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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain

Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 3 January 2021
03 January 2021 @ 12:24

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*  

Covid

The deaths per million table for selected countries now looks like this:

Belgium 1691

Italy 1241

The UK 1096

Spain 1087

The USA 1080

France 993

Sweden 861

Portugal 692

The Netherlands 674

Ireland 454

Germany 415

The worsening of the German and Portuguese situations needs to be set against the earlier plaudits they got. This virus is a bastard. Or a jokester worse than Boris Johnson.

I should point out there are several East European and South American countries at over 1,000 per million. Some even more than Belgium.

Living La Vida Loca in Galicia/Spain  

Naturally, the Pope has acceded to the request of the Galician president that this Jacobean Holy Year be extended into 2022. All those souls to save. And money to be made. At which the Catholic Church, after 2,000 years of practice, is probably the most efficient organisation in the world.

What you need to know about those bloody irritating e-scooters.

Here's María's New Year, Same Old: Day 2.  

The UK

British families spent a staggering £6.9 billon on pets in 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics, up from £3.34 billion a decade ago and this was pre-Covid, remember, before everyone went lockdown-mad for puppies.

The Way of the World

A very close friend has told me how cold he went reading the article I cited yesterday: 'Irreversible Damage' by Abigail Shrier. Reproduced below. He told me that 20 years ago, when his daughter was 15, she decided she was male. The psychiatrist identified it as a normal teenage identity crisis and she got over it within a year and is now married with 3 children. He says he dreads to think what would have happened only a few years later.

Mistakes don’t fade in this digital world — and they’re catnip for the cancel vultures. See the nice article below.

Spanish

OK, yesterday's words and phrases.  . .

Firstly, my thanks to reader paideleo who's provided some translations. He/she, incidentally, is (I think) a long-term Galician reader who's only ever commented or disagreed with me with the utmost courtesy, which I greatly appreciate. As I do the help on this subject:-

1. Echar una pajita al aire: I really don't know how this got transformed from Echar una canita al aire. To throw a candle in the air. To have an affair.

2. Comer conejo. Suffice to say that conejo(rabbit) is the equivalent of the English 'pussy'.

3. Estar hasta los huevos: Up to the balls. A ruder version of Hasta las narices. Up to the nostrils. Fed up.

4. Me cacheslamá. A corruption of Me caches la mar. You hide me in the sea. A polite way, avers paideleo, to say Me cago la madre que te parió. I crap on the mother who gave birth to you. Anger/Frustration. 

5. Lo que me sale de los cojones/coño. What comes out of my nether regions, male and female.  What I like.

6. Una pollada. This one confused a lot of people, who saw it as meaning a chicken house or similar. This valuable site gives it as an equivalent to Gilipollas (alway plural, I'm told). More accurately Gilipollez? Dickhead/Bellend/Plonker/ Dipstick-ness. 

7. Un follón.  From the verb Follar, to bonk/shag etc. A big mess/cock up

8. Acojonarse: From cojón, testicle. To be astounded, dumbfounded. Or to take fright.

9. Cojonudo. Similar origin. Very common. Great/The dog's bollocks

10. Burropeideira. Galician. A donkey who throws rocks. Stupid. (I wrongly changed this to the male form but it’s always feminine, I’m told by 2 friends.)

11. Tontolabas. Galician. Maybe, says paideleo, Tontolahaba. Fool

12. Paspallas. Galician. Quail. Stupid.

13. Tonto a la 1, 2 or 3: Galician(Ourense?). Very stupid.

14. Apampanao. Galician? A fool.

There seem to be a lot of fools in Galicia . . .

Finally, a Galician friend sent me a message yesterday with the word guasapo in it. It took me (and a few others) a while to work out this was WhatsApp . . . 

Finally, finally . . . Reader Perry has asked if there's a Spanish word for hygge. Suggestions?

THE ARTICLE

Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier review — resisting the ‘transgender craze’

This fearless book shows how girls’ bodies have become collateral damage in adult culture wars: Janice Turner

A thought experiment . . . Specialists treating a rare disorder observe a profound change in their patient base. Historically it is 90 per cent male until a recent sudden surge in female referrals who, within a decade, comprise three in every four cases as patient numbers swell by more than 3,000 per cent. Now instead of being singular cases they come in clusters and, strangest of all, this notably slow-building malady strikes later and without warning. The same shifts are noted across the world.

What happens next?

You would expect doctors, epidemiologists and academics to study patients, dig into data, publish Lancet papers, wonder if this isn’t perhaps a new condition requiring different treatment protocols. At the very least questions would be asked.

But they weren’t. Not about the global spike, as I describe above, in teenage girls who believe they have been “born in the wrong body”. In fact asking questions is regarded as “erasure” of trans people, research is “bigotry” and universities or journals that publish it are hounded into apology. And so while Californian girls as young as 13 have double mastectomies the American and British liberal media either cheerlead or keep shtum.

Unsurprisingly Irreversible Damage, a book about “teenage girls and the transgender craze”, has caused a storm. A Berkeley English professor wants it burnt, civil rights and LGBT activists want it banned. They say it is conservative Christian or far-right hate speech. In fact Abigail Shrier, a Wall Street Journal writer, does something simple yet devastating: she rigorously lays out the facts.

In both the US and Britain, Shrier shows, adolescent girls have record levels of anxiety and clinical depression, expressed in spiralling rates of self-harm, anorexia and suicidal thoughts. Overprotective modern parenting has rendered girls less resilient while the iPhone in their pocket tells them their bodies fail Instagram’s feminine ideals and shows them graphic pornography in which women are debased. No wonder the geeky or less “girlie” girls we once called tomboys, especially those who are becoming aware they are attracted to other girls, “flee womanhood”, as Shrier puts it, “like a house on fire, their minds fixed on escape, not on any particular destination”.

The girls she describes — like those I’ve met since I started reporting on this three years ago — show no discomfort in their female bodies until puberty. Then at secondary school, when gender roles turn starkly pink and blue, these non-conforming girls feel lost. Online they quickly find forums that diagnose their problem: their “gender identity” is really male. They are encouraged to assume he/him pronouns and boys’ names, which would matter no more than becoming, say, a goth, except for the insistent accompanying narrative that only after testosterone and surgery will they find happiness as their true male selves.

In the high court in November a legal action was brought by Keira Bell, 23, who as a depressed, isolated teenage girl was given puberty-blocking drugs then testosterone by the Tavistock Centre in London, but later regretted her transition. Judges ruled that children under 16 mainly lack capacity to consent to puberty blockers, which when followed by testosterone (as in almost 100 per cent of cases) lead to irreversible side-effects for girls like Keira of facial hair and masculine voice, plus infertility and impaired sexual function. NHS England has halted such prescriptions while a government review of child gender services has begun.

However, in the US paediatric trans medicine, private and unfettered, is driven by capitalism and activism. Fifty new child clinics have popped up to flog expensive hormones and “innovative” genital surgeries to lucrative lifelong patients. These doctors are enabled by an adult trans movement that insists any medical “gatekeeping” is wrong. A patient should not need proof of gender dysphoria; a trans person knows they are trans and must be “affirmed” in that self-diagnosis even if they are a troubled 12-year-old girl. Clinics boast approval for testosterone treatment after a single appointment.

Later come the surgeries, which Shrier describes unflinchingly. The operation to create (a non-functional) penis involves harvesting skin from the forearm right down to the muscle; infections are frequent, orgasm unlikely. This is activist-driven medicine evolving on the fly, governed by shoddier ethics than a basic boob job. As one doctor says of “top surgery”, ie radical double mastectomy which removes future capacity to breastfeed, “there is no other cosmetic operation where it is considered morally acceptable to destroy a human function. None.”

Yet only ten years ago children with gender dysphoria were treated with “watchful waiting”, an approach pioneered in Canada by Dr Kenneth Zucker, who believed “a child or adolescent in distress is not reducible to one problem”. He found that over time this dysphoria faded for about 70 per cent of patients. But Zucker was hounded out of practice by activists and now transition is presented as a universal panacea. Even in more cautious Britain probing a child’s underlying trauma is classed by the memorandum of understanding that governs gender treatment as “conversion therapy”, akin to the barbaric practice of trying to brainwash a gay person straight. Except, argues Shrier, homosexuality is innate, prevalent in the most repressive countries. But “gender identity” is fluid, malleable by peer pressure or social contagion.

Shrier argues that this wave of girls seeking treatment are different from the tiny number of children who know from early childhood they are trans. What has been termed “rapid onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) is a new manifestation of an old condition; fear and disgust around female puberty. You grow breasts, you bleed, suddenly men look at you sexually. Moreover, the vast majority with ROGD have prior mental health diagnoses, a third are autistic, some had been sexually abused. Anorexics shut down puberty by starving, now girls can block it with powerful drugs.

The question that makes me both sad and angry is why LGBT activists stubbornly refuse to concede that these girls represent a different psychopathology. Instead groups such as Stonewall, in the words of Dr Ray Blanchard, a world-renowned sexologist, “circle the wagons”. Why? Because to concede would rock the quasi-religious belief that gender identity is innate and unquestionable; the rise in “trans children” justifies greater resources for trans adults, and this movement is dominated by trans women and gay men, who have not endured the turbulence of female puberty. With few brave exceptions, they decry feminists (including many lesbians) who see in these tortured girls their younger selves.

None of this would matter if transition made these girls happy. But while initially testosterone makes them fearless and swaggering, the Tavistock GIDS (gender identity development services) clinic’s own report shows no long-term improvement in psychological wellbeing. This rare piece of research was published reluctantly only a few weeks ago, perhaps because it threatens an entire ethos. In clinics from Finland to Australia red flags are rising. “Detransitioners” are speaking out. Medical negligence class actions will begin.

Let’s hope grinning doctors posing with teenage breast tissue in pickle jars will be consigned alongside other collective medical madnesses such as false memory syndrome or 1950s lobotomies. And that girls’ bodies, as Shrier’s fearless book bleakly reveals, cease to be collateral in adult culture wars.

Irreversible Damage: Teenage Girls and the Transgender Craze by Abigail Shrier, Swift, 288pp; £16.99

2. Mistakes don’t fade in this digital world — and they’re catnip for the cancel vultures: Lionel Shriver, The Sunday Times  

Four years ago, Mimi Groves of Leesburg, Virginia, had just acquired her learner driver’s licence. Clearly elated, the 15-year-old sent a friend (who must also have been white, or the immediate hoo-ha would have been off the charts) a three-second Snapchat video declaring, “I can drive, n*****s.” Given this story’s worthiness for a column, I trust you can parse the hyphens.

Mind, Snapchat images promptly disappear, although recipients can, alas, rescue messages from oblivion. So the video seems to have circulated among a few kids at Heritage High School in 2016, if to little effect.

But Groves’s mixed-race classmate Jimmy Galligan, who claims he was sent the tiny clip only three years later, recognised the video as a mighty weapon. According to an extensive New York Times article run on Boxing Day, the young man tucked it away for public posting “when the time was right”. The time was apparently “right” when Groves had been accepted by the University of Tennessee and the Black Lives Matter movement hit fever pitch last June. Galligan hit send. Cue uproar.

Amid the gales of righteous huffing and puffing online, University of Tennessee administrators bullied Groves into withdrawing from the school, threatening to rescind her acceptance if she did not. She is now enrolled in a local two-year community college less likely to pave the way towards a promising career.

Fine, the girl’s use of the notorious n-word wasn’t advisable, to say the least. But does the punishment fit the crime? I’ve watched this minuscule moment of indiscretion, which is still on YouTube. Sitting in a car, the slight blonde teenager is wearing shades and listening to hip-hop. Her usage is clearly neither pejorative nor even racial. Obvs, as the on-trend would say: she is trying to be cool.

Although Groves now notes apologetically that the slur was “in all the songs we listened to”, a double standard has been writ in stone. Just because rap and hip-hop are awash with the word doesn’t mean that white people can ever, ever allow those two terrifying syllables to escape their lips. These days, when posting dance videos, clued-up white music fans singing along with black artists apparently put a finger to pursed lips whenever that word arises — like prim, shushing librarians from the days when those censorious biddies didn’t let us talk. It’s hard to imagine these prissy performances of purity improve the choreography.

I have written before about “the n-word”, a euphemism that I find off-puttingly precious, as if we can’t all spell it out. I dislike the imputation of magical powers to the pronunciation of the word itself, as if its invocation by folks who don’t have permission will suddenly install worldwide apartheid.

Superstitiously, the extravagance of the taboo implies that white people command fearsome witchcraft. Hypocritically, black singers and comedians gleefully fling the insult every which way, while their white audience members hysterically observe a no-touch rule — a rule that has, if anything, made the pejorative more potent.

It’s a dubious business to cast the slandering of one race as so much more egregious than the slandering of other groups, for no such shall-not-pass-these-lips taboo pertains to ugly names for, say, Asians, Muslims or Jews. By contrast, the triumphantly reclaimed slight “queer” has been given the green light for angst-free usage by everybody.

The New York Times window-dressed this story to make Leesburg seem a hotbed of bigotry — noting that the town was “named for an ancestor of the Confederate general Robert E Lee” and chiding that the region originally resisted court-ordered desegregation — about 60 years ago. Leesburg was the site of an early Civil War battle (er, 160 years ago). Slave auctions were once held in its courthouse grounds (at least 160 years ago). What the newspaper actually means: Leesburg is in Virginia.

Strip off the ideological bunting and this is a supreme example of the petty, unwarranted and gratuitous destruction of a young person’s life to no purpose. The newspaper dug up no other evidence that Groves holds racist views; on the contrary, she has posted enthusiastic support online for Black Lives Matter.

The fact that Galligan lay in wait with the video — looking for the juncture at which he could do the young woman maximum damage — is outright skin-crawling and belies his having acted from a burst of impetuous indignation. He concedes that his own relatives (his mother is black) sometimes throw around the same racial slur at family gatherings. Whatever grudge he might bear Groves personally is opaque, but one thing is clear. He wanted attention.

He’s getting it, if not perhaps the sort he hoped for. To be kind, in the wake of BLM fever, mixed-race kids insecure about their identities may have particular motivation to ratchet up their black credentials. (Galligan scolds his own father for “white privilege”.) To be less kind, despite the journalist’s justifying efforts, the young man comes across in the feature as self-congratulatory and lip-smacking.

“I’m going to remind myself, you started something,” he is quoted as saying “with satisfaction”. “You taught someone a lesson.” What lesson? White folks better not use that bad word? Hey, pal, that message was out already.

This is a classic instance of the “cancel culture” that its persecutors often claim doesn’t exist. What’s been cancelled is not only a young woman’s further education but also her reputation and her future in the workplace, because this story is bound to follow her. For we live in a digital world in which every mistake clings to us like a smell — a world not so different from one in which we’re never able to wash our clothes. Even Leesburg itself is eternally stained by the original sin of its naming and its segregation of half a century ago. Personally and historically, we now live without mercy.

Exactly how does such social skeet shooting make the world a better place? I’ve read sheafs of disgusted online comments. Touts are rarely popular, scheming touts even less so. The disproportionately harsh punishment for a 15-year-old’s momentary lapse of judgment reads loudly and clearly even to many black observers. Contrary to the young man’s probable expectations, this episode will not necessarily redound to Jimmy Galligan’s glory. Students of any race at his university might wisely give such a smug predator a wide berth.

 

* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.



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