Appropriating equality

There’s been a flurry of news sto­ries in the past week, most likely to coin­cide with the country’s first same-sex mar­riages start­ing next Sat­ur­day, regard­ing how the bill came to pass. Firstly, we had tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity Paul O’Grady describe David Cameron as a “twat” and state the Lib Dems were “as much use as men’s tits”. Then, a few days later, Ben Sum­mer­skill tried (very uncon­vinc­ingly) to attack the Lib Dems for being “oppor­tunis­tic” on same-sex mar­riage. And finally, Tony Blair said that “in hind­sight”, he would’ve pushed for mar­riage equal­ity whilst Prime Min­is­ter. All this leads me to think one thing: both Labour and Stonewall seem to be very keen to take the credit on LGBT equal­ity, espe­cially with a gen­eral elec­tion round the cor­ner. But this credit is per­haps unde­served, espe­cially as they both seem to have done every­thing they could to stall it.

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My speech on digital freedom to the Liberal Democrat Conference

Mak­ing your first speech at a polit­i­cal con­fer­ence is tough, espe­cially when you know that the media are watch­ing you as well as del­e­gates there. That didn’t stop me, as a first-time con­fer­ence attendee, from mak­ing a speech to the Lib Dem Spring Con­fer­ence in York last Sun­day, on the Dig­i­tal Bill of Rights motion. Hav­ing been per­suaded to by Julian Hup­pert and Tim Far­ron to men­tion dig­i­tal free­dom at Con­fer­ence, I decided to make such a speech, which I repro­duce below:

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Deconstructing “male violence”

I know the statistics.

I know that when a woman is attacked, it’s often at the hands of a man. The same applies for when she is raped, or killed. And that goes dou­bly so for trans peo­ple. Our mur­der­ers tend to be, more often than not, men.

And it has an effect on some women, includ­ing myself. Try as I might, even though I know that most men mean me no harm, I can’t be com­fort­able around men the way I can be com­fort­able around women. It’s a fear that crip­ples many of us.

So why, then, do I feel so much wary about the term “male violence”?

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Section 28, or, how to start a revolution from your bedroom

As every­one will no doubt be aware by now, espe­cially through the Independent’s front page on Tues­day, 45 schools stood accused of rein­tro­duc­ing the homo­pho­bic Sec­tion 28 through their sex and rela­tion­ship edu­ca­tion poli­cies. Whether it’s through delib­er­ate mal­ice or lazy copy-and-pasting of out­dated advice — and I’m strongly inclined to believe it’s the lat­ter in most cases — it couldn’t come at a more oppor­tune time, espe­cially when eyes are on Rus­sia for their sim­i­lar (but much more enforced) law on “homo­sex­ual pro­pa­ganda” and in the wake of a pro­tracted mar­riage equal­ity debate where sev­eral reac­tionar­ies were claim­ing, above NUT advice, that teach­ers were in dan­ger of being forced to teach about homosexuality!

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Equal marriage is a transgender issue

Some­thing I note with some despair is the asser­tion that mar­riage equal­ity is not a trans­gen­der issue. The argu­ment goes that it’s pri­mar­ily an LGB issue and trans peo­ple only get con­se­quen­tial ben­e­fits from it. Well, that’s not really accu­rate, as our his­tory, and the his­tory of oth­ers, shows.

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The spousal veto is still a veto, even if you pretend it isn’t

So, the Mar­riage (Same Sex Cou­ples) Act got given Royal Assent yes­ter­day and, while I’m happy at the gen­eral idea of peo­ple in same-gender mar­riages being able to marry, I’m not singing Danc­ing Queen and wav­ing my pride flag just yet. Because the leg­is­la­tion con­tains a rather insid­i­ous prej­u­diced open secret: the spousal veto. The lovely Sarah Brown, who should be thanked for her tire­less cam­paign­ing for trans mar­riage equal­ity, has a bril­liant blog post about it here. I don’t want to dupli­cate her too much, so if you haven’t read it, do so now. And while gov­ern­ment min­is­ters and even some oppo­si­tion MPs alike are pre­tend­ing it’s not a veto, the way it works means it is.

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Are you Jason? Wotever, I don’t care.

Two weeks ago, fresh from pre­sent­ing at the hate rally that was Rad­Fem 2013, Cathy “Bug” Bren­nan made a trip with some fel­low trans­pho­bes to a bar in Lon­don to watch some gay cabaret, at which point she was ejected for being a les­bian, as she claims. This in indica­tive of les­bo­pho­bia in British cul­ture run amok, with the trans cabal of het­ero­sex­ual men run­ning the LGBT show.

Except, you know, that’s the oppo­site of what happened.

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On owning your history

Peo­ple who have known me for a while, who have read this blog, or have fol­lowed me on twit­ter will know that I’ve not always been the inter­sec­tional anarcha-feminist I try to be these days. I used to be, espe­cially a cou­ple of years ago, an apol­o­gist for the forces of aus­ter­ity. And while I could go down the route of some cam­paign­ers on the Left, pre­tend I never said that, pre­tend I was born on a moun­tain with a dou­ble rain­bow in the sky when the angels sang my her­alds, it’d be duplic­i­tive and untrue. I’m human, and I’m flawed. And I think it would be much more hon­est to own my his­tory as an activist.

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RadFem 2013 correspondence

With this weekend’s RadFem2013 con­fer­ence, there has been size­able con­tro­versy due to it tak­ing place at the Cam­den Cen­tre, which is a con­fer­ence venue owned by the Lon­don Bor­ough of Cam­den Coun­cil. Because of this, sev­eral peo­ple, includ­ing myself, have FOIed the coun­cil for doc­u­ments relat­ing to the book­ing. While we’re wait­ing for that, one of the coun­cil­lors for the ward the cen­tre is in — Sarah Hay­ward, Leader of the Coun­cil and one of the three coun­cil­lors for Kings Cross — has been rather help­ful in elab­o­rat­ing some of the council’s rea­sons over the week­end. With her per­mis­sion, I am pub­lish­ing the correspondence.

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Queer elephants in the room

This is the third, and most likely the last, post in a series of recent posts about fem­i­nist cir­cles; the first was a rather the­o­ret­i­cal post on the roots and prob­lems within neo­rad­i­cal com­mu­ni­ties, the sec­ond then fol­lowed on and talked about polit­i­cal acts of sex­u­al­ity. This third post looks at prob­lems within queer fem­i­nist and oth­er­wise queer cir­cles, and how we can fix them. Some of this is inspired by a blog post/talk called “Com­mu­ni­ties Built on Exclu­sion”, which has since been taken down, itself par­tially inspired by the Jo Free­man essay The Tyranny of Struc­ture­less­ness.

I iden­tify as queer, and more or less, I do enjoy queer spaces. How­ever, as a trans woman, I do some­times feel unsafe too. Queer spaces are good as a bul­wark against patri­ar­chal forces, but we must recog­nise that we can­not escape patri­archy and even choices to reject patri­archy may rein­force it. With this post, as I know many peo­ple who are as queer as I am, I would like to empha­sise more than most that no harm is meant by this post; indeed, I would like a safer space for myself, as a trans woman, within queer spaces. Because these are issues that we, as queers, do need to recognise.

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