Thursday, 25 February 2010

'Open up...Make room for me...'

It's been an odd week, mainly spent in my new place of employment dealing with whiney, privileged arseholes who bitch about shocking stuff like having to do tests while in training and other such nonsense. There hasn't been any overt transphobia since I stomped all over one of the fuckers the other week, which is good, but damn, these people are hard work. In that spirit, allow me to point you in the direction of The Day The Immigrants Left, a fine piece of programming in which the BBC fulfilled its public service remit in stunning fashion by showing that, actually, the reason immigrants get jobs and 'indigenous' (dog-whistle racist code for 'white') Britons don't get them is because, frankly, most indigenous Brits are a bunch of goddam whiney bitches who need to be thrashed to within an inch of their lives with as many cluesticks as one can get one's hands on. I tells ya, if my employers had recruited me and a bunch of East European migrants for this job, we wouldn't still be in training: we'd be on the damn floor doing the damn job, instead of sitting around making feeble attempts at humour through the medium of fart noises. Or, in my case, being bored bloody rigid by people whose idea of humour extends no further than the fart noise. I hate whites.

One good thing about the job is that, due to my having to come up with work-arounds for the unreliability of buses during rush hour 'round these parts, I usually wind up arriving at work an hour earlier than I have to be there, during which time I've gotten into a ritual of grabbing an Americano from the canteen and sitting down to write. I produced a poem the other day which I feel is one of my best yet, particularly in terms of addressing my experience of adolescent anorexia and the underlying reasons for it. Said poem is called Criminally Fragile, and you can find it - and a bunch of other poems that have been posted on this blog at one time or another - at my Blankmedia profile. Do please have a look, and comment if you want to. Feedback helps.

And yes, the photos used as thumbnails for the poems are pictures I've taken. Some were shot near the area where I'm working at the minute, others elsewhere. I've became kind of addicted to taking quick, serendipitous shots of things since I got the Blackberry, and especially since I started doing those little poetry 'movies' for uploading here. I'm constantly looking now for little shots that could be well-used to accompany a particular line in a poem or the poem itself. At some point I suppose I should get around to uploading some of my shots to the Wikimedia Commons to pay back the number of times I've used their images to accompany my work. That'll be a nice weekend project sometime, I think. In the meantime, as a bonus for blog readers, here's one of the shots from where I am at the moment. I work on a business park and, what with us being in a recession and all, there are lots of empty units, which are fascinating in a JG Ballard/Iain Sinclair ruins-of-late-capitalism way. I got this shot taken from underneath a spiral staircase while creeping about by one of these vacant shells.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Not Yet Dead

Readers of this blog may remember that I put together a submission for this year's Grievous Prize. Well, I didn't win. This actually wasn't much of a surprise for me: looking over the collection I submitted after emailing it off, I found that there were numerous flaws obvious to me. Also, I wrote not more than a few very good poems which fitted more strongly with the themes of that collection after I'd submitted it. So the past few days have been spent trimming the fat, rewriting the existing poems where rewriting was needed, and rotating more recently-written pieces into the front line. What I now have is a selection of 24 poems which would probably be best published in chapbook form, so the task now is to shop this potential artefact around smaller publishers, or indeed self-publish if I can be arsed with it, though I'm not really confident that my design skills can produce an object which looks sufficiently sexy to sell. The web may have made self-publishing easier, but one advantage of working with a separate publisher is they have people who can help with the design aspect. I've never been a tremendously visual person; that's why, whatever incarnation this blog has been in, it's usually been structured using an off-the-peg blogger template.

So I have a potential chapbook; but what I also have, I feel, looking at this selection, is, in a sense, the book I will be writing and rewriting for the rest of my writing life. Not literally, but in the sense that the themes in this selection are the themes to which I keep returning and to which I feel drawn to return. Peter Straub, in his introduction to Poppy Z Brite's Self-Made Man, says that most writers have certain topics they circle again and again, like vultures. Not just themes,  but obsessions.Now, with all the work I've been doing over the last year, I can see what my obsessions are (and I can also see why All Haste is from the Devil had to be abandoned in the end: it was too scattershot, too all over the place. Most of the poems were good individually, but the thing never truly cohered.).

Another opportunity to indulge these obsessions has been provided by Kevin Cadwallender, who's working on a project to produce a book in which thirty poets write a poem in response to a line from Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Every poet taking part gets a choice of two lines to riff on: my choice being between 'proof against that future ghost' and 'the smiling animal at his appointed hour.' That last sentence in particular really resonates with me: something about it reminds me of Bacon's paintings, all teeth and meat and hair, congealing flesh and shadow; and there's also a sense of a kind of masculine menace in there, the sort of horrible little wannabe thug with a company credit card and a bad scotch habit you see leering through his beer goggles and thrusting his hand in the pocket of his cheap suit in a seedy lapdancing bar at the end of another pointless day servicing his clients' accounts. Or something along those lines, anyway.

I bet I wind up writing something about the 'future ghost' line instead.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Amanda Palmer, What A Charmer

I don't really have an opinion on Amanda Palmer's music one way or another. She's of too recent a vintage for this old mosh-pit warrior, but hey, y'know, these kids have to have their own thing and not be bothered by oldsters like me going on about how we've seen it all before. And she's betrothed to Neil Gaiman, for goodness' sake! So I kind of figured she must be okay.

Then this whole Evelyn Evelyn thing blew up. EE are a musical duo supposedly discovered by Ms Palmer and Mr Jason Webley, a man who used to busk on the accordion, but let's not hold this against him. A pair of conjoined twins, EE have survived many hardships, including being exploited by child pornographers. Now, empowered by their survival of these heinous ordeals, the twins are embarking on a career as a truly unique punk cabaret act. Hurrah!

Obviously, EE don't exist and are in fact Palmer and Webley themselves putting on a turn. So far, so Spiders From Mars, though admittedly with a somewhat distasteful cripface angle. And the child porn  survivor angle...truthfully I didn't have an opinion on that. But I ran it by my ex-wife and her first response was 'urgh, yuk.' Safe to say, then, that was going a little too far.

Anyway, as one might expect, many disabled activists and feminists, many of whom were fans of Ms Palmer, have taken agin her for this little piece of performance art. Me, though, I had no opinion. To be honest if you'd told me the Evelyn Evelyn story was the plot of a novel, I'd probably have just thought 'oh, Chuck Palahniuk up to his old tricks again.' If I were still working in the bookshop, I'd bang up a display of Chuck's books, headed by the newest entry in his ouevre (which'd probably be called Join or Seam or some such): always guaranteed to get an influx of skinny white boys looking to boost their 'edgy' cred when Chuck's got a book out.

So the actual concept, I was prepared to give it a chance. What riled me was Ms Palmer's cavalier dismissal of those who were offended by her concept, a fairly good example of which can be found in the latest entry on her blog. I don't have the energy for a protracted fisk right now, but the gist of it is that you see, all this is about Amanda and how she's a special snowflake and an artist and anyone who objects to her oh-so-wonderful art on the grounds that it offends the vulnerable is a hater. Boooooo, haters! And oh yeah, we should all be nice to Amanda because she's PMSing apparently. Yes. You heard that right. Those of you who have debilitating physical conditions that render you at times unable to walk without intense pain, should just keep your traps shut because Amanda fucking Palmer has a pain in her womb.

Personally I'm not willing to extend Ms Palmer that courtesy, because I want to follow her example. After all, as she herself said on her twitter page, referring to the problems with which disabled people struggle 'pain is inevitable. suffering is optional.'

FUCK. YOU. Ms Palmer. My ex-wife is disabled. My mother is disabled. I have friends who are disabled. I have seen people I love suffer horrific, crippling discomfort, pain which made them wish for death, and I find it patronising in the extreme for you to tell me, and to tell those people, that their suffering is 'optional.' Fuck. You.

I say again: Evelyn Evelyn itself? Willing to give it a chance. From what I've heard it'll be shit, but I'm willing to give it a go and form my own opinion. But Amanda Palmer's callous dismissal of disabled people who've objected to her project? Far from fucking cool.

Something else that's far from cool is the legions of fanboys and fangirls who've leapt to Palmer's defence in places as diverse as her blog itself and Neil Gaiman's facebook page. Invertebrates every man, woman and nonbinary-jack of 'em, all of them desperate to show their support for their little life-surrogates by spunking all over the internet with their banal and facile 'why can't anyone take a joke? 1! :)' comments. So, just for the record, here's what I had to say to some of these c**ts on Neil Gaiman's Facebook page. Read, reflect, and, if you ever feel like offering your own feeble two-brain-cell's worth in support of some 'controversial' celeb, recollect:

Tell you what. You guys just go on with your cheerleading in the vain and desperate hope that maybe the Famous Man will like you, and he'll invite you to his Big House and you can have tea and plait each other's hair and he'll answer ALL your questions about the Sandman, because you're SOOOOO nice to him. ;)

Hey don't be offended! I put a 'wink' emoticon at the end! I'm not being SERIOUS! I'm not REALLY calling you idiots! Sheesh! Can't you take a joke?

Have your own opinions, people. Think for yourselves, and don't just excuse  bad conduct by your idols just because they are your idols. And remember, kids: logic is unstoppable. Fandom is conditional.

Or it amanda fucking should be,

Sunday, 14 February 2010

They're like arseholes...

I've been getting more and more annoyed with vox pops on the telly. They're doing a lot of it at the minute what with the run-up to the election, and the new comedy 'Bellamy's People', which I'm quite enjoying (largely, it has to be said, because of Felix Dexter's inspired contributions, though Amelia Bullmore's logic-impervious CofE maven is also a delight), is sort of an extended satire on the technique. Both the supposedly factual news and the fictional comedy essentially make the same point: put most members of the general public on camera and start asking questions, and in most cases the result will be complete bollocks: amusing bollocks in the case of 'Bellamy's People', and tragically unfunny, head-shakingly bad bollocks when the camera gets shoved in the face of an actual member of the public on the news.

Which is mystifying. Because they can't all be that stupid, can they?

I don't think they are. The problem, I think, is this: most people who are smart enough to have an informed and thought-out opinion on an issue are usually smart enough not to stop in the street and burble into a camera when they have other things they could be doing; and, when they do give their opinion, it will probably be too long and well-reasoned to fit into a quick soundbite in a three-minute news report. When asked: will you vote at this election, one person might give a lucid, balanced appraisal of the pros and cons of voting, and whether it really makes a difference under the current electoral system, and maybe even the fact that there are all kinds of ways to be actively involved in the functioning of a democratic polity without voting, while someone else might just say, 'well, I won't bother voting really, politicians are all the same, aren't they?' And you can bet it's the second person who'll get on the news.

The other problem is that the people most willing to give you their two cents on an opinion are usually the people least informed about it. And they're also the people most likely to take umbrage when you point out that they are uninformed. The cult of the vox pop, and the witless way in which most media have decided to go to town with never-ending surveys and discussion boards instead of putting in the time and energy to be genuinely interactive, have created in the opinionated-but-uneducated the perception that they not only have a right to express an opinion, but also that their opinion should not be challenged because it is their opinion, and challenging them is a form of censorship.

And so I was thinking that I ought to really write something explaining how just because you have an opinion, it doesn't mean you're right and maybe you should think and inform yourself before engaging mouth, not brain, and so on, and then I came across this piece on A Truly Elegant Mess which, I feel, rather sums it up. You should read it. In my opinion.

Friday, 12 February 2010

More Cisfail Poetry

How dare I call you ignorant?

I call you ignorant

because you’re ignorant
five minutes of research
could tell you what you don’t know
but you won’t do it

because you’re white
because you’re straight
because you’re cis


is what it is

and you can’t stand it
to have your image countermanded
and that’s why you make up
all the stories that you’ve handed

down about you bringing civilisation
to hide the fact you’re living in the parasite nations
tic-fat on the blood you sucked from slave-plantations
on the money you extorted from the rebel Hatitians

all to hide the fact
that you brought hate where there was hope
and when you couldn’t deal in cotton
you got rich from dealing dope

and now you sit and boast about
the beer you’ll have tonight
smug and safe inside the knowledge
that you won’t have to fight

to get from where you’re living
to the place you want to go,
such a cosseted Caucasian
such a healthy young hetero

who could learn what you don’t know
in just five minutes of research
that I know you’ll never do

because a girl like me
should never call a guy like you
out on his ignorance

because I know it makes you feel so bad,
and, oh, my dear young white boy,
we can’t be having that

So, yeah, I had a go at some tosser at work for being transphobic today. Said tosser had also been racist earlier in the week. Said tosser was, of course, white, and straight, and cis, and missing no opportunity to tell every single fucker in the office about the child he'd recently fathered on the woman unfortunate enough to be his wife. Because, you know, you learn so much more about being a man once you've given life...though apparently you don't learn how your dumb cis mouth can easily deny other people the right to their own life, it would seem.

I finished my tirade at this tosser by telling it (I deliberately misgender and dehumanise transphobic cis people as a matter of policy, on the grounds that they're the only people on the planet who need to find out how that feels) that it should read something before arguing the point with me and, my dear, you should have seen the look on its face. Nothing annoys a cis white male more than the suggestion it might not know anything purely by virtue of being pale-skinned, heterosexual, and happy with the genitalia it was born with.

I suppose it's possible it's reading this - if indeed it can read. And if so, hey, stick around, fella. Read. Learn. Appreciate that your skin colour and your sexuality and your genitalia aren't the gateway to ultimate understanding. Understand in fact that being a white, straight, cis male actually makes you, in the eyes of  most of the rest of us on this planet, one of the dumbest motherfuckers on Earth. It's okay. Conscious incompetence is the first stage of true learning.

It's possible it could be reading this. I kind of doubt it. Why should it bother to learn? It hasn't had to yet.

Which, of course, is what will make it all the more sweeter when it pisses its last in an old folks' home, still angry at the pangendered, multicultural, polysexual planet that's replaced the world that it grew up in. Change is coming, motherfucker; what you reap is what you sow; and when the trans man that used to be your daughter pulls the plug on your sorry comatose arse, you can't say that you weren't warned.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore


I go stone in the chair I was safe in a second ago,
cringing inside at the joke you just told,
the one they all roared at. I watch you bask

in your cheaply-won laugh. Every high-five, each back-
slap when I want to punch you, reminds me
that I am alone in this room. Alone, and outnumbered,

so I keep my silence. Care must be taken,
boats left unrocked. I’m new here: no sense
in risking my neck,

so I bite my tongue, and watch
each creasing face, and tell myself
this is not cowardice.

This poem represents almost my total writing output for this week. The remainder of said output is a page and a half of, oddly enough, a short story which I started fooling around with on Sunday night and which, it became clear, will be absolute filth. Seriously, it's going to turn out to be full-on porn. A very odd story to run into but it seems very insistent on being written so I'm going along with it for the time being. My working title for the piece is currently 'What's so amazing about really deep thoughts?' but that's inevitably subject to change.
The poem above refers to two incidents I've seen in different places this week where I was pretty much a newbie, and so felt too socially awkward to cause a scene, but where I witnessed people using the idea of a female character 'really being a man' as a cheap pop to spice up their attempts at humour. The annoying thing is that both were actually funny enough not to have to resort to this shit. My reactions to all this were somewhat complex: anger, disappointment, sadness, fear, and a nice big helping of guilt about the fact I didn't have the guts to openly confront the transphobia inherent in the 'jokes'. The poem doesn't make up for that failure. But I hope that it does something. If nothing else, next time I'm ever at a gig and someone finishes with this kind of cheap gag, I'll know what poem to start my set with.
There isn't really time for a smart, witty sign-off. It's past eleven pm here, and I have to get up at six am for work tomorrow. I'll finish with this point: you remember, at school, how your teachers told you that if the other guy wasn't laughing it wasn't a joke? That still applies. If you've told a joke and most of the people in the room are laughing, but one person in the room isn't and is in fact looking extremely uncomfortable suddenly, you did not tell a very good joke, and you need to own that, and you need to try harder next time. And that isn't censorship, and that isn't 'people not having a sense of humour anymore', and it definitely isn't 'Political Correctness' gone mad. It's called growing up , and being better. Own it, people.

Monday, 8 February 2010


An American Redhead in London posted a link to a horoscope today for Virgo which, as a Virgo myself, I find quite appropriate too:

A small feat you accomplish today could evolve into a much bigger achievement down the road. You may have felt recently that you can't tackle the big stuff because the little stuff keeps getting in the way, but actually you are covering a lot of ground just doing what you're doing now. You sometimes tend to feel as though you have to make big, sweeping changes in order to show progress. But progress is any forward movement. If you stop focusing on how many inches forward you moved, you will soon look back and realize just how far you've come.

Appropriate for me too. I keep thinking I'm Dragging My Heels and Not Doing Enough. But then when I look back at where I was and the state I was in last July and August, the change is astonishing. I look at where I am now, I look at what I'm doing, and I think that I would never have had the courage to do any of it a year ago. Whooooahh, indeed.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

It Pays To Increase Your Word Power

...according to that well-known CIA-front the Reader's Digest, anyway. Myself, I'm not so sure. It seems to me that most of the people I've seen in high-paying positions had laughably deficient vocabularies, especially when you struck out all the phatic cant about 'pushing the envelope' and 'thinking outside the box'. Language is a vicious mistress: to get the best out of her, you have to love her for her own sake, not just as a means to financial advancement.

On the other hand there are ways in which language pays immense dividends. Language can limit your world, but it can also open  it up quite dramatically. When I first came across 'genderqueer' as a term, I felt liberated. Here was a word I could use to describe my own sense of identity, and not have to couch it in other peoples' terms of reference. It's a word I've come to love. So much so, in fact, that I've stuck a permanent link to a definition down the right-hand side of this blog so I don't have to link to a definition of the word every time I mention it in a post.

I've learned a lot of new words this past year. Cis is definitely another favourite, because, again, it does what words ought to by describing something we didn't have a word for, or for which we had words but those words didn't work. Now that we can describe men and women as cis as well as trans gender, there really is no excuse beyond intellectual laziness for referring to trans people and 'normal' or 'real' people. There's no excuse for the casual dehumanisation that phrasing endorses. And yeah, for some people, that's a headfuck. But some headfucks are good. They help you learn. They help your mind to grow. They expand your conception of what's 'normal'.

Dash it all. I sound like a 60s drug guru there. But it's true. Language, when used right, is the greatest mind-expanding drug there is. But, let's face it. People don't just use drugs to expand their minds. They use them because they're fun. Because they bring pleasure.

A word that brought me pleasure recently is Mx. Mx is a genderqueer variant of Mr, Mrs or Ms. It's an honorific, a nominal title, but it isn't one which places you on any specific part of the gender binary. I found out about it when Kate Bornstein retweeted a comment by Justin Bond, who uses Mx as hir honorific, and I thought, hmm, what's that about, went looking, and found my new preferred form of address. This is how we often find our words, because we live in, at best, the margins of the dictionary. And, for us, the Reader's Digest truism is true - because when we find new words we find new ways to describe the truth of our identity.

Recently, people have began referring to me as 'Mx Fish'. I even had an email the other day from an official body which used the form. Sure, they were probably cutting and pasting what I'd written, but there is an outside chance someone there thought 'Mx? Eh?', looked it up, and learned. Either way, seeing that form being used was a hit. Language can be a drug when you use it; it can also be a drug when people use it to describe you.

Thing is, though, like all people who've taken their first hits of a drug, I'm getting greedy. I want more. Specifically, I want more words. Us genderqueer folk have 'Mx' as an honorific, and we have 'hir' and 'ze' in place of 'him/his/her' and 'he/she', but what else do we have? What's our version of 'Sir' or 'Madam'? 'Mirr'? 'Za'am'? What about 'boy' or 'girl'? What if I want to say, as I will shortly, 'this ___'_ goin' to bed' but 'boy' doesn't sound quite right and 'girl' seems to be going too far (though actually, rather like Eve Ensler, I quite like the idea that boys can be girls too)? 'Goy' is out for obvious reasons, so - what? 'Birl'? 'Borl'? 'Brrrl?' Still don't quite seem right, do they? 

Which is where I throw the floor open to you, dear readers. What words do we need to subject to a radical genderqueering so we can claim them as our own?

Friday, 5 February 2010

'Understand: there is no 'I'. Feel the Black Flame.'

(well okay, it was the White Flame in the Invisibles but work with me here, yeah?)

Short post today (and the crowd goes wild) because there is Stuff that Must Be Done. Yes. Well. Stuff I Fancy Doing, more like. Stuff That Isn't At All Necessary But I Quite Like, to be honest. Look, it's 'me' time, okay? It's been blue-arsed-fly central here all week and I'm meant to be on holiday. Yeeesh. You people, honestly....

But seriously though, I am taking a little time out from the ongoing Katrina Harte campaign to get some other stuff done, and one of the stuffs I'm getting done actually is a Thing That Must Be Done, in that it's the gig at Black Flame Books I keep going on about. This thing is happening sometime tomorrow afternoon, I think; I don't quite know the exact time yet, that's still being worked out. I'll be on the scene from 12:30pm onwards, which is when people are getting there to sort out the running order; and hey, the shop itself is open for business from 10am-5pm so, y'know, get down there anyway, support your local bookshop, that sort of thing.

I know what you're thinking. It's all very well, Adam, you telling us rough details about the gig, but what if we want to know exactly when it starts? Isn't there some kind of service whereby we could stay up-to-the-minute on things like this without checking this blog, perhaps a service whereby we can be updated on information about you through the medium of short messages? Fortunately, there is. I'll be out most of the next two days, but I will still be carrying the Infernal Device that lets me update my Twitter and even my Facebook page (sometimes, when Facebook feels like working), so you can stay in the loop that way, if you aren't following already.

And now I really am off. Yes, really. No, I will not hang around and do a little dance for you. No.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Fuck you, I won't pee where you tell me*

Some are born activists. Some become activists. And some, it seems, have activism thrust upon them.

The other day I posted here about the case of Katrina Harte, a trans woman who was denied access to the ladies' loos in a Whitley Bay pub, even though she'd been using it for three years without a problem. I also posted the text of the letter I'd sent to the Sir John Fitzgerald Group booze empire,  informing them of my decision to boycott their premises. Well, I also cross-posted the text of that letter in the Facebook Group set up to support Katrina and, well, things have snowballed somewhat.

I'm now an admin on the group. I've contacted the Gender Trust for any information and advice they can provide, and I've been downloading their fact sheets and, well, building a case against SJF, arguing as to why Kat should be allowed to use the ladies' loos if she wants to (and the clue there, for the hard-of-understanding, is in the use of the pronoun in that sentence: Katrina is a she, i.e. she's a woman, ergo she gets to use the toilets for women. Simples, as that annoying cartoon meerkat puts it). We're talking about organising a demo, which will involve writing up press releases for the media and liaising with the police to...well, do whatever it is you have to liaise with the police about regarding demos. And, because I'm not really all that bright, it's just occurred to me that as we are boycotting the pubs we should have done a press release to Pink News, to let them know about the boycott, so we're discussing what to put in that.

So yes, I rather seem to have had activism thrust upon me. It's with no small irony that I notice that the last tweet I posted before all this stuff kicked off was 'Boooooooored.' Be careful what you wish for, Fishley...

Anyway, as part of   all this, I recently posted, over at the Facebook Page, some ideas I'd had for arguments against one of the most common tropes which gets trotted out in this ladies' room debate, specifically the ridiculous and wrong-headed notion that we have to keep trans women out of the little girls' room because some of them might have penises and oh my god the children, the children, will nobody think of the children? I've put my thoughts on this here, after the jump, both because I think they might be of use to others confronted with this specious argument and in the hope that you, readers, may be able to point out any arguments I've missed.

Where's Darth Vader when you need him?

I've written before on this blog about how the nearest thing I have to an actual religion is a kind of half-arsed  relationship with the deities of the santeria pantheon, and I realise my sad devotion to this ancient religion does me no credit (though who got a phone call saying he had a new job after burning a candle in front of a statue of Eleggua? That'd be moi), but, like a not inconsiderable number of people oop North, I was raised Catholic. Went to church every sunday, did the John Paul II 'go-for-the-burn' aerobic workout of stand-up, sit-down, kneel-down, stand-up, watched a bloke in a fabulous frock prance about with a goblet of wine on stage, did the weird collective foot-worship thing on Good Friday (and seriously, what is that about? Jesus is humble. He doesn't want you all coming up and slobbering on his feet like he's some kind of sadistic toe queen. Even Mary Magdalen didn't go that far.), the whole shebang.

And the odd thing is, although I disagree with the Church a lot on doctrine, and especially, in those days, on the specific doctrine that said I had to get up early on a Sunday morning to freeze my arse off on a cold pew listening to St Paul's umpteenth letter to the Galaxians, I love the theatre of the church. I love the candles and the incense and the ridiculously camp clothes and the cathedrals and the carvings and the misericords (god damn do I love misericords, there's one in, I think, Salisbury Cathedral that's like a weird sci-fi wasp). It's so OTT, it's so gothic, it's so...well, let's be honest, so unnatural. I mean, even in the context of religious practice, which is not known for being massively logical, Catholicism (and High Church Anglicanism, its closeted younger sister) really is the high water-mark for religious silly behaviour. Whenenever I hear someone go on about Scientology, and how apparently Tom Cruise thinks we were actually all made by Q out of StarTrek or whatever, I just think: that's nothing, mate. I used to belong to a religion that believes a man can turn a piece of bread into a piece of human flesh because he has a magic cock. Beat that!

It makes perfect sense to me that someone like Oscar Wilde would have been drawn to Catholicism in the last days of his life, and not just because by that point, after the trial, imprisonment and scandal, he was a broken man, dying and looking for any desperate way to be rehabilitated. Wilde's whole aesthetic was based on artifice and paradox, on the rejection of any notion of a 'natural' order in favour of a carefully cultivated mystique. The Catholic church has that in spades. Gold spades, in fact, with ruby-encrusted handles, each containing a fragment of the True Cross and the cock-bone of Saint Nicodemus the Priapic.

Which is why I find it absolutely hilarious when people like the Holy See's current incumbent, Papa Benny, start going on about 'natural law', as he has been lately. And which 'natural law' is it he's keen to defend? Is it the 'natural law' of science which says you can't turn bread into flesh and wine into blood no matter how many times you wave your hands about and shout the Latin equivalent of 'izzy-wizzy-let's-get-busy'? Is it the 'natural law' of politics which rubs its chin pointedly and goes 'come off it, mate' when told that God hirself just happened to choose exactly the Papal candidate the last Pope was keen should succeed? Is it the 'natural law' of character, which says no man is infallible, no matter how fantastic his robe looks in a certain light? Or maybe it's the natural law of morality, which might say, hmm, I dunno, that if you fucking colluded in the systematic cover-up of ongoing child abuse, you ought to hang your head in shame and not open your liar's mouth to join in when decent people start discussing ethical issues?

Of course not, silly! What the erstwhile Hitler Youth member is actually speaking out to defend as 'natural law' is the church's right to discriminate against people on the grounds that they're gay or trans. That's right - Papa Ratso heads up an organisation which protected paedophiles for years, but he's verdammt if he's going to have any gays or trans people in his church. Nein!

Here are three excellent pieces on the frock-wearing fundamentalist's weird obsession with keeping LGBT people from taking part in the fun, from Cheryl Morgan, Anton Vowl and Helen at Bird of Paradox. I'd also recommend reading the previous post at BoP, because it shows that Il Papa isn't just running his mouth off about this, but the Vatican are still up to their old tricks of trying to tell secular nations what to do on the basis of their bizarro dogma.

Fortunately, as Cheryl points out, there are a lot of religious folk who aren't as bigoted as Benny the Bastard, thank god. But if you do find yourself on the receiving end of any intolerance from members of the priesthood in the coming week, do what I do: give them a good long look, raise an eyebrow, and say 'I'm not natural? You worship a zombie, wear an outfit that Liberace would reject as 'a bit much, to be honest', hang around exclusively with a bunch of other guys and call an old ex-Nazi 'daddy', and I'm the one who's not natural? I'm not really 100% sure you can claim the moral high ground on this one, love.'

Monday, 1 February 2010

Just Don't Be a Dick, Sir John

I had intended to mainly blog about my preparations for the Black Flame Books gig this week, friends on Twitter having announced that, much as addressing trans issues is important, they do like a bit of variety now and then. So I thought I'd blog my progress in rehearsals for the gig, buying the new top I want to wear for it, y'know, decent ordinary meat-and-potatoes blogging like that. Foolish of me I know, but I had the crazy notion that maybe, just maybe, after crawling out of the woodwork to secrete their fluids over the hive-queen Bindel, the transphobes might lie dormant for a bit and it would be safe to come out without the Wayland-Yutani Corp exosuit.

Instead, of course, not only did some blatant transphobia occur, it occurred practically on my manor.

So much for a quiet week, then.

An annoying aspect of this case is that the Sir John Fitzgerald Group pubs are usually, in my experience, pretty good. Well, some of them. Their flagship pub on Grey Street smells of death, frankly, but most of their other pubs are alright. I've very fond memories of some excellent nights spent at the Bridge Hotel, and the Bacchus is absolutely stellar. But there's no way I'm going back into any of their branches until they do something about this. The text of a letter I wrote to them announcing my intention to boycott can be found after the jump.