All posts by Katy

Entrepreneur, activist, thinker, writer, speaker on business, equality, diversity, human rights, gender, LGBTIQ, motivation, economics, social change, faith, language. Polymath, geek, comedian, Hebraist, linguist, theologian, philosopher, techie, bibliophile, gardener, cook, guitarist.

No Deal Brexit might bring back Wartime Rationing. What would Churchill do?

The war of words, or even war of the worldviews, continues apace over Britain’s relationship with Europe. The Battle of Brexit has already seen Dunkirkesque fishing fleets with Bob Geldof and Nigel Farage traversing the Thames and shouting at each other! Rather than resigning ourselves to the inevitable the Blitz spirit of Remainers has been to stubbornly resist Brexit whilst a small number of Leavers have threatened Guy Fawkesesque revolution if it doesn’t proceed as planned. ‘Planned’ is probably too strong a word for the most disorderly unplanned unmitigated disaster of an attempt to pull out of the EU that might see rebuilding UK supply and trade options more like a Scrapheap Challenge looking for parts here and there rather than being content in the existing roadworthy vehicle.

Rationing

Meanwhile, armageddon-out-of-the-EU ‘No Deal’ survivalist plans include Government schemes to ration ferry space, charter planes, stockpile food and medicine. Water companies say they will struggle as purifying chemicals come from EU. Whilst the UK will miss its EU worker fruit-pickers, it will also miss its pick of fruit as 90% of our fruit is imported. No more 5-a-day then.

Tory MP and former International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, has actually suggested using possible Irish food shortages post-Brexit as a threat to get a better deal. She’s clearly not read, “How to win friends and influence people”.

Immigration

Additionally, the Government is preparing for mass immigration following a No Deal scenario. Yes, immigration! As the free movement of ex-pats, mostly of retirement age, seek to return to the UK if reciprocal EU residence rights are not agreed. Over a million people could return putting pressure on the NHS, taking our jobs, applying for benefits – oh wait wasn’t that the Leave argument? But these ‘foreigners’ all speak English and we can’t tell them to “Go Home” as the UK is their ‘home’ (as it is for all those who have settled here).

The false stereotypes of Britishness and ‘foreignness’ are aptly illustrated in the recent revelation by star spinner – not political but cricket, Moeen Ali that he had a white British grandmother called Betty Cox. Birmingham-born Ali could not be more British in terms of cricket, but the chess-playing all-rounder also acknowledges his Pakistani heritage – something that down-under he was taunted about when called ‘Osama’ by Australian sledgers. 

Charm Offensive

As part of her charm offensive (either an oxymoron or a transposition of ‘offensive charm’) D-Day Theresa has dispatched 30 Tory MPs around the country to persuade people to adopt her T-for-Terrible Brexit Deal rather than N-for-Nobody wants it No Deal. The deal is heading for defeat and two words that should not be attached to Tory door-knocking, “charm offensive”, are only going to piss off the public – who can’t even vote on the Parliamentary debate.

Leadership

Better a Dunkirk spirit of knowing when to retreat from a bad situation. May is too stubborn and fighting for her own survival which she sees as contingent upon showing strength and resolve, whereas true leadership also knows how to lead a hasty retreat from a mistake unlike the Charge of the Light Brigade disaster ahead of us.

Winston Churchill’s ambiguity on Europe

Winston Churchill in RAF uniform 1939-1946
Winston Churchill in RAF uniform 1939-1946

Continuing the military metaphors and past leaders comparisons, Boris Johnson has called for a Churchillian resistance to Europe, likening it to standing up to Hitler! This is a poor choice of words, at the very least, for Churchill stood with Europe against Hitler. He called for a ‘United States of Europe‘. Some have argued that he would have believed in Europe but not been a part of it, others that he would have been a member and voted Remain. Either way, he was supportive of Europe.

“I knew Winston Churchill, I worked with him, I stayed with him at his home at Chartwell and I have read his speeches many times. I can assure you that Winston Churchill was no Euro-sceptic.” – Former Prime Minister, Edward Heath, 1996

UKIP Quitters

Whilst we tread choppy waters on our quitting of the EU or even quitting the process of leaving so we remain, keeping up? UKIP are quitting their party – founded to quit the EU – in droves. The latest UKwitters include David Coburn and Paul Nuttall who join Nigel Farage, Suzanne Evans and others in quitting UKIP.

UKIP membership of around 23,000 is now half its 46,000 peak just prior to the EU Referendum. That such a small party – and an increasingly right-wing one at that, has influenced a generational change in our relationship with Europe is a testament to the ongoing divide between Eurosceptics and Europhile “citizens of Europe”.

It’s ironic that UKIP is collapsing after bringing about the Brexit vote by striking fear into the hearts of Tories and David Cameron that their voter base was quitting to join UKIP.  For its members to be now calling it too extremist with Tommy Robinson, riddled with Islamophobia and thuggery, makes one wonder why the Tories were so afraid of an extremist minority. Had David Cameron just waited it would have imploded anyway like the BNP or EDL and Brexit needn’t have happened.

Indeed, a UKIP tweet now has 39,000 votes in their own echo-chamber (but being tweeted widely now) showing 32% support for No Deal Brexit but 66% support for No Brexit!

Current polling “suggests that people continue to prefer remaining in the EU to the deal (Remain 46%(+3), Leave with the deal 37%(+3)) and that in a choice between the deal or leaving without one, they’d go for no deal (No deal 41%(+7), deal 35%(+3)). This leaves us in a bit of a quandary. People narrowly approve of the deal and think MPs should approve it… but they also prefer both of the two obvious alternatives to the deal. For the record, the poll also finds people in favour of a new referendum on the deal by 48% to 34%.”

“This week it is Parliament that will take back control. We have mixed oil and water by imposing on our Parliamentary system a referendum result. And, of course, Parliament must respect that. It is now for the House of Commons to decide how to proceed in the light of all that has happened…” – Andrew Mitchell MP

Even Brexiteers believe in the sovereignty of Parliament, or should do at least, it is democratically elected and sovereign, more so than the Queen or EU. So, what Parliament does next is critical. It is clear, though, that Parliament is overwhelmingly against a bad Deal that they cannot sell to their constituencies.

Tuesday’s “meaningful vote” is Parliamentary Democracy over Plebiscite Referendum – which was something of a meaningless vote, given the lies and gross simplicity without understanding context or consequences, and only offered for political expediency by Cameron to stave off votes leaching to UKIP who are now falling apart anyway.

Time for a EU turn on Brexit, Park Lane, London People's Vote meetup before march
Time for a EU turn on Brexit, Park Lane, London People’s Vote meetup before march

 

 

To Brexit or not to Brexit! Remain or Riot? A Democratic Impasse

Dog's Brexit
Making a Dog’s Brexit of Leave

When the DUP and Labour combine forces to elicit the full text of the Government’s legal advice surrounding the Brexit deal you know the traditional Left and Right sides of politics or Parliament’s chamber have been traversed. When UKIP and Tommy Robinson plan to march against Brexit – at least in its current form, you know that those that pushed for it don’t want what is on offer. When Leavers and Remainers are both calling the deal illegal you know the whole omnishambles is unravelling.

Then we have the Brexit TV debate on BBC or is it ITV, with Leaver Corbyn having to speak against Brexit and Remainer May, for it. They are not the only two voices we should be hearing from, and they are far from the best. Where are NI or Scottish voices, LibDem or Plaid Cymru?

Theresa May is adamant that it is her deal or no deal. Occasionally, she suggests the possibility of a third option and then retracts it. Liam Fox, meanwhile, openly voices it:

“As leave supporters, the choice we face isn’t between the deal the Prime Minister has reached or a deal we might like to reach. The choice is between this deal and the very real risk of no Brexit.” Liam Fox

Brexit is Pants, Brexshitsies
Brexit is Pants, Brexshitsies

This is such a poor deal of limited EU withdrawal and complete loss of influence in the name of a pseudo-Brexit that for arch-Leavers to even consider voting for it must be an indication that both this Government and Brexit itself are in dire danger of collapsing.

Whilst the ERG’s Rees-Mogg and pals can’t add up to 48 and wrote their letters of ‘No Confidence’ prematurely, Parliament itself can call a No Confidence motion under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act:

“If a motion of no confidence is passed or there is a failed vote of confidence, there is a 14-day period in which to pass an act of confidence in a new government. If no such vote is passed, a new election must be held, probably a mere 17 working days later.”Institute for Government

Time for a EU turn on Brexit, Park Lane, London People's Vote meetup before march
Time for a EU turn on Brexit, Park Lane, London People’s Vote meetup before march

Wahay! I say, as a biased-against-Brexit Remainer and non-Tory but who, nonetheless, is keen to heal the divide and find a way to work out why our differences of opinion have become so polarised. Surely the far right is not that prevalent in British politics, and for Lexit socialists to ally with them against the EU proves that new alliances have been formed but which sacrifice so much more in the name of new forms of seemingly ‘acceptable’ nationalism.

National socialism has twice before become fascist extremism, I can’t see that happening here in the land of moderation, I mean we are not rioting on the streets against petrol duty like the French. Labour may be a mess of confusion on Brexit but their moral ambiguity is not as bad as the Tory willingness to ally with the DUP to keep themselves in power or create hostile environments around immigration, welfare, or mental health. A majority of Labour voters supported Remain but its leaders can’t bring themselves to come all out to stop Brexit. The Tories are overtly right-wing but actually called the EU Referendum to stem the tide of voter defections to UKIP and the far right and also can’t bring themselves to descend into further right extremism. Many find ‘no deal’ unpalatable. 

37.5 per cent voted Leave
37.5% not 51.9% voted Leave

These are all minority views, however loud and briefly magnified into an ill-considered 52-48% yes/no vote that actually doesn’t reflect the true views of the majority who were content with the status quo and might have answered differently to a more nuanced question.

If Brexit happens, Remainers won’t riot, and if Brexit doesn’t happen most Leavers won’t. That a minority of Leavers might riot and have promised to bring revolution to our streets, and worse, is either braggadocio or blackmail. To remain a liberal moderate nation we must not capitulate to the threats of the far right.

The United Kingdom, whatever happens next, will forever now be the Disunited Kingdom. It’s as if we have entered a new age of Civil War or Wars of the Roses that will haunt our history for some time to come. Ironically, the EU came about as a means to bring about peace and ensure an end to warring nation states.

Brexit March, the Worst is yet to come
Brexit March, the Worst is yet to come

Instead, the state of the nation is of one at war with itself, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, to the point of decapitating all other political, social and economic needs. Housing, health, homelessness, have all gone by the wayside as we apoplectically remain beside ourselves, obsessed with Brexit.

There is no salve, no solution, that will satisfy both sides, especially, when the sides are now three and not two. We have Hard Brexit, Bad Brexit, and No Brexit – all as available choices, and none of which will satisfy half the country.

“One cabinet minister is privately predicting that we are heading for the ‘gravest constitutional crisis’ in our history. This is hyperbole; the 17th century had several that were far worse.” – The Spectator

Brexit was all along a politically motivated idea that nobody really wanted in sufficient numbers. Instead, Cameron’s cowardice and short-term opportunism have aggravated what was a political sore into an open wound that will remain infected for some time to come. The only option is surgery but whether that is to cut ourselves off from Europe completely or to remove the option of Brexit entirely, the healing to democracy and nation may be unrecoverable.

Brexit - Demand a Final Say
Brexit – Demand a Final Say

NSFT CQC Inspection Report – Inadequate, Norfolk & Suffolk Mental Health

Inadequate” is such an insipid inadequate term to describe an abject failure to manage critical mental health services and to continue over 5-years to fail to improve. 

Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is the seventh largest mental health trust in the UK, running over 100 community
services across 50 sites and GP practices for 1.6 million people in an area of 3,500 square miles for £227m a year. In any one month they may have 25,000 patients being seen or served. No small feat. 

I’ve had great NHS care and compassion, supported by superb individuals via NSFT, Wellbeing, CMHT, Therapy services within Norfolk Mental Health – indeed CQC scored it “Good” for caring. However, the waiting lists for many are criminally irresponsible. This isn’t even my usual rant about transgender waiting lists, although they form a part of mental health. The Government austerity cuts and CCG and NSFT financial and provision managers are presumably to blame as every other trust must be facing similar challenges. Mental Health services remain grossly underfunded and in crisis. Parity for mental health services with physical health and its 18-week guarantees are years away. NSFT tops the table in the worst possible way, making national news today. Norwich topping the football – great; NSFT topping the worst mental health care trust for 5 years – fail!

“NSFT doctors first raised concerns over cuts in January 2013, as more than 500 mental health jobs faced the axe in what was known as a radical redesign of services. Senior psychiatrists warned at the time that patient safety would be put at risk and said the trust was being “downright dishonest’’ for failing to state that the cuts would have detrimental effects on patient care.” – EDP

I had to fight for well over a year to get seen, assessed (I was “lost” in the system three times but with zero response to internal complaints raised), and keep my care – which I am losing in 3 months – apparently, long-term mental health symptoms can be in “recovery” (mine can be episodically), and bipolar and anxiety disorder be signed-off.

“36 people had waited five years to be seen and 2,732 were waiting for their first contact with services… 2,400 adult patients across the trust had not been allocated a care coordinator in community mental health services.” – EDP

This is the problem when capitalist market budgeting is applied to health, and recovery models applied to long-term ailments. I prefer a “discovery” model that supports but doesn’t focus on discharge until you yourself know you are ready. Instead, a benefits and unemployment model of punishing mental health as if it was an aspect of an alleged “work-shy” culture leads to shaming those  in need of its services and a seemingly deliberate or incompetent policy of actually signposting ease of access to services resulting in many people never even finding the door, let alone making it through it. Whilst I am currently being “shown the door“, having had an exit strategy meeting, others are shown the door but not let in. As many friends of mine know all to well, just as with PIP applications and appeals, if you weren’t ill when you asked for help by the time you eventually get it the very wait will have made you ill, and certainly resulted in a deterioration of any conditions you have.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust CQC Report 2018
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust CQC Report 2018

“The Care Quality Commission found patients desperately needing care were waiting so long for help they harmed themselves or took overdoses during delays – or were being turned away completely…Staff were covering up the length of waiting lists by allocating patients to staff or running several lists whilst agreeing that nothing would be offered until space was available. And some patients had been waiting five years for help.” – EDP

During a suicidal day, several years ago, I rang the 24hr acute line at Hellesdon on a Friday night and got a locum of some form who said: “I can’t help you, I can’t access your notes at a weekend” and was generally unintelligible and useless in several other ways. I never rang them again.

With a history of suicide, I’ve learned to stay alive by building my own care package and it includes my partner, friends, Wellbeing, CMHT –  the “severe and enduring mental health needs” service (keeps getting renamed!), cats, honesty, whisky, and avoiding pills as an accessible suicide kit. 

I have nothing but praise for 95% of the frontline staff who’ve helped me. I would not have survived continuing mental health challenges and rebuilt some of my life had it not been for my care team who have gone above and beyond their job descriptions to support my whole wellbeing and not just my mental health. That has included helping me with referrals to physio and general health, and applying for Housing Benefit, PIP and ESA for me, when I was in no state to do so. They are my heroes. The system of cuts and carelessness elsewhere that meant I needed them has probably meant that others have had less support or are still waiting.

“We want services which are provided for those who most need care. That may mean those who don’t have as much need wait a little longer.” – Antek Lejk, Chief Exec NSFTEADT

Clearly, they are people that carry on caring despite the system and resources they are forced to work with. It is a wonder why so many keep working and don’t leave. Indeed, NSFT has 1-in-4 unfilled nursing posts. 

“A perfect storm of cuts, incompetence and stigma has seen services unravel, with people struggling to access services, being discharged too soon, and staff under intolerable pressure with unmanageable caseloads. Following a savage real-terms budget cut, the number of doctors has been reduced by 51 (around 25pc) and the number of nurses by 163 (1 in 8) compared to when the trust was formed in 2012, while referrals have rocketed. The number of patients referred but still awaiting their first contact is 2,732 (as of October 12). That’s a lot of people in distress, without support.” Emma Corlett, EDP

When the CQC interviewed me for a previous report, I said that continuity (and accessibility) of care were critical as my care team kept getting changed or staff going off long-term sick themselves (probably stress at work based).

What happened? Three months later they shuffled the deck chairs (a “radical redesign” no doubt) and changed my care-co again, and I’ve had 3 more since. NSFT is that Titanic on which the deck-chairs get regularly rearranged rather than addressing the approaching iceberg of yet more service-users drowning in a cold heartless sea where the lifeboats are knocked-off the list of necessary equipment to save money.

“The key to keeping people safe is a trusting relationship. How can that be possible with repeated, persistent disruption. Worse of all, it’s deliberate disruption as like you describe, inept managers with a lack of a clue about what else to do opt to do another reorganisation, over the heads of staff and in some cases not even bothering to tell the service user.” – Emma Corlett, Nurse and Norfolk Councillor 

Trans Awareness Week & TDOR its Day of Remembrance for those killed

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2018

Every 24 hours a trans person is murdered, 369 this year, nearly 3,000 the last 10 years – that we know about, i.e., it may only be the tip of the iceberg. It is a number that is rising annually and particularly affects those in the Americas but also in over 70 other countries around the world.

TDOR Candle lights
TDOR Candle lights

Since 1999, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) has taken place every November, now following the newer Trans Awareness Week. It is the day when we recall and respect those trans and gender-diverse people who have been victims of murder or manslaughter. It does not include the countless numbers that take their own lives through suicide. Trans women of colour are the most likely to be killed of all transgender people, especially, but far from exclusively, those involved in sex work. Also, everyone from hairdressers to artists and activists, and many who were migrants.

Just this week, 40 trans activists at a rally in Kiev, Ukraine, were attacked by far-Right radicals throwing smoke bombs and punches.

Read more about the numbers, the lives, around the world, ended through transphobia and transmisogyny, issues in the media and feminism, and TDOR commemorations on 20 November 2018.

The person picked up in the media for being trans and a victim of violent crime in England and hence the only UK trans person this year to be added to the long list of transgender people killed was Naomi Hersi. Sadly, she typifies the fairly common context for many. She was a trans woman of colour, and a victim of violence during or after a sexual encounter. Ironically, she last tweeted 3-years before her death about trans women of colour facing an epidemic of violence and murder.

Transgender Tipping Point or Crisis Point?

Sadly, around the world, trans people are often in the news for the shocking recurrence of their frequent murders. Not in the news are the statistics that trans women can be even more prone than cis women to sexual violence and abuse, as many as 1-in-2.

That flies in the face of the alternate narrative put out by those fearing Trans rights and suggesting that trans women are rapists and murderers in drag, abusing gender self-ID (which in the UK we haven’t even got yet). The statistics of male-born sexual assault perpetrators in prison who may now be transitioning actually shows that gender self-ID isn’t the problem, but abusers are. The majority never dressed as women in order to abuse.

Transgender people are in the news or online media nearly every day. Frequently, there are several trans-questioning or outright transphobic articles in The Times every 7-10 days, not to mention other papers such as the Daily Mail, (I counted 7 in a 4-day period during late October in the DM alone) and continuous TV and Radio programmes to boot.

Last year, Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewall described Britain today as “at an absolute crisis point in how it treats trans people”, in no small part down to media attention.

“Britain is no longer considered a safe part of the world for trans people to live in…It should be considered a national embarrassment that this is where we now are as a nation.” – Ruth Hunt, Stonewall

Instead of the prurient public interest being in trans ‘sex changes’, former lives, and scaremongering fears of ‘sex pest perverts’ in toilets or prison (where they should be), the media should be concerned about the levels of abuse, bullying, murder and suicide that so blight trans lives.

The escalation to a “hostile environment” due to the ‘debate’ around an updated Gender Recognition Act (GRA) between some feminists (colloquially known as TERFs by trans people, but not a term owned by the so-monikered trans or gender critical radical feminists) and transgender people – mostly but not exclusively directed at trans women, has led to a toxic atmosphere.

Last year, Ed Miliband “hit out at the inaccurate coverage in the press, accusing newspapers of propagating a “moral panic” similar to the anti-gay coverage seen in the 1980s.” – PodCast

Trans people’s lives are already under a microscope as part of their transition pathway, but to be so in the media spotlight too puts their private and social lives up for involuntary discussion and invasive dissection.

Lucy Meadows took her own life in 2013 in strong part due to “the toll the press was taking on her mental health”, says her former partner. “The media later claimed, [that] by putting out an “official” letter, the school [where she taught] had “officially” placed Lucy’s transition in the domain of public interest.”

Katy Jon Went appearing on ITV Anglia news during Transgender Awareness Week
Speaking on ITV Anglia news during Transgender Awareness Week

More positive has been the campaigns of Stonewall, Comic Relief, various public bodies, and open-minded news outlets using the opportunity of #TransgenderAwarenessWeek to balance the negativity online. ITV Anglia broadcast a piece on transgender workplace discrimination and homelessness that can affect 1-in-4 trans people. 

2017-18 Transgender Monitoring Data

Two years ago, saw 295 trans and gender-diverse persons added to the list of those killed for being trans. Last year that number was 325, up 10%. This year it went up 13% to 369. Improved news monitoring could account for it but hate and visibility are also on the rise.

“These figures only show the tip of the iceberg of homicides of trans and gender-diverse people on a worldwide scale.”

The majority of the murders occurred in Brazil (167 static but up 40% from 2016 and who knows what climate Brazil’s new leader will bring), Mexico (71 up from 56), and the United States (28 up from 25 and 23 in 2016), adding up to a total of 2,982 reported cases in 72 countries worldwide between 1st of January 2008 and 30th of September 2018.

  • 16 trans people were killed in Europe (up 300% from 2017 and 60% from 2016)
  • 28 in the USA (4x more likely than in Europe, 6x UK)
  • 71 in Mexico (up 40% on 2017)
  • 167 in Brazil (37x more likely than in Europe, 53x UK)

You are 17x more at risk in the US than in India but 8x more at risk in Pakistan than India. Hate crimes against trans people in America were up 44% in 2016, according to FBI data. Donald Trump has recently tried to define sex in such a way that would make gender transition a legal non-entity.

“Since the election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, there has been a notable increase in the vitriol and anti-transgender rhetoric — from the top levels of government down through the rest of American society.” HRC Report

  • The majority of murders were of trans women (80% in the US)
  • Over 15% were sex workers (6% were hairdressers & 3% were activists)
  • Majority of the reported murder victims in W.Europe were migrants
  • Most of the victims in the US were people of colour
  • The majority of the victims were under 30 years old

In many countries, trans and gender non-conforming people live riskier lives, not by choice, but usually as a last resort due to the oppression, rejection and lack of rights within their cultures and societies. Many struggle to find work to survive, let alone to transition, and resort to sex work and/or flee their countries as migrants. Either or both of these paths putting them into the line of fire of greater exploitation and risk.

These numbers do not include suicides, the countless thousands who take their own lives – around 40% try, twice as many consider it. Sometimes it is the result of an attack:

These numbers are people. [Some of the names…]

These numbers are too many.

These numbers barely scratch the surface of the actual violence trans people experience, as much goes unrecorded, or are cause/status unknown.

Trans flag and candles, TDOR, UEA, 20 Nov 2017
Trans flag and candles, TDOR, UEA, 20 Nov 2017

Many countries don’t mention trans status in reports of violent death or in their internal statistics – particularly in anti-LGBT regimes and regions. Again, many may be killed in their acquired gender but the death not be because of it, or their pre-transition life simply not known about. 

In addition to violent deaths, 1-in-2 trans people experience domestic abuse and/or sexual violence (DASV). Trans men and women alike often suffer in silence and fear that shelters and services won’t be there for them.

81% of trans people have suffered physical and/or verbal abuse.

Are they not women if people and society perceive them as such and treat them equally badly?

Yes, their social and biological experience when growing up is not that of natal/cis women but many in medicine now recognise a biological rather than purely psychological basis for the origins of gender dysphoria.

“Considerable scientific evidence has emerged demonstrating a durable biological element underlying gender identity.” – The Endocrine Society

How then can some in society – conservative religions, some feminists, right-wing journalists, far-right radicals think that being trans male or female is something we need to fight against?

Intersectional Feminism?

The personal is political and it’s hard to avoid the political, for murder is as personal as it gets. The irony that this was a rallying cry of late 1960s/70s Second Wave Feminism and yet is also the lived and embodied risk of being trans is not lost on me. Women regularly experience sexism and discrimination because of their sex. Black women even more so, adding racism to the crimes against their person.

The majority of feminists recognise the intersections between sex, sexuality and colour, not to mention class. Again, most modern and particularly young student feminists recognise the further intersection with gender identity. A few do not, and instead regard trans women as a threat to gendered spaces and trans men as traitors erasing butch lesbianism.

The conflation of sex with gender and/or sexuality is an issue needing improved education to better understand people’s authentic ‘born this way’ identities. 

Don’t scapegoat us as perverts and rapists. Don’t harm us and kill us. Instead, be allies, support us to be ourselves, and let’s bring these murder, abuse, and suicide rates down in future years!

What can we do?

  • end discrimination at work, in training and employment opportunities
  • provide decent healthcare
  • create healthy environments at school to explore identity and expression
  • recognise that Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence happen to trans women and men too, at the hands of cisgendered men and women
  • ensure prejudice is rooted out of criminal justice and police systems
  • provide legal protections against online and offline hate
  • end the language of erasure and exclusion between TERFs, as well as other vociferous transphobes, and Trans
  • develop positive dialogues rather than debate our right to exist
  • foster greater unity with allies of the wider LGBT+ and feminist communities

TDOR Commemorations

Transgender poet, Roz Kaveney, wrote the brutally real, “Shot, Stabbed, Choked, Strangled, Broken” as a ritual for TDOR. It begins:

“It could have been me…”

And finishes:

“When people die
Their smiles are taken from us
Who might have seen them
And smiled back.
Their songs are taken from us
Who might have heard
And listened and been glad.
Their stories are remembered
By us, on this day
And always.”

TDOR remembrance meetups are held around the UK including London, Liverpool, Brighton, and Norwich, as well as worldwide including Paris and New York and dozens of other locations.

Norwich City Hall, Christmas lights during trans awareness week, pink and blue
Norwich City Hall, lit up during trans awareness week, pink and blue

Norfolk, my adopted home county is holding at least three TDOR events, one at the UEA – last year’s was attended by over 80 people (Concrete Online report), another at St John’s Timberhill, and a further

“Our Service for Transgender Day of Remembrance is a way of showing our commitment as people of faith; of declaring that the lives and the rights of transgender people matter to us all and ultimately to our community and our society if prejudice and intolerance are to be banished in the name of equality, diversity, justice and peace.” – Fr Christopher Wood, Rector of St John’s Timberhill Church, Norwich

Ten years of Norwich Pride and decades of trans support groups stretching back to Barbara Ross, OBE, Oasis and now more than half a dozen active groups supporting trans youth, non-binary, trans men, trans women, and families of trans, mean that Norwich provides a generally safe and supportive environment for trans people and gender dysphoric or questioning youth.

“These statistics are horrific and we all need to do more to support transgender people and ensure they can be safe and proud to be themselves.” – Michelle Savage, Norwich Pride

TDOR discussion on BBC Radio Norfolk with Nick Conrad and Katy Jon Went (1hr55m10s in)

Trans Day of Remembrance, TDOR, at UEA
Trans Day of Remembrance, TDOR, at UEA

Norwich Against Fascism Counter Demo v Unity UK Pro-Brexit

Union Jack Leave Protester
Union Jack Leave Protester

Six years to the day after the 1500 v 200 EDL counter demo and the fine welcoming city of Norwich has another small demo, Norwich Against Fascists! Counter demonstration!  “There are many many more of us than you” was being chanted by 750 anti-racists and Remainers (mostly) and 50 Unity UK pro-Leave Brexiteers shouting back the same and “More of us voted Leave than you” and “you lost”!

The atmosphere was mostly good-natured, carnival-like with drums, whistles, chanting, occasional discussion and the odd rant. One masked protester was led away, possibly anarchist/anti-Fa, certainly a scarf covering their face but there was no violence.

Police engage with Unity UK Pro-Brexit demonstrators
Police engage with Unity UK Pro-Brexit demonstrators

The police, some 30-40 or so, created a thin blue, well hi-vis yellow line, to keep the sides apart, sadly also blocking the dialogue, the lack of which has left us in Brexit impasse land. Initially, kept to opposing pavements, and allowing the traffic to pass, the police eventually surrendered to the sheer size of the counter-protest and even re-drew the line in the centre of St Peter’s Street.

After an hour, they also mostly gave-in to allowing people to cross the street and engage with each other. At times, it was clear some of the police were struggling to keep their serious and professional faces on given the number of humorous moments.

Cllr Jess Barnard and Abby Hoffmann debating the issues with Joe from the Unity UK demo
Cllr Jess Barnard and Abby Hoffmann debating the issues with Joe from the Unity UK demo

Even the police giggled when Lab Cllr Jess Barnard started playing Benny Hill over the megaphone! Rather ironically, similar chants were echoed on each side of the street:

“Whose streets, our streets”, “No to racism, No to Nazis, no to fascism” “You’re the racists”, “No, you’re the racists!”

I voted Leave
I voted Leave

Towards the end, it was almost comical as the Remainers remained and the Leavers left, leaving perhaps a dozen Brexiteers facing still hundreds of anti-racists. The larger crowd refusing to depart until their counter-demo had fully seen off the other side. Police remained on site waiting for one side to completely depart but were frustrated when the larger crowd decided to cross the street and swamp the “drain the swamp” protesters. A few of the latter repaid the gesture and also switched sides leading to hilarity and confusion.

At the close, some 2-3 hours later, several protesters shook hands after dialogue, others persisted in their polarised positions.

Refugees Welcome Let Them In
Refugees Welcome Let Them In

The Unity UK Leave contingent tried to convince me that their side of the street was more diverse than the Remainers/anti-racists, but that was hard to accept seeing as how they were 99.9% white, and 75% older people, some dressed in 1950s fashion, a time they perhaps wanted to send Britain back to.

No Hate in Norwich
No Hate in Norwich

I had conversations with perhaps half-a-dozen of the pro-Brexiteers including a passionate but polite chap called Joe, an older woman whom we both agreed were opposed to Theresa May, and several others willing to dialogue. Nothing will change without conversation, communication and, probably, compromise about our beliefs.

Fascism 101
* Alleged roots in Ancient Sparta, Plato, and Rome
* Totalitarian belief in the State, order and its Ruler
* Ultranationalism, monolithic unity, racial purity (esp. anti-Semitism, anti-immigration) and ableist idealism
* Ironically, Italian and German fascism both grew out of national socialism but opposed international socialism and communism yet share common antipathy towards liberalism, capitalism, and the individual instead favouring the Party and the State
* Militant strength, masculinity, patriotic rebirth and revolution
* Authoritarian pseudo-democracy, cultic hero worship, national power (Maurice Barrès)

Both sides were a bit confused by the use of the word fascist, both calling each other it. The word really defines those who are totalitarian, anti-democratic and ultranationalist. Along with Nazis – despite the odd mocking salute, it’s a word that didn’t really describe anyone there. One of the Leavers complained about being called a “Nazi” saying “I have an Indian wife”.

Leave voters harking back to 1950s royal jamborees
Leave voters harking back to 1950s royal jamborees

Poignant, as it was, across from the city’s War Memorial, the day before armistice day, when we remember standing up to aggression, conquest, fascism, hate, imperialistic ultranationalism, and ultimately, cultural xenophobia in two world wars.

We need to stop fighting and start uniting, build better and common futures, that was why the EU was born, for peace and prosperity, and to end wars.

Total Ensemble Theatre, “The Boy in the Lighthouse”

Norwich’s Hostry Festival 2018 play is Rebecca Chapman‘s The Boy in the Lighthouse, a Total Ensemble Theatre Company production that is inclusive in every sense of the word. From the actors it casts to all the various forms of visual and audio art forms it embraces, and to the warning to be careful that the cast don’t step on your toes if you’re in the front row!

“Our focus this year is on inclusion and diversity, and I’m more than proud to announce Total Ensemble Theatre Company’s World Premiere of Boy In The Lighthouse as our festival Central Production. With a cast of over 25 from all over Norfolk.” Stash Kirkbride, Hostry Festival founder

Some might consider an inclusive production that is mainly movement and music from a cast of all abilities and levels of experience a strange or even risky choice after a history of pedigreed plays and poems at the 8-year-long Hostry Festival. These have included the likes of Jean Cocteau’s “The Eagle Has Two Heads“, Melvyn Bragg’s “King Lear in New York“, TS Eliot’s “Four Quartets“, and “The Night Of The Iguana” by Tennessee Williams.

If the Hostry Festival is willing to experiment and take risks, then Total Ensemble embodies that in extremis.

Total Ensemble present 'The Boy in the Lighthouse' at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.
Total Ensemble present ‘The Boy in the Lighthouse’ at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.

On opening night there was a packed audience, some even standing, as the play opened to the sound of gunfire or was it fireworks?  There was intense movement and music, and several masked cast seemingly playing pass the parcel with a wrapped bundle. Already it’s a mystery wrapped in a bundle of layers just as the parcel is passed around and a layer removed becoming a garment put on by one of the actors.

Total Ensemble present 'The Boy in the Lighthouse' at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.
Total Ensemble present ‘The Boy in the Lighthouse’ at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.

If, in the opening scenes, cast and audience both seem lost, with the plot at times needing a light shone upon it, have patience, for that light is eventually shone and the parallel tales of the play knot together like twin searchlights eventually crossing over and finding their quest.

“Living in a remote lighthouse, isolated and forgotten, a young man creates a world for himself with the help of his imagination and the magic that resides in the beam of light that scans the ocean at night. There is a mystery… the solution to which lies within a secret buried deep in the past. Join him as he embarks upon an adventure into fantastic worlds, travelling to find peace in a place where he truly belongs.”

The play is mysterious, a journey, never on the rocks but sometimes in the dark. In fact, it is performed in the round so we all see it from different sides, as this round is a square!

If the performance is a little unclear in the early scenes, then so are the characters’ ideas of where they are heading. This may be in part down to the play’s piecemeal coming together over several years, multiple influences, and a creative democracy where workshops and improv have created aspects of the whole that have been weaved into its final form. Chapman, like a master carpet weaver, has, though, managed the feat of tying it all together and maintaining the story and pace in the packed 75-minute drama that effortlessly sails by.

Total Ensemble present 'The Boy in the Lighthouse' at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.
Hugh Darrah, Total Ensemble present ‘The Boy in the Lighthouse’ at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.

The seriousness with which the piece is performed is portrayed on the faces of every actor, some smiling, some grimacing, everyone giving one-hundred-per-cent. As Hugh Darrah, who plays the Boy, says “we are super focused” and he was, holding a calm consistent centre to the play whilst all around him is sometimes blowing about like a storm.

The physical set pieces of bodies entwined, contorted, at rest yet like sharp rocks surrounding the base of a lighthouse, appear uncomfortable as a dry stone wall but seemingly at ease, much as their cast do.

Timing is everything and the choreographed coordination of movement with the music is transfixing, at times it is perfect with hands in the air moving synchronously with the sounds and narration.

The soundscape is dramatic and really conjures up the slightly creepy end-of-pier atmosphere as well as the lighthouse seascape. It’s even reminiscent of Twilight Zone or Twin Peaks – a favourite of creator and director, Rebecca Chapman. Somehow Chapman, who created the complex soundtrack and voice over, wrote the play, directed, also plays three roles and clearly takes great care of her cast.

Total Ensemble present 'The Boy in the Lighthouse' at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.
Lexi Watson-Samuels, Total Ensemble present ‘The Boy in the Lighthouse’ at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.

Young actor Lexi Watson-Samuels carried off the role of a crow convincingly with a bird’s inquisitive and alert jerky head movements, akin to an indigenous shaman channelling a bird. She embodied the role very well and even when not the focus of a scene remained fully present and in role.

Real and surreal, magical and mechanical, collide in a tale that is both exterior and inner journey. The eponymous Boy ‘in the Lighthouse’ is lost and seeking something just like another character in the play, the end-of-pier broken fortune teller, who cannot remember the past or predict the future.

We are bombarded like waves upon a ship in a storm with messages of brokenness, loss, loneliness, abandonment, and a search for meaning and release. Looking for answers and needing the light.

As the play notes say, the Boy in the Lighthouse is a “dark story bathed with light” that leaves you asking questions and recognising human inconsistencies much as man-made light or magical fortune tellers.

Total Ensemble present 'The Boy in the Lighthouse' at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.
Peter Barrow, Total Ensemble present ‘The Boy in the Lighthouse’ at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.

Peter Barrow, acting for the first time with Total Ensemble, though he has been in many a Hostry festival play in past years, is transformed from curmudgeonly sea dog to sea God by costumery that reminds me of a Jon Pertwee Doctor Who and the Sea devils episode from 1972.

The commitment of the cast to telling this tale is evident in their energy, composure, connection and regard for each other’s space and place on stage. This may be about a boy, a man, a god, set in a lighthouse, or fortune teller box, but in the end, nobody steals the limelight they all share it. The cast is listed in alphabetical order not in order of importance and each get equal say and space on the programme to describe their experience of working with Total. 

“The greatest shock joining Total this year was the complete lack of hierarchy to the point that I could not discern between alumni and newcomers. Unlike any other experience of group work the atmosphere of acceptance inspires people from all walks of life to come together in confidence.” – Luke Arnup, ‘Teenage Brother/Son of Sea God’

Total Ensemble present 'The Boy in the Lighthouse' at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.
Tawa Groombridge, Total Ensemble present ‘The Boy in the Lighthouse’ at the 2018 Hostry Festival. Photo credit Simon Finlay Photography.

The finished play is an ensemble piece in every sense of the word, inclusive of all its cast, and its audience on four sides. Truly an expertly produced play that really works in the round. You should go see even if only just to read their 15-or-so words of fame that each has been allotted on the back of the programme, I defy you not to shed a tear at how Total Ensemble has made some of them feel included and more confident in themselves.

The Hostry Festival main play runs from the 22nd – 28th October – tickets here or via 01603 598676 (Theatre Royal box office). Wednesday and Saturday, like Monday, are sold out.

True Stories Live – “Miles to go” at Norwich Arts Centre

I loved doing True Stories Live“Miles to go” on Sunday night at Norwich Arts Centre. What a range of stories from humour to danger, movie, song and dance, pain and health, through nearly punching a Buddhist and being either miles high or grounded.

TSL describes itself as “a lively, moving and unpredictable event where people tell true stories about their lives in front of a warm, supportive audience.”

It’s definitely unpredictable and the audience seems handpicked for its compassion and sense of humour, supporting nervous or vulnerable storytellers as well as rolling in the aisles at the funnier tales. My partner described it as “inspiring, uplifting, and entertaining.”

This was my second time doing it after telling a tale at “Blood is Thicker than Water” in May but at which I cluelessly didn’t follow my own time cues being given me by Lucy Farrant and I proceeded to throw myself off stage after only half my allotted time! On this occasion, I cheekily claimed I had extra time as credit from the previous fail!

I was penultimate of eight on the running order which meant I’d had a double whisky by then for Dutch courage and Scotch calm.

Molly Naylor MC’d wonderfully with the favourite word of the night clearly being “weird” which featured regularly.

The running order consisted of:
 
  • Nicky Turner’s Salzburg movie road trip
  • Rich Woodall’s I nearly punched a Buddhist monk
  • Ruth Katra’s hair-raising mountain drive
  • Quentin Mair’s 1980s Greek Odyssey at Athens airport
  • Kelly Page’s pilgrimage pain in Spain
  • Vidura SG’s dancing to mental wellbeing
  • Katy Jon Went’s Mile High encounters
  • Angus Dunican’s substitute son shaggy dog story
Molly always wraps up with random assorted snippets from each story and from mine she drew out “I identify as a dragon”, “I lied to get into America”, and “Always share your tacos”. For these to make sense you’d best have some idea of what I actually said. This to the best of my memory and prior preparation is roughly the tale I told:

Miles To Go

“Miles to go” could have been the title of my gender journey, after all “are we nearly there yet?” had been my psychological and gender travel for many years. I think, however, I’ve finally arrived on that particular course, although the destination is not on any map! “Here be boy” and “Here be girl”, I’m more with “Here be dragons!” I identify as a dragon, unicorns were so last year!

Katy Jon Went at True Stories Live, Miles To Go, Norwich Arts Centre
Katy Jon Went at True Stories Live, Miles To Go, Norwich Arts Centre

I spent my thirties travelling the Middle East and Africa, got interrogated in Israel, bust through a border with a Bedouin in the Sinai, stroked a supposedly sleeping crocodile in Kenya, played pool and drank Guinness with Maasai warriors, flown on a small airline called Orca with bucket seats and without significant seatbelts across the desert (who names an airline after a killer whale?), and had to pay to get off a camel in Cairo (there was no “with” in that last statement). I foolishly hadn’t asked the price before getting on!

My longest journey for nearly ten years though has been getting back on a plane to cross the Atlantic just last month after a decade or so of non-travel exploring my inner map instead.

Two weeks in the US was full of adventures and encounters, often triggered by my Rorschach psychopath ink blot test Dr Martens. Wow look at your boots, people kept saying, with one guy it sounded like “look at your boobs”, I had to check which he meant.

I’ll focus on just one of the journeys of thousands of miles that I traversed to and within America in August.

Katy Jon Went at True Stories Live, Miles To Go, Norwich Arts Centre
Katy Jon Went at True Stories Live, Miles To Go, Norwich Arts Centre

The last time I was in the US, 9 years ago, I was flying under a male passport and my on-record fingerprints would now link to a female identity, even then I got questioned for visiting too often in a year spent dating a woman in California. So filling out a US visa was a problematic first step. The IQ-challenging questions “are you a terrorist, Nazi or paedophile” are easy enough to avoid but now ask for your mental health status and social media handles – neither of which I revealed since I have half a dozen mental health conditions which also make getting travel insurance nigh on impossible. Being a bipolar bonkers Brit whose last blog entry was about speaking at a Donald Trump protest was not going to go down well either! So basically, I lied to get into America.

I was in the US delivering training for the Human Library in Chicago and had been staying with a Turkish Muslim architect in her 12th-floor condo. Whilst there, I also went up to the 103rd floor Sears Tower, once the tallest building in the world and stood on its glass balcony overlooking the smaller skyscrapers and streets below. If that doesn’t make you feel either like a speck in the universe or on top of the world, I don’t know what would.

The next day I had a 2000 mile flight to San Francisco and a long car journey to Sacramento, California’s capital. First, it was delayed for several hours due to lightning at O’Hare then fog and wildfire smoke at San Fran. So, it was you can’t take off and you can’t land by turns stranding me for 3 hours at check-in on a tank of Starbucks coffee and worried about going to the toilet and missing the much-delayed actual boarding call. I was now going to be very late to deliver a training talk, my anxiety was rising, so I needed a stress free flight. I resolved that I could do nothing about the weather but I could discuss B-plans and C-plans with the Human Library head, also visiting California, and still hold out hope that the A-plan for arriving might still go vaguely according to plan.

Katy Jon Went at True Stories Live, Miles To Go, Norwich Arts Centre
Katy Jon Went at True Stories Live, Miles To Go, Norwich Arts Centre

Finally, we checked in and with my arthritic leg and dodgy back, I thought I’d change my seat to an aisle where I could get up and wander around more easily – plus empty my coffee-filled bladder. There were 4 vacant seats and with nothing to choose between them I randomly selected the one that matched my bra size, 37D – yes I know that isn’t a real strap size, but bodies don’t always come in even numbers! For some reason this decision-making process made me chuckle internally but it was to prove to be fortuitous!

I ended up with an empty seat next to me, perfect to stretch out on, and in the window seat sat a beautiful young woman in a spaghetti strap vest top and ripped jeans.

When American Airlines came around with food options to buy, as this was super economy, I chose the pair of breakfast tacos. The stewardess asked my seat row companion what she wanted and she answered “the same please”. “Sorry madam, but this lady just ordered the last one”. She looked disappointed, so I said, “Do you want to share?” “Ooh, are you sure, can we? I should get something else between us, how do cheese and crackers sound?” “Perfect, I said, I’m Katy by the way”. “I’m Selda”, she replied.

With the extra seat between us, Selda turned towards me and we began our onboard picnic of strangers, sharing other food, coffee and my water too.

She asked what I was doing in the US, so I described the Human Library and its mission to dismantle prejudice and overcome stigma through dialogue with living books, particularly those that don’t conform to a stereotype or label and make you think outside the narrow boxes of gross categorisation. I said I was here as a trainer and a human book.

She said, “Can we do it now?”

I said, “What, a Human Library reading?”

“Yes. Can I go first?”

“Perhaps I should go first so you can see how it’s done then you can have a mid-flight training, and I can read you after…”

“Cool, so what’s your title?”

“Well I’ve gone by several: ex-missionary, transgender, suicide survivor, anxiety, bipolar, asexual or non-binary.”

“Can you do transgender, please”

“Sure, you’ll get some of the others thrown in for free too, as bipolar always makes an appearance and my transgender journey is none too typical”.

Katy Jon Went at True Stories Live, Miles To Go, Norwich Arts Centre
Katy Jon Went at True Stories Live, Miles To Go, Norwich Arts Centre

The conversation was a true dialogue as I discovered she was a hospital nurse in Chicago and so understood much of the medical and paediatric side to my story. The passengers a row in front and behind must have been glad they had headphones on listening to the in-flight movies.

We also navigated Donald Trump, and not in the same breath – love, relationships, trust and jealousy, as I shared I’d just visited my ex-fiancé of 9 years ago in Madison, with my current partner’s knowledge and blessing. But that’s a whole other story (and my partner is in the front row tonight)!

When we switched the roles of book and reader, after explaining more about how and why the Human Library works, I found out she was of Turkish Muslim heritage but more spiritual than religiously observant. She was also on her way to Nevada’s Burning Man. Not a typical Muslim destination, perhaps. It’s a dusty temporary utopian, artistic and sometimes hedonistic festival commune in the desert.

I remarked that the person I stayed with in Chicago was also coincidentally a Turkish Muslim on her way to Burning Man. I explained I’d been staying in a condo plaza on N Sheridan Road, She said “No way, which one?”, I gave the number and she said she lived in the next door sister building. I described my Chicago host and she said, “Yes I know of her and have seen her around”. What’s the chance of that I said, about one-in-three-million, the population of Chicago?

And so we flew across America together by more than a lucky roll of the divine dice but a bra cup seat change and shared breakfast offer and broke down stereotypes of each other, of transgender and Muslim, British and Turkish, and more, in our amazing conversation. We ended up navigating the airport egress together, hugging, and staying in contact since. We’ve become new friends now and offered each other to stay in our respective cities and homes.

The moral – talk to strangers, always share your tacos, and seize the day, because there’s no such thing as a coincidence even thousands of miles away, we are all connected.

Footnote

When sharing this story at the True Stories Live event in Norwich, the first speaker of the night came up to me afterwards and said one of her best friends lived on the same street in Chicago as the two in my story! It really is a small connected world.

 
 

First ever King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Pride 2018

After ten years of Norwich Pride, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk saw their first LGBT+ Pride with 1200+ people parading (double the expected numbers) through the shopping streets and weaving their way to the Walks for stalls, music and talks. There was a great community atmosphere, a same-sex marriage proposal (she said yes!), a solid presence by Norwich-based venues, organisations including the Catherine Wheel, Mature Gay Community, Proud Canaries and more, and people from other Prides.

Ely Pride had taken place the previous week (historically, the cathedral flew the Rainbow flag), Colchester the same day. East Anglian Prides are growing and our communities are changing. We need more rural and regional Prides like this, away from the mega city Prides in order to reach counties and communities that may not experience the level of LGBT+ acceptance that other places may currently enjoy.

To paraphrase Audre Lorde, “We are not free until every LGBT is free” to live authentically, without stigma or prejudice, love whom we love, and be who we are without impediment or challenge.

Rainbow drag queen Titti Trash & Katy Jon Went photo opp with Christian protester at King's Lynn & West Norfolk Pride
Rainbow drag queen Titti Trash & Katy Jon Went photobomb with Christian protester at King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Pride

Allies outnumbered protesters by hundreds and thousands to one. Christians marching with Pride, in clerical vestments or other identifiable ways also exceeded by at least 10:1 the solitary protester with a cross – who at least consented to a photobomb by a drag queen and head-to-toe rainbow me chanting “love is love” and giving him a hug.

The tide is turning, history keeps being made, and society is changing. 

Julie Bremner speaking at King's Lynn & West Norfolk Pride
Julie Bremner speaking at King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Pride

There were talks from Julie Bremner of Norwich Pride about why we still need Pride, another person spoke eloquently of our history of protest and activism to gain equal rights, and then after one of the organisers spoke, I was asked to say a few words – and “a few” is not in my vocabulary! It will always be a tad preachy and political, occasionally irreverent, but hopefully not irrelevant. 

Speech given at #KLWNPride

“Ten years of Norwich Pride from the original 500 expected to 2500 plus that turned up and quickly three to four times that is a sign of what can be achieved; mighty oaks from small acorns grow, as the saying goes – no wood jokes please 😉

Norwich Pride this year made me realise how much harder it would have been coming out for a decade without a local Pride to transform my city, my community, the bars, streets and shops to LGB and Trans positive places. To move from suspicion, persecution and opposition to tolerance, acceptance and welcome.

The growth of Norfolk LGBT visibility and services over the years has been primarily Norwich based. Our 10 trans and non-binary support groups, dozen LGB+ groups, half-dozen venues, are mostly Norwich-based, though they dwarf what is available in neighbouring counties let alone other parts of Norfolk. We had a North Norfolk Pride 9 years ago, Ipswich one year, Colchester for the first time last year and again today, Ely for the first time last week. Who would have thought ten years ago that Ely Cathedral would be flying the Rainbow flag.

Supporting rural and regional Prides and solidarity with distant persecuted ones such as Pride Uganda has always been a part of Norwich Pride’s hope and vision.

Supporting other places, other Prides, supporting each other is critical.

Unity does not mean we have to agree, but how we disagree and engage is seen by all, especially the cishet public and allies that have been a part of creating a city and a county that increasingly accepts and welcomes LGBT+ customers, residents, events etc

Katy Jon Went speaking at King's Lynn & West Norfolk Pride
Katy Jon Went speaking at King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Pride

Division such as TERF v Trans, the online backlash against genderfluid queer lesbian Ruby Rose for not being lesbian enough to play Batwoman. The number of times I’ve been called the wrong kind of trans, not LGB enough, or witnessed pain or surgical point scoring in disabled, intersex and other communities. We shouldn’t be playing oppression bingo or privileging one discrimination over another.

Feminist Transphobes, Black Homophobes, Gay Racists, Disabled sexists, Transgender misogynists all exist. Love is love has no room for hate.

Unity is our strength against the tyranny of the majority but healthy diversity, united in our difference not monochrome uniformity is what makes us even stronger.

I was torn between wearing my trans colours outfit, Dr Martens, and flag, as I did at Norwich or the rainbow one today. I think the Rainbow symbol is more important than ever.

I mean it’s been great to see a dozen identity flags at Norwich Pride and here today but the Rainbow flag will always remind me of our history and unity.

The rainbow is our symbol because of its diversity. Red and blue, orange and purple, green and yellow, the whole gay, queer and minority sexuality and gender identity spectrum together. The rainbow is not just 6 stripes nor its original 8 colours, it’s all of us together. A common humanity, mutual respect, and human rights for all.

So, today, is a day to celebrate our diversity, but not accentuate our disagreements, to join together to get better respect, rights and resources, to fight together but not each other. Tomorrow we can discuss those things, today we Pride!

I’ll end with a quote from former United Nations leader and Nobel Prize winner Kofi Annan who died this morning.”

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there”

Rainbow umbrellas in The Walks at King's Lynn & West Norfolk Pride. Photo © Katy Jon Went
Rainbow umbrellas in The Walks at King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Pride. Photo © Katy Jon Went

More images from King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Pride

Hundreds in Norwich protest Donald Trump

I for one am glad Donald Trump is here. More so, Melania, who may be more sensitive to the voiced and visible opposition, and not having Trump’s ego as an echo chamber filter. The protests, some 70+ around the country with some 400-500 showing up in Norwich, EDP and an expected 70,000+ people in London that turned out to be closer to 250,000, including many from Norfolk, cannot go unnoticed by him or his 1000 person entourage. US news channels are already running footage of the baby Donald blimp. These protests will reach America.

His press conferences in the last few days included calling the UK a hotspot – yes, we are! That Brexit is failing because Theresa May is not doing it the way he “told” her to, and is not what the people worried about immigration voted for, that Boris Johnson would make a good Prime Minister. In fact, the two are so similar in terms of their buffoonish foreign diplomacy, I can see why he thinks that.

Adrian Holmes, Green Party, addressing Norwich Protests Donald Trump
Adrian Holmes, Green Party, addressing Norwich Protests Donald Trump

Trump’s improving national 41-47% and among Republicans 90% approval ratings suggest he may even get a second term! Right now, he is comparable to Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Obama in his ratings and that’s with what ought to be a ratings-dive-inducing separation of children from their parents at immigration assessment and removal centres, and being hapless in their attempts to reunite those families.

Three generations of protest inc Dr Ian Gibson, former Labour MP, Julie Bremner, & Joe aged 6, Norwich Protests Donald Trump
Three generations of protest inc Dr Ian Gibson, former Labour MP, Julie Bremner, & Joe aged 6, Norwich Protests Donald Trump #nationalisethegolfcourses! 

Shockingly, many people agreed with him. It’s not just Trump we’re dealing with, he’s tuned in to a generally right-wing working class feeling among many that they are losing their white culture, that their jobs and housing are under threat from immigration. I mean 53% of US women voted for a misogynist President.

That Donald Trump chose to do an interview with Britain’s leading political media, sorry, I mean the Sun, shows the level he is at and aiming at – and sadly it works, that’s why he got elected. Instead of appealing to people’s higher instincts, he’s appealed to the lowest base instincts of fear and self-serving protectionism. That was how Hitler got elected – democratically. Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times calls it a “trial run for fascism”. It’s happening in Italy with its Roma census and in Hungary criminalising aid to migrants, testing the market to see how much xenophobia they can get away with.

Organiser Julie Bremner alongside Adrian Holmes, Green Party, addressing Norwich Protests Donald Trump
Organiser Julie Bremner alongside Adrian Holmes, Green Party, addressing Norwich Protests Donald Trump

Now I’m not really comparing Donald Trump to Hitler, however, my issues with Trump are that he is part of the past. He is a throwback, part of the resistance to progressive social and global change. He has halted and, in some instances, rolled back LGBT rights in the US, he is anti-environmental protections, he has stereotyped, ostracised and scapegoated everyone from Mexicans to Muslims. He has joked about pussy-grabbing, and dating his own daughter. He wants to make abortion illegal and to punish the women having them. If this man is the so-called Western “Leader of the Free World” then it’s a different century he’s living in, rebooting a cold war and the language of nuclear war, including the sexist values of the 1940s and 50s.

'Big Baby' American John Behm protests Donald Trump in Norwich
‘Big Baby’ American John Behm protests Donald Trump in Norwich

He has taken America back decades in terms of internal and external foreign relations, with Muslims in general, and people who are or were immigrants. Whilst Trump, Putin and Kim Jong Un may appear to be friends now, his Twitter foreign policy pronouncements that involve bragging about the size of his… erm, nuclear button, are lunacy not diplomacy. This is not the Obama and West Wing White House we grew to love but One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

A friend pointed out that in psychology terms a cognitive bias called the Dunning–Kruger effect, where people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is, seems to be affecting Trump’s beliefs in his own genius, something he reiterated this week: “I am a very stable genius”… “I am more popular than Abraham Lincoln” (there wasn’t polling in his day!), “I feel unwelcome in London” but “the people of the UK love me“… His favourite words this week are “Very”, “Amazing”, “Strong”, and especially “Great”.

Steve Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology, at the University of St Andrews says:

“To be contemptuous of Trump denies his power and diminishes him. Contempt and derision are excellent mobilisers of collective action. So… use satire and wit… Create a carnival of resistance. Reaffirm core values of humanity over inhumanity, inclusion over exclusion, hope over hate”

'Dump Trump' & 'Toddler Tantrums Start Wars', Norwich Protests Donald Trump
‘Dump Trump’ & ‘Toddler Tantrums Start Wars’, Norwich Protests Donald Trump

It’s time to dump the Trump before Western diplomacy and values retreat any further into the dark ages where hate and lies are legitimised, Islamophobia is rife, racism and xenophobic nationalism become ingrained once again.

“the toxic ideologies of ‘Trumpism’ are flourishing around the world” – Caroline Lucas

He has bragged that he has property everywhere in UK, that people love him and think him great. That an “honest” UK poll would show that Brits love him. The pro-Trump demo, not surprisingly being co-promoted with “Free Tommy Robinson”, had 700 down to go, compared to the 70,000 for the anti-Trump one, at which three times that showed up, whereas pro-Trump saw just a few dozen!

The level of Donald’s denial is despotic and delusional. For him MAGA is more like Make Trump Great Again – the alternative reality TV show. Better to see him as a participant on The Apprentice – special President’s edition, and collectively say “You’re FIRED!

Signs protesting Donald Trump in Norwich
Signs protesting Donald Trump in Norwich

Maya Angelou & Martin Luther King anniversaries. What can they teach us?

Today marks a significant confluence of anniversaries. It is 90 years since Maya Angelou was born and it is also 50 years since Martin Luther King was assassinated. Two dates, two greats. Both worked for human rights, dignity and respect. Indeed, they worked together in the 1960s when Angelou worked as a coordinator for MLK’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou - You may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I'll rise. Maya Angelou became a poet and writer after a childhood rape, teenage pregnancy, and sexuality doubts, indeed her range of occupations is rather enigmatic and curious: “Angelou drives cable cars, cooks, pimps, does exotic dancing, turns tricks, and sleeps in abandoned cars, all the while poring over serious literature.” – New Republic

She was a touring cast member of the opera Porgy and Bess and through hooking up with a South African freedom fighter moved to African becoming an editor-journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the early 1960s, the years of decolonisation. 

She had a life of adventure and yet seemingly overcame adversity at every turn by luck, love, and self-belief. Nonetheless, she seems to have spent a lot of time in her life and her writing still searching and exploring herself.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Her words, worn of experience and yet polished to be poetry, if not a little preachy, remain timeless, and she is one of the most oft-quoted people on motivational memes.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you”.

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1969
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, 1969

She lived with many loves, had many lives, and published no less than seven autobiographies. The most famous, remains, her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in 1969.

“The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom”

In 1972, she penned the first screenplay written by a black woman.

Receiving dozens of honorary degrees in her lifetime and a full-time professorship, despite no college degree, she was someone who succeeded irrespective of background and didn’t see “can’t” as a word in her extensive vocabulary.

“We must confess that we are the possible.”

From her time in the 1960s with MLK and Malcolm X to 2008 when she witnessed the inauguration of the first Black President in Barack Obama, though she backed Clinton, equality made limping progress. Angelou uttered then, that:

“We are growing up beyond the idiocies of racism and sexism.”

Growing up, but not yet full-grown or mature. We have a way to go.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King was ever the optimist, preaching love over hate, peace over war, forgiveness over resentment.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

It was a belief that may have cost him his life, and not a little opposition from other members of the civil rights movement. After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, King said to his wife, Coretta:

“This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society.”

Five years later, he did indeed suffer the same fate. Fifty years ago today. 

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals…Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

United in their attitude to hate

Martin Luther King and Maya Angelou, alike, defied their haters. Their responses of love, resilience, and determination, remain inspiring after their deaths. 

“You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.” – Maya Angelou

Maya spoke about being a blessing, of being a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. MLK’s words I take as inspiration every time I speak about our response to hate, violence or bigotry:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King

There’s still much to fight for

We don’t live in a post-civil rights era, we are still fighting for equality, still needing to celebrate diversity and be welcoming and not merely tolerant of difference.

We still need twenty-first-century visionary leaders, pacifist in intent, passionate in expression, powerful in action, and political in achievement.

To the Martin Luther Kings and Maya Angelous being born today we celebrate you. To those being cut down in their prime (two teens yesterday in London), we commemorate you.

Whether you live to 39 (MLK) or 86 (Maya), make a difference, and be memorable by removing the word “can’t” from your vocabulary and choosing not to be limited by your education, sex, colour, age, or any other social categorisation. You are the difference, you are the change.