criminalises attempts to convert gays into being straight, and also attempts to dissuade people from gender transition. This is threatening to psychiatrists, especially adolescent psychiatrists who might see patients with gender dysphoria.

Another part of the Act concerns the possibility of the complainant's identity being anonymous.

Understandably, a number of psychiatrists were horrified that, after about 15 years of training, they might find themselves in a situation where they face a jail sentence of 10 years for basically doing their job.

Meanwhile, whereas Victoria was essentially criminalising counselling, another story has been playing out in the United Kingdom.

The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations is a well respected centre for psychotherapy in London. In 2009, Tavistock and Portman Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) was established to treat people with gender dysphoria, or discomfort with the gender they had been born into. 

What Went Wrong at the Tavistock Clinic for Trans Teenagers?  Special Report from The Times (June 17th, 2022).

It led to an  independent review run by Dr Hilary Cass. The Cass Review. Following this review, GIDS was closed down.

Keira Bell

Keira Bell, who began taking puberty blockers when she was 16, then medically transitioned and had surgery to remove her breasts as an adult. She later regretted this.

She sued the clinic, arguing she had been too young to consent to treatment as a teenager. The court agreed but this ruling was overturned on appeal in 2021.

Bell v Tavistock case and appeal.

The matter of 'detransitioners' is complicated by research of uncertain reliability. In general, trans-activists tend to say detransition is very rare and a distraction from their campaign of trans liberation. Detransitioners, on the other hand say that trans regret and detransition are common.

A survey of 203 people who detransitioned.

A video-blog reply to this article by Cari Stella, who detransitioned.

The number of people presenting at clinics for gender dysphoria have rocketed over the last few years. The sex ratio has also changed from being more male than female to a lot more female.

A chart of children referred to GIDS, the Tavistock and Portman Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service clinic in northwest London. Overall case numbers had risen – from just 72 in 2009-10 to 1,807 in 2016-17 – but there was something more puzzling. Female referrals, once a fraction of males, now made up 70 per cent: from 32 to 1,265. The number of teenage girls with gender dysphoria (ie profound discomfort with their biological sex) had risen by 5,000% in 7 years.

There are two distinct areas of dispute around transgender politics. 

1) The medical management of teenagers with gender dysphoria

The matters discussed above concern medical practices, and whether they are being carried out appropriately, particularly with young people who may or may not be old enough to adequately provide consent. As seen in the graphs above, this particularly concerns teenage girls seeking F2M transition, many of whom can be thought of as lying on an autistic spectrum. Before the upswing in medical intervention, many of these girls would have become butch lesbians. 

Supporters of medical transition for teenagers are often driven by fear of suicide. The evidence that medical transition reduces the risk suicide is by no means conclusive. E.g.:

'The present findings, although preliminary, suggest that social gender transition is not associated with mental health status in children and adolescents, at least in the short term.'

Many of these gay teenage girls on the spectrum do not do particularly well when they go through transition. There are high rates of detransition.

2) Conflict over access by M2F (Male to Female) trans people into protected women's spaces

The second area of conflict concerns tension between natal male transgender people, and women who feel that their protected spaces (women's sports, bathrooms, prisons, rape centres, etc) are being invaded. This conflict has played out in many public altercations in which trans-activists have attacked prominent feminists. There are many instances where the trans-activists have successfully cancelled speakers, or people who are in public positions in universities and elsewhere. The term TERF means trans-exclusionary radical feminist. It is a term of abuse aimed at women the trans-activists claim are trans-phobic.

Here are some examples.

Kathleen Stock

Kathleen Stock is a philosopher who was hounded out of her job at Sussex University by trans-activists.

Various Youtubes here

The problem with ‘trans women are women’ by Kathleen Stock. More of her writing on Unherd.

J. K. Rowling

J. K. Rowling is the famous author of the Harry Potter novels. She has spoken about trans-gender issues and has been a target of some attacks by trans-activists. Her views are summarised here.

A podcast called "The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling", is interesting.

J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues. A précis of the views she expresses in the podcast.

Posie Parker

Aka Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull is a speaker for the group Standing for Women. Often her speaking engagements have been attacked by trans-activists. An event in Auckland led to violence towards her.

Isla Bryson case concerns Isla Bryson, a 31-year-old Scottish transgender M2F person from Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, who was convicted in January 2023 of the rapes of two women committed prior to Bryson's gender transition.

The case caused controversy after Bryson was remanded to a women's prison to await sentence.

3) Splitting in organisations triggered by transgender politics

Splitting is a defense mechanism that involves viewing people, situations, or events in black and white terms, without any shades of gray. This can lead to a person idealizing one person or group while demonizing another, without any attempt to reconcile their differing views or beliefs. Splitting can be especially prevalent in situations involving heated debates or disputes, where emotions run high and people feel strongly about their positions.

In relation to transgender debates, splitting can manifest in several ways. For example, some people may view all transgender individuals as either heroes or victims, without considering the complexities of their individual experiences. This can lead to a lack of empathy or understanding for those who have different viewpoints or experiences.

Similarly, cancel culture can be seen as a form of splitting, where individuals or groups are quickly and harshly judged based on one aspect of their beliefs or behavior. Cancel culture often does not allow for dialogue or understanding, and instead relies on extreme reactions to perceived offences.

Many organisations have been split by transgender politics. Here are some examples.

The Australian Greens

Victorian Liberal Party

Gay organisations. 

The Royal College of Psychiatrists. 



Melbourne Comedy Festival

Saturday, 11 March 2023

Goethe and his friends

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832) was a German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director, and critic.

The biography 'Goethe: Life as a Work of Art' by Rüdiger Safranski is my main source.

Here is a short video that outlines his life.

Goethe was born to a wealthy family in Frankfurt. His grandfather was the mayor of Frankfurt. He was very well educated, and had a cultured upbringing.

He studied law in Leipzig. He was not a very conscientious student.

The Young Goethe 1749-1775

He fell in love with Charlotte Buff, a young woman who was engaged to someone else. This fiancé wrote about Goethe: “He has what one calls genius and an extraordinarily lively imagination. He is intensely emotional. He has a noble way of thinking. He is a man of character. He loves children and can become very involved with them. He is bizarre, and there are various things about his behaviour and appearance that could make him unpleasant. But nevertheless, he is in the good books of children, women, and many others.—He does whatever occurs to him without worrying whether it pleases others, is fashionable, or permitted by good breeding. He hates all constraints.—He holds the female sex in high regard.—He is not yet settled and is still searching for a certain system. . . . He is not what one would call orthodox, however not from pride or caprice or to make a show. He . . . doesn’t like to disturb others in their settled opinions. . . . He does not go to church, not even to Communion, and seldom prays. For, as he says, ‘I’m not enough of a liar for that.’ . . . He has great respect for the Christian religion, but not in the form in which our theologians would present it. . . . He strives for truth but has more regard for feeling it than for demonstrating it. . . . He has made belles-lettres and the arts his principal study—or rather, all branches of knowledge except those by which one earns one’s bread. . . . He is, in a word, a very remarkable person.”

In 1773 he published the play Götz von Berlichingen. Götz (circa 1480–1562) was a knight who lived during the Reformation and the Peasants’ War and was constantly entangled in feuds. Götz is not a knight in shining armour. The quarrels he picks are quite dubious. Götz is the embodiment of freedom. He doesn’t demand it and doesn’t take it, he simply lives it.

In 1774, when he was 24, he wrote a novel 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' which became a major hit, and made Goethe very famous. It features a man who falls in love with a young woman who was engaged to someone else. At the end of the novel Werther commits suicide. A number of real suicides at that time were attributed to the novel.

Practically overnight, Götz and Werther had made him the voice of his generation. As a rule, turning points in intellectual history are seen only in hindsight, but in the case of Götz and Werther, it was already clear that a new era had begun. Goethe became an instant cult author (as he would be called today): admired and envied, he was also respected, if at times reluctantly, by older authority figures.

In 1775 (aged 26), he meets the young duke Karl August, then 18. Karl August invites him to move to his duchy of Saxe-Weimar. Karl August's great-uncle was the Prussian King Frederick the Great, who had invited the French philosopher Voltaire to join his court. 

Goethe spends the rest of his life there, mentoring the young Duke, and carrying out a number of administrative responsibilities in this small state.

1776: Karl August gives Goethe the garden house in the park as a gift. Madcap adventures with the young duke: hiking, riding, shooting, fencing, card-playing, drinking, dancing, flirting with girls, and cracking whips. 

Visits the silver mine in Ilmenau for the first time. 

Goethe is named legation councillor with a seat and a vote in the privy council and a salary of 1,200 taler. 

The big event of 1777 (aged 28) was his journey to the Harz Mountains in December and the ascent on horseback of the Brocken, at 3,750 feet the highest peak in the range.

1779 He travels around with the Duke recruiting troops for a potential war. He's also working on writing a play called Iphigenia.

1780 is involved in the opening of a new theatre in Weimar. He has a complex intellectual relationship with Charlotte von Stein, an older married woman. Begins to study natural history, anatomy, and mineralogy.

1781-82 He gave a series of lectures in the field of comparative anatomy. He discovered the human intermaxillary bone, also known as "Goethe's bone".

1782 A rival wrote: “So now he is really a privy councilor, finance director, chairman of the military commission, supervisor of construction down to the level of road building, and in addition director of recreations, court poet, the author of pretty festivities, court operas, ballets, masquerades, inscriptions, works of art, etc., director of the academy of graphic art where during the winter he delivered lectures on osteology; is himself everywhere the first actor, dancer—in short, the factotum of Weimar and, God willing, soon the major domo of the entire Ernestine branch of the House of Wettin, among whom he circulates in order to be idolized. He has been made a baron, and on his birthday . . . his ennoblement will be announced. He has moved from his garden into the city and maintains a noble household, gives readings that will soon turn into assemblies, etc. etc.

1784 Writes an article 'Granite 1'.

In 1786 (aged 40) he has something of a mid-life crisis. Without telling anybody he decides to go travelling in Italy under an assumed name. He lives with some painters, and tries to become an artist.

Goethe in Italy

In 1787 he visits Naples, and meets the British ambassador Sir William Hamilton and his colourful mistress and later wife Emma, who subsequently became Horatio Nelson's mistress 'Lady Hamilton'. She staged tableaux vivants in scanty attire. 

Lady Hamilton

His travels in Italy are described in the novel 'Everything the Light Touches' by Janice Pariat. This is basically four short novellas run together into one book. I don't particularly recommend the book as a whole, but the section about Goethe is interesting.

1788, he returns from Italy to Weimar. He got a cool reception from Charlotte von Stein. He began an affair with Christiane Vulpius, who subsequently became his wife. 

Goethe was kept busy for the next few years with administrative tasks. He had control of the mines of the duchy, he was in charge of the Royal theatre and he was responsible for rebuilding the burned down castle. He became particularly interested in botany.

Jena is a small town 15 miles north-east of Weimar. Goethe was responsible for constructing the new botanical garden and Institute there.

Jena was also the place described in the book 'Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self' by Andrea Wulf.

It was there that Goethe met Friedrich Schiller, a younger successful playwright and philosopher. They became close friends.

Goethe and Schiller became the leaders of the movement called Weimar Classicism. It was important at the time, and also later when it became a symbol of German culture which contributed to the unification of Germany. The statue above was copied many times and can be found in many cities in America and Europe.

Schiller reads in the gardens of Schloss Tiefurt, Weimar. Amongst the audience are Herder (second person seated at the far left), Wieland (center, seated with cap) and Goethe (in front of the pillar, right).

This is a list of some of the participants in the Jena circle, as described in the book Magnificent Rebels.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
A poet and privy councillor to Duke Carl August in the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar. Goethe lived in Weimar but visited Jena regularly, often for several weeks. His lover and later wife Christiane Vulpius (1765–1816) was the mother of his son August von Goethe (1789–1830).

Auguste Böhmer (1785–1800)
The oldest daughter of Caroline Böhmer-Schlegel-Schelling. She lived with her mother and stepfather August Wilhelm Schlegel in Jena from 1796 to 1800.

Caroline Böhmer-Schlegel-Schelling, née Michaelis (1763–1809)
A writer, translator, literary critic and muse to the Jena Set. She was married to Franz Böhmer from 1784 to 1788, to August Wilhelm Schlegel from 1796 to 1803, and to Friedrich Schelling from 1803 to 1809. She lived in Jena from 1796 to 1803. 

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814)
A philosopher who lived in Jena from 1794 to 1799. He moved to Berlin in July 1799. He was married to Johanne Fichte, née Rahn (1755–1819).

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831)
A philosopher who joined his friend Friedrich Schelling in Jena at the beginning of 1801. He lived in Jena until 1807.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859)
A scientist and explorer who often visited his older brother Wilhelm von Humboldt in Jena between 1794 and 1797.

Caroline von Humboldt, née Dacheröden (1766–1829)
Wife of Wilhelm von Humboldt. She lived in Jena (with interruptions) together with her husband from 1794 to 1797.

Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835)
A linguist and Prussian diplomat who lived in Jena (with interruptions) from 1794 to 1797. He was married to Caroline von Humboldt and was Alexander von Humboldt’s older brother.

Novalis (1772–1801)
Friedrich von Hardenberg was a poet, writer and mining inspector who used the pen name Novalis. He studied in Jena from 1790 to 1791. His family estate Weißenfels was not far from Jena and he visited his friends regularly between 1795 and 1801. He was first engaged to Sophie von Kühn and then to Julie von Charpentier.

Friedrich Schelling (1775–1854)
A young philosopher who lived and taught in Jena from 1798 to 1803. He had an affair with Caroline Schlegel and married her in 1803. 

Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805)
A playwright and poet. Schiller lived in Jena from 1789 to 1799. He moved to Weimar in December 1799. He was married to Charlotte Schiller, née von Lengefeld (1766–1826). 

August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767–1845)
A writer, poet, translator and literary critic. He lived in Jena from 1796 to 1801. He was married to Caroline Böhmer-Schlegel-Schelling and was Friedrich Schlegel’s older brother. 

Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829)
A writer and literary critic. He lived in Jena from 1796 to 1797 and from 1799 to 1801. He met his married lover Dorothea Veit-Schlegel in Berlin in 1799. They married in 1804. He was August Wilhelm Schlegel’s younger brother.

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834)
A theologian and chaplain. Although Schleiermacher never visited Jena, he was a regular correspondent with members of the Jena Set and his views on religion became important to them. Friedrich Schlegel met him in 1797 in Berlin and shared his lodgings.

Ludwig Tieck (1773–1853)
A writer, poet and translator. He met Friedrich Schlegel in Berlin and lived in Jena from 1799 to 1800. He was married to Amalie Tieck. 

Dorothea Veit-Schlegel, née Brendel Mendelssohn (1764–1839)
A writer and translator. She was married to Simon Veit from 1783 to 1799. Friedrich Schlegel was her lover for several years before they married in 1804. She lived in Jena from 1799 to 1802.

Schiller, Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt and Goethe in Jena

The Humboldt brothers, Wilhelm and Alexander, were an interesting pair. Alexander Humboldt is described in another book by Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature.

Here is a taster.

Alexander von Humboldt

He had a remarkable life. It's worth reading his Wikipedia entry. Here is another summary.

These thinkers were operating during the time of major political events in Europe. The French Revolution took place between 1789 and 1799, leading to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.

1792 Goethe accompanies the duke in the campaign against revolutionary France. He took part in the Battle of Valmy.

1805. Schiller dies.

Prussia’s disastrous defeat by Napoleon at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt on October 14, 1806, and the occupation and plunder of Weimar by the French. Goethe was in danger of losing everything in those days: his property, his office, his duke, and even his life.

The battle on October 14 1806 ended with the devastating defeat of the Prussian army, its final skirmishes reaching the eastern edge of Weimar.

Napoleon convened a congress of European princes in Erfurt two years later—from September 27 to October 14, 1808—the duke brought Goethe along in order to impress the assembly. Napoleon then summoned Goethe to a private audience. Goethe thereafter proudly wore the cross of the Légion d’Honneur.

1808 Faust, Part I is published.

Faust and Mephisto

1810 The Theory of Colour is published.

In 1814, Goethe fell in love with a young woman called Marianne Jung (29).

A few intense weeks in the late summer and fall of 1815. Marianne was brimming with ideas for Goethe’s birthday celebration at the Gerbermühle. Early in the morning, musicians awakened Goethe with a serenade from a boat on the Main River. Marianne had decorated the garden house in Divan style with oranges, dates, figs, and grapes. Bundled reeds between the windows represented palm trees, below which were wreaths of flowers in the order of the color wheel. The ladies wore turbans of the finest Indian muslin. They all dined at a long table. Willemer poured a 1749 Rhine wine. Marianne sang Goethe songs she had set to music, accompanying herself on the guitar. There were speeches both formal and playful. Marianne set a turban on Goethe’s head, echoing the verse Come Darling, come, and wrap my head in muslin! / The turban’s only lovely from your hand. The company remained together until evening, when the celebration culminated with Goethe reading his “Oriental poems.”

In the West-Eastern Divan, it is the spirit of love that pervades everything and appears everywhere, enchantingly presented in the poems of the “Book of Suleika”:

1816 His wife Christiane dies.

1822 (aged 72) In Marienbad. Falls in love with Ulrike von Levetzow (18), is with her at dances, parties, and rock collecting. Goethe subsequently proposed marriage, but Ulrike turned him down.

1829 The first production of Faust in the Weimar theatre.

1832 Goethe died on March 22 aged 82.

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Sandemans Down-Under

Dugald is my oldest friend. We met at the age of four at kindergarten, and used to stay with each other's families from time to time. We both went to Sherborne School, both were in the sailing club, and both did flying scholarships.

I have stayed with him and his wife Wendy when visiting Britain.

Finally, after many years of encouragement, Dugald, Wendy, their son John, and John's husband MacKenzie came for a visit to Australia.

We had a great time, with a week together on the Gold Coast, before they travelled to Sydney and Melbourne. Then George and I drove to Sydney, and picked up Dugald and Wendy for a road trip up the coast.


Mackenzie and John

The Channon Market


Barrenjoey with Pittwater on the right

Long Reef, near Collaroy

South West Rocks

Trial Bay gaol

Smoky Cape

Water dragon

Rainbow lorikeets


Dangar Falls

Dorrigo Steam Museum

Walking up Austinville Valley

Old mates

Thursday, 8 December 2022

Road Trips

In November we took the Hobie Tandem Island 'Red Rover' down to Angourie for a few days.

Angourie headland from the drone

Angourie Headland 2022

Angourie Headland 2001

Angourie Headland 2011

Sailing Red Rover  on Wooloweyah Lagoon 

George with flannel flowers in Yuraygir National Park

Bee in a Pig Face (Carpobrotus glaucescens

Wooly Frogmouth (Philydrum lanuginosum)

Fringed Lily (Thysanotus tuberosus)

Cliff walk in Yuraygir National Park

Grafton Jacaranda festival

Yamba Hotrod muster

In early December we drove down to Sydney for a week. 

We stopped off at South-West Rocks for a couple of nights.

Smoky Cape lighthouse

Trial Bay

Checking out the surf at Crescent Head

View from the roof of our building in Elizabeth Bay

Boats in the CYCA marina in Rushcutters Bay

Kialoa II

Cricket in Rushcutters Bay

Walking from Rose Bay to Watson's Bay

Typical house in the Eastern suburbs

Hermitage graveyard

Maxis warming up for the Sydney to Hobart Race

Andoo Comanche, probable favourite for line honours

Rounding North Head

On a ferry trip up to Parramatta I saw the Rivendell Adolescent psychiatric centre

A pretty schooner

High-rise towers at Parramatta


George's great-niece Zoe