San Francisco!
riot girl
ladyjulian
We left Mono Lake early in the morning to get to Yosemite before there was too much traffic, which proved to be a good choice.  The road there was amazing (we went up to 10,000 feet at one point) and we were virtually the only people on it.  Descending into Yosemite Valley, we had loads of time spare, so we did the little tourist loop and parked up at the car park to walk into the village.

The museum there is small but interesting and the shops are relatively tasteful - there is a shop selling lots of tat, but there isn't any neon and the structures are not too hideous.  The "Indian Village" had a number of informative plaques and was a re-creation but the round house is still used for ceremonies, which is nice.  The information glossed over the nastier bits of the expulsions of the Paiute people from Yosemite - lots of passive voice "it was decided that…." etc.  After a good look round the museum we walked up to Yosemite Falls.  I took some snaps but they don't even begin to do it justice - the water pours off the top of the mountain so far up that it looks like spray, then falls down to where the trail takes you, making its way through fallen boulders to the Merced River.  The boulders are sufficiently large that you can climb along them, if you don't mind getting your feet wet, and if we'd had more time I'd have liked to go to the foot of the waterfall.  Although my centre of gravity is a touch off at the moment, I tucked my dress up into my knickers like an overgrown child (only so it came just above the knee, not into the top of my knickers, for those who have never resorted to this when faced with unanticipated paddling opportunities) and headed into the water.  It's snow / glacier fed, so chilly enough to make your feet ache if you stand there too long!  We both scrambled a little way along and I poured some of the water over my head.  It's a stunningly beautiful place and I want to go back and spend more time there, just watching the water and the rocks.

Sadly we had to get back to the car, and by the time we got to the car park, it was filling up rapidly.  We headed off towards San Francisco, and again, had a lovely drive as far as the suburban-ish bits.  We were due to meet up with J and E who moved out to Sunnyvale a couple of years ago, and managed to get there early - quite good going given we hit rush hour!

They took us to downtown Sunnyvale for dinner and because they are lovely, invited us to stay over.  Sunnyvale is the residential area of Silicon Valley and has an almost university-like feel to it - a young demographic with a mix of nationalities - as well as a rather fabulous pizza place.

After breakfast this morning (courtesy of a well known global brand) we headed north into San Francisco proper.  We found our motel - which is fantastic, just on the edge of the Castro - and managed to return the car.  They don't seem to have noticed that we trashed one, so fingers crossed that we don't get charged for that.  Then we mooched around the Castro for the afternoon, stopping at the Human Rights Campaign for some merch in a good cause (a cycling jersey each, a bag, and even though we said we wouldn't get baby stuff before the baby arrives, a "love conquers hate" bib.)

We're planning our itinerary for the next few days but there's loads to do - the GLBT museum, the film festival, a gig, and as much coffee as we think we can manage! 

From Vegas to Mono Lake
riot girl
ladyjulian

An absolutely beautiful drive over from the Gaudy Caves (thank you Mr Gates for the accurate descriptor) to where I'm currently typing at Mono Lake. We set off through the desert, nothing for miles but cacti, yucca and sage brush, putting us both in mind of the Tom Lehrer song “Mid the yucca and the thistles, I'll watch the guided missiles, while the old FBI watches me....”

As it happens things haven't moved all that far on since he wrote that, because as we drove down the highway we saw a drone. A real one. We were driving past the training centre where the US army chaps learn to pilot them from warehouses out in the Nevada desert, not far from the Cold Creek Correctional Center where big signs warn “Prison area – no hitchhiking.” All in all, not just a hostile climate but a hostile feel to the locality. This is Uncle Sam's evil twin.

Shortly after that we pulled over to the Area 51 Alien Store, which was a cute little store selling various merchandise with grinning aliens on, and also had a much-needed loo. Slightly less cute, it boasts the “Alien Cathouse,” which in case you were in any doubt, was preceded by a sign about twenty foot high reading “BROTHEL. Hot sauce, pictures, souvenirs.” The spotty teenager at the desk informed us that the girls have their own prices (maybe we looked like we were there for a hot, dusty, unsatisfying sexual experience before 11am, we didn't ask for the information) and we got a postcard with an outline of the services offered, including, I'm delighted to report, an “alien abduction / probing.”

There were a number of signposted brothels as we progressed down the highway, each sadder looking and grottier than the last. The Shady Lady at Petticoat Junction, which I've read about for its ACLU challenges, has certainly passed well over into the shade – from the road, it looked like a grim collection of disused RVs outside a shack which wouldn't look out of place in the developing world. The ensuing discussion about sex work, choice and options took us most of the way out of the desert and we began climbing up into the mountains.

The mountain roads were spectacularly lovely. We were in the Sierras, trapping country, and could only really imagine what it would have been like to try to do this without the benefit of an air conditioned car and a smooth road.

We stopped at a gas station for a coffee and a slice of pie before carrying on the last bit of mountain road, through the National Forest, as far as Lee Vining where we are staying by the Mono Lake. I managed to get a couple of history books from the tourist information centre and we got a comprehensive route for tomorrow from the man behind the counter.

A quick look around the shops – and the advance purchase of a plush brown bear for Zydrate – and we sat with a lemonade for me and a Becks Blue for C on a bench overlooking the lake until it felt like dinner time. I've just eaten most of one of those American sandwiches that you can't open your mouth wide enough to fit in, and “assisted” C with a butterscotch sundae. We're planning to leave mega early tomorrow in order to get to the Yosemite valley and make it to San Francisco before nightfall.

[Footnote: we got to San Francisco - there wasn't enough wifi to post this update yesterday!]


Vegas (cont)
riot girl
ladyjulian

The Titanic exhibition, currently at the Luxor where we are staying, is brilliant. It's apparently here for ten years (2008 – 2018) and, although the juxtaposition of a monument to mortality and the brash plastic YOLO of Vegas is slightly jarring, I'm really pleased we got to see it.

Afterwards we went down to the spa – spent some time in the whirlpool and then C had a sauna while I read a magazine and drank some sort of special cucumber water. There is a pool outside but we didn't go in, because a) there was no shade and it's seriously hot, b) we hadn't brought sunblock, c) there was a DJ, d) the people in it made me feel old. There are a lot of very young people out here, and it looks like fake ID is good enough ID when it comes to alcohol. Also, some very interesting outfits – the young woman in the two handkerchiefs might like to note that if you're doing revealing, just rock it, there is no point trying to tug that up or down. C got chatted up by one of a group of young men, all heavily muscled and heavily tattooed, and not in a gay way…

We went to a show this evening – Jan Reuven, Illusions, he is Illusionist of the Year 2014 or something and it was really good. Cheesey in the extreme, but he did a nice line in patter and the actual magic was brilliant.

A taxi ride back, giving a real-life demonstration of Grand Theft Auto, and we've just got outside a plateful of food.

Tomorrow is a long driving day, off to somewhere near Yosemite. Will update as and when there is wifi...


And on to Vegas
riot girl
ladyjulian
Leaving Barstow, after an IHOP breakfast, we headed over to Vegas.  It was a reasonably long drive but the SUV and the long, wide roads made it a pleasure.  C did most of the driving on the basis that the size of the spaceship was quite intimidating and I was struggling with the clutch, or lack of it.  The car has a pedal RIGHT where the clutch should be which is a parking brake!

The desert is majorly…. desert-y.  I hadn't seen a cactus outside a plant pot on a bathroom windowsill before. It's a seriously hostile climate and I really want a book on the local history now!

Pikey doesn't seem to be an insult round here though.  There were lots of trailer / caravan settlements which looked semi-transient.  That looks like a hard way to live - who knows what the inhabitants do for a living.

The approach to Vegas looks remarkably like one of the slave towns from Game of Thrones.  The rough sand and stones of the desert give way to beautifully manufactured bridges and structures, all made out of the same stuff, so it's only as you get near that you realise what it is.  The hotels loom into sight and we could see ours (the Luxor) from quite a distance, as it's a pyramid.  Next door is one called the Excalibur, which is a Disney style fairy tale castle with pink and blue turrets.

Inside is aggressively air-conditioned, which it needs to be.  I'm still unsure whether I'm dead impressed with Vegas or totally appalled by it.  The casinos are heaving with people, many in electric scooters, pushing money (tokens?) into the machines.  There are shows, exhibitions, food and drink places everywhere, and the hotels join up so you can go next door to the Excalibur.  We did that but it was a little disappointing - you don't  know which one you're in, so it actually makes no difference.

We went to see the "Bodies" exhibition - I'd seen it in London and loved it.  It was a bit odd looking at the foetus ones and thinking "I've got one of those in me!"  Then we walked over to the Shark Reef at the Mandalay, which was a huge aquarium - loved it.

 The hotel room we have has two exhibitions and a show thrown in free, as well as all you can eat buffet (thank you to the gamblers and drinkers for subsidising our stay!)  Unfortunately the show we wanted to see wasn't available, leaving us with the choice between the stripper show and Menopause! The Musical.  On the basis that the strip show was likely to be quite unpleasant, we chose the Menopause one.

Oh my goodness.  The actors were, on the plus side, extremely good, very enthusiastic despite the small audience, and the new-lyrics-to-well-known-songs thing was moderately clever, but they were horribly let down by a script that was disjointed and just plain crappy.  It's a peculiarity of Vegas that while it boasts strip shows, legal brothels (I think), and encourages people to "get their Lux on," illustrated by a man and woman climbing into bed together if you weren't sure what that is, the audience collapsed in embarrassed giggles at a song about a vibrator.  None of it would have been censored on the Radio 4 comedy slot, but it was being treated as though it were the raciest thing since forever.

This morning we stopped off for brunch (free mimosas, or buck's fizz as we know it, so I asked the barman to make me one which was 90% orange juice which he obligingly did) and then thought we'd look around outside the hotel.  If you want to see a Las Vegas concierge look thoroughly confused, ask where the nearest bookshop is.  Hint: there isn't one.  In the whole of Las Vegas, the bookshop is the university bookshop.  Borders went bust, and that was it.  I guess people aren't here to read!

This afternoon we're off to the Titanic exhibition (the exhibitions are oddly all about mortality) and then possibly to see what's offered at the spa.  Then tomorrow it's back in the spaceship for more road trip!
Tags:

And on to Vegas
riot girl
ladyjulian
Leaving Barstow, after an IHOP breakfast, we headed over to Vegas.  It was a reasonably long drive but the SUV and the long, wide roads made it a pleasure.  C did most of the driving on the basis that the size of the spaceship was quite intimidating and I was struggling with the clutch, or lack of it.  The car has a pedal RIGHT where the clutch should be which is a parking brake!

The desert is majorly…. desert-y.  I hadn't seen a cactus outside a plant pot on a bathroom windowsill before. It's a seriously hostile climate and I really want a book on the local history now!

Pikey doesn't seem to be an insult round here though.  There were lots of trailer / caravan settlements which looked semi-transient.  That looks like a hard way to live - who knows what the inhabitants do for a living.

The approach to Vegas looks remarkably like one of the slave towns from Game of Thrones.  The rough sand and stones of the desert give way to beautifully manufactured bridges and structures, all made out of the same stuff, so it's only as you get near that you realise what it is.  The hotels loom into sight and we could see ours (the Luxor) from quite a distance, as it's a pyramid.  Next door is one called the Excalibur, which is a Disney style fairy tale castle with pink and blue turrets.

Inside is aggressively air-conditioned, which it needs to be.  I'm still unsure whether I'm dead impressed with Vegas or totally appalled by it.  The casinos are heaving with people, many in electric scooters, pushing money (tokens?) into the machines.  There are shows, exhibitions, food and drink places everywhere, and the hotels join up so you can go next door to the Excalibur.  We did that but it was a little disappointing - you don't  know which one you're in, so it actually makes no difference.

We went to see the "Bodies" exhibition - I'd seen it in London and loved it.  It was a bit odd looking at the foetus ones and thinking "I've got one of those in me!"  Then we walked over to the Shark Reef at the Mandalay, which was a huge aquarium - loved it.

 The hotel room we have has two exhibitions and a show thrown in free, as well as all you can eat buffet (thank you to the gamblers and drinkers for subsidising our stay!)  Unfortunately the show we wanted to see wasn't available, leaving us with the choice between the stripper show and Menopause! The Musical.  On the basis that the strip show was likely to be quite unpleasant, we chose the Menopause one.

Oh my goodness.  The actors were, on the plus side, extremely good, very enthusiastic despite the small audience, and the new-lyrics-to-well-known-songs thing was moderately clever, but they were horribly let down by a script that was disjointed and just plain crappy.  It's a peculiarity of Vegas that while it boasts strip shows, legal brothels (I think), and encourages people to "get their Lux on," illustrated by a man and woman climbing into bed together if you weren't sure what that is, the audience collapsed in embarrassed giggles at a song about a vibrator.  None of it would have been censored on the Radio 4 comedy slot, but it was being treated as though it were the raciest thing since forever.

This morning we stopped off for brunch (free mimosas, or buck's fizz as we know it, so I asked the barman to make me one which was 90% orange juice which he obligingly did) and then thought we'd look around outside the hotel.  If you want to see a Las Vegas concierge look thoroughly confused, ask where the nearest bookshop is.  Hint: there isn't one.  In the whole of Las Vegas, the bookshop is the university bookshop.  Borders went bust, and that was it.  I guess people aren't here to read!

This afternoon we're off to the Titanic exhibition (the exhibitions are oddly all about mortality) and then possibly to see what's offered at the spa.  Then tomorrow it's back in the spaceship for more road trip!
Tags:

We were somewhere near Barstow, on the edge of the desert...
riot girl
ladyjulian
….when a lump of iron in the middle of the road coincided with the front wheel of the hire car (a ver' nice one, by the way, with leather seats and AC that chills you to the very core) and the rim blew out.

However, up to that point, things are pretty good.  We got through the notoriously arsey LAX immigration with the assistance of my London Underground "baby on board" badge, which I must have somehow forgotten to take off my brand new, previously unworn jacket.  We found the hire car place with relative ease - and discovered that you can't buy a SIM card compatible with a UK iPad, so we were on paper maps and navigation, but that was okay - the route was simple.  We stopped at the Lincoln Motel in Pasadena, by which time we were too tired to do anything apart from look for some dinner, sourced at the Panda Express, which was like the Chinese buffets at Camden Lock, but with an all-American mission statement, which ran along the lines of "We aim to deliver an authentic Asian dining experience through inspiring people to improve their lives."  Presumably because after a polystyrene tray of their rather disappointing food, you look at your life, shake your head sadly and think "I really must do better than this."

The next day we woke up at about 5am, and decided it was too nice outside to do anything but get up and take the mountain road, the Angeles Crest Highway, over towards Barstow.  We stopped to pick up some fruit at the Walmart (local peaches - mmm) and stopped for a second breakfast at the Evergreen Cafe at the other end of the mountains.  We were aiming to get to Las Vegas the same day, but it was just after the mountain road, a mile up the Interstate 5, that the aforementioned lump of iron took out the wheel.

A highway patrol officer stopped for us and called Alamo which was kind of him.  A roadside assistance vehicle arrived for us, realised that there was nothing he could do without a spare wheel, and dropped us a mile down the road at the McDonalds to wait for the tow truck.

Sadly, the Roolz say that the tow truck couldn't tow the car unless we were with it.  Which we weren't.  And although it had to come past the McDonalds, it wasn't prepared to stop and get us.  So we ended up with them sending a cab for us and a truck to collect the car, which took a while, but sorted us out eventually.

We got as far as Barstow that night in a new car (a HUGE SUV, this thing will go over lumps of iron in the road no problem) and stayed at the Route 66 Motel.  Which was amazing.  The owner suggested we go to Rosita's up the road for dinner, and I had a burrito the size of my head.  Seriously good food.  By that time we'd not had anything since second breakfast at about 10am (the McDonalds was great for AC and wifi, less good for food) so we even managed to finish the enormous portions.  
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Well, hello
riot girl
ladyjulian
Livejournal pissed me off so much with (a) the excessive spam, (b) failing to open pages even when asked very nicely indeed and (c) the advert which will soon return me to my Livejournal experience that I haven't posted for a while.

For those who have a hunger for grink, you can still find it at http://londonfeminist.com

ION: Cats still alive; cohab still alive; I'm still employed.  All these are good.  
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Kittens
riot girl
ladyjulian
We've had them a fortnight.  They still don't have names.  But they are very very cute. 

Cat1 is more gregarious, first to the food every time, and keen on being cuddled.  Cat2 still doesn't enjoy being stroked or picked up, but will tolerate it from the Tuna Generating Hoomins. 

Both are capable of digesting tuna and fishy cat food without hawking it up like the last cat did - yay.

I hold some concern for the local wildlife once they're allowed outside. 

Today they're mostly spending fast asleep in a sunny spot and if they weren't basement kittehs, they'd look angelic.
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Sheila Jeffreys and That Debate Again
riot girl
ladyjulian
 I’m a cisgendered radical feminist. I’m not transphobic.

For some people, those two sentences are just incompatible. I was slightly hurt (yeah, call me butthurt) when a friend made reference on her blog to “the transphobic feminists,” as though we’re all one hive mind. But from time to time, I see why.

So today’s facepalm of the day goes to Sheila Jeffreys, for this article on the Radfem Hub. Now, I don’t have 38 years experience as a radical feminist, largely because I’m not yet 38 years old, but here’s why I disagree so strongly with her.

She argues that trans* people are targeted as children, that once a small child steps outside the pink / blue gender boundaries delineated for them at birth, a cackling horde of transactivists in white coats are ready to pounce and forcibly realign them into the opposite gender in order to keep the gender boundary alive. She compares the existence of transgendered people to the forced sterilisation of “unfit persons” in the first half of the twentieth century, the majority of whom were of course women.

She offers three strands to support this assertion: the forces which create the practice, the choice of victims and the removal of reproductive activity.

This of course ignores the most important dissimilarity: choice.

The force which creates, if creates is the right word, transgendered people, are those people themselves. Jeffreys suggests that

"Those who do not conform to gender rules, and homosexuals, are surgically reconstructed to fit in."

Really? Because last time I wandered down Canal Street, there were plenty of homosexuals who were not being surgically reconstructed. As a lesbian there has never been any sort of pressure on me to transition – and the statistics make such a proposition ludicrous: if Jeffreys were right, then the proportion of gay men and women transitioning would be much, much higher.

She goes on to say that

"Any challenge to the idea of gender threatens the main justification for the subordination of women."

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. But if we take the premise that transgenderism occurs to keep alive the male-dominated system of male supremacy / female submission, then how do we explain MTF transition (which doesn’t really feature in her article.) How about the genderqueers? What of the transwomen who ID as butch, or the “trannyfag” phenomenon of the deliberately effeminate gay transman? Transgendered people are not as binary as Jeffreys likes to think, and if she were right that the system is created by and for binary-obsessed cis men, there would be no room for these people. But there clearly is.

Where else do we go with the comparison between trans* and forced sterilisation? Ah, that’s right, "a similar set of victims, lesbians and gay men." I see no evidence, and Jeffreys offers none, to suggest that lesbians and gay men are more likely to be trans* than straight or bisexual men and women. (It’s also discordant with her final point, discussed below, which is that very small children are ‘targeted’ for treatment. As many gay and bisexual people can tell her, children are presumed to be heterosexual.)

All this is a form of eugenics, she argues, forced onto boys, girls, men and women who put a foot outside the narrow gender boundaries of our society:

"Another similarity lies in the result of transgenderism, i.e. the removal of reproductive capacity."

This will come as news to Thomas Beatie, the transman who recently gave birth to his third child, or to the trans women who have stored sperm in anticipation of reproductive urges in the future. Many trans people opt not to have surgery, or make arrangements for the storage of eggs or sperm for the future. The idea that being trans equals “the removal of reproductive capacity” is as risible as the once-common theory that gay men and women “couldn’t” have children.

Jeffrys argues that the element of choice which distinguishes trans* identity further than anything else (and let’s face it, there’s plenty) from eugenics is a fallacy. We’re familiar with the fallacy of choice (will you be a working mother or a stay at home mum? presumes that you will be a mother at all, for example, and likewise the “choice” to do something harmful may not be a choice freely made; if society says you’re only sexy in painful heels, how free is your choice to wear them?). Jeffreys places the choice to transition in this latter category:

"the offer by the medical profession of in [sic] the present of transgenderism as a cure for the extreme psychological distress that those who suffer anxieties created by the gender system can experience can be seen as an inducement that negates the idea that the practice is freely chosen."

However, this is simply to ignore two things: firstly, it is jolly hard to transition, and the medical profession certainly doesn’t “offer” it around to anybody experiencing “anxiety.” It is a process initiated by the patient, not by the doctor. Indeed, the experiences of trans people (presumably Jeffreys felt little need to actually consult any for her article) described on blogs and websites would suggest that doctors are very reluctant to diagnose gender dysphoria. Secondly, to conflate “anxiety” over the gender system with gender dysphoria is to conflate two very different things.

I was not a frilly child. I can confidently say that there have been stage of my life where I “suffered anxieties created by the gender system.” (I wrote terribly angsty poetry about it as a teenager. I’ll spare you those.) I’ve never once doubted that I am a woman. Julie Bindel, something of an acolyte of Jeffreys, has suggested that her own childhood reluctance to play dolls and wear pink would get her forcibly gender-reassigned these days, and Jeffrey’s article echoes this in her concern for the children:

"In the UK in 2011 the government agreed to an experiment in which puberty blockers will be administered to children identified as failing to conform to the rules of gender from 12 years old." 

She goes on to say that administering puberty blockers to children is to negate consent, as the children are too young to give informed consent.

However, unlike Jeffreys and Bindel, I don’t believe that my experience of being a non-frilly girl is exactly the same as every unfrilly girl’s experience and that the experience of a transboy is the same as that of an unfrilly girl. Despite the pinkification of girls, there is clearly plenty of room for tomboys and for sporty girls, girls in jeans, girls in science, girls with ambition, girls with short hair, and girls who stretch the gender boundaries in every other way, and as a society we are slowly becoming more accepting of boys who are unboyish.

The haircuts and the clothes and the toys and the interests are all, I believe, fripperies. These are a manifestation only of our conscious gender: I am a girl; girls like pink; I like pink. If girls were meant to love green, pink wouldn’t get a look-in. If young girls were being ‘forced’ to transition because they fail to meet the expectations of conscious gender, I would agree that this is a dreadful thing.

But I prefer Julia Serrano’s definition of ‘subconscious’ gender, a more abstract part of us which (regardless of the conscious gender-specifications of the day) tells us what our gender is. There must, I think, be such a thing; otherwise, how to explain the case of David Reimer? Why else would more effeminate gay men not transition, and more butch women? I might not be a frilly girl (what I’ve described in the past as gendermeh) but my subconscious gender is female. I can entertain the thought that other people’s subconscious gender does not match their assigned gender. It’s not my experience, but my experience is not universal.

One quick word on Jeffrey’s point that “puberty blockers will be administered to children identified as failing to conform to the rules of gender from 12 years old.” This, no doubt deliberately, suggests that children will be identified by shadowy authorities and compelled to have gender reassignment. That is not true. It’s exceptionally rare and will only be done for children who have expressed gender dysphoria at a very young age, and simply delays puberty. This “targeting the children” concern trolling was nonsense when it was applied to homosexuals in the 1980s and it’s nonsense now. I’ll also point out that children at 12 are generally considered capable of giving informed consent to other medical procedures.

There is, I’ll concede, room for feminist debate about transgender issues. Why should “living as a woman” mean some sort of 1950s housewife role in make-up and skirts, would be one such question. What constitutes “a woman” for the purposes of women only space is always a fun one (where by ‘fun’ I mean ‘generally futile.’) There are plenty more.  I'd love to have those discussions without first having to argue about whether trans* people exist: that ship, my friends, has sailed.

I think it’s pretty clear that transitioning, contrary to Jeffrey’s views, is led by the individual not by the medical profession. If she were right, and medics were pushing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria onto those who were not dysphoric as punishment for disregarding conscious gender boundaries, then there would be a) more than one clinic treating kids, b) many more clinics for adults and c) a lot of very unhappy post-transition people suing the shirt off the charlatan who diagnosed them. There aren’t. That means that the decision to transition is a “choice” at least insofar as it’s patient-led not medic-led. In other words, to respect the identity of a trans* person is to respect their autonomy. And as far as I’m concerned, the most radical thing a rad fem can do and can call for, is respect for the autonomy of other women, not denial of it.

[Postscript:  it occurs to me that this post could potentially be seen as just as problematic as Jeffreys' one, in terms of being a "here is my view on someone else's identity" post.  I wrote it because I think it's important that cis people challenge other cis people's views, in the same way that it's important that men challenge misogyny and straight people challenge homophobia.  I hope it's come across in the way it was intended.]



Another Ugandan lesbian facing removal
riot girl
ladyjulian
Grink to mayt@parliament.uk

Help yourselves.  If this reminds you strongly of a blog entry I wrote in January, that's because it's depressingly similar.   

Dear Home Secretary

I am horrified to see the news that once again, UKBA have decided to return a gay woman, Betty Tibikawa, to Uganda. She has scarring on her legs consistent with her account of having been branded as punishment for her sexuality. UKBA, with their customary logic, have refused her asylum.

Uganda is not a safe place for LGBT people or those who are perceived as LGBT. In January this year, only five months ago, David Kato was beaten to death in his home, after being pictured in a tabloid paper under the headline “Hang Them!” in an article calling for the murder of homosexuals. David Bahati, a prominent Ugandan MP, has been campaigning for an anti-homosexuality bill. Whilst it didn’t pass, it did foment public opinion and government condemnation of homosexuality.

If you google for Ms. Tibikawa’s name, you will find ten pages of hits, all of which describe her as a lesbian.

At that stage, it doesn’t matter where she is on the Kinsey scale. She is perceived to be a lesbian and as such will be at risk.

So UKBA are returning a Ugandan lesbian - at the very least a perceived lesbian - to a country which wants to introduce the death penalty for homosexuality, where the tabloids call for lynching (with "no regrets"), only a few months after a gay rights activist is murdered.

Any claimed commitment by your government to human rights cannot sound even slightly credible when Uganda's murderous homophobes have what amounts to tacit support from you.

When UKBA say they do not believe claimants are gay, they bolster Bahati's ludicrous claims that Ugandans are never homosexual, or if they are, that it is a "learned behaviour" that can be unlearned.

When representatives of our state say that homophobic attack is not a ground for asylum, they tell hatemongering tabloids that homophobic attacks are not that serious.

If you allow this removal to go ahead, you hand Bahati and his allies a powerful tool of silent support.

Commitment to LGBT rights (or any human rights) doesn't begin and end at home. It's also how we treat asylum seekers, and the messages we send to oppressive governments.

As the Home Secretary and the Minister for Equalities, you have a unique power. If you intervene to stop this removal, not only do you prevent one woman from being abused and tortured as she clearly has been in the past, but also to prevent more people from suffering in the same way, by indicating to governments abroad that this is not behaviour the UK supports.

Please intervene to stop this removal and to grant Ms. Tibikawa asylum.

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