Trans Lives Are Not A Debate

Today is International Women’s day. Today still, in 2017, so many women, including those who identify as trans and non binary, are facing harassment, ridicule, hatred, and ignorance on a daily basis. 

Trans-Lives-Are-Not-A-Debate
Image by Fox Fisher

On Saturday 4th March I was asked if I would like to take part in a protest against the Brighton Dome having invited known Transphobe Germaine Greer to speak. The talk was not to be about trans people, however the simple fact she was being given another platform to speak about anything – considering the pain she has caused so many people – was attrocious.

It was so very humbling to have a chance to be a part of this. I was interpreting the performance into British Sign Language and to have the chance to do this… Wow. Emma Frankland gave the speech, and she was amazing.

Myself and Emma Frankland on stage, photo by Rosie Powell
Myself and Emma Frankland on stage, photo by Rosie Powell

I have added the text that was read at the end of this page, because I feel it is important to see what we did. It is important that we remember why this is so vital. 

Trans and non-binary people are discriminated against already on a day to day basis, they are attacked verbally and physically, they have a higher death rate than their cisgender counterparts. 

Germaine Greer has said very plainly that she does not believe trans women are women. To have her then invited to speak on international women’s day, when she so clearly is against a large subsection of the very people the day is for, is attrocious. She should never have been given this platform. She has enough opportunities to speak as it is, and there are many others who could have taken her place. 

The Brighton Dome prides itself in being a forward thinking venue. They say that the venue is liberal. Yet, they have proven by this act that right now they are not a safe space for trans and non-binary people. We were given the chance to essentially ‘debate’ our own existence. Why? Why should it ever be phrased as a debate? This is not a debate. Trans women exist. They are real. This is not something even vaugley up for debate. So don’t make it so.

To add insult to injury, on Sunday the main presenter of BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour stated that she too believed similar things. It was published in a major newspaper and shared by so many people.

Are trans and non-binary people meant to just take this? Are we supposed to lie down and accept the dismissal of our very identities?

I don’t think so.

After the piece at the Dome, there was a pamper session held at the Marlborough Pub & Theatre, with food, massages, make-up, free self-care goodie bags, along with a trans only room, with a trans women only portion. It worked so well and it was amazing to be in such a supportive space.

As I said, I will be adding the text Emma read at the end of the post here, and I would like everyone to read it. It is not too long, in fact it only took 5 minutes of our allotted 45 to read and sign. The remainder we did as it says and sat in silence, on stage, in the spotlight, not debating. 

Finally I want to put a shout out to everyone involved in this, and I am thinking of all of the women and non-binary folk out there who have been so attacked. I stand with you in solidarity.

The speech by Emma Frankland performed at the Brighton Dome on the 4th March 2017, BSL Interpreted by myself, Kai Moore.

When I was a child I loved to watch a film called The Tale of the Bunny Picnic. It was made by Jim Henson. It tells the story of a village of little bunnies who are terrorised by a giant dog, (who is in turn terrorised by a farmer). At the end of the film, the bunnies stand united against the farmer and they sing.

One voice becomes many and the farmer is scared away.

The bunnies unite with the dog against their common enemy.

I was invited here today, for International Women’s Day, to respond to the hateful things about trans women that have been said by one of the Dome’s guest speakers. To protest the invitation of someone who has continuously slandered trans women – contributing directly to the matrix of oppression that continues to cause harm, hatred and discrimination against an extremely vulnerable group of women.

I realised in contemplating a performance to present here today what a profound effect the tale of the bunny picnic has had upon my perception of activism, of protest.

That the image of many voices standing together is powerful.

So I imagined inviting many trans women to stand here with me today

I would stand here and sing and slowly other voices would join in – Trans women of all ages and backgrounds step out of the wings and from the auditorium and we all stand here together.

Those women are then joined by other trans including non binary people. Until the stage is full with beautiful, proud, trans bodies.

Like the bunnies.

Strong.

Existing.

Proud.

And the farmer, the guest speaker, is scared away – or maybe the farmer isn’t the Guest Speaker. Maybe the farmer is the Patriarchy.

And the guest speaker is the giant dog and we would unite together to face our common enemy.

This would be a nice thought – to stand united and work together – like the bunnies and the dog.

Rather than in opposition, allowing the farmer to beat the dog and make rabbit stew.

But.

I realise this is a film for children.

That the world we live in is not like the one in the bunny picnic.

It is more violent – more dangerous for trans women than it is for bunnies.

And when publicly funded, supposedly progressive spaces like the Brighton Dome invite perpetrators of violence and hatred to speak on their stage.

They reveal that they are not safe for us either.

So I did not invite other trans women into this space

I did not invite people to stand here in danger

Because we are vulnerable and to stand here is to be named and to be named provides opportunity for attack. And the attacks are getting worse. The situation is getting worse.

Today I do not believe visibility is our best course of action.

I was invited here to respond creatively, beautifully to the hateful rhetoric of the Dome’s honoured guest speaker.

But I do not think it is our responsibility to convince you that our lives are valid
I do not think it is our responsibility to fight
To persuade you That Trans Rights are Human Rights
To plead you to recognise that Trans Lives Matter
To twist your arm into supposing that trans people deserve to live peacefully.

I do not think it is the responsibility of a minority to provide justification for not being attacked

So I reject the invitation.

You can imagine me standing there, imagine the beautiful trans women, imagine the powerful song.

But we will sit here in silence because there is nothing to say

I do not debate this

I withdraw artistic services 

And we will use our time.  all 40 remaining minutes – not debating.

I want to leave you with something else Emma said, online about the topic, I feel it sums up the issue perfectly.

It is International Women’s Day and if your feminism does not include ALL women, regardless of race, religion or assigned gender it is not feminism. If your feminism does not have space for sex workers or refugees, or migrants then it is not feminism.

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