Trans Day of Remembrance: even one death is too many

Content warning: this post discusses transmisogyny, suicide, murder and prison

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and this year we are remembering 271 trans people who were murdered. Read the list of their names.

Of the victims, the overwhelming majority were trans women of colour. They were killed in brutal, vicious ways: stabbings, stonings, beheadings. We live in a violent world, and trans women of colour are more at risk of visceral violences than many others.

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn them, and each year we hope that the list will be shorter in the future.

The list only counts those who were directly murdered by the hand of another. This means that many other deaths are not counted: trans people are at a high risk of suicide, as well as HIV, addiction, and many other factors which cause one to die young, far far too young. It is perhaps not even possible to count these deaths.

One sticks out though. The day before TDoR, a news story broke. Vicky Thompson, a trans woman, was sent to a men’s prison. She had said she would kill herself if this happened. A week ago today, she was found dead in a men’s prison. Vicky Thompson’s death comes mere weeks after advocacy and action helped get Tara Hudson moved to a women’s prison. Vicky Thompson was just 21 years old.

The justice system have Vicky Thompson’s blood on her hands. Ministers Michael Gove and Andrew Selous have Vicky Thompson’s blood on their hands. The judges who sent Vicky Thompson to a men’s prison have her blood on their hands. Those who argue that a woman belongs in a men’s prison have Vicky Thompson’s blood on their hands.

Vicky Thompson’s death was as good as a murder. Vicky Thompson did not need to die. Vicky Thompson could have been easily saved, but there are too many who would rather see her dead than lift a finger to ensure that nobody ever dies like her again.

There is a culture of violence against trans women, and it is propped up and enacted by our government. Transphobia and transmisogyny demonstrably kill, and these bigoted, murderous views must die. It is not just words, just an opinion. Transphobic views kill, and they help the murderers get away with it.

Each Transgender Day of Remembrance, I boil with anger and sorrow. Even one death is too many, and trans women are killed in droves. The violence must end.

Protect our poor white boys from the evils of trigger warnings

An evil stalks our white men, threatening them with seconds of mild awkwardness and the possibility they might have to think about others briefly. I am talking, of course, of trigger warnings. The usage of a short textual warning above content, equivalent to allergy or seizure warnings but relating to mental health, is new to these white men, just catching their attention.

It scares them. It scares them shitless. For many, it is hands down the biggest threat they are facing. And this cannot stand: this historically-cossetted group is finally encountering some adversity: imagine! They may have to think about other people’s feelings, something we have wrapped them in cotton wool to avoid. They may have to take thirty seconds of their time to type a short warning about what lies within an article… or even a book, fancy that! And worst of all–this is something we have tried for millennia to shield the poor souls from–people might, upon reading a trigger warning, choose not to immediately read what they have written.

This cannot stand. Nothing hurts white men’s feelings more than being able to blart their opinions everywhere while everyone smiles and nods. We have trained them into this, they know no different. They must be cushioned against this frightening change that has come upon them.

Of course, the little darlings are not completely defenceless. They have been bravely writing articles everywhere about how they are being censored, frequently getting paid to write about just how censored and silenced they are. They have been compiling “scientific” evidence: did you know “exposure therapy” works? It does, that’s why it’s used so often on chat shows like Maury! And, also, it shows up, like, all the time in films and fiction, where the character “faces their fears” and suddenly it’s no longer a problem. Science!

However, despite their best efforts, it isn’t enough. We are facing perhaps the biggest epidemic of Hurt White Man Feelings since Jeremy Clarkson got sacked. The warm duvets of blissful ignorance may be unwrapped, revealing that some people have experienced far worse than having to summarise content. This cannot be: white men’s problems are obviously the biggest problems.

And so, avoid trigger warnings. They may help survivors, and people with phobias, people with all manner of mental health problems, but let’s not forget the realest of real victims: white men who might have to do something. It is they who must be protected at all costs, because they never had to grow coping mechanisms like the rest of us.

I love you, please give me money

Update: I am now accepting paypal donations!

Hi everybody. Regular followers will know that my financial situation hasn’t been brilliant of late, and in terms of sustainability it’s just got a mite worse, because I lost one of my two jobs. I can survive on what I’m making, but I can’t really live.

If you’ve read this blog at all, you’ll probably know how many bridges I’ve burned by criticising publications for their awful business models, and hurting the feelings of some of their pet bigots. I regret nothing, but unfortunately this means I can’t do the standard thing of farting out any old thinkpiece and getting paid for it. I’m an independent blogger, and it looks like it’s going to stay that way.

This blog is a labour of love, and I will continue writing it for as long as I can, because it means a hell of a lot to me to have a space to vent my thoughts and feelings. However, I’ve noticed something in myself over the last year or so, and that’s that I just haven’t had the time and space for it that I previously have, because I’ve been working myself to the bone and basically been devoting far too much time and energy to just existing. I feel like financial support for my writing would help with both the practical and emotional barriers to my being able to even think. 

I can’t offer you anything in return for your money, except the knowledge that you are helping me and that means the world to me. I’ve set up a liberapay page, where you can support me. If you fancy donating to me regularly, that’s probably the easiest way of doing it. I’ve explained a little more fully what your money could help me do.

Anyway, basically, please please help me with my finances, and help me get better–as a writer and a person. Instead of patronising me in the comments, patronise me in a constructive way!

Become a patron!

A picture which inadvertently says it all about privileged voices

Untitled

I don’t usually image-dump like this, but this was from the front page of the Guardian website today. The Guardian literally placing the voice of someone with no lived experience of sex work and a fuckton of hostility towards sex workers above a sex worker making a plea to listen to sex workers. If you can’t see something kind of fucked up about this, you’re probably part of the problem.

Anyway, fuck Bindel. Give Molly Smith’s article a read though, it’s dead good. Hell, just give it a click, and show the Guardian you’re more interested in listening to sex workers than bigots.

I support Amnesty International’s draft policy on sex work

Content warning: this post discusses whorephobia and violence against women.

If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that a bunch of Hollywood celebrities who are not sex workers have recently started attacking human rights campaign group Amnesty International. You see, Amnesty have taken the very welcome step of considering sex workers human and prioritising their human rights by supporting decriminalisation of sex work.

In their draft policy, they say that the purpose of this is to “prevent and redress human rights violations against sex workers” as well as pointing out that policies involving criminalisation “make those who sell sex vulnerable to human rights violations”. This succinctly sums up a position which current sex workers have been advocating for.

Despite wilful point-missing by those who wish to attack Amnesty for understanding that sex workers need to be protected from human rights violations, Amnesty are explicitly against trafficking, and make some fairly basic suggestions which are Too Hard for those who’d sooner throw vulnerable women into prison than make structural changes. From Amnesty’s list of underlying principles of their document:

5. Amnesty International’s longstanding position that trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation should be criminalised as a matter of international law; and, further that any child involved in a commercial sex act is a victim of sexual exploitation, entitled to support, reparations, and remedies, in line with international human rights law, and that states must take all appropriate measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
6. Evidence that some individuals who engage in sex work do so due to marginalisation and limited choices, and that therefore Amnesty International should urge states to take appropriate measures to realize the economic, social and cultural rights of all people so that no person enters sex work against their will, and those who decide to undertake sex work should be able to leave if and when they choose.
7. The obligation of states to protect every individual in their jurisdiction from discriminatory policies, laws and practices, given that the status and experience of being discriminated against are themselves often key factors in what leads people into sex work.
8. States have a duty to ensure that sex workers from groups at risk of discrimination and marginalisation enjoy full and equal protection under relevant international instruments, including for example, those pertaining to the rights of Indigenous Peoples and ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.

I am quoting this here, because Amnesty’s decriminalisation draft policy has been misrepresented repeatedly in the media.

I support decriminalisation because current sex workers say it would make their work safer, allowing them to self-organise in unions for labour rights, facilitating access to health and safety measures, and allowing involvement of the police in the unfortunate situations where they do face sexual or physical violence.

I have taken two actions to support Amnesty’s draft policy on decriminalisation on request of sex workers.

Firstly, I have signed this petition–this takes two minutes, and you don’t really have an excuse not to!

And secondly, I have sent the email below to Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty:

Subject: I support AI’s draft policy on sex work

Dear Mr Shetty,

I am writing to support Amnesty International’s Draft Policy on sex work. I myself have never worked as a sex worker, but like your organisation, I have taken the time to listen to current sex workers talking about what would make their work safer, and reached the conclusion that decriminalisation is the best route towards accepting their dignity and humanity, as well as increasing safety.

I am aware that your organisation has faced a lot of pressure from high-profile individuals who do not respect these principles, and I am writing to express my support for what you are doing. Struggles for human rights often meet with stubborn resistance with those who would rather things remained the same, with some groups pushed to the margins. I have long respected Amnesty’s stance of pushing against this resistance, and I hope that your organisation will stand firm in the face of this and continue to maintain your evidence-based and human rights-focused approach towards sex worker rights.

Many thanks for what you are doing.

I support Bahar Mustafa

Content warning: this post discusses harassment

Goldsmiths Welfare and Diversity Officer, Bahar Mustafa, has upset the right wing press. Her evil crime? Suggesting that women and non-binary people of colour should organise in their own autonomous spaces. The media outlets–coincidentally, owned and run by white men who like to yell over everyone else–are freaking the fuck out over not being welcome everywhere. And, of course, white cis men with “free thinker” in their twitter bios are tediously predictably jumping on the bandwagon that media barons want them to be aboard.

I could go from top to tail about why they’re wrong, but other writers have already said it, and better than I could. I recommend reading these articles by Sam Ambreen and Lola Olufemi, as well as the open letter from Goldsmiths students. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of foolishness coming from Bahar’s detractors.

There is one point I would like to add to the above. Bahar’s detractors are fixated on her ethnicity as a Turkish Cypriot, and keep churning out burbled nonsense about how this makes her the oppressor in Cyprus (and personally responsible for the Armenian genocide). As a Greek Cypriot, let me just say this is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard, and they are mixing up Turkish Cypriots–a Turkish speaking ethnic group who’ve lived on the island for centuries, and the state of Turkey (which perpetrated the Armenian genocide and invaded Cyprus). So, as a Greek Cypriot, these shitbrains really need to stop using me and mine as a shield in their risible crusade against a young woman of colour.

Bahar has done nothing wrong, and everything right. Every screech coming from her detractors strengthens the case that white people must be excluded from BME safe spaces, and men must be excluded from women’s spaces, and that cis white men should basically be excluded from life generally. As a little experiment, tweet the hashtag #supportbaharmustafa, offering your support, and see how many white men reply to you with their absolutely ignorant opinions about what racism is, and their demands to be educated, and the boring and wrong shit about Bahar’s ethnicity, and their #GamerGate hashtagged profiles.

Imagine these people being in the spaces they demand access to, yelling over the real conversation. At best, they’d be demanding to be spoonfed 101 information they could easily google, like squawking gannets. These are people who want everything to be all about them, all the time. They should–and must–be excluded from spaces so that actual organising can be done.

Join me in supporting Bahar Mustafa, for her strong stance on how organising should work. And hear every single detractor proving her more and more right.

P.S. Yep, I’m white. That space isn’t for me. It’s still important, because unlike the pissbabies, I know the world doesn’t revolve around me.

Blurred Party Lines: The dodgy attitude towards consent from the Labour Party

Content warning: This post discusses rape culture and has a dream sequence involving Robin Thicke in which consent is ignored

All I wanted to do was peek at the Labour manifesto, to see if it was awful. I’d thought the Labour website would be the best place to find it. Maybe it is there, or maybe it isn’t. I don’t know, because before I was allowed to view the site, I was presented with this choice:

Labour Thicke

Eagle-eyed readers will spot an option that is missing on this poll: the ability to say “no”. By polling standards, this is therefore a pretty crummy poll. By the standards of basic human decency, this is merely reflective of how consent is usually constructed.

Labour’s framing of the question would not sound out of place if Robin Thicke were canvassing, a red rosette fixed jauntily to his sunglasses. As you try to close the door, his slimy foot slithers in in that classic salesman tactic. Robin Thicke proffers you leaflets, red and yellow. More and more of them, and he begins to stuff them down your throat, incessantly yelling “I KNOW YOU WANT THIS”. You gag, you choke. You cannot breathe. With your fading strength, you nod assent. You tell him you will vote Labour just so he’ll go away.

Nightmares aside, this little snap survey from Labour does betray rather a problematic, yet sadly commonplace attitude towards consent. There is no such thing as a no, only a “maybe” that can be turned into a “yes”. Rape culture is everywhere, and so the idea that “no” is not an option is equally ubiquitous.

It is in the interests of maintaining rape culture to keep the ability to say no off the table. What might seem like an innocent bit of bad polling has the seedy undercurrent of rape culture allowing it to happen in the first place. Perhaps instead of a pink bus, Labour could have demonstrated an understanding of the concept of consent to attract women voters.

Disclaimer: I suspect the content of this blog will appeal to people with political affiliations which isn’t Labour, so allow me to say that as well as Labour being dripping anuses, so are the Green Party, the Tories, the Lib Dems, UKIP, TUSC and all the other tiddly trot parties, the nationalist parties of NI, Scotland and Wales, as well as Mebyon Kernow (who always get forgotten), and also the loyalist parties, and basically, if you’re in a political party, your party’s shit. So there.

On victim blaming and voting

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, because the UK media have been pretty quiet about it, but there’s an election next month. This week is the last week you can register to vote in it. In turn, this means we can expect left-liberals to begin trotting out a particularly insufferable and deeply unpleasant line in order to encourage voter registration.

It goes like this: women, young people, people of colour, disabled people, poor people–basically, any marginalised group you can name–are being fucked over by the government. It’s in their power to change this, if only they go out and vote!

On the face of it, it sounds like your classic harmless liberal drivel, with that fervent belief that the Vote Fairy will change everything if only the right guys get in next time. However, scratch a little deeper, and at its core is victim blaming: it’s your fault the government is doing its damndest to murder you, because you should have voted for the guys who will murder you a bit slower. You had a choice, the liberals say, and you failed to take it.

Rather charitably, I’m going to suggest this argument comes from a place of oblivious privilege rather than a malicious attempt to actually emotionally blackmail vulnerable people into feeling blamed for their fate. There are lots of reasons people don’t vote other than an understanding that absolutely none of the people vying for your vote actually have your interests at heart, or an ideological disdain for the entire sham of representative democracy.

The people who are supposedly to blame for their oppression if they don’t vote are exactly the people who face impediments to voting. Even at the point of registration, for example, trans people are experiencing disenfranchising problems. Registering to vote also requires a level of reading ability, internet access or a stamp, and the time to fill the fucking thing in.

Then there’s the hurdles at the polling station. They’re not necessarily accessible: even with legal protections, last election a lot of disabled voters were failed in very basic requirements, and this is for the bare minimal accessibility standards for people with common physical disabilities. If you have a job or childcare arrangements, it’s going to be a pain in the arse managing to get to the polling station–just because the polls are open from early until late doesn’t mean someone has a chance to go! (and don’t, at this juncture, suggest postal voting: that requires a degree of planning which simply doesn’t fit in with a lot of people’s lives)

The barriers to voting are very real, and for the people being blamed for their own oppression, if not physically insurmountable, certainly psychically so. On one side, there is the right, saying that marginalised people are to blame for their own problems because they’re not trying hard enough to lift themselves out of their oppression. On the other side, the liberal left are saying that these people are to blame for some of their problems because they’re not trying hard enough to vote themselves out of their oppression.

Disengagement is manifest in particular among the groups who have been historically shafted not just by governments, but by society. Disabled people, people of colour, women, young people, poor people, queer people have been scapegoated throughout history. They are being scapegoated once again by those with the power.

If it’s true that a government reflects the society that elected it (I’m not convinced) then this means that unpleasant attitudes towards marginalised people will be present in government for as long as they’re present in society. Of course, it isn’t true that government is like real people: government is overwhelmingly a bunch of white abled cishet men from rich backgrounds. The rest of us look at these people, a ballot card full of these freaks and see them as completely indistinguishable. Even the candidates who aren’t white abled cishet men from rich backgrounds are still toeing party lines–which are, of course, decided by people in parties who come from the same position of privilege as the government and so forth.

Inviting oppressed people to vote is all well and good, but all it achieves is an invitation to be nominally complicit in one’s own oppression. A lot of people are wise to this.

If people want to vote, of course there shouldn’t be barriers in the way, but this goes out to the people who do not and cannot: whatever happens in May is not your fault. The game is stacked, and there are people from all points on the political spectrum who are itching to blame you, because you’ve always been the scapegoat. It’s not your fault, and it never was. 

Tory “volunteer leave” is absolute bollocks and largely unhelpful to charities

Like everyone else, I can’t fucking avoid all this election waffle. It would be nice if, like during the World Cup, news websites had a way of hiding this big event, because almost everything I see annoys the piss out of me.

Today, it’s the Tories rebranding their “Big Society” wiffle with a promise to require large employers to allow workers paid leave to do volunteering. Three days of volunteering leave!

*record scratch*

Three days a year.

Anybody who has worked at a charity will recognise that this is almost entirely unhelpful to how charities work, and the sort of volunteers charities tend to need. I have worked at small charities and have volunteered in the past, and I can see numerous holes in what is being proposed.

Regular volunteers are crucial to how charities operate. Three days a year is nowhere near enough for many of the tasks charities require from volunteers. Regular, reliable volunteers are the lifeblood of the kind of small charity that cannot afford an employee to perform the work that keeps an organisation ticking over. Volunteers are often needed for the less-than-glamorous, time-consuming tasks like updating databases, stuffing envelopes, and so on. This is stuff which paid staff could do themselves, but then they would never get round to doing their actual jobs. It would be ideal if this sort of work was paid, but charities cannot afford it, and I don’t see the government leaping to subsidise this crucial labour.

Volunteers need to be trained. Regular volunteers are better for charities, because, even with clerical office work, the volunteers need to know the ropes. Every organisation functions differently, and just because a volunteer is a wizard with a particular CRM, doesn’t mean they’ll know how one particular charity formats their data. For volunteers delivering a service (Rape Crisis and the Samaritans spring to mind), the training is at an even higher level. Even if just for an event, volunteers need to know their stuff because they’re representing the charity or cause. A level of training is absolutely essential, and of course this is time- and resource-intensive. Under these three-day-a-year Tory proposals, what would happen would be volunteers would receive their training and then just swan off into the sunset with a sense of warm fuzzies.

Volunteers require a whole bundle of paperwork. It’s difficult having volunteers. While charities may vary in their volunteer policies, having a volunteer generates at least a small degree of labour pays off if they stick around. Everyone requires some sort of record of volunteers, but also some charities might require volunteers undergo a DBS check, for example. I have a sneaking suspicion the Tory proposals would generate yet more paperwork for charities, given that I am sure employers will only grant leave for volunteering with documentation that an employee is actually volunteering at a specific place.

Even for big events, it would be nice to have regulars. I get that this proposal isn’t for the type of volunteering desperately needed by small charities. I get that it’s so a load of employees from big businesses can turn up and smile in photos after planting a tree or whatnot. Here’s the thing: a lot of small charities already have people to do that: regular volunteers. The relationship of trust with a regular volunteer is great for small charities, as you know they’re not going to say or do anything terrible when the cameras are pointed at them. Somebody who has only donated three days has not had the time to build this relationship, and there would be this anxiety hanging over the whole thing.

In short, the whole thing is better for employers (who can feel good about letting their employees go off and volunteer) and potential volunteers rather than charities. For the tiny charities who need volunteers the most, these proposals would create a massive headache with little benefit.

Disclaimer: I suspect the content of this blog will appeal to people with political affiliations which aren’t the Tories, so allow me to say that as well as the Tories being dripping anuses, so are the Green Party, Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP, TUSC and all the other tiddly trot parties, the nationalist parties of NI, Scotland and Wales, as well as Mebyon Kernow (who always get forgotten), and also the loyalist parties, and basically, if you’re in a political party, your party’s shit. So there.

I believe Eleanor de Freitas

Content note: This post discusses rape and suicide

Eleanor de Freitas was just 23 years old when she took her life.

Her story started like far too many others. She reported a rape to the police, and the police said there was insufficient evidence. It’s a script as tired as time: inconsistencies, blah blah blah. Unlike most other cases, though, it deviated radically from the script.

The man accused took out a private prosecution against Eleanor de Freitas. He must have been a rich, powerful man to do this. Her solicitors asked the CPS to stop this spiteful action, but the CPS decided to take it up for reasons which are currently completely unclear.

Eleanor de Freitas was a vulnerable woman, with bipolar disorder. She had been receiving counselling for rape. As soon as the summons came, this support was snatched away. Her mental health grew worse, and her psychiatrist deemed her not fit to stand trial.

Three days before the trial was due to start, Eleanor de Freitas took her life.

Her family would like the CPS to address the questions that they have, although so far this request is being blocked. Why did the CPS think it in the public interest to prosecute a sick young woman? Why didn’t they put a stop to the private prosecution that was quite literally killing her, despite its duty to think these things through? Why did they allow her vital counselling to be withdrawn?

The CPS need to address these questions, and their silence speaks volumes. There is something fishy going on.

I am inclined to believe Eleanor de Freitas, knowing what I know about rape and rape culture. I know that the police are fucking terrible at dealing with survivors coming forward, and don’t understand how the stress from trauma can lead to statements they deem “inconsistent”, because that’s how human brains work. I know that men falsely denying having committed rape is vastly more common than women making up false allegations. I know that society is far more inclined to give the men making denials the benefit of the doubt. I know that women with mental health problems are more likely to be disbelieved, thought to be mad.

I believe Eleanor de Freitas, and I want to know why the CPS helped a man to kill her.

__

Update 24/3/15: Men keep leaving comments explaining why one shouldn’t believe Eleanor de Freitas. I’ve not approved them because men get platforms to spout rubbish in all sorts of other places. Anyway, all of their comments make me believe Eleanor de Freitas even more. Their comments boil down to three threads:

  1. Eleanor’s mental health: as discussed earlier, women with mental health problems are less likely to be believed.
  2. Some CCTV evidence or other showing her in the company of the accused after the alleged rape: so? A lot of survivors end up spending time with their rapists. It’s really fucking common. Read this
  3. They are saying Eleanor de Freitas was a sex worker: again, so fucking what? Whether this is true or not, sex workers can also be raped. In fact, sex workers are another group less likely to be believed. 

In short, these comments remind me of Ched Evans supporters. And we all know Ched Evans did it. Every time I see rape apologism crop up, I believe Eleanor de Freitas even more.