Categories
Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Nobody checks anything

Yesterday, multiple newspapers reported the return of Woolworths, a retail chain that no longer operates in the UK. The story was in the Metro.It was in the Daily Star. It was in the Mirror. It was in the Brighton Argus, and Birmingham Live, and the rest of the UK’s local press. It was everywhere.

It was bullshit.

Not a single journalist at any of those titles bothered their backside to check whether it was true before publishing. It wasn’t. The story was based on tweets from a fake account that couldn’t even spell the company name properly. That was enough for acres of coverage.

This is how too much journalism works now. All you need is a Twitter account and a logo and nobody fact-checks what you’re saying or investigates who you actually are; if it’s going to get clicks, it’s going to get published. It’s harmless when we’re talking about pic’n’mix, but this is exactly how anti-LGBT+ groups and right-wing lobbyists get coverage too. Far too many supposed “alliances” and “institutes” are little more than social media fronts for people who are extremely dodgy. They can only do their jobs because too many journalists aren’t doing theirs.

Categories
Music

Never boring

I think Pet Shop Boys are one of the greatest singles bands of all time, and I’ve long been drawn to their mix of melancholy and euphoria. Their 1987 chart-topper It’s A Sin remains one of the strangest, most rewarding pop songs ever to reach number one in the UK chart.

It’s also a hell of a record for a confused teenager who’s battling with their identity:

When I look back upon my life
it’s always with a sense of shame
I’ve always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
no matter when or where or who
has one thing in common too

It’s a sin

Oh man, the times I’ve cried to that one.

If you’re tired of overly worthy rock memoirs, Chris Heath’s two books about Pet Shop Boys touring – Literally and Pet Shop Boys Versus America – are wonderful, waspish and hilarious.

Singer Neil Tennant was a huge influence on me – he was a journalist for Smash Hits, my very favourite magazine – and he coined the term “imperial phase” to describe the temporary period in an artist’s career when they can do no wrong and create incredible things.

Depending on who you ask, the Pet Shop Boys’ imperial phase ended when they released Behaviour. But others think that album was their peak. It certainly included one of their very greatest songs.Writing for The Quietus, Fergal Kinney does a deep dive into a dense, divisive album 30 years after its release.

Show me your Beatles, show me your Bowie, and I will show you ‘Being Boring’. A masterpiece, to be sure, but also something more elusive than that. Entering the charts at 36, ‘Being Boring’ eventually climbed to 20, but its legacy wouldn’t be measured in chart success. It became, for many, a song of a lifetime, and for a generation of LGBT people an essential and early monument to a senseless tragedy.

I’ve seen Pet Shop Boys live a few times and Being Boring makes me cry every time. Just writing about it now has choked me up. It’s a beautiful sad song.

The track’s impressive vocabulary (cache, trepidation, haversack) belies a simply structured lyric – a three act drama that begins with Dowell and Tennant’s childhood, takes in their move to London and ends, as Tennant explained to the Guardian, “looking back at what’s happening, and I’m doing what I’m doing, and he’s dead”. Of course, part of the song’s enduring hold is its resonances well beyond gay life. It looks at the biggest of themes – friendship, loss, the passage of time. Anyone who’s life has involved some degree of escape, some degree of self-actualisation can’t fail to be grabbed a little too tightly by lines such as “I never dreamt that I would get to be/ The creature that I always meant to be.”

Categories
Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+

They’re here

TIME magazine:

Twenty-eight U.S. Christian right groups have spent millions of dollars pursuing conservative agendas that threaten LGBTQ and women’s rights in Europe, a new investigation by British news website openDemocracy found Tuesday.

Categories
Bullshit

Let them eat handbags

The UK appears to be having one of its periodic outbreaks of idiocy when affluent people claim that they could absolutely feed a family of 12 on 23p a week and have money left over. So Twitter is currently full of people claiming you can buy a chicken in Aldi for £2 (this, clearly, is the branch of Aldi in Madeupshire) and that with that, a carrot and the Blitz spirit you can eat like kings for a fortnight.

You can’t.

Jack Monroe literally wrote the book on this stuff: she’s been helping people make tasty and nutritious food on low budgets for years. And she’s absolutely furious at the people sharing selected bits of her advice as if it’s evidence that struggling to afford food is the result of personal failings, not poverty.

As she wrote two years ago:

Again, having choices around the food you eat is a privilege. Not having to shop exclusively from the white labels of the value ranges, or raiding the battered old veg at the end of the day at the market, is a privilege. Not mentally calculating the pennies difference in every item that goes into your shopping basket is a privilege, and one that millions of people in the UK (and across the world) increasingly do not have. Access to fresh fruit and vegetables, and the means with which to buy them, is a privilege.

And it’s not just buying core ingredients. All those kitchen cupboard essentials, the seasonings and the spices and the stock cubes, have to be bought too. You need pots and pans and utensils and something to cook on, and the money to pay for the energy to cook with. And so on, and so on, and so on.

One of the problems with this blame-the-poor narrative, which returns far too frequently, is that you absolutely can survive on sod-all money when your cupboards are already stocked, all your bills are paid and you’re only doing it for a week. But all you are doing is having a holiday in somebody else’s misery. Poverty means not just buying your food from the bargain aisle – an aisle that, when I was living in a leafy suburb, was always picked clean by affluent women of a certain age who’d block the area with their trollies until they’d had their pick of the reduced items – but being unable to pay bills, replace the clothes your children have outgrown or gone through and all the other things that demand what little money you have.

Not only that, but being poor is expensive. You can’t stock the freezer, assuming you have a freezer, with bulk buys because you can’t afford to buy in bulk. You can’t get the best price on energy because you’re on a prepay meter. You can’t buy things that last because they are simply too expensive.

If you were a satirist, you’d struggle to come up with a better villain in this than Nick Clarke, who suggested that parents struggling to feed their children should not only skip their own meals, but “sell assets”. What assets? “Handbag, pearls, mobile phone?”

Imagine being so removed from reality that you think the poor are bouncing around with designer handbags and strings of pearls. Poor people don’t have “assets”. They have debt.

One of the best descriptions of poverty I’ve ever read was by the late Terry Pratchett:

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money. Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

Categories
LGBTQ+

Representation

Stephen Paton writes in The National about the abuse currently being thrown online at Mridul Wadhwa, who is a potential SNP candidate. You’d think that Wadhwa would be exactly the kind of person a supposedly progressive, forward-thinking country would want: she’s an advocate for Black and minority ethnic voices and has spent fifteen years working to tackle violence against women.

Nope. Because Wadhwa is trans, she’s being demonised as a danger to women. That’s where we are now: someone who actively works to help vulnerable and abused women, the manager of a rape crisis centre, is being abused by the “protect women” crowd.

With no recourse to revert to arguments about safeguarding or any other progressive cover, anti-trans activists within the SNP have been forced to reveal the crux of their position which is, simply, they do not want a trans woman to be recognised as a woman.

The fundamental belief at the core of anti-trans activism is that trans people are deceivers who should be “morally mandated out of existence”. That means making it impossible for trans people to exist in society at all: no healthcare, no safe spaces, no legal recognition, no protection from abuse or discrimination. And definitely no political representation.

Categories
Health LGBTQ+

One potato

Because I live in the central belt of scotland, I’m not going out anywhere right now. The pubs and venues are all closed, so there are no gigs to go to, no open mics to play, no comedy shows to cackle at. I can’t meet my friends in restaurants and I can’t cook for them at home. With a couple of exceptions there are no online things either. All my communication with my friends is via texts or instant messaging and the only people I spend any time with in real life are my children.

One of the results of that is that I don’t pay much attention to what I wear right now. Nobody’s going to shove themselves into underwired bras or clacky heels unless they absolutely have to, and I absolutely don’t have to. If I’m not going out, there’s no reason to bother with make-up or fun clothes; if I didn’t have to go to the shops or pick up the kids I’d probably stay in my dressing gown all day. My AW2020 signature look is “Carrie puts the bins out.”

It’s surprisingly demoralising. I feel like a human potato, or something else similarly ungendered. A disembodied head in a jar, perhaps, or a balloon with a face on it. Something that doesn’t exist in the world but independently of it.

I feel ungendered because gender is partly a performance, a feedback loop where you perform a particular role – such as “man” or “woman” – and people respond to you accordingly, both positively and negatively. So in non-COVID times I inhabit the world as a woman and spend time with people who recognise me as and respond to me as a woman. That’s an important corrective to the ongoing demonisation of people like me, which happens daily in the press and constantly online. In myriad ways it shows you that the narrative in your own head, that the world is a hateful and dangerous place for people like you, is not true.

For most of this year, that corrective has been taken away. The press haven’t stopped and the social media bullies continue to abuse trans people and anyone who supports trans people. If anything, covid has made them worse: they have more time to spend online, and they have become bolder and less concerned about maintaining a veneer of respectability. And the real-life interactions that give the lie to their scaremongering are not happening.

That’s not all. LGBT+ groups have all had to move online, as have the life-affirming Pride events. Healthcare has been reduced to the occasional phone call; no monitoring, no referrals. Safe spaces are shuttered.

I’ve written before that this is a hard road to walk. It’s harder still when you can’t walk it at all.

Categories
Health

“And nothing feels right now”

This, by Jared Misner for the NYT, is devastating.

Now that I’m actually married (the legal kind), I can say I love my husband very much. He is pragmatic, kind and handsome.

But he does not pull over for garage sales. He does not smuggle bags of dog costumes and treats out of press events to later give to my dogs and my parents’ dogs. He does not bring friendship bracelet crafts or design-your-own hats to our annual Labor Day trip and does not understand my references to the Beehive.

Categories
Bullshit Media

“Pundit brain is a form of stupidity”

This, by Tom Whyman, should annoy the right people.

If the image of the pundit-brained journalist has been crystallized anywhere, it is in the early satire of Chris Morris: shows like The Day Today and Brass Eye where his anchor character was constantly drawing wildly over-confident conclusions from nonsensical infographics, howling at unassuming guests that they need to solve absolutely everything that’s wrong with the world, right now, and smirking gleefully to camera at the possibility of instigating a war.

Categories
Health

“How have I been?”

Are you feeling guilty about not maintaining all your friendships through COVID? Me too. Brandy Jensen takes the helm of Jezebel’s “Ask a fuck-up” and tries to explain.

The problem, for me, is that it feels like there is simply nothing to catch these people up on anymore. Too many things are happening but also nothing much is happening at all, and I find I have nothing particularly interesting to say about it. Life is dull and that has in turn made me a dullard.

Categories
LGBTQ+

Nouns and pronouns

One of the minor weird things about having a different name and pronouns to the ones you were assigned at birth is that they sometimes feel like an odd fit with other aspects of who you are. For example, I mentioned being my son’s dad in my last post; on the radio the other day I laughed as I recounted my daughter saying affectionately but exasperatedly, “Dad! Why are you like this?” after one dad joke too many. To some eyes and ears, I know, the juxtaposition of “dad” and “woman” is weird. I know because sometimes it feels jarring to me too. But just because I’m not a man doesn’t mean I’m not a dad. A dad’s pronouns don’t have to be he and him.

Kids get this, so for example I recently overheard my daughter telling a friend “oh, that’s just my dad, she’s playing a video game”.  But many adults apparently don’t, or perhaps more accurately won’t.

It was international pronouns day yesterday, a day that could just as easily be entitled “come on, don’t be a dick to people day”, and I saw lots of people claiming that in much the same way trans women apparently don’t have pelvises, they don’t have pronouns. She/her, he/him, they/them weren’t for them. They didn’t need such silliness. They are too sensible for such political correctness and they don’t have any time for people who cared about such things.

I bolded their pronouns to help them out. I’ll stop now.

Everybody has pronouns. Without them, speech and writing would be awfully cumbersome: we’d have to say things like “Uncle David called to say that Uncle David wasn’t going to be around this weekend. Uncle David is off to do a thing and Uncle David won’t be back until Monday. I’m not sure where Uncle David is going. I forgot to ask Uncle David.”

If you don’t think you have any pronouns, chances are it’s because people don’t habitually get yours wrong. The kind of guy who goes on the internet to damn people who include pronouns in Twitter bios would probably lose his shit pretty quickly if people started routinely addressing him or describing him as she, her, madam or miss.

I mean, you would, wouldn’t you? Imagine going through life being misgendered every single day: in shops, on the phone, at social things, at work…

Yes, I am making a face right now.

The same people who would be the first to lose their shit if people started using the wrong pronouns for them – in many cases, people who lose their shit if anybody misgenders their pets – expect others to put up with it, even when it’s actually malicious. Why should they have to treat anybody else with the same respect they demand for their dog? They’ll call people whatever pronouns they damn well like!

Once again we’re in “It doesn’t happen to me personally so nothing should change” territory with a side order of “but mummy! I don’t want to be nice to other people!” It takes virtually no effort to be a little more considerate of others, but sadly for some that’s still too much to ask.