Friday, 19 December 2014

The trouble with 'objective' journalism

'It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.' - Hunter S Thompson, 'He Was a Crook'

Still thinking about something I saw on the news on Monday night. A journalist was interviewing people for vox pops in Great Yarmouth after Labour's immigration announcement. One of the people he interviewed said 'I don't complain about the immigrants taking the jobs because a lot of the locals won't do the jobs. But it's these benefits they get - free cars, free houses...'
Immigrants don't get free cars.
Immigrants don't get free houses.
This is generally known, by people who've looked into it - such as journalists. We know this stuff about free cars and houses is made-up - and, in the case of the free cars thing, we can specifically trace it to a bullshit column from professional opinion-haver Carol Malone, back in 2009.
But the journalist didn't correct this woman - even though what she said was demonstrably untrue - because that might have been thought 'biased'. This is where so-called 'objective' journalism lets us all down: because people watching that programme will have seen these words about free cars and free houses go unchallenged, and will think 'well, it must be true - someone said it on the news'.
It's especially annoying that this was the Channel 4 News; if their reporters can take it on themselves to confront a hipster doofus over the cost of his overpriced Lucky Charms, you would think they would also be willing to call someone out for spreading this poisonous, racist 'free cars' bullshit. 
You would think so, but you would, it seems, be wrong.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Regardless of Consent

I circled it, my truth,
like an opponent
that I doubted
I could beat; or, rather,

one I wanted to give in to,
but would make a show
of putting up a fight.
My truth protected me

when it most seemed to hurt;
when it most seemed I would be broken
my truth held me, with its teeth
beside my ear, biting off

the final consonant of 'slut',
and you could call the noise
I made a sob, could call this
degradation, but

I have seen people,
bound and helpless,
smile with sanctity
I never saw in church,

and I have sat in cafes
looking out onto the street
and feeling Buddha-level love
for every passing face I see

because the night before,
somebody beat me up
the way I like it, and
- how long will this be legal?

Physical or verbal abuse
(regardless if consensual)
is only forbidden on video now,
along with

(and, oh, what I could write about those, 

and as to
penetration by any object
associated with violence
- do love beads count? I mean,

I know they're not exactly weapons-grade,
but when I thought that they'd got stuck...
well, that was scarier than being choked
between a lover's thighs) but

when you enclose desire, things tend
to creep: what cannot be seen
can become harder to imagine,
to explain; once an image in motion

is prohibited, the still frame
becomes suspect, once a photo
is forbidden, illustration
seems transgressive, and when

all image is off-limits
then the words which conjure images
speak threat
and must be censored.

And, yes, there are times
when we agree safe limits
to such violence: but the limit
is consent: informed,

enthusiastic - from the Greek
en theos, meaning
'full of God', and really
there is no better description

of this blessing which will never let me go,
this love which only seems like violence from outside,
this truth I circled, circled, circled
for so long, until the knowledge

that what I thought single combat
was instead a mosh pit carnival, 
a battle royal, a free-for-all,
that I was not alone:

this, you disown,
regardless of consent. 
Three words, that's all:
but all the difference

between defending and denying our existence. 

           *           *          *

So, if you're the kind of person who likes my work - and I'm going to assume you are, since you're reading this blog - you'll already be aware of the ludicrous new regulations on online pornography in the UK. As you'll have gathered from one or two of my poems, I enjoy being dominated and, well, beaten up, frankly, in a safe, consensual setting, so the idea that the government has essentially, at a stroke, declared quite a lot of my sex life illegal is a little worrying. Sure, right now it's technically only illegal in the arena of video-on-demand porn produced in the UK, but it's a slippery slope, y'know? And for me, the scariest part of the legislation is 'physical and verbal abuse' being illegal regardless of whether or not those involved consent. This seems, to me, to carry worrying echoes of 'Operation Spanner' and the bad old days of the 1980s. Anyway, I've been wanting to get my thoughts about this thing down poetically, and this is a first, very rough attempt at that. It's going to need knocking into shape later; hopefully it'll take to that as well as I do.

Thursday, 13 November 2014


Don't call me unstoppable
because of what poisoned my veins;
Don't call me unstoppable
because you maintain that I have a 'male frame';
Don't call me unstoppable
because girls like us all have big hands;
don't call me unstoppable
because I 'used to be a man':
you've never seen deceleration
'til you've seen a trans girl breaking,
asking why she's been forsaken
through a face of running make-up,
defeated and retreating from the space we're told we take up,
anticipating beatings from the moment that we wake up
reeling from repeated sneaky
cotton ceiling break-ups,
Wise up! Size up who statistics really favour,
we're more Miss Elizabeth
than Big Van Vader,
you get away with hitting us
by claiming we're a danger
say our inexistence
should be morally mandated
leaving me inquisitive
on why we're highly gate-kept
through the hospital doors,
slipping past the smokers outside,
bypassing the wards,
who got to board-level
and kissed some corporate arse,
and got to set the obstacles
that we all have to pass?
Do you think I'm paranoid?
Well, call me Shirley Manson,
'cause I've fought with the dysmorphia
that tells me I'm not handsome,
and coped with self-congratulators
who want me to thank them
for using the right pronouns
when they message me one-handed,
AND this, AND that, and a hundred other things,
I've been knocked flat a dozen times with suffering,
called 'bitch', called 'fat', always called that other thing,
everybody and their cat
thinks I could use some humbling,
is it any wonder that
I often feel I'm stumbling?
And I will stumble,
I will fall,
and I will rise up Phoenix - style
and BE unstoppable
and that's not because I'm stronger,
and it's not because I'm hard,
it's not because blunt trauma hurts less
when your tissue's scarred;
it's not that I'm a mutant,
some majestic weirdo freak,
it's not even because I have a flawless rhyme technique,
no: if I can seem unstoppable
it's because of the things I've been through;
if you must call me unstoppable
it's 'cause what tried to stop me
was you.

*   *   *
I know one often loves one's poems a little too much after first writing them, but right now I feel like filming this professionally with some proper music behind it. Anyone up for helping?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Draft: This Woman's War

Something cheerful for you this Tuesday morning. Yes, the title is a Kate Bush reference.

This woman’s war

Digital flare above trenches of sleep,
eyes tighten at the brightness of the screen
bracing for the first assault, the numbers by the bell,
the pixelled envelopes, the blue world
with its warnings labelled red,

the morning’s propaganda, last night’s fallen,
the latest ‘allies’ to go over to the enemy;
the severed ties, the necessary mutinies,
their continuous reprisals, our few victories:

then out the door to meet the tracer
eyes of haters, chasers, taking bullets
on the platform and the train,
no purple hearts in this campaign,

no medical evacuation
when you’re standing being stared at in the station:
midnight or the morning it’s the same.
Get to work and you’re already bleeding.

Now: the next wave, voices without end,
your throat grown ragged, fearing a betrayal,
the mouths that grin at how they’re doing well
in a world which set you up to fail

the moment you were labelled boy
and ushered into life. A battered mess
by five-to-five, you’re praying for the grace
to make the evening run on time,

but there’s almost always one more ring
before the clock ticks over,
always one more little thing
and now the crowds are rougher

somehow, or you’re worn down,
waiting to be back behind
familiar lines: you slip the ‘phones inside
your ears so you don’t have to hear

the laughter, which might not be aimed at you,
but after the day you’ve been through
it hurts to hear either way, and anyway,
it’s dangerous to think you’re ever safe,

dangerous to trust a smiling face,
a word of praise, a pair of eyes gone wide
in what might look like admiration.
Bruises follow from infatuation

in the best-case outcome. No love
in these trenches, no safe rolling
in this mud, no ecstasy of fumbling
in the corner of a club that won’t

end badly for you. Kill the thought
of love before a dream of love
kills you. Love isn’t what we struggle for.

For mere life, we fight a losing war.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Poet of the Republic, Architect of the Month...hang on, wait!

Dear reader: it's certainly the case that a great deal of transphobic, misogynistic, ableist, poor-hating, homophobic crap remains to be tackled in this world - we had David Cameron's Tory Conference speech today, after all - but for the moment I would beg you to turn your attention away from such things and look, instead, at the front page of the Apples and Snakes website. 

And I would direct you there because, first of all, you will find they've named me Poet of the Month. But that's not all! They've also used the film I and Laura Degnan made of my poem 'Letter to a Minnesota Prison' to represent the many excellent films made as part of the Architects of Our Republic project I was involved in last year. Which feels brilliant. It's great to think that something I worked on a year ago still has a life in the world, and it's even better knowing that the piece chosen to represent the project is a poem about CeCe McDonald, a genuine trans heroine. For obvious reasons, I've been performing 'Fallon' a lot over the past few months, and I usually introduce that poem by pointing out that Fallon Fox takes a lot more risks for trans rights than I do - well, that goes double for CeCe, who not only had to defend herself against a brutal, transphobic attack, but was put in prison for doing it. Please familiarise yourself with CeCe's story, and, should you happen to have some spare pounds jangling around in your bank account, you could do a heck of a lot worse than send some of it towards the Free CeCe Documentary, a film created by Jac Gares and Laverne Cox which uses CeCe's story as a prism through which to examine the culture of violence experienced by trans women of colour. 

And if you've came here from the Apples and Snakes site, here's a bit of an easter egg, as it were: the video of me performing the 'unplugged' version of 'Letter to a Minnesota Prison' that I was moved to record after hearing the excellent news that CeCe was to be released earlier this year:


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Poem about Breasts

Pornography, pornography!
You’ve got a lot to answer for.
You’re probably the reason why
I like it when girls call me whore
and grab my hair, and slap my face,
but more than this, much worse than this,
you’ve spread misinformation
on the topic of our tits.

And I don’t mean just the tits of trans girls,
though you’ve got some odd ideas
of how we get them, call them ‘fake’
- but have a feel: no implants here!
Or are they artificial as they
sprung up after hormones?
Well, tell me, please, exactly
how your girlfriend’s girls were grown?

No – this breast-based boondoggle  is a bane to trans and cis,
and the thing that really bothers me is this:
ask a fella if he’ll draw a dame without her vest
and see what shapes he uses
for the front part of her chest,

and what will you see? Beach-balls! Spheres!
That white thing from The Prisoner
twice over, faceless back-up heads
too big for any milliner!
But, just as perfect circles
aren’t found anywhere in nature,
I’m afraid I have to tell you boys
there’s far more variation

in the contents of our bras than are
allowed for in your narrow chest-aesthetic,
that reduces what’s near-infinite
to mere dialectic
between ‘pert’ and ‘buxom’. But:
no blame. It took me time to get it,

and if I’m honest, guys,
I never really got it ‘til
I rubbed gel on my thigh,
and found that, where I used to glance,
I couldn’t keep from staring:
only now I wasn’t ogling or perving
but comparing,

seeing how I measured up,
and I won’t lie: I’ll tell you
from the bottom of my B-cup,
I’m not on the winning side.
I’m still a noob to boobs! A chestal virgin! Not well-versed
in how to lift and separate
or generate
a cleavage, I’m
when a bosom’s heaving,

and I envy women who are blessed with great big
aurioles, while mine just skirt my nipples
like a pair of poxy holes...
but knowing mine aren’t perfect
has made me much more aware
of all the imperfections I
and other women share.

We women feel the same way
when we’re checking out each other:
the girl who’s firm and perky knows
that she will never smother
faces underneath her chest:
while the one who’s more endowed,

that that lass reckons favoured,
is wishing for the freedom
of a bra less engineered,
a back that aches less, and that guys
might maybe, just occasionally
look her in the eyes,

or at least, if you must look
so clearly at her chest,
then don’t let the sole criteria
by which each breast’s assessed
be where her pups are placing
on the Jordan-Moss Continuum,
and whether, in a centrefold,
they’d excite your residuum,

but look at them! Just look at them
as if you’ve never seen
the inside of a strip club
or a line of beauty queens,
we’re not one shape,
we’re loose and tight and pointy,
a variable phenomenon
to baffle Merleau-Ponty,
some bounce around Space Hopper-style,
while some are far from jumpy,
(and whatever shape they are,
be sure to check them if they’re lumpy)
spheres, ellipsoids, cylinders, and I will even swear
that I’ve seen some whose strawberry creams appear
to be square – and that’s alright! It’s great!
Don’t you boys dare to be disgusted,
because, sirs, I implore you to recall what Cornershop said,

and if you accept the premise the best pillow is a bosom,
look at a woman’s bed and you’ll find every kind of cushion,
because we know that sleep is better
when there’s comforters and bolsters,
and you’ll find as much variety here in our boulder-holsters,

so let’s hear it for the wobbly ones, let’s hear it for the tubes,
let’s hear it for the loners, and the chests with both removed,
and let’s hear it for the pot-pourri, the glorious plenitude

the motley mammary miscellany, the majesty of boobs!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Even beasts will break and fade

Let me see your wound again: I feel I need the laugh.
Walk me through your injuries: I want to feel them bleed,
your followers, I want to see you suck
their sympathy, I want to hear you play it
like a treated violin. I want to watch you
claiming you're not in this for the pain,
because I love to see a monster turning babyface for bigots;
I love to see the taming of the far too proudly vicious;
and I know you're looking in my eyes
and calling kettles black:
perhaps I'll walk you through my injuries
and listen to you laugh.