Tag Archives: oppression

Dear #FuckCisPeople;You Don’t Speak for Me and You are Not my Voice

Lately, I have learnt one thing above all. Sharing differences in ourselves and being part of a minority is not enough to sustain a friendship or build common bonds.

Commonsense you might think but when you begin to introduce the notion of a community into the discourse, then you take it for granted that the community speaks with one united voice. This has been the case on Twitter this weekend with the fuckcispeople hashtag.

Most communities, as Benedict Anderson posited, are imagined.

The motivation behind the hashtag was to alert non-trans people to the ways in which they oppress the trans community. It was meant to provoke a debate about how we treat trans people in society and how we could do better.

Well, it would be fair to say that the hashtag provoked a debate with many supporting the hashtag, saying it highlighting the oppressed status whilst others felt it did not speak for them.

I am not denying for one moment the trials and tribulations trans people face in everyday life.They include; Street harassment, discrimination in the job market and also punitive irrational social exclusion.

However no matter how much pain you are going through, a whole group should not be demonised. They are not responsible for your pain.

Being in a minority is hard I know. I have done it through no choice of my own for 32 years. Indeed one question posed to me with a kind of devils advocacy was why would I put myself through the process of joining another minority, bearing in mind the pain and the extra prejudice it would bring?

Well as long as I’m happy that what matters, as long as those who love me love me that what matters.

What does not matter is the ignorance of a few people.

I understand the pain underlying the fuck cis people hash tag genuinely but it is not the right way to go about it. If you want to think I’m telling you you’re doing feminism wrong then fine think it. I no longer care. The world is broadly made up of cis people. The job market is probably made up of cis people. Educational establishments are made up of cis people. They are here and they are not going anywhere! So get used to it.

The way to bring about change is not to pile on people for having views you disagree with. The way to bring about change is not to swear shout and be belligerent. I am not saying that women of any hue should be chaste silent and obedient for that is a discourse that belongs to a bygone age.

What I am saying is that you don’t win an argument by simply turning the volume to maximum and putting your fingers in your ears wilfully ignoring what people are trying to say to you. People who could give you useful advice and support are instead turned on for the most minor infractions of a rulebook which nobody has ever had the pleasure of reading. They are manipulated into apologising over the most minute issues and end up issuing grovelling kowtowing apologies.

Nobody can be expected to be an expert on trans issues within five minutes. We are all still learning as life is a journey of discovery. But how can you expect people to want to learn more if all you do is show them hostile aggression and present the so-called misery narrative?

The happy days of My Transsexual Summer on Channel 4 now seem a distant memory. Donna, Lewis, Sarah, Karen, Fox and Drew were fun people having fun times going out and enjoying life to the max. That’s a positive outcome for trans men and women. When I wrote about that TV show I looked forward to writing about it and I was happy to meet the cast. I admired their zeal, their passion and their determination to show that people who are trans can live a good, happy and fulfilled life.

Yet oh my god how the worm has turned. Gone are the heydays of that time. Gone is the good work they did. It’s been replaced with sadness and misery after misery. Putting myself into this misery narrative for a moment it seems to me that for some, trans is an oppression, an affliction they would rather not deal with but garner sympathy instead and as much of it is possible.

What did you expect when you came out as trans? An easy ride? Candy floss? A medal?

You know I don’t know whether some of the shock I see on Twitter is real. People staring in the street, people making rude comments, people bullying. Now in an ideal world of course bullying wouldn’t exist. We would all live happily ever after, as one harmonious homogeneous humankind. But it isn’t going to happen.

I have been in a minority for 32 years. I have had to deal with stares in the street for as long as I can remember. I have never passed society’s ideals of beauty. When I hear some of you talk about passing as cis men, quite frankly it makes me jealous yes jealous, for you have at least experienced that life of normalcy before you joined a minority. I never have. I look at your pictures and I think some of you are really beautiful in the same way as all women are but then I see you moaning about has how much you’re suffering in this oppression Olympics and I feel angry with you because you don’t realise how lucky you are. I assume for most of you even though you are trans you can still drive if you’re old enough. I assume you can put your clothes on in the morning and cook your own meals go on a holiday and choose what you want to eat and cook it for yourself. Well I can’t so count yourself lucky.

Lastly I want to address the Trans Excluding Radical Feminist Issue. I am not a sympathiser to any kind of exclusionary ideal. I am not ambivalent to trans deaths of women of colour or otherwise.

Indeed I saw yesterday that I was called a shitbag for merely expressing another view, the view that the hashtag was destructive and would not bring about greater dialogue or discourse.

I am a sympathiser of many issues radical feminists campaign about including sexual violence, and rape. I also support an end to sexism and misogyny in society. I would dearly love for trans women to attend radical feminist conferences. The way things are going though I think that will happen in the year 3013. If you continuously attack and belittle motives and beliefs of fellow women then what do you expect them to do in return; welcome you with open arms?

The backgrounds of radical feminists often make sorry listening. What is revealed are a litany of woes and misogyny at the hands of men. If we just put our fingers in our ears and ignore that that it shows an utter disrespect and disregard of the suffering of the class we are transitioning into. We must be mindful of the fact that woman space is politically sensitive and painful sometimes. In some countries space for women to meet together is not even granted.

The central plank and the immovable plank of my thesis against the hashtag however is this. Cis people have problems too. Just because somebody is born in a body that is congruent with how they feel inside it does not mean they have a problem free existence with roses round the door.

They have problems too, just like us. This is such a basic fact I can’t believe I’m saying it but it’s true. Being trans is not the only oppression ever to have faced the Earth. It may feel like it is but it isn’t.

When you say fuck cis people, do you know what you’re really saying? You are saying fuck the doctors who kept me alive; they don’t matter just collateral damage. You’re saying fuck my mother; the person who gave birth to me and had to deal with the heartache of having a disabled child when she didn’t expect it. You are saying fuck the world, stop it I don’t want to be part of it I want to live in my own trans utopia where everything is perfect nobody disagrees with me and there is no challenge to my experience where I can say what I like without condemnation or critical voices. That isn’t reality.

However, we don’t transition in a vacuum. We transition into the real world. And whether you like it or not that is how it is. I would hate to live in a world where everyone was disabled or trans or lesbian, an exact copy of me. How dull! How anodyne and boring. Moreover how fucking unrealistic do you want to be?

What sort of dystopia are we living in when somebody with an opposing view is a shitbag? When the only view people are interested in is an identikit one? A sad dystopia of Orwellian dimensions is that sort of dystopia.

The greatest irony is I used to write the sort of blogs the dystopians would lap up like cream. Loads of likes, happy trans community job done. These days for seeing beyond the prism of the trans community I’m often attacked or at worst blocked on Twitter. But I know one thing. I go to sleep at night with my integrity intact because I am not writing what people want to hear. Instead I am writing what I believe.

Some elements of the train carriages of the trans community appear to have broken away from the train and are travelling in an increasingly separatist direction. If that is you please end all contact with me on social media it is not something I want to be part of.

You may feel alienated from society; you may feel abused and let down by the wider population? What do you expect when you never leave the safe confines of the trans community and only talk to each other, and a coterie of allies?  Of course this way you will get affirmation and solidarity and a challenge free life, but is that integration? Is that truly living? I understand this may feel safer but how do you know until you try?

By creating the hashtag fuck cis people you are creating division and ghettos where there need be none. I think it is getting to the stage where the trans community or at least some elements of it is becoming its own worst enemy.

It bemoans lack of acceptance from society, but yet refuses to engage with it at every turn. It creates hashtags writing off the majority of society, but if society were to do the same merry hell would break loose.

The stench of hypocrisy is alive and well. Who is now going to step up and make the air fresh once again?

It is no good fighting discrimination with yet further discrimination. If politics operated in this way the country would be ungovernable. People in opposing parties sit down and have congenial discussions for the good of the country.

If you want acceptance and understanding don’t belittle half of society to get it. I was disgusted by this hashtag yesterday. It made me feel almost ashamed to be trans.

And I love myself I’m proud of myself my achievements in life and my positivity in life. And I will sure as hell not be dragged down the tunnel of misery and negativity by a group of people who feel the whole world is against them. That mindset is easy. Far harder though is the challenge to do something about it. Change starts from within all of us whether we are cis, trans or dolphin.

We can either be part of that change or stay closed off in our ghetto. I broke free from the ghetto last year through my own choosing. I engage with people, I write professionally. I don’t feel the world is against me because I don’t hate myself. I put it to those who originated that hashtag that perhaps your quarrel is not with cis people at all. It is perhaps a quarrel in your soul.

Finally I will say this. I heard somebody suggest yesterday that cis people need to know how they fuck us up. Yes fine! I agree. However it is our choice and within our grasp to decide how much we let circumstances fuck us up. It is also within our grasp to determine how long we want to stay that way for. Otherwise we would be puppets with no control whatsoever of our own lives. I know people for whom this is their reality. Now that’s oppression.

What we go through may be tough but it is not the only kind of oppression there is. We could be LGBT in Russia right now  for example. It’s not easy to deal with people staring at you in the street, but you can get stronger and learn to deal with it. If you choose a certain path you have to accept the consequences. You are different but living in a way that feels amenable to you should be a comforting experience not a horrible one.

You cannot write off a whole subset of society based on your experience. That hashtag was a damaging point in my lifetime. I hope I never have to see it again. I will continue to campaign for the rights of women and trans women. I will continue to be a successful writer. I will continue with my happy positive outlook on life that has paid dividends so far. What I will not do is place the T above all else and ignore the world generally.

I have grown up with and around women all my life. If I was to ignore cis people my life would be pretty lonely. If that makes me a shitbag then so be it.

Many trans people also spoke out against the hashtag. This was dismissed as hatchet jobs. No! It’s  real people disagreeing with your actions. It’s called democracy.

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Collin Brewer:PLEASE RESIGN!

I must say, it is a truly beautiful and rewarding experience to open up various news websites and be told you should be put down. NOT! As with many subjects it has provoked righteous and I believe justified anger.

The case for the defence opens with Mr Brewer saying that he had had a hard day debating council cuts and he had got “hot under the collar.”

Fine. I love conviction politics, based on the premise of strong belief, coupled with strong action to back that up. To become hot under the collar, is a good thing. It shows your passion and it shows you care.

But this is where I part company with Brewer quite happily. However hot under the collar I got, I would NEVER, EVER suggest that people be put down.

Let’s be candid here though. What Colin Brewer is calling for here is legitimated murder, in order to save money. We can dance with euphemism and metaphor all we like. That is the truth of this quote.

His justification for this was that he wanted to provoke a debate around the costs of service provision. Well you have certainly a provoked a debate sir. It has just shifted a little bit from where he intended it to be. Thank you for making your character clear here.

The sincere, felt shock of MP’s, other members of the council, and parents is understandably palpable. Cllr Brewer is now no longer an Independent councillor, grouped with the other independents, for they too were outraged. He is now a standalone Independent sitting by himself thus reducing his political effectiveness.

You do not provoke a debate by advocating the ending of someone’s life, least of all an already persecuted minority. It is no half truth that minority groups, like women and those with disabilities are disproportionately and unfairly impacted upon by cuts to public services, and feeling the pinch of the tough economic times. Therefore, to make such comments to a charity like Disability Cornwall who are doing their best to support and help those with disabilities disgusts me.

If Collin Brewer had wanted to be effective, he could have provoked a useful discussion within the local council of Wadebridge as to where the disability budget is allocated. Instead he chose to de-humanise people and objectify them in the most disgusting way. He reduced people and their lives to an economic spreadsheet. His conduct was shameful and he does not deserve to hold public office now, nor should he have the opportunity to stand for it again in the future. His weasel worded apology is inadequate and does  not in any way address the gravity of,  nor the ripples of hurt which his remarks have created.

But let me explain why this feels raw and visceral for me. Firstly, when I was born, the chances of me living or dying were 50/50. Life, or death, then is as arbitrary as the roll of a dice. In my view, what he is essentially saying is that my life counts for nothing. That hurts, deep inside my heart.

Also, many people with disabilities suffer from chronic low self esteem, depression, and lack confidence. Collin Brewer’s outpourings represent a gigantic step backwards, to a time when disabled children were locked behind doors, in full institutions, with no stimulation, tantamount to prison.

I do not want this piece to turn into a debate about euthanasia, or assisted dying. However, many people with disabilities do experience frequent episodes of suicidal ideation, or thoughts, because they fear for the future, and do not want to be seen as a burden or strain upon the State. What I am saying is Brewer’s callous, ill-judged and vile comments, only add succour to the negative beliefs that we already believe about ourselves at times Congruently, it makes me feel more negative about myself than I did when I woke up this morning. However, it too shall pass because it has to. When faced with abject persecution, minorities have no other option option than to collectively rise up and be strong.

I am old enough at 32 to remember the brutal regime of the despot President Ceaucescu in Romania. Where those with disabilities were hidden away in numerous orphanages, crammed in cots designed for babies, several at a time as though they were inhuman and something to be ashamed of due to to their disability, left to rot in their own excrement and urine. Animals in the majority of zoos live in more favourable conditions than those housed in the orphanages that became a dark motif of Ceaucescu’s Presidency of Romania.

Also, where do we draw the line? Who do we kill first? Do we start with those with physical disabilities? I mean, they must cost a fortune! What about those with learning disabilities, like autism? Them too? What about those with glasses? Or hearing impairments. I mean those hearing aids need to be replaced fairly often! The mental health problems too, shall we just get rid of them overnight?

Disability is a wide spectrum the population will shrink beyond recognition.

In making this comment, Brewer has succeeded in aligning himself with some very illustrious company, including the Westboro Baptist Church, more infamous for their repulsive views of gay people, but also who, as if homophobia wasn’t a vile enough calling card, describe those with disabilities as mutants, and monsters.

Who could also forget a one Mr A.Hitler of Germany, who advocated the killing of those with disabilities because they were not perfect enough? Congratulations, Collin Brewer.

Finally, I wonder if there is any possibility of atonement for Mr Brewer? What about some voluntary work, for a good long period at Disability Cornwall? He could gain an insight into disability, while also examining his conscience! It’s a possibility.

For now though, I strongly feel that the only thing that ought to be put down without delay is his political career.

How Intersectional Are We?

If the recent firestorm around Julie Burchill has got me thinking about anything, it is the notion of intersectionality. I am by my very nature an intersectional being, I suppose we all are really. But for most, I contend that paying heed to intersectionality, is an optional thing rather than a must do.

However, for me I have no choice since one of my intersections is fairly obvious, I am  in a wheelchair. I am also lesbian and trans. On one level, it could be said that this puts me at odds with the rest of the human race. To me this is also a victim stance.

On a positive note though, this gives me a chance to see the world through three sets of very enriching eyes, to bring something to the table that perhaps other people could not. 

I began to blog precisely because, in as much as there were some very erudite accounts of life with a disability, or life being trans, or being lesbian.  However though, I saw no stories and heard no anecdotes of all three together together in one big stew pot. Sometimes you know, in my experience they even fight, argue and squabble for attention. We need intersectionality though, and desperately. The need to live , understand and breathe by the  credo of intersectionality for the benefit and maintenance of a socially cohesive  society.It has a mandate but the question truly is , do we truly use that mandate to its full potential, and tap into it enough?

At the height of my mindset around the Julie Burchill, Suzanne Moore debacle, I was kind of thinking in a grumbly way to myself, that it was easy for the rest of the  LGB community, because they did not have to contend with this kind of resultant abuse.

Later though, I began to think again in a cool headed way. The simple truth is, it is not that the LGB community suffers no oppression, it is just that it presents itself in many inglorious and frightening forms.

The general population are en masse users of social networking. A common trick nowadays is to log into someone else’s Facebook account, and post something they absolutely would not. My friendship group is predominantly LGBT. Now , as a woman, I have a dilemma here.

A common lesbian prank is to write “I WANT C**K” on another lesbian’s Facebook. The dilemma is evident. I have two voices screaming in my head at this point.

The trans voice, inevitably will say, hang on a minute, women have c**ks too, it does not make them lesser women, which is true. 

However, the woman’s voice also presents another scenario. The c**k is also a phallic symbol.  It could and maybe does trigger. We need to be empathic and alert to this possibly.

One of the problems with society at large is that it is too dichotomous, reinforcing too many binaries. 

As well as being a person with a disability, a lesbian and trans, I am a feminist. I believe that women’s rights in society are pivotal. You see friends, right from birth, I have been different, silenced and not normal. So female spaces, and feminism were always atrractive to me, it was a narrative that sp0ke to me, and pierced loudly through my heart. From my own standpoint as the feminst sociologist Dorothy Smith would have it, the world looks pretty unique, and pretty shit for women.

Women are consistently used and abused and objectified by a patriarchal society. They have 0ne night stands after which the girl is a s**t and the guy is a stud. Why is that? Due to male privilege. He gets a pat on the back and a beer perhaps, the girl gets objectified and villified.

I have had too many conversations that start with the opening gambit, “I’ve got something to tell you.”

I have grown up with and been around women all my life. One of the most painful things of my life was when a friend confided in me she was suffering from anorexia.

It is a disorder, quite simply that strips away your mind,  body, energy, self esteem, confidence and soul. My friend talked to me for three hours, solid. She said to me that it meant a lot, just to be listened to. I supported her, loved her, cried with her, and heard her. I never judged her. To me, this is the quintessence of what being a woman was about. My childhood was a discourse of feminism really. Of periods, boyfriends, gossip, and fun and clothes. But the thing with it is, all the time, women are jostling to gain a voice in a society which  is largely not given to them. They are oppressed. Women go through blood sweat and tears to be approved of by the rest of society. Their painful insecurities are often manifested in disorders like anorexia, and self injurous behaviour. Yet this is a hidden narrative, concealed on numerous support forums. My friend’s anorexia was a painful experience. I almost lived it with her. But the other thing is, women are strong. You will I suspect be glad to know that my friend recovered, but it was a long and painful journey for us both.

But nowhere is female oppression more evident than in the scenario of r*pe. Seeing the disregard, and the cruelty with which Fantine (wonderfully portrayed by Anne Hathaway) was maimed and objectified by her rapist in Les Miserables  was truly stomach churning. But for many women (and men too) this is a reality.The arrogance of it, and its cavalier nature. What right does anyone have to violate the body and soul of  another, leaving emotional scars and physical scars that may never heal?We read it in the news almost daily but what I see is a chilling ambivalence towards it.

I have lived through women’s problems and pain all my life. One of my friends who I went to school with said to me she was surprised I did not start growing ovaries and a womb! Another friend told me I was too much of a girl to be a guy for too long. Another said “you act like a girl , you’re like us, but you are not a girl. Why? That is what made me want to transition. For I had been pondering the same question from the moment I could talk.

I never owned my gender in my former life, which I can truly say was a living hell. I was massively proud to change that, and go from darkness to light. A former counsellor said I would lose power. I was never really interested in power though, not in that sense of patriarchal power anyway.

I am massively proud now to have a gender which matches up the inner identity and the outer.

What I am not so proud of though is the vile vituperation that was metred out to Suzanne Moore last week. I was more unhappy with the creation of the word”cuntards” in one of her Tweets and told her that.

The Tweets were nasty, and not befitting of fellow sisters. As I suggested in my original blog last week, the article contained much good food. She was arguing that welfare cuts are having a disproportionate effect on women and other minorities I guess. A point worth making. This is why I love feminism so much. It is a philosophy that speaks for the oppressed, and I include myself in that oppression frankly. Were I just looking with my disabled head on, I would say, fab! go girl! she is giving me a voice. Ditto to lesbian.

But I was upset by the Brazillian transsexual slur. I said that she spoiled the article with its use. However there was much good food there.

The reaction of the trans community was disproportionate though, and could be equally construed as hate speech by Suzanne as Burchill’s article was to the trans community. Suzanne has not picketed the homes of Tweeters though. 

The fundamental mistake made was to fight oppression with oppression. I see all too often that the trans community is quite happy to do to others what it does not want done to it, and that disturbs me, greatly. If Suzanne does it, it is oppression. If we do it, it is campaigning or activism. It is not right, unfeminist, and distinctly wrong. Here’s an idea, I am being quite out there I grant you.

If the trans community had not reacted the way it did, then perhaps Julie’s abhorrent piece would never have been written. It did not just float out of a vacuum. Something had to happen for it to happen. Cause and effect. Snowballs perhaps relevant.

Finally the oven ready broad porn star stuff. It reminds me of a certain bird often cooked at Christmas but that is a funny aside. I believe there is pressure on all women to look glamourous, sexy, wear lovely high heels and dresses and look sexy for men’s (sometimes) benefit. Social pressure, peer pressure and inner psychological pressure that all women, trans and not, fall vicitim to. And that my friends is fucking sad. Women should be able to be how they want. 

Many lesbians understandably rock against this pressure. I do not have a particular type. I love faces, eyes and smiles make me giddy. I want to get a tattoo. But I digress.

Throughout my University degree, I subconsciously weaved a narrative of oppression. Postcolonialism, feminism and other such things.

I was born othered through my disability, othered was not something  I became. I am guessing this is why I loved feminism so much.

Feminism is my narrative. What is not my narrative is seeing women oppressing women, and driving them off Twitter.

Women’s concerns should be ours too. At every opportunity, we should be shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with our sisters. The concerns of people with disabilities should be our concerns too. The concerns of lesbians and gay men should be our concerns too.

I have always been characteristically loyal, caring and empathic, before and after transition. I am not a different person but a happier one.  Women themselves made me a woman, through consistently including me in their space, not due to a smash and grab violation on my part, but, more simply, because they wanted to. The transition was gaining a  fun wardrobe and a better name. Apart from that, business as usual, but at the outset of my transition, I did feel very blessed to be  invited to a hen night.

So, how intersectional are we? The answer is not nearly enough. There is a tendency for  some to retreat into the trans bunker, and moan. That option is not open to me, because I am intersectional by proxy. I have my disability and lesbian identity too.  So in order words, it is a juggling act, rather like plate spinning in a circus.  However, I want to say categorically that none of my identities are a stigma to me. I am proud of them all.

If we want change, we have to be the change. For radical feminists, we need to see behind the lens of why they think the way they do. I do not want to invade their space, but perhaps understand it better.

Trans oppression is not the only oppression. We need to be careful not to be the perpetrators of hate speech instead of the victims. It just gives Julie Burchill more reason to think that her polemic might be true.

So how to change things? Solidarity with feminism is a good start. We also need to be intersectional. This is why disability rights succeeded. It was due to common aims, goals and objectives. What are ours?

We need articles like that penned by Burchill. They challenge us, we can rebut them and argue with them. But we do not need to respond to hate speech with hate speech. We have a responsibility to show we care not just about our own plight, but that of others too. Finally, to the radical feminists, I hear your position. You may not respect my gender. But I hope you can see that this is a decent piece written with the best of intentions.