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...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Vigo's interview with Raymond.

Our feminism would make sense
- if it wasn't for those pesky trans people
.
Janice Raymond is widely believed by many trans people to have caused the deaths of hundreds, possibly thousands of trans people in the United States. An obvious choice then to interview about trans people.


Trust me, don't waste your time reading it; 45 minutes of my life I will never get back. Do however keep an eye on the Transadvocate for a detailed critique of this drivel and some factual historical accounts of actual TERF (or as Vigo calls it "gender critical") violence against trans people.

Evidence-free misrepresentations, putting words into other people's mouths, glossing over the violence meted out to trans people by TERFs. The usual fare we are used to in TERF writing

Incidentally, I wonder why two "academics" have to resort to a lengthy article in a self-styled "underground" internet blog rather than publishing peer-reviewed articles.
Have you been morally mandated out
of existence yet...?


Instead of reading this drivel, This video is a hundred times more productive.

As are these two videos.

And in contrast here is an actual trans person talking sense.



I for one have much more important things to worry about than this rehashed rubbish. Here are two of them;




Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Why arguing with TERFs is pointless.

It appears that some online TERFs (Trans Exclusionary "Radical Feminists")have been inferring that I am an “essentialist”. This is a common accusation thrown at many trans people and one that is not merely false but an example of the ‘white-is-black-and-black-is-white” strategy of TERF propaganda. In fact it is the TERFs who are the essentialists, the TERFs who indulge in essentialism. Indeed TERFism is essentialism, a profound essentialism at the core of their ideology, not a peripheral add-on. No wonder they are trying to accuse trans people of essentialism, it is a classic “look over there” tactic.

Of course anyone who has read anything I have written, especially my most recent paper published by the British Psychological Society will realise that not only am I not an essentialist but that I am actively anti-essentialist, having produced a theoretical paper dismantling some neurologists’ and psychologists obsession with a mythical “comorbidity” between trans people and people on the autistic spectrum, by elaborating the concept of Cultural Cisgenderism. Indeed in that piece I am effectively attacking the work of Simon Baron-Cohen, the arch essentialist whose book “The Essential Difference” is, in my view, profoundly anti-feminist.

It is common for TERFs to try and pin the label “essentialist” onto trans people who perceive themselves to have been born this way, or to have an essential self as women, men or non-binary people. This, however is the purest form of dishonesty. Actually the overwhelming majority of people in society subscribe to essentialist beliefs, it is one of society’s prime ideologies. This includes the overwhelming majority of cisgender people. So it is no wonder that some trans people subscribe to this ideology also; not all trans people have done a masters in Gender Studies. The setting of different standards for trans people compared with cis people can however be characterised as pure, straightforward, unadulterated transphobia. In fact, the percentage of trans people who subscribe to the ideology of essentialism is almost certainly very much lower than the percentage of cisgender people who are essentialists.

Of course there is one group who are essentialists who pretend to be social constructivists; speaking the language on the latter while adhering to the beliefs of the former; and that is TERFs. I can think of no other group that does this; an interesting phenomenon for the advanced TERFologist to study.

As I have said before the TERF strategy of arguing black is white is part of their usual flailing around since arguments which have been discredited since the 1970s. As the Transadvocate has thoroughly demonstrated during TERF week, TERFism is a violent essentialist ideology that recruits a variety of dishonest tactics to attack, threaten, abuse, harass, misrepresent and harm trans people. They have resorted to these since the 1970s because their arguments have been comprehensively discredited.

While we are here one thing I have always noticed, since being on social media is that the most sure-fire way of knowing that you are winning an argument is when the other side starts putting words into your mouth. I have had this with Tories, with Kippers, with Separatists, with neocons, with racists, with homophobes and of course with TERFs; it is always the signifier that they have lost and need to start telling me what I haven’t said but would have liked me to have said. 


This is just one of the many reasons why arguing, or trying to reason, with TERFs is pointless. This is why, incidentally, Paris Lees' and other trans people's refusal to debate with TERFs is both brave and sensible. We know from experience that trans people who refuse to engage in "debate" with TERFs are harassed, threatened and abused by TERFs. This does not mean TERF disingenuousness and misinformation about trans people in mainstream media, such as this, should not be countered. We should however ignore the irrelevant blogs by TERFs, which make not difference to public opinion. 

TERFs need to learn that these sort of tactics, which they have engaged in for 45 years, have profoundly weakened their, already unconvincing, case, TERFs also need to learn, as do some in the media, that my identity is not up for debate. Period.