poem: inappropriate

how should i say it?

what words should i use,

to point to uncomfortable things that you do –

 

when you’re snippy cos you think that straight

folk

ain’t properly being acknowledged for what they do;

 

as if we should be grateful that you don’t complain too much

about that;

yes, how should i word that?

 

or when you’re reminded

that you’ve paid no mind

to disabled people –

(why, no! of course you never meant to be unkind).

 

or if we seem too much to mind

that you’ve given us some little time,

and that should be enough, no matter what

or who

gets left behind.

 

how would you have me say that

in a way that

does not

offend

you?

 

or should we recognise

that you offense

is a problem

too?

 

 

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poem: the view from down here

if every time you closed a door, i whistled –

then i would whistle every day, if not each night;

and should i sing with every incidence of rudeness,

i would be singing 3 more hours – tho’ the singing won’t delight

 

if each time some person patronised or patted

upon on my head as though i might play fetch;

i swear i would be howling at the moon dear –

most nights’ till i pass out, or from it retch

 

were i to whoop with wild abandon, and excitement,

each time i find exclusion, i’d be whooping without pause –

and you’d look at me all peculiar and offended,

,for being some great drama queen, seeking overblown applause.

 

when silence is complicit with the order

(wherein this whole wrong self would be much better hid away).

i will howl, and stamp, and sing, and scream and whoop holy disorder

and if that makes you uncomfortable, the exit door is that way.

 

oh whoops, oh dear, and sorry if you thought me

respectable and sweet, or so demure –

i sing of a rude and glorious disorder,

my own italian job, that blows up bleeding doors.

poem: exclusion

you do not notice it

– or there were times, perhaps, where you once did,

that with every slamming door

the meaning of my smile misplaced in you belief that you could

shut it again,

and again more;

 

when all my smile meant to convey

that whilst understood,

the slamming of the door was not something that was good

for me;

 

i am no saint and will not for this hurt apologise –

love forgives, and weeps those who weep

that clearer be the vision,

when love patient stoops to dry the eye

 

exclusion makes its scars, this flesh cannot but remark,

tho’ wish i often it would speak in quieter tone;

you hear it,

yet i am left unheard.

It’s a Jungle Out There: Learning the Language of Danger (or, Don’t Dismiss ‘Feminine Intuition’) cn/tw

I’ve been reflecting recently, after meeting up again with an old friend, on how my perceptions of relationships have both evolved and changed: I first knew my friend when I was 18 and she was 3 or 4 years younger, and our families knew each other well. As it happened I was going out withan older member of her family, though it was a less than healthy relationship, for all sorts of reasons.

My then partner was abusive – but so were his friends. More than one or two of them, at one time or another, tried awkwardly, drunkenly or aggressively to shove their tongues down the back of my throat whilst trying to tune my breasts in to Radio Caroline by the magic of using my nipples for dials – and I was 18, and in an abusive relationship. Some nights, my nightmares were made of dozens of free floating hands.

It was a working class environment, but no, that doesn’t make domestic violence more likely. The violence, control or assault which comes from the more privileged social backgrounds just has a slightly different costume, and a mildly altered script. But [usually] LBTQIA/cis/BAME/disabled working class women are more likely to depend on social assistance from local government, to be able to extricate themselves from the violence. These were the women who were the core of my friendship group – they were hard working and house proud (rightfully so): they make sure the money stretches (less easy now), and get creative when need demands. Long before ‘upcycling’, LBTQIA/cis/BAME/disabled women knew how make the clothes, the furniture, or that old tub in the shed into something that felt like you had something new, and special.

The trope of the slovenly single parent on a council estate, given flesh via Thatcher’s hardening rhetoric in the ’80’s – and later ‘Little Britain’s’ grotesque cartoon of an over painted child in a pink tracksuit – jars in me, then as now. My family lived on a middle class suburban estate, very nuclear but my Dad’s lower management job was the first of the rungs of management to go in a number of large London-based corporations as they geared up for Thatchers first big privatisation push (so I had comparative but nevertheless very real privilege). But I had gone to a council estate Comprehensive school, and spent most of my early social life on that estate (a whole other story). And then spent the two years I was in that abusive relationship living on another- and I have to tell you (and if I do have to tell you, then considered yourself in receipt of a look), that every single one of those tropes about (usually working class) single mothers was, and is, a long, long way from the truth.

Whilst there weren’t less hands as I got older, I learned to navigate … all that stuff (insert gesticulating hands to indicate unwanted male attention) better. Okay, no, I didn’t: I just accepted I was happier and healthier learning not to be ashamed of being ‘the introverted one’** – so it would be more accurate to say that I’ve therefore spent less time in situations where …unwanted advances might be a possibility.

And no, that’s not the same thing as hiding. Though it is also true that even when you’re disabled, you’re not safer – in fact it’s more likely. A confident introvert doesn’t need to be a dichotomy.

But I also trust my instinct now, sometimes even before the evidence of my eye. My instinct is my instinct for reasons, and I don’t argue with it. If a person gives me certain vibes, that person and I aren’t likely to be developing any sort of relationship. And whilst I will own to being hyper vigilant (and chronically anxious), the reasons my instincts are my instincts, are because they learnt what I was slow to trust.

Contrary to what the patriarchal/masculine/western/christianised tropes will tell you, ‘instinct’ is nothing more or less than a subconscious learning of patterns of behaviour, the identification of trigger points, the body language, the tells – you know, those little signs of trouble; learning the language of danger, and of warning. It’s perfectly logical, and y’all loved Tim Roth doing it in Lie to Me.*** Memory is a muscle too.

There’s also the other face of the coin that comes with the extra vulnerability to coercive control, domestic violence and assault as a disabled woman – that we are simultaneously assumed to be sexless, absent of desire, and undesirable.  (And whilst I love my queer community – no, y’all are no more inclusive than able bodied communities a lot of the time, but that’s a whole other conversation).

So it’s no less a jungle now, than when I was 18, though I’ve through passed from Tropical Forest through to Tropical Savannah (and once, by accident, through a saltwater swamp, though this may be a slur upon saltwater swamps). Also, I’m not alone in sharing that whilst most predators are usually straight cis men, sometimes they are not****, so if you ever feel a bit Lost in a Scrub and Thornbush Savannah with that one I believe you.

* we used to call it ‘going out with’ when I was – well, younger. ‘Dating’ certainly wasn’t a term used within 20 parsecs of where I was spending my youth. I’m also apparently now of an age where I note these things. There’s probably no hope for me to be honest.

** I am the product of an introvert (who did a lot of pretending to be an extrovert) parent, and an extrovert parent, (they’re divorced, and happily so).  And it is possible for an extrovert parent to accept that no amount of cajoling is going to change said introverted child. 

***I once had a knock-down-drag-out with a friend who was one-of-those-screaming-misogynists-with-extra-mummy-issues (who thought of himself as a forward looking and progressive man – and yeah, I know), who insisted that ‘feminine intuition’ (grrrrr) was a nonsense, compared to the slightly dodgy, rather glossy pseudo science, that was the staple of Lie to Me’s 2(?) seasons – slightly dodgy, rather glossy pseudo science being apparently more acceptable than ‘feminine intuition’.  Because of course <insert rolling eye emoji>

**** Yes, women are capable of reproducing patriarchal violence.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to My Sisters and Comrades in the Labour Party: We Must Have ZERO Tolerance For Transphobia.

Dear Sisters

The years of Tory Austerity have been hard on us, and as our election manifesto in June made clear, it is our BAME, LBTQIAA, working class, single parent, disabled, older and refugee sisters, who have borne the worst of the ferocity of that fiscal ideology.  The body count we can barley comprehend – in domestic abuse victims who might have got out sooner, had there been enough refuges – and their children, whose lives have yet to bear the bitter fruit of abuse; in disabled women and WASPI women whose bodies have been worked to within inches of their graves; in refugee women and asylum seekers, criminalised without trial and locked into a brutal prison-like system such as we see at Yarls Wood; in our LBTQI youth, in their homelessness and isolation.

These are just some of those who desperately need an end to Tory austerity, its patronising lip service to feminism. Poverty is sexist, and the Tory party declared war on the poor a long time ago.

We desperately need refuges so that victims of domestic violence can get away from fatal violence safely. We urgently need a properly resourced, properly funded NHS to address issues like the lack of resources for people with chronic illness’ such as MeCFS, Fibromyalgia and Lupus, which disproportionately affect women – and pre and post natal care that leaves those with post-natal depression so isolated. Womens’ basic, simple needs are actively being removed, leaving an ever growing list of need and damage in its wake.

We need humane responses for women refugees; we need to tackle the sexism and abelism that is systemic in our responses to disabled women and the financial poverty that is killing them.  We need to respond to the sexism and homophobia that LBT girls face, and talk about why the suicide rate for teenage girls is up. WASPI women deserve and need pension equality.

For women vulnerable for infinite reasons, and suffering much of the worst austerity has to offer, there is already so much work to be done, to roll back the damage and the violence of Tory policies. And yes, many of those women, who need some of these things too, and more, are trans.

Some of us believe that proposed amendments to the GRA – which would make the process of self-identification easier for trans people – is bad for women. So virulently do some believe this, that trans inclusivity is leading to a small but vocal minority among us, to go so far as to leave the Labour Party and work with more Conservative/conservative politicians to prevent those amendments going through, and to encourage the same from other women. Previous alliances with conservative press saw a barrage of anti-trans hit pieces in the Times and the Daily Mail.

Maybe you have never had to consider the needs of a trans person – or never needed to think about it. Maybe you look at these ‘identity’ wars and think that it has no bearing on everyday life. Perhaps even, hopefully, you see the active inclusivity of trans people that the Labour Party is modelling (often imperfectly, and we must be prepared to own to those times), is simply the humane, socialist, obvious thing to do.

Or maybe you really do believe that we should pathologize and ‘other’ trans people; maybe you really do believe a ‘trans cult’ is ‘transing our children’, and believe trans children should be subject to conversion therapy, to ‘re-train’ them to a more hetronormative identity.  But do you really believe that so much, that you would be willing to actively prevent women from having a government that would seek to redress some of the very great harm that Tory austerity has done us? Just because some of those sisters helped out of poverty are trans?

I am sorry to see that some think just that – so strongly, even, that they would advocate working with those whose political ideology is actively harmful to women.  What price then, that hate?

Let us always stand in solidarity with each other: cis or trans gendered, Black, brown, white, Muslim, Christian, atheist, gender non-conforming, gender fluid – we are varied, we are limitless, and we are women: and we are always much stronger in solidarity together, than we are apart.

Let us always have zero tolerance for all forms of hate, and reject any narrative that would demand us be afraid of some of our sisters.

We have more that unites us, and we are for the many, and not the few.

Thank you.

 

 

Poem: cister, sister

You say hello to someone

and they say hello to you

You ask them what their name is

– and they tell you.

Why do you shake your head and say

“No I refuse to use that name,

I think I have a better name for you”.

 

Excuse me whilst I say this

But that’s really very rude,

for I’m sure that you would much dislike

the same thing done to you.

 

 

Now captors language you do speak

and most often too, repeat

when you justify the right

to segregate these ones from you –

“separate but equal” is fake news;

why choose you, now, to disbelieve

that this indeed, was always true?

 

It has always been identity –

seeking dominance and primacy –

that drove us, as it drives us

to the depths of cruel brutality,

White toxic patriarchy with which

we sought equality;

and now the captors tools are gripped,

tight gripped by both our hands –

this is not where we should be,

or where truth stands.

 

Though you would have some of

my sisters be transgressing nasty misters

and some brothers be

some poor unthinking fools to be relieved –

 

I’ll not keep my hand

where this harm be left to stand,

nor seek to keep

that separate state

we seek to leave;

 

No, saviour I am not

and will not be,

but liberations’ maiden I’ll embrace –

and fear not to speak loves name

or show God’s grace.

 

 

 

The Feminism and Queerness of Jane Austen (1): Charlotte Lucas, Pride and Prejudice

This is the first of two essays about the feminism and queerness I find in two of Jane Austen best loved novels – Sense and Sensibility, and in this one, I will be exploring the character of Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice. I write this because apart from one 6 year old tumblr post which notes it, I have never found a discourse on her character that fully recognises that Charlotte Lucas is aromantic and asexual, and, therefore, queer. However, I must also own that I am neither aro or ace (aromantic or asexual), so if you are, and you are reading this and I’ve got something horrendously wrong – comments are open for correction!

 

‘Oh, Lizzy!  do anything rather than marry without affection.’ – Jane Bennett

Pride and Prejudice is a story about marriage, and the business (the social and financial contract and exchange) of marriage. In telling the story of the Bennett sisters, and Elizabeth particularly, it examines a society largely dependent on mens choices, the ramifications of their choices, and how those choices affect women’s ability to be married well (within that context), and married safely. It is set in a society where ideas of romantic love are at odds with the reality of the business of marriage.

As with Sense and Sensibility, it is also a story of the relationship between sisters (both filial and by friendship): but whereas the Dashwood sisters in the former lose their social station with the death of their father, the Bennett sisters social station was lower than it might have been; not because of their Father (for their Father was a gentleman) – but because of their mother who whilst not poor, was not of equal rank to Mr Bennett.

The Bennett sisters lived in the tension of a rigid class system, and their options for marriage were defined accordingly. On the one hand, despite their Father’s rank, no male heir meant no financial status. Inheritance laws meant that their Fathers estate would be entailed away. On the other, they were socially defined by their Mothers’ lower rank and status, and, therefore, of very little social worth.

The situation of Charlotte Lucas is very little different. She is the daughter of Sir William Lucas who, whilst titled, earned his peerage after becoming mayor – he was ‘new’ money, too new to be considered in the same class as sons of historical inheritance. Whilst he has amassed a respectable amount, his fortune is not a large one. Unlike Mr Bennett, however, he has a son to leave his estate to, but his fortune is not large enough to leave a dowry for his daughters. Charlotte, who is around 6 years older than her friend, has limited options: she must marry, or she will otherwise be a burden to her parents, and then her brother. She is respectable,  but she has neither dowry, nor handsomeness enough, to tempt men of Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy’s class.

By every measure, she is the match of her friends’ wit and intelligence. She is jovial, wry and not averse to chiding her friends sometime heated convictions:  she teases Elizabeth in front of Mr Darcy, goading her into playing the piano and singing. And she scrutinises Elizabeth’s thinking, eliciting from her headstrong friend an admission that it was Mr Darcy’s comments on her appearance that set her mind against him. She is remarkably self possessed and resourceful: she actively and cognitively chooses Mr Collins, recognising an opportunity in her friends refusal of a man neither holds in particular esteem.

Charlotte see’s the same vanity and pomposity in Mr Collins that Elizabeth does, she also sees what Elizabeth would never have found: an opportunity to be herself; for though Jane is Elizabeth’s’ social conscious, it is Charlotte who is Elizabeth’s intellectual ally and female mentor.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”

There is an essay in the New Yorker by Joshua Rothman from 2013, on the ‘problem’ of Charlotte Lucas’ choice of husband, which I found whilst looking for essays on this subject. It explores the idea that Charlotte Lucas does not seem to get the happy ending in marriage that Elizabeth and Jane do. It examines some of the many layered reasons for Charlotte’s decision, giving a nuanced look at both her pragmatism as well as the economic and social context in which the characters lives are led. And it respects how crucial Charlotte is, not just in the context of the relationship with her friend, but how critical she is to the narrative of the story. However Rothman, like Elizabeth, see’s Charlotte’s choice through the lens of Charlotte’s intellectual intelligence, and in relation to her husband’s stupidity. He concludes:

There’s something miraculous in people—a resilience, an infiniteness—which can survive constraint, transformation, reversal, and anything else imaginable. The thread doesn’t have to be broken. This never-ending pulse of personality is what gives Lizzy and Darcy the courage to change, and it’s what makes it possible, I think, to hope for Charlotte’s happiness. People, Austen seems to say, are not so easily dominated by their own lives. Charlotte will always be a little apart from her circumstances. Her life will go on. – Joshua Rothman (emphasis mine)

In ascribing Charlotte’s choice as Elizabeth does, he sees only what Elizabeth sees – a constraining circumstance, albeit one that her abilities and capabilities would undoubtedly allow her to survive. But it is not this that sets Charlotte apart, and it is not this which allows Charlotte to see what her friend – and Rothman – cannot. Charlotte does not view marriage to Mr Collins as a constraint – indeed nor does Elizabeth find her friend constrained when she eventually goes to visit her now married friend. She finds instead that her friend is building for herself a life where she can spend the majority of her time most contendly.

Charlotte, who had once declared that it would be better not to know very much of a spouses faults before marrying them, knew completely what Mr Collins faults before making her decision.  Unlike Elizabeth, this did not prevent her from seeing marriage to Mr Collins as an opportunity. She is older, wiser than her friend – she has learnt the value of reflection.  Charlotte is thus able to use all the faults of the man to her advantage; his obsequious devotion to Lady Catherine de Bourge, and his vanity: Elizabeth finds these being actively, yet carefully nurtured. So that whilst being “Mrs Collins” brought certain obligations – it also afforded ample opportunity for the quietness and solitude that Charlotte sought.

“I see what you are feeling” Charlotte says to Elizabeth: and she does – she see’s her friend’s perplexity. But she is also 6 years older, and that age gap is crucial; Charlotte has already seen friends of her own age navigate the same system as they and their parents sought the best possible contract – and men sought out suitable wives, and preferably ones with money. Charlotte is older than Elizabeth, because the disadvantage of having neither dowry or looks has left her behind. Yet she has forged a close relationship with Elizabeth and in no sense considers herself superior. When she says that happiness in marriage is as much, if not more, to do with chance, those words are borne of experience, of seeing other friends whose romantic hopes had come face to face with the reality of marriage.

“I am not romantic you know. I never was. ” Charlotte Lucas

Charlotte is far too honest to say that to her friend simply for reassurance. She says it plainly, without excitement, for she is speaking a truth of herself she might otherwise not have voiced: she simply does not harbour romantic longings. She enjoys, indeed revels, in her friendships where there is intellectual equality, but has no need of romance to satisfy her emotionally. She, alone of her friends, can see more clearly that for all the emotional longings for romance that are satisfied in marriage, there are as many are not: yet she is never disturbed by this. She knows it as simply as she knows that the sun will rise each day.

And whilst Jane is chosen by Mr Bingley (who was then dissuaded by his sisters and Darcy), and Elizabeth is chosen by Mr Darcy, (whom she initially rejects) – it is Charlotte who is able to create the opportunity to make her own choice.  Charlotte does not choose Mr Collins because she aromantic and asexual, but being so affords Charlotte the opportunity to choose marriage, without sacrificing her sense of self. She does not encourage Mr Collins to be away from the vicarage because she is aromantic and asexual, but because she has no need of romantic or sexual intimacy, she can create space where she can live very much as she chooses. Indeed, in a world where women have no real autonomy, Charlotte is a compelling character: one who is able to create space to live according to her own needs.

In understanding Charlotte as aromantic and asexual, we meet more fully a remarkable woman – and we are no longer perplexed, as Elizabeth was, by her choice. Instead we find someone whose choice neither constrains, nor defines, her; and in a world where men’s choices dominate, we find a woman who chooses for herself, and remains herself without compromise. And instead of the hope of a happy ending for her – we have the assurance of it.

 

 

 

Poem: Upstanding Up, Standing Upside Down

I looked at it backwards

or perhaps as a mirror would,

though not would I claim to have

perfect my view –

there is too much to see that I

would not see

for me to say that

and to have that

be true;

 

But I am not her who suggests

that her theory is

somehow the only

and, exclusively

true –

I merely suggest

though you think me in jest

that the platform you

stand on is placed

to allow you

to see what you’ve heard

is the only good

view;

 

I merely invite you

– though not to delight you,

or have you drawn in

to some sticky old web –

to consider that we

are unable to see,

this earth in its whole

and the whole of its globe –

not even if one had the

vantage of space –

for your eye would not travel

the whole of its grace.

 

But you could perhaps travel

o’er more of its face.

 

Oh I see you still

claim I am in the wrong

place.

But I did not speak here

to drag you from

that space –

just to invite you,

and perhaps to remind you

that neither should you

claim to see,

what no human eye

could perceive.

Rejecting the Narrative of Fear In Trans Exclusionary Feminism And Christianity

Because the woman that I am is, amongst other things, a Christian, a feminist, a socialist, and bi (for all of those things play a part in making me the woman that I am), and because I am also very well aware of the wealth of information there is to support the lived experiences of trans people, I have no doubt at all that trans women are women, and that trans men are men. I believe them.

This acceptance is not universal in feminism – or Christianity; and as the pace of change in the improvements of trans peoples rights seeks to push forward, the old maxims about equal and opposite reactions ring true with conservative mainstream media outlets (as well as the more ‘liberal’), offering national platforms to feminists whose praxis is trans exclusionary.

This is about domination.

Trans exclusionary praxis seeks the right to debate trans peoples existence, because this is about domination within community; a forced debate in order that trans women are excluded and trans men are reclaimed en masse as butch lesbians, even if there is no consent from trans men for that. It is by definition therefore, about existence – because life becomes (or is maintained as) merely existence if you cannot, are prevented from, and actively oppressed from, articulating your identity.

That is not what liberation looks like.

That is what makes white supremacy so dangerous, because it is about the domination of identity. And in seeking a similar domination of (cis normative) identity, this wound we repeatedly inflict on trans people (and ourselves, though that is less the point) is, by definition, violence. Part of the praxis of white supremacy is that it, too, is trans exclusionary.

This is not what justice looks like.

Trans children are depicted as in thrall to a cult, their naked bodies used without consent in pursuit of that narrative. Crude caricatures of bearded men in floral frilly dresses are spun into the narrative – to describe other women in clearly derisory terms, as part of the dismissal of trans women’s identity as women, or to populate fearful, direful tales describing terrifying scenario’s, each more frightening than the last.  How do cries for the right to consent to what happens to our bodies, become warped into the justifying of the commodification of children’s bodies, and the assumption that our children’s sexualities are ours to decide?

This goes beyond a difference of opinion. For fear is to do with punishment: we punish children whose bodies and realities transgress some arbitrary norm. Conversion therapy becomes an acceptable option because our children frighten us, and fear is also to do with control. Trans men who refuse an identity they do not want are punished with banishment to a purgatory ‘non-state’; trans women who refuse to be labelled delusional are punished endlessly, with some feminists spending their entire energies on seeking them out to actively deride them, in accordance with the very standards of ‘femaleness’ that they have rejected for themselves. Because that which seeks to dominate, seeks to control.

When the foundation on which patriarchy was laid – (that females made the babies and must therefore be controlled) – is being defended, in order to exclude trans people, I wonder what people think liberation looks like. When non-conformists become heretics, and the pious claim dissenters will lead you from the one pure truth that will save you – claiming ‘it is the other guy’  keeps us all in a weary, endless dance, where the melody of freedom is replaced with discordant notes that sing of the lure of dominant jubilation.

Liberation doesn’t stand ready with a padlock and key, waiting to shut the door on those who haven’t made the list – a list which protects the conservative,  for the appeasement of the status quo and in service of the already powerful.

When you are looking at a trans person, what are you seeing? Another human being? Or are you thinking about those caricatures, gross in their dripping pathologizing grimness, urging you to mock – or urging you to fear? When the fears that trauma left you with are leveraged, to verbally portray trans women with same urge of exaggeration that is seen in anti-semitic and racist imagery we once thought part of our past – are we using real trauma to justify the blood lust that such narratives tempt? Should feminism becomes another prop that keeps the gates up – or the means by which we tear down the gates? Is equality only defined in terms of equal ownership to the keys to the gates? Because do not forget, those gates are the means by which we are kept shut in, as well the means by which we shut others, out.

Fear is to do with punishment. Liberation is not.