Stale Beef

The chronicle of my cancellation and beyond

CN: mentions of racism, mental health issues, abuse and alcoholism

I really need to write all this down because its fucking with my head and maybe getting it out will help.

Recently someone mentioned to me that my cancellation in summer 2020 was being used as an example of why cancellation works and I honestly don’t feel that there are the words to describe how fucked up that is that i’m being used in that way.

So let me explain what happened.

In summer 2020 someone i was co-organising with on a local trans support service brought up that a post had been made on Facebook regarding racism and my name had been mentioned in this. They only found out as another trans person had seen it and quietly passed it along to them as a thing to be aware of and look at dealing with.

The post in question talked about how it was rich seeing people who had taken racist action against them are posting about supporting Black trans women and in the comments my name was mentioned and a cropped screenshot of a comment I had made on a post by Wharf Members Against Racism in 2018 was posted to accompany my name.

Now the 2018 post was regarding an event taking place during pride at Wharf Chambers and the event was called Dyke Chambers. The post pointed out how the organisers hadn’t given enough information about the issues around abuse and racism that WC had been involved in and also that the event was excluding trans people. I joined other trans women in the comments to to address the latter point about how Dyke as a word should be allowed to be reclaimed by trans women and also that the event was inclusive of trans people as it had been co-organised by a butch trans woman and a non-binary person. This was a large discussion about the clubnight at the time as it was largely trans men and trans masc ppl complaining about a space that was prioritising women and non-binary ppl who identified as dykes and that it meant there would be no place for them to go at pride - this was untrue as DC had made sure that the clubnight was prioritising women and non-binary dykes but not excluding anyone and that anyone could attend if they felt comfortable, AND i was running a karaoke night that prioritised trans ppl at CLAY. So there were actually two specific trans inclusive spaces, the majority of those complaints were just misogynistic trans mascs whining about their favourite bar prioritising women as was evidenced by the continued critique of the clubnight when it happened the next few times away from pride.

I however did not publicly address the former point and I also made an assumption as to who was behind the post based on the repping of Love Muscle within the OG post in 2018. I had assumed, like many others, that the post had been done by a white cis gay man who had gathered a reputation for being quite misogynistic and had used his anti-racism to do so. This was a wrong assumption and my comment suggesting it was him behind the post was in hindsight a mistake. The OG post was followed up by a post with a link to a google doc which had testimonials of people of colour’s experiences backing up why the word dyke was inherently a racist word and shouldn’t be reclaimed by white trans women. The google doc has since been moved to the trash of whoever’s folder it was in.

I didn’t comment on this 2nd post as I was busy and didn’t have the time or brain space while organising to address this properly but I did read it and my only take away from it was that some people were uncomfortable with other people’s identities and were trying to police that, particularly to police trans women. I felt as though it was too delicate a situation to wade into without thinking again so i left it alone. Unfortunately I never came back to that post or addressed anything.

What i did do was take the former point made in the OG post into account and followed the example of Love Muscle and other events and the advice of WC themselves so that when I was organising events I included the statements on WCs website regarding the racism and abuse so that people could make their own minds up if they wished to attend. This became more difficult as time went on as Facebook were eventually trying to censor the statements as the words abuse and racism were constantly getting flagged by the algorithm. Also after a few years and WC doing decent work on their anti-racism action plan, it seemed as though it was less needed. Perhaps this also was a mistake. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So back in 2020 I was sat down by a co-organiser on one project and a friend who i had worked with on another project, both separately.

On the first occasion we took time to go through all the posts and evidence to work out what exactly the issue was and we struggled to fully grasp what the issue actually was and exactly what the harm was. Warped community politics dictated that we weren't allowed to ask what the issue was or contact the person who made the public post as asking a person of colour what the issue is so it can be worked on is a bad thing to do. 

While looking at the evidence i noticed numerous local cis lesbian and bisexual women who were trans allies and nby ppl had liked the post or commented on it with masculinised language or saying things like ‘i always knew there was something wrong with her’. 

I had to sit and listen while my trans femme co-organiser had to sit and read aloud the not-even-veiled transmisogynistic comments to me and write it all down to work out how to use this transmisogyny to punish me for something we couldn’t quite work out I had done. We had to make our best guesses as to what it was I had done wrong and how I would work on this. 

After a little while this was brought up with the other organisers and a seperate group chat was made to discuss the issues without me (at my request) and decide how this would be handled. I won’t go into detail as I believe some confidentiality and safeguarding is needed where the support organisation is concerned, however I will talk about the bits that happened publicly and the personal stuff that was happening at that time.

The organisation was being pressed to release a more detailed public statement and take better accountability for my actions, despite the organisation having NOTHING to do with the OG post and incident. I didn’t even attend the clubnight in the end as i was busy running another event somewhere else at the same time on behalf of the support organisation. 

The organisation took responsibility for me not just as a way to hold me accountable but to ensure i wasn’t left to deal with this alone as it would not resolve anything and only serve to fuck me up. This led to the co-organiser that had originally talked this through with me to put themself in the firing line too in order to make sure I wasn’t alone in this, especially as we had seen how transmisogynistic the response was.

This didn’t help much as I was still spiralling. I had started drinking again in a way that i hadn’t in quite a while - my alcoholism was back and i was no longer in control.

At one point, while trying to clear my head while walking in the park opposite where i was living, i was told that a conversation had happened about that i was a danger to the vulnerable ppl the service was supporting and that i shouldn’t be removed from whatever power it was I had. 

I had gone from making what seemed like a genuine mistake when i was upset that i needed to work on to being a monster who needed to be driven out with virtual pitchforks and torches. It was getting worse. No one was giving any detail tho. To me or to anyone else, no one else really seemed to understand what was going on. The image that was being projected of me was that i was a violent racist who goes around abusing people of colour and no information on how i was doing this was coming to me - it was becoming clearer and clearer i wasn’t supposed to be held accountable, i was supposed to be punished. And being punished i was. 

My mental health continued to spiral as i had gone through other traumatic events over lockdown and this wasn’t helping. My alcoholism continued and i was able to brush it off or hide that it was alcoholism. Friends were having to check up on me regularly either by phone or irl to take me for a walk in the park or to even sit outside my house to check i was ok and not gonna do any harm to myself. I’m so grateful to those people who made sure i was surviving this.

Eventually i was contacted by someone, who had previously created a very unhealthy power dynamic and used anti-racism and survivor politics as a way to abuse me, and they tried to strong arm me into going to a anti-racist reading group as my name had been mentioned many times. I freaked out. I asked a friend how to say no to something like this without saying no cuz i knew that if i said no directly it would only fuel the fire and give this person more reason to strong arm me and abuse me. I managed to indirectly say no to it in a way that was seemingly harmless as if there had been a miscommunication all because i couldn’t be in a situation where this person had power over me again and i didn’t feel safe saying that. But that person did have power over me and that frightened me, they could make demands that i would have to attend this group as part of my paying penance and i would be forced into it by the warped politics that govern how our community works. 

I was afraid. The SurvivorTM-led politics that had been applied to this situation had allowed someone who had previously abused me to have power over me and what had been a genuine mistake that I had thought would have been able to have been learned from was now a punishment that was causing me harm on multiple levels. This situation and this process was meaning that numerous people had been harmed and that people who had nothing to do with the original incident were getting involved  either feeling emboldened to punish me, or were being harmed by the process or were burdened with supporting me during pandemic where my access to support was limited due to my chronic illness causing autoimmune issues. My partner couldn’t support me without fear that they could make me very sick and potentially lose me.

After that person that had abused me had contacted me and I had dealt with that in the only way that felt possible I stepped down from the support organisation. I had already taken myself off active support duty and I was now becoming too ill to do anything and I couldn’t allow that organisation that I had worked for the last few years to build to continue to take flack for a pathetic mistake I had made 2 years prior.

None of what I have said is being brought up in defence of my original mistake as the criticism i received for not publicly addressing the other point about not providing enough info was valid and my assumption of who was behind the post, while not an intentional attack, caused harm nonetheless and i was wrong about who it was and should have taken time to think that through. 

Somehow though things escalated from it being a mistake that could be fixed to me being a danger to people with no real information on how we reached that level and if there had been other incidents to warrant that escalation then a clear decision had been made not to communicate them with me or with anyone who could actually Hold Me Accountable.

So now we’re nearly a year later someone has been cruel enough to hold me up as a perfect example of why cancelling people works. And now i’m back to being confused and genuinely afraid of the fact that this is still being talked about. I don’t feel like i can do any projects or make any art or do anything because i am afraid it will happen all over again. 

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid that this hate campaign that was led against me for one Facebook comment is going to send me spiralling again, and i can already feel myself slipping, and that if i do reach that point of my mental health starting to crack then the healthcare i’m trying to access with my chronic illness and my transition will get pulled, because in the UK we know that is a very real thing that can happen. If any health service decides you’re not mentally well enough they will just refuse your access and i can’t lose access to transition or help with my chronic illness because some people are so cruel that they have decided I should.

I want to be able to move on from the harm that this process has caused me and i want to heal and i want to be a better person for learning and healing, but its clear that some people would never allow that to happen. I don’t know what the goal of me being cancelled was. I don’t know what it achieved for me to even be an example other than as an example of punishment and how to fuck with trans women’s mental health and that scares the fuck out of me.

I need to heal and move on from this regardless of whether people want me to because if I don’t that kinda shit will destroy me and it will lose me access to any of the healthcare i need. And if you think that i deserve to lose my mental health and access to healthcare then you are not the righteous person you think you are. Destroying one person facing forms of marginalisation in the name of another facing their own forms of marginalisation is not how this should work. it's not the community i have fought for.

I’m writing this to get it out of my head and so I don’t have to say it all again and re-live the trauma of all of this when it inevitably gets dragged up again cuz some cruel person wants to feel righteous in that they solved racism by fucking with my mental health and trying to cut me off from my community.

I’m not afraid that i fucked up or the difficult conversations that come from that, i’m always willing and often actively asking for those conversations to happen so i can learn and grow and help make the world a better place and all that lovely hippy bollocks. What i am afraid of is a culture that relies on my fear to make people feel righteous, a culture that can empower one of my previous abusers to try and hold me accountable and that can be ok with multiple people being harmed in order to right a wrong Facebook comment. 

That’s the culture that the queer community is fostering and it terrifies me that that is seen as ok.

I’m not going to be engaging in anything to do with this again because holy fuck i am not ok and can’t spend the rest of my life in fear of my own friends and community and never being creative or making art all because some people think i shouldn’t even exist at a time when the government and most of the media thinks that too. But i am going to have to spend a long time learning how to deal with how this has added to my C-PTSD and deal with being triggered by this shit, especially after nearly a year of not being able to talk about it or deal with it cuz others don’t want me to. I’m not going to engage in this conversation any further because its clear that not there are too many people who aren’t willing to engage in it in good faith and only want to see me suffer so they can feel righteous.

I have to move forwards.

I have survived a lot of awful shit in my life and I’m sure as hell not gonna let this be the thing that ends me.