Tradescantia zebrina release

Last night Kevin Sanders and I released our cellotronik collaboration, Tradescantia zebrina.

It’s cinematic and atmospheric and eerie, like the soundtrack to a movie I want to watch but wouldn’t want to be a character in.

It’s available in digital and CD format. The CDs are hand-stamped and come with gorgeous art by Siobhán Britton. The digital version is free / pay-what-you-can, and 100% of the sales will be split between the following amazing, underfunded direct action projects: Action for Trans Health, Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth (HASL), Movement For Justice, and Not Your Fault.

DIY or die

Angry Plant // Plant Dad

Content note: abuse

Last week, myself and another (anonymous) survivor of abuse teamed up and disrupted an abuser’s upcoming gigs by messaging all of the bands who were going to play the shows he was promoting under the name Shapeshifter. Unexpectedly, enough of the bands responded positively to us and refused to play the abuser’s shows; so they were cancelled! I was surprised but very happy, and we wanted to make sure the bands weren’t punished by losing a gig, so we decided to put on our own gig in celebration/vengeance. We became promoters, calling ourselves Angry Plant.

Born out of anger.

Angry Plant is a tiny collective of outspoken survivors, fed up with the silence and acceptance of abuse in the music scene.

Support survivors; support bands who support survivors.

We organized a gig at the Beehive in Bow with one of the bands from the abuser’s gig (Artefact), and another great band (Witching Waves), and myself playing as Plant Dad. It was my first time promoting a show in London, and my first time playing a solo cello set, and it went well! People liked my noisy cello and we made enough money to pay the bands which is always a victory. We also had lots of support and solidarity from friends and many bands in the scene. There was minimal bullshit, from people resistant to the idea that they know an abuser.

Predictably, the abuser is threatening to sue us for “defamation” which is hilariously unlikely to work in his favor. He’s also trying to work with other abusers to delegitimize survivors’ claims against him. Advice to all abusers (including you, Charles Potashner): if you want people to stop publicly denouncing you as an abuser, try not abusing people; if you have already abused people, try apologizing and offering to do whatever the survivors ask to restore their agency and be accountable. It’s actually really boring to constantly talk about abuse but since the music scene is still full of abusers, here we are, and we’re not shutting up about it any time soon.

 

[Image description: a grainy photograph of myself, wearing a pink cap and a gray scarf, playing the cello on a stage next to a drum kit, under green lighting. Photo by Christopher Gill.]

“Pansy” EP Pre-Release to benefit the Transgender Law Center, and Action For Trans Health

Today, bandcamp is donating all of their profits to the Transgender Law Center in the US. To maximize the impact, I’m doing a 24 hour release of an A Side / B Side single from my new EP “Pansy” for £1.

15% of the money raised will go straight to the TLC (that’s bandcamp’s usual cut), and on top of that I’ll be donating 15% of my share to Action for Trans Health in the UK. It will only be available for 24 hours, from 8:00am Friday August 4 to 8:00 Saturday August 5, during bandcamp’s campaign. After that if you want to hear it, you’ll have to wait until I release the whole EP at the end of the summer.

The A Side is “But Why”, a song about weird romantic cultural norms. The B Side is a cover of “I Am Hated For Loving” by my fav trash lord, Morrissey, re-imagined as a trans love song to self. “But Why” will be on the full EP, but the cover won’t be so if you want trans mozzer, this is your only chance.

It’s only £1!

Support trans artists & trans activism!

When I release the full EP, the digital version will be free / pay-what-you-can, and I’ll continue donating 15% of my earnings from both the digital and physical versions to A4TH.

💕🌱💕🌱💕

UPDATE: Thank you so much to everyone who bought or shared my pre-relase single yesterday.

Bandcamp’s profits were about $100,000 (!!!) which will all go to the Transgender Law Center. My sales are just a drop in the bucket but I’m really proud that my music contributed to this massive fundraiser. On average you spent almost 4 times as much as my suggested price: bandcamp’s share came to £10.13 which will go to the TLC, and I’m giving the same (well, £11, rounding up) to Action For Trans Health. Lots of the support came from other trans artists which warms my cynical heart tbh.

I’m overjoyed that my music can materially support activist groups. When I release the full EP at the end of the summer, the digital version will be pay-what-you-can / free, and I’ll keep donating 15% to A4TH.

New publications and update

[Image description: large dark green leaves against a millennial pink background]


STRIKE! Magazine

STRIKE! has just published my essay “Fuck Passing: Class, Respectability, and Trans Healthcare” in their Summer 2017 issue! I’m in brilliant company and could not recommend it highly enough. There will be a launch party in London soon, hold tight.


Queer Privacy

I’ve written an essay about information security and privacy in Queer Privacy, a collection of essays by other queer people on privacy and community, family, coming out, activism, domestic violence, and suicide. It’s edited by Sarah Jamie Lewis, who was an absolute dream to work with, and I’m very pleased to say that she was able to pay me a proper fee for my writing. You can support more work like it by buying the book as an ebook or paperback. The whole book is under a creative commons license; if you’d like to read it but can’t afford to buy it, send me an email and I’ll send you a PDF.


Book: Queer Trouble

This spring I signed a book deal(!!!!) with Jessica Kingsley Publishers, who recently put out the kids’ book Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? My book is provisionally titled Queer Trouble, and aims to explore the intrinsic relationship between gender and sexuality, discuss and contextualize queer words, and destabilize pervasive “normal” words and concepts like “gender”, “sex”, and “man”. It’s my main project right now and should be published in spring of 2018.

“I Pity The Cis” reading at SALT. Magazine launch

[Image description: Me, smiling in a white-walled art gallery, holding a copy of the magazine]

Content Note: non-graphic mentions of rape, abuse, and transphobia

Last night I read my piece “I Pity The Cis” at the launch of SALT. Magazine‘s launch for issue 9 at Deptford X. SALT is a feminist magazine run by women, and this issue was themed on The Furies (not to be confused with “the furries”). My piece was about the slow realization of being trans made slower by my abusive rapist ex-boyfriend, and how I pity cis people for having such narrow, heavily policed genders.

The gallery was sparse and the room eventually filled with art school graduates (or people who wanted to look like art school graduates) sitting on the floor. The first performer read an excerpt from her piece on what we will do under duress; the next un/did a hex; and the night ended with a dramatic reading about articulation and cadavers, done over a very wet, reverby soundscape. My piece was angry and bitter and quick, and people seemed to like it. Two friends came with me and I had a nice enough time—but if I’m honest I’m bored of how insular (uncritical) and abstract (inaccessible) the art scene is. I didn’t talk to anyone but my pals and the organizers, who were all very gracious and complimentary, because everyone else was doing that aloof posturing thing that artists and their critics do.

The only acceptable ways to behave in an art space are: like an enthusiastic, just-so-happy-to-be-there puppy with no complaints; or, like a cynical, self-righteous edgelord who is too cool to enjoy anything. Even now I feel guilty for what feels like whining. I’m always glad to be given a platform to talk about stuff I think is important like transphobia and rape apologism, and I did get paid a small sum: £20 with the promise of more, contingent on fundraising. I don’t want to be an edgelord, and I want to be invited back to do more readings. But like my friends have been saying lately, no more fake orgasms to boost the art world’s self-esteem (thanks for sharing that link, actual-artist Megan Pickering). Who is it for? Who’s allowed in and are they legitimate if they’re doing any less than a dozen projects? Am I going to be let back in after trans stuff isn’t “trendy”? Or will I be left outside, a killjoy yelling about rape culture? Maybe I feel the need to be extra nice because if I’m not, I’m a scary/angry trans person (or survivor, or sex worker, or migrant, or autistic, or Jew, depending on what I’m shouting about that day, can’t be all at once tho that’s Too Much). No one wants ‘people like that’ around because it’s uncomfortable. Imagine how much nicer I’d need to be if I wasn’t white.

I don’t have conclusions about how to navigate the tension between performing gratefulness in an ugly institution (the Art World) and relying on that institution for money and networking (to get money), but I want to highlight it anyway. It seems valuable to put a spotlight on tensions.

You can pre-order a physical copy of The Furies issue of SALT. here. I don’t think it will be published online but I’ll update this if I hear otherwise.

vlog: Queer lqqks & visible Otherness

[Image description: a selfie of me performing the “queer lqqk”: pale skin, dark shaped brows, lipstick, long lashes, and a choker]

A monologue about queer lqqks in London, visible Otherness, and how it feels gross to use the social capital of queer aesthetics to distance ourselves from our privileges.

Accompanying reading:

The Queer Poor Aesthetic // Shak’ar Mujukian // The Hye-Phen Magazine // 10 September 2016

We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Racists // Shon Faye // Zed Books // 15 February 2017

Asylum Seekers and “Dishonest” Sexualities // Autostraddle // 2 July 2014

vlog: Queer crushes with Nicole Henriksen

Late last night my good friend comedian/performer Nicole Henriksen and I made a vlog about queer crushes and love under capitalism. My camera died at the end because I’m just an amateur filmmaker but the conclusion is:

There are lots of kinds of love! Love is good! Tell the people who you love and appreciate that you love and appreciate them! Expressing love in bleak political conditions is a small, revitalizing radical act for you and your love.

How To Ensure Your Gender Identity Is Respected In Death

Content note: death, misgendering, mentions of transphobic violence

[Image description: Pink carnations with baby’s breath against a black background]

 

In collaboration with Gendered Intelligence and The Corpse Project, I have consolidated information for trans people in England and Wales to ensure their gender identity, and other wishes, are respected in death. It’s written with the aim of being accessible and straightforward, with clear actionable items. View the document here (downloadable PDF).

Death is daunting to anyone, but trans people disproportionately suffer violence and are therefore more likely than cis people to die young. This short document has advice on how the bureaucracy of death works, how to name an executor who will have power over your remains which supersedes your family’s power, and how to write a will and letter of wishes. This document is the follow-up to the “Transfesto” findings of demands by trans people on issues surrounding death. Especially following the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland where several trans people died and were misgendered in death, I think this information is empowering and necessary.

There is another prong of the project, led by Simon at Gendered Intelligence, to change the paperwork about death to remove unnecessary questions like “sex” and “marital status”. Simon is currently liaising with the Ministry of Justice; I will post updates as they happen.

Trans people must constantly self-advocate in life—for those of us with the privilege to plan for our futures instead of just our immediate survival, there is always a worry for us that our corpses will not be respected in death. Living trans bodies are the site of so much violence. We want to ease the suffering of trans people in death, in the hopes that it will ease the worry of living trans people and show our society at large that trans people are deserving of dignity and respect. While the trans corpse is not by any means the most pressing trans rights issue, we absolutely deserve respect in death as in life—and there is no reason we cannot advocate for healthcare, housing, anti-assimilationism, AND dignified deaths.

Sophie Churchill, project leader of The Corpse Project has been extremely supportive and encouraging. Her press statement:

Since being involved in this work, I have been shocked at how frequently trans people’s identity is not upheld in death. When you think that trans people disproportionately experience violence and suicide it is all the more important that we support people to avoid this happening. I hope our work with Gendered Intelligence will reduce one further stress and anxiety for the trans community.

Thank you so much to Sophie, and Simon, Jamie, and Jay at Gendered Intelligence, for your support and insights on this project.

Trans Day of Remembrance, Resilience

[Image description: a selfie of me, a trans boy, wearing glasses, orange eye shadow, and a make-up mustache]

Content note: domestic violence

Originally posted on my facebook page

I was going to write something about Trans Day of Remembrance but instead I slept all day because I am tired. I mourn not just on TDoR but every day I hear about trans people being murdered or killing themselves; nearly every day. I am tired of mourning. I am tired of the implicit racism, whorephobia, and xenophobia in those of you who support the police and national borders. I’m tired of the transphobia we face in shops, in bathrooms, at school, at immigration control, in the streets. I’m tired.

When I was in my early 20s I had an abusive boyfriend who choked me and beat me, and his drinking and other indicators suggest that if I’d stayed with him he would have eventually killed me. Because I didn’t call myself a woman or a gay man, and because I had no recourse to public funds, there was no refuge for me.

The only service in London left for trans people is Galop, who help LGBTQIA people who suffer hate crimes and discrimination. They do amazing work (and have helped me) but they’re under-funded. The Albert Kennedy Trust is a great service for LGBTQIA youth who need housing and assistance in London, but they only help people under 25. Broken Rainbow and Pace—LGBTQIA charities in London—both closed this year due to lack of funding.

I often say to donate cash money to various different groups, causes, and individuals: that’s because it’s the single most effective show of solidarity you can give whilst we’re living under capitalism. Today I suggest you give to Action For Trans Health or any of the still-running organizations I mentioned above. You can also search twitter and tumblr for #TransCrowdFund. Short of giving money, check in with your trans friends and offer some care like a meal.

Throwing out the trash people

[Image description: an art exhibition by HA Schult titled “Trash People”, of humanoid figures made from garbage. There are rows of them in Adventdalen, an empty snowy landscape in Norway.]

CN: passing mentions of rape and abuse

I don’t have time or energy to be empathetic to trash people anymore.

Who are the trash people? They’re cops, rapists and their apologists, racists, the royal family, the rich, the LGBTories, landlords, manarchists, violent men, soldiers, medical gatekeepers, art bros, abusive parents.

Yes, everyone is victim to structural oppression; men are punished by patriarchy too; abusers are encouraged to abuse and are the product of a shit world. But I don’t care anymore. Saying we’re all victims of, e.g. capitalism, with no further analysis, erases the massive difference in scale of harm. It’s too much emotional labor to keep excusing and explaining their unacceptable behavior. The trash people don’t give me or my friends the courtesy of empathy (if they did they wouldn’t be trash people) and I’m tired of doing it for them.

Yes, we’re all capable of causing harm and we all reproduce conditions of systemic oppression, especially of our privileges. But the distinction between good people and trash people is that the good ones actively try to reduce harm (whether they use that vocabulary to describe it or not). The good people have learned how to listen and do emotional labor. The good people will apologize when they fuck up; the trash people will derail the conversation and gas light you into apologizing for upsetting them with how upset you were when you were hurt by them.

This isn’t an ode to call-out culture. We all fuck up but the good people know when to call-in instead of shaming, and know how to apologize when they’re called in or called out. The good people do the continual work of educating themselves and interrogating their power, especially in their personal relationships and daily communications. The trash people don’t listen or apologize; or they use the rhetoric of call-out culture to dogpile people who make missteps in language. Trash people say “#solidarity” but never show up when you need them.

I’m using the language of theory, but I’m talking about praxis. I’m talking about material experiences and actual, not hypothetical interactions. I will be friends with the kind straight middle class white boy who disagrees with me on how to execute “the revolution”*, but I won’t go near the inconsiderate “feminist” anarchist who talks over people. I’ll take the time to explain trans stuff to my older family members, but I’m not going to let someone who self-deprecates with “I’m a terrible person,” get away with being a terrible person.

* actually, typing this out made me tired, this imaginary boy sounds trying

Sure, this is totally reductive. No one is simply “good” or “trash”. But I need to be reductive in order to focus my energy on myself and the good people in my life. Engaging with the nuance that my rapist is a self-loathing closeted trans femme, or that the cops who beat my friends are slowly molded into monsters by toxic masculinity, requires too much effort and invalidates the pain that they cause.

I’m done prioritizing the trash people over myself. Empathy dissolves anger but anger is empowering. I can’t love the trash people into being compassionate, but I can socially punish them by condemning their behavior or smashing their windows.

Lots of people tell me that they think it’s important to call in the worst offenders and nurture them into decent human beings, but I’m not interested. I’ve been the trash person who said really awful things, and I’ve learned both through the being yelled at like I deserved and a genuine desire to be a good person. Despite the title of this post, I don’t think people are disposable. I’m glad that some of you have the energy, the patience, the grace to gently “educate” the trash people; that’s important work. But it’s not more important than my survival or the survival of my friends. Mutual aid is where I’m putting my energy. We spend so much energy as it is just surviving and circumventing the bullshit obstacles set up and enforced by the trash people; I’d rather work toward helping other people navigate and dismantle these systems than coddling the bigots who keep our world unlivable. I’d rather spend an hour cooking for and listening to my friend than doing mental gymnastics trying to empathize with the men street harassed us on the way home.

Besides, as some of y’all are so fond of saying, “feminism helps men too” (as if the personhood of women and femmes and not-men isn’t enough; no, we must center men for them to care), and so my survival will indirectly help the trash people too. They’ll probably profit off my ideas and aesthetic.

Your vote for President isn’t radical

[Image description: black oil rigs in North Dakota stand in stark contrast to the snowy ground and light gray sky]

In the US presidential election I wish we could be real and talk about strategic voting, the problems with Jill Stein & the US Green Party, and the problems with Hillary Clinton which have nothing to do with her illegal insecure private email server.

Clinton isn’t unappealing because she’s “unlikable”. She’s unacceptable because she’s made a career out of conservative values which actively cause harm to the most marginalized in our country and the world. She’s a warmongering imperialist who voted for the invasion of Iraq, supports the continued drone-bombing of civilians in Yemen, supports the neocolonial Israeli state, and she’s overseen anti-democratic coups in Honduras and Nicaragua. She backed anti-black “war on drugs” legislation and actively tried to silence the Black Lives Matter movement. She is personally invested in private prisons and massive oil companies. These are serious concerns, not something to dismiss as a fair compromise for ideological purity, and that’s not saying anything about her inaction on vital issues like First Nations rights and reparations, ending mass surveillance, and housing as a human right. She’s not just a neoliberal Democrat who’s “not radical enough”; her entire career is built on imperialism abroad and neocolonialism at home.

The rhetoric that 3rd party voters and abstainers are stupid or too privileged to be affected by a Trump presidency is patronizing and false. Some people won’t vote for Clinton because they were betrayed by the DNC during the unfair primaries; some won’t vote for her because they’re misogynists. But some of us have been watching people vote for “the lesser of two evils” for decades and seen that it only entrenches the two-party system and doesn’t make a damned difference anyway.

A few things are very clear: The GOP is eating itself, which is great; the DNC is gradually ceding ground to the radical Left, which is also great; and Presidential elections are not the main site of struggle in liberation, or any meaningful change.

Public Transit While Trans

 

[Image description: Selfie against white wall. Main features: white skin, short brown hair, a white shirt, a black & white tie, round glasses, thick eyebrows, and red lipstick drawn off-center of subject’s lips]

 

CN: Street harassment, transphobia, misogyny

 

This is what I wore to the Proms on Saturday night: a normative shirt, slacks, and tie, with a pair of lips drawn on my cheek. I nearly wore a short black business skirt and heels instead, but decided against it at the last minute despite the hot weather.

On the way there, on the tube, a child pointed at me and yelled “Look!”. The parent “shh”d and didn’t say anything else. I smiled and said, “It’s ok”. The parent looked away and the child stared.

The child wasn’t threatening and they were probably more curious and excited than anything else, but the parent’s reaction had strong implications.
“Shh, we don’t point because it’s impolite.”
“Shh, we don’t talk about when people are different, we just ignore them.”
“Shh, if you draw attention to this they might have the nerve to talk to us and how awkward would that be?”
“Shh, yes I know men in makeup are freaks but it’s rude to point it out.”

Being a public object based on my gender presentation has been such a common, mundane experience for most of my life that I forgot all about this until I read Darkmatter‘s recent post about a similar exchange with a child and parent on public transit.

After a few years of obsessing over how the public read my gender, I’ve gotten very good at knowing how I’m being gendered and emitting gender cues so as to be gendered how I want. I know how to be read as a harmless girl who needs help, a hard woman who might cut you if you mess with her, a boring (i.e. straight) middle-class white guy, a flamboyant (i.e. gay) middle-class white guy, a scruffy queer, or a Is That A Boy Or A Girl androgynous mess. I know how to make a shopkeeper dance between “sir” and “ma’am”, “darling” and “mate”. Gender is so flimsy, I can collapse it with a step, a facial expression, a gesticulation, a vocal inflection, or the application of lipstick. You could tell me I’m wrong, but you’ve never seen the way people make space for “men” in public or the way they stare at “women”.

street-harassment-graph[Image description: a crudely-drawn graph of my experience with street harassment depending on my gender presentation. I had lots of violence as a femme “girl”, none as a “man”, and expect lots more as a “man in a dress”]

My experiences with street harassment as a “woman” were extremely common: constant aggressive “compliments” and invasions of space, occasional groping by strangers or being chased by lads for bantz, a couple of times being stalked and attacked. Once a man helped me carry some groceries for a block and did the “Don’t I get a hug?” line, and when I politely said no he grabbed me and held me against him while he pushed his face against mine. I yelled and beat him off me, and he followed me into my apartment building. That was a single experience which punctuates my long, dull history of street harassment from strangers; and that’s not saying anything of sexual and gendered violence I’ve gotten from people I know.

After nearly a decade of “womanhood” I changed my gender expression from hegemonically feminine to an attempt at hegemonically masculine, which took some six months to perfect. I kept it that way for six more months. That year of performing white masculinity gave me reprieve from the public gaze like a spell of invisibility, only broken when I dared to hold hands with a partner who was also read as a man. But hegemonic white masculinity—bland suits, blending in—felt wrong. It was an uncomfortable gender expression for me to perform and I’ve since moved to gentle-femme boy. The street harassment has resumed, a grotesque reflection of my once-again overt femininity. Will it be enough to dampen my femme expression, especially as my body continues to “masculinize”?

When will our comfort in public stop being conditional?