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Cop on Comrades

We are a group of activist women from a wide variety of backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Last week, a good number of the left-wing men we work and organise with seriously disappointed us. These men – our friends, our fellow trade unionists, activists, writers, organisers, and artists – shared and commented on a reductive and damaging article written by Frankie Gaffney, which was published in the Irish Times.

We live in a world where our advantages are tangled up with the things that disadvantage us – some of us are working class, some queer, some of us are poor, some of us come from minority ethnic groups or have disabilities or don’t enjoy the security of citizenship. As well, some of us have had a multitude of opportunities in our lives while some of us have had to fight our way through. It is an obligation on all of us to honestly look at our different positions within the structures of oppression and privilege under patriarchal racial capitalism. It is only by acknowledging all these differences that we have any chance of imagining and building a better world that includes us all.

Working-class ‘straight white men’ in Ireland don’t have it easy these days. They never did. They are ignored by a political class that couldn’t care less about them. They should have a say in the decisions that affect their lives, but they often don’t.

However, that doesn’t make them immune to critique. We all have to examine ourselves as oppressor as well as oppressed – because we are all both. The response to the article felt like a silencing to us and we are writing this because we are way past putting up with that. You will see from the names on this letter that we are women who have been in the thick of things. Whether in political parties and organisations, education, trade unions, or grassroots and community-based movements, we are tired of being accused of ‘bourgeois feminism’ and of betraying the struggle when we raise our voices. No campaign in this country could survive without women, without us – our work and energy and knowledge and organising have been instrumental in all the progressive movements in this country. When we say we need to be recognised and respected within our movements, we need you to listen.

The article expressed the view that identity politics is good for nothing except dividing movements, using language and narratives that have been made popular by MRA (Men’s Rights Activist) groups and the alt-right. According to such narratives, straight white men are the new most oppressed group. This ignores the struggles of women and others at the sharp end of misogyny, racism, anti-trans and anti-queer violence. It aims to silence those who will no longer tolerate the violence, abuse and marginalisation we have suffered for so long. These alt-right arguments have been used by people on the left to support the view that women, and feminists in particular, are to blame for the rise of the far right – for instance, for Trump’s election – and for neoliberal capitalism, which is seen as having damaged working class men in particular.  

In this version of events, straight white men are made to feel uncomfortable about being ‘born this way’ by social media-fuelled ‘political correctness’. They are too afraid to say what they think or express opinions for fear of online retribution. Men who claim to be silenced in this way might try a week or even a day as a vocal woman or person of colour online and see how they deal with the rape threats and threats of racist violence that follow.

We are not concerned here about one opinion piece by one person. Rather we have all been aware of the increasing trend towards this particular new type of silencing of women from our supposed fellow activists on the left. The arguments mounted here and elsewhere are apparently to criticise some of the worst aspects of ‘call-out culture’, as well as the lean-in type of so-called feminism that disregards class and race. Yet they seem to be used now by some of our left-wing activist comrades as an excuse not to deal with the complexities of gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation in our political organising. These excuses, when accepted, prevent us from seeing clearly the state of our movements – who is taking part in them, who is heard and represented, who is doing the work. These are massive issues that have to do with how we are creating mass movements, which need to be addressed and faced to ensure that people of different classes, races, ethnicities, sexual orientation and gender have not just a voice but leading roles in our struggle. Without this solidarity in working together, we are simply imitating the oppressive structures we want to fight – the structures that say “not now, your life comes second.” It is not the straight white men who are being silenced when this argument is made.

We are working-class women, women of colour, migrant women, trans women, Traveller women, disabled women, queer women, women who are sex workers, women with children, and women who are none of these, active in our communities and committed to an anti-capitalist struggle. We are well aware that a right-wing, neoliberal distortion of feminism and what is called ‘identity politics’ exists. We know this because it erases our experiences and struggles and we resist this erasure through our work as activists every single day. It is distressing and enraging that we also have to fight against the bad faith of fellow activists on the left – mostly men, sometimes women – who, for their own reasons, blur the distinction between this kind of middle-class neoliberal faux-feminism, and a truly radical feminist politics that has class struggle at its very core. This hurts us because it erases and undermines our realities, our suffering, our analyses, and our organising, and gives more strength to the powers that are ranged against us. For many of us, it is heart-breaking to look at some of the men around us and realise that they are nodding in agreement with this erasure of their working class women friends and comrades.

Most of us have grown up learning to appease men. How to give them our space, how to deal with the fact that they dominate any political discussions, that they are paid more, heard more and believed more.  However, most of us expect that the men we work with in all the social justice movements we are part of should have at least considered how they are complicit in this domination when they refuse to recognise that it exists. Patriarchy forces men into roles that damage them as well as us. Most of us have men that we love, admire and respect in our lives and for that reason, not only because it damages and diminishes the life experiences of women, we should all be fighting patriarchy together.

Niamh McDonald

Zoe McCormack

Jen O’Leary

Aline Courtois

Emily Waszak

Theresa O’Keefe

Sinéad Redmond

Aislinn Wallace

Hazel Katherine Larkin

Linnea Dunne

Natalia Fernandez

Helen Guinane

Maggs Casey

Stephanie Lord

Anne Mulhall

Eileen Flynn

Ellie Kisyombe

Elaine Feeney

Wendy Lyon

Sarah Clancy

Brigid Quilligan

Emily Duffy

Clara Purcell

Aoibheann McCann

Aoife Frances

Shauna Kelly

Eilís Ní Fhlannagáin

Dearbhla Ryan​

Michelle Connolly

Siobhán O’Donoghue

Aoife FitzGibbon O’Riordan

Stephanie Crowe Taft

Denise Kiernan

Aisling Egan

Donnah Vuma

Kate O’Connell

Natalia Fernández

Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird

Mary McAuliffe

Marie Mulholland

Margo Harkin

Avril Corroon

Juliana Sassi

Ailbhe Smyth

Kate McGrew

Ciara Miller

Aoife Dermody

Emer Smith

Francisca Ribeiro

Jerrieann Sullivan

Marie McDonnell

Kathleen Gaul

Liz Martin

Laura Lee

Roisin Blade

Kerry Guinan

Gráinne O’Toole

Edel McGinley

Máiréad Enright

Erin Fornoff

Sarah Fitzgibbon

Cliona Kelly

Ciara Fitzpatrick

Bronwen Lang

Shonagh Strachan

Dervla O’Neill

Hilary Darcy

Jane Xavier

Emma Campbell

Clara Rose Thornton IV

Linda Connolly

Nomaxabiso Maye

Rosa Thompson

Liz Nelson

Eavan Brennan

Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Elaine D’alton

Anne Rynne

Elaine Crory

Jodie Condon

Clare Kelly

Catriona O’Brien

Meireka Radford

Lisa Keogh Finnegan

Fiona Dunkin

Lelia Doolan

Jacinta Fay

Mary O’Donoghue

Mariel Whelan

Aine Treanor

Flavia Simas

Meabh Savage

Noirin Lynch

Claire Brophy

Liz Price

Linda Kavanagh

Linda Devlin

Aileen O’Carroll

Anita Koppenhofer

Vicky Donnelly

Marianne Farrelly

Aisling Walsh

Ronit Lentin

Sarah Ferrigan

Neltah Chadamoyo

Rosi Leonard

Tara Flynn

Sinead Kennedy

Anna Visser

Taryn de Vere

Marese Hegarty

Tracey Ryan

Orlagh De Bhaldraithe

Eimear O’Shea

Jen Fagan

Aoife Martin

Lorna O’Hara

Nicole King

Laura NicDiarmada

Maeve O’Brien

Maija Sofia

Izzy Kamikaze

Karen Mulreid

Niamh Byrne

Sophie Long

Gormla Hughes

Mary McDermott

Mary Cosgrove

Amy Moran

Chamindra Weerawardhana

Sarah Vanden Broeck

Karen McDonnell

Kate Quigley

Charlotte Gordon

Kerry Cuskelly

Susan O Keeffe

Inga Wójcik

May Watson

Máire Ní Giolla Bhríde

Maria O Sullivan

Gillian McInerney

Claire McCallion

Deirdre Flynn

Janet O’Sullivan

Alexandra Day

Jeannine Webster

Ann Farrelly

Georgina O’Halloran

Zoe Lawlor

Angela Coraccio

Kathryn Keane

Sorcha Fox

Anastasia Ryan

Sinéad O’Rourke

Kerri Ryan

Mara Clarke

Chelley McLear

Georgina Barrow

Breda McManus

Ceile Varley

Kate Quigley

Gala Tomasso

Louise Kelly

Catherine Lawless

Sonya Mulligan

Sarah-Anne Buckley

Lily Power

Angela Carr

Dervla O’Malley

Sinéad Mercier

Jane O’Sullivan

Irena Koroleva

Sarah Cavanagh

Margaret Ward

Emer McHugh

Miriam O’Donovan

Mhairi McAlpine

Deirdre Wadding

Sarah Wright

Lucy Michael

Maria Deiana

Sinead McDonald

Mairead Healy

Eleanor White

Ellen Reid

Laura Maloney

Liz Quirke

Jackie O’Toole

Amy Walsh

Sarah O’Grady

Catriona Finn

Audrey Bryan

Janet Horner

Donna Cooney

Maureen Tucker

Sarah Davis-Goff

Lynda Whyte

Cíara Molloy

Ciara Kenny

Joanna Hickey

Yvonne Murphy

Rose Murphy

Robyn Maguire

Tina O’Toole

Rachel Quigley

Clare Hayes-Brady

Adrienne Lynam

Amy Ní Mhurchú

Jennifer Dalton

Yasmine O’Connor

Vawns Murphy

Darina Roche

Norah Elam

Kelly Doolin

Muireann Meehan Speed

Grace Costigan

Anna Richardson

Rebek’ah McKinney-Perry

Kelly-Ann Daly

Maggie Bent

Cathie Shiels

Deirdre Mullen

Aoife Cooke

Debbie O Rourke

Rachel Watters

Chelley McLear

Paula Dennan

Kieran Ann Clifford

Lisa Carey

Catherine Vallely

Honor Harlow

Grian Ní Dhaimhín

Polly Molotov

Jesse Jones

Ceara Martyn

Jess Kavanagh

Trish Brennan

Sarah Marie Slattery

Mary Berney

Saoirse Bennett

Claddagh Róisín

Lynda Sheridan

Margo Carr

Noreen Murphy

Farah Mokhtareizadeh

Lisamarie Johnson

Leanne Doyle

Aine O’Driscoll

Maila Costa

Susan Walsh

Janica Ribeiro

Kellie McConnell

Aoife Cooke

Sharon Nolan

Michelle Doyle

Stephanie Fleming

Evonne Reidy

Caroline West

Alexandra Soares

Fíona Cuffe

Suzanne Daly

Jessica Traynor

Evelyn Richardson

Síomha Ní Aonghusa

Syd Delz

Michelle Coyne

Roisin Kelly

Amy McDonald

Gabriela Lobianco

Tracy Radley

Nikki Newman

Noirin Mac Namara

Maureen Mansfield

Rebeccah O’ Donovan

Tais Forner

Catherine Morley

Rachel Robinson

Lauren Foley

Emma Gilleece

Carly Fisher

Angela Carr

Katie Moylan

Kelly Fitzgerald

Alice Rekab

Liz Brosnan

Susan Miner

Ciara Thornton

Caroline Kelly

Nick Beard

Aisling Bruen

Keeva Carroll

Bebhinn McInerney

Manuela Palacios

Jene Hinds Kelly

Siobhan O’Riordan

Mel Duffy

Annie Hoey

Áine Ní Fhaoláin

Deborah Madden

Stephanie Rains

Lorelei Fox-Roberts

Ari Silvera

Melíosa Bracken

Orla Breslin

Janet Allen

Muireann O’Cinneide

Aislinn O Keeffe

Leigh Duncan

Muireann Crowley

Bebhinn Farrell

Emma Regan

Aisling Crosson

Maggie Feeley

Anna Cosgrave

Sharon Crowley

Leighanna Rose Walsh

Nyasha

Claragh Lucey

Shahidah Janjua

Róisín Garvey

Siobhan Greaney

Dominique Twomey

Janice Parr

Ingrid Kaar

Nicola Moffat

Carol Swanson

Ruth Fletcher

Aoife Riach Kelly

Stacey Wrenn

Laura McAtackney

Sinéad Noonan

Emma Gallagher

Kate Walsh

Caroline Kearney

Leah

Siobhan Curran

Elle Berry

Deirdre Duffy

Dianne Nora

Aisling Twomey

Linda Kelly

Emma Hendrick

Sarah Ann Behan

Catherine Ann Cullen

Dorcas Mac Nally

Emma Burns

Karen Twomey

Angel Bellaran

Charlie Bayliss

Anna Mac Carthy Adams

Fionnula MacLiam

Jen McKernon

Emer O’Toole

Anita Byrne

Noreen Murphy

Siobhán Schnittger

Paula Leonard

Michelle Byas

Mitzi D’Alton

BeRn

Caroline O’Sullivan

caroline kuyper

Rachel McTigue

Emma Delahan

Leonie Hilliard

Siobhán O’Dowd

Melissa Spencer

Ger Moane

Darina Roche.

Sive Bresnihan

Alicia Byrne Keane

Emma Jayne Geraghty

Aine O’Driscoll

Grace Walsh

Joanne Nolan

Aoife O’Neill Gormley

Colette Laffan

Marian Relihan

Jacqui Johnston

Pauline Cullen

Sarah O’Toole

Valesca Lima

Fiona de Londras

Mary Treasa Cahill-Kennedy

Niamh Keoghan

Sonny Jacobs

Sharon McDaid

Susanne Breen

Joan Brady

Anna Harris

Martina Hynan

Siobhán Cawley

Edel Geraghty

Orlaith Hendron

Nuala Ward

Krystle Higgins

Grainne Blair

Siobhán Madden

Ciara Dunne

Rose Foley

Audreyanne Brady

Helen Stonehouse

Kathy D’Arcy

Linda O’Keeffe

Catherine Charlwood

Devrim Gunyel

Sarah Monaghan

Yvonne Hennessy

Julia Tor Rojo

Eileen Wetherall

Siobhán Murphy

Leigh Brady

Gwen kennedy

Rosaleen Tanham

Karen NíDhíomasaigh

Kim O’Donnell

Sunny Jacobs

Theresa O’Donohoe

Anja Bakker

Fionnuala McKenna

Jackie McKenna

Bláithín Pringle

Sinead Pembroke

Ciara Coy

Geraldine Moorkens Byrne

Carmel Daly

Marie Walshe

Jessica Maybury

Ursula Barry

Patricia Walsh

Aileen Ferris

Mary Buckley

Rebekah Brady

Monica Ferreira

Sinead Owens

Leah Doherty

Ailbhe Ni Mhaoilearca

Saoirse Anton

Ursula Barry

Siobhán Cleary

Réaltán Ní Leannáin

Deborah Allen

Kellie White

Janet Colgan

Fionnuala Mc Kenna

Ann Marie Duffin

Cora Coleman

Moira Jenkins

Jess Lynch

Neasa Hourigan

Cara Ní Mhaonaigh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

 

Power in Society

 

Women of colour suffer more under austerity

 

Women hit harder by cuts than men

 

Suffrage & Socialism

 

 

Women &  Class Privilege

 

Why Class is a Feminist Issue

 

 

White privilege and male privilege

 

On cultural appropriation

 

More women attempt suicide than men

 

http://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HSP00612.pdf (pg 10)

 

 

 

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On Coming Out and Existing; or, Resentments to the theme of Materiality

Posted on

Note: This is my response to this post.
I am six years old.

I play with Transformers toys, a burgeoning passion for toy robots which will continue until adulthood. I also enjoy playing with  my cousin’s Popples and My Little Ponies. I know better than to ask for my own. Not because of my mom, she loves me dearly, but because the kids are already bullying me for being ‘girly’. They add an ‘a’ at the end of my name to signify female-ness, they mock me for crying a lot when I’m bullied. I cry easily and a lot.

 

I am eighteen years old.

I say goodbye to my friends in Ezeiza airport, We’re all crying. I’m emigrating. I still cry about this sometimes.

 

I’m nine years old.

I act out in school and get in trouble. I’m confused by a media that tells me women are weak when I’m surrounded by women who work, raise kids and are professionals.

 

I am twenty-one years old.

I’m sitting in a living room in Edinburgh, Scotland, telling my then best friend that I want to be a girl but I’m sad because I wasn’t born one and thus it is impossible. She’s confused but warm and loving. We commiserate on our woes as we have done countless times.

 

I am eleven years old.

I occasionally think about being a girl, but quickly stomp on those feelings as they arise. I present a fake nerd boy swagger that gets me punched in the face. I play Super Nintendo a lot. I see travesti women on TV. Everyone makes fun of them. I make fun of them. They are considered the lowest of the low in our society.

 

I am twenty-three years old.

I’m still trying to find my footing in what ‘boy’ is and I settle for ‘leftie boy with a beard who goes to demonstrations and has tedious opinions about obscure indie rock’. I meet a like-minded girl and we start dating. A friend of mine tells me her ex-girlfriend is now a boy. I hear the word ‘transition’ in reference to this trans boy. Suddenly I realise this is a possibility. I stomp down on it.

 

I am thirteen years old.

I’m enthralled by anime. In Saint Seiya, Shun is an effeminate boy who represents Andromeda. His armor is pink and has boobs. Everyone looks down on him for being a pacifist. He’s the first boy on TV I’ve felt was anything like me. I watch Sailor Moon. Usagi is bad at school, messy and easily distracted but with a heart of gold. She’s the first girl on TV I’ve felt was anything like me.

 

I am twenty-four years old.

My girlfriend introduces me to DIY feminism, as I had lacked any feminist perspectives in my very lefty education in Sociology. I join a pro-choice group. I start reading zines about all sorts of things. I quickly learn that as I’m a straight boy (nobody’s using the word cis yet) I should shut up and learn. I do. I learn ‘active listening’, which is about really paying attention to what each other is expressing with an open mind, to dismantle the aggressive, competitive ways in which patriarchy and capitalism teach us to communicate. I learn humility, I learn that I’m often wrong, diametrically opposed values to my entitled middle-class upbringing (that my mother had fought against). I learn of the word ‘genderqueer’ and start using it to describe myself. My girlfriend gets me a pair of leggings.

 

I am thirty-two years old.

I tell my girlfriend that I’m terrified, on the eve before I have bottom surgery. I don’t feel like this is a massive spiritual moment or that my life has been building up to ‘correct nature’s mistake’. I just know what I need, medically. What if it’s a mistake? But I know it’s what I want. I go in circles like this, she listens.

 

I am twenty-five years old.

I break up with my girlfriend over a number of things. I attend my first Ladyfest, in Cork, then my second, in Berlin. During the Lesbian Arts Festival in Dublin, and old man calls me ‘young lady’ and makes my day. My encouraging new American friend gets me to visit her in Berlin and try out ‘living as a girl’ away from the pressures of friend and family. Berlin is community, queers, women, art, squat parties and punks walking big dogs. I don’t want to leave and go back to my boring office job.

Then I come out. I come out to friends and to my parents. My mom cries. My anarchist feminist pals invite me to their publishing collective. They don’t care what my body looks like, at a point when I am half a year away from hormones and eight years away from surgery. It doesn’t matter. I live my life as a woman, they see me as one. I will sadly learn that this perspective is not common in feminist movements outside of Ireland.

 

I am twenty-eight years old.

I have sex with another trans woman for the first time. I keep finding I know less than I think about things I haven’t experienced, like physical disability or sex work or the experiences of my friends who are people of colour. I learn, and re-learn, to shut up and listen. On the way to a gig, someone shouts ‘are you a boy or a girl?’



I am twenty-six years old.

I’m one of possibly three people in Irish feminist communities educating people around trans issues. I read a fuckton of zines and books and blogs. A lot of them are about body acceptance. I never find ones that quite fit me, as I haven’t yet found sex-positive, feminist trans women community. I consider myself the equal of cis women and expect to be treated as such.

 

I am thirty-three years old.

I’m denied boarding on a flight to Canada due to a mismatched passport. This is because changing gender in Italian documentation is a long, complex process. When I inquired over the phone, the representative of the Italian consulate laughed at me.

 

I am twenty-seven years old.

I leave my office job, a mixture of extreme stress due to early transition and numerous other issues. My mom and I attend a joint therapy session, a year after she broke down over the phone and called me ‘monster’, a manner of speaking nobody can ever believe came from my mom, but confusion and despair make us do and say weird shit. At the leftie social centre, a ‘comrade’ asks me if I’ve had ‘the surgery’ yet.

 

I am twenty-nine years old.

I want to move away from Ireland. I have friends and my parents there, but I need a change. I try for a job with a London company. They’re keen, but they accidentally find my heavily trans, feminist political writings online. They tell me in no uncertain terms discussion of politics in the workplace is not tolerated. I agree completely. I don’t get the job.

 

I am twenty-seven years old (again)

I travel to the United States and spend over a month surrounded by queers/trans people. I go to punk gigs, political convergences, music festivals in the woods. I give voice to my migrant identity. I keep trying to listen and to learn. Combining strength and confidence in my cultural background with being humble about what I don’t know is hard, but I work at it every day.

 

I am twenty-nine years old (agaaaaaain)

My mom gives me leggings for christmas. She uses ‘she’ a lot now. We start telling close friends and family. The reaction is positive. My mom shows me a video about Florencia de la V, a trans woman actress who was now a mother. I had made fun of Florencia when I was a kid and saw her on the TV. I am so happy for her now.

 

I am thirty-three years old (again I guess? Who knows even)

I still try to listen for intent.

I still find being employed difficult due to the discrimination that abounds.

I allow myself and others to fuck up.

I sometimes generalise about men because I keep getting street harassed and it does my nerves rotten.

I form bonds of solidarity with other trans women, to build each other up in similarities and differences. I form bonds of solidarity with cis women in much the same way. I fight every day to love myself and express solidarity to all my sisters.

Coming out and transitioning has been extremely difficult. I’ve lost friends, good ones. I’ve been harassed, I’ve been discriminated against. But I make sense. I make some sort of sense instead of none at all. I try to uplift other people. I get to just *be* instead of living constantly afraid of not measuring up. The sacrifices were steep but the rewards have been plentiful.

I had to come out. Because I could, and that is fortunate. But because of the tangible. The material realities.

I believe firmly in a quote from a Cat and Girl comic:

“Thoughts that don’t lead into action don’t exist.”

I have clinical depression, which has severely hampered my creative projects and much of my life, and I’ve been succesful in slowly fighting it off. My depression tells me to stay in my thoughts. Stay fantasising about being a writer, or other things. For many years it told me existing as a woman in this world was just something to indulge in as a fantasy.

But the same depression wants these things to stay as thoughts. To not exist as an action. Action, living and breathing and existing in the real world are the enemies of the funeral envelopment of depression*.

Of course, depression is in part a defense mechanism. Because when a thought becomes an action in the real world, it has to exist in the world with everyone else. Where other people might reject it. Where they might mercilessly tear it down. In part, depression is trying to protect me from that after way too many instances of being torn to pieces for what I am or what I want.

But I have to live in the world that is material because to attempt to do otherwise is to not exist. I have to live in the world and I am, indeed, a material girl, if you pardon the reference. I’m fortunate that the only thing I’m scared of, more than anything else, is death and the inertia that leads to it. This spurs me into action and it’s been my saving grace. I don’t know what’s yours, whoever you are. But others cannot read our minds. They cannot see who we are unless we express it in some way. And they can only make assumptions based on what they see or hear in the only world we share: that of material reality.

(*: yes I have assigned depression attributes of an infectious disease or semi-sentient virus, it’s how I’ve chosen to engage with it, silly and possibly unscientific as it may be. I invite you to, if you haven’t already, find different avenues through which to engage with your own demons so as to keep them at bay.)

 

Parenting a Gender Fluid Child/What to say to Douchey People

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Over the last 10 years I’ve seen a huge shift in the way gender is expressed in children. Where parents are less enforcing of gender binaries children are allowed the space to explore their own and other genders. I think this is a wonderful step forward for humanity. I long for a world free of toxic masculinity, (and toxic femininity), free of the strictly enforced gender binary system. a world where humans can just be humans, and can self identify in whatever way is comfortable and enjoyable for them.

I have a 6 year old son. He lives with me and 3 of his siblings 4 days a week and spends the other 3 with his dad. When he is at my house he likes to wear clothing traditionally associated with girls. I have no idea if this is a passing phase, if he is just a curious child exploring gender options or if he will grow up to be a transexual, or a drag queen (I should be so lucky!), or even if he may be transgender. I cannot know where his love of dressing up will go (if anywhere). So I treat him the same way, I don’t make a big deal out of any of it, I love him and support him and follow his lead at all times in this regard. I let him know the same message that I have been teaching him since he could understand me ‘It’s ok to be you. Live authentically. Be yourself. You are loved’. Last week he asked us to start calling him by a different name, a ‘girls’ name. All of my kids were fine with addressing him by his new name and using female pronouns. He has made it easy for us by saying that he wants to be addressed with the new name only when he is dressed as a girl.

Since then I have become more open about this to the people in our lives. The responses have been overwhelmingly supportive, bar a couple of people whom have come at me with some pretty awful stuff. These are people who would consider themselves to be fairly tolerant. So I wanted to address some of the objections that I’ve heard, as I suspect perhaps there are other parents out there in a similar situation to me, and it may be of some use to them (I hope).

  1. Why does he only do this at your house?                                                                                        I think he only does it at my house because he only has access to dresses, make up ect at my house. Also he feels comfortable to do it at my house. He used to wear nail polish to pre-school but the other kids made fun of him and now he refuses to wear it in public. He LOVES wearing nail polish and has loved it since he was a toddler. I believe he feels comfortable and safe and accepted in my house which is why he chooses to dress in a feminine way when he is with me.
  2. You  must be doing something to encourage him. That is irresponsible. Trans adults wouldn’t be that way if they’re parents hadn’t encouraged them when they were little. (Yes someone actually said that to me.)                                                                              I am encouraging him, this is true, but not in the way you think. I am encouraging his natural expression of himself. I am supporting him in the choices he makes for himself. I am not standing at his bedroom door suggesting he wears dresses or asking does he want me to do his make up. I follow his lead. I feel this is the responsible course of action. I want all of my children to feel supported in how they choose to express who they are. As for the idea that transgender children are a result of overly liberal parenting I can only say that science disagrees. Gender Dysphoria is the medical term. Look it up.
  3. This is a result of your hatred of men and masculinity.                                                             This would imply that trans people are part of an Evil Feminist  conspiracy to wipe men from the face of the earth. As far as I am aware, no such conspiracy exists. Also I love masculinity. I love (a lot of) men. I greatly dislike toxic masculinity. I was raped and abused by toxic masculinity. I see toxic masculinity as the poison of the modern age. It hurts everyone it touches, most especially the men who embody it. Just because I love equality doesn’t mean I hate men. I have so many beautiful, strong, caring, loving, heart-opened men in my life. I love them. I have 3 sons. I do not have a crazy agenda to try and turn my sons into women. Sigh.
  4. You are creating a drama about this when there doesn’t need to be one (ie. discourage this and it will all go away)                                                                                                                  I agree there doesn’t need to be a drama. It’s a 6 year old child who likes to dress up. It may never be more than that. What is the big deal? I will not discourage any of my children from pursuing their truth. I would consider that to be horrendous parenting. I don’t see any of it as being a big deal or a drama. No matter where this goes all I can deal with is what the present moment is offering – and that is a small child who likes to dress up, and that’s fine with me.
  5. Gender Fluid children just lack good strong male role models. (Yep, I know again, can you believe it. Someone actually said that to me.)                                                                    Oh dear, where to start with this one. Everything cannot be explained away with Freudian theory? Now I am no where near to being an expert on gender fluidity or Gender Dysphoria. I know shamefully little about the subjects. But I do know some gender fluid people (probably more than the person who said this to me) and I see them as harbingers of the future. People who are here to lead us and show us a way out of the strictly enforced gender binary system. I admire them their bravery and strength in being who they are in a world that very much would like them to sit in this box over here please and don’t get out. Second to this argument –  why is it that it is just the lack of male role models that concerns? Is there a study somewhere to show that children raised with ‘good male role models’ never grow up to be gender fluid? Can anyone point me to any evidence at all that would support this strange conclusion?
  6. He is just doing this to get attention from you. You mustn’t be playing boyish games with him enough. This is him reaching out to try and get your attention by doing things he thinks you like, like dressing up and make up.                                              There’s a lot to plough through here, firstly it is very sexist to assume that all I am into is clothes and make up. Make up would be very low on my list of interests and while I do like to get dressed up myself I have very little interest in talking about it, or dressing others. Most of the activities I do with my kids are things that ALL of us will enjoy, so we bake together, we go to the beach and build sand castles, we read stories, we make stories, we watch movies, we give each other foot massages, we make art (a lot of art), we play ball games and frisbee and do gardening. These are the things I do with my kids. These are the same activities I did with my older 4 children and none of them have magically turned into gender fluid or trans people  as a result. I do not think there is a logical correlation  between having a mum who doesn’t play much lego with you and choosing to wear dresses. Also the effort to apportion blame (on me) indicates a belief that there is something wrong with him dressing this way, which I do not agree with.
  7. He will end up socially ostracised and it will be your fault for encouraging him.             I believe that hiding what we truly are causes sickness and sometimes suicide. I do not want that for my children. I want them to live authentic lives, rich with love and support and ease. I know that the world hasn’t quite caught up with accepting everyone for who they are and so I try and teach my children resilience, for no one, not even the most privileged escape the inevitable cruelty of others. Emotional intelligence, resilience and self love are things I try and teach my kids, so that when someone is a douche to them they can handle it. It is the best I can do to prepare them for a sometimes cruel world. I also wouldn’t want friends for my kids who wanted them to be something they are not. I wish for true friends for my children, the kind of friend who sees exactly who they are and loves them for it and stands by them. If I had to choose for my kids between them hiding their  true selves to fit in and living authentically and getting shit for it – living authentically would win hands down everytime. 

 

Taryn De Vere is an eccentric dresser, a writer, mother of 5, a conscious relationship coach for Love With Ease Please http://www.lovewitheaseplease.com, a performance artist https://www.facebook.com/A-Chaotic-Embrace-113263035681066 , and a sex positive parenting educator https://www.facebook.com/sexpositiveparenting 

Photo by Eamonn Brown Photography

Marriage is not Equality: Thoughts on #MarRef from a worried radical queer

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This article is based heavily on the script for the 15/05/15 episode of my radio show, 30 km/s, which airs live online every 2 weeks on www.subcity.org

I also recommend reading this compilation of writings put out by Aidan Rowe, one of the many people in Ireland eloquently providing a radical critique of the very concept of marriage equality, as well as other real problems with the Referendum campaign, from an anarchist-queer perspective.

It’s been with interest and trepidation that I’ve been observing the campaign for the Marriage Referendum from afar, desperately wanting to be there. Between the overt homophobic abuse spouted by the ‘No’ campaign and the rather horrid effect of single-issue liberal politics and policing of identity from the mainstream, acceptable parts of the so-called ‘Gay’ community, I’ve felt quite homesick for Dublin, where I lived for 11 years.

While I’ve resided in Glasgow for the past couple of years, I came out as a trans woman and a lesbian, and began transitioning, in Ireland. I was heavily involved in the LGBTQ community/ies, both with the mainstream and the more radical elements. I’ve been a member of numerous LGBTQ organisations, such as TENI, and the late Queer Spraoi and PinC, and was the content editor for the defunct BoLT magazine, a magazine by and for LGBTQ women and trans people of all genders. I am still a strong part of the community with numerous bonds of friendship and solidarity with my LGBTQ friends living there, and I try to make it over at least a few times a year (especially for my fave Pride festival, Northwest Pride, when I can manage it!).

However, I feel the referendum has brought out some of the worst aspects of Irish society, both the homophobic, bigoted, misogynistic right-wing elements (church-led and otherwise) as well as the assimilationist, clean-cut ‘we are just like you’ part of the gay community, which seems more focused on adapting to a cishet norm than actually fighting for queers in the streets. To the extent of advising people to call the police on LGBTQ people who take down and vandalise the homophobic posters put up by the No campaign.

Let’s start with the basics. If you’re in Ireland, do I think you should vote yes, no, or abstain?

Vote yes. Clearly. Obviously.

Voting no is simply objectionable. Voting yes grants LGBTQ people rights that we should already have. If you’re a particularly politically minded LGBTQ person, abstaining should not be an option, considering the rather ghastly politics that make up the No side, from the homophobic and misogynistic Iona Institute to other typical right-wing, antifeminist elements in Irish society. And for many people, the rights granted are crucial and life saving: Adoption, citizenship, visitation rights in hospital, etcetera are all sorely needed. The state declaring that same-sex relationships are equal in the eyes of the law can have a strong effect on other parts of society as well.

Are we cool on that? Because from this point on, things get complicated.

Let’s start with the institution of marriage. If you’re in love, committing to someone for life, if that’s what you’re both into, that’s rad! Go ahead and do it, more power to you. But why do we need the state to get involved?

On a practical level, the issues around rights I’ve highlighted above are an obvious answer. But I ask you to take a step back and ask yourself: Why does citizenship depend on marriage? The fact of the matter is, historically, the state are heavily invested in regulating who comes and goes from their countries, and how family units are organised -a cursory look at the last 30 years of Irish history is proof of this. At different points in history, states will encourage immigration or discourage it through policies as well as promoting xenophobia, like we have seen in recent years. So I pose another question: why are our rights limited by whether or not we get access to a specific state-sanctioned form of relationship? What if we need those rights but we do not want the state involved in our affairs? What about the other things we have a right to but are often marginalised in? Housing and homelessness, unemployment, poverty, which studies in Ireland, the United States and UK show LGBTQ people overrepresented in those categories in proportion to the general population? Not to mention many other areas of discrimination in every day life I couldn’t hope to cover. Check out the following studies and reports that show marriage isn’t the only, or even the central, issue:

Ireland

List of publications by the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (I couldn’t link just one they’re all bloody important)

United States

Injustice at Every Turn – A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey

New Patterns of Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community

UK

An Examination of Poverty and Sexual Orientation in the UK

Debunking the ‘Pink Pound’ – LGBT Poverty and Place in Scotland

One answer is that marriage equality is something that is achievable within our lifetime. All of your radical ideas about no borders, abolishing capitalism, etcetera, are all well and good, but they are unrealistic and impossible to achieve, the argument goes.

But let me ask you: would we have gotten to where we are now in terms of achieving same-sex marriage in many countries, if people had not fought for that specifically? The interesting thing is that back in the late 60s, when queens and dykes and faggots were being beaten up by police in New York, incarcerated and abused in my native Argentina, when the revolutionary voices of Stonewall and so many other places rose up, were they calling for a seat at the table of mainstream acceptability? Were they asking for marriage equality?

No. They were saying the table rests on the back of people like us. the poor. the disabled. the ones who are not acceptable faces of a marriage campaign. The migrants, the sex workers, the people of colour, the people with mental health issues and physical disabilities. Not to mention the majority of people who live in poverty. In the face of this, Gay Liberation was a call to arms for us who were considered deviant by society due to breaking gender and sexual norms, for us to reform society from the ground up for a radical concept of equality. Not equality based on a single law, a single yes or no question, but rather on true equality for all.

My problem isn’t with marriage per se, but marriage does not exist in a vacuum. The fact is that same-sex marriage will change absolutely nothing for 99% of queers I know. I accept that is a biased sample, but most of the LGBTQ people I know fall under one of the many following categories: Disabled with either physical or mental disabilities; people of colour; survivors of abuse; migrants; with experience of homelessness; sex workers.

What does marriage do for us? We are poor. We are kicked out of welfare systems designed to keep us in poverty. Trans people are frequently targeted to be kicked out of social welfare system due to conflicting documentation.

We have an asylum system in both the UK and Ireland that is despicable in its utter dehumanisation of people. And if you add to that the extra scrutiny afforded to LGBTQ asylum seekers, the picture is grim.

Sex workers struggle with the violence of a state that will deny the right of vulnerable people to try to make a living, often in really difficult situations.

Racism in Ireland and the UK is an everyday occurrence, as is xenophobia, ableism, misogyny.

And let us not forget the elephant in the room: how marriage equality does nothing for those members of the LGBTQ community that need an abortion and are not able to get one in Ireland.

We can’t address all of those issues at once, of course. But is ticking ‘yes’ on a box all we can really do? Is our political imagination so constrained? Why must we accept reducing everything we are and all we live and suffer through to whether this referendum passes?

Here’s where the rub comes in for me: the famous saying that a society or community can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. Let’s not kid ourselves: the Irish LGBTQ community as a whole has an appalling record in this regard. Racism, misogyny, ableism, and even transphobia have been rampant and unchecked for a long time within it, and not enough has been done to fight this. The mainstream LGBTQ community does precious little work for asylum seekers and people of colour. There’s virtually no campaigning around LGBTQ people with disabilities and/or in poverty.

So, with all of these issues, I have more questions to ask: Why are we campaigning for marriage now, instead of working to help the vulnerable sectors of the LGBTQ community in Ireland? Where is the money coming from for all the signs, vans, etcetera? And after the referendum, if it’s a Yes, where will all that money, energy, door-to-door canvassing, go to? If Ireland follows precedent, all that political mobilisation will vanish overnight. If we’re lucky, it will help mobilise for gender recognition for trans people as it did in Argentina, but even that will not fix all the other problems I’ve mentioned.

The fact of the matter is that marriage, in general, is a reform that is easy to attain and does not disturb the capitalist, patriarchal status quo. Marriage has always been, from the point of view of the state, about organising workers and property, determining who lives where and how. It is not a revolutionary institution and it will not bring about the change the most vulnerable LGBTQ people in Ireland sorely need.

Will the money and huge organising energy from the Yes campaign go to campaigns to abolish the direct provision system? Will money be raised by the big orgs to help out LGBTQ asylum seekers? What about campaigns to help improve the standard of living in local communities?

Ireland has a chance in this regard, because in all other countries, once they got what they wanted, these campaigns disbanded. They didn’t mobilise the LGBTQ communities over which they have so much sway to fight poverty, police violence, or for the decriminalisation of sex work. The system of global capital will still stand. Will the Yes campaigners stand with us?

Bi+ Ireland Upcoming Events

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Hello, my lovely bisexual, pansexual and queer readers! If you’re in or around Ireland in the next week or two, Bi+ Ireland have been busy organising meetups in (literally) all four corners of the country. If you’re anywhere under the nonmonosexual/romantic umbrella and in this part of the world, we’d love to have you along. If you’re not, though? I’d appreciate it a ton if you could share the events and let people know about them.

And before I go, remember: Bi+ Ireland isn’t just our public page and events! We have a thriving worst-keptsecret FB discussion group as well- just send us a PM for an invite.

Here’s the details:

OCT 17: Bi+ Ireland October Meetup Dublin

Accents Cafe in Dublin, Ireland 19:00

(FB Event Page)

OCT 17: Bi+ Ireland October Meetup Galway

The Secret Garden Galway in Galway, Ireland 20:00

(FB Event Page)

OCT 18: Bi+ Ireland Belfast October meetup

Queen’s Arcade in Belfast, United Kingdom 15:30

(FB Event Page)

OCT 25: Bi+ Ireland October Cork meetup

Bodega Cork in Cork, Ireland 15:00

(FB Event Page)

Boundaries, Thresholds and Love: Why it’s time to take back ‘bi’.

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One of the most important divisions within how bi+ people navigate and experience relationships is not between whether the people we date are men or women- it’s whether they’re queer or straight. Queer/LGBTQ culture, with its DIY attitude towards gendered roles in relationships and with our common experiences of self-discovery, coming out, and being out, is its own particular thing. It’s a set of shared understandings, and gay people pretty much always have that in common with partners. Bi+ people? Not necessarily. And so much of queer cultures were created as a different way of thinking about and doing relationships more-or-less in opposition to heteronormativity. But as bi+ people, whether or not we come from within queer cultures and ways of doing relationships, our lives are often defined by our relationships happening both within and outside those cultures. Some of the people we love (of all different genders!) will be queer. Some of the people we love will be straight and will not have had- or may not understand at all- queer experiences and their significance. But we still have, and those relationships don’t take from the experiences that we have had and who they have made us.

We occupy a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. We are forced into a binary.

And then we go outside.

The rest, over at Consider the Tea Cosy.

An Open Letter to Roseanne Barr, From a Feminist Sister

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 happen, rather than conjectures and assumptions. This reality check is about toilets. In a heated twitter outburst, you wrote ‘if she has a penis, she’s not allowed in’, continuing with ‘women do not want your penises forced in their faces or in our private bathrooms’.

Roseanne, I honestly wonder, just what do you think I do when I go to the bathroom? I’m going to tell you exactly what I do when I go to a public bathroom. Don’t worry! I won’t be sharing any scatological details or talk about any gross poo stuff. Ick! Okay, so. My public bathroom routine is, more or less, as follows:

1. Enter bathroom, head to nearest cubicle (I’m lazy, what can I say), or, if there is a queue, join it and wait for my turn.
2. Once in the cubicle, I lock the door behind me. If there is no lock, or it’s broken, I try to find a way to hold the door either with one arm, or a leg, or a bag if I have any.
3. I do my business, and I get out of the cubicle. I head towards the sinks.
4. I wash my hands carefully. At this point, maybe eye contact is made with another woman. Maybe we’ll say hi or comment on the weather. You know, small talk.
5. Leave the bathroom in the knowledge of a job well done.

So, there you have it. This is what I do when I, a trans woman, a woman who was assigned male at birth and has transitioned to female, do when I go to the bathroom. I can imagine that you, a cis woman, assigned female at birth, have a similar routine. Maybe you make witty remarks if someone strikes up a conversation, after all you’re a very intelligent person who can come up with a better topic than the goddamn weather.

What I’m trying to point out here is that at no point did I:

1. Talk to other women or girls in the bathroom about my genitals and the status thereof, or
2. Show my genitals to other women or girls in the bathroom or generally expose myself.

I imagine you don’t do this either. Congratulations. You go to the bathroom in exactly the same manner I do, as a trans woman. And before you ask? No, I have not had sexual reassignment surgery.

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?

Now, I want to ask you to do something. Look up all reported cases of trans women raping minors in restrooms. Or of ‘men dressed as women’ doing this. Now, look up statistics of the violence faced by trans people in our society, and the way it maims and murders us for who we are (or, occasionally, when a black trans woman kills a white man, by accident, in self defense, she is sentenced as a mere murderer).

Ask any trans person, trans men, trans women, genderqueer & non-binary folk, and we will all tell you that bathrooms, for us, are TERRIFYING. Almost every trans person I’ve ever met (and being a long-time activist in the community, I’ve met a few from at least a dozen countries), has a horror story. That time they got beaten up for being in the ‘wrong’ toilet, whether it corresponded to their birth-assigned gender or not. The time they got shouted at. The time someone stabbed them. And this violence is mostly faced by those whom patriarchy, heteronormativity and a racist capitalism makes the most vulnerable: trans women of colour. 

You are asking us to face real violence because of the fact that a small percentage of us (just like a small percentage of ANY GROUP IN SOCIETY) may be rapists or paedophiles. There’s probably paedophiles or rapists in your own party, Roseanne, statistically speaking. By your own logic, we shouldn’t let members of the Peace and Freedom party into women’s bathrooms either.

You’ve brought the misogyny present in much of the LGBTQ movement into this conversation. I couldn’t agree more that this is a hugely important thing to address, and we need to continue to make LGBTQ groups understand that misogyny exists, that women are particularly oppressed in this patriarchal society. I think we can agree on this quite easily. I’m a long-time feminist activist, and have seen how misogyny tears movements apart, and how we must bring a feminist consciousness to bear on these problems.

Near the end of this blog post, you talk about vitriol aimed your way by members of the trans community. Threats and misogynist insults are unacceptable! But when you imply that an entire community is made up of rapists and paedophiles, many people are going to be angry and upset. And they may have very base reactions based on the fact that a massive percentage of us deal with massive self-hatred, and are made to feel alienated and suicidal by a society which, largely, promotes hatred towards us. A hatred we have to confront in the streets, every day, when we leave our front door.

Your reaction to the anger of members of a persecuted and marginalised community, which you ignorantly insulted, was this:

“The level of their misogyny is akin to racist fascism from the nazi’s in 1930′s pre war berlin-The GLBTQ community needs to confront this and challenge it.”

As a trans woman who is also jewish; as a trans woman who is also the daughter of parents who survived two military dictatorships (in Uruguay and Argentina, supported by America, might I add); as a queer feminist activist fighting for liberation, as a person who has seen her friends bleeding after being beaten up at protests, evicted from their homes, as someone who fights the good fight against oppression, just as you do… This is disgusting and offensive.

The anger and vitriol from a bunch of pissed off people with very, very little power is not comparable to the campaigns of terror perpetuated by the Nazis in the build-up to their ascension to power. And that’s just the key here: power. Do you think that trans people really have the institutional and societal power to oppress you? In the United States, trans people keep being murdered, keep surviving horrible violence and discrimination, particularly trans women of colour, as I said above. Do you really think that their communication of anger through twitter is the same as a bunch of german dudes beating up an elderly jewish shopkeeper? Is this it?  I eagerly await your compilation of tweets, which the blog post promises.

I don’t know how to end this, Roseanne. I was shocked to hear you treat trans people as if we are your enemies, as if we are part of the powers that be, which continue to keep people fighting against one another, in poverty and misery, fighting wars for profit and propagating patriarchal attitudes. I hope you read this letter, and that you consider my words in it.

I leave you with a link to a video of me giving a speech encouraging Irish LGBTQ people to become allies of the pro-choice movement, at the March For Choice, Ireland’s largest pro-choice demonstration in 20 years, only a few months ago. One of my main involvements in feminism for the past five years has been campaigning for free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland, something which I imagine you strongly support. We have a lot in common Roseanne. I hope you consider what I’ve written here today.

Regards,

Ariel Silvera