Wednesday, 14 March 2018

At last, the 2010 show

So in today's news the Daily Express front page cries out "AT LAST! TAX CUTS ON WAY!"

We have had chunky tax cuts every year since 2010. It started thanks to the Lib Dems (arguably thanks to one Liberal parliamentary candidate, who from what I recall didn't even take first or second place in her seat) and after five years of being grudgingly allowed by the Tories as part of the left-right coalition deal it had proved so popular that Cameron and May carried on with it in their starring roles as Prime Minister With A Plan To Properly Sink The Economy and Prime Minister Who Will Never Take A Walking Holiday In Wales Again.

Top journalism. I look forward to their upcoming feature on who the entrants might be in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest. As it's the Express they'll probably even let us know which song Princess Diana will be voting for.

Friday, 9 March 2018

"Just a Phase"

This started as a comment on someone else's blog post but I feel like it's a big enough a Bi Thing to be worth a blog post of its own.

One of the things people say to us when we come out is "oh, you're just going through a phase". And it's a silencing thing, to get us to shut up about something they maybe don't like hearing or discussing. Or something they say just because it's the only thing they know as received wisdom about being bisexual and they haven't thought it through any further. Either way it's like being patted on the head and told to shush our silly little heads.

Now, one of the things we used to say and write on placards when I was first out and involved with my local bi youth group was "it's not a phase!"

Only I have to admit: sometimes it is. I've known people who for instance when I first met them were lesbians, had a time of identifying as bi, but these days if you asked them they'd most likely say they were straight. Other mixtures other ways round - straight to bi to straight again, or bi to lesbian to bi again, or all round the houses like the slow bus that stops everywhere in a loop round your town. For those of us who are trans that bus route can include identities as gay, bi and straight in several genders. Pokemon sexuality!
The thing is though: people who are bisexual for the whole of their lives are bisexual for the whole of their lives. People who are bisexual for only part of their lives are bisexual for that part of their life. And if you're "only" bi for months or years or decades, where your head and heart are at that time are totally real. Those crushes?  Real crushes.  Those kisses?  Real kisses.  Those orgasms?  Ho yus, And how. Ahem.  Where was I?

Dismissing it as "just a phase" so something that doesn't need to be taken as real? Well, being a teenager is a phase but it doesn't stop you being a mardy git for a few years. Being pregnant is a phase - a year from now you won't be! - but a plan of just ignoring it and pretending it's not happening isn't a good idea.

Some of us are bi the whole of our lives, while for some people it's a phase - yet if it's a phase so is whatever comes before and whatever comes after and no-one dismisses those as "just phases".

"It's just a phase"? 
"Well, maybe it will turn out to be a phase, but it's the truth about who and where I am right now."

Saturday, 3 March 2018


There'll be lots all over the internet today celebrating 30 years of the Lib Dems. I am struggling to use the computer just now so only a short blogpost to mark 30 years of the latest iteration of The Original Left Wing Party And Still The Best (copyright battle with Kelloggs' ongoing) to reflect on how I came to join.

Growing up where and when I did I got to see two things at once about politics growing up: the Tories are - collectively, with individual exception and all that - selfish venal people interested only in their own well-being and as a party with that of the people who bankroll them. Whereas Labour are - collectively, with individual exception and all that - selfish venal people interested only in their own well-being and as a party with that of the people who bankroll them.

The introduction of Section 28 - as supported by Labour and Tories alike and its repeal blocked repeatedly by both - made me move from "I am interested in politics" to "I will have to get involved then". Moving to England narrowed the choice down: having started to see the kneejerk transphobia in the Greens and with Plaid off the table both due to geography and my ongoing leftward drift, the Liberals were the only remaining option of note.

Then Paddy told Paxman to get the fuck out of here* on a Newsnight grilling about whether "lesbian and gay rights" was a popular cause ("we don't propose these things because they are popular, Jeremy, we do it because they are right") and - at last having just reached voting age - I was sold.

But it then took finding someone who gave me a bit of paper with how to join on for me to take that last vital step. It's much simpler these days, you just click here to get at the form.

I quit the party for a while in the mid 90s but had to come back in the end because - like in a cheap sci-fi alien invasion film with a wonky spaceship possessing an unreliable laser cannon and a steering column that wobbles all over the place at critical moments in the plot - for all of us at the bottom it's our last best hope against the relentless onslaught from above.

* he was a little more civil about it than that - though it would have made great telly...

Friday, 23 February 2018

False flags

In America the latest (that I've heard of at the time of typing) school shooting feels like it has picked up a little more momentum in the calls for action afterwards; not least because of the bisexual boss of the school's Gay/Straight Alliance group and how her extensive use of the term "BS" while explaining how the US' gun laws look from the perspective of some of the groups most likely to be killed as a result of the NRA's diligent purchasing of politicians was an ideal clip for going viral.

Naturally there's a pushback with someone - possibly someseveral, but you know how it is with server farms full of fake social media accounts and people paid to work full time on them - claiming that the whole thing is a 'false flag' operation with no children really dead and paid actors working for shadowy organisations faking the entire thing to acheive political ends.

Maybe that's true! It's not. Of course it bloody isn't. If you think it is, go wash your head in a bucket of water, come back and think it over some more. But suppose this weren't another case of the lying liars who lie about such things telling porkie pies to try and have the most contorted conspiracy theory out of their entire gang.

Well, it's like climate change and the related proposals that we move from unsustainable stinky polluting life-shortening energy production to clean renewables really isn't it?

What if it is all a lie. Maybe if we took a few million guns out of circulation in the USA it would all be in response to some staged pretend disaster. Maybe the sea levels will be just the same whether we use wind turbines or coal power to keep the lights on.

Imagine how awful it would be to be living in a nicer, cleaner, safer world, all for no particular reason.

Decades from now you'd be kicking yourself as you sat in your retirement home, years after you would have otherwise been dead. 


Friday, 12 January 2018

Strange Obsessions

The local paper reports a handful of danger-to-their-own-children type parents up in arms because Altrincham Grammar School for Girls has advised staff to call pupils "pupils", "students" or the like, rather than "girls".  The thinking being that it makes the place more accommodating for pupils who have been at the school for some time and then start to either question their gender identity or to come out as trans or enbee.

"But if they aren't girls, why do they want to go to a girls' school?" is the first silly question being knocked about. If you were starting out afresh as a prospective first year pupil and were male you'd be rather unlikely to apply, but if you are five years into your time at a school and about to sit your TGAUs, swapping schools and having to leave your friends and familiar spaces behind as well as dealing with your own gender vertigo may all be a bit much to cope with.

Persistent misgendering damages lives in many ways including those all-important-to-schools exam results, so it's in the school's enlightened self-interest to not have gender variant pupils under more stress than needs be the case.

It also has the fringe benefit of inculcating in the pupils a sense that they aren't "girls", the subtly belittling diminutive which gets used for women so much further into adult life than is the case for boys. So a bit of a boost for the cis kids too.

The other bloody stupid question being punted is: "but what shall they call the school?" This one carries on into extended drivel which boils down to:
"If it's now a school for girls and people who we thought were girls right up to the middle of their A levels and then found out we were wrong, and all of a sudden we've decided that people who are legally able to leave home and live independently, pay taxes, get married, have children or join the army and die in a war overseas are now also allowed to have an opinion as to what name they should be called, well, the sign on the front the school will have to be changed because PC Police."

I can't help but think that the schools I attended between 10 and 17 both had signs on the gates with "Saint" in them, and there was precious little in the way of saintly behaviour amongst the attendees be they staff or student. I suspect the students of AGSG will cope...

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

2010 and 2017

2010: Lib Dems provide enough votes to let Tory PM have a majority.
Faux-Left Twitter: OMG Everything in the Liberals supposedly believe in must be delivered because they provide the extra 17 vital votes so clearly they must be able to dictate everything this government does and anything that happens was the Liberals' policy.

2017: DUP provide enough votes to let Tory PM have a majority.
Faux-Left Twitter: The DUP provide the extra 7 vital votes but must be allowed to dictate absolutely nothing, and this in no way goes against our previous stance.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Fresh queer lefty reading matter

Landing on the doormats of lefty queers (and our allies) nationwide round about now, the new edition of Plus.

It's been a while since the last issue of the magazine (which is the journal of LGBT+ Lib Dems, sign up here to get your copy) so suspecting it was a case of "no one's had the time to organise one" I stepped up and volunteered to guest edit an edition. Maybe someone reading this will take on the job of the next one?

As the only edition of the mag from 2017, there's a look back at what was in the Lib Dem manifesto on LGBT+ issues, along with a look at Lynne Featherstone's book on same-sex marriage and a fine piece on why you shouldn't call it equal marriage.

A few months ago I put together a special history section of the LGBT+LD website, and so there's a feature encouraging more people to contribute content. Many minds make a more detailed history, and while I'm quite good on remembering things from the 90s and 00s but was too busy learning to walk and suchlike in the 70s to recall what was happening on equality issues. Similarly, I know that I'm better at the B and T strands than the L and G by dint of what more readily catches my eye. Others will have focused on different news stories and struggles and so will be able to add to the story.

Rather than just reporting back news there are also simple things to do - including the first of what I expect to be a series of template council motions for councillors to use.

Many thanks especially to Jennie Rigg and Lisa Smart who contributed vital words, and Victor Chamberlain for finding me just the right photo with phenomenal speed.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Alas, poor AdLib

The Lib Dem party members print magazine AdLib is for the chop. Lib Dem Voice reports this news and reminds us of how AdLib came about as a successor to LDN.

Lib Dem News was a lovely paper. Sure, there was that sense that the council byelections reports were so skewed toward gains rather than losses that a reader who only got their elections news from LDN would conclude that the Liberals now held every single council seat in the country, but there were always a couple of good articles at least, some weirdness on the back page with gossip about people you'd never heard of, and something to warm or incense you in the letters page. For anyone who wasn't on CIX in the 90s it was the fastest way of finding out what was going on in the Lib Dems, albeit best supplemented by a late-arriving Liberator. Most weeks you'd wind up reading something over lunch that was on an area of policy you might otherwise never get round to learning a thing about, and so be a teensy bit wiser about the world.

It came to an end I think in part due to the shift to online communications, but I also blame the move to size-based postal charging. Maybe it's just me, by psychologically the sense of being an LDN subscriber you got from a folded newspaper coming through your door that stood out from the rest of the mail was much more powerful than its shift to being in an anonymous C5 manilla envelope. It went from "ah, LDN is a day late" to "that's probably another bill..."

AdLib was a different pitch of publication, a little more inclusive of the armchair activist than LDN. I think it would have done better if it had not been caught by the arrival of pricing-in-proportion and had been A4 (like long-forgotten Ashdown/Kennedy era magazine Informed) but the post office chose to screw publishers over and the postal costs on A4 had become prohibitive.  In a (reasonable) attempt to keep the word count up the font size shrank, so friends with less than perfect vision told me they didn't even bother trying to read it after the first couple of editions.

Issues would get dropped from the party budget during the left-right coalition years when it they needed to mail 30,000 or so copies at a time and were a bit short on dough, so it's no wonder they have baulked at the price on mailing it to the 100,000 members today.

It does make for a peculiar situation though that if you aren't on email, your party membership now gets you very little by way of communication. It's common to compare it with the likes of the RSPB or RSPCA - send both an animal charity and the Lib Dems fifty quid a year and one of them will say thanks while the other will say thanks and add in a cuddly toy and a poster.

I have a fond vision in the back of my mind of reaching all those offline Liberals with a print magazine to opt in to for a couple of quid a month, in the way we did back in the days of LDN, but I think the niche that would fill for most interested people is already strongly covered by Lib Dem Voice. Maybe there's a collaboration project to be developed there? In the absence of an official LDHQ print title, a quarterly best-of-LDV could make for a good way of keeping in touch for those less web-savvy members, and highlight things many of us with healthy internet addictions might have missed. I wonder what the mods would make of the idea...

(A final aside about the decline of print: as the editor of a small-press magazine for many years, if you'd've told me back when I started that by 2018 it would be shifting more print copies than the Independent and the News of the World combined I would have laughed. And then run away.)