There are so many stories of queer people being harassed on a daily basis that I cannot catalogue them all. I wish I could, but I am the only person who (poorly) maintains this blog. So apologies for this being my first signal-boosting post.
A friend of mine named River was barred from using the women’s toilets in the St James Centre, an Edinburgh shopping centre, by one of the security guards. She was also harassed by the security guard and humiliated into leaving the building. The wording in the article pertaining to trans* people is dreadful but I’m glad it’s getting any coverage at all. It’s rare for newspapers to care.
River receives transphobic abuse on a daily basis and the police have continuously failed to take her seriously. She has little hope for them treating this as seriously as it should be. If you can, please make people aware of this. Edinburgh people, I would also encourage you to join me in boycotting the St James Centre.
Apologies for the months of absence. Finishing my course and personal health have been factors, but the main thing has been that I experienced bad burnout in relation to queer activism.
As some of you may know, I was involved in projects aiming to educate young people about the issues faced by young LGBTQ+ people, particularly surrounding mental health, transphobia and domestic violence. However, it quickly turned into “for allies”. Which is all well and good to educate but it started to feel more like things were aimed to support allies rather than support young LGBTQ+ people. Trying to bring this up was like hitting a dead end; “educating” seemed to simply be “talking to allies” rather than empowering the young people we were focusing on.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that the organisation had included an ignorant “ally” in a position of power. This person used slurs (homophobic, transphobic, ableist) and complained constantly about “heterophobia”. The idea that this cisgender, heterosexual person was experiencing the same opression and discrimination as queer people do was infuriating but we were told to deal with it. Any reporting resulted in me being chasitised for trying to make our space queer-exclusive, despite the fact that this person was also hitting out with ableist slurs and garbage about “Catholic persecution”. The heads of the organisation wanted nothing to do with it- they ticked all the boxes and wouldn’t argue back because they had no understanding of what it was like to be queer. I stood by and listened to comments about how trans* people getting en suite bathrooms at events was preferential treatment, as well as erasure about their sexualities. Really, I should’ve quit when workers failed to do anything after I complained about being kept up until 3am at one event being questioned as to how I could be queer, and proved wrong. Another issue was them reccuringly allowing a transphobic cisgender gay man to repeatedly take part and ignored how uncomfortable the trans* people were made to feel. I felt like this was me making a big deal out of nothing and I should just get over it. It was difficult.
In the end I left. I shied away from any kind of queer-related things save from one Pride event, which felt more like a day out with friends instead of anything else. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to take part in anything because I wasn’t abiding by the rules set out by an organisation, and it made me feel like a “bad queer”. I’m used to a world of organised, funded, safe-for-work activism that doesn’t cause any real conflict. Feeling that I’d done something wrong by standing up for myself made me feel awful, and in turn made me keep away from something that I had been previously heavily involved in. It wasn’t a good time.
The realisation hit me that I was having what kind of queer activism is socially appropriate, and what to do for others rather than for myself. It made me angry; my passion, my talent and my skills used to forward an organisation rather than help me. It also made me angry at myself; “building a network” meant running around after politicians and people in power trying to please them on their terms, rather than making them listen, and “activism” meant nodding in agreement while someone spoke for me and occassionally being trotted out as an example. I let myself become stuck in a world of branding and begging.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been talking with people about the situation. Many of them have been shocked, and most have commented on how they think I’ve been treated poorly. I hate to admit it, but sometimes that’s a confidence boost I need. Furthermore, I also had them tell me that they’d learned from what I write and blog; that I had successfully managed to educate people without bending what I was writing to fit someone else’s guidelines or agenda. Realising this has made me think over things. I don’t want to stop participating in queer activism, but I need to actually do it for what it is. Not be in a situation where I get awards for how many signatures I collect, how many people I kiss up to, or for how well I nod along. I want to help create awareness of queer issues, not downplay them and let myself be walked over because it seems like the right way about it. I don’t want to be part of this branded pride culture.
What has this taught me? I need to keep going. I need to accept that not everybody will agree with my opinions all the time, but I need to try my hardest to present all the evidence and maybe I can change minds. Maybe I can help. I don’t have to do this with the approval of an organisation or a brand. I can do this for myself.
Happy International Women’s Day!
As usual, there has been plenty of whining on social networking sites about International Men’s Day being ignored (November 19th, or the rest of the year depending on how you view it) and arguments ranging from feminism being irrelevant to today’s society (garbage) to who even counts as a woman. With this in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to share an incident from a class last week.
On a Friday afternoon I have a three-hour sociology lecturer. The topic was feminist perspectives on the media; liberal, radical and socialist. Our lecturer herself considers herself a feminist, and I’ve been enjoying her lectures so far. This sounded great to me. Two hours into it, I wasn’t disappointed. The discussions had been good and the content had been fantastic. However, it started to go downhill.
For some reason the topic of trans* women had come up. I’d been busy taking notes and she was talking on the other side of the room and I happened to tune back in. She was talking about another student, a trans* woman, with male pronouns. She outed this person without their permission. She started ranting about how they “looked male”, which is the point I decided to interject. I tried my best to stay calm and explain the differences between gender and sex. To explain what transphobia is and how she was perpatrating it. The lecturer scoffed and started mocking the idea, making a show out of how it was apparently too confusing to comprehend. She stopped me while I explained the idea of a gender spectrum to tell me that she believed gender was a social construct. Then, before quickly moving on and cutting the argument short, used a confusing explanation about how sex had to determine a person’s gender as it was otherwise constructed. The implication that trans* women were infiltrators was there, even if not out rightly said.
If you can’t accept a trans* woman as a woman, you are not committed to equality for all women. If you define any trans* person by their genitals then you are transphobic. If you are really so willing to forget the T, you may want to re-evaluate your stance as a feminist.
I’ll confess, I’m a Tumblr user. It’s a purely personal piece of social networking, and sometimes I post opinions on there. A couple of lines of text if I’m happy or not. What I’m going to post here can also be found on my account there, because I think this is something worth being addressed. A apologise in advance for only using LGBTQ+ in reply; it seemed right with regards to who the ally coalition supports, but I understand it’s not in tone with what I use normally.
If you want to have a look and see who Rachel Antonoff is, she’s part of The Ally Coalition. As far as I can tell it’s some kind of organisation between her and the band fun., furthering their careers by knowing a very minimal amount of LGBTQ+ history and issues. They also use “gay” and “LGBTQ+” interchangeably. To be blunt? People wanting recognition for having a basic level of respect for other people.
After posting something similar to that on my Tumblr account I recieved this message this morning:
Needless to say, I wasn’t amused at all. I’m a queer person being told to shut up by a person who is supposed to be helping me stand up for my rights. After angry ranting to friends, I worded a reply. I feel like sharing it here is appropriate.
I do not owe you, or any other ally (organisation or person), positivity. I live in a world where your voice is going to be heard over mine, due to other people’s prejudices or simply because allies have a habit of talking for queer people. If I see someone, especially someone who will be percieved as trying to
Do you know how difficult it is to live as an LGBTQ+ person in our society? Yes, rights have moved on in the past couple of decades. Yes, places are approving of same-sex marriage (reffered to as “gay marriage” by TAC, helpfully ignoring the existence of LBT+ people) but that doesn’t mean the end to homophobia/biphobia/transphobia. People are still discriminated and assaulted for their sexualities and gender identities. It’s not all about getting married or how love is love. There are high rates of mental illness among LGBTQ+ people, LGBTQ+ young people are at a higher risk of homelessness than straight people their age.
You are an ally. You don’t understand that. You may simply have an idea but you don’t have to live with it. You can choose to ignore this kind of stuff whenever you want because it doesn’t affect you. You’ll never have to face coming out to a homophobic parent, being told you’re a bad person for something that’s part of you or risking your safety by going out in public not “looking like your gender”. You may get a few nasty words, but you can walk away from that. You are not in danger. You are not at risk.
I get that you want to further your own career. Using queer people to do that is despicable. I would believe you genuinely cared about the rights of LGBTQ+ people if your website seemed to have any information beyond “YAY GAYS ARE COOL”, and wasn’t by allies for allies. Labelling yourself an ally is incredibly self-important and wanting praise for having a basic level of respect for people slightly different to you.
As an ally, you do not have the right to talk over people like me. It is not about you. Believe it or not, there are plenty of people out there who do help towards LGBTQ+ equality. They join in protests, they sign forms, they donate money. Do you know why they’re not heard of or don’t make a big deal out of it? It’s a basic level of decency towards other people. They don’t expect recognition for . They take a back seat and acknowledge they want to help but that the important voices to be heard are those of the people struggling for the equality. Not take bad Instagram’d photos of themselves holding signs about how important they are.
You say you’ve educated yourself. I’m telling you that you haven’t and that you’re trying to speak over people who don’t need your misguided attempts at help. Instead of creating something new, lend your support to one of the many other under-represented charities that directly help L, G, B, T, Q and + people. You look and sound insincere.
I do not speak for every single queer person. However, just one look at blog posts about The Ally Coalition will let you see that there are many of us who feel the same way.
I’m curious to see if I will get any further replies. I certainly can’t stand The Ally Coalition, that’s for sure.
As I’ve said before, I find the idea of allowing same-sex marriage (and mixed-sex civil partnerships) important. Not simply because I am in a long-term relationship and would like to marry my partner one day and have said marriage recognised in the country we both live in, but because of the attitudes it could change. We may not see it now, but there’ll end up being a generation raised where same-sex marriage will be seen as the same as mixed-sex marriages. Imagine that.
While Scotland’s bill has been by and large ignored by the media in all senses, the lead up to the vote has seen some horrendous prejudice. Detached politicians, representing their own views and rarely those of their constituency, are reported making disgusting comments daily. Using passages from religious texts out of context. Using procreation arguments when there are plenty of cisgender, heterosexual couples also unable to reproduce. It goes on and on.
One of my largest concerns is the erasure of trans* people in the whole situation. Scotland’s bill would currently, quite simply, exclude trans* people from marriage. Hence my support for mixed-sex civil partnership; it means no divorces simply because a person wants to change the sex on their birth certificate.
Apologies for a very disjointed blog. Today’s events are setting me on edge, and a person can only deal with having their very being attacked so much before it starts to wear them down. I am not ashamed of who I am, but being repeatedly attacked and watching it happen to others like myself takes a toll.
Today, anti-equal marriage protesters appeared on my doorstep. A married, middle-aged couple with grey hair, some leaflets and their petition. They told me they were from “the church”, but I’m not sure exactly what church. I think, judging on their leaflets and petition, they may not actually be carrying this out on behalf of a church. I immediately didn’t warm to their constant use of the word “dear”, but I thought I’d do what I usually do when religious people show up on my doorstep; let them tell me who they are and politely tell them I’m not interested. However, when they started explaining they were collecting signatures to “protect marriage from gay government” I was so shocked that I started laughing. Loudly. I then bluntly told them to piss off and closed the door. Far from polite and no help to my cause, but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I went inside and phoned my boyfriend to laugh about it.
Afterwards though, I began to think. I had people show up at my house today to tell me they don’t think I deserve the right to be married. That there is something wrong with me based on my sexuality. I can’t watch television, read a paper or go online without seeing an attack like this. I see it and hear it in the street sometimes. These people just proved to me that not even in my own home am I safe from bigoted ideas of people with more power. My safe space isn’t free of people telling me that I am not okay.
So, in light of this, I’m going to urge any Scottish readers to respond to the Scottish government’s consultation on the draft of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) bill. If you don’t live in Scotland? Signal boosting is great. There is opposition and, while I don’t think they are particularly large, they are loud. The first draft has been far from perfect, and has not covered some of what was being campaigned for. We need to push for more, and make ourselves heard.
Equal marriage won’t stop homophobia or transphobia. It doesn’t mean LGBTPQ+ people would suddenly be free of discrimination. It does, however, mean that there is a chance to influence future generations and their attitudes towards these issues.
One thing I am always asked when I say I run blogs is why? Why would I pour effort into something that is unlikely to gain much, if any, attention?
The answer is simple: I want this information to be accessible somewhere. Perhaps it’s a little self-serving, but LGBTQ+ people are vastly under-represented in the media. We are forced to fit boxes, perceived to be a set of stereotypes and often only dragged out to be demonised or used as a sob story. The two weeks alone have proven that sanctioned transphobia is still a current thing, and that absolute rags are still allowed to publish hatred. Yet we’re told to be apathetic and “deal with it”.
Why should I sit back and stay silent about that? Why should I just accept this is the order of things and not complain? I’m not going to. I don’t recommend it to anybody else either. We all have voices; very few of us ever get to be heard.
So, I hope you enjoy my writing because this is something that means a lot to me.