On gender self ID & political principles (sort of)

With Posie Parker aka Kelly-Jay Keen en route to Belfast this year with her Let Women Speak public meeting tour, and my passing expression of apprehension on Twitter being very quickly interpreted in classic default sectarian terms or a coy statement on Irish/English dynamics, I’m back struggling to grasp the celebrated analogies from last year using similar hands across the barricades imagery. I’m not for a second knocking the rounds of applause for women across the divide working together, or their courageous labours, it’s just the analogy doesn’t sit comfortably with me and I don’t fully buy into these apparent divides as a convincing parallel. Particularly as shorthand for suspension of mutual ideological hostilities uniting left and right outlooks.

The celebrated citing of women across the North coming together to challenge self ID was in response to perennially fraught twitter discussions on the merits/need to form coalitions that transcend traditional points on the standard political axis, which is increasingly meaningless anyway. So we often tell ourselves and each other, which isn’t that difficult given the sense of betrayal by the left steamrolling their way forward to beat back women as bigots for attempting to responsibly reconcile and balance rights those self ID directly affects: women and people with gender dysphoria. The idea that women across the two traditional communities (as local parlance goes) of the North working together is to be taken as proof of an ability to overcome savagely diametrically opposed positions and carve out intransigence smashing possibilities only half staggers, if it gets up out of the armchair at all.

Women across all communities have always worked together on fundamental issues concerning women. From holding the place together during the worst of the Conflict, to organising and delivering services for women affected by male violence, to being the driving force for pressurising the establishment to secure equal status on reproductive rights with the rest of the UK. This despite being met by a fortified wall of male resistance and political dysfunction across every hue within mainstream & rehabilitated ‘grassroots’ politics for decades. Male dominated institutions of every creed and shade.

Ironically, the emergence of the funded sector’s involvement in grassroots campaigns in recent years has led to the unforgivable decimation of that working class coalition and foundation that evolved from the ground up for meaningful participation of working class women before their subsequent relegation on twitter by members of the Northern branch of Irish Feminism (c) to occasionally head-patted volunteers offering diversionary activities for young people. Despite the twitter aided culture of predominately middle class names & ‘activists’ on the scene, these women continue to form the background of authentic class based action in communities starved of employment, education & childcare opportunities. Eschewing industry speak, self-regarding bios and soundbites, they still carry out the bulk of women’s social and peace labours in the meaningful sense. They don’t follow a parallel of right and left. That parallel doesn’t align with cooperation and in turn it obscures relevant and critical divergences within left & right outlooks where they very much matter for women locally.

The demographics of the North have changed in a way consistent with the rest of the island through inward migration with over 12 per cent (possibly higher) of the population from minority communities. Women from these communities are very much part of the heavy-lifting of navigating a multi-cultural society in a post-conflict era. One of the legitimate criticisms of funding criteria & framing in recent years is its unstinting devotion to outdated ideas of the classic two community structure.

It’s also worth mentioning the biggest immigrant group to the island is those coming over or returning from England. The status of English people, the complicated history of the returned children of emigrants with dual identities, and the fate of economic migrant reversal, shows up the symbiosis between our islands in ways far beyond and much more enriching than the crude tale of displaced natives condemned to Britain. It’s not so simple. They too roll up their sleeves with other women.

The default image of two irrational native groups at war with one another over religion was largely manufactured propaganda that suited the establishment across the islands, but it was not a wholly accurate one. That’s not to diminish the reality of the Conflict or its roots, causes and devastation. But it has always been narrated by men with the social history of women never written in then as now. Life behind crude headlines is significantly different and less compatible with these images & to me far from ideas of a left & right laying down their opposing ideologies. The labours of women largely stem from a left union and working class tradition and that is still vital for securing power and resources.

If by the right, we can settle on socially conservative elements, then those are still very much alive and continue to pose significant threats to the stability of the region as well as the rights & prospects of women including minority women, Travellers, lesbians, and disabled women. These socially conservative elements have historically shown up as a patchwork across all political establishments – mainstream and grassroots. Those on the side of green didn’t turn a word in Rome’s mouth and only showed up lately to hitch their wagon to the cause of abortion when it has become politically advantageous.

For current funded sector activists to concentrate their ire on the bad Brit women (many of them Irish), and make them receptacles for their anger at inaction, just shows how far women have been socialised to see women as the only instigators of change or challenge to that brutal male driven regime. The inaccuracies of the historical revisionism on involvement of women in Britain in helping Irish women access abortion are already documented elsewhere.

Meanwhile, political unionism, dominated by the DUP in a powersharing holding arrangement that trails far behind evolving demographics and contemporary political appetites of the people, occupy the caricature of evangelical social conservatism in the public imagination. They operate in tandem with loyalist gangs & associates relied on to manipulate & whip up social and political anxiety under the guise of unspecified perilous threats to the status of the Union. None of which ever seems to encompass issues pertaining to the quality of life, life expectancy or prospects of women.

Working class women in those communities, already disenfranchised by third generation unemployment and poverty, condemned to subsistence living, voiceless and marginalised by an industry based community infrastructure and many at the mercy of criminal gang driven money lenders given a free pass by their respectable political wing in Stormont are the main casualties. Their voices drowned out & ignored by political forces that cynically exploit their fears and by a local media obsessed with respectability & parliamentary politics. Middle class moderate unionism expresses little sense of responsibility to engage with or promote their interests. Yet, moderate unionists are among the more socially liberal demographics & working class women in loyalist areas depend on this for the political will to implement abortion services, if their leaders continue to drag their heels. They can’t win. The story of working class women across the North of whatever background doesn’t deviate from this predestination by toxic patriarchal politics and is unlikely to any time soon.

So back to gender self ID and competing views on coalitions growing ever more heated. If we have to go with a Northern analogy at all, and I’m still not convinced, then a broad church sharing a similar end goal works for me, somewhat. Whether that’s nationalism/republicanism or unionism/loyalism. Both with an eye on a shared goal to be achieved but by strategically different methods and means, with frequent overlaps & points of cooperation and codependency along the way. All will argue their legitimacy, and support will move between and across from old school and transient supporters adopting a pic ‘n’ mix depending on context, strength of political principles and their willingness to bend or not. It also echoes a class dimension with each political strand traditionally associated with working and middle class communities respectively and twinned under a single identity in various states of flux as new and unexpected challenges arise.

When I heard Kelly-Jay was coming (which she is free to do & as someone who considers this issue a global one, certainly a Western one, it’s above borders), my first thought wasn’t anything at all to do with nationality or religion or traditional divisions. Not in the classic sense anyway. Those, frankly lazy, default divides and talking points exploited by the Northern left and women’s funded sector who seized on them as weapons to defend their desertion of basic democracy with disastrously gratuitous sectarianism. A kind dangerously reinforced by an ignorant Southern wing of Irish Feminism (c) spawned on middle class twitter.

My first thought was Jamie Bryson, then Jolene Bunting and her various associates and the likelihood of them turning up to be cheered on. Rightly or possibly wrongly, it detonated an instinctive dread of these chancers who will ostensibly promote the language of women’s rights while actively working against women in the day to day reality. Who exploit disenfranchised young people to stoke the flames of racism, division, and sexism that detrimentally affects so many women here undermining their personal and collective stability and participation in their own politics in ways that are no better than the respectable twitter establishment.

They’re free to exercise their freedom of speech but it would be naive and highly dishonest to believe they are acting in good faith or have the interests of women at heart. They do not and are highly divisive. They are first and foremost opportunists promoting the politics of division who seek leverage and women, as they are for the left establishment, the perfect group for them to benefit from. It has nothing at all to do with purity of feminism or leftism and everything to do with political honesty.

Abortion is still not being commissioned & women are rightfully angry. As much I defend women in Britain against sectarianism, lies & inaccuracy, it is absolutely fair to say this cause is largely ignored by top-hitters particularly where abortion is concerned with talk centred on the fall-out from America and infiltration of far right elements. The problems are much closer to home.

The house is on fire. But it has been on fire for decades in multiple rooms. There is no one single fire to fight and those extinguishing the flames can’t isolate the proximity of women to other toxic flames when it comes to letting women speak of the reality of their rights and threats to the quality of life of their children.

When letting women speak, surely it can be permitted – if not accepted or agreed with by all – that a speaker who has expressly stated abortion can be forfeited as a legitimate casualty in this battle against self ID, will be a cause for struggle and discomfort for many women including me. Because context awakens political principles laid down during formative political development long before single issue firefighting came along and they can’t always be sacrificed in the name of it. If letting women speak, against the mix of these local dynamics, feeling uneasy is neither unreasonable or surprising. It’s not an order or a demand, it just is. A reminder that place and principles matter even when our own side betrays us. Especially when they do.

School around the corner

department of speculation

What a difference a week makes; book-ended as it was by songs that evoke emotions so heavy they don’t bear hearing more than once in a year. O Holy Night cracks its whip on the heart, startling it to bolt upright and take off around the track of emotion. Past memories, some magical, others painful; disturbing the earth surrounding dormant feelings as it gallops onward through the bend of hopeful anticipation before hitting the straight. Then chasing Now along the final furlong to cross the line in a perfect photo-finish. A week later Auld Lang Syne will not be able resist pulling at the stray thread dangling from the soul; it won’t be satisfied until it unravels it completely before abandoning it in an untidy heap for its owner to disentangle and roll back up.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the Eve of Christmas and…

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It was not you who had to surrender all
The two-bed day-dream by a Southern shore
Lined with a diversity of horizons
Bearing only flags of blue: liberty on labels
coloured Us and Them.


It is not you who refuses to Tri on
Sleeves coloured Ourselves and Alone
Flanked either side of gowns in bridal white:
for the march down the Island
to a pre-arranged fight


It was not I who quietly jettisoned all
The silent signs. Finger-tips no longer touching fringe
Across to either shoulder then down to
Heart of sacred red: To join with me
In bringing her up as a flag set free

Tower of Babble

department of speculation

Finger-tips standing to attention
Left buttock lifted to fire
A starting shot of sulphur
He’s off
Left, right, left, right
Fingers sashay up and down
The Queen’s keyboard
In exclamation-marked outrage
At charges of gutter culture
Left, right, left, right
Re-routed and stopped
From entering the Republic of Logic
By those blockading reconciliation
One’s iconography being set alight by
Placing an inferno under that of another
Left, right, left, right
Jenga’ing his way around detractors
He slides one pallet out from under another
Reconstructing his argument
Capital-lettering one back on top of the next
Left, right, left, right 
Until they fill the entire screen-line
On which he stands aloft on top
Squinting over at dandruff-sized brethren down below
The click-clacking of
Bullets from his behind
Left, right, left, right
In concert with the silent but deadly
Desertion of his leaders

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The Draughtsman

Seventeen years since your retirement –
one for every foot of your occupation of my girlhood
which was not to scale, for at seventeen I discovered you are
as unassailable as the stool my three-foot self could never climb,
however steadily positioned against the drawing board
with a drop so sheer for the plummet of your moods
that frequently rolled like pencils over blue-prints
of right-angled doorways and vague outlines of windows,
like a sketchy outlay of the foundations of your being
that insisted on revealing where the septic tank should be.
As if we did not know where the sewage was located,
while numerous Storage Units were strewn arbitrarily
across both floors of your semi-detached self
without any clues as to what should be kept in them,
though we later suspected.
And now that your own foundations are beginning to sink
and you are no longer to scale as you once were then,
(less defiant two-story than abandoned bungalow)
I still tip-toe slowly across the t-square of your mood
negotiating it like a pirate’s plank knowing it will
inevitably lead to a 90 degree turn
Onto which I mount and slide unsteadily
as it narrows and shortens,
while your tongue sharpens the lead of my feelings,
paring them down until there is a storage unit’s worth of shavings
to shore up with a wooden ruler.
One rule for you
and a different rule for everyone else.

Post-coital feminism

Post-coital feminism

“I don’t believe in an intersectionalist God”, he teased
with sheets coiled about his knees
As she padded towards the bathroom.
Her deliberate poise intersecting with her shame
at the moon-landing terrain of her thighs.
“Get a life, would ya”, she retorted over her shoulder
Towards him lying prostrate in submission
to her naked point of view.
His deliberate pose already obsolete
given the rainbow of pillow-creases along his face
And the victorious underwear discarded with indifference
Along the hedges of the bed like fast-food wrappers
Whipped up by the wind from passing car windows
on those perspired dates of summer.
Rolling over on his back, he waited to be stroked
By her star-grabbing handed exuberance at the
urgency of it all. But first she had to undress
At least five other women.
Crossed-legged on the bed she hung her left brow
on a hook high upon her forehead
And gazed intently at them as her fingers jabbed
Up and down their torsos one by one until
She felt sure they were

hashtag –

Sorry, not sorry

Sorry*, Not Sorry

To my second child
I was too elsewhere to conceive
To my first who will not
always think him or her
To the piano for leaving
whatever potential was left untuned
To my head for failing
to lower the volume
on my heart
To the miracle of mortgage
For not co-oporation with it
To my occupation
of little sense of direction
To my lack of loyalty
to loyalty cards, which
to my credit
card, is past its expiration
To the pension
not given planning permission
from the authority local to my logic

*Terms and Conditions apply:

To the rapidfiredvoiced offer
(of which only 16% percent variable was audible)
for my interest-free indifference
To my ovaries for re-directing thousands
away from one eternal hope
To the linear life
for over-taking it on the inside lane
along the A-drift
To my heart for
occasionally forcing it to concede victory
in an arm-wrestle
with my head

Finally, to The Non-Conformittee:
A letter of resignation from one
No longer fugitive or fleeing

Things Women’s Cis Privilege is not responsible for

  1. The term ‘cis privilege’
  2. The imposition of narrow gender roles derived from regressive stereotypes based on either sex
  3. The social construction of gender
  4. The material reality of biology
  5. The consequences of conflating both and allowing gender to trump sex
  6. The sex-based violence against women including: femicide, global poverty, rape, sexual violence, FGM, period poverty
  7. The biological basis of global female oppression as opposed to the cause of ita claim no-one is making
  8. The deliberate misconstrued meaning and application of biological essentialism 
  9. The sex-based gender roles imposed on males and females from birth
  10. The appropriation and exploitation of intersex people in the gender debate against the express will of the minority of people with intersex conditions (who are all male or female)
  11. The systemic and institutional discrimination of trans women in areas of employment, education, health, welfare, and safety
  12. The systemic and institutional response to that discrimination in the form of thought-terminating slogans and self-serving moral marketing that fails to address any of it
  13. The subordination of the needs and voices of trans men in all public discourse to those of trans women
  14. The limitless and all-encompassing ‘definition’ of transphobia
  15. Distress experienced by males due to gender dysphoria (as opposed to sympathy)
  16. Ditto autogynephilia
  17. The continued ignoring of this condition and failure to adequately factor it in the mix
  18. Male perpetrated violence including transphobic violence towards trans people
  19. Comparatively lower rates of homicide among the trans population than females in the UK and globally
  20. The murder of Black Trans Women by males predominately in the US & Latin America
  21. The internal and external factors that condemn many Black gay men to sex work in the States
  22. The blanket acceptance of sex work as career choice
  23. The lack of evidence supporting safe use of puberty blockers on children
  24. The long-term effects of puberty blocker use: infertility, medical dependency, osteoporosis, loss of sexual function. All irreversible
  25. The rates of destransitioning
  26. The unprecedented acceleration of transitioning among young females
  27. The walk-out of 40 clinical staff from Tavistock Clinic due to safe-guarding concerns
  28. The BBC documentary reporting on same
  29. Necessary child safeguarding and protection protocols in all spheres of public life in response to male-perpetrated sexual violence and need
  30. Ditto single sex space and the multiple reasons for their evolution including safety, privacy, dignity of everyone including the need to enable women, men and children participate in public life
  31. The trauma from violence and sexual abuse on women that requires them to have access to single-sex therapeutic single-sex spaces and programme for them and their children
  32. The objective clinical evidence this is based on
  33. The housing of males with sexual assault offenders with the most vulnerable women in society: female prisoners
  34. The ensuing incidences of sexual assault and violence towards female prisoners by trans identifying males
  35. The mandatory recording of male-perpetrated sexual violence in the offender’s preferred gender
  36. The mandatory rule that female victims of male-perpetrated sexual violence must refer to the perpetrator in their preferred gender in court
  37. The biological basis of same-sex attraction that is inherently and uncompromisingly discriminatory based on – biology and legitimate genitalia preference. Ask a Left straight male who he can and can’t have sex with
  38. The imposition of gender-based sexual attraction that undermines this in the name of inclusion that renders lesbians ‘bigoted’
  39. The erosion of sexual boundaries
  40. The implications on necessary precise data required to plan resources, services, and measure discrimination through deliberate conflation of sex and a nebulous idea of gender
  41. The significantly increased upper body muscular strength, lung and heart capacity males retain compared to females following puberty irrespective of hormone intervention
  42. The implications of this on maintaining level-playing field for women’s sports, for which resources and opportunities are already in short supply
  43. Ditto women’s positions in spheres of public politics, culture, decision-making, and representation
  44. The introduction of education on gender to young children based on regressive sex-based stereotypes
  45. The introduction of protocols that inhibit parental knowledge of young children ‘socially’ transitioning in schools with no recourse to intervention
  46. The unprecedented infiltration of every public sector department, private sector ‘diversity’ awareness, and 3rd sector institutions by trans political lobbying groups including Stonewall & Mermaids
  47. The threat of job loss & actual loss of employment if staff do not fully submit to these political beliefs
  48. The 2004 Gender Recognition Act
  49. The Equality Act that includes sex as a protected category alongside those who have undergone gender reassignment surgery
  50. The single sex exemptions the law permits
  51. The limitations of the GRA and the rationale for these
  52. The right to condemn organising politically exclusively as a female sex-class as abhorrent and something to be approved of by males. Female is a distinct meaningful political category that depends on political organisation for the safeguarding of rights and protections
  53. The anger of Left males brutally administered among women highlighting the above under the guise of solidarity with trans people
  54. The silence from these same men to all the above issues regardless of platform size, celebrity status, or occupation
  55. The failure of these men to challenge themselves and their own sex class  on the ongoing perpetration of violence against women and transphobic violence
  56. The assumed right of these men to direct the terms of feminism under the guise of solidarity and inclusion
  57. The continued framing of international bounds and concerns that transcend feminism, nationality, left/right axis of politics as a uniquely British right-wing phenomenon
  58. The ‘right’ of twitter to ban users (many women) for stating biology is immutable while allowing on-going abuse and threats towards women (from mainly men) for stating that their sex matters to their life experiences
  59. The wilful determination to interpret this as respectable corporate responsibility than the political lobbying it is and the implications of same on democractic engagement and discourse
  60. Glinner
  61. Bono

Tower of Babble

Finger-tips standing to attention
Left buttock lifted to fire
A starting shot of sulphur
He’s off
Left, right, left, right
Fingers sashay up and down
The Queen’s keyboard
In exclamation-marked outrage
At charges of gutter culture
Left, right, left, right
Re-routed and stopped
From entering the Republic of Logic
By those blockading reconciliation
One’s iconography being set alight by
Placing an inferno under that of another
Left, right, left, right
Jenga’ing his way around detractors
He slides one pallet out from under another
Reconstructing his argument
Capital-lettering one back on top of the next
Left, right, left, right 
Until they fill the entire screen-line
On which he stands aloft on top
Squinting over at dandruff-sized brethren down below
The click-clacking of
Bullets from his behind
Left, right, left, right
In concert with the silent but deadly
Desertion of his leaders


The first problem with pulling the plug on the blog was wondering what to do with all the posts. What worth had they, if any, in the annals of internal monologues, and for whom. The desertion by question marks from that sentence consistent with the indifference everyone reading it feels.

As a compendium of places my monologues visited during a specific time and place, was there any point in letting them gather dust for future surface-blowing. Having spent most of my independence as a fugitive from carrying much baggage other than psychological, I had come to regret the periodic replenishing of recycling boxes with letters and diaries and scrapbooks and Red Bulled essays. Some origamied into qualifying for forensic lab assembly requiring tweezers and expert witness hands. Others discarded whole with a cavalier flick beloved of anyone adept at undervaluing exchanges between 20 somethings with no money, no direction, and no surrender to the game being up.

The second problem with pulling the plug on the blog was wondering who could blow the dust off. Laundering them through Twitter as re-usable currency for communication was all very well but their shelf-life eventually expired along with representations of everyone and everything in them. If they were dating site profile pics, the hair-lines would now be dots on the horizon of their owners foreheads hovering above thinned top lips hanging like interval curtains over teeth gone for another costume change.

A few teeth are missing. The two front teeth just this weekend. She is above my fluctuating waistline now and firmly under his wing. I thought of asking him to store these posts under lock and key for her to peruse at a legal drinking date should fate intervene and dispossess me of an opportunity to hand them over myself. Hand over myself. My other selves. The half-distracted self. The middle-distance thinking self. The one she senses is somewhere else.

She mightn’t be interested in where I went anyway.

The third problem with pulling the plug on the blog was being caught short of a place to be and ending up in Twitter. Again. And again. And again. Twitter is other hells of other selves and an elusive sense of self. The HD self. The short distance sprinting thinking self. No roaming in the gloaming through the byroads of the subconscious for a long-form to and fro. Just interrogation lighting with torchlights drawn at 20 paces along the keyboard.

The fourth problem with pulling the plug on the blog is wanting to plug it back in. Sometimes.