Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Take more than a shallow approach to LGBTQIA+ definitions & acronyms, Philip Davies

So that "well known" bastion of equality activism and "inherently useful" addition to the Women and Equalities Committee, Philip "I can't be arsed to understand the complex nature of gender identity and sexuality so I moan about semantics" Davies, current MP for Shipley decided to write an article in HeatStreet criticising the acronym describing the gender variant and sexual variant community (https://heatst.com/world/philip-davies-its-time-to-stop-this-obsession-with-the-letters-lgbtq/).
Davies prides himself in acting in "Your Interests, Not Self-Interest" but I must say when I first perused the title I thought he was giving his best attempt at Horatian satire but the way he moans and berates equal opportunity activists by moaning about "out of control PC culture" really grinded my gears. His article smacks of wanton ignorance, which is disturbing given the fact he's been assigned to do a rather important job....scrutinising equality and diversity legislation to make the lives of those who identify differently "from the norm" (whatever that norm happens to be these days) better.

One of the jobs the Women  and Equalities committee is meant to do is to hear moving evidence of discrimination from constituents (as well as those who can't or choose not to vote) and to consider possible resolutions to reduce that level of discrimination, whether it be to change the protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010 from "Gender Reassignment Surgery" to "Gender Identity" to cover more than those trans people who want to medically transition or to ask employers to think about changing their HR documentation to be inclusive of non-binary, gender-fluid and genderqueer identities. I think it's entirely unacceptable that Davies willfully chooses to shout about his life lived in ignorance of intersex people whilst moaning about activists wanting to get him fired from the committee, for example. He and his dinner party posse probably snigger at the thought of anyone being even a smidgen different from them, judging from the initial response recorded in the article. They haven't bothered to go on YouTube and familiarise themselves with authentic intersex voices, instead they "can't understand" why intersex people do not want to be referred to as "hermaphrodites".

Well Mr Davies. Mr Anti-Pot 1967 called. They want your outdated, snobbish, bigoted views back. If you ask an intersex person if they want to be referred to as a "hermaphrodite", most will say that you are being deliberately misleading and trying to stigmatise their experience. That's why I made a conscious effort when I  pretty much first started blogging to find out more about what intersex and asexual meant. I even blogged what I found out (on Intersex here: http://sassysvensknorsk.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/awks-sre-convo-moment-we-need-to-talk.html and asexuality here: http://sassysvensknorsk.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/awks-sre-moment-no-2-we-deffo-need-to.html) and pointed out individuals who are trying to help change attitudes within Christian denominations such as Lianne Simon (http://sassysvensknorsk.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/intersex-challenge-to.html). From all the research that I undertook and from talking to intersex and asexual activists and friends, I concluded that school students really need to know about intersex and asexuality before they leave school (in the KS4 stage at the latest) to help challenge stereotypes and foster an attitude of positive inclusivity in our young people. It's not "PC madness" to teach students in Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) about gender identity (non-binary and trans) as well as helping them understand that sexuality can be fluid too - with asexuality, pansexuality and bisexuality being just as valid as homosexuality. Davies, rather than poking fun semantically in his article, could set a decent example for MPs in his party by doing more in-depth research than looking up the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right's online definition as a dinner party trick. I thoroughly believe he should spend some time getting in touch with organisations such as Intersex UK, The UK Intersex Association (UKIA), Organisation Intersexual in the UK and The Asexual Visibility and Education Network so that he can find out firsthand what being intersex or asexual is like in the UK. If Davies did speak to activists and these organisations, he may realise that legal reform is needed.

An example of legal reform that is needed badly concerns the rights of Intersex people in the UK. In fact, the Tories as a whole should take a leaf out of the Green Party (England and Wales)'s book and introduce Intersex Rights as part of their overall LGBTQIA+ platform promise:
  • Intersex will be a protected characteristic under an updated Equality Act
  • Specific legislation will be introduced protecting minors from being forced to have unnecessary medical invention
  • NHS Staff (including GPs) should be trained on how to help intersex individuals
  • Gender markers or "indicators" to be expanded beyond M or F on legal documentation
I'm hoping that Labour and the Lib Dems would back such changes and include promises to protect intersex people in their next General Election manifesto. It's not mind-boggling stuff to introduce and doesn't detrimentally affect anyone. On the contrary, it would help improve our overall equal rights record, which, let's face it, could do with a bit of a touch-up!

Davies mentions more than just Intersex and Asexual "labels" in his article. For example, "Queer" people are dismissed in a very "flash in the pan" way, with Davies calling queerness something that's
"en vogue" right now but "doesn't add anything to LGBTI". OK...someone point out to him that Q has been recognised in the acronym because Queer identity isn't something that can be dismissed as invalid. It's not as worthless as Drumpf's promise to protect LGBTQIA+ people from discrimination (the US Government having now removed federal protection for employees and removed the right to openly state gender identity and sexual orientation in Census 2020 documentation). Queer identity certainly isn't as passé as Davies is suggesting. I'd ask him to get in touch with the fabulous Elena Guthrie and Sidonie (Sid) Bertrand-Shelton  of  the "Kicking The Kyriarchy" podcast, intersectional feminists who identify proudly as queer what queer identity means to them. Also, Davies could contact Sarah Moore, Communications guru at Stonewall and proud "hard femme" and "queer queen" if he wants to be informed further. One of the points that some queer activists have pointed out is that the advantage of queer theory is that it actively attempts to resist definition. Others prefer to have a clear cut definition (see Jan Wickman's post, "Queer Activism, What Might That Be?" for a more nuanced perspective on trying to clear-cut define Queer identity: http://trikster.net/4/wickman/2.html).

Davies goes on to point out that some people are pansexual, some are two-spirited, curious, polyamorous etc etc. I don't want to break the bad news to him but there's a reason why the + symbol is added to the acronym. How many more identities should be added for the acronym to "look" entirely inclusive before the + is currently being debated. The Greens use LGBTQIA, the Lib Dems, Labour and yes, the Tories, only use LGBT before the +. Is it really that difficult to adapt to a changing acronym in the grand scheme of things? Not if you bother to go away and do the research, Mr Davies, as HR professionals, GPs, nurses, police officers and yes, your fremenies like Sarah Champion and Jess Phillips have to. Still, semantic battles are a very small part of the discussion about gender identity or sexuality and we should really be open to learning as much as possible by listening to authentic voices.

Yet Davies doesn't show any willingness to acknowledge that he might need to go away and research beyond the "labelling" which he himself petulantly labels as being "PC". Yes, some gay activists, some lesbian activists, some trans activists, some intersex activists do not like the LGBTQIA+ acronym.  Yes some people are confused as to the "natural order" expected within the LGBTQIA+ community, despite the fact that it's not meant to be hierarchical at all. Davies should understand that privilege in the LGBTQIA+ community works well for white "professional" gay men who present themselves as "straight acting" at work but  trans women of colour end up being murdered by disgustingly evil transphobic men in the US and trans women at work end up facing discrimination from uneducated bigoted managers. I find it not too baffling that Davies only really knows gay men who may be less than empathetic to trans people (not transsexual Davies). It's all about white non-empathetic men standing together for you, isn't it Davies?

There are intersex activists who do believe that their voice has been "bunched up" with trans voices, despite the fact that intersex people are not trans. As for pansexual and polyamorous and two-spirited activists, they hardly ever get the chance to access a large enough platform for their voices to be heard, which leads to straight men like Davies dismissing their identity off as quickly as I dismissed the £350m magic money tree Brexiteers were planning to plant for the NHS. Instead of focussing inanely on the acronym, focus on listening to a diverse group of voices. Appreciate their passion, note their concerns and then work with them to suggest a plan of action and then fight tooth and nail to get that action plan implemented. That's what we "PC feminists" aka intersectional feminists on the left have been doing (hence why the Equality Act was passed IN THE FIRST PLACE) and keep on planning to do. We'll leave Davies and his PC bashing moany cronies to their brash trash dinner party bubble....no invitation sought thanking you kindly Davies!