Sorry, but Corbyn’s movement isn’t for me.

In the wake of Trump and Brexit, one notable reaction has been to shout at marginalised people and tell them off if they say ‘the working class is racist/LGBTphobic/misogynistic’. The truth is clear though: it is. Both Brexit and Trump were elevated on xenophobic, racist and LGBTphobic platforms. It’s no surprise that hate crimes in the UK and US have soared as a result, and the stats show that these were both platforms that white cishets voted for.

The working class is just as racist and LGBTQphobic as the middle, and upper classes. The only difference is that working class movements tackle poverty and LGBTQ people, migrants and people of colour are far more likely to be in poverty. The base philosophy inevitably brings marginalised people with it, but it feels reluctant, as though marginalised people are only included because they have to be.

Corbyn has only just started to realise Trump’s anti establishment platform was an elaborate con, but in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election he was more than happy to claim that Trump was about sticking it to the establishment. His response was weak. White supremacy and cis het oppression of LGBTQ+ people was barely muttered. It was left to Sturgeon and Merkel, who are far more centrist, to recognise marginalised people.

Corbyn’s movement is surely inclusive. People who never got involved in politics before suddenly are. There are plenty of marginalised people who support him for his positions and feel he will be good for oppressed people and I’m glad they believe in him. I don’t want to be simply included though. I want queer liberation and to see an end to white supremacy. I want a movement that challenges racism, LGBTQ+phobia, misogynoir, transmisogyny, biphobia, bierasure and islamophobia front and centre. I don’t want it to be something that inevitably gets dragged with the movement, but something proudly fought.

Cries that we shouldn’t attack the working class for prejudice is a tactic designed to generate complicity and keep the movement stable to fight solely on issues of class at the cost of the voice and respect of marginalised people. But class isn’t everything. Poverty is a vital issue that needs to be tackled, but in history, there have been plenty of working class movements that have managed to fight for those in poverty but have seen LGBTQ+ issues as frivolous and a bourgeois conspiracy, or have engaged in racism. No, marginalised people should never have to put up and shut up, no matter what the cause.

I’ll wish Corbyn well against May. I’ll support my many, many friends who have taken Corbyn into their hearts but it doesn’t feel like a place for me. I don’t know how to begin to get bi issues recognised in those spaces, and hell, I barely know how to talk about my gender at the best of times and there’s no way it feels any more safe in left wing spaces. Trying to get anything other than a class analysis from the election results (even though the vote was clearly about identity, race and LGBTQphobia) is like pulling teeth. Regardless of evidence, left wing cishets just don’t get it. You can show that the working class is made up of people of colour too and they all voted for HRC and they’ll still insist it was a class revolution – even though Trump was voted for by white people of all classes, and there’s allegations of Russian interference. They just don’t get it. And they don’t want to get it, because to them it only ever comes back to class. Yet when sexuality, gender and race are key factors on whether someone will be in poverty, any class analysis that doesn’t highlight these facets of identity is not only useless but deliberately erasive and designed to keep marginalised people down.

I don’t know what the answer is. My faith in the political process is waning but I know that trying to stop conversations around prejudice and discrimination in the working class isn’t the way forward. I can’t support a movement that tries to push people out. On the one side of the left, there’s those who’ll do nothing about poverty and the horrendous treatment of disabled people in the UK, but on the other it feels like watching a movement from the sidelines. If the left wants to win, it needs to be better. In both the Brexit and Trump votes it was the white cishet working class that failed. The left needs to sort its own house out if it ever wants to challenge inequality.

We need to start calling it fascism

What they voted for

With every election shock there is one period that dominates the next few weeks: blaming the candidate who did not defeat the right winger. It’s often a call for reflection, a rally cry for some soul searching for the left and an urge for better strategies. There’s been piece after piece of how Bernie would have won (although there is little to back this up as a hope does not equal reality) but so many outlets have missed the basic point of the matter: people voted for a racist platform because they wanted to.

If they were to vote for Bernie, it might have been because he was a white man – but he is also Jewish. The backlash started in 2008; the second Obama got elected. There were protests, despite whatever Republicans may claim, and while the mainstream media will like to say that it was due mostly to the fact that Obama failed to deliver early enough on key promises, there were many who resented having a black man as president. Romney was the most average candidate one could ever imagine (and after the primaries, that was almost a blessing) and yet he pushed Obama hard. The backlash was not just about Clinton, emails or even a woman president. It was about having a woman Democrat follow a black Democrat into the White House.

 

 

There’s a reason why the wave of hate across the US has been largely targeted on the basis of race. Policies were never the topic, it was personality and people voted for someone who threw out racist slurs more often than any insight into policy – just as they did in Britain with Brexit.

Clinton gave policy after policy. She even released a book on it. She explained her theory constantly from ‘the bottom up, the middle out’ growth of how to improve inequality and make the system fairer. She talked about bringing people out of low wages, about job creation and job protection and she gave clear plans of how she was going to do this and pay for this. Her website even had a calculator for those who wanted to work out how much they could save under her presidency. In every single debate, she hammered home her messages. The only reason why people say they don’t know her policies is because they never wanted to listen. Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric was enough for them, in much the same way the arguments for Remaining got drowned out by shrill cries of “experts! Don’t trust the experts!”

 

We’re in a time where education and intellect is devalued. Trump was overwhelmingly supported by those without a college education. The problem is that the education system is so expensive that many people are shut out from ever getting close to getting a degree. However, people of colour are far less likely to be able to get access to higher education and they did not vote for Trump.

People shouldn’t be shamed for a lack of education. Education was a cornerstone of Hillary’s entire campaign after all. However, anti intellectualism in both Brexit and in Trump’s campaign were embraced by white people. Any facts were disregarded as lies or conspiracies. Trump was caught out lying consistently but his fans still flocked to defend him, and worst of all they believed in him as the candidate that would stand up to the lies of the establishment. It was largely because he was saying what he wanted to hear, and in that situation the facts don’t bother people much.

 

Electoral College

Any Democrat has got an uphill battle. The system of the electoral college is based on largely prejudiced ideas that were designed to appease states that had supported slavery. They give enormous power to rural states with far smaller populations and there has been no change in this system. It means that the Republicans hold the balance of power in their hands, regardless of whoever won the election the last time out.

Hillary looks like she’s going to win the popular vote perhaps by as much as two million. She looks set to win by a bigger margin than even some of the most popular presidents like JFK secured. Yet, she still won’t be president.

The popular vote then, is utterly pointless particularly when the electoral college is not bound to vote for who each state selects. In the days running up to the election, Democrats said how they would not vote for Hillary no matter what the result. This is now the second time in sixteen years that the Democrats have won the popular vote and not the White House. To top it off, the Democrats will win the Senate votes by around five million – but they still won’t take control.

 

Clinton as a candidate vs Sanders

A lot of talk has revolved around the unknowable and will-never-be-proven premise that Bernie would have done better than Hillary. It’s not a bad question to ask but there are a few gaping holes with this theory.

One is the electoral college (as has been shown). It’s hugely  stacked against Democrats so they are on the back-foot in almost every race they go into, regardless of what swing states they claimed last time out.

The other reason often cited is that Bernie doesn’t have half the scandals surrounding him. The problem with this though, is that the scandals surrounding Hillary don’t actually add up to a whole lot. The biggest was obviously the email debacle, but as scandals go it amounted to nothing. It wasn’t criminal, it wasn’t unethical but it was slightly sloppy; but when you’re up against a man who bragged of committing sexual assault on tape then it really doesn’t matter. The fact the email was hung around HRC the whole time again highlights that people really just didn’t care. They got Trump and the more outrageous he was, the more he was loved for it. Emails were just a reason people used to justify not trusting Hillary, but it was a desperate claim when put against all the things Trump has done.

 

Additionally, this does feed into a misogynistic narrative. A woman shouldn’t have to be spotless to be credible. Not when she’s up against someone with as bad a record as Trump. The idea that a woman has to jump through a thousand hoops to be credible and it’s her fault she lost, and not just the fact the voters are really bad at prioritising ethics, is a form of misogyny. Hillary isn’t to blame for the fact people wanted racist policies. Racism is.

Hillary’s policies became much more progressive as the race went on. Some will point to the Bernie factor, but from the start she was clear to include LGBTQ+ people (and this included trans people to the ire of many white cisgender feminists) and challenge racism. Her record in the past has been diabolical, particularly regarding the prison industry, yet still Bernie gave some marginalised people huge doubts. His sincerity on LGBTQ+ rights was questioned repeatedly, particularly when his initial objection to banning same gender couples from marrying was actually based on constitutional rights and the power of the state. Many felt he spun this to his own advantage in later years, when his initial focus was not LGBTQ+ people. On race, Bernie was hard for many to decipher. His focus appeared much on the white working class but his commitment to economic inequality would undoubtedly help people of colour (who are disproportionately likely to be born into poverty) than a passive approach. Yet, Bernie himself and his supporters were regularly facing calls of racism.  Hillary had the rhetoric but Bernie arguably had the better policies. The truth is, both had flaws and for older voters it would be hard to look past Hillary’s record. Would Bernie be able to pick up where Hillary lost out? Perhaps, but the problem is Bernie’s message was about class, and that was not a factor in this election in the end.

White people of all classes voted overwhelmingly for Trump. This was not about class. This was about being white (and being cisgender and heterosexual). This was about being anti migrant and anti black. It was racism. It was not about kicking it to the establishment when rich white men came together with poor white men and women to vote for someone supported by the Ku Klux Klan. It was not anti establishment. The establishment handed Trump the win through the electoral college. It was about getting the establishment back. The privilege of whiteness didn’t want to share its toys anymore, and so like Brexit, it had a strop and voted for to ‘take back America’, or ‘make America great again!’…whichever it was…

 

Whiteness as Working Class

There are a few reasons why class is dominating the narrative. One is that anti intellectualism is being deliberately mistaken for working class. The race was dominated on hating facts, and the prevailing myth was that Trump’s supporters were all ignorant and poor. This is a classist assumption in itself. The working class were much more split between the candidates. The white working class does bear some responsibility: because of race, but not class.

When we talk of the working class, there’s usually a white man leading and big white crowd of working class men. What’s been erased is that people of colour make up a significant proportion of working class people. They’re far more likely to be born into poverty and to be able to have the opportunity to advance through the class ranks. Class systems are racist.

The working class narrative is always presented of white workers struggling on low wages and being exploited by employers. The left and liberals have failed to challenge this. When the media reports on migrants, especially The Daily Mail in the UK, the story is often on what’s viewed as excessive benefits and how they’re taking too much from the system. There’s very little focus or attention given to migrants and people of colour who work terrible hours for very low pay. To draw sympathy, the media puts a white face on the front of its stories. It’s part of why so much of the narrative has become white working class vs poor people from other countries ‘stealing jobs’. There’s an entitlement that comes with being white and born in the country. If the vote was about getting better jobs, it wasn’t about securing them by making employers act in a fairer way (Trump would never promise that) but about making sure Mexican migrants couldn’t ‘take’ jobs.

 

Corbyn’s failure

Corbyn has backed up this point spectacularly by his complete failure to take on Trump. He’s been happy to claim Trump’s win as an anti establishment vote, despite that clearly not being the case. It risks looking as though he is trying to personally gain from a victory that has left many marginalised people devastated. His first statement did not even mention the issues of racism that propelled Trump to the White House. In comparison with centrists Sturgeon and Merkel, he doesn’t seem to really comprehend the horrors oppressed people in the States are facing right now.

 

 

“Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views… I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.”
Angela Merkel

 

Russia

The role of Russia will be talked about for potentially many years. There are rumours of their interference, which has drawn anger from Democrats given the FBI’s handling of the email mess but one of the biggest reasons people are happy that Clinton failed was because of her policy of standing up to Russia, and here’s what sums up so many issues people are having with liberals. There seems to be a deeper fear of the consequences of standing up to fascism than of what it means to be living under, or with, fascism. People are happy to go with Trump’s policy of attacking marginalised people in the US as it means there will be no risk of a confrontation with Russia.

Hillary was clear. Nobody wants a war, especially with one of the greatest powers of the world, but she emphasised that Russia’s imperialism couldn’t continue. There are many Eastern countries watching Russia nervously after what happened with Ukraine. The illegal occupation of Ukraine was met with muttered shock from the West at the time, but it led to no real action. The West was simply glad that Russia wouldn’t pick on them next.

We have become weak. ‘Never Again’ has become ‘never risk standing up with bullies in case they hit us’. It’s become ‘let someone else go under the bus but not me’. But when has trying to appease an imperialist power ever worked? Putin has targeted LGBTQ+ people at horrific rates and has sought an illegal expansion of Russian powers. A passenger plane was blown out of the sky. The liberals and the left have shown the length of their solidarity and it extends only to themselves.

 

Liberalism

Liberalism did help bring us here with both Brexit and Trump. For years, the liberal tried to appease everybody. They wanted hugs for everyone. They told LGBTQ+ people to wait for marriage at the right moment as though they were acting as an annoying father trying to stop kids from arguing over who gets to use the shower first. They let migrants in but didn’t defend that as a moral position, instead they pandered to white people’s concerns about jobs and said that they should be listened to – even though that’s all we ever hear. They caused frustration on both sides and gave legitimacy to views of hatred. They called fascists the ‘alt right’ as though they were a legitimate alternative viewpoint and not just spewing hatred.

Liberalism gave us nothing but cheap slogans. They haven’t provided allies worth anything because they’re more upset at the idea of people protesting than at the idea of an actual fascist being president. They’d rather support an oppressive order than a righteous disorder. They want people to find common ground through love and peace, while ignoring that the opposition are actually trying to erase marginalised people from society. They want people to wait four years and then politely ask for their rights back. They want Britons to accept the vote, and try to move forward even though it isn’t legally binding and is being pushed through by a Prime Minister nobody voted for. They want us to watch our tone as we tell people to stop being racist, sexist and LGBTQ+phobic. They want us to stop saying that people are ‘arseholes’ as people fight not to lose healthcare or are having racial slurs screamed at them. Mostly though, they just want us to absolutely know that they are definitely the good guys.

 

Empathy stirring anger

The election and the referendum were decided upon by a denial of the humanity of certain groups of people. We had to take back control, aka take it away from migrants. We had to look after our own, aka not care for anyone else.

Our empathy has gone. Go back to the 80s under Thatcher and the priority was selfishness. It was to not care for others. Trump and Farage built platforms on mocking other people and being the embodiment of the most toxic form of masculinity. There’s a lack of empathy too from those who don’t want action or protests. They think people can wait when suicide hotlines are being posted everywhere because transgender people are so bloody scared, but to them that’s an acceptable price worth paying.

To those who do have empathy, the solidarity is being utilised into an anger that isn’t going to go. To have been granted so many rights after decades of struggle is going to be a bitter pill to swallow. Everything from non discrimination laws is up for grabs in both Trump’s America and a post-Brexit UK.

Young vs old, neighbour vs neighbour

That anger is propelling people forward, at least in America. The UK’s opposition to Brexit has been pathetic at organising. Thanks to Miller, the legal challenge was successful so that MPs have to debate triggering Article 50 but protests have been muted despite the fact that the vote was based on a series of lies. It isn’t as simply young vs old, however. Not every old person is bigoted and the Trump election (and subsequent hate crimes) certainly showed that not all young people are progressive. It’s much more unclear. The left is fragmented. Typically cisgender, white straight men focus on themselves and marginalised people are growing increasingly frustrated at being left behind at a politics designed to lift everybody up. The left has finally gotten sick of liberalism, but there are still those who call for coalitions (mostly liberals). The vote in America was black vs white, straight vs LGB and cisgender vs transgender.

The rage is simmering. There are two choices that the opposition to Trump (and Brexit) face: accept the result or keep going. To keep going will bring more anger and more conflict. There is no brink of civil war but America’s future internally will be far from quiet. Trump may not bring war with Russia, but he might not be able to reconcile Americans with each other.

America just does not seem compatible with one another. The progressives envision greater racial justice, binge watch shows with queer love at its heart and celebrate diversity. The right, want this gone. Even Hollywood’s products won’t align with the vision of Trump’s America. It’s hard to know how on earth America will go forward, but it will hopefully not be in silence.

Trump’s Promises

The last point, and last hope, that people are grasping at is that Trump may not be as bad as he said he would be. This is a cold comfort to those who are directly facing losing their rights but it’s also a silencing tactic. It’s a plea not to cause problems when Trump might not be ‘that bad’. It gives validation to all the bad things he will do, because they were slightly less bad than they could have been. It’s folly to hope for a world slightly less awful. It sets the lowest standard and it suggests many should just accept poor treatment because at least it isn’t worse.

Even if the electoral college realises what a nightmare America is heading to and refuses to vote for him (they won’t), look at the damage that has already been wrought. Women are being told not to wear their hijabs, and hate crimes have been reported all over social media. This is only a few days later and America is already being torn apart by hate. If this election destroys one myth once and for all let it be the vapid saying that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. Trump hasn’t done anything yet, but already his words have caused tremendous pain.

The problem with children? Their parents 

I have never known a child for more than five minutes who I’ve liked. They bring out my anxiety, my OCD, you can’t talk with them about Marx or the bisexual revolution you’re sure is imminent, and they are surprisingly terrible at even Mario Kart (and God help you with the tantrum which follows if you throw a banana on their head). Parents keep incessantly trying to make you care. Endless Facebook posts or them trying to put the child in your arms for the umpteenth time even though you’ve explained you have anxiety and once again they’re violating your boundaries. That’s the crux of the problem though; the problem with children is the parents. 

The ones who show off are insufferable. The ones who when you ask the kid what they want to do when they grow up, the parents interrupt saying ‘little Timmy is going to be a doctor or lawyer, of course!’, the ones who won’t let little Timmy have his hair cut even though he can’t see where he’s going, the ones who won’t let Annie play outside the with the dogs even with five other adults around. They are the parents who seem not to have ever wanted kids at all but who wanted something small to control and indoctrinate. Kids always pay the price for their voices being silenced but none more so than transgender children. 

Bigots will always target children. They’re safe to hide behind because society must shield children from what is seen as moral corruption. It’s the rose tinted glasses we still wear but the truth is often that in these debates few adults are willingly to actually listen to the children caught up in an ideological war of trying to force gender conforminity and cisnormativity onto people. 

Children have always been denied a voice. From going out to work all day every day because childhood wasn’t actually believed in, to being infantilised (and think how loaded that word is) and having every aspect of life controlled. Parents must consent to everything, from school trips to necessary medical procedures but what is often forgotten is the child’s consent. Parents talk over their children, insisting they know best because they think that a person cannot possibly be trusted to know who they are. This is so instilled that parents are willingly to overlook the astronomically high instances of suicidal ideation by trans children who do not receive support. 

I’m not going to get into the issue of SRS. Most people know the facts: hormone blockers reversible, children can’t have genital surgery etc etc so it’s really not an issue for anyone other than those who either comment as experts before researching or are deliberately and will fully lying to pursue a transphobic agenda. No. The issue here is the control of children by parents. 

Having a child is not about you, the parent. It’s about the child. It’s about what they need and want. They don’t exist to be examples of how amazing you are to the world. They don’t exist to be vessels for your politics. They don’t exist for any reason other than to live how they want and to be happy. Children make choices that we don’t like all of the time. Your personal beliefs don’t matter. What matters is ensuring they are supported. Children known who they are; just as a child can know from being a toddler they are gay, straight, bi or pan they can know whether they are cisgender or transgender. They live their bodies, they know what they feel and how they experience things. They’re young, but that’s no reason why they shouldn’t be heard. Even courts of law try to give child witnesses voices because they recognise that they shouldn’t be dismissed. 

Parents don’t always know what’s best for their child and parents often aren’t good enough for the children they get. Look at how many LGBT young people are homeless. The LGBT community needs to focus its attention on children. It needs to fight for the rights of children to be heard and to self define. Their are few legal protections for LGBT children. LGBT kids are entitled to less than if a person gets handed divorce papers after having affairs. Children’s services are also slow to recognise the support LGBT young people need and are still poorly trained and unable to deliver appropriate care and support even if they want to. LGBT people don’t suddenly find their identity once they hit eighteen. It’s been years of struggle before then, and if children’s rights and voice were respected many more of us might have a chance to make it to adulthood. 

Tandoh’s brand of body positivity- nothing new in its abelism

So once again Ruby Tandoh is tweeting in support of body positivity, and yet again is the implication of ableism. In it, she has questioned people’s lifestyle choices and whether they are genuinely gluten free while including an eye rolling emoji.

 

image

This will be nothing new to anyone with any sort of digestive condition where their diet has to be managed. This brand of body positivity encourages people to eat what they want, so long as Tandoh agrees with that decision and agrees with the reasoning behind such choices.

Body positivity has long revelled in shaming and engaged in ableism. Yes, people should not be shamed for what they eat but that’s precisely what the movement often does – and to vulnerable people with health conditions they need to manage. Those who live with any kind of digestive issue will know well of the shame surrounding it. There’s no understanding. People think such severe diets are a joke or a ‘fad’ (and they say this as a way to delegitimise them). There’s absolutely no talk in British society of toilet issues. They are conditions which are routinely shamed and silenced, often disbelieved and are often fodder for jokes. The type of body positivity movement that questions people’s dietary choices, papers to an ableist society that walks all over people with intestinal or digestive conditions.

To question who is genuine and who is not, and to roll eyes at such a situation is to take the Daily Mail’s attitude towards disability. Are they really though? Do they really need to do that? Is it just not them being sensitive?

Even if people don’t want to eat whatever ‘normal’ oats Tandoh supports, then that is their choice. People have all kinds of reasons for dietary choices; cultural beliefs, political beliefs, wealth limitations and of course, taste. All of these reasons are valid and not to be questioned but that shows the core of the problem; how many people who claim to be intersectional actually are? Scratch the surface and you’ll find their brand screws over someone more often than not. The term has sadly been appropriated for those who want to promote themselves rather than the stories and experiences of marginalised people.

No one has the right to question such fundamental choices. You’re a mother doing a weekly shop, and your daughter only likes gluten free pasta because it doesn’t leave her bloated? Go for it. You want to eat ten bars of Mily Ways? I wish I could.

People should be educated about food and the choices they make. For one, digestion all issues need greater understanding but also people should be aware how food choices impact the environment and how the food industry works. All of that is needed. All of it can be delivered without shaming. In our society, consumers have very little choice. Look at the retail industry. If you can’t afford designer brands then the only choice you have is to swap one high street shop that doesn’t have a great ethical rating for another.

If you’re going to build a brand on saying people can eat what they like then let them. Otherwise you’re building a career off the backs of disabled people who have been silenced for their conditions and people who are entitled to make their own choices, without any judgement from people who know nothing about their circumstances.

 

Thoughts on Coming Out Day 

With awareness days I admit to being remarkably inconsistent. Some years I look forward to them, needing to hold onto the good that comes with them but mostly I find myself incredibly irked. 

The main issue with making coming out a focal point is that we just can’t win. Coming out shouldn’t have to be a big deal but by not making our voices heard (and I reference collective voices deliberately as I’ll get more onto the individual experience later) we are forgotten. Yet that is not our fault. Cishet society will always try to silence us no matter how frequently or loud we scream ” we are and we are queer”. 

Coming out, as a concept, is very much on cishet terms. It implies going against their norms. It implies being different or rebellious when really people should just not make assumptions. The best reaction in hindsight that I received was from a friend who let me come out and awkwardly disappear for several months. We both knew I would. I’m a runner with anything emotional but when I returned on my own terms, nothing was different. It was never highlighted or made a big deal. Conversation went as normal except that pronouns when it came to my relationships were kept neutral when talking in general terms and not about anyone specific. I much appreciated that rather than feeling though my emotions were being managed at every turn, which also helped me recognise what I required when it came to working on my mental health. 

Coming out is often so personal that it has a profound and lasting impact. It’s so often not the overplayed over dramatic soap plot but awkward and uncomfortable. For some, it’s downright dangerous (which is why coming out shouldn’t be talked about in aspirational terms) and for others it is a thousand draining and humiliating conversations to suffer through in the hope of one day getting acceptance. It can be enduring discussions about whether reparative therapy may have validity, chat that your family hope you don’t end up with a butch woman, excruciating conversations around motherhood or the concept that the old you has somehow ‘died’ (which is incredibly offensive to parents who have lost children or trans youths who are at extremely high rates of suicide). 

Coming out is also tedious after the first dozen times. It’s constant and wearying. It’s always about judging what the reaction of the cishet person will be because of course, the whole universe must orbit them. Will they think I’m hitting on them? Will they think I’m a pervert? Will I get endless questions probing about my sex life? Most of the time, it’s fine. But it’s still a worry and something to consider when potentially saftey or jobs are on the line. 

Then there’s living with being out. I think the idea no one has ever regretted coming out is bullshit. There have been plenty of people I regret telling. That old friend who gets bored and asks invasive questions about sex, the woman who sidles up to me whenever her boyfriend cheats, the relative who highlights my difference at every opportunity, the former work mate who only ever asks about women because bisexuality is of course, a phase. For a long time I regretted telling those I loved the worst. Oh, I wasn’t kicked out or cut off or anything but I’m a proud person and it was awkward. It was tears the dream had gone and my anxiety is essentially avoidant personality disorder. I can go into denial like no one else. Coming out was optional for me. I honestly believe I could have stayed in the closet for much of my life and done okay. It may sound ridiculous to those who know me given my active life but I’ve handled worse things by relying on denial. If I had, would that have made me a worse member of the community? No, but I probably would have had to focus my journalism on other topics. It’s a personal choice. Being in or out has no bearing on a person’s character. If you’re out and happy about it, then I’m delighted for you but not everyone has that luxury. Some people are just trying to survive and we all do it in our own way. It’s not about strength or weakness, especially when the odds are stacked so high against us. If we’re going to fight for the community that means showing solidarity to those who can’t or won’t join us in the same way. 

The worry with this day is that those who aren’t out may feel shame or pressure. The truth is, the community isn’t every good at accepting people for who they are. It’s okay not to be out. You can not be out and find happiness. You can be dating someone in the closet and be happy. There’s no one way to do life. It’s so much more complex than anything think piece can really comprehend. Those who aren’t out don’t fail us, bigotry does and so does the society weighted against us. Let’s challenge that and not each other. 

Poem #1

Daffodil Sun

She sings the sun
silver-gold hair
slurp -swallow like spaghetti.
Half down, wind up through the throat
just to see.
She still sings the sun

hums the daffodil clouds
pulls butterfly wings for her collage
sends the heads of roses
wears heels on her hands
when she dances
all while singing the sun.

Stories and ownership

Earlier in the week, Lionel Shriver gave a speech on cultural appropriation and literature. I criticised it at length on Twitter so I shall not repeat myself here however, there was one point that I did want to address.

 Throughout the speech, Shriver claimed that characters were the author’s own to be “exploited”. As a writer and graduate of literature, this was a concept I had many problems with. The idea comes down to a matter of ownership but I do not think that it is appropriate to claim that characters of colour are owned by white writers and they are theirs to be exploited. Shriver has found criticism due to the tropes surrounding the people of colour within her stories. This defence was an attempt to take back ownership, but one that was never rightfully hers. 

There is the idea of the lone writer, telling the world stories in a very one dimensional way but throughout history this has almost never been the case. Oral story telling through the ages, whether by the first plays or by a mother last night telling a story to her children, is based upon the reaction of the audience. If the audience gasps at a monster, the creator will almost invariably make that monster ever more terrible. If they laugh loudly at bold comedy, then the creator will repeat that practice. The writer always seeks to engage. TV shows watch ratings every single week to try to secure success. Writers constantly edit their works to appeal to publishers who seek to sell to their target markets. Story telling has never been something a writer does in a solitary manner. One may come up with the idea to explore a story in an authentic way, free from influence, but that is an impossible task given the ingrained lessons we receive about stories and what makes them popular.

In the digital age, characters are even less likely to be exclusive property of their owners. Fan fiction has exploded and rightly so; it’s a way to challenge writers. If fans are unhappy with a problematic plot line, they can switch off the TV and write their own version to share with the world. Writers fear this. As much as they depend on social media to publicise this work, they are terrified of criticism, of being called to account and of being found out as a poor writer hiding behind white privilege, cis privilege and the power o the publishing industry. If a writer complains prof social media: be aware. They are usually complaining about previously silenced people now having a right of reply. 

Characters do not exist to be exploited. They exist to be explored and dissected. Even within fantasy stories, the characters have some reality. They engage us, we see ourselves in them (if we are lucky, because let’s face it; diversity is sorely lacking) and even the wildest plots are based upon our own experiences. Metaphors can spring from all sorts of plot lines. Often fantasy stories explore real world concepts but in a safe way…safe for the writer, usually but the audience is sadly left behind. It’s hey so many LGBTQ+ people flock to fantasy, hoping to escape reality but find characters they identify with only to be devastated when they come across the dead lesbian trope.

Characters cannot do anything or be anything. That is not the point in writing but looking at current stories dominating the market it’s easy to believe that creativity was sacrificed a long time ago. Too many plots and characters are based on tropes and that is the story of where exploitation exists. It is exploitation of very real people. Words have consequences. Any writer who seeks to deny this is insulting their own craft but too many writers have grown far too complacent. There may be no original stories, but part of that must be for lack of trying when all we get is stereotypes surrounding characters of colour and LGBTQ+ characters.