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.