auntysarah: (Friends Like These)
The Bringer of Tea ([personal profile] auntysarah) wrote2010-01-26 13:42

On Solidarity and Intellectual Laziness

I might be about to get a bit angry. I think it's justified.

One thing that's come to light over the whole Queer Question Time/Bindel thing is that the organisers were using the word "queer" rather differently to the rather large community of people, amongst whom I count myself, who claim queer as an identity.

Apparently someone was talking with the organisers about the trans and queer community's protest outside QQT when it seems the organisers were surprised to hear that there are a large number of people who regard themselves as queer in a way that's distinct from their sexual orientation. It seems they hadn't been aware that lots of us in what's increasingly known as the LGBTQ or LGBTQI movement regard "queerness" as a conscious rejection of the constraints of hetero and cis-normativity. Paradoxically a lot of gay and lesbian people live extremely heteronormative lives, apart from the bit where they're sleeping with someone of the same sex, never really question this, and so aren't especially queer under this definition. Queer people *can* embrace the institutions of heteronormativity, but on our own terms and with the understanding that it's a choice and not a requirement.

The organisers of Queer Question Time were apparently using "queer" as a shorthand for "gay and lesbian", and they picked the name "Queer Question Time" because it sounded catchy. When queer as an identity was explained to them, a bit of a lightbulb moment was had. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, where the event is taking place, is regarded by many queer people in London as a queer venue - their "local" if you will. One person on the Facebook discussion about the protest described the situation as follows:

It's like advertising 'Jewish Question Time' and then inviting a Holocaust-denier to be a panellist

I'm not fond of that comparison myself, for lots of reasons, not all of which involve Godwin's Law. I think I have a better one.

If the cis gay organisers of Queer Question Time might imagine, for a moment, that there's a pub which they drink in lots. It's their local, and it's gay-friendly. They feel safe and comfortable there, they know the people who frequent it.

A bunch of straight people also frequent it. They usually get on OK. One evening, some of the straight people organise a stand-up comedy night. The star of the show is someone who thinks Bernard Manning was the perfect realisation of comedic genius. It's expected that they will spend the night making jokes about "dirty bummers".

One might expect the organisers of QQT, who drink and socialise there and are used to treating it as a safe space to be a bit upset by this. Imagine how much worse they'd feel if they approached the straight people with their concerns and were brushed off with, "Oh well, you'll be allowed to boo if you want, and anyway, I believe in free speech and want to hear the gay jokes this comedian makes, and decide for myself - you can always have a gay stand up comic next month".

Perhaps now it's clearer why so many of us are utterly pissed off with them.

Which brings me to me second point, this whole, "I want to hear what she has to say and I believe in freedom of speech" line which a lot of people are using, regarding Bindel and QQT.

IF YOU ARE NOT TRANS, STOP SAYING THIS RIGHT NOW. Wanting to hear what someone who is regarded as being vocally transphobic has to say, in a nominally trans-positive space, over the protests of the actual people who are affected by the hatred she helps to stir up when you are not personally affected by transphobia is not only intellectually lazy, it's a really, really fucked-up way to behave.

It is my view that Bindel encourages the attitudes which lead to trans people getting beaten and murdered. I regard her as having the blood of trans people on her hands. I regard those who give her a column in the national press to evangelise her message of hate as having the blood of trans people on their hands.

If you "want to hear what she has to say" in a trans and queer-centric space, over the protests of the people affected by what she has to say, then you have our blood on your hands.

A cissexual gay friend of mine made the point recently that he noticed lots of trans people attending the vigil in Trafalgar Square last year, in solidarity with our cis brothers and sisters to mark the homophobic murder or Ian Baynham. He also noticed a distinct lack of cis LGB people attending the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which marks the deaths of those killed in transphobic hate crimes. We had two, Andrea Waddell and Destiny Lauren in South East England in the days leading up to both these events, and yet at the Trafalgar Square vigil barely any mention was made of transphobic hate crimes.

As my friend puts it, he sees there being "no reciprocal sense of queer solidarity" towards trans people.

Ste McCabe, who was booked as part of the entertainment for Friday's QQT is an exception to this. In a show of solidarity with trans people, he pulled out of the event. His blog post where he talks about this is here, and if you go over there to read it, please take a moment to listen to his music, because I think it's rather good.

Apparently this principled man is now experiencing a distinct lack of support amongst other cis LGB people who, it seems, don't actually give much of a shit about whether trans and queer people are subjected to more hate or not, they just value freedom of speech and want to hear what she has to say. I for one applaud him, and I fully intend to help ensure there's a collection for his loss of earnings at the demo - I wish more people had his integrity.

If you want to hear what she has to say, go and read her articles - she's been extremely consistent in what she's written over the last few years, from the "cast of Grease", wheeling out her tame regretter, Claudia, after Russell Reid's GMC hearing (an episode in the history of UK trans medicine which I don't think anyone came out of looking especially good, and which there's probably no appetite to repeat), Hecklers, her talk with Christine Burns, her debate with Susan Stryker, her "I Vant to be Alone" rant about devil worshippers and cat ... fanciers, and so on. When I set up the Facebook group I even posted links to most of these - if you want to know what she has to say, go and read her articles.

But don't just lazily say you want her to be on the panel because you value free speech, when you have no prospect of living a life under the ever present spectre of transphobia, and perhaps secretly approve of what Bindel has to say, and wish those embarrassing trannies would just go away and stop spoiling your enjoyment of the "scene" by pricking your dormant conscience. Don't you fucking dare do that.

Might I suggest that instead of taking the easy, comfortable, no-effort intellectually lazy option which doesn't require any distasteful examining of your conscience or privilege, you have the balls to follow Ste McCabe's example, show some solidarity and grow a spine.