Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A Radical Idea

This week Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) gave a speech to the UN calling for gender equality. Very soon after she was met with threats to cease and desist or have photos of herself naked plastered over the internet.
This week also saw an exhibition at The Barbican entitled Exhibit B closed down amidst protests that it was racist.
Is there a commonality between these two events?
I believe there is. It's called bullying...

  • They sought to bully Emma Watson into silence
  • They bullied The Barbican into cancelling an exhibition

And, in my heart of hearts, I can't bring myself to support bullying even when I sympathise with the motives for it (I too loathe racism). 
Some may say these actions against Emma Watson and The Barbican are the work of "radicals" but what is "radical" about a methodology that has been existent since the beginnings of civilisation? A methodology that isn't just used by the man/woman/other on the street/behind a computer screen but by our leaders too? 
For example, just this week various world leaders decided to start bombing Syria in order to (simplistically put) bully Islamic State into ceasing to behead innocent citizens.
No, bullying is definitely not the work of "radicals"! Sadly, it is the work of everybody - we all use threat and violence to get our way at least once in our lives! 
Now, it doesn't take a genius to deduce that bullying has existed since the beginnings of civilisation - and will continue to exist in the future - for one simple reason: it is effective. 
But there is one major drawback to bullying - even when it doesn't claim lives - and that is that, as well as being effective, it is also affective: it radicalises people.
As a result of fighting a conflict by means of threat and violence, you push 'wavering voters' onto the side of the opposition - even if you win!
Thus feminists will not reduce in number; no more than racists will; no more than Islamic terrorists will; just because you use the tools of the bully against them. No, rather, they will grow in number.
As a result, you move further away from that peaceful day when there is no opposition to your way of doing things (which, presumably, is why you resorted to bullying in the first place??).
We've had billions of years now of trying to solve conflict by threat and violence and what lasting peace has it ever achieved?!! 
No, we need to try something different. Something truly radical...
Like winning hearts and minds instead of destroying them!
If you can convince your opponent that your way of doing things is correct by means of irrefutable argument then what opposition can they have to it? Surely, that peaceful day will be yours!
Ah, but, undoubtedly, that irrefutable argument is hard to come by! Everyone has an opinion on everything! 
Well, then maybe we have to try harder!
After all, if we know one way claims lives and the other doesn't (but claims hearts and minds instead) is it such a hard thing to decide which way is worth the effort? Which way is worth fighting... er... arguing(!) for?
Then why does it feel like the great and the good disagree with me?

I obviously haven't put together my irrefutable argument yet. 
I must try harder!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Walking Away

This summer has been a catalyst for making me do something I never thought I would - turning my back on LGBT activism.
It started with Sparkle, continued with the Liverpool and Manchester Prides, the meeting between Stonewall and Trans activists and now the vilification of Trans Pride.
If the attacks on LGBT activism were coming from the outside, I would be willing to defend what I believe to be right. The horrific fact is, though, that the attacks are coming from within and I will not stay to watch what I cherish being torn apart by ignorance and stupidity, especially when I know I am powerless to stop it. Why expend all that emotional energy on such a pointless quest?
My experience this summer indicates overwhelmingly to me that the vast majority of LGBT activists cannot respond to criticism or advice without bile and vitriol, that they are only too willing to see the LGBT community become nothing but a tourist attraction, that they think to impose and conspire with exclusionary policies somehow makes the LGBT community more inclusive, that they have such low self-esteem that they will accept assistance from an organisation that has no interest in letting them set their own agenda, and that they will champion uneducated and extremist views in some warped vision that they somehow make the world more fair and equal.
In short, I see the world that LGBT activists are currently shaping one that will have absolutely nothing to do with equality and everything to do with power politics and personal privilege.
To see this in action you might be forgiven for not being aware that LGBT people are amongst the most impoverished people in the world; that homelessness is rife amongst them; that they are almost certainly the most disadvantaged group on the planet; and that millions are beaten up and thousands murdered every single year.
Certainly, when you see the campaigns of the major LGBT organisations, you might think all is rosy in LGBT land and all we need now is the cherry on the top instead of basic human rights.
You perhaps may also feel that the rise to power and influence of "The Far Right" across the world is no threat to LGBT people.
But none of this is the case.
The very existence of LGBT people is debated upon - let alone our right to anything!
Just how on earth debating LGBT life is the route to equality is beyond me and, yet, this is what we do - even in the LGBT community.
It is sickening to see equality take a back seat to personal power and privilege and the tragedy is that this is tearing the LGBT community apart; leaving us with less power to tackle those that oppose us.
Yet I am powerless to stop it as I can not help those that do not want and will not accept my help; and, if I argue and fight for my beliefs, I simply contribute to the infighting that is tearing the LGBT community apart.
Thus, I feel that I am left with no other course of action than to walk away from LGBT activism.
I will obviously always be Queer and Trans - nothing will ever change that - but I can not, in good faith, fight for something I feel is in direct opposition to what I believe in.
All that there is left for me to do now is to be true to myself and, if I can, help those that ask for it.
That is all.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Claire's Holiday - A Review

For this holiday I wrote detailed notes everyday. Then, this morning, I accidentally deleted them! I mean, honestly, who creates a note taking app without an undo button! Idiots!!
So this is the rewritten, uncomprehensive, version (you probably would've found the full version boring anyway!)...
I have been on holiday in Afandou, Rhodes since the beginning of the month and this is my review...
The objective of my holiday has been to relax and tune out as I have found that almost impossible to do since John died. As a result, I have seen very little of Rhodes as I have stayed in Afandou rather than venturing out.
Afandou itself is a small quiet town which I'm tempted to say is traditionally Greek in feel if not for the fact it is so clearly catered towards the tourist!
It is certainly not the kind of place I'd recommend if you wanted to party every night but it was perfect for my objectives.
The town is almost maze like in it's layout and perhaps it should be no surprise I didn't discover half of it until half way through my holiday when I ventured further than what I thought was the end of the shopping area! However, that bit was even more touristy - with prices to match! - so I didn't bother with it more than the once!
I stayed at the Sky Afandou hotel which was situated at the top of a hill - so not recommended for the infirm or unfit - and I struggled to climb it most days, what with the heat and everything!
I would say the hotel is a 2 star one (not sure of official rating) as it is in desperate need of modernisation: my room had absolutely no mod cons whatsoever (no phone, no telly/radio, no hairdryer, etc) with only two plug sockets (one of which was half falling off and located near the door so wasn't much use), no air con and my shower was falling apart (sometimes with no hot water either - although I do understand that an island as tiny as Rhodes probably doesn't have the infrastructure to guarantee the luxury of hot water every day!). Although the bed was comfortable and the hotel does also have it's own pool.
However, what made the hotel for me was the two brothers who run it who were nothing short of kind/friendly/helpful/lovely every day of my stay! :)
However, the same can not be said of the holiday firm, Holiday Gems, that I booked my holiday with.
I had bought myself a self-catering holiday but, on arrival, discovered there were no catering facilities whatsoever!
When I contacted the rep she said I'd have to contact the firm in Britain! Phone international only to be put on hold for 20 mins??? I'm not made of money, you know!
So I emailed them instead. They replied to say that they'd passed the matter over to their "emergency on resort team" and they'd be in touch with me asap. I never heard from the "emergency on resort team" and, since I had no intention of changing hotels now that I had arrived, I could not see what agreeable solution they could come up with so I decided to let the matter drop until my return home.
The hotel fiasco was also in addition to the fact that before setting off they convinced me to change my airport transfer from a private car with wifi to the speedy shuttle bus with the promised reduction in price never materialising! (Despite repeated emails requesting it) It is thus safe to say that I will never use Holiday Gems ever again!
Due to the cock-up over the accommodation, I was forced to buy fruit for breakfast, pastries for lunch (as supermarkets don't seem to do sandwiches here) and eat out every evening. It is thus just as well that the food is so cheap here! A 2 litre bottle of water costs just 30 cents and my evening meals were on average around €11 for 2 courses or more.
I tried three restaurants during my stay - two of which could easily rival any restaurant I've ever eaten at anywhere else on the planet!
The first of these was O'Mimis which was half kebab shop and half restaurant and the quality of the food was superb! I had the "Greek dish" the first night, which was a selection of Greek specialities (very few I could tell you the name of!) with things like moussaka, stuffed olive leaves and peppers, with dips and veg. The second night I ate there, I had lamb kleftiko which was not kebabs like I thought but lamb cooked in it's own juices with potato, rice and other veg. Again, it was first class and how they made the onion taste so delicious I shall never know!
The second restaurant I'd much recommend is Four Seasons which advertises itself as "Mediterranean cuisine" but, on looking at the menu, it was clearly Italian (but perhaps it's not safe to declare that on a Greek Island?).
The first night I had calzone which looked like a gigantic Cornish pasty on arrival (I'm much more used to it looking like a folded pizza) but with a ham and mushroom pizza filling rather than minced beef and veg!
It was delicious but far too much to eat it all!
The second night there I had the Mama Mia tortellini, with baklava and ice cream to follow.
The pasta was served with chicken, bacon, onion and mushroom in a creamy tomato sauce and couldn't be faulted! The baklava was served with bright yellow banana ice cream so was quite a sight and totally delicious!
The other restaurant I tried was Michalis which advertises itself as a "traditional Greek taverna" but, unlike O'Mimis, I actually found very little traditional Greek food on the menu. On the first night I tried it, I had Menu 2 which was cucumber and tomato salad to start, followed by moussaka and then ice cream to finish. The meal was pleasant but not outstanding. The second night I tried it I had chicken schnitzel which, again, was perfectly good fare but nothing to write home about.
However, a couple of things a visitor should be aware of about dining out here is that the restaurants don't start serving in the evening until 6:30pm at the earliest and, unlike Britain where the waiters are trained to be attentive, here they will leave you to eat your meal until summoned.
So now to the one major drawback of my visit not caused by Holiday Gems... Mosquitos!
I visited in September so it may very well be a different story at other times of the year but I have been eaten alive by Mosquitos whilst on this island! After my third day here, I counted 43 bites! Thus I would strongly recommend coming armed with effective mosquito repellent instead of acting retrospectively like I have done. (Incidentally, the most effective repellent I discovered is an anti-mosquito app which has kept me bite free since using it - much to my relief!).
One final note - I deliberately chose to come later in the year to avoid the worst of the heat. However, it has still been 84 degrees every day on average and it doesn't drop below 70 degrees even at night! I have thus followed local tradition of doing what sightseeing/shopping I wanted to do first thing in the morning and then hiding away from the sun for the remainder of the day until I ventured out for my evening meal.
Oh, and as far as my objectives of relaxing and tuning out go, I'd say (with the exception of the Mosquitos) it is mission accomplished! :)

Saturday, 6 September 2014


There are things you notice when 'changing gender' that perhaps cis people wouldn't.
One such example has occured to me this week whilst on my holiday in Rhodes. Two nights ago, on my return back to the hotel after my evening meal, two lads said "hello" to me as I passed. I was polite and returned the greeting but privately thought, "ooh, I hope they're not going to be trouble".
Last night they were there again and tried to strike up a conversation and I was polite in my response but kept walking.
Well, afterwards, last night I had a dream in which they attacked me which prompted me to think what steps I could take if they turned out to be the kind of lads who don't take "no" for an answer.
Now, if we reverse the roles, and a young lady says hello and tries to strike up a conversation with two lads, are those lads scared? Do they go home and have nightmares? Do they plan what to do if they are attacked? I somehow doubt it.
So, whilst I wouldn't want men to stop being nice to passing strangers, I think it might help if they appreciated that women don't generally have the capacity to impose themselves on men and threaten violence and death whereas men do generally have that capacity over women.
It leads to a situation where nothing appears to be innocent and women are continual prey. Thus no one should be surprised when the prey is nervous of being attacked.
But are there steps that can be taken to change that?