New publications and update

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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.

Review of Travis Alabanza’s “Stories Of A Queer Brown Muddy Kid” for Beyond The Binary

[Image description: Travis, a black trans femme, wearing black lipstick, a black headscarf, black shirt and chunky gold chain, sits in a bookshop facing camera with a stoic expression. Photo by Alexander Lijka]

Beyond The Binary asked me to review “Stories Of A Queer Brown Muddy Kid” by Travis Alabanza. It was their final performance of the intense, funny, moving autobiography of queer black life in London, and I’d already seen it twice before. The piece is all about, and for, queer black femmes, so I was reluctant to take on the task as a white boy(ish), but I gave it my best.

Acutely aware of racialized violence in the queer scene, Travis scornfully highlighted colonialism in sexual relationships, their role as “his bucket to empty his microaggressions” and a “brown fetish of the week”. “I’m not your black boy top”, they insisted, but then, “Why do I still need him?” Their vulnerability about intimacy, about simultaneously recognizing abuse but longing for your abuser(s), was bold and affecting.

tl;dr I absolutely loved it, Travis is amazing, give them all your money.

“Gendered Antagonisms” in the Occupied Times

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Content note: mentions of transphobia, transmisogyny, and gendered violence

I’m very happy that my latest angry trans rant has been published (online and In Print) by the Occupied Times. The OT is a collectively run broadsheet with a solid history of publishing critical, anti-capitalist writing, and while they always produce great material, I’m glad to see a little more about gender/queer stuff on their pages, even if it meant contributing myself:

Fuck respectability politics. Trans people don’t need to conform to cisnormative standards of beauty to be worthy, to be sexy, to be human. This only serves to create a hierarchy of “acceptable” gender expressions and modes of transness – ones which fit the gender binary.

Most of the issue focuses on race, colonialism, and their intersections with capitalism and identity today—and it’s great. The OT is free at several radical bookshops etc around London, but they also need donations so get to it.

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[Image description: my hand, white with dark painted nails, lovingly caressing my article in the print issue of the OT]

“Bisexual Banter” Episode 2: Identity

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Catch me on youtube talking about bisexuality and identity labels:

I still identify as “bisexual”; it’s a good word sometimes. It’s more helpful than “queer”. Often “queer” is deliberately unhelpful, which is part of why I like it.

It’s taken a lot of self-reflection and active listening, but I’ve finally learned to accept straight and gay people for who they are.

Episode 1: Non-Monogamy

Episode 3: Trans/Bi

 

Gender Nihilism: An Anti-Manifesto

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This text was found in a queer social event at The Field café in South London in late 2015. It is presumed to be written in 2015. The author is uncredited in the print version I found, but is credited as tumblr user “genderkills” here (this url is now owned by a different user and the original link is broken). I’m reprinting it and distributing it online because I believe it deserves a wider audience. Minor copy edits were made by myself, February 2016.

 

Introduction

We are at an impasse. The current politics of trans liberation has staked its claims on a redemptive understanding of identity. Whether through a doctor or psychologist’s diagnosis, or through a personal self affirmation in the form of a social utterance, we have come to believe that there is some internal truth to gender that we must divine.

An endless set of positive political projects have marked the road we currently travel; an infinite set of pronouns, pride flags, and labels. The current movement within trans politics has sought to try to broaden gender categories, in the hope that we can alleviate their harm. This is naive.

Judith Butler refers to gender as, “the apparatus by which the production and normalization of masculine and feminine take place along with the interstitial forms of hormonal, chromosomal, psychic, and performative that gender assumes”. If the current liberal politics of our trans comrades and siblings are rooted in trying to expand the social dimensions created by this apparatus, our work is a demand to see it burned to the ground.

We are radicals who have had enough with attempts to salvage gender. We do not believe we can make it work for us. We look at the transmisogyny we have faced in our own lives, the gendered violence that our comrades, both trans and cis have faced, and we realize that the apparatus itself makes such violence inevitable. We have had enough.

We are not looking to create a better system, for we are not interested in positive politics at all. All we demand in the present is a relentless attack on gender and the modes of social meaning and intelligibility it creates.

At the core of this Gender Nihilism lies several principles that will be explored in detail here: Antihumanism as foundation and cornerstone, gender abolition as a demand, and radical negativity as method.

Antihumanism

Antihumanism is a cornerstone which holds gender nihilist analysis together. It is the point from which we begin to understand our present situation; it is crucial. By antihumanism, we mean a rejection of essentialism. There is no essential human. There is no human nature. There is no transcendent self. To be a subject is not to share in common a metaphysical state of being (ontology) with other subjects.

The self, the subject, is a product of power. The “I” in “I am a man” or “I am a woman” is not an “I” which transcends those statements. Those statements do not reveal a truth about the “I”, rather they constitute the “I”. Man and Woman do not exist as labels for certain metaphysical or essential categories of being, they are rather discursive, social, and linguistic symbols which are historically contingent. They evolve and change over time; their implications have always been determined by power.

Who we are, the very core of our being, might not be found in the categorical realm of being at all. The self is a convergence of power and discourses. Every word you use to de ne yourself, every category of identity within which you find yourself placed, is the result of a historical development of power. Gender, race, sexuality, and every other normative category is not referencing a truth about the body of the subject or about the soul of the subject. These categories construct the subject and the self. There is no static self, no consistent “I”, no history transcending subject. We can only refer to a self with the language given to us, and that language has radically fluctuated throughout history, and continues to fluctuate in our day to day life.

We are nothing but the convergence of many different discourses and languages which are utterly beyond our control, yet we experience the sensation of agency. We navigate these discourses, occasionally subverting, always surviving. The ability to navigate does not indicate a metaphysical self which acts upon a sense of agency, it only indicates that there is symbolic and discursive looseness surrounding our constitution.

We see gender as a specific set of discourses embodied in medicine, psychiatry, the social sciences, religion, and our daily interactions with others. We do not see gender as a feature of our “true selves”, but as a whole order of meaning and intelligibility which we find ourselves operating in. We do not look at gender as a thing which a stable self can be said to possess. On the contrary we say that gender is done and participated in, and that this doing is a creative act by which the self is constructed and given social signi cance and meaning.

Our radicalism cannot stop here, we further state that historical evidence can be provided to show that gender operates in such a manner. The work of many decolonial feminists has demonstrated the ways that western gender categories were violently forced onto indigenous societies, and how this required a complete linguistic and discursive shift. Colonialism produced new gender categories, and with them new violent means of reinforcing a certain set of gendered norms. The visual and cultural aspects of masculinity and femininity have changed over the centuries. There is no static gender.

There is a practical component to all of this. The question of humanism vs antihumanism is the question upon which the debate between liberal feminism and nihilist gender abolitionism will be based.

The liberal feminist says “I am a woman” and by that means that they are spiritually, ontologically, metaphysically, genetically, or any other modes of “essentially” a woman.

The gender nihilist says “I am a woman” and means that they are located within a certain position in a matrix of power which constitutes them as such.

The liberal feminist is not aware of the ways power creates gender, and thus clings to gender as a means of legitimizing themselves in the eyes of power. They rely on trying to use various systems of knowledge (genetic sciences, metaphysical claims about the soul, kantian ontology) in order to prove to power that they can operate within it.

The gender nihilist, the gender abolitionist, looks at the system of gender itself and see’s the violence at its core. We say no to a positive embrace of gender. We want to see it gone. We know appealing to the current formulations of power is always a liberal trap. We refuse to legitimize ourselves.

Antihumanism does not deny the lived experience of many of our trans siblings who have had an experience of gender since a young age. Rather we acknowledge that such an experience of gender was always already determined through the terms of power. We look to our own childhood experiences. We see that even in the transgressive statement of “We are women” wherein we deny the category power has imposed onto our bodies, we speak the language of gender. We reference an idea of “woman” which does not exist within us as a stable truth, but references the discourses by which we are constituted.

Thus we a rm that there is no true self that can be divined prior to discourse, prior to encounters with others, prior to the mediation of the symbolic. We are products of power, what are we to do?

We end our exploration of antihumanism with a return to the words of Butler:

“My agency does not consist in denying this condition of my constitution. If I have any agency, it is opened up by the fact that I am constituted by a social world I never chose. That my agency is riven with paradox does not mean it is impossible. It means only that paradox is the condition of its possibility.”

Gender Abolition

If we accept that gender is not to be found within ourselves as a transcendent truth, but rather exists outside us in the realm of discourse, what are we to strive for? To say gender is discursive is to say that gender occurs not as a metaphysical truth within the subject, but occurs as a means of mediating social interaction. Gender is a frame, a subset of language, and set of symbols and signs, communicated between us, constructing us and being reconstructed by us constantly.

Thus the apparatus of gender operates cyclically; as we are constituted through it, so too do our daily actions, rituals, norms, and performances reconstitute it. It is this realization which allows for a movement against the cycle itself to manifest. Such a movement must understand the deeply penetrative and pervasive nature of the apparatus. Normalization has an insidious way of naturalizing, accounting for, and subsuming resistance.

At this point it becomes tempting to embrace a certain liberal politics of expansion. Countless theorists and activists have laid stake to the claim that our experience of transgender embodiment might be able to pose a threat to the process of normalization that is gender. We have heard the suggestion that non-binary identity, trans identity, and queer identity might be able to create a subversion of gender. This cannot be the case.

In staking our claim on identity labels of non-binary, we find ourselves again caught back in the realm of gender. To take on identity in a rejection of the gender binary is still to accept the binary as a point of reference. In the resistance to it, one only reconstructs the normative status of the binary. Norms have already accounted for dissent; they lay the frameworks and languages through which dissent can be expressed. It is not merely that our verbal dissent occurs in the language of gender, but that the actions we take to subvert gender in dress and affect are themselves only subversive through their reference to the norm.

If an identity politics of non-binary genders cannot liberate us, it is also true that a queer or trans identity politics o ers us no hope. Both fall into the same trap of referencing the norm by trying to “do” gender differently. The very basis of such politics is grounded in the logic of identity, which is itself a product of modern and contemporary discourses of power. As we have already determined, there is no stable identity which we can reference. Thus any appeal to a revolutionary or emancipatory identity is only an appeal to certain discourses. In this case, that discourse is gender.

This is not to say that those who identify as trans, queer, or non- binary are at fault for gender. This is the mistake of the traditional radical feminist approach. We repudiate such claims, as they merely attack those most hurt by gender. Even if deviation from the norm is always accounted for and neutralized, it sure as hell is still punished. The queer, the trans, the non-binary body is still the site of massive violence. Our siblings and comrades still are murdered all around us, still live in poverty, still live in the shadows. We do not denounce them, for that would be to denounce ourselves. Instead we call for an honest discussion about the limits of our politics and a demand for a new way forward.

With this attitude at the forefront, it is not merely certain formulations of identity politics which we seek to combat, but the need for identity altogether. Our claim is that the ever-expanding list of personal pronouns, the growing and ever more nuanced labels for various expressions of sexuality and gender, and the attempt to construct new identity categories more broadly is not worth the effort.

If we have shown that identity is not a truth but a social and discursive construction, we can then realize that the creation of these new identities is not the sudden discovery of previously unknown lived experience, but rather the creation of new terms upon which we can be constituted. All we do when we expand gender categories is to create new more nuanced channels through which power can operate. We do not liberate ourselves, we entrap ourselves in countless and even more nuanced and powerful norms, each one a new chain.

This terminology is not hyperbolic; the violence of gender cannot be overestimated. Each trans woman murdered, each intersex infant coercively operated on, each queer kid thrown onto the streets is a victim of gender. The deviance from the norm is always punished. Even though gender has accounted for deviation, it is placed within a hierarchy of unacceptability where it is punished as such. Expansions of norms is an expansion of deviance; it is an expansion of ways we can fall outside a discursive ideal. In nite gender identities create in nite new spaces of deviation which will be violently punished. Gender must punish deviance, thus gender must go.

And thus we arrive at the need for the abolition of gender. If all of our attempts at positive projects of expansion have fallen short and only ensnared us in a new set of traps, then there must be another approach. That the expansion of gender has failed, does not imply that contraction would serve our purposes. Such an impulse is purely reactionary and must be done away with.

The reactionary radical feminist sees gender abolition as such a contraction. For them, we must abolish gender so that sex (the physical characteristics of the body) can be a stable material basis upon which we can be grouped. We reject this whole-heartedly. Sex itself is grounded in discursive groupings, given an authority through medicine, and violently imposed onto the bodies of intersex individuals. We decry this violence.

No, a return to a simpler and smaller understanding of gender (even if supposedly a material conception) will not do. It is the very normative grouping of bodies in the first place which we push back against. Neither contraction nor expansion will save us. Our only path is that of destruction.

Radical Negativity

At the heart of our gender abolition is a negativity. We seek not to abolish gender so that a true self can be returned to; there is no such self. It is not as though the abolition of gender will free us to exist as true or genuine selves, freed from certain norms. Such a conclusion would be at odds with the entirety of our antihumanist claims. And thus we must take a leap into the void.

A moment of lucid clarity is required here. If what we are is a product of discourses of power, and we seek to abolish and destroy those discourses, we are taking the greatest risk possible. We are diving into an unknown. The very terms, symbols, ideas, and realities by which we have been shaped and created will burn in ames, and we cannot know or predict what we will be when we come out the other side.

This is why we must embrace an attitude of radical negativity. All the previous attempts at positive and expansionist gender politics have failed us. We must cease to presume a knowledge of what liberation or emancipation might look like, for those ideas are themselves grounded upon an idea of the self which cannot stand up to scrutiny; it is an idea which for the longest time has been used to limit our horizons. Only pure rejection, the move away from any sort of knowable or intelligible future can allow us the possibility for a future at all.

While this risk is a powerful one, it is necessary. Yet in plunging into the unknown, we enter the waters of unintelligibility. These waters are not without their dangers; and there is a real possibility for a radical loss of self. The very terms by which we recognize each other may be dissolved. But there is no other way out of this dilemma. We are daily being attacked by a process of normalization that codes us as deviant. If we do not lose ourselves in the movement of negativity, we will be destroyed by the status quo. We have only one option, risks be damned.

This powerfully captures the predicament that we are in at this moment. While the risk of embracing negativity is high, we know the alternative will destroy us. If we lose ourselves in the process, we have merely suffered the same fate we would have otherwise. Thus it is with reckless abandon that we refuse to postulate about what a future might hold, and what we might be within that future. A rejection of meaning, a rejection of known possibility, a rejection of being itself. Nihilism. That is our stance and method.

Relentless critique of positive gender politics is thus a starting point, but one which must occur cautiously. For if we are to criticize their own normative underpinnings in favor of an alternative, we only fall prey once again to the neutralizing power of normalization. Thus we answer the demand for a clearly stated alternative and for a program of actions to be taken with a resolute “no”. The days of manifestos and platforms are over. The negation of all things, ourselves included, is the only means through which we will ever be able to gain anything.

 

Download the PDF for pixels

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Star Trek: The Next Generation is too straight (and racist)

As a relatively new fan to Star Trek, I’ve been playfully admonished for enjoying the camp and queer-baiting The Original Series (never mind the primitive shaky-cam special effects); I’ve also been told that I would much prefer Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard to William Shatner’s over-acted Captain Kirk, and that The Next Generation did a much better job of representing minority characters.

I wanted to love TNG as much as I did TOS, but after watching its first 4 episodes, I’m quitting.

“Encounter At Farpoint”

The double-length S01E01–02 “Encounter At Farpoint” was a strange beginning. The plot centers around the Enterprise’s diplomatic mission to secure Starfleet use of the base at Farpoint, while an omnipotent alien called Q threatens to prosecute the Enterprise crew for the crimes humanity committed in then-antiquity.

It is set 100 years after TOS. The original Enterprise’s 3rd successor, the Enterprise-D, is captained by Jean-Luc Picard. The Klingons are apparently friendly with the Federation, judging by the presence of Lieutenant Worf on the bridge. DeForest Kelley makes a guest appearance as Dr Leonard McCoy—now an Admiral—to enthuse the audience. There are more women and not all of them wear short skirts; in fact, in one scene some masculine extras are seen wearing dresses on the Farpoint base. It was the highlight of the episode.

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 If you look closely, you can almost see a non-normative gender expression

We’re introduced to the new characters, who seem quite one-dimensional. The Chief Medical Officer is widowed Dr Beverley Crusher, and her tween son tries to set her up with First Officer William Riker, who does take a liking to the boy. Dr Crusher’s entire characterization is centered around the tragic death of her late husband; she is lonely but competent in her job, a strong single mother yet flustered at her boy’s attempts to stimulate her personal life. We also meet Geordi La Forge, the token black and disabled character, who doesn’t get much characterization beyond being blind-yet-extra-able, able to sense a larger light spectrum than sighted people with the aid of his VISOR. He describes a constant pain caused by the VISOR to Dr Crusher who, with little knowledge of the VISOR, recommends exploratory surgery; La Forge declines. For anyone who’s been to a GP about a ‘specialist’ issue, this scene is too real.

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But Wesley’s sweater game is on point.

The plot is disjointed, jumping between the Farpoint base and the trial of humanity. It transpires that the base at Farpoint is actually a giant shapeshifting jellyfish alien who has been trapped there by the Bandi people who occupy it. Picard proves humanity’s newfound peaceful nature by refusing to resort to force when the captive alien’s “mate” shoots tentacle-lasers at the Bandi.

It ends with the ‘base’ being liberated, joining its mate. They are monogamous. They are color-coded pink and blue, so you can feel comfortable about the normative genders and sexuality of these telepathic jellyfish aliens.

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Verdict: Messy, but I’m willing to give it some time to grow into itself; 2/5 stars

“The Naked Now”

S01E03, “The Naked Now”, is a throwback to TOS S01E04 “The Naked Time”. TNG Enterprise falls victim to the same disease which plagued TOS Enterprise 100 years prior, which removes their inhibitions and makes the crew act intoxicated. In TOS, the crew’s altered state of mind is used to develop their characterizations: Sulu is an adventure-seeking swash-buckling pirate, Nurse Chaplin confesses her tender and quiet love for Spock, and Spock is an emotionally constipated mess who (when not lacking inhibitions) only keeps himself under control through extreme force of will.

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Aggressive heterosexuality

Just like in TOS episode where Lieutenant Riley takes control of the ship, Engineering is commandeered by a drunk young Wesley Crusher who refuses to yield control or let anyone in. In TNG, the intoxication device is used to throw every character with a plot-line into a heterosexual romance: Picard and CMO Crusher; 1st Officer Riker and Counselor Troi; and Chief of Security Tasha Yar and Data (aside: that Data has a gender at all is contentious).

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Troi immediately before Riker literally sweeps her off her feet and brings her to sick bay

Unsurprisingly, given his parallels with Spock, Data saves the day; surprisingly, Wesley is instrumental, guiding the show toward the child prodigy trope. At the end, Yar blushes when she spots Data on the bridge and harshly whispers to him, “It never happened”, as though their world is a dull sitcom. Data is a promising character: pure, curious, and nonjudgemental. Yar’s dismissal of their shared intimacy was unnecessary and weak, and made me despise her.

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Verdict: Heteronormative sitcom trash; 2/5 stars

“Code of Honor”

S01E04, “Code Of Honor”, was the third strike. The plot: an alien race, the Lagonians, has a vaccine desperately needed by Starfleet, but their diplomatic customs require absolute deference on the part of the Captain and Enterprise crew. Ligonians are played entirely by black actors, wearing ‘African’-coded clothing. They are extremely proud despite only having primitive technology and culture compared to 2360s Earth: Ligonians regard women as only useful as keepers of wealth and property (passive), while men defend and uphold their honor (active); and their weapons are poison-laced axes and spiked clubs.

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The Ligonian leader Lutan kidnaps Tasha Yar, Chief of Security and white woman, in a display of dominance—the King Kong trope is impossible to ignore. The entirely non-black rescue party (Picard and Troi, and later Data) juxtaposes the entirely-black Ligonians.

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Lutan declares that Yar will be his “first one” (primary partner), prompting his current first one Yareena to challenge Yar to a duel to the death. Yar, rational and peaceful, meets with Yareena to dissuade her, but Yareena is an Angry Black Woman, unreasonable and blinded by her competitive drive to win the man. Lutan has a potent animalistic sexual attraction that even Yar cannot ignore, though she is able to differentiate between lust and love unlike Lutan who claims to love Yar despite having just met her.

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The battle is long and boring. Lutan watches with pleasure, his male gaze strong. An audience member falls victim to a stray spiked glove and dies. Picard is visibly distraught but the crowd claps, reminding us of their savage nature. Yar eventually defeats Yareena with a fatal blow; both are immediately transported to the Enterprise, and CMO Crusher provides an antidote which “brings her back from the dead”. Lutan decries this as “witchcraft” before he concedes and offers Picard the vaccine.

Why couldn’t the Enterprise reproduce the sample vaccine that Lutan gifted them at the beginning of the episode? Why didn’t Yar refuse to fight?

I could forgive the episode for falling back on a tired TOS storyline, but the racist depictions of black culture as primitive, unreasonable, driven by lust, undeservedly proud, and dangerous to white people is both unforgivable and extremely boring. Perhaps the producers and writers thought that the portrayal of black characters was balanced out by the sympathetic La Forge, but having a token ‘good’ black character only creates the distinction between acceptable blackness and unacceptable blackness. The only decent part of the episode was the allusion to the sexually tense fight between Kirk and Spock in TOS “Amok Time”.

Verdict: Racist tropes and tired plot; 1/5 stars

Abandonment

TNG is so assertively cis-heteronormative that I don’t feel like it’s made for me. Its characters seem like reboots from TOS: Data as the new Spock; Geordie as Uhura (the token black character); Riker as Kirk. Geordie and Data and Wesley’s sweaters just aren’t enough reason to watch the remaining 172 episodes. It doesn’t help that I know that there is not a single canon depiction of queerness in all its 7 seasons—literally no one, human or alien, in TNG universe is anything other than cisgender and heterosexual. These days I’m simply not interested in cishet media.

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Subtext

TOS is by no means perfect: it’s portrayal of POC characters is stiff and tropey, American imperialism is often aggrandized, and some episodes even feature white actors in brown/red face. Maybe the problems with TOS are easier to swallow because they seem more removed from modern social dialogues; brown face is so widely unacceptable today that it’s almost laughable instead of deplorable, but the implied racism in TNG is too similar to today’s problematic media. Even with its problems, I loved TOS: space exploration with a lot of subtext to fuel queer!Kirk/Spock speculation.

Solidarity action with migrants at St. Pancras

About 250–300 people took direct action to block the Eurostar departure gates at St Pancras last Friday night in solidarity with the migrants and refugees in Calais and detention centers in the UK and across the EU.

Activists blocked the departure gates and passengers were stopped from boarding the train to Paris.

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“This is what a border feels like!”
#‎sorrynotsorry‬

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Demands included: open the borders to all migrants and refugees; stop financing the racist killing of migrants and refugees; close down the detention centres; and stop deportations.

“No one in? No one out!”

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Rallying cries included:

“No justice, no peace!”; “If they won’t give us justice, then we won’t give them peace!”

“Unemployment and inflation are not caused by immigration, bullshit! Come off it! The enemy is profit!”

“All your racist fucking borders we don’t need ’em, need ’em! Back up, back up, we want freedom, freedom!”

“No more borders, no more nations, no more racist immigration!”

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“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!”

“Who shuts shit down? We shut shit down!”

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Some activists covered themselves in fake blood (in memory of those 3000 migrants who have died in 2015 so far) and literally glued themselves to the ticket barriers and the support beams in the middle of the departure area.

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The police instigated some shoving and aggressive language, threatening people with arrest. They pushed me and when I calmly told them “stop touching me, stop instigating conflict” they said they had the right to push us because they “fear for [their] safety”. They claimed they were being reasonable by “facilitating the protest” and implied that if we held our ground we would be roughed up.

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Perhaps helpful information for future actions: police were comfortable pushing us when we were standing, but would not push us with their feet when we were sitting; in fact, if we edged closer to them they would step back to create space between us and them.

Trains to Paris were delayed and the passengers seemed split on whether they supported the action or were annoyed by the inconvenience. St Pancras staff was likewise divided between calmly expressing support and frantically trying to usher passengers toward the police, who would then try to push past the activists to get passengers toward the barriers. Eventually the police made it clear that if we didn’t leave, they would kettle us and make a mass arrest.

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Aside from some pushing, the protest remained peaceful.

The action was led by Black Dissidents, The London Latinxs, and Sisters Uncut. One of the organizers, Tatiana Garavito, wrote a piece about the protest on openDemocracy. Here are some more photos I took before my camera battery died and I joined the action. #‎YourBordersKill‬

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Coming Out Day

Since you already know that I’m trans and queer (and also gay), let’s talk about basic civil rights struggles the LGBTQIA community still faces:

  • Housing and employment discrimination
  • Direct violence at the hands of lovers, family, and strangers
  • “Trans panic” defense
  • Higher incarceration rates and police brutality
  • Access to healthcare (sexual, gender-affirming, and otherwise)
  • Extra barriers to child custody
  • Regular verbal abuse and sexual fetishization
  • But also regular silencing, invisibility, lack of representation, and invalidation

Obviously all of those issues intersect with misogyny, racism, classism, xenophobia, ableism, and other kinds of body shaming and identity policing.

Coming out doesn’t happen once: it’s a calculated cost/benefit analysis you take every time you walk down the street or meet someone new. It’s also a tool to police and create hierarchies among queer identities as though you are obligated to disclose personal information which totally sucks.

Also, in case you didn’t know, the “A” stands for asexual and agender, not ally; and the position of the ally is only there to allow closeted LGBTQIA people a cover when participating; so if you’re cishet you can be an ally, but remember that this isn’t about you.

“Real Life Experience” with trans healthcare in the UK

The wait time for an initial appointment with the Gender Identity Clinic in Charing Cross is about 12 months. In that appointment the doctor is supposed to verify your gender identity and pathologize your personal history, and five months later you’re given another appointment during which they might prescribe you some gender-affirming hormones. That initial appointment only comes after being referred by a psychologist/psychiatrist from your local Community Mental Health Team (CMHT), to whom you must be referred by your GP.

The CMHT in Hackney is dreadfully transphobic (but then, the whole process of referral is inherently transphobic). After being referred by my GP—who stared at my like I was an alien when I told him I’m trans—I waited for 10 weeks to see a psychologist. She didn’t know what the word “transgender” meant, and for the remainder of the evaluation insisted it was a noun. Every question was underpinned by her attempt to find out what traumatic event made me into “a transgender”.

“When did you start living as a boy?” my psychologist asked.

I reiterated—“I am a boy, so I’ve always lived as a boy. What do you mean?”

“When did you stop wearing dresses?”

“Boys can’t wear dresses?”

It was obvious that if I said I were non-binary I would be labeled “confused” and told to come back when I had “decided”.

In the end she referred me, and now I’m waiting to get an appointment at Charing Cross. They say it will be in about 12 months. They’ve been saying that for the past 12 months.

That you need to be referred at all is transphobic. You need multiple medical “experts” to externally verify your gender identity, as if you’re not credible, as if they know more about you than you do.

If you go private, you can self-refer to a gender-specializing clinic—that is, if you have wealth, you can bypass the barriers of the GP referral and the referral from a CMHT. They’ll do their own assessment and prescribe hormones as appropriate like at Charing Cross, but the wait times are only 2 weeks for the initial appointment, and 1 further week of waiting for blood work before you get a prescription. It costs about £725, plus follow-up appointments (£140 each) and prescription refills (£195 for three months’ worth). Sometimes the private clinic prescribes mandatory counseling, which costs £150 for an hour-long session.

After hormones, you must pass the “Real Life Experience” test before being considered for gender-affirming surgeries, whether you use the NHS or go private. You must prove your sincerity, your trans authenticity by overtly expressing the gender identity you claim—in a normative, conservative, girls-wear-pink/boys-don’t-cry sort of way. There is apparently no thought given to the fact that it’s fucking difficult to “live as” (i.e. express) your gender identity without medical treatment; that it’s fucking difficult to pass and insist on your “preferred” pronouns when your body doesn’t conform to normative gender expressions. Without hormones and surgery, you can only go so far in signifying your gender: you can bind your breasts, change your intonation, and hide your curves in baggy clothes but it’s an exhausting daily battle. How can you “live” (read: pass) as your “preferred” gender if no one picks up on the gender cues you’re desperately sending? How can you implicitly assert your gender identify if everyone misgenders you?

Fuck conforming to cis narratives and expectations of gender. Fuck passing.

On “KINDERKOMMUNISMUS”

Kinderkommunismus: A Feminist Analysis of the 21st Century Family and a Communist Proposal for its Abolition is a brave and articulate imagining of social reproduction without the gendered coercion inherent in the nuclear-family unit. Notably, this proposal is trans inclusive and takes an intersectional approach to feminism.

***Content note: child abuse mention

The first half of the essay is a radical queer analysis of the family unit as a social institution, and an explanation for the left’s apparent hesitance to theorize its alternatives. The second half is a possible replacement which would allow for the breakdown of class (privileges) within an opt-in nationalized “crèche” which would provide childrearing, housing, nutrition, education, and socialization for people until they reach adulthood, freeing biologically reproductive adults (especially mothers) from the burdens of childcare. Crucially, the utopic crèche is not mandatory (parents could choose to raise children within a family unit) and the authors offer ample recognition for its possible shortcomings.

Under capitalism we see the failings of the state to care for its citizens—especially in childcare—so wariness at the idea of state-led institutions for childrearing is understandable. But we must remember that, while there are those of us whom the institution of the family has not failed, there are plenty whom it has: children who grow up in homelessness, abusive environments, and children who are neglected or murdered. There is a lot to be gained in creating a universal system of education, equalizing access and promoting rather than obscuring difference:

Where the family reduces social ties to individual connections, narrows cultural exposure, and limits social contact along homosocial lines, communist education would unambiguously seek to develop the individual against history (rather than a circumscribed nationalist or communalist ideological assembly, intended to induce an ontologically differentiated subjecthood). Having been confronted with the scope of human variations (both through peer group, and pedagogy) during their education, developing workers would be better prepared to set their own terms of affinity, and preferred terms of reference.

I think this theory could benefit from adding an anarchist lens which explicitly recognizes that, beyond the universal and “bare minimum” standards of the crèche as a single institution, the crèches would differ according to regional needs and customs; in other words, they would be localized (or “glocalized” to use a 2009 buzzword). Participation from the community would be encouraged, and standardized only to meet the bare minimums and to eradicate abuse of power.

The authors embrace the logistically difficulties in implementing such an institution, and don’t spend much time trying to address them. The value in this essay isn’t as a blueprint for communist social institutions; it’s most valuable as a challenge to imagine alternatives to the capitalist model of families, and how we might eradicate the gendered division of labor. At the very least, it’s a call to antagonize the nuclear family in our personal lives.

White Terrorism and the AME Church Shooting in Charleston, SC

Some thoughts in reaction to the shooting on June 17, and the media reaction:

Distressingly, the gun violence doesn’t come as a surprise in America; neither does the racist media coverage of the attack.

Black victims of crime are often painted as “thugs” who invited violence upon themselves, while white perpetrators of crime are “lone gunmen”, isolated and absolving society at large for its racism which encourages white terrorism. Or, he’s labelled “mentally ill”.

Racism isn’t a mental illness; it’s learned violence. Using mental illness to excuse such violence only stigmatizes the mentally ill and further isolates the incident as individual rather than systemic.

This church, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, has a long history of anti-slavery and anti-racism activism and ties to politicians and activists—one of the nine victims, Clementa Pickney, was a state senator and senior pastor at the church. It remains a pillar in the black community in Charleston, and was targeted with this in mind.

The shooter, who I will not dignify by naming, is a white man who entered the church during a bible study. In the South it is unusual for white people to enter black churches, and vice versa, but he was apparently welcomed into the space and sat quietly for one hour before shooting and killing nine people. This raises important questions about safe spaces: places of worship should be safe spaces, and if black people cannot hold a bible study without fear violence, that is terrorism. Black people—yes, like all people, but to claim “all lives matter” or the relevant equivalent is to erase the particular struggle of black people in America, not to mention it’s a pathetic attempt to center the attention back to you—deserve to have safe spaces, unburdened by fear of violence at the hands of oppressors. This means that black people are entitled to safe spaces which explicitly exclude white people. Until we, as a society, stop harming black bodies and start valuing black lives, black people don’t owe white people and non-black POC access to their safe spaces. Anyone who is more concerned with being excluded on the basis of their non-blackness than they are about anti-black violence and the need for black-only safe spaces is part of the problem.

“Test Shoot” photoshoot and interview

Interview with transmasculine photoblog The Test Shoot:

My gender identity and presentation are fluctuating. I’ve felt uncomfortable with clear-cut femininity since I was a child, but it’s difficult to separate being inherently, biologically trans from my childish desire for male privilege. I think the “born this way” idea is problematic, if useful and convenient.

Photographs by LGW.

01

These clothes reflect my masculinity, as I experience it right now—I’m going through a lot of changes. The green and cream patterned shirt is the first item of men’s clothing I bought with the intention of presenting as masculine—I found it at a thrift store in Amsterdam. It kind of gives me away as the pattern distorts around my chest, but I don’t care.

07

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The collared shirt and tie outfit is what I wear when I perform with my cello or need to look sharp for things like business dinners. UN Special Envoys have complemented me in this and a friend told me it looks like Kraftwerk. It’s my power outfit.

04

The slacks and navy polo, plus glasses, is comfortable and reminds me of some misunderstood geeky, Californian entrepreneurship. It’s a self-parody of my seriousness.

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The houndstooth collared shirt and ragged green sweater don’t mean very much—I just like collared shirts. I got the sweater for a song last week on a trip I took up North to find myself.

Link to full interview.