Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Death of the Inclusive,Tolerant, Trans Community?

Odysseus & the Sirens
I was astonished to discover that those  social justice campaigners, Peter Tatchell and Mary Beard, amongst others, had become the latest attack of the twittering trans-sirens.

What have they done? Peter and Mary had signed a letter outlining the problems with the latest 'No-Platforming' campaigns to exclude some speakers from University Campuses. (see Twitter mob who vowed to kill me over transgenderletter have it all wrong)

Like most academics, I am pretty absolute when it comes to free speech – and I am quite clear that the 'no platforming' campaigns demean us as humans, and reduces the  nature of academic debate to mere politicking.

There is a world of difference from speech to pointing guns. Just listening is the start of many a conversation. Without conversation, then effectively, we allow those who killed the staff at Charlie Hebdo to have won.

Peter Tatchell Campaigning on the streets.
I also believe good manners, like free speech, cost us nothing - but the loss of either is an attack on civilization itself.

Peter and Mary and all the other signatories - I am really very sad and sorry that you have also become victims to trans people who have failed to properly read the letter you signed, and if that is an unwarranted assertion, certainly have forgotten their manners.

The Latest Irritations

Over the years, as a feminist (and trans) academic, at times I have felt pretty cross with the likes of academics such Sheila Jeffreys, Germaine Greer, and even Julie Bindel (whom I count as an academic colleague and friend). Julie has changed her views over the years, and no longer writes pieces attacking our community. However, if she wrote now of the development of a vicious streak amongst some in the in the trans community, I might for once, find myself agreeing with her.

I have also find myself amazed, and feeling very cantankerous about the vicious streak of nastiness coming from those 'neo-feminists' who term themselves TERFS or trans exclusionary radical feminists, and who attack the very existence of trans people, especially trans women. But they are a world away the proto-2nd wave feminism of Germaine and Julie.

And, now,  I find myself despairing about the unkindness and in some cases, brutality, coming out of those people terming themselves as the new 'trans activists'. In the early days of the internet we built a trans community and movement based upon the principles of tolerance - but it seems that some, without any sense of history, or irony, are flushing that down the toilet.

Since shortly after it's founding in 1992, Press For Change has had a rule that we work by ‘making friends and not by making enemies’ – and if trans people want true inclusion, not mere tolerance, then I am still of the view that making friends is the way forward for our community.

If we don't recognise our true or potential friends, then we might never notice our enemies.

The Twittersphere

Unfortunately, a tweet (or a Facebook note) takes little energy output - and if people are socially isolated then the computer easily becomes the venting point for their anger and disappointments. I have a certain sympathy for those who find themselves using it in that way. But for those on the receiving end, it can seem very vicious and even frightening. I try to remember that the trans people who do that are just typing their frustrations, and not pointing a gun.

I have been less visible in the trans community in recent months, primarily because of such unkindness. Twitter's 'stings and arrows' can be horribly painful, as I personally know from having been twitter trolled by a trans person last year and, despite every effort to communicate, I ended up having to ask the police to intervene. Another trans person attacked everything I wrote or said. No matter how willing I was to compromise, or to seek a conversation, I realised I was socially and physically unprepared for the sheer brutality of what she was willing to do to undermine me.

Ageing now means I struggle with the related pain and fatigue of a chronic illness. It was all becoming too tiring and preventing me from doing what I do best - teaching law, and giving legal advice to the trans community. As such, I decided to concentrate on those, rather than kill myself engaging with people who wouldn't listen, never mind hear me.

Heroes like Peter Tatchell are regularly putting their lives on the line as they steadfastly seek inclusion, provide education, campaign to reduce poverty, struggle for world peace, and seek justice – in other words, working to create what was once referred to as the 'Kingdom of Heaven  on earth'.

I pray that despite the twittering he will remain strong and stay true to himself. He is one of my heroes.