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Invasion

a rain and a gale

For all my sisters who’ve ever been invaded.

pressing, pushing

into our space

into our bodies

into our lives

“accommodate me, listen to me, let me in, take it, say yes”

forever receptacles

constantly making room for others

for their problems, for their bodies, for their time, for their needs

grieving the loss

of our time

our lives

control

choice

don’t let go just yet

for I am with you

struggling

pushing back

fighting

for our rights

solidarity

for what is rightfully ours

we are not receptacles

we are full to overflowing

we need our own space

time

respect

don’t give up

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Only People Who Subscribe to Gender Ideology Can Misgender

This is elegant. Wish I’d written it. But I’m very glad that someone did. Thank you Lesbian+Feminist. Here’s an excerpt:
“Not only is the concept of gender identity not personally useful, it is based on patriarchal sex roles and used to dismiss and cover up the violent, coercive, and the misogynistic meaning, use, and origin of said sex roles aka gender roles. Subscribing to the concept would make me complicit in that dismissal and cover-up. Identifying with the ideology of female oppressors would be a form of self-harm. Even if I thought that identifying that way would benefit me, it would be egocentric to the point of misogyny to do so despite the implications for other females.”

Lesbian + Women's Liberationist

Since the vast majority of people are referring to the male sex when they use the terms he, him, and his and the female sex when they use the terms she, her, and hers, they do not misgender anyone with pronouns. Some of these people have called me he and him, but that’s because they thought I was male, not because they thought I had any particular gender identity. They sex and mis-sex people with pronouns, but they do not gender or misgender anyone with pronouns. Most people don’t even know what gender identity means, so they certainly aren’t ascribing any gender identity to anyone.

Only people who subscribe to the concepts of gender identity and gender-based pronouns (rather than sex-based pronouns) can misgender, and they can only really misgender people who share those ideas. They can’t exactly misgender people who don’t identify with gender, but they can misidentify…

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Passport blues

August 2 —

On the train from Edinburgh to London. This will be my final train journey, probably. except for going to Gatwick on Saturday morning. And I’ll go on the tube, probably, not the train. I lost my wallet with my passport in it sometime between Saturday afternoon (when I went on a tour of Mary King’s Close, a cavern of streets and shops and small dwelling places running beneath modern Edinburgh) and Sunday morning. There was also a bunch of cash in it, too. dammit. Oh well. I have my credit cards and my driver’s license and my debit card, too. It could be much worse. ALSO! if the bureaucracy runs on the same kind of schedule as the trains do, I might be here a little longer. About which I will not complain.

I’ve met some wonderful women here. Connected with some family here — the genetically related variety and the politically and spiritually aligned variety. I hung out with lively sweet cousins and dead grandparents, ancestors from all the ages. I landed in a a nest of feminists and lesbians, and sought out some other family in recovery. I took a million pictures! English, Welsh and Scottish sheep, Scottish cows–the ones with the Viking-looking horns– Welsh ponies, grand workhorses, little stone cottages and great grand cathedrals. Underground passageways said to be haunted by the ghosts of old women and little children, broad hillsides sweeping down to ocean cliffs and pressing up against the wind. It feels like home here. Not in the way home feels like home –but something different. Like I belong here, somewhere. It’s a place of return, even though i’ve never been before. We’re almost at king’s cross now. then it will be a big trip to Trafalgar Square.

Later that day….dear god it’s humid! now i have a gazillion forms to fill out and a bunch of money to lay upon the good people at the Canadian embassy. They only do the passport thing between 9:30 and 12:30, so i have to just hang in till then. Took me FOREVER to find a passport photo place. that was fun, though. I went and had a burger at Byron’s, it hasn’t been a very nutritiously enlightened day for me. the only green and crunchy thing i’ve had all day was the pickle with the burger. Sweet pickle, at that. I was expecting dill. I’m glad i left my luggage at King’s Cross. For a king’s ransom they will hold your stuff for you. £25 sounds MUCH nicer than $45. Which was what it cost. oh well. no way I could have struggled all the way to Trafalgar Square, Canada House, to the closed photo place, back to Canada House, to the burger place, to the post office, then to Piccadilly Circus where there WAS a photo place, and then back to King’s Cross with 520 lbs (what is that in stone?) of ‘fridge magnets, tea towels, coasters, calendars and Cornish fudge. Anyway, I’m doing alright, i’m happy that god made credit cards. kind of. and my picture doesn’t look nearly as sweaty and disheveled as i feel.

August 3–

Alright. On Friday morning i can pick up my emergency travel document, and then when i get home i can apply for another passport. I was sad to lose my old passport, I think I looked kind of fierce and wild in the picture. It was one of me with long hair. I am not all that good about my hair — i just kind of leave it to do what it will. sometimes i look like a cartoon character. When i told my parents that i was a lesbian (thirty years ago! so long), Dad wanted to know what they had done wrong. Mom said, “Oh, John, we didn’t do anything wrong, she’s an adult, making her way,” but she was devastated by the news. She was worried I would be lonely, told me that I was either born ahead of my time, or behind it. She said, when she told me ab0ut Dad’s reaction to my letter, that she would have done some things differently (not connected to preventing my lesbianism, of course, just in general). I asked what she would have done–“Well. I would have spent less time on your hair…”

I still think that’s funny. Anyway, the old passport photo, that was at the tail end of the “i’m not getting a haircut until I finish my damned dissertation” days, so it’s about three years long. And you’re not allowed to smile, right, for your passport photo anymore. And I remember it was a very sad day when i had that picture taken. So i looked kind of serious and “braveheart”-ish. This new one, though, I’m wearing the labrys I got in Wales. and a t-shirt that says “Scotland” on it. Still stern, not as sorrowful. tidier hair. It’s so fraught, isn’t it? getting these ID photos.

I’m staying in London with a new friend — a radical feminist lesbian academic, that rarest of creatures — I tell you what, in Vancouver, I have been feeling a bit — marginal, you know? I have lots of friends, a good number of allies and a few women I count as intimates — sisters in one way or another. But I’m kind of peripheral to political feminism. Oh, I go to the events and demos and write letters to newspapers and politicians and so on, but i’m not part of a group, a movement. And at work, I’m certainly an anomaly. There are very few radical feminists anywhere in the university (as is the case in all “big I” institutions), nearly all the lesbians i’ve met are “queer” or in varying states of fluidity, and my students seem to regard me as kind of anachronistic. Every semester there are one or two of them who find my opinions and analysis relieving and interesting — and a few more who find me threatening and/or ‘close-minded’ (I respond, ‘you don’t want to be too open-minded, after all, a lot of good stuff will fall out, then’). I wouldn’t be doing my job if people weren’t challenged and a bit unsettled by my classes. Anyway, I’m always a bit wary, a bit defensive, and usually lonely at work. It’s reassuring to know that there are other women in institutions of higher learning who are openly out of step with the mainstream promotion of gender and “diversity” (which is code for ‘assimilation’ now).  She’s got a regular gig, too, has something like tenure and her employer is supportive so far. Mind you, North America seems to have reached a fever pitch of anti-feminism in a way that I don’t perceive here. Could be because I’m not from these parts, though.

What i mean to say, here, is that no matter what, no matter where I’ve gone (this trip, or others over the years), I’ve found other women who know, women who are not fooled by the emperor’s clothes, women who can imagine a path to freedom (if not freedom itself, at least the way toward it). These past two years have been pretty tough in many ways. More losses and endings than beginnings. My confidence has been shaken, I’ve been flailing about a fair bit. Not only solitary, but lonely.  Not at all sure of myself, and filled with grief.

You remember a couple of months back, when i wrote about my ex lover’s impending death? As she was dying, those last few months, I checked her facebook page almost daily. Several of her family members and friends sent pictures of beautiful things every day, and notes of sweetness and love. We all knew we were walking with her, as close as we could, to that final doorway. She had been a proud lesbian and feminist during the time we knew each other, and I admired the way she thought, and how she communicated with others. She was very smart and generous, and had a way of bringing out the best in others. Our lives went in separate directions after we broke up, though, pretty fast. She started dating men, and I fell in love with a woman who — well, it’s complicated — less said about that, the better. I last saw Joanna in July of 2014, at the party my advisor threw after my defense. that was when she told me about her new boyfriend. She was pretty determinedly straight by then. Within a year, they became engaged, then she found out she had cancer and then they married. She had no room anymore in her life for feminism. I think she knew. She knew she had to use all her energy to attend to her treatment and her closest relationships. I was inspired by her grace and courage in the face of her impending mortality, and saddened by the erasure of her feminist and lesbian past.

I decided then, in late May, about two weeks before she died, that I wanted to shake the grief and sorrow that had come to characterize my Vancouver life, and go somewhere I’ve always yearned to go. So, Ancestral Homeland, here I come. I bought a ticket, a train pass, and sent word to friends I knew lived there, and the two cousins I knew about (one family I had met 33 years ago, the other, I knew only from Mom and Uncle Tom’s stories). Everyone responded. My brother and I made plans to bury Mom’s ashes, gathering some cousins to meet us at the Regina cemetery. I think i posted about that, some of it, earlier.

Anyway, this has been a journey of renewals, discoveries and beginnings. Finally! I discovered that some of our ancestors, on Dad’s side, had been loyalists during the American Revolution. Our cousin Bev digs around with genealogy a bit, and told me that. So those Scots have been gone from the land of moors and heather for many generations. In Wales, my cousin Alun showed me the house in which my grandpa grew up, and told me a bit about their relations — Alun’s father was Thomas, and Thomas was the younger brother of Tudor, David and Katie Williams — who were the children of Tom and Edith Williams who took Grandpa in when he was orphaned at nine. Grandpa was David as well, so whenever Alun talked about him, he said, “Uncle Dave Morgan” to distinguish him from “Uncle Dave”. who was a tailor, and who never married and lived in the Brynna house until he died in the late 198os (I think, maybe the 1990s). I saw the graves of Grandpa Morgan’s mother, Mary Williams Morgan, and his father, John David, and of their infant son, Thomas William. They are buried on the grounds of an ancient priory at Ewenny. I said hello, and thank you, and i told them i loved them, and i loved their son my grandfather. I told them that he had a hard life, but he made good, and he had been a wonderful grandfather, and I’m proud to share some traits in common with him (stubborn, opinionated, competitive, impatient, loyal, generous, honest, loving — in case you’re wondering). I put £10 into the donation box in the medieval church, took a couple of cards and wrote a little thank you note in the guest book. I cried all the way to the highway on my way out of town.

oh! i rented a car for four days! that was exciting. I drove through a torrential rainstorm, on the left side of the road, and stayed in some guest houses in North Wales that were absolutely charming. North Wales is kind of like the wild west. except with those delightful little Welsh ponies.

right. I told you about my new friends in Edinburgh, right? Radical feminists, lesbians, holding to a fierce and difficult vision of freedom, steeped in history, never far from their ancestors, not really. There is something solid about them. Rooted in a way that settlers in the new world can never be — squatting, as we are, in someone else’s living room. Of course it’s home now, Canada. Vancouver is home. As much as any place can be, I guess. Soon i’ll return. I fly out on Saturday morning, back to Calgary, and then i’ll drive back to Vancouver on Monday or Tuesday. I’ll arrive in time to attend a celebration of Joanna’s Vancouver life. Her death was part of the catalyst for this trip.

I didn’t know what I wanted to find, but I did know that I wanted to rise through a tender grief into a different vision of possibility. I still don’t know what freedom is like, of course not. But now I am not so lonely. Solitary, yes, that will be the case for a while yet. But I belong now. Again. I’m bigger than i was before, more confident, more solid than when I left. The beautiful people here to whom I am related by blood and political commitment,  those proud, ferocious radical feminist lesbians — radiant and flawed — know I can depend on the gifts we have shared. If we never see each other again, (and I’m sure we will), we will always be in each others hearts.

now i’m gonna go looking for a meeting….

 

 

Epic.

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right. I STILL have not covered all of the conference, and then there’s a troubling thing happening in Vancouver, all “I-dentity-politicky” that it is. The city hall has passed recommendations to make city facilities “more inclusive” to a new acronym — TGV2S — people. that stands for “trans, gender-variant and two-spirited”. At least the city is no longer pretending concern for women (except those women who are calling themselves ‘transmen’ or bois or gender-fluid or whathaveyou. Just so long as they are not calling themselves women or female or — heaven forfend! — lesbian). Nope. This is all for the trans. I would say, at the expense of women and girls. But at least they’re not pretending anymore that any of this has anything to do with lesbians. or gays, for that matter.

Now, I’ve said for a long time that men know what they want in a woman, so they are of course much more qualified to BE women. Indeed, in some of the coverage of this stuff, a teen boy who thinks he is a girl is featured. He says that all he wants is to be treated as a girl.

Does that mean he yearns for other boys to snap his brastrap? To shout sexual comments (‘nice ass!’ ‘wanna sit on my face?’) wherever he goes? Does he want other boys to throw coins at him that represent the value of his looks? Maybe he wishes that his teachers would ignore him in class in favour of other boys who may be less competent than he is? Or perhaps he wants to be restricted more in his movements, taught to fear going out at night lest a strange man attack him and rape him. Or steal him from the streets, from his life…

there are millions of ways that girls are treated that chip away at our confidence, our belief in our abilities, and restrict our movements and the opportunities before us. We learn early the qualities men look for that give us our worth–I dare say no one wants to be ‘treated like a girl’.  I kind of understand why there are so many more young women claiming to be ‘trans’ now — the list above is only partial.

I don’t think I was aware of all that (some of it for sure) when I wanted to be a boy. I did see the endless work that my mom and other women did, work in our homes that everyone took for granted, and which seemed like drudgery to me. Also, i wanted to be big and strong and fast on my feet. Something I saw boys were, and men on tv, and I was most assuredly not. When i was very young, I thought perhaps if I were a boy, I wouldn’t be asthmatic. And I could run around all summer with no shirt on, and climb trees and run barefoot without spending the next night or few days in the hospital. Has nothing to do with sex, I know. But it’s magical thinking, anyway, and it is something that kids do a lot of. It’s normal. What’s NOT normal is when adults go along with it.

I got into a little argument with one of my facebook friends a while back. She took issue with something I said about the trans trend. I said that if I were young now, I would be in danger of being diagnosed trans, possibly put on puberty blockers and so forth. She said she was a tomboy too when she was a kid, but that didn’t mean she was male. No, she said, that wouldn’t happen to us because we were not persistent in our belief we were boys. Well, of course we weren’t. Our parents and teachers didn’t see our ‘gender fluid’ behaviour and tastes as signs that we were born in the wrong body or having boy brains or other nonsense. Had they responded the way parents and teachers are now responding to young people who have behaviours and tastes that are stereotypically those of the opposite sex, our beliefs would have become persistent and fixed. That boy, the kid who wants to be treated like a girl, he might grow up to be a perfectly healthy and well-adjusted gay man. Why not leave him the hell alone to do that? Rather than make him stay in pink, pee in the girls room, and continue to believe that his normal, healthy, male body is wrong. This is abusive.

But it looks like encouragement. He’s lauded as brave, his parents as oh-so-progressive. Everything looks all shiny and social justicey. But really, none of this changes anything at all. Not structurally. Gender roles are reinforced with rebar and concrete, and women and girls have smaller and smaller, fewer and fewer spaces that are only for females. Anyone who is non-conforming is in danger now. Especially lesbians. Young lesbians don’t have the women’s liberation movement I had when I was coming out. And we don’t tell our coming out stories anymore, either. Because no one is in any closet, and everyone’s queer. There’s no context, only I-dentity.

no matter, you know that boy will likely never be treated like a girl. Already he has a sense of entitlement—he is given so much encouragement and appreciation for his so-called choice. This is nothing like the way girls are treated. Ever. His way of “being a girl” is limited to what he knows from observing girls–who will only give him part of their stories. They might share with him things like make up tips and how to dress or something, but they’re not going to share their experiences of menstruation or fear of sexist attacks from boys. not because they wouldn’t necessarily, but because he’s not going to want to hear about it, it’s not in his realm of ‘girlhood’. I’m not 100% sure of this, but I’m willing to bet that his girlfriends won’t share that stuff with him. It’s not in his experience, not the way it is every girl’s experience. Of course, we don’t always share that stuff with each other, either, but we very rarely share it with males.

anyway. enough of that. I’ll have to deal with it in some way or another when i start work in september, I’m pretty sure.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

on to the fun stuff — The Old Country! Yesterday I bought a suitcase because i’ve gone mad buying tea towels and postcards and fridge magnets and all kinds of other Welsh shit to give away. It’s a bit disordered. As if i’m worried I will forget what this is like, and I want to tell everyone, and I want to be, to have part of this and to fix it in my memory — so I bought stickers to put on my car and give to people, and i got a book that’s supposed to teach me conversational Welsh (simple conversations), and another book at a second hand shop about wild animals of Britain, and guidebooks for every damn museum and attraction i’ve been to, and ‘fridge magnets and slate coasters and a couple of small Welsh flags, plus a big one, and recipe books and a couple of calendars — it’s embarrassing. I already know I’m coming back. I know it. I don’t need all this shit. And neither do my loved ones. but they’re getting it. be warned.

Every day I am moved to tears. The Welsh language is beautiful and ancient. It sounds like a holy song. When people greet you here, they say, Y’awright? As in, “are you alright?” and I don’t really get how i’m supposed to answer. Sometimes I go, “ya, fine, um….how are YOU?” and it’s kind of awkward, because they are working, and they just want to know if I want tea or coffee. Or it’s a nicety — like that drunk guy weaving down the street last night, who peered blearily at me, (i was using my cane, it’d been a long day, my knee was tired), and slurred, “ya’awright?” I knew that he didn’t care if I was alright or not, he was just being neighbourly. I said, “hiya”, which seemed to satisfy him and he gave an unsteady wave and lurched off.

It was quiet. I put on a hard hat and the woman at the counter gave me a big old flashlight, and I went down a bunch of uneven stone steps into the remains of a cavernous quarry. Hard work, hard hard work, that slate mining. The dust hangs in the air when the men are digging there, and they breathe it in and then it kills them. Eventually. Inevitably. They start young there, as they do in all mines and it would seem in all of the resource industries. Start young and die young.

I left Porthmadog this morning and drove all meandering to Llandudno. I am staying at the devastatingly charming guest house called Craig-ard. It’s a tall, narrow family outfit—looks Victorian. There’s a small dining room in the front on one side, and a tiny little pub on the other. Fireplace in there, comfy chairs. A little family of ceramic gnomes cheerfully standing in the front garden to welcome guests.

One of the last nights I was with Alun and Sian, Alun asked if there was much of a pub culture in Canada. I said that I didn’t know, I don’t drink so I don’t go to bars anymore, don’t have a sense of that culture if there is one. But today at the meeting, I was telling that story—come to think of it, there’s such a strong recovery culture in Vancouver, I suspect the pub culture must be pretty active too.

Ah, I keep wanting to write, too, about Coity Castle. It’s an old Norman ruin near Bridgend, only about ½ hour walk from the bnb I was at. It’s neatly kept and serene. The remaining turrets are quiet and imposing. Holding the ghosts, the sounds of the people who lived there, the village that grew in its shadow. I met a young man and his little boy there. The man asked where I was from. I just say ‘Vancouver, Canada’ here. I don’t tell them the prairies, because really, in the settler society, we’re kind of only ‘from’ the place we now live. I’m really from here. This island, these people. Not that I belong here, really – Oh who knows. He told me that the Normans came and drove the Welsh north to the poorer land. “They took the south and pushed the Welsh to the hills in the North”.

I asked the man if he was Welsh, “oh yea,” he said proud, “we’re Welsh, aren’t we Noah? This is our castle, isn’t it?” and the boy said, “Our castle. I wanna climb” – so the man said good bye to me, and wished me well and they climbed the stones.

July 29,

Where was I? oh. Right. The Craig-ard guest house in Llandudno. Now I’m in Manchester at the Manchester Piccadilly train station. There’s a woman across from me talking on her cell phone. She has an American-ish accent. She’s kinda fancy, but casual. Oh, there she goes. Off to somewhere like Lockerbie or something. Now across from me are an elderly man and woman, and a boy I presume is their grandson. He has cerebral palsy and a fit of the giggles.

Last night I went to a meeting. Oh, that was nice. I’ve been to three now, in my time here. Which is three times more than I’ve visited a gym here. I’m getting a bit antsy. I did bring my resistance bands, and I’ve used them a bit. That’s something. Anyway, fer cryin’ out loud, I’m in the (dis)United Kingdom, why would I want to go to a gym when I can wander about in 3500-year-old copper mines, and walk along “permissive footpaths” and eat Scottish kippers for breakfast (as I did this morning)? Anyway, the meeting was lovely, lovely. There was only one guy who had a Northern accent that I found a bit difficult to understand, but really, we speak the same language, I could tell what he was getting at. I got a bunch of email addresses and we swapped invitations to visit, or visit again. Then I rode the bus back to Llandudno with one of the guys who was there, who told me a bit about the town and the things to do there.

Everywhere you go. I visited Caernarfon Castle yesterday, too, on my way from Porthmadog to Llandudno. You know, I should have just decided to stay the heck in wales this whole time. But when I left home, I didn’t know if I’d ever come here again. Now I am certain that I will. I’ve driven on highways, in villages and cities, and taken money out of electric banks and I can say “good morning” and “thank you” in Welsh (Bore da and Driolch – I think. Actually, I can’t yet say ‘thank you’, but I think I got the spelling right). Thanks to my generous friends and cousins, and the meetings I go to in both the Sisterhood and the Fellowship, I have people everywhere I’d like to go. Today I’m going to Edinburgh, for example, and I’m staying with one of my feminist comrades for a couple of days, then at a b and b for a couple of days. Then I’ll go to Newcastle-on-Tyne for a night or two. Then back to London.

I went to the aforementioned 3,500-year-old copper mine today. You can go down into it, the lit tunnels take you down 18 metres under the earth, which is, I think, about half the way that the Bronze age miners got to with tools made of stone and bone. It’s a self-guided tour, you pick up a hard hat at the beginning, and watch a five-minute film that describes the discovery of this mine. It had been a copper mine in the 18th and 19th centuries as well, but it wasn’t until excavations began to turn the site into a car park that they discovered evidence of a very extensive and ancient system of tunnels and shafts. So they brought in the archeologists and pieced together the story. It’s pretty amazing. Those tunnels are narrow – the signs told us that children started working in those mines when they were five or six.  I got a little claustrophobic down there, even though I typically kinda like small, enclosed den-like places (like a dog. I’m practicing for my next incarnation as a golden lab). I imagined those people crammed into those dark, narrow caverns, working by candlelight with rough stone hammers. Of course I thought of later miners, like my grandfather in the coal pits, too. Crouched beneath the earth so deep, the air was close, the light was dim, the walls must’ve felt like they were wrapping tighter around them every moment. No wonder Grandpa went to the Canadian Prairies – with the limitless horizons, and nothing between your breath and the sky, nothing to close you in or make you stoop. Grandma had a photograph of Grandpa from, I don’t know, maybe the 1930s – he held a big horse by the bridle, and he was looking straight at the camera, a happy grin on his face. His shirt sleeves were rolled up to his biceps, and his pants were held by suspenders, I think he wore a hat, too, one of those flat caps that farmers wore then, and hipsters wear now. He looked tall and powerful and happy. On top of the world.

Plus it was very cold, windy and rainy today. Bracing. I loved it. I bought a cheese and onion sandwich from the café at the Orme in Llandudno (the mountain, it’s Llandudno’s main industry, looks like, that big hill. That’s where the mine is, and an ancient burial chamber, and feral goats and an amazing view). It was terrible (the sandwich, not the Orme). I only ate half of it. I threw the rest out. I never throw out food. It wasn’t a very good sandwich. But I also had Welsh cakes, and I broke down and spread some butter on them. It did improve them (because “bacon and butter makes everything better”), but as I said on my facebook page, if they used butter in the recipe, they wouldn’t need butter on the finished cake. Other than that, there were no disappointments in Wales at all; my expectations were exceeded.

I went down into a slate mine, and a museum about the clay works in Cornwall, and today I went down into the ancient copper mine, and yesterday I visited a woolen mill. All these places are really sites of human sacrifice. Imagine going without metal or wool or clay–no porcelain or bone china or slate roofs or baking stones or blankets or axes or forks or … but the cost of extraction – I thought of that a lot, every day. The human cost as well as the environmental cost. I never did see the mine in Brynna where my grandpa worked as a boy. Nor any other coalmine.

Then I drove with no trouble right into Manchester – I only had to turn around twice, and got to the train station in LOTs of time. As I do. I wasn’t due back with the car until 4, but I get all anxious, you know, about getting lost. Even though the bossy woman gave accurate directions. She got a little snappy those two times I missed the turn. But there you go. We got there okay, and now my phone is almost out of charge, and I’m on the train for the rest of this journey.

We’re in Scotland! The minute we crossed the border, seems like, everyone’s accent thickened to a brogue. There’s a man sitting across from me, he looks a bit like Daniel Craig, sharp blue eyes and angular lines framing his mouth and eyes. Looks pretty Scottish to me. I have to listen hard when he speaks–that accent, a voice like the winter sea.

One time, when I was still working at the mental health drop-in centre, we had a man come to repair some of the water pipes in the kitchen. He was a Scot. He looked at me and asked, “are you a Scot”?

“partly, yes,” I replied.

“You’ve got that look. The shape of your face, you look like women at home,” He had been in Canada for many years, but hadn’t laid the Canadian accent very thick over his Scots one.

Tomorrow I’m going to Ghostbusters with Jackie and some other women who are anti-pornography activists in Edinburgh—that’ll be fun. It’s going to be good to be with other women again, feminist women. I love this traveling around business, but I’ll do it differently next time. Next time I’ll pick a spot and stay there. Get to know it, and the people who live there.

It’s gonna be hard to choose though. So far the Scottish countryside is every bit as glorious as Wales and Cornwall. My people come from here, too. But many generations ago. Cousin Bev said that some of our ancestors came to Canada from the US – they were Loyalists in the American revolution. They would’ve left here as those stone fences were built and before. Two or three hundred years ago. But we’ve still got Scotland in our bones.

I really miss my accordion. That was a bit of a non-sequitur. We’re arriving in Oxenholme. About an hour out of Edinburgh, now. A little more. Oxenholme is the home of the University of Cumbria, and Gateway to the Lake District, according to the station signs. Okay. Lookit, this is a really long post. That’s all for now.

 

 

Thinking Differently 3 and also some travel stories

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I’m on the train again from St Austell to Bristol, then Bristol to Newport, then Newport to Bridgend. Where Grandpa Morgan was born in 1905. Yesterday I had lunch with my cousins Dave and Gill Stuart, and their daughter Jenny (my second cousin. I’m getting better at this, I think). Dave is my grandpa’s nephew. In 1907, Grandpa’s mother, Mary (Williams) Morgan, died. He was two, his sister Gwladys was 4, I think. Their dad, John, remarried – a woman named Edith (perhaps the woman after whom my mom is named, but more likely the aunt Edith who raised him). This marriage wasn’t very happy, according to the sketchy family stories. Edith had two sons with John, and a girl, I think, too. Yes. Her name was .

Nancy. I forget the names of the two sons. One of them was Evelyn, I think.

In 1914, when young Dave was 9, Gwladys was 11, their father died. Maybe he was 40. I don’t know what happened to Edith. But I don’t think she wanted them anyway. Gwladys went to Uncle Phillip in London, and Dave went to Tom and Edith Williams in South Wales – Cowbridge? Maybe. That’s where my cousin Alun lives, Cowbridge. [Update–Brynna, they were in Brynna– Katie, David, Tudor and Tom were the cousins]. Alun’s Tom jr.’s son, so my grandfather’s second cousin? I think—I need a chart. Kind of more like a nephew than a cousin is Alun, given that Grandpa grew up with his father. Anyway, so they were separated, Dave and Gwladys. My auntie in Ontario is named after Grandpa’s sister, my Uncle Tom after Grandpa’s uncle, or cousin maybe (it gets a bit confusing). My mom is probably named after Alun’s grandmother Edith, NOT John Morgan’s second wife.

Grandpa had a hard life, and it made him into a hard man. Good, but hard. He was tall, handsome, athletic, resourceful, honest, loyal and had a sense of humour – clearly, someone loved him. But he was stubborn, rigid, had a mean streak, and could hold a grudge. I think he didn’t really approve of Dad. My poor drifty messy dad. I am so like him. Dad, not grandpa. Grandpa’s tool bench was meticulously organized, and he knew how to use everything there. Dad’s was – well – he had some tools, I think, but he didn’t really know how to use them. And everywhere he went, he left a little trail of clutter. Me too!

Dear me. Look at that! We’re passing through these valleys, green hillsides bounded by hedges dotted with sheep in one, cows in another, guarded by gorse and thistle—here’s a field of corn, and a stone bridge we’ve passed under. No wonder Grandpa yearned for this place. He left in 1926, and didn’t return until 1969. His life here, from when he was 13 until he left, was centered not in the valley farms, not on the land, but beneath it in the mines. When he left, he made his way to the Canadian Prairies, a place with few hills, and he came before the shelter belts were planted, before the Great Depression – which means there were no trees when he came, either. Grassland and sky. Mostly sky. He left this lush, wet, green land for long horizons, dry relentless wind, and brilliant hard sun.

Stephanie Davies-Arai was the next speaker – I should have powered through and written this update the day after, because it’s all a bit fuzzy now. Stephanie focused her talk on what’s going on with children. You might know that the referrals of “transgender” children to the Tavistock Clinic in the UK has risen by over 900% in the last few years.

“If anyone had said, five or even two years ago, that in order to become their ‘authentic self’ children would have to take puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones and prepare to undergo surgery – they would have been thought mad,” she said. Now, this is the kind of thing that ‘gender specialists’ are promoting. I have to say, once again, that this is so like the promotion of prostitution. It’s not only that liberals are describing prostitution as a form of labour, they are now erasing the harms that the pimps and purchasers wreak upon the women who are prostituted. Everywhere, women are expected and coerced into subjugating to the entitlement of men to women’s bodies, women’s spaces. If we resist, we are bigots. We are threatened with our livelihoods, our homes, our lives.

Now it’s Saturday, the 23rd. I’m waiting for my cousin Alun to pick me up. We’re going to see my grandpa’s childhood home, and the graves of his parents. Then the Welsh national museum.

Here’s a story of coercion: On Wednesday, when I was in the youth hostel, Christiane from Germany asked Lydia from China, “your skin is flawless, how do you do it?” they are both young women. Lydia is tiny and dynamic, Christiane is tall and broad. Lydia didn’t understand the question, and Christiane said again how beautiful Lydia was, how perfect her skin. I said, “you’re both young, you haven’t had time to dry properly yet” and “you’ll find different beauty in a couple of decades”.

Christiane told us a story (it was late at night) of her evening. She went to a pub with some other young people. A man invited her to go for a walk with him to the beach. “I didn’t go, I came here. I was going to, but then I thought, ‘wait a minute, no light, a strange man, an empty beach – no thanks. We went to another pub and then I just left after a pint.”

She expressed admiration to another woman for her conventional beauty, joking that she herself was too big and heavy to be attractive (she is nearly 6 feet tall). Both of them talked about their boyfriends, and the way their boyfriends touch them – Lydia’s picks her up, he’s as tall as Christiane. Christiane’s makes a big production, grunting as he plays at picking her up. Christiane says, “that’s not very flattering”, and they laugh. Then she tells this story about an encounter with a friendly man in a pub. A friendly man who is a stranger. “you can’t be too careful” she said.

I found it really interesting, in a really-really-angry-almost-despairing kind of way. She was at the same time admiring the beauty of another woman, and talking about the need for vigilance against the men for whom women work so in order to achieve this ‘flawless skin’. We learn very early that we should want to be attractive to men, and we should work at it. We also learn that men are a danger to us, and that we can’t ‘lead them on’ or reveal our distrust—“If I told him the real reason I didn’t want to go for a walk, he wouldn’t understand” said Christiane.

More likely, he would, but instead of getting angry with other men, or about sexist,  he would get angry with her for telling the truth—and he would be defensive and unpleasant at best.  None of us pointed out the obvious dissonance of that moment. It’s always our fault

July 24, 2016 – oh dear. It’s a week after the conference now, and I haven’t got half way through. And we went to St Fagan’s yesterday! And I want to tell you about Welsh Faggots! Not “Poofters”, mind, faggots. The first night in Bridgend, my cousin Alun, and his wife, Sian (who, turns out, has the same birthday as me, November 22) took me to dinner to a little pub in Bridgend. Alun ordered the mixed grill, which was about seven different kinds of meat, a grilled tomato and some chips (French fries). Alun is a tiny man, about my height, (which is really 6’2”, but people keep “mis-heighting” me at 5”3”), and probably I outweigh him by a stone (which is UK for about eleven pounds, or about 5 kg) at least. He has the metabolism of a hummingbird.

I ordered the Handmade Welsh Faggots. Only because I wanted to say, “I’ll have the faggots, please” with a straight face (well, of course, with a lesbian face—which is quite stern). The waiter looked at me a little bit quizzically, as if to check to see if I was serious. I grinned in a friendly way.

They were delicious.

Stephanie Davies-Arai said that Bernadette Wren of the Tavistock clinic notes that little boys outnumber little girls, but teenage girls outnumber teen boys coming to gender identity clinics. “We are absolutely training our boys and girls into boxes that do not overlap” Stephanie said. She showed us side-by-side photos of children surrounded by their belongings, a project of a Korean artist, I think — boys the world over were awash in shades of blue, girls in pink. it was stunning.

While girls presenting at gender identity clinics indicate the presence of other disorders and problems (depression, anxiety, autism, bullying, eating disorders, self-harming behaviors, past trauma, sexual abuse—to mention a few), there is no research into causes of the huge rise of girls presenting as transgendered. And therapists are NOT looking at underlying problems, or possible sources of this alarming increase in dysphoria.

Of course, I think it’s easy – we are ALL “dysphoric” – we live in a dystopia! Really, if you’re gender-conforming, you’re not well. Not well at all.

In Vancouver, the School Board and the Parks Board have lost their ever-loving minds. It is now policy that anyone can go into any bathroom they please. Children in schools can take the name they want, and “identify” how they like, and the school is under no obligation to let parents know. I have absolutely no doubt that had my parents and teachers been as encouraging of my magical thinking as parents and teachers are expected to be now, I would be a ‘transman’. Also, married to my father, and probably dead – because I wanted to be a cowboy, and I’m very allergic to horses and hay. That’s an aside.

Next up, Julia Long, who first read a statement from a woman who is part of a disability rights organization. The statement referred in part to the trans ideology that those who believe themselves the opposite sex are “born in the wrong body”. Which is completely inaccurate and deeply insulting to people who are born with a disability or disabling condition.

Right. The first thing Julia said was “transgenderism is a form of male violence”. I’d never heard that before, but when she said it, a light went on. I have often joked that of course men know exactly what men want in a woman, we can just retire to some tropical island and let them do ‘woman’. But that is not what they’re after. They will still require us to do the messy emotional and care-giving work, while they wear the corsets and heels and ‘perform woman’ with all their entitlement fully intact.

Julia went on to describe how, basing her analysis on J. Galtung’s (1990) description of ‘cultural violence’, and Marilyn Frye’s (1983) description of ‘oppression’.

Galtung: Cultural violence is […] events, actions, threats, etc. which have a deleterious and injurious effect on an individual’s or group’s basic needs being met (survival/well-being/social/identity/meaning/freedom).

This violence is Direct, Structural, and Cultural.

She images and accounts drew from news media and blogs that described how the transgender lobby enacts these forms of violence against women, and reinforce the bars of the cage of patriarchy which incarcerates women in oppression (Frye, 1983). She drew a clear picture of the increasing pressure on women, and especially lesbians, to disappear. We are in danger of erasure by the trans lobby, this is clear.

of course, we’re not going away, though.

Lookit, I’m going to see if I can find Coity Castle today, and it’ll take me at least an hour to get there, and it closes at 6, so I’d best get after it. I apologize for the meandering and tangential mess of these posts – I want to tell you too about seeing Grandpa Morgan’s childhood home (that guy was gender-conforming, by the way – except for his immense talent for growing gorgeous flowers. I see why he got that faraway look whenever he talked about Wales). Oh! And St. Fagan’s! and sheep and cows in fields and roads so narrow that the trees at the side scrape against the car as you drive by, and how people greet you in the shops and on the streets and –

So this is it for now, I’ll post again in a day or two.

Thinking differently installment 2 (with some travelogue thrown in)

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Now I’m on a train to Cornwall! Normally I do not like exclamation marks, I find them kind of shrill and demanding. But I’m all exclamatory these days – I’m far from home but returning as well. It really is the trip of a lifetime. As usual, I packed too much — too many books I’m not reading, too many activities I’m not pursuing (I packed my resistance bands, for example, and have barely used them. I am yearning for some gym time, though), too many projects I’ve barely approached (making the ol’ dissertation into a play – the conference was inspiring, but I’m still struggling with dialogue and character development). Also, I am bringing presents back to the colonies, I thought I’d left enough room, but turns out not to be the case. Oh well, I’ll give away some t-shirts.

Oh, look! The woman in the seat across from me just went off to get a coffee and asked me to look after her stuff. She’s even more spread out than I am, if you can imagine such a thing. I said, “of course” and she asked if I would like a coffee—I gave her some change (it’s still kind of ‘play money’ for me, which will surely be my undoing), and off she went. Everyone’s been so pleasant and friendly so far. Likely my pallor contributes to that. Also the slightly befuddled, yet earnest look. I always feel a bit apologetic when I travel. Usually that’s because I don’t speak the language. Don’t know what it is here –

Anyway. Back to “thinking differently”. Ah, she returned, then we had a lovely conversation, she’s a bit of an artist, bit of an anarchist, bit of this and that – we didn’t get into feminism – it’s a drag that I felt shy to talk about women’s resistance to male domination with a woman who is obviously concerned with inequality. But she said something about Jeremy Corbin being a great guy, and she was getting off soon, and she had gone and got a coffee for me….anyway, as she was leaving, we started talking about the harms of pornography, so I am hopeful. We exchanged email addresses too.

Okay. Really now! Thinking differently – Sheila said too, that we should be talking about “sex caste” or “sex class” rather than “gender”, because gender has become biological and essentialist. I’d add that it is both essentialist and meaningless – that no one knows what it means anymore, but perhaps it seems more polite than saying “sex”. Plus there is no way to provide a structural analysis unless you talk about the specific class or categories and their positions in relation to each other. Which gender essentialists refuse to do. It’s not more polite at all — the opposite. It’s dishonest.

“Identity”, Sheila finished with this, “is an invention of the United States” – There was far more questioning in the 1970s—questioning of sex roles, questioning of the status quo – we were more dangerous, it seems. Girls now, expected to conform to increasingly sexualized versions of what is considered a “natural” female, see no alternatives. Indeed, I’ve noticed for many years now, that we no longer tell each other our “coming out” stories. When absolutely everyone can be “queer”, there is less and less space for lesbian stories, lesbian existence. I went to dinner last night with Julia Long and Karla Mantilla, and we all did that, told each other our coming out stories – and the common thing between us was that all of us decided to become lesbians in the context of the women’s liberation movement. We were all connected, or beginning to become connected, to something greater than ourselves – not a community, but a movement, an uprising of women.

Oh my. The English countryside is so lovely, isn’t it? Look at those sheep grazing on the trim hillside, the quaint little 200-year-old farm house nestled there in the crook of the hill surrounded by slightly unruly shrubbery….

Okay, so then we went on to Lierre Keith, whose short, packed presentation addressed the question “what is gender”? She opened with a slide showing Marlo Thomas’ 1972 record Free to Be…You and Me which Lierre’s feminist mother got for her when she was a child and which lyrics she still remembers. “I was seven years old, and I went around to everyone in my elementary school and asked them, ‘are you for women’s lib?’”

She is still asking that question. She is still fighting for women’s liberation from men’s domination, often at great cost. She frequently receives death threats, “always from men on the left … It’s transgender men who threaten me with violence”. She talked about how gender is a hierarchy, which idea was new to me when I first heard her speak of it a couple of years ago, but which makes perfect sense to me. It’s a hierarchy that is based upon the sex caste into which we are born – as ‘race’ is a hierarchy, as economic/social class is a hierarchy. As Anita Sarkeesian said, “In the game of patriarchy, women are not the opposing team. They are the ball.”

“Gender,” said Lierre, “is a fist and the flesh it bruises” – she said a few other evocative and poetic phrases like that, but I didn’t write them down. It was all going so fast…

Lierre ended by saying by quoting Andrea Dworkin, “Feminism requires of women precisely what patriarchy forces out of us: Absolute courage in the face of men’s power”. I think I got that quote wrong, but close anyway. And Lierre advised us, feminists, to “match their contempt with our power”.

The first woman to comment after Lierre’s presentation did just that. Alerted to the presence of a contemptuous man tweeting furiously within the hall about “so-called” feminists, Kate loudly pointed him out. In her broad Scottish brogue she shouted to him, “How DARE you!” and said, “you called on us to confront their contempt with our power, and I’ve got an opportunity to do that–his name is Michael Ezra and he’s tweeting shite about us now”. He tried to protest, smirking awkwardly, but was, by and by, escorted out by the two women in yellow vests who were on security duty. Kate then offered an appreciation to the man in the audience who alerted her to this man’s tweets, for turning in his sexist brother. That IS “men’s work”, to refuse to collude or protect other men’s sexist behavior. Kind of easy, though, in a roomful of feminists. I hope our friend is as brave in the locker room or the pub with his mates.

Wow. We’re going past Teignmouth between red cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean. Tides out, there are a million little boats nestled by the docks, resting on the algaed sand (is “algaed” a word? Guess it is now). And the hillsides dotted with white-washed little cottages.

Speaking of security, I was surprised that there was no protest. Nothing. Not a whiff. I was a bit disappointed, to be honest. I was kinda looking forward to a bit of a tangle with the liberals—the transactivists and the non-binaries and the allies. Mind you, it was a pleasant Saturday, and perhaps they were more concerned with shopping and sunning. It was nice to have time with other people (almost all other women people, but some men, too) who were like minded, and/or curious in an open-hearted kind of way.

Right. That’s enough for now. Stephanie Davies-Arai was next, on the ‘transgendering’ of children – which is increasing exponentially. I’ll post more later. I have to change trains soon….

Thinking differently

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Well. THAT was refreshing!

Saturday July 16, I attended a one-day conference in London at Conway Hall. The conference was called “Thinking differently: Feminists questioning gender politics”.  it was organized by Julia Long and Sheila Jeffreys, and featured radical feminists speaking critically about the deeply sexist construction of gender, particularly as it is currently promoted by transgenderism.

I’m here. Here in London! Well, I’m in Hitchin, a little medieval market town about a 30-40 minute train ride away from London. I’m staying with a couple of friends. They came too. It was a great way to begin my visit here in the Ancestral Homeland (which I always capitalize because, well, why not?).

Julia Long opened the day with a warm welcome and a call to not only think differently, but to speak and to act upon what we are thinking. Otherwise, of course, we and all our potential allies will be rattling around thinking we’re unhinged or wrong, and we won’t get anywhere. So speak up! Stand together — we are responsible for each other’s well-being.

The first speaker was Sheila Jeffreys. If you don’t know her work, you should take some time to read her. She’s prolific, her scholarship is rigorous, her research impeccable and her writing is very accessible. None of that obtuse pun[ctu]ation that a lot of academics like to use, for example. Her most recent book is Gender Hurts.

Right outta the gate, she pulled no punches (to mix metaphors). “Transgenderism is a social contagion”. She described how it has been socially constructed, and became institutionalized in the 1990s. David Valentine, who worked in the AIDS outreach industry at the time, promoted the idea that cross-dressing gay men were actually “transgendered”. Of course, the NGOs, medicine and social services picked that up and promoted this–in fact, those whom the powerful identified as transgendered did not themselves so identify.

This is very like what has happened to women in prostitution. They themselves started circulating information about particularly dangerous johns, and providing each other with what slender protections they could imagine together. By and by medical professionals, social workers, and others tied to those kinds of institutions picked those tactics up and repackaged them as “harm reduction” and started administering them to the women engaged in street prostitution. They also took up and promoted the term “sex worker” to these women, and made the claim that it was stigma that was most harming them, not the violence of the men entitled to buy them for sex. the women who started the “bad trick” sheets and other peer support services didn’t want to institutionalize “sex work” — they wanted to provide each other with some protection, some comfort, some hope of better. Then the very people who might be able to help women get out of prostitution, merely “met the women where they’re at”, re-named them ‘sex workers’, and rabbited on about how they make choices and should be respected for their choices — and left them there in poverty and sexual servitude. You might say, “no, no, come on, that’s not what happened, that’s not so” — but it is.

That’s an old report, that link, but they stand by those ideas. And you know what, the same people who want to legalize all aspects of prostitution (and let me again clarify — prostitution is something that men do to women — it is an institution driven by male demand for orgasm-whenever-he-wants), are also among the main promoters of “transgender rights” to enter/take over women’s organizations, services and female spaces.

Alright. that’s where i went with that — Sheila went on to describe how transgendering is a source of significant funding for pharmaceutical companies and institutions of medicine (as is harm reduction in relation to drug use and prostitution, by the way). It is an entirely iatrogenic phenomenon — that is to say, it is a medical condition created by medicine. It’s not a thing on its own. It’s not like, say, epilepsy — which is a thing, but was, until recently misunderstood as demonic possession or something. No. It’s more like gay conversion therapy on steroids. when someone displays behaviour, tastes, attributes that do not conform to those supposedly appropriate for their sex — the new ‘go-to’ diagnosis is, instead of homosexual or ‘invert’, transgendered. And a whole big machinery heaves into operation to turn the gay boy or the lesbian girl into a ‘proper’ girl or boy. I’ll say it again, ‘transgendering’ is gay conversion therapy on steroids —

Look, I have to go, but I’ll continue this in another post. There were so many great ideas, and excellent analysis on Saturday, this will take a few posts– stay tuned!

 

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