Nothing Important: a surprisingly relevant comic about bisexuality.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that my housemate makes amazetastic comics. Consider it mentioned, and check out her latest- one which feels far too poignant to me than six little panels ever have a right to.

She has tons more over on her comics page. Go tell her she’s great or something, like?

Home schooling: who has rights, again?

For the first time in my experience, Ireland recently seems to have gotten involved in a bit of a discussion about, of all things, homeschooling. In short- Monica O’Connor, an Irish woman with six kids, ended up in prison after failing to pay a fine for not applying to register to homeschool her kids.

You’ll note that she wasn’t imprisoned for homeschooling her kids- that’s perfectly legal here, if extremely unusual. However, parents who want to homeschool have to apply to register to do so, and the application involves an inspection to ensure that the kids are receiving a decent education.

Ms O’Connor had no problem going through the application process for her foster kids, but when it came to her own kids it was a different story. Here’s what she has to say:

“We’ve allowed assessment for education provision for a foster child but we do feel that with our own children, when the Constitution of Ireland says the State acknowledges parents as the prime educators, that parents are free to provide this at home, but yet there is a law that says we have to allow this assessment.

“We believes that dilutes the right to such a point where it says ‘yes Joe Duffy, you’re a good enough parent to home educate but no, Monica O’Connor, you’re not.’

Basically, according to Ms O’Connor, any limit whatsoever on her right to educate her kids in whatever way she chooses- including the state simply ensuring that she’s doing so with a modicum of competence- is an unacceptable dilution of her constitutional rights.

And she isn’t kidding around:

“There has been law in every country at every time in history that has been unjust. When my two grannies were born at the turn of the century, they weren’t allowed to vote. There was a time when only men could vote, there was a time when only men with property could vote. There was a time when if you were black you could only sit on a certain part of a bus,” she said.

Yep. Being expected to show that you’re actually teaching your kids things if your homeschooling them is, to O’Connor, morally equivalent to disenfranchisement and racial segregation.

We could open a whole can of worms here on the whole matter of whether kids are better off homeschooled, sent to public schools, or something else entirely. For the record, my own views on that would be a massively uncommittal sense that it really depends on the child. And the school. And the family. And a ton of other factors.

While questions of what kind of education most benefits kids are valuable, though, I don’t actually think that they’re the most relevant thing to talk about here. For one thing, that’s a hell of a complicated question, and for another, I doubt there’ll ever be one simple answer to it. I want to talk about something far more insidious than that, and that is this: throughout these discussions, one sentiment keeps on coming up. That is this: that parents have a right to bring up their kids as they see fit.

I hear this all the time, from all kinds of parents. It’s something I associate with a growing sense of horror whenever I hear US discussions on corporal punishment (seriously, I find it ghastly that it’s considered acceptable for adults to hit children over there) or conversations from anywhere on vaccinations (the withholding of which without medical reason is yet another bizarrely acceptable abusive action that people do to their kids all the time).

Parents should not have the right to bring up their children as they see fit. Children do not belong to parents- they are not objects to be moulded into a parent’s image. They are human beings who have rights of their own.

This is not the case when it comes to children- particularly young children. In the relationship between parents and kids, the burden of responsibility should- must- fall heavily on the shoulders of guardians. And the protection of rights must be given overwhelmingly to children.

Children are in the particular state of being both legally, physically and emotionally dependant on specific adults for almost all of their needs, and of having significantly less experience and knowledge of the world at large to give them context if something goes wrong. They depend on their caregivers not just for their day to day needs, but to guide them towards a happy, well-adjusted adulthood where they can create their own lives as they see fit.

The idea that parents should have the unfettered right to raise their kids any way they choose is repugnant. It allows parents the right to throw their kids into the adult world utterly unprepared if they so choose.

Parents should not simply have rights toward their kids. Kids should have rights towards their parents. And parents, in return? Have responsibilities. End of.

Sex work and abuse: whose fault, again?

A few content notices before we go on: we’re talking about sex worker stigma, abuse, and generalising that to other abuses done to women.

Electra Fyre wrote a brilliant piece in Tits and Sass the other week, describing her experiences as a stripper and the abuses that the men in she and her coworkers lives perpetrated. It’s a gorgeously written piece that pulls no punches and shows a fierce sense of solidarity and empathy- if you’re okay with reading about partner violence, I highly recommend it.

What is so important about this piece, though, isn’t that she describes abuse as being almost ubiquitous in her line of work. It’s where that abuse is situated- vehemently and explicitly not at work.

One thing I noticed early on in my career is that stripper locker room talk is brazen and honest. There is some high speed bonding that goes on over trays of eye shadow and half-finished drinks. As a more-or-less good girl going to state college on my parents’ dime, I was no stranger to boozy heartbreak stories, but stripper stories almost always went somewhere darker, faster. Without even knowing a co-worker’s name, I might hear the details of how her ex-husband broke into her house, or how she was borrowing a phone from another girl after receiving threatening texts from a stalker. I’ve had girls show me pictures of men on their phones with the warning, “If he shows up, tell the bouncer and come warn me. I don’t care if I’m in a VIP, just come tell me.”

There’s this recurring theme in our love lives— a man will admire us for our independence and freedom, and of course, our money. We’ll thrive on the attention for a while and we’ll enjoy spoiling him with gifts or trips. Maybe he moves in because his roommates are irresponsible, or maybe we move in with him because we’re sleeping over all the time anyway. And then the fights start.

“Where the fuck were you until five in the morning?”

Do you see? While Electra is clear that abuse is almost ubiquitous in these women’s lives, she is also very clear that this is perpetrated largely by romantic partners, outside the work context.

This is important. You see, the dominant discourse around sex work and abuse is that it is something that happens to women at or as a result of their work. And yet.. for the strippers in this article, their workplace wasn’t described as a site of violence. It’s a site of support- from the clear implication that security can deal with abusive (ex)partners to the closeness between coworkers that Electra describes throughout the piece.

The abuse that they do experience? Is overwhelmingly caused by the insecure masculinity of their partners. These men who are so unable to deal with what they’ve always known about their partners that they turn to escalating forms of verbal and physical violence when they are no longer able to pretend it isn’t happening. I think it’s no mystery why Electra speaks about live-in relationships- by the time you move in with someone, you can no longer hide the shape of their everyday life from yourself.

And these women are doing everything ‘right’. They’re disclosing their occupation to their partners. They’re being honest about what they’re up to- not that anyone should have to detail every minute of their day to appease someone else’s insecurity. There’s no mystery. And these men have plenty time to make their own decisions over whether to accept their partner’s occupation or to go find someone else.

But they don’t.

It’s not so surprising, really, how this cliche about how women should know what to expect if they do that turns into one about male insecurity and violence.

And it’s not surprising either, that there’s nothing about stripping for money that is necessarily abusive- and if you think that there is, then you’re feeding the idea that women are somehow to blame for the abusive actions of others.

The abuse the women Electra speaks of isn’t something they brought on themselves. It’s not something they were somehow asking for. It’s something that was done to them by men to whom women are never, ever truly human. To whom women are always, even if they don’t know it, things whose treatment as people is dependant on not acting in a way that reflects badly on their perverse sense of dignity and status.

Help Ari Make Bills And Rent

C’mere, you lot, ’cause I’m asking for a favour.

Ari is my partner in crime, BFF, ladybrother-from-another-mother, as well as (incidentally) being a fantastic writer, artist, activist, DJ, community worker, volunteer, and general troublemaker of the best kind. She is also in one hell of a vulnerable economic situation, being unable to work fulltime at the moment due to her clinical depression, but until now had been getting by okay.

She is in a bit of a Situation. I’ll let her explain it herself:

My name is Ari Silvera. I’m a migrant trans woman, activist, writer and performer based in Glasgow. In the past year, my capacity to do work has been greatly diminished due to my clinical depression.

I am fundraising to cover my rent, bills, and huge council tax bill I need to pay. I have been on benefits until recently, which significantly reduced the amount of council tax I needed to pay. However, my benefits have been suspended, and it is quite likely I am no longer entitled to receive benefit. For your information, I was not sanctioned, the way benefits work for EU citizens that are not native to the UK has changed recently (I’m afraid I can’t discuss any further publicly).

I am currently in the process of becoming self-employed.I am raising money for rent, bills including electricity (crucial in cold cold Glasgow) and internet (crucial for all the work I actually do) as well as that dreaded council tax bill to the tune of £700. I’ve also budgeted a bit extra to help pay for counselling, as I’m currently seeking a local counsellor but, alas, free counselling is in very short supply.

With your help, I hope to not only cover my bills and rent, but also to use this money to help me get my life back on track through counselling. I am currently working day to day on my mental health, as well as trying to find jobs I can do, but that is also quite difficult.

In short, the benefits that were keeping a roof over her head and food on her plate got cut off without warning, and she’s seriously in need of help to tide her over until she can sort something else out for herself. She’s a smart cookie and resourceful as all getout, so I know she’ll be grand in the long run.

Additionally.. this one is really close to my heart, you guys. Ari is one of my closest friends. I had some really difficult times in the past few years, and Ari’s one of the people who was always, always there for me.

If you’re in a position to help her out, pop over to her funding page. And, of course, all the usual appreciation applies re sharing and all.

Thanks, pets! Shall now get back to your (ir)regularly (un)scheduled serious social issues and also terrible drawings.

Direct Provision: Sex Work Is Not The Problem

This week here in Ireland, reports have come to light that women living in direct provision centres have been engaged in survival sex work.

Some context, for those of you unfamiliar with Ireland’s asylum processes:

When people come to Ireland seeking asylum, they are housed in what’s called “direct provision” until their cases are heard. Direct provision is a system where food and accommodation are provided to a person, and they are given a small allowance to live on. Doesn’t seem too terrible at first glance- who wouldn’t want to be given a place to live and 3 meals a day?

It turns out, though, that direct provision isn’t exactly what you’d call cushy. Having no control over the food you eat or when you eat it- and don’t forget, direct provision centres are run by private contractors looking to make a profit, and there is no profit in ensuring that people have access to decent food. If you can’t stomach the food, being barred from making or eating food in your own room. Add to that having no privacy- asylum seekers have to share rooms, either with complete strangers or with an entire family crowded into a single room. Throw in curfews, and being barred from working to support yourself, earn money, or simply pass the time. And doing it all with a measly €19.10 allowance, or €9.60 for children, for everything else that you might need. Imagine trying to live your life on that, or raise your kids and do your best to provide them with some sort of liveable existence.

The direct provision system was set up as a temporary measure, to house people for a few months at most while their asylum claims were being processed. As of this year, 59% of residents have been living in direct provision for over three years, and 9% for more than seven years. 

There are more people in direct provision in Ireland than in our prisons. Asylum seekers, unlike prisoners, have done nothing wrong. And asylum seekers, unlike prisoners, live with no certainty over how long it will be before their wait is over, or whether it will end in freedom or deportation.

It’s grim. So grim that residents have recently been hunger-striking to protest the conditions they’re forced to live in.

In the midst of all this, Ireland’s Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald claims to be “shocked” to hear that women in direct provision are engaging in sex work to make ends meet. Responding to these reports, she’s said that she “certainly [doesn't] want to see any woman in Ireland feeling that the only option for her is prostitution in order to look after her family.” She then went on to discuss calls to criminalise clients of sex workers in Ireland, “watching how Scandinavian countries had handled the issue”, and that ” she would be bringing legislation to Cabinet in the near future”.

Can we talk about how profoundly backwards this is? Not just a little backwards. It’s not that the cart is before the horse here. It’s that the horse has never, in fact, even met the cart. The horse is hanging out in a field somewhere in the countryside and the cart is stuck in a stairwell in an apartment block in a city on a completely different continent to the horse.

Shocked?

Let’s start at the beginning: nothing shocking has happened here.

I’m going to say that again. Even gonna throw in some italics for emphasis. Nothing shocking has happened here. Survival sex work is a thing that economically marginalised people do all the time. It is not exceptional. It is ordinary. It would be shocking if asylum seekers hadn’t been engaging in sex work to get by.

Think that doesn’t make sense? Let’s look at it from a practical perspective, shall we? People will almost always do what they can to create liveable circumstances for themselves. They’ll do what they can to get by. For most of us, that means doing things like getting an education, getting a job. If we can, we get a job that satisfies more than just our need for money to survive- but most of us have taken on crappy work to keep a roof over our head when we had to. Again, for most people most of the time, the work we do is above-board. If you can’t get a full-time job, though, you’ll get by as best you can. You’ll take on nixers here and there and see if you can make it add up. Sometimes above-board, sometimes under the table.

Now, put yourself in a situation where above-board work is explicitly forbidden. You’re also in a situation where you have a curfew, and where you have to eat at a particular time and place every day. Your freedom is severely curtailed. On top of that, you’re expected to get by on less than €20 a week. Imagine that you’ve been in this situation for months or years.

Of course you’re going to do what you can to earn a bit of money. And y’know what is accessible work, that you can do under the table, and that doesn’t require a massive time commitment? Sex work, that’s what. And if we weren’t so keen on exceptionalising sex work- if we acknowledged it as an ordinary thing that people do, and also acknowledged asylum seekers as ordinary people- that would be blindingly, mind-numbingly obvious.

Criminalising clients is not going to help. Anyone.

I lie. Criminalising clients would help one person a whole lot- that person being Minister Fitzgerald. By criminalising clients, she will make herself look like a defender of the oppressed, and someone who’s determined to snuff all that nasty, dirty, filthy sex work from our nice clean nation. It’ll do her wonders in the next election.

The people that it won’t help, in any way, are sex workers. Criminalising clients will not change the circumstances that led anyone to engage in sex work in the first place. It won’t mean that someone has more than €20 to make a life for herself, or only €10 to clothe and provide for her child. It won’t give you somewhere to cook your own food, or a bed in a room with a door you can close and be alone. It won’t give you access to learning, or travelling, or tea with your friends or a night out every so often.

Criminalising clients will simply do one of two things. It could take away the only source of income for extremely marginalised people. Or it could force vulnerable people to work in even more risky circumstances than they had been before.

That’s it. That’s all.

Because- although this doesn’t seem to have occurred to either the Minister or to the people clamouring to be more shocked than each other about this situation- sex work is not the problem.

Sex work is not the problem.

Sex work is a solution to one of the problems that asylum seekers face. It’s also, by the way, a solution to problems that a hell of a lot of people who aren’t asylum seekers face as well. And yes, sometimes people are forced into sex work and being forced into any kind of work is one hell of a problem, but the problem there is the lack of affirmative consent, not the specific thing a person is not consenting to.

The fact that many people are uncomfortable with the idea of buying or selling sexual services is irrelevant. The fact that many of us wouldn’t want to do it as a job is also irrelevant- I dunno about you, but I’ve done a hell of a lot of jobs that felt like my soul and dignity was being gradually peeled away, one layer at a time, and I don’t see anyone clamouring to ban any of them.

The fact that sex work can come with problems of its own is also not a reason to move towards banning buying sexual services- especially since many of those problems (dangerous working conditions, for one) would be exacerbated by criminalisation.

To be shocked that marginalised people do sex work is to display an utterly unforgivable level of ignorance towards both vulnerable people and the nature of sex work itself. And to respond by criminalising clients- the people that sex workers rely on for their income- is a self-serving, short-sighted move which does absolutely nothing to improve the situation of asylum seeker sex workers, and a hell of a lot to make their circumstances even more hellish than they already are.

If you want a situation where nobody in Ireland is forced to do survival sex work? Then don’t specifically exclude them from other kinds of work. End direct provision, allow asylum seekers the right to work in Ireland, or at the very least make sure that nobody is stuck in the asylum system for more than a few months at a time. Don’t shove a poisoned band-aid on a limb you’re slowly sawing off and call it progress.

PSA

Some snippets:

havebeen
So I’ve been busy (derby tournament + busy season at work + not having an actual weekend in about three or four months), and then sick (PLAGUE. Or, y’know, a bad cold. Whatever. Lucky for me, this happened just as I arrived at my parents’ house for a visit. Nowhere better to be when you’re feeling awful), and then overcome with the feeling that I owe FtB only the most serious and well-put-together of posts and all I wanted to do was communicate in badly-drawn Venn diagrams.

Then I remembered that there’s not actually a rule against communicating in badly-drawn Venn diagrams. Please note the complete lack of overlap between these two sets:
thingsIlike

Suicide and Self-harm: What’s so terrible about looking for attention?

Wanna hear a story?

This time two years ago- give or take a week or two- I couldn’t take it anymore. I gave up. I phoned in sick, went to the doctor, and left with a diagnosis of depression and anxiety, a prescription, and a note saying I’d be unable to work for a while.

I’ve had better days.

It was, hands-down, one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. I had no idea how I’d pay the rent. I felt like a fraud, a whiny-ass white girl with a couple of college degrees who couldn’t cope with a perfectly acceptable life. When I walked into that doctor’s office, I knew that he’d tell me to suck it up and deal. When that didn’t happen.. well, I had some feelings about that.

I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without friends who had my back.

You see, a week before that day I knew that things were getting rough. Rougher. There were a lot of things I found almost impossible to cope with at the time. Stuff that I’d take in stride now, but that felt monstrous from inside the jerkbrain that had taken over me. Going to work. Eating. Sleeping. Some more serious things- a member of my extended family was sick and not getting better.

When I couldn’t cope- a week before the day when I really couldn’t cope- I called my friends. My Team Me. I told them how I was feeling and asked, if they wouldn’t mind, could people.. stay with me, that week? And they did. The same afternoon? They split the week between them with everyone taking a day or two, and a couple of hours after I got up the courage to send that first message to them (no easy task, that), the first of my incredible relay team was at my door.

I have some wonderful friends.

This meant a lot of things. One of those things was that, a week later when I finally couldn’t take it anymore, I wasn’t alone. I woke up that morning after a couple of hours of fitful sleep, full of a deep sense of dread, terror, panic. I was brushing my teeth when I cracked. And my friend was in the spare room. He woke up when I knocked on the door and it was when he hugged me that I really started to cry. When I said that I just couldn’t cope anymore, he told me that that was okay. It was okay to give up sometimes. I’d be okay.

My friends were waiting for me when I got home from the doctor that afternoon. I remember sitting on the sofa between the two of them, listening to them talk about video games, feeling safe for the first time in too long.

On the day that I couldn’t cope anymore, the attention of the people I loved kept me going.

She Was Just Doing It For Attention

Since the tragic, premature death of Robin Williams, everyone’s talking about mental health and illness. Williams was a brilliant man, who lived with a bipolar disorder that would fuel his creativity and, eventually, kill him. Or so it seems- I didn’t know him and I’m not his doctor or his therapist.

But one thing I’ve been hearing a lot is this: mental illness isn’t just something people fake for the attention, and neither is (attempted) suicide. It’s real problems, real diseases. I want to say that mental illness is something very real, and that people who are sick- just like healthy people- often do things for attention. And that is okay.

In case you haven’t noticed, humans are a social species. The vast majority of us need other people to keep us feeling.. whole. Loneliness hurts, even when we’re entirely healthy. When we’re not- when we’re ill, or our lives are more difficult- then loneliness can eat you up.

And when we’re ill- especially if that illness comes from inside our brains- and vulnerable, then sometimes we’re unable to simply use our words and ask for the help and company we need. I was lucky two years ago- I had both the self-awareness and the experience of using my words, as well as friends who I knew would respond well to that. It turns out, though, that mental illness doesn’t wait around for you to learn how to describe what you need before it gets to you. Jerkbrains aren’t polite. They show up when they damn well please, break into your house and shit all over your nice sofa before you’ve even had a chance to make your morning coffee.

Sometimes people who are sick- or people who are vulnerable or traumatised or even just plain lonely- do fucked-up, self-destructive things. Sometimes those things are a cry for help or for attention.

I figure, if someone’s sick or lonely or vulnerable or traumatised enough to be willing to harm themselves (or risk killing themselves) for the possibility of some help or attention? We might want to do something other than mock them for that. Maybe we should start paying attention.

Speaking of rugby..

It occurs to me that I’ve been here a whole week and I haven’t FTBullied anyone. I mean, ever since I got here I’ve been talking about Serious Dead Granny Feelings, showing off awesome Irish trans people, and being justifiably annoyed about people being terrible to women athletes.

If I keep on like this, you lot are going to get the impression that I’m.. nice.

So here’s a little something that the whole women’s rugby debacle reminded me of. I give you one of my favourite slightly-ridiculous Irish bands-who-sing-funny-things, Dead Cat Bounce:

And as I’m here, what’s the point of being an FTBer if you can’t take the odd potshot at religious ridiculousness? Have some Christians in Love:

:D

Women Excel At Sport, Journalists Talk About Manicures

I play roller derby. Wait- let me say that properly: I skate motherfuckin’ ROLLER DERBY, beaaaatches. That’s more like it. Y’see, roller derby isn’t something I can talk about neutrally. This is a game where “derby saved my (metaphorical) soul” has gone from a common statement to a boring-ass cliché. Practically everyone I know who plays this game says it’s changed her life. It’s helped her find her confidence and her grit. It’s shown her how to love the body she has and appreciate it for what it can do, not how conventionally attractive it is. It’s given her a community, friends and role models. It’s taught her how to (literally) get beaten down and (literally) get back up again. In this game I’ve gotten bruises and sprains. I’ve seen people break bones more times than I care to remember. Far more important than that, though? They get those bones healed and put their skates back on. I see us getting knocked over and getting up again and knocked down again until our muscles will barely obey us when we stand again, and I see us doing it again and again until finally, somehow, we break through. And in between all of that, I see the hours we put in, every single week. Spending our evenings and weekends, every week, training in any hall that’ll take us. Spending their days off organising, promoting, planning, coaching and paperwork. And more training. Always, more training. And what do people say about us? Catfights and punches- both of which will, by the way, get you expelled, and have never happened at any game I’ve been to or played in. Booty shorts. Girls in fishnets hitting each other. Short skirts and tight tops.

But this isn’t about roller derby. This is about rugby.

Ireland’s women’s rugby team are, as I type, having a phenomenal World Cup. A hard-fought win against New Zealand- who’ve won every World Cup since 1998- followed by a decisive 40-5 victory against Kazakhstan has us through to the semi-final this Wednesday evening. And- just like you USians with women’s soccer football this year- Ireland’s finally waking up to the fact that we have a world-class team that we should be paying attention to. In the middle of all of this, the Sunday Independent- one of Ireland’s major broadsheets- published an article today on the growing popularity of rugby among Irish women. The title? “Niamh Horan on women in rugby: ‘I never play a game without my tan‘”. Yep. It starts with this:

As I bent over with a blonde’s hand slipping around the top of my thigh, I pondered how there are worse ways to burn 
calories on a sleepy Thursday evening

For those of you who don’t know, by the way, having a teammate’s hand on your thigh is a perfectly ordinary thing to happen in a game of rugby. This is the equivalent of saying something like:

She slid her hand sensually along the length of the tennis racket, grasping it firmly on the handle with the air of someone who knew exactly what she was doing. She sprinted across the court, her toned body using up calories. It was Saturday.

or

His body slid through the water, his glistening, muscular arms arcing through the air with every stroke, like a sexy person who was attractive doing sexy things because somehow this is about sex now. Also he didn’t have much body fat.

Back at the article, things are- I’m afraid- just going downhill from here. There’s gender essentialism with a side of homophobia:

These are not butch, masculine, beer-swilling, men-hating women. They are fit, toned, effortlessly pretty players who love nothing more than getting dolled up for the evening – and that’s just to step on the field. … Minutes earlier, I had arrived with full hair and make-up for a post match night out, expecting a few raised eyebrows from my new-found team mates. “Most of the girls are like that,” Shirley continues. “Our scrum half, Jessica, never goes on the pitch without her blonde hair done, a full face of make-up and her nails perfectly manicured.

Constant reminders that sometimes journalists have photographers with them and also that there were other people around who could see her doing things:

The photographer flashed away gleefully beside me. In fact, when I got back to the office I never saw so many people
 interested in seeing the 
photos from a job. Their fits of laughter brought me back to the moment on the pitch. … I could hear the roars of laughter from the sideline just above the ringing in my ears. “Thank God that happened in front of just women,” I gasped. Before the camera flashed again.

And finally, questions apropos of nothing about the players’ sex lives:

Before I left, I couldn’t resist asking the question: any rugby threesomes then?

These women bust their asses every single week, putting in hours of training in sunshine and rain. They push each other, knock each other over, get back up again, and then push a little harder and run a little faster the next time. They do it despite a world that says that women must be feminine, that feminine women mustn’t be aggressive. And I’ll bet they do it for exactly the same reasons me and my derbs do what we do- ’cause they love it. And what do people say about them? Hands on thighs. Manicures before games. Assumptions about their sexuality and gender expression. Insinuations about their sex lives.

Sounding familiar yet?

I can hear it already. I’ve been around these parts long enough to know what someone’s going to say. Why am I making a big deal out of this? Why am I surprised that someone’s sexualised something women do? Haven’t I bigger feminist issues to worry about than someone writing a stupid article about how sometimes people like to play sports and have nice hair? Yes, I do. And no, I’m not surprised. And if you think that a blog post is a big deal then.. dude, I’m honestly worried for your safety if you leave the house or turn on a TV or read a paper anytime soon. It’s important to call this out because it’s so mind-numbingly predictable. And I’m calling it out because I’ve a horse in this race. I know how much sports can do for people’s lives. Mine was changed by one, but it took three decades to happen and I spent most of that time convinced that this wasn’t- couldn’t be- for me. I want women and girls to know it can be an option. And I want their dedication to get the basic respect that it deserves. I’ll leave you with this: A friend of mine- a kickass rugby player in her own right- had this to say this afternoon:

Calling all sportswomen and those who support women in sport:

Today an article was posted in the indo which had the effect of totally belittling and undermining efforts to grow and support women’s rugby. In a week when the Irish Women’s Rugby Team have made history and have a real chance of fighting for the Rugby World Cup the last thing we want is some ignorant ‘journalist’ taking away from it.

So I’m asking you all especially women’s rugby players to consider posting your photos from matches, tournaments, training, etc with‪#‎ThisIsWomensRugby‬

You can also tweet them to the author’s Twitter handle @niamhhoran in the hope that she finally sees the reality of what she was supposed be reporting on rather than just the bits she understood/suited her sexualised agenda.

Even if you don’t play women’s rugby or have any photos please feel free to share any of mine! Or find one of the Irish Women’s team and share it.

For the good of all women’s sport lets fight the ignorance!

Well. You heard the woman.

 

Horan recounts her time spent with Railway Union RFC women’s team and seemed shocked that the players were in fact perfectly normal sportspeople who were passionate about their rapidly-growing pursuit. Instead, she reverts to the laziest of stereotypes and comparisons which will have done nothing to assist those attempting to widen the appeal of the game.

Apparently the club were asked by the IRFU to faciliate a Sindo journalist for this piece. In what seems to have been the most egregious selection decision in Irish rugby history since Gatty and BOD, or the exile of Trevor Brennan, they got Niamh Horan.

So there I was touching two other people – in a rugby scrum – which is not remotely surprising since I’m in a rugby scrum. I turned around (which I can only assume is one thing you shouldn’t do in a scrum because why would you put your neck under that much pressure), so I could mention one of the lads showed me how he places his hand on the ‘taint of another. Take a second to make that image in your head of a man’s hand being an inch or two from another fella’s lunchbox but don’t waste anytime imagining how I could turn my head to look behind me while wedged between two other fellas.

What annoys me most about the article is that an opportunity for a great story was wasted.

I am curious about this team and (off the top of my head) I have lots of questions. Are any of their players on the national squad? Who are the key players? Where are they from? Do they get paid playing for their country and clubs? How much? (I’m not being rude, journalists are supposed to be nosey). What about sponsorship? Where did they start playing? (I went to a mixed school and no one ever threw me a rugby ball). Do they ever play mixed rugby? Should we be teaching rugby more in school? Rugby has a bit of reputation for being elitist, is that the case in the women’s game too?

It felt like society was trying to put me in a box.. because I was trying to get out of a box

I love this new video from TENI (the Transgender Equality Network Ireland). And not just ’cause I know almost all of the awesomers in it (although yes, it’s partially that). I love that everyone on the video’s story is so different. From the person who always knew, to the person who rejected people’s attempts to force him into another gendered box.

And while we’re here? Can I take a moment to fangirl TENI? They’re one of those organisations that, if you don’t look closely enough, you assume runs on a massive budget with shedloads of staff. And then you squint a bit and realise they’re a handful of people who somehow manage to do everything from support to research to campaigning for legislative change and creating unheard-of positive visibility and I have no idea how they pull it off.

At the moment in Ireland, trans people still don’t have the right to a birth cert that accurately reflects their gender. Gender recognition legislation has been glacially inching its way through our government for years- way back in 2007, Ireland was ruled by the European High Court to be in breach of its human rights obligations in refusing to recognise trans people. The case- brought by Dr Lydia Foy- had taken ten years to get to Europe in the first place, and seven years later, Ireland still hasn’t acted on it.

This birth cert issue might seem like a small thing, but it makes a huge difference in people’s lives. Check out TENI’s Broden Giambrone on this one:

We have to produce a birth certificate to obtain a PPS number [Personal Public Service number- basically a Social Security number], to access social welfare, and to marry. At Transgender Equality Network Ireland (Teni), we regularly hear about the negative impact of the State’s lack of recognition for trans people.
People are forcibly “outed” every time they are asked to produce a birth certificate. Young people miss out on their college places because the CAO [Central Applications Office] office has no capacity for dealing with trans people. Trans people have to explain ourselves – to validate our identity – over and over. But legal gender recognition goes beyond the practicalities of daily life; it is about the State recognising that we exist.

Seriously.

Broden goes on to talk about the myriad ways that the proposed legislation doing the glacial inching is woefully inadequate- things like an age limit on accessing recognition, and having to divorce your spouse before you can get a gender marker changed. Have I ever mentioned that in Ireland in order to get divorced you first have to have been separated for four years? That’s not just a law that could be amended for special cases like this, so you could have a UK-style divorce-and-then-civil-partnership. It’s in our Constitution.

Talk about being shoved in a box, eh?