How the media erases trans truth – and what we can do about it

March 7, 2017 § Leave a comment

For LGBT History Month this year, I was honoured to be invited to speak at Oxford University – and determined to demonstrate the ways in which trans history is very far from a niche concern.

If you’re a trans person, you’re probably aware that ‘trans issues’ described by the mainstream media very rarely match up with our lived truths. What is often erased, smoothed over? The fact that this has been going on for a very long time – that things have been different, and can be different again – and that our history is necessary for our future survival.

Video and audio podcast below. I hope you enjoy.

https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/embed/a7b1cd0aa26375af6a2e

https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/embed/0a2f4f2b822bee1b5fc4

How the Japan mass murder relates to parental murders, abortion and assisted suicide (and why the world’s been silent about it)

August 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

An absolute must-read on what the Sagamihara mass murder tells us about the dismissal of disabled people’s lives

DISABILITY; NO ROOM FOR PITY

n-suspect-b-20160728-870x607 A mourner brings flowers on Wednesday to the care home where disabled residents were massacred a day earlier in Sagamihara, Kangawa Prefecture. | REUTERS

[Description: there is a grey wall with writing on it in Japanese in a lighter grey. Against the wall is a table covered in a white tablecloth. On the table are several bunches of flowers. An individual in front of the table dressed in black, with shortish black hair, and carrying a black shoulder bag holds a bunch of flowers, which one presumes they are about to place on the table]

On the 25th of July this year, 19 people were murdered in Sagamihara, Japan, in their worst mass murder since World War II. In Britain, it’s clear that the murders of white people (Paris, Nice, Belgium, Orlando, Munich…) by Muslim terrorists are more important than the murders of BME people (Kabul, Anbar, Baghdad, Istanbul, Manbij…)…

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So this clickbaity article about Bi Visibility Day almost got me fired

September 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

An amazing post from a dear friend – READ!

...a can opener in a worm factory...

So one of the reasons I’ve been really quiet on here in the last few months is that I’ve been being a dating columnist for SheWired, a queer women’s website based in LA. A lot of it was pretty interesting stuff despite the clickbaity format, and I liked the job, We eventually fell out over gender-neutral pronouns (I liked them, the site didn’t) and then this article for Bi Visibility Day. They were generally very nice to me despite the ideological differences, so no vigilanteism please, but here is the article that proved the final straw.

10 things bi girls wish lesbians knew about

In honour of bi visibility week, here are some things this bi girl really wishes lesbians knew about being bi and attracted to women. You could probably condense it into ‘We exist! We’re not making up our attraction to you! Please be nice to us!’…

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Why I’m backing Corbyn despite being dubious about parliamentary politics

August 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Taking a regularly scheduled break to reblog some vital thoughts from a dear friend – UK people, please listen.

DISABILITY; NO ROOM FOR PITY

I don’t necessarily consider myself completely certain that ballot box communism will never work (although not in the near future certainly) but I believe that the far more important work is that which we do in our communities to fight austerity, not the work we do in convincing people to vote for a political party. The promises often made to those who are the most vulnerable in society, that consistently get broken. I believe building community activism, working to develop a political theory based in praxis, and fighting to improve conditions for people abandoned by the political parties is more important, and generally has more of an immediate effect, than focusing on party politics. I do think we should do both, to a limited extent, but I believe that amount of work we do outside the ballot box and in our communities should exceed the amount of work we do…

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What cis men could learn from trans masculinities

February 17, 2015 § 9 Comments

You can learn a lot about masculinity when you’re consistently told that your own is invalid.

Mainstream media shows no sign of stopping its love affair with the ‘masculinity in crisis’ storyline. It’s the apparent reason behind Gamergate, and rape culture, and the abuse of women online, and the baffling appeal of Christian Grey. In a world that’s become too feminist (if only), the easiest way for men and boys to prove their masculinity is to lash out at everything perceived as feminine or womanly. That’s the hypothesis, anyway. The usual solution offered is a return to ‘traditional values’ – and a limiting of feminist options.

I might not be a man – but I would put myself under the broader banner of trans masculine. More than that, I’ve learnt so much about masculinity and maleness – what they mean in practice, the questions around them, the nebulous idea of social categorisation* – from the trans men in my life, and from the trans people who would sometimes, always or occasionally inhabit a space broadly recognisable as ‘masculine’.

I think the idea that ‘too much feminism’ is causing a crisis in masculinity is bullshit.

But – something you do realise, when you have to fight the world for the right to be seen as yourself – is that this space of ‘masculinity’ is surrounded by barriers and tests meant to force you into proving yourself a ‘real man’. Mainstream societal masculinity puts itself in a crisis state: to protect itself, to reject calls for gender reform and justice, to make itself seem valuable and desirable. It creates a narrative of being under attack, and asks to be defended. It paints itself as being rare – and asks that its challenges be met before entry to the club can be granted.

And then it does something else – something seductive, and so easy to fall into. It gives you cheats codes. Society doesn’t just provide them – it pressures you into using them, to show that you’re ‘just one of the guys’. The temptation can be overwhelming, when you’re being undermined at every turn – I’ve certainly succumbed in the past – but what I’ve learnt from the trans people I admire most is that there’s another way.

You don’t have to be trans to have learnt that. Not every trans person will, or will want to – because it keeps them safer, or makes life easier, or because those stereotypes and cheat codes match the way they think of the world and themselves. Trans men/trans masculine people are not a magical subset of people graced with an innate superiority to cis men. Some of them are just as misogynistic, just as oppressive, as any cis guy. But when you have to fight to be heard, to be believed – when the world around you has treated you like a girl and/or a woman as its default setting** – then I think it gives you the opportunity to broaden your mind, and think about what it really means to be a man, to be masculine.***

I wish more cis men – and mainstream society in general – could learn just three things:

1. It’s not about your body

As a response to: It’s ALL about your body. And particularly about your cock.

Cheat codes: mocking guys who are fatter/thinner/different from you, using the size/type/presence of someone’s cock as an insult/weapon, policing and abusing women and other feminine people’s bodies to make you feel better

So, the world at large still believes that man=penis, woman=absence of penis – phallocentric, transmisogynistic, transphobic – and incredibly limiting. That’s not an area I’m enormously dysphoric about, and, still, I’ve felt a huge amount of pressure to ‘make up’ for the fact that I don’t have a cisnormative cock – by being more muscular, more typically attractive, more typically masculine. I feel weird about admitting this now, because I’m worried that some people will judge me as less trans, and less masculine. In a broader bodily sense, I used to worry about transitioning – in part because I was worried that I would never live up to a standard of masculine attractiveness. It felt like it would be better to be perceived as an attractive woman, rather than ‘fail’ at being masculine in the eyes of the world.

One of the things I found incredible, transformative, when I started exploring the trans community, are the people (of all genders) who allow their bodies to be reflections of who they are – not the other way around. Most pertinent here are the men, trans masculine people, who follow their own internal dictates as to how their bodies should be. That what kind of cock you have, and whether you have one at all, should be for you to decide – not the government, not the media. That you get to decide how your body and your gender entwine. That dysphoria varies from person to person – and we all need to find a personal solution to what makes us feel most like us.

What would the world look like, if we didn’t automatically assume that genitals indicated gender, that a penis is somehow better than anything else (on a man), and that a cisnormative penis is the only one worth having? How much kinder would it be, if self-worth wasn’t predicated on how many inches you have in your pants, whether those inches can conform to an incredibly narrow standard of appearance and performance? How much safer would the world be, if we didn’t suppose that one kind of body is ‘strong’ and another ‘weak’ – and that to prove that the strong kind is really worthy it must be hardened as much as possible? With no care, no tenderness, no regard for health – and no regard for the care, health and safety of others?

2. Male privilege is real

And making it worse to prove yourself is a shit move

As a response to: Actually, men are the most oppressed now

Cheat codes: Capitalising on your privilege to make yourself feel bigger, stronger, safer, better – objectification, catcalling, belittling – sexist shit towards people of other genders

One incredible aspect of trans experience that has yet to be fully mined is the knowledge gleaned from experiencing different treatment at the hands of those around us, based on the gender they perceive or assume.

If anyone is still wondering if male privilege is actually a thing (I hope you’re not), then the experiences of neurobiologist Ben Barres provide essential reading. Remaining in the same line of work, post-transition, he’s noticed an incredible difference in the way he’s treated by fellow scientists – his work is considered better, more legitimate, his views more respected. It’s an experience I’ve heard anecdotally from so many of the people I know. Being read as male doesn’t negate the other ways in which people face discrimination – this piece from Kai M. Green on the intersection of racial profiling and oppression with gendered ideas of being in the world is essential – but, for many people, in different ways, it confers an advantage.

And if you’re being forced to prove which ‘side’ you’re on? To prove that you’re not really a girl? That you’re deserving of the privilege of being male? Even five-year-olds know how this one goes: you make the girls cry to earn your place in the boys’ treehouse. Maybe it’s not as bad as deliberately making them cry – maybe it’s making a show of ogling a woman in front of your friends, or talking crap about them while in all male company. Maybe they’ve serve the dual function of proving you belong in an gay all male environment – insulting bodies read as female or feminine. What that does – turning women and feminine people into props and accessories used to reinforce masculinity, regardless of their feelings, or how much it hurts them – is unacceptable. I’m not going to repeat the ‘real men don’t’ line – it’s not a question of being a ‘real man’ – it’s being a decent human being. There are millions of men in the world who don’t place harmful notions of proving themselves over the foundational aspect of being basically decent.

And if trans men, trans masculine people, who are forced to prove themselves over and over again, with the threat of prejudice, abuse and violence hanging over their heads – if they, if we can do that without resorting to sexism, then cis men can do it too.

3. Life’s too precious to let cultural expectations hold you back from your own truth

As a response to: That’s just how men are, and how they’ve always been

Cheat codes: Denigrating anyone who tries to be themselves, or challenge an aspect of the world around them, hiding in cynicism and apathy because it’s easier, becoming numb to world around you because it’s too hard to challenge

Again – it’s not like trans masculine people, trans men, have the monopoly here. But the struggles we face, just to be ourselves – it really brings it home. If we’re able, we can learn so much about who we are, who we can be, the price of that, and also the value.

There are plenty of cis guys who know this already – and plenty who have to play by some of the rules, at least, to be safe.

But for the cis men who are safe, who’ve never had to fight for it, who go along with a status quo and don’t ask themselves why they do it, or how it came to be: why?

Why bow down to a legacy not of your making, rather than remaking yourself as you might be?

So, what if the traditional model of masculinity is in crisis? What if it has been destroyed by a greater awareness of gendered inequality and oppression, a shift towards gendered justice? If a category that encompassed all kinds of harmful behaviour is being stretched, twisted, subverted, remodelled?

We’re still here.

So why don’t we get our hands dirty, and build something better?

* Yes, I’m still genderqueer – also very fond of questions

** Just to be very clear that being a girl/woman is not a bad thing – and that trans masculine people/trans men do not transition in order to ‘escape womanhood’ for something ‘better’.

*** I get that this is an ‘all about teh menz’ post. But I think one of the best things guys could do for feminism is to interrogate the way men, masculine people, are supposed to be, to behave, and find better ways of being in the world.

Stop Our Silence – you can help

November 12, 2014 § 1 Comment

Most gender non-conforming young people will experience bullying – at home, in the streets, in school.

Gendered Intelligence want to do something about it.

I’m on board – can you lend a hand?

 

Details here – all support so very, very gratefully received.

 

Please invite as many people are you can. Thank you.

 

 

Words, Words, Words: On Toxicity and Abuse in Online Activism

June 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

A new post is on its way – but, for the moment, something excellent from another writer.

Nuclear Unicorn

A landscape image of Shodan, a feminine face made up of green digital characters against a black background.

To all new readers: I’ve written a follow up to this article.

Not long ago my partner and I were seated in her car discussing the arbitrary nature of certain holidays and I opined, perhaps halfheartedly, that New Year’s was a worthwhile holiday simply for it being a useful vantage point for reflection, however arbitrary. It provides an overlook whence one can see a year of one’s life and world. A recent tranche of writing by severalprominentmembersof the trans and queer feminist gaming community has renewed my faith in that idea– with the overleaf of the year we suddenly find a great deal of penetrating insight into activist discourse and the risks incurred by our silence about certain excesses that have come to define us too often.

The wages of rage in our communities, and the often aimless, unchecked anger striking both within and without have…

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