November 20th, 2008


In another part of the forest...

I am very worried about the possible unforeseen consequences of the Home Office proposals for criminalizing punters, not because I have any especial sympathy for men who buy sex, but because I think the proposals are relying far too heavily on the principal of deterrence and not nearly enough on thinking about what such a law is trying to achieve.

The clear and present social evil which the Home Office is trying to address is the growing amount of slavery, including but not limited to, sexual slavery, made possible by looser borders generally, under-enforcement of existing laws, and the existence of large rich criminal organizations. What is going on with sexual slavery is not the continued existence of a sex industry that was always evil from top to bottom as the replacement of one sort of sex industry by another - one of the problems with the radfem analysis in which the whole thing was always wholly and soley about the industrialization of sexuality is that it put ideas into people's heads. (Making up stories about snuff films that did not exist was a good way to put the idea into people's minds - they did not exist, but they almost certainly do now.)

We are entitled to disapprove of sex work and a sex industry, or not to disapprove of it. The issue of slavery, enforced by rape and murder, is another matter on which, in theory, we can all agree. And an urgent one.

But not, perhaps, if we turn it into a pretext for dealing with the unfinished business of the sex industry generally, or take the slavery issue as an argument for total prohibition, the way Fiona McTaggart, say, is doing.

It is worth commenting, BTW, that Fiona was at the Home Office during the extended period during which the British Government refused to ratify the European Convention that gave asylum to trafficked women - a practical measure against enslavement which fell foul of the government's desire to placate the anti-asylum sections of the Tory press. They brought it in eventually, but reluctantly.

The trouble with the current proposals is, as I say, that they rely on the deterrent effect of criminalizing punters. What the new law would do, I fear, is offer the gangsters responsible for trafficking a wonderful opportunity to blackmail punters not only into giving them lots of money but also operating as their minions. If you were running a sex slavery operation, how useful would you find it periodically to recruit as your catspaw businessmen, policemen, government ministers? Moreover, once you have recruited them, you want the carrot as well as the stick - so you offer them sexual services that are their darkest fantasies, involve them in an escalation of criminal acts, and make a creep into a monster.

I have no answer to the problem except strict enforcement on criminal conspiracy. What do you think?

Toiletgate - The Saga Ends

After an extended series of exchanges with Pride, I received an e-mail today from Paul Birrell which provides the absolute assurances I have been asking for:

As we have tried to state throughout - and I can only apologize if this has not been clear from our writings - Pride London does not support any position where an individual would be prevented from full and open access to facilities in accordance with their gender identity. This has been Pride London's policy since inception, even prior to the amended legislation. I can state quite categorically that Pride London will be not only be complying with the relevant legislation, but will continue to, as it has tried to do in the past, ensure that it progresses rights further than simply the legislative agenda that the government has seen to pass.

You may not believe me, but I was appalled at the very thought of anyone being refused access to the toilets on the basis of their gender identity at what I regard as the one day of the year when we should all be able to walk freely through central London and live our lives without harassment. That's regardless of any legislation. I've been campaigning for LGBT rights for most of my adult life which is why this is as much a personal issue for me, Pride London being a company I run, as opposed to simply a corporate affairs matter as I am sure previous 'Pride', and I use that word advisedly, organizations such as Mardi Gras would have seen it.

There will be no discrimination, either unlawful or indeed in those instances where the law does not as yet extend through the sphere of LGBT rights. We are an LGBT rights organization and we are ensuring that this policy is clear to all contractors as well as organizations that work with us, as opposed to just those that work for us.'

I have accepted his apologies and assurances and plan no further action on the matter.

My thanks to Paul, Neil Young of the GLA and all the people who have given support in trying to ensure that the July incident never happens again.

And just as the Transgender Day of Remembrance ends

It could have been me
I was young. I took risks.
True, I was white.
I hitched rides with guys
One at least was a killer
It could have been me

It could have been me
He came to my door
He showed me a badge
He pulled out a knife
He raped me. I felt
The hilt of the knife
I thought it the blade.
It could have been me.

It could have been me.
They beat me in the street
They pummeled my breasts
And tugged at my wig
And said they would burn me
It could have been me.

It could have been me
He drew up alongside
And asked me to ride
And knew who I was.
He followed my cab
And drove his car at me
It could have been me.

They died
On the streetcorner with the streetlight that blinked
With the rubbish bin dented by a passing car
Among bricks and bent girders
On the waste ground behind the convenience store
In the car park behind the bar where the toilets flooded
And the johns were bad men. Or in bed
Their own bed where they thought they were safe.
They died where people who die by violence die

They died because
- Of course, there's no because. Just stupid whys
They died for smiling the wrong way
They died because god told someone gay things need to die
They died because they answered back
Or would not be called out of their names
Or let his hand go there between their legs
Or went on a hot date and told him and he didn't believe them until he did.
They died of other people's stupid violent hating ways.

The ones who died
The ones we know about
Thirty a year - that's more than two a month.
Handsome young transmen murdered in their pride
Duanna, Angie, Kelly and the rest
Iraqis with their long hair shaved away
Our sisters and brothers
Thirty of them

When people die
Their smiles are taken from us
Who might have seen them
And smiled back.
Their songs are taken from us
Who might have heard
And listened and been glad.
Their stories are remembered
By us, on this day