Sunday 29 December 2013

Ani di Franco's Plantation Fandango

So I've been following the arguments that have broken out online about Ani di Franco's 'Righteous Retreat', which has drawn some criticism from people of colour due to its being held ON A PLANTATION. And what I keep thinking is - did no-one CHECK? Did no-one ASK? Did no-one think 'this may not be the best idea'? I know it can be tricky to find venues. I know there can be trade-offs. But I really don't get how, even given all that, Ani or Buddy Wakefield or any of their people could have thought this was a good choice of venue. You don't have to do much research to see why it's a bad idea. Here's the information about the venue, Nottaway Plantation, on the Righteous Retreat website. Can YOU spot the subtle clues to the location's dodgy past? Climb inside my Mystery Machine and I'll take you through it. First off, it's described as 'the South's largest antebellum mansion'. This suggests, to me, that it was built before the Civil War by a Southern Gentleman who was hella rich. Hmmm. HOW DID THOSE DUDES GET SO RICH AGAIN? It's described as having 'survived the Civil War'. It was owned by a rich Southern dude and it went through the Civil War. Remind me, WHAT WERE RICH SOUTHERN DUDES TRYING TO PRESERVE BY FIGHTING THE CIVIL WAR? And the final clue, Watson, the fact whuch convinced me that this place had a dark past in one of the most shameful periods of US history was, and stay with me here because this is where it gets a bit CSI, the place IS CALLED NOTTAWAY FUCKING PLANTATION. The CLUE is in the NAME. Genuinely, no-one thought this might not be the best idea? I mean, the clues are there if they looked. And even if they were trying to find venues, did none of their research involve having somebody visit the place? Because if this report is anything to go by, as dodgy as the place sounds on paper it is a heckuva lot more horrible up-close, racist gift shop,'whistling corridor' and all.

Monday 25 November 2013


Here's trans MMA fighter Fallon Fox responding, with class, to something I've dreaded reading about for a long time : her first professional fight loss. I was dreading that loss because I was worried that bigots in the media would make whoever beat her into some kind of hero. This seems not to have happened yet, possibly because, to judge from her petty post-match comments, the woman in question, Ashlee Evans-Smith, has slightly less class than the fart I'm holding in as I type this. It's difficult to build someone as a hero if they win a fight and STILL whine like a little bitch afterwards, after all. So, this was much in my mind this week. And so, as is usually the case when something preoccupies me, I wrote a poem about it. And here it is. (Note: Cesare Lombroso, who I reference in this poem, created the pseudo-science of physiognomy which, essentially, claimed you could predict whether someone was a criminal or not based on their facial features. It's my contention that the idea that there are huge differences between genders physically, which give trans athletes an innate advantage and also mean that we're easy to spot, are of the same kind of order of BS as Lombroso's nonsense. And, as studies show there seems to be much more physical variation within genders than between them, I contend that in the future most of us will look on this denser-bones-bigger-hands-manly-chi nonsense in the same way)

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Why it matters

Some good news today... ...and some news that's less good. Don't ever tell me these two things are not connected. Every ad like this, every transphobic joke on TV, every nudge-nudge comment, every 'look how politically incorrect I am' column from professional opinion-havers in the press, every scaremongering Public Service Announcement designed to inculcate fear of children who happen to be trans - all these things make it easier for people to dehumanise us. To act as if our lives don't matter. To behave as if our lives count less than theirs. To kill us and get away with it. Many of the deaths occurred in countries like Brazil or Honduras: here in Britain we tend not to have open murders of trans people, but we have a press that hounds people like us into taking our own lives. And it shouldn't matter where the murders happen:everything we do to fight transphobia, to counter the structural violence of a cissexist society, makes it harder for people to kill us anywhere. So today, remember the 238 names of those murdered this year. Remember those who took their own lives because of persecution. Remember, and mourn, and then keep fighting.

Friday 15 November 2013

We, not Elektra

Not for a father, no,
nor the time-transplanted eyes
which watch on Windows Media,
nor for marks or carny rubes
or peep-show anchorites:
this is and is not show,

is/is-not earnest, mat is mirror,
diptych-ground where furies fight
off resolution. Whose arm? Thigh?
Whose cry of trapped frustration?

Whose flesh by fingers reddened?
Who is losing?

Who’s Heel? Who’s Babyface?
Who’s Self? Who’s Other?
Who’s hammering, who taps?

Shall I be Mother?

Wednesday 13 November 2013

These are only the murders in 2013

The statistics for this year's Trans Day Of Remembrance are in. As usual, they make grim reading. While the overall figure may be down, this is due to a large ( and welcome ) fall in the number of murders in Brazil. In other countries, sadly, the numbers have gone UP. Most distressingly, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of trans minors being murdered. It's no coincidence that this occurs as we see increasing targeting of trans kids by TERFs and the religious right. Those who stir up hatred against trans people should remember that their words have a bodycount, and an increasing number of those bodies are the bodies of children.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Autogynephilia and cis women

I've written here before about the many problems I, as, among other things, a psychology graduate, have with the deeply unscientific concept of autogynephilia, a 'paraphilia' concocted by some soi-disant psychologists to demonise trans people for, essentially, daring to be queer and/or sexual. I've always wondered if there might be a way to show the scientific dodginess of this concept, and so I'm rather pleased to see that someone has: and a very simple way to do it it is too. How do you question the validity of autogynephilia as a diagnosis? You test cis women to see if the test indicates that they show signs of autogynephilia. Turns out, they do.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Bathroom Issues 2

The Pacific Justice Institute have started posting their transphobic lies about a girl who is ON SUICIDE WATCH on YouTube now. Please flag this tissue of lies as abusive. And just in case anyone reading this blog thinks there may be some justification in the PJI you wanna know what happens if trans women are allowed to use the same bathrooms as cis women? Do you REALLY wanna know? Are you READY for this? Because I don't think you're actually ready for this. Okay, you think you're ready for this. Well, don't say I didn't warn you. Here goes... Trans women using the same bathrooms as cis women will lead to... ...drum roll... ...TRANS WOMEN PEEING. That's it folks. That's all that'll happen. Really not that big a deal. Some women get to pee. That's it. It's nothing. Unless you're a trans woman whose bladder is infected from constantly holding it in. Which happens a lot. Or Chrissy Lee Polis, who was assaulted for using the ladies' bathroom in a Baltimore McDonald's. But if you're cis, and not a massive transphobe? Trans women using the right bathrooms has NO IMPACT WHATSOEVER on you.
I pass, camera on a phantom ride, the hospice where my grandma - no, my auntie - died. Grandma, not grandmother; auntie, never aunt: the diminutives by which we know our relatives. 'Everyone is someone's' - news-murmuring piety - true as cliché - itself cliché - itself a recursion of certitude. There are four lights. I show you the Overman. The Politics of Ecstasy in corridors where freshened air concealed the disinfectant smell. Exercising in the room where she was dying. Anorexic sociopathy. The suits that never felt right, the sunglasses I wished to wear all day the day of the funeral.

Monday 4 November 2013

I was gonna call this entry 'The New Blackface'...

...but if Hallowe'en taught us one thing this year it's that the old blackface never really went away. Nevertheless, I want to talk about something that's analogous. As always, these things depend on context. We may still get yahoos thinking it's funny to dress as a murdered kid on Hallowe'en, but in some ways we HAVE moved on. I was watching a documentary last week about the 50th anniversary of the UK's National Theatre, and one of the things the film covered was NT director Laurence Olivier's cringeworthy turn in blackface during a production ofOthello. Some people thought this unacceptable but for many the prevailing attitude was that the play was the thing, and it didn't matter if Dear Larry was covered in boot polish as long as Our Nation's Finest Actor was playing The Moor (even if he was hamming it up like crazy and making questionable sotto voce jokes to other actors during rehearsal). Some people even praised him for his decision to play Othello as a black man with (what Olivier thought was) a black accent. Despite all this, things have moved on. We wouldn't, these days, claim it was okay for an actor in a serious production to black up (comedy still has a blackface problem, hugely, but in legit drama at least blacking up is a no-no now). We certainly wouldn't praise a supposedly serious actor who decided to slap on the polish, roll their eyes and start acting like some horrendous parody of what they think a black man is. If we're talking about a cis man playing a trans woman, however...well, the film's the thing, isn't it? It shouldn't matter whether the actor is cis or not as long as the Nation's Greatest Actor-Who-Also-Happens-to-be-in-Some-Pompous-Emo-Band gets to play a trans woman. And hey, in a way, isn't Jared Leto being brave? Isn't he doing A Good Thing and Increasing Awareness by acting like (what he imagines to be) a trans woman? Is he heck. What he's doing is the same thing Olivier did: presenting as some kind of social awareness victory what is in fact a caricature, however well-intentioned, of an experience he'll never fully understand, and in the process denying trans actors - and there are GREAT trans actors out there - of a role that should be theirs. If Dear Larry had had any decency he'd have got out of the way and let a really good black actor play Othello, and if Pretty-boy Jared had any he'd get out of the way and let a trans actor play the role he's now getting brownie points for. He'd be advised to. As I say, Larry's Moor is a deeply embarrassing turn to watch these days. And a few years down the line, Jared's little transface turn is going to look every bit as cringeworthy.

Bathroom lssues

Once again, American 'Christians' are applying a novel interpretation of their Holy Book's commandments about bearing false witness in order to whip up fear of trans kids using the correct toilet facilities. Goodness knows how they square this with their consciences. Unless, of course, some of us don't count, which doesn't seem a very Christian notion. It's almost as if their 'religion' isn't a genuine attempt to live in accordance with a challenging set of ethical values but a form of emotional masturbation which makes them feel smug and superior to others. Surely not. People like that are why I wrote this poem. And I plan to keep performing it until stuff like this stops being an issue.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Events, dear girl, events

I know, I know, I say I'm going to update more regularly and then I vanish for a fortnight. The wireless card in the increasingly battered laptop I've been toting around since 2009 has started, HAL-like, to emit a series of increasingly disordered commands before it finishes up with an off-key rendition of 'Daisy', so I can at most get on-line for five minutes before the thing seizes up. I *could* have updated from my phone and if I were on the move I would have (what's the point of having a snazzy stylus-thing attached to it otherwise?) but using the phone to file when I'm in the house just seems annoying somehow. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer the feel of keys under my fingers. Even if, as now, I'm having to file from Newcastle Central Library, which has its own internet issues but at least allows me to get on here from something on which I can actually type. I'm assured I can buy some kind of device at maplin's which'll restore the laptop to full working order and I'm gonna do that in due course but for now. here we are. Here is not where I'm going to be later this month. I'm doing two major gigs in November, Forked in Plymouth, which I'm really looking forward to because it means I get to perform on the same bill as Joelle Taylor, and Jawdance in London which I'm looking forward to because, well, it's Jawdance. I did the open mike there once, back in, I think, 2011, and it was an amazing night - the first night when I got to see Anna Chen perform (thus inaugurating the continuing tradition of me using every opportunity I get to try and convince North East promoters, thus far unsuccessfully it has to be said, to book her for an event up here), and the first time I saw the film of Innua Ellams' poem 'Candy-coloured Unicorns and Converse All-Stars', which was, in a somewhat indirect way, an influence on my own film, 'Letter to a A Minnesota Prison'. Which is, coincidentally, also being shown in Plymouth this month but at a Forked Special on Monday, not the same night I perform there. But get to it if you can because, as well as my own film, all the other films are amazing as well. On a personal level the film I'm most jealous of is Deborah Stevenson's, mainly because it opens with a long tracking shot with no words over it, whereas me, Degna Stone and Laura Degnan were essentially hacking 'Letter...' to pieces in session after session to make the whole thing fit the running time. Silence? Atmosphere? Luxury! One day I probably ought to write up a full account of the process of putting that film together, a process which involved a lot of meetings, some strange experiences in London, a walk-on appearance by everybody's favourite money-grubbing American transphobe and, at one point, me spending entirely more time than I would have wished to hanging around Peterlee Bus Station. One day, yes, but this is not that day. Today is basically about me saying come and see me in London or Plymouth if you can, the gigs'll be mint. So, y'know, that thing that I mentioned in that previous sentence there, do it. Please? Thanks.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

inhabit this space: 53:44:44N; 0:20:51W

your face outside the spyhole
my fingers fumbling with the chain
the hurried introductions - small
talk really - and the mat

I made from cushions
the two pairs of tights you wore
the show you said you'd seen
where Nikki Monroe had done the same

your hands, so much bigger than mine,
giving way as I twisted your fingers
my settled weight on your chest and your stomach

bending your knees, my forearm flush against the tendon
in your ankle, my thighs right-angled 'round your head
the strangled sound you made

when you were finished
your retreat to the shower
the water we shared

                                            *     *     *
I was at ONE-Time Pad, the Thomas Scheibitz exhibition at the Baltic, today, and something about the work in it made me want to go back to an earlier project, though it might be better to call it an intermittent project as it's one without a definite end-point. inhabit this space is the name I use for a series of poems to which I keep adding, incrementally, and which have to follow certain rules: they are depictions, as minimally written as possible, of images that have made an impression on me in my life. Protagonists are never named. There are no titles: what amounts to a title for each poem is the latitude and longitude co-ordinates of the location associated with the event described. Emotion is kept to a minimum, as are punctuation and capitalisation. Only the image is given: think of each poem in the sequence as a punctum, in the Roland Barthes sense.

I last wrote a whole load of inhabit this space poems about three or four years ago. Most are still filed away under their co-ordinates. Some assume other titles and sneak into my work. Some I've read at gigs; some have been published. I'd like to bring them together sometime. I'd like to get other people to write their own too. A compendium of scenes from peoples' lives. A bearing of witness: these things happened here.

I often have other stuff to work on. I have other stuff to work on now. I have a workshop to finish preparing for, the poetry film I made with Laura Degnan is being shown at The Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle this Sunday, I have gigs in Plymouth and London in November and there's already stuff lined up for early next year too. And this is on top of transitioning, which is a whole other bag o'work in itself. So, yeah, I'm busy. A lot. But inhabit this space is the project that's always there, to go back to when I'm a little tired of being shouty and dramatic, when I want to not feel like a performing monkey for a while and reconnect with a purer, simpler kind of poetry.

I'll do something with it one day, promise.

Monday 14 October 2013

Living in this world, with its consistent disrespect for me,
I find I need a partner who can kick my ass sexually, 
you can tell me it's a fetish, you can call it a pathology, 
say it's forbidden in Leviticus and bits of Deuteronomy, 
say that it's a legacy of the tutor on whom I
used to have a girl-crush when they said I was a boy
but it's in being subject to another woman's strength I find my joy.

I wrote the above on the bus into work this morning. I'd been thinking a little about a couple of things at the same time: one, the fact that I often find BDSM quite therapeutic - if I'm feeling frustrated and tense, feeling like I've had my ass kicked, essentially, one of the things that seems to help best is...well, getting my ass kicked. Two, the fact that lately I've been slipping into a groove I occassionally get into which often causes me to rapidly become, well, a bit crap as a writer, and that's when I start writing stuff using a verse-chorus-verse-chorus song-style structure. It's not that everything I write using that structure is rubbish, more that once I get into it I find it very hard to pull myself out of that groove. Conversely my best stuff tends to not follow a song-style structure, to be free verse or to follow an unstable rhyme-scheme, which might stay the same for a certain amount of time and then breaks down and becomes something else. And so I began toying with writing something along those lines, a long piece, and it seemed that I could include a poem stating this rather theapeutic aspect of BDSM and then it occurred that if I wrote the first couplet like this instead of that and then the whole thing tumbled out and I wrote it out, quickly, as a Facebook status, with a note explaining that it was only a little bit of what would probably be a much larger thing. And then an odd thing happened.

Quite a few people began to argue that this on its own is a complete poem. Dominic Berry particularly, whose judgement I respect a lot, expressed that opinion. A lot of people said they loved it. 

I'm still not sure. I'm drawn towards the idea of doing it as part of a longer piece, giving it more context. But on the other hand...two of my most noted recent poems, 'Letter to a Minnesota Prison' and 'The Ballad of Private Manning' are each over six minutes long and very heavy. I seem to have revolted against that a little lately by doing more comic stuff, though, again, as with the verse-chorus trap I find that trying too hard to be funny is also a bad groove for me to get into (I'd argue the above verse isn't necessarily comic but exuberant, itself not such a bad thing when you consider how often people write about BDSM in such a self-consciously ooh-look-how'-d'arque-I-am way). Maybe I do need a few shorter poems?

Saturday 12 October 2013

First, they ate her hair

and that, more than what followed, makes him shiver:
how the salad forks would scissor as they doled
the ash blonde vermicelli out between them.

Her watching, shorn, the pattern of her skull
now plain beneath the jigsaw stubble
where the kitchen blades have clipped: here, mere shadow

as a man may show one day without a shave;
here, patchwork squares like carpet
or the fields just after harvest,

their caesuraed stalks a witness
to the violence that fills bellies.
Did she decline, aware of what came next,

the calculus of what-you'll-not-be-needing
that made her limbless first, then, after
the concussive mercy of the rock clenched in his fist,

made her the suckling parody
at centre of the table,
the carving knife slow-sawing, sure,

through rump and breast and shoulder?
Or did she go autophagic, take her share
of gathered shavings in a bowl, try making small talk

as the two of them sucked dryly at each forkful?
He cannot know. The bodies tell the story:
the novice severing of bone, the botched attempts

to staunch the bleeding, and the stomach contents,
still enough to go on. One week more, one less,
there would have been no need for this:

the girl devoured; their bodies laid
beside the family Bible; one last grace,
one halting plea for His forgiveness

before, defying Canon Law,
they slit each other's wrists.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Doing this tomorrow, if anyone's interested.

And Now, Sports News!

All teams won their games this weekend, 
except the ones that lost. Points were awarded accordingly. 
In the athletics events a great deal of running was observed
to be generally faster than previously. The tennis, squash and badminton 
were largely back and forth affairs. Despite high initial hopes, the boxers 
were unable to settle their differences through constructive debate 
and came to blows. Homoeroticism once again conquered
the subtext. As yet, despite repeated appeals, no-one has put an end 
to the horror of golf. Discus.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Confidence (draft)

You say my problem is that I don't have much
confidence, you tell me that I really need more
confidence, but we both know that you won't allow me
confidence, we both know it's the kind of thing that you
beat out of us, in the confines of the classroom,
on the concrete of the yard, when you punish us for standing out
or trying too hard, in the natter that you chatter over
cups of char, in the door you say is open but you never leave ajar,
in the millions of little ways you manage to exclude,
in your minuscule aggressions and the ways that you collude
to bring us down and leave us out because we don't exude
this confidence you say we have to have or else we're screwed.

But guess what? All this self-esteem you're selling? I don't need it,
because I've regularly walked in rooms not really believing
that I've got what it takes, and yet I've still succeeded,
and I didn't even fake the stuff you say it takes to make it:
you sat there in your armour while I'm shivering and naked
but I shimmer while you're dull, I'm free while you're in thrall
to the notion that you have to come on like a troll
showing no emotion but a token LOL
because the only way you think you know to stay in control
is to keep it need to know that you can sometimes be weak,
so to keep from being thought of as some kind of freak
you devote all your resources to behaving like a dick
and call it 'confidence', but we see through it: it's a trick.

Michael Gove and his Amazing Friends

In April 2012, for Napowrimo, I wrote a series of poems about Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove. Or, more specifically, about a cardboard cut-out of him. See, Gove did something that year which no Education Secretary had done in a long time, if ever: he refused to address the annual conference of Britain's biggest teachers' union, the NASUWT.

This presented NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates with a problem: one of the major set-pieces of Conference is the General Secretary's reply to the Ed Sec's speech. With Gove having chickened out of attending, there would be no speech to reply to, and no-one to whom she could address these remarks.

Keats got around this by making a speech to a cardboard cut-out of the Secretary, which she stood next to on the platform and harangued. It seemed a fair swap. The cardboard Gove was two-dimensional, flimsy, lacking in substance and had no real ideas about educational policy: in this respect it was hard to tell the difference between the cardboard Gove and the supposedly real one - a conceit I decided to run with in the first poem of the sequence.

Maybe Gove feels that he lacks substance as well, because at this week's Tory Party Conference, not for the first time, Gove decided to pitch up at Manchester rolling with a crew. Maybe he did this to disguise the flimsiness of his material, like a rapper getting loads of people to do guest spots on his album to cover up the fact that he's only written enough stuff for about three full songs, or a stand-up hosting a chat show in a break between tours: he trotted out one of his old numbers, the 'enemies of promise' bit, but mainly allowed others to have the stage, padding out his time while also making him look super-magnanimous: we had George Parker, an ineffectual American ex-union leader turned corporate shill; we had a lady who got somewhat over-excited over the opening of a free school in her area, and who brought her wee one along with her to elicit a little more emotion from the audience; and most interestingly we had a guy called Lindsay Johns, who Gove brought along to provide some ideological cover for an attack on 'trendy teaching' and 'political correctness'. Here's  the Mail's report of the speech, which is interesting both for the Fail's sheer joy at having found a black guy who can say stuff that sounds even more right-wing than one of their leader articles, and for a priceless photo of Gove and George Gideon Oliver Osborne making 'interested faces' while Johns speaks.

What's this guy selling? Johns is, according to the Mail, 'a writer and broadcaster who runs a youth programme in Peckham'. I can't find any record online of him running a youth programme, but he does do mentoring work for an organisation called 'Leaders of Tomorrow'. A Guardian profile indicates Mr Johns used to write pieces for that organ until 2009. His last piece for the Grauniad was a defence of Derek Walcott's right to be Oxford Professor of Poetry despite allegations he had sexually harrassed a student. After this he began writing a blog for - well, well! - the Daily Mail: a fact that paper seems curiously unwilling to mention in their fawning article about his speech.

Johns is again referred to as leading 'a youth mentoring scheme' on the website for The Sage, Gateshead, advertising a talk he gave as part of last year's Free Thinking Festival, the theme of which is that we 'should stop listening to young people'. I've never really worked as a mentor to anyone, but I would imagine that working as a mentor to young people and at the same time believing we 'shouldn't listen' to young people might create some rather interesting cognitive dissonance. But I digress.

What interested me in the hoo-ha about Johns was a phrase that kept popping up in the tweets I read about his speech: 'bling culture'. This kind of phrase-making irks me because it's so much a feature of the discourse that makes idols out of people like Johns. Basically it works like this: if a problem primarily affects young, working-class and/or BME people, the media and the politicians decry it as a 'culture' issue. Gun culture. Knife culture. Drug culture. Bling culture.

The next stage is that the media and political classes start giving out about the need for 'role models' to appear and lead the poor benighted denizens of these cultures out of their stupefied bondage to the knives, the guns, the drugs and the bling (which almost always seems to consist of stopping them listening to those damn hippety-hop records, incidentally).

There are all kinds of problematic assumptions which underlie all this. There's the assumption that people in the groups which have these cultures can't think for themselves, and need messiah figures they can mimic in order to stop being lesser breeds without the law and start behaving like decent, civilised people. You know. In a lot of ways, they're like children. Am I the only one who finds this assumption kind of racist?

There's the assumption that only certain groups get to be called 'cultures' and need 'role models'. The Houses of Parliament enjoy a lot of cheap, subsidised alcohol, and there have been skirmishes in the bars there as a result - but no-one suggests Parliament has a 'booze culture' and needs the shining example of a role model to lead them to a brave new sober future. Two girls got raped at Latitude, but no-one is decrying the excesses of Poncy Festival Culture and calling on indie kids to put some role models forward and get their house in order. Some cultures, clearly, are more equal than others in this view. Hmmm. I wonder what they might have in common?

And there's the fact that it's far, far easier to bemoan a knife/gun/drugs/bling/fishcakes culture than it is to address the deeper economic or social factors that might lead kids to carry knives, take drugs or fetishize bling - not that that's the reason politicians are so keen to trot it out as an idea, of course. Oh no.

 On the same day that Johns decried 'bling culture', Boris Johnson made a speech. Johnson, as Mayor of London, presides over a city where locals are being priced out of the housing market to clear space for luxury flats to be erected for wealthy oligarchs. Are the Tories really going to claim they can't see why that might lead some people to think that their only chance in life is to get rich or die trying? Come to think of it, is Johns really going to go on about 'bling culture' under the auspices of a gang of people who are paying security guards to keep an eye on their £45-a-bottle champagne? Maybe that's okay, though: it'd only be Bad Bling Culture if it were Henny or Courvoisier G4S were guarding. Important to keep up with what's U and non-U, after all.

It's pretty clear that Johns has spotted a gap in the market and decided to insert himself into it aggressively. He's playing an old and profitable game, flogging a position that makes privileged people feel better about their own views about education, and peddling the usual straw man nonsense as a way of promoting it. I've worked in education and I've never seen these 'down wiv da kids', 'hip-hop Shakespeare' lessons he talks about - I suspect they exist in the same universe where 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' has been banned for being racist.  Most of the teachers I know are less concerned about 'making things achingly cool and hip' than just controlling their classes, getting kids through their exams and surviving the ridiculous workload they have to deal with without burning out. And I believe in the need for a more inclusive curriculum and I haven't had a 'Rolls Royce, Oxbridge humanities education'. I went to a comprehensive and got my BA from a former polytechnic.

Johns talks dismissively about young people using 'street slang that makes you sound like you've had a full-frontal lobotomy'. Well. When I did the Architects of Our Republic workshops back in August I met a lot of people at the youth group workshops who did use quite slangy speech when they talked to each other, though when they talked to me they code-switched to some extent, as you'd expect - but none of them sounded lobotomised (such a wonderfully ableist phrase, that, by the way). And I was impressed by the work all of them did. In fact, at the final performance at the South Bank Centre I thought some of the people from the youth workshops did some of the best poems on the night. Those young people didn't sound lobotomised. They were passionate, articulate, dedicated, inspired, and inspiring. They were reading out work that mattered to them, into the writing and performance of which they'd poured craft and graft, effort and enthusiasm, inspiration and perspiration. They were seizing the moment, that summer night, to say something about things that mattered to them. To tell their truths, from the heart, in the language that felt most real to them, which in no way sounded lobotomised, whatever register they happened to be using.

What they were not doing was spotting a niche in the market and insinuating themselves into it. What they were not doing was crafting their image and presentation in such a way that they could flatter the prejudices of an audience from which they would always be separate, accepted at most in a conditional sense. Their words weren't cynical and calculated, but urgent and real.

And that, pace Johns, made them worth listening to.

Sunday 29 September 2013

Here's a very good deconstruction of the TERF myth that when trans people talk about the 'cotton ceiling' it's because we're rapists.

It's a fine analysis, but I think the author ignores one thing: the role of projection, in a psychoanalytic sense, in TERF discourse on this issue.

See, the TERF idea that there's something rapey about the cotton ceiling depends on the idea that us trans girls try to bully people into having sex with us by claiming that, essentially, if they say they don't want to it's because they're transphobic. It's an odd notion: who wants to have sex with an unwilling partner who's been browbeaten into it? Not me, that's for damn sure. Where would TERFs get that idea?

Here's my theory: a lot of TERFs are veterans of 80s radical feminism, which introduced us all to a cute concept called 'political lesbianism'. This idea held that ALL women should be lesbians, whether they fancied other women or not, and anyway if they said they didn't want to shag women it was probably because they'd been brainwashed by patriarchy. In other words, IF YOU DIDN'T SLEEP WITH (CIS) LESBIANS YOU WERE A HOMOPHOBE.

No wonder they can only see the cotton ceiling as similar sexual bullying: browbeating other women into submission is probably the only way some TERFs can get laid.

Saturday 28 September 2013

And, on the eve of the Tory Party conference, a reminder that the 'caring Conservatives' are scum too.

Eric Pickles thinks telling an abuse survivor to 'adjust your medication' is just 'a blunt piece of advice'. I have some blunt advice for him: get some damn MANNERS before you next show your ugly, bigoted, Dickensian face in public again, you miserable little man.
Your regular reminder that the Daily Mail are scum.

Poetry? Please.

I get the Guardian every Saturday  (unless the fuckers have ran something particularly transphobic during the week). The main reason l like buying it is the Review section. But every now and again even the books pages manage to do something to annoy me, and they managed it today with Tim Dee's dismissal of 'angry performance poets' in an otherwise polite little article about Radio Four institution Poetry Please.

Creating a false division beween 'performance' and 'literary' poets? Assuming that all us performance types do is 'shouty rhymes'? Characterising us as being so arrogant we think we're better than Donne? Wow. I really would like to think we're past that. Then again, perhaps Dee feels he needs to get his retaliation in first, given that, as he admits, he's shilling for a poetry programme on which 'the most recently published Dylan Thomas'.

Way to make poetry seem alive, dude. It's almost enough to move one to angry shouting.

Friday 27 September 2013

The Ballad of Private Manning (video)

I said I intended to update this blog more frequently - and I meant it! Here's a clip of me performing 'The Ballad of Private Manning' at Scratch Tyne in Newcastle!


So, yeah, the layout here at Wrestling Emily has changed just a tad. That's not all that's gonna change.
When I started writing this blog, I tended to write my posts as long, essay-style pieces. That was fine and dandy when I wasn't winning slams, making films and, as this week, performing four straight days in a row; but now that I am, I sometimes don't have the time to sit down and write a long, organised think-piece. And yet I do have reasons to need a blog: I have gigs coming up, like the Superheroes of Slam final in Manchester, or Forked in Plymouth in November (not September, as it says on the Apples & Snakes site); I have a book to promote; and I have random opiniated stuff to say which, as one or two people have pointed out, I ought not to just be confining to my Facebook page.

All of which is a fairly long-winded way of saying that, as much as Jonathan Franzen might shake his head and call me a symptom of everything that's wrong with the modern world, the age of the long essay, on this blog at least, is over. Expect to see shorter updates here, but more of them. Maybe they'll be rants, maybe they'll be clips of me performing, maybe they'll be travelogues, maybe they'll be snarky comments attached to a link; who knows, maybe even something longer now and again. But whatever it is, there'll be more of it - hence the new layout. Stay tuned.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Was Magneto Right?

It's one of the most boring things you'll hear if you're an X-Men fan, and you're always guaranteed to hear it. You know what I'm talking about: the political analogy. Get into a discussion about the X-Men and, eventually, at some point, someone is gonna come out with something very like the following:

'Well, of course, the thing, man, is that, like, Professor Xavier is like Martin Luther King and Magneto is, like, Malcolm X, yeah?'

What's so annoying about this? Well, two things: first, purely in comic-book terms, it ignores the more complex relationship between the characters by making them an allegory for other things. But more importantly it relies on a subtle, unstated assumption, which is this: Professor X is like MLK, and not his namesake Malcolm, because he is pacifist and tries to help humans, or in other words he rebels in an acceptable way, while Magneto is like Malcolm X because he uses violence and thus he rebels in an unacceptable way. The question is, acceptable to whom? It's significant that I've never seen a person of colour make this rather naff analogy, because it positively drips with unexamined white privilege. It assumes that definitions of acceptable and unacceptable rebellion are the preserve of the privileged, and that the opinions of the marginalised are of secondary importance; and, more important, they represent a highly distorted view of both of King and X.

The idea that Martin Luther King represents the acceptable face of the Civil Rights movement, the benign, nonviolent, reasonable pastor, while Malcolm X represents the snarling, violent firebrand, is simplistic and reductive. Malcolm X became more conciliatory in the period before he was killed, after he broke with the Nation of Islam and radically extended his political thought. He was never the cartoon terrorist he's made out to be. And King wasn't a comforting Buddha figure either. What people forget is that nonviolence is a tactic, a way of defeating a more powerful oppressing force by showing the starkness of its violent response to your protests. The idea of non-violent resistance being used by Dr King and the Civil Rights movement makes white people feel very comfortable now, but it didn't then: if you look at footage of the protests in Birmingham or Alabama you can see how angry it made the authorities. MLK knew this would happen from his study of Gandhi, but like Gandhi he would never say the possibility of real violent revolution on the part of those he advocated for was wrong or unlikely. He didn't judge it, indeed he said that if people didn't act on his nonviolent campaign then it was highly likely that there would be violence. As part of the Architects of Our Republic project I've had the opportunity to read the whole of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech, not just the peroration which everyone remembers (and which, as Gary Younge points out, wasn't even supposed to be given on the day). This speech includes references to 'the sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent' and 'the marvellous new militancy' among black people, and warns that people 'will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual'. Yes, he also talks about the importance of nonviolence but he is clear that violence is a possibility. His job is not to be peaceful and reasonable and to make his oppressors feel comfortable, it is to tell them what time it is and to tell them what will happen if they don't get their act together on equality. But people forget this uncompromising aspect of the speech because they like the pretty image of children playing together at the end.

I suppose one reason I've been thinking about this over the weekend is the storm in  teacup kicked up by some pearl-clutching cis people, and, worse, some trans people too, over the use of the hashtag #fuckcispeople on twitter. Because the same simplistic dichotomy is being drawn. The same split between 'acceptable' and 'unacceptable' revolutionaries. The same idea that we should fight for our rights in a way that won't frighten the horses. That cis people will only accept us if we're good trans people. If we're nice. If we're unthreatening. If we try to be more like Professor X than Magneto; more like MLK than Malcolm X: and more like a comforting caricature of either than the messy, complicated reality.

I don't usually say 'fuck cis people' - many of my best friends are cis people, but something many of my best friends are not is fools, or faux-offended moralists with an agenda. They know that when I, or any other trans person, expresses outrage at 'cis people' we don't mean all cis people, any more than a black person expressing their exasperation with white people means every single white person they know, or a disabled person giving out about abled people is including all the abled people they're acquainted with in that charge.It's an expression of anger at a system that privileges one group over another, and those who do well out of that system and don't really care to do anything about it because they're alright and certainly don't want to do anything about it if it's going to mean, god forbid, making them uncomfortable. Fuck those people, is what it means. And anyone who fails to see that, or claims to see that, anyone who is shocked, gentlemen, shocked at the thought that their own comfort may be derived from the oppression of others?

Fuck those people.

Friday 14 June 2013

Exciting Announcements Announced Excitingly!

I've had a busy week! I was in London for most of it. The main reason I was in London is something I'll get to in a moment, but first I want to deal with a little other business.

To begin with: one of the reasons I was in London, though not the main reason, was to perform at Bar Wotever. Wotever is a great night at a great venue, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, ran by an amazing team of people and usually attracting a brilliant crowd of top humans. Rather unfortunately the event this past week also attracted a noted transphobe who, I'm given to understand, has a history of stalking and harrassing people among the Wotever regulars. This person snuck in hoping not to be noticed, got noticed, and got told to leave. Personally I was tickled pink at the thought of this person being in the audience when I did my spot, but the organisers have a pretty clear duty of care to those attending their event, and ejecting people who've made members of your audience feel unsafe definitely comes under that heading. And that's pretty much all I'm going to say on the matter. A bigoted wanker turned up to a pub and got bounced. To say anything more than that is to give that wanker entirely more attention than she deserves. End of, as I believe you young people say.

But not the end of my London adventures, as I will return to London in just over a fortnight to perform at Transpose, the phenomenal CN Lester's showcase of amazing trans art and creativity, occuring on the 28th of June as part of London Pride. CN wants everyone attending to bring a cis friend partly to raise awareness, and partly to annoy Louise Mensch, who thinks the word 'cis' is offensive, the poor dear. Coming down from Newcastle that might be logistically difficult for me, but I'll see what I can do.

One thing I do want all my cis friends to come to is this year's  Newcastle Pride. Although I note that you wouldn't know it from their website (quelle surprise), this year's Newcastle big corporate gaywash  celebration of diversity will feature a Trans Zone for the first time ever. There'll be all kinds of stuff happening, but one thing of particular interest to residents of this parish will be the fact that there will be entertainment from a number of amazingly talented trans performers, including me. While obviously transphobia will not be tolerated, the Trans Zone is open to everyone who's open-minded, and I urge any of you who can make it to go, for one simple reason: if the Trans Zone is not a success this year, we won't get to have one next year, and I would really like to see it become a permanent part of Newcastle Pride. So get your ass to Exhibition Park on the 20th of July and earn your ally cookies by showing up to support the trans community in person instead of just clicking 'like' on Facebook pages. And yes, there will be ally cookies. I'm going to bake some. But that's not




The Big Announcement is that I am honoured to be one of a select group of poets chosen to collaborate on Architects of Our Republic, a very special project organised by Apples and Snakes, sponsored by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington DC and Martin Luther King's seminal 'I have a dream' speech. Us poets have been selected to write poems in response to the speech which will be turned into films by film-makers in our regions. These films will then be screened at the South Bank Centre in London on the 28th of August - the exact anniversary of the March, along with a whole host of other cool goings-on including choirs, placards, processions, music, and - oh yeah - godfathers of rap The Last Poets. As I say, I'm honoured to be included in a project like this. Writing something that won't look like total crap beside one of the greatest pieces of oratory in history is a daunting prospect, but I'm working on something. I don't want to say too much about it yet, but what I will say is that I've used one of the key metaphors in King's speech as a way into writing about a particular instance of modern injustice I've been quietly incensed about for some time now. When you see the film, and hear the final piece, you'll see that I'm now being noisily incensed about it. And hopefully, by bringing it before the South Bank Centre crowd, I can bring it to a wider audience, and - maybe, just maybe - prove Auden wrong and write some poetry which makes something happen. Maybe.

So: those are the announcements. Will the congregation please now rise for the final hymn, '(If You Don't Wanna Fuck Me, Baby) Fuck Off' by Jayne County and the Electric Chairs...

Tuesday 4 June 2013

25/5/13 Video

So, a while ago, at a scratch performance event I go to, the facilitator set us a homework assignment: set up a youtube channel, and start recording and uploading our poems to it. I'm busy working on a lot of things at the moment, but found myself with an hour or so spare due to a miscalculation about how long the laundry would take to dry. So I looked at my smartphone, and thought 'well, why not?' 25/5/13 has been desperate to be performed since I wrote her, and - for various reasons - it looks like it'll be at least a couple of weeks before I get the chance to do that on stage. So, here she is!

This is probably a slightly quieter reading than you'll see when I do it on stage, because I didn't think doing a lot of SHOUTING when the camera was practically held against my face would be a good idea. On the other hand it's unlikely you'll be able to see those two spots at the top of my nose so well during a stage version even if they are still there by then, so, y'know, swings and roundabouts, innit?

Monday 27 May 2013

25/5/13 - a response to the EDL march in Newcastle

I’m not offended by the fact that others
aren’t the same as me:
how the fuck could I be?

the only one in the room:
can’t recall if Toni Morrison or Maya Angelou
advises not to be that, but I never had a choice.
Grew up always knowing I’d not be one of the boys,
never certain of unqualified acceptance as a girl:
there are days I feel as if it isn’t just rooms but the world
that there’s no-one else like me in,
and I don’t mean I’m unique,
I don’t mean I’m artisan, handmade, bespoke, boutique,
I mean the world feels like a funfair
where I’m wheeled in as the freak,
accepted as a turn because I learned to entertain you,
a lust-object to chasers who say girls like me are ‘angels’
when they don’t care for our halos
but the things between our legs,
cause when a chick has dick plus tits who gives
a shit about her intellect? Now,

if I can deal with this day after day, night after night,
why are you so angry that some people just...aren’t
Because that’s what it’s about: don’t try
to hide behind religion, don’t say
you’re not racist, that you just object to Islam,
because if that’s the case then why were your mates
casing the gurdwara?
Sikhs aren’t Muslims. This is basic.
You lot really should work harder
at learning to distinguish one brown person from another
but why try, when the one thing you’re
not blind to is their colour?

And just as you deny that you’ve selective colour vision,
you lie and claim you even have an LGBT division,
when nothing else backs those initials
but your cynicism:
I missed the running battle
when you gathered in Newcastle,
because I was lying back on
a couch, wearing blackened tanning
goggles, having IPL
(intensed pulsed light beams) fired at my face
and, yes, it hurts like hell,
but doesn’t feel like the disgrace
I felt when I had to cross the street
to get away from you
the way I’d hang out in the library
when I was back at school
because I knew you owned the yard
but didn’t own the future:
sure, you were nasty, you were hard,
and I was just a loser
who wanted to be Kitty Pryde
instead of Wolverine,
but I was going somewhere.
Never told you about my dream
because I knew that boys like you interpret
difference as a weakness:
I kept it close, I kept it secret,
but I knew that I’d achieve this.

Still I crossed the street when you pitched up
mob-handed in my city,
munching on free fry-ups
from the welcoming committee
at a bar which I won’t name
(but which pretends it’s Gotham, shittily).
You were drinking, cussing, bussed-in
from as far away as Brighton,
all just here for a ruck, it wasn’t just me
that was frightened.
On the bus back home apologists insisted
you were peaceful:
but you didn’t look calm, plotted up
down there by the cathedral,
and you didn’t look zen, shirtless,
shouting, on the evening news:
though that’s not surprising. Half-ten
and already on the booze,
and you claim that you’re defending
all that’s good in our society?
Just what is it you’re protesting
against – sobriety?

There’s nothing you can ever say that’ll enlighten me
because you live in the dark ages,
even dress up as crusaders,
burn Korans while never understanding
what’s between their pages,
the quotes you use selected
to prove it’s twisted –
but I bet that you eat shellfish
and still claim to be a Christian
(Leviticus 11:10 forbids that – why not check it?).
You won’t prove that you know the truth
by  sampling riffs from holy books,
but they say we’ll know you by your fruits

and what you bear is rotten
before it’s even off the tree.
Maybe you’ve forgotten
the story about Muhammad Ali
when he refused the draft?
What he said to reporters,
whenever they would ask
why he wouldn’t go to Vietnam,
swap gloves for trigger fingers,
was that no-one in the Viet Cong
had ever called him ‘nigger’.
You’d probably deny it,
but I think it’s pretty classy,
and that’s why I’ll never march beside you:

because no Muslim called me ‘tranny’.

Saturday 6 April 2013

On Falling Behind

Feed the beast.

That's what it said, the book that advised me to start keeping a blog, as a way to promote my poetry. 'Update every day if possible, but at minimum each week. Keep yourself in peoples' awareness. Feed the beast.' 

You can see how successful I've been with that.

The truth is there was no deliberate plan to slow down the rate at which I update this blog. No calculated allocation of resources occurred. I didn't sit down and run a cost-benefit analysis of whether I should put more effort into updating this or concentrating on doing more gigs and developing my performance chops, and spending more time in irl circles where I can present as me and so develop my make-up-and-clothes-fu. Things just happened. Pneumonia. Depression. Gigs. Nascent relationships that ultimately went nowhere; a certain amount of sexual exploration and voracious socialising. Things slid, as they tend to do. And so I feel behind.

I've been thinking about falling behind today. Because the other day, while reading and sipping some coffee, a thought occurred to me. The thought that I may have been looking at one of the things I've fallen behind on from the wrong angle.

See, I've got behind on my reading. And I've been stressing about that quite a bit. It's not been the biggest stressor in my life, for obvious reasons, but it's been there, gnawing away at the back of my mind: how, and how much, I'd fallen behind.

I got the Saturday Guardian this morning (I know; I said I wouldn't buy it again, but they seem to be trying to be a bit better about trans stuff now and besides, I like Sali Hughes' beauty tips), and at the time I hadn't even finished the new London Review, or the new Kindle edition of the New Statesman - in fact, there's an edition of the NS on my Kindle which I haven't even started yet too. Also on the Kindle is James Wood's new essay collection, The Fun Stuff, which I'm only halfway through and want to finish. There's John Jeremiah Sullivan's essay collection too, but I went off that when I got to the essay where he hangs around a pool with reality TV stars asking if they've ever had any 'trannies' on their show. I can live without finishing that book. And I can probably live without carrying out a detailed investigation of the numerous self-published ebook-only niche porn titles I skimmed through as a kind of literature review for a poetry project I've been working on (you can take the girl out of the academy...). I really ought to get back to Glyn Maxwell's On Poetry, which 'd barely started before falling ill last year; and I'm sure there'll be a new copy of The Baffler out soon to download as well....

That's only magazines and electronic books. In terms of physical books, I still haven't quite finished off Gender Outlaws, which I bought at Gay's the Word last year; last week, at my local Waterstone's, I bought Alice Oswald's Memorial and Sharon Olds' Stag's Leap; I finished the first off while waiting to meet a friend before going to see the roller derby last Saturday, but I haven't even started the latter. And then there's Alasdair Gray's Every Short Story 1951-2012, a book bigger than the Bible, into which I have only penetrated as far as the equivalent of Genesis and Exodus, the stories making up Gray's first book, Unlikely Stories, Mostly. That will take a while, not least because the thing is in hardback and is a physical challenge to take on as well as a mental one. Perhaps I ought to buy a lectern for it.

I scored some small victories: I finally got around to reading, and very much enjoyed, Caitlin R Kiernan's The Red Tree, which had languished on my shelf since I bought it quite some time ago, not because I don't like Caitlin's writing but because I hate the horrible, mass-market American editions of her books which are the only ones UK bookstores seem to get. I also finally finished Jonathan Meades' Museum without Walls: I love Meades' television, but Meades' prose needs time to be enjoyed. I finished it during some time off work recently, along with a biography of the poet Peter Redgrove which I read as part of the same lit review as the Kindle porn.

But for some strange reason I also decided, amongst all of this, to start re-reading Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, and got distracted around about chapter four; and I can't leave that unfinished because not finishing a book on a re-read irks me because how many times can I say I've read the book, then? Even more irksome in this regard is the most recent big Locas hardback by Jaime Hernandez: I almost finished rereading that during a long night of clarithromycin and prednisolone-induced insomnia during my first bout of pneumonitis, but didn't quite get to the end; and in the morning, distractions intervened, and now I can't remember where I left off. This is torture.

It is all torture, this constant feeling of having fallen behind, this drip-drip-drip of the thought that you will never get caught up, never clear the backlog, never win: but then, yesterday, drinking coffee and reading the LRB I suddenly thought, is it?

You see, this week I suffered a flare-up of my pneumonitis. And had to spend a mercifully short time in the short-stay ward of a local hospital, being assessed to see whether I should be admitted for a longer stay in the respiratory ward. The short-stay ward, unlike the main wards, has none of those televisions hospitals now provide for bedside viewing these days. You probably know the ones I mean: the ones on a metal arm which swing into place above your bed so you can watch Dr Who, the news, or a selection of preprogrammed movies while you recover from whatever it is you're in for. The short-stay ward in this particular hospital also has rather bad mobile internet reception.

I've been in the 'short-stay' ward for up to two days before. In those circumstances having enough to read becomes a real concern, especially if you're bedridden, as I was at some times, to the extent that staggering to the toilet across the hall leaves you gasping and practically floored. At one point I had actually read literally everything I had to hand, and got so bored I spent several hours trying - and failing - to complete the Guardian cryptic crossword.

I worried about this again when I was in the same ward on Thursday. But, fortunately, I had the LRB; I had the Kindle, with Wood and Maxwell and even the porn if it came to that. I could survive. I wouldn't be bored.

I suddenly realised that I hadn't fallen behind. I was, instead, in the thankful position of having as much to read as I could possibly require. What I believed a burden was a surfeit.

Thankfully I got out without having to be admitted for a longer stay. I came home, with even more to read if I needed to: I could get further into Gray. I could finish rereading Bechdel. I could even polish off the Locas book.

And as with that, so with the other things in my life. I have the aforementioned poetry project to reveal (yes; I finally finished it just after getting out). I have gigs to do. Events to attend. I have the self-published pamphlet to promote, and interest from publishers in another. I have a show to put together. I have to move out, and get my own place. I have my transition to continue, and I have more people to whom I have to come out about transitioning.

Seen from one angle, these are all causes of stress. They are all things on which I've fallen behind. They are burdens.

From another, they're a surfeit: a surfeit of life.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Whose agenda, Mr Dacre?

By now you'll have heard the news that trans teacher Lucy Meadows has died after harassment and 'monstering' at the hands of the kind of scum who make up what passes for the Fourth Estate in this country: you know, 'proper' journalists. The kind who sneer down their noses at bloggers because they think making an innocent woman afraid to leave her house by the front door is more morally serious work.

It's not entirely clear, at this point, that Lucy Meadows killed herself. Emails Lucy sent to a friend indicate that she was not in a good place, psychologically. Harassment of the kind she suffered was bound to take a toll. My initial thought on the case, as I scrolled through tweets on my mobile phone on Thursday night, was that it seemed like a suicide to me. That may be hard to prove: a completely separate article in the Guardian mentions, in passing, the significant change in the balance of proof needed for UK coroners to return a verdict of suicide that slipped through in the 1980s. But whether Lucy killed herself or not, and whether or not that is proved in a court of law, the fact remains that the final years of a woman's life were turned into a living hell by the kind of people whose venality has been so thoroughly exposed by the Leveson Inquiry. Not surprisingly, the majority of people - who are decent, and who don't like to see a person hounded to their death - are angry. Two petitions have been started calling on the Daily Mail to fire its top troll, Richard Littlejohn, a man responsible for one of the most vituperative denunciations of Lucy Meadows, and whose utter moral decrepitude is summed up succintly by Angry Mob here, and more humorously by Stewart Lee here (from about the five minute mark). Although the harassment that Lucy complained about concerns journalists other than the man Viz magazine mocks from time to time as 'Littledick', (because the chequebook-waving assemblages of ambulatory faecal matter who descended on Accrington are at least engaged in more legwork than the ridiculously-remunerated 'columnist' who files his unfunny and hateful screeds from his no-doubt impeccably neoclassical faux-mansion in Florida without deigning to set foot on British soil), the author of the Tolstoyan epic 'Hell in a Handcart' has became a kind of lightning rod for public anger over the affair. In some ways this is fitting. Those who make a living by fomenting rage among the populace can hardly complain when they themselves become the object of such rage.

That's not how the Mail sees it, though. Just as they did when decent people expressed rage at the way one of their lesser columnists, Jan Moir, used the death of Stephen Gately's partner to engage in sneering homophobic innuendo, the Mail claim to be the victims of 'an orchestrated twitterstorm'. Cynically, they use the intervention  of 'former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell' as a way of implying that those outraged by the vile behaviour of the Mail and its operatives 'have agendas to pursue'.

But who is really engaged in an 'orchestrated' campaign? Who really has an 'agenda' to pursue? Here are a few suggestive facts.

First, the Daily Mail publishes vastly more stories about trans people than any other newspaper. Twice as many as the Guardian. For a paper which claims merely to be reporting the news, that's a suggestive statistic. Newspapers usually converge in what they consider newsworthy: when they don't it's usually because the paper has a particular axe they want to grind. Could the Daily Mail, which claims only its critics 'have agendas to pursue', be pursuing an agenda of its own with regard to trans people?

Second, here's a picture of the way that the Metro (a free tabloid paper usually read by commuters, published by the same stable that produces the Mail) reported Lucy's death. Notice anything?

Yep. The death of a woman is relegated to a side column. The main story on that page is sensationalist nonsense about a 'girl posing as a boy' to get sex - a story which fits in with the pernicious narrative that trans people are 'deceptive'. For good measure, we also have a story near the bottom of the page which downplays the fact that a boy whose genitals were set on fire was gay, making his killing a homophobic attack. The two stories with LGBT people as victims are made much smaller, much less prominent, than the story which allows the paper to present LGBT people as dangerous predators.

One might, perhaps, see in this signs of something resembling a...what's the word? Ah, yes. An agenda. 

But then, you don't have to take my word for it. You can take the word of Paul Dacre, the current editor of the Daily Mail. Here's a telling detail from the transcript of Dacre's being questioned at the Leveson Inquiry. The questions, (Q) are being put by Robert Jay, Q.C. The answer (A) comes from Dacre himself. It's one word. It's not the word of which Dacre is so fond that Private Eye magazine gleefully note his employers refer to his speeches as 'the vagina monologues', but it's a telling word nevertheless.

Q. Some would say that the Daily Mail's world view, or at least part of it, propounds the virtues of family life, of traditional matrimony and traditional values.  (a) Is that fair, and (b), if it is, if someone's morality doesn't fit into that pattern, is it something which youwould feel free to comment on and, if necessary,criticise?

A.  Yes.

And there you have it. The editor of the Daily Mail admitting, under oath, that it is his paper - and not his critics - that has an agenda. An agenda to defend 'traditional matrimony and traditional values'. An agenda that led to the monstering of Lucy Meadows, that led to her vilification in the press and which, this week, at the very least contributed to her final days being miserable in ways that the pampered Messrs Dacre and Littlejohn can barely imagine, and, at worst, was a contributing factor in her death. 

There is a discussion to be had about the role of the media in Lucy Meadows' demise. There is a debate to be had about the treatment of trans people by the media. It would be nice if Mr Dacre were to join that debate. But so far he, and his acolytes, refuse to do so. Instead, they prefer to bleat that their critics 'have an agenda'. Don't be so coy, Mr Dacre.

This one of your critics, at least, has no agenda. I'm just trying to survive.

The only agenda in play here, Mr Dacre, is your own.