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.
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:
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”?
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 Whether it’s through deliberate malice or lazy copy-and-pasting of outdated advice — and I’m strongly inclined to believe it’s the latter in most cases — it couldn’t come at a more opportune time, especially when eyes are on Russia for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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.