How To Not Be A Complete Douchecanoe To Gender Variant People: Pronouns Edition


We’re going to have to get something out of the way before I start this: I didn’t watch the Eurovision this year. Or last year. I think the last time I saw it was either three or four years ago. It was a perfectly pleasant experience, although I generally rather my rare moments of alcohol-induced patriotism come with less Jedward. What I’m getting at here is that while I completely understand the appeal of camp spectacle and national pride, I was perfectly content with my own decision to spend the evening knocking my friends (and bare acquaintances) over in stinky skate gear. We all have our hobbies, y’know?

I have gathered from the internet that this person likes to sing songs and also have fabulous hair on her face as well as on her head.

Anyhoo, even from where I was sitting it was impossible to miss that this year’s winner (or at least, the person everyone’s talking about) is Conchita Wurst. Unable to resist a palaver, I gave ‘er a google and a watch. Aside from having a daycent song (if you like that kind of thing, which I do), Wurst also presents as strikingly gender-variant. And also just plain striking (those eyes!). And while most people are cheerfully (and accurately) exclaiming about how great she is, there’s also the loudmouths who seem to have missed out on how to deal courteously and calmly with the fact that there exist people on this planet whose genders aren’t immediately apparent to bystanders.

This post is for them.

A little note before we start: I, your friendly blogger, am cis. This post is by me. If you read this and then talk to someone who’s not cis and they disagree with me, then for the love of all that’s cute and fluffy listen to them and don’t you dare refer to me to argue with them because I am significantly more likely to be wrong than they are.

That said, let’s go on.

Panic, Chaos, Dogs And Cats Living Together, Nothing In My Life Has Prepared Me For This!

And with that, here’s your friendly message directing you to the Tea Cosy’s new home for the rest of the post. See you there!

Who’s for trans rights?


SolidariTy is a joint initiative by LGBT Noise and Transgender Equality Network Ireland. It’s all about getting cis people- in particular LGBs, but straight cis people should get their butts on board too- to stand up and be counted and support trans people’s rights. They’ve just released a video (yep, that’s me in the blue). Check it out:

I love that something like SolidariTy is happening. It’s not enough for cis people to give quiet thumbs-up to our trans friends and then go on about our lives. Trans people in Ireland don’t have the same rights as cis people do. Trans people are at terrifyingly high risk of being  fired from their jobs, having an even harder time than the rest of us actually getting work in the first place, ostracised from families and communities, denied necessary healthcare, and of suffering from mental health difficulties, self-harm and suicide. Trans people are denied legal gender recognition in this country, and the government’s proposed legislation to remedy this is outdated and damaging. That legislation would force people to divorce, it would force trans kids and teenagers to spend years with documents that don’t match their identities, and it would enshrine the idea that to be trans is to be mentally ill.

That’s no way for our country to treat its citizens, and no way for our society to treat its members. If you’re here in Ireland, keep an eye on SolidariTy to see how you can help change things.

 

Gender Recognition, Feminism, Intolerance, and Food Poverty. Linkspam!


A few things I think everyone should be reading today:

Why society still needs feminism

Just in case you were wondering:

Because to men, a key is a device to open something. For women, it’s a weapon we hold between our fingers when we’re walking alone at night.

..Because a girl was roofied last semester at a local campus bar, and I heard someone say they think she should have been more careful. Being drugged is her fault, not the fault of the person who put drugs in her drink?

..Because out of 7 billion people on the planet, more than 1 billion women will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes. Women and girls have their clitorises cut out, acid thrown on them and broken bottles shoved up them as an act of war. Every second of every day. Every corner of the Earth.

And also, yeah, nobody burns their bras. Not on purpose, anyhow.

Poor little rich girl… Without the rich bit.

If you’re not reading Jack Monroe, you should be. I came for the cheap&tasty recipes, and stayed for the social commentary. And the recipes.

There’s a queer sort of juxtaposition that comes with Being Ms Jack Monroe at the moment.

I spent this afternoon emailing Councillors and other people regarding the recent decision to suspend my Housing Benefit claim based on the (incorrect) assumption that I am sitting on a £25k cheque from my publisher (I’m not) and am sitting on a pile of cheques from newspaper interview and TV appearances (I’m not).

But I was doing that, on the 1414 train from Southend Central to Fenchurch Street, as I’d just been invited to a fundraising dinner by a friend with a spare ticket, via the Soho Food Feast in Soho Square.

But it’s a queer kind of juxtaposition, when you have a beautiful dress to wear to dinner tonight, but on quick inspection of the shoe collection, decide that the soft chiffon dipped hem just won’t go with the shoes you were issued in the Fire Service, your brogues, or your one pair of trainers, so you hang it back in the wardrobe and decide you can’t justify buying a pair of shoes. Not even in the sale at Primark.

Transgender people seek State recognition to escape gender ‘limbo’

Orla Tinsley (who is excellent, by the way, and you should go follow her on Twitter immediately) has managed to do the impossible: write an article about trans* issues in a major national publication that isn’t going to get you a line, never mind a full house, on a trans* discussion bingo card.

Nineteen-year-old student Tyron (he wants to be identified only by his first name) says it is easier to be young and transgender today but the lack of legislation does enable discrimination. “It’s easier than it was and it’s becoming a more known term,” says theNUI Maynooth student, who is currently looking for a job to pay his way through college.

“In interviews I only bring up my gender identity if they want to contact a previous employer,” he says. “Of the last three job interviews, only one was willing to hire a transgender person. The other two said it was not suitable for their working environment.”

It is also extremely important that you click that link in order to admire the extremely stylish tie which Ben borrowed off me for the photo. Yeah, I know, it’s a serious topic. But that’s my tie in the Irish Times!

Is intolerance prevalent in Ireland?

Aileen Donegan- another person with an excellent blog and twitter to follow- in TheJournal. Bet you guess the answer before you click. This, by the way, is a brilliant example of why we need to Shut Up And Listen when we’re privileged. Because otherwise we just don’t see whats going on.

As recently as April I asked a friend ‘Is racism big in Ireland?’ We were attending the same training course on hate speech. I guess my innocent question caught him off guard: ’Yes Aileen, racism is a hugeproblem in Ireland,’ he said with a tone of awe and surprise that offended me. Though Ireland, my home, has never seemed intolerant to me, the last week in news has given me some much-needed insight into Irish attitudes.

…The ECRI quote a disturbing statistic from the All-Ireland Traveller Health Study, which states that 7.6 per cent of Traveller families have no access to running water. Resistance from local residents, and the “lack of political will” of local authorities are cited as reasons why Traveller accommodation is difficult to attain in Irish society. This is hardly surprising. Remember when local residents set fire to a house that Travellers were set to live in?

(By the way? Don’t Read The Comments.)

Disabled man refused entry to nightclub after Scottish Charity Awards

Didja hear the one about the guy who had the police called on him for the crime of trying to get into a nightclub while disabled?

Actor Robert Softley Gale, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, attempted to enter the Polo Lounge in Glasgow with his husband Nathan Gale after attending the Scottish Charity Awards with the Equality Network.

They claim that the bouncers informed them that they could not enter because the nightclub didn’t have disabled facilities.

Despite the couple explaining that they wanted to enter the popular gay nightclub anyway, they say staff continued to refuse to allow them to enter.

“The manager came and said that they didn’t have disabled facilities so they weren’t letting us in,” Nathan told TFN. “We said, you can’t not let us in just because we’re disabled, that’s a violation of the Equality Act, but he still wouldn’t let us in.”

Charming. Oh, and Robert Softley Gale is yet another person to follow on Twitter. You guys, it’s all about the Twitter today. And speaking of disability and ableism, have something from Captain Awkward:

#487: I use a wheelchair, and people are condescending as fuck.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m woman in my late 30s who uses a power wheelchair due to a medical condition that causes severe physical fatigue.

Often, strangers – retail staff, waitstaff, members of the general public – assume that because I use a power wheelchair, I have an intellectual disability. I don’t. I have a university degree and I read widely.

How should I respond to people:

– talking loudly to me;
– talking to me in a sing-song voice;
– being condescending/patronizing;
– calling me love/sweetie;
– telling me that I remind them of their 12 year old daughter with Down syndrome;
– praising me for putting rubbish in a rubbish bin as though I’ve won a gold medal at the Olympics;
– telling me that you eat cupcakes?

Signed,

Smart Crip Girl

You know that you want to hear what the Captain has to say.

A Racist B&B?

Speaking of intolerance, Tara Flynn’s husband got an unpleasant reminder that Ireland isn’t above blatant racism lately. Here’s what happened then:

On a recent trip home, I got a reminder that Ireland Of The Welcomes can be conditional.  By now very familiar with Kinsale, my husband offered to take the dog out for his last walk of the night. I sat chatting with my mum. 20 minutes later, my husband returned. He looked angry. “Well,” he said, “I haven’t been called those names in a while.” A group of young people standing outside a bar in the centre of town had shouted racist epithets at him. Some of those epithets have made it into my clip but we’ve decided to cover them with sound effects. They’re just too vile. They are shocking in the abstract and absolutely horrifying when applied to someone I love. In my hometown. In 2013.

My husband is a tolerant person. He just stared the namecallers down and they – like most cowards – shut up when faced with this silent challenge. He tried to laugh it off in the re-telling, saying it wasn’t his first time and that he’d heard worse. But that’s not the point.  I was mortified. Stunned. Fuming.

So I wrote a sketch about it.

 

One more thing

That’s all the links I’ve got for ya, but one more little thinglet before I go. Nominations have just opened for 2013’s Irish Blog Awards! Now, I’m not saying that you should immediately go and nominate me- I’m far too Irish for that sort of carry-on. Although I’ll admit that I do like getting the chance to dress up fancy and eat free canapes and photobomb legit fancy people. But shure have a think about who your favourite Irish bloggers are- I’m lookin’ at you, Geoff’s Shorts– and give a nomination to the people who deserve a bit of recognition. Remember: attention is to bloggers what money is to everyone else.

Poverty. Happiness. Nice things. A side of transphobia (of course).


TW for transphobia, classism

A few days ago, a good friend of mine sent out an Amazon wishlist to her online friends and followers. She’s a little bit broke after moving house, and although she can afford the basics of food and rent there’s a few things she wanted that would help her to get through the winter. So she figured she’d ask if anyone could help her out. And was really, really clear that she wasn’t about to make a big deal of things or guilt anyone:

Let me level with you: I’m not in a situation of extreme need, hence why I’m not asking for donations. There’s people out there that need the money way more than I do, and I’m not going to freeze or starve this winter. But truth is, aside from food/bill/rent money, I’m kinda hella broke. My benefits haven’t come through, and I need some stuff for winter. If you feel generous enough to get me something from this Amazon wish list, I’ll be very grateful. And if you could reblog this, that’d be fantastic. Thanks!

The list had things on it like bedding, an electric blanket, a desk to work on. There might have been a thermos in there too. The kind of things that, although not absolutely essential, can make a major difference between just barely getting by and feeling at home. I gather, by the way, that people chipped in for her and she’s going to have a lovely cosy winter with the internet’s housewarming presents. Which is wonderful, ’cause she’s moved Way Up North and it’s chilly up there.

And then she got this anonymous response. By the way, I think that at this stage she’d gotten everything she needed, and this person was looking at some other, more whimsical wishlists she had lying about:

Anonymous asked: so you have money for everything you need except LUXURY items like books and you think its alright as a grown person to ask people on the net to buy you non-necessities? what a spoilt privileged person you must be to think that’s ok. probably because you spent the majority of your life as a man.

So my friend had her response to this. Which seems to me to be about right, and I’m impressed that she only told Anon to fuck off once. Admirable restraint, that. I have a few things that I’d like to unpack in more detail, though.

A portal icon for Portal:Transgender, based on...

The Gender Thing

what a spoilt privileged person you must be to think that’s ok. probably because you spent the majority of your life as a man.

It seems that this person is under the impression that there is no difference between trans women and cis men, or between privilege and passing privilege. I’m going to assume that my readers have at least a basic knowledge of Trans 101- if you don’t, then check out this and then read the hell out of this. The difference between privilege and passing privilege, though, I’ll take a shot at explaining myself with a slightly different analogy.

Let’s say that you have two people- let’s call them Alex and Sam. Alex is straight, and Sam is queer and closeted. Sam isn’t even out to themselves. They live in a pretty homophobic place. Both of them get assumed to be straight. Even though Sam isn’t out in the slightest, the privilege Sam gets is conditional. It’s based on something that is assumed that isn’t actually true. In addition, even if Sam isn’t even out to themselves, they’ll likely on some level be internalising their community’s homophobia in a different and more damaging way than Alex does. For Alex, homophobia is something that happens to other people. For Sam, there’s probably something just a bit discomforting about the whole thing. Something isn’t quite right.

It’s easy to accept this when we talk about queerness and straightness. Being a closeted queer is something that people understand- it’s something that’s gotten into the popular dialogue. We haven’t really caught on to the similar narratives about gender, though. Probably because transness is expected to be a thing that someone Always Knows. Trans people don’t get the same social pass that queers do to actually be uncertain and questioning, and yet affected by transphobia. So where you wouldn’t generally say that a queer person “lived as straight” until they came out, this charming person seems to think it’s okay to make a similar accusation to a trans person.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that going around referring to trans women as having been men for most of their lives is Seriously Fucked Up. Oh, and it’s also a silencing tactic that transphobes have been using against trans women for decades. If a trans woman actually speaks up for herself, takes up space or defends herself, you see, she gets accused of being aggressive and masculine. It’s the oldest- and one of the meaner- tricks in the book.

Sunday morning pleasures

Sunday morning pleasures (Photo credit: The hills are alive)

The Poor People Can’t Have Nice Things Thing

Y’know what’s another mean one? Poor People Can’t Have Nice Things, Ever. People who aren’t financially well-off, you see, are expected to only spend our money on wholesome and socially-approved things. Cheap yet healthy food, for example. Preferably the kind that takes lots of time to prepare in rustic sorts of ways. Tons of misshapen veggies and a load of beans to make into vats of soup is fine. Spending the same money on a giant stack of cheapass pizzas that’ll take a tenth the work to cook and provide more calories? Not fine. Poor people don’t get to relax. When poor people relax, we call that laziness, even if they’ve been out working all day. And poor people are supposed to spend any leftover money on important, long-term goals. Saving what little money you have left is great. Buying something fun? That makes you a Scrounger, and probably someone who Doesn’t Deserve Better. You can’t be a Scrounger. You definitely don’t want to be both Lazy and a Scrounger. Then you’re nothing more than the scum of the earth.

If someone who’s poor- or even just broke- dares to ask for nice things? Well, they must be an Entitled Lazy Scrounger. The worst kind, really. Poor people, you see, don’t get to have hobbies or to relax or spend any of their time doing anything but working their asses off to become respectable middle-class people with nice big incomes. Once you become one of those, you’re allowed to eat pizza and play video games and read books all you like.

Of course! Respectably-off middle class people are expected to have fun. Not poor people. Not broke people.

Poor people are supposed to shut up and start spending their lives sacrificing so that they (or maybe their children) can be respectable middle-class people. Trans people are expected to just shut up, period. And if you dare to- politely, casually, without pressuring anyone- ask for things, you’d better believe that they’ll use who you are against you. After all, if they won’t dig in where it hurts, how else are they supposed to keep you (we/us) quiet?

On another Transgender Day of Remembrance


Many of us feel lucky to have the loved ones that we do. We meet people who are sweet and kind and who we ‘click’ with, who bring joy into our lives and we appreciate the hell out of them. We find people whose differences and commonalities mesh with ours, with strengths and weaknesses that complement ours, and we cherish absolutely what they bring to our lives. We gather our Team Us. We love each other, we help each other out, we have fun together and support each other when things get rough. And whether things are good or bad, we know that we’re immensely lucky to share our lives with those we love.

I guess that a lot of us feel like we’re luckier than most in that respect- after all, we’re one of a tiny proportion of people in the world who get to live our lives with the people that we love.

Today, though, I do feel luckier than most. I wish that it didn’t have to be that way. Today is the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, you see, when we take time to mourn and recognise all of the trans* people who should be here with us today, but who have been killed by transphobia in the past year. Everyone who was murdered because of how their gender was perceived. Everyone who was driven to suicide by this transphobic, ciscentric society that we live in. Every year we do this, and every year I want to hold the trans* people who I love just that little bit closer. Because we’ve all survived another year. Because those who I love have been spared.

Isn’t that selfish? I guess that we’re all a little bit selfish. We all love who we love, and though we care for those outside that little group, it’s the loss of our family, friends and lovers that tears at our guts and rips our lives apart. So every year on November 20th I feel a little bit lucky. The people I love are still here.

It’s a cruel kind of luck, and one that nobody should have to feel.

Like most of us, I’ve said goodbye to people I love over the years. They’ve died in different circumstances. Some after long years of illness. Some after short months or weeks. Some expected, some unexpected. Some peacefully, some in pain. The loss of every single one of them tore- and tears- my heart apart. But there’s one thing that is common to every one of them that I will always take comfort from. Every one of them died knowing that they were dearly loved. Everything that we could do to ease their suffering was done. They didn’t want for a hand to hold. They were cherished as they died.

Nobody can tell how each of us will end our lives. But that one simple thing- that in our last moments we know that we are loved and cherished, and that if there is any way to ease our suffering it will be done- is something that we can hope for everyone we care for. It’s the one thing that we can do.

Too many of our trans* community are denied that.

So every year on November 20th we gather and we take time to remember the trans* people who didn’t make it this far. Whose last moments were hatred, violence, contempt. Whose deaths were nothing but sport for those for whom their lives meant less than nothing. The latest victims in our wars of privilege and oppression. The overwhelming numbers of, in particular, poor trans* women of colour, caught in the crossfire of too many intersections of hate. We gather together in the cold. Send short-lived, brightly burning lights into the darkness.

And every year I hold my loved ones closer.


In your tweets, you say that people like me should not be able to access women’s bathrooms. I imagine you expect me to go into the men’s toilets. Roseanne, are you aware of the violence statistics for trans people in America alone? The fact that a majority of young trans people report verbal and physical harassment, and a third of trans youth have considered suicide? Given the violent misogyny prevalent in American society today, that if someone perceived as ‘a man dressed as a woman’, or someone simply perceived as female or feminine, entered a male-dominated space, do you honestly believe they would not face violence? Did you know that there were 17 recorded murders of trans people in America alone in 2011?

We are just going to the toilet, Roseanne. We’re not there to molest kids. You’ve brought up NAMBLA, and how you fought against their inclusion under the Gay/Lesbian banner back in the day. Good. I despise NAMBLA. I’m glad you did that work and I’m thankful for it! But, I ask, why do you bring it up? Are you implying allowing trans women into women’s restrooms is the same as opening the door to child molesters, rapists and paedophiles?

From my amazing BFF Ariel, over at Feminist Ire.

Feminist Ire

Dear Roseanne,

My name is Ariel Silvera, I’m a latina from Buenos Aires, Argentina who has lived around the UK and Ireland for the past 11 years. I am also a feminist trans woman. Now that the election is over, I hope you’ll have time to take a look at this letter.

I’m going to admit I’m not as familiar with your work as I should be. I never watched your famous show, although a good number of my friends of mine swear by it. I’ve occasionally seen you say some quite brilliant things in terms of politics, and my perception of you until now has been one of a rather kickass woman. So, I’m writing this out of disappointment regarding your recent comments about trans women. From a feminist to another feminist.

I want to start with a reality check. I like talking about material reality, about things that actually…

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Dail Eireann and the Amazing Time Travelling Gender Recognition Legislation


Check out my latest post over at Gaelick!

like Skywalker and Baggins before her, Lydia went on a quest. Through the courts of the land – for this is where such battles took place – she voyaged. When her first case failed, she traveled even further afield to Strasbourg. Here, she finally seemed to achieve her goal when ten full years after she had begun, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the state had “failed to provide for ‘meaningful recognition’ of her female identity”. Surely with this, she could go home and get on with her life, secure in the knowledge that her state would now start recognising her identity?
But this story, like many a much more profitable franchise before it, just wouldn’t end. Five long years have passed since Lydia Foy won her case in Strasbourg. And like the series that just kept going on and on and on, the Irish Government’s plans for gender recognition legislation never quite come to fruition. Every year we’re told that they are oh-so-close to being ready.