Content note: this post might be very confusing for straight people. Sorry, buddy, I can’t help you. This isn’t for you.
Happy Bi Visibility Day, the one day of the year where we blink into the visible light spectrum, usually only existing somewhere between X-rays and gamma radiation.
Every September 23rd, I find myself wriggling around the same themes and asking myself, “is bi a label that fits me?” then concluding, “yeah, OK, I use it, screw everyone else.” I am afraid to say that little has changed, and I’m still bloody wondering.
In the last few years, I’ve found that my life has arranged itself so that I don’t really spend much time with men any more, and the men I do spend time with–friends’ boyfriends, and my dad–aren’t in any sort of sex or dating context. This wasn’t a move that I made on purpose; it just fell out that way. I can literally count the number of good male friends on one hand. While wearing a mitten. I’m cool with this, because I have much more in common with people who are not men. Women and non-binary folk are awesome, while most men are, frankly, rubbish. Due to a freedom from men in my day-to-day life, this has naturally affected my sexual and romantic life, also for the better: it’s been years since I’ve shagged a man, and longer still since I’ve been in a relationship with one.
And I feel good about this. Sometimes I find myself describing my sexuality as “lesbian”, because it’s simpler, and feels more accurate for the time being. A lot of the time, I use the delightfully vague “queer”. But yet, on top of a cabinet like a Nespresso machine that ran out of the free trial pods, sits the label “bisexual”. Actually, that’s a bad metaphor. I use “bisexual” occasionally, while that Nespresso machine just gathers dust.
When I think about it, I wonder if it fits me any more. Should I just give it up and be uncomplicatedly lesbian? Am I even bi enough to be bi? Am I bi when I kind of made a choice away from men? Should I be using different labels in different contexts; shouldn’t a label be stable, or wait, were they meant to be mutable? Fuck, I should probably read some queer theory, shouldn’t I? Do I need bi for myself? Am I appropriating?
If someone asked any of those questions of themselves to me, I would immediately say, “Honey, if you want to use bi, use bi. You are bi enough.”
Yet as it applies to myself, the questions are questions, open and persistently jabbing at me. I don’t know, and it feels a little bit appropriative calling myself bi, when I’m merely a dyke who would probably sit on Idris Elba’s face if he asked me to.
But perhaps this is exactly what makes me bi. Perhaps this is the grand unifying factor between we bisexuals, more than who we fuck and who we fall in love with. Perhaps what brings us together is us asking Am I Bi Enough?
Am I bi enough?
It’s a question I only ever hear from bi people, diverse, beautiful bi people. I have never heard a bi person not ask it. It is a label which fits so many people, but yet we all question whether it suits us. I tell everyone else that if that’s what you want to use, then use it.
And I am bisexual. I could “justify” myself here by talking about facing sapphophobia; how I fancy and fuck people of other genders as well as my own gender, still (it’s really only men that I’ve minimised from my life); how yes, labels are mutable, context-dependent and ever-changing and yes, you can be a lesbian bisexual queer. But I don’t need to. None of us need to. We are bi enough; the “bi” in bisexual stands for how we are constantly second guessing ourselves, and what is queerness but questions without simple answers?
So here’s to all of us out here, asking whether we’re bi enough. We are. And today, we’re visible.
Content note: this post discusses transmisogynistic bigots and Nazis
There was a hoo-ha last night, where a horde of trans women allegedly surrounded a transmisogynist gathering and one of the transmisogynistic bigots got punched.
Now, there are reasons to doubt their side of the events, reason to believe that the punch was in self-defence and major inconsistencies all across what they are claiming happened, and reasons to wonder why the police didn’t arrest anyone when they’re in the habit of nicking trans people for holding banners that hurt their feelings, let alone an alleged major assault. But I’m not going to talk about that. (update: seems as if it was an unequivocal act of self-defence (pics here)(witness statement here), which I can’t say I didn’t expect)
What I want to point out is the similarity in tactics between the transmisogynists’ narrative, and tactics deployed successfully by Nazis. Our current face of Nazism–the alt right, neo-Nazis, the far right, whatever your style guide demands you call them–rather like to play the victim. When Richard Spencer got punched (lol) the Nazis were very keen to whine about it. When anti-fascist protesters come out to defend their communities, the Nazis, and their chum Donald Trump, are falling over themselves to denounce violence “on both sides”. Centrists are always eager to back up these narratives, because they love a good middle ground almost as much as they love pretending they’re not enablers of fascism.
This, of course, serves a purpose. It drags discussion away from “Nazis are bad, how can we stop them?” to “punching is bad”. It has been a Nazi tactic since Nazis were invented; Hitler rather liked to claim that he and his were victims of unprovoked violence from the people they wanted wiped out.
Now, transmisogynistic bigots have rather a lot in common with Nazis already. They both share an unhealthy fascination with trans people’s genitalia, where trans people pee, concern trolling about safety, and a general desire to see trans people eliminated entirely. They have been known to work together on certain projects, in particular surrounding “bathroom bills”. It seems, in their cosy discussion groups about how to ban trans people from public life, the transmisogynistic bigots and the Nazis have also been exchanging tactics.
What the transmisogynists want more than anything in the world right now is to stop talking about their repulsive ideology and their repugnant tactics, and talk about the merits and drawbacks of political violence. They want to draw sympathy from the gullible centre, who uncritically lap up victim-playing rhetoric, because centrists dislike impoliteness far more than they reject hate.
Let’s not let them.
Let us stay focused on why there was a protest in the first place.
A few days ago, it was noticed that New Cross People’s Library was hosting an event headlined by one Dr Julia Long, a long-time harasser of trans women who picketed a lesbian pride parade. Those of us who aren’t exactly keen on hate crimes gave the venue a ring and asked them to cancel. The venue did.
Transmisogynists have a lot of access to money though. Bigotry is lucrative. This meant that they could move their little two hours’ hate to a private members’ club.
These are all things we could be talking about: the fact that there are rich bigots who have a proven track record of harassing trans women. But this is indefensible, so they’d rather we talked about something else. If not an alleged assault, it would have certainly been the old freeze peach complaint–again, a page straight out of the Nazi playbook.
So let us not play into their hands with endless, fruitless discussions of violence. Let us stay on topic: these are nasty people who do nasty, indefensible things with their money. Let’s not let this Nazi tactic work, but instead let’s think about everything these people have been doing. That they actively campaign to remove healthcare from people. That they join hands with Nazis to prevent trans people from leaving the house. That they have a visceral obsession with the genitals of little children. That they do everything in their considerable power to smear and harass women who are just trying to exist.
This is what they don’t want us talking about. And this is what we must keep talking about.
Usually this is the point where I link to my Patreon. I’m not doing that today. Instead, I ask you to make a donation, big or small, to Action For Trans Health.
Her wife, Lowenna, thought that men were as fragile as seagrass and nowhere near as useful, dashing their ships into the treacherous rocks at the mere glimpse of a nipple…
I’m trying out something new: writing fiction. At the moment, I’m a little shy, so only sharing with a limited audience. Also, I appreciate a wee bit of material support. So. Read my love letter to lesbian mermaids, Cornish legends, Prince Eric being The Second Worst Disney Prince, and the acoustics of old churches over on Patreon now.
You can become a patron for as little as $1USD a month, and frankly, I appreciate the small donations just as much as the large. I have a few other ones on the go, pretty much all of them post-apocalyptic in some regard, and they’ll all be available to patrons, too, when I think they’re readable.
Content note: this post contains Con Air spoilers, if you don’t know what goes down in a 20 year old film. It also mentions rape.
After reclaiming Die Hard and Fight Club for the feminist cause, allow me to explain to you why 1997’s preposterous action thriller Con Air is, in fact, utopian anarchist propaganda.
Con Air is an all-star vehicle for explosions, bunnies, Steve Buscemi channelling Hannibal Lecter, and a surprisingly progressive presentation of criminal and criminality. I’m going to assume you’ve watched this movie, or at least read the Wikipedia summary, as frankly I cannot be bothered to recount it for you. Basically, a lot of shit blows up, metaphorically and literally, when prisoners on a charter flight hijack the plane with a plot to fly off to a non-extradition country. Nonetheless, the most implausible thing about this film is that they sent a white military man with no criminal record to prison for killing an obnoxious working class guy.
The state is shit…
The view of the prison-industrial complex presented in Con Air is not a rosy one in the slightest. Neither, in fact, is any institution of the state. It is entirely the fault of the state that any of this happened at all.
First, let’s look at what a fucking awful idea it is to pack an aeroplane full of the nastiest prisoners in the first place. The plan, from the state’s perspective, is that they would like to fill up a shiny new supermax prison that they have just built. And it didn’t even occur to them that these nasty prisoners might not want to go to a supermax prison, and might think about saying fuck that shit. There is a long list of people who would not be dead had capitalism and government not colluded to make a lot of money by building a very large prison and having to fly people across the country to populate it.
Now, I get that this is very much a pre-9/11 film, and therefore perhaps inadequate precautions are taken to defend against hijacking. But nevertheless, as soon as the hijacking attempt begins, in effect the state’s action is to hand the hijackers a gun.
Due to shitty communication between state agencies, there are two guns within the cabin of the plane, and the other, too, is swiftly taken by the prisoners. Later in the film, a cache of weapons is discovered in the hold of the plane, including fucking rocket launchers. Every single weapon the prisoners use is a literal weapon of the state, and the state pretty much handed those weapons over.
So, the state supplied prisoners with an aeroplane and a bunch of weapons. Oh, and also a pilot, because nobody at any point thought it would be a bad idea to put a prisoner who knows how to fly a plane onto their sodding plane.
Those are the big fuck-ups, incidentally. We also see numerous safeguarding infarctions, most egregiously the failure to provide a diabetic prisoner with his medication in a timely fashion: that insulin should have been administered long before Baby-O ever boarded the plane.
The state personnel, our personifications of the state, are not all that bright. They are easily fooled, over-confident in their equipment and processes, and unwilling to listen to anything that might suggest they are anything less than total fucking supermen. In reality, they are a bunch of man-children, eager to play with their favourite toys.
The exception is John Cusack’s character, Vince Larkin, who is rightly critical and concerned throughout. Without Larkin, the prisoners’ plan to fly off into liberty would have been realised. It is he who spots the flaws in the staid, conservative state’s response. Larkin has an analysis of the social model of crime, derided by his colleagues. And he saves the day by stealing a car, then a bulldozer, then a motorbike, because laws about vehicular ownership are an obstruction to getting things done.
Our other of-the-state but not of-the-state character is Nicolas Cage’s Cameron Poe, a prisoner about to be released on parole and former ranger. Like Larkin, Poe is perfectly willing to go off the script of the laws of the land in order to save the day, and as well as some assaults, desecration of a corpse, and handling firearms that he is not licensed to handle, he joins Larkin in a spot of theft of a vehicle.
…but people are all right
For a film with a body count as high as Con Air, there is surprisingly little mindless violence on display. Sure, there’s heaps of violence, but the vast majority of it is not mindless in the slightest.
Let’s be clear: Con Air takes place under exceptional circumstances. There is violence, and almost all of the violent acts presented to the audience serve a function. For the most part, the violence is to achieve a goal it is difficult to argue with: liberty. The prisoners want freedom, and they are handed an opportunity to take it rather than live out the rest of their days in a supermax prison. This is why they kill, with the targets predominantly being state agents and those who do anything to oppose the plan.
Violence in Con Air is generally a purposeful act towards a goal. The very literal anarchy following the removal of state forces is not a descent into senseless chaos, but rather, a kind of order emerges as we see the characters work together towards a mutual goal. Together, the prisoners solve problems that arise, such as inconvenient deaths that could have ruined a deception; digging out the plane from the sand; and landing a plane under incredibly difficult conditions. It is possible, had they escaped, that perhaps they would have lived out their time in peace.
Two of the prisoners on the plane are explicitly labelled “criminally insane”, yet their actions appear contrary to the label slapped upon them. John Malkovich’s Cyrus the Virus is a rational man, never committing violence without reason, dedicated only to his pursuit of freedom. Steve Buscemi’s Garland Greene is a serial killer, brought aboard the plane in a mask. When presented with the opportunity to murder a little girl, he does not take it and befriends the child. He appears to end up peacefully, as a professional gambler in Las Vegas.
Some of the prisoners’ reasons for being in prison in the first place are presented to us, and again, they do not always seem irrational: for example Ving Rhames’s Diamond Dog has his crime fully outlined: he blew up an NRA meeting and said they represented the “basest negativity of the white race”. He’s not wrong there.
Indeed, the only particularly mindlessly violent character we see is serial rapist Johnny-23. However, all of the characters explicitly reject his behaviour, and some of the prisoners make it their business to protect a female prison guard from him. Not just our good guys, like Poe and Baby-O, but Cyrus, too, uses threats to ensure that Johnny-23 will behave himself. It is only when Cyrus is not present that Johnny-23 makes an attempt: and is immediately, gratifyingly, taken out by Poe.
The characters in Con Air have better politics about sexual violence and dealing with rapists in their midst than far too many anarchist men! They’re also more accepting of trans identities than too many anarchos to mention: when a trans prisoner expresses her gender identity, the characters are quick to accept her.
As if this is not enough, the point is driven home to us at the very end, where money begins to rain on the Vegas Strip. Infinite wealth falls into the hands of the proletariat–and all of the criminality and violence ceases completely. All crimes are crimes of necessity, Con Air tells us.
It is entirely plausible that, had the prisoners’ plot succeeded, everything would have turned out fine. Most of them aren’t just killing for funsies–they’re committing violence for a very specific purpose.
Give me a sequel
Con Air is high up my list of films I’d love to see a sequel to, and here’s why: we need it. The prison-industrial complex has only ratcheted up its game in the last 20 years. How much worse would it be with better weapons and post-9/11 security? Some of the same characters would likely still be in the system. And fuck it, let’s have a women’s prison on that plane: I want to see women committing perfectly explicable acts of violence in the name of liberty, as well as men.
And this time, let’s give everyone a happy ending.