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A Very Queer Cold War

The petition to drop the “T” from LGBT is just the latest conflict in the ongoing Queer Civil War. On both sides of the conflict, there’s calls for seperatism, but where does that leave those of us who are both LG or B and T? And where does it end?

Added to Features, on 9 November, 2015

A Very Queer Cold War

It’s a confusing time to be Queer in both sexuality and gender. I feel like two separate parts of my identity are being dragged into a conflict that I can’t understand. There seems to be an ongoing battle – or at the very least, an online feud spilling over into the real world – between those who are “Queer” in sexuality, and those who are “Queer” in gender identity, with separatist extremists on both sides looking to distance themselves from the other. It’s unfortunate. For me, who can identify with both camps in this ridiculous war, it seems like two siblings trying to win favour and approval of a judgemental, disconcerting parent.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of people – either LGB or T – who know this stupid war to be as nonsensical and absurd as it is. Each side basically wants the same thing: acceptance, tolerance, normalisation and understanding. And yet, in order to to gain favour with the disconcerting parent (essentially, the non-Queer majority), each sibling tries to justify why they’re more normal, by expressing some conservative, Daddy-approving attitude about the other – for example, highly publicised Transgendered individuals expressing their discontent with the idea of gay marriage, and similarly highly publicised Gay & Bisexual individuals expressing their discontent with the idea that someone can change their gender.

The highly unfortunate thing about it all is that they’re both expressing the same hostile attitudes towards one another that hark back to the dark ages in which they both fought together to come out of. Anti-trans and anti-gay sentiment is so, well, last century. Everyone believed, or at least hoped, that in the last few years, we’d left the dark ages of Queer identity, victorious and united. But the shit-pot has been stirred consistently and constantly too, and not just by members of each community.

This article has actually been a long time in the making, and is really an updated version of many other articles I’ve wished to write, but haven’t finished, after various events have unfolded that have some debate – especially online – between both camps. The latest debate unfolded after a petition was placed on Change.org for “Trans” to be dropped from LGBT, written to the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and GLAAD. Thankfully, the organisations took the petition for all it was worth and essentially told them to fuck off in the politest of terms. A counter-petition, on the same website, managed to swiftly garnish support. After reading what many cisgender LGB people had said, I was shocked and disgusted, but altogether, not surprised (what was surprising was that certain people I knew had such attitudes). Of course, this came shortly after Germaine Greer’s comments about Transwomen, which plenty of cisgender LGB agreed with and promoted, despite Germaine Greer’s earlier and equally controversial around Gay IVF (not that I’m accusing anyone on either side of the chasm for having short memories and being selective…).

Before this, it was the whole Drag Queens being banned at Pride thing, as not to upset Transgender women. Equally as ridiculous as the aforementioned petition, but nonetheless, fuel for the fire. Another similar event occurred with the release of gay-icon and B-52s singer Kate Pierson’s solo debut, Mister Sister, in which she hoped the song would become a “Trans anthem”, which seemed to irritate the Trans community to a disturbing nth degree due to its clumsy lyrics.

Of course, the Drag vs Transwoman debate has been tinkering along for a while now. Whilst there are plenty of people who sit in the middle of the issue (like me), once in a while, more fuel is added to the fire, more so-called spokespeople turn up and give their two cents, and this very Cold Queer War continues on. The war is very much an ideological one, typically left up to those “brave” enough to attack others on Social Media. Out come the insults about transgender people and cisgender LGB people. Each side starts talking about what is “real”, “normal” and “natural”, who has the “history” and who has the “privilege” – I’ve even heard them debate about whose allies are the worst! (That’s definitely a topic for a future post – why are Queer people so obsessed with ally bashing?!).

But in order to please their non-Queer Daddy, they not only recycle some of Daddy’s dark-aged attitudes and shit witticisms (shitticisms) towards each other, but they also seem to play a game about who is the worst off and hard done by. Yes, if there’s one thing – along with ally bashing – that the Queer community can do, it’s self-victimisation.

Secretly, I blame Tumblr for this. Tumblr Queers are the very worst of Queer, because (in general) they’re the laziest, but most self-entitled, of Queer activists. I’m sure saying this may not win me any favours or fans, but they are essentially the online equivalent of the University Activist: very opinionated and very sure of themselves, but relatively safe and socially-removed in their higher-education ivory towers, although always eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to be offended. Tumblr is the cesspit of Queerdom. Everybody wants to be a victim on Tumblr, the point where there’s a term and diagnosis for every single possible thing that could, maybe, possibly, have someone give a shit about, and if someone won’t give a shit about it, they’ll find a reason to give a shit about it, with some vague, metaphorical gif image featuring cats. Of course, I shouldn’t say that it’s all bad, as there are some brilliant Queer things on Tumblr, but it’s often unfortunately overshadowed by fanatical shite.

Indeed, as I entered University at eighteen, and became more political and proud over my gender and sexual identity, I gave Tumblr (and the University’s Queer Collective) a shot. It was a hoot at first, and slightly addictive. A hot, thinking bed of opinions, so many opinions, all without references, but all equally given by people so sure of themselves. It was like every debate you could ever have at a University bar: people have taken a few tutorials in the subject, and read a chapter in the set text, and now they’re a fucking expert. An expert, who, incidentally, has no time for opposing views and very little real life experience. Essentially, it’s trolling that it so self-important that it doesn’t consider itself to be trolling.

I can’t regret my time on Tumblr of course, like I can’t regret joining the University Queer Collective – as it was there that I was introduced to what I like to call the Stockholm Syndrome Queers. They wish for freedom away from heteronormativity, but secretly, like the underdog position it gives them. Heteronormativity feeds their identity: it wouldn’t be enough for them to simply be a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. They have to be one – or two of the above – with a purpose, and being the underdog is that purpose; otherwise, they’d be a radical without anything to be radical about. They’ll simply never be accepted enough – and are the kind of people who are the real reason why so-called Political Correctness is so despised; the kind of person who speaks only in acronyms, and is peeved when somebody doesn’t know the latest buzzword in radical, Queer/feminist discourse.

It was there that I saw straight allies mercilessly torn from limb to limb for the most well-intentioned and simplest of mistakes. I saw Trans people being blasted for not being trans enough, and therefore being unable to experience offence or discrimination to the same extent (when did the competition start?). Fellow Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual people thrown to the lions for not being angry enough or not following the Queer party line. I was blasted for referring to myself as a tranny, and thus told by a Transwoman that I should be “booted out of any Queer space by a large wooden poll right up my arse by anyone who considers themselves a Queer ally”. I was also told off for saying that I found “the whole concept of gender ridiculous”. Yeah, these weren’t exactly the kind of activist Queers I wanted to be around. I didn’t hate straight or cisgender people, and I didn’t think the allies deserved all the shit they got. I simply wasn’t radical enough, I suppose…

The petition – which, I have read, was started by TERFs (Trans-exclusionary Radical Feminists) – spoke in a fashion about Trans people more expected of a Bible Belt American Christian than a Queer person. The TERFs have widely been described as the “Westboro Baptist Church of Radical Feminism”, and anti-Trans quotes by TERFs have been selectively picked by the most hideous of Conservative Commentators to support their ideologies of Trans exclusion. When the petition was posted by PinkNews, I had hoped – even expected – that despite the ongoing differences between Trans and cisgender Queers, we’d all pull together on this one and shoot it down as the complete and utter nonsense it was.

I was disturbingly surprised.

Gay men especially, it seemed, had a lot of time for the TERF-written nonsense. One gay man wrote that “Trans people get to eat at the buffet, while we’re all left to eat the crumbs”, others said that in this day and age, “Trans people had it made”, “they always moan about discrimination where there isn’t any”, “they started it”, and that “they make being cisgender seem like a bad thing”. One even suggested that by allowing sex changes, we were destroying the gender binary that allowed gay men to fight for their right to love each other (does that mean bisexuals are doing the same thing?). They sounded like straight people during Queer pride events (à la “Why don’t we get a straight pride?“).

I had this disturbing feeling that many felt annoyed that, in the last year especially, Transgender issues had been brought to the forefront of Western Human Rights, peeved that there was no room for them on the world stage of suffering – which is absolutely absurd. It really did stink of that whole self-pitying, overly-defensive attitude that rich, white men have when they’re told about “privilege”.

During the Pride Trans vs Drag debate, I was equally annoyed by the arrogance and ignorance many Trans people had in lambasting Drag Queens as being an insulting and disturbing farce – an attitude shared by the many TERFs who had garnished support from the gay men above. Once again, it was self-victimisation packaged as insensitivity. Sure, I grant you, a great many people do confuse Drag Queens with Transwomen, and I grant you that it is something that’s terrible and needs to be rectified – but not by banning Drag Queens. Some people don’t know the difference between, for example, Hinduism and Buddhism, or Atheism and Agnosticism – but we don’t ban one of them in order to make the other easier to understand. And much like when the Mister Sister debate roared, any Trans people who seemed to disagree with the Trans party line of, “this is fucking offensive, and Kate Pierson is a fucking cunt for writing it”, were told they were self-hating, or fed that same tired line supporting a fictional Trans hierarchy.

Of course, there are always going to be those voices who seem to scream a little louder and have their obnoxious opinions heard a little further away. Although I’m usually quite a fan of Germaine Greer, her latest (but not first) tirade against Trans people disappointed me – her opinions on the subject are ignorant at best, and there’s no way else of putting it in my mind. But the fact of the matter is, said opinions wouldn’t mean shit if they came from some bigoted preacher from a small town in Rural America, or some Conservative Politician wishing to win over his uneducated, paranoid electorate. It was because it was Germaine Greer – a woman whose thoughts and opinions are usually (at least in mind) spot on, that so many people became upset and felt angry with her, and other people thought they’d found a revolutionary spokesperson for their ill-thought out ignorance (collective ignorance is a less lonely place to be in, after all) – even those who had never given Germaine Greer any credibility or thought at all suddenly started to pay attention to her simply for her anti-Trans stance, giving those on the right some more ammunition for their liberal-beating rhetoric. Indeed, this is the problem with spokespeople, as a gay friend inadvertently pointed out: he said that whenever he heard Trans spokespeople or activists speak, they always seem to come across as loonies who hated cisgender people.

But the simple fact is, spokespeople rarely are that – they rarely speak for people, never mind entire communities. This leads me back to my days on Tumblr and the University Queer Collective. Often, I felt, their thoughts and opinions were so out of touch with the average Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Trans person that they’d do a greater service to us all if they were to simply shut the fuck up. It seems the Tumblr mode of radical activism has polluted the lakes elsewhere: I’m a proud Queer-in-all-ways person, but there are things Queer activists and radicals say and think, that’s absolutely fucking ridiculous.

It reminds me of what Pete Burns (lead singer of ’80s band Dead or Alive) wrote about celebrity feuds in his autobiography. Talking about his feud with Boy George, he said there actually wasn’t a feud there at all, but people would relay information between them both until it became a feud, and that was how so many “celebrity feuds” started. I think a similar thing happens with our so-called spokespeople – and not just in the Queer community. Indeed, all it takes is for some conservative religious figure to say something about Queer people, and everyone’s on the defensive against religion. And so now, we have the Caitlyn Jenners of this world criticising gay marriage, or radical Transwomen demanding an end to Drag Queens, and the cisgender Gays are all up in arms with Transwomen. Similarly, some radical lesbian says she doesn’t think Transwomen are women, or some gay guy says he’s not attracted to Transmen, and Transgender people start to label LGB people as transphobic. Add to that an overly-dramatic dose of radical Queer self-victimisation, and you’ve got a well-stirred pot that starts to poison those who taste its broth. Caught in the middle, of course, are those who do not share their views, but are forced to deal with the inevitable backlash anyway.

Perhaps it’s also indicative of Western Society: we’ve become so used to the rat-race of life, where you have to succeed in order to win, even if it’s detrimental to others, that we’ve started to see Human Rights the same way. We all want a slice of the Human Rights cake, but we’re secretly afraid that by allowing others to the table, we’ll get a smaller slice. Have we really started to become greedy when it comes to our Equal Rights as human beings? Have we stopped thinking of Human Rights as being the fight for the greater good, and more the fight for ourselves? If so, that’s an awful shame. Maybe Orwell was scarily accurate in Animal Farm. Maybe we’ve started to kick the farmer’s arse, only to learn to walk on our hind legs the same way – all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. As one person commented on the now-deleted article on PinkNews, “At first they came for the T, but I said nothing because I wasn’t Trans. And then they came for the B…”.

Luckily, stupid petitions like the one mentioned above will do fuck all else but make a few self-important people sound self-important on the internet. In what reality would the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD take such a petition seriously? Like it or not, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity have far too many links – both historically, socially and – dare I say it – psychologically to be separated, even if those links are less evident in some individuals than others. The mere fact that so many Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people are also Trans (or, vise-versa if you’d prefer to look at it that way) means that we’re forever going to be linked, disagreements on Drag Queens and pop songs aside.

But what won’t help us is allowing ourselves to succumb to hysteria in a ridiculous nonsensical Queer Civil War. To do so would be to effectively piss over events like Stonewall, and huge turning points such as Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners. One can’t imagine that in – for example – the old Underground Clubs that LGBT people used to meet in secretly, that we’d witness the kind of vitriol I’ve seen towards each other in LGBT Venues in the present day – even within the last few years, I’ve seen an increase in anti-Trans sentiment by LGB people, who perhaps are under the misapprehension that LGBT venues are predominantly there to cater for Gay and Lesbian people, and that Transgender people are just welcomed guests; perhaps this is also feeding the ongoing self-isolation by Transgender people from the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual community. Either way, no matter who started what, buying into the crap that’s fed to us by those who are keen to revoke our rights as Queer individuals isn’t going to benefit us at all, no matter what side of the Queer Chasm we’re on.

As they say, united we stand, divided we fall; and that is exactly what many anti-LGBT people are banking on.

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A Very Queer Cold War