Thursday, 15 December 2016

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Russian and the President

He is a projection. But is he ours or theirs? What he is to them: themselves as they would wish themselves to be. Rich. Uncowed by the phantasm taste. A hit with women: and if that's just because of the money, so what? We can't all look like Tom Cruise or the rest of those Hollywood faggots. If a guy makes money, why shouldn't he be allowed to grab a little pussy, huh? And these girls, they're not angels. They know what the score is, right?



Not angels. If anything, the opposite. These men are scared of women: you can smell it on them. As weak nerds devour martial arts manuals, dreaming of the perfect move that stops them feeling threatened, these sad cases immerse themselves in PUA 'culture': negging and peacocking occupy the space, for them, that flying kicks and judo suplexes do for the feebler dweebs.
Not that one can't get intersectional. A lot of these dorks are as lacking in puissance in the streets as in the sheets. He is the projection of their fantasies of power. Unafraid of other men and unafraid of women. At least on the surface. Anyone who's ever been within sniffing distance of a pussy knows that men who boast about 'just grabbing' it are tragic, try-hard little twerps, more concerned with impressing other men than sexual pleasure.



Perhaps we don't see this so clearly because the image of him doing it is so disgusting. The image of those tiny, stubby fingers wriggling into a cunt. And doing nothing once inside. A pussy isn't like a pair of balls, chump. Nothing really happens when you grab it. But then, do we really imagine those chipalatas have ever learned anything about the clit and how to flick it?



Of course they don't. One look at his suits, his alleged coiffure,  his scotch-taped tie, is enough to work out what sex with him must be like. Perfunctory, unpleasant; nasty, probably brutish, and certainly short. He heaves himself onto the bed, onto her, makes his thirty seconds' regulation squelching, twists his orange face into a coital rictus,  then dismounts. He grabs her boobs in front of dignitaries, and giggles. This is his sex life, such as it is. And it's enough for him: because for him the sex is not the action. The boast is the action: telling the guys about it later, laughing that he doesn't care if he comes first because that's 'winning'. Or silently: his trophy wife strapped to his arm like a falcon, paraded, displayed: this is mine. Mine. Only I get to have this.



Does he believe that? Do any of them think a piece of ass like her is happy with a thirty second fuck?  Of course not. There's a reason every second word out of their mouths is 'cuck'. They fear women. They distrust us. Because they're afraid we'll see them as they really are. The truth of them. The contemptible fact. That we see how much they do not measure up, and use them while we seek our joy elsewhere. She's only with him for his money. And he knows that. And it hurts.



Fearful of women, these men instead surround themselves with other men. The supposedly strong and virile men they fear that they are not. It's no surprise that he has filled his cabinet with Generals. Cowards fetishize the puissance of the military man. And he is not just a coward but a draft-dodger too. Never having served, he never had the chance to see first hand how little respect most grunts have for the top brass, never had good cause to doubt the vertu of the men he seats himself among. He'll come to doubt it, of course, and do so publicly: whatever he might say, they aren't really there to advise him. They're his personal audience: employed to laugh and slap him on the back when he regales them with tales of his pussy-grabbing exploits. They're the hard nuts he pays to crowd behind him as he tries to look tough at the podium. His gunsels need to know their place.



It's no wonder the Russian appealed to him. The Russian has spent years cultivating a butch mystique guaranteed to get him moist.  To get him on side, the Russian didn't have to convince him of their shared strategic interests. He simply had to seduce him. A dirty job, perhaps, but the Russian is an ex-KGB man, and tradecraft is tradecraft. What does it matter if the bond he will exploit was formed in a mutual jack-off session in the Kremlin? Such shared secrets bond and bind. And shared fluids are adhesive, for the body and the soul.



Of course the Russian kept some. Every warlock needs insurance, after all.  

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Ninety Grand: a poem about Jennifer Boyle




She says that she makes ninety grand a year
as if this makes her something more than flesh,
as if the woman serving her is less
by virtue of her lower hourly rate;
as if the ones who wait are willed to serve
by something more than just dumb fucking luck;
as if the force that wills the gap she claims
to shout across were anything like just.
She says that she makes ninety grand a year.
She claims to be the victim, claims to be
the target of some fantasy campaign.
She says the man she voted for has won,
so there. She says we should look at who won.
So there, she says. We should look at who won.
She says that she makes ninety grand a year.
She says the man she voted for has won,
attacks as traitors those who intervene,
rants tinnily from my computer screen,
while in another open tab I read
her previous employer say it's been
six months since she was sacked. Her social sites
name no employer currently. She says
the man she voted for has won; she claims
that she makes ninety grand a year.
By nine that night her LinkedIn site is down.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Trump Top #23

In The Wicker Man, Sergeant Howie's virginity consists not so much in his physically never having engaged in sexual congress as it does in his absolute horror of ever engaging in it. A celibate to a twisted, unhealthy extent, he recoils in fear at all displays of human sexuality.





Any student of human psychology, particularly that of the aging white male, will have discerned in Donald Trump's ridiculous attempts to impress other men with tales of his pussy-grabbing exploits EXACTLY the same fear of real sexuality, a fear which can manifest as much in juvenile boasting as in reflex disgust.



It is this fear, which Howie and Trump both share, which makes them both the perfect sacrificial victims. And like Howie, Donald Trump - who has arrived at the position he now occupies willingly; who comes before us with the power of a King; who recoils in the core of his being from the true joy of shared emotional ecstasy; and who now stands before us revealed most assuredly as a fool - may well spend his final moments on this Earth screaming in vain as he burns. This willing kingwise virgin fool may yet require sacrifice if the harvest of the human spirit is to flourish.


That, at least, is one way of looking at it.


(Yes, this is a kind of homage to the gee-whiz-thats-weird-cats work of hyperparanoid conspiracy nonsense King-Kill/33 by bizarre cult figure James Shelby Downard. I'm not sitting in a room with a giant chart on the wall and a bunch of strings leading all over the place right now. OR AM I [No. No, I am not.]?)

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Donald Trump Is Not As Other Men


It's true though. Mr Trump is not like other people.

Other people can take criticism without turning into a whining, petulant, idiot manchild.

Other men are not so desperate to impress other men that they'll giggle like a schoolgirl and start making up bullshit about 'grabbing pussies' when FRANKLY, Donald, any woman who takes one look at you knows you're the kind of overgrown BOY who needs to be falling-down drunk to get up the courage to fuck.

Other people are smart enough to know when they're in over their heads, and not blinded by literal self-love to the extent that they cannot acknowledge even the smallest vulnerability for fear of being unmasked as entirely impotent, with the result that they become hypersensitive to any slight and lash out feebly at the pettiest infraction.

Other people managed to watch The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover without forming the mistaken impression that Albert Spica was a model to be emulated.

Other people look LESS dignified when you photoshop them onto Baron Harkonnen or Jabba the Hutt.

Other people pay their taxes.

Other people give their lives in wars men like you start, despite your family's wealth protecting you from horror.
Other people suffer while you masturbate, giggling, atop your golden throne.

Mr Trump is not like other people. Not at all. Other people, you see, are only human.

And Mr Trump is so much less than that.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Dog Walking

I hated that spaniel: it yapped and it ran:
but when that fucker's Dobermann
decided to attack it, I reached down to something
deeper than the ground beneath my feet,
reached up to something higher
than the clouds above my head
and made a noise somewhere between
an animal growl and Apocalypse.

The attack dog retreated. And its owner cowered, too,
whimpering apologies in concert with his pet.
I told him where to go. And what would happen
if he didn't. Big Man didn't hang around.


Why tell the story now? Because Big Men
who put their faith in dogs, or guns, or
Presidential surrogates, will never reach
much deeper than the Astroturf they stand on,
or higher than the Gimme Caps they wear:
but we can reach the deep and molten rage
which scours the mountain clean with tears of fire
so new trees sprout in rich volcanic soil.
We can: we will. We know
that we can kill.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Jesmond Dene

The thing you need to know about this place
is this place is a beautiful wound:
that waterfall was blasted
out of rock and out of river
at the whim of some rich man. He's dead.
We still enjoy the view.

All things are wounds in time:
there's screaming at our birth,
and blood, and terror;
fear, shit and stink
at both ends of the line.

Rough beasts, who think their hour approaches,
have multiplied themselves in screen-lit rooms,
circle-sucking on each other's saccharine, caffeinated rage.
But wounds don't smell
as clean and sharp as cans of Mountain Dew.

Your shock, my learned traitor, was exquisite, when it came.


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

If it goes down as we fear it may tonight...

In a weird way, a grim way, I'm kind of prepared for Trump to win. If he does, that means we have to accept the way we do democracy in the West is broken, dead and buried. It means that between the 2015 General Election, Brexit, and Trump, our masters have no mandate, our nations no legitimacy. From here no lines are drawn, to quote Tori Amos' song about the 9/11 attacks, I Can't See New York. From here, no lands are owned.


I think history will judge the election of Trump, if it happens, as a catastrophe on the same scale as the attacks of September 11th, of which earlier enormity Trump's political career, his resistible rise, is the grotesque result. How sickening has it been to see New York City's '9/11 Mayor', Rudolph Giuliani, shilling for this sub-mobster, this comedy tycoon from Central Casting? Yet there he is, little Rudy, the Grover Dill to Trump's Scut Farkus, cheering on the American Empire's nigh-inevitable Caligula. Who knew on that bright late summer day when dust bloomed through the intersections and he toured the wreckage - with Hillary Clinton! - who knew, then, that in fifteen years this assclown, this malevolent dingleberry, would weep, in his dank and secret heart, weep wishing for another 9/11, another chance to stand tall and have dignity. Well. You got your new disaster, chum: but it's left you with less dignity than Salacious Crumb.


You maybe got your new disaster, chum. Who knows? Clinton  - I prefer to follow the convention when writing about Presidential candidates and use her surname, rather than reducing her to the chummier 'Hillary' - may swing it. If women, LGBT people, people of colour, Latinxs, Muslims and others opposed to Trump turn out in huge numbers, if progressives turn out for her the way they turned out for Obama, then Trump hasn't got a hope, and his candidacy, and the reserves of White Fear it drew on, are a force being forced to the margins of US politics, not before time. In fact, even a Trump victory is arguably a rearguard action on the part of that declining species, the ignorant straight white cisgender male (and those pathetic people who, though fortunate enough to not share at least one characteristic with this lummox, insist on impersonating and toadying up to him, in the craven hope that closeness to the bully will mean taking fewer blows).


If. If, if, if, if...If wishes were horses...But the problem is that, in the past couple of years, I've learnt to see the evil side of every if I'm shown, and I'm endlessly proved right. I was a fiery spoken word activist once: but that was before I saw how deeply the claws of misogyny and rape culture were sunk into the scene I held so dear. You can only hear that so many rising stars aren't safe in taxis for so long. And I've noticed the gender thing, chaps: how mediocre male feature acts can guarantee packed rooms, but more talented women artists will struggle for audience. Even the most supposedly progressive scene, if you're a woman, can leave you feeling useless and surrounded. Men, even allegedly progressive men, will turn up for their bros in ways they don't for women. And that worries me. Maybe the much-bruited 'Bernie Bros' who would rather Trump than the first woman to win the Democratic party nomination were motivated as much, or more, by bad grace than misogyny: but still, they worry me. I fear that men won't turn out for Clinton; fear that, worse, some supposedly progressive men might, in the privacy of the voting booth, turn out to be Shy Trumpists. It's happened before.

I don't know. All I know is that I really hope, for once, democracy doesn't let us down. But if it has...Well, there's a reason I've been leaning on the 9/11 comparisons rather heavily in this piece. It's because I'm currently at work on the sequel to Incidents of Trespass, and parts of that story take place in flashback to 2001, to the weeks and months following the attacks. When I write about a time or a place, I naturally reconnect with my memories of that time and place and use them to colour the writing. And one of the chief memories I have of the period after September 11th 2001 was of a sort of awful excitement. 

There's a grim thrill to be had from the discovery that one's own relatively mundane life has been thrown into sharp relief by the malignant contingency of history. It's a thrill which, in all its nausea and giddiness, we Brits have felt since Brexit: as brittle, brief and brutal as a nitrous oxide high. But a high we can ride, for a time, as we've learned, if you hold your nerve. We might even, somehow, survive. 

That, and this - which I hope is more of a dark fantasia than a prophecy - are the best I have to offer. 



Trumpimandias

I met a traveller from an antic land
who said: 'A solitary baseball cap
lies in the crater. Near it, on the ground,
the wreckage of a portrait lies, whose frown,
absurdist wig and perma-blasted tan
show that its painter caught well how grotesque
life has become, when such unlifelike things,
mocked as they were, beguiled us to elect
this squamous filth which fattens on our fear.
The psychopath we welcomed as our King
brought ruin to his kingdom in a year,
and with it went the world. No things remain:
on every side the line of sight lies bare.
Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair.'

Monday, 17 October 2016

Feuilleton

When I listen to Inuit throat-singing I think about the arrogance of the Eurocentric mind (which is still, it must be said, in these terrible times, itself bigger and yet humbler than the Anglocentric mind).

I listen to dogs and for all the variety of pleasant noises they can make I know science has measured and concluded dogs can make only 14 distinct vocal sounds.

I listen to the colloquy of cats and understand that science has concluded they can make ten times as many.

'How sophisticated!' I say. 'And by comparison how superior am I, who can make so many, many more!'

Then I watch throat-singing videos on YouTube, and feel ashamed to have wasted so much of the noise I could make on speaking - or, at best, shouting or whispering - only words.



Wednesday, 12 October 2016

In Praise of Tough Girls and Beautiful Monsters

There are as many kinds of female beauty as there are of male attractiveness. This seems obvious, but like a lot of things which at first seem obvious it bears investigation. Men can have dad bods. Men can be attractive in spite of what they do. Men are allowed to age well. Men are allowed to be monsters.

Women are not accorded the same aesthetic dignity. Being a MILF is not the same as having a dad bod. The dad bod is in the possession of its owner; MILFery is in the eye of the (usually male) beholder. And as to aging well…

And being monsters?

I don’t mean murderers. I never had a thing for Myra Hindley. But I did have a thing for the tough girls at school, the girls who did what they wanted and weren’t afraid to fight and who, yes, sometimes beat me up. There is something attractive about female toughness, about women who don’t mind a scrap. A friend and I have been rewatching Ab Fab on Netflix, and we agree that one of the best things about Joanna Lumley’s Patsy is her willingness to turn to violence as a first resort. Ditto Bridget Everett’s Dagmar in Lady Dynamite, and Steven Universe’s Amethyst.




Anna Konda is a beautiful monster. In the photographs taken by Katarzyna Mazur for Dazed and Confused we see her standing, squatting, having her face wiped between bouts, and wrestling – shoving a smaller woman up against a wall, pushing against a woman’s thighs to stop her wrapping those thighs around Anna, getting her in what Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners and MMA fans call the guard.

The guard looks like a vulnerable position. You’re supine, and your opponent is above. But if you can get your legs around them, and your arms are free, you can control a lot. For one thing, if they’re on their knees – which is likely in this situation – wrapping your thighs around their midsection forces them to rely on their arms, much weaker than the legs. If you can tie their arms up as well, and if your thighs are sat just right on your opponent’s floating ribs…

Fans of the more brutal sports and spectacles invoke chess so often that it seems, at times, like special pleading, but looking at a still from a fight can evoke the same thoughts as the illustrated diagrams of disposed pieces in newspaper chess columns. We can (or like to kid ourselves we can) extrapolate the course of the fight from this one frozen moment. She has her in the guard, she has one arm locked up – her opponent can only attack with the free arm, but if she twists just so…The pleasure here is that of watching things play out. There are, of course, other kinds of pleasure at play too.

One reason for the popularity of scissor shots – the bodyscissors, with the thighs wrapped ‘round the torso, and their head variation, in which the thighs pressure the skull and the neck – is their similarity to the sexual act. We may as well admit this to begin with: but we ought perhaps to admit alongside it the fact that this resemblance can be found in many forms of ‘legitimate’ sport as well. The guard is a jiu-jitsu basic; boxers’ shining bodies clinch; track athletes race each other in what the rest of us call underwear. There is an erotic charge in watching bodies strive against each other, however they do so. In one of Mazur’s pictures, a wrestler leans over the body of her opponent, her hand almost caressing the prone woman’s face, lips close enough to whisper in her ear. The whole thing looks post-coital.

When some gallery-goers, shocked at what they saw as the obscenity of Francis Bacon’s 1954 work Two Figures in the Grass, appealed to a policeman to have it removed, the law officer replied ‘Why? It’s just two fellows wrestling in the grass.’ I like to imagine he smirked when he said that, challenging the prudes to provide an alternative interpretation. Honi soit qui mal y pense.



Being Bacon, the subject is buggery, we’re tempted to say. But in fact, being Bacon, the subject is ambiguity – we see one body mount the other but are they fighting, fucking, fondling, fellating? We can’t know. Bacon liked to mix his sex with violence: watch Love is the Devil. He had his lovers beat him up, and loved to stand so close to the ring at boxing bouts that blood would stain his face. Bacon called love two people destroying each other. When asked to explain whether his paintings picture acts of sex or acts of violence one wonders, sometimes, if he’d be aware of the difference.




That there is a difference is something we must often assert. Excepting professional performers (themselves practitioners of a craft historically associated with sexual deviancy), for most of us, fighting and fucking represent the most intense times we will spend at close quarters with another human being: even the most prolific hugger must admit that a friendly squeeze of the shoulders lacks the intensity of pitched battle or animal rutting. But where to draw the line? Sex can be aggressive; when two technicians fight, the hold which makes one tap might be executed almost tenderly. Which act is violence?

In my novella Incidents of Trespass, there is a moment when the protagonist, Ruby Street, is raped by another woman. Her rapist orders Ruby to jerk off in front of her, and Ruby collaborates, but in order to do so she finds herself having to resort to her fantasies of a different order of intimate violence, imagining various tough women beating on her rapist. But Ruby’s fantasies of strife are masochistic: she identifies most with the victim, not the aggressor.  For her, this is perhaps the worst part of the ordeal: that she is forced to recruit her dreams of one kind of erotic violence in the service of another. Or, rather, in the service of a violence which is sexual but unerotic. Rape may involve the sexual organs but it isn’t making love. A rapist might punch you in the face, as Ruby’s does, but it isn’t a fight.




It’s not a fight, sure, but you can still lose.

Fights have referees. Even ‘catfighting’ videos, in which women tussle in their underwear in living rooms, supposedly privately, are watched over by a camera operator at the very least, who can stop things if they get too heated. Producers take pains to ensure their workers aren’t injured. Fights can be stopped. Referees in the bedroom might be one way of enforcing consent culture, but I suspect few would take such a modest proposal all that seriously (and anyway, refs can be bought). The ‘real fight’ videos that litter YouTube and Worldstar are far from private. For better or worse, there are bystanders. They might film. They might intervene. But they’re there.

By contrast, unless we’re orgiasts, when we wind up having sex with someone else we’re usually alone, except for them. Alone, and naked, with a person that we can’t be sure we trust. There’s a reason it took Judith to kill Holofernes: she could get close enough to do it. In the bedroom, no-one is on hand to remind participants to protect themselves at all times. Indeed, the opportunity to spend time with another without having to protect ourselves is part of the appeal. The risk, too.





Some of us take it further, that’s all. It’s not enough to know that we don’t have to keep our guard up: we like not being able to, knowing our partners will give us back that control when we ask. We enjoy feeling helpless safely. And that’s why we need them, the tough girls. The beautiful monsters. The women who could crush us, if they wanted to. They might not be conventionally pretty, but so what? They have what we want: big thighs. Musclefat. Take-no-shit expressions. Bodies confident in their ability to take on other bodies, and to best them. That beats pretty any day. 

The Gods are in a bad, bad way

Since he got dementia, Odin finds it hard to tell his ravens each from each. Huggin and Munnin, Memory and Thought. Which is which? What things does he remember, and what things are mere phantoms of his thoughts? Did he hang upon a cross to fathom knowledge even Gods weren’t meant to know, or was the cross a tree? Did he give an eye for wisdom, or lose it in a bar-room brawl? Does he ride a horse or spider? Are there elephants in Asgard? Have there always been? He really can’t be sure.

He feels like they won a great victory, some months ago. He tells the young. They laugh at him, they sneer, they wave front pages, point at phones. The pound is falling they tell Odin, Norway doesn’t want to know. We’re fucking fucked. In the old days he would have smote them for their insolence. But nowadays the thunderbolts recoil on him. He shakes. They shake their heads and move away. Perhaps one stays, to see he doesn’t bite his tongue. Perhaps an ambulance is called. Perhaps it will come quickly. But it’s Friday and most people just got paid and absent any plan for Ragnarok they’re getting pissed and fighting.


It’s a long wait, with the false god, for an ambulance. 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Anthony Powell Predicts the Manosphere

So. I am already at work on the sequel to Incidents of Trespass, and also intermittently getting the odd poem written and continuing my curious evolution into some kind of trans female gonzo journalist obviously, but also I think I've gotten quite a lot done lately and so I can allow myself to dial it back and chill a little. And, because I am me, one of my ways of chilling has been to watch a four-part 1997 Channel 4 miniseries based on a 12 volume novel by some old dead white cis posh English bloke, because, obviously.

This is not the scene I'm writing about but it is Jenkins (James Purefoy, left) and Widmerpool (Simon Russell Beale, right) and I am a very lazy image researcher

Specifically I've been watching the adaptation of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, which can be found on All4 if you ignore its yobbish attempts to thrust its contemporary toss on you and search the drama category, in which it is alphabetically the first entry. There are a lot of things I'm enjoying about this show, but here I want to pick just one: the scene between Widmerpool (Simon Russell Beale) and Jenkins (James Purefoy) where the former recruits the latter as his assistant during the war. And specifically the fact Widmerpool tells him he has done so not because he would be 'the most efficient' - indeed, Widmerpool, who we have been shown in the preceding two episodes to be someone who is very exacting in his choice of words, says he 'had no cause to think' he might be so - but because he has let their personal ties persuade him to hire Jenkins. Not only does this illustrate the inequity of the cronyism fostered by the English Public School system, of which Powell, A., Eton & Balliol, was doubtless a beneficiary, and which point he no doubt intended the reader to infer from the scene; I find it more amusing, however, because it provides a perfect example of the behaviour soi-disant 'pick-up artists' refer to these days as 'negging' - Widmerpool tells Jenkins he probably isn't very good but he'll hire him anyway because he likes him. 

At this stage I haven't finished watching the show, but I find myself thinking two things: one, would the peacocking vaping fedora crowd be happy knowing that the best fictional demonstration of their allegedly unstoppable move is performed by a short, pudgy gay dude playing a sexually repressed, socially-climbing financial nerd? And, two: if Widmerpool asks Jenkins to make him a sandwich at some point during this episode I will laugh my ass off. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Incidents of Trespass


Updates have been infrequent here over the summer. That's because I spent the last couple of months working on Incidents of Trespass, my first novella. Indeed, my first long-form fictional prose of any kind. 

This story is a response to personal, national and collective trauma. A tale of life on the fringes in the days and weeks following Brexit, an exploration of the darker side of female sexuality, a meditation on power, privilege and violence. I think Incidents of Trespass, along with much of the poetry I've written lately, indicates a larger trend in my work away from polemic and exhortations directed at a presumed-hostile cis audience and into a phase of exploring and mapping the unique emotional territory and discontents of queer life and relationships. Check it out here in paperback and here on Kindle, and tell me what you think below!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

What Botham Believes


'Personally, I believe that England is an island.' - Ian Botham, discussing the EU referendum


I believe

that England is an island

that Europe is a planet

that space is a country

that black hole is something you
can't say these days

that all holes matter

that Britain is a rocketship
disguised as a dropping balloon

that flags are magic

that sometimes you just don't see
another white face

that my black friends
don't secretly say I'm a racist

that women don't roll their eyes
when I say no-one loves them more than me

that there is no smoke without fire
but two sides to every tango
depending on how well I knew the accused

that we all know what 'flamboyant' means

that they would say that, wouldn't they

I believe
that England is an island

I don't believe
that global warming means the seas will rise

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

From the archives: Bashing Back on Biggins' Biphobia

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. I see Christopher Biggins has once more made an oaf of himself by airing his weird, icky opinions about bisexuals in public, this time via the medium of moribund Endemol reality show format Celebrity Big Brother. This is not news: the following piece was written in 2014 (for the now-defunct So So Gay) in response to a previous incident of Biggins letting it all hang out in regard to his snide opinions about sexual diversity. Of the journalistic work I've done, this is one of my favourite pieces, so I'm delighted to present it to you again - as I will whenever I hear that Biggins has made his mouth go about one of the most vulnerable parts of the queer community. 
Bad news for anyone who’s enjoyed my last few posts on here: I don’t exist, apparently! That’s the considered opinion of noted commentator on human sexuality Christopher ‘Rentaghost’ Biggins. In an interview with Britain’s top guilt-purchase magazine, The Big Issue, the former Wolverhampton’s Aladdin Pantomime star said that ‘the world is full of bisexuals’ who ‘ruin a woman’s life’ and ‘lead a double life, so how can you be a real person?’
Ontologically, this is quite the puzzler. The world is full of people who aren’t real? Has Biggins discovered the key to the Matrix? Is he The One? And, as a pansexual trans woman who’s attracted to people of all genders and none, who is this woman whose life I, along with all bisexuals, am responsible for ruining? It can’t be my ex-wife, with whom I get on quite well, to be honest. I’m pretty sure it isn’t the ex-girlfriend who came before her, either. I suppose as a trans activist I have been responsible, collectively, for stopping Julie Bindel getting some gigs, and I did perform at the Bar Wotever show where Cathy Brennan tried to claim, stood beneath a giant poster of Amy Lame’s face, that she was being thrown out of the building for being a lesbian rather than for being a massive transphobe: but I’m pretty certain that isn’t what Biggins is on about.
Okay, I’m being facetious: but is there any better response to Biggins trotting out a chestnut that’s older than one of the jokes in his pantomimes? Seriously, we’ve been here before: this is the ever-popular canard that bi people don’t exist: that at best being bi is ‘just a phase‘ and at worst we’re all just gay men and women in denial. A familiar one, that: as a trans woman I’m used to dealing with the surprisingly common assumption that the reason I take dihydrotestosterone-suppressants, constantly assault my body with a variety of hair-removal products, and am engaged in a seemingly never-ending to-and-fro between my GP and my Gender Identity Clinic, is that I want to find a way to feel more comfortable about fancying men. Which, given that my primary attraction seems to be towards feminine-identified individuals, is always something of a surprise to me.
What Biggins is doing here is projecting, basically: the behaviour he describes, gay men in denial marrying women, then having to divorce them when they realise that a wedding ring is not a magical get-out-of-gayness card, is actually something he’s done in his own life: from 1971 to 1974, Biggins was married to the Australian actress Beatrice Norbury. As Biggins himself admits, ‘I met a girl and married her because I thought that was the thing to do…I hadn’t thought it through and of course it didn’t work’. Perhaps it’s Biggins’ guilt over this failed marriage which leads him to make the category error of accusing bisexuals of ‘ruining women’s lives’.
Because a category error is what it is. I don’t know how horrible it is for a woman who believes herself to be in a heterosexual marriage to discover her husband is gay: certainly it’s never nice to feel your partner has concealed something from you, but I suspect this is very much one of those your-mileage-may-vary situations. Some women will take a revelation like that in stride, some will be devastated by it. But however painful such an experience may be, it really ought to be pointed out that ‘bisexuals’ and ‘closeted gay men who marry straight women in an attempt to conceal their true sexuality’ are not the same thing. Nope. Nuh-uh. Nah. Degree of overlap in that Venn diagram? Not a heckuva lot, to be honest.
Does this matter? Well, on one level, maybe not so much: BIGGINS WRONG ABOUT ISSUE is something of a dog-bites-man headline at this point: he criticised the ITV sitcom and McKellen/Jacobi vehicle Vicious on the grounds that it would stoke homophobia (rather than on the more formidable grounds that it was just a bit crap really), and he is a supporter of the Conservative party. More seriously, in an interview with the Gloucestershire Echo (who actually used the phrase ‘flamboyant actor’ to describe him, in 2013 – bless!) he argued that celebrities accused of rape and sexual abuse – such as, say, Max Clifford – were victims of a ‘witch hunt’, with ‘people claiming to have slept with celebrities because they think they’re likely to get money out of it.’ He went on that in his opinion ‘celebrities should be given privacy like the accusers until the accusations are proven’.
Well, you know what a bad idea I think that is – although it needs to be said that Biggins is actually advocating an even more bizarre position than Nigel Evans. Evans’ idea that all rape defendants should be granted anonymity is a staggeringly bad one – but the former Deputy Speaker is at least in favour of anonymity for all defendants, while the man who co-starred with Danny Dyer in the 2012 remake of Run for Your Wife  believes a special exception should be made only for ‘celebrities’. Civilians accused of rape would apparently still be named under the Biggins Code. Good to know.
However, celebrity opinions – as vacuous as they might be – do not actually happen in a vacuum. Biggins’ opinions about people claiming to have been raped by celebrities in the hopes of getting a big pay-out (and on what basis are they supposed to think this? Can you remember a case of someone sexually assaulted by a celeb making a huge wad of cash out of it? Because I can’t) play out against a background of rape culture; similarly, his stance that bisexuals are simply gay men in denial plays out against a culture in which bisexuals are far more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than monosexuals, far more likely to report feeling suicidal, and also more likely to suffer from economic oppression too.
It’s not hard to work out why this is the case: not only do bisexuals experience the garden-variety homophobia all of us in the LGBT community have to put up with, we also get to deal with put-downs from monosexual gay men and lesbians who criticise us for being ‘greedy’ and ‘selfish’, for not being ‘gold-star lesbians‘. Not only do we have people from the straight world dissing us, we have people who are supposedly on our own side having a pop too!
And that’s bad enough when those opinions are coming from some drunk, bitter old queen propping up one of the local gay bars and wondering why no-one wants to have sex with a catch like him; when those opinions are amplified by the megaphone of celebrity it’s worse. I was being sarcastic about the guilt-purchase nature of the Big Issue earlier: whenever I buy the magazine (which isn’t every week because some weeks I don’t have the money to afford a magazine sold by homeless people - ha ha ha, seriously do not go into poetry, kids) I’ve always enjoyed it. But I’m glad I missed the issue with the Biggins interview, because I would have been really upset and angry to see a magazine I like and respect running a piece in which someone says people like me don’t exist and accuses us of ruining women’s lives. And – finances aside – I’m in a pretty good place right now. I’m not suicidal. But I have been, at times. And, while I’m not sure the opinions of a former Surprise, Surprise co-host would be enough to push me over the edge, they certainly wouldn’t do anything to help. Especially a couple of years ago, when I was a closeted trans person, afraid to come out because I feared what people would think.
Rather like Biggins back in the seventies, actually, when he married to try and shore up his heterosexual credibility. Fortunately, society has changed a lot since then. Things have progressed, and got better, not just for monosexual, cisgender gay people but for those of all genders, all sexualities, and none. We live in a more progressive society than we used to. And, as a man who lent his support to the celebrations of the passing of the Equal Marriage Act, Britain’s best-known panto dame no doubt likes to think that he is in the forefront of that progressive trend along with the rest of us. But – as his biphobic comments make clear – oh no, he isn’t. He’s behind us.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

I went looking for Corbyn but found Christ and Coca-Cola: a report

The Blue Carpet has seen better days. Thomas Heatherwick’s  Blairite folly outside the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle still curls up wittily when it brushes the corners of the buildings that surround it, but the blue chips which gave it sparkle have worn away over the years. Increasing footfall to the gallery has eroded the artwork outside it, as people step over the fading tiles to see Isabella and the Pot of Basil or John Martin’s Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Newcastle is a city at war these days, a city of conflict between the incoming and the established, the old and the new, the haves, have-nots and never-wills. War is written into the fabric of the city, in the names of streets and tower blocks, the plaques on buildings, the collective memory.

Ride through Sandgate, up and doon
There you'll see the gallants fighting for the croon
And all the cull cuckolds in Sunderland toon
With all the bonny blew caps cannot pull them doon.

It’s all there, even the use of ‘cuck’ as an insult.

I came to the carpet to report on the war, but by the time I got here the troops had moved on. Difficulties with the Metro ticket machines mean I am forced to entrain without a ticket and disembark at Jesmond, the nearest station to the City Centre where I stand a decent chance of getting out without having to remonstrate with an angry revenue inspector. From there I have to walk to the Carpet via the campus of Northumbria University and John Dobson Street. By the time I arrive the carpet is empty. An old couple sits on one of the curving branches used as ramps by skateboarders, but the Keep Corbyn rally I was planning to get a look at has already decamped – to Leazes Park, I’ll find out later, but my initial instinct is that they must have gathered at Monument, the City’s main contested space.

At first I think I’m on the right track. I pass by the new Central Library, the glass and steel building that replaced the old Brutalist fortress, the black knight’s visor lowering over Princess Square, with a structure which makes a fetish of openness, a viewing platform with novelty Big Brother chairs, the stacks hidden away in a white cube halfway up the building and the bookshelves tucked away at the back of the ground floor.  I can hear noise, groups, chanting. 



I pass the MakerSpace and bookshop on New Bridge Street, the basement theatre where, almost a year ago, I asked my friends to throw rice and fake blood at me while I stood on stage and talked of love. The noise is louder now but it seems wrong. No megaphone, no samba bands, no sound system, no they say cut back we say fight back. The voices seem different. And here’s why: this is not a political crowd but a confessional one, a crowd of black people, probably from some evangelical outreach initiative, hallelujah-ing while stalls emblazoned with the red and white banner of Coca-Cola distribute free samples. As far as I can tell the coke and Christianity are not officially connected, but it sure looks like a land grab to me. I wonder if the ticketing problems on the Metro were deliberate: not just to stop me, but to thin the numbers of people coming in for the rally. But why? What’s the motive? Cui bono?

Try this for size: the Metro is a German-owned company these days. Corbyn has said we need to invoke Article 50 as soon as we can. Thinning his crowd is a bulwark against continental financial catastrophe. Or this: the Metro recently had an industrial dispute with its cleaning staff. Corbyn wants to stand up for the workers. Thinning his crowd is industrial relations by other means. Or: Corbyn is Christ and the Devil Himself fucked the ticket machines up out of spite. Or Corbyn’s the Devil-turned-Roundhead and in protest the Metro will only accept payment today in tiny pictures of the Queen.

It’s ludicrous, but we know conspiracies exist. The existence of the plot against Wilson was once thought colourful fantasy. We moved on pretty damn fast from the general threatening a coup if the current Labour leader was elected, but I’ve seen bumper stickers emblazoned with Support the Troops – we’ll need them to get Corbyn posted online. The Deep State abides, shuffling personnel as needed, sweeping BoJo into office at the moment the banks all collapse, a handy man for Diamond Bob to have inside the system.



The square around Monument is overlooked by bastions of conspiracy. Here: HSBC, the bank that broke bad, laundering Mexican drug money to bolster its liquidity. There: Pret a Manger, the chain whose management impose a Maoist cult of good cheer on its staff, surveilled by mystery shoppers, the secret policemen of consumerism, lured in by the promise of free goods. (Full disclosure: I’m partial to breakfasting on a Pret filled croissant, but I’ve never received one of the free coffees the staff are empowered to give. Come on, guys, I compared your management to Mao!)


And here, in what used to be a bookshop, Byron burgers, the company which recently conspired with the UK immigration authorities to deport 35 workers it had employed for years, working 50-70 hour weeks. The company asked no questions and enjoyed its lowered overheads, but turned grass to dodge fines and branch closures. Staff were invited in for ‘training’ on the dangers of cooking rare burgers, only to find out it was their goose that was cooked. A ‘quirky’ toy cow sits on a shelf behind the counter; a sandwich board outside advertises ‘The B&A Burger’. They need to add ‘UK’ to that, I mutter. 


Saturday, 30 July 2016

Grotesque

‘Fucking grotesque’ – message on dating site from ‘marcus69shh’

Grotesque does not mean
ugly: it means hybridity, incongruence,
the sickening in league with the sublime,
the jolie laide, the Baywatch-bodied mantelpieces,
manticore, chimera, cockatrice;
means beautifulmonstrous

and I do not know

which              which

part                  part

of                     of

me                   me

you                  you

find                 find

beautiful          monstrous

but I hope

everyone          everyone

that                  that

you                  you

find                 find

beautiful          monstrous

treats               is treated

you                  like

like                  a

a                      beauty

monster

and you learn the hard way what the word embodies
while never finding just the word:

a champagne bucket serving as a pisspot;
a quick douche between clients
in a bathroom at the Ritz.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Trumpimandius

I met a traveller from an antic land
who said: 'A solitary baseball cap
lies in the crater. Near it, on the ground,
the wreckage of a portrait lies, whose frown,
absurdist wig and perma-blasted tan
show that its painter caught well how grotesque
life has become, when such unlifelike things,
mocked as they were, beguiled us to elect
this squamous filth which fattens on our fear.
The psychopath we welcomed as our King
brought ruin to his kingdom in a year,
and with it went the world. No things remain:
on every side the line of sight lies bare.
Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair.'


(after Percy Bysshe Shelley, fairly obviously)