J.K. Rowling and The Chamber of Terfdom.

I’m going to be 27 by the time 2020 comes to a close and as someone who is firmly in the millennial category, the whole universe of Harry Potter has been a fixture in both my childhood and my adult life. As a kid I remember my dad taking time out from his taxi driving job on a Friday night so he could join the queues at my hometown’s sole bookshop to be one of the first to obtain the new Harry Potter book.

The first time I remember going to the cinema was in 2001 to see the first Harry Potter film and I remember my excitement to see the story on the big screen as a seven year old boy shivering outside the tiny, two screen cinema that was in the big town about a half hour’s drive from our house. I remember how magical it was to escape into that world and I remember the messages of overcoming adversity resonating with my young self, being the only boy in the class with cerebral palsy and having to wear brightly coloured leg splints and having daily sessions of physiotherapy.

In my teenage years, I retreated away from this world and dove full throttle into the worlds of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P Lovecraft, B-movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and 1980s slasher horror films. I believe these campy, macabre worlds were probably linked to the love my childhood self had for the kitchy, campy, creepy world of Harry Potter. As I approached my twenties and got diagnosed with a bipolar spectrum disorder, the world of my childhood provided much needed comfort at a time where I was experiencing frequent episodes of depression and psychosis whilst trying to complete a degree in English and live on my own for the very first time. Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, one of my coping mechanisms at the beginning of lockdown was to watch a Harry Potter film on Saturday night by candlelight whilst eating Chinese takeaway.

All of this means that I was deeply disappointed by Rowling’s recent tweets that parroted the TERF talking points about “sex-based rights” and her absolute revulsion against the term “people who menstruate”. The damaging implications of sex essentialism have been documented on this blog and many others and I shall not repeat those same points. However, it says a lot that the world’s first billionaire author decides to use her time during a global pandemic and an uprising against state-sanctioned racism to further marginalise and vilify one of the most oppressed groups of people on this planet.

As a response to the criticism and fury she received on Twitter from trans people, queer people and their allies, she decided to write a 3,600 word essay on her blog. I’m not going to link it here because I do not wish to befoul this blog with transphobic rhetoric but it’s very easy to find if you want to read it; although, I would advise that it is very intense and it will probably be quite an upsetting read. I cried tears of rage reading it and I cried for the trans youth that I work with as a youth worker for a local LGBTQ+ charity.

In the essay, Rowling provides a narrative of her life in the early 1990s before Harry Potter exploded into our cultural consciousness. She frankly and openly talks about being a survivor of severe domestic and sexual abuse. As a sexual abuse survivor, I empathise with her and I do hope that she has been able to access the support needed to be able to process the trauma she has experienced.

The question that remains, however, is why did she choose this moment to speak about it? It plays into the unfounded, deeply bigoted caricature of trans women being men who just want to pose as women so they can sexually assault women in public bathrooms. When we look at the reality, we see that in the 21 countries which have introduced self-ID for trans people to change their birth certificates, none have reported an increase in sex crimes as a result. We can also look at several US States, the most notable being North Carolina, where bathroom bills were introduced and we see an increase in assaults being perpetrated against trans people in bathrooms and an increase in those same assaults against cisgender people who present in a gender nonconforming manner.

It is also important to consider that one of the “leaders” of the TERF movement, the increasingly irrelevant and deplorable former Labour Party hack that is Linda Bellos is actually on film saying that she would beat up a trans woman if she happened to be in the same bathroom as her. Approximately every 72 hours, a trans person is murdered somewhere in the world because of their gender identity and by playing into myths and caricatures, JK Rowling has put those people at increased risk.

Rowling also moves onto the topic of incels. Incels, for the record, are men who believe that they are owed the right to sex just because they happen to be male. They are angry that women choose not to sleep with them and several incels have gone on to commit murders of those women. They also harbour a hatred for the men that they see as stealing their opportunities to pursue the women that they wish to sleep with. Elliot Rodger murdered six people in California back in 2014 as “retribution” for his lack of sexual experience and activity.

In 2018, Alek Minassian murdered 10 people in a vehicle-ramming attack in downtown Toronto to instigate an “incel rebellion” and had written several internet posts praising Elliot Rodger. Many incels look at the Ecole Polytechnique massacre of 1989 as a positive thing and something to be inspired by. In this massacre, Marc Lepine burst into an engineering class, forced the men and women in the room to stand on opposite sides and shoot all six women there. He then rampaged for a further twenty minutes, killing eight more women before killing himself. His motive was to “fight feminism”.

Rowling will be acutely aware of how horrific these events are and how the state does not take violence against women seriously enough. Again, we have to question her motives around bringing up these issues in this particular moment. It is morally abhorrent and repugnant of her and her supporters to link trans people and their allies to incels. I’m a cisgender man but I stand with trans people who are just trying to live their lives as their authentic selves and be recognised as such. We are not murdering women to further this cause and we are not terrorists. We simply believe in human rights and in bodily autonomy. She should be ashamed of herself for insinuating that there is anything linking us to the incels and it proves that her interpretation of feminism is fundamentally and objectively wrong.

The final part of her essay I wish to address is where she talks about “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD). ROGD is a pseudoscientific term used by the TERFs and their allies to try and explain away the large increase of young people seeking help and support with their gender identity. They like to blame a plethora of things for this which include but are not limited to; Japanese anime, tumblr, YouTube and autism. There is a link between being autistic and being transgender but that link is being actively researched by experts in the fields of neuroscience, neuropsychology and cognitive psychology and will probably take a long time to come to any semblance of a conclusion. On the other hand, ROGD has seemingly been invented in a chat room on Mumsnet.

As a youth worker who is directly working with these young people, I can confidently say that ROGD is baseless and unfounded. Young people have access to the internet and they are able to learn about gender outside of a Eurocentric viewpoint. Young people have always explored their gender identity but it is only now that they have the tools and the vocabulary to be able to do so fully. Do I think that every single one of my young people who identify as transgender is going to end up transitioning as an adult? Possibly, possibly not. In spite of that, it is important that young people are able to access the support and guidance that they need whilst exploring their gender identity.

They need compassionate and empathic people around them especially as 80% of trans young people will self harm and about half will attempt suicide. These young people are very vulnerable in a world where transgender people are treated as though they are the lowest class of citizen and by using ROGD as an excuse to explain all this away, Rowling and her allies are creating moral panic reminiscent of the moral panic around gay men in the 1980s and 1990s. It is this kind of language that causes governments to enact legislation like Section 28 that will damage a whole generation of young people.

I do not believe that JK Rowling is an inherently hateful person because a hateful person could not have written the Harry Potter series which is essentially an antifascist parable; despite its use of questionable antisemitic and racial stereotypes. What I believe is, like many women who grew up in second wave feminism, JK Rowling is using her platform to try and stay relevant in a culture that has long since moved on. I also believe that she has possibly been radicalised by the likes of Linda Bellos and Graham Lineham on Twitter. Rowling does not need to indulge in this desperate attempt to remain culturally relevant as Harry Potter has become a permanent and ubiquitous fixture of popular culture. People come from around the world just to have their pictures taken at Kings Cross Station where they’ve set up the entrance to Platform nine and three-quarters.

Rowling has often tried to pander to us LGBTQ+ folks, wildly announcing that certain characters in the series are LGBTQ+ when no hint of that was given in the original stories. It is this that makes her latest outbursts beyond offensive. She has used our community to make money and royalties for herself whilst throwing the most vulnerable people in our community under the Hogwarts Express.

I still love those stories of my childhood and I am taking relative comfort in Barthes’ The Death of the Author to take some sort of ownership of those stories and to separate them from a woman I once admired. Her following is large but the loudest voices in that following are the minority and many of the actors who brought those stories to life have expressed their unequivocal support for transgender people. We will win this fight and we must stand in solidarity with our trans siblings, always.

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”

– Albus Dumbeldore

Paul Haw

Bristol Radical History Festival Saturday 16th May, 2020

10.00 am to 4.30 pm

Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG) have organised a full programme of events for our 2020 Radical History Festival, in collaboration with our hosts at M Shed.

Themes

The 2020 Festival has two main Themes, where once again we will reveal hidden histories, debate and agitate for a future of better pasts:

State and private surveillance of labour and social movements (1792 to now)

Hidden histories of post-war mainland Britain (1945-51)

Programme of events

Miners’ Strike Stories Film Premier

Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign

Miners’ Strike Stories Film Premiere, March 6th to coincide with the end of the miners’ strike in March 1985. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign wanted to record the real stories from participants of the great strike as a way of preserving on film the heroic struggles of our Miners, Families, Women Against Pit Closures and other supporters from across our mining communities.

These accounts not only tell the story of times past, but also provide inspiration to future generations of why they should become involved in the Trade Union Movement today.  The première will be held in the iconic Miners Hall, which holds dozens of miners’ banners. Light refreshments will be provided.

Organised by the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, Deputy Chairperson Joe Rollin will compère the evening which also includes speakers Chris Peace—OTJC Activist, Chris Kitchen—National Union of Mineworkers, General Secretary and Richard Burgon MP— Shadow Justice Secretary.

Friday March 6th p.m.National Union of Mineworkers  2 Huddersfield Road Barnsley South Yorkshire S70 2LST: 01226 215555 E: orgreavejustice@hotmail.com W: www.otjc.org.ukTwitter: @orgreavejustice Instagram: @orgreavejustice Facebook: @OrgreaveTruthandJusticeCampaign

https://www.facebook.com/events/653823325362615/

275_OTJC_Stories_Film_Prem_A5_Flyer_AWK-flyer-pdf-1

Download

275_OTJC_Stories_Film_Prem_A3_poster_AWK-PDF

Download

Red And Black Telly: REVIEW “BLUE STORY”

Autonomy Film show in Bridport 17th November 2019: Unsense Me!

Unquiet Graves – film review

Anarchist Communist Group

Unquiet Graves, the new documentary from Irish filmmaker Sean Murray, is an important work on several levels. It Informs the viewer of state collusion, indeed state sponsorship of sectarian murder gangs in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. It highlights this activity before the events get lost as ‘tragic history’ and it seeks some semblance of justice for the families of the victims of security services – directed paramilitary murder.

The film begins with a re-enactment of the murder of two young men, Colm McCartney and Sean Farmer, in 1975. Returning from a Gaelic football game in Dublin, the two were stopped at a ‘British Army’ checkpoint near the village of Newtownhamilton in County Armagh and shot dead. This murder, which came three years into the sectarian murder campaign, is returned to, with great poignancy in animated form later in the film.

A large part of the film’s content is based upon more than 15 years of research undertaken by the Pat Finucane Centre, a human rights advocacy organisation in Northern Ireland, much of which was published in the book Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland (2013). The book catalogued the concerted activities of the Loyalist paramilitary Mid Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), elements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the locally recruited Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), part of the British Army in what became known as the Tyrone-Armagh Murder triangle.

Much of the evidence of collusion was provided by one of the active participants, John Weir. Weir, was a sergeant in the RUC’s Special Patrol Group (SPG) counter-terrorist section and member of the UVF. His 1999 affidavit outlined in detail the consistent collusion between security services and Loyalist Paramilitaries in the Murder Triangle and beyond.

The modus operandi was to select ‘soft’ targets, concentrating upon ‘respectable’ Catholic individuals and families without connections to the Republican movement. The highest profile killings were that of members of the Miami Showband pop group in July 1975, but that was an exception. The targets would be chosen, the surveillance and logistic support provided by the security services and the murders carried out by a mix of off, and sometimes on-duty RUC men, UDR soldiers and UVF members. RUC roadblocks, which were normalised in rural Tyrone and Armagh, were sometimes set up to prevent witnesses. The nominal RUC investigations into the murders returned a 100% failure to convict. Patently, the campaign was being given the go ahead by officials much further up the chain of command.

The Glennane Gang extended their operations into the Irish Republic, planting bombs in the border town of Dundalk and were responsible for the infamous car bombings of Monaghan and Dublin in May 1974 which claimed 34 lives. They undertook this operation as they did many others between 1972 and 1980, with the height of their killing between 1974 and 1976, in a state of heightened confidence that they were protected by important sections of local and national law enforcement. In total the gang has been connected to more than 120 murders. Most of their atrocities were claimed in the name of the Protestant Action Force, occasionally the Red Hand Commando – itself a part of the UVF or remained anonymous. Their intention is generally believed to have been to spread terror and panic amongst the Catholic/Nationalist community in the hope that this would provoke the Provisional IRA, then on ceasefire, into tit for tat killings. This did, to a limited but bloody extent, happen when the Republican Action Force murdered 10 Protestant building workers at Kingsmill, South Armagh in January 1976, which is highlighted in the film.

Following this sectarian revenge attack, the Glennane Gang formulated a plan to massacre Catholic school children and their teachers in the Armagh village of Beleeks. The intention can only have been to escalate the situation into open civil war, drawing in the Republican movement and forcing the hand of the British state and any reticent Loyalists.

However, the leadership of the UVF, who were contemporaneously turning a blind eye to the horrifically brutal Shankill Butchers, were unwilling to sanction the slaughter of innocent primary school children and the inevitable international condemnation it would have brought.

There are ongoing attempts to uncover the full truth about the Glennane Gang and its connections to the secret, and not too secret, state, attempts which have been hampered at every turn, despite the Good Friday Agreement, and the ostensible embracing of openness and reconciliation.

The documentary gives an opportunity for the perspectives and voices of the victim’s families to be foregrounded and the interviews with the relatives of those murdered are moving and powerful. The struggle for the truth about collusion and state terror continues.

Try to see this important film. More info HERE
Anarchist Communist Group

Swindon Radical Bookfair Saturday 15th September 2018.

Links to FB event

We’ll be there!

Central Community Centre, Emlyn Square, Swindon 1 – 5pm

Parking is available on-site.

There will be a social and food at the Glue Pot (opposite the bookfair) straight after the bookfair.

Provisional timings for workshops will be –

1.30-2.30pm – Bristol Radical History Group / Docs Not Cops

2.45-3.45pm – Social Workers Without Borders / Acorn

4-5pm – Reel News

Commander Arian film screening, in Lewes 14th June.

There will be a screening of Commander Arian at the Depot Cinema in Lewes on June 14th at 6.15 pm. After the screening, director Alba Sotorra Clua will take questions from the audience with Elif Sarican and Dirk Campbell.

On the front line of the Syrian war, 30-year-old Commander Arian guides a female battalion towards the city of Kobane to release its people from the grip of ISIS in an empowering tale of emancipation and freedom. When the war in Syria broke, a group of women from the Kurdish resistance assembled the YPJ – Women Protection Units. Arian, who witnessed at a young age the nefarious treatment of sexual assault victims, leads the unit and dedicates her life to battling ISIS. As the YPJ inches closer to their target, she implores her comrades to discover the true meaning of their fight: freedom for the next generation of women. With unprecedented access to the commander and her troops, including delicate scenes of her recovering from multiple bullet wounds, Sotorra brilliantly crafts an enthralling portrait of a woman on a mission.

Anna Campbell from Lewes chose to support the Rojava revolution by going out and fighting alongside the brave women of the YPJ. She met and was interviewed by Alba Sotorra Clua. After the YPG/YPJ defeat of Daesh in the autumn of 2017, Anna went to defend civilians from the Turkish incursion into Afrin in January 2018 and was killed by a Turkish air strike on 15 March.

Proceeds will be donated to the charity Kurdish Red Moon

SYLVIA PANKHURST – Autonomy Film Show in Bridport Sunday 4th March

For several years Autonomy showed alternative films in Bridport on a monthly basis. We have come back together now because one of our group has been seriously ill triggering loss of earnings and expensive adaptations to his home for a wheelchair. This event is to raise funds to help with these costs.

SPIRIDONOVA – ARMED LOVE

Bollocks to Bolsheviks!