What Does a Prime Minister Look Like?

As the Labour Party continue to debate who should be our next leader, many of us must perform that balancing act between those policies we believe in and those which will persuade the electorate. For those on the left (in recent times) this has been a continual juggling act which became so difficult during the Blair years that many of us voted for other parties instead: when you are electable only because you’ve abandoned your principles, what is the point of being in power? Yet there may be a point. You may be less awful than the opposition – and though Blairism was effectively ‘Tory-lite’ it was still better, or less awful than full-fat Toryism.

So what’s a leftie girl to do? The obvious thing would be to vote Rebecca Long-Bailey/Richard Burgeon. They tick all the boxes (I have a problem with recent proposals about trans people, but that’s another story) and would in nearly all respects continue with Corbynism. So what’s wrong with that? Well, in theory, nothing – except that we threw everything we had at getting a Labour victory and we failed – and you can argue that it was the press (true) or Brexit (also true) or the media (to some extent) but it was also the case that we lost. And the likelihood is that with so-called ‘continuity candidates’, however good they may be, we would lose again.

So what then? A return to Blairism? Well, no – I’m happy to report that I see no appetite for that whatsoever: Blair remains, despite his unhelpful anti-Corbynist bleating, a voice in the wilderness. But as far as I can see none of the candidates is a ‘Blairite’ though some have tried to portray Starmer as such and all have excellent qualities. I would like Emily Thornberry to be our next leader but she looks set to fall at the first hurdle and even if she does get on the ballot paper, is unlikely to win; in which case I haven’t decided who I’ll vote for. But I know one thing; that murmurs of wanting to elect ‘someone who looks like a Prime Minister’ need to be resisted. Because what the hell does that mean? Frankly it means electing someone white and male and for god’s sake, if we can’t resist that now, in 2020, when can we? It is not the case that only men win elections, nor should be be looking for more of the same. We should look for someone principled and persuasive, and for my money, Emily Thornberry is both of those things. She’s also shown that she can take on Boris Johnson (as Shadow Foreign Secretary.)

But sadly if things continue as they are it’ll be Starmer, not that I have a problem with Starmer but it would be nice to take this opportunity to choose a woman and sad if, out of an original list of five, we elect the only male. Hey ho. But I guess we’ll probably get a woman as deputy as Angela Rayner is doing well.

Kirk out

…I'm Just Coasting…

As I write I’m waiting for the Victoria Derbyshire programme where a fellow-member of SPA (Straightpartnersanonymous.com) is due to speak about his experience of being married to someone who subsequently came out as gay. Due to the current polarisation of debate, most situations are like Cold-War Berlin or trouble-torn Northern Ireland; there’s a wall of brick or iron or barbed wire and any attempts to cross the divide will result in your being shot down or hopelessly entangled in spiky arguments. Debates used to be organised this way: on the one side someone speaks for the motion, on the other side someone else speaks against. Then we debate. But lately rather than attempting to shed light on a subject these things are more like boxing matches: in the blue corner we have x, a feminist author and blogger and in the red corner we have y, a right-wing misogynist. Light blue touch-paper and retire immediately. Victory is decided by social media. Seconds away, round one! Ding!

None of this is helpful, none of it sheds any light on the topic under discussion and none of it helps us to understand each other. At best you can say that certain views are aired, but that’s usually as far as it goes. So this morning I’m hoping for something more enlightening in the generally adversarial debate between those who regard gays coming out as victims or heroes, and those who champion the rights of the betrayed and left-behind partners (spoiler alert: I’m on the side of both.) So hold your horses for an hour or so and I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I’d like to tell you about my latest metaphor. I find it helpful to ‘explain’ my life in metaphors and today’s helpful image is that of a coastline. A few decades ago I discovered fractals, which teach us that there are in effect no straight lines but only wiggles. A coastline is a perfect example of this because the further you go in, the smaller the wiggles become: as Blake said, even a grain of sand has a world contained within it – and basically, there’s no such thing in nature as a straight line. Even a coast which appears to be straight will have dips and bends and rocks and inlets and those rocks will themselves have dips and inlets and those inlets will have… and so it goes on. So I consider my life at the moment to be not a city divided by a wall but a coastline that we are exploring together, asking where is the sea? how far does it come in? where is high tide? what bends and dips and curves does the coast have? and so on. It’s not a wall with one of us in the East and another in the West and no way through. It’s not a bouquet of barbed wire. It’s a coast.

Aaand – back to Victoria Derbyshire, and wow, I sat through nearly the whole programme before he was on and I have to say it was brilliant, very compassionate and thoughtful. Here‘s the link – and while you’re at it, if you’ve ever watched the VD show could you consider complaining to the BBC about the decision to axe it? Here‘s the link.

Kirk out

I'll Wear What She's Wearing? When Harry Became Sally

I’ve been on a bit of a book-buying frenzy of late – it’s easy to do with Alibris (I don’t touch Amazon, as I’ve explained) being so cheap and having more or less everything you could possibly want – and the latest thing to thunk onto the doorstep is an analysis of the ‘Transgender Moment’ called When Harry Became Sally. As the long-suffering partner of a cis-man with gender dysphoria I was hungry for anything remotely fair-minded as debate is so polarised that you’re either 100% on board with trans rights or you’re a bigoted TERF.

At first glance the book might appear to come into the ‘bigoted’ category, but that would not be fair. It is written from a fairly conservative perspective but tries to be open-minded and in no way could be seen as reactionary. It’s written by an American which makes some of the content irrelevant, though not much.

So what’s the beef? I guess it’s this: that whilst people have the right to identify as whatever they wish and to live however they wish, there has been a rush of legislation and regulation (on the back of feminist, gay and disabled rights legislation) to afford transgender people rights to toilets and changing rooms, and to compete on a level playing-field with cis-girls and women in athletics and on all-women shortlists. I’m not 100% against this and neither is the author of the book, but the problem is that we haven’t had a debate about it. As I’ve said before, as a society we’ve debated feminism, we’ve thrashed out gay and lesbian rights and we’ve examined the situation of disabled people trying to gain access to buildings (disabled people are under attack from swingeing cuts to benefits now, but that’s another story) and yet we haven’t had anything resembling an open debate about what it means to be transgender, what might be the causes and what are the consequences. The gay and lesbian debate evolved during my lifetime and I watched it evolve from a criminal offence to a point where gays and lesbians can be legally married and adopt children. This occurred over three or four decades and whilst the debate wasn’t always respectful (it was sometimes horrible) it was there. It happened. With transgender rights, on the other hand, we were simply told what to think, viz:

1. that transgender rights are of the same order as gay, lesbian and disabled rights and 2. that we must enact legislation along the same lines to bolster these rights. This has been done relatively quickly but often without due consideration for those adversely affected by them. The ‘T’ has been tacked onto the end of LGB and we are told to accept this without question or risk being labelled transphobic.

I want to make one thing absolutely clear: I am 100% against any form of prejudice or abuse. There is no excuse for abusing anyone because of their presentation and I would be the first to leap in and defend someone in that situation. But the ramifications of accepting a whole slew of trans rights without question are many and complex. Whilst I would not deliberately call someone I’d just met by the wrong name or pronoun it can be difficult for some especially those for whom this is a completely new scenario. There may be problems for women and girls (some women and girls) being forced to accept trans women in toilets or changing rooms, particularly if those women and girls have been abused in the past (let me be clear, I am not accusing any trans women of abuse; I’m suggesting that the system is open to abuse by men wishing to pose as trans women.)

There are also problems with trans women who retain some of their masculine physique and strength competing with cis-women in sports; likewise people who have grown up with many of the privileges of being male do not compete on a level playing-field with others on all-women shortlists.

And I haven’t even begun to touch on what this does to partners and children (if there are any.)

So what to do? I have no idea – but I know this much. We need free and open debate on the subject because without being able to question an orthodoxy there can be no understanding – and without understanding there can be no true acceptance, only conformity. And that is not something I’m willing to accept.

So disagree with me if you will – in fact I’d welcome it – but please don’t call me a bigot. Cos I ain’t.

Happy Monday. Oh, and is it snowing where you are? I went out this afternoon in the rain and by the time I’d got to the top of the road the temperature had plummeted and there was a blizzard!


Kirk out

Looks Like I'm Gonna Have to Save that Cat…

Sometimes in life things just keep coming atcha till you take notice. At first I was all, like, no – I don’t need a recipe to write a novel, thank you; I’ll just use my imagination but sometime the universe just keeps on nudging you till you take notice. And when I was struggling with the highs and lows of my radio play (I’ve got the storyline, I just need the structure) I thought hey ho, and off to Alibris I went, throwing in a fairly recent Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and a guide to getting published while I was at it.

There is a Save the Cat guide to novel-writing but I plumped for the screenwriting original, thinking that some of it at least would be relevant to writing radio plays and whatever wasn’t would be a fascinating insight in its own right. For the dedicated writer, no experience is ever wasted: you can always work it in somewhere and it adds to your store of knowledge about the world. I’ve only read a couple of chapters but so far so good; it’s approachable and down-to-earth.

I hate to go there, but sometimes you gotta realise that all the talent and imagination in the world just might not be enough and that one has to engage with ‘beat sheets’ and what have you (I don’t even know the technical terms yet so bear with me) in order to break through. It’s a case of know thine enemy I suppose, or possibly know thy pet…

I’ll keep you posted about what I learn. Oh, and my 500th follower has plumped for an ebook of poetry which will shortly be winging its way to them. And soon after that it will be available to all, for a very reasonable fee.

Watch this space!

Kirk out

My Carbon Footprint

OK confession time: I haven’t done as well as I’d have hoped this week. I’ve driven 16 more miles than planned and will add another 3 today as I need to get some shopping; and yesterday I bought some new curtains and bedclothes. In my defence these were planned purchases, I just hadn’t planned on getting them this week but I found myself in Wilko’s and somehow got into a furnishings frenzy. (If you’ve never been in a furnishings frenzy there are organisations to help you rehabilitate but I just came home and did some deep breathing.)

So, what did I buy and why was it not good for the environment? Well, first-off I bought some new curtains. These were badly needed as the old ones were not only horrid but cumbersome and kept knocking things over (when they were pulled, I mean, they didn’t go knocking things down of their own accord. Though sometimes I wonder…) I also bought a new duvet cover, equally necessary and not something I’d consider buying second-hand. And we did need another sheet.

So what about the carbon footprint? Well, new clothing is well-known for its environmental impact, so it seems logical to assume that bedclothes will be also. From the growing of the cotton to the energy and water used in manufacture and not forgetting the air-miles from producer to consumer, it’s not good news. But as I’ve said I’m not prepared to buy bedclothes second-hand, so the deed is done. Therefore off-setting would seem to be the way to go. There are companies you can subscribe to which do this but at the moment my method is to use Ecosia, a search engine which plants one tree for every 40 searches. It’s perfectly good, just as effective as Google and better for the planet. Unfortunately it can’t be installed as default on all browsers so I just have it as an add-on.

Sometimes you try not to do the damage, but sometimes it’s a matter of limiting the damage. On the plus side, the bedroom looks great!

Kirk out

Can I Just Say…?

Can I just say how chuffed I am by the responses lately? Everyone’s been so encouraging about me reaching the 500 mark. I was worried that I’d get comments like ‘500? That’s nothing, I got 6000 in my first week’ or whatever but everyone has been lovely. An ebook of poetry will shortly be on its way to Last Cow Standing, my 500th follower – other such offers may follow in due course…

Keep it up. I always read comments and usually respond the same day. If you follow my blog I will take a look at yours and may follow you back.

Happy Wednesday

Kirk out

Leave Means Leave

No, don’t worry, this post is not about Brexit. In my recent short story collection every title is related to Brexit, but the stories are about relationships, and so is this post. I recently decided to seek some online support for my situation as a straight woman being married to someone with gender dysphoria. Support’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Don’t you just love having someone on your side? In a culture where trans rights are celebrated and their spouses forgotten, where even to question the right of people to identify as whatever they want and however they want is to risk being branded a hate-filled TERF, you really need someone in your corner, right? Someone who gets it?

Well, you’d think so. And with that in mind I fired off a query to a support group for straight people living with gay or trans partners. Great, I thought, finally I’ll be around people who know what it’s about. And so they do, but it turns out support is a double-edged sword. The problem is that everyone knows – or thinks they know – how the story goes. You’re happily married for a time, sometimes a long time, then the partner comes out as gay or trans – it’s a horrible bombshell – you are devastated – you have a time of adjustment and negotiation and finally – and this is the inevitable part – you split up. If you don’t – and here’s the rub – you’re basically putting up with things. Subjecting yourself to unhappiness. Being unfulfilled. Not putting yourself first. And so along with all the supportive and encouraging comments there has been a persistent thread running through, along the lines of: Please put yourself first. What’s in this for you? And you may come to the conclusion that, painful though it is, you have to choose between staying in a relationship and finding happiness. Thirty years ago the perceived wisdom would have been he’ll get over it, just stick at it and you’ll come through, or it’s just a phase, or whatever. Now, the perceived wisdom is that the change is permanent and that in order to find happiness, you must put yourself first and that means leaving.

But not all stories are the same. They don’t all have the same narrative arc and they don’t all end the same way. I don’t know how this one ends but neither does anyone else. And at the age of 62 I think I know my own mind about this.

What is it again?

Here‘s the group if you’re interested.We’re all struggling with something and we’re all on a journey so let’s be kind to each other and not assume we know the answer.

Kirk out