This article follows a number of events that shook me this week. First of all, the filmed harassment by two Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminists (TERFs) of trans woman Sarah McBride at McBride's workplace. I watched it online and thought: that could be me, caught out, disoriented. How do you respond to the equivalent of door-stepping, as out of the blue you're caught out with carefully crafted language designed to delegitimize you, accompanied by accusatory facts that might not be true. You try to keep your composure while they consciously misgender you over and over. They're not looking for answers, it's not a pre-arranged interview, but an interrogation designed to shock and unnerve you. You stare at them unable to think, like a deer in the headlights, as they're insulting you.
Why this hatred of transgender women? Their animosity against us is the feminist equivalent of Brexit: suspicious, fearful, launching one wave of Project Fear after another; whatever sticks. Knowing after several decades there are almost no examples of trans female violence against anyone ever, but using whatever's available to say: that's how they all are. Ban them. Don't let them in. Welcome to Brexit feminism, and the Othering of transgender people.
On Tuesday in Chicago, singer and actor Jussie Smollett was the victim of a racist, homophobic hate crime. Smollett was attacked on a street by two men, who wrapped a noose round his neck, pouring bleach over him before shouting This is MAGA country. MAGA, Donald Trump's slogan, Make America Great Again. Smollett is better now, and sang at a conference the other evening. The police need to catch his attackers. The U.S.A. needs to ask why this happened to one of its citizens. But it's also worth asking how different is the U.K. given all the evidence of racial discrimination that's still happening. What Brexit has unleashed, and what the Gender Recognition Act has exposed, is a Britain bearing a deeply disturbing unconscious.
On the following Thursday night on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, actress and activist Ellen Page passionately addressed the attack and the general suffering of minorities in North America. Page talked about her frustrations with Hollywood, the binary thinking that narrows the choice of storytelling and the actors selected. On the environment, Page talked about environmental racism, the disproportionate suffering of minorities like First Nation Americans, living next to landfill sights and toxifying pulp mills. This led her to address the discourse in America, the one that involves hating minorities:
We have a media that's saying there's a debate, whether what happened to Jussie Smollett is a hate crime. It's absurd. This shit isn't a debate. Sorry, I'm like, really fired up tonight. It feels impossible to not to feel this way right now, with the President and Vice President Mike Pence who wishes I couldn't be married. Let's be clear. The Vice President of America wishes I didn't have the love that I have with my wife. He wanted to ban that in Indiana. He believes in conversion therapy. He has hurt LGBTQ people so badly as the Governor of Indiana, and I think we need to know and I hope my show, Gaycation, did this, in terms of connecting the dots of what happened the other day to Jussie Smollett. I don't know him personally. I send him all my love . . . Connect the dots. This is what happens. If you are in a position of power and you hate people, and you want to cause suffering to them, you go to the trouble, you spend your career trying to cause suffering, what do you think is going to happen? Kids are going to be abused. They're going to kill themselves. And people are going to be beaten on the street. I have travelled the world, and I have met the most marginalized people you can meet. I am lucky to have this time and the privilege to say this. This needs to fucking stop.
Out of terrible moments come voices like this. They don't misgender you, or wrap a noose round your neck. They remind you whatever you are, that you're not a threat to them but part of something larger and valued and profound. When my time comes to be door-stepped and insulted or even attacked by someone who hates me, the defiance of Jussie Smollett, Sarah McBride, and Ellen Page are what I have to remember.