Originally posted to Facebook on 12th December 2018.
As some but not enough of you know, Jess Bradley, the current NUS Trans Officer and founder of Action for Trans Health, was suspended by the NUS in July for maintaining a Tumblr devoted to public exhibitionism, including photos of herself exposed at work in the University of Manchester Students’ Union, a park and a bus stop, and with various “dares” inciting others to commit acts of indecent exposure (there’s a load more on this blog involving various sexual kinks but as far as I am aware all of it is legal and merely incredibly unwise to be posting when you’re a public figure).
The blog was exposed by a single use Twitter account @xNoMoreSilencex who said they were posting it because:
“Statement on Public Disclosures, By a Trans Woman & Survivor
We take no joy in making survivors testimony public. We have no desire for witch hunts or mob justice, and we oppose the reactionary forces in our society who will see this as an opportunity to collectively punish all trans women for the abuses perpetrated by one of us.
However, we refuse to silence survivors under the mantra of “keep it in the family”. We reject the idea that survivors are bringing shame on their own communities by coming forward. We recognise, and indeed we experience, the hyper-violence of transmisogyny.
We have to examine why the concerns raised about the amplifying effect that transmisogyny will have in calling out Jess is in focus, while the reality of the amplifying effect that the transmisogny experienced by survivors of her abuse is disregarded.
As someone who experiences transmisogny, Jess is certainly more vulnerable to our allegations, but as a popular and well connected trans organiser she also has greater access to other, more vulnerable trans people than most.
We also ask how we can credibly defend ourselves against the accusations by reactionaries, and in particular TERFs, that all trans women are rapists, if we cannot take it seriously and believe survivors when they come forward and tell us that one of our own is an abuser.
Every trans organisation that has been notified of these matters and continues to shelter an abuser is doing far more harm to trans women, in particular trans survivors but also to trans communities collectively, than any survivor coming forward ever could.
We seek restorative justice, and have no interest in punative or carceral approaches. But restorative justice must start with a genuine admission of wrongdoing, a proper engagement with accountability processes, and a meaningful surrendering of institutional power.”
In response, Jess took down the blog and somehow hired Carter Ruck, one of the biggest UK libel lawfirms, to invoke the recent case of Cliff Richard to silence the press – The Sun published an article which referred only to a trade union official, The Mail on Sunday and the Manchester Evening News published the allegations in full, and Private Eye and Spiked published articles that focussed on the use of Cliff Richard precedent as a means of killing stories in the public interest.
And then… silence. University of Birmingham’s Trans Student Officer put out a statement condemning the transmisogyny Jess received on Twitter and awaiting the outcome of the investigation and that was the only public comment from a trans group I ever saw. The only people have been talking about it have been TERFs who are obviously having a field day as one of the most public trans activists in Britain got caught doing something that apparently fitted their narrative (not that it does – please excuse me for the detour but the inconsistency has been ridiculous, I fail to see how a blog which consists entirely of pornographic images and videos of cis men means that trans women are threat to cis women in public spaces) and, as far as they and I are aware, is being covered up.
Since July, Jess has been suspended while the NUS “investigated”. She published a statement on a WordPress blog claiming that “I appreciate at this time there is a lot of speculation about my conduct and I am able to tell you that I am confident that none of my behaviour has been unlawful, and that I have not engaged in sexual activity with anyone, or in the view of anyone, without their consent.” I heard from a third party that Jess was telling people that the blog wasn’t hers and she was the victim of revenge porn by a former partner, which only makes sense if you believe that a former partner managed a public Tumblr with dozens of commenters for four years with only a handful of posts exposing themselves.
Jess has now been suspended for four months, three months past the time that NUS guidelines sets for an misconduct investigation and they aren’t responding to inquiries about what is happening. The NUS Trans Twitter stopped posting for a couple of months but has now started work again without comment.
This week, a former committee member of Action for Trans Health posted a series of tweets making a series of allegations that in April, ATH had received a complaint from a ATH member that Jess had sexually assaulted them, and they have personally received another three complaints of sexual misconduct as a committee member and a *further* three after they resigned. This is quite a read: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1071839422314938368.html
In April , Jess, Greta, and Frank immediately resigned as directors of ATH and no public comment was made. In response to these tweets in December, ATH put out a statement yesterday citing confidentiality but claiming that “these tweets share confidential information, the majority of which is factually inaccurate and/or distorted. We would like to clarify that Jess is no longer a director or member of our organisation and has not been for a long time”.
One may recall that in September 2017, following an physical attack on a TERF by an ATH member at an ATH counter-protest at Hyde Park corner as the TERFs were gathering for a public meeting, The Times on Sunday were told that Jess was no longer involved in the organisation then as well, even as she continued to be a director for the company and an active organiser.
A couple of people have now commented on ATH’s statement on Facebook that they are both involved in ATH’s accountability processes and are not allowed to comment publicly but have no idea when, if ever, this process will end and they have not been informed: https://www.facebook.com/actionfortranshealth/posts/972705579606185
By way of public disclosure, I married Jess in 2008 for financial reasons. Our friendship ended messily and we are not on speaking terms. We have been legally separated since 2011 but I haven’t spoken to her since 2014. I was asked to finalise my divorce by a third party in August to which I agreed but yet to receive court papers [The divorce was finalised in December 2018].
I have followed these events for the last four months with horror but a total lack of surprise. When allegations of this kind appear, it seems to me that there is nearly always a graveyard of skeletons waiting to say something and myself and my contemporaries who were undergrads with Jess have been doing some soul-searching – what did we see? Should we have done something at the time and if so, what? It has been a serious #metoo moment for us. The report posted by the former ATH committee member that Jess makes inappropriate sexual comments, touches people without their consent, puts people in uncomfortable situations and complains when people do not accept her advances is consistent with our experiences of nearly a decade ago. I know I’m sitting on an incident that at the time we thought was a little strange but now with all of this information, I’m concerned that I missed something at the age of 21 that at the age of 29 and multiple incidents of similar stories about other friends later, I would definitely be asking more questions about now.
This is incredibly awkward for me, but it seems to me that the investigations that are ongoing are being run by people who are overwhelmed with what they are being asked to do and are up against a cadre of tight-knit individuals whose careers are tied to Jess’ public standing and at least one of whom I have personally witnessed committing domestic violence. Community accountability has to be public, and time-bound, if it is to be effective. Refusing to say anything publicly citing confidentiality and fairness of an investigation is worse than useless if that investigation never ends and the voices of victims are never heard as a result, rather it is actively harmful to the community who should be able to trust their representatives and have the means to hold them to basic standards of conduct.
I understand that individuals who have reacted to this in any way are being contacted by others to tell them that this is all lies. I do not have enough information or certainty to say that Jess is or is not a sexual predator but I do know that it is axiomatic for me to believe victims unless given reason to believe otherwise, and to act accordingly.
With ATH and NUS seemingly compromised, there is a third organisation conducting an investigation, the Proud Trust, an LGBT youth charity in Manchester who run the LGBT centre in Sidney Street among other things. I have spoken to them on the phone and they have said there are a number of safeguarding concerns which have been raised and they are receiving disclosures from any individuals who will be treated with confidence and respect, supported if they wanted the police involved but otherwise nothing will happen without the consent of the individuals involved unless they were under 18 at the time as they will have a statutory duty to disclose this. You can contact Sally Carr Operational Director at email@example.com.
Maybe there is nothing to this and Jess is guilty only of poor boundaries and exceptionally poor judgement. But people have a right to be heard and it’s time we started talking about this.
Update January 23rd, 2019: Following my post on Facebook, I received a number of comments from people whom I was at university with who confirmed numerous incidents had occurred regarding Jess Bradley that fitted what had been reported. There was no comment at all by any of the trans activists I know whom I was not already in contact with about this.
The NUS has continued to refuse to comment publicly on this issue, and Jess continues to be suspended. The NUS is currently undergoing severe financial difficulty and in January 2019, released proposals to defund the NUS Trans Officer and the NUS Trans Conference altogether. This was condemned in a statement by the NUS LGBT+ officers as harmful to trans students, with no comment whatsoever on the fact that Jess is currently suspended amid allegations of gross misconduct and sexual assault of members of the trans community.
An Action for Trans Health committee member after I posted this to Facebook published this underneath the statement:
“We have read your comments, and now understand that our lack of communication over this accountability process has lead to us coming across as apologists. Our intention was never to cover up or protect any abusers from the restorative justice process. The secrecy and delays around this entire situation have been caused by the following factors:
– a need to keep the identity of the complainant secret
– a need to ensure the situation was dealt with internally to protect Jess from abuse by TERFs
– a very large amount of complicating factors and information which the majority of people are not aware of
– incompetence, mistakes, confidentiality breaches, poor communication, lack of experience, resources, information, experience, and capacity of committee members both past and present
– disability, mental illness, poverty, and the fact that the majority of people involved in mediating are themselves survivors
– our not being aware of the extent of the trans community’s collective awareness that we were dealing with this and that eyes were looking towards us for answers, due to being in the eye of the storm.
However, this is not good enough. This accountability process has been a mess from the beginning, and although it is still ongoing, I have taken it upon myself to write a statement with all the information I know. If you have anything to contribute to this, please feel free to contact me.
– Jay, central committee member”
A month later, Action for Trans Health remains paralysed.
The reality of the situation is that this is beyond tragedy for trans people and for people like me for whom trans liberation is liberation for all. I am constantly harrassed using women’s toilets/spaces due to my gender-nonconforming appearance and the trans-led efforts to create and maintain gender neutral public spaces is not a matter of simple solidarity for me, it is essential to my quality of life. I have supported trans friends going through transition and I have seen the pain in their eyes when they are misgendered or struggle to be recognised for who they are or to access support services, and it breaks my heart every time. This is not a game of snowflakes vs. common sense. Trans acceptance is a matter of humanity. We need it now. We needed it yesterday.
For one of the most public trans activists in the country to get caught engaging in the very behaviour that TERFs and transphobes claim is the secret raison d’etre of trans people (which it is not) is damaging to the entire trans rights movement. I have seen Jess Bradley’s case being cited by TERFs around the world in multiple languages as justification for their opposition to trans rights. For there to be no accountability, no reflection, no justice, on the part of the trans community is not just morally abhorrent and a total betrayal of the safety of the victims who have spoken up, it is actively harmful to the cause we have spent decades advocating. The TERFs have been more than happy to step into the vacuum. Covering this up will resonate for years to come.
At this point, this scandal is not about Jess Bradley, whom I love deeply but I had to let go because she just couldn’t understand the impact of her actions on others. She has shown through these desperate attempts to cover up what she has done that she has learned nothing. She will do her. This isn’t about her. This is about whether the people who are so quick to demand solidarity, to cite trans safety as a justification for all of their political positions (Prison abolition? Trans issue. Don’t argue.), to condemn, decry and denounce anyone who is not paying attention to the most recent theories and vocabulary developed on Tumblr, to apply their own principles to one of our own. So far, I’m not seeing it, and I am shocked and appalled.
Update October 21, 2019: As the NUS Trans Officer role term runs from July to July, I wondered what the NUS proposed to do with the “investigation” into Jess’ inappropriate behaviour at work. The answer, it turns out, was nothing. Eden Ladley was elected unopposed as Trans Officer in what appears to have been a very rushed and secretive process, and cranked up the NUS Trans campaign again without ever talking about what had happened to the previous one. All delegates to the NUS Trans national conference in January were informed not to discuss it because there was an “ongoing criminal investigation”. Jess’ partner, Rob Noon, who was NUS LGBT Officer (Open Place) at the time of the original scandal, was elected in February this year as the only NUS LGBT+ Officer following their structural shake-up.
I have subsequently found out that the new Trans Officer, who was also last year’s LGBT Officer (Women’s Place), is best friends with Jess and also sits on the committee for Action for Trans Health, which was a major grassroots campaign for trans health and has now functionally stopped operating but, over a year since Jess was accused of assaulting ATH members, mysteriously, if erratically, continues to generate and distribute funds to trans individuals for healthcare, merely without any pretence to democracy.
This is all so, so corrupt. All of these NUS Officers are being paid indirectly by the taxpayer to cover up what are essentially crimes, and no-one will touch it with a barge pole because of the raging public debate over trans rights and no-one wants to be seen attacking trans people. But at its heart this has nothing to do with trans people and is a straight-forward case of lewd sexual misconduct being covered up by publicly funded bureaucrats with massive conflicts of interest.
ATH managed to develop its credibility to the point where I walked into a bookshop in Edinburgh earlier this year and found a citation to it in a random book I pulled off the shelf, but they are seemingly also run by people who would rather destroy everything they built, and prevent it from being replaced by a functioning group, rather than employ the most basic and minimal accountability and safeguarding standards. 110 people and organisations shared the invitation to apply for ATH’s Trans Solidarity Fund in March 2019 – none questioned where that money came from or who would be responsible for reading through vulnerable trans people’s confidential information and possibly highly sensitive medical data while one of the main organisers stands accused of sexually exploiting vulnerable trans people. You have no standing as a community to speak about the safety of trans people while standing silently around the smoking crater that Jess Bradley’s shooting star has left.
I notified Private Eye about this blatant institutional corruption at the time that Eden Ladley assumed office and killed any expectation that any good governance or transparency on this issue might occur, and have only just noticed that they did in fact pursue the NUS for an update and published it in early August. The NUS continues to stonewall what are entirely legitimate questions about what they knew, when they knew it and whether they used student and public funds to cover it up. These questions will continue to be asked.
The University of Manchester, incidentally, whose desk Jess was getting herself out at, dismissed her immediately from her PhD programme for gross misconduct. They, at least, did not require a year-long investigation on full pay to realise that this is not ok.