Tag Archives: empathy

Fanning the Flames

NB: Although I do not know the person concerned here, I was motivated by a strong sense of empathy to write about the situation described in the ensuing paragraphs.I have sought approval from Sabrina Winfield to publish this piece and she has seen it. Therefore, all is sound ethically.

 

Let me ask you a question. What do you think of when you hear the word university? The best times of your life? The place where you might meet your future partner? Where you make friends for life?  Then when you’ve stayed up all night, handing in your essay the next morning like a boss?

For some., that is their experience of University. Lucky fuckers. What about the rest of us?

I’ll talk about my experience more later but let me just say I struggled socially at University. I loved Sociology though, except group work.  Group psychology is king and for somebody like me who prefers a few close friends that’s my worst nightmare. I could hear whispers early on “Oh, they’re a bit weird.”

Film nights and beer were the norm in my flat. Chatter laughter noise and small talk, and being sociable. All my worst nightmares. I’m just not very good at it. I’m deeper. I’d rather talk about important interesting stuff. Art music writing and psychology and feelings. That’s more my bag.

Luckily I had a flatmate who preferred similar and after everyone else had watched the film, I’d often sneak it back to my room and watch it with her instead. I spent a lot of time in my room.

We have recently reconnected on Facebook after a long time apart for reasons which I’m not going to go into here. But we were talking about our University days. We helped each other out a lot mutually. I’m not going to go into her stuff here either. She was in her second year and I was in my first.

She recalls our first trip to the uni bar. She tells me;

“I looked at your eyes. Every time somebody said hello to you you looked as though you wanted the floor to swallow you up!” I rolled them too apparently. She knows me very well.

She was right. The one thing I remember was that one of the tracks on the jukebox was Coldplay’s Yellow. Everybody was chatting and laughing, and I just felt like there was a glass wall between me and them. In subsequent trips to the bar they ended up being rather shorter than they should be. Why? We used to make our own way discreetly back home to my bedroom and talk. I’d rather spend time with a few close friends than a huge group I can’t stand.

Without my friend in the first instance I would have hated University completely wholesale.

What if you don’t meet that ally?

I think it’s fair to say that that was the experience of Sabrina Winfield featured today in Southampton’s local newspaper The Daily Echo.

Sabrina, screamed the headline terrified her housemates with a home-made flamethrower.

Before I get into the issues of the post, I’m not very good with numbers I do words. I asked another friend of mine to go through the article and count for me how many lines and paragraphs it took before we got to any  mention of mental health. The numbers make for sad reading. Mental health was not even mentioned until the 38th line and the 13th paragraph. Put another way mental health was not even mentioned until the penultimate paragraph in terms of the website and on mobile.

Instead we are treated to salacious sensationalist hyperbole. Sabrina went on a rampage. Through a hall, though you would think from the tenor of the article she had rampaged through the entire flat. I have to say at the moment I’m not in a good spot myself mentally, and I have been taking a break from blogging and writing. However, this story made me so angry I had to say something.

I was angered that Sabrina’s housemates were centred in the article.

They were terrified apparently. One tried to climb out of a window during a previous incident.  Whilst I accept that seeing somebody going through a corridor with a home-made flamethrower isn’t something you see every day I thought one thing. What about Sabrina? Let me just repeat that to ram it home. What about Sabrina? What was she feeling? What led her to that point? That’s what I wanted to know. If I was more green and less savvy about mental health I would think that random people just make flamethrowers every day.  It’s what everybody thinks isn’t it? That everybody’s ultimate ambition. It’s what you wake up in the morning and fancy doing. Not reading a book not watching TV, no making of flamethrowers beats all that. But the fact is I’m not green and I am savvy about mental health. I have had mental health problems since I was 16. I’ve still got them.

You see the point is this, the flamethrower, coupled the terrifying of her housemates, that’s the end of the story not the beginning. Nobody just wakes up and decides to make a flamethrower.

The real story is the struggle that led up to the making of this flamethrower.

 

For the switched on amongst you there is another point. Previously police had been called when Sabrina was screaming on the landing and threatening to burn the house down. There was an opportunity here to support Sabrina and get her help.

Instead of squealing about how Sabrina was acting eccentrically why not do what housemates ought to do and look after your housemate? Had Sabrina received appropriate help and care at an earlier stage then my bet is and I think it’s a safe one that the incident with the flamethrower would never have happened.

So why in the name of fuck did nobody try to help then? A hug may have helped, a listening ear or perhaps some empathy. But no people would rather go and have their drink and their dodgy kebabs and ignore the people who are struggling.

University is a highly superficial and highly artificial environment in my experience. Nobody cares not really. For those of us with mental health problems, we are often told you’re too intense, you text too much, I can’t cope with you.

In the social media age too, friendship is bastardised. Your mate is somebody who you met the night before and tagged you in that really awful selfie you don’t want anybody to see. Your mate is the one who drags you to the pub when you’ve got an essay to do. But what about when you really want to talk? When you’re crying alone in your room? In the middle of the night when you’re staring at the ceiling for the millionth time and you really can’t sleep? I was lucky. I had my friend. But what if I hadn’t? I still can’t sleep now though.

The fact is that those housemates were quite happy to talk to the papers and to hang Sabrina out to dry. She is not a hardened criminal. She was not attention seeking. She needed help. I wish she’d been my housemate because I would have been there for her without any preconditions or caveats.

I said earlier that I would not go into my friend’s stuff and I won’t. When she had problems though and I’m not trying to big myself up, I sat and listened for three hours without even peeing. My feeling is that if her housemates could have listened to and heard her which is a perfectly simple act Sabrina would never have come before the courts and could have been treated with appropriateness, courtesy and empathy.  All the things which society by and large is shit at. I am today emotional because before writing this I had the opportunity to read Sabrina’s own response to the events. I learned two things. One thing she has an ace taste in hats which I like. And secondly I learnt about what had actually happened to lead her to this point and if I was furious this morning I’m even more furious now.

The biggest crime of the whole thing? The doorway people yes the doorway!  We’d better think about its feelings and book it in for some magnolia therapy. Doors have feelings and can get traumatised. Didn’t you know? Nor did I!

The fact is the local newspaper would rather listen to those who want a cheap sexed up story lacking nuance and truth rather than the real story of somebody with mental health problems. Through the whole article my head was screaming what about Sabrina herself?

She was just reduced to bit part status in her own story. Objectified and dehumanised As for the comments below the line I’m not even going there disgusting individuals! Mind you they are generally disgusting and have the insight of an earthworm. In fact it’s probably an insult to earthworms to make this claim.

Some would say Hannah why the fuck you getting so angry about somebody you’ve never even met? Empathy, which according to the Guardian recently we are getting very bad at.

You see my first year was fine while I had my friend there. My second year was a blur because a carer abused me. I’m in a wheelchair and disabled so I depend on 24-hour personal care. Much of that year, I spent not in lectures but in bed or in the bar or crying my eyes out to my GP.

She was ace. Also I got therapy with a good therapist Liz.

I had to repeat the year. My best friends at uni then were Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort, Snakebite and weed. But the thing is, I wasn’t like the popular kids, I wasn’t drinking because I wanted to be rat arsed on a Friday night. I was drinking too much. I was drinking to not feel. I didn’t want to think. Other stuff happened too, so Liz and I went through strategies for keeping myself safe. So yes I’ve never met Sabrina, but I feel like I have. From having read her blog, I think that this is why sometimes the best support for mental health issues comes from others who understand. I’ve also been lucky so far with the professionals.

 

It was wrong to describe Sabrina as stupid too. People who have suffered abuse of course are never infantilised and called stupid no. They are listened to and respected as cogent human beings with their own stories. That is of course on some kind of fantasy island somewhere.

 

To conclude then, Sabrina Winfield is far from stupid. She is intelligent articulate, honest and erudite. In her blog which I will place at the end of this article she is honest and frank and doesn’t hold back about her own experience. It is perfectly obvious from reading that what led her to this point.

Her housemates should be utterly ashamed of themselves. I suspect they might feel guilty I hope they do. Let me say that whatever fee they were paid they probably have a nagging feeling somewhere in their unconscious and perhaps in the shadow side that they could have done more because they could.

Mental health should have been contextualised in the beginning, not the end of the piece.

Here’s the thing you see when I saw the headline I knew there was a mental health connection.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Turn the pages. Don’t leave the person to struggle. Hold their hand. Leaving is expected. Staying is revolutionary.

Let me leave the last words with Sabrina. But before I do I think that Sabrina’s housemates should be ashamed. I believe that people who make diagnoses in comment sections should be ashamed. But I think above all incidences like this are a stain on society. The flamethrower was the crisis point in an ongoing struggle. Not the beginning. Starting at the beginning would be better. Less easy to write and less easy to read. But infinitely better.

“Nothing was damaged and more importantly nobody was hurt. This event has had an effect on my life that has caused permanent casualty to my quality of life, my reputation and my mental health. Whilst the students at *** Road have surely swiftly moved on, I have an on-going hell of troubles to deal with, as this entire situation was a huge misunderstanding and unwarranted, I can promise that. I was not looking for attention as the article claims, I know how to get “that” without being a fucking asshole or hurting anybody.”

 

Sabrina blogs at http://emptybiros.blogspot.co.uk/

 

NB: If you are struggling with mental health problems at University and don’t know where to turn for support, a guide has been produced by the charity Young Minds. This is available at http://www.youngminds.org.uk/assets/0002/7042/Uni_Zine.pdf (Adobe Reader required).

 

 

Don’t Call Me Crazy 3

TW: Mentions suicide, self harm, anorexia, and voices inside the head. PLEASE DO NOT READ IF IN AN UNSAFE PLACE EMOTIONALLY.

The final episode of Don’t Call Me Crazy throws a spotlight on to males with mental health problems. I think mental illness can be particularly difficult for men given the myriad of social expectations and stereotypes around them. Bullshit like men don’t cry or men bottle things up. These stereotypes also have a negative effect on men as they are so ingrained into our culture. If men are trained not to talk or speak about something bothering them then places like the McGuinness unit may be a last resort after a build up of problems.

Firstly we meet Matty, who was brought to the McGuinness unit after his lecturer found him at college writing suicidal thoughts on the Internet. He has a fear of being killed on his 18th birthday and has plotted out in great detail his own solution to the problem. Chillingly he has worked out the cost of a gun, and intends to use one to kill himself.

In an art therapy group where patients are using pictures taken from magazines to illustrate their problems Matty chooses the emboldened word ‘THOUGHTS’ and a picture of red boxes all close together. He is able to articulate to the art therapist that the word represents his thoughts and the boxes close together represent the voices all shouting at him at once..

I think the visual aids helped him to consolidate initially his own problem. They can come upon him at any time as is shown when he has to leave the room abruptly when the voices begin. Voices from my impression of Matty seem to be really crippling things. Imagine trying to move with a heavy weight on your back. You would probably move slowly and slightly fearfully due to the pain. It seems that this is how it is for Matty. He cannot predict when the voices will strike so has a constant crippling fear gnawing at him and in many ways it becomes easy to understand why faced with this scenario he would want to kill himself.

I am not saying anyone should; nothing of the kind but it is easy to understand why somebody in the grip of depression thoughts of suicide and psychosis would want to. It seems like a temptation, and a way of escaping the problem. But that said also there are healthier ways of achieving this.

After having home leave cancelled Matty begins to open up to Mental Health Nurse Pete about his regret over not talking to somebody before he felt the urge to self harm the previous night.

Mental health is not about perfection straightaway, it is about as Pete says learning lessons for the future. The two then bond over a shared love of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers song ‘It’s My Aeroplane’ and the tattoos of the lead singer Anthony Kiedis.

Such bonding is important as it helps to build up trust and rapport. I share Matty’s love for music and it is definitely one of my techniques for de-stressing too.

Later in the programme we see Matty with occupational therapist Vicky. The group are talking about support and are asked to name five people who support them. Matty is initially unable to think of anyone and writes that down. However by the end of the session there is progress as he has managed to name five people and the voices have not emotionally crippled him this time.

For Dr Andy Rogers, Head of Psychological Therapies at the McGuinness Unit, hearing voices is nothing more dramatic than a common response to stress when the mind races. I think that the lack of sensationalism around mental health has been a real strength of this series. Practitioners such as those in the McGuinness unit deal with situations as they are rather than how they would like them to be. Understanding the story around the voice helps a lot according to Dr Rogers both for the patient and medical professional alike. I think I know that nothing mental health wise ever happens in a vacuum. There is always a trigger and as I said previously it is about walking alongside people while they figure out what that trigger is.

After Matty is restrained he meets with case manager Maureen to discuss his anger. He tells us that he attended anger management. This failed him though and only served to make him more angry. This is not unusual. In my own experience when I feel pissed off I tend to feel anxious first. Anger is a visceral strong emotion and does not appear generally as a first response. Rather the anger is precipitated by other events. Matty actually getting to grips with what he is dealing with is a powerful moment for him and a powerful moment for me as a viewer.

In this episode too, we also meet George, a gifted rugby player who won a prestigious rugby scholarship to a top boarding school. Far from home though he became depressed and began to hear a man’s voice telling him he was worthless and should quit rugby.

As psychiatrist Dr Ihenacho suggests any kind of competitive pressure can cause depression and anxiety . Competing against people who are equally talented as you are can break you as you are always comparing and contrasting your abilities with those of others. He shares time with his father reminiscing about happier times on the rugby field. He speaks tenderly about a card he has received from the boys in his House at boarding school.

For George the McGuinness unit is a safety blanket. He feels safer than he did before and he knows he is with people who understand. His mental health assessment helps him to understand his problems better. Matty too echoes these thoughts. So then, the act of listening is so simple but rarely practised to any great effect. We must listen more, much more and be there for people when they need us most.

George confides in Gill about a wall he punched and how he was given diazepam. Gill is not shocked, nor does she condemn him. What we need to do is to harness such attitudes and to spread them out into the wider world. A better more compassionate humanity is what is really needed here. We need greater empathy too. Empathy is not the same as sympathy. People say I am very understanding and very empathetic and I listen. Yet it saddens me that this should be something so wonderful and remarkable. Why can’t more people do it?

An attraction developed this week too between George and Beth. They have a good laugh but wind each other up as well. A funny moment occurs when Beth throws George’s slippers out the window. To say sorry she makes a pancake. At least she cared even if George didn’t fancy touching the pancake!

For Beth the overriding narrative of this week is one of progress. She is eating more, being weighed and for the first time is allowed to eat on her own. Ultimately, she is speaking more positively than ever before. This is heart warming to see and gives you a kind of happy feeling. However such transformation is not without its problems. A difficulty comes for Beth when the review team makes a decision to stop her Zopiclone and replace it with melatonin. We see her in distress at this development, begging a nurse to reverse the decision with one of the doctors.

In institutional settings, any change in routine can be destabilising. Its significance can also be increased. Beth feels the staff are against her and are letting her down. The reality is she’s sleeping effectively without the medication and no longer requires it. But when decisions are made for you and not by you it can be hard to see that they are in your best interest.

We see this later too, when home leave is cancelled due to Beth self harming close to discharge. For Dr Rogers though, blips are not unusual. Think about it if you have been in an enclosed space for several months, going back to familiar spaces may not feel so familiar at all. It is natural to resort to a way of coping when we are scared often the way of coping we fall back on most, even if it is not the healthiest.

But the best thing is Beth herself realises that self harming may not be the best way of coping as in no longer has the same effect for her and in her words “doesn’t even hurt, [and] was just annoying when it wouldn’t stop bleeding.”

Beth was then happily discharged soon after and according to narration had not self harmed since leaving the McGuinness unit. Matty was discharged into the care of an adult mental health unit after turning 18 and is now back at college.

George made the decision not to return to his boarding school and to study for the same scholarship locally to his family in Essex. For me this is no way a retrograde step. Sometimes we can all feel a huge amount of guilt over our decision-making since it can have an impact on others too.

However we are all built differently, and whilst one decision may suit one person it may not suit another. I am glad wholeheartedly that George did the right thing for him – well not only for him but also for his mental health. People say you only get one body, and there is a plethora of health and safety advice about looking after your back, for example. You only get one mind too, and that needs looking after also.

In closing let me just say a few words on the series and mental health in general. You may be wondering why I decided to dedicate three blogs to this series. Why mental health matters to me so much. As regular readers will know and new readers may not up until 2012 I was in counselling every year of my life for various things. The bulk of it was due to depression around my disability and my stepfather’s abuse. I have devoted enough time to transsexuality elsewhere in the blog’s are not going to discuss it here.

But you see, when I was first sent for counselling all those years ago, I felt crazy. I knew it was something everyone did. It’s not like an after-school club that everyone goes to. I would shoot off in my school uniform to the offices of my local Social Services Department. Nobody ever knew where I was going. But talking helped, talking to a stranger who did not judge who did not think badly of me who would just listen and allow me to talk, not sharing preconceptions even if they had them. Talking and being heard was vitally important.

Latterly I went to college, and things were pretty bleak. I was boarding away from home and just felt really lonely. I was having counselling and had managed one session with my new counsellor, when she said to me;

“I can’t work with you till the fog clears. I want you to go and see the doctor about antidepressants.”

Antidepressants, I thought. What the fuck! I’m only 18! I later told the deputy care manager that I was scared people would think I was a nutter.

But it turned out I wasn’t alone. There was a special set of appointments after the main general medical ones for students with mental health problems. You see, we reflect our own stigma. My attitude of choice towards mental health problems is informed by my own depression. Nutter is a value judgement. Yet instead of being kinder to ourselves it is these value judgements which we are most afraid of. Having a mental health problem is scary and isolating. But it is far easier to go through it with kindred spirits than alone. Mental illness is not having to walk on eggshells. Mental illness is not feeling pissed off we all feel pissed off. But imagine if that’s the only feeling you feel.

That is mental illness. The worst thing you can do it to tell somebody to cheer up or to snap out of it. This may be something you do to ease your conscience, and maybe your way of wishing that the person’s suffering would go away. But the best thing you can do is to listen and hear.

For I tell you people can understand my disability in a heartbeat. They can see my wheelchair. They can see I can’t walk. But depression is less well understood.

Eating disorders and self harm too present their own unique challenges. A friend at uni told me they had an eating disorder. They were shocked by my understanding. Their explanation of it from their world and their perspective made perfect sense. I don’t judge that perspective nor think about it for when somebody is disclosing something it is their voice and theirs alone which is important. My task then is to shut up and listen as counsellors did for me. Empathy is very important.

It saddens me that many do not understand even belittle or make fun of mental health problems. They are not fun and not a joke..

People with mental health problems deserve our respect our love and our care. Even if you can’t directly empathise with a problem, learn about it read and listen.

I’m so proud of all the participants in Don’t Call Me Crazy. I think it has achieved its objective of showing other young viewers they are not alone. Places like the McGuinness unit are a much needed safety blanket of love and support, sometimes tough love but love all the same.

The thing that saddens me though is the act of listening is not rocket science. We can all do it, yet sometimes I think we choose not to. Let us make better choices and not ascribe pariah status to those with mental health problems, especially the young.

Let us open ears, silence preconceptions and opinions and listen. Many of the young people sounded as though the McGuinness unit was the only place they had felt truly listened to. Does that not disturb you? It smacks of a huge deficit in society and it is not a financial one either. It is a deficit of humankind and only humankind can solve it.

Asking for help should never be the wrong choice. It is not a weak choice either. Sometimes it may be the only choice, the best choice and the strongest choice you ever make.

And for others, make the choice to say this:

“Yes okay. I may not understand everything but I am willing to listen. For the person with mental health problems, those may be the best words they ever hear.

The irony of this show for me, and the irony of mental health from the bottom of my heart is that people with mental health problems often make the most sense.

How Intersectional Are We?

If the recent firestorm around Julie Burchill has got me thinking about anything, it is the notion of intersectionality. I am by my very nature an intersectional being, I suppose we all are really. But for most, I contend that paying heed to intersectionality, is an optional thing rather than a must do.

However, for me I have no choice since one of my intersections is fairly obvious, I am  in a wheelchair. I am also lesbian and trans. On one level, it could be said that this puts me at odds with the rest of the human race. To me this is also a victim stance.

On a positive note though, this gives me a chance to see the world through three sets of very enriching eyes, to bring something to the table that perhaps other people could not. 

I began to blog precisely because, in as much as there were some very erudite accounts of life with a disability, or life being trans, or being lesbian.  However though, I saw no stories and heard no anecdotes of all three together together in one big stew pot. Sometimes you know, in my experience they even fight, argue and squabble for attention. We need intersectionality though, and desperately. The need to live , understand and breathe by the  credo of intersectionality for the benefit and maintenance of a socially cohesive  society.It has a mandate but the question truly is , do we truly use that mandate to its full potential, and tap into it enough?

At the height of my mindset around the Julie Burchill, Suzanne Moore debacle, I was kind of thinking in a grumbly way to myself, that it was easy for the rest of the  LGB community, because they did not have to contend with this kind of resultant abuse.

Later though, I began to think again in a cool headed way. The simple truth is, it is not that the LGB community suffers no oppression, it is just that it presents itself in many inglorious and frightening forms.

The general population are en masse users of social networking. A common trick nowadays is to log into someone else’s Facebook account, and post something they absolutely would not. My friendship group is predominantly LGBT. Now , as a woman, I have a dilemma here.

A common lesbian prank is to write “I WANT C**K” on another lesbian’s Facebook. The dilemma is evident. I have two voices screaming in my head at this point.

The trans voice, inevitably will say, hang on a minute, women have c**ks too, it does not make them lesser women, which is true. 

However, the woman’s voice also presents another scenario. The c**k is also a phallic symbol.  It could and maybe does trigger. We need to be empathic and alert to this possibly.

One of the problems with society at large is that it is too dichotomous, reinforcing too many binaries. 

As well as being a person with a disability, a lesbian and trans, I am a feminist. I believe that women’s rights in society are pivotal. You see friends, right from birth, I have been different, silenced and not normal. So female spaces, and feminism were always atrractive to me, it was a narrative that sp0ke to me, and pierced loudly through my heart. From my own standpoint as the feminst sociologist Dorothy Smith would have it, the world looks pretty unique, and pretty shit for women.

Women are consistently used and abused and objectified by a patriarchal society. They have 0ne night stands after which the girl is a s**t and the guy is a stud. Why is that? Due to male privilege. He gets a pat on the back and a beer perhaps, the girl gets objectified and villified.

I have had too many conversations that start with the opening gambit, “I’ve got something to tell you.”

I have grown up with and been around women all my life. One of the most painful things of my life was when a friend confided in me she was suffering from anorexia.

It is a disorder, quite simply that strips away your mind,  body, energy, self esteem, confidence and soul. My friend talked to me for three hours, solid. She said to me that it meant a lot, just to be listened to. I supported her, loved her, cried with her, and heard her. I never judged her. To me, this is the quintessence of what being a woman was about. My childhood was a discourse of feminism really. Of periods, boyfriends, gossip, and fun and clothes. But the thing with it is, all the time, women are jostling to gain a voice in a society which  is largely not given to them. They are oppressed. Women go through blood sweat and tears to be approved of by the rest of society. Their painful insecurities are often manifested in disorders like anorexia, and self injurous behaviour. Yet this is a hidden narrative, concealed on numerous support forums. My friend’s anorexia was a painful experience. I almost lived it with her. But the other thing is, women are strong. You will I suspect be glad to know that my friend recovered, but it was a long and painful journey for us both.

But nowhere is female oppression more evident than in the scenario of r*pe. Seeing the disregard, and the cruelty with which Fantine (wonderfully portrayed by Anne Hathaway) was maimed and objectified by her rapist in Les Miserables  was truly stomach churning. But for many women (and men too) this is a reality.The arrogance of it, and its cavalier nature. What right does anyone have to violate the body and soul of  another, leaving emotional scars and physical scars that may never heal?We read it in the news almost daily but what I see is a chilling ambivalence towards it.

I have lived through women’s problems and pain all my life. One of my friends who I went to school with said to me she was surprised I did not start growing ovaries and a womb! Another friend told me I was too much of a girl to be a guy for too long. Another said “you act like a girl , you’re like us, but you are not a girl. Why? That is what made me want to transition. For I had been pondering the same question from the moment I could talk.

I never owned my gender in my former life, which I can truly say was a living hell. I was massively proud to change that, and go from darkness to light. A former counsellor said I would lose power. I was never really interested in power though, not in that sense of patriarchal power anyway.

I am massively proud now to have a gender which matches up the inner identity and the outer.

What I am not so proud of though is the vile vituperation that was metred out to Suzanne Moore last week. I was more unhappy with the creation of the word”cuntards” in one of her Tweets and told her that.

The Tweets were nasty, and not befitting of fellow sisters. As I suggested in my original blog last week, the article contained much good food. She was arguing that welfare cuts are having a disproportionate effect on women and other minorities I guess. A point worth making. This is why I love feminism so much. It is a philosophy that speaks for the oppressed, and I include myself in that oppression frankly. Were I just looking with my disabled head on, I would say, fab! go girl! she is giving me a voice. Ditto to lesbian.

But I was upset by the Brazillian transsexual slur. I said that she spoiled the article with its use. However there was much good food there.

The reaction of the trans community was disproportionate though, and could be equally construed as hate speech by Suzanne as Burchill’s article was to the trans community. Suzanne has not picketed the homes of Tweeters though. 

The fundamental mistake made was to fight oppression with oppression. I see all too often that the trans community is quite happy to do to others what it does not want done to it, and that disturbs me, greatly. If Suzanne does it, it is oppression. If we do it, it is campaigning or activism. It is not right, unfeminist, and distinctly wrong. Here’s an idea, I am being quite out there I grant you.

If the trans community had not reacted the way it did, then perhaps Julie’s abhorrent piece would never have been written. It did not just float out of a vacuum. Something had to happen for it to happen. Cause and effect. Snowballs perhaps relevant.

Finally the oven ready broad porn star stuff. It reminds me of a certain bird often cooked at Christmas but that is a funny aside. I believe there is pressure on all women to look glamourous, sexy, wear lovely high heels and dresses and look sexy for men’s (sometimes) benefit. Social pressure, peer pressure and inner psychological pressure that all women, trans and not, fall vicitim to. And that my friends is fucking sad. Women should be able to be how they want. 

Many lesbians understandably rock against this pressure. I do not have a particular type. I love faces, eyes and smiles make me giddy. I want to get a tattoo. But I digress.

Throughout my University degree, I subconsciously weaved a narrative of oppression. Postcolonialism, feminism and other such things.

I was born othered through my disability, othered was not something  I became. I am guessing this is why I loved feminism so much.

Feminism is my narrative. What is not my narrative is seeing women oppressing women, and driving them off Twitter.

Women’s concerns should be ours too. At every opportunity, we should be shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with our sisters. The concerns of people with disabilities should be our concerns too. The concerns of lesbians and gay men should be our concerns too.

I have always been characteristically loyal, caring and empathic, before and after transition. I am not a different person but a happier one.  Women themselves made me a woman, through consistently including me in their space, not due to a smash and grab violation on my part, but, more simply, because they wanted to. The transition was gaining a  fun wardrobe and a better name. Apart from that, business as usual, but at the outset of my transition, I did feel very blessed to be  invited to a hen night.

So, how intersectional are we? The answer is not nearly enough. There is a tendency for  some to retreat into the trans bunker, and moan. That option is not open to me, because I am intersectional by proxy. I have my disability and lesbian identity too.  So in order words, it is a juggling act, rather like plate spinning in a circus.  However, I want to say categorically that none of my identities are a stigma to me. I am proud of them all.

If we want change, we have to be the change. For radical feminists, we need to see behind the lens of why they think the way they do. I do not want to invade their space, but perhaps understand it better.

Trans oppression is not the only oppression. We need to be careful not to be the perpetrators of hate speech instead of the victims. It just gives Julie Burchill more reason to think that her polemic might be true.

So how to change things? Solidarity with feminism is a good start. We also need to be intersectional. This is why disability rights succeeded. It was due to common aims, goals and objectives. What are ours?

We need articles like that penned by Burchill. They challenge us, we can rebut them and argue with them. But we do not need to respond to hate speech with hate speech. We have a responsibility to show we care not just about our own plight, but that of others too. Finally, to the radical feminists, I hear your position. You may not respect my gender. But I hope you can see that this is a decent piece written with the best of intentions.