Tuesday 8 June 2021

This business breaks your heart sometimes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Care to unpack this a little, Laura?

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

Well, we got the best we could hope for: 

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

Wednesday 2 June 2021

The Second Bathroom Thing

 What's this? A sequel?

I used to piss in the gents.

I don't mean pre-transition:

I mean, when the queue

at the British Museum 

snaked up the steps 

of the gift shop,

I put on my best style-it-out face

and strutted into the men's room

as if I was daring somebody

to tell me to leave.

Somebody told me to leave,

years later, in Waverley Station:

a cleaner. I'd already pissed

but he stopped me washing my hands,

which does not seem hygienic.

I was matter out of place, I guess,

already too dirty, something 

to be shooed. A lot of us do

it, both trans and cis, when 

the queue is too long and 

our bladder too small and

we think we can chance it,

we'll walk into the bog

with the man on the door

because signs are not magic

and we are not vampires Peter Cushing

can see off with juxtaposed 

candlesticks. And that cleaner, he

had passage to both sets of toilets 

(perhaps that was what he resented,

my usurpation of his

lavatorial warrant),

which suggests that a man bent on mayhem

(which is what you say I am)

could more easily throw on a tabard

than secure a prescription for hormones.

But you expect these signs to bind us.

You expect me to keep out

of the toilets I've queued for 

since I got the bum's rush at Waverley

Station, you want the right

to call me matter out of place.

Well, I refuse. I will claim

my right to use these cubicles

however long I have to queue,

and however much my bits ache,

and before I piss in the gents again

I will piss on your doorstep.