Absent friends

I went as me to see Manic Street Preachers at the SSE Hydro tonight, assuming (correctly) that if any band’s crowd would be cool with trans people it’d be theirs.

But it was still a really big deal, a major step for me. I spent most of today absolutely shitting myself at the prospect.

I go to the Hydro a lot, but before tonight I hadn’t gone as me. It’s too big, too busy, capable of holding 12,000 people. That’s a lot of potential trouble when you’re tall and visibly trans. The long walkway you travel post-gig can be pretty rowdy too. For a while I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do it.

So I’ve been working up to it. The bar of King Tut’s, capacity a few hundred. The new bit of the Royal Concert Hall, capacity 500. The O2 ABC, capacity 1,200. The O2 Academy, 2,500.

And tonight, the 12K Hydro.

Not so much out of my comfort zone as on a completely different planet to it.

And like every other big step I’ve had to take, I had to do it solo. No wingman to give me confidence. No voice offering assurance that I can do this. No shoulder to cry on when the sheer enormity of it all seems too much.

It’s a hard road to walk. Harder still to walk alone.

Angry young men become terrorists

A couple of weeks ago I linked to an article by Amia Srinivasan that among other things discussed “incels”, angry young men who believe they’re the victims of evil women.

Last night, one of them committed mass murder in Toronto. 

Internet echo chambers are creating terrorists.

Graeme Wood, writing in The Atlantic:

The dynamic is a familiar one in the age of digital community building. Once the incels griped to themselves, occasionally victimizing others, and sometimes getting over their pathology or finding a partner. Now they can come together online and find others to validate their grievances and encourage them to action.

“We need help – we can’t do this on our own”

The F Word has an interesting interview with Paris Lees that’s well worth your time.

The amount of column inches that have been devoted to abusing trans people. The amount of energy and money! It’s like there are these endless resources to do this and yet there is no evidence that trans people are causing problems.

…We’re less than 1% of the population. For all the talk of a “trans lobby”, the truth is we don’t have any MPs. I think we have one high court judge. We don’t have royalty or pop stars or chat show hosts.

…We need help – we can’t do this on our own. We need people to be real allies and show up in solidarity.

Frocky horror

Racked.com has a fun read on why men don’t generally wear dresses. 

“Clothing makes you aware of the edges and boundaries and borders of your body,” Barry says. “So wearing a dress, wearing women’s garments, even in the privacy of your own home, connects you to your body in a way that could make you feel comfortable or uncomfortable with how you perceive yourself.”

Dresses are brilliant things: simple ones are arguably the most comfortable things anyone could wear. Flattering, too: I’ve never felt smarter or cuter than when I’ve been in a simple tea dress, and I’ll fight anyone who says Brad Pitt didn’t look like a gladiator when he donned a frock for Rolling Stone.

And dresses are practical: you can go from naked to ready by pulling a single thing over your head. Although I’d also recommend underwear in case of Marilyn Monroe moments or unexpectedly see-through fabrics. But you get the idea. Slobbing around at home? Dress! Corner shop for biscuits? Dress! High powered business meeting? Dress! Beach? Dress! Date? Dress! Climbing up ladders while commando? Maybe not that one.

Lack of pockets aside, dresses are more versatile than anything else I can think of. Denim jeans come close but they’re not as welcome in as many different places as a LBD.

Despite the many pluses, though, I feel vulnerable in a dress. Much more so than in any other obviously female item of clothing.

Part of that I’m sure is the lightness, the lack of layers, the omnipresent fear of a gust of wind. But a bigger part is that dresses are hyper-feminine in a way leggings or skinny jeans aren’t. They aren’t feminised versions of generally unisex things.

Which leads us right back into why we don’t see men wearing this season’s knife-pleat skirts or sequined minis while out grocery shopping or drinking scotch at a bar. “Feminine clothing has absolutely no social capital for a man to put on because he’s gesturing towards a set of traits that our society doesn’t really value,” Jolles says. He’s gone from the top of the social ladder to the bottom, and that display of willingly cashing in your power is what makes the look so uncomfortable or shocking.

It’s a shame that such a simple, useful and practical bit of fabric is imbued with such power. Guys, you’re missing out.

This is A Kind Reminder

Let’s have some music.

This is “A Kind Reminder”, the first new song from David and I in, ooh, ages. It’s a deliberately unabashed outsider anthem, and the working title – “Last song at The Hydro” – is a clue to its stadium-sized ambitions.

Lyrically it’s about self-care, about finding strength in who you are and love in difficult times.

Musically it’s got my daughter making her recorded debut as part of the backing vocal choir. That girl gets everywhere.

I would love to hear this song performed in other ways, by people who aren’t me.

Man prosecuted for telling a joke wasn’t prosecuted for telling a joke

Mark Meechan with EDL leader Tommy Robinson.

The sentencing verdict has been published in the case of PF vs Meechan. It has wrongly been described as a young man being prosecuted for telling a joke.

He wasn’t. He was prosecuted for making and publishing a video in which he said “gas the Jews” 23 times, a video that was seen by a very large online audience.

It was very specifically about one question: whether “using a public communications network on one day to post the video onto your video channel, constituted an offence contrary to section 127(1)(a) of the Communications Act 2003.”

The sheriff found that it did.

From the verdict:

Your video was not just offensive but grossly so, as well as menacing, and that you knew that or at least recognised that risk.

…The fact that you claim in the video, and elsewhere, that the video was intended only to annoy your girlfriend and as a joke and that you did not intend to be racist is of little assistance to you. A joke can be grossly offensive. A racist joke or a grossly offensive video does not lose its racist or grossly offensive quality merely because the maker asserts he only wanted to get a laugh.

In any event, that claim lacked credibility. You had no need to make a video if all you wanted to do was to train the dog to react to offensive commands. You had no need to post the video on your unrestricted, publicly accessible, video channel if all you wanted to do was annoy your girlfriend. Your girlfriend was not even a subscriber to your channel. You posted the video, then left the country, the video went viral and thousands viewed it before she had an inkling of what you were up to. You made no effort to restrict public access or take down the video.”

Meechan is an odious clown who hangs around with neo-Nazis so I certainly don’t have any sympathy.

Many of his online defenders are clearly anti-semites, among other things, and their analyses of the verdict are based on what appears to be a misunderstanding or deliberate misrepresentation of what the case actually hinged on.

This is Section 127(1)(a) of the Communications Act 2003:

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a)sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character

“Grossly offensive” isn’t about matters of taste or people clutching pearls. The relevant judgement about what is and isn’t grossly offensive is simple: “The test is whether a message is couched in terms liable to cause gross offence to those to whom it relates.”

Here’s an example of how that’s being misunderstood online.

How many of the reporters who were interviewing and/or reporting on Meechan will be prosecuted on causing gross offense for saying “gas the Jews” in their articles and interviews, @policescotland?

The answer is none, because none of them are causing gross offence.

It’s really very simple. If you use the phrase “gas the Jews” in a news report about the Meechan case, you aren’t guilty of gross offence under the Communications Act; if you do it multiple times in a video because you think advocating genocide is funny, there’s a good chance that you are.

In a week where we saw these frightening photos from Georgia, I’m okay with that.

The woman on the bus, the elephant in the room

I had an appointment at the Sandyford clinic the other week. It’s where you go to get your official trans membership badge, where you learn the secret trans handshake and where you’re issued with your copy of the sinister transgender agenda. If you go often enough you get a free Richard Littlejohn voodoo doll.

Gallows humour aside, it’s a place many trans people go because it’s the only gender identity clinic in the West of Scotland. The likelihood that you’ll be there at the same time as several other trans women is very high; the likelihood that you’ll be heading there at the same time as other trans women is high too. So it was hardly a huge surprise when I got on the bus and an older trans woman got on after me.

If she’s reading this, I hope I’m wrong about you. I hope your life is full of joy and wonder, that the days are just packed and that everything I assumed about you was wrong. Because when I looked at you, I jumped to conclusions, all of them negative.

You looked miserable in a shapeless coat and a dated wig. You avoided making eye contact with anybody, spent the short trip staring at the floor, your body language submissive. Don’t look at me. 

You looked like somebody who’s learned that to be noticed is to attract the wrong kind of attention. 

What I should have done when we got off the bus was to smile in recognition. Not in a “you’re busted!” way or to strike up a conversation; nobody feels particularly chatty on the way to a doctor’s appointment. Just an friendly acknowledgement from one marginalised person to another: I see you.

What I actually did was to distance myself.

I distanced myself because there were three young men hanging around the traffic lights and I was scared they’d notice me; notice you; notice us. Two trans women, ripe for mockery, maybe more. So I walked a little faster, the clip-clop of my heels faster than your footsteps in your flats. I chose self-preservation over solidarity, and of course the danger was entirely imagined. The men looked right through me, and right through you too. 

I distanced myself because I was scared you’re a mirror. In my head I see two futures. In one, I’m happy. Still young, ish; fun and funny and fashionable and fulfilled with a loving family and a really hot girlfriend. That’s who I was trying to be that day in my skinny jeans, tunic top, Primark boots and take-no-shit swagger.

And in the other I’m one of the transsexuals I remember from 1980s documentaries, miserable in unflattering florals, mooching round a tatty C&A while security guards stare. 

Dowdy. Downtrodden. 

I don’t fear much any more, but I fear that.

You looked downtrodden, and God help me I acted like that was contagious.

I distanced myself because like many people of my age and older, I grew up in a culture where trans women (and it’s always the women) were portrayed as pitiful or perverts or both. Some of that stuck. You can’t swim in polluted water and come out clean. It’s why it took me so long to be proud of who I am, and why I wasn’t proud enough to walk too close to you.

I’m deeply ashamed of that. It’s not who I want to be, who I strive to be. Everybody has the voice urging them to throw others under the bus to save their own skin, but I try not to listen to it: I don’t want to be the one with Anne Frank in the attic shouting “she’s in the loft!” whenever I hear footsteps on the path outside. And yet all I needed to do was smile, and I didn’t do it.

If you’re reading this, I’m sorry. You deserve better. We all do. 

The way that we walk, the way that we talk, it’s there in our thoughts

Today’s headline is really just an excuse to mention Girls Aloud.

Here’s a fun Twitter thread about biology and bio-hacking. It’s sent me to Amazon to find out more about epigenetics, which seems awfully interesting and exciting.

Please do read the whole thing. I wish biology had been explained so vividly when I was at school.

The queerest of the queer

I’ve had a massive crush on Shirley Manson for more than 20 years.

To be honest, I’m suspicious of anybody who doesn’t have a massive crush on Shirley Manson. Fierce, funny, impossibly talented, Scottish, ginger and drop-dead gorgeous, the Garbage singer is one of rock’s great personalities, and the way she rocked her combination of cute dress, black tights, clumpy boots and fuck-you attitude did all kinds of things to me back in the day. She’s just as amazing now, and I’m absolutely convinced that if I were to meet her I’d be incapable of speech.

There’s a saying about rock stars that the fans of your own gender want to be you and the ones of the other gender want to be with you. With Manson I always felt both: if I could have magically transformed myself into somebody else it would have been Shirley every time. Especially Shirley in the Only Happy When It Rains video.

I still feel like that today. When I discovered by accident that I had bought a dress very similar to one Shirley wore recently, I damn near exploded with delight.

I think that’s something she’d approve of. She’s long spoken out on behalf of the outsiders, the “queerest of the queer”, and it’s a recurring motif in her music. The first time I saw the Androgyny video – Manson blurring gender roles while singing “boys in the girl’s room, girls in the men’s room, you free your mind with your androgyny”, her lascivious, lusty “boyyyyyyys” and “girrrrrrrrls” punctuating the chorus – I had to have smelling salts and a lie down.

I never tried to be Shirley Manson in real life. The look and the attitude were for my imagination, not my everyday: androgyny wasn’t the kind of thing you could get away with in my town, and I’d never pass as a woman.

In an excellent article for Allure magazine, Katelyn Burns writes about the impossible standards to which trans women hold themselves.

Before I transitioned, I had a very palpable sense of the “too”: I was too tall, too fat, too bald to ever be a “real” woman, so what would be the point of even trying to transition? It’s a common sentiment among trans woman and a direct result of the impossibly narrow box within which society confines women’s appearances. For many trans women, male puberty puts cisnormative beauty permanently out of reach; for others, the idea that the world could see them the same way that they see themselves is the stuff of fantasy.

And that’s a great shame, because that fear holds us back from being ourselves, from experiencing the world as it should be.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot of late because I’m still in the transitioning trenches, trying to work out my identity and how I want to exist in the world. The judging Katelyn writes about makes me feel pretty crappy quite a lot of the time, but sometimes the heavens align and I feel pretty damn good about myself.

It happened the other night. I was going to see an avowedly trans-inclusive punk rock band, so instead of my more usual androgyny I decided to let my inner Garbage fan come out. I chose a dress I really, really love, teamed it with thick black tights, got my make-up just right and spent a bit of time sorting my hair out. And I looked bloody amazing.

I’m under no illusions about what I look like: I’m very tall, very big, overweight. But when my presentation gets close to looking like the person I want to be, there’s a joy I find really hard to describe, a feeling that everything has magically clicked into place.

And sometimes other people validate that. I’ve been chatted up by strangers at gigs, complimented by women in bars, received throwaway comments that have kept me walking on air for days. Before I went to my punk gig, I popped into my local to see some friendly faces: I might have felt amazing, but the prospect of going into town wearing a dress for the very first time was still frightening, not least because I was going to meet a friend who had never seen me presenting as Carrie before. So I needed to do it in stages: go to a familiar place first, and then go on into town when the fear had subsided a bit.

I’m glad I did, because when I walked in one of my women friends was there. “You look really pretty!” she said, grinning delightedly before adding “Is it okay for me to say that?” When I reassured her that not only was it okay, but it’d be even more okay if she could just say it a few hundred more times and maybe put it in writing too, she laughed and told me that “seriously, you look really hot”.

Before I came out I never dreamed I would ever be told I was pretty, let alone hot. One of the great sadnesses of not coming out until later in life is that you’re stuck with a body that’s developed in all the wrong ways. But while I’ll never be mistaken for a pretty young anything that doesn’t mean I can’t be proudly, unapologetically, confidently me. Whoever you are, whatever you identify as, being true to yourself is pretty damn hot.

I’m going to see Garbage on tour later this year. I’ll be the one dancing really badly in a cute dress.

“Do you have to do it in front of my kids?”

This is powerful and wonderful. It’s from BBC’s The Social, the bit where Auntie Beeb gives a platform to voices you don’t necessarily hear very often on the main channels’ output. Its comedy output is consistently hilarious, but it’s in the serious stuff where it really shines.

This one’s about something simple: being in love.

The video’s made it to the excellently intelligent discussion site MetaFilter, which has resulted in a really interesting discussion.

Here’s Mudpuppie, on how LGBT people police their own behaviour in public:

Be careful who you touch in public, and how, and be mindful of who’s watching. Be careful how you refer to your partner, and be mindful of who’s listening. Constrain your public hellos and goodbyes. Be careful how you present yourself, lest you offend someone who reacts to that offense with violence, either physical or verbal or metaphorical: Something less than a punch, maybe, but not nothing.

Sciatrix agrees, but adds a positive that I’ve definitely experienced:

…there’s a world of difference between a straight person’s enthusiastic grin and the quiet chin jerk from the dapper gentleman on the bus, the particular pleased crinkle of eyes from the woman on my walk to work when I’ve buzzed my hair again, the slouching, tow-headed tilt of recognition in the kid in the back, the lit eyes of the student on the edge of the room… There’s a quiet kind of seeing each other that’s totally unrelated to the straight, cis world except inasmuch as none of us fit inside it. For all that we don’t always speak the same languages or the same community concepts, we all speak the lingua franca of hello, I see you and can you believe it?

There’s something lovely about that, too.

I’ve only experienced a little of it, but Sciatrix is right. There’s something really lovely about it.