An Open Letter to My MP @willquince – Don’t Ride Roughshod Over the Voices of Your Disabled Constituents

Will Quince, MP for Colchester since 2015

 

Dear Will

Since I first contacted you almost 10 months ago about my application for ESA, and my concerns about this given that I am a wheelchair user, I have sought to communicate to you the multiple issues of inaccessibility at Colchester’s ESA Assessment Centre. I have sought to do so with patience, with reason and with a (now obviously misplaced) hope that you would listen to all of the concerns, frustrations, fears and experiences of those of us who have been subjected to the discriminations that arise from those many problems.

Don’t worry Will – I’m not looking for a conversation on social media about this. It’s just that whatever patience, reason and hope I had that you would put party politics aside and help tackle the discrimination your disabled constituents face has this week finally evaporated. You have now made it clear that you are not interested in raising up the voices of your local constituents. If you want to keep spinning the report that a mutual acquaintance drew up about the inaccessibility of the building as a report commissioned by you, be my guest. It is only one of the many incidents in which you have been utterly disrespectful of the work that my friends and I have been forced to engage with over the last 3 years since you became our MP. We recognise that we are in the wrong political party for you, and that a great many of our concerns and fears won’t be addressed because of it.

As you know, the door to the ESA Assessment Centre in Colchester is impassable to wheelchair and mobility scooter users, and presents a significant barrier to many more who require other mobility aids (due to the width of the door and how heavy it is). The intercom at the door has no hearing loop, so is useless for deaf wheelchair and mobility scooter users. At the 2015 meeting which DPAC held with you, they raised this. It was not followed up. When my friend Jaki wrote to those concerned to request a foldable ramp as a reasonable adjustment and advised you she had so, in November 2016, it was not followed up. When she advised you in the summer of last year that she had been found ‘fit for work’ as a result of not being able to attend her appointment – you had no questions to ask on her behalf about this.

When I wrote to you last year, you eventually seemed to show some willingness to engage with that issue. Yet when this elicited a fairly cursory note from the Minister of State for Disabled, Health & Work Sarah Newton MP – that it was not possible to make the building physically accessible – you had nothing to say about reasonable adjustments, and no questions to ask about that either.

Are you familiar with the Equality Act at all Will? Seriously – are you? Because in all these months, despite mine, and my friends repeated references to it over the last 3 years, you haven’t mentioned it once – the word ‘discrimination’ has never been used by you either, despite the multiple evidences of it that we have presented you with.

Of course, the inaccessibility of the building is just where the problems for disabled and chronically sick people start – and that’s where we seem to lose your willingness to engage, and address the issues, and confront the reality of your disabled constituents difficulties. And I’m sorry Will, but given how close I’ve come, repeatedly over the last year, to losing my friend I have not one more scrap of patience to give you.

When she wrote to tell you that she had been given inaccessible appointments, and been found fit for work for ‘failing to attend’ those inaccessible appointments this was your response:

The letter sent to Jaki Whyte, by Will Quince MP, in August 2017

When she told you that her tribunal had been held without her (or her benefits officer) being present (because of the DWP’s failure to send through the date and paperwork until AFTER the tribunal had been held – which is an accessibility issue), you ‘appreciated’ my friends ‘desire’ for a new tribunal and offered to write to the tribunal service.

Did you? Only my friend has now been living below the poverty line for 50 weeks, and her physical and mental health is hanging on by a mighty fine thread, and she’s been told she may have to wait up to 6 months, just for a statement of reasons. We didn’t ask you to pay lip service to these issues – we asked for your help in resolving them.

That’s why we asked you to make the meeting you are seeking with Sarah Newton accessible to us and other disabled and chronically sick constituents: because of the multiple issues of inaccessibility, and because you have never once indicated that you understand how egregiously our rights (not to say your governments own law) have been breached. We asked you to make that meeting accessible because we want the chance to speak to those responsible for the discrimination we are subject to, and because we have been silenced repeatedly – not least of all by your own inaction, certainly in my friends case, and likely more given that we’re now being approached by more disabled people who have been through this. IN COLCHESTER.

You are not disabled Will – and your inability to appreciate what is being done to us speaks for itself

Whatever happens in the next couple of days Will, please remember one thing: we asked for your help. We asked for it repeatedly and politely, over and over – and over – again.

But we never got it.

Regards

Ali

#EActNOWColchester Facebook

#EActNOWColchester Petition

 

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poem: the wisdom of the bard

 

the bard was wise methinks,

when sayeth he that ’tis not love,

that doth exclude admittance of

that which is feared, would push all loving from it’s gaze;

indeed – what thou fear most would not impede,

my meagre loving of yourself, with none of thee left on some shelf,

to be ignored, or left alone to dry and dust-clad days;

 so my love i say again – and happy to –

tho’ my poor pen

must stand in sted of arms which will amen,

to loving all of thee,

yes, all of thee, still now as then.

Why the #Genderquake Debate Must Never Happen Again (cn)

I wonder if – at the meeting where the #Genderquake debate was first pitched – anyone took a moment to ask “will this meet the remit of the agreement we made to responsibly eradicate transphobia and represent trans people respectfully?” As far as quite a lot of the trans community are concerned today – and has already been noted by Trans Advocate – the answer to that question is no. Indeed it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that Channel 4 have harmed, perhaps beyond repair, the trust of one of our most marginalised communities.  What happens next will define if Tuesday night’s debacle was a turning point toward the end of unchecked transphobia in our media, or the start of an even greater saturation of it.

Everything that was wrong with the premise of the format was put on blast when – on national television – a small clique of white women hurled verbal transphobic abuse at a black trans woman. Producers then failed to remove those responsible for the verbal abuse, despite Munroe Bergdorf requesting that those who were abusing her be removed. Grown women were allowed to shout ‘you have a penis’ and ‘you’re a man’ at a trans woman. A last minute chastisement came from the host and chair of the programme, Cathy Newman, as the credits were about to roll – but by then it looked like the lip service it was to Channel 4’s commitment to “..ensuring that transgender people … are treated with the same respect as non-transgender people.”

It was probably the worst of it, but there were several points where the lazy journalism that propped up the ‘debate’ made it difficult for Munroe, Caitlyn Jenner, Jen Powell,  Kenny Jones and Ash Sarkar to address the tropes, myths and flat out lies that Germaine Greer and Sarah Ditum were able to drop-and-run into the ‘conversation’. The myth of the desistance rate of trans children wasn’t picked up on for example; Greer was allowed to get away with the anti-Semitic dog whistle claim that there’s a shadowy group of people making lots of money out of ‘transing’ people; and trans men were described as frustrated girls trying to become men as a ‘way out of their oppression’ – in front of a trans man. To put it bluntly, Cathy Newman had no authority in the room, and it showed.

This was particularly obvious almost mid way through the programme – Cathy Newman asked Germaine Greer about one of the many transphobic statements she has made. I’ll be honest: it came across as if the first part of the debate was set up to lead to that moment – Greer’s rampant transphobia exposed on live television, and a defence demanded.

First, and despite her (frankly half-arsed) denial, yes: Greer really did say ‘lopping your dick off and wearing a dress doesn’t make you a woman’.  I for one, certainly think we can respect an 80 year old woman enough to hold her responsible for what she said when she was 76. Greer has a long history of vocally demonising trans people, and most often trans women:

“On the day that The Female Eunuch was issued in America, a person in flapping draperies rushed up to me and grabbed my hand. ‘Thank you so much for all you’ve done for us girls!’ I smirked and nodded and stepped backwards, trying to extricate my hand from the enormous, knuckly, hairy, be-ringed paw that clutched it… Against the bony ribs that could be counted through its flimsy scarf dress swung a polished steel women’s liberation emblem. I should have said, ‘You’re a man. The Female Eunuch has done less than nothing for you. Piss off.’ The transvestite [sic] held me in a rapist’s grip.” – Germaine Greer in The Independent: ‘On why sex change is a lie’, 22nd July 1989

But I digress.

I would imagine – given Greer’s track record – that the production team hadn’t factored in Greer attempting to deny that she had said what she had, in fact, said. It would have been helpful if Cathy Newman included the fact of when Greer had said it, but that’s perhaps the wisdom of hindsight: it gave Greer the opportunity of a poor denial, and the ‘gotcha’ moment that Newman and Channel 4 were clearly expecting slipped out of their grasp, along with any vestige of authority Newman might have had – the heckling of Munroe Bergdorf came in the wake of that.

Were the audience encouraged to heckle (or ‘interact’)? I would imagine – it was a live television event, and audiences listening to the panel respectfully wasn’t going to make for dramatic tension. Or viewing figures.

But the failure to own the goal that the C4 team were likely expecting to score exacerbated a situation which led to a black trans woman being verbally abused by a white woman, on live television – a situation which had been made likely enough already, due to the format of the show, and it was obvious how difficult, uncomfortable and frightening it must have become for the trans and non-binary panellists’.

Were women silenced on Tuesday night? You betcha. But it wasn’t the women who were shouting about penis’ who were silenced. It’s the trans girls, (and trans boys, and non binary children), and trans women (and trans men and non binary people) who were too frightened to come out before that programme aired, and for whom there will be precious little evidence that its safe to come out now: who heard Sarah Ditum make false claims of high desistance rates among trans children (again), and heard her (again) compare trans women and girls to violent predatory males, something which she does any time she’s given a platform to do so.

Channel 4 owe the trans community an apology, because it allowed trans people to be verbally abused and did nothing to stop it; and it owes them more than that – it owes them a renewed, and thorough, re-commitment to the promises that they so spectacularly failed to keep to on Tuesday night.

 

  • Eliminating transphobia in the media
  • Ending the provision of misinformation about transgender people in the media
  • Increasing positive, well informed representations of transgender people in the media
  • Ensuring that transgender people working in or with the media are treated with the same respect as non-transgender people in equivalent positions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

poem: ode to my queerly beloved

oh! to be

queerly old fashioned

with thee;

indeed, when thou hast shed the skin

of that pretense

which, long since, poorly had you worn –

thy truer self would agree,

that apt those words describe

what we have always been;

for well we know,

how strange the un-straight path

has weather’d us to normal seemed;

(indeed with strangeness we have taken

tenancy);

perhaps we could compare

our much imagined lunacies?

tho’ rather would i taste again

those queer, old fashioned,

truthful kisses.

poem: some nights aretha sings my blues

 

some nights Aretha sings my blues

when my hearts tried hard my the things you do,

when you’re trying to pretend that you’re like him too –

some nights Aretha sings my blues;

 

 some nights Aretha sings my love sweetly,

 i’m poured over with the rhythm of notes dropped neatly

behind the back beat that her voice sinks into me –

some nights Aretha sings my love sweetly

 

some nights are too many but what do i do,

when you’re trying to pretend that you’re like him too,

and my hearts still aches for this silly old fool –

some nights Aretha sings my blues.

poem: i did not fail to notice

i remember the day well,

when i first ran smack-bang-into

your unacknowledged

but very clear disdain;

for revealing what you had wrongly

assumed me to be.

 

you thought me a nice

quiet, well behaved hetrosexual

– but not even decently, coolly rebelliously gay-enough;

and discovering herself a little queer –

(too much for your taste);

i’m used to being a disappointment.

 

i masked-and-mirrored well, too much

and perhaps that did not happen without me;

but i’m not convinced that it is i, that owes the apology.

it is not i who is uncomfortable with who i am, and yet

its true that now i’m uncomfortable,

with this part of who you are.

 

so perhaps i shall, when time enough

has passed the sting of your disdain

from painful down to – well, and then;

and i will find within again the will try

and understand, without conforming who i am,

to something i am not.

 

neither pretended, or forgot;

and neither you pretending, but so verse might have

an ending, let me say –

i do not sigh with mean asides,

just weary, that myself might be enough

for someone, someday.

 

 

poem: father, son and holy ghost

’tis a truth thy know full well,

that love’s not absent of it’s mind,

or blind, to that which poorly you disguised –

indeed pretence was spotted long ago;

 hide not from love, that loves you even so –

and knows the sacred beat of thy dear heart,

and knows it still.

 

that ill fitting mask you wear,

that oft was dropped when fear of loss

commanded you to reassure – it never hid you well;

but well i know

that half hidden meant half seen;

and oft pursued –

with hope of keeping, what anger sought to lose.

 

anger is the ice that kept him cold enough

to stay away;

you never wore ice well – feign not the bitter frost

that held him sway.

For you are not so lost, and my years will tell

of all the love you give and give again;

for those who love you now, will love you then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

poem: mister angry

 

tis true you are not perfect,

but that’s not how you stay disguised;

for tis your anger still

that scrapes and blinds thee to mine eye;

and this you can’t deny,

when even now you test me out for lies;

 

and scrape the honours given

to force upon them some demise.

mister angry makes you bend and show your arse;

‘twould be funny,

were it not an oft played farce.

 

 

 

poem: good friday

meditation based on psalm 23, vs 5 

 

you prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies

and i look up, from the foot of your cross

and it is my sin that put you there

too oft from a sin that i chose

and yet you anoint my head with oil

and my cup over flow’s

 

 

you anoint my head with oil

my cup overflows’

and i look up from the foot of your cross

from your head and your wounds

your blood freely flows;

how could it be that blood of lamb slain

could free me of guilt, could free me of blame?

that you feed me as enemies taunt me with death

and that my cup, with your love, over flows?

and i look up from the foot of your cross

and my love overflows