“The Fanciest Genderqueer You’ll Ever Meet”

H. Kapp-Klote writes about their coming out as genderqueer to themself and talks about the hostility to genderqueer in LGBT circles and some of its potential causes:

This is part of a narrative of queerness as linked exclusively to oppression. The popular narrative of both sexual and gender nonconformity is based on norms of rigid, compulsive sacrifice: “born this way,” “I can’t change,” or “trapped in the closet.” Even as we celebrate gender and sexual diversity, we demand proof that deviation is compulsive, uncontrollable, and that one has suffered innumerable tribulations as consequence. The monolith of gay culture creates an understanding of gender identity as linked to personal pain. You can’t use weird pronouns unless you’ve shown how you’ve suffered for them (our Puritan roots are showing.) Without that conditional of coercive queerness, genderqueer people don’t have a right to take up space.

Nothing to see here. Move along

A week later she got back to me and said do you really want all of these deaths? I said I do. She told me I would be charged for each record. Then she asked me did I realize the enormity of the numbers of deaths there?”

The registrar came back with a list of 796 children. “I could not believe it. I was dumbfounded and deeply upset,” says Corless. “There and then I said this isn’t right. There’s nothing on the ground there to mark the grave, there’s nothing to say it’s a massive children’s graveyard. It’s laid abandoned like that since it was closed in 1961.”

It had long been known children had died in the Mother and Baby home for “fallen women” in Tuam Galway, but it was not until local historian Catherine Corless started investigating that it became clear that between 1925 and 1961, 800 children were buried in a mass grave on the site, possibly inside a septic tank.

The Mother and Baby homes, mostly as here run by Catholic organisations, were infamous and feared, intended more to punish women who had babies born out of wedlock, as well as their children, than support them, as is clear in the story of one Irish woman at another such institute, whose baby died shortly after being born and who wasn’t allowed to even attend his burial:

It was through two nuns squabbling that Mary had learned that a dirty needle had been used on her during her labour at Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork.

It took another 31 years and a visit to Bessborough however before the Sacred Heart nuns admitted to Mary that her baby boy had died of septicaemia.

As Conall Ó Fátharta lays out in The Irish Examiner none of this is news, but neither the church nor the state wants to know about it:

The fact is that infants are buried on the grounds of mother-and-baby homes all around the country. Adopted people and natural parents gather for dignified memorial services at ‘angel plots’ in places such as Bessborough in Cork, Castlepollard in Westmeath, and Sean Ross Abbey in Tipperary every year.

Nobody cared in government then.

Nobody in Government cared when 219 unmarked graves of children from the Bethany Homes in Mount Jerome were found.

Mother-and-baby homes were excluded from the Redress Scheme in 2005 as there was “no evidence of systematic or widespread abuse of children in those institutions”.

This is not a new attitude. When in 1946 Boys Town founder Father Edward Flanagan (who you may know from the Spencer Tracey movie about his life) toured Ireland, found out and spoke out against these abuses, he was attacked for it:

Speaking to a large audience at a public lecture in Cork’s Savoy Cinema he said, “You are the people who permit your children and the children of your communities to go into these institutions of punishment. You can do something about it.” He called Ireland’s penal institutions “a disgrace to the nation,” and later said “I do not believe that a child can be reformed by lock and key and bars, or that fear can ever develop a child’s character.”

However, his words fell on stony ground. He wasn’t simply ignored. He was taken to pieces by the Irish establishment. The then-Minister for Justice Gerald Boland said in the Dáil that he was “not disposed to take any notice of what Monsignor Flanagan said while he was in this country, because his statements were so exaggerated that I did not think people would attach any importance to them.”

For an extensive historical overview of the Tuam children’s home, librarian and historian Liam Hogan has put together a timeline with historical documents.

In an initial reaction the Irish police, gardaí, has said that the Tuam burials are just remains of the Famine, nothing sinister.

Meanwhile Amnesty International has called for a full and urgent investigation:

“The Irish Government must not view this and other cases as merely historic and beyond its human rights obligations,” said John Dalhuisen.

The international human rights framework of law emerged during the period in which these children lived and died. If the home closed in 1961, it is possible that some of the deaths occurred at a time when the European Convention on Human Rights was in force. Even before then, Ireland was aware of the internationally agreed norms expected of it in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As Emer O’Toole’s editorial in the Guardian and the comments on it show, there’s a lot of anger and disbelief at these revelations, as well as a desire to know the truth:

Do not say Catholic prayers over these dead children. Don’t insult those who were in life despised and abused by you. Instead, tell us where the rest of the bodies are. There were homes throughout Ireland, outrageous child mortality rates in each. Were the Tuam Bon Secours sisters an anomalous, rebellious sect? Or were church practices much the same the country over? If so, how many died in each of these homes? What are their names? Where are their graves? We don’t need more platitudinous damage control, but the truth about our history.

Comment of the Day: the inelegance of Cliven Bundy’s racism

Ta-Nehisi Coates on the problems with Cliven Bundy’s racism:

The problem with Cliven Bundy isn’t that he is a racist but that he is an oafish racist. He invokes the crudest stereotypes, like cotton picking. This makes white people feel bad. The elegant racist knows how to injure non-white people while never summoning the specter of white guilt. Elegant racism requires plausible deniability, as when Reagan just happened to stumble into the Neshoba County fair and mention state’s rights. Oafish racism leaves no escape hatch, as when Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond’s singularly segregationist candidacy.

Christian Britain? Cameron is no part of it

Cameron’s Christian Britain:

David Cameron’s constituency office has come under fire for calling the police on the Bishop of Oxford and Reverend Hebden as they attempted to present him with an open letter on food poverty.

Their letter, part of the End Hunger Fast campaign, was signed by 42 Anglican bishops and more than 600 clerics and called on the three party leaders to work with the parliamentary inquiry into food poverty to implement its recommendations.

Last month in Oxford:

A VULNERABLE man who starved to death months after his benefits were cut should not have been ruled fit to work, the Government has admitted.

Prime Minister David Cameron last night described the death of Mark Wood as “tragic” following the admission by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

And the DWP has now launched an internal review of the case.

Which explains why the Mail on Sunday attempted to start a witch hunt against food banks last Sunday, by having an undercover reporter scumbag Ross Slater con his local foodbank into giving him food, then attacking the Trussel Trust running it for being scammed. It’s about as low a piece of journalism as it’s possible to write, but luckily the British audience wasn’t fooled and donations to the trust quintupled just hours after the article appeared. A glimmer of hope in a country whose government seems determined to starve the poor.

Blair Disease

In the Financial Times of all places, Simon Kuper writes about the most serious malady afflicting ex-leaders, Blair Disease:

If you are super-rich, you probably have an ex-leader working for you, like an overpaid tennis coach. Blair, for instance, has shilled for JPMorgan Chase, Qatar and Kazakhstan’s cuddly regime. Then there’s the modern ex-leader’s staple: giving paid speeches to rich people. Blair’s Queen Anne mansion outside London differs from the “museum of corruption” recently vacated by Ukraine’s ex-president Viktor Yanukovich chiefly in degree, taste and the period when the money was made. Both men got rich through running countries. It’s just that Blair’s version was legal.

The Blair premiership was when it became clear that in the new capitalism none of the parties with a shot at power were actually there to listen to the people, all shot through with people who see politics either as a handy advertisment for their real career fellating the rich afterwards, or as a way to keep their own wealth safe. It was the War on Iraq and the way it was pushed through against the wishes of most of the UK, that made it clear to anybody not paying attention. Blair’s reward came after he left Number 10; he’s a millionaire now, in no danger of ever being prosecuted for warcrimes.

TERF wars

Emma Allen of Radical Women attempts to explain the transphobia exhibited in some parts of radical feminism:

At the heart of the attacks on transgender people is the traditional radical feminist notion of biological determinism, which interprets humans and human life from a strictly biological point of view — holding that biology is destiny. Their view that women’s inferiority is based on their biology and that men are the enemy, is a reverse image of patriarchal hatred of women. The basis of radical feminism is to see men as the problem, painting women as the natural victims of men. If women are oppressed specifically because of the reproductive organs they are born with, rather than a deeper social-economic source of gender inequality, then transwomen can’t be part of the club. Accepting the sisterhood of non-biological females challenges the very basis of radical feminism.

The Radical Feminism talked about here is that current in feminism that sees the patriarchy, the systemic oppression of women by men as the root of all oppression, privileging it above race, class or sexuality based oppression. In the socalled Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism version of this, this belief has hardened into a belief that gender is exclusively biological in nature, that men and women are in opposition and hence therefore any trans woman is nothing but at best a spy, an intruder. At the same time because, as Allen explains, this current of Radical Feminism also believes that the feminist revolution can only be completed if gender is abolished entirely as a concept, trans women are a direct threat to their ideology, as obviously they show gender goes deeper than the gender expression radical feminism recognises.

Emma Allen’s own form of feminism, socialist feminism on the other hand recognises that:

In contrast to radical feminists, socialist feminists view the private property system as the historical and economic foundation for patriarchy and the subordination of women and sexual and gender outlaws.


The role capitalist society has assigned to women is directly challenged by the existence of transgender, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, intersex and queer people – which is a good thing!

Unfortunately however Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism is more prominent a voice in radical feminism at the moment. Born out of second wave feminism, many of its adherents and allies like Julie Birchill, Germaine Greer or Sheila Jeffreys have a voice through the mainstream media less accessible to trans feminists and their allies. And as Tina Vasquez lays out in Bitch Magazine, TERF feminists use their influence to attack and hurt trans women:

For example, transgender people were able to readily obtain government-funded healthcare prior to 1980. That year, Janice Raymond wrote a report for the Reagan administration called “Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery” which informed the official federal position on medical care for transgender people. The paper’s conclusion reads, “The elimination of transsexualism is not best achieved by legislation prohibiting transsexual treatment and surgery, but rather by legislation that limits it and by other legislation that lessens the support given to sex-role stereotyping.” In her book Transgender History, Susan Stryker says that the government curtailed transgender access to government social services under Reagan, “In part in response to anti-transgender feminist arguments that dovetailed with conservative politics.”

This is why Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism matters.

No platforming

It’s easy to decide as a political organisation to not give fascists or out and out racists a platform for their views, but what if the person being considered is less obviously bigoted? Charlie Hale makes the following simple point about who should get to decide somebody is “problematic enough”:

In many cases, a person’s problematic politics will be dismissed as “not problematic enough” to warrant no-platforming: this, however, is a blatant display of privilege. If you are in the position where you are able to wave away oppressive behaviour with no personal ill-effects, you are almost certainly not in the position where you could reasonably speak for that oppressed group.

Paul Ryan says what progressives are thinking

A number of liberals reacted harshly to Ryan. I’m not sure why. What Ryan said here is not very far from what Bill Cosby, Michael Nutter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama said before him. The idea that poor people living in the inner city, and particularly black men, are “not holding up their end of the deal” as Cosby put it, is not terribly original or even, these days, right-wing. From the president on down there is an accepted belief in America—black and white—that African-American people, and African-American men, in particular, are lacking in the virtues in family, hard work, and citizenship:

If Cousin Pookie would vote, if Uncle Jethro would get off the couch and stop watching SportsCenter and go register some folks and go to the polls, we might have a different kind of politics.

Cousin Pookie and Uncle Jethro voted at higher rates than any other ethnic group in the country. They voted for Barack Obama. Our politics have not changed. Neither has Barack Obama’s rhetoric. Facts can only get in the way of a good story. It was sort of stunning to see the president give a speech on the fate of young black boys and not mention the word racism once. It was sort of stunning to see the president salute the father of Trayvon Martin and the father of Jordan Davis and then claim, “Nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life.”

As Ta Nehisi Coates explains, Paul Ryan’s remarks on inner-city black males actually fit neatly in a long tradition of progressive scolding of black people, both from within and without the black community in the US.

Jonathan Chait disagreed, arguing that there are substantial differences between rightwing and progressive rhetoric about black responsibility, defending president Obama in particular:

But Coates is committing a fallacy by assuming that Obama’s exhortations to the black community amount to a belief that personal responsibility accounts for a major share of the blame. A person worries about the things that he can control. If I’m watching a basketball game in which the officials are systematically favoring one team over another (let’s call them Team A and Team Duke) as an analyst, the officiating bias may be my central concern. But if I’m coaching Team A, I’d tell my players to ignore the biased officiating. Indeed, I’d be concerned the bias would either discourage them or make them lash out, and would urge them to overcome it. That’s not the same as denying bias. It’s a sensible practice of encouraging people to concentrate on the things they can control.

This drew a waspy response from Jelani Cobb in the New Yorker, who called this “the kind of treacly liberalism best reserved for movies about dedicated white teachers who inspire their angry inner-city students”, arguing:

It’s not a coincidence that the history of black self-help has been so closely associated with many of the fiercest critics of the American social order. Discussions of race in America are mired in comparisons between blacks and other immigrant groups, but the dividing line is apparent: while the immigrant effort at self-improvement has often been rooted in a faith in American possibility, the ethic of black uplift was frequently entwined with its very opposite, an indictment of that possibility—or a loss of faith in its promise.

Ta Nehisi also responded, concluding:

Obama-era progressives view white supremacy as something awful that happened in the past and the historical vestiges of which still afflict black people today. They believe we need policies—though not race-specific policies—that address the affliction. I view white supremacy as one of the central organizing forces in American life, whose vestiges and practices afflicted black people in the past, continue to afflict black people today, and will likely afflict black people until this country passes into the dust.

There is no evidence that black people are less responsible, less moral, or less upstanding in their dealings with America nor with themselves. But there is overwhelming evidence that America is irresponsible, immoral, and unconscionable in its dealings with black people and with itself. Urging African-Americans to become superhuman is great advice if you are concerned with creating extraordinary individuals. It is terrible advice if you are concerned with creating an equitable society. The black freedom struggle is not about raising a race of hyper-moral super-humans. It is about all people garnering the right to live like the normal humans they are.