Saturday 27 November 2010

I watched the news today, oh boy...

...and I saw a lot of nonsense about how two streets in London have been closed to traffic the better to facilitate the annual orgy of rampant consumerism with which we traditionally celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. All this on Buy Nothing Day too. Who says the arse-licking corporate media don't have a sense of irony?

Curious by its absence from the media, however, has been news of the ongoing student occupations of many major universities in protest at the coalition's assault on the right to higher education and their wider cuts agenda. The suppression of free speech can take many forms - one of them is ignorance and concentration on the trivial.

So against the silence of the media - who, as we've seen elsewhere on this blog, can be bothered to take an interest in the affairs of marginalised people when it suits them - I figured I might use this blog to link to all the occupations currently going on. Universities currently occupied are:


The University of West England, Bristol

Manchester Metropolitan University

The School of Oriental and African Studies

Edinburgh University

Sheffield University

Many other universities have been occupied, but students have either been evicted by riot police or forced out using siege tactics like denying them access to toilet facilities. A good list of all places where occupations have been in effect is the Solidaritree graphic on the Occupied Oxford site, and there's also a good list down the side of the Newcastle blog. And the UCL occupation, which is in many ways the flagship occupation now, goes from strength to strength, attracting messages and gestures of support from figures like Billy Bragg, Richard Herring and the mighty Noam Chomsky.

All these protests are peaceful, all these protests are ongoing and all are being carried out not by mobs but by students concerned about a government that is actively trying to destroy their future and that of their relatives. They are protesting against a society where corporations like Vodafone can get away with having their tax bills declared null and void, where the bankers who caused the crisis carry on paying each other massive bonuses with no reprisals from the government, where the young are invoked as a reason why 'we need to tackle the deficit now' - and are then made to pay for the deficit anyway as the government removes their right to education.

But because no-one has smashed a window, dropped a fire extinguisher or attacked a suspiciously-positioned police van, the media have refused to cover these ongoing gestures of resistance to kyriarchy. The revolution may well not be televised. But with Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere, it almost doesn't matter. The mainstream media refusing to cover a story isn't the kiss of death anymore. In a variation of the Streisand Effect, even suppression by ignorance doesn't make the story go away. All it does is make it more transparent whose interests the media really serves, hastening the media and the kyriarchal regime's decline into irrelevance.

The truth will out, always. And truth will be spoken to power, no matter how much those in power hate it. Power may try to suppress; power may try to ignore; power may try to punish, with riot police and other kinds of sanction: it doesn't matter. As I put it in my poem Class? War?, published in the Emergency Verse anthology - and which I used to finish my recent, well-received set at the inaugural WordJazz event - 'what we deserve, we will demand; you won't deny us.'

I finished that gig on Thursday by saying 'fight the power', which sounded a little odd in my girly little voice (I'm not exactly Zack de la Rocha, after all), but seemed like the only suitable way to finish in these turbulent times. A strange, jarring way for a poet who looks like a Primark Antony Hegarty , and identifies most strongly as a writer with an ancient Amherst poetess with one of history's most famous cases of the vapours, to end a set, but then, I suppose, these are strange times.

So...y'know, fight the power, yeah?

Friday 26 November 2010

The PEN is mightier

A little over a year ago I took what turned out to be one of the defining steps in my journey to where I am today as a writer. I accepted an invitation from Anthony Gormley's 'One and Other' project to do an hour on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. I themed my hour around an interactive poetry experiment on freedom of expression which didn't quite come off on the night, but which I later got the chance to do right at Newcastle Library for their Human Rights Day Celebration last December. My back-up plan was to do an hours' worth of material (a pretty scary prospect in a scene where performances usually last about twenty minutes at most), and it was in the preparation of this material that I came to the realisations about myself that have been the driving force behind this blog since.

But there was another motive behind my performance that night, and it was to raise money for International PEN, a fine charity which provides support to writers who have been wrongly imprisoned for the crime of producing work which the authorities find subversive.

Punishing a writer for expressing themselves is a ridiculous and cowardly act which should be beneath the dignity of the pettiest of tyrants, but it happens all over the world far too often. This Guardian article came to my attention recently, marking PEN's Day of the Imprisoned Writer and making me feel a little guilty for not having referenced PEN very much in the year and a bit since I got the customers at the bookshop where I worked to contribute to my plinth fund for them.

Free expression is something I've been thinking of these past few days,  because we've seen how our new Coalition masters respond to it: by sending riot police on horseback to attack defenceless children.

So this is where we are as a society. Any dissent from the neoliberal concensus and the corporate interests it serves is savagely punished - even if the dissenters are the young people politicians blandly enthuse about as 'our future'. And oddly enough they're right, about that part.

The students and schoolchildren who protested this week are the future of this country in spite of all the mockery pampered newspaper columnists have directed at them. They represent the first strike back on behalf of all those marginalised and disenfranchised by this government and the kyriarchal interests it serves. These young people are the ones the Daily Mail warned you about, and they won't be the first.

A culture which fears dissent, a culture which attacks its own children, is a culture that is doomed. But the fault lines which cracked open this week have been present for a long time. They have been present in this culture's attitude to race, to disability, to gender. They have been present in every lie a middle-manager ever told for advancement, every slur hurled from a moving car whose drivers thought a pedestrian looked either insufficiently feminine (or too feminine if they happen to be male-bodied), every heartless little laugh issuing from the beer-swollen bellies of a gang of cosseted cis caucasian males when they watch their Little Britain DVDs. Our culture has been sick for a long time. These kids are the first sign of our culture beginning to recover. The fact that so little about what really happened at the protests has appeared in the mainstream media is a sign that there are many people in positions of power and influence who have a vested interest in keeping us sick. As well they might: like many in positions of authority throughout this society, they owe their 'success' to the sickness.

But the young are the future. Just as the other marginalised people are the future. We are, to borrow Camus' phrase about Africa, 'those shining lands where so much strength is still untouched.'

So much strength - because our eyes truly see the sickness at the heart of this world, and we refuse to turn away. So much strength - because we deal with attacks from the privileged every day. So much strength - because every day we survive horror which would break them if they had to live through it just once. And we don't just survive: we find joy and colour and real laughter and love in the midst of it. We make music, literature and art of unflinching beauty and truth. We live, truly, in a way which the sick, authoritarian masters of this culture could never really understand because it can't fit on a spreadsheet. Strength of this kind cannot be overcome. It can be repressed for a time, but the repressed will always return. Histories, like ancient ruins, are the fictions of empire. While everything forgotten hangs in dark dreams of the past, ever threatening to return.

This week the past tried to fight the future. The world of authority and submission and hierarchy - of kyriarchy - which is slowly passing from the earth, tried to abort the new world yearning to be born with truncheons, fists and lies. It failed. And it will keep failing. And there will be more protests, more marches, more occupations and more creative forms of direct action and protest and dissent, and more and more marginalised people making a noise to drown out the echo chamber of the right-wing press. More and more of us telling our stories, dreaming our dreams, until those stories, those dreams and the life and love and good real anger we put into them redraw the boundaries of this world forever.

Every society in the past which fears dissent as much as ours has fallen. Ours will too. The question is, where will you be on the day when it falls? Weeping in your bunker or dancing in the ruins?

Today's homework assignments for new readers: read Anna Funder's Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, and watch the film The Lives of Others. Think.

Oh, and you could do a lot worse than pick up a copy of one of International PEN's anthologies like Free Expression is No Offence. You'll read a lot of good stuff and contribute to the protection of one of the most important human rights. After all, if you're reading a blog like this, I figure free speech has to be something you consider important, right?

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Words and all that Jazz

Hello again, you wonderful flibertigibbets, you, and a great big special tacklehug of a hello to any of those lovely new readers I mentioned in yesterday's post. If you're still reading it means you weren't scared off by all that talk of privilege and how, shockingly, able-bodied white guys with penises they were born with and are happy with are not, pace the British tabloid press and Talksport radio, 'duh reel victums, innit?' and have actually got it pretty easy. Well done you! You've taken your first step into a larger world, as that smug patriarchal git Alec Guinness once said in a film he did only for the money.

[Personally I'm more of a fan of Samuel L Jackson's performance as Mace Windu myself; after all, he killed Boba Fett's dad! Though that fact brings with it the terrifying thought that while we know SLJ will do anything for money (Jumper is proof of that), Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett, and has a less-populated CV than Jackson's, may actually have thought that in episode two he was making art, poor love. But I digress.]

New and old readers of this blog alike may be interested to know that I will be reading (most definitely for art) at the inaugural Wordjazz event at Citizens House, Consett, tomorrow, along with Jenni Pascoe, Steve Urwin and Ira Lightman, among others. It promises to be an excellent night. Things kick off at 7:30pm. So, as always, if you're reading this and you're in the area, do come down, especially if you're new to Wrestling Emily - it really would be delightful to see you!

Anyway, that's almost all for now. However, in keeping with this blog's newfound devotion to the Big Society and my dogged desire to educate my followers, I would recommend new readers check out the wonderful film-length interview The Mindscape of Alan Moore, Diamanda Galas' fierce double-album Deifixiones: Will and Testament, and Osip Mandelstam's 'Stalin Epigram.' Class dismissed.

Monday 22 November 2010

Hello, you! Let's talk about privilege, shall we?

It seems, from reading my blog stats and other news that's came to my attention, as if this blog may recently have enjoyed something of an increase in reader numbers. Of course, in the great ocean of blogging these are little more than tiny droplets, but it's still nice to know how many of you lovely people are out there reading. Still, an increase in readers brings with it the responsibility of bringing said readers up to speed on what's going down.

It occurred to me that it might be worth doing a few introductory posts to allow these fresh and fragrant darlings the chance to understand exactly why I do go on so about the things I talk about herein. So settle in new readers, because today we're going to talk about the big one, the issue without which Wrestling Emily would be nothing more than a chronicle of the adventures of a slightly socially inept poet with a fondness for mascara and the films of Patrick Keiller. I speak, of course, of that most important issue in modern activism, privilege.

Privilege is one of those words which often gets misunderstood by the average, non-ofay cat when one describes another person - or even said cat themselves - as 'privileged', because the average person assumes that when I say 'person x is privileged' what I mean is 'person x lives in a giant castle made of Aztec gold and commands an army of zombie servants who constantly do their bidding.' This is, of course, a category error. Being wealthy is a form of privilege - and certainly, in a society as economically unequal as ours, an important one - but it isn't the only form of privilege by a long shot.

Privilege literally translates as 'private law' (you see, new readers? Not only do you get the ranting of a marginalised person, you get fascinating Latin trivia too! I'm too good to you, really I am.). A privileged group is a group which operates by a different set of laws to the rest of society - a law that exists for their benefit and to others' disadvantage. Of course, as a supposedly democratic society we theoretically no longer have laws which operate to advantage one group over another - though if you actually believe that, dear reader, I suggest that you pay a visit to an impoverished, largely black inner city area of London and ask some of the young men how they feel when they see a policeman. You may well be astonished to find that, unlike you, they do not immediately wonder whether they should ask him the time.

The fact is that there are shedloads of privileges which make it easier for some groups in our society to succeed than others. The classic work on privilege is 'Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack' by Peggy Mcintosh, which explores White Privilege - the vast and invisible network of privileges which accrue to caucasian people purely by virtue of our pallid complexion. And I say 'our' because I will willingly cop to the fact that I have caucasian privilege. I may lose out on the axes in a lot of other areas, but I do have the Great White Advantage. This even modifies how badly I feel the effects of other areas in which I'm not privileged: as a nonbinary trans person, I lose out in a lot of ways - but as a Caucasian trans person rather than a trans woman of colour, I have a much lower risk of being murdered or being forced to engage in survival sex work. White Privilege is one of the reasons I get really annoyed when white people accuse people from other races of 'playing the race card' - because white people, without realising it, play the race card every single day and get away with it.

Are you white, new readers? My sympathies. I am too. And I know how hard it can be to acknowledge the privilege you get just because you have a lack of melanin pigmentation. Deal with it. I do. Robert Jensen did too. Let his example school you.

We touched above on another form of privilege - cis privilege. Sorry. Am I going too fast for you? I forget how hard it can be to come to grips with all these strange new words. Of course that itself is another aspect of many forms of privilege - you assume you already know everything and thus resent it when marginalised people start talking about things about which you have never heard. But anyway: cis is essentially the opposite of trans, when it comes to gender. A cis person is someone whose gender identity is in accordance with the gender assigned to them at birth. And while it may not be immediately obvious to you - it often isn't - the fact is that being comfortable in your assigned gender identity brings with it a whole load of privileges. Check them out.

Hopefully you're getting the point at this stage. There are, as the Native American character in Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josie Wales might put it, 'all kindsa privileges' (and if you're a quick study you'll have twigged that there's a problem with the Native American character in that film, in that he is the creation of a writer with white privilege - the character is never given an inner life, he only exists to explain the mystical significance of Eastwood's character to Sondra Locke. And if you're a really, really quick study you'll also realise that the fact that a Mystical Native American is required to explained the mysteries of Outlaw Manhood to Sondra is an equally problematic example of male privilege - this is called mansplaining, and is a topic to which we shall return in later blogs which cater to you, the new reader).

White people have privilege over black people, men have privilege over women, straight people have privilege over gay people, cis people have privilege over trans people, abled people have privilege over disabled people - there are, indeed, many kinds of privilege and they all intersect. The new reader may at this point be suspicious that this blog is moving in the direction of political correctness - and I would not disabuse said reader of this opinion, because I don't think there is anything wrong with political correctness. As Stewart Lee has pointed out, all political correctness consists of is 'treating people fairly'. What a sickening idea.

The vast and interlocking tapestry of privilege is called the Kyriarchy by those of us who strive to dismantle it and create a world in which its toxic effects will not ruin life for generations the way it has so far. Kyriarchy is a word invented by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, who realised that the traditional feminist characterisation of society as a patriarchy simplified things too much by reducing things to a (cis) male/female binary.

You should care about kyriarchy because it's a web in which all of us are caught. Unless I've badly misjudged my new readers and this blog is now being followed by Donald Trump, I'm going to assume that you, like me, benefit from some axes of privilege while losing out on others. So what's the right thing to do about this kind of tapestry of evil?

That depends. It depends on whether all you care about is your own advancement or you genuinely want to make a fairer world. If all you're interested in is advancing your own shallow interests, then you'd follow the 'kiss up, kick down' strategy: kowtow to people above you in the kyriarchal pyramid, while ruthlessly suppressing those below you to curry favour with your superiors and show off your aggressive, dominant kyrio-cojones. But that way doesn't work in the long run.  The annals of Greek tragedy and the crime columns of tabloid newspapers are full of people who have licked the ass above and kicked the ass below until they reached some supposedly comfortable point in the hierarchy, only to have it brutally taken out from under them by someone who lacked their advantages. Remember the end of Carlito's Way, where Al Pacino survives the climactic shootout only to be murdered out of the blue by John Leguizamo's character?  That's the logical end-point of that strategy. But there is another way.

The path to making a fairer world is no less risky and a lot less comfortable than the path of mud-wrestling the marginalised for relative advantage. You'll face bigger obstacles, greater hardship, more humiliating losses and ultimately run a greater risk of dying early than the kiss-up, kick-down scum. But you have one advantage. And that is that, because you yourself are opposing the web in which everyone else is trapped, you show that, in the ancient activist proverb, another world is possible. You show that we don't have to buy in to a never-ending battle royale in which no-one ever ultimately wins. You show that it's possible to imagine a world where, pace Marcus Aurelius, life is more like dancing than wrestling. And, even if the worst happens, if you lose out on your position in a hierarchy - if you die - then you don't lose or die like Al P in Carlito's Way; you lose or die like Alec Guinness playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: if your enemies kill you, they make you more powerful than they can possibly imagine; because the fact they've had to kill you shows that the one thing they fear more than anything else is someone who doesn't fit into their sad little world. And that example, and that reminder of what they truly fear, serves as an inspiration to the rebels who'll come after you; and eventually, through your taking a stand, a better world might be created and, in the immortal words of Bill Hicks, something like heaven might dawn.

It's up to you really, readers. Maybe, as my analytics tell me, you googled this site using the disturbing phrase 'women pee after wrestling' and stuck around because you were trying to work out if I could possibly be for real; maybe you saw me at a gig, explaining why I apparently switch genders in poems describing my adolescent years, and were intrigued enough to look me up; maybe you encountered me in some other, more everyday context, and something about me intrigued you enough that you decided to go looking for my online presence. Who knows? All I know is you're reading this, you haven't been here since the get-go and, like those who have, it's time for you to make the choice. Do you want your actions to drive the world further to the brink; or do you want to join me in trying, in our fumbling and ineffective way, to make a better world?

The choice is yours. I hope you make the right one.

Saturday 20 November 2010

TDOR 2010

Black background on the blog today to mark the 2010 Trans Day of Remembrance.

In my last post I mentioned 'The Smiling Animal at His Appointed Hour', a poem I'd written about the murder of Andrea Waddell. But it could just as easily have been about the hundreds of other trans women who are murdered every year, just as she was. . And it would be nice to say that those victims are murdered only by the people who commit the immediate violence against them, but that would be a comforting lie. Trans people - overwhelmingly trans women - are subject to such violence because of a system that discriminates against them, disadvantages them and makes them outcasts.

Andrea Waddell was murdered by a client she met as a sex worker. But she became a sex worker because, despite her being a Durham University graduate, employers rejected her from other jobs. If the transphobes who rejected her hadn't done so, she wouldn't have been murdered that night. Like all the victims of anti-trans violence, Andrea's murder was as much the fault of everyone who discriminated against her because of her trans status as it was of the cis man who murdered her.

This is why I get so angry with scumbag 'comedians' who make transphobic jokes or venal little newspaper bastards who write dehumanising, misogynistic reports about trans women. That kind of behaviour legitimises the discrimination and exclusion that create a climate in which so many trans women are murdered. Those jokes, those reports and that attitude have a body count.

Today is the day we remember all those who have died as a result of that ignorance. You can find out more here and  find a list of the dead from the past year here.


Thursday 18 November 2010

Is....*crackle* this thing on?

Forgive my absence, darlings, but some kind of internet outage has left Stately Fish Manor without broadband for the past couple of days. To compound the problem, yesterday night my Blackberry died and for the past eighteen hours I have been forced to use the browser on my Kindle, which may be a great device for reading (and purchasing [and driving yourself deeper into penury each day by purchasing]) e-books, but which felt marginally worse for browsing Twitter and Gmail than it would have been were I to try and browse those same social networking sites by using the green screen PCs I first learned to use e-mail on at Northumbria Uni in 1996.The Kindle browser sucks, basically, and frankly I deserve counselling or medication or a massage for having had to suffer through using it. Jeff Bezos can lick my bits.

Anyway. The bitch is back. And the bitch will be reading at Newcastle's glamorous Centurion Bar on the 6th of December at the launch for By Grand Central Station We Sat Down and Wept, the new anthology of poems inspired by the writing of Elizabeth Smart which is being published by Red Squirrel Press. My poem 'The Smiling Animal at His Appointed Hour', which is about the murder of Andrea Waddell, will appear in the anthology. A small press poetry anthology isn't exactly the cenotaph, but I feel proud to have gotten a small acknowledgement of the injustice of Andrea's murder down for posterity, especially this close to the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It isn't much. It isn't enough. But it's something.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

He was some kind of a man. And then she was some kind of a woman. Then he was some kind of a man again. What else can you say about people?

Well, if they're Charles Kane, you can say that they're frankly the most ridiculous waste of column inches since...well, the last piece of transphobic, misogynistic bullshit the Mail foisted on its readers.

Who is this Charles Kane? Sadly, he doesn't seem to be being played by Orson Welles (who played his near-namesake Charles Foster in Citizen Kane, his most famous film - and whose later film Touch of Evil provides the quote I've paraphrased for the title of this post). Instead, he seems to be played by the kind of publicity-hungry right-wing anger-parasite we usually see getting their faces in the paper with a 'Christians are the real victims' story. It seems that Charles used to be one Sam Hashimi then, in 1987, he underwent gender reassignment surgery to become Samantha Kane, before deciding that the life of a woman wasn't for him and deciding to transition back and become Chuck K.

So far, fair enough. I'm genderqueer. I like fluidity and mercuriality and messing with the binary and girls who are boys who like boys to be girls who do girls like they're boys et cetera et cetera. Trouble is, Charlie-boy has made a classic logical error - from his own particular experience he has generalised that trans people are 'in my opinion, completely deluded' and deduces from this extensively-researched position that the NHS should not assist trans people in transitioning. And, as A Very Public Sociologist observes, he has form for this.

Basically, Kane appears to be a stooge for the Mail's hatred of trans people (a subset of its hatred of anything different). It must be tremendously nice for both him and the paper: they get to spread their message of hate and he gets to be photographed making love to the camera with his pretty young trophy wife. But it's tremendously hurtful and dangerous for trans people at a time when the APA is considering harmful changes to the DSM-V entry on Gender Identity Disorder, and Britain is in the grip of a government with a deep vein of hostility to LGBTIQ people.

I've been racking my brains all night to try and work out who Charles Kane reminds me of. It's not the main character in Orson Welles' greatest film, as it turns out. He actually reminds me of Glyph, the character from Alan Moore's The Ballad of Halo Jones who undergoes a series of sex change operations but is never ultimately satisfied and eventually becomes pretty much genderless. I like Glyph (obviously), and I always feel a bit sad at the end of the episode in which ze tells hir story. You see, because people find it hard to perceive a character who has no gender, Glyph inhabits a sort of Somebody Else's Problem Field which means that people tend not to notice hir - a field temporarily interrupted when the perceptive Halo does notice hir but, by the time ze finishes, even Halo and her friend Toy have stopped listening to hir and are ignoring hir again.

In Glyph's story, that's a sad ending. But if everyone stopped listening to Charles Kane and the poisonous , half-baked narrative about trans people that he endorses, I wouldn't mind one teeny tiny bit.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Scrape, Scrape, Scrape the Shame (or the gender-variant person's fear of the five o'clock shadow)

I hate shaving. I cannot stand it. It's an embuggerance. Faffing around with scrubs, razors, shaving oil, styptic pencils and aftershave balm, going both ways with the blade, cutting the same bloody spots on my chin every time. Kate Bornstein, in My Gender Workbook, refers to it as 'scraping the face', and it's a pretty good description.

As a genderqueer person, though, I find shaving an essential ordeal in maintaining my androgynous look. There's only so much you can do with mascara, nail polish, clothes and accessories if you have more stubble going on than Ralph Fiennes' character from Strange Days.

But it isn't just a matter of how I look to other people. I find shaving regularly to be necessary for my own mental well-being. The hairier I am, the worse I feel (this applies to other parts of my body than my face as well: I often shave or otherwise remove the hair from my arms because I hate being able to see forests of forearm fur. In fact, as soon as this blog is put to bed I shall be off to shave them again, and I find myself taking regular breaks from this to tweeze out particularly annoying follicles.) It bugs me.

To paraphrase Jane Siberry, however, I can't shave all the time. For one thing, my facial hair goes through cycles of growth. Thankfully, I don't generally need to shave every day, in fact it tends to take two days after a shave before the hair is shaveable again. But this isn't the same as spending two days walking around clean-shaven. All the time between shaves the stubble, the shadow, is growing, underneath the fingertips with which I obsessively feel my cheekbones, underneath the eyes I can feel on me. Sometimes, if I leave it for a third day, I feel like crap, like some horrible bearded trucker shambling around with stubble you could use to sand down wood.

But sometimes I wind up having to leave it for three days. There isn't time; I haven't got the energy. Whatever. Things slide. And it's at times like these, when the thought that I should shave really preys on me, that I'm at my lowest ebb. My confidence drops. My sense of my own attractiveness plummets. I feel like crap.

And I'm not even trying to properly pass, for heaven's sake (though, to be honest, it would feel more as if I was trying to pass if I wore a lumberjack shirt and started challenging people to arm-wrestle). Yes, I like confusing people; yes, it was cool to get called 'Annette' by a caller on the phone to work yesterday, and yes, it felt good to be sized up by a fierce-looking butch at the bus stop this morning; but the stakes for a genderqueer like me are not as high as they are for a trans woman going through her gender transition. For someone like that, having stubble is likely to be mortifying; and for anyone dealing with such a woman to bring that stubble to the attention of others, to dwell on it, would be an act so vile and mean-spirited that it could only be the province of absolute scum.

Which is why I am seriously pissed-off with two separate reports from the mainstream press today. First, that Blackshirt-endorsing rag the Daily Mail decided to refer to trans woman Nina Kanagasingham - who seems to have caused the death of another trans woman, successful human rights lawyer Sonia Burgess, in what may, for all we know, have been a genuinely horrible accident - as 'Unshaven Nina Kanasingham, 34' in a report which displays so much misgendering and prurient thigh-rubbing under the guise of moralising over Sonia's supposed work as an 'escort' that it merits a severe trigger warning; and then we also have this piece, fisked by Helen at Bird of Paradox, in which the reporter thinks that Mikki Nicholson's 'hint of stubble' is germane to her victory in a Scrabble contest (do scroll down to the end of that report by the way, for one of the best conclusions to a blogpost I've read in ages).

I cannot fathom what - beyond a grotesque sense of arrogance as a result of cis privilege, and a desire to pander to the lowest denominator of humanity which has caused them to forego their last inch of integrity as both journalists and human beings - makes these people think it is perfectly acceptable to describe these women, people who are in a marginalised group, during a fragile enough time already, now stressed out even more by external events - one through triumph, one through tragedy - as 'stubbled', 'unshaven' caricatures. But I know how it makes me feel. It makes me feel sick, and disgusted, and ashamed to live in a country where thoughtless, insulting crap like this gets published.

But I don't want to end this piece on such a sour note. Instead, please read this thoughtful obituary for Sonia Burgess by Stephen Whittle. Some of us care, some of us won't put up with this kind of transphobic crap from the mainstream media anymore, and we will succeed in the end. Because we have to put up with this crap and survive, and that means we have a strength that the kind of slime who obsess over the stubble on the face of a trans woman, whether in the dock or on a podium, will never understand.