Saturday, 6 December 2014

Nigel Farage makes a tit of himself.

I've never liked Ukip, they seem to be even more deluded wankers (and that is the politest term I can come up with) than the Tories. Just when you thought he might be convincing the more gullible that he is a true "maverick" and genuinely anti-establishment, Nigel Farage displays the sort of establishment attitudes that would not have been out of place in Queen Victoria's day. Ultimately he isn't anti-establishment, he is the establishment; the establishment being white, male, cishet, privately-educated, City boors. 

Breast-feeding in public seems to be a problem for his 19th century middle-class white sensibilities, poor man, fancy being shocked by the sight of a child being breast-fed by a busy mum in a posh caff! The problem is that the right to breast-feed in public is about something more fundamental than what Farage thinks is 'sensitivity'. It is about women's rights, and is much more profound than his shallow, brainless, moralising dictates.

I wrote, a few years ago, about how women's toilets were deliberately not provided by the early Victorians, as a means of controlling and repressing women by forcing them only to be able to go out for short periods of time. The right to breast-feed in public is a similar issue. Women with young children also have lives and some have jobs and businesses to run, charities to work for and activism to contribute. Having to wait til they get home to breast-feed, significantly reduces their mobility, and ability to take part in civic life, in the same way that the Victorians reduced women's mobility in the 1840s and 1850s by only having public loos for men. 

By getting all steamed up about this Farage is seeking to reimpose the establishment point of view that women should be housewives and not get on in their careers. As has been said elsewhere women are usually described as "pushy" or "career-oriented" but never men. Farage wants to return to the past, when women were controlled by multiple social forces and forced into passive carer roles and dependent on men. Perhaps this explains why so few women are Ukip voters. 

Farage should leave his Victorian values at home and realise that people are less and less convinced of his faux "anti-establishment" posturing. He is more establishment than the establishment, he is the establishment of the 19-century. Perhaps he should stop political masturbating in public so ostentatiously and fuck off.

Monday, 1 December 2014

World AIDS Day, violence and Trans Women: Genocide

For World AIDS Day the publication of a report by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS drawing on what statistics are available about HIV and transgender women makes shocking reading. Yet sadly it is also not shocking at all for most trans activists.

Globally trans women are 49 (yes that is FORTY-NINE!) times more likely to be HIV positive than all other adults. This is probably a misleading figure since the majority of these cases are likely to be concentrated in particular areas, such as Latin America where it will be higher. This is an emergency so great that in most countries in Latin America trans activism is AIDS activism; trans activists there do not have the luxury of campaigning for greater legal recognition and better treatment by the law, their primary goal is often to reach out to trans women to try and and ensure they are protected against HIV.

The problem is that trans activists in these countries are also the prime targets for murder, in areas where the murder rate of trans women is already very high. For example in Mexico Agnes Torres, in Honduras, Cynthia Nicole Moreno, in Venezuela, Michelle Paz, and Zoraida Reyes in California. Indeed all founder members of the Collectivo Unidad Color Rosa in Honduras have been murdered as have most of its existing members, in a clear targeting of trans activism by right-wing vigilantes. 

Yet these trans/AIDS activists are the key to fighting AIDS in this part of the world; without being able to learn from trans women involved in the fight against AIDS locally no HIV prevention work can succeed. It is time we asked the large AIDS charities such as the Gates Foundation what they are doing for trans women and how they intend to make sure trans activists in these areas are protected and empowered to help prevent the spread of AIDS.

Reading the Publication by Redlactrans; "The Night is Another Country: Impunity and Violence Against Transgender Human Rights Defenders in Latin America." it becomes clear how the rise of AIDS in trans women has become an acute problem; the social exclusion which often leads to sex work being the only option for employment for many, the lack of medical care and HIV education for trans women, the lack of protection for trans human rights advocates and the lack of protection from violence is leaving trans women in extremely vulnerable situations. All these combine to create the perfect storm placing trans women in ever greater danger from both violence and disease. 

Looking at the figures for murders of trans people this year approximately 60% of those who were murdered were aged 30 or under and only 9 were aged over 50. In fact the majority of those aged over 50 were killed in first world countries making it very difficult to argue that the deaths of trans women in Latin America do not represent a form of genocide. Indeed as Fernanda Milan told us about Guatemala; there are no trans women there over 35, they have all been killed before they have the chance to get to that age. It is likely that, without coordinated and determined action the main killer of trans women in Latin America will soon be AIDs-related deaths and the likelihood of trans women living to be middle-aged will become even smaller. 

Maybe the world will finally sit up and take notice when it becomes clear that the high level of HIV infection among trans women in Latin America is hampering efforts to stop the spread of AIDS in the cisgender population. Or maybe that will only provide more motivation for vigilantes to increase their genocidal killings. Being trans in too many parts of the world is now associated with violence, disease and death, as well as social exclusion and economic deprivation. 


So, as a matter of urgency the large AIDS charities need to: 

1) protect trans activists in Latin America; these are the people who will be vital to any campaign to reduce and eradicate AIDS there. They are the voices of trans women in Latin America,

2) target trans women specifically as part of an education programme aimed at preventing the spread of AIDS, using the knowledge of trans activists on the ground,

3) campaign for human rights for trans women such as the right to change ID documentation to enable trans women to better avoid discrimination in education and employment,

4) campaign for free access to gender reassignment for trans women in Latin America, a measure which is likely to reduce the spread of HIV on many levels.

Trans women are dying in large numbers as a result of murder and AIDS, this is happening because the world is choosing to look the other way both locally and internationally. Locally the police and authorities are allowing murders to go unsolved and failing to introduce legislation that will protect trans women. Internationally the large AIDS charities are failing to address the needs of trans women at a time when, in the rest of the population the spread of HIV is starting to turn around. These are not just isolated, one-off occurrences  this is a multilevel systemic and systematic failure. There can only be one word for it; genocide.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Nigel Farage is an insult to our war dead

Nationalism is, as we know, the last resort of scoundrels, and scoundrels don’t come any more dishonest than Nigel Farage; to an even greater extent than Ukip’s sister party the Tories, he wraps himself in the flag as a device to try and win votes.
So when he demands a place at the Cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday we all know that he does not want to remember those who have died fighting for freedom but those who he can persuade to sign away their freedom by voting for his party.
There are two reasons he should not be permitted to attend the ceremony; firstly because of his deal with Robert Iwaszkiewicz; the Polish Nazi holocaust denier he has joined forces with in the European Parliament. That Farage should subsequently have the gall to demand a place at the cenotaph is an insult to the memory of the millions of Jews who were murdered in the Nazi holocaust. I am sure I am not alone in finding his attendance at the cenotaph worse than tasteless. This is one ceremony that, if he had any residual sense of decency, he would stay away from.
The fact that he hasn’t tells us he has no decency whatsoever.
The second reason is personal. My grandfather, Tom Kennedy. My Grandfather was killed fighting the Nazis in 1941, the darkest days of World War Two. He fought and gave his life so that Britain could remain free, free from the hate, violence and totalitarianism of Adolf Hitler.  Men and women like him gave their lives to fight the Nazi threat and now Farage is bringing it back in through the back door. Only this time he is using a more powerful force than the Luftwaffe; the combined power of a neoliberal-biased media, which has sickeningly and unrelentingly pushed his agenda in Goebbels-like fashion; repeating the lie until it “becomes the truth”.
Men and women like my grandfather are turning in their graves as Ukip develops Nazi racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamphobic, disabled-hating and totalitarian policies through a dishonest and manipulative media. For me Farage’s attempt to attend the Cenotaph service is a personal affront, he is beneath contempt for using the memory of my grandfather, who fought, died and stood for everything Farage opposes.  Farage is a man with no shame; there is nothing he wouldn’t do to gain political power, including appropriating the memories of heroes who died fighting Hitler to install himself as the new dictator.
He is the enemy of everything I hold dear, a truly vile man, for this action it is personal, and I will fight him to the last drop of blood,  and I fear I may well have to, as did Gunner Tom Kennedy.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

More Transphobia at NS

Today's transphobic rant by Glosswitch in New Statesman is just a provocation by a desperate TERF trying to enrage trans people to react and give the TERFs the oxygen of publicity they crave. TERFs are irrelevant and need to be treated as such. 

Email complaints to helen@newstatesman.co.uk or contact the new Press Complaints Body; IPSO to complain. I believe this piece has breached the editors' code of practice in the following ways;


Clause 1


i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures


iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.


This rather pathetic attempt to link trans people's opposition to TERF bigotry, harassment, bullying and abuse with rugby club sexism and misogyny on campus is disingenuous in the extreme and reads like the profound desperation it is. More so even than her childish response to CN Lesters excellent blog post on "Cis". TERFs are being marginalised. They will attempt to link trans people with anything to give their hate-saturated ideology the slightest credence. This piece should be treated in the same way as a transphobic piece in the Mail or the Sun. Giving such a pathetic piece of bigotry masquerading as "journalism" the oxygen of publicity is what the TERFs want.

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Scottish Referendum: Reaching The Limits of Toryism

To David Cameron watchers, his response to the No result in the Scottish referendum has been entirely predictable, but also a little scary.

Firstly the predictable part; he has waited until after a vote to announce his new policy. This is entirely consistent with the way he went about privatising the NHS. Cameron should thus be accorded all the respect such a politician who operates in such a way deserves. Secondly his policy looks like it was cobbled together on the back-of-an envelope, last night by a couple of spads and Lynton Crosby. This contrast with Labour’s policy of regional devolution, which has been developed by Ed Miliband over a period of years, and which will work well with Devo Max in Scotland.

One also has to expect a great deal of back-pedalling by the Tories over Devo Max; true to form they will try and go back on their promises, just like they did on the “greenest government ever”, on open government and the Big Society.

The scary part is how this is obviously going to be the start of an ugly election campaign in which the Tories recruit a nasty kind of English nationalism for their campaign. They will lurch even further to the right in order to compete with Ukip; expect things to get racist-lite soon…

However the most important conclusion one can draw from all this is that there is a limit to Toryism. The Tories’ manoeuvring and weasel words, little-Englander nationalism and obfuscation about devolution serve only mask the fact that they are slowly coming to realise that the geographical distribution of the anti-Tory vote means that, not merely Scotland but also Wales, Cornwall, the North West, North East, Yorkshire, the Midlands and London could all seek independence if the Tories keep forcing their unpopular and damaging policies on everyone. If they continue as a right-wing party to compete with Ukip they quite literally risk fragmenting the UK, and not just Scotland and Wales. Yes the Tories can muster enough support in the South East and a few shire counties to win 35% of the vote every now and then and impose their nastiness on everyone else, what the referendum has demonstrated is that there are wider consequences of doing so which they cannot control. The limits of Toryism have been reached.


Maybe once that has happened those former UK constituent parts could get back together again, form a new country, leaving a rump South of England and East Anglia to stew in its own Daily Mail petty little-Englander intolerance. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Alliances and Oppositions. Trans activism and Stonewall

Still a bit woozy from general anaesthetic after an operation the previous afternoon, and largely keeping myself going through large quantities of coffee, I attended the historic first formal meeting between trans people and Stonewall with the objective of ending the exclusion of trans people from the work of Stonewall. This is why I have had to wait until now to blog my observations from the meeting

Political activism, especially when you are a small minority group must inevitably be about alliances and oppositions. Maximising alliances and minimising oppositions. The prize in this instance, is an alliance that gives us the ability to leverage far greater alliances.

Of necessity, one of the main targets of trans activism in recent years has been the media. huge efforts have been made to counter the negative media narratives and stereotypes presented regularly in the press and on TV. This has has some success; some sections of the media are listening. However there is still a level of misrepresentation of trans people in the media and, as Benefits Street has demonstrated, some sections of the media are not above deliberate misrepresentation, in order to maintain particular dishonest narratives.

People in general only ever know a fraction of what they believe to be true about the world through perusal experience. The rest is mediated. How many people will tell you Staines is a dump but have never actually been there? How many people will say they hate Heather Mills when they have not actually met her? We live in a world in which most of what we “know” does not come from direct experience. Trans people are a tiny minority, and only 13% of the UK population say they have ever knowingly met a trans person. This means that, for the majority, the only way they are going to learn about us is indirectly. This affects the way trans people have to construct our alliances.

The prize from joining with Stonewall is not merely another huge alliance, but the possibility of using that alliance to leverage further alliances. “Some people are trans, get over it” on the side of buses, at football matches and in magazines, trans people included in the work Stonewall does in schools, workplaces and higher education would represent, for the first time, trans people being able to make unmediated alliances with the population as a whole. So far we are restricted to mediated contact, through influencing directors, producers, journalists and editors. Being able to go over the heads of the media gatekeepers is not only powerful in itself in expanding the alliances with and minimising oppositions to trans people’s existences, but it also represents a powerful check on their influence. They will know that a population that has “got over it.” is not going to swallow pathologising, sexualising, transphobic media content. 

So this is one of the prizes. But I wanted to explain personally a little about why I was at that meeting.

I spent a great deal of my life being unable to be the woman I am. I knew I was a girl from a very young age but also understood, through the function of cultural cisgenderism, that I could not be honest about that. Being a primary school teacher also forced me into a closet during working hours in order to preserve my income and pay the mortgage. It has only been since leaving teaching that I have been able to come out and live authentically. 

However I also know a large number of trans women who are stuck in similar situations to the one I was. They are unable to come out because the stakes are too high, or because the stakes are not merely theirs alone but shared with others. Some work in manual jobs and are employed by the day or by the hour in the sort of hand-to-mouth existence that neoliberalism forces onto people. Others have dependents to support, including elderly or disabled relatives and children to feed, clothe and bring up. Some are, like I was, in a job where being trans is to invite the sack through deliberately negative “performance management” or simple non-renewal of contracts. Some live in areas where coming out as trans is to invite bricks through the window, shit or burning newspapers through the letterbox and violence after dark both upon themselves and their families. Some live in small communities where total social exclusion remains a real possibility. I know some trans women who actually wear binders to work in order to present as male for fear (usually justified) that they might lose their jobs.

These are the people I was there for, because I spent too many years of my own life as one of those people myself. Alleviating the suffering and psychological trauma faced by these people. Reducing the harm caused by having the constant Sword of Damocles of being outed hanging over them is something Stonewall has the possibility to achieve.

We now have openly gay and lesbian people in plenty of jobs. MPs, CEOs, in sport, the media, which we didn't have 30 years ago when Margaret Thatcher's Tory government brought in the last piece of homophobic legislation. There are plenty of openly gay and lesbian primary school teachers, including at the last school where I taught and where it was made obvious to me that being openly trans would not be an option. There are dozens of openly gay and lesbian MPs the world over. There is however only one elected trans MP in a national parliament anywhere in the world. The tipping point may have arrived, but the breakthrough has yet to be made in many areas. 

So when Ayla Holdom wrote, in the Guardian about how there has never been a better time to be trans she was not wrong. But we have to remember that progress is always going to be patchy, for different people in different jobs, communities, schools, geographical locations and classes the possibilities will be different. This is why we need Stonewall.

In terms of the actual discussion I would like to make these observations; firstly everyone was acutely aware that there were many trans people who were not at that meeting but who would have liked to have been. This is being addressed by Stonewall and many further meetings are planned with different groups, group sizes and formats. Secondly, I felt that the issue of sustainability probably needed more discussion. We need to know that Stonewall will still be able to fight effectively for trans people in 10 or 15 years time. Hopefully this will come out over the next few months.

However I am very optimistic that this is going to work. Stonewall wants it to work, many in the trans community want it to work, and many people need it to work.



It was also hugely symbolic that there was another meeting taking place in London at the same time. A group of mendacious, abusive and transphobic cis women were reinforcing their oppositions and misrepresenting their alliances. While trans people were making history, the TERFs may not have realised it, but they were in the process of becoming history.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Lipstick Space Invaders

Fed up with Tories, Neolibs, TERFs, Tottenham fans and BBCUkip

Play Space Invaders instead; Shoot 'em down...

     

Use the mouse and the spacebar, highest score so far 30...