From The Twin Towers to Twin Evil Extremisms

Extremism struck again this week as Muslims at prayer were targeted in Christchurch, New Zealand. The perpetrator, nay the fundamentalist terrorist – let’s give him his proper name, cited numerous influences from Anders Brevik to Brexit in his manifesto of hate. His anti-invader/immigrant mythology also appears in ‘softer’ form in everything from ‘Make America Great Again’ to anti-migrant and refugee sentiment, the bolstering of borders and building of walls. How are we to instead build bridges between those that disagree and resort to extremism to put down their perceived enemies of the state – whether one that is built upon religion or race?
 

Invasion – ‘The Great Replacement’

The ideological language of the Christchurch killer conjures up the false idea of a Muslim invasion targeting the white Christian majority. Immigration is seen as “invasion”, as a “swarm“, “plague”, “flood“, “army”, the language of infestation and threat, when the majority are refugees and migrant peoples armed with nothing more than a determination to survive.

“…representation of immigrants as ‘folk devils’ – a term used by Cohen (2002) to define those who are portrayed as “outsiders and deviants” by the media.” Zvi Oduba, ‘Media discourse on migrants’

Newspapers in the US ran with similar language and #StopTheInvasion with regard to South and Central American migrants. Nigel Farage and David Cameron described Calais migrants as a “swarm”. Conservatives, UKIP and Leave have played up the fear of invasion by using pictures of queues of migrants and refugees for electoral gain. We need to express solidarity with migrant peoples and Muslims, not create a hostile environment for them. We need to “change the narrative“.

The Twin Towers

Who can forget the Twin Towers? The 9/11 World Trade Center attacks in 2001. Everyone remembers where they were on that day. I was watching television as the channel interrupted to show near-live footage of the terrorist atrocity. The prominent and powerful symbols of freedom, capitalism, the US (the ‘Great Satan‘),  and the West itself, disintegrated in mere minutes as if they were the parabled house built upon sand and not rock.
 
Since then, and perhaps before, we have seen twin evils arise. Each blaming the other for their existence. Committing revenge attacks in response to real and imagined threats to their Caliphate or Caucasian identity. Claiming religious or racial purity as justification. Collecting new followers by radicalising susceptible minds wanting a cause. Creating separatist and supremacist ideologies and utopian or dystopian society worldviews, depending upon your point of view.
 
“The threat our societies face is so great, however, because it is a twin danger: a deadly combination of far-Right fascism and Islamist extremism….Our twin enemies are not madmen. They are driven by a purpose bigger than themselves and ideas that we must not underestimate.” – Ed Husain, Daily Telegraph, author of The House of Islam: A Global History (Bloomsbury, 2018) and a senior fellow at Civitas: Institute or the Study of Civil Society
The language of their recruiting, whether via brazen extremist preaching or hidden on message boards and the dark web, seeks to blame the ‘other’ and boast of themselves as the answer to prevent a perceived threat to their existence. 

Chicken or Egg?

When summoned to the headteacher’s office after a fight, schoolkids would usually be challenged, “Who started it?” or was it “Six of one and half-a-dozen of the other”? How far back should we go – 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, the betrayal of the Arabs after the First World War, imperialism and empires, caliphates and crusades?
 
Whatever the origins the outcomes are clear, mutual radicalisation by further atrocity and response. Islamic State is all but decimated but it creates a power if not a revenge vacuum for disaffected and disillusioned fighters who are not deradicalised and rehabilitated. Out of Al Qaeda (1988) and its ideology has grown Al Shabab and others affiliating or aligning such as Boko Haram.
 
With the far right, when the BNP faded the EDL arose. From Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF) in the 1930s to modern extreme nationalist movements, one fades and another arises, phoenix-like from its ashes. The UK-specific extremist right-wing parties have in common an ethnocentric identity as English or British and a xenophobic focus, often including Islamophobia, to their rhetoric – although, perhaps, rhetoric is too high-minded a phrase to describe an ancient art of discourse and persuasion.

Racism and Ostracism

Al-Qaeda and its affiliates and descendants vaunt the removal of all Western (and/or Judeo-Christian) foreign influences in Islamic countries leading to the creation of a new caliphate ruling over the entire Muslim world. 
 
The hard and far-right similarly want the removal of all Middle Eastern influence (Jewish or Muslim) and an end to the immigration that, in their view, dilutes racial purity and an oppressed white-majority society.
 
Both extremisms promote a purity of religion or race as their fundamentalist base. They are similarly xenophobic – the hatred and ostracising of the ‘other’, whether the non-white or the non-Muslim. We’ve been there before with the Crusades and later Roman Empire in their attitudes to barbarians and infidels, essentially non-Romans and non-Christians. 

The Centreground?

Our liberal open societies – argues Ed Husain, are under threat. The moderate middle ground is being squeezed not only by radical and extreme left calls for revolution and far right wings threatening riots but by twin forces of ultra-conservatism and archaic-traditionalism that have become extreme and radicalised. They see each other as inherent evils in society and refuse to engage with each other. Liberal and centre which used to be harmonising language are now seen as the new elites and the ultimate compromisers of more radical solutions to society’s ills. 
 
Brexit has created a new divide, over Europe, not simply Left or Right. Europe is seen as another liberal elite con creating a federalised coalition and increasingly common policies on finance, defence and foreign policy. These frustrate the feelings of independence that exist alike on the nationalist right and anarchist or anti-fa left. 

Community and Cohesion

Without arguing for a lacklustre liberal middle-ground, since I am more on the Left myself, we must pursue greater community and cohesion, internationalism and inclusion. To avoid the scapegoating of the ‘other’ we must engage with each other – not platforming extremisms (although putting the BNP’s Nick Griffin on Question Time worked quite well to expose the flaws in his ideologies) but exploring the ideas and issues that may lead to radicalisation. 
 
The reasons why people become disenfranchised, embittered and emboldened, and seek out cultish groups must be examined and policies put in place to re-engage with them and the causes that lead to their extremist leanings. 
 
A former-EDL regional organiser I know challenged his own beliefs by visiting open mosques and engaging with difference. I was a religious fundamentalist (fortunately more charismatic creationist than militant apocalypsist) and right-winger in my now thankfully distant past but keeping an open mind eventually created one.
  
In my experience, at least, conversation and dialogue, opening lines of communication – with those willing to discuss issues in respectful ways, can ensure that moderates don’t drift to the extremes. 
 
We need to challenge the real fascists and not just call everyone who disagrees with us one.  The number of times I have heard “Nazi” and “Fascist” bandied around to simply describe all Leavers, or those that have economic objections to immigration, or that don’t support Muslims’ right to express their faith, or even those that critique transgender rights. 
 
Sometimes, people seem beyond reach though, and our focus among them should be on countering all forms of hate-based violence and vitriol – online and in public – especially and particularly that which targets others based upon their religion or race, ethnicity and nationality.
 
We cease othering and ostracising best by encounter and engagement, meeting the human behind the label, discovering their difference but also realising our common humanity, emphasising that which unites and not that which divides. 
 
 
 
 

International Women’s Day, Positively Human

In the current febrile atmosphere surround transgender women in single-sex spaces and indeed both trans and intersex trait women in sport, today – International Women’s Day is a good day to celebrate all women. Indeed, one of my preferred yet also subtle ways of being inclusive has been the addition of a plus sign at the end of many Women’s events, groups and societies. Women+ is such a (pun-intended) positive way of demonstrating inclusivity and intersectionality without erasing the word woman.

On a side note, etymologically woman is not a modification of male man (since ‘man’ meant ‘human’), neither is female of male. Both the modern word man and woman derive from separate roots. In Old English, wīfmann meant “female human” not female man. So the movement to respell woman as womban, womon, wimmin, womyn (Trans exclusive) or womxn (Trans & WOC inclusive) is to some extent misguided, linguistically at least to language pedants!

I like International Women’s Day because the only adjective added is international – inclusive of all women the world over. It is refreshingly broad in an age of exclusionary defining language such as biological woman, cisgender woman, natal woman, real woman, trans woman or woman defined by vagina, womb, low testosterone, motherhood, violence, abuse or oppression.

“…every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity. Is this attribute something secreted by the ovaries? Or is it a Platonic essence, a product of the philosophic imagination?” – Simone de Beauvoir, ‘The Second Sex’introduction (1949)

Not every woman has the same experience and I’m not talking trans here, but the individual diversity of female lived experience. Some women have privilege, some at 21 are billionaires (Kylie Jenner). Some as Ivanka Trump, daughter of POTUS, are out of touch and have said people don’t need welfare and would be happy to make their own way in the world.

If biology – wombs, vaginas etc, is the root of women’s oppression why should their definition be rooted in oppression? Why not define by the positive factors of community, sisterhood, inclusion, lifting each other up, social enterprise, leaving no one behind, intersectionality and inclusion.

My response to the following greeting on #IWD on my Facebook wall was this:

Thank you. I feel honoured to be called a woman by women, whether I’m inspirational or not, in the current climate. It’s not an aspect of my identity I’ve used to gain entry to women’s spaces instead I’ve been consistently invited, welcomed, respected and included – and for that, I thank every other woman, most of whom are inspirational to me.

I define as a biological natal real human first, not cis or trans, intersex, male or female, man or woman, non-binary or otherwise.

I want to be known for my humanity, though. I have to admit I see more of that expressed in and by women, but not exclusively so. 

Women are not angels, nor devils wearing Prada, they are human. Capable of greatness and also of harm and hurt, like anyone else. 

Being a superhero-loving film buff, I found it particularly appropriate to go and see Captain Marvel today, a film in which the world is saved by a woman – without the help of a man, she even talks to other women – not about men, thereby passing the Bechdel test. Without an actual plot spoiler I’ll quote one short dialogue from the film:

“We’ll be back for the weapon”
“The Tesseract?”
“No, the WOMAN”

Take that how you like, I see the positive in it, woman and women’s power for positivity in this world.

I’ll end with a tweet I saw this morning that shouts out to me about the behaviour of some women (“some” RadFems/GC Feminists, “some” Trans etc). It says to me that you don’t raise yourself up by bringing other women down.

Homosexuality and Holocaust Memorial Day, A Gay Jewish Hero

Why is Holocaust Memorial Day even necessary still? Because 1-in-20 people think the Holocaust never happened. Because 1-in-12 think it is exaggerated. Because genocides of people by ethnicity, faith, or sexuality, still happen. Because anti-Semitism, anti-Romani, anti-disabled, homophobic and transphobic feelings still exist. Running the Human Library in the UK, I see people’s incredulity at the persecution and prejudice still experienced by some minority groups. Jewish, Romani, Gay, Disabled, Transgender were all human books this last week. They were all persecuted by the Nazis too. Prejudice that is so often based upon stereotyping and scapegoating. Beliefs based on racial or heterosexual purity or supremacy. Eugenics and abhorrent forms of evolutionary biology. 
 
In the last week, a leading Nigerian police chief has told gay people to leave the country, a gay Brazilian MP has left the country because of the far-right leader’s overt homophobia and having received death threats, Chechnya continues to persecute, imprison and apparently kill gay people. Uganda, Saudi, Da’Esh/ISIS territory and 70 other places criminalise being LGBT, some with the death penalty. Many countries demand that transgender people are sterilized so they cannot reproduce. Hungary is pushing to set up integration camps for Roma; China has reeducation camps for Muslims. Anti-immigration, Brexit, Make America Great Again anti-Muslim or Mexican declarations are all symptoms too. 

What’s in a word?

“Sticks and stones…” Shoah, Holocaust, Jew, Sodomite, Gay, Queer, Persecuted, Interned, Tortured, Killed… Jews and Gays shared a common status as victims of Nazi hate. Some people were Jewish and gay, wearing a pink triangle over their yellow star for double humiliation and awaited horrors including torture, rape, and death.
 
70 years before the Holocaust, in 1868, the term homosexual was first used in private correspondence and the next year in print, trying to repeal the Prussian penal code on same-sex relations, a code that inspired the 1871 Paragraph 175‘s criminalising of homosexuality that continued through the Nazi-era despite a 1929 attempt to end it. A law not lifted till 1969! 
 
There was no 1945 full and true liberation for gay people in concentration camps, Jewish or otherwise. They were still seen as criminals. It is estimated that 50,000 were imprisoned and 20% of them interned in concentration camps with fewer than half surviving. Both gay men and transvestites were targeted. In 1938, the Institute of Forensic Medicine recommended that the “phenomena of transvestism” be “exterminated from public life.” LGBT was pathologised by the Nazis, by the church, and by medicine.

Magnus Hirschfeld

Also, in 1868 a Jewish boy was born. He was to become an eminent social philosopher, doctor and sexologist. He would also grow up to be gay. His name was Magnus Hirschfeld.
 
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, he travelled widely, lectured and wrote. He also experienced the gay sub-cultures of Chicago and elsewhere, exploring the phenomena in Tangier and Tokyo as well as Rio de Janeiro.
 
Hirschfeld became interested in gay rights when he noticed that many of his patients being treated for depression were actually gay and committing suicide because of it. In 1896, one such patient, an army officer, did just that and wrote about the reason in his Selbstmord (“self-murder”/suicide) note.
 
In 1897, aged just 29, the Prussian (now in Poland) physician was living in Berlin and angered at the Oscar Wilde trial he founded the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee or “Scientific Humanitarian Committee” – the world’s earliest gay rights movement. He wanted to advocate justice through science to counter both homophobia and indeed racism (which he also wrote about and saw anti-Semitism a part of) by countering prejudice based pseudo-science with true science. 
 
Whilst in France, Hirschfeld finished a book he had been writing during the 1930s, Rassismus (“Racism”). It was published posthumously in English in 1938. He wrote that the purpose of the book was to explore “the racial theory which underlines the doctrine of racial war,” saying that he himself “numbered among the many thousands who have fallen victim to the practical realisation of this theory.”
 
Magnus Hirschfeld at a costume party at the Institute of Sexual Research, 1920
Magnus Hirschfeld (far right with glasse, holding the hand of his lover, Karl Giese) at a costume party at the Institute of Sexual Research, 1920. Credit: Photo courtesy of Magnus-Hirschfeld-Gesellschaft e.V., Berlin.

The Institute for Sexual Knowledge

In 1919, Hirschfeld founded the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (“Institute for Sexual Knowledge/Science”) including the Museum of Sex. Over 14 years it gathered huge research on tens of thousands of cases and LGBTIQ diversity.
 
In May 1933, just months after the Nazis took power, Hirschfeld’s Institute was sacked by a group of university students belonging to the  from the National Socialist Student League. They stormed into the building (above which he lived with his lover Giese but was away) shouting “Brenne Hirschfeld!” (“Burn Hirschfeld!”), beat up the staff and smashed up the premises before later in the day the Nazi paramilitary Brownshirts showed up to burn thousands of books and files. The institute was then closed permanently by the Police.
 
Hirschfeld was away on a speaking tour during the crackdown and never returned to Germany, dying of a heart attack in 1935 instead. His lover Karl Giese killed himself in 1938 and his own relatives like Hirschfeld’s sister were gassed in a concentration camp in 1942. Both Hirschfeld and his lover were known to crossdress and were often referred to using feminine pronouns. 
 
In 1933 we lost 50 years of LGBTIQ study and 20s era queer culture and openminded society. In 1935 and 1938 with the deaths of Hirschfeld and Giese we lost two queer heroes who lost family to the Holocaust and were triply persecuted for their faith, ethnicity and sexuality.
 
We don’t live single issue lives as Audre Lorde said, we need to stand up for others, whether their persecution intersects with our own or not. We all know Niemoller’s poem – “First they came for…” Or do we, when a third of people now know little about the Holocaust and 20% of 18-34s in France have not heard of it!  Remember – Lest we forget!
 
Bergen-Belsen "To the memory of all those who died in this place" © KatyJon
Bergen-Belsen “To the memory of all those who died in this place” © Katy Jon Went

What Political and Economic Future do we have if we can’t even agree Brexit

Well, the “meaningful” Brexit vote happened but didn’t seem to mean anything. The worst Government defeat in modern history by a margin of 230 votes and an unheard of stubborn clinging to power, despite a No Confidence vote. The previous worst was 95 years ago in 1924. On most occasions, resignations and lost elections followed. Momentous. Since Parliament cannot agree and only 25% of the population (admittedly, 52% of the electorate that voted) wanted it and even they are split on Deal/NoDeal, now is the time to delay or rescind Article 50

“It’s a weird state of affairs. No-deal and People’s Vote are the two obvious options which hang over everything, but neither the prime minister nor the leader of the opposition are prepared to countenance either of them.” – Ian Dunt, Politics.co.uk

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

Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom are stubbornly standing their ground. Plan B = Plan A till you’re blue in the face. They knew the Brexit vote would fail yet wasted 5 weeks delaying it. They have no “political empathy” said one journalist. 70 days from disaster and we haven’t a clue. No deal and Remain are both political suicide for whoever makes that happen but history could record them later as a hero or a villain.

It’s astonishing that after the largest 230 seat Government defeat people retire to party political lines and this current leadership (if it can be called that) is shored up to go on and on with flogging the same dead horse deal. It’s almost national unity Government time. This Brexit political war must end.

“We’re going to have to chuck the party politics out, junk it, frankly and work together in the national interest to come to a solution.” – Chuka Umunna , Labour MP

Though I’m personally in favour of Remain still and actively want Article 50 abandoned or extended and Brexit cancelled, Labour can’t defeat the political maths of Tory+DUP, and so we drag on till exit EU day on 29 March because nobody will fall on their political sword for the sake of the UK bigger picture.

Brexit may have won the first People’s Vote aka EU Referendum but no actual exit strategy commands a majority in Parliament or the country. Somebody needs to stand up and be honest about this, commit political hari-kari, and say it can’t be done.

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin Brexit tour, The Bell Hotel, Norwich
Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin Brexit tour, The Bell Hotel, Norwich

When the only businesses wheeled out to support the benefits of Brexit are Wetherspoon’s Tim Martin but the whole car industry opposes it, Japanese investors in Britain don’t support it, it is clear that Brexit is being organised like a piss up in a brewery. Sober up UK!

We need to get past this Brexit hangover and get back to work, sorting out housing, homelessness, knife crime, Universal Credit, NHS and Care recruitment, police funding, trains, 5G, fibre to the premises for all. The cost of doing business within the EU is small change compared to Brexit’s waste of time & money.

Multiple economic forecasts say we will be worse off because of Brexit with much slower growth. The IMF, OBR, UK Gov, BoE, NIESR, BCC, Capital Economics, EY and more. The Bank of England’s Quantitative Easing (QE), consumer credit rise, and low-interest rates are currently insulating us from the Brexit effect. We are in Balance of Payment trade deficit despite the crashed Pound (at airports we are virtually on a par with the Euro now!). We net export in services, not goods.

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

This is the modern globalised world now, we are not a net industrial producer anymore, we don’t have the economies of scale or labour costs. Imagining that Brexit will make Britain productive again in traditional industries is like Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again. A recent report from Standard Chartered has Japan 9th, Germany 10th, and the UK outside of the top ten GDP nations by 2030. Only as a bloc will EU nations be able to trade on equal terms with India, Brazil, China etc.

It’s the issue of hundreds of Japanese companies invested in the UK, in part to access the EU market. There are 190,000 direct and another 650,000 indirect jobs in the UK dependant upon car manufacturing for instance.

“There is no Brexit dividend for our industry” – SMMT

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

We have a non-reproducing working population (replacement fertility rate of 1.8, required 2.1), we need sub £30k (the new immigration minimum) EU and international workers. We have labour shortages in the care sector, NHS etc. Who will pick fruit, wash dishes, wipe bums, change catheters, serve tables, hand wrap millions of pigs in blankets for Christmas? UK workers alone, or even at all?

Brexit is bust, who will call it?

Fortress Britain – What Migrant Crisis?

The Home Office, Minister of Defence, and an inconsequential former-UKIP xenophobe called Nigel – want to make Britain Great again by building Fortress Britain with the armed forces patrolling the channel, building army bases around the world (the Caribbean and SE Asia are earmarked so far) – all this after reducing the armed services! Sajid Javid has declared it a “major incident”. In the big scheme of things and compared to our European neighbours like Greece and Italy, it is minor and not even an incident.

Breaking Point World Refugee Day Refugees Are Welcome
Breaking Point for whom?

Presumably, we’ll be building a wall at Dover paid for by the French to keep out the vast invasion of 100 Channel migrant visitors each month. I mean, we are the 5th or 6th largest world economy and we can’t afford 100 more people? Anyway, we already have under Geneva Convention and EU laws rights to return them to their first port of arrival if we really want to be mean.

It’s the Christmas period, though, the season of generosity and yet there’s no room at the Inn. What happened to Christian hospitality and giving?

What Would Jesus Do? 

Don't Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015 photo by Katy Jon Went
Refugees Welcome Let Them In

The Bible is full of declarations of how one should treat ‘foreigners’ because the Israelites were once wanderers too, at varying times in their history homeless migrants, and God’s idea of justice was one law for everyone – well eventually. It’s a salutary lesson for Jews and Christians alike to remember biblical edicts on hospitality towards the foreign-born and/or less fortunate, and of treating guests in your country or house as angels – in case they were!

“And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 10:19

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34

Who Am I?

As a Christmas present to myself, and after watching the Royal Institution Christmas lectures, I’ve sent off for a DNA kit to prove my Britishness, since my Dutch partner who has been here 20 years will soon have to prove hers by paying £65-£1300 depending upon the degree of residency, rights and citizenship she wants post-Brexit. 

Actually, the Christmas present I really want is for Liam [sly] Fox’s scare tactic to be true when he announced that there’s a 50:50 chance of Brexit not even happening.

The genetic structure of the British population, Nature
The genetic structure of the British population, Nature

I’m fully expecting my DNA kit to prove what I’ve always known, historically, that I’m part Northern European ancestor, part Roman, part Anglo-Saxon, part Norman French, part Dutch immigrant etc. The latest research suggests I’ll be part Belgian and part Spanish (my heart and stomach always have been) too. One-in-eight of us are foreign-born and modern generations will have African, Asian, and Caribbean roots too, not to mention late-Victorian immigration from Eastern Europe and Russia.

“The first wave of arrivals crossed by land bridges, when sea levels were so low that Britain was attached to what is now northern Germany. This wave was dominated by people with genomes most similar to modern-day inhabitants of northern Germany and Belgium. In parallel, migrants from the west coast of France were arriving by boat. Traces of the combined DNA from all these three pioneer settlers forms the basis for the genetic-makeup of all white Britons.” – New Scientist

Even the idea of Anglo-Saxon purity is both a myth and ironically mixed up.

“In the US, this mixed up medievalism is associated with the white supremacist alt-right who use Anglo-Saxon and Viking motifs.” – The Conversation

We are all human

We are all related, all human, but some have forgotten to behave like it. Xenophobia is rife, racism on the streets, in football, even in cricket is still there to see and hear. 

“Whether people come to Britain fleeing war, terrorism, homophobia, transphobia, or poverty, they are all fleeing a threat to life, liberty, or livelihood. Even poverty is a slow death and until Brexit we were the 5th most wealthy economy in the world after Germany which has twice the percentage of migrant background population. We are fully able to sponsor and support asylum seekers, refugees and even so-called economic migrants.Katy Jon Went

And we should be doing so… #RefugeesWelcome

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.

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