Saturday, 12 March 2011


It's two in the morning and I'm awake. Don't rush to comfort me. This is actually a good thing.

It's a good thing because the reason I'm awake is a burning need to write. To get something down. To express something I haven't felt in a long time. Anger. And that I feel angry is a good thing, because for far too long I've felt, if not exactly depressed, then certainly worn-out. Beaten down. Burnt out.

It started with a little local difficulty at work. I won't go into details here - this blog has always prided itself on being as unspecific as possible about where I toil to earn my handful of scraps from the capitalist table. Confidentiality is one reason for this, but another, very important reason, is universality. I believe the problems I encounter at work - the problems most of us encounter in the warped work culture of the kyriarchy - are pretty much the same anywhere. When I blog about some aspect of work, it isn't because I want to have a dig at a particular employer: it's because I'm painfully aware that the issues I deal with at work are the same or very similar to the issues others deal with. It's an entire culture we're dealing with, a sickness that has metastasized through the entire body politic: and I need to describe the symptoms of that sickness in a way that's as depersonalised as possible. It can never be fully depersonalised, because suffering under such a sick system wounds me, as it wounds so many others, as it causes such a terrible psychic cost to our society as a whole; but adopting a 'no names, no pack drill' position allows me to sidestep the accusations of sour grapes that would doubtless be forthcoming if I were to get more specific, while at the same time allowing what I say to resonate with others. And the fact that it does resonate - that the responses I get when I write a poem like, say, Employer of the Year or Collude to Exclude, are expressions of weary familiarity rather than shocked incomprehension - rather suggests that this is a universal experience I'm writing about. Yemaya knows I wish it wasn't.

So, reader, you will understand why I don't wish to dwell on the problems at work that started off my downturn. After a certain point they became immaterial anyway. If it wasn't work it might well have been something else: certainly the kyriarchy showed no inclination to soften up during my own period of relative inactivity. Trans women were still being murdered, and misgendered in newspaper headlines. Disabled people were still subject to the vilest witch-hunt we've seen in politics in recent times. The Coalition still seemed hell-bent on turning Britain into a third-world nation to satisfy their big financial backers. All was fucked, all was fucked, and all manner of things would be fucked. But I lacked the anger to effectively deal with this. I was, as I say, burnt out. Like many of us from time to time, I felt as if I was repeating the same things over and over, banging my head against a wall and achieving nothing beyond throwing up the tiniest scattering of brick-dust and giving myself a concussion.

In that kind of headspace it can be hard to see the signs of hope. I saw the news finally start paying attention to groups like UK Uncut and The Broken of Britain; I saw Transmediawatch make progress signing media organisations up to a Memorandum of Understanding about trans representation; I watched as the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya did the impossible and stood up to their oppressive, western-backed elites. Intellectually, I could see that progress was being made; emotionally, it failed to register. I would see a story and think 'I should blog about that' or 'there might be a poem to be made about this' but beyond a sluggish recognition of that fact, I couldn't stir myself much further. Just this week, for example, I found myself moved by the plight of Rebekah Brewis, a trans woman being brutally treated by the Oregon authorities, whose case I learned about on the eve of International Women's Day, of all times, and thought that here was something I needed to speak out about, and here was a time when it mattered to say such things. But it didn't happen because, still, I lacked the fire.

To be fair, I was partly to blame for this lack. I had planned, during my week off in January, to take some time to simply relax. However, the discovery of a cheap rail ticket offer in a local paper set me off planning to do a gig in London, and then - since I had the week off - to do a bunch of other gigs elsewhere to take advantage of the situation. At a time when I should have been replenishing my strength, I pushed myself to my final reserves, desperate not to waste time, to get out there and get my message heard. And I'm glad I did, because I enjoyed those gigs and, without going to London, I'd never have encountered the brilliant work of Anna Chen, but the net result of all that gigging, all those late nights and long train rides, was that when I returned to my day job I was running on less than empty. I needed time out. I needed space to think. I needed to sleep in late and spend whole days doing nothing more strenuous than taking a shower and putting a DVD in the machine. I needed to fucking relax.

Fortunately, this past week, I've had that time. Another week off work coincided with a friend being away for a week and needing someone to look after her cats. This gave me the opportunity to take time off away from work, away from my parents and - because I couldn't travel - away from gigging. It was, in fact, a way to force myself to relax. I could go out during the day - and I have, to attend a fantastic gig by local women poets for International Women's Day, and to check out the John Martin exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery, to acquire nice things using a money-off voucher for the Body Shop and to mark what seem the first tentative stirrings of spring by buying and drinking my first bottle of Rose of the year - but I had to be in by the evening to feed the kittehs. Wild nights were out of the question.

So, for a week, I've been forced to chill. And, tonight, my friend came back. And, lying in bed, I found myself turning things over in my head. Thinking about things like the March for the Alternative later this month. Thinking about what I'd say at the gigs I have lined up next month, when I'll have longer sets to work with and more time to make my points. Thinking about the government, reflecting on stories my friend had told me from the union conference she'd been on, pondering cases like that of Rebekah Brewis, mentioned above, and the shameful reporting of the changes to clothing regulations for trans women that I've seen in the papers this week, and the efforts I've made, and continue to make, to shift my own gender presentation to an identity with which I feel more comfortable, and the microaggressions (and, lets be frank, risk of macro-aggressions) I have to deal with as a result.

And suddenly I didn't feel burned-out. I didn't feel beaten-down. I didn't feel tired and weak and useless. I didn't feel spent. I felt a whirl of emotions racing through my brain. I felt a desire to engage with those emotions properly again. I felt my fingers twitch to touch the keyboard. I felt my synapses trying on sentences for size. I felt - for the first time in months - angry. And anger, as John Lydon once pointed out, is an energy.

So. I am angry. I am shouty. I am ranty. And I am going to be ranting about a lot more things on here in the weeks and months to come. If you're reading this and you like that - and I'm going to assume, if you've been reading this for a while, that you do - I'd like to bid you hello again. If you're new to this blog, I'd just like to bid you hello. And if you don't like the thought of being ranted at by an angry, poor, left-of-centre trans poet? Well, you could probably stand to learn the most of anyone from this blog but, y'know, if the thought of acknowledging the opinion of someone who lacks your privilege really makes your guts churn and your eyes bleed? The back button is your friend, chum. Jog right on.

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