Just asking questions: Some key questions about the Metro and Fair Play For Women

Content note: this post discusses transphobia, transmisogyny and violence against women

Yesterday, the Metro ran a full-page bigoted ad. It remains to be seen whether popping a question mark at the end of an outlandishly bigoted and non-factual statement violates advertising standards. However, in the spirit of Just Asking Questions, I have some questions about the Metro’s decision, and Fair Play For Women, the bigots who took out the ads. I’ve asked some of these questions in this thread on Twitter (archived for when I delete old tweets), and some have been updated in the light of information emerging.

1. How much, exactly, did FPFW pay for the package they received? 

According to a statement from the Metro, “our commercial team did consult with them carefully on its content and language before agreeing to the final creative in today’s Metro”. In other words, editorial support was provided, on top of a service which according to their rate card is more than £40,000. Are the Metro giving away advertising space at massive discount? They remain tight-lipped on that, but it certainly sounds like a favour was done by the Metro.

Also, can you imagine the absolute state of the ad before some poor sod had to edit the language? Bile is still dripping from every word, I can only imagine how spiteful it must have been before.

2. Why aren’t FPFW spending their money on causes which actually benefit women?

Yesterday I pointed out what could be bought with the amount spent on a full page ad in the Metro. I’m not going to do that again. Instead, I’m going to have a peek at the £33,715 which appears to have been raised by FPFW’s crowdfunders, which have the stated purpose of supporting their campaigning activities.

A sum of around £33k could provide:

440 nights at a refuge.
255500 menstrual pads to be distributed to schools. The fancy ones. Bought at cost price.
£48 to every single one of the 700 people who travel from Northern Ireland for an abortion.
440 local support sessions for survivors of domestic violence
1369 emergency packs for women who fled domestic violence with nothing
938 fun days for children staying at a refuge with their mums
292 weeks of childcare for a single mother
165 mammograms for women aged 40-49 who are ineligible on the NHS

So, why spend money on spiteful campaigning when one could use that money for causes which benefit women in need?

3. Who’s funding FPFW?

FPFW claim to be an organic grassroots organisation, but I’m calling astroTERF here. There are inconsistencies with their funding model, and apparent bankrolling and laundering from the evangelical right. Let’s have a look at a genuinely organic grassroots crowdfund from FPFW back in March. (HT @wendylyon) You’ll note they raised £595, which is a lot less than the big bucks they’ve been rolling in since then, although that £595 could still cover travel expenses and accommodation for a woman or two coming from Northern Ireland for an abortion, or five stays in a refuge for a woman and her children.

Tweeter @caseyexplosion has been investigating funding of transphobic groups and ties with the US evangelical right, and spotted a pattern of large anonymous donations to crowdfunds calling for bigoted ads to be put out, their close relationships with said US evangelical right groups, and the sudden proliferation of very similar groups. Factor in that “high profile advertising campaign” is a tactic beloved by the megachurches with the megabucks, and there’s a lot of questions.

4. Why aren’t the media interested in asking these questions?

We know the media loves to ask questions about funding of campaigns. I volunteered in the Yes To AV campaign back in 2011 (off-brand, I know), and I remember the media collectively losing its shit because one organisation involved in the campaign owned a property which had once belonged to a communist party. Moscow gold funding the fluffy democratic reform campaign, apparently.

There’s more than enough eyebrow-raising with the funding of FPFW going on, and they’ve raised their profile. So, where’s the investigative work? Where’s the media attention? It’s newsworthy. Heck, it’s super newsworthy in a world where it’s emerged that political process has been influenced by paid advertising with false claims. I hope something will break soon, rather than this work having to be done voluntarily by people on Twitter.

5. Who’s signed off the ad in the Metro?

It’s almost immediately being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority. They must have guessed this would happen.

6. Do you remember ever having seen a full-page full-colour ad in the Metro on women’s or LGBT rights?

I sure as shit don’t. Admittedly, my relationship with the Metro is usually putting it on my tube seat if the seat feels a bit dank and I don’t want to sit on it, but sometimes I open it up for the “to put in the ass” if my phone and book are out of batteries. I do not recall ever having seen an ad of such prominence highlighting issues affecting women, or issues affecting LGBT folk. The Metro may cry fairness and balance, but that sounds rather false when they just whack a rainbow on the Landrover ad during Pride season.

There’s an antisemitic conspiracy theory floating round that Soros is funding some shadowy trans cabal who control the media, but let’s be honest here: first of all, that’s antisemitic as fuck, and secondly, I’ve never seen a full page ad in a commuter rag raising awareness of transgender rights.

7. Since the ad was influencing a political process, will the Metro be supplying equally prominent ad space to alternative perspectives?

The FPFW was directly targeted to influence a political process, a government consultation. This was its purpose. The Metro itself acknowledged this. So, given their endless bleating about balance, will they be equally prominently raising voices of alternate perspectives on the consultation?

I’m just asking questions here.

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Usually this is where I ask for money. Today, I’m not. I’m asking you to make a donation to Refuge or Abortion Support Network since they’re being cut out of the transmisogynistic megabucks and need money to support women. 

No cops at Pride: remembering Alan Turing and Kitty Genovese

Content note: this post discusses murder, suicide, homophobia and police

38 people witnessed Kitty Genovese being murdered and did nothing, so the story goes. It’s a complete fiction, but that’s how the story goes.

64 years ago today, a genius took his life. Alan Turing was subjected to two years of state-sanctioned torture before he was driven to his death.

On the face of it, there seems to be little connection between Alan Turing and Kitty Genovese, but it’s there, buried in their histories. It’s a thread which still vibrates in queer generational memory, and even though we may not have ever been told the untold stories of Kitty Genovese and Alan Turing, we feel it, because we’ve felt this before so many other times.

It’s entirely possible that if the police weren’t so terrible to LGBT people, Alan Turing and Kitty Genovese would not have died in the ways that they did.

Let’s do Kitty first, because I’m a women-first kind of girl.

Kitty Genovese was a lesbian. At the time of her murder and the trial of her killer, the authorities made the decision to keep that fact out of the media, refer to her girlfriend, Mary Ann Zlelonko, as her “friend”. Just gals being pals. Of course, that’s not what the police thought of Mary Ann, they didn’t think of her as a platonic friend. She was their first suspect. She went to identify Kitty’s body, and they arrested her and subjected her to crass questions about their sex life.

The inspector on the case said, “One of the most common motives for murder is jealousy. It’s also our experience that homosexual romances produce more jealousy by far than ‘straight’ romances. More jealousy means more chance for violence. Women, in fact, can be more possessive towards their lovers than men.”

But let’s rewind to the night of Kitty’s murder. We have already established that 38 people didn’t witness the crime and 38 people didn’t do nothing. In fact, there were only two people who likely knew what was happening to Kitty. One of them, yep, fits that story of the people who didn’t give a flying fart about the murder. Joseph Fink sat at his doorman position and watched for a while, before going to bed.

The other witness is a more interesting case. Karl Ross was a friend of Kitty’s, a gay man and a drunk. He dithered a lot about calling the police, and spent much of the night chatting to a friend about whether he should. He did, in the end, but it was far too late. Could he have called off calling the police because he was gay? We don’t know, but what we do know is that relations between police and the LGBT community weren’t exactly healthy.

One witness to the night says that his father called the police early in the attack, but that the police did not come. And Kitty herself had been a victim of police harassment. That picture of her face at the top of this blog, the picture you have seen countless times? That was a mugshot, from a time she had been arrested.

Incidentally, Kitty may never have been murdered had the police done their goddamn jobs in the first place: Kitty’s murderer had previously killed a black woman, and the police never solved that case, probably never even bothered to investigate it.

The myth of Kitty is powerful, and the media, in the pockets of the authority, did a damn fine job of muddying the waters, when in truth what we have as a story demonstrating reified distrust of police.

So what about Alan Turing? We all know the story. Bletchley Park, then got charged for being gay, chemically castrated and eventually took his life. Yada yada. Did you ever ask how he was arrested?

In January 1952, Alan was the victim of a burglary. He did what you’re told you should do and contacted the police. His lover said he may have known who burgled the house, so Alan volunteered that information to the police investigating the crime. Again, exactly like we’re all told we should do.

The police arrested Alan and his lover and they were charged with gross indecency. I can’t find any record of them nicking the burglar.

You know the rest of the story.

These two people were both victims of the police in their ways, and both stories answer the questions as to why LGBT people don’t want to call the police, and why the relationship is strained at best.

When you ask why many of us queers don’t want the police anywhere near Pride, it goes beyond Stonewall. There’s these stories, horrific tragedies, and similar tales of police indifference and interference appear regularly to this day. Take Stephen Port, who was able to murder four gay men due to a lazy police investigation. This was within the last five years.

The police have never been our friends. As much as they are institutionally racist, they are institutionally homophobic and transphobic. It is galling to see demands that they march alongside us, when they have, at best, let so many of us die.

Remember Alan Turing. Remember Kitty Genovese. Remember the stories the authorities didn’t want you to hear. And remember why we prefer to help each other than call for help.

And remember: no police at Pride.

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On Section 28’s birthday, let’s say never again

Content note: This post discusses homophobia, transphobia, and mental ill health

Section 28 turns 30 today. A little over a week ago, I turned 33, which makes me part of a generation of queers that grew up under legislation that meant that teachers in our lives–in a place we spent more than a third of our childhoods!–could not even mention the existence of homosexuality.

The law was passed by bigots, responding to pressure from more bigots. They freaked out over books for children explaining that gay people exist and that’s all right. They didn’t like that the LGBT community was campaigning for rights. And so, they banned schools from talking about it. It was a free speech issue, yes, but more than this: it was a calculated attack on the queer community, aiming to stop children from learning about the possibilities that could apply to them.

And the most heartbreaking thing is that Section 28 worked. It fulfilled its aims. It did stop young people who grew up under it from entertaining the notion that they themselves may be somewhere under the rainbow and that that was valid and all right.

I was one of them.

Throughout my school years, it never even occurred to me that I might not be a nice heterosexual girl who would go on to have nice reproductive sex with a man (which was the alpha and omega of the sex and relationships education I received). I felt weird about it, pricking anxiety and a stomach-churning “no that’s not for me”, but I didn’t really know what else I could be. I was a freak, a weirdo, somehow built wrong, and I didn’t have words to articulate what I might be, or a sense that being different was all right. I had crushes on girls that I never knew were crushes on girls, just complicated, tearful, passionate, explosive friendships.

I was robbed of a time for figuring things out at the time in a young person’s development where they are figuring things out.

It took a huge mess to get me where I am today. A lot of mental ill health, a hefty dollop of risky and questionable sex. It took years to work out that yep, I’m mostly lesbian. And in a weird sort of way I was lucky: at least I wasn’t at a level of risk of contracting HIV from a lack of even a token quantity of education about safer sex!

And I’m bitter because it didn’t have to be that way. I could have avoided a lot of that angst had I just learned vocabulary and a little bit of base validation at school.

I sometimes wonder if us millennial queers are so utterly fucked up because we grew up under Section 28, and we were left to fend for ourselves in figuring shit out.

The terrifying thing is that I see it happening again, and it terrifies me that we may see a new Section 28 rolled out to break a generation of transgender children. I see the moral panic with its “think of the children” tone. The shrieking about books for children in schools. The drive from anti-trans bigots to send out anti-transgender propaganda to teachers. The obsessive focus on transgender children’s transitions.

And it’s a very short hop from there to legislation banning “the promotion of transgender in schools”.

We are in a position to stop this, and it’s one of the reasons I fight so hard against it. While there’s breath in my lungs, I cannot allow another generation of children to suffer like so many of my generation did.

Section 28 likely killed some of my generation, and reviving its rotting corpse because you’re grossed out by the notion that maybe doctors sometimes get it wrong when assigning genders to newborn infants, that will likely kill more children. I can’t sit by and watch that.

It’s why we can’t let it happen. It’s why we need to challenge it. It’s why we need to look at what’s happening around trans children in a movement largely led by cisgender heterosexuals and utterly reject what they are saying. And make no mistake: any legislation targeting part of the LGBT community hits us all. Section 28 was bad for trans young people, lesbian young people, bi young people, and all of our rainbow, despite being driven by hatred of gay men. An injury to the trans community is an injury to all of the queer community.

Something like this happened to generations past. And it cannot happen to generations to come.

Further reading: Stop me if you’ve heard this before (Carrie Marshall)- a short history of Section 28 and analysis of the pattern repeating.

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Once more for the people at the back: abortion rights and trans rights are the same struggle

Content note: this post discusses anti-choice sentiment and transphobia

Today, I got a tweet from a TERF expressing a desire to reduce the abortion time limit, using the same concern-trolling language as noted womb-botherers such as Nadine Dorries.

It didn’t surprise me.

Let’s get the most obvious out of the way first: TERFs are about as feminist as Jim Davidson. They’re also very comfortable with forming political alliances with conservative men, and indeed prefer to date conservative men as they have more in common with them politically. So it’s hardly a shock that they’ve been parroting patriarchal talking points.

Then we have the media transmisogynists like to pretend that trans women pose a problem for reproductive rights activism, which is a deliberately disingenuous misrepresentation of the fairly uncontroversial demand that when we talk about reproductive organs and human bodies, we’re gender-neutral about it, because that’s more precise. It simply isn’t true that trans women are a block to reproductive rights. In fact, they’re doing more than any media transphobe ever has.

How do we know this? One of the places to look is Ireland, where there is a huge struggle for access to abortion. I follow this activism keenly, and do what I can to support and boost their work, so I’m aware that there are a lot of trans women deeply involved in this crucial action. I’ve met many Irish trans feminists who participate in reproductive freedom work. And likewise, Irish feminists don’t want these UK TERFs anywhere near their work, having recently produced a widely-signed open letter telling TERFs exactly where to fuck off to.

If you actually care about reproductive rights, you’d know this, and that’s how it becomes abundantly clear that your transmisogynistic bigots are simply using abortion access as a dogwhistle for “women are defined by reproductive organs and only that.”

To me, feminism is always and has always involved liberating women from our biology. A refusal to define us by whether or not we can bear children. I’ve written before about how this biological essentialism promulgated by transmisogynistic bigot feminists is identical to that promulgated by misogynists. I’ve also defined my stance as pro-trans and pro-choice.

But I want to say it once more, loudly, for the people at the back: trans rights and reproductive rights are intimately linked. You cannot have one without the other. It all boils down to bodily autonomy.

Organisations like Planned Parenthood understand this, and provide therapy for trans people as well as reproductive care. On the flipside of this, 20 countries in Europe still require sterilisation for trans people if they want legal gender recognition.

It is no coincidence that the religious right and fascists want to crack down on both reproductive healthcare and trans healthcare: all they want to do is refuse us bodily autonomy.

Our struggles are the same, and scratch a transmisogynist, and it’ll bleed womb-botherer in the end. Don’t let them win, and let’s continue to stand shoulder to shoulder against these attacks.

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Some doomful predictions for 2018

2017 has been a hell of a year, hasn’t it? A year of doom, gloom and misery. And, sadly, emerging from this shit, I can’t see much good coming of the year that will follow it.

Now, I hate being right. I don’t want any of these predictions to happen. Unfortunately, I fear that they will.

The Tories will escalate vicious cuts

The government is in a bit of an awkward position at present. They know that, we know that, and if an election is called, they are more stuffed than a Christmas turkey. The party hates Theresa May, and thus, she must do all she can to appeal to them. The Tory right has little manoeuvring space, because they got everything they wanted with Brexit, but that’s always just been a wedge issue. So, what do they need to be appeased, to maintain a minority government? And what do the DUP want for propping up a minority government? Why, death and poverty, of course! As a cynical gesture of pandering, I suspect that the ideology-driven Tory “austerity” agenda is going to get even worse. And your fave “liberal” Tories like dear old Soubz are just going to vote it right through, because they’re fucking Tories.

Let’s face it, there’s not going to be a snap election next year. Tories are primarily creatures of self-preservation, and they always have been.

TERF and Nazi collaboration

I’ve included TERFs and Nazis under the same heading because tactically, they are identical, and I strongly suspect there’s more overlap between the groups than either would care to admit. These groups thrive on pretending they’re under attack, and now they’re facing small consequences like not being invited to so many lucrative speaking gigs, or people being a little bit rude to them on Twitter. Like petulant children, they lash out.

They are inherently unreasonable, and utterly dangerous. They will play the victim harder than ever while punching down. TERFs and Nazis alike will escalate their “free speech is under attack” lines, with their more respectable faces photographed wearing duck tape on their gobs. Jo Johnson is already making noises about forcing universities to platform the far right. Changes to a law about gender recognition that would bring Britain into line with countries like Ireland and Malta are already being kicked into the long grass. There’s a lot of sympathisers in politics, and many more in the media. They’re probably going to side with these hateful bigots.

Trump will be deposed or die

Why have I listed this as a bad thing? Surely it’s good that Badwig von Orange will no longer be president?

Only if you’ve failed to notice who’s waiting in the wings behind him. Get your red gown and wings, because under Mike Pence things will likely get a lot worse. He’s quietly, competently evil, and under him, the USA will move further in the direction of The Handmaid’s Tale. There’ll be less fightback to this than is needed, because everyone will be talking (or debunking) conspiracy theories surrounding Trump no longer being president. Meanwhile, access to reproductive healthcare will be quietly stripped away, LGBT rights and access to healthcare will be rolled back, and it’ll all be done with silent, ruthless efficiency.

Trump’s on some thin ice, and I can see an impeachment happening when his position finally becomes too corrupt and untenable. I can also see him dying, because that much cocaine and anger isn’t good for anyone’s heart.

The robot uprising won’t happen, they’ll just be spying on us

I, for one, would welcome our new robot overlords. Unfortunately, they’re not coming to save us. Instead, something more frightening lurks. Already, people are gladly welcoming devices that are always listening into their handbags and homes. Concurrently, many governments are looking at ways of increasing surveillance–take, for example, Amber Rudd’s crusade to end encryption. It’s not a far leap to be worried that these little doohickeys that make life marginally easier will be used against us.

There is an unprecedented amount of personal data already being processed, which could be accessible to those who would use this data to sell us shit we don’t need or to incarcerate us.

A little bit of advice: don’t pay with your face, and be careful.

Nothing will change

This is, perhaps, the scariest thing of all: that literally nothing will change. That the positive developments over the last year–such as abusers facing accountability–have no impact whatsoever.

It’s possible. We’re up against a lot, and systems are slow to change and highly resistant.

Can anything get better?

Possibly. I’ve written some more hopeful predictions to accompany this over on Patreon. I suspect these will happen alongside the gloomy forecast I’ve presented here, but I think they might happen. And if they do, at least the “nothing will change” prediction is moot.

As I said, I hate being right. I hope none of this comes to pass. I just fear that it will.

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Congratulations to the anti-trans bigots who got reproductive healthcare defunded

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Am I Bi Enough?

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.

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