Category Archives: queer issues

I’m bored and I’m tired

Let me tell you something about me. I let you see the flashes of rage, incandescent anger which invigorates me. It comes, it builds, it explodes like an orgasm and I collapse into momentary catharsis. It’s not a good feeling but it’s better than the alternative.

Most of the time I’m bored. I’m bored and I’m tired. It is grindingly wearing simply existing in oh so many spaces. It’s exhausting and tedious having the same fucking arguments time and time again, not managing to chip away at the immovable force.

It happens a lot in anarchist and radical spaces. The men don’t like it when you challenge their supremacy. A few weeks ago, all of this happened, and it was dismissed as nothing. Now we’re being told we should listen to some sort of TV celebrity because he made some vaguely supportive noises on some issues. From microaggressions to outright misogyny, it goes and goes and goes and it repeats and it repeats and it’s just fucking tiresome.

Social justice circles are no better. Too many feminists think they can get away with kicking down, not up and we’re expected not to challenge this because they’re making some vaguely supportive noises on some issues.

It’s a sinkhole of solidarity, that’s what it is. Unidirectional. I will pour my solidarity behind their causes and yet, do they ever have my fucking back? No. I am a trouble-maker, I am a monster, I am a liar.

There are so many privilege metaphors I could think of. I am Ginger Rogers, backwards in high heels and I want to kick off my shoes and sit down. I am being told the game is easy by someone who is playing it on easy mode and I want to throw my controller at their fucking stupid smug head. I am being attacked by an evil invisible zombie horde who are all armed with chainsaws and also invisibility lasers and I am too tired to make up a metaphor which actually makes sense.

I have goals in common with a lot of awful human beings. Why should I be expected to dash myself against the rocks repeatedly to support them while they would never do a thing for me? Why is it that I am expected to undertake so much thankless emotional labour, and if I don’t then I am the unreasonable one? Why is it me who has to do the heavy lifting?

And I know I’m better off than some. At least I’m white. At least I’m cis. At least my disability isn’t too bad. At least I have a livable income. And I try to do what I can to help with the heavy lifting in the struggles of those who get more shit than me. And for some reason, I have more energy for this than I do with the banal struggles of my own. It’s easier to direct my own limited resources into people who need my solidarity rather than the solidarity-suckers with all of their privilege.

What I need is something that I cannot foresee happening. I need for what I am fighting for to be understood. I need to be able to move freely, not to be constantly hampered by the same petty squabbles over what should be a tiny amount of ground. I need those with the capacity to take up the heavy lifting, I need support and to know that others have my back when I challenge the terrible or even just the mundane.

We need a revolution, but before that happens, we need to clean out the shit in our own back garden, because if it’s a tiresome struggle to simply exist amid fellow revolutionaries then it’s not my revolution.

So please, please can we start with the banal, before we expand to the grand? I am aware that for a lot of people, this will be unpleasant, and will require taking on a higher degree of emotional labour than they have ever tried before. But this is how so many of us live day to day, simply to negotiate spaces. It is this dynamic that needs to change, needs a complete inversion.

I know this can happen, because those who I can trust do so. There are some who fight at my side who are supportive and make the fight feel winnable. These few who have my back are unquantifiably precious.

I have seen so many people fall  from sheer exhaustion, from being hounded out of spaces. Voices silenced and bodies taken out of the fight because some would rather maintain and replicate hegemonic power structures within spaces rather than challenge them. I haven’t succumbed yet, mostly because I’m fucking stubborn and I don’t want to let the bastards win. But it hurts. It hurts my soul and it hurts my body, and I’m bored and I’m tired.

Further reading:

Activist Burnout Part I and II by Alice B. Reckless


Time to pick a side

I see a lot of fence-sitting, and it pisses me the fuck off. I see so many so-called comrades refusing to challenge the multi-layered oppressions within our own communities.

Time and time again, I see feminists proudly declaring that they want to be neutral to various issues. In its latest manifestation, this has been a complete apathy towards a payday loans lawyer with a history of harassing women and actively siding with homophobic organisations in her quest to make the lives of marginalised young women hell. However, this attitude frequently comes up when women of colour report racism, when trans women report cissexism, when disabled women report disablism, and so forth.

I see it happen repeatedly within anti-fascist, anti-capitalist and anti-state networks. A deliberate neutrality towards sexism and racism among white men, too often escalating to the point where women reporting sexual violence from comrades are disbelieved. The other day, my friends and I tried to challenge it. So many comrades just stood by and did nothing.

This sort of shit happens everywhere. Intersecting liberation struggles are treated as nothing more than a petty spat, a minor intellectual difference. Instead of solidarity, there is only apathy. I have lost count of the number of times I have been told “I really agree with everything you do, you’re wrong about [really important issue], but I can ignore that.” How in the name of ever-loving fuck can you willfully look away from something so integrally connected?

This position of self-proclaimed neutrality is not some sort of moral high ground. It is actively harmful. Yes, you may not be actively perpetrating violence, but your inaction allows the perpetrators to keep on doing what they do. Think of the murder of Kitty Genovese. A young woman attacked and brutally murdered, while many heard her screams and did absolutely nothing. Kitty Genovese could have been saved, but the inaction of her neighbours left her to die in terrifying circumstances. The decades of subsequent research have revealed that people have a remarkable capacity for justifying their own inaction when someone is being harmed. I don’t doubt that the comments will swell with a sea of self-deception as people try to validate their own apathy, and do you know what? I’m not going to fucking approve any of it, because I’ve heard it all before.

If you don’t take a stand against oppression, you are helping it happen. You are helping the bigots and the rapists, the murderers and the fascists. You are helping the powerful exert their power and making them ever stronger.

It might make your life easier, but it also makes the task of the oppressor far, far easier. When solidarity is diffuse because so many just stand around doing nothing, it is easier to abuse and harass and murder. You are not neutral, no matter how much you like to think you are. You are helping all of this happen. You are not neutral, you are listening to the abuser’s account and deciding you like it better.

So let us dispose of any notion of neutrality. Let us open up our eyes and let in the full picture of the raging injustices. Let it disgust us, and develop our understanding of what is really happening, to actually look at the direction in which the power flows and everything connects together. Let us look at the consequences of our past apathy and strive end victimisation. Let us challenge oppression wherever it appears: within and outside our own communities. Let us nail our colours to the mast and rise up against these abusive structures.

It is a terrifying task, taking a stand, because the powerful just want to swat us down. They cannot do this if we stand together in solidarity with one another: there are too many of us. Let us ally our struggles and end this oppressive facade of neutrality.


Dear David Blunkett

Dear David Blunkett,

I was surprised and disturbed by your somewhat revisionist historical analysis. In case you’ve forgotten the speech you gave, these is the alarming sentiments you articulated:

“The Lib Dems in Glasgow debated this and decided they were against automatic protection unless people chose to over-ride it, in terms of pornography on the internet and the protection of children. I think they were wrong.

“I think we have a job in this country, in a civilised, free, open democracy, to protect ourselves from the most bestial activities and from dangers that would undermine a civilised nation.

“In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Berlin came as near as dammit to Sodom and Gomorrah. There was a disintegration of what you might call any kind of social order.

“People fed on that – they fed people’s fears of it. They encouraged their paranoia. They developed hate about people who had differences, who were minorities.

“There always has had to be some balance, in terms of the freedom of what we want to do, for ourselves and the mutual respect and the duty we owe to each other in a collective society. I think getting it right is the strength of a democracy.”

See, the thing is, David, I’m not convinced that Weimar was the worst era in modern German history. It was a pretty decent time to be queer, really; we were accepted. It also wasn’t too bad to be a woman: our sexual agency was accepted and abortion was actually legalised in some cases, almost a century ago! The music was cool: they embraced music like jazz. It was progressive, in short, and marginalised people were treated more like humans than the little bit of history that came later.

That little bit of history that came later, David, was Nazi Germany, the spectre you raise as a consequence of not treating marginalised people like shit. Those who were accepted in the Sodom and Gomorrah times suffered heavily under Nazi Germany. The queers were forced to wear pink triangles and herded into camps, murdered in droves by the state. The women were treated as breeding machines, nothing more than a means of reproduction. The rich art and culture made by people who were not white, once embraced, was now illegal, degenerate. It was a period of history which sucked absolutely enormously for basically everyone who was not a straight, cis, able-bodied white man.

For some reason, you think this was the responsibility of exactly the people who suffered the most. You know who else thought that? Hitler.

I am writing to you, David, to express concern because I am fairly sure that you have ripped a hole in the space-time continuum by twisting Godwin’s Law so much. I presume you’re decrying Nazism and saying it’s bad, while simultaneously using some rhetoric with a distinctly fascist flavour. Of course I’ll help out if some of the Sleeping Ones awaken and pass through the portal you have opened, but I’m a little annoyed that I have to, to be perfectly honest.

On the other hand, David, I’m grateful. What could I possibly be grateful for, when you are essentially blaming millions for their own genocide?

I am grateful, David, that you have laid bare the inherent authoritarianism in the moralistic attitude towards banning porn. I am relieved to see that you have managed to point out that ultimately this isn’t about porn itself, but it is far wider, and far more chilling. It is rooted in a hatred of all that is not straight, a rejection of sexual freedom for women. It reflects a disgust at the queer. You have demonstrated this with your words far more clearly than all of the commentary that comes from the marginalised.

So fuck you, and all who share your views. You frighten and sicken me, as do all who agree with you.

No love,

Stavvers

EDIT 02/10/13: I made Blunkett feel sad.


Bisexual adventures with stavvers

Today is Bi Visibility Day, the day of the year wherein we bisexuals stop pretending to be humans and reveal our true forms as soul-eating beings of shadow and vapour.

I’ll be honest. It irks me no end that awareness days have to exist on any issue. It pisses me off that a single day of the year is allocated to groups of humans to go “Hi, we exist, please don’t treat us like shit.” It bothers me that one day of the year is considered somehow adequate to cram in pointing out “hey, this is an enormous problem, let’s maybe do something to make this not a problem any more”. And yet this is a thing, and today is all about us bisexuals being visible.

From my first stirring of a weird little feeling in the pit of my tummy while watching The X-Files and wishing I could marry both Mulder and Scully right up to my first drunk snog with a girl at the first cool party I went to, I’d kind of assumed I was straight. Why wouldn’t I be? That was the thing most people were, right? I had not experienced some sort of weird magic lesbian transformation like Willow, ergo, I must have been straight.

Well, obviously I wasn’t, and I never had been, but the fact I fancied boys kind of complicated matters in a world where bisexuals–if they exist at all–are apparently all lascivious sex tanks, evil axe murderers, or a combination of both.

Yes. I had managed to grow up in a world where I was bombarded by media produced in a society which isn’t particularly keen on bisexuals.

I was the queerest person I knew very well, until I was quite far into my twenties. I’d met a few gay and lesbian people, maybe a bi person here or there, but for the most part I was the only one I really knew. I was presumed straight, of course. The times I mentioned I was actually bi, I saw eyebrows go up. I received demands for a complete inventory of all the sex I had had in my life, ever. I heard mutters that bi people were just doing it for the attention. I often stayed quiet about my sexual orientation unless I was drunk, because people were often dicks.

In an attempt to connect more with my lesbian side, I read The Well of Loneliness. As a bi femme, it did not make me feel particularly good about myself.

As I got more involved with feminism and the queer community, I discovered how worryingly prevalent biphobia is among gay and lesbian people. We’re in the closet, apparently. We’re ruining feminism forever by sometimes having sex with men. Basically, we’re all gross and icky and we should just make up our feeble little minds and become properly gay.

And because of this, once again, I wanted to shut the hell up about my sexual orientation; people were being dicks.

Sadly, the monosexuals still dominate discourse. Whether straight or gay, they’re there, yapping away. Most of the time, bi people are just ignored like a beige carpet. This is the best option in a society which operates under some rigidly oppressive power structures. And at worst, it’s utterly horrid. We get homophobic abuse from the straights. We get biphobic abuse from lesbians and gay people. It is a pincer manoeuvre, the discrimination we face.

I’ve internalised a lot of it, from both sides, and it’s been a long process unlearning all of it, believing that there’s nothing wrong with me or anyone else like me. I think I’m getting there.

And I’m fucking sick of it all.

Make up my mind? I’ve made up my mind, and I’m proud of who I am.

Pick a side? I’ve picked my side, and that side is a stand against biphobia.

Just come out? I am out against bigotry.

Doing it for the attention? You’re damn right that I’m going to keep screaming and shouting that I exist and maybe I pose a problem for your blinkered and tedious worldview.

I exist, and I will not be quiet.


Red flags

There are some things that people say that immediately ring the alarm bells, and I know that pretty swiftly they’re going to come out with something awful. These little conversational red flags could, hypothetically, possibly lead to something not terrible, but I’ve never seen that happen in action. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of red flags, the things which set off the Shitlord Klaxon. If you say any of these things, chances are I will jump to the worst possible conclusion, and it’s your responsibility to prove me otherwise. Feel free to pop into the comments and add more of your own red flags!

“Females” TERFs and MRAs alike really love referring to women as females. In the case of the former, it’s because they love dehumanising women into just sex organs. In the case of the latter, it’s because they love dehumanising women into just sex organs. Either way, anyone who says “females” doesn’t respect women or see us as human.

“But… but the false accusation rate for rape…” Never appropriate unless the conversation is actually about the false accusation rate for rape, you derailing rape apologist dickmelon.

“I was just trying to play devil’s advocate” Don’t. Seriously. Don’t pretend you just sent me a big long diatribe as some sort of intellectual exercise.

“I’m just trying to debate this” See above. Liberation and oppression are not abstract intellectual exercises.

“I don’t have privilege because [insert something here]” Go away, be quiet, and learn how sometimes you can have privilege over someone else, even when your life sucks.

[wears V mask] Sorry, mate, but you’re probably a rape apologist with pisspoor politics.

“Explain to me exactly why this was an oppressive statement” I’m not your fucking nursemaid. Also, if this is the first thing you say upon being called out rather than an apology, you’re probably a groaning shitbagel.

“You’re being irrational. Let’s be objective” You know what’s really irrational? Clinging to myths which have persisted since time immemorial. Clinging uncritically to your favourite cherry-picked research. Thinking that research is somehow magically neutral. So stop it.

 


When #ibelieveher goes out of the window

Content note: This post discusses rape, transphobia, apologism and the effect of not being believed when reporting one’s experiences.

We are seeing a slow shift how we think about survivors, guided by the phrase “I believe her*”. It inverts the status quo; politically siding with survivors, a statement of undoing the way things are by believing the story of a person who we are socialised into not believing. Disbelief in the accounts of survivors of rape, of domestic violence, of child abuse creates the conditions of silence necessary for such abuse to continue. Fear of not being believed is a weapon, wielded by our culture to keep our lips sealed and prevent anything being done about it. It is an attempt to create a safer space.

It is gaining momentum, this culture of believing survivors, and has been broadly adopted by many groups striving for social change. Sadly, while the ethos of believing survivors is perhaps becoming increasingly accepted, the practice itself is often not. We have seen this, for example, too often amid left-wing groups who will happily say they believe survivors until it turns out one of their mates might be a perpetrator, and cognitive somersaults begin in order to justify what is going on.

We see it too when people talk about their experiences of microaggressions. While it’s easy to believe when women talk about gendered microaggressions, those times when we are made to feel less than human by something which is often dismissed as trivial by patriarchal society, this is not extended to women experiencing intersecting oppressions. We see, for example, trans women talking of feeling invalidated and attacked by high-profile cis women to a reboant chorus of dismissal. Far from being believed in these scenarios, trans women end up being on the receiving end of the same old apologist tropes: the victim blaming, the trivialisation, the gaslighting and the flat-out denials. We see similar things happening to women of colour, to disabled women, to sex workers and queer women. Suddenly, it’s not “I believe her”. It’s a demand for a case laid out, meticulous documentation of “evidence”. If evidence is produced, it is thrown as an overreaction or not really evidence at all. Or perhaps everything is explained at the survivor having somehow “brought it on herself” by not behaving exactly according to some unwritten, unknowable, ever-shifting code.

It’s the same tune played on a different instrument. Whatever happened to “I believe her” in these situations?

As a cis white woman, sometimes I find it difficult to recognise where exactly the problem lies. I am not sensitive to some microaggressions, because I am not subjected to them day after day after fucking day. I am never on the receiving end of cissexism or racism, and, as such, sometimes I fail to recognise very veiled abuse. Which is precisely why, when a woman of colour or a trans woman says it is happening, I believe her.

As a cis white woman, it’s not my place to explain that something isn’t racist or cissexist, because I don’t get to define what these things are, and what is crossing a line and what is not. So, when I listen to a survivor, I believe her.

I feel like this is the least I can do. I’ve had experience with not being believed, I’ve had experience of being on the wrong end of victim blaming, I’ve been gaslit and dismissed when I talk about horrible things which have happened to me. I know how awful it can be, that sense that either the world will end or you will, that you’re mad and you’re wrong and you’re twisted and disgusting. I also know that feeling of the light coming in as you hear the magic words “I believe you”. Not being believed hurts like fuck, and being believed makes the pain more bearable, like you might just be able to get through it. It’s helpful when someone else sees the gas go down, too, even if they don’t quite understand it as well as you do.

And so these are the principles I use. I believe those who talk about microaggressive abuse. I believe those who talk about rape. I believe survivors. I believe her.

__

*This is not to say abuse does not happen to people who use male and non-binary pronouns. Of course it does, and the sense of belief ought to be extended to anyone reporting such experiences. However, this short phrase also encapsulates the gendered nature of such abuse.


Fears for the future of queer liberation

So, we’ve done it. We’ve won. Everything is OK, let us cheer from the rooftops and celebrate.

Same sex marriage has been voted into UK law, and apparently I’m supposed to feel happy about this.

And yet it leaves a fairly bitter taste in my mouth, niggling anxieties about the future, a deep unease that far from this being better it may actually make things worse for a lot of us.

I get that some of you are delighted by this, and I’m happy for you. Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is OK. If that’s what you want to do, that’s fine. Just please think about the consequences, both concrete and mere possibilities.

First things first, let’s not call what passed into law “marriage equality”. It means that a relationship between two people of the same sex can be legally recognised as the same as a relationship between two people of the opposite sex. To some, this might sound like equality. These people are not recognising the vast and complex forms that human interaction may take, the sheer breadth of family structures that are possible (and, for many, a lived experience). Marriage is still as inaccessible today as it was yesterday to so many of us–and the resulting perks.

It gets even worse for some trans people. Included in the law is a clause which can spell disaster for trans people: the spousal veto. In order to have your gender legally recognised, you need permission of your spouse. These statistics from@zoejrobinson, via the Coalition For Equal Marriage should demonstrate why this is such a problem. Marriage requires signing over a basic human right to a spouse, and grants the spouse a power to deny you the right to legal recognition of your gender, if they don’t like it. And this problem only applies to a certain set of the population. Yet they are ignored and thrown under the bus, utterly erased by the complete misnomer of pretending this thing is “equal marriage”. No matter how many times they say it’s equal, it doesn’t become so.

And yet, there is a pervasive mentality that we’ve won. It is being treated by many as a glorious victory in the last great battle. For some, it is exactly this, and they are the lucky ones. I fear that we will lose momentum entirely now that same sex marriage is law, having lost these loud voices who have got what they wanted. I fear that there will be no further demands made with the level of resources that were poured into achieving this demand, which is on a par with getting a cat to shit in the litter tray: something which should have been happening all along.

I fear that any movement towards queer liberation will halt. Examine this tweet and image from charity Stonewall. Many prefer to call the organisation S’onewall, due to its complete erasure of trans people. Look at them eagerly thanking the lovely kind state for throwing them a pitiful scrap which they have climbed over a mountain of fellow queers to grasp at. Remember what they named themselves after, and laugh a bitter, hollow chuckle as you remember whose name they appropriated, whose history they all but deny.

There was once a time when we demanded liberation rather than equality. We demanded expression rather than assimilation. The chorus of celebration of same sex marriage rings loudly, and silences these demands that some of us still wish to make. I don’t want equality within a fundamentally flawed system. I want to be free. I want to be able to be myself, to live and love without constraints. I want to exist free from coercion into a certain living arrangement which does not suit me, one which the state is increasingly attempting to force me into. I want to live without fear.

I worry that same sex marriage may have devastating consequences for those of us who choose not to marry. There will be financial and material consequences: machinations are underway to further incentivise marriage with a carrot in among the sticks. There will likely also be social consequences. It is hardly news to people in marginalised groups that those who are able to assimilate are those who are most accepted. Legally speaking, there is now nothing standing in our way of riding the relationship escalator in exactly the same way as straight people. Will those of us who do not be penalised? I don’t doubt that we will, and it frightens me that I am one of these freaks of society, one of those who will not be grudgingly accepted by the heterosexist mainstream because I am not marching to the beat of their monotonous drum.

And I fear that many of my GLb comrades will no longer care about those that have been left behind in this relentless pursuit of assimilation at the expense of liberation. I fear a loss of solidarity, of being told to swallow what I was given because this was my choice just as countless bigots have told us before. Heterosexuals and gay people alike have, all along the way, policed my articulation of my concerns. I do not feel like they would support those of us who have been left behind in their journey. I fear that everything will stop, even as there is so much more to do both locally and globally.

I would love to be proved wrong. I would love for this to have been just a muster in a bid for liberation. Yet again and again history has proved that things do not happen like this. So I remain unrepentantly unhappy with this state of affairs, groping in the dark for comrades who will have my back. Plotting revolution, plotting freedom and fervently hoping that in this broken world that I stay safe and survive.


Dear Aiden Russell

Dear Aiden Russell,

You’re a bellend. A big, throbbing, cheesy bellend. You are a suppurating boil on the arse of humanity, a yellow stain on a white vest on a hot day, an eggy guff on a morning commute.

Also, you are a massive bigot. Yes, I said it. I can almost taste your tears from here, and it’s enough to make me want to gag, tasting as they do of wet dogs and anchovy-brine. You don’t like being called a bigot, do you Aiden? I’ve seen your picture of you whinging about being silenced. It must be hard for you, being dealt the cruel hand of being a massive fucking bigot and also not even having a semblance of a clue.

You see, Aiden, you are a bigot. It’s not silencing you to say that. You are free to go about your day, being a bigot. You can go about ineffectually seeking to deny dignity to queer folk all you like, desperately promoting some sort of right to refuse service to us as you and the handful of other bigots try to unionise to an almost-complete public indifference. You can run your sockpuppet account expressing your pride to be heterosexual: goodness knows, you have nothing else to be proud of. And you can try to blame the fact you’re a bigot on Muslims, because you’re probably a racist, too. Bigotry overlaps, you see, Aiden.

You’re more than welcome to do this, Aiden, because of free speech.

But guess what? We’re more than welcome to call you out on it, because of free speech. And you’re homophobic, Aiden. You’re very, very homophobic. You want to deny rights to people because of their sexual orientation. And you’re allowed to think that, but it makes you an enormous, pulsating ballbag.

And as time passes by, your views are becoming outmoded. More and more people are wising up to the fact that you and your ever-decreasing ilk are chatting shit. Hell, even a lot of bigots have evolved beyond your point, moving instead to more insipid ways of oppressing queer folk. You’d be almost quaint, Aiden, if you weren’t such a rampaging nipple.

For someone who has been silenced, Aiden, you are remarkably loud, and this is because you know you haven’t been. You are just, like others of your kind, terrified of accountability and so therefore casting yourself as a victim.

You wouldn’t know hate if it booted you in the head, straight man.

I do not doubt that you will consider the fact people think you’re a gnawing cockcanoe to be more evidence of silencing, but this betrays just how little you understand what free speech is. It isn’t just for you, you see, Aiden. It’s for us. And it’s what lets us speak out against you. Do you hate free speech, Aiden?

Yours, with contempt,

Stavvers


Is the same sex marriage bill shit on purpose?

Today our parliament votes and debates on the issue of same sex marriage yet again. Watching the last debate was just slightly better than having a chisel inserted under my toenails to a soundtrack of Enya, so I’m more likely to be watching this today.

The whole debate lays bare a lot of ugly prejudices still rampant in our society. Most obvious–to the point where the normally-oblivious mainstream media and many normally-oblivious politicians have noticed–is the homophobia from the opposition to the bill. They dress up their concerns in the language of protecting the institution of the family or fretting about the relationship with the church, as though a family can only be defined by a very narrow heterosexist standard and the church weren’t just an antediluvian bunch of poorly-dressed ringpieces. Indeed, the prejudice is so naked, I am surprised there are no petitions on change.org to protect our children from seeing its rude bits.

It’s so easy to spot–and argue against–the bigotry of the opposition that the more insidious nonsense coming from supporters of the bill gets overlooked. Supporters of the bill have been gleefully throwing poly people under the bus once again, setting us up as a deviant bogeyman in a common trick used in this sort of discourse.

The bill is also bad news for trans people. Sarah Brown has compiled a non-exhaustive list of some of the myriad problems that the proposed legislation might bring for trans people. At best, it does little to ameliorate the minefield trans people must negotiate in order to win recognition for their relationships. At worst, it makes things actively worse, bestowing a power of veto on a partner’s transition.

For these reasons, I cannot call what is being proposed marriage equality. It is nothing of the sort. Let us call it same sex marriage, for that is what it is.

On top of all of this, there is a growing sense that even those putting the bill forward want it to fail. An amendment was added to the bill–quite possibly a wrecking amendment–to bring in heterosexual civil partnerships. I am fairly indifferent to this amendment, much as I am to the entire law. However, it seems about as harmlessly inconsequential as same sex marriage itself. It has driven those who put the bill forward into a frenzy, actively threatening to pull the bill based on really shaky reasoning: it might cost more money, and nobody wants it anyway. The cost argument looks fairly nonsensical, as if they have just pulled a bunch of numbers out of their arses like a string of magician’s handkerchiefs. Further arguments against this come in the form of crying about how it will damage the institution of marriage. In short, it is all of the same crap which is bandied about in arguments against same sex marriage.

And this is because society has a pretty dreadful attitude to how relationships should look. It lays bare the true function of same sex marriage: as a reward for the same sex couples who have successfully managed to behave in the way society deems appropriate. These lucky few can be welcomed with open arms into what is deemed normal, as they have danced all of the correct steps and followed the designated live script. They are not like those queers, those fags and those dykes and those queens who will not conform. And so the state throws them a little bone because heterosexism is rife and they are relieved to have their prejudices relatively unchallenged.

I have said a thousand times before that I would sooner see the entire institution of marriage crumble to allow us to be truly free to define how we love. I do not believe that this law being debated will do much positive to many, but on the other hand, it is unlikely to actively increase prejudice. There are some–those privileged few who seem to control the discourse–who will claim the battle is won, and good for them. Perhaps this means the rest of us can now fight our battles without our voices drowned out, and reclaim Stonewall from its name profaned by an organisation which gladly sweeps so much of our history under the carpet. Perhaps we can fight to be treated like humans and love as we fucking well please.

So in my own way, I am rooting for this bill to go through as it will piss off some fairly obnoxious people. At the front of my mind, though, is the knowledge that it is not enough. Nowhere near enough.


When silencing isn’t silencing and sisterhood isn’t sisterhood

A few weeks ago, I expressed some fear that perhaps the cis supremacists might be winning. Nothing has happened since then to allay these doubts: in fact, if anything, I am even more convinced that feminism has an enormous problem in its camp that some are doing all they can to keep raging.

Once again, I am not going to name names or link links, as the climate in which I write this post is somewhat sour, and it feels like any attempt to address the shit that is in our backyard is automatically taken as some sort of unsisterly “attack”, and cries of silencing abound.

Well, the thing is, when expressing some opinions, people should feel silenced. This is definitely the case with bigotry. Compare the rallying cry of the Daily Mail commenter, whining that one “cannot say anything any more” with how some cis feminists have reacted to being called out . It all comes from the same place, a sense of entitlement to being able to crap all over other people, because you and yours are clearly the most important people in the world.

And accusations of being unsisterly are just as absurd. As Stillicides so eloquently put it, sisters don’t have to get on. The belief that unpleasant opinions should not be challenged–and that it some kind of attack–if they are put forward by a woman is patently bollocks. Is it really OK for Nadine Dorries to poke around in our uteruses just because she is a woman? Should we just let her keep on going with this just because she is a woman? Of course fucking not, because it’s fucking dangerous rhetoric and absolutely should be challenged.

But, just as Dorries complained of victimisation because of our uterine missives, we see a lot of complaints of vicitimisation at calling out privilege and behaviour which–whether intentional or not–oppresses other women.

Being called out on bigotry may make you feel a bit bad. Hell, it might ruin your fucking day. But what it is you are being called out on ruins lives. Cissexism/transphobia, racism, classism, whorephobia, all of these oppressions are shit that a lot of women face on a daily basis from society at large, and then also from within feminism. It’s hardly sisterly to make these women feel like shit repeatedly just because you don’t really want to critically examine how you could be contributing to making them feel like shit.

And it’s hardly fucking silencing to have to shut the fuck up and apologise once in a while. What is silencing is telling a lot of women–women already struggling uphill–that their problems do not matter, that your own privileged freedom of speech is far more important. It is strange how listening to a diversity of opinions in feminism does not include listening to why bigotry is just not OK. 

The people who are actually silenced and alienated by such challenges are precisely the people who need our help the most, whose voices we need to amplify rather than silence: trans women, women of colour, queer women, disabled women, women experiencing the diverse and horrid rainbow of intersectional oppression.

I am not sure why there is such a prolific belief that bigoted and problematic views cannot be challenged when articulated by a feminist. I understand fully that it is quite, quite horrible to realise that you’re actually part of the problem, but there are two ways to resolve this dissonance. The first is what too many people are doing: pretend that all of this criticism is unfounded. The second is what will actually make feminism stronger and help it to include all women: accept the criticism and try to change.

We have thrown far too many  women under the bus already, when in fact what we should be doing is hijacking that bus and driving it at full throttle into the barrier marked KYRIARCHY.

Call-out week: a semi-coherent series of things on my mind

  1. When silencing isn’t silencing and sisterhood isn’t sisterhood
  2. Your prejudice is unconscious, but it’s still there
  3. “Call-out culture” isn’t a thing (but it should be)
  4. Self-doubt and receptivity to privilege-checking
  5. Confessions of a former arsehole

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