All Aboard the Acronym Train!

I’m taking a deep breath as I write this because I suspect it’s going to expose me to some criticism. But here goes: today I came across the acronym LGBTQIP. Now, most of us are familiar with LGBT; it’s an alternative to saying ‘gays and lesbians’ whilst including bisexual and transgender folk. So far so good. But this train gets ever longer with more and more coaches being added; hence ‘Q’ for ‘gender-queer’ which I think means people who don’t conform to one gender or another, and ‘I’ for ‘Intersex’. OK fine. But what about the P? Well, this is where it gets complicated because according to OH, the ‘P’ stands for Paedo-sexual which if correct is obviously problematic, to say the least. (OH prefers the much more elegant ‘GSM’ – Gender and Sexual Minorities.)

But leaving that aside, there is an issue here. I have no problem with saying that people are acceptable in themselves no matter who they are or how they ‘present’. Hate crimes are wrong no matter what the context. But whilst as a society we have had the debate about sexuality, feminism and racial equality, and as a result of these debates have come to an agreed position, this is not the case with gender. Yes, there will always be haters and yes, those haters are coming more confidently out of the woodwork since Brexit and, worse, last week’s election; but the position of tolerance, acceptance and equality is enshrined in law and upheld as reasonable by a vast majority in this country.

However, no such debate has been had about the issue of gender and specifically, whether it is possible for a person to ‘change sex’ – or, to look at it another way, whether a person who feels they have been born in the wrong body can legitimately be considered to be a full and authentic member of the opposite gender. (I am aware that this begs the question of how many genders there actually are, but I can only deal with so much in one blog post.) The position of many has simply been to tack the T onto the end of LGB and basically tell people to accept it without question. This I do not like.

It is not a healthy situation when a person is labelled a TERF or transphobic simply for questioning whether a change of gender is real or possible. Yes, I understand that these questions can hurt, but take it from one who knows, there is hurt on both sides and until we are able to debate this topic respectfully and without fear of labels, those of us who are baffled and confused will remain so.

This is a complex and nuanced issue with implications for people beyond those transitioning or wishing to transition. How many partners or spouses have been faced (as I have) with the impossible choice of leaving or putting up with the situation? It may be that people have the right to define themselves as they wish, but these definitions have implications for their relationships and for society as a whole. There are no rights without responsibilities.

We have not begun to touch on these issues and it’s hard to see how any kind of nuanced debate can occur in the current climate. Debate is polarised on just about every topic and gender is no exception: if you are not wholeheartedly in favour of a person’s right to transition you must be a transphobic TERF. End of story.

I welcome respectful debate on this topic (that’s the point!) but please note that rude or abusive comments will be deleted.

Kirk out

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby – a Brief History of My Time in Writing

I have blogged before about the moment on a German mountainside when I began to write again after years of being blocked. Back then my work consisted of ‘diary’ writing and I’d be happy if I wrote a page or two each day, doubly so if there were some good ideas in it. Back then I couldn’t even imagine writing something so coherent and structured as a short story, let alone a novel. This state of affairs continued for quite some while: I’d write fragments of description, dialogue or characterisation but no matter how I sweated and groaned and prayed, nothing hove into view which might remotely be said to resemble a Plot.

Gradually these fragments began to weave themselves together and eventually some sort of narrative emerged and I began to write short stories, a couple of which were even published. But I still couldn’t imagine writing anything as vast and complex as a novel. What would I write about? What would happen? But over time the stories wove themselves together and somehow out of nowhere I wrote my first novel. Then I discovered Nanowrimo and wrote three or four more but still I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read, let alone publish them. Then I wrote another novel, sent it to a dozen friends to read and got some positive feedback. But still I couldn’t imagine having a publisher or an agent. Now I’m starting to imagine what it would be like to have a publisher and agent – but when I get there I’ll probably struggle to imagine being successful. And so it goes on.

But there’s another strand to this story, because it’s also a journey from prose to poetry and from the written to the oral tradition. When I started writing I assumed I would write novels. Short stories didn’t seem relevant and as for poetry, that was for another race of people entirely. I definitely, absolutely did not see myself as a poet, despite – or perhaps because of – having written comic verses as a child and love poems as a teenager. I just didn’t take them seriously as poetry.

Enter Word! I can’t remember what drew me to this (then) tiny group of poets in Leicester. Maybe it was that they met in a bar (always a plus), maybe it was that they seemed a refreshing antidote to the precious groups I’d hitherto encountered, one of which made a huge deal about me even attending, let alone reading. But going to Word! was like opening the doors and letting in the storm. It blew me away – and I came home thinking Yes! I can do this! The next time I took a poem I’d written and although the idea of reading in public terrified the pants off me, the group was so supportive that I never looked back.

In order to discover myself as a novelist I had to travel back in time to the beginnings of literature, to the sadly undervalued oral tradition. And that is where I found my voice.

Kirk out