Musings arguments and gig reports from your favourite Goth lesbian transsexual vegan recovering alcoholic and drug addict sceptic rationalist atheist comedian chameleon and caricature.

Monday 24 October 2011

What do you think I'd see, if I could walk away from me.

Yesterday I placed 96th in the Independent on Sunday's Pink list of the top 100 most influential LGBT people in the UK.  As I understand it this means I now get to tell anyone who identifies as LGB or T who is further down the list, or not on the list at all what to do.  I think this makes me some sort of Colonel for the Gays, and definitely a General in the Trans Army, this along with my title of Political Correctness Brigadier makes me one of the most highly decorated sexual minorities in the pigeon hole (not a euphemism).

The truth is of course I'm probably not even the most influential LGBT person in my own head.  That honour goes to Ian McKellen who voices my internal monologue.  But of course that's just one of the perks of being on the list, he'll do that for you.  I hear Mary Portas has Frances Faye doing hers, and George Michael has Stephen Fry.

It's a bizarre feeling to be on that list, this time last year I was looking at that list and saying "next year I'll be on that list!" and now I am.  though I would have happily exchanged that one coming true for the other statement I made on that day which was "next year I'll be selling out the O2!"  As it happens I now have an O2 mobile phone contract, but the universe works in strange ways.

The bizarre thing about being on that list is that on the one hand my head goes "damned right" and on the other hand it feels like it's happened to someone else,  and I also feel a bit guilty for feeling a level of pride at having made it on to that list.  It's nice to have some recognition of what I do and I work really hard to go out there and be in the public eye and talk about LGBT issues, not just on stage but also anywhere else.

I'm always happy to talk about them, being trans and open about it and being a lesbian and open about that (even though the two things in combination confuse the hell out of people, and well they might, it took me until I was in my mid 20s to figure out I was both trans and a lesbian, it'd be a bit daft of me to expect other people to understand that in a few seconds.   I'm also comfortable with who I am and what that means, and I know that however people feel about me in relation to these things is their response.

It's their feelings.  And as real as they are to them they're theirs not mine.  I'm not responsible for making people feel uncomfortable about me being me.  Though sometimes it does feel like that, but as I get older I'm recognising the boundaries, and when I should apologise.

I know plenty of gay and trans people who hate being gay or being trans, who feel that they can't be accepted by society as themselves, who've grown up hiding their sexuality or their gender identity and associating it with a big group of negative connotations, often the negative stereotypes that our culture deals in.  The short-haired, mannish, misandarist, humourless, ugly, lesbian, the big, butch, deep-voiced, hairy-armed, manly, bloke in a dress, transsexual.  They then put everything negative that they think of into these ideas and feel more and more uncomfortable with who they are, and try to say "yes, but I'm not like that." and side with their persecutors, as if to say they are all like that but I'm not like them.

It's such a horrible level of internalised homophobia and transphobia and I've been guilty of it myself in the past, for me it was my way of protecting myself, I didn't realise at the time it was just making things so much worse for me.  But I do now, and that's why I go out there and try to do something about it.

As a recovering addict we have a saying "you're only as sick as your secrets" which I genuinely believe to be true your secrets and self hatred tend to be bigger and darker and scarier for you than anyone else.  The things I used to be scared of, the things that seemed so big and terrifying have ceased to be so.  And my attitude towards them has changed.

As an example of this, one of my close friends works with someone I went to school with.  This person said to my friend that they'd seen they were friends with me on Facebook or something, and asked how we knew each other, my friend said we were friends and had met through his house mate.  The person I went to school with then said "Oh because I went to school with her, when she was called Ben!"  To which my friend's response was "Oh, right, I'll say you said hi."

When people think that they have some valuable information about you that has some leverage or the potential to give them the upper hand in a situation they can use it as a weapon against you.  If you remove that weapon, or neutralise it by being OK about it then you take the power back.  Knowledge is power of course.

24 hours after I found out I'd been put on this list I saw the news that Stuart Walker a 28 year old gay man from Ayrshire had been set on fire and killed.  Early reports had said that he'd been tied up first, though I'm now hearing other reports that say that he wasn't, and there are reports that are saying this looks like it might have been motivated by homophobia.

Either way homophobic and transphobic crimes are occurring every day and need to stop. Sometimes with these crimes the homophobic aspect and transphobic aspect is ignored which is terrible, so I'm inclined to treat this as a homophobic attack until persuaded otherwise by the evidence, and I reserve the right to hold this position whenever there's any doubt, until such time as white middle class men are the victims of this type of crime by proportion of the population.

It's horrible, and the way to combat this is to be open and honest about who we are, to live publicly and to confront transphobia and homophobia wherever we see it.  It's difficult to hate a whole group of people when someone you love, or care about, or are friends with, or who you're related to is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Genderblind, or Trans.  The more visibility we have the more difficult it is to maintain this position of hate.  Hate comes from fear, fear comes from "othering" and if you can educate then it stops this all from being so alien.  Knowledge is the key.

Number one on the list was Elly Barnes, a Teacher who claims to have all but eradicated homophobia from the school she works in.

"One former pupil said this woman changed her life. Since 2005, she has been running LGBT History Month at Stoke Newington School, north London, every February. She says: "I've had pupils say, 'Miss, are you trying to turn us gay?' and I ask them, 'Do you turn black during Black History Month or Turkish during Turkish month?'." Barnes "came out" on Teachers' TV, and says: "It's ignorance that causes homophobia – once educated, attitudes change. Sometimes it's a deep-rooted hatred which takes a long time to change. The best way is to show positive role models." We think she is one."

That is the only way to do this, to educate to stop the fear and hatred at a young age, to let kids know that homophobia is not acceptable, to help kids who are being bullied for being gay or trans so that they don't grow up internalising that homophobia and transphobia and can have full exciting and happy lives and not feel like they've had to miss out on so much by hiding who they are in order to just survive.

It's not about ramming it down people's throats (obviously unless they want that, and some people are just filthy enough to want it.)  and people who see it that way need to recognise that that's their problem, not ours.

As Gandhi said "love is the only weapon powerful enough to beat hate."

1 comment:

Osymandus said...

insightful and intelligent as ever . Knowledge defeats suspicion and fear , those of us who appear as "normal" whatever that is ;) . Also need to speak out and say it (re discrimination) isn't right and to check ourselves , to ensure these habits and prejudice can be removed . O2 arena in 2 years ;-)

Re the titles I believe their honorary but like Dame Ellen MacArthur you could be called up in war time ;)