(To Kell & Back: despatches from the front line)
“you don’t have to live next to me
Just give me my equality”
Nina Simone, Mississippi Goddamn
It is not the responsibility of trans people to thank you for showing up and being an ally. It is not our task to reward you for using the correct pronouns no matter how unusual they are (zie, hir, per, iel, ix) nor for calling us by own chosen names. It is no more our job to request you stand up for us when we are not in the room than it is the job of Black peoples of African origin to praise white people for “freeing” the peoples we and our forebears enslaved. It is no more our job to be grateful for your recognition than Black indigenous australians should be grateful to white so-called australia for recognising that the indigenous peoples of so-called australia have first title and that terra nullius was a lie. Not raping women, not making women scared, not hitting women are not achievements AMAB people need to be praised for, and not putting trans women in ‘male’ prisons should be just as much an obvious choice.
The past two months have been very stressful for trans & nonbinary people. Across the political spectrum from anarchist elders to liberal-left newspapers, public broadcasters to international media companies, a panoply of charities, NGOs, governments (and their official oppositions) have been putting into the public domain vast quantities of traumatizing bigoted hate. To have the uk prime minister openly praising a lesbian gay & nominally bisexual charity, that seeks to eradicate trans people, is galling if not just terrifying. To see the BBC broadcast programmes and articles that attack the leading LGBT rights charity for daring to include trans ‘rights’ in its existing campaigns. And to have this attack approved of by the minister for Women and Equalities. To sit in disbelief that an employment tribunal has ruled that it is a ‘protected belief’ to question the gender of your colleagues at work. And of course Keira Bell.
Imagine taking funding from us- American anti-abortion groups and using a right wing anti-abortionist legal company to undermine Gillick competence. Imagine claiming your standing up for the rights of girls and then cheering at a judgement that undermines the right of young people to get contraception, abortions or sexual health information. Imagine being The Guardian approving a ruling that undermines the rights of teenagers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine against their parents wishes. Imagine it. Well you don’t have to because thankfully the court of appeal over turned the ruling as legally illiterate. But imagine being a feminist who actively campaigned and fundraised for this…. This my friends is why you should have absolutely no common cause with TERFs because their obsession with denying young people access to puberty blockers would put all young people’s bodily autonomy at risk.
And speaking of risk: Have you noticed that every week a new gofundme appears in your social media feeds from a transmasc person who just cant bear the dysphoria any longer and needs a double mastectomy? Needs access to hormones. Needs a letter to change their gender markers so they can survive on a really basic level.
The waiting lists in these countries on these rainy racist rancid transphobic islands have gone far beyond breaking point. I know of a 24 year old in south west england who has spent his entire adult life on a waiting list. He’s 24 and he still hasn’t had his first assessment appointment. And when he gets it he’ll be on a new waiting list for the 2nd appt. The waiting list for second appointments, where doctors actually prescribe the hormones, is running at five to ten years minimum. The maximum waiting times for non-urgent referrals in england and wales is 18 weeks between a GP referral and an appointment with a consultant. Yet Trans and Nonbinary people are facing 520 weeks waits. No. This is not hyperbole. I’m not making this up. This is what trans people are being told to their faces. On a daily basis. Meanwhile for 18 months during 2020/21 there was no specialist medical contract for specialist transmasc genital surgery. The waiting list for trans women and amab nonbinary people in some parts of these countries is decades long.
All the while there are people who claim they are not transphobic whilst also ‘debating’ whether trans people are either actively misogynist or just an identity politics of distraction. Remember today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. It was started to Remember Our Dead. Because of our siblings murdered or suicided. Not least because their bodies didn’t match their ID.
But this year people started demonstrating differently. Taking action. In a direct action way. Tired and demoralised by a voting system delivering nothing for trans people. Watching the leader of the opposition appease transphobic MPs and collude with TERFs who exist in a level of double think not seen since 1984. These reactionary forces across the left & anarchism both want to restrict or eradicate trans and nonbinary people altogether but also don’t like being told that this is transphobia. My Heart Bleeds. The TERFS may not Twitter now since Netflix ,the Guardian and the BBC will do the the work of toxic dissemination for them. The Labour party is not a safe place for trans and nonbinary people. The left, electoralism in general, has failed trans and nonbinary people. And so a few weeks ago people gave up uselessly emailing their MP and marched on the BBC. It is a spark of hope that trans and nonbinary people are no longer prepared to plead for mercy from governments and NGOs. That we as a community are no longer prepared to turn the other cheek. Its not yet abseiling into the house of Lords or rioting on the steps of parliament but a generation who have grown up on the success of Stonewall have finally realised that before stonewall there were decades and decades of Rage.
Sisters Uncut has taken to the streets over a number of issues recently. Led by women and especially Black women. Its remit is to fight for ‘women and nonbinary people’. Putting it like that actively Includes trans women & intersex people who identify as women. Instead of appending explainers – it just expands the category.
Now as an abolitionist and gender nihilist – I don’t want to be on a barricade defending oppressive limiting binary categories of gender but as a step closer to a radical future the way they have normalised inclusion of trans women as women is at least one way of opposing the wedge that TERFs use to split trans women from other women.
And remember its never just trans women as some bolt-on identity politics category. Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, two 18-year-old female runners from Namibia, were not allowed to run in the 400-meter race at the Tokyo Olympics because medical tests concluded that the athletes had high natural testosterone levels. They were not trans women or nonbinary women. They were Black African CIS women who had been forced to undergo racist hormone testing – did anyone check Zola Budd’s hormones levels when racist thatcherite britain gave the apartheid era white blonde south African athlete british citizenship so she could evade international sanctions. No one checks hormone levels when its white people unless its sneering at women weight lifters and suggesting they can’t possibly be strong women unless they’ve been pumped full of T. And funnily enough the LGBalliance nor the BBC nor the Guardian nor Netflix don’t seem very interested in defending cis women who are collateral victims of the gendered wars.
Whether you’re an intersectional anarchist or a class war anarchist, the situation at the moment is very stark. The naked power of the state is being used directly to attack trans and nonbinary people. The naked power of the class system under capitalism is being used to attack trans and nonbinary people. The naked power of the social structure is being used to undermine, attack and, in some clear cases, aims to eradicate trans and nonbinary people altogether.
And if you are obsessed with the idea that trans existence is a middle class distraction ruminate on this. Trans is a racism issue because the row over trans girls doing sports in Texas in the USA is being used to bar Black African women from competing in the Olympics. Womanhood modelled on cis white Europeans is used to undermine all women. Trans is a class issue because the cost of top surgery is £6-9000 and we’re reaching saturation point for how many gofundme accounts the 0.3% of the population can fund. Working class trans people just don’t have the same options as celebrities or middle class people. Trans is a disability issue because people with complex physical and mental health issues are being denied appropriate healthcare ‘until the trans issue has been dealt with’. Trans is an abolitionist issue because in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, elderly persons homes, youth offender units – gendered assumptions are being made how people will behave, about who is at risk, and what treatments they are entitled to. Trans is a matter of sexuality and gender because your body is being policed, your behaviour is being policed, all of us are being policed for our clothing choices, your toilet choices, your life, love, and relationship choices. Trans is an anarchist issue because when anarchists fail to make explicit in their leaflets, newspapers, websites and twitter accounts that they are trans Inclusive then trans and nonbinary people are put off squatting, antifascism, animal rights, prison & police abolition and a whole host of politics & analysis because we, trans and nonbinary people, cant assume that you’ll have our backs. Trans is your issue because electoralism has suckered three generations of trans and nonbinary people into putting all their faith into appeasement, supporting the status quo and embracing a psychiatric model embedded in the NHS – on whom we are completely dependent for medical support.
Yet Trans identity is also in crisis because it is being absorbed into a generic human rights liberal agenda politics whilst also being excluded by the power structures that can save lives and/or destroy them. The power of trans existence to set a torch to the whole gender construct that blights all our lives, your lives, and shapes all our lives from before we were born to after we are dead is being smothered by people who cant tell the difference between Love is Love/Human Rights and a life lived free beyond borders, state & capital.
You may not care. You may see trans people as a distraction from the task at hand of overthrowing capitalism and facing down planetary ecocide. But trans people are an important part of both that overthrow and how we will live in this world even as life on earth is running out of time.
I want to believe that you are an ally, or would like to be ally, & show up for trans and nonbinary people. Not just on sporadic demos or writing to fucking elected elites. So why not ask every accomplice, co-conspirator, comrade, friend, and family member what pronouns they would like you to use. Normalise it. You can ask them if they are paying for, or saving up for, private medical intervention (hormones, psychiatric assessments, surgery) and if you can afford it. Give Them Money. When you see a gofundme online for trans healthcare. Send them a few of your currency. And you can make it clear in your online bio, your email sigs and your leaflets, websites and merch that you are trans inclusive.
In a different crisis, 40 years ago, when I was part of a community cut down and left to die by state and private homophobia we used to say – ‘Mourn Our Dead but fight like hell for the living’.
This Transgender Day of Remembrance why not choose now to fight like hell for the living. Because trans people are already mourning enough for our dead.
This year I want to remember Billy Quiet (queer nonbinary anarchist) who took thier life only recently. I hope now that They and their predeceased companion Ruby are romping through parks and fields, free from the battles that beset them when they were alive.
Rest In Power.
Trans, Intersex and Nonbinary Lives Matter.
Black Trans Lives Matter. BIPoC Trans Lives Matter.
Kell w Farshéa
Kell, like many british anarchists, is a hybrid insurrectionary/anarchist-communist. She has been active as an anarchist since 1980, aged 14, and has participated in many important moments in radical/anarchist history. From Stop the City in 83, Mansfield, Orgreave, opposition to Alton Bill in 88, section 28, the first criminal justice act of 84 to the CJB ‘demonstrations’, the poll tax ‘demo’, the monopoly board mayday event through to the recent police crime sentencing and courts bill demo on mayday 2021. She has been an active anti racist, antifascist, vegan, LGBT/queer bdsm feminist anarchist for over 41 years (and counting). She identifies as a nonbinary trans woman, a FemmeDom and a trans-inclusive radical het. Her pronoun is she. She was spokesperson for ACTUP London (1989-92), Co-Founder of the London House (and UK existence) of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (1990+); Founded Countdown on Spanner/The Spanner Campaign (1992-1997), SM Pride (1992-2003) and created, and served as an initial founding trustee of, the Spanner Trust (1996-). In 2019 she co-founded the history archive project ISMS (the Institute of SM Studies). For 5 years she wrote a monthly column for trilingual Paris based magazine Projet X, she has also written for a range of radical, queer, anarchist and bdsm journals, websites and zines. She lives in London with a companion cat.
Image: London Trans Pride, 26th June 2021. By Guy Smallman.