Saturday, 28 August 2021

You, and the choices you made

 What you have to understand, what you already do understand if you would stop lying to yourself, stop reassuring yourself that everything you did was right and just and principled, is that you made choices two years ago, and because of those choices the world has fallen into what you might call a dark spiral. Dark is not quite the word. We don’t really have words for what this is. It’s dark during wildfires, sure. It was dark on the night the Indianapolis went down and the men who delivered the bomb became food for the sharks. But it was also bright. So very bright. And red. A red we shouldn’t see on Earth. But we do see it, sometimes. And some of us live in it, all the time, while the rest of you were sunning yourself under blue skies that will soon be a memory. There were choices that you could have made. You didn’t make them. You made others. And we’re here now. Deep, deep, deep in the red. The nights the air you breathe will choke you. And you chose this.

And you will have to make new choices. And if you keep thinking as you did before, you’ll make the wrong ones again, and the skies will get more red. And sometimes, even if you don’t. Because one of the things you chose was the folks who choose for you, and you didn’t choose them that well, did you? Because you believed that everything you did was right and just and principled. Or said so, anyway. I think deep down some of you know. Some of you fooled yourself. Some of you told yourselves that you were fooling us. But your choices were shallow. Your choices were venal. Your choices were made from your own smug sense of comfort, dreams of Empire and the West, of civilising missions. Sentimental, hoping that the animals come home while the people you paid to have bombed and shot and raped by those lovely Alsatians shiver and hope that there won’t be more bombs. You had a chance and you fucked it, or let it be fucked, lay back and thought of England, all the lies she sang to you at school. I don’t know if it’s worse if you believed them or you knew that they were lies, but here we are. You chose. And you wrote your columns, saying that your choice was right and just and principled. But really, you were angry that young people called you melts. Or gammon. You were angry you heard other languages in public. You thought the voices that you couldn’t understand were mocking you. Judging you. Why? Is there something you ought to be judged for?

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

This business breaks your heart sometimes

Tonight, at the Cumberland Arms, the pub which has been the lynchpin of the Newcastle poetry scene for decades, they're holding the first live gig Newcastle has seen since lockdown began last year. It will take place on the Cumberland's outside terrace, a great place to be in good weather. Kate Fox will be there, and Rob Heron, of the Tea Pad Orchestra. A lot of people in the local scene will be going. But I will not be one of those people, and the reason for this is simple: because the third person on the bill is Alix Alexandra, a ukulele-toting singer-songwriter who has, in the past year, decided she supports the views of some very transphobic people.

Here, for example, we have Alix enthusiastically announcing her decision to attend a conference organised by Women's Place UK, a transphobic organisation, platforming Maya Forstater, who lied about 'being sacked for not supporting trans rights' (in fact, her contract was simply not renewed, and her attempts to claim that the 'gender-critical' beliefs which made her colleagues feel unsafe should be protected under the Equalities Act was dismissed by a judge as 'not worthy of respect in a democratic society'); Jo Phoenix, who was disinvited from the University of Essex over an inflammatory presentation she planned to give on the 'dangers' of trans women being imprisoned with cis women' and parlayed the row over this into a classic example of the 'I'm being cancelled' grift (the latest ComRadio podcast goes into a lot more detail about this Phoenix saga, in the context of government scaremongering about 'free speech on campus'), and Julie Bindel, a transphobe of such vintage that I, and plenty of other writers, have been pointing out how much she really seems to hate trans people (and sex workers, and bisexual women), for over a decade now, going all the way back to 'Gender benders, beware' the quite staggeringly transphobic Guardian piece which brought Ms Bindel to our attention back in 2004. 

Alix is quite a fan of Julie Bindel. Here she is gushing on Twitter about a book launch event featuring Bindel being interviewed by fellow SWERF Rachel Moran: 

...and here she is sharing an article written by Bindel as part of the current campaign by an unholy alliance of Tory politicians, right-wing media, anti-trans 'feminists' and homophobic evangelicals to undermine Stonewall, the UK's biggest and longest-serving LGBT+ rights organisation, for the crime of standing up for trans rights: 

So the first poetry event in Newcastle after lockdown was going to platform a performer who regularly and enthusiastically promotes the work of people who have a long track record of bigotry against women like me. People who, in the works of one of their major philosophical influences, The Transsexual Empire author Janice Raymond, would like to see me and my kind 'morally mandated out of existence'. Call me paranoid, but I don't really feel safe attending a performance featuring someone like that, especially given one can assume that lots of her friends and fans would be in the audience. 

So I expressed my frustration about all this on Facebook, but left it at that, assuming, from bitter experience (and having seen how a similar situation played out in the Scottish poetry scene), that all involved would probably use it as an opportunity to claim they were being 'cancelled by the woke mob', paint me as the villain, and generate a ton of free publicity while also ingratiating themselves with the transphobic clique which is massively overrepresented in UK media and publishing (despite the fact that the vast majority of cis women do not hold transphobic views).

Some trans poets I know, however, decided to get in contact with Rowan McCabe, who was organising the event, and let him know about Alix's turn towards TERFiness. I stayed in contact with them, though I had little hope we'd get anywhere. The fact is I've been side-eyeing Rowan for some time now, since he started getting close with Labour MP Laura Pidcock, whose reaction to the loss of the 2019 election was to write a piece for Tribune magazine containing such an obvious dogwhistle in support of transphobic 'feminists' that Tribune themselves had to run a piece affirming their commitment to trans rights to distance themselves from Pidcock's implied views: 

Care to unpack this a little, Laura?

About the best we could hope for from this process, I figured, would be confirmation that, when alerted to a pattern of sharing anti-trans material from a performer at his event (and one of his personal friends), Rowan McCabe would ultimately ignore concerns raised by trans people in order to give his pal a gig. 

Well, we got the best we could hope for: 

Alix Alexandra enthusiastically supports transphobic groups and individuals who are engaged in a campaign to undermine Stonewall and further marginalise trans people in the United Kingdom and worldwide. Rowan McCabe has been made aware of this behaviour and decided to act like it isn't a problem. Everyone in poetry in the North East and beyond who cares about the rights and welfare of their trans comrades should be aware of those facts, and act accordingly. But I won't hold my breath.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

The Second Bathroom Thing

 What's this? A sequel?

I used to piss in the gents.

I don't mean pre-transition:

I mean, when the queue

at the British Museum 

snaked up the steps 

of the gift shop,

I put on my best style-it-out face

and strutted into the men's room

as if I was daring somebody

to tell me to leave.

Somebody told me to leave,

years later, in Waverley Station:

a cleaner. I'd already pissed

but he stopped me washing my hands,

which does not seem hygienic.

I was matter out of place, I guess,

already too dirty, something 

to be shooed. A lot of us do

it, both trans and cis, when 

the queue is too long and 

our bladder too small and

we think we can chance it,

we'll walk into the bog

with the man on the door

because signs are not magic

and we are not vampires Peter Cushing

can see off with juxtaposed 

candlesticks. And that cleaner, he

had passage to both sets of toilets 

(perhaps that was what he resented,

my usurpation of his

lavatorial warrant),

which suggests that a man bent on mayhem

(which is what you say I am)

could more easily throw on a tabard

than secure a prescription for hormones.

But you expect these signs to bind us.

You expect me to keep out

of the toilets I've queued for 

since I got the bum's rush at Waverley

Station, you want the right

to call me matter out of place.

Well, I refuse. I will claim

my right to use these cubicles

however long I have to queue,

and however much my bits ache,

and before I piss in the gents again

I will piss on your doorstep. 

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

I don't know what to say


I don't know what to say: today

a bill was passed in Tenessee 

to force businesses that serve people like me

to hang a sign up on their door,

the kind of sign we've seen before

in Germany, in '44, 

a target for the rocks and mobs 

and baseball bats and firebombs,

and yesterday the BBC

discussed the rights of folks like me

on Woman's Hour, at 10am.

They booked two guests: and both of them 

agreed with the host that there should be

signs forbidding some like me

to have the right to fucking pee

Oh: and also, this Labour MP

who loves to libel those like me

was re-elected as the chair 

of Labour Women's PLP,

and honestly, why wouldn't she be?

After all, the Head of the EHRC

said hating us was A-OK

in an interview on Saturday.

And that was just the last few days.

I don't know what to fucking say.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Content Note: Savile

 You can blame Jonathan Meades for this one.

Time is a Flat Cercle 

The old man’s back again: back in the barrister’s body,

called down from the astral for a final coffin-fuck

with the Iron Lady, a consummation deviantly fixed

like a Green Room buggered Boy Scout

and his jobless mother; back to celebrate

the Pigfucker’s election win, the stitching-up

of Scottish independence, the bigots given wing,

the increasing use of ‘English’ as identifier

on official forms, the begging of the West Lothian 

Question; the express-checkout riot courts, go

directly to Pentonville for looting ten items or less,

the coppers let off for killing the newspaper man,

the Brazilian, for shagging their way through 

the runway-delayers: the continuum, the irony 

of his flesh-vessel’s name, shoving Kier’s hardy 

into the barbed wire forest between the Baroness’ legs,

the box-office-baby baron of BBC light entertainment,

Big Daddy’s buddy, leaping barefoot from the ring

to the Vatican, to Broadmoor and japes with his pal Peter;

to the memory of Christmases passed out together in Chequers

while Denis pissed himself, mute, in the corner, parentheses

round the word ‘accomplished’ in Gladio memos, glasses chinked

to celebrate the death of Pasolini; to a future of faith-based

depravity, photo ops at Jesus House, superinjunctions preventing

the naming of Russian violinists, MI5 ramblers, to the Liverpool

coup, carried out with Nadim’s ceracular blessing; to Victorian 

values and C Howard Hinton’s idea of time, to the slow cancellation,

to his haunting of all of our memories, to the abolition

of any alternative,the dissolution of time, the breakdown 

of a real present into a fictional history whose statues laws are written to defend

while women are beaten by policemen again and again,

to Rees-Mogg’s hypocritical Easter amen, to a one-party state

ruled by a blonde spaffer shacked up in Number Ten, 


One hopes they used Sir Kieth as a medium to allow a similar communion between Savile's astral body and Phil the Greek at least once before the latter went over recently.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

So where the Hell was I?

It occurred to me that some of you may have been wondering what I was up to while this blog was on radio silence for a few years. Probably the best way for you to get up to speed would be to get yourself a copy of England is the Enemy, a collection of my post-Brexit poems, essays, rants and, in some cases, accounts of bizarre ritual activities undertaken to try and undermine the Tory party. It's currently only available on Kindle, because soon after the ebook launch the lockdown began and I had other stuff on my mind:

Probably the best place to get an idea of what I was doing during lockdown would be my YouTube channel, where I posted most of the poems I wrote responding to the crisis, the ineptitude of the government's attempts to manage it, and the propaganda we had shoved down our throats to try and cover for that ineptitude. 

And since this is rapidly turning into a check-out-what-I've-been-up-to post I may as well include my album Jolie-Laide in this list. Recorded back in 2016, myself and my producer, Natalie, didn't get around to doing anything with the poems from these sessions until last year. It's a good snapshot of where my head was at at the time, and I really love what Natalie's done with Ms Beast

So that's what I've been up to. What am I working on now? Well, 'stay tuned' is kind of a cliche, but let me give you a little hint...

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Caveat Coda: an inadvertent masterclass from Julie Burchill, of all people

I wasn't planning on writing about the situation which arose at the weekend again, but sometimes the universe drops something in your lap which is too good not to use. And so it was yesterday, with a demonstration of the correct way to respond to your publisher being exposed as a bigot coming from Julie Burchill of all people. 

Now let me begin by saying that I do not usually consider Julie Burchill a moral exemplar, and most of the time my rule in all things is to try and behave better than she would in any given situation. Burchill is a massive transphobe, and she was recently successfully sued for damages by Ash Sarkar after she tweeted Ash with the same kind of Islamophobic shit I've had screamed in my face when I've gone on demos against neo-Nazis. The fact that the book Burchill is shopping around publishers bears the thuddingly witless title Welcome to the Woke Trials on its own ought to be enough to establish that generally speaking, she's not someone to emulate. 

But having said that, when Tabitha Stirling, the sole director of Stirling Publishing (who had stepped in to publish Burchill's screed after Little, Brown dropped it as a result of Burchill's Islamophobia), was outed as a member of the fascist group Patriotic Alternative, Burchill withdrew her book from that publisher. 

 Now, I don't have any doubt that Burchill only did this because of the optics - she had previously described Tabitha as 'just like me', and Stirling's husband had ran for Edinburgh Council on behalf of the definitely-not-fascist-sounding For Britain party in 2018, so the clues were there - but the fact remains that, when informed of links between her publisher and a bigoted organisation, Burchill took material action even at the cost of inconvenience to herself. 

I never thought I would find myself saying nice things about Julie Burchill, even if only in comparison with someone else. Because remember the poet I mentioned back at the start of Saturday's article - the guy whose poem written on the back of the murdered body of Sarah Everard was so rubbish I felt forced to intervene? Well, I made him aware of what I discovered about Valiant Scribe after he posted so happily about them agreeing to publish said poem. And did he do what Burchill did when the fact he was being published by a bunch of bigots was brought to his attention?

Reader, he did not: 

I don't know about you, but I would like to think that, when it came time to make a choice (even, perhaps, a 'choice of life', though my being trans certainly wasn't something I chose), I'd behave with more integrity than Julie Burchill, but there you go. Poets, eh?