- The term ‘cis privilege’
- The imposition of narrow gender roles derived from regressive stereotypes based on either sex
- The social construction of gender
- The material reality of biology
- The consequences of conflating both and allowing gender to trump sex
- The sex-based violence against women including: femicide, global poverty, rape, sexual violence, FGM, period poverty
- The biological basis of global female oppression as opposed to the cause of it – a claim no-one is making
- The deliberate misconstrued meaning and application of biological essentialism
- The sex-based gender roles imposed on males and females from birth
- 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)
- The systemic and institutional discrimination of trans women in areas of employment, education, health, welfare, and safety
- 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
- The subordination of the needs and voices of trans men in all public discourse to those of trans women
- The limitless and all-encompassing ‘definition’ of transphobia
- Distress experienced by males due to gender dysphoria (as opposed to sympathy)
- Ditto autogynephilia
- The continued ignoring of this condition and failure to adequately factor it in the mix
- Male perpetrated violence including transphobic violence towards trans people
- Comparatively lower rates of homicide among the trans population than females in the UK and globally
- The murder of Black Trans Women by males predominately in the US & Latin America
- The internal and external factors that condemn many Black gay men to sex work in the States
- The blanket acceptance of sex work as career choice
- The lack of evidence supporting safe use of puberty blockers on children
- The long-term effects of puberty blocker use: infertility, medical dependency, osteoporosis, loss of sexual function. All irreversible
- The rates of destransitioning
- The unprecedented acceleration of transitioning among young females
- The walk-out of 40 clinical staff from Tavistock Clinic due to safe-guarding concerns
- The BBC documentary reporting on same
- Necessary child safeguarding and protection protocols in all spheres of public life in response to male-perpetrated sexual violence and need
- 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
- 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
- The objective clinical evidence this is based on
- The housing of males with sexual assault offenders with the most vulnerable women in society: female prisoners
- The ensuing incidences of sexual assault and violence towards female prisoners by trans identifying males
- The mandatory recording of male-perpetrated sexual violence in the offender’s preferred gender
- The mandatory rule that female victims of male-perpetrated sexual violence must refer to the perpetrator in their preferred gender in court
- 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
- The imposition of gender-based sexual attraction that undermines this in the name of inclusion that renders lesbians ‘bigoted’
- The erosion of sexual boundaries
- 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
- The significantly increased upper body muscular strength, lung and heart capacity males retain compared to females following puberty irrespective of hormone intervention
- The implications of this on maintaining level-playing field for women’s sports, for which resources and opportunities are already in short supply
- Ditto women’s positions in spheres of public politics, culture, decision-making, and representation
- The introduction of education on gender to young children based on regressive sex-based stereotypes
- The introduction of protocols that inhibit parental knowledge of young children ‘socially’ transitioning in schools with no recourse to intervention
- The unprecedented infiltration of every public sector department, private sector ‘diversity’ awareness, and 3rd sector institutions by trans political lobbying groups including Stonewall & Mermaids
- The threat of job loss & actual loss of employment if staff do not fully submit to these political beliefs
- The 2004 Gender Recognition Act
- The Equality Act that includes sex as a protected category alongside those who have undergone gender reassignment surgery
- The single sex exemptions the law permits
- The limitations of the GRA and the rationale for these
- 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
- The anger of Left males brutally administered among women highlighting the above under the guise of solidarity with trans people
- The silence from these same men to all the above issues regardless of platform size, celebrity status, or occupation
- The failure of these men to challenge themselves and their own sex class on the ongoing perpetration of violence against women and transphobic violence
- The assumed right of these men to direct the terms of feminism under the guise of solidarity and inclusion
- The continued framing of international bounds and concerns that transcend feminism, nationality, left/right axis of politics as a uniquely British right-wing phenomenon
- 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
- 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
Finger-tips standing to attention
Left buttock lifted to fire
A starting shot of sulphur
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
Squinting over at dissenting dandruff 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.
She unfastens grave-stoned tinsel tracing frames.
Silver: Like the anniversary celebrated within.
Green: What she was on her wedding day in hindsight.
Green: What she feels if she thinks about it long enough.
Red: The colour of two delicate unlit candles
held in by a girdle of tape slowly limbo dancing
the air on the mantlepiece; Having swaggered in upright
in 19 and 61 when presented as a gift for their first Christmas
from her Mother who, for the last two weeks has been adorned
with plastic holly in the hallway without her consent.
It doesn’t match the pillbox tilted in the same direction
as the eyes made at her new husband sitting comfortably below her.
Cherry-picking the tree, off with glittered globes from Sainsburys.
2 for £1.50 in the January sale of 2014.
Sainsburys being the one shop that do those bulbs for the lights
hanging over paintings in the only gallery she has ever curated.
The harbour at Port-na-Blagh from the main road, on the bend,
pre-planning blight, pre-life insight.
A concentration of boxes lining the valley of Glenties;
recognisable only to the discerning eye. And at that,
incapable of revealing his true origins to her
no matter how intense her gaze lingering on it.
An elegant woman, overdressed to be wandering a meadow alone,
before ending up in the living room on account of the flowers
she sniffs matching the carpet perfectly.
Upwards towards preserved artifacts of her children’s childhood:
Chain-gangs of looped paper rings, misshapen stars,
the clear glass bear from Dublin. Or was it Derry?
Tiers of nearly tears until she reaches the inscrutable angel
presiding somewhat judgmentally over her domestic domain.
Refusing to look down over unabashed nakedness at eyes
coming up for her in the hope they’ll both see the next.
She stood losing a staring contest with the new coffee machine before stepping aside for a Cop. He overtook her on autopilot to resume the universal challenge of early morning indifference. Both of them united by separation anxiety from its predecessor. One that might’ve gurgled back in protest but didn’t tease regulars with fancy moves like this one. Like dispensing hot water then pausing for a round of applause before introducing the headline act to the cup.
That’s when I invaded her peripheral vision with the offer of a lid they thought hip to hide from view, startling her in a manner usually reserved for catching my own reflection.
Ah. It’s yourself. I was away in another world there.
A world of under-eye shadows from Intensive Care Unit hours she’d been keeping; under eyes no bigger than curled up confetti from going through her revolving car-door leaving no time for her usually flawless make-up.
How are things?
Aye. OK. He’ll spend another week in ICU, then home. But recovery will be slow. It’s hard on Mum but there’s hardly a family we know that’s not affected by it. Is there, like?
Everything else is much the same. The boys are fine. Still fighting over Power Rangers cards. And football football football. You know yourself. Is your wee one not into them things yet? They’re a bloody torture.
Aye. She’s a big Celtic fan though, I conceded, finally settling my end of the subtle transaction of child inspired exasperation. Like her Da. So, you know yourself.
[In unison] Aye!
And with that we awkwardly strung out our goodbyes until she reached the till and the poppy on the lapel of her padded coat faded to something vaguely resembling a blood donor badge on a shrunken duvet. One she could cheerfully disappear under.
I skulked back over to the flashy coffee machine wondering what would she think if she knew I pulled my wee one from Remembrance Assembly last week. The one her two boys skipped into along with every other wee one from what I could gather on Facebook, where all the best rights are violated. Shouldn’t I have sent in her in there? Isn’t this what integrated education is all about?
Aye. According to the stock imaged posters, and those misty-eyed promos featuring Liam Neeson selling us the benefits of holding hands across the playground in a non-threatening voice. There he is. All whispery, beatifically laying his hand on a shoulder as the camera pulls away to reveal me gnawing my fist. For f*ck’s sake, Liam. Too many people already think integrated education is for pretentious w*nkers and toffs. Ham up the local brogue there like a good man.
Aye. OK. I made that last bit up.
Of course it’s for bloody toffs you stupid eejit, pointed out my friend diplomatically. You have to drive to get to it!
Aye. Right enough.
And where does your wee one go, the integrated?, inquired a colleague condemned to my front passenger seat longer than should ever be necessary.
Fair play til ya. Friends of our Mary goes there.
Wait a second. So there’s no Irish at all?, another mate re-checked, ramping up the incredulity.
Join the army today!
Supposing when my words step backwards down into the page, they capsize and stubbornly attach themselves to the expanse in ways that duck my reach before drifting ashore in my hair from where I’ll embarrassingly pick them out days later, frayed and indecipherable to the untrained squinter.
“Is that something in your hair?” “Ah yes”, I’ll squint, dislodging it from its hiding place behind my ear before studying in mock fashion, “why it appears to be a question mark”.
Supposing there will come a time when she won’t let me square why? with the why not? Of Remembrance Assembly attendance. Of not wearing that hooped jersey on sports day. Of being the Other of Three categorically divided by Two.
Supposing I was to go one tip-toe further with a pre-emptive why not? at the why? Of the hidden fadas. Of invisible hurleys. Of being the Other of Three unquestioningly divided by One.
Supposing we were keep-the-head-downers, mixed-marrieds centrists, holders of wringed hands clasped in prayer, would-be gleaming side-stepfording governors.
Would we all be Other than who We are then?
The deck of cards is not needed now.
Slap it sideways on the kitchen table
Until it has break-danced itself
into sanctuary behind the Joker
Howling in our faces all along.
A jester holding appeals over the courtship
of righteousness and misdirection;
Chaperoned by those salt-of-the-moon types
Saucer-eyed out stationed destination’ed trains.
Incandescent with dullness and clapping
with all the force of a sigh of Iarnrod Eireann passengers
arriving within the hour of the hour.
The jury of the unamused should not fooled by.. by…
Objections, Your Honour.
Sustained. The defence may call its sole witness.
Witness flings itself through the door
Rolling inanimately atop four-legged determination.
The defendant is ordered to place the needle delicately
on its infinite radial of plaintive cries,
underlain with pedal-raising feats of piano notes
subdued just enough to spark her synapses back into being.
Igniting her body along the flammable strip of her sashay
Before a creep-up of drumbeats begs her
to lose her footing causing her to trip
Headfirst onto a confetti of harmonica.
Zig-zigging to and fro in an eight-shaped
Skate-figured skim over what doesn’t matter now
Held up by the reverb from what mattered then.
Gripping her hips with the fellowship of disparition that
Compresses her track-by-track into an artist’s impression of
foetal desperation that when turned up
reveals her brandishing a mic mid-air
in defiant electrification.
The jury of the infused finds her gilded.
And you’re to blame *cups ear* ….you give… that’s it…..a bad…
Beautiful singing, dot comrades. Like an Enya album speeded up to 45. Irresistable that tune, init? A bit like the keyboard.
I hope you’re all doing grand and the sunlight isn’t causing too much of a nasty glare on your screen. As if internet enthusiasts haven’t enough to contend with. Sleep. Other people. Driving. Eating. The barriers are many but we battle through. Some of us towards other forms.
I’ve carried out the threat of tinkering beyond the long-form rambling into a more disciplined method with a new location for same. It may be short-lived. It may not. Shrugs. All visitors, snoopers, lurkers, and Enya/Chris deBurgh very welcome.
The screen that first looked back in blank defiance
The defiant North typing up the drama queen’s highway
The crowning of her and him with words they’ll never see
The sight of the first of a million abortion stories already told
The last shelter of cherished anonymity giving it away for free
The feeling of standing beneath a downpour of thoughts unblocked
The poring over of puddles of muddles without a reigncoat on
The top fives, the Bono-bashing, the back-tracking, the track-listing
The listlessness, the taking the pissness, the carelessness
The fall into a deep comma, the semi-colonoscopies and
‘Share Your Story’
There was an invitation I didn’t receive every day. By receive, I mean what I stumbled on while frittering away time on the net, when one click inevitably led to another until the words stared back from the screen. Glared back with an arched brow. Like a gauntlet rolled across my eye-line landing abruptly in front of my finger-tips. Like my past tapping me on the shoulder having finally caught up after losing me on and off over the years. Here was my chance to turn around to have an encounter with what I never quite managed to shake off. Or share.
My story. Would I even have enough words to knead one from them? Was the unsolicited offer of money from my friend the beginning of it? Or was it the umpteen tests that didn’t require the mandatory three minutes to be sure. Maybe it was the surreptitious tearing off of back pages from Marie Claire, or the relentless counting down of days and up of weeks in sheer disbelief on fingers that never ceased shaking; struggling to reconcile what was with what couldn’t possibly be. Could it? Was the return flight landing the end of it, or merely the middle, before the suspected infection landed me at a GP’s door? At the top of steps I’d never climbed before or since, and only out of necessity then because she had a reputation for being sympathetic.
And yet, all I can think of when confronted with this blank page is the red-headed girl who lay next to me in the recovery room.
I had a few years on her, though we were only counties apart. Same airline. Same stage. Booked in for the same procedure. I see her yet, pale, and anxious to return to her friend waiting at reception; both of us recovering on loungers as if on some exclusive spa retreat. To the manor born; dealing with our unborn.
Did she feel the same pain afterwards? Did she know to get Ibuprofen when nothing else worked? Did she wonder if the contractions she felt were like the labour she would not go through with this time? Did she go into combat against thoughts of never being given a second chance? Did she, too, go back to her daily grind immediately? The relief from not colliding with anyone she knew in either airport still palpable…
I catch sight of her still in other teenagers. She must be nearing 30 now. Not far off I was then. Old enough to have known better, they would say; whoever they are.
On that day, we became the ‘they’ they draw sharp intakes of breath about in pulpits and pamphlets. We’ve been listening to stories about ourselves ever since. Stories I rarely recognise as my own.
The following day, I sat in a café, high on relief from being able to drink coffee again. Sauntering down the Tottenham Court Road; buoyed up on secrecy, and a surreal certainty that nothing would ever be the same again, and everything would be exactly as it was before.
And here I am, years later, the extent of the sharing of my story never having exceeded the number of people I can count on half of those same fingers. Until tonight.
I am participating in the ‘Share your abortion story’ initiative held in a discreetly disclosed location in Dublin City Centre. Final arrangements e-mailed, we are assured we can sign-in with a different name, if we so wish. I decline the option to be anyone else. It feels liberating to be me.
One by one, we take it in turn to read aloud over the next four weeks, retracing our steps along the choices we made; each story alive with the detail of exactly how it was then. Each reading followed by silence. Not the silence we are accustomed to when it comes to having our stories acknowledged, but a kind that lets pens glide across pages, delivering considered responses to mobilise us along our common quest to get it down. Pages gathered up to take away as we take our leave till next time.
The obliqueness of my story is evident. I have grown adept at disguising this chapter of my history over the years. The crushed heart harboured following the death of a seven year relationship hidden from the listener; replaced by a hesitancy to share too much for fear it might trigger the slightest whiff of justification. I am not here for that. This much I know.
So what is my story exactly? It is one of fleeting comfort from unexpectedly finding myself in the arms of a friend at a time of rebound. It’s a tale of sorrow at being marooned on a lonely place deserted from certainty, without the financial or mental means to make my own life work, never mind that of another. It’s the saga of a regrettable situation, but a decision taken without regret. It’s a one time thing, that happens a lot. It’s not the easiest one to tell, but one impossible to forget.
So why am I sharing it now? There is no expiry date on the memory of our stories, or to the seeming right of others to assume copyright over what it was that we experienced, or what it was not. I answered the rap on my screen, opening it to the offer of a pen to take back the story I didn’t give permission for anyone else to tell. It was the first time I was asked.
From girlhood, I have occupied a seat of nationally orchestrated silence at the foot of the altar of Official Ireland from where women are spoken about as though we are not in the room; where we are legislated for as if headless surrogates for Mother Ireland and all her new-borns she only half-heartedly commits to cherishing. Governed by unequivocal rulings that obscure the complexities of individual lives, and condemns grown women to fugitives from our own bodily and moral integrity; then onward to shameful silence on our return from Unofficial Ireland: England.
This nation that now counts my own daughter among its number. A new generation that appears destined to inherit the same unassailable, unsanctioned stigma presided over by the clerically-appointed custodians of their reproductive rights.
I believe that, like mine, their private lives should be sanitised of unauthorised public shaming, and all our confiscated wombs returned to us, stripped of competing graffiti and religious paraphernalia.
If the first casualty of war is truth, then sharing mine is a weapon I’m willing to fire. To begin to recover my lost voice; to reclaim the silence between the words never spoken. Until now.
With thanks to Angela Coraccio and fellow participants