Sunday, 13 January 2013

Outside the Walls

Another cafe where all seems to be at peace,
the civilised side of the shield of Achilles,
where frothy, caramel-flavoured confections are served
to folk who, nodding, read the words
of one who'd happily see me dead.
They read, they nod and then, well-fed
they trundle off to buy more stuff.
That two boys knife a third? That's tough.

Outside this wall we only skulk in tents,
all of us, not just one. The foe's defense
impregnable. They sit content,
drink cocktails, weave and keep mute score.
What can we do? We never chose the war.
They wage it on us just for who we are.

It always comes back to bloody Troy. And Auden. I've been reading Daniel Mendelsohn's Waiting for the Barbarians this week, and one of his essays, about a new translation of the Iliad, dwells on the fact that, far from having essentially taken place over one wild, out-of-control weekend, as in Wolfgang Petersen's film, the siege of Ilium actually lasted a good ten years, during which the Greeks became progressively more and more disheartened by the lack of the comforts they'd enjoyed before the war, while the Trojans, behind their strong walls, were safer and more comfortable. This idea, of an embattled force fighting an insuperable opponent has been much in my mind both because of that article and because every intervention against the transphobia of Moore et al just seems to have brought even more transphobia from commentariat types who genuinely think making one of their own feel bad is a greater crime than engaging in hate-speech. It's easy to feel as if we're trapped outside a city of people who sit at their ease, safe behind high, strong walls that we will never, ever manage to break down, while we lose our strength and tear ourselves apart. 

Except...every comment I've seen about Burchill's hate-speech on Twitter or Facebook, with the exception of bile from the usual radfem suspects, has been negative. I have never seen as many people talking about not buying the Guardian ever again, or as many people who identify as leftists hosting the post on their own sites to deny the Grauniad - the house newssheet of the British Left - pageviews for its trolling. We used to only do that for articles from the Mail, for goodness' sake.

There are now almost 3,000 signatures on a petition demanding an apology from the Guardian Media Group on its first day of being up. Ninety per cent of those who've voted on a poll hosted by the Independent newspaper's website say that Burchill 'went too far' in her comments. The Observer Readers' Editor - who you can email here - has already said he will look into the issue after the sheer volume of complaints received today. One of the unexpected consequences of this explosion of hate from La Burchill has been the fact that most people have responded by saying, loudly, that Burchill does not speak for them. A trans man I follow on Twitter even said that his parents, who insist on telling him he's 'just a lesbian actually' contacted him to tell him how appalled and disgusted they were by the article. Hell, even this blog's habitual betes noires at the Torygraph have criticised Moore and Burchill for, inter alia, 'refusing to show any grace to a minority that, by all standards, has it pretty rough.' 

Far from demonstrating how powerless we are, how alone we are, and how hopeless our struggle is, the reaction to Burchill and Moore's hate-speech has shown that we are listened to, that we have support from many people outside the trans community, and that, most vitally of all, we have hope. The model for our experience in light of Moore and Burchill isn't Achilles or Odysseus, but Pandora. 

The devils have all been unleashed; hope remains. 

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