Owen Jones, Privilege, Revisionism and Contemporary Bandwagons.

Cross-posted from: Shack Diaries
Originally published: 19.02.15

This week, online, has all been about a letter against no-platforming and in support of free speech. Though the letter did not state any particular viewpoint other than this, of those who signed (men, women, transwomen), many were then subjected to a barrage of harassment, abuse and even death threats. Some who signed stated they had been reduced to tears and their thoughts turned to permanently keeping quiet…..

So welcome to the reality of speaking out. This sort of wrath and punishment is all too familiar to gender critical feminists. In fact silencing has been a weapon used against all women including feminists for centuries – but now silencing is becoming real. It can touch anyone…… 

But rather than oppose such tactics,  the reaction of many has been (worryingly) to appease…. As a result of that letter and subsequent backlash, suddenly a number of high profile, mainly media-savvy men, for example, have been rushing to pledge various forms of ‘support’….. not for ‘that letter’ and free speech – no. Because speech has always been free for privileged white men……. (Unless it challenges that position of course…)…..

…..instead we get articles like this one from journalist Owen Jones

‘Support’, it seems, means bowing down to both often bullying and irrational positions. No mention that discussion is not allowed on where this leaves women and their safe spaces, and the toxic existence of violence associated with male socialisation. No discussion is allowed when reality and history are twisted to suit, while adding to the erasure of women and the erasure of lesbians, (but hey, when did the L actually have a true voice in the LGBT movement anyway?).

Owen Jones from, his position of privilege, nevertheless goes on to highlight ‘one of history’s little tragic ironies’ suggesting lesbians like me should be grateful for……erm – the Stonewall Riots as a……. ‘Trans riot’??…. (e.g. Revisionist history to suit a contemporary TA agenda….)

One of the central participants in the riots was actually Stormé DeLarverie – largely ignored for this fact by LGBT history because she was a woman, a lesbian and a WOC. A tiny part in the history of the silencing of women……. While being central in the ‘civil rights disobedience’ (her own words) of Stonewall, Stormé was also part of the gay scene of NY, at the time working as a drag king performer.

(Before she is also rewritten into ‘trans history’……she was a woman and a lesbian, later working to support women who had been abused in DV.  She died last year….There is a contemporary trend to re-asses and appropriate much of lesbian history as ‘trans’. For example, many lesbians from history who wore perceived ‘masculine clothes’ are now being interpreted under the trans banner. This disregards the fact that these people themselves clearly identified as lesbians, and as women. The reason for any women to ‘cross dress’ historically are complex and varied but incorporate reasons from lesbian ‘codes’/identity, to performance, to emancipation and sheer bloody practicality. To understand this you need to look deeper than mere surface appearance. You need to understand female and lesbian oppression – a point both missing from much of TA and from general debate due to…….. well…….silencing).

The Stonewall riots have been well documented as involving ‘drag queens’. This was part of the scene that Stormé also occupied. Drag Queens by definition are also performers – as was Stormé, who mostly identify in everyday life as men, often gay men. In recent times many have included performers such as Thomas Neuwirth as ‘trans’, a man who has clearly stated he is both a gay man and drag act – adopting the stage name ‘Conchita Wurst’.

Here we have Stormé talking about her life- note the male performers, the former drag queens, talking as men about their performance……

It is not only this re-writing of history, but a re-writing of reality, which seems to underpin much of TA. And like the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ we are not only expected to be silent on these matters, but also endorse much of the charade – or ………. as well as threats, blocking debate, silencing….. have journalists like Owen Jones telling  me as a feminist and a lesbian I’m neglecting ‘the cause of trans people’.

In a week where I’ve personally been trying to support a woman who has suffered extreme violence/control from not only her husband and father, but also from the state due to the fact that she was born female…..and in a week where I’ve been asked to attend the inquest of a woman (a lesbian) who committed suicide after a campaign of harassment from a man….. 

….Owen Jones….please fuck off.


Shack Diaries : I blog about feminism, lesbians, art, photography, politics, kitsch and more.